This time last week I was looking forward to getting out of this house – the one we’ve been sheltering in place in since mid-March for a week-long trip to a BnB in the Flint Hills.
My original plan included dusting off my telescope in the hope of some dark sky observing, only I forgot to check the moon phase calendar before booking the cabin. Full moon occurs this week (tomorrow if I remember correctly).
But despite all the stress of participating (as a team lead) in a hackathon (and placing second), escaping our home however briefly just wasn’t in the stars.
Terry’s health has been a problem for several months now, including a trip to the hospital last month for a few days (that turned out to be a bad drug reaction and interaction). The hospital food also did a number on his digestive system and he’s still suffering weeks later. So at the last possible moment, I cancelled the trip (rescheduled it for the new moon in mid-April 2021) and resigned myself to a week of home improvement and maintenance projects.
In the mad scramble to clean, prep and paint the laundry room before our chest freezer was delivered, I found all manner of stored items that hadn’t seen the light of day in years. Sports equipment, old game console, Magic cards, VHS tapes, Trivial Pursuit Star Wars Classic edition, high school commencement programs from the 70s, paint ball guns and RC car parts. Among all the miscellany of two or three generations of Mosses, I rediscovered my competition Scrabble board and accessories (including my chess timer for tournament play).
A decade ago I had an itch to up my Scrabble game. I found a local chapter of the National Scrabble Association and began studying letter combinations. While they are technically words, their usefulness on a Scrabble board depends on their point value. Which is why, as a word nerd, I eventually lost interest in attending tournaments and competition Scrabble. Most high level Scrabble players don’t really care what the word means.
On a Monday evening, I talked Terry into playing a game of Scrabble after dinner. Even though my Scrabble board will rotate, I usually leave it orientated towards my opponent, so I’m playing upside down. It forces my brain to think of different less obvious plays. My first game in several years and I could tell how much I had forgotten.
Ten years ago, I became an empty-nester and got serious about my extracurricular reading for the first time in nearly two decades. I resurrected and applied for any local library that would let me. I purchased a Nook ebook reader, which was actually an early Android tablet, and decided to try book swapping using BookMooch web portal. For many years, I added books I’d read and no longer desired to gather dust on my shelves to my BookMooch inventory and placed books I wanted to read on my wishlist. When someone requested a book from my inventory, I mailed it via USPS Media Mail and earned a point, which I in turn could use to request a book to mooch, usually from my wishlist. All of this was before ebook lending was widely available and I was involved in several online (thanks to the rise of GoodReads) and real-world book clubs (thanks to all the libraries I received cards from).
But once ebook lending became widely available and ebooks also came down to a more reasonable price, I completely stopped purchasing print editions. I put my BookMooch account on semi-permanent vacation. Once or twice a year I’d get an email alert from BookMooch advising me that a book on my wishlist was available for mooching. The last books I mooched were five of the seven Nausicaa graphic novels by Miayazaki, which was an incredible mooch.
We have four jalapeno plants this year. Two planted in containers and two planted where are raised bed used to be. All of these pepper plants are producing way more peppers than we can possibly eat. So, we decided to try some quick pickling recipes.
We had three recipes to try, but only two saucepans. So we tried two recipes in two batches producing to pints of pickled peppers. Relatively easy and didn’t take long at all. We wore latex gloves, however, while slicing and handling the jalapenos.
We sliced a dozen plus a few more to split between the two recipes. It didn’t take long at all to get the first batch of water, vinegar and spices boiling, followed quickly by the other one. As soon as you put the jalapenos in the boiling brine, you give it a quick stir, pull it off the heat and let it cool for five to eight minutes. Then we transferred peppers to the pint jars and poured the brine until it covered them.
Depending on which of these two recipes we like best, we may do a double or triple batch to share with family, friends and neighbors. We’re letting the pint jars rest in the fridge for a few days to infuse the flavors of the brine in the jalapeno slices. We’ll let you know which one wins the taste test in a future blog post.
Friday evening (July 17, 2020) – We drove south (an hour drive) to Powell Observatory for an ASKC members only viewing of Comet Neowise plus Jupiter at opposition and glorious through the 30 inch. Clouds were an issue to our total viewing experience, but it was great to see everyone and it was a surprisingly pleasant evening. We left shortly before eight o’clock and were back home by two minutes to midnight. An excellent excursion and a nice field trip from our lock-down life at home.
