Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 259

I was in the shower this morning when I heard loud noises coming from the bedroom. It was an Emergency Alert on my phone. I kept showering.

A few minutes later, Diane came in and told me that it was letting us know about the new Covid-19 restrictions that had gone into effect today, which is what I thought it was going to be.

And so it goes.

We tried yet another new recipe today, Quinoa With Roasted Winter Vegetables and Pesto from the Times, using up the extra pesto I’d made yesterday. It was OK but needed something else to make it complete – and I was a little hungry afterwards, so I broke out this year’s first box of Trader Joe’s Peppermint Bark. We forgot to take a photo, but here’s the one Diane took one of our very colorful lunch (Sheet-Pan Cilantro Chicken and Kale and salad) instead!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 258

In the Before Times, we could usually put a meal on the table in about half-an-hour: Diane would make a salad and rice or potatoes, and I’d make a chunk of protein with some spices, usually on the Traeger. Simple, quick, and tasty, without a lot to clean up afterwards; if we wanted something more elaborate, there were restaurants all around, and our next cruise was rarely more than a couple of months away.

Our next cruise is…well, we don’t know – we’re booked for a Chesapeake Bay cruise in April, but it seems very unlikely to happen (the cruise line still has it on their schedule, but we can cancel before New Year’s without significant penalty). And reheating meals from restaurants is just not a fine dining experience.

So we’ve been experimenting with lots more recipes and cooking techniques. It’s been educational, fun, and tasty – but it usually takes a lot more than half-an-hour in the kitchen.

Today was no exception. We tried a new recipe from the New York Times: Broccoli-Walnut Pesto Pasta. The claimed cooking time was 25 minutes, but it took us quite a bit longer, mostly because I didn’t plan out the process well.

For example, I used a mini food processor to chop the nuts – great idea, but if I’d actually planned, I would have realized that I’d need the big food processor to make the pesto and used it to chop, too. So we had to clean two food processors instead of one. Similarly, I could have boiled the water while we were chopping – instead, I didn’t start heating it until everything was ready to go.

Once we actually started cooking, things went smoothly and the results were quite good; we have pesto left over for a meal tomorrow, too (so I won’t need to clean any food processors then!).

Every day is a learning experience!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 257

At the Fortress of Palamidi, overlooking Napfilo

Diane has been working on a Forever photo book about our trip to Greece in 2018, and she asked me to give her my photos. I could have given her all of my photos and been done with it, but That Would Have Been Wrong. Instead, I’ve been culling, geotagging, and labelling the photos from that trip – I started at the end of September and finished just before dinner tonight. I started with 757 photos and ended with 374 – it’s a step in the right direction.

Local progress on keeping COVID-19 under control has been going in the wrong direction; the county just announced a revision to the health orders to further limit capacities for indoor facilities (like stores) and to stop all contact sports and close all cardrooms. The only part of the order that will directly affect us is the capacity limitation on stores, and that only if we happen to go at busy times (the only stores we’re going to are grocery stores and pharmacies!).

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 256

One of these Shabbats, I’m going to make challah, but this week, I made pretzels yet again in the hopes of getting the process under better control.

This time, I used 90°F water and dissolved the yeast in it before adding it to the flour; I also mixed the flour and salt before adding the yeast and water. The dough still climbed up the outer hook during the initial mixing; when I stopped the mixer to clean things up, I only put the inner hook back in, and the dough stayed in the bowl thereafter. It was a little sticky when I first let it rise, but by the time I was ready to shape it into pretzels, it wasn’t sticky at all. And when I was boiling the pretzels, I didn’t have to stop the process to keep the alkali water from overflowing the pot. Progress!

We finished Ted Lasso last night and have started The Queen’s Gambit. I haven’t felt so connected to current TV for years!

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 255 (X’FF’)

On the Fourth Day of Black Friday
My true love gave to me
An All-Clad Skillet – D3

Well, not precisely – we ordered it on Amazon.

