Thursday, October 19, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 10/18/17: Morning Business, Fun in CdA, Double D Pils with a Taco and Soup

1. I buckled down again this morning and took care of more business related to Mom's estate. I called the Woman's Life to make sure I had everything in order to make a claim on the policy Mom held and learned I had one more form to complete.  I'm glad I called.

I went to Wells Fargo where Mom banked and with the help of Cynthia, closed her accounts and set up an estate account.

I had a couple or three questions for Attorney Mike Peacock and took a break from my work with Cynthia to talk with him and I think I understand how the process toward settling things and how dispersing Mom's assets works.

Being the executor -- or personal representative -- of Mom's estate is a solemn responsibility and I am doing my best to make sure I do right by Christy and Carol as we work together to figure things out.

2.  By 11:00, I had completed this morning's business and so the Deke and I slowly but surely got ourselves ready to go to Coeur d'Alene to have a little fun. We were going to take care of some business there, but since we got off to a late start, we limited our activities to poking around in a couple of thrift stores and an antique shop -- we came up empty, by the way --, a walkthrough at Pilgrim's Market so the Deke could get a sense of the place and we could buy a few things, and doing a little shopping at Fred Meyer.  In a moment of spontaneity, the Deke dropped in at Bear Paw Quilting to buy what she needs to sew some placemats. We had fun taking our time, letting the spirit move us as to what we'd do next, and relaxing at these different stores.

3. We fully relaxed at Daft Badger. I ordered a short pour of the Double D Pilsner, named after and brewed in memory of Daft Badger co-founder Darrell Dlouhy's recently deceased brother Duane. It's a great beer. On the one hand, it pays homage to Duane's love of Coors Light by being light in alcohol volume and bitterness, but it deftly departs from Coors Light by being a much more complex and full flavored beer. For me, it was the perfect beer to drink with the very tasty order of spicy beef tacos the Deke and I split and the bracing cup of chicken tortilla soup I ordered as a side. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 10/17/17: Tasks, Working at Stein's, Green Curry and "America"

1.  I spent the better part of the day on the phone making appointments: gutter work, furnace tune-up, attorney, dentist, eye exam, bank, and on and on and then entered them all in my online calendar so I'll get reminders and notifications. My sisters and I have a claim to make on a small life insurance policy Mom took out many many years ago and I gathered documents for that and will call the company Wednesday morning to make sure I have everything they need to process our claim. Our family owns a grave plot in Spokane and I gathered the paperwork necessary to send it in so we can transfer ownership of it, by donation, to Hospice of North Idaho. Slowly, steadily I'm getting things either done or underway in the effort to both settle Mom's estate and get established in Kellogg.

2. I needed brown sugar to make our dinner tonight and I wanted to replenish our milk and half and half supply. I put on my backpack and strolled down West Cameron Avenue to Stein's. Every time I walk into Stein's, it's all I can do to stop myself from going to the back room and putting on a red apron and going to work stocking shelves, bagging and carrying out groceries, cleaning up breakage, incinerating boxes, or reorganizing the stock room. I walk in and still, forty-eight years later, expect to see Sally or Beryl or Vi or Olivia or Susan or Bernice or Donna or other checkers working the cash registers; I still expect to see Chuck over at the Customer Service counter or Gus butchering away in the meat department; I think of the great guys I stocked shelves with: Meryl, Dickie, Dale, Jim, Rob, Terry, Tim, and many others and I swear, as I picked up a pack of brown sugar from the baking aisle, that I could hear the voice of Sally coming over the store's sound system: "All boxboys up front please!"

Today Loverboy was playing as I shopped, a stark contrast to when we worked to an endless loop of Muzak that repeated -- what? on the hour? every two hours? Back then, when I got off shift I had to do something to get the Muzak out of my head. Sometimes I piled with Tim O'Reilly into his Datsun and he drove us through town once or twice and we listened to Neil Diamond or I'd go home and find a way to play some Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago, Led Zeppelin or Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

Walking by the beer case reminded me of the time a customer walked up to me and asked me where the suds were.

I escorted him to the Tide/Cheer/Wisk aisle.

