Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Out With The Old, In With The?

I've decided to retire the old blog banner.  I'm not one of those people resistant to change, but I'm also not one of those people who constantly seeks change.  I like to try new things, but I like to stick with what I like.  I also believe in benchmarks and commemorating change.  The new banner will be a trademark of recent changes.

Lest we not forget, here's the old banner.

 Happy reading!  


Russian Food

If you were asked what is Russian food, what would your answer be?  Never having been to Russia, I would probably give a blank stare, then say "Vodka."

Obviously, Vodka is not a food.  It is made from potatoes, right?  So my next response would have been potatoes.  Then I would think about Russian salad dressing, isn't it red?  Though I always wondered, since its red like ketchup, but doesn't taste like ketchup.

This week I had the opportunity to eat Russian food.  If you are ever in the Copper River Valley, south of Kenny Lake, make sure you visit the Tonsina River Lodge.  Recently the establishment was purchased by a Russian family.  The menu features some delicious traditional Russian and Siberian dishes.  Around mile 80 on the Richardson Highway you will find the Tonsina River Lodge nestled alongside the Tonsina River.  From the highway, it doesn't look like much, as most Alaskan highway roadhouses don't appeal to everyones taste from the outside.

Pulling off the highway there are several visible structures on the property.  A large one story trailer style dormitory, littered with oversized trucks and summer construction vehicles parked out front.  The main lodge is a derelict run down three story building.  Most of the windows appear broken out, vegetation snaking up the sides.  The restaurant is built into a long building adorned with signs advertising liquor and Russian food.

Coming through the arctic entry screen door and into the main bar room feels as if entering a rustic roadhouse.  I was waiting to see scoundrels and rascals hanging from the bar, staring into me as I entered.  Instead, the music didn't stop, and no one stared me down .  The far side of the establishment was partitioned and decorated differently.  Hardwood tables line both walls of the main dining room.  Framed photographs of Czars hang from the walls intermingled with birch bark crafts and a typical Alaskan motif.

Over the course of two nights we tried four different entrees.

Machanka, a skillet of roast beef, smoked sausage, and diced ham atop chopped potatoes.  A nice tomato sauce mixed throughout and bound together with cheese.  My (and our) personal favorite.

Blinchiki, crepe like burritos filled with a variety of meats, diced vegetables, and an egg like substance.

Shashluki, simply chunks of beef on a skewer with onions.

Cheburki, a flattened chicken breast, lemon sautéed, then baked inside a pie crust style croissant.

You don't have to take my word for it.  If you pass mile 80 and the Tonsina River Lodge, stop for some good food, the best around!  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Second Year Photo Montage

This is a montage of several photographs from my second year teaching 5th - 12th grade in Arctic Village, Alaska.  The soundtrack is by the David Crowder Band. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wainwright to Barrow

For the first time I got to fly across the slope in the summer.  The majority of my travel on the North Slope has been during the winter months when it is cold and dark.  Summer in Barrow means 24-7 sunlight.  It truly never gets dark for 84 days!  Coming from Fairbanks at 75 degrees, 36 degrees in Barrow felt quite cold, but the endless daylight was incredible.

Off to work

On my way from Wainwright (a village west of Barrow along the coast) to Barrow we flew over the pack ice and got to see the Arctic Ocean.

As we flew out over the ice the Era pilot told us to look along the cracks of the ice for polar bears waiting on seals to surface.  I looked really hard, but how exactly do you spot white on white?

 The Arctic Ocean is incredibly beautiful, vast and still.  Because of the ice there are not large waves like you see in the Pacific or Atlantic.  As far as the eye can see there is calm.

 From the air, the ice creates a stark contrast of mosaic patterns as far as the eye can see.

 I like the areas where the differences in ice thickness creates greens and blues.  Even from the air you can get a sense of the texture of the ice.

Like cloud watching, I tried to look for shapes in the ice and imagined quite a few creatures.

Halfway between Wainwright and Barrow we spotted a whale!  This photo from my IPod really doesn't do it justice.  The pilot actually looped back and dropped down low so that we could get a better view, but the whale dove down disappearing back into the ocean.

While I was in Wainwright they were celebrating the last of the whaling boats returning to the village.  It had been a good season of whaling.  The 10 or 11 crews that went out took 5 or 6 whales.  Muktuk for everyone!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Does anyone really like moving?  I don't mean settling into a new community and learning exciting new things about the place you now live.  I mean boxing up your possessions.  Lugging around all your junk.  Worrying what will break, what won't survive the move, and what will be lost forever.  

The only thing worse than moving once is moving twice, in the same instance.  We first had to move from Arctic Village to Fairbanks.  This moved required mailing six boxes through the postal service, then, trying to fit everything else on the small Cessna airplane.

 Gretchen looks at the single truckload she's survived off of in Arctic Village for two years...

Then, we had to move all our belongings from Anchorage, out of storage, and 400 miles north to Fairbanks. This stage required flying the afternoon Alaska Airlines flight.  Renting a U-haul.  Then coercing our friends with beer and burgers to help unload the tight storage garage and reload an even tighter 26 foot U-haul.  Finally, I drove the u-haul through the Alaska Range and north to Fairbanks.

  Ironically, our u-haul was decorated with Delaware, Gretchen's home state...

The process has taught me that I need to stay put for a while.  As we are still in the closing process, stay tuned for photos of the new house- or I might just make you wait in anticipation until booking your own plane ticket to see Fairbanks for yourself.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mount Rainier Documentary

Not exactly a feature length film, but here's a quick glimpse of our recent trip climbing Mount Rainier, in Rainier National Park, Washington.