Sunday, December 21, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 12/20/14: Christmas Errands, Lunch at Parabola, Intro to Slate Creek Brewery

1.  Today was Christmas errand day in Coeur d'Alene.  I picked up some pictures at Costco, got a hair cut, and eventually went to Michael's and got some frames.  I especially enjoyed talking with the guy at Hair Clips who cut my hair.  He was a guy who went back to college (NIC, LCSC) at age 48 and earned a degree to go to work in the medical field.  He cuts hair part time now after he did so for seventeen years and it was as if I were back in Eugene, at LCC, when I had many such conversations with older students who did similar things.

2.  Byrdman and I went on a mini-tour of Cd'A for lunch.  We ate at Parabola's.  It used to be the Time Out Tavern and it's been handsomely remodeled and is a great neighborhood pub with excellent beers.  I had a tasty IPA from MickDuff's and a chocolate cherry stout from somewhere in the region. I seem to have forgotten where.  Our pub burger loaded with onion rings and blue cheese was superb and we both agreed the seasoned fries were the best we'd ever had.  Our session was made really superb by the sparkling work of Brittany, a very friendly, talkative, and knowledgeable bartender.

3.  Speaking of knowledgeable, there was Amanda at the neighborhood taproom/brewery, Slate Creek.  A guy came in to buy a growler and we got to yakking and it turned out he used to live in Eugene and was crazy about Hop Valley and their Citrus Mistress (me, too!) and when Amanda overheard us, she told us she had lived in Eugene, worked at Oakshire, and had been on the Eugene Beer Week Board.  This was really fun!  And the beer was good.  I enjoyed their 6 Weight IPA and Salmon Run Red Ale.

It was fun having a short crawl with Byrdman and, as always, for me, I really enjoy making the acquaintance of young people, like the guy at Slate Creek, and like Amanda and Brittany, who are enthused about beer, have lived in a bunch of other places, and enjoy gabbing about it.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 12/19/14: Duh!, Popcorn Balls, Nalley's Chili

1.  So.  I'm all about helping Mom save money and so today I drove uptown to Wells Fargo to pay her bank credit card.  It saved postage.

I decided to go to the drive up station, which is across the street from the bank itself.  I arrived and sat in the car behind a person whose transaction took quite a while, but that was okay.  It gave me some time to meditate upon all I'd learned over the last few days about Christmas from the Hallmark channel.

My turn came and I put the bill and the check in the tube thing and put it in the machine that sucks it over to the bank.

I sat.  I thought about how Christmas isn't about commercialization.  I found myself wondering if we really do have guardian angels in our lives.  I let images of how healthy and good looking all the characters in Hallmark movies are dance in my head.  I contemplated how, in Hallmark movies, people say things like Christmas carols make Christmas food taste better, I just let the transaction be slow.  I figured it's the way things go at Wells Fargo Bank, Kellogg, Idaho.

The image of my favorite teller Jimmie came on the screen just outside the driver's side window of Mom's Malibu.

"Sir, please send your transaction over."

I suddenly realized I had put the bill and the check in the tube, but . . .

So I pushed the "send" button.

That sped things up.

2.  Mom and I got the popcorn ball assembly line set up.  First, we made red peppermint balls and then a batch of carmel popcorn balls.  It was an aromatic and tasty way to spend the afternoon.

3.  I had a package of chicken drumsticks all ready to prepare, but Mom, knowing that Ed and I were going to go play in Worley, suggested that we have the chicken tomorrow and have Nalley's chili tonight.  She really likes chili out of the can, and, it turns out, so do I.  So we had a quick dinner of Nalley's chili and we finished off the loaf of sourdough bread and enjoyed slices of Tillamook sharp cheese and ate some pineapple and cottage cheese.  Mom helped Ed and me get on the road more quickly and it was a relief to do some easy dinner prep after all the kitchen work the popcorn balls required.

Friday, December 19, 2014

(Post #2900) Three Beautiful Things 12/18/14: What Once Was Lost, More Christmas Treats, Dreamin' with the Deke

This is my 2900th post on kellogg bloggin.

