WE'RE A BERRY-LOVING family. We love to pick berries. We love to eat berries. I love to cook with berries. When we lived in Washington state, we visited berry farms and picked to our hearts' content. Now that we’re back in Alaska, we forage and fight the bears off to get our berries. I prefer the Alaskan way. It’s not as easy, but we sure do appreciate it more.
A couple weeks ago we went blueberry picking in Denali. When we returned, I made some blueberry zucchini muffins. Luckily, there were a few left over when the power went out last week because of the nasty storm. They were like precious jewels around here. We rationed them out, quibbled over them, wanting them to last as long as possible. After all, I couldn’t just whip up another batch when we didn’t have power. They didn’t last long, though. Nothing good-tasting ever does around this house.
Because we work so hard for our berries, here’s some tips to get them to last through the winter. Maybe even through a power outage!
1. Make jams and jellies. This is my favorite. My currant-raspberry jam is coveted. You can mix it in yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast, add it to your smoothie, spread it on toast or put it on PB&J for lunch. Oh, the possibilities!
2. Make fruit leather. This is fast becoming my new favorite. Just crush your berries, or use a blender. Add sweetener to taste. Spread onto a buttered, rimmed baking sheet. Bake on the lowest oven setting (mine is 170˚) until dry and leathery, but not crisp. Enjoy immediately or save in an airtight container for later.
3. Make pie! Cherry pie, raspberry pie, blueberry pie, bumbleberry pie! It probably won’t last long, but you can always bake and freeze for later. You can freeze before baking, too, but it will take longer to bake. I’ve done it both ways successfully.
4. Freeze. This is the quickest, easiest way to preserve your berries. You’ll be able to take out your frozen berries whatever you want a taste of summer! The best way to freeze berries is to arrange a single layer of clean berries on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer. When frozen, transfer to freezer bags or containers.
5. Bake some goodies! Try my recipe for Blueberry Zucchini muffins. Like pies, they won’t last long, but they freeze well. You can use your frozen blueberries to make them. Be sure to make enough for YOUR next power outage!
Blueberry Zucchini Muffins
Makes 16-17 muffins, depending on how much batter you eat before you bake them!
Preheat oven to 350˚F.
Lightly grease muffin pan. Combine eggs, oil, applesauce, sugars, and vanilla in a bowl, mixing well. Mash any clumps of brown sugar against the bowl. When no clumps remain and batter is smooth, fold in grated zucchini.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon. Add to zucchini mixture. Fold in blueberries.
If using frozen berries, do not defrost before adding. Using a spoon or a cookie scoop, fill muffin cups to the top. If using two pans, you can bake them together in a convection oven, or bake separately in a regular oven.
Bake 25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan carefully by running a knife around the edge before taking them out to cool on a paper towel. Let cool for 15 minutes - if you can wait that long!
Editor's note: Former KTD blogger, Leslie, moved away from Alaska about a year ago, so we thought it would be great to check in with her, see how life on the east coast was treating her and the family since she'd completed her writing gig with us at Love + eMotion last October. Turns out she'd recently revisited Alaska - sans kids - for a hike of a lifetime with her husband. Of course we asked her to write about it for us...
A STICKY FOG descended as we made our way over loose boulders, a relentless effort towards the Summit of Chilkoot Pass. Nothing in this historic landscape had been stable for the past few hours. My stomach growled from missing dinner. My fingertips were raw from clawing my way up. Knees scraped. Feet duct taped and sore.
Somewhere up ahead sending mini avalanches upon my head was my husband. “I’m not having any fun,” he had blurted out yesterday a few hours after we started the Chilkoot Trail and his back had gone into spasms from a pack that was too small.
“Good thing the kids aren’t with us,” he yelled as he slid and had to jam his hiking pole in a crevice to stop his fall.
Crossing the Chilkoot Trail off my bucket list seemed like a good idea when we discovered we both had work in Anchorage at the same time. We thought five days off the grid would be a great way to celebrate our ten year anniversary. A product of parents who never did anything without us, I worried whether I was being judged for leaving the kids behind.
Before we boarded our plane, Kyra, who just turned seven, blinked with her big round eyes. “We want to go home, too.”
“I miss Alaska,” Ethan, who just turned four, added. I nearly snuck them into my carry on.
