Archives

Summer Solstice

The Best Day of the Year

June 21, 2022

On June 21 at 2:13 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, the sun (which will be seen elsewhere around the globe, but not in our time zone) will stand still for a moment, thus marking its northern hemisphere zenith.

A mid-July ‘sunset’ over Bergen, Norway, harbor. The sun never completely sets during the summer months that far north. This photo was taken by the author in 1980 around midnight.

From then on it is, as one might say, all downhill from there.

The summer solstice is the longest number of daylight hours for us. In fact the sun will not set until 9:15 p.m. with civil twilight extending until just before 10 p.m. and not fully dark until 12:45 a.m.

While many think of the solstice as being the longest day, the change is imperceptible. In fact, the sun will set at 9:15 p.m. for the remainder of June and then, on July 1st, it will set one minute earlier.

Where the real change occurs is in the morning. Sunrise is at 5:09 a.m. on both June 20 and 21 but is one minute later on the 22nd. By that same July 1st date it will be a whole 5 minutes later. Now, for most of us, it will be unnoticeable since we are likely to be asleep.

While the Infallible Wikipedia does provide all sorts of technical information about the solstice, I like the website timeanddate.com which shows in very understandable graph form all the geeky minutiae I crave. As seen here:

The June sunrise/sunset times for the Pacific Northwest

Of course, all this is very interesting, but it does not explain what it is about the months of May, June, and July which speak to my soul. I don’t love fall and I don’t love winter. By spring it’s getting closer to my favorite season. June is, by far, my favorite month of the year.

I would venture to guess that I, like many in the PNW, suffer with some degree of Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). All the hours of light (I hesitate to call it sunlight during a year such as this one where it’s been cloudy, cool, and rainy so many days) help to buoy my spirits.

It’s as if we need the extra light to carry us through the dark months of the year.

By the time I was 18 I was, intellectually, aware of the fact that the length of days varied depending on where you were. But it wasn’t until a trip with my parents and my sister to England, Scotland, and Norway in July 1980, when I personally experienced even longer days than what we have here.

We flew into Bergen, Norway in the early part of July, arriving late morning. I didn’t think much about it until that evening, after having dinner, we walked around the town… but it never got dark. I snapped a photo of my sister sleeping at 11 pm with sunlight still streaming through the window.

My sister asleep at 11 p.m. in Bergen.

It was a bit surreal. Back to Timeanddate.com. A search for Bergen reveals that the sunset in mid-July is nearly 11 p.m. and that it never gets completely dark at night. As it says on timeanddate.com ‘nautical twilight’ continues the rest of the night!

As tourists, we loved it, able to explore the country all times of the day… or night. We took a ride up a vernicular and visited the harbor late in the evening which provided the closest thing to a sunset they had.

The natives, also, adjusted their habits. In the early afternoon, all the shops would close up and the locals would go enjoy the extra sunshine too! And who can blame them? Come December, they pay for the extra light with extra dark.

As for me, I try not to think of fall or winter, but just enjoy the long light and count my blessings that I live in a place where I can enjoy the beauty of a light filled summer’s evening.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_solstice

The Paper Clip

A Gem of a Great Idea

May 31, 2022

Chances are you have at least one of these objects within 20 feet of where you are currently located. I would also venture to guess that there is 99.9 percent chance (nothing’s ever quite 100, right?) that if you are in your abode, you could put your hands on one of these in less than two minutes.

The author’s colorful clip collection

It’s an object we take for granted, as they are as ubiquitous as a rock on the ground or a leaf on a plant.

The object: a paper clip.

Now, we haven’t always had paper clips. Someone did have to conceive of the concept and invent them. Like many innovations, it seems as if the idea was floating around in the cosmos waiting for the right person to wonder:

 “Hmmm… I wonder if I twist this little piece of metal wire into a couple of bends, will it hold together pieces of paper?”

The first to patent the most popular paper clip was Cushman & Denison

The concept is rather ludicrous, but that is precisely what happened.

But unbeknownst to the early paper clip inventor… or I should say inventors… the idea sprang forth in different places with a few years of each other.

Those crazy Norwegians – with little else to do in the winter – had one of their own create a ‘paper clip.’ He has been widely touted as the inventor of the device and even today you can find a paper clip monument to him. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us:

“Norwegian Johan Vaaler (1866–1910) has erroneously been identified as the inventor of the paper clip. He was granted patents in Germany and in the United States (1901) for a paper clip of similar design, but less functional and practical, because it lacked the last turn of the wire. Vaaler probably did not know that a better product was already on the market, although not yet in Norway. His version was never manufactured and never marketed, because the superior Gem was already available.

Long after Vaaler’s death his countrymen created a national myth based on the false assumption that the paper clip was invented by an unrecognised Norwegian genius. Norwegian dictionaries since the 1950s have mentioned Vaaler as the inventor of the paper clip, and that myth later found its way into international dictionaries and much of the international literature on paper clips.”

Johan Vaaler and his paper clip design… missing the last turn

The real inventor of the most used paper clip design in the world was – well, unknown. What we do know via the Infallible Wikipedia is this:

“The most common type of wire paper clip still in use, the Gem paper clip, was never patented, but it was most likely in production in Britain in the early 1870s by ‘The Gem Manufacturing Company’, according to the American expert on technological innovations, Professor Henry J. Petroski. He refers to an 1883 article about ‘Gem Paper-Fasteners’, praising them for being ‘better than ordinary pins’ for ‘binding together papers on the same subject, a bundle of letters, or pages of a manuscript’. Since the 1883 article had no illustration of this early ‘Gem’, it may have been different from modern paper clips of that name.

The earliest illustration of its current form is in an 1893 advertisement for the ‘Gem Paper Clip’. In 1904 Cushman & Denison registered a trademark for the ‘Gem’ name in connection with paper clips. The announcement stated that it had been used since March 1, 1892, which may have been the time of its introduction in the United States. Paper clips are still sometimes called ‘Gem clips’, and in Swedish the word for any paper clip is ‘gem’.

(snip)…the original Gem type has for more than a hundred years proved to be the most practical, and consequently by far the most popular. Its qualities—ease of use, gripping without tearing, and storing without tangling—have been difficult to improve upon. National Paper clip Day is May 29.”