Many years ago, soon after we got married, we bought cookware to supplement what we’d been given as wedding presents. One of the purchases was a set of “copper bottom” stainless steel fry pans and saucepans from Sears – it served us well, but over the years, we’ve replaced all but one piece, a ten-inch frypan.

I tried to use it a few days ago and discovered that its bottom wasn’t even close to flat – in fact, it was easy to spin it on our glass cooktop (it’s possible that the last time we used it, we had a cooktop with coils!). It was clearly time for a replacement.

I checked the Wirecutter and Cooks’ Illustrated and they agreed that All-Clad makes a very good skillet; the 12-inch version (with a lid) was on sale at several places, but only Amazon claimed to have it in stock, so I ordered it today.

If I like it, I might buy their 10-inch pan, too, since that’s the size I’m replacing – but we’ll see.

I’m also thinking of adding a portable induction burner to our arsenal (the All-Clad pan would work with that; so, in theory, would the Sears pan, but our Anolon pans that we use every day wouldn’t) – if anyone has any experience to share, please feel free!

Because it was only the two of us for Thanksgiving this year, we decided to get a takeout turkey dinner from a local restaurant, Holy Cannoli (as recommended by our favorite pizza place, Tony and Alba’s). It was good, but I’m looking forward to having a real Thanksgiving dinner next year.

We did maintain one Thanksgiving tradition, though – I made my Chocolate Peppermint Pecan Pie just for the two of us. It may take a week to finish it!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 254

Both of our kitchen thermometers bit the dust during the early days of the lockdown. I replaced the instant-read thermometer right away with a Thermoworks ThermoPop, but I didn’t have an urgent need to replace the leave-in thermometer, so I didn’t bother.

The last few days, my Facebook feed has been filled with ads from Thermoworks offering an 18% site-wide discount. I was torn between the ChefAlarm (which is much like the one that died), the Dot (a simpler unit without a timer), or something crazy like the Smoke (so I could monitor my Traeger remotely). I’d finally decided on the Dot, but when I went to place my order this morning, the discount had ended.

I was disappointed, but wondered if there might be another discount for Black Friday. As I was researching the links for this very post, I noticed that they’d cut the price of the Dot by 20% for Black Friday – I’ve ordered it.

Sometimes delay pays off.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 253

This year, the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot went virtual. That meant that we could walk it any time this week, starting from anywhere we wanted. So we downloaded the RaceJoy app and walked the event this morning – our times weren’t as good as they were last year, but we didn’t have to stop for traffic lights last year, either. Doing the event from home was a lot more convenient than going to downtown San Jose, but it was much less of an event this way.

Tonight’s adventure in e-commerce was a forced march; just after I finished making dinner (Sesame Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna), one of the lamp covers on our range hood came crashing down on the cooktop. Fortunately, it’s plastic and only weighs an ounce or two, so no damage was done to the cooktop, but it certainly startled me. After dinner, I tried to fix it and quickly discovered that a piece had broken off; I was surprised to be able to find that the manufacturer (Broan-Nutone) had the part in stock, even though the hood is 22 years old. I ordered two so I could replace both sides at once.

Tonight was also the Los Gatos Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. We’ve gone a few times in the past and enjoyed it; like so much else, it had a different vibe online than in person, but I’m glad we went.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 252

Black Friday continues apace – today, I picked up the Mac version of Paprika, my menu-planning app, since it was 50% off. I’m not sure that I’ll use that version in preference to the iPad version, but having it on the Mac gives me direct access to the app’s database – I’ve already started writing code to build a weekly shopping list based on the week’s recipes (without cluttering it up with pantry items; I really don’t need to be reminded to buy salt every week!).

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 251

We were in Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago and picked up some beer – a six-pack of Fat Tire, and an experimental bottle of Coffee Peanut Butter Porter. The six-pack is well on its way to needing replacement, but we hadn’t found a suitable occasion for the Porter until this evening on a Zoom Happy Hour at Shir Hadash. There will be other Zoom Happy Hours, but this will be the Porter’s one and only visit to our house. I guess I should have read the smaller print on the label that said “peanut butter powder and lactose“!

