Year: 2021

The Whole Truth

Recent Read

The Whole Truth by David Baldacci is a recent read for me even though the publication occurred over a decade ago. The theme of disinformation is current. And with one exception, the book could have been written in the last year or so. The only tell that the novel is not fresh is the mention that Osama Bin Laden was still on the run.The Whole Truth Book Cover

Evil Billionaire

Nicholas Creel is the villain of the story. Philanthropic with one hand and greedy capitalist with the other. He has made his billions selling much inflated goods to the Pentagon as well as defense units in other nations.

Creel wants more money. Countries have been concentrating on non-military projects. Sales are down. So he needs tensions to increase. He hires a PR firm to spin a story. The conspiracy begins.

Unwilling Avenger

A man with no first name, A. Shaw is an operative for a secret government agency. His work takes him all over the world. The position is dangerous. A few years back he met the love of his’ life, Anna Fischer. Now he is ready to retire. And marry. But his employer has other plans.

Anna Fischer and Shaw are drawn into the tensions of the world through their respective jobs. Both are determined to find the whole truth. Neither knows they are up against Nicholas Creel.

Recovering Alcoholic

Baldacci stirs the pot with the addition of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Katie James. An alcoholic struggling with recovery, James is trying to claw her way back from hitting rock bottom. An unwitting pawn in Creel’s ploy to bring the world to the verge of war, James nonetheless senses a story. She too, seeks to discover the whole truth.

The Whole Truth

The topic of disinformation was eerily prescient given the publication date. Current events do not mirror Baldacci’s plot. But the sheer amount of disinformation surrounding the pandemic help one suspend disbelief while reading The Whole Truth. A fast paced thriller, the novel tugs at the heart strings as well as entertains.

Those of you who favorably read Baldacci’s Atlee Pine series will enjoy The Whole Truth as well. The author paints bleak pictures of a corrupt world. But then laces each story with hope. Much needed hope.

Results in the 2021 Garden

Crop output

Results in the 2021 garden varied by crop. Pretty typical to be honest. Weather varies year to year. So do outcomes. But there were still some surprising results in the 2021 garden. The early spring rains made an impact.

Fall Flowers arranged in a ceramic pumpkin
Flowers from the 2021 Garden

Legumes

I am still having trouble with my pea plants and their output. Plenty of rain this year and an early last frost date in the spring couldn’t alter the production. However, green beans of various kinds more than made up for this. I had plenty to put up and plenty to let mature to dried status.

Those reading in the spring know I had trouble with my peanut starts. The few that were transplanted did well.

Furthermore, peanuts planted straight into the ground had some success as well. I attribute this to a longer growing season than usual here. Since I can’t expect that to happen twice in a row, I hope for better success with the peanut starts next year. Soaking the seed prior to planting in seed pot is a must.

Tomato Results in the 2021 Garden

The tomatoes were a bit of a disappointment. My goal is to raise enough paste tomatoes to keep the family provided with salsa and spaghetti sauce. If I have enough left over, I even make ketchup. The results in the 2021 garden were abysmal. One batch of salsa. A few pots of spaghetti sauce were consumed immediately. Never enough to put up.

The one success was a slicing tomato. The Cherokee Purple Heirloom tomatoes which grew so erratically in 2020 were perfect in 2021. Perhaps the rains played a part. They were plentiful for the first half of the season.

Biggest Successes

Potatoes and sweet potatoes were among the biggest success stories this past summer. Both crops provided enough to store into the early winter. The root crops netted good size specimens without too many weird shapes.

Herbs also brought good results in the 2021 garden. Dill and basil provided enough to use fresh and to dry for the winter months. The lemon balm escaped the freeze in one location and is still being harvested.  One pot of mint is also thriving. The basil in the Big Garden was nipped by temperatures right at the freezing mark a few days before the hard freeze.

The cucumbers were a success when measured by number. However, I planted a new variety that I just wasn’t happy with. The Parisian cucumbers were very spiny and were only conducive to pickling. And pickling whole for the most part.

So next year, I plan to go back to some tried and true.

Biggest Failures

Mother Nature deals out hardships from time to time. Add on top failure by this farmer to act quickly and you have some poor results in the 2021 garden. I am sure glad I don’t depend on what I can grow to be my sole source of food. After this summer, I have an even greater appreciation for modern conveniences such as the local grocery store.

One watermelon, three cantaloupe, three acorn squash, one very small pie pumpkin. Eggplant that never reached normal size. Beets that germinated at about a one in ten rate. The list goes on and on. I am still scratching my head on why I had such uneven production this past year.

My biggest failure was not spotting the squash bugs on the white pumpkins. The two vines were loaded with pumpkins. Squash bugs not only destroyed the vines but also the fruit. I may need to skip growing any squash next year. This devastation occurred when I was gone for a week. Unbelievably quick.

2022 Season

Next year is just around the corner. I have about a third of my garlic planted. Some of the smaller potatoes were put into a container. They have sprouted and I am trying to grow them indoors. Still no greenhouse in sight. I am making some adjustments on when I will start my seed to see if that will change any of the outcomes. There is always hope for next year.

Large single cabbage head in the garden
A cabbage head survived the cabbage worms.
Cantaloupe vine in garden with two fruit
Small yield on the cantaloupe vine.
Puny watermelon with one small melon
One tiny watermelon.

Divisiveness and the Covid-19 Vaccine

An Opinion Piece

The growing divisiveness in the country (perhaps the world) is bothering me. Individuals have taken opposing sides on various key questions; vaccinations and other health issues, spending limits and other economic policies and last but certainly key-climate change and energy policies. Today I am focusing on the Covid-19 vaccine.

Personally, I think it is good to have opposing views. “Yes” men (and women) bother me. I have long been a fan of Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. But we need to remember RESPECT. Something in short supply.

Agree to Disagree

Lately, extremists are decrying the principle of agreeing to disagree. This is terrible. On so many levels. This idea of only one right is wrong and possibly dangerous. A good example can be found in the history of calculus. Both Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz developed principles of calculus-independently. The argument in the late 1600s centered on who should have the credit. As a result, British mathematics was hindered for almost a century. Click here for more of the story.

Just as there can be more than one right, more than one wrong can occur. I am sure each of you can relate to this concept. Unfortunately, two wrongs often create great divides in families and friendships.

So, how do we get past this period of divisiveness? Perhaps by reflecting on history and reading, or re-reading literature both current and classic.

Erasing History

A big concern of mine is erasing history. This is a touchy subject. But an important one. We can’t deny history. Nor should we. The Holocaust happened as did slavery and The Civil War. The flags flown by the Confederates and the Nazis are symbolic. When I see them I remember how horrific actions were. But, the reminder makes me want to not repeat the past. The statues across the country of various Southern and Northern military men also remind me of the divisiveness of the Civil War. I choose to remember. I believe if we erase the past and forget, we will repeat our mistakes.

Remembering history, or researching if not known is helpful. There was divisiveness during the Spanish Flu. Masks and isolation were the triggering points. Some towns literally shut themselves off from the world. (Click here for history.)

Vaccines are the current divider. The dissension is great. Neighbors are divided. Co-workers are divided. Political leaders are divided.

Pandemic Divisiveness

We are now edging close to the end of the second year in this pandemic. My guess is we have another year to go. I would like to be wrong-on the short side. We haven’t learned much in the last 100 years. And yet our knowledge has grown greatly.

The fear of the unknown is dividing us. Early adopters versus late adopters, risk takers versus the wait and see type.  The divisions are great. Fear of the unknown. But is there more? Does the education system come into play? What about our communication system? So much information is available via the Internet. Can the information be easily understood? And more importantly vetted! I think pre-prints need closer examination than what is being given by the various disseminators. This includes media on all levels; mainstream and back-channel.

But the media does not bear all the blame. We do as individuals. Where is our commonsense? Why can’t we discern the truth from the fake?

 

Late Adopter

I am a late adopter. I like to see things work. But I also know risks can have rewards. My daughters are proof of that. So, I am educated enough to seek good advice. When the vaccines first came out, I was reluctant to try the new mRNA type. Thus, I talked to my General Practitioner (GP), a doctor I have seen for decades. And I took his advice.

He gave good advice. I had no adverse reactions to either Moderna shot. Crowded places still worry me but I feel very comfortable spending time with family members also fully vaccinated. You only see a first crawl or step once! And I am traveling again.

But the pandemic is pushing our healthcare workers to their limits. It is not just long hours. A lack of respect is my biggest concern. The world needs to wake up to the reality of this pandemic. Mental illness is taking a big toll as well. Conspiracy theories abound regarding the vaccines. In at least one case, a sibling is accused of killing his brother-a health care worker. (Only click here if you need proof.) Over a vaccine. So very sad.

Big Brother

There is great division over mandated vaccines. I am a big believer in gray areas. Some people cannot and should not get vaccinated. Personally, I know two individuals that fall in this category. Their health needs preclude any vaccination.

I don’t believe the government needs to mandate vaccines. If private businesses, including health care facilities want to require certain vaccinations, I am okay with that policy. But non-complying employees need time to consider the ramifications. And to find another place to work.

My personal stance is to encourage vaccines. I think they make a positive difference in this world. For those who are non-risk takers and even later adopters than I am, non mRNA vaccines against Covid-19 are available.

Of course I am biased. Multiple family members died before the vaccines became available. Friends and acquaintances as well. My heart cringes each time a helicopter flies overhead. The hospital landing pad is nearby. This is not new. Flying people out is not something taken lightly. Unfortunately many have Covid-19.

Respect for Health Care Workers and Decision Makers

It is a tough time to be in charge. Decisions of utmost importance are being made on a daily basis. Not everyone is in agreement. Unfortunately, mutual respect is breaking down.

