Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/19/2021: Walking Uptown, Debbie's Blissful 2IPA, Rice Snack

 1. If being short of breath in Pendleton had to do with being in really lousy shape, I continued today in my determination to improve my conditioning by walking to the Avista drop box and feeding it my bill and then walking to uptown Kellogg by way of the Trail of CdA's tributary that branches off the main trail and goes up behind the old YMCA building. I walked up the short street/alley that divides the Y from the Elks and, as I hoped I would, saw Cas's truck in front of the Inland Lounge.  He was getting chores done. 

I dropped in for a couple glasses of ice water and we had a good time talking about all kinds of stuff. It was the longest conversation we'd had in months and we covered a lot of ground.

I then walked east on McKinley and headed down Depot Hill on to Riverside and walked the route I used to take when I came home from Sunnyside Elementary back in 1962-1966.

This was a great walk. I breathed a lot of fresh air, racked up over two miles, and was moving for nearly 45 minutes. Slowly, I am building back some of the strength I lost over the winter.

2. Around 6:15, Debbie called me. It was an awesome call because she wanted me to know that she'd just enjoyed a 16 oz can of Kane Brewing Company's Eastern Sky Imperial IPA. I knew what she meant when she described the bliss of drinking an Imperial IPA that is about as perfect in the moment as a beer can be. Her experience made me think of all the Imperial IPAs I loved when we lived in Maryland and our nearly weekly Sunday trips to DC Brau to enjoy 12 oz pours of On the Wings of Armageddon. Unless things have changed in the Silver Valley breweries, no one brews an Imperial IPA here, but if I head to CdA, Post Falls, Sandpoint, Spokane, Pend Oreille, or other places not too far away, I can find some damn fine Imperial IPAs to enjoy on tap. Gotta be careful, though. Imperial IPAs can get me buzzing more than I want if I get carried away -- but I've never needed to be carried away!

3.  I should always have rice made and available in the fridge. As a snack before bed tonight, I put cold jasmine rice in a bowl and covered it with cinnamon, honey, and almond milk. I'd never combined these ingredients before. I loved it.  I see a lot of potential for further experimentation with nuts, raisins, other spices and other ingredients. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/18/2021: Back to the Wellness Trail, Steamed Spaghetti Squash, Superb Family Dinner

 1. A brief reminder: in Pendleton last week, while on an easy walk with Colette, I grew concerned that I was experiencing an unusual shortness of breath. Every kidney doctor I've seen since Jan. of 2005 asks me, as part of my regular check ups, whether I am experiencing shortness of breath. It can be a symptom of kidney failure. 

Today, I hiked the wellness trail above the hospital as a way to test my lung capacity and, I hoped, to assure myself that what I experienced in Pendleton was temporary and a result of not being properly hydrated.

Before hiking, I drank water at home and I took water on the trail.

Yes, I needed to rest on the two benches strategically placed on the trail, but I expected that.

When I reached the picnic table at the end of the wellness trail, I was upright and breathing about as hard as I usually do on this hike.  I talked for a minute or two with the sweethearts who were lying on the table, soaking up the sunlight and blissing out on the beauty of the day.

I felt more than fine. I felt really good. I enjoyed my walk back down the trail and my confidence grew that I'm doing all right and am committed to keeping the sodium down and water consumption up. 

2. Christy planned tonight's family dinner. She copied a recipe for steamed spaghetti squash for me to follow and it was simple to make. Once I cut the two squash in half, lengthwise, I salted and peppered them and drizzled them with a blend of olive oil and honey. I roasted them, two halves at a time, for about 35-40 minutes, let them cool, scraped the flesh out with a fork, and added a mixture of vinegar, honey, and olive oil to the spaghetti looking squash. I topped the dish with toasted almonds. 

3.  Christy assigned us each a recipe from Alex Guarnaschelli's book, Cook with Me. For a cocktail, I followed Alex Guarnaschelli's recipe for making Manhattans.  Christy prepared baked chicken thighs with a slow-cooked barbecue sauce that was packed with flavors and Carol made a Waldorf salad with a vinaigrette, not a mayonnaise-based dressing. I contributed the steamed spaghetti squash. We also drank from a bottle of Rose wine.  Our family dinners are always really good, but I thought this one was one of those especially delicious meals where every dish was brilliant on its own and they each complimented one another perfectly.

Christy also baked cherry almond cookies out of Cook With Me and served them with a cherry almond after dinner drink mixed with half and half.

We spent the evening in continual conversation, too. Among other things, Carol reported on her outing the past couple of days and nights with April and Kellee. This led us to a discussion of other people's families, who's related to whom, some of their family stories, and some surprises about what has happened in the past. It was a great time all the way around and left me eager to find out what Carol will plan for dinner next Sunday. 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/17/2021: A Good Walk, Help With the Sube, Simple Dinner

 1. I hoped this evening when I went for a walk up on the trail to the high school that I wouldn't easily start to get winded like I did when walking with Colette after lunch on Wednesday.

I didn't.

I walked up the short hill of the trail and, yes, I was a little short of breath, but that's always true. 

I thought more about things this past week in Pendleton and I'm wondering now if I'd become dehydrated. While away on my trip, I ate all restaurant food and, as Christy pointed out to me, that means more sodium. I drank water with my meals, but when I'm at home I drink water through the day. I was pretty well hydrated on my walk today and I moved so much better. 

I'll test this out some more by staying hydrated and walking. 

I also looked up when my regular appointment with Dr. Bieber happens.

It's on May 5th, just two weeks away. 

I had thought it was three or four weeks away.

Unless something weird happens, I'm confident that seeing him on May 5th is soon enough.

But, if anything goes sideways, I'll contact his office.

2. After I dropped Ed off in Kingston on Friday, I began to hear a rubbing/scraping sound. I thought it was coming from the area of the driver's side tire.

The noise came and went.

I put the car in the garage and this morning I drove down to get Luna some medicine at the vet.

The medicine wasn't ready. On the way back home, I popped over to Yoke's and the sound returned.

Off and on. 

It came and went. 

I pulled into Silver Valley Tires.

The place was a madhouse, really busy, but Jeremy told me he could have the car looked at in the afternoon. He'd call me when there was an opening.

A little later, I returned to the vet (now the medicine was ready) and when I came back to the car I saw black plastic something or other hanging down from underneath the Sube.

Ah! No big deal.

And, in fact, when I got the Sube in at Silver Valley Tire, all the guy who fixed it had to do was put the Sube up on the rack and secure that piece of plastic back in place with zip ties.

No charge.

No problem.

3.  I fixed a pot of jasmine rice tonight. I mixed some rice with chopped, unseasoned zucchini, and once the zucchini pieces were tender I cracked an egg over it all, let the egg cook, and put it in a bowl, seasoned with a splash of soy sauce and a small pour of teriyaki sauce. It's a simple dinner, but one of my favorites. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/16/2021: Farewell, Easy Drive, Back Home

 1. After another fine breakfast at Traditions, Ed, Mike, and I checked out of our rooms. Ed and I said farewell to Mike after we looked back on what an easy, relaxing time we'd together since Wednesday. Our current plan is to resume our previous tradition of coming back to Pendleton in November, spend a couple of nights, and enjoy some meals, some beers, some driving around, and some time on the casino floor.

2.  The drive back to the Silver Valley was uneventful in most light traffic and on a day when, as our driver, I could see for miles and miles and miles. Ed and I recounted the fun times we'd had, talked about future plans, and found a bunch of other things to yak about.

