March 2020 Wrap-Up

Flowering Pear Tree March 2020 has been a long month. Covid-19 is a pandemic and has caused widespread damage. Both lives and economies will be impacted in the near future. I cannot foresee the long term consequences, but there will naturally be repercussions. So, I spend a small amount of time daily looking to the future.

Socio-economic Impact of Black Swan Events

If you have not read The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, I highly recommend finding a copy. Even though the book was published over a decade ago, I think you will find it relevant. In simple terms a Black Swan event is one that is highly improbable.

Back in January, I took notice when the city of Wuhan was placed on lock-down. Even though the mortality numbers were not necessarily statistically significant, the sheer fact that a city of millions lost the freedom to move about created a concern in my mind. The few I discussed this with did not see such an event happening in a democratic country. New York City was often cited as a comparison. Even I had trouble picturing a quarantine covering the five boroughs. But, I did not rule it out. Unfortunately that has come to pass not only in New York City but in other cities I love such as Milan, Italy. Or in cities and countries I yearn to visit.

Now I have two immediate goals. The first is to stay healthy. Since I no longer work outside the home, I am somewhat hopeful. However, I live with someone working in an essential business. We are mitigating danger as much as possible.

Online Learning

The second goal is to analyze how society will change in response to Covid-19. Across the world students spent much if not all of March 2020 away from campuses and schoolrooms. I know this will have a long-term impact.  But I am not sure what that effect will be. So here are some possibilities.

I think at the college level and possibly at the high school level there will be a trend toward hybrid and online courses. Personally, I find hybrid learning an excellent method for adult learning. I have taught and taken courses using a hybrid method and find it preferable to a course totally online. However, I think a case for the merits of online learning will be presented by the educational response to Covid-19.

It is unknown how younger students will respond and that response is one I intend to study. One of my offspring works for Denver Public Schools (DPS) and has shared how they are handling the stay at home order. With a great effort, the school district scrambled and procured a Chrome book for each student.

Lesson plans revolve around established content. Classroom teachers have regular “office hours” so that students (and parents) can reach out to them. The individual teachers have leeway to expand on existing lessons. In addition to DPS curriculum, information on supplementary online learning resources is provided. I hope this is a success.

Self-regulating and Sick days

I am also interested in how sick days are handled going forward. Not all workers get sick days. I know as an adjunct instructor I had to make up any days missed due to illness. Most of the time the make-up days were poorly attended by the students. And students often came to class sick worried about getting behind. I taught adults. Sick kids are even more complex because of sick care issues.

In the case of Covid-19, there is a possibility that individuals may be asymptomatic and still spread the disease. Perhaps this is in part why voluntary social distancing is a failure in my part of the world. But there is danger in the inability to self-regulate. I fear the lack of self-control will increase big government. I prefer local control.

March 2020 Mental Relief

I found relief from the mental stresses of March 2020 in a number of ways. Since I am a reader I spent a lot of time with cozy mysteries and romances. I thoroughly enjoyed all five books in the Ivy Malone series by Lorena McCourtney. Other books enjoyed were penned by Nora Roberts, Iris Johansen and Janet Evanovich.

On the most depressing of days I turned to sitcom and old reruns. The Big Bang Theory almost always makes me laugh out loud. My husband and I also enjoy watching Magnum P.I., both the old and the new versions. So, even if Covid-19 continues a filming hiatus, I will have ample options.

March 2020 In the Garden

From time to time we have a very warm March followed by colder temperatures in April and May. This is one of those years. Both the pear and peach trees are already blooming. We will still have below freezing temperature nights and so the fruit production will be impacted.

Early season greens have made an appearance in the garden. We have enjoyed Swiss chard in our lunchtime smoothies. The lettuces are not far behind nor are the radishes and spinach. Additionally, I have started a variety of seeds indoors. Everything from artichokes to tomatoes are growing in pots throughout the house. I am still concerned that the pandemic will affect supply chains on a variety of levels. Starting the plants by seed will act as a back-up if I cannot buy bedding plants next month.

Quilting in March 2020

I am working on the final border of a Train Quilt. To be honest I am stuck. The current train cars will vary from the original pattern. I plan to make the train a circus train. However, I am having trouble blending the fabrics. Specifically, the clowns. They are primary colors and the overall design is more pastel. Also, the elephant and giraffe come from a baby fabric with a blue background versus the mauves and greens I am using. It will be interesting to see how I tie everything together.

Covid-19 Reports

I have readers across the globe. Please share any experiences you may have with this pandemic in the comment section. While I have personally met individuals battling this novel corona virus, no close friends or relatives have contracted Covid-19 so far. I sincerely hope this continues. Take care everyone and pay attention to your health!

Finally, those with interest in economics may find the following interesting:

https://www.permanentequity.com/writings/viral-prohibition-eminent-domain-and-the-path-ahead?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=prohibition_eminentd

Hearty Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

Last week I asked my husband to stop by the grocery store and pick up some 1% milk. (Since I don’t work outside the home any more, I have been limiting my time in public places. I have been to the grocers just once in the last 30 days, trying to avoid Covid-19.) He complied with mixed results. I poured a glass of the milk and as soon as I took the first sip realized I was drinking buttermilk; 1% buttermilk. So, I have diligently tried to use up the half gallon in my cooking. Yesterday I concocted the following recipe for Hearty Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits.

Homemade biscuits have a much different texture than those found in the tins by Pillsbury. The outside has the slightest bit of crunch while the inside is soft with just the right amount of crumble. These Hearty Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits are delicious.

Creating Meals around Hearty Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

Saturday morning we enjoyed them straight from the oven. Since it is the middle of Lent and I am not consuming sugar, I spread a tiny amount of butter on mine. My husband enjoyed his with some homemade jam.

Then the biscuits served as a base for the Saturday evening meal. Leftover roast ginger chicken topped the Hearty Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits. Then I poured freshly made white gravy over the dish.

One final meal centered on the batch of homemade biscuits. The last of the biscuits and the leftover gravy accompanied Sunday morning’s breakfast. I scrambled farm fresh eggs from my niece’s chickens.

Source of Flours

Long-time readers may recall I buy my flours from Heartland Mills Inc. located in Western Kansas. The mill ships their products internationally. Costs for shipping naturally varies by weight and destination.

Click here for a link to their website.

Recipe for Hearty Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

Ingredients

1 Cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 Cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon 1% buttermilk

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Sift dry ingredients together. Add the buttermilk and stir with fork until flours are incorporated. Turn out onto mixing board and gently knead. Pat dough out until about 1/2 inch thick and cut 2 inch circles. (I use the mouth of a jelly jar.) Place in a greased baking pan with sides touching. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Yields 15 biscuits.

Cutting Biscuits
Cutting Biscuits
Biscuits in pan
Place sides touching on greased pan.
Biscuit cut open
Ready to eat!

Random Thoughts on Stay at Home Orders

This past week, an unprecedented action of widespread lock down spread to the United States of America. Back in January, various members of my family shared their belief that a Wuhan style lock down could not occur in a free country. Yet cities, counties and entire states have enacted stay at home orders as a response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Furthermore, this stay at home action is found on multiple continents. The Statista website offers easy to read charts with Covid-19 data around the world. Click here for access to the secure site. Another informative chart for those interested in U.S.A. stats comes from the New York Times and can be found by clicking here.

Economic Impact of Stay at Home Orders

The volatile stock exchanges due to Covid-19 are a precursor to the total economic impact. Stay at home orders will accelerate the fallout. While I first wrote about the novel corona virus in the January 2020 Wrap-Up, I did not comment on the economic impact for another month. But, the February 2020 Wrap-Up focuses on supply chain problems as well as lost consumption.

Here in the United States, the virus is just ramping up. There are hot spots across the country where the health care system is under strain. However, to my knowledge the only impact felt by individual businesses is related to private or public action. For example, as reported by the Seattle Times, Boeing is halting operations at Puget Sound for two weeks. Thus, closures are proactive and temporary.

The stay at home orders come with an economic cost to business. Of most concern are the companies heavily leveraged. This existing debt burden will make it tougher to withstand a short term loss of income.

Essential Business

Public action from various governmental entities issuing stay at home orders include exemptions for essential services. My thoughts on this range from agreement to bemusement. Obviously, hospitals and other healthcare providers along with fire and police fill the need for an essential business. However, outside of the Sun Belt perhaps, I see no need for landscapers to be exempt from the stay at home orders.

Food manufacturers are also open. This is a bit of a two-edged sword. Our Just-in-Time attitude and desire for fresh meats and produce keep these businesses open. But what if the virus sweeps through the workers? Then, the devastation of this lingering illness will have a long-term impact.

