Pandemic Journal, Day 410

I finished the Almaniac and sent in my answers this afternoon; I have hopes of having done well, but I’ve been fooled before. I’ll find out next week.

We started seriously looking at flights for our upcoming trip to Iceland and ordered Rick Steves’ Iceland book. The tour doesn’t include a lot of time in Reykjavik (we do go out to the Golden Circle for a full day), so we’re thinking of staying two or three days after the tour and exploring the city. After that, we’ll fly to Boston to visit our son – this is all, of course, assuming that the COVID-19 situation remains good in the US and Iceland. The horrifying news from India makes me wonder, but I can hope.

Pandemic Journal, Day 409

I like trivia, but there are days when it can get a bit out of control, and today was one of them.

I’m currently in three Learned League mini-leagues: 21st Century Literature (which started today), LGBT, and General Knowledge Puzzle League. I am in no danger of winning any of them – but I’m trying my best, which meant attempting to answer 18 questions between the three mini-leagues today.

I also look at every day’s One Day Specials – today, there were four: Curves, Lewis and Clark, Spiders, and Trees in Literature. Each one has twelve questions. I didn’t enter any of today’s contests, but I did read the questions carefully.

My pub trivia group meets every Thursday evening on Zoom – some weeks, we just talk, but today, we actually tried answering questions that the organizer of the trivia had used…in 2011. It was fun, but some of the questions had aged badly.

And finally, I’m doing the 2021 Spring Almaniac. There are 81 questions, which you answer by doing research in the World Almanac. The question packet and Almanac arrived in late March, and I answered the first few questions right away. I brought it with me last week on our vacation – and never looked at it. Today, I looked at the packet and discovered that the deadline is Monday, so I spent three hours on it this afternoon and answered 35 or so questions – I still have 23 to go.

Fun, fun, fun!

Pandemic Journal, Day 408

It was virtual Monday today, so we went to the JCC for our weekly Monday session with our trainer. The JCC is moving slightly closer to normality – they no longer take temperatures before allowing you to enter, but they have started checking membership cards again.


After being worked out, we decided it would be better to walk early before it got any hotter; we followed the CDC’s new guidance and left our masks at home! It felt weird. I guess that’s the new normal!

Pandemic Journal, Day 407

We left the Residence Inn Goleta a little after 10; again, we were in no hurry and stopped frequently along the way, mostly to stretch our legs and make sure Diane’s Fitbit was happy.

Lunch was at the Urbane Cafe in Santa Maria – both of us had tri-tip sandwiches, of course. We got there about one minute before the lunch rush hit – the line built quickly behind us!

I had thought about stopping in Paso Robles for wine tasting, but decided that it’d be better to go there when we had room in the car for lots of wine. But we did stop at Scheid Vineyards in Greenfield to enjoy their garden (Diane took lots of flower photos!) and a tasting – we brought six bottles home – there was enough room in the car for that!

Pandemic Journal, Day 406

We left Palm Desert at 10:30am; we weren’t in a rush because we only planned to go halfway home tonight, staying overnight at the Residence Inn Goleta.

We almost stopped for date shakes one last time at Hadley Fruit Orchards but there was major construction on I-10 at the Morongo Trail exit and I couldn’t get into the right lane quickly enough to get off the highway!

Lunch was at Zait Bistro in Fontana, chosen by looking at Yelp after we’d gotten off the highway to stretch our legs. Diane had Chicken Kebab and I had Chicken Shawarma – we ordered the small plates and had plenty of food. It was good, not great, but I’d go back if I were in the area.

Our next stop was a quick stop at Griffith Park in LA, which was supposed to be just long enough for Diane to meet her Fitbit’s demand for 250 steps per hour from 8am-5pm. Of course, I also checked my email as long as I was stopped – and there was an email from the travel agent handling our Iceland trip asking for us to fill out one more form – so I downloaded it, marked it up, and emailed it back to them. That took long enough for the next hour to start, so Diane got those steps in, too.

