Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Splendor


Well, the gloating that I did the other day about not having a white Christmas was short lived. These shots are of Christmas day. My daughter Jen and I went out for a walk because it was too nice to stay inside. Actually, it was cold that day and windy, but the rain  had stopped and it was so nice to see the sunshine,so  we decided to get outside for a bit. When I woke up on the 26th, there was about four inches of snow on the ground and more coming down every second. Let that be a lesson to you folks- it doesn't pay to gloat over your good fortune, at least not if you're me. It always comes back to bite you in the backside. I hope the kids that got bikes for Christmas got out and rode them while they had the chance. The sledders are the happy campers now.  
I hope everyone had a delightful Christmas. When you get to my age there isn't a whole lot that you need as far as gifts go. It would be great if you could ask Santa for a years worth of good health, two months of sleeping all night without having to get up and pee, a pharmaceutical bill that doesn't resemble the national debt, eyebrows that don't need barrettes to keep them out of your eyes, and the strength that you had ten years ago. Maybe he could throw a couple young ladies in my stocking who think I'm cute just to keep my ego going. Ah well, don't think any of that is going to happen, so I better hope I can grow old gracefully. No one wants to hear that your arthritis is kicking in or that your back hurts or that you didn't sleep very well last night; and they especially don't want to hear that you have gas, although it's probably better to give a warning than having them find out on their own. It's kind of funny to watch the progression of a man's life from youth to old age.Most young fellows are obsessed with  sex and how to expand their horizons in that department. In your twenties you feel invincible, you're strong, healthy, ready to conquer the world.  As you get older, jobs, making money and family are priorities. By middle age you're not moving so fast, things are starting to hurt or just not work as good as they used to, and for many guys their family is grown up. At my age grand kids are in the picture, nothing seems to work right in my body, everything hurts, my conversations revolve around what new ailment popped up overnight and I spend half my day looking for my glasses and the other half in the bathroom. I know what is on the horizon for me, if I live that long.The hair in my ears will grow out and bond with my eyebrows so that every time I raise a brow my ears will wiggle.  I'll be sitting in my truck with the window rolled down and the heat on high talking to one of my cronies who is doing the same thing. We'll be discussing something that neither one of us is sure of because we can't hear the other guy above the noise of the engine and the heater fan. The conversation will be something like..."Well I remember one time that I uh, I... oh hell... what was I saying?"  As I age, I've gained a little knowledge and I've picked up a little advice from those who have passed through life before me and I would now like to pass on this bit of wisdom. I can't recall where I heard it, but it would be worth remembering- Never trust a fart if you're over fifty. And there you have it.
 On a personal note... Doug, I hope you keep this bit of wisdom in mind.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fruit Baskets

It's nasty outside again today. I'd kind of like to go out and get some pictures of the area for anyone interested in looking at pictures from Alaska. However, there isn't much to see right now- dirty snow and rain, plus sheets of ice. We were supposed to have gotten six inches of snow in just a few hours today, but it didn't happen. Personally, I'm happy. The way things are going this year, it may be a brown Christmas. If anyone gets a bike they ought to be a happy camper.The poor kids who got sleds will be a little bummed out. Hopefully no one will try sledding down the graveled street. That could play havoc on your plastic sled. Maybe in Bizzaro world that's what they do- run a toboggan down a steep rocky cliff- but I wouldn't recommend it here. The very idea reminds me of Terry Shepard though. He's affectionately known as the Hobbit by his friends. He used to take a plastic sled and load it with groceries and mail and whatever else he had in his car  and pull it down the ramp, across the concrete dock to his boat. He didn't like to use a wagon because if the ramp was steep, like at low tide, he would lose control of it. With a sled it couldn't get away from him. Every so often he'd buy a new one, although I would think it would be hard to come by in August- even in Alaska. Anyway, I opted to do a blog on this fruit basket in lieu of a nice outdoors shot today. Jan's work place generously gave all the employees one. It was a little fuller, but I had to eat several of the mandarins and I used the Granny Smith apples for an apple crisp.  You know, we have about 150 square feet of counter space in the blasted kitchen, but somehow, just about every inch gets covered with something- toaster, coffeemaker, mail, breadbox, salt and pepper shakers(2 sets) canisters, cookbooks, a fruit bowl and now a fruit basket for crying out loud. I was cutting up the apples and something kept poking me in the elbow- it was the consarn pineapple. Why is it that if this fruit is supposed to be eaten it has stickers on it. I understand why nettles have stickers, you aren't supposed to eat them, but things like raspberries, blackberries, pineapples and I'm sure other tasty fruits are armed to the teeth. You can come and get the goodies, but you're going to pay the price. Oh well. I see that there may be a grapefruit in this basket too- yum. There's also a pear so green and hard you'd need the jaws of life to break off a piece. Why do they put those in there? Must be just for color. This particular basket has some almonds, Brazil nuts and a few hazel nuts in the shell too.  I guess they are there to give you something to do while the pear ripens. I think I'll show that pineapple who's boss. I'll cut it up and put it on a skewer for shishkabobs in a few days. I hope you all have a great Christmas. Hopefully I'll have something entertaining to report on my next post. As Tiny Tim said, "God bless us every one."

Friday, December 16, 2011

O Tannenbaum

Since we're only a little over a week away from Christmas, I thought I would do a post about our Christmas tree. O Tannenbaum is a German song about a Fir or Christmas tree. Unfortunately, or fortunately as the case may be, ours isn't real. The down side is that I doubt that anyone would care to compose a song about a plastic Christmas tree. As far as I can tell, that, and maybe the fact that it doesn't have that nice evergreen scent are about the only downfalls I can think of. I don't have to worry at the start of the season about going out and finding the perfect tree, trudging through  knee deep snow, across creeks that are just over the top of your boots, and all the hard work of sawing the poor thing down. I always know where our tree is and pretty much what it's going to look like when we set it up. I never step on any sharp needles that have worked their way into the carpet, hiding in the fabric, waiting for me to walk  by with bare feet. I don't have to water it and so I don't have to worry about it suddenly turning into a torch in my living room. There's no sap on my hands after I set it up and no adjusting the tree stand-it always fits- and  I don't have to find a corner to fit the bad side in. When the kids were little we used to go out and find a tree- which was always a challenge. You would think that in a land that is filled with Spruce and Jack Pines, finding a tree would be no problem... you would think. But NOOOOOO... not in Bottsville. As I recall, everyone had a different idea of what constituted the perfect tree. It usually involved running around until we were all so cold and wet that I was ready to cry, and I finally had to have the last say in what innocent conifer was cut down. There was probably some poor family of Juncos or Wrens off visiting family and when they came to where their home was supposed to be, I was lugging it off. What a jerk! Of course everything is relative. The tree that doesn't look all that large out in the field can hardly fit through the door, much less stand up in an eight foot high living room, so even after you think the hard work is done, it isn't. Surprise! One industrious young fellow up the street decided to cut down my neighbor's Spruce.  Why waste time looking for the perfect tree when it's growing in your neighbor's yard? Surprisingly it grew back, but I must admit, it looks a little goofy now.  When I was a kid my grandmother spent a few Christmas's with us. The old saying that Christmas is for kids is true, but I think it should be expanded to include old folks too. I had a large family and we all bought presents for each other,so in the days leading up to Christmas as we lay our presents under the tree, it started looking pretty impressive- in a way that folks that subscribe to the minimalist philosophy would find obscene. I still remember Grandma sitting on the couch looking at all the gifts. It was more than she could stand and pretty soon she was leaning over picking up each one reading the names and shaking them. After a few minutes she sat back down and started talking to herself in a voice just above a whisper and I heard her say " I guess no one likes me... I didn't get anything." Of course she did get gifts, she just didn't see them at the time. It was quite comical to watch her on Christmas morning. She enjoyed opening those presents as much as my little brothers did. Grandma has long since passed away, but I still have pleasant memories of her.  I hope that all of you make pleasant memories with your family this holiday season, and if you have a real Christmas tree, keep it watered.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lost in the Fog

