When we packed up my Mom’s apartment after she died we found some pearls among her things. I’d forgotten about those pearls, if I ever knew about them. My sister Anne said they’d been given to her by a Japanese educator who visited Elmhurst High School when Mom was an administrator there. I remember Toshi, the visitor. I’ve forgotten his last name. Anne said Mom had told her the pearls were really nice.

We took the pearls to Steve Mauger who does business in Fort Wayne as “Your Personal Jeweler.” I’d gotten an opal necklace from him years ago for Debbie for our anniversary, maybe around 2004? Steve looked at the pearls and said, “these are really nice.”

We decided to split up the necklace so each of the heirs could have a few pearls to do something with. I decided to do a bracelet and I talked with Steve about what could be done. After some back and forth I ended up sending him a rough sketch.

Bracelet Design Specification

Steve took that idea and produced this bracelet.

Final Product

I couldn’t be more pleased with the final product. Steve explained to me all the particulars. The “same piece as the clasp hooks through” actually has a specific name in a jeweler’s world. I’ve forgotten it, it was several hours ago when he told me.

Feeling thankful and blessed and nostalgic and sad for all that Mom gave me and all that I’ve lost. It’s fine to have a little reminder to wear.

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Well Aged

When we last butchered pigs, early in 2019, I took one of the hams, cured it, and left it to hang in my garage. That’s right, no typos there, the ham has been hanging in my garage at ambient temperatures since early 2019, almost 2 years.

Until today. On a lazy Sunday I thought it was time to see how it was doing. I hang hams from the rafters in a cloth bag. I took this one down and turned it out of the bag.

That’s a ham? Eww, that looks pretty nasty. But I wasn’t daunted, I’ve cured hams before and they never look good right out of the bag. After a good scrubbing with a bristly brush it looked better.

Looks pretty good! But you never know until you cut into the ham.

Ohh, look at that! Perfect! Cured all the way through to an even rosy hue.

Well of course this is one of the best slices I cut. Long and so thin you can see my fingers through it. I have plenty of hacked up little pieces and pieces thick as a shingle.

While a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s not worth a single bite. I thought after hanging that long the ham would be even more dry and salty than a home cured ham usually is. But it’s not, it’s mellow and mild, succulent and salty.

I think the next ham may have to hang for 3 years!

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I went to Menards today to buy supplies for what seems to be the never-ending porch renovation. Happily I found everything I needed and I parked my self in a line that seemed surprisingly short for a holiday weekend to check out.

But it wasn’t short enough for the guy in front of me. At the head of the line was a lady of approximately my age with another lady of an age to be her mother [1]. They had a cart full of plants and stuff and each item had to be explained and relayed from the clerk to the daughter to her mother and then back through the daughter to the clerk.

The guy in front of me huffed and puffed, craned his neck around to look for a shorter line, and finally went stomping off to a shorter line.

“You inutterable [2] prick,” I thought. “Did you never have a mother?”, I thought, “Do you think you’ll never grow old,” I steamed.

Then a cashier opened up a new line and I dashed over to it, my self-righteous indignation discarded by the opportunity to get out of Menards 30 seconds earlier. I wasn’t being snotty and huffy like the guy in front of me, I was just choosing a shorter line [3]. I bought my stuff and wheeled it out to the parking lot…

And there was the lady and her mother, loading their plants into a car. Mister Crankypants who huffed and puffed to another line was just coming out the door of Menards when I drove off through Menards’ puzzling parking lot.

Is there a point or a moral to this? I don’t know. I’m just missing my Mom and wishing I could take her to a store again and take forever to get checked out.

1. I’ll just assume she was her daughter from here on, it doesn’t really affect this tale.

2. I had to look that up after I got home, I couldn’t remember what sort of prick he was, “inutterable” or “insufferable.” Turns out it he was either unutterable or insufferable. But not inutterable, I made that up in my pique, although some dictionaries very kindly allow that “in” or “un” utterable mean the same thing.

