Carrie Reads Torah to the Cats

Once upon a time, back when we lived in Barrow, Yiddie asked Carrie to read him some Torah.  So Carrie got out her little chumash and read him something.  Pretty soon, all of the cats had crawled over and climbed up.  They were all excellent listeners.  And for reasons unknown, Alain found this oh so very amusing.  We have both had this video on our computers for years and thought it is a shame we’ve never shared it.

Bonus points to anyone who can figure out what passage Carrie is reading.


Last May (2014) while we were just emerging from Barrow’s long winter, we decided on a whim (and assessment of AlaskaAir’s flight map) to plan a 4 day trip to Idaho.

Given that we were flying all the way from Barrow, Friday and Monday would be spent flying, leaving us only Saturday and Sunday for seeing and experiencing.  We planned our Saturday in Boise in tight detail, using the TripCase app to help us keep addresses, opening times, and reservations organized.  We visited a farmer’s market, the Basque museum (and went on a tour), a Basque grocery store, two restaurants, Trader Joe’s, Costco (to use a coupon that was going to expire), and Great Clips (where Alain got the best haircut of his life by a very tattooed dude).

Sunday, we went on a road trip.  Carrie recently lost our travel journal and wordpress opted to load the photos randomly, so here is a disorganized collection of the highlights from a day on the roads between Boise, Stanley, and Sun Valley.

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Life in Barrow

It occurred to the authors of this blog that the local surroundings have been neglected in its pages as of late.

On the way home from work today yesterday, Carrie was trying to save the $6 cab fare by walking straight into very strong winds across a lagoon.  Carrie was trying to be very tough (because Carrie is tough you know) and was trying to keep warm with her balaclava and snow suit (and bright orange reflector vest).  Carrie hadn’t gotten far across the lagoon when the moment the thought popped in her head “if someone offered me a ride right now, I would sure take it” exactly then, Carrie heard the familiar sound of a vehicle slowing down.

Sure enough, it was strangers in a shiny new truck offering a ride.

Carrie hopped in.

This is life in Barrow.

DSCN3925This is the view out our back door.  Not our other back door, which looks over the Arctic Ocean, but our interior back door, the one we use when we want the mud and snow from our boots to get tracked all over the hallways and not our living room.

This is a counter-top dishwasher.  You can buy them on amazon.  Why there has been a counter-top dishwasher sitting in the hallway outside our door for over a month is just a piece of information we haven’t been made privy to.

DSCN3927Speaking of hallway, this is what our hallway looks like.

DSCN3929Sometimes we feel like we live in a giant dorm.

Other times we feel like we live on another planet.

Carrie often imagines that this is what Antarctica looks like.

DSCN3953This is what passes for a garbage can in our apartment.

For years, Carrie has resisted the idea of buying garbage bags.  (Why buy something that you are going to throw away?)

DSCN3937This is Carrie’s current Shrine to Tiny Things.  Above are Carrie’s collection of condiments and spoons and forks.  Carrie is her mother’s daughter.

Orange cat says hello.

DSCN3941This is how many words we have not solved on our World’s Largest Crossword Puzzle.

DSCN3943This is our Tapas Fund.

Carrie has been using the phrase “Tapas Fund” for several months now, in a very abstract sense.  Carrie has been wanting to have mechanisms in place so that we don’t get too comfortable with the high income we temporarily are experiencing (while we live in a very high cost of living area).  Additionally, we are hoping to move to Spain and while there expect to be on a drastically reduced income.  “On a budget” as we like to say.  We talk about any ideas that help us be frugal and save money or be creative and bring in extra money as going to the “Tapas Fund.”

The Tapas Fund, until recently did not actually exist.

Now it exists, albeit with the money from Fairbanks-opoly.

Carrie was inspired to action by this lovely post by this lovely blogging family currently based in England.

