Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When it's over 100 degrees...

Get thee to a cool cave! Ape Cave, which is part of Mt. St. Helen’s lava tube system, boasts a balmy year-round temperature of 42 degrees.
We visited the cave for the first time in April when there was still snow on the ground and we had to hike in the last stretch of roadway because the last portion of the road leading up to the cave was closed. It was only about a mile long, but because we had to hike through the snow wearing just tennis shoes and light sweaters (hey, it was full spring at home!) we didn't feel like trying to reach the end of the tube that time. We probably hiked about halfway though. At least we had flashlights, but only two.
This time we were prepared with flashlights for all and long sleeve shirts to put over our t-shirts. We hiked in at over 100 degrees and climbed down to the sweet feeling of 42. Ahhhh...felt good.
We hiked the lower trail all the way to the end and the kids talked me in to crawling on all fours, and for about 15 feet on my belly, to touch the very end. Those few moments crawling on my stomach were rather disconcerting as I am definitely not a fan of being closed up in tight quarters and totally have a fear of being crushed, so squeezing through a tight spot hundreds of feet below solid volcanic rock was not my idea of a good time. Nonetheless, I was victorious, and the boys and I sat for a minute at the extreme end reveling in our cramped glory before shimmying back up and out. Here are a few photos; the one with both of them is at the very end:

When life gives you cherries...

Get pitting! A fellow homeschooling mom whom my friend Deanne knows had an overabundance of cherries and because this has been a banner year for fruit (and everything else that grows!); there's a glut in the cherry market. This kind lady offered as many free cherries as a body could pick to whomever wanted to do so. Funny, I had just been wishing for some cherries to come our way, so it was quite serendipitous.
We went out early with Deanne and her boys and picked well over 100 lbs. We were guessing it was close to 180, but we didn’t have a scale. However much we got, it was plenty. The freezer is full of pitted bags full, I made cherry crisp, canned up to 7 quarts of pie filling and 8 pints of brandied cherries, started almost ½ gallon of cherry extract in vodka, sun-dried several lbs., and we are still eating fresh cherries 2 weeks later. I will make some cherry jam also, but I just may wait until it cools off and do it with frozen cherries, which works almost as well as fresh ones. Since it’s been in the upper 90s and low 100s, I actually canned the brandied cherries outside on our Coleman camping stove and started to do the pie filling, but had to finish up inside when I ran out of propane. So, before I can again, I have to get some more gas. Canning outside is SOOO nice! When we build our dream house, it will have an outdoor cooking room for sure! ;-)
Here’s a pic of the bountiful harvest, which took the boys and I three hours to pick. Btw, Ealom wins the prize as the fastest cherry picker – I think he picked the most.
Vans, Lamberts, and Royal Annes:
Both stores near us were out of cherry pitters (of course!) so I borrowed this cutie from my neighbor. It took about an hour to pit 5 lbs. of cherries and my hands were not liking the repetitive motion, but it is much more handy than nothing. The next day I had to go to Portland, so I picked up a large plunger type pitter, which pits oh so much faster; about 30 lbs. an hour. There is no way I would’ve gotten through all those cherries with that single extractor, but it is so cute, when I saw the exact one at a garage sale last week for 10c, I picked it up. Now two people can pit and trade off pitters. Yummy stuff; I love gleaning! :-)

