Sneak Peek at the Breakfast Room

Sneak Peek

Those of you following Econogal for the personal snippets in addition to the book reviews will enjoy this sneak peek at the re-freshening of the kitchen and breakfast areas. I don’t consider this a major remodel. But it is taking some time. My deadline is March 29th.

Changes

Vining fruit wallpaper on a breakfast room wall
A view of the old wallpaper in the breakfast room.

The key changes involve color scheme and tone. The before wallpaper was a print of vines and fruits. The paper had a gorgeous border and coordinating curtains. Since the original counter top was a medium blue everything blended.

But, in the early part of this century a major remodel of the kitchen included adding Corian counters in the kitchen. The counter top is now gray. I like the color and pattern and am happy with the surface. So, at this point I do not want to change to quartz counters. Yet a new look is appealing.

As you can see by a sneak peek at the pictures, the change in wall paper is dramatic. The homey country feel which was good when the kids were growing up is gone. Now, there is a striking flair to the breakfast room. The wallpaper reflects my artsy nature. But the highlight is the new chair rail.

Wall paper up without the chair rail.

Creative Additions

As discussed in the post Path Not Taken, my training is business, but my passion is design. I am at a point in my life where creativity can take a front seat. The breakfast room and chair rail are demonstrative evidence.

Picking out wallpaper is tricky. Often I use a wallpaper border either as an accent or to blend everything together. In the case of the wallpapers I chose for the kitchen and breakfast room refresh, no border accompanied the patterns. Indeed the bold print was marketed by a different company than the textured paper used on the bottom of the breakfast room and throughout the kitchen. Wall Quest and York were the two companies I used.

So, I needed something to tie the papers together. A chair rail provided this connection. But, this chair rail is tile, not wood. Taking another sneak peek at the pictures, one can see two tiles were used to create the chair rail.

Chair rail under construction.

Tile Tips

The inner tile, produced by Glazzio, came in 12 inch sheets. But at the show room, the tile was shown in a 4 inch strip. Thus, my idea to use it as a chair rail might not have materialized if I had simply seen the large sheet. To achieve the effect I wanted, the tile needed to be cut in strips.

The tile saw chipped some of the tile. But my acrylic paints covered the chips. One could cut the strips by hand (using scissors and snipping around the links) to eliminate the chips, but then one would need to cut the individual links for half pieces. In my opinion this would create a dangerous situation.

Both a laser level and a hand level were used to ensure the chair rail was installed correctly. The laser level allowed me to draw a pencil line atop the wall paper as you can see in this picture. Then I used a hand level as I installed each piece.

Instead of standard tile adhesive I used a clear silicon adhesive made by Onyx. This was left over from an installation of Onyx showers and sink tops. I did not want the white adhesive seeping through the basket-weave. But I still wiped immediately with a sudsy rag. The soapy water was changed often.

Cutting Tile

I save the tile cuts for last. So in the case of the breakfast room, I worked each wall until I needed to make a cut. Then I worked on the areas requiring cuts. Fortunately, the long wall was done without any cuts. But, there was a change in the basket weave.

Since I am always budgeting, I did not by a piece for each linear foot. However, the basket weave did not repeat evenly. So, on the long wall a point was reached where the interlocking tile ran out. At this point, I butted two different weaves and then filled the gaps with small pieces. The filler pieces were created with the original tile cuts. Always save the cuttings. You never know when they will come in handy.

After the basket weave was in place, I affixed the Questech Jolly pencil trim to top and bottom. Again, I used the hand-held level as a double-check. The bottom pencil required more “holding” time to adhere without sliding down. The cuts into the corners were the most difficult.

Final Touches Needed

Curtains and curtain rods are still needed. Currently, I do not know what I am going to use. However, I like how the existing wood work really pops. The chandelier continues this. So I would like to find curtain fixtures to continue this feel. As for curtains. I am toying with the idea of burlap. Stay tuned!

Painting Secrets Book Review

Painting Secrets written by Brian Santos is a must have book for the Do It Yourself crowd. Santos, also known as The Wall Wizard has multiple DIY books on the market. You can also find his videos on the Internet. Additionally, he gives demonstrations across the country.

