Thursday, December 31, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/30/15: Shopping Spree, The Deke's Deep Soup, *Star Wars: The New Hope*

1. After a lazy morning of coffee and shooting the breeze, the Deke and I collected ourselves, staggered into the Sube, did some looking around at REI, and shopped for groceries at MOM's Organic Market. It was the Deke's maiden voyage up and down the wide aisles of this compact store, and it was fun sampling millet bread, trying out kalamata hummus -- which we both enjoyed so we bought a container of it -- and joking around with the enjoyable smarty pants millinieal guys who checked us out and bagged our purchases. It was a fun shopping spree.

2. If you read this blog much at all, you know that the Deke and I have way of doing things that works beautifully.  The Deke goes to work. I cook.  The Deke doesn't cook very often, but when she does, she kills it, absolutely socks it out of the park. Today, the Deke decided she wanted to make a minestrone soup for the Diazes and us.  I witnessed two moments of ingenious creativity she dreamed up while we shopped at MOM's.  First, the Deke said, "The recipe calls for carrots, but I'm going to use these purple sweet potatoes instead." Then she proclaimed she would use red kale, not spinach, in this soup. I could feel my adrenaline kick in. This soup was sounding exciting. The Deke put it together in the Diaz kitchen, combining chicken broth*, tomatoes, onions, garlic, purple sweet potatoes, red kale, kidney beans, black beans, red wine, penne (boiled separately), red pepper flakes, salt, oregano, and basil.  For me, the sweet potatoes gave the soup an unusual and most satisfying depth. I loved the subtle sweetness and the sweet potatoes lent to the broth. Wow! This was my third straight great soup day -- and, ha!, I didn't make a single drop!

*Better than Bullion

3.  Star Wars: A New Hope is the only movie of the first six that the Deke ever saw and it's been about 100 years since she did. So the Deke, the Diazes, and I piled into the Diaz t.v. room and watched it this evening, with the next two installments to come tomorrow. I don't remember the last time I saw A New Hope. It had been long enough ago that seeing it tonight felt fresh and, at the same time, particular scenes triggered memories of when I was first married nearly 40 years ago and saw this movie twice in Spokane out on East Sprague with Eileen, spontaneously cheering when the rebels blew up the Death Star and of driving from Boise to Stanley, Idaho in the summer ofAugust, 1992, listening to Joseph Campbell on cassette tapes, totally absorbed by his insights into Star Wars and the hero's journey.  I also had the odd experience of suddenly seeing Obi-Wan Kenobi as Alec Guiness' fubsy character, Holland, from The Lavender Hill Mob, and was seized for a few minutes by the absurd thought that Han Solo was going to help Obi-Wan smuggle miniature gold Eiffel Towers to the rebels on Yavin IV, made from gold bars stolen from the Galactic Empire.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/29/15: The Deke is Back, DirtWolf at Quench, Hiram For the Win

1. In a moment of uncanny timing, I arrived at the New Carrollton station's parking lot at precisely the same moment the Deke did, having just arrived back home on the Amtrack.

2. The Deke and I agreed that the glass of Victory Brewing's DirtWolf Imperial IPA we each drank at Quench was among the best beers we'd ever tasted.

3. We also agreed that the tomato bisque Hiram cooked for dinner was among the finest soups we'd ever eaten.  It was velvet heaven.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/28/15: Quiet, Ahhhh! Pho, Mom Would Love *Brooklyn*

1.  The dogs got to extend their sleepover at Molly and Hiram's another night, so today I enjoyed the quiet of not having the Corgis bark their brains out because someone unlocked a mailbox two levels up or because a resident walked his or her dog out back or because someone in the building knocked on a door or because the wind kicked up a bit and moved a blade grass.

2. I braved the bewildering traffic patterns of Colesville Road without getting rammed into or run off the road, and made my way to downtown Silver Spring's Pho Tan Vinh and enjoyed an autumn roll appetizer and then dove into a huge, steaming bowl of medium rare beef tenderloin pho. Thin slices of beef topped the meaty broth and generous rice noodles. I was very happy with the small hill of fresh basil, bean sprouts, and green hot pepper served on the side and enjoyed adding even more flavor and some heat to this glorious bowl of soup.  I could have swum in this meal forever.

3. Back on December 28, 2013, Mom, Christy, Carol, and I went to Coeur d'Alene and watched the movie Saving Mr. Banks.  It was the perfect movie to all see together. It was a tender story that made my mom feel like she was seeing the kind of movie she loved when she was growing up. We all loved it. Tonight, as the movie Brooklyn was reaching its conclusion, I suddenly realized that it's too bad Mom, Christy, Carol, and I aren't all in the same place where this movie is playing because it would be another perfect movie to all see together. It's set in the past, about sixty years or so ago, and examines the inner conflicts of a young Irish woman who moves to Brooklyn, but returns to Ireland for a short time to be with her mother in a time of need. It's a tender, emotional movie and I think Mom would once again feel like she was watching the kind of movie she loved when she was growing up. I can hear her say, "I liked that movie. It made me feel good."   Me too, Mom.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/27/15: Birthday Breakfast, Birthday Movie, Birthday Beer and Dinner

1. I eased into the morning with some coffee and writing. I enjoyed the gift Molly and Hiram gave me -- they have the Corgis at their house -- so I enjoyed the quiet and thought about what to do for the day. Last October, while on a doctor visit, I'd made a note to one day eat at the Tastee Diner in Bethesda and this morning I discovered there's a Tastee Diner in Silver Spring.  The parking gods smiled on me and granted me free street parking across the the street from the diner and I strolled in, sat down, and ordered corned beef hash, two eggs up, biscuits, and a side of grits with coffee. The breakfast was filling and relaxing; I wish the hash had been homemade, but I like it out of the can, so that was fine. The biscuits and grits were really good.

2. The American Film Institute Silver Theater and Cultural Center is only a five minute walk from the Tastee Diner, so I sauntered on over, hoping to see Brooklyn, but my timing was off, so I bought a ticket for The Danish Girl.  I knew almost nothing about the movie, my favorite way to see a film. Two primary things happened as I watched the movie. First, I became emotionally absorbed by the story. Whether this movie was politically problematic or courageous (and I'm sure I'll find out what others think, in time), the political content went right by me.  I cared about these characters. I felt pain, admiration, confusion, fear, anxiety, happiness, among other feelings, as the story developed. Secondly, the movie's visual beauty riveted me. Lili was born Einar and Einar was an accomplished landscape painter and the movie's cinematography itself was often in the style of gorgeous paintings, as if Einar himself were the director of photography.  But, sometimes, it was as if Gerda, a portrait artist, took over the movie's photography with its many stunning frames of costumes and faces, of Einar becoming Lili and of Gerda's devotion to her.  After I listened to the music playing over the credits, I took a walk in downtown Silver Spring, let the movie sink in, and realized that while I thought I might go to two movies on my birthday, I didn't want another movie crowding in on this one.

3. I drove into Washington, D.C. and made my way to D C Brau and enjoyed a sampler each of Public Pale Ale, Corruption IPA, and Alpha Domina Mellis 2IPA.  I sat quietly and rocked out within myself to the slash metal music playing at a pleasant volume and enjoyed how much people around me were enjoying each other, whether talking or playing Cards Against Humanity. I went home, sat for a bit, and then went to the East Asian Bistro for a cup of won ton soup and a plate of ginger shrimp with mixed vegetables and sticky rice.  I ordered it as a way of participating in the shrimp cook-off Christy was hosting at her house for her and Everett, Mom, and the Roberts family in Kellogg.  

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/26/15: Off to New Jersey, Great Birthday Gift, Tom's Special Eggplant at Beijing

1. The Deke piled her bag into the Sube, we both piled in, and we motored the short distance down to the AmTrak station at New Carrollton and she leaped on the train and rumbled up to Metro Park, New Jersey to visit her cousin Sally.  On Monday, they will head to Nyack to see Adrienne and Jack.  I stayed home with the dogs.

