Monday, July 25, 2011

Pondering Banana Bread

I don't know about you, but when my Monday morning looks like this outside,

I get in the mood to bake.  So spying a browning bunch of bananas on my counter, I decided to whip up a loaf of banana bread.

Maybe I've been in a particularly introspective mood lately because of all the loss of friends from our neighborhood, but as I gathered the ingredients for the recipe I formed some curious comparisons between banana bread and our neighborhood.

Separately, the ingredients have their own tastes, traits and looks, but as they come together, they form a cohesive batter.  Add some (Okinawan) heat and that batter is now a tasty treat that everyone loves.

Of course, as I was following the recipe I "assigned" roles to each of the ingredients: the flour - the one who is the base of the neighborhood who holds everything together; the sugar - the one who adds fun and sweetness; the salt - the one who keeps us grounded to the earth; the eggs - the one who's hard to get to know, but soft on the inside; the baking powder - the one who makes us rise to greater things; the coconut - the one who's a little flaky; the nuts - the one who's a little nutty; the butter - the one who needs to be kept cold otherwise they melt; and, of course, the bananas - the one who may be a little off color on the outside, but without whom our neighborhood wouldn't be complete.  I'm not saying who's who in my mind, but it does make for some interesting and funny thoughts while baking!

Really, though, (and I'm getting really philosophical now) I guess this comparison could be made for any social situation.  We are all good at being our own person, but blend us together in the right proportions and the right conditions and great things can be accomplished.

OK, I'm getting off my soapbox now, besides, I think I hear the oven timer going off...

BTW - here's the recipe for the world's best banana bread from Mark Bittman's cookbook: How to Cook Everything

8 tablespoons butter, plus some for greasing the pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 sugar
2 eggs
3 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork until smooth
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1/2 grated dried unsweetened coconut (not optional!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

Mix together the dry ingredients. Cream the butter and beat in the eggs and bananas. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients; do not mix more than necessary. Gently stir in the vanilla, nuts, and coconut.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until nicely browned. A toothpick inserted in the center of the bread will come out fairly clean, but banana bread is excessively moist compared to other breads. Do not overcook. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan. To store, wrap in waxed paper.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Another Sad Day

Two months have already passed since our wonderful friends Liz, Don and Lydia moved and today we took the second punch when Kelly, Mike, Matt and David left the island.  I've been dreading this day for months and I can't believe it finally came.

Moving day...

Before we even moved into our house, Kelly and her family have been helping us and I feel at such a loss already with them gone.  The Payne's are the type of family everyone wants as a neighbor and friend - they were always there.  With information when we didn’t know about the island.  With advice when we didn’t know what to do.  With an ear when I needed to vent or to talk (Stevie called us Lucy and Ethel as we would pass hours talking on the front step).  With a loving heart towards our kids (they were always giving random toys and kind words to Emmy, London and Cannon).  With their dog (Ty was our surrogate dog).  With an open cupboard stocked full of anything we forgot to get at the Commissary.  With a tool and a lesson on how to use it (I might now need to buy a cordless drill).  With fresh baked goods delivered to our door (Kelly's "crack" cookies are the best!).  With an evening walk.  With an open door, crunchies and love for our cat (who is now so confused which house to go in).  With a spirit of spontaneity (following the sound of the Obon drums at 11:00 at night last August). 

David, Mike, Kelly and Matt

They have taught us to be better neighbors, but above all better people and we can only hope to aspire to the kind of people they are.  They may be leaving the island, but they will always be with us in our hearts and in who we are.

Mike and Kelly saying goodbye to Obi

Sayonara Mike and Kelly (and Ty in the cage :(

Friday, July 15, 2011

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

As I was walking past the window first thing this morning I spied this beautiful sight outside:

The kids wanted to get in the car and see what was at the end of the rainbow!
Look closely, it's not only one FULL rainbow, but two!  There's a faint one on top of the brighter one.  Wow!  What a way to start the day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ying Yang Kitty

I'm really not turning into a "cat lady" - I just thought this pose was funny!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Forest Adventure

For two years I've been hearing about a really cool thing to do on island called "Forest Adventure".  No, this is not an animal theme park as London thought, but a place to go zip-lining and otherwise be a daredevil for the day.  The problem is I couldn't take my hubby dear (little fear of heights) so I've been waiting for someone else to go.  This past weekend Kelly told me her family was going on Monday and was I game to go?  You betcha!

