Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thinking of Summer

It's starting to get a little chilly. About 10 below zero at night. Been thinking about getting out the winter coat and maybe a hat, but I'd rather pretend it's still summer. Gloves are for sissies!

I was just looking through iphoto, and found this video from last summer. In this video, I was trying to comment on Marmalade's blog. This is pretty much a typical afternoon with the dogs. Right now, picture the same scenario, only the girls are trying to practice the cello with Dog WrestleMania happening under their feet. Never a dull moment in our house!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Gluten Free??!!

I am finally back! It has been another crazy few weeks of waaaay toooo much to do, and I am finally getting to a post that I have needed to finish for several weeks.

Last summer, as my husband was recovering in the hospital from back surgery, I spent a great deal of time on my iphone (very possibly too much time!) to relieve the boredom of sitting all day. I found several blogs about gluten free living, which I found very interesting, as I have a condition called Celiac Disease. To make a long story short, I cannot eat anything with wheat, barley or rye. I can eat oats only if they are certified "gluten-free." As you can imagine, it makes eating a real challenge. I have to bake most of my own breads using rice flour as a base, and I haven't eaten a slice of real pizza in over 6 years! You can imagine how excited I was to find information on a website called MyBlogSpark. It allows you to place an application to review products on your personal blog. I decided to give it a try since I had heard that I would probably be able to review the new Betty Crocker Gluten Free dessert mixes, which I was eagerly awaiting.  They sent me the four products to try and review, and then one of my readers will win a set of the dessert mixes as well.  It's a great deal!

The new Betty Crocker Gluten Free mixes are as follows:
Yellow Cake Mix
Devil's Food Cake Mix
Brownie Mix
Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

Yellow Cake- This cake had a good flavor, but was quite grainy from the rice flours in the mix. I was not happy with the mix, so I experimented. I decided to use it in a Pineapple Upside Down cake. The results were amazing! It made an excellent cake which was moist, sweet and delicious! I used a couple of different recipes, and the results were great each time. I served the cakes at picnics and the guests loved them as well. This gave me an idea as autumn approached and the blueberries were ripening. What about a Blueberry Pineapple Coconut Upside Down cake? I replaced the marachino cherries with lots of blueberries, and added coconut milk as part of the liquid along with coconut flakes. The result was not very pretty, as blueberries turn very dark when cooked, but it tasted wonderful! The cake was gone in a flash from the countertop!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Layering the blueberries

Devil's Food Cake- This cake had a better texture, but could use a bit more chocolate flavor. This cake makes a great base for an ice cream cake. Simply bake and freeze. Top with your favorite flavor of ice cream and refreeze.

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix- We experimented a great deal with this mix. It has a good flavor, but the cookies crumble too easily. Tried adding another egg. Didn't help. Tried using applesauce in place of liquid. Didn't work. Maybe it would work as a cookie bar?

Brownie Mix- Good results here. This makes a nice brownie. Also tried adding another egg, with great results. Makes an excellent dessert. Feel free to get creative with this one by topping with ice cream, syrup and nuts for a brownie sundae. 


Overall, I would say that Betty Crocker could have done a better job researching before launching these mixes. There are other gluten free dessert mixes in the Natural Food section of the grocery stores that are much better quality. However, the other mixes are approximately $7 each. The Betty Crocker Mixes, found in the regular baking aisle, are around $4 each. I would like to sincerely applaud them for diving into the gluten free market, however. There are MANY people who must live wheat free, and our food choices are so limited at this time that we welcome any new items on the shelves.  I am thankful to see this new competition in the gluten free arena.

Now, for my blog readers. How would you like to try these mixes for free? I would bet that many of you know at least one person who cannot eat wheat, or limits it. Or maybe you are interested in trying something new yourself? If so, leave a comment, or drop an email ( if you would like to be entered in the drawing to win all four of these dessert mixes. No cost to you, no obligation. Can't wait to hear from you!

And lest I forget, these recipes are all Bloodhound/Coonhound Approved. How do I know? Place dessert on your plate and you have exactly 1.3 seconds to get to a safe area to enjoy it... just ask my kids!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Whoa, Dude!

I do believe Gus the Bloodhound thinks he is really a Jack Russell Terrier. What do you think??

(The background sounds are Molly the Bluetick barking and the television)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Happy Birthday, Molly!

Molly, our bluetick/ treeing walker coonhound recently celebrated her 13th birthday. We adopted Molly 5 years ago when she was 8 years old. She has been a wonderful addition to our family!

Here's how her regular vet check-up went a few weeks ago:

Vet: Awww! 13 years old! She must be slowing down a lot now.

Amanda: Well, no, not really. She runs around barking at everything, all the time.

Vet: Well, she certainly must not have as much energy as she used to.

Amanda: She's pretty active... she's still the first one up every morning and then she runs around and barks all the time.

Vet: But she's probably sleeping quite a lot, isn't she?

