Thoughts and assorted philosophical musing about: Family, Friends, Fun, Hobbies, & other everyday things.
My continuing efforts to serve as a First Sergeant (Top) in the Army of God.
My latest interest is in Letterboxing.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spring Busting out and the Hanami tradition

Oh my gosh! It has been almost a week. Last Friday my daughter was ill so I went to Breakfast with her husband and her youngest son Maxwell. When we returned to her home she was still in bed so I hung out for a bit, then returned home, I got home in late afternoon just to crash in bed. I really over did it the last few weeks and became totally exhausted.

Since then it has been pretty routine. I wanted to get out letterboxing, but early in the week it was too cold, then yesterday it was warm but drizzled rain all day. Today Donna and I have an early afternoon appointment to discuss her potential retirement so letterboxing is out. However I have been working on a new box to add to my seasonal collection and several for my Berea series. A spring related box should be in place for the weekend.

Every place that I look there are signs of spring busting out. I expect to really enjoy this spring in a fresh and different way. I think that I have gained a new appreciation for the beginning of new life and the renewal of the old.

This weekend the annual Cherry Blossom festival is being held in Washington DC. During our days in Japan we came to truly love "Hanami" or flower viewing, the time when local celebrations are held as the fruit trees come into bloom. The most popular are the "Sakura" or Cherry blossom festivals. These are family lawn parties in parks selected for their exceptional beauty and usually involve eating, drinking, dancing, singing, and of course viewing the cherry trees. The Japanese cherry blossom song is one of their best know in the west and is a personal favorite.

Jason, one of my bachelor sons, is spending a lot of time with us now. He and the single lady who is our next door neighbor are becoming frequent companions. Tuesday he offered to fix dinner at our home for both us and her. We accepted his offer and enjoyed not having to fix as well as the resulting good food and company.

My eldest Loren and his wife Jennifer recently bought a house in Delaware state. We expect that they will be in town to recover items from storage over the Easter weekend. Then a few days later Donna and I will fly over to see their new home and help them with chores related to getting settled in. I am really VERY uncomfortable on airplanes due to physical problems, still we are looking forward to some great family time.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Its coming - Boing! Boing!

This morning finds me just North of Detroit, miles from home, where I am enjoying a very nice visit with my daughter and her family. The arrival of Spring just will not wait until I get settled back at home. Here it comes bouncing in and nothing can stop it - Boing! Boing! Boing! So I am setting in a hotel room working on a laptop trying to change my blog theme from St Patrick's Day to Spring and hoping to pull it off without all of the accumulated files and assets from my desk top machine. Actually I think it came out as I had planned it, or at least a close facsimile.

I have stated many times that I am a foodie. For several years I have been interested in touring a group of shops operated in Ann Arbor Michigan. Zingerman's which started as a small Delicatessen has now grown to include a coffee shop, coffee company, creamery, bake shop, cooking schools, and a rather eclectic full service restaurant. After repeatedly twisting her arm over the years I was able to persuade my daughter to accompany me on a visit to the place. It then became the focal point for this visit. Yesterday she, her two young men, and I jumped into the car and were off on our adventure. We visited the full complex and earned our "Food Tour" free T-shirt awards.

It was a fun time for all except when I stupidly ran out of gas on the way back. If you ever have a day free in that area I recommend you check it out. I have to run now, I have another long and busy day ahead.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lucky Boxers and Good Food.

Last Friday just after finishing my WHIN indicating that the weather was keeping down the letterboxing activity, a group of boxers came by to get the boxes at my house. They had also worked several more in my area. Then latter Travel'n Turtle, a local boxer, came by to get my new seasonal stamp and to provide an exchange with her 2 month old son, Q Bee, who may be the youngest letterboxer in Ohio if not in the entire US. Everything considered several more of my boxes have had finds logged since Friday. With all of the recent exchanges my logs are also not up to date. It appears that this week has brought us a Pot of Gold in our letterboxing adventures. I wonder what other pleasant surprises are ahead?