In my little part of the world, the hospital board has decided to mandate Covid-19 vaccines. As a patient from time to time, I respect this decision. This decision is not popular. Almost ten percent of the staff is unvaccinated. I do not know how many asked for exemptions, either medical or religious, but only one was granted. Perhaps this is too low a number.

Our community is divided. There have been letters to the editor and lots of donut shop talk. All is good as long as there is respect. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. I live in a county where the majority of citizens have not been vaccinated. Twelve percent of the population has tested positive for Covid-19. Even if there were no overlapping, we do not have herd immunity. Overlapping occurs.

Divisiveness-The End Result

Unfortunately, I see a long winter ahead for this rural area. One replete with divisiveness. I encourage anyone not vaccinated to talk to their primary health care doctor. If still not convinced to join the vaccinated, please practice other measures. Stay away from crowds. Limit the number of people in your circle of contacts. Wear a protective mask correctly. Protect yourself in the best way possible. This virus is real.

We need to all remember this: We are responsible for our own actions.

References and Reading Recommendations

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7264614/

https://www.denverpost.com/2020/03/29/pandemic-1918-spanish-flu-colorado-coronavirus/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jeffrey-burnham-killed-pharmacist-brother-covid-vaccine-shots-poisoning/

Books of Interest:

Brave New World- Aldous Huxley

1984- George Orwell

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused it– Gina Kolata

The Great Influenza- John M. Barry

Breathtaking: The UK’s Human Story of Covid- Rachel Clarke

Populism: Before and After the Pandemic- Michael Burleigh

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story Book Review

The Premonition

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis is an indictment on America’s response to Covid-19. This non-fiction account is critical of various governmental entities. But the bigger takeaway is the hard work of many individuals. Their attempts to stop the spread were hampered by red tape.

Key Players

The Premonition is like a series of mini-biographies. The opening chapters focus on a school science project. Laura Glass, as a high school student, studied the social spread of pathogens. With the help of her father, Bob, a scientist at Sandia National Laboratories, a computer model was developed to predict outcomes. The experiment keyed on social distancing. (Fast forward to the crisis in 2020 and the computer model found a real-life application.)

Carter Mecher is another linchpin in The Pandemic narrative. Mecher’s biography is quite interesting. He was raised in a working class household. Nonetheless, he pursued a medical degree and shined in critical care situations. Eventually, he climbed the ranks of the Veteran’s Affairs as a troubleshooter of the program.

He was in this position in 2005 when then President Bush called for a national pandemic plan. Mecher along with Richard Hatchett became the principle authors of the plan. Furthermore, the two men with diverse personalities, remain close colleagues. We also learn Hatchett’s history.

2005 Pandemic Plan

Hatchett and Mecher discover the computer model developed by Glass. Then they incorporate major pieces of Laura Glass’ project into the plan. Vaccines were only a piece of the puzzle. Pathogens are spread in social settings. Since two of the largest places of socialization are schools and work settings, both were addressed. Next, the plan had to be sold to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) and later to the American public.

Another key author of the national pandemic plan is Lisa Koonin , at the time with the CDC. But, her work on the document took place after hours. In the end, the CDC published its’ own work and the Hatchett and Mecher collaboration was published sans Koonin listed as an author. However, the two men gave direct praise to Koonin.

The Premonition

Charity Dean is the woman with the premonition, or more accurately premonitions. Her biography is the most compelling of the bunch. Lewis spends quite a bit of time detailing  her background. And with good reason. Dean is a force to be reckoned with. As is her devotion to public health.

In The Premonition, the State of California employed Dean. Her career spanned from the county level to the position of Assistant Director of the State Department of Public Health. The Premonition details the roadblocks Dean encountered. It is inferred that the pushback experienced during the early months of 2020 led to her new position in the private sector.

Indictments within The Premonition

Criticism of various governmental groups is a part of The Premonition. Neither political party escapes. Both the Trump White House and the Gavin Newsom California administration failed to recognize the talent and expertise available to them. But the most glaring failure of all belongs to the CDC.

Lewis traces the weakness of the CDC back to the Swine Flu debacle of the late 1970s. This is the point the agency lost its’ independence. Since then, politics has played a big part.

He also portrays the agency as a large bureaucracy unable or unwilling to make decisions. Instead, he suggests the CDC prefers to study and analyze problems. Not solve them.

Lewis is not all negative. His mini-biographies demonstrate that the country has many hard-working and brilliant scientists. He blames the pandemic response, or lack thereof, more on process than on people. I agree to a point.

Recommendation

I found a few things missing.

First of all, the lack of accurate statistics is not really mentioned. Lewis cites the U.S.A. as a country with four percent of the world’s population. But having more than twenty percent of the Covid-19 cases. I use the Johns Hopkins Covid Tracker for my data. These numbers do not match. Furthermore, an open society such as the United States will have a more accurate account (although not perfect) of cases. Numbers from communist countries should be taken with a large grain of salt. This leeriness of the presented data is particularly true considering the calculated death rate of the United States is in line with the world rate.

Secondly, Michael Lewis handled several governmental experts with kid gloves. Most notably, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Nothing was discussed about Fauci’s admitted lies to the American public concerning the airborne transmission of the virus and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) especially masks. I see this as a failure on the author’s part.

Furthermore, I found the delay in recognizing Covid-19 as a concern. I first wrote about the coronavirus in January 2020. Only Charity Dean’s December 2019 premonition predates me.

Overall, the hours spent reading The Premonition were well spent. The individuals above are only a small representation of those highlighted in the book. All give hope for a better future. If you are not tired of the pandemic, this book provides information of interest.

Jack of Spies Book Review

Jack of Spies by David Downing is not a recent release. But I urge you to find a copy. It is that good. The historical fiction with a bit of romance covers the time period just prior to World War I. The book features the many technological advances of that time.

Book Cover for Jack of Spies

Protagonist

Jack McColl is a full time car salesman and part time British spy at the beginning of Jack of Spies, peddling cars in China. And spying on the Germans a year before the start of The Great War was just one of his assignments.

Right from the start, McColl is attracted to American Caitlyn Hanley, a progressive, independent journalist also travelling vast regions of the world. Throughout the relationship McColl struggles with divided loyalties. Will he choose the love of a lifetime or his dream career?

Jack of Spies Plot

The author weaves a tale of espionage involving diverse nations. In addition to the Germans attempting influence in China and Mexico, much is made on an alliance with Irish rebels both in Ireland and abroad. There is no love lost between the Germans and the British even before hostilities break out.

Anywhere civil unrest is occurring, the Germans are nearby to provide a bit of prodding. McColl’s job is to keep tabs and run interference. Also, he is tasked with cover-ups a time or two. But one of the biggest challenges he faces is in America. Early 20th century workers are easy prey for outside groups socialistic in nature.

Downing does a fantastic job of portraying the conditions leading to the movement toward unionization. He also conveys a time of dissension in various locales. This was the time of the Mexican revolution and the prelude to the Irish War of Independence. But most of all the run up to World War I. The history is well weaved into the plot.

Action vs. Intrigue

There is quite a bit of action throughout the novel with multiple attacks on McColl’s life. But, the novel is more than an action adventure. There is intrigue and political commentary. Furthermore, historical facts are woven in with the fiction. Most of all there is a reluctance toward war among the mature and at the same time a bloodthirst by the young.

Recommendation for Jack of Spies

I absolutely loved Jack of Spies. It was a book picked from a pile of possibilities while on vacation. The time period is what sold me as I have not read much fiction set in the early twentieth century. And I feel so fortunate to discover another new to me author. He has written a number of books and I can’t wait to find the sequel to Jack of Spies.

If you are a fan of either spy novels or historical fiction this is must read. Find a copy today.

Head Wounds Book Review

Head Wounds is a Michael Mc Garrity novel and begins in the border country of New Mexico. Additional settings include the Mescalero Reservation and various locations in the northern regions of Mexico. Characters represent a number of diverse cultures. The main characters each have their own moral code- even the killers.

Head Wounds Book Cover

Characters

Even though the book is billed as a Kevin Kerney novel, in my opinion it is not. Kerney makes cameo appearances which really add nothing to the story. Clayton Istee, Kerney’s son, is the key character at the beginning of Head Wounds. But only at the beginning.

El Jefe is the antagonist to Istee. Also known as Estavio Trevino and by his true name of Wind Stands with Bear Among the Wallows, El Jefe is an assassin. He has his own code of honor and is a fascinating character. There is good at the core of a very violent man.

By the end of Head Wounds, Istee has taken a secondary role to a pair of federal agents. Yet he is brought back in at the conclusion. Perhaps this is an intentional display of governmental hierarchy. However, to a new reader of McGarrity’s work, it was a bit off-putting.

Head Wounds- Action vs. Plot

The action packed novel opens with a triple murder. The two main victims had ties to a crime committed on the Mescalero Reservation. However, a different crime caused a contract to be issued for their deaths. Thus starts a tangled plot line.

Many characters with overlapping ties create complicated stories. Head Wounds is a prime example of this situation. McGarrity throws in surprise elements in character motivation which add various twists to the plot. But the main driver of the story is action. Time lapses are well-explained and do not detract from the plot. Instead, the passages of time add realism.

Recommendation for Head Wounds

If you are a big fan of Michael McGarrity, I have a feeling this novel will be a “can’t miss” for you. I bought the book on my recent trip to Santa Fe off a local authors’ table. Readers not familiar with his work may want to check out a copy from the nearest library. Head Wounds is a quick read and ideal for settings such as a long plane ride or a rainy day. Engaging and distracting, I finished the book in one afternoon.