Painting Secrets

The self-help guide Painting Secrets spends the first 75 pages prepping for the actual paint job. The tips in this first part of the book include an excellent section on color selection. Santos does an outstanding job of explaining variations in color. Furthermore, he gives good tips on choosing colors that will work best for you.

Then Painting Secrets begins divulging its many tips to ensure the project is a success. Included in this long section on prepping a room for painting are methods for stripping wallpaper. Santos shares his secret recipe for wallpaper stripping. He also includes a dry method for removing vinyl wallpaper. His methods result in a quicker process.

Santos goes into great detail on how to repair walls before painting. He covers everything from small cracks to large holes in the sheet rock. Also, tips are provided for working with plaster. Perhaps the best part of this section are the many tricks of the trade shared. But I also liked the information on needed tools.

Painting 101

Santos shares his professional painting skills in a thorough manner. He begins by teaching the reader about the many types and grades of paint. Then he moves onto the best tools for the paint and the job. Also presented is detailed instruction on how to measure and estimate the amount of paint needed.

Each tool described receives a description of use or uses. The Wizard includes warnings and quizzes throughout the book. Many are tied to the proper use of the tools needed for the job.

Then, the book turns to the actual job of painting. There is a right and wrong way to paint. This section discusses loading paint onto the various tools as well as how to lay the paint onto the surfaces. The recommendation for painting an entire room is to have two people on the job.

Finally, Painting Secrets covers paint effects. Included in this section are decorative finishes such as faux and ragging. Santos shares his Wall wizard Glaze recipe along with tons of tricks and warnings. The techniques are divided into positive and negatives depending on whether you are adding or subtracting a top layer.

I highly recommend this book and am fortunate enough to have discovered it in my local library. This title along with similar titles are easily found online or in bookstores if your library doesn’t have a copy. Painting Secrets is just the book a DIY needs to get the project done right.

Path Not Taken

Often books focus on the path not taken such as The Little Paris Book Shop. Other times an author may provide more than one ending like the Choose Your Adventures my kids used to read. Or entirely separate plot lines like Heads You Win. In life, the fork in the road takes us down very different paths.

In my case the path not taken was not forging a career in New York City. My undergraduate degree came from a small women’s college in Connecticut. Thus, during a few very formative years, New York City beckoned to me. I still remember crossing the GWB (George Washington Bridge) for the very first time.

Trips to The City during those college years were infrequent but not rare. The vibrancy of New York is enticing. Favorite haunts included the museums near Central Park, Wall Street and the World Trade Centers (My fond memories of Windows on the World atop Building 1 defy the actions of the 9/11 terrorists.) and last but not least the Garment District.

I love the Garment District. Too short to be a runway model, I focused on the fabric. Every texture, color and design pattern can be found. Additionally, there are stores that sell nothing but notions. Ribbons, buttons, lace, zippers and threads to adorn any design.

Much has changed since my college days. I met my husband, a farm boy, at one of the land grant universities west of the Mississippi. I have only been back to New York City four times and two of those visits kept me on Long Island. But on one visit, I shopped in the Garment District and mourned at the site of the towers.

Changes from the Path Not Taken

Marriage is a major fork in the road. In my case a very major fork. Even though we lived in major cities the first three years together, the remaining years, over 30, have placed us in small towns. Towns of ten thousand or less are very small by my standards. I am a city girl at heart. Furthermore, the employment options are a bit limited.

Investment brokerage firms are not standard in rural America. Post Internet that is not a problem for investing. But employment in that career path is limited. So, I ended up teaching at a community college in the Business/Information Technology department. This actually complimented the other major path change.

Four children takes you down a very definite path. The needs of others becomes an essential part of life. Celebrities and movie stars manage large families. But my bet is they have a lot of help in the form of nannies, housekeepers (or at least a cleaning lady on a regular basis) and drivers. I had none of these, although I did carpool on occasion and even participated in a babysitting co-op in one town.

