Sunday, May 31, 2009

Muskeg Meander

Today is the start of a week of sunny and warm (and possibly HOT) days. In order to try to stay awake (see previous post on reason why) and to see the progress of blossoms in the muskeg, I took a short jaunt out back. It really does seem like flowering is much later this year. Last year, the entire muskeg was in full bloom when the skunk cabbage still had its flowers. This year, the skunk cabbage flowers are nearly faded and the rest of the flora are just now coming into bloom.

Recipe: Sliced Tomato Salad with Feta Cheese


This dish is something I threw together as I looked around the kitchen, basement, and refrigerator.

The story actually begins last night when Shelley asked me to do a clean OS install on her notebook PC. Since I tend to be meticulous about things like that, I started by doing a full image backup, then the clean install, then all of the system updates, and then security software and its associated updates. In the end it was close to 3 a.m. when I finally finished the job and went to bed. I got about 4 hours of sleep altogether.

Understandably, I was quite tired by the time late afternoon/early evening rolled around and I really didn’t feel like working through lengthy dinner preparation. I got out a couple boxes of prepackaged Betty Crocker potato casserole mixes and put it together, but just that one item just didn’t seem appropriate for supper. There were a few leftover deviled eggs from yesterday and that would add to the variety, but the problem was that both the potatoes and the eggs were yellow. I try to avoid monochromatic suppers.

I knew there were a couple of fresh tomatoes in the basement. I also knew they had to be used within the next day or two. I thought that since I was using the oven, perhaps I could do something that involved baking the tomatoes… As I pondered that option, a number of different tomato salad dishes I’ve had in the past began to float around in my thoughts. Well, why not try a combination? was my conclusion.

(Start of recipe…)

I started with the tomatoes (I had two medium) and arranged them on a plate. I sliced into paper-thin slices a little bit of onion (about five slices through an onion half) and layered them on top of the tomatoes. I sprinkled a bit of fine sea salt over the entire surface, then dressed it by liberally drizzling honey, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar over the top. I found some feta cheese so I sprinkled that liberally on top. I still had some fresh basil leaves (about 8 medium), so I sprinkled basil chiffonade over top. Voila! It was done. Supper was no longer just yellow.

Around here we don’t always have much choice in the quality of available ingredients. This salad relies on the quality of each ingredient. Try to use the best you can find: sweet, organic tomatoes; red onion; good quality sea salt; first, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil; good balsamic vinegar; good quality cheese; etc. You get the idea.

You can probably substitute mozzarella for the feta. Just make sure you get it in the fine or craft cheese section rather than the dairy section. You want fresh mozzarella instead of the dry, cardboard like stuff. If you get the small balls, you might dice it up into smaller chunks and sprinkle them on top. If you get a large ball, you can slice it and arrange them with the tomato slices.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Happy Kitties

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Today is the first time since Stripey got sick that I’ve seen the two cats together like this. That would make it at least three months and probably longer than that, since none of us really know when Stripey started to get sick and went into seclusion.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Planning Fall Family Trip to Japan

This fall the whole family will be visiting Japan for a period of about 2 weeks. I purchased the tickets this afternoon, so it’s pretty much a done deal – non-refundable tickets. Total cost for all four of us runs around $5500 from Petersburg to Narita. The trip over requires an overnight stay in Seattle. The trip back does not (unlike my trip this month which did because it was paid for by miles and I didn’t have much of a choice in selecting flights).

I also purchased travel insurance, given that this trip is still five months away and a lot can change between now and then, not to mention the unpredictable nature of travel in SE Alaska.

I discovered it is important to check quotes and not just necessarily accept the first quote that is offered. The travel website offered a policy for about $295 during the initial checkout steps. That seemed steep so I went directly to the insurance provider’s website and got a quote: $144. After I had purchased the tickets, the confirmation page showed a new quote: $241. Hmm… I went with the $144 directly from the provider. The $295 policy included a Concierge feature that I really don’t need. Other than that I could not find any differences in coverage.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Random Shots

Here’s my AeroGarden with brand-new plantings.


The cress this morning…


The cress this evening…


Our other cat, Vivvy.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Key Lime Pie and Some Random Notes


I made a version of Key Lime Pie (abbreviated as KLP in rest of post) today. Authentic KLPs uses key lime from the Florida Keys, egg yolk, and is not baked. However, as the linked Wikipedia article notes, most KLPs are baked today because raw eggs are frowned upon, particularly in the United States. (I suppose they’d be fine in a place like Japan where raw and undercooked eggs are still part of the cuisine.)

Last week in an e-mail from Cook’s Illustrated I found a recipe for a no-egg, no-bake KLP originally published in Cook’s Country. As much as I’d love to give you the recipe here, I can’t.

I went out and purchased the ingredients. I returned home and realized I should have written down the quantities in my shopping list. I was short the limes by a count of 5 to 7. So after finishing the Graham Cracker crust, I went out to purchase the remaining limes. It was dry on the way out. By the time I reached the store a few minutes later, it was pouring. I was on the bicycle. It poured the trip back. A few minutes after I returned home, the sun returned.

The hardest part in making the pie was juicing six limes. It took the most muscle and time. The rest was easy, throwing ingredients into the food processor, one by one, until it was a nice custard-like texture.