3. I returned home and everything was in place. Christy, Carol, and Paul had agreed to look after and feed Luna and Copper and they were as content as ever when I walked in the door.

I turned on my MacBook Air and the operating system was haywire and I spent several hours on the phone with three different service advisors, all of whom were eager to help me, and finally the last person I worked with fashioned a solution. 

Once my computer was running again, I fixed myself a bowl of salmon and couscous and then I spent a couple of hours both getting my computer set up and getting caught up on emails, fantasy baseball, and other things. 

I loved my time away. I also found it very comforting to be back home, grateful that I had cleaned the place up, happy to spend time with Luna and Copper, and eager to return to do some cooking in the kitchen again. 

Three Beautiful Things 04/15/2021: Breakfast at Traditions, Drive to Meacham, Celebrative Steak Dinner

 1. Today was our one full day in the Pendleton area and we tried to make the most of it. We started out with breakfast in the Traditions restaurant -- I especially enjoyed having a biscuit with my bacon, eggs, and hash browns. I like eating pieces of bacon on top of the biscuit halves. Once again, everything was easy. Ed and Mike went their own ways after breakfast and I returned to my room to clean up.

2. Around 12 noon, we all piled into Mike's Camry and headed east from Pendleton. Last November, Ed and Mike had found a two lane back road that wound around in the countryside for a while and soon reached a stunning vista where we could look out over the local valley for miles and miles, admiring the combination of farmland and mountains covered with snow. 

After this drive, we headed to Meacham, OR, a tiny town on the old Oregon Trail. Our attraction to Meacham is the Oregon Trail Store and Deli, a rural joint without a shred of fancy. I think a couple owns it. Mostly we have dealt with the friendly husband, a welcoming middle aged guy with a lively sense of humor.  The owner has had a bunch of menus printed up that feature dishes made from road kill, so he gave us each one before he brought out his real menu. We each had a beer and when Ed saw on the menu that the joint made home made French fries, he ordered a batch which we shared -- and which were great. 

3. Back at the casino, we again went our separate ways and reconvened for the steak dinner we enjoy every time we visit Wildhorse at the casino's steak house, the Plateau. Each of us ordered a Pendleton Whiskey Steak, a 14 oz New York strip crusted with pepper (I love pepper-crusted steak) and lightly touched with a Pendleton Whiskey demi-glace. I hadn't eaten a steak in a restaurant since the last time I was at the Plateau, in November, 2019, and I savored every bite of this dinner -- and not just the steak. For my two complements I ordered melt in your mouth wild mushrooms and crispy Brussels sprouts delicately sweetened with local honey. My gin martini to start was perfect and I enjoyed a glass of a red blend wine with my meal. 

We had two events to celebrate at dinner. First, Mike recently had his 67th birthday. Second, Ed hit three jackpots in the last two days worth, before taxes, around 7500 dollars. It's the most astounding haul any one of us has ever made in the many years we've been making these trips to Pendleton -- or in the old days when we used to go to casinos in Newport and Grand Ronde, OR. 

Three Beautiful Things 04/14/2021:Back to the Nook, Easy Times with Longtime Friends, Lunch with Colette

 1. I leaped into the Sube, with all its new belts and new battery and new tires and and other new stuff and cruised out to Kingston and picked up Ed. We hit the road and, as we had decided ahead of time, we stopped at the Breakfast Nook in Coeur d'Alene for our morning meal. I didn't keep close track of what's been happening at the Breakfast Nook, but it sure looked to me like the place had been spiffed up since my last visit in early 2020. 

I ordered a chicken fried steak and it was tender, perfectly breaded, and delicious. I always enjoy the Breakfast Nook's hash browns. I like the way they're grated, wide and long, and they always come out of the kitchen perfectly crispy on top and are never dry. It was really fun to eat here again and I'm looking forward to possibly renewing a former tradition when I'd worship at St. Luke's and go to the Breakfast Nook afterward for a midday breakfast.

2. Ed and I arrived at the Wildhorse Casino not long after Mike got there. We each had rooms reserved, checked in, put our things away, and then met in Ed's room to celebrate being together again by sipping on some Black Velvet Toasted Caramel Whiskey. We immediately fell into a first-rate bull session and got our short vacation off to a perfect start. 

We reunited for another excellent session later that night. We met at the Wildhorse Sports Bar for some beer and onion rings and continued our long tradition of story telling, kidding around, talking about serious matters, and superb and easy conversation. 

3. I left the casino around 2:30 in the afternoon to meet Colette at the Oregon Grain Growers Brand Distillery. Because a few years ago Colette moved to Walla Walla, she and I have been able to meet up when the guys and I have our getaways in Pendleton.

We met at a table outdoors. Colette gave me books she thought I'd enjoy, a wonderful gift.  We immediately launched into a bazillion things to talk about, ranging from family, work, and graduate school to Debbie living in New York, the challenges of parenthood, and movies -- and more. We split a superb kale and pear salad and a small pizza, the Marilyn Monroe which combines white citrus cheese, Mozzarella cheese, artichokes, and artfully placed chocolate kiss looking dabs of ricotta cheese. The food was superb and enhanced our fascinating conversation.

At some point in our time together, our server told us that another party had reserved out table and would be arriving shortly. No problem. We settled up and headed toward an asphalt trail above the Umatilla River and started to take a walk.

We hadn't walked long and I started to feel winded. This happens to me sometimes if I try to walk after I've eaten. I asked Colette if we could stop for a while and sit. We did. As we continued to talk, I was suddenly feeling fatigued, certain that the warmer weather and having been driving for several hours combined to wear me out a bit. 

Later on -- maybe that night, maybe the next day, I noticed that I was a bit short of breath just walking around -- like when walking around in the casino. 

I had also been noticing that I had a little more build up of water retention in my lower legs and I wondered if I might be carrying some water weight in my midsection. I feel bigger than I think I should. 

I'm making note of these things here in my blog because if they are signs of my kidney disease having worsened a bit, I want to remember where I was, what I was doing, and what the signs were when I noticed it.

I have an appointment scheduled in May with my kidney doctor, but I'm going to call his office on Monday and see if we should meet earlier. In the meantime, I plan on doing some walking, seeing if this short-windedness continues, monitoring my lower legs and ankles, and continuing to drink plenty of water. 

Again, I'm writing about this change I perceived so I have a record of when it started happening. At the moment, I'm not alarmed, but I also don't want to act like everything's going along as usual if it's not. This kidney disease is tricky business for me because I have known about it for about sixteen years and haven't, as of yet, experienced symptoms -- but I've listened to my doctors tell me what to look for. I might be experiencing some of them. 

Three Beautiful Things 04/13/2021: Outing with Stu, Sube Ready to Go, Bill Remembers His Father

 1. I returned the rental car to Enterprise, filled up with gas, in unharmed condition, and soon after finishing by business, Stu picked me up. We went to an old favorite breakfast spot for us Kellogg guys, Nosworthy's and, for the first time in many many months, I ordered an omelette. This one was sausage and Swiss cheese. We had fun talking about the Zag/Baylor game. Stu unfolded his analysis of how the game might have gone differently had the officials been calling the three seconds in the key violation and had a a few key calls at critical junctures gone Gonzaga's way. Of course, we'll never know, but it was fascinating to think about what might have been.

Stu and I then hit the road to Bayview where Stu took a few minutes to pull the protective tarp back on his boat and just made sure things were looking all right. They were. We climbed in the boat for a short while and imagined other Kellogg friends of ours hopping in the boat later this summer for a ride. It's been several years, but in the past we've had some fun times, with Stu as our boat host, going out on both Lake Cd'A and Pend Oreille Lake. 