A caveat- the book contains a lot of violence along with beautiful landscape descriptions. And lines blur between the good guys and the bad guys. Well worth the time spent reading, yet I will not be anxiously awaiting another.

Finding Inner Peace Twenty Years Later- A 9/11 Memorial

Sudden Loss

Finding inner peace after a loss of life is difficult. Even expected death takes time to process. But sudden, unexpected loss of life is a trauma unto itself. Individual loss is hard and permanent. Community loss and national loss take years to process and years to manifest. Thus, this reflection.

September 11, 2001

The immediate reaction to the 9/11 attacks was one of national unity. Since then, the United States of America has been anything but united. Were the attacks the catalyst? I do not know. But I miss the unity and detest the divisiveness.

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the unprovoked attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C. and indeed the entire country. Therefore many events marking this collective tragedy are scheduled for today. Parades, assemblies, and memorials-in big cities and small towns. Families will gather and many will spend time reflecting on loved ones lost.

I was half a country away from the East Coast on that fateful day. But I took the attacks personally. I knew people in those buildings. Visits to the twin towers were always an event. The bustling offices full of life. The exquisite dining experience at Windows on the World. For me, the towers represented NYC. And I know how hard the survivors struggle on a daily basis. Twenty Years Later. My hope is those directly affected have found a modicum of inner peace.

The attack on the Pentagon evoked similar feelings. I was fortunate enough to experience a personal tour of this iconic building during my teenage years. The brigadier general guiding us was a friend of the family. Massive, wide hallways filled with purpose and industry fill my memory. This fortress was penetrated but fortunately not destroyed.

Anger and Dismay Precede Inner Peace

After the initial shock wore off my feelings turned dark. I was dismayed by those countries that blamed the United States. One in particular bothered me because of how many American lives were lost in the two World Wars trying to free its’ citizens from tyranny. So, on my one visit to Europe in 2008, the bitterness kept me from visiting this important source of culture.

I was also angry that certain religious leaders condoned the attacks. Perhaps, fringe elements, but still leaders of a mainstream religion. For an individual who believes religion and forgiveness are entwined, this continues to be a personal struggle.

Inner Peace

The passage of time may not heal all wounds. But an inner peace can be reached. At least on a personal level. Water and nature are keys in my family. At home, our fountains provide the sound of moving water. The movement is a subliminal reminder of time. It flows on.

For this 20th anniversary of 9/11, I have retreated to my favorite mountain town. Four generations are gathered adjacent to the gurgling Gore Creek. Windows are open to the mountain air. Thanks to the pandemic, remote work can be done allowing more participants. As the day unfolds, my wish on this day, the anniversary of such an infamous event, is a focus on inner peace and outward harmony.

Fountains at Night

Fire glowing in outdoor fireplace

Gore Creek

View of Mountain Creek

Gore Creek Again

View of Gore Creek

August 2021 Wrap-Up

A Scorcher

August 2021 on the High Plains was a scorcher. But, a couple of afternoon thunderstorms brought some much needed moisture. And relief for a day or two from watering. Travel also provided some respite from the triple digit heat.

August 2021 In The Garden

Unlike last year, the current crop of Roma Tomatoes is struggling with a blight. The fruit is small and the vines are shriveling even before ripening. Fortunately, other crops are producing so I have plenty of options.

Cucumbers and green beans are vying with each other to be king of the garden. There will be plenty of pickles and beans this winter. I have designated one tower of beans to stay on the vine. This way I will enjoy dried beans as well as fresh green beans.

I am also harvesting broccoli, Swiss chard and a few beets. The blue potatoes are almost ready to harvest. Since we are not forecast to go below freezing anytime soon, some of the longer developing crops should do better this year.

August 2021 In the Library

This month marked a return to reading and reviewing on a more regular basis. The ratio of fiction to non-fiction was 3-1, not too bad. The fictional settings were from various parts of the United States. I found them quite enjoyable. And I highly recommended Liquids Till Lunch, the self-help book towards overall wellness.

Special Projects

I have been working on some special projects in the sewing room. They are gifts so no hints or pictures-yet. One was quite difficult because there was not a pattern. I hope to write about this old-fashioned gift next week.

Travel

The Alamosa Quilt Company was on my list of stops while escaping the heat. If you are ever in this high mountain valley town, this store is a great place to shop. The staff is very knowledgeable and the selection is top notch.

There is a back way to Santa Fe from Alamosa. The drive is relaxing until you are almost to the Capitol City of New Mexico. Non-Interstate roads can be quite the treat, but not if you are in a hurry. As I wrote in Summertime In Santa Fe, this road trip is one we take periodically. The food is great and so is the artwork. Santa Fe is truly a can’t miss destination.

A Difficult Point in Time

World events during August 2021 were complex and disturbing. Covid-19 is striking again. Arguments continue on many levels, but in my part of the world the biggest controversies revolve around vaccinations, treatments, and masks.

Here in the United States, repercussions from the changing climate include massive fires and large storms including hurricanes. The destruction is great. Unfortunately, the arguments and finger-pointing rival those surrounding Covid-19.

Last and certainly the most unsettling is the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Words truly fail. Much was sacrificed these past twenty years and to no avail. One hopes September is better.

Liquids Till Lunch Book Review

Mary Ruth’s Liquids Till Lunch

Mary Ruth’s Liquids Till Lunch: 12 Small Habits That Will Change Your Life For Good is an interesting self-help book written by Mary Ruth Ghiyam with Sarah Durand. While the title may hint as a diet book, Liquids Till Lunch encompasses an all-around approach to well-being. Each habit has a designated chapter. Furthermore, the habits fall into a tighter parameter of mental wellness, sleep, nutrition and exercise.

Nutrition

Intermittent fasting is not new. In Liquids Till Lunch there is actually more leeway than other approaches I have read about. Liquids can include juices, smoothies, and limited caffeinated beverages. And of course water. Meals are suggested at noon, three and seven. According to the author this allows your body to both burn more fat and sleep better.

What was new to me was the concept introduced in Chapter 2-Chew Your Food Until It Becomes Liquid. To be honest, I was very skeptical that this was even possible. I was wrong. Furthermore, the author’s key points were right on target. A can’t miss chapter.

Chapters 3-5 offered more nutritional advice from the expert. The tips offered in the “Move Forward Everyday” boxes are great. Advice from using moderation with respect to eating and drinking to canvassing your fridge and pantry on a daily basis are commonsense and useful.

Fifteen Minutes of Sunshine

Chapter six is a bit hard to categorize since it impacts wellness on multiple levels. Natural Vitamin D has been shown to combat Covid-19. Spending time each day in the sun also helps with sleep. This chapter is key.

In addition to the importance of daily sunshine, Liquids Till Lunch addresses the concerns about screen time and blue light. I have invested in blue light blocking glasses and I have my computer settings set to adjust brightness at a certain time of day. Both suggestions from the book. However, I need to incorporate the mindfulness exercises as suggested. Because I still have sleep problems as I discuss here.

Sleep

The chapter on sleep urges all to get seven to eight hours of good sleep each night. As the author emphasizes, good sleep is imperative for mental clarity. Lack of sleep creates poor decision making. New information within this chapter will be tried. I know lack of sleep is an area of concern for me.

Ghiyam stresses that people experiencing insomnia need perseverance. She posits that the regular habit of good sleep will take hard work to achieve. I personally have a task in front of me.

Exercise

Two chapters focus on the benefits of exercise, both calling for daily action. To follow this advice one needs to carve out forty-five minutes a day; fifteen for stretching and thirty of exercise. Difficult, but not impossible.

Stretching and exercising are key components in self-care. In addition to the many tips for working these forty-five minutes into hectic schedules is the health logic behind the need. There are two points offering a differing point of view. The first, stretching is detrimental right before a hard workout and the second is the inclusion of ballistic stretching. I need to ponder these ideas more.

The connection of stretching to mental health is presented. Both stretching and exercise provide mental and physical benefits. As the author presents, life is about choices. Daily stretching and exercise are beneficial choices, ones I hope to continue.

Mental Wellness

The last chapters of the book focus on aspects of mental wellness. Stress Less, Think Positively and Believe in a Universal Force of Goodness are the topics. These self-help chapters are crucial in today’s negative world. The ideas seem simple, yet can be hard to achieve.

In the chapter on stress, Ghiyam discusses the correlation between mental stress and physical illness. Then she offers steps to alleviate the pressures of everyday life. For example, in a Move Forward Everyday box, she suggests packing a lunchbox to alleviate stress caused by hunger (and out of kilter sugar levels), not going to bed angry, and idea I have already adopted, making a to-do list for the following day.

In another box, the author discusses personal relationships. Again, the insights are helpful and positive. As are the many anecdotes and examples throughout. This continues into the following chapter, Think Positively.

To be honest, reading the chapter on positivity kept reminding me of a young blogger I personally know and follow. Madison Dorenkamp posts frequently on staying positive as well as “deleting the negatives.” Click here to read a post on positivity written at the beginning of the pandemic.

Mary Ruth Ghiyam is another positive soul. She is inspirational. Perhaps those individuals that have truly faced hardships are the best role models for facing adversity with a positive outlook. Her thought process shared in the book is one to follow. Stuff happens. The true measure of an individual is how one reacts to the “stuff” of life.

This ties into the final chapter, Believe in a Universal Force of Goodness. This inclusive chapter has a lot to offer the reader. At times, such as this pandemic era, things will be beyond control. Belief can carry an individual past the crisis.

Recommendation for Liquids Till Lunch

I checked this book out of the library. Soon, copies will be purchased. Self-help books are among my favorite gifts. Liquids Till Lunch certainly qualifies for this category. I highly recommend!

