Saturday, October 31, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/30/15: I-Wait at the Apple Store, Getting Nothing Done!, Soup Bar Success

1. Allison arrived safely and on time this morning at Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport and we immediately set off for Columbia, MD to see about getting her shattered I-phone repaired/replaced. This turned into an I-Wait as Allison found out at the Apple Store that she needed an appointment to talk with a technician and the only available appointment would mean waiting in the mall for two hours. And so we waited. We headed down to the food court and had a great conversation we never would have had if Allison could have seen a tech right away.  So, Allison has an unshattered I-phone and we know each other better.

2. The I-Wait set my day back about three hours, so I didn't get our apartment home vacuumed or the green curry soup repaired and, after I dropped Allison off at Hiram and Molly's and quickly said hello to Adrienne and Alex, I got stuck in a Capital Beltway traffic crawl.  Ha! But, I got the dogs fed and picked up the Deke from school and we came back to our apartment home and rested up before heading over to chez Diaz.

3. For the evening at chez Diaz, I had made a sweet potato cauliflower soup, a Tuscan chicken soup, and a vegetable beef soup and these soups combined to form a soup bar.  I know I had a blast spending a couple of days getting this soup bar prepared and it made me very happy that people found it so enjoyable. (And we have plenty of left over soup!)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/29/15: Fixing the Green Curry Soup, Stroganoff Variety, Shakespeare Stout and Rhododendrons

1.  I'm just not entirely happy with the recipe I followed to make green curry soup and so I think I'll turn it into something else, either a different soup or something else. The key?  I will be buying eggplant.  Eggplant will rescue this dish.  (So will green beans!)

2.  I'm hoping the cashew tofu mushroom stroganoff I made today will be tasty on Saturday and I think the beef stroganoff will be pretty good, especially once the sour cream goes in just before we eat it -- probably when our grandchildren are done trick or treating.

3.  Splitting a bomber of Rogue's Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout with the Deke this evening transported me back in memory to that night in the spring of 1997 when one of my students and I were drinking some Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout at Rita's house and we had a friendly disagreement about whether rhododendrons have a fragrance and so we hopped into my pickup and drove a short distance to Hendricks Park to check it out. We arrived and a cop was patrolling the park and suddenly we realized the park was closed, so we backed out of the parking lot and were leaving when the cop pulled us over.  "Mr. Woolum!"  "Ted!" The officer was my former student, Ted Williams. A few years back, we'd enjoyed working together a lot in WR 121 (or 122). "You know the park is closed, right?"  "We realized that right after we got here.  You see we had this friendly argument...." "Okay. Well, in the future, try to keep better track of time.  And keep up the good work!"  "You, too, Ted."

He didn't say anything about the two empty Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout bottles in the bed of the pickup.

Thank goodness we weren't drinking in the pickup.

Thank goodness I wasn't intoxicated.

The student and I never settled our disagreement.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/28/15: Dad Would Be 85, Soup Kitchen, Extra Mile at the Pharmacy

1.  I thought a lot about my dad today.  Were he alive, he would have turned 85 years old, having been born on October 28, 1930. He died on June 1, 1996. I often think about the impressions Dad left on me and I think I know what the strongest one is. I experience it every time I go back to Kellogg and see friends or if the subject of my dad comes up on Facebook.

He was a great guy.

Every time Dad comes up in conversation and every time friends and I get to telling stories about Dad, it always ends the same way:  "Jesus, Pert was a great guy."

And he was.  He enjoyed people, liked to pick on them and they liked him picking on them; he loved stories, laughs, shootin' the shit, and, most of all, he loved his wife, kids, and Kellogg friends.

Here's a picture of Dad at Dick and Floyd's,  his favorite watering hole and social club.

Maybe you can see what I mean.

He was a great guy.

2.  Just because I think it would be fun, I decided that when we have our family get together on over the weekend at Molly and Hiram's, it would be fun, on Friday, to have a soup bar and I made three of the soups today, with one more to go.  I made a chicken soup/stew, a ground beef vegetable soup, and, because I want two vegan options, I made a sweet potato,  roasted cauliflower soup and I'll make a green curry vegan soup on Thursday.  In case we all eat together after the grandkids go out on Halloween, I'll be making two stroganoffs:  one beef and the other a vegan tofu stroganoff.  If you saw me making all this food in our apartment home's tiny kitchen with the limited cooking utensils we have, you'd get a kick out of it, maybe shake your head, but I enjoy it and it takes me back to when I lived in a tiny basement apartment on West Broadway and in a tiny duplex on W. 29th Place in Eugene, both with very small kitchens, and I used to cook a lot of food in those tiny spaces with few utensils to work with. Sometimes I imagine, and this is a stretch, that I am Kenny Shopsin in his tiny kitchen at his restaurant in NYC, as featured in the documentary movie, I Like Killing Flies.

3. This kind of stuff really matters to me: at the Greenbelt Co-op Parmacy, I asked if I could get my refill of Lisinopril a month early because I'm going away for the month of November and would run out while away without an early refill. The pharmacist did it, making my life a lot easier. For her, I'm sure, it meant doing extra paperwork with the insurance company, a headache, but one she suffered to help me out.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/27/15: Stroll Around Greenbelt Lake, Mom's Brings Back 1984, Good Talking to Tim

1. I got in over 9000 steps today, mostly from my walk around Greenbelt Lake under grey skies. Cloud cover meant no shadows to play with, but the light was -- what's that word all the photographers use?--diffuse.  That's it.  Diffuse. Here are some pictures I took.  I can't believe I can walk to this place in ten minutes from our apartment home:

2.  I am fixing a bunch of food for the family blowout this coming weekend and after a successful trip to Costco, I did my first full on shopping trip at the Oasis grocery store-like Mom's Organic Grocery in College Park.  It brought back memories of when I moved into an apartment by myself on West Broadway in Eugene in 1984 and didn't have a car and how I shopped at the Kiva or at the New Frontier Market and figured out ways to make delicious meatless meals that were inexpensive and helped me live within the meager means of my Graduate Teaching Fellow stipend.

3. I had a good talk with Tim O'Reilly (KHS, Class of '72) on the telephone this evening.  We're hoping to get together and do something fun after the holidays.  Tim sounded really good and I'll be carrying greetings from him to Kellogg when I go out there next week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/26/15: Back to NE DC, Oasis in College Park, Accidental Dead Air

1.  We had a couple of bags of things to donate to Goodwill and I decided I'd drive about twenty minutes down the Baltimore/Washington Parkway to New York Avenue NE and then South Dakota Ave. NE and take to stuff to the Goodwill there. Driving to this part of DC also meant I could go back to the slightly bewildering intersection of New York Ave, Montana Ave., and West Virginia Ave. and get the way it works straight in my head. I practiced it today -- which means getting to Atlas Brew Works will be a lot easier!

2. Well.  It was akin to going to the old Oasis store on Willamette -- with wider aisles and the added bonus of free coffee -- when I visited Mom's Organic Grocery on Rhode Island Ave. in College Park today. The bulk grains and nuts section, the shelves and shelves of remedies and natural supplements and Tom's toothpaste, the Springfield Creamery products -- yes, Nancy's yogurt --, the Emerald Valley salsa, and the Knudsen juices, among other things, filled me with nostalgia, nostalgia I enjoyed.  All it needed was music by the Grateful Dead playing, but the combination of reggae, the Indigo Girls, and Neko Case worked just fine.

3. I wanted to see if possibly that movie from over thirty years ago, The Grey Fox, was posted on YouTube, but it wasn't.  Somehow, my search for The Grey Fox and then listening to the music the Chieftans supplied for the soundtrack opened up about 140,000 videos of the Grateful Dead.  I watched Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia's appearance on the David Letterman Show back in 1982 and loved their acoustic performance of "Deep Ellum Blues". I also watched Garcia and Ken Kesey on Tom Snyder's show. Tom Snyder always killed me off. Later, I stumbled upon a "Dark Star" from Fillmore East (02-14-70, I think) that sent me off into the far reaches of the cosmos and put me in just the right frame of mind to enjoy a peaceful night's sleep.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/25/15: Montana in My Mind, Planning for the Weekend, Right! Mom's is Close By

1. I began this slow day of thinking, writing, filing, and planning by composing a piece, in fulfillment of Sibling Assignment #170, about the metaphysical Montana that lives in my mind, which is also a short rumination on the West we left behind when we moved to Maryland.  You can read it, here.

2. It's going to be a family weekend over Halloween and so I began reading recipes and planning food for the weekend. The Diaz house will be family get together central and so I volunteered to cook up a storm to help out. I'll work on it all week, shopping, cooking, freezing, storing -- having a blast.

3.  When we met Sarah and Brian at Atlas Brew Works yesterday, they had just been to the Mom's Organic Grocery on New York Avenue and today I re-discovered that Mom's has a store just ten minutes away on Rhode Island Avenue, near REI and not far from the Route 1/I-495 interchange. I have never checked out that store, even though when I was at REI last spring, I made a mental note to do so. I will be checking it out soon.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sibling Assignment #170: The Montana in My Mind

Christy gave the three of us this assignment.  It's very simple:  Memories of Montana.

Christy recalled a trip to the Ross Creek Ancient Cedars through pictures she took, here.  Carol wrote a romantic memory involving her husband Paul, here.

Christy gave us this assignment because she and Carol and I plan to go on a sibling outing to Montana right after Thanksgiving.  I think we'll knock around in Missoula, go to bookstores, eat some food, drink a little local beer, and take pictures.

The second I read this assignment, I went back to my favorite of all summers, the summer of 1992, when I drove from Eugene to Kellogg by heading east, then north, and then west to Kellogg. I spent a majority of those days in Montana, much of it on Richard Hugo tour, visiting places Hugo used as settings for poems he wrote.

I have written several times about this tour:  here, here, here, and here. I've decided not to write about it again.

But, I will begin by referring to a Richard Hugo poem, "Driving Montana".  If you know Hugo's poetry at all, you probably recognize the first line of this poem:  "The day is a woman who loves you. Open." And you might remember this way that Hugo wrote about the openness of Montana:  "Never has your Buick/found this forward a gear."

Those times the Deke and I have driven across Montana, we didn't have a Buick, but first we were with Molly and Patrick in a Toyota van and later we drove across, both directions at different times, in our Subaru.

The last time we drove across Montana, the miles and miles of open land stretched out before us like the uncertain future we were entering.

As we sped on I-90 through Missoula and climbed out of Butte over Homestake Pass and the Continental Divide, headed toward Bozeman, I thought about the West we were leaving behind.

No longer would I be looking east from certain spots in Eugene and see the white-topped peaks of the the Three Sisters and no longer would I hear the Subaru gasp a bit for air at elevation going over the Rockies.

I realized that as we headed out of Bozeman, that eastern Montana, just as eastern Oregon had, afforded me not only a place to let my physical vision stretch as far as it could, but these open spaces gave my mind room to wander, to ponder the grandeur of plains and ranches and room to roam.

We were leaving the landscape that had become the idea of West inside me.  We were leaving those purple humps and the endless wind towers on the Columbia; we were leaving the coulees and mesas and buttes cut into the land by ice age floods in the Inland Empire; we were leaving the endless rolling hills of the Palouse; we were leaving the mighty dunes of the southern coast of Oregon and mighty waves crashing against boulders on the northern coast.  The great expanse of eastern Montana, where almost all I had to do to drive was keep the car going straight, gave me time and the chance to let the images of waterfalls, powerful Coast Range creeks, abundant wetland herons and cormorants, and moose crossing the river road of the North Fork of the CdA fill my mind and let the reservoir of nostalgic images begin to fill.

Driving across Montana, the expanse of land gave way to an expanse of thoughts, of anxieties, of hopes, of curiosity, of faith that leaving the open spaces and towering places of the West for the thick forests and crowded roadways of the east was going to work out.

In July of 2014, driving across Montana made me wonder if the Deke and I really knew what we were doing as we moved east. But did we know what we were doing when we drove Molly and Patrick across Montana, across  the country and back in 1998? Did we know what we were doing when we headed out with Maggie and Snug and drove across Montana on our way across the country to Cincinnati, western North Carolina, and back again to Chicago/Western Springs/Arlington Heights? Did the Deke know what she was doing when she took off across the country with Patrick and Maggie and Charly in 2009, driving to New York, flying to Texas, ending up in Arlington Heights, and calling me to fly to Chicago and drive her back to Oregon -- across Montana?

In the geography of my mind, my long and expansive and restless thoughts are the Montana inside my head. I love this metaphysical Montana inside me, just as I love driving the physical Montana, whether on my way across the country, or, as will happen in November, I'm with my sisters on the way to Missoula.

Three Beautiful Things 10/24/15: Power Chords and Fresh Beer, 16 Tons Alumni Meeting, More Beer at D C Brau

1. It took the Deke and me a while to get ourselves in gear today, but once we did, we decided to go down to Atlas Brew Works on West Virginia, NE in DC and have some fresh brewed beer. Atlas Brew Works' concrete warehouse walls thumped with hard driving electric guitar power chords, signaling that the Deke and I were (and would be) the senior members of the crowd gathered in this brewery. No problem. We shouted out our flight order, the most friendly and helpful beer server in the world shouted back to us what beers she was pouring, put them on a tray, and escorted us to the wobbly picnic table where we sat down and sampled tasters of their lager, California common ale, Belgian lager, anniversary ale, saison, and rye beer.

2. The most remarkable thing happened this afternoon at Atlas Brew Works. Two people finished their beers and left our table and a couple who had been one table over sat at our table, since we were there alone. The Deke remarked to me that drinking these different beers reminded her of tasting different beers at 16 Tons and suddenly the woman who'd just sat at our table leaned over and said, "Eugene's 16 Tons?" "Yeah", the Deke replied with her radiant smile. It turns out that our table mates, newlyweds Sarah and Brian, like us, just moved to the D. C. area from Eugene about a year ago. Sarah is a new Assistant Professor in the Department of Education and Human Development at George Mason University and Brian teaches art via distance learning.  We had tons (about 16) of stuff to talk about -- Eugene, being new in D. C., teaching, work -- and we carried on for a good part of the afternoon.  It is really fun to rediscover from time to time how small the world really can be.

3. Not far from Atlas Brew Works is D C Brau, another warehouse brewery with concrete floors and walls and few places to sit and really good beer. The Deke and I dropped in and discovered we really like their Corruption IPA, so we had one last taster a piece and bought a six pack for later enjoyment at home. We didn't make any new friends at D C Brau, but I marveled at the crowd of youngsters, none of them fashionable, none of them part of the beautiful people crowd, enjoying beer, talking, laughing, and making this somewhat new brewery in this old cement warehouse come alive. (Uh, once again, the Deke and I were the senior members of the tasting room crowd, but no one came up to us and said anything like, "Wow!  It's great how people your age can still get out and enjoy a place like this!")

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/23/15: Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Hibernate, Back to Huntley Meadows, Mixed Six Pack of IPA

1. Much of this week, I've been taking care of things in our apartment home -- shopping, cleaning, cooking. Today, I got out of the house, starting with a drive down to the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in NE DC. I was last there on a steamy late morning in August. Remember?  What a contrast today. All the lotuses and lilies and other aquatic flowers were dead and brown and decaying, in stark relief to the trees whose leaves were turning. I did, however, as you will see, find one flash of aquatic floral color in the gardens.

2.  After a stroll around the ponds at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, I drove down to my favorite spot, so far, in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area, Huntley Meadows in Alexandria, just minutes from where Molly and Hiram rented a townhouse for three years until the end of June. As I hoped, Huntley Meadows was splendid, the weather was perfect, and I had a great time walking and taking some pictures.

3.  The Deke and I enjoy buying mixed six packs of beer, but there's nowhere in Greenbelt, or nearby, to buy them chilled. So, after Huntley Meadows, I drove down to the Shoppers store at the Mount Vernon Plaza and bought some IPAs we'd had before and a few that were new to us and when the Deke got home from work, we had a very mellow party.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/22/15: Massaman Success, Haunted Spokane Again, Australian New Wave

1. This morning I got down to the business of cooking up the Massaman curry I prepped for yesterday. I got out the stock pot and sauteed a chopped onion and sweet peppers in coconut oil, and, out of the blue, decided to season the onions and peppers with Five Spice Powder, a combination of annatto, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and clove.  I can't remember why I had this on hand, but I got it out, smelled it, and imagined that it would add depth to the curry.

Once the onions and peppers softened, I took most of them out of the stock pot, transferred them to my electric fry pan, put some more coconut oil in the stock pot, and heated up four tablespoons of Massaman curry paste for a couple of minutes or so. To the heated paste I added one can of coconut milk and one can of coconut cream. I've been wanting a thinner curry sauce, so I filled the coconut milk can with broth left over from when I boiled the whole chicken yesterday and added it to the emerging sauce.  Next, I added a couple of tablespoons or so of oyster fish sauce and fired in some soy sauce.  Earlier, I had read a Massaman curry recipe that called for a cinnamon stick -- I thought that sounded delicious, so, not having a cinnamon stick, I sprinkled ground cinnamon into the sauce until it felt like I'd added enough -- not a ton, but some, you know.

Before making the sauce, I had taken the russet potatoes I chopped up last night and the green beans I cleaned and prepared and I boiled them until tender.  Along with the cremini mushrooms I'd chopped, I added the tender green beans and potatoes to the onions and sweet peppers, and sauteed them in coconut oil.

Once they were sauteed, I got the chicken out.  I had taken it off the bone yesterday.

I combined the vegetables and maybe half of the chicken into the sauce, brought it to a boil and let it simmer for a while and then turned it off and let it sit for the afternoon.

During the afternoon, I went to the store and bought a can of lightly salted party peanuts and put a few handfuls in the curry.

When it came time to make rice, instead of boiling the rice in water, I used the rest of the chicken broth and threw some pieces of chicken into the broth.

We took the curry to the Diaz's home and Molly, Hiram, and the Deke loved it.

David and Olivia ate chicken nuggets, fruit, and some bread.

They aren't curry fans.

2. The other day I was looking at past things I've written on this blog, and saw a post titled "Haunted Spokane". I wrote it back in 2006 after watching a PBS Frontline feature entitled "A Hidden Life".  It was about the former mayor of Spokane, Jim West.  My words, "Haunted Spokane" also made me think of reading Timothy Egan's book about Depression Era police corruption in Spokane entitled, Breaking Blue. About a week ago, I decided to further explore Spokane and what haunts me about it and order Jack Olsen's book, Son, through interlibrary loan. I started reading it this evening.  Haunted Spokane, indeed.

I actually wrote two pieces entitled "Haunted Spokane", here and here. (Bridgit, if you are reading this, the second "Haunted Spokane" piece sprang from an email you wrote me.)

3. Watching Breaker Morant last week got me wanting to watch movies of what was called the Australian New Wave starting about thirty-five to forty years ago.  Today at the library I checked out the first movie of the Australian New Wave I ever saw, My Brilliant Career, and one I had on tape for years and never watched, Gallipoli.  I wanted to check out the haunting Picnic at Hanging Rock, but the library doesn't have it -- I'll need to search for it.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/21/15: Target Trip, Battling the Smells of Dogs, Stoop Sitter at Old Line Bistro

1.  When I need miscellany, Target is the place to go and I took a leisurely stroll around the store, picking up manilla folders, toilet paper, a travel mug for the Deke, some pens, and other things. Our apartment home can get doggie smelling and we burn scented candles from time to time and so I just slowed down everything and spent about twenty minutes or so smelling candles: Ocean Linen, Grey Flannel, Pumpkin Spice, Blood Orange, etc. I am a lousy candle shopper. Finally, I bought a pack of many votive candles featuring Noble Spruce, Honey Bourbon, and Harvest Cider.  I think having such a variety pack around makes good sense.

2. To eliminate dog smells requires more than candles. Last week I shampooed carpeting again and today I cleaned the kitchen:  floor, woodwork, under the sink, refrigerator. Not only does the kitchen look better, the dog smells are gone, too, for the time being until it's time to clean again. By the way, if you were wondering, this is what retirement looks like: shop at Target and battle dog odors. I don't know why those retirement ads in AARP's magazine and on television don't have images of silver-haired men smelling candles and scrubbing and rinsing kitchen floors. It's so romantic.