2. After our visit it Bayview, Stu drove me to the car shop and I picked up the Sube with the major maintenance job all finished. The Sube seems to be in pretty good shape right now. I'm hoping to get a few more years of use out of this good old car.

3. Yesterday, I tried to declutter the house and today I focused on vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, and on cleaning surfaces, especially in the kitchen.

When tonight's Tree House Concert got underway, I wasn't quite done with cleaning, so I did not pour myself my usual cocktail but listened to Bill Davie perform while drinking water so I could finish my chores. 

Bill's father passed away many years ago and today would have been his birthday. Bill learned to play guitar and sing from his father and often pays homage to him when performing these concerts. Tonight, Bill paid tribute to his father all evening, performing his two songs written to/for his father and by reading Donald Hall's poem, "The Day I Was Older". Bill wrote a song (and performed it last week) by the same title. Both works reflect on the experience of living past the age of their fathers when they died. 

Tonight's concert was especially powerful, shot through with Bill's sadness and gratitude for his father whom he misses dearly and for whom he is daily thankful. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/12/2021: Sube to the Shop, Rent a RAV 4, Spiffing Up the House

Note: In the past, when my mental and physical health were not very good, if I disappeared from by blog or from Facebook, concerned friends messaged me to make sure I was all right, a gesture I deeply appreciated.

I am leaving town Wednesday morning and returning Friday on a trip to Pendleton and I'm not taking my computer. I'll resume posting either on Friday or Saturday when I get back. 

1.  I got up early this morning and catapulted over the 4th of July Pass in the Sube and dropped it off at the shop for a major maintenance job. No repairs -- just the replacement of aged parts. 

2. A really friendly tech-in-training from the shop gave me a lift down to Enterprise and I rented a Toyota RAV 4 and drove it back to Kellogg. I parked it in the driveway and didn't drive it again all day. I return it on Tuesday morning.

3. I decided to divide spiffing up the house into two parts: today I put things away, got piles of papers and things off of the kitchen table. Tomorrow, when I return home with the Sube, I'll work on trying to make my living rug and floors look better. 

And I'll pack. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/11/2021: Hideki Matsuyama Wins!, Money and Video Rentals, Take Out Family Dinner

1.  For those players chasing Hideki Matsuyama in the final round of the Masters today, a tall order lay before them. The course was windy and the greens quick. If Matsuyama shot even par on Sunday, the players right behind him would have to shoot 68 in order to tie him and go even lower to win the tournament outright.

If I remember correctly, when Matsuyama birdied 8 and 9, he was five strokes ahead at the turn and it looked like the back nine would be a coronation.

But, it was as if Lee Corso was on hand, issuing his signature warning: "Not so fast my friend."

Matsuyama's playing partner, Xander Schauffele, drained a birdie putt on 12 and Matsuyama bogeyed the hole. Then Schauffele birdied the next three holes, closing the gap between him and Matsuyama to two strokes with three holes to play.

On the 16th hole, Schauffele hit what he later said felt like a perfect 8 iron off the tee, but as his shot soared toward the green, a gust of wind buffeted it, it fell short of the green, and rolled into the hole's water hazard. Schauffele ended up with an ugly triple bogey and Matsuyama was once again comfortably ahead of the field.

Matsuyama had enough of a cushion that he could safely bogey 17 and 18 and still win the Masters by a single stroke over the astonishing 24 year old newcomer, Will Zalatoris, playing in his first Masters and leaving a memorable impression with his spirited, powerful, and deft play in all four rounds. 

Until today, no Japanese player had won one of the men's four major golf tournaments. Golf is an uber popular sport in Japan and, according to what I've read, Hideki Matsuyama's victory inspired jubilation across the country. Hideki Matsuyama said he hoped his success would inspire other Japanese golfers to follow his success with major victories of their own. 

2. I didn't watch the last couple of hours of the Masters very  closely because I was on a Zoom call with Bill and Diane. We kicked off our conversation with a discussion of money and how our own attitudes about and toward money had been affected by our parents, to be specific, and our families, to be more general. This topic is especially urgent to Diane right now because she is beginning to plan for retirement and she and Bill are making some improvements in their home. 

My life has slowed down considerably since moving to Kellogg and, it's turned out, at least for now, that retirement (combined with lying low for so much of the pandemic) has been much less financially stressful for me than my years working were. I don't care to get into the details right now. I realize the stress could return. But, since my life has been less financially demanding in the last four years or so, I've been more relaxed.  In one respect, I'm lucky. I have very few material desires -- I just don't spend much money on myself. Sometimes I wonder if I'm just being self-denying, but I'm not. I like taking trips on occasion. I like spending some money when I go other places. But, when I'm just here at home, most of what I do doesn't involve much money.

Our conversation shifted, after a while, to movies and the availability of movies in the age of streaming and dvd mail services. I expressed how much I miss video rental stores -- like Eugene's Flicks n Pics and Hollywood Video -- how I miss being able to go a short ways from home and would often find that these places had just the international, classic, current, or 10-20 year old movie I was looking for. We agreed that we sorely miss browsing titles in video stores. Browsing is often a fruitless and frustrating undertaking online, but was absorbing and often very fruitful in the video rental stores.

We became so absorbed in talking about movies that we watched a trailer of Last Orders and delighted in watching Ray Walston sing a number in Damn Yankees.

We covered a lot of ground and had a lot of fun together.

3. Christy and Riley have undertaken the task of in-home dog and dog owner training. The woman Christy and Riley work with is very busy on Sundays and today she couldn't come to Christy's house until after 5:30.

We decided a week ago that since Christy wasn't positive when Natalie would arrive, we would have take out pizza for tonight's family dinner.

So, from the new Domino's in town, Carol ordered a thin and crispy sausage and pepperoni, a Brooklyn style cheese, and a hand-thrown ham and pineapple pizza, three different styles of pizza with three different kinds of sauce, a parmesan garlic, a hearty marinara, and, I think, an Alfredo sauce.

It was really fun sampling these different styles of pizza and it made for a relaxing dinner.

We talked about a lot of stuff including family history, where people lived and live in Montgomery Gulch, the history of some other families in Kellogg, and got caught up on some of the events happening around town the last week or so. 

As much as I enjoy preparing food for family dinners and dining on the creations of Christy, Carol, and Paul, it was a fun departure this evening to let Domino's do the cooking and to gobble up slices of pizza. 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/10/2021: Matsuyama's Torrid Back Nine, Steak Soup, Dark and Sweet Comedy

 1. When a player catches fire and plays extraordinary golf on a testy golf course like Augusta National, it electrifies me. Today, returning to the course after a rain delay of just over an hour, Hideki Matsuyama completed his back nine in an astonishing 30 strokes, with four birdies and an eagle. His torrid streak catapulted him to a four stroke lead. It will be dramatic on Sunday to see how Matsuyama performs with this lead and, should he stagger at all, whether the four players challenging him four, five, or six strokes behind can overtake him. 

I have no prediction. My sense of history tells me that, at Augusta, it's very difficult to shoot a low score one day and repeat it the next. So, let's say Matsuyama shoots even par today. That would mean his challengers right behind him would have to shoot a 68 just to tie him, a formidable challenge. But, should Matsuyama shoot a round over par, it would open the way for a chaotic and exciting second nine at the Masters. 

I'm rooting for everyone. In other words, I'm rooting for drama.

