Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Three Beautiful Things 12-05-2023: Three Favorite Things, Staying on Task at the Fitness Center, Yucatan Citrus Turkey Bowls for Dinner

1. Admittedly, they aren't worthy of song, like raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but late this morning I did three of my favorite things: I heaped the recyclables into the Sube and blasted up to the Transfer Station and put them in their proper bins; I picked up a few necessities at Yoke's; and, I bought Luna and Copper a big bag of their kidney care cat food. 

2. Riding high on the wild surf of these accomplishments, I rocketed out to the Fitness Center and with the help and inspiration of The Allman Brothers, ZZ Top, Steely Dan, and other combos on my workout playlist, I spent sixty minutes, combined,  huffing and puffing on the recumbent cross trainer and the treadmill. 

3. Back home, I combined green pepper and onion with ground turkey and a Tex-Mex sauce souped up with a Southwest spice blend, lime juice, and mandarin orange juice I also pickled an onion and made a simple smoky crema. All of this went on top of jasmine rice and Debbie and I thought very highly of our Yucatan Citrus Turkey Bowl.  

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Three Beautiful Things 12-04-2023: Exercise and Calories, Billy Mac Recipes and Eugene Memories, Everything but the Kitchen Sink!

1. I decided this morning that it would be wise to give myself some rest before going to CdA to the rehab gym. I decided not to work out twice. I'll never really know if that was a good decision, but I do know that my workout went very well at Kootenai Health. Today's lesson was about calories, burning them, and working to slowly lose weight. I'm trying. 

2. I keep forgetting to write about an uplifting book I ordered and that arrived last week. For the last several years that we lived in Eugene, I joined a group of friends for Thursday dinner at Billy Mac's. This bar and grill, which shared a building with a convenience market, became one of my spiritual centers in Eugene, not only for the excellent food and drink, but, even more enjoyable, for the great company I got to be a part of and for the friendly relationships that developed between people who worked there and Debbie and me. It was also the site of my 2012 retirement party, a most memorable event! 

Billy Mac, the bar and grill's proprietor and head chef, has a full name! It's Billy McCallum. He has a long history of cooking and catering in Eugene. He retired in December, 2021 and Billy Mac's closed.

His sister, Molly McCallum, wrote a combination cook book and family history entitled, Living Legacy: Stories of a Restaurant Family. I'm thrilled to own a copy. 

The book combines, with stories, photographs, and lots of recipes, not only Billy McCallum's life as a chef, but also the history of Billy and Molly's parents and siblings and their beloved restaurant, The Treehouse, which was in business from 1977-1999. 

The recipes are Billy's. 

It is now possible for those of us who loved Billy Mac's (and for those who loved The Treehouse) to take a stab at fixing many of the appetizers, soups, salads, dressings, sandwiches, entrees, and desserts we enjoyed at Billy Mac's. 

In fact, not long after this book came out, some of the people in Eugene who used to gather for the Thursday night dinner sessions went to a reading and book signing of this book. Days later, as a way to celebrate Pam Dane's birthday, they joined forces to prepare a potluck birthday dinner that featured food prepared using Billy McCallum's recipes. 

I've spent some heart warming and nostalgic time reading Molly McCallum's book, going over the recipes, and remembering the many happy evenings I spent at Billy Mac's on Thursdays and many other nights of the week. 

3. I enjoyed the "everything but the kitchen sink" Debbie cooked up tonight in one pan, combining small amounts of food we had left over from earlier meals along with other food that needed to be cooked. This potpourri included eggplant, chicken, onion, some black beans, a bit of gravy, some leftover broccoli, potatoes, and other things. She also added some tomato pesto to the mix and we ate it over jasmine rice. We didn't eat it all. Debbie had had enough of it tonight so she didn't pack up the leftover rice and mishmash for her lunch. That means I'll get to have another crack at this meal in the next day or two. 

