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Updated: 2018-01-20T05:00:02.366-08:00


Three Beautiful Things 01/18/18: Soup Cooked, Adding Sausage, Dinner with Shawn


1. I woke up this morning to the rich smell of ham and beans bubbling away in the slow cooker. I removed the ham hocks, put the bones and fat in a zip lock bag in the freezer, poured some water in the soup, and stopped cooking it and put the cooker on warm for the rest of the day.

2. Yoke's makes German sausage in their butchery and I bought six of them. I put three in the freezer and cooked the other three and chopped them up into small pieces and added them to the ham and bean soup. Not a lot of meat came off the ham hocks and I wanted more meat in the soup. I enjoy sausage in soup, so I figured I'd see how sausage worked in this soup. Both the Deke and I agreed it was a good move.

3. Shawn came by late in the afternoon for dinner. I fixed a round of cornbread to go with the ham/sausage and navy bean soup and the Deke made a very delicious cabbage salad.  Christy had some leftover pie from a P.E.O. meeting on Wednesday night and she gave it to us for dessert. The pie was a rich and tasty combination of whipped cream, fruit, pecan, and coconut. We had fun talking with Shawn and after dinner he coached the Deke in the fine art of drilling holes in the wall to hang stuff up. Now a guitar and ukulele hang on one of our living room walls, right next to the poster advertising the first Babes with Axes show. They made their debut on December 2, 1993, four years before the Deke and I got together. I attended that first show.

Three Beautiful Things 01/17/18: Hittin' the Gym, Ham and Beans, Shawn Drops By


1. The Deke and I continue to stick with it. We buzzed out to the Wellness Center and worked out for over an hour. I increased my cardio workout a bit again and worked my upper body on the weight machines.  While I was pedaling away on one of the cardio machines, I got a shot of encouragement as Patti Hei strolled in and came over to say hello, happy to see that the Deke and I were hittin' it regularly at the gym. I, too, am happy we are stickin' with it. We were both worn out this afternoon, but agreed these sessions had us both feeling better.

2. I've never made a soup with ham hocks before, so today I went to Stein's and bought three ham hocks, poured water over them, chopped up an onion, threw some celery scraps into the pot, and salt and peppered it. I also added a pound of dry navy beans. By around eight o'clock or so, an aroma very familiar to this house began to fill it: the salty, sweet, and savory smell of ham and beans cooking. It transported me back to winter Sundays when I was young. On occasion, Mom fixed ham and beans and baked loaves of bread and the heat of the oven and the steam of the soup fogged up our windows and home felt especially warm and comfortable and secure and these dinners were among my favorites.

3. Earlier in the day, Shawn came by. The Deke had texted him after Patti told her that he was recovering from the flu, but was battling the gout. He is still weak and is baching it for a few days, so the Deke invited him over for dinner on Thursday and I'm hoping my first attempt at ham and bean soup served with cornbread succeeds at some level.

Three Beautiful Things 01/16/18: Generous Orthodoxy, Tough Life in the Silver Valley, Relaxing in Christy's Shed


1. Theologian Hans Frei coined the term "generous orthodoxy". It's an approach to church life that adheres to church orthodoxy while, at the same time, exploring ideas and actions that go beyond orthodox principles and does so with the intention of helping the church become more compassionate. Generous orthodoxy tries to balance loyalty with conscience. It respects the body it is working to heal.

In Episode 9 of the first season of the Revisionist History podcast, found here, Malcolm Gladwell frames the story of Chester Wenger in terms of generous orthodoxy. Wenger was a Mennonite pastor until the church stripped him of his credentials because he officiated the wedding between his gay son and his son's partner.   Wenger explained his theological and biblical rationale for signing his son's marriage certificate in an open letter to the Mennonite Church, here.

The Deke and I listened to this podcast this evening. I'd listened to it before and, again this evening, I was moved, both emotionally and intellectually.

2. Earlier in the day, the Deke and I went to Coeur d'Alene. Robin cut my hair and we got talking about growing up in the Silver Valley and about her experience when she moved back to Pinehurst a few years ago to help her father as he died of kidney failure. She deeply loved and respected her father for all the hard work he'd done as a gyppo miner at the Bunker Hill and for how his hard work supported their large family. It was grievous listening to her describe how renal failure reduced her father to a shadow of the robust man he'd once been. It's the kind of inspiring and sad story I hear often in the Silver Valley, especially as friends tell me about more and more men they worked with in the mines and the woods, men who worked hard their whole lives,  and now are in tough shape, often because of that work, or have died.

3.  Today Christy and Everett put the finishing touches on the inside of the shed they've been working on for the last several weeks. The new rug is on the floor. The furniture is arranged where Christy wants it. It's well lit, heated, and quiet. The shed sits in the back yard and is a comfortable, cozy space, perfect as a place for Christy to read and write and relax and for Christy and Everett (well, and Tucker and Riley!) to have a quiet place to relax together. This Sunday, Carol, Paul, the Deke, Everett, Christy, and I will get to experience how the shed works as a place for Sunday's family dinner.

The Deke and I visited Christy and Everett in the shed after dinner. We had a good visit and it was fun to see Christy so happy and proud because this shed project is working out so well and is shaping up into just what Christy wanted when she envisioned transforming the shed into a restful and comfortable space.

Three Beautiful Things 01/15/18: Coffee at the Bean, Better Sleep Ahead, Deep Beef Soup and Deep Podcasts


1.  I was getting some writing done when my phone rang and it was Ed. He was up in Osburn getting some payroll business done and wondered if I'd like to grab some coffee at The Bean. I sure did. So, we met, enjoyed our coffee drinks, and worked hard to solve the world's problems and came up a little short.

2. The Deke and I hustled out to the Wellness Center around noon and worked out for over an hour. I was especially eager to exercise. It had been six days since we'd been to the gym. The last two nights my sleep has been uneven, restless, and I knew exercise would help me sleep better. I had a good hour. I increased the intensity of my cardio session on the recumbent bike and focused on machines that worked out my legs and abdomen.

3. Last Friday, I started cooking a new batch of beef broth in the slow cooker and it's been bubbling away for the last few days. The Deke decided to make a vegetable beef soup and it was ready to eat late this afternoon. The depth of the beef broth combined with the mild sweetness of the carrots and corn and baby potatoes staggered me. We have plenty of this soup stored and I can hardly wait to dive  back into it again. Soon, I'll get another batch of broth going, this time with chicken. 

After dinner, we relaxed in our living room. The Deke knitted. I worked on a home photo gallery project. We listened to four episodes of Malcolm Gladwell's podcast, Revisionist History, episodes which covered topics as wide-ranging as huge tax breaks for L. A. County private golf courses to a deeper look at the 1954 Brown v Board of Education of Topeka case to a surprising examination of Bill Hudson's iconic 1963 photograph of a policeman, a German Shepherd, and a black teenager
and the statue, "The Foot Soldier", inspired by the picture.  If you go here, you can click on either season of the show, scroll down, and see a list of Revisionist History episodes and click on anything you might want to listen to. Everything the Deke and listened to this evening came from Season 2.

Three Beautiful Things 01/14/18: Back to Yoke's, Food Prep and Flock of Seagulls, Family Dinner


1. I realized this morning that I didn't buy everything I wanted at Yoke's yesterday, so I returned this morning to purchase some ginger root, green onions, more broccoli, sugar, and a few other things in preparation for cooking tonight's family dinner.

