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Sunday 2023.3.19

Lazy Man Trees

No more toting five-gallon buckets of water. No more spraying for insects. No more mixing fertilizer.

I continue my project of replacing the citrus trees with zero-maintenance artificial trees. On Friday morning I potted the fourth tree. I ordered a fifth tree that afternoon. I already have the pots. I need to purchase more sand and river rocks.

The front is done. I'm at the halfway point. I plan to pot four more trees along the side where a truck parked on the sandstone in my yard, breaking it up. I still have to do that repair. The trees along that side will keep vehicles off my yard.

Spring Planting?

Tomorrow is the first day of spring. Happy Spring Equinox. My plan has been to buy new pots of herbs — all the usual ones I like, like parsley, sage, thyme, etc. — and maybe three tomato plants.

My plans were somewhat dampened by the rains. The forecast is for rain again during the first half of the coming week. While the sun is shining I can buy the plants. I'll keep them indoors until I'm sure it's safe to pot them outside. And speaking of rain…

Storm Number 22

It's raining now. This storm isn't expected to produce much rainfall. There is a 50% probability of rain today, tapering off this evening. The expectation is between one tenth to one quarter of an inch. Then it will start raining again tomorrow evening. That storm will drop a little more rain, but probably not enough to cause significant flooding or mud slides.

Ex-President Trump

Will he be arrested on Tuesday? Who can say? The TV news has been discussing almost nothing else. Of course, there is the ICC's (International Criminal Court) arrest warrant of Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes. And there is the uncertainty in the stock market and banking sector because of the failure of those two banks, Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank. But Trump seems to be getting the lion's share of news coverage.

One commentator made a good point. He said Trump would use the event to ask for donations. It's something he would do. And, in fact, that is exactly what he did. He put out of fund raising email on Saturday, even though there is no evidence he would actually be arrested on Tuesday. The news has been saying he drummed up the story to get attention and raise money. That's what he does.

The investigation is evidently coming to an end. According to the news, there is at least one more witness to question tomorrow. Prosecution commentators on TV say it is customary to invite the primary defendant into the court to give testimony when the investigation is about to conclude. His attorneys have been advising him to stay silent. Trump can't speak two words without telling a lie.

So, we'll see.

Wednesday 2023.3.15

I Agree

For once, I agree with the former vice president, Mike Pence. He said, "History will hold Trump accountable" for what happened on January 6th in Washington D.C.

For years I've been saying future history books will claim Trump was one of the worst, if not the worst president of the United States. The events of January 6th only dragged his reputation lower.

Will he be elected president again in 2024? I think not.

First, he has to win the nomination. Although he still has his dedicated devotees, they are fewer in number now. Many republicans are done with him. He's old news. In 2016 he had momentum. When he started winning primaries it was easy from there. I believe the momentum will work against him in 2024. If he wins one or two early primaries people will panic and word will spread to vote against him.

He'll say the entire system was rigged against him, of course. He can't admit defeat.

And speaking of history books: I just got another one — People vs. Donald Trump: An Inside Account by Mark Pomerantz. I haven't started reading it yet. First I have to finish the Terry Pratchett book I'm reading.


Yesterday's weather was fun to watch from the comfort of my home. As usual, I opened the drapes and watched it rain.

The forecast was for two to four inches of rain, possibly eight inches at higher elevations. The Weather Channel had this area mapped as a "High Risk" area for flooding. Evidently everyone was paying attention. The local public libraries closed for the day. The university and the city college cancelled classes and told employees to work from home.

This morning I looked forward to seeing the Santa Barbara County Rainfall and Reservoir Summary. The area where I live saw nearly 3¼ inches of rain, the third highest amount in the region. We are now at 211% of our "Normal-to-Date" rainfall. It's fun to watch it rain outside, but at this point it all goes into the ocean. The ground is saturated and the reservoirs are full.

Weird Dream

I always enjoy writing about them, when I can remember them. I dreamed there were four-digit codes for all foods and I was trying to find the code for mashed potatoes. I have no idea where that dream came from, nor what it might mean.

Sunday 2023.3.12

Happy Daylight Saving Time

If you live in an area where we switch to Daylight Saving Time, hopefully you remembered to adjust your clocks ahead one hour.

A lot of people don't like changing their clocks twice each year. The solution is easy. Everyone turn your clocks ahead 30 minutes and leave them that way, indefinitely. Something for everyone.

As for me, I don't care. I'm retired. I go to bed when I feel sleepy. I get out of bed when I feel rested. It doesn't matter what the clock says. (It was 10:00 when I got up this morning, then I went around my home adjusting the clocks that don't set themselves automatically.)

