Sunday, February 14, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/13/16: Angela Cut My Hair, Cold Day -- Slow Beer, Rice Noodle Ropes and Red Curry

1. I readily admit it. I'm not a sharp dressed man. I don't have well-coiffed hair. But, I had reached my limit of shabbiness over the last week and today the Deke and I went down to the Hair Cuttery and both got haircuts. The best part of the experience for me was having Angela cut my hair -- she's really kind and I like how she cuts my hair. As I've written before, I am very fortunate to have found two wonderful Angelas here in Greenbelt: Angela the phlebotomist and Angela the hair cutter.

2. It was bitterly cold today. The temperatures plunged and a strong wind kicked up. It was a good day to stay indoors and enjoy some more of that great beer we bought yesterday. The Deke and I split a couple 12 oz cans of RaR's Nanticoke Nectar and one 12 oz can of Bell's Hopslam. With these high quality beers, a little bit goes a long way -- and we still have a can of Hopslam in the icebox, as well as three cans of Nanticoke Nectar.  Slowly. Surely.

3. I helped warm up our evening with a big batch of Thai red curry over stir fried tofu, eggplant, sweet potato, gold potato, and mushrooms. I had bought some big rice noodles at Hung Phat a while back and I decided to try those with the curry. They took a bit longer to cook and it was worth the wait. We'll definitely return to these noodles again -- we entered another new frontier in the world of our kitchen.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/12/16: College Park Diner, Kitten Fight Song, Beer Jackpot!

1. I drove the Deke to Laurel for her annual physical exam -- a 7:30 appointment -- and after I dropped her off at school, I decided to give the College Park Diner a try for breakfast. This was my next stop in my ongoing attempt to find a breakfast place that approximates my favorite spots in Eugene, Kellogg, Coeur d'Alene, and Spokane. I'll go back to the College Park Diner. The coffee was good, the atmosphere was perfectly ordinary, which I enjoyed, and the food came out fast, lightning fast, in fact. The food was all right -- there was nothing special about the sausage patty -- I would have enjoyed a little more adventure. My eggs were cooked beautifully and the hash browns were solid, but I think they'd been frozen, so didn't have the power of freshly grated hash browns. It's rare to find a diner anywhere that serves toast made from really good bread and the rye toast I had was without distinction. After eating at two places in Beltsville that served breakfast on syrofoam plates with plastic forks and knives, I was very pleased to have real dishes and eating utensils this morning!

2. Just before I went to the swimming pool this afternoon, Scott Stuart texted me, wondering if I remembered the words to the Kellogg Junior High School fight song. For Scott and me, junior high was the pinnacle of our public school experience in Kellogg and we go down memory lane a lot. So, I did my best to remember the words to the Kitten fight song -- yes, the high schoolers were the purple and gold Kellogg Wildcats -- in junior high we were the red and white Kellogg Kittens. We were filled with Kitten Pride. I motivated myself  to continue my exercise regimen in the pool thanks to the inspiring Kitten fight song.  It went something like this:

We're going to fight fight fight for red white
We're going to win this game today
We're going to fight fight fight with all our might
For victory will come our way today.
We're going to win win win this basketball game
For victory is our cry
Victory junior high!

3. The Deke and I hit the jackpot at the Old Line Fine Wine and Spirits store.  Before we went back to the bistro for dinner, we checked out the beer offerings in the store.  They had cans of Bell's Hopslam. I've been reading a lot about Hopslam lately and customers at Old Line were limited to three cans a piece ($4.49 a can!) and we purchased our limit.  We figured they'd be out of the Stone Enjoy by 2-14 Black IPA, but NO! One bottle remained. We snatched it. Then, I spied a six pack of a Cambridge, Maryland beer that a guy wrote about as his preference over Hopslam or Troeg's Nugget Nectar --YES! There they were.  Six packs of RaR (Realerevival)'s Nanticoke Nectar.  We have some most enjoyable beer sipping hours ahead of us!   

