Saturday, December 31, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/30/16: Costco Was Packed, Quiet Lunch, MOM's Aromas and Thirty-Four Years

1.  Today was my favorite kind of day at Costco in Beltsville. The store was packed. The sound of languages from all over the world filled the place. It was like when I'm on the Beltway and it's packed with cars and an unspoken agreement seems to occur between drivers that we are all in this together and if we want to keep a disaster from happening, we'd all better look out for each other, be courteous, and not push it. Although we weren't in any potential danger at Costco, I beamed as I walked around the store because shoppers were being courteous, patient, and often smiled or gave a quick nod of gratitude if, say, I pushed my cart heading west out of the sheets and blankets aisle and yielded to those shoppers going north and south. No collisions. No cutting in front of others. No aisle rage. Just a slow, leisurely, successful day of picking up a few staples at Costco.

2. I wanted to try the Tropicannon IPA from Baltimore's Heavy Seas Brewery, so, Old Line Bistro is essentially next door to Costco, so I dropped in, ordered a pint, and was taken aback by how fruity this beer was -- a little too much for my taste. But, it prepared the way nicely for the crunchy, nutty, sweet, and tart kale and feta cheese salad I ordered and I thought this salad might taste good with a half pint of D. C.'s 3 Star Brewing Company's Peppercorn Saison and I was right.

3. Since returning to Maryland from Kellogg, I hadn't shopped at MOM's Organic in College Park. I first started shopping at stores similar to this back in 1982 when the Kiva was near 11th and Willamette, close to Collins' Bicycle Shop, and what I always enjoyed about the Kiva and Sundance and Capella (nee Oasis) markets in Eugene was the smell of coffee beans, essential oils, soaps, chocolate, and unlit incense. I walked into MOM's today and about thirty-four years of my life flashed pleasingly before my eyes and I enjoyed myself by grinding a bag of coffee, buying fresh baked bread, stocking up on produce, and enjoying the friendly variety of people who work and shop at MOM's.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/29/16: Adding Laps, Rita's Gift Arrived!, Monster in the Mine

1.  After finishing nearly an hour of exercising in the pool, I saw a lap swimming lane was open and I had told myself that if this were the case, I'd swim a few laps. I swam four and I'm hoping to continue to top off my exercise sessions with lap swimming and build some endurance. We'll see. Because I swim crooked, it makes me nervous to share a lane, so I'm always grateful when there aren't many swimmers around and a lane is open that I can swim in alone.

2.  Rita bought me a book and had it mailed over a week ago. We were concerned that it was trapped in the Greenbelt Post Office, but, if it was, it got released. Today I arrived home to find Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day sitting outside the door of our apartment home. This evening, I began reading it and I think I understand the book's general concept, but, before I can spring into bread baking action, I need some supplies. Before too long, I'll secure these things and see if I can make this book's bread baking process work. I will be entering totally new territory if I learn how to bake bread, that is, anything but cornbread.

3.  Shortly before midnight, I dreamed I was on a baseball team that took a mine tour directed by Ed Holland (R.I.P.) and I was wearing a T-shirt that said, "What's Life?" and Ed mocked me with sarcastic responses to this question. The area we were in underground had hallways and doors and I began frantically running, opening doors, slamming them, darting up and down hallways, trying to escape a creature that was a combination crocodile and boa constrictor. Before this creature could wrap its powerful length around me and begin chomping on me, I woke up, freaked out, and stayed up for over two hours. I cleaned the kitchen. I emptied the trash. I checked some scores on ESPN and read articles online. I took the dogs out.  Finally, around 2:30, I went back to bed.  I dreamed I had to give a deposition to a D.A. because I had witnessed a fight between Jim and Curt. Curt began punching out Jim when Jim questioned his stamina as a starting pitcher. As I joined others in the courtroom, and as the trial was about to begin, I woke up. I'll never know how the trial came out. I started my new day by taking care of Maggie and Charly, brewing a cup of coffee, and sitting down to write the 3BTs you just finished reading.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/28/16: Back to Bed, New Cookbook, I Chopped Myself

1. Such a rare indulgence: I got up around 6:30 or so to feed the dogs and take them out. I wrote my daily blog post. Then I went back to bed and not only slept, but had vivid and fun dreams, and didn't re-emerge until 10:00.

2. I opened my birthday gift from Christy. It's a gorgeous cookbook by Portland chef Naomi Pomeroy entitled Taste and Technique: Recipes to Elevate Your Home Cooking. I started reading it and perusing recipes and I thought, wow!, if Naomi Pomeroy is looking to up her readers' home cooking game, this cookbook will do that! As I learn more and begin to try out recipes from this book, I'll be venturing into uncharted territory.  I look forward to more reading, possibly adding to my very modest utensil supply, and some adventurous cooking.

3.  While keeping the Diazes' cat, Deanna, company for an hour or so per visit, I watch episodes on Netflix of Chopped. So, today, I decided to cut up the head of red leaf lettuce I bought before Christmas, add the Lebanese lentil salad I made last week to it, the small container of cucumber salad Molly had made, a can of chickpeas, sliced canned beets, and two sliced tomatoes. I poured some herb infused olive oil over this concoction along with balsamic vinegar and salt. Then, as I began to eat it, the voices of Chopped judges started sounding in my head.

"This salad has some good flavors, but it's not crisp. It's soggy."
"This would be an even better salad with some lemon and more garlic, beyond what was in the lentil salad." "Did you forget the pepper? This salad is begging for black pepper."

Ha! These were totally legitimate concerns and, while I enjoyed the salad and saved the leftovers, which I will eat -- after adding lemon and pepper -- I think this little creation of mine would have gotten me chopped because it was too liquidy. It got a bit soggy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/27/16: Blood Draw, Hour in the Pool, Birthday Dinner

1. I went down to Labcorp and got my birthday celebration underway with a blood draw -- no other patients were there, so I got right in and out.

2. A little while later it was time to go to the pool where I spent a solid hour jogging in place, cross country skiing, stretching, and doing other exercises and ended my session with a ten minute soak in the hot tub.

3. My hope, when I sat down at the bar the Old Line Bistro, was that the Grapeness Imperial IPA would still be on tap and it was I enjoyed a pint of its juiciness. For my birthday dinner, I enjoyed an order of fish and chips with a glass of Pinot Grigio and closed out the night with a cognac paired with 3 Stars Brewing's sweet, chocolate-y, and milky Starsky and Dutch Imperial Stout, a perfect dessert beer.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/26/16: Prepping the Sube, Fast Eddie and a Nap, *Chopped* Episodes

1. I popped down to a local gas station first thing this morning to (finally) vacuum out the Sube as the Deke requested on her birthday, making the interior road ready for Patrick and the Deke's drive to Nyack today.

2. The Deke and Patrick gave me a lift to the Diazes so I could pick up their Element to use for the next few days and I stayed over there for over two hours because their cat, Deanna, gets so lonely. Deanna was all over me as I cued up The Sting on Netflix and fast forwarded to the last forty minutes of the movie, just to enjoy the sting itself again and to admire all the acting again. Then I cued up The Hustler so I could admire Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason and George C. Scott and Piper Laurie and listen to the movie's hard-boiled script. I relaxed, closed my eyes, and listened to the movie's words and jazz soundtrack and surprised myself by falling into a deep early afternoon nap and awoke to Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) berating Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) -- "You're a born loser." -- and decided to go back to our apartment home before the Turk has thugs break Eddie's thumbs and Eddie sells his soul to Bert Gordon.

3. This evening, I came across a list of programs and movies going off of Netflix at the end of the month and read that a collection of Chopped episodes would be going away. Christy and Everett love Chopped, but, until this evening, I'd never watched it. Tonight I watched several hours of the show and from time to time I wanted the chef judges and the chef contestants to step outside of the time constrictions of the show and explain more fully their comments about complementing flavors in a dish. I might learn more about this from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's book, Food Lab. I have submitted a request for it at the library. I'll learn more from it about the science of cooking -- that's Kenji Lopez-Alt's specialty -- and possibly teach myself to listen to chefs' comments on Chopped more intelligently.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/25/16: Breakfast, Reflecting on 2016, *The Sting*

1. I fixed Patrick, the Deke, and me a late morning breakfast of bacon, eggs, home fries, and English muffin.

2.  It turned out that Patrick wasn't feeling well and went back to bed and that the Deke was also really tired and napped during the afternoon and so we didn't carry out our plans to go to the Jefferson Memorial and out for Thai food. It turned out to be a quiet day with time to rest and reflect. I thought a lot about how I've never gone to as many places in a calendar year as I did in 2016 nor did I ever have a year more jam packed with great times with friends and family. 2016 unnerved me, too, especially the Deke's cancer scare, but today I thought a lot about Julie and Scott and Cate and Danielle and Camille and Lake Michigan and Pendleton and Nyack and Lansing and New York City and Savannah and Kellogg and my family in Kellogg and my friends in and from Kellogg and my family out here in Maryland and in New York and Patrick and Baltimore and Lura and Lyle and I haven't included everyone and everywhere in this sentence, but it was a momentous year for friendship, kinship, and travel.