I concentrated on raising my family during these years of my life. But sacrifices occur if this is the path taken. My writing took a back seat. For several years I drove close to two hundred miles to participate in a writer’s group on a monthly basis. This gets old. As the kids grew so did the demands. The writer’s group had growing pains of its own, so I stopped making the trip. My family was happier. The writing took a hiatus.

New Forks

The kids are all adults now and busy choosing their paths. But, I still live in a small town. So some options are not feasible. New technology allows me to write. Blogging is not equivalent to important American Literature but it fills my need and I enjoy it.

However, design work is limited. The demographics of the area I live in are not conducive to earning a living through interior decorating. This is unfortunate. Somehow, I have the ability to throw together colors, textures, and patterns and the end result is amazing. Perhaps all the time spent designing quilts spilled over into other areas.

Thinking of the path not taken is fraught with what ifs. For example, if I had stayed in New York and chosen work in the Garment District instead of Wall Street, would I enjoy the process of design today? Actually, enjoy is an understatement. Creative design work whether a quilt or a back splash, defines me at this point in time. I love what I am doing. But would it be the same if I had followed another path?

That question is unanswerable. But I know the answers to others. I would never trade my time spent raising children. So, the path not taken remains a mystery. We have choices to make. Some are emotional, others are financial. Occasionally, a choice is made for us.

Each time we take a fork in the road we start down a new path. Can we backtrack? Perhaps to some degree. But we cannot erase the past. Thus the path not taken twenty years ago would not be the same now. If by chance the road loops around a second time and then you choose the other fork, the experience will differ. Thus, a path not taken remains unknown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Only Woman in the Room Book Review

Marie Benedict’s historical novel The Only Woman in the Room provides an insight into the genius of movie star Hedy Lamarr. Since the point of view is that of Hedy herself, this is not a biography. The dialogue and thoughts are a work of fiction. So the events portrayed in the book are based on fact, but not all are proven factual.

The Only Woman in the Room opens onstage in 1933 Vienna. Thus, the reader discovers the actress at the young age of 19. But she is already an international figure. Furthermore, Benedict begins the story at what is now known as a critical point in history: Hitler’s build up to war.

Benedict’s style of writing keeps the reader intrigued. The pace is quick. I read the book in an evening. The insight into Lamarr created a desire to learn more. A brief Internet search led me to the conclusion that once again a historical female figure only received partial recognition for her contribution to society. In Lamarr’s case, the fame she received as an actress is really a side note.

I have not read any work by Marie Benedict before. But from the author’s note as well as the testimonial blurbs on the book cover, I believe her writing niche is one which brings the lives of important women to light. Thus Benedict is the perfect author to spotlight on International Women’s Day.

Historical significance needs time to develop. Fortunately, Hedy Lamarr lived long enough to begin receiving recognition for her scientific contributions. Unfortunately, her patents lapsed before she or her family reaped the rewards. But, The Only Woman in the Room reveals none of this. The book focuses on the decade from 1933 to 1942. These were pivotal years for both history and for the woman herself.

The Only Woman in the Room

The title refers to the time Hedy spent married to Friedrich Mandl. Lamarr’s first (of many) husband was considerably older than the protagonist. As an owner of a large munitions company during a time of unrest, Mandl was wealthy and well-connected. According to The Only Woman in the Room, he entertained both Mussolini and Hitler at his home. Hedy, at this time not working as an actress, and was a fixture at these gatherings.

As stated in the novel, the men overlooked the presence of Lamarr and discussed many technicalities of war weapons in front of her. This included flaws in the munitions systems. Furthermore, the heroine divined the true danger to individuals of Jewish heritage. Thus, the novel provides a set-up to Hedy’s flight from Europe and a motivation for her scientific inventions.

Patent Pending

The end of the novel creates a need for more from the reader. I was totally fascinated to know and learn about the life of Hedy Lamarr. I wanted more. How did Hedy and her Mom get along in their later years? Why did the military not jump at the invention? Did she invent anything else?