3. While I cleaned the kitchen, I also cooked a whole chicken with plans to take the meat off the bones and fix a masaman curry.  Well, I ran out of time and so the Deke and I went up to Old Line Bistro where the burgers are too huge for us to each eat one, so we split a peppered burger with bleu cheese and each enjoyed a beer.  I drank a much less hoppy beer than I've been enjoying lately.  It's a Baltimore beer called Stoop Sitter, a collaboration between Maryland Brewers who call themselves the "Legion of Foam" -- right now, the Legion of Foam includes Heavy Seas, DuClaw, Red Brick Station, Key Brewing, Pratt Street Ale House, The Brewer's Art, Gordon Biersch Baltimore, Jailbreak Brewing, and Union Craft Brewing.  To me, the Stoop Sitter had some of the clean feel of a lager, the subtle sweetness of more malty beers, and more of a spicy hop presence, with very little bitterness. The IBU is only 28. Very enjoyable.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/20/15: Massaman Prep, David Sleeps, Radio On

1. Today at Costco, among a few other things, I purchased a couple of whole chickens, some fresh green beans, and cremini mushrooms in anticipation of cooking up some massaman curry in the near future.

2. Molly took Olivia (and Ana) to Olivia's first Girl Scouts meeting in D.C. NW and Hiram played at a gig, so the Deke and I went over to the Diazes to look after David. David sat on the couch next to the Deke, was reading a book, fell asleep, and made looking after him very easy since he didn't wake up until Molly arrived back home again.

3. My Whitworth roommate, Rocket, and I reminisced a bit today about Spokane radio during the time we went to Whitworth and lived in Spokane -- it was fun thinking about all those pop hits on Q-FM and the album oriented playlists of KREM-FM and the Sunshine Shelly days of KJRB-AM.  It's fun remembering how much those radio stations meant to me. And how much I enjoyed it when Whitworth's own station, KWRS-FM was resurrected in 1977 and the Rocket himself was on the air.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/19/15: Maggie and I in the Morning, Sibling Assignment Done, Back on the Soul Train

1.  Our aging corgi, Maggie, started getting restless about 2 a.m., wanting to go outside, and, sure enough, she was needing to empty herself -- multiple times. I hoped her restlessness was temporary, but at about 3:00 a.m., I decided to keep her with me out in the living room and stay up so we wouldn't be disturbing the Deke any more. I wasn't functioning very well at that hour, but I did some reading and some thinking and it was good to see Maggie settle down and be all right by the time day broke.

2.  My sisters and I continue to give each other writing assignments. We started doing this in November of 2006.  We all just completed Sibling Assignment #169, each of us writing, and posting on our blogs, about a current obsession.  I was very tardy with getting mine done.  I'd had one idea that I tried to make work for about a month, ditched it, but this morning, and on into the afternoon I wrote about my obsession with light and photographing light.  If you'd like to read it, just click here.

3.  We went over to Molly and Hiram's for dinner and something we were talking about turned our attention to the once long-running television show, Soul Train, and so I jumped on the Soul Train YouTube time machine and went back to my college days and listened to such Soul Train hits as "TSOP", "Rock the Boat", "When Will I See You Again", and "Ring My Bell" -- I think they were all regular offerings on Spokane's KHQ-FM music rotation and helped sweeten my days at NIC and Whitworth and beyond.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sibling Assignment #169: Photographing Light

Quite a few weeks ago, I assigned my sisters and me this prompt: We all have our little obsessions. What are you currently obsessed with? A book? An idea? A movie? A song? A project? An activity? Write all about it.

You can go here and read all about Christy's obsession with plant choices as she transforms the outside of the new house she and Everett just bought and you can go here to read all about Carol's obsession with, and commitment to, daily walking or racking up steps.

Over the last six years or so, I have been taking a lot of pictures.

On Saturday, when I was walking on the Appalachian Trail in New York (pictures here), I gave a lot of thought to how I go about taking pictures, examining within myself what I do and what I don't do.

A basketball analogy popped into my mind.  On offense, some basketball teams work to impose their will on the defense; on the other hand, some teams take what their opponent's defense gives them.

Since photography is all about light, photographers who work to impose their will on their pictures are, if using natural or environmental light, exacting about when and where they take pictures. They don't just take whatever light the day gives them, they calculate when to take their pictures so that what they want to capture is in accord with the light of a certain time of day. If the elements or the environment are not cooperating, these photographers, often professionals, bring their own light sources to a shooting session and use other apparatus to create the light they want.

I have never been this deliberate in going out to take pictures. Saturday was a good example. The Deke and I took our time Saturday morning easing into the day -- and I squandered the morning's light. After dropping the Deke off at the Pearl River library and making a quick trip to Costco, I headed toward the trailhead where I would join the Appalachian Trail. On the way, I stopped at a diner in Tuxedo, NY for an afternoon breakfast.

I arrived at the trailhead after 2:00, not knowing what light the afternoon would give me, but, as I always do, I went in search of light and let the light I found, that is, the light the day gave me, determine where I pointed my camera and how to set my levels of exposure.

This is my current obsession.  More often than not, I photograph light.

The light I discover (or the light the day gives me) determines, more than anything else, the subject matter of my pictures.  Or, put another way, I go in search of light and take pictures of what the light illuminates and what the light casts shadows upon.

This obsession with photographing light  has inspired me to do almost all of my shooting in my different cameras' Manual mode.  I try to create images that don't replicate exactly what a person might see, but to create images of my own making.

Knowing this, it should make sense, then, that when I go see paintings, say, at the National Gallery, I like looking at the different painters' studies of light.  I like to look at what the source of light in the picture is and where the light is coming from and what the quality of the light is and how the light affects the paintings' colors and shadows, and how the light creates feeling in me as a viewer, how light creates not only the painting's mood, but mine.

For example, here is Rembrandt's "The Return of the Prodigal Son":

Light illuminates this scene from the left side of the picture and from a source that is above the father and his son.  Maybe it's a window.  The light heightens the physical contrast between the father's affluence, as seen in his clothing, and the tattered and torn garments of his prodigal son. The light makes the father's moment of forgiveness the focus of the scene, but, at the same time, there is enough light cast on the brother that his disapproval of his prodigal brother stands in relief to his father's kindness and acceptance. The light in this painting is metaphorical, standing for the light of grace, of the father's tender mercy. So strong and focused is this light of mercy, that the other witnesses, aside from the brother, are obscured in the shadows of the room, especially the woman behind the father, who is barely visible.

Now Rembrandt did not let the light come to him in this painting. He did not "take what was there"and paint his picture. He carefully and artfully took full control over the lighting of this scene. All the same, for me, this picture helps me see the power of light in the midst of darkness and the power of subdued, darker colors and the power of a preponderance of shadow.

Had I photographed this scene, I probably would have done so in black and white. I would have decided that the contrast between the lighted parts of this scene and the unlit would stand in even stronger contrast in black and white and that the theological lesson of this story would be strengthened by an absence of color and more emphasis on the light and the shadows.  A black and white shot would look something like this:

I would have done my best to photograph the light.

Please, just because I used an example of Rembrandt does not mean I think of myself as a Rembrandt with a Nikon in my hand.  But Rembrandt, like other painters I return to again and again, as well as photographers whose work I enjoy and learn from, teach me a great deal about light and seeing and working to bring light to life in pictures.

My obsession with photographing light is immature.  I have much learning and growing up to do. Photographing light does mark a shift in my mindset when I take my camera on hikes and walks or when I go into a town like D. C. or Kellogg.  I used to think primarily about the objects in front of me: that building or that flower or this creek or that person on the street, I'd say to myself, would be fun to photograph.  Now, especially when I am in a park or in the woods, I look for light I like and how it plays with water or leaves or buildings and I try to photograph that light, trusting that a pretty good image of the object will result.

So, here are a few pictures I took while walking the trail around Greenbelt Lake on a very sunny October Saturday morning nearly ten days ago.  As I walked, I looked for light and when I saw light I liked, I took pictures.  Now, on this day, most of the light I liked was shining on leaves, so I took lots of pictures of leaves.  The light led me to the leaves.  I wasn't thinkng as I walked around the lake that this would be a leaf picture day.

So, here's one.  I was shooting at 100 ISO. I adjusted my lens to 200mm and put my aperture at 6.3 and the shutter speed at 1/640 of a second.  The leaf is attached to a tree, as I remember, and I liked the shadows that were on the leaf and I hoped that with the exposure I chose that I'd get the leaf, but all behind it would be dark.  And that's what happened.  The light led me to the details of this leaf, the small shadows that are cast on it, and the hope that I could make the leaf, and nothing else, the focus on the picture.

Later, the light led me to some leaves with much more color.  I was enjoying taking close ups with my lens at 200mm and the f6.3 seemed to be working.  I decided to increase my ISO to 200 and this allowed me, I think, to take this picture with a faster shutter speed, 1/1600 sec.  You can see that the light illuminates the leaf in the foreground differently than the ones in the back and I enjoyed creating this contrast, made possible by photographing the light.

Toward the end of my walk, I found light and shadow playing on benches, on a place to come have a sit.  I've taken a ton of "come have a sit" pictures over the last couple of years.  I wanted to make this picture darker than what the scene looked like if you'd been standing near these benches with me.  I can't explain it, but I prefer darker pictures and I really prefer darker black and white pictures.  So, I let less light into my camera by putting my aperture at f10 and I gave this picture a deeper depth of field.  I put the focal length at 30 mm and the shutter speed at 1/125 sec. The ISO was at 100.  I pretty much got what a wanted in this picture.  I find benches can be moody and I liked the contrast between the bench that is sunlit and the two that are in the shade and shadows.  I'm fairly certain I cropped this image to remove the foreground that had been there.  I would say that when it comes to photographing light and shooting in black and white, this is the kind of picture I like the best.

This was a fun assignment.  I'm glad my sisters and I wrote about healthy obsessions, ones that animate our lives and make life meaningful for us. We are pretty good about our obsessions that way.

Three Beautiful Things 10/18/15: Back on the Road, Meatball Slider, Home Again

1.  The Deke and I got our things together, stopped in at Nyack's Gypsy Donuts to grab cups of coffee to go, and hit the road -- the Garden State Parkway, the New Jersey Turnpike, and on south on I-95. Our first destination was the Diaz house to pick up the corgis and then on to our home sweet apartment home in Greenbelt.

2. The Diazes were not quite home yet from a pumpkin farm and lunch outing, so the Deke and I bellied up to the bar at the Quench tap room.  I had never tried their food before and enjoyed my meatball sliders -- the meatballs were delicious as was the marinara sauce they had been
cooked in, making for a unique slider -- I'd never even heard of a meatball slider before today -- let alone eat one.

3. Once home, we put the heat on, disabled a chirping smoke detector, and settled into catching up on things we hadn't been able to do while on our trip to Nyack.  The Deke worked on school stuff and I edited pictures and made posts on my blog and on flickr.  We made one last stand against the sudden cold weather by heating up the green curry left over from Thursday and enjoying how it helped warm us up.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/17/15: Miracle at the Big House, Hiking the Appalachian Trail, Diner and Dive Bar

1.  So.  The Deke, Jack, Adrienne and I are over at Alex's house (the manse) and Alex is a die hard Wolverine fan and it was almost time to leave to go across the street to the church to rejoin the Oktoberfest activities and the end of the Michigan/Michigan State football game was on and, asked to leave, I said, yes, I said these exact words, "Wait a just a minute. Let's watch the end of the game in case a miracle happens."  Then, and it was a total gut shot of absolute pain for Alex, Michigan State's miracle victory happened.

2.  On Friday, Adrienne and Alex told the rest of us at Growler and Gill that they had been on a hike that day on the Appalachian Trail.  I didn't even know that there were entries to the trail fairly close to Nyack and I had never before that moment ever thought I'd like to hike on the Appalachian Trail, but I seized the opportunity to go take a hike today on the Appalachian Trail near Greenwood Lake. The trail was rocky, the trail's white blazes were very well placed, keeping me on course, and the whole forest was ablaze with the green, gold, yellow, red, and vermilion of leaves turning and others not.

3.  Along with going to my first ever Oktoberfest at Monroe, New York's First Presbyterian Church, I also did two of my favorite things.  First, I ate at a rural diner in Tuxedo, NY where I enjoyed an early afternoon corned beef hash breakfast at the Orange Top. Second, I went to a scroungy dive bar in Monroe, NY, the Brazen Head Pub. The place smelled like a sewer, but the beer was cold and the three drunk women on one end of the bar and the angry Jets fan on the end I sat at left me alone to gather my thoughts, reflect on my day, and pass the time before meeting the rest of the family at Oktoberfest. (By the way, I would return to the Orange Top Diner, but I might look for a different watering hole, if need be, in Monroe.)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/16/15: Slow Morning, You Know What's Weird?, Talking Over IPAs

1.  No rush.  Just the way I like it.  Teachers in Prince George's County did not report today, so we took our sweet time waking up, drinking coffee, straightening up our apartment home, getting packed, rounding up the dogs, and heading over to the Diazes to pick up Jack and begin our drive to Nyack.

2. Yes, there was a slowdown in Newark, but, otherwise, the drive to Nyack was perfect.  Jack slept a lot and when he was awake he and the Deke and I played "You know what's weird?" and Jack rattled off a long string of things that fly out when he opens his trunk -- helicopters, monster trucks, etc.  He began each description asking, "You know what's weird (or really weird)?" and we answered every bizarre thing he told us with, "That's weird" and Jack laughed and laughed every time.

3.  The Deke, Jack, and I met Adrienne and Alex at Nanuet's superb tap house, Growler and Gill.  I enjoyed three shorties (small glasses of beer): Stone's Enjoy by 10-31-15, Ommegang's Nirvana IPA, and Troegs Hop Knife IPA. The five of us shared a little pizza, a hummus plate, fries, and chicken wings and enjoyed lively conversation about everything from Michigan Wolverine football to the challenges Alex faces as a Presbyterian pastor.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/15/2015: Maggie Recovered, Green Curry Sans Recipe, Back to *Breaker Morant*

1. Maggie was having some kind of difficulty through the night -- up and down -- in and out -- restless, agitated. It was similar to what she'd had happen over the weekend.  At 3:30 a.m., I decided to get up and stay up with her so that her agitation wasn't keeping the Deke awake.  By regular morning time, Maggie was doing fine. Whatever bothered her digestive system had come and gone and I got some early morning work done with pictures and did my daily writing much earlier than usual.

2. I made a green curry this afternoon that the Deke regarded as my best ever. I didn't exactly follow a recipe so I'm going to document what I did right here in my blog.  The crucial part I want to remember is that I used four tablespoons of green curry paste and two cans of coconut milk and one can of coconut cream.  I didn't measure the amount of fish sauce I used nor the amount of soy sauce nor the brown sugar nor the lime juice. I simply shook and sprinkled and squirted until it felt like it was time to stop. I had a few lime kaffir leaves in a jar and dumped them in.  I sauteed the paste in coconut oil before I added the coconut milk and cream.  The rest was all vegetable and tofu prep: I fried the tofu in coconut oil, then the sweet onions, chopped, and then the eggplant.  I blanched green beans and boiled some russet potatoes until tender.   I mixed it all together in the soup pot and let it simmer, turned it off, and simmered again just before dinner time.  The question, as always, is when I succeed, can I repeat it? (By the way, this green curry paste is medium high in heat. This was not a mild curry.)

3.  Through the Prince George's County library system, I ordered the movie Breaker Morant. The movie sprang to mind when I was watching Attack of the Clones because Jack Thompson plays in both movies with 20-25 year gap in between. In Breaker Morant, Jack Thompson plays a soldier, Maj. J. F. Thomas, who is also a solicitor, not in trial law, but in property and tax matters. Nonetheless, he is appointed to defend three fellow Australian soldiers who have been indicted for war crimes and face the death penalty.  The court martial is rigged. The Australians have no chance. The trial ignites Thomas' moral passion. The injustice of the trial transforms him from ill-prepared to an impassioned and sharp-witted interrogator and voice for justice.  The fight he wages in court, against all odds, is moving and demonstrates how extraordinary an ordinary person can become when animated by a sure sense of moral rectitude in the face of institutional and colonial corruption and malice.  There's much more that makes this a movie I love now and have loved for thirty-five years, but maybe I'll reflect on that in another bit of writing.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/14/15: Sligo Creek Bridges, Happy Grandchildren, Cartological Review

1.  I drove over to Takoma Park, parked the Sube in the parking lot at Sligo Parkway and Houston Ave. and made my first foray into the beauty of Sligo Park. The main trail of Sligo Park covers 9-10 miles from Wheaton to West Hyattsville. I walked about two miles or so out from the car and the two miles back.  One of the park's features is all the bridges that accommodate the trail criss-crossing Sligo Creek.  I focused much of my picture taking on these bridges:

2.  Hiram was teaching some euphonium lessons until after 7 p.m., and with Jack visiting and with a new baby in the house, Molly asked the Deke and me to come over and give her a hand. I packed up the chicken soup I made before going to bed on Tuesday night along with some sparkling water, oatmeal stout, a baguette, and shredded cabbage, picked up the Deke from school, and we spent a few hours with Molly and the children.  The children were great.  Ana slept a lot.  Jack, David, and Olivia played and played and played, interrupted only by taking time for dinner, and, when we left, they were having their first electronic experience of the day, watching a television show.  All day it was legos, toy trains, coloring, stomping around down at Paint Branch Creek with Hiram, and all kinds of other activity and no computer, I Pad, television or other electronic devices until it came time to end their day.  I sure enjoy how much these young cousins enjoy each other.

3.  While the children were playing, I got on the Diaz computer and reviewed my day cartologically. I went to google maps and reviewed the routes I drove to and from Sligo Creek Park and continued my ongoing project of understanding the routes the loopy roads here in Prince George's and Montgomery County take.  I'm working to become conversant with the multiple state highway routes that also go by street names and seeing how much I can learn about the Greater Greenbelt-Beltsville-College Park-Adelph-Takoma Park-Silver Spring-Wheaton-Etc. area.  Oh!  And Bethesda, too!  This is really fun for me.  I was not blessed with a strong sense of direction, so working back and forth between driving places, reviewing what I've done, and studying the larger area within which I have made an outing helps me know more and more more familiar with where I live.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/13/15: And There Was Light, Hung Phat Shopping Spree, Cousins at Play

1. At 8:15, Jens popped a new headlight bulb into the Sube the second I arrived, unannounced, at the Sunoco station.

2. It had been several months since I drove to Wheaton to visit my favorite Asian grocery market, Hung Phat, and today I dropped in the tiny store jam-packed with products and bought three containers of curry paste, six cans of coconut milk, Siracha, a bottle of fish sauce, a jar of pickled ginger, and a can of pomegranate soda. With the days cooling off and shortening, it's the perfect time to get back to making curried dinners -- and, of course, this means eggplant, my favorite of all foods to curry.

3.  Friends made the Diazes a lasagna and the Deke and I accepted Molly's invitation to join them for dinner where their house rang with the sounds of cousins Jack, Olivia, and David having fun together.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/12/15: Passengers First, Kidneys Are Rock Steady, Jack Gets a Treat

1. This morning's bus driver on her bus phone: "Well, if I'm leaking transmission fuel, I'm still gonna get these people to Greenbelt Station because they gotta go to work. I'm literally only a couple of minutes away."  And so she did.  Our MetroBus driver got us to Greenbelt Station and if her supervisor told her to hold the bus at some spot on the road before the station, she disobeyed.

2.  I had read the report of my blood work before I met my appointment with Dr. Malik, my nephrologist, today and he confirmed what I knew to be true:  my numbers are holding steady. There's been no decline in the last four months. My blood pressure was golden. Instead of having me back in four months, he's going to see me in six months. We talked about my recent weight gain -- about seven or eight pounds -- and that it would be smart for me to work on taking off those pounds.

3. The Deke drove back to Greenbelt from New Jersey today with a surprise passenger.  Jack is going to spend the week with his cousins and his Aunt Molly and Uncle Hiram.  He's stoked. To say the least!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/11/15: Sick Dogs Recover, Casserole Improv, Looking Deeper Into Anakin Skywalker

1. It turned out that Maggie and Charly are fine. But they had a rough night -- and so did I.  Maggie was agitated, pacing, wanting to go out to do her business, sometimes every ten minutes. Maggie seemed ravenously hungry, obsessed with the kitchen, barking at her food on top of the fridge. One pain pill dosage remained from when she had a UTI in August. I gave it to her. By about 2 a.m. she settled down and Charly hurled. I took care of the mess and we all slept for about three hours. The dogs wanted to eat at 5 a.m. and I drew a line in the sand and ordered them to stop it. They obeyed -- for an hour -- and we all got up, I fed them, and decided I would stay in with them all day and monitor them. I'm glad I did and I'm happy to report that whatever ailed them (the chicken innards I boiled and fed them?) cleared up.  In fact, after they ate their morning meal, they both went back to bed until 11 a.m.  They never do that.

2.  Well, I boiled chicken innards as part of boiling a whole chicken Saturday evening, taking the meat off the bones, saving the broth. Today, I used four cups of the broth to make rice, put the rice in a casserole dish, added some of the chicken, poured a little more broth over it, cooked green beans and mixed it in, added leftover kale to the mix, sprinkled some red pepper flakes over it, topped it with grated sharp cheddar cheese, heated it up, and my efforts resulted in a very good casserole.

3.  I went back and looked at passages from The Attack of the Clones and, with the help of the DVD's audio commentary, it's coming to me: because Anakin Skywalker began his Jedi training as an older child, he had developed attachments, especially to his mother. The Jedi lives free of attachments as a way of maintaining a clear mind. Anakin's attachments fog his mind and his judgment. He misused his Jedi powers when he slaughtered the Tuskens who had captured his mother and caused her death. What you and I might admire in Anakin -- love for his mother and a quick avenging of her death -- looks to be what makes him vulnerable to dark side of the Force -- that and, I imagine, his expressed desire to gain control over all things so that he never experiences again the depth of suffering his mother's death caused him.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/10/15: Gorgeous Autumn Day, Leaves Around Greenbelt Lake, Probing the Inevitable

1. Gorgeous day here in our part of the Old Line State and I took advantage of it by walking a little over 10, 300 steps with by taking a slow picture stroll around Greenbelt Lake, moving on to the Greenbelt Public Library, where I picked up Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, and then hanging out for a while among the booths selling drums, offering painting, and hawking tie dyed fashions at the Greenbelt Rhythm and Drum Festival at Roosevelt Center. Suddenly the word, "Only in Eugene" rang hollow!  I did not participate in our sprawling apartment complex's Fall Festival (I don't think I would have been welcome in the bounce house), but I did appreciate the decor outside the leasing office:

2. Leaves are slowly turning here in Greenbelt and I had a great time taking pictures of a variety of leaves in a variety of stages of their life and death as I strolled around Greenbelt Lake:

Halloween Mask!

3.  I'm all in now with the first three episodes of the Star Wars epic.  I could feel myself getting pulled in as Episode 2, The Attack of the Clones developed.  Now, keep in mind, I am a very casual viewer of these movies and I don't even have a list of critical criteria the movies must meet in order to be good and I am not at all someone who can communicate in any detail what the composition of the Star Wars universe and its characters are. I tend to enjoy these movies the most when they move into the realm of mythology, as I understand it, thanks to Joseph Campbell.  So, for me, I got more into this movie as the character of Anakin Skywalker got more complicated, as he chafes at Obi Wan's authority, longs for union with Padme, and as his longing for her seems to grow out of his separation from his mother. Seen mythologically, Anakin's rage upon his mother's death took me deep into his unconscious self, deep into the sources of his actions that are not driven by choice, but by loss and brokenness. If character is fate, this passage of the movie deepened my sense of Anakin's character and how it is inevitable, outside of his ability to choose, that he will align himself with the dark side of the Force.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/09/15: In Search of a Breakfast Spot, Sole Limos, Sweet Heat

1. I decided to give Champions Grill in Beltsville a try this morning.  I have not found a go to spot for breakfast in the immediate Greenbelt/Beltsville/College Park vicinity, and, sorry to say, I still haven't. Aside from the cheap wheat bread used for toast, the leathery over medium fried eggs, the styrofoam plate, the tiny flimsy plastic fork and knife, the carelessly brewed coffee I served myself in a styrofoam cup, Champions Grill was pretty good.  The home fries were fresh and tasty and I enjoyed my sausage patty.  I liked that a copy of The Washington Post was available. But, I won't be back. Champions is not my go to breakfast spot.  It's good to know. (Confession:  If I were one of those rich guys with a private jet, I'd fly to Cd'A, also known as Breakfast Town, about once a week for some morning chow.)

2.  I call the new 10 buck pair of slippers I bought at Costco today limousines for my feet.

3. Remember eggplant? I bought a package of half or dozen or so small eggplants at Costco -- a bag of green beans, too.  The eggplant and beans, along with zucchini, onion, and red and orange peppers provided the foundation for the red curry I cooked up late this afternoon. For me, what made this curry taste so good was not only the paste, not only the fish sauce, not only the soy sauce, not only the coconut milk, not only the fresh basil and not only the red pepper flakes.  No. It was the brown sugar.  The curry had heat and it was sweet.  That's how I like it.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/08/15: *Phantom Menace*, Kidneys Holding Steady, Mean Pasta Sauce

1.  I had checked out Phantom Menace from the library and realized it was overdue and so I watched it, for the first time,  late this morning and into the early afternoon. The movie grew on me as it moved along and by the time I finished it and as the day passed, it wouldn't leave my mind. I'm going to withhold any strong response to this movie until I've seen the two that follow it and see what groundwork this movie laid for the next two.

2. I had blood work done on Monday and the results came into my email box this morning and my numbers look good -- well, by good I mean that they are much the same as they were in the spring and this is what I want: my damaged kidneys holding steady.

3. Molly not only cooks a mean pork roast, roasts a mean chicken, and fries up mean burgers, she also makes a mean pasta sauce and the Deke and I got to enjoy her mean sauce this evening when we ate dinner with Molly, Hiram, and the children.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/07/15: Sube is Road Ready, A Little tumblr Love, Molly Cooks Perfect Burgers

1. I got in my walking today by walking back to our apartment home after dropping off the Sube for a lube and oil change at the Sunoco station and then walking back to pick it up in the afternoon. The Deke will be driving the Sube to NY and NJ over the weekend, so I had the brakes inspected just to make sure and the report pleased me:  "The brakes are good."

2.  It's rare, but every once in a while some one in the world of tumblr will reblog a picture I posted on my tumblr blog, and more people see the picture,  and I get a few unexpected "likes".  This happened today with a picture I took at the National Arboretum.

3.  I bought a couple of pounds of fat ground beef at the Co-op and Molly smashed the meat into patties and cooked up a batch of hamburgers, served with oil and vinegar potato chips.  It was a decadently delicious dinner, perfectly prepared by Molly.  David claimed that the pepper on his patty made it "too spicy", so I got to enjoy his, too!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/06/15: Hiking at Rock Creek Park, Leaves and Berries, Where's the Potting Soil?

1. Ever since moving to the Washington, D. C. area, I've read about Rock Creek Park. It's a large forest in Northwest D. C., run by the National Park Service.  I drove over to Rock Creek Park today and hiked a trail up to the site of Fort DeRussy, back down, and then strolled for a while on the trail along the creek.

2.  Leaves were barely changing color in Rock Creek Park, but, all the same, the leaves were various in their shapes, stages of life and death, and proximity to other parts of their trees or bushes.  So, I spent much of my hike taking pictures of leaves and berries.

3.  The Deke wanted some potting soil for a project she's working on with her students and I went to three different places in the Beltway Plaza Mall looking for potting soil and came up empty.  I was prepared to go back out into the world after dinner and find potting soil elsewhere, but upon hearing me tell her of my potting soil failures, the Deke decided she'd figure out other ways to make the project work without potting soil.  Yes!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/05/15: Stroll at the National Arboretum, Fresh Air, Beans and Rice for the Deke

1. The rain and steely clouds vanished. The temperatures were in the high sixties and low seventies. It was a perfect day to drive down to the National Arboretum and walk among the gardens located near the visitors' center. I have reviewed my pictures once and before I decide whether to make any of them public, beyond posting them to my Flickr page, I need to examine them some more.

2. Our apartment home benefited from opening the sliding doors and letting the cool October air refresh it, especially after I crated the protesting Corgis and vacuumed our main living areas.  To the Corgis, the vacuum cleaner is a roaring monster to be feared, barked fiercely at, and attacked.

3. The Deke requested beans and rice for dinner tonight, so I cooked a pot of rice and got out the electric frying pan and sauteed onion, chopped red and orange bell peppers, garlic and poured in black beans, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, red wine, Frank's RedHot, and brown sugar and poured this mixture over the rice.  I grated Parmesan cheese over mine. I'm not sure how the Deke enhanced her bowl, but I do know she was very happy to have her dinner request fulfilled.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/03/15: David and Olivia Play, Perfect Chicken Dinner, Unicorns and Rainbows

1. This morning, after spending the night with us, yes, once in a while a spat broke out, but I marveled at how quietly and peacefully David and Olivia played in the back bedroom.They weren't necessarily playing with toys or anything together. David did his thing. Olivia did hers. They both went into worlds of their imagination. And they were quiet and peaceful.

2. Hiram and Molly teamed up to make a perfect roasted chicken, loaded mashed potato, and cooked carrot/onion/celery dinner with hard crusted bread. They invited the Deke and me to join them.  What a great meal.

3. Olivia said she didn't like cooked carrots and I told her that when I was a boy, the first time I discovered I liked cooked carrots and ate them, the room filled with unicorns and rainbows. This began a session between me and Olivia and David about the sweet nature of unicorns.  Olivia remained firm: she doesn't believe in unicorns. I think her day will come.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/03/15: Diazes and the Free Couch, An Hour at Quench, Perfect Pork Roast

1. The man who lives in the apartment home across from ours got a new couch and offered us his used couch free of charge. The Deke knew Molly and Hiram want a couch and we accepted his offer. Mac the Mover came over today and delivered the couch to the Diaz house and Molly and Hiram love it.  It fits perfectly in their t.v. room and is so long their whole family can sit on it. If I were about thirty or forty years younger, I'd write like a youngster and say, SCORE! or FOR THE WIN!

2. While the Deke played with Olivia at the home school table, I slipped over to the Quench Tap Room for a terrific glass of Oak Aged Nanticoke Imperial IPA, a piney and citrusy hop hurricane and enjoyed a sampler of Flying Dog's The Fear, a sweet and boozy Imperial Pumpkin Porter. It was a relaxing and comtemplative sixty minutes bellied up to the plank.

3. Molly fixed a pork roast that was seasoned perfectly, biting overtones of cayenne pepper balanced with oregano and thyme along with salt and pepper and a few other spices and herbs. It was almost as if we were all having a celebration dinner, welcoming the new couch into the Diaz home!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/02/15: New Glasses, Check Engine Light, A Sampler Session

1. I braved the wind and the rain of living on the edge of Hurricane Joaquin and drove to Costco to pick up the new pair of glasses awaiting me.

2.  The Deke had a professional development day and was finished at 2:30. I picked her up at Greenbelt Middle School and the Check Engine light came on. Suddenly, I remembered that the last fill up I purchased was in New Jersey, where, like in Oregon, I couldn't pump my own gas. "Hmmm," I thought, "I'll bet the gas pumper didn't put the gas tank lid on tight," remembering back to 2004 when the Sube's Check Engine light came on for the same reason.  We got home, I tightened the lid, and on our way to Quench and dinner at the Diazes, the Check Engine light went off.

3. The Deke and I drop in for some beer about twice or three times a week now at the Quench Tap Room.  Today, Quench had four different IPAs (and Imperial IPAs) on tap, from Maryland, Vermont, and Belgium and I drank a sampler (4 oz) of each and then enjoyed an Imperial Pilsner from Breckenridge and closed with the beer Union Brewing brewed in honor of Cal Ripken, the Broken Record, a Belgiany Pale Ale.  A great finish.  These samplers, for me, are the way to go.  I love variety in beer and drinking six of them is just a pint and a half.  The Deke and I had a gold medal conversation -- we are back to trying to figure out the future again! It was a perfect tap room session.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 10/01/15: (Dreadful), Thank You Notes, Using up Kale, Great Email

*I don't think I ever met Larry Levine, the WR 115 instructor killed in his classroom at Umpqua Community College. I don't know when he attended the University of Oregon, but if we were there at the same time, I don't remember meeting or knowing him.  That said, I feel dread, grief, anger, and nausea, not because I knew Larry Levine, but because I know our profession. Over the thirty-five or so years I taught, my fellow instructors and I worked with volatile people all the time, people who blew up, confronted us with anger, were a menacing presence in the classroom, and who posed different levels of threat and disruption. Some of us have been harassed, others have been stalked, and some have been physically threatened, shoved, or struck. Larry Levine was shot and killed.  I wish I could say what happened is unimaginable, but we, as teachers, lost the innocence of regarding such killings being unimaginable a long time ago. It's dreadful.

1. I decided it was time to bring back the thank you note in my life and I wrote a couple today on cards I had made at Costco that feature a picture I took of the Kellogg YMCA. The building was finished in 1910.

2. I really purchased too much of it when I bought that gunny sack of kale at Costco a week or two ago. But, it is keeping and today I found a sweet potato/shrimp/kale stir fry recipe.  Ha!  I subbed tofu for the shrimp because I wanted the meal to be vegetarian and it worked out pretty well.  (It would have been better with shrimp:  I admit it.)

3.  Julie has been making references on Facebook to risk and changes in her life and I emailed her today for some details and we had a great exchange about what might lie ahead for her and about her life in the 814.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 09/30/15: Short Marriages, Oh Yeah! I Store Those, Chill Zone

1.  It made my application for Social Security benefits simpler that neither of my first two marriages lasted more than ten years.

2.  Anxiety struck when I couldn't remember what I did with the blood draw order from my nephrologist. Then I remembered.  I scan and electronically store all my kidney transplant business. I checked my kidney transplant folder and the order was there. I'm set for Monday.

3.  On the spur of the moment, the Deke and I decided to pick up a chicken and some bread and some Flying Dog Truth Imperial IPA and head over to Molly and Hiram's for dinner. If I were about thirty years younger, I'd say the evening was chill. How so? Content children, relaxed adults, easy food, and a bottle of delicious beer.