Now, I love paper clips so much, that instead of celebrating them on only one day, for me this is National Paper clip WEEK.

I’m not exactly sure WHEN I became obsessed with paper clips, but I think it started back in 2004 when I took a novel writing course. Every week, we aspiring authors could bring six or so pages of our current work-in-progress (WIP). But the rule was that you must bring enough copies to share with everyone in the class. And, it was strongly suggested, that the pages be paper clipped together.

Who knows what got into my brain, but this gave me an excuse to purchase the colorful paper clips I coveted. You know the ones: red, pink, white, green, yellow, blue, and purple… no boring silver metal for me. Oh, no, I wanted the coated kind.

What’s still left of the original sets from Michaels

Soon, when taking something to share, my WIP was clipped together all in the same color paper clips.

Then one day it happened. I was at Michael’s in Kirkland pawing through the sales bins and I found a card with six beautiful hot pink paper clips. At the top of each clip was a rosette of pink netting and a trio of tiny seed beads – in sea green, sky blue, and pearl white, sewn in the center. I was smitten. Further sifting through the bin produced a second set, identical to the first, but with light pink netting instead.

Both sets found their way home and the next week, my pages at the writer’s group were passed out with my beautiful new paper clips brightening up the room.

Needless to say, they were noticed and the pressure was on. What paper clips would she bring next?

Soon, I was perusing office supply stores for new and exciting paper clips. For a while, Staples had this large tubular structure filled with paper clips in all sorts of wonderful shapes and colors: music notes, stars, hearts, triangles, kittens, butterflies, and suns, to name several.

Many of these were added to my growing collection. And then one day I had an idea. Perhaps there was a way I could create my own specialty paper clips? I experimented with making small embroidered hearts. I cut out flowers from material I had and glued them to the clips. I added small craft gemstones.

My legendary paper clip collection grew.

With Pinterest providing inspiration, I taught myself how to tie on ribbons and attach buttons and all sorts of baubles. I started giving away my specialty paper clips as gifts.

Some of the hundreds of snowflake paper clips I’ve made

The paper clip obsession continues to this day. The hubby just shakes his head and shrugs when the ‘bin’ of supplies comes out.

These past couple of years with my involvement in Eastern Star, I’ve specialized. The theme has been snowflakes. I’ve literally made a couple hundred snow themed paper clips which, as far as I can tell, have been well received. Either that or people are gracious enough to accept them while secretly worrying about the mental health of the ‘crazy paper clip lady.’

But no matter. A portion of my paper clip collection sits in a ‘lazy susan’ style pen holder at the back of my desk (I’m looking at it as I type!) and I find that, at least once a day, I spin the holder around to decide ‘which’ paper clip I want for some set of pages. The ‘ice cream cones’ with the white, purple, and blue striped ribbon? The wooden Valentine ’s Day buttons with the various shades of pink polka dotted ribbons? Or perhaps the flower buttons, adorable with the tiny flowered bedecked ribbons?

A portion of my paper clip collection including the first set found at Michael’s (on the far right in the lazy Susan holder)

The possibilities are, as they say, endless. Well, at least for the crazy paper clip lady.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_clip

National Walnut Day

A favorite food for thousands of years

May 17, 2022

While walnuts are typically double sided, occasionally they can be found with 3 or even 4 sides

It was in 1949 when the walnut got its own “National Day.” While I am certain that a large portion of my readers are thinking “National Walnut Day? Really?” Upon research I arrived at the conclusion that walnuts deserve such an honor. Of course, those who decreed the day might have been a teeny bit self serving. From thereisadayforthat.com we learn:

“National Walnut Day was created to promote the consumption of walnuts and the first National Walnut Day was proclaimed by the Walnut Marketing Board in June 1949.

On March 3rd 1958, a Senate Resolution was introduced by William F Knowland. The Resolution was signed by President Dwight D Eisenhower on the first National Walnut Day which was on May 17th 1958.”

Obviously the US Senate thought it was important enough, right?

Until yesterday I had not given the walnut much thought. Sure, I’ve eaten walnuts my entire life. I like walnuts especially when sprinkled on an ice cream sundae. They are delicious in a variety of other foods also. Like fudge. And walnut bread or banana nut muffins. Candied walnuts are superb. And who can forget what happens when you add them to apples and celery in a Waldorf salad?

The walnut forms inside a thick husk. When ripe, the husk splits open and the nut will fall – or can be shaken – to the ground

It turns out walnuts have been cultivated and eaten for thousands of years and have been enjoyed since at least 7000 B.C. according to thereisadayforthat.com

The Infallible Wikipedia does not let us down and shares the following:

“During the Byzantine era, the walnut was also known by the name ‘royal nut’. An article on walnut tree cultivation in Spain is included in Ibn al-‘Awwam’s 12th-century Book on Agriculture. The walnut was originally known as the Welsh nut, i.e. it came through France and/or Italy to Germanic speakers (German Walnuss, Dutch okkernoot or walnoot, Danish valnød, Swedish valnöt). In Polish orzechy włoskie translates to ‘Italian nuts’ (włoskie being the adjectival form of Włochy).”

The most popular walnut to eat is known as the English walnut despite its origination in Persia (Iran). The black walnut of eastern North America is also popular, but for a different reason. The wood of the tree is highly valued for its fine, straight grained properties. Unfortunately, the black walnut – like the hickory nut – is very difficult to crack.

Probably the best thing I’ve learned about walnuts is that I’ve been storing them all wrong. So very wrong. Walnuts, once shelled, are susceptible to going rancid and becoming moldy. Therefore they are best kept in the fridge.

My research included doing an internet search of the words ‘walnut + recipe’ – which garnered 339,000,000 – yes million – results. I found one recipe I hope to make this week which sounds delicious: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/unbelievable-walnut-crusted-chicken/

A scrumptious treat is vanilla ice cream, a squirt of whipping cream, Hershey’s Dark chocolate syrup, topped with a maraschino cherry, and sprinkled with walnuts. Yes, it was as delicious as it looks!

