Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Captain Carrots

    There have been a number of rather famous or infamous captains down through the years. There have been songs, stories and books written about them. A few come readily to mind. Good ol' Captain Bligh from the book Mutiny on the Bounty. He was a real captain and there really was a Bounty, it wasn't just a story someone made up. He served under the famous English captain, James Cook, who was credited with discovering the Hawaiian Islands. Of course the islands had been previously discovered by the natives who lived there.They just didn't blab about it- probably didn't want all the trouble that outsiders would bring; understandably so. Captain Bligh was quite a knowledgeable man. After the mutiny he and a  handful of his followers traveled some 3618 nautical miles across the open Pacific Ocean in a twenty foot boat. That in itself is quite a feat, but when you consider that a nautical mile is 2000 yards,6,000 feet versus a land mile at 5280, it's even more remarkable. Though he was a very capable man, his temperament made him very unpopular with his crew, hence the mutiny.  Bligh is a name associated with another unpopular captain, Captain Joseph Hazelwood, who ran the tanker, Exxon Valdez aground in Prince William Sound on Bligh Reef on March 24, 1989. Up here in Alaska, we heard about that in the news for the better part of a year. It was pretty tragic. In researching some information for this post, for some reason I thought of the book Captains Courageous, by Rudyard Kipling. I discovered that the name for the book was taken from a line in a ballad written about an English Captain, Mary Ambree, who participated in liberating the Belgium city of Ghent. I never knew that there were any female captains in the English navy. The first line of the ballad reads in part: When captains courageous whom death could not daunt... I guess I'm going to have to get the book and read it. I'll certainly have to read up on Captain Mary Ambree. However, there is little brave or courageous about our beloved dog, Rigby, AKA Captain Carrots. As I've mentioned in previous posts, he insists on having sliced bananas in the morning if we partake, and most definitely will not eat his cereal unless we put milk on it. Whenever we are preparing a salad he goes ballistic at the sight of peppers- green, red, yellow, orange, he loves them all, plus the lettuce, tomato, cucumber- whatever. For the longest time we were in the habit of giving him cheese. We finally decided that it probably wasn't that good for him, so we switched to carrots instead. Much healthier, and quite a bit less expensive, and frankly, he loves them. I got on a site called Care 2, and discovered that carrots have quite a few benefits. According to them, carrots slow down the aging process, they promote healthier skin, help prevent infection and heart disease, they cleanse the body, protect teeth and gums, reduce the risk of cancer and of course something that your mother may have told you, they are good for your eyes. They are full of vitamin A, which is transformed in the retina
to rhodopsin, a purple pigment necessary for night vision. Holy cats, who knew? It sounds like a person could pretty much live on a diet of carrots. I know one gal here in town who ate massive quantities of carrots back when I was managing the L. Kane store. Almost every day she was in buying a bag. One day she came in and we didn't have any fresh ones, she'd bought them all, so she purchased a can of carrots. It was at that time that I noticed that her skin had  a fairly yellowish tint.  I thought perhaps she was a little jaundiced. We found out later that her massive intake of carotene was actually coloring her skin. As it stands right now, we're going through about two bags of those baby carrots every week. I'm not sure what to expect, but if in the future I find that we have the worlds only orange Dachshund, I'll be sure to post some pictures.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Coffee Snobs


