Thursday, August 31, 2017

Next Week is Sea Week.

Night, Stars, Galaxy, Wonder, Camp  Next week is Sea Week when students and faculty head out, camp on the tundra, search for greens, berries, go fishing, etc so they can supplement the processed foods.

I won't be going out with them this year because we have two new teachers who are remaining behind to be with the 9th graders and high schoolers who are not going camping.

Instead, I will be escorting that group out on daily trips with the middle school grades.  What that means, is that one day they will fish, another they'll find berries and greens for use in Agutuk (Eskimo Ice Cream), another they will learn the history of near by areas. 

The idea behind these trips are for students to remember their culture.  In fact, a few people got together so students can receive half a credit for completing this week and one in the spring.  One of the things they will be required to complete is a map with the old names for places and the places themselves.

At least two to three elders will be going.  The male elders will assist the students with the mapping project and will teach the boys in the older ways while the females will cook and teach the girls the ways for women.  In the old days, mothers would watch the girls to see who could perform their duties well because they were looking for a good wife for their sons.  If a girl could do everything a woman was supposed to do, she was considered a good mate.  Yes, marriages were arranged back then.

There is a prevalent saying that someday the world will return to the old days and those who know the old ways are more likely to survive.  It is also said should planes quit flying for periods of time as they did in 9/11, people need to know the old ways so they can feed their family until planes fly again.

I will take pictures everyday, post them, and share the activities of the day.  I hope to get pictures of the local equivalent of a fishing rod so you can see how different it is.  It usually has a three pronged hook they make themselves.  The hook is attached to string tied to a piece of wood.  Someone said salmon are running right now so we might catch a few.

Just giving you a preview of next week but to wet your appetite, I'm sharing a photo or two from last year.
Food Tent.

Freshly dug clams.

Star fish found at low tide.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Tough Choices in Life.

Dice, Die, Purple, Game, Play, Gaming  My father had a stroke last week Thursday. They kept him in the hospital for a couple days before releasing him. He is fortunate, it was a small stroke but there are a few things we notice that are different. Although he is on medicine, the doctors have stated he may not drive again.  The logic is simply he could have another stroke or heart attack and that would be disastrous. 

So now, the family is faced with choices of how to handle this.  Right now, people are looking into Meals on Wheels, possible Van Transport, and any other services he or my mother qualify for.

This is where the choices come in.  Do we try to peg together enough services so they can stay in their apartment and hope they do well, or do we look at putting them in sort of facility where they can get meals, maid service, engage in activities, or be able to go on trips because the facility has a bus.

I can tell you straight off, this is not an easy choice. I know my father would prefer to continue driving because driving represents his independence but since he can't, it is a big step that he has to accept.  He had enough trouble when they moved into an apartment in town from their house on five acres of land.  He made the move more for mom but he missed being out away from people.

He has always seen retirement homes, assisted living places, and the other choices in that area as for someone else, not for him.  I'd rather let them stay in their apartment a bit longer if we can because it over looks the ocean, allows mother to watch everyone who wanders by and isn't far from downtown.

I suspect my siblings are more into having them move to some sort of facility where they will be monitored 24 hours a day, just in case.  Maybe I don't want that because it signals the end of a time period when my father was the strong man who was always there for me.  Always willing to offer advice when I needed it.  Always willing to put me up if I needed to attend classes at the college near them. 

I know I don't want to think that some day he'll pass on.  A day that might come a lot sooner than I expected.  Its funny, I think I've always thought my dad would live forever, just like the guy on the TV show "Highlander"  Since the stroke, I now realize, he will only live a while longer. 

Since he was born, he's fought in two wars, raised four children, gone to college, become a teacher and taught till the age of 65, then worked as a sub for over 20 years more.  He has seen the world change from radio to television to streaming video. Although my mother has a computer, he's never been much for one.  He'd rather use pen and paper rather than a computer.

I see his mortality and it makes me realize, I'm mortal.  This is a hard decision for everyone in the family.  I don't know which way it will go but it will involve a lot of research and discussion.

Let me know what you think.  I'd be interested in hearing.  Have a good day.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

New Diet

Tape, Tomato, Diet, Loss, Weight, Health  The other day, I mentioned to my next door neighbor, I do better eating a plant based diet than one with meat.  "She responded immediately "Oh, you must be have A type blood because they prefer vegetables".

She also made a comment about trying to eat a more vegetable based diet but it wasn't right for her blood type.  She has to have fish, every so often.

I'd never heard of the blood type diet but apparently there is a book out there on it.  Apparently, your type of blood determines the type of exercise and best foods a person needs based on genetics.  After doing some reading on the internet, I discovered this diet has been around since the 1990's.  There are articles for and against the diet.

As far as I can tell, there is not a lot of scientific evidence to support the idea of blood types.  In fact, it appears some of the basic suppositions are incorrect based on current technology.  For instance the book states type O is the original blood type but evidence indicates it is actually type A.