Now on to a fun game which, for my family, involves walnuts. Sometimes those who visit my house will comment on the walnut (or several) which sit unobtrusively on the top of a clock my grandmother made back in the early 1960’s – or others which are seen in other spots.

Inevitably the question will be ‘why do you have a walnut there?’

It’s actually a nod to the game ‘Huckle Buckle Beanstalk’ which the Infallible Wikipedia describes as thus:

“The seekers must cover their eyes and ears or leave the designated game area while the hider hides a small, pre-selected object. When the hider says to come and find it, or after the seekers have counted to a specific number, usually sixty or one-hundred, the seekers come out and attempt to be the first to find the object. When a seeker has the object in hand, he can alert the other players of his success by yelling ‘Huckle Buckle Beanstalk!’ (snip)

The clock my grandmother made in 1962. The face is all embroidered by hand. She made two of these, one for my mother and one for my aunt. My cousin, Tim, has its twin in Yakima.

A variation of the game has the person who finds the object, continue by pretending to look for the object and then call out ‘Huckle Buckle Bean Stalk’ to draw the other seekers attention away from the objects location. As the other seekers find the object, they perform the same deception until all the seekers have found the object. The winners take pride in how quickly they find the object and how much time passes between them and the next player who calls out ‘Huckle Buckle Bean Stalk’.”

I was introduced to the game by my grandmother at her cabin on Highway 12 near Rimrock Lake. As a child, my siblings, cousins, and I would play the game as described in the variation, honing our observation skills and – yes – earning the right to hide the walnut for the next round. A walnut was particularly well suited for hiding at the cabin which had honey colored pine board walls and wood ceilings interspersed with logs. The walnut blended very, very well.

When the cabin was sold in 2020, the Huckle Buckle Beanstalk walnut  which lived there was one of the things I brought to my own house. The other walnuts I have were collected off the ground in Yakima last fall during a ‘dog’ walk with my sister and her hubby.

Huckle Buckle Beanstalk! The main room of the cabin and the hidden walnut.

So, in honor of National Walnut day, be sure to eat a few walnuts or engage in a good old fashioned game of Huckle Buckle Beanstalk.

A few links:

https://www.thereisadayforthat.com/holidays/usa/national-walnut-day

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walnut

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huckle_buckle_beanstalk

https://youtu.be/s1JV7rIcJcs (Although this is about Hickory Nuts, it’s hilarious! And they do mention black walnuts which are equally difficult to crack)

The Potato Chip

Bet You Can’t Eat Just One!

May 10, 2022

Whenever I read statements of (fill in the blank) was invented on (fill in the blank) date, I scurry my way over to the Infallible Wikipedia to verify the information. Frequently, I can find zero confirmation of the particular event occurring on that date. And, as with today’s topic, glean new information that suggests that not only is the date incorrect, but the person credited with the invention really was not.

I present for your contemplation the story of how and when the potato chip was invented.

Saratoga Chips package

Now according to legend, it was a chef in Saratoga, New York, who cooked the first potato chip for a customer who complained that his potatoes were too thick/too soggy/too something. The chef – one George Crum (real last name Speck), trying to appease the customer, returned to his kitchen, sliced the potatoes thin and then fried them. Viola! The first potato chips.

George Crum and, possibly, his sister Kate Wicks who some claim was the real inventor

Upon deeper digging, however, a cookbook from the early 1800’s suggests that Crum was not the first. Yes, The Infallible Wikipedia provides us more information:

“The earliest known recipe for something similar to today’s potato chips is in William Kitchiner’s book The Cook’s Oracle published in 1817, which was a bestseller in the United Kingdom and the United States. The 1822 edition’s recipe for ‘Potatoes fried in Slices or Shavings’ reads ‘peel large potatoes… cut them in shavings round and round, as you would peel a lemon; dry them well in a clean cloth, and fry them in lard or dripping’. An 1825 British book about French cookery calls them ‘Pommes de Terre frites’ (second recipe) and calls for thin slices of potato fried in ‘clarified butter or goose dripping’, drained and sprinkled with salt. Early recipes for potato chips in the US are found in Mary Randolph’s Virginia House-Wife (1824) and in N.K.M. Lee’s Cook’s Own Book (1832), both of which explicitly cite Kitchiner.”

Kitchiner’s recipe for potato chips appeared in the Cook’s Oracle

As usual, there is a wealth of information which shares the exhaustive history of the potato chip from invention to modifications over the years. One need only walk down a grocery store aisle and see the entire length filled with the product to note its popularity.

It was in the 1950’s when the next big step in potato chips occurred: the addition of flavors. The Infallible Wikipedia continues:

“After some trial and error, in 1954, Joe ‘Spud’ Murphy, the owner of the Irish crisps company Tayto, and his employee Seamus Burke, produced the world’s first seasoned chips: Cheese & Onion. Companies worldwide sought to buy the rights to Tayto’s technique. Walkers of Leicester, England produced Cheese & Onion the same year. Golden Wonder (Smith’s main competitor at the time) would also produce Cheese & Onion, and Smith’s countered with Salt & Vinegar (tested first by their north-east England subsidiary Tudor) which launched nationally in 1967, starting a two-decade-long flavour war.

Bert Lahr – who played the cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz movie – was the face of Lay’s Potato chips in the 1960’s. I thought he was kind of creepy.

The first flavored chips in the United States, barbecue flavor, were being manufactured and sold by 1954. In 1958, Herr’s was the first company to introduce barbecue-flavored potato chips in Pennsylvania.”

But back to William Kitchiner. Does that sound like a made up name or what?

Back in the early 1800’s in England, the thought of a woman writing a book – even a cookbook – was simply not done. The famous novel Frankenstein was written by a woman, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly, but published anonymously in 1818.

Which brings us back to the potato chip and ‘who’ really cooked the first ones. My guess is that it was a woman, experimenting in her kitchen. And that William Kitchiner, who could live off his inheritance, took her recipe when he published his cookbook in 1824.

Of course none of that really matters. What matters is that someone DID invent the potato chip, that delicious, can’t eat just one, crunchy and satisfying snack.

