Monday, February 19, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/18/18: Blizzard, Irish Stew, Lots to Talk About

1. We woke up to a blizzard. The wind wasn't terribly strong, but strong enough that the relentless snowfall descended on a slant. The snow buried the sidewalks and driveway I shoveled yesterday and I kept looking out the window, ready to shovel again if the snowfall subsided. Early in the afternoon, it did subside and I was about to spring into action and heard the welcome sound of our neighbor's snowblower. Bob Cummings was out clearing snow. My work was done.

2. When Julie came to visit me and the Deke back on St. Patrick's Day two years ago in Greenbelt, I made Irish stew and that stew has been on my mind all week.  Just a few days ago, I transferred a beef stock that had been bubbling away for a week into a gallon ziplock bag and I wanted to put it to use. Tonight the Deke and I hosted family dinner. So, I browned two pounds of stew meat in the Dutch oven in two batches, removed the meat, and replaced it with chopped onion, halved baby potatoes, and chopped celery and carrots. I removed the vegetables, melted some butter in the Dutch oven and sauteed six smashed garlic gloves. By now, the interior of the Dutch Oven was encrusted with blackened stew meat remnants and I rubbed some grease on my elbows and deglazed the the Dutch oven with red wine and a wooden spoon.

Now I added the broth along with North Coast's Rasputin Imperial Russian Stout (I know -- in an Irish stew? Ha!), and other seasonings -- but I purposely left out the tomato paste. I made an executive decision about the tomato paste. I just wanted this to be a tomato-less stew. It already had notes of sweetness promised by the carrots and a small amount of sugar and I wanted this stew to lean much toward the savory. I stirred the liquid while it reached a low boil, added back in the meat and vegetables and put it all in the oven at 275 degrees. The recipe called for a 350 degree oven, but I wanted it to cook at a slower rate, so I made another executive decision and lowered the temperature.

I checked on the stew after it had been cooking for about three hours and everything was just as I had hoped it might be: the vegetables were tender, but not mushy and the meat was also tender and easy to chew. I then made another executive decision. I let the stew rest on the stovetop for a while, unheated, just to give the flavors a chance to be left alone.

Around 5:15 I brought the stew back up to a slow boil,  made dumpling dough and popped about eight dumplings on the stew's surface, let them simmer uncovered for about fifteen minutes, then put the lid on the Dutch oven and let the dumplings simmer more until I served Christy, Carol, Paul, Everett, the Deke, and me stew at around 6:30. The Deke made a delicious and creative cabbage salad with celery and feta cheese and an oil and vinegar dressing. Before eating, I served everyone a Jameson's Irish Whiskey mixed with ginger ale and a squirt of lime juice, one of my favorite drinks. We had chocolate truffles for dessert.

The recipe for this Irish stew can be found right here.

3. We had a lot to talk about at dinner and afterward -- the Deke reported on her terrific trip to Eugene, we all talked about last night's crab feed at the Elks, and we had fascinating discussions about physical therapy, food, and, the inescapable topic of the day, the snow!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/17/18: Elks Crab Feed, Return of the Snow, The Deke's CD Works Wonders (Again)

1. First, the big news! Every year for as long as I can remember, Ed has asked me if there were any chance I'd be in Kellogg on the third weekend of February for the Kellogg Elks Crab Feed, sponsored by the Past Exalted Rulers. Every year, Ed told me about how he and Nancy and Buff and Kathy and Jake and Carol Lee and Joni and Danny and Sharon and others get together and he sure hoped one day the Deke and I could join them for their annual get together at the annual Crab Feed.

When the Deke and I decided to move to Kellogg back in September, one of the first things Ed said to me when I told him about our decision was, "Well, great! You'll be able to join us for the crab feed in February." Harley and Candy run the Elks, and whenever Ed and I ran into them uptown last fall, Ed always asked Harley when crab feed was going to be, wanting to make sure he had the dates right so he wouldn't make other plans.