When Apple announced the new M1-based Macs a couple of weeks ago, I was intrigued, but unsure about what to get when the time came. In particular, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to replace the MacBook Pro in my office with another one or a Mac Mini. I don’t need the portability (that machine hasn’t left the office in well over a year), but having a second screen has been very useful. And I wanted to wait until I could see some reviews and get a discount from a friend at Apple.

My friend at Apple pinged me yesterday and said that the new M1-based machines were available at friends-and-family discount, so it was time to make some decisions. I was still torn about what to get – so we’re getting an Air and a Mini. The Air will replace Diane’s 6-year-old MacBook Pro (it is very unlikely that she’ll ever run a workload that would cause the Air to throttle down, so there was no need to buy a Pro), and the Mini will go into my office. And if I find I really want a second screen in the office, I’ve got two weeks to swap the Mini for an Air (or use Sidecar to drive an iPad, or buy another monitor).

The TV I’ve been ogling came down another $100 in today’s paper, but I think I may have spent enough on electronics for this week already!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 250

Diane read Torah and I led Shir Shabbat services this morning – it was a nice way to spend the morning, but next time, I may take advantage of the offer to have someone else run the Zoom meeting and the screen sharing.

The weather was nice this afternoon so we took a walk a little earlier than we usually would – as we were crossing the footbridge over Ross Creek, I heard a voice calling “David!”. It was Jeff Ringgold, who had been my improv teacher a few years ago; he was walking his dog. He’d moved into the neighborhood a couple of months ago, but this was the first time we’d crossed paths.

He told me that his theatre, American Improv Theatre was taking a different approach to performing during Covid. Instead of doing the typical Zoom show, they were going audio-only, calling it the “Golden Radio Hour”, and that they had a show this evening on Facebook.

We tuned in and enjoyed it – doing improv via audio-only offers some opportunities that a Zoom show (or an actual in-person show) wouldn’t. It also puts a bit more of the burden on the audience, because there aren’t any visual cues to help keep the characters and locations fresh in our minds.

The show (and their previous shows) are on their Facebook page; tune in!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 249

Many years ago, we visited friends who served us fresh, hot bread – it was a real treat. They made it in a bread machine that they’d bought from DAK Industries – we liked it so much, we bought the same machine and named it R2. We made a lot of bread over the years; eventually, R2’s paddle got scratched up, but we were able to buy a replacement on eBay and we kept using the machine. After Jeff left for college, we used it less and less, but it’s always had a place on our counter.

We didn’t have any bread in the house for Shabbat, so Diane plugged R2 into the wall and made one of our favorites, English Muffin Bread. Even though the flour and yeast were fresh, it didn’t rise a lot – but it was tasty, and that’s what counts.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 248

It’s been a very busy day – I’ve felt like I’ve been running behind ever since I woke up.

As usual for a Thursday, the day started with a Toastmasters meeting followed by a walk, a trip to the chiropractor, and grocery shopping.

By the time we’d made and eaten lunch, it was almost 1:30pm. We were going to watch a “Sip and Sail” presentation about Portugal from Ama Waterways (we had planned to take their Portugal cruise in late August; we’re now booked for 2022) at 2, so I hurried to put away the last of the condiments.

As I turned the top shelf of the lazy Susan, it suddenly dropped by nearly a foot. Nothing spilled, nothing broke – but this was clearly not a good sign.

We emptied the shelves and I looked at the problem – eventually, I discovered that a set screw had come loose allowing the shelf to drop under its own weight. I pulled the shelf back into place and tightened the screw (and all the others I could find). Since everything was out of the cabinet, we got rid of some items we didn’t need (like cornmeal that was six years past its “best before” date) as we reloaded.