3. I was checking one of those 100 movies to watch on Netflix articles online and The Sting jumped out at me and I put the earbuds in and watched it. It had been so long since I watched it that I had forgotten everything. Of special pleasure to me was the acting, not only of Paul Newman and Robert Redford, but of the great supporting actors: Robert Shaw, Charles Durning, Eileen Brennan (oh, my!), Harold Gould, Dana Elcar, Charles Dierkop, and the sly and perfect performance by Dimitra Arliss.  Much of the movie was given over to actors playing characters who were themselves acting out pretend roles, characters within characters, and that was a ton of fun.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/24/16: Crab Cakes at Faidley's, Visiting the Mother Ship, Swiss Miss and Brandy

1. I was out running some errands when the text came flying in:  Patrick wants to go to Baltimore. It was past noon and Patrick was now awake, taking a shower, and eager to travel to a new place. An hour or so later, we hit the road and made our way to the dizzying, chaotic, labyrinthine, vibrant, historic Lexington Market, here. If you read my blog very often, you might remember that a while back I listened to David Simon (creator of The Wire) interviewed on one of my favorite podcasts, Special Sauce, about where to eat in Baltimore and when Ed Levine, the host, asked him where to go for crab cakes, he replied immediately: Faidley's in Lexington Market. (You can listen to the podcast here and get a sense of what Faidley's is about, here.)

Once in Lexington Market, I was nearly overcome with vertigo -- the good kind -- as we wound our way through the narrow passages between vendors' stalls selling produce, meat, fried chicken, Korean food, breakfasts, and more. Patrick spied the entrance to Faidley's and we staked out a place on one of the several waist high tables. Faidley's has no chairs. Whether you go to the oyster bar or order prepared seafood, if you eat it in house, you stand at one of these tables.

For me, the stakes were high.  I had decided when we moved to Maryland that I would not eat my first crab cake until I did so in Baltimore -- and then, after listening to David Simon, I decided my first crab cake would have to be at Faidley's.

And, let me just say:  Oh, my! The crab cake was round, about the size of a baseball. It featured large chunks of jumbo crab held together with crushed saltine crackers and a subtle sauce, lightly seasoned with Old Bay seasoning, and deep fried, giving the exterior a satisfying crunch, opening the way to the sweetest, tenderest crab meat I've ever tasted. The Deke and I split one cake and ordered two sides, pickled cucumber salad (to die for) and greens, like collard greens, which were perfect.  We also ordered fried calamari and loved it.

I look forward to returning to Lexington Market for a longer visit so I can get my bearings better. Next time I'll be heading straight to that oyster bar in Faidley's to slurp away! The Deke also likes that idea.

2.  Okay. Several times, I have mentioned on this blog that I enjoy beers brewed at Baltimore's Union Craft Brewing, here. In fact, yesterday I mentioned the pleasure of drinking their Steady Eddie IPA and have, on several occasions, praised the virtues of both their Duckpin Pale Ale and their Double Duck Pin Double IPA.

Patrick, the Deke, and I piled back into the Sube and headed north, to the Hampden/Clipper Mill neighborhood, and visited the mother ship, the brewery itself.

I went to the tasting room bar and ordered Double Duck Pins for all three of us and we squeezed onto a narrow table across from a guy from Baltimore and his Shropshire wife and her widowed father. We had a fine time yakking and I returned to the bar and brought back a single pint of Union's sublime Rye Baby, a Rye IPA, split it with the Deke, and, as we left, I purchased a growler of Union's fantastic Double Black IPA, Lucifer's Trees, for our enjoyment back at our apartment home.

3. Once back in Greenbelt, I dropped off Patrick and the Deke at our apartment home and braved the crowds at Shoppers in College Park and bought a few items for Christmas breakfast and for Christmas Eve snacks -- and, more importantly, got some Swiss Miss so we could enjoy some hot chocolate and brandy.  I drove over to the Diazes and fed Deanna, the cat, and gave her some company before coming back, joining the Deke and Patrick, for a glass of Black IPA, and we settled into corn chips, salsa, Black IPA, and, a little later, the much anticipated Swiss Miss and brandy -- and, for me, some vanilla extract.

A Happy Anniversary Day indeed!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/23/16: Car Wash Delay, Thank Jehovah, Introducing Patrick to Quench

1.  While the Deke enjoyed sitting still in our apartment home on her first day of winter break, I ventured into the Greenbelt Plaza to drop off a couple of shoes the Deke needed repaired and to have a key cut and to check out whether there were fewer than 15, 000 customers at the College Park Car Wash.  There weren't. It was a mob scene. So, I will take care of the car another day.

2. After nearly an hour of flopping around in the Greenbelt pool and taking a relaxing soak in the aquatic center's hot tub, I sauntered out to the Sube and suddenly a voice rose out of another Sube -- a Sube about eleven years newer than ours. It was the janitor who cleans city hall and the aquatic center. When she saw I had a Sube, too, she wanted to tell me how thankful she was for her Sube, that she hit a deer earlier in the morning and the deer ran off and all her Sube suffered was a crack at the point of impact. She thanked God and Jehovah several times for her sturdy car and her good fortune. Her story made me beam. We went our separate ways, wishing each other a Merry Christmas.

3. The Deke and I decided to introduce Patrick to our favorite tap room in Montgomery County, Quench. It was a huge success. The Quench vibe was festive. I was very happy to try out another IPA from Union Brewing of Baltimore, Steady Eddie, a smart choice. We also decided to have dinner and the Deke and I made another smart move, splitting a small prosciutto and pesto pizza. I'd never eaten such a thing before and I enjoyed venturing into this unknown pizza territory.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/22/16: Patrick Arrives, Coffee Diuretic, The Grapeness at Old Line

1. I was up around 5:20 a.m., about to drink a cup of coffee, when a text message flew in. It was Patrick. His flight had arrived at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport an hour early. I responded that I'd get there a.s.a.p. and I sprang into the Sube and plowed up the Baltimore Washington Parkway, arrived at the airport, and picked up Patrick, beginning his twelve day stay in Maryland and, for a few days, New York.

2. The guy who checked out my groceries today at the Co-op has worked there for as long as I've lived here in Greenbelt. We've never talked. Today, however, he made me laugh when he suddenly launched into a long explanation of how be needed someone to come to his stand so he could go use the rest room and how he can drink six or seven beers before he has to relieve himself, but with coffee it's a whole 'nother story -- two cups, max, and it's off to the bathroom.

3. Patrick, the Deke, and I were going to go eat Kenyan food at Swahili Village, but the Deke had hit the wall and was too tired to go out. So, I fixed some leftovers for the Deke and then Patrick and I went to the Old Line Bistro where I was very happy to see that Ellicott City's Manor Hill's beers were still on tap from their tap takeover the night before. I'd had my eye on The Grapeness, their Double IPA, brewed in collaboration with Aslin Beer Company of Herndon, VA.  It was a juicy, hoppy bazooka blast of fermented bliss.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/21/16: Quiet Day, Cheers, Chinese and Ice Cream

1. We ordered two sets of box springs and I wanted to be home when they arrived so I spent a most welcome quiet day in our apartment home doing laundry, putting my clothes away, putting fresh sheets on our bed, and getting other small tasks done around house. Alas, the deliveries arrived after I had left the house to pick up the Deke and begin celebrating her birthday.

2. We started the celebration at Quench where we enjoyed some beer and where Mike, the owner, poured us each a complimentary flute of champagne to celebrate the Deke's birthday, our anniversary, on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and my birthday two days later.

3. Since the Diazes were packing up to go to Florida early in the morning, the Deke requested take out from Lucky Noodle and an ice cream cake for her birthday dinner. Molly bought decadent ice cream cupcakes instead, and they were divine.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/20/16: More Energetic, Back to Lebanon, Broader Brandy Horizons

1. Like today, I go to the pool to flop around and not only replicate the exercises we do in the class I take on Mondays, but expand upon them by doing many more repetitions than we do during class. I hardly exercised while staying with Mom in Kellogg and I've got to figure out how to get out and move around when I help out up there. I returned to Maryland feeling sluggish and just two days of flopping around already have me feeling more energetic.

2. Well, tonight I prepared the Lebanese dinner I started yesterday. I worked on two recipes at once: Lebanese Lentil Salad with Garlic, Cumin, Mint, and Parsley (I subbed cilantro), found here and Maghmour, a Lebanese Moussaka, featuring eggplant, tomatoes, chickpeas, and seasonings, served over basmati rice, found here.  I had a blast fixing these recipes and filling our apartment home with the garlic-y, lemon-y aromas of cooking Mediterranean food. Along with flopping around in the pool, when I'm in Kellogg, I sorely miss cooking these sorts of meals. I love cooking for Mom and fixing food she requests and is familiar with -- but I enjoy even more the freedom I have in our apartment home to fix me and the Deke a variety of meals, mostly vegetarian, and many of them international in origin.

3.  When the arctic air starts moving in, I find it warming and relaxing in the evening to sip on brandy mixed with boiling water (or hot milk) with a cinnamon stick tossed in. The Deke has been enjoying some evening brandy, too, and we've decided to try some different brands and to pay a few bucks more. Our go to brandy for years has been Christian Brothers -- the same was true for Dad --, but this evening I purchased a bottle of E and J V.S.O.P and we both enjoyed it. My take was simple: I thought this brandy's brown sugar qualities were more pronounced than they are in Christian Brothers and I haven't decided if I have a preference. In fact, I probably won't have a preference because usually my favorite beer or brandy or whisky or gin or Scotch is the one I'm enjoying at the moment I'm drinking it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/19/16: Back to Flopping Around, Lebanon Will Wait, Brandy and Hot Chocolate

1. I sorely miss going to the aquatic center when I go to Kellogg to be with Mom. I was a little giddy today as I waded into the warm waters of the Greenbelt pool and rejoined the weekly Senior Swim class I enjoy so much. It had been almost two months since I flopped around in the water, getting my heart rate up and stretching and strengthening muscles. My skin tingled for the rest of the day.

2. I had the lentils on, simmering. I was in the middle of mincing ten cloves of garlic. I was just getting ready to cube the eggplants. I was on the verge of making me and the Deke a Lebanese dinner. My phone rang. It was the Deke. She wanted to go out for drinks and some food. No problem. Lebanon could wait another day. I picked the Deke up and we had an awesome party at the Old Line Bistro.

3. Liz, our server, was very busy, serving our table while also working a holiday party in the back. Still, she gave us premium service, topped off by bringing us Old Line's little cups of complimentary rich hot chocolate to finish our dinner. I ordered a shot of brandy to accompany the hot chocolate. The Deke and I split the shot, pouring some of it into our hot chocolate. Oh my! What a delicious and warming way to bring our awesome party to an end.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/18/16: Stocking the Pantry, LSD and Immigration, *Serious Eats* and *Special Sauce*

1. I knew when I arrived back in Maryland that our apartment home's pantry would need replenishing and so today I sprang into the Sube and buzzed down to the Co-op and bought lemons and limes and eggplant and a bottle of red wine and garbanzo beans and potatoes and coffee and a host of other groceries that I like to have on hand.

2. It turns out that this new podcast I enjoy, Undone, here, is a project inspired by a similar short video documentary project, Retro Report, here. Both enterprises endeavor to explore what's happening with stories that were once in the headlines, but have faded away ("Headlines fade. The stories continue.") Over at Undone, today, I listened to the story of a Kurdish immigrant named Ibrahim who suddenly found himself, twelve years ago,  facing charges from HSA of being a terrorist and he faced deportation. If you listen to his story, you'll learn about the attorney, citizens, and elected officials, people of various political persuasions, who came to his defense and you'll find out where his case stands today. You can listen to the story "Ibrahim", here.  Over at Retro Report, I watched a story updating LSD research, here, and revisited the policy of "Three Strikes and You're Out", here.

3. The food devotees over at Serious Eats, here, sponsor a podcast, Special Sauce, here, hosted by New York City food reviewer and journalist, Ed Levine. I love this podcast.  I've learned more about places to eat in Baltimore from David Simon, here, and Laura Lippman, here, about Murray's Cheese from Rob Kaufelt, here, and about her restaurant and cooking show empire from Lidia Bastianich, here, among others. What I had never done, until tonight, was click around the Serious Eats website -- and I had a blast doing that as bedtime reading. I learned more about carving and slicing knives and roasting potatoes and I found a number of guides to restaurants in New York City and Portland and other cities. If for no other reason than to imagine the pleasures of restaurants I'll never visit, knives I'll never use, and cocktails I'll never mix, I know I will keep visiting Serious Eats and keep clicking around, finding recipes, columns about cooking, and so much more.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/17/16: Day Drinkin' with the Deke, Disco Demolition Night, "Gloria" and Sleater-Kinney and More

1. The Deke and I went up to the Old Line Bistro for a couple of hours around 2 p.m. Since leaving Maryland back on November 10th, I had only drunk one Imperial or Double IPA -- it was at Danny and Sharon's house last Monday. Their son had visited and left behind a splendid Pyramid Outburst Imperial IPA. Today, I walked into the bistro with high hopes that it would have a Double IPA on tap. Much to my delight, there it was: Baltimore's Union Brewing's Double Duckpin Double IPA. When Chris delivered my pint of this juicy hop bomb to our table, I felt the pleasure of a reunion with a friend I had been missing. I relished the pop of citrus and the clean bitterness of this superb beer as I plunged into my pint. The Deke and I ordered some truffle fries. Later we split a burger. I had tiny samples of two boozy Imperial Stouts. My favorite was Collaboration No. 5, a joint effort of Boulevard and Firestone Walker. You can read all about this rocket launcher of bourbon-aged tart cherry, milk chocolate, vanilla-y sweetness right here. Again and again, I have read about the mad skills of brewers in Vermont and so closed out this session of conversation and food and beer with a lighter beer, a pint of Otter Creek's Free Flow IPA. It was, as advertised: "Hazy in color, smooth by nature and free flowing by choice."

2. After visiting the Diazes, the Deke and I settled into our little life in our little apartment home with our little corgis. They all went to bed early, and I decided to stay up and listen to an episode of a podcast that was new to me. The podcast Undone investigates stories that seem to have come to an end, but examines how the end of the story was really the beginning of something new. Do you remember how on the night of July 12, 1979, a Chicago radio host, Steve Dahl, promoted a Disco Sucks night at Chicago's Comiskey Park and how between games of a doubleheader between the White Sox and the Tigers he oversaw the blowing up of dumpster of disco records fans brought to the park? How, after the demolition,  a riot ensued in the ballpark and the second game was canceled?  The night marked the beginning of the end of disco music. But the demise of disco gave rise to what came to be called "house music", and I found this episode of Undone entitled, "Disco Demolition Night" fascinating as it explored the significance of disco, the events of July 12, 1979, the death of disco, and the birth of house music. Want to hear it for yourself?  Click on this link right here.

3. So. It turns out that that techno-synthy sound and rhythm that is the backbone of the Eurhythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" grew out of house music and so I created a "Sweet Dreams" Pandora station. I didn't really like it, but it did lead me to staying up until after 1 a.m. listening to a bunch of rock music performed by women. I listened to Joan Jett play "I Love Rock and Roll"; I watched a video of Patti Smith and her band just kill "Gloria" on a 1976 episode of Saturday Night Live. (Have you watched this performance recently? It is one of the most audacious, defiant, and thrilling performances of any song I've ever experienced.  It's here.) Then it was back to Pandora and I created a Sleater-Kinney station. I don't know how I ever got to sleep after spending over an hour listening to Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Breeders, Bikini Kill and other hard driving, uncompromising punky, alt/indie all women rock bands play -- and, I got to this music all because of the death of disco.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/16/16: My Gratitude as I Left Kellogg, Breakfast Town, Riding with Boubacar

1.  At least when I walked out Mom's door this morning to begin my trip back to Maryland, I knew Mom's blood pressure has been consistently good the last week or so, that her wound is healing really well, and that she's sleeping well at night. Overall, especially relative to when she was hospitalized from Oct. 18th to Nov. 8th, she's doing pretty well. Her health is stable. It must be frustrating, though, for her to be unable to leave the house without someone helping her and to depend so much on her kids for her shopping and other things. Thank goodness Carol comes in every morning with Sadie, the Roberts' Pomeranian, and fixes Mom breakfast and does things that need done and thank goodness Christy is next door and comes over often and gets other things done and thank goodness Mom has dinner with some part of the family every night and has leftovers to eat for lunch the next day. All of these good things make it a bit easier to leave, as does the prospect of being reunited with the Deke and with the Diazes and, when possible, with Adrienne and Jack. I am grateful that I can make these trips to Kellogg. I'm very fortunate.

