Old dogs, new tricks?

Two events of cosmic significance took place at camp Rishel this weekend. The first was we finally got a new front door! It is lovely white with nine adorable double paned windows that now shower our entry with light. It’s all new Christmas in August, the frame, trim, knobs, keys, and my renewed appreciation for the view outside. I have jonesed for this door for a long time. Long time. Think: years.

But this weekend’s other celestial occurrence was no less awesome and amazing. Mowgli and I installed our beautiful new door together, as a team and, for the first time ever, without wanting to kill each other.


This was not our first go at a joint project. Mowgli and I have worked together before. A lot. Matter of fact, we met on the job. Over the course of our united life we’ve been employed together on large crews, on small crews, as partners, as well as in the precarious combination of supervisor and subordinate. After all that experience there are two things we now hold as undeniable truths: One, we work wonderfully, efficiently, and cooperatively side by side, and two, we are utter crap at working together.

We have our reasons. Personally, I believe Mowgli’s attention to detail (itty bitty microscopic, totally inconsequential detail) and his tendency to put WAAYYYY too many fasteners in EVERYTHING could drive the Dali Llama into a violent rage. Mowgli, for his part, insists I have an irresponsible work ethic because I do pretty much everything in flip-flops and I may have, once or twice, accidentally left a sledgehammer on top of the ladder. (So?)

When the rare occasion forces us to work cooperatively, the minutia of matrimonial accord we have vanishes. Communication quickly erodes into something like a 9-year-old reading assembly instructions to another 9-year-old. “Pick up the left side of the door frame with your right hand. No, your right hand. No, your other right! OK, now tilt the door up. No, up. No, your other up!” It’s exhausting and, when at all possible, avoided.

Unfortunately, unless you are an octopus, installing a door is a two person job. And in our situation, an unavoidable job as well. At one time, getting a new door was a low priority “want” (the old one was ugly, dark, dented…). Then, last winter, it climbed the home improvement ranks to an absolute “need”. It’s threshold was missing. Where it once lay, protecting us from cold weather and creepy bug, was now a gaping, heat leaking hole. Last December, In an effort to gain access for a flooring project, I had ripped the old threshold out. Completely. Think: pry bar.

Did you know that a doors threshold is integral to the frame and that replacing one requires replacing the entire doorway unit? Well, it is.

On the up side, every day you don’t learn something new is a wasted day!


So, on Tuesday we bit the bullet and I brought home a new door-frame assembly. Then for the next four days we stood by silently as the tension in our house grow so thick you couldn’t cut it with a pneumatic sawzall. Did I mention that, on top of this project, we had recently decided to go low cal and had been (for the last two weeks) suspended in a perpetual state of STARVING? A good condition to work in? I think not. By Saturday morning the aroma of impending doom was inescapable.


But we did it! No tool throwing, no yelling, no cursing (well, minimal cursing and none of it at each other), no storming out of the room, no do overs, no lines in the sand, no “fine have it your way”, no “it’s my way or the highway”, no… wait, am I obsessing?

How did this happen? Maybe we’ve matured enough to deal with each other. Maybe the lack of food rendered us too weak to fight. We’ll probably never know. Our new door, with Mowgli’s 8,000 screws and three cans of spray foam insulation, is never coming out.

But it’s beautiful isn’t it?

Paint it to match?? Might just repaint the whole house.


Getting away from it all

Hello? Room service? A tube of deep woods off and a box of strike anywhere matches to camp site number 19 please…


a fine picnic basket


There are basically two sets of mind when it comes to camping: Set one: getting away from it all and Set two: getting away from most of it.

Set one is all thrills and no frills. Grab your pack and flee the rat race. It’s nothing but you, your wits (and maybe a sleeping bag) against the wild. This is primal living the way God (with a little help from REI) intended.

Then there is set two: getting away from most of it. Fleeing the rat race without abandoning all the creature comforts you run the race for. Sure you sleep in a bag, but the bag is on a queen sized mattress in a 25ft RV with air conditioning and running hot water.


I am mind set two.


But I’m not a little princess. I could go (and have gone) rugged, I just choose not to anymore. (The ground is very, very hard. Did you know this?) Give me a night on a pillow-top posturepedic and my soul will sing (not to mention my back, neck and chiropractor). I don’t even plan meals anymore. I transfer everything from the house refrigerator to one in the camper. Who wants to be locked into a set menu? I make sure there is plenty to choose from too. There is nothing more frustrating than having burgers when you are really in the mood for fish.

What? There are only so many weekends in this life. I intend to make them count.

