Friday, December 27, 2013

Unexpected Gifts






  Ahhhh... Christmas. It's come and gone for this year. I hope yours was a delight, as mine was. It was fairly quiet this year. All of my children are grown up and gone. I'm left with the memories of Christmas's past when they were all growing up. Prior to moving to Hoonah the kids had never really experienced Christmas with a tree and the presents and a special dinner. The holiday wasn't celebrated at the time on the farm, so for ten years they had little idea that it was any different than any other day. Once we moved to town though, Christmas was celebrated in the Botts home with the tree, the dinner, the gifts and lots of love and laughter and noise. It was a lot of fun, and still is, just on a smaller scale. We had our annual Shoe Box Dinner at my daughter, Jennifer's house. She takes shoe boxes and decorates them with gift wrap and puts in a drink, some fruit, candy, chips and a small gift and then we enjoy a tuna melt sandwich. For me she put in a package of Chumbug hoochies and a generous gift card to I tunes. What fun! I'm anxious to try out these new Chumbugs. Dog, or chum salmon, are primarily plankton eaters, so we use a smaller hoochie than what would normally be used for other salmon. One other tradition that has been in effect for a number of years is the adult Christmas party at the church. There is always a nice dinner with prime rib, baked potatoes,salad and a dessert. Afterwards the tables are put away and chairs are set in a circle and everyone draws a number. The number is to determine the order of who will draw a gift from under the tree. We all bring a wrapped gift when we arrive. This year there were around 42 folks who participated, so there were a lot of gifts to choose from. The way it works, the person who draws number one is of course the first to choose. After everyone else has chosen a gift, the first person can choose a gift belonging to someone else if they don't like what they got. With each new person who draws, they have a choice to choose a gift from under the tree or they can choose something that a previous person has chosen. Some gifts are more coveted than others. Because it's random, you never know what you're getting if you choose one of the presents from under the tree, so for instance one fellow ended up with a make up bag.At seventy five, I don't think he's all that interested in how he looks, but I could be wrong. Perhaps he's applying some foundation or lipstick as I write this, who knows? There were a handful of gifts that sparked a good deal of interest. An LED flashlight passed hands a number of times, as well as a beautiful wine kit and bottle of wine and a blanket throw. One gift came from under the tree looking for all the world like a giant dog bone, like something you might give to a Great Dane. We all watched in anticipation as it was unwrapped and I for one was delighted to see a yellow cedar gaff hook made by one of the local fellows here. They are the best gaff hooks I've ever owned. I have one on the boat that I used all last year and I love it. Because I was like number 37, I had a chance to see what other people had chosen. There were some good gifts, but my eyes were on that gaff hook, so when my turn came, I went straight to it and in a most un-Christian way, took it from the owner. I really wanted to leave right then before anyone else could take it from me, but it doesn't work that way. It didn't take long before someone came and got it. It changed hands between the original recipient, a charter boat owner, a sport fisherman, and my friend Bob Pinard and one or two others. After much trading back and forth and making agreements with other players, I finally had possession of that fine gaff hook again. However, the gal who drew first still had a chance to take a gift. She looked at the wine, the flashlight, the makeup bag and a few other great gifts and then settled in front of me and apologized and made off with MY gaff hook! I couldn't believe it. What in heavens name did she want with that? Was she going to give it to her husband? I didn't think he even fished, and I was certain they didn't own a boat. They have a little four or five year old son, but surely they wouldn't let him have it. I was both hurt and a little angry. Why, out of all the more appropriate gifts to take,did she grab the gaff hook? I thought about it all the rest of the night and even the next day. I'm not sure, but I made have had nightmares of losing my gaff. Anyway, the night after the party I was sitting in the living room watching TV when we heard a noise on the front porch. Jan opened the door thinking it was a dog on the porch and there, hanging on the door was the gaff hook! It had been decorated to look like a candy cane by Edna and Keith Skafelstad who had apparently collaborated with Tina Fuller, the gal who took it from me. To say I was pleased and excited would be an understatement. Christmas suddenly got better.My only problem now is that it looks so nice I almost hate to use it. I'm sure I'll get over it though. One last thing I wanted to mention. The top picture is of a quilt that my daughter Jen made for one of the local men,  Walter Lindoff, or Wanzai as he's more commonly known. She has developed a friendship with him over the years and he's often blessed her with a fresh salmon during the season. His life has been incredibly interesting, and though I don't feel free to share too much of the little I know about him at this time, I can mention that back in September he was attacked by a sow bear at the top of Hill Street as he was walking down the hill. It's just one more thing in a most unusual life. Jen used her position as an elementary teacher to have her students make get well cards for him as he was recovering and it was a real blessing. She felt like she wanted to do something for him this Christmas so with the help from one of the local seamstresses, she made the quilt. Like most unexpected gifts, it was greatly appreciated. The one exception would be the unexpected gifts I get on my lawn from the neighborhood dogs. Frankly, even if they were wrapped in sparkly paper and tied with a bow, I'm afraid I would be hard pressed to be happy to receive them. So dogs around my neighborhood, thanks for thinking of me, but keep your gifts to yourselves. Better yet, leave them on your master's beds. See how well that goes over.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Spoiled Family Members

