A Hodgepodge Week


World-fly / Pixabay

What do you blog when life is great, and nothing unusual is happening? How about a hodgepodge.

An RV Excursion?

My wife and I will take three grandkids on an RV excursion to Corpus Christi, Texas next week. We, she and I, have got the thirty-foot RV ready. We had the annual maintenance, and oil change competed by the RV shop. I did the slide out maintenance. The vehicle is ready for the trip.

We started the challenging task of populating it will linens, food, utensils, and sundry. The RV is connected to house power, so the refrigerator is at a temperature to take cold and frozen foods anytime. On the night before we set out, we will store the last of the food stuff and the grandkids bags. Not that we are eager to get on the road, but there is so little left to do while the day of departure is days away.

Novel Update

I am making steady progress on editing my novel. I am halfway through the second pass and feeling better as each scene is finished. Becoming impatient to get feedback, I sent two scenes for critique. The reviews were uncomplimentary but enlightening. The comments opened my eyes to ways to improve the chapters submitted.

Knee Surgery Update

I had a meniscus repair surgery three weeks ago. I consider the surgery successful. Before surgery, my knee would throb almost continuously, whether walking or sitting. Since I have had almost no discomfort. I say almost because there has been a time or two when I forgot I am still healing inside the knee. A twinge of discomfort, not pain, reminds me to slow down or stop.

GoPro and Garmin

The RV trip will see us using two acquisitions we did not have on the last trip. We have a GoPro camera to document the trip. We used it on our trip to Ohio in April. My wife edited the video to create an interesting memory. The GoPro will find a home on the windshield and may allow for another video memory.

GoPro HERO5 Black

GoPro HERO5 Black

We have a Garmin GPS to put on the dash and guide us to Corpus Christi. Don’t fret that we don’t know the way. We have made close to a hundred trips between here and there. The Garmin will provide mile checks, traffic reports, and maybe alternate routes around bottlenecks and construction. We will learn its value as we go.

Garmin DriveSmart 60LMT 6" Portable GPS Navigator w/ Lifetime Maps & TrafficGarmin DriveSmart 60LMT 6″ Portable GPS Navigator w/ Lifetime Maps & Traffic


“What do you blog when life is great, and nothing unusual is happening?”

I end each blog with a request for comments. I ask because I enjoy hearing from you, the readers. Take a moment and tell me about your day or just say “Hi.”

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Instant Pot-A versatile mealmaker

Instant pot

8 quart 10-in-1 instant pot

It is not often a kitchen appliance impresses me, but the Instant Pot is one.

Instant Pot Ultra 8 Qt 10-in-1 Multi- Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Yogurt Maker, Cake Maker, Egg Cooker, Sauté, Steamer, Warmer, and Sterilizer

Last October, I bought the eight quart size as a present for my wife. Since, she used this combination pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, sauté, steamer, and warmer to create great meals. Though it has these modes, we have not explored its slow cooker or rice cooker modes. The Instant Pot has a stainless steel inner cooking pot. We liked this because there is no coating to wear through or away over time.

instant pot

6 quart, 6-1 instant pot

Instant Pot LUX80 8 Qt 6-in-1 Multi- Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Sauté, Steamer, and Warmer

Care for cheesecake?

How do we use the Instant Pot? One of the first uses was the cheese cakes my wife made for my grandson’s birthday. She found recipe’s online and used the Instant Pot to create four-inch sizes shared at his party, and, later made some as Christmas gifts. She created a seven-inch chocolate special for him.

The Instant Pot allowed her to stack multiple four-inch spring pans on a trivet. With a bit of ingenuity and tin foil, she made multiple seven-inch cheese cakes at the same time. You can find instructions for recipes to quickly create mouth-watering desserts at several places on the internet.

My favorite-steak and gravy

Steak and gravy is my favorite meal made with the Instant Pot. My wife browns the steak and places it in the pot with mushroom and onion soup mix and enough, a secret ingredient (can’t reveal), and adequate water to allow the pressure cooker to come to pressure. She sets the timer according to her recipe, and when finished cooking allows a natural release of the pressure. (The Instant Pot has a valve to release pressure. Opening it is the quick release.) The natural release ensures tenderness of the meat.

Care for pepper steak?

