Friday, September 29, 2017

Sunscreen in the Winter?

Sunscreen, Sun Milk, Lotion, Sun, Beach  Summer is ending and fall is upon us. Where I live, we are having a wet fall, complete with mud and overcast days.  Its the time of year when many of us put away the sunscreen.  The sun is too weak for us to burn so we won't really need need it for another year. Or will we?

I just recently discovered we should be wearing sunscreen year round rather than just during summer months when the sun is at its strongest.

Yes, you read that right! year round. The reason being is that when you are exposed to the sun daily on your commute, when out for a daily walk, etc, has a cumulative effect.

There are two types of UV rays.  The obvious one is the UVB which is responsible for our skin burning but it is the UVA rays we need to be aware of.

It doesn't matter the temperatures have dropped because you are being exposed to UVA rays, responsible for aging skin. UVA rays reaches deep into the skin  and they make up 95% of the UV rays we are exposed to.

It is suggested since snow reflects such a high amount of UVA rays (almost 80%), it is necessiry to use sun screen to protect one's skin when out snowboarding or skiing. UV radiation increases 4 to 5 percent for an increase of 1000 feet in elevation. Remember, just because its cloudy, does not mean you are protected.  Clouds are only able to block out about 20% of UV rays, this means 80% of the rays get through.  

Many dermatologists recommend the continued use of sunscreen to protect your skin.  Just because you've applied the sunscreen for the day, you'll be fine.  You still sweat so the sunscreen has to be reapplied at regular intervals.

One other place we are exposed to possible damage is at the office.  There is current research indicating pigment cells are stimulated by the light from computer screens and overhead lights, in addition to the sun.  This discovery has lead to the recommendation that people wear sunscreen even in an office.

I admit, before reading this, I shared the belief I didn't need sunscreen once fall hit.  Living in Alaska, the amount of daylight drops significantly.  But having learned more about UVA, I am going to keep using my sunscreen year round.

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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Manhatten? $24 Really?

New York, Skyline, Manhattan, Hudson  Have you ever wondered if the Europeans actually purchased Manhattan, NY for $24.00 worth of beads and trinkets or was that one of those myths that sprung forth due back in the mists of time? 

I remember hearing about it when I grew up and accepted it as truth but somewhere in the last couple of years, I heard something about it being a myth.

There is a primary source in the Dutch Archives where a reference is found to purchasing the land for 60 guilders in 1626. Although there is a deed in regard to this, the deed was not written for several decades and by that time, it was inhabited by the Dutch.

The $24.00 came about in the 19th century, when historians converted the 60 guilders into American dollars.  Since then, that figure has been quoted as the purchase price. There is no evidence what the exchange rate would have been in 1626 since the dollar did not exist.

There are still mysteries surrounding the whole even.  Even though there is a letter written by a merchant in regard to the purchase of the land, he neither mentions which tribe sold it, nor who actually bought it.  There is some speculation that the tribe who sold the land didn't, actually own it but were just traveling through.  Apparently, the Dutch claim was contested later on and they had to pay the true owners but it is not known how much was paid as compensation, so they ended up paying twice.

In addition, the author does not actually mention what was used to purchase the land.  He only states they traded "for the value of 60 guilders".  Based on what the Dutch paid for Staten Island, years later, it is possible usable items such as shirts, cloth, powder, socks, muskets, adzes, kettles, axes, knives, and lead made up the value.  Items considered quite usable at the time.

I hope you enjoyed reading this. Let me know what you think.  Have a good day.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Blood Oranges.

Blood Orange, Citrus, Orange, Tropical  The first time I had a blood orange I didn't know what to expect because of its name.  I had never heard of them but saw one in the store so I decided to try one.

Since then I've had several and enjoyed each and every one.  If you look at the picture to the left, you see what one type looks like. 

Yes blood oranges are red inside and some  have red splotches on the outside.  Even the juice is reddish. The amount of red depends on the variety and its growing conditions.

The red is caused by anthocynan, a pigment found as red in cherries or red cabbage, or blue in blueberries or purple in eggplant. 

These oranges provide large amounts of vitamin C, potassium, vitamin A, calcium, and fiber.  In addition they carry a powerful antioxident.

The earliest written record appeared in 1646 when a Jesuit priest wrote about a purple flesh colored orange that tasted like a grape.   As far as anyone can tell, this is the result of a natural mutation and no one is sure where they originated although it is thought they originated in China and was brought to Sicily and Spain in the 11th and 12 century.

Blood oranges are grown around the world including places like Texas and California.  There are several varieties include Tarocco, Moro (or Morro), and Sanguinello (or Sanguigno).  Sanguinello oranges have a deep reddish purple flesh while the Tarocco flesh has a light red tint. The Moro has a medium red flesh and is the most common blood orange found in the United States.

Since blood oranges are a winter crop, they tend to be available between December and April.  In Italy, they are as common as Navel oranges while in the United States they are a specialty item so they command a higher price.  You can find them in many stores including Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, and some of the store chains.

The flavor is less sweet and less acidic than regular oranges.  Since it is a only a winter crop, it is possible to purchase the juice year round which can be used in cooking, making syrups, or adding as flavoring goods.   I tend to only go for the fruit and enjoy it when I can get my hands on a few.  They don't last long in my fridge.

