Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/30/17: Back in the Game, Massaman Curry, George Dickel Rye Whisky

1. I received an email from the Deke today. The subject line: next year. The message: "I'm back in the game." In other words, today the Deke decided to return to Dora Kennedy French Immersion School to teach another year (at least). With this decision in place, we can now make a host of other decisions about our life in the near future, the most important being my plans for going to and staying in Kellogg to help out with Mom.

2. Massaman curry is milder than red or green curry. It's richer. It's sweeter. Using coconut cream, not milk, I made a big pot of massaman curry. I flavored it further with a few whole cloves and some minced ginger balanced by a few shakes of fish sauce. I simmered cubed sweet potato and russet potato in the sauce and, in another pan, stir fried scallions, red bell pepper, and eggplant, added it to the sauce, and then stir fried frozen green beans and added them. I roasted a large handful of raw peanuts, salted them, and sprinkled them into the mix. Served over jasmine rice and topped with cilantro, this was a delicious curry, distinct from the red and green we are more accustomed to, and a deep pleasure to eat.

3. The Deke made an important decision today. We talked about the many more decisions that lie ahead. After dinner, it was time to wind down and we each sipped a couple of slow slugs of George Dickel Rye Whisky and let things sink in.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/29/17: Pancakes and Goodbye, Party at DC Brau, Simple Velvety Dinner

1. Adrienne and Jack left this morning not long after 9:00 to return to Nyack and the Deke and I went to the Diazes to say goodbye. Molly had made delicious cinnamon-y pancakes and had real maple syrup on hand and I enjoyed taking a break from my usual morning oatmeal and snarfing down a couple.

2. The Deke and I hopped into the Sube and enjoyed our weekly Sunday visit to DC Brau on Monday. We fell into conversation with a couple of bicyclists way younger than us who had been teachers in China and elsewhere and we had a lot of fun talking about how much we enjoy living in the Washington, D.C. area and about the immense challenges school teachers face and about a recent Washington Post article that reported on the relatively high number of teachers who resigned in the middle of the current school year.

3. We came back home and needed a simple meal so I poured a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes into a pan, put over a half a stick of butter in, cut an onion in half and put the two halves in with the tomatoes and butter and while the sauce heated up, I boiled a box of penne and grated some parmesan cheese. Before long, the Deke and I dove into our bowls of pasta topped with Marcella Hazan's simple and velvet tomato sauce.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/28/17: Mexican Coleslaw Again, Strong Ale at Quench, "Numbers" on *Radiolab*

1. Like yesterday, I snapped right to it this morning and got underway with a food project. I made what the recipe,here, calls Mexican Coleslaw. I made this salad about a week or so ago. Today, instead of relying on a packaged coleslaw mix, I chopped a red cabbage myself, significant only because it was therapeutic, as was chopping the jalapeno peppers and red peppers and as was making the taco seasoning from scratch rather than using a store bought packet, following these instructions.

2.  Before going to the Diazes for another dinner with Molly's family and with Adrienne and Jack, the Deke and I enjoyed a beer at Quench and talked about the financial details that need attention as the Deke leaves her job. It was good to get these details out before us and I'd like to have some of this figured out before I go to Kellogg. It was rainy outside and I strolled into Quench a little damp and chilled, so I ordered a pint of beer from Scotland, an Innis and Gunn oak-aged strong ale, thinking its sweetness and over 7% ABV would warm me up a bit. It did.

3. Earlier in the day, I made a quick trip to Safeway and on the way and back listened to pieces of the latest episode of Radiolab entitled "Numbers", here. As I listened to these bits, I thought it might be fun later in the evening to listen to the entire episode with the Deke. So, when we returned to our apartment home, the Deke poured us each a slug of Maker's Mark and after I played this goofy episode of Jeeves and Wooster, we listened to "Numbers". I marveled at the variety of the episode and the number of mathematical ideas it explored along with a couple of fascinating biographical sketches.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/27/17: Kitchen Bliss, Dinner at the Diazes, *Jeeves and Wooster*

1.  Around noon, I snapped into action in the kitchen to prepare dinner for our visit to the Diazes later in the day. I fixed the vegetarian stir fry I made about a week ago and it requires all kinds of stages, listed here in no particular order: cutting tofu into triangles and draining it; dredging the tofu in cornstarch; chopping eggplant and making carrot slivers; cooking a big pot of rice; making a salty sugary glaze for the tofu; making an oyster saucy sauce for the stir fry; roasting sesame seeds and raw peanuts; grating ginger and mincing garlic; fixing a large measuring cup of Better than Bouillion vegetable broth; and, eventually, stir frying everything and combining it all with the sauce. Simultaneously, I fried chicken thighs after dredging them in flour and salt and pepper, so the grandchildren could have a dinner they would enjoy. They haven't quite embraced stir fry yet!

This stir fry recipe, "No-Meat Stir Fries" appears in a special 2017 issue of Cook's Illustrated entitled All-Time Best Asian Recipes, but I can't find the recipe anywhere online. Otherwise I'd post it.

2. The Diaz household buzzed with activity. Jack, Olivia, David, and Ana were outside, inside, chasing each other, and playing with Hudley, Alejandro's mellow bulldog who is staying at the Diazes until the end of the week. We adults fell into conversation, got dinner warmed up and plated, and kept an eye on the swirl of the children's play. Eventually, the children settled into the TV room and watched The Lego Batman Movie and the adults lounged in the living room and conversations blossomed around a wide range of subjects: children's books, orchestras, aging, self-image, and all kinds of other things.

3. The Deke and I often relax in the evening by listening on YouTube over and over and over and over again to our favorite sketches from Bits of Fry and Laurie. Last night and tonight, we expanded our Steven Fry and Hugh Laurie world. I began playing episodes of Jeeves and Wooster, found on YouTube, and, in the privacy of my own memories, got nostalgic about the summer of 1992 when I read a ton of P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeve's stories and when, after all this reading,  I saw many episodes of the BBC series over at the Trevaskis house, marveling at the doltishness of Bertie and the genius of Jeeves.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/26/17: Root Canal and 21st Century History, Curry Noodle Salad, Mom at Christy's

1.  A dental bridge dropped out of the Deke's mouth on Thursday, and this morning she went to the dentist at 8 a.m. and, before she knew it, she was in the middle of a root canal -- a painless root canal. I spent the time she was in the dentist's chair reading articles in the latest New Yorker about former Acting United States Attorney General, Sally Yates, our Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, and the current state of oligarchy in Russia, ruled over by the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. Taken together, these articles comprised a short, if narrow, history of the 21st century so far as they examined the realignment of power in Russia, explored the history of our country's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and reported on the early days of President Donald John Trump's administration.  It's all sobering.

2. I wanted to make a curry noodle salad and no single recipe was quite what I wanted so I improvised. I made a curry dressing of coconut milk, green curry paste, minced ginger, minced garlic, tamari, fish sauce, and brown sugar. I boiled and iced a package of wide rice noodles after I roasted and cooled eggplant pieces, chopped up a red pepper, and fixed and iced a package of frozen green beans. I mixed it all up and put the salad in the fridge. We ate the salad a few hours later. My improvisation worked. It was the fourth night this week that we ate a flavor packed salad for dinner. It's sure a fun way to prepare delicious food that gives me a way to both take good care of my kidneys and experiment with flavors and textures.

3. Cousin Lura and her husband Lyle drove from Orofino to Kellogg on Thursday to spend a few days with Christy and Everett and to visit Mom. This evening, Everett fired up the grill and Lura cooked her world famous burgers and Christy prepared her semi-famous potato salad.