But whenever we called them, Ethan was too busy playing to talk to us while Kyra yelled into the phone, “We’re fine. Gotta run.”
There were other parents on the trail who were feeling the same guilt. One couple cried when they called their one-year old who refused to stop bawling.
As things grew colder and darker on this evening, two hikers approached us from the Summit. “Where are you headed?” we asked, relieved that we weren’t the only losers still hiking around 9pm.
“We’re actually looking for you.” They were the rangers stationed at the top of the Summit, who had spent the day asking hikers that crossed the pass whether they had seen a “couple in trouble.”
To ease our embarrassment at being that couple, they offered, “How would you like a honeymoon suite?”
We settled into a warming shelter at the top of the pass with two steaming thermoses of hot water. We collapsed beneath the weight of our packs and stared at the signs posted inside the cabin. One said, “Happy Camp is still 2 to 4 hours away. Do not stay here overnight.”
We felt like teenagers that had snuck behind barricade tape in this not meant for overnighting rest stop. Peeking out the windows at a cloudless turquoise sky layered on top of snow covered peaks and emerald lakes, I asked my husband, “Now are you having fun?”
He smiled. The world was so quiet up there we could hear nothing. Not a peep from an animal or a rustle of wind. If we held our breath, we might hear the drip of ice melt into a clear stream.
We savored the silence, the kind of peace we rarely experience now that we are parents. I felt as if my brain was getting a desperately needed reboot, a chance to dump all the complications of parenting and return to the nuts and bolts of our marriage.
That night, Thomas cooked me dinner and we had a chance to dry out our gear and talk. Ten years had braided and frayed our relationship so we were grateful to finally have the time to mend and forgive.
Without 24/7 connectivity and the stress of bills or deadlines or obligations, it was easier to relax into the present moment. With four days of nearly twelve hours of hiking where we had to worry about nothing but placing one foot before the other, we had time to hear rain staccato on our tent or photograph the gills on an orange Alice-in-Wonderland mushroom. Finally, I could enjoy Alaska the way I dreamed of and give myself a chance to be a kid again.
Fellow hikers reassured us that that’s why it was critical for parents to take time away from their kids. Rekindling the parts of yourself that you had neglected after you became parents, they said, made you a better parent. When things got tough in the future, we had moments like this to grip onto. Mothers reminded me that it was important to show my daughter that when she became a mother, it’s okay to take a break and take care of yourself.
A man in his late sixties who kayaked from Washington State to Skagway in order to hike this trail patted me on the back and said, “You can’t sacrifice your life for the kids. That’s really smart that you are doing this now, when you are young.”
Before we reunited with our kids, we squeezed in a fishing trip, which would fill the bellies of our family and friends. We even ran into a former classmate of mine passing through Whitehorse. Similar to our reasons for moving away from Alaska, my classmate and his girlfriend had tears in their eyes when they told us that Alaska was the only place they ever felt at home or made any friends. They were grateful to hear how we’ve stayed connected to Alaska. It had been a year since we left Alaska and I was surprised to hear myself say, “When you miss Alaska, just remind yourself that home is wherever your family is.”
Leslie Hsu Oh wrote the flagship blog - Love + eMotion - for KidsTheseDays.org while living in Alaska. She now lives in the Washington DC-area with her husband and two children. Read more of her work at LeslieHsuOh.com.
WHEN LEAVES BEGIN to crunch and crackle underfoot and the air takes on a sharpness, it’s time to think about settling in for another Alaska winter. Human residents of the 49th state haul out the warm clothing, boots and snow shovels. They switch out tires and chop wood, all in the name of preparation. Alaska’s animals who don’t migrate to warmer climates prepare, too, by growing winter coats, eating a lot, or digging out a bed for that extra-long nap.
The months of September through November are excellent for capturing the essence of autumn in Alaska. Everything that flies, crawls, walks, or runs is feverishly preparing body and mind for six months of snowy, icy conditions, according to instinct. We humans have a front-row seat thanks to a number of family-friendly venues.
Jack the Moose enjoying some Alaska cabbage
In southeast Alaska, visitors to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage can observe enormous antlers appearing on the facility’s moose, and hear the odd call of a bugling elk as he trumpets his desires to the ladies in an adjoining pasture. Bears gorge on pumpkins from generous Halloween leftovers, and the musk oxen grow ever shaggier, if that’s possible. The center is open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. through September 13, then 10 a.m.-5 p.m. through January first.