Book cover of Liquids Till Lunch

The Heat is On

Triple Digits

Here in my little corner of the world the heat is on. The days of triple digit heat are bearable only by getting outside work done by 9:00 A.M. and staying inside the remainder of the day. Air conditioning is a help.

The critters are also reeling from the heat. Box turtles and garter snakes are seeking refuge on the shade of the porch. The startle effect is great even when you know they dwell in the garden. The toads look forward to the watering cycles and seek hiding spots under the portulaca and cucumbers.

The heat is on high this time of year. Noon lunches no longer happen outside as temperatures edge closer to the triple number. Nor do evening dinners as the cool down often occurs after bedtime.

Indoor Activities

Central air allows me to work in the kitchen after the heat chases me indoors. Canning tomatoes, grape jelly and processing beans for the freezer is doable with the cool air. I am thankful for living in the time of electricity. And sympathize with those across the world without reliable energy. Rolling brown outs would make life difficult. No electricity even more so.

Other activities take place in the basement. The craft room is a combination of sewing space, book shelves and garden planning area. The underground aspect provides a naturally cool place to hang out. I can see why early settlers to this part of the country lived in dugouts.

Ways to Combat Nature when The Heat is On

When we first moved to this small town on the High Plains we lived in a house built shortly after the First World War. Naturally, the house did not have air-conditioning. We were fortunate to have a row of mature evergreen trees on the west side of the lot as well as a towering poplar tree on the southwest side of the house. This experience gave us ideas for when we were finally able to build our present house back in the early ‘90s.

Deciduous trees planted to the south and southwest of a building will provide shade in the summer and at the same time allow the sun to warm the house during the colder months. Porches also provide a relief from the sun.

Windbreaks also help. Trees can act as windbreaks as can hardscape fences. A twenty mile an hour wind can be brutal at extreme temperatures-such as triple digits when the heat is on. Those southwest winds can create an oven effect. Not a pleasant experience and why this time of year is my least favorite.

Back in the days of no air-conditioning, we cooled down in two ways not related to nature. The first was to take the kids to the community pool on nights it was open. The second was to frequent the town’s lone cinema. Both provided relief.

Last but not least is drinking plenty of liquids. Non-caffeinated, sugarless are preferable. And that means a heavy concentration of water. Staying hydrated combats the intense heat.

I am counting down the days until September 22nd, the first official day of fall.

 

Providing Natural Cooling

Trees providing natural shade when the heat is on

The Scorpion’s Tail Book Review

The Scorpion’s Tail Book Review

I picked up The Scorpion’s Tail in a New Mexico bookstore because it was written by one of my favorite writing duos, Preston & Child. No reading of the front cover or checking of the publication date. So, I was in for a surprise and a treat.

The Scorpion’s Tail belongs to the Nora Kelly series but reads as a standalone-for the most part. One character waltzed in toward the end without much introduction and then quickly waltzed out. It was not a major problem for this new reader although I am sure previous readers of the series had a better idea of the relevancy.

Women Driven

The novel has a wide cast of characters. Young FBI Special Agent Corrie Swanson and archaeologist Nora Kelly drive the action. Sometimes their paths meander apart, but the key action brings them together to unravel the mystery of hidden gold. Female leads make the action interesting, although Nora Kelly is backed up by her brother and the young FBI agent seems to get along quite well with an equally young Sheriff Homer Watts.

There is a balance. The authors do have an action thread toward the conclusion driven by the aforementioned Watts and Supervisory Special Agent Hale Morwood. It is quite refreshing to read an action/adventure where neither sex is diminished.

The Scorpion’s Tail Location

It was a treat to read a novel set in New Mexico. Especially, on my return trip from visiting Santa Fe. The descriptive settings matched the terrain we were driving through. Preston & Child capture the vast wilderness without slowing down the action. Picturesque writing to mirror the gorgeous state.

New Mexico

New Mexico Landscape

Plot of The Scorpion’s Tail

Essentially the tale of The Scorpion’s Tail is a treasure hunt. Multiple entities are on the hunt for ancient gold. During the ensuing search, looting and murder bring in the authorities. Special Agent Swanson enlists the aid of Nora Kelly in order to identify a mummied corpse.

There are only a few twists and turns in the plot. The bad guys are fairly easy to identify. Instead, the plot is a race to find the gold. A highly entertaining race!

Recommendation

I highly recommend The Scorpion’s Tail. Everything about the book is topnotch. Even though part of a series, the novel stands on its’ writing. The characters are well-developed and I plan to go back and read Old Bones where both Kelly and Swanson first appear on the page. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have another hit on their hands.

Summertime in Santa Fe

August Get Away

A quick August two day trip gave us a look at summertime in Santa Fe. Mid-Covid-19. New Mexico implemented a hard shut down in 2020. At the present time rules are more relaxed. But evidence of the pandemic remain.

On our approach, highway warning signs proclaimed- Delta variant is here: Cases on the upswing- in blinking lights. So, tourists are forewarned. We took notice an acted accordingly.

Favorite Haunts

Many of our favorite places remain operational. Once again we stayed at The Inn of the Governors. This non-branded hotel offers exceptional service. We noticed quite an increase in price. Since this is our first summertime in Santa Fe trip, it is unknown if the higher prices are normal or a sign of inflation. Before, we visited in the off season.

A few places were no longer around. Our favorite cheese shop closed in 2020. The bike rental place indicated they would not be open in 2021. (We hiked a 10K instead.) But all three of the restaurants discussed in Wintertime Santa Fe were thriving.

For the most part we relaxed and stayed away from crowded areas. We took advantage of the outside dining at Osterio D’Assisi. Coupled with a late dining hour, we felt quite comfortable sitting in the open air. It was nice to chat with the couple at a nearby table, all while maintaining social distance.

Our second night, we ordered takeout from Del Charro and relaxed in a small alcove outside our hotel room. The weekend crowds had built throughout Friday afternoon and that factored into the decision. Tired legs were also an influence. The hanging baskets, replete with hummingbirds provided ambiance.

Hidden Gem of the Summertime in Santa Fe Visit

The highlight of the trip was the discovery of a new place to grab a bite of lunch and escape from the hustle and bustle of life. And we found Ahmyo Wine Garden by chance. Serendipity at play.

Undeterred Friday morning by the inability to rent a bike, we explored the area north of Santa Fe by foot. Fort Marcy Park was the starting point of our trek. We meandered through the neighborhoods for about three miles before connecting to Gonzalez Road for the return to town via a trip down Canyon Road.

Our plan was to stop at The Teahouse on the upper part of Canyon, a street know for art studios and boutiques with just a sprinkling of eateries. Unfortunately, The Teahouse was packed. Tables close together and the wait list an hour long.

So we continued downhill looking for outdoor seating. About half way down I spied a sandwich board advertising the Ahmyo Wine Garden. It was almost lost among the many signs on Canyon Road. After walking through the art gallery, one stumbles upon a true hidden oasis.

We split a sandwich and a cheese board, drank our fill of bottled water, one sparkling and one still. And sampled a local New Mexico wine. The restaurant has been open only a few months with the addition of wine in the last few weeks. Very few people were there- a hidden gem that I doubt will stay unknown for long. But in this time of Covid-19, I was glad to find a place with tables spread out in a peaceful garden. The ambiance made up for a limited menu. Perfection, pure perfection. If you visit Santa Fe, make sure to take a break at the Ahmyo Wine Garden.

Fountain in Ahmyo Wine Garden
Dragonfly sculpture

Signs of the Pandemic

In addition to the aforementioned Delta is Here highway sign, many people donned masks throughout the city. Currently there is not a mandate. Businesses had Covid related messages on their entries. The signs varied by request. I noted many “if you are vaccinated masks not necessary, but mandatory for unvaccinated.” A few asked all to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Compliance was high. But not 100%.

There were people coughing. I will admit this is a bit unsettling. And I wonder how long a simple cough will make me nervous. It truly is a curse to live in interesting times.

Pent-Up Demand

There were many signs of pent-up demand. Summertime in Santa Fe is full of tourists, pop-up art shows, musicians on The Plaza and a back to normal Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. Restaurants are full, as are hotels. Merchants must be relieved to ring up sales again.

Delta is lurking. Two-thirds of adults living in New Mexico are fully vaccinated. Will this be enough to provide protection from the influx of visitors? It is too early to tell.

Striking a balance is key. Enjoy the slideshow.

Summertime in Santa Fe

The Bounty Book Review

The Bounty is a Fox and O’Hare adventure written by Janet Evanovich with Steve Hamilton. The series features mastermind Nick Fox and his FBI handler Kate O’Hare. A series that I started reading with the first release- The Heist. But the series has had a change of co-writers through the years. And I will admit, The Bounty is the first of the series I have read in a while.

Plot of The Bounty

The Bounty is one of those around the world adventures. The opening scene has Fox and O’Hare consulting with the Vatican Security to stop a theft. However, a problem arises and it is a huge conflict of interest for Nick Fox. The successful burglar is none other than Quentin Fox. Nick’s Dad.

For readers, the action scenes at the Vatican provide the hook to keep reading the novel. This remains the case throughout The Bounty. Each time I was tempted to stop reading, the action pushed me forward. From one country to another. All in pursuit of gold-stolen by the Nazis.

In other words the action is quick paced. So the story shouldn’t drag. Yet at times there was drag…something was off.

Writing Duos

I have reviewed many books featuring co-authors. The most recent, the excellent offering by Christina Lauren with The Soulmate Equation. I also enjoy novels by popular duo Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Further, I love the combination of Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison.

Since The Bounty is the first collaboration between Evanovich and Hamilton, I am willing to read a follow-up attempt. I will be looking for more tension between the main characters as well as quick paced action.

