Hernando De Soto vs. The Crimson Tide

Florida in June? Not so much.

May 30, 2023

It’s a Tuesday Newsday Classic updated with fun new observations!

According to the “Today in History” site it was on May 30, 1539, when explorer Hernando de Soto landed near Tampa Bay, Florida. Being that it was almost June and not January, de Soto didn’t spend long there. After all, Disney World would not be carved from the alligator and snake infested swamp lands until October 1971, 432 years later. And June in Florida is rather hot and humid, so I can’t really blame him for not wanting to be there that time of year. Who would?

De Soto is an interesting explorer. Sponsored by Spain his mission appears to have been to claim what was to become the United States for the mother country. He left Florida and meandered about the south through Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. Things were going okay until he got to Alabama where he encountered a rather hostile group of native people. According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“De Soto’s expedition spent another month in the Coosa chiefdom before turning south toward the Gulf of Mexico to meet two ships bearing fresh supplies from Havana. Along the way, de Soto was led into Mauvila (or Mabila), a fortified city in southern Alabama. The Mobilian tribe, under Chief Tuskaloosa, ambushed de Soto’s army. Other sources suggest de Soto’s men were attacked after attempting to force their way into a cabin occupied by Tuskaloosa. The Spaniards fought their way out, and retaliated by burning the town to the ground. During the nine-hour encounter, about 200 Spaniards died, and 150 more were badly wounded, according to the chronicler Elvas. Twenty more died during the next few weeks. They killed an estimated 2,000-6,000 warriors at Mabila, making the battle one of the bloodiest in recorded North American history.”

De Soto was, it would seem, the first visiting team to face the mighty Crimson Tide. The Spaniards escaped to Mississippi but their quest for a national championship was doomed. Their bad luck continued and they were plagued by more unhappy natives, disease and lack of supplies. De Soto, committed to his mission, eventually was stopped by the Big Muddy near what is the happy sounding, present day, Sunflower Landing, Mississippi. He saw that body of water as a pain in the neck, keeping him from his westward march for domination. His relationship with the Mississippi River did not end well.

Every once in awhile someone will record a video of the Florida natives…

No, it wasn’t the natives, the gators, or the snakes which killed him nor did he drown in the river. Instead it was a fever. He died May 21, 1542 in a native village on the western banks of the river near present day MacArthur, Arkansas.

Truly I am surprised that it wasn’t some sort of wildlife. Take alligators for instance. These fascinating creatures, according to urban legend, occupy EVERY pond, lake, roadside ditch and swamp in Florida. Consider that there are some 7,500 lakes, ponds, etc. What if most contain two gators? Or three? We are talking at least 15,000 alligators hanging out and waiting for some unsuspecting critter or person to wander by and provide them dinner. No thank you.

A black indigo snake

Then there are the snakes. With nearly 50 species which call Florida home the chances of seeing one is probably fairly high. Which the hubby and I found out when visiting there in May 2007. We had flown down for a conference he was attending and on our final day we walked across the street from the hotel to find a Geocache (https://barbaradevore.com/2022/05/03/geocaching/).

The GPS directed us to the other side of a band of scrubby trees. There was some knee high grass growing up through the cracks of abandoned asphalt and it all seemed perfectly benign. Right up to when the 47 foot black snake slithered towards us. Okay, so the snake wasn’t 47 feet. More like eight. I mean it was huge to us wusses from Western Washington who never have to deal with such things. The worst thing we ever see are garter snakes and those are about the cutest, most benign snake ever. The snake we saw in Florida was either a Black Indigo Snake or Black Racer Snake. Not one of the six venomous ones which live there. Right.

A quick internet search turned up one estimate that there are about 50,000 snakes just in Florida. That’s more snakes than people in the line ahead of you to ride the Tower of Terror.

Our snake encounter was dutifully recorded in our Geocaching log:

While visiting Florida was fun, encountering snakes, worrying about alligators, sinkholes, and hurricanes not so much.

As it turned out for Hernando, Florida was not quite ready to be colonized. It was the stodgy British who, seventy years later, successfully established colonies in the new world. But those people had to live in Massachusetts in the winter since cheap flights to Florida for a sunny getaway in dreary January were not yet a thing. I would have been stodgy too.

The author as far away from the snakes as possible in Florida.

For more about the life of Hernando de Soto: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hernando_de_Soto

For more about alligators: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_alligator

University of Florida guide to black colored snakes: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/uw251

World Turtle Day

Protecting them since 2000

May 23, 2023

Occasionally a topic comes up which triggers a long forgotten memory. Such is the case for May 23. Today is World Turtle Day; a day which, since the year 2000, has been designated to bring awareness of the need to preserve and rescue turtles and tortoises.

It’s a thrill to swim with the Hawaiian Green turtles when snorkeling. This photo is from Hawaiianpaddlesports.com

First, a bit about Turtles from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Turtles are an order of reptiles known as Testudines, characterized by a special shell developed mainly from their ribs. Modern turtles are divided into two major groups, the Pleurodira (side necked turtles) and Cryptodira (hidden necked turtles), which differ in the way the head retracts. There are 360 living and recently extinct species of turtles, including land-dwelling tortoises and freshwater terrapins.” 

Granted the scientific information does not really do the animal justice. Turtles are truly fascinating creatures due, in my opinion, to their exoskeleton bone cover which gives them a look unique to other creatures.

Turtles can be gigantic, like the huge leatherback turtle, which can be almost 9 feet in length and weigh more than 1,100 pounds, or as small as the Speckled Cape Tortoise. Native to South Africa it measures no more than 3.9 inches and weighs less than 6.1 ounces.

