“SAFETY FIRST” THIS is one of the top phrases that I use with our boys on a daily basis - especially in the summer. This season brings new activities or the increase in frequency of some activities. Most involved parents will dwell in a state of situational awareness but it's always helpful to have some reminders. With our sons, one sometimes understands what "safety first" means while the other doesn't yet, but I it's never too early to talk to children even if they do not understand.
Here is my summer list of safety firsts:
1. Berries! The blueberries in our backyard are starting to ripen and our firstborn is wasting no time to starting to sample them. We recently found some salmon berries that were perfectly ripe and the entire family enjoyed them. We LOVE berry picking but we remind our children often that they need to be with us or check in with Dad and Mom before eating any berries!
Terrific or toxic? Know the difference! Check this visual guide to Alaska's berries.
2. Bikes. Our oldest has his first push bike and he is mildly excited about it. We know that with experience and mastering the skill of balance and push he will want to do it more. Whether your child is riding in a bike trailer, pushing a bike, or riding like Dad and Mom, helmets should always be worn. I think it can be overkill in the bike trailer but starting the habit of helmets early is a good idea.
Whoa there, speed racer! You forgot your helmet!
3. Dehydration. Young bodies that like to move need liquids. Sometimes when we get involved with activities we get distracted and forget to keep fluids in our bodies and, consequently, our children do too. Let your child pick out a favorite water bottle and have him or her remind you to take it along. Our child enjoys reminding us of things and his memory is sharp!
4. Fire. Open fires are an obvious place for possible trouble. Contained fires such as BBQs and the metal that contains the controlled fire can be less so. We BBQ 365 days a year at our home and proactively keep little hands and feet at a safe distance, always diligent that the BBQ is never unattended with children nearby.
5. Light. Sun or no sun, long periods of time outside can still cause sunburn. It’s always better to be safe than to have an uncomfortable child who is not shy about letting you know what her/his discomfort, so make sure to dutifully apply the sunblock. Getting a child comfortable with putting on sunscreen will also make it easier when you make it out to a really sunny location where skin protection is a must!
Sun & water! Know where the life jackets are on big boats just in case.
6. Water. We find ourselves on docks, beaches, and marine vessels more often in the summer. Yes you know how it goes: Kids don't float! and most public access lakes and rivers have life jackets to loan if you don't have your own. Although life jackets are not required on ferries and sight-seeing boats it is always good to be informed as to where the children’s lifevests are located if the worst case scenario does happen.
Get outside and enjoy the extra light and opportunities Alaska has to offer this summer while making safety a priority with you and your family as you do so.
SUMMER IS SWINGING and the farmer's markets and grocery stores are brimming with beautiful fruits. We are gorging ourselves with all the melons, plums, peaches, cherries and berries we can get. Today, I would like to share with you a recipe for a fruit salad dressing that is light and fresh and delicious on any fruit. Our young one declared it "yummy!" as she poured it over bananas and cantaloupe for an afternoon snack.
I halved and pitted cherries, peeled and chopped apples, peaches and bananas for a fresh brunch treat, but whatever the fruit, whenever the time, this dressing will make fruit salad fantastic.
Stir the ingredients together thoroughly and allow it to sit for half an hour or so to infuse the lime flavor. I used the zest from three key limes left over from a pie a couple of weeks back instead of buying a regular lime. You could experiment with different citrus peels, too.
When you have your fruit cut into nice bite-sized pieces, pour the dressing over it and gently toss the fruit and dressing together. If you are not serving it right away, you may want to give it a gentle stir just before serving.
I garnished mine with a little curl of lime peel for color. Enjoy!
Brandy Steinhilber grew up in Kentucky as a member of a cooking family. Breakfast, dinner and larger family gatherings always meant sitting together around a table full of good home-cooked food, and she has carried that tradition into her home with her own family. She is a firm believer in the importance of family meals as a time to be together and listen to each other. When she's not cooking she's knitting, sewing, camping, cycling, skiing or hiking.
EVERY ALASKAN KNOWS a pilot. With one in five Alaska residents in possession of a valid pilot’s license, air travel up here is a near-constant state of taking off and landing. Midsummer is considered the busiest season for the FAA’s Alaska region and its 2,427,971 miles of airspace, with flightseeing, fishing and seasonal cabin transport in full swing.