 I was coming back from the store or some such place a couple of days ago when the sun started to burn off the fog. I like to get pictures when that  happens, it gives the landscape a whole different perspective. Obviously it doesn't do any good to take pictures of the fog before the sun comes out- they would all look the same- kind of like a grey wool navy blanket. In the short time it took for me to get my camera from the house and return, the sun had already dissipated a good deal of what I was trying to capture. Nonetheless, I decided to get a few shots off before it was all gone. Being out on a boat when the fog sets in can be a bit unnerving. I recall one time, before I had a GPS to help guide me, I was in Cross Sound in thick fog. I think I already had the gear in the water before it set in. There were a number of boats in the area and all I had was an old radar that had a hood that you had to look through to see anything. About half the time it didn't work at all, and the other half, I wasn't sure that what it showed was accurate. It was fairly well unnerving to be drifting around like that. One other time I was down near Surge Bay on the outside coast. It was July 4, and I was catching kings at a fairly steady pace. The fog set in and because I was fishing by myself, I had to man the radar. I was watching the tattle-tales- the lines that let me know a fish is on- jumping and bouncing with large king salmon as they struck. Unfortunately I couldn't leave the radar to go pull them in. By the time the fog lifted and I could go out and run the lines, they had all gotten off. To say I was unhappy would be a serious understatement. If Gary Larson, the guy who wrote the comic strip The Far Side had known me personally, he probably could have had an unlimited supply of material to write about. My life reads like one giant comic strip. That's ok though. When my time is up, I want folks to remember me with a smile on their face and laughter in their heart. After all, if you can't laugh at yourself, you're taking life way too seriously. I still remember the bumber sticker that my friend Buffalo Bob Holden had on his little aluminum troller. It was a rather bold statement and could apply to fishing as well as life in general. It said simply- Onward, through the fog. How profound. On the one hand  I found  it rather humorous. I believe it was referring to the state one could find himself in after a night at the bar. On the other hand, it's a declaration of faith. We can't see what's around the bend until we get there. Sooo... whether I'm piloting my boat or navigating through life I guess I'll keep moving onward, through the fog,and hope I don't run aground.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Trident

 Down throught the years I attempted to quit smoking on a number of occasions. When we moved to the farm I actually quit for about five months, though at the time I really didn't want to. When the opportunity presented itself to buy cigarettes, I eagerly took advantage of it. Off and on I would quit for various amounts of time. When I finally made up my mind to quit for good, I needed some kind of crutch to replace the tobacco. I turned to chewing gum. I've always chewed gum to one degree or another, but in the past eight or ten years I went whole hog into it. As you can see, I don't buy gum just by the pack, I buy it by the carton. For one thing, it cost about half as much to buy it by the carton at  Costco than to purchase it here in town. Plus, a single pack of gum only used to last me about a day. There are eighteen sticks in one of these Trident packs. Now, unless I'm really stressed over something, I only go through half or three quarters of a pack. When I worked at the school I went through a considerable amount more. I worked with special needs children and it was a good way to calm down a situation or reward good behaviour.
   I did a little research on chewing gum and found out some interesting facts. Apparently, people have been chewing some semblance of gum for hundreds of years. In Greece the ladies used to chew the extract from a Mastic tree, while the natives of North America chewed the resin from Spruce trees. In 1848  John Curtis marketed the first commercial chewing gum under the name Maine Pure Spruce Gum. It sounds like something that would appeal to the environmental, all natural groups we have now. I think I would have to pass on it. He later came up with a flavored paraffin that was popular. The first commercial chewing gum utilizing chicle was made by inventor Thomas Adams.  The Mexican general, Santa Anna who was exiled to New York introduced Adams to chicle.Like many of his fellow countrymen he chewed chicle. Adams  first tried to utilize it as a substitute for rubber in toys, masks and boots but it didn't work. As the story goes he was sitting in his shop discouraged and popped a piece of chicle in his mouth. Shortly thereafter he marketed  Adams New York #1 chewing gum. In 1871 he add flavor to his gum and Black Jack was born. I've chewed many a pack of Black Jack gum. My grandma used to get upset at me for chewing it. She thought it was nasty. For her Beeman's pepsin gum was the only way to go. In 1906 the first bubble gum was invented by Frank Fleer. He called it Blibber Blubber and apparently it was a flop. Hmmm... I can't imagine why. How would you like to go to the counter of your local grocers and ask for a pack of Blibber Blubber. You'd probably get slapped. I believe Franks brother eventually had success with another person coming up with some kind of acceptable bubble gum. Contrary to what my mom believed, I didn't chew a lot of bubble gum. I mean if you only had a penny or two, and you didn't want a pretzel, then bubble gum was a good alternative. If I recall correctly, you used to be able to buy a pack of Chum Gum for three cents. That was pretty good stuff. Probably the best bubble gum was the stuff that came in baseball cards. I was never a sports fan, so I could care less about the cards, but once in a while I would buy a pack of cards just for the gum. The Topps company, the folks who made baseball cards used to include them in packs of cigarettes. That would have been an incentive to buy cards when I was a teenager. I read that the reason that there isn't any chocolate gum is that the cocoa butter breaks down the ingredients in the gum. That's ok with me. If I  want chocolate I'll go grab a candy bar. Once in awhile I forget to clean out my pockets when I'm doing the laundry. It's only happened a few times, but even once is too often. I open the lid of the washing machine and there are all the little sticks of gum interspersed with the socks and underwear. There's no way I'm going to try and salvage that stuff! Somehow I didn't get all the gum out before I put my clothes in the dryer once and now I have  several permanent dark streaks on the drum inside. Fortunately it's seemed to have dried and hasn't transferred to my clothes. It's even better that it hasn't transferred to Jan's clothes or I'd be buying a new dryer. One little oversight and you can be in the dog house forever. I checked the Trident package and see that the manufacturer is Cadbury Adams USA LLC. I think it should be Adams Cadbury. After all, old Thomas came up with the idea.  Before I end this post I would like to point out that one of the long time residents here, Adam Greenwald, has an uncle who, according to Adam invented the first workable gum wrapping machine. He sold the patent to Wrigleys and retired a millionaire. Perhaps I should be investing in the Cadbury Adams  company. Then if I don't retire a millionaire, at least I might be able to trade in my stock for chewing gum.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Feeding Frenzy