He got a little indignant and said, laughing at me, "Beer. Where's the beer?"

My face reddened.

That stung.

Still does.

When I shop at Stein's.

3.  I needed the brown sugar because finally, after too many months of not doing it, I cooked up some Thai green curry. Last week I bought tofu, fish sauce, green curry paste, and coconut milk at Pilgrim's Market in Coeur d'Alene.

I loved finally making Thai curry again. I cubed the tofu and wrapped the cubes in paper towels to drain. I looked up in past blog posts for a reminder of the ratio I like of curry paste to coconut milk and, oh yeah!, we like our curry on the mild side and one teaspoon of paste for each can of milk suffices.  Well, I tasted this and it seemed a bit too coconutty to me, so I added about a half a teaspoon of paste and seemed to hit the mark.

I heated up oil in the cast iron pan and poured in chopped onion and some fresh ginger. Soon I added the tofu. I boiled some cut up baby red potatoes and, once I could poke a fork in them, I added them to the pan along with a handful of frozen green beans.  Meanwhile, the jasmine rice was cooking and I added a tablespoon of fish sauce and brown sugar to the coconut milk and curry paste and let it simmer until the green beans thawed.

I poured the curry sauce over the stir fired ingredients and sat down at the kitchen table with a tiny cheese spread jar that held a single ice cube and a some George Dickel Tennessee Sour Mash Whisky and listened to Simon and Garfunkel sing "America" and I thought about how the last three years living in Maryland, driving the New Jersey Turnpike to New York (but not countin' cars),  hanging out in the Village and Lower East Side with Scott, talking about her social justice work with Mary at Fraunces Tavern in Lower Manhattan, seeing two plays with the Deke on Broadway, drinking Jameson's with bottles of Dirt Wolf with Mike and Ed at O'Hara's after going to the top of the One World Trade Center, touring Philadelphia, walking the National Mall, shopping at the Beltsville Costco, eating and drinking and listening to stories with employees of the Prince George's County School District, frequently spending Sunday afternoons at DC Brau, driving to Cooperstown and, much later,  the back roads of Pennsylvania to officiate Julie and Curtis' wedding in Huntingdon, motoring along the Maryland Eastern Shore, along with the many other things I did, added up to this: I was looking for America. I looked along the Chicago River, in the emptied out pre-apocalyptic mall in Elyria, OH, in the faces of cheerful patrons at the Laughing Sun Brewing Co. in Bismark, in the music of The Babes with Axes, and, back in Kellogg, I now look for America in the stories I hear at the Inland Lounge, the cast iron pots and pans at Sunnyside Drug, and in family dinners on Sunday.

The curry turned out beautifully and the Deke and I were both happy that we have found the right products here in North Idaho to fix curry we like. We look forward to more.

I concluded as Simon and Garfunkel closed out their performance of  "America" at Central Park that, for me, the best way to look for America is to let all of its variety and languages and landscapes tell me, teach me what America is. I haven't gone looking to confirm a predetermined idea of America.  The America I look for is not an idea. It's what's there.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 10/16/17: Slow and Steady, Afternoon Stroll, Walking Uptown on Memory Lane

1.  The Deke and I are working steadily at trying to get all the business taken care of related to living at a new address, helping out with Mom's business, and continuing to make decisions about the house itself. We made progress today -- more address changes in the mail, added more tasks to our list, worked more on figuring out the finances of being retired. We keep encouraging each other that we'll get it all worked out and done.  Slow and steady. That seems to be the key.

2. The Deke and I took a walk on this golden and scarlet autumn afternoon down to Cattails Antiques just to look at stuff -- like cast iron products and then we popped into the newly remodeled Sunnyside Drug where I looked at more cast iron products. We found the mailbox outside Stein's and mailed out a stack of address changes, post cards for the grandchildren, and our electric/gas bill and returned home. Neither of us has been out walking much in the past few weeks. I know all my exercise has been from loading boxes, gathering Mom's belongings, and filling garbage bags and hauling them places. I've doing this since late July when we started dealing with Mom's basement and garage and the many weeks have put a strain on my back. The good news is that walking helps ease that strain -- I'm sure flopping around at a pool would, too.  We didn't take a long walk this afternoon, but it was a gorgeous stroll and physically therapeutic.