2. Carol, Christy, Everett, and I enjoyed breakfast together at Jimmy's Down the Street in Breakfast Town (a.k.a. CdA) and then Christy and Everett drove me to the Spokane Airport where I arrived way early -- I like this -- and I relaxed in the waiting area and listened to podcasts.

3. I flew to Denver. The flight from Denver to Baltimore was delayed about forty-five minutes, but that was no problem, not with plenty of podcasts to listen to -- podcasts also make the time go by quickly once in the air. Once I retrieved my suitcase at the airport in Baltimore, I requested a ride through Uber and thoroughly enjoyed my ride with Boubacar, and we talked about his home country of Mali and living apart from our mothers and he told me how much he loves being in the USA. Being fluent in both French and English, Boubacar was quite impressed that the Deke teaches at a French Immersion school. I began my trip to Idaho back on November 8th with a fascinating ride on Uber with Jude, from the Republic of the  Cameroon, and ended it with a ride from Boubacar from Mali. Both conversations were fascinating and made going to and from the airport more than just enjoyable. These conversations were invigorating and deepened my enjoyment of living in a part of the USA populated by people from all over the world.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/15/16: Ready to Leave, Sliding Out on the Town, Family Dinner

1. A day ahead of time, I packed about 95% of my stuff and I got checked in for Friday's flight and my boarding passes are stored on my smartphone.

2. Because of the wintry road conditions, I canceled a drive to CdA. Byrdman and I had hoped to have lunch at the new joint KHS alum (Class of '67) Dave Corbeill opened recently in Post Falls.  But, I braved the elements to drive uptown in Kellogg and get Mom some money at the bank and to slide back to Sunnyside and buy Mom some candy canes at Stein's and go to the liquor store and get some tequila and margarita mix.

3. We had a family dinner tonight. Christy brought over the ingredients for taco bowls and I was in charge of making margaritas, adding fresh squeezed orange juice and a dash of 7 Up to the tequila and margarita mix. The food was mighty tasty and we all enjoyed the drinks. It was a good dinner.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/14/16: Dry Cold Air, Mom's Wound is Healing, Comfort

1. At least, today, the arctic air was dry and Mom's sidewalk was dry and de-iced and it was not treacherous for the two of us to make our way to her car for a visit to the hospital for a routine appointment with the wound team.

2. It was October 18th when Mom went to the ER with an inflamed, infected open wound on her lower leg. I've got pictures. It was grisly. Today, nearly two months later, the wound is nearly healed. Mom's wound team were very happy to see how far the healing as progressed and it is possible that her wound team appointment next Tuesday will be her last. We'll see.  It's my sense that, moving forward, it's critical that Mom continues to weigh herself every day as a way of monitoring the edema in her legs and continue to do all she can to keep the swelling down with diuretic therapy, as needed, and compression wraps or stockings.

3.  Carol and Paul brought a simple and really delicious bowl of penne and pasta sauce with salad and bread over to Mom's house this evening and, for me, this meal rose to the level of comfort food. I was grateful to be seated at Mom's dining table with Paul, Carol, and Mom, safe, not in the middle of an ice storm like my friends in and around Eugene, and warm, with the electricity and the furnace working.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/13/16: Mom's Heart is Stable, Mall Odyssey, Irish Death and Brandy

1. I-90 was bare. Good thing. Christy, Mom, and I piled into Mom's Malibu and I drove us to CdA where Mom saw Larry Keyser, the P.A. who keeps track of Mom's heart disease.  Larry Keyser gave Mom a report on the echocardiogram she had done last week. No improvement. No loss of heart function. Although Mom's former V-8, eight cylinder heart is now functioning as a four cylinder heart (Larry's metaphor), the good news is that her heart is stable. At Mom's house, we keep a daily chart recording Mom's blood pressure, weight, and heart rate and the recent numbers help confirm that Mom is taking the right medicines at a good dosage.  This was a good visit -- a bad visit would be learning that Mom's compromised heart health is deteriorating. Stability is what we all want to see. (On Wednesday, it's back to Shoshone Medical Center so the wound team can check on Mom's cellulitis wound -- which continues to improve and heal.)

2. Then, after we ate lunch at Applebee's, we undertook an odyssey at the mall, featuring a flurry of returns, exchanges, and coupons and Mom and Christy making a few purchases at J.C. Penney and Macy's.  Mom toured the stores in her wheelchair, helping her be able to peruse a wide range of clothes without getting too fatigued.

3. Back home in Kellogg, to ward off the cold, I poured myself a glass of Iron Horse Brewery's Quilter's Irish Death, a sweet, dark strong ale (not a stout) and enhanced it a bit by pouring some brandy into the glass of beer. It was a sweet and warming way to relax while preparing the leftovers that Mom and I ate for dinner.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/12/16: Snowblower Neighborliness, Podcast at the Garage, Dinner at the Waldos

1. I was bundled up and poised to step into the snowstorm and shovel Mom's sidewalks and driveway when our neighbor Bob roared up with his snowblower and cleared everything, making it easy for me to get to the garage and take Mom's Malibu down for some brake work repair.

2. While waiting for the Malibu to be repaired, I sat in one of the big faux leather love seats in the customer lounge and drank some coffee and tuned into another episode of The Big Listen, happy that host Lauren Ober featured the superb podcast Inside Appalachia from West Virginia Public Radio and I immediately thought, as I have before, how much this podcast would have enhanced the course on U. S. Working Class Literature Margaret and I taught together, especially when we studied the movie, Harlan County, USA. The Big Listen episode "Road Trippin'Across America" is here and if you'd like to check out Inside Appalachia, go here.

3. Ed and Nancy Hanson and I braved the ice and snow and arrived at Danny and Sharon Waldo's for a splendid homemade pizza and salad dinner and had a great time yakkin' and enjoying Sharon's superb food.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/11/16: Snow Piles Up, No Guts No Glory, Wah Hing to the Rescue

1. The snow piled up all day today so I got some exercise in, shoveling Mom's sidewalks and driveway, but I never stayed ahead of the snow for long. Everett helped pull us even with the snow for a while with his snow blower and then Paul shoveled one more time late in the afternoon, but I'm sure when we wake up Monday morning, we'll be under it again.

2. Mom, Christy, Everett, and I had tickets to see the Christmas program at the Sixth Street Melodrama and once the snow started to fall hard around noon or so, I asked Mom if she was sure she wanted to go out in it and she asked me if I wanted to drive in it. I haven't driven in snow on a day to day basis since I last lived in Spokane, ending in 1978 -- when I lived in Spokane in 1982-84, I didn't own a car. Back in my twenties, I had snow tires and I was cocky about driving in the snow and ice, but no longer. Inexperience and common sense and not having snow tires has made me much more cautious. Mom and I answered each others' questions with a "No" -- she didn't want to try to get around in the snow and I wasn't keen on driving to Wallace. We canceled. We were sorry to miss the show and sorry to miss seeing the people we learned later attended, but my days of no guts no glory are pretty much over and it was safer for Mom to stay put.

3. Mom then had a great idea: she offered to buy us all take out food from Wah Hing, the Chinese restaurant uptown. Our original plan had been to eat dinner out after the Christmas program. When we canceled, I volunteered to make our Sunday family dinner, but, instead, Carol called in an order, Paul picked it up, and we had a fun and delicious Chinese food feast.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/10/16: Project Sweatshirt, Sorting Wrapping Paper, Zags and Zips and a Wedding Tie

1. Today was Project Sweatshirt. Mom has about twenty-one Christmas or winter themed sweatshirts and most of them were in a closet in the basement. Some were hanging up and I found many packed in a big black plastic bag and, when I brought them upstairs, Mom told me to put them through the washing machine's rinse cycle and dry them to take the wrinkles out them, so I did. I hung all of them up and put them in Mom's bedroom closet.

2. Mom also sat at the kitchen table for a few hours and carefully examined scores of sheets of wrapping paper that she has collected over the years. I threw away some of the paper for her. I collected another stack to be donated. Mom kept other sheets for future use.

3. After I fixed Mom and me a pot of oyster stew, Ed picked me up and we met with Jake and Carol and Bucky and Debbie and their mothers over at Best Shots and watched the second half of the Zags win over the Akron Zips. Then Jake, Carol, Ed, and I went uptown to the Inland Lounge where Ed Miller (Lite) reminded me of the night back in 1988 when Dad and I took a break from Mom's retirement party at the Elks, strolled into the Inland Lounge across the street, and ran into Ed Miller (Lite). Ed was about to get married and didn't have a tie and Dad said something to the effect of "Jesus Christ, son, you gotta have a tie to get married" and tore off the tie he wore to Mom's retirement and gave it to Ed, to roars of laughter, and Ed wore it for the rest of the night over a totally mismatched shirt.  Ed not only told me this story, but told me he has kept this necktie all these years. It's one of his most valued possessions. The tie lasted longer than that marriage.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/09/16: Mom Wraps Gifts, By the Grace of God, Making Mom's Wishes Come True

1. I got wrapping paper and other supplies out of the Christmas Preparation Room (CPR). Carol found more paper upstairs. Christy brought over rolls of wrapping paper from her house. Together, we helped Mom get set up at the kitchen table and she slowly and meticulously wrapped the several gifts that were in the CPR. Meanwhile, I took the tubs and boxes no longer needed from the CPR and put them back upstairs, but not in the storage closet. They are ready to be packed up again when it's time to take down the tree and the household decorations.

2.  I arrived back to Mom's after doing some grocery shopping, buying stamps at the Post Office, and picking up a bag of de-icer at Ace. As I steered into the driveway, there was Christy putting up Mom's outdoor light display and I joined in to give her the tiniest bit of help. By the grace of God, we figured out how the remote control device hooks up and operates so that Mom can wait until dark in the afternoon to turn on her outdoor light display and turn it off when she goes to bed at night.  By the way, Mom had despaired that no one was able to get the tricky display up around her living room mirror, but, undaunted, Christy rushed in where angels fear to tread, and decorated Mom's mirror with garland and lights, complimenting the mirror's moose-themed Christmas card holder that I had put up because all it required was resting it on a nail that is permanently banged into the wall.

3. Around nine o'clock this morning I made "The Best Steak Marinade in Existence", found here, soaked a pork steak in it, and later in the afternoon made Mom a dinner of pork steak, fresh cranberry sauce, noodles with pork gravy, fresh green beans and bacon, and a green salad. Mom has a standing request in for cranberry sauce -- she loves it with turkey, chicken, or pork --  and she lit up earlier in the day during her reading of the Yoke's ad that both bacon and fresh green beans were on sale, so it was fun to fix a dinner that made use of meat in the basement freezer, used up an already opened bag of noodles, and fulfilled a couple of Mom's specific wishes.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/08/16: Sunnyside Elementary Comfort, Bourbon Comfort, Cowboy Casserole Comfort

1. Mom wants to be sure the Malibu is in good shape when the kids borrow it later this month to drive to Anaheim and back and so I drove it over to the garage to be serviced and inspected and it checked out well. Walking home from the service center and then back over to pick up the car in the frigid air reminded me of walking to Sunnyside Elementary when I was a kid and I felt gratitude that I always had a coat that was plenty warm, along with gloves, mittens, and a stocking cap, and, when the snow piled up, I always had galoshes. I also remembered the comforting warmth of the clanky radiator steam heat of the school building and the comforting smell of homemade bread or cinnamon rolls that greeted us when we entered the building in the morning.

2.  Carol dropped off Mom and Christy's poinsettias at Mom's house and I delivered Christy's to her. I hung out for a while with Christy and Everett and Tucker and Annie, and, to be honest, the warming effect of the Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky Christy shared with me was, in an adult way, just as satisfying as remembering the warmth and comforting smells of Sunnyside Elementary.

3. Speaking of comfort, Christy fixed dinner tonight and she and Everett brought a Crock Pot Cowboy Casserole with a lettuce and fruit dinner salad and biscuits. For me, the casserole epitomized comfort food: ground beef, kidney beans, potatoes, onion, garlic, and diced tomatoes topped with grated cheddar cheese. If you'd like to bring some slow-cooked comfort to your dinner table this winter, you can find the recipe right here.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/07/16: Podcast and Good Fortune, Spaghetti on Thanksgiving?, Breakfast Dinner

1. Mom and I faced the Arctic blast and I drove her to the clinic and she enjoyed talking with the man who administered today's echocardiogram. I waited in the lobby and listened to most of an episode of The Big Listen and the music the podcast uses transported me back to our apartment home in Greenbelt and breweries in Washington D.C. and the train from Tarrytown, NY to Grand Central Terminal and sitting on a bench on River Street in Savannah, GA and Mom's basement, all places where I have listened to episodes of this podcast and I marveled at my good fortune to have been in all these places and to have the good-natured, intelligent presence of Lauren Ober, the host of The Big Listen in my life. You can go here and listen to the episode I enjoyed today, "The Family that Podcasts Together".

2. Another podcast I enjoy is called Burnt Toast. It's a part of the website, Food52, a place I visit often for recipes and help in the kitchen. Until Burnt Toast starts a new season in January, they are running rebroadcasts and today I listened to Calvin Trillin read an essay he wrote over thirty years ago, in which he makes a modest proposal to change the tradition of the Thanksgiving dinner. It's entitled, "Spaghetti Carbonara Day" and you can listen to it, here.  It's a sweet, tongue-in-cheek critique of turkey dinner.

3. Well, I didn't need Food52 to fix dinner for me and Mom tonight. Ha! All I needed was a box of Bisquick, the waffle iron, and some bacon. It was fun (and easy) to make breakfast for dinner -- just bacon and waffles.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/06/16: In Search Of, Wound Team Happy, Pork Chops and Apples

1. So I thought the bill Mom gave me to go out and pay was the water bill. I drove up to the City Hall area on McKinley and a sign on the door of the water district office informed me that the office had moved to its original location on Main Street. Okay. No problem. So, I hopped back in the Malibu and drove uptown. At the water district office, Cindy took my bill and check, looked at it, and told me, "This isn't where you pay this bill. You need to go to City Hall." The color drained from my face and then I blushed, embarrassed. I was holding the garbage/sewer bill, not the water bill. So I drove back to City Hall, paid the bill, and accomplished my mission, a little older, a little wiser, no worse for wear.  And, as a bonus, we saved the cost of postage!

2. Earlier, I had gone to Ace to buy some de-icer and a top for the Christmas tree. The top we've been putting on Mom's tree since about the George H. W. Bush administration crapped out. I got the de-icer, but this year Ace didn't order Christmas tree tops. I returned to Mom's and de-iced the area in the street that Mom needs clear in order to get in the car.  It worked. Mom safely got into the car for our visit to Shoshone Medical Center so the wound team could check out her leg -- and they liked what they saw, the progress of the healing, keeping in mind it will be a few (or several) weeks until the wound completely closes.

3. I took Mom to the medical center and Christy went to Sunnyside Drug and found a tree top, a star, that not only was easy to put up, but is one that Mom likes a lot.  The task of putting up the tree is complete. Later, Mom, Christy, and I popped open a bottle of riesling and it enhanced the very tasty slow cooked pork chops and apples and mashed potatoes that Christy brought over for dinner.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/05/16: Arctic Air, Nativity Scene, Cauliflower Soup Surplus

1. Arctic air has crept into the Silver Valley. It snowed lightly and the sidewalk in front of Mom's house was crunchy with ice. I bundled myself up a bit and spread de-icer, making Mom's property safe for her visitors today.

2. I got out the nativity scene and put the pieces on the television so Mom could arrange it just the way she likes it.

3.  For dinner, I fixed some cornbread muffins to eat with the cauliflower soup I've been wanting to squeeze in at some point. Mom requested it a while back and asked that it resemble potato soup the way she likes it. I think I succeeded and it turns out I made a ton of the soup, so I hope we'll want some again later -- I'm also wondering if Christy and Carol might like to take some home . . . .

Monday, December 5, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/04/16: Assembling the Christmas Tree, Decorating the Tree, Superb Dinner

1.  I brought the big box with Mom's artificial tree upstairs to the Christmas Preparation Room and then went to work creating room for the tree in Mom's living room.  It didn't mean doing a lot: moving the couch west a bit, rearranging the area around Mom's chair, moving Mom's chair north a bit, and moving another chair out of the corner where the tree will be, but not removing it.

2. Without too much hassle, I assembled the tree. I located strings of lights and after about an hour and a half of trial and error and knocking the tree over once -- no harm done -- I managed to get the lights strung around the tree. Without any further comedy, I put up the garland and then Mom began putting ornaments on the lower branches.  Mom needed hooks for some of the baubles and, without success,  I unpacked about five boxes and tubs and looked in bags in the Christmas Preparation Room looking for a small box of hooks. Then Mom remembered there were hooks in "the drawer in the kitchen" and ambled with her walker into the kitchen and found them.

3.  Carol and Paul brought roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy, squash, and broccoli salad dinner over to Mom's and we enjoyed a superb meal together.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 12/03/16: Brenda Returns, RRRs and Zags, Steak Dinner

1. Brenda, a home nurse who worked with Mom after she broke her arm in 2015, returned today. Brenda came by to check on Mom's wound and redress and rewrap it and check on her vitals. The wound continues to heal. Mom's blood pressure, which has been, at times, startlingly low, has begun to improve thanks to a change in medication.

2. At 2:30, I sauntered over to Christy and Everett's to watch the men's college basketball game between Gonzaga and Arizona. Christy had out tortilla chips and some of her homemade salsa with sausage slices and cheese and some almonds. In addition, Christy and I each enjoyed a few red Rolling Rocks (RRRs) while we watched the Zags jump out to an immediate lead and then hang on to win, 69-62.  Once I get back to Maryland in a couple of weeks, I won't see Zag games unless they are nationally televised, play in the afternoon, and I go out to a joint somewhere to see them play. I'll keep track of them by reading their scores, but I'll miss watching them play and continue to develop as a team.

3. T-bone steaks were on special at Yoke's on Friday and Mom asked me to pick up a couple for our Saturday dinner. So, after the Zags game, I heated up the cast iron skillet, put a layer of oil in the pan, and fried each steak separately -- they were too large to fry together. I also fixed baked potatoes and salad and Mom and I enjoyed our dinner a lot and both have a half a steak to eat at another time. Neither of us was up to the task of eating it all -- thus, saving ourselves from being on the old Alka Seltzer television commercial: "I can't believe I ate the whole thing."  Do you want to watch this commercial? Just go here.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 2, 2016

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 1, 2016

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 27, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 26, 2016

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2016

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/22/16: Checkup, Wound Treatment, Million Dollar Spaghetti

1. Mom and I got all situated in the Malibu and buzzed up to the clinic for Mom's appointment with Dr. Jara McDonald, Mom's primary care physician. Dr. McDonald hadn't seen Mom since she'd been in the hospital and so reviewed what had happened and talked with her more about the seriousness of her heart disease and of the insidious ways edema can worsen and why taking a diuretic is so important.

2. A few hours later, Mom and I again piled into the Malibu and whisked up to the Shoshone Medical Center so Mom could have debris removed from her wound and have it dressed and wrapped. The staff were all very happy with the progress of the wound's healing and decided that she doesn't need to come up to the hospital once a week any longer, that it will be sufficient for the Loving Care home nurses to treat the wound and let the hospital staff know if any problems develop.

(By the way, in a brief conversation with Tina, the billing and insurance pro, I learned that the problems I reported earlier have been rectified.)

3.  Million Dollar Spaghetti is similar to baked ziti, similar to lasagne, and is a tasty baked pasta dish. Until tonight, I'd never eaten it before. It was Christy's turn to fix dinner and I loved this dish as well as the cheese bread and green salad we had along side it. Christy also made her first ever bread pudding for dessert and it was awesome.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/21/16: Insurance Puzzle, Errands for Mom, Spare Ribs

1. Back at the end of July, I had blood drawn at the Shoshone Medical Center and gave the people there my insurance information and, as the months have gone by, that bill has resided in a black hole of insurance claim absurdity. I won't go into the tedious details. Very little money is at stake here, but I want to make sure things are working between the medical center and my insurance vendor since I am in Kellogg often, need to have blood drawn on occasion here, and want things to go smoothly if I have a medical problem.

With good cheer and calmly, I talked with Tina today and she seemed astonished that so much had gone wrong with this one little claim and went to work looking into it. I was grateful to be dealing with a good person face-to-face rather than making yet another phone call and talking to an unknown person in an unknown place at an unknown billing center somewhere in the USA.

Mom has an appointment at the medical center on Tuesday, the 22nd, so I'll check in with Tina and see if things are getting straightened out.

2. After talking with Tina at the Shoshone Medical Center, I toured the Silver Valley:  recycled Mom's papers and plastic bottles, paid her Visa bill at the bank uptown, paid her property tax bill at the court house in Wallace, and bought a few groceries at Stein's.

3. The spare ribs Carol brought over to Mom's for dinner were tender and juicy with a tasty sauce on them.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/20/16: Trip to Breakfast Town, Family Dinner, Working Together

1.  Around 7:45 I popped into Mom's Malibu and shot through the weak light of this November morning to Kingston where Ed and I decided to take separate vehicles to Michael D's in Breakfast Town -- also known as Coeur d'Alene. We joined Mike Stafford for a plate of food and some first-rate conversation. I'd like to report that we solved the nation's problems, but we didn't -- not sure we even made a dent.

2.  To help Mom, Christy, Carol, and I have a cooking schedule and take turns making dinner for Mom. One night a week, at Mom's request, we have a family dinner. Tonight was family dinner at Carol and Paul's, and, not only were Carol, Paul, Everett, Christy, and I at the table with Mom, so were Cosette, Molly, and Travis. Christy fixed the best dinner ever: roasted chicken thighs and roasted vegetables including Brussel sprouts, shallots, garlic cloves, carrots, sweet potatoes, and more. Laid out on a platter in the middle of the table, the golden skin of the chicken along with the assorted colors of the vegetables combined to make a meal that was beautiful to look at and even better to eat.

3. I talked to the Deke on the phone today. We are trying to figure out when I'll return to Maryland and when I'll come back to Kellogg again after I get back to Maryland. No doubt, it goes without saying (but here I go) that I live a divided life, split between my enjoyment of life with the Deke and the rest of our family in Maryland and New York and my desire to help out all I can with Mom's care and to support Christy and Carol in all they do for Mom while they also take care of things with their families, at work, and in their homes. I am very grateful that the Deke understands this situation and that we work cooperatively to figure out ways to make this divided life work. This situation is challenging for everyone and I'm thankful that we all make every effort to work together to make things go smoothly so that Mom lives comfortably and is well taken care of.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/19/16: Nurse's Visit, Benefit for Wendi, Commendation on My Record

1. Kim, a home nurse, came to the house and changed Mom's bandages and checked out her wound. It continues to heal and Kim was happy with Mom's progress.

2. The Kellogg Elks was packed with people out for a spaghetti dinner and auction in support of Wendi Lewis to help her pay the medical bills that have piled up because of treatment for cancer. I saw people I've known forever and had several great conversations. The outpouring of support for Wendi was Kellogg at its best.

3. I went across the street from the Elks Club and went to the Inland Lounge, a joint that's been uptown forever and is now under the proprietorship of Bob Casady, a guy I've known since grade school and worked with in the Zinc Plant. Bob and I have had a laugh going on since 1973 when the head of the Zinc Plant came to the cell room lunch room to thank me for volunteering to work on Easter Sunday and told me I would receive a commendation on my record. Bob and I resurrected that laugh tonight and Bob wondered if I might pay him for all the therapy he's needed because he never had the head of Zinc Plant single him out in the lunch room and promise him a commendation on his record.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/18/16: Mom's Cardiologist Visit, Birthday Dinner, The Show -- and Memories

1. Christy, Mom, and I jumped into Mom's Malibu and swooshed to Cd'A for Mom's appointment with the cardiologist. The doctor emphasized how weak Mom's heart has become -- another echocardiogram to come in December -- and outlined some invasive and aggressive measures she could undergo, but recommended against them because of Mom's age. I agreed with him within myself and Mom agreed out loud. At this stage in her life, Mom is ready to let nature take its course, aside from continuing to treat her heart disease with medicine, as she has been doing.

(By the way, one bonus: going against the grain of being my usual self, I figured out how to change the clock in Mom's car, turning the time back an hour, and figured out, for the time being, why the back door on the passenger side of the Malibu wasn't opening. That I succeeded at figuring out these two things might have shocked Mom out of arrhythma and added precious time to her life.)

2. To celebrate Paul's birthday, Mom, Christy, Everett, Carol, Paul, and our friend Tina got together at Best Shots for an early dinner and had a fun time getting some facts straight about this and that, making smart alec remarks to each other, and helping Paul relax before he left to get ready to perform at the Sixth Street Melodrama.