    The ground outside is still covered with tons of snow which I don't find very attractive at all- especially when it's starting to melt. It gets dirty and looks really ugly in my opinion. If I didn't know that there will be many more snow days ahead of me I might get excited about the dirty snow-the dirty, dirty snow. It's usually a sign that spring is coming, but I'm not going to fall for that. A couple days ago the wind was whipping and the rain was falling like pouring pee out of a boot. There was even thunder at about 6:30 in the morning. That's a rather unusual occurrence here. In my thirty five years here, I only recall seeing lightning maybe twice, and I could probably count on one hand the number of times I've heard thunder here. I'm not sure why that is- it may have something to do with all the moisture in the atmosphere here. In any event, I once again am not going to do a blog post on snow. I opted instead to do one on the feeding frenzy going on out front of the Hoonah Cold Storage dock this past summer. Apparently the cold storage just got done grinding some fish parts and the gulls are feasting. It reminds me of the time my daughter Liz came in from the outhouse all distressed. I believe she had gone out to dump the porta-potty and was totally unglued because the flies were in the outhouse feasting. Feasting flies.Where are the frogs when you need them?
  This picture is reminiscent of many of the meals at our house when the kids were growing up. I don't know how we did it. One minute there were bowls full of food on the table and the next everything was gone. Nine people sitting at one table. Though there were times of stress and utter confusion, now that I look back on it, I think it was fun. I still hate it if we don't have very many people eating at our Thanksgiving table. This year we only had eight and it almost seemed quiet. The only thing crazier was in the morning when everyone was trying to get ready for school or work. When we first moved into town there was only one  bathroom. Good Lord- nine toothbrushes to keep track of, I didn't know they made that many different colors.  Fortunately most of  those memories have been pretty well blocked out of my mind. With six females in the house you can imagine the chaos. I suspect we bought as much toilet paper as we did bread.We always had a pretty hefty bill running at the store. It seems like laundry was a bit of a challenge too... "Mom!So and So is wearing my underwear again and she's stretching it out! When I look back on it now, its pretty entertaining- not so much so at the time. For those of you with little children, whether many or few, try to embrace each day. For all the challenges that come your way, they do grow up. I promise. Now I think I will go into the kitchen and start my own feeding frenzy. Bon Appetite!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mushrooms and Flowers














It's almost the end of November- thank God. This one was brutal, weather-wise. I can't remember having this much snow in November before, but then again,I can't remember the names of people I've known for years either. When I see them at a distance on the street I go through the agonizing process of sorting through all the names in the English language trying to figure out if one of them sounds familiar, then hope it's the right one before I meet up with the person.
 I decided to do a blog on something other than the snow that we've been surrounded with. Here we have a picture of snow on the mountain, and here's some snow on the trees, next is snow on the street. Here I am shoveling more snow out of the driveway... I find flowers much more colorful than snow.
 Back in October we had rain by the bucket full. Every day-rain, rain, rain. Of course I complained about it so it got cold and then it was snow, snow, snow. Tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor! Anyway, these past several days it's back to rain and you wouldn't believe how glad I am to see it.
 When my daughter Autumn was visiting last time she showed me about the macro button on my camera. I'd seen it there, but never bothered to learn what it did. I guess it allows you to get really close pictures. This camera can play music with a slide show, do close ups, landscapes at twilight and any number of other things that I haven't familiarized myself with. There may even be an espresso machine inside, I don't know. By the time you read all the instructions on these digital contraptions your brain has swelled to three times it's normal size and the camera is obsolete. Even if I took the time to read it all, I would have forgotten what I've read. Techno Tom I am not. I'm almost totally dependent on young people to help me do anything involving electronics.I don't even have a cell phone. I guess I'm lost in the dark ages. In any event, I used the Macro button on the camera to take these close up pictures. I rather like them.
 I'm not certain, but I think the mushrooms pictured here are Shaggy Manes. I guess they're good to eat if you like mushrooms. Usually I see them growing down at the harbor in the area where people let their dogs relieve themselves.  I think I would have to decline if offered one.There are a few folks in town whom I wouldn't mind offering some to- "here, I was just down in the harbor and picked these for you." Sometimes I look kind of like a Shaggy Mane- especially in the morning when I just wake up- and particularly if it's been awhile since my last haircut. There is one teacher here who has a shaggy mane; in fact he looks kind of like a lion the way his hair frames his whole face when he lets it grow. I don't doubt that he could get a leading part in the Lion King if he painted his nose black. He's fairly athletic and talented, he'd probably do a good job. Once again I've covered a whole range of topics that have nothing at all in common. I think it's the sign of a confused mind. If I was working in school I'd probably be told I was -off task. I'll try to stay more focused and on task for my next blog post, but no promises.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Praying for Strangers

Today is Black Friday, as it's known; the official beginning of the Christmas shopping season. I believe the name is supposed to imply the day that retailers go from being in the red to crossing over to the black-making a profit. As I watch some of the madness unfold on TV of people camping out for a week on a sidewalk so they can be the first person inside to buy a $200.00 flat screen television, or folks getting trampled as they all try to squeeze inside the store at once, or as I saw this morning some lady spraying pepper spray on her fellow shoppers,  I wonder if Black Friday wouldn't describe the condition of some of the hearts of the folks who are rushing to celebrate a season that is supposed to be about good will towards men. How ironic.
   Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm terribly cynical, a real pessimist; the male version of a Debbie Downer if you will. I almost always seem to see the glass half empty. No matter how good the situation I'm facing, I have a tendency to spot the possible down side. " Hello Mr. Botts, this is Publisher's Clearing House. You've just won $5,000,000."   "Well, gee, that's great, but how much tax is this going to cost me?" No doubt I would be worried about all the scam artists and new found and unwanted friends I would suddenly encounter and would worry myself sick about it. That's kind of the way I am. I wish I wasn't, but I am.I claim to be a Christian and yet at times I seem to be anything but. How ironic.Because that's my nature, I need to surround myself with uplifting, positive things on a regular basis.Soooo... I was happy to find this book at the library a few weeks or maybe a month ago; ok maybe even longer, I know it's overdue. Anyway, I liked the cover art, and when I looked at the title I liked it too. Then I looked at the name of the author- River Jordan. What a great name. How could I not read this book?In a nutshell, it's about a gal whose two son's were in the military in 2008. One was going to be sent to Iraq and one to Afganistan. As a Christian woman she was, of course, going to pray for her boys, but then she got the thought  for a New Years resolution. She was going to pray for a different person every day, a stranger. The book documents many of the encounters she had with the various people. In almost every case the folks she came across were grateful for her prayers. Most of them had something in particular that they wanted prayer for, family members, illness, finances. The needs are endless in all of our lives. Her book was enlightening and encouraging. If all of us were to just say a prayer for the stranger we pass on the street or instead of cursing at the TV when a politian we don't like comes on,we asked that God would grant that person wisdom and integrity, I sincerely believe we could change the direction that the world is going. I probably have mentioned Pastor Jeff Schreve of From His Heart Ministry on this blog before. On his web site you can scroll down to a link called Prayer Works. There you have an opportunity to say a prayer for the different needs of folks who have asked for divine intervention. Though we can't all volunteer for the many worthwhile projects the world over, or send money to the countless poor across the earth, we can all say a prayer for someone in need. As the book pointed out, because we're human, we can all use a prayer or two. All that being said, please don't expect that overnight I'll become this grateful,happy, extroverted optimist. I kind of doubt that's going to happen, but I could certainly be a little less cynical and a little more hopeful about the future and my fellow man. Maybe you can pray about it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Remote Control

