Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Merry Craftmas

Last weekend, we had our annual Great Northern Arts Festival X'mas Craft Fair. I've been recovering from it ever since.
It's a huge event in this town and much of Inuvik files through the fair at some point during this weekend.
You can find everything from mammoth ivory carvings to sealskin mutluks to harpoons. There's also a smattering of commerical vendors like Avon and Pampered Chef. Amongst all the wares are also tables stacked to the ceiling with baking. I have begun the X'mas poundage gain thanks to a cinnamon bun (or 2) and an eskimo donut (or three) a day.

For many of the local artisans, it's their one chance to make some real money to see them through the holidays.  That said, they're not getting rich off of sealskin moccasins.  The amount of time and effort put into each of these items is astronomical. Cost of materials is constantly going up. Seal pelts are now going for over $200 a pelt. Moosehide is going for $1000 to $1500. Duffle (the woolen material used to line mutluks) is around $50 a metre.   For many in the communities, it's how they get by and manage to put food on the table, roof over their family's heads and pay the bills. Often, it's their sole source of income.

It kills me to watch potential buyers, usually ex-pats and visitors, haggling to knock $25 bucks off a pair of moccasins. So buddy wants a piece of the north but isn't willing to pay for what it's really worth. The $25 that a potential buyer is trying to knock off the price is a  bulk of the profit for that artisan. Any yet they wouldn't think of walking into department store and say, "Nice pair of jeans. I don't want to pay $100 for it. I'll give you $75."

grrrrr...Walmart...RANT RANT RANT...slave labour...RANT RANT... First World sense of entitlement....RANT RANT RANT...handmade does not mean cheap....RANT RANT RANT...devaluation of traditional arts...RANT RANT RANT...PHTTTTTTBBBBB

The term craft in this case does not refer to a decorative doodad that is slapped together with a glue gun by your 6 year olds at summer camp. These craftswomen and craftsmen are skilled professionals that spend a lifetime mastering their vocation. Those that do it well produce items that are not only beautiful but also functional, even life-saving. There's no room for sloppy workmanship when you're making mutluks that face arctic conditions and prolonged use. Mediocre work leads to frostbite in this case.

sample of furry fabulousness

Some of the talented mavens
 I tip my mukrat hat to these folks who keep the traditional crafts alive and are always happy to share, even with ex-pat brats like me.
I had a table to sell my handspun and hand-dyed yarns. My house has been a a cross between a kaleidoscope and a bowl of spaghetti these past few months.
'drying rack'


yarnity yarn yarn yarn

my yarnalicous table
It was a non-stop weekend from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. I even made the local paper!

I live in a town where Red Heart is the status quo. Most folks around here have never heard of Malabrigio or Noro. One of my main goals for having a table is simply to offer a yarn to fiber-crafters that doesn`t squeak or feel like it`s made from recycled grocery bags. There were enough knitters and crocheters who appreciated a one-of-a-kind skein of yarn that I did brisk business through the weekend and made enough to significantly offset the costs of one of these bad boys:
Hubba hubba..drool...
This was my other main goal. I`ve been needing a new stove for awhile. The one I have now is over 20 years old and is hobbling on it`s last legs. What`s even more awesome was that I found it on sale. It`s making it`s way up here as I type!

Up here, we`re down to our last few days before we say good-bye to the sun. Bring on the Vitamin D.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Carcass Soup

(Warning: This post contains harvesting images that may be disturbing to some. If you are squeamish and don’t like seeing fluffy animals  all covered in blood as a result of a well placed headshot, you’d better move onto this entry where there are some photos of some very cute puppies.  But heck if you’re going to eat meat, you might as well face it sooner or later that a living creature had to die because you wanted to have a hamburger. At least the creatures in these photos had a life frolicking about the land, free from factory farms and didn’t have a clue what corn-based food pellets tastes like. Anyways, 'salad' is just a nice way of saying ‘vegetable massacre’.)

There are still plenty of  critters are still out there, however the odd storm event mades it tricky to catch anything but frostbite.  Kevin caught some really swell photos along with dinner.

wolf paws compared to husband`s gorilla paw
There were a number of wolves and other big fluffies other there this week. Kevin even saw woodland caribou and a moose cow with two newbies.