It appears this diet does work, not due to blood type but due to the fact it recommends a much healthier diet.  One with lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, etc, food the body needs to stay healthy. 

Good diets all seem to have one thing in common, the recommendation of healthy foods preferably made from scratch because most prepared food is full of salt, sugar, fats, and preservatives. I know when I eat meals made from scratch, my weight drops to a certain amount, and I feel quite good.  I exercise regularly and feel much better than when I eat lots processed foods.

I think the bottom line in regard to diets is not to diet to loose weight but eat a well balanced diet with a moderate amount of exercise integrated and a person is set.  My mother has always said "We do not diet to loose weight, we make changes to lifestyle to make us healthier."  I think she was on to something.

Let me know what you think.  Have a great day.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Dreaming of Paris

Arc De Triomphe, Paris, France, Europe  I am now just getting around to planning my Christmas holidays.  I will visit relatives for a few days including Christmas day.  I checked out the price of flying to Maui for the rest of my holidays but the price was a bit expensive and the first class tickets were sold out.

Just for the fun of it, I went to Iceland Air to check out flying to Paris for New Years and it turns out the price works out about the same.  Imagine the Anchorage, Seattle, Maui, Anchorage is about the same as Anchorage, Seattle, Paris, Reykjavik, Seattle, Anchorage is about the same price.

I've always wanted to visit Paris since I took my first French language class at 13.  Paris always seemed to be so mysterious.  A city filled with romance and history. 

I remember hearing the Parisians packed up and moved all valuable paintings, statues, and sculptures to places in the countryside, away from the city.  By the time the Nazi's moved in, there was not much there.  After the Nazi's took over, they filled it with work stolen from the Jewish population.  At the end of the war, everything came back in good condition.

Then there is the Eiffel Tower, built as the main attraction for the 1889 World's Fair.  It took about two years to build the wrought iron structure which many Parisians hated.  Although it was supposed to only remain for 20 years, its use as a wireless telegraph transmitter cancelled its destruction. It is still used to transmit radio and television signals all over the city and further.

One must not forget the Arc de Triomphe built to remember the French who died, particularly in the Napoleonic Wars.  When I took French, they never told us its history, only noted it as one of the most famous monuments in Paris.  The Notre Dame Cathedral, the Left Bank, and so many other places.

I want to stroll down the Champs-Elysees some evening to enjoy the lights.  Buy bread in bakeries to experience the original croissants.  Buy a pastry, and enjoy a picnic out in one of the parks.  There is so much to do and honestly 5 days is not going to be enough for just one visit.

Unfortunately, I am going to have to postpone the trip.  My father had a minor stroke this past weekend.  He has been released but they said he can never drive again due to him possibly having a another stroke while driving.  That is hard for him because driving is his sign of independence.  Since he can't drive, I'll spend the whole time visiting, driving him to places like Trader Joe's the market, etc.

I may try to go to Paris next winter.  It will be there another in the future which gives it me time to plan and find a place to stay.  I planned to stop in Iceland on the way back but so many places are already selling out and its not even September.  Maybe I can buy my tickets in March and reserve my rooms then so I'll be prepared.

Let me know what you think.  I'd love to hear from people on their thoughts and suggestions for visiting Paris.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Where Did Crochet Come From?

Crocheting, Yarn, Diy, Knitting  Just as with knitting, no one is quite sure when it started but the word crochet comes from the middle french word for hook.  However, more is known of the development of modern crochet.

Current theories on the history of crochet follows one of three lines of thought.  First, it originated in Arabia before traveling to Tibet and Spain before spreading to the rest of Europe and the world.

Second, it originated in South America and finally, it originated in China before spreading outward.  No one is really sure if any of these are correct however it is proposed that crochet developed from tambouring, a technique using where a thin hook attaches thread through a stretched fabric to create a chain stitch.  At some point, the background material disappeared so only the hooked thread was left.

No matter which theory you go with, crochet did not make a real appearance in Europe until the 1800's.  It got a boost when Mlle. Riego de la Branchardiere took needle and bobbin lace patterns and translated them into crochet patterns she sold to the public.  She claims to have created lace like crochet also known as Irish crochet.

Irish crochet kept the Irish alive during the potato famine which lasted from 1845 to 1850 because they could make collars and cuffs later sold overseas.  In fact, the Irish organized into cooperatives to make and sell their crochet.  The money earned from this often payed for families to emigrate to the United States.

Crochet became more popular when Queen Victoria bought crocheted lace by the Irish.  In fact, she learned to crochet so she could make scarves for eight veterans of the South African War. By the end of her reign, crochet was quite popular.

Up until the 1920's crochet was primarily used as decoration through the use of collars, cuffs, and edgings.  In the 1920's designers began creating whole garments out of crochet including hats and evening dresses. Crocheted garments continued appearing in fashion shows throughout the 30's 40' 50's, 60's to today.

