I stopped at a billiard supply store in Minneapolis to shop for a nice high backed, bar height, upholstered swivel chair for camp. Look what I came away with... A BIRD WATCHING CHAIR. This one even rocks and reclines. Ha, ha. I'll be watching the chickadees for hours.
I stopped on my way home to admire this frosted White Pine just down the road. The White Pine is breathtakingly majestic and beautiful. It's my favorite tree.
The White Pine is the provincial tree of Ontario and the state tree of Maine and Michigan.
Sprigs of White Pine were worn as symbols of Vermont identity in the days of the Vermont Republic and appear in a stained glass window at the Vermont State House, on the Flag of Vermont, and on the naval ensign of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The tree is known to the Native American Iroquois Nation as the Tree of Peace. It is an important symbol in Iroquois tradition and in the historical record of diplomacy between the Iroquois and Westerners. Weapons were sometimes buried under a White Pine to seal a peace agreement. That pine was then known as a tree of peace.
What a pleasant interlude on a cold, winter day!
My friend Denny and I went shopping for a purse last week in Minneapolis. The two of us have been fine friends since our days as cooks in a Minneapolis Perkins restaurant almost a half century ago.
At Perkins we learned, besides cooking and the love of cooking that resides in our hearts to this day, how to sail buttermilk pancakes like frisbees through the kitchen, what happens to the nipple on a baby bottle being warmed in an old microwave, the joy of watching a microwaved poached egg explode on the plate of a surprised diner, and the shocked waitress looks as cooks downed raw egg shooters from compote cups.
Recently I bought a new cell phone - a Samsung Galaxy Mega - which I jokingly tell people can show movies just like on a big screen TV if you hold it close enough to your face. Many strangers cluck and shake their heads, then laugh a bit as I walk away, but I can play the town fool with a straight face about as well as any jester, and I'm happy to contribute to a moment of happiness, even for a stranger.
Buying a case to carry the phone turned into quite a search. The phone is fairly new to the market, so no place I could find carries a case. My searches in Florida and Minnesota at all the regular places left me caseless.
On the last day of my stay in Minneapolis Denny drove me to a Target store where we hunted diligently for the right case or some kind of substitute that would at least get me by temporarily. I give full credit to the sales staff who bent over backwards as they, too, got into the game, leading us from kitchen utensils to suitcases and most every department in between. The closest we found was a very, very ugly traveling hair curler bag that could be modified in several ways. It would have looked like a knotted clump of nylon and plastic hanging from my belt - but it would have held the phone.
In a moment of last minute inspiration one of the sales ladies said, "Why don't you try the women's purse department. They have some nice ones on clearance."
So, Denny and I hoofed it over and spent a most exhilarating half hour or so (I really hated to leave) being helped by an overly cheerful young sales girl, who had many suggestions, but didn't think the little black leather number with chain and silver studs suited me very well, even though I insisted that I wanted a manly looking purse and I really liked it.
I found the experience very pleasant and most surreal.
Here's a picture of my new perfect purse. We modified it a bit by cutting off the three-foot gold chain (hated to do that, but it would have dangled) then cut the leather strap that had been incorporated into the length of chain into two pieces and riveted them to the back of the purse to form belt loops.
VOILA!! A carrying case for my Mega phone.
Afterward, as Denny and I walked around Target looking for our wives, we passed the jewelry counter - and there was our purse sales lady with two other employees. She looked at us and questioned, "You guys are shopping for jewelry now?"
I could only smile at her and wink. "It's a special day," I confided.
Mary and I got back last night from a trip to visit my mother in Florida. It was good to see Ma, and the trip was an adventure.
Below are a few anecdotes.
I'm glad our Minneapolis to Tampa flight didn't have an air marshall aboard. I was so slap happy that I got so uncontrollably amused by this sight across the aisle that I was snorting and snotting like an idiot trying to keep from laughing out loud that the marshall may have mistaken my mirth for a fit or some kind of religious experience and felt the need to subdue me. When I get time I'd like to tell you about Teddy Bear across the aisle, a friendly, jolly 430 pound composite of Refrigerator Perry and Al Roker. Here's a picture of part of him.