2. The food preparing pretty much consumed my afternoon. I had quite a bit of chopping, slicing, and mincing to do: cucumbers, red onion, yellow onion, garlic, cilantro, ginger, limes, and red pepper;  I cleaned and shelled a pound of raw shrimp. I also made a dressing for the cucumber salad, a sauce for the shrimp fried rice, and peanut sauce for the roasted broccoli. Saturday night I shelled and chopped a pound of peanuts, so that was ready to go.  This was fun work. Listening to 80s alternative rock music made it even more pleasant as memories from around thirty-five years ago rushed in as music by Flock of Seagulls, Modern English, The Thompson Twins, and a host of other groups played over the Bose.

3. I rimmed mason jars with fresh lime juice, filled them with ice and put them in the freezer a couple of hours before we started having drinks. Just before Christy, Everett, Carol, Paul, and next door neighbor, Jane arrived, I cut wheels out of lime peel, put a wheel in each glass and mixed our guests gin and tonics. While the others had a cocktail and visited, I put a baking sheet of olive oiled and salt and peppered broccoli stalks into the oven to roast and dished out helpings of cucumber salad in small bowls. Once roasted, I put some broccoli on small plate for each guest and topped the broccoli with peanut sauce.

While the others ate their appetizers, I sauteed onion and garlic in oil and white wine, did the same with the chopped red bell pepper, and then added the shrimp and let them cook until pink. I moved the onion, garlic, red peppersand shrimp to another pan and kept them warm while I scrambled several eggs. I had made rice for this meal back on Thursday with chicken broth that had been bubbling for several days and added it to the eggs and returned the shrimp, onion, garlic, and red pepper back into the original skillet and drizzled stir fry sauce over it. When it was all hot enough to eat, I made everyone a bowl of shrimp fried rice and topped each bowl with chopped green onions.

This turned out to be a superb family dinner. Everyone enjoyed the meal as well as the choice between mango sorbet or coconut and pineapple ice cream (or both!) for dessert.

This was our first dinner party in our new kitchen and we all loved our new kitchen's roominess.  Even with the dining table expanded to accommodate seven people, we didn't feel cramped. 

As tonight's cook, I appreciated all the room I had to move around in this kitchen. I also enjoyed having a good amount of counter space to prepare cocktails, two appetizers, and a main dish.

We have been slow getting curtains on the window and things hanging on the walls, but once we do, I'll post some pictures.

Three Beautiful Things 01/13/18: I Now Know Jack, Sunday Dinner Prep and Old Music, Simple Meal


1. Here's Jack:This morning, I was sitting in our living room in my night clothes writing away and I saw this sweet dog wander through our front yard. I went to the front porch and he wagged his tail and sauntered up the steps and joined me, happy to let me pet him and scratch under his chin.He had on a collar, but no identifying tags.I couldn't let him in the house because Maggie and Charly would go ballistic.I needed to get dressed and grab a leash, hoping my new friend would wait on the porch for me.He didn't.So, once dressed, I walked the neighborhood. Jane, who lives next door, told me she saw Jack walking west, and so I headed west and north and after about ten minutes, I spotted him back at the corner of Mission and Utah."Hey, Buddy! Come on, Buddy!" I cried out and he wagged his tail and galloped up Utah Street to me and I put a leash on him.I returned home and the Deke took a picture of him and she and Jane commenced efforts to find the owner.I'm not quite sure what Jane did -- I think she contacted a woman in town who "knows all the dogs" -- but it turned out Jack has been a happy wanderer before, the all-knowing dog person identified him, and got Jane and the owner in touch with each other -- or something like that.Meanwhile, Jack and I were out for a walk around the west end of Sunnyside when my phone rang and it was the Deke, telling me Jane had located the owner and that she was coming to our house to pick up her dog.Sure enough, Jack and I ambled back to the house and soon a relieved and grateful woman showed up, told me her dog's name was Jack, and told me that "the gate got opened somehow" and Jack went for his stroll.  She and Jack live about six or seven blocks away.I was happy to see Jack back with his owner, but, I'll admit, my feelings were very similar to when I let Harriet Potter go last June as she flew from Dulles to Portland: let's just say I would have loved more time with each of these sweet dogs.For those who might have forgotten Harriet Potter, I'll post her picture at the end of this post.2. I spent more time today planning Sunday's family dinner and went to Yoke's and found everything I wanted. Back home, I remembered that I have a peanut sauce recipe I like a lot and upon reviewing it, realized I'll need to return to the store in the morning to pick some ginger root and I also need the green onions I forgot today. Otherwise, I'm ready to go and helped myself toward Sunday's cooking project by shelling and crushing a pound of peanuts while listening to a variety of music, including Pink Floyd's album, Wish You Were Here, some New York City rock and roll like Patti Smith's "Gloria", Television's "Roadrunner", and Velvet Underground's "Rock and Roll".I wanted to listen to an album by the Crusaders I owned back in around 1978, but I couldn't remember the name of it, even with the help of an Amazon music search, so I played some random Crusaders' cuts. I did remember owning Joe Sample's Rainbow Seeker and enjoyed listening to it and recalling the two and a half school years I worked at Whitworth right after I graduated from Whitworth and how I loved that job and the many students I worked with. A lot of those students were into Bob James, Chuck Mangione, Joe Sample, the Crusaders, George Benson and other similar musicians of that time and so was I. It's a lot of fun bringing those days back through this music.3. The Deke roasted some chicken drumsticks with baby carrots and baby potatoes and made a simple green salad and enjoyed this delicious dinner together, happy that such a simple meal brought us so much satisfaction.Oh! Here's Harriet Potter:[...]

Three Beautiful Things 01/12/18: Huge Snowflakes, Transplant Story on *Radiolab*, Happy Friday at the Lounge


1. Big, wet snowflakes promising an inevitable sloppy mess fell as I made my way down Cameron Ave. in the Sube this morning to meet Buff, Ed, and Scott for breakfast. Jerry was plowing snow in Wallace and Ed, Buff, and Scott had plowing on their minds. I wouldn't go so far as saying that I felt left out because I don't plow snow in the Silver Valley for McGillivray Environmental like my other breakfast mates, but when I returned home after eating, I immediately shoveled our sidewalks and driveway -- maybe so I'd feel a little bit like one of the guys . . . .

2. This morning, the Deke and I listened to an episode of Radiolab entitled "Match Made in Marrow" about the relationship that developed between an atheist woman and a Christian man about a year after her donation of bone marrow saved the man's life. As the two got to know each other, their philosophical and theological differences widened while their friendship deepened. I'll leave it at that, but tell you that if you'd like to listen to this episode, it's right here.

3. I spent much of the early afternoon putting together another batch of broth in the slow cooker, using beef soup bones I purchased at Stein's along with the leaves of celery I trimmed from stalks the other day, carrots, an onion, and a couple or three bay leaves. I also sat down at the kitchen table and planned out the family dinner I will prepare on Sunday and made a shopping list, hoping that a local store carries sweet chili sauce -- if not, I found a recipe for making my own.

