Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/30/17: Ride to School, PrintMania, Kitchenware

1. Our printer sits near a large sliding door/window in our apartment home's living room. We live level with the ground on the backside of our building.  This morning, I was printing school related documents for the Deke and, outside, a youngster walked by. I had never seen him before. I gave a little wave. He returned it. A few minutes later, a knock on the door. It was the youngster. "Can you drive me to school?" I told him to wait a minute, crated the dogs, and put on my shoes and I got to know David a little. School was on a two hour snow delay today and he missed his bus -- the driver saw him hurrying to catch it, but took off anyway. He attends Greenbelt Middle School, very close to where the Deke's school is located. He's a seventh grader. He's a new student. He and his mom and a sibling just moved into our apartment building a short time ago.  He shook my hand when I dropped him off, expressed his appreciation for the lift, and I went back to printing.

2.  Often when the Deke prints out school materials at home, she does it under time pressure and if something goes goofy with her computer or with the printer, she runs out of time and it's frustrating.  I, on the other hand, had a wide open day today so I just printed everything in the Deke's document folder and on her laptop's desktop that was related to classroom instruction. I think because I wasn't rushed and I didn't rush her computer, there were no freezes. I had one minor paper jam, but overall the printing of about 750 pages of materials went just fine and the Deke -- well, she thought I was crazy to print all these master copies for her, but she was very appreciative.

3.  I relaxed this evening by purchasing a cannister set online and exploring the world of prep and pinch bowls on the World Wide Web in my ongoing efforts to reorganize the kitchen.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/29/17: Going to "Betsy's Church", DC Brau Time, Chili and Grandchildren

1.  Last spring when Rev. Dr. Carol Jablonski retired from her position as rector of St. Andrews in College Park, for the first time in my life as an Episcopalian, I felt disoriented about where to worship. As this past weekend got underway, the Deke, out of the blue, said, "Let's go to Betsy's church on Sunday." Joy surged inside me. The Rev. Betsy Tesi was the assisting priest at St. Mary's in Eugene. She now serves in the same role at St. John's Norwood in Chevy Chase/Bethesda. We worshiped at St. John's today. I loved being back in the rhythms and truths of the liturgy. Becca Kello, a seminarian at Virginia Theological Seminary, preached a deliberative and deeply insightful sermon on today's first reading, I Corinthians 1:18-31. In it Paul helps the church at Corinth (and us) see that belief, which the world regards as foolish, weak, and low, is, in God's eyes, wise, strong, and powerful. Betsy was the celebrant. I loved kneeling at the Communion rail again and eating the bread and drinking from the cup. When the service ended, Betsy, the Deke, and I enjoyed conversation together. We visited Betsy's office. We made plans to meet somewhere after services next Sunday.  The joy that had surged in me when the Deke wanted to worship at St. John's continued throughout the service and in our time afterward with Betsy.

2. After the Eucharist, we decided to buzz down to DC Brau. We arrived at someone's birthday party and the tasting room was packed with an exuberant bunch of people standing in small mirthful knots, talking, laughing, drinking, and, eventually, eating cupcakes. Yeah, it was kind of noisy, but the good kind of noisy, and we found a little table against a wall with stools and the Deke and I dove into some Citizen Belgian Pale Ale and Corruption IPA. Mike, DC Brau's resident beer historian, manages the tasting room on Sundays now and he came over to talk with us for a while, and the Deke offered to bring him one of the children's cds she recorded years ago. Mike also poured each of us about three oz. of some Wings of Armageddon that was not yet filtered or carbonated and it was like drinking beer from a pristine spring at Crater Lake.

3. We ended the day over at the Diazes. Molly served us a delicious chicken chili with cornbread muffins and we got in some time with Olivia, David, and Ana.  It was a most satisfying way to bring a busy, fulfilling, and fun day to a close.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/28/17: Morning Pancake, IKEA Spree, Back to *Rumours*

1. I started my day with a cinnamon polenta pancake topped with a little butter and some maple syrup. 
I enjoyed its corn sweetness and how the grain made the pancake a little bit crunchy.

2.  I decided to add a few things to our kitchen supplies and made a trip to IKEA. Not too long ago, I didn't enjoy IKEA at all and that has changed. I had a great time browsing the knives, drinking glasses, storage containers, dish towels, salt and pepper shakers, space savers, and other kitchen equipment and then I accidentally wandered into the lamp section and bought a lamp for my side of the bed.  It was a relaxing time and our kitchen now is a little better equipped.

3.  We had a little and solvable problem with Amazon.com and I fired up the behemoth's online chat option and worked with a sweet rep named Kristen, and after she found a solution, I could resume listening to Amazon Music on my smartphone, so I went out to the kitchen and did some cleaning and chopping and putting away and warming up of leftovers while sipping on a seven ounce glass of Heavy Seas 21 and listening to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, an album I neglected for a long time and that I now enjoy more and more each time I listen to it as it turns forty years old this year.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/27/17: Writing at Panera, Moosehead Memories, Nostalgic Ale and Dinner

1.  I enjoy writing letters/cards by hand and I enjoy doing this writing at Panera over a cup of dark roast coffee and a some kind of cinnamon baked good while listening to a Pandora station. Today I wrote an overdue card and created a Pandora station, "Chicago Chamber Music" and listened to small ensemble classical music while writing away.

2. I picked up my order of Heavy Seas 21, a 21st Anniversary Celebration Imperial Rye ESB, at Total Wine and took a long time to do some slow browsing and shopping in the beer section. I made one very nostalgic purchase. Back in 1979-81, a Kellogg friend, Roger, used to drive down from Salem and we often went to DeFrisco's in the downtown Eugene Atrium where we loved drinking a Canadian lager, Moosehead, on tap. As boys from Kellogg and the Silver Valley, where beer taps were dominated by Oly, Miller, Bud, and Lucky Lager, drinking Moosehead felt uptown to us. The beer was crisp, clean, and easy. Today, at the mix and match section of the imported beers, I spotted bottles of Moosehead and bought a couple. I last purchased Moosehead beer at the 18th and Chambers Albertson's in Eugene on October 11, 2010 -- it's noted on my blog! --  when, like today, I longed to recreate memories of those nights dropping in at DeFrisco's with Roger -- well, and with other friends and I used to go solo on occasion to enjoy a Moosehead or two and it seemed like the house recorded music always featured the Go-Go's and "We Got the Beat".

3. It was a long week for the Deke, so we went up to Old Line for two beers. I couldn't resist a snifter of Hopslam and then I decided to some early 21st century nostalgia drinking and ordered a pint of Arrogant Bastard Ale. Despite Arrogant Brewing's warning that "it is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to appreciate an ale of this quality" (ha!), I totally enjoyed it. Memories of late Friday afternoons drinking wine and beer with fellow LCC instructors at The Broadway flooded back and I enjoyed that pint long travel back in time. Earlier I had fixed an eggplant, chickpea, onion, garlic, red pepper, diced tomato mixture seasoned with cumin, cinnamon, chili powder, red wine vinegar, paprika, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. The Deke and I enjoyed it over basmati rice and relaxed into a peaceful evening.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/26/17: Pest Control, "The Satire Paradox", Chicken Soup and Polenta Pancakes

1. Once a year, our apartment's management posts a letter on our day telling us that soon a pest control guy will be treating our kitchen and bathroom. It means clearing everything out of the cupboards and off the shelves in both rooms. So I did and I also wiped out all the cupboards and wiped down the shelves and cleaned all the surfaces and so now our bathroom and kitchen are sparkling and protected from bugs.

2. This afternoon, I returned to Malcolm Gladwell's podcast, Revisionist History, and listened to "The Satire Paradox", here. In it, Gladwell examines, among others, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Archie Bunker, and an Israeli satirical show, Wonderful Country.  He concludes that while satire effectively, often brilliantly speaks truth to power, paradoxically, it doesn't really make much of a difference.