The chili went over very well at church Sunday and yesterday was devoted to making scones that Donna took in to the faculty today at Drake Elementary School where she works. Next on the agenda is to start on St. Patrick's day dinner. This year it will be a more authentic dinner consisting of boiled bacon, cabbage, and potatoes. Not knowing if we will like the bacon it will be fixed two different ways. Half will just be boiled and sauced while the rest will be glazed after the boiling then baked as you would a ham. I may only boil half of the cabbage and stir fry the remainder. Boiled potatoes will of course be included.

Here it is St. Patrick's Day already. Time really slipped away from me. I had intended to post several more tidbits regarding the day earlier in the month but it didn't happen. So now I am down to the wire. Here are a couple of links for activities which should have been given to you earlier, perhaps you can still find something here to use:
Mrs Jones - St Patty's Day
St Patrick's Day Printables - St Patrick's Day Word Search
St Patrick's Day on the Net

I will not go downtown to the Parade today even though the weather is expected to be outstanding with clear skies and the temperature in the mid 60s.

Tomorrow I will be driving to Michigan for a much anticipated visit with my Daughter and her Family. Family has become very important to me in the last few years. At the end of our days, when the accounting of all of the things we did on this earth is made, the only thing that will matter is our relationships. Relationships with God, Family, and Community.

With the holiday half gone it seems too late for recipes so I will simply close with a traditional Irish blessing and an Irish proverb.

May god grant you many years to live,
for sure he must be knowing
the earth has angels all too few
and heaven is overflowing

The older the fiddle the sweeter the tune

Friday, March 13, 2009

Life in a tunnel, I see the light and a bit'o the green.

This week is almost gone already and it seems as though nothing has happened. It has really been pretty much a week filled with routine mundane stuff. Much needed grocery shopping, some other quick shopping trips, household repairs and choirs, etc. It has been raining a lot and we are in another cold snap so I have been pretty much cooped up inside. There has been little or no local letterboxing activity. Frankly It has been very boring, as if I have been cut off. Really it has been more like going through a dark tunnel, but I think that I can see the light ahead.

A new smoker arrived to replace the one we have been using for many years, but it has been too cold out to finish assembling it and trying it out. My wife says it is a Cadillac but it is more like going from the Chevy that I was using to a Buick. She should see some of those "Cadillacs", this is nowhere close in features or price. It has an electronic thermostat, is insulated so it can be used in cold weather, and uses far less wood. It will go for hours and hours without being checked on all of the time. In the past our smoker has been used for smoking turkeys several times a year. Donna has developed a fondness for Barbecue. Now REAL Barbecue (not just grilling then smearing it with sauce) of an assortment of slow cooked smoked foods will be added to the repertoire prepared in it.

The schedule today calls for starting on a big pot of Chili to be shared Sunday at our church's Chili cook off. I will use the same basic recipe that we tried and loved at home a few weeks ago. The turkey that I smoked recently is all gone so I also need to throw the carcass into a pot to start soup. If there is any chili left, that along with turkey soup, and a left over pork and rice casserole should just about take care of next weeks meal needs. Of course baking scones for Donna to share at work on St. Patrick's day is on my calender for Monday, and then on Tuesday I will fix an real Irish dinner. The weather guru's say that it will warm up over the weekend so next week has lots of promise.

And now some more Irish lore:

Celtic pagans (Druids) revered the shamrock for its triad leaf formation, as three was a mystical number in their religion. In the 5th century, Saint Patrick is said to have used the shamrock to teach the doctrine of the Holy Trinity to the Irish pagans. With the three leaves representing the father, the son, and the holy spirit.

During the 19th century Irish rebellion against England, wearing the shamrock took on political significance. Seen as a symbol of Irish pride, British law made wearing it punishable by death. It was during this period that the term "wearin' o the green" came into use.

Still today, displaying a shamrock and wearing green are considered expressions of Irish identification. Of course, they are no longer criminal offenses. Especially on St. Patrick's Day, when everyone - Irish or not - will be showing off their green pride. As the saying goes, "Everyone wants to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day." I wonder if I am the only one who remembers when you would be likely to get pinched if you were not wearing green on St. Patrick's day?