 It's been snowing and cold for the past several weeks ; in fact it's been setting records for both snow and cold all around Alaska. It's kind of  scary to think that it's not even winter yet. I didn't really want to post any pictures of snow blowing and trees bent with the force of the wind.  Instead I decided to post pictures of Rigby. He's got the right idea- hide under the sleeping bag or if you have to leave the warm comfort of bed, find a place in the sun to relax. While I was talking to my daughter Camille the other day, he hopped up on the back of the couch to look out the window. Apparently he saw something that didn't meet with his approval and started barking to beat the band. He's got a really shrill bark, about what you would expect from a small dog. It's really irritating to listen to and especially so if you happen to be talking on the phone or listening to something on TV. I happened to glance down at the remote control on my chair and had another great idea. What if I could get a remote that would control my dog's bark?You know, you're watching your favorite show and the dog goes ballistic because someone he doesn't like is walking down the street. Just hit the mute button on the remote and he can bark all he wants, but no sound comes out. I know that they make shock collars that are supposed to keep them from barking, but what about those rare occasions when you want them to sound off? Like if someone was sneaking in at night while you're sleeping or not at home, instead of a wimpy,little,squeeky bark that would alert the intruder that the dog he was dealing with was just a punk with a loud voice, what if, before you left the house or went to bed, you turned the dial  on the dog remote so that the bark sounded like a vicious German Shepard or Doberman Pincer? The intruder would think twice before entering your domain. Especially if he happened to spot huge piles in the front yard.Since I have so many other dogs leaving me gifts on my lawn,  I wouldn't have any problem  making people believe I had a large dog with the DOG MOTE. Just set it and go to bed.  If you happen to live in a gated community where all the dogs aren't much bigger than chipmunks, the DOG-MOTE would come with optional droppings in assorted big dog sizes. They would be plastic or rubber, thus weather resistant and you could move them around the yard to lend an air of authenticity. You could order either the Great Dane or St. Bernard size. No doubt burglars everywhere would think twice before attempting a break in. Just set the DOG MOTE before you tuck Fido into his down comforter and sleep in peace. I guess I'll be contacting the patent office soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Part Two

As promised, here is the second half of my blog post on the latest Thanksgiving get together at Game Creek. The top two pictures show the kitchen; its located in the tabernacle. I remember working in there on the new cabinets with Uncle Bill. I was sanding one of the cabinets when I drove a huge splinter right through my index finger. In one side and out the other. Bill didn't flinch, he just got out his pocket knife and pulled it through. He was always kind of a hero to me. Back when the farm was at it's peak there used to be a number of women in the kitchen cutting vegetables, baking bread  and cooking meals It was a pretty busy place. There was a trap door in the floor and underneath there were cases of jarred fish and maybe even some dried vegetables. For some reason there was a number ten can of Hershey's chocolate syrup too. I remember David Carver telling me about sneaking in there one night and opening it up and drinking it out of the can. In the early days we were desperate for anything sweet. Living on a Christian farm didn't mean you automatically acted like a saint. My own sweet daughters told me about sneaking in the back door of the Dietrich cabin where Allen  had a small store. He sold popcorn and coffee and a number of healthy snacks, one of which was a Wha Guru Chew. The girls grabbed out a handful of carob chips- a kind of healthy substitute for chocolate. My, if these walls could talk. We lived in an apartment overhead of the dining hall. When the girls were small they used to drop crayons down on the tables through a knot hole in the floor. They got in trouble when one of the elders was holding a bible study downstairs. At the time if I had known that they were doing it I might have filled water balloons for them to drop. Not that I had anything against bible studies, I just didn't like the elders. The eldership and I seldom seemed to see eye to eye. The third picture shows my good friends the Pinards. We still get together for cards on Saturday nights in the winter. There are other couples who lived on the farm with us who moved to Hoonah whom we almost never see. They became almost anti- social and I don't know why hardship brings some folks closer and others it repels.  Most of these pictures are taken from inside the tabernacle. I don't know how it is now, but we used to have to all eat together in the dining hall. For some reason when we came together for a meal, we had to have announcements before we ate and had a prayer. Sometimes the announcements lasted for like fifteen minutes so the food would be cold by the time you got to it. It was frustrating. Fortunately we didn't have to wait for this meal this time. At one time everyone was assigned to a particular table and then once a month you rotated so that you were sitting with different people, so you could get to know them better. We had an English gal assigned to sit with us once, but it wasn't a good fit. She was very much into proper etiquette, while we had seven kids, all under the age of twelve. It was mayhem at our table and she wasn't very happy. I used to greet  her during the day by saying "Wheaties" instead of "Cheerio". I never knew if she got the joke or not. When the boys were still in high chairs and mimicking everyone, the mistake was made of assigning a family who had an older teen-age son who, when he was young, had been given a dose of some drug by accident that left him with an inability to swallow. He had to push the food down his throat with his fingers. It was kind of unpleasant to watch, but it couldn't be helped. The bad part was that the boys would sit in their high chairs and do the same thing. Jan would slam the table with her hand and try to get them to stop. To say the least it was embarrassing.  The fourth picture shows my daughter Jen with her black eye. Beside her is Tim Banaszak and Jim Carey is on the end. I remember watching Tim when he was just a boy of about twelve. He would pack 100 pound bags of potatoes on his back from the root cellar to the tabernacle. Any job that was assigned to him he would do, and with a lot better attitude than I ever had. He was a real work horse, able to do a mans work. He's still got a great attitude and it's always a delight to see him  when we meet once or twice a year. Jim Carey is ninety now I believe. I think he's still doing what he can around the farm. At one time he was painting bear breads for sale at Tideland. He was a professional illustrator for General Dynamics prior to moving to the farm. If I ever make it to ninety, I hope I look half as good. Jim has always had the most upbeat attitude, so different from me. He also had a great voice-an Irish Tenor that I used to love to hear. Again, totally unlike me.  Unfortunately the next picture is kind of blurry. ( I think Jan took it). The closest gal is Sally Courtney. She was my neighbor in Charleston. I don't know how many gallons of iced tea I drank at her house. She is forever a proper southern lady, with hardly a bad word to say about anyone. Her mother, Rosa Robertson, we all called her Granny, was a sweet gal too. She taught Sally well.  I wish I had a picture of her. She was a saint.
Next to Sally is Sonia Bere. Her mother was from the Ukraine. When I found out that the Russian word for Grandma was BABBA, I quickly dubbed her that and seldom referred to her by any other name. She used to work at Tideland Tackle in town and I sorely miss seeing her there. Sonia had a son named Jeff who was one of the three men who died in a boating accident years ago when I was still living at the farm. Next to Sonia is  her daughter Debbie Banaszak. She's married to Tim. It was one of a number of farm romances. Good natured and friendly, its always a delight to see her, which usually only happens when they come for the Game Creek Thanksgiving dinner. The next picture shows Bob Clark on the guitar, Ben Mc Luckie with the violin, Dave Austin on the cello (his face is hidden by the post and two young gals whom I don't know. They sang a delightful song called  For the Beauty of the Earth. It was beautiful. Bob has been with the farm since the beginning. He's one of those guys who is good at almost everything he does. He's able to figure out most anything. He's a good hunter, fisherman, carpenter, mechanic, welder, musician- you name it. In other words, he's been a tremendous asset to the farm and I'm pleased to be able to call him a friend. Ben is a computer guru and a teacher at the school. I think he recently won an award for work in a statewide science project. When I would see him at the school I'd call him Uncle Ben and ask how the rice sales were, or we'd pass in the hallway and I'd call him O Ben One Kenobi. He was always pretty good natured.  Dave runs Tideland Tackle and is a jack of all trades. He's a world class musician and teaches different musical instruments once a week at the school. He also makes bows for musical instruments and I believe he makes his own bi-focals. I don't know how some people end up with so much talent, but they do. The next picture shows the stairs that lead to the path that leads to the road where the cars are parked. When I was on the farm the only way in and out was via boat. Now you can drive to within a mile or so of the buildings. There's a trip through the woods, across a slough, through the fields (watch out for the animal droppings) and down a corduroy road to the center of the camp. There is usually a festive air about the place when we arrive and everyone seems to have a good time.
 The last picture is of Libby Clark. That's her maiden name. I can't spell her married name. She's quite a good cook and for awhile she ran a little restaurant in town called, appropriately enough, Libby's. The building now houses Chipper Fish. Next to her is Donna Austin. She's petite, but what  a powerhouse! She works at Tideland with her husband Dave and is also a musician. Her and Dave get together and play for different functions around town. Lastly, we have Gary and Rosemary Lebowitz. Theirs was a farm romance also. Ol Brother Gary and I had a few heated discussions from time to time. He was always so zealous in everything that he did; an admirable trait normally. We weren't of the same mind for the majority of the time that I lived at Game Creek though and I was equally stubborn in my ways so there were a few clashes. I'm pleased to say that we've both mellowed out and now when I see  him I'm genuinely glad. One of the more interesting things I discovered about Gary was that he worked for a while in New York City with Allen Funt- the guy from Candid Camera. It was a popular show back when I was a kid. His wife Rosemary was an architect prior to moving to the farm. She was very good too. She designed a remodeling job for me at the house. She's always been a very gracious, well spoken woman. So, there you have it. For those who've lived there and couldn't make it, this post might be a time of catching up. For those whom have never visited, perhaps this will be enlightening. Anyway, until the next post, take care- God bless!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thanksgiving at Game Creek 2011