Mom joined the party in Christy and Everett's back yard, giving her some time to be away from Kindred and to enjoy time with family. Just before eating, Christy called me so I could talk with Mom and she sounded happy to be out in the sun and fresh air.  Christy and I also had a good talk about how things are going with Mom and the challenges of the moment and those that lie ahead. I haven't quite nailed down when I will arrive in Kellogg in the coming couple of weeks or so, but Christy helped create a clear picture of what I can expect.  Here's a picture of Mom enjoying Friday's cookout:

Friday, May 26, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/25/17: Costco for Molly, Roasted Cauliflower Salad, Remembering the Tahini Days

1.  I volunteered to make a Costco trip for the Diazes in preparation for Adrienne and Jack's visit over the this coming weekend. I had Molly's list in hand on my phone (the Out of Milk app), but as always happens when I shop for Molly, I was gripped by uncertainty. What does she mean, apples, but not green or red? Grapes.  Should I get red or green? Are frozen fruit bars the same as popsicles? Does Costco have this chunky guacamole? Shredded cheese -- Mexican or mild cheddar? Text messages flew between Costco and chez Diaz and Molly patiently helped me find the goods she wanted, even sending me a picture of what the chunky guacamole packaging looks like. I succeeded. I delivered the groceries and then went to MOM's and did some shopping of my own.

2. The Deke had found a recipe on Pinterest for roasted cauliflower salad with spicy chickpeas and a lemon tahini dressing. I loved making it. I love roasting cauliflower (with red onion bits) because the roasting makes the florets taste like candy and, likewise, roasting the onion sweetens it up, too. The lemon in the dressing and the cumin and pepper flakes covering the skillet fried chickpeas gave this salad a nearly perfect blend of acid, sweetness, and heat and it was all made earthy by the tahini and the chopped parsley. Debbie and I were astonished by how delicious this recipe turned out. It's here.

3.  Making the tahini lemon dressing transported me back to Eugene over twenty years ago to a time when I was single and trying out recipes from a Lebanese cookbook I have since lost, a cookbook, by the way, that I purchased at the Book Bin during its short life span on the corner of 8th and Willamette (I think) in Eugene -- where Sushi Ya is now, right? I used to buy tahini in bulk at the Kiva or at Oasis/Wild Oats and I used to love making hummus out of this cookbook and, even more, I loved baking snapper and topping it with a tahini sauce. I wondered tonight if the lemon tahini dressing I made would work as a topping for baked tilapia and possibly help me approximate the pleasure of that recipe I've lost.  We'll see. I loved having tahini back in the kitchen. I don't think I've had tahini around since since the early days of being married to the Deke -- back then, I was cooking for Patrick and Molly as middle and high schoolers and the Lebanese stuff didn't go over very well! Ha! Now it would!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/24/17: Keeping Current About Mom, Touring the Teamsters' HQ, Kale and Podcasts

1. Christy, Carol, and I are working together to help Mom by writing to each other almost daily.  Our communications over the last twenty-four hours have been especially good, filled with goodwill, solid information, and constant care for Mom and each other.  Both Christy and Carol report that the rehab/physical therapy work Mom does is tiring her out and also helping her get a little stronger -- and it's also helping keep her edema settled down.

2. Today I shook hands with James P. Hoffa (Jimmy Hoffa's son), the General President of the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters.  Earlier in the week, I signed up for a tour of the Teamsters' national headquarters at Louisiana and D NW near Union Station.

While our group gathered in the lobby, our tour guide said, "Well, I'll be. There's Mr. Hoffa!" She invited him over and he welcomed us and talked briefly about the building and the frieze overlooking the lobby depicting scenes from the history of the Teamsters.  He was very proud that the frieze was done by the same artist who created the figures at the WWII Memorial on the National Mall. He shook each tour member's hand and darted off. The tour itself was informative and added to my ever increasing store of knowledge about the history of labor in the USA.  This was the third activity I attended during the month-long LaborFest DC. Next year, when LaborFest comes around again in May, I hope to see more of the LaborFest movies and participate in more activities.

3. Today, I remembered back to the very early 1980s when Dan and Betsy had moved into a new house and grew kale in their back yard. I had kale for the first time with Dan and Betsy and liked it a lot.  So, when I fix kale now, these nearly forty years later, I think of Dan and Betsy, and I thought of them late this afternoon as I cut ribbons of kale and prepared a lemon and oil vinaigrette to pour over them and then made a salad by adding cooked barley, chopped avocado, sunflower seeds, chopped red onion, garbanzo beans, and crumbled feta cheese to the kale. Sound good? Check out the recipe, here.

Let me add something else. The Deke and I relaxed this evening listening to podcasts, first from Inside Appalachia and then from Gravy. I had listened before to the Gravy episodes on the history of maize/corn, here,  and on the lasting influence of Ernest Mickler Matthew's book White Trash Cooking, here.

I hadn't, however, listened to the episode from Inside Appalachia looking at the historical roots between Pentecostal gospel music and rock n' roll through the fascinating story of gospel singer and electric guitar virtuoso Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  The episode also included segments exploring the history of the song "Amazing Grace" and featuring photographer Roger May and his work making pictures of tent revival meetings. The episode ended with a segment on the struggles of one man to stay put in his Appalachian home town. This episode is a compelling hour of interviews and music and you can find it here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/23/17: Monthly Visit, Cooking Project Ahead, Beer Talk and Popcorn

1. Maybe it's just the satisfaction of staying on schedule, of doing what I'm supposed to do. Maybe it's because Melody who works the front desk is so friendly and full of life. For whatever reason, I again enjoyed my visit this morning to LabCorp to have my monthly blood draw and felt some sadness that if the time is coming for me to spend a long stretch of time in Kellogg, I will miss making my monthly visit to this office.

2. Adrienne and Jack are coming to Maryland Saturday for a three day visit at the Diazes and today I contacted Molly to start working out plans for evening meals while they are here. We have plans made for Saturday and Sunday and I am happy that I have a cooking project to look forward to. It's just what I want and need to keep myself doing constructive things when I'm so weighed down by concern for Mom and my sisters and as I work with the Deke to figure out what we will do once the school year ends.

3. The Deke and I had a good talk over a couple of slow pints of beer at Old Line after school. We were both a little bit giddy that Old Line had Union Brewing's Double Duckpin Imperial IPA on tap. It's one of our favorites and not often available. The Deke and I haven't (and in some ways, can't) settled on a firm plan yet for the upcoming months, but we might be inching closer to deciding what to do and facing the challenge of how to go about it.

As we left Old Line, I mentioned that I'd been hankering a bit for popcorn and we hadn't indulged in a popcorn dinner for quite a while, so the second we arrived back at our apartment home, I went straight to the kitchen and popped us a fun and tasty mountain of buttery popcorn.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/22/17: Floppin' in the Fight Against Anxiety, Mexican Coleslaw, Trip to Dulles

1. Mom's illness and the many challenges it presents to our family is weighing heavily on my mind and I am doing my best to, at once, deal with the challenges and questions and do things each day that help relieve me of my anxiety. I'm not looking for escape.  I am doing things that help relieve the weight of the pressure I feel. About the best thing I can do is get out of the house and get moving. Walking all those steps in Washington, D. C. was perfect, as was the tour I went on and seeing Dick and Renae and talking about so many things, light and heavy, was not only fun, but a great lift to my spirits. Talking with the Deke helps immeasurably -- our conversations help give me perspective and always increase the range of possibility for how to move forward.