We stopped again to look at the beach near Ventura (and so Diane could get her 3pm steps). It was brisk, but very pretty.

After checking into the hotel, we drove to Goleta Beach – it was very brisk (we had to hold onto our hats), but that didn’t stop people from enjoying themselves, like these two:

There were flowers and birds, too, of course.

We got takeout from Kyle’s Kitchen – Diane had a very nice Ahi salad, while I went for a burger, fries, and a side Kale and Cranberry salad to be slightly healthful. The burger and fries were OK; the salad was very good.

Tomorrow, we go home!

Pandemic Journal, Day 405

We wanted to explore Palm Desert today, and thought that taking a walk in a park would be a good way to do it. Civic Center Park looked plausible, with paved walking paths. But when I got in the car and searched for “Palm Desert Hikes”, I didn’t see it – so we looked at the hikes that were nearby. The Cross Trail looked promising – the first comment on AllTrails called it a “very short easy trail”.

I should have looked at the description on AllTrails instead of the comments. The description calls it “moderate”, notes the length as 2.3 miles out and back, with 613 feet of elevation gain. We were wearing sneakers – our hiking boots would have been more appropriate. And I parked where I saw a bunch of cars soon after I turned off the highway, about half-a-mile from the trailhead – those cars belonged to houses in the neighborhood near the trail; there was plenty of parking at the trailhead.

The trailhead gave us a clue about what to expect – it was dry and rocky. After about 25 minutes, we turned around and returned to our car; then we drove down to Civic Center Park which was, as advertised, green and loaded with walking paths. And flowers. And waterfowl.

We wanted date shakes with lunch, so we drove to Shields Date Farm, only to find a one-hour wait for a table. We didn’t want to wait that long; a Yelp search showed the Big Rock Pub a few minutes away and it was a good choice, even though we were limited to their Sunday brunch menu. I had chicken and waffles and Diane had a Farmer’s Omelet, both tasty. Adult beverages were also consumed.

And then we went back to Shields for the date shakes!

Pandemic Journal, Day 404

This morning, we attended Torah Study and services at Shir Hadash, almost as easily as if we’d been at home.

After services, it seemed like the most appropriate place to eat would be a Jewish deli – all of the friends we’d visited on the trip had praised Sherman’s Deli in Palm Springs, so we drove there and had a nice meal. We arrived at the tail end of the lunch rush; they offered immediate seating inside or “soon” outside, and we went for the inside seating. It was a lot more crowded than the place we ate yesterday! The food was better, too – Diane and I split a Reuben and a piece of cheesecake.

We’d made reservations at the Palm Springs Art Museum and arrived five minutes before our time slot. They took our temperature and scanned our tickets, but I don’t think they looked at the time. We’d been at the museum on our previous visit, so we concentrated on the temporary exhibits. There were two with Agnes Pelton paintings (one of her landscapes and one of her Transcendentalist paintings) and one called “Gerald Clarke: Falling Rocks”. Clarke is an Native American artist whose works use “humor and wit to expose historical and present-day injustice” – I really liked the exhibit.

Downtown Palm Springs was hopping – except for masks, you really wouldn’t have thought anything unusual was happening. Restaurants were busy, people were talking and walking, and it was a lively scene indeed. It was hot and we were thirsty, so we stopped at the first place we saw that said they sold water – it was a head shop, Can Be Done Well! They had a cooler full of unenhanced beverages, and the person behind the counter was friendly – what’s not to like?

There’s construction going on in front of the Palm Springs Art Museum. Actually, it’s NOT going on – the area was excavated a while ago and is being used for art installations until the construction proceeds further. The biggest installation is David Černý’s “Crawling Babies” – it is certainly an eye-catcher!

Pandemic Journal, Day 403

We spent today at one of our favorite places, Joshua Tree National Park. The NPS website warned against possible long lines at the Joshua Tree and 29 Palms entrances, so we drove east on I-10 and entered at Cottonwood, where there was no line at all. We stopped at the Visitor Center and took a short walk, then drove north on Pinto Basin Road, stopping frequently for photos.

Three hours later, we left the park for lunch in 29 Palms – Yelp guided us to Andreas Char-Broiled Burgers, which we’d chosen because it offered outdoor dining and bison burgers. The outdoor dining was a choice of picnic tables in the sun – on the other hand, the restaurant itself was air conditioned and almost empty, so we had our first indoor restaurant meal in more than 403 days in what I can confidently describe as “less than splendor”. But the food was OK and the people were cheerful and helpful and it was clean and we’d been vaccinated so it was all fine.

After lunch, we went back into the park at the 29 Palms entrance and drove along Park Blvd to get to the Joshua Tree exit, stopping frequently for photos.

Once we left the park, we drove to Windmill Market in North Palm Springs for a date shake and then back to the hotel – there were no photo stops.

It was a very good day.

Pandemic Journal, Day 402

The day started early because I was Toastmaster for the Silver Tongued Cats meeting this morning. I had chosen “On The Road Again” as the theme of the meeting, and our Table Topics Master asked amusing questions about road trips (for example, “What would you ask Willie Nelson if you went on a road trip with him?).

After the meeting, Diane and I took a walk through the resort and enjoyed the flowers and birds.

hummingbird

We had lunch at Ernie’s Bar and Grill at PGA West with a friend from trivia, then visited her at her house on the Palmer golf course. On the way back from PGA West, we stopped at Shields Date Farm for a delicious date shake and a quick walk through the garden there. Unfortunately, they’re not showing “The Romance and Sex Life of the Date” because of COVID-19, but it’s available online.

We made dinner in our unit – in previous stays at Westin timeshares, the kitchens have been well stocked with pots, pans, and the like, but this time, we’ve been surprised by what’s missing, like measuring cups, colanders, and wine glasses. I’m not sure what’s going on – I didn’t think the resort’s COVID precautions and closures should affect kitchen equipment.

Pandemic Journal, Day 401

Our hotel stay was reasonably comfortable, but I have to say that I miss the breakfast buffet of old (especially the waffle-maker). A grab and go bag is just not the same thing – fortunately, we’d brought cereal and fruit with us, so we had a decent breakfast anyway.

We took the obvious route from Bakersfield; I had meant to stop at the truck stop just before the descent on the Grapevine, but I missed it and we had to go all the way to Castaic before finding more civilization. Yelp pointed us to Sam’s BBQ and Grill – unfortunately, the sign on the outside of the building read “Castaic Food and Deli” and we drove past it several times! It’s a small takeout restaurant inside a truck stop, with Mexican food and BBQ; Diane and I both had the Tri-tip sandwich, which was pretty good and quite filling!

There was a crash on the 210 (I’m in Southern California, so I’m following local custom and using the definite article) that tied up traffic for a few minutes. When we got up to the scene, four lanes had to funnel down to one to get around the wreck; I was impressed by the courtesy of the drivers making the merge go fairly smoothly and fairly. It’s not that way at home!

Dinner tonight was another first-in-a-long-time – we ate with another couple, friends from Shir Hadash who moved down here a few years ago. We ate at Koutouki Greek Estiatorio in Palm Desert, sitting outside…without masks! We were all fully vaccinated, of course, and it was not possible to wear masks while eating – but it still felt very strange, almost naughty!

After dinner, Diane and I had dessert at Lappert’s (not worth the caloric cost, I’m afraid), which let us enjoy the last bit of sunset.

Sunset in Palm Desert

Pandemic Journal, Day 400

Why is this night different from all other nights?

We had takeout dinner from a new-to-us restaurant, Coconut Joe’s, and ate it in a new-to-us location, the kitchen of the Residence Inn Bakersfield – we’re on the road for the first time in more than 430 days. Our destination is Palm Desert, using up some of our timeshare points before they meet the same fate as last year’s points – expiration.

The drive down was just like in the old days – lots of trucks on I-5, but it seemed like there were fewer times where there were two trucks side-by-side holding up traffic. We had lunch at home so we were able to skip Harris Ranch for a change, though we did stop at Casa de Fruita.