Let me know what you think. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Brain Breaks

Brain, Anatomy, Abstract, Art, Branches  Although this is a hot topic in education at the moment, it is also applicable to anyone who works at a job requiring a lot of time seated.  This applies to me when I'm getting my blog updated and ready to go for the next week.

A brain break is a short break of physical activity designed to clear the brain of stress and overload so it functions better.  It is important to take brain breaks ever 30 to 60 minutes so you don't get fuzzy.

Basically the brain has two sides, one which deals with focus and efforts while the other side likes to wander.   The first side often gets too cluttered with information overload and the second part of the brain does not get a chance to wander so the brain basically stalls.

Some ways to take a brain break at the office.

1.  Get up and move around.  When I worked in an office, I would wander off to the bathroom, check on things, and take the long way around so I'd get a three or four minute break of just moving around.  Even three to four minutes is enough to reset the brain.  A short walk also has been shown to relieve stress, reduce fatigue, and boost energy.

2. If possible, take a short 25 to 30 minute nap to to increase energy, improve learning and memory, boost mental alertness, and increase and productivity.  I realize this is easiest done when you work at home.

3. Take a short break to calm the mind through deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to obtain maximum renewal in a minimum amount of time.  It can lower cortisol levels over time.

4. Volunteer to make a coffee run for the office so you can get out of the building and take a brain break.

5.  At lunch, walk around the building a couple of times while listening to music. 

6.  Use you cell phone, take it to a quiet place so you can pace while you make your calls.

Notice, most of these get you up and moving around so you can get a bit of exercise to get your brain unblocked. 

Let me know what you think.  I love to hear from people.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Short or Long Exercise Sessions

Runner, Race, Competition, Female  I am not one of those people who goes to a gym to exercise one to two hours before or after work. 

There are two reasons I don't do it. First, I don't have a gym within a two hour air flight and second, I don't have the time right now.

 What I do have the time for is a couple or three shorter sessions.  I wanted to know if several short sessions is as good as one long session?

So I took a look.  If I don't have time for one longer session, three shorter ones are considered as good or better.  Research indicates that three shorter ones can actually have some definite advantages over one long one.

In one research project, they discovered the benefits of shorter bursts of exercise lasted longer than fewer longer sessions.  Another study showed blood pressure readings improved well for both types of sessions but there were fewer spikes with shorter sessions.

According to the CDC it doesn't matter which way you go because the overall number of minutes done per week is important.  People need to accumulate 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate exercise to receive benefits.

Benefits include weight loss, stronger bones and muscle, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and a boost to both your emotional and energy levels.

To receive the most benefits from exercise, long or short, make sure it is challenging but not so challenging that you can't finish the whole session.  If you do a longer session, take sure you take as few breaks as possible and if you do have to take a break, keep it as short as possible.  Try to include some interval training for best results.

It has been suggested that people get up 15 minutes earlier, squeeze a 10 minute session at lunch, a quick walk in the park in the evening.  I hate being outside when its cold and rainy or snowy and blizzarding.  I rely on exercise DVD's.  I have a huge collection of 10 minute ones which fit my needs when I need short ones.

I am glad to hear my sneaking those 10 and 15 minute ones into my schedule is ok.  I used to feel guilty not doing 45  to 90 minute sessions because I could only use 10 to 15 min sessions at once.  I am glad I am doing something right.

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Saturday, September 23, 2017


Note:  This is actually carved in ice, back lit with colored lights.

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Brief History of Wedding Photography.

Wedding Photo Viet  One of my nieces is due to get married next summer.  Many couples hire a professional photographer to snap beautiful pictures of everything from start to finish.

In today's society, most couples who marry end up with a book filled with pictures of everything so they can remember the event but it hasn't always been this way.

Wedding photographs have only been taken since photography itself began.  The first real wedding photographs began in the 1840's at a time when photography did not yet have a commercial use.  In fact, one of the first wedding photographs was taken of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840. These original photographs were taken in studies because of the type of equipment being used. These ones are called daguerreotype portraits where the photos were on tiny copper sheets and it required couples stand still for long periods of time so the image set.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, photography methods improved to the point photographers could take multiple pictures for a wedding album but most were still being taken in black and white even though color became available in the early 20th century.  Early color photographs faded due to its unreliability'

Towards the end of World War II, techniques changed enough that wedding photographs moved out of the studio into capturing the event itself.  The end of World War II brought a boom of marriages which caused photographers to shoot weddings on speculation with the understanding the bride, groom, and families would buy the photos they like best.  Cameras became more portable, lighting more compact, and film came on rolls.

The style of photography still remained the same with heavy lighting so even the candid shots were posed but in the 1970's when 35mm cameras became popular.  The new style called wedding photojournalism which captured the whole wedding from start to finish.  This also meant that any amateur who had a camera could advertise and take pictures.

The latest change came with the development of digital cameras. The digital camera is small, portable, and all photos can be edited and sharpened. In addition, these photos are easier to distribute to all parties.

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Making Apple Juice at Home.