Hi folks- Muffin Man here with my sincere apologies to the masses who follow this blog. I know that I've let down the people who come here looking for free entertainment and expect more regular blog posts, but I  have an excuse- I really do. I had to go to Juneau for my annual doctor's visit, which actually went very well. As I've mentioned before, I love this doctor. When he asked about the ol' finger up the bung routine to check the prostate I mentioned that my feelings about the procedure haven't changed and it's not going to happen- at least not while I'm conscious. So then he says  "well how about my fist then?"  That's what I like about this guy. He can look at you in your birthday suit and not burst out laughing and yet we can joke around about serious matters and have a good time. If I wasn't so self conscious and scared of speaking in public, I think we could go on the road and do a comedy routine. Anyway, I was gone from Monday to Thursday night, so I couldn't very well update the blog, so there you have it.
 Last Sunday we went out to the annual Thanksgiving feast that the farm at Game Creek puts on. This blog is going to be a two part one because I don't want to have so many pictures on here that it won't download to the Internet. Part one shows some of the scenes from around the farm. Next year I'll strive to get some pictures from the fields and some of the animals. The day itself was nasty- rainy and gloomy like it is usually this time of year. We'd had snow several days before so the road out to the farm was slippery and muddy and the ruts were huge. Even with a 3/4 ton truck hitting some of those pot holes was bone jarring. I should also point out that the snow and rain and gloom make everything look worse. Most of the original  buildings are in a state of disrepair, but that's no surprise, when they were built we were told the world was going to be ending in five years so it wasn't like they had to last forever. I have mixed feelings when I look around there. I hate to see the place getting run down, but the good news is there are several young families moving in who are experienced builders and who have the energy and the expertise to turn things around. I'm looking forward to seeing them in action and perhaps even lending a hand. While the buildings are less than stellar, the spirit of the people was encouraging. The difference between what it was like when we lived there and now is like night and day. With time, attitudes have changed, and while the buildings may be getting run down, the spirits of the residents are shining bright. I'm looking forward to the day when the buildings are a reflection of the people within them. Part two of this post will show some of the people from the Thanksgiving feast. Now I have to get ready to clean up the mess I've made in the kitchen. The other day when I was at Costco I happened to see a lovely gal from Hoonah named Daphne. She goes by the name Duffy. Anyway,she asked if I would bake something for the school carnival tonight, so I made a batch of blueberry and sour cream muffins. I'm saving one out for her to try- a Duffy Muffin; a Duffy muffy; a Duff muff. I better quit while I'm ahead- if its not too late already. See ya!



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Spasski River

There's something about water that seems to attract human beings to it like moths to a flame. Perhaps it's because Earth is the only planet in the known universe that has water. At least that's what I think I read or heard somewhere. I'm not sure where I picked that up. I once read the back of a Bazooka Joe bubble gum comic that stated that all white cats are deaf too. I don't know if that's true or not, but if you can't believe Bazooka Joe, who can you believe? There are a lot of songs and movies and I would assume books that mention water in their title. My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, A River Runs Through it, On Golden Pond, Yellow River ( I think there have been a few jokes about that)  Over the River and Through the Woods, and Bridge on the River Kwai to mention just a few. The top picture is the bridge on the river Spasski. I doubt that there will ever be a movie about it, it doesn't have the same catchy wording, but what do I know about anything? Maybe someone will write a book about it and a movie producer will scarfe it up and low and behold it will be an oscar winner. I kind of doubt it though. This picture was taken about a month ago, when there were still green leaves to be found. Whenever we go over the bridge we end up stopping to look down below and see if there are any fish in it.  At this particular time there were still a number of Humpies finning and I believe a few Cohos. The Humpies were looking pretty tough. Once they hit the fresh water they start to deteriorate. Those that we saw looked like they had already spawned and were just waiting for the grim reaper to come and collect his dues. They are probably what inspired Alaskan artist Ray Troll to draw the ever popular Humpies From Hell poster. He's an incredibly talented artist who lives in Ketchikan and has a studio there. He primarily paints pictures depicting fish in strange and wonderful situations- haunting the dreams of a fisherman, riding a bike and so on. I saw one poster advertizing Creek Street, where both men and fish go to spawn. I guess it was a red light district that bordered a freshwater stream. Hmmm...sex and fishing- what's not to like? Oh well, back to safer subjects. I would kind of like to take my canoe on a little trip down the Spasski River. I think it kind of leaks, although probably not that bad. As you can see, the river is pretty shallow too, so I suppose I could always get out and walk the spots where the canoe wouldn't float. The bad part is that there are logs that go across the river. If I should happen to get into a strong current and tip over the canoe and get jammed up against the logs I'd be just like one of those Humpies- bear food. I guess I'll probably be content just looking at the river from the top of the bridge and let the fish figure out how to get around the bears.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Jennifer

