Greetings and Salutations!

Thanks to the prodding of several (you know who you are) I am today sitting again at the computer. The six month (yikes! nearly nine month) hiatus really wasn’t planned. It started simply enough. We came home from the mountains deciding it was time to start some major updates to our home and well, one thing led to another and before you know it it was spring and now it’s already summer again. If you are a homeowner there is always work to be done.

As you may remember, I think life is like a Galileo thermometer. 100_3556Projects percolate up to the top as a priority just like the temperature bubbles do in my thermometer. For some reason last fall the project bubbles filled all the available space. It started with the fact that I NEEDED to get rid of the popcorn ceiling in the house. “Why?” you ask. Well, it’s those darn DIY shows we keep watching: Popcorn ceiling out of date. Clean smooth ceiling up to date. I blame the DIY channels. Curse you HG TV for planting all these ideas in my mind.

But I digress. I will write about the popcorn ceiling project soon. I have pictures. It something you can do. This winter we also made the huge time investment to train the new dog. There will be pictures and hopefully some good descriptive visuals of that little beagle Sophie going to school. It began on the first day of class, very much like many kindergarteners, started with crying, yelling at the other ‘kids’ and hiding under the chair when the teacher called on her. Fortunately, the teacher did not kick the troublesome hound out of school, and though Sophie will always be the food sniffing, counter surfing hound after much, much work she actually passed the test and received her Canine Good Citizen certificate. It’s on my list to share with you… Somehow, I also managed to convince Bob to redo the window and door frames (still a work in progress) to Craftsman style… More pictures and yes, it is another project you can do yourself.

Those are for another day. Today I just wanted to tell you that we’re well just endlessly busy with those danged projects. I have not forgotten you.

Oh, but before I get back to that never ending list I want to tell you about what happened the other day. It all started when one of my ‘friends’ posted the scary fact that a person is never more than three feet from a spider. Then another ‘friend’ posted a picture of a GIANT centipede. Bugs were on my mind…

You know how you aren’t quite awake when you need a drink of water in the middle of the night? You leave your glasses on the night stand and walk by memory lightly touching the walls to the sink. That’s exactly what I was doing when, thanks to the light of the moon I spotted a giant black bug in the corner of the bathroom! So surprised was I that when I went to run to get my glasses (and turn on a light) I kicked over the cat food as well as knocking everything off the counter. It looked like a hurricane had passed through. But time was of the essence…I didn’t want that nasty bug wouldn’t hide on me and I ran to get my glasses then back into the room. Thankfully, lights turned on, the big black bug looked a little different:

Kill it!

Kill it!

Yes, it was the broom handle in the corner where I had left it.
Whew. I survived another crisis.
Have a great day!

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Five Years and I’m a Survivor!

Please note: almost everything I ever write is wrapped up in two pages. Today’s story got carried away. Hang in there.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It is also the month I was diagnosed.

Five years ago. It seems like forever and it seems like yesterday. So much changed that fateful day.

They say hindsight is 20/20 and looking back after the diagnosis certainly made everything clear. For me the cancer was insidious, sneaking in slowly, so slowly that when the fatigue and need for naps was explained away as just part of nearing 50; the shortness of breath was just the darn altitude in the mountains and being out of shape. It was easy to excuse everything.

I even managed to excuse the thickening in my breast. I was certain it was due to an ill-fitting bra. Until finally the Good Lord got my attention saying, “Hey dummy! That’s not just an irritation and look, it’s only on one side…Get it checked!” (Yes, I heard that voice clearly.)

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Like the temperature balls in a Galileo thermometer my priority list rises and falls.

Interestingly, I had an order for a mammogram given to me more than six months ago at my last visit. I went because my hands were bothering me and the doctor thought it was probably early arthritis for which she prescribed an anti-inflammatory and ordered an xray. She also suggested that it was time for a screening mammogram. Even with no family history she thought all women over 40 should have that first check. Well…priorities… Life for me is like a Galileo thermometer. Priorities bubble up to the top and only those that make it to the top are worried about. As a caregiver scheduling that mammogram just never rose to a top priority. I carefully filed those orders away.

