Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/27/18: Summer of '68 at the Wellness Center, Back to Sibling Assignments, Adventurous Dinner

1.  I began driving a car with a daytime license back in 1968 after taking a course in driver education. Back in 1968, Spokane's KJRB-AM and KGA-AM were both Top 40 radio stations and we could pick them up pretty well in Kellogg. During the summer of 1968, I used to dream up reasons to borrow Mom and Dad's car -- usually I offered to go to the store or on some other errand. I never went directly to the store and directly home. I took little drives. I loved driving out McKinley Avenue toward Deadwood Gulch, past the lead smelter, then the zinc plant, and on into Smelterville and back. While driving, I listened to KGA or KJRB, depending on which station came in better, and I came to love all kinds of songs from the summer of 1968 because I associate them so strongly with the thrill I felt driving Mom and Dad's car. It was the summer of "Hey Jude", "Classical Gas", "Mony Mony", "Sunshine of Your Love", "Summertime Blues" and a ton of other great songs.

This all came back to me as I finished my workout at the Wellness Center. I'd just finished the last of twelve reps of my second set on the calf press when Status Quo's "Pictures of Matchstick Men" came on over the sound system. Suddenly I was up on Market Street in Kellogg with our lawn mower loaded precariously in the trunk of the car, KGA blaring, getting ready to mow Pete and Casey Wescott's lawn while they were out of town. In the summer of 1968, that song stopped me cold. I loved it -- and, now, fifty years later, I still do.

2.  Christy and Carol and I are giving each other Sibling Assignments today. We decided to wait until we are all done with the assignments to  post them. This afternoon I remembered Sunday family dinners from when we were kids and wrote what I remembered and reflected on how fortunate my sisters and I are that we all live in Kellogg and have decided to eat family dinners together three Sundays out of every month.  I should be posting this piece in the next week or so.

3.   The Deke and I each cooked one half of our dinner tonight. The Deke baked a spaghetti squash and prepared an awesome tomato sauce to go over the stringy pulp of the squash, topped with Parmesan cheese. I'm so happy we have leftovers.

I prepared poached tilapia. I cut a lemon into slices, lined the bottom of the cast iron skillet with them, and topped the slices with fresh oregano and chopped green onion. I placed the two tilapia fillets on top of this foundation and poured a cup of crab stock over it all. I brought the liquid to a slow boil, turned down the heat, covered the pan, and let the fish poach until it was done. I removed the fillets, turned the heat up to high, and let the liquid reduce for a few minutes and poured it through a fine mesh strainer so, if we wanted to, we had a lemon crab juice to pour over our fish. I could have made it thicker as a sauce, but I just didn't. I put my liquid in a small bowl and dipped each forkful of tilapia into it.

Tilapia doesn't have a lot of flavor on its own, but it absorbs flavors beautifully. I enjoyed how poaching the flavors of the crab stock, lemon, onion, and oregano helped them merge in the tilapia.

This was a simple, kind of adventurous, and very delicious dinner.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/26/18: Kindness at the Lab, Household Projects, Crab Stock Ready

1.  Back in 2015, once I'd been listed for a kidney transplant at the U. of Maryland, I started having monthly blood draws so that the transplant center always has a fresh sample of my blood. I developed an attachment to the people who worked at the LabCorp site I visited in Greenbelt, even though nothing much as far as conversation or anything transpired between the phlebotomist, Angela and me. Nonetheless, when I went the Greenbelt office for the last time back in September, 2017 and told the friendliest intake person ever at the front desk that I was moving and wouldn't be back, I got choked up. This all came back to me at the Shoshone Medical Center today because I'm enjoying my monthly jaunts to this lab to have my blood drawn. As I walked in, my favorite Kellogg phlebotomist was walking out. My heart sunk a little, but she I was uplifted when she recognized me and said, "I won't be drawing your blood, but Jeri will take care of you." And it all worked out great today.

2. Back home, I tended to the snow and ice that had built up over the last few days. I shoveled what I could and de-iced the rest and soon our driveway and sidewalks were clear and safe. Paul came over and tried to make it so that our garage door closes with the remote, but something buggy he hasn't figured out yet is going on. The door opens fine with the remote and works both up and down when we push the button in the garage. It just won't come down when we use the remote.  Odd.

3. I decided the crab stock I made out of one of the bags of crab shells I brought home from the Feb. 17th Elks Crab Feed had simmered long enough in the crockpot. The Deke bought me an implement in Eugene that is a good sized scooper with smallish holes -- it's kind of unnerving because it looks so much like the scoopers I used over the years to clean out kitty litter pans. But, no, this isn't a kitty litter scoop; it's the perfect utensil for scooping bones or shells out of a soup stock and I removed all the broken shells and filled a couple of containers with dark, sweet stock and now I'll figure out a soup or stew or chowder to make with it and soon I'll freeze the rest.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/25/18: Learning About Chicago, Splachcocked Chicken, Dinner with Paul and Carol

1. More snow. Snow in the morning. Snow in the afternoon. I surrendered. I decided to stay indoors with the Deke and we listened to podcasts. The latest episode of Reveal, entitled "My Town, Chi-Town" looked interesting -- it is a nearly hour long examination of current life and life in the past in the south and the west of Chicago, in predominantly black neighborhoods. The episode covered a lot of ground: the number of shooting deaths is down, but the number of shootings has increased -- how could this be? What is the impact of neighborhood schools being closed? In 2013, the city voted to close 50 public schools, creating great difficulties for many children and families. In the the last segment, host Al Letson interviews reporter and author, Natalie Moore who is a third generation Chicagoan. She has published three non-fiction books about the city, the latest being, The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation. If you listen to this episode of Reveal, you'll learn more about how policies and practices in Chicago segregated the city and how segregation continues. To hear it, click here.

2. The Deke braved the snow by climbing into Liz's rig and going uptown to knit at Radio Brewing. I stayed home and splachcocked (or butterflied) the whole chicken I had thawed out and let it sit out for an hour after I covered it with a light coat of olive oil and salted it and seasoned it with Old Bay Seasoning. I peeled a couple of sweet potatoes and cut them into chunks to roast. When the time was right, I browned the the breast side of the flat, spineless chicken and popped it in the oven and fried up a couple of slices of bacon to enhance the green beans I prepared. I also mixed up the contents of a Caesar salad kit.

3. Carol and Paul traveled to Nelson, B.C. on Friday and returned to Kellogg this afternoon. We siblings had decided to cancel our usual Sunday family dinner, but left it open that Carol, Paul, the Deke, and I might eat together. Sure enough, Carol and Paul were happy to have a dinner prepared for them after their travels today, so we enjoyed the chicken dinner I prepared and talked about a wide variety of things, including their trip to Nelson, podcasts we'd listened to, mining and labor history, and the challenges Paul faces as he directs a Readers Theater version of Richard Sheridan's 18th century comedy of manners, The Rivals at the Sixth Street Melodrama.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/24/18: Snow and Podcasts, Crab Stock, Dinner with Sue and Cleve

1. We had another snow storm blow in this morning. I'm not much for knowing the depth of the snow, but I do know I deeply appreciated Everett coming over with his snow blower and clearing our sidewalks.

The Deke and I stayed indoors and listened to the last couple of episodes of Slow Burn. Now that the series on Watergate is done, the makers of Slow Burn have a second season in the works. It will examine the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

We decided to listen to another podcast's episode. I've been wanting to listen to a recent episode of Reveal. It's created by the Center for Investigative Reporting and Public Radio Exchange. Reveal plays on WAMU, in Washington, D. C., on Sunday afternoons. When we lived in Greenbelt, on several occasions, I was out doing this or that on Sunday afternoons and listened to Reveal. 

Today, I knew that a recent episode of Reveal, "Kept Out", investigated banking and lending practices that deny conventional mortgage loans to people of color at a much higher rate than their white counterparts. The episode explores that even though legislation passed forty years ago to eliminate government-sponsored housing discrimination or redlining, a new form of redlining exists in cities across the U.S.A. 

My interest in what this episode uncovered goes all the way back to my studies at Whitworth College over forty years ago. It helped me understand systemic or institutional racism better and furthered my understanding of what theologian Reinhold Niebuhr identified as corporate sin. Niebuhr, by the way, wasn't referring specifically to business corporations, but to the way we as members of communities, states, institutions, or any other group (labor unions, police forces, colleges and universities, churches, countries, etc.), including business corporations, participate in sin that is collective. 

By the way, Reinhold Niebuhr also wrote the Serenity Prayer!

I have posted links related to these podcasts at the bottom of this post.

2.  After taking a day off from having a stock bubbling away in the crock pot, today I emptied one of the gallon ziplock bags of crab shells I brought home from last week's Elks Crab Feed into the crockpot along with a coarsely chopped onion, some vegetable scraps, and a couple of bay leaves. By this evening, our kitchen and living room smelled sweet, like a fishmonger's shop, and I've begun to imagine just what kind of soup, stew, or chowder I might make later this week with this most promising stock.