We have not quite decided if we are going to convert the Fairbanks-opoly money to real money at the end (the end will be the day we leave Barrow) or not, and if we do, if we will use the money in a different fashion than we normally, carefully use our money.  Mostly at this point it is just exciting to the little kid inside Carrie to get to put in $6 for every time she walked to or from work instead of taking a cab. And she anticipates using it when traveling, especially through airports, because flying makes Carrie incredibly hungry and airports often convince her that she needs to purchase large amounts of airport food.

DSCN3946This is one of the many items we acquired for “free” from a used bookstore in Anchorage from which Carrie has the unfortunate misconception that even she can learn Spanish.

DSCN3947This is the magazine from New Zealand that just published one of Alain’s photographs.  They even paid him!  (In New Zealand dollars…)

This is also Alain’s to-do list.  You can see that every item is crossed out.  This is because Alain is a good boy.  He always does everything on his to-do list.

DSCN3950This is our calendar.  Yes, it is a cat calendar.  The cat is composed of cards; each side contains one month.  Each month has a unique cat!

DSCN3952At the time of photographing (yesterday) these bananas were the only fresh produce in our place.

At the time of writing (today) these bananas are all gone.  They were delicious.

DSCN3954You can sure tell what we’re interested in by looking at our fridge…

DSCN3958Meet Bibs.

Bibs is from Portland.

We bought Bibs from a lady at the Portland Saturday market.  The lady who rescued Bibs and turned Bibs into a Cat Bag was very glad that Bibs was going to a good home.

We treasure Bibs.

DSCN3959Bibs looks out.  Something white is out there.

Can she play with it?  Bibs runs out to see.

Is it good to eat?  Bibs wants to find out.  (No, it is not good to eat).

Now look!  Bibs looks funny.  The something white is on Bibs!

(Our own cats have become very familiar with the mysterious Something White.)

DSCN3963Here are the Cats’ baby pictures hanging on the wall.

Yes, Carrie still decorates with her signature blue tape.

DSCN3966This shot is a work of irony.  Bitty is giving his mommy a peanut butter cup.

This is a work of irony because Carrie has worked hard to break Alain of the habit of constantly desiring to give her food rewards.  (Eg, you had a hard day at work?  have a peanut butter cup!  You accomplished xyz? have a big peanut butter cup!)

DSCN3967Kitty’s adopted homeland.

DSCN3968These are some of Carrie’s bandages.  Some of them turned a little pink when they got washed with Carrie’s Evil Red Dress (that also turned Alain’s undershirts, socks, jeans, and best dress shirt pink).  We learned our lesson about Ross Dress for Less.

DSCN3969If Bitty’s photograph is a work of irony, this is a work of avant-garde art.

DSCN3973 DSCN3974 DSCN3975And these, yours truly, are the humans who help the cats write all these blog posts.

We are taking bets: how many more months do you think that the dishwasher will sit in the hallway of our apartment building? 

Afternoon Tea: Pantry Cooking Edition

Lots of bloggers seem to like to make up little “challenges” for themselves.  They try out a living experiment and then post the results.  These “challenges” range from the food-stamp challenges (eating on a food stamp budget for one week or one month) to the inane and insane (the lady who ate/drank on at Starbucks for one year).

The Cat Family, however, by dint of having previously made a series of life decisions, has quite a few blog-ready “challenges” already built into our lives.  Chief among them is wrangling our pantry.

When we moved to Barrow, we ordered a number of food items in which a very large quantity was a much better “deal” than a very small quantity.  We bought shelf-stable groceries in great quantities online for the first year, then significantly curtailed our shopping.  Beyond the one-year mark we bought up some manager’s special and warehouse deals finds on amazon, and increased our supply of some of our favorite foods, and then quite buying groceries, literally cold-turkey.We have passed through a transition period in which we continued to bring a limited amount of foodstuffs in our luggage on various flights out.