Friday, February 12, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/11/16: Relishing Days in Eugene with Sparky, Simple Dinner, Rum and Hot Water

1. All Sparky asked from me was two minutes worth of words to be read at Tuesday night's get together at the Wildish Theater in Springfield to celebrate Fools Haven becoming Wildish's resident Shakespeare company.  Sparky and I became best of friends and artistic collaborators beginning back in 1991 -- so I sat here trying to write something in under 300 words about the Shakespeare Showcase and the relationship I've relished for nearly twenty-five years with Sparky. We've worked on countless projects together for everyone from part-time faculty at LCC to donors to the Knight Library to the Lane County Landlord Association to prospective LCC students to the entire faculty and staff of LCC. I've performed in four plays Sparky directed. We have shared countless meals, traveled to Seattle and Portland together to see plays, gone to plays together in Eugene, as well as movies, and have had innumerable conversations in her kitchen and dining area. How to address this rich friendship and string of collaborations in two minutes? I did my best. Whatever I said was going to feel paltry and inadequate, but I hope those who hear what I wrote will know that Sparky has brought vigor and exhilaration and vitality to my life in ways I never dreamed I would ever experience. I just wish I could be in attendance for the bash on Tuesday night to congratulate Sparky, Joe, and Fools Haven on having been invited to establish a home at the Wildish Theater.

2.  The Deke and I took a little trip to Michael's in Laurel and stopped at Shopper's to pick up a cooked whole chicken and a baguette and we then drove to the Diazes for a simple dinner and a good visit with Molly, Hiram, and our grandchildren.

3. A deep chill is moving into this area.  We will probably experience sub-zero temperatures on Saturday with the wind chill factored in. During such cold snaps, I like to drink any kind of alcohol mixed with hot water. Tonight, at the Diazes, I pinched about a shot of white rum from their stash, poured it in a mug, mixed it with hot water and a bit of brown sugar and drinking this simple cocktail warmed me right up.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/10/16: Ash Wednesday and Compline, Noodle Success, Beer Success

1. As I worshiped during the 12 o'clock noon Ash Wednesday service at St. Andrew's Espiscopal Church in College Park, I thought back to Ash Wednesday of 1977 and my role as the leader of the Wednesday night Compline service held at Whitworth Presbyterian Church. I was a Chaplain's Assistant that year at Whitworth College and the Compline service was a liturgical, meditative, service, offered as a way to worship different than the weekly Sunday Campus Worship with its acoustic guitars, Young Life songs, and sermon. I thought about Herb Stocker, a Presbyterian minister who worked in Whitworth's administration, and how he was supportive of Compline and how he agreed to impose ashes on worshiper's foreheads that Wednesday, and, if I'm not mistaken, he asked me to help him mark worshiper's foreheads. I loved writing and leading that service every week. And, today, thirty-nine years later, I miss it.

Note:  I just discovered via the World Wide Web that Herb Stocker died on December 9, 2014. I will continue to remember him with deep gratitude for the many ways he generously helped me in my work with Compline, including serving Communion whenever asked and, as mentioned, imposing the ashes on Ash Wednesday.

2. Tuesday, I went to Target and bought one of those aquatic foam rubber noodles. In the water aerobics class, we exercise with a noodle, and I wanted to work with it outside of class.  Today, I successfully put the noodle to work on my own, making what would have been a good workout in the pool even better.

3. The Deke wanted to drink some good beer at the Old Line Bistro right after school because her day ended with a meeting with the vice principal who had observed her at work in the classroom. The Deke listened to the most negative comments she's ever heard about her work. We hit it lucky at the Old Line Bistro.  A new brewery, 7 Locks of Rockville, MD, had taken over four of the taps and we really enjoyed their IPA -- I also enjoyed their rye IPA -- and the atmosphere at the Old Line was fun and positive and, as a bonus, when we went into the Old Line beer store, they had bombers of Stone's Black IPA, a beer the Deke has been wanting to find for over a year now and Stone just released it as part of their "Best Enjoyed By" series -- so this black IPA is best enjoyed by Valentine's Day, we bought a couple bombers, and enjoyed one when we got back home and we'll definitely enjoy the other before Sunday.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/09/16: Cleaning Day, J. Witnesses in the Hallway, "Oye Como Va" Lenten Discipline?