Anchorage is fortunate to have a wide variety of far northern critters at the Alaska Zoo, where a party celebrating our largest ungulate is scheduled for September 8th. “Moose Madness” will be full of family fun from noon-4 p.m. this Saturday, with crafts, a scavenger hunt, and lots of moose-info for all ages. The zoo is open daily throughout the year, but hours vary according to daylight, so check the website for ever-changing hours.
image via RunningReindeer.com
Willow shows off her velvet
Nestled in the Goldstream Valley area of Fairbanks sits the beautiful Running Reindeer Ranch. Guests to the ranch can take a hike through a boreal forest with these gentle creatures, learning about their habits and habitats, while observing their personalities firsthand. All visits are personal tours, by the way, and owner Jane makes sure kids have a chance to feel a hide, touch a horn and feed a hungry calf. Open all year. Admission is $35/adults, $15/kids 3-12 for a few hours of strolling, snacking, and reindeer games.
Learning about eagles at the Alaska Raptor Center
In the southeast section of Alaska, the Alaska Raptor Center provides not only an interesting venue, but a deeper look at the tenuous existence of raptors in our state. Located in Sitka on a beautiful 17-acres of forest and field, the Raptor Center closes to large groups in late September, offering instead private tours to see the current list of residents, including owls, eagles, falcons, and a few assorted cheeky ravens (even though they’re not raptors, ravens are always fun to watch). The huge indoor flight center is a highlight for most visitors, as injured or ill birds learn to spread their wings again, offering a real chance for survival upon release, no matter the season. Do hike the nature trails on the property and enjoy the chattering calls of these beautiful creatures. Admission is $12/adults, $6/12 and under.
Alaska’s creatures know. Take the time to watch, learn, and discuss how seasons cause changes in all of us, wild or not.
Erin Kirkland is the publisher of AKontheGO.com, a website dedicated to family travel and outdoor recreation in Alaska. She lives in Anchorage with her husband and youngest son.
STARTING YOUR MORNING peacefully is the key to a more pleasant day. I've been raising kids for 19+ years and if there's one thing I have figured out, it's that mornings can make you or break you. If it's a rough morning you are bound to have a tough time recovering from it. Bad mornings can turn even the most relaxed, wonderful kids into clinging alien children you wouldn't claim as your own. These are a few of my tried and true tips for more peaceful mornings, use them as you see fit.
1. Ready or Not. Encourage your kids to set out their clothes in the evening. This makes mornings more streamlined and easier to get dressed, plus you won't have to worry about the dreaded "I don't have any _________ to wear" in my house it's usually underwear filling in the blank, but yours may differ.
2. Get Your Winks In. It's true, if you don't get enough sleep it's hard to rise and shine in the morning. So make it a point to get your kids to bed early and then follow suit - you’ll feel so much more relaxed right off the bat and who wants to get up feeling tired already?
3. Rise Earlier to Shine Brighter. It seems counterintuitive but setting that alarm just 10 minutes earlier can really help you out. You'll feel more relaxed because you have just a little more time (something we could all use) and you'll feel less stressed about beating the time on the clock.
4. What's for breakfast? Create a food rhythm to live by - knowing what's on the menu can ease morning stress for the whole family. Breakfast can be as simple or as complex as you want - at our house we mix it up and have granola one day but scrambled eggs another day.
5. Keep 'em in the Dark We have big ugly bright lights in our kitchen so we keep them off in the mornings and use the over the stove light instead. We like to light a single candle for the duration of breakfast because it creates a quiet atmosphere that surely puts all of us into a great place. Use your discretion here and make sure never to leave small children alone with a candle burning.
Well, there you go, my five best tips on how to have better more peaceful start to your day. What do you do? Do you have any tricks of the trade? I'd love to hear what other parents have to say. Pack your lunch before bed? Set out breakfast early? What works for your family?
FOR YEARS, MY children and I would grow a small vegetable garden. Since space is precious, most of the raised beds are reserved for my strawberries, raspberries, currants and rhubarb plants. We always try to make room for one special vegetable, though: cabbage. It grows so well in Alaska’s midnight sun and the kids have a great time watching it grow, watering, and keeping the slugs away. Then when harvest time comes, we always make this delicious cabbage soup.
