Sunday, February 28, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-27-2021: LaBron Dream, Greek Soup, Big Basketball Day

 1. For those of you who read my blog posts but do not spend time on Facebook, today I posted the following summary of a dream I had Friday night that a lot of people got a kick out of and maybe you will as well.

Until Friday night I'd never had a teacher dream in which LaBron James, as a student of mine, stood up in class and complained that I was asking my writing students to do things in their papers that I didn't do in my own writing. Later, he showed up on my back porch, firm in his criticism, but handed me a 50 dollar bill.

 2. I wanted to make this simple Greek soup I'll bring to family dinner on Feb. 28th with dry cannellini beans that I soaked overnight, but Yoke's didn't have dry beans on hand, so (no problem) I bought canned ones. Today, I chopped up an onion, seasoned it with salt and pepper, sautéed it for about 10 minutes and then added a teaspoon or dried oregano and heated it up until fragrant. I then poured six cups of chicken stock, three cans of cannellini beans, and about four stalks of celery chopped, brought the soup to a boil and let it simmer for over an hour until the celery was tender. I put two cups of the soup in the blender, pureed it, added it back into the pot and added three tablespoons of lemon juice. 

That's it. I let the soup cool, put it in containers, and my contribution to tomorrow's Greek-styled family dinner is ready to be heated up at Carol and Paul's and enjoyed as an appetizer.

3. It was a wild day in college basketball. 

*I got to see D'Mitrik Trice score 19 points in the closing 2 minutes and 12 seconds! of Wisconsin's desperate effort to come from 13 points behind in the last three minutes against Illinois, but Illinois scored enough in their possessions and made enough free throws to hold off the Badgers.

Trice's spectacular shooting display was the most breath taking performance I've seen late in a game since Reggie Miller scored eight points in nine seconds! for the Pacers against the Knicks on May 7, 1995, propelling the Pacers to a shocking 107-105 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. 

*My favorite conference in the USA is the Big East. I love watching Big East teams scrap against one another and loved seeing Xavier upset Creighton (I love both teams), 77-69.

*Since I don't get the Pac 12 Network, I went online listened to the Ducks defeat the Cal Bears, 74-63. Once again, the Ducks were led in scoring and on defense by their three strong seniors: Eugene Omoruyi scored 21 points, LJ Figueroa scored 20, and Chris Duarte added 17. Figueroa also had 14 rebounds and 5 steals in a superb performance. I'm still hoping that Will Richardson will be more productive in the Ducks' remaining games. He hasn't quite come around yet after recovering from thumb surgery.

* Kansas played energetic defense. Their center, the always improving David McCormack, scored 20 points and last year's defensive player of the year, Marcus Garrett spearheaded the stifling of Baylor's All-American guard Jared Butler and the Jayhawks emphatically handed Baylor their first defeat of the season, 71-58.

* Loyola Marymount started their game against Gonzaga with high energy and held slim leads for much of the first half, but eventually the Zags' superior talent prevailed and Gonzaga wrapped up the regular season undefeated, winning 86-69. Corey Kisbert led the Zags with 24 points.  

There was more -- North Carolina over Florida State,  Louisville beating Duke, Loyola-Chicago defeating Southern Illinois, Oklahoma State squeezing by Oklahoma, Texas Tech besting Texas, and Utah vanquishing USC were all important games. They added to the drama of this full day of riveting games.  

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-26-2021: Copper the Lion, House Improvement, A Little Tequila

1. First up for grooming: Copper. Luna will have her turn next week. When I brought her in, the people at the desk explained that the groomer might cut Cooper's fur pretty short. I expected this. I okayed it. I returned around 2:00 to pick up Copper and, indeed, she now sports what I think is known of as a lion cut. Her tail has its medium length fur and her facial hair is medium length, but the fur on the length of her body is cut short. I'd say that we are starting all over again. I look forward to Copper's fur growing back in again, but the way he looks now, to me,  is just a different kind of handsome and he seems to be just fine with it!

2. After about seventy years of serving this house, I've decided the time has come to replace the original cast iron pipes underneath the cement basement floor in the utility area. A couple of guys will come week after next, jackhammer a section of the floor, replace the pipes that are there, and make some other improvements in the way way water drains from the main level of the house to the basement and on out of the house. I'm relieved to be getting this done. It's the next of a handful of things we've done to update this aging house. I'm thinking we have one more project to go and it will involve electricity.

3.  I've spent so much time over the last year staying indoors, either with Debbie or by myself, that taking care of two responsibilities (grooming and plumbing) left me feeling in need of a drink. I don't know if the cocktail was to celebrate getting things taken care of or if it was to settle down all the excitement of Copper getting groomed and discussing pipes with the plumber.

I do know that I got out a small glass, poured some 1800 silver tequila in it, added some Cointreau and lime juice, and dropped in an ice cube. This one drink was all I wanted. It tasted terrific, relaxed me, and prepared the way for me to have a long and restful night's sleep.  

Three Beautiful Things 02-25-2021: *The Pandemic Suite*, Walton's Magic Carpet Ride, How I See the Ducks

 1. Bill Davie is not only an accomplished guitar player, songwriter, and singer, he is also an accomplished poet. He recently published a complex book of poems entitled, The Pandemic Suite. I've been reading these poems and today I finished writing a short piece for the Ancient Victorys newsletter, summarizing what I saw as the many dimensions of the pandemic Bill explored in his poems and that his daughter, Alyce, portrayed in her evocative cover painting. 

If you'd like to read what I wrote about Bill's book, scroll down. I'll post it after 3BT #3. Scroll and little farther and you can read about Ancient Victorys. 

2. I've never dropped acid and have very little experience with weed. But, hey, who needs hallucinogens or psychoactive drugs when I can just tune in to any basketball game with Bill Walton on the mic and go on a magic carpet ride with the Big Red Head. 

Tonight, Grateful Bill was providing baked commentary during the Oregon Ducks' match up with the Stanford Cardinal. Walton LOVES Palo Alto, LOVES Stanford University, and LOVES the Bay Area and so every once in a while he interrupted his enthusiastic exultations and ramblings about Northern California and his LOVE of trees and acknowledged that Oregon and Stanford played a tightly contested basketball game. Cue up Steppenwolf. 

3. As I see it, the Ducks haven't quite gelled yet. Chris Duarte is playing great as a scorer from the outside and driving to the tin and he plays menacing defense.  I enjoyed L. J. Figueroa when he played for the Johnnies the last two years and he brings great energy to the Ducks. Figueroa can be a little erratic, but when his shots are dropping, as they did in a crucial stretch tonight, he is a force. Like Duarte, he's a tenacious defender and a strong leader. The third senior who makes these Ducks a tough opponent is Eugene "from Eugene (Walton)" Omaruyi. I love how he carves out space inside and makes quick moves to the hoop and he's capable of scoring from deep as well. He's tough, experienced, a little foul prone, but, to me, rock solid. 

My hope is that Will Richardson has a break out game soon and re-emerges as the kind of player he was a year ago. He missed much of the season recovering from thumb surgery and has not quite been himself since he returned. I've seen flashes of him at his best with cagey moves to the iron, some great plays on defense, and splashing the occasional trey. I think Oregon's fortunes as the season winds down and the tournaments get underway rest significantly on how much Will Richardson returns to form. 

Tonight, the Ducks defeated Stanford, 71-68, thanks largely to the three seniors and some excellent minutes from Chandler Lawson -- oh my! if this guy continues to mature, look out!

Here's what I wrote about Bill Davie's book,  The Pandemic Suite:

When you first lay hands on Bill Davie’s latest book of poems, The Pandemic Suite (Moonstruck Press 2021), linger over Alyce Davies’ evocative cover painting of a discarded sky blue mask, one loop hooked to a bare branch of a tree in late autumn. It’s emblematic of Bill Davie’s poems as they plunge into multiple facets of experiencing the pandemic. The blue mask is temporary, out of place. Wind will blow it away. Likewise, the pandemic is out of place, impermanent, but hardly insignificant.

Bill’s suite of poems confronts significant questions raised by the pandemic about meaning in life, isolation, despair, and government along with his sense of his own mortality, aging, living with M.S., physical pain, and seeking relief from it.  But this is not a gloomy book. Bill finds joy in reliving boyhood memories, inviting us to survey his world while sitting on a roof, read books with his family around a crackling beach fire, go fishing, and fall in love with rivers.  

Above all, the pandemic gives rise to Bill’s gratitude for crows, trees, water, the rhythms of seasons, his children, his marriage, and, significantly, for the act of writing itself. Bill often makes us aware of himself as a writer of these poems, expressing his gratitude for art as a way to explore life and create beauty, especially poignant in the midst of a pandemic. 

Here's the lowdown on Ancient Victorys -- and an appeal:

Ancient Victorys is an individual business, operating in a non-profit manner, to support, present, and document over 3000 musicians who appeared on Chris Lunn-run Open Mikes, concerts, jazz sessions, dances, seminars, and workshops in California and Washington from 1964-1990. 

We are supported solely through memberships, door donations, and your donations. 

COVID has hit us hard... HELP!


POB 7515, Bonney Lake, WA 98391

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-24-2021: Kellogg Motto: No Problem, Crab Stock Done, Last of the Wings

 1.  When Debbie and I decided to move to Kellogg in 2017, I committed myself to just accept that I wouldn't always be able to buy different grocery products or liquors I might want in Kellogg. After years of living in Eugene and then living in the D. C. metropolitan area, I was accustomed to being able get just about whatever I wanted near where I lived. I knew this wouldn't be true in Kellogg and I accepted that.  I committed myself to saying "no problem -- I'll adjust". 

Today, my good attitude got put to the test. I passed! 

Christy has planned a Greek dinner for Sunday and had hoped I could mix us the Greek mojitos I made about a year ago. This drink requires Metaxa and it calls for fresh mint. I picked up a little packet of fresh mint at Yoke's, but it was old, ratty, starting to go bad, so bad that the checker decided he couldn't charge me for it. My hope was that I might salvage enough leaves and sprigs to add some flavor to Sunday's mojito. But, alas, the Kellogg Liquor Store doesn't carry Metaxa. No Greek mojitos this Sunday. 

"No problem", I uttered to myself. "I'll adjust."

We'll have a tasty cocktail on Sunday. Will it be a cocktail, like a Southside, that includes mint? That's to be determined. Will I be able to make any of the mint I bought today work on Sunday? 