3.  So, the Deke drove the Sube to work and went over to the Diazes when she finished her day and I was on my own for dinner. I had thought I'd make cornbread and eat it with the chicken soup -- now more like a stew -- I'd doctored yesterday. But, I've been hungry for pancakes and I thought -- hmmm, wouldn't a polenta pancake be just as good as cornbread? And couldn't I top the pancake with my soup/stew? I found a recipe for Cinnamon Polenta Pancakes, here, and imagined that the underlying layer of cinnamon might taste good with the sweet and spicey soup/stew. So I make a pancake, put it in a bowl, and topped it with soup/stew. Then I made a mistake. I topped all of it with Frank's Hot Sauce. The hot sauce was great, but it was too dominating, so I made another pancake, cut it in half, and, again, put some soup/stew on it and this was really good. I especially enjoyed how, with each bite, I thought I had tasted all the flavors my preparation would afford me, when suddenly, like Seabiscuit making a late charge, hurtling around the bend taking the lead in the final yards of the homestretch,  the cinnamon came out of nowhere and turned out to be this dish's last and most satisfying flavor.  For dessert, I put some butter and some real maple syrup on the other half of the polenta pancake.  Loved it.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/25/17: Lots of Steps, Superb Beer, Soup Doctor

1. It was time to take the Sube in for an oil change and then I learned the old sot needed some repair work thanks to the ravages of time. That was fine. I dropped the car off, walked back to our apartment home, walked back to garage, and by the end of the day I racked up about 9000 very enjoyable steps, just over four miles. This more than made up for not getting to the pool today.

2. I picked up the Deke from work. As I always do, I wondered if she wanted to go home and relax or would she like to wind down at Old Line. We sat in front of the school in the Sube for a few minutes while the Deke thought it over and we decided to go to Old Line.

I had no idea that Old Line had landed the once a year hop bomb from Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo, the divine Hopslam. I audibly gasped when I saw it on the tap list. It's a dream Imperial IPA, aggressive, packed with all kinds of citrus and fruit tastes supported by a solid malt foundation and slightly sweetened with a taste of honey and a pretty high alcohol content. I savored the two snifters I ordered.  By coincidence, earlier today I had done a "Hopslam" search of my blog and it all came back to me, that Friday on February 12, 2016 when the Old Line store was selling Hopslam for $4.49 a can (!) with a three can limit. The Deke and I bought our allotted three cans that day and now I'll be on the lookout for cans of Hopslam around here. I already know of one liquor store in Baltimore that got a shipment.

But, that's not all.

Today, Founder's Brewery of Grand Rapids, MI took over four taps at Old Line and I could not stop myself from ordering a snifter of their Backwoods Bastard, a  bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Scotch Ale. I went from Cloud 9 to Cloud 10 drinking a wee bit of this sweet, scotchy ale, and lingered long over its carmel and cherry and fig flavors as well as its sugary bourbon bite. It was as perfect evening ending beer.

But, that's not all.

As the Deke drove us home, she said she thought there was a beer in our icebox that we'd had for a while and hadn't split yet.

I replied, "Ohhhhh, yes, Deke -- a few weeks back I bought that bottle of Heavy Seas (Baltimore) 21st Anniversary Imperial Rye ESB.  I think it's an Extra Special Bitter aged in rye barrels and I'm eager to find out what it tastes like."

"Sounds awesome."

It is awesome.  We split the bottle of this hoppy, malty, boozy, sugary wonder and enjoyed it so much that I went online to see if I could purchase more at Total Wine. I could.  I ordered four bottles to pick up on Friday in Laurel with the idea of opening one soon and keeping at least three of them around for a while to be consumed with longish intervals of time passing between each bottle.

The Deke and I had no idea when we decided to go to Old Line that this was going to be such an awesome party.

3.  So, that soup I made on Monday -- I decided to get it back out and experiment with it, see if I couldn't increase its flavor and possibly improve how it feels in the mouth. I toyed with the idea of turning it into a casserole -- and I still like that idea -- but, I was in the mood to play soup doctor, and that's what I did.

I mashed some baby Yukon potatoes with a little whole milk, some butter, some red pepper flakes, and a couple cloves of garlic and folded them into the soup.  Ah! For me, this created a much better texture -- and a better mouth feel. I also thought of this idea on my own.

Then I added more cumin, the small amount of diced tomatoes I still had in the fridge, and oregano. I sauteed chopped onions and red pepper I had stored in the freezer and added it to the soup.  The I ladeled out some soup in a cup, squeezed some lemon into it, and I liked the result and squeezed lemon juice into the pot of soup. Then I took out another little bit of soup, put it in my cup, and experimented with red wine vinegar. Yes. I'll try it. So I gave the pot about a tablespoon, but I was not totally happy with having lost some of the soup's sweetness. I thought to myself, "Hmm. Corn will sweeten it up." The soup already had corn in it, but I took out some frozen kernels, simmered them for a few minutes, and added them to the soup. Some of the sweetness was back to compliment and complement the vinegar's bite.

That's it. I improved the soup. I might be eating solo on Thursday.  I'll have a bowl of this improved soup and bake some cornbread and it should provide me with an excellent meal.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/24/17: Blood Draw, Rubbery and Tired, Podcast on Poverty in the U.S.A.

1. I take my little kit -- it's a box that serves as a mailer -- with an empty red capped blood sample tube, a label that must be initialed, dated, and affixed to the tube, and a couple of pieces of paperwork down to Labcorp once a month for a blood draw that is sent to the U. of Maryland Transplantation Center in Baltimore so they have a fresh sample of my blood every month. Today, as is often the case, Angela drew my blood and we exchanged barely a word, but we have a drill and I can feel respect between us. All I do to keep her respect is visit regularly, have my kit and paperwork ready to go, and always thank her very much for her work. I respect Angela because she works so efficiently, quietly, and kindly, and, in her unassuming way, adds warmth and goodness to my day.

2. I worked out for an hour in the pool today using the dumbbells again and, when I got into bed tonight, my chest and arms and legs were rubbery, tired, and that felt right.

3. The Sube doesn't have any Bluetooth capability nor is there anything in the factory radio/cd player that I can plug my phone into and listen to podcasts over the car's speakers. So, when I listen to podcasts in the Sube, because I don't want to listen through earbuds while driving, I put my smartphone on the passenger seat and listen through the crappy smartphone speaker. Today, I listened to the latest episode of Radiolab, here.  This episode featured Brooke Gladstone, one of the hosts of one of my favorite podcasts, On the Media. Gladstone has just completed a five part examination of poverty in the U.S.A. for On the Media entitled, "Busted: America's Poverty Myths", found here.  In the episode of Radiolab, Gladstone talked about putting this series together and she played and discussed different segments from the series. Once again, as I often do when I'm listening to such podcasts, I thought about how much this series would have enhanced the work Margaret and I did when team teaching our course that combined American Working Class Literature with English composition.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/23/17: Good Workout, Hmm - Overrated?, Maybe a Kitchen Notebook

1. Ahhhh! Back in the pool for Senior Swim today. I think instructor Marsha will be directing our exercises from the side of the pool for a while -- I'm almost certain I overheard her say she had shoulder replacement surgery and her doctor won't let her back in the water just yet.  She gave us a good workout today and I stretched it out from the class's 45 minutes to a little over an hour of flopping around by coming early, exercising on my own, and staying after class to do some agility drills and water sprints.