A typical display of Lay’s potato chips

But the big question is WHAT is your favorite potato chip flavor? I find myself torn between ‘Sour Cream & Onion’ or ‘Cheddar & Sour Cream’. In my family, my son gravitates towards ‘Salt & Vinegar’, while the daughter prefers ‘Lime’ or ‘Dill Pickle’ (although she really likes Tim’s Sasquatch flavor) Since I’m staying with my sister and brother-in-law for a few days I asked them also and the answer is ‘Barbeque’ for her and either ‘Lime’ or ‘Salt & Vinegar’for him.

But back to the hubby’s response which, I think, speaks for many:

“Salt and vinegar, BBQ, Lay’s original. Now I want chips…”

Whatever your preference, we can cheer for Mr. Crum, or Mr. Kitchiner, or perhaps some unheralded mother, slaving away in her kitchen and experimenting with new ways to cook potatoes for her family. Any way you slice it, the world loves potato chips!

A few links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potato_chip

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Kitchiner

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Speck

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lay%27s

https://www.thoughtco.com/george-crum-potato-chip-4165983

Geocaching!

Tupperware Hidden In Nature

May 3, 2022

Astro – a member of Team Wrastro – checks out the Geocaching.com page

This activity has best been described, perhaps, as a global Easter Egg hunt. But rather than having a doting parent direct you to where the ‘egg’ is hidden, those who participate use the Global Positioning System (GPS) and hand held electronic devices to find their location anywhere on earth.

Dubbed Geocaching, the sport was launched on May 3, 2000, just one day after the US Government made it possible for ordinary people to find their location within 3 meters of a specific spot.

We turn to the Infallible Wikipedia for additional information:

“Geocaching was originally similar to the game letterboxing (which originated in 1854), which uses clues and references to landmarks embedded in stories. Geocaching was conceived shortly after the removal of Selective Availability from the Global Positioning System on May 2, 2000 (Blue Switch Day), because the improved accuracy of the system allowed for a small container to be specifically placed and located.

Site of the first geocache in Oregon. We found it the summer of 2005 before it was archived

The first documented placement of a GPS-located cache took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon. The location was posted on the Usenet newsgroup sci.geo.satellite-nav at 45°17.460′N 122°24.800′W. Within three days, the cache had been found twice, first by Mike Teague. According to Dave Ulmer’s message, this cache was a black plastic bucket that was partially buried and contained software, videos, books, money, a can of beans, and a slingshot. The Geocache and most of its contents were eventually destroyed by a lawn mower; the can of beans was the only item salvaged and was turned into a trackable item called the ‘Original Can of Beans’. Another Geocache and plaque called the Original Stash Tribute Plaque now sit at the site.

Elroy, George, and Judy – along with our original GPS at Longview, Washington, circa 2005. The cacher on the left, cacher name Nudecacher, was NOT there that day. Jane’s epic editing skills are such that she was able to commemorate Nudecacher’s, er, contributions to the sport.

Perhaps the above description would lead one to believe that it’s easy to walk to a spot and instantly find the Geocache (or, the cache, as we call it). Au Contraire, my friends. Some of the caches can be wickedly difficult due, in great part, to the size and clever placement of the container. Others are challenging because one must solve a puzzle to discover the GPS coordinates.

George, Judy, and Elroy at “Room With a View Cache’ near Long Beach, Washington. One cool aspect of caching is that you sometimes discover places you’ve never been before… such as this one.

While a further reading of the Infallible Wikipedia article states that “A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook and sometimes a pen or pencil,” after finding just shy of 5,000 caches, our family has discovered that they can range from being as large as a shed to as small as a tiny button.

The first participants tended to be computer geeky types who spent their waking hours on networks like Usenet. But that soon changed as people learned, via word of mouth, about Geocaching. Families discovered that it was a new and unique way to get outdoors and take a hike. For kids, it was fun to open up a cache and see what sort of treasures might be inside.

Additionally, there is an element of stealth involved, as one does not want to reveal a cache location to those outside the Geocaching community who might wish to harm a cache. Non participants have – in the spirit of Harry Potter – been dubbed as ‘Muggles.’

Perhaps one of the greatest achievements of any Cacher is to find a container right under the noses of lots of people without those people knowing it happened. It’s definitely difficult to do so!

Our family began our Geocaching adventure on December 26, 2003. I had heard about the sport from a friend and thought getting the hubby a GPS device (cell phones did not yet have the technology) would be a good Christmas present. The hubby had also heard about the sport. He was thrilled and spent a great deal of time that afternoon reading and learning how to operate the device.

Of course, the first big decision would be what to call ourselves. All Geocachers have to have a ‘handle’ and we decided on ‘Wrastro’ in homage to our White, 1998 Chevy Astro Van bearing vanity plates of the same name. Of course, this led to calling ourselves by the names of the Jetson family: hubby, George; Jane, his wife; Boy Genius, Elroy; and Teenage Daughter, Judy.

George and Elroy caching in the middle of an Eastern Washington dust storm on August 12, 2005. One of our most memorable caching experiences ever. You can read the cache log here: https://www.geocaching.com/seek/log.aspx?LUID=eda7dbb8-14e0-469d-9f98-b2086150ed05

Identities established, out we went the next day to a park in Sammamish with Elroy, age 13 and Judy (not yet a teenager) age 10, to go to the park, walk up to the cache, find some excellent goodies, and then go on to the next one.

Hah! It took us waaaaay longer than it should to find the container which was, I might add, wrapped in a black plastic garbage bag and sitting in the crook of a tree. To us it looked like a random piece of trash!

That week we attempted all sorts of caches but, being newbie’s, made everything much more difficult. The good news is that we got better at it. Soon we could easily identify if something was an LPC or GRC. Or the always dreaded DNF. Don’t know those acronyms? Well, I’d be giving up sacred Geocacher’s secrets if I revealed them to Muggles. Sorry!