With one paw up waiting for his cereal

Cereal is always better with a little milk on it



    I'm sorry to say that I've allowed things to get completely out of hand around our house. We ( actually I) have stooped to new lows in coddling our dog Rigby. He was already pretty well spoiled, demanding that we share our food with him. From the red and green peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots that we put into our salad, to slices from our mandarin oranges that Jan receives from work at Christmas. Of course he's always insisted on having a sliver of cheese whenever I imbibe and on those occasions when we barbeque shish-ka-bobs he's unrelenting in his begging. Its enough to want to make you go out for dinner so you can enjoy your meal in peace. In the morning when we have bananas he insists on having a few slices, and if we aren't johnny on the spot in getting it for him, he fairly well squeals with the most intense, shrill bark that I've ever heard. I do believe he's insulted that we would even consider leaving him out of the loop in the food department. At lunch time when I'm sitting in my chair trying to enjoy a Cup O Noodles, he hops right into my lap and begs until he gets a few. It's terrible. As soon as the last noodle is gone, he hops down. I guess I no longer serve his purpose. The last straw though happened a few months ago when we were on vacation. My mother in law was here watching the dog. I used to drop a few morsels of whatever kind of cereal that I was eating on the floor for him. He usually scarfed them up greedily. Then I noticed that he wasn't eating the Cheerios that I dropped and I would end up stepping on them later and dragging the crumbs around the house. I got the bright idea of putting a little milk on them in his bowl. Well, he liked that idea just fine. In fact it only took ONE time of doing that and he didn't want it any other way. While we were gone, she put a little cereal in the bowl for him and put it down for him to eat. He looked in the bowl, and then up at her like " What gives? Where's the milk Grandma?  She looked down and saw that he wasn't eating and said " Are you kidding me?" She had to pick up the bowl, put milk in it and put it back in front of him and he happily ate his cereal. Is that pathetic or what?
  We aren't the only ones who've spoiled him. Almost every day  "Grandma" would ask him if he wanted to go outside. He'd dance and bark and go nuts until she could get the leash on him. I'd watch through the front window as he ran her up and down the street with the leash stretched as far as it would go, pulling like he was the lead sled dog in the Iditarod and her hanging on for dear life trying to keep up. I was quite certain that we would witness her taking a header in the street at any time, but it never happened. She would faithfully grab a plastic grocery bag before each excursion outside and after he'd done his business she'd pick up after him. If that's not love than what is?
  Last winter Jan and I got a new couch. We had decided the dog wouldn't be allowed on it, but in the back of our minds I believe we both knew we were lying to ourselves. When we ordered the fabric we got a type that was extra resistant to abrasion from animal claws. As I write this he's in laying on the couch under a blanket throw- a fairly expensive one I might add- the brat. The kids would all tell you they never had it this good. Thank God! They would have grown up into the most obnoxious people in the world.





Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Billy Graham's Prayer For Our Nation


   I was at church a few weeks ago and ran across a paper that said-Billy Graham's Prayer for our nation.
This was a prayer that Graham made at the age of 95. He had a birthday this past November. In 95 years of living a person sees a lot of changes. The changes he's seen, and indeed all of us have seen if we've lived any time at all, should cause us to sit up and take notice. You don't have to be a news junkie to know that there is a lot of trouble brewing in this old world. Whether you want to be impacted or not, you will be. There's no hiding from the down hill slide that we seem to be on. Reverend Graham addresses that in this prayer for America that I would like to share with you.

  "Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know your word says, " Woe to those who call evil good," but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have killed abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it politics. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment. Search us oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from sin and set us free. Amen!

  That's a pretty powerful prayer. Personally, I happen to agree with him in his observations. I think that we're going to have to take a stand. I feel like America is sinking rapidly, just like the sun in this picture. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but that's ok. I liked the way America was when I grew up. We weren't perfect; there was room for improvement, but given the state of the country today I'd say we were miles ahead of where we are now. I look at this country and wonder what my children and grandchildren will be facing, and frankly, from what I can see, it doesn't look too rosy. They're the ones who are going to have to take a stand. It's not going to be easy, but doing the right thing never is. There will always be opposition to doing what is right and good. If my father's generation hadn't taken a stand, the America I grew up in would have been a very different place. In any event, I've had on my mind to share this, and so I have. What you do with it is up to you. In the bible there is a scripture that says -God's word will not return to him void, but will accomplish that which He pleases and it shall prosper in the thing where He sent it. So be it Lord.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

There's Something About Muffins


Before
After

It's wintertime. We established that in the last post, just in case there is anyone living in a climate like Miami where they aren't really sure if it's winter or not, at least not by looking outside. I guess one way to be sure down there is by the influx of pasty white bodies that show up on their shores like beached whales. Anyway, one of the fun things about winter here- ha,ha, ha, I'm just kidding there really isn't anything fun about winter here, at least not in my eyes. But, if there is anything good to be said about winter here in Alaska, it's that all the time spent inside can result in effort in the kitchen. After Thanksgiving I was feeling pretty well bloated on turkey and pie and jello salad. After a few days, it doesn't have the same appeal. Well, it's been a week since Thanksgiving, and I haven't had any pie or jello salad or cake or other sweet and tasty treats for the better part of a week, and today while I was drinking my coffee I got to thinking about how nice it would be to have a tasty muffin to go with my cup of jo. Last year one of the teachers gave me a gallon zip-lock bag of blueberries, all cleaned and everything, so I decided to whip up another batch of berry and cream muffins. Oh my. Oh these things are good. I really do wish you could try some. I mean, you can, just make your own. These are mine- and they are tasty. The last time I did a blog on these muffins, the title of the post was Do You Know The Muffin Man? For the life of me, I don't know what started the flurry of interest that baking some muffins caused, but when I check the stats on the blog, that particular post always has more hits than anything else. Granted, a lot of the interest is from spammers, but it makes me wonder- what gives?  Is muffin a code name for something else in a foreign language? Is it actually a term for something vulgar? I don't know. Maybe I'm so behind the times or out of the loop that I've opened Pandora's Box and didn't know it. Oh well. As you can see from the above pictures, the batter is a lovely purple color. That's because I used fresh/frozen blueberries instead of store bought dried ones. After the muffins have cooked, the inside becomes a beautiful true blue.  I probably should have gotten a picture of one after I'd cut it open, but the minute it's in my hand, my hand goes to my mouth, and it's gone. Guess you'll just have to take my word for it on the color. When I went to download the muffin pictures into the computer, another picture that I hadn't downloaded yet showed up. I stared at it for a moment before I realized what it was. I had taken a picture of a bra that was laying on the bathroom counter for a future blog post. I didn't really want to make it part of this post, although while I was looking at the picture I realized that a bra would probably be a good muffin carrier. You could fill it with a muffin in each cup and  put it on backwards like a backpack. The heat from your body would probably keep the muffins warm, and you wouldn't have to worry about having them crumble like you would if they were just stuffed in a plastic bag. I guess the only real issue would be to make sure you used a clean bra and to brush out any residue that might be left behind. I really should be getting a patent on some of these great ideas. No doubt I'm losing big bucks because of this blog.