Monday, December 4, 2023

Three Beautiful Things 12-03-2023: Zooming About How Then Becomes Now, Another Work Out, Hosting a Tasty Family Dinner

1. Bill, Diane, and I leapt onto the ZOOM machine and had a superb discussion. I came away from it firmly convinced that history isn't so much a way of understanding what happened as a way of gaining insight into continuation. We talked about how we see the USA in 2023 and essentially everything we talked about is not unique to 2023 but a continuation of elements of our nation's life that have been with us all along. 

2. Often our ZOOM conversations last a couple of hours, but today I bowed out around 10:45 because I wanted to get in a workout and the Fitness Center closes at noon on Sunday. I intensified the demands on myself slightly which felt fine while I was on the machines, but by about 2:00 in the afternoon, I felt tired, in need of more recovery than just sitting and resting gave me, and I joined Copper and Luna in the bedroom for a nap that refreshed me and that reassured them that we belong to each other.

3. Debbie and I hosted family dinner tonight and Debbie decided she wanted to fix everything we, as the hosts, contributed. She made one of the best meatloafs I've ever eaten, presented us with delicious twice-baked potatoes, fixed a vegetable plate with dip for an appetizer, and mixed each of us a gin martini. She also bought the table's two bottles of wine. Paul brought a delicious broccoli and cheese side dish and Debbie, Paul, Brian, Molly, Christy, and I thoroughly enjoyed this meal. Carol was at a party with high school friends that happens every year, so she wasn't with us. 

Conversation tonight covered a galaxy of subjects ranging from The Pogues and Flogging Molly to the Idaho Vandals' playoff success to questions about gift giving and receiving at Christmas and the importance of traditions and being with family. 

And a whole bunch of other discussions, too.  

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Three Beautiful Things 12-02-2023: Shoveling Snow, Meeting Ed at The Lounge, Roasted Chicken Dinner

1. It wasn't a heavy snowfall, but enough piled up that it needed to be shoveled. So, instead of going to the fitness center, I got my heart rate up and huffed and puffed a bit shoveling snow. I'm not sure how long I was at it, but I'll tell whoever checks me in at the rehab center on Monday that I exercised for twenty minutes.

2. Ed and I met at The Lounge at 3:00 and had a fun time yakkin'. The snowy weather inspired me to have a pour of brandy alongside a couple pints of Pulaski Porter, a very satisfying combination for a wintry day.

3. I returned home, took a whole chicken out of the icebox, let it warm up to room temperature, and then covered it in butter and seasoned it with a combination of salt, pepper, basil, rosemary, red pepper, thyme, cumin, garlic powder, dry mustard, celery seed, and paprika. I put the chicken in a roasting bag and about 80 minutes later it was ready to sit. Debbie turned the juices in the bag into a delicious gravy and I steamed some broccoli and boiled a handful of baby Yukon golds. 

It was a fun, delicious, and comforting meal on this bleak-ish December night.  

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Three Beautiful Things 12-01-2023: Double Workout and "Shining Star", Coma Nap and The Lounge, Skyline Chili and Sobering TV Programming

1. I piled into the Camry and, on my way to Smelterville, listened to Jeff play some awesome cuts from a live Jerry Garcia Band performance from November 1973 on his radio program, Deadish. Until today, I didn't know that the Jerry Garcia Band performed "Shining Star", and, for whatever it's worth, I enjoyed the performance Jeff played more than any I've ever heard -- yes, even more than Earth, Wind, & Fire. 

The Jerry Garcia Band put me in a great mood to work out twice today: I dropped in for a quick twenty minutes at the fitness center in Smelterville and then blasted over the wet, easy to drive Fourth of July Pass into Coeur d'Alene for my Friday hour of power at the rehab gym.

I got out of Coeur d'Alene and back over the pass before a little hell broke loose later in the afternoon when the snowfall picked up and a semi jack-knifed and was high centered on a jersey barrier. I don't think this was the only accident, but I saw more pictures of this incident than any others. 