I do not know how far ahead food manufacturers operate. However, I do know  local farmers store grains and seeds for months after harvest. Perhaps going forward the mills can stockpile the flours and oils. Perhaps they already do. If that is the case a voluntary shut down is preferable in my line of thinking.

Mandates versus Personal Responsibilities

I tend to be on the side of personal liberties. So company closures appeal to me more than government mandates. Unfortunately, individuals as well as companies vary in the ability to display and act upon social responsibility. This is why governments across the globe are issuing mandates.

But as individuals we can respond proactively. Cultural attitudes definitely play apart in whether or not masks are appropriate for non-healthcare workers. However, cleanliness and hand-washing transcends across societies. You Tube offers a number of videos from hand washing to cleaning grocery packaging. Watch this short video from Kenya on hand-washing.

The hand-washing efforts are second nature to me. Long ago, I participated in a 4-H program where an extension agent shook hands with each of us as we walked into the room. The handshake transferred a non-harmful chemical agent which then showed up in UV light. Even after a hand washing, traces remained on hands. Thus the need for thorough hand-washing.

According to a recent study released by the NIH, Covid-19 can survive in the air and on surfaces. Click here to access the press release. So, my search of You Tube yielded  videos relating to surface cleaning in connection to the virus. I found this one on handling groceries helpful. Click here for this explanation of the importance of cleaning packaging.

Amid

From a writer’s stand point, an interesting byproduct of the Covid-19 outbreak is the sudden use of the word amid. According to the online Oxford dictionary, the definition of the preposition amid is: surrounded by; in the middle of.  Amid is now  everywhere.  Is this true in all English speaking countries?

While the use of amid is an instant change brought on by the virus, I believe other changes will occur. It will be interesting to see how the online educational component influences the future. Remote work had a small role before the stay at home orders. This may change as well.

Extroverts versus Introverts

My final thoughts revolve around personalities. Whether social distancing is self-imposed or government ordered, I think introverts will fare better. The ability to self-entertain will be quite important for people of all ages. Individuals with one or more hobbies stand a better chance of getting through the next few months without going stir crazy or experiencing cabin fever.

Staying productive is important to me. Between gardening, quilting and reading I am coping with my self-imposed isolation. So far, 2020 is not turning out as I thought which is why only hindsight is 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rise of Magicks Book Review

The third segment in the Chronicles of The One series by Nora Roberts is The Rise of Magicks. I was looking forward to reading it as I discussed in the review Of Blood and Bone because I thought more of Roberts traditional romance writing would be evident. Even though the story contained a romantic thread between two main characters, the romance is secondary to the story.

The Rise of Magicks Characters

This third story refocuses on a group approach albeit the center character remains Fallon Smith. But much like the first novel, Year One, The Rise of Magicks contains multiple characters and is sometimes a bit hard to follow the large cast. Much like the original offering, the story line in The Rise of Magicks concentrates on battles between the good and evil forces.

On top of the large number of characters from the original book and the second generation born to those individuals, additional characters are introduced in supporting roles. Keeping the story lines straight is easy if you have read all the books. Roberts also does a nice job of providing closure for the cast in Year One who were run out of New York City.

Romance

As stated above, romance develops between Fallon and Duncan. To be honest, I found the interaction to just be satisfactory. It was like an aside to the story. I am not sure the book was enriched by the interaction.

The young couple had a few ups and downs, but the emotional struggle was lacking. They seemed more like a couple of old marrieds versus two young adults falling in love for the first time.

Good Overcoming Evil

In the end, good triumphs over evil but not before loss of innocent lives. One of my favorite characters is lost in a battle. So, Roberts does tug at the heartstrings a bit.

But truth be told, I consider the middle book in the trilogy to be the best. I certainly encourage those who have begun the trilogy to finish with The Rise of Magicks. The tale is quite satisfactory. But I was not left wishing for another installment. All loose ends have been tied back together.

I was hoping for a good Nora Roberts romance. Not a book with romance on the side. Additionally, I really think the real life pandemic of Covid-19 has dampened the enjoyment of reading about fantasy pandemics. Perhaps reading The Rise of Magicks a year from now will be much more entertaining for you.

 

Getting Ready for Covid-19-Econogal’s Preparation

My loyal readers may be wondering about my lack of posts last week. I was getting ready for Covid-19. Actually, I was finalizing my preparation. Over twenty years ago a Mormon friend shared her philosophy of preparedness. She knew I was very active in my own church, but she wanted me to understand the self-reliance component.

I am so glad for Shalah. She moved from my small town over ten years ago. So if any of my local followers are still in touch, please thank her for me. Because of Shalah, I did not join the panicking crowds. While my preparations surely fall short by the standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, I am hopeful that I will be able to manage a few weeks of isolation if I need to quarantine. No last minute hoarding, no rush for tons of non-edible toilet paper. Just peace of mind.

Covid-19 Readiness

So I had also urged my loved ones to get ready both financially and personally for Covid-19. I am pleased many family members listened. And I have been busy checking in on the octogenarians in the family. The personal visit I made to one of my elders reassured me. Again, no hoarding. Perhaps because farm families always put a little back in case the next harvest is compromised. Or maybe the yearly chance of a High Plains blizzard is always possible. Preparation is second-nature. Regardless, I am thankful and hopeful we can isolate enough to make it through this Covid-19 outbreak.

It did not take much to convince my one offspring with family of his own. That happens once you have a little one to look out for. An overnight visit in early February sharing websites and Twitter accounts across the world convinced the young parents to go beyond the just-in-time supply chain for diapers and baby food. The gratitude I received from them is reciprocal. Since they listened and planned accordingly, they were able to stay away from the hoarding masses at the big box stores in the city. And I did not need to worry about them.

Financial Readiness

The markets across the world are taking a hit. Covid-19 is a lengthy illness even for those not hospitalized. One Twitter account I follow chronicles the progression of the disease in a family of five. For good, unsensationalized information read @richisalsohere the daily tweets are from an American living in Northern Italy.

His account illustrates how productivity and output are directly affected. There will be supply chain repercussions rippling around the world for months. The likelihood of a recession is great. Further, there is a possibility of a depression. Of course that will depend on a variety of factors.

In the two weeks since I wrote the February Wrap-Up where I discussed economic impacts of Covid-19, the U.S. markets have been extremely volatile. Losses, at least on paper, have been great. Much like the financial crisis of the oughts, the younger generations should be ok with a hold philosophy-I believe it is too late to sell.

It is also too early to buy. But I hope we are getting close. Timing the market is impossible.  Although the late Mark Haines did call the bottom in 2009. It may have been a lucky guess.

Buy What You Need

If you have extra dollars right now put them to good use. Buy some groceries-without hoarding. But buy what you eat and know how to cook. It is normal for us to cook from scratch. Even though cooking from the source vs. out of an instant box is not rocket science, it does take practice. For example beans need to soak overnight before cooking. Because we live in an area that grows pinto beans, this is second nature to us. But, the cooking process may be unfamiliar to those raised on canned goods.

If you need something, a new refrigerator, or new tires buy them now if you can pay for them without borrowing. Shop at odd hours. Get prescription refills. Online ordering may become difficult as transportation companies get overwhelmed and potentially understaffed.

Even though the Treasury Market does not anticipate higher interest rates or inflation, I think the long run calls for both. Just my opinion but I am very concerned about the national debt. Click here for the debt clock.

The worst case scenario would be a default. But truly that cannot be our first concern. We need to get through this Covid-19 disruption to life. So, those short on savings need to conserve as much as possible. Non-essentials will need to wait. Belt-tightening begins.

Covid-19 is Serious

I am most frustrated by those who do not take Covid-19 seriously. Perhaps it is normalcy bias. Perhaps the decade long span of prosperity has spoiled us. Maybe they believe preparation ahead of time is not needed in a land of plenty. Nonetheless, I think most are not ready.

This novel corona virus is not just another flu.

I give a lot of credit to the Chinese scientists and medical providers. They issued a warning at the very start of 2020. Additionally, the genetics of the virus were released. I first looked at the structure in January. To be honest it was and remains above my head. I could see the null set as well as the altered strands but that was the limit of my ability. I understand the virus is novel and thus best treatments are unknown. The links following will be of interest to those with a scientific bent.

Mental Preparation

I think the most important preparation at this point is mental. The medical professionals in America are preparing for 96 million cases of Covid-19 with approximately 500,000 deaths. This is a much lower percentage than that forecast by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And a higher percentage than that occurring in South Korea.

At this point we could veer in either direction. Isolation is difficult. A wide-spread outbreak is worse.