To an Alaska visitor, the sight of so many colorful and interesting aircraft provides neverending eye candy. Day or night, one type of plane or another swoops across the Alaska sky, bound for adventure or business, engines roaring or propellers humming. Flying holds romantic value for many people, in addition to the heart-stopping beauty of seeing our state from heaven’s doorstep. But all this independent puttering around the sky comes with a price.
A small plane lands on the beach at Hallo Bay bear camp
Air travel is safe, but safety comes with myriad details and a strong sense of responsibility on the part of everyone who climbs aboard - passenger or pilot. In an effort to reduce aircraft accidents and encourage passengers to be their own best advocate for safety, the FAA has teamed up with the Medallion Foundation to create the Circle of Safety. A collaborative effort among air carriers, passengers, pilots, and the FAA, the Circle of Safety seeks to educate and empower everyone who rides in, or pilots, an aircraft.
I’ll admit, I’ve not been the strongest advocate for myself while sitting, knees-to-chest, in the back of a single-engine aircraft bound for a destination miles from assistance should things go wrong; nor am I the first to pull out that safety card at the beginning of a flight to the Lower 48.
Kids can be in the Circle, too, by locating exits and reading safety cards onboard!
Here’s what I learned about the my part to play in the Circle of Safety:
1. Pay attention during the safety briefing - on any aircraft with any destination. Do you know the nearest exit? Or how to open the door? Do you have a plan for children in your care? Knowing what to do, where, and when could possibly save everyone in the event of an emergency.
2. Know the location of safety equipment. Smaller aircraft place emergency kits in different places according to size and item selection. When the pilot tells you where the kits are, look and locate for yourself.
3. Ask if a flight plan has been filed. What is a flight plan? Every pilot must state, in writing, where he or she intends to go, how, and at what time. Don’t hesitate to inquire; even the shortest distance is worthy of a plan. It’s your seat aboard that airplane, and you have the right to know the trip is recorded.
4. Don’t distract the pilot during take off or landing. The riskiest moments of flight come at the beginning and end of the trip. Pilots need to concentrate on a variety of duties at this time; asking questions or distracting the pilot with photographs or other potentially dangerous activities should be avoided. You’ll have plenty of time for chatting while up in the air. Ditto for making requests for flying low just for the sake of a good photo op.
Flying around Alaska is one of the most wonderful ways to experience our state, but safety should always take center stage.
Erin Kirkland is a freelance writer and author of AKontheGO.com, a website dedicated to family travel and outdoor recreation in Alaska.
MY PARTNER AND I are clinging to every ray of sunshine that sneaks past the blanket of wet gray that is smothering our summer.
I am beyond frustrated with the cool summer weather and I am tired of talking about the weather. Unfortunately this is the subject on everyone’s mind and it's mentioned in almost every interaction I have with co-workers, friends, acquaintances and neighbors. I survive Alaskan winters with the promise of more light in summer months and my hope that this light will be accompanied with warmer temperatures and less moisture. But so far this summer my hopes have been washed away.
Rain still counts as short-sleeve weather in Southeast
Because of this lack of summer I have noticed that patience with my family and others is shortening. I am a fairly mellow person and I now find myself frustrated and agitated quicker.Last week I took our 4-year old fishing for the first time. Not long after we arrived a group of new boy scout canoeists took over the dock space that we had been using. We changed our spot and again they invaded our space. I let their leader know that this was not acceptable and they should be teaching situational awareness of others. Had it been sunny and warm I probably would have let this annoyance and ignorance pass, but not on another gray and breezy day!
I can self-motivate but constant gray is making this challenging. Nightly I set my alarm to get up and get out on the road for a run and daily the muted light stifles my motivation. I have started a lunchtime running group which has proven to be motivation and accountability at least two times a week. In past summers I have been able to adhere to a training schedule for half marathons and full marathons but this summer I just cannot get moving with purpose.
What summer in a rainforest looks like...
My life preserver in this muted season has been our boys. Their entrance into the world was Southeast Alaska so all they know is the blurring of the seasons and so, they accept all of it as normal. They force me to put a cap on my complaints and provide a spark in my motivation to get geared up and get outside! This is the first full summer of our youngest and the weather is very similar to the August in which he was born and the September that followed. If an outside door opens he is there and ready to briskly crawl out the door no matter what the weather is. He enjoys outside always. Our firstborn spends time outside almost every day and he constantly reaches for his boots and raincoat when it is time to leave the house and is usually the first outside with no mention of the weather - no matter what the conditions are.