My second favorite is pepper steak. You can use the sauté setting to brown the meat but use care there is no residue on the inner pot before adding the bell pepper, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and water. She prefers to brown the meat in a skillet before adding to the pot with bell peppers including green, orange, red, and yellow. Add enough liquid to bring the Instant Pot to pressure.  Again, when finished the cooking cycle, allow a natural release of pressure.

The boss tells me she has used it to make tea, macaroni and cheese, chicken meals, pork meals, and more. I hope you see why I like the Instant Pot.

Do you have or have you used a pressure cooker to create meals? What are favorite recipes? Tell me in the comments.


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A Pantser Moves to Scrivener

scrivener for nanomowriWord has to go

A year ago, I wrote a 53k novel during NaNoWriMO using Microsoft Word 2013. In January this year, I started to edit and revise it using Word. Recently, I transferred the work-in-progress (WIP) to Scrivener. Word aficionados may disagree with my evaluation and comparison. Word is a great product but less useful for this effort than Scrivener. Some justifications for this opinion follows.

I, a pantser, wrote the novel using a minimalist outline. To meet the daily writing goals, there was a duplication of content and a poorly developed narrative. The characters were not developed nor settings defined.

Reluctant to change to Scrivener

Writing the draft, Word enabled meeting daily writing goals. When revising the draft, Word was awkward to use. It didn’t offer me an ability to easily move scenes, track thoughts for changes to existing scenes, or create and insert new scenes. For a time I struggled with using Word while ignoring the capabilities that Scrivener offered.

Made the move

Out of frustration, six weeks ago I transferred the WIP into Scrivener. Each scene became a document within its own folder. That completed, I reread each scene and made notes in the Document Notes section of the Inspector for things to consider when revising the scene. Word requires maintaining a separate document for notes or incorporating the notes into the scene text. Word’s notes placed in the story text need to be removed before creating the file for submission. Scrivener’s notes are not part of the scene text and are ignored when compiling.

More reasons to use Scrivener

Other features that Scrivener offers are templates for characters and settings. I used the character template to note my characters’ information. The template missed information I wanted to track, but it provided a good starting place. The setting template was a good starting place for descriptive information about where events occurred. Word requires creating documents or appending character and scene information to the WIP’s file. Neither of these is as easy to use as Scrivener where accessing information is as simple as clicking on the character or setting’s folder.

A feature I found useful was the ability to move scenes within the story. I found several scenes out of place during the read-through. It only took a moment to drag the scene’s folder to its proper place to reorder the scenes. With Word, I must cut the scene, locate the place I want it, and paste it.

Two more useful features

There are two more capabilities I learned Scrivener had which I use. I name each scene with a descriptive title instead of chapter numbers. I can move scenes without worrying about numbering. The second is custom labels. I edited the label section to include revision labels. When I finish the scene, I label it according to which revision number just completed. Most scenes are at revision one and are so color-coded. Other scenes are revision two and one scene at revision three. I can see at a glance what scenes need work.

As noted earlier I said I am a pantser writer meaning I do not work from a detailed outline. Word sufficed for writing the draft, but Scrivener’s tools and capabilities simplify revising the draft into a finished novel.

Do you use Scrivener or another tool when writing? Tell me your preferences using the comment form.

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Dealing with a Critique Website Critiquer’s Reviews

Finding a Critiquer

Critique websites provide the opportunity to have your work reviewed by persons you don’t know and have only a passing relationship.

I subscribe to a critique website, and I submitted a chapter to the site, desiring an unbiased evaluation. I requested comment on whether the critiquer found the content interesting enough to continue reading.

The reviews come in

A few days later, I had three evaluations. Two were extensive. One reviewer spent over a thousand words critiquing my 1900 word submission. Another committed 800 plus words. The third was only a couple hundred.

Two critiques addressed similar concerns. The third appeared a quick read, and the comments were superficial. Only one said they would not read this book, wrong genre.


The value of critiques

What did I learn from the comments? The reviewers considered the protagonist superficial. This shocked me since I thought I had spent adequate narrative building her into a strong woman. Further shock, two thought the antagonist was the most interesting character in the chapter. I had less than forty words devoted to him in this piece!

Conflicted by the comments, I face which should I accept. Which should impact my story by leading to revision and change?

