Rotary District Conference, Burning Cupcakes, and Casserole by Don and Peggy Doman
As the newly elected vice-chair of Rotarians for Hearing it was my responsibility to staff a display table at the Rotary District 5020 Conference in Tacoma. The chair had traveled to New Orleans to staff a table, so it seemed like the least I could do was staff a table in my own home town. I was able to meet lots of people and still relax and have dinner with friends in the evening.
Representatives of the Duncan Rotary Club set up a tent in the rotunda of the old Bicentennial Pavilion at The Hotel Murano. I was impressed. The tent seemed huge. It was part of a ShelterBox. The ShelterBox organization responds instantly to natural and manmade disasters by delivering boxes of aid to those who are most in need. Each box supplies an extended family of up to 10 people with a tent and essential equipment to use while they are displaced or homeless. All ShelterBoxes are individually numbered. When an individual or group makes a donation to ShelterBox they will be given a specific box number that their donation has gone towards funding. Donors can then track their box and find out where in the world it has been sent.
The tent was larger than the old umbrella tent my family used years ago as we camped near Packwood, Lake Crescent, Lake Chelan, and Ocean Shores. It brought back fond memories, but it looked like it was much easier to put together. Two of us easily repositioned it on the carpet. The ShelterBox itself looks like an ideal way to help people around the world with disaster relief.
After setting up our display table with a combo DVD player and TV, brochures, free DVDs, and business cards. I called Peg to pick me up. We were dining with friends but there was a little time to check emails and phone messages. At five-thirty we left for dinner and a little relaxation.
Peg's sister had called and asked what she should bring to share. I thought a little bit and then said, "How about crab dip with artichoke hearts and jalapeño peppers?" She found it at Albertson's along with some spinach dip. I brought some stone ground tortilla chips. I think the spinach dip wasn't really touched until the crab dip was almost gone. Our friend Debbie brought a thermos bottle of Margaritas. On a hot Tacoma afternoon, the snacks and the drinks went down smoothly.
Earlier in the week I had stopped in at Burning Cupcakes and bought a couple of treats for Sharon and Mary at The Positive Image on 6th Avenue. Sharon has been cutting my hair for years and the hair of my friend, Mike. After I presented my luscious little gifts, Sharon and Mary took a snack break and ate their cupcakes. Teresa had given me a chocolate chip cookie as well, which disappeared within the two block drive from Burning Cupcakes to The Positive Image on Sixth Avenue. On that particular day the cupcakes had a candy bar theme. On Friday the drink theme. When I returned home from the conference Peg already had the cupcakes. We sampled a Kahlua one. It was tasty. I thought of licking the frosting off all the others, but restrained myself. I do have some self-control.
At dinner everyone chose their favorite drink for the cupcake dessert. Our friend Pat had the root beer float. I think Mike had the apple cider. Mine was bright reddish pink with a cherry on top, so it might have been a Shirley Temple. Since we bought a dozen, there were two extras that we divided and served with ice cream the following evening.
On Saturday morning, I returned to the Pavilion. I should have looked at the agenda for the convention. I didn't realize that Jean Irwin was speaking at the breakfast session. Jean is a teacher of the deaf. She was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in the early 80s and went to London to study. I have heard her several times and she is always interesting and funny. She is a member of Rotarians for Hearing and so it was easy telling fellow attendees about our group after hearing Jean speak.
Rotarians for Hearing raise money for hearing education and research at the University of Washington. I produced our video several years ago that tells about the possibilities of hearing regeneration. Dr. Ed Rubel discovered that birds can regenerate their "hair cells" in the inner ear after they've been damaged. The same goes for some fish and reptiles. Mammals however, don't. So, Dr. Rubel asked the question, "If birds can do it, why can't humans?" Please, watch the video below and see what you think. We have just changed the focus of our group and widened it to include everyone and nut just Rotarians. Rotary remains at the center, but the message is for everyone who might suffer from hearing loss.
