Living the cottage life, Alaskan style!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Six Weeks to Winter

Summers come and go quickly here in Juneau.  It just seems that we're at the height of it, enjoying it, having a great time, and next thing it's over.  We're in pure joy when the firewood looks like this: 

It's beautiful, isn't it?  It means we're in the middle of summer, we're having a good time, days are joyous, and life is good.... 

But when it looks like this.... not so much.... 

As legend has it..... when fireweed reaches its full splendor, the six-week count down to winter begins....

Start counting! 

Cheers or Jeers....? Nancy

Thursday, August 25, 2011


It's been raining here for what seems like forever.  Course, I know we had some sunny days earlier, but how quickly we forget.  It has been raining for about 10 days, I think. Maybe more.  Nonstop.  Constant.  Heavy rain and lots of wind.  This is our August.  It's always the worst month of the year. 

All this rain is certainly taking its toll on my gardens.  My annuals have been subjected to so much rain, they're just mush.  A slimy mush.

My violas and pansies... done.  That's what's left of them in middle of the zinnias.

My nasturtiums... done... except for a few diehard blossoms.  The rain just pounded them.

My peas and lettuce, done.

My rhubarb has seen its last day and leaves are starting to droop to the ground and turn colors.  Oh, well, it was a nice run of wonderful rhubarb while it lasted.  There's always next year.
We're always good about sharing our garden beauty but today I thought I'd show you what it REALLY looks like this time of year! 

Enjoy!  Nancy

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

some of my best babysitting

Have you ever kept a journal?  If so, then you understand when I say I go back and re-read my own writing.  I'll find myself laughing out loud and snickering at some of the silliness I write about especially stories about the grandkids.

high class maid service
And I certainly have the hours invested to get some good ones.  When my hubby and I first agreed to babysit, we had no idea what we were getting into.  Back then, there was just one grandchild so, sure, why not..... How difficult can it be?  Afterall, I've raised two kids already..... when I was much, much younger.... But I distinctly remember the conversation:  "Okay, we'll babysit just until Hunter gets out of that Newborn stage and day care becomes cheaper."  THAT'S what I said. 

This is what my son heard:  "Sure, we would LOVE to babysit for the next upteen years!" 

Shortly after we committed to babysitting one grandchild.... a second one arrived.  Of course we had to babysit both now otherwise we would be accused of favoritism! 

Then a year came and a year went and a second year....  Then a third grandchild.... Yes, now we're up to three grandchildren.  That was three years ago we agreed to help get the grandkids out of the Newborn stage.... 
looking for a good home
Here we are, seniors, in our late 50s/early 60s watching three babies 40 hours a week. We gave up our retired life, our weekly lunch with friends, our freedom to come and go and do as we pleased.  I no longer stay in my jammies and sip coffee in the morning as have to be ready for the first to arrive.  My entire day is chaos with little concentrated time for myself.  Try going to the bathroom with three little ones wanting to know your every move! 

Those first two years were spent in a tired daze.  There were days I just wanted to cry.  There were days when I DID cry.  I remember a few days stumbling as I would be walking back and forth trying to get my grandaughter to sleep I was so exhausted.  I remember being so tired I couldn't function.  So tired I wanted to throw up.  So tired, I felt sick.  But we kept babysitting because we made a commitment to our kids. 

The other reason we kept babysitting is because I simply could not imagine any other person taking care of these precious little people.  It was that simple.  Would someone else give them the attention and love my grandbabies deserved?   
she certainly has the moves!
We've passed our three year mark for babysitting and I have to say, it's gotten easier.  At least I'm not so tired.  The days are still extremely long and there isn't a day that I don't watch the clock as it moves backwards in time....  Or at least it feels that way.  And then I wonder if the day will ever end.  But it does.  The kids eventually go home, my husband and I look at each other and give a tired nod and smile.  Yes, we made it through another day.  Then the next morning, we get up and do it all over again. 

But every morning, it's a joy to see them again.  Their happy little faces.  We laugh all day at their silliness.  We do crafts, bake, cook, do chores.  We read, watch movies, have quiet time.  We give love and we get love.  And, yes, there is yelling, screaming, crying, fighting, pinching, pushing, hitting, biting, and all that, but the good moments generally outweigh the bad. 
asleep in the chair
Two of our grandkids will start pre-school in a couple weeks.  I've been waiting for this day for a long time.  It's going to free our week up considerably and will give us some of our freedom back.  But then there's that part of me..... the heart part..... that is starting to tug at me..... My little grandbabies are growing up.  They're starting school.  They're being put out there in the big world of craziness.  How will they do?  Will they be scared?  Will they make friends?  Will the teacher like them best?  And then there's the, have we given them life skills to cope?  This IS a full-service day care, and we've been diligent about teaching them all the skills they will need in the real world.... But are my little grandbabies ready.....?  They seem excited when we talk about it, but today my little Sweet Pea started tearing up and her lip quivering as we talked.  She wanted to know if her mommy would stay with her.  "How long will she stay with me?" she asked....  Maybe they're not ready yet....