2.  BUT, the dogs are not at home with me right now.  For my birthday on Sunday, I asked Molly and Hiram if they would take the Corgis Saturday night until some time Monday morning so I could go out on Sunday and do whatever I wanted.  They generously agreed and so I piled the Corgis into the Sube around six o'clock and they will have a different home for a short while.

3. I decided to have a plate of food at Beijing of Greenbelt, our town center's Chinese restaurant and I ordered Tom's Special Eggplant, an ingenious melding of shrimp and eggplant in a special sauce and it was perfect. I almost ordered Grandma Wu's Casserole, another eggplant dish, but decided to save that order for another time.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/25/15: Rip and Tear, A Break with the Corgis, Shepherd's Pie

1. The Deke and I climbed into the Sube and floated over to the Diazes where David and Olivia had hot coals under their feet waiting to open their Christmas gifts. We settled in with an apple pancake and coffee and impressively orderly ripping and tearing began. When David opened one of his Lego sets and Olivia opened her American Girl doll, they both were done opening gifts for a while and immediately played with their new presents.  I enjoyed it as they alternated between opening gifts and playing with what they opened. It was a totally giddy Christmas for them.  Ana watched. Ha! I don't think all her siblings' excitement quite computed with her.

2. The Corgis were back at our apartment home alone and I took a break from Legos, the Batman robot, American Girl, the awesome microscope, and so on and spent a couple of hours sitting with the dogs and did a little freshening up of the bedroom.  I also took a refreshing Christmas nap.

3. The Deke's birthday last Monday got screwed up because I was sick and then Molly got sick. Today Molly, the Deke, and I teamed up in the kitchen to make a most delicious shepherd's pie, the dish the Deke had requested for her birthday. I was very happy with my contribution. Soon after the gifts were open, I salted, peppered, and garlic powdered a small shank of lamb and some London broil and put them in about an inch of water and red wine in Molly's slow cooker. By late afternoon, the meat had cooked through and was moist and tender and had fully absorbed the seasonings and the wine. It provided the perfect backbone for the shepherd's pie itself, making dinner a warming and happy success.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/24/15: Sticking With It, Christmas Eve Tradition Renewed, Singing Carols

1.  It's satisfying to know that in some very important parts of my life I haven't given up or failed and today was a good day to feel that satisfaction.  For starters, today the Deke and I completed our eighteenth year of marriage. A lot in each of our histories suggested we'd never last this long, but we continue to enjoy each other and do all we can to take care of ourselves and be good to each other and to our friends and family. Today I wrote the 3300th entry in my blog and a lot in my history would suggest that I'd never stick with a project this long -- but, here it is, nine years since I started kellogg bloggin' and I am more consistent about publishing something every day than I ever have been.  If you read my 3300th blog post, here, you'll read about changes that took place in the last year in my photography -- and having written this in my blog on our anniversary made me think that I bought my first digital camera when I started my blog (in late 2006) and that I've done a pretty good job of sticking with this avocation, made some slow improvement in taking pictures, and, most of all, enjoyed myself immensely.

2. When the Deke was a kid, her family ate a spread of light food on Christmas Eve, with shrimp and cocktail sauce and ruffled potato chips and dip being the featured items. On the rare occasion that the Deke and I have been in our own home together on Christmas Eve, we've continued this tradition and, tonight, while we were not in our apartment home, we were at Molly and Hiram's and we continued this tradition with shrimp, cocktail sauce, salami, olives, cheese, crackers, ruffled potato chips, a plate of vegetables, and (I'm sure I've missed something) a bowl of chopped fruit.

3. Hiram, the Deke, and Molly sang Christmas carols in harmony around the table. Next year, my hope is that we'll start singing the carols a couple weeks in advance of Christmas because I'm a slow learner and need a lot of help with singing harmony, but with time and help, I can join in and we can have four parts -- and, who knows? Maybe we'll go to a house or two on Diaz Road and sing for some people!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Sibling Assignment #174: Changes from Behind the Lens

It so happens this is my 3300th post on kellogg bloggin'.

Carol assigned our next Sibling Assignment as a way of looking back at 2015:

Look back over 2015 and write about one of the most memorable things that changed you, and write about the transformation.
Christy wrote about the transformative power of living in Kellogg again, here and you can read about how Carol felt transformed by the Roberts' family staycation/retreat, here.

I love taking pictures.

When the Deke and I moved to Maryland, given how close we live to Washington D. C., I thought I'd mostly take street photographs.  I'd been to D. C. once before, back in 2012, and almost every picture I took was a candid picture of a person or persons I didn't know, but that captured something that grabbed my attention in that moment or that the people I photographed expressed.  Here are a few examples:

As I look back over the pictures I took in 2015, they confirm what I figured to be true:  I didn't take a single "street" shot.

This fact is evidence of a change in how I went about taking pictures in 2015 and is inseparable from a change in how I now experience Washington, D. C. and the surrounding suburbs.

In fact, my idea of where I live has been transformed and so has my photography.

It's all rooted in one simple fact:  where I live is not only alive with urban vitality, but I discovered it is really alive with natural beauty, natural beauty tucked into oases of trees and trails and lakes and creeks and wetlands and rivers surrounded by insanely busy streets, often a riot of sirens and horns and police helicopters.

This memorable discovery of the park lands where I live, repeated itself in many different places, as close to our apartment home as Greenbelt Lake, in National Park operated locations like the National Arboretum and the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, in county operated places like Montgomery County's Brookside Gardens and Fairfax County's Huntley Meadows, to name a few.

This past year, I not only discovered beauty close to my new home, but by driving to Cooperstown, N.Y., hiking a small section of the Appalachian Trail in New York, and visiting Cape Cod for an afternoon, I was relieved of my West Coast chauvinism that nothing would ever compare with the beauty of the west.  My awakening to the beauty found in the east has reshaped not only how I think about living here, it's redefined my photography.  Here are a few examples:

Huntley Meadows, VA 

Appalachian Trail, NY

Greenbelt Lake, MD

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, D.C. NE

As a post script, I've also had another transforming experience here in Maryland and that is my discovery that I love many of the locally brewed beers, as well as bunch of beers from Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York.

But, if you read this blog even occasionally, you already knew that!

Three Beautiful Things 12/23/15: Splashing Through the 'Burbs, Warm Rain, Rum and Egg Nog

1. The Deke and I splashed our way in the Sube over to the Diazes and sat down in the Situation Room to plan out food and drink for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I immediately volunteered to go out into the wind and warm and the rain -- the temperatures are hovering around 70 here in the D C Metro Area -- and go to a couple of stores and go spend time with the Corgis.

2.  Yeah, my sweatshirt weighed about 70 pounds and my glasses were fogged over and my hair was sopped and curly, but it was fun in a surreal way to get caught in a subtropical warm torrent of dark rain as I carted my goods out of the Co-op back to the Sube and returned my shopping cart to the store.  I guess the same kind of downpour is happening in Kellogg -- only it's a torrent of snow, not rain.

3. I bought egg nog at the store and after a smashing plate of spaghetti that Molly prepared, I enjoyed a dessert of egg nog and Gosling's Black Seal Rum. Divine.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/22/15: Recipes Are Like Songs, Kellogg Arrives in Greenbelt, In the Grip of *Bosch*

1. I didn't nap once today. I rested, but did not sleep.  I am in full recovery mode. Therefore, no fatigue or fogginess interfered with my delight when my new copy of the disappeared cookbook, American Wholefoods Cuisine arrived at the portal of our apartment home. I quickly looked up some of my favorite recipes and learned, to my great approval, that this is not a new edition, but is the same cookbook first published over thirty years ago. Looking at recipes brought back great memories, as if these recipes were old favorite songs. I am eager to get them back in play again in our tiny kitchen.