I envy prolific writers. There are times when I struggle with each sentence. Furthermore, I respect authors such as Evanovich that can capture the reader with the same character such as Stephanie Plum for decades. So, I was a bit disappointed in the characters of The Bounty. The personal interactions were forced and out of character.

Recommendation for The Bounty

The copy of The Bounty that I read was a large print edition borrowed from the public library. Perfect for reading on a day one needs to stay indoors. My suggestion is to look for a copy at your local library or read an E edition. And if you are not fans of either author, another book choice may be for you.

Meant to Be Book Review

Small Town America

Fictional Mason, Kansas, the setting for Meant to Be, is representative of hundreds of small towns across the Great Plains. And thousands of similar communities all across flyover country. Even though Jude Deveraux paints a less gritty picture than those of author Kent Haruf, the depiction of small town life hits a bull’s eye.

Outsiders to rural America are not immediately accepted. Adapting to places without stoplights and shopping malls can be difficult. Unravelling who is related to whom and how, is even more challenging. Over time individuals either become part of the community. Or move away.

The roadblocks in life are just as taxing for those born and bred in small towns. The yearning to explore the outside world can run strong. The struggle between desire and duty to family is very real. Deveraux captures this conflict in her latest novel.

Meant to Be

Growing up I often heard the phrase “It wasn’t meant to be.” My paternal grandmother used it most often. The words were an effort to console a youngster when she couldn’t have everything she wanted. Deveraux’s use of the phrase takes a slight twist. Sometimes things are meant to be-regardless of what life presents. In this book, true love among the key characters is inevitable. Life delays, but doesn’t erase.

The storyline revolves around the Exton sisters. Close in age, but far apart in dreams. Vera yearns to explore the world while Kelly desires to make the small town of Mason her world. Throw in multiple love interests and you have an intriguing tale of passion and true love.

Generational Themes

Meant to Be begins in the early 1970s and continues to the present day. The sisters age and remain close in heart if not proximity. There are twists and turns as each generation faces consequences stemming from the actions of the initial characters. The author’s writing tugs at the heart strings. Life is messy and world events impact small towns on a grand scale.

I thoroughly enjoyed Meant to Be. Deveraux captures the conflict of the Vietnam War, the complexity of Equal Rights and many other challenges of the past fifty years. Both technological and sociological. She paints a picture of change without preachiness. Or superiority. Instead, her writing reflects the culture. All while weaving a story of love, lost and found.

Book Cover of novel Meant to Be

July 2021 Wrap-Up

After a two month hiatus I am returning to the monthly wrap-ups with the July 2021 edition. This month will include a comparison of prices as well as a summary of events. Even though the book reviews are fewer, the gardening and travel offer plenty to discuss.

Covid-19 and Summer Travel

Without a deep dive into the numbers, it is hard to correlate the media reports of new Covid-19 outbreaks with observation. In the last six weeks I have put 5000 miles on my Subaru Outback crossing the country. Thirteen states in all. People are travelling everywhere. In addition to a few examples of gas shortages, hotel rooms along interstate highways are also in high demand.

I still prefer to pack food along in a cooler. But to be honest this habit developed pre-pandemic. At the end of a long day of travel, often the last thing I want to do is find a restaurant. Picnic lunches at rest areas also hold an attraction over fast food.

July 2021 Travel

The longest trip in July took me all the way to Florida for the Celebrating Life event honoring my Mom. The much needed closure allowed me to see family that I was separated from during the Covid-19 pandemic. I truly hope this pandemic will run its course and does not get repeated in my lifetime.

I took a slight detour through Texas Hill Country on the return trip. It has been more than a decade since my last visit. This is a beautiful part of the country. And worth leaving the Interstate system to visit. Rural areas suddenly turn into small (and not so small cities) and vice versa. Fair warning, the torrential downpours still occur almost daily. Of course that makes for good grazing. I saw plenty of herds on my trip including the infamous longhorns. But no white Cadillacs with the horns on front. Most likely an iconic image of the past.

July 2021 In The Garden

The toughest part of travel in the summer is the neglect to the garden. Fortunately, the Raised Row technique I use keeps the Big Garden relatively free of weeds. However, a few cucumbers grew so big that they became food for my niece’s chickens. I did have enough of the right size to turn into six pints of pickles. The canning season is just getting started.

The first of the potatoes and the last of the garlic have also been harvested. Green beans, eggplant and tomatoes are all starring in the garden. Unfortunately, there have been casualties as well. Neither the artichoke nor the avocado were able to survive the neglect.

We are fortunate the rains continue. The most recent storm dropped over an inch. Plenty to help with the veggies which seem to prefer natural water over human supplied. The rain also helps keep the utility bill in check.

Overgrown Cucumbers

Cucumbers of all sizes
The chickens enjoyed the over ripe ones!

Fair Time

It is county fair time on the High Plains. Last year many of the fairs were cancelled or mere shadows of previous years. This year should be a return to normal. For those of you in major cities, many counties here have been without a case in months while the more populated counties average one every week or ten days. Thus it is hard for inhabitants to want to maintain isolation.

County fairs in this part of the country focus on the 4-H kids. They also offer rodeos and parades. The fairs are community events. Most of the county high schools have all school reunions in election years. That was skipped last year. A lost year. All school reunions are possible because average class sizes hover in the dozens-or fewer.

Price Comparisons in July 2021

My travel in July 2021 allowed me a glimpse at prices across the country. Gasoline has been the most intriguing. While it is $2.79 in my home town, a high of $3.65 was spotted in both Colorado and Tennessee.

I did some grocery shopping in Florida. The comparisons were quite interesting. Twenty pounds of rice in Florida is almost half what I pay. But the beef prices were much, much higher. I chalk that up to transportation costs.

Thus, the timing for the Inflation Check Challenge is perfect. The current quarter price comparison follows.

Inflation Check Challenge

ItemAmountJanuary PriceApril PriceJuly PriceComments
Planet Oat Extra Creamy Original Oat Milk52 Oz$3.49$3.99$2.99July Price on sale Regular price $3.99
Small Bag Signature Select Sugar4 Lbs$2.99$1.99$2.99April Price on Sale Regular Price $2.99
Signature Select Cream Style Corn14.75 Oz$0.69$0.79$0.79
Fleischmanns Active Dry Yeast4 Oz$6.99$6.99$7.19July Price Increase of $0.20
Bananas1 Lb.$0.59$0.55$0.59A return to January prices after a April dip.
Kraft Real Mayo30 OZ$3.79/$4.99$3.99/$4.99$3.79/$4.99A return to the January Sale Price
Meow Mix6.3 Lbs$7.78$7.78$7.78
Morton Salt26 Oz$0.94/$1.19$0.99/$$1.19$0.99/$1.19
Crest Pro Health Toothpaste4.6 Oz$4.99/$5.99$3.99/$5.49$3.49/$3.99A continued decline in price
Align Probiotics28 Count$26.58$26.58$26.58
Tide Botanical Rain Detergent92 Oz$11.97$11.97$11.97
Kerr Regular Mouth Canning Lids12 Count$3.18$2.88$2.28Sold Out in Both April and July
3M Ad. Allergy Furnace Filter1$15.88$15.88$15.88Sold Out in July
Dunkin Donut-Boston Cream1$0.99$1.09$1.17
Regular Unleaded Gasoline1 Gal$2.36$2.79$2.79In January and April prices were within a few cents. July prices had a twenty cent range in town.
A comparison of prices to keep track of inflation.

The Soulmate Equation Book Review

Dynamic Duo Writes The Soulmate Equation

The writing duo Christina Lauren pen a winning romance in The Soulmate Equation. The novel is a classic example of the genre. And fun to read. As typical for this type of novel, the initial antagonism gives way to mutual attraction. Only to have an event occur to put the couple back at square one. True romance.

 

Big Data

This is the first romance I have read that incorporated the element of Big Data into the equation. Hence the title Soulmate Equation is very apropos. The main characters are both geeky data analysts at their core. A mutual interest in stats paves the way for harmony-once the initial clashing is overcome.

The authors treat the background scenario appropriately. The mathematics adds to the storyline but does not usurp the theme of romance. This is nicely done by the duo.

Single Mom

The main character is Jessica Davis, a thirtyish, never married single Mom. She is supported by grandparents and a best friend in raising her young daughter Juno. As a free-lance statistical analyst, she often works from an independent coffee shop. The perfect setting to observe and reach her own conclusions about “Americano” Dr. River Peña.

Jess is portrayed as a hard-working and always harried single mom. So, juggling a career with school and after school activities leaves no room for romance. Let alone genetically driven dating apps. But she reaches a breaking point after one stressful day and sends in a sample. Then the fun begins.

Soulmate Equation

The authors do a great job of tapping into the idea of the perfect one in The Soulmate Equation. Surely, somewhere, sometime there is that lifetime match for everyone. If only we could know when and more importantly who.

In addition to the theme, the writing flows for the reader. The science is believable as are the characters. Human fallacies and personal doubts are explored all while showcasing personal growth for the characters. Both main and secondary. The Soulmate Equation is a fun read and a perfect romance. Well worth the price to purchase.

Cover of Soulmate Equation
Cover of The Soulmate Equation

Celebrating Life

Mom

A Celebrating Life event as a memorial to my Mom occurred this past weekend, approximately six months after her death. Celebrate is the proper term. She would have loved attending such a send-off. Much laughter, great food, music and dancing, with just a touch of solemnity and maybe a tear or two.

WOTM

Mom enjoyed being a member of the Women of the Moose (WOTM). She contributed regularly to Mooseheart, a very worthwhile program. And she travelled with my Dad to the annual conventions of Moose International. In her later years, as her dementia progressed, I joined her local chapter so I could attend the conventions also. This gave her a couple additional trips to enjoy. I am grateful they allowed us to do this since I live over a thousand miles away in an area without a chapter representing the organization.