3. The Deke and I drove out to Hunt Gulch and parked the Sube in the driveway of friends of Sue and Cleve. Sue picked us up and drove us up the hill they live on and the four of us sat down to a delicious dinner of salad, ham and bean soup, lasagne, and a butter crumb-topped berry pie-like French cake for dessert. I didn't catch the name of it. We had a lot of fun talking about all kinds of things, ranging from elementary education to life in the Silver Valley to music to things related to France, West Africa, and the French language. The four of us are interested in a wide range of things and it was fun getting a lot of those things out and talk about them.

If you'd like to listen to the last three episodes of Slow Burn, here are the links:

"Saturday Night" is here.

"Extra, Extra" is here.

"Going South" is here.

You can read about and listen to the episode, "Kept Out" on Reveal, here.

You can also read some follow up stories to "Kept Out" by clicking here.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/23/18: Kellogg is Quiet, Successful Repair, The Inland Lounge and Watergate

1.  With the weather cold and snowy, the Deke and I are often slow to get ourselves gathered and head out into the world. It's quiet in Kellogg. Silvercup Coffee Roasters, located just five minutes down the street, roasts a couple of dark, deep, smokey styles of coffee with just the right hint of chocolate, and on many of these wintry mornings, like today, we drink coffee, listen to the very peaceful sounds of Pandora's jazz guitar station, and I write and read and the Deke knits and reads. Our house is warm. Charly and Maggie love sleeping on the love seat next to the Deke. Did I mention the coffee is really good? And how quiet it is in Kellogg?

2. I don't fully understand the inner workings of the on/off switches on our gas range, but one of the switches started misbehaving a couple days ago. Brock, from Watts Electric, came by and looked things over and ordered us a new set of switches. Today they arrived and Brock replaced them. It's a relief to not only  have the stove working right again, but also to deal with a repairman as easy to work with as Brock and a business as friendly and reliable as Watts Electric. By the way, the same is true for the Furniture Exchange here in Kellogg. I've also been very impressed with Ace Hardware down the street and True Value in Pinehurst. We love patronizing local businesses and these businesses in the Silver Valley have been great to work with.

3. The Deke and I piled into the Sube around 4 o'clock and plopped down at the bar at the Inland Lounge to have a visit with Cas and to see who else might be coming in. Friday is burger night across the street at the Elks and we can always count on seeing people we know before they have a burger or afterward. Some people don't bother crossing the street. If Cas gives Harley a call with an order, Harley will deliver! We saw Bird Legs and Gloria, the Moore family, Fitz and Deanne, Julie C., and, just as we thought it might be time to go home and fix dinner, Jake and Carol Lee sauntered in and we had a final drink with them and got it some good gabbin'.

Back home, I roasted cauliflower and broccoli and pan fried a couple of tilapia fillets, a simple and very tasty dinner, and the Deke and I listened to another episode of Slow Burn. Tonight's episode examined the outbreak of conspiracy theories that grew out of the Watergate story. The program gave special attention to a pioneer in the world of conspiracy theories, a radio host named Mae Brussell.

If you'd like to listen to this episode, "Rabbit Holes", just click here.

Maybe you'd like to check out Mae Brussell's website where you can read about her, listen to audio, read transcripts, and buy products. It's here

By the way, I'm not endorsing Mae Brussel's work. I thought, though, that some of you might like to check her out, especially if you are in the same boat I am and hadn't heard of her. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/22/18: Aging, Zags Win!, *Slow Burn*

1.  I belong to a private Facebook group with a handful of friends, most of whom I've known for thirty-five to forty years. I am the oldest member of the group, but the others are always catching up with me as they experience many of the passages that occur in life as we move into our fifties and sixties: ailing and dying mothers and fathers, children facing the demands of adulthood, and witnessing the consequences of our love and support of our children, as well as our missteps or oversights, breakdowns in physical health and realizing, sometimes, that the mind and spirit are strong, but the body is weak, and coming to realize that our bodies are vessels of inevitability. In our bodies rests our fate, not just the dying part, but the aches, pains, diseases, and ailments that we cannot escape, but that we do the best we can to manage, one way or another.

Today one member, who had not written an update on his life for a while, did so. I will keep what he wrote confidential, but he got me thinking about how growing old for me has been an ongoing accounting of how little I understood about life when I was young. In my twenties and on into my thirties, I often didn't really understand the fragility of friendships or other relationships -- I think I assumed they could weather anything -- and I'm troubled by having lost friendships, by no longer knowing some of the people I enjoyed, even loved, thirty-five, forty, even forty-five years ago. I seem to accept the physical vagaries of aging a little better than I do the loss of friends I've experienced and the ways I contributed to these losses.  At the same time, I should add, I am very grateful for the friendships that have lasted all these years from when I lived in Eugene and for the continuation and renewal of old friendships that have resulted from so many returns to Kellogg and, now, from moving here. Experiencing these lasting and ongoing friendships makes this part of aging and growing old with others a deeply fulfilling, and, often, a really fun  experience.

2. Around 7:15 or so, the Deke and I went over to Christy and Everett's for some delicious thin crust vegetarian pizza and to watch much of the second half of Gonzaga's nail-biting victory over the University of San Diego. Christy and Everett had had a busy day in CdA and they enjoyed a delicious lunch at Fisherman's Market.  We got to find out what all happened -- I don't think it's my place right now to share details -- and Christy is ready, and has a lot of support, as she faces some challenges that lie ahead.

3.  Back home, we suddenly got a second wind and decided to listen to two more episodes of the podcast, Slow Burn -- it's a podcast offering a fresh look at the way the break-in at the Watergate Complex dogged Richard Nixon from the time of his re-election in 1972 until his resignation in 1974. The episodes tonight focused on the work that was done behind the scenes by aides to the senators on the Watergate Committee to research the story and arrange in what order the witnesses would appear. It also explored the partisan tensions between the Republican and Democrat workers. The other episode examined the great amount of support Richard Nixon enjoyed as his second term got underway and why so many voters, as well as elected officials, maintained their support. That support began to erode when Alexander Butterfield testified that every conversation in the Oval Office and other parts of the White House was being secretly audiotaped, starting in on February 16, 1971.

If you'd like to listen to "Lie Detectors", click here.
If you'd like to listen to "True Believers", click here.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/21/18: Hot Lunch and Hamburger Stew, Listening to *The Nod*, Exercise

1.  I was remembering today how much I loved the whipped potatoes with hamburger gravy that were often served at hot lunch in School District #391 here in Kellogg. When I was in the lunch line, every time I saw kids coming out of the serving area with these potatoes and gravy, I tried to think of ways I could quickly clean my plate and possibly dash back for seconds. Sometimes, I suppose, it meant drinking my half pint carton of milk really fast because I needed a vessel to cram my peas in: of all the things we were served at hot lunch, peas were the one offering I could not eat. Hiding them in my milk carton made it look like I'd eaten them.

This was on my mind today because ever since last night, I had been thinking about the hamburger stew I was going to make for dinner tonight. Making this stew (or soup) is simple enough. I browned a pound of hamburger. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I removed the meat from the skillet, but I don't suppose I had to. In the fat left behind, I sauteed chopped onion, carrots, and celery and sliced mushrooms.

I had been keeping leftover, homemade beef stock in the fridge for just such an occasion as this and I poured the stock, ground beef, and vegetables into the Dutch oven, brought them to a boil, and let them simmer.

I did not add a couple of ingredients common in hamburger soup: potatoes and tomatoes. I didn't add potatoes because I planned on dropping dumplings onto the bubbling surface of this stew.

I didn't add tomatoes because I wanted to serve a meal that might taste close to the hamburger gravy the cooks served over whipped potatoes for hot lunch.

I succeeded. The dumplings thickened the stock and the stock's deep beefiness combined with the hamburger and the vegetables to provide the Deke and me with a substantial meal that gave me the added pleasure of transporting me back to the hot lunch, with especially strong memories of the crowded basement of Sunnyside School, where the teachers on duty hovered over us to make sure we ate our food, making it a great challenge to secretly dispose of those mushy peas. By the way, if Mrs. Ingle spied some one drinking her milk too early in the meal, she sometimes took it away and put it in a window sill and returned it to the offender when he had eaten more of his food. If Mrs. Ingle were on lunch duty, I had to go to Plan B to get rid of my peas: crush them in a napkin and hide them in my lap.

2. Earlier in the day, I had looked to see if a new episode of the podcast, Uncivil, was available. One wasn't. Instead I discovered that the creators of Uncivil posted a guest podcast from The Nod, an enterprise described in a 09-28-2017 New Yorker review, here, as a "playful and serious podcast about blackness".  The episode featured in Uncivil was the first of a two-part story about Ever Lee Hairston and her ancestors who had been enslaved on the Cooleemee Plantation in North Carolina for many years, and continued to live and work there on into the 20th century until the plantation owner, Peter Hairston, stopped the practice of sharecropping in 1972.  Too much happens in these two episodes to summarize here. You can, however, go to The Nod's website, scroll down the list of podcast episodes, and find the two episodes we listened to, entitled, "Snakes on a Plantation: The Hairstons Part 1" and "Diary of a Mad Cousin: The Hairstons Part 2" by clicking right here.