We previously participated in an organic vegetable-box program, with inconsistent results.  For a modest discount, we pre-paid for the services in multi-month segments.  We had learned that the number one rule was to never order spinach.  When the cargo planes were inevitably delayed, spinach was the first type of produce to rot.  And what happens when spinach goes south?  It turns to water.  We had learned that any box that contained spinach arrived half-rotten.  So we made sure to never order spinach.  But the company would sometimes substitute spinach for an item we did order.  Then it happened several times in a row that we got a box that was half-rotten all because the company had added spinach to our order.  So we used up our pre-paid credit, then quit getting veggie boxes, too.

We still visit the grocery store on occasion, scouring the place for half-price deals on anything nutritious.  We have a rule that if there is something half price that is nutritious and freezable, we buy all of it.  This has never failed us.  But almost all of our eating comes from our pantry.  We supplement with small amounts of yogurt, cottage cheese, salad mixes, and the odd fruit or vegetable when we are just going nuts without something fresh.

But we have a big mission to accomplish: to eat up our pantry.

Carrie made a list of the items to focus on:

Italian seasoning


Garlic powder

Chile flakes/dried jalapenos

Tapioca pearls



Sesame seeds

Corn starch

Chia seeds

Carob powder

Cocoa powder


Chickpea flour

Brown rice flour


Chestnut flour

Whole-wheat flour

Instant tea

Old-fashioned oats


Balsamic salad dressing

Soy sauce (dear future couch-surfers: please do not go to the store and buy a new bottle of soy sauce!  Please use the ones the previous couchsurfers bought!)

Powdered fruit/vegetables



Fake bacon bits




Dried veggies

Early grey tea

Mint tea

Spicy peanut butter

Dried beans



Freeze-dried fruit

Canned peppers

Sweet potato soup


Asian pears

Hot chocolate mix

Chai latte mix

Almond butter packets


Carrie’s cooking specialty is and has long been pantry-cooking. Pantry cooking is when you cook with only ingredients you have on hand.  Sometimes you choose a specific ingredient and build a dish or meal around it.  Sometimes you have a large idea or concept and use what you have to make it work.  Carrie may read many, many recipes, but Carrie almost never follows them.  Even with baking, Carrie interprets recipes as mere suggestions.  But at the pantry supplies get stranger and stranger as time goes on, it can be harder to feel inspired.

Carrie asked Alain for suggestions.

Alain suggested:


Indian food


Jewish food


Ethiopian food


Carrie said, “Great, thanks for the ideas” and started cooking.

An hour or two later, Carrie announced that it was time for four-course Afternoon Tea.

(Notice that Carrie did not cook any of the suggested items/cuisines.  Carrie just needed someone else’s ideas in order to prompt her to come up with her own).

DSCN3923Tea was to be served in four courses because we do not have one of those mult-tiered trays.

For tea, Carrie steeps one bag of Numi Breakfast Blend, one bag of Numi Cardamom Pu-ehr, and a spoonfull of ground vanilla.  Instead of champagne, we had sparkling mineral water.  We picked up this bottle in San Diego, where we had intended to drink it in our hostel room, but we fell asleep before drinking it every night.

DSCN3913For the first course, we combined leftovers from the previous night’s tapas dinner (green beans and asparagus) with shaved turkey jerky (made by running a vegetable peeler across a stick of turkey jerky, intended to mimic ham/charcuterie).  Alain announced that, surprisingly, this dish worked.

DSCN3915For the tiny sandwich course, we had:

Tropical Tuna Salad (with chopped macadamias, Asian pears, and wasabi-lilikoi sauce) topped with dried mango on homemade potato bread


Caper-Salmon salad (with garlic and pepper) on store-bought “cocktail” bread from the freezer, with some spreadable, shelf-stable “parmesan” cheese, topped with olives.

and the above tuna with parmesan, topped with baby corn.

Alain liked the tuna (suprisingly) and said that salmon was strange.  He noted that food that Carrie cooks is “often strange.”

DSCN3917For our fruit course, we had fig and fruit leather.