But back to the long ago memory. It is September 1966 and the long anticipated Central Washington State Fair. In those years, there was one weekday afternoon when every elementary aged school boy and girl was released at noon for “Fair Day.” Oh what a glorious event that was. The horde would descend upon the midway and rides filled with screaming children; cows, goats, and other livestock were terrorized by thousands of small hands all seeking to pet the animals; and the carnival barkers collected every last cent the kids had to spend.

This particular year – and to this day I’m not quite sure HOW it came to be – my sister and I happened upon a booth which was selling turtles. Incredibly cute and tiny turtles. Each one probably cost the victim buyer 50 cents but those turtles instantly became a ‘must have’ item. So we each got a turtle which, if I remember correctly, was put into a plastic bag partially filled with water and then ‘inflated’ to give the creature air, for us to carry home.

I also cannot recall my mother’s reaction but I imagine she was less than thrilled as a space had to be found for our two new residents. A large round avocado green tub was acquired and an ‘island’ was built inside for the turtles.

The author and her sister in the summer of 1967, saying goodbye to Gilligan and the Professor

My sister and I named our two turtles Gilligan (mine) and the Professor (hers) after two characters from one of the most popular and favorite TV shows of the time “Gilligan’s Island.”

My childhood memory is that we dutifully fed our turtles and took good care of them. No doubt the chore fell mostly to my mother who didn’t want the turtles in the first place.

On it went and then, in the summer of 1967, it was decided that Gilligan and the Professor had outgrown their avocado green paradise and needed to find a new home. That new home, it turned out, was Sportsman Park just east of the Yakima River.

It was a hot summer day when my Dad, sister, and me took the turtles to the designated release spot. My grandmother – Dad’s mom – was along with us and took two pictures that day. On the back of one she wrote “Goodby turtles! Swim Happy! 1967” So my sister and me said our goodbyes, placed them on the ground and watched as they eagerly ran to the water and slipped into the pond, swimming away.

At Sportsman Park about to set the turtles free

I imagine I was a bit sad watching Gilligan leave but being that I was barely 10 years old, I got over it.

Fast forward to 2013, maybe 2014, and the hubby and I are Geocaching at Sportsman Park in Yakima. As we are walking along a path, I notice there are signs which tell about the various wildlife which lives there. We stop at this one pond and depicted there are pictures of turtles… which look just like Gilligan and the Professor.

I imagine there were other children whose parents also sought new ‘homes’ for turtles which had been brought home as a prize from the fair; I doubt ours were the only such creatures who found a new home in that pond.

On the other hand, while it was common practice to sell animals at fairs in the 1960’s, as a society we’ve come to appreciate that the introduction of non-native species can have a negative effect on the native species and the new habitat. Unfortunately, we didn’t know any better back then. The practice of selling turtles at fairs ended in the mid-1970’s.

So celebrate World Turtle Day through admiration of these amazing creatures and by leaving them alone to be, well, turtles.

For more information, a few links:



Spam. Spam. Spam. SPAM!

So much more than junk email

May 16, 2023

A Tuesday Newsday Classic, updated with a story about the poor man’s version of Spam.

If historians were to pick ONE significant event from each year in history what would the most important from 1891 be? The formation of the US Forest Service? No. The opening of Carnegie Hall? Definitely not. The patent of corkboard? Not even close.

No the most significant event of 1891 was when, on May 16th, George Hormel opened a small butcher shop in Austin, Minnesota and introduced the world to… SPAM!

What was significant about the product is that it took pork and ham and cooked it in its own container thus giving it a rather long shelf life. Oh that innovative George Hormel!

Since its creation Spam has become a ubiquitous part of pop culture and the worldwide psyche. It’s eaten throughout the world but especially in Great Britain and also in the Philippines. In the United States more Spam is eaten in Hawaii than in any other state. From the infallible Wikipedia:

Wildly popular in Hawaii… they make sushi out of it.

“Spam is especially popular in the state of Hawaii, where residents have the highest per capita consumption in the United States. Its perception there is very different from on the mainland.

A popular native sushi dish in Hawaii is Spam musubi, where cooked Spam is placed atop rice and wrapped in a band of nori. Varieties of Spam are found in Hawaii that are unavailable in other markets, including Honey Spam, Spam with Bacon, and Hot and Spicy Spam.

Hawaiian Burger King Restaurants began serving Spam in 2007 to compete with the local McDonald’s chains.  In Hawaii, Spam is so popular that it is sometimes referred to as ‘The Hawaiian Steak’.”

My exhaustive research uncovered the existence of a SPAM museum in Austin, Minnesota. Putting that on my bucket list!

Highlighted in a variety of movies and TV shows, SPAM was immortalized in pop culture by the comedic troupe Monty Python. And, of course, it’s the term which has become synonymous with junk mail. More from Wikipedia:

“Spam was featured in an iconic 1970 Monty Python sketch called ‘Spam’. Set in a café which only served dishes containing Spam, including ‘Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, Spam, Spam, Spam and Spam’, the piece also featured a companion song. By the 1990’s, Spam’s perceived ubiquity led to its name being adopted for unsolicited electronic messages, especially spam email.”

Now, I do have a confession to make. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never eaten Spam. Growing up I was, well, a picky eater. Frankly, I’m surprised I’ve never before shared this story.

When our family moved to Yakima in 1961, my Dad worked for National Cash Register (NCR). NCR had a nasty habit of moving their salesmen frequently and my parents had moved some nine times in less than 15 years.

The Spam Museum opened in Austin, Minnesota in 2016

My mother was happy about the move to Yakima as her sister lived there and their parents resided in Selah. So in the fall of 1961, our family relocated from Clarkston, Washington to Yakima.

We were there for six months when NCR, of course, told my Dad they were transferring him to the Tri-Cities. My long suffering mother put her foot down and said “No more moves.” It was at that point my Dad returned to college to get an Education degree with plans to become a teacher.

This is germane to the story in that for the next two years our family of six had to live off of the savings my parents had. Even after he got a job, I doubt that being a teacher paid as well as being a salesman, but he was happier. In all of the 1960’s we NEVER went out to dinner save for one day each November to celebrate my grandfather’s birthday. I’m pretty sure my Grandpa Freimuth paid for that meal.

Which meant that my mother had to get inventive when it came to food. Most the dinners I recall were of chicken, ham, or beef with mashed potatoes and a vegetable. I did not know until I moved away from home that there were any other spices for cooking chicken or beef than salt and pepper. True story.

But this also meant that all of us who were in school from 1963 to 1967 – that was five people – took lunch in a brown paper sack every day. Once again, Mom had to get creative as she fixed those lunches each evening before she went to bed.

Lunch often consisted of a non-descript yellow cheese on two slices of white bread buttered with margarine. Or some tuna fish which was mixed with miniscule amounts of mayonnaise on two slices of white bread spread with a swipe of mayonnaise, or a bit of peanut butter spread thin on two slices of white bread… well, you get the picture.

My mother had this model, or very similar, and used it to torture her family.

But the most dreaded of all things which my mother would put on a sandwich was this: leftover roast beef or ham, a hunk of the non-descript yellow cheese, and cucumber dill pickles slices… all mixed together by this grinder contraption which was connected by a vice type grip to the cutting board (it was a slide out). My mother would stuff all three things into the top of the grinder, turn the handle, and then out would spew this concoction of brown, orange, and green. This was then spread on two slices of white bread sort of buttered with margarine or mayonnaise*.

My mother used to wonder why I was such a skinny child. Well, it was because of food like this. I would try to eat the thing but usually ended up throwing it away after two bites or less. But I always drank all of the carton of milk (which cost a nickel) and ate the handful of potato chips which were sent.

I suppose had Mom made Spam Sandwiches I might actually have eaten the thing…naw. Who am I kidding?

The good news is that I became an adventurous eater as an adult. I learned about all the herbs and spices and the best one of all: garlic. I wonder if they make garlic Spam? Now that I might eat.

Be sure to check out these two links to learn more about Spam!



*Mayonnaise – my father hated mayonnaise and my mother was not allowed to put mayo on his sandwiches. I think she snuck it in to tuna salad and, possibly, the evil mixture as a way of holding it all together. But she never told him!

Liddle Kiddles

A “Gotta Have It” for little girls in 1966

March 14, 2023

Dolls. As a child, I loved dolls. And I had many of them. Not as many as I would have liked, and I was always angling to find a way to acquire more.

The original 10 Liddle Kiddles. I always wanted No. 3, Calamity Jiddle with her rocking horse.

Enter this tiny doll, introduced by Mattel in 1966, which captured my imagination. The doll series: Liddle Kiddles.

A few days ago I mentioned to the hubby that I was considering writing about Liddle Kiddle dolls for this week’s post. He shook his head and said, “I’ve never heard of them.”

Well, all you Tuesday Newsday readers who are in the same category as the hubby, you are about to learn something new.

We turn to the nearly Infallible Wikipedia to find out more:

Liddle Diddle in the original packaging

“Kiddles were made of soft vinyl with painted facial features and rooted, brushable hair. The first, second, and third series (called ‘bigger bodies’ by collectors) ranged from 2¾ inches to 3½ inches, while the Skediddle Kiddles were 4 inches tall and had a special mechanism inside the body which allowed them to walk, wave, and ride vehicles with the push of a child’s hand. The Kola and Kologne Kiddles were 2 inches, and the mini Jewelry Kiddles were 78–1+116 inches. (snip)

The Holy Grail for children everywhere: The Sears Christmas Catalog

The bigger bodies (the first ten dolls) were designed to resemble typical neighborhood children at play. The name Liddle Kiddles was taken from the words ‘little kid’. Each of the first 24 dolls had detailed clothing and accessories that perfectly matched their theme and size. Wire skeletons inside the vinyl bodies enabled the dolls to be posed and re-posed realistically.

The first series of 9 Liddle Kiddle dolls plus 1 special doll set was available only through the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Catalog (SRCC). It was conceived in 1965 and released to toy shelves in 1966.”

Peter Paniddle with Tinkerbelle, Alligator, and even his shadow

No doubt I got my first Liddle Kiddle that year at Christmas. The SRCC was THE Holy Grail. Forget Google and Amazon, we would pour over the SRCC, creating our Christmas lists and dreaming of those things we hoped to see on Christmas morning.

My mother got the message and the adorable Liddle Diddle was under our tree. To be sure, I would have liked to have gotten every single one of the ten original dolls but, alas, there was only one.

The next year I received my second Liddle Kiddle, Peter Paniddle; part of the Storybook Kiddles series.

Marketing genius at work, appealing to the target audience

Since it was the 1960s and smart phones were not available for entertainment while eating our morning cereal and milk, we had to resort to reading the backs of cereal boxes. Clever product marketing people figured this out and kids everywhere were enticed to pressure their parents into buying more Post Super Sugar Crisp and Alphabits to earn the number of box tops needed to earn ‘free’ giveaways.

Which is how I more than doubled my Liddle Kiddle collection. Sort of. It took seven box tops to get one of three ‘knock off’ dolls being offered. These were StoryKins Doll sets: Cinderella – complete with a pumpkin carriage! Sleeping Beauty- she had her own pink canopy bed! And Goldilocks – with an adorable little bear!