By the way, if you are a baseball fan, some branch of this Hairston family sent three generations of players to the major leagues:  Sam Hairston played in the Negro League and then part of one season with the White Sox; his sons, Jerry and Johnny were both major leaguers, as were Jerry's sons, Jerry, Jr. and Scott Hairston.

3. The Deke and I braved the chilly Silver Valley weather and made a trip to the Wellness Center in Smelterville and each exercised for a solid forty-five minutes, on both cardio machines and on the weight machines.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/20/18: Staying Indoors, The Deke Fixed Dinner, Revisiting the Watergate Story

1. A cold snap occupies the Silver Valley, making it a good day to stay indoors and work acrostic puzzles, listen to music, redeem an online gift card at Barnes and Noble, and shoot the breeze with the Deke. What book did I buy? What Good Cooks Know: 20 Years of Test Kitchen Expertise in One Essential Handbook by America's Test Kitchen.

2. The Deke seized control of the kitchen late this afternoon. She added chard and sweet potatoes to the leftover braised pork in curry sauce I made yesterday and transformed it into a wholly different, sweet and nutty meal. The good news? We still have a little left.

3. The Deke and I listened to the first three episodes of Slow Burn, hosted by Leon Neyfakh, an eight episode exploration of overlooked and fascinating elements of the break-in at the Watergate office complex in 1972 by operatives of the committee to re-elect Richard Nixon and the break-in's aftermath. Of the three episodes we listened to tonight, I found the second one the most fascinating. It featured the story of Rep. Wright Patman, a very senior Texas Congressman who tried to hold Congressional hearings on the Watergate break-in before the 1972 presidential election and was successfully thwarted by a most effective campaign by President Nixon, Gerald Ford, and aides to the president.  The other two episodes we listened to featured, first, Martha Mitchell and, second, a look at the early success of the Nixon administration's aggressive tactics to cover-up, minimize, and discourage the public's interest in the Watergate story.

If you'd like to check out Slow Burn, the list of episodes can be found by clicking here and scrolling down the page a ways.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/19/18: Holiday Punctuation, Braised Pork in Green Curry Sauce, Money -- It's a Gas

1. Sunday night, I knew the Deke was officially a retired public school teacher. She didn't know that today was Presidents Day. Or President's Day. Or Presidents' Day.

All three forms of punctuating this holiday are acceptable. A consensus does not exist as to whether the day belongs to no one but is for presidents in general (Presidents Day), belongs to one president, George Washington (President's Day), or belongs to Washington and Lincoln, both born in February (Presidents' Day), or belongs to all presidents (Presidents').

So while this holiday is a vacation for many public school teachers, it also, by the ambiguous punctuation of its very name, raises fun teacherly questions about possessives and apostrophes. Is it a fun studently question? I could never tell when I taught English if my students enjoyed diving into these and other such questions. I know I did! I enjoyed them when I was a student, too. 

2. I tried something new in the food lab (kitchen) today.  The idea popped in my head that it might work to braise a shoulder blade pork roast in coconut milk and green curry paste with mushrooms, onion, and broccoli. I read around a bit and discovered that other people who cook do some variation of this, so I took out our two pound roast, cut it into four chunks, separating the chunks from the bone.

I roasted the bone and some meat attached to it at 475 degrees for about 45 minutes and, once it cooled, put it in a ziplock bag in the freezer to use for a future soup stock.

In the Dutch oven, I browned the pork chunks and removed them, sauteed the vegetables until nearly brown, removed them, and created a pool of coconut milk, green curry paste, fish sauce, sugar, and soy sauce, and, after I heated it a bit and stirred it to combine the ingredients, I added the pork and vegetables back in.

I set the oven at 275 degrees and put the Dutch oven in. I checked this dish a couple of hours later and the broccoli had turned to mush. I removed the stalks and the Deke and I ate them on the spot. They were tasty, but next time I'll drop those broccoli into the pot much later in the braising process.

After about three hours or so in the oven, the pork had reached a peak of tenderness and juiciness. The heat of the curry was present, but not at all overwhelming. I served the meat on a plate and poured the braising liquid into a container for the Deke and me to dip into as we pleased and pour over our meat and, for me, jasmine rice and, for the Deke, some noodles she bought at the store.

I got out our jar of ground chili paste and our bottle of sweet chili sauce and experimented with them for a couple of bites each and enjoyed the added heat, but I think I enjoyed the meal without an added condiment even more.

Since we both enjoyed this meal so much, it is good news that we have enough left over for another meal on Tuesday.

3. The Deke and I have not quite figured out our financial situation in our retirement. It's always a work in progress. With the help of some Jameson Irish Whiskey, we sat down and talked about our financial obligations, our income, and other sources of money and decided to at least look into some other projects involving the improvement of our house. The Deke and I don't hug that often. This conversation wasn't always easy, but we ended it in each others' arms as a gesture of mutual gratitude.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/18/18: Blizzard, Irish Stew, Lots to Talk About

1. We woke up to a blizzard. The wind wasn't terribly strong, but strong enough that the relentless snowfall descended on a slant. The snow buried the sidewalks and driveway I shoveled yesterday and I kept looking out the window, ready to shovel again if the snowfall subsided. Early in the afternoon, it did subside and I was about to spring into action and heard the welcome sound of our neighbor's snowblower. Bob Cummings was out clearing snow. My work was done.

2. When Julie came to visit me and the Deke back on St. Patrick's Day two years ago in Greenbelt, I made Irish stew and that stew has been on my mind all week.  Just a few days ago, I transferred a beef stock that had been bubbling away for a week into a gallon ziplock bag and I wanted to put it to use. Tonight the Deke and I hosted family dinner. So, I browned two pounds of stew meat in the Dutch oven in two batches, removed the meat, and replaced it with chopped onion, halved baby potatoes, and chopped celery and carrots. I removed the vegetables, melted some butter in the Dutch oven and sauteed six smashed garlic gloves. By now, the interior of the Dutch Oven was encrusted with blackened stew meat remnants and I rubbed some grease on my elbows and deglazed the the Dutch oven with red wine and a wooden spoon.

Now I added the broth along with North Coast's Rasputin Imperial Russian Stout (I know -- in an Irish stew? Ha!), and other seasonings -- but I purposely left out the tomato paste. I made an executive decision about the tomato paste. I just wanted this to be a tomato-less stew. It already had notes of sweetness promised by the carrots and a small amount of sugar and I wanted this stew to lean much toward the savory. I stirred the liquid while it reached a low boil, added back in the meat and vegetables and put it all in the oven at 275 degrees. The recipe called for a 350 degree oven, but I wanted it to cook at a slower rate, so I made another executive decision and lowered the temperature.

I checked on the stew after it had been cooking for about three hours and everything was just as I had hoped it might be: the vegetables were tender, but not mushy and the meat was also tender and easy to chew. I then made another executive decision. I let the stew rest on the stovetop for a while, unheated, just to give the flavors a chance to be left alone.

Around 5:15 I brought the stew back up to a slow boil,  made dumpling dough and popped about eight dumplings on the stew's surface, let them simmer uncovered for about fifteen minutes, then put the lid on the Dutch oven and let the dumplings simmer more until I served Christy, Carol, Paul, Everett, the Deke, and me stew at around 6:30. The Deke made a delicious and creative cabbage salad with celery and feta cheese and an oil and vinegar dressing. Before eating, I served everyone a Jameson's Irish Whiskey mixed with ginger ale and a squirt of lime juice, one of my favorite drinks. We had chocolate truffles for dessert.

The recipe for this Irish stew can be found right here.

3. We had a lot to talk about at dinner and afterward -- the Deke reported on her terrific trip to Eugene, we all talked about last night's crab feed at the Elks, and we had fascinating discussions about physical therapy, food, and, the inescapable topic of the day, the snow!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/17/18: Elks Crab Feed, Return of the Snow, The Deke's CD Works Wonders (Again)

1. First, the big news! Every year for as long as I can remember, Ed has asked me if there were any chance I'd be in Kellogg on the third weekend of February for the Kellogg Elks Crab Feed, sponsored by the Past Exalted Rulers. Every year, Ed told me about how he and Nancy and Buff and Kathy and Jake and Carol Lee and Joni and Danny and Sharon and others get together and he sure hoped one day the Deke and I could join them for their annual get together at the annual Crab Feed.

When the Deke and I decided to move to Kellogg back in September, one of the first things Ed said to me when I told him about our decision was, "Well, great! You'll be able to join us for the crab feed in February." Harley and Candy run the Elks, and whenever Ed and I ran into them uptown last fall, Ed always asked Harley when crab feed was going to be, wanting to make sure he had the dates right so he wouldn't make other plans.

So, tonight, February 17th, was the Elks Crab Feed. Harley and Candy had seats reserved for our party in the basement of the Elks. We arrived plenty early. I enjoyed a beer or two and the Deke and I yakked with different people here and there; we saw Christy and Everett and Carol and Paul at their table upstairs. Soon enough, it was time to line up with a plate and have members of the high school's JROTC program plop a whole crab, a container of baked beans, a scoop of coleslaw, and a fresh, soft bread stick on each of our plates and we headed back downstairs to eat.

