About Me

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Douglas, Alaska, United States
I have lived in Alaska since 1978, having come to Juneau as a Jesuit Volunteer. I fell in love with Alaska and now live on Douglas Island with my husband and two dogs.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Feast of the Holy Family

Happy Feast of the Holy Family!

Icon of The Holy Family, written by Charles Rohrbacher for
St. Paul the Apostle Church, Juneau, Alaska

May the blessings of the Holy Family be with all of you today!

Please continue to pray for my sister, who had surgery yesterday.  She will be in the hospital for a few more days.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Recipes (And A Prayer Request)

We didn't have our usual big Christmas Open House this year, but instead had small gatherings with the neighbors and other close friends.

I didn't even make my usual traditional Christmas cookies - I ran out of time and energy (I am just three weeks post surgery)!

Since I had a couple of glass jars of marshmallows left over from this summer (I over-estimated the number of s'mores we would be making), I decided to make fudge.  I used this recipe from Martha Stewart, without nuts.  It was delicious!

Simple Chocolate Fudge recipe - for all those marshmallows left over from this summer!

I read about Pippa Middleton's Peppermint Creams in US Weekly Magazine and decided to try them.  They were wonderful and everybody loved them!

We had Christmas dinner with our friends James and Maura and Pat and Kim (along with James and Maura's baby Seamus and Pat and Kim's kids Molly, Elias and Toby).  We had turkey with all the fixings.  I made a Gramercy Tavern Gingerbread Cake.  It was fantastic!  I made a glaze with powdered sugar, brandy and a little milk and sprinkled red and green sprinkles on it.  The secret ingredient is Guinness Stout (although any stout beer would probably work).  It was deep and rich and flavorful and just right for Christmas dessert.  We made whipped cream to top it off with.

gramercy tavern's gingerbread
Smitten Kitchen
It was fun to try some new things this year!  Did any of you try a new recipe for Christmas?

By the way, as we were getting ready to leave for Christmas dinner, yesterday, I got a call that my sister was hospitalized and was in intensive care.  She is doing much better today, but will be in the hospital for several days to monitor her status.  I would appreciate prayers for her recovery and also for her family who are understandably quite worried.  She had a miserable Christmas, poor thing!

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Visitation Icon by Charles Rohrbacher

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.
                                      Luke 1:46-55

I love this image - women meeting, cousins greeting.  Jesus and John encountering each other for the first time, while still in their mothers' wombs.

May our hearts leap with anticipation just as John leapt in his mother's womb when he looked forward to meeting Jesus at his birth!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nativity Set

A few years ago, Charles painted a Nativity Set for our home.  It is based on the icon of the Nativity of Christ and has all the elements of that icon, including figures of the Three Wise Men, which, of course would be in the icon of the Epiphany.

Charles' intention at the time was just to have the Nativity Set for our family, but when we began to display it, our friends were so taken with it that they urged us to sell reproductions of it.

So, we began to make reproductions, which was quite an arduous process, involving having prints made of the images (we had them made smaller because the original figures are quite large), cutting them out and and affixing each image to the Gator Board (like foam core, only with wood instead of paper), with Mod Podge and then sealing them.  We ended up purchasing  a scroll saw to cut out each figure.  After all that, we would paint the backs and edges and glue paper easels on the backs (I say "we", when what I really mean is "Charles"!).

A couple of years ago, I found a dry mount press, which made the process so much easier - we could mount the images on the backing without glue and laminate the front as well.

We sold them at the Juneau Public Market for the two years that we had a booth there, and then when we moved to the Juneau Artists Gallery, we displayed them there.  We only sold a few, and they didn't fly off the shelves like hot cakes like we were certain they would.

The cost of each set might have be a factor - as each image takes a great deal of work to reproduce and manufacture, we decided to charge $100 a set, basically, $10 for each image.  When Charles added the Wise Men to the set, we decided not to charge extra and kept the price at $100.

I think that since the sets are so large (the largest figure is of the angels and is about 15 inches tall), it prevents people from purchasing them, along with the price, which is pretty expensive, unless you are in a position to spend that kind of money.  A few Nativity Set collectors have bought them, which is nice as well.

This year, we decided not to manufacture any sets and just put the word out that if folks want them (they would be for next year) they can let us know and we will make them to order.

I am thinking that it would be good to make them a bit smaller or at least to offer the option of having a smaller set than the size we have now.

