Category Archives: Uncategorized

Feisty Test?

You know me – a good coupon can draw me in any time.  This time it was Feisty Cherry Diet Coke.  I like chilis, I like cherries, I like Diet Coke.  Heck I will even admit to liking Cherry Diet Coke.  And I like hot in my food.  But turns out that chili, cherry and coke together do not light my fuse!  Guess I’m just not feisty enough?

What contradictions do you have in your life?
(And what do I do with the remaining 11 cans?)

Jump Start

Back in March and April, when we thought life might be back to “normal” by now and before I got hit by the furlough, I was thinking I would be very very busy at work this fall.  I had my regular programs that normally run in October and November.  Then I had five programs that should have run in the spring and were postponing until autumn as well.  In an effort to not be crazy, I thought maybe I should ramp up my holiday projects, so I wouldn’t have them hanging over me if I was insane at work.

Luckily I had already identified my theme for 2020; this is probably a good idea because at this point I might be choosing toilet paper to represent this bummer of a year!  So I ordered a few supplies that I needed and got down to work.  First I did the Ukrainian eggs (two weeks), then I worked on my Solstice cards (three weeks).

Then I got furloughed and could have put everything else off but decided to forge ahead.  The last big project is my calendar.  I get a download from one of my favorite craft companies and then decorate each page, add pretty papers and eyelets.  The pretty papers turned out to be a problem.  By the time I was ready to work on the calendars, all the craft shops around here had closed their doors .  I tried to find papers online but it was just impossible to search out everything I needed.  I just had to wait until I could get the paper in person.

I’ve been working on the calendar pages for about a month now – been stringing it out and filling in between other projects.  But yesterday, I finished up December and got all the eyelets added!  Woo hoo.  I always like to be ahead of the game with my holiday projects but I’ve definitely set a record this year.  And even if I do get called back to work, all my fall programs appear to be postponing again to next spring.  Maybe I’ll do the holiday baking early too…. I could use cookies about now!

Any projects that you’re ahead of schedule on this year?

Freeze Warning

The earliest 28° frost/freeze where we live can occur any time between late August to late September. Last Friday, the National Weather Service warned us that a killing freeze/frost could occur Monday and Tuesday nights, September 7 and 8. That is pretty early,  and all the signs were indicative of this calamity.

On Sunday, Husband and I harvested all the chard, green and red New Mexico peppers, red sweet peppers, and  any tomato that showed any inclination of ripening indoors. (Tomatoes that have been subjected to a frost when they are still on the vine should not be canned. It produces some enzyme that is contrary to safe canning.) That meant a trip to several  local liquor stores to get boxes for ripening tomatoes, as well as a search for canning jars. (There are no canning jars to be had in our town now, as everyone was scrambling to save their garden produce, too. )

We spent Monday figuring out how to maximize the canning jars and lids we still had, and to cook up  a couple dozen chili peppers for enchilada sauce. We covered bean poles with comforters and blankets, and also covered  pepper plants  and  cantelopes with old table cloths and a large tarp. So much for a restful Labor Day Weekend.

Tuesday morning dawned with frost covered roofs and droopy tomato plants. Similar cold temperatures are predicted for Tuesday evening, so we will leave everything covered until Wednesday. By then, warmer evening temperatures are predicted.

When has the weather changed your plans?


The New Toilet Paper?

Hand sanitizer, toilet paper, bleach…. I was lucky enough to have these items already in the house when shelter-in-place hit and people started to hoard.  I was surprised by the flour/yeast panic and the run on King Arthur bread mixes, but again, I had enough on hand to get through.  I was also surprised to not find garlic in the stores for a couple of weeks; the produce guy at Cub was stumped.   Garlic salt isn’t the greatest substitute for fresh garlic, but we managed.

But pectic?  This one brought me up short.  I headed out early one morning and picked a big flat of raspberries and as is my custom, I stopped at Kowalski’s on the way home.  There on the shelf where the pectin usually lives was a big hole.  I asked an employee… they said that they haven’t been able to keep canning supplies and pectin in stock.  Same story for a few other places I quickly called.

Unfortunately you can’t just keep fresh raspberries sitting around forever, so I kept calling and did find pectin at my local hardware store, although it was a different brand than I usually use to cook my jam.  Since beggars can’t be choosers, I bought it and headed home. (The hardware store shelves in the canning section were basically bare; I actually got the last jar of pectin!)  After a long search on the internet, I finally found a comparable low-sugar recipe that I could use.  Presumably the jam will be fine when I thaw the first jar – you wouldn’t think you could mess up berries and sugar with a different kind of pectin, right?

Have you run out of anything lately?

109 in Escondido

The number one attraction on our to-do list in San Diego was the Safari Park.  I had been there about 20 years ago, but as is typical of my travels, I didn’t get a long tour – just the back of a truck to feed giraffes.  While this was a fabulous experience, I had always hoped to get back for a thorough visit.

It was a 40-minute transfer up to Escondido and we had our ride scheduled so we would get there right at opening as the website had said that it was “first come, first served”.  We didn’t need to worry – the pandemic has definitely changed people’s leisure habits – it wasn’t crowded.  In fact, as the day wore on, there were fewer and fewer visitors.

The park is like a zoo, except fewer animals with larger habitats, separated into different areas: Gorilla Forest, Condor Ridge, Elephant Valley, Tiger Trail, etc.  Due to covid-19, all the various tours by safari van and truck were cancelled, so we were faced with getting through the whole park in one day.

We started with the Tiger Trail and that’s where we met the first of the volunteers stationed around the park to answer questions.  These are my favorite people; it’s always fun to ask questions and chat about the animals and the park.  The tiger in the photo is Rakan, a two-year old Sumatran tiger.  He came to the safari park when he was five-months old from the Smithsonian Zoo, after his mother aggressively rejected him.  For the entire time we stood and talked to the volunteer, Rakan laid majestically behind very thick glass, as if it was his turn for the photo op.  YA snapped this great photo.

As the day wore on, YA started to complain about the heat.  I was quite hot as well, but I thought it was probably just all the walking around.  I had looked at the San Diego forecast that morning – high of 85.  Well, turns out that when you drive 45 minutes north of San Diego, towards the mountains and desert, the high is a bit higher.  In fact, at 2 p.m., the temperature was registering at 109.  Yikes.  And the safari park is NOT built on a flat land.  I know that for every up we had a down, but by the afternoon, it felt like all we did was climb up!  We went through a lot of diet pop and water but powered through; who knows if either of us will ever get back to the park.  The other areas we really enjoyed were Condor Ridge, Elephant Valley and Gorilla Forest.  I suppose it’s not a surprise that there were great volunteers at all those locations.

It was a great day and I don’t think either of us have ever appreciated how cool 85 degrees feels after you’ve walked all over a safari park in over 100!

What animal do you like to visit at the zoo?


While walking yesterday, I passed by two boys playing on a tree swing in their front yard – a big yard on a corner.  One boy would sit on the swing, pull it back and then both boys would yell “Three, Two, One”.  Then the first boy would push off in a big arc and the second boy would try to hit him with a large rubber ball.  I guess the countdown was to try to even the odds… hitting the swinging boy looked nigh on impossible.  I pretended to do a doggie clean up so I could watch them a little while longer.  They were about 10 and having a terrific time.

I know that most of us remember playing like this as kids.  One of the games that we neighborhood kids made up when I was in third/fourth grade was called “Dragoons” (yes, spelled the way we pronounced it – no memory of how we came up with this name).  As horrifying as it sounds to my adult ears, we played this after the sun went down in the summer; as soon as we saw a car approaching, we would dart across the street.  If the car lights actually illuminated you, then you had been “dragooned” and had to sit out for a bit.   It wasn’t really a game of chicken, because you were supposed to be well clear of the lights — it probably wasn’t as dangerous as it sounds although I’m pretty sure I never told my mother we were doing this.  I don’t remember any close calls that summer and truth be told, it wasn’t a busy street.

Do you recall a favorite childhood game?  Anything you made up?

Work Clothes

We were required to wear masks at work in April. Two weeks ago we were issued face shields to wear over our masks. Now we have the option of goggles. Instead of looking like welders we look like mad chemists.

I had to wear a uniform when I waitressed at Mr. Steak in Moorhead when I was in college. I have not worn a work uniform since. I like the goggles better than the shields,  but we all still look goofy. I am thankful we don’t have to wear paper gowns, but that may yet happen, since cases of COVID are increasing exponentially in our county.

What is the oddest or most uncomfortable clothing you ever had to wear?

Bye Bye Bicarbonate

I needed baking soda for a project.  I wasn’t sure how much I needed for the entire project and I wasn’t sure how much I actually had in the house.  YA and I were at Costco and I thought maybe I would get it there and not have to make another trip.  Of course, being Costco, the baking soda came in a 13.5 pound bag.

I waffled and waffled about whether to get it.  The project SHOULD work – I’d seen it with my own eyes on the internet – and I would need a bit but 13.5 pounds of baking soda is a LOT of baking soda.  As I stood in the aisle I thought… what family needs that much baking soda?  Eventually I caved and sent YA back to the baking aisle to retrieve it.

I’ll give you one guess.  That’s right, the project did NOT work out the way it shows on the internet.  AND it turns out I had enough baking soda in the cabinet to do the test run.  Sigh.  So now I have a 13.5 pound bag of baking soda sitting on the counter making me feel like a fool every time I walk into the kitchen.  It wasn’t that much money, but I really should have known better.

If any baboons in the Twin Cities area need a cup or two of baking soda, I’ll be happy to bring it by.  Hopefully I won’t get stopped by the police with a bunch of baggies of white powder in the car!

When was the last time you over-indulged?

Heavy Lyfting

There was some serious budgeting for the trip to San Diego with YA.  First off, the trip would not have been possible at all except for free airline tickets that I won last summer as well as all the award points that I’ve saved up at work over the past few years (they paid for the hotel and the zoo/safari park).  That left us with food and transportation.