I saw more unmasked faces at the rest areas than I’ve seen in a year!

Pandemic Journal, Day 399

One of the places we were supposed to go last year was Iceland. Our trainer had been there and it sounded perfectly wonderful, but….

Today, our trainer told us that he will be going to Iceland again in early July of this year, along with his family. It still sounded wonderful, but….

And then when we got home, we had a note from the National Trust for Historic Preservation asking if we were interested in seeing Iceland this year. Yes, we were! (Besides, they still had our deposit from last year!)

Even better, our son is now scheduled for his first COVID-19 vaccination on Friday, so he’ll be fully-vaccinated by the time our trip happens. Icelandair has non-stop service to Boston, so we are planning to visit him on the way home.

Things are looking up!

Pandemic Journal, Day 398

It was Sunday, so we made our usual trip to the Farmers’ Market with a walk through town afterwards. It was a warm morning, and the streets and parks were much busier than they had been a month ago.

The Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad was back in operation and there was a long line of people waiting to buy tickets and ride. It was good to see, but I’m glad we weren’t planning to join them.

This afternoon and evening, I finally sat down to work on the Spring Almaniac; I hadn’t done an Almaniac for several years but thought this would be a good year to get back to it. I finished two of the ten chapters today and am pretty confident of most of my answers.

We took a couple of other walks, too, which gives me the excuse I need to share a picture of a Japanese Flowering Cherry in the neighborhood.

Japanese Flowering Cherry

Pandemic Journal, Day 397

Shir Hadash logo

Diane read Torah and I led services (on Zoom) for Shir Shabbat this morning. There was a Bat Mitzvah at the same time, so we couldn’t livestream the service to our BoxCast channel; instead, I had to record it and upload it later.

Recording was easy enough; I just had to push one button. But to make sure I didn’t lose track of what I was doing, I did the recording on a different computer, starting early and ending late. I wanted to trim out the time before and after the service – which I thought would be easy.

I opened the recording in QuickTime and figured out where I wanted to start and finish; then I tried to trim the recording and couldn’t find any way to just enter the time I wanted – or even to drag the trim bars reliably. Then I tried iMovie and had the same problem.

I finally gave up and installed ffmpeg; then it was easy to trim the recording to the exact times I’d found and upload it to BoxCast.

But I don’t think normal people would find it plausible to use ffmpeg and the command line to do the job – I must have missed something in QuickTime and iMovie. Right?

Pandemic Journal, Day 396

Our gardeners arrived bright and early this morning to replace and refresh the soil in our raised beds. They removed the scallions that we’d been growing in the beds; we recovered a few and replanted them – if they don’t recover, we’ll have to buy a bunch at the supermarket and start growing them from the ends again. And we have to decide what else to plant – tomatoes are a sure bet, but it’s still a little too early.

Beyond that, we had a very quiet day; we took a short walk on the Los Gatos Creek Trail, where flowers are blooming.

Shabbat Shalom!

Pandemic Journal, Day 395

We were out on one of our usual walks when I happened to look down and see a credit card on the road. I picked it up, of course, figuring I’d call the bank and have it cancelled and hope that they’d notify the owner. But then I had an idea – I checked NextDoor for the owner’s name and found the person in my neighborhood, so I sent a PM and got an almost immediate response: “yes, I’m out looking for it now!” We were able to meet the owner while we were still on our walk and return the card.

I had my six-week return visit to the oral surgeon today – he was happy with the way the implant had healed. He replaced the temporary healing abutment with something sturdier and set up an appointment with my regular dentist to start the process of putting in the crown. In the meantime, I’m free to chew on both sides of my mouth again. Progress!

Pandemic Journal, Day 394

Tonight was the Toastmasters District 101 Division B contest. I was a contestant in the Table Topics (impromptu speaking) contest, having won at the club and Area levels. I had been the last speaker in each of the previous contests, but this time I drew the first slot – it made a difference in the way I experienced the contest.

