Month: March 2020

Red Lentil Coconut Stew Recipe

Red Lentil Coconut Stew Recipe

Recipe by LisaCourse: DinnerDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 2 T oil

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  • 1/2 large onion, diced

  • 1 Tbsp chili garlic sauce (adjust to taste)

  • 1 1/2 cups red lentils

  • 1 cup carrots, sliced

  • 1 can coconut milk

  • 2 cups vegetable stock


  • Heat a 6 qt sauté pan over medium heat and add oil. Sprinkle salt over oil.
  • Sauté onion for three minutes, then add 1 teaspoon of chili garlic sauce
  • Stir in lentils and stir to coat with oil
  • Add carrots. Stir in stock and coconut milk.
  • Simmer for 15-20 minutes until lentils are soft. Add salt and chili garlic sauce as desired.


  • Serve over jasmine rice.

2020 Maple Syrup

Our taps are drying up — some of them were drilled on 03 February. The weather is getting warm; a few trees have leafed out. Our maple season is coming to a close. We’ve got more than five gallons of maple syrup canned:

18 Feb 2020 — 1st batch — ~3/4 gallon, a little scorched and used for cooking instead of canned
25 Feb 2020 — 2nd batch — 6 pints
10 Mar 2020 — 3rd batch — 24 pints
26 Mar 2020 — 4th batch — 10 pints
04 April 2020 — 5th batch — 2.75 pints


Olive Tapenade

Olive Tapenade

Recipe by LisaCourse: SidesCuisine: ItalianDifficulty: Easy
Prep time


Cooking time




  • 1 cup black olives, diced

  • 1 cup green olives, diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, diced finely

  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  • Use a mortar and pestle to grind 1/4 of both black and green olives
  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Allow to sit for one hour

Focaccia Bread Recipe

Focaccia Bread Recipe

Difficulty: Easy
Prep time


Cooking time




  • 6¼ cups bread flour

  • ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 tablespoon sea salt

  • 3+3 tablespoons olive oil

  • ~2 cups water


  • Combine yeast, sugar, and one cup of water. Wait until foamy on top.
  • Combine flour and sea salt, mix to combine.
  • Add yeast/water mixture and mix for a few minutes
  • Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and kneed until a shiny dough ball forms, adding water as needed
  • Let dough rise for 24 hours
  • Coat a half-sheet baking pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt
  • Spread dough over baking pan
  • Coat with 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • Allow to rise for 60 minutes
  • Preheat oven to 450
  • Coat with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt
  • Bake for 25-35 minutes

School’s Out — Books

Well … it doesn’t look like school is going to resume until, possibly, August. Maybe not even then. Our district’s go at distance learning has been quite lacking — they’ve basically taken three weeks off to (hopefully) sort out some content to complete the year. I wanted to get Anya a bunch of books — she doesn’t enjoy e-books in spite of the fact we’ve got an endless supply from the local libraries. She likes physical books. I do not like blowing fifteen or twenty bucks on a book … so that’s not going to work out well 🙂

I remembered Book Outlet, where I got her Lucy and Andy books (they have a referral program – 10$ off your first order of 25$ or more and I get a bonus 10$) — I went through their entire collection of not-yet-teenager books and ordered 43 books for about 150$. That’s about 3.50$ per book, mostly hard covers. There are some reference books, drawing instruction books, science experiments, maker ideas, programming books, and a lot of fiction books to try out. I even found a book about urban animal rescue — she’s rather enticed with the idea of being a vet and rescuing wild animals. This will be a great supplement to whatever the school puts together for the remainder of the year. (I also picked up a 2nd and 3rd grade curriculum — additional work for the remainder of this year and something for the summer).

Science Experiment: Potato Powered

I came up with a bunch of science experiments for Anya’s covid not-a-break. Some are really straight-forward, some are open-ended design challenges, and some are pretty tricky. I thought the potato powered LED experiment was straight-forward. A list of materials, step-by-step instructions, and a clear visual product. Except … one potato generated like 0.8 volts. Cut the potato in half, get some extra clips, and we’re up to 1.6 volts.

I’d read about a research project where energy production was increased by using a boiled potato … I needed to make lunch anyway, so I boiled a bit of potato. I also microwaved another bit of the potato — so we’ve got two raw quarters, a boiled quarter, and a microwaved quarter. All four produced about 0.8 volts. In combination, this was enough to light up an LED.

Reading the article, it looks like Wh capacity is what is increasing … not output voltage. Connecting all four quarters (plus finding more pennies, nails, and clips) produced enough power to light up our LED. Now we’re seeing how long the potato-powered LED lasts. From 3PM on 24 March 2020 until … well, it needed to get cleaned up on 26 March as the potatoes started getting dodgy.

Rules for the Zombie Apocalypse

Rules for the Zombie Apocalypse:
  1. Don’t let the zombie bite you
  2. Don’t let the ship full of zombies dock. Anywhere.
  3. The zombie apocalypse is the one scenario where walls will work (zombies aren’t that smart or nimble); build a big one
  4. Don’t get lax about safety just because it is tiring. (Really, don’t!)

Also, Anya is working on a plan to train the raccoons to defend our property.

Commercial and residential demand

The great toilet paper run of 2020 … may not be panicked hording the way it is portraits in the media. I work from home, but Anya is in school (well, was). And used the bathroom there a few times a week. Back when I worked from an office, I used that bathroom once or twice a day. That’s somewhere between a 30 and 50 percent increase in home bathroom usage. Per person, per weekday.

Food is apt to have a simialr shortfall – kids aren’t eating lunch at school, uni kids are staying home, office workers aren’t going out to lunch. Plus people at home have more time to make breakfast … So goodbye eggs at the grocery store.

Now, if I am right, that means there’s a surplus of the one-ply commercial stuff no one likes. There’s not a shortage – there’s a surplus in the commercial supply sector and a corresponding shortage in the retail one. Which is a lot easier to solve – check out Staples or online warehouses that specialize in office supplies. And restaurant supply centers may welcome smaller scale orders.

Excel – Including Current Date In String

Here’s a trick to include the current date in an Excel string — especially useful if you want to include the current date on a graph without having to actually type the current date each time. If you just include TODAY(), you get the integer representation. Wrap TODAY() in TEXT() and supply the formatting you want (“yyyy-mm-dd” in my example). Voila, a date like 2020-03-22 instead of 43912.

SARS COV-2 Visualizations

I see charts of the cumulative number of infections (‘the curve’) and the number of tests administered … but comparing the daily number of tests to the cumulative number of infections is not particularly meaningful beyond seeing that the increase in infections is still rather exponential.

A better visualization compares the cumulative tests to the cumulative infections (or, for less staggering numbers, the daily tests administered and the daily number of new infections identified). No, it doesn’t appear that ‘the curve’ is flattening. I’m curious to see, however, the impact of multiple states going into lock-down has in a week or two.

Looking at a number of infections, especially compared across the globe, provides a bit of a distorted view. Comparing countries by the percent of the population that’s been identified as infected instead of the raw number of identified infections avoids the appearance that small countries are less impacted (and that highly populated countries are disproportionately impacted).