1.  This past spring, when Christy helped Mom bring her garden decor and other items out of the garage into the yard, the bird bath bowl that goes on the bird bath stand was missing.  This sent alarms throughout our family and a search and rescue effort got underway that involved, at different times, Mom, Christy, Everett, Paul, Carol, and possibly Carol's daughters.  I joined the effort when I visited Kellogg in June.  The bird bath bowl wasn't in the garage, it wasn't in the rafters, it wasn't in the upstairs storage closets: it wasn't anywhere.  Its disappearance created one of the most intense sources of bafflement and anxiety in the history of our family.  We all gave up, and to spare one another further bird bath bowl is missing pain and suffering, we only spoke about the bird bath bowl in hushed whispers, out of earshot of Mom.  She'd suffered enough.  

Today, this morning to be exact, I was looking in the big cupboard in the basement for the Mirro spritz cookie tube.  The overhead lighting was too dim for me, so I was using a flashlight.  I never found the spritz cookie utensil, BUT, I happened to shine the light under two fairly large plastic bowls, AND THERE IT WAS!!!  


I took several long, slow breaths.  Before breaking such earth-shattering news to Mom, I wanted to be sure I was correct, that I wasn't the victim of an optical illusion created by my heart's desire that I had found the bird bath bowl.

Mom came down to the basement to help me find the Mirro spritz cookie tube and I quietly and cautiously said, "Mom.  I-I-I think I found the bird bath bowl."

Mom's jaw dropped.

"You're kidding!"

"Isn't this it?"

When suddenly the basement was filled with warm light and angels began to sing hymns of joy, when ghosts of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir belted out Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus", and when Mom broke out a happy Moon Walk,  I knew it was the bird bath bowl.

It is our Christmas miracle.

What once was lost has now been found.

2.  Nothing on this day could really top the finding of the bird bath bowl, but Mom and I did not rest on our laurels.  We got to work right away making Nuts and Bolts (a 50 year old probably know it as Chex Holiday Mix), spritz cookies, and miniature honey cakes.  Mom's stamina in the kitchen has greatly diminished, but, working together, we knocked out these holiday treats and all that remains is making the popcorn balls.

3.  The Deke and I had a couple of really good phone talks and we went right into everything's on the table mode and discussed all kinds of possibilities as to what our life together might look like in the next few years.  My only wish is that we could teleport ourselves to 16 Tons or Billy Mac's or Cornucopia where the talks that got us to Maryland happened and were such perfect places for such discussions -- but, I'm confident we'll find our talking joint(s) in the Greenbelt area once I get back.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 12/17/14: Decorating Mom's House, Baking Goodies with Mom, Hallmark Movies

1.  The Help Mom Get the House Decorated for Christmas Project continues -- plants moved and rearranged, creche on the television, lights on the new plants on the television, angel with a color wheel of different colors inside of it needs a new bulb -- probably won't make the cut --, and an assortment of other angels, reindeer, ornaments, and other lights ready to be placed around the house with care.  Things are looking very festive around here.

2.  The Help Mom Bake Christmas Goodies for Christmas Project continues:  today's goodie:  a five (I think) layered cookie of melted margarine, graham cracker crumbs, butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, sweet condensed milk, and ground walnuts.  Later, after they cooled, Mom and I worked together to extract the cookies from the pan.  They are sweet, rich, and ready to eat and ready to share if you happen to be in the neighborhood and want to drop by.

3.  Once  today's episode of  General Hospital ended at two o'clock, Mom had me change the channel to 44 -- yes, the Hallmark Channel.  I didn't watch the movie (one of Hallmark's 12 Movies of Christmas) closely, but the one that was on today definitely featured a woman who was unsure about a man, a man who was romantically non-committal, and I sensed that characters were struggling with whether or not they were feeling the Christmas spirit -- I know the woman of the movie stated that "Christmas is more than commercialization".  I didn't see the conclusion of the movie, but I'll bravely predict that the romantic problems got solved and that something happened, maybe while the woman television anchor was doing her community service for a car collision she was in, that restored everyone's Christmas spirit.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 12/16/14: Slow Day, Address Correct, Breakfast Dinner Collaboration

1.  Slow day.  Mom worked all day on her Christmas cards and we won't get going on the Christmas decorations in the living room until she finishes them.  I think she's done -- so tomorrow could be the big day!