   Thank goodness the holidays are behind us. Now I can finally enjoy some of the gifts that I received at Christmas. I've worn my new Carhartts, and the insulated Xtra- Tuff boots. I'm listening to some music that I downloaded from I tunes, I've got my cards for medical and dental insurance, commercial fishing licenses, Fred Meyers Awards card, Costco card, NRA card and a few others I can't recall right now, all safely stored in my new billfold, and I've already watched several movies that I received for Christmas. I was the happy recipient of more than a few packs of hoochies, which I can't use right now, but will in the near future.  I do however have a lot of use for one of my favorite beverages, coffee.  When I was a young lad back in Ohio my best friend, Don, and I used to go up to the Big Boy  restaurant, plop our skinny behinds in a booth and order coffee. I think we were about twelve at the time and in our juvenile minds, drinking coffee was quite a grown up thing to do. The waitresses were always gracious, returning time and again to refill our cups. Of course we were far too wimpy to drink it without copious amounts of cream and sugar. At the time a cup of coffee was ten cents. The grand total for our multiple cups was a whopping twenty cents- a bargain even in that day. Being the generous fellows we were, I believe we whipped out a quarter and told the waitress to keep the change. We probably used two dollars worth of sugar in the hour or so we spent tying up the booth. Of course the poor waitresses had to contend with the mountain of sugar packets that were littering the table, plus the spilled coffee, to say nothing of the lustful glares of adolescent boys. Frankly, I 'm surprised we weren't banned from the place. However, we weren't, and for a season we enjoyed our Saturday morning coffee at the Big Boy. At the time I believe the restaurant was serving Continental Coffee, or perhaps it was Chock Full of Nuts, either way, it was delightful. My dad used to drink Maxwell House- good to the last drop. Back in "the old days" there weren't any gourmet coffees available to the common man. You drank whatever the supermarket carried and you were happy with it. While I was on the farm I believe the coffee of choice was Hills Brothers. Now, much to my children's dismay, we drink (gasp) Folgers. I can usually buy it fairly cheap at Costco, so I stock up on three or four cans at a time. I've yet to have received a can of Folgers, or any other national brand of coffee that I know of for Christmas. This year my granddaughter gave me some cowboy coffee- Morning Light. It says it's  Charlie Russell Blend. I guess he was the original cowboy. I'll have to take their word on it. I'm not sure what cowboys know about brewing coffee, but it tastes pretty good. My daughter gave us some Kauai Coffee. The bag says it's single origin estate grown.Whatever that means. It's grown in Hawiaai though,so I guess that's good. I have another bag of coffee from the Big Island of Hawaii. It says it's 100% Kona coffee. It's sold by the Mulvadi Corporation. Sounds like they ought to sell fancy liquors or clothes. It just goes to show how far we've come in our appreciation of coffee. Last but not least, I've got a bag of Starbucks. Probably the name most associated with gourmet coffee in America.  This particular bag is Colombian medium roast. I don't see a picture of Juan Valdez,the Colombian coffee dude on the bag, but maybe they didn't have room for him, with all the other advertising. Just a bit of trivia, the original Juan Valdez's real name was Jose Duval. I' don't know what happened to him. Maybe he didn't like donkeys.  The guy playing Juan now is Carlos Sanchez.  Seems like a nice guy, but I haven't seen him for awhile. Anyway, I appreciate the fancy coffees. The bottom line is though, unlike my kids, I'm not a coffee snob. I'm perfectly content with my Folgers, so next year, if you want to stick some in a fancy sack and give it to me, I'll be just as happy. Meanwhile, drink up! Or as they say in coffee drinking circles, Grab life by the beans! Ooooh, sounds painful.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Vegetable Soup

  Thunderation! Can you believe it's January 5th already? Time flies when you're having fun huh? I decided to start off my new year right by making a big pot of vegetable soup with venison roast. Actually, I made two pots. I had been bragging about my culinary abilities to several friends and there was quite a bit of interest in my soup. Rather than suffering the humiliation of promising something and then not delivering, I thought I'd better follow through, so I thawed out my last two venison roasts and proceeded to cook. Frankly, that soup came out great! I'd like my name to be mentioned in the same breath as Martha Stewart, Julia Child and Wolfgang Puck. I think I could give the Campbell's Soup company a run for their money. Tom's Soups and Stews- even if you're not hungry, you'll enjoy a bowl of Tom's. Actually I don't use anything special, four or five potatoes, a white onion, cabbage, a one pound bag of Western Family frozen mixed vegetables, a small venison roast and diced tomatoes. Therein lies the secret. I use one can of regular old diced tomatoes and one can of S&W diced tomatoes with jalapeno. That little bit of jalapeno adds adds just the right amount of heat to make the soup stand up and sing. After you've  tried a bowl you might want to stand up and sing too. It's that good. Or at least I think so. Anyway, soup is a nice thing to have on a cold winter's night. Jen just called and she is going to bring some homemade bread over to have with the soup tonight. Holy crow! Jan made pumpkin pie last night and there's still some of that left, plus she had cooked up some fresh cranberries yesterday, so we'll be eating pretty high on the hog tonight. When my son Brian was here for Thanksgiving he shot a deer that he split with Jen and us, which is what we're using for the soup. As I mentioned, unfortunately it's the last of the roasts, so I probably won't be making any more veggie soup for awhile. The last time I was in Ohio though I ate the most wonderful cheddar potato soup at a Bob Evans restaurant, so I guess that might be my next project, although Jan's been pushing for corn chowder. We'll see. In any event, I hope that this new year brings you all a great deal of prosperity and happiness. While the winter winds are blowing and the snow piles up, I hope you stay warm, hunker down and enjoy a bowl of homemade soup. Bon Appetit!

Saturday, December 27, 2014


 2014 is drawing to a close, and so I thought it would be a good time to reflect on some of my many blessings. This is by no means a comprehensive look at them all, but rather a small fraction of God's goodness to me. I recently heard a Christmas song that I haven't heard in years. The lyrics in part go like this- when I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep,and I'll fall asleep, counting my blessings. I hope that as this year ends and a new one begins, you'll join me in looking back and reflecting on the multitudes of blessings we enjoy. Thank you for your interest in this blog. God bless and keep you, and God bless America. May we return to our roots and once again be a beacon of light for the world.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Little Christmas Trivia

  When I was a kid, Christmas was a magical time of year. Shortly after Thanksgiving, ol' Mac would start to receive the Christmas trees that he chose back in October. He owned Mac's Trading Post and was one of the main suppliers of Christmas trees for the area. I've always enjoyed the sights and sounds and smells of Christmas. In northern climates the days tend to be dark and gloomy and the extra lights and colorful tinsel help to brighten the season. As an adult I still enjoy the the bright colors and whatnot, but even more so I enjoy receiving Christmas cards. You get to hear from friends who you might not have contact with any other time of year. Usually there's always some relative who sends a brief history of what they or their kids are doing in a type-written mass produced letter. It's nice to know what little Johnny is doing...I guess. I just wish they would include some real world experiences. If one were to believe what was written, you would be led to believe that their world was practically perfect, with mom being in charge of the garden club, Dad receiving a huge bonus, the family building a new second vacation home to take advantage of the beach in the winter, and both kids being put on the deans list at college for academic excellence. I'd like a little shot of reality. "Well, we had the annual family get together. Grandpa got drunk and passed out at the table. Grandma forgot to put on her Depends and we spent an hour cleaning the dining room chair. The kids spent the whole Christmas vacation fighting over the remote and the water heater broke down while I was trying to get a shower." That's a letter I could believe. Anyway, back to the Christmas cards. I do enjoy getting them. From what I can gather, the first Christmas cards were developed back in 1843 in England. Sir Henry Cole commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley to come up with a design for the cards. Sir Henry was a government worker and I believe he was looking for a way to get people to utilize the new postal service. Horsley received fame for being a bit of a prude, campaigning against using nude models as subjects for art. He was nicknamed Clothes Horsley for his efforts. Some more bits of trivia- 45% of all the cards sent in the U.S. are Christmas cards. 72% of people aged 8- 24 send out cards, while a whopping 91% of those of us over the age of 55 send them out. At least that's the way it was a few years ago. In 2008 the average American family spent $32.43 on Christmas cards. I don't know if that includes postage or not. I seldom buy cards anymore. We receive quite a few from various charitable organizations we support, and even some from those we don't support. I guess they think that if they send me something I'll feel obligated to send them something. Maybe we could just exchange Christmas cards. I kind of wish the folks who make hoochies and King Salmon spoons and other assorted fishing gear would send me some Christmas samples. I'd gladly send them a card in return. While Christmas cards in Europe were taking off, the first commercial American cards didn't really catch on until 1875, when Louis Prang, a German born lithographer started producing them. He became known as  "the father of the American Christmas card."Apparently his cards didn't feature the typical Christmas scenes, but rather different kinds of flowers. They were quite expensive too and he went out of business. Not to fear though, old Louis teamed up with the American Crayon Company and got into the water color business. I well remember the boxes of Prang Water Colors that were part of every elementary school child's supplies. The company is still in business, so I guess he did something right. The other day I bought some Christmas cards at the annual Christmas bazzar at the school. My daughter Jen 's 3/4 class was selling cards to raise money for a little girl in Utah who is suffering with a debilitating disease that threatens to take her life soon. She was featured on CNN and would like to receive cards from all over. We sent her one with a few post cards of Hoonah. I'll try to find her address if anyone out there would like to send her one. Anyway, that's about what I've got. Hope you feel enlightened or at the very least entertained.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Decorating the House

Can you believe that it's almost Christmas again? It seems like we just put all this stuff away in the attic, and now it's time to drag it out and go through the whole scenario of shuffling through it and decorating. I remember hearing older people talking about how fast the time goes as you age, and because I was young and days seemed to last forever, I thought they were mistaken, or at the very least pulling my leg. Now that I've entered my senior years, I realize they were so right. We're on a train through time that starts off slow as it leaves the station and continues to gather speed until it's hurtling faster and faster towards our end. Ah well, guess we need to make the most of the time we're given. In any event, back to the subject at hand. At the beginning of the week Jan rooted around in the attic and started digging out the  boxes of "Christmas Stuff." Holy Crow! It looks like the seasonal isle at a Walmart Store. How in heaven's name did we acquire all this stuff? Actually, I know how. I'll be in shopping sometime close to the holiday season and run across the shelves and pegboards stuffed to the gills with all manner of Trim a Tree goodies and I'll feel that old familiar lust for a box of shiny new ornaments. They almost glow as they reflect the fluorescent lights overhead. I'll run my fingers over the soft bristles of sparkling tinsel and feel my pulse quicken just a bit. I'm sure the stuff we have crammed away has flat spots and bare areas and  sections of Scotch Tape clinging to it where I attempted to get it to hang in a window or on a door, and so I buy it, forgetting that in the dark recesses of the crawl space there is enough tinsel to decorate the White House.  Good Lord in heaven, we have at least eight boxes of tinsel and ornaments, wreathes and magi scenes and tree skirts... and lights. Oh man, the lights. They are without a doubt the most irritating part of decorating. Don't get me wrong, I love the colored lights. I'm a real sucker for color. The brilliant sparkling bulbs that shine at night really dress up the drab greys and blacks and whites of a winter landscape, but thuderation, trying to get them strung is another story altogether. I like to string lights outside on the porch. When I was a kid I always wanted my dad to decorate the outside of our house like many of the other houses around town did. We used to go out for a drive at night during the holiday season and ogle the colorful displays. Some people spared no expense when decorating their homes. It was cheap entertainment. However it was always a bit of a disappointment to come home and have to settle for just a tree displayed in the window. Now I see the wisdom of letting someone else go to the trouble of stringing all those lights and bearing the expense. The other day I decided it was time to go ahead and string the outside lights. Regardless of how carefully I try to put away the stings of lights each year, by the time I get them out and attempt to hang them, I've got a bird's nest that would make an eagle proud. Fortunately I'm a fisherman and I'm used to untangling lines, but it's still a challenge. Somehow, in the process of unwinding the mess, there always seems to be a wire that breaks or a bulb that isn't making contact, so two thirds of the lights will come on, but that one third in the middle refuses to light. I shake the wires, I try to tighten the bulbs, I've even bought a cheap tester to find out which bulbs are working, but all to no avail. Shouting and cursing I make my way down to the seasonal isle of the local store and buy more. This year I had to purchase  two sets of green lights and one red. They may be UL approved, but they're all made in China, and if you get two years out of a set you count yourself lucky. I saw today on the news that China surpassed the U.S. in terms of GDP. No wonder. We're spending half of our holiday income replacing the Christmas lights every year. Merry Christmas from the folks who brought you gunpowder... and disposable Christmas lights. Anyway, the lights are strung, the tinsel is hung, the bells are rung and the tree is up. Christmas is in full swing, so go out and enjoy the fruits of your neighbor's labor, and if for some reason about a third of the lights on display aren't lit, don't be critical. Let's blame it on the Chinese.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Give Thanks!

 I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving Day with family and friends. For those who had to be away from home or without family members, I hope that you can find some comfort in your memories and pray that your future memories will be pleasant. My son Brian is visiting right now, for which I am most grateful. I miss having all the kids sitting around the table like it used to be. I'm very fortunate that my daughter and granddaughter live here in Hoonah and we're able to see them fairly often, but I do wish that I could afford once a year to pay for everyone to come together for a Thanksgiving feast.  Since that isn't possible, we have to settle for phone calls and Face book I guess.
  A few weeks ago my good friend, Buffalo Bob Holden called. We first became friends when we were both living on the farm at Game Creek. Periodically one of us will call the other to catch up on our lives and compare books we've read. I'm reading a book right now that he had suggested. It's called Breakfast at Sally's, about a man who had been a very successful businessman who was in the publishing business, but when the Internet started and e-books and what not he lost it all and ended up homeless and sleeping in the back of a van with his little dog. He spent his days wandering about, speaking with other homeless people, eating at the Salvation Army (Sally's) and parking his van in a church parking lot. I've never given a lot of thought to the homeless. I suppose, like many, I just assumed that they were all lazy or druggies or drunks. I'm coming to find out that it's not the case. Some folks have suffered a loss of a job and as a result their home; some young people are escaping an abusive home life, some have mental issues. There are indeed some of them who seem to be consumed with getting the next drug fix or bottle of booze, but sometimes, that's more of a result of desperation. Without a home address, many businesses won't hire someone. They can't receive their social security benefits and things like hygiene are a constant struggle. No business wants a person who stinks to come in and use their restrooms. I don't really know what the answer is. It's a complex problem, but I've come to realize that, but for the  grace of God there go I. Many people are just one pay check away from losing their home. I hadn't really meant to write about this, but I guess I did anyway. The thing is, if you're in a place where you can read this, hopefully you're warm and well fed and your health is good, let's give God thanks. It's not a once a year thing to do. It's multiple times a day as we enjoy the sunshine or family or a good book or a warm piece of Apple pie. There's a hundred million things to be thankful for. The last time I spoke to Buffalo, he told me he had seen a plaque somewhere and it had made such an impression on him that he wrote down the saying. I'm going to pass it on to you now.
 What if you awoke today with only what you thanked God for yesterday?
 Food for thought. I sincerely hope you all have a blessed holiday season. God bless!