We were inspired by the book, The Giant Cabbage: An Alaskan Folktale by Chèrie B. Stihler. It's about a moose that solicits help from all his critter friends to maneuver his giant cabbage to the Alaska State fair. At the end of the book is a recipe for cabbage soup. Over the years, we’ve tweaked it and made it our own. This week, the Alaska State Fair had it’s 17th annual cabbage weigh-off (138.25 lbs, a new world record!), so it seemed like the perfect time to break out our favorite Alaskan veggie.
I remember the first year we made cabbage soup. There’s so many different vegetables in it, I thought my kids would turn up their noses, but they dove right in, chopping veggies and adding them to the simmering pot on the stove. Even so, I was still skeptical that my carnivores would actually eat it. We presented it at the table with great fanfare - all of our hard work was right in front of us, ready to be eaten. Much to my surprise, they slurped it up and asked for seconds.
Now it’s become an annual tradition. This can be a truly Alaskan dish, as all the produce can be Alaska Grown. Most of the vegetables can be picked at Pyrah’s Pioneer Peak Farm in Palmer or at your local farmers market. I encourage you to allow your children to be a part of the entire process. Let them pick it, let them chop it, let them stir the pot. I hope it becomes a tradition in your house. You might be surprised, too, when your kids slurp up their veggies.
Feeds an army, so after you enjoy your meal, freeze the leftovers in gallon bags. We can get at least 3 meals out of this recipe. This recipe is very flexible. Feel free to add or take away any veggies to suit your family’s tastes.
In the biggest pot you can find (I use my 27 quart canning pot), melt the butter. Add the onions, and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Add 8 cups of stock. Add the remaining ingredients, and stir. If the liquid doesn’t cover the veggies, add additional stock to cover. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1 ½- 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasoning to taste. Top with grated fresh Parmesan cheese to serve.
THIS IS A busy time of year for many Alaska families. Kids return to school, the calendar is filled with scouts, swim lessons, or PTO meetings, and - boom! - everyone is running in different directions. In no time at all, autumn will be over and the first flakes of downy snow will cover the grass you forgot to mow one last time. Sigh. How about a family getaway?
I relish weekend trips during Alaska’s fall months. Between late-August and mid-October, scenery is at its most magical, the visitor hotspots much less crowded, and prices noticeably lower. Before switching over to studded tires and snow pants, consider a few of our favorite 49th state destinations for a mini-vacation that just might recharge your parental batteries for a long winter ahead.
Having a whale of time in Sitka...
Southeast Alaska: I do believe Sitka is a fabulous city for families. With a very walkable community layout and lots of attention to history and culture, kids and parents alike will enjoy a few days learning and having tons of fun, too. Walk the waterfront pathway and explore the beautiful Sitka National Historical Park and adjacent beach. Older kids may enjoy the Sheldon Jackson Museum and thousands of artifacts discovered by Dr. Reverend Sheldon Jackson during his explorations of the far north.
Trying to outrun winter on Homer's beaches...
Southcentral Alaska: The Kenai Peninsula town of Homer is one of the most kid-friendly communities I’ve ever visited. With a brand-new playground that sports a million-dollar view, miles of beach, plus excellent lodging and dining options, Homer can amuse kids of any age for days. Grownups, too. Stop by the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies for a guided hike, and don’t miss the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center along the Sterling Highway in town where they offer excellent classes and presentations during the early fall months.
The Murie Science & Learning Center at Denali National Park offers hands on exhibits for families...
Interior Alaska: Did you know Denali National Park stays open during the fall (and winter) season? True, there are far fewer services and interpretive activities, but families can still enjoy autumn beauty of the interior by hiking trails close to Park Headquarters, and investigating the awesome Murie Science and Learning Center also doubling as the Park Visitor Center during the winter. Lodging options include Riley Creek Campground, or the community of Healy, where several small hotels stay open all year. Visit the Denali Chamber of Commerce for fall/winter lodging ideas.
Travel Tips: Make the most of airline miles by signing up for mileage plans with regional or national airlines, and make sure you’re on the e-newsletter lists for the same. Use those miles to travel within the state; in many cases, it’s the cheapest way to travel around Alaska. Major lodging and tour companies also publish e-newsletters with greatly reduced packages for Alaskans looking to escape for a few days. Don’t forget the Alaska Railroad; residents always receive 20% off full-fare tickets.
