Friday, February 21, 2014

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

This was a beautifully written, melancholy novel.  It was published back in 2005, but I recently came across a recommendation for it on a book blog, so I added it to my ginormous "want to read" list & finished it not too long ago.

The undercurrent of sorrow in the story really draws you in - it's almost mesmerizing.  It's also a story that reminds you to release any regrets you may have about decisions you've made throughout your life.  It shines a glaring light on the consequences of holding on to pain.  Through her characters, Kim Edwards weaves a complex tale of loss, grief, and the dangers of allowing regret to set up shop in your mind.  She writes like a poet, and at times you can feel overwhelmed with the raw emotions she's so adept at wringing out of these flawed and realistic character's she's created.

The gist of the plot is about a family who grows around an awful secret, known only to the father.  It affects every one of them, and not always in positive ways.  The main character of David is so damaged, but he puts on a polished charade for the world.  He never lets even those he loves most past the wall he's built up around himself.  As you get deeper and deeper into their story, the inevitable connections you make as a reader start to take on a theme.

For me, the take away message was a two-parter.  First, it's inevitable that you'll experience some kind of loss in your lifetime.  If you hold the pain caused by that loss close to you, and nourish it by holding it in, it will create a nice warm and enticing place for emotional decay to take root and fester.  Nobody wants that.

Second, if you waste your energy and time on feeding feelings of regret, the consequences to you and all of those you love will be disastrous.  Feeding regret will ruin the life you have by encouraging the deceptive "what-ifs" to invade your consciousness.  When you cradle the past and percieved mistakes by carrying them around with you, it does nothing but violate the life you have.  Wow, I just reread what I've written and it's pretty intense.  A little departure from my usual yapping.  Definitely not a light, airy read, this one!

Despite the heavy, mournful undertone of this book, it was superbly written, with sharp insights into some of the more somber human emotions.  Something every last one of us can relate to, unfortunately.  And when all is said and done, you aren't left feeling disheartened.  I was content with how she concluded things.  It was realistically poignant, but also somehow managed to maintain hopefulness within the sorrow.  That's the mark of a good story!

So if you decide to take this one on, which I definitely recommend, get ready to go on a ride.  I think I might need to read a Hiaasen now!  If you've never read Carl Hiaasen, he's a "must experience at least once" author.  And if you read him once, you'll read him again.  His books are basically the polar opposite of this type of story.  He usually sets his novels in Florida, and they have all sorts of corruption, wacky characters, and snarky humor.  Yep, I think that's what I need after Kim Edwards' pensive, but brilliant story - which put me through the wringer!  I hope you like it if you decide to give it a go!

Ta-ta for now.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Chiniak, Alaska is about an hour and fifteen minute drive southeast of Coast Guard Base Kodiak, and it has a population of about 50 people.

I actually took this one on another drive we took
out here last summer. - That's why it's so green.

It's a pretty unique place.  Talk about getting away from it all.  The houses are all along the coast line, and my impression is that people pretty much do whatever the hell they want out there!

Some of the houses are Clampett-style compounds with all sorts of rusted out junk all over the yard.

School buses with no wheels, crappy old cars that look like they haven't gone anywhere in decades, and abandoned motors and electrical equipment strewn around.

Imagine a junkyard, but on the front lawn.  Minus the grass.  I wanted to get a picture of some of them, but we weren't about to stop and start snapping pictures.  Didn't feel like getting shot!

Now don't get me wrong, not all of the houses are like that.  There are some that are on beautiful, sprawling properties with huge, mansion-like cabins. - And million dollar views of the bay and mountains.

The interesting thing is that all the houses have million dollar views.  The ones with curb appeal right along with the ones that have engine blocks in the yard and blue tarps as decor.  It's just a very unique combination of people who have the shared desire of wanting to be isolated.  Right, because the hustle and bustle of Kodiak is just too much activity.  Ha.

We drove down to where the road ends and took a nice long hike along the coastline, and it was a beautiful day.  After so many weeks of gray, overcast, misty weather, this was a much needed sunny escapade! 

This is where we parked and started our hike.  Look at how still that water is...

I mentioned this in a prior post, but there are all kinds of bunkers and left-over structures from WWII along the coast lines all around Kodiak.  We saw this one up along an ATV trail, so we made it our first stop:

Hubby and Pug dog are kind of tiny & camouflaged in the lower center of the pic
Gun Emplacement

Once we made our way up to the fort, we walked around the back side of the building where there was a rusted out old gun emplacement.

It was full of water from all of the rain we've been getting, just screaming with WWII history.  What a view those men had while they were stationed there!

We hiked all along the coast, down to one of the beaches, and then back up through the forest along one of the dirt logging roads.