Since I committed for the entire day I had the opportunity of working with several members of the organization: Gene Pankey, Georgine Mellom, Dee Ebsen, and Ed Trobaugh. Gene is a retired used car salesman and founder of our group. Georgine is the current president of Clover Park Rotary and the wife of my high school concert band teacher. I know Dee from building her husband's home remodeling website almost fifteen years ago, which is still number one on Google searches for "home remodeling tacoma." I should have charged him by the year! I had never really met Ed before. He's a retired Major General. I had a marvelous time chatting with Ed. We talked about history, battles, his military experiences, and mutual friends. As an infantry officer he experienced hearing loss and so wears a hearing aid. He attracted a couple ex-rangers over the to table who recognized him. With our Rotary group, the other Rotarians I knew, and new people I met I had a wonderful weekend talking and laughing.
A project that Ed is working on is Friends of American Lake Veterans Golf Course. Volunteers have taken the old American Lake Veterans Golf Course, which had been suffering from neglect and lack of funds and vastly improved it for play and therapy. Here is their mission statement: To assist with the improvement, care and maintenance of the American Lake Veterans Golf Course to enable disabled veterans to rehabilitate themselves both physically and emotionally, so all military personnel and veterans can enjoy the benefits of golf in a positive, therapeutic and accepting social environment.
“With my relationship to this place, it’s branched out now from playing golf and rehabbing to becoming a volunteer and helping out with this campaign. I want to improve my comrades chances for getting better at a place that did just that for me. And this place is just a good support network for veterans. A lot of these guys have helped mentor me. They’ve helped me and others choose good career paths. For me it’s gone beyond golf.” “We need a legitimate golf course. A golf course should be 18 holes. We have the land. Jack Nicklaus has given us the design for the new nine.” “I would give money to this place because it goes beyond golf. We have a veteran's community, similar to a co-op, with people who come here not just to golf but to create that community where others with shared experiences in war can find love and healing.”
-- Tim Bomke
After leaving the conference on Saturday afternoon Peg and stopped by the grocery store for the basics of a casserole to take as our contribution for dinner that night. While Peg planted some new flowers, I created Caramelized Leeks and Steamed Cauliflower Casserole to share that evening.
I started by frying up some Canadian Bacon in olive oil (seven ounces cut in chunks) and then adding rounds of two good size leeks into the iron frying pan and turning the temperature down to medium. I cover them and stirred them every five or ten minutes for a total of about thirty-five minutes. I sprinkled with sea salt before the and afterwards as well. At the end I gave a couple of twists with a black peppercorn grinder. I then steamed two heads of cauliflower, again salting before and after cooking. I layered the casserole in a large bowl: cauliflower, leeks, cauliflower, leeks, cauliflower, leeks. As I added each layer of cauliflower I sprinkled with garlic granules.
I then created a bechamel of butter and flour along with a little 2% milk. I added 8 oz. of four Italian cheeses and two good spoonfuls of soft Pecorino cheese Peg had purchased at the Proctor Street Farmers Market. I kept whisking over the stove until the sauce became smooth and well melted. I added about a tablespoon of brown steak sauce and then a good healthy squeeze of Dijon mustard and some dried basil. Once I had the sauce complete I added it to the large casserole and mixed the ingredients. I covered the top of the casserole with grated Parmesan cheese and Italian bread crumbs and baked it for twenty minutes at 400 degrees. It was wonderful. The casserole was well received, but it wasn't perfect. I think next time I might add some white wine into the sauce and try Fontina and Gruyère for the cheeses. Also, although the Canadian Bacon worked, chunks of bacon or seasoning ham might be better. It was good enough for Sunday breakfast before I went to the conference and lunch after I came back. A handful of cut up green onions on top would have given it an elegant flair.
It was a nice adventure sharing information on our Rotary project for hearing, learning about other Rotary projects, meeting new people, and having fun with friends.