Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The P P Tournament




















  The P P mentioned in the above title refers to ping-pong, not the commonly used term for urination,as when addressing a child or dog and asking-"do you have to go Pee Pee?" To the best of my knowledge, there is no tournament for that. However, when I was a young lad, I do remember a few unofficial contests to see who could project a stream the farthest or perhaps have the most success writing their name in the snow. With a name like Tom or Ben, it was fairly easy to win the contest. If you had a long name like Alexander or Horatio, chances are you wouldn't win. Of course due to anatomical make up, girls were unable to compete, so they weren't even considered for the contest. No doubt the modern day feminist would take issue with such a sexist contest. Take it up with God ladies.Yesterday my daughter Jen came to the house and announced that there was going to be a ping pong tournament at the youth center in the evening. Back when I was a young lad in high school, I used to play a good bit at the YMCA, and I got quite proficient at it. I never competed in any other sports, lacking the drive and the discipline to put in the time or effort, but for some reason ping pong appealed to me. I spent a lot of time at the Y, it was kind of a hangout I suppose, and since there is only so much hanging out a fellow can do, I guess I picked up a paddle and started to play. Much to my surprise and no doubt everyone else who knows me, I was pretty good at it. How the heck did that happen? The tournament last night was held at the youth center, and I think it was open to ages 8 through the last-gasp geezers. I fall somewhere in between, leaning more towards the geezer realm. There was quite a good turn out. I'm not sure how many folks were there, but enough to provide some competition. Of course we had everything from the novice beginner to the more well seasoned players. My first match was with a little neighbor kid down the street. I think Jen had him in her fourth grade class last year. I believe I was probably the oldest player there, so the powers that be decided they would pair one of the youngest with the oldest to see which one went home crying. I must confess, I held nothing back and soundly defeated the young man. Ah, the sweet smell of victory. In the exciting venue that is table tennis, sometimes experience wins out over youth. Especially when you're towering over your competition and outweigh them by a hundred pounds. The next game I played was with the pastor's kid, Manny. He's actually pretty good, but he has the fatal flaw of overconfidence. He went to state and took fourth place this year in the wrestling tournament, but wrestling isn't ping pong, and though it was a close match, with first him ahead and then me, I finally managed to gain the upper hand and he too went down in defeat.  YES! I was starting to remember how good it felt to win again. That feeling was short lived. I lost the next two games to fellows who no doubt practiced day and night under grueling conditions. It was disappointing, but all good things must come to an end. Frankly, watching that little white ball bounce back and forth was starting to make me cross-eyed. Plus I was getting  hungry, and if I had stayed to the bitter end, it would have been after 9:30 before I could have supper. As it was, Jen played match after match and in the end was once again victorious. She was crowned champion of the 2015 winter ping pong tournament. To the best of my knowledge, she remains undefeated, having won the last three years. Obviously my good genes and skill managed to work their way through her system and manifested themselves in her great playing ability. As I often do when writing a blog post, I like to do a little research on the subject at hand. I checked Wikipedia and discovered that ping pong originated in Victorian England. Apparently it was played among the upper-class as an after dinner parlour game. It was also known by the less common but equally classy name, Whiff- Whaff.  I like that name. Perhaps that's what I will refer to it as from now on. "Yes, I soundly beat my opponent at a game of Whiff-Whaff. He was quite distressed and had to retreat to the bar for a strong glass of sherry." In 1901 British manufacturer J. Jaques and Son Ltd. trademarked the name ping pong. Afterwards the rights were sold to American manufacturer Parker Brothers who enforced their trademark, so other associations were forced to call it table tennis. Originally ping- pong or whiff- whaff, was  played using books stood on end on a table to serve as a net, while two other books were used as paddles to bat a golf ball back and forth. It just goes to show, in our pursuit of fun, humans can turn just about anything into a source of entertainment. I can't wait to see what shows up next.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Baking Fool





