1. I built my day around cleaning:  laundry, vacuuming, mopping the kitchen and bathroom floors, cleaning the sinks and the bathtub, just making things as fresh as possible. The ultimate reward? Fresh bedding to crawl into at day's end.

2. Maggie and Charly go ballistic with barking whenever a visitor knocks on any door within earshot of our apartment home in our apartment building. Today, a couple from the Jehovah's Witnesses visited our building, knocking on every door. When I heard them creaking down the last flight of stairs headed our way, I stepped out into the hallway. We'd had a pleasant exchange when they entered our building about forty minutes earlier, and the Jehovah's Witness man said, perceptively, "You probably don't want us to come in, do you?" I smiled broadly and replied, "No. I don't think it would work." He saw that I was doing laundry, told me that a "man's work is never done", handed me a tract, told me I would not be disappointed in it, and he and his partner knocked on the door across the hall, the corgis barked their brains out, and this really nice man and woman left the premises. Charly and Maggie shut up. I haven't read the tract yet.

3.  I noted the other day that Rolling Stone was once again promoting its list of the 100 best guitar players -- a list the magazine compiled several years ago, I think. It got me thinking how I have no idea who is the best, if best means having some kind of mastery over the instrument and if it includes some kind of technical brilliance. If I were to rank guitar players, I'd use one criteria:  if I want to be moved by the sound of the electric guitar, who do I search for on YouTube?  Off the top of my head, here's who I turn to:

Jerry Garcia
Neil Young
David Gilmour
Joan Jett
Mark Knopfler
Eric Clapton

And, lastly, Carlos Santana.

Tonight, I found Santana's album Abraxas on YouTube.

I mind traveled back to high school -- in boys' chorus we played "Oye Como Va" over the music room sound system all the time, as if it were our theme song.

Then I thought, maybe for Lent I ought to enter into an Oye Como Va discipline and, rather than deny myself any pleasure of the flesh, I ought to deepen my spirit with forty days and forty nights of Carlos Santana.

We'll see.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/08/16: Happiness, Christy at the Pool, Trying Madras Curry

1. I hope the Monday swim class I'm taking is doing my body some good. If not, at least it's having a positive impact on my overall happiness.

2. I hope the same holds true for Sister Christy. Today on Facebook she reported that she is joining her lifelong friend, Teresa, for water aerobics in the morning at the pool in Mullan.  Great news!

3. I roasted the rest of our broccoli and mushrooms and an eggplant and an onion in the oven and on the stove top I sauteed tofu in one pan and in a big pot I whisked some Madras curry paste into a quart of milk and combined it all in the big pot and fixed some rice and the Deke and I enjoyed a chili peppery, tumericky, cinnamony, clove-y dinner, our first Indian curry at home. I had hoped when I picked up this jar of paste at Hung Phat that it would be tasty -- and it is.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/07/16: Snug and Charly, Ads Interrupted, Dinner with the Diazes

1. I have been assigned to make a slide show by my sister Carol and so I began poking around, looking for music -- not much luck yet -- but, I found about a half a dozen cd's with pictures saved on them from 2007, pictures I took with the first digital Canon I bought back in 2006. Of the pictures I looked at, the most fun was a little series of shots of Snug playing with Charly. I had forgotten that when they were young dogs, they played. For a few minutes, it made me feel a little better about Snug's life.