Apple Juice, Sweet, Fruit Juice, Healthy  I remember in College, driving a few hours up to Dixon to get fresh squeezed apple cider.  We'd wait in line and buy a few gallons because it had no preservatives and if you weren't careful, you'd end up with something slightly alcoholic.

Other weekends, we'd drive in the other direction to pick up a bushel or two of apples picked from the ground because they were really cheap.  I'd take them home and spend time making apple butter, apple sauce,  dried apples, and of course juice.

I did not own an apple press as I was a starving college student living in college housing but I owned a pan and cheese cloth so I could make juice.  I admit, the process took over the whole kitchen which wasn't very large so much of this was done on the kitchen table.

General recipe 1:
 Quarter the apples after removing blemishes and soft spots.  Remove the seeds before placing them in a large pan.  Add enough water to almost cover the apples, simmer till nice and soft.  Line a colander with cheese cloth.  Scoop apples and liquid into the colander and let drain.  When done, press with a spoon so get any extra liquid out.  Heat the juice, add any sweetener or spices to it before pouring in hot sterilized bottles while leaving 1/4 inch space.  Process in a boiling water canner for 30 minutes.

General recipe 2:
Cut the apples into quarters. Remove the seeds, central core, and any soft spots.  Chop the apples into small pieces and place in a blender.  Blend until it resembles a sauce.  Place in a cloth lined strainer and strain until the juice has finished draining.

If you wonder what to do with the left over pulp?  That is easy.  I've used it to make a apple spice cake or apple spice quick bread because I hate to waste anything.  I've also used the pulp mixed in with oatmeal to make one that was more like apple spice.

If you have a different way to make apple juice, let me know.  I'd love to hear from you.  Have a great day.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Retirement Yes or No

Fishing, Sunset, British Columbia  Last night, I spoke with a lady who talked about retirement.  Hers.  Maybe.  What she said is that she is eligible to retire but isn't sure she wants to.  She said she goes back and forth.  The biggest thing holding her back is her lack of hobbies.

Apparently, she works long hours and goes home to sleep.  She doesn't do much else.  I am shocked because most people I know have hobbies.

I pointed out retirement is for exploring things you haven't had time to explore during the rest of your life.  You can write the great American novel you've had in the back of your mind since you were 20. You could start that business you've always wanted to own.

In regard to starting your own business, there is information on the internet, including who to talk to who offers free or low cost information.  There are short business classes you can take to help you write a business plan, start the actual business, etc either on line or locally.  There is a place I take classes, I mention a bit later and they do have some business classes.

If you want to learn new things, search the internet for free classes.  I've taken two from Future Learn for free.  I'd have to pay if I want a certificate but I don't need a certificate.  There are other places you can go to take free classes to learn a new skill on the internet.  I'm getting ready to find a German Language class so I can learn a bit of German before I go there next summer.

There are also classes for a fee at craft stores, hardware stores, yarn shops, etc.  You can also check YouTube for videos showing how to do something.  I learned to cast on stitches for knitting by watching a knitting video.  I have a set of beading videos I plan to use so I can make jewelry. 

The coolest thing I see about retirement is most colleges offer much lower tuition for taking classes if you are over 62.  I know someone who signed up at the local university to take a beginning level German class for only the fees and books so it was about $300.

The thing about retirement is you have more time to visit the places you've always wanted to visit.  You can take advantage of off season rates, sales on airfares or cruises.  You have fewer time constraints.

The thing about retiring is you have to plan ahead so you will stay busy.  All the people I retired who quit doing things, died young.  Those who kept busy with learning and small businesses have lived a lot longer.  I saw a study that said if you keep learning, your brain stays healthier and if you do get Alzheimer you are less likely to show it because you are exercising your brain.

I have a long list of things I plan to do when I retire.  I expect the list will keep me busy for the rest of my life.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

11 of the Best Places to Travel in the Fall.

Fall, Autumn, Red, Season, Woods, Nature  I can only travel during the summer or around Christmas time but other people have the option to visit places during the fall. When I retire, I'd like to spread my traveling across the full year and not just cram it into the summer.

So what are some great places to see in the fall?  I know I don't know so after a bit of research, I've come up with some lovely suggestions.  These suggestions are not in any particular order.

1. Highly recommended is the Oktoberfest in Munich which runs from the end of September to the beginning of October.  Be warned this event attracts over 6 million people to enjoy beer and pretzels.

2. What about Grizzly Bear watching at the Bear Camp in British Columbia from August to October.  Its a great place to go to take pictures of bears in the wild.

3. Go to the Caribbean because its the off season for hotels but hurricanes are up a bit.  However,   Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao are less likely to be hit due to their location. 

4. Do you love seeing the leaves  change.  Most people think of New England but Japan, The Douro Valley in Portugal, along with Moscow have gained reputations for places with spectacular fall shows of changing color.

5. If you are an avid skier, think about heading to Chile to do some spring skiing.  In addition, many resorts including the Portillo resort have good prices going since its toward the end of the season.  I tried skiing one time but ended up going down the hill backward. I've never been since then.

6. Check out the Diwali Festival of Lights in India.  Its a 5 day Hindu festival held in November usually.  It attracts millions of visitors with its fireworks, prayer, and celebrations.