I enjoyed being able to see and hear the other contestants instead of being sent to a lonely breakout room to wait my turn. But being the first speaker meant that the judges heard five speeches after mine – so they had to judge my speech on its own, while they could judge the others relative to the previous speeches.

We were all given the same prompt: “John Wooden said, ‘ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.’” I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember closing with the advice to be nice to people on the way up, because you’ll meet them on the way down.

I was surprised when the results were announced – I won. And my fellow club member, Gordon, won the International Speech Contest at this level, so we’ll both be competing at the District level the weekend of May 15.

Our club meeting is tomorrow morning, less than 10 hours from now – it should be fun!

Pandemic Journal, Day 393

We got our refund from Vueling Airlines today, and thanks to currency fluctuations, we made a small profit ($16.87) on the deal! I hope I don’t have to report it to the IRS.

Diane has been working on a photo book of our 2018 trip to Greece – she’s nearly finished, and asked me to look at it before she places the order. I can’t wait for it to arrive!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 392

Our cars haven’t been moving very much for the last 392 days – my Subaru has only traveled about 2500 miles since I last had it serviced in November, 2019.

I had planned to take it to the Subaru dealer for its last pre-paid service appointment in March, 2020, but that didn’t happen. And the plan expired soon afterwards, which freed me to take it to my favorite mechanic, Auto-Tec, instead of going to the dealer.

I finally did it today. I knew it would take an hour or so, and since it was a beautiful day, I planned to walk around their neighborhood while I waited. It’s not the most exciting area to walk in, but I did find one very colorful house on my way.

I was Tale Topics Master at the Silicon Valley Storytellers meeting this evening. The theme of the meeting was “Metamorphosis”, so I used the opening of Kafka’s Metamorphosis to create my first two prompts: “tell us a story about a dream” and “tell us a story about a bug”. After that, I went further afield, probably to the relief of those I called on!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 391

This afternoon, we spent a fascinating hour at the Tenement Museum (via Zoom, of course) as one of the events in anticipation of the Shir Hadash Gala. We learned about the Rogarshevsky family‘s life at 97 Orchard Street in the early 20th Century, including a look at their record in the 1910 Census. The museum offers nine virtual tours, including this one, for $10 each, with live guides; there are also several free online exhibits.

I also helped Diane get some of her photos from our Costa Rica/Panama trip into the proper format for her digital scrapbooking. It was easy to export the photos from the Apple Photos app into a folder so she could upload them to Forever, but for some reason, the titles and descriptions she’d added to the pictures she’d taken on her Olympus TG-4 camera didn’t get exported – instead, the description of each exported photo said “OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA”, which was useless.

If we had exported the “unmodified original” of the photos, the export could create a XMP sidecar file which contains the real title and description, but the photo wouldn’t include the editing Diane had done to the picture. Very frustrating.

Fortunately, there was an answer: osxphotos from Rhett Turnbull. I could use that program to export the edited versions of the photos and have it use exiftool to put the correct title and description into the exported photos. It took a little fiddling to find the right command:

osxphotos export --exiftool --convert-to-jpeg --skip-original-if-edited \
  --skip-bursts --skip-live --skip-raw --jpeg-ext jpg \
  --directory '{created.date}' --edited-suffix '' \
  --from-date 2020-02-01T00:00:00 --to-date 2020-02-15T23:59:59 \
  ~/Desktop/export

but it worked. Thanks, Rhett, and thanks, as always, to Phil Harvey for exiftool!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 390

We got back to our normal Shabbat morning routine with a quick walk, Torah Study, and Shir Shabbat.

After lunch, we talked to our son and made tentative plans for a visit to see him in Boston in a few months, and very tentative plans for him to join us in Hawaii in the fall (with a probable stop here).

And we are giving serious thought to a winter trip to Japan with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, replacing the trip we were supposed to be taking with them this summer to Sicily and Malta, which was a replacement for the trip we originally had planned to take with them to Japan and Korea last April.

We also set up our Seabourn accounts for the Antarctica trip later this year.