Monday, December 2, 2013

And Winter Came


  

















































      I don't know if I'm allowed to use this title for this post or not. It's the title of an album by one of my favorite musical artists, Enya. I happen to love the name  and I just happen to love the music as well.  The statement pretty well sums it up. Although we had a pretty mild fall overall, and I guess according to the calendar it's still considered fall, by the time November arrives I usually consider it winter. It really wasn't all that bad until recently. As you can see, we've got a little snow and ice, and believe me, the water is cold enough to steal your breath away should you happen to fall in. As unpleasant as it is, this is the kind of weather that these salmon need. Today it actually got fairly warm- into the mid thirties, but tonight under clear skies it's pretty doggone chilly. My brother used to say that it was as cold as a nun's buns. I don't know how he would know. To the best of my knowledge, he never even knew any nuns, although we had several friends who were Catholic. I think he just needed something that rhymed with buns and nuns fit the bill. He used to mention certain parts of  a witches anatomy and their lingerie as well, but again, I don't believe he was speaking from any practical experience.
  I was supposed to be going to Juneau today on the ferry for a doctor's appointment, but the ferry is broken down- again. It happens with alarming frequency, although amazingly, it never seems to happen during the tourist season. I don't understand that at all. I contemplated flying over, but when I got on the NOAA website, it looked like they were calling for gale force winds with gusts to sixty knots. I hate flying in the winter. On days when it's cloudy, there's always the chance of getting caught in a snow storm or fog, and on sunny days the wind blows something fierce so you get bounced around like a bead in a baby rattle. It's a no win situation.
  I was kind of hoping that the snow would stop right at the bottom of the mountain and not continue on to the valleys and flat lands. The roads out of town are pretty much impassable now for all practical purposes. I guess if a person has four wheel drive and chains he might be able to get a little way out of town. Several weeks ago a hunting party from Juneau or Anchorage or some such place got caught on the wrong side of the pass that leads out to Freshwater Bay and the trooper had to go rescue them. They were lucky they had cell service. I spoke to one fellow who ventured out of town in an effort to do some hunting, but there are ruts in the road that are frozen in and it's almost impossible to steer outside of them, so if you have a car coming from the opposite direction, it's darn hard to get out of each others way. I'm not sure how you get turned around when you want to go back the way you came from. I guess you could just put your vehicle in reverse and let the ruts guide you home.One nice thing about the roads being pretty well impassable, it cuts down on the boneheads who like to go out spotlighting for deer. I don't know why anyone would do that. Our deer season lasts from August until December 31, with a special federal January hunt that they consider subsitence.  That sticks in my craw. For one thing the deer aren't that good by then, and for another the does are all bred, so hunting them wipes out future generations of deer. In any event, I'm happy to report that the troopers recently caught two local fellows who were spotlighting. I'm quite certain that they aren't the only two doing it, but maybe it will send a message to some of these idiots. Personally, I'd like to see some more robo deer set up to catch those fools. I'd like to take the ol' Crocodile Dundee approach and arm the robo deer with perhaps laser sighted automatic weapons so that when spotlighters shoot at the phony deer, they shoot back. Talk about poetic justice!