Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Jar washer fix

I've been doing a fair bit of canning lately, and that means washing a lot of jars.

Years ago, I bought a nifty little device for washing canning jars: basically, sponge pieces at the end of a plastic stick. I use this jar washer so frequently that I stopped putting it away when dry and just keep it permanently in the utensil rack of my dish drainer.

The only trouble is the original sponges were cheap. They were crumbling and falling apart and not wanting to stay within the prongs of the holder. As a result, the jar washer didn't do as good a job cleaning the insides of jars.

So I purchased a large plain sponge with an eye toward replacing the original (and cheap) sponge pieces that came with the jar washer.

I asked Don what would be the best method for cutting the sponge. Knife? Box cutter? He suggested the band saw, so he took the sponge to the shop and sliced it up into pieces approximating the size of the original sponge pieces.

I folded one piece and wedged it between the prongs.

A hundred percent improvement!

It's the little things in life, y'know? The fact that I keep this jar washer permanently in the drain rack is a testament to how frequently I use it. With the extra slices from the sponge, this humble tool should last me the rest of my life. Win-win!

Monday, February 26, 2024

Pastor's boy

Many of you have followed the saga of our pastor's love story. (For recaps, see here, here, here, and here.) Their son was born mid-January or so. Mrs. Pastor needed a C-section, but that was the only complication. The baby is healthy, the nursing is going great, and Mrs. Pastor has had absolutely no post-partum depression. The new parents are adjusting to their responsibilities beautifully. (And they chose a lovely and classic name for their son, too.)

Because of the C-section, Mrs. Pastor was advised against a lot of physical activities for a few weeks, including carrying the baby in his carrier. This limited her ability to attend church. But last week, she was able to attend for the first time. Pastor asked me to sit in back with her in case she needed any assistance, which I was glad to do.

Any excuse to see the baby!

Even though he was a big baby (hence the C-section), even at a bit over a month old, he's so tiny! I forgot how small newborns are.

This child is in good hands.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Canning mustard

A couple weeks ago, I went into the city for our once-a-quarter Big Shopping, and picked up a few things for canning (or re-canning). I have a 40-lb. box of boneless skinless chicken breasts waiting my attention in the freezer, and last week I canned up 12 pints of mushrooms.

I also got a case of cheap mustard. It's not a condiment I care for, but Don likes mustard with his sandwiches, so having an abundant supply is convenient. For this reason I buy it bulk, and re-can it into smaller portions.

It was also an excuse to use, for the first time, the two water-bath canners I got for my birthday last year.

I had been storing the canners in the barn, so I pulled them out, along with the mustard (the case held four containers of mustard, but one was already in the house).

I like to hot-pack mustard, so I scooped it all into a pot, using a double-boiler arrangement so the condiment wouldn't scorch. Older Daughter didn't know I had started this canning project until she came out of her room and saw the full pot. She burst out laughing. "That's a lot of mustard!"

The mustard heats slowly since it's not over direct heat. I stirred it periodically. Meanwhile I washed jars. I also washed out the mustard containers since Don likes to use them in his shop.

Those four containers filled 25 pints.

Scalding the lids and rings.

The two canners held 18 pints between them. What a joy to have so much room! (Ignore the old labels on the lids. They'll come off in the water bath.)

I process mustard for 20 minutes at a rolling boil. By the end of the evening, all 25 pints were processed.

And Don has plenty of mustard to last a long time.

Friday, February 23, 2024


You might recall this comical scene from "The Emperor's New Groove" featuring the incomparable Eartha Kitt: "Pull the lever, Kronk! ... WRONG LEVER!!! ... Why do we even HAVE that lever?"

Well, something like that happened to me yesterday. I was working fast and hard on my online job, with at least 17 tabs open in three different windows (all essential for what I do). In right-clicking to perform a function, I accidentally hit "Close all tabs."

ARRRGGGHHH. Wrong lever!!

Cue the wail of frustration. Closing all tabs not only – well, closed all my tabs, but it also meant I had to log into everything all over again before I could get back to work. As I griped to a coworker, "Why does that option even exist???"

Okay, rant over.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Missing a tail

Years ago at our old place, we had an incident where a chicken was nearly caught by a coyote. She managed to escape, but at the price of losing – literally – her entire tail. You can read about it here.

It seems a similar fate has befallen a Steller's jay that hangs around the bird feeder. He (or she, I can't tell the difference) is missing its tail, either from a coyote or some other predator.

Poor thing looks like half a jay.

On the other hand, it's alive – which is more than can be said for any encounter with a predator.

What a tale it must have!

Wednesday, February 21, 2024


Here's a "Friday Feature Author Interview" by Elise Cooper, who interviewed me on my last two inspirational romances: "Their Road To Redemption" and "The Amish Midwife’s Bargain."


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Mr. Darcy's white night

I had a lousy night. That's because I spent four hours – from midnight to 4 am – dealing with Mr. Darcy.

Darcy is normally a calm indoor dog. Don lets him out before he comes to bed at night (he goes to bed much later than I do), and I let him out first thing in the morning (I usually get up very early). But last night at midnight, I awoke to hear the click of Darcy's toenails on the floor outside our bedroom door. It made me think he had a digestion issue of some sort, and needed to go outside.

So I got up and let him out. He did nothing but sit on the porch for ten minutes, calmly observing the night. So much for digestion issues. I called him in and went back to bed.

No dice. Darcy paced the floor of the house, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. So I got up and let him back outside again, this time for a good half-hour. During the interim, I worked on a jigsaw puzzle I had just started the night before.

When half an hour had elapsed, I called the dog into the house and went back to bed.

No dice. Darcy continued to pace the floor, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. So I got up again and let him back outside again. This time I just left him outside and went back to bed. Of course by this time I was wide awake. After, I dunno, 45 minutes or so, I heard Darcy walking around the wrap-around deck to the front door, then scratch to be let it.

So I got up and let him in. He immediately collapsed onto the floor as if he was exhausted by all these middle-of-the-night shenanigans. I gave him a pat and went back to bed. By this point it was 3:30 am. But as I snuggled up next to Don and tried to fall back to sleep, I heard Darcy again start to pace the floor, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I tried to ignore it and finally drifted off to sleep around 4 am.

Don, by the way, managed to sleep through the whole thing.

Needless to say, this kind of sleep interruption colors one's whole day. I was blurry and out of sorts. Darcy, by the way, was feeling fine and frisky, went on his walk without an issue, pooped just fine, and in all ways behaved perfectly normal.

On the occasional night when one of us sleeps badly for no discernible reason, we call those "white nights." I guess Darcy just had a white night.

Older Daughter had a brief errand in town, and when she returned she surprised me with this: hot chai tea (a rare treat) and a bakery cookie to make up for my lack of sleep.

I have a great family. Even Darcy is a good boy ... except when he has a white night.

Monday, February 19, 2024

YOLO living

Sometimes when I wonder whether to address a topic here on the blog, I go with "clusters." What I mean is, I'll see or read something and think, "Huh. That's interesting." And then, unconnected to the original source, I'll see something else on the same subject and think, "Maybe I should write something about this." Clusters.

Often, of course, the coverage is clustered solely because it's a topic trending in the news; and that's why I'm discussing today's subject: YOLO living.

YOLO, as I'm sure you know, is an acronym for "You Only Live Once." It's been trending lately as a rather despairing response to high costs of living and low wages, and the frustrations that people – especially younger adults – feel with an economy that's against them.

YOLO living is exemplified by reckless spending on unnecessary items (including travel) because, hey, you only live once. It's often referenced in contrast to the nose-to-the-grindstone attitude of earlier generations.

Consider, for example, this video about a young woman complaining about her $8 coffee while drinking $8 coffee. I can't embed the video here, so I transcribed it. She says:

"So as I'm sitting here, sipping this $8 coffee, I'm just wondering if I'm the only girl living in the delulu land, because I cannot afford this $8 coffee. I honestly can't afford s***. I can't afford my car, my house, groceries ... I mean, like, how can this coffee be $8 when minimum wage is literally, like $8? So excuse me while I just continue to live in the delulu land while I continue go get my coffees I can't afford, because I'm going to continue to live and dig myself deeper and deeper and deeper into a gigantic financial hole because it cost too much to f***ing live. Thanks for coming to my TED talk. Bye."

Don is the one who brought this video to my attention by asking, "How much does coffee cost per pound these days?"

