Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Anchorage Daily News #3 - Reality T.V.

It's really fun, and kind of crazy, to see all of the reality television shows taking place in Alaska at the moment.  I have yet to SEE any of them as I am cheap and only have basic cable at home...but there are so many...Sarah Palin's Alaska, Gold Rush Alaska, Deadliest Catch, Flying Wild Alaska, are some of the ones I'm familiar with, and now, you will soon be able to add TWO more shows to the list...

As per The Anchorage Daily News, the new shows will be "Mountain Men of Alaska" and "Mounted in Alaska".  Just from the title alone, I think I need to watch the first one...just kidding (sort of).  :)   It's said to be about The Kilcher family, led by patriarch Atz Kilcher (singer Jewel's father).   They've lived on their homestead near Homer for three generations. They live off the land, spending their summers gardening, hunting and fishing for food to get them through the harsh Alaskan winters. Most of them live completely off the grid, with no running water and no electricity - and they are proud of it. The series also features homesteaders who live near the Kilchers, including "Brother Roadkill" who is not above eating animals lying dead on the side of the road (mmm...yummy...).

"Mounted in Alaska"...can you guess what this one is about?  Hmmm...keep it clean... :)   It's actually going to be about a taxidermy shop in Anchorage, "Knights Taxidermy, Inc.".  If ever there is a place where taxidermy is popular, I'm guessing it is Alaska.  I actually had dinner in an Alaskan home when I last visited and there were all kinds of stuffed critters, big and small...including an upright grizzly bear (much like you see on the Knights Taxidermy website) primed for an attack...

Maybe next season, there will be a reality show about a naive Colorado girl who decided to move up to Alaska with her two dogs and see if she could survive...not living off the land or anything...but learning how to use a snowblower...learning how to maneuver on majorly snow-packed, icy roads...learning to carefully wrap up her garbage so bears and moose don't surprise her in her garage etc...what do you think...would YOU watch it?? :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Multiple Choice

Here's a multiple choice question for you to answer:

Melody's plans to rent a Uhaul trailer to tow behind her Ford Explorer this summer are not possible because:
A) Uhaul has no more trailers available

B) Uhaul is no longer in the moving business   OR

C) U-Haul has chosen not to rent behind this tow vehicle based on our history of excessive costs in defending lawsuits involving Ford Explorer towing combinations. This policy is not related to safety issues. This is an unusual circumstance for U-Haul – we have built our success for over 60 years by saying 'yes' to our customers. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and are committed to working with our customers to find alternative options to help with their move.

If you guessed "C"...you win a prize (not really...but good job...you got the right answer).

UGH!!!  What are the chances that the ONE vehicle they have a 'policy' about towing is the one vehicle I purchased.  The extremely comparable Mercury Mountaineer has no such restrictions...it's essentially the SAME vehicle, just with a different name slapped on the back...So, now I'm trying to come up with a plan B.  My attempts to find another trailer rental are not going well...the option of renting a small moving truck is much higher than I want to pay and I don't want to have to deal with getting 2 vehicles up there anyway...I have ONE friend already committed to making the road trip with me, I didn't want to have to try to find more as well :)  The cost to purchase a trailer is not one I want to entertain since this is a one time use situation...so I'm looking at SERIOUSLY consolidating what I'm bringing up there and/or shipping up some of the things I wanted to bring which I guess isn't a BAD thing...but it's just nice to have some of your 'stuff' with you, if you know what I mean... :)

Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pho, Pho, Pho

it's like 'Ho, Ho, Ho'...but pronounced 'Fo, Fo, Fo'...get it?  No?...okay, me either...and technically, I guess it's supposed to be pronounced 'Fuh', (like 'duh') but when I was introduced to it, I was given the 'Fo' pronunciation and so that's stuck with me.  What is it exactly?  Glad you asked... :)