3. In fact, I enjoyed that short walk so much, I took a longer one this evening. The Deke meets up with other women in the Valley at Radio Brewing for beer, conversation, and a class on the subject of beer and at about 7:30 I strode out the door and walked the quiet streets and the many lanes of memories of Kellogg. It's about a one mile walk with a hill to climb from our house to Radio Brewing. It's essentially the same walk I used to take many mornings and evenings to Kellogg Junior High and back. It's essentially the same walk I used to make to go to the YMCA. This evening, however, I wasn't carrying my baritone horn case nor my books and homework papers nor was I carrying a gym bag. What I did carry, though, is the same thing I carried uptown as a teenager: my thoughts. When I was in junior high, I had a lot on my mind and I usually walked to school and to the YMCA by myself and I thought about a lot of things: friends, life at home, sports, where I fit in, my fears of failure, who I feared, who were my buddies -- and I dreamed a lot about playing basketball and baseball -- I imagined a lot of heroic moments. I didn't dream about being a sports hero this evening. Those days are gone. But, I thought a lot about the Deke and me and this huge change in our lives and continued to believe that we'll figure things out and, possibly, before too long, have a bed of our own to sleep in.

This walk was also good for my back.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 10/15/17: We Can Print!, Family Dinner, Paul and the Deke Play the Guitar

1. This morning I took our new printer out of the box. I prepared our two old HP laptops to have the software downloaded on them. Then, for the next six hours or so, I fiddled around trying to get each computer to work with the printer. After much trial and error and without really understanding what had gone wrong when the two computer and device wouldn't work together, I succeeded. We are back to having printing capability in our home, along with copying -- next up, I'll work to figure out how the scanning function works and nail that down. By the way, the trouble I had today perplexed me: I have connected several printers and computers in our home over the last ten or eleven years and never had a problem until today.

2. Carol, Paul, Everett, Christy, the Deke, and I are going to have regular family dinners on Sundays -- we won't do it every Sunday, but we will get together often.  The Deke and I hosted dinner tonight and we put our collective skills to work to create a pretty solid dinner. I seared chicken thighs, took them out of the cast iron pans, and put chicken broth, water, and jasmine rice in the pans and brought the liquid to a boil. I then put the chicken back on top of the rice and liquid, covered the pans, and let the rice and chicken cook together. When they were done, I took the chicken back out again and mixed black beans with the rice and topped it with cilantro. I had fresh squeezed lime juice ready to mix in the rice, also, but I forgot to include it. It was one of those days -- so, now, I'm eager to make this One-Pan Chicken Thighs with Cilantro-Lime Black Bean Rice again -- and I'm curious how it will taste with the lime actually included!  Curious?  You can find the recipe by clicking right here.

The Deke roasted Brussel sprouts and a medley of baby carrots perfectly -- without a recipe!

3. We settled into the living room for some conversation after dinner. We are having another moving day this coming Saturday when Carol and Paul, with help, will transport more of Mom's belongings to their house, opening the way for the Deke and me to buy our own bed and set it up.  The Deke and Paul got to talking about playing the guitar. Paul is pretty much self-taught and so is the Deke.  She got out her guitar and showed him some techniques he might consider giving a whirl. I think it's very possible that they will get together from time to time and continue to build on their guitar skills.

A footnote:  The Deke has had out her guitar and played and sung more music since we moved to Kellogg nearly three weeks ago than she did the whole three years we lived in Alexandria and Greenbelt.  Retirement is treating the Deke well.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 10/14/17: Errands and Daft Badger, Tales at Radio Brewing, Chocolate and Cheese Party

1.  The Deke and I hopped into the Sube and struck out for an afternoon of errands in CdA. Mom's papers are securely locked in a bin ready to be picked up and shredded. A picture we love is being framed. We bought the goods for tonight's party at our house and for family dinner tomorrow night. We capped off our running around by splitting a chicken with mango salsa sandwich on a brioche bun and each having a cup of deep and rich goulash soup at the Daft Badger. This food was superb. I'd never tried Daft Badger's Hoppypotamus Pale Ale, so I had a couple short pours and I enjoyed what an expertly balanced beer it is. The payoff for me was in the slight sweetness -- the brewery's web page tells me it's a caramel undertone -- that complements the beer's pleasant hoppiness.  The Deke was very happy with her Fresh Hopped IPA.  I tasted it and agreed: great stuff.