We probably did anywhere from 7-10 miles, & it felt great to get out and get some fresh air.  You just can't beat the scenery.  It's breath taking and rejuvenating all wrapped up in one.

I saw a huge flock of Black Oystercatchers here.  There were a ton of them! But, too far away for a good picture.

This was the view from the trail we followed around the shore line.  Hubby managed to get a shot of me taking a PB&J break, and Cheety taking a "roll in poo" break.

He literally was rolling around in poop in this picture.  We think it was either cow or buffalo poop.  Good times.

But, he did take a few quick dips in the water down on the beach and washed a little bit off. - It was a very stinky car ride home!

One of my favorite moments from that day was watching how freaking happy Cheety was while he was frolicking along the shore at the beach.

I was surprised he went in the water, but he was having a ball chasing the waves as they crashed along the shore.  He dug in the sand, he swam in the cold water, he rolled in poop.

It really doesn't get any better than that for the Puggyboy.

It's such a privilege to be able to go out & explore this island, and the things we get to see are so exceptional - I love being able to share it here...

Another fort we saw along the way

So much energy!  Happiest pooch ever:

I love this one of the two of them on this rock outcropping they climbed. - Great light:

So, another Kodiak exploration day in the books.  The gray skies that have been prevalent these last few weeks has forced me to anxiously await the next sunny weekend day to get out and do something outside.

I love my couch, but when the sun is shining and this type of landscape beckons, I gotta get out and hike!

Ta-ta for now.

Friday, February 7, 2014


This is the King Crab before we broke it up into
manageable pieces.  Looks like the damn Kraken!
It might be a tad much.  Crab, that is.  Since I started working for one of the local tribes here in Kodiak, I've been able to get in on wholesale pricing with the seafood branch of their organization, called Wildsource.  Pretty sweet.

At the same time, the hubby got in on an order of crab from St. Paul that one of the Coast Guard crews was bringing in after a flight.  The translation is that I ordered 10 lbs of Alaskan King Crab from Wildsource, and he ordered Snow Crab from the incoming CG crew...which he neglected to get the details about as far as amounts.  Not 10 lbs.  FORTY.  It's absurd.

Basically, our tiny little garage freezer is currently stocked and overflowing with over 50 lbs of Alaskan King and Snow Crab at this moment.  Holy crap, right?  Waaaaay too much crab!  Not a bad problem to have, though.  I know - "Whoa is me, we have too much crab to eat!"

This is the Snow Crab - it's more delicate
and has a lighter flavor than the King Crab
So the result of all this crab overload is the obvious scouring of the internet for recipes that involve crab in some way.  On the upcoming menu is any number of the following:  crab cakes, crab fettuccine, seafood chowder, crab mac and cheese, steamed crab, crab bisque, etc.  Anyone have any good crab recipes they want to share?  Have at it in the comments.

The first of the list we attempted was crab bisque a few weeks ago.  Holy Lord was it good. We used THIS recipe for Lobster Bisque, but tweaked it a little.  Obviously instead of lobster, we used a combination of Snow and King Crab, & instead of heavy whipping cream, we substituted with low fat cream cheese and used a stick blender to blend it all together.

Started with sautéing some shallots, blending the
cream cheese into the stock & then adding the crabby love

It's always nice to find a substitute that doesn't take away from the overall flavor of a dish.  And it helps that it's less heart attack-y with the low fat cream cheese.  Bisque isn't the healthiest choice for soup!

Another (not as healthy) tweak we did was serving it in bread bowls.  Probably not necessary, but this isn't about need.  Might as well take it up to the next level.  Especially when the next level involves bread bowls.  You really can't go wrong.

We picked up one round sourdough loaf and cut it in half instead of having one bread bowl per person. - Because that's way more bread than anyone needs in one sitting.  The sourdough was a really nice counterpoint to the bisque.

Even cutting the loaf in half still equaled a pretty big serving, but it's not like this is our weekly routine...yet.  Just kidding.  We'll keep the bisque indulgence to a minimum.  The end result was nothing short of fabulous.

Running my spoon along the inside edge of the bread bowl, where the soup makes the bread all soft and gooey and you get that bisque-y, bread-y combination?  Heaven.    Check out this crabtacular soup:

This ain't no straight creamy bisque - we've got chunks of crab going on.  Eff tradition, this is the the way to do it!

So, you should expect future posts involving crab meals.  And again - if anyone has a good crab themed dish to share, comment away at the bottom of the post.  I'd love any suggestions.  We do have 50 plus pounds to hoover through.  Damn.

Ta-ta for now.

P.S. - By the way, the Pugbull was incredulous over the fact that he was not involved with the crab preparation:

"I'll take that crab off your hands, if you need me to."

