"" Writer's Wanderings: March 2012

Friday, March 30, 2012

Papaya, Pickled Mango, and Huli Huli Chicken-Yum!

On our first visit to the Farmers' Market near the condo on Maui, we saw lots of people carrying papaya away. The proprietors were pointing out the fruit that was ready to eat and the ones that needed a day or two to ripen. Good information to have when it's produce you're unfamiliar with. We picked up a papaya that needed one more day to ripen and cut into it the next day.

I couldn't remember if the seeds were edible or not and I wasn't ready to experiment. I found out later that they are and have a peppery taste. I peeled the papaya, sliced the fruit, and tasted a piece before setting it in the refrigerator for a meal later. I was disappointed that it seemed a bit tart. I remembered it being a sweet fruit. The next day when we decided to eat it, I was surprised to find that it had sweetened. Still, it's not as sweet as a ripened mango.

Along our journey on a Saturday when there were lots of locals out enjoying the beaches and the surf, we happened upon a roadside stand selling pickled mango. Sounded interesting. We stopped. The gal gave us several different samples of mango as well as sweet Hawaiian onion and we decided on the sweet/tart pickled mango. It must be a popular item because as we stood there, one fellow bought three cartons from her. We enjoyed the pickled mango like you would a pickle on the side of your sandwich.

Here's a recipe I found for them. They look easy enough to make but there is a special Hawaiian sea salt that has a pink color. And you have to be careful that you don't get the mangoes in the store that are too soft.

Pickled Mango
3 cups green mango slices
1 cup rice vinegar
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup Hawaiian salt

Place mango slices in a clean glass jar. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. When sugar and salt are dissolved, remove from heat and cool to lukewarm. Pour over mangoes. Cover and let stand for 24 hours, then store in refrigerator

Each weekend on a beach we passed to get to church, we saw a homemade sign next to a large grill that said, "Huli Huli Chicken". A group of people cooked and sold this wonderful offering each weekend. We got there too late on a Saturday when they sold out, but managed to connect the next day on the way back from church. And were we glad we did! It was delicious. We got a large size plate (actually a carry out plastic box) and split the meal that included rice and sweet corn.
[I apologize for the sideways picture. It came from my iPhone and I can't get it to stay in the right position when it posts.]

Curious to what Huli Huli meant, we did some Internet research and discovered that Huli Huli is the name of the BBQ sauce. Apparently it's named that because huli was the word that Hawaiians used to indicate that the meat/poultry on the grill needed to be turned. It is quite popular and the site where I found it for sale says that there are lots of roadside stands that use it for weekend BBQs.

So there you have it. Some Hawaiian flavors available most any place you live--thanks to the Internet and delivery companies.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Phoenix - The Hall of Flame

On our way to the Phoenix Zoo, we passed a building and several signs that indicated it was the Hall of Flame--a museum dedicated to firefighters and their history. We returned a couple of days later on one of our free mornings to check it out and were pleased with what we found.

The building held more than 90 pieces of fire fighting apparatus that date from 1725 to 1969. The museum was immaculate and each piece shone as if it were brand new. The first pumper you see here is the Jeffers Philadelphi Style pumper built in 1844 for Pawtucket, RI. There are two sets of pump handles that were manned by 50 firemen who pumped about 250 gallons per minute. I was amazed at the detailing in the design. The picture painted on the side could hang in a gallery.

The fancy carriage you see that resembles something Cinderella would ride in was merely made for parades. It is not a working fire-fighting apparatus but rather a morale and ego booster for the firemen who marched in the parades. As the man who carried around a big feather duster told us, there was a lot of competition between companies in the cities and neighboring towns. He was a wealth of information and the feather duster proved he loved caring for all of these displays.

Our feather-duster host also told us that the bells on the front of the pumpers/engines were something of a competitive nature as well. Someone got the idea to install one for a parade and ring it as they walked. If I remember correctly, he said it was patented or some such legal matter that led others who wanted to do it to have to add two bells--then three. . .

Steam became popular in the late 1860s and of course flowed into making new and more productive fire engines. The one pictured here was polished and looking like new. I wonder how much maintenance it took in a real fire house?

The Christie-Champion Water Tower, the engine with what looks like a long extension ladder, was built in 1897 for a Toledo fire station. It was originally drawn by horses but represents the change from horse drawn to motorized as in 1915 it was converted by the installation of the Christie Tractor. The long extension was for getting the hose up high for fires in buildings that were becoming increasingly taller.

On the wall at the end of a row of motorized vehicles was a display of other fire fighting equipment including a net used for catching jumpers fleeing a fire. I can't imagine looking down and having to aim for that middle circle as I jumped!