This is all to say that I loved floppin' around in the pool today. I missed my water aerobics class last week because of my echo stress test on my heart and today I loved jogging, doing jumping jacks, cross country skiing, stretching, jumping, and all the other movements we all do together. I extended my workout after class by twenty-five minutes and then soaked in the hot tub for ten minutes.

It's as if walking or going to the pool wears out my anxiety, as if getting a little bit tired with physical activity depletes the energy I need to feel anxious and pressured. I really don't know why it helps so much, but I am grateful that my once troublesome feet don't bother me at all and that I can get out and move around without discomfort and relieve myself of the sensations of anxiety, even as the causes remain.

2.  Anything I do in the kitchen, whether it's chop, clean, or cook, also takes the pressure off.

This morning, when I dropped the Deke off at school, I asked her what she might like for dinner. She told me she had sent me a recipe for a salad on Pinterest a couple days ago, but she couldn't remember what it was. Back home, I found a recipe. It was for Mexican Coleslaw -- it advertised itself as "taco salad meets coleslaw".  I was all in. The recipe is simple, creamy, and loaded with flavor ranging from the sweetness of corn to the mild heat of jalapeno pepper to the smokiness of the paprika to the blend of spices in the homemade taco seasoning I made.  The recipe for the coleslaw is here and you can see what you think of the taco seasoning, here.  

3.  After my session in the aquatic center, I listened to a voice mail from Hiram. He asked for a ride home at about 8:30 from Dulles Airport. No problem. Even after living here for nearly three years, I feel this sense of awe that I live where I do -- that I drive on the Capital Beltway and am just an under an hour away from Dulles, a place that has become nearly mythical over the years -- it always seemed history was about to be made in some dramatic way because of some important person coming into or departing from Dulles.   I picked up Hiram and listened to his stories about his time in northwest Washington state without making history, without becoming a part of Dulles International Airport lore and legend. We didn't attract coverage from The Washington Post either.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/21/17: The Deke and Molly, Bonus Army Documentary, Small Test Kitchen Project

1. After such a full day on Saturday, I stayed home today. For a while this morning, the Deke and I continued to try to figure out what is next for us. Mom was at the center of our conversation. We will pick up this conversation soon. For the Deke, today was a day with Molly and the grandchildren. David was sick and Molly is home alone and the Deke went over to give Molly some help and to enjoy some time with her.

2.  I finished yesterday's walking tour particularly interested in the mass of WWI soldiers, known as "The Bonus Army", who camped and demonstrated in Washington, D. C. in 1932 so that they might redeem bonds they'd been issued after the war for their service in the war. Because of the Great Depression, these veterans wanted to redeem these bonds early and not wait until the 1945 date the legislation creating this program had established for when the bonds could be cashed in. The Hoover administration called in the army to end the demonstrations and destroy the encampments. PBS made a short documentary about these men and our government, here, and I watched it today.

3. It didn't amount to much, but it was fun. After I watched several episodes of Chopped: After Hours, I thought about what might be easy to prepare and give me a chance to do some test kitchen cooking, so I finely chopped up a shallot, along with some celery, some ginger, and a couple or three baby carrots. I forgot the garlic. I added salt and pepper and oregano. I cooked this combination in hot oil until nearly tender and then poured black beans out of a can over it and let it all heat up together. In a separate pan, I heated up oil and fried small corn tortillas until they were crisp and broke them into pieces and put them over the beans and topped it with freshly grated parmesan cheese. It was tasty, easy, and I think I'll play with this idea some more and see if some kind of a dish or soup or casserole or something results.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/20/17: Walking Tour of DC, SingleCut at Church Key, Gabbin' with Dick and Renae

1. I sprang into action early this morning and roared in the Sube down to Union Station, parked the car, hopped on a Metro train, and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a scone at Peet's before joining a group of people at the AFL-CIO for a walking tour of labor history in Washington, D. C.  After a three day heat wave with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, today it was cool, overcast, and breezy, perfect conditions for a walk that took just under three hours. Because so many labor organizations have major offices in the Washington, D. C., the tour was, in many ways, a walk through the history of the Knights of Labor, a little bit of the I. W. W., the AFL, the CIO, their merger, the Teamsters and other labor groups. One of the group members knew a lot about Frances Perkins and when we arrived at the Department of Labor building, he spoke at length about her many contributions to the projects of Franklin Roosevelt and her commitment, as an Episcopalian, to social justice. We learned about the Bonus Army demonstrations of 1932 and the use of the the US military to disband these demonstrations and burn the tent cities and all the veterans' and their families' belongings. The walk ended on the AmTrak level of Union Station, right next to a Starbucks I've frequented, and there stood the statue of A. Philip Randolph. I had been oblivious to it every time I've been on that level of the station and when I returned to the Sube in the evening, I returned to the statue, read the inscription more closely, and thought more about all he'd done to organize workers and advocate for social justice.

2. I hopped back on a train to the North Farragut Metro station and then walked about fifteen minutes to ChurchKey, one of my favorite taprooms. I hadn't been to ChurchKey for well over a year. I was happy to see that it was only moderately busy so that it was easy to grab a seat at the bar, listen to Mose Allison being played on the sound system, have some quiet time alone with my thoughts, and order an IPA from a favorite brewery, SingleCut located in Queens -- Astoria, to be precise. I couple months ago, I'd drunk a couple snifters of SingleCut's Softly Spoken Magic Spells, a dynamite Imperial IPA and, today, I again drank a couple of snifters, but this time it was another tasty and satisfying Imperial American IPA called Is This the Real Life. I nursed these two beers and ate a ChurchKey burger, resting my legs after racking up well over 10,000 steps on D. C. concrete. Other beers on the tap list tempted me, but I didn't want any more alcohol and then a text message I'd been anticipating came in.

3. Dick and Renae Costa and I had a general plan to meet in Washington, D.C. this afternoon, but hadn't worked out the specifics. I've known Dick my whole life and I got to know Renae over forty years ago when she came to the Kellogg School District to teach school and used to carpool with my mom and Nancy Carter.

The much anticipated text message was from Renae. She and Dick were on a train bearing down on the McPherson Square Station, just ten or so minutes from ChurchKey. I settled my bill and strolled down 14th St. and met Dick and Renae at the Five Guys right next to the station.

We gabbed while Dick and Renae enjoyed their lunch and then we set out back toward ChurchKey and decided to go to a neighborhood bar familiar to Dick and Renae, The Drafting Table. Next time I'm in the Logan Circle neighborhood, I'll return to the Drafting Table. I enjoyed the vibe of the place and found it very comfortable.

Dick, Renae, and I had a great time and covered a lot of ground as we yakked about our parents, life in Kellogg, great memories, medical events, and the general state of the Union. We didn't quite get to the point of solving the world's problems, but we were getting close. Dick and Renae are staying in D. C. with friends Renae went to high school with in North Dakota, Bill and Barb, and they arrived at The Drafting Table and joined in our gabfest. I was reluctant to leave, but I gathered myself, jumped into an Uber for a ride to Union Station, and had an easy drive back to Maryland.