But this last weekend changed everything. This last weekend I discovered there is (oooh, ahhh!) a mind set three: camping with a concierge. This style of camping is one infinitesimal step away from staying in a hotel. The two are so close that it’s questionable whether mind set three is actually camping at all. But I don’t care.

Besides the water/power/sewer hookup (which is not all that uncommon for RV campgrounds) last weekend’s campground came with showers, laundry, wi-fi, cable TV and a restaurant with a liquor license! The first night we slipped into the lodge for a bottle of Pinot Noir and the largest chicken Caesar salad I have ever met. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable and the atmosphere, warm and international (Alaska + Summer = a gaggle of Euroaustrailasian tourists). Later, Sated, tipsy, and happily bidding our fellow campers “Gute Nacht” we headed back to the Komfort for a fire and stargazing. (see? camping.)

The next day, I used the microwave. That may not sound like a lot to you, but to me it’s HUGE. The microwave only works when we’re plugged in and we’re NEVER plugged in. That day, when my coffee cooled to an unpalatable room temperature, in a short 30 seconds I nuked it back to life. (Yes, I could have ordered a latte at the lodge, but we were plugged in!) I even heated up sliced banana bread for the kids. If there was a grocery within 70 miles, I would have bought popcorn. But there wasn’t and so (eventually) I pried myself from the splendor of near instant cooking and got ready for a day outdoors (see? camping).

Matanuska Glacier is the largest glacier accessible by car in the United States, so I expected most of the people we ran into that day to be from anywhere, everywhere else. But their guides too? I swear one was Australian. Australian? What, no luck with the Sydney bob-sledding enterprise? I shouldn’t jest. It’s truly sad what the recession did to the international ice climbing industry. Or was that global warming?

but I should shut up about the things people choose to do. I mean there I was, an Alaskan, with her Alaskan family, in the middle of the miniscule Alaskan summer, purposefully vacationing on snow and ice.


But I digress and must take you back to our awesome camp. Upon our return that day things looked just a little bit off…Or was it that they weren’t off. The picnic table, left askew by us, was back in symmetry with the others? The edging bolder that had rolled into the grass, was back in line? The cigarette butt’s that littered the now empty RV site of our Euro neighbors were gone? The kid’s toys that are typically splayed out in a 6ft arc around the camper door were instead in a tidy pile??

No way. It’s too much. There is no way! Or is there?

yep, it's cold


A campground with maid service? I just may have found heaven.

Matanuska Glacier

The wonders of life

“We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.” Alfred E. Newman

Because sometimes a firearm is not a weapon?


There was an upside to the frantic scramble of fishing last month. It kept my mind off the rest of life. Now, with the crazed pursuit of subsistence behind me, my vision clears and my mind refocuses on all the wonders of our daily world: energy flowing in a million distinctive directions manifesting in thousands of individual miraculous moments.

Most of which make me go….huh?

Have you noticed that if an average person does something stupid, says something stupid, or wears something stupid, he is generally considered to be…stupid, but when a famous person does the same he is called an artistic visionary?

Can anyone tell me why ammonia comes with a tamper proof safety seal? Are we afraid someone will sneak in to the grocery store and make it more poisonous?

Why do we use the same word for totally different events? A strike is a bad action in baseball, a good action in bowling and an inaction in real life. There are over a quarter million words in the English language to choose from. Not enough? (And even if that’s so, keep reading).

In our society, if a person makes up a word and enough people repeat it, that same word, no matter how bizarre, ends up in the dictionary. (Try it. Just make sure the word is ridiculous like flexitarian or pyskany. Oops, too late.)

Why do people put cryptic personalized license plates on their vehicles? Do you want me to know what “I8DFFG” means or not? (Because I’m tailgating you until I figure it out.)

Why is “poop” childish and immature but “S*&t” seriously funny?

Daylight savings? Isn’t it more like Daylight shifting? Because we’re not saving any, we’re just using it at a different time.

And finally, that quote at the beginning? I got it out of a book of quotes, but Alfred E. Newman is a cartoon character. Does HE really say anything at all?

My head is spinning. It’s OK, this will pass. Hunting season opens in three weeks.

F-ing High

Fishing. This blog is about Fishing. There, I said it. I’ll try not to anymore.

F-ing. The very thing I promised I would never blog about. Ever. I know. F-ing. I’m sorry. F-ing. I can’t stop myself!! F-ING!

This weekend was a F-ing extravaganza! No kidding! It was unreal! Absolutely incredible! Seriously, it was awesome. Even to a girl like me who, generally, doesn’t get much enjoyment out of f-ing!
(Stop it. You know what I mean).