Here we (Mary and I) are with Ma, basking in the warmth and flowers in front of her building in Florida, and showing off the new shirt I bought for $3 at a thrift store (makes me look like a barber with little, bitty short legs) and having dinner at a restaurant with one of Ma's friends and that lady's daughter, also visiting. All of us were able to order half portions at the seniors' discount. Woot! Woot!
Since we couldn't take much shampoo aboard the plane flying down here I've been hanging on to my tiny bottle of the stuff and using the shampoo Ma has in her shower stall. I was going to buy a new bottle, but realize that we'll have some Italian salad dressing left over when we leave, which we can't take on the plane either. Do you think if I peel the label off and leave the bottle in the shower Ma will notice? Has anybody ever showered with a nice vinaigrette? Does it create a soft loft, or might it make her hair all fly-away frizzy? Highlights?
Ma insisted I make eggs benedict for breakfast this morning. Even though I'm trying to lose weight I made myself a small portion. Guess it's okay, as I've discovered how to lose weight at a rapid rate since we got to Florida. If Ma's scale is accurate I've dropped about eight pounds in the last few days.
Here's the secret - drive in Florida. Almost every day we read about somebody who floors the wrong pedal and smashes into a farmers market. Now, just imagine yourself in the middle of these same people, three abreast, bumper to bumper plummeting down the Interstate at 75 MPH.
Yesterday we set off to explore Longboat Key. Picture me strapping myself into a rental car with more gauges and gadgets than the cockpit in the plane we were grounded in for two hours in Minneapolis - the one that took two hours to get programmed to fly again. Beside me, a menopausal wife rattling a map and in the back seat an 86-year-old hippy trying to remember the landmarks she saw 20 years ago.
I was reminded several times that it wasn't raining, so the windshield wipers weren't necessary (it was sprinkling lightly and I was very proud that I figured out how to turn them on and set them for a slow intermittent flash across the glass). And, of course, any damn fool (so I was told) knows that it's a lot easier to drive if you set the cruise control.
The first big intersection option we came to the map rattler said to turn right and go east. That was at the big sign that had a huge arrow pointing left and saying east. The backseat hippy told me to go straight ahead and keep driving till I come to the Gulf of Mexico.
So after I turned left the pilot turned the map upside down and the hippy said we weren't at the Gulf of Mexico yet.
That was only the start. Eventually I turned my hearing aids down and just drove along. Whenever I came to an interesting looking intersection I just turned - trying to somewhat evenly alternate right turns and left turns.
Along the way we came to a nice looking public beach. I knew I was in trouble when I saw that we could turn in on both the left and the right sides. So I turned right, knowing that I'd never get to park. Hadn't even slowed down before the backseat adviser said, "Are you sure you don't want to be on the other side?"
The other side was very pretty. We had a nice walk on the beach. The sun was bright and the temperature was 88F.
Eventually we drove home where we all agreed it had been a lovely day, and Ma took a nap.
I had planned not to say anything about this until we were long gone from Florida, but I have a few minutes to spare after downing my breakfast, so...
(Ha, ha. In case you see this, Ma, I'm only joking. I'm talking about somebody else).
SUCCESS: Yesterday I lost about five pounds.
On Longboat Key, I noticed on our drive yesterday a sign saying, "Bird sanctuary. No hunting." That seemed weird. Although the place has its charm, it's chock full of condos and houses and other developments so thick that for miles and miles you can only once in awhile catch a glimpse of the ocean 50 yards away. I wondered where a person might hunt and was left supposing that maybe residents just sit on their balconies and pick off pelicans or shoot the shithawks that land on their beach.