I don’t know who’s going to break it to the children of Inuvik but next year’s Easter Egg Hunt may have to be cancelled due to the lack of Easter Egg delivery bunnies thanks to dear, dashingly handsome, darling husband. Apparently he has a vendetta against the bunny tribe.

Most of these went to his grandmother who is actively encouraging this vendetta. 

It was a crazy whirlwind long weekend for me (as if there is such a thing as a calm, quiet long weekend around here :P )

I made ‘Carcass Soup’ to sustain us through this chilly weekend. (Recipe below.) Carcass Soup is my response to folks that tell me that the only parts worth eating on a upland bird is the breast meat and that there`s not enough meat on the rest of the bird to be worth the effort.
Seven Hells! If you`re gonna snuff out a creature`s light with you`re own two hands, you do it the courtesy of using as much of the creature as possible. I have an army of elders to back me up on this one.
I will admit, it`s a pain to be dealing with the tiny slivers of tendons that are found in the drumstick but there are ways around it .Carcass Soup is one easy way of seperating the meat from the bones for small birds.  The basic premise is to simmer it until the meat falls off the bones.  The tendons just slip right out.
Check out this video showing a slick trick for removing tendons from game birds.

A good chunk of this weekend was spent getting ready for the Great Northern Arts Festival Christmas Craft Fair (November 25-27th at MSRC). Yes, it`s that time already. I`ve rented a table to sell my handspun and hand-dyed yarns. My house looks like a muppet slaughterhouse with a gzillion skeins of newly dyed yarn hanging all over the place to dry.

The rest of my weekend was spent playing outside. Whee! My friends and I, with a pack of dogs in tow, went for a ski along the East Channel just outside of town.  There was just enough snow on the river to make for good skiing. There weren`t many skidoo trails and so there was a quite a bit of trailbreaking involved. The fun ended when I broke a ski in an attempt to  gain higher ground which sucks musk ox balls.  I hobbled back with my transverse fractured ski and a long face. However, it`s next to impossible to be too sad for long when you have these two running around you:

Afterwards, my friends and I had a big doggie biscuit baking afternoon. We had volunteered to bake dog cookies for the SPCA`s craft fair table. We made liver biscotti, peanut butter cookies, oatmeal and molasses treats and cheesy biscuits. Conservatively, I think we made over 1000 cookies.

The doggie biscuit baking crew

This week started off with a sharp cold slap to the face.  It was around -30C this morning when I trudged off to work. I walked home for lunch and arrived looking like this from my 15 minute walk from the office:
armed with beaver mitts

Frost tipped eyelashes! No winter outfit is complete without this icy bling.
Have a great week!

Carcass Soup

3-4 ptarmigan or grouse skinned carcasses (basically everything but the breasts)
water, stock, wine
couple bunchs of spinach, kale or chard (shredded) or 1 box of frozen spinach (thawed)
1 can of white kidney beans or whatever bean you feel like

  • Dump the birds into a crockpot. Top with water or stock or wine or any combination of the three.
  • Cook on low for 7-8 hours or until the meat begins to fall off the bone.
  • Remove the bird from the broth and set aside to cool.
  • Dump in the other ingredients.
  • Shred the meat off the bones. Careful to slip all the tendons out of the drumstick meat. You should get about 2 cups or more of meat.
  • Return meat to the soup. Let simmer for another 20 minutes.
  • Serve.
This is a basic broth. You can add all the culinary bells and whistles. I added some red chili flakes and a couple shots of soy sauce. I wanted to taste the bird and the greens.  The beans provided some earthiness to the soup. Simple and tasty!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

You are getting sleepy.....

The time got bumped back an hour and everybody around here is feeling sluggish. It's partly due to the fact that the sun isn't popping up until nearly 11am and then says goodnight at 4:30 pm.  All day long we're doing this:

Even darling, dashingly handsome, dear husband is getting in on it:

Until we can't fight it anymore and we're:


Cat naps are nice but puppy naps are awesome.

Are you yawning yet???

Happy napping.