2. The Budget Savvy Diva entitled this recipe "The BEST Chicken Soup Ever", here. I figured what the hay. I didn't think the recipe looked distinctly superb, but it looked simple, so I gave it a shot. The soup was totally edible, but incomplete. To me, it seemed like a chicken corn tortilla soup with something missing. So, I searched for and found this chicken corn tortilla recipe and from just reading it, I can tell it has more aromatics, more body, and is a more flavorful soup. I will cook it one day and see if my reading is correct. (I just looked up this recipe again and wouldn't ya know it? It's called "The Best Chicken Tortilla Soup" -- not the BEST and not the BEST ever. Just the best.  The best I've ever eaten was at Billy Mac's, so we'll see, one day, how this recipe stacks up!)

3.  This evening, I was browsing the offerings on Amazon Prime Video and found that Season 15, Episode 1 of America's Test Kitchen opened with a demonstration of how to cook -- hold on -- the best chicken stew. Not the best ever. Just the best. I bit and I just might have to see if I can either find this recipe in print or replay it slowly and take notes. Or, I might decide to join AmericasTestKitchen.com for a year -- whatever I do, I'd like to learn more about using anchovy paste and soy sauce, as in this recipe, and other ingredients in other recipes, to deepen the flavor of soups and stews. It might be time to start a kitchen notebook.

Hey! I fouind the chicken stew recipe from America's Test Kitchen. It's right here. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/22/17: Morning with David and Olivia, 19th Century Cooking, Baked Talapia. . . *Notes

1. I don't know how Olivia and David could have been any easier. They are accustomed to independence, happy to play on their own with Legos and puzzles, draw and color on blank pieces of paper, read, and ask politely for what they'd like to have -- like after breakfast toast with butter and jam for Olivia or, for David, toast with cinnamon and sugar. I hope they enjoyed their stay with us.  I know the Deke and I appreciated their good manners and how they got along with each other so well.

2. Last night I started, and this morning I finished, a 55 minute documentary on Netflix, Fannie's Last Supper. In it, Chris Kimball and a team of cooks and other support staff work to recreate a 12-course Christmas dinner, described in Fannie Farmer's 1896 cookbook, The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook. They did all they could to recreate the conditions of late 19th century cooking, most notably cooking with a wood-fueled cast iron oven and stove. The documentary is a fascinating look not only at the history of cooking and of Fannie Farmer's biography and all that she contributed to cuisine in the USA, but also at late 19th century Boston's food culture and economy. Preparing and serving this 12-course meal was an arduous and sometimes brutal task, requiring about a year and a half of preparation and testing. Watching this team of cooks rise to the occasion and pull it off made for a superb program.

3. Well, I made a one-course dinner tonight using our gas stove and oven and using what I imagine is a contemporary recipe. I doubt that in the year 2110 a documentary will be made featuring a team of cooks working to recreate it. But --  it was good!   I ventured, I think for the first time, into the realm of baked fish and fixed us tilapia with lemon, garlic, butter, parsley, and oregano served with a side of basmati rice and steamed broccoli. The recipe is here.


*For my own record, I also want to note that the Deke asked me I would make some baked tofu cubes for her daily lunch salad. I drained two blocks of tofu, cubed them, and marinated them in sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, minced ginger, minced garlic, and water for over a half an hour in the refrigerator. Then I baked the cubes. The recipe is here.

**I'd also like to note, for the sake of my memory, that I thoroughly enjoy The Washington Post's podcast Presidential. Lillian Cunningham, of the Post, undertook the immense task, leading up to Election Day 2016, of presenting a one hour feature each week on the career of each president, starting with George Washington and ending the series with a discussion of Donald Trump. She interviews different scholars and other research experts for each episode, people like David McCollough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Bob Woodward and many others I had never heard of, trying to get at some essence of the character of each president and how he is regarded historically.  (I haven't listened to the Donald Trump episode yet, but I imagine the conversation is built around trying to anticipate what to expect from him -- wouldn't you think?)

Four of the most memorable years of my life occurred from 1977-1981. I married my first wife. I worked as a chaplain's assistant at Whitworth College. I began my college teaching career in the fall of 1977. I traveled for three months in England, Wales, Scotland, and Denmark. I started graduate school.

This afternoon, I listened to the Presidential podcast examining Jimmy Carter. He was presented much as I remembered him: ambitious, headstrong, deeply committed to and guided by his faith, intelligent and intellectual, innovative, and deeply troubled, and certainly defeated, by the events that occurred and actions he took during his term. Listening to this podcast helped me not only relive key moments of our country's history, but brought back many personal memories, mostly happy, of my life at that time, and my gratitude for the great experiences and opportunities I had. The Carter podcast, "Keeping the Faith", is here.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/21/17: Adrienne at the March, John Henry Jones, Grandpa Popcorn Returns

1. Adrienne rode a bus from Nyack very early this morning to Washington, D. C. so she could take part in the Women's March on Washington.  Through text messages and phone calls, I enjoyed keeping track of how she was doing, making her way on the crowded train from New Carollton to South Capitol Station, slowly working her way out of the jam packed South Capitol Station, and making her way by foot to the National Mall. She called me from near the Mall. I didn't hear from her again until she arrived back at New Carrollton Station and found her bus.  She called to say she'd had an awesome day and that she would be returning to Nyack once her fellow passengers also made it back to the bus.

2. I arrived back to our apartment home this afternoon after trips to Costco and MOM's Organic (both awesome, by the way) and, when I got out of the Sube, I struck up a conversation with the man who delivers the free weekly Greenbelt News Review to our apartment complex and all over town. His name is John Henry Jones. He's 89 years old. Years ago he lived here at Lakeside North for a tenth of the rent we pay now. Ha! He told me how he had marched in all the big marches with Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in D. C. and about his work at St. Elizabeth's Hospital (built in 1852) in Anacostia. The hospital is down to 1000 beds now, but served 7000 patients when he worked there. This was a fascinating conversation. It closed when John Henry gave me a small stack of papers and asked me to take them in the building I live in to save some of the wear and tear on his sore knees.  I did.

3. I got to be Grandpa Popcorn tonight after a long absence.  David and Olivia came over for a sleepover with the Deke and me and we had a popcorn party.  It was a quiet evening. They each played independently of each other.  David constructied stuff and Olivia started reading a book the Deke bought for her.  When it was time, they happily went to bed.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/20/17: Investigations, Police Work, C. Brown and Mary Poppins and *Help!*

1.  I guess if plowing through a bunch of episodes of a television series in a single day is binge watching, then plowing through the last six episodes of a podcast series to the very end is binge listening. Much like the movie Spotlight or All the President's Men, In the Dark not only tells the story of arriving at something close to the truth about the 1989 abduction and murder of Jacob Wetterling,  narrates the hours and hours of grunt work required to get at the truth. The team working on In the Dark studied countless documents, reviewed hours of video and audio tape, interviewed scores of people, and worked to put this crime and its aftermath into both its local context and into a national one. On the national level,  it documents what happened when, for example, Geraldo Rivera featured the crime on his show, and what the consequences have been as federal and state and local governments have passed increasingly restrictive laws registering and regulating sex offenders. This flurry of legislative activity, beginning about twenty-five years ago, was triggered primarily, but not exclusively, by the Jacob Wetterling case.

2.  On the local level, In the Dark investigates the Stearns County Sheriff Department's investigation of the abduction and murder of Jacob Wetterling and looks at other cases over the years in Stearns County. In these major cases, the Stearns County Sheriff Department's investigative work was too often slipshod, blind, prejudicial, and negligent. The department made terrible mistakes, seriously damaging the lives of innocent people. In telling this part of the story, I thought the makers of In the Dark were ultimately trying to determine whether this law enforcement bureau, and others, are willing (or capable) of self-examination, of admitting to error and learning from mistakes, of working to improve. I'd say the series was inconclusive on this point.

The series raised another question: Should law enforcement agencies apologize to or seek to make amends with those who have been falsely accused and whose own psychological health and reputations in the community have been badly damaged? Given the sheriff's response to this question, it would appear not. I know this is true from my experience, in 1994, of having a SWAT team leader, backed by a SWAT team, draw a gun on me and a good friend, Jeff, as we were casually and innocently walking to a Zero concert held at the WOW Hall in Eugene and were falsely suspected of an armed robbery in the neighborhood. Luckily, it only took about twenty minutes or so for us to be cleared and no damage was done to our person or our reputations.  If you'd like to read the whole story about Jeff and me, as well as the story of the first time, in 1980, I was in a situation involving the Eugene SWAT team, go here.  Both stories end up being sort of funny.

3.  Really, aside from fixing myself some leftover Shakshuka for a late breakfast and eating some basmati rice with steamed broccoli for dinner and with the Deke finishing her schoolwork in the middle of the day and then heading over to see Molly and the kids (Hiram's Marine band duties at the inauguration would have him away for as long as twenty-four hours, starting at 2 a.m. Friday morning), I spent the day listening to podcasts, with a short break for some reading from the book, The Flavor Bible. After finishing In the Dark, I needed a break from kidnap, murder, and the investigation of police work, and so I listened to the second part of Ed Levine's interview with Marcus Samuelsson on Special Sauce, here. (I will listen to part 1 later).

I decided to end my day of podcasts in bed and decided to give Crybabies a try. I scrolled through the archives until I found a show featuring New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz, here. So, what gets the tears flowing for Andy Borowitz? Three songs, all from when Borowitz was in early elementary school and all songs that activated nostalgic memories for me, too -- although I didn't cry as I listened.  Here they are:

"Christmas Time is Here" from A Charlie Brown Christmas
"Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins
"You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" by The Beatles, from Help!

Both Borowitz and co-host Susan Orleans grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio in Jewish households and they share memories of and insights into their religious and cultural life in Shaker Heights. Their gabbing about growing up helped me see into and understand a bit more about a world far away from what I knew growing up in Kellogg while also listening to these same songs.

It was a pleasant way to close my day before falling asleep.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/19/17: Mom's 86th BDay, Dumbbells, What Just Happened? Bonus: *In the Dark*

1. Today was Mom's 86th birthday.  I waited until after 10:00 EST to call her and wish her a happy birthday. She sounded really good.  She told me she'd "been kind of lazy" and that sounded good to me and she didn't report anything troubling about her health. She had a good day planned. Jane, her next door neighbor, would be baking her an angel food cake with lemon frosting, a favorite of Mom's, and Carol and Paul would be hosting dinner for her at their house.  I haven't heard yet if they were able to do that. I know if the snow and ice was bad, they were going to have the dinner at Mom's. I'm sure I'll get some updates on Friday.

2. For the first time, I performed my water exercises with aqua dumbbells, pushing them away and pulling them back while I jogged in place, swinging them at my side while I cross country skied, and devising other ways to make good use of them. It was an invigorating hour in the pool.

3. The Deke and I went to Old Line because DC Brau's Wings of Armageddon was on tap -- this is a rarity. As we settled into our beer and some conversation, a party of Beltsville business people was forming very close to our booth. Before we knew it, we became part of this party. A retired guy, Frank, introduced himself to us, started yakking, and then he brought Bob to our booth and then Craig came by. Craig had art work hanging on the wall leading to the restrooms and he and Deke walked over to look at them and then Bob's wife, Jean, a local high school English teacher, sat at our booth with her ruby grapefruit vodka cocktail and recited her grievances about the local school system and then, out of nowhere, Leda popped up and sat down and told us about her work as a horticulturalist for several offices in downtown D.C., keeping plants looking good in law and other offices and right after she left, Craig, who runs a small print shop, returned and we had a long, intelligent, and calm talk about the transfer of power in our country and all kinds of other stuff.

It was around 10:00 when we left. We never stay this late. We've never had a party evolve at our booth. I looked around a couple of times to see if Federico Fellini was filming us. In fact, as we left Old Line, the Deke and I looked at each other and asked the same question I've often had when a Fellini movie ended: "What just happened?" 😊

BONUS: I listened to two more episodes of the podcast series In the Dark today, in the public library and while driving around town. I love how this series is structured. The editors shuffle the story's timeline in intriguing and enthralling ways while reporter Madeleine Baran investigates how it took over twenty-five years for the case involving the kidnap and murder of the boy Jacob Wetterling to get solved.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/18/17: Sprucing Up, Crime and Pho, Chickpea Shawarma Stuffed Pita

1. Our apartment home is officially spruced up. I vacuumed, scrubbed down the bathroom, laundered our bedding, and cleaned up the kitchen. What made me the happiest? When I crated the corgis so I could vacuum, they were quiet:  no scream barking, no panic.

2. Back in October of 1989, a unknown assailant kidnapped and murdered 11 year old Jacob Wetterling of St. Joseph, Minnesota. In the podcast, In the Dark, Madeleine Baran, via APM Reports, examines this story over twenty-five years later in a nine episode podcast and then a couple of follow up pieces. You can check it out, here. I listened to the first episode today while doing some of the cleaning around our apartment home and I'll be listening to the entire story, unsettling as it is. On a much lighter note, I also listened to the year's end episode of the podcast Forkful and thoroughly enjoyed Dan Pashman's interview with Chef Charles Phan of San Francisco's restaurant, The Slanted Door, about the deep pleasures, along with some instruction, of eating pho (pronounced fuh -- rhymes with duh 😀).  You can go here and listen to it.

3. You see, a couple days ago I soaked and cooked a mess of chickpeas and now I am devising ways to use them. Today, I made Chickpea Shawarma Stuffed Pita. The best part of this recipe was combining thinly sliced red onion and red pepper with minced garlic, olive oil, cumin, red pepper flakes, allspice, turmeric, coriander (seeds I ground with my mortar and pestle), salt, ginger, and black pepper with a couple of cups of chickpeas and roasting these spicy little globes in the oven for a half an hour. Then it was just a matter of stuffing hummus, some lettuce, feta, and the chickpeas into a pita pocket. I added whole milk plain yogurt to mine. The Deke and I also made this meal work by creating a pita bowl -- we tore up the pita bread into pieces, put them in a bowl, added the chickpeas, hummus, yogurt, and lettuce, stirred it up, and enjoyed the wonderful burst of flavors this way.  Are you interested in looking at this recipe?  Just click here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/17/17: Hiram on Television, Shakshuka and Eggplant, Crybabies and Alex Guarnaschelli

1.  It was fun today to have a local news story appear that featured an interview on local D. C. television with our son-in-law, Hiram, as he and The President's Own United States Marine band prepare to play at Friday's inauguration ceremony. I don't know how long this link will work. I don't know when NBC Washington will take this story down.  But, if you'd like to learn a little more about the history of the band and hear two band members, including Hiram, interviewed, just click here.

2.  It was fun and easy to roast some eggplant pieces and fold them into the Shakshuka I had going in the electric frying pan. I love making a dent in the Shakshuka and cracking an egg in it and letting the egg poach and I toasted myself pita bread to dip into the spicy sauce and the egg.  Normally, I think, Shakshuka is a breakfast or brunch dish, but it's very flexible and provided the Deke and me with a delicious dinner. Curious? Check out the Shakshuka recipe I used, here.

3. I listened to the latest episode of The Big Listen podcast, here, and, among other things, learned about writer Susan Orleans and actor Sarah Thyre's podcast, Crybabies, devoted to movies, songs, and anything else that has made their guests, including, among others, Neko Case, Weird Al Yankovic, and Christopher Guest, cry. Check it out, here. Later in the evening, I was perusing the archives of the podcast, Special Sauce, a favorite of mine, and, to my delight, saw that Ed Levine had interviewed Alex Guarnaschelli back in October and I had a great time listening to Ed and Alex gab. I felt giddy when I found out that Alex's mother, Maria Guaraschelli, a renowned cookbook editor, edited a cookbook I've been devouring and enjoying lately, The Food Lab.  If you'd like to hear this interview, all you have to do is click right here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/16/17: The Unsinkable Marsha, LCC Memories, Stir Fry with Noodles

1. I don't know what Marsha, our water aerobics instructor, did to rack up her shoulder. I admired her for coming to class today and directing our class from the side of the pool. Marsha volunteers her time to lead Senior Swim. Her arm was so immobilized by her injury that she brought her husband to class so he could drag the large containers of aquatic noodles out of and back to the storage area. All through class, he sat at her side and watched us flop around in the water for forty-five minutes just so he could be of help before and after class.

2.  After shopping at Costco, I zipped over to MOM's Organic Market. The woman who checked me out at the till took me back in time and space to Lane Community College.  She was young, scrawny, rough around the edges, a drawn, lined face with piercings, pink streaks in her dyed white hair, and worn down teeth. From my two dealings with her, I can tell she is smart, witty, hard-working, and earnest. I worked with several students over the years at LCC who had her look and sounded like her, who worked hard in the face of many challenges outside the classroom and who were deeply appreciative that going to LCC was possibly giving them a chance to improve the conditions of their lives. I got the same sense from this woman, that she'd found a good employer, was appreciative, and was working hard to make things work. Now that I've been away from LCC as long as I have, I can't remember these students' names, but I can see them, hear their voices, hear their laughter, remember some of their essays, and remember the deep respect I had for their intelligence and determination.

3. Tonight I got out the electric frying pan and combined some canola oil and sesame oil and stir fried onion, mushrooms, spinach, and broccoli. I boiled a batch of shrimp noodles and fried them in sesame oil when they were done. I whipped up a quick stir fry sauce, combined it all, and the Deke and I had a dinner we both enjoyed a lot -- nothing fancy, but tasty and satisfying all the same.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/15/17: Warming Up at CVS, WMATA Employee of the Day, Scotch Ale and Pizza

1. I bought Sally and Adrienne SmarTrip cards at CVS and the woman who waited on me seemed a little perturbed, but when I swiped my credit card in the payment machine and it honked because I didn't insert the card's chip into the chip slot, I smiled and said, "Shoot. I haven't been fully trained yet!", she laughed at me and the ice broke and our next few minutes of business were warm and friendly.

2. It turned out that the CVS store didn't have the machinery needed to add value to the card, so I buzzed over to the Greenbelt Metro station and went to a vending machine. Twice, machines rejected my attempts to purchase added value. I was very grateful that an employee of WMATA was posted at the vending machines. I told her I'd been rejected twice and she very kindly, without condescension, told me to try the "credit" option, that often the machines reject "debit". That worked. We shared huge smiles, I thanked her very much, she told me it was no problem, I stopped myself from hugging her, and I almost posted this most positive experience on Twitter where people in the DC Metropolitan Area post complaints all the time about WMATA employees. This employee was terrific.  (By the way, WMATA=Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority.)

3.  The Deke and I love to motor down to DC Brau on occasional Sunday afternoons for a few freshly brewed local beers. I wanted to try DC Brau's limited release Scotch Ale, Stone of Arbroath, and am I every glad I did. It's a sweet, malty beer, kind of brown sugary, a perfect winter drink and a fun way to take a break from the more bitter IPAs and pale ales. While enjoying our beers, a mobile wood fueled oven from Timber Pizza had appeared in the parking lot. While I was settling up inside, the Deke was buying a perfectly charred, Neapolitan-ish cheese pizza outside. We took it to the Sube and heartily (lustily?) devoured the small pizza before heading up to the Diazes where we paid a visit and ate some take out from Lucky Noodle. We may not need to eat for several days now.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/14/17: Good Stores, Simple Sauce, *Alex's Day Off*

1.  I can't remember why I went to MOM's Organic Market rather than the Co-op Saturday morning. I remember saying to the Deke, "Okay, then, I guess I'll go to MOM's", but I don't remember why. Oh, well. As always, I was glad I did. Yes, the milk, half and half, onions, bananas, apples, bulk basmati rice, and other items cost a little more, but that sample of some blueberry bread item at the Spring Hill Bakery counter in the back of the store melted as I ate it. Three different employees went out of their way to be kind to me with solicitous offers and warm smiles. I enjoy the Co-op, too, for different reasons, mainly having to do with how welcoming the Co-op is to older people in Greenbelt -- older than I am -- who are often slow, sometimes not feeling well, and often in need of patience and goodwill. I'm glad the Deke and I landed in Greenbelt with two such fine stores both within fifteen minutes of our apartment home.

2.  The Deke asked me to prepare pasta sauce to take to the Diazes for dinner tonight. I immediate flashed on one of my favorites: the velvety, simple, elegant sauce called Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce, here.  All it requires is combining canned tomatoes, an onion peeled and cut in half, salt, and butter in a sauce pan and simmering it for about 45 minutes. After the sauce simmers, the onion is discarded, although I know of people who keep the onion and eat it as a side.  All the adults loved the sauce spooned over penne pasta, garnished with grated fresh parmesan/romano cheese. Hiram enjoys food with heat, so he added red pepper flakes to his serving -- the sauce is so simple that it opens the way for such additions.

3. I watched a bunch of videos this evening -- Sleater-Kinney and Pearl Jam joining forces to perform "Rockin' in the Free World"; Charlie Rose interviewing Robert Altman not long after the release of The Player; a few more episodes of Chopped After Hours. I also discovered a series of videos entitled Alex's Day Off. They feature chef Alex Guarnaschetti cooking in her apartment.  Watching the episode, "Steakhouse Dinner", excited my food lust. Chef Alex not only pan fries the most delicious looking porterhouse steak I've ever seen, she also prepares stuffed mushrooms, a romaine salad with bleu cheese, and a butter for her steak. Wow! What a gorgeous meal and Chef Alex is very generous with her instruction.  I'll be watching more videos from this series.  If you are a steak lover and if you want to excite your desire for a nearly unimaginably superb, possibly decadent steak dinner, just click here.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/13/17: *The Food Lab*, New Exercises, Relaxing at Old Line

1. I sat quietly for a few hours and read the early chapters of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's informal, conversational, and brilliant book on better home cooking through science, The Food Lab.  As I was reading Lopez-Alt's chapter on essential kitchen gear, I chuckled, thinking how fun it would be to buy all these different things: high power blender, food processor, eclectic knife set, tri-ply cookware, wok, and so on, but I don't really have a lot of money to spend on these things and there is no room in the tiny kitchen of our apartment home to put them. So, I'll keep learning more about cooking and do the best I can with the pots, pans, knives, cast iron skillets, crock pot, electric frying pan, and other gear I already have and try to be imaginative and make it work. I just want to get better at cooking. I have no illusions of ever knowing what it's like to be an accomplished home cook with a fully stocked and spacious kitchen. But, hey, I really enjoy reading about it.

2. I am happy to say that I went to the pool four out of five days between Monday and Friday. Thursday night, I read this article describing effective pool exercises and I tried out a couple of them today, adding to my routine.

3. It was a long slog of a week for the Deke at school. Take my word for it. We went to Old Line for a couple of beers. I very much enjoyed my pints of Bell's Roundhouse India Red Ale and my order of Old Bay seasoned chicken wings. We came home and continued our party, splitting a bottle of an old favorite of ours, Yeti Oatmeal Stout. Our party helped the Deke relax and we began to look forward to a three day weekend with no plans.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/12/17: Donelle, Burmese Noodle Bowl, *Chopped After Hours*

1. Today, for the first time in over two years, since moving into our apartment home, I ran into our across the hall neighbor, Donelle, away from the apartment complex.  I saw him outside the Co-op in the parking lot. He and his mother were just climbing out of her car as I was heading to the Sube. Donelle has been a great neighbor. He's lived in his apartment for eighteen years. But, he decided he needs a three bedroom apartment home in another building here at Lakeside North. I thanked him for being a good neighbor and especially for accepting the corgis (they can be noisy). He arched his back a bit and laughed and said, "I love your doggies" and went on to tell me how much his little dog loves to sniff the area around our door where Maggie and Charly come in and out and thought maybe his little dog had a crush on them. His mom laughed and laughed at this. So did Donelle and I before we went our separate ways.