Have you ever noticed that some people just seem to be naturally unlucky? It's not really their fault, not like some of the boneheads that took out a loan for a half million dollar house on a McDonald's salary and then complain that they're losing their home. No, I'm talking about people who do all the right things and still get the short end of the stick. I watched one fellow down at the harbor with his boys, trying to spend some quality  time with them fishing.  They couldn't get the rod to cast very far, so they asked their dad to cast it for them. He grabbed it, went to cast out and the rod went flying into the drink. I was across the dock watching this with mixed feelings of compassion and humor. He managed to get the rod back and decided to spray the reel with WD40. Somehow he got the can turned around and squirted himself in the eye. At that point compassion went out the window and I laughed my head off. Sorry- that's just the kind of jerk I am I guess.  I've decided to do a post on my oldest daughter Jennifer. When Jan was pregnant with her, we had recently seen the movie, Summer of '42. I had a bit of a crush on Jennifer O'Neal, the actress, and I wanted to name our daughter Jennifer, so we did, and so she remained until sometime back when she shortened it to Jen. Maybe it took too long to sign her full name, I don't know. Anyway, Jen is one of those folks who seem to experience bad luck or misadventure more than most normal people. Especially when she's traveling. On one trip to Oregon with  her family they were in a parking lot I believe, and parked near a car that was towing a sailboat. Well, somehow the mast fell over and smashed their rental car. How bizarre is that? Another time she was at the Hilton in Anchorage. I think she'd had some kind of surgery on her knee, so she couldn't get around that well. She had her luggage with her and was waiting for the elevator. She noticed a lady who was obviously inebriated leaning against the elevator door. Jen was afraid the lady would fall inside when the door opened.Somehow she managed to stay upright when it arrived and Jen motioned for her to go inside first. For some reason the lady took offense and started chasing Jen around the hotel lobby. So here she was hobbling around the Hilton Hotel lobby,dragging her suitcase like it was a pull toy, with a drunk chasing her. She finally found refuge behind the counter. Oh Lordy, always something. When our youngest daughter,Autumn got married in Anchorage, it was during the height of the tourist season, so most of the hotels were booked. Jen and her family had to stay in a hotel downtown. She said they could look down in the parking lot and witness drug deals and was a little freaked out, so when she went into the room, she locked the door with a deadbolt. Well, the walls are thin and someone knocked on a door down the way from them, but Jen thought they were knocking on her door, so she went to open it, forgetting that she had the deadbolt engaged. She ended up pulling the whole door out- frame and everything! While she was standing out in the hallway pounding the frame back in place with her fists, an old couple came by looking at her, mouths agape. I'm sure they wondered what kind of sluffo sleepery they were in.  I doubt that Jen or the old folks will frequent that establishment again. Her latest adventure involved a trip down to Craig, Alaska for a music festival. My granddaughter Ashia was in the honors band- first chair trumpet. Jen went down to be with her and enjoy the great music. She apparently went into the restroom and as she got to the stall, the door opened hard and smacked her in the face. The end result is this shiner she has. She's being awfully good natured about it though. For the Halloween fun walk at the school, she's thinking about getting some boxing gloves and dressing up  like a prize fighter. You go girl! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Deep Thoughts


I don't know how many folks who read this remember watching Saturday Night Live when they had a little performance called Deep Thoughts by Jack Handy. The announcer would come on and read a script that you could follow along with. It was always presented in a serious contemplative voice, but the content would be foolish, like: "I often wonder if I dug a deep enough  hole in the earth if I would reach China, or would it actually lead to the Phillippines?"  For some reason when I saw this picture of Jan and Kaylahni I thought of Jack Handy. They both look like they are in deep thought about something. This is another set of pictures taken out at Whitestone Harbor where Jan was a little concerned about being in a confrontation with a bear. She doesn't look all that worried here. Maybe she's thinking about what we're going to have for supper. I bet she's not even considering BBQ'd socks. She was probably checking out all those rocks on the beach and wondering how many trips I could make to the truck lugging rocks for the garden before I passed out. My granddaughter looks to be seriously in thought about something too, but it's probably not rocks or what she's having for supper. I really don't know what 9 year old girls think about. You'd think I would have some idea- I had five girls who all passed that age. I can't recall exactly what I thought about at that age, probably building forts or riding bikes or some such thing. I remember at somewhere around that age the guy up the street came back from California. He was a Beatnik. That's what they were called in the days before hippies.He had a pony tail and a beard and was a fairly interesting character.Now that I think of it, the Cheetos Cheetah kind of resembles him. He fancied himself an artist and set up shop in his folks garage painting nudes. That in itself was plenty interesting, but what really took the cake was that he tossed all his old Playboy magazines outside the garage door. Talk about something transforming your life! My friends and I went from knuckleheads throwing rocks at each other in the alley to sophisticated gents reading magazines.Actually I don't think we read a single word, except perhaps the title of the magazine. It told us all we needed to know. We retreated to a neighbor's barn with our treasure and had lengthy discussions of the female form. I can't remember what happened to our stash. No doubt some of the older neighborhood boys saw our repeated trips to the barn and made off with our prize. Ah well, after that childhood wasn't the same. We'd been exposed to another facet of life that left us with deep thoughts indeed.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Library