Throughout the Elks' building, upstairs and down, people were having a blast, talking, laughing, eating, milling around a bit. I felt like I'd been plopped into the happiest place on earth and saw what Ed meant all these years when he told me, "Bill, people absolutely love the crab feed! They have a ball!"

Every day, things happen here in Kellogg that bring to mind what a different world I live in now than all those years in Eugene and those three years in Virginia/Maryland. This crab feed epitomized what a great night out in Kellogg can be -- people giving each other a bad time, picking on each other, people telling stories, laughing, the feeling that a simple all you can eat crab dinner is a royal occasion, and my favorite moment of the night when Harley came to the basement with baskets to pass around so we could tip the JROTC members who were our servers, circulating around the two rooms with buckets of crab,  and bussed our tables.

Harley came to the basement after he's solicited tips upstairs and announced what the people upstairs had contributed in tips and announced that he was sure the basement could do even better. He encouraged us to be generous because, "These kids might just save your butts one day!"

Well, the basement contributions fell just short of the upstairs total and, when Harley announced this, hands with different denominations of dollar bills immediately shot up around the room and people added more money to the tips already collected, and I guess those of us in the basement topped the total of what was collected upstairs. The JROTC program ended up with about 1500 dollars in donations to help fund their program.

I also ended the evening with a nice donation for use in my food lab: three 1 gallon ziplock bags worth of crab shells to eventually put in the crockpot and let simmer for a few days to make a soup stock. The first thing I did when I arrived home was freeze the shells and one day I will take them out, clean them, and see what kind of stock results. I don't know what to expect. That's life in the food lab.

2. It snowed like crazy much of the day in Kellogg. If we had many different words for snow, the word to describe today's snow would denote a wet snow falling as big flakes, on the edge of rain. At around two o'clock or so (I guess) the snow subsided and I shoveled away, clearing our sidewalks and the driveway.

3. During the day, the Deke finished knitting a hat for Meredith's daughter. Meredith manages the restaurant at Radio Brewing. Around four o'clock or so, we drove up to Radio Brewing to deliver the hat and Meredith was sure her daughter would love the hat and then she told us how the Deke's children's CD, Come and Go With Me, had saved her family's car vacation last week because repeated playings of the Deke's CD soothed their two year old, helped keep him quiet and content, as he grew tired and cranky because of long hours in the car. She said they must have played the CD about twenty-four times! It worked every time.

By the way, other mothers over the years have told the Deke that this CD had the same effect on their restless children.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/16/18: Learning More at Breakfast, Easy Driving (Whew!), The Deke is Back

1. Completely out of the blue this morning, Jerry's son Jared popped into Sam's to join us for breakfast. Toward the end of our meal, it registered with Jerry that Jared was not in the Silver Valley for a business meeting or on some other business outing for Interstate Concrete and Asphalt -- where he is a general manager --, but he drove over from the Coeur d'Alene area just to join us for breakfast. When this sunk in to Jerry, he smiled as happily as I've ever seen him. Over the years, I'd heard some about Jared from Ed, but I had never met him and it was fun to make his acquaintance and listen to him and Buff, who is a City Councilor for Kellogg, discuss the paving and other projects that have been going on in Kellogg. I learned a lot about local sewage and paving problems around here.

By the way, since moving to Kellogg, I've learned more about pickup trucks, dump trucks, large pieces of equipment (excavators, tractors, low boys, skid steers, etc.), local infrastructure problems, snow plowing, and other such things than I've known in my whole life. I learn more and more every Friday at Sam's and from listening to others talk about these things at the Inland Lounge. I don't contribute much to these conversations, but I sure take a lot in and enjoy it immensely.

2. I started to get anxious this morning as the skies opened up and the snow fell. The Deke would be flying into Spokane shortly after 12 noon and all this snow meant that the road going over the 4th of July Pass could be more challenging than I really wanted to face. So, I turned my low grade anxiety into action and vacuumed, swept and mopped the kitchen and living floors, got some dishes done, and, before long, loaded some additional winter clothing gear into the Sube, filled it with gas, and struck out on I-90.

To my great relief, the roads were mostly wet. There was some slush over the 4th of July Pass and I was behind a truck from South Carolina pulling a big boat, going very slowly, but that was fine with me. I'd left Kellogg plenty early and had mentally steadied myself for the possibility that it might be a slow trip.

Once over the pass, coming into both CdA and Spokane, the snow stopped and the roads were easy to traverse. I had volunteered to run an errand for Christy and drove out to Medicine Man Pharmacy near Prairie Rd and Highway 95 with no problem, stopped at coffee stand on the outskirts of Post Falls for an Americano and steamed milk, and arrived at the Spokane Airport's cell phone parking lot in plenty of time.

The Deke and I arrived back to Kellogg just as another snow storm was getting underway and had no problems driving from Spokane to Kellogg.

I was profoundly relieved.

3.  Once we arrived home, first things first. I warmed up the chicken stew and dumplings I made a couple of days ago and the Deke loved it.  Soon she lay down for a nap and slept for three hours or so. We had thought we might go up to the Inland Lounge, but soon it seemed a better idea to sit in the quiet of our living room, listening to jazz guitar from Pandora. We had a long conversation about the Deke's trip, about the gathering to celebrate the life of Brian West, how generous her friends were about letting her stay with them, how many excellent visits she had with different people, especially, but hardly limited to, teachers and principals and others from Charlemagne, where she taught. The Deke made new friends at 16 Tons while also having fun at the every Wednesday evening wine tasting with old friends, Jay and Sherri. 

I didn't wish I'd been with the Deke. While I would have loved to have seen friends in Eugene and revisit old haunts, I know how fun it is to make a trip like this alone, not to have to discuss with another person what to do at any time, and to have maximum flexibility. I've had many such days in New York City and Washington D. C. and made two such trips, albeit short ones, to Eugene after we moved to Maryland. The Deke and I love to go places together, but sometimes it just works out better to go solo and I'm very happy this was one of those times.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/15/18: Walking Uptown, Legs, Chicken Tacos

1.  The sun broke out today. The sidewalks were bare. The conditions were ideal for walking, so I walked uptown and deposited a small refund Mom received from Avista into the estate account. By walking to the bank and back, I strolled about two and half miles.

2. It was time for me to work on my legs on the weight machines at the Wellness Center, so I got that done. I thought how much I would enjoy it to walk a couple of miles or so before going to the weight machines, like I did today, rather than working out on the stationary bike or the treadmill. I hope I can do it the way I did today more often.

3. I had some chicken left over even after Christy, Everett, and I shared a meal on Tuesday and I made chicken and dumplings on Wednesday. I decided I had just enough chicken left to make tacos. I bought some small corn tortillas and shredded cheese at Yoke's. When I got home, I put the shredded chicken in the cast iron skillet with chili powder and lime juice, heated it up and warmed the tortillas on the center grilling area on our stove. I also warmed up some black beans.  It all worked splendidly together and with the addition of the salsa we had in the fridge, I enjoyed another simple and satisfying meal made from the whole chicken I braised on Tuesday. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/14/18: Shoveling Snow, Bach and Cleaning Up, Chicken Stew and Dumplings

1. The Silver Valley woke up this morning to new snow, not quite two inches, I'd say, by morning's end. I didn't want to deal with shoveling deep snow, so, in case the snowfall continued through the day, I shoveled our driveway and sidewalks and also shoveled Christy and Everett's. I do fine shoveling shallow snow, but when snow gets deep, it can border on being too much for me.  It was a good little workout and gave me some peace of mind.

2. With all the cooking I've been doing, I've been good about keeping up with cleaning the dishes I've used and keeping the countertops clean. But, I've neglected the stove, so today I gave the stove a good cleaning -- not only on the surface, but around the burners and also cleaned the dishwasher door and the refrigerator doors.  To help make this task more pleasant and to slow myself down, I listened to Glenn Gould play numerous of Bach's Preludes and Fugues.

3. I was eager to cook up something with the chicken left over from last night. I also didn't want to make a trip to the store. So, I poured the leftover liquid from last night's braise into the Dutch oven and heated it up a little bit. I coarsely chopped carrots, an onion, a couple of potatoes, and bits of celery and took an already opened bag of frozen green beans out of the freezer. I tossed these vegetables into the liquid and simmered them until they began to get tender. I added shredded chicken to the pot and while it continued to simmer, I combined flour, baking powder, butter cut into chips, and milk in a bowl to make dumpling dough and before long I dropped balls of dough into my stew and let them simmer for about 10 minutes or so. I decided, after 10 minutes, that the stew needed some water. I brought the thinner stew back to a slow boil, reduced the heat to low again, put the lid on the Dutch oven and let the dumplings simmer for another 10 minutes or so in the covered pot.