The WOTM provided the ceremonious aspect of the day celebrating life. The dignified account of her involvement and their recognition was touching and brought a few tears to eyes. The opening ceremony gave way to a splendid afternoon.

A highlight was the wonderful spread spearheaded by the WOTM. Shrimp, salmon and snow crab were the stars for the seafood lovers. Fresh fruit and berries attracted the young children. Salads, breads, croissant sandwiches competed heavily with a variety of desserts for room on the dinner plates of the attendees.

Music

Our family loves music. All kinds of music. One of the things Mom and I had in common was our love of dancing. The duet hired for the occasion played lots of my Mom’s favorites. Songs from artists like Roy Orbison, Crystal Gayle and the Village People prompted dancers to fill the dance floor. Of course Mom’s favorite, Elvis, was showcased as well.

The performers were acquainted with my parents. This may have helped with the perfect song selection. I am so appreciative of their work. I needed closure and the afternoon provided! If you live in the Orlando area and desire live music, consider contracting Mark Good and/or Jody from Jody and The Trouble Brothers. I am thankful these two teamed up for our celebrating life event.

Celebrating Life with Family and Friends

Looking through old photos, it is common to find family photos at both weddings and funerals. Traditionally, the occasion could be determined by either smiles or somber faces. The Covid-19 pandemic did not allow a funeral to take place immediately following Mom’s death. So the photos taken are full of happy faces.

Identifying family members from old pictures is difficult. We were fortunate to have one of Mom’s cousins in attendance to fill in the gaps. Since one of the “greats” (great grandkids/grandnephews) is of college age maybe decades from now there will be the knowledge of the nature of the event. And someone to fill in future gaps.

Mom loved playing games with the youngsters. She also loved buying individual Christmas ornaments; Many Disney themed. I like to think she will watch over the little ones from the hereafter. Especially the one born shortly after her death. The little one that shares a name.

Six Months

Growing up, I celebrated half-birthdays with my mother’s side of the family. Born in the middle of winter and living half a country away did not lend itself to maternal grandparents celebrating the actual day. My cousins lived close to my grandparents. So they also participated in marking my half-birthday.

Ironically, Mom died the day before my birthday. And we held her celebrating life memorial close to six months later. Those same cousins honored their aunt by making the trip. They are spread across the country now so the journey is not easy. My aunt with whom I share a birthday also attended. I am so grateful for the family support.

Much Needed Closure

Everyone grieves differently. I tend to withdraw. My creativity is also affected. I actually stopped playing the piano after the death of one family member I was particularly close to. Something I regret now. So, I have struggled to continue writing. However, I plan to make every effort to fight the malaise.

Celebrating life in a non-traditional way was a perfect tribute for my mom. She would have loved the event. Surprisingly, I loved it too. Operating out of the comfort zone can be beneficial. I finally feel closure. We did indeed celebrate her life.

Four generations in a family photo

Summer Travel; Random Thoughts

A Few Rambling Remarks

The year 2021 is full of Summer Travel; Random Thoughts follow. Like many Americans, I am hitting the road after a year of little travel. In addition to conferences and work trips, newborn babies and wedding planning call for many trips. Of varying length. So I am throwing out some observations.

Masks

As the summer wears on, I see fewer and fewer masks. The exception is among children and young adults. The children make a lot of sense to me. Under 12 are not eligible for vaccines. Less so the young adults. But perhaps they are taking extra precautions. Now that I am thinking about it, some of the very elderly also have face wear.

Crowds

Groups are beginning to gather again. While I felt quite comfortable at a conference of two hundred, I am still a bit leery of inside gatherings. However, so far so good. Outdoor gatherings make me a little less apprehensive, but I have never been one to enjoy standing cheek to jowl. From the Ohio River Valley to the High Plains of Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming, people are getting out and about.

But some crowds cause concern. Especially in areas where the delta variant is present. Mesa County, Colorado is far, far, away from me. But, the county hosted a country music jam in late June. At the same time, the delta variant was rearing its’ ugly head in that locale. Repercussions are just now coming to light. Numbers are trending up.

Similarly, parts of the Southeast-next on my travel agenda-are experiencing huge upswings. I will be staying with family. All elderly, all vaccinated. So I will travel, but cautiously. Drive through eateries along the road will become the norm on this next journey.

Summer Travel Cross Country Style

Late May and early June trips went without any hiccups for my spouse and me.  The trip to Kansas was quite easy. Traffic is returning, but the roads were not clogged. The same for the Rocky Mountain highways of Colorado and Wyoming. And gas prices were reasonable.

Travelling in late June was another story. This was a much longer trip to the Ohio River Valley on a journey to Cincinnati with tours of Bluegrass Country wrapped around the conference destination. My travelling companion thought I was a tad bit weird, filling up the tank at each stop vs. when on empty. That is until we stopped in Columbia, MO and hit a gas station totally out.

I had been reading about shortages in various locations. Of course press coverage exacerbated the problem to the point small sized cities ran totally out. The explanation is not a shortage of fuel, but a shortage of labor. Not enough people to drive the fuel trucks. Thus, a labor shortage created a fuel supply shortage.

Labor Shortages

Long Haul drivers are not the only labor shortage. Restaurant staff is also in short supply. On the aforementioned Ohio Valley trip, a stop to get some lunch ended in a return to the Interstate. The two restaurants were closed. One had a help wanted sign. Many other places also had help wanted signs.

I think a combination of factors is driving this shortage. Many people are out and about making up for the year of isolation. Some Baby Boomers have decided to go ahead and retire. While the Federal unemployment has ended, some states have continued the unemployment payments. Thus no incentive to work.

Furthermore, the younger generation is looking at things differently. When talking to one of my offspring, I was asked why one would enter a career of long haul truck driving when autonomous trucks are already in the testing stage. What would be the upside?

Other conversations include a chance to move beyond entry level jobs sooner because Baby Boomers are leaving the work force. And a concern about the possible resurgence of the virus due to the inability to reach herd immunity.

Summer Travel Concerns

My summer travel plans are centered mostly on visits to family. A year apart was difficult. Other trips revolve around business interests. Maybe next year I will travel just to travel, in other words take a vacation. My bucket list of places to see hasn’t had much ticked off lately.

But there are some concerns. First and foremost when travelling by car is the availability of fuel. Next of course is the price levels. (Those of you participating in the inflation check challenge, this is the month to re-check.) Of course weather is a constant concern.

This next trip will be solo. Nothing new for me. But I will follow the precautions listed in this post on travelling alone. I am thankful last year’ riots have simmered down. My journey through the southern states is familiar territory. Stomping ground from my youth. I am looking forward to visiting family and driving some familiar roads. The United States of America has many, many beautiful places within.

A Distant Shore Book Review

A Distant Shore Is Christian writer Karen Kingsbury’s latest. This book of faith combines romance and finding faith while spotlighting the seamy underworld of child sex trafficking. The main characters each have their own reasons for doubting their faith.

Tragedy on A Distant Shore

The novel opens up with an American family vacationing on a beach in Belize. As two teenage brothers toss a football back and forth, a very young girl purposely swims too far from shore. Eliza sees the rip current as a way to reunite with her mother and brother who drowned at sea. She believes God will bring them together again. But He has other plans.

Jack, the oldest brother, immediately swims out to the rescue. He warns his younger brother to stay onshore. To no avail.

The young girl is saved. But the brother is lost.

Fast Forward

The story resumes a decade later. Jack is now a top notch FBI agent. Not caring whether you live or die helps. His new assignment is to infiltrate a sex trafficking ring by marrying the daughter of the owner. Unbeknownst to Jack, she is the same girl he saved years ago. Before he lost his faith.

Eliza is turning twenty. She has been “saved” for this day. Her father hopes to expand his business by marriage. Eliza is being sold. The horrors of her life have taken a toll. She no longer prays.

Sex Trafficking

The author creates a heart-wrenching story of a young girl forced to entice other young girls into her father’s brothel. The details of human trafficking are accurate. Victims are often young runaways, but not exclusively. Very young girls do get kidnapped and forced into this life of slavery.

The use of older girls to trick younger ones off the street into a forced life of a sex worker as depicted in the story is well documented. Kingsbury thoroughly researched the topic before weaving this tale of trafficking, faith and romance. Often this mix does not work, but in A Distant Shore the sex trafficking is an integral part of the story.

Finding Faith

A Distant Shore is a faith based story. The characters have lost their belief in God. Once Jack realizes who Eliza is, he re-evaluates his relationship with God. And with her. However, the weaving of faith into the story is not as seamless as it could be.

Struggling with one’s faith after a tragedy is natural. The concept is good.

The execution needs fine tuning. There was only one hiccup in the story line. Eliza’s father discovers Jack’s identity before the denouement, yet the author depicted a smooth rescue. At least to this reader.

Recommendation

I think all who enjoy Christian fiction will like A Distant Shore. Karen Kingsbury does an excellent job with the mix of rediscovering faith and the very ugly story of sex trafficking. My one complaint mentioned above does not negate the writing. Others have tried to mix romance with sex trafficking. (See my review of The Deception.)  Kingsbury strikes the right mix with her approach of romance and finding faith. A Distant Shore is a good addition to this genre. And the book accurately depicts the ugliness of human trafficking. This deserves a read.

Dial A For Aunties Book Review

An Unintended Murder

Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto is a chick read and soon to be Netflix chick flick. The book is delightful and I am considering signing up for the streaming service just so I can see how the characters are brought to life. Yes, that good!

The book is a murder without the mystery. Plenty of mayhem surrounds the “accidental” death. Hilarious mayhem. I will try not to give away too much of the story.