Around three o'clock, the Deke dropped me off at the Inland Lounge where I met up with Ed and we yakked with Cas and Tracy. Ed left before long and I was going to head up to Radio Brewing to meet up with the Deke, but she texted me with a directive: stay put. Soon, in strolled the Deke with Liz Menke. Debbie had called Liz and invited her to be her drinking/knitting partner at Radio and they decided to hoof it down to the Lounge -- and, soon, Liz's husband Mitch arrived, too. 

I had a great time at the Lounge as people from my deep Kellogg past as well as my new Kellogg present strolled in to have a couple of drinks and enjoy the good vibe at the Lounge.

The Deke and I returned home, ate leftover chicken casserole, and a little later Christy came over for a couple of beers and visited for a while.

Three Beautiful Things 01/11/18: Moving the Files, Soupless Chicken Casserole, No Static at All


1. The Deke and I decided we would use the file cabinet Mom had in the basement and not move it. We had considered purchasing a smaller one and putting it in the front bedroom on the ground floor. Today I organized our files, got rid of a few obsolete ones, and, most important, moved all the files out of the plastic basket I've been using and out of the front bedroom -- a very satisfying project and one that has now given us more room in the front bedroom, making it even more hospitable to being turned into a sparely furnished office.

2. When news flashed on Facebook a week or so ago that the Iron Chef of Clackamas County, Terry Turner, had made a tuna casserole without using condensed soup, I remembered having once done the same back in the old days when we lived in Greenbelt, MD.

I have been making a chicken broth in the slow cooker since Saturday. A day or two ago, I thought the meat was getting dry, so I removed it, but the broth kept bubbling away and darkening, getting more intense. Today I used the broth, in addition to water, to make rice and then used the broth, undiluted, and built a chicken casserole, guided by the tuna casserole recipe I used in Greenbelt. That recipe is here.

When the Deke and I ate the casserole, I wished I ran a test kitchen because I wanted to see if I could figure out ways to give this casserole a little more kick, some added pizzazz. Maybe some white wine in the sauce? Maybe it would have more kick if I'd had the Dijon mustard on hand the recipe called for? Maybe different vegetables? Spinach? Broccoli? I used corn, green beans, carrots, celery, and onion. I'm not sure. Since I don't have a test kitchen, I'm going to do some reading and see if I can figure something out and test it next time around.

I will say this, though: using the chicken meat and the broth was awesome. So is making tuna or chicken casserole without condensed soup. Making a sauce with flour, milk, and broth is lighter and much less salty.

3.  Listening to Steely Dan's Aja and a variety of cuts from their compilation album, Citizen Steely Dan, made cooking all the more enjoyable. I didn't exactly break out the hats and hooters or rev up the motor scooters, but I had a lot of fun reelin' in the years while I cooked away.

Three Beautiful Things 01/10/18: Visiting Dr. Jones, Shopping, Return to Jethro Tull


1.  This morning I met with my new nephrologist, Dr. Kristie Jones, at the clinic uptown. I hadn't seen a nephrologist since March, 2017, and I am very happy to be getting back into the routine of regular visits. Dr. Jones and I talked about my kidney history and she liked what she saw in the December, 1, 2017 bloodwork I had done for my primary care giver. She liked what both of my other nephrologists have liked -- yes, my kidney function is at 19%, but it's been at this level or slightly higher for several years. She likes the stability. In addition, my blood work reveals I don't have other problems and it's especially good news that I don't have diabetes.

2. When I shopped at Yoke's and Stein's today, I had winter on my mind and bought a couple of small roasts, a whole chicken, beef soup bones, and other groceries that we can turn into meals that bring warmth and comfort to these chilly days.

3. Christy's friend Chris hosted a dinner this evening to celebrate Christy's birthday. The Deke was invited and so I had some time at home this evening to myself and enjoyed listening to music that I enjoy, but that the Deke doesn't so much. I especially enjoyed playing the entirety of Jethro Tull's Thick as a Brick and their quasi-compilation double album from 1972, Living in the Past. When I started college at NIC in the fall of 1972, I hadn't listened to much Jethro Tull. I'd heard a few cuts from Aqualung, but not much else. But, John Soini and became friends during the school year and he introduced me to Living in the Past and for the next several months this album played in my head continuously. On some weekends, its songs ringing inside me made working in the Zinc Plant cell room a little more tolerable. Tonight, I realized it had been many years since I listened to side three of Living in the Past ("By Kind Permission Of" and "Dharma for One") and tonight it awakened an old Jethro Tull ecstasy I hadn't felt for many, many years.

Three Beautiful Things 01/09/18: Sticking With It, Christy's Birthday at the Blackboard Cafe, Vito and Ukes at Wallace Brewing


1. Late this morning the Deke and I bounded into the exercise room at the Wellness Center. I had a solid workout. I'm not quite to the point of sweating pools, but I am increasing what I do in reasonable increments. This morning I worked out harder on the recumbent bicycle than I ever had and I had a good session strengthening my arms and chest and abs on different weight machines. The best thing that's going on is that the Deke and I are sticking with it and working out two or three times a week.

2. Today was Christy's birthday. She decided she wanted to eat at the Blackboard Cafe in Wallace. It's a handsome, cozy, comfortably appointed cafe that serves breakfast on the weekends, sandwiches during the day, and mostly Italian food from 5-8. The Deke and I joined Christy and Everett to (further) celebrate Christy's birthday and we all loved eating at the Blackboard.

We started with a small plate of tapenade and the olive spread was the best I've ever tasted. I wish I had it in front of me right now so I could better identify the different tastes, but I can attest to the fact that each bite of crisp crostini topped with the olive spread was a pleasing explosion of the earthy flavor of black olives complimented with garlic, lemon, and other flavors.

I ordered carbonara, thanks to the famous article Calvin Trillin wrote years ago in The New Yorker making a case for making spaghetti carbonara the national meal on Thanksgiving. (His essay first came to my attention when I heard him read it on the podcast, Burnt Toast. Click here, and you can hear him read it, too.)

Until tonight, I'd never tried pasta carbonara. The Blackboard Cafe makes carbonara with linguine. It's shot through with bits of bacon -- not crisp--and dressed with a garlic, lemon, parmesan egg sauce that further enhanced the pasta and put me in a dreamy mood as I savored the sweetness of the bacon, the bite of the lemon and garlic, and the richness of the egg and cheese.

As a gift to Christy, Blackboard co-owner, Luanne, brought out a homemade square of chocolate peanut butter cake and the four of us split it. We all moaned with pleasure as we dove into this creamy, nutty tasting, chocolate-y blast of delight.

3. I guess some nights the Deke and I can't quite enjoy ourselves enough.

After this blissful dinner, we headed down the street to Wallace Brewing, hoping that the latest iteration of Vito, Wallace Brewing's annual barrel-aged English strong ale might still be available. It had been released around Thanksgiving and for all we knew, it had sold out by now.

But, no.

Vito English strong ale, this year's batch aged in scotch barrels, was still for sale, so we enjoyed five oz. pours of this sweet and warming ale and had a great time yakkin' with Cathleen, who was serving the beer; then, before I knew it, I'm almost certain the Deke had organized the women who were at the brewery for a just concluded monthly Tuesday night ale and yoga class into an upcoming ukulele get together where the Deke will bring the instruments and teach those present how to play.

What a night in Wallace. 