So Monday morning we all headed out (along with Matt's girlfriend, Sasha, and her dad) to have some fun - and, boy was it!  After getting hitched into our harnesses and a little safety demonstration we were left to conquer the course. 

This was all that kept me from falling to my death...

I was amazed at my complete lack of fear as I launched myself off the platform and glided across the forest below. My first few landings weren't too graceful, but I soon learned how to land on my feet.

Me climbing one of the platforms.

See me way over the other side?  I think I stuck that landing.

The best station was the last one, the "Tarzan".  You have to jump off the platform, free fall for several feet before being caught by the cable and then slammed into a giant cargo net that you have to grab and then climb up.  Cool!  I also discovered by my sore muscles the following day, this was also a very good workout!

Matt on the free fall of the Tarzan

Slam!  Into the net!

Now climb up the net.

David attempting the rings

We made it!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Change of Command

My mom goes bananas for all things military.  She does.  Given the chance to take a cruise or see a military band play, she would probably go see the band.  So either she's rubbing off on me or I feel a responsibility for her to live vicariously through me.  Regardless, every time there's something particularly "military" going on (which, living on an island with 50,000 military members, isn't that infrequent!) I feel obliged, or at least curious, to go see.

So on Thursday there was a "Change of Command Ceremony" where the head of the hospital was leaving and being replaced by a new CO.  Stevie thought I was nuts, in fact he declined to go, but I dressed the kids and myself up and headed over to see the pomp and circumstances of it.

The Change of Command Ceremony, according to the program, is not a Navy regulation, but is a traditional Navy custom that does not have an equivalent in the Army or Air Force.  It is supposed to be formal and impressive, and it was.  The heart of the ceremony is the formal reading of the official orders by the officer to be relieved and by the relieving officer.  Command passes upon utterance by the relieving officer saying, "I relieve you, Sir!"  The officer being relieved responds, "I stand relieved."

Mike and Wendy, two of our neighbors, glad to be out of the ceremony!

OK, the strictly military parts of the ceremony were impressive - the parading of the Colors, the Arrival of the Official Party, the sounding of the bells, the music, the uniforms, etc. - but I do have to say that after an hour and 20 minutes with a lot of boring speeches I was ready to check this one off my "must see" list.  As I told the kids when we were walking out, "I promise, you'll never have to go to one of those again!"

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July

What says July 4th better than a day at the pool, hot weather and a neighborhood BBQ?  Oh, yeah, fireworks - well we didn't have any on the Fourth, but we saw some at the AmericaFest on the 2nd!

Cannon's cake - it had 3 layers: one red, one white, one blue!

Emmy and her friend Dylan

The men and their grills.

Can you tell she enjoys her food?

And then the Japanese obliged by setting off a great display on the following weekend for their festival at American Village.  The Japanese have the coolest fireworks because they make them into shapes.  We've seen hearts, stars, smiley faces and for the first time - a hibiscus!  It's a little hard to see from my picture because I didn't have a tripod, but I think you can get the jist.

Friday, July 1, 2011

AmericaFest - Okinawan style

July 4th is right around the bend and to help celebrate Kadena Air Base had its annual AmericaFest.  This two day event is a kind of air show, minus any flight demonstrations (I guess we get those every day as we watch the planes flying over our heads!)  I took the kids with our friends, Krimp and Dima and little Zach and even though it was hotter than stink, we all enjoyed it.  The boys (ok, and Emmy) loved seeing the planes and actually getting inside them.  My favorite part?  Getting to drive on the runway!  (That's where we parked.)  About half way down I realized there was 1.) no speed limit, 2.) no obstacles and 3.) no police - so I floored it!

London was cracking me up as he had a detailed conversation with the crew in the AWACS about how to start the plane.  I think by the end the guys were a little concerned that he might go for a joy ride one day!

I told Emmy to look like she was hanging out of the helicopter - so she struck this pose for me!  I guess she's "hanging out".

Strapped in for takeoff!

Ready to fly.

And then we got to see some of the Japanese planes (of course, Stevie tells me they're the same as ours because they get them from us, but still...)

Emmy's favorite part by far was "KiddieLand".  She talked me into buying a ticket for this area and it was so much fun to see her enjoy being a little kid.  So often she plays so much older because of her brothers and the other kids around so I loved seeing her have a big time on the choo-choo train and the mini-plane rides.

I wasn't sure she was having a good time on this one until she asked to get back on it!

And of course, even though we were in the middle an American military base, there's always the subtle reminder that we're still in Japan.  All the shoes neatly lined up in front of the bouncy castle!  Only in Japan...