 I decided to do a post on the library today. Actually I wanted to do it yesterday, but then the internet crapped the bed so to speak. I had actually planned on doing a post on some deer ribs that I barbequed, but my camera battery was in need of recharging. It was an equipment rebellion. BBQ ribs sound good, but they weren't. No offense to my son Brian, but they were ribs from a deer he shot last year. The boys always like to get these monster bucks with the big horns. They look impressive, but if you wait too long in the season, they literally stink. The buck I killed last year was shot before he really started seriously into the rut, so the meat was great. I gave away the ribs to an older couple up the street because I knew that they liked them, and I usually don't eat them. It's a lot of work to get the meat off of the bones so as a rule I don't deal with them. For some unknown reason we decided to hang on to the ribs from Brian's deer. I had other meat in the freezer, so I kept putting off cooking them. Well, they've been taking up space for the better part of a year, so I finally bit the bullet and cooked them. What a mistake! The smell of that gamey meat cooking permeated the whole house. It worked it's way into my clothing and for most the night I kept getting wiffs of it. Frankly, it was rather nauseating. After it was boiled, I had to cut off as much fat as I could, and let me tell you- that deer was fat! Deer fat isn't like beef fat. You could easily make candles or soap out of it. You have to be careful that you don't clog the sink with it when you go to clean out the pot. I finally put the ribs in BBQ sauce and took them out to the grill. It helped to grill them, but they still tasted gamey. Fortunately Jan ate the lions share of them. She likes  most anything with BBQ sauce on it. If times get too tough I'll experiment with some old socks- socks and sauce, mmm, mmm. Probably pretty filling and no doubt lots of fiber. Of course none of this has anything to do with the library, which is supposed to be what this post is about, but how entertaining is the library? It's a pretty serious place, filled with pretty serious people.It's kind of like a hospital. You don't go to the hospital to hang out with your friends; it's pretty much the same with the library. No one says,"hey Bob, I'll meet you at the library, maybe have a few beers, check out an atlas and possibly research the Dewey decimal system. It'll be fun!" No, usually going to the library is a solitary event. You don't need friends along to look at books-heck no. They'd just try to influence your decision. You might be there looking for a good murder mystery and they're trying to get you to check out a romance novel. Friends at the library could be distracting. You might want Robert Fulghum and they're trying to steer you to Danielle Steele. That's where I think a good shock device like an electric cattle prod would come in handy. I think every librarian should have one; then if someone is talking too loud or a kid is running up and down the isles, instead of saying SHHH! or wishing the parents would control their kid, a quick little zap and a call to the janitor to clean up afterwards and order is restored.An astute librarian would see the dilema of an unwanted suggestion from a friend and with a threatening look and a gaze towards the prod, she would be able to deter the offender and you could continue browsing the "new releases" shelf in peace.Our present librarian is Terri Budke- that's her in the bottom picture. I think she's just pretending to be looking at the computer- I suspect she's probably contemplating writing a grant to get a cattle prod.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Whitestone Harbor

I spoke to my daughter Camille earlier today and she said that she was tired of looking at the picture of the spawned out humpie. I don't know why, I think it looks just great. In order to appease her though, I thought I'd do another post. The reality is, I was really wanting to do one several days ago, but this computer was moving at the pace of cold  honey when it was working at all, so my creative genius was stifled. I hate it when that happens. It appears to be working today though, so I'll see if I can get this out for all to see. On the day that I took the picture of the humpie, I also took these pictures- quite a contrast huh? For as beautiful as these pictures are, it was difficult to fully appreciate the view because of the smell of the dead fish that we were surrounded by. That and the fact that there were bear trails close to where we were standing and Jan always envisions worse case scenarios. I don't know why; although twice I was chased by bears while at the farm and once I had to swim out of an airplane when it crashed into Lynn Canal. The fact is, I survived so what's to worry about? Maybe she's just more afraid when she's with me. Heck, I'm afraid when I'm with me too, but I can't get away from myself. For the most part though, I try to stay out of dangerous situations.
 These pictures were taken at Whitestone Harbor. Back when they were logging this whole area there was a road built to here.I'm not sure why, it doesn't look like that much timber here, mainly muskegs. Its a popular place to anchor and when the seine season is going on, this whole area can be filled up with seine boats and tenders. Once in awhile I make my way down here to troll. I've never done great, but there a few fish here now and then. I caught a 41 pound white king salmon here once. Lots of people don't realize that not all salmon have red flesh. For some reason the area around Icy Straits/Glacier Bay is the only place that they are found to the best of my knowledge. Of course the farmed salmon that are raised in the pens aren't red flesh either. I understand that the flesh is a kind of grey color, but they're dyed red to appeal to the consumer. On this particular day there were six or eight whales working outside the harbor. They were too far away to get a picture unfortunately. Whitestone is a gathering place for feed and fish at various times. It's close to where Icy Straits and Chatham Straits converge so the currents seem to force the fish into the area. It's also been the location of several tragedies that I'm aware of. Some years back a fellow from out of town was hunting with some of the locals and got separated. The weather was frigid as I recall and when he was finally found some days later, he was dead. It seems like the troopers were involved in that situation. It runs in my mind that the circumstances of his death were somewhat shaky. There was also an incident where one of the local seine boats, the Johnny A,was fishing down in Chatham. The crew had anchored in Whitestone and in the morning, when they left to go back out fishing, whoever was running the boat at the time ran right into a reef. I believe everyone was ok and the boat was able to be salvaged, but I suppose it kind of messed up the rest of the season. That same year two other boats ran aground in this area. The Three Daughters ran up on the reef at Sister's Island, but was able to get off at high tide, and another seine boat, I think it was the Perseverence,ran head long into the reef at Spasski Island. I remember that one very well. I was on my way over to Homeshore to fish. It was early in the morning and a crabber was on channel 16 calling the seine boat headed to Spasski Island to warn him that he was in danger of hitting the reef. I don't know how many times he called, but the guy apparently was sound asleep at the wheel. A few minutes later I heard the seine boat calling the coast guard saying that he had hit the reef and was taking on water. They managed to salvage that boat too and just the other day I think they were coming to Hoonah to offload some black cod or halibut. I highly suspect that there is a different captain running it. In any event, let that be a lesson to you. If you're in bear country, stay alert. If you're running a boat, stay alert. If you're driving your car stay alert-and STAY OFF YOUR CELL PHONE! Thankyou.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Spawned Out

 Did you ever have one of those days when you feel kind of like this guy? It's obvious that he's seen better days. No more running with the school, chowing down on fresh seafood or chasing the ladies for this old timer, he's all spawned out. From the look on his face I would say he must have been having a great time- either that or the water was really, really cold.
 Today I feel kind of like this fish looks. Yesterday was one of those beautiful fall days that we get on occasion in October, so I couldn't stay inside. You never know when they will come again so any last minute yard work or outside projects have to be done on such a day. I had mentioned to my neighbor that I would trim her rose bush a few days ago, so yesterday I thought I would take advantage of the weather and get it done before the weather changed. I didn't realize at the time what a monumental job it would be. I set up  my step ladder and brought out the long handled clippers and went to work. Holy Toledo- that bush was huge! I could pretty much reach all the outer branches without much trouble, but trimming the inner branches was a bit more challenging. I had to reach in past the ones I'd just cut.By the time I finished cutting it and hauling it away, I had a couple hours invested in that project. I knew that I was brushing against the thorns, but it didn't seem too bad, a few scratches here and there. It wasn't until last night that I realized the full extent of the damage. My right arm looks like I tried to separate two tom cats in an alley fight. If I'd had brain number one I would have donned my old Carhartts jacket and done battle with that bush. Stickers and thorns are no problem for that tough fabric. I'll be sure to wear it next time I trim a rose bush; if there ever is a next time.
 Speaking of stickers and thorns, I'm reminded of the time I was served creamed nettles on the farm. For those not familiar with nettles, they are a green plant that grows wild here. They are usually residing alongside other plants, kind of pretending to be innocent, but they aren't at all. I don't know their proper Latin name, but their full name here is stinging nettles, with emphasis on the stinging. If you should happen to brush against them with your bare skin, the little prickly barbs get you and the stinging sensation can last for an hour or more.It feels kind of like an electric shock.  For the life of me, I don't know why anyone would want to eat  such a thing. We were living on a farm for crying out loud, instead of eating wild, stinging plants, why not grow something edible like spinach if you want to eat something green? I never understood the logic of some of the decisions, I was just the unhappy recipient of them. It was bad enough that we were served nettles at all, but one of the ladies who was sent to town to cook for the men working there decided to cream them and put them over mashed potatoes. Frankly I've seen better looking things in a litter box. Needless to say, I didn't eat supper that night. Ah well, I least I'm still around, which is more than I can say for that Humpie in the picture, but if you've gotta die, I can think of worse ways to bite the bullet.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sunday Drive