3. After dinner, I drove Mom home, made sure things were in order, and then Christy and I drove to Wallace to see Paul perform in The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged, a rollicking stage show, featuring sight gags, slapstick, and silly wordplay. It's a play originally written and performed by The Reduced Shakespeare Company.  The performance triggered happy memories from the 1990s, not only of having seen this show in Eugene, but of the fun I had when I took improv classes at LCC and also worked on writing for and performing in comedy sketches, directed by Sparky Roberts, for different audiences around Eugene.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/17/16: Gnocchis in the Future, Mom's Healing, The Roberts Grill Steaks

1.  I had been quite a while since I'd seen Rosie Rinaldi.  She stopped by Mom's today and gave Mom a jar of blueback fish in a jar and by the end of her visit we all had a good discussion of gnocchi and knodel. This talk grew out of an earlier discussion Mom and I had about pierogis.  In a moment of rashness and, no doubt, overconfidence, I volunteered to whip up some gnocchi -- which I've never done.

2. Home nurse Teresa came in today and changed the wrap on Mom's wound and it continues to heal and the afflicted area isn't painful. This is great news on both counts.

3. Carol and Paul brought Mom and me dinner tonight. It was unreal. Paul grilled petite sirloin steaks. Carol prepared them with a huckleberry rub and the huckleberry presence was subtle. We also enjoyed baked potatoes, green beans, and a fruit salad.

(Note about last night's dinner: For lunch, I warmed up Wednesday night's scallop, bacon, zucchini, tomato, and rice dish and I didn't think the green onions overpowered the dish at all after it had rested overnight.  I enjoyed it a lot more today than I did last night.)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/16/16: Mom's Slow Day, Lunch and a Tour with Byrdman, Too Much Booker T and the MGs (Green Onions)

1. Mom slept a lot in her chair today. I don't know enough to pinpoint why she was so tired, but when I suggested that she might be tired from the full day we had on Tuesday, she vehemently denied it.

2. Byrdman drove over from CdA and we went to Best Shots for lunch and in this time of national transition of power, we pretty much figured out everything -- it's good to know these things are pretty easy to figure out over a couple of beers and a sandwich, sitting in the old Kopper Keg.  It also helped us to think clearly about current events to tour the city of Wardner and take note of what houses our Wardner friends used to live in and remember the good old days of the Wardner Store, the Wardner Tavern, and Wardner Elementary School. Byrdman was born and raised in Wardner and brought valuable expertise to our tour. Then, as we cruised Main Street in Kellogg, we both wondered when the handsome looking Radio Brewery was going to open and if we might have a chance to sample their beers before I return to Maryland.

3.  I fixed a scallop dinner for Mom and me that consisted of sauteed onion, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and scallops over rice cooked in chicken broth, topped with crisp chopped bacon and chopped green onions. Mom seemed pretty pleased with this dinner, but I thought the green onions were a bit too strong and took over the dish. I made a mental note to leave them out if I cook this recipe again.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/15/16: Superb Hospital Visit, Mom Shops at Stein's, Keeping Mom at Home

1.  Without a hitch, Mom eased herself into her Malibu and we blasted up to the Shoshone Medical Center where Mom had some routine cleaning and care performed on her wound. When Mom walked into the nursing station area, the staff cheered her arrival with clapping and huge smiles and greetings, happy to see her on her feet and doing so much better than a month ago.  The procedure to unwrap, clean up, treat, and rewrap her wound took about an hour and I was happy to see the meticulous and cheerful care the staff gave Mom.

2. After her session at the hospital, Mom and I buzzed over to Stein's so Mom could do some walking and we could pick up a few groceries. At the store, Mom uses the shopping cart as her walker and she got in many steps as we perused the produce section and the meat counter and strolled up and down a few aisles. We also bought enough groceries to complete Christy's free turkey punch card, so, when Pepper, our checker, said, "You can go get your turkey",  I sprinted to the back of the store, grabbed our Thanksgiving bird, and Mom and I left the store, piled back into the Malibu, and returned home.

3.  It was Carol's turn to fix dinner tonight and she and Paul brought Swedish meatballs covered in sherry gravy served over noodles to the house and the four of us sat at the kitchen table and enjoyed a delicious and most satisfying meal together.

Christy and Carol are so good to Mom. Not only does Carol come to Mom's house every morning to help Mom get her day started and not only does Christy help Mom with a wide variety of things during the day and in the evening, nightly, one of them fixes her dinner and eats with her so Mom is not only eating really good food, she also has company for dinner.  As a bonus, once a week there's a family dinner when Mom gets to eat with everyone.  I enjoy being on the dinner preparation schedule and am happy that things in my life are such that I can spend somewhat extended amounts of time here in Kellogg two or three times a year and help out with the things Mom needs in order to continue to live at home.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/14/16: The Yoke's and Stein's Ads Crisis, Water Pill Clarity, Rockin' Mom's Kitchen

1. Mom puts her read newspapers in a wastebasket by her chair and the basket overflowed, thanks to the Sunday papers, and I bagged up the newspapers and set them out in the bin on the back porch. Shortly thereafter, Mom wanted to build a grocery shopping list with the help of the Yoke's ad and the Stein's ad. I brought the newspapers I had bagged back into the house, dumped them out, and went through them, looking for the ads Mom wanted. No luck. I bagged the newspapers again and returned them to the back porch bin. Suddenly, a light went on in Mom's mind: "Maybe the ads are in that stack of papers on the table at the foot of my bed." I uttered a quick prayer, wanting to the search for the ads to come to a successful end, and PRESTO! -- I found the ads. As a choir of angels filled Mom's living room with a chorus of Hallelujahs, I listened to Mom read the ads aloud, not quite item by item, but close, and jotted down on our shopping list those items she wants from Yoke's and those from Stein's.

2. Kim, a home nurse, changed Mom's wound dressing and thought the area was looking better and was very happy with Mom's blood pressure and heart rate. In the meantime, a nurse from the cardiologist's office in Cd'A called and Mom now has a better plan for when to take her water pill and when not to, based on how much her weight goes up or comes down.  To take or not to take this pill has been a source of consternation, so Mom felt like a great weight came off her shoulders when the nurse gave her such specific instructions.

3. I poured myself a shot of Pendleton whisky over some ice, put on the ear buds and listened to Pandora's Leon Russell station (May Leon Russell Rest in Peace) and did some private old man kitchen dancing to Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, CCR, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, The Band, Dr. John, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and others as I cooked dinner:  fried cabbage and onion topped with boiled, then fried, baby red potatoes, and cube steak. Mom enjoyed her dinner a lot -- she'd been hungry for cooked cabbage and declared the cube steak to be tender -- and later on the Troxstar messaged me from Salem, MA where he and Adam were watching The Last Waltz at Adam's place.  Musically, everything fit together tonight.  So did the food.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/13/16: Leon Russell and Bloggin, Strange and Wonderful, Mom Leaves the House

1. I rose out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and slipped into my clothes and out the hotel room door with my laptop and phone down to the lobby, poured myself a paper cup of the Wildhorse Casino's executive blend of complimentary coffee, found a comfortable chair in the hotel lobby, fired up Pandora with the Leon Russell station, heard tunes by Leon Russell, the Allman Brothers, the Marshall Tucker Band, The Band, Joe Cocker, and others, and blogged away.  Along with 3 Beautiful Things, I also fulfilled Sibling Assignment #185, an attempt to come to grips with how heat is to cooking what light is to photography. If you'd like, you can read it here.

2.  I had strange and wonderful experience today. On the ride back to North Idaho, I was daydreaming, thinking back to days in Eugene and remembering Deb, a dear friend whom I hadn't seen or contacted or heard from since 1988. A little later, I checked my Facebook account and, to my great delight, a friend request appeared from Deb and, after I accepted her request, Deb dropped me a quick message and I responded. I hope this means we'll be back in touch again and have a chance to catch up on what's happened in our lives over the last nearly thirty years.

3.  Back in Kellogg, I continued in my training to become a part of Mom's support. Christy and I helped Mom leave the house for the first time since she left the hospital.  She did pretty well getting into the car and over to Carol and Paul's for a delicious pork tenderloin dinner and did pretty well getting back into her house when we returned. It's nerve wracking. Mom is able to walk with the help of her walker, but the stairs and the getting in and out of the car is difficult. I hope we can get out again on Monday -- maybe go to the store -- so that Mom can get some exercise to stimulate the blood circulation in her legs.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sibling Assignment #185: Heat and Light

I sent out this Sibling Assignment:

Write about what's been occupying your mind in the world of food preparation. Have you been trying anything new and different? Are there recipes or cook books that have excited your imagination? Utensils?Appliances? I think you get the point -- go about this assignment however you'd like -- but write about your life in the kitchen, going back as far as you'd like. 

