I knew a lot of people must be biking when I saw the empty bicycle display at Wal-Mart, but I didn’t realize how widespread the empty bike displays are. Here are some recent headlines.

Bicycle sales in the U.S. are up 56-268 percent this spring, depending on the type of bike. Shops are out of bicycles and pre-orders will require some customers to wait until August or later for their new bikes. According to the news reports I’ve heard and read, people are getting their old bicycles out of the basement or the garage and having them tuned up to be used for exercise and as a safe mode of transportation during the COVID-19 event, so bicycle repair shops are also seeing an increase in business.

Ted and I have been riding bicycles since we were first married (complete with babies in baby seats on them), and we bought what we think is our fourth pair of new bikes last summer. We didn’t hoard toilet paper during the COVID-19 lockdown but, luckily, we’re ahead of the curve on bikes.

For Mother’s Day, Kathy and Annette sent me a Diamond Art kit. I have already admitted to Kathy that I was skeptical when I saw it, but I decided to give it a try. Kathy admitted that it was Annette’s idea and that she (Kathy) was skeptical about sending it too. The happy ending is that it was a lot of fun to do and I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time on a new activity. Annette, you rock!

To do Diamond Art, you use a pen-size tool (in my hand) with a hollow tip to pick up tiny little “gems” from a tray (the gray thing on the countertop) and stick them to the adhesive surface of the fabric to create a sparkling picture. The picture is pre-printed with color-coded symbols to designate which gems to use. Think of paint-by-number, only different. It sounds tedious, but it was challenging enough (this was an intermediate level kit) that I enjoyed watching the picture come to sparkling life for an hour or two at a time. (“I’ll just finish this flower before I quit.”)

When I finished, Ted looked at it and sounded kind of surprised when he said, “It looks pretty nice.” I agreed. I don’t think I’ll hang it, and it won’t become my life’s work, but I had a good time and I think I’d like to try an advanced kit next time. Thank you, Kathy and Annette, for introducing me to a new kind of craft project.

Trevor Noah’s Daily (Social Distancing) Show included a possible upcoming change in education as a result of COVID-19: the Zoomstitute teacher.

He featured six kinds of substitutes students could expect in their Zoom classrooms. There was the “always running 30 minutes late” Zoomstitute. That would be the blank square.

Another Zoomstitute was the substitute who’s always on his/her phone (top square). He ignored the students and when one asked, “Shouldn’t we be doing something?” he replied, “Ah, yeah, sure” and went back to his phone.

The “still living in the past” Zoomstitute talked about how he “almost” made the tennis championships, but got a cramp in his foot and had to stop playing.

Zoomstitute. Coming soon to a classroom near you?

On Mother’s Day, we had video calls with all the kids (it didn’t work for Thom, but we tried). That was fun, and we enjoyed spending at least visual time with them. Today, for the first time in 8+ weeks, we were physically together with Kari’s family. We celebrated Teddy’s and Kari’s birthdays on their new covered porch that Dean built. We sat socially distant from each other–Ted and I on one end of the porch and Kari’s family on the other end–but it was so good to see them in person after such a long time.

Teddy’s birthday came before Kari’s, so he opened his gifts from us first. He started with the small one–two cloth pig-patterned face masks made of leftover fabric from the quilt I made for him. It’s a sign of the times that a gift of face masks wasn’t a disappointment.

The more exciting gift came next–a badminton set that was on his wish list. Teddy kept his face mask on until it was time to eat birthday cake. There was also some chocolate for our choco-holic grandson.

Then it was Kari’s turn. I made face masks for her, knitted some dishcloths (on her lap), and added a few other things, including some chocolate. Dylan is giving his full attention to the note I wrote to Kari.

This was a birthday party, so there was cake. Teddy decorated a chocolate cake to look like a pig. He even molded chocolate pigs and applied them to the frosting. The frosting was very pink, the cake was very chocolate, and it tasted very good. You can see the cake near the top of the first picture in this post.

We had a nice long visit and Dean joined us when he came home from work. The only sad part was when Ted and I were leaving. Teddy came running out of the house to give us good-bye hugs and we had to step back. He stopped and said, “Oh, yeah.” We still can’t do hugs, and that was sad, but it was wonderful to see each other in person again. Happy birthday Dean (it was too soon to meet in person on his birthday), Kari, and Teddy.

Note: The following day, Kari sent me a text with a picture of the badminton set in action.

On a recent trip to Wal-Mart, I noticed that a lot of people are apparently getting outdoors to exercise during the conronavirus lockdown. The bike display was wiped out–something I’ve never seen before at Wal-Mart.

Bike gear was selling pretty well too.

Ride on, everybody, ride on!

Since early March, I’ve put 190 miles on my bike. Not bad when I subtract the cold and/or rainy days.

Thirty years ago, on Valentine’s Day of 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft looked back one last time on its way out of the solar system and captured a picture of the Earth as a blurry dot in the darkness of the universe. The picture serves as a visual reminder of humanity’s vulnerability and the need for interdependence to assure our survival.

NASA released this sharper, reprocessed photo to mark the 30th anniversary of the image.

Ted and I built our firewood rack in 1980. We used treated pine, and the wood is still good, but was looking a little faded. (No surprise, since it’s probably been 20+ years since we last stained it.) A few weeks ago, I went to a lumberyard to buy stain. I wasn’t allowed inside, but the employee brought the stain and a handheld credit card machine to the door and I went home happy. The weather was warm and without rain in the forecast, so I decided to stain the firewood rack. It looks much better and fresher now.

We waited a few days to allow the stain to thoroughly dry, and then Ted re-loaded our leftover winter firewood onto the rack. We’re set for another 20+ years.

We’ve lived in this house for 40+ years and I’ve always thought the steps to the upstairs seemed steeper than the steps to the basement. I chalked it up to the carpeting on the upstairs stairway, but things didn’t change when we swapped out the carpeting for hardwood. Last week, I finally decided to verify the steepness of both stairways. (It was obviously a slow day in lockdown.)

I measured everything I could think of. Both stairways have 13 steps. Both span the same horizontal distance, so the upstairs stairway wasn’t cut short to make room for the hallway and the closet beyond it. The upstairs stair treads are actually 0.75 inches deeper than the basement stairs, so it’s not an illusion of wider steps, but the upstairs risers are also 0.75 inches taller than the basement ones and the angle of ascent is seven degrees steeper, proving that the upstairs stairway is definitely steeper than the basement stairway. Why, why, why???

After a few seconds, I had the Eureka! moment. The basement ceiling (to the bottom of the joists, not to the dropped ceiling tiles) is 6.5 inches lower than the main floor ceiling, so the upstairs steps need to climb 6.5 more inches in the same horizontal distance. Problem solved. Now, what shall I do for the next 15 minutes?

Next question: Is this true in other houses?