Daily Archives: February 12, 2014

Kefir? Not to fear — Workshop offers recipe for health

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A clump of kefir “grains” are strained from the yogurtlike, probiotic-filled product that results from allowing the kefir to ferment in milk, during a workshop Saturday in Kasilof. The finished product is consumed as a nutritional and holistic healing aid.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A clump of kefir “grains” are strained from the yogurtlike, probiotic-filled product that results from allowing the kefir to ferment in milk, during a workshop Saturday in Kasilof. The finished product is consumed as a nutritional and holistic healing aid.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

There are few things in life where hearing, “The slimier it is, the better,” can be equated to good food, but that was the case at a workshop in Kasilof over the weekend.

Pepper Pond, a naturalist, gave a presentation on making and using kefir, a fermented milk drink, to a group of health-minded attendees.

“It seems disgusting but it has innumerable health benefits,” she said, while rolling in her fingers a dime-sized piece of the white, spongy kefir “grain.”

Pond explained that while the kefir grains look like a tiny piece of gooey cauliflower, they are actually a symbiotic culture of yeasts and bacteria that grow rather quickly when a kefir grain is added to milk. It works in almost any kind of milk, from cow to goat, raw to pasteurized, whole to skim. Even almond and coconut milk will eventually ferment.

“As long as it has lactose in it. It breaks down the lactose as food,” Pond said, and it does so at an exponential rate.

“From this dime-sized piece I grew all this in 24 hours,” Pond said while straining a quart-sized jar of fermented milk to reveal a softball-sized clump of kefir grains. She had fermented it in the jar with a loose-fitting plastic lid by letting it sit for a day at room temperature out of direct light.

She passed out small chunks to the workshop participants to begin their own kefir colonies by adding milk to their own jars at home, then went on to explain the uses and benefits of the fermented milk product, which is the palatable part of the process.

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True color — Principal goes blue to support mission trip

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Mary Rowley, principal of Cook Inlet Academy, agreed to dye her hair blue as a fundraiser to support Ciara Gale, left, participating in a school mission trip this spring.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Mary Rowley, principal of Cook Inlet Academy, agreed to dye her hair blue as a fundraiser to support Ciara Gale, left, participating in a school mission trip this spring.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

In education, there are endless understated opportunities for teachers to show their true colors — volunteering at a school carnival, cheering at sports or academic events, maintaining patience despite a tiring day, offering a never-ending supply of encouragement and support.

Cook Inlet Academy Principal Mary Rowley was more demonstrative last week, wearing her heart for students not on her sleeve, but on her head, dyeing her hair blue to raise money for a student’s mission trip.

“It’s not a subtle blue. If you’re going to go blue, you might as well go blue,” said Rowley on Monday, nearing the end of five school days with her normally blonde hair dyed blue — bright, deep, serious blue.

The school is arranging a trip to Peru from March 20 through April 3, with 13 students from high school and junior high and seven adults, to volunteer at an orphanage and elementary school and share their commitment to God. Each person must raise $2,500 to go. Support from family and friends provides a large chunk of the funding, with the group also doing fundraisers, such as selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the community and holding a Peruvian dinner and auction fundraiser Jan. 31 at the school.

Ciara Gale, a sophomore, was short on funding and wanted to come up with something special to do for the auction. She and kindergarten teacher Ginni Delon, who is spearheading the mission trip, brainstormed some options.

“We were trying to think of items to be auctioned and we thought it would be funny to have a teacher do something crazy and raise money that way,” Delon said. “We came up with the idea of Mrs. Rowley dyeing her hair.”

“I’m like, ‘There’s no way Mrs. Rowley is going to agree to that,’” Gale said.

So they got even more creative.

“Mrs. Delon said, “‘Well, come up with ideas that are even more extreme and then she’ll have to agree to it.’ We came up with skydiving and taking a video of it and we came up with the highest bidder could choose what tattoo she would get and where it would be,” Gale said.

As it turns out, the extremes weren’t necessary. Rowley was an easy sell. For every $100 donated by the end of the auction, Rowley would spend a day with her hair dyed blue.

“Why wouldn’t I? You can’t take yourself too seriously, right? And here’s a chance for one of my students to go through a life-changing experience,” Rowley said. “We’ve seen so many kids, their lives really change as a result of these mission trips. … There’s nothing like it to grow their hearts and to get a good personal perspective on priorities in life and what’s important.”

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Filed under community, education, fundraiser, schools

Keys to sound success — Chopin strikes chord worldwide

Photos courtesy of Sitka Summer Music Festival. Above, Piers Lane, piano, and Paul Rosenthal, violin, below, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna.

Photos courtesy of Sitka Summer Music Festival. Above, Piers Lane, piano, and Paul Rosenthal, violin, below, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Christ Lutheran Church in Soldotna.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Reaching across language barriers can take years of classes and practice, hundreds of dollars for learn-quick software programs or the services of interpreters, however many are needed to access the languages to be reached.

Or you could just listen to the music of Frédéric Chopin.