7. If you've wanted an excuse to go to Africa, check out Malawi's Lake of the Stars Music Festival toward the end of September.  You may not find the big names you are used to, but you'll hear some great music you'll enjoy.

8.  For those who prefer something a bit more unusual, check out the World Beard and Moustache Championships in Austria.  This biennial championship happens in odd years, so it is happening this year.  You'll find it in the Austrian Alps during the beginning of October.

9. If you rather stay in the United States, San Francisco has gained a reputation as a great place to visit in the Fall due to fewer tourists.

10. Another great place to visit in the fall is the Grand Canyon.  The fall has fewer crowds and better temperatures.  Its beauty is the same year round.  I visited near Christmas one year. I took so many pictures including one of a tree whose bark was amazing. 

11.  Check out Washington D.C. in the fall.  Once school starts the number of visitors drop making it less crowded as you check out museums, plazas, and monuments.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Homemade Liquers.

Coffee Cup, Cup, Saucer, Ceramic, Coffee  I adore Bailey's Irish Cream but not in my coffee.  I love it in my hot chocolate drunk on a cold winter day after walking home during a blizzard.

Unfortunately, it has alcohol in it and I cannot have it in my house.  In Alaska, villages can be wet, damp, or dry.  Wet means it is sold in the village, damp means you can bring it in or personal consumption or dry means you cannot have it in anyway.

My village is dry.  If you bring it in and are caught, you will be arrested and end up in jail.  It has happened before.  Although the village is dry, alcohol is sold here and people make their own.  The last time I heard, a fifth of alcohol ran around $250.

So I want to make my own without the alcohol so I can enjoy the flavor in my chocolate to give it that little bit extra flavor.  Unfortunately, I could not find a recipe for Irish Cream without alcohol.  It is frustrating because I do not want to be arrested.

I will share the alcoholic DIY version of Irish Cream because its all I could find.  There are several recipes I found but most of them are as follows:

Recipe 1.
1 1/4 cups Irish whiskey
1 tablespoon espresso powder
14 ounces condensed sweetened milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
1 teaspoon real almond extract
2 tablespoons honey

Mix in a blender, put in a jar, refrigerate 2 hours, shake and serve.

Another couple of recipes recommended you make concentrated cold brew coffee and use 1/4 cup of it.  It also recommended using one ounce of 60% cacao chocolate chips melted in 1 pint of heavy cream over a double boiler.  Stir in 1/3rd cup of sugar to the cream mixture.  When fully mixed with the sugar melted, take off of the heat, add 2 tbsp of chocolate extract to the chocolate mixture, before adding 1 1/2 cup Irish Whiskey, cold brew coffee, and 1 tsp vanilla to it.  Mix with an immersion blender, pour into a bottle, refrigerate till ready to use.

On the other hand it was easy to find an alcohol free version of Kahlua by 3 cups of sugar, 2 cups of water, and a 2 inch piece of vanilla into a pan.  Bring to a boil, and simmer till the volume has been reduced by half around a half hour. When done, add 8 tbsp of instant coffee mixing well before cooling. In a jar, mix the sugar syrup with a fifth of either rum or vodka.  Shake and store in a dark place for approx. 10 days. After 10 days, strain the mixture, bottle it, and enjoy.

I doubt, I would every make the Kahlua because I do not like coffee flavor.  I'm going to keep looking for a nonalcoholic version of Irish Creme but I do not think I'll find one since the Irish is supplied by Irish whiskey.

Have a great day and let me know what you think.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Brief History of Desserts.

Bananas, Dessert, Ice Cream, Fruit  When I was growing up, we seldom had anything for dessert to end a meal.  Usually, we finished eating the main meal and we were off to do homework or headed out to play in the neighborhood. 

If we had dessert it was because it was a holiday such as Thanksgiving or it was someone's birthday.  If mom made cake, it came out of a box and so did the frosting. 

My favorite - A German Chocolate cake with coconut pecan frosting.  Once I got older, I fell in love with carrot cakes or apple spice cakes because they had more substance to them.  They were more filling and I chose smaller pieces.  I recently began wondering when desserts became a normal part of the meal.

Apparently, the word dessert is derived from the French word desservir which means cleaning the table.  Back in the 17th century, when entertaining could last all night, cooks often prepared sweets or finishers in advance served at the end so people were filled to the brim before they left. 

Sweets have been around for a long time but appeared originally in the form of nuts or fruit rolled in honey. This is considered the first candy.  If you look at the Chinese, you'll find they invented a form of ice cream that was actually a flavored ice.  It wasn't until it reached Italy that adjustments were made so the flavored ice became a sorbet. No one is sure when it became the ice cream we know today.

One of the contributions to the development of modern desserts came when sugar began to be manufactured in the middle ages but it was still extremely expensive so only the rich could afford. The first printed recipe for apple pie appeared in 1381.  The original gingerbread appeared around 1400 but it was made by soaking bread crumbs in spices and honey.

By 1600, Pralines made an appearance in France at the tables of nobility while in 1700 the Eclair began its evolutionary journey to the form we know today.  By 1740, numerous cupcake recipes existed so they were quite popular, although they are making a reappearance in a big way today.