(By the way, I've put out an APB to Christy and Carol to see, if they should happen to go to the store in the next couple of days, if some fresher fresh mint is available!)

I do know this: true, I don't have Metaxa, but I've got a well-stocked bar and plenty of other superb options and we'll more than make due. We'll enjoy whatever drink I mix! 

No problem. We'll adjust.

2. After the crab stock had bubbled away for three days, I decided that this morning I would scoop out the crab shells and other ingredients and strain into containers my two new quarts of stock. My question now: should I use this stock right away and make (and freeze some) chowder and possibly some soup or should I freeze the stock? I'll decide today or tomorrow. 

3. I had about a half a dozen mole wings left over from Sunday dinner and I heated them up. They tasted better to me tonight than they had on Sunday. I don't know why.  Had I gotten used to this mole sauce after having three meals using it? Was I more accepting of it? Or did it age well and improve? Hard for me to say, but enjoying these wings this evening inspired me to look forward to making another mole sauce in the future (possibly using the brand new cookbook that arrived the other day: Amazing Mexican Mole: Best Mole Sauce Recipes for Every Occasion.) I am in the midst of a very low grade (and I'll say, healthy) obsession with mole sauce. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-23-2021: Rare Funk, Basketball Jitters, Songs and Poems in the Tree House

 1.  Over the course of the last eleven months or so, I have spent the vast majority of my time at home out of an abundance of caution. I don't want to contract Covid-19 and I don't want to spread it. Having made this decision, not out of fear, but in what I consider a rational manner, I have committed myself to making the most of the time I've spent sequestered in my house -- reading, watching college basketball games, keeping in electronic contact with friends through texting, Zooming, messaging, and talking on the phone, working puzzles, watching movies and television programming, writing, cooking, not drinking alone very often, and, over the last month, caring for Luna and Copper. 

As I come to understand more fully how spending many hours alone is affecting many other people adversely, I consider myself fortunate that I've learned to enhance certain aspects of my life during this time of solitude. 

All that said, for the first several hours I was awake today, things felt a bit heavy. I didn't want to fall into a state of melancholy.  I wasn't feeling quite up to reading the book on whales I've started, so I perked myself up a bit by completing an acrostic puzzle.

Then I returned to Bill Davie's new book of poetry, The Pandemic Suite, and I suddenly decided that it would lift my spirits to read his poems while eating unbuttered, unsalted popcorn. I have no idea why I suddenly craved this combination of poetry and popcorn, but it worked. I dove into the many currents of Bill's poems and munched on the small bowl of popcorn I fixed and vitality returned. I was energized. I felt like my regular sequestered self again!

2.  Last night, I tuned into the Ducks' men's basketball team's game against the Trojans with trepidation and my anxiety turned out to be warranted as the Ducks got hammered by USC.

Late this afternoon, I tuned in to watch St. John's play Villanova and I felt a similar sense of dread. Yes, just three weeks ago, St. John's hosted Villanova in Queens, NY and played a stellar game and upset the Wildcats. But I had feelings of doom about the rematch. Villanova would be highly motivated to avenge their earlier loss and the game was being played on Villanova's home court. 

Once again, my pregame jitters were warranted. Villanova pounced on St. John's, streaked to an early 10-2 lead which they expanded into a 42-25 lead by halftime and cruised to an overpowering 81-58 victory.

Nothing worked for the Johnnies, I'm aggrieved to say. Their press didn't force turnovers. They shot poorly from beyond the three point arc. They couldn't contain Villanova's offense and Villanova, time and time again, got just the shots they wanted and consistently converted them. 

In their first outing, St. John's imposed its collective will on Villanova. Their pressing defense sped up Villanova. St. John's clamped down on the Wildcat's superb point guard, Colin Gillespie, forcing him into uncharacteristic mistakes, thus throwing the Villanova offense out of whack.

Tonight's game was the opposite. Villanova dictated the game's tempo, protected the ball, got superb play out of their reserves, and defended St. John's aggressively, never letting the Johnnies get into any kind of productive flow.

I haven't checked to see if there's a Wednesday night game I'm jittery about. If there is, maybe I should spare myself the suffering of watching it!

3. Well, no jitters at 7:00 this evening! I fixed myself a cup of hot chocolate (no rum or brandy) and tuned into tonight's Tree House Concert featuring Bill Davie singing a fine selection of his own songs and taking us back to his childhood and singing songs his dad loved to sing. The first was an early bird special before he actually visually arrived on Facebook Live and the second during his concert. Bill also commemorated the passing this week of the legendary poet, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who died at the age of 101, by reading a selection of his poems. Bill's energetic musical performance and superb reading of the poems helped me to further emerge out of the temporary funk I'd been in earlier in the day. 

I was most thankful. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-22-2021: Mole Wings for Lunch, Tuna Confusion, Ducks Get Trounced (Not Beautiful!)

 1. I brought home several left over mole wings from Sunday's family dinner and heated up four or five of them for lunch and, since I have a slight surplus of sauce, I made a bowl of wings, sauce, and brown rice. I enjoyed this simple lunch and I thought that serving myself the mole sauce at a higher temperature than I served the wings on Sunday excited the spicy heat of the sauce a bit. 

2. The other day I brought a can of tuna fish upstairs and set it on a kitchen counter. As much as I try to live a mindful life, I do, well, quite often, fall short. Later in the day, I was decluttering the kitchen a bit and I mindlessly (not mindfully) put the tin of tuna in the box on top of the fridge with the other cans of cat food. 

So, a couple of mornings ago, I mindlessly (not mindfully) reached up, grabbed a tin from the cat food box, opened it, and remarked to myself that this can of food looked a lot different from the other cans of Friskie's cat pate I'd been serving Luna and Copper. Just as I was about to spoon some of the contents of this can into the cats' bowls, I suddenly realized I had opened a can of Starkist tuna. 

I laughed out loud at myself (I'm easily entertained), put the tuna fish in a glass container, and grabbed a can of actual cat food for Luna and Copper.

Well, today, I finally made use of that can of tuna and combined Kalamata olives, feta cheese, chopped celery, zucchini, cucumber, and the tuna in the bottom of a bowl and dressed it with an on the spot (and tasty) vinaigrette I threw together. I topped these ingredients with chopped red lettuce leaves and thus ended the saga of the mistaken tin of food.

3. Six o'clock rolled around and I was nervous. Earlier in the day, I'd told both Byrdman and Stu I was anxious. I was feeling shaky about the Oregon Ducks' men's basketball game against the Pac-12 Conference leading USC Trojans. I felt jittery not only because USC has a terrific team, but also because Oregon had just played Colorado and Utah in Eugene on Thursday and Saturday. Both games were nail-biters. That the Ducks had to travel to L.A. and play a great team on the road on Monday, with little time to rest or prepare, had me on edge.

Turns out my anxiety was warranted. 

This game, especially the first ten minutes or so, was a nightmare for the Ducks.

In the opening minutes, while USC's Tahj Eaddy was torrid, hitting his first three shots from three-point range, the Ducks made a painful visit to Clang City and missed their first twelve shots and quickly fell behind 17-1. In fact, the Ducks didn't hit a shot from the field until 11:57 was left in the first half. I've never seen a Ducks team, since Dana Altman became the head coach,  look so discombobulated. The Ducks were sluggish on defense, seemed confused on offense, and just didn't have any zip for, I'd say, over half of the first half.

The Ducks were behind by 21 at half time and, in the second half, started to play better. So, even though the Ducks outscored USC in the second half, the horrible start to this game was too much to overcome. The Trojans triumphed, 72-58. 

I understand the impulse coaches have not to make excuses for a team's performance. Personally, though, I don't think it's making an excuse to point to rational reasons why a team performed poorly.

In the first half of this game, the Ducks looked like they were still on the plane flying to L.A. To me, they looked tired, both physically and mentally. As happens with athletes, later in the game, their energy returned. That was good to see. 

The Ducks are on the road again on Thursday and Saturday against Stanford and Cal. 

I hope a few days rest, especially to rest their minds and spirits, will refresh the Ducks and they play at their best in the Bay Area. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-21-2021: Top-Notch Hoops, Crab Stock and Wings, Family Dinner

1. This morning's basketball game between Michigan and Ohio State might have been an even better game than I had hoped for. These are two of the top three teams in the Big Ten Conference. Michigan is ranked #3 in the nation and Ohio State is rated #4. Michigan and Ohio State are two versatile, deep, teams that are adept at playing at a variety of styles and tempos. 

Thanks to some blistering shooting from behind the three-point line (10-13) in the first half, Michigan held a slim 45-43 lead at the intermission. Their long range shooting cooled off (1-10) in the second half, but -- and I said they were versatile! -- they got superb play out of their mammoth 7-1 freshman center, Hunter Dickinson, who scored 22 points for the game, and was a force near the basket. Ohio State's E. J. Lindell and Duane Washington, Jr. scored 23 and 30 points and gave the Michigan defense fits throughout the tilt. In the end, Ohio State committed a couple of head scratching turnovers late in the game, just couldn't contain Dickinson, and Michigan held off Ohio State's furious late game efforts to draw even and won 92-87.

Watching these two teams today and having watched several of the top teams across the country play this season, I'm thinking this year's NCAA national tournament could be a real donnybrook. I might be in the minority, but off the top of my head, I can imagine Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois, Baylor, possibly Iowa, Gonzaga, Florida State, and possibly others as capable of winning the national tournament. I've been wrong many times before, and I might be now, but I do not subscribe to the idea that Gonzaga and Baylor are playing at a level superior to the rest of the nation and are clearcut favorites to play in the championship game. To me, it's much more wide open than that -- and, there are teams like Oregon and Kansas and others who seem to be improving with each game late in the season and could cause some of the premier teams a lot of problems. 

2.  Once the game ended, I shifted into high gear in the kitchen. 

First of all, this morning, Ed brought me by a bag full of crab shells. The Elks Crab Feed was a carry out event this year and, on Saturday night, Ed, Nancy, Jake, and Carol Lee had crab dinner together and, I deeply appreciate this, saved their shells for me.

Before Ed arrived, I had cut up an onion, some celery, celery greens, green onion, and cilantro and put it in the crock pot. After I secured the shells, I poured them in the crock pot, covered the shells and other ingredients with water, and seasoned everything. I'll let it bubble away for a couple or three days now. 

