Back from the Hospital

My wonderful wife came home from the hospital a week ago. Thank you, Lord!

This intervening week has been a whirlwind of emotions and ‘stuff to get done’. I’m so glad to have her back; she was there for ten days.

But what put her there was an interactive combination of two things – her Congestive Heart Failure, and acute diverticulitis. The infection in her bowel made her weaker and weaker; it occurred and then worsened over a long period of time, quietly taking all her energy and thus the ability to do even the smallest things. The infection made her CHF worse, which in turn made the infection worse… but the symptoms came on so slowly and gradually that we just… did… not… notice.

What is less understood by many is that with CHF, you have to watch your weight closely – weighing every day. A sudden rise of two pounds overnight is cause for concern. And necessitates a temporary upward kick in the diuretics. So why is the water weight of concern? Because it is accumulated in the lungs, interfering with the ability to oxygenate blood. And thereby slowly suffocating the patient.

Meanwhile we are thankful that she’s better. She’s very slowly regaining strength in her legs, and is gradually doing a little bit more to help her conditioning every day.

We both thank everyone for their kind thoughts and prayers.

And we are so thankful for friends and church members who have brought by dinners, soup, and just been there for encouragement. Such things are heartening, both for their nourishment, and for lightening my load in caring.

Going forward, I’ve been seeing that smart-home items are actually improving, instead of just gaining ‘bling’ factor. I’ve invested in three items that will help: a video doorbell that has two-way audio (so she can talk to whomever might be at the door, from wherever in the house that she might be); an electronic deadbolt (so she can unlock the door for visitors and home-care folks); and an Amazon Echo (to interact with and control the two previous items). I hope to end the weekend with these all installed and working well.

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“Patatah-Beta”

The best recipe is one that’s shared. This is one that was really popular with the family; it originally came from a neighbor of mine where I grew up, and I improved on it. She had quite an accent and used to call it, “Patatah-Beta” (say it as a three-syllable word), but I’m not sure where that name came from. Anyway, I used to get asked all the time to make it.

The recipe is flexible for however many people you’re feeding – whether it’s two, or two hundred. It scales perfectly, and assembles totally ‘by eye’, so you don’t need any measuring stuff, and you can therefore prepare it while you’re waiting for the coffee to finish and the bacon to cook.

The list below gives quantities for about a dozen people.

Store List:

  • 1- bag: Ore-Ida Potatoes O’Brian, or Safeway’s Southern Hash Browns; either way, make sure it’s the small cubed potatoes with the veggies mixed in
  • 1- medium bottle: Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing – full fat, not “light” or “fat free”
  • 1- 2.75 oz. bottle: McCormick “Grill Mates” Montreal Chicken Seasoning – NOTE: This is NOT Montreal Steak Seasoning! If you can’t find Montreal Chicken, skip this. A popular substitution has been McCormick’s Chipotle Chili Pepper.
  • 1- Dozen Eggs; suggest Large or Jumbos. (If you have people coming who like really soft scrambled eggs, get the pasteurized ones to protect the older folks)

Now Assemble:

  • Start frying the potatoes first. Fry the potatoes until crispy. This is the longest step in the process, but it’s key to get them completely crispy.

Meanwhile:

  • Crack all the eggs into a bowl and find a whisk.
  • Look at the eggs in the bowl, and notice the volume of the yolks. Now add the volume of two egg yolks of the Ranch Dressing (more if you like your eggs creamier), and whisk all together until combined. Set aside until the potatoes are done. (The best ratio of Ranch to eggs is the volume of one yolk per six eggs; this works no matter what the size of the eggs.) See? I told you this was by-eye.
  • Once the potatoes are done to a good crispness, add a good pinch of salt and an approximate rounded tablespoon of the Montreal Chicken Seasoning, and stir these seasonings into the potatoes to coat and distribute the seasonings. (Use a teaspoon to half tablespoon if you’re substituting the Chipotle Chili Pepper.)
  • Dump the eggs into the pan and begin stirring them in. It’s important to continue to use a bit higher heat than you normally would, so the eggs cook quickly and don’t make the potatoes soggy. This is tricky, because with the higher heat, it’s easy to scorch the eggs.
  • As soon as the eggs are cooked to your satisfaction, remove all to a warm bowl and serve.

Set out ketchup and ranch dressing as condiments.

It’s easy, feeds a crowd quick, and you can sit back and enjoy the compliments. Hope you enjoy this one.

Why is Engineering’s Coffee So Variable?

As I’ve mentioned here before, I have a ‘New Job’ up in Hood River. It’s a small outfit, and my job was a new position for the division there, so they initially put me with the Marketing guys. Now I’m with Engineering, and being a former Chief Systems Analyst and Engineer, that makes more sense for me.

And I get to participate in Engineering’s jokes. And make a few up along the way. A little background here: We all take turns making the coffee, so it does turn out different from pot to pot.

I came up with this one yesterday, and it got such belly laughs that it seems worth repeating here:

So WHY is Engineering’s coffee so variable?

The Mechanical guy makes it stout and overbuilt.

The Software guys make it however they feel today. (It’s a good thing that the coffeemaker  uses filters, it keeps their bugs out.)

