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Retirement is not without Hassles: Face-to-Face #2539

I been to all kinds of parties – beer, pizza, birthday, anniversary, wine tasting, graduation, surprise, garden, cocktail, tea, beach, bonfire, Christmas, bachelor, costume, dinner, farewell, pool, Super Bowl, potluck, karaoke, and dance, to name a few.  Last night, was my first RIP party. No, not a funeral wake!
This is an event where you “rip” open packs of baseball cards. In this case, 12 sealed boxes were involved including Big League Blasters (BL), Chrome Update Blasters, Heritage Blasters, Series 1 Monster, Archive Signature Series, UK Edition Hobby, Heritage High Number Hobby, Update Series, and Bowman Hobby. Each partygoer was randomly assigned a team after paying an entry fee and gets to keep those respective cards. 

Last night’s big winner, or hit, was the Dodgers and a signed/numbered rookie Bowman by Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who just picked up a victory at Yankee Stadium. I drew the Cincinnati Reds and got numerous versions of rookie sensation Elly De La Cruz, who may set a league record for stolen bases. 

I arrived fashionably early at Blue Breaks Card Shop and was surprised to find that I was the only one there. I was anticipating an opportunity to meet the other players, but instead it turned out to be an online event. I had even foolishly taken some cards to trade. It was an indication of my age and old-fashioned expectations of social interaction. Instead, I ended up quietly observing the show from their back office. It reminded me of being in the studio watching a live TV show or newscast, as I often did before retiring from that business. The hosts of the show did all the ripping and staged the effort to make it more exciting. 

For me, after all these years, there’s nothing more thrilling than opening a pack of baseball cards. Once upon a time, it was also the smell of stale bubble gum, and even longer ago tobacco. It was interesting to see all the different types of cards available on the market, when as a kid, Topps was the only brand available for many years and then proceeded to buy up most of their competitors. Now, Topps has a line of various Major League licensed card products like Allen & Gunter, Bowman, Stadium Club, Heritage, etc. 

I was expecting a party where there was more social interaction than simply an online chat. I envisioned us sitting at tables talking about our favorite teams and exchanging stories and duplicates. I was lucky that the let me behind the scenes to watch but felt foolish about my expectations as a member of an older generation that once did everything face-to-face.

Retirement is not without Hassles: Hungry in Hungary Part 7 #2491

Continued from Post # 2489

Since this was a story about bribing hungry guards with food to escape from Hungary during the height of the Revolution, it only makes sense to include a chapter about Hungarian food, drink, and spices. For the six escapees, food was their most valuable commodity. They were too poor to offer anything else, leaving their homeland with only the clothes on their back. 

Food was obviously important in my life, especially since I can vividly remember the farewell dinner with my parents of Makos Teszta, poppy seed noodles in a sweet sauce. Plus, I wasn’t quite four-years old at the time, just at the point where long-term memory develops, so I’m lucky to recall anything at all. 

I also recount the long flight to the U.S. for the reunion with my parents. A pre-arranged representative took me to and from the airport. Grandmother packed me a satchel-full of bread, cheese, and salami for the journey, knowing that I would need to spend the night alone in Amsterdam at a youth boarding facility and had never ridden on a plane. 

Only Hungarian food had ever crossed my lips apart from the Hershey’s candy kisses my parents would regularly send to our Budapest apartment with their letters, photos and some clothes, so I was leery about anything out of the ordinary that was served at the hostel or on the plane. You could also tell that someone had gone through everything that was sent. All that candy resulted in my first cavities, hopefully it put a few holes in the teeth of those Communist inspectors as they “tested” it for improprieties. Plus, everything I attempted to digest on the way back to The States was lost through motion sickness on the plane ride or during the miserable car ride from J.F.K. to Phoenixville. 

I slowly made my way through customs, after spotting my anxious parents from afar on the other side of the terminal. They had to patiently wait before our tearful reunion. They were with the familiar faces of Bela and Emmi, who had gotten them to the airport to meet me. It had been four long years since our farewell dinner in Budapest just prior to the escape. We had a lot to catch up on, as I continued to clutch my satchel of bread, salami, and cheese. Once I finally got over my sickness, they filled me with familiar Hungarian dishes.

Along these lines, I offer these tidbits about Hungarian food that I found on Wikipedia: “There is no doubt that pálinka is one of the beverages you will be first offered when arriving to Hungary. It’s like Windex to the Greeks in the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Spray it on to cure anything. Hungarian grandmothers swear by the power of pálinka. Have a headache? Pálinka. Feeling nervous? Pálinka. Feeling sleepy or uninspired? Pálinka. This beverage is a traditional fruit brandy with Hungarian origins made from fruits such as apricot, plum and apple. As the saying goes: “Pálinka in small amounts is a medicine, in large amounts a remedy.” 

“Paprika is Hungary’s most popular spice and a symbol of its cuisine. Hungarians consume more than 1.10 lbs. (500 g) of paprika each year and there are more than 40 varieties grown in Hungary.” 