It was a perfect day: lots of walking in D. C., learning more about this fascinating city, enjoying a couple of slow snifters of great beer at ChurchKey, and getting to spend a few hours with great friends from back home in Kellogg.  I returned to Maryland beaming.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/19/17:Phone Call with Mom, Stir Fry, Inside Appalachia

 1. It was 10:30 a.m. in Kellogg and I got a text message from Mom's phone. Mom doesn't text, so I knew it was from Christy or Carol. Carol texted me wondering if I'd like to call Mom, that it would be a good time. Mom and Carol were sitting outside the Kindred facility, soaking up some sun, and enjoying the well-kept grounds. Mom and I had a good conversation about her lunch at Applebee's and what she ate and how much she was enjoying flowers coming into bloom. She's been fighting a cough this past week, but didn't cough at all during our conversation and her mind was working really well -- she was coherent and wasn't confused about anything. Mom wanted to know if the Deke and I have made summer plans yet, and I had to say that we aren't sure yet just how we'll work things out for coming out to Idaho and Oregon.

2.  I volunteered to make dinner to take over to Molly's. I made another recipe out of Cook's All-Time Best Asian Recipes -- this time a no meat stir fry with tofu, carrots, and eggplant. I wish I had digital copy of the recipe, but suffice it to say that the glaze poured over the tofu and the ginger/garlic oil mix added later and the sauce that went over the vegetables in the end made for a very tasty meal combining the flavors of soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame, ginger, garlic, and the tofu and vegetables. I knew the children would not be interested, so I fried them chicken thighs that turned out great.

3. Upon returning to our apartment home, the Deke and I listened to an episode of the podcast Inside Appalachia, entitled, "Inside Appalachia, West Virginia Mine Wars History", here. I had listened to this program a while back and thought we might enjoy it after seeing the movie, Matewan, on Tuesday night. I thought about all the ways these conflicts in West Virginia paralleled the labor conflicts in the Silver Valley back home and made me wonder if I might once again read J. Anthony Lukas' extraordinary and sprawling book about the mining wars out west at the turn of the century, Big Trouble: A Murder in a Small Western Town Sets Off a Struggle for the Soul of America.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/18/17: Mom in CdA, Tam Cut My Hair, Enjoying Natty Boh-Tinis

1. Mom needed her toe nails checked out and clipped and so Christy and Everett drove her to Coeur d'Alene to a podiatrist. Christy reports that the appointment went very well.  Mom, however, was confused about a lot of things when Christy and Everett arrived to transport her to CdA. She was also confused when she talked about different things at Applebee's and while riding in the car. Christy is looking forward to Friday, May 19th, her first day in a month with no appointments, for herself or Mom, and not having to work so she can spend time planting her garden.  I have posted pictures from Mom's day below.

2. I have had great fortune in Greenbelt with getting my hair cut. Until she had a baby and left the Hair Cuttery, I loved going to Angela for a haircut and now I see Tam. Tam is efficient and most pleasant to work with. Each time I come in, she remembers exactly how I want my hair to look and gives me a great cut.

3. Every so often, a group of employees from the county school district get together at Old Line and the Deke and I join in. Today's get together was lively. Stories about the disfunction of this school district flew around the table and people got a lot of discontent and alarming stories off their chests. Of course, I had nothing to add, but listened intently and added to my store of understanding of what has made the last three school years so difficult for the Deke. I also tried a different beverage: a Natty Boh-tini. It's a Baltimore beverage through and through and it's simple: a glass of Baltimore's National Bohemian beer served with Old Bay Seasoning around the glass's rim. It was a lot of fun and refreshing.

Pictures from May 18th featuring Mom and Everett having lunch at Applebee's and a bouquet of flowers that Christy picked from Mom's yard to brighten and freshen her room:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/17/17: Mom Update, To Dulles with Hiram, DC Labor History Tour

1. Mom had an appointment today in Kellogg with her cardiologist. There is nothing new to report -- no change in medication or new insights about Mom's condition. Kindred offers a transportation service and today Mom used that service. It made things immeasurably easier for Christy since she didn't face the challenges of helping Mom in and out of her vehicle and didn't have to wrestle with the wheelchair or with Mom's oxygen tank. Mom has one more appointment, on May 18th, in Coeur d'Alene. Then (fingers crossed), she doesn't have appointments for another month or so. Christy and Everett will take her to Cd'A. When they are both involved in transporting Mom, it all goes better. Mom wants to eat at Applebee's for lunch and that will be a boost to her morale.

2. Hiram flew to Seattle this morning for a gig in Washington state that will last about five days in Bellingham, Arlington, and Anacortes.  I leapt into the Sube and picked him up shortly before 6 a.m. and made my first ever drive to Washington Dulles International Airport. It was fun having some time to talk about different stuff with Hiram and I enjoyed that the drive went smoothly and that it only took about forty-five minutes or so to get out there and that I was back to Greenbelt in under an hour. The drive also increased my already deep appreciation for the fact that the Deke and I live so close to the Baltimore Washington International Airport. I have now made drives from our apartment home to Reagan International and Dulles and, by far, the easiest airport to get to for us is BWI.

3. I was excited all day about having seen Matewan last night and looked online to see what else is happening at DC LaborFest in the next few days. I learned that on Saturday morning, at 10, a group walking tour of the labor history of Washington, D. C. gets underway at the AFL-CIO building. I signed up. I look forward to walking in areas of DC I haven't been to, seeing things where I have been before that I didn't notice,  learning where different labor events occurred, and am especially interested in visiting the A. Philip Randolph Memorial -- I am certain I have blithely and blindly walked right by it many, many times in Union Station.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/16/17: Mom's Care Meeting, Costco Packed, John Sayles and Maggie Renzi and *Matewan*

1. Staff at Kindred held a care meeting with Mom and Christy and Carol to review the care Mom has received and to assess her condition. Christy and Carol were both impressed with how much knowledge each of the ten or so Kindred staff in the room had about Mom and how kind and positive the staff were in talking with Mom. I know Mom would have loved to have heard that she can go home, but, if and when she does, it will be a while -- and no one is saying it will be soon. From talking with Christy, I learned that Mom has reached some level of acceptance about staying at Kindred, which means she seems to be coming to grips with how compromised her health is. The staff encouraged Mom to go to the dining room for lunch and dinner and encouraged her to eat with Penny Benson because Penny really wants Mom's company.  She will continue with physical and occupational therapy and will work to regain some of the independence that comes with becoming more mobile and able to do some everyday tasks on her own.

2. I enjoyed shopping for food items we were out of at both MOM's and at Costco, with a quick trip to the Co-op for some salami, beer, and laundry detergent. Costco was packed on a Tuesday around noon and I marveled at how the shoppers represented so many different countries and enjoyed the sounds of English being spoken in so many different rhythms and with such a variety of musical sounds. I heard other languages, too, adding depth and breadth to the symphony of shoppers and Costco employees talking.

3. The Deke I went to the American Film Institute in Silver Spring to see a 30th anniversary screening of the Matewan, Mingo County, West Virginia coal mine labor war movie, Matewan. The movie screening was part of the 2017 DC LaborFest and featured the film's director, John Sayles and its producer, Maggie Renzi. Before the movie, the DC LaborFest presented Sayles with the Tony Mazzocchi Labor Arts Award. You can learn more about Tony Mazzocchi, here.

John Sayles has been one of my favorite movie directors since I first saw Return of the Secausus 7 in 1980. I also have loved Maggie Rezi's work in his movies and have admired all she's done as the producer of his movies.

Hearing John Sayles introduce Matewan tonight stirred up a lot of feeling in me. I admire Sayles for being, at once, an artist with vast creative talent as a writer of screenplays and novels, a director, and often the editor of his movies and, at the same time, unpretentious, emotionally involved in the subject matter of his work, deeply humane, and intellectually brilliant. Likewise, Maggie Renzi touched me with these very same qualities.

Their stories about the making of the movie and their commitment to the people and history of Matewan, West Virginia deepened my respect for Sayles and Renzi and helped to make this one of the most enjoyable evenings I've ever experienced. I had never even ever bothered to dream or imagine that one day I'd see John Sayles and Maggie Renzi in person, so this wasn't a dream come true. Instead it was one of the most satisfying surprises of my life and I am seriously thinking about driving to Matewan, West Virginia this fall when they will appear there to show and talk about this movie -- I just need to find the date and see if I will be in Maryland at that time.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/15/17: Mom Update, Echo Stress Test, Day After Mother's Day with Molly

1. Christy drove Mom to see Dr. McDonald, Mom's primary care provider. Dr. McDonald kindly and firmly worked to help Mom understand how her condition has deteriorated over the last 3-6 months and that she needs to be in the presence of skilled nurses. It is best if she stay at Kindred. On Tuesday, the 16th, Mom, Christy, and Carol will attend a care meeting at Kindred with different staff members of the facility to further discuss Mom's situation.

2. I crawled along with the other cars in the stalled stop and go traffic on the Beltway shortly after 7 a.m. and made my way to the Heart Center in Silver Spring for an Echo Stress Test, the last of the tests required of me, until next spring, to remain on the kidney transplant list. I huffed and puffed on the slowly elevating, gradually speeding up treadmill until my heart rate reached the level the cardiologist wanted to see and after the tech took some more pictures and the nurse got my last blood pressure reading, I learned that my heart is in good shape.

3. Molly texted the Deke and me and wondered if we could all meet at Old Line. Molly wanted to give the Deke her Mother's Day gifts. We met. We ate some snacks and enjoyed some beers together and had a fun time yakkin' about all kinds of stuff and the Deke loved the flowers and the three photo portraits within a single frame that Molly made of Adrienne, Patrick, and Molly.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/14/17: Mother's Day in Kellogg, Burrowing In, Marcella Hazan and Egg and Tuna Salad

1.  Early in the Maryland evening -- in Kellogg, it is known as late in the afternoon -- I got a text message from Carol telling me it was a good time to call Mom. Mom asked for Mother's Day dinner at Christy's house. Her hope had been to eat outside in the backyard, but it rained, so Christy, Everett, Mom, Carol, Paul, Molly, and Travis ate inside at Christy's. Mom requested ribs and Christy fulfilled the request along with corn on the cob, and fresh fruit salad, and she made a strawberry buttermilk cake with ice cream for dessert. Earlier in the day, Jody Robinson, Mom's childhood friend of at least eighty years, along with her daughter, my lifelong friend Jeri and her husband, another lifelong friend of mine, Don Windisch, visited Mom for about an hour at Kindred. By all reports, this visit made Mom very happy and, on the phone, it sounded like she and the rest of the family were having a lot of fun eating dinner. It's been encouraging to know Mom has been having better days after she had a rough patch last week.

2. The Deke and burrowed in and relaxed in our apartment home on this lovely Mother's Day. Adrienne, Molly, and Patrick all talked to the Deke. I made a quick trip to the Co-op. The Deke got materials ready to help her finish out the school year. First we listened to Jonathan Schwartz's Sunday program on WNYC-FM, here. Then, we listened to a couple of episodes of The Lonely Palette podcast, one on Jackson Pollock, here, and the other on Edward Hopper, here.  Later, I played episodes of Eat the World with Emeril Lagrasse on Amazon Prime. The Deke listened while I watched on my Chromebook and we learned more about food and cooking in Sweden, Spain, Cuba, and Shangai. I've watched the Marcus Samulesson/Sweden episode at least four times now and love it. Aaron Sanchez was a splendid companion for Emeril Lagrasse in the fascinating Cuba episode. I love watching Lagrasse and Mario Batali roam the streets of Shanghai, visiting soup dumpling shops. And, Jose Andres was absolutely on fire showing Chef Emeril the modernist food innovations in Spain.

3. While we were taking in all these superb programs, I made the ever reliably silky, rich, flavorful Marcella Hazan tomato sauce and we enjoyed in poured over penne, topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Later, I returned to my modest version of the test kitchen and made an egg and tuna salad for the Deke to eat at work with pita bread and bread and butter pickles. I haven't quite perfected the egg salad/tuna salad yet, but I am determined to come as close to perfection as possible.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/13/17: Saturday with David, Minding the Grandchildren, Mom Enjoys the Flowers

1.  David slept in until nearly nine o'clock. He enjoyed oatmeal with brown sugar for breakfast and then he and the Deke went to the library, picked up a few things at the store, and returned to our apartment home. They had bought a part of a very sweet watermelon and David plunged into a bowl of watermelon cubes and was unreserved in telling us how much he loves watermelon. He stayed with us until mid-afternoon and was easy to have around, thanks in large part to his well-developed ability to keep himself busy all on his own. He told us that some time he'd like to spend two nights, not just one.

2. Hiram and Molly and Hiram's brother and girlfriend had tickets to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform at the Swarthmore in Bethesda tonight, so the Deke and I watched Olivia, David, and Ana -- which didn't require a lot of us. Yes, David and Olivia resisted -- weakly, I might add -- the idea of going to bed when they wanted, instead, to play Zelda on their video game console, but the Deke was calm and firm in her approach to prying them away from the console and sending them to bed. It was an easy evening -- in fact, the Deke and I each took over a couch and slept quite a bit until the concert goers returned.

3.  Christy and Carol's reports from Kellogg comforted me. Mom seems to be feeling better. If the Wednesday trip to Post Falls tired her out quite a bit, she seems to have recovered well and she's looking forward to a Mother's Day dinner over at Christy's.  Carol ordered Mom a bouquet of Mother's Day flowers from the Deke and me that would work well in her room at Kindred and Mom really enjoys them. In fact, Carol took a picture of Mom, looking pretty good, I think, with the bouquet:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/12/17: Mom Update, Ana and the Dulcimer, Fried Chicken for David

1. My impression is that on Thursday on into Friday morning, Mom was pretty worn out from her doctor's visit to Post Falls and slept a lot and her temperature was elevated some. She was still tired Friday evening, but Christy and Carol report that she seems physically a bit stronger and not feverish. Christy and Carol wheeled her out of her room and they sat and visited in a sitting area for about a half an hour.  She will go to Christy's house for Mother's Day dinner. She requested ribs. Mom will be making several trips out of the facility this coming week when she sees her Primary Care Provider, her cardiologist, and visits a foot doctor in Cd'A for help with her toenails.

2.  Molly picked up the Deke and brought Ana and David over to our apartment home in the late afternoon. David stayed for a sleepover. While Ana was here, she and the Deke sang some tunes together and then the Deke let Ana strum on a dulcimer and soon Ana was singing and strumming in rhythm. It was kind of outrageous.

3. Knowing David would be eating dinner with us, I tried to remember back to when I was five years old and what I enjoyed eating and recalled what I've seen David enjoy.

Of course.

Fried chicken. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Corn.

I floured our last four chicken thighs and cooked them in hot oil in the cast iron skillet, making the outside, top and bottom, crisp. Then I turned the heat down and slow cooked the thighs until done. I also made the mashed potatoes and heated up a bag of frozen corn. With some instruction from the Deke, I made chicken gravy and it turned out smooth and flavorful, not bad for my first real try at making gravy. In the past, I've always, well, chickened out and turned the making of the gravy over to the Deke -- or, in Kellogg, to Mom. But not tonight! I put on my big boy apron and made the gravy and next time I have the chance, I'll make it again.