Amanda: Ummm. Well, no, we kinda wish she would sleep a lot more...instead of running around and barking ALL the time.

And so it went. Molly is still very active, barks the most out of the three hounds, and continues to grow various lumps at an amazing rate. She suffers from allergies that affect her airway, so she does cough and hack quite a lot at times, but meds control it for the most part. Our biggest problem with her lately is the fact that she is getting red, raw sores on her skin, probably allergy related. Other than that, she is always happy, full of energy and LOUD, like any good hound should be!

As energetic as Molly is, she can also relax with the best of them. We probably have hundreds of pictures of Molly in various states of "The Nap."

We are so happy to have you in our lives, Molly-pup. Happy, Happy Birthday!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Drool, Part 2

Gus came in the house with a third eyebrow, much to my surprise.

He is very creative with saliva.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Drool for You!

Marmalade, Bentley and Wimsey have posted fabulous shots of the most spectacular of bloodhound traits...drool. As a bloodhound, I produce copious amounts of spit as well. Here is my first post regarding this most important matter.

More posts will follow.

Game on, Marmalade!!

---The Gusinator--

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Alaska- Extreme Weather Only, Summer Version

What a beautiful summer we have had this year! Temperatures consistently in the 70's to upper 80's, and almost no rain at all. Combine that with 24 hours of daylight and it sounds perfect, doesn't it? Well, not quite. With all the hot, dry weather comes a lot of lightning. Combine that with millions of acres of dry timber and you've got a bit of a problem. Right now that means over 1.3 million acres of forest fires surrounding us here in Fairbanks, Alaska. We have been beyond fortunate though, as the winds have not been blowing the smoke right into the Tanana Valley as they usually do all summer during an active wildfire season.  We have had sporadic smokey days, and only a few orange and red air quality alerts. The last week has been the worst of it, but it isn't too bad so far. The forecast is for continued warm and dry weather through the next several days, with smoke. The fires closest to Fairbanks are the Minto Flats South Fire at 245,000 acres, about 40 miles away and the Wood River Fire, about 27 miles south of Fairbanks. Here are some photos taken along the Parks Highway near Denali National Park on July 4th. Even though it was very warm, we had to keep the windows closed because the smoke made it hard to breathe. 

The camera lens definitely cuts through the smoke, but you can get an idea of what it looks like.

On Wednesday, we watched smoke roll in from the Minto Flats South Fire about 3 p.m.  I stood on the sidewalk in front of Gulliver's Books and took a picture to the east, and then immediately turned and took a picture to the west. You can see a very dramatic wall of smoke rolling in over the hills!

Later that evening we went to Amanda's softball game after the smoke had descended upon the city. These were taken about 8:30 pm. That funny spot near the people in the center is a big chunk of falling ash.

We were all covered in ash by the end of the game! Here's a shot of the roof of the car:

By midnight some of the smoke was gone, but an orange haze has been hanging over us each day. When you open the door or a window it smells like you are right next to a campfire.  Small amounts of ash continue to fall from the sky, reminding us of snowflakes. Not a happy image this time of year! 

However, no one is complaining. This is nothing compared to the Boundary Fire of 2004 which began mid-June and lasted until the snow fell in September that year. We were covered in smoke from the end of June until August. It was in the 80's most days and because the air quality was so bad we were advised to keep the windows closed every day and to limit outdoor activity. Which wouldn't have been so bad, except homes do not have air conditioning up here in Fairbanks.  It was hot and miserable 24 hours a day. The southern border of the Boundary Fire was just about 5 miles from our house, so we had to be ready to evacuate for several weeks. That fire alone ended up burning over 537,000 acres. The wildfire total for the entire state that same year was 6.2 million acres. That was a very scary time for us.

In Alaska the weather is ALWAYS extreme, it seems. From bone-chilling cold in the winter to hot and desert dry with smoke in the summer. It is a challenge to live here!

Despite snow, rain, sleet, hail...or smoke, dogs must be walked! Here is Gus the bloodhound basking in the orange smokey glow of the afternoon.

And we may not have cornfields like Bentley, beautiful flower gardens like Marmalade or the liveliness of Central Park like Wimsey, but we DO have the most beautiful fireweed! Most of our property has been left in it's wild state, and here's the beast on a walk next to our house.

That's about it from Alaska today. The land where humans and animals can become chain smokers without even lighting up...  

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

SoundHoundz Arrive at Resort!

Hello, all! Gus the bloodhound here to give you an amazing auditory experience. If you enjoy the sound of hounds barking, then this is the blog for you!

A couple of weeks ago, Edie and Amanda dropped the Alaskan SoundHoundz pack at Chelsea's Pet Resort for a week of non-stop barking excitement. I had my humans record the arrival as we bumped down the dirt road. Everyone within a five mile radius knew with certainty that the "houndz" had arrived!
Note my deep voice, which provides rich undertones to Dimond Willow's excited "seal bark." Molly chose to announce her arrival with her version of "chirping and talking." These barks are quite different from our baying serenades saved for different occasions.

