Friday, July 24, 2009

Is July almost over?! 7.24.09

Where to start?! :-) I need to give a shout out to the FedEx gal in Palm Springs – I’m so sorry I’ve not written sooner!! Thanks for hanging in there with us and checking often. Doug says wonderful things about you and we super appreciate all of the nice comments! We’ve been so super busy working over the past couple weeks I haven’t had a moment or desire to write. But not because nothing has been going on.

We’ve been busy with our tours and it’s always amazing how different they are! Michael was asked to give a tour to the Shore Excursion desk staff off of one of the cruise ships so he had a group of 5 Shore-Ex’s on one tour. Talk about pressure, but he is a natural salesman (read schmoozer) and they were so lucky – they had a wonderful day with Michael (6 hours!) and were able to see a lot of what Ketchikan has to offer not to mention some bears, eagles, starfish, you name it. Everyone raved about the tour and the Shore Ex manager said to him when he was getting back on the ship ‘we’ll see how good my staff is as we come back into port on Saturday’. And when Saturday came, they had sold 3 Hummers! Woohoo! That’s when it really got interesting. Michael told me as I checked in with the Shore Ex that they were sending a videographer from the ship with us on our tour! So I had a group of 4 and one videographer that took videos & photos of the tour to use as on-board advertising for the Hummer tour. Cool! That was a very difficult tour too – they spoke only Spanish and I had difficulty talking for 4 hours in Spanish. PLUS it was with two kids under 5yrs old! But we had fun, we saw a ton of the sights, picked lots of Salmonberries, huckleberries, & blueberries. Whew!

Speaking of Salmonberries, I attempted batch #1 and 2 of Salmonberry jam with success! Michael and I hiked up Slide Mountain, home-made berry containers in hand (we used rinsed out juice containers), and picked until all of the containers were full. I was not sure how many berries we needed so we just picked and picked. Well, really it went like one for the container, one for me! We were gorging ourselves on fresh salmonberries all the way up and back down. They’re really tasty – I like the orange ones myself as I think they have a smoother, almost citrus’y flavor. Michael is fond of the blood-red ones which are rare to find.

Freshly picked salmonberries

We went picking on a day it was nice & sunny and a little warm! Of course we were listening hard to make sure we didn’t startle some bears too. No problem though. We brought all of our goodies back and I started making the jam from a recipe I found on the package of pectin. It calls for 5 cups of juice so the first thing I had to do was smash all of the berries. I bought a potato smasher and found that worked pretty well, then I would pour everything into a strainer that I found in the store that is special for straining the seeds for jelly. It’s kind of like a thick and stretchy cheesecloth and it works well.

Smashing the salmonberries for jam

I debated making jelly vs jam and decided to make a combination – I only used a little over one cup of seeds and the rest just juice so it wouldn’t be too seedy. Then it was time to make the jelly! Here’s the recipe I used:

Salmonberry Jam

5 cups Salmonberries. (I used 4 cups of juice and one cup of whole smashed salmonberries so as not to have a tremendous amount of seeds)
5 cups sugar
1 box pectin

Smash the salmonberries with a potato masher and strain juice. Use 1-2 cups of whole, smashed salmonberries if preferred. Put salmonberry mixture in a large pan and stir in the box of pectin. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring often, that does not stop when you stir it. Add the sugar, mixing it into the salmonberry mixture, and bring the mixture to another rolling boil that does not stop. Once it is boiling, cook for 1 minute, stirring often. Pour the mixture into jar. Place the jars a large stock pot, off of the bottom, and cover the jars with 1-2” of boiling water. Bring the pot to a mellow boil and boil for 10 minutes. Remove the jars and let sit for 2 days. Enjoy!

It worked! I have salmonberry jam to share now. Want to try some? Shoot me an e-mail and I’ll get one out to you! My next attempt is at Elderberry jam. I’ve searched and searched for recipes to use and have a couple different ones to try. Elderberry is poisonous if you don’t cook it right so I have to be careful! :-) After that, the blueberry will be ready, the huckleberry, and the thimbleberry! Woohoo! I can’t wait to try them all out.

We’ve been blessed with some fabulous people on our tours. Michael has had an acting coach who works with Cameron Diaz & other actors, a famous Mexican singer, Electrical contractors, Mom & 17yr old son, newly engaged folks from Florida and I’ve had some interesting folks as well – folks on a Christian cruise, 5 widower ladies from PA, Scotland, Spain, New York, even Kansas whew!! I’m constantly amazed at how nice everyone is. Today, Michael’s tour brought him a whole bag full of fruits because they somehow learned how expensive fruits & veggies are. How nice?! I have had offers to send me ‘care packages’ with goodies that we can’t find here, have met some amazing people who are e-mailing me photos and sending me DVD’s of their trip, folks treating me to lunch, etc. How lucky we are to be in such a wonderful place and get to meet such wonderful people. And get PAID! :-)