2. Back in Kellogg, we made a quick stop at Radio Brewing and had a quick blast of fun and great conversation. We talked more with my Orofino cousin Lura's former neighbor, Sara.  Meredith told us the adventurous tale of how she and her family uprooted themselves from Maupin, OR and went on the road in search of employment and a new place to live and landed in Kellogg where her husband is the chef at Radio Brewing.  Meredith manages the tap room. Two of the Deke's new friends from the beer class she attends strolled in and so did Ashley, who owns the joint with her husband, and that meant more fun conversation.

3. Back home, I set up our party for Christy, Everett, the Deke, and me. I bought and broke up four bars of Moonstruck Chocolate at Fred Meyer along with a bottle of port wine, small blocks of Chocolate Stout Cheddar and Oregon Blue Cheese, both from Rogue Brewing's creamery and a small block of Long Clawson Wensleydale with Cranberry; I set out a gala apple sliced; I plated crackers, pepper crackers and Effie's Homemade Corncakes,  delicious cornbread crackers with a hint of anise. I've never set up a chocolate/cheese and port wine tasting before so I don't know if this combination of things might seem clumsy to those who know what they are doing, but for the four of us it was all fun and tasty. We sat around the kitchen table and yakked and had a fun time with the variety of flavors. Next time, maybe I'll read up a bit on this sort of thing and see what it's like if I half way know what I'm doing!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 10/13/17: Papers, Good Talk, Saturday Plans

1.  This morning I went through Mom's papers that she had stored in her closet and in her desk. I held out some more recent records and found more items to include in the family history archives located at Carol's. Unless some papers pop up out of a secret drawer or Mom has papers in the upstairs storage closets, all I have left to do now is to take about four boxes worth of old tax returns, cancelled checks, medical records, receipts, and other papers to a shredding service. This project also rendered about eight bags of materials like file folders, envelopes, and documents that I deemed not sensitive for the dump and I took them up there early this afternoon.

2. I picked up Ed around 2:00 and we made a trip to the Coeur d'Alene Casino. As always, it was the yakking on the way down and back that was the most fun. I told Ed about the projects that lie ahead for the Deke and me as we slowly work to transform our new house from being Mom's into being our place and he had some very helpful suggestions for guys in the Valley who might be able to do some of the work. In fact, he called one of them and I hope that guy and I can get things going.

3. Our trip to the casino was a short one. Neither one of us tried to buy our way out of lousy luck so I was home early in the evening. My early arrival back home gave the Deke and me time to talk and we decided we have a lot to do tomorrow in Cd'A and around the house. We also decided it would be fun to buy some chocolate at Pilgrim's Market and some port wine and invite Christy and Everett over after dinner for some sampling and the accepted our invitation.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 10/12/17: Shred Prep, Donation in Wallace, From the Outer Limits to Cheese and Wine

1.  Mom kept three or four boxes of receipts, tax returns, contracts, and other papers in the basement stretching back to the 1950s. I went through these papers today and now I have a sharper understanding of what Mom and Dad earned in their jobs through the years, what kind of a mortgage they took out in 1962, when the kitchen remodel happened, when the basement remodel happened, and a host of other things. Those papers are all ready for shredding now and my next move will be to go through Mom's papers in her desk and closet.

2. The Deke and I loaded up the Sube with medical supplies Mom left behind. Some of the supplies were left over from her hospital stay a year ago, others from her stay in the nursing home, and others were things that helped Mom live more easily in her house. We donated these supplies to the Shoshone County Women's Resource Center in Wallace, an agency administered by Kellie (Turnbow) Lavigne. I've known Kellie since the day she was born as our family and the Turnbows were close friends, so it was a great visit, not only in the charitable sense, but also because the Deke and I spent some time talking with Kellie and getting a tour of the facility she oversees.

