The Anchorage Museum

Good afternoon!

Today has been a lovely, lovely day!

Little Man and I went out to the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center for the morning.  The Anchorage Museum is a great place to visit if you have children.  In addition to the artwork and visiting exhibits in the main museum, the Imaginarium Discovery Center is a large, interactive area for kids to learn and play.  Little Man will regularly ask to go to the museum as an activity.

Within the Imaginarium, there are a few different places to explore.  

In the BP Kinetic Center, in the Imaginarium, at the Anchorage Museum, in Anchorage, Alaska.  Great fun for children and toddlers.

BP Kinetic

 

The BP Kinetic Area is a learning space with exhibits that allow for the hands on examination of different aspects of physical science.  Little Man is only 3, so he really isn’t learning about force, light waves, or inertia.  However, there are lots of moving parts to the exhibits – balls bouncing, balloons flying, air blowing, etc.  It could keep him busy for hours.

During our visit today, it was obvious the exhibits were being upgraded and changed around.  A little upgrade is certainly needed.  After years of little fingers experimenting and playing with the parts and pieces, they were starting to look a little rough around the edges.  I can’t tell exactly what the new exhibits will look like, but I hope they are still engaging for all ages.

Moving further into the Imaginarium from the Kinetic Area, there is an exhibit with giant bubble making devices. This is an area that can create an amazing mess.  Thankfully, there is a hand rinsing station next to the massive open tanks of bubble soap.  Making the big bubbles takes a little patience and skill.  Little man can’t make the bubbles and at times this is frustrating to him.  But, if I make the bubbles, he loves to pop them!

Chomper the Turtle in the Imaginarium at the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage Alaska.  One of many exhibits for children and toddlers.

Chomper the Turtle

A tempting, but never accessible, activity is the tank with invertebrate coastal animals.  The tank has an open top that calls to little hands with the siren song of slimy sea creatures, but there is always a giant sign up letting you know you need to wait until there is an attendant present.  Unfortunately, we are never there when an attendant is on duty.  Never.  If you are interested in touching Alaskan sea creatures, I would suggest the Sea Life Center in Seward.

Right next to the open tank is an aquarium with “Chomper”, a large snapping turtle.  While Little Man looks forward to seeing “Chomper” every time we visit, I have only actually seen him move once.  A couple months ago, I started to suspect that he had passed away and had been stuffed.

Bush Plane model for children and toddlers in the TOTES Kids space for toddlers at the Imaginarium in the Anchorage Museum

Bush Plane!

Play area in the TOTES Kids space in the Imaginarium at the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage Alaska.

Play Area in the KidSpace

After a long tour of the actual exhibits, Little Man likes to decompress with the other little kids in the TOTES KidSpace.  There are little slides, a water feature, toys, a doll house, a train set, and a bush plane with lots of buttons.  The plane is always the first choice activity.  Today, the kid instruments, including a drum and xylophone toy, were the second favorite.  Unfortunately for the other parents, the instruments accompanied a rousing rendition of the five frogs on a log song, sung by me, at Little Man’s request.

Train Set in the TOTES Kids Space in the Imaginarium at the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage, Alaska.

Train Set

If you happen to be visiting Anchorage, Alaska with children on a beautiful summer day, for the love of all that is good, get outside and enjoy the parks, trails, or festivals. If it has gotten rainy or you had the misfortune of traveling to Alaska during a cold season, consider the museum as an excellent way to pass the time. One of the nice things about the museum activities is that there is something to engage the entire family.

We have a membership to the museum.  For us, because we come so often, the membership is totally worth the upfront expense.  However, there are numerous “free days” sponsored by local businesses over the course of the year.  If you only plan to come a few times a year and your dates are flexible, it may be worth it to wait for a one of these special events.  We have come on numerous sponsored days and even though it is a little more crowded, it is never intolerable.

For more information about the museum, check out the website:  Anchorage Museum

After a few hours at the museum, we were off to home for some peanut butter sandwiches and water balloons.