So, tonight, February 17th, was the Elks Crab Feed. Harley and Candy had seats reserved for our party in the basement of the Elks. We arrived plenty early. I enjoyed a beer or two and the Deke and I yakked with different people here and there; we saw Christy and Everett and Carol and Paul at their table upstairs. Soon enough, it was time to line up with a plate and have members of the high school's JROTC program plop a whole crab, a container of baked beans, a scoop of coleslaw, and a fresh, soft bread stick on each of our plates and we headed back downstairs to eat.

Throughout the Elks' building, upstairs and down, people were having a blast, talking, laughing, eating, milling around a bit. I felt like I'd been plopped into the happiest place on earth and saw what Ed meant all these years when he told me, "Bill, people absolutely love the crab feed! They have a ball!"

Every day, things happen here in Kellogg that bring to mind what a different world I live in now than all those years in Eugene and those three years in Virginia/Maryland. This crab feed epitomized what a great night out in Kellogg can be -- people giving each other a bad time, picking on each other, people telling stories, laughing, the feeling that a simple all you can eat crab dinner is a royal occasion, and my favorite moment of the night when Harley came to the basement with baskets to pass around so we could tip the JROTC members who were our servers, circulating around the two rooms with buckets of crab,  and bussed our tables.

Harley came to the basement after he's solicited tips upstairs and announced what the people upstairs had contributed in tips and announced that he was sure the basement could do even better. He encouraged us to be generous because, "These kids might just save your butts one day!"

Well, the basement contributions fell just short of the upstairs total and, when Harley announced this, hands with different denominations of dollar bills immediately shot up around the room and people added more money to the tips already collected, and I guess those of us in the basement topped the total of what was collected upstairs. The JROTC program ended up with about 1500 dollars in donations to help fund their program.

I also ended the evening with a nice donation for use in my food lab: three 1 gallon ziplock bags worth of crab shells to eventually put in the crockpot and let simmer for a few days to make a soup stock. The first thing I did when I arrived home was freeze the shells and one day I will take them out, clean them, and see what kind of stock results. I don't know what to expect. That's life in the food lab.

2. It snowed like crazy much of the day in Kellogg. If we had many different words for snow, the word to describe today's snow would denote a wet snow falling as big flakes, on the edge of rain. At around two o'clock or so (I guess) the snow subsided and I shoveled away, clearing our sidewalks and the driveway.

3. During the day, the Deke finished knitting a hat for Meredith's daughter. Meredith manages the restaurant at Radio Brewing. Around four o'clock or so, we drove up to Radio Brewing to deliver the hat and Meredith was sure her daughter would love the hat and then she told us how the Deke's children's CD, Come and Go With Me, had saved her family's car vacation last week because repeated playings of the Deke's CD soothed their two year old, helped keep him quiet and content, as he grew tired and cranky because of long hours in the car. She said they must have played the CD about twenty-four times! It worked every time.

By the way, other mothers over the years have told the Deke that this CD had the same effect on their restless children.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/16/18: Learning More at Breakfast, Easy Driving (Whew!), The Deke is Back

1. Completely out of the blue this morning, Jerry's son Jared popped into Sam's to join us for breakfast. Toward the end of our meal, it registered with Jerry that Jared was not in the Silver Valley for a business meeting or on some other business outing for Interstate Concrete and Asphalt -- where he is a general manager --, but he drove over from the Coeur d'Alene area just to join us for breakfast. When this sunk in to Jerry, he smiled as happily as I've ever seen him. Over the years, I'd heard some about Jared from Ed, but I had never met him and it was fun to make his acquaintance and listen to him and Buff, who is a City Councilor for Kellogg, discuss the paving and other projects that have been going on in Kellogg. I learned a lot about local sewage and paving problems around here.

By the way, since moving to Kellogg, I've learned more about pickup trucks, dump trucks, large pieces of equipment (excavators, tractors, low boys, skid steers, etc.), local infrastructure problems, snow plowing, and other such things than I've known in my whole life. I learn more and more every Friday at Sam's and from listening to others talk about these things at the Inland Lounge. I don't contribute much to these conversations, but I sure take a lot in and enjoy it immensely.