Second, I took the chicken party wings that had been marinating in tequila, lime juice, garlic, and cilantro out of the refrigerator and also took out the mole sauce I made last night.

The mole sauce seemed tamer today, but, I decided to bake about 7-8 chicken pieces without the sauce. Not only did I want anyone sensitive to spicy hot things to have an option, I was also curious how the marinated chicken would taste without the sauce.

So, I set some pieces aside and I took all the other pieces out of the zip lock bag one by one and put them in a bowl with half of the mole sauce I made and coated the pieces with sauce. I arranged them in a baking pan. I arranged the naked pieces in a smaller pan. I baked them for 30 minutes at 400 degrees, took them out, turned each of them over, and baked them for about 20 more minutes. I removed the chicken from the oven. After about fifteen minutes of cooling off, I put the pieces of chicken in the remaining mole sauce for a second coating and returned them to the baking dish. Later, I would warm up all that chicken for a while when I arrived at Carol and Paul's. 

Third, I also wanted to make an appetizer and originally planned to melt cheese in-between two toasted corn tortillas and cut the tortillas (quesadillas?) in quarters.

I changed my mind. I would still make quesadillas (are they?), but instead of just having shredded cheese inside, I decided to make a batch of refried pinto beans, melt the cheese in the beans, and line the bottom corn tortilla with cream cheese. So, I fixed and served what I called refried pinto beans and cheese with cream cheese quesadillas cut into wedges. Carol provided salsa and cream cheese for the appetizer. 

3. I got myself organized and headed over to Carol and Paul's for family dinner. I put my stuff in Carol and Paul's lower oven to warm up and then sat down to enjoy tonight's cocktail. Carol mixed each of us a Gold Rush. It's similar to a Whiskey Sour, but instead of simple syrup, the Gold Rush includes honey syrup. Carol also had read that this cocktail would be enhanced by including grapefruit peel. I agree. I thought the grapefruit added a zip to this drink that I enjoyed a lot.

So, we had our appetizers. I also put out celery sticks to eat whenever anyone wanted them.

Then I brought out the chicken wings and Carol put out the macaroni and cheese I asked her to make. My thought had been that if the mole sauce was kind of spicy hot that the macaroni and cheese would balance out the heat (along with the celery sticks). Well, to be honest, I also just liked the idea of having macaroni and cheese and chicken wings together. 

The wings turned out to be mild. I was grateful that that was the case. 

My sense was that everyone enjoyed this dinner -- it was the first time we'd had chicken wings for family dinner and definitely the first time we'd had anything with mole sauce. I'm going to keep experimenting with mole sauce at home. There's a balance between heat and chocolate that I imagine, but that I haven't quite achieved yet.

We ended the night with a delicious Mexican Chocolate Tart, a really tasty dessert that Christy made. 

If I were to do this dinner again, I'm not sure I would coat the chicken a second time with mole sauce as directed in the recipe. I'll have to think about it, but I think I like wings better when they are less saucy than these wings turned out to be. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-20-2021: Tequila Marinade, Morning Glory Muffins, Mole Sauce

 1.  Normally, I like to keep to myself what I'm bringing to Sunday family dinner. But, since I did the preparations for my dish today and want to write about it, I'll reveal what I'm up to. 

I found a recipe for mole chicken wings. It calls for a marinade and so, this morning, I mixed tequila, limes, garlic, and cilantro in a bowl, put the party wings and drumettes in a gallon zip lock bag, and poured the marinade over the chicken pieces. I'll leave them in the refrigerator over night.

2. I had predestined today to be a domestic day, mostly cooking and baking. My next project? Bake Morning Glory muffins. To me, these are fun muffins to bake and eat because of all the ingredients in them. The recipe I use calls for grated zucchini, carrot, and apple, so I performed that task first. To these ingredients I added coconut and slivered almonds. In a second bowl, I combined eggs, applesauce, vegetable oil, and vanilla, whisked them all together, and then stirred into it the contents of the first bowl.

In a third, larger bowl, I combined all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt and then combined the wet ingredients from the second bowl into this bowl of dry ingredients.

Previously, I had preheated the oven at 350 degrees and I had lined our muffin tin with paper liners.

This recipe makes two batches of muffins. 

I made this recipe a few months ago. On that day, I didn't think it would matter if I used about 4 oz too much applesauce, but, in fact, it mattered a lot and the muffins were just a little too moist. Oh! I ate them! I just knew I wouldn't make that mistake again.

These batches turned out just right. The moisture level is what I think it should be. It's not a particularly sweet recipe, so the much of the flavor comes from the zucchini, carrots, apples, spices, and nuts. 

I made this recipe in the first place because during a Tree House concert, Bill Davie mentioned how he and Ray Robertson, as they headed out to the woods to work one summer over twenty years ago,  routinely stopped at the local bakery, Cinnamon Twisp, for coffee and a Morning Glory muffin. So, today, I was once again grateful for Bill's story and that he inspired me to find a recipe and bake these muffins.

3. Mole chicken wings require mole sauce. I was enjoying my time in the kitchen, so I decided to make the sauce today and cook the wings on Sunday. 

I began by putting a chopped onion in hot oil and cooking the pieces until they were golden. To the onions, I added a mixture of almonds, garlic, cumin, coriander, black pepper, oregano, salt, and cloves. I sautéed this mixture for a couple of minutes or so and transferred the mixture out of my cast iron skillet into a Dutch oven.

To this aromatic mixture I added tomato paste, chopped dry and heated chiles, raisins, toasted sesame seeds, orange zest, the juice of an orange, and chicken stock.

I brought this mixture to a boil, quickly turned down the heat to simmer, and let it bubble away for about half an hour.

I then turned off the heat, added in a chopped disk of Mexican chocolate, put the lid on the Dutch oven, and gave the chocolate about fifteen minutes to melt. I stirred the sauce, let it further cool off for another 20-30 minutes, and then ladled it into the blender and pureed it for a couple of minutes or so.

I wanted this to be a mild sauce, but I think when I toasted the dry peppers, I might have coaxed more heat out of them than I intended. I de-stemmed and de-seeded the peppers, but they might be adding too much heat to the sauce. I'll see how spicy hot the sauce is on Sunday after sitting overnight.

If it seems like it's a bit too spicy hot, I will do three things: 1) have sour cream on hand to cool off the wings 2) serve celery sticks that can also help cool off one's mouth 3) hold out 6-8 pieces of marinated chicken and bake them without mole sauce, but have sauce on hand if whoever eats these pieces might want to put sauce on them. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-19-2021: Like Being an Instructor Again, Whales Suffer, Back to Tokyo

 1. I had a great talk with Val on the phone at noon. She told me how she plans to write the five page research essay growing out of her reading of Rising Tide, a paper she will submit as a part of her application to earn a Master's degree in history. I enjoyed hearing her ideas about exploring the role of the federal government in responding to disasters in the USA and (even more) I enjoyed feeling like an instructor again. When I was an instructor, I really enjoyed having individual conferences with my students to discuss their writing. Val is my friend, not my student, but her call gave me some good teacher feelings I hadn't had in quite a while. 

I sure look forward to reading her essay.

2. The book Fathoms: The World in the Whale is going to take me a while to read. It is not the sweet human/whale story that Grayson  was. The content of Fathoms disturbs me and I see myself reading this book in small chunks. Rebecca Giggs writes elegantly and eloquently about the damage pollution of all sorts does to our oceans and how that pollution is absorbed by and does terrible damage to whales -- and, of course, to other marine life. I have written in this blog before that I enjoy reading books and stories that explore connectedness in life, but I also know that this connectedness can be, in fact, often is, damaging. It's painful to read about the human produced toxins whales absorb from the water and the air and to read about the garbage that's been dumped in the ocean that whales ingest. I don't know exactly where this book is headed, but, after reading one chapter, the world this book explores in the whale is, in part, the human world of chemicals, carelessly discarded objects, and other stuff not naturally a part of the ocean's ecological system. It's deadly. 

3. I returned this evening to the series, Midnight Diner. I don't want to finish this series too soon. I enjoy watching episodes once in a while so that I have viewing to look forward to -- it's the opposite of binge watching. The episode I watched tonight featured a very unusual situation and, as far as food goes, it was centered on Nikujaga, a meat and potato stew. I just hate to give away any part of this story -- I would have hated to have known anything about it before I watched it. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-18-2021: Secret Surprise!, Helping Copper, Enjoyed the Ducks

 1. I made a trip to Yoke's and stocked up on everything from slivered almonds to cat litter! I won't give away what I'm making for family dinner on Sunday, but I will say that, to my surprise, a product I sorely needed/wanted was available at Yoke's -- and I'd never seen this product at Yoke's before. I was stoked when I saw it. I hope it will be a regular item!

2. Copper has done a little bit of business outside of the litter box. Luckily, it was a very easy clean up, but I wondered if possibly the litter box needed a deep cleaning and I wondered if maybe bringing the second box into play might make Copper happier. So, I deep cleaned both boxes. I put the second box in the room where Copper has left me a couple of "gifts" and I'll see if the cleaning and the second box makes him feel better. 

3. I enjoyed watching Iowa defeat Wisconsin late this afternoon and was impressed with how Gonzaga, as expected, completely dismantled St. Mary's. I also enjoyed watching the end of Ohio State's win over Penn State. But, most of all, I enjoyed popping a bowl of popcorn and watching the Oregon Ducks win a tough game against the Colorado Buffaloes. 

The Ducks have played on television a handful of times lately and it's fun to see how they are coming together as a team despite a disruptive season. Their season has been thrown off my Covid-related shutdowns, injuries, and having several new players join their team. But Will Richardson is back after recovering from thumb surgery. That's stabilizing. Chris Duarte seems recovered from his ankle injury and is playing superbly. The former Johnnie, L. J. Figueroa seems to be fitting in better and better with his new team. Eugene Omoruyi is a superb addition to the Ducks and, as long as he stays out of foul trouble, is a force when the Ducks have the ball. Tonight, I thought the Ducks' defense also showed improvement. They hassled and disrupted Colorado into turning the ball over much more than the Buffaloes usually do.

