Friday, March 31, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/30/17: Get Together, Babes with Axes in Eugene, House Concert

1. About once a month or so, the Deke and I meet with a group of people who work (or once worked) for the Prince George's County Public School District and today we got together at Old Line and the stories flew.

2. It's looking official -- I mean, it's posted on their Facebook page.  The Babes with Axes will be playing at Eugene's WOW Hall on Saturday, July 22, 2017. The Deke told me on the way to Old Line that the date had been changed today from July 21st to July 22nd.  The show will start at 8 o'clock.  Now the Deke and I can make summer plans, knowing we will be in Eugene for about ten days so the band can practice and prepare for the show and knowing that the KHS All-Class Reunion starts August 11th.

3. Once home from Old Line, the Deke and sipped a little George Dickel Rye Whiskey and I created a spontaneous concert of videos by Guy Clark, the Highwaymen, Waylon Jennings, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, duets by Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, and others and we ended the evening with videos of Fry and Laurie, sketches we have watched and listened to frillions of times and that make us laugh out loud as if we were hearing them again for the first time.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/29/17: Talk with Mom, Town Center Market in Riverdale, Strolling at the U of MD

1. I called Mom this morning to report on all the stuff I've been up to over the last month and that my nephrologist was so happy to see my bloodwork looking good. Mom sounded strong and I thought about how much better she is right now than she was back in October when she got that awful infection in her leg.

2. Through Jo and Jim, I found out about the Town Center Market in Riverdale, about 4.5 miles down the road from us. It's a combination Western Union outlet, convenience store, liquor store, bottle shop (a ton of beer and wine), and taproom, offering twenty-two beers. I checked it out today. I scanned the whiskey shelves, gave the beer on the shelves a good look, glanced at the wine, and located the taps. I didn't order any beer in the taproom, but I did buy a four pack of Evolution's Lot 6 Double IPA and a fifth of George Dickel Rye Whiskey. As I purchased my selections, I asked the cashier what time the taproom opened. He told me, "6 a.m." and I suddenly thought how fun it would be if I were still working the graveyard shift, stripping zinc at the Bunker Hill Zinc Plant and, if the Zinc Plant were in Riverdale or Hyattsville, I could drop in here for a Double Duckpin when I got off work. It had a quick dream of Town Center Market being Riverdale's very own Happy Landing, just like in Smelterville, Idaho, which was always open for a few cold ones after the graveyard shift.

3.  After checking out the Town Center Market, I dropped in at the Bagel Place in College Park to satisfy a hankering I had for a toasted sesame bagel with butter. I also decided to take my first ever stroll on the University of Maryland campus and wandered aimlessly for over a half an hour and did not succeed in getting my bearings, but I admired the many columned buildings and the open spaces. I remembered, but didn't long for, the many years when I felt right at home on university or college campuses, felt so much a part of all that happens on a campus. In my retirement, I've either lost or let go of that feeling and it surprised me a bit today that I didn't yearn to once again feel the excitement that animated me for so many years to be teaching, attending lectures and presentations, visiting libraries, and attending conferences.

Other things animate me now -- little trips nearby, hosting friends and family from out of town, being with family and friends in Kellogg and Eugene, discovering new beers and enjoying tried and true ones, exploring the D. C. area, anticipating exploring Baltimore more, finding various places to walk and hike, seeing our children and grandchildren, taking pictures, listening to podcasts, floppin' around in the pool, and enjoying time with the Deke. Retirement opened up a lot of space in my life and I've enjoyed filling it more than I have yearned to have what I once had back again. I yearn for time with my friends in Eugene, but soon I will see many of them again, as well as Kellogg friends at the All-Class Reunion in August.  Details about our trip to Eugene will be forthcoming.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/28/17: Blood Draw, Kidney Doctor Appointment, Workout

1.  And, so, I had another vial of blood drawn and mailed to the transplant center in Baltimore.  Routine. Easy. Done.

2. I see Dr. Malik, my nephrologist (kidney doctor), every six months and today was the day. He was a little giddy when I strolled in his office. He'd just seen my blood work and, as I reported on this blog a month ago when I had my annual physical exam, nearly every number had improved, including my kidney function. Dr. Malik said, "You seem to get better the less you see me!" We had a good laugh. He listened to my lungs and heart. He checked my ankles for swelling -- there was none --, and we both expressed our happiness, and I expressed my relief, that my abnormal kidney condition continues to be stable. That's been the goal for the twelve years that I have been treating this disease and, so far, my kidneys are cooperating pretty well.

3. I missed my weekly swim class on Monday when the Deke and I were out enjoying the beauty of eastern Virginia and Maryland, so, today, before I went to see Dr. Malik, I went to the pool. I had time for only about twenty minutes of floppin' around, but I made my workout as intense as I could. I entered the pool feeling sluggish from being in the car so much over the weekend.  I left the pool revitalized, my blood flowing, my lungs burning a bit, and my legs tingling. I was a little tired, but no longer sluggish.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/28/17: Driving Eastern Virginia and Maryland, Evolution Lunch, Ana Loves Books

1. The Deke and I situated ourselves in the Sube and headed south toward Norfolk and Virginia Beach and turned northward on U.S. 13. We crossed the twenty-three mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and journeyed through Virginia's Eastern Shore region on into Maryland before making a stop at the Evolution Brewery's Public House in Salisbury, MD. The drive through Virginia and Maryland excited our imaginations for future trips out that way. We stopped at a rest area in Maryland where the Deke picked up a bag brimming with brochures and maps with information about places to visit in the entire state of Maryland.

2. Our lunch at Evolution deeply satisfied both of us. I enjoyed steamed clams served in a buttery onion,  white wine, and garlic broth and the Deke loved her kale and quinoa salad. We both nearly gasped with pleasure as we each drank a glass of Evolution's Lot 6, their superb Double IPA.

3. We drove straight to the Diazes to pick up the dogs. As much as I loved driving from Yorktown/Newport News to Silver Spring, still, it wore me out, and while the others talked about our trip and looked at maps and brochures the Deke brought in, I retired, alone, into the television room to rest where it was quiet. Ana found me. She brought a book for us to read. Then another. And a third. She identified more animals than I had ever heard her be able to before, some by saying their names, others by sound. It was really fun.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/26/17: Jamestown Settlement, Brewery Visits, Birthday Dinner at Fat Tuna

1. We hung around our room for the morning so the Deke could make more progress on getting grades completed. Soon, we piled into the Sube and buzzed north and east to the James River to visit the Jamestown Settlement and to learn more about the economic hopes and physical and mental tribulations of this project, the delicate relations with the Powhatan tribe, and the introduction of slaves. We walked the grounds of the recreation of the settlement, visited the Powhatan Indian village, and gazed upon the recreation of the ships built to transport people and supplies to and from Jamestown.

2. Museum fatigue started to creep in on the Deke and me, so we decided to check out Aleswerk, a brewery in Williamsburg we knew nothing about. The tasting room was quiet. Most people were seated outdoors listening to a duo playing string music and a guy singing. We ordered a flight and loved Aleswerk's beer and had a great chat with the guy who served us. Just down the street we had seen The Brass Cannon brewery and so we stopped in to sample some of their beer and agreed that while the beer was fine, we'd probably not return if we were in the area again.