It started with phenomenal weather. We have been getting way way too little of that this summer so when Thursday rolled around with a brilliant blue sky I was instantly in a great mood. Then, at Deep creek, we were able to camp on the beach. ON THE BEACH! The campground was near empty, sun was blazing, wind minimal, and kids happier than Lindsay Lohan in a security free department store!

Friday morning Mowgli and Uncle went out for Halibut while the kids and I went out for some of this…








Less than 5 hours later (which is pretty dang fast in deep sea fishing terms) they returned. The boys and I raced back to find out just how far into winter we would be eating h-but and chips this year and…

a plug for Ninilchik charters


Holy rod and reel batman! The smallest SMALLEST was over 35 pounds.

Hey Guys? I’m going to let you in on a little secret about women. Most of us, like security. It makes us happy. Sometimes, even turned on. And I’m not talking Dobermans. I’m talking everlasting love, a steady paycheck and a FULL LARDER. Friday afternoon while the men told tales of their heroic casting, I mentally packed our freezer. And smiled. Really big.

Mowgli as a beer commercial






Then, it was back to the beach for some of this….






But we weren’t done yet! Reds (Sockeye’s to those of you in the lower 48) were in! No winter in Alaska shall pass without oodles of that served (I think it’s actually a law). So, we left the beach for Kenai.

And landed… not on the beach, campground crowded, sun fading, wind picking up and kids more worn out than Lindsay Lohan in a security free department store.

High tide was at 9pm, Mowgli informs me, and he and Uncle are hitting it.

Here’s what I was thinking: you were up at 6, fished in the sun all day, then cleaned gear, packed and moved camp! You had one beer and can barely keep your eyes open, let along stand in the river and fish! There will be another high tide Saturday. Can’t you wait?
But here’s what I said: “You are f-ing crazy” (feel free to use your imagination on that one).

So they go. And stay. Late. So late that it isn’t until the next morning that I see….

Dinner. Lunch, dinner again...


I am a happy woman.


(OK everybody, relax. Alaska’s fisheries are WELL managed. We only take what and when they say we can. We are not depleting the seas. Call’s to your congressman will not stop the fishing. They will only increase our tourism.)

Donna Reed Crisis #57 (OR: why I didn’t blog yesterday)

I had a great weekend, really, see the photo. Saturday my phone broke and that was a bummer, but at the same time I was sated in fabulous weather, friends and beer, so it didn’t totally ruin the mood.

Then came Monday. Why is it always Monday?

It started simply enough: coffee, shower, typing the first few lines of a blog on how WONDERFUL life is…

the blogger as a beer commercial

Then I remembered Mowgli’s grandmother was coming to dinner. Not that her visit would cause anxiety. Grandma is wonderful, loving and complimentary. Still, she is the family matriarch and deserving of all the respect and a clean house, behaved children and impeccable meal, display. Therefore the “to do list”: the list of all that needed to be accomplished to guarantee Grandma was received in the manner she so deserves. And even that was no great cause for alarm. It was a short list and there was plenty of time.

Hmmmm…except there was all that laundry. We’d been camping all weekend. The laundry room overflowed. And, thanks to a recent remodel, our laundry room is doorless. Filthy smelly clothing inched into the hall.

Add to list: wash cloths. At least the stinky ones and enough of them so that the rest will fit into the hamper.


First thing to do was get into town for supplies. The fridge was bare and serving food at a dinner party, (they say) is kind of essential.

Oh, and there was my broken phone. Yes, that phone, my smart phone (see previous posts). Those things are like heroin. One taste and you are hopelessly addicted. By Monday I was missing it pretty bad.

So, Add to list: cell store. Didn’t really have time for that, but smart phone withdrawal symptoms are wicked. I was worried I’d hurt somebody.


I didn’t even make it to the car before, Brrrrrrummmble!!! Men in yellow hats followed by lots of heavy equipment arrived and set up shop on our tiny, dead end street. Whaaa? Remember that French drain that hasn’t drained properly since Oh, early 2003? We’re fixing it today and while we’re here, choking off the entry to your driveway. We’ll let you out but not until you ask and we move two dump trucks and a back hoe out of the way. Awesome.

But, I am not complaining. Thank you, thank you MOA for fixing it. Finally. It’s been eight years. Waiting one more day was out of the question. ?

Departure to town attempt #2. This time I left checking the clock. Yes still enough time. What’s that Mowgli? The guest list changed? Along with Grandma expect Cousin, Uncle and Uncle’s girlfriend who we are not entirely sure even likes us? Right about then, stress. Just a little.

