Sunday, December 20, 2009

Let There Be Light!

'Tis the season of chain store advertising inserts that outweigh the actual newspaper, drunken Christmas soirees, cookie-baking hell (ten varieties are currently available here at Flying Squirrel), holly-berries-on-the-corners-of-everything and famous rock musicians on the radio singing covers of old sappy music. I am a self-admitted bah-humbug who can't wait for the craziness that is December to be overwith for a whole new year ahead.

Sometimes I even get depressed about feeling like, for the most part, I am a sugar pusher. I do love to see the joy on little kids faces when they press their noses against the front of the display case pointing to the gingerbread snowman whose head they are about to bite off. And the intense pleasure the kids in the cooking class got from covering gingerbread houses with sickeningly sweet royal icing and artificially-colored-and-flavored gum drops.

In my soul, I would rather just bake hearty, crusty whole grain bread and develop recipes for honey-sweetened bran muffins and gluten-dairy-corn-and-soy-free everything. What's a bakery to do? This time of year, if you're a bakery, you'd better make things rich and sweet, colorful and cheery or you might lose some of your best customers. Yet half of those best customers drop hints of feeling fat from too many holiday temptations or wish their kids could get a handle on the sugar thing while at the same time they choose the Christmas stollen over the whole wheat baguette or the chocolate-peanut butter bar over the kale and scallion cream cheese fresh veggie wrap.

This happens to me every year. The Alaskan winter is long, cold and dark. I don't get outside enough (note to self: add Vitamin D supplements to town list). And now, despite no television, very few visits to the corporate wedlock between Disney and Walmart that is Wasilla, and two rather agnostic parents, my 3 1/2 year old son is still becoming pretty interested in decorating a Christmas tree, not to mention "that guy in the red suit with a big beard." Even if I had the money to be a "snow bird" and fly away from Alaska for a spell, there would be no escaping the holiday overload (another note to self: research future vacation in a warm climate that doesn't celebrate Christmas, any suggestions?).

OK. I'll try to stop.

The good news is that Soltice is upon us. For Alaskans, this is a big deal. In a couple of days we will be headed the other direction - toward warmer temperatures, toward green growing things, toward gardens and local produce, toward summer, toward midnight sun. So, in honor of Solstice and a new year soon to come, here are a few things that do make me happy...

A little light in the darkness.

The light at the end of the tunnel.

Always look on the bright side of life.

Better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

Come on baby light my fire!

I am very excited to sleep for a few days and then, hopefully have some fun away from the bakery. My goals for the time off include snowshoeing, skiing, ice skating, swimming, movies (haven't been to the movies for almost 4 years!), a thrift store or two, some house cleaning, a year's worth of filing, and much needed family time with Brian and Oliver. After all of that, it will be back to normal, PLUS some of this...

MAY YOUR DAYS BE MERRY AND BRIGHT! Happy holidays and happy New Year to all.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kids in the Kitchen OR Ode to Teachers

Every Wednesday is a challenge for me here at the bakery. It's my "Monday" since we're closed on Mondays and Tuesdays right now and there is always a lot to do to fill up the display cases and get fresh pastries, breads and savory lunch items out by noon or so. After two days of sleeping in I'm particularly foggy from waking up at 5am. It's also ordering day so I try to look at lists and what's on the shelves to figure out what we need for the next week or so by the 3pm deadline. But the fun doesn't stop there.

The last few Wednesdays have been complete mayhem. Why? Because somehow I got this idea to invite kids into the kitchen! We've already had four weeks of well attended classes and there will be three more after Thanksgiving. The younger ones, ages 5-8 come from 2-3:30 and the older ones, ages 8-12 from 3:30-5. So far we have made creepy Halloween treats, deviled eggs, homemade granola, sourdough corn cakes, and homemade butter. We have also learned about the basics of kitchen safety, nutrition and pioneer cooking.

On Wednesday at 7pm when we close and there is still the floor to mop, there is a small part of me that says NEVER AGAIN! There is also a big part of me that says THANK YOU to all teachers out there because I could never do this every day and I so appreciate those that have the ongoing energy, persistence and enthusiasm it takes to keep kids interested and engaged and somewhat under control.

Of course, there must be some part of me that enjoys it because I already have about 5 more kids classes I have thought about teaching starting in January, plus endless ideas for cooking classes for adults. In fact, despite the hours of preparation, the pushing and shoving, the "it's MY turn to mix" demands, the spills, the noise, the blank stares, and the "eeeeeew, that's yucky" reactions...teaching is really very rewarding.

All of the kids in my cooking classes are coming because they chose to. So, for the most part, they like to cook. They like to learn. They like to participate. Their enthusiasm for certain things is almost contagious. For example, this week in the Pioneer Cooking class, the work of grinding wheat by hand was a challenge to them and each HAD to have a second try at it to see how much flour they could grind (or to see who was the strongest). I have been pleasantly surprised that some are even excited to help clean up!

Inevitably I am left completely exhausted by the end of the day on Wednesday. My feet hurt. My mouth is dry from so much talking. I wonder if the class was clear, helpful, interesting, fun, memorable or just something else to do after school. I start thinking about the next class (Pizza Day) and what I should prepare for hand-outs, how I should divide up the groups, what might be dangerous and what I should make sure each child gets a chance to try. I ask parents for feedback. I thank my staff for putting up with the mayhem. I thank my family for trying to let me go to sleep early.

