Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Love is also .....

.... the man who graciously consents to walk the dogs every morning because his fiance is scared of getting any more bugbites on her face in the week leading up to Sonya'i Seattle wedding.

In my defense, these are not just your average, ordinary bug bites in surreptious places that can be hidden beneath his hooded sweatshirts. These are no-see-um bites on my face. They don't bite J., these misogynistic no-see-um gnats. But, oh!, do they like me. And though I may have been more patient (and less vain) in past starts of the no-see-um season, this season I'd like to have a little more time to celebrate the departure of my sty before my face is covered with different kinds of blotchy, red marks. And, it's not just for me, dear readers. Oh no. It's not just for my vanity. It's for a bigger, better cause. It's for a friend. It's for Sonya and Sonya's very special day with a man I am so pleased she is marrying. I'm a bridesmaid, you see. I have a duty to preserve my complexion. Don't I? I'm sure I do. And I take my duties seriously. I want to be a good bridesmaid. I'm being vain, maybe - but....it's for Sonya! I'm just trying to be a good friend and a considerate bridesmaid for Sonya and Rodrigo.

Yes - love is the man who knows that the friends of a fiance is part of the family they will form together, and graciously agrees to be the exclusive dogwalker for the 10 days before such a friend's wedding so that her Alaskan bridesmaid won't be a ravishing patchwork of bugbites.

What do you think about this excuse for not walking dogs in the 10 days leading up to Sonya's Seattle wedding?

Puck had the same reaction.......

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Love is......

....the man who, amidst a whirlwind of trials, wakes up at 2 a.m. and then again at 3 a.m. to make hot compresses for my sty-itching eyes with the yellow dishcloths crocheted by his grandmother.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Zucchini and (sigh) My Sty

I have a huge, humongous, painfully purple sty on my right eye.

It is a new one, though it occupies the exact same place as the wee one that plagued me so last week.

I'm in a bit of shock over it all. Saturday night I was celebrating the passing of the wee one with a long, lovely phone call to a dear friend in Seattle, and within 24 hours a new, humungous one was already raging into its current dynamic of discomfort.

There is gross injustice in this. Gross.

Don't worry. I don't intend to belabor its hideousness. Too much. All I really want to do in this world until this horrible, wretched, purple sty leaves me in peace for good is to dive into my bed and hide. Even from the dogs. That, my friends, is how horridly wretched this sty is. I want to hide even from ones that love me so unconditionally. Even from ones that are color blind!

I did try being public yesterday. I went to the hospital – and got the confirmation that it was indeed a sty and not some communicable public health disaster. I went to work. I attempted to sit at my desk. I even forced myself to appear in meetings and to set up meetings. I forced myself to keep my hand on my desk, or wrapped around a pen, and not let it flutter around my face in a vain attempt to cover my eye. I concentrated all my energies to concentrate on my tasks and to appear professional and calm. But I was miserable, self-conscious, uncomfortable and utterly distressed by all the fidgety discomfort that the people I attempted to communicate with tried to hide. I understand. No one wants to be in close comfort with someone who may have pink eye. And what else could my swollen, purple, twitching eye be? I was in pain. Pain, my friends. Physical pain, and social torture. Oh, it was a miserable attempt to rise above my vanity.

So, today, I have grounded myself. I am home. Taking a sick day and applying hot compresses to my eye in hopes of hastening my return to normal appearances. I did wake up in time to pack my J. a peanut butter sandwich (for lunch) and fry him up an egg sandwich (for breakfast). He's in trial today. I did shuffle myself into the cozy comforts of his hooded sweatshirt. So attired, I did walk the dogs around the neighborhood. Of course, I did time the walk to be when most neighbors had gone to work. I did wear the hood intentionally over my face. I did take these and certain other vanity-preserving methods all intended, specifically, to keep me from any face-to-face interaction with people. My neighbors have seen me in some pretty ....umm, memorable dog walking attire, but somehow I was too shy to show off this sty.

