Archive for the ‘Nyel Stevens’ Category

They come in a boring cardboard box…

Sunday, December 6th, 2020

Nyel’s Box of “Darks”

Anyone who knows Nyel very well knows that he loves chocolate — the darker the better.  Me… not so much.  Especially not the darkest kind.  However, there is a special place in my heart for Dilettante Chocolates (especially the Not Dark ones) from Seattle because they were significant when Nyel was courting me.  But that’s another story.

Recently, I ran across some of the articles my Uncle Willard wrote in the 1940s for his “Family Man” column in Good Housekeepting Magazine.  The name of this particular piece was “On my likes and dislikes in chocolate candy” and it could have been written about Nyel and me!  Here is how it begins:   

Almost “A Plain Brown Wrapper”

This is a highly personal plea to anyone who may ever take a notion to present our household with a box of chocolate candy.
First, a clarification: the card on the box may read “to Hilda,” but it is Hilda’s husband who will do the eating.  Hilda is not particularly fond of chocolates, and I am.  This fondness is partly responsible for our marriage.  When we were courting, I used to bring her boxes of choice candy, which I always ate; the arrangement was ideal, killing two birds with one stone; I would never have dreamed of buying such fine candy for myself.  One night I bit into a particularly toothsome caramel, and before the taste had faded from my tongue I found myself engaged.

One other paragraph in his column also could have been written by Nyel (If Nyel were a writer.  Which he is not.)
Alas, one man’s sweet is another man’s poison.  Mixed chocolates plucked from a drugstore counter contain much of heaven, but much also of hell.  I have never learned to decipher the insignia which mean to the initiated that this piece is flavored with peppermint and mint, while that one is a compound of ragweed.  So I go fumbling doggedly through each box, still confident despite inumerable disillusionments that every square chocolate is a chew and every round one a vanilla drop…

Sydney’s Box of “Lights”

Nyel has solved that particular problem by just ordering “Dark Ephemere” — the darkest of the dark chocolate truffles from Dilettante Chocolates by Dana Taylor Davenport, Chocolatier.  Each toothsome bite is guaranteed to be dark chocolate through and through!  Too bad he and Willard never had the chocolate conversation!  I wonder if my sainted uncle even knew about these morsels of perfection?  They’ve been around since 1898, so maybe…




His Mother Would Be Proud!

Friday, December 4th, 2020

Cowboy Nyel with his Mom, c. 1946

I never knew Nyel’s mom.  And, though Nyel doesn’t speak much about either of his parents, after thirty-five years with her son, I feel somewhat acquainted with Muriel Dalrymple Stevens.  From the time Nyel was six months old, she was a single mom.  She was a waitress.  She developed rheumatoid arthritis and, by the time Nyel was in high school, she could no longer work.  She raised Nyel to think for himself, to be independent and self-reliant.

From the get-go, I was impressed that in addition to all the expected “guy things,” Nyel ironed his own shirts, was handy with needle and thread, could repair almost anything whether it was made of wood or leather or china or fabric.  He learned cooking basics from her — mostly through observation — and then fine-tuned his skills to gourmet levels.

But besides those nitty-gritty necessities of life,  Nyel developed a number of character traits that I find totally admirable — and sometimes annoying.  For example, it is hard to engage him in an honest argument.  Or even a heated discussion.  I think that comes straight from his mom brooking no such impertinence.  He is endlessly patient — perhaps from years of waiting for his mom to get off work before he could… whatever.  Muriel was definitely a force to be reckoned with and so is her son.

Nyel’s Fruitcake

And then there are the fruitcake stories.  I’ve heard about “Mom’s fruitcake” for years.  That it was dark in color.  That it was wrapped in cheese cloth that had been soaked in Mogen David wine for several weeks before being served.  That it was delicious.  That, even though he tried eating other people’s fruitcake, none was like his mom’s.  And he lamented that, of all her recipes, that particular one was missing.

The Moment of Truth

Finally, this year, he decided to try to replicate that fruitcake.  I knew he was thinking about it when a bottle of Mogen David wine showed up with one of our grocery orders!  He talked with Charlie Watkins (of Double J and the Boys fame) who makes huge batches of fruitcake each year.  He pondered and stewed and finally dove in.  A few days ago was the Moment of Truth.  OMG!  I happen to be fairly neutral about fruitcake.  But this!!!  Fabulous!

Best of all, Nyel concluded after just a bite or two, that it is exactly as he remembers his mom’s fruitcake.  Wow!  I hope she knows, somehow, and takes pride in all she did to influence the man her little boy became.  Somehow, the story is all in that fruitcake!

Happy Birthday to Nyel!

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

Birthday Cowboy “Smilin’ Nyel” circa 1948

Last year’s theme song (or, more accurately, earworm) on this date was “76 Trombones dah dah dah, dah dah!”  This year it’s the theme song from “77 Sunset Strip!”  I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who hears it.  Nyel, as always, is a bit indifferent to his birthday.

And then, of course,  there’s the traditional “Happy Birthday to Farmer Nyel” song which I sang down at the coop with the very strong suggestion (more of a demand, actually) that the girls lay eggs for the boss’s birthday.  They appeared to be listening, so we’ll see if they really got the message.

Birthday Boy (with attitude?) circa 1949

For whatever reason, they are on strike again.  No eggs for about two weeks now.  These particular hens have been gold-bricking more than they’ve been working for most of their lives.  We keep trying to find out what their problem is.  Personally, I think they just have it too easy.  All they have to do is…

Come to think of it, they don’t really “have to” do anything at all.  Like certain people who crop up now and then, these four girls seem to take advantage of that situation.  No work ethic at all.  We’ll see later today if they have any appreciative, indebted, or beholden genes anywhere in their DNA.  I’ve tried to tell them (over and over) that if it weren’t for Farmer Nyel’s intervention, they could well have been in the stew pot long ago.  I’m not sure they’ve listened.

Other birthday plans include an outdoors, socially distanced visit by two friends from Astoria.  Later, at the moment of the birthday boy’s choosing, there will be the opening of the presents which have been mysteriosly gathering on the Morris Chair in the library.

Meanwhile… Happy Birthday, Nyel!  And many more!

Behind Those Cupboard Doors

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

As often as I sing Nyel’s praises in the cooking department, I’m not sure I say enough about his penchant for cooking from scratch.  Prepared foods don’t have much place the great scheme of things in our kitchen, as a glance inside our cupboards reveals.

Tostados for dinner?  Only if he has a supply of beans he has previously cooked in the slow cooker for a day  Then he’ll add them to the onions he has sautéed in one of the cast iron frying pans, add chili powder and cumin and we’re in business.  He doesn’t (usually) make the tortillas or salsa or (ever) the sour cream. The lettuce used to come from his garden but, alas, not now.

We aren’t big on casseroles but we do have stir fry and kabobs fairly often and, the old stand-by dinners we both grew up with — meat, vegetable, potatoes (or rice or maybe egg noodles.)  Now that Nyel can no longer keep a garden (and I am worthless as a helpmate in that arena) our produce all comes from the market — almost always fresh, occasionally frozen, never, as in not ever, canned.

Soups and salads — all from scratch, except if tomato sauce is required.  Then Nyel will make concessions to one particular brand that has a no salt added choice.   Spaghetti sauce… also from scratch.  Salad dressings… ditto

Breads and simple desserts are home made when Nyel has time or, perhaps, is in the mood.  Pastas and noodles are store-bought but, again, we are picky about brands.  Condiments are mostly store-bought, except when we luck out from some of our homemaker friends and relatives.

Even Nyel’s granola is made from scratch — rolled oats, wheat germ, almonds (chopped in food processor), raisins sunfower seeds, honey, olive oil — all mixed and slow-baked,  The Best!

We do make a few concessions to prepared foods — Costco’s Meat Lasagna for one and ready-to-bake pie shells are another.  We love Ekone Smoked Oysters (do they even count as a “prepared” food?) and every now and then I have a craving for California rolls from Safeway’s sushi bar.