Three Beautiful Things 01/08/18: Radio from D. C., *Uncivil*, My Favorite Electric Guitar Player


1. I stayed in today. I wasn't ill or tired. Nothing was wrong. I listened a lot. The Deke and I listened to programming on WAMU-FM, the NPR station in Washington, D.C. It was fun -- and I felt wistful listening to weather reports and other announcements about things happening in Washington, D.C. Hearing Here and Now hosts Robin Young and Meghna Chakrabarti again triggered some sweet memories of driving around the D. C. area in the Sube while listening to Here and Now. I flashed on drives to the Aquatic Gardens, Hung Phat in Wheaton to shop for Asian groceries, Union Station, Brookland, Rock Creek Park, and other places, all of which I loved.

2. The Deke and I listened to several episodes of the podcast Uncivil. The podcast explores how the United States' Civil War continues to be waged, not with armaments so much as with stories. Each episode the hosts, Jack Hitt and Chenjerai Kumanyika, address widely held ways of understanding the Civil War by looking at original documents and by talking with researchers and people whose ancestors lived during the War. They examine such questions and the stories connected with them as whether the Civil War was fought over states' rights, whether slavery was an inefficient system, why monuments to Confederate leaders were built, what impact movies like Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind have had on our understanding of the Civil War, what view of history is embodied by the Lost Cause perspective, and many others.  The podcast is only a few months old and you can look at a list of the episodes that have been produced so far right here.

3. From time to time, when it comes out that I used to spend a lot of time with the works of William Shakespeare, people often ask, "What is your favorite Shakespeare play." My answer is always the same: "The one I'm reading or working on in the theater or watching."

I got to thinking today that I have a similar response when I ask myself who might be my favorite electric guitar player. My favorite electric guitar player is always the one I'm listening to. Today, the Deke went on an errand and later went to an activity at the Pinehurst Public Library and, in her absence, I listened to electric guitar players. While I listened to Deep Purple, in those moments, Ritchie Blackmore was my favorite; then it was Pete Townshend; soon it was Richard Thompson; lastly, it was Mike Campbell.

Much like when I work with a Shakespeare play and the one I'm involved with seems, to me, to be the only play he ever wrote and is my favorite right then, likewise, when I listen to an electric guitar player, it is as if no one else ever played the guitar and that musician is my favorite right then.

Part of why I would be a lousy music critic is because I am lousy at comparing and contrasting. When I listen to a recording, I don't care how it stacks up against other work the group has done or other work the guitar player has done or the work of other groups or players.  All I care about is what I'm listening to in that moment.

Three Beautiful Things 01/07/18: Power in Music and Art, Christy's Perfect Birthday Dinner, Long Hot Shower


1. After the Deke and I listened to two episodes of The Big Listen podcast and listened to one episode of Uncivil, the Deke went uptown to knit with friends at Radio Brewing. I seized the upon the couple of hours alone to once again return to the music of Richard and Linda Thompson. I played the entire album, Shoot Out the Lights, and once again marveled at how perfectly Richard Thompson's songwriting, Linda Thompson's longing and guileless vocals, and Richard Thompson's moody, often jangling and discordant electric guitar combine to explore the disillusion of brokenness when love and intimacy and togetherness disintegrate. I then turned my attention to their album, Hokey Pokey. It is one of the darkest albums of songs I've ever owned, written in the tradition of old British folk songs, and, once again, its heart wrenching to listen to Linda and Richard Thompson give voice to the world's harshness, but, at times exhilarating to experience how perfectly these songs are made, both instrumentally and vocally.

Saturday, I found a recording of the production of Sunday in the Park with George that the Deke and I saw and loved at the Hudson Theater in April, 2017. I didn't listen to the entire musical this afternoon, but I started with the song "Sunday" which ends Act I and listened to the entirety of Act II. I retrieved the lyrics to "Sunday" online and read them while listening.

It got emotional for me. I loved that afternoon at the theater. I love this song about the permanence of art, how the painting "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" endures, giving eternal life to a Sunday in a perfect park, even as those figures in the painting who lived this moment experienced it as fleeting in the same way their lives are impermanent in the same way our Saturday afternoon in the Hudson Theater experiencing live theater was fleeting -- poof! -- gone. The painting, though, is forever.

2. Christy's birthday is on Tuesday, but at tonight's family dinner, we celebrated her birthday. Christy requested a wonderful dinner: Old Fashioneds for cocktails followed by a Caesar salad and a meal of roasted chicken, rice  pilaf, and green beans. For dessert, Christy asked for a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Carol took two days to prepare this meal and told us she had a blast doing it. With Christy's assistance, Carol recently unearthed her copy of Julia Child's' book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking and committed herself, as much as possible, to prepare this entire meal following Julia Child's directions. 

Talk about wishing life were not a series of fleeting moments. I didn't want this dinner to end.  Everything was perfect. Carol wrote a detailed account of her two days of cooking, here, if you'd like to know what went into this meal and what Carol did in the kitchen to bring it to life. I'll just say two words: butter and eggs.

3. Before dinner and before the Deke returned from knitting, I took a long hot shower and thought a lot about the difficulties Mom endured in her last few months of life. I was happy that Christy, Carol, Paul, Zoe, the Deke, and others did all we could to make those last months easier and free of loneliness. All the same, I kept reliving how unfair it was that her legs gave out, that she was immobile, and I longed for that to have been different for her. It was all so confusing for Mom. So much of what she'd known in her life gradually disappeared and I ached for her, for how unjust it all was, and sought comfort in the hot water pounding on the top of my back and over my head.

Three Beautiful Things 01/06/18: This and That, Revisiting "Don't Renege on Our Love", Beef Stroganoff Soup


1. It was a good day for doing this and that around the house, including breaking down several cardboard boxes and running them out to the dump after discovering that the dumpster for recycling cardboard at the station near our house was overflowing with flattened boxes. It was a good day for picking up a few groceries at Yoke's and for adding albums to my library so I can play them on our wireless speaker set up.

2. I love listening to electric guitar players. The Deke really enjoys jazz on the electric guitar, but doesn't really enjoy the other players I do. The Deke went on a couple errands this afternoon and I returned to an album I haven't listened to in years:  Richard and Linda Thompson's searing, angry album marking the end of their career as a duo -- and the end of their marriage: Shoot Out the Lights. It's been over twenty years since I've felt the rawness of a failed love relationship, but those old feelings stick around and listening to some of this album today simultaneously ignited memories of brokenness in my life and resurrected the joy of listening to Richard and Linda Thompson sing and, above all, listening to Richard Thompson pour out the emotion of these songs on the electric guitar.

For some reason, I had all but forgotten the song, "Don't Renege on Our Love" and when it came over the Bose today, I shuddered with love for the sound of the song. I felt resentments from about twenty-five years ago well up again. It was cathartic. I'd like to write more about Richard Thompson's guitar work on this song, but I need to listen to it some more to get the words right. So I'll wait.

3. The Deke and I have had a beef broth bubbling away since Tuesday. The Deke took one draw from this perpetual broth and improvised a spaghetti squash dinner with the broth on Wednesday.

Today, however, the Deke made full use of the broth. First, she made some dough, rolled it out, and cut noodles. Later, she strained the broth, mashed the vegetables in it, saved the prime rib that had fallen off the bone, and put new onions and mushrooms in the broth and let them cook. She boiled the noodles and combined it all together with sour cream to make beef stroganoff soup.

The soup is as rich, deep, slightly sweet, creamy, and flavorful as any soup I've ever eaten. I'm very happy that the Deke has introduced homemade noodles into our life.

After dinner, I cleaned the kitchen and emptied the crock pot of its leftover soup and stored it. Immediately, I put a whole chicken in the pot, covered it with water and added salt, peppercorns, onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, mushrooms, basil leaves, and oregano leaves.

Our next version of perpetual broth is underway. It bubbled away all evening and into the night while the Deke watched and I kept an ear on Godfather Part II.

Three Beautiful Things 01/05/18: Stories at Sam's, Working the Legs, Josiah's Revenge and Other Epicurean Delights


1.  I slipped and skated down Cameron Avenue at 5:45 this morning and eased my way into the front door of Sam's, poured myself coffee, and waited for Ed, Buff, Jerry, and Scott. They all tumbled in, ready to eat, and full of stories about experiences they've had with gargantuan hamburgers in Lewiston (Effie's), south of Yakima (Miners Drive-In) and Baton Rouge (Walk-On's). I did not contribute to the burger talk nor to the conversations about the perils and frustrations of plowing snow in the Silver Valley, but I enjoyed hearing all these stories and happily reported that the work on our remodel is finished.

Ed and I agreed after breakfast that I should not walk back home, so he gave me a ride and I was ready for the day.

2. The Deke and I missed our workouts on Monday (New Year's Day) and Wednesday (Lewiston road trip), but we were back at the Wellness Center today. I worked out a little harder than I ever had on the recumbent bicycle machine and followed that up with leg and calf presses, leg curls, and other lower body machines. I don't think anyone would ever be able to tell from looking at me that I'm working out more regularly now, but I have faith that it's doing my muscles and circulation a lot of good. I sure feel better and sleep better.

3. The Deke and I were planning on a beef noodle dinner made with the broth I've been slow cooking this week and the Deke was going to make noodles. Our plans changed when Christy invited us over for chicken pot pie. She bought one of those heavenly pies at Costco today. Wow! What a great dinner with another of the Deke's masterpiece salads:  walnut, honeycrisp apple, parmesan cheese, kale and a superb vinaigrette.

The Deke and I returned home and played ourselves a concert. I succeeded today in making it so that our Echo Dot plays through our Bose speaker. We listened to Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Diamond, Stan Rogers, the Jerry Douglas Pandora station, Dave Brubeck, and to music from Sunday in the Park with George.

We broke out a bomber of Great Divide's very delicious Chai Yeti Imperial Stout and savored how beautifully its cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, and cardamom brought this beer alive without being at all cloying. In fact, underlying its Himalayan sweetness was a welcome bitterness, making it a balanced and perfect imperial stout.

It got even better as our evening continued.

I broke out the bomber of Daft Badger's Josiah's Revenge we bought at Pilgrim's on Thursday. When I bought it, I didn't look closely at the label. I thought I was buying the year round Josiah's Revenge, but NO!, to my utter surprise and delight, I had purchased the bourbon barrel-aged Josiah's Revenge. It was like having Christmas all over again. I rarely drink Josiah's Revenge on site at Daft Badger because I'm usually driving. I always ask for a taster just so I can have a bit of it.

But, tonight, in the safety of our home, the Deke and I split the bourbon barrel aged Josiah's Revenge. The brown sugary notes of Maker's Mark bourbon enhanced its cherry, dried fruit, chocolate-y sweetness and the ease and beauty of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond never sounded better.

Three Beautiful Things 01/04/18: Shopping in CdA, Imperial Stout Tasting, Roasted Chicken a la Corleone


1. After a lazy morning, the Deke and I buzzed over to CdA to purchase some home improvement items: the Deke bought curtain fabric and I lumbered around Fred Meyer and bought a slow cooker, rolling pin, whisks, and other items for the kitchen. After Fred Meyer, we hauled ourselves over to Pilgrim's and I nearly melted with astonishment at their fine selection of Imperial Stout beer. We purchased a few bottles along with some food for dinner and returned to Kellogg, pleased with the way we made things better in our home.

2. The Deke and I dove into an excellent Imperial Stout tasting party once we packed our new belongings into the house. We loved all three beers we split and sampled: Yeti Whiskey Barrel Aged Yeti, Goose Island's divine, thick, and sweet Bourbon County Imperial Stout, and, an old favorite, Deschutes' The Abyss, a molasses, vanilla, and licorice bomb of superb and rich flavor.

3. The Deke roasted chicken thighs and carrots and served them with polenta, a perfect dinner. For dessert, she rented The Godfather. She watched it on her Chromebook and I sat nearby, listening to it, as the movie were classical music on the radio. It was like listening to Beethoven, only the notes were words, but the words' many moods, their depth, and their careful arrangement made them seem like a Beethoven symphony.

Three Beautiful Things 01/03/18: Road Trip to Lewiston, Genesee Tour, Grayson is Back!


1. Ed swung by the house at 7:15 and we drove to the Conoco station at Rose Lake Junction to meet up with Jake. Jake then drove us to CdA where Ed dashed into LabCorp for a blood draw. We helped Ed break his fast at Starbucks and then we picked up Byrdman and returned to the Albertson's parking lot where we met up with Stu and Lars.Do you sense it coming? ROAD TRIP!Stu had organized the six of us to pile in Jake's and Stu's rigs and head south to Lewiston, Idaho so we could inhale the perfumed air of the pulp mill and meet our friend since we were little kids, Don Knott, for a burger at Effie's Tavern.It was a reunion of most the HOFGG (Hall of Fame of Great Guys), the bunch of us who used to get together around Don Knott's outdoor fireplace on his patio when he lived in Kellogg on West Cameron at the house known as Penny Lane.But, two years ago, Don sold Penny Lane and moved to Lewiston.Up here in the Silver Valley, we miss Don, so we caravaned down to Effie's, met Don, got in some good yakkin' and ordered up various versions of Effie's famous burgers: eight inches in diameter with a pound of meat. (I ordered a half a burger and that was plenty for me.)Scroll to the end of this post and you can see pictures of our visit to Effie's.2. It was a blast to all be together again, telling stories, getting caught up on what's been happening, and having some good laughs. Effie's was the perfect joint to hang out together. It has a little back room with a pool table and we sat on stools around a table back there and had that part of Effie's all to ourselves.Ed, Jake, and I piled back into Jake's pickup and he drove us to his Mom and Dad's hometown, Genesee, Idaho, a farming town just off Highway 95. Jake took us on a tour, showing us houses and properties where different family members lived and told us stories about when he came to Genesee in the summers to work on his grandpa's farm, go swimming, and enjoy his relatives.As we left Genesee, Jake pulled into a gravel road leading to one of his favorite spots, Genesee Meats and Smoked Sausages, where Marlyn Callahan sells his famous handmade smoked Genesee Sausages out of a spare and spartan retail space. Marlyn was almost out of sausages thanks to the holiday season, but he managed to rustle up five pounds of his prized product for Jake, making Jake very happy.3. Back in Kellogg, the Deke and I went over to Christy and Everett's at about 6:45 for a nightcap. It was a sad day. Their cat Grayson had been missing for several days and another cat, Grayson's sister, Junebug, has been very sick. I returned home after a while to clean up the kitchen and let Maggie and Charly out.Soon after I went to bed, Christy texted the Deke, Carol, and me: Grayson had returned! He was very hungry, but seemed to be doing pretty well otherwise. Later, Christy reported on Facebook that Junebug seemed to be better and she had the good fortune and pleasure of having both cats celebrate their reunion with one another and with Christy by sitting on her lap.Here are pictures from our trip to Lewiston, including one of Don and me re-enacting a picture from the Kellogg High School annual our junior year of the two of us Blummin' It.[...]

Three Beautiful Things 01/02/18: Picture on the Wall, Perpetual Soup, Spaghetti Squash Dish


1.  We are moving very slowly at getting our new house set up. Today, though, with Ed's help, the Deke hung a picture on the living room wall.



2. The Deke and I won the prime rib roast bones lottery on New Year's Eve and I've been reading about perpetual soup, here, and so I covered the bones with water and added fresh oregano, basil stems, carrots, celery, bay leaves, and onion and started slow cooking the bones on the stove top to make a beef broth. Soon, I'll buy us a slow cooker and transfer the broth into it  and try out what Jennifer McGruther does and let the broth cook for a week and start another batch with other bones -- probably chicken -- next Tuesday.

3. We had a spaghetti squash on hand and I cooked it and sauteed a combination of onion, mushrooms, and tomatoes, mixed the squash strings and these vegetables together, and topped the mixture with fresh basil leaves. It's simple. I didn't have pine nuts on hand, so our dish didn't have nuts. You can look over the recipe, here.

Three Beautiful Things 01/01/18: Travels with Ed and Allan, Ralph Vaughn Williams, An Open Room


1. I hauled myself out of bed around 8:15 and an hour later blasted the Sube out to Kingston, picked up Ed and Allan, and glided on the clear and bare roads to the Coeur d'Alene Casino. More than anything, I enjoyed the ride down and back, talking with Ed and Allan about life in the Valley, getting caught up on how different people were doing and listening to some great stories about Ed and Allan's work and about people they know, people they worked with and some they did jobs for.  I used to know, or at least know of, quite a few of the people they told stories about and often it was depressing to learn what had happened to them, but some of those sad lives had some very funny chapters. The stories ate up the miles coming and going to Worley and made the trip a lot of fun.

2. Back home, things for me were very slow. The Deke went out to see Paige at Radio Brewing and I retreated into our bedroom to get caught up on some writing. Over the last few days, I've been listening to the music of British composer Ralph Vaughn Williams. His compositions move me, especially "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis", "Fantasia on Greensleeves", and the story of resurrection told in his "Five Variants of 'Dives and Lazarus'". I used to listen to this music on my MP3 player a lot on the bus riding from downtown Eugene out to work at LCC and back, and then, as today, the sounds of Vaughn Williams transported me into a private world of feeling related to his explorations of struggle and hope. It was also fun remembering the first time I heard "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis" back in January, 1996 at the University of Oregon's Beall Hall in a program given by the Oregon Mozart Players. The way the piece slowly built to its emotional climax nearly brought me out of my seat and from that point forward I began buying Vaughn Wiliams recordings, listening to more and more of his work.

3.  The Deke and I are about to make decisions on how to set up a home office in the front bedroom. Before we could get serious about this project, we needed the single twin bed in that room moved out. Carol and Paul decided they could make good use of it at their house. They came over this evening and picked it up and now a whole new space has opened up in our house and the Deke and I can let the imagining begin.

Three Beautiful Things 12/31/17: *The Beethoven 9 @ 9*, Family Prime Rib Dinner, The Inland Lounge and the Elks Club


1. We didn't get through all nine episodes, but the Deke and I listened to the first five episodes of the podcast The Beethoven 9 @ 9.  It was a monthly series done in 2015 on Colorado Public Radio and features a short discussion of each of Beethoven's nine symphonies. Beethoven biographer Jan Swafford provides his expertise, primarily in response to questions presented by host Monika Vischer about Beethoven's life, musical genius, personal struggles, and the political realities of his lifetime. You can see the list of podcast episodes and click on any you want to listen to right here.

2. The Deke and I joined Christy and Everett over at Carol and Paul's for a prime rib New Year's Eve dinner. To start, I served as bartender and made each of us a Dark and Stormy: dark rum, ginger beer, and a few shakes of bitters over ice with a lime garnish. For dinner, Carol roasted the prime rib perfectly and Paul carved it perfectly. Christy fixed a family favorite potato dish known as Derek's Potatoes, named after our cousin. Christy's work on this dish was unique enough that we decided it could be called Christy's Potatoes! The Deke fixed a green bean dish and Carol made Yorkshire pudding. We topped off our dinner with helpings of tasty pistachio gelato.

3. Before dinner, I headed up to the Inland Lounge to see how Cas was doing. He had a heart attack over the course of Christmas Eve night leading into the wee hours of Christmas Day. Christmas morning, in CdA, he had a couple of stints put in to open the blocked aorta. He returned home on Wednesday and was back running the Inland Lounge on Friday night.

So, the Prime Rib buffet planned for Christmas Day at the Lounge was cancelled, but it was put on today and a good crowd turned up to enjoy the food and to marvel at Cas being back in action after having been in ICU just a few days ago.

I talked with Cas and later Goose came in. His grocery store in St. Regis ran out of milk, so he drove to the Smelterville WalMart to stock up and dropped in for a couple of beers and we did some excellent yakking. When Goose left, I joined Abbie and Kate at their table and enjoyed some more first-rate yakking and then picked up the Deke at Radio Brewing where she knitted this afternoon.

After dinner, the Deke and I joined the revelers at the Kellogg Elks Club. We enjoyed the music of Jake and Carol Lee and Al's band, Remember When, did a lot of yakking with a bunch of different people and the Deke and I danced for the first time in our 20 years of marriage. Ha!

The tradition at the Elks is to ring in the new year at 9:00 at the same time it's being rung in at Times Square in NYC.

After we celebrated the arrival of 2018 at the Elks, the Deke and I slipped and slid across the street to do it again at midnight at The Inland Lounge. We saw a whole lot of people, many of whom also migrated over from the Elks Club and we had a blast talking, laughing, story-telling, and enjoying friends, longtime ones as well as new ones.

The Deke and I have never had so much fun on New Year's Eve. It was an awesome afternoon, evening, and night with family and friends.

Three Beautiful Things 12/30/17: Creativity and Genius, *Mona Lisa*, Longing for Home, BONUS: A New Chair