2. Mom's box arrived from Kellogg with birthday gifts for me and the Deke, nuts and bolts, the world's best fruitcake (remember? no? read here), ornaments for her great grandchildren, and two books to give away. Now we can have a little Kellogg in our Christmas celebrations.

3. I didn't know anything about it really, but decided to see what Amazon's show, Bosch was like.  I watched two episodes. They riveted me.  I'm committed to watching this intense and deeply disturbing story play out. I loved seeing Oregon Shakespeare Festival alumnus Paul Vincent O'Connor -- I hadn't thought about him in years and great memories of his work in Ashland came back to me. I also loved the strength and intelligence of Mimi Roger's portrayal of Bosch's prosecutor in court. I can hardly wait to see how Titus Welliver continues to build the character of Harry Bosch. It's stellar acting.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/21/15: Sleep, Food, Sleep

1. I slept most of the day.

2. I rallied briefly and drove to the Co-op and bought some chicken soup, a pre-cooked chicken, ginger ale, seltzer water, cheese, and crackers. The food and the liquids helped me feel better.

3. I went back to bed.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/20/15: Giddy Alert, Shrimp for Chicken Salad, Early to Bed

1.Giddy Alert!  Good fortune. My work on the latest Sibling Assignment led me to find the name of a cookbook I'd mysteriously parted ways with and to the discovery of a recipe I've been longing to make but couldn't find -- or reconstruct by memory.  Read all about it, and about two of my sisters' posting from the early days of our blogging together right here.

2. Costco didn't have the chicken salad Molly wanted and I took a risk and bought shrimp salad and it turned out that my risky move worked out splendidly.

3.  Have I been sick since 2009?  I don't remember it, but whatever string of days without illness I've been on, it ended when we got home from the Diazes this evening and I got sick and went to bed, with some aches.

Sibling Assignment #173: A Beautiful Friendship, Pert Wants Weak Coffee, What Once was Lost Now is Found

Christy decided it was time to do some diving into the archives, so she gave this assignment:

" Three Favorites" 
Review the archives of our sibling assignments and choose a favorite written by each of us. Link the post and share why it is a favorite.
Go here to read Christy's post and here is Carol's.

I have to admit, I didn't go back and read all the posts my sisters and I have put up over the last nine years since we started writing these assignments, but, I found three favorites and here they are.

First, back in April, 2007, Christy assigned the three of us to write a recipe memoir piece. It was the first of two assignments we wrote as Sibling Assignment #18 -- ha! -- it makes me wonder how many other times we have messed up our numbering, but I'll leave that question for another time.

Carol's post is here. It's titled "Breakfast Club" and in it she offers up two breakfast recipes, one for oven pancakes and the other for what she calls "Carol's Special Potatoes". 

Carol's piece fills me with gratitude. I am almost certain that Carol prepared her special potatoes for me one morning during the summer of 2006 when she and Paul and the girls first moved into their then new home.

I took a bite of the potatoes and my eyes bulged out in pleasure.  Carol wondered if I was all right -- sometimes it's difficult to read just what bulging my eyes mean.

I said, "Are you kidding? I'm great (had this been about five years later I would have said I was giddy, but the word "giddy" hadn't become popular yet with me and my sisters)!  What's that seasoning you put on these potatoes again?" She grabbed it off the counter and handed me the McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning.  I didn't know it then, but if the Montreal Steak Seasoning's name had been Louie, I could have said:

Indeed, that memorable morning set in motion the beginning of a beautiful friendship. When I returned home to Eugene, I bought us some Montreal Steak Seasoning and over time it became my favorite seasoning, not only for potatoes, but for steaks and beef roasts and roasted vegetables and probably stuff I've forgotten to list here.

I would have to say that having the seasoning for steak and roasts inspired me to buy the cast iron skillet and Dutch oven I used to own so I could fry steaks and roast meat. Every single time I prepared the Deke and me a rib eye roast or a sirloin steak, we both remarked how beautifully the Montreal Steak Seasoning enhanced the meat's flavor, at least to our taste, and how happy we were that Carol had introduced me to this product by way of her special potatoes.

Our father, however, didn't really care for special potatoes.  He never ate Carol's, but guaranteed, he would have taken a bite and made his bitter beer face. When it came to food, he didn't really care for anything "special".  He regarded special as "weird" and special food, and I quote him, as "weird shit".

Knowing this, my sisters and I never ever really gave up trying to introduce Dad to "weird shit" food
and, well, I can't remember a single time we succeeded in either preparing him something "different" or going to a "different" restaurant that he enjoyed.

In her piece, "Poppyseed Pancakes, Strong Coffee, and Red Flags Flying", found here, Christy perfectly captures what is possibly the most famous time ever we took Dad to the wrong restaurant, the Whale's Tale in Newport, OR.  Christy walks us red flag by red flag through the meal and helps us experience the increasing sense of dread we all felt as Dad just couldn't find anything to enjoy about this cozy bayside cafe. 

I have to admit.  I thought this place would work for Dad -- I probably even told Christy as much if she asked me if I thought it would be a good place to go.

So, while Christy got to be Dad's Jughead for the day, I will step up and say, I was a Jughead, too.  

Honestly, until the day he died on June 1, 1996, I never fully grasped the depth of Dad's deep need for things to be predictable -- his beer, steaks, potatoes, social situations, everything.  Sometimes this was frustrating, sometimes it was painful, but in Christy's piece, I got to step back from it, get some perspective, and roll on the floor laughing.  

OMG it's funny. 
So, it turned out that choosing my own favorite post made me giddy.

I made a most timely and serendipitous discovery and my joy right now is inexpressible.

Here's the deal.

Over the last few weeks, I've been trying to remember the name of a cookbook Christy gave me about thirty years ago and I've wanted to make my favorite recipe in this book, but I couldn't remember the name of the recipe. I haven't had the book since we packed up and moved to Maryland from Eugene.

All I could remember was that it was a tasty casserole with no condensed soup in it.

Well, having read Carol's "Recipe Memoir" piece made me curious about what I wrote for that assignment.

My blog post blew me away.

I wrote about the very book and the very recipe I've been twisting my mind in knots to try to remember.  Lo and behold, it was right here in my blog all this time -- in fact, for the last eight years.

I was in Giddy City.

The book is by Nikki and David Goldbeck.  Its title is American Wholefoods Cuisine.  The recipe is Cheese-Vegetable-Barley Bake.

I promptly went to to see if it's available.  It is.  I bought a copy.

If you'd like to read my "Recipe Memoir" piece about this book, this recipe, and my early days of cooking, it's right here.

If you do read it, be sure to read Christy (InlandEmpireGirl)'s comment on my post.

Hilariously, it takes everything about food right back to dear old Dad. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/19/15: Fresh, Alpha Domina Mellis and Dogs, Quench Surprise and Delight

1.  I'll admit it:  when I was done vacuuming the living room, I paused for a moment and enjoyed the moment.  The carpet looked and smelled fresh and I liked it.

2. Today, D C Brau put their seasonal double IPA on tap:  Alpha Domina Mellis. I'd had this day marked on my mental calendar for a couple of weeks, so I was giddy this morning thinking about motoring down to the old brewery this afternoon to sample this beer and see if it was growler worthy. Oh!  It is growler worthy.  I enjoyed a couple of tasters of it along with tasters of Corruption IPA, On the Wings of Armageddon Imperial IPA, and Penn Quarter Porter.  It was a great scene again in the tasting room. It was as if D C Brau had advertised today as Canine Day -- at least five, if not more, people brought their perfectly behaved and securely leashed dogs into the brewery.  Ha! What a sight!