The AT&T store was packed (when is it not?). I went anyway (I had no phone!) and when it was finally my turn who did I get? The trainee. Thankfully he was sandwiched between two experienced clerks. With the help of those two (when they could spare a moment), the warranty guy on the phone, and me (no, the battery goes in this way. Yes, I am an authorized user on the account, look here…) we got… nowhere.

Result: an hour gone, cell still broken and added to my to-do list is instructions from warranty guy to plug my phone into a home computer then call them back for more help. Again, not something I really have time for, but MY SMART PHONE IS NOT WORKING!!

At the grocery store I ran in to a girlfriend I’d been meaning to phone. Since phoning was no longer possible, I felt compelled to stop and chat.  And, spent more time doing that than intended. Next chance I got to view the time was at the check out. Yikes! Better move faster…


After weaving through the maze of giant diesels in front of our house, I plug in my phone and used Mowgli’s phone to call warranty while simultaneously putting away groceries, prepping dinner and making a late lunch for my starving children. (They’re not pleasant when they are hungry and we were having people over. Important people.)

Then I remembered I forgot to take the fish out of the freezer.

Outside: digging in full swing. Inside: warranty gal on hold, computer downloading a program that will (fingers crossed) fix my phone, PB&J sandwiches almost assembled and a fish brick in the sink under running water trying to rapid thaw. Oh and I still need to vacuum… What time is it??

Then I remembered I forgot to buy wine. Full on stress now.

I explain the situation to warranty gal who is incredibly understanding and lets me hang up on her. Fifteen minutes later I’m staring at rows of wine trying desperately to remember which one Uncle’s girlfriend drinks (see what happens when you have no phone? You have to remember stuff). Then I cry to the liquor store guy about my day so far and how convinced I am that this will be the worst dinner party EVER. I’m a chatterer, it’s what I do. That and I am inspired to explain to everyone within visual range why I’m filling a grocery cart with booze on a Monday afternoon.

That’s when the liquor store guy morphs into Gandhi and says the most sage thing I have ever heard from a guy who peddles alcohol:

“Usually when you think thing are going to be great, they suck and when you think they are going to be horrible, they’re awesome.”

Ah so wise. At least now I can be positive about harboring negative thoughts.


I race back. Zipping from the laundry to the vacuum cleaner and back again, I snap at everyone. The kids hide. Mowgli comes home and I tie him to the computer and repairing my phone. Thirty minutes later, nothing. Warranty gal’s program doesn’t work. The fish is still frozen and it suddenly occurs to me we don’t own enough chairs. That’s when the internal discussion begins: exactly how early is too early for a martini?


Guess what? The liquor guy was right.

Grandma, Uncle, Cousin and Uncle’s girlfriend arrived an hour later than we thought giving me copiousness amounts of time to finish my list. MOA repaired the drain and cleared the road before then too. The children were entertaining, the fish was perfect and I picked out the correct wine for Uncle’s girlfriend, who, it turns out DOES like us! The evening was wonderful.


But this is the best part. The icing on the cake. The thing that will have me smiling for the rest of the month…

Ten minutes ago all on his own, Mowgli fixed my phone.


How to Milk a Tree (and other white trash tales)

Summer has come to the north (yes, it does do that) and here at the Rishel compound that means it’s time to get your hick on! So sit back, crack a Bud and get your paws off your sister while I share the latest goings on at Camp Hayseed (before the rev’nuers find out and run us outta here).

Birch wine. A new one this year. To date we’ve managed to successfully ferment Apples, strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb. Why not try trees? A special thanks goes out to neighbors T&R whose delightful introduction to tree milking made this batch of intoxicant possible.

“You must tap the tree after the ground has thawed and released the first mosquitoes of spring, no sooner.” Hmm. Who gave you this recipe, Snow White’s evil stepmother?? Luckily my neighbors sensed my skepticism. A few months later they arrived with a bucket and a hose and said “Tap now.” Here is a photo tour of what happened next:

3/4" hole at an upwards angle. 1-2" into the tree




Use a 3/4 inch drill to bore a 1.5-2 inch hole at an angle up into a birch tree that is at least ten inches in diameter. Stuff a food grade rubber hose (or a tap) into the hole. Tape the other end of the hose into a food grade receptacle. Wait for sap to run.

Here I used a five gallon glass carboy. Not a good idea. A five gallon glass carboy is very heavy. Fill it with five gallons of birch sap and it get’s worse. Next year I’ll use several one gallon plastic water jugs. It took about six days to get ten gallons of sap but I’m told that varies with each tree and each spring.






The recipe:


3 gallons birch sap

6# sugar

6 chopped lemons

24oz raisins

6 Tablespoons yeast

Follow wine making instructions.

If you want to know what those are, it will have to be another post.

Here is what it looks like after 1 week in the secondary fermentor:

Ideally it will look less like urine when it’s ready to drink.



Bottled. Maybe 13-15% alcohol


Ta Da!! Bottled and ready to age. Just a little bit to help with the color and clarity.

I ran out of wine bottles. Luckily we had a few empty Smirnoff containers lying around. The wine in that will not get much aging. S’OK I’ll drink with my eye’s closed.






Smoking Fish: Better for your body and way more legal than any other smoke in the world!

We do this a few times a year. Most of our catch we preserve with a cold, or scotch, smoke. It is fabulous. I am not kidding, this fish takes you places. Show up at a party with scotched salmon and A listers start knocking down your door for hand outs. The recipe is simple but not many people are brave enough to attempt it. It’s not an activity for those short on time, or patience or firewood… The complete process spans about four days. That’s four day stuck at home, babysitting fish.

This is a photo of Mowlgi working a hot, or kippered, smoke recently. Start to finish using this method is a day and a half. We were feeling lazy.

That slick beige piece of high-tech equipment to the right is our smoker. Sorry, it is not for sale.
The noble savage at work. Just so you don’t think we really are a couple of backwoods rednecks, his light afternoon read is “The History of the Mongol Empire”.


PS, sorry about the askew layout on the site. Web designer went off the reservation. Don’t worry, shot gun’s loaded. We’ll git him.


If you want something done right…


I sure hope the chef isn't offended...

My birthday was last Saturday. (Thanks, it was great!) This year, what I really wanted was what every domestic diva wants, a day off. OFF. Me no do nothing for nobody. But how, you ask, does a home management professional, the most important cog in the 24/7 modern family machine swing that? Trip to Tahiti?


Admittedly, it isn’t easy (unless, in your world, Tahiti is actually an option). When I informed my kids that, even though I love them and truly enjoy doing for them, I would not be doing ANYTHING for ANYONE on my birthday they came back with an enthusiastic “OK Mom! That starts after breakfast, right?”  But with planning, it’s possible. You just have to think (and do) ahead!

Monday: Make a birthday wish list. Locate and price top contenders. Inform Husband.

Husband and I have never been big on gifts, especially the secret birthday kind. We are more the type to openly decide what we need and just get it. Though once, he did surprise me with a gorgeous diamond ring (five years after the event that usually spurs men to buy diamond rings, but that’s beside the point). However, we’re realizing that a significant step towards the maturity of our children is experiencing the other side of gifting. The giving, not-getting side. Ergo, the importance my birthday wish list.

Well that and the fact that son number 2 believes wholeheartedly that what I really want for my birthday is a mini movie theater style counter top popcorn maker. OK, I sort of do. Popcorn is the number one snack in our house. It takes a full cup of kernels to pop enough corn for us. And we pop it almost every night. That’s a lot of work on the stove and a movie style pop corn maker would help. However, what I really think we need is an ACTUAL movie theater popcorn maker, the one that is so large it can pop us satisfied in one batch. They aren’t cheep and it’s on my wish list. The “If I was a millionaire” wish list along with a six burner professional cooking range and fifty foot yacht. For this birthday, there are plenty of less expensive items to choose from.

Tuesday: stock cupboards and fridge with prepackaged foods. Make batch of waffles for the freezer, buy more cereal, fruit, maybe some donuts…because taking a day off means NOT COOKING.

Wednesday morning: Google “family friendly fine dining in Anchorage”. Read on-line menu’s to make sure there is something to satisfy every one of my UNBELIEVABLY picky offspring. Make dinner reservations. Load up purse with “emergency” kid supplies: crayons, note pads, lifesavers, mp3 player…

Right now you are probably thinking “screw them! It’s your birthday!” and you would have a very valid point. However, you have probably never been forced to finish your delicately seared Ahi with jasmine rice and wasabi sauce while listening to “I don’t like this.” “Can we go to McDonald?” “Are you done yet?” and, every mothers favorite “he’s touching me!”

And now you are probably thinking “screw them! It’s your birthday!” and again, you would have a very valid point. However you’ve never seen what happens when three little boys max out on boredom in a fancy restaurant… Suffice it to say, you are asked not to return.

Seared Ahi

Wednesday afternoon: Get hair done.