3. The best of times lay ahead of us. In order to redeem the birthday money Mom had given us back in December with the expressed purpose of treating ourselves to a nice dinner, I had reserved us a table at Fat Tuna Grill and Oyster Bar in Williamsburg. Lord! What a superb choice! We got seated and our very capable and friendly server went over the oyster menu with us and we ordered a dozen oysters, four each of three different types, and a shot of Knob Creek Whiskey. The oysters were superb and so we ordered six more and a plate of superb calamari. It was becoming clear that neither of us wanted to order a dinner, but we thought we'd top off the night with a half a pound of unpeeled shrimp and they were the freshest, sweetest, most delicious shrimp we had ever eaten. We both loved our birthday dinner and the combination of whiskey and seafood and were very grateful to Mom for giving us such a thoughtful and tasty gift.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/25/17: The American Revolution, Perfect Matinee at the Bar, Outside at Traditions

1. The Deke and I sprang into action this morning, piled into the Sube, and set out on a 3+ hour drive to Yorktown, VA for a weekend vacation. We hit stop and go traffic on I-95 after the E-Z Pass Express Lanes ended, slowing us down a bit, but we were patient and arrived in Yorktown a little after two. We went straight to the American Revolution Museum and watched an odd film about liberty and then dove into the permanent exhibits and spent some time at the outdoor encampment and saw, but didn't visit, the museum's replication of a colonial farm a ways off. We knew we could never take in this whole museum. We enjoyed what we had the energy to look at and read about. I left the museum thinking more about the economic dilemma its colonizing project put England in. England profited from the tobacco and sugar and other products it extracted from the U. S. colonies, but financing, occupying, securing, and administering the colonies was costly and difficult to manage. If I ever return to this museum and if I do any follow up reading, I'll be the most interested in looking into the economic demands and administrative difficulties of colonizing another land and of being a force of occupation.

2.  The Deke and I then drove a short ways to the Water Street Grille overlooking the York River. We snagged a couple seats at the bar in the round and enjoyed the marine breeze blowing through the joint and settled into some superb beers. Never in my life have I tried a beer from Clown Shoes Brewing up in Ipswich, MA, and I ordered a snifter of Space Cake 2IPA and it was perfect. The Deke went for Lagunita's splendid and sweet Imperial Brown Ale, Brown Shugga'. As our happiness grew, we decided to bump it up to just shy of ecstasy. We ordered calamari drizzled with an awesome sweet and sour chili sauce and balsamic glaze. With visions of redcoats and minutemen dancing in our heads, the Deke broke off and headed to a bench overlooking the river and I stuck around the bar long enough to drink 4 oz. of Blue Mountain Brewing's Sour Geist, a peachy wild ale, perfectly fruity and sour, just what I love in a dessert beer. I then joined the Deke at the bench she'd found. The temperature was in the 70s. The breeze was refreshing. We gazed out over the York River, relaxed, carefree (for the moment), enjoying the union of beer, calamari, water, slight wind, and one another's company.

3.  Our studio suite at the Staybridge was about twenty minutes or so away from Water Street and, once we got checked in, I told the Deke that we were fairly close to a brewery in Newport News. We bolted out the door and buzzed to Traditions Brewery. Had it not been so gorgeous outside, we wouldn't have stayed because the spacious concrete tasting room was hosting a loud live electric band who was playing "Sailing" by Christopher Cross as we headed to the bar. The Deke got right out of there and found us a place to sit outside and I ordered a red ale and an Irish stout and joined the Deke and we enjoyed the evening/night air and the low ABV beer so much that we just kept talking and watching people and didn't really want to leave. But we did. We bought a bag of popcorn to microwave in our suite at the Staybridge. I marveled at the Oregon/Kansas score, stunned that the Ducks beat the Jayhawks so handily, and I enjoyed and appreciated Terry Turner's texts to me, filling me in on what the Ducks did so well in order to defeat the Jayhawks. Wow! The Zags and the Ducks are in the Final Four.  I never ever even dreamed this would ever happen.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/24/17: Trip Preparation, Our Grandkids Loved the Chicken, Quiet/Bliss

1. Aside from Alexandria and Mt. Vernon, the Deke and I have never traveled in Virginia. The Deke has a three day weekend coming up and we have decided to stay in Yorktown so we can visit the American Revolution War Museum and visit the Jamestown Settlement. I managed to do a little preparation for our trip by getting some laundry done.

2. Molly and Hiram are going to take care of Maggie and Charly while we are away and late this afternoon the Deke and I delivered the dogs to their house. I volunteered to cook and deliver some dinner. A week or so ago I had bought one of those packs of 89,000 chicken thighs at Costco and today I thawed eight thighs, fixed a flour mixture of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. I heated a shallow pool of olive oil in our larger cast iron pan and for a short amount of time fried the chicken really hot on both sides and then turned down the heat and let the pieces continue to cook slowly for forty-five minutes or so, turning them over from time to time. The result?  A FIRST! David and Olivia liked something I cooked! I nearly wept with joy. The adults all loved the chicken, but, wow, I cooked food pleasing to David and Olivia. It was the snow-capped summit of my life in the kitchen.

3.  Most of the time, our dogs are quiet. They spend a lot of time relaxing on the couch and especially enjoy when the Deke is home to sit with them. That said, we never know when something outside or in the building might excite their barking. Tonight, we didn't have to think about that. The dogs were at the Diazes. The silence was blissful. The Deke and I sat in the quiet of our apartment home. About one pour a piece was left in our bottle of Redemption Rye Whiskey and we enjoyed it as we read. I silently looked back over the day's news in Washington, D. C. and at basketball scores. We soon retired to bed, barely a sound anywhere.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/23/17: Finally Got Goin', Concrete and Recovery, With Mary at Hank's Oyster Bar

1. I lollygagged for much of the day, checking in from time to time on the negotiations underway in the House of Representatives and with members of the Trump Administration, wondering if the AHCA would come to a vote today, as planned. I finally left our apartment home in the afternoon to get some groceries so I could fix the Deke some dinner. I had plans to eat on Capitol Hill tonight with Mary and, knowing the Deke would be exhausted after work, wanted to save her the trouble of having to fix her own dinner. I fixed one of our favorite standbys, black beans and rice.

2. Mary was down from NYC to attend a conference in D. C.  and she and I made a plan to meet at 6:00 near the Shake Shack and Starbucks in Union Station. I was a little bit late getting on the road to meet her, but then I got seriously delayed by something I've never experienced at Union Station. The Union Station parking garage has two entrances, on on Mass. Ave. and the other on H Street. I find the Mass. Ave. a little easier to get to and when I drove to it today it was barricaded by concrete barriers.  Now I had to figure out how to get over to N. Capitol Street, turn east on H Street, and see if that entry was open.  I drove to F Street, slight disoriented, and took a chance on a right hand turn on 2nd and it worked out because soon, Mass. Ave. appeared in my windshield.  Ah! Now I knew exactly what to do and eventually the barrier-less H Street entrance welcomed me, once I got out of the taxi lane (no problem, btw) and I snagged a first-rate parking spot on Level 1. At a red light, I'd been able to cryptically text Mary I'd run into a parking problem, so please be patient (!), and so when I was a half an hour late to meet her, she knew I was all right.   I was especially excited to see Mary again and I was also pumped up that I overcame the parking challenge those (mysterious) concrete barriers confronted me with.

3.  Mary enjoys seafood and so I thought it would be fun to stroll a bit in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and make our way to Hank's Oyster Bar.  I wanted to show her more of the neighborhood than we really could do -- I had hoped to show her the Capitol Hill Bookstore and Eastern Market, for example -- but the walk was gorgeous as the sun set behind the Capitol Dome and the Washington Monument and we got some good views of both.