And, in some delusional state, somewhat secretly, I glance at the calendar and jot down a few ideas: a pie-crust class (watch for this one around Christmas - for adults), a bread sculpture class, a whole grain cooking class, a wood fired oven class, cooking around the world classes...

Sounds like fun, right? Or, is this some kind of masochistic disease? I am incredibly thankful not to have to teach every day - I have never been able to imagine myself homeschooling Oliver or substitute teaching at the local schools. But in a very small way, I can appreciate the addictive qualities teaching has: sharing ideas, getting people excited to try something new, focusing on one concept and learning about it myself in order to teach it, showing someone who wants to learn how to do something they didn't know how to do before.

Somehow, I don't have a graceful way to end this post. Perhaps because by default, teaching and learning have no end. There is and always will be something to new to learn. I must say, it makes these dark, cold winter days seem a little bit brighter.

For more pictures of the kids cooking classes, go here.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Slowly But Surely...Oven Progress!

It always seems like people in Talkeetna spend a disproportionate amount of time talking about which eating establishments are open when, who's serving what, and how good it is. Even though it seems like there's nowhere except the for the Latitude to eat on Mondays and Tuesdays, even though noone knows when or if Wildflower will be open, even though Mountain High Pizza is having a pretty low winter due to a very unfortunate oil spill incident and even though the Roadhouse isn't doing a Haunted House this Halloween ... life goes on. Everyone figures it out. Everyone finds something to eat or drink. There is still always a burger and a pint to be had somewhere.

As things grow and change however, a burger and a pint doesn't always satisfy. People seem to want something new and exciting, some variety to get them through the doldrums of a long winter. And so, there has been continued, keen interest in the wood fired brick oven progress here at the Flying Squirrel. Well, even before I became a cafe owner, I was always one of those seeking something delicious and new, interesting, mouth watering, different. So, I am happy to say that the oven is really making progress. All of the firebrick hearth and dome are complete and as I write this Brian and two helpers, Terry and JJ are slopping buckets of chunky, gloppy refractory concrete over the top of the oven dome. Hooray! After some cure time we'll be down to insulation and a facade. Hopefully this means finally lighting fires in the thing around Thanksgiving. Maybe, dare I put it in writing, even a grand opening, oven-warming party somewhere at the end of November or beginning of December.

The brick oven will bring breads with a heartier crust, wonderful ambient heat through the coldest time of the year...and, yes, perhaps once a week rustic, wholesome, scrumptious, gourmet pizza. Add yet one more thing to all the other things I have to do. Anyone know a good pizza cook who likes to play with fire?

Anyway, Brian deserves a lot of credit. These days he's less focused on work and building (except when the bakery is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays). Mostly he spends his time trying to fulfill his obligations as a reluctant housewife, Oliver's main caregiver, Farmer Al's substitute potato sorter, outdoor clean-up crew after a year of neglect, and pretty soon: expert wood cutter! We figure during winter, this brick oven will eat a cord of wood a month and in summer maybe double that. The fun never ends around here.

A burger and a pint might just be the thing for such a hard working stay at home dad. Of course, we'll have to go out for that, since there is not a burger to be found at the Flying Squirrel. I wonder where we could get a burger today, anyway....

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Two Months

Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe opened it's doors only two months ago. Sometimes it feels like I've already been doing this for years.
Two days ago I was reminded of how fast these two months have gone by when local resident Michelle Baker came in to pick up some bread she had reserved. She turned out to be the first person to fill up a bread card and she got a free baguette!

Don't get me wrong, the first dollar was pretty darn special (thanks Esther and Jim!), but the first full bread card is just as, if not more meaningful. It represents a connection that is quickly developing between Flying Squirrel and the great folks that walk through the doors every day, or once a week, or even once a month. People who live in the Talkeetna area are coming back for more. Even better, neighbors are buying locally made bread instead of the grocery store standard. Even better, people like the crusty, whole grain bread with substance that I happen to like making!

Very cool.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Form and Function

I am ecstatic to see progress being made on our wood fired brick oven. People who come in to Flying Squirrel ask about it all the time - with very frequent questions about pizza (the answer is a qualified yes - we will do pizza in the oven sometimes just for fun because we can and it will be awesome, but we won't become a pizza place - Talkeetna already has one of those...).

Anyway, Brian made the plywood forms a few days ago and got two arches completed on the oven's roof or dome. I always knew this part would impress me.

It's hard not to be impressed with an arch. I grew up in Pennsylvania where arches with a keystone (PA is the "Keystone State") were common over the windows and doorways of many old brick and stone homes. It strikes me as some kind of great magic trick. Like when the magician pulls the tablecloth away and his lovely assistant appears to be floating in mid air.

I also like how bricks depend on one another. That is what makes the whole thing work. Each brick in the arch must have the brick next to it and the brick next to that one and so on in order to be able to support it's own weight and any other weight on top of the whole arch. Symbiosis is what it's called I think. Like a family. Like a community. Brother and sister brick.

Today is one of those days where I worry because things are slow here. It's inevitable I know. We have all this beautiful food and bread and yummy yummy pastries. People who do come in are very happy with the choices, the variety, the atmosphere. And yesterday was a fine day. It's just part of the roller coaster of owning a business, of wintertime in Alaska, of needing to do more marketing, of learning what works and what doesn't.