Some Irish blessings:

Dance as if no one were watching,
Sing as if no one were listening,
And live every day as if it were your last.

May you be in Heaven a half hour
before the Devil knows you're dead!

And an Irish Prayer:

May God give you
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Letterboxing Delights and Irish Trivia

It is getting busy in letterboxing land, in the last couple of days my heart was warmed by receiving over thirty messages reporting finds on my letterboxes. Adding further joy, was my being able to get out and find a dozen new ones.

My daughter, who introduced me to this addiction, went out with her family yesterday attempting to recover some boxes. They ended up getting soaked by a sudden downpour, but still had fun. Thinking back I believe that many of the most memorable fun times we had while the family was growing up were associated with some unexpected “disaster”. I am sure they will relate tales of this one for years.

Still dwelling on St. Patrick’s Day I have decided it is time to share some facts.

Who was this guy? St. Patrick was born in Britain to wealthy parents near the end of the fourth century. Although his father was a Christian deacon, there is no evidence that Patrick came from a particularly religious family. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was taken prisoner by a group of Irish raiders transported to Ireland and put to work as a shepherd. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian. After more than six years as a prisoner, Patrick escaped by walking nearly 200 miles to the Irish coast.

After escaping to Britain, Patrick experienced a vision to return to Ireland as a missionary. He began religious training that lasted more than fifteen years. He was then sent to Ireland as an ordained priest, with a dual mission to minister to Christians already living in Ireland and to begin to convert the Irish.

When Patrick arrived, most Irish practiced a nature based pagan religion. The Irish culture centered on a rich tradition of oral legend and myth. Being familiar with the Irish language and culture, Patrick chose to incorporate traditional ritual into his lessons of Christianity instead of attempting to eradicate native Irish beliefs. For instance, he used bonfires to celebrate Easter since the Irish were used to honoring their gods with fire. He also superimposed a sun, a powerful Irish symbol, onto the Christian cross to create what is now called a Celtic cross, so that veneration of the symbol would seem more natural to the Irish.

Some myths about the day:

He (St. Patrick) chased away the snakes! They were never there.

St. Patrick introduced Christianity to the Celtic clans! While he certainly did help to expand Christian influence and teachings, a part of his mission was to minister to those Christians who were already there.

Leprechauns are an important part of the Holiday! The original Irish name for these figures of folklore is "lobaircin," meaning "small-bodied fellow." In Celtic folktales, leprechauns were cranky souls, responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies. Though only minor figures in Celtic folklore, leprechauns were known for their trickery, which they often used to protect their much-fabled treasure. Their association with St. Patrick’s Day was a Walt Disney invention (Darby O'Gill & the Little People) circa 1959.

The Irish drink lots of green beer on St. Patty’s day! Until recent years Irish pubs were closed on this Holy Feast day. Some are now open in an effort to promote tourism. Green beer is an American invention.

Corned beef and cabbage is the traditional holiday dish! Cabbage yes, but corned beef is only popular in the US where Irish immigrants in New York City adopted it from their Jewish neighbors as an inexpensive substitute for the "Irish Bacon" feast day food item they had enjoyed back home.

St. Patty’s day has always been celebrated with large parades! The first know parade was held by Irish soldiers serving in the English military who marched through New York City on March 17, 1762. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers to reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as fellow Irishmen serving in the English army.

The color green has always been associated with Irish American’s! For many centuries the two major political/religious factions in Ireland have been the “Protestants” i.e. Anglican Church whose symbolic color is orange, and the Catholics symbolized by green. Until the potato famine of 1845 the vast majority of American settlers from Ireland were middle class Protestants associated with “The Order of the Orange”. The famine drove great numbers of subsistence level farm families to look for new opportunities. During this period close to a million poor, uneducated, Catholic (Green) Irish poured into America to escape starvation.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Happy Days Letterboxers & Leprechauns

Wow has this been a good week so far. It is Happy Day time for letterboxers and the Irish. Wednesday it was finally warm enough to get out some. I started the day with a stop at "Spudnuts" my favorite donut shop. Then it was off to collect a recently changed local seasonally letterboxing which includes a bonus stamp. Another boxer beat me to it, but left a HH which I collected. Then a stop at a craft store to pick up some St. Patrick's Day trinkets. Some for my wife to wear at school and another to use as an "Easter Egg" in my own St. Patrick's day letterbox which I will put out before the week is finished. Following that I was able to plant three new boxes near my home.

