SPAETZLE MEANS LITTLE SPARROW in German, but you'll find no poultry in this dish - instead it's basically an egg noodle that can be served with a number of different things like sausages or sauteed vegetables or any number of sauces. One of our family's favorite comfort foods on a crisp April evening is spaetzle served with spicy rich goulash.
This recipe for basic spaetzle will serve two to three people, but it is easy to double or even triple it for more homemade noodle goodness.
Mix the flour, nutmeg and 1/2 tsp salt together thoroughly in a medium-sized bowl. Add the two eggs and about half of the milk and stir thoroughly. Continue adding the milk, little by little, until you have a thin paste consistency. Set the mixture aside for about 20 minutes so that the bubbles of air trapped within it can rise to the top and escape. About 10 minutes into the resting time, put about 3 quarts of water plus the 1/8 cup of salt on the stove to boil. When it begins to boil, turn it down to just below a boil. You want the water to be hot but not bubbling.
Prepare a large skillet by putting the 2-3 Tbs of butter in it and turning it on to medium-low heat. It should be hot and ready when you begin making the spaetzle, as you will need to transfer them immediately from the hot water to the skillet.
To make the spaetzle, you will need something with holes in it to drop the spaetzle dough into the hot water. Special spaetzle makers are available in kitchen stores, but I use a large grater, and it works just fine. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the dough onto the grater and allow it to drip through, using the back of a spoon to push through any remaining dough. The dough will sink in the water, but in a minute or so, it will rise to the top. You may need to give it a gently stir the keep the noodles from clumping at the bottom.
Use a slotted spoon or small sieve to scoop the spaetzle out of the hot water, and, after letting it drain for a few seconds, transfer them into the warm skillet and give them a little toss in the melted butter.
Scoop your next batch of dough onto the grater and repeat these steps until all of the dough is used. Once you have all of the little noodles in your skillet, turn up the heat and give them all a good toss in the butter. They should be plenty salty, but you may add a little sprinkle of salt if needed. Fry them for just a moment, until the first few show signs of getting slightly browned, then remove the skillet from the heat and serve them immediately with the toppings of your choice and enjoy!
MY TRIP SEEMS to be flying by and I'll be back in the States before I can blink. I'm in New Plymouth, on the west coast of the North Island staying with a lovely family who I met through a few degrees of separation. There are around 45,000 people here next to the coast and the Taranaki volcano.
I came here to go to WOMAD (World of Music and Dance), an international music festival. It happened to be some of the best weather, which drew huge masses of people to the park. The selection of musicians was diverse, I appreciated the music of every band I listened to. Furthermore, the venue couldn't have been more perfect with the main stage surrounded by water and ducks swimming to and fro.
I've been touring New Plymouth on a bicycle and on foot. Looking through galleries, museums, unique shops, bakeries, and beaches.
I'm learning to be happy exploring cities and landscapes by myself, finding different ways to entertain Aviva. That may be one of the most difficult parts of traveling solo: being alone. I can't say how many people have gawked at my age and what I chose to do with my semester off. "You're so brave!" I've been told over and over.
Today I hitchhike to Raglan, another costal town in the west. Into the unknown....
Listen below to hear a sampling of all the great music from the festival...
PARENTS OFTEN STRUGGLE to find a happy medium for vacations involving teenagers, but between sullen silence and spurts of uncharacteristic cheerfulness lies an excellent opportunity for the whole family to adjust to this new phase of life.
The concept formerly known as “family travel” takes on an entirely new look once kids who used to jump for joy at the idea of a week together suddenly look stricken at the mere mention of same. Drive ten hours to see grandma? Not. Spend a week at the Grand Canyon, singing cowboy songs around a campfire? Bor-ing.
Vacationing with teens should to be handled with the utmost care and attention. Older kids, caught in that desperate “come-here-but-go-away” chasm between childhood and adulthood, want parents to take care of them, but not too much, and not at all when other teens around. Especially if those other teens are attractive. Ahem.
Alaskan wildlife in its natural habitat - hanging out in the hotel common areas with bears!
A word: these are not your mother or father’s teen years; heck, they’re not even mine. External factors exacerbate situations that might prove difficult, or even unhealthy, and we fully recognize that. But teens still deserve the benefit of a safe, structured, yet somewhat-independent activity with their friends. My parents rocked this concept, so here are a few tips a’la “KTDGrandparentsontheGO”.
1. Set the stage. Does your teen’s group of friends enjoy outdoor recreation? Sit on the couch one night with a map and casually mention you’d like to take a short hiking, rafting, or biking trip and suggest a pack o’ teens accompany you. Solicit your teen’s feedback. Where would he/she like to go? With whom? This sets up a win-win scenario for all parties - teens feel responsible for the trip, and parents know exactly who is going, when, and where.
2. Establish boundaries. Adults are in charge, but kids should be able to voice their perspectives and preferences for such things as destinations, activities, transportation, and the like. Do make clear your family value system well ahead of travel regarding issues like credit card use, sleeping arrangements, entertainment, etc.
3. Encourage independence. Staying in a hotel? Let kids hang out in the common areas, the swimming pool and such (after frank conversations regarding expected behavior, of course). Alyeska Resort is fabulous for their willingness to accommodate packs of skiing, swimming, chillin’ teens, and they are also offering a springtime special just for such activities. Camping? Give teenagers a place to congregate near the lakeshore or fire pit. My folks used to score two campsites; one for us, one for them (we all had to sleep in the gender-segregated tents, just for full disclosure). It was great. The Alaska Marine Highway ferries are also a great teen-pleaser, with a theatre, game room, and plenty of places to be, without parental units. The Alaska Railroad is another gem of independence, featuring a dome car and cafe’ where parents and children can be near each other without any annoying hovering.
4. Take it all in stride. There will be days when all seems wrong with the world, the trip, and you. Allow teens to “take five”, away from the rest of the crowd. It is not the end of the world if your son or daughter suddenly decides he or she would rather skip the guided nature hike and wait for you in the lodge, ear buds firmly in place. Really, it’s not.
For more trip ideas, visit AKontheGO.com.
I FALL IN love with Alaska every time I am flying over, seeing it from above. So too do I fall in love all over again with my family every time there is distance between us. This week a work trip has provided the opportunity for both scenarios to happen.
There is no replacement for traveling in the sky above the 49th state. My flights that took me from Southeast to the Interior were surrounded by clear visibility of the landscape for the entire journey. During this season in Alaska the mountains covered with snow look like giant piles of powdered sugar stabbing at the sky. The river beds are ribbons and bands of endless and contiguous white. The glacier ice is hidden but small shades of blue still show-through randomly. The sun is still low enough on the horizon for the mountains to cast deep and dark shadows on the valleys below. Hundreds of peaks dot the horizon in every direction. Although I have been flying around the state for 13 years I could not help but take a break from my reading material and gaze at the awesomeness and grandeur of the state I call home.
I feel like I am missing something and slightly alone just hours after saying my goodbyes to my partner and our boys for this short, three day work trip. Getting some distance between myself and my family allows me time to reflect and to process all that happens day-to-day in our lives and its integral part of my life experience. Space also allows me time to think about what my partner and our sons mean to me and how much they have enhanced my life.
Viewing family life from afar, I can now see many of the peaks that we enjoy together. There is love and care for one another that manifests itself in so many ways: hugs, cuddles, smiles, giggles, coos. Thinking about my son now getting himself dressed seems like such a grand accomplishment from this distance. This mundane task thatonce was such a battle is now testament to how much he has changed and grown in just four short years. There is the immediate smile of our youngest when he sees me in the room that I adore and miss. This is testament to the bond we share after just eight short months. There is the love, compassion and care that my partner exudes towards our sons and I feel very fortunate to have a front row seat to watch it happen. My parents becoming such an active part of our family and daily family life is another facet that I can appreciate even more with a little distance. These are only small instances and thoughts that fill my head in this brief time for reflection.
Just like the landscape of Alaska I know that there are valleys in the landscape of my life and our lives as a family. When they occur they can be challenging, overwhelming, and endless. Fortunately I can see where these valleys ended. Even more importantly there are always the peaks that tower above that are so much more noticeable and awesome with a little distance.
THE SUN IS now setting after 8:30. We have nearly 13 hours of daylight...and counting. The sky is slowly turning a deeper shade of blue after months of being so white that it looked like an extension of the mountains. I have a sudden urge to wear shorts and tank tops outside, even though the occasional wind makes the temperature around 10 degrees. That's right
summer spring is here. And coming soon is the last day of school. My god, I'm coming down the home stretch of my high school career.
Even though the last quarter of high school is a cakewalk, it brings with it a new type of stress. Stress over college takes precedent, as well as balancing work and having a good time during the summer, grandparents flying up for graduation, and AP Tests to secure the college credit that is much more real now than it was in August when I signed up for the class.
For most, me included, this stress is notable, but miniscule in light of the thought of crossing the stage, shaking hands with a few people, getting your diploma, and being free. Free from high school - and childhood along with it. As soon as I step down off that stage in May, I'll change from a high school student to a college student. Teachers that I've known since my freshman year will look at me slightly differently. It won't be noticeable to anyone else but it'll seem to me as if they're looking at me like a peer, perhaps, I'll be their student no more.
But before that day, I have plenty of things to take care of. Mr. Congeniality is next friday, my play (Top Gun) should run sometime in the next 3 weeks, prom is at the end of April, and I have to commit to a college by May 1st. It's busy, but fun. I made the resolution that I'd always be busy this year, and I think I've fulfilled that for the most part. Now, we only have a quarter left.
Only seventy-some days and they can't go by quickly enough.
SOMETIMES I WANT something a little sweet, but not too sweet, and the scone is a perfect thing to satisfy such a craving. Scones, much like muffins, are great because with a basic recipe, you can get a number of different flavors by changing just one or two ingredients.
In this recipe I used cinnamon and currants, but you can experiment with many other fruits, nuts or spices to get different flavors. Generally, you'll want about 1/2 cup of fruit and perhaps a 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of spice.
Preheat oven to 400.
Mix all the dry ingredients together well, and add the butter cubes. Use your fingers or a pastry cutter to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture thoroughly.
Once the butter is mixed in so that the texture is light and a little grainy looking but without any big chunks of butter, add the buttermilk or milk a few tablespoons at a time. Stir the buttermilk in and keep adding it little by little until you have a thick paste consistency.
On a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper, spoon the scones out about 1 1/2" inches apart. They will spread some as you cook them. Using a small spoon, sprinkle a bit of sugar over the top of each scone.
Put the scones in the oven and cook them for about 8 minutes. I recommend checking them at around 6 minutes, but it may take up to 10 minutes. I used a gluten-free bake mix to make these scones, and it never rises as well as wheat flour, but it still tastes great. Serve them warm for breakfast, snack or a midday not-too-sweet treat. Enjoy!
WHEN THE PRODUCER asked me to talk about spring skiing, the first thing that entered my mind was “Really?? One of the snowiest Alaskan winters on record, and you want me to try and sell parents on skiing - Just when we’re all dreaming about flip flops and shorts??” Couldn’t I talk about something else? Something, perhaps, with a sandy, surf-y, decidedly un-winter-y feeling to it?
March and April are often difficult months to encourage outdoor recreation with kids. Snow is either melting, or, as is case this year, still falling, even as the weather warms up. Most parents are truly weary of snowsuits, soggy boots, and misplaced mittens. Even the name for this season is a downer: Break Up.
But enough whimpering. Let’s go skiing. Snow fell, and now it’s lying all over the ground in record amounts. We might as well go outside and enjoy ourselves.
To be perfectly honest, if ever there was a favorite time to ski with my kids, it would be during the spring season, especially in Alaska, and especially this year.
I love to step outdoors just about now, and feel the difference between winter and spring. Snow is softer, a bit tired-looking, but still gracious enough to welcome my skis upon its grainy surface. The air is fresh with the scent of spruce tips, and the sky, on a bluebird afternoon, looks like it was painted that way, just for me.
Alpine skiing families can take advantage of spring specials around the state, making deals on everything from lift tickets to rentals to lessons. Kids are less likely to freeze fingers and toes on the chairlift, too. Alyeska Resort in Girdwood and Eagle Crest in Juneau both offer great lesson/lift packages that often include the gear. We also have spent a fair amount of time at Arctic Valley Ski Area, on an alpine hilltop above Anchorage. Arctic Valley loves spring skiing, too, so much that they throw a big party each year to celebrate, calling it the “Merry Marmot Festival” and offering tons of family fun, this year on Saturday, March 31.
Nordic skiers definitely should find a delicious-looking trail, groomed to cordoury perfection, and head out to become one with the forest and their children. Whether it’s the wide expanse of Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks or the forested loops of the Campbell Tract in Anchorage, an adventure among the dripping, sweet-smelling trees and chattering chickadees is a blessing, indeed. We’re actually packing for an epic day trip aboard the Nordic Ski Association’s Ski Train, departing tomorrow morning for historic Curry near Talkeetna, twelve hours of kid-pleasing exploration and a train ride.
Go outdoors for a change of scenery. Go outside because it’s springtime and snowy.
Go - because this is Alaska.
Follow the Kirkland family’s springtime adventures at AKontheGO.com.
DOES OUR FAMILY have spring fever? HA! We are beyond the fever - we have spring FRENZY!
On the weekends the milder weather of early spring is pushing us out of our home haven with a sense of urgency. When the workdays and school days are finished the extended light pulls us out of our buildings and vehicles, daring us to bask in the sunlight or inhale many moments of fresh cool air before returning inside.
Southeast Alaska has a well-deserved reputation for inclement and inconsistent weather. With temperatures in Interior and Western Alaska still entrenched in the negative regions and the Southcentral lows flirting with the negatives makes high temperatures in the low 40’s here feel decadent! During this season of the year I have a spring in my step with even more Southeast Alaskan pride.
“Look Daddy it’s sunny out!” has been a phrase that has been uttered with more frequency in my son’s recognitions of the weather around us. Our 3 ½-year old does not need a doctor or nurse to tell him the importance of vitamin D. He has just completed his fourth Alaskan winter and he can feel it. Although his vocabulary is diverse he cannot fully describe what he is feeling, but it is obvious. The difference of light and temperatures in his body is making him more active and chipper. He is embracing all of it with zest!
The past two weekends our ski outings have been accompanied by sun and warmth. So much so that I have felt some guilt for overdressing our young skier. What used to be hour-long trips to the beach and playground we frequent have now become two hours and beyond. Recently I caught a glimpse of our oldest on the playground with his peers, without snow pants. It made me smile. Our neighborhood playground is getting much more use and a slight mention of it is enough of a prod to get our son there. Grandma who just completed her first Alaska winter is more daring in taking our boys on outside adventures and her emails reach my inbox with titles such as: Isn’t this Sunshine Amazing? and What about this Sun?!
Our youngest son - who is more alert now than ever before - seems to be at peace in the outdoors taking in the seasonal changes. We are all grateful that outdoor life is more comfortable for him in this season allowing for even more time outside as a family.
We are looking forward to more trails opening up with the melting of the snow, looking for skunk cabbages and other spring greenery. We also look forward to spring king salmon arriving in our waters and better access to other outdoor adventures. Until then we will just enjoy being comfortable outside and basking in the light of spring.
LAST WEEK WAS Spring Break for my family so we went down to Washington for a holiday. We got to have long leisurely lazy mornings and I had the time to make some big brunches. One of my favorite breakfast or brunch items is fried potatoes. They are relatively quick and easy to make; I have even made them on school mornings on occasion. This time I served them with sausage links and omelets, but they are pretty hearty on their own or with a little sausage cooked in with the potatoes. Here is the recipe to serve 3-4 people.
Cut the pototoes (well-washed, skins on) into approximately 1/2 inch pieces. Put the butter or oil in a large skillet and allow it to heat. Add the onions and cook them for about 2-3 minutes before adding the potato pieces and spices, mixing well to make sure the butter or oil coats the potatoes.
Turn the heat down low and put a lid over the skillet. Stir the potatoes every couple of minutes, until the potatoes are beginning to get soft. Remove the lid, turn up the heat and cook the potatoes, stirring often, until they begin to get a little golden brown.
If you wanted to cook the sausage in with the potatoes, put about 1 cup of uncooked sausage in the skillet with the butter or oil and cook it about half way before adding the onions, and then continue with the directions from above. Serve immediately and enjoy!
THINKTANK DIDN'T START off as a clothing company, instead it was just that: a group of thinkers. Starting in March of last year, I began seeking good down-to-earth conversations with people - whether we talked about why some kids weren't motivated or how the universe was formed, I didn't care, as long as the conversation was interesting. I wanted these discussions to transcend day-to-day life; to be more philosophical than the usual adolescent banter about girls, sports, and cars.
I kept organizing think tanks at least once a month until the summer when I left for France. It was during the first think tank after my foreign experience that someone floated the idea of ThinkTank the clothing company purely as a laugh. I laughed too, but at the same time thought about the possibilities. I went home that day full of excitement, brainstormed ideas for shirts and made a company Facebook page, even though we didn't have a logo. But we were on our way.
Fast forward eight months and we're not much farther along. We've ordered 48 hats to get the brand out, but are finding it harder to sell them than we expected. First of all, nobody wants the same hat as someone else - as soon as one person gets one, that pretty much rules out most of the school. Second, high schoolers are really cheap about certain things. They'll fork over upwards of $200 on a pair of jeans or $40 on a sports team's hat, but they illegally download music instead of buying the $10 album, and - most importantly for us - won't buy a branded hat for $30. I know we'll eventually sell the hats, it's just a matter of time before we reach enough people.
Starting ThinkTank (the group and the clothing company) has made me appreciate Alaska a lot more. This winter, I've spent at least one night a week up on Flattop stargazing for the perfect shot, or chasing the Aurora across the Valley. Yes, I’m a dreamer. It's made me realize that there's nowhere else in the world like Alaska, and just how much I'm going to miss it next year. I plan on continuing ThinkTank through college, and maybe beyond, but either way it's just my way of getting close to nature, getting close to what people really think.