DSCN3919For our dessert course, we sampled a variety of tiny bits from our “treat” box.  Mostly Carrie was aiming for a variety of small shapes on the plate.

You will note the lack of a scone course.

Carrie is expert at making scones.  In the bread machine.

However, the paddle for the bread machine is missing.

So no scones for us.


Bitty was Broken

A faint voice was heard.

DSCN3591Bitty whimpered, “Mommy?  Daddy?”

DSCN3592“I’m broken.  Can you fix me?”

DSCN3596Kitty scampered over to investigate.

Kitty was very concerned about Bitty.

DSCN3595Kitty wanted to help fix Bitty.



But Bitty was broken.

Bitty was broken all over, which is why he was wrapped up in bandages.

Carrie and Alain put Bitty to bed.

There, there, Bitty.



(Don’t worry…Bitty was just pretending.)


Longest Post Ever

Now that Carrie is not longer in school (again) people have been telling her that she needs to get a hobby.  She is somewhat resistant to this idea, not wanting to get involved in much of anything when we plan to pick up and move again sooner or later.

Instead, Carrie registered on

Back in Carrie’s punk days, living in a house with 15 roommates in Brooklyn, there were always wanderers, travelers, hitchhikers, trainhoppers, and friends-of-friends coming in and out.  Back then, when Carrie heard about the couchsurfing website, her reaction was “why would you need a website for that?”  Carrie just assumed that you would find a friend-of-friend wherever you might want to go.

To illustrate this point, Carrie once spotted some hitchhikers in Gibsonia.  She turned around and went and picked them (and their smelly dog) up because she wanted to see if she knew them.  She didn’t, but they were quickly able to find friends in common.

But that was a long time ago.  Carrie stopped being a punk when she got sick, and never really returned.  Now we live in Barrow, and we have a spare bedroom and hardly any friends, so Carrie thought it could be fun to have visitors.  Our first guests came from Poland and Italy via Austria and our second set of guests came from within Alaska.  Carrie really hit it off with these guests and had a lot of fun traipsing around town with them.  What follows are some of the pictures the guests took when they and Carrie went out for a 6 hour walk in the rain.

Below you will see Barrow through the eyes of a visitor.  Enjoy!

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Umiaq: skin boat used for spring whaling.DSCN8101

The whale bone arch near Brower’s whaling station.DSCN8109 DSCN8111 DSCN8113 The back of the hospital. DSCN8119 DSCN8120 DSCN8123

Presbyterian Rectory. DSCN8125 DSCN8130 DSCN8133 DSCN8137 DSCN8140 DSCN8146 DSCN8147Drying meat for later.DSCN8153The old Arctic Hotel.DSCN8155 DSCN8158 DSCN8164

Ancient village site.DSCN8170 DSCN8171 DSCN8173



Smushed jellyfish.DSCN8179

Hermit crab.


Caribou hoof.DSCN8197Unidentified creepy crawlie.DSCN8198



Bull kelp.

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Carrie’s zebra rock.


Caribou skeleton.

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Caribou skull.

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One of our three grocery stores.


Sliming herb…lost in translation.DSCN8257 DSCN8258

Skins drying on racks. DSCN8260

Baleen. DSCN8261 DSCN8263

Barrow has many cute, tiny, abandoned homes.  The housing shortage surely would be nonexistent if all of the homes in town had been maintained.  Barrow also has two dome homes.  One is shown here, a private dentist’s office. DSCN8265

The high school.



The boardwalk around the lagoon.

DSCN8271 DSCN8276 DSCN8277 DSCN8295The next morning the sea ice washed back ashore.  Ice in July!

All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go

One day Carrie came home from the store and announced, “I bought the cats a present.”

Incredulous, Alain inquired, “A present?  For the cats?”

Carrie affirmed, “Yes, I bought the cats a present!”

Still reeling from the absurdity of buying a present for a pair of stuffed animals, Alain asked about the price.