Our family must have eaten a whole bunch of Post Cereal because I did get ALL three sets. I was a determined child.

The poor dolls – both the actual Liddle Kiddles and the StoryKins – were played with all the time. With the exception of the Snow White doll, none of the sets are complete and all are dingy, many with the wires which made it possible for their arms and legs to bend, protruding.

Now, if I was in need of a little cash, a quick look on Ebay reveals that some of these dolls are worth a fair bit. Take Peter Paniddle for instance. He came with the cutest green alligator and a tiny Barbie with Tinkerbelle wings. Just the Tinkerbelle alone sold on Ebay last month for fifty bucks! A set with the pieces I have (sans Peter’s shirt) went for $125.

My authentic Liddle Kiddle collection (left to right) – Peter Paniddle and friends, Funny Bunny, Locket Kiddle, and Liddle Diddle in what’s left of her crib.
The StoryKins Trio offered through Post Cereals: Goldilocks, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty

A few years ago my brother found a couple of the StoryKins sets and a Liddle Kiddle doll and bought them for me. So now I have a second Cinderella and carriage, and a second Goldilocks and her bear, and a second Liddle Diddle. I see how this might work. A collector in search of a missing item from one of the sets has to buy several sets to make a complete one. It gets kinda pricey rather quickly.

For me, I love my dolls the way they are: some have pieces of their original clothing missing and now wear a child created shirt or dress. Goldilocks and Cinderella are both missing a shoe. Liddle Diddle’s crib is broken and her blanket is long gone.

Even so, there is a magic when I open the small bin which houses these childhood toys and a small part of me is transported back to those simpler times and I can enjoy my dolls once again.

A couple links:



World’s Largest Frying Pan?

No. But its history is fascinating

March 7, 2023

April 29, 1940 – the first Clam Festival cooking the fritter on a borrowed giant frying pan
No explanation needed…

My brother shared a blurb with me recently which piqued my interest: “It was on March 7, 1992 when the world’s largest crepe was baked and flipped in Bloemfontein, South Africa. It was 41 feet 2 inches in diameter, an inch and-a-half deep, and weighed 5,908 pounds. Sounds like the special at Denny’s.”

So it got me thinking about a large item a bit closer to home. Down in Long Beach, Washington, there is a frying pan. It’s a huge frying pan and it is propped upright on large metal stand in the middle of town. Needless to say, it’s quite noticeable and tourists who flock to the peninsula every year will often have their photo taken in front of the pan.

Why, I asked, was the pan even made and what is its history? Research reveals that in 1941, local leaders conceived of the idea of a Clam Festival. Someone, likely Wellington Marsh, Sr., a successful businessman and owner of Marsh’s Free Museum, suggested that they bake a giant clam fritter. The community borrowed the first pan from the city of Chehalis, a couple hours to the northeast.

Although the Infallible Wikipedia is silent on the matter, the Long Beach Razor Clam Festival webpage is not. Here’s what they say about that first event:

“The fritter was constructed using 200 pounds of razor clams, 20 dozen eggs, 20 pounds each of flour, cracker meal, and cornmeal, 10 gallons of milk, and 13 gallons of salad oil. Ralph Smith, and numerous other locals, would dig the clams and donate them to the Festival. (snip)

The stories hold that a couple of girls helped grease the pan by ‘skating on large slabs of butter’ across the surface of the pan. The cooks even used garden hoes and two-foot-square shovels to maneuver the fritter in the pan. (snip)

The following year a new frying pan was unveiled; this time Long Beach would have their very own frying pan to boast as the ‘World’s Largest.’ This was made possible through the Chamber of Commerce and was manufactured by Northwest Copper and Sheet Metal Works of Portland. The Pan, from base to handle, measured in at a whopping 14.6 feet long.”

The ‘Clam Queens’ in their rather unique clam shell bathing suits. Looks to me like those are actual razor clam shells…

And thus began the annual clam festival. People would flock to the beach for the event, all wanting their share of the delicious fritter. This event seemed to get bigger and bigger. There was even a group of people who took the frying pan on a tour of the state, complete with two ‘Bathing Clam Beauties’, to promote interest in the event.

The success of it all did exactly as expected and the tourism to Long Beach exploded. It was the unintended consequences which eventually shut it down.

The last year of the original festival was 1948 with two factors which came into play. First, local restaurants complained that the tourists were not frequenting their establishments; after all, if the people can eat the giant fritter for free, they won’t go buy a meal somewhere else.

But the biggest factor was an alarming decrease in the availability of razor clams.

Also from the webpage:

“The Washington State Director of Fisheries warned that the coastal Razor Clam populations could not withstand the current level of harvest. It had been estimated that in 1946, that clam diggers had taken six million pounds of clams from the beaches of Copalis, Grayland, and Long Beach.”

In the following years, the state Fisheries division instituted limits on razor clams and, eventually, limited digs to a few selected dates each year.

And that was the end of the Clam Festival until, in 1994, an attempt was made to revive the event. Unfortunately it was discovered that the base of the pan had all but rusted away and was no longer viable for cooking. Instead, it was repaired with fiberglass and then hung at its current location as a tourist attraction.

The town “commissioned a welding company in Astoria to construct a new aluminum pan. This pan was inaugurated, cooking a giant fritter, at the Main Street Dedication in 1994. It was then placed in Fish Alley downtown, and was used as a small stage. In 2014, the second year of the Annual Long Beach Razor Clam Festival’s revival, the pan was refurbished and is still used for the giant fritter cook-off done by students.”

My sister and I – with our kids – at the frying pan the summer of 2003

Over the years, my family has had many photos snapped in front of that giant frying pan, the kids growing up chronicled every few years.

