Monday, September 27, 2010

Another Post about Food

Yesterday was the annual Blueberry Bash.  Rich and I were judges this year so we did not enter anything.  I was a little bit sad about not defending my title as the queen of pies and tarts but also glad that I didn't have to think about what to make and didn't have to rush around like a crazy woman getting ready.  Above, we have Kristine (R) giving some of the judges their instructions.

Anne and I judged cakes, scones and breads.  Let me tell you, we had an awesome category! There were quite a few entries and every single one of them was delicious.  The scones above won first place in our category and then went on to win first place overall.  Congratulations to Linda Ellsworth!

Anne cutting into a delicious blueberry cheesecake

Kristine and me

More deliciousness at our table.  The first place winners in each category moved up to the final judging for overall 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes.  Rich and two others with "clean" palates, untainted by previous tasting or preconceived notions, had the honor of choosing the top winners.  

After all the winners were announced and prizes given out, the audience was invited to partake of all the goodies.  There was quite a line!  A good time was had by all and we left with full tummies.

It's been busy, busy, busy around here.  I am not sure how anyone can complain about small island life or say that there is nothing to do.  They are simply not looking!  

Thursday night, we went to a potluck at a friend's and watched the 3 hour musical movie, "Camelot."  You might ask why.  Several months ago, a group of us read The Mists of Avalon, which is the story of the King Arthur legend from the female point of view.  From that, discussion ensued about the old movie and we thought it would be fun to watch.  Seriously, folks, I am not sure what we were thinking.  That movie was terrible!!  I remember seeing it when it came out and I guess I liked it okay at the time but I certainly did not recall how annoying and ridiculous the characters and the songs came across.  I know it won some awards and all I can say is. "REALLY?!"   I am surprised we all toughed it out--thank goodness for great food and funny friends.

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.  We attended a spaghetti dinner and panel discussion on Friday night, put on by USAFV, our local organization that works with people affected by domestic violence or sexual assault, and APIA, my former employer.   There was a nice turnout and a lot of positive information was disseminated.   Suicide continues to be a big issue in Alaska and we want to make sure that everyone is aware of the resources available in town and elsewhere.  Here's a national hotline number if you or anyone you know might need help or someone to listen:  1-800-273-TALK.  For more info, see the website here.

Saturday, we worked and worked and worked around the house.  Artwork and photos are up on the walls and most of the tools and containers of nails and screws are put away instead of scattered on the floor.  Hurray!  We still have some minor things to do but I am very happy that things are shaping up so nicely.

After the day of housework, we went to our friend Anne's birthday party, which was lots of fun. Sunday was Blueberry Bash and I was supposed to go to Book Club on Sunday night but didn't make it.  :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Random Stuff

Rich decided to make pickles from the cukes we've accumulated from our organic produce box. Crisp and tasty!

We've had another busy week.  Friday night we attended a concert with jazz pianist Tom Grant and bassist Kevin Deitz who were brought to town by the Hearts and Hands Project.  They were great musicians and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  We bought one of each of their CDs and I asked Tom to write on mine: "It's never too late to learn."   He also added: "Keep practicing." Oh, darn, there IS that.

After the concert, we went over to Cape Cheerful at the hotel because they said they would be jamming with other musicians for open mic night.  We had fun chatting with folks and listening to some local musicians but it got too late for us old fogeys and we went home before the visitors played.  

We had a very productive Saturday and got a lot done around the house.  I like it when it feels like we are making progress!   Last night we met up with several friends to celebrate a couple of birthdays with good food and conversation.   Today I made this flourless chocolate cake with Rich's salmonberry/pomegranate jam and whipped cream on top.  Well, Rich helped,  and I will give him credit for the topping.  :)   So I took the cake along to another gathering at a friend's house tonight.  We sure have been socializing lately!   Had a nice time and the cake was pretty darned good, too.

After a long hibernation, we've put the aerogarden back to work.  Hopefully we will have some cherry tomatoes before too very long.

Look at all the salmon in the creek!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Papers" and Health Fair

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you might remember that I've mentioned a film called "Papers."  It tells the story of undocumented youth and their struggles to achieve their hopes and dreams despite their difficult legal status.

