Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On The Road In Northwest New Mexico

New Mexico is one of the largest states in the Union in terms of physical size (5th roughly the size of Poland) and one of the smaller states (36th) in terms of population.  Like almost all the western states, one or two cities dominate the population density (Albuquerque and Santa Fe here).  But some of the smaller cities in the southeast and northwest are very prosperous because they have oil and gas. 

I had a prospect in the northwestern city of Farmington.   It's about 180 miles from my place to Farmington, around 3 hours driving.  My appointment was for 10:30 in the morning.  I got going around 6:30 and stopped halfway there for breakfast.

Although that's a lot of driving, there is a benefit because New Mexico is a beautiful place.  We had snow yesterday and it had a wonderful effect on the mountains.

Approaching the Jemez Mountains going southeast from Farmington to Cuba

Approaching Sandia Peak from the same direction going from Cuba to Bernalillo

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Musing on Mortality

The event of watching my Father's death process has led to quite a bit of introspection and discussion on the part of Wife and I. 

First, there is this visceral understanding that you are watching your own future.  We are in our middle sixties so our ultimate end is far closer than anything else in our lives.  That leads to all kinds of thoughts about what we really want to be doing, what is really important to us, how do we make the best use of the time that is left to us, and how do we not take what we have for granted.

Then there are the ruminations about how we are going to meet the end when it happens.  We both would like to think that we would not just drag it out and hang on and on.  My Dad said he wanted to go but evidently whether by constitution or mental make up couldn't let go.  This was in stark contrast to my Grandfather who at around the same age as my Father, just went to his room in my parents house, sat in his chair, dosed off, and never woke up.

You'd like to think that you know yourself but how will you really react when you get there?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mouning What Never Was

Almost exactly one year from when it started it ended.  My father died early Wednesday morning. 

We felt that the end was finally coming even though there had been numerous false sitings over the course of the last 4 months.  One thing is for sure, my father, in spite of his own desires, had constitution that would just not stop fighting.  A week ago Thursday he stopped eating and the following day he began to just stay in bed.  Finally on Tuesday things really started to deteriorate and for the very first time over this whole year he started to use heavy pain killers.  I got the call from the caregiver around 3:45 in the morning my time that she felt the time had come.  Two hours later it was confirmed.

My brothers and I mobilized with us coming from Maryland, New Mexico and Hawaii respectively so it took almost two days before we could all get there.  The funeral was held on Friday.  We had it planned quite some time ago.  It was bitterly cold.  It was only the immediate family and the close team of caregivers, hired and friends, that had worked with him and helped him through the year.

One of my brothers and I had met with the executors of his estate for 2 and half hours on Thursday.  They would be handling the vast majority of the work that is required to handle his estate.  There was only a bit of going through the personal property and deciding who wanted what.  You hear all kinds of stories of families getting very bitter over this part, but I was proud that my siblings and I were able to handle it all very quickly with almost no disagreements.  The estate settlement folks want to inventory all this stuff, so we could do anything but mark and pile it up because it will be a couple of weeks before the estate settlement people can get their approval from the probate court.

My father had a very fine career and had long list of people who knew him and wanted to know what had gone on.  His very best friend who was with him throughout this, understood where we were coming from and passed on the word that this was to be a very private family affair.  Because my father's relationship with his children was very different from his relations with the rest of the world.

See Dad never wanted to have children.  He was a person who for whatever reason in his growing up, had a very difficult time expressing his emotions.  There was one person who he loved without reservation and who loved him unconditionally.  And that was my mother.  It was only during the first crisis early last year that I began to piece together the threads of why our family was the way it way.  My Dad looked at that love as sacrosanct and literally wanted nothing to get in between it.  Children definitely get in the way.  But Mom wanted them and he was going to do whatever it took to make her happy.  But that doesn't mean that he truly ever got used to it.

My father really did very little with us as children.  We went on only three family vacations that ever remember.  My Dad loved to hunt and fish.  But that was nothing he would ever bring his children on.  He had this marvelous career.  But I only found out most of it when talking to his peers in collecting information for his obituary this year.

Although we had never been close, when I moved to New Mexico 20 years ago,  I made a decision that I was going to spend time with my parents regularly.  I was not going to really try and build a relationship.  My Mom always welcomed me and my Dad enjoyed the visits too but always made the comment that I was there to see Mom.  I would go four times a year usually.  As they aged I got more and more into their life.  After Mom died 7 years ago, I still visited him the same amount.

When we went into the crisis last year, there were times when we communicated more than we ever had.  I remember one time in February when he told me he loved me.  I cried for hours that night.  I couldn't remember him ever saying that to me.  He probably did at some point but I didn't remember it. 

I knew how angry and frustrated he was.  Losing his eyesight back in his 50's had robbed him of most of the things he loved.  When Mom was gone, so was that one person who he counted on for that unconditional acceptance.  For a person of great pride and accomplishment with very high standards for performance for himself as well as others, the whole aging deterioration process was a cruelty.  He was ready to go a long time ago but his own concern for others I think kept him attached.  He never could let go of a position that it was his duty to provide for and care for others. 

