Saturday, December 3, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/02/16: Wal Mart Patience, Beers at the Inland, Burgers from the Elks

1. I exercised patience. I stayed calm. It paid off. After scanning aisle after aisle after aisle, I finally found a winter cap at the Smelterville Wal Mart. I'm happy that now I can take walks around town and keep my head warm. By the way, on this shopping trip, I didn't have much luck at first finding a pair of ear buds, but I exercised patience and stayed calm and it paid off:  I found them. (It turns out, however, that I didn't have to buy them. Even though I had pulled out the sofa cushion looking for my original pair and didn't find them, Christy reached behind the cushion and did find them. I am officially a lousy finder -- whether at the Smelterville Wal Mart or in Mom's house.)

2. Later, I pulled on my new winter cap and strolled uptown to the Inland Lounge, the anchor of the resurgence and renaissance of business in uptown Kellogg, to see proprietor Bob Cassidy and meet with Byrdman and enjoy a few beers together.  Byrdman and I also got to talk with some guys we've known forever:  Orland Berti, Jim O'Reilly, and Mike Pierce.

3. Byrdman and I need some sustenance while drinking and gabbing at the Inland Lounge's plank, so Bob called over to the Elks Club across the street and ordered us cheeseburgers and fries. The Elks has a fund-raising burger feed every Friday night and head burger chef Harley Birchmier not only fries up superb burgers and fries, he happily delivers to the Inland Lounge and so Byrdman and I got to yak with him a bit, too, and got an important question answered about the once infamous Shady Lady Tavern up Wardner. Neither Bob, Byrdman, nor I could remember that Wes Aamodt renamed the Wardner Tavern/Colonial Inn The Shady Lady when he took it over.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/01/16: Fruit Cake and Christmas Stuff, Christmas Portrait, Blueback Loaf

1. I filled up the loaf pans with fruit cake dough and baked six loaves and, in the meantime, I crawled into the storage closet upstairs under the eaves of the south side of the house and pulled out the crates and boxes of Christmas decorations and lights and put them in Mom's tv room, the staging area for it's beginning to look a little bit like Christmas, 2016.

2. Christy and Everett entrusted me to take their Christmas card picture in their back yard in front of their decorated and colorfully painted shed.  I think at least one of the pictures will work.  Good news.  I felt very rusty -- I haven't taken many pictures since arriving in Kellogg -- and I have little confidence taking posed portraits of any kind. But, with Christy and Everett next door, I knew that if I screwed things up too badly, we could always have a do over -- or several.

3.  It seems like every day in the kitchen here at Mom's is a venture, for me, into unexplored territory. The other day Mom was going through a recipe box, looking for the fruit cake recipe, and she happened upon a 1988 recipe from Aunt Ronnie (RIP) for salmon loaf. Mom yanked it out, handed it to me, and said I could use the jar of blueback that Rosie brought us the other day and make this recipe. I had never cooked a fish loaf before, so I put on yet another pair of big boy pants and crushed a couple of cups of saltine crackers, put them in a mixing bowl, and then dumped in the fish, added milk, melted butter, and a beaten egg, and a little onion and salt.  Luckily, the fruit cake loaf pans were clean, so I packed two of them full of the fish loaf goop and baked them -- and the loaves tasted good. Mom was happy with dinner. I was greatly relieved.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/30/16: Fruit Cake Prep, Sibling Summit, Taco Casserole

1. The 12 days (or so) of helping Mom get things ready for Christmas began today when I combined applesauce, shortening, and sugar and cooked it and let it cool and folded it into the flour, baking soda, walnuts, candied cherries and lemon peel, dates, currants, and spices I had poured into a bowl and made a enough fruit cake dough for six fruitcakes. I will bake them on Thursday morning.

2. Christy, Carol, and I met at 3:30 at Best Shots for a sibling summit to enjoy some drinks together and talk about Mom's care and decide how much longer I will stay in Kellogg before heading back to Maryland (after December 13th). On the libation side of things, I drank an Irish Death and Carol was drinking a Stella cider and suddenly I thought a half cider/half Irish Death would taste good -- and I was right!

3. It was Christy's turn to make dinner and she brought over a delicious taco casserole and a spicy cabbage salad. Mom, Christy, Everett, and I sat around Mom's kitchen table and enjoyed our meal and talked about the events of the day -- Christy's return from the sleep clinic, how well (or not) Mom's new clothes fit, and the 12 (or so) days of helping Mom get things ready for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/29/16: Stable Day, Happy Coincidence, Biscuits and Salad

1. Mom had a stable day.  The home nurse changed her dressing and wrap and observed continued improvement as her wound continues to heal.

2. Happy coincidence:  I happened to be at Yoke's at the same time one of Mom's nurses dropped in to order a change in Mom's pillbox and so I returned the pillbox I had just picked up to the pharmacist and she took pills that Mom now takes on an "as needed" basis out of the box and gave them to me in a pill bottle.

3. Mom and I ate leftovers for dinner. Since we had a cup of buttermilk left over, I whipped up another batch of the buttermilk biscuits I had fixed for the first time ever for Sunday's family dinner. Today, I tried to make them thicker and succeeded. I also made a variation of the cabbage cucumber salad I made on Sunday. I was very happy that adding celery to this salad worked so well.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/28/16: Mom's Determination, Friends Write 3BTs, Goulash

1. Mom's determination rarely flags. Today was no exception. She has misplaced a couple of documents and today she spent hours in her room going through piles of papers, sorting out greeting cards, leafing through folders she's filed. She never found what she was looking for and it's unclear to me whether she will dive back into the project on Tuesday.

2. Back in 1982-84, I taught English at Whitworth College (now University) and am good friends with five students from back then and we have regular contact online. Three of them have recently started posting Three Beautiful Things. Before the originator of 3BTs, Clare Law, shuttered her blog over a year ago, I could go to the Honor Roll of 3BTers she kept and read other people's lists and I enjoyed this a lot. Until recently, the only 3BTer I know of and read regularly is Rachel on tumblr; but, now, I eagerly open up Facebook, and am warmed by reading about the poem Bridgit completed, Val's deeply satisfying Spanish Syrah, and Susan-Louise resting under the soft flannel quilt her mother made -- at 93 years old.

3.  All I needed was a pound of ground beef, a can of stewed tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce, a cup of elbow macaroni, some shredded cheese, water, and seasonings and in a single pan I cooked up a goulash dinner for Mom and me, accompanied by some corn out of the can.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/27/16: Zag Brunch, Turkey Soup, Family Dinner

1. After the home nurse packed, dressed, and wrapped Mom's wound -- which continues to heal --, I went over to Christy's for Bloody Marys, and brunch snacks: smoked salmon, crackers, and sausages in a crescent roll. The occasion? The Zags played at 10:30 PST and I got to watch the second half. The Iowa State Cyclones chipped away at the Zags' once seemingly insurmountable eighteen point lead, but the Zags hung on to win 73-71. It was a lot of fun sitting in Christy and Everett's living room and biting nails together.

2. I started preparing the turkey soup broth, with the turkey in it, on Friday, enhanced it and heated it some more on Saturday, and liked how it tasted today as I skimmed more fat off of it, simmered it, and added in garlic, onion, carrots, celery, and green beans. On a separate burner, I boiled the Country Pasta home style egg noodles (from Polson, MT) and, at the last minute, added them to the soup.  It was fun taking so long to make this soup and I was very happy that it provided a tasty main meal for our Sunday family dinner.

3. I had never made turkey soup before and I ventured into untraveled country for the rest of our dinner as well. I made a batch of buttermilk biscuits and made a cabbage and cucumber and radish salad dressed with oil and vinegar and celery salt. But, I didn't do all the work for dinner.  Christy brought over a pitcher of homemade sangria and she baked a chocolate pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream for dessert. Since we were not together on Thanksgiving Day, it was fun to all sit at the same table as the Thanksgiving weekend came to an end.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/26/16: Broth Work, Dinner with Classmates, Photo with Mom

1. Yesterday, I made broth from the Thanksgiving turkey remains and today I just couldn't leave the broth alone and got it out and took steps to enhance its flavor with the hope that when I make Sunday's soup for our family dinner, it will be good.

2. Joni, Ed, Jake, Carol, Stu, Lars, and I seized a table at Best Shots to enjoy dinner together and to make some high level decisions about the 2017 All-Class Reunion next August which coincides with the 45th anniversary of our high school graduation. After four minutes of discussion, we decided what to do.

3.  Before heading over to Best Shots and, later, uptown to Bob Cassidy's Inland Lounge, Stu, Lars, and Ed dropped by Mom's house and we all posed with Mom for this picture, taken by Christy:

From the bottom: Ed, Stu, Mom, Lars, and Me

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/25/16: Mom's Good Day, A Day in Mom's Kitchen, Beer Dreams

1.  Mom had a solid day. Her blood pressure's upper number climbed into the 100s for the first time in a while, her weight was where the doctor wants it, she took a refreshing shower, and she had a good visit with Kim when she came to change the dressing and wraps on her legs. Later, Mom sat side by side with Christy at the kitchen table and did a little more online holiday shopping and her appetite for Thanksgiving leftovers was good.

2.  I got a lot done in Mom's kitchen today and longed to be in our kitchen in our apartment home in Greenbelt, to be where I know where everything is and where I'm deeply familiar with my pots and pans and utensils. The kitchen is a sanctuary for me, a place where I relax, ponder things, create, and fix food that satisfies the Deke and other family members and brings all of us some happiness. Today, Mom's kitchen nearly reached sanctuary status as I boiled down the remains of the turkey in preparation for making turkey soup for Sunday's family dinner and as I cleaned, talked with Mom about where she wanted me to put stuff, repacked some leftovers and rearranged the icebox, mopped the floor, and tried to keep Mom's kitchen a pleasant and organized place to cook, and, for me, to have a place to retreat into.

3. Around six o'clock Ed swung by and I piled into the Cambry and we went over to Noah's and then to Best Shots for a couple of libations and shoot the breeze. At Noah's, I was very happy to see a tap handle I never expected to see: Firestone Walker's Luponic Distortion. I hadn't enjoyed one of these fine beers since back in July, in Spokane, at the Blackbird Tavern. Over at Best Shots, I took an imaginary stroll down Blair Blvd. in Eugene to the Ninkasi Tasting Room by ordering myself a Total Domination IPA. I fantasized about driving to Portland and Eugene to see friends and enjoy some of the fine places where I enjoyed sampling beers back in the old days. I also fantasized about dropping in on some of the new places that have popped up over the last two and a half years since we moved away.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/24/16: Mom's Day Improves Again, My First Time, Christy Makes Dinner Complete

1. About an hour after she got up this morning, Mom complained of some dizziness. Her blood pressure is low and so we know this can happen. But, as the day progressed, Mom remarked repeatedly that she was feeling better and it showed in her energy, in her session of online Christmas shopping with Christy, and in her interest in the Thanksgiving dinner preparations going on around her. Mom gave me some turkey prep advice in the kitchen, she did her job of stuffing the celery with Old English cheese mixed with cream cheese, and she ate a full dinner. All in all, after a slow start, Mom had a good day.

2. Today I did a bunch of things in the kitchen for the very first time. I had never made cranberry sauce before and I made a sauce with sugar, water, and fresh-squeezed orange juice. I'd never made dressing before. So, I made two! Mom wanted a dressing like the kind she's used to so Christy bought a box of bread crumbs and I followed the directions and it came out great. I also baked a pan of cornbread, let some Dave's White Bread Done Right Killer Bread go stale, and made an oyster dressing. Everyone liked it! (Whew!)

I also, for the first time in my life, roasted our family's Thanksgiving turkey. Taking the Deke's advice, I roasted it in a bag. I had read that a Kosher salt rub done 48 or 24 hours ahead of the roasting can help the turkey be less dry, so I did that on Wednesday -- next time, I'll do it on Tuesday -- and everything conspired in my favor and the turkey came out of the oven tasty to both Mom and Christy's satisfaction.  (We missed Everett at the table. He's fighting off an illness.)

3. That I didn't ruin the turkey or the dressing or the cranberry sauce helped make our dinner a good one, and so did all of Christy's excellent work in her kitchen next door. She baked rolls, baked an apple-cranberry-currant pie, roasted sweet potatoes, and fixed the tastiest of potatoes and made the gravy. Christy was also in charge of our pre-dinner cocktails and she made me and her each deeply satisfying Old-Fashioneds. She also made each of us a delicious shrimp cocktail.  And, to top it off, Christy made a lovely flower arrangement for the center of our dinner table. (Did I leave anything out? Please tell me if I did and accept my apologies in advance.)

The best part of the dinner, though, might have been Mom's comment that this was the most relaxing Thanksgiving she could remember.  I am very thankful that she felt this way and that our labors of love satisfied her so much.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/23/16: Mom's Day Gets Better, Pandora and Gin in the Kitchen, The Past is With Me

1. Mom woke up today feeling, in her words, "a bit ditzy". It wasn't like she suddenly became Lucy Ricardo, but I think she was light headed and on the verge of dizzy. She'd had a pretty significant drop in weight in the last 24 hours, no doubt caused by her diuretic, and her weight dropped under the threshold the doctor established for when she goes off the water pill. As the day progressed, she felt better -- she ate her breakfast, a good tomato soup and crackers lunch, and ate plenty of the beef stroganoff I fixed for dinner, along with a piece of bread pudding. Late in the morning, she showered without a problem and was in good shape when Kim, the in-home nurse, arrived to change the dressing on her wound and the compression wraps on her legs. The wound continues to heal and Mom's legs, as expected with the loss of weight, were not swollen with edema.

2. I slipped away in the afternoon and shopped for tonight's dinner and tomorrow's Thanksgiving groceries at Yoke's in preparation to do some cooking tonight. Sometimes, I enjoy nursing a gin on the rocks while I cook and so I stopped off at the liquor store and purchased some cheap gin and enjoyed it in the kitchen while plugged into the Leon Russell station on Pandora. I have also created a "Let It Ride" station and got in the mood for some Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Guess Who, and other similar artists and while the cornbread for one of the Thanksgiving dressings baked, I got to play a little air guitar along with "Takin' Care of Business," out of Mom's sight.  I didn't want her to worry that I'd gotten all ditzy.

3. I am deeply grateful that Deb, a treasured friend I fell out of contact with over twenty-five years ago, followed up an exchange we had on Facebook recently with an email, telling me about the two books of poetry she's published and a bit about her life over the last several years. I wrote back and look forward to more correspondence. I have enjoyed reflecting back on our friendship, especially in Eugene, and the many conversations we had about so many things. Many of those conversations continue to affect how I see and understand the world. I don't live in the past, but I have a deep awareness of how the past is always with me.