Saturday, May 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

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

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

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

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