Unfortunately, only ten years are covered by the novel. But, Benedict does convey the true worth of Hedy Lamarr. She was not just a pretty face. Perhaps the biggest travesty is it took this novel for me to realize the important contribution Lamarr made to this communications revolution we enjoy. Bluetooth, WI-FI and even cell phones all descend from her patented invention. Kudos to Marie Benedict for sharing the importance of Hedy Lamarr by writing The Only Woman in the Room.

International Women’s Day

March 8th is known as International Women’s Day. In our small town it is celebrated with the delivery of yellow roses sold by the local Zonta International Club. I am the delighted recipient as well as a buyer this year.

There are many ways to celebrate this day honoring women across the planet. Take a yellow rose to a woman who has impacted your life in a positive way. Share with your children accomplishments of your mother. Read a book about contributions a woman has made in history. The Only Woman in the Room is one I would recommend. Happy International Women’s Day!

Fat Tuesday

Mardi Gras Beads hanging from tree and fence
Beads adorning a house and tree in New Orleans, Louisiana

As an individual raised in a family that attended church on a regular basis, I celebrate religious holidays. So Lent, Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday are no exceptions. However, as a child I celebrated Lent differently than I do now.

Lent is the 40 days before Easter. Of course, there are more than 40 days between Ash Wednesday-the start of Lent and Easter Sunday. But apparently SOME days don’t count. The purpose of Lent is fasting. A religious fasting, not a diet fasting. (Fasting as a diet is a trend.)

Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday. Mardi Gras is also Fat Tuesday. But I confuse Mardi Gras with the entire Carnival season. I think I am too old to enjoy the debauchery of a New Orleans Mardi Gras. But, the city definitely knows how to usher in Lent! Mardi Gras Day parades in the New Orleans area started this morning at 8:00 a.m. If you happen to be in New Orleans visit my NOLA blog post for some good restaurant recommendations.

Fat Tuesday-Deadline for Resolution

I began sacrificing during Lent in college. Before that, Lent was a countdown to Easter, but the churches we attended did not emphasize the fasting. Then, I attended a Catholic college and thus adopted the tradition of giving up something for Lent. Upon moving to the town where I now live, we chose to raise our family in a Protestant church that also observes sacrificing during Lent.

Most of the time I have no trouble deciding what to give up during Lent. Many years it has been some form of sugar. Last year, in no small part due to reading The Case Against Sugar, I gave up all sugars. The year before, I gave up stress. Tough for someone with a Type A personality. Both years were eye-opening.

However, this year I am procrastinating. So much so that I re-read my post on procrastination. It reminded me that I can reduce stress by making a decision. Additionally, I asked for input on one of my social networking accounts. The two replies suggested adding something or reducing time spent on social media. Well, it was my first post in 2019 so I don’t think I am spending too much time there. Maybe not enough, since I missed the birth of a child to someone I hold dear.

Time is running out. Since I consider Lent as a time of improvement as well as sacrifice, I plan to add something to each day. Missing the news of a little ones arrival hits home at just how reclusive I have become. So during each day of Lent I plan to reach out and touch base with someone I care about. Especially if I have not communicated with that person in a while.

I will even jump the gun and start on Fat Tuesday. This commitment has lots of flexibility. I can pick up the phone, drop a note via snail mail or direct message someone. But it will be a different someone for 40 days. Who knows? Maybe I will invite one of you over to dinner. I am now looking forward to the challenge of Lent.

The Third Gate Book Review

I am a big fan of Lincoln Child so I checked out The Third Gate for reading on a snowy weekend. Even though I find mummies super scary, I gave The Third Gate a try. I am glad I did. Child once again delivers.

The protagonist of The Third Gate is Jeremy Logan. In addition to teaching classes at Yale, Logan is an enigmalogist. Logan has been contacted by an old classmate, Ethan Rush. Dr. Rush runs a clinic which studies near death experiences. But he is also involved on an archaeological site in Egypt. So Rush acts as the intermediary between Porter Stone, the financier of the search for an ancient burial-place, and Logan.

Logan’s job is to determine if the series of incidents at the archaeological site are human driven or other worldly. Both are possibilities since the burial site has its own curse. Indeed both scenarios come into play.