Until that day.

Lesson learned: Just because you are a mom or a caregiver to someone else doesn’t mean you can let your own health slip. Don’t put it off. Don’t be like me.

So I had the mammogram. Let me tell you that, as a former mammographer I already knew what the xrays would show. And when the radiology office called to tell me to get in ASAP to see my doctor I was doubly sure. Within three days of my ‘awakening’ I was in the doctor’s office where she said, “I have your xray report. Yes, you have a little arthritis in your hands BUT THIS and she pointed to the one inch mass…” then she went on to tell me that I needed to go back to the radiology office for more tests and then to a surgeon. My priority bubble had shifted suddenly.

Warning: these are my real insides. You don't have to be an expert to see the picture looks a lot different from the one on the left.

Warning: these are my real insides.
You don’t have to be an expert to see the picture on the right looks a lot different from the one on the left.

The next month changed to getting a diagnosis. Ultrasound, needle biopsy and surgery were scheduled as I had the most frightening disease. First you get the diagnosis and then the staging. It’s quite a pace changing situation. Hurry to get one thing scheduled, then wait impatiently for the results knowing that if A happens you go on to the next step but if it’s B then there’s another detour while everything is evaluated and then you start all over again. As an aside, all of my doctors pushed for expedited care something for which we were very thankful.

Six weeks and four surgeries later I was finally to the next step.

Another lesson learned: Early detection means less surgery and easier treatment options. Don’t be like me.

I told Bob, chemotherapy takes you to the brink killing off all the cancer cells and then hopefully your healthy cells take back over. It’s rough.

But I didn’t feel any different. I wasn’t sick. At least not initially. The effects of chemotherapy are cumulative. Some of the medicine used is so toxic they have to make sure your heart can tolerate the damage it will do. Some of the effects are long lasting. But with newer treatment methods and better pre-chemo medicines the therapy is tolerable and the staff makes sure your body is well enough to handle each dose. In my case the nurses told me my hair would fall out. They guaranteed it. It depends on what drug is being used but they were right. Within two weeks I looked like a Chinese Crested Dog. I held on to the little hair I had until it finally dawned on me that bald was a much better look than tufted.

After sixteen grueling weeks I did finish. Then it was time to jump right into six weeks of radiation therapy.

Another lesson learned: if the tumor is small and if you don’t have any spread of the cancer there are much simpler radiation treatment options including one that only takes a week. The surgeon never did give me much hope for that treatment because the tumor was too big and it had spread to the lymph nodes.

Yes, this is me. Poster child of what not to do. No hair, sad puffy face. Toxic chemo drugs running in. Ugh.

Yes, this is me. Poster child of what not to do. No hair, sad puffy face. Toxic chemo drugs running in. Ugh.

So, for gosh sakes, don’t be like me.

The radiation therapy was fast and definitely easier to handle, which is not to say it was without challenges. Basically it’s like you are sitting out in the sun for hours on end. Depending on the location of the tumor a person would have more or less burns. Mine were mighty. You could still see the redness a year later. Along with the radiation burns comes scarring. I still have to consciously s t r e t c h the muscles in my affected arm. They don’t move like the other side.

To be alone during this ordeal would be miserable. I could not have done it without the support of family and friends. Going to my folks and telling my family the news that first week was the most difficult thing. My parents immediately went into gear pulling up stakes and came to take care of Matthew. We also realized how great our friends are. Every treatment day one friend (who is the busiest person I know) would bring a crockpot of food because she knew I wouldn’t be up for cooking afterwards. When I started whining about food not tasting good another friend brought a whole Butterfinger Tree! The surprise packages and mail were tremendously encouraging. Interestingly, some people admitted that they were afraid to come visit. Better, some people admitted they were afraid to come visit but did it anyway. (Be the second person.)

Nearly eight months after finding the lump I was finished with treatment. Eight months of my life gone in the blink of an eye. You can’t beat yourself up for ‘should‘ve, would’ve, could’ves’. But I know it’s hard not to. Sure I wish I’d done things differently but I expect the Good Lord above had some plan in mind. After all, caring for a sick mother really worked out well when it came time for Rebecca’s life story in her medical school application. Who knows.