2. Wednesday, at Hung Phat, I bought a jar of shrimp paste without having any idea how I would use it. I spent time this morning searching online for recipes calling for shrimp paste and, at www.food52.com, I found one that looked very good, Burmese Noodle Bowl, found here. It required me to get out the blender and make, and then saute, a paste of onion, garlic, ginger, and shrimp paste, to which I added tofu (instead of the chicken called for in the recipe), along with seasoning, coconut milk, and water.  I also bought shrimp noodles the other day and boiled and drained them.  The Deke and I each ladled soup in a bowl, dropped noodles on top of them, and garnished the soup with lime juice, cilantro, chopped hard-cooked egg, and fried shallots. Almost everything about making this recipe was new to me, making it fun and challenging, and both the Deke and I were very pleased with the results. I especially liked the way the chopped eggs gave the soup's broth a creamy texture. The soup was mild, to me, and I was tempted to add some hot sauce or pepper flakes, but I decided I'd enjoy its mildness and I think its layers of flavors were more available to me because I didn't make it spicier.  One day, I'll make this dish again with chicken thigh meat, but the Deke and I both agreed tonight that the tofu was just what we wanted.

3. I exercised for over an hour in the pool. I made the Burmese Noodle Bowl. I cleaned the kitchen. I ended the evening by relaxing with about four ten minute episodes of Chopped After Hours. I really enjoyed watching the chef/judges facing the challenge of baskets that had been used on past shows. I also enjoyed that the chefs were not competing -- no prize was at stake -- but were simply putting together a thirty minute entree or dessert and having a blast doing the cooking and then enjoying one another's work.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/11/17:Adrienne and Alex Return, Hung Phat Spree, Old Line to the Rescue

1. The traffic was light under a cloudless sky, making the twenty-five minute drive to the Baltimore Washington airport easy and, when I arrived, Adrienne and Alex were at the curb. We swept out of the terminal area, buzzed down to the Diazes, and I listened happily as Adrienne and Alex told me all about the fun they had on their get away to Chicago.  Alex and Adrienne reunited with Jack and soon were on the road to New York.

2. I picked up some coconut milk, coconut cream, different kinds of noodles, and other items at Hung Phat, the Asian grocery I enjoy shopping at in Wheaton. I enjoy slowly perusing the shelves at Hung Phat, marveling at all the different sauces, pastes, fish products, noodles, and other foodstuffs that I wish I had a better knowledge of and knew how to add to dishes in my kitchen.

3.  Because of another teacher's absence, the Deke had to take thirteen extra students into her classroom where there were no chairs or desks for them. She worked with thirty-nine third graders today. (If simple solutions to this problem have just sprung up in your mind, believe me, none of them were options in the school where the Deke teaches.)  It was a difficult day, but she pushed through it, with some help from the school librarian, and I knew when I picked her up after work that we'd be heading straight for Old Line where we relaxed, drank a couple of beers, and enjoyed calamari and, later, margherita flatbread. Sometimes this place, tucked into a corner of a former Circuit City building, is a life saver -- and that was the case this evening.  The Deke ended a difficult day with a great party.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/10/17: Giddy PetSmart Checker, Agility Drills in the Pool, Jack's Visit is Ending

1.  So, Maggie eats prescription dog food and to buy it at PetSmart I need a prescription form printed out and the Deke wasn't sure where the form was so I went to the vet's counter in the back of PetSmart to have a new one printed out and it was closed because the employees were having a team meeting so I thought I'd take a chance and I plucked a bag of prescription food off the shelf, but the checker kindly and apologetically told me she couldn't sell it to me without the printed prescription form and I understood and I decided to see if while I was in Idaho if maybe the printed form was still where I keep it, so I went out to the Sube and checked the glove box and there it was and I returned and the checker who had apologetically turned me down when I didn't have the printed prescription form now accepted my purchase and, when she saw that I found the printed prescription form, she was downright giddy.

2. Okay. I was having some foot problems in 2016 that have cleared up, it seems. Today, I realized that I used do freshman football (we were the Kellogg Kittens) agility drills and run in the pool. I quit because of foot discomfort. Now, that my foot feels fine, I ended nearly an hour of jogging in place, cross country skiing in place, and other exercises by returning to those other conditioning drills. It felt awesome.

3.  Tonight was Jack's last night at the Diazes before Adrienne and Alex return on Wednesday when they will head back to New York. So, the Deke and I had some dinner at Molly and Hiram's and soaked up all the excitement David, Olivia, and Jack experience with each other and watched Ana just try to figure out her place amidst all the boisterous activity.  She seemed most at ease when the Deke held her and read her books.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/09/17: Beaming at the Pool, Making New Soup Out of the Old, Pecan Pie Party

1.  After Luis came over to our apartment home and fixed our kitchen sink, I darted down to the swimming pool and beamed all through this morning's swim class because it felt so good to be flopping around with the other seniors in the pool.

2. I asked the Deke if she'd like to have the Sweet Potato Cauliflower soup I made on Saturday for dinner and she answered with a qualified "yes". Her request? Please make the soup more peppery and the Deke told me she prefers pieces of food in soups and this soup was currently totally pureed. I smiled. I thought, no problem. I can fulfill this request. The peppery part was easy. I added red pepper flakes. Now the soup is sweet and peppery, one of my favorite combinations. Meanwhile, I roasted a chopped yam and some chopped red potato. I sprinkled the pieces lightly with cinnamon before I put them in the oven. Once roasted, I folded them into the newly peppered soup. Presto! In my mind, I wagered that I had remade the soup just the way the Deke requested and I won the bet. The Deke liked it a lot. (Note: If I'd had cauliflower on hand, I would have roasted some cinnamoned pieces and added them.)

3. After dinner, I was reading about techniques in different cookbooks I have checked out from the library and the Deke asked me if we had any brown ale. I responded that we have that bomber of Evolution's Southern Pecan Pie Imperial Brown Ale, and asked her if she'd like to try it. We split the bottle and this sweet, maple-y, brown sugary pecan pie of a beer, weighing in at 10% A.B.V., turned our evening around, lifting it out of the doldrums of a chilly January evening, and suddenly the Deke and I had a great party going, The beer warmed our bones and inspired some great conversation about our always uncertain future. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/08/17: Airport Drive, Deep Sleep, Back Home

1.  About 8 o'clock, Adrienne, Alex, and I piled into the Sube and I drove them to the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport so they could fly to Chicago. Fortunately, right around Greenbelt, we haven't been assaulted by any lasting snowstorms, let alone ice storms. The trip up and back was easy.

2. The Deke drove Jack over to the Diazes and she decided to stay over there until I drove over later in the day, so I had our apartment home to myself and I took Maggie and Charly into our bedroom, where they are quiet and love to rest with me, and I crashed into a long, deep, satisfying, log-sawing, z-catching, at once paralyzing and reviving nap. I am hard-pressed to remember a better one.  It turns out that the Deke did the same thing over at the Diazes -- a day of rest, indeed.