We need to practice social distancing. We need to avoid unnecessary travel. Finally, we need to prepare for long illnesses and the likelihood we will know at least one person who will not survive. I am not sure Americans are prepared for this, but we are moving in the right direction.

We need to stop complaining about cancelled sporting events, conferences and schools. Online learning will blossom. Hobbies need to come to the forefront and media streaming will replace movie theaters in the short term.

I respect the Love Not Fear movement, and I believe preparation is not equal to fear. In fact, individuals attuned to world events can spread the love by sharing such as the residents in Liverpool reported in this article. (Click here to read.) (And here) to read a report in America.

I cannot predict the long term repercussions. I think much depends on if we can self-discipline enough to sacrifice now. In our society of instant gratification that might be tough. One can hope though and I do have hope. In the meantime, I recommend the following:

On Twitter:

@richisalsohere

@onlyyoontv

@peakprosperity

@APHL

@ScottGottliebMD

 

On the Internet:

https://www.ejmo.org/pdf/2019%20Novel%20Coronavirus%20COVID19%20Outbreak%20A%20Review%20of%20the%20Current%20Literature-12220.pdf

 

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30185-9/fulltext

 

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.29.20027698v1.full.pdf

 

https://journals.lww.com/cmj/Documents/CMJ%202019%20novel%20coronavirus%20disease%20(COVID-19)%20collection.pdf

 

https://asm.org/Articles/2020/January/2019-Novel-Coronavirus-2019-nCoV-Update-Uncoating

 

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.01.22.914952v2.full.pdf

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

 

 

The Third to Die Book Review

The Third to Die is the first in a new series by Allison Brennan. This thriller revolves around a newly created Mobile Response Team of the FBI. The premise is the group will travel across the United States aiding in high profile cases.

MRT for the Third to Die

The first assignment begins March 3. Every three years a psychopath begins a series of three murders on the third day of the third month. One death at a time. Three days a part. Thus the Mobile Response Team (MRT) has time to react.

FBI profiler Dr. Catherine Jones is a reluctant aid to SAC Matt Costa. But he persuades her to help from home since she originally identified the pattern. Matt Costa is a loner. He expects the best and wants to fill the team with the best, so the MRT is not fully staffed. Lucky for him, Kara Quinn, a L.A.P.D. undercover agent on vacation discovers the first of the victims. She too, is a loner.

The team works well with local agencies. Surprisingly, the multiple lone wolf personalities function well together. The goal is to catch the killer before he reaches his target of the third to die. Unfortunately the killer strikes again, and again. Brennan’s writing has you on the edge of your seat rooting for the Mobile Response Team.

Serial Killer

The most compelling part of the book was the back story of the villain. Over the course of the novel, the reader gets a glimpse of the killer’s mind. What makes him tick? Brennan creates an understanding of the motivation.

But understanding does not equate sympathy-at least for this reader. I wanted the good guys to catch the bad guy. It took some doing.

Allison Brennan

The Third to Die is the first book I have read that was written by Brennan. I like her style. She creates just enough back story to pique the mind. The secondary characters all have promise for greater roles in future stories. I can’t wait for the next one.

I highly recommend The Third to Die. The plot line is thrilling and the characters are compelling. If you like murder mysteries or agency thrillers, I think you should find a copy of The Third To Die. Fair warning: you might feel the need to have someone nearby during the scary parts!

 

 

February 2020 Wrap-Up

The February 2020 wrap-up has been difficult to start. Perhaps a bit of writer’s block. Certainly not from a lack of things to share. Both personal life and world news have been difficult to process. So at times like these, I keep busy.

The Peanut Experiment

Regular readers know of my latest garden experiment; starting peanut plants. Others can click here to read about it. The sprouting has begun-with a bit of a surprise. The first to pop out was from an un-soaked good seed. I certainly was excited even though it is a bit straggly. Then the second start, which was from a good soaked seed, put it to shame. Lots of tender green leafy parts. Much healthier looking.

I am anxious for more to sprout. In the meantime, I put out the first two rows of onion sets, two weeks apart. I have also planted a variety of cold hardy greens.

Un-soaked Peanut
Soaked Peanut Sprout

Hobby Room Update

The baby quilt is coming along. The first side is almost complete. But the borders have not even been cut out. A tune-up to my decades old machine has allowed me to embroider the birth information on various blocks.

So far no new painting has been started. Perhaps in March. While quilting soothes my soul, I am best at painting when things are calm. February events called for soothing and nurturing.

Economic Impact of COVID-19

In February 2020, the stock market finally took notice of the corona virus, now officially named COVID-19. The last week in February brought back memories of the 2008 financial meltdown. But the causes are so disparate, I am not expecting a similar V shaped curve. I hope I am wrong.

These are my thoughts-my opinions. The supply shock we see in various parts of the world is not equal to the cleansing of the derivatives market. February 2020 saw a complete halt to manufacturing in parts of China. Toward the end of the month, the disruption to production extended to other countries.

Even those countries which may somehow escape similar lost productivity from the virus will be impacted. We live in an interconnected world. The vast majority of the world’s population has access to goods originating in foreign countries. At the very least, the supply lines will hiccup.

But a supply shock is just one half of the equation.

Delayed Consumption or Lost Forever?

There are two parts to the break in the consumption chain. First, consider delayed purchases. For example, if I want to buy a specific item only made by one of the countries already hit hard– so hard the goods aren’t shipping out—I would just need patience. Sometime down the road shipments will re-start. Then I would buy, a delay but not a loss.

Another key part of the transportation component is tied up in the shipping itself. Shipping containers need product in them to make money. Thus companies don’t want containers to move empty. This holds true whether cargo is on a ship, plane, train or truck. If the containers are stuck on one side of the ocean (or continent) goods sit idle on the opposite shore. The end result is chaotic. Eventually the delivery of goods will occur.

But some consumption will be lost forever. For example, if I usually travel to Kentucky twice a year and I stay home this spring, the consumption will not likely be recouped. The potential earnings to motels, airlines and restaurants are lost forever. This applies to major sporting events as well as concerts, business meetings and once in a lifetime vacations.

Human Cost of Covid-19

The human cost from the virus cannot be equated to a price tag. Death cannot be undone. Life is precious.

Since my country is just now experiencing the virus, I do not have first- hand knowledge of any significant health concerns of those who survive. There has been limited information about the recovered patients. Can they go back to work right away? Are there lasting complications? Are the reports of second infections correct? Just a few of my many concerns

I worry about my family members that fall into the high risk categories. Naturally, my hope is that we all come through unscathed. Time will tell.

R.I.P. Uncle Rick

February 2020 marked the loss of my Dad’s older brother. I am grateful my Dad finished his radiation treatment for male breast cancer in mid-February. As told in a previous post, he drove up to see his brother the following day. I was fortunate to talk with Uncle Rick at that time. I cherish the memories.

Both brothers played college ball. While my Dad excelled at football, Uncle Rick was a stellar basketball player. He set many records at his state university. It helps to be tall. And quick.

I have a black and white photo of my oldest playing basketball. The resemblance to my uncle is uncanny. My kids loved their “Great” Uncle Rick. We miss him. Rest in Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

In Plain Sight Book Review

Sometimes the answer is in plain sight. Such is the case of the second Ivy Malone mystery novel of the same title. Lorena McCourtney follows her successful Invisible with this delightful sequel. Retiree Aunt Ivy goes into hiding in neighboring Arkansas to let the heat die down from her first caper.

In Plain Sight

McCourtney continues the theme of invisibility. For those who have not read Invisible, it is not invisibility such as a cloaking device, but more of a gray man-or woman in this case. The lead character is an innocuous little old lady that society looks right through. Instead of taking offense by this status, Ivy Malone uses it to her advantage as she follows her curiosity. Straight into trouble.

Once again, Ivy finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. But, unlike her first foray, she does not meet up with friendly law enforcement. Indeed, Ivy is a bit intimidated. But she handles interrogation with aplomp.

Supporting Characters

Two teenagers, a great-niece and her friend, lend interest to the story. McCourtney is outstanding with her characterizations. Both girls end up as key players in the plot. They are neither identical nor opposites. Instead the girls’ personalities lead realism to the fiction. The adult characters are also believable. And so are their actions. Thus Ivy is faced with multiple suspects.

Christian Fiction

The local library has an extensive Christian fiction section. But for some reason these books are filed in the regular mystery fiction section. Perhaps the deft writing of McCourtney keeps the Ivy Malone series in the mainstream category. The underlying subject matter may also play a determination.

In Plain Sight delves into both infidelity and parental abandonment. But also, forgiveness and God’s nurturing. Ivy Malone is a Christian both in word and deed. The series is uplifting without being too preachy. This is a good series for older teens as well as adult fans of mystery.