I know pre-school is the next step.  I understand that.  And I've been waiting for it.  But now.... can't they just be silly little kids for a little longer before they have to grow up? 

Here's some stories you might enjoy.  Yes, it's been a journey, these past three years and I have to say, we have three of the most incredible grandbabies ever.  Would I do it all over again if given the opportunity....?  You know, I think I would.....

Blueberry Boy
Out of the Mouths of Babes
Day Care Fun
No Babies Were Hurt

I hope you enjoyed getting a little glimpse of what really goes on here! 

Later!  Nancy

Monday, August 22, 2011

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Backyard Critters

Some times I feel like we're always being watched.... 
I can't explain it.
I just get this eerie feeling.
Where the hair stand up on my neck.

I'll nonchalantly turn around and try to catch the culprit, but there's never anyone there but my birds and squirrels.
We had a hawk visit our yard this past week. 
A sight I'm not too thrilled to see.
As he was chasing after my Blue Jays. 
Doesn't he know this is a No Kill Zone?
We have lots of birds this time of year--Juncos, Chickadees, Pine Siskins, Yellow Finches, Thrushes.  I even saw a Hummingbird the other day.  I don't know my birds very well, but my mom always did.  I think we also have Wrens right now.  Last year we had a Northern Pygmy Owl visit us.  He was sure a cute little thing until he latched on to one of my Juncos!  You can read that story here
I just wish I could shake this feeling that I'm being watched.... 

Later!  Nancy

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Little About Me

When I started blogging in 2007, I was very committed.  The stories just rolled from my fingers.  For those who don't blog, it can be quite time consuming and could be considered a full-time job by those who are successful at it.  I'm not one of those people but still enjoy doing it.  You're not just writing a story and posting it.  You're sharing your life, some times the most personal side of it.  The good, bad, and ugly.  Like this post of me titled, "It's only  Monday." Seriously, where else would I expose myself to such silliness except as an anonymous person on the Internet?!  And I'm sure there are much worse "confessions" than this.   

Some blogs are picture perfect.  You drool over their homes.  Their perfect homes.  Not a stitch out of place.  All the linens are ironed.  The bed is perfectly made, layer upon layer of beautiful vintage linens.  Their nicknacks are sparkling.  My home isn't one of those.   We have clutter and messes.  There's always dog hair and dust.  And I'm not ashamed to show it as you can read at the real me

I don't usually have have problems coming up with things to write about.  My problem stems with the fact that I have trouble shutting up!  Some times my posts get too long and I'll be the first to admit it.  Like this post titled, A  Rainy Day for Reading.  This time around I'm trying hard to keep them short, but still personal. 

I love blogging.  I guess because I love writing.  I've kept journals for most all my adult life so this comes easy.  Chatting to no one in particular.  It intrigues me because in the real world I don't care to talk much, but in the blogging world I can write about anything.  Why is that?

But I love blogging.  Sharing little glimpses into my town and my life.   Like the story titled "Friends" about the connection between my precious grandbabies Hunter and Ellis.  Best friends for sure. 

But blogging is time consuming.  You need to take pictures to include in your post, and then there's the downloading, storing, selecting, saving, and sizing. This is the part I don't care so much for.

And if you want to have a successful blog, you need to visit other blogs, leave comments, invite people to visit yours.  It's a give and take endeavor.  I don't have the time to be a full-time PR person for my blog.  I want people to read it.  I hope they read it.  But I also look forward to the comments they leave.  It lets me know others were here.  You can visit some of my favorite blogs by clicking on the links at the right, like Lilac Lane Cottage and Kathy's Cottage

But even if you come and visit and don't leave a comment, that's okay.  Here's a post from a couple years ago--Tag, You're It!".  I was "tagged" by another blogger to share eight things about myself. 

Enjoy!  Nancy

Friday, August 12, 2011


I posted this story last year but because it's a dark and dreary morning and because it's my day off and I'm in no hurry to do much of anything, I thought I would repost a story from last year.  It's not a story so much as a delicious recipe.  I'd like to say it was healthy for you, but.... probably not so much.  It does have nuts and grains and dried fruits, but that white chocolate...  yea probably not so good for you

I hope you try it because it really is a delicious treat.  Use it for dessert or for any time.  I freeze it and take out a  little at a time.  It also makes a great Christmas gift.  You can adjust the dried fruit to what suits you--cranberries, raisins, apricots.  Same with the nuts and seeds that you add.  Click here for the recipe for Bark.  Again, this came from my former blog, Pieces of the Puzzle

I hope you try it.  It really is soooo good! 