Tut-tut, looks like rain...
No matter what the weather is our children motivate me to accept what is and move on with activities. I know my life would not be as fulfilling without them here to guide me to this acceptance of circumstances that are firmly out of my control.
Steve SueWing writes about family life on the regular over at his personal blog AKDad.com.
WHILE ON HER solo journey to New Zealand, Aviva learned that she'd won a scholarship from the Coca Cola Scholars foundation which included a weekend with her fellow honorees in Atlanta. (Due in part to a story she produced for Kids These Days! radio, listen here.)
Listen below to hear Aviva's stories about flying cross country to be part of an elite group of young leaders in Atlanta, all teens who've done extraordinary things from cancer research to creating their own non-profits.
Aviva (front row, 4th from L) and her fellow Coca Cola Scholars
Exploring the Coca Cola museum
One drop creates a ripple!
Future leaders of the US
"...we really did have a nice bonding moment," Aviva said of meeting Morgan Freeman at the Coca Cola Scholars banquet. "He kissed me on the hand and that was nice."
I HAVE BEEN on an egg kick lately as our young one, who is allergic to eggs, is off to two weeks of camp, so we are enjoying those perfect little protein-packed pearls in a myriad of ways. This week I am sharing my method for poaching an egg. Poached eggs can be served in Eggs Benedict, on top of a decadent burger or standing alone for a quick and healthy breakfast. There are a number of little devices available for poaching eggs, and if you plan to make them often, I highly recommend the little silicon ones, but if you prefer not to have many single-use gadgets around, a metal ladle will do just fine, too.
To poach an egg, begin by putting a medium to large pot of water (about 1/3 full) on the stove and bring it up to nearly boiling. Spray oil into the cup of your ladle (or poaching device) and carefully crack an egg into the ladle.
As usual, I recommend letting your egg sit out of the refrigerator for about half an hour so that it's not cold going into the pot. When the water is almost boiling (a few gentle bubbles), carefully lower the ladle into the pot so that the bottom of the ladle is submerged in the hot water, but make sure the water doesn't come into the cup. If you are lucky like me, the lid will hold the ladle for you, but if not, don't fret. Poaching an egg doesn't take long and the lid should shield you from the steam as you hold the ladle in place.
In about 3-5 minutes, the egg should appear to be white all around. If you like the yolk soft and runny, pull the egg out while the center is still a bit jiggly. Leave it in a bit longer if you prefer a more firm yolk. Once the egg is done, you may need to gently loosen it from the sides of the ladle, but it should slip out gently.
Serve it immediately and enjoy!
Make your eggs into a full eggs benny with this Sunny, Citrusy Hollandaise Sauce recipe!
WHEN WE FIRST launched AKontheGO in 2009, “AK Kid” was only four, and young enough to merely trundle into the car, airplane, or boat when we adults wanted to go somewhere. Considered old enough to carry his own luggage but not old enough to warrant an educated opinion about our destination, my husband and I simply went where the stories were. But things are different, this summer; Kid is now a grown-up 7.75 years old, and wants a voice about where we go, what we do, and how we do it.
Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned yet in the scope of family travel writing is being learned right now, tonight, as I sit across the hotel room from our leggy, almost-tween, hearing him snore with the enthusiasm of a lumberjack. His interests are not reflected in mine.
My son is now able to read a map and peruse a guide book. He loves museum dioramas and anything with wheels or a motor. Nearly eight, he enjoys nature movies and natural history slide shows when we stop at visitor centers, and loves to push all the buttons of interactive displays. He’s all movement, all the time, and if there’s no action, perceived or actual, then it’s no good. I get it. But I almost missed it in my hurry-up world of making sure I had my own bases covered.
Take a close look at the photo above. That’s our son after three days of ferry-riding, wildlife-cruising, trail-hiking, and Independence Day-celebrating in Valdez, where we are guests of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Yes, he’s tired. Yes, he’s also hungry. But he’s also had it with us. I think just after this shot, my kid told me to buzz off.
How could this be? We are a family of adventurers. Three people, one family travel blog, and six undeniably itchy feet. Four years of writing about Alaska has taken us to places near and far, toward breathtaking glaciers and among wild creatures; how could our dear child be so ungrateful, so, so, obnoxious? Haven’t we given him everything, everywhere, in Alaska?