At the height of its popularity, Jeep sponsored what’s known as a “Travel Bug”. These are items you find and then move them to another cache for others to find. 5000 Yellow Jeep Travel bugs were released in 2004 and 5000 white ones in 2005. As you might imagine many simply disappeared as they were a coveted item. Here George displays the white one we found on the banks of the Columbia River in 2005

We also became familiar with some of the tricks of the trade and ‘how’ people tended to hide things. This was thanks, particularly, to one Geocacher in Redmond, Washington, who went by the name of Beamin’ Demon (BD). They were a legend as no one knew ‘who’ BD was; no one ever saw BD place a cache – it always seemed to occur in the dark of night; and BD caches tended to be miniscule, containing only a scrap of paper requiring one to bring their own pen. For months, the BD caches would show up and Elroy, especially, wanted to try to earn the coveted ‘First to Find’ bragging rights. So out he and George (usually) or Jane would go to find the smallest, most evilly hidden caches ever.

Elroy even ventured out with his own handle “I Like This Game” and started hiding impossible to find caches. Yes, we were out of control.

Alas, Elroy eventually moved on to other passions, and Judy found the activity irritating. George, however, persisted which is why, 18 years later, he still drags Jane out to find caches. Nowadays, one does not need a special Garmin GPS device to play. Cell phones work just fine.

George has also discovered that having Jane along is good for a couple of reasons. One, Jane can navigate; Two, she knows what to look for with the LPC and GRC’s and can grab those when George inevitably pulls up next to them with HER car door nearest the cache locations; and Three – this is the most important thing to George – he insists that she write up the log for the cache since, as he says, ‘you’re the writer.’ Personally, I think it has more to do with the fact that he has written the majority of the logs over the years and he likes the fresh perspective.

Rosie and Jane at the largest Geocache which Team Wrastro has ever found. Longview, Washington April 22, 2022.

Which leads me to find a way to wrap up this rather long blog post. But, hey, having found 4,882 4,883 finds (as of May 2, 2022), there’s a lot Jane – er, I – can say. Now if you want to read about Team Wrastro’s adventures, all you have to do is go to Geocaching.com and create an account. Then you can filter what you see by typing in the box where it says Found by the name WRASTRO. You’re welcome. Or not.

The Links:

https://www.geocaching.com/play/search

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocaching

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jetsons

The Prime Directive

Here’s Mine. What’s Yours?

April 26, 2022

In the original Star Trek TV series, one of the things we learn about is ‘The Prime Directive.’ Rather than try to explain it, I turn to the Infallible Wikipedia which provides this summary:

“In the fictional universe of Star Trek, the Prime Directive (also known as ‘Starfleet General Order 1’, ‘General Order 1’, and the ‘non-interference directive’) is a guiding principle of Starfleet that prohibits its members from interfering with the natural development of alien civilizations. The Prime Directive protects unprepared civilizations from the dangerous tendency of well-intentioned starship crews to introduce advanced technology, knowledge, and values before they are ready. Since its introduction in the first season of the original Star Trek series, the Prime Directive has been a key plot element of many episodes of the various Star Trek series and served as a recurring moral question over how best to establish diplomatic relations with new alien worlds.”

I have written about Star Trek on my blog before: https://barbaradevore.com/2020/09/08/space-the-final-frontier/

 This post is not about Star Trek, but rather the concept of a Prime Directive.

While our species has not, to the best of our collective knowledge, made contact with or interfered with the development of alien civilizations, I do think that we would do well to adopt a prime directive for life.

We all know that we should eat less, exercise more, not smoke, not drink to excess, and – well – do a whole bunch of other things to get or stay healthy. Easier said than done.

The Prime Directive which I have started touting to any who will pay attention is this:

Stay Upright

You would think that this would be relatively easy to achieve but, alas, it is not. According to the CDC, one in four adults over the age of 65 fall each year. While today’s Tuesday Newsday is a bit of a Public Service Announcement, getting into all the statistics is not how I wish to use this space. But you can certainly check out the CDC link below for additional information.

Instead, I have adopted a two pronged approach to my personal Prime Directive.

  1. Whenever I get up and am about to move about, I stop and look at my surroundings. The first thing I do is check the floor for possible items which might cause a fall: a pair of shoes, a blanket which has slipped to the floor, items which have been set down but don’t usually live in that spot.
  2. I hold on to rails and any other handles which are provided since I assume they are there for a reason and then I proceed only after my visual evaluation indicates its safe.

There is a reason for the Prime Directive. Perhaps the first time I recognized the need for a more measured approach to walking was in the spring of 2005. I was at a friend’s house where we were having an event for the Rainbow Girls. I had headed downstairs but failed to turn on a light OR look at the way the steps were laid out. There was one additional step separate from the others and I missed it.

That fall resulted in a badly sprained ankle and a boot cast which I wore for nearly 6 weeks. Chastened, I vowed to do better. And I did until one day in probably 2014 or so when, in a rush, I strode into our spare bedroom, headed for the closet to get wrapping paper. I did not notice that the bedspread had slipped off the bed. (We had houseguests either a night or two before and I had not yet dealt with the bed). Next thing I knew, my right foot was wrapped up in the bedspread and I landed on both knees – the left one taking the brunt of the fall. Which was a good thing since my head ended up inches away from the solid oak of a nightstand.

While that fall did not end up with a doctor visit, my knees hurt for quite a few weeks.

Which brings me to my most recent violation of the Prime Directive. I can take comfort that it’s been at least eight years since I’ve had a violation.

The hubby and I were headed back from an overnight to Kelso, Washington, and stopped to find a Geocache* at a rest area. We were out looking for it near a copse of trees and the grass was quite long. I noticed a huge ant hill with a gazillion ants and was fascinated by this.

In the meantime, the hubby had gone on and was off behind the copse of trees. I turned to go find him when I must have stepped on a branch, hidden in the grass. From what I can recall, when I stepped on the forward part of it with my right foot, the back part popped up and the other end went up into the hem of my jeans on the left leg.

https://youtube.com/shorts/TAtv5zzgAhc?feature=share

I was doomed as the branch, as though it had a life of its own, twisted the pants leg and the next thing I knew I was on the ground. Fortunately all that grass provided a fairly soft landing and I walked away with a bit of a scraped knee, only one ant on me, and a couple days of soreness.

Guess I need to add ‘be aware of and remove all branches which might attack me’ to my Prime Directive.