2. I got to thinking around dinner time.

I had another petite sirloin in the fridge. It wouldn't take long to thaw out a quart of chicken stock. I had a nice supply of vegetables on hand and a steak soup started to take shape in my mind. 

So, I chopped up an onion and minced both a plug of ginger and a couple cloves of garlic. I heated olive oil and simultaneously browned bits of steak and sautéed the onion, ginger, and garlic and soon added chopped celery to the pot. I had put a mostly frozen quart of stock in another pot and when it was fully thawed, I added a couple of chopped carrots and some chopped baby potatoes. Before long, I poured the stock over the steak, onion, garlic, ginger, and celery and added some frozen corn and frozen green beans to the soup. 

I brought the soup to a boil, turned it way down, and let it simmer until the potatoes, carrots, onion, and celery were tender. As a last move, I seasoned the soup with a few splashes of Bragg Liquid Aminos.

It worked.

3. When Jessica Walter died last month, her obituaries piqued my curiosity about the show Arrested Development. Walter plays Lucille Bluth, the matriarch of the terribly broken Bluth family. So, I tuned into the series' pilot episode on Netflix. 

I don't know that I'll ever return to this show. Yes, if I'm in the mood for outrageous characters and situations and for some grotesque satire, I could see returning to it, curious to see just how shattered this family becomes -- and, to see if, as the show develops, the writers develop some more tender plot lines, if they explore the genuine suffering that underlies the screwed up nature of the Bluth family.

But, I'd be surprised if I do return to this show unless my current mood changes.

I'm much more in the mood for sweet, but not saccharine stories. I will keep watching episodes of Midnight Diner. If I'd been able to stream it, today I would have watched the 1996 Japanese movie, Shall We Dance?. I ordered a used copy of it from a guy selling off his dvd collection to finance his retirement and it will arrive in a couple of weeks. If I could have streamed it, I also would have watched Shower, another Japanese movie from 1999 about a successful business man who has to step out of his life in the world of commerce and pay new attention to his elderly father and mentally challenged younger brother. 

These were among the many movies I watched at the Bijou Art Cinema in Eugene and I've been in the mood to relive the experience of seeing these and many others.

It's just a matter of finding them. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/10/2021: Musgrove's No-No, Love on *Midnight Diner*, Startling Leftovers

 1.  I had a lot of fun watching the Masters during the day. The course played a bit softer today, was more forgiving, and the day ended with about a dozen, maybe more, players positioned behind leader Justin Rose with a chance to win the tournament.

As fun as it was to watch golf and exchange witty text message commentary with Byrdman and T2, the highlight of my day on the field of play came in Major League Baseball.

Not only did Joe Musgrove pitch the first franchise no-hitter in San Diego Padres team history, but Joe Musgrove is on both of my rosters in the two fantasy baseball leagues I participate in.

In the head-to-head league, I'm still behind my opponent by a few points, but Musgrove's no-hitter gave me a huge boost and we go into the weekend essentially tied. It was thrilling to make up so much ground.

2. I don't know what the opposite of binge watching is, but I've been not binge watching the series on Netflix called Midnight Diner for a couple of months now. These episodes are so beautiful to me that I don't want to finish watching them. So, in order to slow down the inevitable end of the series being over, I only watch one or two episodes at a time and sometimes go weeks between viewings.

Tonight I watched the bittersweet episode that ended the second season. It involved an eight year separation between two lovers and the haunting fact that the woman didn't know why the man suddenly disappeared. He appears in her life again. She has since married a dumplings maker and the reappearance of her lover complicates her life suddenly with a difficult dilemma.

The third season opened with a moving story about a widow who was once a famous pop singer in Japan and how her life intersects with a woman hospitalized with cancer. I can't say any more. If you ever watch this story, I'd hate for you to know in advance what happens.

3.  I've got to remember that the combination of cumin, cinnamon, onions, garlic, dice tomatoes, zucchini, and beans over jasmine rice is not only really delicious when freshly prepared, but might even taste better after sitting in the fridge for a couple of days. I ate my leftovers for dinner. The flavors had aged. I didn't expect this dinner to be so delicious -- a very welcome pleasure. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/08/2021: Azaleas and an Ace, Chicken Stock, Steak and Eggs Dinner

 1.  The golf course at Augusta National looks benign enough, constructed on a former nursery, flush with flowering magnolias, azaleas, and dogwood, thick with loblolly pines, and carpeted with closely cut grass. But when this course is dry and the winds kick up a bit, all of this natural beauty beguiles golfers, challenges their ball striking and, more than anything, tests their nerves.

I tuned in to today's first round of the Masters at Augusta National. The greens were firm. The winds were fickle. The course bedeviled most of the field. I saw a variety of shots coming into the greens land on the putting surface and sometimes bound off the back, sometimes trickle. Holding shots was challenging, as was nestling shots close to the pins.

After the round, Gary Woodland said he felt like he'd been in a boxing match with Mike Tyson. Sergio Garcia also felt like he'd been in the ring, as well, but with Evander Hollyfield. For many of the players, it was an exhausting grind.

But, Justin Rose, remarkably, went on a torrid scoring streak. He hit his second shot into the par 5 8th and missed the green to the left. His ball struck one of the grass mounds protecting the green and, improbably, luckily, ricocheted onto the green, ten feet from the pin and Rose sank the putt for an eagle.

After this eagle, Rose then went on a tear, birdieing seven of his round's last ten holes and fired a 65 to take a four stroke lead. 

The other player who had a memorable moment in the sun was Tommy Fleetwood. He blasted his tee shot on the 16th hole straight into the hole for an ace.

2. I put the chicken carcass from Sunday's family dinner into the slow cooker today with water, onion, celery, and seasonings and started making a batch of chicken stock. I wanted to add more green to the stock. I needed a few things at Yoke's so I made a quick trip to the store, bought some parsley for the stock, and picked up a few other things, including two petit sirloin steaks in a single package. Back home, I tossed the parsley into the crock pot and returned to watching golf, the house filling up with great aromas as the stock bubbled away.

3. Late in the afternoon, I suddenly had a bright idea! I realized I had what I needed to fix myself a great breakfast for dinner. I fried a couple of strips of bacon and, in time, added a small mass of chopped Yukon gold baby potatoes to the cast iron pan. As the potatoes were nearly done cooking, I seasoned one of my petit sirloins, fixed it as close to medium rare as I could, and, while it cooked, I fried a couple of eggs.

I couldn't remember the last time I had a steak and egg breakfast with bacon and fried potatoes. I wish I'd had bread on hand to also have some toast, but it didn't matter much. 

I loved this dinner and look forward to fixing myself another one in the near future -- possibly with some variations. 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/07/2021: A Good Walk, Old River Road, Foam and Food

1. I drove up to the trailhead across the road from the Snake Pit and enjoyed walking for about a half an hour, just up the trail to the bridge and a ways beyond and back again. I racked up about 3000 steps, covering about a mile and a half. My legs felt a bit stronger. I hope my wind is improving, too.

2. Soon after I finished walking, Byrdman cruised into the trailhead parking lot and we headed upriver. We drove on Old River Road about as far as Steamboat Creek. Byrdman drove for a short ways on the Steamboat Creek Road, but it's a shaded road and the snow and ice haven't thawed off of it yet. Neither of us wanted to deal with this road in this condition. Byrdman found a good spot where he could turn around and we headed back down Old River Road.

3. We pulled into the parking lot of our destination, the Country Lane River Resort. Byrdman and I had visited the resort soon after Amy, LE, and Josh bought it and started running it and we wanted to see how the place was progressing physically and we knew, in our ongoing roam for foam, that recently the resort had put Radio Brewing's Silver Mountain IPA on tap.

