Matanuska River Valley – Alaska

mat su valley (640x424)Here are some photos from our trip this summer through Alaska in a RV. Travel north of Anchorage and head east on the Glenn Highway and you will travel through the Matanuska River Valley. It is a beautiful area with a broad river valley and mountains on both sides. The Glenn Highway connects Palmer near Anchorage to Glenn Allan in the east. We also stopped by an old gold mine and were thankful that we did not have to live the gold miners life of deep snow, cold and one trip to town each year. Our travel in a RV was much more comfortable than what they had to face.

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The Matanuska Glacier

mat su 9 (640x424)More mountains…

manuska campsite (640x424)Our campsite along the Glenn Highway along the river

hatcher pass (640x424)Heading up the Hatcher Pass to the Independence Gold Mine

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Some buildings on the way up to the gold mine.

sheep mountain (640x424)This very colorful mountain is called Sheep Mountain

sheep (640x424)And this is the reason why

mat su 7 (640x424)And some final scenes on our way to Glenn Allan. Hope you enjoyed the trip!

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Quick Apple Galette

apple galette (640x424)If you are someone who loves the smell of apples baking and the taste of homemade apple pie, here is a very easy recipe for a rustic apple galette.

Easy Apple Galette

1 circle of refrigerated pie crust, room temperature

2 large baking apples (I like Golden Delicious but choose your favorite variety)

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon cream

1 tablespoon coarse sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up or spray with non-stick spray. Unroll pastry into a full circle. Set aside as you prepare the filling.
  2. Slice the peeled, cored apples in half, then slice evenly into thin 1/8 inch slices.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the apple slices with the granulated and brown sugars, flour, salt, lemon juice and cinnamon until the apple slices are evenly coated in the sugar mixture.
  4. Spoon all of the apple filling into the middle of the pie crust, leaving about two inches of space around the edge of the circle.
  5. Carefully fold the edges of the crust over (it will cover 2-3 inches of the apple filling). You will have some overlap of the crust as you fold, so just pinch together. Try not to tear a hole in the crust where the filling could leak out.
  6. Brush the outside of the crust with cream, then sprinkle with the coarse sugar over the crust. Dot with the butter.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the apple slices are tender.

Daily Wisdom Devotional

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Daily Wisdom: January 3

John 12:32 NET – And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Source: Daily Wisdom – http://www.youdevotion.com/wisdom/january/3

New Hampshire in the Fall

NH leaves 3 (640x420)One of my favorite areas is the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We spent several days in the Lincoln area at the end of September. It is near the White Mountain National Forest and Franconia Notch State Park. There are lots of hiking trails, waterfalls and other beautiful scenery. Looking forward to returning again next fall.

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Alaska – Denali Highway

DSC_0784 (640x424)Denali Highway goes east-west connecting Richardson Highway with the Parks Highway in Alaska. It can only be called a “highway” in the very loose sense of the term. It is 135 miles of washboard gravel but goes through a vast wilderness area. There are a couple of lodges along the road but otherwise you are just driving and looking at the beautiful scenery.

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DSC_0866 (640x424)This was an unexpected sight along the road but very nice surprise.

Changing Seasons

leaves (640x427)We had a beautiful fall here but with a week of wind, all of the leaves are down now. Saw the juncos (small gray birds) two weeks ago and that is another sure sign that winter is on the way. Here are some scenes from late October. Hope you are enjoying the changing seasons where you are today!

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Alaska

mountains flowers (640x424)I have been absent from the blog for awhile – too busy with work, family and chores at home. This summer my husband and I spent almost three weeks traveling around Alaska in a RV. We had visited 25 years ago when we did a stop-over on our way to South Korea. It was as beautiful as I remembered. If you like mountains, nature and wildlife, it is a wonderful place to visit.

Here are a few random photos. I will try and do some more organized posts of the trip in later days. Thanks!

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RV (640x424)Our home as we toured Alaska. Great visit!

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

blueberry breakfast cake (640x424)The blueberries are abundant this time of the year and picking is plentiful at the local orchard. Here is a simple blueberry cake that is good for breakfast or as a snack.

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

2 cups fresh blueberries

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup buttermilk

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish with butter.
  2. In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour; set aside. Whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter and ¾ cup plus one tablespoon of the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the blueberries.
  5. Spread batter into greased baking dish and sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until top is slightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

 

Summer Scene

gold finch (640x392) (2)I am enjoying our summer flowers and birds today. I love the summer plumage of the goldfinch and the scene as he stops by to eat some seeds from the cone flowers. (The silver/gray in the back of the photo is Dichondra (silver falls) from a hanging basket in a tree — Dichondra makes a great “spiller” for a hanging basket).

Whole Wheat Flax Seed No-Knead Bread

WW Flax No Knead resizedAnother variation of the wonderful no-knead bread. This version uses ground flax seeds and whole wheat flour to create a denser bread with a chewy crust. This recipe also uses the “quicker” version of making no-knead bread which uses warm water and more yeast to create the sponge.

Whole Wheat Flax Seed No-Knead Bread

1 ⅓ cups warm water

2 ¼ teaspoons granulated yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup ground flax seeds (I used a blender to grind flax seeds)

1. Add warm water to a large bowl. Stir in yeast and let set for 4-5 minutes till mixture begins to bubble a bit and get foamy. Add remaining ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon. Stir vigorously until all flour is mixed and a shaggy dough forms. If the dough is too stiff, add a little more water.
2. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rest at room temperature for an hour.
As the dough is rising preheat oven to 450 degrees. Please cast iron pot and lid in oven to heat (I use the Lodge Combo for my no-knead bread).
3. After rising for an hour, pour dough on a large piece of parchment paper which has been sprinkled with flour. With well-floured hands form dough into a round ball. (The dough can be difficult to handle). Lightly sprinkle the dough ball with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 60 minutes.
4. Remove cast iron pot from oven. Pick up ball of dough by the edges of the parchment paper and place in the hot pot. Sprinkle with more flax seeds if desired. Slash top of dough with a sharp knife. Using scissors, quickly cut the extra parchment paper and place lid on pot.
5. Return covered pot to hot oven (Be careful – the cast iron pot is heavy and very hot!).
6. Cook at 450 degrees with lid on pot for 30 minutes. Remove lid from pot and cook another 15 minutes until brown and crusty.
7. Remove from oven and remove cooked bread from the hot pot. Cool and enjoy wonderful crusty bread!

Quick Apple Molasses No-Knead Bread

molasses apple 2 (640x424)Here is another variation on the no-knead method of bread baking. This uses the “quicker” method when you do not have 12-18 hours for the sponge to sit. The apples and molasses make a dark bread which is good for a breakfast bread or to use as a snack.

Quick Apple Molasses No-Knead Bread

1 1/3 cups warm water

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup steel cut oats, toasted
1  teaspoon salt
1 apple, diced
1/3 cup molasses

Directions

1. Add warm water to a large bowl. Stir in yeast and sugar and let sit for 4-5 minutes till mixture begins to bubble a bit and get foamy. Add remaining ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon. Stir vigorously until the flour and other ingredients are mixed and a shaggy dough forms.
2. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rest at room temperature for an hour (It is okay if it sits longer than an hour). As the dough is rising preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place cast iron pot and lid in oven to heat (I use the Lodge Combo for my no-knead bread).
3. After rising for an hour, pour dough on a large piece of parchment paper which has been sprinkled with flour. With well-floured hands form dough into a round ball. (The dough can be difficult to handle). Gently add more flour if needed to form into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
4. Remove cast iron pot from oven. Pick up ball of dough by the edges of the parchment paper and place in the hot pot. Using scissors, quickly cut the extra parchment paper and place lid on pot.
5. Return covered pot to hot oven (Be careful – the cast iron pot is heavy and very hot!).
6. Cook at 450 degrees with lid on pot for 30 minutes. Remove lid from pot and cook another 10-15 minutes until brown and crusty.
7. Remove from oven and slide the cooked bread from the hot pot. Cool and enjoy wonderful crusty bread!

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Message of Hope

Do you get depressed by the current news from the Middle East? Take a moment of list to these words of hope and song from a 10 year old Iraqi girl living in a refugee camp. Her maturity and love is amazing. Make sure you also listen to her wonderful song.

10 Grain Honey Wheat Bread

10 grain bread (640x424)I love the smell of break baking and it is a great activity for a cold, snowy day. This recipe is unusual in that after the bread rises, you knead in honey. I changed to original to cook the bread in a hot cast-iron pot rather than regular bread pan and it worked great. Give it a try if you enjoy bread making too!
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10 Grain Honey Wheat Bread

½ cup 10 grain cereal (I used Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain Hot Cereal)

½ cup warm water water

½ teaspoon yeast

1 cup whole wheat flour

1½ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 eggs

¼ cup vegetable oil

½ cup honey

1/4 cup oats, approximately

  1. In a small bowl, let the cereal soak in about ½ cup cool water for 30 minutes. In another bowl, dissolve yeast in ½ cup warm water and let it sit until it starts to foam (about 10-15 minutes.)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, put flour, sugar, and salt and mix well. Using a wooden spoon, make a small well in the center of this mixture. Add the yeast, eggs, oil, and cereal to the well, and stir together until it starts to form into a bowl and becomes too difficult to mix with wooden spoon. If using stand mixer, add dough hook and knead 8 minutes. Remove from bowl and place on floured surface and knead by hand for another 10 minutes. Add small amounts of flour as needed until no longer sticky.
  3. Put a tablespoon of oil in a bowl and rub it around the entire bowl. Place the dough ball into the bowl, and flip a few times to coat in oil. Cover and let rise about 45 minutes in a warm place, or until doubled in size. (My house was not very warm and I doubled rising time).
  4. Once dough has doubled, punch the dough down and place on kneading surface again. Pour ½ cup of honey on top. The dough will be very sticky, but knead it for about five minutes, until the honey has been incorporated and it is in a nice, round ball again.
  5. Place ball on a large piece of parchment paper which has been lightly floured. Cover and let rise until doubled for about 45 minutes (or longer). While the dough is rising, preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a cast iron pot and lid in oven to heat.
  6. Once dough has doubled in size, spray lightly with water, and sprinkle with oats. Remove hot pot from oven and sit on heat-proof surface. Pick up the ball of dough by the edges of the parchment paper and place in hot pot. Quickly cut excess parchment paper and place hot lid on pot. Return to oven.
  7. With the lid on the pot, bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes Remove the lid and continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until nicely browned.
  8. Remove from oven slide the hot bread from the pots and allow to cool. Enjoy!