None of which detracts one iota from the day-in, day-out presentations Nyel offers here at home.  He might have missed his calling, vocation-wise.  But I am ever grateful that I get the benefit of any missed opportunity he might have had along those lines!  Lucky me!

PGD may have come and gone…

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

Nyel with “Boy Cat”-1975

Somehow, amid the discussions about the Personal Grooming Day possibility and other adventures made necessary by our compliance to sheltering… Nyel opted out of the haircut and beard-trimming part.  At least for the nonce.

I do believe his decision was prompted through a journey back in time.  Somehow, he broke out a big packet of pictures — photos of family and friends and people he now has no memory of.  Most, of course, aren’t labeled and if he didn’t recognize the people or places, he put them in the discard pile.  That, as might be expected, made me (“the- hoarder” he said — “the historian” I insisted) a bit crazy.

Nyel and Sylvia, 1975

So far the “discussion” is unresolved and the photos are re-stuffed into the envelope awaiting resolution.  Meanwhile, I was introduced to old girlfriends, a former wife, his father’s wayward brothers and much much more.  After 36 years of togetherness, even the exes had lost their intrigue — at least to me.  Still… it doesn’t seem right to just pitch them.

The pictures of Nyel in the 70s, however, were worth the journey!  Finally, I can see exactly what shade of red he’s been trying (unsuccessfully) to describe all these years. And I think I’m detecting a strong glimmer of nostalgia attached to that decision not to trim his hair.  Or beard.  I’ve tried to gently explain that forgoing the haircut in the here and now won’t exactly get us back to those good ol’ days…

Stay tuned!


The Long and The Short of It

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Actually, when it comes to our up-and-back trip to Seattle yesterday, there was no short of it.  Just long and longer.  Ten-plus hours driving I-5 in the rain.  Five hours up (including two pit stops and a ham sandwich lunch break); six hours back with one fast in-and-out pit stop — traffic never at a stand-still, but a three long slow-downs between Seattle and Olympia. Two hours at the UMC Bone and Joint Center.

We liked the doctor, a specialist in orthopedic oncology  Not that Nyel’s missing hip etc. had anything to do with cancer.  It’s more a matter of which orthopedic specialists have the most experience/knowledge in reconstructing complex bone situations.  After much searching and being sent from one specialist to another this last year, we think that Nyel has finally found the “right guy.”   He was young, thorough, to the point.  He will be consulting with his colleagues.  In the meantime, all options are still on the table (so to speak) and he suggested that Nyel also aggressively pursue non-surgical options.  As in physical therapy.  Since we’ve exhausted the local possibilities, we are reaching out, first across the river and then we’ll see.

As we were driving back to the beach we learned that there had been a shooting in Seattle, not very near where we had been, but…even so.  Fortunately, we were oblivious while we were in the city.  Not like the time in February 2016 when I-5 was completely closed down between Olympia and Tacoma because of a shooter  running amok on both sides of the freeway.  That was truly scary.  This time, not so much.  But a chilling reminder that “the emerald city” is no different these days from any other area infested with gun-toting multitudes.

It was great to get home.  We warmed up Nyel’s made-from-scratch mac’n’cheese, counted our blessings, and talked about how to proceed.  There’s no place like home!  Especially after a long, stress-filled day!

Check, Double-Check, And We’re Off!

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

5:00 A.M. Alarm — CHECK!

Up, bathed, coiffed — CHECK!

Aunt Rye with Banty Chicks c. 1940

Pills taken, breakfast eaten — CHECK!

Chickens fed and watered — CHECK!

Lunches made, thermos of decaf filled — CHECK!

Books for inevitable waits ready — CHECK!

Car packed  — CHECK!

7:00 a.m. off to Seattle — CHECK!

We hope and pray that this specialist has some

Oysterville Stagecoach c 1880

positive suggestions for Nyel’s “next steps.”  It sure will be worth this and every other up-and-back trip to Seattle no-matter-what-and-weather-be-damned!  Cross your fingers for us!

Travelin’ with Nyel

Friday, December 6th, 2019

Subaru Forester

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Up at the crack
Off in the dark
Seattle bound.

