How it Started

When I was 12, I found a blank ledger book. It was a treasure beyond treasure to me. I debated and debated about what to do with it - it had to be something special. Finally I decided to make a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see in my life and then cross them off when I had accomplished them. At first they were simple things, but soon I was adding dramatic things, impossible things, but things still worth dreaming about. Oddly enough, putting them on the list somehow made them attainable. I have kept the book and updated the list my entire life. Here is the story behind some of the entries - successes and failures, embarrassing and proud moments, laughter and tears - the ridiculous to the sublime!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

March in a Parade - DID IT

It always seemed like so much fun to be in a parade, at least it looks like it when you are standing on the sidelines.  The colorful floats, throwing candy to kids lining the route, the music, balloons, clowns, funny cars, fire engines, marching bands; it's just all so exciting and every minute there is something new - unless you happen to be IN the parade! 

When you are one of the entries IN the parade, you don't see anything but the entry in front of you.  Like the old saying about sled dogs goes, "Unless you are the lead dog, the view never changes."

 We decided to enter our 4-H Obedience Dog club drill team in the local parade.  Oh, the crowd loved us, a motley collection of mismatched dogs (Club Name = Muttley Crew), doing synchronized turns, sits and comes.  It was really cute.  The route was about 3 miles long, it was blistering hot on the asphalt and there was a group of horses in front of us that insisted on pooping every 100 feet.  Sure they scooped it up, but the smell drove the dogs insane! At times we were more like a synchronized sniffing group.  Directly in front of us was a marching band with a one-song repertoire.  I'm no longer a Sousa fan!  But it was memorable, that's for sure - just one of the many mis-adventures my friend and club co-leader and I got ourselves into during our Luci and Ethyl / Laverne and Shirley phase!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Play Catch with a Dolphin - DID IT

I had two dolphin related items on my list, Ride a Dolphin and Pet a Dolphin.  I've pet one, but never ridden one, but I did have a chance to play with one once.  We were at an aquatic park in Florida and went to see the Dolphin Show.  When we got to the pool, we discovered we had read the program wrong and the grandstand was empty.  We stood at edge of the pool for a few minutes watching the trainers feeding one of the Dolphins, but the place was really quiet.  We'd been walking around in the sun and it was cool and shady there, so we hung around a bit.

The trainers went inside and one of the Dolphins swam over to where we were standing and poked his head out of the water to look at us.  It was cute and we laughed.  He laughed back at us, then disappeared returning in a few seconds with a rubber ball balanced on his nose.  He was putting on a show just for us.  Then he gently tossed the ball right to me.  I tried to catch it, but I missed and it fell back into the water.  He tossed it again.  When I missed the ball for the third time, he dove under the water, shot back to the surface and whacked the ball hard with his tail. It went tearing into the grandstand like a missile.  I climbed the steps and retrieved the ball and tossed it back to him and we had a nice game of catch.  We tossed the ball back and forth several times.  But, if I missed it more than twice, I got the tail whack treatment that had me climbing the steps to retrieve the ball.  He trained me really fast, I didn't miss after the second punishment!

 It was an amazing moment standing there alone just tossing a ball around with a Dolphin much like I would do with our dog in the backyard.  He looked at me, talked to me and played with me just for the fun of it.  I had no fish or other rewards - we were just playing.  It was one of those surreal moments that when we walked away we started to wonder, "Did that really happen?"  Glad Steve was snapping photos!  Unforgettable.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Make Pizelle - DID IT

Pizelle is an Italian, anise-flavored, waffle-patterned cookie.  Nana, my Italian grandmother, always had a tin of these for us kids.  When we got older and wanted to make them for our kids, we asked her for the recipe.  Here is the recipe as given to my cousin:

"Take all the eggs the chickens laid today.
Stir in enough flour that it isn't sticky.
Add some sugar until it's sweet enough.
Stir in some crushed Anise until it smells right.
Cook until they are done."

Sounds easy enough! My cousins Susie and Mary Lou worked with this until they got an actual recipe that comes close, although we all admit, it still isn't quite perfect yet, but no one can figure out how to get it exactly the way we remember.

