We love flat rate shipping. Cargo is dreamy. Go, barges, go!

June 27, 2012 at 11:26 AM | Posted in We Have a Bear on our State Quarter | Leave a comment


Thing 1 and Thing 2, my twin 2-year-old nieces brought their parents to visit last week.  And they left a few things behind when they went home to Bethel, Alaska.  Now, if I were The Guy Who Can Fix Everything or totally bonkers and if it were winter, I could drive there on a snow-go (snow mobile for you laypersons) in three days or so.  But since I am rational me enjoying a balmy 50 degree day, I’m going to use the mail.

Have you ever lived in a place that didn’t have a road connecting it to anywhere else?  It has its ups for sure.  Communities tend to be close-knit since not just anyone can traipse in and out at their leisure.  Tanks of gas tend to go further since driving distance is physically limited–the longest drive you can take in Dillingham, Alaska is under a half hour.  But it isn’t so awesome when you’re out of YOUR shampoo which they do not sell in town.  Or when you can’t send flowers to your mom in return for her lifelong restraint against whapping you over the head with a bazooka.  Or when a pet needs a veterinarian.  And don’t even try to find a Starbucks or try to pay less than 8 dollars for a gallon of commoner, non-organic, just plain regular milk.  You probably can’t even get the fancy stuff.  Then there are those times that planes can’t fly due to weather or volcanic eruption or whatever.  Hope you don’t need fresh fruit and vegetables because in about a week there won’t be any in the local stores.

The lack of connecting roads makes the mail and cargo in Alaska interesting.  I’ve sent decorative gourds, pears, bags of rice, a freezer, salmon scale samples, a single granola bar, rain gear, shop towels, hollowed-out eggshells for Easter, canned salmon, disposable gloves, boat parts of every variety, cell phone parts of the wrong variety and then the right one, Cheerios, and rubber boots along with, you know, bills and regular letters.  During her last visit to Anchorage, my sister and The Tall Guy arranged to send themselves a car on the river barge next month.  My mom is here now and is mailing herself a box of artificial flowers to put on the graves of our dearly departed next Memorial Day.

Later today, I’m going to be mailing homemade odor-eaters comprised of epsom salts and wintergreen essential oil in cheap cotton socks that I will simply rubber-band shut since, unlike Dawn, I don’t do that sewing thing.  My brother is working up on the North Slope (where the polar bears are) and has paralyzingly stanked-out work boots that he is newly aware of since he’s got a girlfriend now. His co-workers will probably give the mail carriers a hero’s welcome.

Alaska’s motto is, “North to the Future,” but it should probably be “If it fits, it ships,” written in black Sharpie marker and covered in clear packing tape.


Once upon a time.

June 2, 2012 at 10:48 AM | Posted in I'm related to these people., We Have a Bear on our State Quarter | 1 Comment

Here’s some olde Alaska!  Check out this photo of two couples, one complete with their catch of the day.  Fish that touch the ground taste like the ground and lose their eyes and unmarked sides to ravenous seagulls.  We’re all about seafood quality in Bristol Bay.  Hence, Mrs. Carlson’s refusal to put down her fish and expose it to less than awesome conditions.  I can so relate!  I wouldn’t put it down either.  As Gollum sang, “Our only wish, to catch a fish, so juicy sweet!”  Besides, a beautiful fish is an excellent addition to any photo, yes?

Grandpa James and Grandma Olga

As funny as the fish part is, the portion of this photo that matters to me is on the right, where my paternal great-grandparents and their daughter, Mary, stand together in the sun.  This photo is the first image I’ve ever seen of this generation of my dad’s family, so it’s of great worth.  Old photos are rare enough, but documentation of my great-grandfather is practically non-existent.  See, my great-grandfather was as slippery as Mrs. Carlson’s fish.  There is one scrap of evidence in an Army log book that states, “James F. Timmerman; drunk and disorderly downtown…again,” but after that, nothing until 1918 when he showed up in Nome, Alaska with the listed occupation, “Gold Prospector.”  Then, he somehow made his way to Dillingham.  Throughout his life there, he didn’t write any letters and didn’t receive any either.  He never left Dillingham, and no one came to visit him.   He met and married my great-grandmother but managed to remain secretive even in that as she spoke no English and, according to my dad, he “spoke no Native.”  And he didn’t reveal much about himself to anyone else either.

