Sunday, March 1, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/28/15: No More Shaggy, Ready for Fitness, Back to IKEA BONUS: Grandchildren

1.  I've been letting my hair go shaggy for a few years now and I went to the Hair Cuttery this morning figuring I'd keep it that way, and have about and inch and a half trimmed off.  Beatriz, the really lovely stylist I was assigned to, didn't really understand my instructions and she gave me a real haircut and my shaggy look is gone.  I took it in stride.  My hair can always grow out again and suddenly, as I sat there watching pounds of hair fall on the floor, I thought, I kind of like this change. It does me some good.  Beatriz and I had a great chat about our families and why I moved to Greenbelt and her family in Ecuador and I left happy with how everything worked out.  Beatriz gave me her card and I'll return to her again -- and I'll decide, in the meantime, whether to let my hair go shaggy again or keep this much tidier look.

2.  With my new membership at the fitness center, I needed to purchase a few things at Modell Sporting Goods and got some help with shoes from a friendly and patient college-aged woman who stuck with me as I deliberated and deliberated about what shoes to buy.  I prefer shoes that are a single color, but not white, and these days running/walking/workout shoes feature multiple colors and showy patterns.  I definitely didn't want, like, an eggplant colored show, but I managed to find a pattern, among the cornucopia of choices, that made me happy and that felt good on my feet, too.  I picked up a few other things and I'm ready for either the fitness machines or the swimming pool at the Greenbelt Fitness and Aquatic Center.

3.  Today featured my return to IKEA -- a solo run.  Knowing the my last visits to IKEA gave me vertigo, the Deke had other plans for how to get the shelves and another chair for our apartment home home from IKEA, but I interrupted her mellifluous ponderings and volunteered to make the short trip myself and navigate the IKEA maze and bring the goods home.  And. I. Succeeded.  I only had to call the Deke once for some help -- it wasn't pathetic -- I just needed her to text me a couple of numbers -- and everything worked out great.

BONUS:  Molly and Hiram met with a realtor for much of the day today and David and Olivia had an extended visit in our apartment home.  They were great.  They love what their Nana has collected here for them to play with, they enjoy each other as playmates, and about every twenty minutes or so they knock our socks off with some kind of statement or some use of a word or some thought or idea that we find remarkable.  They are really, really good children.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/27/15: More a Greenbelt Guy, Lucky 7, One Bowl Curry

1.  It was a good day for deepening my involvement as a resident of Greenbelt, MD.  I secured a library card and went over to the fitness center and bought a ten buck pass enabling me to ride any U of Maryland shuttle bus and, for a ridiculously low price, bought a year long membership at the Fitness and Aquatic Center.  This was one of my first experiences of paying a greatly reduced rate because, at this place, I am a senior citizen.

2.  After I'd been to the Co-op, the only store in Greenbelt that can sell beer (I still don't quite full understand Maryland's laws regarding beer sales in grocery stores) (well, maybe convenience stores can sell beer), the Deke sent me an emergency text requesting that I pick her up some red wine or a sixer of porter/stout.  There's a liquor store on Greenbelt Road, on the same side of the street as Staples, where I had a visit planned, so I went to it and, at first, nearly bought a sixer of Double IPA, corrected myself, returned to the cooler and could only find one porter, Lucky 7 brewed by Evolution in Salisbury, MD.  I took a risk, hoping it would work for the Deke, and it did -- big time.  She loves it. This made me very happy.  I took a gulp from one of her servings, and, yeah, it is really good.

3.  During the day, I soaked and cooked up some chick peas and, upon returning home, I sauteed some onions, garlic, and ginger, later added curry powder, let it cook for a while, added a can of diced tomatoes, let that mixture cook, and then added the chick peas, more cooking, and finished it off my folding fresh baby spinach leaves into the mix.  We ate this over brown rice and garnished it with cilantro and plain yogurt.  For the 107,000th night in a row we ate a one bowl dinner and we totally enjoyed it. (I'm wondering -- would eggplant have worked?)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/26/15: Snow Day, Ready to Roll, Perfect Soup

1.  Here's what I don't like about this cold weather and today's snow day:  it cuts into my developing walking routine.  I keep believing that I'll get back to it soon because, damn it, it can't stay cold forever.  Here's what I like:  the Deke had a snow day today and so we go to lounge around our apartment home and work on getting things done and enjoying each other's company.