The Third Gate Setting

The setting of The Third Gate is the Sudd. Child does a great job in describing this moving swamp of the Nile. (But if you need a visual click here for a short You Tube look.) This particular pharaoh’s tomb is underneath the murky water. Of course, this adds to the novel’s suspense.

Curse

As an enigmalogist, Logan is on hand for key parts of the dig. He is expected to solve the puzzle of the numerous accidents. But he is also on hand to aid Dr. Rush’s oversight of a near death survivor’s communication with the other world.

Another key character is Dr. Christina Romero an Egyptologist. She is a scientist skeptical of Logan’s talents and beliefs. The two clash but form a friendship over common values.

Lincoln Child has written a book that explores both human and otherworldly good and evil. The pace of the book keeps the reader turning pages. Those of you that seek out scary mummy stories will love The Third Gate.

 

February 2019 Wrap Up

Action-packed describes the twenty-eight days of February 2019. The month started out with a refurbishing kitchen project. Perhaps a better description is a face lift. The work continues as you can see from the pictures. A two-week drive across the country to celebrate an eightieth birthday contributed to the action of the month. Throw in some reading, quilting and garden planning and the end of February 2019 is nigh.

Kitchen Project

Textured dark wall paper on lower third of wallThe old wallpaper is history. A mixture of warm water and vinegar in equal parts aids in the peeling. I found spraying the wall with the mixture and waiting just a few minutes helped a lot. The timing is important though. After ten minutes, the paper was almost dry. (I live in a very dry climate.) So it is important to treat small areas at a time. I used about two quarts of vinegar in the process.

The next step involved applying a new coat of wallpaper primer. Once that was completed I marked the breakfast room wall to indicate the division between the two wallpapers. So far only the bottom paper is up. The top is on today’s schedule. The chair rail will be tile. But this tile came in square foot sheets. So I asked my favorite contractor to assist in cutting the tile.

A strategy is needed for the tile. Because the tile is a Koala Gray basket weave tile, which you can view here the application will be complicated. I think we have a solution, but I haven’t reach that step yet. So it is still a bit of an unknown. But the tile is cut in thirds and it is ready and waiting.

I also tore out the old back splash. Murphy’s Law dictated the last tile off pulled off a chunk of drywall. However, my contractor is lined up to do the repair. In the meantime, the remaining tile adhesive scraped off with a bit of elbow grease. Hand scraping tile glue from wallAfter that was completed, I coated the wall with KILZ 2 acrylic. I plan to use a mixed tile design here that I am quite excited about. Additional pictures will be forthcoming.

Back splash area after a coat of KILZ 2 Acrylic applied.
A coat of KILZ 2 Acrylic prepares the surface for repair.

Cross  Country Trip

In the middle of February 2019 (and the kitchen project) I drove across half a dozen states or so to reach the warm, sunny climate of Florida. Since I was not born there I am not a native. But, I spent much of my childhood in this state and consider it home. Of course much, like some is a qualifier.

I prefer to travel by car or train because you can see so much of the countryside. Yes, there is a need for air travel-so my hope is the U.S. Congress does not seriously consider a proposal to outlaw that mode of transportation. But, when time permits I opt crossing by land. I shared much in my Travel Thoughts post.

February 2019 Hobbies

Our weather at home has been cold and snowy. So, very little time was spent outside. I pruned the grapevines one day when the temperature reached the upper fifties. But most of February 2019 was spent indoors.

Quilt top before layeringI am currently hand quilting the Love Panel Quilt. The next baby in the family is due in early June. I think she will enjoy the bright reds and pinks. Even though I use a machine to piece the quilts I make, the hand quilting relaxes me. It takes a bit of extra time.

February 2019 Books

Many reading recommendations arrived in February 2019. Some I have completed. But I was thrilled earlier this week to receive a package in the mail from a fellow book lover. She gifted me with The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris and Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. Both look fantastic. The non-fiction work I am now reading is Jeff Gerke’s The First 50 Pages.

My library check-outs are Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield. I loved her The Thirteenth Tale which I read many years ago. Also, The Only Woman In The Room by Marie Benedict caught my eye. The latter, Like the Heather Morris book above are fictional accounts of true people and events.