Later!  Nancy

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Brightest Spot

As summer starts to disappear, and we see more and more of fall slipping into place, this little clump of dwarf lillies is the bright spot of my entire yard. 

It doesn't matter how dark and dreary our day is, this little clump of yellow is out there waving its beauty as if to say, "look at me!"  And my eyes always fall on that bright spot.  Even at night, when it's getting dark, this little group is what I see. 

I'm thinking next year I need to plant more of them throughout my other gardens.   

Most everything I plant is more muted colors so it's no wonder this stands out so vividly.  Especially now when there isn't much blooming in my gardens.    

I found a couple of these grapevine wreaths at a garage sale this summer, not certain how they were going to be used, but I love that they add another dimension to my birds' watering holes.   
Some of my sedums are starting to come into bloom, and my hostas, but they're not a blast of color, just muted. 
This little darling blooms alllll summer long. Lewisia. It comes from the Columbia Gorge in Oregon, living in the cracks and crevices of the rocky walls along the Columbia River.  It loves the heat and sun, yet it thrives in our wet and dreary weather. 

It's August.  Our worst gardening month of the season.  Little more will be in bloom until the fall colors take over.  The gardens will start to deteriorate and I'll find myself out in the mud and gunk keeping up with the weeds and cutting back perennials until another season of bloom.   

Some times I wonder if it's all worth it....  and the answer is always, yes! 

Later!  Nancy

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

bear watching

We never get tired of seeing wildlife.  Especially when we're this close to them!  No, this was not shot using a zoom lens. 

We took a ride to the Mendenhall Glacier yesterday to see if we could see any bear, and saw this little guy.  The forest service lady said he was about 2 or 3 years old.   There's a shallow creek where sockeye return to spawn every year and we always see a lot of bear activity.  We watched this guy stalk a salmon and eventually got it!

In August of 2007, I posted a tour to the glacier with more bear pictures that are pretty cool.  You can read about it here (click on the "here") at Pieces of the Puzzle

Our granddaughter said this was her first bear sighting and she was quite excited over the event.  If you're wondering how we're viewing these bears so closely, you can see that we're on a walkway that is protected by wire fencing.  We're up off the ground a few feet, high enough that the bear can walk under us and if they should stand up and try to reach us, can't....  That's very important!  This trail offers locals and tourists an incredible view of the bears, and we're only a few steps out of our car. 

If you want to come to Juneau to view the bears, August is a good time.  The sockeye are spawning and the bear are hungry. 

Later!   Nancy

Monday, August 8, 2011

Life in Juneau

How self-sufficient are you in case of a major crisis?
How would you take care of your family?
Would you have enough food and water to survive?
Do you ever think about such times?

I do.  Often.  Maybe more so than most folks.
Especially after the quake that hit Japan recently.  The devastation.
For weeks I sat with my tablet in hand, making lists of emergency rations I needed to buy and things I needed to do to be more prepared. 

Perhaps I think of it more than most people because of where we live.
Here in Juneau we're land locked.  We have no roads in or out. 
We rely on container vans brought to Juneau on barges, for all our goods. 
Groceries, household items, furniture, construction material, cars, plants, just about everything. 
So if something happened to Seattle and the waterways were no longer usable, we could be in big trouble.
Our grocery shelves would sit empty and bare after a week's time. 
If you didn't already have a vegetable garden you could forget about growing your own food because dirt, wood, and seeds may not be coming for a long while.
It could be weeks or months or even longer before rations made it to Juneau.
Okay, so I might be exaggerating some, but I don't think it's wrong to think the worst case scenario.
And should that worst case scenario ever happen.... I want to be somewhat prepared.

Only this past spring, our weather was bad and the barge couldn't make it up the Channel to deliver the containers for days.  Our grocery shelves got depleted of fresh produce.

It never hurts to be prepared. 
My parents were.  They were totally self-reliant and I admire them for that. 
I suppose that's another reason I think the way I do.  They grew up in the Depression.  They knew how to be frugal and self-sufficient.
They had water jugs stored in the crawl space of our home.  It wasn't a basement, just the underside of our house.  Dark, damp, musty. A place you did not want to go. 
Mom canned and canned and canned.  We  harvested seafood and it was frozen.
We ate popcorn on Friday nights and mom would open up a fresh jar of grape juice.
Dad was prepared for any emergency.
We had wood stoves, a supply of wood, a generator or two.
Yes, they were prepared for any crisis.   

My husband and I decided it wouldn't hurt to become more self-sufficient.
In Juneau it's a little more difficult because we aren't farm folks.
In fact, there aren't any farms in Juneau and the farmer's markets are personal use only.
We can't go to the local fruit stand and buy cases of apples to process.
Or corn to can. 