Pho is delicious...it is a Vietnamese noodle and rice soup...typically served with beef, but also chicken...or tripe if you're feeling adventurous (no thanks).  It's served in a ginormous bowl filled with really hot beef broth, chopped up scallions, onions, cilantro and noodles.  It's also flavored with star anise (something my palate is not sophisticated enough to pick out, but I have been told it's in there, so I'll go with it).  You have the option of having the beef served on the side (to add at your own leisure), or in the broth.  The beef is very thinly sliced (but thicker than carpaccio) and raw (I know it sounds gross, but just wait...).  The broth is so hot that it actually cooks the meat.  By the time my bowl is delivered to the table, the meat is mostly cooked...just a little bit of pink.  Then they provide you with a plate of garnishments...bean sprouts, lime or lemon wedges, slices of jalapeno peppers, fresh basil, and fresh sawgrass leaves ...along with your choice of sauces - hoison or srircha (neither of which I use as I am not a fan of spicy / hot). 

For MY Pho bowl, I always order the rare beef...as I said, the beef ends up cooking quickly in the hot broth...I then tear up the basil leaves, add the bean sprouts and squirt fresh lime (or lemon) juice over it and dig in.  That's how I like to eat mine...

Sadly, my fellow Pho friend (say that fast 3 times) is moving away soon...as in a week and a half soon...so we've been trying to fit in as much Pho eating as we can...and when I bemoaned the fact that my only Pho friend was leaving, she did reassure me that I could always get take-out...which is true...it just won't be the same...  She asked me if there was Pho in Anchorage...I said I didn't know...but after doing a Google search, I breathed a sigh of relief ~ I will not have to go Pho-less in Anchorage.  :)

If you haven't tried Pho, you SHOULD...Pho Sho!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My Free Canvas

A couple weeks back, I mentioned that the folks at Canvas People were doing their *Free* 8x10 canvas special again...so I took advantage of the special and ordered another canvas...this time I got one for myself since the last one was a gift.

My order was delivered today, and I'll give you one guess as to who the subject of my canvas was...it's MY baby...Duncan... :)

here's the original photo:

and here's the canvas:

I purposely chose a close-up picture of him because I wanted his face to fill the whole canvas, which it does...he was actually sitting on me while I was laying on the couch one night when I took this photo and I love how it looks like he's looking right at me...because he was!  I LOVE how it turned out!  The canvas was sitting in my office this afternoon and I could see it out of the corner of my eye - I have to admit, more than once, I thought Duncan was ACTUALLY sitting over there looking at me - a little spooky.

I also received a promo card with this canvas delivery and they are offering ANOTHER $50 off my next canvas...so I can essentially do the same thing and get a free 8x10 canvas of my OTHER baby, Dave.  :)

At some point, I will probably go ahead and pay the difference in cost to get a larger size canvas (maybe of something scenic) because the 8x10 is actually smaller than you think...but for 2 puppies, it's a perfect size!

If you do order one, I'd love to see how YOUR canvas turns out!

**UPDATE** to yesterday's post about Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup...all I can say is WOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...apparently Walmart sells Grandma's Noodles as well, and when I searched the product by zipcode on Walmart's website, they came up as "In Stock" in the 3 Walmarts in Anchorage...I am one HAPPY girl!!!  Remember, it's the LITTLE things for me!! :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

I'm on a food kick lately, can you tell?  I know it's Spring and soups and stews are not usually on a lot of menus at this time of year, but I recently had the most wonderful homemade chicken noodle soup while taking care of some friends kiddos and wanted to try making it myself.  The urgency to do it now comes because one of the ingredients will not be available to me up in Anchorage :(  but I'm HOPING to find a comparable substitute once I'm there.