I think we’re getting interested in traveling again.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 389

Our new washer and dryer were delivered today, bright and early. I had planned ahead and turned off the valves for the washer last night to make sure we could drain as much water as possible – that turned out to be a surprisingly good decision.

After the installer had put everything in its place and hooked it all up, he turned on the cold water valve and noticed it was damp – there was a teeny tiny leak. So he couldn’t officially install the washer – but since everything was connected, he left it in place and strongly suggested we get the valve replaced. When I called the plumber to make an appointment, they told me that I was lucky that the installer hadn’t discovered the problem earlier or he wouldn’t have connected the washer at all!

The new washer, like the old one, is a front-loader and wants High Efficiency detergent. The old washer’s manual suggested using HE detergent but said “if you can’t find it, use regular” – the new washer’s manual says “you MUST use HE detergent”. I thought I’d been buying HE detergent all along, but when we went to do our first load of laundry, I discovered that the last time I stocked up, I had bought regular – so we made an emergency run to CVS for HE. I’m sure we could get away with using the regular detergent but I didn’t want to start on the wrong foot.

After all of that, actually doing the laundry was blessedly uneventful.

Shabbat Shalom!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 388

Our Sunday routine is, well, routine. We go to Downtown Los Gatos, park in the underground garage, and walk to the Farmers’ Market, do our shopping, and then take a longer walk. The route to the Farmers’ Market takes us by Travel Advisors of Los Gatos, and I usually glance at their windows as we zip by.

Two weeks ago, though, I saw something that made me stop:

Travel Agent Ad

Silver Mountain Vineyards was the first wine club we ever joined, and we’ve been faithful members for more than a decade. They’d offered a few previous cruises, but the time or the itinerary wasn’t right – but a cruise to Antarctica at the end of the year looked very promising.

We talked about it, talked to the agent, and I did a little web research. This afternoon, we went back to Downtown Los Gatos and gave our travel credit card the most exercise it’s had in at least 388 days. The payment is fully refundable until mid-August in case things change, but I am hopeful!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 387

Last week, both of us had our annual Medicare wellness visits (you can’t call them “physicals” or Medicare won’t pay!) and the doctor ordered fasting blood tests for each of us. Diane also needed an ultrasound, which also required fasting, so we scheduled them all for this morning.

We got to the lab a few minutes early for our blood tests and they took us immediately; we drove home and I had breakfast, while Diane continued fasting. Then I drove her to yet another Stanford Medical facility for her ultrasound. It had been at least a year since we’d driven on that particular part of Winchester Boulevard, and there had been a lot of construction, including a brand new Dunkin’ Donuts just a block from the ultrasound place.

They said Diane’s exam would take about 45 minutes; I sat around and read for a while, but it was too nice a day to stay inside and I left for a short walk.

There were a lot of cars in the drive-thru line for the Dunkin’ Donuts – it wrapped almost all the way around the building. I thought about going in – but then my phone rang. It was Diane – she was finished and famished. I turned around to pick her up and take her home for lox and bagels – I’ll need some other excuse for donuts.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 386

I worked at the IBM Almaden Research Center for over 20 years. In that time, I probably drove Camden Avenue between Almaden Expressway and Harry Road at least a thousand times, stopping only at the stop signs. I knew there were parks and trails along the road, but I was too busy to check them out.

Today, we decided to explore that area, so we drove to the Camden Avenue trailhead for the Los Alamitos Trail. It was a bright, sunny day; we left the paved trail for the shady dirt trails alongside and started wandering.

There were flowers to see and the creek was flowing – it was a pleasant walk, especially in the shade.

I was surprised to discover that part of the walk went through “Singer Park” – there were no signs, but it was labeled as such on both Google and Apple Maps. I guess I should have stopped there years ago!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 385

Probably the most exciting thing we did today was go to Office Depot to have our COVID-19 vaccination record cards laminated for free, as suggested by this New York Times article.

Except that they didn’t actually laminate the cards – instead, they made a photocopy of the important side and laminated the copy. I guess that will be good enough if we have to show our cards for anything.