In the last few months he had expressed concern about his care arrangements.  My brothers and I worked on multiple alternatives.  But in the end, he really didn't want family to be involved.  He had always controlled his environment and he was going to do it to the moment of death...and his children were not the ones he was going to entrust with it.  Sorry but I took that pretty hard after the amount of time and effort I'd put in over this last year.

So no, I didn't want to see tens or maybe hundreds of mourners telling me how wonderful he was and what a great friend he was and telling me all the experiences they had with him.  Because that would have only reminded me of just how much of a relationship with my father I didn't have.  I needed to be alone and with my siblings for that.

I probably should put a balancing entry here.  My Dad in his own way did love his children.  And he was always there for them in there most serious time of need...Always. And I am incredibly grateful to him for bailing me out of bad situations and incredible generosity.  I am also very, very glad that his is no longer suffering.  And I'm not talking just about his illness this last year, because there was so much that he was not happy about his life.

But if you ask me if I'm mourning the loss of my Father, I will tell you no.  I'm mourning the loss of what I never had.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pizza Post

I am going out of order as I haven't even finished my big ass Italian Diner posts yet.  BUT, this post is specifically aimed at a particular reader who I am trying to get to the Tower for the purposes of sharing travel photos.  So I'm jumping ahead to the night before New Year's Eve when we had Gaius Derf and Agent W over for homemade pizza.

Our pizza efforts to date have been so-so.  Wife, in line with her bread game step up, wanted to try a different crust recipe.  The one she chose was from Bobby Flay of all people.  It only called for one hour of rising!  I was quite skeptical.  But this stuff was crazy.

This is want it looked like just after an hour and 15 minutes!

We had to break it down and put it in the refrigerator to slow it down because drinks were in order.  Derf and W had decided Manhattans were in order.

They chose to go original with Rye Whiskey which made for a drier drink than with Bourbon.

If this picture is blurry it is because this is on our second Manhattan

We cooked our pizzas on our pizza stone at 500 degrees and they were cooking up in 10 minutes.  We tried three different versions.  Here they are in our order of preference

This was a Margarita style.
Mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, sauteed scallion, a little Parmigiano grated on top

Our next favorite was a White Pizza version
I used a 3-cheese blend of Fontina, Manchego, and Brie as the base
Toppings were chicken, artichoke hearts, capers, sauteed scallions

And our favorite was my own invention
Tomato sauce base with a meat topping where I took the pot roast from two posts ago and mixed it with Pecarino cheese and the sauteed scallions.
Mozzarella cheese and artichoke hearts as well.

We were going to make a fourth but we were too full :(

Monday, January 7, 2013

Holiday Foodie Posts - Two of More Than One - Bread

Wife is really taking her bread making up another lever.  As part of the big Italian meal she found this recipe for Filone, an Italian bread that requires making a starter the day before and then a series of slow rises during the day of baking.

This the beginning of the second day after she took the starter and added some more flour to it.

Bringing it down after the second rising

Shaping the loaves

Then you put the loaves on a wooden paddle with parchment paper on it.
After the third rising, you slip the parchment paper with the bread off the paddle onto a hot pizza stone.

Third rising completed

 When the bread goes in the oven, you have had a cast iron skillet on the rack underneath the one with the pizza stone.  Then you toss in a bunch of ice cubes which gives you a bunch of steam...important for crust development.

The finished loaves.
They were great.  The crust was outstanding and stood up for hours and hours.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Holiday Foodie Posts - One of More Than One - The Roast

We managed to do enough cooking and entertaining to feel like it was the holidays but not so much that we massively over ate.  Pretty nice balance.  Our first meal was a couple of days before Christmas.  We had Wild Bill and Jill over and we split up the cooking responsibilities.  I'm still working my way through Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian Cooking (a multi-year project as I've noted in the past).  I found a very interesting pot roast recipe that I wanted to try as it had minimal ingredients but some different techniques and I'm a sucker for technique oriented cooking.

Ingredients consisted of a pork shoulder roast, carrots, bay leaf, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and wine (lots of wine).

The first thing you do is tie your pork shoulder up, cut your carrots into sticks, cut small wholes in the roast and then stick the carrot sticks in the wholes...very unusual.

These are carrots from Wife's garden by the way.  They keep in the ground through the winter so you just go out with a shovel and dig some up.

Salt & pepper the roast and coat with flour

Brown it all over

Then add the other ingredients along with enough wine to come up to the top of the roast.  The recipe said two cups.  This is two cups.  Turns out I needed a bottle and a half.

Then you cook the thing under low heat for a long time, turning frequently, until the meat starts falling apart and the wine is reduced (with the meat from the juice) to almost syrupy consistency.  At sea level this is supposed to take 3 hours.  Here at 6000 feet, it took 7!  Good thing I accounted for this and started cooking early in the day.

The end result was very, very, very good.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Starting the New Year Right

January 1, 2013
7:45 AM
23 degrees
In the foothills of the Sandia Mountains