Enough of that. Let’s skip forward a few years. Just imagine that I had MRI’s regularly and in my claustrophobia induced panic pushed the RED EMERGENCY button more than once and know that once these doctors get hold of you they don’t let go so visits to the clinics, doctors and labs continued until today.

Here we are today. Five years is no longer the magic cure length of time. But it is a major milestone. I no longer have to take the chemo pills that make my head feel like it’s being held on by a toothpick. Mammograms and the cancer check labs are finally annual. And with this new schedule I don’t expect to see the chemo doctor again after December. Still, there is no doubt that always in the back of my mind is the idea that the cancer could come back. This has been a life altering change. Earlier detection certainly would have made it less impactful.

But that said, life changes are not always bad. We now celebrate life. We use our good dishes instead of saving them. And what’s that saying, “Life is short; drink good wine.” Or maybe it’s cheap wine…or maybe it’s just wine… Something like that. But I’m rambling…

Something about wine...  Salut!

Something about wine…
Salut!

So what’s your take away if you managed to read this far? Two things, I hope. The first, that if you are a woman or know a woman who reaches the age of 40, get that screening mammogram. Don’t let your mother tell you she’s too busy. Don’t let your sister slide on this just because you have no family history, remember I did not. Don’t put yourself at the bottom of the priority list. YOU are IMPORTANT. Take care of yourself. And secondly, there is hope. You can have a mass that is 2.5 centimeters that has spread and survive. The doctors told me at each step what my odds of survival were. Each point improved my odds; I had surgery, if I had chemo and each different drug’s impact, if I had radiation, etc. Modern technology is amazing. I don’t know where they put prayer on that list but when our friend invited the family down to the altar and prayed with us and I felt a peace wash over me. Take it to the Lord. Prayer is powerful and I recommend adding it to your arsenal.

Along with that hope is where we are today. Physically I don’t need those naps anymore and have energy to work on all the projects that piled up, though my list still is long. Each morning we walk on the treadmill. When I say we I mean Matthew and I take turns. He walks 2.5 miles and I walk 5 or 6. He has trimmed down to a lean fighting weight…me, well, I’m still ‘full figured’. I blame the chemo. In fact, I blame the chemo for every health issue I now have from having thin hair to a short memory. Is it unfair? Probably, but too bad. I can still garner sympathy points with my family and you bet I use them.

And that’s my story. As Breast Cancer Awareness month comes to an end you can now say that you know far more than you ever wanted to know about one woman who putzed around and didn’t get her tests done in a timely fashion and ended up being put through the wringer due to her own negligence. But that you also know she managed to scrape and crawl her way back out of the dark hole and today she sees every sunrise as a fresh chance to begin a new chapter.

And for crying out loud don’t let a year pass without pestering your mother, sister, aunt to have her mammogram.

Love you all!

I hope Maxine doesn't mind that I borrowed her picture.

I hope Maxine doesn’t mind that I borrowed her picture.

One Woman, One Pry Bar and Determination

Today’s post is a “What I did this summer,” story. But the truth is it began over five years ago.

We have a small home in the Arizona mountains. Like much of the land in Strawberry it is on a steep hillside as it backs up to the Mogollon Rim. When the house was built we had to have fill dirt and rock brought in to give us a somewhat level foundation. From the back to the front of the house it’s still a three foot drop, but it was workable. As you can imagine where the bulldozer stopped leveling the ground there was a steep drop off with this fill dirt. In my eyes it wasn’t a very pretty sight. But it also wasn’t a priority.

Until the summer five years ago when I looked around and decided to make good use of the natural sandstone found everywhere on the property and build a stone wall up the hillside. The sandstone was so plentiful it seemed an easy job to level and stack. But it was not. The pry bar immediately gave a resounding thump as it bounced off a big rock. It was so heavy that after less than fifteen minutes I was ready to cry in frustration. Of course, Bob ran over to help (that’s how he is) which only irritated me more. This was to be my project but I couldn’t even move one single stone. There was a big ‘woe is me’ pity party, blaming myself for being out of shape and unable to manage the 5000 feet altitude.