3. I’m a nice guy, neither unutterable nor insufferable, really, I’m a much better person than Mr. Crankypants. Really.

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And Yet Another Black Raspberry Post

The wild black raspberries produced like crazy this summer. I made black raspberry pie and black raspberry jam and black raspberry syrup and then I took all the black raspberry pulp left over from that and made black raspberry vinegar.

I had black raspberry syrup on my fried mush this weekend, and today I made a yogurt black raspberry vinaigrette to have on a salad.

The vinegar has been sitting at the back of our pantry. I never think of it until after I’ve made something it would be good in. Today I was putting together a salad for lunch tomorrow and we didn’t have any of our good homemade bleu cheese dressing in the refrigerator. What to do?

That’s when I remembered the raspberry vinegar. I like a tart, not too oily, dressing so this is how I made it.

1/3 cup Siggi’s non-fat Icelandic Skyr [1]
3 T olive oil
3 T black raspberry vinegar
dash of salt
dash of pepper

It came out just the way I like it. The yogurt makes it creamy and smooth, and the vinegar makes it tart. The color though looks like something that couldn’t have possibly come from nature.

Black Raspberry Salad Dressing?

The photo doesn’t do it justice, in real life it’s this bizarre pink that looks like what you’d get if you puréed a Barbie [2], packaging and all.

I’m looking forward to enjoying last summer’s black raspberries again tomorrow for lunch!

1. AKA yogurt. Our grocery stores have recently started carrying Siggi’s [3] and it’s a really nice yogurt. A lot of the grocery store yogurts taste chalky and weird, but Siggi’s, even the non-fat [4], just tastes good.
2. No Barbies were harmed in the making of this post.
3. is, as always, commercial-free. Nobody [5] pays me anything for doing this.
4. Yes, I know healthy fats are all the rage and non-fat yogurt is of the devil.
5. Including Siggi’s.

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The Message is the Message

Desperately trying to stay awake until the New Year (it’s 9pm, 12/31) I’ve been surfing the presidential candidate’s sites, considering their fundraising appeals. (All of the following are from official campaign communications.)

My native (Indiana) son, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is apologetic, ‘This is the last time you’ll hear from me this year’ … ‘Can you make one last contribution right now’ …

Elizabeth Warren comes across as desperate, ‘We’re only hours away from the biggest fundraising deadline of the year, and we’re at risk of missing our $20 million goal.’

Bernie Sanders pitches unity, ‘There is only one way we win — and that is together. ‘

Joe Biden, … wait … Joe Biden is from Scranton, PA? Site of “The Office” TV series? Setting for Harry Chapin’s classic “30,000 Pounds of Bananas” song? Whoa. Shaking my head to clear it.
Anyway, Joe is taking to the pulpit, “We are in a battle for the soul of America. “

Donald Trump comes across as a belligerent illiterate nitwit:

I’m With You, and I will FIGHT for you, and I will WIN for YOU.
This is a MOVEMENT.

Why is “With” capitalized, and not “will?” Why is “you” spelled “You”, “you”, and “YOU?” Why are contractions inconsistently applied, “I’m” but “I will?”

I expect in each case the candidates are trying to appeal to their base.

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Hello, Chuck

I ran the HUFF today at Chain O’ Lakes. It’s a 50K trail run with an 11.3 mile “fun run.” I’m not in 50K shape. I’m not really in 11 mile shape either. I hadn’t done much more than 6 miles in a training run for several months. But one day after a pleasant training run I signed up for the fun run in a fit of optimism.

Today was a beautiful day for a run on the trails. Just above freezing at the start and the trails were only muddy in spots. At 6 miles I was feeling great, fine and strong and thinking my optimism had been justified.

Ah, hubris! By mile 8 the wheels had come off. My right knee felt like it was going to buckle on every stride. The range of motion in my right hip was down to almost nothing. I waddled through miles 8 and 9 alternately feeling sorry for myself and cussing my stupid self for signing up for a race I knew wasn’t in shape for.

At the HUFF around mile 10 you come out of the woods at the west end of Sand Lake and you can see the beach house where the finish line is set up. The end was literally in sight! My spirits and my legs perked up.