3. I packed up my growler of Alpha Domina Mellis and sixer of Corruption in the Sube and drove to the Diaz house, expecting to find the Deke, but I got the best possible news upon arrival: the Deke and Molly (yes, MOLLY!) were at the tap room at Quench.  These days Molly rarely gets to go out and I could hardly wait to get over there and join them.  So I strolled in, the Deke and Molly gasped with delight to see me, and we enjoyed some samplers together.  I have been to the brewery and tap room of Selkirk Abbey Brewing in Post Falls, ID, and I was stunned and delighted to see that Quench had Selkirk's Infidel IPA on tap. I enjoyed a sampler of it, a couple samplers of Mad Elf, Molly ordered pizza from Ledo's from the bar, she and the Deke picked up the pizza, we all arrived back at the Diazes, and partied deep into the early evening. Fun, fun, fun!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/18/15: Goodbye Yzerman, Off to India, The Music of My Adulthood

1.  He lived a good life, old Yzerman. Molly and Hiram took him in back in their Texas days and he moved with them to New York, Georgia, Virginia, and Maryland. Every time I saw Yzerman he was good-natured and I loved the way he licked my legs when I wore cut offs and licked my hands when I didn't. Today, this good old soul died -- everything shut down and his time had come. He's been delivered from his deafness, incontinence, wobbly legs, and the onset of blindness, but, even as his body slowly deteriorated, his good and gentle soul was vibrant and alive.  God Bless him.

2. The Indian movie Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (2002) completely absorbed me and stirred me up inside. It's about a Hindu woman who has been visiting family and is returning by bus and train to her husband in Calcutta. A man volunteers to accompany her to keep an eye on her as she travels with her one year old son.  She learns he is a Muslim and the whole story turns on the Hindu/Muslim conflicts that flare up in their travels and how they deal with the differences between them. Not only did I enjoy the story, but the movie transported me into worlds I'd rarely or never visited in the movies -- and, as a bonus, it was, in part, a movie about photography.

3. The Deke and I returned home from dinner at the Diazes and I boiled some water, poured it in a thermal glass with brandy, a touch of rum, honey, and cinnamon, put on the headphones, and let myself be transported by listening to The Grateful Dead, The Jerry Garcia Band, Bob Dylan, The Oyster Band, Dire Straits, and a surprise visit to those fun times twenty years ago when Jeff and Margaret and sometimes Patsy and I used to go to the WOW Hall or the Sheraton ballroom and listen to the sublime jams of Zero.  Good Lord I loved Steve Kimock and Martin Fierro and Chip Roland and Judge Murphy and Bobby Vega and Greg Anton and whoever else might sit in with Zero and had so much fun, sometimes sitting and letting the music carry me to far off places and other times dancing my ass off.  I went to bed warmed by the brandy and rum and invigorated by "Scarlet Begonias", "Too Late Now", "Gregg's Eggs" and all the other tunes I've lived with over the many years of my adulthood.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/17/15: Lazy, Sluggish, Mom's Outings Went Well

1.  The Deke, Maggie, Charly, and I all accidentally slept in. For me, it set the tone for the laziest day I've had in a long, long time. If there is beauty in doing nothing, I had a beautiful day. Mostly, though, I was a slug.

2. Both the Deke and I were sluggish, as it turns out, and so we stayed home after school rather than go over to Molly and Hiram's. We had plenty of leftovers in the icebox, so the fact that I didn't do any cooking today was not a problem -- and the leftover curry and rice worked splendidly.

3. I got an email from Christy. She told me about taking Mom to Coeur d'Alene and going on a shopping spree to Ace Hardware, Yoke's, and Stein's. This was all good news to me because when I see pictures of snow blanketing Kellogg and North Idaho, the first thing I think about is Mom being housebound, or, if she does venture out with someone, how dangerous it can be. I wish it would snow like mad in Idaho's higher elevations to help with water and that the snow would just leave Kellogg alone.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/16/15: Old Vet Stands Up for Beltsville P. O., Aaron Rodgers' Roots, Ninkasi in Beltsville

1. I was standing in line at the Beltsville Post Office. Customers who have moved to the USA from all over the world come to this post office and sometimes their business is slow and complicated once they reach the counter to be served because they are sending parcels out of the country. While we were waiting for about three different customers to get particularly thorny mailing situations worked out and, as the line grew, an American Legion/VFW guy, maybe in his eighties, standing two people behind me, remarked to the woman in front of him, without sarcasm, in a moment of genuine gratitude, how much he appreciated the Beltsville post office and how personable, friendly, and helpful the staff are.  I smiled. I'd been thinking the same thing. Slammed by difficult transactions, knowing that a long line of foot-tapping customers was forming in full view of their work, these postal employees were calm, patient, accommodating, and positive and I was happy to hear this older military vet go against every stereotype of curmudgeonly grouchiness and impatience, and seize this moment to praise these employees' work.

2. Another reason I like going to the Beltsville Post Office is that it's close to the Beltsville Panera and I enjoy Panera's pastries and their dark roast coffee -- and, not only that, this Panera shop always has copies of the Washington Post out for customers to read.  So I bought a Cinnamon Crunch scone and a coffee and turned to the sports page and read a very good story about how Aaron Rodgers' football career started at Butte College, a two year community college in Oroville, CA, a most unlikely way for his Super Bowl winning, MVP earning, likely Hall of Fame career to get underway. For the time being, you can find the story here.

3.  After we had a couple of beers at the Old Line Bistro, the Deke and I came home, enjoyed the curry I made over rice, and then we split a bomber of Ninkasi's Tricerahops Double IPA.  Ninkasi's Total Domination IPA, Oatis Oatmeal Stout, and Dawn of the Red Ale have made their way to Beltsville.  I knew the day was coming when Ninkasi beers would be distributed in Maryland and Washington, DC -- and, lo and behold, that promised day has now arrived.  Not bad.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/15/15: Modified Sweet Potato Soup, Curry Questions, Maggie's Medicine

1. The recipe for Sweet Potato Cauliflower Soup, here, instructs the cook to roast the cauliflower, but I decided to not only roast the cauliflower, but also an onion and a red pepper. When I boiled the cubed sweet potatoes, I added a cubed apple covered in cinnamon to it. I also added five spice powder to the soup and some red pepper flakes. The Deke will be the first, besides me, to taste this slightly modified version of this soup and I look forward to finding out how it tasted to her. It would be really fun if she asked me if I did something different in preparing this soup, but not necessary.

2. I also made a big pot of curry sauce and vegetables and tofu.  I experimented by putting chicken broth in the curry to make it less thick and I'm wondering if I might add another block of tofu to it. I'm also thinking that although I really enjoy vegetarian dishes, this particular curry might benefit from the addition of chicken or shrimp -- I'll ponder this some more -- and it might be just fine the way it is.  Taste tests to come.

3. Maggie has begun a course of antibiotics. The medicine is liquid. It's administered directly into her mouth. This didn't seem to faze the Deke in the least.  It fazed me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/14/15: Vet Visit, Player Grand Piano, Wine Therapy

1.  As she ages, Maggie, our older Corgi, more problems. This morning the Deke and I left her at the vet and went back late in the afternoon to have her mouth checked out. We left with a treatment plan and I felt some relief just having had her checked out and knowing what to do next.

2.  While I was doing a little shopping at Costco today, I wondered if Costco will sell very many player grand pianos. One was on display, churning out Christmas song after Christmas song.  A Yamaha representative stood by. If I remember correctly, the player grand piano cost in the neighborhood of 26,000 dollars. Hmmm, I thought, I could buy a car with an automatic transmission for that. Ha!  Well, the music was pleasing and it was fun watching the keys magically depress with no hands to push them down. The Yamaha rep looked lonely.