But I wasn't completely anti-social. I was social, in the sense that I had you – dear reader – in mind. For you, I took my camera on the walk. For you – I'm posting these pictures of the sights and scenes of my dog walk this morning. I did do that. For you! Dear reader, for you! And, following doctor's orders, I did – with the hot compresses on my eyes (alternating back and forth to compress both eyes – apparently I have the roots of another sty in my other eye….sigh) - watch some of the Northern Exposure our dear Dad sent us home with on the dvd player that my college roommate had the foresight to predict I would appreciate. (Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou to you both!) It was wonderful, indeed, to be able to escape into someone else's televised reality without having to treck through the local masses down to Video World to rent a movie.

And I did keep my Tuesday date night with J. Our "town council date." Every other week the town council has a meeting. The local radio station airs it. Most of the time, we make a big dinner and listen to the meeting. Sometimes we go down in person. The town council meets just across the street. But most of the time, we stay at home for the entertainment. This time, with the sty and all, I was most certainly going to stay at home. Not even such exciting topics as whether to ban cyanide could drag me into public.

I made this recipe for our dinner. Sort of. It really is a lovely, lovely recipe for zucchini stuffed with feta, pine nuts and dill. I found it on a site called the Sassy Radish. The "stuffing" for these zucchini is exceptional. With the feta, it offers that particular sort of beloved comfort - cheese comfort. Just the kind of comfort that soothes the souls of the afflicted - such as my sty-laden self. But it is not cheese heavy. Oh no. It is lightened and freshened by the fresh dill. In my case, it was further lightened by my glee that I could avail myself of all the fresh dill growing outside my door. (I need such glee, you see. I planted so many fresh herbs this year....and only the dill has returned my love. Sigh. Next year. Next year I'll get the hang of gardening up here.....maybe (please, please) next year I'll even have an actual garden box!) Here's another perk to this recipe - it celebrates what the local grocery store does offer. Such optimism did my soul well. Sometimes we run out of garlic. Cucumbers can be a challenge. And sigh if you want, but milk free of articifical bovine hormones is generally not an option. But, for whatever reason, we almost always have feta cheese and pine nuts. Pricey, sure. But they're there. So not only is this recipe delicious, it is covenient. Particularly convenient for those with rural Alaskan pantries and a sty-provoked shyness that holds them back from going to a grocery store where they would undoubtedly run into the entire town. And let me not end this waxing rhapsody without sharing how easy it is. Incredibly easy. Summed up, one sautees zucchini and onions then tosses it into the food processor to whir up with the other ingredients.

There you go. Summer simple. Decadent. Easy. And (my vanity really embraced this part), pantry-ready ingredients! No last minute trips to the grocery store required! No risk of sty-publicizing! Bliss. Simple, hearty, vanity-preserving bliss!

I did adapt the recipe a bit - for my circumstances, not for taste. With all my self-pity and all, I just couldn't find the extra energy to steam the zucchini for stuffing and broiling. So I just chopped it all up, rather than scooping and steaming. I took instead that extra step of boiling pasta. It seemed easier. But it is really hard to get much easier. I confess. I also added some cherry tomatoes and spinach. Rather than stuff zucchini shells, I tossed the stuffing with the pasta and served it up in a skillet. But I want it to be very clear that this recipe does not need nor benefits from my adaptations. That little splash of additional color gave some lift to my otherwise grey day of pity-party. And, cherry tomatoes and spinach, well – it's just my thing. It's what I do. And I was lazy. Forgive me. I have a huge, wretched, purple, painful, twitching sty. I am, quite simply, out of sorts. Those not seeking distractions from themselves would probably be perfectly satisfied with all the beauty and grace of the original recipe.

Those that do sample it, whether it be in its original form or in the derivations thereof – should let me know if they agree that it would make an exceptional topping for bruschetta.

All summed up, here's my excitement for the day: I successfully dodged all social viewings of my sty. I discovered a recipe that combines zucchini, feta and pine nuts - and it was delicious. Seriously delicious. And the town council meeting, as always, was interesting. Very interesting.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Glance At Our Life: Taxi-Cabs

(This picture of the afternoon rush hour on the Kuskokwim River was taken by Genevieve. I borrowed it with hopes of permission. For details of this picture, and the other adventures enjoyed by Dawson and Genevieve in the course of housesitting for Tom, sleeping with Kusko, and bringing home a new baby in the middle of winter to a house-sitted house with a notoriously cold toilet seat, please click here. For pictures of our taxi cabs, please stay tuned. We'll see if I can get one to hold still long enough for my camera to turn on.)

I have recieved several forwarded copies of the same article. Most of them come from friends in New York and Seattle that are pleased as punch about finding an article about Alaska. They are too urban, and suave and free of duct-taped patches to holler it up like I do these days. But, had they as much outdoor frolic space and duct tape as me, I'm sure they'd be doing their own muddy cartwheels of glee about finding an article that compares my tundra island to my former stomping grounds. Since they don't, I expect that they are having much fun talking about it over oysters and a crisp Pacific Northwest vino - and I thank them for all the vicarious living I derive from that image. In any event, I think their enthusiasm is Fate telling me that I need to forward it along.


Small Alaska town is big on taxicabs
The Associated Press

Bethel, Alaska, has a population of 5,900, but there are 70 taxicabs ferrying riders around the community; that's one cab for every 84 people. Why? Cars have to be flown or barged in.

BETHEL, Alaska — You won't find a luxury hotel or concert hall in Bethel, and you probably can't get a decent bagel here. But this remote Alaska town has at least one advantage over New York City: It may be the nation's taxicab capital.

Situated on the tundra about 400 miles west of Anchorage, Bethel has 70 taxis for a population of just 5,900. That's one cab for every 84 people.

That's better even than New York, the ultimate cab city, where there is one hired vehicle — such as a taxi, commuter van or car — for every 149 people.

"It's most likely by far the highest ratio of taxis per residents in the United States," said Alfred LaGasse with the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association.

Why the big fleet of taxis? Bethel, which is surrounded by thousands of ponds in a delta plain, is inaccessible by road. People must fly cars in or bring them in by barge on the Kuskokwim River, which can cost thousands.

"I bought a small Ford Focus, and it cost $2,000 to fly it in," said Mark Springer, chairman of the local transportation commission. "Then of course, there's the cost of gas, almost $5 a gallon here. Cabs in Bethel are very, very convenient."

Fewer than half the adults have their own car or truck. Some families own snowmobiles, but those are good only in winter.

As a result, taxi drivers — many of them non-Alaskans, mostly Koreans and Albanians — have flocked here to fill the gap. Cabs seem to be everywhere, squeezing in passengers who pay $4 to go anywhere in the main part of town, and $6 to the airport three miles away.

Gim Jong-ihn, 72, was visiting his hometown in South Korea when he saw a TV story about the scores of cabdrivers working in Bethel. He came here two years ago to drive a taxi after retiring from asbestos-removal work in New York.

He may not have realized exactly what he was getting into: When he arrived in Anchorage, he naively asked where he could catch a Greyhound bus to Bethel.

Bethel is largely a collection of utilitarian buildings on stilts, simple homes and shacks, with water and sewer pipes built above ground because the permafrost below the surface is rock-hard.

But the town serves as a commercial hub for the vast region, with visitors from 56 largely Eskimo villages coming here to shop, see their doctor or do other errands. Visitors arrive by plane year-round, by snowmobile in winter and by boat in summer.

Often, taxi passengers do not get a cab all to themselves. As novices soon discover, drivers make constant stops and passengers pile in.

Because cabs are shared, regulars like Bethel resident Joanna Simeon know to leave plenty of time for travel.

"Newcomers think they'll just hop in a cab and go right to work, then it stops 20 times," she said.

"They get to see a lot of Bethel."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Plum Torte

It seems like yesterday that I gave my last excuse for not writing. But it was 13 days ago. And now I’m back doing it again. Making excuses. The good news is that I have new excuses. I have, in fact, a whole new slew of them. It's been a whirlwind up here. Feasting. Chatting. Contemplating. Fishing (let’s not talk about how I didn’t actually catch any, and focus instead on being outdoors and on the river and in the company of those who have that magical combination of wit and fishing prowess). An impromptu remodeling of my kitchen. Breaking my camera. Buying a new one. Fixing the old one (i.e. replacing the batteries....sigh.) Thunder and lightening storms. Hot, sunny, bugless days that never get dark. Baking, and roasting, and even some braising.

See? A slew of excuses. They really are some fine excuses, if I do say so myself. Some people have the skill and talent to tell their lives in stories. Some can do it in photographs. It appears that my best chance is with excuses. In any event, I am tardy with the recipe for a 9 hour braised slab of bacon because I have been living well. Very well. And I have the excuses to prove it.

The best excuse is this: we have been very excited to share our tundra island with J’s mom for the past 10 days.

All the way from Iowa! What a fun visit it was. Full of adventure on the Kuskokwim River and the Kwethluk River (we saw owls! a cow moose and her calf! a grizzly!). We bundled her up in approximately 28 layers of warmth, and motored out to try rod & reeling for salmon at the Y and at Magic Creek (fishing spots up the Kwethluk River towards Three Step Mountain, for those that might want to Google Earth it and show me where I was).

She watched her son in a full trial – from voir dire to not-guilty. He would come home for dinner, but then return to the office for late nights. We stayed up talking about family, generations, poetry, beauty, duty and hope. I cooked. In the morning, I found the kitchen all cute and tidied, and all the dishes dried and put away. That, my friends, is most definitely a slice of bliss. Oh, it is lovely to cook for the family I am marrying into! I baked a pork pot pie in a castiron skillet, packed paper bag lunches with meatloaf sandwiches, whipped up some homemade trail mix (re-named, as a result of that fantastic fishing trip, “Captain Marvin’s River Mix”), served J’s favorite banana chocolate chip cookies, piled Greenflighted blueberries (the wild ones not yet ready) and peaches into a pie, plopped plums into a torte, presented Orangette’s beautifully simple yogurt cake to wide exclaim, recreated the bliss of our engagement with another batch of roasted banana ice cream, baked with lemon and dill a fillet of sockeye just netted by Steve and Jesse during an after-work jaunt on Jesse's boat (La Bomba), and roasted a pork shoulder a’la Mark Bittman…….Family, justice, food, conversation, dishless cooking - her visit turned into a vacation of good living for us!

I’ll put all the stories and all the meals into the hopper, and maybe I’ll manage to catch one or two of them for posting here. But, here and now, for purposes of enticing our dear friends not to give up on my ability to update this chronicle of the lives and the kitchen table that we share, I’ll simply segue into this…….

A Plum Torte.

I am so excited to share this recipe. I've coveted it for awhile now....maybe over a year. I originally came upon it in the winter, when plums were not to be found. I saved it into my "conglomeration of findings" on the desktop, and waited until plums were a bit more accessible. And then the lovely day arrived when I found them in my weekly Greenflight box of fruits and veggies, freshly arrived from Full Circle Farms.

The recipe is simple, but I did waiver a few times in the conviction to follow it. I'm glad that I did. What emerged from my stove was delicious. Warm, sugared plums coddled in little spurts of pillowy, subtle cake. Simple, hearty, effortless deliciousness. Summer deliciousness. There is a hint of cinnamon. But it is just enough to evoke the sense of dessert and not nearly enough to define the cake or overpower its simplicity. As an added benefit, for me, I can confess to also doing a little cartwheel of glee over an intuition that I could be friends with the authors of this perfect simple little recipe should we ever happen to bump into each other. You know what I mean. The global small town of simplicity......

With Greg Brown singing in the background and our conversation in that fun banter of two women sitting late night at a kitchen table, J's mother and I finished off half of it between us, split off a quarter of it for J. and took the remaining quarter to the next door neighbors. This was the perfect cake to eat late at night with my future mother-in-law whilst her son prepared for trial the next morning. I hope it made good nutritional bolster for Steve, who is studying for the bar, and Jesse, who is his roommate while he does.

I see a long and bright future with this recipe. It is going to be a standard. I just know it. If my weekly Greenflight of produce pops up again with plums, I'll be making this torte (with this one exception: I have committed myself to making this clafouti the next time I’m gifted with such bounty). If it doesn't, I'm eyeing the A.C. apricots. Apples. Pears. There is so much potential here (though the plums really are perfect and it's hard to imagine exceeding that). I simply love its sweet simplicity! This is certainly the cake I’d whip up for one of those quiet, humble nostalgia dinners when you just want a little something-something and a mug of hot chocolate. It’s also the kind of cake I’d make to celebrate the visit of an old friend visiting me amidst all these new excitements. I can already see us now with a slice of cake, jam jars of [boxed] wine, a tea kettle warming up and years’ worth of catch-up condensed into a few seconds of enriching banter.

But it’s not just a cake for chatting with the mother of the man you love, or for nostalgic dinners and old friends. It’s the kind of simplicity that soars too – I’d have no qualms baking it up for an honored guest coming over for dinner (or, in the case of my fiance’s mother, coming over to spoil our dogs). If Greg Brown were to come over for dinner (not that I know him or anything, just that I love his art – especially that perfect song "Eugene" - and would simply cartwheel myself into a surfeit of glee should I ever be gifted the opportunity to entertain him in our hovel on stilts), I could see myself serving it together with some homemade cloudberry cordial poured into the wood goblets I bartered my fleece for in Zimbabwe…..

All of this is just to say, should Greg Brown, or Marian Burros or Lois Levine (who are the authors of this recipe), or Lynne Rossetto Kasper (who hosts the Splendid Table site where I found this recipe) or Antonella (she knows who she is), ever find themselves up here in this vast corner of the Great White North, this is most certainly the plum torte I’d bake as a celebratory greeting.

(Please do consider that to be an invite. I just know that we’d get along fabulously.)

Original Plum Torte
This recipe was originally published in The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook, by Marian Burros and Lois Levine. I cut-n-paste it, however, from The Splendid Table and re-copy it here - verbatim (accompanying story and all) and with absolutely no quixotic change or kitchen adjustment.

8 Servings

Because of reader demand, this recipe has been published in one form or another in the New York Times almost every year since I went to work there in 1981. Lois brought this recipe, originally called Fruit Torte, to Elegant but Easy, and its appeal comes from its lovely old-fashioned flavor and its speed of preparation.

When I had been married just a couple of years, I had worked out an assembly-line process for making many tortes and putting them in the freezer. A friend who loved the tortes said that in exchange for two she would let me store as many as I wanted in her freezer. A week later she went on vacation for two weeks and her mother stayed with her children. When she returned, my friend called and asked:

"How many of those tortes did you leave in my freezer?"
"Twenty-four, but two of those were for you."
There was a long pause. "Well, I guess my mother either ate twelve of them or gave them away." Her mother must have liked them as much as I do. And the children. And possibly the neighbors.

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
Pinch salt
24 halves pitted Italian (prune or purple) plums
1 teaspoon cinnamon or more, to taste

1. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream the butter and the 3/4 cup of sugar. Add the flour, baking powder, eggs, and salt and beat to mix well. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 9- or 10-inch springform pan. Cover the top with the plums, skin sides down. Mix the cinnamon with the remaining 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar and sprinkle over the top.

3. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired.

4. To serve, let the torte return to room temperature and reheat at 300 degrees until warm, if desired. Serve plain or with vanilla ice cream.

Friday, July 06, 2007

A Glance Into Our Life

Summer sun, the Anchorage Daily News freshly arrived on the afternoon jet, and our hooligan hounds playing with the neighborhood kids - all enjoyed whilst we plant greens and stretch out on our Polaris Chaise!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Amelia's Rhubarb Pie

A month ago, I recieved an email signed "Dad." It was the first time I had ever recieved an email signed Dad. And it contained a recipe - my favorite kind of emails! All around, it was a wonderful email to find waiting for me.

Such was my introduction to the recipe for Amelia's Rhubarb Pie. (I am embarassed to share the story of my introduction to the actual pie itself lest my future in-laws realize that it was me at the family reunion a year ago that was elbowing my way back for seconds and thirds before all the cousins had their proper chance for firsts.) Trust me - this is treasure! There are few things finer than Amelia's Rhubarb Pie. It is delicious. Simple. The perfect blend of tantelizing sharpness and comforting custard. Warm - it is perfect for dinner. Who needs meat? Leftover - it is perfect for breakfast. Set up on a table at a family reunion for self-service after one has consumed twice one's weight in Iowa pork ribs and learned all sorts of tales about the youthful mischief of the man you sincerely hope to marry one day - it is perfect for bliss. It is, my friends, a pie of humble magnitude.

Alas, my two attempts at Amelia's Rhubarb Pie have not produced a pie that even begins to hint at the unforgettable excellence of my father-in-law-to-be's. I'm getting better, but I'm just not there. Fortunately, I'm not giving up. I promise to keep on attempting, and my fiance promises to keep on sampling those attempts. But the good news - the magic of this pie - is that it is so delicious that even my slow learning curve fails to prevent us from doing cartwheels of glee when we eat it. And, I'll be honest, I love this pie for sentimental reasons too. I am looking forward to the day when our kids will be learning directly from their grandfather how to make their great-grandmother's famous rhubarb pie. I'm doing cartwheels of glee in anticipation of that circle of generations. I guess I sort of envision that this pie will be a bit like mashed potatoes were in my family: for whatever reason, my brother and I just make better mashed potatoes than my mom and she - graciously or eagerly - makes no protest to match our determination that we make them every Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, I would like to share the recipe with you. And I'd like to share it with you as I recieved it. I am, generally, of the school that doesn't like the idea of a re-publishing, random forwarding or other informal disclosure of personal email. But this particular email inspires me into cartwheels of glee, and I just can't keep it to myself.

Thankyou, Dad, for such a fine engagement gift. It is treasured, as are the memories of eating it with you for breakfast!

Hi Aileen,

Here is the well worked recipe for rhubarb pie. I’ll call it Amelia’s Rhubarb Pie

4 cups rhubarb cut up (or 3 cups)
3 eggs
1 1/3 sugar (more or less)
a little salt
(1-2 T flour maybe)

Mix eggs, salt and sugar, put rhubarb in unbaked pie crust and pour egg mixture over rhubarb. Bake. It seems like I preheated the oven to 400 then turned it down to 350 or 375 for 40-60 minutes. till the custard seemed like it was getting set in the middle. Sometimes I have had trouble with the crust getting too brown so I have used those crust shield things, I have also added a tablespoon or two of flour to the sugar mixture to help it set up.

Mom just told me the recipe in our kitchen one time and maybe later mentioned the flour or I read it someplace.

Good luck. I bought some rhubarb this morning and hope to make a pie myself.

Much love to you both.


p.s. Apology for the quality of the picture. I took it with the camera that is now broken - for certain, but has been in a pretty constant state of dilapidation for awhile now. And, truth be told, it wasn't just the camera or my lack of skills with it. J. and I have a hard time holding ourselves back from this pie. We tend to sort of rush at it.....which is why half of it was gone before I even gave that camera a chance to record it.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

My Big Happiness, and the Slab of Bacon that Preceded It

My camera broke.

But to be honest, that's not why this post is so delinquent. The real reason has much more to do with the conundrums of propriety during this era of mass communication. And, well, I suppose it has even more to do with my own lack of talent. I simply didn't know, my friends, how to publicly describe my intensely private jubilations.

We are engaged to be married!

I am ecstatic. And sentimental. And, often, delirously enthused. Occassionally, I've wanted to scream with the inherent frustrations of attempting some sort of planned strategy of announcements but being consistently thwarted by voicemail answer systems and all the problems that sun spots and solstices inflict on our [free but dial-up] internet via satellite! At times I've revelled in the conversations that have arisen with old friends that I had sadly lost contact with. Many times I've simply sat quietly, basking in the summer sun whilst lounging on my snowmachine (who would have guessed it would be more comfortable than any pool chaise I've ever encountered)and appreciating the fresh North air, while my fiance grills our dinner and the neighborhood kids come by to play with the dogs and observe the progress of the plants we had started together.