2. We went over to the Diazes. From another room, and from time to time in the television room, I could hear and see that the television was broadcasting a series of advertisements for movies, cars, CBS programming, beer, relief from constipation, food, and other stuff and that the ads were occasionally interrupted by Super Bowl pre-game interviews and analysis, a man named Seal singing, and some patriotic programming, featuring singers from the armed forces, some of whom Hiram knows. It was fun having him point out these people.  By about 6:45, the ads began to be interrupted by a contest between the Panthers and the Broncos. I'm aware that the ads were interrupted at halftime by an extravagant pop music show, but, by that time, the Deke and I had returned to our apartment home and settled in with the dogs. I checked from time to time to check on the game's score and so I know how it came out.

3. We also ate dinner with the Diazes.  The Deke and I took over potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, garlic, and sausage and the Deke roasted the onion and broccoli and made a dish of mashed cauliflower and potatoes and she fried up diced chunks of sausage. It was an awesome meal, both for the food and the company around the table. We had a lot of fun playing with Olivia and David -- they really liked it when the Deke acted like a radio interviewer and asked them funny questions and they gave funny answers -- mostly about the numerous food related nicknames their Nana has for them.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/06/16: Visiting Lincoln's Cottage, Value Village in Adelphi, Mental Trips

1. The Deke and I jumped into the Sube and barreled down New Hampshire Ave to N. Capitol to Rock Creek Church Rd and before we knew it we had arrived at the Soldiers' Home -- or as it's known today, the Armed Forces Retirement Home -- the grounds upon which sit the Lincoln Cottage. In the 1860s, this wooded oasis atop a hillock was separated from the city of Washington, D. C. by about three miles.  For Abraham Lincoln, this cottage was a place he regularly traveled to by horse or by carriage to get away from the summer heat and stench and noise of Washington, D. C. He spent about a quarter of his presidency here where the air was cooler and the water was cleaner and where he could ponder the great questions and face the great challenges of his presidency in solitude and quiet. We enjoyed our tour and I want to return soon and read more of the displays set up around the visitors' center.

2. As we dashed north on New Hampshire, I spontaneously decided that it would be fun and interesting to head east toward Greenbelt via University Boulevard rather than going on up to the Beltway. I wanted the Deke to see the chaos of mattress stores, bakeries, quick loan outlets, international groceries, fast food stops, liquor stores, pho restaurants, Latin American eateries, and more that are crammed into the New Hampshire/University Blvd. intersection and I thought she'd be interested in going by the Value Village in Adelphi. The Deke was more than casually interested in this Value Village.  We stopped and poked around for a while looking at everything from cookware and bakeware to picture frames to books to children's games and puzzles to DVDs, magazines, and more. It's a huge store. The Deke picked up some fun stuff for the grandchildren to play with when they come over. We had a good time.

3. As I often do, after spending time in a part of Washington, D. C. I'd never been to before, I spent a bunch of time looking at maps, figuring out other routes to drive, looking at proximity of places, like, say, of the Lincoln Cottage to the Hellbender Brewery.  Honestly, I wanted to jump right back into the Sube and rumble around some more, get more of the geography of the NE and NW committed to memory. But, alas, I tried out routes in my imagination and looked up pictures of other places I'd like to visit or patronize and further developed my knowledge of our nation's capital.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/05/16: Outing Plans, Friday Party, Wheaton Regional Park

1. The Deke told me this morning that she'd like to pay a visit to a historical house in or around Washington, D. C. on Saturday, so I poked around on the World Wide Web and looked at three possibilities:  the Frederick Douglass House (in Anacostia, SE D. C.,  sold out), the Clara Barton National Historic Site (in Glen Echo, MD), and the Lincoln Cottage (near Petworth in NW D.C.). We decided to venture into Washington, D. C. and we'll be touring the site where Abraham Lincoln retreated to compose speeches, letters, and policies.