Even though February 2019 is a short month, or perhaps because, I accomplished quite a bit. My goal is to have the kitchen project wrapped up by the end of March. My hope is the below zero temperatures will then be history, at least until the next winter season rolls around. I am anxious to return to gardening.

The Cuban Affair Book Review

Book cover with palm tree and ocean on frontIntrigue, espionage, or thievery? With a tad bit of a love story thrown in, each describes The Cuban Affair. If it weren’t for the publication date, late 2017, one would think the book was written in response to the 2018 American election results. Subtle and not so subtle references to millennials’ acceptance of communism and/or socialism are scattered throughout the novel.

Author Nelson DeMille uses a first person protagonist, Daniel MacCormick to narrate this action adventure. MacCormick, or Mac as he prefers to be called, is a veteran of the war against the Taliban. His first mate is Jack, a Vietnam vet. The two men charter The Maine, a 42-footer, out of Key West.

A Miami based Cuban lawyer approaches Mac for an unusual charter, a fishing competition in Cuba; part of the thawing of relations between the two countries. But there is a catch-or two. Jack will skipper the boat while Mac flies into Cuba. He is to provide back-up to Sara, a Cuban-American architect. So, the pair join a Yale alumni organized cultural exchange group.

Cuban Affair of the Heart

Sara’s goal is to steal back property titles and hidden money before full relations are restored between the United States and Cuba. She needs a love affair as cover for her departure from the group. For Mac’s part, he may just be falling in love. But can he trust her?

The action adventure has a major plot twist. Both Mac and Jack utilize their combat skills. There is deceit and lots of political commentary. DeMille is clear with his warnings about communism. I hope this book reaches the crowd in America warming to the Marxist doctrine. The picture DeMille paints through his description of poverty and hardship in Cuba is accurate. Everyone making the same wage only benefits those running the government. The Cuban Affair provides a good look at the economic woes of communism.

Fact or Fiction

A quick call to my favorite military historian as well as an Internet search left me unsure of the factual basis of the major plot twist. Plausible, yes. Possible, maybe. But actual fact? I will leave that for you to decide for yourself.

The Cuban Affair is a good read. Thanks go out for the recommendation. The action adventure genre is not one that I read on a regular basis as I prefer mysteries. But, I enjoyed the writing, the characters and the message. DeMille provides a male point of view of romance. No hearts and flowers, lots of basic human needs. This is not a sweet historical fiction romance. The Cuban Affair captures your attention on many levels. Give it a try.

Travel Thoughts

Rand McNally Large Print Road Atlas
Road Atlas- a good back-up to GPS.
The past two weeks I drove from the heartland of America to an Eastern Seaboard state. And back. So, I plan to share some of my travel thoughts now that I am once again ensconced in cold winter weather. My trip to Florida was to celebrate a family milestone and to deliver some canned goods, a quilt and other items.

Airlines don’t particularly like canned liquids as carry-on items. Shipping overland can work for the food items if they are processed correctly, but I just don’t trust anybody to deliver my quilts. I consider them works of love as well as art. A bonus this trip was returning with two very old quilts from my mom’s side of the family. Both need some TLC. (Tender Loving Care)

The Southern Route

Travelling thousands of miles across country by car during winter requires flexibility for me. I dislike driving in snow and am finally wise enough not to drive on ice. (Age does have benefits, and experience is one of them.) Thus, a February trip dictated a southern route.

There are multiple paths to cross the country when the Sunshine State is the destination. Much of the time I opt for a 45 degree angle. The tangent cuts out some of the mileage. But the first of my travel thoughts was to reach the deep south as quickly as possible. This took me via Interstate 10, a route I had not traveled in many years.

This highway runs from Jacksonville, Florida to Santa Monica, California. While I have not traversed the far western parts, I am very familiar with the Eastern half. But, I did forget just how much of that is bridges and causeways. Unless you have a fear of heights or driving across long expanses of water, this is a pleasant drive in good weather. However heavy rain can create a negative experience.