Meddelin Chin- Protagonist

Meddy is an American of Asian descent. Specifically Chinese and Indonesian.  The main character introduces the reader to her multi-lingual Asian family with much humor. The males fly the coop and Meddy, the obedient female, stays close to home. But she did have a secret life; during college. And her secret lands her in trouble.

Fortunately for Meddy, her mother and her mom’s three sisters are tight knit. So when the heroine shows up at home with a dead body, the foursome swing into action. Meddy must come into her own in order to keep the Aunties out of trouble. It is refreshing to see her character grow. And heartwarming to witness the family love and loyalty, amongst the bickering.

Additionally, Sutanto includes the right amount of romance. Meddy runs into her former love while trying to juggle a big wedding event with disposing of the body. Her stress levels increase exponentially as wedding drama entwines with the dead body. Fortunately, all is hilarity for the reader.

Dial A For Aunties

Dial A For Aunties is full of good humor, sibling rivalry and family love. The endings are happy in both the main and sub-plots. There are a few twists and surprises. The topics are modern and the language can get a bit “R” rated. Love and acceptance are key themes.

Secondary themes are mother-daughter relationships and the age old story of lost love rediscovered. The author does a nice job of introducing the reader to the Asian culture as they assimilate into urban America. Communication in a multi-generational family of immigrants can be difficult. The United States is behind other parts of the world when it comes to second and third languages.

I highly recommend Dial A For Aunties. Lighthearted reads are so important in breaching cultural differences in this day and age. Sutanto is already working on a sequel and one hopes she has a role in the film adaptation as well. Pick up a copy today!

Summertime Hail Storm

Zero Chance of Rain

A summertime hail storm struck this past weekend even though the chance of rain was nil. Thunder and lightning broke the quiet evening and lit up the skies to the north. I checked the forecast and the radar-zero chance of the storm coming south.  So, the bedtime ritual complete, I turned in for the night. Or so I thought.

An hour later pounding overhead woke me up. Immediately, I left the comfort of my bed and checked the backdoor to see if the racket was heavy rain or dreaded hail. At that point, it was hard to tell. So, I opened the front door. Tiny balls were bouncing off the driveway.

Next I checked the radar. A red cell was directly overhead. Not moving. And the pounding increased. Another peek outback and large peas were dotting the grass. Then the peas turned to small marbles. Perfectly round with the exception of one odd shaped ice cube. This hail stone was almost clear while the rest were opaque. Much like a perfectly formed snow balls. Just miniaturized.

The storm lasted thirty minutes.

Damage to the Big Garden

Naturally, my first thought upon awakening the next morning was the garden. The Big Garden was checked first. The lettuce row was shredded. The single potato in the middle of the root row was damaged as well. But the potatoes and sweet potatoes in the metal rings both inside and outside of the fencing fared better.

The tomatoes had whiplash, but most of the stems were intact and the flowers still open. However, the mallow was denuded of its beautiful purple blooms. Carrots and beets are still too small to show much damage.

Anything with a support was barely touched. This includes the peas which are bearing pods. Likewise, smaller leafed plants did ok. Unfortunately, the squash with its broad leaves show damage.

Raised Boxes

The raised boxes at the back of the property bore the most damage. The tomatoes there were not on supports. Now they resemble little trees sliced down by a tornado. The summertime hail storm showed no mercy.

The clusters on the Concord and Niagara grapes are so small and hard, I am hoping they escape the damage so readily seen on the leaves. On each side of the boxes are asparagus patches. One looked downtrodden and the other as if nothing but rain had occurred.  Such is the nature of hail.

Summertime Hail Storm and the Side Garden

The side garden should have sustained the most damage. But it didn’t and I am not sure why. I have the slicing tomatoes planted here. They have supports. The damage was greater than the Big Garden paste tomatoes but not nearly as devastating as the boxes.

The side garden is half produce and half flower.  (I plant flowers everywhere to entice the bees, but usually the ratio is much more lopsided.) The roses are budding out and show some damage. The peonies were protected-but still no flowers. This is year three since transplant. The peach trees shredded many leaves. The hail could not damage the fruit since the hard freeze took care of that first.

Container Plants

In hopes of a greenhouse, I increased the number of tropical plants in planters. While my potted flowers did well, the various tropicals did not. Severe damage was noted to the banana, turmeric, and artichoke. Minor damage to the avocado. The lime tree was somewhat sheltered by the house and showed no damage.

The zero chance of rain played into the mix here. All these planters could and would have been pulled onto one of the porches if I felt they were in danger.

High Plains Summertime Hail Storms

This part of the country experiences many hail storms. The last major storm was just four years ago. You can read about it by clicking here. The storms are hit and miss. Furthermore, they are unpredictable. This particular storm came from the north, but farmer friends less than five miles north of us had the rain without the hail.

Crop insurance plays a big part in farming operations. And Mother Nature still rules. Fields side-by-side can vary in how a storm affects them. Sometimes the change is within a field with corn stripped on one side but not the other.

Home owners also need coverage. Between the length of the storm and the tiny black specks under the roofline, there is a chance our roof sustained damage. An inspector will travel out from the Front Range next week.

My appointment is scheduled for first thing in the morning. I asked if he knew how far and he replied he hadn’t been out here in a long time. But he had used Google maps. He will either start out at 0’ Dark Thirty, or possibly come out the night before. Such is life out on the plains.

Summertime Hail Storm

Summer Hail Storm 5 Star Lettuce

Faith, Friends and Family

Faith, Friends and Family An Important Trio

Faith Friends and Family. Anyone over a certain age knows that life is full of challenges. Many different kinds of challenges. And those difficulties are met with varying success. I have discussed successes and failures before. But today, I am expressing my belief that the hardships we face as we travel through life are best met when enveloped with faith and surrounded by friends and family.

Faith

The definitions of faith are straightforward. The secular definition is: a complete trust in something. Many examples come to mind. A toddler’s trust in his parents. A patient’s trust in a doctor. Perhaps a lack of faith could explain a reluctance to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The religious based definition of faith denotes a strong belief in God or another deity as well as the principles of a specified religion. This type of faith needs no proof. There are numerous religions on this planet of ours. Unfortunately some conflict greatly with others.

On a personal level, my faith is a combination of belief in both Christianity and science. I know I am not the only person that can accept seemingly conflicting dogma. Truly, there are things that cannot be explained by science. Miracles happen.

But, a belief in science is critical. A few years ago, I was not remembering short term things, like where I put my car keys. Since I had a family member with dementia, this was quite concerning. So I began researching brain health.

The science is a bit more complicated than use it or lose it. Nonetheless, studies indicated new brain connections form from new experiences and processes. Econogal is one. My new hobbies including the Big Garden, another. Finally, the not so simple concept of mindfulness is also helping with my short term memory.

Spiritual Faith

I have a difficult time discussing my religious ideas. Beliefs present on Earth run the gamut from atheist to the most devout. For those believing in a deity, prayers are a component of that belief. However, not everyone prays the same.

In my greatest times of crisis, my prayers are quite simple. I ask for help in accepting God’s Will. Twice I have had children near death. On both occasions, I prayed for the ability to accept whatever the future held. Did I want them to live? Of course! Did I seek the best medical help available? You bet I did! But life is finite for all of us.

As a child, I was a voracious reader. The fables of Aesop and of the Brothers Grimm were favorites. Perhaps these influences explain my inability to pray for specific outcomes for myself. Stories such as The Invisible Life of Addie Larue (click here for review) reinforce this belief. Yet, I have no trouble in praying for the healing of others. Both body and soul. And I always pray for the acceptance of what life holds for each.

Friends

The second component of Faith, Friends and Family centers on friendship. Relationships are complex. It is hard to differentiate between friends and acquaintances. Often we spend much more time with the latter. Yet, friendships are among the most important bonds available to us.

Early Friends

I can still remember the name of one of my first playmates even though I never saw him after the age of four. Perhaps the fact our parents exchanged Christmas cards for many years reinforced the memory. But I also remember a schoolmate from kindergarten, one not seen since we moved in second grade. This was not the child of a parental friend. Both must have impacted my life for the memories to hold.

Thus, I can understand the concern created by the pandemic forced isolation. Only children may face the biggest impact. Even the fact that parents were also isolated at home may not have helped.

Childhood friends may not stay friends as adults. But I think the interaction is key to developing relationships later in life.

Shared Experiences

Recently, an evening was shared with college friends not seen in almost ten years. We picked up right where we left off. The bonds formed long ago stay strong even through absence. Conversation flowed, memories shared and much catching up was done. Hopefully, the next gap in time will not be so long.

For many, social media bridges this gap. My problem with these online entities is the inability to share privately. As well as the time delay. There is much to be said for being in the present. Another problem I have with social media is the lack of honesty. Seldom is life presented with all the warts.

Creating new shared experiences is key to maintaining friendships. It is also key to defining generations. I have been alive for many decades. But the last twenty years contain the most shared experiences. From 9/11 to the Covid-19 pandemic, the pages of the history books will be full.

Friend for Life

Many people say they married their best friend. I can relate to that. Anyone married for a length of time understands the work that goes into a marriage. And the many stages of a life together. Crisis can strengthen a relationship or tear it apart… I am one of the fortunate ones.

Faith, Friends and Family

Last but certainly not least in the concept of Faith, Friends and Family is family. A strict definition confines family to blood relations created through marriage and births. I am sure many would disagree. Blended families are an integral part of society. Adoptees and foster families have replaced orphanages. Family units are a key part of the culture I live in.

It is quite difficult to put into words just how important family is to me. My immediate family is quite small. However my spouse was the youngest of five. Farm families are decreasing in size but still much bigger than those of most city dwellers.