There was an impressive display in one hall of heroes and those who have lost their lives fighting fires, including of course a memorial to the firefighters of 9/11. One of the stories I read that especially touched my heart was of Dean Parsons from Mansfield, OH. When told there was a baby on the second floor of a burning house, he climbed up a staircase through a rapidly spreading fire. The heat became so intense, it burned his ears and neck. He found the baby in its crib and wrapped it in his coat to shield it from the heat as he made his way out again. The baby is alive today because of his heroism. It's only one of many stories and I'm sure many stories that are not even recognized or retold but it is representative of the stature and determination of many of our firefighters across the nation.

The museum was more than just a diversion. It was a time to reflect on history, heroism, and heritage.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Books For The Road - Exposure

Seatbelt Suspense is an apt description for most of Brandilyn Collins' books. Fasten your literary seatbelt before you begin reading because she will take you for quite a journey. Exposure was no exception. We had chosen to read it for our church book club and throughout the month, I began to hear stories of how readers were spooked.

Exposure is a story about Kaycee Raye, a syndicated columnist who explores the cause of fears and overcoming them. Someone begins leaving pictures of a dead man in her home--pictures that fade or vanish and no one believes her. They chalk it up to paranoia inherited from her mother. There is a parallel story that goes along with Kaycee's and though confusing to me at first, it all comes together in the end.

We had a great discussion for our book club. And thanks to discussion questions available at Brandilyn Collin's website, my preparation time was cut in half.

This is a good read. Just be sure you read it with lots of lights on. Oh. . .and fasten your seatbelt.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Wells Fargo Wagon Is A Comin'!

With that tune from The Music Man bouncing around in my head, Bob and I drove into downtown Phoenix for a look at the Wells Fargo Museum. The price was right--free! It did cost us five dollars to park but it was worth the trip.

The museum is locasted in the Wells Fargo Plaza Building and was really easy to find. It's not a large museum but it is packed with really interesting stuff including some stage coaches and all sorts of paraphenalia related to the early days of the company before it was just a financial enterprise.

The company was started in March of 1852 by Henry Wells and William G. Fargo. It became known for its fairness in the gold rush out west for assaying and paying the miners for their gold finds. It was also the most reliable form of transporting mail and important business correspondence.

John Butterfield, one of the founders of American Express, along with Wells and Fargo was named president of Overland. By 1866, Wells Fargo took over most of the stage coach line in existence and became known for the finest fleet of stage coaches available. They could carry up to 18 passengers--nine inside and nine on top. Guess you had to travel light in those days.

The stage coach on display was wonderful. Hard to imagine those 18 passengers though. We noticed the unique suspension system it had of leather belts wrapped back and forth between the wheels. As Mark Twain put it, "Our coach was a great swinging and swaying stage, of the most sumptuous description--an imposing cradle on wheels."

While the movies and TV westerns made the stage coach immortal, the train system soon put it out of business. Wells Fargo however has kept the easily recognizable logo of the stage coach associated with its business since the beginning.

There is much history to be gleaned in the museum--fascinating tales of how they transported gold and the men who were notoriously trying to steal it. I learned where the term "cut a check" came from. On the counter in the model of the Wells Fargo office was a check machine that actually punched out the numbers on the check--thereby cutting a check.

In a separate gallery, there was also an exhibit of western artists' works including N.C. Wyeth, Ernest Berke, and Frederic Remington to name a few. All were a part of the Douglas Collection of Western Art begun in 1950 by Lewis Douglas then chariman of the board of the Southern Arizona Bank and Trust Company. The collection was acquired by Wells Fargo in a merger with another bank.

Just one more quote from one of the brochures I picked up about the stage coaches. One passenger described the ride as "a through-ticket and 15 inches of seat, with a fat man on one side, a poor widow on the other, a baby in your lap, a bandbox over your head, and three or more persons immediately in front, leaning against your knees. . ." Wow. Sounds like an airplane flight to me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Phoenix Zoo

After a few days in the dry Arizona desert, we were still looking for things to do in the mornings. What, I wondered, would the zoo look like? What kinds of different animals would they have in a climate like this? Surely they would have to have some grass for grazing. I was beginning to crave the sight of soft grass more than what I saw on the ballfield in the afternoon.

We found the zoo on our map and struck out to explore. We were in for a real treat!

There were trees!! Taller than six feet! There was shade from the sun and yes, grass too. The Phoenix Zoo is nicely laid out and the walkways easy to navigate. While I wouldn't want to be there in the heat of the summer--even if it is a dry heat, it was a perfect place to spend some time on a day that promised to be unseasonably warm.

Not only did we see more trees, but there were also a lot more birds. I guess that makes sense. We even spotted a couple of hummingbirds--one which took a moment to pose for me. We discovered a flock of flamingoes--swimming! In all the times I have ever observed flamingoes, I'd never seen them actually swimming in water. Of course they were being herded by a couple of mean looking white pelicans who didn't want them in the water or on the shore. Poor guys.

