Friday, June 10, 2011

The Spirit of Adventure

Adventure is what brought us to Alaska. We wanted to have a few more adventures before settling down into our post-collegiate lives. We chose Alaska as the setting for our adventures because it has glaciers, wildlife and you get the sense here that there is still more to be discovered. Unlike the rest of the U.S., which seems laid out and mapped out and completely known, Alaska's "last frontier" gave us hope that there was something here we could discover. We did discover something, but it's not what we expected to.

I thought adventure was all about location. It's probably why I chose to move so often. Adventure led me from state to state, only to discover that being 4,000 miles away from what is known doesn't necessarily spell adventure. Adventure is in the people, not the location. I can go on great adventures anywhere as long as I have the spirit of adventure in my heart.

Alaska is beautiful. There are wildflowers and mountains and everything is spread so far out that going to the grocery store is an adventure in itself. But with wildflowers come bees, with mountains come shadows and having to go so far to get a forgotten last-minute ingredient is inconvenient. There will always be a trade off, wherever we live. The best thing is that wherever we end up, the farthest adventure will ever be is our back yard.

 Last week we took the dogs for a long walk. We usually go to the left, up the hill to the little neighborhood behind our four-plex. There are 6 houses with adorable landscaping and the most majestic mountain views. But that day we went to the right and followed our road around a few bends. We came across a little path that was nearly overgrown from disuse. We followed it and it opened up into two fields of wildflowers, with trees secluding it from the rest of the world. The same majestic view was there, unobstructed by cute houses with cuter landscaping. All that sat on the empty lots was an old picnic table. We did take care to keep Nala and Layla away from the bluff, as we've discovered they aren't so great at not going over the edge.

Simply taking another path led us on a great adventure. While that adventure might sound like it could only happen in Alaska, it's not. Following the road less taken doesn't require moving halfway around the world or diagonally across the country. All it requires is a little imagination, an adventurous spirit and a willingness to walk down an overgrown trail.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Baking Odyssey returns...and with pie!

Now that my kitchen is completely unpacked and OCD- organized, the Baking Odyssey can continue. I chose Lemon Meringue pie as the next dish. I've tried meringues before with cream pies and had little success. I'm happy to report my Lemon Meringue turned out terrifically! I love lemon zest and added a bit more than the recipe called for, making the filling a wonderful blend of tangy and sweet. I fully credit my meringues' success to my KitchenAid mixer. Hand mixers, or at least the one I used to use, combined with my easily distracted nature were the source of my prior meringue failures.

I've also been hard at work on improving my decorating skills. Typically I have great vision and poor execution, but with lots of work and experimentation I'm improving. I donated a cake to a church benefit that I was quite proud of (photos below). I also recently re-made Golden Peach Pie with a spiral lattice crust that I'm also incredibly proud of. My new buttercream frosting recipe is the perfect consistency for piping decorations on cakes and treats, and I must thank my friend Christina for that. She gave me a decorating kit that included my new favorite frosting recipe, so I owe my latest success in decorating in part to her.

Alaska has finally gone green-- not in the environmentally conscious sense (we have yet to find recycling here), but in the nature sense. Trees have leaves, grass is green, it's a wonderful thing. I delighted in the green grass by turning cartwheels in it. Sadly our apartment is a new-construction area and apparently the builders decided grass is overrated and gravel is great, so we don't have a lot of grass near us. We do have a hilly field with thousands of saplings trying to grow. Sunny and warm weather draws everyone outside due to it's rareness, so if a few days go by without a new entry, don't fret-- I'm probably just outside instead of in the kitchen.

The fruit based desserts in the Baking Odyssey may take a backseat for awhile as it is difficult and incredibly expensive to find produce here (that golden peach pie cost me $3.50/lb for peaches!). I'll just have to explore the other bits of the desserts-- cookies and candies may be tackled next ;) Now that the Baking Odyssey has returned, expect 1 to 2 new dishes (and posts) a week. Time for me to head back to the kitchen!