2.  I made a couple of calls to Maryland today and the insurance agency has our correct address in Greenbelt and it's likely that the bills from the Laurel clinic just haven't been mailed yet.

3.  Mom and I worked together to cook a breakfast for dinner:  waffles, sausage, fried potatoes, and fried eggs.  We succeeded!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 12/15/14: Retired Educators' Christmas Gala, Saving Money, Everything's on the Table

1.  Mom and I piled in to the Malibu and jetted to Post Falls for the Christmas meeting of the North Idaho Retired Educators luncheon.  While we wolfed down our Senior Citizen meal consisting of hot beef sandwich, canned corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, and marshmallow something dessert (we were told it would taste like cheesecake), the girls ensemble from Post Falls High School presented a superb mix of Christmas songs.  I remembered being in the Cardinal Chorale at North Idaho College and how we gave Christmas programs out in the community of Coeur d' Alene and how much fun it was to make people happy with our singing.  This is what happened at the Post Falls Senior Center:  the girls made all of us happy with their energy and the beauty of their songs and their singing.

2.  After the luncheon, it was time to go save money.  Mom and I went to J. C. Penney.  Mom brought a fistful of coupons and found a few items for herself and some Christmas gifts and she found a cooperative cashier who helped her divide her purchases into piles, one where she could used this coupon and another where she could use that one, and after about ten minutes of sorting and scanning, Mom's purchase was completed and she walked proudly out of the store, having saved about 350,000 dollars.  The people in the line backing up behind her while she saved every possible penny were patient and seemed to be filled with the Christmas spirit of peace and goodwill toward Mom.  (Me, too!)  We made another money saving trip, this time to Shopko where, unknown to Mom, but ready to make her day, were some half price discounts on things she wanted to buy.  As we left the store, I imagined Katrina and the Waves playing "Walking on Sunshine" as the soundtrack to our shopping safari in Coeur d'Alene.

3.  The Deke called me while Mom and I were eating dinner and discussed what might be next for us in the upcoming year and we agreed that we will continue to live with the motto that got us to Greenbelt, MD:  everything is on the table.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 12/14/14: Worship in Comfort, Pictures -- Finally, Smart Diners

1.  Last Saturday, Carol and Mom went to a holiday tea at Mountain View Congregational Church across the street and Carol took Mom into the sanctuary and suggested she sit in one of the pews and see if it was comfortable for her, to see if she could get out of the pew all right.  Mom discovered the pews worked for her.  Therefore, Mom and I went to church together this morning and I think this will become more regular for Mom.  I'm very grateful to Carol for taking Mom on this little side trip at the church so that she knows that she can worship and be comfortable.

2.  I have only taken pictures twice since leaving Greenbelt on Nov. 5.  It's hard to explain.  I can't explain why I take so few pictures in Kellogg -- in fact, I haven't taken a single picture in Kellogg.  I took a few, however, over Thanksgiving at Martin Creek/Lake Roosevelt and Russell and I went on a photo stroll on December 7.  This afternoon, I finally looked at these pictures and here is one from Lake Roosevelt and one from the stroll with Russell that I liked:

Lake Roosevelt

Leaves on the Trail Near Autzen Stadium

3.  Mom and I are making the best possible use of the food we have on hand.  Tonight we ate chicken thighs leftover from Friday and I cooked up the Brussel sprouts that we still had from Thanksgiving and we made another dent in the leftover cranberry sauce and I augmented a green salad we've been working on with slices of radishes that we have now used up that have lasted us quite a while.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 12/13/14: Oh Tannenbaum, Scroogy Paul, 1313 Dinner and Ale

1.  I think getting Mom's house ready for Christmas might be at least a five day project, maybe three or four.  Today was Day #2:  we found a string of lights that worked to replace the ones that didn't, we strung golden garland around the tree, and we unwrapped and hung the ornaments.  Mom knows where every ornament came from, including as gifts from students she had, whom she can identify. The ornaments often moved her to giggle with delight.  Mom loves decorating the Christmas tree -- more than anyone I know.