3. It's stressful when our day includes a visit to the vet.  The Deke was out of sorts when I dropped her off at school after we dropped off Maggie, and I concluded that she was feeling the kind of anxiety that is often best treated with a box of wine.  So, before I picked her up at school, I stopped at the Co-op and bought a box of red wine and the Deke's mood was immediately lightened when she piled into the Subaru and saw the box of wine in the car. It helped relax her once we got home, too.  It turns out, the wine also served my culinary purposes for making dinner -- the black beans and rice I prepared benefit tastily from having a quarter cup or so of red wine dumped in them.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/13/15: National Cathedral Worship, Afternoon Nap, Eggrolls with Tino

1. It's remarkable. Just by driving west on the Beltline for about twelve miles, dropping south on Connecticut Avenue, and making a few turns here and there in Washington, D. C., the Deke and I can be at the Washington National Cathedral.  And, so, today, we wound our way down to this mammoth structure and worshiped in this spacious church.  It's been nearly three years since I worshiped in a cathedral and I'd forgotten how overwhelming the sheer amount of physical space feels, how tiny we humans are in that space, and, still, how mighty the sound of humans singing sounds and how powerfully the rhythms of the liturgy resonate in such a huge space.

2. Maybe it was from feeling overwhelmed by the physical grandeur of the cathedral; maybe it was the mental fatigue resulting from negotiating unfamiliar streets as I drove us to and back from the cathdedral.  I don't know what made me so tired, but when we returned home, I fell into a long coma nap this afternoon and devoured sleep while it devoured me.

3. Hiram's father, Tino, is in the D. C. area on a business trip and the Deke and I flew in the Sube over to the Diaz house to visit with him and enjoy a fun spread of take out Chinese food. Tino was in great spirits, happy to see how his new granddaughter, Ana, is such a contented baby, and happy to see now beautifully Hiram and Molly are building their family's life.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/12/15: Grandpa Popcorn Returns, Return to D C Brau, All's Right with the World

1.  While their parents took care of Christmas errands they wanted to do without their children, Olivia and David spent the afternoon with me and and the Deke and I got to help reward them for joining the Deke and finishing a Christmas crafts project by once again becoming Grandpa Popcorn and popping up a small hill of happy making popcorn.

2. I enjoyed being in Idaho and Oregon over the month of November, and, at the same time, I missed drinking the beers of Maryland and D. C.  This afternoon I sprung into the Subaru and glided down the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and snaked around on Ft. Lincoln Road to Bladensburg Rd and dropped in on the tasting room at D C Brau.  I enjoyed a slow, most satisfying pint of Corruption IPA and then I bought a growler and had it filled with Corruption IPA and bought a sixer of my favorite of all porters, Penn Quarter. The concrete tasting rooms, in full view of the brewing operation, were teeming with twenty and thirty somethings, about half a dozen with babies in tow and another two or three were pregnant (and not drinking) and I smiled inside as I watched all these young people enjoying their beer and earnestly talking about things that matter, occasionally breaking into laughter, and somehow, for a moment, the future seemed bright and the world, at least in this little run down corner of NE Washington, D. C.. seemed a pretty good place to be.

3. I continued to feel good about the little world I live in and about the people around me as the evening continued and I arrived at the Diazes to pick up the Deke.  They'd been to a Girl Scout ice skating party in College Park and the children were going to bed and Molly, Hiram, the Deke, and I sat around the dining room table and talked about everything from raising kids to ideals of beauty while finishing off the jug of Corruption IPA I purchased at the brewery and, for this evening at least, I felt like joining with Robert Browning's Pippa and proclaiming, without irony,  "God's in His heaven -- All's right with the world!"

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/11/15: Freshening Up, Bistro Snack, Eggplant Sandwiches and Rum

1.  I continued my efforts to freshen up our apartment home: vacuum, change the shower curtain liner, launder towels and the dog crate blankets, open the sliding door to let air in, but, I haven't unpacked my suitcase yet from my trip to Kellogg and Oregon.  I have no words.

2. In a moment of spontaneity, the Deke and I decided to go up to the Old Line Bistro for a beer each and a snack.  The joint was packed, but we were seated at a booth and I loved my pint of Duckpin Double IPA and loved having just a sip of my favorite of all porters, DC Brau's Penn Quarter. We split an order of truffle fries, I picked up a bottle of brandy and one of rum to add to our stash of warming libations for the winter, and we went home for dinner.

3. The Deke had requested eggplant sandwiches for tonight and so I fried up olive oiled and salted patties of eggplant, alongside sauteed red pepper and onion, toasted the halves of two ciabatta rolls, and sliced up a chunk of feta cheese.  I then assembled the sandwiches.  When I went to the store earlier, I forgot to buy fresh basil leaves.  Dang it. It was a key ingredient missing from these otherwise most tasty sandwiches.  While making dinner, I warmed myself with black rum, cinnamon, honey, boiling water, and butter mixed together in a small coffee cup.  I love warming drinks in the winter. (Reminder to self:  pick up some cloves at the store. I'd like to add cloves to my winter warming smashes.)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/10/15: Sibling Assignment, Shakespeare Uncovered, Poker Players Uncovered

1.  I spent much of the morning writing a piece for my blog about the parallels between my enjoyment of different kinds of turkey dressing and my enjoyment of living in Greenbelt and my enjoyment watching the movie Creed.  It's a sibling assignment and you can read it if you click here.

2. My mind was reeling with ideas and I returned to feeling emotions that have lived in me for decades as I watched the Shakespeare Uncovered episode examining King Lear.  As I listened to Christopher Plummer, Ian McKellen, Stephen Greenblatt, and others talk about the play and the character of King Lear, I honestly wondered how, for all those years, I presumed to know enough, to have enough insight, to call myself an instructor of Shakespeare.  All these years later, with my years of teaching Shakespeare falling further and further into the past, I no longer want to talk about the plays.  I want to stay quiet and listen to others. I enjoyed doing so tonight, immensely.

3.  With this episode of Shakespeare Uncovered fresh on my mind, I went to YouTube and watched segments of televised poker matches from a variety of channels and shows and on several occasions, as different players went heads up with each other, I observed how their decisions and their responses to the outcomes of their wagers made me think poker telecasts could be retitled, "Helmuth Uncovered" or "Esfandiari Uncovered" or "[insert the name of any poker player] Uncovered".  Key moments, especially when a pot or a tournament is at stake, can create drama as compelling and reveal character as clearly as happens in a brilliant play or movie.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sibling Assignment #172: Turkey Dressing, Where I Live, *Creed* -- and Aging

It's been on my mind a lot since Thanksgiving time, so I simply assigned my sisters and me to write about turkey dressing, to take this topic in any direction.

Christy wrote about how turkey dressing fits into the ongoing story of our family and food that is different, here. Carol focused on warm memories evoked by turkey dressing, here.

Right off the top, I want to make one thing clear.  I love my mom's bread stuffing/dressing for the turkey.  For most of my life, it's the only dressing that was ever served with a turkey dinner and the combination of dried bread, celery, onions, sage, salt, and pepper -- help me, if you are reading this, if I've left anything out -- was always terrific and I always looked forward to eating the dressing as much as I looked forward to the turkey, potatoes, gravy, rolls, cranberries, and other Thanksgiving dinner items.

Mom put the dressing in the turkey -- I guess that means it was always stuffing -- and the turkey juices and bits of meat that flavored the dressing were very delicious.


That said, when I discovered this Thanksgiving that Christy was making a non-conforming dressing for our Thanksgiving dinner, I was ecstatic.  Now, her dressing also was a dry bread dressing, but it was more adventurous than what our family had eaten over the years.  Her dressing combined dried bread, sweet potatoes, fresh cranberries, carrots, onions, orange juice, and orange liqueur.