Chicken noodle soup is another food item that I am rather particular about eating ~ none of the gross Campbell's version in a can...I want big chunks of chicken and noodles, not little unidentifiable pieces of what I think are supposed to pass as those ingredients.  So I don't typically eat chicken noodle soup very often...until now!

olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
1-2 carrots, chopped
1 quart chicken broth
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 bag Grandma's Noodles, cook/heat according to package directions
1 rotisserie chicken, diced

1. Saute onion, celery and carrots in olive oil until soft.
2. Add chicken broth, reserve 1/2 to 1 cup of broth.
3. Add chicken and simmer for 30 minutes.
4. In separate bowl, melt butter.  Whisk in flour and then reserved chicken broth.  Slowly whisk in milk.
5. Add #4 to broth and heat to low boil.
6. Add cooked noodles...soup thickens a little more as it cools.
   **Add salt & pepper to taste**

The genius and ease of this recipe comes from using a rotisserie chicken (no pre-cooking of chicken required - I didn't even dice it up - I just pulled it off in chunks and broke it up with my fingers).  The other is the noodles, Grandma's Noodles to be exact...

I'd never heard of these before but they are SOOOO good.  The company's headquarters are actually local here in Arvada, CO.  These noodles can be found in the frozen food section of the grocery store.  There were two different sized noodles (I chose the wide noodles) and two different sized BAGS of noodles - I bought the bigger, "Family-Sized" bag because I like a lot of noodles in my soup.  Sadly...they do not currently distribute their product to Anchorage, so if I want them there, I will have to have them shipped in dry ice...


Mmmmm....noodle soup...(to quote another "Friends" episode) :)

This recipe is definitely a keeper!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mac & Cheese

Do you ever go through phases of craving the same thing over and over again?  I've had an on-again / off-again craving for macaroni & cheese the past few months.  I'm not talking about the kind that comes in a box with the orange powder - I mean GOOOOD mac and cheese...with special cheeses or other extra ingredients besides just the noodles and cheese.

Martha Stewart is known for her mac & cheese recipe(s) - she now has 16 of them listed on her website.  I tried making this one (see below) once...but I didn't love it...

She has some interesting recipe ideas, one involving slow-roasted tomatoes, one involving seafood (blech), and one with butternut squash, just to name a few...

Noodles & Company has a variety of noodle dishes - Asian, Mediterranean and American...in addition to their traditional Wisconsin Mac & Cheese, they are currently offering "Grown-Up Mac & Cheese" options for a short time:

I've tried the Bacon Mac & Cheeseburger, and the SW Chili Mac & Cheese and they were both really good...I'm not a fan of mushrooms but I can imagine the Truffle Mac is just as tasty as the others...but today I stuck with the traditional Wisconsin Mac & Cheese.

I think my current (semi) obsession with Mac & Cheese came from Panera.  I LOOOVE their Mac & Cheese...I first tried it this past winter, breaking from my traditional pattern of ordering one of their soup in a bread bowl offerings...
And I'm so glad I did!  It's SO creamy and gooey and delicious (it's also rather expensive in my opinion) so I don't indulge in it QUITE as often as I'd like.

I've seen some attempts to re-create the recipe for it here in blog land so I may have to give that a try...my cravings and my wallet will thank me!  :)

Of course, I can't talk about Mac & Cheese without mentioning my ALL-TIME favorite Mac & Cheese...for my fellow "Friends" lovers, you know what I mean!  :)

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Anchorage Daily News #2

YIKES!!  This is not a headline I want to be seeing...

"Alaska's gas prices 3rd highest;
Hawaii first at $4 per gallon"
Hawaii on Monday reached the dubious milestone of being the first state in recent years to reach the $4 average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline. According to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, the Aloha State's $4 a gallon is the highest in the nation and a few cents higher than California's average of $3.959. Alaska was third at $3.902.

Some cities have already hit the $4 mark, including San Francisco, but Hawaii is the first state to reach the mark since 2008.
The national average is $3.558 a gallon, up a nickel from a week ago and 43 cents higher than a month ago.
Wyoming had the cheapest gas in the nation at $3.268.

And I have a feeling it's only going to go up...and up...and up...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"To Do" List

This weekend I was able to cross off another of my major 'to do' items from my list for my upcoming move to Alaska. If you recall from this, my very first post, there were 3 major things on my "to do" list...

