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Citizen Voices

Skating at Portage (Photo by Neil O'Donnell)

’Tis the Season to Discover the Unobtrusive Aesthetician

I just began the somewhat daunting task of writing a dissertation on the art of Winston Churchill. However for my townsquare49.org columns I get to be less academic when writing about international art exhibitions and master artists. For variety, I decided to seek out quiet artisans in my neighborhood; amongst all of us lurks what I refer to as the Unobtrusive Aesthetician. As art critic Jerry Saltz says, “In the end it all comes down to… a life lived in art.”

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December 1, 2014

Twenty Weeks Through The Heart Of Alaska

It is a very remarkable fact that a region under a civilized government for more than a century should remain so completely unknown as the vast territory drained by the Copper, Tanana and Koyukuk Rivers.

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December 1, 2014

Zig-Zag Chevron Hat — A Free Knitting Pattern

Today I decided to try fair isle again by designing something simple — zig zags. I’ve included the chart and the row-by-row instructions. I recommend knitting the patterned portion in a place with little distraction and possibly without other people. I end up counting out loud “knit one, knit two, knit three, knit two,” etc. so I don’t get lost in the pattern. It’s not difficult, but requires a fair amount of focus.

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November 26, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Capers, Walnuts, and Anchovies

The Best.  It’s a bold statement, right?  To say something is the BEST you’ve ever tasted.  People throw the phrase around too loosely and apply it to things that simply don’t deserve such high praise.  “This is the best corn dog I have EVER tasted!” “Have you tried this burger! Best burger ever!” “OMG, this cheese may be the BEST CHEESE EVER.”  And we all know that the chances of that corn dog, burger, or piece of cheese being the BEST EVER are pretty slim.

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November 25, 2014
The Idle Hour Country Club

The Idle Hour Country Club

idle-hour

It’s been years since I was at The Idle Hour, an upscale supper club that began life in 1938 with white tablecloths and floor to ceiling windows that overlooked spectacular sunsets and the silvery Lake Spenard. In that romantic setting, I had an almost proposal over lobster and prime rib that left me with fond, if embarrassed, memories.

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November 6, 2014
Richard Estes, Central Savings (1975)

Art is Comfort Food in the Age of Ebola

Richard Estes, Central Savings (1975)

It was time to hug our East Coast kids and see some fall art. Husband Dave and I flew to DC for a weekend of soccer starring our grands, Tess (8) and Kai (6). Late October in Alaska is not conducive to outdoor activities but soccer fields adjacent to George Washington’s Potomac home were still verdant with parents decked out in polar fleece cheered for their toddling players who often put the ball into the wrong goal—to grandparents it’s all love.

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November 3, 2014
Old-Fashioned Navy Bean & Ham Soup

Old-Fashioned Navy Bean & Ham Soup

bean-and-ham-1

Fall in Alaska is that glorious 3 days of the year where the leaves turn beautiful shades of yellow and orange, there’s a distinct smell of sour cranberries and wood smoke lingering in the air, and the Chugach mountains look like they’re on fire with all the brilliant red of the dwarf birch and blueberry bushes.

October 20, 2014

Instead of Golfing, Vacation with the Environment

Recently I met up with Jay Sargent, a former high school classmate, and discovered that not only does she still love horses, she now loves dolphins – enough to go on vacation with them.

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October 1, 2014

Why Was Interior Alaska Green During The Last Ice Age?

Foraker-and-Denali-web

During our planet’s most recent cold period, a slab of ice smothered Manhattan. Canada looked like Antarctica but with no protruding mountains. When the last glacial maximum peaked about 20,000 years ago, most of the continent — from the Arctic Ocean to the Missouri River — slept under a blanket of white.

September 29, 2014

Counting Salmon for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game

Nuyakuk Cabin, 1962. © Jean McLane

It was June, 1962, and I was in Anchorage, living temporarily at Terry D’s, waiting for July. Then I would fly to Dillingham to begin a temporary summer life as a salmon counter for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

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September 9, 2014
Bounty, Pilfered, by Pam Longobardi.