2. I started to get anxious this morning as the skies opened up and the snow fell. The Deke would be flying into Spokane shortly after 12 noon and all this snow meant that the road going over the 4th of July Pass could be more challenging than I really wanted to face. So, I turned my low grade anxiety into action and vacuumed, swept and mopped the kitchen and living floors, got some dishes done, and, before long, loaded some additional winter clothing gear into the Sube, filled it with gas, and struck out on I-90.

To my great relief, the roads were mostly wet. There was some slush over the 4th of July Pass and I was behind a truck from South Carolina pulling a big boat, going very slowly, but that was fine with me. I'd left Kellogg plenty early and had mentally steadied myself for the possibility that it might be a slow trip.

Once over the pass, coming into both CdA and Spokane, the snow stopped and the roads were easy to traverse. I had volunteered to run an errand for Christy and drove out to Medicine Man Pharmacy near Prairie Rd and Highway 95 with no problem, stopped at coffee stand on the outskirts of Post Falls for an Americano and steamed milk, and arrived at the Spokane Airport's cell phone parking lot in plenty of time.

The Deke and I arrived back to Kellogg just as another snow storm was getting underway and had no problems driving from Spokane to Kellogg.

I was profoundly relieved.

3.  Once we arrived home, first things first. I warmed up the chicken stew and dumplings I made a couple of days ago and the Deke loved it.  Soon she lay down for a nap and slept for three hours or so. We had thought we might go up to the Inland Lounge, but soon it seemed a better idea to sit in the quiet of our living room, listening to jazz guitar from Pandora. We had a long conversation about the Deke's trip, about the gathering to celebrate the life of Brian West, how generous her friends were about letting her stay with them, how many excellent visits she had with different people, especially, but hardly limited to, teachers and principals and others from Charlemagne, where she taught. The Deke made new friends at 16 Tons while also having fun at the every Wednesday evening wine tasting with old friends, Jay and Sherri. 

I didn't wish I'd been with the Deke. While I would have loved to have seen friends in Eugene and revisit old haunts, I know how fun it is to make a trip like this alone, not to have to discuss with another person what to do at any time, and to have maximum flexibility. I've had many such days in New York City and Washington D. C. and made two such trips, albeit short ones, to Eugene after we moved to Maryland. The Deke and I love to go places together, but sometimes it just works out better to go solo and I'm very happy this was one of those times.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/15/18: Walking Uptown, Legs, Chicken Tacos

1.  The sun broke out today. The sidewalks were bare. The conditions were ideal for walking, so I walked uptown and deposited a small refund Mom received from Avista into the estate account. By walking to the bank and back, I strolled about two and half miles.

2. It was time for me to work on my legs on the weight machines at the Wellness Center, so I got that done. I thought how much I would enjoy it to walk a couple of miles or so before going to the weight machines, like I did today, rather than working out on the stationary bike or the treadmill. I hope I can do it the way I did today more often.

3. I had some chicken left over even after Christy, Everett, and I shared a meal on Tuesday and I made chicken and dumplings on Wednesday. I decided I had just enough chicken left to make tacos. I bought some small corn tortillas and shredded cheese at Yoke's. When I got home, I put the shredded chicken in the cast iron skillet with chili powder and lime juice, heated it up and warmed the tortillas on the center grilling area on our stove. I also warmed up some black beans.  It all worked splendidly together and with the addition of the salsa we had in the fridge, I enjoyed another simple and satisfying meal made from the whole chicken I braised on Tuesday. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/14/18: Shoveling Snow, Bach and Cleaning Up, Chicken Stew and Dumplings

1. The Silver Valley woke up this morning to new snow, not quite two inches, I'd say, by morning's end. I didn't want to deal with shoveling deep snow, so, in case the snowfall continued through the day, I shoveled our driveway and sidewalks and also shoveled Christy and Everett's. I do fine shoveling shallow snow, but when snow gets deep, it can border on being too much for me.  It was a good little workout and gave me some peace of mind.