2.  Back home, the double workout hit me and I fell into a coma nap for a while. I woke up in time, though, to make plans with Debbie on the texting machine to head up to the Inland Lounge for some gin, relaxation, and yakkin'. Debbie swung by after she was done at school and we had a splendid time, happy to be part of a good crowd of good people, enjoying a few libations and along with lively conversation and laughter.

3. Back home, I made some spaghetti, heated up a can of Skyline chili along with a can of black beans and opened a bag of grated sharp cheddar cheese, and Debbie and I each enjoyed a bowl of Cincinnati chili. We decided to continue our recent habit of watching documentary programming and watched most of the first episode of Ken Burns' Civil War. If we needed something sobering to counter the gin we enjoyed at The Lounge, this documentary fulfilled that mission and more. 

Friday, December 1, 2023

Three Beautiful Things 11-30-2023: Ground Beef and Pinto Bean Soup, Solid Workout, *Frontline* and Lee Harvey Oswald

1.  Over the last ten years, I've been asked quite a few times what I'm doing now that I'm retired. For some reason, I almost never think to answer with the most obvious two words: I cook.

Today, I had some ground beef thawed and I cooked it up with chopped onions and then added diced fire roasted tomatoes, baby carrots, chopped red potatoes, and finely chopped garlic to the pot along with cumin, paprika, oregano, and some red pepper flakes. I let this all cook for a few minutes until fragrant and then added two cups of water and some beef Better than Bullion. I cooked this for about fifteen minutes and then added a couple of cans of pinto beans and let this soup slowly cook until the vegetables were tender. 

It worked. 

I made enough for dinner tonight, Debbie's lunch tomorrow, and for me to have some more when I return home from the rehab gym on Friday.

2. Once I got the soup assembled and cooked, I turned off the heat and bolted out to the Fitness Center and worked out for about forty minutes, the same amount of time I work the machines in CdA. I was a little rubbery from yesterday's double workout, but it was not a problem. It felt really good to get this session in before returning to Kellogg and giving Christy a lift to Silver Valley Tire.

3. After dinner, Debbie and I continued our effort to learn more about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In 2013, Frontline ran an updated version of its 1993 documentary Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?. We watched it tonight. I'd say that Debbie and I agree that this story is so murky, so convoluted, so rife with possibilities that the more we learn,  the less we know for certain. 

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Three Beautiful Things 11-29-2023: Two Workouts, My Workout Playlist, Chickpeas and Lee Harvey Oswald

1. I followed through. 

Yesterday I wrote that since my food hangover kept me from going to the Fitness Center, I would go to Smelterville, work out, and then go to Coeur d'Alene and work out again at the rehab gym.


t's exactly what I did. 

I arrived at the Fitness Center in Smelterville around 9:00 and exercised on two different machines for 45 minutes.

I then rocketed to the rehab gym at Kootenai Health and went through my regular routine.

Yes, I walked out of the second gym a bit rubbery legged and more tired than usual, but part of my rehab program is to log about a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise a week, and I'm right on target to do what I want: exceed that 150 number.

2. While I work out at the CdA gym, one of the staff comes to me with educational material about all kinds of things ranging from home exercise to dietary information. In addition, someone often comes around to listen to my lungs or to check my heart rate and, on occasion, my blood pressure while I'm huffing and puffing away. Therefore, I don't exercise with my wireless earbuds at the rehab gym.

At the Smelterville gym, it's a totally different story, and today, for the first time, I listened to the new workout playlist I created on Spotify while I worked out and it was fun listening to The Who, Bachman Turner Overdrive, ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and others while I huffed and puffed away.

3. After fixing a very interesting and delicious HelloFresh chickpea and rice bowl featuring blistered tomatoes, roasted carrots, and both a schug sauce and a lemon aioli, Debbie and I listened to the next episode of the podcast, Who Killed JFK.  Soledad O'Brien and Rob Reiner guided us through a convoluted story narrating the mind boggling comings and goings of Lee Harvey Oswald from the time he became a Marine to when he moved to the USSR to when he married a Russian woman and they resettled in the USA. This episode posits that Oswald was under the employment and direction of the CIA during this time. Listening to this episode was, for me, like watching a spy movie where I have a lot of trouble keeping up with just what's going on who is working for whom. 

Next week, the podcast will continue to probe the Lee Harvey Oswald story. Before then, I just might listen to tonight's episode again and try to get all the details and twists and turns of his story, as presented by this podcast, straightened out.  

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Three Beautiful Things 11-28-2023: Getting Christy's Support Organized, My First Birria Tacos, A Food Hangover

1. Christy has knee replacement surgery coming up in two weeks and she, Carol, and I got together for lunch at Casa de Oro to go over Christy's schedule for when she needs rides to the hospital, physical therapy, and a post-op follow up appointment. We got that all taken care of and veered off into other subjects -- ha! 

2. I had read recently that Casa de Oro had just begun serving Birria Tacos. I'd never heard of this style, looked into it, learned that it features spicy stewed beef (or goat) in a pan-fried tortilla. The Birria Taco comes with a bowl of seasoned consomm√© for dipping the taco in. If spicy means peppery or hot, my Birria Taco was not spicy in that way. Rather, it was seasoned with spices. I enjoyed my three Birra Tacos and only wish I had ordered them a la carte. The rice and fried beans that came with my tacos was way more food than I wanted. If I'd been thinking clearly, I would have asked for a box and taken home one taco and at least half of the beans and rice. 

But, acting as if one of the teachers at Sunnyside Elementary school was hovering over me, threatening me with detention during noon recess if I didn't clean up my plate, I ate the entire meal.

I can't work out after eating. I'd planned on going to the Fitness Center this afternoon, but even by six o'clock, the heaviness of my lunch was still with me and not only did I not exercise, I didn't eat another bite of food the rest of the day. 

I decided that I would make up for missing my workout today by working out twice on Wednesday: once around 9:00 at the Fitness Center and again, at 11:00, at the Pulmonary Rehab gym in Coeur d'Alene. 

3. I managed to get some shopping done at Yoke's and mail a package at the Post Office. But for much of the afternoon and evening I read newspaper articles online, worked a couple of puzzles, talked with Debbie about her work this week, so far, and simply recovered from eating too much food at lunch. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Three Beautiful Things 11-27-2023: Positive Hour at the Gym, Soup and Salad at Moon Time, Tomato Tortelloni Bake

1. I checked in with Eddie at the rehab gym, happy to report that I had worked out for 200 minutes on my own over the last week. I also lost a little weight. Today, on both of the machines the staff has assigned me to use, I increased the level of difficulty slightly and I liked how these levels pushed me harder, but didn't leave me feeling depleted or sick. I also moved up to five pound hand weights. My blood pressure upon arrival was great. 

It's working splendidly for me to work this program, primarily because I do better when I have someone to report to. This was true several years ago, back in Maryland,  when two of my former LCC students who were earning their nursing degree emailed me,  needing a "patient". All I had to do was report to them my weight, blood pressure, and number of steps. Working with both of them at separate times helped me take better care of myself. I do better when I have someone to report to.   

2. On the spur of the moment, as I was leaving CdA, I decided to stop in at Moon Time for a cup of soup and half a salad and a couple glasses of water. The soup was a delicious, moderately spicy pineapple and shrimp curry and I ordered half a Thai Crunch salad. Even though it was a half a salad, I had to box up about a quarter of it or so and bring it home. It was delicious, but I couldn't eat it all in one sitting. 