Another opinion
Perhaps a chance
For Nyel to walk again.

Cheese Platter

Pray for dry roads
And light traffic
And a good bedside manner.

A stop at Whole Foods
Or Trader Joe’s
For cheeses we don’t see here.

Party planning I’ve found
Is a fine distraction
From everyday hard stuff.


A Lot to Think About

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

An Orthotics Option?

Today Nyel had an appointment with the Hanger Clinic in Astoria.  They deal with orthotics and prosthetics.  In case you are not clear, orthotics is that branch of medicine that deals with the provision and use of artificial devices such as braces.  Nyel already has a complicated knee brace that was helpful in stabilizing his leg after his quadriceps parted company with his knee for the third and final time.  Now that he no longer has a hip, he needs something more.  Perhaps something that goes from hip to ankle and involves cables attached to his good hip for extra stability.  Complicated and not altogether ideal.

However, the physical therapist at OBH strongly advised him to look into the possibility.  Nyel’s ultimate goal is to be able to walk again with a cane.  However, without the stability offered (hopefully) by a sophisticated custom-built orthotic, there really isn’t a path forward for him.

While we were at the Hanger Clinic, the word “amputation” came up for the first time.  In that case, a prosthesis  (artificial leg) would be the way to go.  There are many advantages, apparently.  And, even if he can get reconstructive surgery (which he is looking into), there are no guarantees that, down the line, amputation wouldn’t still be required.  So, part of the equation to consider must be whether or not to try “smaller” fixes first.

A Prosthetic Option

A crystal ball would be good.  In lieu of that, the Hanger clinician said that she would be glad to put Nyel in touch with patients who have had similar problems (though she admitted that she had only seen a few with Nyel’s complications).

There was lots to talk about on our way home.  Nyel, as always, is pragmatic — weighing pros and cons and making arrangements to talk to his various doctors and, if possible, to someone with a similar case history.  Bless him!

It was “Happy Birthday to Nyel!”

Monday, August 5th, 2019

Oysterville Regatta 2017 – Photo by Mark Petersen

One way or another, we salvaged most of Nyel’s birthday weekend.  We made it home from Portland in time for the second and third heats (races?) of the Regatta.  Afterwards, we got Nyel into his wheelchair and wheeled him down the middle of Territory Road with half of Oysterville and the Regatta Dinner guests walking along behind us.  “The only way to travel!” Nyel said.  In my mind  seventy six trombones led the big parade.  Only appropriate for his 76th birthday!

At Lena’s, we were greeted by Tucker and Carole’s son, Charlie, who managed to wheel Nyel over gravel and lawn and rough spots to seat him at the head of the nearest table.  Soon, the table filled with friends who filled us in on the first race and proceeded to treat us both like visiting royalty! People brought us food and beverages and there was even a surprise chocolate cake (a four-layer CostCo special, I think) and the whole crowd sang Happy Birthday to Nyel.

Regatta Pinata Grandkids 2018

A dinner highlight was Tucker singing three (count ’em! Three!) Regatta songs this year.  My favorite and the one I think should become THE official regatta song — was to the tune of “Where have all the flowers gone?”  Here is the truncated version which you can probably figure out:  Where have all the lasers gone… gone to summers every one; where summers… gone to memories;  where memories… gone to stories; where stories, gone to grandkids; where grandkids… gone to lasers every one.

On Sunday our long-time friend “Tricky” came down from Bainbridge and the three of us hooked up with Noel at the Bridgewater in Astoria for Nyel’s birthday dinner.  Lotsa sharing of “geriatric war stories” and even more reminiscing about the “olden days” of forty or fifty years ago.  It was lovely to catch up with one another  though we missed Noel’s wife, Patty, who was back east at a school reunion.

At home, there were presents — all food related, including a new slow cooker (his old one died) from son Charlie plus a hefty book called  Crock Pot – The Original Slow Cooker Recipe Collection.  Nyel’s comment:
“A great birthday and a real improvement over spending the day in the hospital.”  Amen to that!