“He does speak to everybody. I can go to any country in the world, really, and Chopin is the composer who will speak to the most people,” said pianist Piers Lane. “He knew how to write for the piano and to get the most beautiful sound out of the piano — the way he wrote, with the right hand having a singing melody and the left hand supporting it with harmony. He just knew better than anybody else really how to make the piano sing.”

Lane, originally of Australia but based now in London, is touring Alaska representing the Sitka Summer Music Festival, and will play in a Performing Arts Society-sponsored concert with violinist Paul Rosenthal in Soldotna on Monday evening.

rosenthalThe second half of the concert will feature Lane’s get-to-know Chopin presentation. Lane will speak a little about the Romantic-era Polish composer and the pieces being played but, really, the best way to hear about Chopin is to hear from Chopin, through his music. And his “Nocturnes” are a great way to do that. “Nocturnes are night pieces and Chopin’s are some of the greatest ever written,” Lane said. “And I think people love nocturnes. A lot of people remember their mother playing one of them when they were little, and that sort of thing. It’s music that appeals to everybody, and it’s very heartfelt music.”

Chopin was enamored by the nocturne, a single-movement piano piece with a melodic line in the right hand and broken chords supporting the melody in the left. The form was developed by Irish composer John Field but Chopin made it his own, composing 21 nocturnes that are still considered the signature representations of the form. Chopin composed his nocturnes throughout his career, the first when he was still a teenager, the last three years before his death in 1849, when he was just 39. As expressive as they are, the progression provides a sort of road map to the development of Chopin’s musical style.

“They tell the story of Chopin’s life in a way, because he wrote them from his early years right through until he died at the awful old age of 39,” Lane said. “I always say to the audience before the last two late ones, ‘Think back to the early E flat that everybody knows,’ and the change in language is extraordinary. When you think that he was only 39 when he died it really makes you wonder where he would have gone had he lived for another 39 years, because it is a big evolution.”

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Filed under music, Performing Arts Society

View from Out West: Shopping sticker shock

By Clark Fair, for the Redoubt Reporter

Big prices loom large in small towns

Like most people, I have done my share of complaining about high prices. In Fred Meyer and Safeway — when I was living on the Kenai Peninsula — I have gasped at the cost of a single avocado, a pound of Honeycrisp apples or a small tub of feta. I’ve shaken my head in dismay after glimpsing the price tag on a T-bone or a bag of shrimp. And at the gas pumps, I have shuddered as the per-gallon cost of unleaded fuel bumped back and forth across the four-dollar barrier.

Then in September I moved off the road system to join Yvonne in Dillingham — to Bristol Bay where nearly everything (including gasoline and heating fuel) arrives by barge or cargo plane, a place where the expense involved in such transportation of goods is directly reflected in most of the prices.

Before I arrived, Yvonne urged me to gird myself for a case of sticker shock, and I thought I had prepared myself for some disparities in the cost of living. But no amount of mental fortification could have equipped me for some of the dollars of which I was about to be divested.

Just having our belongings (including one small automobile) barged here cost more than $4,000.

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Filed under outdoors, View from Out West

Playing the game — Normalcy is for the dogs

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. Careful — don’t upset the sensitive setters.

Photo courtesy of Christine Cunningham. Careful — don’t upset the sensitive setters.

By Christine Cunningham, for the Redoubt Reporter

Normally, the weirdest thing Parker does is lick the walls. She’s an English setter so she’s very sensitive. If you tell her not to lick the walls she goes into a severe depression and doesn’t want to eat anymore.

I had gotten used to her eccentric, wall-licking complex. But a dog should only have one behavior that is odd or else the whole animal is odd. Parker crossed over the threshold recently and, since I can’t beat her, I joined her.

It started with her pacing the house and panting one night. Veterinary professionals had already determined that she was not pregnant, but she was producing milk and had gained a lot of weight. This might have been my fault because I had thought she was “eating for seven.” It was 2 a.m. and she kept crawling on my bed and sitting on my head. I said, “No sitting on Mom’s head,” but she wouldn’t listen. It turns out she was going into fake labor because she was fake pregnant.

Maybe we were too cooped up in the house due to weather. Maybe we weren’t getting exercised enough. Maybe we were predicting that a storm was coming. It was too late for me to really try to diagnose her latest weirdness, let alone my own, so I got online and, after a pot of coffee, became friends with a group of dog breeders who convinced me that not only was my dog faking a pregnancy, but that the best thing I could do was play along. When I went back to bed, Parker was curled up with all of her stuffed toys trying to nurse them. That’s normal, I thought.

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Stay centered on lens quality, price

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Although it’s often said that people tend to see life through the emotional equivalent of a distorted lens, there’s rarely a good reason to use a distorting lens in your photography.

To achieve crisp results with any camera requires good optics used to best advantage. In the field, only very few, costly lenses approach their theoretical maximum resolution. So we need to make the best use of what’s readily affordable and available.

This week, we’ll examine several rules of thumb for getting the most of any lens. These are not hard-and-fast rules to be observed under all circumstances, but rather a starting point for your own use and experience.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of lens designs currently on the new and used market. We’ll point you to some of the best professional websites that specialize in testing lenses.

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Filed under photography, Plugged in