This game was tight right to the end. The Ducks won it, 60-56. They now host Utah on Saturday. I wish I had access to the Pac-12 Network. I'd enjoy seeing this game. I think I can listen to it online, though. I might just do that. 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-17-2021: Search for Mom, Hamburger Soup, Next Whale Book

 1. I took a special pleasure in reading a book that I could finish in a day! Over the last year, I've read several (for me) long books (Bleak House, Pillars of the Earth, The Woman in White, and others). I am a slow reader and my reading stamina has diminished over the years. It takes me much longer to read a book now than it did, say, when I was a graduate student. 

This is all to say that I finished Lynne Cox's memorable memoir, Grayson, today. I very much enjoy stories about relationships between humans and animals, stories about the invisible bonds that connect beings to one another. 

When she was seventeen (about 47 years ago) Lynne Cox, a now world famous open water swimmer, was doing her routine swimming/training in the ocean near Seal Beach, CA when a lost baby gray whale visited her. Cox's book tells the story of the brief, but deep relationship that developed between Cox and the baby whale (she named him Grayson) and her efforts over several hours to reunite Grayson with his mother. 

2. I had thawed out a small packet of ground beef today. I browned it along with half an onion chopped. I added can of diced tomatoes, green beans, corn, chopped up potatoes, and chicken stock to the ground beef and onions, seasoned it. Before long I had a delicious soup to eat for dinner. I made myself corn tortilla quesadilla wedges to enjoy with my soup.

3. I decided to get going on the other whale book I purchased this month. It's entitled Fathoms: The World in the Whale. I haven't read a word about the book. Its author, Rebecca Giggs, is Australian and the book opens with a humpback whale stranded and dying on a beach near Perth. I'm not very far into the book, yet. I am eager to find out what this dying whale inspired her to pursue about whales and eager to learn more about this majestic mammal as I read on. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-16-2021: History and Thrift, Johnnies Win and I Forget, *Grayson*

1. "Thrift, thrift, Horatio! The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the wedding tables!"

These are Hamlet's words. He sarcastically and bitterly tells Horatio that his mother married his uncle so soon after his father's death to save money, to make double use of food, to serve funeral leftovers at her wedding feast.

Today I finished reading Rising Tide. While the story of the 1927 flooding of the Mississippi River basin dominates the book, I also read it as a story about thrift, about not spending money, about regarding the protection of wealth and resources as more important than alleviating suffering;  and, not only protecting wealth, but protecting a central ideological principle that goes something like this: if those with the means to help those suffering deprivation (homelessness, displacement, no food, etc.) extend help to them, it will sully the character of the recipients, kill their motivation to care for themselves, and encourage laziness and dependence on others. 

Eventually, and this was a first in the United States, the federal government helped fund emergency flood relief.

Rising Tide is subtitled, The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America

Using public funds, federal funds, and drawing upon the resources of the federal government to help alleviate the suffering and repair the destruction brought on by this catastrophic flooding was the act that "changed America". 

I've read three history books recently: How the South Won the Civil War, The Legacy of Conquest, and Rising Tide. Each author, Heather Cox Richardson, Patricia Nelson Limerick, and John M. Barry, in their own ways, confront the conflict always at the center of life in the USA between those who see the federal government as a problem, a hindrance to how we live our lives and those who see the federal government as source of protection, relief, and needed regulation. 

For many, and these books all examine this, it's a matter of thrift, of saving one's money, of people taking care of themselves and living lives as unbridled as possible. For others, it's a matter of living in a social contract, of acting upon an obligation to contribute to the welfare of others. 

I like that word continuum in relation to history and the questions that arose about how best to address the suffering people endured in the 1927 flood are with us right now as we tackle the pandemic or as the arguments about the power outages in Texas and how to alleviate misery there rev up. As these current problems are discussed from every angle, the various positions people took in 1927 are much the same as the positions people are taking right now.

Oh! I forgot to mention the threads of corruption that continue. I guess I can't yak about everything.

2.  There is no way that I think the Big East is the strongest men's college basketball conference in the USA.  In fact, I have no idea how teams in the Big East will stack up against teams from the other power conferences if and when they square off in the NCAA Tournament.

Here's what I do know: I love to watch Big East basketball on the Fox sports networks. I love to watch these teams play each other. I enjoy the different styles of play, the heated competition, and how I'm never sure how the games will come out.

In fact, I got so wrapped up late this afternoon and early this evening in the scintillating tilt between St. John's and Xavier that I forgot all about tonight's Tree House Concert and I missed it. It wasn't until Diane messaged me later in the evening, checking to make sure I was all right (I had tuned in to 40 straight of these concerts!), that I realized that I had lost track of the days (it seemed like Monday to me) and that I was so excited to watch the Johnnies play that I forgot all else.

About the Johnnies, I'll just say that they pressed and hassled Xavier all game long. The Johnnies got scoring production from several players and continued to be led by Posh Alexander and Julian Champagne  who made great plays on both ends of the floor.  Back in January, St. John's record in league play was 1-6. Now they are at 8-7. I have loved watching their improvement, seeing them coalesce into a really fun and cohesive team to watch play. Today the Johnnies defeated Xavier, 93-84.

3. Having finished Rising Tide, I will now turn my attention to Bill Davie's new collection of poems, The Pandemic Suite and, I started a new book of non-fiction last night. It's called Grayson. It's a short memoir by Lynne Cox telling the story of the experience she had with a baby grey whale when she was seventeen years old. I recently purchased books on salmon, beavers, and another whale book. I'm hoping to read these nature related books before returning to other books: biography, history, politics, and travel. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-15-2021: Money and Hardness, Red Curry, Cavaliers Wilt and the Women Ducks Get Nipped

 1. I haven't quite finished Rising Tide. I have about 60 pages left. I wrote a little while back about how, in 1927, the very wealthy bankers and other moneyed interests in New Orleans lobbied for and eventually succeeded in having a section of the levee just south of New Orleans dynamited. As it turned out, New Orleans was not in danger of being flooded, but speculation and panic combined to hurt the city's economy. Frightened citizens abandoned the city and tourists were afraid to visit. Port business showed signs of declining. By dynamiting the levee repeatedly, potential danger in New Orleans was shifted to actual destruction in the St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes. Residents had time to evacuate. Some lived as refugees in New Orleans warehouses; others traveled out of the area. Houses, farms, trapping areas, fisheries, business, and other entities were destroyed. Before the blowing up of the levee, the people of these parishes had been given assurances that they would be compensated. They would be taken care of. 

They weren't. 

I've been reading the story of how the wealthy put their minds to work, not to help alleviate suffering and help people of already limited means get back on their feet again, but to pay out as little reparations as possible and protect their own largesse. The flooding of the parishes was a great success in alleviating economic fears, in restoring confidence in those wanting to do business in New Orleans. But the powerful and wealthy failed miserably when it came to fundamental honesty, keeping promises, being generous, and funding basic humanitarianism. In fact, they didn't just quietly lie, break promises, hoard money, and enact cruelty. They pursued these ends aggressively.

2. I made a small batch of red curry and added green beans and the few pieces of flank steak I had leftover from preparing the Thai Beef and Peppers to the sauce. I poured the sauce over about half of the leftover Spicy Thai Linguine I had left. It was an awesome dinner.

3. Because the Atlantic Coast Conference is having an off year and Virginia has won quite a few games in this weakened conference, it's hard to know just how strong the Cavs really are.

Well, Virginia didn't look strong at all this afternoon. Their conference rival, the Florida State Seminoles, crushed them. Florida State overpowered Virginia with their length, height, quickness, sharp shooting, suffocating defense, and depth. What I had hoped would be a closely contested tilt simply was not. Florida State crushed Virginia, 81-60. 

Because YouTube TV doesn't carry the Pac 12 Network, I hadn't seen the women's team from Oregon play this season.  Until tonight.

ESPN broadcast their game this evening against Stanford.

My one dominant impression was that this Oregon Ducks team is inexperienced, talented, and unsure of themselves. 

I loved how they fought back in this game. At one point in the second quarter, the Ducks were down by 15 points, but they clawed back, eventually taking a slim lead late in the fourth quarter.

In the closing minutes, though, Stanford prevailed, thanks, in my view, to being a more experienced team and hitting some shots late. Oregon had a couple of really good chances to tie this game late -- or even go ahead, but whereas Stanford's late shots dropped, the Ducks' Taylor Mikesell had an open trey spin out and, in their last possession, down by two points, the Ducks' point guard, Te-Hina Paopao slipped, lost her footing, and travelled with just a couple of seconds left.  Sadly, the Ducks didn't launch a shot in this last possession and lost the game, 63-61. 

My impression is that it's been a helter skelter season for the Ducks. Not only have they been through periods of inaction because of Covid-19 protocols, but they've also had key players out with injuries. I also know that Taylor Chavez has, during this season, traveled to Arizona to be with her ailing grandmother. 

So, to me, as of now, the Ducks seem to be working to get in synch. They play in a difficult conference and my sense is that some of the players are working to regain their confidence after not performing well against powerful teams. I'm not sure, with as fragmented as this season has been, that the Ducks have settled their player rotations. I'm not sure Coach Graves knows just yet which players work together the best. 

The Ducks look, to me, like a team with a lot of potential that needs time to develop. Surely, the Ducks built some confidence tonight and surely they learned a lot about themselves as a team. If the young players stay in Eugene, if they don't have many players transfer (my guess is that some will), we might not see this team gel until next season. 

Oh! Don't get me wrong. They'll end the season with a solid record and will play in the NCAA tournament.  But, Oregon wants to be a team that competes every year for a conference title. It won't happen this year, but these young players will benefit from this year's experience and will be right back in the race next season -- or so I predict! 

Monday, February 15, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-14-2021: Cauliflower Cakes, Living in the USA, Valentine's Day Family Dinner

 1. My assignment for family dinner tonight was to mix dry gin martinis (up, stirred) and to bring an appetizer. Carol made a specific request that I bring stuffed mushrooms. I've never made them before. Different recipes recommended mushrooms that are two inches in diameter and I decided I couldn't count on buying such mushrooms at Yoke's. 

So, I pulled out The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook and looked for other easy to eat vegetarian appetizers. Since we were having shrimp and rib eye steaks for dinner, I thought a vegetable appetizer would be better than a fish or meat appetizer. After some searching, I found a recipe that looked fun to make and that would work for this dinner: Cauliflower Cakes. I love crab cakes and salmon cakes and I figured I'd give the cauliflower cakes a shot.