Cooking the Pizelle is a labor of love, for sure. You have to cook them one at a time over a burner or flame using an ancient, long-handled Pizelle Iron.  These irons were made by blacksmiths with the center of the waffle iron bearing the initials of the owner on one side and the date the iron was made on the other.  The waffle plates are attached to two, long, scissor-jointed handles to keep the baker far from the heat of the fire.  My cousin has our family iron, but I stumbled across one at a flea market a couple decades ago, so we nibble someone else's initials.

To cook, you form the "not sticky, sweet enough, anise scented" dough into finger-size logs, place one in the center of the iron, and clamp it closed to squish the dough into the crevices of the iron.  Then hold it over a burner or gas flame for a couple minutes, flip it over and toast the other side "until it's done."

For those not raised with these hard, crunchy little treats, they have the same culinary appeal as a communion wafer - dry and sort of tasteless. But for those of us with happy childhood memories of nibbling off the rows, breaking them in half and eating the flat center first, of crunching an anise seed, and of pestering Nana until she opened the tin allowing that wonderful spicy-licorice smell to escape, Pizelle is our favorite cookie.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ride on a Police Boat - DID IT

Not all Police Departments have boats, but if you have jurisdiction over a marine environment, it's a must.  Our Police boat wasn't built for comfort.  It was built for speed, maneuverability, and space for equipment. In addition to the normal Law Enforcement Officer gear, it also carries several members of the Police Dive Team and all of their gear. It gets crowded.

Our  little boat has some limited capabilities to squirt a bit of water on a fire, but only enough to hold it down until the fire boats can get there with their big water cannons (see blog "Ride on a Fire Boat" ).  Here we are on a summertime, Police Boat ride-along - oops, we seem to have gotten the wrong life vests - AMATEURS!

One of the primary duties for Harbor One is to provide a protective surveillance shield around the docks when the big cruise liners are in port to swap passengers headed to and from their Alaska cruises. Sometimes it looks like a little gnat buzzing around a hippo when you compare the PD boat to the cruise ships. 

The Boat Team also performs law enforcement duties on the water, helps with water searches, and provides protection for all the ships in port.

On the left is a grain ship being loaded.

On the right one is the big (8400 TEU) ZIM Los Angeles container ship about to be off-loaded.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Visit Transylvania at Halloween - DID IT

 I didn't plan it that way, but our trip through Romania landed us in Transylvania on October 31st at the legendary castle of Dracula. That is an unbeatable combination, one I couldn't even have envisioned for my list. I suspect, if I had tried to plan such a trip, it wouldn't have happened, it's just too improbable.  

Of course, Dracula is a figment of Hollywood's imagination.  No one in Romania knew anything about vampires or Dracula, in fact, although the castle is a museum, it was closed to visitors that day, no reason, it just was. Our guide pleaded with the caretaker, even offered him a bribe, but it was no use - the museum wasn't open.

Today you can book Vampire Tours, but in '94, no one had thought of it yet.  The castle was where a real-life ruler of Transylvania, Vlad Drakul, was temporarily imprisoned. Vlad didn't think too highly of the Ottomans and worked to stop their expansion into his homeland in the 1400's. After his death, he was renamed Vlad Tepes, which translates to Vlad the Impaler because of a rather nasty habit he had of skewering his enemies on long poles and displaying them along the route into town to discourage future invaders.  Seems pretty effective to me!

We visited Romania in 1994, less than five years after their dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, was overthrown and executed on live TV.  It seems this part of the world has a long and bloody history of deposing and disposing of their leaders.

Transylvania is located in the Carpathian Mountains and is a really beautiful part of the world.  Although it has moved quickly into the modern era, when we were there, there were more animal powered vehicles on the roads than gas engines.  Life in rural Transylvania was something out of an earlier century.  Farming was all done by hand, grandmothers led the cows down the road to the pastures in the early mornings, and indoor plumbing was practically unheard of.  Occasionally I could envision the peasants chasing Frankenstein through the forest with torches and pitchforks.

At the foot of the castle, local women were selling handmade sweaters and needlework-embellished linens. The yarn in the sweater was hand spun from local sheep and very rustic - it still had bits of moss in it.  The sweater was beautiful, but I couldn't wear it without sneezing and itching.  However, I still use the tablecloths I bought for less than $2 each. I was obliged to buy something from each of the 5 or 6 women selling in the square that day, just to be fair. Our guide said that my purchases would feed their families for a week.