2. With all the cooking I've been doing, I've been good about keeping up with cleaning the dishes I've used and keeping the countertops clean. But, I've neglected the stove, so today I gave the stove a good cleaning -- not only on the surface, but around the burners and also cleaned the dishwasher door and the refrigerator doors.  To help make this task more pleasant and to slow myself down, I listened to Glenn Gould play numerous of Bach's Preludes and Fugues.

3. I was eager to cook up something with the chicken left over from last night. I also didn't want to make a trip to the store. So, I poured the leftover liquid from last night's braise into the Dutch oven and heated it up a little bit. I coarsely chopped carrots, an onion, a couple of potatoes, and bits of celery and took an already opened bag of frozen green beans out of the freezer. I tossed these vegetables into the liquid and simmered them until they began to get tender. I added shredded chicken to the pot and while it continued to simmer, I combined flour, baking powder, butter cut into chips, and milk in a bowl to make dumpling dough and before long I dropped balls of dough into my stew and let them simmer for about 10 minutes or so. I decided, after 10 minutes, that the stew needed some water. I brought the thinner stew back to a slow boil, reduced the heat to low again, put the lid on the Dutch oven and let the dumplings simmer for another 10 minutes or so in the covered pot.

In keeping with my efforts while home alone to try new things in the kitchen, I should add that I had never made dumplings before. Not only that, I haven't eaten them very often, but I love them.  I really don't have a standard by which to determine if these were good dumplings. But, I liked them. The chicken stew was superb. The flavors of the vegetables and the tarragon from the night before had deepened and the chicken had remained moist and its flavor had also matured. Because I wanted to, I spent the entirety of this snowy chilly day by myself in the house and this meal was a perfect warming, filling, and most tasty companion.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/13/18: Thoughts on Loneliness, All Over the Music Map, Braising a Whole Chicken

1.  I enjoy my life more when the Deke and I are together, but, we've spent significant stretches of time apart over the last ten years or so. Our reasons for separation have been various and always admirable, almost always having to do with spending time with family members in different parts of the country. For almost three weeks, the Deke has been in Eugene, spending time with friends from her many walks of life there, whether in her many jobs of doing music with children, her work as a classroom teacher, or as a performing singer and songwriter. She's having a splendid visit and I'm very happy that it's worked out so well.

I haven't been terribly lonely, but at times I feel hints, just hints, of the pressure and the debilitating effects that accompany chronic loneliness. It's not so much a feeling of sadness. It's more a sense that, if I am not vigilant, my abilities to think, create, imagine, feel purposeful, and feel physically healthy will begin to diminish. I experience the onset of loneliness as weight on my skin and pressure in my head and, sometimes, cramps in my stomach.  Even though I've given much time and effort over the years to being independent and able to rely on myself, and even though I enjoy doing a lot of things alone, like going to movies and taking pictures and cooking, I am fundamentally a social person and need to spend time with others to get outside of myself, think more clearly, have fun, and feel more fully alive.

When Mom was failing, both at home and in the nursing home, my main concern was that she'd feel lonely, and have to endure the physical weight and emotional pain of loneliness along with her other medical difficulties. Christy, Carol, Paul, Zoe and I and others did all we could to help Mom not suffer loneliness, but chronic illness is a lonely experience and I'm afraid she had some lonely and disorienting times in her house and in her room at Kindred.

So, when the Deke goes away and I'm home by myself, I try to turn her absence into a way to take advantage of having the house to myself by doing some things I might be less likely to do if the Deke were here.