The second of my travel thoughts revolved around Travel Safety issues. Since I was travelling alone, I wanted to stop each night before dark. This meant dividing the drive as equally as possible. I tend to drive at the speed limit so the complete drive takes about 26 hours, give or take an hour. This equidistant concern meant by-passing relatives and staying in hotels. During the summer, the longer days allow me to drive longer and further. Thus, no need for the equal legs.

Flexibility

The key component of the winter trip is flexibility. While I did have a specific date to celebrate, my arrival and departure around that date was flexible. Since I consult weather maps and forecasts on a regular basis, I knew just what sources to use.
My favorite Internet site for both radar maps and written forecasts belongs to the National Weather Service. Their warnings are accurate. The site is a secure one, which I value.

Also, I routinely visit the transportation sites of various states to keep updated on road conditions. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation website is a treasure because it offers links to the surrounding states. This was very helpful as I traveled across that state. It offered great flexibility in planning my route returning home as a series of winter storms rolled across the country.

People

One of the key joys in travelling across the country are the people. I tend to stay in smaller towns and stop for fuel in these locales as well. Of course, size is relative. But each night spent on the road was in a town with a population under 20,000. Clerks young and old offer good tips. Favorite restaurants are always discussed. Furthermore, the clerks are cognizant of road conditions.

Many of the places I passed through have doubled or tripled in size since I was young. Their small town feel and charm is beginning to disappear. However, towns on the high plains look like they are losing population. Other small towns in the deep south are also struggling with retaining residents. A location on an interstate does not guarantee economic growth.

The cities are bigger and busier. Fortunately, one of my travel thoughts was to pass through the large cities on weekends and holidays. The one instance where that was not possible, flexibility allowed me to pass through at a non-rush hour time. In my opinion, the drivers in the cities were more stressed and not as courteous. But, my small town bias may be clouding my judgement.

Interstate Travel

I tend to favor travelling on good state highways and U.S. highways as opposed to the Interstate. I made the exception this time. Driving in the winter can be iffy and I wanted four lane divided roads. One of the interesting aspects of the drive was the placement of hotels by the big chains.

Another, was the rise of super convenience stores. I stopped at a Buc-ee’s along Interstate 10 and was amazed at the sheer size. Dozens of fuel pumps and the inside looked like a Cracker Barrel on steroids, just no tables to sit at. Lots of food choices all freshly prepared before you. Goods from fishing to kitchen to beach. I could have shopped for an hour.

Final Travel Thoughts

Before I travel across this great nation again, I need to buy a good quality digital camera, or upgrade my five-year old phone. Of course, I also need to somehow think as a photographer. Many missed opportunities along the way.

Travelling across the country reminds me of the diversity of this nation. In one locale I was in the minority, in others a majority. But most places I was among a very mixed population. I stayed within my comfort level. For the most part this meant keeping my introvert traits. Not striking up any deep conversations. Maintaining pleasantries and only asking pertinent questions.

Playing it safe.

Break Point Book Review

Break Point kept me reading into the night. The novel by Richard A. Clarke is a fast paced thriller complete with competing spy agencies from various nations. As is the case with many books in this genre, Clarke keeps the reader guessing with his many plot twists. But the edge of your seat action and sci-fi elements really set the story apart.

The protagonist is an analyst for one of the alphabet agencies in Washington, D.C. Susan Connor is height challenged and frustrated with Jimmy Foley, a NYPD detective her team has been saddled with. But her boss throws the two together to track down the party responsible for disabling the East Coast power grid.

In addition to the quick paced action, I love the characters. Especially the women. They are smart and courageous. When Susan faces danger, Jimmy is off on his own assignment. She is not bailed out by a man to the rescue. I also like the fact that she has a mentor, Professor Margaret Myers, who challenges Susan to fulfill the mantra Facts, Gaps, Theory and Analysis.

The plot is multi-layered. In addition to old-fashioned bombs, tactics include cyber war. A further twist involves politicians and wealthy businessmen leery about artificial intelligence and genomics. Throw in a corrupt general or two from multiple nations both friend and foe and Break Point delivers the action.