Whenever we visit Long Beach our tradition is to drive up the main drag of town (there is a road on the bay side of the peninsula which is faster to our family condo). When we get to the light at Sid Snyder Drive that is what I think of as being at Long Beach.

Some distance ahead are the colorful kites twirling on buildings and American flags which line the sidewalks flapping in the ever constant breeze. The sidewalks are almost always awash with pedestrians and cars clog the roads.

And soon we are driving past all that makes Long Beach, well, Long Beach.

 Marshs’ Free Museum on the left, the giant squirting clam and Frying Pan on the right. The arcade and the rides (although those were shut down during the pandemic and have not reopened) up next. Then a multitude of restaurants, clothing, and novelty stores. Our favorites, Castaways, Stormin’ Norman’s, and Beachcombers on the left, Dylan’s Cottage Bakery on the right. And then we arrive at Bolstad Avenue. A quick glance to the left and we see “The World’s Longest Beach” sign and then its past Scoopers where one night during our summer visit we will enjoy an amazing ice cream cone. And, finally, downtown is behind us.

The Clam Festival was revived in 2013. Although I have not had a chance to attend, it’s now on my radar and I hope to get there next year. So if you have the time and the inclination, make your reservations now to spend the weekend of April 8 and 9, 2023, at Long Beach for the event. And be sure to wave at the frying pan when you drive into town.

After all, nothing quite says ‘you’re here’ than the first glimpse of that giant frying pan.

The links:

https://www.longbeachrazorclamfestival.com/ (official site)

https://www.visitlongbeachpeninsula.com/giant-frying-pan/ (more history plus links to other activities)

https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/84803-largest-frying-pan (some crazy person who used his pan to cook calf livers. I kid you not)


(An interesting list)

(Where we stay when at Long Beach)

Puma Concolor

King of the Beasts in North America

February 28, 2023

Cougar photo from the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife webpage. Photo by Rich Beausoleil

The species Puma concolor, also known as a Cougar, is a large cat found in both North and South America. It is believed that the species came across the Bering land bridge between 8 and 8.5 million years ago. Over time the animal became prevalent on both continents.

Today, the Cougar is considered extirpated (not present) in the eastern half of the United States due to habitat destruction.

The Infallible Wikipedia shares this about the Cougar:

“Its range spans from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andes in South America and is the most widespread of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. It is an adaptable, generalist species, occurring in most American habitat types. This wide range has brought it many common names, including puma, mountain lion, catamount and panther (for the Florida sub-population). It is the second-largest cat in the New World, after the jaguar (Panthera onca). Secretive and largely solitary by nature, the cougar is properly considered both nocturnal and crepuscular, although daytime sightings do occur. Despite its size, the cougar is more closely related to smaller felines, including the domestic cat (Felis catus) than to any species of the subfamily Pantherinae.”

Leaping Cougar… not from near where I live. http://animal-wildlife.blogspot.com/2011/11/cougar.html

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), there are approximately 2000 adult cougars in this state. Their primary prey are deer and elk, but they have been known to consume smaller mammals also. Human attacks are very rare and only two have been recorded in Washington State in the past 100 years.

A truly amazing animal, cougars can jump up to 18 feet and have been seen leaping from the ground up into the tree branches. The male of the species are about 7 feet 10 inches from nose to the tip of the tail and weigh between 117 and 159 pounds. Females are slightly smaller at 6 feet 9 inches and weigh between 75 and 106 pounds.

Now, for anyone from the state of Washington we hear the word ‘Cougar’ all the time. It would be almost impossible to NOT know of the animal. But like many things, it’s really more of a concept rather than a reality.

At least it is until someone’s Ring or trail camera captures a digital image. Which occurred just last week right here in Mount Vernon. With the advent of such electronic imaging capture systems, we can now get a better glimpse into what the world looks like when we are sleeping… or even in broad daylight.

The Mount Vernon cougar caught on a trail cam. February 21, 2023

The hubby shared in our family chat a couple of photos which showed up on a local Facebook group to which he belongs. Alarming photos.

Alarming, that is, as they clearly show a cougar within two miles of our  home. As many of my readers know the hubby and I go Geocaching which often takes us out on trails in the area. When I saw this photo of the cougar the terrain looked just like the terrain of many a local trail.

Cougar images from backyard cam less than 2 miles from our house. February 25, 2023

In reading the WDFW site it does offer some comfort by sharing the following:

“Adult male cougars roam widely, covering a home range of 50 to 150 square miles, depending on the age of the cougar, the time of year, type of terrain, and availability of prey. Adult male cougars’ home ranges will often overlap those of three or four females.”

Well! That is good news. Chances are that we live in this one particular male’s home range and only have to be concerned about him and his harem of three females. Of course I also learned that the male Cougar’s main job is to keep other cougars out of his territory. So he spends most of his time patrolling the borders of his range. When he’s not romancing the ladies that is.

So that means it’s possible that the male depicted was on the southern boundary of his range and that there’s ANOTHER cougar patrolling the northern side of HIS range! Egads! The possible nearby cougar population just doubled.

Now truly, I’m not worried about Cougars from a personal standpoint. I don’t tend to be out tromping around in the woods at night or even during the crepuscular time of day.

(Crepuscular: Zoology. appearing or active in the twilight, as certain bats and insects. And Cougars, apparently)

But it does make me want to get that motion detector camera which the hubby got at Costco well over a year ago up and active. Sounds like a good project for this week so I can know for sure what is lurking outside our backdoor.

As always, the Infallible Wikipedia is a plethora of information to make your mind go numb:


The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has a very informative and interesting website. Good job WDFW!