2. One of those things is listen to as many different kinds of music as possible. Today, as I went through my day, I listened to the Miles Davis station on Pandora, the Emerson String Quartet's album, Bach: Art of the Fugue, thirty-six songs by the Highwaymen collected on a single album; I listened to a nearly three hour long Amazon playlist entitled, Southern Rock BBQ so I could enjoy the Allman Brothers, Lynrd Skynrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, Little Feat, the Outlaws, Pure Prairie League, Riders of the Purple Sage and a bunch of other artists. I listened to the playful jazz erotica of Michael Franks' album, The Art of Tea. I spent some time with Uncle Tupelo and the Drive-By Truckers. Music is memory. My life is pretty full of fun times as well as painful failures and all of this music had my mind wandering all over my many joys and agonies.

3. When the Deke is gone, I like to try out things in the kitchen I haven't done before so that if I cook something that turns out lousy, I'm the only one who has to suffer through eating it. I've been experimenting with different ways to use the perpetual stock that bubbles daily in the crock pot. A few days ago, I decided to see if I could succeed at braising a beef roast. Today, I decided to see what happened if I braised the whole chicken I took out a couple of days ago to thaw.

I salted, peppered, and garlic powdered and then browned the chicken and, at the same time, sauteed chunks of carrot, potato, celery, and onion along with sliced mushrooms in the Dutch oven. When the vegetables were beginning to brown and starting to get tender, I hoisted the chicken out of the cast iron skillet and placed it atop the vegetables and covered the chicken with a generous supply of tarragon sprigs. I poured the fat out of the skillet and deglazed it with red wine and put a chunk of frozen turkey stock in the skillet and melted it. I put the juice of a whole lemon in the liquid bubbling in the skillet and then poured it over the chicken and popped it all in the oven, set at 275 degrees.

Three hours later, I checked the chicken. The meat was falling off the bone and I was satisfied it was done. I gingerly lifted the chicken out of the Dutch oven onto a plate and then scooped out the vegetables with a slotted spoon. I was happy to discover that the vegetables were cooked, but not mushy. I removed the chicken from the bones and put the bones in the freezer for a future stock.

I liked the lemony and licorice-y flavors present in the liquid and poured it over both my vegetables and the chicken on my plate. I also liked that the turkey stock gave the chicken a kind of turkey-chicken hybrid flavor.

These have been good days in my food lab. I am now confident that if the Deke and I decide we'd like to have either a braised roast or a braised chicken, that I can make a meal we'll both enjoy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/12/18: Dump Run, Surprise Hug at St. Vincent's, Leftover Heaven

1.  Early this afternoon, I sauntered over to Christy and Everett's and pocketed the keys to Everett's pick up and drove the cardboard and bags of discarded things to the dump. Christy had some other things to go to the dump, so I returned, loaded them up, and made another trip.

The dump has instituted a sticker program. Using the county dump (well, transfer station) is covered by a solid waste fee and the sticker confirms that one has paid the fee.

When I arrived with my first load, the woman who checked me in thanked me very enthusiastically for having the sticker on the windshield. It kind of fired me up that she was so excited and I smiled broadly and said, "You bet!"

2. Christy also had donations ready to go out to St. Vincent de Paul's collection center in Osburn. The first load included two large dog crates -- Christy and Everett had just bought new ones. I arrived at St. Vincent's with the crates and some other things, lifted the crates out of the bed of the pickup, and suddenly the guy who works in the collection area charged me and wrapped himself around me in a big hug.

He was moved to hug me by the fact that a guy my age could lift the crates out of the pickup all by myself. He was fired up. When he saw my Lane sweatshirt, he told me he always thinks of Eugene as the first place, when heading south, a person sees palm trees.

"Isn't that right?"

"Well, I don't think so. I lived there a long time and don't remember palm trees."

I made one more trip to St. Vincent's and the guy who'd hugged me earlier told me he almost sold the dog crates already and that it was a great donation to make to a second hand store.

"That's great. I'm glad it's such a good thing!"

3.  I pulled the leftover braised round eye roast and vegetables out of the fridge and put a helping into a pan to warm up. I dipped into the beef stock that's been bubbling away since Thursday and added some to the leftovers, making them into something like a stew or a soup.

