Life after the Loss of a Loved One

Death comes to all, but those left behind still struggle with life after the loss of a loved one. Individuals grieve in various ways. Some fall apart at once. Others are more stoic. Some need time and space to mourn alone while others can only function if surrounded with family and friends.

Grief

Grief itself can sneak up on a person. One can be operating on all cylinders and then suddenly all gears stop and one roams aimlessly around not completing even the simplest of tasks. The emotion can appear suddenly in physical form. Personally, I experience a tightness in my chest. And sometimes tears swim in eyes that were clear moments before. Others have headaches or lose their appetite.

Sudden loss is devastating. But grief is great even when hospice has been called in. Life after the loss of a loved one is never the same. Pictures help. Videos preserve voices as well. But the interaction cannot be replaced. No smiles when you walk into a room. No more hand-holding. There is a finality in the loss of a loved one.

Life after the Loss of a Loved One

Numbness best describes the first few days. Perhaps this allows the body to absorb the shock. Life is complex and intertwined. Death means a thread has been cut. And somehow those still living need to incorporate the end of that thread into the remainder of the fabric that reflects their own life. This can be difficult.

My memories are positive ones. Even though the pandemic kept me away these last months, I cherish the time prior. The dementia experienced by my mom never kept her from knowing me. The bond between mother and child is strong. The love continues after the loss.

Circle of Life

Each of my children have their “own” first name and then a family name in the middle. This tradition continues. My next grandchild will share my Mom’s middle name. She is due anytime now. Mom would be so delighted. And in this time of grief, life continues with hope for a bright future.

Rest in peace Mom.

 

 

 

New Year 2021

It is quite possible New Year’s Eve 2020 was one of the most anticipated eves in history as many were eager to start a new year in 2021. Econogal was no exception, until age crept in. As one gets older, limberness dissipates. To make a long story short, I managed to torque my knee just in time for the New Year. I am waiting for an MRI to confirm a suspected tear to my meniscus. Unfortunately, events went downhill from there.

Dementia and Coping with Covid-19

I have written many times of my Mom’s dementia. She has been in a nursing home for the last several years. Either my Dad or I would visit daily to make sure she would eat. Even though a nursing home is not the ideal situation, both my parents made the adjustment.

But then the pandemic struck. Last spring in the middle of a visit Dad was asked to leave. The nursing home was shutting down to all visitors. He had no idea it would be months before he could see my Mom again. Life for all of us permanently changed in 2020.

By the time monitored outside visits resumed in the fall, Mom had lost fifteen percent of her weight. I am sure she picked at her food, forgetting the basic concept of eating to live. She did recognize Dad. And she hated the wearing of the masks.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 made a sweeping appearance in the nursing home in early December. It was hard not to cry when Dad called to say she had tested positive. Then on Christmas Day she left the Covid-19 isolation wing. I was Zooming with family in Florida while they were on Facetime with my Mom. She couldn’t understand it all but she looked good. No physical signs of trauma from the virus.

Hidden Damage

The joy was short lived. Now she can’t swallow whole foods. Everything is pureed. More weight has been lost. She does not seem to have the will to live. Officially, she is receiving hospice care and so my Dad is allowed to visit indoors for a short amount of time. Words fail me.

A New Year

2021 is officially here and not off to a good start either personally or nationally. The New Year looks to be yet another rollercoaster ride with highs and lows. Perhaps the inauguration will begin to heal the nation. It will be hard to forget the events of January 6th. I am glad our system prevailed but saddened about the large gulf in our populace.

The United States of America has a unique history.  Divisiveness has existed throughout. With the exception of The Civil War, the inhabitants of this nation were able to reach compromise if not consensus. My hope is the ability to negotiate between factions and viewpoints will remain. Diversity is good, yet unity is also an essential for the continuation of this great nation I call home.

Econogal in New Year 2021

The New Year is certainly off to a shaky start. There may be gaps in the posting. But it will be important to grieve. I know there will be loss. And new life and new family. My goal for 2021 is to embrace life, and all it offers. I send wishes of peace to all.

 

December 2020 Wrap-Up

Today is the last of December 2020 and the end of a very long year. 2020 was unique and not necessarily in a good way. Yet the year will be long remembered, and that is historically positive. Therefore, this wrap-up will extend beyond a monthly account and provide glimpses of what the entire year felt like here on the High Plains.

Change can be difficult. Self-discipline even more difficult and 2020 required both. Our household is inching closer and closer to the Over-The-Hill category. One of us has multiple “co-morbidities” and we both have thyroid issues. A year ago I would have said we both had another fifteen to twenty years on our lifespan. Now, who knows? So we are and will continue to be cautious with respect to Covid-19.

December 2020

Our month started out with the dreaded news that multiple family members had contracted the virus. Not all at the same time. The earliest was an octogenarian uncle who contracted the disease just prior to Thanksgiving. He died in early December. He had many co-morbidities. So his death was not unexpected. We were able to watch the graveside service via a livestream video. It was hard not being there in person.

Norman was a special man. A farmer by trade, he could have easily been a minister. His Thanksgiving 2001 grace still registers with my offspring. The prayer was both spiritual and patriotic. Perfect for those trying times. I will never forget the support he gave me in the early 90s after one of our little ones was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. The sporadic phone calls always seemed to occur when I most needed them. Rest in peace Uncle Norman.

A Low Key Christmas

A few days later, my spouse brought home a Norfolk Pine from the grocery store and we decided to use it as a Christmas tree. The live plant stands about three feet high and we placed lights upon the branches and packages underneath. Low key, yet the cheery tree greeted us each time we opened the front door.

Lights were hung on the front porch and the Christmas dishes were used throughout the month. Determined to keep with the spirit of the season, I made multiple batches of cookies to distribute to neighbors and family. We enjoyed our fair share as well.

I brined a turkey for the first time, and I will never roast one again without brining first. First of all, I really did not know what I was doing. However, I tossed some fresh garden herbs into the boiling salted water along with turmeric. The result was fantastic. I added little in the way of spices for the leftover dish Turkey Tetrazzini, yet it was one of the most flavorful dishes I have ever made. Brining the turkey is a new requirement in this household.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Chocolate Cship
Chocolate chocolate chip cookies
Pecan Pie Bars
Chocolate Fudge shortcake Pan cookies
Tumeric flavored brine

Celestial Delights for December 2020

Perhaps due to the brilliant clear skies we have in this part of the world, we are avid stargazers. December 2020 brought us several opportunities to embrace the cold nights by gazing at the above sky. The Geminid meteor shower is one of my favorites. One evening we spotted ten meteors in about thirty minutes.

But the highlight of the month was the appearance of the “Christmas Star.” The great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is one I will remember. I place it with the Total Eclipse of 2017 as a treasured event. Truly, some things only occur once in a lifetime.

Other December 2020 Highlights

I continue to post my top list of books for the year. Click here for the 2020 list. My reading has fallen off a bit the last few weeks, but I am currently reading a Christmas gift, American Nations by Colin Woodard. Look for the review in January of 2021.

I also began another garden experiment. The remainder of my sweet potato crop was too small to cook. The root vegetables were less than an inch across and only numbered three. So two were tossed in the compost and the third was placed in a glass jar to hopefully spout. All through December 2020 I changed the water and watched roots slowly form. I was delighted to find sprouting stems and leaves on the 29th. I hope to grow slips from this plant as ordered slips often arrive in poor condition and weeks after the earliest planting time.

My quilting by hand continues. Christmas movies are great to have on while the tiny stitches are made. Many a cold December afternoon was spent in this way. However, I will need to begin cutting and piecing another baby quilt in January. My second grandchild is due late February.

Sweet Potato start in glass jar just beginning to sprout
Two quilts in hops for hand quilting

The Year of the Pandemic

It will be interesting to see how 2020 is treated by historians. While some countries have kept the numbers low, others have not. We are still in the middle of the pandemic and many countries are seen as having failed. My country is included among the failures. However as I wrote in my Successes and Failures post last January, we just need to keep trying. The Spanish Flu (which you can read a review of a good account by clicking here) came to an end and so will Covid-19.

My 2020 resolutions flew out the door rather quickly. In fact I had to look them up for this account. However, I was quite pleased that I managed to keep the third without trying. If there was ever a year for negativity, 2020 comes to mind. For the most part I stayed positive. A pandemic is something beyond my control. No need to be glum when something is out of your hands.

Gardening in 2020

Two items shine when I reflect on 2020. The first is my garden. I continue to advocate for the Raised Row technique first discussed in this March 2018 book review. The yields are great and the weeds are sparse. We are still enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor each time we open a jar of home produce.

Furthermore, I really enjoy the multiple experiments. I wrote numerous times about last spring’s peanut experiment which yielded a fair amount. I will use some of this year’s harvest to start next year’s plants. The legumes are great for the soil in addition to our eating enjoyment. As mentioned above, I am excited about my new sweet potato experiment. 2021 looks to be another good year in the garden.

Econogal 2020

Perhaps my greatest success has been my writing. Econogal readership is expanding, although not exponentially as viruses do. My favorite posts include Striking a Balance in May, Vail Valley Escape in July, Patience with a Side of Self-Discipline in November, Rainy Day Fund and Brave New World.

November was a key month with the number of hits on the blog almost tripling that of October. Perhaps people were just bored or stuck at home. However, I do appreciate the comments and the new followers. The community of bloggers is a solid one of support.