Monday, July 13, 2009


Tuesday was spent doing final wedding shopping. I was in charge of decorating, and there were a few things I needed to pick up in Anchorage. We also went to the Kobuk, which was a favorite shop of ours when we lived there, and visited Town Square, where we used to ice skate in the winter. We decided we were going to need a rental car after all, and so picked that up Tuesday after we finished the shopping.
Then we headed over to the airport to meet Nancy, Loei, and Walid. It was quite a big deal for them to be arriving, since they had worked so long and hard to get Walid his “green card”, not to mention the 27 hour trip from Cairo. Molly had gotten them buddy passes and worked really hard to make sure they were able to get there as smoothly as possible. All in all it was a huge deal for them and we were thrilled to be there when they arrived in Anchorage. I wish I had taken pictures, but we were all just too busy meeting and greeting. ;-) Poor Lolo was pooped, but in good spirits nonetheless and my boys were so happy to see him. Walid brought Gil an Egyptian drum that he had carried all the way. It is beautiful and Gil loves it. Mom and Molly were both there to drive the family and their luggage to Wasilla, and we stayed one more night in Anchorage.
Wednesday we finally drove out to Wasilla and then to Willow to hang out with Bonny and Jim. He’s a great guy, I could tell Bonny was happy, and they live at this awesome property with a cool house. Bridgette and Hatcher were so happy to see us and Hatcher even went over to the car looking for the boys, who had stayed in Wasilla with Uncle Benny. We had a great visit and I was wishing everyone lived closer, so we could’ve been hanging out there most nights!
Thursday and Friday were spent getting ready for the wedding. On Thursday we took a couple of hours out to meet up with some dear friends of ours, Kellee Ball and her children. We hung out at Wasilla Wonderland Park and then came back to the parent’s apt. building, where we all visited some more. I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of all the kids together! That really disappoints me. Sigh. Just can’t do it all. At least we got to visit.
Thursday evening, Bonny and Jim came over for final wedding plans and we got most everything planned and organized. Friday was spent doing all of the final preparations, with Nancy and Molly helping me make the final decorations, a group of us going to Target for wedding presents, and staying up until 3 in the morning helping Benny (bless his heart!) make fudge. :-) I’ll include a wedding picture of the table decorations in this post.

Alaska 1

Bonny and Jim got married on June 20, and we wouldn't have missed it for the world! We hadn't been back to AK since we moved away, so the whole trip was a huge thrill for the boys, and bittersweet for me. I say that because while I am happy to live somewhere much warmer, I do miss Alaska and I miss my family up there like crazy. I of course cried all the way home!
The wedding was beautiful and we all really like Jim, so couldn't be happier for Bonny. An extra treat was that Nancy, Walid, and Loei flew in from Cairo. Yay!!
We only had 8 days, so it was a whirlwind tour and none of us felt like we were there long enough. I know that's normal for most vacations, but still...anyhow...here’s a brief recap. I will at some point add photos at Facebook, so will only include a few here.
We arrived around 1 am on Sunday the 14th, stayed up later talking to Lupe and Jessica, then slept some. We got up and headed out to the Three Baron's Renaissance Fair, which we had faithfully attended every year when we lived in Anchorage. Benny and Molly met up with us and we all had a great time. When we got back to Lupe’s, she drove us to Elderberry Park and we hiked the Coastal Trail, arriving back at the park just before midnight. Since Monday was Ealom’s birthday, we counted down the remaining seconds until he turned 13 in the midnight sun. I took some very nice pictures of his last minutes as a 12 year old and a very funny video of him counting down to 13. :-)
I arranged a party at the Imaginarium (our old Science Center) and invited friends and family on Monday. Since everybody on my side of the family was working and/or getting ready for the wedding, it was just Gil’s side of the family and some of Ealom’s friends. He had a pretty good time, but since we used to have huge blow-out parties at our home in Anchorage for the kids’ birthdays, Ealom felt a little let-down. I did my best, but I think it was like a lot of things in life, especially birthdays. You get all worked up for this “huge” event, but you don’t feel any different really, and it’s kind-of anti-climatic. Oh well, life goes on. We went back to Lupe’s for dinner and then headed over to our old neighborhood. It was really emotional for all of us to see the home where we had built so much of our lives for 9 years, but we were glad we went and hung out in the street with our old neighbors chatting until nearly midnight when we could stand the tiredness and mosquitoes no longer. It never gets dark of course. ;-)
Maybe this is why I don’t blog much – it takes me too long! I think I will break these posts up into a couple of days at a time, and add a couple photos each.
Here’s the boys at the 3 Baron’s Fair:

Ealom's last minutes being 12:

The final countdown to 13:

Ealom's birthday party:

Aidan's baseball

Aidan was so excited to play baseball this spring and he did very well, as well as met some other great kids. Here are a couple of pictures taken at a game in Washougal.