Water balloons are a joy to any little boy.  Last night, Little Man popped them by biting them.  This engaging activity came to an abrupt halt when one popped and gushed water up his nose.  It was one of those mom moments where you wonder if you should have known better than to allow your child to do something so utterly ridiculous.  Today we had some more coordinated activities to avoid any sort of water balloon related trauma.  We set out targets on the lawn to be hit by water balloons from the deck and set up water balloons on the lawn to be stomped by a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

All in all, this was a really delightful day.

 

Homemade Marinara Recipe

I love marinara.  Love, Love, Love.

On pizza, french fries, baked potatoes, pasta, and just about everything else it’s amazing.

I am willing to put in a couple minutes chopping to make the perfect sauce.  (By “a couple minutes chopping” I mean pushing the button on my food processor.)  

Life can be so hard.

Where to begin…

How about with some fresh basil, garlic and olive oil?

To make things cheaper and easier, I buy large packages of fresh basil and process them in my handy food processor with garlic cloves and olive oil.

Read Basil + Garlic + Olive Oil = Yum for more information.

Basil, Olive Oil, Garlic

A great marinara requires sloooowwwww cooking.  With a toodler runnning around, tending the stove like an Italian grandmother isn’t practical.  Thank goodness for crock pots.

Every time I write about a crock pot and forget to add in a space, my computer wants to change it to crackpots.  I think it’s trying to tell me something.  

I use the basic recipe from Mom on a Mission (which is the most amazing blog).  I say basic because I am too lazy too accomplished in the kitchen to be bothered with measuring or extra onion chopping.

Into the crock pot goes roughly 90-100 ounces of crushed/diced/sauced tomatoes.  If I have been to Costco, I’ll use a #10 can.  If not, I’ll use whatever collection of tomatoes I have in the pantry.  Honestly, my favorite sauce is made from generic Fred Meyer crushed tomatoes.

Then I add in my basil/oil/garlic mixture (1 cup basil, 8 garlic cloves, 1/4 cup olive oil).  Chopped up in the food processor.

Next comes some onion powder (about 1 tbsp.), some salt (about 1.5 tsp), and a sprinkle of pepper (about 1/2 tsp).

Cook on low for 5-6 hours.  Stir occasionally.  If you cook it longer, it could burn.  Trust me.

If the taste of this over some spaghetti doesn’t curl your toes, you need to go visit a doctor because your taste buds might be dead!

Marinara with fresh basil in a crockpot

Some of the sauce gets used for dinner.  Some goes on pizzas.  Some goes in the freezer.

Yum!

Easy Crockpot Marinara

- 90-100 oz Canned Tomatoes (diced, crushed, or sauce)

- 1 cup Fresh Basil Leaves

- 8 Garlic Cloves

- 1/4 cup Olive Oil

- 1 tbsp Onion Powder

- 1.5 tsp Salt

- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper (substitute Cayenne for an extra kick)

1.  Pulse Garlic, Basil, and Olive Oil in the food processor until chopped.

2.  Add Garlic mixture, Tomatoes, Salt, Pepper, and Onion Powder to crockpot.

3.  Cook on low for 5-6 hours.

 

Linked to Thrifty Thrusday at Living Well Spending Less

 

 

Random Advice for Success and Happiness – The Totally Awesome Partner

Enjoy another little bit of random advice for finding love and happiness:

Choose a Partner Who is Totally Awesome

What do I mean by totally awesome?

I mean someone who will be an asset to your life, your goals, and your happiness.  How many women and men have I met who are with someone who isn’t a good partner?  Countless.  If you choose to spend your time with someone who doesn’t move you toward a more positive life, you will be perpetually miserable and exhausted!  Find someone who will contribute to your happiness and then spend your days contributing to theirs!

Some characteristics of a totally awesome partner are:

- Respect.  Boom.  There it is.  A totally awesome partner will respect you.  Your opinions, needs, wants, quirks, and flaws.  This does not mean they will always agree with you or do everything you want.  Respectful partners will treat you better than you treat yourself.  They won’t criticize, belittle, or make fun of you to elicit change.  But, they will always inspire you to be the best possible version of yourself.