You know how hindsight is 20-20? A short month later I had one of those moments. Yes, that’s when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Ah ha! It was a moment of clarity. Suddenly, the fatigue, shortness of breath and lack of strength made sense. If only it had been recognized sooner…but that’s a story for another day except to say, if you are a woman get your mammogram. My doctor had recommended a baseline study and with no family history of problems my prescription had been sitting on the counter waiting for the opportune time. Because of, well, priorities… Don’t be like me. Make your health a priority.

Fast forward five years to this summer.

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Planting a little peach tree right in the middle of the wall.

Other projects finished, my attention turned back to the front yard. I dug out the pry bar and headed back over to the hillside. Five years of better health brings with it strength and to my surprise, ability. Ability to pound the pry bar into the ground. Ability to move big rocks. And ability to persevere. I began stacking the sandstone, learning as the project moved along how to make them level and how to lock them together. At first, I would wait on Bob to help move the big rocks and then came realization that one person can do a whole lot using a lever and fulcrum. Learning that the same small stone that keeps a rock wiggling when you stand on it can also be used as a pivot for a much larger rock. Slowly, and some days, ever so slowly, the wall began to take shape. Bob would call and ask what we accomplished that day and I’d tell him, “I moved one rock.” Some days I imagined myself like the ancient Egyptians building the pyramids but thank goodness I wasn’t. Still one rock at a time it was built.

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The finished product?

As summer ends is my rock wall finished? Maybe. Maybe not. I still haven’t decided. It’s far enough over and close enough to the brambly manzanita bushes that it could be done. Or it might be continued next summer. In the mean time we planted some vines in the cracks and a few lilacs dug up from Mom’s yard. Hopefully they will become well established over the winter.

Before leaving you’ll get a laugh from this picture that comes with an explanation. I asked Bob to take a flattering photo I could share (Rebecca says if I wanted a flattering picture I should have looked at myself in the mirror in those pants…) But I gave Bob my camera, the one he never uses, with instructions to take a panoramic picture, something he has never done. He tried to figure it out but my directions were pretty poor as was my impatience. Ha. As you can see, the picture turned out so terribly that it’s funny.

100_3425And that’s what I did this summer. Just call me the stone stacker.

In the Midst of Tragedy

It’s been over 40 years but I remember it like yesterday.

September 4, 1971.

Our family had recently moved to the fishing town of Sitka, Alaska. We were there to start a new life as my parents looked forward to joining together in marriage. The plan was that my new stepdad’s father would come for the wedding and then stay for a visit. I only knew John the elder, as a grandpa; a kindhearted story teller who would sit back with his pipe and entertain the children with stories of his adventures. We all looked forward to his visit.

But, it was not meant to be.

It was a typical rainy fall day in Sitka clouds low in the sky limiting visibility even at the ground level when we headed to the airport to meet the plane. What should have been a short half hour trip turned into an agonizing affair marked by extreme darkness. Today, it’s hard to imagine, but back then we were without the benefit of 24 hour news running in the terminal or the immediacy of social media, even cell phones. As we waited with other families for the flight’s arrival we began to observe whispering agents in the small one-terminal airport. Late planes were not unexpected in our rural setting but the continuation of the flight from Juneau to Sitka should only have taken thirty minutes so when hours had passed we knew nothing was right. Eventually, our family learned that the plane had not reached Juneau. Officials still just told us it was delayed though my parents knew better.

My sister and I were sent home with a cab driver friend who shut off the top news story on the radio, but not before we heard the announcement that a plane was feared crashed on approach in the rocky mountain range near Juneau. It helped prepare us for when our parents returned home in a very shell shocked and unbelieving mind. The announcement and the reading of the passenger list on our town’s one radio station also alerted friends who immediately surrounded my parents with amazing love and support. As they gathered together they learned that the folks could be flown by the airlines where ever they needed to be with the rest relatives while waiting for confirmation but only ‘immediate family’ was included in the airlines offer. This was in the days before a ‘significant other’ could count as anything important and for a few moments they all pondered the situation but only a few moments, because it was realized that my parents, already planning to get married, had their wedding license in hand. If they got married we would be immediate family. And with amazing speed the wedding was organized.