Superstitions

For the most part I am not a superstitious person. A key exception revolves around sports. Horse racing in particular evokes various superstitions. But I am a bit superstitious this New Year’s Eve. Last year I was full of expectations of 2020. This year I have absolutely NONE regarding 2021.

Furthermore, as you can see in the picture below, my planner for 2021 is not the artsy one of 2020 (that I had been so thrilled to find and purchase) but one much closer to the earlier years. I use planners extensively to keep track of my writing, the garden activities, and the weather. We have so little moisture on the High Plains, rain and snow measurements are key. Hopefully, a return to a plain, unexceptional planner will yield a less intense 2021. Happy New Year Everyone!

Planning calendars

Turkey Tetrazzini

Leftover Turkey Recipe

This is an adapted recipe for turkey tetrazzini. The original called for one pound of pasta and baking in a 9 x 12 roasting pan. I added very few spices because the leftover turkey I was using had been brined and was very flavorful.

Ingredients

½ lb. spaghetti

5 Tbs. butter-divided

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 oz. sliced mushrooms

½ cup dry white wine

2 heaping Tbs. flour

1- 1 ½ cups boiling water

1 bouillon cube

3/4  cup heavy cream

½ cups cubed or coarsely chopped leftover turkey

½ cup mozzarella cheese

1 Tbs. olive oil

2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

½ – 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

In large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the minced garlic and cook for two to three minutes until garlic begins to permeate the air. Add the sliced mushrooms and wine and cook for five minutes. Remove the mushroom mixture to a heat proof bowl. Do Not Drain.

 

Cook spaghetti according to package directions

 

Melt remaining butter in same skillet and whisk in flour. Cook roux 3-5 minutes until golden brown. Add teaspoons of mushroom liquid as needed. Add bouillon and boiling water, stirring mixture until smooth. Return mushroom mixture to skillet. Reduce heat. Add cream, peas, turkey and mozzarella cheese. Stir to incorporate.

 

Stir in cooked, drained pasta. Pour mixture into lightly greased baking dish. I used an 8 inch round casserole.

 

Mix olive oil and breadcrumbs, then add ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese. Reserve remainder of cheese. Evenly sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Serve with fresh Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Seasonings for Turkey Tetrazzini

As I noted above, few spices were added. The turkey tetrazzini still had the most amazing flavor. If you are not using turkey leftovers from a bird that was brined, you may want to add some spices. I suggest sage and thyme added with the boiling water and bouillon cube. You could also add some finely chopped onion with the garlic. We each had second helpings with plenty left over. The dish could easily serve four people. This is truly a wonderful dish.

Dry White Wine

Bottle of white wine
Wine good to drink is also good to cook with.

Turkey Tetrazzini

Casserole dish with turkey tetrazzini
Using leftover brined turkey gave a wonderful flavor.

Saturn, Jupiter, Faith and The Christmas Star

As yet another helicopter flies over head to transfer a Covid-19 patient out of my small town to a bigger city on the Front Range I am thinking of Saturn, Jupiter, Faith and the Christmas Star. The first two are actual matter albeit in the form of gasses. But the latter two have an internal existence. Each individual differs in their faith as well as in their acceptance of the existence in the Christmas Star.

Saturn and Jupiter

In a chart of our solar system, Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun and Saturn the sixth. If measuring the distance from the Earth, Saturn is twice as far away as Jupiter. The distance between Jupiter and Saturn is 456 million miles. According to earthsky.org, this is the first visible Great Conjunction since the 1200s. The Great Conjunction of the 1600s occurred during the day and thus could not be seen.

The Great Plains of the United States of America is a vast amount of land with few people. Thus the open sky has little light pollution. Perfect for stargazing, and watching the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. So, many evenings start with a check of how close Saturn and Jupiter are, followed a few hours later (on certain dates) of gazing skyward for meteors. November and December bring wonderful opportunities to see shooting stars.

Tonight, Saturn and Jupiter will be at their closest in hundreds of years. My understanding is this Great Conjunction will be so bright even residents of large cities will see the planetary alignment. But, a word to the wise, make sure to take a look just after sunset. Just a few hours later the planets move out of sight and you will need to look again tomorrow night. At that point the two will start moving apart.

Photo of The Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter taken December 18, 2020

Planets moving closer.

Faith and The Christmas Star

Since this year’s Great Conjunction occurs December 21st, many on social media as well as the main stream media have anointed the occurrence the Christmas Star. Through the years, people have searched for a scientific explanation for the original Christmas Star that guided the Three Wise Men to the East.

Theories abound including those of a super nova visible for a great length of time. A similar Great Conjunction is also a possibility. It is not surprising that people seek a concrete answer. But, I think the Christmas Star heralding the arrival of Baby Jesus can be taken on faith.

Proof versus Faith

The word proof makes me think of math. Untold hours were spent during my educational years working on proofs, mostly in geometry but also in calculus. In my mind, proofs were step-by-step calculations explaining the basics of math theory.

But I do not need proof to have faith. The concept of faith is the antithesis of proof. No calculations are needed. Faith is a belief. It may be a belief in a person or a theology or even an institution. The amount of faith each individual possesses varies.

Personally, I have a lot of faith. I believe good will overcome evil. Perhaps that is why I am drawn to novels featuring a struggle between good guys and bad guys.

Sayings such as “Things will work out for the best” and “It wasn’t meant to be” appeal to me. Faith allows me to accept outcomes contrary to my desires in the short term. Faith gives me the courage to make any changes I can in the long term. An occurrence such as death can never be changed and faith in my God’s will offers consolation.

Saturn, Jupiter, Faith and The Christmas Star

Tonight I will gaze at the Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. Individuals calling the bright light in the southwestern sky the Christmas Star will have no argument from me. It seems apropos in this madcap year of 2020 that a celestial body appear to remind us to have faith. We need faith in science, faith in our respective governments and faith in each other. Faith and the Christmas Star usher in 2021 and hope for a better year.

Christmas Shopaholic Book Review

Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella is a must buy to put under the tree or into a stocking. The spirit of Christmas peels from the pages along with much mirth and holiday joy. I did not realize this novel was the eighth in a series. It reads as a standalone, but I plan to find the earlier editions once the New Year arrives.

Becky Bloomwood Brandon – Christmas Shopaholic

The protagonist, Becky Bloomwood Brandon is in search of the perfect gift for her husband. And for everyone else on her list. She goes to great lengths and is thwarted in so many ways. She is a true shopaholic-spending so much in the quest for the great “sales.”

Her devotion to family and friends is evident throughout the book. So is her empathy for others. But she does have one key fault. Her penchant for assumptions.

Lighthearted Read

Christmas Shopaholic is a lighthearted read. The humor is outstanding and the characters are fun. And there is a little more. Kinsella sprinkles the true meaning of Christmas throughout the book. The underlying message is as rewarding as the therapeutic laughter derived from the madcap actions of the lead character.

Books serve many purposes. Christmas Shopaholic provides a wonderful escape from holiday stresses. Perhaps by showing what not to do. The novel, released just over a year ago, is a perfect relief for those experiencing the dual stressors of pandemic and holiday.

I read Christmas Shopaholic on the Libby App, but I may buy a copy for myself. Much like a desire to watch White Christmas and Die Harder each holiday season, I know I will want to re-read Christmas Shopaholic this time next year.

Christmas Shopaholic

To be honest, I almost didn’t finish the book. I started reading last week and then our family faced loss from Covid-19. But, I am so glad I picked back up where I left off. Life continues with laughter leading the way. Thank you Sophie Kinsella for a wonderful, wonderful reminder of the power of the Christmas season.

Elasticity of Demand and Supply in Regards to Covid-19

Elasticity of demand and supply can be difficult to understand. Perhaps it is the math. The formula for elasticity combines percentage changes as well as division. Furthermore, changes in both demand and price can differ by area. The approach to supply elasticity is similar to demand with the added piece of time. Both play a role in the shortages seen during the pandemic.

Elasticity of Demand

Remember when the news showed empty aisles of toilet paper? Or maybe you saw that first hand. Elasticity played a small part in this phenomena-the rest was irrational thought or fear. Toilet paper is an example of a good that is inelastic. There are few substitutes for toilet paper. Neither paper towels nor Kleenex are very good to use instead. American bathrooms are lacking bidets.

In normal markets, price acts as a stabilizer. But inelastic goods are impervious to price. Inelastic goods have few if any substitutes. Treatment of Covid-19 is complicated by government regulations. Prescription drugs are heavily regulated. A drug authorized to treat one disease or condition is not supposed to be used for the treatment of another without authorization. Since Covid-19 is new, no drugs were authorized early on. As time passes EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) of new or existing drugs occurs.

Treatment Options Impact Elasticity

Debate continues in the medical community about authorization of existing prescribed drugs to treat Covid-19. Remdesivir has EAU to treat Covid-19. This is one of the drugs given to President Trump. The drug is relatively new. Scientists developed Remdesivir to battle Ebola. The cost of the drug runs in the thousands of dollars.

Alternatives to Remdesivir include Ivermectin, a very cheap drug in comparison. Single doses of Ivermectin are less than ten dollars. This option has not received an EAU.  In recent weeks, medical authorities have testified in front of Congress on behalf of Ivermectin. If approved, a cheap substitute would impact the elasticity of Remdesivir.

In the U.S.A. non-prescription drugs are consumed to combat the symptoms of colds and flus. Many of these are also in demand for battling Covid-19. Products such as Theraflu, Tylenol Cold and Flu, Vicks, Mucinex-the list goes on and on-are easy to find. Since there are so many similar products the elasticity is great. A price change in one cues buyers to try another brand. Even at the height of the pandemic panic last spring OTC (Over the Counter) remedies were available.