Then yesterday I got an early start. Not expecting the weather to get real warm, I went after a several drive-by boxes which are clustered close together some distance away. Before the day was done ten additional boxes had been logged. The weather actually turned out to be quite balmy. That is enough to make any letterboxer happy.

Patrick's Day is just around the corner. Today I will be cooking up pot of stew, but it will probably not be true Irish as my wife does not like the odor of lamb cooking.

Here is a great Irish Soda Bread recipe that I wanted to share. It is traditional served with clotted cream (Devon Cream) and/or lemon curd. I recently found lime curd at a local store. The lime curd has a bit of a green tint so I will be using it instead for the big day.

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
2 1/2Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Optional: 2 Tablespoons decorators sugar for topping

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. One tablespoon at a time, work in two tablespoons of the butter with your fingers, you will end up with a coarse meal-like dough. Stir in the buttermilk and the currants and mix with a fork until it comes together. Transfer to a floured countertop and knead just until the dough holds itself together, it will be bumpy, not smooth. This will take less than one minute.

Pat the dough into a 6 inch round, 2 inches thick and place on the baking sheet. If desired, sprinkle with one tablespoon of sugar or two tablespoons of pearl sugar. Mark an "x" on top with a very sharp or serrated knife. Bake until golden brown, around 40 - 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Melt the remaining one tablespoon of butter and brush over the top of the loaf.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Boxers Stirring, Coptic Stitch Vs. BIA, Rounded off with a Limerick

There were several warmish days toward the end of last week. This seemed to result in a few local letterboxers stirring from their winter hibernation. I am seeing postings on the letterboxing messageboards updating us on the status of boxers who had not been heard from for several months. In addition towards the end of the week several finds were reported on four of my planted boxes. It is exciting to be looking forward to getting out and going boxing again. However, on Sunday the cold returned with a certitude. With the windchill factor hovering near zero even a few moments outside is enough to bring on my angina. It is supposed to warm up again towards the end of this week which will allow getting out and planting some boxes. I have repeatedly gone over my three new Berea letter boxes and tweaked all of the details several times. They are all boxed up and completely ready to be deployed.

For my recent boxes I have been making logbooks using a spineless Coptic stitch. This permits them to be opened flat which is great for stamping. These are made with unlined 4"x6" index cards folded in half. The index cards are thick enough to permit stamping on both sides of the page with out bleed through. Several of the cards are folded together to form a packet called a "Signature" then the desired number of these "Signatures" are stitched together by hand. Eight "Signatures" consisting of three cards each results in a 96 page book about 1/2 inch thick which seems to be a good size for this purpose. I have developed a technique for covering them that I find very attractive. It hides the stitching on the back as well as making a nice cover, but does not interfere with the goal of opening the book out flat.

These logbooks are very nice, the technique is now fully developed, and all of the cover appliques and book insert pages used are stored in my computer. They also just fit snugly into the 2 cup size Lock-N-Lock. Still they are very time consuming with the need to fold the cards, sew it together, complete the cover, round off the corners, and then add inserts. Now for a new seasonal St. Patrick's day letterbox I have tried making a logbook of similar size using a Zutter Bind-It-All machine. The machine is easy to operate and seems to do a good job. The result is not quite as pleasing to my taste, but is still attractive. For future projects it will probably become my primary method of assembly while the hand stitched logbooks will be reserved for special occasions.

With Saint Patrick's Day just around the corner I expect to be including related Whinings in my next few postings, meanwhile it seems appropriate to close with a limerick, so I have composed this one which relates to my own life.

There is a certain letterboxer from Berea,
Who fell in love of with a girl in Eritria.
He asked, Will You be Mine?
She replied, Suits Me Fine!
Been Four decades and still a Great Idea.