By the way, Day #2 also included putting gift bags under the tree and putting the living room furniture back in place.

2.  Mom and I headed east to Wallace where Carol and Paul and the rest of the 6th Street Melodrama cast put on their Christmas program.  It was a series of favorite Christmas songs built around Paul playing against type as a Grinchy, Scroogy middle-aged husband/father who wanted all the hubbub of Christmas to vanish and was a first-class crab as his wife, Carol, decorated the tree and as family friends arrived to go caroling.  But, Paul's character had a conversion experience while his wife and friends were out caroling when he sang "Somewhere in My Memory" and gazed upon the family stockings hung over the fireplace and at pictures of his daughters.  I nearly stood up and cried out, "Good to have you back, Paul", but I restrained myself.

3.  Mom treated Carol, Paul, and me to dinner at the 1313 Club in downtown Wallace where we basked in the afterglow of Carol and Paul's success on the stage and enjoyed some solid food.  I ordered a Wallace Brewing Winter Warmer (8.0 ABV).  I drank a few sips when it first arrived, but it was in a frosted glass and I could tell it would taste better at a warmer temperature.  So, I ate my cheeseburger and fries, left the beer alone, and finished after I'd eaten and after it warmed a bit.  I was right.  The complex of malt and wintry flavors were much more enjoyable as the beer lost its iciness.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 12/12/14: Easy Cash, The Spirit of Kellogg, The Tree is Up

1.  You might remember that the last time I took a check to Wells Fargo in uptown Kellogg to cash that I had to see three tellers, show my drivers license and passport, and was on the verge of being electronically thumb printed when suddenly the second teller I saw realized I am on Mom's account. Today, I went to this same bank to cash a check for Mom and I stepped up to Jimmie's station and told her that I had a check to cash and that I was on the account.  Jimmie remembered me!  The transaction was a snap!  Jimmie dished out the cash Mom needed in no time and I was on my way. Yes!

2.  Friday is always shop the ads day for Mom at Yoke's and Stein's and I did the shopping today. Every day when I go out in Kellogg, it saddens me to see how many broken down people are out, struggling with canes, often gray-faced, sometimes stooped over.  My home town has lost much of its vitality. But, it hasn't lost its friendliness.  Today I was moved by Jimmie's friendliness at the bank, by kidding around with the Yoke's pharmacist, and by the kind words Donna, at Yoke's, had so say about Mom.  Kellogg is aging in every way:  not just the people, but the sidewalks and streets and buildings are showing cracks and wear.  But, the spirit of friendliness and goodwill endures.

3.  Mom's artificial tree is a pole with slots and you stick the branches into the slots.  I remembered that last year we packed the tree very carefully, with the color-coded branches for each level tied together and a tag saying what color they are.  Our careful work paid off and getting the tree put together was a breeze.  Of course, one of the strings of lights didn't work and we'll need to deal with that tomorrow. Tomorrow is also garland and ornaments day.  We'll figure that stuff out, no problem: the key fact:  the tree is up!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Three Beautiful Things 12/11/14: Java on Sherman, Doc Visit with Mom, Pork Chop Dinner

1.  Christy and I had an excellent breakfast warmed by fine service from Cait at Java on Sherman in Cd'A.

2.  I went to the clinic with Mom and met her nurse, Cindy, and her doctor, Dr. McDonald.  Mom found out she bruises easily and needs to reduce her salt intake, so it was a pretty low key visit and it was good to get a picture of how Mom's doctor communicates with her.  Mom is really good about communicating with her doctor.

3.  Back home in Kellogg means back to the kitchen and I fried Mom and me up some pork chops, fried some potatoes, heated up a can of sweet corn, and combined a bean salad made for a potluck over the weekend with spiral noodles left over from last week's beef stroganoff and make an impromptu pasta salad.