Elasticity of Supply

Elasticity of demand and supply are calculated the same way. However, supply includes a time element. The three stages of supply are current, near future, and long term. Chances are you have experienced a need or want that was unable to be fulfilled that day. A restaurant runs out of the day’s special. Or your car broke down and the repair shop doesn’t have the needed replacement part. In both cases, current supply is inelastic.

Price is not a factor in these cases of on-hand supply. However, the elasticity changes in both the near future and the long term. The Covid-19 vaccine is a good example to show the elasticity of supply. Six months ago, there was no vaccine. Thus the supply was totally inelastic (and zero). Then testing began and a limited amount was supplied to test subjects. Now, the EAU for the first vaccine to hit the market means the supply is slightly more elastic. A year from now it is possible that anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. Furthermore, as more vaccines hit the market, individuals may be able to pick which manufacturer to choose from. This means more elasticity.

So in a period of eighteen months or so, the supply of a Covid-19 vaccine will have gone from a totally inelastic product to one with elasticity. Although probably not as elastic as products with lots of substitutes.

Inputs Impact Elasticity of Demand and Supply

Natural aspects of the pandemic impact elasticity of demand and supply for non-Covid-19 related goods. Illness not only slows production, but also drives demand for particular items such as anti-bacterial wipes. Yet, due to the element of time, production capabilities can’t meet the new demand. Furthermore, with inelastic demand and supply, price is not able to work as an equilibrium and so we have shortages.

People are avoiding crowds and travel. Price changes are not influential enough to change either the demand or supply. Suppliers such as cruise lines and theme parks have few buyers for their product. The lack of revenue threatens their very existence. If the pandemic lasts long enough many companies will go under.

Elasticity of demand and supply is at work. But remember, this is subject to change with the passage of time. The biggest problem for companies both large and small is the time element. Households have a difficult time with Rainy Day Funds and businesses are not any different. We are closing in on a year of Covid-19. How many of you can withstand a year of greatly reduced income? Or no income at all?

Basic Economics in Understanding the Pandemic Fall-Out

Part One: The Basic Economics of Specialization

Basic economics is key to the understanding of pandemic fall-out. Conversations regarding testing delays, layoffs, manufacturing and shipping delays, as well as other supply chain difficulties benefit from a public possessing an understanding of key economic concepts. The cause of lay-offs and furloughs as well as the importance of direct aid and/or compensation are all functions of basic economics. However, this knowledge is not widespread.

Principles of Basic Economics

From the very beginning of 2020, I voiced concern regarding supply chain disruptions. Many components of basic economics are important to the distribution of goods and services. Key theories for better understanding the disruption include specialization, changes in demand and supply, elasticity, economies of scale and profit and loss. Additionally, both monetary and fiscal policy play a role this year. Finally, Covid-19 directly impacts poverty and income distribution.

My high school economics experience was a unit in social studies. Economics in college was an elective for non-business or finance majors. Times change. Today, financial literacy begins in kindergarten. Many states follow the Jump $tart national standards. One can view those standards by clicking here.

I sat on the state committee adopting financial literacy standards. My biggest regret stems from the absence of a required high school economics course. Instead, the emphasis is on personal finance (which I agree is much needed.) The various units are taught either in a math class or a social studies course. Perhaps, if more economic theories were taught there would be less angst surrounding the pandemic fall-out.

History of Specialization

Adam Smith, the philosopher and author of Wealth of Nations, in 1776, posited the theory of specialization. Using a pin factory as an example, he explained how productivity improves if individuals concentrate on one aspect of production. The existing method consisted of each person performing each step. This revolutionary concept remains a major factor of today’s labor input.

Specialization is important in understanding our current labor woes. First of all, we are dealing with a novel virus. Therefore, tests for the virus are also new.

A great demand for testing triggered a response by companies to create and then manufacture the test. This first response while difficult, did not strain the economic cycle. Scientists train just for this type of work. Note: In the U.S.A. early test kits failed and a deeper exploration of business theory is needed to explain how this is a normal part of the cycle.

However, the creation of tests is not causing current stress in the economy. Instead, the problem is with the manufacturing, distribution and analysis of Covid-19 tests. The latter two constraints are key. While medical testing is not a new industry, Covid-19 testing strains current capacity. The huge desire for this test translates into a demand for more manufacturing inputs, including labor.

Meanwhile, distribution is not uniform across the country. Rural areas in particular still lack the ability to test anyone for the disease. Priority for testing goes to those already exhibiting symptoms. Test results often take more than a week. Why?

Specialized Training

The inability to process the samples is the most likely reason. Completing the process requires many technicians. Individuals trained in collecting mucus swabs are in demand. In the United States, this means medical staff. But, there is a shortage since nurses, EMT’s and doctors prioritize the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

Additionally, ordinary cotton swabs cannot be used. The cotton as a plant has its’ own DNA. So, synthetic swabs are required. An increase in production translates to a need for more inputs in the manufacturing process. This includes labor.

Furthermore, after the collection, samples need analysis. People are also needed to perform this task. Remember, this specific task did not exist just one short year ago.

Unemployment Not Equal to Needed Workforce

Specialized training takes time. Years in some cases. And even when training is shorter, new employees are needed. The hiring process is in itself time consuming. So, the end result is delays and shortages in the workforce.

An easy way to look at this inability to quickly and easily switch the workforce from one task to another may be found in the world of professional sports. Let’s look at football and baseball. Perhaps a quarterback can retrain as a pitcher. Both positions require a strong skilled arm. Retraining might take some time but the skill set is similar.

Now consider a center and a centerfielder. Centers snap the football to the quarterback and then block opposing players  from reaching the ball handler. Brute strength and quickness are critical but foot speed not so much. Centers are not known for their 40 yard dash times. On the other hand, a centerfielder requires speed to cover the vast outfield. The player also needs catching ability and accurate throwing ability. Converting a center to a centerfielder is a tough task.

Retraining the Workforce

Workforce retraining  for pandemic work is similar to the above example.  Imagine a laid off sous chef retraining to swab noses. A further complication is that this increased demand for labor to battle the virus will be short lived either due to a vaccine or a natural (but longer) dissipation of the viral pandemic. At that point in time what happens? More retraining?

This is just the tip of the iceberg with respect to unemployment and retraining. Another issue is the availability of healthy workers. The Covid-19 associated illnesses also contribute to production and transportation delays due to absent workers. Thus the nature of a pandemic directly impacts the labor force.

In addition to specialization, elasticities of supply and demand, economies of scale and profit and loss impact the ability to “handle” the pandemic. Subsequent posts will explain the importance of basic economics in understanding the fall-out from the pandemic. No one topic nor one post covers all the factors in the current disruption of the supply chain.

Cog wheel graphic

Econogal’s Top Twenty Books in 2020

Even though I am doubling my list and issuing the Top Twenty Books in 2020, I am still leaving some great reads on the shelf. This really isn’t surprising given the events of 2020. Pandemics by nature require solitude. Reading fills the time.

Favorite Writers

If I made a list of favorite authors, many more than twenty names would appear. Such is a life of an introverted avid reader. Several of the Top Twenty Books in 2020 are penned from old favorites. New series debuts and stand-alone books from familiar names such as Patricia Cornwell, Nevada Barr, and William R. Forstchen are on the list. Sequels from Jane Harper and Nora Roberts are also noted.

Familiar Names

Many of the books I read this year were either checked out online through the library app, Libby, or purchased on Kindle. In the case of Libby, long holds indicated top sellers. Several of these check-outs made the Top Twenty Books in 2020. New to me writers including Susan Mallery, Laura Silverman and Lorena Mc Courtney (and her Ivy Malone series) became mainstays. Escapism through books certainly was a theme for my personal sojourn through 2020.

However, quite a few books on the list are from established writers I had not read. Peter Heller, Kim Michele Richardson and Brenda Janowitz fall into this category. Discovering new to me writers became commonplace this year.

One Debut Author

Perhaps the inability to wander through bookstores or peruse the new arrivals table at the library can be blamed for the lack of new writers on the Top Twenty Books in 2020. The solo exception is Diana Giovinazzo. Her debut, The Woman in Red, is a fascinating story of Anita Garibaldi. I am still unsure of what moved me most, the descriptive settings of South America and Italy or the history of the woman behind the man. Giovinazzo is an inspiration. Her transition from podcast co-host of Wine, Women, and Words to published author gives hope to all unpublished scribes.

Favorites

Below are my favorite books from 2020. This list does not include any non-fiction. So, I failed in my goal of reading more from this category. However, Gina Kolata’s history of the 1918 Flu pandemic, published in 2011 is well worth a read. Unless you are tired of pandemics.

Clicking on each of the titles below will connect you to a book review from this past year. Most of the titles are releases from 2019 and 2020. Various genres are represented. I am sure you can find a great gift to put under the Christmas tree from Econogal’s Top Twenty Books in 2020.