“Among the different varieties of paprika, the spice is often divided into three categories—hot paprika, sweet paprika, and smoked paprika. Due to the favorable climate and geographical conditions, Hungarian paprika has a bright red color and a distinctive rich flavor that allowed Hungary to became one of the leading producers in the world. Kalocsa and Szeged in southern Hungary are the hearts of production.” 

Finally, according to several internet articles and cookbooks, these are apparently the most popular Hungarian dishes – worthy of any bribe. Makos Teszta was not one of the suggested favorites, but one of the most memorable for me.

Goulash (Gulyás) … 

Fisherman’s Soup (Halászlé) … 

Chicken Paprikash (Csirke Paprikás) … 

Meat Pancakes (Hortobagyi Palacsinta) … 

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves (Töltött Káposzta) … 

Meat Stew (Pörkölt) …

Sour Cherry Soup (Meggyleves)

Jókai Bean Soup (Jókai Bableves)

Deep-Fried Flat Bread (Lángos)

Pasta With Cottage Cheese (Túrós Csusza)

Hungarian Trifle (Somlói Galuska)

Pork Bone Soup (Orjaleves)

Pork Rice Pilaf (Bácskai Rizses Hús)

Dobosh Cake (Dobos Torta)

Ratatouille (Lechó)

Sour Cherry Strudel (Meggyes Rétes)

Sauerkraut Soup (Korhelyleves)

Hungarian Tripe Stew (Pacal Pörkölt)

Summer Squash Stew (Tökfozelék)

Chimney Cake (Kurtos Kalacs)

Spinach Stew (Spenótfozelék)

Ratatouille has become even more popular because of the Walt Disney animated movie and Disney World ride. It’s a colorful, vegetable stew, simmered in olive oil, garlic, and herbs. Most recipes call for eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, and tomatoes, and, of course, Hungarian hot smoked sausage. I like to serve it over nokedli (Hungarian egg noodles). Originally it came from the Provence region of France, so the Disney characters are portrayed with a French accent. In Hungary it’s known as lecsó.

Traditional Hungarian dishes are primarily centered around meats, seasonal vegetables, fresh bread, dairy products, cheeses, and fruits. My grandmother was a very good cook who believed in buying fresh foods. We would go to the village market together and often come home carrying these Hungarian staples that she would transform into delicious meals. Even breakfast would typically consist of fresh bread, minced meat products like kolbász or szalámi, mixed with vegetables or jam.

Salad courses don’t exist in Hungary. Our meals were accompanied by a small plate of seasoned vegetables, usually shredded cabbage, cucumbers, beets, or tomatoes. Sometimes they were pickled (savanyúság). 

What dishes might you want to stay away from? Visitors consider these to be disgusting concoctions:

Pacalpörkölt – Tripe stew

Szalontüdő/Savanyú tüdő – Sour lungs

Hagymás vér – Blood with onions

Kocsonya – Aspic

Édes tészták – Sweet pastas 

When it’s cold outside and you need to “escape,” here’s my mom’s family recipe. She was a “pinch of that, touch of this, smidge of the other, and a smooch of love” kind of chef. My father, on the other hand, was very critical of mom’s cooking. He had a very evolved sense of smell, and tended to be very picky, especially when we would go to a restaurant. Although he rarely cooked himself, he spent an inordinate amount of time trying to teach his caregiver Inna how to cook things his way. A good example was that he thought there should be no vegetables added to Fish Soup. This is why we called him “The Master Chef.”

Manci’s Goulash Recipe 

2 lbs. Fresh Ham (or pork) cut in cubes

1 or 2 medium onions diced

2 to 4 medium peppers sliced

Cook onions and in oil while cutting meat

Place ham cubes in pot and cover with water

Add enough paprika until water is red

Cook for 20 minutes 

While cooking add:

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp salt

3 squeezes of Hungarian Goulash Paste

½ tsp Caraway Seeds 

2 tablespoons of Tomato Paste

Add the following vegetables: 




NO Parsley 

Cook until vegetables and meat are done

Add diced potatoes 

Add Chipetka (flour, egg, water, salt) 

Cook only ½ bag of small noodles and keep separate like Chicken Soup.

When sitting down at the table to eat, say your prayers and jó étvágyat.“Enjoy your meal!” Hungarians always politely say this to each other before they start devouring their meal. As far as something to wash it down, Hungarians belong to the group of consumers characterized by high alcoholic beverage consumption and is still one of the leading liver cirrhosis mortality countries in Europe and in the world. The drinking age is 18, so they get an earlier start than most Americans. The Hungarian word for “cheers” is a mouthful, “egészségedre,” but be careful how you use it. Toasting with a beer, for example, is frowned on since back in the 1848 revolution, the Austrians victoriously celebrated with a clink of the beer glass. Drinking and eating in Hungary is full of tradition, so know the rules and pace yourself. 