"Wait - not all dogs have a bed in the kitchen?  Now about that crab....."  Spoiled.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Johnny Mathis Nirvana

We had a quick little weekend snow a couple of weeks ago, and ended up taking a hike the next day after the storm.  It was quite the winter wonderland!  Of course - at the time I'm posting this entry - the snow has long since melted, but it was beautiful. 

Fifteen years in Florida transforms snow back into something fun and novel again.  Not something you curse at, as I'm sure many jaded "winterland" folks do daily! And to think I lived so close to a place called Summerland not too long ago.  Once again I'm thinking, "Oh, how far we've come."  ♪ ♬  Ch-ch-ch-changes!  ♪ ♬

You're welcome for putting David Bowie in your head.  I dare you to not sing it.

What was remarkable about our hike that day was the unbelievable diversity we saw in just the span of a few hours.  We went from snow covered, idyllic trails, to a black sand beach dusted with snow, and right back in to those mossy forests I can't stop talking about.  It was hard not to notice the unbelievable variety in all of the landscapes we walked through.

To go from these surroundings:

To this snow dusted beach:

And then right back in to the mossy forest...all within just an hour or so.  It's so diverse, I love it:

I love when we see the really fat mossy trees like this one.  I always HAVE to take pictures of them.
I won't tell you how many mossy tree pictures I have.  I'll leave it at...a lot.

Cute Little Bunny Tracks
Flopsy and Mopsy must have had some errands to run because we saw tons of bunny tracks in the snow throughout the day. - You can't help but picture their little back legs hippity-hopping around when you look at the shape of the tracks.

And predictably, Adventure Dog had to get right on the edge of the cliff side.  He wanted to trot down and check out some of the birds he was hearing chirp and swoop around on the bay.  And by "check out," I mean chase and wreak as much havoc as possible upon them.

I don't think you can really tell how steep it is from this picture, but it was a substantial drop off down to the water.  No fear whatsoever in this pooch.  Either that, or he's not the brightest crayon in the box.  I'm going with fearless.  Because he's the bestest boy, and that can't possibly include less than sharp.  ;)

Watch your step there, Puggy Boy - He looks like he's ready to take a leap into the great beyond!

WWII bunker/fort/enclosure - they're everywhere on the island
Sometimes while we're hiking, we'll stumble upon old WWII bunkers and forts along the cliffs by the water.  It's always kind of cool when you happen upon one of them because you're never expecting a history bomb in the middle of a hike.

Sometimes literally a bomb, too!  Not us, but I know of several stories (real people, not just hearsay) who have come across WWII explosives and had to get the authorities involved with removal/assessment.  Crazy.

So not only do you need to be bear aware while hiking, now you have to make sure you don't stumble upon potentially live bombs - that look like they couldn't possibly be anything but a dud - that have been laying around for almost 70 years.  Superb!  This is a few years old, but check out this story related to live WWII bombs in Kodiak.  Again, crazy.

Outside of WWII history, I have to say, I'm still digging the cold weather - especially when it snows.  It's so pretty.  Yes, Johnny Mathis Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland pretty.  I don't love the aftermath of the snow when I have to drive into town to work on sketchy roads in the dark, but I'm still in the whole "winter is pretty" mentality.  I'm sure after a few winters I'll be over it, but right now I'm loving the crisp, chilly air.  It's a really nice change of pace from the humidity of Florida.

Speaking of driving to work, I guess for those who follow my posts and are curious, I should mention that I was offered and accepted an Archives Assistant position with The Sun'aq Tribe of Kodiak, helping to build a digital archive of their Tribal governance records and history.  If you're so inclined, you can check out what I've done so far here.  You can only view the bibliographic records, not the actual documents (unless you come to the tribal center) because of copyright & privacy issues, just FYI.

It's been interesting so far, but it's grant funded, so the job ends in September.  It's a good beginning though, because I've been making some worthwhile contacts in the community through this position, which could potentially lead to...well, who knows, right?  Yay, networking! 

So, I'll keep embracing this on again, off again Johnny Mathis Nirvana that's reality these days.  Kodiak is fickle.  Snow - rain - everything freeze - everything melt - snow again...and repeat.  I don't have too much to complain about though, considering it was about twenty degrees colder in Atlanta, GA this week than in Kodiak, and a large portion of Alaska.

I love the snow and brisk temperatures, but the dreary gray that's been the norm lately can head on out aaaanytime now.  Until spring time comes, anyway.  Then I'll have to hope we're in more of a Katrina and the Waves "I'm Walkin' on Sunshine" mode.  Maybe a little Jimmy Cliff "I Can See Clearly Now?"  I'll take either.  Here's hoping!

Ta-ta for now.