3. I gathered up containers of the chicken rice soup I made on Saturday and blasted over to the Diazes where cousins Jack, Olivia, and David were exhilarated to be together and were playing hard, filling the house with the laughter, screams, and occasional disagreements. Ana is still a little young to join in.  I was happy that the adults enjoyed the soup and Molly and I had fun talking about soup making and soon the Deke and I headed back to our quiet apartment home, leaving Jack to spend the night with his cousins. I relaxed with a bottle of Zeke's Pale Ale from O'Fallon's Brewery. It came in our beer club box earlier in the week and this was the only one of the four styles of beer included that I hadn't tried yet. I enjoyed this beer, meaning that I enjoyed all four styles in this month's box -- the Kolsch, the wheat beer, the brown ale, and the pale ale.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/07/17: Blankets and Beer and Groceries, Drinking S-L-O-W Beers, Soup Kitchen

1. To more comfortably accommodate Adrienne and Jack and Alex's overnight visit with us on Saturday night, the Deke and I decided we needed a couple new pillows and a couple of blankets for the twin beds in our guest room and so I vaulted into the Sube and whizzed through the light snow flurries up to Laurel and went to Kohl's to buy these items. Total Wine is just a short distance from Kohl's, so I dropped in and picked up a variety of beers for me and the Deke to try out before I went to Old Line's liquor store and bought another sixer of Sleigher and a couple of fun looking bombers. In the short time I was in the liquor store, the light snow flurries turned into heavy snowfall with lousy visibility, but I made to the Co-op and picked up the groceries I needed to make the two soups I wanted to have ready when Adrienne, Jack, and Alex were going to arrive around 9 o'clock.

2. I settled into a long, luxurious afternoon and early evening of slow soup making and slow beer sampling, splitting bottles of various beers with the Deke and making 12 oz. of beer last for nearly an hour. I enjoyed letting some of the beer I was drinking warm up a bit, especially the Give Me Stout or Give Me Death raspberry and blackberry infused Imperial Stout, but also the Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA. Drinking creative beers slowly helps offset their higher alcohol content and makes drinking beer something I never knew in my younger days: a leisurely pursuit of the countless different flavors available in contemporary beers.

3. Jack really likes Chicken and Rice Soup. I returned to a recipe from Food52 I enjoy, here, subbing rice for noodles. I boiled a whole chicken, knowing I would use the carcass of the chicken for the soup's broth. But, instead of pouring water over the carcass and the other broth ingredients, I poured broth I made today from a carcass I had saved in the freezer.  I wanted to see how it would affect the soup if I used broth to make another broth. I will taste the soup more closely on Sunday, but I was happy that Alex, Jack, and the Deke all enjoyed the soup.

I also made a Sweet Potato Cauliflower soup and Adrienne enjoyed it a lot. The recipe is here. I made two improvements. I added a can of coconut milk to make the soup richer. I also spiced it up with a discreet amount of nutmeg which goes well with the soup's cauliflower, sweet potato, and carrots.

If the garbage disposal hadn't quit working and the kitchen sink weren't backed up with water, it would have been a perfect afternoon and evening in the kitchen.  Ah, well. So it goes. I probably overtaxed the disposal.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/06/17: Pandora and Thank You Notes, Black Beans and Rice, Dude -- Sleigher

1. I kept getting distracted by different things as I tried to leave our apartment home this morning, but finally, about noon, I made my way to Panera in Beltsville and had my first bite to eat for the day: a cinnamon crunch bagel toasted with cream cheese. I dialed up Pandora on my phone, eased the buds into my ears, and, starting with Heart's "Crazy on You", let hits from around forty years ago play in my head on the "Let it Ride" station as I wrote thank you notes for Christmas and holiday gifts.  Now I just need to get some stamps.

2. I don't know if I've every posted my favorite beans and rice recipe. You can look it up, here. I always keep cans of black beans on hand and always try to have red wine available for cooking and the rest of the ingredients are also staples in my pantry and this recipe is quick, easy, and is filled with complementing flavors of sweetness, vinegar, and heat. Tonight, I decided to add to the sweetness a bit and I peeled and chopped a sweet potato and fried in up and added it to the beans and this addition accomplished just what I wanted by giving the vinegar and the heat of Frank's Hot Sauce some sweet competition. And, by the way, any kind of rice works great.

3. So far our weather in Greenbelt has not been terribly cold -- nothing like the sub-zero temperatures in Kellogg or the crippling ice storms in Eugene --, but, all the same, it is fun to roll out some warming winter ale. Thursday night, the Deke and I purchased a six pack of Ninkasi's Sleigher and tonight we dove in.  The Deke had never tasted it and it had been at least a couple of years for me. We both loved it. Unlike the hop forward IPAs, Sleigher comes on with toasted malt up front, making it feel, to me, like I'm drinking a subtly spiced, slightly sweet winter drink in beer form, and then the slight sweetness and darkness give way to a slightly hoppy finish, maybe just to remind the drinker that this is an Oregon beer. It costs a little more to buy this warming winter ale in Maryland, but I think I'll just be oblivious to the price and purchase some more Sleigher really soon -- and keep an eye out for Deschutes' winter beer, the fruity, cocoa-y, festive Jubelale.  (While I'm on the subject, I've read a little about the latest release of Deschutes' The Abyss -- OMG! Will I find bottles here? I'm most curious to try either the Scotch or Brandy Barrel-Aged version . . . . and to drop deep into its dark and mysterious abyss.)

Friday, January 6, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/05/17: Granola, Inaugural History, Stay Quiet and Listen

1. The Deke enjoys granola in the morning and since the batch I made a little while back was almost gone, I baked up another batch this morning, using the same ingredients as before: oats, sliced almonds, cinnamon, vanilla extract, melted butter, real maple syrup, and a pinch of salt. I use a chart to guide me.  It's here.

2. While reading history does deepen my sense of those issues and ways of doing things and elements of the American experience that remain the same, it's also interesting to note what's different. I knew, before reading this book, that, until 1937, presidents took office in March, not January. It's interesting to read how Lincoln had nearly four months to assemble his cabinet and prepare himself for office and to read how he decided to remain mostly silent during those four months, letting speeches and comments already on the record speak for him. I don't know if this longer time period of transition would make things better or worse today, but reading A. Lincoln has prompted me to try to imagine what it would be like if President Obama were to remain in office until March 4 and President-elect Trump had four months to prepare to take office. You know, it's almost unimaginable.

3.  The Deke and three fellow employees from the Prince George's County School District got together for drinks and snacks at Old Line after school and the Deke invited me to join in. I enjoyed being a complete outsider. I had little to offer to much of the conversation, so I listened to my tablemates about teaching, the operation of the school district, and other things outside of school that had little connection to my life or my experience, but broadened and deepened my understanding of all kinds of things: life on the East Coast, family, travel, and real estate, among other things.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/04/17: Breaking the Inertia, Craft Beer Club, Spicy Stir-fried Eggplant

1. I have to say that I often tend more toward inertia than springing into action and I was happy with myself that I went to the pool again today and flopped around for an hour and got in some solid exercise and stretching.

2. Patrick, Molly, and Adrienne went in together and gave the Deke and me a very thoughtful and fitting combined birthday gift: a three month membership in a craft beer club. The club sends a box of twelve bottles of beer a month, two brewers, three bottles of four different kinds of beer. Upon arriving home from work, the Deke enjoyed some Calicraft (of San Jose) Oaktown Brown Ale. I took a taste and it is a toasty and tasty beer. While I fixed dinner, I tried Calicraft's Cali Coast Kolsch -- a light, citrusy, and flavorful German style. I love Kolsch beer, rarely buy it, and this was a treat -- what am I saying? All the beers were a treat. They were brewed by brewers we'd never tried before and in styles we rarely buy for home consumption. I also enjoyed O'Fallon's Westport Wheat, brewed in Maryland Heights, Missouri. It's another light beer, easy to drink, and full of flavor.  It's easy to think great complex flavors are only found in IPAs and tonight we were reminded that it's fun to drink other styles and enjoy their unique and full flavors, too.