I had just been to the city for my once-a-quarter Big Shopping, so I knew precisely how much coffee costs. "I just filled up some bags with fresh-ground coffee at Winco for $8 a pound," I replied.

That's when he pointed out this video on the $8 coffee, and we speculated how many coffee drinks could be made with a pound of ground coffee. Short answer: a lot.

But hey, you only live once, right? Why shouldn't this woman enjoy her expensive coffee? Everyone deserves a little treat now and then.

The problem, I'm speculating, is the $8 coffee is not just "now and then," nor is it the only thing she recklessly spends money on. As she admits, she's "going to continue to live and dig myself deeper and deeper and deeper into a gigantic financial hole because it cost too much to f***ing live."

I sense her frustration. I sympathize with her frustration. But how will it end? The debt won't go away just because she's frustrated and angry and feel she deserves the occasional treat.

Now consider this article: "Economists are sounding alarm on 'YOLO' credit bubble." The author writes, "A growing percentage of Americans are becoming reckless with their spending, fueling what one economist calls a 'super duper' credit bubble. In a note to clients, economist David Rosenberg of Rosenberg Research warned that Americans are taking on too much debt to buy things they really don't need. He calls these people 'YOLO spenders,' which refers to the catchphrase, 'You only live once.'"

The article goes on to document the amount of credit card debt people are taking on, reaching all-time highs, and points out the obvious dangers of splurging on credit when it can't be paid off.

YOLO spending differs from survival spending. In this economy, a lot of people are maxing out their credit cards simply to pay their bills. I get that. I totally get that. In the past, we had crushing credit card debt due to the economic reality of raising a family on a very tight income. It took many years to climb out of that financial hole. In fact, those debt years left me with something of a pathological fear of owing money.

That's why this YOLO spending strikes me as irrational to the point of madness. It's one thing to max out a credit card because you're desperately trying to keep your head above water. It's a whole different thing to max out on YOLO luxuries. These spenders must know a day of reckoning will loom, right? If you can't afford $8 coffees, maybe you should buy a pound of ground coffee for $8 and make your own beverage at home...?

While I understand – and sympathize – with the frustration expressed by the young woman in the video, I can't help but feel there are better ways to go about enjoying the small pleasures of life without digging yourself "deeper and deeper and deeper into a gigantic financial hole."

Debt is terrifying enough if it's incurred simply for survival. But debt incurred simply to live it up seems like madness.

What advice would you offer this young woman, besides not buying $8 coffees?

Saturday, February 17, 2024

To squash or not to squash

I don't care for squash. It wasn't something I grew up eating, so I never developed a taste for it. Pumpkin, hubbard, acorn, butternut ... any and all of it is just plain yucky to me. I find the consistency slimy and the taste just awful.

Pumpkin is among the worst, flavor-wise. Ironically I love growing pumpkins simply because they're so beautiful. However unless I'm growing them for chicken feed, I've stopped wasting the garden space. Even sweetened versions such as pumpkin pie doesn't do it for me.

The only squash I like is spaghetti squash, in large part because the taste is neutral and the texture isn't slimy. Older Daughter has been making some wonderful spaghetti squash meals, and it's something I intend to grow in the garden this summer.

Even the humble zucchini is something I dislike. Older Daughter incorporates zucchini into meals quite often, and just as often I find myself picking it out because I simply can't palate it.

And then ... Older Daughter did something magical with zucchini. She grated it.

Yes, she started grating zucchini and adding the grated mix to rice dishes as a low-cal bulking agent. And oh my, in this form I absolutely love it.

Why? I don't know. The flavor is mild, and when it's grated up and mixed with rice, it doesn't have the sliminess (in my mind) of the sliced or diced stuff. In other words, it's absolutely illogical that I should like zucchini in one form but not another.

Food tastes are funny things, aren't they? But there you go.

Fortunately zucchini is famously productive as a garden plant, so we'll be able to have an abundant supply this summer from one plant.

I guess even this old dog can learn a new trick.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Listen to some blopera

I came across these and howled.

These are a riot! Who THINKS of these things? They're hilarious.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Ug, Valentine's Day

We're not big on holidays in our house. Birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day ... with a few exceptions, we just don't do anything special.