3.  The Deke and I have been accomplishing a lot these last few days.  Yes, there is much left to do, but we keep chipping away and our list of things to do continues to shrink. After we dropped off the supplies at the Women's Resource Center, we dropped in at the City Limits Brew Pub for some beer, some sweet potato fries, and some first-rate conversation, ending with a fun chat with Mark Burmeister, the original brewer, an owner, and the day to day boss at City Limits.  I used to occasionally drink coffee in the morning at Johnny's Bar in Smelterville with his dad and a group of other men. Mark told me both his mom and dad were doing pretty well for being in their mid-nineties -- in fact, they'd just been in the joint earlier in the day.  Mark also got a kick out of the fact that Mary Idell West Woolum, in all innocence and without joking, used to call his business The Outer Limits. Now, the Deke and I always, with each other, refer to The City Limits as The Outer Limits.

We moved our party to Radio Brewing where I thoroughly enjoyed their Brown Ale. We returned home and I broke out the small blocks of Stilton and Hunstman cheese I'd bought at Pilgrim's Market and we ate off of a plate of cheese, pepper crackers, saltine crackers, sweet pickle chips, cherry tomatoes, and Kalamata olives. I had read that these cheeses paired well with port wine, so I bought a short bottle on Wednesday and we both agreed that the blue sharpness of the Stilton and the creamy nuttiness of the Double Gloucester (the Huntsman combines the two cheeses) was greatly enhanced by the sweetness of the port wine. What a blast!  

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 10/11/17: The List, Pilgrim's Market, Beer and Dinner with the Deke

1. I have a long list of things to do. Moving to a new state, moving into a different house, being the executor of Mom and Dad's estate requires a lot of tasks ranging from inventorying Mom's assets to getting an Idaho drivers license with all kinds of things in between like continuing to move things out of the house, figuring out repairs and improvements and furnishings, and getting back into a medical routine. I made some progress on these things and, with each item on the list that gets done, I breathe a bit more freely.

2. The Deke attended a knitting group at a yarn store in Coeur d'Alene that knits scarves for vets and I decided to use the time to scout the beer, wine, produce, groceries, and other goods at Cd'A's Pilgirm's Market.  The store strongly impressed me. I went straight to the beer section. They stock premium beers in great variety and sell create your own mixed six packs (unavailable in Greenbelt, Maryland!). They also serve draft beer and fill growlers. I didn't buy any beer today, but I will one day.  I bought some strong cheese and a little bottle of port wine for the Deke and me. I I picked up some curry making items. I got a block of tofu, some Nancy's yogurt, and a few other things. My plan is to be loyal to Yoke's and Stein's here in Kellogg, but to drop into Pilgrim's from time to time to supplement our pantry with what I don't find in Kellogg.  The baked goods at Pilgrim's looked awesome and so did their grill and deli and I saw some probiotic fermented carrots, jala and cabbage, under the brand of Cultured Mama, made in CdA, that also looked delicious.

3.  After my study of Pilgrim's Market and making a few purchases, I picked up the Deke and we headed over to Slate Creek Brewing and I enjoyed a superb pint of Rye IPA. Slate Creek's tasting room is cozy with cement floors and concrete walls. It reminds the Deke and me a little bit of the tasting room at DC Brau and we love it. We also enjoyed a bowl of peanuts in the shell. The Deke and I fell into some superb conversation and wanted to continue it, so we plopped down at the short bar (or as we call it, thinking table) at Daft Badger and I was blown away by the sweet, peaty, smoky, slightly bitter beauty of Daft Badgers Scotchy Scotch Scotch Scotch Ale.

The Deke and I arrived back in Kellogg before it was totally dark and the Deke went right to work making bacon, parmesan cheese, and cherry tomato blended with spaghetti squash. We each heated ours up a bit with Frank's RedHot and enjoyed a thoroughly delicious and deeply satisfying dinner.

I think we'll be ready to get back to the list on Thursday!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 10/10/17: The Committal, Lively Lunch at Radio Brewing, Improvised Soup

1. Christy, Everett, Carol, Paul, the Deke, and I met Debbie Mikesell this morning at Kellogg's Greenwood Cemetery to join together in prayer, a hymn, and Scripture as we committed Mom's ashes to Dad's grave, just as she requested.