It turned out that David isn't crazy about potatoes just yet, but he loved the chicken and corn and an hour or so after dinner, I popped popcorn and the three of us had a fun popcorn party.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/11/17: Minding Ana and David, Baked Tilapia Curry, John Sayles Tickets

I don't have any news or any update about Mom today.

1. This morning Molly texted me a request to come over to Chez Diaz to sit with Ana and be there when David got off the school bus close to noon. Molly had an appointment and Hiram was teaching a lesson and they needed to fill a 45-60 minute gap when neither of them could be home. I arrived around 11:30 and Ana was deep into apple slices and goldfish crackers and Dora was on the television. Ana was calm and only got a little bit excited when David arrived, but settled right down and sat on the couch with me to read a couple of books. At school, David made clay models on a circle divided into quarters of the life cycle of a butterfly and explained to me how the butterfly went from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. He had made clay figures of each stage.

2. Back home, I relaxed with an acrostic puzzle. Eventually I finely chopped a shallot and cut thin slices of red pepper. I cooked them in canola oil until tender and then added a heaping teaspoon of green curry paste and heated it for a short while. I added a can of coconut milk, a tablespoon of lime juice, and a teaspoon each of brown sugar and fish sauce. Later, after I picked up the Deke from school and we relaxed for a while, I laid salt and peppered tilapia pieces in a Pyrex baking pan, poured the curry sauce over them, and baked the fish until done. Earlier, I had made jasmine rice. When I removed the fish from the oven, I let it rest for about five minutes or so and topped it with chopped cilantro leaves. The recipe is here.

I now think of tilapia as the tofu of fish. It's light, doesn't have a lot of taste of its own, but works really well as a centerpiece in curry dishes, Mediterranean ones, fishcakes, the Brazilian fish stew I have made, and with other strongly flavored recipes.  It's been fun to try out recipes using talapia.

3. Matewan, a coal labor war movie, came out in 1987 and to commemorate its 30th anniversary, the American Film Institute in Silver Spring is showing it on May 16th and featuring director John Sayles in a question and answer session. For many years, starting in 1980, John Sayles directed a string of movies I loved -- The Return of the Secaucus 7, Lianna, Baby It's You, Eight Men Out, Passion Fish, Lone Star, and others. This evening, I bought the Deke and me tickets to go to the screening of Matewan. I hope the question and answer session is fun -- even though I often don't enjoy such sessions -- BUT, I went to a screening of Atlantic City back in August, 2014 that was followed by a most enjoyable question and answer session featuring Burt Lancaster's daughter, Joanna. So, maybe the John Sayles one will be good, too.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/10/17: Mom's Unstable, Working Out is a Relief, Tilapia -- Mediterranean Style

1. Christy and Everett drove Mom to see a cardiologist in Post Falls. Mom's condition is unstable. As is common with people with congestive heart failure, her heart rate and blood pressure are unstable. Her physical balance is not stable. Her weight fluctuates. It goes down when she takes diuretics, and the excess fluids get flushed, but then she loses too much weight, and must go off the diuretic, and the fluid builds up again. The doctor provided target weights that Mom should not go below and above.  Mom will continue her rehab program.

It was a tough day for Christy. Mom was in pain during the drive down and back. Mom can be cranky. Mom is very fortunate that Christy and Everett are free to take her to the doctor and that Christy is so attentive and takes such good notes while the doctor talks with Mom.  It's all taxing.

2. I returned to the aquatic center today and worked out in the pool for an hour, stretching, jogging in place with water weights, doing other exercises, and spending twenty minutes doing an old football agility drill and then running laps in the pool. Physically, the workout felt really good and, mentally, it helped lift some of the anxiety I'm feeling about various uncertainties -- Mom, the Deke resigning her job, when to go to Kellogg, and other things.

3. I chopped up kalamata olives, halved cherry tomatoes, and measured out a third of a cup of capers. I roasted these in a glass baking pan and then pushed them aside and laid down pieces of tilapia. I covered the fish with the tomato mixture, poured a blend of lemon juice and olive oil over it all, and returned it all to the oven, along with some leftover jasmine rice, until the fish was done cooking. When I took fish out, I covered it and the tomato mixture with basil and feta cheese. It was an excellent Mediterranean style dinner -- and, fortunately, we had some tabouli salad in one container and cucumber lemon yogurt salad in another and each went deliciously with the fish dish. I pretty much followed this recipe in preparing the fish.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/09/17: Mom's Busy Day, Tilapia Delay, Old Bay Bloody Mary

1.  When I talked to Mom today on the phone, she'd had quite a day. She had an MRI done in the morning and then, back at Kindred Care, she had physical therapy sessions. (I don't differentiate between occupational and physical -- and Mom didn't make it clear to me if she'd had two sessions or three.) She sounded stronger to me today than yesterday and not as hoarse. I could tell she was tired. Her speech was slow and I think she was trying to come up with things to tell me about. She told me, and Christy and Carol have also said the same, that she is gradually getting stronger, thanks to the rehab she is going through.

2. As I've said before, I'm dealing with my anxiety during the day by working in the kitchen. I found a recipe for tilapia that I wanted to prepare late this afternoon, but the Deke wanted to grade papers at Old Line over a couple of beers and when we returned home, we decided to eat the leftover curry from last night. I'll fix the tilapia on Wednesday.

3. At Old Line, Kristin, our bartender, told me a little bit about Natty Boh (National Bohemian) beer and the Boh-tini. It's a glass of Natty Boh rimmed with Old Bay Seasoning. Then Kristin told me that when she drinks a Bloody Mary, she always rims the glass with Old Bay Seasoning.  This piqued my curiosity, so when I finished my half pint of Union/Heavy Seas Collaboration Old Ale, I ordered a Bloody Mary the way Kristin likes it. It was really good. I stopped after drinking one.

Later, during an evening of playing America's Test Kitchen in our apartment home, I made The Deke some egg salad for a sandwich for her Wednesday lunch, and judiciously seasoned it with Old Bay Seasoning.

I think it works.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/08/17: Mom Sounds Tired, Aerobic Therapy, Cooking Helps A Lot

1. When I talked to Mom on the phone today, she sounded tired and hoarse. Losing water weight is helping her physical strength, Christy and Carol both report.  I am glad she had lunch with Penny Benson and that Teresa Baillie was there, too, at lunch, visiting. Mom's confusion about things persists. I heard some of her confusion on the phone. Christy and Carol wrote me about more things she's confused about. On May 9th she will have an MRI and has an appointment about her heart disease in Post Falls on May 10th.

2.  Floppin' around in the pool today at my water aerobics class, adding twenty minutes of workout to what we did in class, and lying in the aquatic center's hot tub for about twenty minutes helped settle my nerves and soothe my anxiety.  In times of difficulty, my experience has been that it's often physical activity or exercise that is the first to go by the wayside. I know when I'm in Kellogg, helping out with Mom, I don't get out much for walks, let alone some floppin' around in a pool.  Floppin' around and running laps in the pool after class got me out of my head for a while, at least, and that is always good.