In keeping with my efforts while home alone to try new things in the kitchen, I should add that I had never made dumplings before. Not only that, I haven't eaten them very often, but I love them.  I really don't have a standard by which to determine if these were good dumplings. But, I liked them. The chicken stew was superb. The flavors of the vegetables and the tarragon from the night before had deepened and the chicken had remained moist and its flavor had also matured. Because I wanted to, I spent the entirety of this snowy chilly day by myself in the house and this meal was a perfect warming, filling, and most tasty companion.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/13/18: Thoughts on Loneliness, All Over the Music Map, Braising a Whole Chicken

1.  I enjoy my life more when the Deke and I are together, but, we've spent significant stretches of time apart over the last ten years or so. Our reasons for separation have been various and always admirable, almost always having to do with spending time with family members in different parts of the country. For almost three weeks, the Deke has been in Eugene, spending time with friends from her many walks of life there, whether in her many jobs of doing music with children, her work as a classroom teacher, or as a performing singer and songwriter. She's having a splendid visit and I'm very happy that it's worked out so well.

I haven't been terribly lonely, but at times I feel hints, just hints, of the pressure and the debilitating effects that accompany chronic loneliness. It's not so much a feeling of sadness. It's more a sense that, if I am not vigilant, my abilities to think, create, imagine, feel purposeful, and feel physically healthy will begin to diminish. I experience the onset of loneliness as weight on my skin and pressure in my head and, sometimes, cramps in my stomach.  Even though I've given much time and effort over the years to being independent and able to rely on myself, and even though I enjoy doing a lot of things alone, like going to movies and taking pictures and cooking, I am fundamentally a social person and need to spend time with others to get outside of myself, think more clearly, have fun, and feel more fully alive.

When Mom was failing, both at home and in the nursing home, my main concern was that she'd feel lonely, and have to endure the physical weight and emotional pain of loneliness along with her other medical difficulties. Christy, Carol, Paul, Zoe and I and others did all we could to help Mom not suffer loneliness, but chronic illness is a lonely experience and I'm afraid she had some lonely and disorienting times in her house and in her room at Kindred.

So, when the Deke goes away and I'm home by myself, I try to turn her absence into a way to take advantage of having the house to myself by doing some things I might be less likely to do if the Deke were here.

2. One of those things is listen to as many different kinds of music as possible. Today, as I went through my day, I listened to the Miles Davis station on Pandora, the Emerson String Quartet's album, Bach: Art of the Fugue, thirty-six songs by the Highwaymen collected on a single album; I listened to a nearly three hour long Amazon playlist entitled, Southern Rock BBQ so I could enjoy the Allman Brothers, Lynrd Skynrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, Little Feat, the Outlaws, Pure Prairie League, Riders of the Purple Sage and a bunch of other artists. I listened to the playful jazz erotica of Michael Franks' album, The Art of Tea. I spent some time with Uncle Tupelo and the Drive-By Truckers. Music is memory. My life is pretty full of fun times as well as painful failures and all of this music had my mind wandering all over my many joys and agonies.

3. When the Deke is gone, I like to try out things in the kitchen I haven't done before so that if I cook something that turns out lousy, I'm the only one who has to suffer through eating it. I've been experimenting with different ways to use the perpetual stock that bubbles daily in the crock pot. A few days ago, I decided to see if I could succeed at braising a beef roast. Today, I decided to see what happened if I braised the whole chicken I took out a couple of days ago to thaw.

I salted, peppered, and garlic powdered and then browned the chicken and, at the same time, sauteed chunks of carrot, potato, celery, and onion along with sliced mushrooms in the Dutch oven. When the vegetables were beginning to brown and starting to get tender, I hoisted the chicken out of the cast iron skillet and placed it atop the vegetables and covered the chicken with a generous supply of tarragon sprigs. I poured the fat out of the skillet and deglazed it with red wine and put a chunk of frozen turkey stock in the skillet and melted it. I put the juice of a whole lemon in the liquid bubbling in the skillet and then poured it over the chicken and popped it all in the oven, set at 275 degrees.

Three hours later, I checked the chicken. The meat was falling off the bone and I was satisfied it was done. I gingerly lifted the chicken out of the Dutch oven onto a plate and then scooped out the vegetables with a slotted spoon. I was happy to discover that the vegetables were cooked, but not mushy. I removed the chicken from the bones and put the bones in the freezer for a future stock.

I liked the lemony and licorice-y flavors present in the liquid and poured it over both my vegetables and the chicken on my plate. I also liked that the turkey stock gave the chicken a kind of turkey-chicken hybrid flavor.

These have been good days in my food lab. I am now confident that if the Deke and I decide we'd like to have either a braised roast or a braised chicken, that I can make a meal we'll both enjoy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/12/18: Dump Run, Surprise Hug at St. Vincent's, Leftover Heaven

1.  Early this afternoon, I sauntered over to Christy and Everett's and pocketed the keys to Everett's pick up and drove the cardboard and bags of discarded things to the dump. Christy had some other things to go to the dump, so I returned, loaded them up, and made another trip.

The dump has instituted a sticker program. Using the county dump (well, transfer station) is covered by a solid waste fee and the sticker confirms that one has paid the fee.

When I arrived with my first load, the woman who checked me in thanked me very enthusiastically for having the sticker on the windshield. It kind of fired me up that she was so excited and I smiled broadly and said, "You bet!"

2. Christy also had donations ready to go out to St. Vincent de Paul's collection center in Osburn. The first load included two large dog crates -- Christy and Everett had just bought new ones. I arrived at St. Vincent's with the crates and some other things, lifted the crates out of the bed of the pickup, and suddenly the guy who works in the collection area charged me and wrapped himself around me in a big hug.

He was moved to hug me by the fact that a guy my age could lift the crates out of the pickup all by myself. He was fired up. When he saw my Lane sweatshirt, he told me he always thinks of Eugene as the first place, when heading south, a person sees palm trees.

"Isn't that right?"

"Well, I don't think so. I lived there a long time and don't remember palm trees."

I made one more trip to St. Vincent's and the guy who'd hugged me earlier told me he almost sold the dog crates already and that it was a great donation to make to a second hand store.

"That's great. I'm glad it's such a good thing!"

3.  I pulled the leftover braised round eye roast and vegetables out of the fridge and put a helping into a pan to warm up. I dipped into the beef stock that's been bubbling away since Thursday and added some to the leftovers, making them into something like a stew or a soup.

This was one of the best bowls of anything I've ever eaten. The leftover sauce that the beef and vegetables had been resting in had matured, especially the ginger. The added stock complimented the sauce, increasing its depth. The meat and vegetables absorbed the salty gingery garlic-y flavors of the sauce and stock and I found myself wishing that I'd never finish this meal. But, I did, and I greedily returned to the kitchen and heated up the still remaining leftovers with stock again and indulged in my last helping of this most satisfying meal.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/11/18: Texistentialism and Other Music, Cruising Pinehurst, Spaghetti

1. I created a Jimmie Dale Gilmore station on Pandora. Later I listened to a live performance from the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville featuring Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, and Steve Earle. I also listened to  the entire Amazon playlist, "Steve Earle and More". In other words, my day was filled with some of my favorite American songs and performers including The Flatlanders, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Sun Volt, Merle Haggard, Ray Wylie Hubbard, John Prine, John Hiatt, and many, many others. It was a day of poetry, a variety of voices, fine musicians, and a lot of feeling.

2. Clorox makes this toilet cleaning wand with a disposable pad of bleach cleaner on the end of it that I like a lot. A while back, I ran out of the pads and I looked for replacements at the hardware and grocery stores in Kellogg without luck. Today, I wondered if Barney's True Value in Pinehurst might stock them and, if they didn't, I would go to Wal Mart. Barney's True Value had them. I whooped with joy silently within myself. Robin, who helped the Deke and me with our paint purchases during the remodel, saw me and took a few minutes to ask me if we were happy with the paint and smiled broadly when I told her we were very happy.

After purchasing the pads, I took a spin along the side of the golf course where I can see the first four holes and remembered how much I loved playing on this course many years ago -- I played my last round there in 1997 with Kenton Bird when I was home for our twenty-fifth class reunion.

3. I resisted the temptation to dive right back into my braised roast leftovers. I tore off one strand of beef to see how it tasted after a day in the fridge and I was taken aback by how tasty it is. But, I decided to delay my gratification and, instead, I made a simple and very satisfying bowl of spaghetti and diced tomatoes with a hill of freshly grated parmesan cheese on top.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/10/18: Braised Round Eye Roast, Helping Christy, Wildcats Defeat Badgers

1. It's a small round eye roast, about a pound and a half. It had been resting, salted, in a ziplock bag with sprigs of oregano since Thursday evening when I took it out early this afternoon. I browned it -- or seared it -- on all sides, and while that took place I poured some olive oil in the ceramic cast iron dutch oven, turned the heat on medium, and sauteed garlic, ginger, onion, celery, carrots, and potatoes until they softened up a bit and nearly turned brown. I added back in the oregano.  I put the browned roast on top of the vegetables, deglazed the skillet I'd browned the roast in with red wine, and poured the beef bits and wine over the meat. I needed more liquid for the braising and dipped into the beef stock that's been bubbling away in the crock pot since Thursday night. I suddenly realized I'd forgotten mushrooms, so I dropped some slices into the braise and put it in the oven at 275 degrees.