Erin Kirkland is the publisher of AKontheGO.com, a website dedicated to Alaska family travel and outdoor recreation. She lives in Anchorage with her husband and youngest son.
HOW IS MY performance as a dad? Ultimately the final judges will be our two sons but until they reach a place to pass judgment how do I gauge my learning and success in the role of father? These are two questions that I think about often in my fatherhood journey.
Three years ago I was just over a year into my new role as Dad. We had moved to a new town nine months previous with a loose community of friends and connections. I still felt isolated. Friends without kids were disappearing from my daily life and calendar while finding new father-friends was challenging and took time - something I didn't have much of being a new parent. Then my partner introduced me to a group of fathers that met once a month called Father’s Community Café. This is a group of fathers, grandfathers, uncles, neighbors, and friends is funded by Alaskan Children’s Trust.
At the first café that I attended I was introduced to eight other men who were also fathers at different places along the journey. Although I didn't know any of them, I didn't care - I wanted support. I felt like my challenges with the transformations of man and partner to father were unique and I was alone. I wanted help and advice of how I could get through this period and how to do so in a constructive way. Through the round of introductions to these other men I quickly realized that my challenges were not unique. I also was introduced to the realization that my challenges with fatherhood could be much greater. This is when I began to discover the strength and bonds that are created when men share their experiences of guiding of children, youth, young adults and eventually, adults.
For two and a half years now I have now been the parent leader of this organic group of men that meet once a month at evening meal time. Rarely is there a specific agenda. Occasionally there is a suggestion of a topic by one of the attendees before the gathering but more frequently the discussion revolves around a topic brought by an attendee. Organizing this group and more importantly attending monthly is my litmus tests of how I am doing as a father. This event allows me time to think about what I am doing well as a father and a platform that I can share these accomplishments with other fathers. This is an empowering feeling.
This time for connection with fathers also allows me time to listen and empathize with their challenges. The connection also teaches me methods and creative solutions to challenges that I have with my family and within myself. I no longer feel as alone as I did in my first years of fatherhood and know that there is a community of dads that I would consider as friends. We are now friends because we share the bond of fatherhood but also because we have shared our experiences.
I have tried numerous methods and outlets to bring other fathers into this continuing conversation that happens once a month. It is challenging to get men to engage in conversation outside of a sporting event, a fishing boat, a hunting trip, you get the idea but these are important connections that fathers need to make!
I still do not know how my overall performance as Dad will be judged in the end, but I do know that I have learned so much in my on-the-job training to date and I have been able to share some of those successes that I've had while learning from other dads.
If you are interested in joining this group in Juneau, or maybe have a question or two about how to get one going in your area drop Seve a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
IT WOULND'T BE the end of summer in Alaska without the Alaska State Fair. Amusement rides, midway food, fair hair, concerts and giant cabbages figure heavily into Alaskan's memories each August. Going to the fair can sure cost a pretty penny though. Once you get there and ride a few rides and buy a round of corn dogs for everyone that can add up to one spendy day. But when you search out the fun and free entertainment that abounds you can get up to 7 times the fun for the same price!
So make the most of the cost of a ticket with these admission-included attractions. Try one or try them all, your pocketbook will thank you and, most importantly, your kids will think you're the coolest mom/dad/auntie/grandparent/uncle/friend ever and you'll enjoy the day so much more.
To make the free events work for your family, visit the fair website and the daily schedule for the day you plan to attend and do a little pre planning. Once at the fair grab a daily schedule, available free at the front gate when you walk in, so you can refer back to it as needed.
1. Spin & weave. These local spinners and weavers are always great to check out. Watch the local talent turn raw wool in yarn while they explain what they're doing.
Where: Irwin Building When: ongoing
2. Turn, turn turn. Not to be outdone in the handicrafts department, the wood turners show off their amazing lathe skills nearby the weavers in the same hall. These guys have some serious talent, demonstrating high-speed carving has never been so enthralling!
Where: Irwin Building When: ongoing
3. Tasting menu. The cooking demonstrations in the exhibit halls are a great place to duck in and dry off when it's raining out (and it will rain at the fair). You'll come in because you're wet and you'll stay because it's fun and educational - oh, and yummy!