Three Beautiful Things 12/10/14: Thanks to Rita, Thirty-Five Again, Kennel Club Zombie Nation Bucket List

1.  It was with deep gratitude that I said goodbye to Rita.  I am grateful for her generous hospitality, tasty and nourishing meals,  and for our hours of thoughtful conversations ruminating on the past and working to figure out all of the complications of our present lives -- and the future.

2.  As I checked in my suitcase at the Alaska express counter, the woman who took my bag and I overheard a guy at the next agent's station complain about how old he felt after the agent wished him a happy birthday.  He was turning thirty-five.  The agent helping me looked at me, saw my white hair, and I looked at her, seeing the years in the wrinkles in her face and we laughed, both wishing we could be thirty-five again and correct all the stuff we'd done wrong between then and now.  Ha!

3.  After dinner at Gordy's, Christy and I went to the Spokane Arena for the Zags/Cougar tilt.  For the first time in my life, I decided to put one experience on a bucket list.  Before I die, I want to put on a red Zag shirt and join the Kennel Club and jump up and down, cry out, "We. Are. G. U.!", sing, wave my arms up and down in front of me, and put my arms around Kennel Clubbers on each side of me and sway to the pre-game music and halftime music of Zombie Nation.  It's been a long time since I've wanted to be college aged again, but tonight I loved the Kennel Club Zombie Nation choreography so much that I've decided that in a perfect world the Kennel Club would give me a one game invite and let me do their Zombie Nation gig with them!

Three (Is Not Enough) Beautiful Things 12/09/14: Creswell Sanctuary, Scones with Jane, Sparky Talk, Dinner with Harold

1.  Rita and I went to the Creswell Bakery for biscuits and sausage gravy and a marvelous hazelnut sticky bun.  The Creswell Bakery is another sanctuary.  Is this bakery housed in a former church building or am I just imagining that?  Hmmm.  Well, it feels like a church to me and the dining area is peaceful and open, much like a church fellowship hall and it was most peaceful enjoying this fine meal with Rita in such a relaxing environment.

2.  I first met Jane King around twenty years ago when she enrolled in my Wednesday night Shakespeare class.  She has been a generous supporter of learning communities and other invigorating projects at LCC.  (Jane is a faithful reader of this blog -- she is often the reader most on my mind as I write these posts.)  Rita and I visited Jane today in her handsome apartment at the Eugene Hotel for coffee and scones and had a lovely time getting caught up. We also had a deep and emotional discussion about the difficulties of aging parents in relation to their children and the difficulties of children in relation to their aging parents.  It was a generous, tearful discussion, assuming the best about our respective family members and looking head on at how challenging it is when parents grow older and increasingly vulnerable.

3.  I really needed one more visit with Sparky.  I had to talk with her about the New Shakespeare Showcase and ruminate about the future and we had a great conversation.  Joe joined in and we covered all kinds of ground, and left each other with the hope that maybe we'll not only see each other in the not too distant future, but we both badly want to work together again....

4.  Sunday morning, I didn't make it to the 8:00 service where I had hoped to sit in the pew with Harold Lannom and possibly have a coffee afterward.  I didn't make it.  Instead, I went to Harold's house this afternoon and then we went to Billy Mac's for drinks and a fine dinner.  Harold told me about the transitions in his life, about giving up his car, about getting ready to move out of his house, about his hope for traveling to Washington, D. C.  Luckily, as a retiree, I can help Harold with all he needs if he comes to D. C., starting with meeting him at the airport and helping him get from place to place and see what and who he wants to see.  (We dreamed of a liturgy given somewhere in the D. C. area that would include me reading the Old Testament lesson and Betsy Tesi giving the sermon!)