And while on the subject of birds, there was the familiar cry that sounds like a high pitched "help meeee" that told us peacocks were around somewhere. Sure enough we found several. And one who mixed with the crowd.

While the zoo had a sampling of the usual mix of animals--giraffes, lions, tigers, etc., there were not a lot of bears and the elephant they had was Asian and much smaller than our African elephants in the zoo back home. He/she was playful though.

There was also an exhibit of warthogs taking life easy-don't worry, be happy. Several exhibits of different types of goats which I'm sure were adaptable to the climate. The baboons were a big hit with people and then we discovered a special exhibit, Monkey Village, that allowed you to go inside close up with the squirrel monkeys. Of course before going in we were warned that the little darlings continuously mark their territory. Therefore, we were told to be sure and disinfect our hands should we touch anything inside.

Monkey Village was a hoot. The squirrel monkeys stayed in the trees for the most part away from the visitors but close enough to create a unique experience. A real must see/do if you visit.

Along the way, we also passed by the conservation center where the zoo is helping to repopulate natural areas with the endangered Chiricahua Leopard Frog. There wasn't anything going on yet in March, but the place was ready to start receiving eggs to hatch as soon as the season was upon them.

Shady paths, a little grass, and what seemed to me to be a tad more humidity--perhaps from all the water ponds and streams, all led to a very pleasant morning at the zoo.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Phoenix - South Mountain Park

With our afternoons filled with preseason baseball games, we took the mornings we had in the Phoenix area to explore. One morning we chose to drive through the municipal park. Most municipal parks in cities are small treed areas with grass and park benches. No so in Phoenix.

The South Mountain Park/Preserve is over 16,000 acres and I don't recall seeing any grass or trees over 6 feet tall. Its size makes it the largest municipal park in the country.

Its history dates back to 1924 when citizens bought 13,000 acres from the federal government for $17,000. In 1935, the National Park Service laid out the plans for hiking and riding trails, overlooks, and picnic areas. All have served the community well. It is estimated that the park averages 3 million visitors a year.

We grabbed a map from the entrance area that looked very Southwestern in its design and started for the summit. There are several lookout points and we tried to hit them all. The park is desertlike--obviously, but very interesting with its rock formations and cactus growth.

The trails looked like fun until I remembered that there were rattlesnakes out there. I'm such a wimp. Lots of people were setting off on them though. It was a Saturday and the park bustled with bicyclists and hikers.

Dobbins Lookout gave the best view of the downtown area of Phoenix and showed just how much the area spreads out into the desert as it becomes Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale, etc. I guess I never realized before those cities were all so closely linked.

Quite an unusual municipal park. Quite a morning.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Canyon Lake - Tonto National Forest

How can you see the name Tonto and not think of the Lone Ranger? If you're from my generation, or watched the reruns, you can't. I kept imaging the two of them riding their horses across the dry desert area we drove through as we made our early morning excursion to the Canyon Lake area.

The Tonto National Forest is over two million acres making it the largest of the six national forests in Arizona. The forest includes desert, mountains, lakes (mostly created artificially) and canyons. The part we were in had mostly large cactus (giant saguaro) and scrubby trees called, palo verde. But other parts of the park are supposed to have juniper, mixed fir, and ponderosa pine.

The Giant Saguaro are huge. Most are 10 to 20 feet in height. They can reach 30-50 feet when mature but they grow very slowly--about 15 years to reach one foot and 40 years to reach 10 feet in height when they can begin to bloom. They will continue to grow for a hundred years and can live to be 200 years old.

The roads were full of twists and turns and beautiful vistas that were tinted by the early morning sun. The huge rocks and walls of solid stone were an earthy rainbow of color.

When we arrived at Canyon Lake, we got out and walked around a bit in a deserted area that is probably teeming with people on the weekends. Lots of parking spaces but only a couple of cars that morning. The lake sits in a canyon and was created by a man-made dam upstream. It was so quiet that we could hear the conversation of some fishermen in a boat clear on the other side of the lake.

Traveling a bit farther along the road, we came upon Totilla Flats, a remnant of an old town along the Apache Trail--population: 6. It's Arizona's smallest official "community" with its own post office. A saloon/restaurant (whose BBQ was smelling really good early in the morning), gift shop/post office, little store, and a small area set up for park rangers made up the small strip mall like town. A fun stop along a gorgeous scenic route.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Goldfield Ghost Town, Arizona

We had a little time to kill between Indians' preseason games in Goodyear so we did a little exploring of the area around Phoenix. Tripadvisor reviews had labeled The Goldfield Ghost Town as a fun touristy attraction. Why not? We struck out to find it.