I combined olive oil, turmeric, ground ginger, and coriander (which I ground myself with my mortar and pestle!), pepper, and salt in a bowl and covered a head's worth of cauliflower florets with this mixture. I roasted the seasoned florets for about 25 minutes at 450 degrees. I let the florets cool and then mashed them. I then stirred in goat cheese, an egg, a minced garlic clove, and lemon zest and sprinkled flour over this mixture and stirred it in. 

I made this part of the appetizer on Saturday night. On Sunday, I formed eight cakes (the recipe said make four, but I wanted smaller ones) and cooked them in shimmering olive oil until golden brown -- or, in my case, more like dark brown sugar brown -- I slightly overcooked a few of them (no problem). 

I placed the cakes on a paper towel lined plate to drain off some of the oil.

I also made a dressing out of yogurt, olive oil, garlic, and shredded, seeded cucumber. I didn't have Greek yogurt on hand, so I used plain yogurt. The dressing was good, but might have been even better with Greek yogurt. I thought the dressing needed a little kick so I squeezed some lemon juice into it and next time, if I make this again, I think I'll add some cumin.

I warmed up the cakes at Carol and Paul's house and everyone thought these cakes tasted pretty good.

2. Diane, Bill, Val, Colette, and I jumped on the Zoom machine around 2:00 and had a great discussion of U. S. history. It was a wide-ranging discussion, inspired by reading Diane's been doing in the Atlantic, Val's and my reading of the book Rising Tide, Colette's current studies in rhetoric and a book she's been reading on the agrarian myth, and Bill's insights into how people's understanding of all kinds of social injustices, especially our shared involvement in them, have evolved in the last four years or so in the face of recent events. Today we shared some family stories, summations of reading we've been doing, commentary on the presidential transition, and, from my point of view, the often bewildering experience not only of living in the USA, but of the inescapability of our country's history and each of our places in it. 

Before logging into this discussion, I mixed myself my very first Vieux Carre, a mixture of rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, and Benedictine liqueur bolstered with dashes of Peychaud's and Angostura bitters. I will freely admit that this wonderful New Orleans cocktail enhanced my enjoyment of discussing our country and ourselves with these brilliant friends.

3. I have been a longtime Grinch about Valentine's Day. I admit it. But, a week ago, I told Christy, Carol, and Paul that if we wanted to make tonight's family dinner kind of a special Valentine's Day feast that I would not be a spoil sport and that I'd happily join in. 

Christy has always loved Valentine's Day and this one was going to be difficult with Everett being gone. 

So, I'd say, we did all we could to make our dinner feel like we were at a solid surf and turf restaurant.

I mixed martinis to start -- I thought that was pretty classy.

I also think savory cakes are kind of classy and that the cauliflower cakes were special.

Carol and Paul subscribe to a Naked Wine delivery service and they popped open a very high quality bottle of Pinot Noir (my favorite!).

Carol made us each a green salad dressed with Blue Cheese/Roquefort dressing, homemade; Carol used the recipe that they used at the Sunshine Inn and that has been a part of our family for over fifty years. 

Next, Carol and Paul served a plate of perfectly broiled rib eye steak, pan fried shrimp, and a baked potato about the size of a bread box! Carol set out butter and sour cream.

This meal was incredible. 

We ate, talked, finished, let our meal settle in a bit, and the Christy served us each a helping of perfectly assembled Silhouette Pudding, a light and most delicious combination of cookies and whipped cream. 

Christy also gave us each Valentine's Day gifts. Now I have a jar of Luxardo cherries to serve in future Manhattans and other drinks calling for a cherry and I have several disks of Ibarra Mexican chocolate. Soon, my mole sauce recipe book should be arriving and I'll be continuing to experiment with mole sauces. When the recipes call for Mexican chocolate, I'll have plenty on hand. Christy also included some chocolate hearts and a thoughtful card with these gifts. 

So, in conclusion, I'm really happy that I let go of my long held antipathy toward Valentine's Day.

This one was fun, tasty, and memorable. 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-13-2021: New Cocktail Coming, Classic Match Up, Delicious Leftovers

 1.  After a very quick trip to Yoke's for a few groceries, I also made a quick trip to the liquor store. I have been asked to mix martinis for family dinner, so I bought a bottle of Tanqueray to make sure I didn't run out; I also bought a bottle of Basil Hayden Rye Whiskey (not dark); and, because the book Rising Tide has me thinking a lot about New Orleans, I bought a bottle of D.O.M. Benedictine Liqueur and now I can mix a Vieux Carre to enjoy during the upcoming February 14th ZoomFest with my Westminster friends.

2. Even though it didn't turn out to be nail-biter, the Creighton/Villanova basketball game this afternoon was one of the most enjoyable I've watched this season. I especially delighted in the contrast in the two teams' approaches. Creighton plays an uptempo game. They want to speed up everything and they will let parabolas fly from behind the three point line at any time, whether in a half court set or in transition. At the same time, Creighton's players also love scoring at the tin, whether with explosive drives or alley-oop passes, especially to Christian Bishop.

Villanova, on the other hand, prefers a slower tempo. They prefer getting into their half court sets, moving the ball crisply, and finding open shooters. On their best nights, the Wildcats shoot accurately from behind the three point arc, but are also proficient at finding open players making intelligent cuts away from the ball to the iron. 

These are two superior teams, loaded with talent to play their given styles.  Games between them become a question of which team can dictate the tempo and assert its will over the other.

This afternoon, the day belonged to Creighton. Their guards, Marcus Zegarowski and Mitch Ballock, scored from all points of the half court with dagger three pointers and explosive drives to the basket. Christian Bishop was a powerful force inside and Creighton's forwards, Denzel Mahoney and Damien Jefferson also added points, both from the perimeter and in close. Creighton's attack was balanced and aggressive. To me, equally impressive was their defense. Their defense disrupted Villanova and a disrupted Villanova squad is a much less effective one.

Final score: Creighton 86, Villanova 70. 

3. I thought the Thai Beef with Peppers I cooked on Friday tasted even better on Saturday. I especially like the marinade and I thought its gingery, garlic-y, soy sauce-y, brown sugar-y flavors matured overnight. 

This evening I got the appetizer I'm bringing to family dinner started and I'll finish cooking it some time before heading over to Paul and Carol's. The appetizer requires a simple dressing. I'll make it just before going over, too. I'm going to hold off revealing what I made -- I'll only say that I did not make the stuffed mushrooms I was assigned and I'll say that I have never served this appetizer before, anywhere at any time!  

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-12-2021: Luna and Copper Are Not Corgis, Linda's Visit, Thai Beef with Peppers BONUS A Limerick by Stu

1. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might remember that our treasured corgis, Charly and Maggie, scream barked when I vacuumed. Because of their scream barking, I put off vacuuming as long as I could and then braced myself for high decibels and, sometimes, Maggie's lunges at and her attempts to bite the vacuum cleaner. 

So, I wondered today, as I brought out the Shark, how would Copper and Luna respond to me vacuuming? Would they scream? Yowl? Hiss? Caterwaul? Snarl? Growl? 

I failed to consider one option: act like nothing was going on.

That's what Luna and Copper did. They established themselves as above the indignities of Charly and Maggie's hyperactive panic. They calmly, cooly watched me, slightly bored, and gave no indication that they would deign to allow their peaceful existence to be ruffled by a silly machine.

2.  Linda was in Kellogg to run some errands, including bringing Christy and me scones and books. She was also paying Copper and Luna a visit. I offered to mix us each a dirty martini, but Linda declined because she was going to be inoculated for Covid-19 at Wal-Mart a little later on. I was happy that Luna and Copper were pleased to show Linda how contented they are. Copper curled up much of the time in his now favorite chair and Luna camped on my lap during much of Linda's visit. Linda and I talked about a lot of things and had a really good visit. 

3. Back on September 20, 2020, Hugh and Carol Crozier and Stu joined Christy, Carol, Paul, and me for family dinner.

Carol and Hugh came bearing gifts. They brought me a pound of Spicy Thai Linguine from Pappardelle's Pasta, located in Seattle's Pike Place Market, and a recipe for Thai Beef with Peppers.

I'm slow. For no good reason, I didn't make this recipe until today.

I'm sure glad I did.

The first thing I did was combine soy sauce, cooking sherry, brown sugar, cornstarch, ginger, chili paste, garlic, and lime juice into a bowl. This was the marinade.

Then I cut a chunk of flank steak into thin pieces and marinated them well beyond what the recipe called for -- about six hours.

After Linda and I concluded our visit, I returned to the kitchen and cut up an onion and a red pepper and added some cayenne pepper to them. I cooked them up, set them aside, and put the steak pieces in the Dutch oven and let them sizzle for a while, turned them over, and sizzled them some more. I poured the onions and red peppers back in with the meat and poured the extra marinade over it and let this cook. Meanwhile, I boiled the linguine, saved out some pasta water, drained it, and combined as many of the noodles as I wanted in with the steak, red pepper, and onion. I thinned the sauce with the pasta water I held out. 

It was a very good meal and I have plenty left over and look forward to eating some more of this dish and I'm thinking I might make a red curry, borrow some of the flank steak from my leftovers, and serve the curry over some of the leftover Spicy Thai Linguine. 

Here's Stu's limerick:

Heroes come in all sizes and shapes. 
Can’t tell from looks or the tales of the tapes. 
They can save or defend, 
Provide guidance or mend. 
Not always dressed up in tights and long capes.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-11-2021: Herbert Hoover's Impressive Work, First Vaccination, Ducks Win!

 1. The latest in Rising Tide: Herbert Hoover oversaw and engineered the relief effort during and after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and his work was nothing short of remarkable. My own thinking about Herbert Hoover has never been very substantial. I know that his single term as president was catastrophic. The stock market crashed and the Great Depression took over the USA. But, now I  know that he made a well-deserved great name for himself in organizing refugee camps, delivery of food, rescue efforts, and the rest of the logistics necessary to ease thousands of people's suffering during the Mississippi River basin's slow, mighty, destructive, and months-long flood in 1927. 

Some time soon, I'm going to return to the podcast Presidential and listen to the episode on Herbert Hoover and listen to what his biographer, Charles Rappleye, has to say about this contrast between Hoover's astonishing success leading disaster relief and his terrible failure as a president. 