1. Find someone to rent out my Colorado condo
2. Find a job in Anchorage
3. Purchase a vehicle to get me up there

Well, now, all that's left is for me to find a job!!  After several weeks of on-again, off-again car hunting, and having a heart to heart with myself in coming to terms with what I WANTED to buy vs. what I could realistically AFFORD to buy, I found the necessary four wheel drive vehicle I will need to get up to Anchorage.  I'm so thankful to have this off my plate (car shopping is NOT something I enjoy) and I'm really pleased with my purchased.  Please meet my "new" 2007 Ford Explorer:

Now...about that job... :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Costco Love #2

So remember the other day when I said I like to wander up and down the aisles at Costco sometimes because you never know what you might find?

I had to run in there a couple of days ago to buy candy...A LOT of candy...for work because our company participated in the Denver & Colorado Springs St. Patrick's Day parades today and we wanted to be one of the 'cool' entrants who had goodies to pass out.

I was doing really well...wandered past the books...past the clothes (I MAY have purchased a cute DKNY sweater), even skipped the samples (even though I hadn't had my lunch yet). I was instructed to get the 'good' candy so I grabbed 18 bags of mixed chocolate candy (think snack sized Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kats, Almond Joys, M&M's - plain AND peanut, Snickers, Twix and Nestle Crunch) and thought I was on my way, when I saw this:
YUM!! A GINORMOUS bag of the new Pretzel M&Ms?!? SO tempting...but I resisted...and then I saw this:
The new Snickers Peanut Butter squared - something I'd been wanting to try, but haven't yet...but again, I resisted (seriously, what am I going to do with ALL of them anyway, and what if I didn't even LIKE them).

I was proud of myself for resisting both temptations...and was heading for the checkout area...all was good...UNTIL...I passed the stupid Easter candy display and was stopped in my tracks. I did a double-take...I couldn't believe what I was seeing...no WAY...

A HUGE tub of Sour Punch Twists?!? I LOVE these things! But I've only ever seen them in the mixed candy bags (also at Costco) and you have to dig them out of the mix (which I'm happy to do, but it's such a waste of all the other candy - just kidding) :) AND, these are FULL-SIZE twists, not the half-twists that come in the mixed bags...I didn't even think twice, before I put, not one, but TWO of these tubs into my basket (you never know with Costco...sometimes they only have items for a short amount of time and once they're gone...they're gone...I wasn't taking THAT chance). I was SO excited ~ more than a NORMAL person should be ~ but again, sometimes it's the little things in life that make you happy and today was certainly one of those days for me. They're such a yummy blend of sugary sweet and puckery sour in a chewy licorice form. (Maybe they'd like me to do a marketing campaign for them)?!? :)

In case I needed further justification, the calories and fat in these things are MUCH, MUCH lower than the Pretzel M&M's and the Snickers Peanut Butter Squares. So the weight-watching that I'm attempting won't be AS affected as other choices could have been.

And now I feel even better AFTER the fact because in doing a little on-line research for an image of these babies, I find that on websites such as candywarehouse.com they retail for $21.00 per tub PLUS the cost of shipping. I only paid $9.99 per tub at Costco...two for the price of one right there!

If anyone is looking for me in the next few days, I'll probably be in a sugar-induced coma... :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

One Line A Day

I'm not really a 'journaler'...I LIKE journals and I've bought a few over the years (I do love to LOOK at the journal section in the bookstores...all of that nice leather and the gold-edged pages), but I usually start out gung-ho for a short period of time and then lose interest or stop writing after not too long. In college, I started a 'Quote' journal, which I still have, but haven't written in for a very loooong time. I would include meaningful quotes, verses, ideas or short stories that I had heard or read and wanted to remember. I'm glad I still have it, and over the years have occasionally perused through it, each time thinking 'I really should continue doing this'.