The "town" is just about 45-55 minutes outside Phoenix near Superstition Mountain. And yes, I would label it a tourist trap but what a fun trap it was. Sometimes you just gotta go with it. There really was a mine there at one time--a gold mine that yielded quite a high grade ore for a time but like all good things, it didn't last and the town that had grown up around it in the 1890s, soon died.

New hope was given the town in the early 20th century when another man, George Young, using new mining methods pulled more gold from the earth. This new resurgence of the town ended as quickly as the first did. But in 1970, a ghost town, mining, and treasure hunting enthusiast, Robert Shoose, and his wife bought five acres of land where the Goldfield Mill had been and began to rebuild the town of Goldfield.

Most of what you see there has been reproduced since the 1980s and is certainly geared to give the visitor a taste of what it might have once been. Scratch that. . .it's a place that looks like an old mining town with a couple of restaurants, a bunch of craft shops, a souvenir place, and a couple of hokey tours including a Mystery Shack that has nothing to do with mining or the old west.

We started out with a train ride that was fun. The track circles the town and takes you through some desert area where the guide talks about the cactus and bushes/trees that grow there. He tosses in a little of the history of the place and it was a good introduction with some good tales.

From there we wandered up to the saloon where there was an outdoor porch where we could grab a hamburger and listen to some nice Western music. The performer sounded a lot like Johnny Cash. The picture of the hanging boots comes from there. If you look closely, the ones with the writing say something about the waitress who wore them having to resole them several times in the 1200 or so miles she walked waiting on customers.

As we wandered through the town, the banter from the Bordello's balcony caught our attention. We climbed the steps to see what it was. Uh-huh. Once up there for $3, the same price a customer would have paid back when for services rendered, we could take a look at the "museum". We were there. Why not?

There were three rooms--a parlor and two bedrooms. One bedroom was for the working girl and the other was the madam's. The madam's room contained the bathtub and the fancy commode you see in the picture. The tour information was kind of interesting and of course there was opportunity to buy several books about the women of the times.

We mosied on down to the Goldfield Gold Mine to get our tour in. We had purchased a package deal for three tours: the train, the gold mine, and the mystery shack. The Gold Mine's tour guide was a real hoot. Spoiler alert! The Gold Mine tour was not really in a mine. Once down some steps, you were herded into what appeared to be a rickety elevator. Special Disney-type effects reminded me of the Haunted Mansion. Once the effect stopped we exited a rear door and were led through a narrow "tunnel" mostly of fiberglass rock that had some old mining equipment in it. Our guide did a good job explaining how the blasting was done (we've had other tours in real mines to know he was telling it straight). While it wasn't a real mine, it was informative and certainly entertaining.

The Mystery Shack was exactly what I thought it would be but we'd bought the package so. . .why not? It was one of those buildings constructed in such a way that it throws your sense of balance off. Water runs up. Balls on a pool table roll the wrong way. You get the picture. If you have vertigo easily, it's not the place to be.

By the time we were done, we had whiled away most of the day there but at an enjoyable pace, just being the tourists that we were. We did get a spectacular view of Superstition Mountain and got the feel of what it would have been like to kick up the dust in an old mining town.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

It's St. Patrick's Day!!

It's St. Patrick's Day! And it's my birthday! And the weather has been nicer than I remember it ever being in my ** years. Did you think I would tell my age? Actually too many of you probably know. But I digress--at my age that's allowed.

Last week was the St. Paddy's Day parade in Dublin, OH. It was such a beautiful day, we couldn't resist. Word was they had the parade in Dublin a week early so it wouldn't compete with the parade in downtown Columbus. It worked well for them. The parade was huge as was the crowd that lined the route.

Balloons, horses, bands, fire trucks, politicians, dance groups, and all sorts of businesses were represented and almost all appropriately wearin' the green or at least trimmed in it.

Several of the units really impressed us. There were a lot of Irish dance groups with girls sporting those extremely curly wigs that bounce as they jig. The picture I've included was of a group that was really doing a high kick. Can't imagine how they made it like that all the way.

One fellow who didn't was a bulldog all decked out in Irish gear. His little legs just got tired and he laid down right in front of us. His owner picked him up and they climbed in a small car that was accompanying them.

Notice the picture of the guy in the kilt? He's got glittery shamrocks on his legs and yes, those are sparkly green heels adorning his feet. But a little later someone else gave him a little competition--a pony with glittery gold hoofs.

One of the bands was really showing off. I admired their agility. Then there was a cute group of future OSU drum majors--a baton unit, surprisingly the only one.

Inflated leprechauns, Sparky the dog, and several St. Patricks also made their way down the green stiped street.

The best handout along the way, and one that I've never seen done before, was a little sample of ice cream from a special boutique ice cream company. Nicely done on a day when ice cream was a welcome treat.

It's a great parade even if the weather doesn't cooperate like it has this year and Dublin does St. Patrick's Day well! Have a great day and don't forget a little wearin' of the green helps to celebrate!

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