 

 

Stay Book Review

Stay by Catherine Ryan Hyde could be a novel that is off putting and even depressing. The subject matter is heavy. Two young teenagers growing up in dysfunctional homes. One lady, unwilling to face life due to a mistake many years before. Oddly, I found the story uplifting and the characters heartwarming. I attribute my response to the wonderful writing and message of the author.

The setting is small town America at the height of the Vietnam War. In a small town, everyone knows everything about everyone else. Or at least they think they do. Furthermore, forgiveness can be difficult. Small town folks can out-do elephants with their memories.

Cast of Characters

Young Lucas Painter escapes the constant bickering of his parents and his deep concern about his older brother making it home from Vietnam by running through the woods. His running companions are two large dogs that live with their owner.

Zoe Dinsmore is the fiftyish owner of the dogs. Her abode is a small shack hidden in the woods without a real road connecting to town. She has never put the pain of an accident behind her. Lucas saves her just in time.

Connor Barnes is Lucas’ best friend. His parents don’t fight. They just don’t speak. Together, Lucas and Zoe save Connor.

Dialogue to Remember

Meaningless dialogue in either fiction or life is just that, meaningless. But I did not find hollow words in Stay. Instead, there were multiple passages of note. Paragraphs of dialogue to be outlined for an English literature class. Words to remember. One of my favorite passages involves a conversation between Connor and Lucas. At fourteen, Connor has figured out the key to living. Something many never achieve.

(Connor): “It’s like…..,” he began. Then he faded, and I thought I might never know. “Zoe almost died. Well, you know that. You know it better than anybody. I guess she felt like nobody needed her around. But I do. I need her around. But she didn’t know it yet because she hadn’t even met me. But she was just about to meet me. All those years thinking nobody needed her or wanted her around, and she was just about to meet me and she didn’t know it. You get what I’m driving at?”

(Lucas): “I’m not sure,” I said.

(Connor): “Well…now I’m starting to think…you don’t know what might be coming next. And it might even be something nice. Something good, even though everything before it wasn’t good at all. You see where I’m going with this?”

(Lucas): You’re saying you have to stick around to see what happens next.”

I watched his face light up, and I knew I had hit it.

(Connor): “I knew you’d get it,” he said.

(Excerpt from Stay, Page 201.)

Stay is Lasting

The novel Stay is the first work that I have read by Catherine Ryan Hyde. But, it is not the first time she has made an impact on my life. Hyde is also the author of Pay It Forward. I neither read the book nor saw the subsequent movie, but for the past twenty years have taken the concept to heart.

While the title Stay will not make the impact of Pay It Forward on our language and culture, the novel has “staying” power. This book belongs in the curriculum of literature classes. There is a depth and wisdom and good. The characters struggle and grow and find not only the meaning of life, but the importance of living that life. I highly recommend Stay. We all need a Zoe in our lives. Maybe, just maybe, you are that Zoe someone needs.

 

 

Jerry Baker’s Fast, Easy Vegetable Garden Book Review

I checked out Jerry Baker’s Fast, Easy Vegetable Garden from the library late last week when we were in between cold fronts. The book was published in 1985 and has nary a photo as you might expect from an older publication. But the illustrations more than make up for a lack of photography.Page with emoji of gardener

For starters, Baker was way ahead of the curve when it came to personalizing the text. Thanks to the photo on the cover page, it was easy to see the resemblance of the gardener illustrated within. Thirty years before emoji’s became popular, Jerry Baker’s Fast Easy Vegetable Garden is strewn with these humorous illustrations. Furthermore, emoji’s for vegetables and garden critters also dot the pages.

Charts and Diagrams

On a more serious note, the gardening manual provides great charts throughout. In addition to the often found last and first freeze charts, Jerry Baker’s Fast Easy Vegetable Garden also has tables breaking down by percentage the amount of primary and secondary elements in the different types of manures, tankages, rock powders and vegetable waste.

Primary elements are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potash- Potassium (K) while the secondary elements are magnesium (MG), manganese (MN), and copper (CU).  There is also a short discussion on minor elements. In addition to the percentages found, Baker includes a discussion on the specific fertilizers.

Other charts differentiate between fast and slow growing plants and types of pests as well as beneficial insects. Baker includes a chart with vitamin content and calories of each type of vegetable. A few simple diagrams explain the importance of spacing and location of the vegetable garden.

Jerry Baker’s Top Tips

I do not consider myself a novice gardener nor a master gardener. Since I am somewhere in the middle there is still plenty to learn. Jerry Baker’s guide may be 35 year’s old, but I found it a valuable resource. In addition to the jargon glossary and the wonderful charts discussed above, the tips for starting seeds are great. Until just recently, I either planted seeds directly into the ground or bought plants.

Last year, I had some success growing from seed a type of tomato that the nurseries were no longer distributing. This year I plan to branch out as discussed in The Peanut Experiment. Jerry Baker’s Fast, Easy Vegetable Garden will be consulted frequently.

The book has a good question and answer section as well as a few recipes. The section on herbs is extensive. Also the one on container planting is quite thorough. This just over two hundred page book is so well written I read it in an afternoon. If your library does not have a copy, do a quick Internet search. There are plenty of used copies available for sale. This book is a winner.

Jerry Baker's Pages illustrating types of garden bugs

Valentine’s Day is Special

Valentine’s Day is special to me. Not for the flowers, or the cards or even the chocolate candy that my sweet tooth often craves. But for the birth of my father. If he did not exist then naturally I would not be here. Life is precious.

Mom and Dad

My parents, like many couples that have passed their 50th Anniversary have a special relationship. One cultivated by time. Shared accomplishments tempered by disappointments. Shared losses dulled by new joys. My hope is that her dementia does not cloud her understanding of today’s double celebration.

Growing up, Valentine’s Day meant a heart shaped birthday cake for Dad. Double chocolate with both cake and icing originating at one point in time from the cocoa bean. But at our house Betty Crocker did her share of the prep.

Valentine’s Day 2020

This year marks my Dad’s 81st celebration. I am not there in person but will be mindful of the love and guidance I have received over the years. Hopefully, his card has arrived. It is pretty darn hard to find those Birthday/Valentine’s Day combination cards.

Dad recently endured the last of his radiation treatments for the male breast cancer he is battling. The following day he made a five hour drive to see his brother who is also struggling with serious health issues. I talked with both men that day. Brotherly love emanated over the phone line. But I am sure the visit was bittersweet. It is hard to say goodbye.

Share the Love

The cynics I know view Valentine’s Day as a commercial holiday. They cringe at the expense. But, the day can be celebrated on a budget. Dining in can be more romantic then going to a restaurant.

Furthermore, not everything needs to be purchased. I still remember my 4-H group making Valentine’s cards for the residents in the nursing home. The cost was not great but the joy was priceless.

Valentine’s Day is special. Share the love with family and friends. Life is finite but love is always expanding. Happy birthday Dad and all the other Valentine’s babies out there. If you can’t have a heart shaped cake this year look for heart shaped cookies- I think I will go make a batch.

Double Valentine's Day Themed Wreaths on an entrance
Happy Valentine’s Day

The Peanut Experiment

There was a smattering of snow on the ground this morning. Just enough to know moisture fell overnight. But my peanut experiment was already started. So I will just carry on.

Why Peanuts?

The High Plains is known more for grains. Legumes planted in the area tend to be soy or pinto. Peanuts are not grown commercially in this area. But they can be grown in the home garden.

I first planted peanuts in 2018. A nursery in a nearby city of 30,000 had some peanut plants for sale. Impulse buying struck and a four pack of peanuts made it into the cart. They survived in the raised bed but only a handful of peanuts were harvested.

peanut in raised bed
2018 Peanut Plant

Last year, I returned to the nursery specifically looking for the plants. After finding them, I doubled the purchase amount. The plants joined the garden on Mother’s Day. A late frost a few days after nipped the garden and delayed the growth.

However, the end result was a positive one. The peanut harvest yielded over a pound of peanuts. Not bad for about six feet in a raised row. So this year, I am hoping for another successful season.

The Peanut Experiment

Peanuts need warm soil and a long growing season. Starting the seeds indoors should help me get a step up on the planting. Plus, I will know before May if my starts are viable. If I fail, I can always make the two hour trip to the nursery for the professionally grown bedding plants. (Yes, a two hour drive gets you to a “nearby” city.)

After last year’s harvest, the peanuts were hung to dry in the garage much like the garlic. I then sorted through the crop before storing in a recycled flour bag. Pods that looked iffy were pulled aside. My thought was to use those for seed.