Generally though, I feel like I and Flying Squirrel are one brick in the arch - especially in the small town of Talkeetna. We all lean on each other, help hold each other up, support the next brick over, but also support the brick way down at the other end. It kind of makes me feel like everything is going to be ok.

Especially when that first crusty bread comes out of the brick oven!

Although there are LOTS of individuals and businesses I wish to thank for their help and support, there are two in particular I am thinking about today in terms of symbiotic relationships... Whole Wheat Radio and the potential future very fun musical endeavors we are talking about trying out here at Flying Squirrel as well as Sunshine Transit, our local free shuttle bus that will hopefully soon make Flying Squirrel a scheduled stop on their route up and down the Spur Road and who has offered to help with deliveries of bread and pastries to sell out at our local grocery store!

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Golden Moment

I have the best commute in the world. I walk about 800 feet from the door of my home to the door of the bakery down a curved gravel driveway that is lined with Alaska's natural beauty: birch and spruce trees, high bush cranberry, slimy now-inedible bolete mushrooms. It's just far enough that I feel like I got outside a tiny bit - enough to see the stars or the moon or the fog. Enough to feel the cold in my lungs or a spot of sunshine on my skin. Enough to see the golden autumn leaves falling from the trees as a bit of wind blows from the south.

At 5:00am, I get to feel the darkness. At 8pm when I go home, it's still light at least for another month or so. We're having an excruciatingly gorgeous autumn this year. I often bemoan how little I get outside when I'm mixing bread dough in the 60 quart Hobart mixer around 8am and I look out the window to see the sun peeking over the treetops. Although I expected to work these long, hard hours, I still miss being outside more. Fortunately my walk down the driveway is just long enough, but also not too long - my feet are as tired if not more-so than my brain at the end of my long day.

Last night, I had a moment. One of those moments that takes your breath away, makes tears well up inside you, is incredibly memorable, and yet is just a short, small moment, gone in a flash. I started my walk home and for some reason I turned around. I saw the sun going down behind the incredible yellow-orange autumn birch treetops. In a way, nothing special. But just glimmering enough, just crisp and clear enough, just the right combination of golden sun and golden leaves and golden air to make me stop and sigh and say to myself - wow. I did it. I achieved my dream. And this place is beautiful. My life is good. Exhausting, but good.

I turned back toward home. A few tears found their way down my cheeks - maybe from total exhaustion, maybe from being overwhelmed by the beauty of my surroundings, maybe from actually allowing myself to acknowledge the accomplishment. I went to look for a camera and couldn't find one. The golden moment passed.

I fell into bed. Woke up to the alarm. Stumbled down the driveway in the dark thinking about that movie Groundhog Day where Bill Murray wakes up to the same day over and over again.

Today, the wind is blowing. All the leaves are falling down. People are coming and going...eating their fritatas and donut muffins and cream of greens soup, taking home a ruggelach, a black brownie, a loaf of pumpernickel, picking up some caffeine for the road.

Does this weather, this season, the music, the smells...does life make any of them cry like me? Or is this golden moment mine alone?
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Thursday, September 17, 2009

On Scones

Ms. Jenny Birdsall is back at college now after being incredibly chipper at the front counter even at 7:30 in the morning for the very first month of Flying Squirrel's existence. It was a great relief to me to be able to hire a young Talkeetnan who is not only smart, friendly AND responsible, but who also already had several years of barista experience under her belt.

And one more thing about Jenny. She had something to say about scones.

Lucky for me, everything she had to say about MY scones was RIGHT ON! Biggest 20-year-old compliment I have ever gotten: "Your scones remind me of the ones I had when I was in England..." I made her favorite flavor for her departure and she flew back to Oregon with two apricot scones in a little brown bag. Well, I can't say that I know if the scones made it all the way from Talkeetna the whole 120 miles to the airport.

You have to be in the mood for a scone. I think Jen and I agree that they should be not too sweet, not too wet, almost dry but not quite, not a biscuit and not a muffin, but somewhere in between. And they should have just a little touch of smartness from a bit of fruit or nuts or ginger. Perfect with hot tea or chai.

All of us at Flying Squirrel look forward to Jenny's return (I think she'll be filling in during her winter break) and wish her well at college. Personally, I have been trying to drop all the hints that I can toward next year's senior project being a solo photography show at the Flying Squirrel! Thanks again, Jen.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Grain for the Brain - a schedule of breads

A little easier for me and a lot better for you. There have already been requests for a bread schedule at Flying Squirrel so you can be sure to come in for your favorites. It certainly will evolve since I have been really wanting to make a whole wheat cinnamon raisin swirl bread and I can't figure out where to fit it in.I am posting this bread schedule on the Flying Squirrel website (along with descriptions and ingredients), on the side bar of this blog and at the cafe. Don't forget to pick up a business card the next time you come in because there is a bread punch card on the back. No one has filled one up yet, but I think there are a few regulars who are getting close! Brian has started working on the wood fired brick oven construction again, so hopefully we are only a month away from bread with MUCH better crust.

Whole Wheat Baguettes
Whole Wheat Pita

Monday Closed

Tuesday (until October, then closed on Tuesdays)
Whole Wheat Baguettes
Whole Wheat Pita
Molasses Multigrain Sandwich Loaf

Light Wheat Ciabatta
Eight Grain Boule

Italian Baguettes
Sunshine Sourdough Sandwich Loaf

Whole Wheat Baguettes
Whole Wheat Pita
Light Wheat Challah

Spent Grain Boule

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I am not a very foofy person. I don't wear make up. I shave my legs and underarms maybe twice a year. I don't mind wearing shirts with stains on them. And I am ok with some amount of dirt and bacteria in my life and in the life of my three year fact, I think most American's are lacking in bacteria these days. We have a big mess outside around our house - broken bicycles, sopping wet cardboard boxes full of glass bottles that can't be recycled in Anchorage anymore, blue tarps over uncut firewood piles, last year's dead hanging baskets. I'm OK with all of that. I can live without running water if I need to and sometimes wish for the days when I occupied a cabin instead of a house.

However, evidently, I have a foofy side as well.

I find myself caring more than I ever thought I would about everything in the cafe being put away in it's place. About the floor being mopped the right way. About the color of the grout between the bricks on the facade of the under-construction wood fired oven.

And, given the right motivation, (such as customers who are willing to pay), I can do foofy with the best of them. Not that I am trying to advertise my services, but here are a few photos of the foofy things I can do! Special occasion cakes, pastries and party platters are available at Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe with advanced notice. Stop in, give us a call, or e-mail to find out more.

Vanilla sponge cake soaked in raspberry liqueur with white chocolate cream cheese frosting, a bittersweet ganache border and autumn leaves and berries. For Alice at Talkeetna B&B's grandson's wedding.

We closed the place two hours early on Saturday for K2 Aviation's end of the year staff party (so sorry to those that didn't know and tried to come for dinner that evening - I don't think this will be a regular thing). I made mini cupcakes with fresh berries on top of the chocolate ones. My talented cook Tasja pulled together wonderful Mediterranean entrees including Moussaka which will be appearing in the cold case in the future. I wish I had photographed the antipasto appetizer platter filled with colorful roasted veggies.

Sometimes being foofy is kind of fun.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Week One

What an incredible week. I am not surprisingly exhausted. Otherwise, I really can't complain. I have reached a monumental goal in my life and have finally been DOING IT instead of planning it and building it and talking about it. Here are a few photos from week one.

Day One. It actually looks like a real busy functioning cafe! Yippee...

Brian surprised me with a phone call to an old friend midway during the first day. The old friend was also the most influential employer I've ever had in my life and one of the inspirations for my bakery cafe concept. Maybe Avery will visit here one day and see the offspring of his amazing creation, Zabby's Stone Soup in Burlington, Vermont.

Even Oliver is happy that the bakery is open. This week his dad finally took over as primary caregiver and took Oliver fishing, canoeing, to the playground and brought him to the bakery to enjoy a scone and a glass of milk!

Every Friday I will make the rich, tender traditional Sabbath bread called Challah. It makes the BEST french toast, looks beautiful and I even snuck in a little whole wheat flour, just for Esther. I made 20 of them today and only three were left at the end of the day. I have a feeling there might be a reservation list for these in the future. Challah is not only a tangible connection to my Jewish upbringing but also to my roots at Stone Soup where Avery was (and still is) the Challah baker.

"hamozti lechem min ha aretz..."
blessed art thou who brings forth bread from the earth....

It makes me thankful for everything. For rain and sun that grow the wheat. For modern civilization that brings the wheat to my door. For my health and my hands that shape the loaves. For my family and friends and neighbors that walk through the doors of Flying Squirrel and say, "WOW. It's beautiful. Congratulations."


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Saturday, August 15, 2009



Good thing my mom taught Oliver to spell O...P...E...N...

Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe is now OPEN!!!
Tuesdays - Sundays

Come on in and get a bite to eat. Continue reading »

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Little Birdie Told Me a Rumor...

Pssst. Hey you...

Someone told me that something's cooking at Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe. Come see and taste and smell for yourself.

We will finally be opening on Saturday, August 15!

Pass it on. Continue reading »

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Here are a couple of the definitions of "angel" as found on

- a person having qualities generally attributed to an angel, as beauty, purity, or kindliness.
- a person whose actions and thoughts are consistently virtuous.
- an attendant or guardian spirit.

I have had several attendants of late to whom I owe a very large debt of gratitude.

One, René, I am looking forward to having around the kitchen at Flying Squirrel. She has been helping out in amazing ways: keeping the production line going at the new Flying Squirrel Cabinet Shop that has taken over the dining area, cleaning up all the dirt that keeps getting tracked into the kitchen when I am not around to do it, and keeping our spirits up with background music and smoky little cowboy coffee fires in the parking lot.

It can be so incredibly difficult to ask for help when you need it the most. I have been getting pretty good at it lately. In fact, if anyone wants to join in a work party cleaning day, you can come to the bakery on Sunday between 11 am and 4 pm so I will really feel surrounded by angels!

Several months ago it became clear that Brian and I were losing all of our time for household chores, cooking healthful meals, playing with Oliver, doing laundry etc. So, can you guess who I called for help?

The other angel is no less than my own mother.

The irony in asking my mother for help particularly is that I have recently made the acquaintance of a 21 year old apprentice baker who has hopes of learning something from the likes of me. Upon his arrival from his home in Arizona, I detected several very obvious things about him right away. One, his enthusiasm for participating in our project. Two, his elation at discovering this wild, amazing, unusual and eye opening place called Alaska. And three, his quiet but discernible eye rolling and inner angst regarding the presence of his parents. I distinctly remember this time in my life (don't worry parents of young adults, evidently it will pass). I'm pretty sure my mother remembers it too.