I remember when the girls were still babies, we both decided that we wouldn't celebrate Mother's Day or Father's Day except to wish the other party the appropriate salutation. I recall we made this decision after witnessing the extraordinary amounts of money women were encouraged to spend on fancy-dancy grills "for dad."

Anyway, one of the holidays we're most sour on is Valentine's Day. Well, maybe "sour" is too strong a word. Disenchanted, perhaps? Whatever the term, we don't like the commercialization surrounding it.

On my part, I also don't like the expectations behind the holiday. I don't like the sentiment in which a man thinks he can overcome a year's worth of selfishness and petty complaints by popping for flowers on one particular day.Nor do I like the sentiment that a woman can ignore all efforts her man puts into pleasing her all year long, but sulks if she doesn't get roses on the Big Day.

Two years ago, when Older Daughter was still living in her apartment, she emailed this observation (I want to emphasize she sent the email at 3:35 pm on Valentine's Day): "I just want to express how funny it is that I've gone to two grocery stores today and they're packed to the gills with men. Man after man after man, clutching a dozen roses and a box of chocolates." Most of them, apparently, wore a "deer in the headlights" expression.

One year Don was working in the shop when he realized (from radio commercials for useless holiday-themed junk) that it was Valentine's Day. So he took a stick and sanded it smooth, then made a flower with petals cut from old paper dust masks and leaves cut from an old sanding belt. He affixed the leaves and petals to the stick and presented it to me as a mock gift.

I absolutely stinkin' LOVED that makeshift present. I displayed it with pride in a dry vase next to my desk for years, dusting it off occasionally. The flower got displaced during our move three years ago, but I still have it. This, to me, was truly a gift from the heart.

So this year, as always, we'll celebrate Valentine's Day by doing what we always do: Nothing. We'll express our love and affection for each other by everyday actions. I'll make Don's morning coffee, as I always do. He'll thank me, as he always does. And the day will build from there.

I can think of no finer way to celebrate.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Interesting pictures

For some time now, I've kept three files in draft on this blog: "Interesting pictures," "book-related stuff," and "humor." Basically every time I come across something interesting – or book-related or funny – I just add it to the appropriate file.

Two of the files ("Interesting" and "Humor") are enormous and growing daily, so I figure it's time to publish one of them and start a new file.

So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are a bunch of interesting photos I've come across in the last few months.


Arnold Schwarzenegger with Wilt Chamberlain and Andrè the Giant on the set of "Conan The Destroyer," 1983.

A motor home in 1922.

Star Wars characters together from left to right: Han Solo, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, R2-D2 (1977)

Before and after photos of the excavation of an ancient Greek stadium.

Cats waiting for the return of fishermen, Greece, 1970

Sitting on the edge of the abyss.

These aren't leaves. They're Australian budgies in a dead tree.

Bald eagle's nest with a ranger for scale.

Clever desk lamp.

These clouds over an unknown beach look like a massive wave about to crash down.

Alpine refuge from World War I located at 2760 meters, Monte Cristallo, Italy.

Frost on windshield looks like glaciers towering over a boat.

Paperclips in the shape of cows.

April 20, 1992. The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert held at Wembley Stadium, featuring Queen, Metallica, Def Leppard, Spinal Tap, U2, Guns N' Roses, David Bowie, Elton John, etc. It's not that I have any interest in Freddie Mercury or any of the rock bands listed; but the photo of the massive crowd is both awe-inspiring and horrifying (I don't care for crowds).

The Cistercian monks invented a numbering system in the 13th century which meant that any number from 1 to 9999 could be written using a single symbol.

"Meeting the Giant." Award-winning photograph by Tomasz Szpila.

Some species of burrowing spiders keep tiny frogs in their burrows to keep it free of bugs too small for the spider to get that might try to eat the spider's eggs. (This means the tiny frogs are spider cats.)

Scientists believe one of the functions of a zebra's stripes is to deter insects, so a team of researchers painted black-and-white stripes on several cows and discovered it reduced the number of biting flies landing on the cows by more than 50%. 

Clever braiding.

Artist's depiction of the future, painted in 1930.

Jane Goodall got her own Barbie doll as part of Mattel's Inspiring Women series.

Same place, same memory, 58 years later.

And, along the same lines: 5MB storage in 1956 vs. 1TB storage now.

Aerial view of over 400,000 people at Woodstock, 1969.