2. As we enjoy doing on Friday when the Deke's work week ends, we buzzed up to the Old Line Bistro. One of our favorite servers, Marcus, saw us arrive and asked Laura, who was the evening's hostess, to seat us at one of his tables.  Marcus was eager to update us on the month long artist's residency he served in Estonia. It was fascinating -- he painted, mounted a show, and survived the brutality of the Estonian cold in January. I very much enjoyed that Troeg's Nugget Nectar release time had arrived and enjoyed the explosion of fresh hopped pine and citrus -- and remembered back to about a year ago when I enjoyed a pint of this beer at the Church Key. Next I slowly made my way to the bottom of a snifter of a power house triple IPA from Brooklyn, the Six Point High Res IIIPA, and, after eating my half of the Game of Thrones burger we split, along with House Parmesan Truffle Fries and the house homemade potato chips, I finished off the evening with a half pint of a sour ale -- I love sour ales for dessert -- a collaborative effort between Union Brewing of Baltimore and Austin Beerworks of Texas called Union Craft Bolo. It had a little bit of everything going on -- funk, peach notes, biscuit, and what some call hay notes -- ha! -- I like those hay notes.  This was definitely a great party.

3. Earlier in the day, I drove much of the length of University Boulevard (MD 193) all the way to Georgia St. (MD 97) and made my way to the Wheaton Regional Park. I'd last been there in August and the sunlight was brutal so I didn't take pictures that day of the Japanese Tea House.  Today, that's what I wanted to do.  The tea house sits about half over land and half over a pond and I had no idea when I arrived today that the pond would still be frozen -- in fact, I had no idea so much snow would still be on the ground in the park.  So I walked nearly 5000 steps and took about eighty-five pictures of paths, shadows, leaves, people walking, bridges, benches, and, as planned, the tea house.  Would you like to see all eighty-five pictures? Keep in mind, when I post my pictures to flickr, I put every picture in my albums because what might seem like a crappy picture today might look much better to me on down the road.  All eighty-five pictures are here.  Here is a sampling of the pictures I took:

Friday, February 5, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 02/04/16: My Right Foot, Hung Phat Rocks, B. Dalton Flashbacks

1.  My right foot has been giving me trouble for a while.  It's not debilitating, but pain regularly swoops around my heel like a wake of vultures. I put inserts in my shoes, a big help, and I wear an ankle support, another big help. I'm determined to see if my foot will accept 5,000 steps a day -- or about two miles.  Today, I racked up 5,000 steps, not at one time, but over the course of the day, and, yes, I experienced some discomfort this evening, but nothing alarming. Here's what I must do:  get that ice pack out and treat my foot at the end of the day.

2. After a cup of coffee and a triple berry scone and some time with The Talented Mr. Ripley at Panera in Beltsville, I strolled a couple of blocks to an International Market, hoping it would be a reliable store closer to home than the other two international markets I really enjoy.  No such luck. It was a dismal, ill-lit, depressing, ill-stocked store.  Oh, well. I jaunted back over to the Sube and rumbled out to Wheaton and had a fun time shopping at Hung Phat, my favorite Asian market, and now we have a pretty good supply of coconut milk, curry pastes, sesame oil, and rice noodles. I swear, if I lived closer to Hung Phat, I'd visit this small, superbly stocked, well-lit,  jam packed store all the time.

3. The Deke needed some supplies at JoAnne's and so I lumbered down the ill-lit desultory mallway of the Greenbelt Plaza a ways to Books-a-Million and suddenly I jetted back in time to downtown Spokane in about 1977 when a B. Dalton Bookseller opened. Like B. Dalton,  Books-a-Million had the table of remainders at the front of the store, shelves jam packed with paperbacks as I drifted deeper into the place, and a great magazine selection on the left wall. When independent bookstores were plentiful, say, in Eugene or Portland, I became snobby about bookstores like B. Dalton, but, now, with independent bookstores having been swooped upon and pecked alive by the wakes of vultures of Amazon and other online merchants, it's a pleasure to have any bookstore nearby and I felt that naive, pre-snobbery B. Dalton Bookseller pleasure of my youth today as I scanned the shelves of Books-a-Million.