The comments I am considering are not those like failing to hyphenate words correctly, which I failed twice, but those of two reviewers addressing the story structure. An example: If the antagonist is the most interesting character in this piece, I didn’t foreshadow the protagonist as the woman she will become.

Problem with multiple critiques

Critiques by multiple reviewers can create problems for the author. For me it was one reviewer noting the narrative was inadequate and another reviewer saying the narrative was excessive. The third reviewer didn’t comment on the narrative. His perspective would have been helpful in resolving the dichotomy. This means another decision the author must make, more narrative or less.

I have put the reviews aside. I am in the second revision and two chapters beyond the one submitted. By the time I am ready for the third revision, I will have decided on the narrative for this chapter and ready to address the other issues.

Use the comment form to tell me if you use critique groups or just alpha and beta readers? Were they helpful? Don’t forget to click the follow button to receive an email when I post new material.

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Adventures in the garden

The garden includes pots

additions to the garden

This week saw changes to my backyard. My wife and I added several vegetable plants in pots to our garden. These joined peppers and tomatoes in three raised beds. The pots currently decorate part of the deck, near the electric smoker. They will need a better home once the rain ceases.

We had the Amish build a shed several years ago. The shed houses most of my woodworking tools and some of the wood projects I will eventually get back to work. The shed extended thirty inches farther from the fence than the raised garden next to it. This was a perfect size for another flower garden.

Another flower bed in preparation

Boards laid out to frame the new flower plot and the pepper plants

I purchased an eight-foot long six-by-six to go with the two I had. These formed the front and left side of a raised flower plot. I used eight-foot long six-inch wide decking to form the back and prevent the garden soil from falling though the fencing surrounding the adjoining garden plot. I placed cardboard on the ground. A layer of garden soil topped it, followed by a layer of LEAFGRO and Miracle Gro.  We have to decide what flowers will call it home.

Recently, I blogged about changes we made to the front flower bed. The plants are doing well. Unfortunately, rain, rain, and more rain have spurred weeds and undesirable green things to spring forth in contention with the azaleas. Dianthus, and Sweet Williams. A sunny day is needed to dry it out enough to weed.

Next week I hope to report what decorates the new flower bed, and status on the progress of the vegetable plants.

Tell me how are you spending your days? Do you have time for gardening? Don’t forget to click the follow button to be notified when new blogs are posted.


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Enjoying a night at a science fair

A joint science fair

Tonight, the wife and I went to Passport to Learning and Columbia, Maryland Homeschoolers science fair. There were some twenty displays, four of them were those of our grandchildren.

Safe Cosmetics

At science fair  Elizabeth’s exhibit identified harmful chemicals in cosmetics and created a safe recipe for makeup and lip balm. She used commonly available materials, many found in the kitchen. She demonstrated the makeup on her arm and noted it contained sparkles. Samples were available for attendees to take and enjoy.

Sensory Adaptation

Bradley’s exhibit demonstrated sensory adaptation. Attendees had the opportunity to evaluate the effect of long exposure to temperature extremes. Bradley had three bowls of water as part of the demonstration. One bowl contained hot, but not excessively hot, water. The second contained ice-cold water. The third had room temperature water.

We participated by placing one hand in the cold water and the other in hot water. A minute later, we placed both into the water at room temperature. The hand from the hot water felt cold for a moment while the other hand from the cold water felt warmer than room temperature. This demonstrated the thermoreceptors in our hands were desensitized to temperature as predicted.

Peeps clay?

Autumn’s exhibit was an effort to test whether she could create clay using Peeps. She processed Peeps, corn starch, powder sugar, and water into a clay-like substance. She showed it was malleable, a clay characteristic.


The wonder of nature

Theodore’s display consisted of time-elapsed pictures showing eggs becoming caterpillars, the Chrysalis stage, and finally the resulting butterflies. This didn’t have a theory to prove, but it was a fitting project for a five-year old with a love of nature.

There were other interesting displays. One was a demonstration of buoyancy. The attendee offered the opportunity to shape clay into a shape that would float. I noted one success, but many failed attempts rested at the bottom of the water tank.

What does a fast spinner sound like?

Another recorded the sound a spinner makes when spun. The participant recorded on a cell phone the sounds the spinner made when he and his mother spun it. Then, he used a can of air to spin it and recorded these sounds. The cell phone display was a ramp as the sound frequency increased with speed.