- Support.  A totally awesome partner will support you in the areas where you are lacking (yes, even you have some deficiencies); encourage you in the areas where you excel; and they will stand beside you along the way.  They won’t dedicate themselves to being your cheerleader and sacrifice themselves for you, but they will devote themselves to ensure that together you are both happy.

- Comfort.  A totally awesome partner will make you feel comfortable and comforted.  You will want to put your best foot forward and impress your partner, but you won’t feel compelled to be someone else’s version of perfection.  With a totally awesome partner, you should be able to be yourself and have a sense of pride in who you are deep down.

- Fun.  Your perfect totally awesome partner will be someone who you enjoy being around.  You won’t have to work to enjoy his or her company.  You will laugh, smile, and enjoy just being with this person.  If you can’t have fun with your partner, at least sometimes, what in the world is the point?

Find that person who makes you feel amazing and makes you want to make them feel amazing and enjoy!  Choosing someone by your side who builds on your strengths and supports your weaknesses is one decision you can make that will make finding happiness easier.

Stay tuned for thoughts on how to find and keep a really stellar partner.

Honeyberry

The honeyberry was new to me this year.  I was trolling nursery websites and came across a listing for a honeyberry bush.  With some further investigations courtesy of Google, I made some interesting honeyberry discoveries.

First, honeyberries are perfectly suited for Alaskan gardens.  Second, these bushes are reported to be very difficult to kill.  Perfect!

Honeyberries are also called haskap or blue honeysuckle.  These plants are native to north eastern Asia in areas of Russia and Japan but have only recently gained the interest of fruit cultivators in the United States and Canada.  The University of Saskatchewan has an extensive fruit program focusing on cultivating fruits for northern climates and has been working with haskap.  U of S Fruit Program here.

Honeyberry – by Opioła Jerzy (Poland)

Most honeyberry plants are cold hardy to -40F.  Some plants are rated for zone 1.  Most of the plants available for purchase from commercial growers are rated for zone 2.  Here in Anchorage, these plants should thrive in our chilly weather.  Additionally, these bushes can grow well in partial sun, which makes them a great choice for some of the less ideal garden locations.

The fruit of the honeyberry, when fully ripe, is said to have the taste of a strawberry, blueberry, and raspberry rolled into one.  However, according to the information from the U of S, there are some honeyberries that are sweet and delicious and some that are bitter an unpleasant tasting.  It is important to select a variety that has been cultivated for tasty fruit production.

It is also important to wait until the honeyberry is ripe until you pick it.  The plant will generate fruits that look like long blueberries.  They will turn dark blue long before they are ripe on the inside.  Once the inside of the fruit is also blue/purple colored, the berries are ready to pick.  If interior of the fruit is still green, it is unripe and will not taste good.

Honeyberries will attract birds, which could be a good or bad thing depending on how you feel about birds (boo) and whether or not you plan to eat the berries when they are ripe.  If you aren’t in love with birds and want to harvest some fruit, it may be best to use some netting to protect your plants.

Honeyberry is a name most commonly used in the United States.  Honeyberry sounds so lovely.  I imagine the creation of the name went something like this:

Greenhouse owner 1:  How are we going to market these super hardy, yummy berry bushes to people in the northern US?  No one will know what a Haskap is – it sounds like a disease.

Greenhouse owner 2:  Let’s just rename the things.  Something appealing.  Something catchy.  Something cute.

Greenhouse owner 1:  Sweetfruit plant?  Juicyberry bush?  There already is a blueberry, so that is out.  What’s tasty, sweet, juicy and natural sounding?

Greenhouse owner 2:  Sugarberry?

Greenhouse Owner 1:  I think you’re on to something!  How about honeyberry?!?

I ordered my honeyberry bushes from Stark Bros.  The bushes seem to be doing alright, here is a link to their page.  Stark Bros Honeyberry Bushes

Advice for Finding Success and Happiness – The # 1 Thing to Avoid

If you are looking to improve your happiness, success, and overall satisfaction with life, there are plenty of things you shouldn’t do.  Plenty.  Things like -

- Become intoxicated and call your boss to just let her know how your really feel.

