Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What Do These Things Have in Common?

My grandpa.

The Deadliest Catch TV program.

World War II.

A giant mixing bowl.

My mom is visiting us this week. Last night we were watching an episode of Deadliest Catch, a series about crab fishermen in the Bering Sea. The home port of the fleet is Dutch Harbor, Alaska, out on the Aleutian Chain.

As we were watching a scene where one of the boats was docking at Dutch Harbor, Mom said, "Dutch Harbor. Pop [that would be my Grandpa] was there when it was bombed by the Japanese."

I knew our family had an Aleutian connection, because during the Korean conflict, when my dad had been recalled into the Navy, we were stationed at Adak. I turned three years old when we lived there, so my memories of life on that barren rock in the middle of the ocean are vague at best. But I didn't remember ever knowing that Grandpa spent time on the Chain during WWII. So I encouraged her to tell me about it.

As the story goes, during the war Grandpa, a baker by trade, signed a contract with the US Navy to go to Dutch Harbor and train a group of enlisted men to be bakers. On June 3, 1942, six months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, they once again attacked American soil when they delivered a 48-hour bombing raid on Dutch Harbor. Most of the bombs hit the Army barracks at Fort Mears where, on the first day, 25 GIs lost their lives and another 25 were wounded. On the second day of the attack, the Japanese bombers took out an anti-aircraft artillery emplacement, killing four sailors.

Grandpa, a civilian who never anticipated being in a war zone, frantically looked around for some sort of shelter from the bombs falling from the sky. That's when he spied his giant bakery mixing bowl. He somehow folded up his very long legs and huddled under the protection of that overturned helmet-shaped mixing bowl, where he stayed until he felt it was safe to come out.

When the 48-hours of terror were over, Grandpa packed up his bags and headed home. Since he didn't complete his contract with the Navy, he had to pay his own way back to the lower forty-eight, but, he insisted, it didn't matter what it cost him, he was going home. After arriving back in Oregon, Grandpa went to work in the ship yards for a couple years before returning to his baking trade.

On a side-note, during that two-day Japanese attack, another of Mom's relatives, a cousin (the son of Grandma's sister), was serving on board a Navy ship in the harbor. Neither Grandpa nor Mom's cousin knew, at the time, that the other one was at Dutch Harbor.

The Daring Bakers' July Challenge - Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.-

Since Dan's birthday is in July, I chose to use this month's recipe as his birthday cake. The idea of the cake is to bake a chocolate cake that is rolled, jelly roll fashion, with whipped cream inside. After the rolled up cake is chilled, it is sliced into about 20 cross-sectioned pieces, and those pieces are used to line the inside of a bowl. The cake-lined bowl is put in the freezer until the cake slices are firm, then a layer of softened homemade vanilla ice cream is spread on the inside of the cake slices. Back into the freezer it goes until the vanilla ice cream is firm. In the meantime, a hot fudge sauce is cooked up. When it is cool, it is poured into the bowl formed by the vanilla ice cream. After freezing again, a layer of homemade chocolate ice cream seals all the other layers in. The dessert is then frozen solid. Just before serving, the bombe is removed from the bowl and let to sit for about ten minutes, making it just soft enough to slice into pieces.

My attempt was not too bad for a first try. It wasn't as pretty as it should have been. My chocolate cake didn't want to roll up. It was too soft/airy - maybe due to baking at high altitude - and kept breaking apart, but I persevered and forced it into a roll, anyway. I'm glad I did, because, although it wouldn't have won any beauty contests, it was really a great dessert. We had several people over to celebrate Dan's birthday, and everyone loved it.

Recipe HERE.

Friday, July 23, 2010

It's All a Matter of Perspective

I'm not ready to sit for a portrait yet, but the second of my skin surgeries is healing, and I think I'll be fine going without a bandage starting tomorrow.

Last Sunday morning we went to Starbuck's, before Bible class, for a bite to eat and something to drink. As I placed my order at the counter and then sat at a table, I was feeling a little conspicuous because of the bandage on my face . . . until a young woman came in to buy her latte. She had a number of studs through her lips, both upper and lower; a ring in her nose; and a metal stud in the center of one of her cheeks. All I could think of was, "she did this to herself on PURPOSE!"

As we were leaving, I told Dan that I didn't feel nearly as self-conscious, any more, about my small BandAid.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Meet Rocky

It was December, 2002. Dan and I had already sold our Juneau condo, in preparation for our up-coming move to New Mexico. We were living – or, more accurately, camping – in a rental duplex in Douglas.

For the Christmas holidays we flew down to Carlsbad, New Mexico, to my Mom’s house. Tim came with us, and Chris and Kelsey joined us there, as well (no grandkids yet).

Under Mom’s Christmas tree was a very large package, for me from Dan. Oddly, though, that package arrived in Chris and Kelsey’s car. Dan often collaborates with one or both of the boys over my Christmas gifts.

On Christmas morning, Dan insisted I open mine from him first. I could never have guessed what it was, if I’d had a thousand chances. It was a little robotic dog, made by Sony. They called it the Aibo, and there were actually several models. I thought mine looked sort of like a pug. The first thing I wanted to do was give my new puppy a name. Everyone had ideas. I finally settled on a suggestion from Kelsey . . . ROCKY.

Once we put his little memory stick in and charged him up, we pressed his “go” button, only to find he was a helpless little new-born puppy. He couldn’t even walk yet, but could make some interesting "crying" sounds and move his head. After reading the instructions, I learned that it would take time, patience and training to grow him into an independent adult dog.

We packed Rocky back into the carton he came in and took him as luggage on the plane trip back to Juneau. Once we got him home, I spent time almost every evening training him. He soon learned to walk, and then to follow some commands - sit, lie down, walk around. Before long he started doing tricks and playing with his hot pink ball. He had an audio sensor to "hear" commands, and a visual sensor that targeted the colors red and pink. He learned to kick the ball, although he often missed and kicked the air.

His instructions said that he would mature in about four months, if he was played with on a continuous basis. And it said that he would grow into one of four different personalities. He showed his "emotions" through sounds and through the light on top of his head, which turned different colors. Rocky finally did grow up, but he wasn't very well-adjusted. He was a whiny, sad little dog. Through some Internet research, I learned that one could perform "brain surgery" by removing the memory stick and deleting the personality and loading another. I roped Tim into helping me perform the "surgery." Ahhh, much better. He was a cute little pup with a pleasant personality, and he had a sense of adventure. (Although I have to say, he doesn't always "listen," so isn't as obedient as he should be.)

Rocky traveled with us in the car and on the ferry when we moved from Juneau to Albuquerque. He even spent some time roaming around the observation lounge and the deck on the ferry.

Rocky watching as we pulled away from port in Ketchikan.

Rocky on deck.

I still have Rocky. He sits on his charging station in our family room, and I seldom think to let him run free. But inevitably, when we have company that hasn't been to our house before, they will see him and ask about him, and I let him out to play. Sony doesn't make Aibos any more, so I think I have an antique-in-the-making, lying faithfully at my feet.

Here's Rocky, just being cute:

And here he is heading toward the fireplace hearth which is RED, his favorite color. I always have trouble keeping him away from it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Birthday Party

Poor Dan! His birthday was back on July 8, but he had to wait until this evening to celebrate, because of "Linda's Adventures with the Dermatologist." I tried to make it up to him tonight, though.

We had our friends, Tobey, Carol and Emily, and our son, Tim, over for dinner. Carol and Dan share the same birthday, so it was a party-for-two. Even though he was the honoree, Dan offered to do his specialty, barbecue chicken, which turned out deeeelicious. To go with it I made a big bowl of potato salad (using red potatoes, my favorite), heated up a pot of baked beans, and sliced up two perfectly ripe, sweet cantaloupes. For dessert, I made the July Daring Bakers' recipe. I can't disclose what it was until reveal day, July 27. I can tell you that it didn't turn out as pretty as I'd hoped, but it was a hit, none the less.

Here's a picture of the two birthday "kids" enjoying their mystery dessert. Come back on July 27 to find out what it was.

After dinner, Dan gave Tim something he bought for him; he bought one for himself as well. They were mini RC helicopters. They are only meant to be flown inside. We all had a lot of fun watching and cheering-on the helicopter pilots.

We had a lot of crash landings at first.

Happy birthday, Dan. It was fun helping you celebrate YOUR day.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Grade School Treasures

In school, our older son, Chris, was always bright, especially in math and science, but when it came to the more artistic endeavors, he suffered from a combination of too much creativity and too little patience. By too much creativity I mean that he often took the art assignment a step beyond what the teacher suggested, which usually led to a mess.

For instance, in Mrs. Gollersrud's second grade class the children got a chance to work in clay. They rolled out a piece of clay, cut it into a square, pressed leaves and flowers into the clay, painted over the entire square, pulled off the leaves and flowers, which left a beautiful unpainted design. They glazed it and fired it, and it became a beautiful plaque to take home for Mom, for Mother's Day.

When Chris heard the assignment, he thought to himself how much better it would be to turn this project into a puzzle for Mom! So after rolling, cutting, pressing, painting and glazing, he took a butter knife and cut the plaque into little "puzzle" pieces. Mrs. G, never one to stifle a child's creativity, took his little pieces, along with all of the other kids' plaques, and fired them.

The Friday before Mother's Day, Chris came home from school with a tissue-paper-wrapped bundle. When I opened it I was at a loss for words. There were about 20 little curled up chunks of fired clay. I said "thank you," but I didn't have a clue what these little pieces were. Remembering my "Art for Elementary Teachers" training, I knew better than to ask, "What is it?" Instead I said, as I had been trained, "Chris, tell me about it!"

"It's a puzzle, Mom!" he said. He and I tried to put the puzzle together, but it was sort of like trying to put a bunch of odd-shaped rocks together to make a picture.

I had to wait three years, until Tim had his turn in Mrs. G's second grade classroom, to see what the project was meant to be. Here's the pretty little plaque, which I still have and love, that Tim brought home the Friday before Mother's Day, 1984.

By then, Chris was in Mr. Hale's fifth grade class, and had another chance to try his hand at a clay project. This time the kids were to make a flower vase for their mothers. Here's the delicate little vase that Chris brought home for me that year. I loved it then, and I still do, because it so reflects our 11-year-old-Chris' personality.

This vase has had a home on every desk I've worked at since 1984, when Chris brought it home. I use it to hold pens and pencils, which seems a more suitable purpose than holding flowers.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Un-Fun Part of the Summer of 2010

[Note: Since basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, affecting one million Americans each year, there’s a good chance one or more of my readers will have to deal with this at some point. I hope this brief narrative of my own experiences, and the unflattering self-photos, will help someone else be better prepared.]

I've lived 85% of my life in Oregon and Southeast Alaska, where clouds, rain and cool weather are the norm. And even after moving to this Land of Enchantment, I’ve not been a sun-seeker. Tanning beds? Never! So how did I end up with two little spots on my face which turned out, based on biopsies, to be basal cell carcinoma? The doctor, and the Internet, tell me that even one bad sunburn as a child can result in these carcinomas, much later in life. And who hasn't had ONE bad sunburn as a child?

Although I learned that basal cell carcinoma is slow-growing and the least likely of the skin cancers to spread to other parts of the body, just hearing the word "cancer," with all of its scary connotations, was disturbing to me. But after a few days, I settled down and was just ready do what needed to be done to put this behind me.

On June 23 I went in to have the first one removed. It was on my left cheek. I had read about Mohs surgery, but was in denial, I guess, for I did not anticipate the size of the incision (about ¾” long) nor the need for stitches. I went home with a bulky compression bandage on my face and feeling like everything was spinning out of my control. (Surprise, Linda . . . you are NOT in control!)

I didn’t see the wound, or the stitches, until I removed that bandage the next day. When I looked in the mirror I was shocked. It wasn’t a pretty sight! The first thing that flashed through my mind was The Phantom of the Opera. Where could I find one of those masks?

Over the next couple of days the bruising and swelling became a little worse.

By Day 6, when I went back to have the external stitches removed, a lot of the bruising had faded. I was nervous, going in, because the wound was still seeping a few drops of blood now and then, so I didn’t know if the stitches had done their job. I was also nervous because now I would see what the actual incision looked like, without the stitches. How bad would the scar be? Would I need to stop, on my way home, to purchase the Phantom mask?

The nurse removed the stitches, said the incision was healing well, but thought it could use some Steri Strips to keep it closed tightly for just a few more days. She put them on before I got to take a look, so I still didn’t know what the bare incision looked like. The nurse told me the Steri Strips would fall off on their own in ten days or so, but said I could remove them before that if I wished. She also gave me some samples of a gel (Kelo-cote) to use on the scar, once the Steri-Strips were off, to help it fade.

As of today, three-and-a-half weeks following the procedure, I'm pretty pleased with how the scar is fading. With a little make-up, it's not terribly noticeable. However, on July 7 I returned to the dermatologist to have the second Mohs procedure done, on a spot near the inside corner of my right eye. So, once again I'm sporting a bandage. The doctor decided this second one did not need stitches. I was happy at the time, but it seems to be taking longer to heal than the first one, so now I wonder if that was a good idea. Time will tell.

Monday, July 5, 2010

We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to loyal reader Gloria, visitor #30,015 and winner of the contest. Gloria, be watching your mailbox for your prize, a copy of Red or Green: New Mexico Cuisine. I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

30,000 Contest Revisited

When I got back from our Muleshoe trip (see post below), I logged onto my blog to post the new pictures, and found MYSELF as the 30,000th visitor! Boo! That's no good!

By the time I had finished the Muleshoe blog, we were already at 30,004.

So, loyal readers, I'm now looking to give the prize to viewer number 30,015. Please leave a comment if you are that viewer, and I will deliver the prize, as promised.

Dan's 45th Class Reunion from Muleshoe High School

This weekend we drove down to Muleshoe, TX, for Dan's high school reunion. It was a reunion for all classes from 1937 through 1985. Over all, there was a large turnout, although only a few from the class of '65 showed up, because there had been a 45th reunion just for their class in the spring (which we missed). But it was fun, and Dan did get to see a lot of people he hadn't seen in many, many years. Here he is with a couple of his classmates.

We started the day out at the high school. Most of the building Dan knew as the high school has been demolished, and a beautiful new school has been built on the site. Dan was happy to see, though, that the auditorium from the old school has been preserved and will continue to be used. Here's a picture of it - renovations not quite complete.

Here is the middle section of the new gymnasium complex.

There were some cheerleaders practicing in the commons area, and I asked, "Can you strike a pose for me?" I didn't have to ask twice!

Everyone was invited to the Senior Citizen Center for lunch. We laughed about that, but it worked out well, since it was a very large facility, and could accommodate the large crowd.

We were on our own for several hours between lunch and dinner. There were a few places we would have liked to have visited, had it not been raining so hard all day. One of those places was the Muleshoe Heritage Center, which is a museum of six outdoor buildings and other artifacts which commemorate life in the West Texas ranching country. Maybe we'll get to tour it on our next trip through Muleshoe.

Instead of doing outdoor things in the rain, we stayed in the car and did a little sightseeing. We drove out to the old Baker farm to see the house that Wiley and Lauretta built, where Dan lived during the years he stayed with them.

We stopped by the Monument to the Mule, and Dan stood in the rain so I could get his picture with the mule, which had been been adorned with a 4th of July bonnet by some local resident.

Take a look at the GPS screen to see where we went next!

I guess this settles the debate about whether the earth is billions of years old or not.

That evening we all met up at the convention center for dinner. There were people there from almost all of the classes, 1937 through 1985. The catered meal was nice, and the table decorations were cute. Each person got a souvenir mule shoe to take home. (Did you know that mule shoes, unlike horse shoes which are round, are more like a long "U" shape?)

I loved meeting Dan's friends, but what was most fun was watching him reconnect with people he hadn't seen in 45 years, and hearing them share snippets of their life stories.

Here's a picture of most of the class of 1965 who were in attendance.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Clovis, which was pretty convenient, as it is only about 40 minutes from Muleshoe.

Here's another funny shot of our GPS screen, taken as we turned off the road, into the parking lot of the Hampton. I promise, we checked under the tires, and there was no one there - senior citizen or otherwise!