2.  I drove uptown to Heritage Health this afternoon, joined a short line of cars, signed a couple of forms, drove under a car port, opened the Sube's door, and received my first Covid-19 vaccination. The woman who inoculated me directed me to join another line of cars. I complied. A woman marked the time on my side view mirror and instructed me to sit for fifteen minutes. I read about Herbert Hoover and disaster relief and soon the Heritage employee returned, wiped my mirror clean, made sure I didn't have any immediate adverse reaction to the shot (I didn't), and I drove home. 

Back home, I did what I normally do, and would have never known I'd been vaccinated. 

3.  Injuries and Covid-19 have been particularly rough on both the Oregon Ducks and the Arizona State Red Devils' men's basketball programs.

I tuned into their game tonight, mostly interested in the Ducks. Would Chris Duarte play well after what appeared to be a severe injury seven days ago against WSU? I wondered if Will Richardson would continue to improve, having recently returned to action after a long layoff after thumb surgery. I wondered how this team would be gelling. They've had a lot of disruptions and they've missed a ton of practice time. As is often the case, year to year, with the Ducks, their roster from a year ago to this year had a lot of turnover, so these players are not really used to playing together yet, even though it's February. 

The Ducks impressed me. Christ Duarte came out on fire. He scored 18 points in the first half and, after being unable to walk on his own after being injured seven days ago, looked, to my untrained eye, totally recovered. Will Richardson is getting back into the swing of things. L. J. Figueroa got hot in the second half and scored some impressive three pointers. Lastly, and, I'd say, very quietly, Eugene Omoruyi scored 18 points and captured 10 rebounds. 

I'm with broadcaster Dave Pasch. Pasch pointed out that Dana Altman has done an exceptional job coaching this Ducks' team in the face of all the time they've been off and with all the injuries to different players 

You might have missed his point last night because Bill Walton misinterpreted it and stampeded all over Pasche's observation with a diatribe on teams not making excuses and fighting through adversity. 

Pasch wasn't making excuses for the Ducks. He praised the work Dana Altman has done in a very difficult situation.

Bill Walton doesn't always listen very well. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-10-2021: Luna and Copper at the Vet, Dynamiting the Levee, Popcorn and the Pimpernel

 1. Copper howled some once in his carrier. Luna hid under the bed, the love seat, and chairs before I succeeded in getting a hold of her and putting her in her carrier. 

But, we made it to the vet on time and both cats suffered through the indignities of getting weighed, being vaccinated, having blood drawn, and being examined on Dr. Cook's table. They endured it really well. 

All in all, they are in good health. Both need dental care, as I expected, but their vitals are strong, their blood counts look good, and there are no signs of any major problems.

Since they are both eating well, drinking plenty of water, resting comfortably though the days and nights, and not showing signs of distress, I had anticipated that this visit to the vet would go just about the way it did.

2. Back to the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.

I knew blowing up the levee was coming in Rising Tide. I knew that the very wealthy moneyed interests in New Orleans would get their way and persuade state and federal officials to dynamite repeatedly the Caernarvon Levee holding water back from two parishes: St. Bernard and Plaquemines, two poorer and more sparsely populated parishes downriver from New Orleans. Ahead of the blowing up of the levee, about 10,000 people in the two parishes evacuated their homes and farms ahead of having them destroyed by the waters. Leading up to the creating of this crevasse, two experts, meteorologist Isaac Cline and engineer James Kempton argued that the collapse of levees upstream from New Orleans would displace the Mississippi's mighty flood waters and that New Orleans would not flood.

But, panic over a potential flooding had taken hold in New Orleans. The panic was hurting business. To alleviate the panic and to restore confidence that New Orleans was a viable business and moneymaking center, a small circle of wealthy, unelected citizens decided that the levee had to be blown up and eventually persuaded the governor and others in the government to agree. 

The waters upriver were displaced when levees upriver collapsed. That water never came downstream to New Orleans. The city was never in danger. 

Here are the last two sentences of Part Four of Rising Tide: "As Kemper and Cline had predicted, the destruction of St. Bernard and Plaquemines were unnecessary. One day's wait would have shown it to be so."

What became of those 10,000 refugees, those displaced farmers, trappers, bootleggers, fishing families, small business owners, and others in the parishes of St. Bernard and Plaquemines?

I don't know yet.

So, I'll read on. 

I've got about 160 pages left. 

3.  I was so consumed today with reading Rising Tide and thinking about future care for Luna and Copper that I forgot to actually fix myself a meal late this afternoon. Suddenly, I thought a bowl of popcorn topped with Parmesan cheese would taste good. 

It had been many years since I ate popcorn this way and not only did it satisfy my longing, it stirred up some great memories, reaching back to when I used to study late into the night at the University of Oregon library, pop myself a big bowl of popcorn, and watch Father Knows Best and other older tv shows on a Eugene cable network, KOZY. 

I loved that station -- it broadcast old movies and old tv shows all though the day and night -- lots of Spencer Tracy movies, which I loved, and this station introduced me to a movie I used to watch repeatedly: Leslie Howard in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934). Back then, thirty-five or six years ago, Leslie Howard always charmed me when he recited:

We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? Is he in hell?
That damned, elusive Pimpernel.

One of these days, I'll have to put this movie on again and see if I still enjoy it the way I did when I was thirty-two, thirty-three years old. 

Hard to say.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-09-2021: Wealth First!, Tree House Concert, Judith Durham and More

 1. Another thread that runs through the history of the United States is that, inevitably, natural disasters are confronted as primarily political problems. This was as true in the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 as it has been when hurricanes, fires, floods, and, right now, the pandemic, have struck in our century. In 1927, a chief concern as the river rose to record heights and its gargantuan currents and waves destroyed everything in its wake, was how, in the face of this slowly developing disaster, would the wealthy protect their assets. 

In Rising Tide, John M. Barry writes vividly about the wealthy power brokers in New Orleans and examines their deliberations. Their primary concern was with wealth protection, not human lives, not the protection of homes and properties of the lower and middle classes, but of their own businesses, banks, ports, and other endeavors. It's widely regarded as acceptable to let people of lesser means suffer, even die, while protecting both the lives and the capital of those with extraordinary means. Many of the wealthy would rather have people die, or at least suffer terrible deprivations, than suffer economic loss themselves. As power brokers, they have the most leverage to protect themselves, very much at the expense of those who can least afford it. It's a powerful continuum in the history of the USA.

2.  Some listeners who commented on Bill Davie's Tree House Concert tonight thought his playlist was so exquisite that he ought to record an album of just the songs he played tonight. He touched wells of grief, bittersweet nostalgia, added in a little surrealism, and topped off the night with a soulful cover of Ian Anderson's flawless song, "Life's a Long Song".  Bill read poems from Robert Bly's volume, Morning Poems, a collection inspired by William Stafford's habit of writing very early in the morning. The poems he read blended sublimely with his song selections. 

3.  I enjoyed two cocktails during the Tree House Concert. Each was the same drink, patterned after the Bourbon Renewal, but instead of bourbon I used Basil Hayden Dark Rye Whiskey. Once Bill finished, I continued to very slowly sip dark rye whiskey for the next few hours and listened to, while watching, YouTube videos. I started with Ian Anderson himself performing "Live's a Long Song" and by the time I went to bed I had listened to Harry Chapin, the Seekers, Guy Clark, Annie Lennox, The Highwaymen, Stan Rogers, Vanilla Fudge, Jimmy Buffet, and maybe others. I let myself be moved, especially by Judith Durham as she performed "Georgy Girl" and "I'll Never Find Another You"with The Seekers; Harry Chapin got to me, too; so did Stan Rogers; and I played Guy Clark's "Dublin Blues" at least three times, tears burning my cheeks. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-08-2021: Copper Closes the Distance, The Continuums of History, I Am a Lousy Forecaster

1. I wouldn't go so far as to say Copper has been cool toward me since moving in, but he's kept a respectful distance. Luna, on the other hand, jumped into my lap within an hour of arriving here. But, today, Copper began closing the distance. In our living room, we have two chairs facing east that are side by side. After days of resting and sleeping on the love seat, now Copper rests and sleeps in the chair next to the one I sit in when I read, write, and watch stuff on the television. Then, when I turned in tonight, Copper leapt up on the bed and curled up near my legs. He didn't stay with me all night. I think my frequent trips during the night to the bathroom bugged him, but I'm happy that his gestures are increasingly toward me, not away. 

2. As I read more deeply into Rising Tide, a book published in 1997, my sense of history as a study of continuation, of what's always with us, is confirmed. In the chapters I read today, John M. Barry narrates the rise in populism, nationalism (anti-immigration), and anti-intellectualism in the 1920s. These were not new developments in the 1920s, but a continuation of movements that were strong in the 19th century, especially as populists and nationalists and white supremacists opposed, often violently, the work during Reconstruction to integrate African Americans into the social and political fabric of life in the United States. It's tempting to think that the time period we live in is unique, but as I read more history, no time period is all that unique. Ways of thinking, social attitudes, ideas about government, fears, hopes, and eruptions of violence are all part of historical continuums that we always live with. It's a constant push and pull between those among us who seek out and welcome change and reform and those among us who resist it and those who oppose an active government, that is, those who see government as a source of restriction and problems and those who see government as a source of problem solving and necessary regulation. 

These historical tensions are very much at work in Rising Tide, socially, politically, and economically,  as the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 approaches, especially as governmental and non-governmental entities have tried to figure out how best to control the mighty natural forces at work in the Mississippi River Drainage Basin and what to do when its vast drainage system floods. 

I am almost to the point in the story when the flood happens. 

This book is riveting.

3. I watched Gonzaga defeat BYU this evening, 82-71. This game was never really very close. The Zags rushed out to an early 16-2 lead and BYU never recovered, although they had some spurts of good play. 

With the regular season winding down, friends of mine, as well as many other people who follow Gonzaga, start to raise questions about how the Zags will perform in the NCAA Tournament, and, more to the point, question whether Gonzaga is really the top team in the nation.