There’s more room in the cabinet now. And I’ve put a note on my calendar to tighten the set screw in five years or so.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 247

I’ve had a few pairs of New Balance 990-series shoes over the years; my most recent was a pair of 992s, which are showing their age. I wanted to buy more, but the reviews a few years ago talked about their developing a “cat pee” odor if they got wet; I switched to other shoes.

I needed shoes again this month; the current New Balance model is the 990v5, and the reviews I saw online didn’t mention the odor, so I ordered a pair, which arrived today. We went out for a quick walk and were surprised by a sudden shower halfway through – we were fairly wet by the time we got home.

I am pleased to report that New Balance has solved their odor problem. The shoes felt comfortable, too; I am, so far, a happy customer.

Shelter-in-Place Post, Day 246

We got our first rain of the season this afternoon, but the morning was nice, with the sun shining through the clouds.

We continued stocking up on essentials – today, 18 boxes of Cheerios arrived from Costco (last week, it was 18 boxes of Shredded Wheat and Bran from Walmart). I’m not expecting a shortage of cereal, but you have to order a LOT of it to meet the minimum for free shipping!

And we spent too much time watching the news. I was hoping for video or at least audio of Rudy in the Pennsylvania court, but had to settle for reports on Twitter from lawyers who were following along. Perhaps Stephen Colbert will have something. And then there was the Flint County fiasco – that got me to suggest watching two hours of MSNBC for analysis and discussion, even though I knew that the board finally agreed to certify the results.

Watching Ted Lasso after that made me feel a lot better.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 245

It was a beautiful day today, so nice that we had lunch outside. The morning was pretty cold, though – we had to be do our workout inside with the trainer (in a big room with no one else there). That won’t be possible next week – Santa Clara County (and much of California) got demoted all the way back to the Purple Tier, which means the only thing open inside the JCC will be the restrooms.

We also watched V for Vendetta in preparation for library trivia on Wednesday (the host promised questions about the movie). We’d seen it when it first came out, but I didn’t remember much of it (hence the rewatch). I am glad I didn’t watch it just before the election – the similarities to today were very disturbing.

After that, we watched another Ted Lasso as a palate cleanser. Neither of us wanted to stop after one episode, but we mustered the willpower and did it – tomorrow is another day, after all!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 244

We had to rush our trip to the Farmers’ Market today to get home for the Shir Hadash Book Club; Diane’s the coordinator and had to handle the Zoom logistics until Rabbi Aron could join in. Today’s book was Jews and Words by Amos Oz and Fania Oz-Salzberger. Their thesis is that knowledge of Jewish texts (the Bible and Talmud, especially) is what kept Judaism going after the exile and that it’s still the most important factor today – even for non-believers like them. The discussion was lively.

In the afternoon, we tested our faith by cutting each other’s hair (to be more accurate, Diane cut as much of her own hair as she could see and trusted me to handle the back of her head). We’re still speaking. :-)

And we started watching Ted Lasso this evening – we pulled ourselves away after two episodes.

All in all, a nice and relaxing day.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 243

Happy Diwali! Celebrating the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance seems very timely this year.

This evening, we attended a live concert by Laura Benanti in support of performing art organizations around the country (in our case, Oregon Shakespeare Festival). We’d only seen her as Melania on The Late Show , but that was enough to pique our interest; she’s much more interesting in her own right, and I really enjoyed her singing (especially her 15-minute My Fair Lady). She asked viewers to post a selfie of us enjoying the concert on social media, so here’s ours.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 242

When I looked at my iPhone this morning, the home screen was missing a row of icons – I had five rows of apps instead of six. I hadn’t intentionally edited the home screen, and I certainly hadn’t deleted four apps!

I scrolled to my leftmost home screen and found the missing apps there. “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll just move them to their normal place”. But, try as I might, I couldn’t get them to move – they’d snap right back to the leftmost screen.

The phone’s software hadn’t updated overnight; there weren’t any reports of similar problems on any of the Apple sites I frequent; I was at a loss for ideas.