The coolest place in the house during July and August is definitely the basement. But the basement needs organizing and updating. We ordered a small chest freezer for delivery in early August, but that necessitated finding a suitable location to install it in. So for several evenings this past week, I rummaged around in large totes full of double weave judi gis, children’s bedding and other miscellany. And that was just the nook in the laundry room where an old refrigerator came with the house when we purchased it in February 1999.
Once we got that nook cleaned out completely, we realized we needed to paint it the same color as what’s behind the washer and dryer. Terry also measured it and determined there would not be enough clearance around it for the chest freezer so I had to pivot 180 degrees and review the contents of some utility shelves we installed a decade ago. Which led me to pulling off heavy cardboard boxes from top shelves and reviewing their contents.
The first one I pulled down was full of items belonging to my son. I found several computer video games from 1995 through 2005, parts of an remote controlled car (in the very bottom of the box), an old Sony PlayStation console, a game cartridge (not for the PlayStation), a box of Magic cards, some movies (DVD and VHS) and music CDs. I took photos of everything and sent the album link to my kids asking what to keep and ship, sell, donate or trash. The first comment I got back was from my son who simply stated “I’ll take all of it.”
Terry and I continued our trek down memory lane by playing Chinese Checkers, BackGammon and continuing to play, every other day, two rounds of Yahtzee. For the latter, I’m gathering stats and tracking averages for us. Over the first dozen games, Terry took the lead, winning seven. Terry tends to do better on the top half of the scored card while I tend to throw more Yahtzees.
I don’t fret too much because I’ll always have Boggle. Did I mention my best Boggle word of our half dozen games? Quandary.
To make the Chinese Checkers game more interesting, Terry and I played three colors each. In the game shown above, Terry is Red, White and Blue while I am Yellow, Green and Purple/Black (I can’t tell which color the plastic marbles are). We got quite jammed up in the middle of the board so our initial game took over two hours and probably closer to three hours to finish. Terry was the first to get a color home.
A couple of days later, we tried again but this time we alternated colors so we were less likely to setup one color to the advantage of our other colors. Again it took a couple of hours to complete and we actually stopped mid-way through and finished the following day.
We played a coupe of Backgammon games and split the difference. I need to find a better board though. The one I have is a magnetic travel version and it’s too small and unwieldy for our gaming enjoyment. I’ve been searching for vintage versions from the 80s on Ebay but haven’t quite find one I like enough to bid on or buy now.
We’ve avoided playing Pandemic for a couple of months. We seem to prefer the simpler (i.e. less moving parts and complexities) of these classic family games. It encourages us to interact and engage. Much better than lounging on the couch passively consuming a movie or television series.
This second puzzle project of the summer involves less pieces than the first puzzle (two hundred less) but has a more difficult and complex color collage, which is proving to be challenging. Previously, I finished the dragon puzzle in less than three days and probably not more than six or eight hours total.
According to the bottom of the puzzle box, the artwork is called “King of the Jungle” by Blend Cota. An oil on canvas painted in 2018, his Artist Notes describe “This magnificent creature is sitting peacefully, his crown gently waving in the soft summer breeze as the tall savannah grass engulfs him. And yet, deep inside these quiet moments, I can feel the majestic roar ready to land shake… such a powerful symbol of strength, pride and glory.”
I am off to a slow and steady start. After nearly a week, I’ve completed most of the bright colored background (mostly yellows, oranges and greens). I’m not sure how to proceed or what color to focus on. I may try to complete the lion’s face, which will leave mostly a dark blue, purple and black pieces to sort through. Such a rainbow of colors and cathartic brush strokes.
I won’t have much time this month to devote to the puzzle though. I’ve started a soft skills online course this week which runs through the rest of July. I have several critical deadlines for projects at work that will probably mean longer hours. I will snatch a few moments throughout the day to find a piece or two and place it where it belongs.
I’ll take photos sporadically and update the album so check back to track my progress. With the heat forecast in the mid 90s with high humidity, any indoor activity is preferred to the sweltering summer outside.
When last I wrote, a week ago, I was nearly finished with a puzzle of a wizard riding a dragon defending a castle. I finished it Monday afternoon. I corresponded briefly with my daughter about the process to preserve the puzzle as a poster so I could hang it in our Purple Room. Yes, my house is like the game Clue. I have a Blue Room (aka Family Entertainment Room), a Green Room (aka my daughter’s former bedroom and now my home office) and a Purple Room (formerly my son’s bedroom, but when he moved to the basement, my daughter commandeered it). I’ll let you guess which rooms were painted by my daughter and which were painted by me.