*Geocaching is a sport which will be featured next Tuesday, on May 3rd,when we mark the 22nd anniversary of its start.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_Directive

https://www.cdc.gov/falls/facts.html

Glorious Garlic

A pungent necessity in the kitchen

April 19, 2022

As a child, I was only ever aware of two spices being used on food: salt and pepper. In the center of our table sat a five container antique cruet set. Despite there being cut glass receptacles for oil, vinegar, and sugar, the only ones which ever contained anything were the salt and pepper shakers.

A purplish colored hard neck garlic variety

Now, as a child, it never occurred to me that there were other spices. Undoubtedly my mother used a few others, but I was unaware that food could be a delightful adventure since she cooked mostly bland foods.

When I left home I took up an interest in cooking. It was then I discovered what I consider the essential food additive, one which has spawned cookbooks centered on it and an entire town committed to it. We are talking garlic.

April 19 is National Garlic Day, celebrated on this date since the late 19th century.

Technically, garlic is not a herb or a spice, but an allium, a member of the onion family. Like onions, it is known for its pungent aroma and taste.

Yes, the Infallible Wikipedia has a page and provides this information:

“Garlic (Allium sativum) is a species of bulbous flowering plant in the genus Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, Welsh onion and Chinese onion. It is native to Central Asia and northeastern Iran and has long been used as a seasoning worldwide, with a history of several thousand years of human consumption and use. It was known to ancient Egyptians and has been used as both a food flavoring and a traditional medicine. China produces 76% of the world’s supply of garlic.”

What many people do not realize about garlic, however, is that there are many species; hundreds in fact. While the Infallible Wikipedia does provide a good overview, I find that the cookbook Garlic Garlic Garlic, by Linda and Fred Griffith – in addition to a couple hundred recipes which feature it – offers fascinating historical and anecdotal information on garlic.

For example, there are a couple segments about the legend of how garlic repels vampires. But it’s this gem which would seem to offer a much more practical application:

Personally, anything which can ward off mosquitoes and other pests makes me a fan.

When, in the 1990’s I learned about Gilroy, California – they proclaim themselves Garlic Capital of the World – I added it to my ‘bucket’ list. The last week of July every year they hold the Gilroy Garlic Festival, having done so since 1979. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“An annual three-day event, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is one of the country’s best known food festivals, drawing visitors from across the nation. Located about 30 miles southeast of San Jose, Gilroy is home to about 60,000 people, and the city is a major producer of garlic. The festival is Gilroy’s top fund raiser, staffed with volunteers to raise money for nonprofit groups including clubs and schools.

The Garlic Festival has been held every year since 1979, except 2020 when it was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rudolph J. Malone, then President of Gavilan College in Gilroy, was inspired by a small town in France which hosted an annual garlic festival and claimed to be the ‘Garlic Capital of the World.’ Malone started the festival, which now draws more than hundreds of thousands of paying visitors a year.”

To be fair, the United States ranks a distant seventh in garlic production by country and produces 237,000 tons. The top honors belong to China which dwarfs all others with over 23 MILLION tons of garlic grown annually. Even so, Gilroy is all about garlic, all the time.

I found a Gilroy Garlic festival cookbook in a thrift store one day… of course I bought it!

Sadly, the hubby and I have not yet attended the garlic festival. But we did manage to visit Gilroy in the fall of 2015.

One of the first things you notice as you come across the Diablo Range from the east is the aroma. There is nothing shy about Gilroy! You pass field after field, many – no doubt – planted with the pungent crop.

But it is the town of Gilroy itself which charms. It sports a very late 19th century sort of feel with its buildings and the various shops which line the main drag. It is an inviting place to park your car and peruse the various retail establishments.

My goal that day, September 2, 2015, was to eat garlic infused food. We ended up at the Garlic City Café which stayed open long enough for us to order and enjoy lunch. Oh my. It was everything I hoped it would be. The chicken dish was topped with mushrooms… and garlic. The French fried potatoes were seasoned with salt… and garlic. It was a gastronomical delight.

The Garlic City Cafe made all my garlic dreams come true

I look forward to a return trip to Gilroy and the opportunity to spend a few days so as to try all sorts of other garlickly delights. Thank goodness the hubby does not mind the smell of garlic!

As always, the links:

Although the photo is a bit blurry, you can see the bits of garlic deliciousness on my lunch

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garlic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilroy,_California

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilroy_Garlic_Festival

The Rules of Easter

It’s all about the Vernal Equinox

April 16, 2019

easter eggs.jpg

Photo from Pixabay

“The first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox.”

 

You would think something this simple would be without controversy, but as history tells us, it is not.

For Christians throughout the word, Easter marks the day of resurrection. Since as early as 325 AD, with the first council of Nicea, however, the date on which Easter is celebrated has been disputed.

According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts which do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian or Julian calendars which follow only the cycle of the sun; rather, its date is offset from the date of Passover and is therefore calculated based on a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established two rules, independence of the Jewish calendar and worldwide uniformity, which were the only rules for Easter explicitly laid down by the council. No details for the computation were specified; these were worked out in practice, a process that took centuries and generated a number of controversies. It has come to be the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after 21 March, but Pink-Moon-2018-1311105calculations vary.”

One might think that setting out a fairly straight forward calculation would end the debate but, over the centuries, it’s become more confusing.

Things really went sideways when, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII decreed that the Julian calendar was way off and introduced his own calendar. The Gregorian calendar is the one we still use today.

So what does that have to do with Easter and how to calculate the date? There are people in the world who still – over 400 years later – like the Julian calendar and use it to determine the date Easter is celebrated.

There’s also the whole question of the equinox. Back in the fourth century there was no modern science used to calculate the exact moment of the equinox. Instead it was determined based on the above mentioned lunisolar calendar. Which is a fancy way of saying that the people who use such calendars needed a way to adjust the dates based on what was happening around them. Think of it as the spring equinox begins 14 days AFTER the new moon or, approximately, with the full moon of the season.

According to religious rules about Easter, then, the holiday is not truly based on it being on the first Sunday following the full moon after the vernal equinox. No, the calculation is based on it occurring on the first Sunday following the full moon AFTER March 21.