I was ecstatic, not because I don't like the dressing Mom has made for decades, but because I'm curious and love trying new and different foods.

I think this is especially important to me because I'm more keenly aware, as my sixty-second birthday approaches, that I'm becoming an old man.

I have been confronting the inevitable fact of aging by doing my best not to be averse to new things, of not wanting my life to be a string of repeating what I've done with my life before.  I can't expect things to be the way the used to be.

I've been most keenly aware of my attempts to be open to things being different by having moved to Greenbelt, MD.

Unlike the first 60 or so years of my life, I now live in a densely populated place where, as a person of European descent, I am not in the majority of people who live in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan area.

Not by a long shot.  Nearly 65% of Prince George's residents are black. About 20% are white.

For the first time ever, in my day to day life, I am in the company of countless people from all over the world. I am not learned enough about the world I live in to identify people by the countries they come from, but from listening to people's speech and observing the clothes they wear, I know every day that I am shopping, eating out, drinking coffee, meeting doctors' appointments, having my hair cut, having my blood drawn, sharing the road, and walking around Greenbelt Lake that I am with Muslims, people from multiple African countries, from the Asian sub-continent, from the North and South Pacific rim of Asia, from Oceania, from the Caribbean, and from Central and South America. It being the Washington, D. C. area, I also encounter people like me, former Oregonians and others of European descent from back West and from around here, but most of the time I am different from the people I see and interact with when I walk out of our apartment home into the world of D. C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia.

I don't have anything particularly insightful to say about living in this place, about living about half way between Washington, D. C. and Baltimore, except that I'm not averse to it.

I knew when I moved here that it would be nothing like the four other towns I've lived in: Kellogg, Coeur d'Alene, Spokane, and Eugene.  I had decided ahead of time that I would not bristle at how different things are, but do my best to enjoy seeing so many different ways of dressing, hearing English spoken in so many different ways, with different cadences,accents, rhythms, vocal tones, and vocal qualities, and hearing the music of so many different languages from around the world being spoken.

It's similar to the experience I had watching the movie Creed.  I couldn't really put it into words very well because I am not articulate when it comes to talking or writing about matters of race.

But, I went to the movie Creed ready to see it as if I'd never seen another Rocky movie in my life and found myself enjoying its hip-hop soundtrack (with samples and hints of the soundtrack music Bill Conti wrote, starting with the original Rocky, nearly forty years ago).  I couldn't quite put into words what else I enjoyed about the world and the story-telling in Creed, but then I read a piece by fellow white guy/Rocky admirer David Zirin, here, of the Nation magazine.  He pointed out that "Creed is not a Rocky film", but, rather, "a Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan film", that "shows the value when conscious black directors and writers get to tell their own stories".

It's like coming to dinner and being told we are not having our traditional turkey dressing.

Do I measure the new dressing's worth against the quality of the old, or do I let the new dressing be what it is, on its own, and enjoy it?

Do I complain and grouse that living in Prince George's County sure isn't like living in Eugene or Spokane or Coeur d'Alene or Kellogg and point out all the ways that live in the West is better, or do I seek the beauty of where I live, try to enjoy how different things are, and accept the fact that the whole world has come and is coming to the USA?

Do I grumble about how black the movie Creed is with its hip-hop music, black Philadelphia slang, black street kids on quads and dirt bikes, and its story of a black kid being rescued from the prison pipeline by his black father's widow, but not his mother, enjoying an affluent life that he turns away from to become a boxer, his life's dream?  Do I complain or do I go all in and enjoy Coogler and Jordan's story, their work, and the emotional richness of this movie?

And if I loved the movie Creed and the view it gave me into a life different from my own, does that mean I must turn my back on the saga of Rocky Balboa?


I loved Mom's dressing and I loved Christy's, too.

I loved living in Kellogg, Coeur d'Alene, Spokane, and Eugene and, despite having a friend back home razz me for being a traitor, I love living in Greenbelt, MD.

I loved being on the streets of Philadelphia with black kids and their quads in Creed and, in Rocky, I loved being on the streets of Philadelphia with the white guys singing harmony around fires rising out of barrels on the corner.

I don't have to pit one past experience I enjoyed against the different aspects of a new one.

In fact, there are a number of turkey dressings I've heard about that I'd like to try -- and hope I will one day.

I've had cornbread dressing -- and I want more.

I love the idea of oyster dressing.

I have read that people make sausage dressing.  I'd love to have this, whether hot sausage or apple sausage or sweet Italian sausage.

I've seen recipes for cranberry pecan stuffing, cajun cornbread dressing, sourdough dressing, rye bread sausage and apple stuffing, cashew stuffing, rice stuffing with dried fruit, mushrooms, and nuts and they all sound wonderful.

As I grow older, my hope is that I'll keep drinking different beers, cooking new recipes, listening to new music, enjoying different movies, trying out different dressings -- and not expect my life and the world to be the way it used to be.

Hmmm.....I wonder..... who'll be in charge of the turkey dressing/stuffing next year in Kellogg.....

Three Beautiful Things 12/09/15: Co-op Chile Aroma, Cooking Chicken Soup, Cooked Carrots and Butter

1. I hadn't been to the Co-op since I returned to Maryland on Saturday, and today I bought a few items and I experienced a hard to describe moment of nostalgia for when I first began shopping at the Coop and happiness that I live in Greenbelt, MD when I passed the soup bar and smelled the sweet tomato-y cumin-y aroma of the freshly cooked chili.

2. For an hour, I simmered a small whole chicken in store bought chicken broth, water, abodo seasoning, bay leaf, and salt and pepper and after extracting it from the pot to cool down, I added onion, garlic, okra, corn, chopped carrots, cumin, paprika, thyme, black beans, basil, oregano, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes to the broth. I let the broth simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes.  I had a small amount of penne in the cupboard and I decided, on the spur of the moment to boil it, and after the broth had simmered, I  added the chicken I shredded and the pasta into the soup and let it rest for over a half an hour. I packed up the chicken soup, along with some leftover Moroccan Chickpea Soup from yesterday, and headed out to pick up the Deke at school, stop at the Quench taproom for a couple of samplers of Belgian beer, and go over to the Diaz home for dinner.

3. I'm happy to report that the Diazes and the Deke loved the chicken soup and that both Molly and Hiram really enjoyed the Moroccan Chickpea Soup. This made me very happy. The most fun part of dinner, however, was how I continued to astonish Olivia with the fact that I love cooked carrots and butter. I made up stories about all the times I've gone to MacDonald's and eaten cooked carrots and butter and how restaurants across the nation see me come in and the word is dispatched to the kitchen that Mr. Cooked Carrots and Butter has arrived and soon I'm served a heaping bowl of cooked carrots and butter. While eating my chicken soup, I took each round piece of cooked carrot out of my bowl and buttered it and ate it, much to the horror of Olivia. She can't understand how ANYONE could eat cooked carrots and butter.

Three Beautiful Things 12/08/15: New Grand Mart, Lovely Dark and Deep, Moroccan Chickpea Soup

1.  I poked around on the World Wide Web in search of an Asian market closer to Greenbelt than the one at Wheaton. I discovered a favorably reviewed store in Langley Park, New Grand Mart, and leaped into the Sube, exited the Beltway at New Hampshire, headed south, turned left at University Blvd. East, and popped out of the car into the market. I strolled past the huge heads of Napa cabbages, fava beans, white Korean radishes, and other produce and surveyed the spice shelves and looked for lentils and coconut milk. I didn't buy a lot:  coconut milk, coconut cream, black mustard seeds, lentils, and some other spices, but I had fun exercising my imagination and curiosity, thinking of what I could cook and wondering what I might make with all the foodstuffs I'm completely ignorant about.