In college, I was fortunate enough to get to go on a big trip - called "Wheaton in the Holy Lands". We studied intently on campus for two weeks and then spent 4-5 weeks traveling to Italy, Israel and Greece. We were 'required' to keep a journal as part of our grade for the program and I'm thankful we did, as it really helped refresh my memory when I returned home, and provided extra details as I looked through all of the MANY pictures I took and attempted to put them in to a scrapbook. I haven't pulled it out lately to read it, but I know it would bring back some great memories of that time, now SOOOO many years ago... :)

Last fall, as I was reading one of the many blogs I follow, Camille Roskelley shared a "PSA" on her blog about these "One Line a Day Journals":

It's a Five-Year Journal - with a space to write just one or two lines a day, so no 'pressure' to feel like you must write pages in a journal each day, but you can write about something special that happened that day, or something funny or cute your child said, or something you're thankful for etc... I thought they would be a neat gift idea for some of my 'Mom' friends who have kids that say any number of cute and funny things, so I ordered several as gifts for Christmas. I ordered an extra one 'just because' and decided even though I don't have kids, I'd still like to have one to write in. I waited until January 1 of this year to start writing in it (that's the anal retentive side of me coming out...can't start writing in it in the middle of the year (gasp))!! :) But YOU could start writing in it anytime of the year that you want. So far, I've written in it every day. It's good because before I go to bed each night, it 'forces' me (in a good way) to think back over the day and recall what was the best thing about the day or what I was thankful for that day etc...I'm certainly not writing anything terribly profound...my snuggly, snoring dogs may have an entry or two in there :) but it has been a nice place to record memories, especially as I'm preparing to leave Colorado.

I purchased my journals from Amazon originally, but it looks like they don't currently have them in stock from Amazon directly, but you can get one from another source listed there, or, the website paper-source.com has them for sale as well (they're just a little more expensive on their site).

I don't think I'll ever be a 'Dear Diary' kind of journaler, but I think this one or two lines a day is something I can handle!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Anchorage Daily News...Watch Out for Kicking Moose

Once I knew I was moving to Alaska, I thought it would be a good idea to start familiarizing myself with what's happening in my soon-to-be new world. I bookmarked the Anchorage Daily News so I could start reading up on what's going on in my new city.

Let me just say...the news in Anchorage is quite different from the news in Denver...for example:

by Elizabeth Bluemink

A moose kicked a woman in Town Square Park Monday afternoon after she got too close to the animal and reportedly tried to pet it, according to Anchorage police.

The moose kicked the unidentified woman several times -- including in the chest and shoulder -- but she was not injured badly enough to go to the hospital, according to police spokeswoman Anita Shell.

Police were called to Town Square at about 4:40 p.m. and medics checked the woman and determined she was OK, Shell said.

Witnesses told police that the moose kicked the woman, in her 20s, after she tried to pet it as it walked by, Shell said.

The moose was spotted in Town Square throughout the day on Monday, feeding on trees. The moose was still hanging around at the downtown park after police arrived and the woman left at around 5 p.m.

"At this time, we are telling people not to agitate the moose ... to give it space," Shell said.

Anchorage police said they did not request that state biologists deal with the moose because the animal wasn't going after anyone unprovoked.

"It was just doing what moose do," Shell said.

I know I've got some learnin' to do in terms of life in Alaska, but even I know better than to try to pet a moose... :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Free Canvas from Canvas People

Canvas People is a company that converts your photos into a canvas. Back in December they were offering a *FREE* 8x10 canvas (normally $50) - you just pay the $14.95 shipping & handling...

They've decided to offer a *FREE* 8x10 canvas again ~ same deal as the last time - you just pay the $14.95 shipping & handling fee...OR you can get a larger size and take the $50 price off the larger size.

I ordered an 8x10 size in December and I was very pleased with how it turned out. Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of it...and it was a gift so I no longer have it. The Canvas People people are great to work with too - the first photo I submitted did not have good resolution so they let me know so I could send a new picture ~ I would recommend them for sure...I plan to send in another photo and take advantage of this offer!