It was an interesting time at the Passport to Learning science fair seeing inquisitive minds selected a project and seeing it to a conclusion.

Tell me your favorite science fair exhibit in comments.


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White Azalea, Dianthus, and Sweet Williams

Is Spring hiding?

Winter never wanted to leave

Winter fought leaving with a will. Mid-April we were seeing days in the forties and nights low thirties. Northeasters roared through Maryland several times. Everyone talked that Spring was hiding from us this year.

Recently, the past few days, Spring peeked its head out briefly and was slapped silly by Summer. Summer brought days in the high eighties and nights in the sixties. In one day, the heater was traded for the air conditioner. The sudden appearance of hot days brought fear that Summer will deliver many days in the high nineties or even deliver days over one hundred.

The low temperatures taxed my resolve to garden this year. Why prepare our three beds until the days stayed above sixty? We only plant tomatoes and peppers and both enjoy sun and warmth. I couldn’t find the energy to prep too soon.

Spring comes to stay

Spring finally brought days in the seventies and nights in the fifties, pushing Summer back.

Shaking off the lethargy, I spent several days working in the front flower beds.

Meadow sage

The meadow sage around the mailbox was breaking ground in five places. This was a single plant when planted by my son and daughter-in-law. Every year it has sprouted in more places in the bed. One day, I will not have to weed because it will have stolen all the space weeds need to make my life miserable.

First rose of Spring

First Rose of Spring

The same time they planted the meadow sage, they planted three white azalea bushes between two large holly bushes in another front flower bed. The holly bushes had grown very large and were killing the azaleas.

Bye-Bye Holly Bushes

Tired of trimming the bushes, we contracted to have them removed and replaced with other plants. The landscaper recommending some plants he thought would look good with the surviving azalea. They were pretty when small but this year it was clear, they were just wrong.

My wife loved the original azalea, so I removed all the plants except the original azalea and the red roses at the front corner of the house.  In the removed plants’ place, I planted three dwarf white azaleas. To add color and occupy some of the remaining space. I planted dianthus, frosty fire variety, and sweet Williams. The sweet Williams placed between the azaleas and the dianthus framing the front of the azaleas.

Now comes the waiting for the plants to bloom.

What flower and variety is this? Name it and tell me about your flower beds using the comment form. Look forward to hearing from you.



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Considering a Soccer Club, Think Pipeline Soccer Club


PIPELINE Soccer Club (PSC)

Courtesy of PSC

If you are considering a soccer club for your player, think PSC.

The Pipeline Soccer Club (PSC) is presenting the opportunity for boy and girl soccer players to earn a place on a club team. Current rostered team members and players seeking a place should attend tryouts. All skill levels are welcome.

Players undergo testing as I mentioned in last week’s post. The club’s expectation is the child will work hard and show his or her best skillset. The coach’s evaluation of how the child performs will affect the offer made to the child.

PSC Tryout process

Pipeline tryouts

Courtesy of PSC

I was one of the coach assistants at last year’s tryouts. I observed boys born in 2008 executing dribbling and passing drills before placed in teams to scrimmage. Some boys received offers to teams at the level of demonstrated abilities. Players were notified if not selected to a team. The boys who accepted their offer received information on joining the club.

Those who rejected the offers created additional work for the coaches. Instead of a player the coach felt would integrate into the team, he faced taking a less talented boy.

Some parents scout multiple clubs with the object to get a top team selection. They will accept the offer from the club offering a spot on their tier one team. Besides inconsiderate, they don’t seem focused on great learning experiences for their child.

Deciding on the best offer – things to consider

The point is the parents should evaluate the clubs for the experience they will offer their child.  They should consider the overall package the club offers. What is the quality of coaches and how integrated into the training process are the Director of Coaching and technical directors?  Does the club have better prospects or overall access to elite competitions?  How integrated are the teams in an age group? Can players train or play with higher level teams in their age group?

EDP leadership council

courtesy of PIPELINE Soccer Club

PSC is one of the founding members of the US Youth Soccer National League EDP Leadership Council. It is one of the clubs with lower level teams that compete well in challenging leagues and tournaments as reflected by their results. PSC teams play in top tournaments such as Jefferson Cup and Disney. This year PSC had a National Champion. The experience is more important than the level of the team.