This year Easter falls on April 21. But should it? The full moon and the vernal equinox both occurred on March 20 – a mere 3 hours and 45 minutes apart- with the equinox crossing the finish line first at 2:58 pm (PDT).  The moon was full at 6:43 p.m. So by scientific calculation, Easter SHOULD have already happened on March 24.

Instead, the rule – for those who follow the Gregorian calendar – is to think of March 21 as the equinox which places Easter on this coming Sunday. In the Infallible Wikipedia article, there’s an interesting table which shows the calculated dates of Easter for each competing calendar.

Year
Full Moon
JewishPassover
Astronomical Easter
GregorianEaster
JulianEaster

2015

4 April

5 April

12 April

2016

23 March

23 April

27 March

1 May

2017

11 April

16 April

2018

31 March

1 April

8 April

2019

21 March

20 April

24 March

21 April

28 April

2020

8 April

9 April

12 April

19 April

2021

28 March

4 April

2 May

 

Note that they have a column for Astronomical Easter giving this year three different dates from which to choose. The chart is also incorrect as we know the scientific full moon occurred on March 20 and not the 21.

And for the record? The most common date for Easter to occur since the inception of the Gregorian calendar through the year 3000 is April 16.

One of these days I’m certain the whole controversy will be settled. In 1997 a movement was afoot to make a change. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

“At a summit in Aleppo, Syria, in 1997, the World Council of Churches (WCC) proposed a reform in the calculation of Easter which would have replaced the present divergent practices of calculating Easter with modern scientific knowledge taking into account actual astronomical instances of the spring equinox and full moon based on the meridian of Jerusalem, while also following the Council of Nicea position of Easter being on the Sunday following the full moon. The recommended World Council of Churches changes would have sidestepped the calendar issues and eliminated the difference in date between the Eastern and Western churches. The reform was proposed for implementation starting in 2001, but it was not ultimately adopted by any member body.”

And so it goes. All I know is that hunting for Easter Eggs is usually much more pleasant the third weekend of April than it is in late March. Plus, for our family, Easter this year coincides with my father’s 96th birthday! It will be the fourth time in his life that Easter is on the same day. The other years were 1935, 1946, and 1957.

The links!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter

https://www.staff.science.uu.nl/~gent0113/easter/easter_text2b.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunisolar_calendar

 

 

 

Cornstarch

An indispensible addition for the kitchen cook

March 22, 2022

One thing my mother never taught me to do growing up was how to cook. Why, I’m not exactly sure. But my guess is that she found the whole process messy and, by adding kids into the mix, even messier.

So, except for a few basic things such as pancakes and eggs, everything I ever learned about cooking occurred as an adult. Needless to say, there were several attempts and fails.

I learned about the various basics needed in one’s kitchen and today, March 22, marks the date in 1841 when one Orlando Jones patented one of those basics which was a process for extracting alkali starch from plants. He then applied this technology to corn, creating a product cooks everywhere appreciate and use: cornstarch.

Cornstarch: and indispensable thickener

The Infallible Wikipedia tells us this:

“Corn starchmaize starch, or cornflour (British English) is the starch derived from corn (maize) grain. The starch is obtained from the endosperm of the kernel. Corn starch is a common food ingredient, often used to thicken sauces or soups, and to make corn syrup and other sugars. Corn starch is versatile, easily modified, and finds many uses in industry such as adhesives, in paper products, as an anti-sticking agent, and textile manufacturing. It has medical uses as well, such as to supply glucose for people with glycogen storage disease.

Like many products in dust form, it can be hazardous in large quantities due to its flammability—see dust explosion. When mixed with a fluid, corn starch can rearrange itself into a non-Newtonian fluid. For example, adding water transforms corn starch into a material commonly known as oobleck while adding oil transforms corn starch into an electrorheological (ER) fluid. The concept can be explained through the mixture termed ‘cornflour slime’.”

Okay, so that information is a bit more geeky than I usually share. Back to the use of it in cooking. It is an indispensible item in my kitchen and is used to thicken Asian stir fries, gravy’s, soups, and all sorts of things. It’s also essential for anyone who requires gluten free foods. Cornstarch provides a lighter consistency than another traditional thickener, a flour and water slurry.

I cannot recall when I learned about cornstarch. It was probably in conjunction with my first Chinese cookbook back in the early 1980’s. What I do know is that my kitchen is never without cornstarch; the small yellow box among the other staples: flour, sugar (white, brown, and confectioners), salt, and baking soda.

Keep this in mind as the story unfolds. Back in the 1980’s the hubby and I had a subscription for a program called “My Great Recipes.” Every month a handful of recipe cards would arrive in the mail. These would be dutifully filed into a rather large molded plastic holder. They were numbered and categorized and, if you finished the entire program, they filled the recipe box with meat dishes to desserts and everything in between. We found many great recipes through this program.

One day I decided to try a recipe which was named “Oriental Ham” or “Sweet and Sour Ham” or something along those lines. I’ll be darned if I can find the recipe now! It required leftover ham – which I had – and then pineapple, red and green peppers. Seemed doable.

Porsche, me and my brother nineteen eighty something. Apparently we were eating popcorn that night and NOT inedible baking soda stir fry.

At the time, besides the hubby and me, my brother and our cat, Porsche, lived with us. My brother was at work that evening when I got busy making dinner. I cut up the ham and vegetables. I started a pot of rice. I heated oil in the electric wok in preparation of the meal. All was going well. One more thing which was required was to take cornstarch and mix it with a couple tablespoons of water to create the thickener.

As the moment arrived to add the cornstarch water mix, I stirred it one last time and then dumped it into the wok and it promptly boiled up in the pan like a miniature volcano. Weird, I thought. That’s never happened before. It should have clued me in that something was wrong, but it did not.

Instead, I served the meal to the hubby and we each took a bite and promptly spit it out. It was inedible.

Not willing to admit that the dish belonged in the garbage, I took a piece of ham and gave it to the cat. He turned up his nose at it and walked away. So I put the food in the fridge thinking by the next day it might be better.

Porsche, who looked at me with ‘judge-y’ eyes like these more than once. No doubt the night of the baking soda fiasco he gave me this look.