Monday, November 7, 2011


I’ve been on a book binge lately. Like for the last 30-some-odd years J
Growing up, I was the kid at the dinner table with my nose in a book. I don’t know why my mother put up with this.  

I mastered the art of holding a copy of “The Hobbit” in one hand and navigating blinding with my chopsticking hand across the dinner table by instinct for another tasty morsel to add to my rice bowl. It wasn’t very difficult.  The dishes were always in the same place. There was always a dish of steamed fish at 15 degrees right of me. A bowl of lightly boiled greens in oyster sauce was 40 degrees to my left and right in front of me would be a dish of stir-fried beef or chicken.  Sometimes it would be steamed egg. Oh, I loved steamed egg with canned salmon with a drizzle of soy sauce. Simple, good one-hand food.

I still enjoy eating and reading when I’m dining alone. There’s something almost indulgent about it. On my kitchen table is a copy of Hank Shaw’s Hunt, Gather, Cook : Finding the Forgotten Feast”.
 It’s a wonderful book on his experiences with hunting, gathering, fishing and foraging for wild food. Beyond tracking down dinner, it provides a good starting place on how to process and prepare wild foods beyond the typical ‘boil it or roast it’ fare. It’s a great book to pick through when I have solo meals or early Sunday morning before the rest of the world wakes up and I’m working on my second cup of coffee.

That’s probably one of the few books I’ve bought in hard copy this last year. Everything else has been  bought for my eReader.  I love my eReader.  I can walk around with a thousand books in my bag and I won’t get a sore back.  I can read in bed and when I finish a book, I don’t have to get up to get another one. Thanks to my eReader, I have more space for yarn and wool J
I resisted at first but moving to a small town with an even smaller bookstore that stocks more for tourists than for locals, I’ve come to fully embrace my eReader.

Here’s a quick list of what I’ve read in the last couple of weeks along with my frosty 2 cents:
Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

“ The circus arrives without warning.”

How could one resist such an opening line???

It reminded me a little of Katherine Dunn’s “Geek Love” which is one of my all-time favourite circus stories. It’s whimsical and full of magic, literally and figuratively.

Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch

Charles Dickens and Herman Melville had a love child who was possessed by Joseph Conrads “Heart of Darkness” .  This book is the result of the exorcism.

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

Much comparison has been made between this book and Jeffrey Eugenides's ‘Middlesex’. IMHO, other than the exploration of gender, there is little comparison. Eugenide’s novel is a thick and rich allegorical epic that reaches across the Atlantic and back through the generations of a family. ‘Annabel’ is a stark, lonely tale of a contradicted body.

The Sister Brothers by Patrick deWitt

A  really fun, slippery, sly western about brothers who are hired killers. It also has one of the best covers in a long time.  Go read it NOW.

I’ve just downloaded Haruki Murakami's “IQ84”, his homage to Orwell’s “1984”.

 I’ve been waiting 2 years for this to be translated. I’m so excited I’m vibrating. I can't wait for the day to be done so I can crawl into bed and start reading this.

It’s nearly 1000 pages longs which is kinda scary but really awesome.
Have a great week! 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

6 grouse, 5 shots

My darling, dashingly handsome, dear husband took down 6 grouse with 5 shots. Chalk it up to quirky hunting mathematics.  Of course, only 2 grouse end up in my stew pot and the other 4 are being enjoyed by his grandma and other relatives. Not only is he a great shot, he's a generous hunter. Which according to elders, is the only sort of hunter one should be.

We dined on one of the grouse last night. I just seared the breasts and roasted the rest. It was crispy skin heaven :)

The second one is marinating in balsamic vineger, mustard, olive oil and garlic, which is also my salad dressing recipe.  I love multi-tasking condiments.

Now that we're in freeze-up season up here and all of our supplies are having to be flown in, fresh lemons are a bit pricey so I'm experimenting with more vinegar-based marinades. 
 A marinade's job is two-fold. First it is to season your food. Secondly, it's to help break down the meat and tenderize it. Acidic ingredients like lemon or lime juice, wine and vinegar are good for this. There are also foods with natural enzymes that help break down muscle fibers. Theses include pineapple, papaya and kiwi fruit. 

There's even a website dedicated to marinades. How awesome is that?