  Thunderation! Christmas is rapidly approaching and I still haven't wrapped present number one. I'm still waiting for a few things to come from Amazon and a present for Jan that I had my daughter pick up in Anchorage. There's a lot more variety in the stores there than what I could find at Hoonah Trading.  I just hope the gifts get here in a timely manner.I don't know what's going on with the mail service. In the past six weeks I've had two packages disappear once they arrived at Federal Way Washington. The packages have to be around somewhere, they didn't just evaporate, although I do wish they could translate like the guys on Star Trek. Can you imagine how drastically that would change every aspect of the transportation industry? Food for thought. Speaking of food,  a couple of weeks ago I had my first experience making fudge.   One of my sons-in-law is overseas for the holidays and had expressed a desire for fudge. Since I have much more time on my hands than Jan does, I figured I'd give it a try. It turned out pretty good actually. I was going to use a recipe that I think I got from the internet, but it called for twelve ounces of semi-sweet bakers chocolate. When I went to the store and saw that it was going to cost in excess of twelve bucks just for the chocolate, I started having second thoughts. When I told Jan about it, she said use chocolate chips. We had one of those Oh My God! sized bags of Nestle's chocolate chips that we had purchased at Costco last year and kept in the freezer. They worked just fine. I melted the chips, added nuts and marshmellow cream and presto change-o I had fudge. I did have a minor issue though. I was melting the chocolate chips in a pan, on medium heat, just like the recipe called for, but I noticed that some of the chips weren't melting. Not wanting to turn up the heat and take a chance on burning it, I opted to test the heat with my finger. Not a good idea. I burned my finger and then my lips when I tried to get it off my finger. Perhaps in the future a candy thermometer would be a good investment.In any event, it all turned out well and is on it's way to an army post somewhere.A few days later I figured I'd make some for Mom. She's in an assisted living facility back in my home town. Unfortunately she has Alzheimer's so some of conversations are a little trying at times. She can remember things from her past and sometimes seems to live there. She has commented on not wanting to have her parents upset if she was late getting home. She's 87 and both my grandparents have been gone for years. One day I called and she said she was really tired.  When I asked her why  she said she'd been jumping rope all day. That had to be quite a feat from her wheelchair. You have to keep a sense of humor that's for sure. Anyway, I opted to bake Mom some chocolate chip cookies instead of the fudge. I figured it would be less messy and I'm not sure what shape her teeth are in, so nuts wouldn't be advisable. I'd never baked chocolate chip cookies before either, but I'm usually pretty good at following recipes, which I did.I ran into a bit of  a  problem though. The recipe said to dip the dough onto the cookie sheet by the rounded tablespoon. I did that, and had them separated and all, but they still grew into each other,  like Siamese twins. As you can see, I'm no surgeon, so some of them kind of came apart.They were really difficult to get off the tray too, even though I used parchment paper. Some of them oozed  right through the cooling tray. It was frustrating, but the flavor was just like Grandma used to make.  Well, not my grandma, but maybe yours. I had to sample more than a few- just the really goofy looking ones. The problem was there were so many goofy ones. The recipe said it would make five dozen cookies.  Hmmm.... not exactly.I think I got somewhere around three dozen, but what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in size.  They look a little bit like miniature cow pies. Little lumpy cow pies. A few days ago I decided I wanted to make some Berries and Cream muffins for some of my friends. My daughter Autumn had picked blueberries when she was visiting last summer so I was blessed with a good supply. I'm going to bake some more muffins tomorrow to pass out I believe. If I'm going to be fat, I want my friends to be fat too. That way they won't be able to say too much about how I look. Tonight I'm making some really good bean and ham soup in the crock pot. It's been cooking all day and smells delightful. Of course the problem with bean soup is the after effects. After eating a bowl or two I blow up like the Hindenburg. Maybe I should pass out bottles of Beano for stocking stuffers this year, cause I know this won't be the last pot of soup I'll be making this winter. I'm not sure what the next project will be after the muffins. This past fall I picked a bunch of apples at Jen's house before I trimmed the trees. Maybe a nice apple crisp will be in order, I'll have to see.  Anyway, those of you who might have in mind to send us candy or some other sweet treat, please don't. I'm more than capable of treating myself to all manner of fattening, yet tasty goodies. Go cook for yourself!








Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Now the Fun Begins...




















   For those of us who live in Alaska, hunting is a major part of our lives. It's not just the sport of bagging an animal; for many of us, how well we make it through the winter depends on the success of the hunt. Meat is expensive no matter where you live, but here in the bush, it's especially costly. For a lot of folks, there just aren't jobs available and so being able to shoot or catch what you eat is a necessity. Where we live, on Chichagof Island, there is a large deer population. Seven or eight years ago when we had twenty three feet of snow, many of the deer were wiped out, and for a few years the bag limit was cut back, as it should have been. It would have been disastrous if hunting had continued as it had been prior to the big snow. For the past three or four years though, the winters have been uncommonly mild, and the deer have rebounded and are abundant. For years I took my sons out hunting with me. Like many others here, we counted on a few deer to help supplement the food supply. As I've gotten older though, I'm not so inclined to get out and chase the deer around. My body is rebelling against me so it's not nearly as fun as it used to be. Fortunately for me, both boys love to hunt, and this year they both came home to do some hunting and both were successful. We were the happy recipients of one of Brian's hunts. He blessed us with two bucks. Not only did he shoot, gut and pack them home, he skinned them and helped to process the meat. It doesn't get any better than that for me.I didn't have to buy gas for the truck or bullets for his gun, he provided it all. We just fed and housed him for awhile and he took care of the rest. There's an old saying about hunting... after you pull the trigger, the work begins. No truer words were ever spoken. Unlike fishing, where you can let your catch go if it isn't hurt, there's no shooting a deer and then walking away from it. Nope, when you go hunting, you're in it for the long haul. If you're lucky enough to be successful, the fun is over. It's  a  lot of work. I once shot a deer when I first started hunting that pretty much gutted itself. It was walking away from me, and I got all spastic and took the shot even though I probably shouldn't have. It hit the poor thing in the hind leg, ricocheted upward and ran the length of his stomach cavity before exiting. Every time he jumped, some of his innards fell out. When I caught up to it, I didn't have to do anything but take out the heart and liver as I recall. That was kind of bizarre. Nice, but bizarre. In every other instance, you have to gut the deer, and then pack it out to your vehicle. Depending on how far away it is, and what kind of terrain you were hunting in, it can be a real pain. As the saying goes though, that's just the beginning of sorrows. Once it's loaded in the truck and hauled to town, it has to be hung up and skinned, unless of course you bone it out in the field, something that I've never done. I'd prefer to be away from the area where I shot the deer as soon as possible, Around here, a gunshot is like ringing the dinner bell to these Alaska Coastal Brown Bears. Brian once lost a deer he was gutting to a bear. Probably better to lose it while it was on the ground than to be packing out out and have the bear decide that what you killed is his. After the deer is skinned, it usually sits for a few days, I guess to kind of tenderize the meat. Then it's time to butcher. I learned how to butcher a deer when I was living on the farm, and it has served me well down through the years. After that, some of the meat gets ground and the rest is put into roasts, back strap,tenderloins, stew meat and however else you like your meat. I've eaten a few meals so far using this venison and I have to tell you, it's delightful.If you're going to eat red meat, this is the stuff you want. No steroids, fillers, sawdust, mad cow or any of the other stuff that store bought might contain. Anyway, I'm not trying to discourage anyone from hunting, just remember, once you've pulled the trigger, that's when the real fun starts.