We’ve had some excitement too. We had the day last Tuesday off and were looking forward to sleeping in. You see, our tours usually start around 8am, some earlier. So for an 8am tour, we have to be on the docks waiting at 7:30. But we have to go to the barn 30 minutes before that as we have to get our picnic ‘baskets’ ready which have crackers, cheese, grapes, smoked salmon dip and refreshments of their choice ready and get our Hummers all ready to go. That means we have to leave the boat around 6:45, and we both have to get ready….in a boat….with one shower….one small mirror…. You get the picture. It’s early mornings. So to get back to the story, we were looking forward to sleeping in on our day off. We have two open slips next to us where transient boats dock, usually for a day or two, while they’re in port. We’ve met some incredibly nice people who have been there for a day or two. So we’re sleeping in when we hear the boat engines next door fire up. No problem, we hear boats coming & going every morning. This one revs his engines and we hear movement. Then we hear a lady screaming “no, No, NO, REVERSE! RAYMOND REVERSE!!” and a second later CRASH!!! Oh no. Right at the front of the boat, right where we’re sleeping. The lady was screaming and the man was screaming right back at her. Michael and I race out to find a fishing boat all tangled up on the anchor on our boat. Michael was so incredibly kind, telling the man calmly to reverse, reverse, reverse, wait, wait, let me get it untangled, OK, I’ll push you out into the channel, keep going in reverse. OK, you’re clear. The man leans out and says “SOR-RY” which is still hilarious. Grumble…. We went back inside and looked at the clock….5:45. Aw, Man! So much for sleeping in. No major damage either, just some scratches and chips, nothing a little sanding won’t fix. Our neighbor figures the man work up one morning and said "I wanna be a fishing boat captain!". haha!!!

Then just a couple days ago, I was upstairs at the Hummer shop making the baskets. We have to boil water & make coffee for the clients and I had them both going as I was inside the refrigerator grabbing sodas. I heard a noise and turned around and FIRE! The burner under the kettle on the stove was on fire. Seems there was some grease or something under the burner. So all of my training kicked in. OK, it’s a grease fire, don’t put water on it. You must smother it. What can I throw on it?! Finally I found a towel and threw it on it. Of course it smoked up and set the fire alarm off. The owner was downstairs and I yelled “I have a fire up here!” but he thought I said “Fire drill” as a joke so he went over and was trying to shut the alarm off. Meanwhile upstairs I pulled off the towel and poof, it started back up again. I searched around for a fire extinguisher but couldn’t locate one so I placed the towel over it again and was working at looking for another towel so I could wet it. After a few more seconds I pulled the towel back off and the fire was out, whew. My adrenaline was really high and I was still freaking out a bit. The owner started upstairs and asked me if there was any smoke up there as he couldn’t get the alarm to go off! I answered, Yep! I had a fire but got it put out. He laughed when he realized there really WAS a fire but then felt horrible as he didn’t help me! He opened up some windows to get the smoke out and then got a call from the alarm company – they had dispatched the fire department because of the alarm. Meanwhile, at the Ketchikan Visitor’s Bureau, our manager, Tina, called John asking if the building was on fire as she had a volunteer fire fighter in the building who heard the call on the radio! Boy, word sure does travel fast in a small town! The fire department got there and thankfully, John spoke to them as I was still trying to get ready for a Hummer tour! It was crazy. Just a little excitement to our day! Haha… Oh, and that fire extinguisher I couldn’t locate? Mounted at eye level just beside the door. Yep! I don’t know how on earth I missed it!

We’ve been seeing more bears, almost daily, as well as eagles & salmon swimming upstream to spawn.

See the bear?

The eagles up in the trees

It’s really quite a spectacular place. There was about 9 days of sunshine last week which was incredibly nice & warm and this week it has been cooler & raining for about 5 days. But next week is supposed to be sunny again. I can handle this weather!

I have been helping out in the office at work, trying my best to help out whenever possible. Michael has been working ‘sales’ on the dock, standing in booths getting folks to purchase tickets to the ‘Ducks’. He has an uncanny natural ability to get sales, earning the reputation of a ‘hell of a salesman’. Ice to Eskimos I’ve always said!

We take any days (non-rainy of course) and explore the nature trails around town. We found a wonderful hike up to Carlanna Lake the other day which is a nice butt-busting hike for about 10 minutes that opens up onto a spectacular lake with a trail that meandors around it.

Carlanna lake in Ketchikan

The trail takes you right up into the rainforest, with trees, shrubs, berries, ferns, mosses & lichens, wildlife, & insects all around.

The hiking path at Carlanna lake in Ketchikan

With such a small island, there sure is a lot of hiking opportunities here. It doesn't take long to get 'off the beaten path' and out into nature. I've uploaded a bunch more photos and my mom loaned me her super nice camera so I should be able to get much better photos now too. How nice of my folks - I called and told them how amazingly beautiful it is up here and my photos just don't do it justice and asked if they had an older camera kicking around that I could borrow and they DID! Woohoo! I am so spoiled... :-) I love you Mom & Dad! So as soon as we get a day off of work (haha!) we're going to work on those photos...

So what else? We haven’t made it fishing yet but we should find a nice day next week for that. I guess that’s it for right now….I will certainly have more later!

More to follow…


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