Doctor Visit

As mentioned in Wednesday's blog, I met with a urologist that afternoon. Thankfully, the meeting happened. During the night I woke up with cold symptoms — sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes. You've been there, I'm sure.

I called the doctor's office and asked if I could do a phone consultation rather than cancel and reschedule the appointment. He didn't need to physically look at me. I wanted my questions answered. And thus we met by telephone.

There was good news and bad news, although the bad news was hardly bad at all.

First the bad news: There isn't much that can be done to make cathing easier for me. No medication is going to relax the sphincter at the base of the bladder. Surgery is an option, but it would probably result in my being incontinent and in diapers for the remainder of my life. Muscle relaxants, such as those given to people with a back injury, might help, but side effects could be an issue and the pills can be habit-forming.

The good news: What I'm doing is the best thing I can do — try to relax that sphincter when I insert a catheter, going slowly and stopping if a little twinge of pain causes the muscles to tense up. Wait, relax, then proceed again slowly, millimeter by millimeter if necessary.

He said the amount being held in my bladder is not critical. Yes, it's more than ideal. It's best not to exceed 500cc. Usually I drain more than that, maybe 700, 800, sometimes more than 900cc. However, with practice relaxing the muscle inside, I might be able to slowly return to those earlier days of cathing more easily.

Meanwhile, his staff assembled a package of different catheters for me to try. Maybe one will be better than the catheters I've been using. I don't know if that matters. I used those SpeediCaths easily for a few months without any difficulties. In my opinion, the catheter is not the issue; it's the sphincter.

Tree Number Three

Late Wednesday afternoon the third artificial tree arrived. I keep telling people I need seven, but I really need eight. I forget about the large ceramic pot in the corner of my space. That was the first one, placed there because people kept driving over the corner of my yard, sometimes too close to my home. It was amusing at first, seeing them swerve out of the way when they noticed the pot there. That was many years ago.

On Thursday morning I potted the newest tree before the rains began. And then I ordered tree number four.

More Rain

As predicted, it has been raining again here. Local news reported two to four inches were expected. We did well. Where I live 2¼ inches of ran fell. Only one area, Figueroa Mountain, saw more rain, nearly 2½ inches. There was no news of flooding locally. I'm sure you saw the news coverage of the the levee that failed in Monterey County. That was sad.

The Rainfall and Reservoir Summaries look good. The reservoirs here are full and we are way ahead of our normal rainfall this season. We've been through 20 storms so far. There is no way to predict the future, but we're thankful at the present.

It's cloud today with only a 20% chance of rain. More rain is expected this week as the second atmospheric river moves into California.

There were advisories on TV telling us to charge electronic devices, such as cell phones, and prepare storm lanterns in the event of power failures. I prepared, but so far the electricity has stayed on.

Clean Keyboard

One of my idiosyncrasies is my desire to keep my computer keyboards clean. Washing all the key tops used to take an hour or more. Now I cover my keyboards in an envelope of thin plastic, similar to the bags in the meat and produce sections of grocery stores.

I learned this from some Chinese friends. I noticed their TV remote control was wrapped in plastic to keep it clean. (So are mine, now.) They considered the hands unsafe. That's why they eat with chopsticks. Their fingers don't touch the food. The plastic cover makes it easier to wipe down the remote control often, keeping it clean and safe.

This week I covered two of my computer keyboards with fresh plastic. The plastic is so thin and flexible, it's easy to type through it. Other than the slight whisper of noise, I don't even notice it's there. And when I change the plastic, I always take a moment to appreciate how clean my keyboards are.


How long have I had my SUV? It's a 1993. I bought it new. And I never saw there is an on/off switch for the alarm system. My alarm has been going off lately and I've been trying to figure out how to prevent that from happening.

Thursday evening I looked into the car to make sure none of the interior lights were on. That can happen if a door isn't closed all the way. The lights drain the battery. I saw a blinking red light. Further inspection revealed it was the alarm system. The switch was in the ON position. I turned it off. Hopefully that will solve the alarm issue.

Maybe worth mentioning: Although I've had the car for 30 years, it has only 70,000 miles on it. I don't drive much. And maybe that explains why I still don't know everything about the vehicle.

Wednesday 2023.3.8

A Big Day, Maybe

I have an appointment with a urologist this afternoon, different from the doctor I was seeing. Without going into a lot of detail, I want to know why it is so difficult to cath now. It was so easy during the summer. Maybe I'll have good news for Sunday's blog post.

Meanwhile, I think I've found a schedule that works fairly well for me — 9:00AM and 9:00PM. I succeed maybe better than 75% of the time. The important time is the evening. If I can successfully cath before going to bed, I can sleep peacefully through the night. There were times in the past when I was so uncomfortable I wished I would die in my sleep. Thankfully, things are better now.