When my friends raise these questions and provide their analysis, I enjoy very much what they have to say and I'm silent. I hope my silence isn't disappointing, but I'm just plain lousy at speculating what would happen if two teams who haven't played each other were to meet. By the way, for whatever it's worth, I'm equally lousy at talking about whether a college player is NBA material or not -- and, I'm also hopeless when it comes to comparing teams of different seasons. I am dumbstruck by the question as to whether the 2020-21 Zags are a better team than the 2016-17 Zags, just as my brain freezes if someone wonders how the Kobe Bryant/Shaq Lakers would have performed against the Showtime Lakers, say, of 1985. 

Don't get me wrong. These are fun questions. It's just that I can't seem to imagine, say, the current Gonzaga team playing, say, Baylor. I think Baylor is a powerhouse team and they play in a better conference than Gonzaga does. And, because I always underestimate Gonzaga, I have trouble imagining what problems Gonzaga would present to Baylor. I see what problems Baylor presents: they have great shooting guards, are a strong defensive team, both close to the cup and on the perimeter, and they play with great energy. But I've only seen what they look like when they've played the teams they've played. I don't know what effect Gonzaga might have on the Baylor Bears. 

So, I listen to Stu and Byrdman and Seth Greenberg and others and I take it in. I enjoy their insights. I don't agree or disagree. I just listen and hope that we'll see, once the NCAA Tournament gets underway (assuming there is one), how Gonzaga performs against, say, a Big East team like Villanova or how they would compete with Illinois or how about if they play a tough team not in a power conference, like San Diego State or Drake or Toledo. 

To me, it's all unpredictable. Some opponents make certain players wilt. Other players inspire opponents to play beyond what we've seen before. Some teams defenses work better against one opponent than another. I underrate some players' quickness and overrate other players' physical strength. I just never quite know what to expect. 

I've established many times in this blog that I am untrustworthy as a food, movie, or book reviewer because I try to enjoy whatever is put before me and I'm easy to please.

I'm also lousy at predicting outcomes in sports, especially college basketball, and, so, I'd be a lousy panelist on ESPN or FS1 or CBS because if a fellow panelist asked, "How do you think this game will go, Bill?", I'd get a blank look on my face and say, "Well, we'll have to see. I just don't know how these two teams will affect each other, what they will bring out of each other, good or bad." 

So, while watching Gonzaga play last night, I tried to replace BYU with Baylor or with Florida State or with Ohio State and tried to imagine how those matchups might go.

I couldn't do it.

All I could do was see how Gonzaga was performing against BYU and found it impossible to translate what I saw into another a game against an imagined opponent.

I think I can hear what Rob Stone would say to me if I popped up on the FS1 pre-game show, "Woolum, you're fired!"

Monday, February 8, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-07-2021: Sesame Beans, Premium Cocktail Cherry, Meatloaf Family Dinner

 1. I try to limit my trips to the grocery to store to once every 7-10 days. I stocked up a bit this morning. Primarily, I was hoping to find a pound of fresh green beans. Christy would be serving meatloaf tonight for family dinner and I really like green beans with meatloaf. I'd also found a recipe for sesame green beans and I wanted to try it. To my delight, Yoke's had 'em!

The recipe is simple. First, I snipped the ends off the beans. Afterward, I made a mixture of sesame oil, olive oil, honey, minced ginger, and minced garlic. On a baking sheet line with aluminum foil, I spread out the beans, drizzled them with oil, salted them, and roasted them in the oven for about ten minutes. While they were roasting, I toasted a batch of sesame seeds. 

After ten minutes, I coated the green beans with the garlic-ginger-honey mixture and then roasted them for another ten minutes. Once out of the oven, I put them in a pyrex container and dumped the sesame sees on the green beans and made sure the green beans were all coated.

2. I also volunteered to mix tonight's cocktails. I decided to mix us each a Manhattan. Readers of this blog might remember that a week ago I purchased a bottle of Dark Basil Hayden Rye Whiskey, a blend of rye whiskey, port wine, and Canadian whiskey. To me, it's a less spicy rye. So, I wondered how it would work in a Manhattan. I also decided try out a premium cocktail cherry and earlier in the week ordered a jar of Peninsula cocktail cherries online. I don't know anything about cocktail cherries, but thought it would be fun to try out something different from the maraschino cherries available at Yoke's. 

I think it was a good move! Christy, Carol, and Paul said they enjoyed the cocktail and, maybe half kiddingly, told me that the premium cherry made a difference!

3. We had a very comforting family dinner together tonight. Christy prepared what's called a Billionaire Meatloaf (it's a recipe once served at a wealthy person's social gathering) and she made a delicious potato and cheese dish to accompany it. Carol prepared a delicious broccoli salad, I contributed sesame beans, and Carol and Paul cracked open a bottle of Merlot. We ended our meal with a slice of Christy's homemade cherry pie with ice cream and, for old time's sake, we each enjoyed a Stinger, an after dinner drink that's been around our family for many years. 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-06-2021: Mole Sauce Revelation, Breakfast Burritos, Cat Care

 1. Carol and Paul came over for a meet and greet with Luna and Copper. They immediately saw that I'm a lucky man to have the company of these two cats. We visited for a while. Paul left for a little while to shovel Christy's walk. (Normally, I shovel her sidewalks, but the last time I did both of ours, I hurt my back and so, for now, I'm limiting myself to only shoveling my walkways.) 

Carol inquired about my mole sauce and I offered her a taste. She liked it. I told her that I thought possibly in the future that I'd up its chocolate content a bit and also the sesame seeds and raisins. 

When I said that, I was laboring under a misconception.

For years now, I have thought that chocolate was a feature of mole sauce.

But, I was strolling around the World Wide Web, trying to learn more about mole, and I happened upon an article at Gastro Obscura entitled, "Everything You Know About Mole Sauce is a Lie".

I had fallen for the Big Lie of mole sauce -- the chocolate lie. I now know that mole sauces are, and have been traditionally, made with a wide variety of ingredients.

This fascinated me, so I went in search of mole sauce cookbooks.

I went over to and ordered myself a copy of Amazing Mexican Mole: Best Mole Sauces for Every Occasion

I had previewed the book using the "Look Inside" feature at and read a few recipes and decided this would be a fun book to have and cook out of.

So, having been disabused of the idea that mole sauces all feature chocolate, I didn't change my mind about what I said to Carol. Next time I make a mole sauce using the recipe I used before from Cooks Illustrated website, I'm still going to increase the chocolate, raisins, and sesame seeds and see how it comes out.

2. Speaking of mole sauce, for breakfast this morning, I got out my container of the black bean/ground beef/corn mixture I made a few days ago, warmed it up, scrambled a couple of eggs, heated two flour tortillas, and made myself two wet breakfast burritos by pouring my mole sauce over the top of them. I think I'll have the same breakfast on Sunday morning.

3. I don't see anything visibly the matter with Luna and Copper, but I've decided it would be good for them to go to the vet for a thorough check up, just to make sure they are in as good of health as they appear to be. I think they both would benefit from some spa time, as well, so, on Monday, I'll schedule them visits to the vet and the groomer. I don't know that they will experience going to the groomer as "spa time", but my hope is that, in the long run, they will, in their own feline way, appreciate being cleaned up, brushed, and possibly trimmed (their nails had been trimmed just before they arrived at my house). 

But, maybe this is all about me! I know I'll feel better having taken them in! 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-05-2021: Mississippi Delta, My First Mole Sauce, Restful Cats

 1. All these years I've been listening to rock music, have listened to a lot of old blues music, and heard endless references to the Mississippi Delta. I've even gone to the movie theater to watch documentary movies about the Mississippi Delta Blues and watched others at home. I'm embarrassed to say, though,   that I never knew the geographical location of the Mississippi Delta. 

But, today, as the focus of Rising Tide moved to the Mississippi Delta, for the first time in my 67 years of living and of loving acoustic blues music, I started to get the geography of this region straight in my mind. I'm also learning a great deal about the Mississippi Delta's fertility and how its potential for economic development excited the imagination of families looking to get rich. Building such prosperity depended on labor and on controlling the Mississippi River and so the plot of this history deepens as one land owning family, in particular, the wealthy and powerful Percys, try to replace Black workers with Italian ones, and as the river and its cycles of flooding continue to bedevil landowners. 

2. Thanks to an online order, and the receipt of dried chipotle chiles, dried ancho chiles, a couple disks of Mexican chocolate, and a jar of almond butter, I could make my first ever batch of mole sauce today. I assembled the chopped onion and garlic, cinnamon, cloves, chicken stock (homemade), diced tomatoes, raisins, almond butter, and sesame seeds and got underway. It wasn't difficult. I toasted the sesame seeds and set them aside. I also toasted the torn up bits of chiles and also set them aside.  Once I had cooked the onions, I stirred in the coarsely chopped pieces of chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, and garlic. I transferred these ingredients into a pot and added the chicken stock, tomatoes, raisins, sesame seeds, and almond butter, brought it all to a very low boil and let it simmer for about ten minutes or so. These ingredients began to thicken a bit and I transferred them into the blender and processed the sauce for about 20 seconds until smooth. 

I got out a small pyrex pan, covered the bottom with sauce, submerged four corn tortillas in the sauce, and then filled the tortillas with the black bean, corn, and ground beef mixture I made a few days ago. I covered these enchilada looking creations with more sauce and put them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Next time, I'll cover this dish.

The sauce is good. As I move forward with other batches, I might increase the chocolate content a tiny bit. I very much enjoyed how it tasted in combination with the corn tortillas and the filling I had made. I think I can do a better job with keeping the tortillas intact and the next time I make this meal, I'll cover the dish in the oven. I think that will improve the texture of the sauce. 

I have sauce left over.  I see a wet breakfast burrito in my very near future.

Oh! By the way, I was out of grated cheese and didn't feel like going to Yoke's this evening. Next time I cook up a dish with mole sauce, I'll definitely include top any enchiladas or other entree with grated cheese. 

3. Luna and Copper continued to make themselves at home in their new environment. I don't know how old they are. I can say, however,  that they are cats of leisure. Luna spends a lot of time on my lap or on my outstretched legs while I read and nap. To accommodate her while I write on my laptop, I'm having to face sideways in the chair I sit in and place the computer on the arm rest of the other living room chair I've moved right next  to my chair. I haven't yet held Copper, but I pet her. Copper loves sleeping on our love seat and he is tentative around Luna who can be territorial at times -- but, as I write this, they are both sacked out on the love seat (no territory problems) and when they eat in close proximity to each other, so far, they haven't spatted. Oh! One other detail: Copper likes looking out windows. He went to the top of the love seat today to look out the living room's east window and, from time to time, saunters over to the picture window facing south to scope out the scene outside the house. 