Hank's Oyster Bar was alive with chatter and a lively string of young people at the bar. We were seated at the window and before long Mary and I dove into an order of a dozen oysters on the half shell from six different locations, including British Columbia, Washington State, and Maine. Julie has written enthusiastically about drinking whiskey while eating oysters, so I ordered a Brooklyn Sixpoint Res to sip on before our oysters arrived and a George Dickel Rye to drink while slurping the oysters. It was a good move. I loved how the brown sugary burn of Dickel was soothed by the sea water buttery creaminess of the oysters. Mary and I talked and talked about movies -- I particularly enjoyed her dream to one day host (or attend) a Karen Black Film Festival and it was fun talking about Karen Black movies from the 1970s and 80s. I think I saw the entirety of Come Back to Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean flash before my eyes.

We took our time eating the oysters and once they were cleared away we both dove into sweet, slightly crunchy crabcakes and Mary ordered a very tasty cauliflower side. I ordered an amber/red ale from Maine Brewing called Zoe to accompany my crabcake and Mary and I continued our conversation about movies -- we were both overwhelmed by I Am Not Your Negro and Mary helped me increase my list of movies to see.  Our check arrived with a complimentary dish of broken pieces of bittersweet chocolate, a perfect way to cap the dinner.

We took an Uber back to Union Station and I offered to give Mary a ride to her hotel on Woodley Road where her conference was being held. I thought I got some fairly erratic directions from the Google Maps voice instructing me how to drive from the Union Station Parking Garage to the Marriott Wardman Park, but I learned a lot during the circuitous trip. Ha! I successfully negotiated both Scott Circle and Dupont Circle --at night! a first! -- and, eventually, dropped Mary off and buzzed north on Connecticut Ave. to the Beltway and easily found my way home.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/22/17:At Last:Taxes,Good Times at Old Line,Simple and Exquisitely Delicious

1. I've been itching to upload our tax documents to our tax preparer and make an appointment with him. When I was younger, I put taxes off and always filed for an extension. I was kind of a wreck about this. But now, in my old age, I am eager to get the taxes done, but this year there was a holdup on a couple of our tax documents. On Tuesday, I had everything. So, today I spent a couple of hours scanning and uploading and tracking down a document at the Maryland Comptroller's website and elsewhere online. I worked deliberately, trying to do everything right on my end, and I might have succeeded. I do know one thing: I have an appointment in early April with our tax guy to get things done.

2.  After the Deke got off work and before we came home for dinner, we stopped in at Old Line for a couple of beers. We have a good thing going with James, a server there, and we hadn't seen him for a while. It turned out he'd been away for about a week, traveling to South Carolina and Florida. A while back, I gave him our DVDs of all the seasons of The Wire and he's into season three now and it's got him hooked. We also had fun talking with the Firestone Walker rep who was going from table to table serving up samples of Firestone's new take on Velvet Merlin -- Nitro Merlin Milk Stout. If we'd ordered a glass, we would have been served a free cookie with our Velvet Merlin -- a good pairing, I'm sure, but the Deke was into her 7 Locks Red Lager and I wanted to follow up my Firestone Walker DBA with Calvert's Mortal Double IPA. As we left, we chatted with the retiree who checked us out when we bought a bottle of wine and learned taht he has had a varied and fascinating life between living in far upstate New York and Maryland.

3. I had one box of pasta left, one onion, and plenty of canned tomatoes and butter and I wanted to keep dinner simple, so, before picking up the Deke, I whipped up a batch of Marcella Hazan's pasta sauce and when we arrived home I boiled pasta and grated some parmesan cheese. We had a very good dinner.  I know I've posted the Marcella Hazan recipe about 1000 times, but if you haven't looked at it, forgot to look at it, or if this is the time you'd like to give it a look, just click here. It's exquisite and so very easy.

Before I go, ever eat Campbell's tomato soup with a pat of butter? If you liked it, then you have had a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom of Marcella Hazan's pasta sauce.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/21/17: Charly's Dental Cleaning, Going to Yorktown, *I Am Not Your Negro*

1. First thing this morning, before I'd enjoyed even a sip of coffee, I drove Charly down to the vet so she could have her teeth cleaned. Later in the early afternoon, the vet's office called me to report that Charly had come through the procedure just fine and would be ready for pick up a little later in the day. I picked her up and I would have never known that she'd been under anesthesia. She came home hungry and happy to be reunited with Maggie.

2. The Deke has a three day weekend coming up and we've decided to explore the history of the American Revolution by taking a two-night trip to Yorktown, VA where we will visit the American Revolution Museum in Yorktown and the Jamestown Settlement. Since the Deke's and my birthday fall very close together, Mom gave us each some money to put together to spend on a nice dinner and we will go to a seafood restaurant in Williamsburg and enjoy some good food and wine, thanks to Mom's gift. If we can squeeze it in (ha!), we'll also go to a brewery or two and sample some fine Virginia beer.  I spent time today preparing the way for us to make this trip.

3. I picked up the Deke at school in time for us to go to the Old Greenbelt Theater to watch a late afternoon showing of I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary of the writer and intellectual James Baldwin's reflections upon the experience and his experience of being black, narrated entirely in his own written and spoken words. The only other documentary I've ever seen that took the approach of giving a dead person a voice from the grave to narrate his own story and movie was the film Tupac: Resurrection. In a way I welcomed and enjoyed, I Am Not Your Negro overwhelmed me with the sheer volume of its visual and spoken  and musical content. I wanted to stay in the theater, have the movie go back to its beginning, and watch it all again.  I wanted to listen again, among other things, to Baldwin's understanding of the nature of reality, his understanding of history, and his insights into maturity and social responsibility.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/20/17: Splish Splashin' Away, Surprise Eggplant Chili, I Love Maryland Beers

1. Last week, Mike and Ed and I headed out for a car tour of D. C. and so I missed my water aerobics class. Today, though, I was back at it, splish splashing away, smiling broadly, enjoying my body in motion. I stuck around after class and added twenty minutes to the class workout running in the pool and doing the old 9th grade football agility drill. Any sluggishness I had felt from not being in the pool for a couple of weeks melted away.

2. So, I didn't feel like going to the store and I wondered if I could make something with the black beans and onion and eggplant and other things I had on hand. A quick search of Pinterest turned up, of all things, a chili recipe combining eggplant, carrots, celery, onion, black beans, canned tomatoes and lentils. I jazzed up the recipe a little with Worcestershire sauce, a few squirts of lemon juice, cumin, and oregano and went kind of light on the chili powder and red pepper flakes. The recipe is a vegan one, but I had beef broth in a box I wanted to use, so I did. This soup turned out, to me, to be a big surprise. The Deke put her chili in a bowl with sour cream and leftover basmati rice -- and I followed her example -- and it tasted really good. We were both glad I didn't make it too hot.  Would you like to look at this recipe? Just click here.  (I think there's more a person could do to improve this recipe -- for starters, I'd add cilantro, garlic, and poblano chile pepper and I'm sure others of you would love to add other kinds of chile pepper.)

3.  Before dinner at home, the Deke and I enjoyed a couple of beers at Old Line. I tried two local IPAs that were new to me, The Alpha Effect, a delicious brew from Baltimore's always reliable Heavy Seas Brewing and there's a brewery down the road in Upper Marlboro, MD called Calvert Brewing and I found out tonight, as I sipped on a snifter of their brand new limited release Mortal Double IPA, that they brew solid beer -- the Deke and I gotta get down there for a visit.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/19/17: NYC Theater, Trying to Get Curry Right, D. C. Pictures

1.  The Deke wanted to get things organized for school and so we stayed put today. She will go to work on Monday with a clearer mind it will give her a leg up when the next report cards are due in a week. I also stayed put and read Rebecca Mead's review essay, here, about David Byrne's  and Alex Timber's musical theater treatment of John of Arc entitled, Joan of Arc: Into the Fire, playing in at The Public in New York City. My interest in NYC theater was piqued this weekend when the Deke ordered us tickets to see Sunday in the Park with George and Sally Fields in The Glass Menagerie in April during her spring break.

2. I am working hard to make curry that is not too blistering hot and not meek and mild. It's all about the balance between the amount of paste I use and the coconut milk. Today, I made a sauce with 1 Tbs plus 2 Tsp of paste combined with one can of coconut milk and one can of coconut cream and some oyster sauce. I served this sauce over tofu, onion, eggplant, and red pepper, all diced, and white basmati rice. The Deke thought the curry was very good and, at the same time, wondered if I might figure out a way to make it about five degrees milder. Yes. I think I can do that by lowering the quantity of paste by one teaspoon -- maybe two.  By the way, this was a great improvement over the last two curries I made which were too hot to eat until I diluted it with more coconut milk and chicken broth. I'm still in search of the golden mean.

3.  On the vacation Ed and Mike and I enjoyed together, I found that I wanted to enjoy the sights and enjoy my friends' company without fiddling around much with my camera. So, I took few pictures. Today, I edited those few pictures I took, and here is a sampling of them.

We arrived at the ceremony of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier a little late and I had no sight lines to take pictures of the ceremony. I retreated away from the tomb's gallery and loved taking pictures of the amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and want to return on another sunny day and take more pictures of the light and shadows.

Amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Mike at the Lincoln Memorial

Mike and Ed at the Jefferson Memorial 

Amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Ed at the Lincoln Memorial 

Amphitheater at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Mike and Ed at the Lincoln Memorial 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/18/17: The Moth at Costco, Deepening the Stroganoff, Reading with Ana

1. I went down to the Co-op, up to MOM's Organic, and over to Costco and replenished our kitchen. The Moth Radio Hour came on the radio as I pulled into a parking spot at Costco and I sat in the car and listened to the first story. It was told by Maurice Ashley, the first African-American International Grandmaster of Chess. He told the story of his early days playing chess in Brooklyn, of playing with men at Prospect Park whose game was Blitz. I was reminded of the young boy in the 1993 movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer, who comes under the influence of a speed chess player, played by Laurence Fishburne, in Washington Square Park. In both the movie and in Maurice Ashley's telling of his experiences with the Prospect Park players, known as The Black Bear School of Chess, a boy and a young man experience a reckoning. Both come to grips with how the game of chess and how they learn to play it informs the development of their inner self, their character, will, and sense of fellow feeling. It was a great twelve minutes and fifty-seven seconds of parking lot listening.

2.  The Deke and I accepted the Diazes' invitation to come over for dinner and I volunteered to be tonight's cook. I needed to fix something relatively quick, so I shopped with beef stroganoff in mind, drawing upon a recipe that calls for ground beef -- usually, I make it with cut up round steak. The recipe I used is simple, but as I read it, I thought it seemed incomplete. When it came time to brown the ground beef, I put a little butter in the cast iron pan and sauteed three finely chopped cloves of garlic. Into the two cups of beef broth the recipe called for, I added a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and a quarter cup of red wine. I love beef and black pepper, so I peppered the ground beef a bit more heavily than the recipe suggested. I am happy to report that Molly, Hiram, and the Deke genuinely loved this beef stroganoff and they heaped praise on my efforts. Thank goodness. If you'd like to look at the recipe, just click here.

Oh! Two more notes. My stroganoff included the mushrooms and, for our family, the 12 oz. package of egg noodles was not enough and, luckily, Hiram and Molly had another package at their house.

3.  Ana loves looking at books and she and I had a fun time looking at a picture book of baby animals. Ana can identify almost all the animals, either by saying what they are or making a noise that sounds like the animal. We also read a story about a red tow truck driver who rescues a stuck school bus and Ana made a lot of engine sounds.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/17/17: Maggie's Teeth Cleaning, My Teeth Cleaning, Brookeville Beer Farm and Quench

1. Maggie is insistent, very insistent starting about 6 a.m. that we feed her in the morning. Today, however, she was going to have a dental cleaning at the vet. It requires anesthesia. Therefore, no food. A battle of wills transpired between Maggie and me. I could not relent or the surgery would have to be canceled. Finally, about 6:45 she and I piled into the Sube and I took her down to the vet to drop her off. Being in the car and arriving at the vet took her mind off her morning chow and all went very well with the check in and, about eight hours later, I picked her up. She'd been a trooper. Once home, she got to eat a reduced helping of kibbles and was recovering well from her surgery. No grogginess. No nausea. A happy reunion with Charly. Maggie never fails to impress me with her fortitude.

She's a good dog.

2.  I, too, visited the dentist today for a cleaning and a check-up. I didn't have to be sedated. I just relaxed and a hygienist who was new to me cleaned and polished my teeth and we talked a bit about how I could take even better care of my teeth. I once had a hygienist who hectored me about dental care, but this hygienist didn't. She just talked with me, answered my questions, and gave me ten dollar off coupon for an electric toothbrush should I decide to go that route. I think the coupon could be thought of as incentive.

3. I picked up the Deke from her job and we drove about a half an hour to Brookeville Beer Farm, here, about a half an hour away. People we met recently and joined for beers a couple of weeks ago at Franklins were meeting at Brookeville and one of these people, Jim, was playing in the Irish band providing live music. The tasting room at Brookeville Beer Farm was packed solid. It was a very cool place, but it was so packed we never found Jo, but we did find Sara with her mother, Joan, for a short conversation. We enjoyed the time we spent listening to Jim's band, but without a place to sit and given how noisy the place was -- the good kind of noisy, by the way -- we decided we'd return to Brookeville Beer Farm another time and hoped we'd hear Jim's band again under different circumstances. We were very happy to have made the trip out to the farm.

One of our favorite spots, Quench, was on the way back to Greenbelt and we stopped in. It, too, was very busy, but we snagged a couple of seats at the bar and enjoyed some of Union's divine Double Duckpin Imperial IPA with a little Jameson's Irish Whiskey and we split a very tasty shepherd's pie.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/16/17: Getting Laundry Done, Reunion with The Truth, Welcome Back Mr. Dickel

1.  Today and yesterday those bone chilling winds that Mike, Ed, and I experienced in New York City were cutting through all of our coats, hats, gloves, pants, shoes, and socks here in Greenbelt. I stayed in. I gathered up the towels and sheets we used during the boys' visit and laundered them and cleaned up the bathroom. I'll vacuum tomorrow when Maggie is at the vet for her dental cleaning so that there will only be one corgi -- that is, Charly -- barking frantically while I get the carpets in our apartment home clean.

2. I anticipated that the Deke might want to go to Old Line after school and I was correct. I experienced that feeling of having a reunion with an old friend when I dove into my glass of Flying Dog's stupendous Imperial IPA, The Truth. It's almost always on Old Line's tap list, but I enjoy trying out new things, so it had been quite a while since I enjoyed The Truth and it was as close to perfect for me this evening as a beer possibly could be.