I've been a lifelong hunter, so in keeping with the theme I bought this pair of shorts with this tag when we got back to town. Never can tell when I'll spot a trophy alligator on the golf course pond and the residence where Ma lives has a strict dress code for the dining room. I wouldn't dare try to get a seat there with blood and slime on my pants. Just two nights ago Ma almost had a heart attack when she caught me taking a shot glass full of walnuts back to her apartment. I got the stern lecture, "You can't do that! You're not allowed to take food out of the dining room!" She snatched it out of my hands and immediately hid it in the secret compartment in her walker where the bread, rolls, soup crackers, and little pats of butter from the neighbor's table were stashed.
Back home in Sioux Lookout after an absolutely wonderful visit with my mother in Florida.
I have been told that some of my postings may be slightly exaggerated, or worse. I even overheard a conversation that seemed to have something to do with pants on fire, whatever that means.
My business card claims I'm a raconteur. In a general way, that means simply "story teller." More bluntly, it means "big fat liar."
Do I have a story or two for you...
Here are some little salmon cakes I'm making for supper tonight. I was going to describe them as similar to crab cakes, but they are not the least bit similar to crab cakes when I think about it (except they are both smallish and kind of round).
I have been trying not to post as many food pictures as I used to - but these are such tasty and pretty little gremlins that I just felt the urge to sneak them in.
Do you remember Clippy, the little paper clip with big eyes that used to dance onto your computer screen like a Vaudeville performer whenever you started to type a Word document? With the first keystroke he'd blow a big conversation balloon out of his face asking, "Do you want to type a letter?"
I have one of those guardian characters, shaped like a measuring spoon, living in my head. Whenever I start to mix ingredients for something she jumps onto my shoulder and whispers, seductively, "Want to add some spice to this?"
It's then that my recipe goes all to hell.
I can cook for you but I can't give you a recipe the same way twice.
Here's a scenario of my little salmon cakes, guided by the rules that they must taste good (or at least interesting), and be as close to zero calories, carbohydrates, and sugar as possible.
I started this batch with mashed cauliflower (softened by boiling), shredded cheddar cheese, Panko bread crumbs, an egg, one or two cans of salmon, then added worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, dry mustard, some salt, pepper, onion powder, and Old Bay seasoning.
After mixing everything up I put a heaping tablespoonful for each cake onto a very lightly oiled cast iron griddle pan, formed them into cookie shapes using a spatula, then baked at 450 for a few minutes (12 minutes seemed about right), took the pan out of the oven and gently flipped the patties and put them back in the oven for another three or four minutes.
Another rule: If any break during the transfer from pan to dish the cook gets to eat them so as not to ruin the picture he's about to take.
These make nice appetizers. I freeze leftovers for future use, including eating cold during coffee break, during which time my friends think I'm having peanut butter cookies (so nobody knows I'm on a sissy diet).
Last evening when Mary saw this batch she commented that they looked like little pancakes. Immediately my sweet little measuring spoon siren jumped onto my shoulder and cooed, "Sunday morning at camp. Surprise her!"
My friend, Otter, one of the original members of The Loyal Order of the Whiskeyjack sent some pictures that he took at this year’s Great Canadian Whiskeyjack Calling Contest a couple weeks ago. With the full sensitivity of a mature, 21st century gentleman he delicately labeled this one “Dick’s Pee Ladder.”
Although I appreciated his thoughtfulness, I didn’t really think he needed to have sent it to all the other guys.
I was reminded of a visit I had about 20 years ago with a long-time, out-of-country friend. I stayed for a few days at the home of Moe and his wife. And his huge, ferocious German Shepherd/Rottweiler mongrel named Oilslick.
Oilslick hated me.
One evening we all (except Oilslick) went out to a fondue restaurant for a leisurely dinner and a couple bottles of wine. That night, after we had all gone to bed, I heard ole Oilslick snorting and sniffing at the crack under my door, then heard him lie down on the little rug in the hallway right outside my door. The big bastard then began to snore and I knew right then he planned to sleep there all night.