In the 19th century, the lemon meringue pie became popular although both lemon and meringue custards existed prior to that.  Its only really been since the 1500's that desserts have really developed.  Along the way, many meat based puddings were replaced by sweet versions.

I hope you enjoyed reading this brief history of desserts. In a couple days I'll look at a few specific desserts and their history.  Have a good day.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Metabolism Fact or Fiction.

Runner, Marathon, Military, AfghanistanI'm sure you've heard people complain about their slowing metabolism as they grow older or state something like "I can't eat anything or it shows up around my waist.  So that begs the question "What is metabolism?" and "What things do we know that are actually false"?

Metabolism is defined as the process our body uses to convert what we eat into the energy we use to live and function. It is responsible for everything from breathing to sitting and moving.  A slow metabolism needs less fuel to keep going while a fast metabolism burns through calories.  

We've all heard that we are stuck with what ever metabolism we were given.  While its true, our metabolism is determined by our genetic make up, we can do things to increase our metabolism.  One way is to increase lean muscle mass because muscle burns more calories per hour than fat.

Although our muscle mass decreases as we age we can still include weights twice a week in our exercise regime so we can keep our muscle mass up so our metabolism does not slow.

Another claim floating around the internet is that drinking green tea or eating chili peppers will cause our metabolism to speed up.  There are a few studies out which indicate they temporarily increase metabolism but not enough to counter eating more calories.  Its better to eat a good balanced diet with good portion control.

The third myth concerns eating late at night causes you to gain weight.  This isn't fully true.  Its eating extra calories, no matter when that cause people to gain weight.  Many times, people are more likely to much in the evening when they are watching television or doing something sedentary.

People believe that by cutting back on calories significantly, they will jump start weight loss but for most people, if the number of calories are cut too much, their bodies will begin to store energy in the form of fat because the body thinks it is starving.

Some people believe that both men and women have the same metabolism. This is not true due to the way each is built.  In general men have a higher metabolism because they generally have more leaner muscle mass than women and their organs are larger.  In addition, women have a layer of fat which does not go away.

Its been said if you skip a meal, particularly breakfast, you will kick your metabolism up so you burn more calories but its been shown by eating breakfast a person is less likely to binge eat later in the day.  As mentioned before it can actually cause your body to store fat in case of famine.

It appears the best way to keep your metabolism going, especially as you age, is to keep the amount of lean muscle mass your body has, exercise regularly, and eat a good balanced diet so you are not eating extra calories.

Let me know what you think.  I'd love to hear from people.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Does Fat Change Into Muscle?

Man, Board, Drawing, Muscles, Strong  I remember being told by P.E. teachers, we had to exercise to change fat into muscle.  They always said, muscle was denser and so much better for us but I couldn't figure out how fat could be changed into muscle.

The phrase is actually not quite right because fat cannot change into muscle.  In fact, they are two different parts of the body.  Fat is the body's way of storing potential energy while muscle is active as you move and burns energy.  

You cannot turn one into the other but with it is possible to build muscle and shrink your fat.  Its important to eat enough protein, about one gram per body fat, eat dense carbohydrates, and include healthy fats.  Balance weights with cardio and you have the best situation for building muscle and cutting fat cells.

When doing weights, implement compound movements so more than one group of muscles is worked at any one time.  The cardio should be in the form of HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training or circuit training alternating cardio with strength.

Here are 7 myths associated with the topic which seem to persist.

1. The first myth is that cardio is best for burning fat.  While cardio does burn more calories, lifting weights actually burns more fat.  In one study, it was found women who completed an hour long strength training session burned at least 100 more calories in the following 24 hours than those who skipped it.

2. It it believed that is you lift weights, you will become bulky but this is not true.  Muscle growth occurs slowly over days, months, and years.  People comment about having gained bulk quickly after adding weights but all that happens is that you are packing more muscle in the same place. You are tightening your body.

3. One of my favorites - If you do not exercise your muscle will turn to fat.  If you quit training, your muscles actually shrink while your fat cells fill in the areas where muscle used to be.  They do not turn into fat because they are two different creatures.

4. This is a new one on me.  I was taught to stretch muscles before working out or just after your muscles are warmed up.  Apparently, stretching increases flexibility. Most injuries occur during the normal range of motions. It is recommended you warm-up properly to prevent injury.

5. Another new one is that cables and resistance bands have gained a reputation for toning muscles while free weights are better for building muscles.  This is a total misconception because a muscle contraction is the same regardless of tool used.

6. As you know by know, eating lots of protein does not build muscle.  Your body requires a well balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, and fats to build muscle. 

7. Spot exercise such as lunges does not burn fat from one location.  Your body when it burns fat, burns it from the whole body, not a specific location.

I grew up learning most of these myths which were promoted as gospel for anyone wanting to watch their weight.  I now know they are all wrong.  You may wonder why I wrote about the topic?  Well, its fall and pretty soon the colder weather will arrive.  Once the snow starts, I do not take the long walks I do the rest of the year.  I need to know the proper ways to keep my body fit so when spring comes again, I do not start at the beginning again.