1. I have days, like today, when I want to learn more about artists and the making of art.So, I took the Echo Dot into the front bedroom where I am slowly and surely working to get papers and books organized so that we can send the single twin-sized bed in this room over to Carol and Paul's to make room to create our home office.So, how does artistic genius emerge? How does creativity play out with certain artists? In the first season of his podcast, Revisionist History, Malcolm Gladwell addresses these questions in Episode 7, entitled, "Hallelujah". He looks closely at the evolution of Elvis Costello's 1984 song "The Deportee Club" which he later reworked as "Deportee" and at Leonard Cohen's 1984 "Hallelujah" and draws parallels to the way they labored over these songs with the way Paul Cezanne labored over his paintings. He contrasts the Cezanne method with Pablo Picasso's path to creativity and looks at Bob Dylan and Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" as examples paralleling Picasso.  If you'd like to ponder this question of creativity and learn more about Elvis Costello and Leonard Cohen and their creative genius, just click here. I know one listen wasn't enough for me and that I'm going to take it all in again.2. I finished listening to Gladwell's "Hallelujah" and suddenly I realized that it had been several months since I checked out Tamar Avishai's scintillating monthly podcast, The Lonely Palette.  I went to podcast's website, here, and saw that her latest episode explores the history and genius of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. I chuckled and wondered if da Vinci was Picasso or Cezanne (he's Cezanne) and tuned in to this fascinating episode and enjoyed Tamar Avishai explain what makes Mona Lisa such a compelling painting and how it embodies da Vinci's experimental bent. I especially enjoyed Avishai's riff on Walter Benjamin's seminal 1930's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" and her reflections upon how the ideas of this essay apply to our experience with Mona Lisa. If you'd like to take some time and immerse yourself in art history and some aesthetic theory and learn more about Mona Lisa, just click here, click listen, and sit back and take it in.3. Many of us who come from the Silver Valley have been torn between the pull we feel to stay home and live where we know people and where we can enjoy the beauty of the area's mountains, rivers, and lakes and the desire to see more of the world and to pursue educational and vocational opportunities not available in the Silver Valley. I know when I was a teenager, my father, teachers and counselors at the high school, adult friends of our family, and guys I worked with at the Zinc Plant repeatedly told me I needed to get out of the Valley.And I did.And now I'm back.Over the past couple of years, I've been checking in on West Virginia Public Radio's superb podcast Inside Appalachia. I am consistently struck by the similarities between life in rural Appalachia and life in the Silver Valley and I enjoy host Jessica Lily's interviews and stories about Appalachian life, politics, and difficulties.  She's never left Appalachia. She's thoughtful, respectful, and sensitive. I love how she's so intelligent and, at the same time, has never got above her raisin'.If you click here, and scroll down, you can see that episodes of Inside Appalachia regularly focus on the struggles of people who stay put in the region and do their best to make a living in a depressed economy and to endure the terrible things that happen because o[...]

Three Beautiful Things 12/29/17: Snowpocalypse, Slushageddon, *Uncivil* Podcast


1. The Siberian snowpocalypse continued today and the Deke and I decided to stay put and cooperate with requests from the Sheriff's Office and others that we stay off the roads. We watched the snow pile up in our yards and marveled at mammoth lips of snow groaning over the edge of our roof, white awning with saber-toothed icicles. In the morning, I decided that since we weren't going anywhere, I'd stock my Three Beautiful Things with links to podcasts in case anyone reading my blog would like to check out some good programs. I also took care of some home and medical business and did some organizing in anticipation of one day converting the front bedroom into our home office.

2. In the early afternoon, the snow turned to rain and ushered in a local slushageddon. The Deke sloshed over to Yoke's and picked up some groceries. She also dropped into Furniture Exchange and had the good fortune of spotting a chair that is perfect for our living room. Later, I plowed over to Furniture Exchange in the Sube and paid for the chair -- it will be delivered on Saturday -- and drove uptown to the clinic and finally dropped off the stack of my medical records I organized a couple of weeks ago.

3. While the Deke watched a crime show in French on her Chromebook, I put on earbuds and listened to the latest episode of the podcast Uncivil, an project helmed by two journalists, Jack Hitt and Chenjari Kumanyika, in which they excavate into untold stories of the United States' Civil War. I listened twice to the same episode this afternoon as Hitt and Kumanyika interviewed guests and dug into documents of the Civil War to report on slaves serving their masters in the Confederate Army, with special emphasis on a famous photograph of a slave, Silas Chandler, and his master, Andrew Chandler.  You can listen to this episode by clicking right here and finding it in the list of past episodes.

The Deke and I capped off our day by slip slidin' next door to visit Christy and Everett and to enjoy another slice of the heavenly cinnamon cake Christy baked for my birthday -- and there's still some left!

Three Beautiful Things 12/28/17: Three Weird Tales, Lauren Ober and DC Nostalgia, I Discovered *American Routes*


1.  I returned to the world of podcasts today after figuring out how to call them up on my Alexa App through TuneIn. I listened to an episode of Criminal entitled "Unexpected Guests." Host Phoebe Judge had put out a request for listeners to email her stories of weird things that had happened to them over the years. Two of the stories were creepy and one was touching, a tale of trust and goodwill, but weird all the same. Want to hear these stories? Click here.2. Listening to Lauren Ober hosting WAMU and NPR's The Big Listen (a broadcast about podcasts) is emotionally risky business for me. For reasons I don't understand, listening to Lauren Ober call her listeners "pals" and her calling Washington, D. C. "the capital of America" along with her other verbal quirks and hoarse intonations that always make me smile, and, hearing the music composed for the program, brings me to tears, nostalgic tears.I used to listen to The Big Listen on my phone while walking in D. C. or on the radio while driving between Greenbelt and DC Brau and so hearing the show get underway with Lauren Ober's weekly pitch about NPR radio, transports me back to strolling around the outside and inside of Union Station or walking in the Capitol Hill neighborhood or driving on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway through Greenbelt Park or driving on MD 201 past Rinaldi's Riverdale Bowl and traversing Decatur St. to connect with Baltimore Ave. and Bladensburg Rd, past all the Cottage City, MD shopping centers, fast food restaurants, auto and body repair shops, and two dialysis centers before crossing Eastern Avenue into D.C., turning right, and easing on down the little hill beside the Post Office to D. C. Brau.Whether I drove down the Balt.-Wash. Parkway or down Rt. 201, the trip was hardly picturesque, except when passing through Greenbelt Park (a National Park, by the way). So when I miss this drive, it's not for its beauty. I simply came to love where I lived for those three years and the voice of Lauren Ober brings it all back.If you'd like to listen to the episode entitled, "The Big Listen's Favorite New Podcasts of 2017 (That Aren't S-Town)", just click here and then click on the "Listen" triangle in the lavender box. You can also see a picture of Lauren Ober hugging a nutcracker.I also listened to a food history episode on Burnt Toast, the podcast of the blog Food 52. In just fourteen minutes, this podcast episode gives its listeners quite a history lesson on food swindlers and the history of margarine. If you'd like to know how food isn't always what it appears to be and learn more about margarine, just click here and go to the second episode on the list.3. So, learning to work with TuneIn on the Alexa app turned out to be great fun. My last discovery of the night was New Orleans Public Radio (WWNO) and the weekly program American Routes. Host Nick Spitzer spends two hours every show focusing on some aspect of American music with plenty of songs and interviews. His show that broadcast back on December 18, 2013 featured Richard Thompson and Zachary Richard -- it's titled "Songs of the Expatriates". You, too, can listen to this show! Just click right here. You'll get to hear Cajun, Creole, early rock, English folk/rock, Queen Ida, Clifton Chenier, Michael Ducet, Los Lobos, Fairport Convention, Fats Domino, and a whole lot more, including Richard Thompson singing a song in French!By the way, my day of listening also included listening to almost all of The Grateful Dead's se[...]