Here's an example of the 8x10 size and one of the larger sizes from the blog make it and love it

Cute stuff ~ and a fun gift idea for someone's birthday, Mother's Day, Father's Day or just because...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Costco Love

I'm not sure what it is about buying in bulk that is so exciting, but it is...I try to refrain from going tooooo crazy when I'm in Costco...I rarely buy fresh produce because I know there's no possible way to consume all of it before it goes bad...but toiletries, tuna, cereal, dog treats etc...are commonly in my cart.

I like looking at all of the books (but I've learned to just jot down titles that look interesting and then go reserve them at the library) and clothes, and sometimes find myself just wandering up and down the aisles because you never know what you might find. And of course, who doesn't love the free samples?? I've heard of some people who go to Costco for their 'lunch' and just fill up on the samples.

I also like Costco because they have many easy to throw together meals. They have take n bake pizzas for $9.99 and that is what I was recently after, however they did not have the Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella pizza I wanted...I found these raviolis instead...they aren't "& Mozzarella"...they are "Grilled Chicken & Mozzarella" ravioli and they were really good! They come in a 2 pack, but I'd already made one package before thinking to take a picture, so just use your imagination. :)

All you have to do is cook them for 3-4 minutes in boiling water...then drain and toss with some olive oil...

and then serve with your favorite sauce ~ super easy!!

Next up...trying to figure out what to do with the 2 giant slabs of thick bacon currently in my freezer...courtesy of Costco...definitely an impulse buy, but it looked too good to pass up...and who doesn't like good bacon???

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I have a secret love...his name is Marco...his full name is Marco's Coal-Fired Pizza. He's so tasty...and so thoughtful...he just opened a second location a mere 10 minutes away from my home...Before now, I had to drive all the way downtown to see him - sometimes an hour or so if there was traffic, so we didn't get together very often. But now he's so close! I'm so excited! I can't wait to see him again...probably sometime this weekend.

My favorite thing on the menu is the Toscana pizza. It's SO good...but then I haven't had anything I dislike at Marco's. And it seriously takes longer to ORDER your pizza than it does to COOK it in their oven. That's because they cook their pizzas in a 1000* (yes, that's ONE THOUSAND DEGREES) hand-crafted hickory-fired oven. And many of their toppings come FROM Italy. They have more than pizzas too - I've heard great things about their Meatball Sliders and their Coal-Fired Lemoncello Chicken Wings but I'm sold on their pizzas. And for DESSERT...they have Nutella Pizza!! It's a little spendier than your average pizza place, but it's SOOOO worth it!!

I wonder if I can convince Marco to open up in Alaska...if not, then I'll just have to make the most of my remaining time here in Colorado.

I love you Marco! :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

7 Layer Nacho Dip

I'm sure there are a million variations and any number of layers you can use for this recipe, but this is the one I grew up with and have continued to use:

7 Layer Nacho Dip:

1. 2 cans of bean dip
2. 1 avocado (cut into small pieces)
3. 12 oz. sour cream, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/2 package taco seasoning (mix all 3 of these together before layering)
4. 3-4 green onions (chopped)
5. olives (chopped)(I use part of one small can of pre-chopped olives)
6. 1 tomato (chopped)
7. grated cheese (one 1 lb bag)

In 9x13 dish, layer ingredients in order listed. Serve with tortilla chips. I failed to get a 'before' photo, so here is what was left after everyone dug in...

always a crowd pleaser!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sometimes It's the Little Things....

Sometimes it's the little things in life...when I saw these new ketchup packets at Chick-Fil-A I got WAAAAY more excited than one should...how ingenious though...you can either tear off and squeeze OR you can peel back and dip...AND one of the new packets is equivalent to 3 of the old squeeze packets. Now when I get food to eat on the go, I actually say, 'Yes, please, I'd like some ketchup'. :)