Where: Hoskins Building When: ongoing
4. Argh ye mateys! The long-running pirate show remains great interactive entertainment for the whole family. All sorts of pirates, all sorts of fun - visiting this show is a no-brainer, so all you'll need to decide is which pirate you want to take your photo with - Jack Sparrow or Capt'n Hook?
Where: Kendall Grandstand lawn When: 1p, 3p and 5p daily
5. Garden maze. Check out the children's garden, it's an amazing maze and flora display that changes every year. Full of live plants and whimsy at every turn, kids will love discovering while getting deep into nature. And, hey! Not so fast mom and dad - some parts are for kids only!
Where: Kids Zone on the red trail When: daily 12p-8p
6. Pop a wheelie. After witnessing the jumping, flipping, spinning, stunt awesomeness that is the BMX bike show your kids will never look at their bikes the same way again. (Adults may be even be inspired to take their 10-speed off a jump on the next family ride.)
Where: Purple Trail When: 1p, 3p, 5p, 7:30p
7. Sawing logs. The lumberjack show is just plain corny state fair fun! The jokes are mostly the same every year but no matter, it's always entertaining, educational and kids love it.
Where: Lumberjack Lot behind the Irwin Building When: daily 1p, 3p and 6p
Here's a hot tip to ensure that you don't miss anything cool: If you have a cell phone or watch with an alarm, set it to ring when it's time to head to the next show. This is also a great way to move your family along if someone is stuck wanting to do something you’re just not going to do (like buy a potato gun - not that I've ever had that problem before). Mixed in with the rides you pay for and the cotton candy as big as your head, the free entertainment can really round out your day at the Alaska State Fair.
Laura Sampson lives, loves and writes in the Matanuska Susitna Valley. She shares her life with her husband, three boys, two cats, one mastiff and various farm animals. She loves to cook, garden, read, knit, bike and have fun with her kids. Most importantly she recognizes that the days of a mother are long but the time is short and adjusts her attitude accordingly. Her blog, Hey What's for Dinner Mom? is all about cooking, crafting, thrifting and thriving in Alaska.
I LOVE IT when my children get their words messed up. At age 7, 10, and 13, they don’t do it as often as they used to, but we still like to relive the funny food-related ones. My middle son, Josh, was notorious for creating his own food words spaghetti became skip-hetti, oatmeal became opa-meal, and pound cake became bang pie. Yes, really.
Then there was this one particular meal where we were having boneless country-style pork ribs. Josh proclaimed “this is the BEST chicken you’ve ever made, Mom!” We still laugh about that one every time we eat pork - it goes something like this:
“What’s for dinner, Mom?”
“The best chicken you’ve ever tasted.”
“Oh great! We’re having pork!”
Yep, I love those inside food jokes It’s so goofy and silly, but things like that can really draw families closer. Food and laughter can be the “glue” that holds a family together even when things get hectic. Gathering the family around the table and laughing are some of the best moments of my day Granted, there are those times of frustration and arguments around the dinner table, but hopefully those aren’t the ones we remember. I hope when I get old that my children remember that Mom made the best chicken ever on pork night!
With that in mind, I was thinking that pork ribs would be wonderful to serve on Labor Day. We don’t have ribs very often, as I always thought they were too complicated. Some of the recipes I’ve seen require advanced preparation of dry rubs and marinating, or too many steps and processes. I tried to simplify things, using one cooking method (braising), and your favorite prepared barbeque sauce. Something was missing , though. I wanted it to be more “Alaskan”, more “local”...
One of my favorite easy meatball appetizers has BBQ sauce and cranberry sauce combining for a sweet and savory result. I didn’t have the energy to pull out my frozen low bush cranberries and make my own cranberry sauce, but low and behold, I had some fresh raspberries right there on the counter! I have a great friend that gives me gallons of raspberries from his garden every year (jealous?). I mashed some up, adding some sugar to make a quick jam, and added it to the sauce. The results were SO good! The kids gobbled them up and asked for more “chicken”!
EASY PORK RIBS WITH RASPBERRY BBQ SAUCE
Serves 4, but easily doubled
*If fresh raspberries are not available, 1 cup of raspberry jam can be substituted. If you use raspberry jam or jelly, the sauce (after cooking the meat) will be thicker because of the pectin, and likely will not need to be reduced as above.