Planes fly between the towers and pedestrians cross as part of the opening celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge, May 1937

Christopher Guinet sculptures.

Interesting optical illusion.

Magnificent "jar" quilt. Apparently it took the quilter almost three years to collect the correct fabrics.

Knitting ramen.

Kelvin–Helmholtz clouds photographed from Sheridan, Wyoming over the Big Horn Mountains.

These are bathroom tiles from the Lithuanian design studio Gyva Grafika.

Size of a tornado compared to wind turbines (lower right).

The barge 'Marine Angel' negotiates a turn through the upraised Michigan Avenue Bridge in Chicago, 1953.

Los Angeles development boom of the 1950s.

Unborn bat.

Along the same lines, a skeleton of a pregnant bat.

A huge walrus fell asleep on the hatch of a submarine, blocking the crew from exiting. They had to use the rear hatch to get out.

Artistic grooming on a camel.

Hong Kong, 1950s-60s (photo by Fan Ho).

Kiwi with egg. These birds have the largest egg compared to body size of any animal.

In 2000, a father in Utah designed this tombstone for his son, depicting the child "free of his earthly burdens." His son passed away in his sleep after spending the majority of his life wheelchair-bound, blind, and paralyzed. Poignant.

Tokyo from the sky, the most populated city in the world with 37 million inhabitants.

New York City from the air.

As of 2020, half of the U.S. population lives in the black counties, and half lives in the orange.

The making of Batman in 1966.

This is the hand of Andrè the Giant holding a regular-size can of beer.

Sizes of Russia and Bangladesh compared to their populations.

The Nambia Desert meets the ocean.

Realistic drawings of gems.

Talented embroidery.

The most detailed model of a human cell to date, obtained using x-ray, NMR, and cryoelectron microscopy datasets. 

A spider came back to molt in the same place on a book four times.

The Bone Church in the Czech Republic.

Photo taken from the top of the Juche Tower in Pyongyang, North Korea, in 2016.

A tree saved by a tree. The caption read: "When branches or roots from different trees are in prolonged intimate contact, they often abrade each other exposing their inner tissues, which may eventually fuse. This process is called inosculation, a natural phenomenon in which trunks, branches or roots of two trees grow together. It is biologically similar to grafting. Such trees are referred to in forestry as gemels, from the Latin word meaning 'a pair.'"

This advertisement from 1996 was prophetic. It reads: "They say in thirty years a burger & fries could cost $16, a vacation $12,500, and a basic car $65,000. No problem. You'll eat in. You won't drive. And you won't go anywhere."

Apoica wasp nest.

Forest ballerinas. A clever interpretation.

Four shades of blue in Antarctica.

Old World language family tree.

Huangjuewan interchange in China.

Sorvagsvatn, the lake that hangs over the ocean.

Entrance exam for an art school in China.

Mt. Fuji from the International Space Station.

Cannabis field in the middle of a cornfield.

Microscopic look at bee stinger vs. needle.

NASA's James Webb telescope spotted a giant 'question mark' object in deep space. The first photo has the selected area circled at bottom center.

Kola Superdeep Borehole. It's 40,230 feet (7.619 miles) deep and yet it looks like a manhole cover. More information here.

A dad talked to his baby in the womb. When she was born, she greeted him with a beaming smile the instant she recognized his voice.

Mother with a calf.

Girls dressed as Matryoshka dolls.

Astounding chess ring.

Container ship from above.

Ants carrying a glove up a lamp post.

According to the caption: "This is not a scene from any game or image of a fantasy world. This is an aerial shot of a housing development on the outskirts of Mexico City."

Macau, China.

Story in one picture.

1750s Baroque pulpit in Dobroszów.

Old meets new in China.

Red-eyed crocodile skinks. Definitely not baby dragons.

Hong Kong in 1964 and 2016.



Hong Kong.

Chicago skyline visible from nearly 50 miles away in Indiana Dunes sunset.

The "Black Crack" along Utah's White Rim trail, a natural fissure in the rock a few feet wide and deep enough to kill you.

Some say this is AI-generated. Regardless, it's pretty.

A matter of perspective.

Dewey spider web.

That's all the "interesting pictures" I've collected so far. I'll start another file and post a new one at some point in the future. Enjoy!