Monday, August 24, 2015

Manic Monday #12 - Building of home and friendships

I have to tell you that I have been so blessed this summer it completely boggles my mind.  God has taken a time that very easily could've been a stress-filled three months and turned it into a day after day showing of His love, provision and Christian family.  Alaska is called the Last Frontier, and constantly this summer I've been pondering the early frontiersmen and how we relate.  I knew that building a house from tree up would be a reflection of how things used to be done.  Its been exciting to see trees from our property turned into 2x4s for trusses.  We have definitely had a lot of lessons in hard work.

However, the aspect of building that caught me off guard and has dropped me to my knees in praise and thanksgiving is the people who've come to help, who without we would not be having a house anywhere near ready for winter!  This, by no means, is a conclusive list of everyone, but just a taste of the sweetness that is the family of God.

Crane family sawing logs
Crane's moving a log with sheer muscle (or wench)
Spray foam, spray foam and more spray foam
There is a family called the Crane's.  They belong to the Paul & Nancy Kelley Clan and are related to the family that we housesitted for.  In the almost four years we have lived in Tok we have heard great stories of but had never met the elusive and greatly loved Crane's.  Well, they were up here for one of their many kid's wedding for a week or so.  On the Monday they were here, all the Crane men came over to help build.  They cut logs.  They stacked logs.  They spray foamed.  It started raining, and they just came into our storage tent to chat and wait it out.  Once the rain passed, they were back at it.   In one day, the many hands were able to finish stacking all the remaining logs but one (they ran out of spray foam.)  This full day of hard labor all from people we'd never met!
Gary helping set the steel beam.

Oh how we are missing this guy!
Then there is Mr. Gary Miller.  Gary and Cindy have been coming up here from Michigan for I don't know how many years to help out with our church's summer camp Shen.  They use the bulk of their summer vacation from teaching doing ministry to the kids of this area.  After the grueling weeks of camp were done and the weeks planning and executing VBS were in motion, Gary would come over, almost every evening to help.  He didn't care if he was cleaning up wood scraps or placing heavy steel beams.  It didn't matter that his psoriatic arthritis had his joints so swollen and sore it made me hurt!  He came every chance he could and did whatever was asked or he saw needed done.  I can't wait for this couple to be here full-time and help them with their cabin!
Michael and Treston helping with trusses.
Taking a much needed s'more break.

Our good friends over at took a long weekend and came to help.  The men helped Stretch build trusses.  The young ladies wouldn't let me do any dishes.  The kids ran wild all weekend.  Jeannie and I got so much time to talk, nursing and cuddling our babies.  God's timing for their visit was perfect.  I needed that shot of fellowship much more than I realized.  We came out of the weekend rejuvenated and optimistic about the progress of the cabin.  Not to mention that over half of the trusses got built!

The incredible Paul has somehow evaded my picture taking!  Must remedy that!
Finally, but definitely not the end of the list of amazing people who've come to help, there is Paul Milnowski, Jr.  This man is a machine.  He was raised here in good ole Tok (well, actually 30 miles outside of Tok).  He now spends his winters outside and summers up here working wherever he can.  One Sunday at the beginning of the summer, he asked Stretch if he could come by and help.  Now, again, we knew Paul, but we didn't KNOW Paul.  We talked here and there after church when he was in town, but had never really spent time getting to know him.  Well, when he said "come by and help", what he meant to say was "spend almost all of my evenings and weekends working like a maniac after I put in a 40-hour week at the airport!"  He's here so much that seeing his little phone booth Honda car (seriously have no idea how that little thing gets him up here every summer) is no longer a surprise.  I'm telling you, every time I think of this amazing man, I'm brought to tears by his incredibly amazing generosity.  When we started building, we had a game plan to get things done.  Well...I'm reminded of Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand."  I'm pretty sure God was just smiling down at us as we got ready for the summer thinking, "Just you may have your thoughts and plans, but I'm sending you something even better!"  Because that is what Paul has been, something even better than we could've ever imagined or hoped for.  There is absolutely no way that we would even be close to finishing without Paul's never-ending help.  It has truly, truly been a blessing and joy getting to know him over the summer.

This summer, I think, the glimpse into frontier living I'm most loving is that sense of pitching in and helping.  When you are away from family, your friends become your family.  You share your struggles and triumphs.  You build homes and families together.  I am so incredibly thankful for all of my "family" that has come by to pitch in.

Until next time, have a manic one!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tasty Tuesday #1- Gluten-free, Egg-free Peanut Butter Cake

So our usual manicness was quadrupled over the last week or so, and since I'm not organized enough to have my posts written beforehand, Manic Monday has come and gone....twice. In order to apologize for this unfortunate lapse, I'm introducing Tasty Tuesday (eeer....Wednesday, sorry got back from Fairbanks late), the occasional treat.
Yummy, even on a not-so-elegant papertowel!