2.  What did I get done?  Well, with my March 2nd appointment at the Transplantation Center looming, I made photcopies of all my recent medical records so that when I take these records to Baltimore, if they want to keep them, it's no sweat.  I also divided my records into a few categories and folders and if I had to walk out of my apartment home today and show up in Baltimore in an hour, I'd be ready.  (We also have a hotel room reserved for Sunday night.)

3.  Yeah.  That mushroom barley carrot celery onion garlic spinach soup was perfect, especially on a cold day spent mostly indoors.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/25/15: Forms, Eggplant, Wildcats

1.  Going to the U of Maryland Transplantation Center for an all-day appointment requires some paper work, mostly filling out of questionnaires about my health history and my mental state.  I sat myself down and filled these forms out today.  I didn't really feel the stress of doing this until I was finished and collapsed on the bed with the Corgis and fell into a coma nap.

2.  I had fun chopping up eggplant, sauteeing it for a while in garlic and seasoning it with red pepper flakes.  After a bit, I poured a cup of water over the eggplant, along with fish sauce and sugar, and let the eggplant steam until soft.  The coup de grace was a generous heaping of fresh basil leaves on the eggplant.  I served it over brown rice and the Deke and I marveled at how lucky we are to experience so much pleasure from such simple food.  This dish was really good.

3.  A Facebook thread initiated by Doug Schonewald reporting Van Troxel's initiation into the Idaho Sports Hall of Fame turned into a discussion, still ongoing, about North Idaho basketball in early 70's and later a look at KHS basketball in the late 50s and on into 1964, the last time KHS won a state title. Coincidentally, while we were gabbing on Facebook about the good old days, Kellogg defeated Bonners Ferry, 53-39, to advance to the state tournament.  Should the Wildcats claw their way to a state title, it would be Kellogg's first since 1964.  I'll keep my fingers crossed for the purple and gold.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sibling Assignment #157: Pinterest Has Become an Unexpected Source of Happiness

I was responsible for Sibling Assignment #157 and here's what I challenged my sisters and me to write about:

Write a piece about Pinterest.  What do you value about Pinterest?  How has it made a difference in your life?  Can you tell a story about a particular thing you did at a particular time that went really well because you are a part of Pinterest?  On the flip side, is there anything about Pinterest that disappoints you?
Both of my sisters are very happy with Pinterest and you can read about Christy's life at Pinterest, here, and about Carol's, here.

For quite a while, in my own oblivious way, I've been vaguely aware that my sisters and the Deke were signed up on Pinterest.  I never gave signing up much thought.

For some reason, a batch of stuffed peppers, of all things, woke me up.  Before I explain, let me say that before these stuffed peppers, I'd eaten great meals and enjoyed tasty drinks made from recipes both of my sisters had found on Pinterest.  But, for some reason, the stuffed peppers woke me up.

You see, Carol is a participant in the Bountiful Basket cooperative and when her food comes, she has to figure out how to make good use of what's in her basket.  Near the end of my Nov.-Jan. stay in Kellogg, she invited Mom and me over for dinner and, because her Bountiful Basket had a bounty of peppers, she needed a good recipe for fixing them. The stuffed peppers with mushrooms, rice, and feta were perfect.

I don't know if she had made these peppers before, but I do know that they were so delicious that I thought that I might give this Pinterest thing a try when I get back to Greenbelt.

Now that I'm home in Greenbelt again, I am back to eating a primarily, but not exclusively, vegetarian diet.  My understanding is that plant-based proteins are easier on my kidneys than animal-based proteins.  I had a time in my life about 20-25 years ago, when I was a strict vegetarian, but over the years I've lost the recipe books I used to make tasty vegetarian meals.