The Method

Last night after extracting the peanuts from the culled shells, I questioned the viability of the seed. So, I pulled some of the good pods from storage. As you can see from the pictures, they look much better before soaking.

I then decided to create the peanut experiment. I divided the nice looking peanuts into two groups. One half was soaked overnight and one left dry. Further, all the poor looking peanuts were also soaked overnight. I was amazed at how much they plumped from the soaking.

I picked the best six from each group for planting. Each type is in a separate container and the containers are clearly labeled. Small pebbles were placed over the drainage holes. This keeps the soil from escaping during watering but allows for drainage.

The same seed starting soil is in each of the containers. The soil was moistened before the seeds were place about 1 ½ inches deep. Additional soil was scattered over the seed. It should be noted that I did not use an inoculant. I want a baseline to measure by. Inoculants can be beneficial, but that is another post!

During the day, the growing pots will be kept near a South facing window because I do not have “grow” lights. Last year, my started seeds were placed on boxes and the boxes stood beneath the LED light above the cook top overnight. Once seeds have sprouted, I may repeat this if the stems seem spindly. However, the larger seed pod makes me think this will not be needed.

Legumes and Soil Enrichment

In addition to enjoying the peanuts as a snack, growing legumes is good in the garden. To be honest, the harvested peanuts are secondary to using the plants as nitrogen fixers. Peas are also good for the soil, but they seldom last past late June as the heat becomes too much.

However, the peanuts thrive in the heat. Their pretty yellow flowers attract pollinating insects. Last but not least, they remind me of the Deep South.

Enjoy the slide show.

  • Peanuts in shell
    Culled Peanuts set aside for seed.
  • Shell peanuts for eating
    Peanuts originally saved to eat
  • Bag of Peanuts
    Bag of Peanuts
  • Shelled peanuts poor quality
    Shelled peanuts from culled group.
  • Peanuts soaking in measuring cup
    Peanuts soaking overnight
  • Shelled peanuts
    Shelled peanuts from edible group
  • non-soaked peanuts
    Non-soaked peanuts
  • Soaked peanuts
    Soaked peanuts from culled group
  • Edible soaked peanuts
    Soaked peanuts from edible group
  • Three groups of seed
    Comparison of soaked and non-soaked seeds
  • Pots Labled
    Pots Labled
  • Small rocks plugging holes in bottom of pots
    Rocks plugging holes in pots
  • Pots and rocks
    Getting ready to plant
  • Seed Starter Soil in Pots
    Adding Seed Starter Soil

Force of Nature Book Review

Jane Harper scores another win with Force of Nature. This second novel featuring Federal Agent Aaron Falk follows in the footsteps of The Dry. Plot twists keep the reader in suspense throughout. Best of all, Harper’s characters are so real and like-able, this reader was dismayed when the suspicion focused on one of the individual’s I most connected with among the potential culprits.

Remote Australia

The setting for Force of Nature is the Giralang Ranges, a remote area of Australia. Ten individuals from a company that Falk is investigating are on a corporate retreat. The group is divided evenly by gender and each team is sent on a different route. The purpose is to create a bond. But the women’s group is late to the rendezvous. Finally, four of the five women return, battered by the force of nature. Snake bit, concussed, bruised and stories that don’t quite add up equate a less than optimal outcome for the missing woman.

Of course, Falk and his partner Carmen Cooper rush to the scene when their inside informant is the one who turns up lost. The remoteness of the area along with the topography and vegetation of this fictional National Park make finding the missing woman difficult. Furthermore, the duo can’t be certain how their investigation of the company is involved.

Force of Nature

Jane Harper weaves a wonderful plot. Her pivoting between action and reflection is well done. Also, her sub-story of teen bullying and sexting adds just the right amount of uncertainty. Both kinship and friendship undergo excruciating stresses during this team building exercise when the women face the force of nature.

If you have not read any of Harper’s novels, I urge you to look for them. The writing is outstanding. I have yet to read her latest, but I am sure it will be every bit as suspenseful as Force of Nature. Jane Harper is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I plan to read her next, The Lost Man, as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.

February Freeze

Striped cat atop a cat seatOut here on the High Plains of the United States it is not unusual to have a mild January followed by a February freeze. It appears that 2020 will maintain that historical pattern. So, even though Groundhog Day was pleasantly mild, the frigid weather is upon us.

This past weekend it was really hard not to stick some seeds into the ground. Perfect weather for puttering around in the garden. Temperatures reached into the upper 60s and lower 70s. But the forecast was for a quick turn-around. The lows over the next few nights call for single digit temperatures and even possibly below zero.

Sure enough Tuesday morning brought snow and cold. The much needed moisture is welcome. So far, the snow is gently falling. Beautiful to look at and not as dangerous for livestock.

Furthermore, the weather pundits are predicting another storm and then another. This change in pattern is one that often occurs, bringing moisture along with the February freeze. After many years as a transplant to this part of the world, I have finally learned not to let January fool me.

Indoor Activities

For the most part, kids still have school although there were a few two hour delays. Individual school administrators determine how much time if any the kids have for outdoor recess. Determining factors include outside temperatures and whether or not the wind kicks up. Wind chill is dangerous in this part of the country.

Here at the house, I will keep busy in the quilt room with a break every once in a while to look for results from the Iowa Caucus. (Quite the Public Relations disaster.) But poor Sophie will be housebound. Her choice not mine.

Sophie’s Story

Sophie is the fourth cat I have ever shared a home with. My policy is only one animal at a time. (Gold fish are exempt.) One of my nieces found her as a tiny weeks-old kitten at one of the farm buildings. No mama or other kittens in sight. Frigid weather much like the February freeze we are currently experiencing. And if my memory serves right, a spot of snow.

Sophie was near death. But with bottle feedings from family members and meds from the local vet, she survived. She is small for a cat. In fact at four years, Sophie looks closer to nine months. Additionally, Sophie is the most loyal animal I have ever been around.

February Freeze Keeps Sophie Inside

Most days, Sophie is anxious to go outside. She likes nothing better than to accompany me around the yard chasing rabbits and jumping for grasshoppers. But, on cold days she doesn’t venture far. Add snow to the mix and she refuses to venture out. Instead she perches by the window and watches the snow come down. This February freeze is no exception.

Cat looking out at February freeze

 

January 2020 Wrap-Up

January 2020 has come and gone. I truly hope the month is not a harbinger for the rest of the year. January 2020 has been a bit tough on a personal level, quite rough on a national level, and downright disastrous on a global level.  But perhaps this numeric alliteration of a year will yet turn positive for all.

Delays in the Hobby Room

The newest quilt I am working on has been at the same stage for two weeks now. Multiple trips out of town combined with a tune up of my favorite sewing machine hampered my progress. So as the month ends, I plan to replace a concentration on fitness with the prioritization of quilt construction.

Although January temperatures have ranged from single digits to the 60’s, February tends to be more seasonal. Even if the month proves to be as mild as January 2020, my goal is to spend at least twenty hours a week quilting. This should be doable.

In the Kitchen

Most of my canning activities naturally take place during harvest. But in January 2020, I twice made Econogal’s Granola and dry canned the jars. There is a lot of concern over dry canning. My plans are not to use the process to store long term, but to increase the time my granola will stay fresh. On both occasions, the lids sealed nicely.

If you read the post on the granola, you will note that only six cups of oatmeal are involved. Thus, the output is not great. Since my family loves granola, I think this method will work for me. Of course I live in a very dry climate, so mold on food is almost non-existent.

In the Library

The month of January 2020 featured mystery and mayhem in the books read. Entertainment galore. My non-fiction reading was almost non-existent. So I need to strive for more balance. But sometimes a temporary escape from the stresses of life is best.

We continue to read the Ivy Malone series which I just recently discovered. I like finding books that appeal to different personalities. Book series are also favorites because I feel a familiarity to the characters from page one. Writers of good characterization are enviable. Plotting is relatively easy when compared to the challenges of bringing an imaginary character to life. Much less imaginary life forms.

Which brings to mind Nora Roberts 2019 release Of Blood And Bone. I am waiting for my turn to check-out the last in the series. I highly recommend the books in this series.

January 2020 National and Worldwide Events

Hopefully the sense of foreboding prevalent the first month of 2020 will be swept away by an upbeat second month. This can be the case if the impeachment process is properly conducted. The United States of America is a republic. The citizens elect representatives to govern. Currently, I have faith that the individuals representing me will make the right decisions. If not, there is the ballot box.

On the global front, this corona virus does concern me. While I personally am at low risk, I am apprehensive about the spread for both people and economies. The emerging markets are a prime target in both categories. Trust again comes into play.