One of my absolute favorite things in the world is peanut butter. I eat it almost everyday, usually in a bowl with banana and a little handful of chocolate chips. One day I was really wanting peanut butter cake with chocolate frosting and searching online resulted in nothing I could use (gluten-free and egg-free). So the experiment began. The result was a fantastically delicious and fluffy peanutty cake that I dream about. I made two...sending one on the mail plane to Chicken, Alaska for a birthday surprise and keeping the other for me, I mean us. It is so good I couldn't resist having a piece in the early morning light with my coffee and Bible devotion. 

A few things I've learned about gluten and egg free baking: 1. You need a bit more fat than normal baking. B. Nicole over at has great DIY flour blends. I almost always us her Better Than Cup4Cup blend for baking. 3. Going by weight rather than measuring cups  is almost a must. The few times I've just used a measuring cup to save time resulted in good but not excellent baked goods. It's worth it to me to spend the $15 for a digital food scale to have excellent desserts. Now to the recipe:

Gluten-free, Egg-free Peanut Butter Cake

315 grams gluten-free flour blend (I used Nicole's Better Than Cup4Cup blend here)
1 T. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 + 1/8 cup butter (should've weighed but didn't, now it's 6 in the morning and I"m not up for math!)
265 grams sugar
2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds in 6 tablespoons water (let sit until gelatinous
247 grams milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, blend flour, powder and salt.  In another bowl, cream peanut butter, butter and sugar together.  Add flaxseeds and mix well. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk until blended.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick test is passed.

I frosted this cake with the recipe from the side of the Hershey's cocoa powder canister.  It's become one of my favorites!

Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine-softened
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Hershey says to melt the butter...I don't do that.  I cream the butter, cocoa, and powdered sugar together.  Then add the milk and vanilla.  

 Enjoy for a birthday party or breakfast!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Manic Monday #11 - Sawing Logs

Guess how I got to spend Sunday afternoon?  Sawing logs!!  No, not taking a nap, though that would’ve been nice as well.  I finally got my turn at the sawmill!!  Yippee!!  Hooray!!  I’ve been watching everyone else get a turn, but have been relegated to watching the baby (note to anyone wanting to build a house…a 9-month-old greatly inhibits your ability to participate!)  Maddox was sleeping in the car, the other kiddos were jumping on the trampoline, and I seized the opportunity to finally saw some logs.

Stretch has gotten lots of turns.

So I helped muscle the first log onto the Wood-Mizer, and Stretch gave me the lowdown.  He told me about the air-assisted thing-a-ma-gig that supposedly makes it easy to raise the saw up and down.  Then there is the locking mechanism that prevents the blade from rising or falling once the air-assisted thing-a-ma-gig is in place.  The choke and kill switch are right close together.  The blade engine turn on handle has to be in the correct location.  Then there’s the throttle… this point my eyes started glazing over and head was nodding involuntarily all the while my brain was hoping he wasn’t going to be going too far off from the mill site.

Tucker sawed some logs.
With the tutorial done and forgotten, I hopped up onto the trailer deck and pushed the saw through for my first cut.  Two things surprised me with that first cut: 1. How smooth and easy a thin piece of metal can cut through a huge tough tree.  I literally thought, ”Man, it’s like cutting through butter!”. 2.  How much I enjoyed the sheer power of cutting through a huge tree as if it were nothing!  This could get addicting!  I can completely understand why people like big tools.
Even little Titus cut it up!
So I sawed and helped load the trees on the mill (though in reality Stretch did most of the loading.  You’d think that lugging around a 20+ pound baby everywhere would make my arms strong….wrong!)   I made 2 by something-or-others for the trestles and 7 inch logs for the house.  The baby woke up, but I wasn’t finished.  I threw him onto the trampoline with the others and made them babysit.  It lasted a good hour, and I was just finishing the biggest tree we had ever milled, a huge monster that we got two house logs from, when the kids lost their patience with mom’s lumberjacking.
Finally!!!!!  That's the big monster of a log.
I had so much fun and learned a new skill in the process.  And you know what?  God even whispered a little something in my heart to me.  Seeing the process up close and personal gave me the impression of how alike we are to the logs.  The bark and the roundness are all things that the Holy Spirit prompts us to cut from our lives, whether it’s sin, a job, a person, a place, good, or bad.  Some cuts will be messy with bark flying everywhere and pieces of worthless junk left over.  Other times the cutting will be cleaner, with something of use leftover like a 2 by 4 or a lesson to pass on or a skill needed for the future.  Amazing what God can build in our lives if we just let Him get behind that Spirit-assisted thing-a-ma-gig and cut away!  

Until next time, have a manic one!