3. It sure didn't take much effort to fix tonight's HelloFresh Tomato Tortelloni Bake. All I had to do was briefly heat up some oil, Italian seasoning, chili flakes, and finely chopped garlic in a pan and then add two diced tomatoes to the pan. I let the tomatoes cook for a few minutes and then added a packet of tomato paste. After it cooked for a couple of minutes, I added a cup of water, vegetable stock, and cream cheese and when these ingredients were combined, I dumped the tortellonis in the pan and cooked them until tender. I added a hunk of butter to the tortellonis and sauce and once it melted, stirred it all up.

I had already combined panko, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil in a small bowl and now I spread this mixture over the tortellonis and tomato sauce and put it under the broiler for a couple of minutes and ABBACADABRA!, Debbie and I each had a delicious bowl of food for dinner. 

Monday, November 27, 2023

Three Beautiful Things 11-26-2023: Back on the Wellness Trail, Hiking with *Deadish*, Comic Tales by P. G. Wodehouse

1. I had to put myself to a moderately challenging test today. The Wellness Trail winding up the hill just east of the hospital is only a half a mile long and, in descriptions of it, is considered easy.

Well, it has enough incline and gains enough elevation that it gets me breathing hard and works out my legs.

When I saw Dr. Jespersen back in the spring, I happily reported to him that I'd hiked this trail recently and thought I did pretty well. He told me that consistent physical activity was the key to keeping my pulmonary system functioning well and told me about a patient of his with low functioning lungs who keeps himself getting along well by riding his bicycle everywhere.

Inspired by that story, I took my bike to the shop, made sure it was in good shape, and started riding. I didn't ride everywhere I went, but I took rides on the local Trail of the CdAs.

Then one day in June, I got sick from riding in moderate heat in the sunshine and never rode my bicycle again -- nor did I hike the Wellness Trail. I didn't want to experience that sun/heat illness again.

When I saw Dr. Jespersen near the end of October, he recommended that I start a rehab program in the Cardio-Pulmonary gym at Kootenai Health and I'm going into that gym three days a week now and I've rejoined the Fitness Center near Smelterville and workout there on the days I don't go to CdA.

Today, however, instead of going to the Fitness Center, I returned to the Wellness Trail for the first time in over six months.

Walking to the start of the Wellness Trail, I'd become a little short of breath walking up The Trail that goes from Riverside Ave to Kellogg High School.

As I worked my way up the Wellness Trail, I stopped a handful of times to stop panting, but I thought my recovery time was pretty good. My legs, which had become weakened from inactivity over the summer, felt good going up this trail. I was glad to be doing this hike alone because I was so slow, but I made it to the end of the trail, rested at the picnic table for a short while and had a good hike back down the hill and a good walk home. 

2. Listening to the first hour of Jeff's Thanksgiving Day Deadish show on made my hike even more enjoyable. He played songs from a show on 11-23-1973. Early on, Jeff  featured songs with Bob Weir on lead vocals.  I thought Bob and the band sounded terrific on "El Paso", "Mexicali Rose", and "Looks Like Rain".  Lately, Jeff has been playing a lot of live "Deadish" music from 1973, not just the Grateful Dead, but Jerry Garcia Band performances, Traffic, Old and in the Way, and other stuff. Is it just me -- or were these groups sounding really good fifty years ago? I sure think so.

3. Back home, relaxing in the living room, I put in my wireless earbuds and listened to a couple of stories by P. G. Wodehouse. One was a detective story about a boarder at a place called The Excelsior having been murdered under mysterious circumstances -- it involved bananas, a cobra, a harmonica, and a cat. The other story was an early Bertie Wooster tale that barely included Jeeves. It was hilarious. Bertie's overbearing Aunt Agatha sends Bertie to NYCity with orders to rescue his cousin Gussie. Gussie has fallen in love with a vaudeville singer. Aunt Agatha disapproves. Once Bertie is in NYCity, a series of madcap events occur and the story comes to a surprising and most comic conclusion.  The title of the tale is "Extricating Young Gussie".