Finally, I realized that I’d somehow deleted a “medium” widget from my leftmost all-widget home screen, and iOS had insisted on filling the space with apps from the top row of the next screen. I put a new widget on the leftmost home screen to occupy the space, which made iOS move the four apps over one screen, and all was well, though I had to reorganize that screen to get things back to where my fingers expect them.

Then I deleted the widget home screen and recreated it to the right of the app home screen; that should prevent a recurrence of the problem. I hope.

I still don’t know what I did to trigger the problem, but I think Steve Jobs had the answer during the iPhone 4 Antennagate scandal.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 241

I had been thinking about changing the name of these entries to something more cheerful like “Pandemic Life”, but given the latest trends in infection rates, I’m going to stick with “Shelter-in-Place”.

I had also been thinking about going to Costco to pick up a few things, but that’s not going to happen, either – fortunately, most of what I really need is available through their website.

On the brighter side, I went to two Toastmasters meetings today and won “Best Table Topics” at each one. Wish I could remember what I said….

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 240

I have to admit to being rather tempted by the new Mac Mini that Apple announced yesterday; it would be a good fit for the office. And if I traded in the 15” 2017 MacBook Pro that I’m using here now, it wouldn’t cost too much out-of-pocket. This MacBook Pro will probably never go anywhere again (maybe not even to another room!); I have a 13” MacBook Air that will become the traveling computer if I need it (not to mention the iPad Pro that I bought to avoid carrying a real computer in the first place).

I might have pulled the trigger on the purchase yesterday if I hadn’t remembered that I have friends at Apple who have offered their friends-and-family discounts; it turns out that the new machines aren’t yet available with those discounts, but I can wait.

In the meantime, this machine is perfectly capable of doing anything I want except running iPad apps (that requires the new M1 chip), and, unlike the new Mini, it can run Windows in a virtual machine (which I would miss). And I wouldn’t have a second display if I moved to the Mini.

Decisions, decisions….

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 239

Since the pandemic started, we’ve been doing a lot more cooking at home and trying a lot of new recipes. Some of our favorites are Indian-inspired, but we’ve been limited to the spices and veggies we can find in our mainstream supermarkets.

In particular, we haven’t been able to add curry leaves to Slow Cooker Spiced Lentils with Veggies or amchur to Garlic-Ginger Chicken Breasts with Cilantro and Mint because we couldn’t find them. It’s not as if there aren’t any Indian markets near us – it’s just that I’ve never gotten around to visiting until today, when I was going to make the lentils again.

My first attempt was Desi International Market, near our chiropractor. It’s really mostly a liquor store – and when we got there this morning, it was padlocked.

We had much more success at our second choice, India Cash and Carry in Cupertino. Diane found the amchur right away – it came in 100-gram boxes, which seemed like a lot, considering we’ll use it one teaspoon at a time. I couldn’t find the curry leaves, so I asked someone I hoped was an employee for help – he was packing little baggies with leaves from a box. He handed me one of the baggies and said “this is curry leaf”.

Neither item had a price on it, so I got in line at the cash register with a little trepidation; the amchur was $1.50 and the curry leaves were $0.99. And they gave me a free copy of the Bhagavad-Gita in honor of Diwali!

The curry leaves definitely changed the flavor of the lentil dish tonight – probably the teaspoon of Garam Masala I threw in made a difference, too.

Cooking can be fun!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 238

I was Toastmaster for the Silicon Valley Storytellers tonight. Our theme was “A Change of Pace”, which seemed very appropriate given what’s happened today.

We awoke to the first really cold day of the year – our roof was covered in frost (at least I know our insulation is working!). And our trainer texted us to say we couldn’t do our workout outside; fortunately, we had the entire exercise room (maybe 20×30 feet) to ourselves, so I felt OK coming inside.

Our usual custom on Mondays includes a quick walk after our workout to go see what our neighbors have created with their skeletons. Today, we were surprised to discover that they’re going to be taking a break for the foreseeable future! (One of the signs in the photo says “Day 237/Display Day LAST”.)

I’m not planning to take a break – not yet, anyway. See you tomorrow!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 237

For the first time since Tuesday, I haven’t gotten a “Screen Time” alert on my phone telling me that I’ve been on Facebook and Twitter too much. I haven’t felt compelled to check the New York Times and Washington Post sites every few minutes. The only TV I’ve watched was the last few minutes of last night’s SNL.

And to add to the decompression, we spent the afternoon with friends in their pool – safely distanced, of course! We might still be there if it hadn’t started raining.

I could get used to this.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 236

I had plans for today. Of course there would be walking and Torah Study and Shir Shabbat services and walking, but after lunch, I planned to work on photos or maybe see if I could improve the way I get from Paprika to a printed meal plan for the week.

That all stopped at 8:30am when I saw a tweet claiming that the AP had called the election for Joe Biden – I checked their feed and it was, of course, true!

We still took a walk before Torah Study, but I was joy-scrolling the entire time. The chatter before Torah Study officially started was all about the election. And after services, while Diane was learning about a new version of the software she uses to make photo books, I was glued to my computer and phone, scrolling and enjoying.

This evening, we watched President-Elect Biden and Vice-President-Elect Harris’s speeches, then some of the after-speech commentary.

And we plan to watch SNL in a few minutes – the cold open should be interesting.

Maybe I’ll work on photos tomorrow.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 235

I finally got back to working on photos today after more than a month! I spent most of the time trying to reconstruct my workflow so that I could get photos into Lightroom with the geocoding already done; this time, I took notes so that there’s a chance I won’t have to figure it all out from scratch again.

I also learned how to make a panorama in Lightroom. Here’s what I created today from four photos I’d taken of a large sign in Rhodes, Greece:

In comparison, here’s what I got when I used the iPhone’s built-in panorama function on the same sign:

Onward to Santorini!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 234

I slept much better last night, even though I had to give a speech before 8am at the Silver Tongued Cats and I hadn’t written it yet. But that was OK, because the project was “The Power of Humor in an Impromptu Speech”, and I took the “impromptu” part seriously.

The project includes 12 speech prompts; the Toastmaster of the Day chooses two, then prompts the speaker to give two 2-3 minute speeches, each including a story, with one on based on each prompt. I didn’t even read the prompts – I just sent the list to the Toastmaster.

The first prompt was: “The worst news possible has just been given to a gathering of friends and family. You are asked to speak to the group to give words of hope and support.” I started talking about “Joe”, who had just died, and how we’d all miss him – after about 15 seconds, I figured out that “Joe” was a dog, but I didn’t mention that until the end, when I ended the story by telling how I’d held his paws as the vet gave him the final shot.

The second prompt was: “There is sudden thunder storm at a picnic for a large family reunion. Everyone is stuck in a gazebo. You decide to speak for a few minutes to entertain the group while the rain passes.” This time, I had a true-life story that fit the prompt – many years ago, we were visiting my family in Richmond and were at an outdoor shopping center when the heavens opened. We got my Mom to a dry place and then my brother found a garbage bag, put it on, and ran to get his car to bring it close enough for the rest of us to get in without getting soaked. As he ran, he shouted “I look like a goddamn condom!” – it was a memorable moment and fit the prompt perfectly.

I didn’t win “Best Speaker” today – the person who won gave a serious speech about using body language on an interview – but I had a lot of fun with the project.

As for the rest of the day…I’ve been glued to screens watching the numbers change in Georgia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. I have great hopes of not having to do that tomorrow.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 233

I didn’t sleep well on Monday night, awakening at 3am Tuesday morning with worries about what the day would bring.