Alright, you caught me. Getting your hair done is kind of fun, even a tab bit relaxing. I could have saved that one for Saturday. However…for an entire hour, I flipped through a magazine while getting my head massaged. It was awesome. I found myself seriously considering a manicure and body wax. I mean, I was already there. Why not?

Thursday: Laundry, to ensure nobody wakes up Saturday and tells me “Mom, I don’t have any pants…”

Clean, EVERYTHING to ensure that everything is where it belongs and no one wakes up Saturday and tells me “Mom, I can’t find my pants.”

(These last two are an inseparable requirement towards my day of peace. I once found two days worth of number 3 son’s cloths in a playhouse I thought no one played in anymore. No, I didn’t ask him why he was getting naked in the playhouse. Seriously, do you want to know? Because I don’t.)

Friday morning: Make my own cake.

Well, cheesecake tastes better after it’s been refrigerated a good 12 hours anyway so…

Friday afternoon: Purchase item #3 on birthday wish list. Wrap and hide from myself.

I asked for a bottle of Prosecco, Italian sparkling wine. Husband is at work all day and I can’t exactly have the kids run to the liquor store, now can I?

Friday evening: Decorate, last minute tidy, run dishwasher, review again with everyone what exactly I am doing the next day.

Say it with me girls…NOTHING!

Happy birthday Mom.


P.S. The boys got me the popcorn maker. They love it.


Jethro’s Zen

Curious results from a recently published study got me thinking…  that’s never a good thing…

In the name of science, researchers at the University of Heidelberg shoved a bunch of gullible saps into an MRI tube and mentally harassed them while jotting down what parts of their brains lit up. Their “research” included activities like verbally deriding volunteers for failing an impassable test then giving them a ball and heckling how badly they played with it.

(Ah, so that wasn’t high school! That was a four-year study on adolescent brains! Phew. Wait, how did I get on that list?)

While the poor (but I hope, well paid) test subjects tried to keep a stiff upper lip, scientists compiled data upon data and looked for something smart to say about it all. Their findings suggest (my choice of words because to say any study “concludes” anything hints at major hubris, fatheadedness… Come on. Historically, “experts” have “concluded” that the earth was flat, milk was bad for you, and the melodious voices of Milli Vanilli were not only awesome, but their own. Sometimes, skepticism is healthy).

Anyway… this particular study ‘suggests’ that people living in an urban environment suffer more from, and are less able to handle, stress than people hanging out in a more bovine friendly region. Rural folk, it seems (to this particular group of “know-it-alls”) have a decided edge when bombarded with pressure, trauma and strain (at least of the mental variety though I suspect a “brain images during flogging” data compilation will not be forthcoming).

Furthermore, the data indicates that if you live in a city as an adult but were a child in the sticks, you may have no need (and little inclination) to worry. Simply being reared in a country setting dramatically improves the likelihood that you would sweat less than your citified counterparts if you were all, say, contestants on Jeopardy. (Which is not to say that an Uncle Jed would actually score higher than a Donald Trump just that he would probably care less if he didn’t.)

So what do you think? (About the results, not how they got them. I’m sure we’re evenly divided into those who wonder who on earth would sign up to be a lab rat and those who instead drool over volunteer pay).

Where did you grow up? Where are you raising your kids? Think it matters? And if you do think so, why?

For this week’s disclaimer: I am obliged to inform everyone that I am a military brat and as a consequence, spent considerable amounts of my formidable years in both rural and urban setting. The only “study” I might feel strongly towards is the one proving that moving a lot as a child shapes the brains into a breeding ground for schizophrenia.

Because I’m not schizophrenic, (but don’t tell her that).

(Report by Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg at the U of H and published in Nature if you’re interested in details. To Mr. Meyer-Lindenberg, Kidding! this is all in fun. Please do not prank call my house. It sounds like you’d be very good at it.)

BFE Travelling Tips

This blog is not about fishing. This blog will never be about fishing. There must be thousands of blogs out about fishing. The web cannot possibly support another one. Besides, by the time summer is over this blogger will have been up to her eyeballs in salt water, slime, guts, fish heads, scales, dawn boat launches, marathon processing sessions…anything and all things fish. And in disgustingly enormous quantities. If she spent even five minutes blogging about it, she just might implode. However, as much as she doesn’t want to and as hard as she’s going to try to avoid it, she may, occasionally and entirely due to the setting of this story, have to use the F word. Just a warning.

(That’s F as in ‘fish’. Pull your head out of the gutter.)