After the roast braised for four hours, I decided to give it a try. If it wasn't perfectly fork tender, it was real close. The liquid thickened up and into a flavorful sauce, heartened by the vegetables, enhanced by the saltiness of the beef, and brightened by the ginger. The meat tore off easily. I put some in a bowl with some of the vegetables and poured sauce over it. I enjoyed the comfort of this solid food. I also have leftovers, so I am living with anticipation of when I decide to eat my second meal of braised roast beef and vegetables.

2. Christy had recruited Carol, Paul, and me to help her bring broken down cardboard boxes, bags of things she discarded, and several totes out of the basement. The totes went in the garage and the bags and cardboard went into the back of Everett's truck. I'll deliver them to the dump after Christy and Everett leave on their getaway on Monday. We also moved a large wooden trunk off the lawn and under the awning on the deck. This was all very satisfying work as Christy continues to work on getting things out of her house that she doesn't want any more and gets her basement better organized. I really enjoy helping anyone reduce their stash of material belongings and Christy definitely lightened her load today.

3.  Ed swung by around 6:30 and we headed up to Andrews Gymnasium to watch the Kellogg Wildcats boys basketball team play the Bonners Ferry Badgers. Preceding the game, the school paid tribute to the seniors on the basketball team, as well as pep band and JROTC seniors. The seniors, in turn, then gathered in front of the scorers' table and presented a gift of appreciation to the public address system voice of the Wildcats, Stephen Shepperd.

The game was a nail biter. Kellogg's boys were getting good shots out of their offense, but many of those very good shots rolled off the rim or clanged against the heel of the rim and just wouldn't fall. I kept thinking that if I were coaching this team, I'd be happy that the boys were getting good inside shots and that some nights they just don't drop. But, the Cats scrapped. I noted that at key times players who had missed shots turned around and immediately made excellent defensive plays. They didn't sulk. The Cats got a couple of key three point goals from Grant Nearing in the second half, had other players make key shots, had enough of those good shots inside fall, and dug in fiercely on defense to hang on for a 55-50 win.

It was a lot of fun being at this game. These players handle the ball and make moves in ways I never dreamed of when I was a Kellogg Wildcat and it's fun to watch the changes in the game and how these guys play.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/09/17: Breakfast at Sam's, Working Out, Family Dinner at the Hilltop

1.  Scott and Ed were sure happy at breakfast. We've had mild weather here in the Silver Valley for the last ten days or so -- by mild, I mean, no snowfall. For Scott and Ed, that means no pain in the neck plowing or shoveling, whether it's at the local post offices or clearing the way to the Sudden Link towers above Wardner. But, as if the snow gods were taunting them, we awoke this morning to snow falling, but the Silver Valley's asphalt is warm enough that it didn't stick to the roads -- or to parking lots, so Ed, Scott, and I had a good breakfast together. We missed Buff and Jerry. Buff is out of town on a ski trip and Jerry had grandpa duties.

2. I got in a good workout late this morning. I programmed the recumbent bicycle machine to give me a random ride and so it took me, by steps, up an increasingly steeper imaginary hill. It was so steep at some points that I could barely pedal, but I persisted and knew that before too long the ride would head back downhill and, at the end of my twenty minutes of cycling, I'd get to cool down on a long stretch of an even bike trail. Today was my day to work on the upper body and, like the last time I did this, I reached a point where I felt nauseous. I took a brief time out, found a place to sit in the nearby lobby, recovered quickly, and got back at it, and, by the end of my workout, I felt refreshed and invigorated. I'm wondering if the nausea is caused by dehydration. I'm not pushing myself very hard. I mean I'm not like a guy preparing to summit Mt. Everest, ha!, so I'm going to be more mindful of drinking water and see if I can make it through my next session without feeling temporarily sick.

3. I was starting to make plans to brown the round eye roast I salted last night and to get the braising underway. But, then, a text message came shooting into my afternoon from Christy. She invited me to join her and Everett and Carol and Paul for dinner out. It turns out that Christy put in a several hours of work sorting and organizing things in their basement and helped motivate herself to do this tiresome work with the promise of going out to eat dinner.

I decided the round eye roast could wait. In fact, I salted it some more and returned it to the ziplock bag for another night of rest. I'll braise it on Saturday.

Our impromptu family dinner took place at the Hilltop Inn in Kingston. It was really fun to see the place bustling. It was pretty much a full house and people were in high spirits, enjoying one another's company and the cozy comfort of the Hilltop's renovation. At our table, we launched into all kinds of conversation, including a discussion of Paul's work history at Kellogg Transfer and the Lucky Friday mine and a review of Dad's work history, including when he left his salaried position as a foreman in maintenance at the Zinc Plant and went to the bottom of the barrel and hired out on the bull gang. Eventually, he bid himself into a job at the company warehouse. Dad showed us a lot about how it looks to surrender a job that made him miserable to do less prestigious work that made him much happier.

Back in 2006, I wrote about this time in Dad's life, here.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/08/18: The Deke's Vacation, Organizing Taxes, Cooking Projects

1.  I talked with the Deke. She's having a great visit in Eugene and is trying to figure out when she'll return to Kellogg, but she's not quite sure yet. She has spent time with friends she's known for quite a while and she's spent time in some of the places we enjoyed in back in the olden days, like both 16 Tons locations, and she's made new friends and acquaintances and has enjoyed yakkin' with people. It's been fun to have the Deke tell me all she's enjoying and it's made me very happy to know she is having such a good time.

2. The most productive thing I did during the day was go through my 2017 taxes folder to see what documents we have and what we still need before we file. I also reviewed Mom's documents and read up a little bit about filing a tax return on behalf of a deceased family member. Mom's stuff looks to be in good order, and I might be able to fill out and submit her return as soon as I muster up the energy to do it. The Deke's and my situation is a little more complicated because of our having lived in two states in 2017 and we don't have all of our income records on hand yet. We will. It's still early. But, at least I have a better idea of what's what.

3. I returned home from buying some groceries at Yoke's and having a couple of short pours of strong ale at Radio Brewing and discovered the internet service was down. I messed around with this and that, trying to figure out of I had a problem with my devices. I asked Christy if her service was out. It was. So, I knew it was a provider problem. Since I couldn't mess around on the World Wide Web, I decided to go to work in the kitchen.

It was time to get another meat stock going, so I tossed carrot greens, celery greens, a coarsely chopped onion, sprigs of oregano and a couple of beef soup bones into the crock pot along with water and now this will bubble away for a few days.

I also opened up the eye round roast that's been thawing and salted it on all sides and put it in a zip lock bag with sprigs of oregano. On Friday or early Saturday morning, I'll brown this roast on all sides and put it in the dutch oven with water, chopped aromatics, and mushrooms, carrots, onion, and potatoes and braise the meat. I've never done this before so it's a real kick to be trying something new.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/07/18: Stay Calm, Plumbing Problem Fixed, Turkey Stew

1. I woke up determined to remain calm about the plumbing problem in the basement, not to stew about it, and to go about my day until the plumber arrived sometime in the afternoon. Not long after I woke up, Ed called from Pinehurst wanting to know if I'd like to grab a cup of coffee at The Bean. I sure did and we had a great session and I told him about Tuesday's geyser in the basement and he figured the problem would be solved once the plumber brought in his equipment and cleaned out the line. Ed also presented a worse case scenario that involved excavation and creating a new draining field and even as he said he hoped I wasn't looking at this kind of deal, I kept my cool, urging myself not let my too often anxiety-driven imagination go wild. Even when I returned home, rather than sit around and worry, I went through the paces of my day, paying bills, refilling my medicine tray, cleaning the kitchen, clearing the backyard of messes the dogs had left, and putting the garbage can to the curb.

2. The plumber had had two difficult jobs in Wallace with houses built early in the 20th century that had their original plumbing. He told me this as a way of apologizing for not arriving at our house until around 4:00. I asked him if he succeeded in his Wallace jobs. He said that he did and I said, through a big smile, "So now you feel fresh and have a good attitude and are ready for another success?" He laughed and told me he sure was.

And he was. The plumber explained the way the kitchen pipe coming to the basement and the discharge pipe coming out of the washing machine joined and that over time gunk builds up and blockage occurs. He lugged one of those snaking contraptions to the basement, ran the cable through the basement drain, and cleaned out the stoppage. He ran the washing machine and let it drain.

No geyser!

The plumbing problem was solved and he gave me a few tips about how to slow down the building up of gunk. He told me about soap and lint and food. His chief bit of advice was to consider not using the garbage disposal which sends food bits down the line from the kitchen and, in time, those bits can accumulate and can cause problems.

No problem.

Soon after the plumber left, I rewashed the sopping wet clothes I took out of the machine on Tuesday. I checked how they were doing at key times in the cycle and I'm happy to report:

No geyser!