Covid-19 and 2020 marked the first year of just two of us for the important holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The meals were low key. Even though the traditional festivities were gone, the days were meaningful.

Many of my family will gather for a celebration of life this summer. I am looking forward to seeing all of my offspring, my Dad, and many of my cousins. We will honor my Mom’s life in a way that she would approve. Finally having some closure will be good.

The other big family event of the year will be a Labor Day weekend wedding. The bride and groom picked this date so attendees could have a chance of vaccination prior to the ceremony. They are looking forward to a wedding and reception sans masks. We will attend with great joy.

Family gatherings need to be filled with joy and happiness, not stress. Communication is key to making this happen. Another secret to a pleasant gathering is pitching in without asking. My best tip is to use empathy. It is true that until you walk a mile in someone’s shoes, it is difficult to understand where they are coming from. If someone is obviously having a difficult time be part of the solution.

Family Dynamics

Each family has its own idiosyncrasies. As any parent can tell you, each child is unique. The differing personalities are the beginning. But it is the individual life experiences which really affect family dynamics. Siblings may share some things, but not everything.

One of my goals is to be able to agree to disagree within the immediate family. This task can be daunting, especially in an election year. And I will admit, agreement on a topic does make life easier. But the agreement should be independent, not coerced.

The ability to communicate differences is key, in my opinion, to keeping function in family relations. This takes work. But the reward is great. None of us will live forever. It is important to keep bridges strong and to always, always have a gate in the wall.

Life is short. Faith, Friends and Family make life noteworthy. Make time for all.

Springtime in the Garden: A 2021 Update

The Big Garden

A Raised Row Garden
The rows run North to South

Spring 2021

Springtime in the garden varies from year to year. Some springs are over in the blink of an eye. Freezing temperatures give way to triple digits in a fortnight. But Spring 2021 is more like a story tale. Cool evenings are followed by warm afternoons. Rains have been gentle and frequent. This is a delightful change.

Early Harvests

Green onions and lettuces lead the harvest production. But the asparagus crop is not far behind. I plant onion bulbs early and often. Two to three green onions are consumed per day in our household. To be honest, leaving enough in the ground to develop into winter storage bulbs is a challenge.

Early herbs include Italian Parsley, chives and oregano. The first pesto of the season is made from a combination of these three. In addition to adding these herbs to our evening dishes, they add color to the spring garden.

Early blooming herbs include chives, horehound and sage. Of these three, the sage is the showiest. The sage buds are full and I expect them to be in full bloom by Memorial Day. In contrast, the horehound has small white flowers that are easy to overlook. I include all in small flower arrangements.

Successes This Springtime in the Garden

For the first time, I have successfully transplanted strawberries. Instead of small pots, I bought some bare roots from a local greenhouse. They have rooted in well-perhaps because of the good moisture.

Other garden additions include a beautiful Pink Lady apple, a plum and an apricot. The apricot arrived just two week ago and has not leafed out yet. One of the new blueberry bushes is also thriving. Unfortunately, the other was mowed down. Accidents happen in the garden.

My seed starts from this winter are just recently transplanted. Most look good. The tomatoes have doubled in size and the peppers and eggplant have added new leaves. The peanuts are holding their own and probably will not take off until temperatures turn hot.

Plants from direct seeding include beets, cucumbers, beans and carrots. All but the latter have poked their heads out of the soil. The raised beds have kept the growing area from being mired in mud. I truly believe in the raised row concept posited by Jim and Mary Competti. Read a review of there book by clicking here or visit there website here.

A Failure or Two…at Least

Winter kill was expected after the negative 28 F temperature recorded during the Arctic Freeze this past winter. This extraordinary cold took a toll on my figs and my almond. Neither has leafed out. Another mixed result came from relocating a small cherry tree. Only half the tree flowered.

I also failed in my attempt to grow sweet potato starts. Early leaves and roots failed to thrive. So, I will research more and try again next winter.

Springtime in the Garden: Wonderful Rains

The High Plains of America can be dry and windy. Much of the area was part of the Dust Bowl of the thirties and indeed, the past decade has had at least three years with less than ten inches of moisture for the entire year. But so far 2021 is different.

A minimum of three inches of snow fell in both January and February. Then the moisture really kicked up in March. Mid-month a three day rain event dropped 2.65 inches from the sky. Just over a week later, five to six inches of heavy wet snow fell.

April brought wind and a few small showers. I was worried that the faucet in the sky might shut off. The night temperatures stayed above the freezing mark from mid-month. This is very unusual.

Fortunately, the rains picked up again in May. Less than three weeks in and 3.3 inches of rain have fallen. The end result of all this moisture is a good base for the 2021 Springtime in the Garden.

The Four Winds Book Review

Epoch Times-Epoch Story

The Four Winds represents the best part of Kristin Hannah, her originality. The novel is set during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Mother Nature challenged many during these harsh years. Life revolved around survival.

Hannah often rotates between present and past in her novels. But, The Four Winds stays focused on this historic era. This change in style is appealing. Readers are caught in the dirty thirties. One feels the hopelessness experienced by this generation considered our Greatest Generation.

Protagonist

Elsa Wolcott Martinelli is the heroine of the story. Overlooked by her parents and sisters due to a childhood illness, she clings to words of a beloved grandparent in her most trying times. The love of her youth and the father of her children is Rafe Martinelli. But Rafe cannot handle the harshness of the land. Fortunately for Elsa, his parents provide the love, acceptance and strength she needs.

As the story progresses, Elsa is forced from the land she loves in order to save her son. The bulk of the story takes place in California. The small family of three end up in migrant camps. Elsa, and later the children, work at any day job available. The poverty is abject. The love profound.

Strength of The Four Winds

Hannah provides rich detail. The reader is transported to this unrelenting time period. Historical events are weaved into the story. But, The Four Winds really excels on the emotional level. Somehow, Hannah’s mastery of writing transports the reader into this epoch era.

The Four Winds is one of those books that draws the reader like a magnet. A page turner, but not because of suspense or mystery. Instead, one is compelled to continue the read by emotion. Will the plight of the Martinelli’s end? Is the never waving hope misplaced?

Recommendation

The Four Winds is an incredible tale of survival. The will to withstand a harsh climate. Fortitude to keep on despite rejection. Endurance of a personal nature.

But the greater theme is love. Multiple types of love.  A mother’s love, a child’s love, love thy neighbor and love of the land. Most of all, belief in one’s self.

Kristin Hannah has surpassed herself. Don’t miss The Four Winds. This novel is suitable for all.

The Four Winds Cover

April 2021 Wrap-Up

The April 2021 Wrap-Up signals the month is finally over. The month felt like a year in some respects. A small amount of progress was made on the last of the baby quilts. A tremendous effort yielded enough plants to fill the Big Vegetable Garden. Finally, I made it past my reading block and the writing is starting to come around as well.

Covid-19 Vaccinations

All of my immediate family has opted to vaccinate against the coronavirus. Reactions varied from none to mild. Mostly sore arm muscle at the injection site. This is a common side effect for me.

In my neck of the woods, many have decided not to vaccinate. Unfortunately, the result of a low vaccination rate is a resurgence of the viral outbreak. So, one way or another herd immunity should come about. Personally, I do not know of anyone who contracted the disease twice. But this new outbreak is taking a toll on the younger populations. This is particularly surprising because our students have been in school together since the fall. Thus there has not been an increase in contact and interaction.

Inflation Check Challenge– April 2021 Wrap-Up and Check-In

The comparison prices from the Inflation Check Challenge were quite a mix. Of the fifteen products, nine kept their regular price the same. However, sale prices changed with some showing a slight increase. Two items decreased in price. Bananas dropped four cents a pound. Most likely a seasonal adjustment.

Mysteriously, canning lids dropped in price. Not surprisingly the thirty cent price dropped resulted in an empty shelf. The product was sold out. I have no idea if the price will change again once new product arrives.

My expense for sugar was less because of a coupon, but the regular price remained the same. I love coupons! Both salt and mayonnaise remained on sale, but the sale price adjusted upwards.

The biggest increase was gasoline. It is now $2.79 per gallon. This increase took place in the early part of the quarter. I think the price has stabilized for a while. Here is the list:

Item                                                                                                                                   January 2021                                 April 2021                                                                                                                                                              Regular Price/Sale Price              Regular Price/Sale Price

Planet Oat Extra Creamy Original Oat Milk                                                                    $ 3.49/$ 3.99                        $ 3.99

Small Bag Signature Select Sugar                                                                                       $ 2.99                                      $1.99/$ 2.99

Signature Select Cream Style Corn                                                                                     $ 0.69                                      $ 0.79

Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast                                                                                          $ 6.99                                      $ 6.99

Bananas                                                                                                                                    $ 0.59                                      $ 0.55

Kraft Real Mayo                                                                                                                      $ 3.79/$ 4.99                           $ 3.99/$ 4.99

Meow Mix                                                                                                                                 $ 7.78                                      $ 7.78

Morton Salt                                                                                                                              $ 0.94/$ 1.19                           $ 0.99/$ 1.19

Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste                                                                                                $ 4.99/$ 5.99                           $ 3.99/$ 5.49

Align Probiotics                                                                                                                       $26.58                                     $26.58

Tide Botanical Rain Detergent                                                                                              $11.97                                     $11.97

Kerr Regular Mouth Canning Lids                                                                                       $ 3.18                                     $ 2.88      Sold Out

3M Ad. Allergy Furnace Filter                                                                                               $15.88                                     $15.88

Dunkin Donut-Boston Cream                                                                                                $ 0.99                                      $ 1.09

Regular Unleaded Gas                                                                                                             $ 2.36                                      $ 2.79

 

Yellow Roses in Honor of Mom