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Alaska Commercial Stores

Small Business, Business, Shop, Store Alaska Commercial has a rich and varied history in the 49th state.  It is the equivalent to Safeway or Fred Meyers because its more than just a grocery store.  As mentioned yesterday, the closest one is about 45 minutes by river since that is really the only way to go other than a short 20 minute hop by plane.

Alaska Commercial has been in the state since before it became a state and has roots back to when Russia settled in the state.  Originally it was known as the Alaska Commercial Company when it bought out the Russian American Company around 1866 or so.

In 1901, it was renamed the Northern Commercial Company when it merged with four other companies but in 1992, it reorganized and became Alaska Commercial again. These village stores often operated as the court house, community center, and post office.  They used barter more often because people did not have cash.  So proprietors exchanged goods  for fish, gold or furs which could be resold elsewhere for more money.  Many stores set a basic unit of furs based on how many it took to make a parka (fur coat).

 In other areas, they accepted gold for merchandise.  They received 7 million dollars in gold over the 12 year period of the gold rush. During the gold rush period, the company ran steam wheelers, stage coach lines, and the mail service in addition to maintaining their stores.  

Although Alaska Commercial could be found in so many places in Alaska, its parent company operated in San Francisco after it was sold to a group of employees.  In 1890, the company has its own museum in San Francisco.

Over the years, ownership has changed hands and stores have been sold off.  Now there are just under 30 AC stores left all over Alaska in small villages and towns.  I've been to the ones in Fort Yukon, Bethel, Nome, and Unalakleet.  The stores aren't very big, about the size of a 7-11, yet carry everything a person would need.

One time, they had a sale on Ben and Jerry's so I purchased 10 pints and stored them in the freezer for those days when I absolutely needed a treat.  Understand, a pint of Ben and Jerry's is around $12.00 normally because the cost of air freight is added in to the normal cost.  So when it was marked down to $5.00 it was a bargain.

Hope you enjoyed that bit of history.  Have a good day.  Let me know what you think.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sod House, etc.

 Friday, we walked out to the tundra for our last day of Seaweek.  We headed kind of north west out of the village.  Rather than go past the boats in the river, we took a right past the electrical plant, storage tanks, and the gas station.

I took a photo to show you the local gas station.  Yes the pump is encased in a small building that can be locked at night to keep people from trying to steal gas. 

The attendant is in the building to the right of the pump.  The man in the photo works where I do.  He is awesome.
Since the line of students spread out quite a distance, those in the front stopped to let everyone else catch up.  In the background, at the top of the hill, you see one of the wind generators.

That means the dump is to the left maybe a quarter mile.  Coming back the kids actually took the route that had us walking down the road at the top of the hill that you do not see.

The kids had a great time resting.  The day was overcast and windy so it was a bit chilly.
 This picture is of the top of wild celery or what they call wild celery.  The one on the right shows the roots.  They collect the roots, dry them for winter and use them to make a medication for colds and flues. They make sure to wash the dirt off before drying.

On the way to the sod house, we passed an area with raspberry plants.  The plants are barely 6 inches tall but I couldn't find any berries or I would have picked some because they are considered a treat.

 This picture was taken from the top of the sod house.  The village is off to the left, just out of sight.  The land is covered in tons of lakes so you cannot just hike out.

Long time ago, before missionaries, people out here built and lived in sod houses but not quite like the ones used on the great planes.

Small groups or families built their areas with a wooden structure that was covered with dirt and tundra plants.  Although there are no trees in the area, wood floats in and people gather it, especially after storms.
 This photo was taken on the opposite side of the sod house.  I didn't get pictures of the areas starting to fall in because I was busy keeping an eye on a pair of teenagers in love.  The high grass and cold wind provided the perfect excuse to snuggle in a depression.

Some of the bushes you see are actually willow trees.  Nothing gets very tall on the tundra due to the temperatures underground and the wind which blows most of the time.

By the time this picture was taken, the sun was out and it was warming up.  The students below, played with a volleyball.
This is a bag of minnows, baby devil fish, and baby flounders.  One of the teachers took off to check his fish trap for dinner.  He said the minnow are fantastic when eaten raw and provide a quick snack.

I took the picture when he took time to explain why he brought such small fish home.  She is new and asked because she's used to people throwing such small fish back.

I spent much of the afternoon picking cranberries or red berries as they are known locally.  I picked almost a quart bag full.  I gave it to a coworker who has a family but she'll bring me a treat when she uses them at home.

We headed back around 2 As soon as we were back and in classrooms, people brought around freshly made dessert with black berries.  Ohhh they were so good.

I hope you enjoyed a look at village life.  This is my 12th year here and I am still learning new things every year.  Have a great day and let me know what you think.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Manaq or Fishing.

Yesterday, we went out again as part of Sea Week.  The group went out to manaq which is the local term for fishing.

The picture to the left was taken around 10 AM as students walked out to the tundra, then up river to the spot chosen.  We set out when it was low tide.

As you can see, the group was quite spread out.  I tend to bring up the rear so I never get a short break and I get there in time for lunch.  The silvery water in the distance is the river we were aiming for.
This is a close up of the river.  Its low tide so there were several feet of muddy banks on each side.  The mud is nasty enough to suck boots down into the muck.