This was one of the best bowls of anything I've ever eaten. The leftover sauce that the beef and vegetables had been resting in had matured, especially the ginger. The added stock complimented the sauce, increasing its depth. The meat and vegetables absorbed the salty gingery garlic-y flavors of the sauce and stock and I found myself wishing that I'd never finish this meal. But, I did, and I greedily returned to the kitchen and heated up the still remaining leftovers with stock again and indulged in my last helping of this most satisfying meal.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/11/18: Texistentialism and Other Music, Cruising Pinehurst, Spaghetti

1. I created a Jimmie Dale Gilmore station on Pandora. Later I listened to a live performance from the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville featuring Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, and Steve Earle. I also listened to  the entire Amazon playlist, "Steve Earle and More". In other words, my day was filled with some of my favorite American songs and performers including The Flatlanders, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Sun Volt, Merle Haggard, Ray Wylie Hubbard, John Prine, John Hiatt, and many, many others. It was a day of poetry, a variety of voices, fine musicians, and a lot of feeling.

2. Clorox makes this toilet cleaning wand with a disposable pad of bleach cleaner on the end of it that I like a lot. A while back, I ran out of the pads and I looked for replacements at the hardware and grocery stores in Kellogg without luck. Today, I wondered if Barney's True Value in Pinehurst might stock them and, if they didn't, I would go to Wal Mart. Barney's True Value had them. I whooped with joy silently within myself. Robin, who helped the Deke and me with our paint purchases during the remodel, saw me and took a few minutes to ask me if we were happy with the paint and smiled broadly when I told her we were very happy.

After purchasing the pads, I took a spin along the side of the golf course where I can see the first four holes and remembered how much I loved playing on this course many years ago -- I played my last round there in 1997 with Kenton Bird when I was home for our twenty-fifth class reunion.

3. I resisted the temptation to dive right back into my braised roast leftovers. I tore off one strand of beef to see how it tasted after a day in the fridge and I was taken aback by how tasty it is. But, I decided to delay my gratification and, instead, I made a simple and very satisfying bowl of spaghetti and diced tomatoes with a hill of freshly grated parmesan cheese on top.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/10/18: Braised Round Eye Roast, Helping Christy, Wildcats Defeat Badgers

1. It's a small round eye roast, about a pound and a half. It had been resting, salted, in a ziplock bag with sprigs of oregano since Thursday evening when I took it out early this afternoon. I browned it -- or seared it -- on all sides, and while that took place I poured some olive oil in the ceramic cast iron dutch oven, turned the heat on medium, and sauteed garlic, ginger, onion, celery, carrots, and potatoes until they softened up a bit and nearly turned brown. I added back in the oregano.  I put the browned roast on top of the vegetables, deglazed the skillet I'd browned the roast in with red wine, and poured the beef bits and wine over the meat. I needed more liquid for the braising and dipped into the beef stock that's been bubbling away in the crock pot since Thursday night. I suddenly realized I'd forgotten mushrooms, so I dropped some slices into the braise and put it in the oven at 275 degrees.

After the roast braised for four hours, I decided to give it a try. If it wasn't perfectly fork tender, it was real close. The liquid thickened up and into a flavorful sauce, heartened by the vegetables, enhanced by the saltiness of the beef, and brightened by the ginger. The meat tore off easily. I put some in a bowl with some of the vegetables and poured sauce over it. I enjoyed the comfort of this solid food. I also have leftovers, so I am living with anticipation of when I decide to eat my second meal of braised roast beef and vegetables.

2. Christy had recruited Carol, Paul, and me to help her bring broken down cardboard boxes, bags of things she discarded, and several totes out of the basement. The totes went in the garage and the bags and cardboard went into the back of Everett's truck. I'll deliver them to the dump after Christy and Everett leave on their getaway on Monday. We also moved a large wooden trunk off the lawn and under the awning on the deck. This was all very satisfying work as Christy continues to work on getting things out of her house that she doesn't want any more and gets her basement better organized. I really enjoy helping anyone reduce their stash of material belongings and Christy definitely lightened her load today.