Recently, my wonderful male dominated family took me on a fun filled weekend to the Copper River. Yes, that Copper River and yes, the fish were in and yes, the normally deserted river bank was packed to the gills (no pun intended) with people fishing. The point is, I did not partake and this blog will focus solely (nope, no pun there either) on the non fishing events of our happy little trip to the Copper River Valley. AKA: our weekend in BFE.

(We’re home now and I am an arm’s length away from an ice-cold Sauvignon blanc, running water and internet. I’m ready to talk. I might even keep the sarcasm to a minimum. )

Anyway, if you leave my house and drive for three hours, take a right then drive two or three more hours (depending on road conditions and your ability to calculate fuel usage and gas station availability) the road will end and you will be at the lovely Copper River.

The important thing to know is that those last two or three hours of driving pass by a whole lot of nothing. The Copper River area is phenomenally beautiful, don’t get me wrong but it’s a little remote and shy of things to do (unless you enjoy shopping for extremely expensive booze and fuel). I like to get away from it all as much as the next guy but there’s a fine line between that and painfully, tediously, thumb-twiddlingly ‘out there’. 24 hours of BFE and I had a hankering for, gosh maybe cell service? So, Friday morning, while Husband and son 2 busied themselves with that thing people busy themselves with at that river, son 1, son 3 and I went looking for something to do.

And we found it. Turns out remote, out there, Copper River Valley is a State Trooper Mecca.

I’m not advocating anarchy here but, you would not believe how low the speed limit on the Edgerton Highway is! That has to be one of the longest straightest roads to nowhere I have ever seen. It practically begs for triple digit racing. Not that that’s how fast I was going. We were barely an hour away and still a few bars shy of a decent phone conversation when flashing lights encouraged me to stop.

What’s a girl to do? Cry, apologize, vow to use cruise control for the rest of her ride and take her punishment. Then, the next chance she gets, text her lead footed friend N who was at that very moment cruising the highway to join her.

But the day improved. N arrived to entertain me (unscathed) and I forgot about the expensive piece of paper in my purse. Husband even caught some fish. I was beginning to think the weekend would be fun after all. Then, N and I got one of those wild ideas you get when the individual lobes of your brain stop communicating with each other.

“Let’s go to Kennecott!”

I know I made it sound like Copper river was the end of the earth, but the truth is, if you drive over the river 60 miles down a narrow gravel road then park, cross a foot bridge over the other river and ride a bus 20 more minutes up a dirt path to the old Kennecott mine…well, then you are at the end of the earth.

And the day, with Husband happily engaged in that activity that people engage in at that river, that’s exactly what we did.

Kennecott is a beautiful old copper mine turned national park that if you get the chance to visit you should, just don’t go unprepared. What seems like a 4 or 5 hour day can rapidly blossom into 6 or 10 or even over night. Take water, food, spare tire, and cash. Forget your phone and credit cards (and yes, there are places in Alaska that take credit cards). Outsiders are even forbidden to drive into Kennecott, on anything (maybe horses, I didn’t ask about horses). The ‘bus’ that takes you to the mine is a passenger van that charges $10 per person round trip for the privilege. Steep fare, but traveling with 4 kids and leaving husband only loosely aware of what we were up to, it seemed like the way to go. The return trip left at 3:00, we were told, giving us an hour to see the mine (done!) and enough time to get back to camp before husband panicked and alerted the National Guard.

Or so we thought. Turns out when a Kennecott bus driver says “I’ll be back at 3:00” he’s actually saying “I don’t know about you, but around about that time I’ll be sitting in this air-conditioned van miles away why you hang at the mine batting mosquitoes off your neck…”

Here’s how our day broke down.

1:00 – catch bus

1:20-2:40 – see the sights

2:40 – join two men and their camera gear already waiting at the bus stop.

2:50 – three more passengers arrive.

3:00-3:25 – grow weary, itchy and concerned. But it’s Kennecott. A sign in one window reads “open 9-7, generally speaking”

3:30 van arrives! Elbow up to the door determined to secure a seat. The driver (a new one) turns off ignition and stomping away grumbles that no one’s going anywhere until 4:00.

3:30-4:00 – enough people arrive to cause everyone serious concern about the smallness of the bus.

4:00-4:10 listen to driver argue with ‘HQ’ over radio about who gets priority loading.

4:15 – overheated and irritated and with one very unhappy visitor opting to walk back, cram way more people into the van than it was designed for. Leave.

4:45 -6:30 cross the foot bridge stuff into the car and drive 60 miles of gravel road back, wiped out. N fell asleep so soundly on the way that for a solid 2 minutes I wondered if she was dead.