What we can do is can fish, which we have plenty of here.
And pick local berries found along the road.
We can also buy "bulk" from our local Costco like strawberries for strawberry jam.
At least we know what we're putting in our mouths when we process our own food.

Earlier this summer we drove around town looking for the allusive salmon berry.  We managed to find four berries.  Four. 

And my granddaughter ate those. 

I guess my point is, it never hurts to be prepared. 
To have a little garden for fresh produce.
To have your freezer and pantry filled with bounty. 
Have some home brew for special occasions.

Next year I hope to have a larger garden. 
Maybe even a green house.
I'd like to grow enough food to share with family and friends on a weekly basis.
Help lighten the financial crunch we're all feeling.

To be better prepared should a crisis happen.

And if you aren't.... that's okay because I'll gladly share my rations with you!   
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Family Picnic 2010

My hubby and I are traveling to Kalama, Washington, for a few days to help my sister out with the family picnic and catch up with family I've not seen in years.  It's a good time. 

Click here for the post from last year's party that I posted at Pieces of the Puzzle.

Enjoy!  Nancy

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rhubarb Salsa

My heritage comes from farm folks.  It's in my genes.  My grandparents lived through the depression and raised their own food.  They lived a life of necessity.  A good life.  My own mom canned all our food.  What we didn't grow in our garden, we self-picked or I suppose it was given to us.  I don't really remember.  All I remember are the canning days when mom would process pears and can them and tomatoes and grape juice and green beans and corn and relish and pickles and more pickles and hot peppers.  Anything you can imagine, my mom canned or froze. 

Me?  Not so much.  I never got the genes that give me the desire to can.  I go to the store and buy it but I admire those who do can.  My son, bless his heart, is one of those people.  He's only 27 but has been canning for years--pickles, fish, clams, pickled beans and mushrooms.  HE got the genes!  (Maybe they skip a generation....) 

And my husband loves to can as well, so maybe it's turned into a male thing!  He mostly cans fish but branched out to rhubarb salsa this weekend.  And it was good! 

"We" canned 29 jars of salsa and already ate three.  One batch turned out a little runnier but we drank it down like wine! 

If you have an abundance of rhubarb, this is a great way to use some of it. 

My rhubarb has expired for the year, but if you want to be put on a list to have rhubarb shipped to you next season, let me know! 

Rhubarb Salsa

3 cups chopped tomatoes
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup chopped tomatillos
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped chile peppers (a combo of habernero, yellow, spicy, anaheim)
1 tbs garlic paste
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbs cilantro
2 tbs ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup lime (fresh) juice

Wash and sterilize your jars.
Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pot. 
Bring mixture to a boil
Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.
Adjust two piece caps.
Process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

(My husband used two anaheim and two habernero and it was a mild sauce.)

Enjoy!  Nancy

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Berry Picking

I've been thinking about becoming more self-sufficient with the food we eat.  We grow a small garden on our back deck--lettuce greens, swiss chard, tomatoes, herbs, celery, etc.  Simple things.  But lately I'm been thinking we need to do more.  We need to be more self-sufficient.  We need to be more in charge of what's going into our bodies. 

We have a smoothie most mornings for breakfast and although we always try to buy fresh, when affordable, even a small bag of frozen fruit generally runs about $4.95.  Our drinks cost us about $25 a week in just berries.  So my husband and I thought, "let's pick our own!"  We don't have self-pick farms in Juneau.  We don't have ANY farms in Juneau, but we do have wild salmon berries, blueberries, some huckleberries, and other low bush berries like cranberry, nagoon, etc.  If we could put gallons of berries in our freezer, it would save us a bundle. 

So my hubby and I went on the search for the allusive salmon berry this weekend.  Yea, we didn't have much luck.

While shopping at Fred Meyer, we noticed five pound boxes of blueberries for $12.00.  That was a great price, so we bought a box thinking we would freeze them. 

After trying a handful or two or three, we decided we needed more, so headed back to Fred Meyer and bought four more boxes!   

Before bagging them, instructions say to lay them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze them.  So I did.  After bagging them, I think we had 12 quarts and decided that wasn't nearly enough berries to hold us through the winter, so went back and bought four more boxes! 

We're feeling pretty good about our "bounty" at this point, even though we didn't grow or personally harvest the berries.  So back up the mountain we went to find some local blueberries that we could pick and freeze.  And we found some.  They were pretty small, but just the right size for blueberry pancakes. 

I love that my husband loves doing things with me.  Like berry picking.  In a heavy coastal mist.  In and around wet bushes.  By the time we were done picking berries, we were drenched from our waist down.  My socks swished when I walked!  But we had fun, and we picked about two gallons of wonderfully tart little berries. 

I can hardly wait to go berry picking again.  Next time I'll dress for the weather better and maybe even devise a berry picking can to wear around my waist.  This is how we picked as kids.  It's time to get back to the basics. 

Later! Nancy