But, individuals can also calmly get prepared. For starters, try to have a week to ten days of groceries on hand. This may seem impossible for families that are struggling and live week to week and paycheck to paycheck. But it is doable. Next time there is a two for one sale at the grocery store, put the second on a storage shelf saved for just-in-case.

Second, viruses can attack anybody. While not a medical professional, I have raised a passel of kids. I know sick days are inevitable. However, those who are run down fare worse. So, get plenty of sleep, exercise moderately, and drink plenty of fluids.

Most importantly of all, practice habits of good hygiene. Wash your hands often. Keep the kitchen clean and the linens fresh. Self-monitor your health. If you are feeling ill or unwell, keep your distance from others until you feel better.

Mental Health Practices

Many on social media are fretting about events beyond our control. Anyone extremely distressed should consider seeking professional help. We need to remember January 2020 is but a moment in time. So, I urge all of you to find a way to unwind from the stresses. The individuals in this house found it helpful to read. If you need some recommendations, scroll through the selections In The Library. I for one am looking forward to February 2020.

 

 

 

Invisible book Review

Invisible by Lorena McCourtney was released in 2004 but is a newly discovered series for me. And I enjoyed this murder mystery featuring retiree Ivy Malone. The novel falls into the category of entertaining vs. suspenseful. My first GOL (giggle out loud) occurred on page 13. A good omen in my opinion.

Ivy Malone

The novel opens with Ivy and Thea, her neighbor and fellow widow, visiting a cemetery, which has been vandalized. Unfortunately, the day is too much for Thea and she succumbs to natural causes. This leaves Ivy adrift. She no longer has a sidekick to experience life with.

Thus, Ivy begins to feel invisible. So she decides she can scout out the cemetery, cloaked in her figurative invisibility, to find the vandals. Her nightly stakeout of the graveyard entertains with just a touch of slapstick humor. But hoodlums are only the beginning.

Murder Plot

While Ivy is occupied with the nightly visits, Thea’s tenant Kendra disappears. Since Ivy is looking after Thea’s house she redirects her snooping to discovering what happened to the mysterious young woman.

Ivy forms a bound with a young police officer, Dix, due to the fact his grandparents lived down the street long ago. Even though Dix does not stay in charge of the investigation, his presence remains as Ivy tries to bring him back into a spiritual relationship.

McCourtney weaves a lot of Christianity into her characters as well as some romance for both the young and the not so young. Chemistry abounds between multiple characters with one of my favorite combinations that of Ivy and Mac MacPherson. Mac, while not central to the story certainly adds some spice.

Invisible

Ivy does not let anything slow her down. Her leads take her on several trips to Arkansas. But the excitement occurs when she returns home to Missouri and comes face to face with both the vandals and the murderer. Naturally, she comes out on top, at least until the trial.

I enjoyed the book to the extent I plan to check out the next in the series when I return Invisible. These fun reads have a definite place in my reading rotation. They offer a break from the seriousness of life. Much like a sitcom. But unlike sitcoms, the books remain on the shelves for new readers to discover instead of facing cancellation.

 

Of Blood And Bone Book Review

Of Blood And Bone is the second in the Chronicles of The One trilogy by Nora Roberts. I reviewed the first in the series, Year One, two years ago. This sequel came out last year but I am just now reading it. This delay had a purpose, because I can now go from the second installment to the finale without a large gap of time.

The tone Of Blood And Bone is a bit different than its predecessor. The initial novel centered on survival whereas the second book in the trilogy is a coming of age novel. To be truthful, I liked the sequel better than the start of the series. Perhaps because the back story was already known. Or maybe from the possibility of romance foreshadowed for the last book in the trilogy. Regardless, I really enjoyed Of Blood And Bone.

Fallon Swift

The center of the novel and indeed the trilogy is Fallon Swift. She is The One. Her birth ended the first of the series and her passage through puberty is the focus of the second. I love the character. She is an uncanny and hence otherworldly, yet she is human too.

Roberts has created a compelling persona in Fallon. She is mature one moment and immature the next. So like the teenager she is, caught between child and adult. Her lessons with Mallick are important for both plot and character growth. The pages fly through the telling.

Return to New Hope

Even though Of Blood And Bone has a very different tone, the climax once again is centered at the outpost called New Hope. History repeats itself with yet another of Fallon’s blood and bone meeting their end.

But before that happens, the reader reconnects with many of the original characters. Since fifteen years have passed, the babies are now front and center. And romance stirs.

Of Blood And Bone

I thoroughly enjoyed Of Blood And Bone. As stated above, I rate the novel above the first of the series. Furthermore, I am anxious to get my hands on the finale-The Rise of the Magicks. Now that the entire trilogy is out, I can see how one might binge read from start to finish. If only I were snowed in with no chores to do! Some binge watch television, but my idyll is to binge read by the fireplace!

Fantasy and futuristic fans should add Of Blood And Bone to their book lists. But, there is plenty to like for those who prefer a coming of age story. Best of all for those of us who love romance, there is a promise of just that for Fallon Swift.

 

 

In Defense of the Reader

Recently, a finance guy I follow on Twitter was very derisive of a claim that someone had read 300 books in one year. I was so disgusted by his sarcasm I almost un-followed him. But I didn’t. I find much that he writes thought provoking. And I don’t know the context or reason for his mockery. However, the whole Twitter feed prompted this post in defense of the reader who was mocked.

Books Read in 2019

Last year I read between 50 and 100 books. I try to review a book a week, but that did not always happen due to various circumstances. Additionally, I do not review each book read. From time to time I even don’t finish a book, but that is a rarity. But as a blogger that tries to review a book a week. I read a lot.

So would someone working in the publishing field. Editors, agents and literary scouts most likely read far more than I do. But, readers are not limited to just one field.

Learners

Books can be divided into many categories. Two of the broadest are fiction and non-fiction. Students read many, many non-fiction publications through the course of their lives. I remember the copious amount required for my master’s degree. One would think I would need a reading break during the Christmas break.

I did, from non-fiction. As soon as a semester was over I immersed myself in fiction. Often I would read two or more quick murder mysteries a day. Or binge on Janet Evanovich for much needed laughs. Diane Mott Davidson was a favorite too. I loved the characters and the recipes. In defense of the reader, I posit that all reading does not need to be non-fiction. Or thought provoking.

Maybe, just maybe, if the adults in my beloved country would occasionally read for fun we would not have the divisiveness that has begun to haunt the presidential election years. As well as the other years. Perhaps snarkiness (if covfefe can be a word why not snarkiness!) would abate.

Parents

I believe the most voracious readers of all are parents. My kids from oldest to youngest are eight years apart. I can remember going from one to another each night reading books as diverse as Dr. Seuss to Roald Dahl. Most nights involved over an hour of reading to them. Those of you who love economics as much as I do will understand I found the time spent reading to the kids far more valuable than an hour or so of television. In defense of the reader who claimed 300 books, I am sure some of those years I read thousands of books.

Perhaps the author of the original snarky comment’s intent was to stimulate responses. Many people use Twitter just to create controversy. I prefer to use that particular social media to stay abreast of news in the world. But I know many, such as the finance guru who spurred me to write this post seek attention through likes and comments.

In Defense of the Reader

From the amount of response generated, he achieved his goal. Aside from those who also doubted an individual’s ability to read almost a book a day and the supporters who brought up parental reading in defense of the reader were the following arguments:

  1. Books are expensive thus the original claimant was wasting money. My response: I know I spend more than the average person on books, but I also regularly visit the public library. Occasionally I visit the Little Free Library in my neighborhood. Libraries exist to reduce costs for the public.
  2. Many hours a day, up to eight would be required to read a book a day. My response: Reading speeds do vary, but for the most part I agree, reading takes time. However, there are others beside myself who choose reading over the television each evening. Time management is after all, basic economics.
  3. Not that many good books the world. My Response: To be honest this comment left me speechless.

Final Thoughts In Defense of the Reader

My final thoughts stemming from the Tweet are varied. How much of social media exists purely to divide the public? Does this happen in other countries? I ask this because much finger-pointing is going on in America regarding outside influences in our elections.

On a local level, the divisiveness does not seem threatening. My neighbors vary in political beliefs but all would pitch in together in face of adversity. We see this each time we experience a blizzard.

So why is this not the case on a National level? Perhaps those involved in the Twitter fest over whether someone can read 300 books a year should take a step back, and read. My recommendation would be any of the Helen MacInnes books. Click here for a review of one of my favorites.