3. Back at the Red Owl Tavern in Philadelphia, I ordered a pour of George Dickel Rye Whisky. I have a history with George Dickel Tennessee Sour Mash Whisky that goes all the way back to 1983 in Spokane, Washington and extends forward to evenings with Rita in Eugene, evenings with the Deke and friends from OFAM in Eugene and some backyard summers on Madison, also in Eugene. To us, George Dickel was Mr. Dickel and as I left the Old Line store this evening, I decided to add to our history with Mr. Dickel and I bought a fifth of George Dickel Rye Whiskey and the Deke and I relaxed, sipped, and enjoyed a couple short pours of good old rye whiskey, neat, perfectly capping our night.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/15/17: Slowing Things Down, Eggplant Sandwich Dinner, Quiet Party

1. I had been scheduled to go to Baltimore today for a once every two years all day visit to the University of Maryland Transplantation Center. I rescheduled this appointment on Monday because the weather looked so iffy. It looked possible that Ed and Mike might get snowed in and need to stay an extra night. Well, that didn't happen, but today the Deke had a two hour delay (after school was closed yesterday). I was happy today that I didn't have to go to Baltimore. I slept in. I slowed down after nine days of travel, touring, and being in and out of our apartment home. I started to get back into my daily routines of writing and doing domestic duties around the house.  I'm grateful for the snow/blizzard scare that moved me to schedule my visit to Baltimore in April.

2.  I got back into the swing of kitchen life today. I went to the Co-op and started to get caught up on grocery shopping. Once home, I chopped an eggplant into small cubes, did the same with a red pepper, and did much the same with half a red onion and a few garlic cloves. I fried this mixture up in olive oil. I mashed the soft eggplant mixture and spread it on halved and toasted ciabatta rolls. The sandwich could be open faced or closed. I also made lemon yogurt sauce and we had feta cheese to put on the sandwiches. As a side, I made a basmati rice salad by folding olives, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, rice vinegar, and olive oil into the rice I cooked. The lemon yogurt sauce made a tasty additional dressing for this salad.

3. After being away for nine nights while I hosted Mike and Ed during our incredible vacation, the Deke was back in our apartment home tonight. We had a great party. We split a bottle of Double Bastard Ale, split a bottle of Heavy Seas 21, and then we had a couple small pours of Jameson Caskmates whiskey, aged in stout barrels. We relaxed. We enjoyed the quiet of our apartment home and the quiet of one another's company. The corgis rested peacefully. It was a perfect evening of good food, superb beer, smooth whiskey, and restful quiet.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/14/17: Sleeping In Again, Silver Diner, Wrapping Up the Trip

1. Ahhh! Another sleep in! Ed and Mike got their belongings gathered and we sat around and yakked, relieved that we were on the very edge of the big storm that hit the Northeast. Yes, school was cancelled for the Deke, but we could tell that we would have no problem getting out to the airport and we knew throughout the day that Mike and Ed's flight to Seattle was not in danger of being cancelled.

2. Late in the morning, Ed, Mike, and I descended upon the Silver Diner at Greenbelt Plaza for a bracing breakfast, guaranteeing that Mike and Ed would be well fed for their flight out west.

3. Indeed, as anticipated, we had no problems getting out to Baltimore Washington International Airport. I dropped off Mike and Ed and then I returned the Cambry to Enterprise and an employee gave me a ride home. I experienced the relief I always experience when I return a rental car and nothing has happened. Once home, I relaxed with a little whiskey and went to work catching up on writing all the Three Beautiful Things I hadn't written while hosting my lifelong friends and enjoyed remembering all the fun we had over the last nine days, seeing the sights, meeting friendly and good people, and enjoying one another's company and long friendship.  We are very fortunate indeed.

Three Beautiful Things 03/13/17: Ahh! Sleeping In, Car Tour of DC, A Deke Reunion and Jameson Caskmates

1. I love spurts of go go go go go activity in my life and I love that Ed, Mike, and I have been squeezing every hour out of our days with trips to the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery and to Philadelphia and Eastern Maryland and to New York City. I also love to sleep. Ahhhh! I slept in this morning.

2.  Late in the morning, I took Ed and Mike on a tour of DC that did not include the National Mall. We came in on Route 50/New York Ave. and made our way to Massachusetts Ave and admired many embassies and drove into the Kalorama neighborhood where the Obamas, the Kushners, and others have bought expensive, plush homes. We didn't see the Obama house and I didn't know the Kushners' address, but we went up and down some of the narrow streets of wealth, gawking at handsome old homes.   We drove through Rock Creek Park and made our way over to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception where Pope Francis celebrated Mass in 2015.  I wanted my friends to see the fairly ordinary Brookland neighborhood, in contrast to Kalorama, where I like to hang out and walk around. Then we stopped in at Franklins for a drink and a bite to eat and a visit to the Franklin General Store and drove on Rt. 1 through the campus of the University of Maryland.

3. We met the Deke at Old Line. I was eager to hear how her trip to New York to see Adrienne, Jack, and Sally went and was ecstatic that she loved seeing the musical Beautiful on Saturday at the Steven Sondheim theater. On the way out the door at Old Line, I bought a bottle of Jameson Caskmates Irish Whiskey so I could find out what happens when Irish whiskey is aged in stout-seasoned oak barrels. I poured myself a small drink, neat, and enjoyed it. It brought a relaxing end to great day of seeing some of DC not navigated by our Big Bus tours and some of the places in DC that I enjoy visiting on my own.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/12/17: Strolling in the Ice Gale, Oh! My! The Views!, O'Hara's and a Megabus Rescue

1. After a Megabus ride to New York City, where I got some much needed sleep, we braved the icy winds for as long as we could, strolling around Penn Station and up to Times Square.

2.  Soon we took the subway to Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan and wandered around a bit until our mostly outdoor 9/11 walking tour in the biting bitter windy cold.  At the end of our tour, we flew up the elevator in the WTC, where the history of the NYC skyline developed on a video on three sides of the elevator and entered the indoor observatory and marveled at the 360 degree views of NYC and the surrounding area from over 100 stories in the air.  This trip up to the observatory was astonishing and awesome and breathtaking and transporting and and and and.....

3. Before taking the subway back to Penn Station and the Megabus, we stumbled into O'Hara's Restaurant and Pub and I enjoyed a couple of pours of Jameson and a couple bottles of Dirt Wolf 2IPA. I also enjoyed a much needed French dip sandwich. This was one of my best sessions in a bar ever. I sat next to an woman from L. A. named Diana and she and I and Ed and Mike had great conversation. We started to get to know the bar's owner, Paul, and as we were getting ready to leave, he invited us behind the bar for a picture. Like us, Diana was headed uptown, so we all piled into the subway and Ed, Mike, and I got off at Penn Station and Diana would deboard at Times Square.

We almost missed our Megabus, thanks to a screw up on my part, and going to the wrong place to board the bus, but a Megabus driver with an empty bus let us get on his bus, and he drove us, Uber-style, but at no charge, to where we were supposed to be to board the bus to D. C. and at the very last minute/second, we each found a seat and, thank God, made it back to Washington, D. C. after one of the best days any of us could ever remember having had.

Three Beautiful Things 03/11/17: Slow Morning, Double T Breakfast, Touring Eastern Maryland (and a Bit of Baltimore)

1. Ed, Mike, and I got up this morning and relaxed, drank coffee, shot the breeze, and let the full day we had yesterday in Philadelphia soak in. We spent much of the morning recharging our batteries.