We arrived and strolled right in and Amy was doing some cleaning in the kitchen. I, for one, didn't quite put it together that the resort was closed. I think Amy told us that they were open from Thurs. to Sunday until returning to seven days in May, and, to be honest, at that moment, I thought today was Thursday.

Well, with neither one of us realizing that we had walked into a bar that was closed, Byrdman and I each ordered a Silver Mountain IPA and Amy called Josh out to serve us.

Josh served us our beers and he and Byrdman and I entered into a long and most enjoyable session of yakking. 

At some point, I asked if I could order something to eat and Josh told me that the the stove was shut down because the resort was actually closed.

Then I got it. 

This bar is not actually open. We are getting special treatment. 

Gratitude swelled inside me. 

Josh was serving us, talking to us, without a hint of being put out -- and, he didn't have to. After all, by rights, the bar was closed. 

Then, out of the blue, Josh said, "You know, I could fire things up and cook you guys some French fries."

I was blown away and accepted his offer.

Then his offer grew.

"I could make you some steak fingers or chicken tenders if you like" -- and later he added a brat to what he'd be willing to cook.

This was turning into an awesome early afternoon.

The steak fingers and fries I ordered was just what I needed to go with the beer I'd been drinking. 

Josh and Byrdman and I yakked about the developments at the resort and Amy, LE, and Josh's plans for the future.  Josh told us about building he had done on high end houses at Black Rock and Gozzer Ranch for Edwards Smith Construction and showed us pictures of his work.

It was all fascinating and the food hit the spot and it didn't seem like Josh was impatient for us to leave.

But, soon the time to go arrived and Byrdman and I thanked Josh repeatedly for serving us, cooking for us, and we exchanged a warm farewell with LE who was doing resort business on her phone on the porch near where we were parked.

As we left, I felt just a twinge of embarrassment that it took me so long to realize that we had walked into the Country Lane River Resort bar when it was actually closed. I think I was oblivious to it being closed because I hadn't seen a "closed" sign and the door into the building was unlocked. 

But, beyond that twinge, I was stoked that Josh had taken it upon himself to wait on us, cook us food, and join us in awesome conversation.

In other words, as we left, I was pretty much blown away -- and so Byrdman and I added another awesome outing to our growing list of road trips, to our ongoing passion to roam for foam. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/06/2021: Remembering the 46 Defense, More Cumin and Cinnamon, Tree House Concert #47

1. Over the years, I've watched at least one documentary (maybe more) and read articles about the 1985 Chicago Bears' smothering, paralyzing, impenetrable, fast, powerful, and discombobulating defense, known as the 46 defense.

What stands out to me are comments made by players who faced the Bears in 1985 (and in the 01/26/86 Super Bowl). I'm paraphrasing, but players said that they could watch film of the 1985 Bears, arrive at an intellectual understanding of schemes and tactics of the 46 defense, but they couldn't do anything to prepare for what they actually experienced, physically and mentally, in the face of the speed, tenacity, aggression, power, pressure, and dominance of the Bears' defense in 1985 once they faced in on the gridiron. 

I meant to write yesterday that I thought the Baylor defense against Gonzaga Monday night was similar to the 1985 Bears' 46 defense. My guess is that the Gonzaga players had watched plenty of film, studied tendencies, and, in their minds, knew what to expect from Baylor's defense. But like the Chicago Bears' opponents in 1985, the Gonzaga players had never, in real time, faced a defense as tenacious, quick, intelligent, strong, and, I'd add, hungry as Baylor's.

As I wrote yesterday, the Zags shrank under Baylor's defensive pressure and did not perform physical tasks such as making crisp passes, purposeful cuts, and shooting with confidence in the ways they had against other opponents. Baylor slowed them down. The Zags were sluggish. 

In writing this, my intention is to praise Baylor, not make excuses for Gonzaga. 

That Baylor defense, combined with their remarkable production on offense, especially from long range, made them them, possibly by far, the superior team in the 2021 NCAA national basketball tournament. 

2. I decided to take the idea of seasoning a whole chicken with a combination of cinnamon and cumin and apply it to another very simple dish. Debbie made different variations of this dish when she was teaching and living in Eugene and introduced me to it when she returned to Kellogg.

All this dish requires is cooking up some chopped onion and garlic, adding a vegetable, such as zucchini or green beans or spinach, if you'd like, adding a can of crushed or diced tomatoes and a can of beans. Debbie always used garbanzo beans, but today I mistakenly grabbed a can of white beans off the basement shelves and decided to live with my error.

So, I sprinkled cumin and cinnamon on the onions and garlic while I cooked them until tender. I added chopped zucchini to the onions and garlic and, when it was tender, I added the tomatoes and beans and seasoned the whole thing with some oregano.

I had leftover jasmine rice from last night and warmed in up and ate poured the tomato/bean mixture over the rice.

I enjoyed the flavors created by seasoning this meal with cumin and cinnamon a lot and look forward to other experiments with these seasonings and other ones I might not normally think to use in making certain meals. And my bean mistake turned out just fine -- yes, garbanzo beans would probably have been better, but the white beans worked. 

3. As he does from time to time, Bill Davie invited a second performer to join him in giving Tree House Concert #47. Tonight's guest was Neal Woodall, and thanks to the magic of electronic transmission, Neal played and sang from his home in Brownsville, Texas. Neal Woodall and Bill go back over forty years as friends and musicians. Neal was a part of the Seattle/Tacoma acoustic music world for many, many years and tonight many other musicians from that world were in the virtual audience, including Percy Hilo, Heidi Mueller, Larry Murante, Janis Carper, Kat Eggleston and, I'm sure, others I have forgotten.

Both Bill and Neal were exquisite. I'm not sure, but it seemed that having a longtime friend and colleague like Neal on hand inspired Bill to reach back into the early days of his songwriting and he played some gems from 30-40 years ago like "Sacred Ground", "The Mud Song" (correct title?), and his really early song about thinkin' and drinkin' (unsure of the title). Neal played several tightly composed and beautifully performed original songs and paid tribute to other songwriters like T. R. Ritchie, Chuck Pyle, and Bill Staines and played superb covers of their songs. For one song, about an alien spider that bit him, Neal's wife (I think), Alice joined him and that was a delight.

It's remarkable how the written comments during a virtual concert give us who are in the audience a genuine sense of togetherness, excitement, and appreciation. We learn this and that about each other, get to chuckle at one another's wit, and can enjoy feeling connected, even though we are all in our own places, many miles away from each other and, in many cases, strangers to one another. 

Tonight's audience was especially appreciative and expressive, adding to my enjoyment of this superb Tree House Concert. 


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/05/2021: Baylor Dominated the Mental Game, A Farewell Toast, Easter Leftovers

 1. I tried and tried this season to imagine what might happen if Baylor and Gonzaga ever played each other in a basketball game. Every time I did so, I tried to think of ways Gonzaga could possibly keep the aggressive Baylor Bears off the boards, how they could stop the Bears from scoring, whether from distance, mid-range, or at the tin, and how they could run their offense effectively with the quick, tenacious Baylor Bears in their collective grill all game long, cutting off passing lanes, disrupting offensive sets, and making it difficult to get the ball inside. 

In my imagination, I had a hard time seeing Gonzaga capable of corralling Baylor, but, as a Zags fan, I wanted to hold out hope that my imagination was too limited, that I was just anticipating a Zags' defeat so it would be easier to see it happen when it did, so I tried to think of this game in terms of what problems Gonzaga might present for Baylor.