3.  More than eating, cooking, working in the kitchen, is a good way for me to get some respite from the sometimes paralyzing flurry of thoughts and complicated feelings I have right now. I returned to green curry today served over jasmine rice because I still had eggplant, zucchini, and green beans in the fridge and I wanted to make good use of one of the blocks of tofu I still had.  I went to MOM's and picked up a red pepper and a bunch of green onions. I thought the green curry I made last week was pretty good and tonight's might have been even better tasting. I do know this: in many ways, the chopping of vegetables and the crackle they make when they hit the hot sesame oil in the cast iron skillet and the fragrance of the curry paste and the combination of fish sauce and sugar all combined to bring me pleasure and temporarily removed me from the uncertainty I feel, as well as my longing that things here in Greenbelt were simpler.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/07/17: Mom's Sunday, Comfort Soup, Music Store and Breweries

1. I talked to Mom this morning. Carol comes to her room in the morning and has re-established the routines she and Mom had been doing at home:  weigh Mom, take her blood pressure, check her oxygen levels, see about her heart rate. Mom's weight looked good. She's definitely expelled excess fluid caused by edema. Her blood pressure (118/74)was the best I can remember for a long time and her heart rate is at a much slower rate than it was last month. Her oxygen levels are very good. From where I sit, it looks like Mom's time at Kindred is helping her. She is back to being able to get out of bed on her own. This is especially important when she's taking the diuretic. I have no measure available to know if Mom is keeping herself hydrated. I know she finds it perplexing that she takes a pill that makes her have to do the hard work of visiting the bathroom more frequently and that, at the same time, shoe needs to be drinking plenty of fluids and staying hydrated.

In her update for today, Carol wrote that in the hour or so before the sun set on Sunday, she and Mom spent some time outside in the sun at Kindred.

2. There is a lot of uncertainty in the Deke's and my life right now regarding just what we are going to do next, once the Deke leaves her job, and with Mom's situation. After a week of medical tests and keeping up on the news about Mom and starting to work out the future with the Deke (everything is still on the table), I had a strong desire for comfort food around lunch time.

I peeled and cut up about six potatoes and boiled the pieces until they were tender. I also chopped up onion, carrot, and celery and sauteed them in a stick of butter. After these vegetables started to tenderize, I poured enough chicken stock over them just to cover them. let the vegetables get more tender, and then poured in the cooked potatoes. I mixed in a quarter cup of flour, stirred it up, and then added three cups of milk. I heated it all up and the Deke and I had comforting bowls of potato soup for lunch.

3.  Just before 3 o'clock, the Deke and I piled into the Sube and headed to Takoma Park, suburb about 20-25 minutes away, for a visit to The House of Musical Traditions, a music store filled with accordions, drums, guitars, mandolins, dulcimers, strings, picks, song books, posters advertising shows from the past and events to come -- in other words, for the Deke, this place is heaven. The Deke is getting ready for the July 22nd Babes with Axes concert and needed some picks and strings and stuff. Just five minutes away from this store sits 3 Star Brewing --- a brewery I'd visited once, but the Deke and I hadn't been to together.  I sampled three beers in 4 oz glasses and the Deke enjoyed an Imperial Pecan Brown Ale and then, as we are inclined to do, we drove fifteen minutes east to DC Brau and made our regular Sunday appearance for some Wings of Armageddon and some yakkin' with Angela and Mike who were running the tasting room.

Mike has a friend who lives in Glide, OR, and finding this out brought back a flurry of pleasant images of the North Umpqua River, of visiting Clearwater Falls, Watson Falls, and others, of the wild rhodies on the Watson Falls trail, and of the colliding rivers at Glide. It was fun taking a drive in my memory back on Highway 138, one of my favorite stretches of road in the USA.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/06/17: Mom Update, Egg Salad, Hanging Out with Molly

1. I tried to call Mom but she didn't pick up. I texted Christy and Carol about this and, later in the day, Christy called me from Mom's bedside and so I talked with Mom. She sounded tired. She told me she enjoyed the Cinco de Mayo lunch they had on Friday. She told me she's doing her best to get better. She sounded tired. Later in the day, Christy and Carol took Mom on a tour of the facility and she saw Penny Benson and Ray Faraca, two longtime friends, and she saw our longtime family friend and my high school classmate and great friend, Carol Fulton Jacobs. Carol was there visiting her father. Another classmate, Pam Bloom Sample, is a nurse at Kindred and Mom was her second grade teacher over fifty-five years ago. Mom recognized Pam and was happy to see another friendly and familiar face.

2. I had fun making an egg salad based on the recipe I used the other night to make tilapia fish cakes. This was the Deke's idea. The Deke strung her guitar and started playing different passages as she begins to get herself in shape to perform with The Babes with Axes on July 22nd.

3. Molly came over mid-afternoon to help us do some reorganizing in our apartment home and when she finished stage 1, we decided to go to Old Line to have some food and some beer and yak about stuff. It was a stellar party together with conversations ranging between stuff going on in the present and talking about some of the good times and some of the bewildering times in our shared past.  The Deke and Molly took a self-portrait at Old Line:

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/05/17: Mom Update, Mahogany Chicken Thighs, Electric Ana

1. The best news regarding Mom's second day at Kindred Care is that, thanks to Christy's phone call and the quick work of Heather, Mom's cardiologist's nurse in Coeur d'Alene, the order for Mom's diuretic came right through and Mom is taking the diuretic again. Mom had been taken off the diuretic at the hospital when she was so dehydrated earlier in the week, but without it, her problems with edema accelerate and being back on the diuretic should help her flush excess fluid out of her system.  It's tricky. She needs to expel the fluid from the edema and stay hydrated, too.

2. Last weekend, the Deke bought me in issue of Cook's Illustrated entitled"All-Time Best Asian Recipes". Today I got to plunge into one of the recipes: Mahogany Chicken Thighs. I'd say it's a teriyaki-ish dish -- I mean, maybe it's straight up teriyaki -- I just don't have the expertise to make that call. What I do know is that I loved this recipe. I love buying big packs of chicken thighs at Costco and I had a bunch on hand.

The list of ingredients for this recipe intrigued me. The first thing I did was combine water, soy sauce, sherry, sugar, molasses, and distilled white vinegar in our 12 inch cast iron skillet, and stirred the solution to dissolve the sugar.  I then placed the chicken pieces in the skillet and tucked smashed pieces of garlic and ginger between the pieces and let it simmer for five minutes before putting the skillet in the oven for 30 minutes at 300 degrees, took the skillet out, turned the chicken pieces over, and returned it to the oven for another 25 minutes or so. I removed the skillet from the oven, plated the chicken, defatted the cooking liquid, and with the addition of water and cornstarch, made a sauce to go over the rice I served with the chicken. If you'd like to read the recipe for quantities and a few other details, just go here.

3. I packed up dinner, picked up the Deke, and we steamed headlong in the Sube to the Diazes for dinner together. I experienced the snow-capped summit of my life cooking food when BOTH Olivia and David LIKED the mahogany chicken thighs. We not only enjoyed dinner together, but we spent much of the evening being entertained by Ana's seemingly endless knowledge as she answered questions posed to her about animals and family members and sang her ever increasing repertoire of songs. She performed some of them as sing-alongs with the Deke. She is a live wire, full of energy, curiosity, and a love for having fun.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/04/17: Mom at Kindred, Thank You to the Pros, Everything's on the Table

1. Christy took Mom over to the nursing home and helped get her admitted and into her room. Christy reports that the staff were good to work with. Mom knows some people who are residing at Kindred. I hope she will get out of her room and visit with other residents. I know she's been chatty with the nurses and I know she found out that her speech therapist comes from right here in Greenbelt, MD where his dad worked for NASA at the Goddard Center.  I'm hope she has a good Friday as she gets settled in a bit more.

2. It took Maria at the Johns Hopkins clinic in Fulton about two seconds to check my TB skin test and tell me that I don't have tuberculosis. Even though our meeting was brief, Maria made a very positive impression on me and, later in the day, when she called me to say that neither of the fax numbers worked -- I gave her these numbers so she could send the test results to Baltimore -- I was doubly impressed with Maria's conscientiousness and her determination to help make sure that the result got reported and the process of keeping me listed keeps moving apace. I have had a very good week with kind and solicitous medical professionals and it's actually made having to get these tests done a pleasure.

