a useful little kitchen tool

Bread SlicerAfter we got our new stove with convection oven and I started baking bread again, my dad requested a raisin cinnamon loaf. I was happy to oblige and he was pleased with the result. He mentioned having a bread slicing tool that resulted in straight slices. When I saw his I decided that it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but Terry and I agreed that having such a tool would be useful.

I went to Amazon (where else?) and began to search. Most of the products had middling reviews and many of the comments mentioned flimsiness. The one that had the highest rating, a rather different design from many of the others, is the one I selected. As it turned out, between a credit I had for a returned item and points from my Amazon VISA, it cost me nothing. Now that’s a good deal.Bread Slicer box

When it arrived I was anxious to try it out, but I had to wait a day until I could bake a new loaf of bread. When I first attempted a slice I was not pleased and considered returning it. But I gave it more time and tried to make it work. I realized that the first thing I had to do was to make a clean, straight initial slice when I first cut the loaf in two. Then, if I applied proper pressure with my left hand while cutting with my right and at the same time held my mouth just right I could get a nice, even slice.

It’s a bit more flimsy and a tad less solid than I would prefer, but the thing works and I’m keeping it.

Remembering C.A.

I learned on Monday of the passing of long-time Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd member C.A. Conn. C.A. was a busy, active member of the church until just a couple of months ago, when she was struck by a progressive, debilitating illness.

C.A. Conn photoI really didn’t know her at all my first eighteen months at Good Shepherd, but we were thrown together on the profile committee after Pastor Kathleen’s retirement. She always had an opinion which she felt you were entitled to hear. But she had a lot to offer, and had an in-depth knowledge of the history of Good Shepherd, which she documented. She produced a marvelous video, in which I play a cameo role, as part of our rector search process. At the outset she didn’t know me either, but came to appreciate both my computer and writing skills. That meant a lot to me.

When Sandra, our communications director, left for a career opportunity at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, C.A. told Linda, our Senior Warden (that is, board president) that I was the one who should be tasked with maintaining the church web site and sending out the weekly e-news. Linda was happy that I was willing to take those tasks on, along with the church Facebook page. Meanwhile, C.A. took responsibility for the weekly church worship bulletin. I was frequently in touch with her about content for the e-news.

C.A.’s decline was sudden, unexpected, and troubling. Long a highly mobile and independent person, she had to rely on her devoted husband for transportation and she began walking with a cane. Eventually she was unable to even get out of the house.

C.A. led a marvelous life and gave fully and generously to Good Shepherd Episcopal Hemet. She will be greatly missed and she leaves big shoes that we’ll need to fill.

We love you, C.A. Rest in peace and rise in glory.


Horizon coverHorizon
Barry Lopez
Knopf (March 19, 2019), 592 pages
Kindle edition $14.99, Amazon hardcover $18.00

One would think that if one were to select a book to read from an award-winning author whom one had not read before, one would start with one of their classic books. In the case of Barry Lopez that might be Arctic Dreams or Of Wolves and Men. Me, I started with his most recent book, Horizon.

Not a Barry Lopez classic, but highly readable and enjoyable. Lopez describes his visits to the Oregon Coast, the Galapagos Islands, Africa, Australia, and the Antarctic. He describes not only his own travels, but delves into history as well. He writes about Captain Cook, Charles Darwin, the Leakey family, and the earliest Antarctic explorers. The writing is entertaining and engaging and it was delightful to read about Lopez’s explorer spirit. The history was fascinating, except for some of the more unpleasant bits which Lopez describes unblinkingly.

For travel writing and for history this is good reading.

Almost Everything

Notes on Hope coverAlmost Everything: Notes on Hope
Anne Lamott
narrated by the author
Penguin Audio, 2018
$12.25 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

I have not read an Anne Lamott book for several years. When I decided to add an Audible subscription to my Amazon account, however, this is the first book I purchased with one of my credits. I was past due for an Anne Lamott fix.

The book did not disappoint. I was very familiar with Anne’s voice from her many appearances on the late, lamented West Coast Live, a highly intelligent public radio program that Terry and I faithfully listened to each week. It only made sense that she narrate her own book; another voice would not have sounded right.

Anne writes about family, friends, recovery, and writing. She writes about people whose lives were cut short by disease. But she also talks about community, about faith, about grace, and, naturally, about hope. She says people who engender hate want exactly that: for us to hate them, and we should thwart them by not doing so. That makes me seriously reconsider my own feelings about the current occupant of the White House.

She writes about grace. “We can’t logically get from where we were to where we are now. I think that is what they mean by grace.” She calls grace “spiritual WD-40.”

There is not a lot new here. Anne Lamott is Anne Lamott, although I did learn for the first time about her son’s struggle with addiction and recovery. If you are an Anne Lamott fan, however, you will find yourself in familiar and comfortable territory with this book.

the Beyond brand fast food products

I wrote a while back about trying the Beyond veggie burger from the grocery store. I was really impressed with the texture and taste and was anxious to try the Beyond Famous Star burger from the Carl’s Jr. fast food chain.

I finally got the chance to give it a try, and I was very impressed. Quite tasty, just like the beef Famous Star, hardly indistinguishable. A second try confirmed my feelings.

Beyond TacoMore recently Del Taco came out with their Beyond Taco. Now I am not a big Del Taco fan. (What’s a Mexican fast food chain doing selling french fries, and who wants french fries with a taco?) Nonetheless, in my quest to learn about the new generation of plant-based meat substitutes, I felt that I owed the product a try.

My perception: not bad. The consistency was the consistency of taco meat and the taste matched that of a Del Taco taco. I won’t go back, but I’m glad I tried it.

I also have to give Del Taco credit for being fully committed to the Beyond Taco. They have dedicated printed Beyond Taco wrappers complete with logo. Carl’s identifies their Beyond Famous Star by wrapping the burger a certain way or affixing a sticker that says “Promo.”

Now I’m waiting for the Burger King Impossible Whopper to arrive in Southern California. I’m looking forward to that.

This is Audible

If you have ever purchased an audiobook from Audible you know that every book starts with a familiar voice saying, “This is audible.” (Rather like the “You’ve got mail” from the heyday of AOL. Someone whose voice became familiar to millions and who probably got paid very little for recording the phrase.) That Audible voice was present in the early days of the company and it is still very much present today in the Amazon-owned era.

AudibleI wrote a couple of weeks ago about my audiobook dilemma. I liked the fact that I could download audiobooks from the library at no cost, but I disliked the fact that most new titles were unavailable, being already checked out by others, and that I was under time pressure to finish the book. I said that I didn’t have a problem in principle with the Audible monthly fee, but I didn’t want to put yet another monthly subscription on my credit card.

Here’s was I did. I was already aware that I was in overwhelm mode with my streaming video options, so I decided that was a good place to cut back, allowing me in good conscience to take on the Audible subscription.

My first impression: I am delighted. When I was an Audible subscriber many years ago the selection was somewhat limited. I had a credit that I had to use each month or lose (they later began to allow credit rollovers), but there wasn’t necessarily a book available that month which I wanted. These days almost every new book that comes out has an audio version, as well as print and ebook editions. Amazon makes it easy because when you search for a book the entry displays all the various formats that are available. I am not by any means going to give up reading print books in Kindle format, but many books do lend themselves to the audio format. While I will continue to read my Kindle books in the evening, I have audiobooks which I can listen to while walking, driving, doing yard work, or simply doing daily mundane tasks. It’s nice to be able to listen to an audiobook while emptying the dishwasher.

There’s another benefit that having an Audible subscription provides. I get my one credit each month, but if I come to the end of a book before I come to the end of the month the cost of that second audiobook is considerably less for Audible members than it is for non-members.

I think the value of the subscription is going to be well worth the cost.

The Origins of Creativity

Origins of Creativity coverThe Origins of Creativity
Edward O. Wilson
narrated by Jonathan Hogan
Recorded Books, 2017
Audiobook $17.95, Kindle edition $8.98
audiobook borrowed from the Santa Clara County Library System

This was enjoyable listening. Edward O. Wilson is a distinguished Harvard scientist who first made his name in the field of entomology (the study of insects – as opposed to etymology, the study of word origins). In particular, he is one of the foremost experts in the world on ants.

This book goes far beyond the ant world, however. His thesis is that we can do a lot to salvage culture and society by the coming together of science and the humanities. In this discussion, he describes storytelling in hunter-gatherer societies, the social conventions of insects, the evolution of the genus homo, and archetypes in movies. Wilson also discusses religion, though not always in a favorable light. At the same time, he has some positive things to say about religion and even admits to a couple of moving religious experiences in his own life.

The narration by Jonathan Hogan is excellent. His inflection, cadence, and pace make this a very enjoyable book to listen to. I did at times think that maybe I should be reading the print version; there were times when I wanted to flip back a few pages, something that is easier to do in print than with audio.

Overall, however, this was a delightful and educational listening experience.

keeping calm and carrying on

Those of you who have been on Facebook for a while will remember a time when the meme, “Keep Calm and Carry On” or some variation thereof appeared with annoying regularity. It was supposedly originally a message to the British people from their government in the run-up to World War II.

I have never been big on sharing memes on Facebook, but recently one caught my attention in such a way that I had to share. It read:

quoteThe less you give a damn the happier you will be.


It seems to have struck a chord, as it received multiple likes. That is worth noting in that many of my Facebook posts receive no likes at all.

Interestingly, that same evening there was a quote from venerable Ram Dass on Instagram which said the same thing in a different way:

quoteThe resistance to the unpleasant situation is the root of suffering.


My cousin Keith posted a saying from the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, who reigned from the years 161 to 180 in the Common Era. Despite its antiquity it struck me as being particularly appropriate for those of us who are nauseated by the words and actions of the current administration in Washington. It reads:

quoteYou always own the option of having no opinion. There is never any need to get worked up or to trouble your soul about things you can’t control. These things are not asking to be judged by you. Leave them alone.

All different ways of saying the same thing. The final word goes to Dame Julian Of Norwich, who was born in 1342 and whom the Episcopal Church honors on May 8. A vision told her that whatever God does is done in love, and therefore:

quoteAll shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.


In other words, keep calm and carry on.

where are the sunflowers?

There is something missing in the San Jacinto Valley this spring.

The sunflowers are missing.

Where I would normally see sunflowers I am seeing small yellow flowers. This time last year sunflowers were all over the place. This year we had an unusually wet winter and (with the exception of a few hot days) an unusually mild spring with a lot of clouds and a robust marine layer. Maybe sunflowers don’t like that.

sunflowersSunflowers represent hope and new beginnings for me. In the spring of 1971 I was a senior at Hemet High School. There were sunflowers all around that year. I was enjoying the final semester of my coursework (all electives I wanted to take!) and looking forward to attending Pitzer College in the fall. I also spent some time with a marvelous young woman named Peggy. We went out a couple of times. Hemet’s lone single-screen theater was showing a Sophia Loren movie called Sunflower. It was an awful movie, but I got to spend some time with Peggy. I regret that my social ineptitude meant that the relationship didn’t really go anywhere.

So sunflowers have always been a symbol of expectation, moving forward, and happiness to me. I miss them this year.

the wait is finally over

I have written about my church, the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, and our ongoing quest to find a new rector since Pastor Kathleen announced her retirement nearly three years ago. Kathleen departed in early September 2016 and our interim rector, Fr. Rob, arrived at the beginning of November. After a year we had not found a permanent rector but Fr. Rob was unable to stay on any longer.

Good Shepherd's new logoSince then we have made do with supply priests, who showed up only on Sunday and a few other key dates on the liturgical calendar. We’ve been fortunate in that on most Sundays we have had one of two very capable retired priests to celebrate the Eucharist, Fr. Carr and Fr. Orozco. The two are very different in their styles but each quite good in his own way.

Happily, that time of uncertainty has come to an end. On Sunday Linda, our Senior Warden (the Episcopal equivalent of the president of board of directors), announced that the vestry (church board) had called the next rector to Good Shepherd. She has been on the East Coast for many years with solid experience serving a variety of Episcopal parishes. She also has family in northern San Diego County, just to the south of us.

It looks to me like this is going to be a really good fit and I look forward to her arrival on July 1. You can read her letter to the congregation to learn more.