Sometime later that evening my brother – who worked afternoons and evenings – arrives at the house and he finds the leftovers. Which he puts on a plate, heats up, takes one bite and then throws the rest out. Needless to say, ALL of it ended up in the garbage the next day.

I cannot recall what it was which finally solved the mystery for me. Perhaps it was a few days later when I went to pull out the cornstarch and realized I had, instead, grabbed the baking soda. The light bulb in my head suddenly illuminated. Cornstarch and Baking Soda are NOT interchangeable. One will thicken things and the other creates a salty mini-volcano.

Lesson learned. Or so I thought. Fast forward thirty years and I’m making a beef stir fry one evening. All is going well until the moment I add the ‘cornstarch’ slurry and – in a repeat of that infamous night – I watch in horror as the mixture erupts into the telltale volcano.

This time, however, I shout “Shoot” or some variation of that word, yank the wok from the stove, dump the beef into a colander and thrust it under the faucet. The meat now wet and cold I examine it and think it’s worth a try to add new spices and, instead of baking soda, cornstarch.

I’m happy to report that the quick rinse did eliminate the baking soda and, unlike that fateful night in the early 80’s, dinner was saved.

Now, in my defense, the manufacturers of cornstarch and baking soda seemed to choose packaging which made the two boxes easy to mix up. After the second incident I started buying my cornstarch from Costco so that the two containers will never again be confused. I might also have taken a black sharpie and written on the boxes in large letters what’s inside. One cannot, after all, be too careful when it comes to cornstarch.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_starch

Serendipity. Coincidence. Synchronocity.

What Are The Chances?

March 15, 2022

I admit that I spent this morning searching for the right word to describe the following: when you end up at the exact same place and time as someone who you would not expect to see in that place or time.

The first word which came to mind was Serendipity. Dictionary.com provides the following meaning:  an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.

So that is not the word which exactly fits the scenario. Then I started putting in all sorts of words to try and figure out exactly what I was trying to describe. Which led me down the rabbit hole.

People have, seemingly forever, been unable to accurately describe such circumstances. So here’s what happened to pique my interest.

A week ago Friday, March 4, the hubby and I had been in Spokane for a meeting the night before. That morning, before heading west, we decided to go to Manito Park to look for what’s known as a ‘Geocache’ (note to my readers, more on that is scheduled for May 3).

So off we went to the park. At the first stop I noticed a pond and that it still had a partial layer of ice. Which triggered for me a memory of my Dad sharing stories of his childhood and how he would, in the winter, go ice skating at Manito Park.

For those who know me well, you also know that I’m always interested in genealogy: Mine, yours, does not matter. I love talking about genealogy. Several years ago I took a paid subscription to Ancestry.com.

Photo of my Dad and his brother (I think they are the two boys in the foreground on the right side) skating at Manito Park circa 1928-30.

Of course I knew my dad had grown up in Spokane. I just had never realized how close to Manito Park. And I knew exactly how to find the address of his house: the 1930 census. Which could be found on Ancestry.

Two minutes later, I had the address which – it turned out – was less than a half mile from the park and the pond.

So I say to the hubby that I want to go see the house. He agrees that we can – just as soon as we find his list of geocaches. So off we wander in the park, finding (or in one case, not finding) a few caches. Finally, at about 11:45, I put the address into my map application and we head east to find the house.

How pleased I was when we turned the corner and there, on South Sherman Street, was what I presumed was the house where my Dad, his brother, sister, and parents all lived in 1930.

Dad with his older brother, Lyle, and dog, Buster, sometime in the mid-1920’s at the house. The photo was, unfortunately torn in half and taped together at some point.

I got out of the car and just as I was about to cross the street – which for the record was a side street where little traffic would ever travel – a car turns south from the corner of 17th and starts to drive by. I happened to look at the driver, who is staring gaped mouth at me. He then stops the car, backs it up, and is now staring gaped mouth at the hubby. I might add the hubby is staring back in a similar manner.

By this point, it’s obvious that the driver and the hubby know each other. A window is rolled down by the yet unknown to me driver, and the hubby steps from the car.

“What are you doing here?” The man exclaims.

“We were in Spokane for a meeting last night,” the hubby answers.

“Yes, but what are you doing HERE?” the man asks once again, then adds, “That’s my house.” And he points to the house next door to the one where my DeVore family lived.

“That’s house where my dad grew up!” I exclaim.

By this time, the hubby is introducing me to his friend, Roger, who he has done extensive volunteer work for a number of years with in the Washington Masonic and Scottish Rite organizations.

Roger, it turns out, was coming home that day as he had a Zoom meeting at noon. Five minutes earlier or later the chance meeting would not have happened. We are invited to visit Roger’s greenhouse and I’m given a gorgeous purple orchid. One of Roger’s hobbies is raising them. He gives us the name of the neighbor – who he has lived next to for 17 years – and encourages us to ring the bell and introduce ourselves.

Which we do. She is happy to oblige and we snap a few photos and discuss the house and my genealogy before heading on our way.

The author with the current owner of the house where my Dad grew up near Manito Park in Spokane

So, what are the chances that we would be on that street at exactly the same moment when he happened to be driving past to his house?

Certainly it was a coincidence. Even a bit of serendipitous luck. Perhaps the best word to describe it was coined as Syncronocity.

Of course we know that the Infallible Wikipedia has something to say:  Synchronicity is a concept first introduced by analytical psychologist Carl G. Jung “to describe circumstances that appear meaningfully related yet lack a causal connection.” In contemporary research, synchronicity experiences refer to a person’s subjective experience that coincidences between events in their mind and the outside world may be causally unrelated to each other yet have some other unknown connection.”

For me it was yet another odd occurrence in a string of odd occurrences related to my late Father. Like the incident with the 1965 Ford Mustang which I wrote about a year ago: (https://barbaradevore.com/2021/03/09/eee-161-rides-again/)

There have been others which I will eventually share here. For now, however, suffice it to say that it’s somehow oddly comforting to get these reminders of Dad, his larger than life personality still reverberating through my life. Coincidence? Serendipity? Synchronicity? Or, perhaps, a different term waiting to be coined.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronicity

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manito_Park_and_Botanical_Gardens

www.ancestry.com