While my initial instinct was to fiddle this news of our engagement from my hovel-top, there was first a mother to call, and a brother to find who was travelling around Patagonia with hot French circus performers (his description), and so many others to track down and make private announcements before I embarked on the public ones. I found it hard, however, to blog about anything else. This excitement - this extreme compliment from the man I love - it tended to shove out of my writing thoughts any idea that didn't directly arise from the engagement. However, it is true. This kind of news has its own momentum, and the news spread rapidly for me. So admittedly, after a short while, my own private desire to make private announcements was no longer a sufficient excuse for my delay in posting.

But I had another excuse for not posting. I wanted to set the scene. I wanted to share the story. The full story. About the slab of bacon that I braised for 9 hours in boxed wine and dried cherries the night before J. proposed to me on the Hovercraft. About David Lebovitz's roasted banana ice cream - and how I found it on the Traveller's Lunchbox the afternoon before the proposal and had made it for desert that evening before. About how we had left the roasted banana ice cream to churn while we took a gorgeous stroll with our dogs along the Kuskokwim River under the midnight dusk. About being the first couple ever to be engaged on the Hovercraft, and how entertained I was that on this voyage it was delivering the U.S. mail and pallets of Tang upriver to the villages of Akiachak and Akiak. About how I had fallen in the Kuskokwim mud before the proposal, and how I almost didn't get proposed to because I was so busy snapping pictures of the dog team, boats, snowmachines and homemade fish traps that decorated the Akiak beach. About how J. asked me to marry him and I went into shock, my mind unable to grasp his explanation that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me until I suddenly exploded into a rising pitch of "Yes, Yes, Yes!" About how the hovercraft pilot took our picture, and made note that we were probably the first couple ever to get engaged on the hovercraft and it was certain to make front page coverage in the local newspaper. About how J. had planned ahead, with a thermos of coffee, which we popped open to celebrate. Packing champagne, of course, would have constituted the local crime of bootlegging. About the two other couples that were on that same hovercraft with us - and shared this day with us. We had never never met before, but that day we passed around our separately packed snacks and shared a celebration feast of coffee, homemade trail mix, water, and sweet onion potato chips. About how, within hours of the Hovercraft's return to town, the local radio station congratulated us and played "Dancing Cheek to Cheek."

So you see - there was so much I wanted to describe before I even embarked on attempting a description of this sense of happiness and excitement. I think I could buy a couple more weeks of procrastination with this excuse.

And then there is also this excuse - I've been gone. Away from my tundra island, and this kitchen and table that I blog about. Work took me for awhile. And then a friend's bachelorette party in Portland, Oregon, our frolics in my Oregon hometown (where - oh! glee of glee - I do believe we discovered the place we are going to be married!), and our frolics in that fine, fine State of Iowa - well, these delayed me another two weeks.

But I'm back! And very happily so. I hear the fish are running. Less than an hour ago, I saw one of the law clerks walking somewhere with three ziplock bags of marinating chum. The mosquitoes are not so bad in town. We just took a stroll out to the BIA Road, however, and they are definitely swarming on the tundra. The berries aren't yet here - probably won't be for a month - and my herbs aren't lush, but I'm already full swing into planning and plotting to make Genevieve's Baked Salmon with Leeks and Cloudberriers as soon as the Fates permit. The local 4th of July festivities are heating up. Yesterday I paid $2 for a chance that a chicken would poop on my name and phone number, thus gifting me with a $750 grande prize. Father Chuck was on the radio announcing that they will be doing a greased pole competition and, if I heard correctly, a wife-carrying race. I heard someone stole the prop from Hoppi's boat, but she regained her set-net spot right in front of her house. I haven't yet seen Jimbo this summer. But I'm hoping. And this morning I ordered 4 pounds of fresh-flighted organic green beans, with every intention of gracing my pantry with a winter's supply of pickled green beans.

So, now that I'm back in line with this blogging thing my friends, tell me - do you think it's mere coincidence that I braised a slab of bacon for 9 hours in boxed wine and dried cherries, and churned up some roasted banana ice cream, and the very next day my Iowa-born love proposed marriage? I don't.

And though I fully understand if you don't yet trust me, I fully intend to share the recipes.....soon. Girl Scout's Honour! Seriously. I'd do it right now, except I sort of suspect that showering off this afternoon's four applications of Deet might be in my best - and more imminent - self-interest............