With Pinterest, I've struck gold.

Whether it's peanut sauces, Thai stir fries, ways to prepare tofu, vegetable soups, bean soups, or a variety of other meals I haven't tried yet, the recipes I've found in Pinterest have helped greatly boost the Deke's and my enjoyment of nightly dinners.

As a side note, this development in my life embodies what I am enjoying maybe the most about retirement.

I'm no chef.

I know that.

But I cook some pretty good meals here in our apartment home.

I have time to investigate the eighteenabillions of recipes available on Pinterest and have time to shop for ingredients and have time, if the recipe is a bit time consuming, to give over a half a day or so making certain things.

For example, Molly and Hiram visited us a couple of weeks ago and the Deke said something about wanting chicken soup.  I found this recipe.  It required some work:  boiling a whole chicken, giving it time to cool, and tearing the meat off of the chicken.  I could tell that if this soup was going to work, I needed to give my self about five hours to do it right, including the time that the soup would simply sit still and stew before I served it.

I think it's the best soup I've ever made.  It was a bit peppery, but it also had an Italian/oregano/basil component.  It's taste had depth.  It was medicinal for Molly and the Deke's nasal congestion. Everyone loved it and I was as happy as I've ever been after making a dinner.

If you are still reading this, I ask you not to underestimate the power of this happiness.  I love being able to serve meals that people, especially family members, love and when we eat the food together, I experience us growing more closely together in the enjoyment of the food and in the gratitude we feel for our good fortune to eat simply and to eat well.

And, really, right now, I owe this happiness to Pinterest and the many people who have so generously pinned recipes so that a regular old guy like me can bring happiness to my wife and to my family -- and that I can know that my sisters will bring the same kind of happiness to our family when we are together in Idaho and Washington with the great cocktails and meals they prepare and serve, thanks to Pinterest.
Coda:  I also use Pinterest boards as storage.  For example, I have a board where I store webpages about things to do in the D. C. area, especially outdoor stuff like gardens and hiking areas.

I store these things for myself.

But I have one board that I wish I could attract more people's interest in, and that I don't, disappoints me.  I have a board titled, "Favorite Pictures Posted by tumblr Photographers".  I follow a number of fellow (mostly) amateur photographers on tumblr and when I am especially struck by one of their pictures, I pin it to this board.  

I'd love it if more people saw their pictures.  It's a small thing, but because my Pinterest account draws little interest, these pictures don't get much attention, well, beyond other of their followers on tumblr.  

So, if you'd ever like to look over this Pinterest gallery of mine, it's here and you can see some good street photography these people have done and some other styles as well.  

Three Beautiful Things 02/24/15: Beltway Sludge, Great Stir Fry, Terrapins Defeat Badgers!

1.  It was time to drive to Groveton/Alexandria and pick up the dogs and bring them back.  I decided to wait until a little later in the morning to head out so I wouldn't be caught in the sludge of rush hour traffic.  So, what happened?  Some kind of road work closed two right hand lanes for a stretch of about seven miles and I got caught in the sludge of road construction traffic.  Ha!  You just never know what'll happen on the Capital Beltway.

2.  I found a recipe for Thai style stir fried tofu and basil.  Lately, fresh basil has been unavailable at the Co-op, so I was ready to substitute lemongrass and see how that worked, but, I lucked out today.  The Co-op had a generous stock of basil leaves.  I improvised a bit on the recipe -- green curry pasted instead of chili paste and I used peanut butter instead of crushed peanuts and green onions instead of shallots.  It all worked out great.  Both the Deke and I enjoyed this stir fried combo over brown rice.