Those Lamb Sausages

In Sunday's blog entry I wrote about making a second batch of Lamb Sausages. The flavor was so good, I wanted to write down the recipe for future use, lest I forget how I prepared them. I therefore added the recipe to the Archive. There is no video and I doubt I'll ever shoot one. Lamb videos don't do well on my YouTube channel. Actually, nearly all of my cooking videos perform poorly. Only three are popular: Fish & Chips, Salmon Jerky, and Ribs Cooked in an Air Fryer.

I am still looking for the perfect recipe for making Italian sausages. They're my favorite. And, thankfully, I live in a part of California where fennel grows wild. During the time of year when it goes to seed I only need to walk a short distance to gather fresh fennel, which I rinse well and dry in the oven to kill any insects I might have brought home.

In one kitchen cupboard I have a few half-sheet binders. One of those contains my most favorite recipes, which I printed and then laminated so that I can wipe them clean if I get any food spots on them while preparing a recipe. If I can come up with a favorite Italian sausage recipe, I'll add a new page to the binder. Speaking of which…

Strange Italian Sausage Recipe

I've been researching Italian Sausage recipes on the internet. I already have a recipe in the Archive, but I'm looking to make them more like the sausages I enjoy from the store. All the recipes I've seen so far, either on the internet or in three sausage cookbooks I have, are fairly standard. The most iconic seasoning is fennel. Here in Southern California it grows wild in the fields. This year, with all the rain we've had so far, the fields should be overwhelmed with fennel this summer.

Here's a thought: What does fennel taste like? It has a licorice flavor, like anise. I just happen to have a bottle of absinthe I bought several years ago to experiment with. It has a licorice flavor. What if I were to put some in a batch of Italian sausage filling? It's weird, but it might be worth an experiment.

I'd probably make a regular batch of meat filling without adding the fennel yet. Portion out a small amount, mix in a little absinthe and cook it for tasting. If it's awful, I can add the fennel instead. This way, I won't risk ruining 2½ pounds of pork filling. And, speaking of cooking Italian…


I made another batch of Marinara pasta sauce again yesterday. It's one of the basics I try to keep stocked in the freezer.

Atmospheric Rivers

There is news on TV about some atmospheric rivers coming to Central California during the next week or two. The forecast is for on-and-off heavy rains from March 10th through March 20th. There could be substantial flooding and property damage.

I live in the South Coast area of California, so called because the coast here faces south, not west like most of California. Although we'll see rains here, it likely won't be as much as along the Central Coast.

As usual, I look forward to seeing it rain because I am retired. I can stay warm and dry in my own home as I watch it rain outside.

Sunday 2023.3.5

Sausages Again

I decided to experiment with sausages again. I had a boneless leg of lamb in the refrigerator, which needed to be trimmed. In the freezer was a partial package of beef tri-tip and fat I bought on sale. Partial because there wasn't enough beef for a full batch of sausages, but mixed with an equal amount of ground lamb and fat filled out a full batch.

This time I used less salt than I did in a recent batch. I also pulled some rosemary needles from a plant outside, chopped those up well and steeped them in a little boiling water to release some of the flavor. That and some freshly ground black pepper provided enough seasoning for a mild but delicious sausage.

Yesterday I started yet another batch of sausages. This time they were all lamb meat and fat. Besides salt and pepper, I seasoned the filling with a little sage and garlic powder. I also added some panko bread crumbs. This experiment was more about texture. I put the filling in my food processor and ground it to a finer texture.

As usual, I shaped a little patty, about an inch in diameter and fried it to taste for seasoning. The flavor was especially good this time. I need to write this recipe down.

In a future batch I'd like to experiment with adding dry milk powder.

This afternoon I'll fill natural hog casings to make the links. Meanwhile, the meat has been in the refrigerator to allow the seasonings to flavor the lamb.

Fixing my KitchenAid

My stand mixer has had a long-term problem that I endured for several years. When doing something strenuous, like grinding meat, the orbital piece, called a planetary, that turns the paddle works itself loose. It did it again when I was grinding the meat for the sausages. It's held in place only by friction. Evidently that's okay if you're whipping cream, but it's not enough for grinding meat. I'd had enough.

I went out to the shed and got my package of epoxy glue. After cleaning the parts thoroughly of grease and oil, I mixed up some epoxy and applied it. Then I used a rubber mallet to hammer the planetary back into place.

Trees Revisited

The planters are back in my yard. Giving away those citrus trees made my latest landscaping project a little easier.