We've been trying for some time to figure out a good date to hold a screening in Unalaska, which would also be the first screening in the state.  With many starts and stops, mostly due to my schedule and all of the other competing events going on in town, we finally decided to show the movie on Friday night.  

We had a great turnout for our small town and a good discussion about the issues afterwards. If you want to learn more about "Papers," the problems faced by undocumented youth, and the DREAM Act, see the website here.

I couldn't sleep this morning and got up much earlier than usual, thinking I could always take a nap later.  After puttering around the house a little, I headed over to the elementary school for the annual Health Fair.   Here Sonia and Chris are doing eye screenings.  

Cora, who works at the library and is a published author of several books

Kids being creative with cardboard boxes and decorative items

Melanie and fake food showing fat and sugar and salt content

Local medicinal plants at Sharon's table

Sharon holds a wealth of knowledge about the ways our many local plants and berries may be used to benefit our health.  I am hoping she'll teach another class soon so I can sign up!

So I left the Health Fair, stopped at the store and the Post Office, went by the hotel to check mail and came home thinking I still had a lot of the day ahead of me and could get a bunch of things done.  But no, it ended up being a lazy day and I just couldn't get motivated to do much. We sat around reading, Rich made a nice soup and salad for dinner, I did some laundry and we watched "The Lovely Bones" tonight.  I'd read the book when it first came out and liked it, though I found it sad and disturbing.  The movie was not as good as the book.  But then, I almost never think they are.  :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Remembering Lucius Walker

Sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I picked up the phone to hear a woman's voice asking me if I was familiar with the group Pastors for Peace.  I had to admit that I was not. She explained that the group was caravanning across the US, taking medical and other supplies to Central America, and needed a stopping point between Amarillo and San Antonio.  She'd been given my name by someone at the Peace Farm in Amarillo, and although it was not the ideal place to stop, Abilene might do (especially since I don't think they had any other contact people or choices haha).  She gave me a brief run down of the work of Pastors for Peace, that much of their purpose had to do with educating people along the way about US foreign policy and its effects on our brothers and sisters in the southern hemisphere, and requested that I set up a speaking engagement for them while they were in town overnight.  She then went on to say that the Rev. Lucius Walker, Jr., founder of Pastors for Peace, just happened to be on this leg of the caravan.  "Sure," I said, "Come on!"

So began my ongoing relationship with Pastors for Peace and Lucius Walker, who passed away yesterday at the age of 80.  When I first met Lucius, he was a vibrant man in his late 50s who'd been involved in social justice work for most of his life.  I felt an instant bond with him because he was a social worker (MSW) as well as a minister, and understood issues from the same value base that I did.  He was a soft spoken, kindhearted man but you knew immediately that he would not waver from his beliefs nor his stand for those who were oppressed.  My friends and I threw together a potluck dinner at a local church and invited our contacts to come and hear about the work being done.  I don't remember much about what was said, but I fell in love with Pastors for Peace and the boldness of their approach to the world.  

Lucius and two others spent the night at our home and I remember sitting around the kitchen table listening to their stories and thinking "I want to go on a caravan someday!"  I had all kinds of questions and it was great to hear from individuals with such knowledge and experience.  Living in conservative West Texas, I often felt that there were few  who really understood my thinking or agreed with my beliefs so it was enormously validating to get to talk about issues with "my people." Lucius was also very kind to my three girls and later sent us a thank-you letter addressed to "Jane and my three favorite young ladies." From that day till I left Texas for Alaska, a steady stream of caravanistas came through Abilene once or twice most years, and we continued to host potlucks and informational meetings while having anywhere from 2 to 12 individuals staying overnight with us and farmed out to our friends.  We met lots of interesting people from all walks of life, teachers and mechanics and nurses and a few preachers, students and military veterans and homemakers and doctors, all of whom wanted to make the world a better place by practicing "the peoples' foreign policy" in countries such as Nicaragua, Mexico, and later, Cuba, which opened up a huge political can of worms.  But Lucius never wavered then, even going on a hunger strike at one point when the US government was seizing items bound for Cuba.