3. That table that has everything on it -- the one where the Deke and I lay out possibilities for our future -- you know the one I'm talking about, right? Well, it's got some radical possibilities on it, placed on the table at Old Line tonight where we went late this afternoon so the Deke could wind down from another difficult day at work and we could talk about our future, with special attention on the recent developments in Kellogg and Mom's serious and complicated health problems. We keep what's on the table to ourselves, but we do tell friends and family what decision we've made when we make one.  I can't tell just yet if we are close to a decision or how many more possibilities we might still pile on the table.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/03/17: Mom to Rehab, My Cardiology Appointment, Hung Phat and Green Curry

1. Christy called me this afternoon while she and Carol and Mom and the Loving Care person were discussing Mom's immediate future and the medical attention and care she needs. I agreed with my sisters that the best approach is for Mom to be admitted to Kindred Nursing Home and Rehabilitation across the street for what we hope is a short stay focused on rehabilitation, on building her physical strength through physical therapy. I talked to Mom on the phone this evening about this decision and, at the very least, she put up a brave front with me and is on board with this move. For a variety of reasons, the home care option can't work at this point.

2. This morning I braved the stacked traffic and delays on the Beltway because of a crash and road work and paid a visit to cardiologist Dr. Herman Segal in downtown Silver Spring.  After his nurse administered an EKG, Dr. Segal and I had an excellent talk about my medical history and he examined me and listened to my heart and lungs. All indications are that my heart is in good shape. The EKG uncovered no problems. I will return to the Silver Spring office on May 15th for a stress echo test and it looks like that will be the last thing I need to do to stay on the transplant list. I got the results of both my chest x-ray and kidney ultrasound today and neither recommended any further testing.

I also heard from the Nurse Coordinator assigned to my case and she will present my case to remain listed to the committee on Friday. The only number that is either not better or the same as when I was listed two years ago? I've gained about eight pounds. Not one of the medical professional expressed concern about this, but I'd like to get shed some pounds.

3.  I left Dr. Segal's office and headed over to Whole Foods, just for the heck of it. I went to the sandwich bar and, after eating half of my sandwich and packing up the other half, I did some shopping. It was a little bit like being back at Market of Choice in Eugene again and I enjoyed that, but nothing about Whole Foods made me wish I lived nearer to one. In fact, I far prefer the Co-op and MOM's for my day to day grocery shopping.

We were out of coconut milk and green curry paste and I wanted to buy some other things related to my attempts at Asian cooking, so I drove north to Wheaton and had a great time shopping at Hung Phat, my favorite Asian market -- maybe my favorite store of any kind.  When I returned to our apartment home, I got to work stir frying vegetables, roasting peanuts, and making a green curry sauce. Later, I boiled some wide rice noodles and I'm very happy to report that the ratio of one teaspoon of paste to one can of coconut milk and the addition of a tablespoon each of fish sauce and sugar seems to result in a curry sauce of moderate heat and great taste. I've been working for a long time to get this ratio right for me and the Deke and I might have finally nailed it.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 05/02/17: Talked to Mom, My Medical Day, Chanticleer at the Kennedy Center

1. I talked to Mom on the phone today.  She sounded overwhelmed by all that she's experienced of late -- the falling, the hospital visit, and the uncertainty of how the care for her will take shape. I know from the updates Christy and Carol wrote through the day that a Loving Care professional will visit Mom on Wednesday to evaluate what Mom needs and what services are available to her. When the Loving Care person visits Mom, both Christy and Carol will be there to help out with the sometimes delicate task of helping out when Mom's memory is fuzzy and helping to make sure the gravity of Mom's situation gets clearly and accurately communicated.

2. It was a smooth medical day for me. It started with a drive to Fulton for a quick TB skin test and then I barreled down to Silver Spring for a chest x-ray and a kidney ultrasound. In both places, I got in promptly, worked with efficient and agreeable medical pros, and, by early afternoon, I was back to our apartment home.

3. Until tonight, the Deke and I had never been to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, perched on the banks of the Potomac River near Foggy Bottom. Tonight that changed. The Deke had purchased us tickets to see the male a capella group, Chanticleer. Their concert was stunning. They sang songs focused on the idea of love with texts that extended back as far as Rumi, took us through the Renaissance, brought the love of a mother for her son lost at war alive through singing poetry of Walt Whitman, explored a contemporary Finnish composer, and brought us into the 20th century with Gershwin, Noel Coward, and Freddy Mercury's "Somebody to Love".  I've never plunged so deeply into the beauty and variety of choral music. The Deke and I left the Eisenhower Theater deeply moved and fully enriched by this performance.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/01/17: Mom's Back Home, Pool Floppin' Again, Tilapia Cakes

1. Christy, Carol, and Paul assisted Mom as she was discharged from the hospital on Monday around 7 p.m. Mom can no longer be in her house alone, so Christy and Carol worked out a schedule for Mom's care until professionals also come in from Loving Care to be with her.  Mom will have help trying to build strength in her muscles. She also needs to do all she can to stay hydrated, or, should I say, keep from getting so dehydrated again.

2. This morning, after many weeks of absence, I lifted my spirits and exercised my body by going to water aerobics. Especially after too long of an absence, the floppin' around felt really good.

3. I've had some tilapia filets in the freezer for a while and tonight I baked them and then flaked the fish meat into a mixture of egg, Old Bay seasoning, mayonnaise, mustard, red onion, lemon juice, and lemon zest, mixed it all up, formed about six falling apart fish cakes, covered them with broken up saltine crackers and fried them in hot canola oil. We ate these tilapia cakes with white basmati rice. The Deke and I were blown away by how much we loved this dinner. Here's the recipe I was guided by, but didn't follow strictly. Maybe I'll make the salad another time.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 04/30/17: Mom is in the Hospital, Meditations Upon Resurrection, Fun at DC Brau

1. Mom had a difficult weekend from beginning to end and, after she took a fall in the evening, the EMTs transported her to the hospital where she will be under observation. For how long? I don't know. She didn't break any bones and she is not suffering from cranial bleeding. Mom has had a rough go of it over the last two and a half weeks with a variety of problems that my sisters and Mom's doctors have been monitoring. Christy wrote to me that during Mom's stay in ER while waiting for a hospital room, Mom was not in pain and, in fact, started suggesting cleaning chores and talked about someone filling the hummingbird feeders.

2. I started the day by returning to St. Andrew's Episcopal Church for the 10:30 service and meditated throughout the service on Eastertide. In the Episcopal Church, Easter is a season, celebrated for the fifty days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday. That means that the scripture readings, the hymns, and the sermons (potentially) continue to focus on the resurrection and its aftermath. My meditations during church focused less on THE resurrection and more on the universal existence of life springing from death all around us, in the world of nature, in the awakenings we experience, and in our healing. New life isn't the whole truth, but this aspect of the truth, whether experienced in tulips emerging in spring, the remission of cancer, renewed vigor for life, or recovery from loss, heartens and animates us.

3. Late in the afternoon, the Deke and I made our regular trip down to DC Brau and enjoyed some On the Wings of Armageddon, the music from the seventies Stu and Angela played on the house sound system, and a lot of fun yakkin' with each other, the servers, and a guy who came in and told the Deke he grew up in suburban Chicago, not far from where the Deke went to high school.