PSC pays for the facilities used to test the players. Its coaches commit many hours of their own time going over evaluations notes and creating the offers. Finally, PSC encourages coaches to make them promptly, within days of the end of tryouts. Parents should accept or reject offers with the same promptness.

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Pipeline Soccer Club (PSC) Tryouts-2018


PIPELINE Soccer Club (PSC) TryoutsThe 2018 tryouts for Pipeline Soccer Club (PSC) teams will occur in May. The child will show their soccer skills with the desire to be selected for a team.

PSC’s tryouts permit players with varying skill levels to be evaluated. The goal of every coach is to build a team of players with similar skills. Then the coach can plan a training schedule to benefit all team players. A team with players with dissimilar skills complicates training plans and slows a team’s progress.

PSC’s Teams Tier  Levels

 PSC’s top teams participate in the strongest leagues and tournaments. The second level teams play at a lower level. The third level teams play a level down from the second team.  All teams are expected to be successful at the level they compete.A PIPELINE soccer team

Current PSC teams have a roster of players and are competing in leagues and tournaments this season. The coach of these teams continually evaluate the soccer skills of their players. Whether proficient or needing improvement, all current team members are encouraged to attend tryouts.

Pipeline Soccer Club Tryouts Process

At tryouts, coaches for the age group have the children perform several warm-up drills followed by technical drills and scrimmages. The children are encouraged to perform at their best in each exercise.

Following tryout, the coaches discuss the participants and identify those they will offer team slots. The parents can accept or reject extended offers.

The coach’s immediate task is nearly complete if the offer is accepted. If rejected, the coach looks to his alternates list. The process continues until the team is full or the list of alternates is exhausted.Pipeline 2008 Boy's Red

Why would one reject an offer?

The coach may have offered a place on a team not meeting the parent or child’s expectations. Some parents expect their child to be selected to the top team and look elsewhere if the offer is to a lower level team.

Or the child receives an offer from another club. Many children attend tryouts for several clubs and will take, what the parent considers, the best offer.

Sometimes the child attends PSC tryouts; yet, the child decides to remain with friends on another club or school team.

Regarding the first reason, some parents have difficulty recognizing their child’s abilities compared to others in their age group. Their child may be the star of their recreation, school, or current club team but not be at the level of top players at PSC.

Perception that selection to a PSC second or third level team guarantees a player to receives less than quality training and not participate in challenging leagues and tournaments. This perception is false. All PSC teams receive quality training, participate in leagues and tournaments to challenge their abilities.

If your child attended a tryout and not selected to the top team, what would you do? Tell me in the comments.


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Parents and Coaches , similar or different?

MoteOo / Pixabay

It is interesting how parenting is similar to coaching a young sports team.

Parents guide their children to prepare them to be successful in life.

Coaches provide guidance and training to the team members to prepare them to be successful in competitions.

Common Objective

One commonality is the parent and coach try to inculcate the desire to learn into children. How to instill this desire is the challenge.

Parents have advantages over coaches. There is the unique relationship between parent and child, often loving. The parent provides subsistence and shelter. The parent also provides access to entertainment. Finally, the child and parent co-exist in an environment where contact will be regular and often.

KeithJJ / Pixabay

Coaches have limited contact with players, usually during practice sessions. These sessions occur a limited number of times a week, but only for a few hours each session. Unlike the parent, the coach does not provide subsistence or shelter (unless it is a canopy when raining!)


Parents and coaches have limits on how they can respond to children disinclined to listen and learn. Both can play on the child’s love or respect for them should it exists. This may not be enough though.

Parents can restrict access to entertainment and some types of subsistence such as sweets. Physical punishment may be an option if it is acceptable to the parent and complies with local and federal laws. Regardless, abuse is never proper.

Coaches are limited to what can be done during practice or during the game. This includes appealing to the player’s affinity for teammates, individual endurance training, and removal from training drills. Lastly, the coach can limit playing time during competitions.

Child’s Responsibility

The endgame is parents and coaches have goals for those in their care. However, it is incumbent on the child to take the initiative to make use of the experiences and knowledge parents and coaches provide.

How much responsibility for success do you think lies with the child? I would enjoy learning your thoughts on the relationship between parents, coaches, and the child. Comment form provided for your input.






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