There are two census records that show his existence in Alaska and one reference to a brother named Charles in Ferndale, Washington, but beyond that, Jim Timmerman is an unknown.  I suppose that meager collage is a lot for this era in rural Alaska, but I want to know more.  And it’s kind of driving me crazy.

I want to know who this guy was and why he chose to disappear into the place and culture of southwestern Alaska.  I want to know how many brothers and sisters he had and where his parents came from.  I want to if he liked Alaska or if he just didn’t have anywhere else to go.  I want to know how tall he was and what he admired.  I want to know if he could read and write.  I want to know what his talents were.  I want to know what he believed.

Despite all the mystery, one thing is sure: I love that he is holding his little girl’s hand.

What would you call this?

March 16, 2012 at 12:55 PM | Posted in Adventures in S-Land, We Have a Bear on our State Quarter | 2 Comments

Flying David

Here is my husband flying around.  The question for you is, what is he flying?

See, I can tell where you are from based on your identification of the machine in the photo.  If you refer to it as a “snow mobile,” it means that you are from what we in Alaska call “The Lower 48” or “Outside.”    If you would say that is a “sled,” you are probably from the Pacific Northwest or maybe Alaska, but probably from one of the communities on the fancy road system, like Anchorage.  If it’s a “snow machine,” you’re from Alaska in general.  If you call the thing a “snow-go,” well, now I know that we probably know some of the same people because you are from rural Alaska.  From the village.  Keeping it vill!

Despite my rural upbringing, I am not a fan of ripping around on a snow-go.  It’s cold and noisy and smelly and you have to wear this huge helmet that makes you look like a gigantic gear shift.  And there are hidden bumps in the snow that send you crashing around and my idea of fun isn’t dragging a 1000 pound machine out from wherever I got stuck most recently.   And a lot of times, someone shoots a caribou and then you have to drag that thing home which means keeping track of the sled you’re pulling along with trying to watch for spots where you may fall into an unfrozen swamp.  My husband, on the other hand, is a snow-go fanatic.  Except that he would say “sled” because his family is from Wasilla, a community on the road system.

When we were dating, I agreed to go riding with that guy because it’s important to support each other’s activities and all that.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  I have never been so scared in my life.  Did you know that it’s possible to do a jump like the one above with TWO people on the machine even if one is using all her molecules to try and remain on blessed Earth?  Add a  gigantic gear shift-head behind the guy in the photo.  If you really want to add authenticity, pour a smoothie down your back and stick your gear shift-head in a fan.  You have to imagine the screeching since the helmet holds it all in.  But it was there, make no mistake.  Banshees have nothing on me.

Now, it’s not that I’ll never go riding again.  However, we have reached the mutual understanding that should David feel the need to jump over the moon, he needs to be prepared to either let me sit it out or to be extremely nice for the next few days while I am undergoing therapy and compulsively eating cheesecake.  It’s important to support each other’s activities and all that.


January 22, 2012 at 3:59 PM | Posted in Adventures in S-Land, We Have a Bear on our State Quarter | Leave a comment

Productivity. That's what these are.

I am not a coffee drinker, but this week has required a little help to get going in the mornings since it’s dark and continues to be about a billion degrees below zero.  Fortunately, the guy who can fix everything got chocolate-covered espresso beans for his birthday. A couple of those (the espresso beans, not birthdays) down the hatch and…








I’ve been advised that I have had enough chocolate-covered espresso beans.  The guy who can fix everything says the world is not ready for me + them.  He also said something about “detox.”

As if I need that.  I could have stopped on my own.

And the world is totally missing out now that my yodeling career has been cut short.  For a second there, the hills were alive!

But, we’ve been promised ten degrees above zero this week!  In balmy weather like that, I may not even need a jump start.  I’ll be out tanning.  And maybe adding some finer details to the roof mural.

Dear Trader Joe’s, I am mad at you.

October 1, 2011 at 11:39 AM | Posted in We Have a Bear on our State Quarter | Leave a comment

There is no Trader Joe’s in Anchorage.  This displeases me, and I have to resort to buying all my Trader Joe’s favorites on eBay or hoping for relatives and friends in Trader Joe’s locales to take pity upon my poor, Sesame Honey Almonds-dependent soul.