2. But we didn't sit around for long! We leaped back into the Camry and drove to the Double T Diner in Annapolis, enjoyed a great breakfast, and I gave us all a too brief tour of the area of Annapolis around the Maryland Statehouse.

3. We left Annapolis, crossed the Bay Bridge, and headed out into the countryside, and after a couple of hours or so, took a short tour of Berlin, MD. We stopped in at the Ocean Downs Casino near Berlin for an hour or so and then left Route 50 not long after we crossed back over the Bay Bridge and zoomed up I-97 to Baltimore and the Horseshoe Casino where I immediate went to the Heavy Seas Burger counter for a pint of Loose Cannon IPA and a serving of Old Bay Chicken Wings.

With more time, I would have enjoyed lingering in Annapolis more. I would have enjoyed making some stops as we drove east toward Berlin. I would have enjoyed hanging out in Berlin. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this day a lot because we got to experience so much of the variety of Maryland, how the landscape and the energy changed so much in just over a couple of hours as we traveled from Berlin to Baltimore. We arrived back home late and happy, and we braced ourselves to turn the clocks ahead, sleep about three and a half hours, and head back to Union Station to catch the Megabus to New York City.

Three Beautiful Things 03/10/17: Touring Philadelphia, Liberty and Cheesesteaks and Whisky, Returning Home

1. Ed, Mike, and I piled onto the Megabus at 6:30 a.m. and rode to Philadelphia and then piled onto a Big Bus Tour bus and rode the 90 minute route in a driving snow storm without hopping off.  I want to return to Philadelphia and make my way to see the post-impressionist paintings at the Barnes Foundation and the art at the nearby Rodin Museum and I'd like to venture up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I would love to see this part of Philadelphia when the wind and snow aren't blowing and when the trees have leaves and I could enjoy a walk in the green areas and enjoy looking at the Schuylkill River.

2. I don't remember the order, but after deboarding the bus, we had lunch at Grand Olde Cheesesteak in the Bourse Food Court. I had a Philadelphia Cheesesteak sandwich with a side of cheese fries and enjoyed my lunch a lot.  Even more, I enjoyed the young man working the counter. His family owns Grand Olde Cheesesteak -- they've run it for 35 years, and he was just a great guy to talk to. It looks like the Grand Olde Cheesesteak is going to close soon and he told me what he hopes to do afterward. It had to do with technological things that are over my head, but I will always hope he succeeds.  We also visited the Liberty Bell Park and Independence Hall and then we sat down at the bar at the Red Owl Tavern and I enjoyed, no, I profoundly enjoyed a pour of George Dickel Rye Whisky, neat.

3.  We decided to see what Philadelphia's Sugar House Casino was like. I played a little bit and retired to a table at the Refinery Bar in the casino where I charged my phone and slowly sipped away on the House Ale brewed by the Yards Brewery in Philadelphia. Before long, Ed, Mike, and I were back on the Megabus, flush with excitement about our Philadelphia day trip. We had a very interesting visit with a friendly and talkative woman who has worked at the Pentagon and now works for the Department of the Navy and we learned a lot of great stuff about her work, D. C., and her life living in Wisconsin, D.C., Virginia, and Philadelphia. She was taking a test in morning in the D.C. area for becoming certified as a project manager and I wish I had a way of finding out if she passed. I fervently hope she did.

Three Beautiful Things 03/09/18: Arlington, Vietnam War Memorial, Hug of Gratitude

1. Ed and Mike and I lounged around the apartment (a.k.a. "The Lap of Luxury") for a while and then climbed back into the Camry and headed back to Union Station and hopped back on the Big Bus and transferred onto the Blue Route and hopped off at the Arlington National Cemetery and caught most of a changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I couldn't see the ceremony very well, so I slipped into the amphitheater and took black and white light and shadow pictures of the columns there, but I haven't looked at them yet.  If they are presentable, I'll post later.  I want to return to the Arlington National Cemetery on my own on a clear day this spring and spend time at the Arlington House and walking around the grounds of the cemetery and take more time to enjoy the thrilling views of Washington, D. C. from on hight and from across the river.

2. We returned to Washington, D. C. and hopped off the Big Bus at the sobering, haunting Vietnam War Memorial and paid quiet tribute to the soldiers it memorializes.

3.  When we hopped back on the Big Bus, our tour guide for the next several blocks was Ellen. She gave way to Maria at some point, but Ellen remained on the bus and when we all got off the bus at Union Station, I thanked Ellen for her good work and she thanked me and we hugged, much to my surprise. It was a splendid way to end our two days of touring on the Big Bus.

Three Beautiful Things 03/08/17: Capitol Tour, Big Bus Tour, Night Tour of D. C.

1. After a day of recreation, Mike, Ed, and I were ready to plunge into the heart of our vacation. We piled into the Toyota Cambry I rented and blazed down to Union Station and took a leisurely walk to the visitors' center of the U. S. Capitol and went on a tour of this august structure. This was my second tour of the U.S. Capitol building and each time I have suspended my knowledge of the opportunistic, power-grabbing, highly partisan practices of our elected representatives and give myself over to listening to the the ideals of our democracy as they were discussed in the short movie to begin the tour and in the idealistic ways this seat of government was constructed. It's fun to surrender to the beauty of these ideals, to be inspired, even though I know that when I leave the Capitol, I will read or listen to stories telling about our elected officials behaving in ways that fall short of the lofty aspirations of the American Experiment.

2. After the Capitol Tour, Ed and Mike and I hiked back to Union Station and got our tickets to hop on and off the Big Bus. We hopped off twice -- first at the Jefferson Memorial and then at the Lincoln -- and when we were on the bus we enjoyed fine commentary from Ellen and, later, Chris, who both made learning more about our nation's capital very enjoyable.

3.  The three of us rested for a while at Union Station and then hopped back on the Big Bus for a night tour of Washington, D. C. under the witty guidance of Sam. It is a beautiful, stirring sight to see the great monuments and the capitol building lit up and we had the good fortune of having our tour on a night that was not brutally cold, so we could sit in the upper deck of the bus and enjoy the sights even more and not freeze.

Three Beautiful Things 03/07/17: Shiny MGM National Harbor, Crabcake Lunch, Zags Defeat the Gaels

1. Ed visited me here in the D. C. metropolitan area a year ago and, in the meantime, the MGM gang built a shiny new casino and hotel complex right here in Prince George's County, MD in the nifty resort/convention hamlet of National Harbor. So, today, instead of starting right off with monuments and memorials in D. C., Ed, Mike, and I took a more leisurely approach and buzzed down to this new joint called MGM National Harbor.  I played a few machines, but mostly I walked around, looking at the new restaurants, going outside to enjoy the view of the Potomac River and seeing the Washington Monument off in the distance, and gawking at the airy atrium in the hotel lobby. I got a ton of steps in!

2. Mike and Ed and I met for lunch in the food court part of the MGM called The District and I tried the crabcakes at a place called Papa's. My lunch was delicious. The crabcakes were crunchy and sweet and the sides of cole slaw and fries tasted really good.