So, here I am, twenty or so years later and not two days ago, weak tears of sadness flowed freely from my exhausted eyes when I had to drop off my mother at the airport, sending her back to Philadelphia after three weeks of cooking and cleaning in my house, carting around and entertaining my son, and even staining a few pieces of trim here and there. Truly, I don't know what we would have done without her. I think even crusty old Brian said a hearty "thanks and come back any time"! She gave it her all and hardly complained except to say that she was worried about me working too hard and that my poor dad sacrificed an awful lot for her to come.

And all I can do is say thank you which doesn't seem nearly enough. Well, at least she got a little tipsy on a few glasses of wine on her last day. And I know she thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her grandson. And I think somewhere deep in her heart she knows that all those things I said when I was in my late teens and early twenties have been washed away and the true appreciation and love that I feel for my mother (maybe even all mothers) is as genuine and real as it ever will be.

I love you Mom! Next time you come, I promise some fresh caught fish on your dinner plate!

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Dropping Acid

It's been a relatively innocent 40 years for me. I've never smoked a cigarette in my life. I drank my first beer at 25 and my first cup of coffee at 29. I'm all for tempered experimentation and enjoy the pleasures of beer and wine, even an occasional joint shared among friends. But I will admit that I have never tried mushrooms, acid, cocaine, meth or any other mind-altering drugs. So, in the stress and mayhem of trying to push forward with this constantly challenging building and business project, I decided what the heck...maybe it will take the edge off.

Several hundred dollars and several evenings later, it's done. The acid has been dropped. And even though it wasn't a totally smooth ride, if I had to do it all over again, I think I would go for it. Pretty satisfying results in the end - kind of swirly, kind of wild, kind of dark, kind of funky, kind of sexy, a little red, brown and gold, I'd almost say psychedelic.


Just to clarify, the acid in this case was acid stain on the concrete floor of the dining area at the bakery!

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Sunday, July 5, 2009


Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe, when it opens it's doors hopefully by August 1, will be a reflection of me. It is the culmination of my dreams and the result of a year plus of blood, sweat and tears with many sacrifices made by my family, especially Brian who works so hard and really needs a break. I am excited for the place to take shape and I know that it will evolve based not only on my vision, but on what customers want it to be and what my employees make of it.

A few things are finally seeming finished or almost finished.

The outside of the building has been looking great for several months already. Cove base and trim are starting to give the inside a satisfying crispy completeness. I think we are at about 75% on the electrical hard wiring and are very happy to see the spider web of extension cords and gang boxes we have been tripping over all winter go away! Mechanical contractors were here last week installing the hood, make up air and duct work - I think they are probably 75% complete also. The floor in the kitchen is finished. And, perhaps topping the satisfaction meter is all the painting. I give painting a 90% completion rating and boy, am I glad! (I still have to do the dreaded polyurethane-ing of the window and door trim and a little more sign painting.)

Not every wall I painted was a great success. One bathroom wall has at least 4 layers of paint on it I think representing 3 attempts at a good looking result. But I am feeling quite proud of the paint job overall. People who come in to work or talk to us for one reason or another have had the most wonderful reactions, my favorite of which was that it feels very Mediterranean. Next to the whole grain crusty breads and rich and tasty pastries I plan to peddle, I think the walls of Flying Squirrel are where the "reflection of me" will shine the most. Partly because I tried to do something with the space that is unique, fun, colorful, artistic, a little classy, and a little funky.

But also, because I am excited to turn those walls over to other artists to show their work. It will be hard to see the first picture hangars leave their marks on these fresh clean walls. Oh well. I am looking forward to the sharing of ideas, creativity, and artistic expression both through food and through allowing artists the opportunity to show and sell their work on the walls of Flying Squirrel.

I have already organized the first show, "Women of the Cloth" a group exhibition of 5 local fiber artists (who also happen to be very supportive friends!). Assuming all goes well this month and we open the doors for business by August 1, there will be an art opening on the Second Saturday in August from 4-7pm. Hopefully this will be a monthly art opening event at the Flying Squirrel. If you are an artist or know an artist that would like to show two dimensional work, please contact me! Below is the announcement about it, please pass it on.

I guess I have to give a little nod to the fact that yesterday was Independence Day. It gets me thinking just a tiny bit about those guys philosophizing our futures way back when around candle light in a brick tavern in Philadelphia. Little did they know where that freedom of speech line in the Constitution would lead. Here's to personal expression....

Art Show Opportunity
Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe extends an enthusiastic welcome to artists, photographers, and craftspeople to hang original, quality, professionally displayed, interesting and unique art on a revolving monthly basis. Only two dimensional work can be accepted. An art opening event will be coordinated for the second Saturday of each month to coincide with Talkeetna Artist Guild/Sheldon Community Arts Hangar openings.

Artists will be responsible for hanging and taking down their work. All work must be framed or otherwise prepared for professional display and hung with appropriate hardware. Artists will also be expected to provide their own publicity (posters, radio announcements, e-mails, labels/prices for each piece, etc.). The dining area, entryway and bathrooms at Flying Squirrel will all have space for art work - 6-12 pieces would most likely be appropriate depending on size. Art work sold through Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe will incur a small commission to cover costs such as wall patching, credit card costs, etc.