I sent off a set today that had been ordered last year.  It was kind of fun, as I had to pack them at the Post Office and the folks waiting in line were intrigued by them.  I had a couple of folks ask if they were for sale.  I told them not this year, but we would be taking orders for next year if they were interested.

Charles did such a beautiful job painting the original set that I wanted to share it again this year with my readers!

It is such a lovely and unique addition to our Christmas decorations and helps keep us in mind of what the season is all about.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sleep In Heavenly Peace

I was too tired (and frankly, too sad) to stay up and watch Saturday Night Live this past week, so I missed a beautiful moment.

In a tribute to the victims in Connecticut, a children's choir sang a simple rendition of Silent Night.  No instruments, no fancy lighting or costumes, just children in red choir robes, singing a capella and in unison.

In case you missed it, here is a link:

New York Children's Chorus

Sunday, December 16, 2012


- mittens on a string

I am deliberately avoiding watching the news on television, listening to the news on the radio, or reading the news in the newspaper.

I know enough of the facts:  On Friday, a mentally ill young man killed over two dozen people, including little children, in an elementary school in Connecticut.

There are so many questions.

How could this have happened?  How could it have been prevented?  And inevitably, who is to blame?

Proponents of gun control blame the fact that huge numbers of guns that are readily available, with little difficulty. to the public.  People who are in favor of upholding 2nd Amendment rights argue that madmen would find ways to kill regardless of more stringent gun laws.

I have my own opinions, but would rather not get drawn into the debate in this forum, and I respectfully ask that your comments reflect this.

What really matters in the end is that, because of what happened on Friday, there are empty little pajamas at the end of empty little beds.  Little jackets are hanging on hooks with mittens hanging off the cuffs, and little boots are lined up next to back doors, waiting for snow ball fights and snow man building adventures that won't happen.  Presents are wrapped and under trees for children who won't be there to open them on Christmas.  And parents and grandparents with empty arms are mourning.

Families are shattered by grief, friends are unable to find a way to help or explain, and strangers who have never heard of this town in Connecticut before Friday dissolve in tears because of this tragedy, and at the thought of something similar happening in their own town, in their own school, to their own children.

And through my tears, all I can do is pray.

Protect us all from the violence of others,
keep us safe from the weapons of hate
and restore to us tranquility and peace.

We ask this through Christ our Lord

                                                                                                                           Book of Blessings

Friday, December 14, 2012


"And it's not a cry that you hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah"

                                                            Leonard Cohen

Eighteen little children killed while attending school.

When will we truly have Peace On Earth and Goodwill Towards Men?

When will it be time to say "Enough".

When will it be time to get rid of the guns?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Just The Name Alone Should Persuade You

Looking idly at my blog roll this morning, I was suddenly transfixed by this post title:

"Boozy Eggnog Loaf Cake"

And then I was further drawn in by this photo:

I found the recipe at one of my favorite blogs by fellow Alaskan blogger Nicole Pearce.  Her blog is Arctic Garden Studio and she has great photos and wonderful recipes.  She blogs from her cabin in Fairbanks, which is really, really cold in winter.  We Southeast Alaskans know that we mostly have it easy when it comes to subzero temperatures!  However we make up for it in rain.

I hope you get a chance to try this recipe - it just looks delicious and I can't wait to try it myself!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Seven Quick Takes: In Which I Complain For A While

One:  I hurt.  

You know how they say bone pain is the worst?  They are right.  I woke up after surgery and was doing OK until the nerve block thing wore off and then Sweet Mother of Mercy!!!  "How is your pain level from one to ten?"

"Nine!"  Boy, did they scurry about to do something about it.  At that point, I was not convinced I was going to be able to go home.  "They won't send me home hurting like this, will they?"  "No, no we're just going to get the pain under control."

Whatever it was it worked.  For a while.  Enough to get me home.  And then, SWEET BABY JESUS!!  Time for the oral meds to do their magic.  I was supposed to take two of the prescription ones and three ibuprofen every 4 hours.  They worked fine for 2 1/2 hours then it was grit my teeth time until the four hours was up.  That was good for about 4 days, when I stopped taking them around the clock.  Now I take them so I can sleep.  Sleep is good.

Two:  I look like I have been run through a wringer

If Jabba The Hut wore Hot Pink Crazy Cat Pajamas.  Not my best look.  Note the pain-furrowed brow.