3.  Ed swung by around 6:30 and we headed up to Andrews Gymnasium to watch the Kellogg Wildcats boys basketball team play the Bonners Ferry Badgers. Preceding the game, the school paid tribute to the seniors on the basketball team, as well as pep band and JROTC seniors. The seniors, in turn, then gathered in front of the scorers' table and presented a gift of appreciation to the public address system voice of the Wildcats, Stephen Shepperd.

The game was a nail biter. Kellogg's boys were getting good shots out of their offense, but many of those very good shots rolled off the rim or clanged against the heel of the rim and just wouldn't fall. I kept thinking that if I were coaching this team, I'd be happy that the boys were getting good inside shots and that some nights they just don't drop. But, the Cats scrapped. I noted that at key times players who had missed shots turned around and immediately made excellent defensive plays. They didn't sulk. The Cats got a couple of key three point goals from Grant Nearing in the second half, had other players make key shots, had enough of those good shots inside fall, and dug in fiercely on defense to hang on for a 55-50 win.

It was a lot of fun being at this game. These players handle the ball and make moves in ways I never dreamed of when I was a Kellogg Wildcat and it's fun to watch the changes in the game and how these guys play.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/09/17: Breakfast at Sam's, Working Out, Family Dinner at the Hilltop

1.  Scott and Ed were sure happy at breakfast. We've had mild weather here in the Silver Valley for the last ten days or so -- by mild, I mean, no snowfall. For Scott and Ed, that means no pain in the neck plowing or shoveling, whether it's at the local post offices or clearing the way to the Sudden Link towers above Wardner. But, as if the snow gods were taunting them, we awoke this morning to snow falling, but the Silver Valley's asphalt is warm enough that it didn't stick to the roads -- or to parking lots, so Ed, Scott, and I had a good breakfast together. We missed Buff and Jerry. Buff is out of town on a ski trip and Jerry had grandpa duties.

2. I got in a good workout late this morning. I programmed the recumbent bicycle machine to give me a random ride and so it took me, by steps, up an increasingly steeper imaginary hill. It was so steep at some points that I could barely pedal, but I persisted and knew that before too long the ride would head back downhill and, at the end of my twenty minutes of cycling, I'd get to cool down on a long stretch of an even bike trail. Today was my day to work on the upper body and, like the last time I did this, I reached a point where I felt nauseous. I took a brief time out, found a place to sit in the nearby lobby, recovered quickly, and got back at it, and, by the end of my workout, I felt refreshed and invigorated. I'm wondering if the nausea is caused by dehydration. I'm not pushing myself very hard. I mean I'm not like a guy preparing to summit Mt. Everest, ha!, so I'm going to be more mindful of drinking water and see if I can make it through my next session without feeling temporarily sick.

3. I was starting to make plans to brown the round eye roast I salted last night and to get the braising underway. But, then, a text message came shooting into my afternoon from Christy. She invited me to join her and Everett and Carol and Paul for dinner out. It turns out that Christy put in a several hours of work sorting and organizing things in their basement and helped motivate herself to do this tiresome work with the promise of going out to eat dinner.

I decided the round eye roast could wait. In fact, I salted it some more and returned it to the ziplock bag for another night of rest. I'll braise it on Saturday.

Our impromptu family dinner took place at the Hilltop Inn in Kingston. It was really fun to see the place bustling. It was pretty much a full house and people were in high spirits, enjoying one another's company and the cozy comfort of the Hilltop's renovation. At our table, we launched into all kinds of conversation, including a discussion of Paul's work history at Kellogg Transfer and the Lucky Friday mine and a review of Dad's work history, including when he left his salaried position as a foreman in maintenance at the Zinc Plant and went to the bottom of the barrel and hired out on the bull gang. Eventually, he bid himself into a job at the company warehouse. Dad showed us a lot about how it looks to surrender a job that made him miserable to do less prestigious work that made him much happier.

Back in 2006, I wrote about this time in Dad's life, here.