3. In the afternoon, while waiting for the plumber, I kept anxiety at bay with a cooking project. I took the turkey wings I had thawed overnight and put them on parchment paper on a baking sheet and roasted them in the oven for 45 minutes at 450 degrees. I let them cool and removed the meat from them and put the bones in a ziplock bag in the freezer to slow cook for a future soup stock. I chopped up an onion, some baby carrots, and three ribs of celery and let them cook in olive oil at a medium heat until the onions started to turn brown. Then I added a couple quarts or so of the turkey stock I'd let bubble for a week and let all that simmer until the vegetable were tender. I cooked a pot of jasmine rice and poured it into the soup along with the meat I'd taken off the wings. I knew that the rice would make this into more of a stew than a soup and that was just what I wanted. I relaxed in the afterglow of the successful plumbing operation with a bowl and half of this stew, happy with how this day turned out.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/06/18: Basement Geyser, Clean Up, Christy's Beef Barley Soup

1.  Our washing machine drains to underneath the basement floor and something in the drainage system is plugged. I was upstairs and heard rain falling in the basement and dashed downstairs to find a geyser shooting up out of the pipe that the washing machine hose goes down into. I turned off the machine.  The geyser stopped. Aside from water on the floor and dryer, there's no real damage and a plumber will come on Wednesday to assess the problem and, I hope, repair it.

2. I borrowed Christy and Everett's shop vac and sucked up most of the water off the floor and I took the laundry that was in progress out of the machine. I was going to take the laundry to Christy and Everett's but the clothes were so drippy and heavy that I decided not to carry them over. I'm trusting that tomorrow afternoon I'll have the washing machine back, and, if I don't, I'll go to the laundromat.

3. Earlier in the day, Christy invited me over to eat some beef barley soup for dinner. It's one of my favorite of all soups and Christy made expert use of leftover prime rib and a roast she took out of her freezer. The potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables were really good and the soup, bread, and cabbage salad wer a great comfort and relaxing after I'd had an unwelcome problem this afternoon in the basement.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/05/18: Working Out, High School Basketball Trip, Yakkin' at The Ref

1.  I lost last week at the Wellness Center, mostly because of all the fasting I had to do, but I was back today and had a good time on the recumbent bike and working my abs and legs and lower back on the weight machines.

2. Friday night at Corby's, Byrdman and I agreed to drive to Central Valley High School in Spokane Valley and watch Central Valley play University High in a district play-in basketball game.  Jake and Carol Lee's grandson, Jase Edwards, plays for Central Valley. They have told us how proud they are of what a good player Jase is and if Central Valley were to lose this game, their season would be over.

So Byrdman and I buzzed over to Central Valley.  Jake and Carol Lee were there along with Bucky and Debbie Fulton and, soon after we arrived, so did Stu. I got to see Kevin Edwards. Kevin and I played a lot of baseball and basketball together as young guys in Kellogg and it was good to see him. His wife Kay (Goose's sister) was with him and we had good talk before the game started.

Both teams played hard. The action was entertaining. The game was close and Central Valley came from being behind most of the game to tie it late in the fourth quarter. They had chances to win it in regulation, but the game went into overtime. University High dominated the overtime period and won 71-59.

I enjoyed watching Jase. He's a courageous, hard-nosed, and creative player. It was disappointing that Central Valley lost, but being with good friends to watch the game was a lot of fun.

3. Byrdman and I went to The Ref, an East Sprague sports bar, after the game for a couple of beers and ate dinner. The bartender's name was Brendan Ingebritsen. He was 6' 7" and was very interested that we'd been to the basketball game. It turns out he played at Mead High School approximately ten years ago and then played a year at Spokane Falls. Things were slow at the bar, so Brandon and Byrdman had a great time talking about high school basketball in the 2000's in the Greater Spokane League and beyond. It was a fun surprise to have Brandon as the bartender and made an already fun night of watching hoops a doubly fun night of talking about them.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/04/18: No Party, Family Dinner, Postgame at the Lounge

1. I relaxed and napped for much of the day. I also pondered whether I should go uptown for the Inland Lounge Super Bowl party. I decided not to. Tonight Carol cooked and served family dinner and I didn't want to come to dinner after having drinks at the Lounge. I also didn't want to come to dinner with my clothes smelling of cigarette smoke. I would have enjoyed seeing Goose and Janice and Abbie and Kate and others who attended, but this was a good day to stay home, relax, clean up, and arrive at Carol's fresh.

Another reason I stayed home is that I no longer care much about football. I check scores from time to time because I like to at least be able to talk with friends about what's going on. But, a few years back, my interest in football as a spectator sport began to wane and has continued to. I kept tabs on today's game by asking Alexa for scores periodically and we kept a very casual eye on the score during dinner, so I know who won the Super Bowl, but it had no impact on me except as an interesting fact.

2. Carol prepared a most impressive meal, one that I didn't want to end and that I wanted to return to every day this week! At six, Carol mixed us each an orange-y bourbon cocktail that had a spot of raspberry jam in it. I don't remember the name, but the brown sugary sweetness of the bourbon blended beautifully with the citrus of the triple sec and the jam added a subtle sweetness that made it a tasty and no Party,very interesting cocktail.  I can't remember the name of the drink.

Carol prepared our dinner out of a recipe book of Mom's, Lost Recipes (here), that Christy had given Mom as a gift.  Carol served tomato aspic -- molded in one of Mom's copper molds --, meatloaf, scalloped potatoes, broccoli in cheese custard, and spoonbread. For dessert, Carol prepared the first cake she ever baked in her life, when she was about ten years old, a pineapple upside down cake.

3. After dinner, I drove east on Bunker Avenue and glanced uptown and saw that the neon martini glass and its blinking straw was lit up at the Inland Lounge and so I dropped in for two Rolling Rocks and to find out how the Super Bowl party went. I yakked with Bob and his son, Ben. I met a friend of Ben's named Corey and we yakked a while and then I sat next to Ron Delcamp for some more solid gabbing and called it a night. It was a good way to round out the day and I learned a lot about all kinds of interesting things from Cas, Ben, Corey, and Ron about Ben's daughter, Corey's move from Mississippi to Seattle, the Alien Conspiracy Escape Room in CdA, and developments in public transportation in the Silver Valley. I wasn't expecting to learn so much tonight, but, then again, I never know quite what might happen on any given evening at the Lounge.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/03/18: Grateful Dead Albums, Dog Food Prep, Zags at the Lounge

1.  Over the years, I've listened to the Grateful Dead in concert, on radio shows, on the XM-Sirius Grateful Dead Channel, via live shows played on tapes Jeff gave me or live shows archived online, and on streaming services that play random shuffles of Grateful Dead tunes. Many years ago I owned the Live/Dead cd, but, for the most part, I haven't listened much to Grateful Dead albums. Today, I asked Alexa to play both Workingman's Dead and American Beauty on the Echo Dot. They were beautiful. It all came back to me how much I used to wish I could go to a Grateful Dead show without the scene. I often wished I could have heard them in a small room, like WOW Hall, without all the hoopla that accompanied their shows, and just enjoy the music. Somehow, in the small venue of my imagination,  listening to these two albums in our little house gave me that experience -- or as close as I'll ever get.

2. I bought some beef stew meat and a sweet potato and some frozen green beans, among other things, at Yoke's today and came home and cooked up some homemade dog food for Maggie and Charly, hoping that it is more substantial than the kibbles we regularly feed them. I plan to feed them the homemade food with some kibbles at bedtime and pray that they won't want to eat again at some ungodly hour like 1:30 or 2 or 3 o'clock a.m. 

3. At Corby's Friday night, I found out that Jake and Carol Lee and Bucky and Debbie would all be at the Inland Lounge on Saturday to watch the Zags play BYU. I decided to go up. Ed came, too. Cas's son's name is Ben and Ben was in town with about eight friends for Super Bowl weekend and so I got to meet Ben and also was present while Bucky and Debbie and Scott Wise* reminisced about wild stuff from the old days, especially when all these guys went to Florida for Bucky and Debbie's son Travis's wedding at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.

The game was a good one.  After three straight years of losing to BYU in the Kennel, the Zags took control of this contest early on and fought the whole game to keep their lead and they did. It was a solid win for Gonzaga and a fun night with old friends at the Lounge.

*Scott's dad, Jerry, is one of the guys at Sam's on Friday mornings for breakfast.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/02/18: Early Morning Demands and Breakfast, Back to the Dead, Tales at Corby's

1. Maggie and Charly -- the Deke tells me it's primarily Maggie -- have developed a habit of wanting to eat really early in the morning, like at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. and then go outside and bark and do their business. For a long time, they were presenting a challenge by wanting to eat at 4 or 5 a.m., but it's as if they've entered a different time zone and they are definitely on a different clock than I am, especially since the Deke left for her vacation in Eugene.

I have, for the time being, surrendered to this corgi demand and tried to make the best of it by seeing if I can achieve a new level on Candy Crush Saga and by listening to the Miles Davis Pandora station   or the Grateful Dead for a while before going back to bed.