This video from WDFW on Cougar territoriality was very good:


One of the most popular games for phones

February 21, 2023

About a year and a half ago I decided that I would start playing word games on my phone as a way of keeping my brain sharp. I hit upon one game which looked interesting. The game: Wordscapes.

The official Wordscapes logo.

According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“The game overall is a mix of Boggle and crossword puzzles. To solve the puzzle, the player must find every word using the letters that are located in the circle at the bottom of the screen. There are anywhere from 3 to 7 letters in the circle, depending on the level being played. There are also bonus words, which the player can solve for extra coins. The game currently contains 6,000 levels and an infinite number of extra master levels that players can access after completing the first 6,000. The game publishes a daily puzzle for each day.”

My adorable Elephant

So far, so good. I start playing the game and – between it and Wordle – it does what I want: help keep my brain sharp.

But then the Wordscapes people introduced a feature into the game called ‘Wildlife.’ Okay. This was a fun addition. A player earns points in the form of red gems -or ‘rubies’ as the players call them – with which they can hatch eggs and out will pop a cute animal. Did I mention that these animals dance, prance, eat, drink, and play? And that they are incredibly appealing with their big eyes and happy expressions? And that they give you extra boosters in the game?

My colorful Quetzal

I’m not a psychologist, but I’m pretty sure that in the testing done over the years they discovered that people – women particularly – are drawn to cute animals with big imploring eyes.

So more than solving the word puzzles, I became interested in collecting all the digital animals. Kind of like Pokemon Go but without having to go outside and the critters were actually cute. Some were easier to collect than others, of course, and by the time the hubby and I flew to Puerto Vallarta to meet up with our son in November 2022, I had all but about five or six of the animals. As hard as I tried I could not seem to get two of the animals which gave the most rubies and best boosters: the Lion or the Anteater.

On the first day in Puerto Vallarta, I’m playing my daily dose of Wordscapes when my son sees it and I tell him about the game. Well! He thought it looked interesting and loaded it on his phone too.

Some of my collection BEFORE I lost them all…

It was only then we learned that the cute Wildlife game was, apparently, a Beta test feature only available to some. It was a bitter pill for my son to swallow: only Mom was getting animals.

Undeterred, my son took on playing Wordscapes the same way he takes on pretty much everything he’s interested in: obsessively. And he was determined to get to the same point level as me. (I was somewhere in the 5000’s then)

We had been back from Mexico for a few weeks when I get the message from my son that, suddenly, the Wildlife feature was now available to him too. Of course he started collecting right away but was frustrated by not getting any of the ‘good’ animals.

For me, however, disaster struck in December when I had to get a new phone… and all my collection disappeared. Despite requesting the restoration of my animals, the Wordscapes people wouldn’t do it but did give me 15,000 coins so I could accelerate rebuilding. Gone were my Elephant and Quetzal, my two Epic animals. It was back to square one.

The elusive Anteater

But there was a silver lining. Now my son and I were on the same footing and began sharing back and forth which animal we had gotten on a particular day. I decided not spend the 15,000 coins but earned my way back by playing the game and building up the points.

My son and I built spreadsheets and took screen shots; we evaluated each animal to determine which were best for particular tasks. We saved up our rubies so as to only purchase the eggs which produce the four Epic animals we most desired: Anteater, Quetzal, Elephant, and Lion

I got back my Elephant and Quetzal. I finally got an Anteater on January 7. My son got a Lion and an Elephant and, just two days ago, the Quetzal hatched for him. But he is still in search of the elusive Anteater.

My son’s pride and joy… the Lion!

As of today, still no Lion for me. I have vowed to only open the red eggs which have the possibility of a Lion. Until I get it, no other eggs (blue, green, purple) are allowed to be hatched even though I am far from having a complete set of critters.

But that’s okay. The fun is in the pursuit and in playing the game with my son. I even got the hubby in on it as we were driving home from a weekend trip Sunday afternoon. I’d tell him the letters of the main word and he helped me solve the puzzles as he drove, calling out words to try. Not only did it accelerate solving each puzzle, it was a fun way to pass the miles.

The red egg – the one which MIGHT produce the elusive Lion – will be available in 4 hours and 15 minutes. By my calculations I have enough ‘rubies’ to be able to open 16 eggs. Yes, I’m that insane. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: As you can imagine, I usually write these the day before they publish. I couldn’t wait until today to see about my eggs. Sadly, no Lion. But here’s what DID hatch. I’ll get a couple more tries before the red egg goes away for another week or so… who knows, maybe I might just get my lucky Lion.

The links:


https://www.facebook.com/groups/2849657081808319 – where the crazies are… I’m tame compared to some of these folks. 

The Valentine Card

A tradition born in Great Britain

February 14, 2023

The earliest Valentines were often hand made of ribbons, lace, and buttons.

Today is, of course, Valentine’s Day. A day when hopes and expectations far exceed reality. When I was in elementary school, Valentine’s Day was probably THE biggest day of the year. We looked forward to getting our red construction paper folders filled with the cute greeting cards from our classmates; the afternoon always meant cupcakes and cookies provided by one of our parents.

It was, however, the introduction of the Valentine’s Card which propelled the holiday to what it is today. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“In 1797, a British publisher issued The Young Man’s Valentine Writer, which contained scores of suggested sentimental verses for the young lover unable to compose his own. Printers had already begun producing a limited number of cards with verses and sketches, called ‘mechanical valentines.’ Paper Valentines became so popular in England in the early 19th century that they were assembled in factories. Fancy Valentines were made with real lace and ribbons, with paper lace introduced in the mid-19th century.  In 1835, 60,000 Valentine cards were sent by post in the United Kingdom, despite postage being expensive.”

Oh those crazy for love Brits!

Eventually the idea made its way across the Atlantic and sending Valentine’s Day cards became all the rage in the US also. Although the statistics are from a few years ago, it is estimated by the US Greeting Card Association that “approximately 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US. Half of those valentines are given to family members other than husband or wife, usually to children. When the valentine-exchange cards made in school activities are included the figure goes up to 1 billion, and teachers become the people receiving the most valentines.”

That’s a whole lot of paper.

Valentine’s Day at my house when I was growing up consisted of each child getting to purchase a package of Valentine’s to give out in their classroom at school. For several days before the big day, I would painstakingly decide which of the cards (each box usually contained several different sentiments) would be given to which classmate. Their name would be written on the envelope and the card inside signed by me.

Each year I seemed to ‘like’ one of the boys in my class and would obsess over which card to give him.

Finally, on February 14th, we would arrive at school, our fistfuls of valentines in tow, and wait for the announcement from our teacher that it was time to distribute our Valentines.

Up from our seats we would spring and then drop our cards into the folders hung around the room. Sometimes they were taped along the window and at other times at the front of our desks. There was an unwritten rule that if you gave a card to one then you had to give a card to everyone. While this was going on, some dedicated Mom would be there, setting out delicious baked goodies (my mother was often that person!). At last we were allowed to open the swollen folders and read our cards.

A typical ‘kids’ Valentine card. The card is about 2 1/4″ wide and 3 1/4″ high. No idea WHY I had this in my card box but it was there when I needed it for this article.

Now, there were ALWAYS some lame boys who didn’t give out Valentines. Or they might break the rule and give out a few but only to certain people. Undoubtedly it was one of those boys who I had a crush on who either didn’t do it or only gave it to the most popular girl, who wasn’t me. It was usually Kristin. Everybody loved that girl! Which takes us back to how expectations exceed reality.

After school I’d go home to a big family Valentine’s celebration. Or not.

As on any other day, my mother fixed dinner and served it right at six p.m. It was after dinner, however, when my Dad would get up, produce a Valentine’s gift for my mother, and present it with a flourish.

Every year. Not just some years. But every year. Always the same gift.

It would be wrapped but we all knew what it was: a box of Russell Stover’s chocolates.

The 24 oz. box of Russell Stover Assorted Chocolates.

My mother would open it, exclaim how much she liked it, and then would kiss my dad and thank him for it.

Each of us children would be allowed to choose one piece of candy. I hated when I accidentally got the coconut one. Yuck. (Pro-tip: the coconut ones were sometimes hidden as round ones. Best to pick a rectangular one)

That box of candy would last for a week or two with one piece of candy allowed after dinner each day.

Yep. That was it. There were a few Valentine’s Days over the years when I was the recipient of some romantic gesture. But for the most part, once our kids reached elementary school, I simply carried on the tradition of letting my children pick out a package of cards to give to their classmates; I also became the mom who brought the treats. One year I baked heart shaped sugar cookies, frosted them in white, pink, and red frosting and wrote EVERY child’s name on their cookie. Yes, I was that crazy. I also noted that most of the kids didn’t eat their cookie but instead told me they were taking it home to show their Mom. Hah!

Now, I love sugar cookies but unless I have someone who wants to help me decorate them, I don’t do them for all the holidays like I once did. So forget those. And forget Russell Stover’s. The easiest and best Valentine’s gift in my opinion are Sanders Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels (see my story on these here)… or even Dove Dark Chocolates… oh, who am I kidding, OR whatever chocolate. Just so long as there’s no coconut.

The links:



Wordle Is The Word

Online puzzle game gone viral

February 7, 2023

The concept of this game is simple: try to solve a five letter word puzzle in six guesses or less.

Wordle is an online game which came into existence less than two years ago. Yet it has swept the internet with millions playing it worldwide each day.

The inventor, Josh Wardle, wrote a computer program for his own amusement based on the game Mastermind. At first just he and his partner played the game. After a time, he shared the game with friends by posting it on the internet. Before long it was discovered and through word of mouth went viral.

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us what happened next:

 “The game gained popularity in December 2021 after Wardle added the ability for players to copy their daily results as emoji squares, which were widely shared on Twitter. Many clones and variations of the game were also created, as were versions in languages besides English. The game was purchased by The New York Times Company in January 2022 for an undisclosed seven-figure sum, with plans to keep it free for all players; it was moved to the company’s website in February 2022.”

It was a year ago, on February 10, 2022, with the move to the NY Times, its popularity soared and the number of players exploded. Also, from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“According to the Times quarterly earnings report ending on March 31, 2022, the acquisition of Wordle brought ‘tens of millions’ of new players to the Times puzzle site and app, many of whom continued to play the other puzzles offered by the Times.”

Josh Wardle, inventor of Wordle

What’s been the most fun about Wordle is that a number of my Facebook friends also discovered it and started posting their daily results. Which I do also. My BFF Daphne and I exchange text messages every morning now to cheer each other on and, occasionally, offer a nudge to the other person if one of us is struggling.

Take yesterday, for example. Over the weekend I was ambushed and caught by a cold (not Covid – I tested). Consequently, I wasn’t feeling very well on Monday morning. But that did not matter. Had to do the daily Wordle. Now, since it is Tuesday I can post the results of my journey.

I always start my word with one of two ‘starters’: DRAIN or STOLE. Why, you might ask? It’s because between these two words they capture the 10 most common letters used in five letter words.

So I start with STOLE and learn that I have one letter, a T and it’s in the wrong spot. Since that’s not enough information to make a reasonable guess I put in DRAIN and get two more letters: I and N. Neither in the correct place.

So here’s how my grid looked:

The next thing I do is make a little chart of all the possible combinations of the three letters I know. On paper. Very old school.

I finally settle on trying the word INPUT. It gets the I, the N, and the T in different spots plus adds in the U and another popular consonant, P.

All that does is confirm neither are in the word AND I still do not have any letters in the right spot.

Think, Barb, think!

So I think THINK is a good word to try and now my grid looks like this:

Okay! Now I’m getting someplace.

And then I whiff it. Which I later blame on the fact that I was running a slight fever and am sick. Apparently I wasn’t thinking because the next work I try is NIFTY.

Yes, I totally ignored the poor H but now I know where the N, the I, and the T belong. And spend the next half an hour searching for words which work in that configuration…but without the H. I try all the remaining letters.

There is not a single word which works. Zero. Zilch. I am perplexed. What could the word possibly be?

So I text my friend Daphne and express my frustration and she texts me back at 8:04 a.m.:

“You have all the pieces. 5 and counting.”

My fever addled brain MISSES that clue also so I go take a shower, eat breakfast, dry my hair and fret over what the darn word could possibly be!

Finally, as I’m writing this and once again texting with Daphne she sends another text as a reply to my request for a nudge at 10:32 a.m.:

“…I gave you a clue on last reply.”

To which I reply, now focused on numbers, “Well it can’t be ninth… the H is gone. So is the Y.”

And then I look at my grid one more time, whack my head, and see where I messed up. My reply to her:

“OMG! My brain is not working right. The H is not gone… it belongs in the word. Lol. I blame it on the low grade fever I’m running.”

I pull out a win at word six and am happy to escape with my 62 day in a row solving Wordle streak.

Of course, getting it on an early word is the best. A while back I became curious as to what the odds of guessing it correctly on the first word might be. It’s 1 in 2315. Or .0004 percent. On the second word its 6.5 percent (rounded). You are most likely to get it at word three or word four.

Now, I will finish this article by saying there are sites out there which will POST the word each day, allowing those who use such sites to ‘guess’ it on their first or second try. There are anagram solvers. There are all sorts of ways you can enhance your statistics. As far as I’m concerned, everyone gets to play the game however they want.

For me, however, I like the personal challenge and also the social aspects of it. I love seeing how many tries it takes my friends on Facebook. And on those days when I get it in two (I never use any online cheats!) I do a happy dance, enjoying the sweet victory and savoring the moment.

The links:



Scotch Tape

An indispensable household item

January 31, 2023

When I think of inventions which have made my life – and millions of others – better there are a few which leap to mind: indoor plumbing, electricity, central heating, and refrigeration being at the top of the list.

Display of many of the Scotch Tape varieties

But today we celebrate an invention which – in the world of inventions – I have a difficult time imagining it NOT existing. It is ostensibly, at times, a nearly invisible product but one which makes so many things easier.

Today is Scotch Tape Day according to the National Day’s Calendar. While the Infallible Wikipedia does have a section on this ubiquitous product, I found the National Days information more compelling:

“In the early 1920s, Richard Drew worked at the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, which made sandpaper at the time. When he used to deliver sandpaper samples to auto body shops, he observed the inconvenience that car painters experienced when they had to paint two-tone color cars. At that time, surgical adhesive tapes or library glues were used to hold newspapers on cars when painting. However, when the newspapers were removed, residue remained and would rip the paint off when peeled off.

This inspired Drew to come up with a long-term and efficient solution. He went on to invent masking tape made out of crêpe paper, cabinetmaker’s glue, and glycerin. It adhered well to cars and came off easily without taking paint away. It was later marketed as Scotch Masking Tape. (snip)

The invention of Scotch Tape, which can now be found in almost every home, resulted in Drew being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.”

The mascot for Scotch Tape for many years was Scotty McTape

All of that is interesting, but what I was most entertained by is the explanation of how it came to be called ‘Scotch’ tape.

For those of you, like myself, who claim some Scottish heritage you might know that the Scottish people are known as being, well, frugal at best, and tight fisted cheapskates at worst.

Scottish people prefer to think of it as being careful with our assets.

We turn to the Infallible Wikipedia for this explanation:

“The use of the term Scotch in the name was a pejorative meaning ‘parsimonious’in the 1920s and 1930s. The brand name Scotch came about around 1925 while Richard Drew was testing his first masking tape to determine how much adhesive he needed to add. The bodyshop painter became frustrated with the sample masking tape and exclaimed, ‘Take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it!’ The name was soon applied to the entire line of 3M tapes.”

Rather than force you to go look up the meaning of parsimonious, here’s a list of synonyms:

The tape I found in my desk drawer… all Scotch

Frugal… sparing…prudent…

Those are not so bad. Yet the list continues:

Chintzy… miserly… stingy…

Uh oh.

Greedy… illiberal… skinflint… tightwad…

Needless to say, that painter was none too impressed with that first tape. Thankfully, 3M did get the formula right and a wide variety of Scotch ‘Tapes’ have become household items. Whether it is the infinitely useful masking tape, or the clear varieties used to tape together untold torn papers, Christmas and birthday wrappings, the 3M product is estimated to be present in 90 percent of all American homes.

A quick look in one of my desk drawers turned up seven scotch tape products: five clear tape dispensers, one box of tape – opened but unusued – I taped it shut, and a mostly used roll of masking tape. And that was just in my office. I have no idea what I might find elsewhere in the house.

Apparently one can never have too much Scotch tape. All purchased on sale, no doubt. It’s the Scotch in me.

Our extra tape supply can be found in cupboards in the hubbys office
The Scotch Tape products discovered in the household tool room.
Scotch tape pressed into use sometime in the 1970’s… still there after 50 years!

The links: