Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Faith's Visit

At ten years old, in Juneau, Alaska, I stood reading some of the papers tacked to the bulletin board in the foyer of the church building where my family worshipped. On the board was a newsletter from an orphanage in Hong Kong, operated by Sister Elizabeth Bernard. In that newsletter were some faded black-and-white pictures of some of the children in her care.

"Wouldn't it be fun," I thought, "to become a pen pal to one of these children." I carefully copied the address from the newsletter to another piece of paper and took it home with me. That night I wrote a letter, on lined paper and using my best cursive, to Sister Bernard. I asked if any of the children at her home would like to be my pen pal.

A few weeks later a light blue air mail envelope arrived at my home. It had stamps I had never seen before - as I recall, they were adorned with portraits of Queen Elizabeth. I eagerly tore into the envelope and found letters from two girls about my age. One girl's name was Muriel Yue, and the other girl's name was Faith Lee. They both wanted to be my pen pals.

That began a long exchange of letters crossing the Pacific between Alaska and Hong Kong. Muriel and I wrote sporadically, and her letters eventually ceased - not an unusual scenario for grade school pen pals. But Faith and I continued to write throughout our elementary, junior high and high school years.

After graduating from high school I ventured off to college in Texas. College classes meant lots of studying, so my correspondence to Faith dwindled. Having completed my first year, I went back home to Juneau for the summer. It was that summer that I received a letter from Faith telling me some surprising news; she would be coming to America that fall to attend college . . . at ABILENE! I couldn't believe it. We would actually meet!

At Abilene Faith lived in a different dorm than I did. She wasn't in any of my classes. And we only occasionally ran into each other on campus. When we did we'd always stop and talk briefly, before dashing off to class.

The next summer Dan and I got married. Living off campus meant that my encounters with Faith became even less frequent. When I finally graduated, in 1971, and moved back to Juneau, Faith and I were, once again, dependent upon the postal service for communicating. We mostly wrote to each other around the holidays. I knew that she married and that she and her husband, Chi, had two children. I knew that they lived, for nine years, in China and the Philippines because of Chi's job, but that they returned the U.S. - Texas, specifically - after that tour of duty.

It's been 41 years since Faith and I have seen each other, and I have never met her husband . . .

Until today.

Faith and Chi live near Fort Worth and today they drove down to see us. We went to lunch together and spent a few hours catching up on their life story and ours. The last time we talked, we were wide-eyed college students preparing for life. Today we talked about retirement and grandchildren.

Here's our happy party - left to right (not counting the lovely tattooed lady in the booth behind us): Chi, Faith, Linda and Dan.

In preparing to write this post, I looked on the internet to see if there was anything about Sister Elizabeth Bernard and her work with the orphans in Asia. I found a wonderful (and lengthy) article by Tom Tune, telling her story. Both Muriel and Faith, my two pen pals, are spoken of in this article. If you look at the Contents, you will see links to the paragraphs about them. The Muriel to whom I wrote is the one referred to as "Second Muriel."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Daring Bakers' August Challenge - Filled Pate a Choux

Kat of Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with crème patisserie or Chantilly cream. We were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and to go crazy with filling flavors allowing our creativity to go wild!

So call me a little lacking in creativity. I didn't make any beautiful swans, darling turtles or cute-as-a-bug ladybugs, as I saw some of my truly daring Daring Baker colleagues do. Instead, I went for the traditional cream puffs and eclairs. But, believe you me, they were just as delicious in these ordinary forms as they would have been shaped like two romantic swans with their graceful necks entwined.

I suppose I might have ONLY done cream puffs had it not been for my granddaughter, Clara. Remembering our "girls night out" over a year ago, and her first taste of eclairs (we called them "e-claras", in her honor) has made them more meaningful to me, so I had to include a few of them in my batch.

Clara's first taste on our girls night out in 2011!

I tried to make these delights as lactose-free as possible, since I am pretty sure that I've recently developed an intolerance. So the pastry cream filling, at least, was made with an adapted recipe using lactose-free milk. I thought it would be a shame to make them and not be able to enjoy them myself! The pate a choux (the puff pastry dough) did have butter in it, but I thought I might be able to fudge a little bit.

And here they are, in all of their puffy glory! I only wish Clara had been here to help me enjoy a homemade-by-grandma e-clara :-) They really were delicious.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Road Trip

It's been a long, long time since I traveled with kids in the backseat! But Monday I successfully completed a road trip with Kelsey and the kids. They drove to our house early on Monday of last week, and we transferred their luggage and car seats into my VW, and we headed west to Pecos, TX. Pecos is where Kelsey grew up and where her parents still live. The eight hour trip went wonderfully. Kelsey brought along a portable DVD player, and the animated movies kept both kids happy and entertained all across the state of Texas. We couldn't have asked for better travelers. Robert, who is newly potty-trained (in ONE day, I might brag!) even stayed dry the entire time.

After leaving Kelsey and the kids with her parents (known as Bia and Pawpaw to Clara and Robert), I drove another hour-and-a-half to Carlsbad, NM, to stay with my Mom for a few days. We had a nice visit. We made a couple trips to Artesia to eat out, and spent some of her money on a couple things she's been wanting to purchase - a new desk chair and a new vacuum. 

On Friday Kelsey's folks drove her and the children up to Carlsbad so Mom could visit with them for a while. Kelsey and the kids had lunch with us and livened things up around Nanny's house! REALLY livened things up ;-) They were full of pep and vinegar that day.

On Monday morning (this week) I hugged Mom good-bye and drove back down to Pecos to pick up my very special passengers and head back east. Kelsey and the kids spent Monday night here at our house, then drove home on Tuesday morning. It's about a three hour trip for them.

It was a lot of fun traveling with Kelsey and the kids. Having someone to talk to made the time and miles fly by. I'm so grateful to have a d-i-l who is willing to be cooped up with her m-i-l for such a long time. Not all mothers-in-law are so blessed! Thanks for the adventure and good memories, Kelsey.

McGregor, Texas - Coffee Shop Cafe and SpaceX

On Saturday, July 21, Dan and I went out for our Saturday morning breakfast. We drove to McGregor, TX, which is about a half-hour north of Temple. It's a small town of less than 5,000 people. We really enjoy eating at The Coffee Shop Cafe in McGregor. Apparently it was a favorite of George W. and Laura Bush. The Bush ranch is near Crawford, TX, just six miles north of McGregor. The Coffee Shop Cafe has a wonderful breakfast buffet, as well as service from the menu, if you prefer.

After breakfast at the Coffee Shop Cafe, we decided to try to visit the SpaceX test facility. From the road into McGregor, you can see the launch tower, where the rockets are tested, and it looks very close. We used our iPhone maps app, which kept sending us down one gravel road after another to get to SpaceX. But every one of those country roads was blocked off at some point, making it impossible to get to our goal. FINALLY, we found the proper road, which is the road that passes by McGregor High School. When we got to the gate, we chatted with the security officer, who told us that visitors were not allowed onto the property. I asked if we could take pictures, and he said we could do so from the road, but not while we were sitting at the gate, which was on their property. We also asked if they ever gave tours of the site, and he said that he knew school groups sometimes came for tours, as well as friends/family of employees, but he didn't know if individuals - like us - could arrange a tour. We're going to look into it.

We also want to go out to McGregor when they have their next rocket test, although we haven't yet found a public schedule. Rockets are not actually launched from this site; they are tested while being tethered down. Here's a YouTube video about it, if you're interested.

This is the gate, with the security officer's shed at the left.