Contact Anita at if you are interested in coordinating a show of your work. Please provide samples of the work you would like to display and a short statement of interest.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Brian's 2009 Climb

Well, OK. He didn't climb Denali. But at least Brian got to wear his crampons once this year.

After about 3 days of prep work (grinding, then acid etching, then cleaning and drying), we painted the kitchen floor last night with a 2-part epoxy paint. When the first coat was down, Brian donned his crampons to walk over the floor sprinkling silica sand all around the traffic areas. This should help prevent the concrete floor from becoming slippery when wet. Today we will put on the second coat. Once it dries, we finally get to move all the equipment to permanent locations in the kitchen!

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Believe It or Not

I remember thunderstorms as a normal part of my childhood in Pennsylvania. Here in Talkeetna, dramatic summer storms pass through maybe once or twice a year at most. This one today was brief, but came with good old fashioned rumbles of thunder, claps of lightening and hard rain.

At about 5:15pm there was a huge flash and crack, then immediately afterward loud time to count how far away it was. I was in the bakery with one worker. Brian was just leaving to go pick up Oliver from day care. Penny came running in from outside all shaking and pretty frightened.

An hour later I needed to fill a bucket of water for some painting clean up which we can now do from a spigot in the mechanical room. Brian told me to plug in the well pump. To make the rest of the story very short, there was a sort of "KA-POW!" with a big scary flash of light.
Best we can figure so far, yes, believe it or not, our well must have been struck by lightening.

Maybe someone can explain to me the whole "grounding" thing because as far as I know the well itself is a darn good ground and there are several rather expensive long copper rods in the ground for all the electrical everything on our property - not to mention that I thought the whole purpose of circuit breakers is to break off power to electrical devices before they explode. So much for the $500 well pump - hopefully it will be covered under warranty.

This is the moment at which my lovely mother would say, "If I do not laugh, I will cry."

We're thinking about purchasing a nice surge protector for our NEXT well pump. Just to be on the safe side. Go figure.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009


Well, in the last couple of weeks a lot has happened.

At the same time, our circumstances necessitate the retort that in the last couple of weeks not enough has happened at all because, alas, Flying Squirrel is still not open.

But here is a progress report anyway:

  • I turned 40. Best part about the low key construction waste bonfire/potluck we had in my honor was: I brought home a 5 gallon bucket full of full bottles of wine. In fact, as I write this I am enjoying my second glass of the bottle pictured here on an empty stomach and I am feeling better every second. My friends hit the nail on the head with their generous gift giving. A glass of wine every night until the opening might just get me through the madness.
  • The oven hearth is complete. Brian is now working on the oven walls and finally today found someone to weld a custom piece for where the hearth will meet the doorway apron, but it will probably take a week.
  • I have been painting some every day. The dining area is about 1/3 of the way painted and right now fits right in with the madness theme: mustard yellow walls with pepto-bismol pink painted wainscott. Photos coming soon. Don't worry, painting is a process. I hope to never see pepto pink anything once Flying Squirrel is open for business!
  • Haven't been able to find the camera for about 4 days.
  • Electricity is ready to turn on. We have to wait for the electrician to contact the electrical inspector, then for the inspector to approve, then for the inspector to contact the electric company, then up to two weeks for the electric company to come out and turn us on. Just figured out this ridiculousness on Friday. Heads might roll on Monday.
  • Our sweet dog Penny got too close to a moving car on our driveway and managed to get her foot under a tire. She got very lucky and is ok, but is pretty gimped up this week and quite stir crazy being stuck inside so much.
  • Most kitchen equipment and furniture has been purchased and is here. I found a dough divider which might save a lot of time cutting and weighing hamburger buns for local restaurants, or it might just be a 500 pound beast of a dinosaur and a waste of a thousand bucks. Still need to find some annoying items like freezers and a washer/dryer. Maybe a funky couch or two. Right now, in the madness, I am thinking red. Red couch. Or maybe black.
  • Two wonderful people have agreed to come up to Alaska to help us with child care and whatever else during the madness. No, make that one. Never mind: two. ARGH - Back to one again! At this point, I called my mother. So, two. Definitely two. THANKS IN ADVANCE AMY AND MOM - I can't wait!
Despite the constant madness*, the fact that every time we turn around someone wants another $5000 from us, and how we watch all the summer traffic of cars and bicycles passing by everyday, the opening of Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe does seem imminent. If only I had an answer to that burning question I hear at least twice a day...WHEN?

*I do use this term affectionately. I believe that a lot of greatness comes from madness. Also, I do not at all mean it as it defines anger, more a frenzied craziness.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Climbing Mountains

This is the time of year in Talkeetna when it seems like everyone is climbing mountains. Something like 1000 people a year attempt to climb Mount McKinley, or Denali as it is more commonly known in Alaska. Most of those climbers start out from Talkeetna, flying in small airplanes to base camp at 7,200 feet. I believe the average success rate for reaching the 23,000 foot highest peak in North America is around 50%.

Personally, I have no interest in climbing mountains of this sort and just don't really get it. However, I have been to the tops of many smaller ones, both literally and figuratively. The one I am trying to climb right now seems monumental.

To Oliver, every hill, pile of rocks or sand, snow berm, or grassy slope is a mountain. This month I am feeling quite sure that he is absolutely right.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Front Door

Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe. Come on in. Well, not just yet. But at least now we have a front door.