Taking Granddaughter, Averyl, to the Anchorage Museum was beyond Priceless

Bounty, Pilfered, by Pam Longobardi.

My daughter Jenn’s 20th wedding anniversary coincided with Labor Day. So my husband, Dave, and I adopted Averyl for the weekend which included an afternoon at the Anchorage Museum. The three of us headed for the exhibition Gyre–The Plastic Ocean.

September 3, 2014
Forager’s Delight: Blueberry Cornmeal Skillet Cake

Forager’s Delight: Blueberry Cornmeal Skillet Cake

wild-alaska-blueberry-cornm

I have a massive issue when it comes to foraging. Some would call it my gift. Others (like my berry-picking friends) would call it my curse. You see, deep in the incomprehensible double-helix thingy of my DNA structure, I have an unmistakable gene for hunting and gathering. I love it.

August 28, 2014
Friendly’s Fried Clams Go Down Nicely With Art

Friendly’s Fried Clams Go Down Nicely With Art

jean-august-1

As Jerry Seinfeld says, buying fruit is a gamble—so are some art trips. In mid-July I headed to Providence, Rhode Island to take my art-philosophy Ph.D. orals. My husband, Dave, came along so he could eat tons of lobster and give me hugs. Happily, I passed – though going before academics is scary, even if you’ve studied hours and hours. Stay tuned as it’s going to be fun to report on my project: The Art of Winston Churchill.

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August 15, 2014

Lesser Sandhill Cranes: Feeding the Colt

Feeding a colt (that’s a baby crane) is a full time job. These Lesser Sandhill Cranes are finding leeches, worms, snails, fish, and other invertebrates in the mud.

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July 16, 2014

Three Great Summer Shows (Back East)

Alex Katz, Ada and Vincent in the Car (1972).

Alex Katz’s “Ada and Vincent in the Car”, portrays the stay-at-home mom driving her son–note the ubiquitous post-war American Chevy/Ford steering wheel.

Typical when routinely transporting teens, Ada and Vincent don’t converse.

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July 15, 2014

Herb-crusted Alaskan Salmon with Roasted Lemons

Heidi Drygas Herb Salmon8

Deciding what to make for Solstice dinner was easy.

During spring and early summer, us Alaskans engage in a traditional pastime known generally as “Cleaning Out the Freezer”.

See the recipe.

July 1, 2014

Alaska Guide to Boletus Mushrooms

Natasha Mushroom 1

I was raised an Anchorage forager. From fiddleheads to blueberries, some of my fondest childhood memories are of gathering food from local parks and forests and preparing our edible treasures to be enjoyed throughout the year.

One of my favorite foods to collect is boletus mushrooms — a.k.a. wild porcini. My mouth waters just at the thought of the dense, earthy fungi sizzling in a pan with butter and garlic.

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June 27, 2014

Working for the Gov.

William-Egan-Excerpt

In January of 1966, I returned to Anchorage after a semester of graduate school at Oklahoma State University.

According to OSU’s catalog, their department of Clothing, Textiles and Merchandising had courses in design, but when I arrived design had been eliminated.

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June 26, 2014

Sweet and Sustainable: Alaska Prawns and Shrimp

alaska-shrimp-scallops-excerpt

The windshield has a crack running through it, there’s a little rust and a dent or two on the body, and some of the paint is chipping off the hand-lettered sign affixed to the vehicle’s side, but we look for Patrick Johnson’s little black truck every summer when we’re cruising around Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.

If we don’t happen across his truck, we go find him at his Shrimp Guys Seafoods shop in Soldotna.

See the recipe.

June 19, 2014

New York in Late Spring, an Aesthetic Bonus

The High Line, Brooklyn.

It’s June and I’m studying for PhD art-philosophy orals coming up mid-July. I’ve told everyone in my life to scram/skedaddle until August.

I’m at my desk, five hours daily, yellow highlighter on textbooks, in front of my wide screen computer, pounding keys, and looking things up on Wikipedia.

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June 18, 2014