Sometime a little later I awoke with the stomach discomfort that might come from tainted fondue oil, or maybe spoiled chicken or partly rotted fish. The discomfort quickly escalated. I had an overpowering urge to rush to the bathroom. I also had a spectacular fear of the monster brute outside my door, who must have heard me tossing and turning and moaning, and was once more snorting at the space between the floor and the bottom of the door.
Now, twenty years later, Oilslick is dead and I can laugh about it without making a mess, but I still remember it as the longest, most miserable night I have ever spent in my life.
Now, the pee ladder. I borrowed it from Mary – technically, maybe I stole it, since I didn’t mention it to her, but what were the chances she’d need to climb up to retrieve a box of Cheerios or something from the top kitchen shelf during the few days I’d be away with it? So, I was able to sneak it back into the house at the end of the weekend and she’s none the wiser about its kidnapping and lynching. Here’s a picture of it dangling from the scaffolding after the bunch of vigilantes I hang around with at the whiskeyjack calling contest were done tormenting it (and me).
At the contest I get to sleep on the top bunk. It’s not as much of a treat as it would have been when I was a kid, but it does afford me my own private space, and two windows beside my head allow cool fresh air to waft through, keeping me comfortable in a cabin the guys think should be heated up to about 100 degrees because we’re burning logs and wood heat is so nice. The fresh air also cuts the peculiar night time pollution created by a bunch of snoring guys who have been drinking beer and eating pickled eggs and other delicacies all day.
The only way up and down from that top bunk is to climb onto a nearby couch – stepping gently from the seat cushion, to the arm, to the back, and then springing a final little lunge onto the mattress. Good until morning – except for someone who needs to get up and visit nature a couple times during the night.
A year ago I spent most of the night in agony with a full-to-bursting bladder because a new guy to the group, who I had just met, was sleeping on my climbing couch. That was the second longest, most miserable night I’ve ever spent in my life – second only to that awful night 20 years ago that Oilslick had me staked out.
For hours, in the haze of a whisky cloud and the daze of being half asleep, I schemed to figure out how to solve the horrible dilemma. I was pretty sure one of my possibilities wouldn’t make the guy in the bottom bunk very happy. Another potential avenue probably wouldn’t do the screens any good. And then, of course, I conjured up some really stupid ideas, all of which were bound to fail.
Pajamas aren’t a piece of apparel we tough guys wear at camp, so I really hated to think about it, but after wrestling with the conundrum until I was about to explode, I knew I had to climb down, in the dark, the same way I went up earlier. Men who have to pee real bad develop a certain physical characteristic, so all in all, I really hated to climb down like that in the dead of night wondering what the new guy – the stranger – was going to think as he opened his eyes from a deep sleep and looked up to see why somebody’s feet were planted in his pillow.
It worked out okay, though, as no words were exchanged and I found out in the morning that Barry the stranger had fallen asleep on the couch in the cabin next door.
I, though, couldn’t end this stupid episode on a high note. I ended up outside, trying to pee off the deck into the trees. In the moonlight I peered over the railing and much to my astonishment I wasn’t going. It felt like I was, but nothing was streaming overboard. In my foggy mind I concluded that I must have damaged myself seriously – probably an exploded bladder. Then, suddenly, warm on skin brought me to the realization that I was pissing against the railing, and it was all splashing back at me.
Hallelujah! Not because of what I had done to myself, but because my bladder hadn’t blown up.
This year, I borrowed Mary’s little step stool to help me up and down from the top bunk. It didn’t do me a bit of good, though, since the guys stole it away the first day and hung it up with a rope where I wouldn’t think to look in a million years. But it turned out okay as I heaped the praise on Barry for discovering the comfy couch in the cabin next door and remarked how comfortable it must be. I even told him I wished I had discovered it first.
So that’s where he slept, by design, this year, and I had the climbing couch and the top bunk all to myself.