- Respond to an email asking for updated personal information from a Saudi prince who really wants to help you by giving you 5 million dollars.

- Date that guy who is really hot with even though he gives your friends the creeps and repeatedly comments about how lucky you are to be in a relationship with him.

- Decide to bail out your third cousin (twice removed) after she racks up tons of credit card debt even though she owes everyone else money and doesn’t have a job.

- Put that amazing pair of thousand dollar boots on credit and justify the purchase to yourself by determining that one really great pair of boots will last years and somehow you are saving money in the long run.

There are plenty of things you should avoid doing in your life time.  So many, I can’t even begin to think of most of them.  Most of them are pretty straightforward and obviously bad choices.

However, there is one thing that you should absolutely never do.  Ever.

Don’t do the same thing that didn’t work for you the first time around!

If you have made a decision, followed through, and been completely disappointed by the outcome, don’t do it again.  There is a famous quote that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.  It seems so obvious, but people do this all the time!

If you have tried it once, if there isn’t something that has completely changed about the scenario, just stop and save yourself the trouble.  Don’t date the guy who has disappointed you in the past.  Don’t reengage in the same arguments with your family members.  Don’t go on a spending bender you can’t afford.

It seems like such a very simple proposition, but most of us (myself included) make decisions based not upon the outcome of past decisions but based upon patterns of behavior that are comfortable.  The further a consequence is removed from the behavior, the less likely it is to have a lasting impact on the behavior.  If you put your hand on a hot stove and are burned, it is likely that you won’t touch a hot stove again.  However, if you have to endure an agonizing bankruptcy years after you bought a bunch of stuff you can’t afford, it is less likely that you will never overspend again.

For this reason, it is very important to consider the long term outcomes of past decisions and purposefully stop doing the things that don’t make you happier.

This time he’ll treat me right.”

This time I will make my mother listen”

“This time my boss really needs to know what I think about him”

This time I am saving money on these boots”

This time my cousin will pay me back”

This time doesn’t work.

This time will probably be exactly the same as last time.

So, if you are looking for love, happiness, and success, limit your “this time” and focus on the realistic long term outcomes of your choices!

 

Basil + Garlic + Olive Oil = Yum

Every few months, I will buy a package of fresh basil.  I love fresh basil.  But, honestly, who can eat more than a few leaves at a time?  To make sure none of the fresh herb goes to waste, I will take a moment to process that basil to prepare it for future marinara use.

After stripping and rinsing all the leaves, it is a simple task to drop them in the food processor with a few cloves of garlic and some olive oil.

First, measure the basil.  Then calculate (yes, using math) the amount of oil and garlic you need.

Basil

In this instance, I had 2 cups of fresh basil.  My favorite marinara recipe uses about 1/4 cup of olive oil and 6 garlic cloves per cup of basil.  So, I added .5 cups olive oil and 12 garlic cloves for 2 cups of basil.

1c Basil/.25c oil = 2c Basil/x.  Just solve for x.  Thank goodness for algebra.

Basil, Olive Oil, Garlic

Everything into the food processor.  Process until the garlic and basil are chopped, of course.

Basil, Olive Oil, and Garlic Processed

Done.

If you are going to use my favorite marinara recipe adapted from Mom on a Mission, divide based on the number of cups of basil.  In this case, there were 2 cups of basil in my processor, so I divided it into 2 equal portions.

One half went to make marinara right away.  The other went into the FREEZER.

When you add garlic to olive oil, you MUST freeze, cook, or eat immediately.  DO NOT just stick it in your refrigerator for later use.

Garlic + Olive Oil + Basil + Freezer= Yum.

Garlic + Olive Oil + Basil + Time in the fridge = Botulism Poisoning!

Seriously.  Freeze, Eat, or Cook.

If you freeze, then the next time you want to make some marinara, you have half of the ingredients all ready to go!