On Facebook, when I noted the difficulty of juicing the limes, one of my high school friends suggested a technique he’d invented: using a chef’s knife to juice the limes. On initially hearing it, it sounds a bit dangerous, but after reading the explanation it doesn’t seem too bad. The pressure is applied to the back side of the blade (not the point or the sharp edge), and the blade is angled down so that the juice goes down into a bowl instead of down your arm.

I tasted a bit of the filling that was left in the bowl and it was pretty good. The girls had the rest and they thought it was good, too.

I cleaned up my AeroGarden’s first planting (from last Christmas). It is now newly planted with Japanese herbs. Apparently this herb set wasn’t very popular because it is no longer sold and what stock remains is being sold at the AeroGarden Outlet web site. I just noticed that the cress is already sprouting after 2 days.

Shelley is preparing to attend Petersburg High School this coming year. She went down to the school to start registering for classes.

Trees are starting to flower…

Our Stripey is doing well. He looks and acts like he did before.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Few more photos about town

I walked into town to pick up a few grocery items. Here are a few sights along the way.

Click HERE to open gallery

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Didn’t get sermon audio today

So sorry… I forgot my digital voice recorder and didn’t have the computer with me. I tried the voice note function on the BlackBerry, but the quality was so poor on playback that it isn’t worth putting up.

The topic was an introduction to the Epistles of John --

  • John wrote the letters to address some problems with false teachers and their teachings
  • John wrote the letters to remind Christians of Christ, the foundation of their faith
  • John wrote the letters to help Christians discern between true and false teachings
  • John wrote the letters to provide Christians with confidence and assurance in their faith

Anyway, that was the essence of the sermon. I don’t have notes or even an outline since today was the first time I attempted preaching without any. I read about it in Leadership this week and how doing so can help the preacher better connect with those listening, and how the preacher can be better led by the Holy Spirit all the way through the delivery. In sermons with notes and/or outlines, and particularly with those that are manuscripted, the sermon is “done” when the last word is written, but in a sermon without any kind of notes, the sermon is not “done” until the final word is spoken. A preacher often feels he cannot deviate much from a scripted sermon, but in an unscripted sermon he is free to go where the Spirit leads at delivery. Those were some of the positive elements.

Some of the problems with this kind of preaching (because no notes are prepared even during the preparation phase) is that some might be tempted to skimp on the preparation. However, this kind of preaching takes at least as much preparation as a scripted one, and perhaps even more. Another problem is that speakers who have difficulties putting together a logical discourse may find it difficult to tie up the sermon at the end. Finally, this type of preaching may not be for speakers with a tendency to ramble because, well, the tendency to ramble and hit too many topics without making a point can be great.

I’ve been doing more of preaching closer to this over the last several months (though with basic outlines and/or a short page of notes), and have felt that some of those have felt more connected than ones I’ve spent hours outlining and manuscripting. The Leadership article gave me the courage needed to go all the way. The problem with taking even a basic outline and notes is that I found myself pausing to read through them to see if I missed anything, and if I did, try to figure out how to put the missed item back in without affecting the flow of the sermon up to that point.

Anyway, this is probably something I’ll be doing more, and next time, with a voice recorder.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Springtime in Petersburg

Yes, spring is finally here in Petersburg. The muskeg seems to be slow in flowering this year. I seem to recall it being in full bloom by mid-May last year, but this year the flowers are only just beginning to open up.

The following gallery traces today’s errand route from home, along the Narrows to the Trading Union, then from the Post Office back to home.

Click HERE to open photo gallery

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Little Norway Pageant

Since returning home, I’ve spent quite a few hours sleeping. This weekend is the Little Norway festival weekend, but I haven’t been to it except for the pageant.

Amy was introduced as this year’s Poet Laureate during the pageant, and so I had to attend. Here are some photos and a video of Amy being introduced and reading one of her poems. The mic was a bit high for much of her reading so it is nearly impossible to make out what she is saying. The awful acoustics of the gym didn’t help either.

Amy also got to help out in the presentation of the 49-star flag (when Alaska became a state).

While in Japan I acquired a new compact digital camera: the Ricoh CX1. I am very impressed with both ability and quality of capture at low light levels. I am also very impressed with its ability to handle multiple white balances. The interior of the gym was lit by multiple color temperatures, but the camera was able to handle the difficult situation quite well. Overall, this is probably one of the best, if not the best, compact digital camera available today.

(Click image for photos.)

Click HERE for video (Windows Media, 4.9 MB).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Japan Photos

13-May: Photos have been categorized and moved to subalbums.


Unsorted photos from the last several days in Japan can be viewed at A Trip to Japan, May 2009

These are not necessarily in chronological order.

Friday, May 01, 2009

In Japan

After making it to Seattle on Wednesday, I made the flight on Thursday and arrived in Tokyo Friday afternoon.

The flight was rather uneventful and long. In-flight entertainment is now on-demand, something that has changed since I last traveled overseas 9 years ago.

We arrived an hour earlier than scheduled. That was good because due to the current flu scare, health officials (in masks and gloves and disposable gowns) came on board to examine all passengers before clearing us to unload. That took about an hour. (Flight attendants said it took two hours the prior day.)

Once I got off, the rest was a breeze. I was out through the checkpoints in another 15 minutes or so.

Because I was able to get out so quickly, I was able to get on a bus earlier than the one planned. The travel through the city was, as expected, long due to congestion.

I arrived at Kichijoji station where I met my parents and drove the short distance home.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile