Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Cookbook Situation

We have a lot of cookbooks.  I mean a lot lot.  Most of them have been gifts, but somehow over the last ten years we've managed to amass a healthy library of every possible cookbook you can imagine.  We're talking over two dozen different types of cookbooks addressing all sorts of cooking styles, regional dishes, tips, shortcuts - you name it.

Pasta recipes?  Check.  Easy Thai food?  Got it.  Every celebrity chef that has ever been featured on the Food Network?  It seems like it.  Except Giada.  For some reason the hubby loathes Giada.  Which is funny because most men like her because of the hotness factor.  He can't stand her.  But Alton?  Oh Lord, don't even get me started on Alton.  I'm surprised there isn't some sort of makeshift altar commemorating his greatness somewhere in the house.  We have at least 3 of his cookbooks.  Probably more.  And I have to admit, a few of them were gifts from me.  So really, I'm part of the problem.  Alton has good recipes, but I could never get past the uber-geekiness of his show, Good Eats. I mean, the puppets?  Come on.  But again, I digress.

So, why am I talking about cookbooks this week?  Well, since we've moved and have been getting settled with all the furniture, knick-knacks and what not, I decided it was time to deal with this whole cookbook situation.  I knew we had a lot of them, but I didn't realize exactly how many until I started unpacking all the books and shelving them in the office.  Once I saw the pile, I knew we had to tame the beast.  I also realized I could kill two birds with one stone.  Works for me!

I've had an idea simmering around for a while that I hadn't pulled the trigger on because we didn't have anywhere that would work in the house we used to live in.  But now that we've got the new place, I can finally make it happen.  I know, the suspense is killing you.  Well, wonder no more.  Invisible shelves!  I can get all the cookbooks together in one place in the kitchen (where we'll actually use them) and free up some space on the bookshelves in the office.  For. . . you know, more books.

Of course, books can obviously go on any type of shelves, but there was something about the way the invisible shelves look (or don't look, depending on your view) that appeals to me.  They have such a clean, streamlined feel.  It's a little more minimalist and contemporary than what I would usually be drawn toward as far as decorating goes, but I just love the way the final product looks.  They turned out great, and it really wasn't that much of a pain in the ass.  I saw the idea on one of the many home decorating and crafting blogs I follow, I can't remember which one.  I need a bit of an intervention when it comes to reading them.  I can't help it.   They have such good ideas!  And tutorials to show you how.  It's where I get half of my inspiration.

The invisible shelves only require a few items, and they're all pretty affordable.  If you're so inclined to try it in your house, you'll need several standard metal brackets that you can get at any hardware store, screws, and anchors.  As far as tools, you'll need a drill, a hammer, a level, and a pencil.  I'm assuming most of you already have the drill, hammer and level, so total cost is only around twenty bucks.  You can also buy invisible shelves, but this way is more fun and more affordable.  Besides, DIY is the way to go!

Once you decide where you want the shelves to go, you'll need to mark off where to drill your holes for the anchors and screws.  The most important thing is to make sure the brackets are level before you start making holes in your walls.   

Taking the picture where I'm holding up the brackets & the 
level at the same time with only two hands was a comedy routine
Not too terribly difficult so far.  After you've marked off and drilled the holes, all you'll need to do at this point is tap the anchors into the holes, and then drill the screws through the holes in the shelf brackets into the anchors.  That's pretty much it.  Once the brackets are installed, it's time to start stacking your books.  Which is kind of the fun part.  Well, fun if you're into organizing.  And books.  Which I am.  Organizing and books?  Now that's something I can get behind. Not really a shock that I ended up working in libraries.

I went with a more visual organization than anything more formal with categories.  I mostly wanted the sizes to look proportional and the colors to work together.  I resisted the urge to put like things together.  Which can sometimes be more difficult for me than for most people.  Must keep order!  It's okay if Quick & Easy Thai Recipes is on a different shelf than Momofuku, and Quick From Scratch Pasta Recipes isn't next to Viva la Cucina Italiana.  Do you hear me still convincing myself?  Alright fine, I had to put the pizza cookbooks next to each other, but that's as far as it went, I promise.  Well, for now.  Until the next time I look at the shelves and am overcome by the urge to rearrange.

I'm so glad I finally got this project done!

The cookbooks have been hanging around in random places around the house, just cluttering up whatever space they happened to be in.  Some were scattered around the kitchen table, some were piled in the office, (which I hate to admit is still a complete disaster area) and some were still unpacked in boxes I hadn't managed to get to the bottom of just yet.  So, without further ado, here's the final after picture of my invisible shelves:

I figure if I can't see the brackets, most other people won't be able to either.  It's really
the only downside. - If you want to install them up high, the shelves become less than invisible
because you can see the brackets.  But with mine, you'd have to be really short to see them if I can't.
Bonus to being on the short side, perhaps? 

So, what do you think?  I'd love to hear from you guys in the comments.  Just click on comment at the bottom of the page and have at it!

I guess there's no reason in the world why we shouldn't be able to come up with some new dinner recipes now with all these resources at our finger tips.  Maybe I'll bust out with an Alton recipe.  Without the puppets.

Ta-Ta for now.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chef Spanky, Anyone?

We checked out the Kodiak Farmer's Market last weekend.  What a fun way to start the weekend!  When we were stationed in the DC area, there were farmer's markets and road side stands with fresh fruits and veggies everywhere.  Not so much during our time in Key West, so it's nice to have this available.  For now, anyway.

It was predictably on the small side, but there were some unique products to choose from - like salmonberry jam.

I wasn't familiar with salmonberries until we got here.  They grow throughout the upper northwest and Alaska and they're kind of similar to raspberries.  The window of calling myself a girl closed about 15 years ago, but case in point that I never have been and never will be a country girl:  Hubby picks salmonberries right off the bush when he sees them while we're walking Cheety.  All I can think about is how it needs to be rinsed off first.  And what if an animal peed on it or a bird ate a little bit and left it?  You'd be eating peed on bird leftovers.  No thanks.  I know - ridiculous.  What can I say?

Although, I did finally give in and give one a try straight off the bush.  Eh.  It was okay.  Not nearly as sweet as a raspberry, but the same texture.  I'm sure the animal pee tainted the taste.  Needless to say, we didn't get any salmonberry jam on our farmer's market adventure.  (Ironically, the salmonberry jam I sampled was too sweet)

The farmer's market is held every Saturday morning during the summer and a little bit through September at the Kodiak Island Fairgrounds.  The fairgrounds are right up the road from Base Kodiak, so it's a quick little ride to get there.

The Fairgrounds are also where the Alaska State Fair and rodeo are held at the end of August each year.  Can't say I've ever been to a rodeo (remember - not a country girl), but we're sure as hell checking it out in a few weeks this year!  Yee-haw!  Maybe I'll mentor at the 4-H Club.  Because I'm so knowledgeable about livestock and farming.  Or not.  (there really does need to be a sarcasm font)

Once we meandered our way in to see what they had to offer, it was obvious why it's a good idea to get there right at 11AM when they open.  (Besides the fact that we tried to check it out the weekend before and it was completely empty and dismantled when we got there at 1:30, that is.  Live and learn.)  So, 11AM arrival time is key.

How can you not think of Gorgs & Fraggles
with the size of those radishes? Beautiful!
It was pretty crowded, but there was a nice variety in the products.  One guy was selling home made smoked salmon dog treats that he called "Fatties."  He's actually a Coastie who works at the air station with the hubby.  Maybe we'll pick some up for Cheets next week.

I was loving the presentation at this table.

There was one table with a very knowledgeable woman selling different varieties of goat's milk cheese.  Hubby was Mr. 20 questions man. We're talking "What do you feed them, how many do you have, what kind of goats are they," etc., etc. - I couldn't help wondering if he has secret plans for goats at some point in the future.  Which I have to say, I'm kind of down with, depending on where we end up.  GOATS!!  (related book recommendation:  The Dirty Life, by Kristen Kimball.  Intriguing, to say the least)

The selection of vegetables ranged from squash, zucchini, chard and lettuce to rhubarb, tomatoes, and carrots. And much more.  It all looked really good, and I love that it's grown locally.  Not that I don't get a kick out of the fact that we get our blueberries from Canada now, but it's always nice to support the local economy and be environmentally friendly at the same time.  I know, I'm a hippie at heart.

There was also a pretty good selection of freshly baked breads, and tons of cookies and jams.  We opted for a marmalade made by a guy who called himself Chef Spanky.  How could we possibly pass up getting something from someone who goes by that name?  He was a feisty, crunchy looking old guy who liked to crack a joke or two.  What can I say, personality and a unique nickname go a long way at the old farmer's market.  Why yes, Chef Spanky, I would like to purchase some of your marmalade.

We also picked up some home made salsa and fresh rhubarb.  Apparently the hubby has had a hankering for strawberry rhubarb pie lately.  I'm certainly not going to discourage him when the urge to bake overtakes him.  Desserts from scratch that I don't have to bake?  YES. 
I love the lady with the basket.  She's so farmer's market legit.

So our ride home resulted in the inevitable discussion of what we could try and sell at the farmer's market.  Anyone can purchase a table for five dollars, and whatever you offer up has to be home made and/or locally grown.

Hubby thought the home made dog treats were a good idea, but I was thinking something along the lines of rosemary focaccia bread.  We could easily grow the rosemary in pots at home and the hubby has always been a good cook and baker.  Granted, there's only a few more weeks left for the farmer's market before it turns into Narnia around here, but there's always next year.  I vote rosemary focaccia bread.  Easy to do, especially when I'm not the baker, right?  Ha.  I'll totally grow the rosemary, though.  Team effort!  So, here were our spoils from our first foray into the Kodiak Farmer's Market:

Home made salsa that reminded me of Amigo's salsa in Key West (so very good!), 
Alaska Grown rhubarb, and marmalade from Chef Spanky's Alaskan Creations

I'll definitely visit again, since the selection is different every week and there are only a few more weeks to take advantage.  I want pick up some of that goat's milk mozzarella I was delicious.  Who knows what kind of characters we may run into next time?  Some of these Kodiakans are eccentric and entertaining, to say the least.

Ta-Ta for now.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fifty Day Re-cap

We stepped off the Kennicott ferry and on to this unique & remote island - which will be our home for the next three years - on June 29, 2013.  So about now (somewhere around the 50-ish day mark), I'm doing a little mental round-up of what I know so far.

1.  Kodiak is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.

Anton Larsen Bay and Fort Abercrombie
Mossy tree in Rotary Park, view from 
Base Kodiak, & misty Mill Bay Beach


View from the top of Pillar Mountain

2.  I've had to redefine my idea of what "good weather" means.  Basically, if it's not raining, it's good weather.

More often than not, this is the weather norm - Misty!

3.  There are no fleas or ticks on Kodiak, so we don't have to worry about prescriptions for flea/tick control for Cheety.  Nice!

 4.  Living on a military base is not what I expected.  So far, it's been downright pleasant.

Apparently, I'm surrounded by experts

5.  I order a ton of stuff online.  Way more than I ever did in Key West.  I'm keeping Amazon, UPS, and FedEx on their toes with the number of deliveries that come our way these days.

6.  The hiking here is fantastic.  It's one of my favorite things to do & I can't can't say enough about it.  

Lake Gertrude
7.  I predict I'll have as many different types of fleece jackets & winter hats here as I did flip flops in Key West.

8.  The Kodiak Daily Mirror is the world's tiniest newspaper.  They don't even have a weekend edition.

9.  There are more varieties of salmon than I ever realized, & one of these days I'm going to catch one, cook it in a delicious way and EAT it.

10.  I've rediscovered my love of taking bubble baths.  Probably has something to do with the fact that it's not God-awful hot outside.  

11.  If I had to choose a non-negotiable day-to-day item for living here, it would be rubber boots.  Glad I already had a pair of Wellies from the rainy seasons in Key West.  I've worn them A LOT since we got here.

Hey, if it'll help counteract the winter
 blues, sign me up - I'm all on board
12.  I'm a little concerned  about what the reality of winter will be here.  We'll know first hand in a few short months.  But, we're nothing if not prepared.  The word on the street is that light boxes & a vitamin D supplement are the way to go during the gray & dark winter.  Done.  →

13.  The people who live here are (not shockingly) called Kodiakans, and they're one hardy bunch of people, I tell ya.  We've seen kids running around in shorts and t-shirts, & adults out and about around town with about the same amount of clothes on in 52 degree temperatures.  I guess it's possible that after a few years, I may just morph into a sturdy Kodiakan, too.  The jury's still out on that one!

14.  I've been in bird identification nirvana with all the new species I get to see.  From the ubiquitous Black-billed Magpie to the illustrious Bald Eagle, I've been geeking out all over the place whenever I see some of the new and distinct types that live up here.  Black Oystercatchers!  Puffins!  (which I'm still waiting to catch a glimpse of)  I've come a long way from the Pelicans and Egrets of Florida's shores.

Black-billed Magpie, Black Oystercatcher and a Bald Eagle
(Photo Credit:  "Mike" Michael L. Baird)

15.  I'm not the only one who's been in nirvana.  Cheety's been in doggie heaven with everything from the cooler temperatures, all the space he has to roam around on walks, the big mountain hikes he loves so much, and the pièce de résistance, his very own dog park right behind his house. (translation:  his first ever fenced in backyard in his 3 short years of life)  Someone is one happy pooch:

Kashevaroff Mountain - What pup wouldn't be in paradise with all
that space & freedom?  The hills were alive with the sound of Cheety!

View of Kodiak from the top of Kashevaroff Mountain

Fifty days in and all I can say is, not too shabby.  Not too shabby at all.  

Ta-Ta for now.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Be Bear Aware!

When we arrived in Kodiak, I noticed pretty quickly some of the differences between living up here and living in the lower 48.  Ya like that?  I'm already busting out with "the lower 48" like I can even say that with any authority.  But, one thing that stood out is the whole dumpster situation.  For one thing, they have locks on them up here.  

Locks on a dumpster?  Yep.  To keep the bears out.  Some of the locks are on the intricate side.  I'm not saying they have combinations or anything - a la high school gym lockers - but there are definitely some that have an "insert this pin in this groove and turn" type of scenarios.  It makes me imagine the bears having strategy sessions to figure out how to crack the code to the forbidden food source.  

What I think is funny, and consequently started snapping some pictures of as I discovered different versions, is the inevitable "Be Bear Aware" signs on all of the dumpsters.  They crack me up.  Some of them are very serious, like pretty much every one I've seen on the base.  Case in point:

Be Bear Aware, dammit!
 It's stark, no nonsense, and to the point.  Just the fact that they use the word "refuse" makes me chuckle.  It's just so military.  I laugh now, but I'm sure I won't be laughing if I ever have an encounter of the bear kind at some point.  But, I can't say they didn't have a sign to warn me.

As we bee-bopped around the island, I started to notice that some of the other dumpsters in town had signs too, but they were much more entertaining.  And almost whimsical compared to the strictly informative and deadly serious ones I'd become used to on the base.  I think this one is my favorite:

C'mon, you've got to love this one.  It's like the trash is his crack, and the bear NEEDS a fix.  Look at his eyes. - He's completely on the edge and the only way down is through the illicit garbage.  If his bear-parents aren't careful, he's going to steal the flat screen and sell it on the street to feed his taboo habit.

I like the cartoons because they're more light-hearted than the "words only, no pictures" variety.  Still gets the message across, but with a little more flair.  Kind of takes your mind off the fact that there's a real potential for an encounter.  Who wants to fixate on the probability of severe bodily injury - or at the very least - getting the crap scared out of you, when you're just trying to throw away some dog poop?  I'd rather giggle at poorly drawn bear caricatures.  Real world...psht.

This next one is the only other type I've seen in the whole bear awareness campaign Kodiak's got going on:

Whoever designs the cartoons might want look a little closer at a bear.  I get that they're trying to go for a tail there, but I think they missed the mark.  Last time I checked, bears didn't have pointy asses.

I'm also pretty sure this bear might be in some sort of fish stupor.  His tongue is hanging out, and he kind of looks like he's stumbling along as if the garbage can is his own personal rascal.  He might just fall down if someone takes away that trash can.  Either that, or he's not the sharpest bear in the cave.  Slack jawed, glassy eyed - he's obviously the stooge of the whole garbage stealing operation.  He's the bear lackey of the scam if I've ever seen one.  Patsy the Bear! 

I'm constantly on the lookout for new versions of the "Be Bear Aware" dumpster signs.  I'm a little disappointed I've only seen these three.  That's not nearly enough!  They're way too fun to make up stories about to only have three kinds.  

I  make light of the whole "we live in bear country" scenario, but if I'm ever in any situation involving a bear, you can bet your ass I'm not getting mauled!  I heard a local say that the motto in Alaska is, "I don't have to run that fast, I just have to run faster than you."  Done.

Ta-ta for now.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

"Like a God Damn Postcard..."

I can't tell you how many times those words have come out of the hubby's mouth since we've ventured into the great white north.  Although, it's pretty green here these days.  I've been meaning to share the hike we took on my birthday a few weeks ago. - It might be the most scenic one we've been on yet.  (And I think my favorite so far)

Peeking out from one of the trails - It almost looks fake

The birthday hike of choice was at Fort Abercrombie, which is part of the Alaska State Parks system, and is also on the National Register of Historic Places.  It has 182 acres of land with some of the most well-developed trails in Kodiak.  Not to mention stunning views.  Oh yeah, it also has the historic ruins of a WWII coastal defense installation, but that part isn't nearly as beautiful or interesting to me.  Sorry, history buffs. 

Guns and the Hubby & Pug dog at Miller Point
 We only stayed for a few hours, so we didn't even make a dent in exploring all the trails the park has to offer. - But we did get a chance to stroll around Miller Point, which overlooks the northern Pacific.  It was such a clear day, so the view didn't disappoint.   We also hiked along two of the trails:  Moss Trail, and the Lake Gertrude Trail.  I would definitely do both again.  

Moss trail was...mossy.  Aptly named, apparently.  It's unbelievable how the moss coats the entire floor of the forest, and then crawls its way up the trees, covering almost everything in its path.  Anything that falls on the ground is completely overtaken by the moss, and then over time is transformed into some sort of hybrid moss/tree/natural specimen that you just can't help standing in front of, gawking at.  Magical is a little much, but I'm telling you...magical!

Moss Trail
I read that there are over 110 different varieties of moss in Kodiak.  Just based on the diversity in color, I believe it!  So many shades of green. - And the way it feels under your shoes;  so spongy and soft.


Part of the Lake Gertrude Trail

For about four seconds, I thought about taking off my socks and trusty New Balance to see how it felt on my bare feet.  And my immediate next thought was eww, bugs.  Followed by hmmm, it's a little chilly for no shoes.  Still though - that springy, soft texture just begs you to give it a try.  Maybe next time.

The Lake Gertrude trail was a memorable one.  Fort Abercrombie is described as diverse, and I can't say I disagree.  So much beauty.  We saw vibrant, flowering green lily pads in the lake, towering Sitka Spruce trees, and a gorgeous beach with beautiful mountain views.

Cheety's second-ever Alaskan swim.

It was so peaceful

I had to add Fort Abercrombie to my list of places to share with any brave visitors who make the trek all the way up here to come and see us.  No doubt one of the must-do's in Kodiak.  Since we only just got here, I know we'll be adding a lot more to that list.  Don't worry, I'll keep you in the loop. - Even when the green is no more and it really becomes the great white north...and I possibly start buying hot cocoa and Baileys in bulk.

Ta-ta for now.