3.  I went online and found the radio broadcast of the U. of Maryland's men's basketball's team huge game with the visiting Badgers of the U of Wisconsin and listened to it.   The Badgers sit atop the Big Ten standings. They had only lost twice this season and were ranked 5th in the nation.  The Maryland Terrapins, led by senior Dez Wells and freshman Melo Tremble jumped to an eleven point half time lead, held off the Badgers in the second half, played great in the final two minutes, and triumphed.  I had a great time swapping comments about the game, via text messaging, with the Byrdman back in CdA.  I'm starting to get a little more excited about living so close to College Park and getting into Maryland's teams.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/23/15: Backlash, Great Drive Home, Dinner and Rest

1.  Adrienne and the Deke took Jack to day care.  Later they went to Costco together.  I had a quiet morning doing some writing and starting to learn about the backlash Particia Arquette's comments last night instigated among women of color feminists.  I'm learning a great deal about long held resentments and about strong perceptions of white privilege I've known next to nothing about.

2.  The Deke and I blazed down the Garden State Parkway, the New Jersey Parkway, left I-95 onto I-895 to skirt around Baltimore and go through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, returned to I-95, and hit our only real traffic snarl about six miles from home as I-95 fed cars onto the Capital Beltway.  But, slowly we inched our way to the Kenilworth exit and soon we arrived home, very happy after a splendid weekend in Metuchen and Nyack.

3.  A bowl of pasta and with eggplant, onion, yellow squash, and tomatoes brought a nourishing conclusion to our day and we settled in, resting up for the demands of the upcoming seven days or so. My March 2 all day appointment at the U of Maryland Transplant Center in Baltimore looms in the next week, as do the final preparations I have to do to get ready for it.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/22/15: Clearing Snow, Growler and Gill, New Friends and Boston Sports

1.  Overnight, several inches of snow fell and so Jack and I went out and he helped me knock the snow of of Adrienne's car and our Sube.  Not only was Jack a great help, he had all kinds of directions to give me about what snow should be knocked off first and what next and next, etc., and he knew what parts of the car he could work on what parts to delegate for me to do.  He's a great workmate.

2.  Over in Nanuet, there's a superb tap house and beer shoppe called Growler and Gill.  I fell in love the second the Deke and Jack and I walked in the door with the shelves of manifold beers covering one of the walls and more, the din of happy beer drinkers, and, as I made my way to the tap counter, the great list of  16 beers on tap.  I also liked that they had a variety of glass choices, starting with the pint glass on down to a taster.  I ordered an amber from New Jersey (can't remember the name or brewery).  Later I had a Founder's All Day IPA.  After pizza, I closed out my tab with the perfect after dinner beer, and one of my very favorites of all beers, Flying Dog's Festina Peche.  I held off on this beer until I was done eating thin crust cheese pizza and also some pepperoni/bacon.  I asked when I first arrived if that keg was in pretty good shape and the most helpful woman at the counter said it was in great shape, so if I waited I wouldn't risk having the keg blow.  As I settled my bill, I remarked that I didn't think I'd see Festina Peche this time of year and she told me it was a keg they'd had for a while and I smiled, remarking on my good luck that I could have one of these fruity and slightly sour ales "out of season".  This was a totally unexpected pleasure.

3.  We had dinner with Dave and Phyllis.  Phyllis and Adrienne work together at the Salvation Army. The Deke had had dinner with Phyllis and Dave and Adrienne and Jack on one of her earlier visits.  I was very happy that we hit it off right away and soon I learned that not only is Dave a Bostoner, her's a devoted fan of the Boston sports teams.  Me, too.  We had an especially great time reminiscing about the Red Sox and enjoying the successes the Pats, Celtics, Bruins and Red Sox have had in the last fifteen years.  This, too, was a totally unexpected pleasure.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/21/15: Bagel Blow-Out, Arriving at Adrienne's, Ahead of the Snow

1.  I woke up in Metuchen to a generous Ted bagel blow-out.  He loves to buy guests bagels from a hole-in-the-wall joint downtown and gets anything his guests order.  I'll just say that I had a sesame bagel untoasted with sliced lox and a cinnamon raisin bagel toasted and a side of cream cheese.  The sesame bagel was my meal and the raisin cinnamon was my dessert.  Ted and Sally served us Peet's coffee, a perfect way to round out a great morning of conversation and bagels.