We had an Excel spreadsheet for all of this and the transportation was the most challenging.  While the airport, the zoo and Balboa Park are all fairly closely clustered, the safari park was quite a distance.  Plus we were working with a limited selection of hotels due to the budget (I only had so many award points).  I initially just wanted to rent a car, but that got expensive fast with overnight parking as well as parking at many of the attractions we wanted to visit.  We used a website we found for approximating taxis in San Diego – not much better of a price point.

YA suggested we should just use Uber/Lyft like she did on her last trip and the initial research showed quite a bit of savings over rental cars and taxis.  But I was hesitant.  I’ve never used Uber or Lyft and it made me really nervous.  YA said she would take care of it all.

The first morning, the Lyft driver showed up at our house 10 minutes after she set it up.  Perfect.  Since that was the transfer I was the most nervous about, I could relax.  Uber/Lyft are just big software applications that hook drivers up with passengers.  More than once during the trip, we had a driver change while we were waiting; at the zoo the driver changed twice after we set up the initial request, which ended up getting up back to the hotel sooner than we had anticipated.  After doing a bit of research I figured out why it’s cheaper and why taxi associations are up in arms.  Uber/Lyft drivers are not employees – they are individual contractors and the software just puts them together with folks who want a ride.  No fleets of cars to maintain, no huge workforce to deal with employee issues, insurance, etc.  (I did this research because the day before we were to come home Uber and Lyft both announced they were going to stop service in California (that night!) due to a new law that the state has passed concerning the employee status of drivers.  Luckily within a couple of hours there was a stay granted so that Uber/Lyft can continue challenging the new law, so we were still able to arrange a transfer to the airport the next morning.

Really the only problem that I found was that both Uber and Lyft driver rely completely on GPS, unlike taxi drivers who actually do a lot of training and testing before getting their licenses.  So if the GPS is off, then the ride is off.  On our first full day, we headed up to Escondido to the Safari Park.  It’s a long haul, about 40 minutes and YA had her phone open to the Lyft app the entire time so we could track where we were along the route (apparently this is “how it’s done”).  As we approached the main entrance to the park, there was a clear turn off and a huge sign but our driver went right by it and turned left at the next driveway, which was exactly what GPS was telling him to do.  Unfortunately this was some sort of service entrance with a security gate; it took YA a couple of minutes to convince the driver to go back to the first entrance to the park.  Luckily, you pay upfront for your trip, not by the miles or the time you are actually in the car, so this kind of thing doesn’t jack up your price.

So every single one of our transfers was done by Lyft.  YA says she likes Lyft better than Uber but she can’t articulate why.  It doesn’t seem like the two companies can be that different; several of our drivers had both Lyft and Uber stickers on their windshields.  But whatever the difference, it worked out quite well for us, saved us money and I survived using a new technology.  Of course, we’ll see how it goes if I ever had to set up a Lyft on my own!

Any new technology that you’ve survived recently?  Or that is driving you crazy?

Bathroom Reading

Last week I was coming to the end of Travels with a Tangerine by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (a travelog in the footsteps of a famous Middle-Eastern traveler, Ibn Battutah) and I came across a passage that made me laugh out loud.  The author has found a battered copy of a reference book that had been in his home when he was a child:

“I checked.  It was the same edition as my father’s – Nelson’s Encyclopedia of 1913 – and had the same slightly animal odor that clings to reference books long thumbed.  People had often hinted to my father that it was out of date…but he remained loyal to those tatty maroon volumes, his contemporary.  I ran my hand along the spines.  I too was fond of Nelson’s, companion of many happy hours on the loo. (How deprived are the squatting nations!  Defecation and ingestion of knowledge are such complementary activities.)”

I laughed because, as an adult, I am also a bathroom reader.  My most ambitious bathroom choice was back when I was still at the bookstore.  In those days, when we did returns to publishers, we stripped the front cover off the mass market paperbacks and sent just the covers back; it was cheaper to publish a new paperback if needed than to pay return postage on a whole book.  One of the perks of working at the bookstore was that we could help ourselves to the coverless books (called “strips”) on the understanding that it was for our own reading pleasure and not for profit.  So it was that War and Peace ended up at my house without a cover.  I figured that if the book were in the bathroom I would actually read it, since I wasn’t sure I would pick it up off the nightstand!   Every couple of weeks, I would rip off the pages that I had already read and toss them.  It wasn’t like I was going to keep a strip on any of my bookshelves (with my real books).  Over the course of the next year, War and Peace got skinnier and skinnier until I was down to about 25 pages and I took it to the bedroom to finish off.

For several years it has just been National Geographic, Smithsonian and Scientific American in the bathroom, but now that I’m furloughed, I’m caught up with my magazines, so have a book in the basket as well — Lost in the Arctic by Lawrence Millman.  I think I may have gotten this book from Clyde or Bill or maybe Steve; I rarely buy books so it had to come from somewhere!

Are you a bathroom reader?  Willing to share your current bathroom tome?  Or your most ambitious read (bathroom or no)?