3. Today, the time had come. I was itching to cook up some eggplant. I wanted something Thai, but not curry. I found recipe for Spicy Stir-fried Eggplant that looked like it would contain layers of sweetness, oyster, and heat and so I cooked it up, served it over basmati rice, and the Deke and I wished I had made more. We loved it. If you'd like to check out this quick and mighty way to prepare eggplant, the recipe is here.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/03/17: Reading *A. Lincoln* Again, Enduring Questions, Lincoln and Brandy After Tomato Soup

1.  When I decide to spend a lot of time reading, I have to block out of my mind all the other things I'm not doing: I'm not out taking pictures, I'm not doing the sorting and filing that needs to be done, I'm not exercising, I'm not vacuuming or scrubbing the woodwork or shopping for groceries or cleaning the bathroom or putting my laundry away or getting the dishes done or planning tonight's meal or writing thank you notes -- and, back in Eugene, I wasn't working in the yard or cleaning out the garage -- well, you get the point. I admit it. I live with a nagging voice in my head that tells me I ought to be getting something done or ought to be out in the world instead of sitting in a chair or lying on my back just reading. Today, I fought back against those voices -- it took a while -- but I succeeded and I returned to reading Ronald C. White's lengthy biography, A Lincoln -- I hadn't read a word of it since I went to Kellogg in early November-- even though I had my tablet with the Kindle app loaded on it the whole time.

2. Much of what I read today centered on the Lincoln-Douglas debates as the two competed for a seat in the U.S. Senate, representing Illinois. The debates centered on the moral question of slavery, state sovereignty, and the question of whether white people were superior to black people. In other words, just who were the founders of our country referring to when they declared "all men are created equal"?

In college, I double majored in history and English primarily because I always want to understand both what changes in the human and the American experience as time moves us along and what endures, what remains constant.

The questions Lincoln and Douglas debated are central, enduring questions regarding what the meaning of the United States of America is.  How are laws are formed and applied? What is the law's relation to what is moral and immoral? How is public morality determined and by what measure?  It's not that history repeats itself as we wrestle with these same questions in 2017. No, these questions remain with us always in the U.S.A. They are central to our identity as a country and remain complex and thorny. They have been, are, and will continue to be the source of much conflict.

As the day drew to an end, I was glad I spent so much time with this book and that the sorting and filing that needs to be done and the other tasks I didn't do can wait.

3.  The Deke and I relaxed into a quiet evening.  The Deke added another can of diced tomatoes and some butter to the leftover tomato soup. We each ate a bowl and I had a toasted cheese sandwich along with it. I warmed myself with some brandy mixed with hot water and continued to read the biography of Abraham Lincoln. I have a long way to go before finishing it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/02/17: Back to the Pool, Memories of Conrad, Tomato Soup

1. I had only been three days since I was in the pool. I missed it. I arrived at Senior Swim early today so I could do some jogging before class started and our instructor, Marsha, gave us a good workout today and all day long my skin tingled and I felt refreshed from all that moving around.

2. I heard from my lifelong friend, Roger, today (and later his sister Trudi)  that his dad, Conrad, had slipped into a coma after he'd been taken by ambulance to the hospital for heart problems, a bladder infection, and other complications. Roger told me he thought his father's well-lived life was about to end. Immediately, this news triggered a rush of memories of Con who was my optometrist and a generous host of my numerous visits to hang out with Roger from grade school all the way through high school and on breaks in college. Con and his wife, Jeni, visited Dad about five or six days before he died. They were back in Kellogg for visit, having moved some time earlier to McMinnville, OR, and I remain deeply appreciative that they paid their last respects to my father that day.  Roger and I shared a few memories via text message during the day and they added some levity to the sadness that Con may not be with us much longer.

3. I did a little shopping at the Co-op today and suddenly the idea that tomato soup would make for a good dinner struck me. I didn't find any of that tomato soup in a carton at the store, so I got out my phone and looked up recipes online and realized we had everything at home I needed to cook it.  It was simple: chop up and fry four slices of bacon to a crisp, add chopped onion, garlic, and carrots and let them saute, pour canned tomatoes and chicken broth over this mixture, let it simmer for a half an hour, puree it, pour in some milk, and boom!: tomato soup. I had never made tomato soup that included bacon before and it gave the soup a tasty smokey flavor. If you'd like to read the entire recipe, it's right here. The Deke and I enjoyed it a lot.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 01/01/17: Yellow Corn Grits, Party at DC Brau, Party at the Diazes

1. Maybe I'll make those fluffy buttermilk pancakes another time. This morning I went a whole different direction and fixed yellow corn grits cereal and folded fried bacon and grease into the pot and ate it with real maple syrup poured lightly over the top.

2. A little bit late in the afternoon, the Deke and I hopped in the Sube and drove to the outer reaches of our Nation's Capital and visited DC Brau. We had a great party. I drank little samplers of Corruption IPA, Alpha Domina Mellis 2IPA, On the Wings of Armegeddon Imperial IPA, Penn Quarter Porter. These little samplers got be back into the tasty world of DC Brau, having been absent for nearly two months. Then the Deke and I split a couple full pours of On the Wings of Armageddon, much to our delight. The Deke knitted. We had relaxed conversation. Soon we were the only customers left at about 6:00 and we closed out with a great conversation with beer pourers Leah and Mike about beer in Oregon, beer in D.C., and the wonders of beer as a source of deep pleasure for all of us.  Again, this was a great party.

3. Patrick spent the night over at the Diazes and wanted to stay another night, so the Deke and I drove his stuff over to him so he'd have it for his flight out on Monday. We walked into a good party at the Diazes. Hiram's brother, Alejandro, was there with Teresa, a friend from Pittsburgh, and along with Molly and Hiram and Patrick they were having fun talking and laughing about all kinds of stuff and the Deke and I popped in and then popped out after the children went to bed, happy to get back to our apartment home, knowing that it was getting too late for us to keep up with the wit, wise cracks, and stories of the more vigorous younger members the family.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 12/31/16: Slow Chicken Stew, First Granola, Great Rhode Island Beer

1. This morning, with the Deke and Patrick returning early this afternoon from Nyack, and with us heading over to the Diazes, and with the Diazes worn out and some feeling sickly after a long drive home from Miami, I got going on making Tuscan Chicken Stew -- the recipe is here. I enjoy making this recipe and its several steps of boiling a whole chicken, removing it from the broth that's forming, simmering seasoning and vegetables in this broth while the chicken cools, pulling the meat off the cooled chicken, putting the meat in the pot, freezing fat and bones and some meat that's left over for making a future chicken stock, and simmering the whole stew for a while longer until it's time to eat.

2. While the vegetables simmered and the chicken cooled, I mixed oats, sliced almonds, cinnamon, real maple syrup, vanilla extract, and a stick of melted butter together, spread it out over parchment paper on a baking tray, put it in the oven for around a half an hour at 350 degrees and before long, presto!, I had made my first ever batch of homemade granola.  I like the chart of choices and ingredients I used and if making your own granola sounds fun, take a look at the chart here.

3. Patrick spent the night at the Diazes and the Deke and I returned early in the evening to our apartment home and sat in the quiet, talking about stuff off and on -- like where might our not getting younger lives be headed in the next ten years? -- and I capped off a really satisfying beer drinking day. In Nanuet, at Growler and Gill, the Deke bought two four packs of a light colored, citrusy, very refreshing Double IPA from Westerly, Rhode Island's Grey Sail Brewing called Captain's Daughter along with cans of their Leaning Chimney, a hearty smoked porter. I especially enjoyed making two cans of the Double IPA last for at least a couple of hours as I slowly emptied each glass of beer, enjoying the changes in the beer's taste as it warmed slightly. I went to bed without welcoming 2017 into being and read Kenji Lopez-Alt's approach to making fluffy buttermilk pancakes in The Food Lab before I went to sleep. Hmmm, I thought, these might make for a light and tasty break....fast....in.....the.....morn....ing....zzzzzzzzzz.....