Doors are good; they keep mosquitoes out. Hopefully soon I'll have time to paint this door brown or really any color other than primer white! Throughout this whole construction project no one has ever used the front door. Thus the wheel barrow's parking spot I guess. To me, it looks like the wheel barrow is about to walk right in though. It almost looks like it's waiting for the open sign to light up. Me too.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Certainly Spring

It may only last one day in Alaska, but most certainly, today is spring. By next week, these new little leaves will be fully grown and a definitive, robust, summery green. If only some other life endeavors could happen with such confident swiftness.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009


It seems like almost everyday there is a milestone around here. But some milestones hold more significance than others, like pouring the concrete slab for the wood fired masonry oven. These photos from last week demonstrate that strange human need to put our mark on everything. A little like Oliver's new found need to pull down his pants and pee on the snow bank or on a specific stick, but quite a bit more permanent! The hand prints look really cool - Oliver's in the middle, then mine, then Brian's on the outside - with two paw prints from Penny. Stop by Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe sometime and check it out. The hand prints will be able to be seen by anyone who sits at the counter near the oven right by the ash door.

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Monday, May 4, 2009


Wow. There was so much snow one week ago. Four or five days of 65 and sunny, and it seems like most of it has disappeared. The good news about that is that there is a kind of electricity in the air, a new found energy that comes with bicycles being pulled out of crawl spaces and sunshine at 9:00pm. The other great news is that the three rather large lakes that were becoming major obstacles in our driveway shrank to mere puddles in the course of one day. Oliver is still, however, going through at least two sets of clothes per day.

Another kind of shrinking has been occurring over at the bakery construction site.
Anyone who has ever built or renovated a house knows all about this one. We had this amazing, big, open, brightly lit space. Then came the sheet rock. Then came the interior walls. Now, it's starting to feel a bit like a cave. Especially what with the drab gray of the wall board and the white streaks of fire taping that's covering up even the most interesting screw pattern. Now, instead of being blinded when we walk outside because the snow is so bright, we are blinded by the dimness when we go in.

Oh well. It may seem smaller inside, but interior walls also mean that plumbers and electricians can come which means pretty soon we'll have water, telephones,!

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Things Are Looking Up!

I knew that once we had a floor, everything would start to move forward a bit more quickly. This week Oliver started wanting to go watch the action more than he has in the past. I think the space feels more comfortable somehow; he can bring a snack and watch the work going on without being in the way. Occasionally he can even help!

Mostly he has been looking up at the ceiling though, as the sheet rock lid goes up.
It's very exciting to see the great cover up of ugly, itchy insulation, vapor barrier and stripes of "black death" (acoustical tile sealant - best tip here if you're ever covered in the stuff is Pam cooking spray to get it off!). Sometimes it seems like you're in a giant bath tub until the neutral and comparatively clean dry wall makes it all disappear.

Everyone's rockin' out to heavy metal music thanks to Dave (don't worry potential future customers, when Flying Squirrel opens we will be playing a fun and varied selection of music, some of it from independent artists via Whole Wheat Radio - but not much heavy metal).

Despite today's cold, damp, rainy gray, Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe is a happenin' place. Pretty much, that's been the goal all along and it's very very cool to actually start feeling that. As I've always known, it's the people inside that are making it happen who make it a happenin' place.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009


I just looked up the definition of "to floor" on I must admit I was a little surprised at the definitions listed under the verb tense of the word.

–verb (used with object)
15. to cover or furnish with a floor.
16. to bring down to the floor or ground; knock down: He floored his opponent with one blow.
17. to overwhelm; defeat.
18. to confound or puzzle; nonplus: I was floored by the problem.

None of these definitions describe today's experience of being "floored"...all of them seem too negative. We, particularly Brian, have been working incredibly hard for 8 months on a seemingly monumental project - building a commercial restaurant facility from the ground up. We started in August, clearing trees, and finally, today, I feel floored.

It was a great day. Smooth. Three different entities drove up from the "lower valley".... Klondike Concrete with four concrete trucks (it was supposed to be three, but DOT imposed spring road restrictions on state roads just yesterday). McKinley Concrete Pumping. And the finishers from the combined team of Valley Masonry and Iditarod Masonry.

When I say we were floored, I mean it literally and figuratively. These guys must be the best of the best north of Anchorage. They were here at 8am and some of them are still here as I write this making sure it's darn near perfect...the floor. Yes, we have a floor!

It seems huge to me. After months and months of a building shell with snow, then dirt and ditches and drain pipes, the smooth, hard, clean and finished (well, not quite) concrete floor is a major milestone. It feels to me like Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe is so much more imminent now that we can put things in there that won't have to be moved out again.

I think I would add this definition to's verb list for "to floor:"

19. To amaze; to overwhelm with surprise or sudden wonder: I was floored by the fantastic experience we had today when our concrete floor was poured.

If only every contractor experience was like this one. We'd be writing more checks, employing more small businesses, and, perhaps, taking a day off once in awhile like we plan to do on Saturday.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Order & Chaos

Order. Neat lines and patterns. Red = Dining area in floor heat. Blue = Foam insulation. Brown = Steel reinforcing bar for concrete slab. Concrete floor will be poured tomorrow! Sometimes order feels good.

Chaos. After a week on the east coast with Oliver where magnolias and daffodils were in full bloom, we returned to this. Mush. Mess. Melt. Anything that's been under the snow for four months is rearing it's ugly head. It's unpredictable whether or not any given vehicle will make it to it's final destination during break up. Chaos has it's virtues, but is not exactly what I need right now.