I like how this arrangement is going. 

Friday, February 5, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-04-2021: Yakkin' with Cas, *Rising Tide*, Learning About Luna and Copper

 1. Cas delivered some firewood to Christy today and I strolled over and yakked with him for while. I hadn't talked to him in person since last summer when Debbie, Tracy, Cas, and I had a pizza party out on the deck. I enjoyed talking about baseball, picking up a little local news, and learning more about what Cas has been up to, beyond what I knew from our frequent text messaging. 

2. My reading speed these days is very slow, but reading the book Rising Tide is very good. I am really enjoying reading about the efforts engineers made in the middle and late decades of the 19th century to bring the mighty Mississippi River under control and how much the science of this undertaking was corrupted by human ego/hubris, commercial demands, and the pursuit of political power and influence. In all things having to do with earth, wind, fire, and water, I am the most interested in just how much human beings can manage or control these natural forces. So far, in Rising Tide, despite the building of vessels meant to demolish sand bars, despite the construction of levees and jetties, and despite advances in bridge construction, I'd say in the battle between human ingenuity/engineering and nature, nature continues to have the upper hand. 

3. Quietly, each in his and her own way, Copper and Luna are settling into their lives in their new home. Luna loves being attached to me while I sit in the living room and read and watch college basketball. If she wants to be in my lap or on my chest while I write on my laptop, we have some physical negotiating to do. Copper keeps a little more distance, is wary of Luna, and spent much of the day resting and sleeping on the love seat. Our first full day together was quiet. When they meow, it often seems random to me, but as time goes on, I hope to understand better what they might be trying to let me know about. 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-03-2021: Fostering Luna and Copper, Afternoon Dirty Martinis, Look Out for the Johnnies

 1. Around three thirty this afternoon, as scheduled, Linda brought Kathy's cats, Copper and Luna, into my life. I will be fostering them while Kathy is under medical care. I thought Luna and Copper adapted to their new environment beautifully. I've watched several cats over the years come into a new home and Copper and Luna did just what I thought they would: they explored the borders of the rooms, looked for hiding places, established the location of their litter boxes, and, really, in no time found places to settle in and get comfortable. It wasn't long before Luna leapt onto my lap and, later on, dug herself, purring, into my chest. When bedtime arrived, they each lay down on one end of our love seat. I heard one or both of them meow a couple times during the night, but not in distress. 

Linda brought everything, litter, litter boxes, toys, food, bowls, two feline houses with her and so Copper and Luna are surrounded by familiar objects.

I tried to take pictures, but was unsuccessful. I'll keep trying.

2. Linda and settled into easy conversation and dirty martinis. It was a lot of fun, not only to talk and to enjoy our cocktails, but to watch Luna and Copper make themselves at home. We were both happy (and relieved, I'd say) that the cats were having such an easy time of it and that this new arrangement started off so well.

3. If you've read this blog much over the last couple of years during basketball season, you know that I became a fan of the St. John's Red Storm men's basketball team out of Queens, NY in 2019.  Well, I also have a ton of admiration for Villanova -- oh, come on, let's just face it: I really enjoy the Big East Conference! 

So, tonight Villanova and the Johnnies squared off. I had on my St. John's hoodie and was psychologically, mentally, and realistically prepared for Villanova to methodically wear down the Johnnies and with their precision, discipline, ball movement, and sharp shooting, defeat the Johnnies.

The opposite happened!

Oh. My. God.

St. John's players have totally bought into Coach Mike Anderson's approach of 40 Minutes of Hell. St. John's put full court pressure on the Wildcats all night long, disrupted the usually cool Villanova squad, turned them over seventeen times, and, to be honest, turned the usually composed, mature Wildcats into a hot mess. 

I kept thinking that at some point Villanova would mount a comeback, but they never really did. The Johnnies defeated Villanova 70-59. It was Villanova's first conference loss. The Johnnies won their fifth straight game. They appear to no longer be the lowly St. John's Red Storm. They have served notice: the Johnnies play hard, have great energy, and, if tonight was any indication, have sharpened their shooting ability. Jay Bilas might, given the chance, even anoint with his most frequent word of praise: legit. The Red Storm just might be legit. 

Steve Lavin calls this time in college basketball the dog days of February. I love these dog days. It's a great time of the year in college basketball! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-02-2021: No Recipe Cooking, Mole Sauce Ahead, Concert Interrupted

 1.  I decided to just start tossing food items into a pot and see what happens.

I heated up some olive oil and added a small chunk of ground beef, about half of an onion chopped, and some chopped celery. Once the meat browned and the onion and celery were soft, I added a can of black beans and a can of diced tomatoes, half a small bag of frozen corn, and the remainder of a bag of long grain white rice, about 4 oz I'd say. I had some leftover chicken stock in the fridge and I added it to the pot and brought it all to a boil, put the lid on, and let it simmer. When the rice was tender, I tasted it and decided chili powder would help it out. It did. The result was a versatile pot of thick food. If I want to add liquid to it, it will be a nice soup. Without water, it will be kind of a stew, or, as I did later, I can use it rolled in a corn tortilla. Whether I eat it out of a bowl or rolled inside of a tortilla, shredded cheese tastes very good on top of this food I made. 

2. I got to thinking that this it would be fun to fill tortillas with this Tex-Mex-y mixture, put them in a pan, cover them with mole sauce, and heat them in the oven. I knew, however, that I don't have the ingredients on hand for mole sauce. No problem. I went on line and ordered some Mexican chocolate, dried chipotle and ancho chiles peppers, and a jar of almond butter. I'll follow a Cooks Illustrated recipe, make some mole sauce, and try it out in combination with the concoction I created today.

3. I like to enjoy a cocktail while tuning into Bill Davie's Tree House Concerts on Tuesday nights and decided to try a slightly altered Suburan this evening. It's a rye, port wine, dark rum drink with bitters. I don't have port on hand (yet), but, the Basil Hayden Dark Rye I bought Sunday is infused with some port wine. I thought, what the heck, I'll mix this drink without the port (with plans to buy some port at a later date) and it was tasty.

Bill had a powerhouse concert underway -- I especially enjoyed hearing "Layers of Love" and "Ravine". When his concert reached the poetry break, however, the phone rang. It was Debbie. Bill posts his concerts on YouTube, so, once he'd done that, I'll listen to what I missed tonight. 

Debbie and I had a good and rambling conversation. We didn't have anything pressing to discuss, so we just yakked about this and that and established, once again, that we have no idea when Debbie will return to Kellogg. No problem.  The pandemic affects everything. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 02-01-21: Taxes Filed, A Superb Jambalaya Dinner, The Public and the Private in Tokyo

1. In the mail today, the last tax documents I was looking for arrived. So, I buckled right down and got to work on filing our tax returns. I just like having that done and, as I write this, I'm done!

2. Christy, Carol, Paul, and I got together at the Roberts' house around 4:30 this afternoon to enjoy our family dinner, postponed by just one day.

I had the jambalaya ready to go -- I prepared it on Sunday -- and so, today, I slowly heated it in a crock pot, hoping the rice didn't absorb to much of the liquid and that the shrimp didn't get tough from overcooking. 

My concerns did not materialize. The jambalaya heated up beautifully and was moist and the shrimp were tender.

Our dinner had an informal New Orleans theme. 

In keeping with this theme, I offered to mix us each a Sazerac. 

I decided to use rye whiskey in today's Sazerac and that I'd stop off at the liquor store and purchase a fifth of Basil Hayden. I walked straight to the rye shelf and saw that the store carried Dark Basil Hayden. I'm not sure, but I think Shawn had enthusiastically recommended Dark Basil Hayden to me once, but whether he did or didn't, I bought it.

Let me digress for a second: when it comes to beer, wine, and liquor, my tastes are very broad and flexible. I like trying out different things -- like scotch whiskey aged in rum barrels, sour beers, botanical gins, etc.

So, when I got home tonight, after dinner, I read up a little bit on the Dark Basil Hayden and learned that it is a blend of rye whiskey, Candian whiskey, and a touch of port wine. I also learned that for many whiskey purists, this blend is off-putting.

I didn't know this about the Dark Basil Hayden when I mixed tonight's Sezeracs, but I can report that all four of us thought that tonight's Sezeracs were the best we've had so far and we all thought it was because of the Dark Basil Hayden. I'm thinking, but I'm not certain, that that touch of port wine mellows this whiskey a bit. Ryes can be pretty spicy. The Dark Basil Hayden hasn't lost its spiciness, but it doesn't have quite as much burn as some other rye whiskeys I've tasted. I'm wondering if we liked that smoothness and the ever so subtle touch of sweetness the port wine gives the Dark Basil Hayden.

End of digression.

So, I did a tiny bit of reading about what might go well with jambalaya and assigned Christy to bake a batch of cornbread and Carol to make a tomato cucumber salad with feta cheese and olives.

The pairings were perfect. My jambalaya wasn't spicy, but, had it been, Carol's salad would have been  perfect for cooling our mouths.The salad was crisp, flavorful, and refreshing. Christy's cornbread added a most welcome sweetness to our dinner. I loved how it tasted, especially alongside the shrimp and sausage in the jambalaya. 

Carol and Paul just happened to have the perfect wine on hand for our dinner. The slightly spicy, subtly fruity Gewurtztraminer lent hints of pepper and soothing tones of pear and apricot to our meal. I was gaga over this wine. 

I wanted to bring pralines for dessert, but didn't find any at the store, so I simply purchased a bag of one of my favorite cookies, Pepperidge Farm's Dark Chocolate Milano -- and these cookies topped off our meal splendidly.

3. I returned home feeling comforted by our dinner and by spending time with Carol, Paul, and Christy. For the heck of it, I rewatched the second episode of Pretend It's a City, mostly to reassure myself that, unlike the way he was portrayed on Saturday Night Live, that Martin Scorsese was not, in fact, a howling hyena when he enjoyed Fran Lebowitz, but laughed with warmth and appreciation, the way good friends do when talking to each other.

As is my habit these days, I watched the next episode of Midnight Diner, a remarkably subtle and tender look at the private dimensions of what, in this story, was a salacious public scandal. It also made me hungry for pickled Napa cabbage!