But then it occurred to me, I could just whip up my own!  The trusty Internet always has recipes.  So I googled my way to veggiewiz.blogspot.com and found the following recipe:

Honig Brat Madeln

  • 1 cup almonds, whole with skins on
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons almond oil or vegetable oil
  1. Spread the almonds and cashews in a single layer in a shallow ungreased baking pan and place in cold oven. Bake at 350F/180C, stirring occasionally, until the color of the nut is tan to light brown, 10 to 12 minutes. (The nuts will continue to roast a little more after they are removed from the oven.) Set the roasted nuts aside.
  2. Thoroughly mix the sugar, salt, and sesame seeds, and set aside.
  3. Stir together the honey, water, and oil in a medium-size saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the roasted nuts and continue to cook and stir until all of the liquid has been absorbed by the nuts, about 5 minutes.
  4. Immediately transfer the almonds to a medium-sized bowl into which some sugar mixture has been sprinkled. Sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture over the nuts and toss until they are evenly coated. Spread the nuts out onto a silicon pad or parchment paper. When cool, store at room temperature in a tightly covered container or plastic bag. Will keep up to 2 weeks.

Now if I could just find a recipe for Trader Joe’s Pomegranate White Tea.  Trader Joe’s, why do you despise me and refuse my advances?

New Seafood Marketing Campaign?

June 24, 2011 at 8:55 PM | Posted in Another Day Another Dollar, We Have a Bear on our State Quarter | Leave a comment

A friend who moved to the far, far, far away realm of Alabama reported the following: in his local fish market, Copper River red salmon was selling for $17.99 per pound.  Copper River sockeye salmon was $18.99 per pound.  Being the wily ex-Alaskan that he is, he went for the red salmon.  Why?  Well, because red and sockeye ARE THE SAME THING.

Hi! I am a sockeye salmon! I am also a red salmon! Please buy me and all my friends so that Stephanie's commercial fishing family can have your money.

I suppose you pay extra for extra letters on the packaging.  The letter ‘y’ isn’t free, you know.



Forty-five Dollars.

May 5, 2011 at 8:32 PM | Posted in Adventures in S-Land, I'm related to these people., We Have a Bear on our State Quarter | Leave a comment

This is Peninsula Airways, affectionately commonly known as PenAir in rural Alaska.   Due to Alaska’s charming lack of connecting roads, this is the only way in or out for many communities, including Dillingham.  Thus, it was the only way to send birthday raspberries to my dad for his birthday on Sunday.  The only FORTY-FIVE DOLLARS way.

Extravagant?  Well, yes.  Absolutely.  Great Jehosophat.  In fact, I can’t quite believe I did it.  But my dad is cool.  So, I shelled out the cash and sent the little, perishable, non-mailable raspberry guys on their big adventure.  I’m trying to think of it this way: Dillingham is 350 miles southwest of Anchorage.  If there were a road between the two communities, it would cost me a tank of gas for The Black Thing each way as The Black Thing is not a dainty consumer.  We’d be talking over a hundred dollars for me to deliver the raspberries.  So, I’m actually saving money!  Hooray for thriftiness!  I am a financial whiz-kid!

And my dad isn’t really the gift card type.  This is the guy who advises me to grab my students by their ears if they are not behaving and who thinks that you turn off a computer by unplugging it.  He thinks the microwave is communist.  He’s sort of from a different age.  Raspberries, however, are always current.  Haha–I was sooo tempted to write “currant” since raspberries are a berry and currants are ALSO a…sorry.

Raspberries are always appreciated, especially in rural Alaska places like Dillingham where produce prices rival that of fine jewelry.    The birthday raspberries will be a nice treat, especially since most fruits and veggies arrive at my mom’s grocery store looking like they traveled with a screwdriver in some hefty guy’s back pocket.

Besides, I think I still owe Dad for the time that I high centered the truck on a log and maybe also for the time that I melted an entire box of crayons down the side of the wood stove.  Forty-five dollars in raspberry plane fare seems like a good start.


February 27, 2011 at 9:54 PM | Posted in We Have a Bear on our State Quarter | Leave a comment

Look who came to visit:

Hi Mrs. Moose!

She was a brave visitor:

Nice Moosey. Don't hurt my sunroom windows.

And generous too!  Look!  She left a moose-print and some, um, other things:

Moose poop makes an Internet appearance! Hello World!

It’s all majestic wild kingdom stuff around here.

Berry Picking

October 12, 2010 at 9:51 PM | Posted in Adventures in S-Land, I'm related to these people., Salt of the Earth, We Have a Bear on our State Quarter | Leave a comment

All the slapping in the world didn’t keep the mosquitoes away, and dampness seeped through my jeans, making my knees itch.  I knew that my nails would be stained and ragged, and that I’d feel imaginary spiders crawling on me long after we’d cleaned up for the day.  And the bucket rim seemed to stretch up and up.

I never thought I’d like berry picking.  Ever.

Berry picking was a fact of life in rural Alaska where I grew up.  In a place with no roads connecting it to anywhere else and where every orange, apple, carrot, grape, and gallon of milk had to be flown or barged in, food prices were always up.  In our family of six ravenous stomachs and the slim earnings of one traditional fisherman, that meant that we had to gather all the free food we could get.  We weren’t picking berries to have some sort of quaint pancake breakfast.  We were picking for a winter’s worth of vitamins. I remember reading a book about a family going berry-picking and looking forward to lazing through a warm afternoon and picnicking on the fruit they found along with cheese slices and individually-wrapped crackers.  I figured they had to be very rich people to be able to take berry-picking so lightly and to spend only one day doing it.  We picked on weekends and after school, and no one was allowed to stop until the bucket was full.

Subsistence living is very much a way of life for Alaska’s rural residents.  Subsistence tradition ran so deeply in my father that he coped with the day of his mother’s funeral by going berry picking.  He found solace in green moss on trees, the turnipy smells of wild celery and rotting leaves, and the knowledge that he was doing what his family had done for generations.

I didn’t get quite get that.  I found nothing soul-filling nor comforting in getting bitten by bugs and dismayed by the lack of progress towards the bucket’s rim.  I saw berry-picking as one of those things I planned to go to college to avoid.  I figured that I’d move to a shiny city where berries came already cleaned and frozen in neat little plastic packages and where I’d never again wonder if the purple stains were making my backside look bigger.

Like most growth, I can’t pinpoint a moment when things changed.

I know that moving to the shiny city taught me that quiet, even when punctuated by the occasional drone of a mosquito, is a limited commodity.  Berry picking is a place where no energy need go toward tuning anything out and where every sound escapes being noise.

Entering a career in public education meant that my rewards wouldn’t be financial which was rich for me as a person but not accepted as legal tender for any debts, public or private.  The plastic-package berries are more expensive than practicality allows, and I’d rather pay with time in the sun and a good walk where I don’t have to dodge masses of people.

Participating in an activity that has remained unchanged, save for the plastic bucket and advent of denim, for thousands of years can’t help but make me feel connected to something larger and more solid than my current spin-around world of adolescents, deadlines, meetings, phone calls, websites, paperwork, and streaming videos.  I’m reminded that my life isn’t an email and that I come from a past of tradition and stability where gratitude lent grace to every chore.  And none of it was ever measured in backside size, purple or not.

Most dear to me is that choosing to go berry picking honors my father in ways that Father’s Day cards and phone calls can’t.  By doing what he taught me to do, I demonstrate that his life is valuable enough to become a permanent part of mine and that I accept his offer of an inheritance that grows back every year.  When I pour my berries from the bucket onto the cookie sheet, carefully pick out the leaves, bugs, stems, and anything else that isn’t a muffin or smoothie ingredient, and pack the berries into the freezer, I show that he has taught me what wealth is.  He will never need to worry about me being poor.

I suppose that I appreciate berry picking now because it isn’t just about berries filling the bucket anymore.

The mosquitoes aren’t as bad as they used to be either.

Hard to say which was more remarkable…

October 10, 2010 at 8:25 PM | Posted in Adventures in S-Land, We Have a Bear on our State Quarter | Leave a comment

Yes snow. Only a bit, but snow on the ground. It's October 10th.

An igloo. Manmade, obviously. Another Alaskan wonder.

Just got back from my Cantwell road trip with the guy who can fix everything.  See what we saw?

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