2.  The Deke and I hit the road around 11:30 and made out way up the Garden State Parkway to New York and then a short distance into New York to the village of Nyack where Adrienne and Jack live.  To Jack, I am Bop and it took Jack a little while to warm up to me.  Maybe I wouldn't look so scary if I had gotten a haircut .  But, Jack came out of his shy shell and before long I had a new friend and learned all about different toys and bots, wonderful playthings beyond anything I could have ever imagined when I was four years old.

3.  As the day wandered into the late afternoon, snow began to fall and I got curious about what was happening back in Maryland and so I started to read dispatches from around D.C. and the Capital Beltway of the worst possible driving conditions and combinations of snow and ice falling from the apocalyptic skies.  It should clear up by Monday when the Deke and I will return.  I'm grateful that our travels, so far, have been clear and easy and hope that the same will be true for Monday.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/20/15: Dog Delivery, Heading North, My First HopDevil

1.  It was a great day in the Subaru.  It began when I leashed up the corgis and secured them in the back seat and we drove down I-495 to Molly and Hiram's -- they are looking after Maggie and Charly while the Deke and I hit the road and head north.

2.  I decided to head back to Greenbelt via I-295 and it was a parking lot out there -- standstill traffic for a few miles -- but eventually things got moving again and the Deke and I packed some stuff into the Sube and headed up 1-95 and then the New Jersey Turnpike and arrived in Metuchen, NJ so we could visit the Deke's cousin Sally and her husband, Ted.  I had never met them before and we hit it off right away and piled into one Sally and Ted's rigs and headed downtown to Hailey's Harp and Pub, a popular watering hole packed wall to wall with people (I think Ted knew them all!) and offering a generous and various taplist.

3.  I was very happy to learn that Hailey's Harp and Pub was serving Victory Brewing's highly regarded HopDevil IPA and I can't remember ever drinking it before.  OH MY!!  What a fine IPA.  It is as nicely balanced and easy to drink as any IPA I've ever drunk.  Yes, it hits the nose and mouth immediately with hoppiness, but those hops don't dominate the beer and give way to a subtle sweetness, but that's not the finish.  I slight bitterness is.  Lord, I wished that beer was not an intoxicating beverage.  I could have quaffed this HopDevil all night long!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 02/19/15: Hunkering Down, Hot Soup, Listening

1.  The wind chill continues to unrelentingly freeze the greater Greenbelt suburbatropolitan area and I am just not the hardy soul I used to be and so I hunkered in all day, doing laundry, cooking, and continuing the kind of reading I've mentioned in this blog the last couple of days.

2.  The Deke and I need hot soup -- not just temperature hot, but peppery hot.  Today I put together our Ninja food blender and after I sauteed a couple of onions, cooked down some cauliflower, broccoli, and celery, I put the contents in the blander, returned it to the soup pot, and added coconut milk and some red wine vinegar.  I seasoned the onions while they sauteed with pepper, cumin, garlic powder, tumeric, salt, and red pepper flakes and the end result was a soup that I, at first, thought was too hot -- but it wasn't.  The Deke and I are both fighting colds and the chill outside our apartment home and the soup was perfect.

3.  This evening, I listened as the Deke talked (did not complain) at length about the challenges of her job and, that despite all the difficulties, how glad she is to have moved so far out of the comfort of  Charlemagne into a school that is not only challenging her professionally, but on a deeply personal level as well. She has never worked, or studied, or done anything in an overwhelmingly African-American environment before (I never have) and it's demanding for a variety of reasons, many that go way beyond the fact that this particular third grade group is (and has been since kindergarten) a behavior problem for everyone.  I don't have a firm enough grip on how to talk about these challenges to write about them and I'm not sure it's my place to do so.  I admire the Deke's determination to learn, to serve her students, and to talk with me about her work, about this move we've made.