The river during low tide is not that deep.  This river is filled with a variety of fish.  Our walk took us parallel to the river for a couple of miles.  A few places were absolutely nasty, while others emitted a nasty stench as you crossed the still water.
 This young lady caught the first fish, a tomcod.  She was so proud, she showed it to everyone before asking for a plastic bag.  I checked back with her at the end of the day but she'd only caught one more.

One boy caught a "devil fish", released it and the next person in line caught the same fish.  I asked where the name came from.  The kids said the fish has horns, thus its name.  Another girl said it also has spines down the back of the neck.

The kids were enthusiastic in sharing information on their catches.  A boy held up his catch, a small flat fish locally called a "flat fish" but known as a Flounder by everyone else.

Half the students ended up quite muddy because it wasn't high tide yet so much of the bank was still muddy.  Several students threw mud at each other while others played in the mud like young children.

This picture shows the students lined up along the muddy banks. If you look carefully, you can see short sticks planted in the side, right by the water line.

The sticks are the fishing pole.  There is a string tied to the end of a stick with one or more hooks attached.  People bait the hooks, throw the string into the water and push the other end into the mud or dirt.

They monitor the string to see if it becomes tight.
The tightening is a signal there is a fish on the end.  The photo to the left is a closer shot of a manaq which is just behind the person with the red hoody.

The muddy banks is filled with deep footsteps from students walking.  The grass in the lower right corner signals the beginning of the grassy area.

By the time we returned to school about half the students were muddied to some degree.
 I didn't come prepared to fish, so I spent a few hours on and off collecting wild cranberries which are much smaller than commercial ones and not tart in the same way.

I collected about half a bag today.  I was not doing a serious job.  I wanted to show you what they looked like since few people get a chance to see wild cranberries.  I gave my share to another teacher.

Her guy makes a wonderful cranberry sauce so I figured she needed more than she'd collected.  When we go out today, I'll collect another bag of cranberries to trade for homemade agutak.  mmmmmm, so good.

We found a few blackberries sprinkled among the cranberries because the two grow next to each other. 
 This is a close up of cranberries. The thin white strands are some sort of lichen often found next to the cranberries.  At the bottom, right next to more berries are Labrador tea.

Cranberries are found in clusters of three to five berries in each group.  The picking goes quite fast especially if you find an area with tons of plants.  Cranberries are best when they've been touched by a light frost.

In addition you often find low bush blueberries sprinkled through out this same area but they prefer the side of hills.  Unfortunately, the blueberries are often gone by the third week of August.  This year, they went earlier due to birds.

That tells me, there was less food available for the birds so they ate more of the berries so fewer were available this year for  gathering.

 Today, I saw tons of this black plant sprinkled among the hills near the fishing place.  One of the ladies said they call it "Josephs Grass".

I didn't get a chance to ask if its used for anything. The plant is quite hairy looking and stands out because its so dark.

Ohhh, I spoke with someone and discovered the liquid squeezed out of that moss is not drinkable but it could be used for other things.
The final picture is from the trip back to school.  The area is filled with lakes, rivers, sloughs, and other bodies of water.

I'll be posting new photos on Monday of our last day out.  We are taking the students out by some old sod houses where people lived long time ago before the village was founded here.

Maybe I'll include a bit of history of the village next week.  It looks beautiful but the day was chilly with a stiff breeze blowing all day long.  First thing I did when after walking in the door was taking a nice blistering hot shower to get rid of the chill.

I hope you enjoyed it.  Have a wonderful weekend.  Let me know what you think.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Blackfish and berries.

 Today, we went north, out past the end of the old airport to a nice area where one of the teachers has a black fish trap placed.  To the left, you see an example of a black fish trap.  The idea is they swim into the opening and there is a small opening at the other end which leads to a holding area.

Black fish live in swampy, muddy, grass filled area similar to the picture directly below.  People place the traps out in these areas, mark the taps with a something so they find them again, leave them out for a few days before checking them. 

These fish are able to survive under conditions of low oxygen.  I spoke with someone who told me that his son placed two in a regular aquarium and they died due to having too rich a level of oxygen in the water.  These fish are not used to that.

The interesting thing about the location this particular trap was placed, is the grass found in the area.  You can see the grass has rather wide blades.  I mention that because locals pick two or three distinct types of grass to use.

The grass from these plants were used many years ago to weave seats for paddlers in a kayak.  I'm told the woven seats are quite comfortable.  Another, thinner type of grass is wonderful for weaving baskets and such. 
 The picture to the left is a great picture of the local terrain with all its lakes and mushy ground.  There are lots of plants found in the tundra, many are used every day.

At one points kids were playing a weird version of baseball on the tundra and having a blast.  I still do not know all the rules. If I used two words to describe the game, its organized chaos.

In the distance, you see some mountains (hills) volcanic in nature and found between the village and the sea.
 The picture to the right contains a couple of plants.  The ones with the long skinny green leaves around a red stem in the upper half is called Ayuk or Labrador tea.