Three Beautiful Things 12/08/14: Catching Up with Linda, LCC Quick Stop, Dinner Party Ghosts

1.  Linda and I had a lot of catching up to do.  It had been months since I popped up in her cubicle and kept her from getting work done by gabbing with her about the Ducks and other topics in our frequent sports talk conversations.  Today we got together at Turtles and each ordered a huge bucket of chicken noodle soup and talked and talked about all kinds of stuff, ranging from family matters to Ducks basketball and football.  We even talked a tiny bit about LCC, but kept away from that subject for the most part.  We had a fantastic time and pretty much got everything figured out that needed figuring.

2.  I knew when Linda gave me a ride back to LCC, that Jeff would be in his office so I dropped in to talk about the scintillating Showcase and I enjoyed all the enthusiasm he had for it -- and enjoyed talking about other things as well.  I figured I'd have a chance surprise meeting or two with old friends while at LCC briefly and I was not disappointed.  I saw and got to embrace both Hyla and Jose.

3.  Rita and I were guests at a gorgeous lasagna dinner party at Pam and Mike's.  For a good period of time, the conversation turned to oral history as Rita and I shared our experiences with learning communities at LCC, stretching back over twenty years and ending at the end of fall 1999 when Rita retired.  Many ghosts, some friendly, some nasty visited Pam and Mike's lovely new home as we dug into those memories and told our stories.

Three (Is Not Enough) Beautiful Things 12/07/14: Sanctuary, Taverns, Foggy Photo Shoot, MD Talk, Lo Mein, TroxBall

1.  I find (and have found) sanctuary in many places in my life:  home, with family, in the tavern, in the classroom, and, as you would expect, church.  Today, I returned to the sanctuary, the peacefulness, the comfort, the sense of belonging I experience at St. Mary's Episcopal Church and it was deeply satisfying.  St. Mary's has been my most consistent source of sanctuary over the last thirty-five years and I was sad to leave it behind when we moved to Maryland.  Today, with Father Ted as the celebrant, the parish's new assistant priest, Rev. Brad Toebben, preaching,  with Father Bingham Powell sidling next to me in the pew during confession, with Tom Tent singing "Comfort Ye My People", I felt enfolded into liturgical dignity, pastoral comfort, prophetic and intelligent preaching, stirring music, and the many years of history I have experienced in this church, this parish.

2.  I attended church with the Troxstar and I told him afterward that I wanted a Hammerhead beer before I left Eugene, so after a beer at 16 Tons to commemorate that we both got started there after an 11:00 service back in 2011, and then went to the High Street Brewery and Pub and enjoyed a Hammerhead.  It's still, of all the beers I've ever drunk, the most reliable, both in taste and in its power to bring back great memories of days back in the late nineties when I began drinking beer again and of trips to Edgefield and of great sessions in many McMenamin's pubs around Oregon.  See what I mean?  The tavern is a sanctuary to me.

3.  I enjoyed the foggy environs down by Autzen Stadium and near the dog park as Russell and I went on a photo stroll which turned out to be less, for me, about photos and more about watching dogs, enjoying the fog rolling in, and having more time to be with Russell.

4.  Jay and Sherri and I had, through a small flurry of text messages, decided to meet at Tap and Growler and I got to meet their friends Andy and Tracy and we had some great conversation about beer and food and hockey and a host of other topics, including the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D. C., where Andy used to live.  He confirmed many of my first impressions of the Greenbelt area, including the sad reality that the taproom movement has not yet reached much of these suburbs, just yet, but the Deke and I have been to Franklin's in Hyattsville, the joint that several of Andy's friends texted to him as a good place to go -- it was fun having these texts fly around about the place I live while enjoying a couple of sour ales with Jay, Sherri, Tracy, and Andy.

5.  I just had to have a dinner at Jade Palace.  I overdid it, but it was sure fun to go back to this place where I've enjoyed Chinese food for nearly twenty years and have a small bowl (it was huge) of Won Ton soup and a plate of Lo Mein noodles with beef, chicken, and shrimp.

6.  When the New England Patriots are on television,  I have had fun over the years watching them with the Troxstar.  The Pats are his home state squad and so their games take on a heightened importance in the presence of the Troxstar and I had fun watching the last hour of so of the their game with the Chargers over at Chez Trox.