Order. Even in order there is chaos. There is something to be said for straight lines, but the combination of form and function in our siding makes me happy. Wood has personality, personality means some amount of chaos. But there is definitely order in the accomplishment and finished-ness of a siding job completed.

Chaos. Sometimes it seems impossible to accomplish any order without a lot of chaos first. Concrete coming inside means everything inside gets kicked outside (can you find the dog's moose leg bone?). It's a miracle that anyone can find a pencil or a tape measure when they need one! But, believe it or not, this mess represents serious progress.... Onward!

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Friday, April 3, 2009

In and Out

Here is a selection of photos from the past few weeks. There is much talk involving inside and outside. Community members now constantly ask me about our progress since they can now clearly see the activity as they drive by - including the tree thinning that was done along the road and the gorgeous Alaskan spruce siding that is going up on the building. On the outside, things are seeming bright with more sunlight everyday making it hard to eat dinner before 8pm. Inside still feels dark and damp. Like a cave.

It seems like we are constantly moving items from inside to outside and from outside to in. Clean fill going in. Rocks going out. Water going in. Rocks going out. Siding going in. Siding coming out. Equipment and supplies lining up outside in tents, inside our house, out at the farm, waiting to come in. Winter going out. Spring coming in. Moose hanging out outside. Moose hanging inside. Moose inside out. Bills coming in. Checks going out. Nervousness going in. Forms and paperwork going out. And, most dramatically, lava and ash coming out...

I thank my lucky stars that most of the time I think I'm pretty good at going with the flow.

Mount Redoubt image courtesy of James Isaak.
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Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Equinox

In honor of spring, we cut down many of the trees along the road in hopes that passersby will start to watch our progress. I made a quick sign which looks great in this photo, but is still pretty hard to see from the road. More trees will have to be sacrificed for the exposure. It's really a tricky balance. I have always wanted the cafe to feel out of town, peaceful, in the woods. But I won't be in business very long if no one can see the place to even know it's open. At least all of the wood will be put to good use in the wood-fired masonry oven that will bake most of the bread at the Flying Squirrel.

Meanwhile, spring was also ushered in with a middle of the night phone call saying our name came up on the moose roadkill list.
This is a mixed blessing. Moose butchering is probably not how we should be spending our free time right now (what free time?). Yet, how wonderful to have meat that is fresh, healthy, appreciatively salvaged, and that Oliver can eat on his special elimination diet. Brian cooked some of the heart for dinner. Oliver kept saying, "More moose guts please!" He must need the vitamin B. I kept saying, "Thanks, Moose." Brian kept saying, "Yum...mmm...mmm...yum."

The third happening worthy of note this spring equinox, besides Talkeetna's annual Oosik Classic ski race (I just finished preparing almost 500 dessert bars for the banquet - boy am I looking forward to a real kitchen), is that the White House lawn WILL in fact sport a garden this summer! Read an article about it here. Hooray and happy spring! Finally.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Blank Stare

Blank stare. Cough, cough. Blank stare. Cough. Cough. (Yes, I finally got some version of the crud that has been going around town).

That's all.

It's that kind of a week.

I was feeling like I needed to update the world on the progress here at Flying Squirrel central. But I just can't find anything substantive to say. Don't get me wrong. The project is progressing. And the sense of anticipation for the opening of the cafe is getting pretty palpable around our house, and I hope in the community of Talkeetna as well. Spring Equinox is full of anticipation of all kinds in Alaska.

Last night, Oliver was bawling his head off because he was having difficulty getting his dinner to stay on his fork as it made the journey from plate to mouth.
Through his tears we heard him cry over and over, "I can't stab it very well!" His frustration was intense, as was ours, as we just couldn't convince him that it was all going to be OK.

Neither Brian nor I am bawling yet. But I think we both feel this week like "we can't stab it very well." Or at the very least, that many of the pieces we are trying to pick up fall back onto the plate several times before getting to where they need to go. Like Oliver, frustration over one forkful or two or three forkfuls can totally blind us to the bigger picture.

Meanwhile, what happens when things get overwhelming or frustrating? What happens when you (or your three year old) just don't like the answers you get to your seemingly very important questions?

Blank stare. Cough, cough. Blank stare.
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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cheap Labor OR How We Conned Our Parents into Helping Us

Yes, it's a family affair here at the Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe. Every step of the way. Brian and I are both very lucky to still have both sets of our parents actively in our lives and even luckier that they are supportive and encouraging of all of our crazy ideas. OK, not ALL of our crazy ideas. But this cafe project certainly wouldn't be possible without all four of them in so many different ways, not the least of which was bringing both of us into this world in the first place.

Example number one: Brian's parents asked if they could do anything to help. We said, "Sure!" And here they are, for three days, cleaning, brushing, carrying, and staining boards in preparation for siding the cafe. It was difficult to resist asking for them to help with this particular task since we remember what an excellent job they did on prepping the siding for our own house last winter.

At the end of their 4-5 hour shift over at our project, they go home to Birch Creek Ranch and water all the starts in the plant room, clear snow, prepare for the summer growing season, and try, in vain I think, to act like retired people. I do envy the frequent afternoon naps they tend to enjoy, but the rest is most certainly well deserved.

Thanks does not begin to describe how grateful I feel to both Brian's parents and my own for helping us to achieve our goals.I look forward to handing each one of them their first free loaf of bread!
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