Each day has only 24 hours but it seems this day lasted far longer as that evening we proceeded to the little Lutheran church we had been attending where we were met by Pastor Ted. One of the church members had been cleaning up the church when she heard the news and quickly rearranged the altar with flowers for a wedding. Small town news travels fast and another friend arrived to play the organ while several others appeared in time for the ceremony. It almost seemed like a real wedding.

I don’t know how much my parents remember of their ceremony but my young impression was that everyone in attendance, rather than being seated, was gathered around them in a circular arrangement, like angels shielding them from the pain. After the service a friend who worked in the jail next door provided an impromptu reception with jailhouse cookies and juice. It continued to rain but I remember the church appeared to glow that night. Was it from the lighting…or was it from the outpouring of love? We were not deserted in this time of heartbreak breaking pain; even in our worst grief we could feel the comfort of peace. God was with us and there is no doubt that Jesus was carrying our family through this trial.

The disaster ended, as they do, with a huge painful loss, sorrow not just for our family but the many others impacted by the crash, followed by a slow recovery marked often with regret, guilt and survivors remorse. In the short term, it was tremendously difficult; many families never do overcome such sorrows. Still, over the years my parents chose to embrace a life well lived and move forward with the help of their faith, family and friends and on this day they also celebrate 43 years of marriage.

Today I am reminded that in the midst of tragedy, there is still love.

4th of July family gathering. After 43 years they still hold hands. There is love.

4th of July family gathering. After 43 years they still hold hands. There is love.

A Bit of This and A Bit of That

Lots of little things to share this week starting with:

Cats

Do you ever take your cats for a drive? We did. This week we traveled back to the mountains. And this time we brought the cats! Our cats don’t leave the house, in fact nine year old Socks hasn’t been outside since the time he got lost for a month when he was still a kitten, finally finding his way home scared and scraggly. The Black Cat, sometimes known as Spooky thinks she would like to be outside but scares herself so much that she won’t go three feet beyond the door. The cats are content in their home but they are my cats and they are so particular about even being seen by others I feel guilty being gone too long, hence the plan to take them on an adventure.

Sophie checking on her friends.

Sophie checking on her friends.

 

First goal accomplished when we managed to catch both and stuff them into the kennel.

The guard dog.

The guard dog.

The ride was not as noisy as I expected, little meowing or crying and fortunately, nobody threw up. But two days later they are still hiding underneath the bed. Of course, it doesn’t help that the little dog thinks she needs to greet them any time one starts tiptoeing out of the room or that she feels the need to show them compassion by crawling under the bed and lying next to them, thumping tail and all.

In no rush to venture out from under the bed.

In no rush to venture out from under the bed.

Puzzleman

Matthew has been recovering this month from major dental surgery complete with bone grafts in his jaw. He finds this is a great excuse to not do anything too strenuous (any excuse in a pinch…) So when we are inside he has been working his old puzzles. Some are pretty simple and he gets them together in fifteen minutes, some he hasn’t quite got memorized and they take a little more time. This picture is from his marathon afternoon working three puzzles simultaneously.

Puzzleman!

Puzzleman!

Matthew and the Soldiers

Speaking of Matthew, we have started a new web page featuring Matthew. Over the years we have taken a fair number of pictures of Matthew and his heroes including soldiers, veterans, and first responders and now we are sharing them with everyone. If you want to follow along it’s easy to sign up and receive a notice of a new posting. If you know of a hero who wouldn’t mind posing with Matthew please let me know. MatthewAndTheSoldiers

The New Cheerios

Here’s my nutrition pointer this month… With a strong family history of diabetes and one person hovering at the borderline of diabetes (I’ll not mention who but it is not me and it is not Matthew) we have been paying attention to our carbohydrates. You know how it works, eat more vegetables, especially green ones and less grains, especially processed and you’ll be healthier. The other day we saw an ad for Cheerios. Cereal is often a source of high carbohydrates so when I saw the ‘Protein Cheerios’ I was hopeful that it would be a better alternative food. But I had my suspicions because I have looked at cereal labels and remember how Bran Flakes and the like often use extra sugar to cover up the cardboard flavor. Anyway, we bought a box of the new Cheerios to check them out. The flavor is good but…Yikes! One serving has DOUBLE the carbohydrates of the already sweetened Honey Nut version. A major disappointment…and a good reminder why it helps to read the labels.