The Optical guy makes it according to a strict level of opacity.

The Chemical guy makes it according to an exact formula.

The Assembly guy makes it in exactly the same order, every time.

And the Tech Writer makes it according to a consistent formula, developed in conjunction with all the above.

Winter Alpenglow

Time for a bit of poetry – it’s been a while.

It is a fleeting moment
between sunset and the hard blue
oppression of the dying day
and twilight’s cold approach,
fading into the reality of Night.

The ocean of air in which we as people of God’s Creation live
breaks relentlessly against the shores
of the mountain
upon whose side I live.

The background rumble
is a reminder of how small I am;
each roaring crash of a wind gust
is a reminder of how alive I am.

I am thankful for
warm clothes
a place to sit, rest my knees, and to behold all this;
as if it were the first time I had ever lived it;
and a warm, snug house in which to retreat
and the warm embrace of my loving wife
for when the cold becomes too much for me.

My sweet dog-companion is hippety-hop with delight,
she having had plenty of time for sniffabout,
and ready to give up her guard duty over me
for the comfort of a nice, warm bed.

Inside, looking out,
I cannot help but marvel
at this wonderful place in which
we are so fortunate to live, laugh, and love.

 Thank you Lord, for the privilege of living here. Thank you for looking after us, in this place of wildness.

Well how about that! A White Christmas!

In my more than sixty years, only twice have I seen a White Christmas.

Until now.

This is only the third time I have seen a White Christmas. (I had to grab this shot from the home office window – everything else is iced over.)

Living here in the Pacific Northwest, our weather is some of the most unpredictable – and changeable – in the world. We have a unique position between the ocean and tall mountains, which makes for unstable weather.

Yesterday, I would not have believed that this cold would stick around long enough to keep snow on the ground for this morning. I had gone down into town and it was nearly 40 degrees, the sun was shining, and the ground was dry! Not even a hint of the rough conditions up here on the side of the mountain.

But we live on the snow line. And that just got proven once again.

Last night, I couldn’t even go out. And I can stand some pretty severe stuff. But… The wind was gusting past 30 knots, and driving snow before it. It was the kind of stuff that stings the skin and wants to get in your eyes. Temperature was in the mid-20s, making for a wind chill in the low to mid teens.

I went into the sunroom to try to grab a shot of the conditions, which would be considered a blizzard, had the snow been falling at a higher rate. As it was, the snow is powder and is being picked up and drifted by the wind:

Just a few moments after I grabbed this shot, the rattle of freezing rain began to sound against the windows. I knew that by morning, it would be treacherous to walk out there.

But this morning, we have a warm house, the makings for a nice Christmas breakfast, and warm hearts for each other. A roast is curing in the garage fridge for dinner tonight. Dara snoozes happily on the bed.

We take time to pause and remember the coming of the Light of the World, Everlasting Saviour, Prince of Peace.

And to marvel.

A White Christmas! How about that.

First Snow

Yesterday, I was looking at the conditions, and they were ‘right’ for snow.

I was up at about three this morning, and I could see that the back deck was white. I went back to my nice warm bed and pulled up the covers.

After sunup, I fed Dara and let her out to do her thing. You could tell she was hippety-hop with excitement. I clicked the screen button on the cellphone to catch her excitement, but by the time it made the capture… well… This is all I got:

The cold beauty of the Ridge is in full view; witnessing it outside in person demands much. You have to “bundle up”, as my Mom used to say; and meanwhile the strong winds and low wind-chill numbers try to suck any warmth from your body.

My chair cushions were frozen solid, very un-fun to sit on; that’s once you break them free from the chair. My hands were shaking at this point and I couldn’t get a snapshot of the frozen cushions, which may I wryly note, would certainly give one a case of ‘polaroids’.

Will this snow stay through Christmas? I’m pretty sure not: the daytime highs will be too warm. And down in town, you’d never know it was so cold and snowy up here – temps were nearly 40, dry, and sunny.

It’s interesting to note that in all the Christmases I’ve seen, I’ve only seen two White Christmases. So for me, in their rarity, they are special.

But after these few moments alone out in the quiet, I return with a sense of gratitude for warm clothes, a snug, warm house, and the love of a wonderful woman.

May you also be blessed in the same way.

So, No Pictures of Wooly-Bear Caterpillars?

Oddly enough, I haven’t seen any, so far this year.

By this time last year, they were everywhere, and their amber stripe was hugely wide.

And we had an absolute howler of a winter. Icy, cold, stuck in the house for days… Let’s please, not do that again for a while, okay, Lord?

But so far this year, no signs of wooly-bears. Instead, may I offer this snapshot of the Ridge and The River Of Clouds at sunset:

Watching The River Of Clouds never fails to give me a sense of awe. It’s almost like when you were a kid, drawing your finger through the top quarter-inch of your bathwater, watching the ripples it made. I often wonder if God has that same sense of wonder at what he does…

It’s technically warmer outside, but the cool temperatures, combined with near 100% humidity, work together to give a penetrating chill.

I’ll finish my reading inside tonight.

And I wish you a good week for this upcoming week; and may God bless the works of our hands.