We gathered in the soft light of October in the midst of golden trees.  The Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer provided us with beautiful passages and prayers, which I read, including a Prayer of Consecration and a Prayer of Committal. I read Matthew 11: 28-30 ("Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden. . . "). Carol led us in singing two verses and the chorus of the hymn "The Old Rugged Cross", one of Mom's favorites.  I read Psalm 148, a perfect hymn of praise. I am very grateful that back in August, Christy had recommended this Psalm for Mom's service and that we all agreed to carry it forward into our final farewell to Mom.

We closed with a prayer that the peace of God might take hold in our hearts and minds. I hope Christy, Carol, and I can be of quiet mind in the days and weeks to come, even as we continue to be faced with many tasks in the aftermath of Mom's death. It will be tempting to let our minds race, to feel overwhelmed by what is left to do, and to succumb to worry and apprehension. I pray the peace of God will prevail.

2. We lingered for a bit at the cemetery, talked a bit more about the Celebration of Life and said farewell to Debbie Mikesell and thanked her for all she's done to help us with everything related to Mom's cremation, Celebration of Life, and final committal.

Then we piled into our vehicles and wound our way to Radio Brewing for lunch together.

It turns out that a Radio Brewing employee named Sara used to live near Lyle and Lura in Orofino. Now Sara and her young daughter, Ava, live in the Silver Valley and Sha'lea, our server, brought Sara out from the kitchen so Christy could tell her that her friend Lura is our cousin and had just been in Kellogg for the weekend. It was a very fun "all roads lead to Kellogg" moment.

Over lunch, we all started talking a bit about the future -- when will we have family dinners? Shall we do them on selected Sundays? Who will be in Kellogg for Thanksgiving? How adventurous do we want to get with Thanksgiving dinner? Do we want to go to the Univ. of Idaho for a Vandal football game? When do we want to see the next two performances at the Sixth Street Melodrama?

It sounds like some fun times lie ahead.

3.  I surveyed the icebox late in the afternoon and I started to imagine a soup, maybe one that tastes similar to what might be served in a Chinese restaurant. I poured some sesame oil in the bottom of a pot, heated it up a little, and added chopped green onion and a few cloves of finely chopped garlic. I added chopped red pepper and a few chopped mushrooms and some chopped broccoli. Ah! We have a small chunk of red cabbage -- chop, chop, chop. After a brief saute, I poured a couple quarts of chicken broth over the vegetables along with a couple shakes of soy sauce. As the soup simmered, I beat two eggs in a bowl and folded them into the soup while fixing some jasmine rice. I poured the cooked rice into the soup pot, added a couple pinches of crushed red pepper and the Deke and I sat down at the kitchen table and enjoyed my pot of improvised soup. I'm happy to say that the soup I imagined before I began preparing it turned out to be the soup we ate.  Ah! Success!

I haven't been cooking much over the last month and it was deeply satisfying to spend some time chopping and cooking and, well, to create a tasty result.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 10/09/17: Monday Sabbath, More Reading, Committal Preparations

1.  I started today thinking I'd get to work on legal and house business matters. Then I reversed myself. I mostly rested and slept all day.

2. Each time I went into the back bedroom to lie down, I read more of Facing Ali: 15 Fighters and learned more about boxers like Joe Frazier, Henry Cooper, George Chuvalo, Brian London, and others. For each, their fight (or fights) with Ali had a sizeable and mostly positive impact on their lives, although other aspects of George Chuvalo's life are terribly grievous and Joe Frazier's experience with Ali deeply embittered him.

3. Tuesday morning, Christy, Carol, the Deke, Everett, Paul, and I will go to the Greenwood Cemetery overlooking Kellogg and pray over Mom's ashes and Dad's casket, consecrate the grave site, read from Scripture, enjoy a hymn ("The Old Rugged Cross"), and say our last farewell to Mom as she is committed to her final resting place. The one productive thing I did today was get the readings, prayers, and short grave site service in order and make sure it all was acceptable to Carol and Christy.