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Our Med Student Update

And finally, you have been asking about Rebecca. She is already into her third year of medical school. Time sure flies. The break between second and third year was officially only seven days because they had to take a major test before continuing and as you can imagine the students studied up until the very last minute. I am pleased to report that Rebecca and all of her friends passed this challenging test and now they are into rotations. She is absolutely enjoying the actual hands-on portion of school now. She also thanks you all for your prayers and support. If you are planning to come for graduation you better start making plans since it will be here before you know it.

Just checking in...

Just checking in…

Next Week…a tale of harrowing fright, when my life flashed before my eyes… Don’t miss it!

Life Lived Differently

A Lesson to be Remembered

Today was one of those days when I remember life with Matthew is always different. Not necessarily more challenging than raising one of your kids…just different.

We’re up in the Arizona mountains this week and have been working on yard projects so I told Matthew that we would do something fun today and go hiking. He was all for it and gathered his things as requested ready in short order to head out. This was a surprise to me as Matthew is like many people who believe walking is just a reason to get from point A to point B and that it’s only necessary to get to point B if they have something really worthwhile, like say, French fries.

No matter, I took Matthew’s enthusiasm as a sign of, what, maturity(?) and we jumped in the car. It was only a few miles to the trail head and I was talking about what we might see along the way when we came to the turn off sign. Suddenly reality hit Matthew and he let me know in no uncertain terms that turning off the road was not what he had in mind.

Most of you who know Matthew have not seen some of strong negative autistic traits like hand flapping because they are infrequent but he does do them when stressed or particularly frustrated. And there it was, as we drove into the parking lot he started telling me, “No, no, no…” with both hands flapping.

Still, undaunted and because the little beagle was excited to be on such an adventure, I convinced him to get out of the car…and then out to the trail. The hike I chose was a trail I had been on years ago just before being diagnosed with cancer. That trip we hadn’t made it very far before I pooped out and in hindsight I blamed it on my health, not the trail. So I told Matthew he could make it; that it wasn’t all straight up the mountain; and that we might see some elk or deer.

The sign said it was a short two miles to the springs and hey, we’ve been walking on the treadmill so it should have been pretty easy. Well, maybe it was easy for the dog but for Matthew, it was not so good. Much of the trail was eroded from rains and so narrow that we had to walk single file. Matthew is not brave when it comes to walking downhill when one side has a steep drop off especially if he could not hold on to my hand. But I was determined we would complete the task and my running commentary as we trudged along was filled with positive affirmations and prompts to hang on to the dog’s leash (in Matthew’s case, it is helpful as well as distracting to be responsible for something besides himself) as well as reminders to quit protesting.

Here we are. Oh, I know it doesn't look too bad but you can see the trail is worn down about a foot from the surrounding hillside even on this nice stretch.

Here we are. Oh, I know it doesn’t look too bad but you can see the trail is worn down about a foot from the surrounding hillside even on this nice stretch.

I hoped once we reached the ridge line the hike would become more level and easier walking but it didn’t and gradually I began to realize that with every uphill step how much of a challenge the return going down would be. But the fates intervened and just as we neared the end of the trail we ran into some high dollar mansions built on the top of the mountain. A spectacular view of course, but I knew that those rich people probably weren’t driving a dirt road with their Maserati’s and that we might be able to walk back down the mountain on paved road. Sure enough, with a small amount of trespassing we managed to find a road for this gated and very secluded neighborhood.

Protests and all, it was still beautiful.

Protests and all, it was still beautiful.

As we walked back Matthew decided he no longer needed to cry and the city boy was much more comfortable…until his leg started cramping and I was reminded that those legs have to work so much harder because of how he has to walk.

A challenge in deed. I tried to get Matthew to stop and rest but once we hit pavement his only thought was to find the car, which we finally did.