2. While out, I kept having flashbacks to the semi-sweet chocolatey smoothness and dry, roasted, toasty finish of D C Brau's Penn Quarter Porter, so I swung by the Old Line Liquor Superstore to see if they had six packs of it. Well, no they didn't, but it was still on tap in the bistro in the back of the store, so I savored a pint and on my way out I purchased a four-pack of Beckenridge's exquisite 72 Imperial Chocolate Cream Stout and a four pack of Ommegang's Oatmeal Stout Winter Ale.  Why did I buy this?   *chuckle*  In my Three Beautiful Things post for Sunday, I described the imperial ales, winter ales, and various porters and stouts of this time of year as "lovely, dark and deep".  Two people who read this took the time to tell me they enjoyed the touch of Frost in my beer prose. Well, the Ommegang Oatmeal Stout Winter Ale I purchased is called Lovely, Dark and Deep Winter Ale.  I had no idea Ommegang had done this.  The coincidence was so right that I had to buy this beer and bring it home for me and the Deke.

3. Once home, I went to work cooking a Moroccan Chickpea Soup.  It's a simple recipe and I made a couple of modifications. After sauteeing a chopped onion, I added five spice powder, tumeric, and pepper and let this cook for a few minutes. I added a couple of cans of diced tomatoes, a few cans of chickpeas, a couple cans of chicken broth, cilantro, the juice of half a lime, and a cup of dried lentils, brought it to a boil and and simmered this for a little over a half an hour.  I also chopped up two sweet potatoes, mashed them, and folded them into the soup. The recipe did not call for the five spice powder or the sweet potatoes or the lime and I didn't follow the instructions to include celery in the soup. I chopped up parsley to put on the top of each bowl and, once again, with the help of some dark beer, this soup warmed a chilly Maryland evening for the Deke and me.

Oh, by the way, next time I make this soup, I'll double the lentils. I thought they needed a stronger presence in this soup.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/07/15: Recipe Reading, Joy of Shopping, Moosewood Caribbean Vegetable Stew

1. Now that I'm back home in Maryland again, I have a kitchen to stock and work in, so I spent time this morning reviewing recipes I've printed and finding and reading others and started to make a list of what I needed to buy today to begin to replenish the pantry and cook what I want to cook this week and beyond.

2. After having my monthly blood draw -- which included a warm conversation with Angela, the best phlebotomist ever, about Thanksgiving and living in the East and living in the West and she told me about when she lived in Davis, CA --, I headed into the Hollywood District of College Park to MOM's Organic Market to buy some produce and few other things, including some house cleaning and house freshening products in my continuing effort to keep our apartment home fresh. It's a challenge since we live in a small space with two dogs. I loved driving up Rhode Island Avenue again and shopping at MOM's.  Then I buzzed over to Costco and had a great time. I not only for being able to stocked up on food products for the kitchen, but, as always, I enjoyed being in the company of so many people from so many places around the world.

3. Back in graduate school, I lived in a tiny basement apartment on W. Broadway with a very small kitchen and I learned how to cook inexpensive meals that were nutritious and delicious, many with the help of a couple of  Moosewood cookbooks. This morning, when I went online in search of recipes, I discovered a trove of Moosewood recipes and, for dinner tonight, I prepared a Moosewood recipe: Caribbean Vegetable Stew.  It was simple.  I sauteed onions, later added chopped cabbage and let them sautee together for a while. I then added minced ginger and a couple of cups of water, brought the mixture to a boil and poured in a couple of cubed sweet potatoes. I boiled the sweet potatoes for a little while, until slightly tender, and then added a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes a bag of frozen okra,and lime juice.  The stew simmered for about 15 minutes and I added cilantro, some salt, and peanuts. The Deke and I agreed to keep this recipe in the blue folder and we both look forward to this meal's return later this winter.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/06/15: Freshening Things Up, Stellar Beer Tasting, Marcus' Art and Residency

1. Our apartment home needed freshening up this morning and I got out the Shark and vacuumed away and opened the blinds to let some sunshine in and opened the sliding glass door to let in some fresh air.  It's easy for a small space like we live in to feel closed in and freshening up the atmosphere helps make things feel more open.

2. The Deke and I made a stellar trip to the Old Line Bistro for some beer tasting and an order of sweet potato tots. We each ordered a four sample flight, perfect for drinking some of the stronger ales the Old Line had on draft today.  I loved the spicy tones of Anchor's annual Christmas Ale -- this year's is their 41st version.  I also loved my favorite of all Imperial IPAs, Flying Dog's The Truth; loved how Breckenridge's Imperial Chocolate Cream Stout warmed me -- and loved how its chocolate-y depth paired with the salty-sweet tots; I ended our session with a sample of 4 Hands Absence of Light Stout, my first ever peanut butter chocolate stout.  Oh, my! It was the perfect dessert on my flight tray and increased my gratitude that winter is approaching and that these imperial ales, winter ales, and various porters and stouts, all so lovely, dark and deep, will be more abundantly available in the weeks that lie ahead.

3. Our server, Marcus, greatly enriched our time at Old Line Bistro. He told us about applying for and securing an arts residency in Estonia and showed us examples of his work he had downloaded on his smartphone. Once again, as happens so often, the Deke and I opened the door for a much younger person to open up and bit and tell us about himself and great conversation ensued and it, once again, made it more difficult for us to accept the stereotypes and generalizations (and complaints) I often read and hear about people in their twenties and early thirties.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/05/15: Smooth Travel, Quench Stop, Diaz Visit

1. Few things please me more than getting to the airport plenty early, having everything go smoothly and easily when I drop my suitcase off at the Alaska counter, skating quickly through security, having flights depart on time, getting superb service in the jet plane, and arriving at Baltimore Washington International almost exactly on time and knowing The Deke will be waiting for me curbside in the Sube.

2. The Deke and I went staright from BWI to the Quench Taproom and we started to get caught up with each other. I enjoyed three four oz samplers. The first was a terrfic grapefruit IPA and then a couple Mad Elfs, a terrific and warming winter ale from Troegs in Pennsylvania. The Mad Elf is a strong ale so chock full of holiday cheer that it should be consumed only in small doses. With its tones of cinnamon and cloves and allspice, it's kind of like a winter ale version of Starbuck's Holidat Spice Flat White.

3. The Deke and I then went to see Molly (Hiram is out of town) and Olivia and David and Ana and we loved the soup Adrienne had made that was left over from Thanksgiving. David left with us for a sleepover and, well, I wasn't much fun because even though it was only about 5:00 PST, I went straight to bed to sleep off my early morning rising and jet plane travel.

Three Beautiful Things 12/04/15: Back to Breakfast Town, Beer and Great Gabbin', Yakkin' at the True Legends Grill

1. I got to enjoy another fine plate of morning food (shortly after noon!) in Breakfast Town -- also known as Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.  Christy, Everett, and I went to Le Peep and I enjoyed a skillet breakfast known as the Drifter.  It's a bunch of vegetables with mushrooms and onions fried up with Le Peep's very own peasant potatoes, held together and slightly sweetened by melted cheddar cheese, and topped with two basted eggs. The peasant potatoes were perfectly peppered and the mildness of the cheese and eggs complemented them beautifully. I left Le Peep feeling satisfied and happy, wishing I could find a parallel Breakfast Town in the Greater Greenbelt area.

2. In front of Byrdman's house, Christy and Everett and I bid one another farewell, as I had done with Mom a few hours earlier, and then Jimmy Byrd and I headed out into the mid-afternoon chill of Coeur d'Alene for some finely crafted beers at the Mad Bomber and the Daft Badger. We not only enjoyed some excellent beers -- I went for a variety of IPAs -- but we had some top-notch conversation, including sessions with Wayne, who dropped in the Mad Bomber to buy a keg for his kegerator, and some longtime friends of Byrdman's at the Daft Badger. This was a five star outing, both for the beer and the high quality conversations.