The night before, and the morning of, the surgery, I was told to cleanse the surgical area with this really  strong soap, and to wash my hair with shampoo.  I went to the hospital squeaky clean and smelling like a very antiseptic flower.  My hair was silken and smooth as, well, silk.  

That was Wednesday.  Today, Tuesday, I look like the wrath of God.  My hair is sticking up, I have cowlicks that any sane cow would run away from, I am forced to wear an XXL chamois shirt with one arm through the sleeve and the other arm in a sling under the shirt, so it looks, (as Charles so helpfully pointed out) like I have gained about 30 pounds on one side of my abdomen.  "But everybody knows you didn't", he said comfortingly.

I can't wear pants that require buttoning or zipping, so I have been wearing either my new (to me) Hot Pink Crazy Cat Pajamas that I got at Salvation Army, or the aforementioned giant chamois shirt with drawstring pants or pull up fleece pants.   While I never claimed to be a fashion icon, I know that even I can do better than this under normal circumstances.

Three: I smell like a polecat.

I haven't bathed since Wednesday morning.  I have attempted to dab at myself with a damp washcloth but it is hard with one hand.  Charles has tried to help me with a sponge bath, but he is so afraid of hurting me, ("Am I hurting you?  Am I hurting you?"  he repeatedly asks while ineffectually waving a dripping washcloth over me.)  that I have given up until Thursday, when I go to the doctor and will get the green light to take a shower.  I have resorted to using baby powder.  I think it is bad, though, because even Frida has to think about cuddling up next to me, and she is no bundle of sweet peas herself.

Four:  The house is a wreck

It isn't as bad as it could be, thanks to Charles.  I have a call in to a young woman named Rose, who hopefully will put things to rights soon.

Five:  I have wonderful friends

Several friends have brought over delicious food for us.  This is a boon in a difficult time.  I never realized how much it helps to have someone just drop off dinner.  What a blessing!  And another friend stopped by to visit and pray with me - very helpful!  And I have had at least a couple of calls a day from folks just checking in on me.

Six:  I have a wonderful family

Charles had to travel the weekend after my surgery for work, so Phoebe, who had just moved out and was probably so happy to be in her own place at last, came home to help care for me.  She did the stuff that Miguel just couldn't do, and Miguel took care of cooking (actually they both did a great job with everything).  They made a meal on Sunday that was just tremendous.  I am the luckiest woman alive.  All this, AND Charles strokes my brow while waiting for my meds to kick in.  

Seven: All of you in blog land

Thanks for keeping me entertained this week!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hunkering Down

Here we are pre-performance last night!

After weeks of rehearsal, today was the final concert of the Juneau Bach Society.  It was the last thing that I had on my calendar for the next six weeks!  It is now time for me to hunker down for awhile.

I'm having shoulder surgery on Wednesday, and my arm will be in a sling for six weeks.

While this doesn't mean that I will be completely immobilized or helpless, it does mean that Christmas will be considerably scaled back this year (for me anyway).

Here is what WON'T happen this year:

1.  Our annual Christmas Open House
2.  Major decorating
3.  Cookie baking on a large scale
4. Manufacturing of icon Nativity scenes (in the past, we have made and sold these at Christmas time, but they are pretty labor intensive!)
5. House work (by me, anyway)

Here is what will happen this year:

1.  Quieter, small gatherings with family and close friends.
2.  A more thoughtful, measured approach to decorating, with an emphasis on family traditions.
3.  Cookies baked by Charles and the kids, again with an emphasis on the family traditional favorites.
4. Creation of small, hand sewn Christmas ornaments (which don't require a lot of arm movement), including a lovely little felt Holy Family.
5.  The finding and hiring of a temporary housekeeper to do some deep cleaning and maintenance  while I am unable to take care of housework (the rest of the family is capable of taking care of this, but having someone else do it will make the month easier for all of us!).

While I'm not looking forward to having surgery and the long recovery period, this means I will be able to actually have a quiet and reflective Advent this year, instead of running around getting ready for our open house and generally being grouchy for three weeks.  Friends have offered to bring meals for the first week of my recovery, which will make things easier for everyone - I am blessed with a loving community!

Christmas gifts will be fewer and simpler this year.  I won't be running so many errands.  I will be sitting at home, reading, stitching, and reflecting.

The snow is falling outside, the high winds have died down,  Miguel is making Jambalaya in the kitchen while listening to Cajun music.  Phoebe just arrived for Sunday dinner, Charles is in the studio and I am grateful!

Please keep me in your prayers this week!