I’ve also scanned our cards and put them in 1Password so that they’re on our phones – that’s probably more useful.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 384

The Farmers’ Market was closed for Easter, but that didn’t stop us from going to Downtown Los Gatos and taking our usual Sunday walk.

Beyond that, we had a very quiet day. Possibly the most exciting thing to happen was opening the packet of paprika we’d picked up at the Kalocsa Paprika House on our Danube River trip in October, 2019!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 383

According to the Torah (Exodus 13:6-7), Passover (especially the requirement to eat only unleavened bread) is seven days long, and that has always been the case in Israel. But in the rest of the world, Jews added a day to Passover (and other holidays, with the notable exception of Yom Kippur) to be sure their observance completely encompassed the “proper” days as determined by observing the Moon in the land of Israel – and this custom continued long after the calendar was mathematically fixed so that there could be no doubt about the “proper” days.

In 1846, the Reform movement of Judaism (which includes our congregation, Shir Hadash) decided that there was no need to add the extra day and reverted to the Biblical definition of the holiday – seven days. And so Passover ended for us at sundown this evening, allowing Shir Hadash to kick off this year’s Gala celebrations with a Zoom make-your-own Pizza party.

Of course, we weren’t left on our own; Cucina Bambini provided the instructions and instructor, Ryan. He took us through the process and made suggestions about changes to make if we had more time (such as letting the dough rise longer), but even with the short schedule, the pizza was pretty tasty. We couldn’t quite finish what we made, but I’m sure it’ll be just fine as leftovers.

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 382

I felt guilty for not having a photo with yesterday’s blog entry – but I hadn’t taken any photos, nor edited any, and what I wrote didn’t really call for a photo anyway. So I guess it’s no surprise that I woke this morning with an idea: we should go to a botanical garden!

We’re members of the San Francisco Botanical Garden, so we’ve been there many times, though not in the last year. I wasn’t sure how crowded Golden Gate Park would be on Good Friday (we try not to go on weekends because parking is a hassle) – and then I had another idea: visit the UCSC Arboretum and Botanical Garden instead, since we’d never been there and Santa Cruz is a lot closer than San Francisco.

Our first stop was the South African Garden (we still hope to go to South Africa this year, though we have a backup plan for 2022). I bought my new camera for our South Africa trip, so it seemed only appropriate to give it a real workout in the garden!

I had the camera set almost wide-open at F4.0, which meant I didn’t have a lot of depth of field. I liked that when it blurred the background, but not so much when I couldn’t get the whole flower I was shooting into focus, like the next picture.

Our next stop was the New Zealand Garden (we hope to be there in 2022!). Most of the flowers we saw there were California Poppies (it’s that time of year!), but I really liked this Electric Pink Cordyline.

There was a good bit of art in the New Zealand Garden, like “Sun Catchers”.

The California Garden was next, complete with California Poppies just under the welcome sign.

I also liked the Del Norte County Irises.

I enjoyed the Purple Ice Plant in the Succulent Garden.

Our final stop was the Australian Garden.

Although the parking lot was fairly full, we had no problems avoiding other visitors (we masked up anyway, of course). We didn’t run into any human workers, but I did find this busy bee near the exit.

I don’t know what gave me the idea of visiting the gardens, but I’m glad we went!

Shelter-in-Place Journal, Day 381

PG&E outdid themselves today. We’d gotten a letter from them last week telling us that they would be doing maintenance on power lines near us today and that we’d be without power between 9am and 3pm. They didn’t turn off the power until nearly 9:45, and it was back on before 1pm – it was out long enough for our UPSes to give up, but not long enough to affect any food or for the house to get uncomfortably warm. I’m glad they’re doing maintenance, and I’m glad they could beat their schedule!

It’s still Passover, which means we’re modifying recipes to avoid obvious chametz. Tonight, that meant using rice chips instead of pita chips in Spiced Chickpea Salad With Tahini and Pita Chips; if I hadn’t known about the substitution, I don’t think I would have realized there was anything different.