You can read Christy's piece, "Reading the Cookbooks", here and Carol hopes you will say, "Tastes good!" when you eat what she's cooked, here.

When I was in graduate school, I always thought of myself as a lesster student because I was always drawn to the obvious in plays, poems, and stories. I never had subtle insights nor did I see those things in literature that no one else saw. I always thought the most profound ideas and insights about life that rose out of what I read were the obvious ones.

This is why, by the way, I cringe inside whenever I hear someone respond to what someone else says by responding -- condescendingly -- "Obviously" or "That's obvious".

So, as I've often written when discussing my enjoyment of taking pictures, I do my best to photograph light. I know this is obvious. But, by trying to learn more about light and by observing the effects light has on things of the world I take pictures of and by putting my camera into relationship with the light, I slowly, surely take better pictures.

I don't have any subtle or nuanced understandings of photography. I stick with the obvious: follow the light, learn from the light, shoot the light. 

In my modest little world of food preparation, I am also keyed in on the obvious: cooking is about heat. 

I don't mean pepper/spice heat.

I mean the heat of the flame, the heat of the electric burner, the heat of the charcoal. 

I also mean the heat as conducted by the cooking utensil: heat and the electric fry pan, heat and the cast iron skillet, heat and the cooking pot.

The funny thing is that I've been cooking for enjoyment since about 1982 and, until recently, I've rarely thought deeply about the effects of heat, aside from not enough will leave food uncooked and too much will overcook or burn it. In fact, I'd have to say that I've paid more attention to the cooking timer than I have the cooking heat, trusting recipes to tell me how long things should cook rather than coming to an understanding of my own about how long something will take at whatever heat I subject the food to.

Now I've started to think more about high heat. I am leery of high heat -- it always feels like I'll be quicker to ruin food at high heat and, because I am a fundamentally cautious person, I have done a lot of cautious cooking at medium and low heats. 

A couple of weeks ago, however, I read a recipe for roasting chicken in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (the recipe is online here) and Deb Perelman said to roast the chicken at 450 degrees. I'd never tried this -- nor had I spatchcocked a chicken before -- but I decided to go for it. 

The chicken's surface was crispy, on the edge of blackened, and it was the most moist chicken I've ever prepared.

Then I thought about those days back in Eugene when I used to prepare roast beef and before putting the roast in the oven I seared it -- I was under the impression that this locked in the meat's juiciness -- and so now I'm thinking about other foods -- vegetables and tofu, in particular, and trying to imagine the effects of high heat on them, eager to get into the kitchen and read the food as it cooks, eager to learn the heat better.

My preoccupation with heat is very much in play in relation to preparing one of my favorite breakfasts: soft-boiled eggs. I don't have an egg cooker and I've been trying for years to get the preparation of soft-boiled eggs just right. 

My preoccupation with heat is very much in play in relation to preparing one of my favorite breakfasts:  soft-boiled eggs.  I don't have an egg cooker and I've been trying for years to get the preparation of soft-boiled eggs just right. 

Here again, I'm experimenting. 

Two questions about heat pop to mind: should I set the eggs out for a while and let them warm up to close to room temperature before I boil them or put them in the water cold? How much is the cooking time affected if I warm up the egg?

And here's my other question: should I boil the eggs or simmer them? Last week, I read yet another fool-proof recipe for preparing soft-boiled eggs and it suggested bringing water to a boil, turning down the heat, and when the big bubbles settled down, dropping the eggs for about six minutes into the simmering water. I had always brought the eggs to a boil and then given them three minutes.

I tried the simmer method. It worked. It's all about how to manage the heat of the water in relation to the egg and I have a ways to go before I'm certain I can reliably boil an egg soft just the way I want it -- cooked, but runny.

There's another question I have about heat and don't have any answers.

I want to learn more about the relationship between the heat I use to prepare food and its flavor.  

I've always thought flavor came from seasoning food and not burning it, but I am thinking more and more about how the heat I apply to food excites the flavors.

I like to cook Thai curry on occasion, and the effect of the flame on the curry has been coming to mind because many recipes tell me to stir fry the curry paste right off the bat.  I've never done a test to see how the finished curry might taste different if I didn't stir fry the paste, but my guess is that the frying of the past excites the flavors. 

So, I'm wondering, if this is the case for Thai curry paste, where else is it the case? Could I, with the right application of heat, coax more flavor out of the food I prepare and are there ways I can be thinking about heat, not only in relation to food's doneness, but also in relation to its flavor, that I haven't given enough consideration to?

As with photography and light, cooking and heat seems to me to be largely a matter of imagination.  When I say I am trying to be more imaginative in the kitchen, I don't mean that I'm being more outlandish; rather, I'm trying to imagine in advance of an addition of seasoning or an adjustment of heat, what the taste will be -- and, I'm always trying to imagine how combinations of flavors that aren't found in a recipe might work. 

I try to imagine ahead of opening the shutter, what a picture might look like given what I've tried to do with the available light and I am doing the same kind of imagining with cooking (and mixing drinks), a development, in both photography and cooking, that is in its very early stages. 

Three Beautiful Things 11/12/16: Bloggin' with Pandora, Relaxing Day, Steak Heaven

1.  I was up early and, so as not to disturb Jake, I silently gathered my laptop and phone, got dressed, and slipped down to the Wildhorse Hotel lobby and grabbed myself the first of many complimentary cups of Wildhorse premium coffee, found a comfortable chair, put on the B-52s Pandora station and blogged away and read articles online about life in 2016.

2. After breakfast, I cleaned up and went to the casino's sports bar for a Bloody Mary and soon Jake joined me and we had a few beers and got the world figured out and after a while I went back to our room and got online to research travel costs in March in preparation for a Wildhorse summit with Mike and Ed to discuss when they might come out to the D.C. area for a visit and some roaming around.

3. Until this evening, I hadn't had a steak dinner out since a year ago when I ate one right here in the fine dining restaurant of the Wildhorse, the Plateau.  So, tonight, Jake and Mike and Ed and I returned to the Plateau and I relishedl, first, a superb Greek salad and, then, my 10 oz. Pendleton Whisky Steak, a pepper-crusted New York strip served with sauteed vegetables and velvety mashed potatoes.  I didn't take one bite for granted. I just beamed and occasionally groaned with pleasure.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Three Beautiful Things 11/11/16: Road Trip, Back on the Mom Squad, My Hilarious I. D.

1. Starting back in 2001,with a few years off, a bunch of us guys from Kellogg have met up in November for a weekend of having fun. For several years we met in Lake Oswego. One year we met in Lincoln City. The we did Cd'A for a couple years and now we meet in Pendleton at the Wildhorse Casino.  This morning, Ed dropped by Mom's to pick me up and we drove to Jake's place in Liberty Lake and met up with Mike a few hours later in Pendleton. We drove a back way to Pendleton, through bright green farm and pine country and a bunch of small towns such as Tekoa, Palouse, Oaksdale, Colfax, Dayton, Dusty, Dixie, Milton-Freewater, and a not so small town, Walla Walla.  We drove through fog and mist at times and other times the day was clear and blue.  It was a great drive.

2. Before Ed picked me up, I continued my back-to-Kellogg-Team-Mom training, making sure I cut Mom's grapefruit right, gave her a serated spoon, and performed the small tasks she needs done in her bedroom in the morning. I'd only been back to Mom's for about sixteen hours and, already, I was feeling a part of the team again.

3.  So, I ordered a burger in one of the casino's cafes, and I paid with my debit card and the woman who took my order needed to see my i. d.  When I had my picture taken for my Maryland license back in 2014, my white hair was voluminous (not voluptuous) and looked like I had just stuck my finger in an electric socket. When the cashier saw my picture, she laughed uncontrollably and wanted the woman at the register next to her to look and laugh at my picture. I took my i.d. back and she couldn't stop laughing.  Delighted, I asked her if she wanted to see it again and she gasped between convulsions of laughter, "No. No. But, gawwwd, I've never seen anything like that picture before!"

Rumi or Buddha or Lao Tzu or one of those sublime mystical thinkers must have said something about just as a small stream has many tiny currents, there are many tiny ways to make one another happy and laugh. I got to be one of those tiny currents this evening.