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Place a length of aluminum foil, longer than the ribs, on a baking sheet. Season ribs with salt and pepper to taste. Place skin side up on prepared foil. In a small sauce pan, mash raspberries, adding sugar on medium heat until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Add BBQ sauce and stir. Brush on ribs, with a majority of the sauce on the bottom meaty side. Save ¼ cup of sauce.
Place another length of aluminum foil on top, folding edges together to seal. Bake in preheated oven for two hours.
Carefully unseal foil, being cautious of the escaping steam. Transfer pork ribs to a cutting board using tongs. If sauce is thin, drain into a saucepan and reduce on high for about 7 minutes or until thickened. Add the ¼ cup reserved sauce. Cut the ribs between the bones using kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Serve with sauce.
Great chicken, mom!
Jennifer McGovern is a native of Haines where she grew up picking berries in the wilderness, and picking shrimp straight off the boat. A dietitian and mother of 3, Jennifer understands the challenge of juggling a busy schedule while trying to provide nourishing food for the family. She also tries to teach her children that food doesn't originate in the grocery store, and to appreciate the food that Alaska has to offer. This is why her freezer is full of berries, moose, and seafood. She is passionate about cooking and feeding her family, and is excited to share recipes and ideas for feeding your Alaska family!
HEAD HELD HIGH with a new backpack secured on his shoulders, my son marched confidently into the first day of second grade this week. Carefully placing his belongings away and settling in at a desk, the newest chapter of his educational journey began calmly, without a bit of fanfare.
I love back-to-school season. I love the rituals, the shopping, and the slightly anxious feeling that comes from entering a new realm of learning and growth. Hmmm, sounds a little bit like travel, doesn’t it?
Our family spent the summer, as we always do, on the move. On a quest to explore as much of the state’s family-friendly destinations as possible for my upcoming book, AK Fam (as we're known on AK on the Go) went in all directions between May and August, and had a blast. But we’re not done yet, and yes, I will be pulling my son out of school. Next week, in fact.
The decision by parents to travel during the school year is full of goods and bads, depending upon who you talk with. From a strictly practical standpoint, trips after Labor Day typically bring special offers and lower airfares, critical for many of us budget-conscious Alaskans. Crowds are decidedly slimmer, as well, especially in the high-traffic areas of Denali National Park, the Kenai Peninsula, and southeast, so why not pack up and enjoy the essence of Alaska without the jostle of a million other people?
How do you say 'shoulder season' in European?
It’s not that simple, however. Schools have attendance policies, homework ramps up as kids progress, and some teachers absolutely refuse to step out of the box for missed assignments or make-up work (although so far, we’ve been pretty fortunate). Can this potential tension be mitigated? Below are a few tips for discussing the idea of a temporary absence for travel - with your child, his or her teacher and, even, the principal.
1. Plan ahead. Set up a meeting with teachers, outlining the dates, destination, and making a polite request for assignments. Consider your child’s progress, too, before setting final plans. If he/she is already struggling, ask yourself if being absent for a few days will make things worse, and be prepared for residual struggles upon your return.
2. Set up a learning objective. Work with teachers to establish goals for your trip outside the daily work that might be sent along. Is there a daily list of new words he/she can find and write down? Could your child plan to give a photo slide show and presentation to the class upon returning? Perhaps the older child can create a budget for the family, and accomplish some math work. The point is to show a committed, cooperative effort in tandem with class objectives, and a firm willingness to spend time with your student during the trip.
3. Ask your child how he or she feels about missing school. As kids grow up and begin to establish friendship groups, it becomes more and more important to be at school. Not for bookwork, mind you, but for the social opportunities. Respecting your child’s desire to stick with his buddies, while balancing your own family’s plans, is critical.
Just like peanut butter & jelly, learning & traveling make for perfect partners
Ultimately, it’s open and honest communication that creates a successful school-year adventure. The key is remaining actively involved in your child’s education, whether in school or while sailing the Seven Seas. Travel is an opportunity to experience new cultures, new environments and new routines. Doing our part as parents to facilitate this plays an enormous role in creating a worthwhile experience for everyone.
Erin Kirkland is the owner and publisher of AKontheGO.com, a website dedicated to Alaska family travel. She is currently writing her first book, Alaska On the Go: Exploring the 49th State With Children. Her youngest son attends a charter, language-immersion school in Anchorage.