Now here is a video of me and Dimond in the resort parking lot. I particularly enjoy this segment, as I was able to deposit a little saliva on the crate, which happened to survive the entire week hanging in magnificent dried form on the wire. To my chagrin, the crate in this shot is a bit crowded with two hounds, and you will notice that my normally destructive tail wagging is somewhat curtailed in these confines.

This resort is not nearly as well- appointed as Bentley and Beau's swimming resort, but it is an adequate place to engage in hound socializing and vocalizing for many days.

Edie picked us up on the 4th of July, and we were so very happy to see her. Upon arrival at home we promptly plopped down on the floor and slept soundly for many hours. Can't wait for the next vacation!

Until next time,
(Loud Hound of the North)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Waiting in a hospital is not fun. Especially when it happens day after day. Almost six days, to be exact. My husband went in for surgery early on June 29th. He had three vertebrae fused in an 8 1/2 hour operation. He mostly slept for the first 4 days, so I sat and waited. A lot. And I am not good at waiting, so it was a difficult task. I had thought I would work on a couple of new blog posts, but my iphone apparently decided that was not going to happen. Since we were in Anchorage, there wasn't much in the way friends or family to break the monotony. So there I sat, in a tiny corner with books and newspapers and my iphone. Fortunately, the procedure went well, and he was eventually up and walking with a walker, soon graduated to doing a few stairs, and then we were sent out the door, free to head to my brother's home for a little more recovery before heading back to Fairbanks. 

View from the 6th floor of Alaska Regional Hospital, Anchorage, Alaska 11pm

To make a long story short, we went to my brother's house and my husband tried to get settled in, but just couldn't get comfortable.  Not surprising, since he had 27 staples in his back. So I came up with a plan... give him his pain meds, stuff him in the back of the (small) car and drive all night to get home. Well, I am happy to report that it worked! We spent about 6 hours on the road, he slept most of the way, and children and hounds were very excited to see us the next day.
June 28th, Cantwell, Alaska, near entrance to Denali National Park

He continues to recover remarkably well, with the help of a few gentle (!) hounds.

Molly, best therapy dog ever!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Miracle!

Vacuuming a hound? Dimond Willow and Molly would never allow it. Vacuuming a bloodhound? Hmmmm. I don't know how or why Gus suddenly decided that this was okay, but who am I to question him? I will just enjoy it as long as he decides to humor me. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Travel Time!

Busy, busy, busy.  Closed out the school year May 18th.  Flew to Palm Springs with a group of 14 kids (and my own 2) from Kodiak, Alaska for almost 2 weeks.  Learned that I could indeed survive 100+ degrees.  It is WAY more comfortable than east coast humidity!  Studied the desert, learned about the oil business from a guy who has been in it for half a century. Viewed wind farms. Boat tour of San Diego Harbor.  Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Laguna Beach. Went to the San Diego Zoo.  Hollywood.  Disneyland. Learned that Disneyland is the happiest place on earth until a bird poops on a kid's head! And had to stand in line behind a woman for 45 minutes at Disneyland with the most obscene tattoo I have ever seen. Wow. (Yes, I took a picture, no I'm not posting it!) Toured the Mission at San Juan Capistrano. Knott's Soak City water park. Learned that a 30 minute drive can take 3.5 hours when you use GPS. Met Evans Downer, an artist that spends summers in Alaska and the rest of the year in Joshua Tree National Park, where he works in his amazing desert studio. Learned that McDonald's closes at 10 pm in Palm Springs where the median age seems to be upwards of 75. And had a FABULOUS TIME with an unbelievably great group of 14 year olds!

Alyssa has this habit of hugging the first palm tree she sees after landing.  You'd think she was from Alaska or something.

We noticed right away that the desert is, well, rather brown.

Entrance to our condo in Palm Desert.  A bit of luxury!

Our fearless leader, my brother-in-law.

Desert sculptures in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Taking photos of the monkeys.  I mean kids.

Evans Downer.  Fabulous artist!

Relaxing at the condo in Palm Desert. Only MY children would sit in this hot tub when it was 103 degrees outside! We had a little discussion about something called "heat stroke".

Craziest place to build a house.  Directly on a fault line.  With a pile of loose rock about 50 feet directly behind the house.  Oh wait, in California they call that a mountain!  Either way, some day it is going to fall on that house.

Got back to Fairbanks and enjoyed 70 and 80 degree temperatures while trying to catch up on yard work and do some planting, along with the million other things that need to be done.

Flew out of CA on the coolest plane ever!

One more thing and the car would have exploded on the drive back to Fairbanks from Anchorage.

Aaaaaah! Fresh air once again in Cantwell, Alaska.

A happy hound greeting.

Awwww.  Gus can be so sweet!  Sometimes.

Now I'm going to prove that I can learn a lesson from some of my favorite blog buddies, and post more often!