Top Twenty Books in 2020

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

The Woman in Red by Diana Giovinazzo

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

What Rose Forgot by Nevada Barr

Stay by Catherine Ryan Hyde

48 Hours by William R. Forstchen

The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz

The River by Peter Heller

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

The Girl He Left Behind by Beatrice MacNeil

The Lost Girls of Paris– Pam Jenoff

The Rise of Magicks by Nora Roberts

Quantum by Patricia Cornwell

The Third to Die by Allison Brennan

Contagion by Robin Cook

Sisters by Choice by Susan Mallery

One Last Lie by Paul Doiron

Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

Invisible by Lorena McCourtney

Post-pandemic Travel

On this snowy December day, news of the United Kingdom giving the ok to distribute the first Covid-19 vaccine allows me to dream of post-pandemic travel. I am by nature a traveler. This year I have only stepped foot in four different states, two of which are within an hour of the one I live in. A far cry from 2017 when I traveled to twenty states. Since I do not fall into one of the early vaccination groups and because I may want to wait for one of the traditional vaccines, I doubt I will resume my travel habits until late in 2021. But I can dream. And compile a list of spots to visit.

Old Favorites

During this year of staying home, reminiscing about former trips has been a pleasant past-time. Many a summer and fall evening was spent talking on the back porch about favorite haunts. Concern was expressed as well, knowing how hard the lack of travelers would impact the destinations.

Santa Fe

We had hoped to visit Santa Fe in early October. The state opened travel just after Labor Day. But by the time our schedules opened up, New Mexico was closing down again. I know of at least one restaurant shutting down. Fortunately, one of my favorite art galleries on Canyon Road, the Wiford Gallery, has taken a pro-active approach. They have emailed and snail mailed updates on their artists and offered discounts on shipping. Additionally, I have received communications from Gruet Winery. I hope the many places highlighted in Wintertime Santa Fe will weather the storm. Santa Fe may very well be my first post-pandemic travel destination.

Nola

The best part of travel is trying the local cuisine. New Orleans, Louisiana is one of the top spots for Cajun cooking. One can order fried rabbit and fried gator. A tasty dish of shrimp and grits or a spicy shrimp poor boy are on many menus. Tasty beignets can follow a morning run along the Mississippi River. Trips to the Big Easy occur every few years. My last trip, which you can read about here, took place in March of 2018. So it is almost time to return.

Beaded Mardi Gras Mask
Mardi Gras Decorations
Paddle boat
View of Natchez from paddle side.

San Diego

San Diego is another favorite spot. If all goes well, I could see a possible return in November of 2021. Like New Orleans, San Diego has a wonderful place to run along the harbor. But the wide sidewalk gets crowded with tourists so it’s best to run early in the morning. Another great thing about San Diego is how bike friendly the town is. But don’t let this coastal town fool you. A ride to the top of Point Loma contains quite a bit of elevation.

Food again plays a large part of San Diego’s appeal. Both fresh seafood and spicy Mexican dishes are found in abundance. One of my favorite memories is of a catered event at the ball park. Great food and great views. During lulls in the ball park a simple glance to the west brought the harbor into view. A nice evening to cap off a conference.

New Destinations for Post-pandemic Travel

Of course my self-imposed stay close to home lockdown has generated a long list of new places to visit. This year’s reading has produced a diverse group of destinations. Domestic and international locales are on the list. I recently discovered a great website, Visit the USA.com which offers planned stops along multi-length trips. Since I like spontaneity, I tend to use travel articles, books and sites as starting points. Flexibility allows time to further explore and discover.

Book Inspired Travel

Last week’s review of One Last Lie, returned to mind a desire to visit upper Maine. Houlton, Maine looks like the perfect place to serve as a base for exploration. This international border town actually is West of New Brunswick, Canada. I so enjoyed my fall trip to Quebec in 2018, that I think a return to a nearby part of the world is likely.

Many of the books read during this pandemic were set in the Pacific Northwest. Although I vacationed in Oregon back in 2004, with a quick detour to climb Mt. Saint Helen’s, I have never been to Seattle nor to the Puget Sound. So this area is on my post-pandemic travel list.

Diana Giovinazzo, author of The Woman in Red, paints such wonderful descriptions of both South America and Italy, one wants to explore both regions. I have not experienced much intercontinental travel but maybe the opportunity exists in post-pandemic travel.

Most Likely Travel

The future is impossible to predict. But I hazard to guess that my first travel will be to see family in Central Florida. It has been over a year since I have seen two of my family members residing in the land of Mickey Mouse.

However, once that trip is made, I fear my pent up demand for travel will be further restricted by work constraints. The days of carefree travel are many years in the future for my travelling companion. So my list will grow longer.

What destinations are on your post-pandemic travel list?

November 2020 Wrap-Up

Even though I was a bit apprehensive as November 2020 approached, I am now a bit sad to see the month come to a close. I think my anxiety stemmed from the acrimonious presidential campaign. Even though the Electoral College has yet to meet, and so the outcome is not official, the country is on track for another peaceful transition of power. The Founding Fathers were sage statesman.

Stress Free Thanksgiving

Perhaps the most positive aspect of November 2020 was my immediate family’s adaptability with respect to Thanksgiving. We started the day with an hour long Zoom. It was a first for my Mom. She lives in an area of the country where Covid-19 positivity is declining and was able to leave her nursing home for a few hours. (Many precautions were taken.)

The family enjoyed seeing each other virtually. I treasured the time. From the oldest to the youngest, each of my loved ones looked healthy and happy.

The Zoom meeting was followed later in the day by a group text. Pictures of all the delicious dishes were shared by each of my offspring. The photos represented a first turkey, a bevy of side-dishes and fantastic desserts. I swear I gained weight just looking at all the food!

Stuffing and sweet potato casserole
Applesauce Bundt Cake

Thanksgiving for Two

My husband and I had a very enjoyable day. After the family Zoom, we took a long drive out in the country. Winter wheat fields of green contrasted with tones of amber where milo and corn stubble remained on the ground.

Upon returning home we popped our very small turkey breast in the oven. Homemade whole wheat rolls, a layered pea salad, sweet potato casserole, stuffing and an applesauce Bundt cake provided plenty to eat.

The garden contributed ingredients to many of the side dishes. The last of the homegrown sweet potatoes were in the casserole. I dug up the carrots for the stuffing Thanksgiving Day and along with onions stored from early fall, and we had a tasty dish. Green onions from the side garden were an integral part of the pea salad. Finally, the last of the tomatoes topped off the Kentucky Hot Brown made from leftovers on Friday.

I think my enjoyment stems from the satisfaction of utilizing the homegrown produce. Perhaps I felt a connection to the pilgrims celebrating their survival. We no longer have the need for self-sufficiency, but perhaps we lose some satisfaction when everything is bought at the store. Food for thought.

Final Reflections on November 2020

I spent quite a bit of time on my own in November 2020. Most of my interaction was with my husband. The pandemic is ravaging our area of the world and many of my neighbors are battling the virus with varying outcomes. However, I did make it to one of the small local businesses to finalize my Christmas shopping. Precautions were taken.

Perhaps I will not escape the virus, but I am making the attempt. Vaccines are likely in the coming year. In the meantime, I am happy creating quilts, reading and writing. I feel blessed to live in a happy home.

Kentucky Hot Brown before cooking
The last of the garden tomatoes make the Kentucky Hot Brown delicious.
Kentucky Hot Brown after cooking
This version of Kentucky Hot Brown leaves off the bacon.

One Last Lie Book Review

To be honest, the cover artwork for One Last Lie grabbed my attention the last time I was in a bricks and mortar bookstore. Stars are twinkling above a canoeist as the last filtered light from the setting sun gives off just a bit of light on the water. The font for the author’s name, Paul Doiron, was smaller than that of the title-but not by much. I had heard of neither the book nor the author. But at the very bottom were titles of two previous books and one sounded familiar, so I added the book to my pile. I am so glad I did.

Setting for One Last Lie

The opening pages of One Last Lie depicts the protagonist performing an in-person background check on an applicant for the Maine Warden Service. The investigation takes place in South Florida. The description of the climate, topography and current wildlife concerns were on target. Furthermore, the narrative captures ones interest quickly.

Then, Doiron makes a swift and successful transition from the swamps of Florida to the backwoods of Maine where the remainder of the story takes place. This reader is not as familiar with Maine but trusts the author does not repeat the one (possible) small background error made with respect to Florida. An error only SEC fans or little ones living in Gainesville learning Gator chants on bus rides to school may pick up on. Unless Vaneese’s question re: Gainesville was a non-sequitur, in which case I erred.

Mike Bowditch

The protagonist in One Last Lie is Mike Bowditch. An entire series has been built around this character and with reason. He is one of the good guys. But someone you would not want to cross. Determination exudes from this complex human.

Much credit is given to Doiron for creating such a compelling leading character. Furthermore, the secondary characters add more interest without stereotyping. Native Americans are integral in both the Florida and Maine settings. Competing love interests are also part of the narrative. So, while One Last Lie is great as a stand-alone novel, I hope my local library possesses the earlier books in the series.

Paul Doiron

Readers can develop an affinity for a particular writer. Examples are Janet Evanovich, James Peterson, or for horror fans Stephen King. Once a reader latches on to a writing style and/or a particular fictional character demand is created for more. I think Paul Doiron falls into this category.

The descriptive settings transport the reader to the locale. One easily forms a connection with lead character Bowditch. The action is exciting with limited gore. Perfect for readers who differentiate between mystery and mayhem.

I doubt my path has ever crossed with Doiron’s although the possibility exists. Yet I feel such a strong connection. Successful writer’s truly have this relationship with their readers. I envy the gift. One Last Lie is a 2020 release. It makes my list of books to give this Christmas.

Brave New World

It’s a Brave New World out there. For those looking for a review of the classic novel by Aldous Huxley, this isn’t a critique. But you might, just might, find my ramblings interesting. The technological revolution is profound, exciting and more than a little bit concerning. Quite the dichotomy, but not surprising in the year 2020.

Brave New World of Science

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought out the worst in some people. The Great Mask Debate and the Virus Hoaxers continue weeks after Election 2020 when the illness was magically scheduled to disappear. Unfortunately, in my part of the world the virus is spreading like wildfire.

On the bright side, across the world scientists are working to find both effective treatments as well as a vaccine. Perhaps with the passage of time the efforts will appear concerted. But at present, the work reminds me of the Race to the Moon.

Two of the vaccines closest to distribution are using a new technology. Instead of using the virus itself to develop immunity, the vaccines are taking a genetic approach. Ironically, I first wrote about CRISPR in my review of Robin Cook’s Pandemic back in February 2019. This cutting edge technology is currently treating genetic defects such as Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

Scientists responding to the Covid-19 crisis have taken two approaches. The tried and true use of either small amounts of live virus or the mRNA genetic approach linked to the CRISPR technology. Small groups such as individuals with CF have been treated with medicines based on this bioscience for about a year. There are known side effects. But the individual I personally know taking treatment based on this new science has so greatly benefitted by improved health, he has no qualms about a vaccine developed using similar techniques.

Ethical Questions

Genetics has elicited ethical questions throughout the years. Both those who lived through the era of World War II and those who studied the history are familiar with Hitler’s desire to create a master race. The Holocaust must never be forgotten.

Fortunately genetic sequencing was not possible in the 1930s. It is now. If a Covid-19 vaccine using mRNA is a success we will have embarked on a path for a brave new world. The possibilities for good may be endless. But the same is true for evil.

Key Questions for a Brave New World

Aside from moral questions, the biotech revolution raises a host of questions. How are new products tested and regulated? What is the cost of development? How are the costs recouped? Will drugs be affordable? Who makes sure only “good” or beneficial drugs are created?

Of course those are just the tip of the iceberg. In the case of Covid-19, millions, nay billions of individuals will benefit from a vaccine. So who is first in line? Again, who pays? Lots of old adages come to mind. Money doesn’t grow on trees. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Those apply. There is a cost to be born, yet obviously the ability to pay varies. Perhaps in the end all questions are truly moral in scope.

Science is truly not my strong suit. So I am sharing some of the many articles I have been reading. I am a late adopter. But I am related to many early adopters as well as trend setters. I hope Covid-19 is but the latest in a long line of once in a hundred year pandemics. Once in a lifetime is plenty!

https://www.brinknews.com/crispr-and-the-fight-against-covid-19/

https://www.wired.com/story/why-its-a-big-deal-if-the-first-covid-vaccine-is-genetic/

https://innovativegenomics.org/projects/crispr-based-dna-vaccine-enhancer-covid-19/

https://www.scmp.com/business/article/3088568/explainer-who-are-global-competition-develop-coronavirus-vaccine?src=covid_home_faq

https://www.scmp.com/presented/news/hong-kong/education/topics/research-excellence/article/3109497/cityu-develops-anti

Thanksgiving 2020

Thanksgiving 2020 will be a different kind of celebration for many. The fifty states are varied both in their Covid-19 outbreak data as well as their approach to the pandemic. As numbers increase, new guidelines as well as rules and regulations are issued. Not only do local, regional and state governments differ with enforcement, individuals also differ with compliance levels. Hopefully common sense will prevail.

 

These turkeys freely wander around Central Florida subdivisions.

Turkey with feathers spread for Thanksgiving 2020

Importance of Thanksgiving to Americans

Like the many Thanksgivings before it, Thanksgiving 2020 is one of the most important holidays in American culture rivaled only by the 4th of July. Perhaps this holiday is so special because of the long history.

Traditionally, the Thanksgiving observed by the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock is acknowledged as the first occurrence of the celebration. However, a few other “thanksgivings” predate the above mentioned gatherings. Click here to read about Florida’s claim to the first Thanksgiving.

Regardless of the date and location of the first feast, the tradition and November time frame was officially decreed by George Washington, the United States of America’s first president.

Thanksgiving Timing

Although the fourth Thursday in November was not settled on for many years, the day of the week has remained the same. I am unaware if there is a rhyme or reason for holding the celebration on a Thursday. But the changing to the fourth Thursday is directly related to commerce.

Abraham Lincoln choose the last Thursday and for the most part this was followed for decades (President Grant was one exception.) But in part to stimulate spending at the end of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt moved the official date to the fourth Thursday of the month. So Thanksgiving 2020 will be on the 26th which is both the last and the fourth Thursday.

This designation keeps the date from ever occurring on either the 29th or 30th of the month. And creates more opportunity to shop for Christmas. One wonders if FDR knew he was creating a monster in the form of Black Friday.

Thanksgiving 2020

Plenty of accounts exist reflecting on Thanksgiving 1918. The Spanish Flu pandemic coursed through the country much like our current Covid-19 pandemic. Researching and reviewing the outcomes in 1918 may make it easier to decide how to celebrate Thanksgiving 2020.

The federalist system of governing in the United States of America is reflected by the varied guidelines and mandates across the country. Enforcement will also differ. For example, fines and jail time have been decreed in the state of Oregon for violating the strict Thanksgiving dinner guidelines of no more than six people joining together. Contrast that with the state of Florida where there are no limitations on gatherings and nursing home residents are allowed to partake in family dinners off-grounds.

So, once again common sense is called for. Before finalizing any travel plans, look at positivity rates. Is there a surge or a cluster of cases at the destination? Or in the areas where individuals are traveling from?

What are the demographics of the celebrants? Sibling millennials should fare better than sibling baby boomers. Multi-generational gatherings in numbers greater than ten would make me uncomfortable. And not just for Thanksgiving 2020 because Christmas 2020 is just around the corner.

We are still undecided about our own plans. None of our millennial offspring are returning home. Our positivity rate is sky high. But we may take a meal to one of the octogenarians in the family. The key is to reduce the spread by keeping as isolated as possible while not ignoring the needs of others.

Happy Thanksgiving to All

Even though we are in the midst of the pandemic, we need to remember to share Thanksgiving Thankfulness. This may be difficult for those who have lost one or more loved ones this year. My suggestion for countering the gloominess is to look to nature.

The Leonid meteor shower is one such example. I spotted almost a dozen streaks of light in twenty minutes earlier this week. The experience was uplifting. And waking up at 4 A.M. was doable.

But there are others. For those of you living on the coast, consider a walk on the beach. Mountain hikes may be difficult in snowy areas, but there is little to compare to the beauty of fresh snow. We need to give thanks for our natural world.

The people in our life bring great joy as well as significant sorrow upon loss. Reflect upon your loved ones this week even as normal celebrations fall by the wayside. I plan to Zoom with my parents and my kids. Maybe next year we can all be together.

Group of turkeys Thanksgiving 2020

The Grace Kelly Dress Book Review

The Grace Kelly Dress

There are a handful of iconic dresses and the Grace Kelly wedding dress is one of them. So, when I spied a novel thus named, I couldn’t resist buying. The Brenda Janowitz story is a winner. The Grace Kelly Dress is a generational story following the entwined lives of women connected to a “copy” of the famous dress.

Rocky

Rocky, the granddaughter, is a millennial through and through. CEO of her own company, she is in complete control of everything-except her relationship with her mother.

She dyes her hair to fit her mood and it is the something blue for the wedding. Additionally, each major event in her life is celebrated with a new tattoo. She is marrying a man hated at first sight. Drew, the soon-to-be husband brings some baggage into the story, but there is obvious love and affection.

Rocky is at odds with her Mom on just about everything regarding the nuptials. They disagree on cake, venue, music and most of all on the dress. She simply hates the idea of wearing a dress, much less a frilly copy of the Grace Kelly Dress with what she sees as hideous sleeves. Janowitz does an exceptional job of surprising the reader with the “rest of the story.” The mother-daughter duo have a shared history of loss.

Joan

Joan represents the sandwich generation. As a reader, I alternated between love and hate for the character. She is the most complex protagonist. And the one to alter the dress in the eighties. She added Princess Diana sleeves!

There is excellent foreshadowing in the storyline of Joan. The author deliberately portrays Joan at the beginning as shallow. Of the three main characters, Joanie grows the most. Her own relationship with her mother is awkward and colored by personal loss. Yet, Joan shows the greatest strength and resilience.

The Original Owner

The third story line of The Grace Kelly Dress originates in Paris, France. Just a few years after Grace Kelly is married, a similar dress is commissioned for a bride-to-be. Diana Laurent fell in love at first sight. Orphaned seamstress Rose designs a dress incorporating elements of the Grace Kelly dress. And Rose falls for Diana’s brother Robert, at first sight.

As the novel develops, the original owner is depicted as in conflict with her own daughter and as a support to her granddaughter. Distance between generations lessons the angst.

The Grace Kelly Dress

In addition to the relationships between mothers and daughters, Janowitz reflects on the social difficulties of each generation. Each of the protagonists overcomes prejudices. The three threads accurately portray the time periods.

Millennials will instantly connect with Rocky. Hopefully, older readers, reminded by the difficulties of the past, will also relate to her struggles of expressing her own identity. The Joan’s of this world are in a unique position. They are the bridge between the past and the future. While their generation struggled with many issues, they are now at a midpoint in life. Still active in life’s challenges, but solidified in their own personality.

Finally, much respect is due to those of Grand Mère’s generation. Wisdom comes with age. Kudos to Janowitz for this portrayal. She provides great examples in both primary and secondary characters.

The Grace Kelly Dress is a wonderful read. Complex characters and issues create a novel that can be enjoyed or dissected. Or both. I strongly recommend this book. This will make the 2020 Top Ten list and may find itself under a Christmas tree or two.

 

The Grace Kelly Dress Book Cover

Saving Supper With Spices

Last night I attempted to modify an online recipe into another “Recipe for Two” and ended up saving supper with spices. I had produce to use. The acorn squash could sit on the counter for a while longer but the giant bell pepper was another matter. So I searched for recipes including both. Click here to see the recipe I chose to alter.

Acorn squash and Orange Bell Pepper
Roasted Vegetables Base of Soup

Acorn Squash Soup For Two

Since there are only two of us and I only wanted to use one large acorn squash I started to reduce the inputs. Excitement about the ability to throw a simple soup together so I could get ready for a Zoom meeting was my undoing. I overlooked the call for apple cider as the base liquid.

Of course by the time I realized my lack of the proper liquid, I was at the step where the roasted vegetables are blended with the cream cheese and sautéed onions. And the apple cider. So I searched the fridge for a suitable substitute.

I ruled out cranberry juice in favor of a dry white wine. The viognier, from McManis Family Vineyards was perfect. But only a half cup remained in the bottle. The only other open wine was a red blend. Quite a bit remained in the bottle as it was too sweet for our palates. So I added some of that as well, forgetting one of Emeril Lagasse’s main tenet’s-only use the best.

After blending, the consistency of the soup was fantastic. So, the mixture was poured back into the soup pot to heat. A test taste yielded a too sweet tone to the creation. The sweetness overpowered the root vegetables. A disaster was upon us.

Saving Supper With Spices

In our house, when all else fails, add heat. Spiced heat. Since I had already sprinkled the acorn squash with cumin before baking we chose complimentary spices. In addition to the Savory Spice line, we often use a Christmas gift, The Cook’s Pallete Chilli Collection. The chilli’s range from quite mild to very hot.

Cayenne and Chipotle are the spices we used last night when saving supper with spices. The heat of the spices countered the too sweet sweetness of the red wine blend. Our Acorn Squash Soup for Two was saved.

Obviously, I need to keep working on the recipe. Next time, I will either use only a dry white wine or some type of stock. Most likely vegetable stock. I intend to keep adding four ounces of cream cheese as well as adjust the amount of yogurt. The single acorn squash with the bell pepper and small onion create the perfect amount for the base. Hopefully, I can publish a tested Acorn Squash Soup For Two recipe later this winter.

In the meantime, if your thrown together recipe turns disastrous, remember saving supper with spices may allow you a meal that can be enjoyed.

Closed Tin holding saving supper with spices
Open Tin of Chilli Spices

Patience with a Side of Self-Discipline

Practicing patience with a side of self-discipline is much needed these days. For Americans, a double helping is called for due to the as yet uncalled Presidential election. But, across the globe, the pandemic still reigns and all of us need to exercise both.

Patience is a virtue. Our busy lives do not lend themselves to this particular quality. 24/7 news, cell phones, the Internet and even fast food restaurants provide instant gratification with no need for patience. Unfortunately a lack of patience can lead to non-virtuous behavior.

The loss of patience manifests in the inability to practice self-control or display self-discipline. Patience is difficult to teach. Just ask any mother of a young child. But patience and self-discipline are critical at this moment in time. The waning months of 2020 look to be a challenge on several fronts.

Election Results

Citizens of the United States as of this writing still are unsure of which candidate won the election. There may be recounts and challenges. Yet, there will be an inauguration in January. We just need to exhibit patience with a side of self-discipline while awaiting results.

In my corner of the country this is occurring. No riots or demonstrations have occurred. Neighbors supporting opposing parties are still neighborly. Indeed, a greater concern is Covid-19.

Pandemic Continues

Unfortunately my small town reflects much of rural America. We are currently experience a large outbreak of the coronavirus. And worse, patience with a side of self-discipline is not evident. Twelve fellow citizens out of 240 confirmed cases have died. Yet, I see less caution now than last spring. We have grown weary of the pandemic. But Covid-19 did not magically disappear after the election.

We really need to practice the ideal discussed in the May 2020 Wrap-Up. People, Place, Time and Space will get us through this one hundred year viral outbreak. Limit the number of individuals you meet with; meet either outside or in large indoor spaces; shorter time periods and greater amounts of space between individuals make it hard to transmit the virus.

Patience with a Side of Self-Discipline

Two major holidays are just around the corner. Thanksgiving and Christmas are both loved and revered in this household. But much like Easter, I think plans will need to alter. Spreading the virus in a large family gathering is a recipe for disaster.

We need to practice patience with regard to Covid-19. Time will allow for better treatments and hopefully a vaccine. But it will take a healthy side of self-discipline during the waiting period. Our current outbreak has been exacerbated by family gatherings. Holiday office parties are on the horizon. Maybe this is the year to take the money spent on these gatherings and distribute as a bonus. Quite possibly the extra income could come in handy.

We need to understand Covid-19 affects people in different ways. Many individuals will fight off the virus easily, but up to twenty percent will have a more difficult time and/or have long-lasting complications. I prefer to use the CFR (Case Fatality Rate) when looking at Covid-19. The November 2020 edition of the International Journal of Infectious Diseases has an excellent article covering Covid-19 CFR on pages 302-308. Click here for direct access. As the article points out, the CFR varies from country to country. Just as responses to the pandemic have varied. At this point in time it looks like the CFR is dropping worldwide. A good thing.

Unfortunately my little hamlet is well above the world average with respect to CFR. Our five percent rate is scary. Patience with a side of self-discipline is much needed here. Maybe now that the divisive campaigning is over, we can practice the self-control needed to bring down the CFR.

Deadlock Book Review

Cover of Deadlock by Catherine CoulterDeadlock is Catherine Coulter’s newest release in her FBI series featuring Savich and Sherlock. The duo play important roles in this mystery along with a couple of new FBI characters. Unlike previous Coulter releases, Deadlock has little to offer for romance fans and plenty of excitement for thrill seekers. Best of all, the two threads offer plenty twists and turns to keep the reader guessing.

Key Characters in Deadlock

In addition to super sleuths and happily married Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock, Deadlock features FBI Agent Pippa Cinelli in one of the two story lines. Cinelli returns to her hometown of St. Lumis, Maryland to solve the puzzle delivered to Savich. While on location she teams up with local law enforcement Chief Wilde, an outsider to the town. The post-Halloween timetable lends itself nicely to the macabre puzzle.

Meanwhile, FBI agent Griffin Hammersmith is assigned protection duty to Rebekah Danvers, the wife of Congressman Danvers. Savich saves Mrs. Danvers from a kidnapping attempt in early action of Deadlock. Of the two plot threads, the kidnapping has the most surprises. Griffin develops an “off the pages” romance with Danvers’ personal assistant. The bodyguard is quick thinking and action oriented. And he saves more than one life.

Revenge

Personal revenge lies at the base of both story lines. The taunting puzzle sent to FBI headquarters revolves around sudden death and blackmail. The master mind behind the mystery is seeking revenge against Savich. Agent Cinelli and Chief Wilde perform much of the legwork needed to keep a psychotic criminal behind bars. Good prevails over evil.

The Danvers storyline is much more complex. Long held secrets are revealed. Both greed and deep seeded animosity are the explanation behind the kidnapping plot. The conspiracy does not lend itself to a happy ending for Rebekah Danvers. Yet, Coulter offers hope to the character and the reader with a message from beyond the grave: Life is an incredible gift, regardless of its unexpected tragedies (Coulter, p. 446).

 

 

October 2020 Wrap-Up

My October 2020 was certainly busy, but not as stressful as October 2019. I spent quite a bit of time in the garden before the snows finally came. But now that the seasons have made their hand-off I am re-focusing on indoor hobbies. Political events are taking center stage and Covid-19 is ever present so I expect the month of November to be action packed.

In the Library

Only two reviews were released this month. One was non-fiction-The Day It Finally Happens and the other, Near Dark by Brad Thor was reviewed earlier this week. These were not the only books read. You can expect a review of Catherine Coulter’s newest FBI series next week. However, I actually encountered two unpalatable books this month. Neither were finished. Fortunately, one was checked out from the public library and the other on Libby, so money was not wasted.

It isn’t often I encounter a book I just don’t like and two in a month, nay two in a year is unheard of. Looking on the bright side, odds are it will be quite some time before I stumble upon another. Perhaps, the negative political advertisements have permeated everything-even enjoyment in reading. Or, maybe the books were just bad.

October 2020 In the Garden

The Big Garden is ready for winter. Hoops over the rosemary and artichoke have worked so far. The basil just beyond the rosemary did not survive. Nor did I expect it to. A greenhouse is still in the dream stage. But, the Swiss chard and the brassicas are good-for now.

New straw and compost were spread along the rows of the garden. While I may still pop some garlic gloves in the root row, the rest will lay fallow until late winter. The Raised Row system has eliminated rototilling and I have been reluctant to put in a cover crop over the winter.

I did receive a query this October 2020 on how hard a raised row system would be for senior citizens. I wish to share my response with all of you. Setting up the garden is strenuous. Depending on individual fitness, the implementation may require the aid of a younger body. But the reason I love my big garden so much is the weed control. I have few weeds to pull in the rows-both growing and walking. Indeed the only weeds are along the outer edges. Crabgrass and bindweed try to sneak underneath the metal perimeter.

So, if you are a senior citizen and can get help starting a raised row garden, I highly recommend one. The main caveat would be nimbleness. If you no longer are able to easily get up and down due to flexibility issues, raised boxes may be a better answer. Bodies-and minds- age at different rates.

A few strands of wheat came up volunteer this past summer. Even though it is late I may take those gathered seed heads and plant in one of the boxes as an experiment. Less than half-a-dozen heads were gathered. Otherwise, the garden is at rest until February.

October 2020 In The Kitchen

Lots of goodies were processed in the kitchen this October 2020. Many of the recipes such as Green Tomato Relish have been shared in earlier years. This relish is a favorite. Click here for the recipe. And I still have a bucket full of tomatoes in the garage slowly turning red.

The baking season is about to begin. I am fine tuning another biscuit recipe. Unlike the Hearty Wheat Buttermilk Recipe posted last spring, these are light and fluffy. Delicious, but probably not as healthy.

Of course, Halloween is a holiday. Holidays call for rolled sugar cookies and themed cookie cutters. I am glad a few little ones live near enough to indulge my need to celebrate holidays in this fashion. Otherwise I would indeed turn into a Cookie Monster complete with an extra pound or two.

I do not plan to hand out candy tonight. Instead, I packaged some goodies and walked around to the neighboring kids. I think the Covid-19 outbreak will impact the festivities.

Hobbies

Indoor activities will now come to the forefront. This past week featured hand-quilting of one baby quilt, finalized piecing and layering for another, and early color selection for a third. The family is expecting another little one in late February.

The wet snowy days do not lend themselves to hand quilting. I am finally experiencing a touch of arthritis in my right hand. Since both my mother and maternal grandmother have/had problems this was not unexpected. I am just happy the problem held off so long. Perhaps I will invest in a long arm quilting machine if the condition deteriorates quickly.

Covid-19 Pandemic

My little corner of the world had a rude awakening this month. The number of Covid-19 cases doubled in just over a week. We also registered our first deaths. Yes, plural. Unfortunately we still have low compliance. In addition to anti-maskers and hoaxers, we have an unwillingness to social distance.

Rural areas are experiencing what happened in the cities last spring. We have fewer people and much less resources. Many counties only have one hospital and critical care cases are flown out-weather permitting- to the large cities. It may get quite ugly.

We were behind Europe by 3-4 weeks in the spring. If this holds true, I expect Thanksgiving, a very dear holiday to Americans, to be quite bleak. Shut downs may occur again. And people will probably ignore common sense. We are trying to be optimistic, but I doubt Thanksgiving will be normal.

United States of America Elections 2020

I have been fairly quiet with respect to elections. Partly from the influence of my paternal grandfather. He had some quirky beliefs. One was that a young woman should only appear in print three times; at birth, upon marriage, and at death. Another ideal was to never discuss religion or politics at the dinner table.

So far, I have tried to stay within that parameter. That is not to say I have not discussed the elections. Instead, my intent is to get everyone to vote. Even if the individual may have opposite views. I am encouraged by the early voting turnout. I may end up in the minority on some candidates and issues, but I feel like the 2020 election year will be representative of our populace.

Furthermore, I am confident that our elected officials overseeing the vote are accountable and will give us honest results. Our county clerk lives in my neighborhood and her character is outstanding. We need to remember everything begins at the local level. If you can trust your local officials, then that belief can be transferred up the line. And if you can’t- then you have the duty to vote out the local representatives.

I have put together a slideshow for October 2020. This is a transitional month between seasons. Perhaps that is what makes October a favorite time of year. Enjoy.

Near Dark Book Review

Readers familiar with the work of Brad Thor are sure to love Near Dark, his latest novel featuring Scot Harvath, from the beginning. First time readers may need to have patience. The first hundred pages or so provide important back story on Harvath. As a new reader of Thor’s work, the novel reminded me of fire. A slow burn at the beginning results in the best of bonfires.

Near Dark Action

The action does begin right off the bat. But, unfamiliarity with the series, may take a reader a while to warm up to the protagonist. A drunk, seemingly washed out and broken spy stirs sympathy from the beginning. And little regard for potential ability. This is why I think previous fans of Brad Thor’s lead character have an advantage.

Fortunately, the action carries the novel in the beginning. The excellent writing takes over from there. Harvath’s personality seeps out past the hard liquor-again a tribute to the writer, while the action moves from locale to locale.

Revenge is not always served cold. Near Dark is a story of retribution. Pinpointing those responsible for life lost falls to Harvath and a stunning Norwegian counterpart, Sølvi Kolstad. Both are motivated to work together, tracking the killer of a mutual friend and mentor, even though they themselves had never met.

Kolstad is an equal to Harvath. The author does not fall into the trap of having the female agent more vulnerable. Indeed, she provides strength and not just from her willingness to take brutal action. Her character is intelligent and very likable. I hope she makes a re-appearance in future novels.

Scot Harvath

I grew to love the character of Harvath. Trained as a man who evens scores, he retains his own moral compass. The author has created a fully rounded character. Brains, brawn and psyche are well weaved into the story.

Perhaps the moment of truth for me came on Page 255 of Near Dark where Harvath muses on the fact “We all have our crosses to bear. What’s more, we wouldn’t trade ours for someone else’s.” How could this character not reach out to the reader on an inner level?

Brad Thor

Thor is a new writer to me but has been writing many years and is a best-selling author. The greatest thrill of reviewing books for the blog is finding a new series to devour. Thor is more than a prolific writer. While his message maybe akin to that of Helen MacInnes, what I appreciate the most is the willingness to insert thought provoking philosophy, as highlighted above, into an action packed spy thriller.

Brad Thor has a presence on social media as well as his own website, which you can access by clicking here. A quick search about the author revealed a few insights politically and professionally. Not much at all about his private life. Yet another reason to respect Brad Thor.

Whether you are a big fan or if you have never read one of Thor’s books, Near Dark will make you want to read another. Well done, Mr. Thor.

Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast Cancer Ribbon
Not for Women Only

Just one short year ago, I sat in a surgical waiting room waiting for the results from my Dad’s operation to determine if he had breast cancer. Now we are in the middle of a pandemic-what a difference a year can make! October is still Breast Cancer Awareness month but I have seen very little on the topic. Last year, everywhere I turned a media outlet was reporting on signs, symptoms and treatments. Breast Cancer is still a problem for many.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

My Dad felt a lump on his breast while in the shower. Lumps are one of the key symptoms according to the CDC website. Unfortunately, men do not routinely have mammograms. These diagnostic tests can detect cancerous cells at an early stage. The survival rate for breast cancer, and indeed most if not all cancers, increases when caught early on.

Other symptoms include pain in the breast, unusual discharge from the nipple including a bloody discharge, and change to the size or shape of the breast. Irritation of the skin, including redness or flakiness is also a sign. In my opinion, the best websites to consult for symptoms to include the aforementioned CDC ,are the WebMD Breast Cancer Health Center and the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Breast Cancer is a complex illness. I do not have the knowledge to be truly informative. If you or a loved one have any concerns about breast cancer, I urge you to click on the above websites. Then, if you have not sought out care from a medical provider-make an appointment TODAY.

Even though my Dad’s cancer had spread to a lymph node, his prognosis is positive, in part for not taking a wait and see approach. I am a firm believer that individuals need to be pro-active in regards to health concerns. Don’t wait to get examined and don’t wait too long for results. Especially during this pandemic.

 Organizations to Support

There are many organizations raising funds on behalf of breast cancer research as well as in support of individuals fighting this disease. The Susan G. Komen may be one of the best known. However, my favorites are the American Cancer Society and the Shantel Lanerie Foundation. Just click on the highlighted names to view their websites.

The year 2020 has been a difficult one. The CARES Act includes a provision to help non-profits. Charitable donations on both the corporate and individual levels now result in a greater tax benefit for the donor. Click here to read a brief report from AFP Global or consult your tax accountant.

Many families are struggling to make ends meet due to decreased income amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Obviously, feeding the family and paying bills comes first. But those who can give should consider an increase in their donations.

2020 has been a difficult year. However, breast cancer does not take a break. Remember to perform your monthly self-checks. Don’t put off your annual mammogram and check-up. Last, but not least, if you are in a position to give, donate freely.

 

The Importance of Using Face to Face Communication Technology Amid a Pandemic

This week, I realized the importance of using face to face communication technology amid a pandemic. While many are ignoring the need to socially distance due to Covid-19, those that are self-isolating often face other consequences. But loneliness, sadness, and perhaps even early stages of depression can be combatted with the use of face to face communication technology.

Most weeks I stay busy, very busy, and the work keeps the negative feelings at bay. But every so often a down day occurs. Usually this helpless feeling is triggered by an event. This latest occurrence was triggered by an octogenarian in the family having a rough day as well.

I am limiting my travel because of the virus. This impacts those I usually travel to see. Even though I make numerous phone calls, the face to face aspect is missing. One of the older family members does not own a cell phone and the other has an Apple while I have an Android.

But in recent weeks I was able to use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) with great success. In the first instance, a third family member, also an Android user, facilitated the conversation/video chat. But I am most excited about the second use of face to face communication technology.

Zoom

Earlier in the month I bought a license for Zoom so one of the organizations I am involved with could offer a hybrid meeting experience. We are (or possibly were since the caseload of Covid-19 has exploded in our county over the last week) meeting in person at a local restaurant. But some members choosing to self-isolate were missing out. Even though Zoom offers a limited amount of time for free, the purchased plan is ideal for longer connections.

Millennials may not relate to just how hard it is for someone in their eighties to download an app to a computer. But the process is indeed difficult for a brain not wired from a young age on today’s technologies. So, I was quite excited that my Dad succeeded in downloading Zoom this week.

Face to Face Communication Technology

I did have to coach him through the installation via phone. It took the better part of an hour. First, you have the download and then the install. But, the complexity does not end there. The next step is the interface. For a full ten minutes, I could see him but he couldn’t see me.

After talking him through the steps, he finally allowed the computer to use the audio and access the incoming video. The look on his face when he could finally see mine was priceless. The ensuing conversation via VoIP boosted both our spirits.

As big believers in practice makes perfect, we are going to connect via Zoom again this morning. Once he gets comfortable with the process, we will extend the invitation out to other family members. I realize many have been doing this for months. But not everyone is an early adaptor.

If you are self-isolating I urge you to consider face to face communication technology. Zoom is just one of many VoIP’s available. Disney showcased this technology in one of their “rides” back in the 20th Century. I am glad it is a household reality in 2020.

This photo was taken earlier in the year on our first excursion after lockdown. For more photos from the Vail Valley trip click here.

Fall is Finally Here

Fall is finally here on the high plains. Simple signs tell me without looking at the calendar. These signs are so clear, I understand how the inhabitants from long ago knew winter was nigh. Birds migrating, trees turning color, plants yielding less and less, and night approaching faster and growing cooler.

Fall Migration Path

The geese are honking as they fly overhead. Their flight path on a straight North-South directional, an internal compass to envy. Each group numbers in the dozens and they are a familiar sight. And a sign fall is finally here.

The blue jays are also flying south, although they sometimes stay a day or two. Starlings which overstay their welcome in the spring return briefly as well. We have also been a stopover to Bullock’s oriole and western kingbird and a variety of warblers and finches. Some are return visitors. But many are new. The expansive fires of the West Coast and newer fires in the Rocky Mountains are pushing many birds east.

Mysterious Visitors

Among the plethora of visiting birds in the past few days were this pair of talkers. I captured them on this video. Unfortunately, the wind masks the unique call. My guess is they belong to the woodpecker family. If anyone can identify them please share in the comment section.

The area we live in is along a river-although many would question that designation with the low water flow this time of year. Indeed just a hundred miles to the east the water dries out from time to time before resurrecting itself another hundred miles or so to the east of that location. We truly live in the Dust Bowl.

But the river is dammed just to the west and along with a handful of natural lakes that haven’t all dried up, the water provides a good stop along the migration route. In addition to that, this East Coast gal planted trees by the dozens a quarter of a century ago. Plus, pyracantha and Russian sage which also attract the wildlife.

The fruit trees; peaches and cherries and the non-bearing pear, along with the chokecherry bushes provide a splash of color. A squirrel has wandered up from the nearby town park to harvest the acorns from the oak tree. The evergreens will provide protection for the small birds who winter here-they have yet to arrive. Red buds and shademaster honeylocusts have dropped their pods and show signs of turning golden. Leaf raking is also in the future.

Fall Gardening Chores

Much of this week focused on fall chores in the garden. Peanuts were dug as were the second beds of potatoes and sweet potatoes. Yields from the big garden were satisfactory but just and the outside boxes a little less. The rains have been few and far between. The last recorded rain was two tenths of an inch on September 11. So over a month ago and no rain is in the forecast.

However, we have a chance of a frost on each of the next three nights. So, I was tasked with harvesting tomatoes. These plants are still flowering like crazy. Thus the added chore of gathering ripe, not so ripe, and green tomatoes commenced.

The smallest of the green tomatoes were gifted to my niece’s chickens. I will process the larger green tomatoes, both Romas and heirloom slicers into chow chow. Batches of salsa and spaghetti sauce continue on a regular basis but now that fall is finally here the days of fresh sauce are behind us. Fortunately we will have canned goods to enjoy this winter.

Only a few eggplant were ready to harvest. But the plants were full of purple blossoms. They are the tenderest plants, so they were removed from the garden into the compost. The cucumber vines and bush beans were also removed from their place in the garden. Several weeks have gone by since the cukes have bloomed. The pole beans remain for another day.

Carrots, beets, rutabagas and the brassicas remain. I did place a hoop covering over the artichoke. Perhaps it will overwinter with a blanket of straw underneath the canvas. A rosemary plant and some Swiss chard share space under the hoop.

The wires are from a bought covering from a season ago. But the material tore in the high winds of last spring. I am using canvas on one end and a synthetic tarp on the other end. The experiments never stop!

Fall is Finally Here

The most enjoyable part of the last few weeks have been the many evening meals indulged on the back porch. On the occasions without wind we even turned on the fireplace above the waterfall fountain. In these times of external strife it is important to balance life with small pleasures.

Fall is finally here. Fireplace at dusk

 

 

 

 

The Day It Finally Happens Book Review

Book Cover of The Day it Finally Happens

Intriguing is the best way to describe The Day It Finally Happens by Mike Pearl. This well researched and annotated book combines fact with fictional what if questions. Or maybe, just maybe, not so fictional. In fact each and every chapter seems impossible until Pearl explains how entirely possible each scenario is. Be prepared to be scared-or at least unsettled.

Topics Covered

Pearl covers a wide arrange of topics. There is literally a subject to peak anyone’s interest. He opens with a discussion of abolishing British Monarchy and ends with The Last Cemetery running out of space. I read the first two chapters in order before cheating the rest of the way through the book.

In this day of pandemic, the chapter on antibiotics no longer working drew my eye. (Much like the blue cousins to the coronavirus dancing across the cover.) Then I was off to coverage of super volcanoes and Internet outages. Perhaps Pearl had a purpose for his content order, but I quite enjoyed skipping from topic to topic. And I learned a lot.

Chapter Set-Up

Each of the chapters in The Day It Finally Happens begins with a set of scaled questions. The four queries are the perfect way to set the stage. First is “Likely in this century?” with a yay or nay answer. Then Pearl has a plausibility rating on a scale of 1 to 5. The last two questions are more open ended and entice the reader to delve into the scenario. From this point, the chapters were introduced in a variety of ways. But after each opening, Pearl explained how each “impossible phenomena” could become possible.

Interviews with experts in the field anchor the author’s arguments for each chapter. Plus, Pearl discusses a variety of technologies that currently exist. These revelations (at least for me) are of the shock and awe variety. The chapter on The Day Anyone Can Imitate Anyone Else Perfectly is downright eye-opening. Current technology far exceeds that imagined by George Orwell of Aldous Huxley.

The Day It Finally Happens Hooks and Keeps

The best part of The Day It Finally Happens is the wide variety of topics covered. There literally is something for everyone. This book has made my list of books to give at Christmas. In fact multiple copies may be given. Mike Pearl is a writer to keep an eye on.

Chapters on Saudi Arabian oil, slaughterhouses and the last human driven car will appeal to multiple family members. The research in each chapter will keep the reader hooked. If you are in search of an informative well written book that applies facts to the implausible, buy a copy of The Day It Finally Happens.

Open pages illustrating end of oil
Illustrated page showing fish

Bread Pudding for Two

Recipe: Bread Pudding for Two

I developed the following recipe of Bread Pudding for Two in an effort to keep the calorie intake down and the waistlines from too much expansion during these pandemic times. Also, I am placing the recipe ingredients at the top in response to a comment disliking the need to scroll down past the dialogue. Be assured plenty of pictures and instructions can be found after the ingredients and recipe.

Ingredients:

1/3 Cup of Raisins
2 TBS of Bourbon
½ teaspoon Cinnamon
4 Slices of Bread
2 TBS Butter-melted
2 Eggs- beaten
1 Cup Low fat Milk
1/3 Cup of Brown Sugar

Instructions:

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Soak raisins in the bourbon and sprinkle the cinnamon on top. Slice the bread into cubes. Place in 8 x 4 baking pan. Evenly pour butter over the bread cubes. Beat eggs, mix in milk and brown sugar. Carefully pour over bread. Make sure all cubes are soaked. Pour raisin mixture on top and press gently. Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes.

Some Tips and Tricks: Bread Pudding for Two

This recipe is fairly easy to prep. About fifteen minutes tops, unless you have interruptions. However, this is plenty of time to allow the bourbon and cinnamon to soak into the raisins. I used Woodford Reserve which we have on hand. I have toured their distillery and love their bourbon balls. But of course your favorite bourbon will work just as well.

If you do not have any bourbon on hand, a substitution of vanilla will work. But I would cut the amount in half. Additionally, whole milk or 2% milk can be substituted for the low fat milk. In this case the amount used would remain the same.

I cube the bread instead of tearing it. This is a personal preference. Using a bread slicing knife makes quick work of this step. Drizzling the hot butter over the bread eliminates the possibility of cooking the egg mixture prematurely.

Egg Mixture

The egg mixture is the glue that holds everything together. So, make sure the egg is well beaten before adding the milk and brown sugar. Since we are advocates of the Case Against Sugar, this is not a sweet bread pudding. If you want it sweet you will have to increase the amount to your liking.

For those worried about serving a dish with alcohol, the time in the oven is sufficient for the alcohol to burn off. Yet, the bourbon flavor is very evident in this recipe. Again, you may want to adjust to your liking.

I hope the following pictures help!

Step One: Soaking the Raisins

Step Two: Cubing the Bread

Third Step: Egg Mixture

Step Four: Ready for the Oven

Step Five: Finished Bread Pudding for Two