When I was growing up in Ohio, almost every Sunday for a number of years, my dad would load up the family and we'd go for a Sunday drive. At the time gas was fairly cheap- less than thirty cents a gallon. I remember my grandmother once pulled into a Sohio filling station and when she saw that gas was going to cost almost twenty five cents a gallon, she sped off in a huff. She'd pass a blue brick if she saw gas prices now. I paid $5.09 a gallon last week. Anyway, as I was saying, we went on quite a few Sunday drives. The most memorable would be to places like Mohican State Park near Mansfield, or Kingwood Center to look at the acres of flowers. When I was younger I kind of liked the short jaunts, as long as we were able to stop and look around. Without fail though I would have to pee about ten minutes after I stepped into the car. It didn't matter that I went before we ever left the house. I would stand over the toilet almost breaking out in a sweat trying to squeeze every last drop out before we left. I was always a bit of a nervous kid, and my dad had no patience at all. He could drive for hours without stopping and any mention of pulling over before we reached our destination was met with an angry outburst. He was like a camel in reverse. Instead of going days not needing a drink, he could go for hours not needing to urinate. As a result I spent most Sundays in the back seat counting off the miles until we got to wherever we were going and once there, charging for the nearest outhouse, restroom or tree to find relief. Ahh, good times. One nice thing about dad's lack of patience is that it extended to everyone. He liked driving fast and would frequently pass other vehicles at sometimes scary speeds, cursing them for being Sunday drivers. I spent many weekend excursions dividing my time between praying for a place to stop and pee and praying we wouldn't end up in a tangled, bloody mess along side the road. Fortunately, God always answered my prayers. Had He not there would have been a mess to clean up one way or the other. Last Sunday I took Jan and my oldest daughter Jen and her daughter Kaylahni on a Sunday drive. It was such a beautiful fall day that none of us wanted to stay inside. When the sun shines around here this time of year you have to take advantage of it. We drove out to Whitestone Harbor. Its only about fifteen miles away but the gravel road is rough and there are lots of hills and blind curves, so it usually takes the better part of an hour to get there. Unfortunately Jen and a few of the other kids have inherited a peanut sized bladder from me. Without fail we have to stop at least once going and coming on every trip we make. Whether its the bouncing from the gravel road and pot holes or just genetics, we always end up pulling in to one of the turn outs to make a pit stop. Fortunately tissue paper breaks down quickly or the roadside would look like a cotton field. When we first left town I mentioned that Ears Mountain didn't have any termination dust yet- that first light dusting of snow that powders the peaks like confectioners sugar on a plate of brownies. On our way back a small front blew through. When the clouds cleared I mentioned that Ears finally had that first light snowfall. From the back seat Jen says "When did that happen?" Jan and I just looked at each other and started laughing. For some reason she had a hard time believing that it could have snowed in the time it took us  to drive to Whitestone Harbor and back. So next time you're out for a Sunday drive,check the gas tank, make sure everyone uses the potty before you leave, take  time to enjoy the scenery, stop when you need to and most of all,  have fun with your family.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Do you know the Muffin Man?


Perhaps you've heard of the Birdman of Alcatraz? Well, I should like to be known as the Muffin Man of Hill Street. A short time back a friend gave me a bag of dried blueberries. They are supposed to be full of anti-oxidents, which I guess is good. God forbid that you should have oxidents in your body, for whatever reason. When I had  reduced the bag (with the help of the dog) to less than half full, I got the brilliant idea of making some muffins with the remainder. This past year our neighbor blessed us with this Taste of home Cookbook. If you never get another cookbook in your life, I would like to highly recommend that you have this one. It is so complete from start to finish, covering everything from making hard boiled eggs (only boil them for one minute- then let them stand in the water for fifteen minutes before cooling them off) to buying and storing fruit, to baking bread. I LOVE this cook book. Twice I've made twice baked potatoes with the recipes from this book.  I learned the proper way to boil my shrimp. It covers just about anything you could want to learn about cooking. I fully intend to utilize it some more this winter as I wind down from fishing. Anyway, back to the muffins. I found a recipe for blueberry muffins using sour cream. I wasn't real sure I'd like it, but I gave it a try anyhow. Let me tell you- I AM  the Muffin Man! Just look at those blond beauties resting on the cooling tray. I wish I could let you all have a taste of these puppies. They were delightful. I'm actually kind of glad that they are almost gone. If I had more blueberries at my disposal right now, I'd most probably bake another batch, which of course I would have to eat. Then instead of being the Muffin Man I  would look more like a cross between the Pillsbury Dough Boy and the Michelin Tire Man. They are by far the best muffins I've ever eaten, and I'm not just saying that because I baked them. I don't know why I'm all proud of them to begin with. All I did was follow the directions in the cookbook. Someone else came up with the recipe. It's like people getting proud when they own a nice house. They didn't build it, so what's to be proud about? Human nature I guess. It just so happens that muffins were in the news recently. Some government agency had a powwow and bought a bunch of muffins at the ridiculous price of  $14.00 each. I can't recalll the exact amount of money spent, but I believe it was in the thousands. Just another example of government buffoonery. Now, had they been Muffin Man muffins that I had baked, I could understand the expense. If you should happen to hear that old childrens rhyme, Do you know the Muffin Man?, you can answer yes, he lives on Hill Street in Hoonah. In the event that anyone reading this would like the recipe,  here it is. It was the brainchild of one Linda Gilmore of Hampstead Maryland. Thanks Linda!
BERRY CREAM MUFFINS
2 cups all purpose flour
1cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen (or dried) raspberries or blueberries
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 cup (8 oz) of sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. In a large bowl combine flour,sugar,baking powder, baking soda, and salt; add berries and toss gently. Combine the eggs, sourcream, oil and vanilla, mix well. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
2. Fill greased muffin cups two thirds full.Bake for 18-22 minutes at 400 degrees or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for five minutes before removing from pan to wire rack. Serve warm. Yield about one dozen.
Editor's note: If using frozen berries, do not thaw before adding to the batter.
 So there you go folks. If you too would like to have a tire around your middle, go ahead and make a batch, but be forewarned, they're like Lays chips. Nobody can eat just one-unless you've eaten all the others and that's all that's left. Have fun.