At the end Matthew was very happy with himself for making the whole trip but when I mentioned that we could take Dad along next time I was met with more very loud protests.

On the plus side, the little dog was a great walking companion but curled up like a pill bug once she reached the back seat of the car. Whew.

So, what’s it like for you? Have you ever said, “Hey, let’s go for a hike!” and everybody piled in the car because they weren’t really listening and thought you said, “Let’s go get an ice cream.” only to realize the truth after you passed Dairy Queen???

Matthew do you want to go on another hike???

Matthew do you want to go on another hike???

By the way, I haven’t yet figured out what Matthew thought we would be doing that was fun, though maybe it was going to the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movie, that he would think is fun and he would willingly jump into the car for.

A Family Tradition Resurrected

When I was young the family owned a commercial fishing boat in Southeastern Alaska. Fishing is seasonal and when the salmon are running you’d best be out working if you expect to catch any. With a livelihood so dependent on the fish schools and weather we didn’t take many days off in the summer. But each year on the Fourth of July we would knock off early to celebrate Independence Day.

Where we were and who we were with always varied but one constant was that we would make homemade ice cream. We stored caught fish in a hold covered with ice so the key ingredient of crushed ice was always plentiful. The ice cream maker was hand crank and took long enough to freeze that everyone got a turn, starting with the smallest person and finishing with the strong men as the ice cream got to its final stages. This personal involvement made it taste oh so much better than anything store bought. It was the best.

Fast forward to today. We still celebrate Independence Day with family and friends but over the years we had gotten away from making ice cream. Two kids with lactose intolerance put a damper on the effort needed especially since they couldn’t enjoy the fruits of their labor. Still I’ve continued to have a yearning for the homemade treat. So when I ran across a recipe for coconut pineapple ice cream, made without regular milk I mentioned it to Mom. To my surprise they still had the old ice cream maker and a tradition resurrected.

This ice cream maker is well over 40 years old.

This ice cream maker is well over 40 years old.

The recipe we used came from Pineapple Coconut Ice Cream but we adapted it for our family. It can work for your vegetarian/vegan friends too. Mom had told me that her old recipe called for sweetened condensed milk and we were curious about how this would be replaced until a little research showed us that the Cream of Coconut was not ‘coconut cream’ but a mix used often for Pina Coladas and was a thick syrupy sweet delight with a lot of potential for dairy free holiday treats. I found the Cream of coconut in with mixers in the alcohol aisle. If you buy coconut cream in the ethnic aisle it may be a completely different product more like butter or just fat and without sugar.

1 can Cream of Coconut or use just under 2 cups¾ cup canned Crushed Pineapple drained plus
2 Tablespoons Pineapple Juice
1 1/2 cup Coconut Milk (I use coconut/almond milk)
1 cup Coconut Flakes

This recipe was just right in our 2.5 quart maker. We tried it first with a half recipe and it was fine I think you could easily double it for a larger maker.

You will also need crushed ice and rock salt. Table salt will not work. Bigger cubes of ice will work but are not as easy to handle.  If you are using an ice cream maker, either electric or hand crank I recommend doing it outside because there is bound to be salt water spilled.july 4th 011

 

As far as the recipe goes, mix the ingredients together, best if you can do it ahead of time and then store in the refrigerator until ready to make. According to my folks, a chilled mix is best. We made ours early in the afternoon and then once it was as stiff as we could turn it we transferred the deliciousness to containers and put the freezer until we were ready. Back in the old days we would mix as much as we could then cover with additional ice and a blanket and just let it freeze harder in the mixer.100_3139 100_3142

Just like in years gone by everyone was enlisted to help including the kids and grandparents. Matthew had to be convinced that he should crank longer than 30 seconds but with Grandma’s help he got in his fair share of turns. july 4th 013 100_3150

This ice cream was so easy and so delicious that we will be making it again for our Labor Day festivities. We are excited to add this fun tradition back to our summer holidays. It is guaranteed to add good memories.  If you want to give it a try let me know what you think. And if you use a hand crank mixer be sure to send me a picture!