Three Beautiful Things 12/27/17: Birthday Workout, Groceries and Soup and Creme Brulee, Cornbread and Cinnamon Dinner


1.  Today I turned 64 years old.I don't remember the last time I was with the Deke on my birthday. From looking at my blog posts, I'd say it was 2011, but I didn't post anything for 12/27/2011, but I know we were together for Christmas two days earlier.So, this morning, we started off my birthday by working out at the Wellness Center, happy that we are upright, have a pulse, and can move our legs and lift some weights.2.  We had some packages come from Amazon, including an Echo Dot. I got it set up to work on its own, but could not get it to connect wirelessly via Bluetooth to the Bose Soundtouch 10 speaker. I'll read support forums and seek out other help and work on this more on Thursday.The Deke and I went grocery shopping at Yoke's where I also ordered a prime rib for New Year's Eve dinner.After shopping, we stopped in at Radio Brewing for some Inner Sanctum Strong Ale and a bowl of heavenly, perfectly spiced, creamy mulligatawny soup, a perfect soup to warm up our insides on this snowy, cold afternoon.I've made mulligatawny soup several times and, back in the really old days, I used to enjoy the occasional bowl at Bagel Bakery, prepared by the lovely woman from England who owned the place with her husband. Neither my mulligatawny nor the Bagel Bakery's was dairy-based. Radio Brewing's mulligatawny had the velvety texture of a fine cream of mushroom soup, a welcome surprise, and finishing my bowl left me warmed, but longing for a refill.Because it was my birthday, I got to split a creme brulee on the house. Oh, my! That crispy nearly burnt sugar layer atop the vanilla-y egg and cream custard underneath satisfied my never ending craving for brown sugar and vanilla, whether in oatmeal, cookies, or, as today, this creme brulee.Eating this dessert transported me back to October 17, 2011. I did some beer shopping at Market of Choice. I was just beginning my dive into craft beer and I bought and drank a bomber of Southern Tier's Creme Brulee Stout.  This beer is not readily available in the Silver Valley, but I hope I can find it again somewhere in the Inland Empire over the next few months to enjoy as a dessert beer at just the right time.  It's a flavor-bomb of custard and brown sugar and vanilla brewed in an Imperial Stout, packing a 10% a.b.v. punch -- you gotta be careful drinkin' this one -- its sweet imperial booziness carries a wallop.3. I decided that for my birthday dinner that I  wanted two things: cornbread and cinnamon. So, knowing that we didn't eat a lot of the Deke's Cuban black bean soup on Christmas Eve and knowing that it would taste perfect with cornbread, I asked the Deke to serve the soup again. She added spinach and sausage to the soup, improving it -- I didn't think that was possible. To compliment the soup, she baked perfect cornbead muffins using Bob's Red Mill cornmeal and whole wheat flour so that were just the way I like them: grainy, a little bit heavy, and full of good corn flavor. I also asked the Deke, who makes awesome salads,  to concoct one of her masterpieces for dinner and to work apples into the salad. She did.  The salad rocked.Now how about my request for cinnamon?Wow!Christy baked and iced a moist, buttery, sweet and cinnamon-y cinnamon cake. It was such a work of culinary art, so far beyond my meager abilities in the kitchen, that I don't have the proper vocabulary to describe all that Christy did to bring this magnificent cake into being. I can report that[...]

Three Beautiful Things 12/26/17: Cuss Box at Ace, Cleaning, Greco-Cuban Dinner


1. After I wrote in my blog this morning, I jumped right on getting some house business done. I put bills in the mail and I went on a string of errands: pharmacy, monthly blood draw at Shoshone Medical Center, bank, and some shopping at Ace Hardware. While at Ace, looking at stainless steel cleaner, hardwood floor mops, and other cleaning supplies, I heard a string of good-natured, fake demanding and fake complaining profanities ring out from the front of the store. It was Donnie Rinaldi, asking where he might find glue.

When we were kids, someone bought Dad a cuss box. It was a coin bank, oval in shape with an inscription on the front about paying the bank for cussing.  Hey! Look! Online, I found a picture of a cuss box just like the one we had:

Well, back in the cuss box days, Christy and I hatched a sure fire get rich scheme. We imagined getting out the cuss box when Donnie Rinaldi came to visit. We'd charge him for every cuss word and soon the cuss box would be full of nickels, dimes, and quarters.

We never carried out this scheme, but today at Ace, when I heard Donnie cussing loud enough that I could hear him toward the back of the store, my first thought was, "Donnie's here. Get out the cuss box!"

Ha! By the way, Donnie and I reached the cashier at the same time and exchanged hopes that we'd each had a Merry Christmas and wished each other a Happy New Year. It was genuinely heartfelt moment with someone I've known my entire life and who was, along with Rosie, a great friend with Mom and Dad.

2. Back home, I put the cleaning supplies to good use. I had burned a lot of Cuban mojo on a Pyrex pan and spent 20-25 minutes scrubbing it. I almost attained a level of Mary Idell West Woolum cleanliness, but upon a review of the pan a little later in the day, I saw a missed a spot or two. Darn! I cleaned other surfaces in the kitchen, thinking it would be nice if we could keep our new kitchen looking pretty good for a while, at least.

3. I got out the broiled vegetables I made for Christmas Eve dinner, heated up a batch, combined them with white rice and feta cheese and declared to myself that I had just made a Greco-Cuban dish for dinner. It was mighty tasty. Speaking of tasty, later the Deke and I hiked through the snow next door to Christy and Everett's and had a couple of hot drinks using Christy's unbelievably good batter.  The Deke drank hot buttered brandy and I had hot buttered rum. The only reason I would want it to be cold and snowy all year long? Then I could drink hot drinks all year long! They hit the spot.

Three Beautiful Things 12/25/17: Christmas Brunch, Family Gifts, Winding Down and Making More Plans


1. Our family Christmas celebration began around 10:30 this morning with brunch at Carol's. Christy made a delicious breakfast casserole featuring elk sausage and she brought some pumpkin and banana bread one of Everett's daughters had given her. The Deke made a terrific fruit salad and we were all offered a morning champagne cocktail called a Poinsettia and Paul and Carol had a generous pot of Christmas blend coffee ready to drink.

2. It was fun, then, going around the room opening gifts. All kinds of fun surprises emerged: a sewing machine, yarn, books, Carol giving Paul a book of coupons representing twelve ideas for dates over the next year, blouses, shirts, hats, a milk frother, knitted neck warmers, jigsaw puzzles, bottles of wine, truffles, and a variety of other thoughtful presents spread out among the ten of us. I am looking forward to reading and cooking out of the cookbook Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat that Christy and Everett gave me. Maybe one day I'll wear my new Hill St. Depot T-shirt while redeeming our Radio Brewing gift certificate. I think the bottle of Merlot might pair well with my birthday dinner on Wednesday, the 27th, and I look forward to enjoying the bottles of 208 Session Ale from Grand Teton Brewing. I have hot chocolate to enjoy, chocolate truffles to eat and share, beer bread to bake, and pictures of Christy and Everett to hang on our wall or display another way along with a gorgeous calendar that Christy made.

3. We all took it easy in our own ways in the afternoon: naps, knitting, jigsaw puzzle, listening to classic rock, setting up the Harry Potter version of Clue, reading. Around five o'clock we got together again at Carol and Paul's and dove into the leftovers from our Cuban Christmas Eve dinner and our brunch. I worked on trying to figure out what I'd like for my birthday dinner and, by the time the Deke and I returned home, I had it figured out. I know I want cornbread and then I thought that since we have a lot of black bean soup left over from Christmas Eve, we can have that soup and cornbread with salad and I asked for some kind of a cinnamon cake for dessert. Now we just need to know who will participate and, once we know that, whose house will host my birthday dinner.