I only saw Lucius a couple of other times over the years.  In New York City, the home of Pastors for Peace, my friend Susan and I brought some social work students to meet him and to talk about social justice work.  I remember one student drifting off to sleep and another being somewhat confrontational with Lucius, which made me feel tense and uncomfortable.  Oh my gosh, what would he think about us bringing these students in and they couldn't even pay attention or worse, dared to disagree with him?!  I think he ignored the snoozing student, but he welcomed the disagreement and discussion, saying "thank you for lifting that up for us so we can openly discuss it..." and then went on to address the student's concerns.  Susan and I have certain Lucius-isms that we refer to and "thank you for lifting that up" is one of them.  :)

We attended services at Lucius' church in Brooklyn, at the time meeting in the basement of a nearby building while the church was having some work done.  The congregation was small but welcomed us white people with literal open arms as we sat amongst them to hear Lucius preach about "calling out the foxes," speaking out when injustice is done and not standing by to let it continue.  I'm not very religious, but there was definitely a spiritual power in that small Black church in Brooklyn that morning.  

Several years later, I received a phone call from Lucius saying "you keep saying you want to go with Pastors for Peace some time...we're going to Chiapas, Mexico, and we need one more person!"  It was kinda like, "Okay, Jane, quit talking about it and do it!"  I had many reasons not to go and I am not a very impulsive person but this time I decided to take the leap.  I did not have the time off work to travel across country with one of the caravans so I met the group in Mexico.  We traveled in an old yellow school bus deep into the remote mountainside of Chiapas, where we worked with villagers reclaiming their community after being in exile for the previous six years due to violence from the government and the paramilitaries.  What an eye opening experience it was!  Really tough and challenging and made me realize just how middle class I really am and just how much I really do like all of my modern conveniences like toilets and showers and a working kitchen.  It's another whole big story that I won't go into now but I am forever grateful that Lucius called me out!

Yesterday I (along with everyone else on the P4P email list) received a brief message that Lucius Walker had passed away.  Although I could not claim to be a close friend and I had not seen him nor talked with him in awhile, I will miss his presence in my life and on this Earth. I know he was a tireless worker for the good of all, for peace and justice throughout the world, a champion for the oppressed, a kind and loving human being, a mentor to me and countless others and his example will live on in the many, many people he touched here in the US and abroad. My thoughts are with his family and the Pastors for Peace family who will feel his loss so intensely.   Here's the Pastors for Peace website if you want to learn more about their work.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

September already

Rich has been having a little staycation for the past week.  He's enjoyed some relaxing time off and I have fortunately reaped some benefits of that time off as well.  First, he made salmonberry-pomegranate jam, which I have been enjoying on toast most mornings,

except for the day he made sweet cheese crepes with blueberry sauce and bananas for breakfast. And there were enough for leftovers for supper one night--decadent?

He's also been hanging pictures on the walls and sorting through boxes of stuff. We're making progress on the house decorating front.

Next...key lime pie!  


Saturday I attended a workshop with Frank Kros of the Upside Down Organization, brought in by the school district to work with students, faculty, staff, parents and community agencies. They work with at-risk kids in group homes and schools in the Baltimore area. It's all very interesting and based on brain research about how people learn. Check out their website at

Saturday night, bunco fun with the gals. Sunday morning, brunch with my friend Donna for her birthday.  Sunday afternoon, book-choosing meeting for the upcoming year of book club.  

Sunday night, Rich and I  watched a movie called "City Island."  I'd never heard of it, but we both liked it and had no idea that there is actually a place called City Island in the Bronx. Maybe we will have to visit next time we are in NYC.  It's a funny slice of life story about relationships and secrets.  

Now it's Monday and we were both off for Labor Day.  Slept in since we were up late watching the aforementioned movie.  Did our "Monday Senior Discount Day" grocery shopping.  Hung some more stuff on walls.  Unpacked the returned iMac and set it back up--it needed a new hard drive and had to make a little trip to Anchorage.  Looks like it's doing fine, other than the fact that we are starting from scratch because we are horrible about backing things up. Hopefully we have learned that little lesson.  Now I am awaiting my homemade tamale dinner. :)  Happy Labor Day, all you hard workers out there!  Rich's vacation is over and we are both back to work tomorrow.