Yesterday, I tried to limit my time looking at the news or social media; we watched the last episode of Schitt’s Creek, the live Colbert Late Show, and an old Whose Line is it Anyway. Two of the three were worth watching; Colbert wasn’t very funny because he, his guests, the situation, and the audience were all very tense. Whose Line helped relax me, but I did check the situation just before going to bed – the only hopeful thing was that 45 hadn’t claimed victory yet.

I fell asleep right away…only to wake up at 3am, worried about what the day had brought and what lay ahead. I stayed in bed as much as I could and refused to turn on a screen, but there wasn’t much sleep to be had.

When I did finally look at the news this morning, it was more hopeful, and it’s gotten more and more hopeful through the day. I hope to sleep better tonight!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 232

Four years ago, we were confident and in great spirits as we went with our team to the Brit for trivia. But as the evening went on, what we saw on the TVs made our spirits fall; I don’t know if the trivia ever actually concluded or if everyone just left to contemplate our fates.

Today, I am not nearly as confident despite the polls; we also don’t have trivia to distract us tonight. We’re trying not to obsess with the news or social media (yet, anyway). Instead, I went in for some serious stress-cleaning!

We cleared out the Earthbox with our old strawberries (we’d planted them four years ago, and they’ve been pretty generous, but it was clear that we need to replant for next summer). We got rid of dead tomato plants and trimmed the still-living ones in hopes of getting a few more tomatoes before cold weather sets in (it was 80 degrees today!). I brought in a couple of peppers to finish ripening in a paper bag. There’s more to be done, of course, including planting our winter crop, but that was a good start.

And I cleared up the junk drawer in the kitchen. I was astounded at how many mostly-empty boxes of birthday candles we had, as well as the number of dead flashlights. And I found the toothpicks that had gotten scattered as the box’s integrity vanished and put them in a ziplock bag. Again, a good start.

As I write this, I haven’t looked at the news in a couple of hours. It’s still Schrödinger’s election for me.

The only thing certain is that the new season of Learned League trivia starts late tonight. Something to look forward to for sure!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 231

When we drove the Prius yesterday and today, we noticed a grinding sound which hadn’t been there before. It happened intermittently when starting up or turning, and my best guess was that it was due to the CAT Shield that we’d had installed on Friday. I called Auto-Tec this afternoon and Don told me to bring the car in.

He suggested I take him on a test drive to make sure he heard the same noise that I did, so off we went. I had the radio and A/C turned off and the windows up to make it easier to hear the noise; it worked, and we went back to the shop.

I took a walk while they were working on the car and found a quiet, shady place to read. Suddenly, it occurred to me that I’d been in a closed car with someone I don’t live with for the first time in at least 231 days! It was only for about five minutes, and we were wearing masks, but still….

At least the noise seems to be gone.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 230

It’s been getting cool enough that a little warmth in bed seems like a good idea. We dug out our old “Safe and Warm” electric blanket a few days ago and plugged it in – it worked perfectly…for a couple of days, then the controller on my side failed. It would turn on, and a few seconds later, it’d turn off again.

I looked at the wiring this morning and discovered that one of the two wires leading into the blanket had come out, so the controller was seeing an open circuit and (quite properly) turning itself off. After much prodding, I got the connector pin out of its casing (see above) and discovered that the wire had broken. If I had a spare connector pin, I could probably strip the wire and crimp it, but I don’t – and I don’t know where to get one (or what I really need). I guess I could go to Home Depot and see if they could help me, but I’m not optimistic.

On a brighter note, we tried a new recipe for dinner this evening, America’s Test Kitchens Summer Skillet Lasagna. It was pretty easy to make, though I put in too many lasagna noodle pieces and we could have used more vegetables. I made the full recipe, which was far more than we needed; next time, I’ll cut it in half instead of going for leftovers. I would have liked to have been able to read comments from others who’ve made the recipe, but ATK wants $70 for a year’s subscription to their website, and I’m not familiar enough with them to know whether it’s worth it. And I’m not making SO many new recipes that I’d be able to tell during their 14-day trial. Anyone have any experience with them?