Yesterday I cleaned up the planter where the ficus tree used to be and potted the artificial ficus. It looks good. Meanwhile, a friend went with me to Home Depot to buy more bags of sand. They're only $5 each. It takes about four bags to fill a planter.

I have seven planters to fill. The third tree will arrive this week. Then I'll order another one. Eventually, the project will be complete. No more living trees to water and feed and spray.

I made New England Clam Cakes for him. He will be moving to Virginia soon to join his wife, who is in military training there. He wants to experience New England seafood, such as fried clams. The fish there is good, but homemade is better. If he and his wife stop at a roadside clam shack and order the clam cakes, they won't find many clams. I use two cans of clams in mine.


I went to the dentist this past week for my regular cleaning, exam and x-rays. Everything looked good, but there is one cavity. Naturally, the dentist wants to do a crown. They like those for the money, $1,800; I pay $440. I said No. At my age I don't want to invest a lot of money in my teeth. If they last me another five years, that might be enough. So I said to fill the cavity. That will cost me only $37.60.

There was a time when they would fill a tooth for only the insurance payment, no cost to me. But times have changed. Everybody wants more money now.

Wednesday 2023.3.1

It's March

Spring is in the air, although it won't officially be spring until the 20th of this month.

It feels like planting season. I'll make a few trips to Home Depot to buy some potted herbs. Mine are still alive (most of them) outside, but I need to start with fresh plants and new potting soil. Some of them, like the Italian parsley, are only good for one season anyway.

I also want to start another tomato plant this year. I didn't grow one last year, but the previous year I had an Early Girl plant, so called because it begins producing tomatoes early in the season. I enjoyed those in my salads. I might start three plants, as I'll have one of the empty ugly planters I don't want for my artificial trees. Speaking of which…


As planned, on Sunday I potted the first artificial tree. It was easier than I thought it might be. Most of the work was toting bags of sand from my driveway to the planter. At 71 years of age, I'm not feeble yet, but I certainly don't have the strength and stamina I enjoyed 20 years ago.

A friend gave me some sandbags they had prepared to keep rain water out of their garage. It took four bags of sand to fill the planter enough to top it off with decorative river rock. I like the outcome. It might not look as beautiful as a healthy natural tree, but it's good enough for zero maintenance.

The same friend contacted some gardeners he knows. They wanted to take the other trees away. That made it a lot easier for me. They can have the ugly planters too. I'll keep the fancy ones. Or maybe I'll keep one of the ugly pots for tomato plants.

They also did me a favor in exchange for the free trees. They removed the root-bound ficus tree from its pot. They didn't want the tree, which was okay. I just needed help getting that tree out of the pot. The forecast is for rain again today. Maybe tomorrow, if I get more sand, I'll pot the artificial ficus tree where the former one was.

The friend who helped me get rid of the citrus trees is supposed to be here today or tomorrow. I'm sure he'll go with me to Home Depot to buy some sand and a few bags of decorative river rock.

Now I need to buy more trees. There is one I'd really like to have. It's a huge seven-foot banana tree, but it costs more than $500. I'll pass for now.

I did order a different tree yesterday. It's only five feet tall, which I think would work well under my front awnings.

Meanwhile, I cut up most of the old ficus tree, putting the pieces in the trash. The root ball will have to wait until next week's pickup. There is already one dead tree in there. If the bin is too heavy, they can't empty it into their truck.

I Learned Something New This Week

We can cook rice in the Instant Pot (IP). I prefer bowl-in-bowl cooking when I can do it. Put 1 cup of rinsed white rice in a stainless steel bowl that will fit inside the IP. Put about a cup of water in the bottom of the IP bowl. Put slightly more than 1 cup of water in the stainless steel bowl with the rice.

Bring up to pressure and cook three to four minutes. Carefully release the pressure, then remove the lid and fluff the rice. It comes out pleasantly fluffy. It will shave off a little of the time it takes to cook rice on the stove, which can take up to 20 minutes. I tried it. It works.

I also learned how to clean the pressure release valve on my IP. When I made the rice, the pot constantly hissed steamed. I almost boiled the pot try. After viewing a couple videos on YouTube, I easily disassembled the valve, cleaned it, reassembled it and tested it. It worked perfectly.

And, Finally, Some Nostalgia

If you want to see a little of the town where I grew up in Connecticut, check out this live feed:


Although that stretch of water is known as the Mystic River, it's actually a salt water tidal cove that connects to Long Island Sound. The bridge can be raised to allow boats to pass. While watching the feed, I saw the bridge raised, but there was no boat traffic on the river. Maybe they raise and lower it once or twice each day to keep things working smoothly.