I thought so, too. But in the seasons of exploring nooks and crannies of the 49th state, and immersed in the growing of a family travel website, producing a radio show, and digging up freelance gigs, I had forgotten about the most important maturation of all - that of my own progeny.
Happily, tonight we regrouped after a few hundred calories were consumed and we had reminded ourselves of one important family travel guideline: Everyone chooses. One individual activity, one family activity, depending upon time and destination. All hands on deck - everyone participates, everyone smiles, no one complains. Yes, even if it means going to the hotel swimming pool and playing Marco Polo. Quid pro quo, parents. You may have wanted to spend nine hours aboard a 50-foot tour boat looking at hunks of ice while standing in a rainstorm; the least you can do is take a time-out in another watery environment.
Humbled by an 7 year-old. God bless his little traveling heart. Now, I need to go to bed. The pool opens at 8 a.m.
Erin Kirkland is an Anchorage freelance writer and publisher of AKontheGO, a website dedicated to family travel and outdoor recreation in Alaska. She lives in Anchorage.
WE ARE TOGETHER as a family more often than not when not attending to our workplace responsibilities or my volunteer commitments. During the week we are almost always around the dining room table for the evening meal. Occasionally a meeting or another commitment makes it not possible for us to be together for this connection opportunity but it is the exception to our life and not the rule. We prioritize at least one day of the weekend to be together and engage in activities together as a family. Whether it’s errands, chores, or a fun activity we do it together! More often than not it is both days of the weekend.
Hitting the hills on a hiking date...
When we welcomed our second son to the world 11 months ago we were faced with competing family interests. Our newborn required frequent feedings and many naps throughout the day. Our then 3½ year-old required activity and could miss his daily nap with minimal consequences. Many times my partner and I found our family divided with me spending time to keep our older son busy and active. She would be spending much of her time with our newborn providing food and comfort for his simple needs. Instead of family time most of the time it was necessary for me to go one direction with our oldest and my partner to remain with our youngest at a slower paced day or activity. This period was challenging because we were often apart when we wanted to be together.
What glacier? I don't see a glacier...
It took some time to start to overcome this challenge and embrace this change but we eventually came-up with a solution: dedicated dates with our boys.
This seems simple but this transition required my partner and I to shelf our guilt of not being together as a family. After we did this we could embrace the fact that one-on-one time with the sole attention of one parent is also important for our children and our relationships with them.
In some shape or form I had already been having dates with our oldest son. With my partner making dates with our oldest this put me in a position to learn about or new son in taking care of his needs for a moment. For no real reason I was apprehensive at first but I knew better than to give in to my apprehension. I jumped into these moments with our youngest and I treasure all of the one-on-one moments and dates I have with our boys.
At the end of this week I will have had two dates with our youngest, one date with our oldest and a hike-date with my partner. I have taken two days off of work to make three of these events possible. I realize this is a luxury but if you find yourself in a workplace position to do this, you should! Family time is imperative and important but please do not let it overshadow the importance of one-on-one time. After just four years of parenthood I know that all of the time spent together or has unmatchable value.
I'VE BEEN ON the East Coast for the last few days, surprising my Grandma for her 80th birthday with my family. It was nice to see all of my cousins again, and since I’m attending Lehigh University in the fall, get a taste of what my East Coast life might be like.
First off, I realized that living in Alaska has spoiled me. In the Lower 48, pretty much every long distance trip has the potential of being a road trip. Up here, the only places you can go are Fairbanks, the Kenai, and maybe Valdez. If it’s not in the state, you’re going to be travelling by airplane. But that’s not the case down there. I like road trips, but after 10 hours in a car, even a coach airline seat between two babies sounds inviting for the sheer purpose of getting there in a third of the time.
Second, unless your whole extended family is Alaskan, it’s likely that your nuclear family are the only ones up here. That means that weekend family reunions are nonexistent. But my family on the east coast is very close, while we’re the outcasts from up North. It’ll be different living close to them, because as a raised Alaskan, I’m used to thinking of relatives as people you see every third wedding.
Third, humidity sucks. If it’s 95 and overcast at ten in the morning, there’s something wrong. Alaska is great because you can always rely on wind to keep you cool, but down south (anything lower than Juneau) there is no escape - well, besides air conditioning or a pool. That’s one thing I liked about the heat: it made the pool feel so much better, and actually made me like it (only for a second).