When is the best time to eat and drink in Hungary? There are four major holidays: Carnival Season lasts the month of February to mark the end of winter; Revolution Day is March 15 known as “Hungarian spring;” August 20 is St. Stephen’s Day in honor of Hungary’s first king; October 23 commemorates the people’s uprising against Soviet repression back in 1956. “Eat, Drink, and be Merry!”

I’ll bet you’re Hungry. Now, more about Hungary.

To Be Continued…..

Retirement is not without Hassles: Off Road #2222

Too many computer problems discouraged my efforts to keep up on this blog during our time in Kauai. I tried changing from Chrome to other search engines but had to reconstruct many of my links, apps, and passwords to no avail. I could not transfer notes from my phone to my laptop, adding to the frustration. The days went by too quickly as we criss-crossed the volcanic valleys  by car, boat, and plane.

There was just too much going on with the six of us in the condo. Limited privacy, excursions, board games, plus trips to the pool and beach did not give me time to gather my thoughts. I needed to get back in my home office and perhaps send my computer off to be repaired. I did, however, manage to maintain my daily running habit that has now grown to over 5,100 consecutive days while on the island. In a few short weeks, “The Streak” will surpass 14 years without missing a single day.

In an effort to do something constructive, I started doing on-line surveys that allow me to collect points and potentially payment for my opinions. To me, it’s similar to playing a video game for rewards and keeps my mimd occupied. However, being 71 years of age, retired, caucasian, and with limited purchasing power often excludes me from participating. 

I’ve read five books over the past few weeks, so getting away from the television has been a positive change. I did watch a lot of soccer with all the World Cup action, but fell behind on shows like Yellowstone, Curse of Oak Island, and Gold Rush. I mention this like I’m actually missing something important!

There have been no dog duties, those rare moments outside of running when I actually venture out into the Florida heat. Sunny days on Kauai were surprisingly limited as we explored the islands, from Waimea Canyon and “the wettest spot on earth” to Hanalei Bay, home of “Puff the Magic Dragon.” It was always breezy with pop-up showers, and cloudy skies. We put a few miles on the rental car because there was little to do at the resort other than Cornhole, swimming, biking, and wandering. The crashing waves of the  Pacific were closely visible from our balcony, but the sandy beaches were quite a distance away. We were, however, surrounded by lush landscaping, golf courses, swaying palms, and other plush resorts. Restaurants and shops were also a major hike away.

It was 11-hours of flight time both there and back with overnight stops in Seattle. We won’t get back on a plane for another three months when the two of us weary travelers head to Vegas for a few days. Egypt is but 6-months away. It’s time to get off the road for a holiday break that will allow us to get reacquainted with the neighbors before we hit it hard again.



Retirement is not without Hassles: Just Do It, Again! #2189

It’s disconcerting when you find yourself reading only the obituaries (Remembered) in the Indiana University Alumni Magazine. I’m grateful that my name was not in there again. There are just too many people my age that are no longer and to see them all listed in pages of print is quite disturbing. My goal in anything is to at least be in the Top 20% and can only hope that applies to longevity. Every day I read about classmates, celebrities, and acquaintances that have unexpectedly passed at age 71 or younger.

I did find my name in the Top 10% of runners competing in the Nike NBA Challenge. As a result, I earned a Season NBA League Pass by participating on the Nike Run Club app – a reason to watch more TV sports. Trust me, it was not for speed, as I was quickly passed by a couple of other joggers this morning, leaving me with the feeling of standing still. That doesn’t happen too often in this community that tends to be 50-plus. However, we now have a neighbor with children because their home was affected by Ian and our grandmother neighbor has  temporarily moved to South Carolina. It was not enough young blood to buy a bunch of Halloween candy. 

I am currently hungry and thirsty, waiting for this afternoon’s eyelid surgery. Some experience pain with the procedure while others apparently do not. Nonetheless, they loaded me up on precautionary medication. This makes me a bit worried, while hopefully it won’t jeopardize my running streak that stands at 5,056 consecutive days. On the intellectual side, my Wordle streak is now at 33, far from the longest of 76, during the 230 daily games that I’ve played so far. I seem to have lost the swimming habit because the weather has been cooler, but I’ve continued my daily regimen of sit-ups, push-ups, and stretching. 

My wife’s daughter now works for Nike, so therefore I’ve tried to show renewed allegiance despite the narrow cut of their sportswear. I once relied on a Nike Fit-Bit to keep pace and record my streak. Swoosh-wear seems designed for taller, slimmer athletes, and I have to be careful about what I buy. We saved a ton of money on Nike Dri-Fit gear with her employee discount, and she took us on an impressive tour of the campus that pays homage to stars like LeBron, Serena, and Pre. Now, she tells us that she can get a great deal on a rental car for our trip to Kauai, one of the priciest locations for rentals that I’ve found. Although I continue to run in Brooks brand shoes, most of my accessories are now Nike as opposed to Columbia. I’m quickly becoming more and more a Phil Knight fanJust Do It, Again!

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