The present was ten dollars.

Finally Alain wondered what it was, and told Carrie so.

“It’s a bag of ‘over 250’ hair ties!” Carrie responded gleefully.

Alain tried to object that the hair ties were for Carrie, not for the cats.  Carrie noted that she had little use for ‘over 250’ hair ties, perhaps only needing three or four.

“Everyone knows,” Carrie stated, “that cats love to play with hair ties.  They love to find them and spread them all over the bed and floor and carry them to other rooms.”

Indeed they do.

Kitty and Bitty (and also Yiddie) enjoy playing with their very own set of ‘over 250’ hair ties.  Carrie made them a special box to store them in.  They take them out, one at a time, or all at once, and spread them around the bed and floor, and carry them off to different rooms, stashing them in corners and behind doors.

But what neither Alain nor Carrie anticipated was that the hair ties could be used for playing dress up!

This is now a favorite past-time.


When Tritty came to visit, she had fun playing with the hair ties as well.DSCN1878

“I’m a princess,” she announced, “I like to wear pink and purple.”DSCN1879 Kitty was sleepy, so Kitty took a nap in the rag basket.



DSCN1925Another time, when Alain was sleeping, the cats dressed him up, too.

Gender Identity

The cats have been helping Alain and Carrie practice speaking in Spanish.


We took advantage of Tritty’s visit to Barrow so that we could use the above feminine version of “kitten.”



Bitty modeled the masculine.

DSCN1893But when it came to Kitty’s turn, we discovered that we have a problem.

Kitty does not have a gender. DSCN1894So how should we name and address Kitty?

Kitty wants so desperately to move to Spain, but how is Kitty going to learn how to speak Spanish?



Tuttu for You

Tuttu.  Pronounced partway between too-too and tuh-too, with the emphasis on the first syllable, tuttu is one of the first Inupiaq words Carrie learned three years ago.

DSCN1906Tuttu.  It’s what’s for dinner.  Or lunch.  Everyone loves tuttu.  Tuttu legs and tuttu heads and tuttu meat.  You see tuttu in yards and tuttu in freezers and tuttu in qanichaqs.

DSCN1908We had two physics students from Vienna as house guests recently.  Hailing from Lodz, Poland, and Milan, Italy, this pair wowed us, as visitors anywhere often do, by finding things to do in our small, isolated town that we had never thought to do.  For example, they arrived on our doorstep with the news that they had just walked to Nuvuk (and back, with some hitchhiking on the road-based portion).

DSCN1909Over tea they told us about their intense desire to see wildlife and their frustrations at seeing only dead seals, whale, and caribou in Barrow.

DSCN1907Intrepid travelers, they managed to hitch a ride on an open metal boat with some locals who planned to go out fishing and caribou hunting.  Our guests struggled to communicate on the telephone, “Yes, but you will take us to where we can see caribou, yes?”

DSCN1910Caribou, they did see, a herd of thousands of them, before their boating hosts shot three, and brought our house guests back, ten hours later.

DSCN1911With them they brought two pieces of backstrap, the “filet mignon of the caribou” or so we have been told.

Since a theme of our life in Barrow seems to be learning how to cook meat, Carrie figured she would learn how to cook tuttu.

DSCN1913There it is, a little place on a plate of chard, pilaf, and zucchini.  Alain doesn’t like meat in general but announced that tuttu is a more tolerable form of meat than most.  This is largely because tuttu is extremely lean and Jack Sprat Can Eat No Fat.

The next day, Carrie found herself standing in the kitchen, gnawing on a piece of very earthy-tasting tuttu.  “I feel very primal” she said.  I ought to tell my sister about this.  But it’s true, there is something about the taste and texture of the caribou meat that felt more connected to the outdoors than other types of meat.

We cut up the leftovers into small pieces and plan to save them up to dole out to future house guests.  So all you who won’t visit us now know what you’re missing.