Once this game was no longer playing out in my mind, but was actually occurring on the maple, I quickly learned that Gonzaga was outmatched, outmanned, out everything in every facet of the game. Gonzaga presented no problems for Baylor. 

Baylor's quick, strong, tenacious, unrelenting defense rattled the Zags. They looked to me like they were suddenly in a dimension of playing basketball that was alien to them. Baylor didn't pressure the Zags in the full court, but once Gonzaga crossed the timeline and tried to get into their offense, Baylor aggressively contested everything they did, rocketed them out of any sense of comfort, and just plain disoriented and dominated the Bulldogs. While disorientation is a mental experience, it also evidenced itself in the Gonzaga's physical play. Their ball handling suffered, their passes were not crisp (were even wild sometimes), and. their shooting was tentative, especially early on. The mental disruption translated into physical sluggishness. 

If you've ever doubted the body-mind connection, this game could help you remove your doubt. Baylor owned Gonzaga mentally, confused and overwhelmed them, and the Zags' bodies showed it. The Baylor pressure on both ends of the floor shrank the Zags while Baylor's bodies seemed to grow quicker, more athletic, and more muscular as their confidence grew and they established their superiority. 

The Baylor offense was aggressive, versatile, and unrelenting. Gonzaga couldn't stop Baylor from scoring from beyond the three point line -- at one point Baylor had outscored Gonzaga 30-3 from three point land. Baylor's players also made determined drives to the basket, shot well from mid-range, and, when they did miss, more often than not got rebounds on offense and put up second and third chance shots and scored. 

Baylor creamed Gonzaga in this championship game: 86-70.

This game had no suspense. From the get go, when Baylor raced immediately to a 9-0 lead, when Gonzaga didn't score their first point until nearly four minutes had passed, it was clear that Baylor was a superior basketball team, that Gonzaga was stunned by how strong, quick, tenacious, and proficient the Bears were, and that Baylor would win this game handily -- which they did.

2. I was less disappointed by this game being a blow out than I was really impressed with Baylor's performance. As I've written before, I love college basketball as a sport more than I am a fan of any one team and I marveled at everything Baylor did tonight. 

So, as the team received its trophy and as CBS showed its annual "One Shining Moment" video, I poured myself a rum and coke. I toasted Baylor. I wished Gonzaga had not been so discombobulated tonight.  I thought back on how much fun I've had watching games this season, not really wanting to let go of watching college basketball. The college season provides about five months of deep pleasure for me. I look forward to having it back in November. 

3. I had some leftover Persian Roasted Chicken and leftover roasted potatoes and yams with roasting juice and I heated it all up and ate it over a bowl of jasmine rice. It was a delicious and satisfying pre-game meal. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/04/2021: Morning King of Glory Muffins, Persian Roast Chicken, Easter Dinner and Hoops

1. I made a couple of quick trips to Yoke's today. I thought I had everything I needed to bake and cook my contributions to family/Easter dinner, but it turned out I didn't. It's the first time I've gone to the grocery store twice in one day for about a century, it seems.

I made cornbread in muffin cups last night and this morning I started my day baking Morning Glory muffins, which, in honor of Easter, I called Morning King of Glory muffins (that made Carol, Paul, and Christy laugh -- as I hoped it would). 

The recipe I used for these muffins calls for a ton of ingredients: pineapple, grated apple, applesauce, grated zucchini, nuts, sugar, all-purpose and whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, grated carrots, eggs, coconut, and vanilla (I might have missed something). 

I had decided that since I was using my new jumbo muffin pan and my new jumbo aluminum foil baking cups, that one of these muffins for each of us after dinner would make a really good dessert. (I was right.)

2. If I remember correctly, when I decided I wanted to roast a chicken for Easter dinner, I did some kind of search at the website The Spruce Eats where I found a recipe called "Persian Roast Chicken".  

I really liked the looks of this recipe and decided to go for it. 

It was simple. 

I sliced an onion and put the slices on the bottom of the Dutch oven.

Once I cleaned and patted the chicken dry, I crushed some saffron threads into warm water, and set it aside.

I then juiced a couple of lemons and a couple or three clementines into three tablespoons of olive oil.

I stuffed the lemon rinds into the chicken's cavity.

I took a minute, then, to salt the chicken,  drizzle olive oil over it, and then evenly spread ground cumin and ground cinnamon on it. With that done, I combined the saffron water with the olive oil and citrus juice mixture and poured it over the chicken

I put the chicken in a 450 degree oven for ten minutes.

I took it out, lowered the temperature to 425 degrees and put a mixture of baby red, gold, and purple potatoes around the chicken along with some chopped up yam.

I returned the chicken to the oven, took its temperature from time to time, and when it was roasted, removed it from the Dutch oven, put the potatoes and onions and the liquid I had poured over the chicken in a bowl with a lid, wrapped the chicken in foil, and let it sit in the Dutch oven until Paul carved it for dinner over at his and Carol's house. 

I loved how this chicken smelled as it roasted, loved having the aromas of cumin, cinnamon, and lemon fill the house. My hope was that if this chicken tasted as good as it smelled while roasting, we were in for a pretty good dinner.

3. As I finished preparing my dinner offerings and got myself cleaned up for dinner, I kept a close eye on the first half of the NCAA championship game between Stanford and Arizona, two teams I enjoy a lot. I knew I'd only watch this game until half time. In the action I got to see, Arizona fell behind early, picked up their signature defensive pressure, made a comeback, but then Stanford went on a run and pulled ahead by seven at half-time. 

I hated to leave the game, but I value family dinner more than televised basketball and was happy to pack up and head to Paul and Carol's.

I was in charge of cocktails and had decided that simple drinks made from gin would be a good drink to pair with the meal I'd planned.

Christy ordered a gin and tonic and Carol, Paul, and I each had a martini -- up, dry, and stirred with two almond stuffed green olives. 

I think I made the right call for what to drink before dinner.

Carol set out delicious food to nibble on during our cocktail half an hour: she made deviled eggs, an Easter tradition, and set out nuts and olives. Perfect.

We've been abundantly cautious at our family dinners and have covered our faces and kept distance from each other while eating in Carol and Paul's living room.

But, we are all fully vaccinated now. Earlier in the week, I texted Christy and Carol the question of whether we might return to the dining table for dinner. We all agreed that we should do that.

So we did. Carol set a handsome table. We went back to passing food to each other. We were also back to being in closer proximity to each other as we talked and ate our dinner. 

The safer arrangement had worked beautifully for me for all the months we ate in the living room and I was very happy, too, to be back at the dining table. 

Our dinner was a great success. Christy assembled a crisp and fresh green salad and made a creamy and delicious dressing called Spring Goddess. Carol roasted a cauliflower, adding sweetness to our main course. The chicken was moist and lemony. Those great Middle Eastern flavors of cumin and cinnamon added welcome and enticing layers of flavor. I was particularly happy that my idea to roast some potatoes and then cover them and the onions with the liquid from the roasting pan worked so well. That liquid had similar flavor to the chicken, only multiplied, and enhanced our enjoyment of the potatoes and the onions. We were all happy with the cornbread, too. We had left over Rose (rozay) and Petit Syrah wine from last week, perfect wines for this dinner.

The Morning King of Glory muffins provided more than a chuckle. Loaded with all those fruits and vegetables and nuts and spices, these muffins capped off our dinner perfectly.

Christy kept track of the basketball game on her phone and we learned that Stanford defeated Arizona, 54-53. 

I knew that as soon as I arrived home, I'd go online and find out who had the last possession in this squeaker.

Arizona did.

That last possession, which lasted about seven seconds, was a classic case of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.

Something had to give.

Arizona's coach Adia Barnes had decided that her unstoppable force, Aari McDonald, was going to take the last shot no matter what. Barnes' thinking was that Aari McDonald had shouldered the Wildcats all year long and there was no way on this final possession that the Wildcats were going to look to anyone else for a game winning shot.

Stanford knew this and created an immovable object, a wall of three defenders near the free throw line, determined not let McDonald get into the paint.

If you watch these last seven seconds, you'll see McDonald dart forward, backward, laterally, looking for a crack in this wall to get into the paint and she (nor could any mortal) can't do it.

That left her one option.

She stepped back and flung a long shot toward the hoop. It had a chance, but ricocheted off the back iron and the immovable object prevailed over the unstoppable force. 

McDonald's shot was, in part, a desperate heave, but from a distance I've seen her score from countless times over the last couple of seasons. 

It was a crushing, heartbreaking end for Arizona. Coach Barnes signaled her players to gather around Aari McDonald and they joined together in a circle of consolation around her.

I liked that both teams went for broke in those last seven seconds. 

Coach Barnes essentially decided that come hell or high water, Aari McDonald would decide the outcome of this game. 

On the defensive side, Coach VanderVeer also decided that come hell or high water, Stanford was going to defend Aari McDonald with three players, not caring that this left two Arizona players open somewhere.

Both coaches employed a risky strategy and, at the end of this particular game, Stanford's risk was successful. Arizona's wasn't. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/03/2021: Baking, Buzzer Beater, Vizio Advantage

 1. As the Baylor/Houston game this afternoon grew more and more unenjoyable, I retired to the kitchen and spiffed it up and then, so that I would use up the last of my 2.5" baking cups, I baked a batch of cornbread in muffin cups. I think I'll bring them to our Easter Day family dinner and see if anyone's interested in eating them with our meal.

2. I want to see Gonzaga's men's basketball team win the national championship. But, I'm not a myopic fan. I love the game of basketball more than I do the Zags. I have a long history with college basketball, extending back to the first NCAA championship game I remember watching. It was in 1966 when Texas Western (now U of Texas at El Paso) electrified the world of college basketball and defeated Kentucky, 72-65. 

In the ensuing years, I became a devoted UCLA Bruin fan. I loved their run from 1967-1975 when they won the championship eight of nine years.

So, tonight, as UCLA and Gonzaga hit the ice, and I saw UCLA's classic blue and gold jerseys, I could hear the UCLA fight song in my head and feelings that are over fifty years old returned, and I hoped this 2020-21 UCLA squad, a late blooming squad, a team playing superb basketball over the last three weeks, would bring their best game to this contest and the Zags and Bruins would square off in a compelling match up.

Well, let's just say, not in my wildest dreams did I imagine my hopes being so fully realized. If my hopes were coffee being poured into a cup, let's just say my cup ran-eth over tonight!

UCLA played brilliantly. They were disciplined on offense. They managed the shot clock intelligently, got their best shooters in spots they like to shoot from, made few mistakes, and never folded in the face of whatever pressure Gonzaga applied, full court, three quarter court, or half court. UCLA's best player, Johnny Juzang, scored 29 brilliant points, Jaimie Jacquez added 19, and, to me, the real bonus for the Bruins came from Tyger Campbell and Cody Riley who scored 17 and 14 points, respectively, making it difficult and a bad idea for the Zags to focus much of the defensive attention to Jacquez and Juzang.

It was a marvel to watch how this UCLA team coalesced, found their identity in playing dogged defense and disciplined offense, over the last three weeks. They did everything they needed to do to beat Gonzaga.

Well, except one thing.

UCLA didn't have the game's last possession.

When Johnny Juzang scored on a put back of his own missed shot to tie the game near the end of  overtime, there were still just over three seconds left on the clock, enough time for Corey Kisbert to inbound the ball to Jalen Suggs, for Suggs to dribble-race across half court and from 40-45 feet away from the basket shoot a jump shot. 

Just before the horn sounded to end the game, Suggs' shot kissed the backboard just above the rim and dropped through the hoop.

Bedlam!

This magnificently played, intensely battled basketball game ended and Gonzaga won it, 93-90 in OT.

I belted out a My God the World is So Brilliantly Random and Absurd laugh, texted with Christy, Terry, Byrdman, Rog, and Stu and watched the ensuing celebration.

3.  I got to thinking. For years I didn't have a television and so I've only seen replays of past incredible buzzer beaters in the NCAA Tournament. I missed Arike Ogunbowale, Christian Laettner, Kris Jenkins, U. S. Reed, Mike Miller, Tyus Edney, Bryce Drew, Keith Smart, and who knows what other famous buzzer beaters simply because I didn't have a television. But, I had a television in 1983 and nearly jumped through the ceiling of my North Spokane generic apartment when Lorenzo Charles turned Dereck Whittenburg's air ball from thirty into a short buzzer beating game winning shot. 

Tonight I got to see one of the NCAA Tournament's most exciting moments live, as it happened, and you know what? I'm grateful to have ended my years without a television streak. Seeing this game tonight was a blast.


Saturday, April 3, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/02/2021: Easter in Valley Cottage, Stanford in a Thriller, Arizona Bears Down

 1. I had missed/overlooked a message Debbie posted to Christy, Carol, and me that Molly, Olivia, David, and Ana were spending Easter weekend in Valley Cottage with Debbie and the Langfords. Debbie posted some pictures of our grandchildren. It's fun to see them all in one place, all in one photograph and, kind of oddly, it helped me remember that it was seven years ago, almost to the day, that we put the word out that we had definitely decided to leave Eugene and move to Virginia -- which, by September of 2014, became a move to Maryland. Seeing the pictures of the grandchildren and realizing the time that has passed since we left Eugene brought to mind a cluster of memories -- selling the house, driving across the country, living with the Diazes in their townhouse, starting to explore Washington, D. C., Maryland, and Virginia, discovering the abundance of natural beauty in these states, becoming acquainted with local beers -- it was fun to recall all of this. I hope it's a fun weekend for Debbie and the Langfords and Diazes. I look forward to more pictures and any news about what's going on.

2. This afternoon, I tuned into the first Final Four game of the weekend matching Stanford and the University of South Carolina. I'd seen Stanford play once or twice earlier in the season and hadn't seen South Carolina. This was a furious game. Both teams were the top-seeded teams in their region. They are tough-minded teams who play rugged defense and can score from in the paint or from beyond the arc. Stanford fell behind early, but went on an extended run in the late first quarter on into the second quarter and led at halftime, 31-25. Stanford's bench was a huge help. The Cardinal's Haley Jones scored early and often in the first quarter, but also committed her second foul and didn't play in the second quarter. Even without her, the Cardinal found other scorers, played stout defense, and often kept the Gamecocks off the boards, a remarkable achievement against the one of the nation's leading rebounding teams.

If you look at the box score, you'll see that Lexie Hull only made 4 of her 17 shots. That stat might lead you to think she had a lousy game. Far from it. The graduate of Central Valley High School of Spokane Valley pulled down 13 rebounds, played relentless defense, found ways to get inside the South Carolina defense, and was most impressive as a hard-nosed leader of this team, more than willing to do what in basketball is known as the "dirty work": defend with energy, dive for loose balls, force tie ups, drive fearlessly to the basket, and rebound with tenacity.