3. Mike and I wanted to watch the Zags play St. Mary's in the WCC tournament final and Ed, Mike, and I agreed that another trip to Maryland Live! was in order. So we headed on up and Mike and I hiked over to the Arundel Mills mall and plopped down at a table at Chevy's, each ordered a house margartia, and watched the Zags dominate the St. Mary's Gaels in the first half. Chevy's closed at 10, so we humped it back over to Maryland Live! and kept an eye on the second half, watched the Zags close out the victory, and, before long, Mike and Ed and I headed back to Greenbelt.

In case you were wondering about the Deke and the dogs, they camped out at the Diazes while Ed and Mike and I set up our headquarters at the Deke's and my apartment home. This arrangement was a win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win, win for my buddies and me, for the Deke, for the dogs, and for the Diazes. Not bad!

Three Beautiful Things 03/06/17: Floppin', Mike and Ed Arrive, The Zags and Santa Clara Memories

1. I had a great time floppin' around in my water aerobics class at the Greenbelt swimming pool. I missed last Monday and will also miss next Monday and found myself enjoying today's session and after class workout even more than usual because I knew it would be a while until I'd be back in the water.

2. Mike and Ed arrived at Baltimore Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport late this afternoon and will be staying with me until next Tuesday. We kicked off our vacation together by meeting the Deke at Old Line and enjoying some dinner and a few beers and starting to anticipate the fun times the next several days will bring us.

3. The Zags played Santa Clara tonight in the WCC tournament semi-finals and, since I don't have television at home, Mike and I plopped ourselves in front of a television at the Maryland Live! Casino and watched the Zags triumph over the Broncos. Watching Santa Clara transported me back to March of 1970, when Terry Turner and I got to watch the Western Regional semi-finals and finals of the NCAA men's basketball tournament at Hec Edmundson Pavillion on the campus of the Univ. of Washington. That 1970 Santa Clara team popped back into my memory, especially Jolly Spight, future MLB player Bruce Bochte, future NBAer Dennis Awtrey, and Ralph Ogden. Ralph's brother, Bud, remember him? had graduated from Santa Clara the year before. It was fun watching the Zags win. It was extra fun to have the memories of that trip with Terry to Seattle pop back into my mind.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/05/17: In Order, Corgi Drop Off, DC Brau Renewal

1. I firmed up a few things and got papers organized for Mike and Ed and me and our travels and tours this upcoming week and am as confident as I can be that everything is in place for bus travel and tour tickets and tour passes in D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City.

2. Talk about a huge help: Molly and Hiram are housing the corgis while my friends are here. The Deke will be staying at the Diaz house during my friends' visit, so she'll be taking care of the dogs, too, but not having the dogs in our apartment leaves Mike, Ed, and me free to come and go as we please without concern for the dogs' well-being or maintenance. The Deke and I dropped off the dogs with Molly this afternoon, wished her a happy birthday, and left her to continue her day visiting with Leah.

3.  The Deke and I love wrapping up our weekends with a visit to the tasting room at D. C. Brau. Tonight, as the evening wrapped up, Stu and Angela focused the house music on Yacht Rock: "Rosanna", "What a Fool Believes", something by Hall and Oates, etc. and we cheered each song and talked about how just right this music was right now. People at another table played Cards Against Humanity and regularly broke into OMG! laughter. The Deke knit. She and I talked about stuff. We had fun conversations with Stu and Angela about music and concerts they'd been to.   It was low key.  The beer was good. We left, headed into our week, rested, relaxed, and renewed.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/04/17: Reading, IPA Memories, On the Phone with Mom and Christy

1.  Ever since burglars broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel in 1972, I have found it difficult to keep up with and digest news on a day to day basis -- and I've been skeptical about breaking news stories. I read daily news, but I am slow to accept the day to day accounting of things.  I prefer retrospective looks at events -- that is, I prefer to let the cake bake and look at news stories after time has passed and errors made in the heat of the reporting moment can be corrected, as much as is possible. Today, I did some catching up reading the New Yorker. I read, and need to go back and review, a long article looking back at Vladimir Putin's coming to power in Russia and at the arc of his political career the last sixteen/seventeen years -- which is also the story of the long aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  I also read a profile of Michael Flynn and his impressive and maverick career.  As a subscriber to the New Yorker, I could have read both articles on my computer, but I enjoyed holding the magazine, turning the pages, and being free of my laptop's unyielding rectangle of light.

2. While I read, the Deke sorted and organized yarn and listened to a variety of videos on her laptop -- some conspiracy theory stuff here, CSI Miami there. Absorbed in my reading, I didn't always keep up with what she was listening to next. We decided around three o'clock or so that it was time to split a beer and we denied ourselves delayed gratification -- what I mean is, on Friday, I had bought a bomber of Ninkasi's Tricerahops Double IPA and we could have let it sit for a while, but we didn't do that. We savored it this afternoon, slowly.

I remembered back a few years ago in Eugene when I crossed over to full IPA enjoyment. It took me a while, but two IPAs, both grapefruit-y, turned out to be my gateway to loving IPAs: Hop Valley's Citrus Mistress and Deschute's Fresh Squeezed. I went back into the archives of my blog this afternoon while sipping on my Tricerahops and read about the afternoon I strolled over to Growler Guys for the first time because I'd read an article by Seattle's Steve Body in which he raved about this new IPA called Fresh Squeezed. I had looked online and saw Growler Guys had Fresh Squeezed on tap. I loved that pint of beer. I started ordering more IPAs at 16 Tons and Billy Mac's and Cornucopia and at Ninkasi's and Hop Valley's tasting rooms and I developed an increasing appreciation for IPAs, but not at the expense of my enjoyment all the other styles.

This reminiscing about IPAs coincided with the arrival of an email from Dan in Eugene. He read that I had purchased a bottle of Tricerahops and wrote me about his love of this beer and I enjoyed sharing in his enthusiasm. I suddenly felt especially grateful that a few of Ninkasi's beers have made their way to Maryland, giving me a chance, from time to time, to take a break from the East Coast beers I love and buoy my spirits with some nostalgia drinking of Ninkasi's Total Domination or Dawn of the Red or, as happened today, Tricerahops Double IPA.

3.  The Deke drove over to the Diazes to be with Olivia, David, and Ana while Molly and Hiram enjoyed a rare date night. I stayed home, still in my Friday night sleepwear, worked puzzles, popped a bowl of popcorn, checked basketball scores, and put clean sheets on the bed.

I fell asleep thinking about my telephone conversation with Mom this morning. We talked about people we knew in Kellogg who died recently and about the snow in Kellogg and how she's feeling pretty good these days. Her leg infection has healed. She told me her energy has been pretty good. Best of all, when she fell backwards at Carol and Paul's a couple weeks ago, it was apparently a slow fall, thanks, I think, to the fact that she was gripping her walker.  She didn't really bruise herself and she told me she hasn't been too sore from the fall. I'm really relieved. As a bonus, Christy was over at Mom's helping her get Mom's day started and we talked for a while, too.  Christy loves her part time work at the Kellogg Public Library and it's fun to hear about what happens there day to day and how important the library is to so many people who wouldn't otherwise have computer access or be able to watch tons of movies or read their favorite books.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/03/17: A Mile in the Aisles at Total Wine, Franklins Regulars, Sagamore Rye Whiskey

1.  Ed loves Black Velvet's Toasted Caramel Whisky. Last year, when he came out to visit, I couldn't find a single bottle of it in Greenbelt or at Old Line. So, this afternoon, I decided I'd do a mile a walking indoors, thanks to the chilly wind outdoors, at Total Wine up at the Laurel Corridor and pick up a fifth of Toasted Caramel Whisky in preparation for Ed and Mike's arrival on Monday.