I’m going to have a drastic change of lifestyle in August, going from the 61st parallel to the 41st. I’m going to have to learn to deal with public transportation, high population density, and most of all, being 4,000 miles away from home. I already miss it, and I haven’t even left yet.
HAPPY FOURTH OF July! When I was growing up we always had a big cookout for the Fourth. We would light our sparklers from the little cinders left in the bottom of the grill long after the burgers and hotdogs were gone. Besides being allowed to play with fire, one of the things I liked best about these big cookouts was dessert. On normal days, my family did not have dessert, so I looked forward to every opportunity to enjoy some cake or ice cream or pie. This Fourth, along with celebrating Independence Day, I am celebrating the love of sweet treats with a Key Lime Pie. It is sweet and limey, cool, creamy and delicious.
You will want to begin with the crust so that it can cook and cool while you prepare the filling. You may prebake a ready-made shell from the store or make one at home. Crusts are not nearly so difficult as they are sometimes made out to be, so I encourage you to try making your own.
For the crust you will need:
Preheat oven to 350.
Place the flour and other dry ingredients into a food processor and give them a couple of pulses. Add about 1/2 of the butter and shortening (cut into 1/2" pieces) and mix thoroughly.
Add the rest of the butter and shortening and mix again until you have a crumbly consistency. Begin pouring the water in a few drops at a time, pulsing the mixer as you go. The goal is to get as little water in as possible but still have it hold together. When it just begins to come together, stop adding water and dump the dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Flatten it into a thick little disc and put another piece of parchment paper over the top.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out until it is about 1 1/2" times larger than your pie pan. Carefully loosen the parchment paper and transfer the crust to the pie pan. Settle the dough into the pan and trim all but about 1/2" of the excess dough from the edges. Pinch a little decoration around the rim to make the edge of your crust. From the parchment paper, cut a circle a little large than the bottom of your pie and place it in the pie pan on top of the crust. Gently pour pie weights (or dry beans work great) on top of the paper and place a crust protector (you can make one from foil) around the edge of the pie.
Put the crust in the oven for about 12-15 minutes or until it just begins to get golden and flakey. Remove the crust from the oven and set it aside to cool, leaving the pie weights in to cool, too.
For the filling you will need:
In a small sauce pan combine the sugar, lime juice powder and corn starch, mixing them well to avoid corn starch clumps in the cooked filling. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Turn the stove on to a medium heat and stir constantly. When a liquid containing corn starch reaches a temperature close to boiling, the corn starch thickens. If you do not stir, the starch will thicken at the bottom of the pan and the filling will be gloppy instead of smooth. When the starch has thickened, you should have a fairly thick custardy filling.
Turn off the heat and set the filling aside while you remove the pie weights, parchment and crust protector from the crust. Pour the filling into the crust and set them in a cool place (by a breezy open window is great) while you make the meringue. It is very important to not put the meringue on top of hot filling as it will adversely affect it, so if you think in will need more time to cool, take a break or wash up some dishes while you let the temperature come down.
For the meringue you will need:
Put the whites in a large mixing bowl. Make sure to remove any of those litte white "strings" (chalaza) from the whites if they came out of the eggs when you were separating the yolks. Add the cream of tartar and begin mixing at a medium speed, working your way up to high speed until you have soft peaks (the meringue sticks up just a bit when you lift out the mixer). Gently fold in the sugar, sprinkling a bit at a time as you mix. When the sugar is mixed in, slowly bring the mixer back up to high and continue mixing until the meringue is shiny and makes stiff peaks (you can make litte mountain ranges with the mixer as you lift it out).
If the filling is no more than slightly warm, spread the meringue evenly making a little peak in the center. Turn the oven on to high broil and raise the rack up close to the top. As the broiler is kicking on, pull up a chair to the oven so that you can watch the meringue as it browns.
Put the pie in under the broiler just off to one side or the other so that the peak is not directly under the heat. Watch the meringue carefully turning it as it begins to get golden brown. When it is evenly browned all the way around remove it from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes. As I mentioned before, it is very important not to let the meringue get warm. Heat will cause a reaction that will make the meringue become runny and will ruin the look and consistency (but not the taste!) of your pie. Making sure the filling is cool and browning the top as quickly as possible will keep your meringue beautiful.
Refrigerate the pie for several hours before serving and enjoy!