3. Byrdman and I then pickup trucked out to the True Legends Grill in Liberty Lake where we met up with Al, Jake, Stu, and Lars for dinner, wise cracks, stories, and laughs.  After dinner, Byrdman and Stu gave me a lift to the Ramada Inn at the Spokane Airport so I could get some sleep before rising early to be leavin' on a jet plane for Baltimore, MD.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/03/15: Flying with Holiday Spice Flat White, Ham Dinner, Good Night Brandy

1. On this morning after the Zags' victory over WSU, Christy and I rode our jet stream of elation all the way from Pullman to Coeur d'Alene, and, just in case my inner happy dance might be starting to flag, we stopped at Starbucks where I purchased myself a jolt of gingery-cinnamony-clove-y caffeinated 'tis the season to be jolly uplifting road trip Christmas cheer by drinking a tall Starbucks Holiday Spice Flat White and foamy angels of peace and goodwill carried me on their wings of love the rest of the way to the heart of the Silver Valley.

2. Back home, I did three loads of laundry for Mom and peeled and sliced potatoes and chopped onions in preparation for the potato au gratin dish that Mom and I were assembling to contribute to tonight's ham dinner, made possible by Christy's generosity sharing a Longhorn BBQ ham she bought with all of us.  Great dinner. Especially the return of Christy's Thanksgiving dressing!

3. Simple. I wanted to warm up a bit and relax myself before hitting the sack so I boiled water, poured some brandy in a mug, and poured the hot water over it. It's a perfectly simple and tasty bedtime smash.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/02/15: Lunch at Mikey's, Dinner at Paradise Creek, Real Men of Genius @ Beasley Coliseum

1. Christy and I piled into her shiny Jeep Cherokee and braved the feathery snowfall and bare, wet roads, making our way to Moscow, ID where we picked up our niece Cosette and enjoyed a delicious lunch at Mikey's Greek Gyros in downtown Moscow.

2. Christy parked the Cherokee at St. James Episcopal Church where Kenton Bird picked us up to take us downtown to Paradise Creek for dinner with Bev and John Wolff. John is a home beer brewer and his J-Dub's Northwest Pale Ale was on tap at Paradise Creek and it was a most pleasing beer -- and I enjoyed the macaroni and cheese I ordered, made with the famous locally made Cougar Gold cheese.  It was especially fun talking with Kenton about D. C., where he lived for ten months nearly thirty years ago. We compared notes about where each of us has visited and what things were like then and what they are like now.

3. After dinner, Christy and I sashayed into Beasley Coliseum on the campus of Washington State University to watch the Bulldogs of Gonzaga take on the hometown lads, the WSU Cougars.  The Zags sprinted to a double digit lead early on, powered by the hot shooting of Kyle Wiltjer -- he scored twenty points in the skirmish's first ten minutes.  The Cougs pestered the Zags all night long with steals, blocked shots, and scoring runs, but never could grab the lead. The Zags triumphed, 69-60.

Christy and I enjoyed our seats and got a kick out of the Bud Light Real Men of Genius.  First, there was Mr. One Man Rooting Section Guy who hoarsely and loudly exclaimed multiple times his coaching principles, especially his conviction that the Cougs needed to "D up".  In the second half, he was joined in his exhortations by a middle aged Bud Light Real Man of Genius, Mr. Get the Crowd Fired Up Guy who yelled at the "pansy" Coug fans to "get off their asses" and then went the extra mile by descending and ascending the stairs bordering section 22, yelling encouragement to fans to "Get up! Come on! Get up!". He was, by every person whom he yelled at, totally ignored.

So, today, we salute you Mr. One Man Rooting Section Guy. Crack open an ice cold Bud Light. Some one has to coach the Cougars from over twenty-five rows above Friel Court and embarrass his girlfriend with every command that the Cougs "Come o-o-o-o-o-n! Play smart!"

And, today, we salute you, Mr. Get the Crowd Fired up Guy. Crack open an ice cold Bud Light. Some one has to squawk in the faces of seventy-five year old lifetime Washington State fans wearing crimson and grey Cougar sweatshirts, khaki Dockers, and white New Balance shoes to get them off their pansy asses and scream support for the Cougs.


This Bud's for you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 12/01/15: Decorating the Tree, Breakfast for Dinner, Terps and Tar Heels

1. Mom's Task List Update!  After I scrubbed the floor, wiped the ash out of the oven, and put Mom's kitchen back together again, I turned my attention to Christmas decorations. Without incurring a concussion or a torn ACL, I got the decorations out of the storage closet and brought each tub into the living room for Mom's inspection and returned the stuff Mom wasn't ready for yet back to the upstairs. I put the gold garlands around the tree and put up ornaments.  Christy came over and put her favorite ornament on the tree.  (When were were little, did we used to fight over who got to put this on the tree?  Were there tears?  If that how it used to be, today proved we've outgrown that drama!) Here's Christy's photograph of this revered ornament:

2.  Mom and I joined forces to make a breakfast dinner tonight.  I cooked the sausage patties and the eggs and she made the waffles.  Originally, we thought we'd get burgers from the Humdinger, but this worked out a lot better and was fun to make.

3. Byrdman had alerted me earlier in the day that the Maryland Terps and the North Carolina Tar Heels were playing each other on ESPN in basketball.  I hadn't seen the team representing my new home state play this season and so, after I got the kitchen cleaned up after dinner, I headed into the basement and enjoyed the game.  I could see why hopes are high in Maryland that the Terps will have a great season, but on this night the Terps hurt themselves with a lot of turnovers and got zapped by the return, from a broken wrist, of Marcus Paige to the Tar Heels, and went down in defeat, 89-81. I enjoyed the game a lot and look forward to following the Terps throughout the season -- and, who knows? Maybe I'll get over to College Park and see a game this winter -- I see they have a home game on my birthday!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Three Beautiful Things 11/30/15: Task List Shrinks, Sibling Outing, *Creed*

1. I continued to tackle Mom's Task List first thing this morning and moved the stove/oven away from the wall and away from the refrigerator and wiped out the bottom of it in preparation for Mom turning on the self-cleaning function during the day.

2. Christy and Carol and I were originally going to drive to Missoula today for a sibling outing and, I think if it were summertime, we would have.  But, with the cold weather and short days we decided not to climb over Lookout Pass and so we went to Cd'A and then the Spokane Valley Mall for the day. We enjoyed lively conversation over a full breakfast at the Breakfast Nook in CdA and then went for a frigid photo walk at Falls Park in Post Falls. After running errands back in CdA, we scooted over to the Spokane Valley Mall Regal Cinema to watch the movie, Creed, the next in the nearly forty year old Rocky franchise. After the movie, we enjoyed adult beverages and a bite to eat at Moon Time, an alehouse and food joint on East Sherman in CdA.  Here are pictures from Falls Park of the Avista Bridge, a bridge we used to cross on U. S. 10 before I-90 took over North Idaho.

3. I had a most satisfying and emotional experience watching the movie, Creed. One thing I enjoyed about watching the movie was being transported back to 1977 and the Garland Theater in Spokane and the night I saw the movie Rocky for the first of several times that late winter and spring. Both Eileen, my wife back then, and I were transfixed by Rocky and returned to the theater several times to see repeat screenings. Today, I loved seeing the character of Rocky Balboa as a man in his late sixties, wise, humble, ready to go the distance as he faces the difficulties of aging. I also enjoyed the story of Adonis Creed and how his story unfolded against the backdrop of hip-hop music and black kids on dirt bikes and quads riding down the streets of Philadelphia. Yes, this was, in part, Sylvester Stallone's movie, but, even more, it was director Ryan Coogler's movie and Michael B. Jordan's movie -- and I couldn't help but be transported back to their 2013 movie, Fruitvale Station, a movie that stirred me deeply.