So, this morning, when I buzzed down to Sam's at 6 a.m. to join Ed, Buff, Jerry, and Scott for breakfast, I'd been up, back to sleep for a while, and up again. I was hardly into the restaurant when Jerry bellowed at me from our table across the room, "So, Bill, how was the colonoscopy? We got no secrets here!" I laughed and said it went really well and we got our time at Sam's underway Jerry told funny colonoscopy stories, like the time he had a Mama's Cheeseburger from the HumDinger during his preparation period because he forgot he was fasting.

The subjects soon changed. I enjoyed my sausage and eggs and hashbrowns and the other stories that flew around the table.

And, on Saturday, I'm going to cook up some some homemade dog food composed of  stew meat, sweet potatoes, carrots, and green beans in a gravy and see if eating this more substantial food before bed time might help the corgis make it through the night without pestering me to get up so early to eat.

2. Back in the old days when I lived in Eugene, I was a subscriber to XM-Sirius Radio and I snored a lot and slept alone and often I put the radio on the Grateful Dead station and had it on all through the day and night in my room. Sometimes, at night or during a daytime nap, Grateful Dead songs like "Bertha" or "Scarlet Begonias" or a psychedelic, jazzy, surrealistic jam from a live "Dark Star" would sweeten my dreams.

Today, I suddenly realized that I hadn't listened to hours of non-stop Grateful Dead for quite a while, so I asked Alexa to play The Grateful Dead and our Echo Dot started playing a shuffle of all kinds of tunes, a mixture of tracks recorded in studio and others recorded live in concert, and suddenly I was back luxuriating in the unpredictable groove of the Grateful Dead's Americana folk music, rock n' roll, jazz, blues, psychedelia, and sometimes pristine and, other times, wobby vocal harmonies.

The first track that came on was "Uncle John's Band". I never heard the Grateful Dead play at the Oregon Country Fair site in Veneta, OR, and I quit going to the Oregon Country Fair twenty-five years ago, but for some reason hearing this song transports me to an imaginary and endless late August afternoon under blue skies, the air cooled by marine breezes blowing east from the Pacific Ocean, and I'm sitting near the Long Tom Rivear on the site of the Oregon Country Fair listening to an acoustic string band play slow blues and old folk tunes. Every tune is unhurried, the trees lining the river cast long cooling shadows, and I'm deep in bliss.  I never had this experience, but listening to "Uncle John's Band" sometimes makes me think I must have.

3. I snapped myself out of my Grateful Dead spell and leapt into the Sube and met Ed and Jake for a three o'clock lunch at the Hilltop Inn in Kingston. My prime rib and sauteed onions sandwich on a fresh ciabatta roll was light and juicy, perfectly fulfilling my desire to eat something delicious and that wouldn't leave me feeling stuffed.

After lunch, we headed to CdA, picked up Byrdman, and headed to Post Falls where we met up with Lars and Stu at Corby's, a bar owned and operated by Dave "Big Pappy" Corbeil, Kellogg High School Class of '67. Before he had to leave, Corby hung around for a while, knowing we Kellogg guys were coming in, and yakked with our table for a while.

As the late afternoon moved into the early evening, the stories among us Kellogg guys got better and better, funnier and funnier: Lars and Goose canoeing the Lead Creek; Lars and others getting put in jail in Superior, MT and then getting a police escort out of town; Jake, Louie, and Snotsie trying out Snotsie's Budweiser canoe on the Little North Fork when the river was running high and, well, not getting very far and miraculously surviving; Ed, Stu, Steve, and I making an epic trip to Priest Lake with Ed and me riding in a boat in the back Stu's van. There were more. I've heard every one of these stories a million times. I'm never sure when I recount them if I get the details right.  I do know, though, if we all got together again today, I'd laugh and laugh at hearing them again as if I'd never heard them before.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 02/01/18: Getting Ready, A Pleasant Colonoscopy, Pork Stir Fry and Christy's Day

1. I was up at 4 a.m. to drink the last of my colonoscopy preparation liquid and, as instructed, I followed it up with a quart of water.  My two previous colonoscopies have been early morning procedures, but, today, I didn't have to be to the medical center until 1:30, so I returned to bed and slept as long as I wanted to.  Even though the afternoon procedure meant that my fast from solid food would end up lasting about 70 hours, I preferred being able to have plenty of sleep before I went to the hospital to going up the very first thing in the morning.

2.  I showered and shaved and put on clean (loose fitting) clothes and felt remarkably spry during my barely ten minute walk to the medical center. I was assigned to Room 1 for the preliminaries and was very impressed with how not only professional and knowledgeable, but how caring, nice, and cheery the nurses and the anesthesiologist were. All my vitals were good. I was especially happy that, even though I was under some stress, that my blood pressure was good -- and it got better when they took it again in the room where I was scoped.

I knew it would be easy to talk to Dr. Sarkis. I knew him a little bit from when he lived next door to Mom for about a year about eighteen years ago. He expressed his condolences that Mom died and told me that she was a great woman. After the procedure ended and as I awoke from the deep, blissful sleep of being anesthetized, Dr. Sarkis told me that he removed one benign looking polyp and that I should return in five years.

The nurse named Kelley assured me that if Dr. Sarkis didn't like the look of the polyp, he would have told me. Nonetheless, of course, we won't have confirmation of its benignity until the lab report comes back.

So, things look good.

3. Earlier in the morning, I had cut a pork roast in half, creating two less thick roasts. I then cut these two halves into strips, salted the strips, and cut the strips into small chunks. I also prepared a marinade, without a recipe, composed of olive oil, sesame oil, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, half a lemon juiced, honey, salt, and pepper.  I also cooked a small pot of rice. My hope was that when, thanks to a ride from Carol, home from the medical center, that I'd feel like finely chopping some onion, celery, and garlic and frying it in hot oil and then stir frying the pork chunks.

Happily, I did feel like doing this cooking. I actually broke my fast a little earlier with a few crackers and a toasted English muffin and a piece of toasted Dave's Killer Bread, but the pork stir fry was my first meal since Monday evening and, as I had hoped, the marinade was a fun combination of sweetness, heat, and saltiness. The pork was tender. The flavors may not have been perfectly balanced, but I'll keep working on that.

By the way, today was a very important day for Christy. She visited an orthopedist and wrote about it as her next entry in The Shed Notebook.  Let me invite you to read it, here.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Three Beautiful Things 01/31/18: Reading About Food, Charles Mingus and Jeff Beck, Writing Regularly

1. It was an odd thing to do, but while I fasted and prepared for Thursday's procedure, I spent a few hours reading from the cookbook, Salt Fat Acid Heat. Among other things, I learned more about fat and confit and emulsion and looked at recipes for turkey confit and homemade mayonnaise and dreamed up things I could make at home that would use this mayonnaise.

I had watched a bunch of episodes of "Chopped: After Hours" on Tuesday evening and so today I read more about sauces. Those chefs on "Chopped: After Hours" often use the ingredients on hand to whip up a quick sauce and I'd like to be able to do something similar, but am so much more recipe dependent than I want to be. I got my cooking notebook back out and made a record of some of the things I read about today and look forward to trying more different things in the kitchen.

2. I was listening to a jazz playlist compiled by Amazon.  Charles Mingus arrested my attention with his composition, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat". It's a elegy to sax player, Lester Young. In reading a little bit about "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", I learned that Jeff Beck recorded a version of it on electric guitar on his album, Wired.  I enjoyed that one cut so much I listened to the entire album and also listened to the entirety of Mingus' album, Mingus Ah Um. You can listen to Mingus' combo playing "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat", here. The Jeff Beck version is here.

3. Ever since my sisters and I started writing blogs over ten years ago, we've tried out different ways to get ourselves to write regularly.

Christy has been trying out different approaches and I'm thinking she might have found what will work for her.  She entitles her regular posts, "The Shed Notebook". You can read what she has in mind for this project, here.  If you'd like to bookmark her blog, just go here.  When you go to Christy's blog, you'll see a featured post at the top. Scroll down and her daily posts will appear under the heading, "Life Lately".

About a year ago, Carol found her format for writing daily. She entitles her blog posts, "Gathering Graces". You can read what she had in mind for this project, here and scroll down to her third paragraph.  Carol posts her compositions regularly on her blog and if you'd like to bookmark it and check it out daily, go here.

If you follow my sisters' posts either on their blog or when they post them on Facebook, you'll also see that they are working on another writing project where they will do their best to write a poem a week.
Christy's first two poems are here and here. Carol posted her first poem, here.

I found my daily writing groove back in 2006 when I started posting as a part of a world-wide blogging concept called "Three Beautiful Things" and it's worked really well for me, long past the originator having shut down her blog.  I also contributed to "Sunday Scribblings" until the creators of that blog shut it down. So did Christy and Carol.

For several years we helped each other write by giving each other Sibling Assignments. I enjoyed that approach a lot, especially because it helped me get to know my sisters so much better and I thought their assignments were great prompts for getting some writing going.  Another fun things we did for a short while was Sibling Photo Assignments.  It's possible that we might get back to those projects again one day -- but maybe we have all we can handle underway right now.