 The Ayuk is burned to chase away bad feelings and clean the air.  It is made into a tea to help people remain healthy so they often add it to their black tea. It has an interesting flavor.

In addition, the Ayuk is often used to help people get over sore throats or congested chests.  I just use it instead of incense at my house.

The smaller plant in the lower left cornet produces a small black berry called blackberries around here.  Unfortunately, there are not that many black berries available because the birds had a lovely time eating them.
 This is a close up of native cranberries.  There are similar red berries but they can make you sick.  The easiest way to be certain is to pick the red berries off the small plants with round curled leaves. 

The bad berries are found growing either in the middle of plain mossy areas or in the middle of a strawberry like leafed plant.  I find it easy to differentiate but its much harder for newbies. 

The other berries look so different.  Cranberries are usually found among blackberries which make them much easier find.  We found a few blackberries while out picking cranberries.  I'll be going out tomorrow and probably looking for more.
 The students are standing around a black fish trap while being instructed by one of the men.  The village is trying to keep its culture alive so they insist on including it in the school curriculum.

The kids are standing in muddy water. It was interesting watching students walk along the path right next to the grassy area.  It bounced kind of like a rickety bridge until one too many students went across and it broke.

Then the kids started getting a bit muddy.

The picture to the left is of a moss.  I do not know the name of it but its quite valuable to the local population.

One of the young ladies shared the following information with me because her parents are quite traditional.

If you took this moss in your hands and squeezed, you'd see droplets of liquid come out. She didn't know if the liquid was drinkable but said she'd ask her mother for me.

They use it to mop their floors since its so damp.  They gather a nice supply of it during the summer and fall so they can clean their floors as needed.  Once these plants are all gone, they use a regular mop.

Another young girl stated her grandparents dried these moss to use instead of toilet paper if they run out or are camping because the moss is extremely biodegradable.

The picture to the right shows what it looks in the ground.  The other picture shows it once its out of the ground.  These are beautiful plants that grow in clusters in damp areas.

Tomorrow, we are heading out a different direction to go fishing among other things.  I plan to take pictures of the fishing rods which are quite different than most people use.  The most common fish they are likely to catch are tomcods.

I hope you enjoyed today's entry.  I'll post another entry tomorrow with new pictures and lots of new information.  Every year, I learn more things about the culture and I love it.  Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Mouse Food

 Yesterday, we began Sea Week.  Grades 10 to 12, headed down river towards Hooper Bay to camp out till Friday.  Grades 7 to 9 and the high school students who did not go camping are spending days out in the tundra within walking distance of the village, while elementary students do a variety of activities.

The middle school and high school students took off for the area out near one of the camps looking for mouse food.  We passed many of the landmarks in the village such as the tank farm where fuel is stored and where the only gas station is in town. 

The fuel farm was built about 6 years ago in the area where the school held all cross country races.  The city built the facility over a summer.  I left in May it wasn't there and in August, it was. 

If you follow the main road all the way down to the dump, you'll pass the four wind mills built a few years ago to keep electric prices from getting to high.  The electrical generators are fueled by petrol so the cost can be quite high. 

You can tell this village from Hooper Bay easily by the number of windmills.  We have four while they have three.

 The day started out foggy but the fog burned off, leaving us with a beautifully warm day with few  clouds and a lovely breeze that kept the day from becoming too hot.

The four wheeler tracks go by the river where many of the boats are moored.  The area you see with that single person standing right next to the river is near where some people fish. 

It was easier to follow the tracks than go across country because of all the creeks and small lakes we had to avoid.  Even creeks that look shallow can be filled with several feet of mud.  The mud clings if you slow down.  One young lady stopped to look around and got stuck in the mud. Another girl went over and helped her pull her boots out of the mud so she could take another step.  At one point they both fell into the mud.  Finally, one of the boys worked hard and got both of them out of their predicament.

We paused at a camp site to learn more about collecting mouse food.  The item in front of the tent is a fish rack where people hang cut fish to dry them.  I know the family whose camp this is.
Most families have a fish camp and a berry camp which may or may not be the same.  This area is about 20 minutes away from the village.

Mice collect roots they store in their burrows for winter.  At this time of year, people walk the tundra looking for soft places and mouse holes.

They search around the area, digging to find the roots.  You can see the hole in the picture filled with roots called "tear drops".  We ate some raw.  They look like small onion bulbs but do not taste oniony.

People do not take it all.  They always leave some for the mice so they can survive the winter.  These are really good in soup or lightly steamed in Eskimo Ice Cream.  This is a very popular vegetables.

While out there, several boats filled with high school students and their chaperones heading out to camp out.

As they passed, we waved at them and they waved back.  I had an awesome time but several of the students complained they were bored.  They were the ones who sat on the ground, listening to music.  The ones who participated had a wonderful time and said they had so much fun.

Just before 3 PM, we herded the kids back towards school.  Another teacher and I brought up the rear with the stragglers who wanted to take as long as they could to get back.  At 3:30, we were just getting back to town.  I told them school was out and have a good day.

Tomorrow, we will go out and go fishing native style.  I'll gather more pictures for you and share those.  I hope you enjoyed today's pictures.  Let me know what you think.