Well that was interesting. Back at camp husband, looking equally drained, showed us the fish it took him all day in the hot sun to catch. Sometimes good times are exhausting. Unanimous decision right then? Leave first thing the next day.

And we do and things are going great until…those dang flashing lights again…

This time it was N who got pulled over. Now that’s a sign of a true friend. Lightening your pal’s grief by showing her, hey, everybody’s getting ticketed these days. But what the heck? It’s not like we are a wild bunch. N coaches softball and is a Girl Scout troop leader! I… blog.

Then, not 20 minutes later, light again, for Tim. Really? How many troopers does it take to patrol the Edgerton highway? Instead of a citation though, he got a the run down. What are you doing in Copper River? Did you catch fish? How many? Where are they? Fishing license? Copper River permit? We’re usually pretty together but we were in a rush to get out of dodge that morning. Neither of us could remember where the permit went. So we park our F350 and 8000 pound trailer and three cranky kids on the tiny shoulder of the Edgerton and search…come on, do we look like criminals?

You know what I think should be a solid get out of jail free card? Telling the officer, you can assure him you will never break laws on his road again because you know, without a doubt, you are never, ever driving his road again.

I think he was offended.



Adventures in boys.

My guide and I, shielded by the refrigerator door, observed the subjects in their native habitat. While their behavior was familiar, once again we struggled to comprehend their intent.

“Bet you can’t blow a whole can of soda out your nose.”

What? Could these boys be trying to kill each other?

Ah, the human male. No matter how big they never cease to be, at heart, little boys. Wild, unpredictable and testosterone fueled little boys. They make life for the rest of us very interesting. They also tend to make it messy, dangerous and terrifying, but they never make it dull.

You gotta love em, and I do, but I understand them? This is, after all, a group who dedicates longs hours of practice towards landing a football on a target 50 yards away, plinking a golf ball into a teeny hole half way down the green, and lobbing a basketball flawlessly through a hoop 10 feet in the air, yet, amazingly, they are unable to channel an entire stream of urine into the 12 inch toilet bowl they are standing next to. Understanding them may not even be possible.

But, apparently learning from them is. For example:

Because of boys I now know that the safest place to store my matches (lighters… propane torch…) is at my neighbor’s house.

Because of boys I now know that the “TIE” in TIEfighter (a make believe vehicle by the way) stands for “Twin Ion Engine”, not “Transport for the Imperial Enemy.” (duh)

Because of boys I now know that guinea pigs do not like swings (slides…trampolines…)

Because of boys I now know at least 101 games involving spit. (They tried teaching me booger games too, but you have to draw a line somewhere).

Because of boys I now know that passing gas is more than just a digestive issue. It’s a game: “pull my finger…” It’s a musical instrument: “I can fart Yankee Doodle.” It’s a threat: “if you tell mom, I’ll fart on you.” If you manage to catch your opponent, it’s even a torture device: “smell that? Baked beans and broccoli man!” Replicating a fart using an alternate body part, say ones armpit, cheek, or thigh, instead of the standard rear end? Well that is a mark of athletic prowess!

And what’s with the love affair with explosives?? Two weeks ago I watched the father of my children throw a broken lighter into a fire. His sage advice to our young, impressionable offspring?

“You might want to stand back.”

I don’t know what was more disturbing, his actions or the fact that I am, apparently, anesthetized to them.

It’s because of boys that when I hear a siren my first thought is “what did they do?” not “are they OK?”

To be fair, I’m sure there are girls out there who do some or even all of these things. It’s just that with boys…it’s not clear that they do anything else.

What do you do? My plan was to get them involved in a good book. You know, occupy the hands and mind, maybe keep the noise and bleeding down too. That’s when my sister told me about “Captain Underpants.”

Captain Underpants?

I scampered to Amazon. The good reviews were great! Everybody’s kid loved these books. Boys across the nation dropped their bats and balls (pick axes and sledgehammers) to read!

The bad reviews, on the other hand, were awful. Some parents were mortified that anyone would write such an outrageous book. They were up in arms and their complaints ran bursting with words like, “disgusting, disrespectful, devious…”

Oh yeah. Captain Underpants should do the trick.

I have to go now. I think I smell smoke.


(The author would like to apologize to her husband and three boys whom she loves dearly and really only pulls her hair out over every once in a while. She also asks to be excused for errors in this post. She had to blog on her cell phone in BFE where her wonderful band of boys had dragged her for a fun filled weekend… but that’s another post.)


Eventually, everything is funny