HUFF Course

I came around the west edge of Sand Lake running faster than I had all day and remembered that I’d run that same trail when I was 15 years old and working as a lifeguard at Sand Lake. 47 years ago.

I wondered what 15 year old me would’ve thought if I’d known I’d be running this same trail 47 years later? What would 15 year old me want 62 year old me to know? What does 62 year old me want my 15 year old doppelgänger to know?

I thought about these things as I went through the last mile, feeling strong, feeling optimistic, feeling good again, and I didn’t come up with any answers for current or 47 years ago me.

I’m just happy to be feeling good again.

Happy at the Finish

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W.B. Yeats, Call Your Office

The centre has held [1], perhaps things won’t fall apart. [2]

1. Trump Impeached

2. The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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Hamming It Up

Each year Jason Holzinger, our seed corn dealer, gives us a ham for Christmas. It’s the best ham in the world, an Ossian bone-in ham.

I’ve been wanting to try cooking something sous vide and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I don’t have a sous vide cooker, and even if I did it probably wouldn’t be big enough for a ham.

But I’d read in Kenji Lopez-Alt’s amazing cookbook, “The Food Lab” about using a picnic cooler as a sous vide cooker. The idea is a insulated picnic cooler will hold a large quantity of heated water at a steady temperature for hours. Long enough even to heat a ham.

These hams are cooked and you want to heat them to around 145 degrees for serving. According to Kenji that’s right in the sweet spot for what you can do with a picnic cooler sous vide, so away I went.

I got my Holzinger ham and put it in our cooler.

Ham and Cooler

Sous vide is French for “under vacuum” and what you do to cook “sous vide” is to vacuum seal whatever you’re cooking and immerse it in hot water until it is cooked.

The ham comes vacuum sealed, so all I had to do was heat 4 gallons of water to 150 degrees. I wanted the water to be 140 degrees in the sous vide cooker, and I figured it would drop 10 degrees in warming up the ham and cooler.

Hot Water

Pretty close to 150! Water comes out of our hot water tap at 115, so it doesn’t take long to come up to 150. I poured this into the cooler.


And the temperature dropped fairly quickly below 140 degrees. That ham was just out of the refrigerator at 36 degrees, so it was essentially a 10 pound ice cube. I added a gallon of boiling water a couple of times over the next half hour and the temperature stabilized at my desired 140 degrees.

Cozy Cooking

I wrapped the cooler to help hold the heat. After the temperature stabilized I only had to add boiling water once more in 3 hours to keep the temperature up.

I let the ham sit in the sous vide cooker for 4 hours at 140 degrees, then took it out and put a brown sugar and balsamic vinegar glaze on it and blasted it in a hot oven for 15 minutes.

Pretty as a Picture

The glaze made it pretty as a picture, but didn’t do anything for me flavor-wise. I wouldn’t bother with it next time.[1]

The ham though was amazing, more tender and juicy than any ham I’ve ever had. It was almost “cut with a fork” tender.

There were a few “lessons learned” I’ll apply next time.

  • Let the ham come to room temperature first. It took a lot of fussing with boiling water to get a stable temperature in the cooler.
  • Plan for getting the ham out of the cooler when it’s done. While 140 degree water is nothing like messing with the superheated water from a pressure cooker, getting a ham out of 5 gallons of water at 140 degrees is a challenge. It’s just hot enough you really don’t want to thrust your hands into it. And picking the cooler up off the floor and tipping it into the sink was a thrill in itself.

Thanks Jason and Kenji for the best ham ever!

1. I’ve tried a variety of glazes, and never liked any of them. Mom never glazed a ham and I guess that’s a childhood taste I still have.

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Bird Brain

I’m reading Mark Twain’s “A Tramp Abroad” and I came across this gem today.

“A (blue) jay hasn’t got any more principle than a Congressman.”

As appropriate today in Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District as it was in 1880 when Twain wrote it.

Although that does seem to be a harsh comparison for the blue jay.

Noisy Ill-tempered Bird
Unprincipled Sycophant

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