I learned to crochet when I was in middle school when people used the large hooks and thick yarn.  Years later, I discovered crocheting with a small hook and very fine cotton thread so I could create doilies, collars, cuffs, and edgings. Its hard but I got some cool looks using variegated colors.

Let me know what you think.  I hope you enjoyed this short history.  Have a great day.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Vampire Panic

Bats, Castle, Evil, Flying, Full MoonNOTE:  Some of the material might be offensive so please proceed with due warning.

 Everywhere you turn, you find vampires.  They are in literature, music, art, even in real life, or at least there are people who believe they are.

Most cultures have at least one version of vampires found in their stories but we do not have evidence they actually exist but that does not stop people from believing in them.

There are cases from the 1700's in which people exhumed bodies because it was thought they were vampires who rose from the grave to infect others.  The skeletons were reburied after having been rearranged to keep the living safe. The majority of these exhumations occurred in New England but have been found as far west as Minnesota.

The common trigger for all of these events seems to be that the panic begins in the middle of a tuberculosis epidemic when the infected coughed up blood. It was common to die of tuberculosis or consumption as it was called them.  Towards the end, people suffering from tuberculosis had a high fever, a nasty bloody cough and the body became severely emaciated.

 Based on this, people called them  "Vampires" who preyed upon others, making them sick. By the time the accusation was made, the person was dead but it was believed they came back in the depths of night to eat the living tissue and drink the blood of the living person who was sickening.  Often the person making the accusation was a relative of the dead.

They would dig the bodies up but from there it varied according to the location.  Sometimes, they would take the heart out and burn it either privately or publicly.  There is a story of a heart being burned publicly at a blacksmiths forge.  In other places, the body is turned over while in other places, they cut apart the body and put it back together wrong so the vampire cannot reassemble itself.

The last recorded case happened in Rhode Island in 1892.  A young man, Edwin Brown, got sick.  His mother and older sister had already died from the same illness. He traveled to Colorado Springs to partake of the air in the hopes of being cured.  While he was away, his sister, Lucy became sick and died.  When he returned, his health got worse.  Apparently, his father followed the believe that when family members fall prey to consumption, it is because one of them is taking the life force of the living.

His father has the bodies of his mother and two sisters dug up.  Only Lucy's body still had blood in the heart so they took it out and burned it before reburying the body.  Edwin did not get better and died soon after.

Remember at this time, TB existed throughout the country, being quite common.  Even George Washington and other leaders ended up infected.  Since there was no treatment, people did whatever they could.  People now know that TB has nothing to do with vampires.  In addition, we have treatments and ways to prevent infection.

Let me know what you think.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The History of Knitting

Wool, Knit, Knitting Needles, Basket  I knit but my basket of yarn and needles is a bit larger than shown here.  I primarily knit socks because its what I've learned but I want to try a vest next.

The other night while knitting, I wondered where it came from.  I know there are two styles, continental and otherwise but I don't know much about those styles and I couldn't tell you which I do.

My mother claims I knit back to front but that makes no sense to me as I knit the way that is comfortable for me.

No one is sure where knitting came from.  It's been suggested that knitting might have evolved from knotting fishnets but its hard to say because there are few fragments left.  Most knitted garments are made of natural fibers which tend to disintegrate over time. What is known is people were knitting socks as early 1100 AD due to remnants found in Egypt. These Coptic socks are knitted out of blue and white cotton.

There is a pair of socks in the Victoria and Albert Museum dating back to around 400 AD but some classify them as nalbinded while others claim they were knitted.  I don't know since I'm not an expert.  Many countries used a process called nalbinded which is similar to knitting to make garments.  The process is actually closer to sewing.  In the beginning many nalbinded garments were identified as knitted but once scholars realized the differences, they could classify the technique better.

The term knitting did not make an appearance in any dictionary until the 15th century and was not a part of everyday language until the Renaissance.  Based on the remnants available, it is thought knitting originated in Egypt before spreading across the Middle East before arriving in Europe.

Only the super rich or super religious in Spain could afford knitted items in the 12th and 13th centuries as it was new and only a few people knew how to knit.  By the 14th century, paintings began to show the Virgin Mary knitting for her son.

By the early 1400's, knitted garments were fashionable in France.  In addition knitting guilds were established but only men belonged to these guilds and each guild has a strict apprenticeship program.  It is thought the guilds were established to monitor the quality of knitted garments and attract wealthy clients.

In Elizabethan times, Briton in France was established as the main suppliers of knitted stockings.  At this time, men wore fitted stockings as part of their outfits and the knitters in Briton fulfilled the demand by exporting stockings throughout Europe.

in 1589, the first knitting machine was invented in England.  Although it did not decimate the knitting industry, it did change it to the point guilds disappeared and knitting was relegated to the parlor.  Knitting underwent a renaissance during World War I and II.

This is a quick look at the history of knitting.  I hope you enjoyed it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Winter Growth.

Basil, Herbs, Green, Mediterranean I live in a place where the winter either kills plants or sends them into a long hibernation until spring.  Unfortunately, many herbs that can winter in warmer climates do not survive here.

There are other places in this country suffering from the same problems.  I am aware of places where winter is the optimal time to grow cool weather plants but not up here.

There are ways to continue growing greens or to start growing them over the winter.  My favorite way is to grow sprouts.  I invested in a stack-able set so I can grow a variety of sprouts but all you really need is a few jars and an old stocking.

Place a tablespoon or two in a jar, cover with water, soak for 8 to 12 hours, drain, and set on the counter in a corner.  Rinse and drain morning and night.  In a few days, they will be ready.  As you begin using the sprouts, start another batch so you have a continuous supply.

Did you ever think of growing micro greens?  Micro greens are young plants such as kale or lettuce.  You can use aluminum trays you get with frozen dinners such as family sized lasagna or bread pans.  Put about two to three inches of soil in the pan.  Be sure you poked a couple holes for drainage.  Sow seeds over the soil, cover with a bit of soil, then water gently.  Water as the soil needs it and watch the greens sprout and grow.  When the plants are about 3 inches tall and look more mature, you can harvest for a salad or stir fry. 

Don't forget to start some herbs over the winter so you have fresh herbs to cook with.  I usually use a recycled aluminum tray or a window box I have from the summer.   I often plant my herbs in window boxes so I can bring them in over the winter but sometimes I like starting basil and other annual herbs over the winter for a new crop.

The thing to remember is to place the plants in a place with good lighting so they continue to grow.  If you are not careful, plants might get leggy or their growth might slow down so they appear as if they have quit growing.  It is possible to grow other plants such as tomatoes and peppers but they need to be in a container and they must be exposed to the proper amount of light.  It is harder in Alaska to do this without artificial light so I concentrate mostly on greens.

I hope you give this a try.  I started my first batch of spouts over the weekend.  Have  great day and enjoy.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Skyr Is Not Alone

Raspberries, Yogurt, Nature, Frisch  The other day, I wrote about Skyr, an Icelandic dairy product that is actually a soft cheese but seems me a thick yogurt because you use a spoon to eat it.  I really enjoyed it when I was over there.

Each country in Scandinavia has its own dairy product and they are different.  I hope to try them all the next time I go to Europe because I love trying new food.

First is Viili from Finland.  It is considered an heirloom yogurt but instead of being solid, it is described as ropy and slimy.  As with other heirloom yogurts, a small portion is used to start the next batch.  There are actually two types of Viili, the short version which is more like a traditional yogurt while the longer version can produce rope like tendrils up to a foot in length.  I've heard it has a slightly sour taste but is sweeter than regular yogurt.

Next is Piima which is actually a drink rather than a solid.  It is a thin fermented drink with a faint cheese like flavor.  It is often used as a substitute for buttermilk.  It can be fermented at room temperature without a starter using bacteria in the air.  You can also put a bit of live yogurt in a glass of milk, stir, and leave it for a bit.  The culture can also be added to cream to create a Piima cream.

Then there is Filmjolk, a cultured diary product half way between Piima and Viili with a bright tangy flavor.  I am wondering if I had this on my breakfast cereal in Finland for breakfast. There was always a bowl of something tangy and white at the breakfast buffet. It gets its taste from two different bacteria.  In addition, it works on any type of milk.

All of the above yogurts can be made at room temperature.  You do not have to heat the milk to a certain temperature for the culture to work which makes it faster and easier.  It has been suggested one keep a bit back just in case it doesn't work.

A few of these also work with soy milk in addition to dairy milk.  If you are interested in buying starters for any of these yogurts check here or here.  I have not used either source but the second was recommended on the web page written by someone into fermentation.  In addition, Amazon carries a one pack with four heirloom starters of which three are listed here. 

Let me know what you think. Have a great Monday.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Pictures and Video of Tundra Fest

I recorded 20  seconds of the first dance of Tundra Fest last night.  I am not sure what it is about because no one has explained it to me but I enjoy dancing it.  As you can see, the men are in the front kneeling, the women standing behind them and in the very back, seated on a bench are the drummers.

 This photo was taken while everyone waited for the start of the festival.  The doors opened at 6:30 so everyone could get there. Dancing was supposed to begin at 7 but it took a bit longer.

Traditionally the hosting village goes first the first night, in the middle the second night and last the third night.

The really tall poster just next to the room divider is a tribute to an elder who passed away this past spring.  He was in his late 90's or early 100's.  No one is sure.  We do know, things changed tremendously since he was born.
People are still setting up and waiting for dancing to begin.  If you look carefully at the right side of the picture, you will see blue mats laid out across the floor with masculine dance fans.

That is where the men kneel.  Behind the mats is a speaker for the microphone so everyone can hear all announcements.  In the back right corner is a snack shop with candy, soda, some food, and jello.  Jello with cool whip is a village favorite.

When Tundra Fest is not being held here, it doubles as a church, bingo hall, and everything else as needed.
 In this picture you can see the men gathering to drum for the first group.  Many of these men also come to the school to drum for the native dance class so students know the dances.

The village feels it is extremely important to keep the culture alive by teaching cultural ways to students.  The high school has an actual dance class for students.

The drum is a round wooden frame with a man-made material stretched over it.  This material has replaced the animal skins they used in the past.

This is a still shot of the first dance.  The women are wearing kuspuks which is the standard native top.  Some have skirts so they are worn more like dresses over long pants while those without a skirt function as a shirt.  Both men and women wear the kuspuk.  The spelling of the word varies according to the group.

You can also tell what region a person is from based on how the kuspuk is put together and decorated.  Women may or may not wear a headdress.  Sometimes the headdress is a family heirloom worn by generation after generation.

The last photo is taken of the crowd between the first and second dance groups.  It was pretty well attended but there are usually more people the second night.

This building started much smaller but a few years ago, they built an extension so it could be used instead of the the building next to it.  The original building developed black mold all through it so they chose to discontinue using it.

The festival will continue for two more days with games for kids and adults.  Yesterday, there was a cake walk for the village. 
I hope you enjoy this peak into a fall celebration held in Alaska.  Let me know what you think.  Have a great weekend. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tundra Fest

Beaded, Moccasins, Regalia, Native  Tonight marks the beginning of a wonderful dance festival, held here in the village every fall.  Several villages come for three days of games and dance.

Native dance in Alaska varies some from village to village but it uses only a drum and the human voice.  Some songs have been around a while while others are quite new.

Unfortunately, music and dance was banned because it was not seen as properly religious.  In many communities, the songs and dances went underground while in others they disappeared.

Most dancers in this area use hand fans as part of the cultural dance.  I will have pictures tomorrow of the fans.  The women use fans made of woven grass and fur while the men have ones made of wood and feathers.  If a person does not have fans, they usually wear gloves.  In most of the communities I've lived in, the men kneel in the front while the women stand in one or more rows behind them.

On the island of Diomede, women sit in a row of chairs as they dance, rather than standing but the position of the musicians varies even more.  In my area, the musicians sit facing the dancers with their backs to the audience.  In other places such as Diomede, musicians are behind the dancers.

Most songs have a story such as going out to pick berries, make agutaq (local ice cream) and eat it.  Other songs might celebrate basketball, karate, hunting, fishing, chewing bubble gum or taking care of a baby.  I  know a guy who when he dances the taking care of the baby song, he is so energetic he would give the baby whiplash in real life.

One song, I thought was about taking care of a baby but it turned out to be about cutting and carrying meat.  I just follow others when dancing and I do not worry about the meaning.  Most songs have a certain pattern they follow, much like any song with the chorus and various verses except the verses are often repeated within the overall pattern.

I hope to record a little bit of video tonight of the dancing and share it with everyone tomorrow.  I hope you have a good evening and see you tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Raspberries, Yogurt, Nature, Frisch  When I was in Iceland, I discovered something called Skyr.  I'm not sure if its actually a soft cheese or a thick yogurt.  What I do know is that it is thick and really good.

According to what I've read it is a cheese but it looks like yogurt.  I think one reason some say its similar to yogurt is that you can use a bit of the previous batch to make a new batch before being strained just like yogurt cheese.

According to an article in the Iceland Magazine, Skyr has been around since the 9th century.  In the past its been eaten as breakfast after being sweetened with cream and brown sugar but now its used in items such as Creme Brulee.

I've seen an assortment of recipes from using rennet to make it solid to using a bit of the previous batch to setting a bowl of milk out in the air and letting wild bacteria settle in to start it.  The original Skyr does not taste like the modern version.  It should be tangy not super sweet.

If you are interested in making it and you already have Skyr with live probiotics, you need to heat a liter of skim milk in a non stick pan to about 200 degrees F and keep it there for about 10 minutes.  The 10 minutes is extremely important and be sure to stir it so the liquid does not burn or scorch.  Once the 10 minutes is up, remove the pan from heat and cool to 102 degrees F.  Whisk in 1 tablespoon of Skyr into the liquid.

Cover with a towel for 12 to 15 hours until until it thickens like Greek Yogurt and the whey separates  from the curds.  At this point, you can stir the two together to make it a thinner texture or drain it for something thicker.

If you do not have any Skyr, you could heat the milk just like above, let it cool completely before placing outside until the wild bacteria inoculated it and it thickened.  Once you've gotten your first batch, you have enough to start additional batches.  The Skyr from wild bacteria has a tarter flavor.

I plan to try making some later this week from scratch.  I'll let you know how it works out.  Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Back Home

Holiday House, Summer House, Home  I arrived home Sunday evening after traveling for 20 hours on planes and more hours waiting between flights.  I was so tired both Sunday night and last night I was in bed way early due to the 11 hour time difference.

It was interesting because in Finland, I was selected for a more in-depth screening.  I was short on time but I was assured the plane would not leave without me.

I tried a new mobile passport app and it was great.  A lady I know, recommended it for traveling because it cut down on the time through customs.  I downloaded it, filled it out, and as soon as I landed in Washington D.C., I used the internet to send the information out and shortly there after, I had a QR code which allowed me to cut through and saved quite a bit of time.

I ended up having to check in a couple times due to the time between flights or a last flight in the leg was past the 24 hour period.  I discovered smoking rooms inside airports, one with a door, one without.  My body still hasn't figured out what time zone its in.

Yesterday, I had to go to work and spent the whole day catching up and my internet should be up at home in the next few days so until then, I have to write these at work in between things.  By the time I got home last night, I was so tired, I couldn't do anything.  I barely made it to 8:45 before crashing.  I slept all the way to 6:45 without waking.

Its good to finally be home again so I can sleep in my own bed, have my own schedule, and do what I want.  I enjoyed my visits to other places this summer but after a while, it gets a bit tiring.  I hit a point where my body didn't know what time zone it was in and my sleep schedule got so messed up, I couldn't sleep when I should.

Tomorrow, I want to share a food I had in Iceland that I fell in love with.  It can be made at home and there is some discussion on what it is.

I hope you all had a great day, see you tomorrow.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Helsinki, Finland - Changing Hotels.

 I couldn't resist taking a picture of this coffee shop. I have so many coworkers for whom this name describes them perfectly.

It was in downtown Helsinki, just next to a Japanese Sushi restaurant.  At this point it wasn't actually raining.  It began raining a few stores later.

I can state this does not describe me but if you replaced coffee with tea, that would describe me.

On Wednesday, I changed hotels so I'd be closer to the conference.  It was a beautiful walk.  As soon as I hit the main road, I turned towards a lake opposite a huge green area.

I"m heading by the Olympic stadium complete with parking lot.  At this point, I discovered the map wasn't the most accurate one.  This was google maps but after a lot of rechecking the map, I finally got to my first turn.

As I was walking towards the first turn, I spotted an amusement attraction on the hill in the distance.

Linnanmaki is a very popular amusement park up on a hill, next to the aquarium.  Due to a wrong turn, I ended up going right by Linnanmaki and the Helsinki aquarium.

I'm sorry the photo is kind of blurry but the sun was in such a place, I couldn't see the screen.  It was the Ferris wheel that caught my  attention.

As I walked by the amusement park, the steam of people heading in was constant.  In the background, screams of enjoyment expanded from the park. 
Flower bed in a park.
About the time I passed the amusement park and aquarium, I realized I was off course, so I headed for the closest street corners.

Unlike the states, the street names are on plaques on the side of a building.  I made a wrong turn, so I turned right to get me back on course. 

As I got closer to the new hotel, there was more traffic, more construction, and more road work . 

Along the way, I passed by multiple rose bushes filled with both blossoms and rose hips.  Rose hips are fantastic.

When I can, I pick a bunch and either make syrup, jam, or jelly out of them, or I dry them for use in the winter.

Rose hips are filled with vitamin C which is important to have. I make a great tea out of the dried fruit so I can get enough vitamin C. 

Its a very popular item to pick in Alaska.

I knew a woman years ago who was moving to Denmark.  She complained about the shower being in the middle of the floor and having only a drain.  Her comments make more sense now.

I noticed in the hotels I've stayed in, the showers are quite different than in the states.  They have glass doors but there is not weird lip to step over. 

Its quite nice to walk in.  The drain is to keep the water from ending up all over the floor.

Another big difference is the way the beds are made.  There is a thin mattress on top of the base mattress. The thin mattress is covered with a white sheet and on top is a comforter the size of the mattress.

It appears they change the cover whenever they prepare the room for a new tenant.  It is so different than what I'm used to but I rather like it.

I think they set it up this way so they don't have as much laundry to do because they are not changing "sheets" ever day unless the room has been vacated.  Very different.

Let me know what you think.  I hope you enjoyed seeing Iceland and Finland with me.  I'll be back in Alaska come Monday, so I'll be back to normal topics.  Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Helsinki Finland

Helsinki Airport at 5:15 AM
 I arrived in Helsinki, Finland at about 4:30 on August 7, 2017, about 6 hours later than scheduled.

The plane left Rekyjavik at about 4 in the afternoon but not long after we took off, we had to return to the airport due to a mechanical issue.

As soon as we hit the ground, we were issued a voucher for dinner while we waited to find out if we were going to leave or have to spend the night.
Helsinki Airport around 5:30 AM.

We hear around 7 PM, we were due to leave at 10 PM because they found an airplane but they had to wait till it came in from elsewhere in Europe.

So around 10 PM, we loaded up and took off.  Unfortunately, this landed me at the airport at 4:30 in the morning when nothing is open.  No information, no currency exchange.  Nothing.

I was lucky in that someone sent me information on where to pick up the airport bus and it accepted credit cards.  I made it to the hotel around 6:30, got up to the room, popped down to enjoy breakfast before crashing in bed.  
Sculpture near a shopping center in downtown.
 I think I slept for 5 hours straight.  I wanted to stay in bed but knew I needed to get up and move around or I'd be awake all night.

I took off.  I didn't get a chance to ask the front desk for directions but they were extremely busy, so I took off to explore.  As I walked along, I passed Finlandia Hall, a multipurpose venue.  It was really majestic.

I passed a few other tourist attractions but by this time it was beginning to rain and I was heading off to find some place indoors so I'd stay dry. 

I ducked into a shopping center with a nice little cafe, a bank, a pop radio station, a eye glasses with eye doctor shop, and several other places.  I sat down for a while, just waiting for the rain to stop.

Seal sculpture in shopping center.
After leaving the shopping center I stumbled across a supermarket and the post office.  I popped into the supermarket to pick up some fruit, bread, cheese, yogurt, and chocolate so I'd have snacks  available to eat later on.  The building also had a Starbucks but I did not go into that.

Since I've never shopped in Finland before, I didn't realize I was supposed to weigh the fruit and get a sticker on it before I checked out.  The clerk was very understanding when she discovered I was a visitor.  She popped out, took care of it but next time, I know what to do.

After leaving the grocery store, I found the central train station in the center of Helsinki.  It appears most buses, trams, and trains all swing through the area allowing people to make connections.

Just past the Central Railroad

 As I continued to stroll around town, it began to sprinkle.  A soft drizzle doesn't bother me but it wasn't long before it rained harder and harder. 

Eventually, I found an overhang to hide under before I became sopping wet.  I stopped at wet but not quite dripping.

As soon as I got back to the room, I hit the showers and took a nice hot, hot, hot shower so I wouldn't get sick.

If you look carefully, you'll see the wet streets. This was between showers.  I think its the central railroad building.

The next day, I moved hotels.  I could have taken a bus, or taxi but I decided to walk to the new hotel.  I'm here to participate in a conference so I moved into the conference hotel.

It was only 2 miles between hotels but the map didn't show all the hills and flat areas, and the map was not totally clear so I missed a turn and went further than I should have.

Tomorrow, I"ll share pictures of the trip between hotels.  Come Saturday, I will fly home to Alaska.  I'll share more pictures of the trip home, next week.  Have a good evening.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Waterfalls, Legends, and Elves

 The third part of the circle tour had us stopping at the Gullfoss falls, we had a great view of the second largest glacier in Iceland. 

It is quite impressive, the way it spreads across the horizon.  A white mass gently caressing the hills in the back ground. 

The first Icelandic environmentalist is intimately associated with Gullfoss falls.  In the early 20th century, an English company wanted to lease the land and the falls so they could produce electricity from a farmer.
The daughter, Sigridur, opposed the move so she made her way to Reykjavik at a time with no roads or bridges to protest the contract.

She was unable to get help so she returned home.  Fortunately, the English company fell behind in lease payments and her father voided the contract.

For her courageous move, Iceland considers her the countries first environmentalist.

Gullfoss is actually composed of two different waterfalls falling from one to another.
The falls are so impressive as they tumble down from left to right, then change direction going from right to left before plunging down into a channel carved out of rock.

On a bright sunny day, it is possible to see a rainbow in the mist of water drops thrown up from the force of the plunging waters.

The government owns the falls so they've set up two viewing stands, one on the upper  level and one on the lower level.

I took pictures from both levels.  The water as it rushes over the rocks, almost appears alive as you stand there watching.

Our tour guide shared a wonderful story with us.  A warrior fell in love with a woman whose previous two husbands died after slapping her.  His friends warned him about her but he ignored their advice and married her anyway.

She was not a great wife.  She wasn't taking proper care of things so part way through the winter, they started running out of food.  Rather than admit things, she stole from others and served it to her husband.  When he found out he was serving food to his neighbors that was originally theirs, he got upset and slapped her face.  She vowed revenge.
Several years later, people tried to take over his land.  He was doing well repulsing the invaders when the string on his bow broke.

He begged her for a strand of hair to use on his bow, she refused.  She said she'd told him she'd get revenge and this was when she chose to do it.

He was unable to defend himself and was killed.  The story ends here.  The tour guide stated many people believe the legends as true.

This picture to the right and the above are a different waterfall.  They stopped here because of the Salmon ladder to the left of the falls. 

The Salmon ladder aka fish ladder is built to help salmon move up steam past water falls, dams, and other natural obstructions which could interfere with salmon migration.

According to the tour guide, people in Iceland were so poor before World War II, they lived in caves because they could not afford a house.  Imagine living your whole life in caves.

At one point on the tour, we passed an area filled with caves.  This is when she shared the story.  Later on the trip, she explained why sheep wandered the countryside free.  Every spring, the sheep are let loose to fatten up and they are gathered up in the fall where they are run through sorting shoots.  Sheep are branded so its easy to tell who owns each sheep.
Whenever we made a stop, I always looked for plants I knew so at the second waterfall, I spotted this small wild strawberry plant with strawberry. 

I showed her the plant and she took a picture of it because wild strawberries are not that common.  Wild blueberries are more easily found.

I did not pick the strawberry because it was not quite ripe and I preferred to leave it for the animals to enjoy.  This was off to the side of the path, near the viewing stand.

Originally, thirty percent of the country was forested but many of the trees were cut down by early settlers to provide heat and grazing area for their livestock.  Today, only 1.5 % of the forested areas are left.

This fact is important because in 1911, a citizen left 45 hectares of forest to the Icelandic Youth Association. 

They have maintained it to the point it is considered one of the most beautiful preserves around today.  

One last story shared with the tour group is so interesting.  It is about the origin of elves based on Icelandic folk lore.

Adam and Eve had lots of children.  One day, Eve received word God planned to come visit.  She tried to get all her children cleaned up but she didn't have enough time so she hid the children she'd not gotten ready for God's visit.  God arrived.  He looked at all her children before asking if they were all out.  She said "Yes." but God knew she lied so he said "The children who are hidden will remain hidden forever"  Those hidden children are Elves.

By the time you read this, I'll be in Finland for a conference.  I hope to share pictures of my visit to Helsinki.  Let me know what you think.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


As we traveled from the National Park to our next stop, we saw these marshmallow like things all over the place in pink, green, and white.

In Iceland, when they harvest hay, they place it in these plastic bags to dry.  The weight decreases by about one-third before being gathered for winter.

The pink ones represent the pink ribbons and money earned from the sale of these is donated to the Cancer society for research.  I found that so cool.
 As we approached the parking area for viewing Geysirs,  I saw wonderful plumes rising off so as to be seen easily in the distance.

This is where the most famous Geysirs are found although you can see plumes all over the island.  Iceland has harnessed its geothermal energy and is able to provide all of its own power. 

Furthermore, much of the power is used to heat greenhouses to grow fruits and vegetables.  There is one set of  greenhouses where they raise tomatoes.  This company has set a restaurant in one green house and has tomato based dishes including tomato ice cream.  Apparently the Kardashians visited there, placed their reviews on social media and now its become famous.  

This Litli Geysir is a small geysir that has not begun spurting in the air.  It sits there bubbling much like a boiling pot.

This is the first one people come across as they enter the area.  There are four of them, spread out all across the area. 

All the gyesirs have labels so you know which one is which.  There are small streams of water streaming down the hill with signs posted warning visitors the water is between 80 and 100 C.

 This is a quick picture of the oldest recorded Geysir.  It only erupts when there is volcanic activity so right now it is rather quiet but if one of the volcanoes erupts as expected, it will become active again.

Geysir is its name and from all the historical records, it has been around since 1294 when it appeared after an erruption.  In fact, it appears to be the oldest Geysir still active.

It quietly bubbles as hot steam flows off it.  Visitors can get quite close to it.  Some of the Geysirs have coins thrown in them even though there are signs posted telling people not to do that.

This is a wonderful picture of Strokkur, the active geysir.  The word Geysir originates from the Icelandic verb meaning to erupt.  This erupts every few minutes, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. 

Its top height is around 20 meters.  As you can see it shoots up beautifully. As it comes down, the wind blows some of the drops towards the left of the photo and people get wet. 

I stood there several minutes waiting for it to erupt.  A couple times, it erupted but it was more like a burp than a real gusher. 

So impressive.
Here is a second shot from a different view so you can see how it looks.  When every it erupted, people made comment.  What you don't see behind me is the hotel, restaurant, gas station, and filled parking lot.

People have the right of way to cross so traffic stops cold.  Once people begin crossing it can be one or two minutes before traffic starts again.

An of course, the final geysir found up at the very top of the group.  As it bubbled I thought of the line from Shakespeare "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble."

A sulfur smell permeates the area from the geysers.  The smell is not obnoxious but quite noticeable. 

Since hot water is prevalent through out Iceland, most communities have a hot tub for everyone to relax in at the end of the day.  People discuss their days.  The tour guide said its a great way to learn Icelandic if you move there.  In addition, we passed on town with no cemeteries at all because hot water is just below the surface.

More information tomorrow.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures. Have a great day.