If you are an active poster on any social media, I urge you to think before you post a response. The negativity I see is not healthy. Nor is sticking one’s head into the sand. I believe in the power of reading. Books expose the reader to all subjects. From philosophy to science fiction, autobiography to history, books contain knowledge. I posit more time spent in a book and less watching television or monitoring social media will go a long ways in allowing one to understand the complexities of our world.

Invitation Only Murder Book Review

Invitation Only Murder by Leslie Meier is a good addition to the Lucy Stone series. With the exception of a few scenes, most of the characters are new to the reader. As such, the book does not seem repetitive. Instead, the novel ranks among my favorites of the series.

Island Adventure

Most of the novel takes place on a privately owned island off the coast of Maine. “Fletcher’s Island” was purchased by super wealthy Scott Newman who restored multiple buildings on the island. His purpose was to create an off grid idyll in an effort to protect the environment.

The Newman family contains two sets of twins, Parker and Taylor, twenty-something sisters are involved in the family business. The younger set are Fred and Walter. Filling out this family dynamic is Lily, step-mother to the elder twins and mother of small boys.

Also on the island is the Hopkins family. Inhabitants of the island for generations, the Hopkins’ now work for the Newman family. This is the perfect set-up for conflict and tension. As well as finger pointing once a murder occurs.

Invitation Only

After viewing the restorations during an invitation only event, Lucy returns to the island to write about the successes of the Newman family. Unsurprisingly, Lucy finds a body along the coast and the plot thickens. Naturally, the heroine survives a number of unpleasant tasks. And unsuspected attacks. Before long she regrets her invitation only acceptance.

Leslie Meier

Meier does a good job of writing the story and keeping things fresh for her loyal readers. I first started reading this series decades ago when my children and Lucy’s were both young or twinkles in the eye. Now both of us have four adult children and the kinship remains.

Although a series can get quite formulaic, Invitation Only Murder broke slightly from the mold. Meier deftly incorporated contemporary issues into the story without making the text preachy. Instead, the topics seemed on point to me.

If you are looking for an easy entertaining read, look for the Lucy Stone book series at your library or favorite bookstore.

 

Successes and Failures

Often I talk about the roller coaster of life. The first time I remember the use of this phrase is when I was receiving counseling from a minister. A series of miscarriages had me feeling quite low. I felt such failure. But, my minister likened the successes and failures we experience in life to a roller coaster. In short, one had to overcome one’s failures in order to enjoy one’s successes. He also helped me realize we can’t control all of nature nor all of life’s events.

Ups and downs naturally occur in life. It takes skill to navigate through the peaks and valleys. And in my case it always helps (and helped) to have someone to talk things through. Over the years I have been blessed with good clergy and caring academic counselors. Luckiest of all I married my best friend.

Albertus Magnus College

Perhaps the best advice for dealing with adversity came from my college adviser. Sister Charles Marie was the head of the Business and Economics department when I attended Albertus Magnus College. I was struggling with many personal issues my senior year. Of course these issues affected my studies.  Her advice included working hard in order to keep my mind busy and to concentrate on positives. She also suggested I could cope with the problems by breaking tasks into smaller amounts. In other words not to bite off more than I could chew.

She also talked about work-life balance before it ever became a thing. (I earned my degree a long, long time ago.) But she wasn’t the only person at Albertus Magnus College that offered support. My cross country coach was a tremendous backer even though she had her own personal problems to deal with. She was an early proponent of exercise being great for matters of the mind as well as the body.

Their advice worked. I earned my degree. Life continued.

Passage of Time

Time acts as a regulator for feelings of failure. Things I failed to accomplish as a youth seem inconsequential now that I have been seasoned by the passage of time. Long ago I realized the importance of persistence. It is impossible (at least I believe) to go through life without failure. However, success can be achieved after failure. This is something to keep in mind if you are unfortunate enough to be a member of the trophy generation.

I believe one should keep trying to improve. This may mean more education or more patience. It definitely means forgiving others as well as yourself. Until I leave this earth, or as long as I am mentally able, I plan to keep trying, keep improving and keep making amends for my transgressions. Even when my memory differs, I need to understand the importance of perception. Yes I admit I do care what others think. Furthermore, I believe we need more caring in this world. Consideration of others is lacking at this point in time.

Successes and Failures

While my failures are many and I know they will continue, my successes are not inconsequential. At one time I was told the odds were against my carrying any child to term. Persistence allows me to delight in the four wonderful adults all spawned from my womb.

Relationships are difficult. So is raising a child. Indeed life itself provides endless adversity. Throw in a special needs child, an early death, a divorce or a job loss and the doors open to failures large and small. The challenges of life are diverse and immense. But a person needs to look at successes and failures from a macro point of view.

The absolute key to success is Not the absence of failures but the willingness to face failures and to make corrections in an effort to overcome those failures. Most importantly, acknowledging the fact failure sometimes can’t be remedied, but life does go on. And can be even be better. We just need to keep trying.

 

 

 

 

 

The Deception Book Review

Mixing romance, action, and social awareness is a difficult task. But Kat Martin attempts this cocktail with The Deception, her latest in the Maximum Security series. For the most part, the novel is a success.

Action-Packed Plot

The Deception begins at a Dallas honky-tonk where bounty hunter Hawk Maddox is meeting with a snitch. On his way out of the bar he is attracted by Kate Gallagher. She is dancing the night away while trying to drown out her sorrows. Kate comes to her senses before hooking up with Hawk.

Then fate intervenes. Kate is determined to find the person responsible for her younger sister’s death. Research leads her to Maximum Security. And back into the arms of Mr. Maddox. The bounty hunter is also a private investigator and goes by Jason in the office.

The two begin working together. Their investigation winds across Texas and the seedy sides of Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston. Martin is accurate with her geography, capturing the rougher areas of these large cities.

Social Awareness

The underlying story is one of human trafficking. In addition to Kate’s younger sister, the pair discover a number of victims killed in their attempts to escape the organization that has turned them into sex slaves.

One of the best parts of the novel occurs over half way through. A virginal thirteen year old is introduced to the readers. She is given her own point of view. As a reader, I became very involved. This plot development created urgency. Would the trafficking ring be exposed in time?

Problems with The Deception

For this reader, there were a few problems with the novel. The juxtaposition between the romance and the action was difficult for me. The Deception is not a sweet romance. So, I found it difficult to go from the consensual bedroom scenes to the action scenes of both brothel and street walkers.

Additionally, I found the chemistry not quite right. Also, I felt the author did not quite succeed in her character of Kate. No way would I hit the dance floor following a trip to the morgue. Furthermore, her friends were more like afterthoughts. Lastly, I found it hard to believe she had never met her stepmother nor her half-siblings.

This is the first Kat Martin Book I have read. The Deception held my interest long enough to finish. But I am glad it was a library check-out.

2020 Resolutions

Two years ago I wrote a post with tips for keeping New Year’s Resolutions. Last year I skipped the process, and I did not follow through. In fact I can‘t even recall the goals. So, for my 2020 resolutions I plan to follow a similar path to 2018 in an effort to once again experience success in achieving my goals.

Therefore, I am once again publicly sharing my goals. Putting the 2020 resolutions in print so to speak, deepens the commitment. I am also making them measurable. It is easier to note progress in this way. However, I am also limiting the goals. 2019 was a real roller coaster ride for the family. Hopefully there will not be a major surprise like my Dad’s breast cancer diagnoses. But if the unexpected keeps a constant presence in my life, I would like to have some simple resolutions to ground me.

Goals Related to Econogal

The Econogal blog is near and dear to my heart. So I want to continue strengthening the website. Thanks to the wisdom of a fellow blogger from South Africa, (Click here to discover her blog) I no longer stress about the exact number of posts. However, I do want to make improvements.

To achieve this goal, I plan to spend 30 minutes a week on what I call the backside of the website. Perhaps I will update the header design or tinker with the page background. I will most certainly complete a check of all links. I have already discovered that restaurants can and do go out of business. Thus, their websites become inactive.

2020 Resolution Influences

Two people have influenced my resolution thinking this year. The first is Former Miss Colorado Madison Dorenkamp. Click here to read my interview with her from last year. Madison is a blogger and has just released a post 100 Things Project (Click Here) that I find intriguing. As a Millennial, Ms. Dorenkamp has the energy to succeed in her 100 Things Project. I look forward to following her through the year as she faces her challenges and discovers life.

My other “influencer” is the man I live with. He is a regular reader of the Wall Street Journal. In the last Saturday edition of December 2019 the paper published For the New Year, Say No to Negativity by John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister. For those who do not subscribe, the gist of the essay is that negative statements and actions are so strong that it takes four positives to counteract the damage.

I am borrowing from both these individuals. Instead of 100 things, I am going to focus each month on a personal challenge. I will share my experiences in my Monthly Wrap-Ups Section. You may have noticed this new category. I worked on the backside last week to populate the category with my old posts. I do not know what each month will center on, but January is on fitness.

The last of my 2020 Resolutions is connected to positivity. Although I do not think I will turn into a Pollyanna, I will strive not to stress myself or others through negative thoughts and actions. It will be interesting to see how well the rule of four works.

Summarizing Econogal’s 2020 Resolutions

  1. Work 30 minutes per week on the backside of the Econogal website.
  2. Monthly challenges that are shared with the readers of the Econogal website.
  3. Destress my little part of the world through positivity for myself and others.

Of the three resolutions, the last will be the hardest to quantify and measure. But, I think it will be the most important. There are many clichés about the journey of life. One of my favorites is to remember to stop and smell the roses. I hope to share plenty of roses in 2020.

Dozens of Yellow roses
Remember to stop and smell the roses!

 

Quantum Book Review

Quantum by Patricia Cornwell is the first of a new series. The protagonist is Captain Calli Chase. Chase is both a scientist and a security officer for NASA and is based at Langley Research Center in Virginia. The novel involves murder and intrigue. But, the greatest take-away is the great advances in technology with application both on the ground and in space.

The plot revolves around the secret placement of a quantum node on the ISS. For those not used to the space jargon and seemingly endless acronyms used by NASA and other governmental agencies, ISS stands for International Space Station.

The opening pages are laced with acronyms and not all are easily identified. Thus, a start to a new series weighed down with both backstory and jargon. For me, this approach made enjoying the novel difficult at first. However, by page 50 mystery and murder appear and I am hooked.

Close- knit Characters

Cornwell has created a cast of characters that is tightly woven. For example, the earliest scene involves Chase and NASA police Major Fran Lacey. Later, it is revealed that Lacey and her son live adjacent to Chase and her parents thus creating quite a compound.

Furthermore, Chase has an identical twin Carme (pronounced Karma) who figures prominently in the story yet is more an apparition than a person. The backstory Cornwell weaves provides rationality for the diverse personalities of the twins. Additionally, Carme is a prime suspect in the murder and mayhem that occur. Of course this creates conflict and tension for the protagonist.

Quantum Leaps of Technology

A major plot point is the secret placement of a quantum node on the ISS. To be honest, I did not know if this was real technology. An Internet search concludes the technology exists. Click here to see if you can understand the theory.

The novel also addresses other cutting edge technology such as the exoskeleton suits used by the military. My first encounter with this product came in Break Point by Richard Clarke. Click here for a review of that fact laced novel.

It is obvious that Cornwell spent much time researching this field. She weaves details of the technology as well as the security protocols in place to guard advances and advantages of the U.S. governmental agencies. The book is fictional, but just how much truth supports the novel?

I recommend this book with the caveat that the jargon and initial pages are a bit tough to read. Those readers interested in the ongoing research into quantum physics will find an excellent tale weaving fact into fiction. Cornwell’s latest mystery is worthy of reading.

 

 

December 2019 Wrap-Up

December 2019

The last wrap-up of the year is always difficult and the December 2019 Wrap-Up is no exception. So much is crunched into the last 31 days that I don’t know quite where to start. Perhaps a chronological account is best.

I arrived home to the High Plains just a few hours before December 2019 began. The first few days back from an extended stay in Florida were ones filled with chores and catching up with local based family. A home inhabited by a workaholic for five weeks without his faithful sidekick in residence is a home needing just a bit of TLC.

Keeping Traditions

Bowl with Spode TreeAs discussed in an earlier post on Holiday Traditions, I pull out the Spode Christmas Tree china on the first of December. This year the familiar task helped ground me. These same dishes will return to storage New Year’s Day during breaks in watching parades and football games.

I detoured a bit from tradition with the Christmas tree. Over the last few years I had experimented with both a white and a gold artificial tree, the latter a table topper to mixed reviews from family members. The December 2019 tree was a real tree. I went a step further and used family made ornaments and multi-colored lights. The decision was a positive one. My only offspring able to make it home searched the tree with delight to find the personally made ornaments.

Christmas Tree lit with multi-colored lights
A new look for Christmas

Christmas parties are always a part of the year end festivities. This year was no exception. Needless to say, lots of good food was consumed. The relatively mild weather has allowed me to counter the calories with long walks.

Update on Breast Cancer Treatments

Breast Cancer Ribbon
Not for Women Only

My Dad started his radiation treatments this month. It was quite a process as those who have been through it well know. His biggest complaint so far has been the tattooing. There was some difficulty with the breathing (or holding it) during the early sessions. He is retired Army and his hearing has taking a bit of a beating. Fortunately this issue has been resolved with the use of a technician with a lower, deeper and perhaps louder voice.

Dad remains upbeat about his prognosis. I think he is past the stigma, if any on his part, of being a male with breast cancer. I appreciate the fact he allows me to write about his condition and progress. Breast Cancer is best fought when caught early. Since most men do not get routine mammograms, the detection is more difficult. Just knowing it is possible could be helpful to someone out there.

Book Reviews

I released a second annual book review only to be very impressed with the next two books I read. Click here for the 2019 recommendations. I love the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It is perfect for binge reading. In addition to This Tender Land just reviewed, I have read the latest Janet Evanovich and am working on the first of a new series by Patricia Cornwall. The former was a delightful fun read, the latter is quite technical and centered on our potential journeys into space.

The Garden

The extended stay in Florida coupled with some other fall trips meant I missed my fall planting of garlic. So I popped some cloves in the ground on Boxing Day. The weather was sunny and mild with a forecast of rain turning to snow for the following days. We will see what happens next summer.

I also cleaned up some of the raised row garden and put down a straw mulch for the remainder of the winter. A little bit of the Swiss chard remains green under a hoop tent. But not enough to harvest. My experiments in the garden will most likely continue for a couple more decades.

In the Quilt Room

Quilt strips before sewing in mauve, blue gray and off white
Beginnings of a quilt

Winter weather means a return to the quilt room. I am currently in the cutting stage of a new quilt. The quilt will have grays, mauves, pinks and a few greens and blues in the marbled Bali prints I am including. I love the feeling that comes along with creativity.

Since I will have another great nephew in the summer, I need to start the design process for another small quilt. I love designing even more than the process of quilting. I am not sure what pattern I will choose yet, but it may be in the form of transportation, just not another Train Quilt like I made for his brother. He will need his own. Click here to see the Train Quilt.

2020 Resolutions

I am still working on my New Year’s resolutions. In 2018 I was successful in fulfilling those resolutions. But I fell a bit short in 2019. Perhaps the difference was not making the goals public. So I plan to post my 2020 ideals next week. That gives me a few more days to make my final decision on just what I should strive for next year.

I hope your December 2019 was merry and bright. I admire those who stay upbeat even in the face of adversity. Perhaps I can come up with a concrete way of measuring tenacity and include that in my 2020 resolutions. Happy New Year everyone.

This Tender Land Book Review

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger is a brilliant tale worthy of reading. However, I am not sure how to categorize the novel.  Perhaps it belongs to the coming-of-age genre, or maybe included with the mystical. Nonetheless, this story of faith or lack thereof is a compelling one.

Krueger uses the Great Depression as the backdrop for This Tender Land. The story weaves through many complexities of life as it follows four young vagabonds down river. They struggle not only with life and death but also good and evil.

The Storyteller, The Genius, The Giant and The Princess

Odie is The Storyteller of the four. He describes himself as the imp, the one always dragging others into trouble. This reader found a tremendous depth of character in one so young. After a series of disastrous events, Odie sees God as a Tornado God- one that wreaks havoc everywhere. His older brother Albert, The Genius of the Vagabonds concurs.

The other two leading characters are Muse and Emmy; The Giant and the Princess. Muse is a compelling character. He is an orphaned Sioux Indian made mute when someone cut out his tongue after killing his mother. Krueger expounds on the unjustness encountered by the American Indian, deftly weaving the history of the Plains Indians into the story.

Emmy the Princess is just a little girl. But she is a mystic and so many events in the story as well as the Faith questions revolve around this young orphan cherished by the others as a sister.

This Tender Land

This Tender Land presents the harsh realities of the Great Depression. The reader visualizes the Hoovervilles, the Indian School, the Revival Tent, even the Brothel with clarity. Indeed this reality lends the depth desired for inclusion in an English Lit class.

Even though parts of the story may make one uncomfortable, the struggle with faith is an important one. This Tender Land in the end is more than just a story of four young vagabonds escaping an untenable life.  The tale is wrought with the meaning of life. One that Krueger points out is worth living regardless of the heartache along the way.