Well, as long as I was at Total Wine walking a mile in the aisles, I picked up six bombers of six different beers. For example, it will be fun to drink some Eugene beer when we pop open the Ninkasi Tricerahops and I picked up some other favorites and some beer we haven't tasted -- like the Union Brewing/Heavy Seas collaboration, Partnerships Olde Ale.  I'll probably start grabbing or ordering Old Ale style beer every chance I get these days -- last night I had a taster of Old Curmudgeon Old Ale at Quench and I loved its boozy sweetness.

That's not all I bought at Total Wine. I was scanning the whiskey shelves and I suddenly remembered when the Deke used to go to a friend's backyard in Eugene and drink rye whiskey and I always liked the sound of that as well as the sound of "them good old boys" in "American Pie", but I couldn't ever remember drinking rye whiskey myself, let alone with the Deke. I decided to buy a bottle of rye whiskey distilled in Baltimore, Sagamore Spirit.  We'll see how it goes. I have high hopes.

2. Tuesday at Old Line, the Deke and I were at the elbow of the bar and after we'd been there a while, three affable kindred spirits sat down at the elbow: Jo, Jim, and Sarah.  We got to talking, started learning a bit about each other, and they invited the Deke and me to join their Friday Franklins Regulars get together. It's kind of like the Thursday get together we loved at Billy Mac's in Eugene -- people who enjoy each other sitting around a table for some beers and food.

So, this afternoon, I picked up the Deke from school and we drove down to Franklins, in Hyattsville; it's advertised as our county's only brew pub. (I guess that's still true....)  As an added bonus, Molly, Ana, David, and Olivia also came to Franklins. The Deke and I visited with Jo, Jim, Sarah, and Katie for a while and then made our way downstairs to join Molly and the kids at another table. My favorite beer of the night was a half pint of Batch 900, a strong ale -- I'd also say Old Ale style -- rich with sweet flavors and a little boozy. I also drank a half pint of Twisted Turtle Pale Ale, presented as an ESB. If I try this beer again, I'll order it first. It might have suffered from following the much more flavorful strong ale.

For a few minutes, we poked around in the Franklins General Store, a place packed with candy, games, and toys with beer and wine in the back and drove back to our apartment home, happy after a night of fun conversation and enjoying Molly and our grandchildren.

3. Once settled in at our apartment home, I broke out the Sagamore Rye Whiskey. Heh. I confess. I sampled a nip before going to Franklins, so I already knew that this was a fine whiskey -- just the right spicy molasses-y (not cloying) sweetness to start and a pleasing peppery burn to finish.  The Deke loved it, too. I suddenly wished we had a few more bottles of whiskey from small distilleries on hand and could share a flight together, but, alas, for now this was all we had and it was tasty, relaxing, and sufficient.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/02/17: Getting Ready for March 15th, Party at Quench, Ana Discovers the Fart Joke

1. Two many paged questionnaires. Opening folders in my kidney transplant folder on my desktop and printing reports of past lab work, chest X-ray, CT scan, colonoscopy, TB test, and cardiology reports. It's all gathered now in a hard copy folder and I'm ready, nearly two weeks ahead of time, for my March 15th all day visit to the University of Maryland Transplantation Center.

2. The Deke and I went to Quench and enjoyed some beer and a board of cheese, meat, and a mini-baguette with olives and chutney. It makes me very happy that Quench serves the choice of very small glasses of beer so that I can try out a variety of beers that are higher in alcohol volume. This afternoon, I enjoyed these:

Founder's Old Curmudgeon -- a sweet beer made in the English strong ale style
Victory's Golden Monkey -- almost banana-y, definitely spicy in the Belgian Abby Tripel style
Lexington's Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale -- another from the English strong ale family: sweet as candy and perfectly boozy
Ballast Point's Victory at Sea -- a peanut butter Imperial Porter -- the peanut butter taste is there but not dominant and is set off very nicely by the chocolate/coffee flavors of the porter -- a perfect finishing beer, a fine dessert.

3.  We topped off our evening by visiting Molly and Ana, David, and Olivia. Hiram was away rehearsing.  I will always remember tonight as the night Ana started to become more than just a baby/toddler, but, in a small way, more like a grade school or middle school kid. Yes, tonight Ana farted and then entertained herself, and the rest of us, by laughing at the joy of her discovery, for the first time, that she could make a similar sound by blowing air through her vibrating lips and with her tongue. Such a precocious child!

(Oh my God!)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 03/01/17: Riddles and Puzzles, Salsa Test, Fried Chicken Dinner

1.  The temperatures neared or surpassed 80 degrees today and then storms moved in with high winds and some rain and I stayed put, reading last night's presidential address and a lot of analysis of it and commentary about it. Later, I took a break from pondering the riddles of government and spent time puzzling over a few acrostic puzzles, which at least give me the satisfaction of completion.

2.  The Deke and I have not been happy with the salsa I've bought at the store recently, so I found a recipe for salsa blending canned tomatoes, white onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, cilantro, cumin, sugar, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Tuesday night I made a batch. This morning, for breakfast, I fried a handful of little potatoes and broke a couple of eggs over them and topped the scramble with some salsa. The salsa worked -- I think there's room for improvement -- but I think this batch will enhance some of our meals and snacks.

3.  I bought four chicken thighs at Wegman's the other day and today I heated up olive oil in our large cast iron pan and made a mixture of all-purpose flour, garlic powder, pepper, salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and garam masala. I covered the chicken pieces with the flour mix and loved the pop and crackle that resulted when I dropped them into the hot oil. Earlier, I had taken out the last of the chicken stock I made a while back and used it as the liquid to make basmati rice. While the chicken fried, I chopped tiny cucumbers, some slightly larger than cherry tomatoes, and red onion and combined them with lemon yogurt sauce/dressing, with the idea that this sauce/dressing might also taste good spread on the chicken, if either of us wanted to do that. It turned out to be a very successful dinner.  Oh! And I was right about the lemon yogurt sauce on the chicken. I ate some with and some without the sauce and enjoyed both approaches a lot.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 02/28/17: Good News from the Lab, New Friends at Old Line, Cheese Session

1.  I thought the results of Monday's lab work would pop into my inbox on Wednesday or Thursday, but I checked my email after taking the Deke to work this morning and there was a notice that the results were in.

I breathed deeply and slowly and opened up my online medical chart.

Every last number told me good news.

My abnormal kidney function remained stable over the last six months -- in fact, it improved a tiny bit. Stability is always what the doctors and I want to see. I've been monitoring this kidney disease now for twelve years and the overall stability of my remaining kidney function has been remarkable.

All my other numbers were slightly better and every measure, from potassium to cholesterol to acid levels in my blood etc. etc., that doesn't have to do directly with my kidneys, was within range.

I was so happy and so relieved that I took a nap.

2.  Buoyed by the good blood work news, the Deke and I celebrated at Old Line. We had a few beers and shared a plate of Mardi Gras fried oysters and fries. We met two people our age and a younger friend of theirs. We had a lot of fun yakking and might meet up with them again one of these Fridays at Franklin's in Hyattsville where they sit at the bar every week.

3.  Back home, the Deke and I enjoyed small pieces of gouda cheese that had been aged for eighteen months and some slightly creamy white cheese from Italy. We've decided to regularly purchase small chunks of slightly expensive cheese and try them out. Both of us enjoyed these cheeses a lot and we have a little more left over for another cheese eating session.