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Watching Eagles

eagle on nest (640x368)Have you seen the bald eagle camera at Codorus State Park in Pennsylvania? It is fun to watch the eagles whether you are an adult or to share with children. Right now the nest is covered with snow and it is well  below freezing but the eagles are still on the eggs. You can see the mate bringing in food and changing off with the nesting duties. Warning – watching the eagles can get very addictive. Take a look!

Click on link  below for the live camera

http://hdontap.com/index.php/video/stream/bald-eagle-live-camhttp://

Click on link below to see them breaking free from a mound of snow.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vv6zuw9cKRM

Check back around March 21 to see if the two eggs have hatched.

Image courtesy of Pennsylvania Game Commission

Snowy Day

four birds (640x424)Here are some photographs from our snowfall yesterday. The photo above includes a white throat sparrow, dark eyed junco, goldfinch and female cardinal – four different birds all sitting on same branch in the snow. While the temperature is in the single digits today, hopefully warmer weather and spring will be here soon.

snow falling (640x424)Snow fell hard all day and we ended up with around 12 inches.

cardinal and gf 2 (640x424)The male cardinal and goldfinch in the snow.

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sunrise snow (640x424)Lots of snow yesterday but the sun is shining today

morning light (640x424)Have a Happy Friday!

Pork Roast and Apples

pork and apples resizedBoneless pork roasts make a wonderful dinner anytime of the year. Use your favorite marinade to to add extra flavor to the roast. Here is one of my favorite marinades or you can mix a combination of soy sauce, sesame oil, chopped garlic, onion and a little sugar. This recipe includes sliced apples for a great pork and apple combination.

Pork Roast and Apples

1 1/2 pound boneless pork roast (approximately)

Marinade (use you favorite or check the link above)

2 apples, sliced

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup apple cider

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1. Place pork roast in a plastic zip lock bag. Add marinade and allow to soak for 6-8 hours. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Remove roast from marinade and place in roasting pan.

2. Bake the roast for 45 minutes. In a bowl, mix together the apple slices, brown sugar, cider and dry mustard. Spoon the apples in the pan next to the roast and pour the liquid over everything. Allow to bake another 30 minutes.

3. Remove meat from oven. Place on a platter and cover with foil. Check to see if apple slices are tender and cook a little longer if necessary.

4. Mix apple slices with drippings in pan. Serve with the pork roast.

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Tumblr Anyone?

tumblr blog resizedTumblr is another blogging platform that is easy to use to post photos, videos, quotes and to share favorite websites. I am using Tumblr as another way of sharing and viewing nature photos. If you have a Tumblr account, let me know and I will follow you. I am always interesting in seeing great photos. Here is the link to my Tumblr. Take a look!

http://alookatnature.tumblr.com/

Sunrise

sunrise 2A colorful morning as we wait for another snowstorm. I am ready for butterflies, flowers and warm weather!

Winter’s Joy

red bellied BB PS (640x399)We are having a cold winter with some snow but the snow is not as deep as last winter. One of the joys of the winter is watching the birds at the feeders. Their color and constant motion add beauty to the cold winter.

bluebird pair 3 (640x373)For feeding we use five main types of food – black oil sunflower seeds, suet, mealworms, thistle (nyger) seeds, and a high quality mixed seed blend. The finches, chickadees, titmice love the sunflower seeds. The ground feeders, such as sparrows, juncos and cardinals like the mixed seeds. If you purchase mixed seeds, get a high quality mix or you will find that your birds waste most of the seed. Suet cakes are for the woodpeckers, nuthatches and a variety of other birds. We spoil our bluebirds (and will probably go bankrupt) with freeze dried mealworms. The thistle is for the finches.

bluebirdandfinch 2 (640x424)Just as important as the bird feed, is fresh water. Even if you don’t feed the birds, a supply of fresh water will draw the birds to your yard. In our area, we have to use an electric warmer in the bird bath in order to keep it ice free.

juncoThe birds also mark the changing of the season. We know winter is on the way when the dark eyed juncos and white throat sparrows appear in the yard. The arrive of spring is heralded by the Eastern phoebe with its very distinctive call and the changing of the goldfinches from their drab winter plumage back to their bright yellow feathers.

Here are some of our visitors this winter. Hope you have a bluebird day!

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