No doubt, the player of the game in Stanford's 66-65 victory was Haley Jones. She scored 24 points and capped her performance by hitting the game's winning shot. That said, I thought Stanford's most valuable player was Lexie Hull. Stanford needed to play rugged and physical against this physically imposing University of South Carolina team and, in that crucial dimension of the game, Lexie Hull was the Cardinal's team leader.

3. The other semi-final game featured perennial basketball powerhouse Connecticut against Arizona. Coming into this game, UConn had played in 21 Final Fours -- the last 13 in a row. Arizona's program had never advanced this far. Connecticut's team is led by Paige Bueckers, the AP national player of the year. 

As they say, on paper, UConn looked like the clear favorite to win this game.

But, you know what else they say? Games aren't played on paper.

No, they are played on the maple.

And, tonight, Arizona played what their star player Aari McDonald called suffocating, stinky defense. They disrupted Connecticut, kept them out of rhythm, gave up few open or easy shots, and harassed and confused the Huskies. 

On offense, the Wildcats didn't have the player of the year, but they had the best player in this game. Aari McDonald is not very tall, but she's quick and cerebral. She knows how to get to the spots she likes to shoot from and release her deadly shots quickly, whether from way outside or from midrange. She can also put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop, darting between defenders, finding angles to shoot from, and often draw fouls. 

Aari McDonald wasn't alone in leading Arizona to its 69-59 victory. Yes, she scored 26 points, but every Wildcat, every starter, and every player off the bench played with a passion and a toughness, on defense and on the boards, that I'm not sure the younger UConn team had experienced in an opponent before. 

I watched a lot of Pac-12 basketball back when my tv provider included the Pac 12 Network. The Oregon Ducks in 2018-19 and 2019-20 were always my favorite team, but my next favorite team, by far, was Arizona. I loved then and I loved tonight the way they play so hard for their coach, Adia Barnes, and I immediately was blown away, and still am, by Aari McDonald's versatility, quickness, sharp shooting, and stout defense. She was this year's Pac 12 player of the year and named the conference's top defensive player of the year. She's a force.

I won't see all of the final game between Stanford and Arizona because it will still be on when I leave for family dinner, although Carol and Paul might also have it on.

It's hard to know what to expect. Stanford defeated Arizona by a wide margin twice in conference play. The last of those two games happened on Feb. 22. It's common knowledge that Arizona has improved since that game, but hasn't Stanford also improved? Aren't both of these teams playing at a higher level in early April than they were on Feb 22? 

I'm not making any predictions -- I'm just looking forward to seeing how this championship game plays out and am happy that the Pac 12 Conference place both teams in this final contest. 

Friday, April 2, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 04/01/2021: Starting Over, Walking West Kellogg, Curry and Noodles

1. Today was the opening day of the Major League Baseball season and that also means the opening day of fantasy baseball. 

It's weird.

When I was a young baseball fan, I knew all the players, their teams, how they were performing, everything. 

Now, the new season rolls around and I honestly have to start all over again familiarizing myself with the players on my teams and around the league. 

Once the 2020 season was over, the players, in large part, just went away. Out of my mind.

So, today, I started to familiarize myself with players again and, as it turned out, my teams did pretty well on Opening Day. I didn't draft my own players -- ESPN robots drafted more me -- and now I'll just have to learn more and see what happens.

2. My legs were a little rubbery today after I walked on Wednesday in CdA, but I want to keep moving and took about a fifteen minute shorter walk today. I walked over to the triangle park on Riverside and Mission, walked around its circumference and then went back to Cameron Ave and walked past the hospital, past McDonald's, past the title loan place, to the condos or whatever they are west of town.

I backtracked to the intersection of Cameron and Jacobs Gulch and headed to the stairway that leads from the hospital parking lot to The Trail and walked on The Trail back to Riverside and headed back home. 

So, I walked for about 35 minutes. I racked up about nearly 3700 steps. I just keep trying to get stronger.

3. Back home, I knew I had about a dinner's worth of chicken curry sauce left over from the other night. I didn't have any rice left over, though, and so I decided to sort of replicate one of those wide noodle Thai dishes I've enjoyed over the years in Thai restaurants by boiling a batch of Amish Wedding Food Wide Noodles. 

It was perfect. The yellow curry sauce tasted terrific in combination with the egg (not Thai rice) noodles and I let myself believe that I was back in Eugene, at 940 Madison, enjoying a container of take out Rad Na. 

 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Three Beautiful Things 03/31/2021: Walking in Coeur d' Alene, The Crown and Thistle, Muffin Pan

 1.  I drove to Coeur d'Alene today to take the kind of walk I enjoy the most.  I parked the Sube just north of 4th and Wallace and walked toward the lake, not really knowing what I was going to do. I reached Front Street and decided to do something I'd never done before and walk the route of the floating boardwalk. It was a flawless, cool, clear afternoon, the lake stretching out for miles without a ripple on it and hardly a boat.  The cobalt lake surface set off the distant hills topped with snow beautifully. 

Because I haven't walked much during the winter, I like to walk in downtown areas -- or on this boardwalk -- because I can readily find public benches or tables to sit and rest a bit. As I build strength back in my legs again, I'll need to sit less often as I walk, making walking the routes I usually take in Kellogg more appealing, as well as walking on the Trail of the CdAs. 

2. I had decided that after I walked for a while, I'd try out The Crown and Thistle on 4th Street, just north of Sherman Ave.

Crown and Thistle is built in the style of an English pub and offers a menu of pub fare: fish and chips, meat pies, Scotch egg, pasties, bangers and mash, and other such offerings. They also serve Guinness, Harp, and other beers from the U.K.

To my surprise, after all these years, I experienced a moment of truth at The Crown and Thistle.

I ordered a 10 oz glass of someone's ESB -- wish I'd written the brewer down -- and haddock and chips.

My food arrived and I started to eat the haddock and suddenly I realized that I love the idea of fish and chips, but I don't enjoy the actual meal that much. I took some time and thought about this. I thought about fish and chips I've eaten everywhere from the Atlantic ChipShop in Brooklyn to Billy Mac's and Newman's in Eugene to the Fisherman's Market and Grill in Coeur d'Alene and I realized that while I'm not put off by fish and chips, I honestly don't enjoy them that much.

The haddock and chips I ate today had no defects: the fish was moist and the breading was made of a beer batter and was crispy and intact (not damp and falling apart). 

I cannot and will not fault The Crown and Thistle!

I simply would rather eat other fare and I'm writing this largely so that I hope I'll remember that when I return to this place or go to other similar spots, not to order fish and chips. 

I really think it's a meal that I want to enjoy more than I actually do.

I enjoyed my malty ESB. I ate at a very slow time in the pub so I had a pleasant, quiet time. 

I actually just wish I'd had my come to Jesus moment regarding fish and chips before I sat down and wish I'd ordered something else. 

Ha! I'm a slow learner. 

3. I walked several blocks up 4th Street back to the Sube and drove out to Fred Meyer where I found a jumbo muffin pan, put it in my cart, and bought a few other things I needed.

When I returned home, I was relieved to discover that the jumbo baking cups I accidentally ordered online fit perfectly in the holes in the muffin pan I bought, so I'll be in business soon baking some muffins.

When I finished shopping, I checked my pedometer.

This was my most productive day walking in along time.

I took over 5300 steps in just over 50 minutes and racked up about 2.3 miles. 

I did exactly the kind of walking I enjoy most today, a combination of walking city streets with a stroll very near water and, along the way, I found plenty of places to sit the two or three times I wanted to give my legs a rest.