Break Point

This was the first book of Richard Clarke’s that I have read. My research indicates he writes both fiction and non-fiction. Break Point is clearly fiction. But I did find the Author’s Note at the end of the book quite interesting. He weaves futuristic ideas into the plot. Apparently the future is now. Just a tad bit scary for me. Make sure you take the time to read this supplementary information.

I recommend Break Point to any reader favoring action and deception. I also believe women will like and identify with Susan Connor. The geeky Soxter, a hacker is a good supporting character, and unlike Susan, I liked Jimmy Foley as well. The many minor characters added to the plot twists.

Clarke was so knowledgeable that I plan to look for some of his non-fiction books. Of course I think his fiction was quite enjoyable. Break Point was published over ten years ago, so check your local library first.

I want to thank one of my loyal readers for this recommendation. With all the reading material out there it can be easy to miss something worthwhile when it first comes out. Somehow I missed Break Point, but I enjoyed the eye-opening thriller. Biotech discoveries are a two-sided coin and society has much to think about. Thus, Clarke’s novel provides entertainment and reflection. Definitely my kind of book.

Daydreams of the Aging

You’re So Very Welcome

I can’t quite remember the quote about bravery and aging, but the gist is that growing old isn’t easy. Nor is watching someone with dementia or like condition. I am not there yet so I can’t give a first-hand account. But something I witnessed today at a nursing home put a new spin on aging. For the short-term, a differentiation between the sexes based on the experiences of yesteryear.

It was a beautiful morning and several of the residents were enjoying the open air of a back porch. Among the group were a pair of 80ish folks. Each was accompanied by a family member. And each dozed off and on. But here the similarities ended. In my opinion the differences hinged on sex. As in male or female.

DayDreaming

I do not know the background of the gentleman. But he is certainly of an age to have experienced the draft. Therefore, from what happened I suspect he saw battle. The solitude was abruptly broken with a cry of “he has a knife, watch out.” It took his family member some time to calm him down. He gradually became aware of his surroundings. But we all experienced his terror albeit briefly. From the conversation, it seems these day terrors were recent, after a fall.

On the other hand, the second day dreamer I know a great deal about since I belong to her. She is suffering from dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s. She did not comment on the outburst from her co-resident. Instead she drifted back to sleep.
But the next time she awoke she too spoke out into the quietude: “You are so very welcome.” These pleasant words were accompanied by an infectious smile. I truly hope when I reach this stage my daydreams are similar.

Much is known about the aging process, but there are still mysteries. I am very interested in the aging of the brain. However, until today I had not considered how the sex of the individual might predispose the symptoms. I am sure there are studies but I have not looked for the research. If any of you know, please share in the comment section.

Women: From the Maternity Ward to the Battlefield

Of course there are instances of women in the midst of battle. The review of We Band of Angels discusses the story of the nurses caught in the Philippines during World War II. The late 1970s ushered in an era of women and matriculation at the military academies. So it is possible that instead of a bias from gender, one needs to look at experience. But some experiences do come with a gender bias. Men may be present during childbirth but they still do not undergo labor.

All in all it was an eye-opening day. PTSD is present long after the stressful experience. How this affects our brains as we age and the triggers, such as a fall as we get older is something I plan to research. I also wish to find scientific studies involving gender and aging. Even though it may be redundant, I still hope my aging has daydreams ending in “You are so very welcome!”

Organic Hobby Farming Book Review

Organic Hobby Farming

Andy Tomolonis shares gardening knowledge and so much more in his text Organic Hobby Farming: A Practical Guide to Earth-Friendly Farming in Any Space. Even though the sub-title includes the term any space, most of the book is geared toward gardening on a slightly bigger scale than most households. However, the author himself lives in suburbia. Thus, anyone can gain from Organic Hobby Farming.

The first six chapters focus on the organic. Tomolonis starts with evaluating the land. He gives tips an assessing both grounds and property structures. He focuses on small amounts of land. The book includes tips on finding farmland. Furthermore, questions to ask about zoning if you plan to stay within city limits are included. Also, references to websites and agencies both in the United States and in Canada that provide further information are cited.

After extensively discussing elements needed for a good property to farm, the second chapter turns to tools of the trade. Again the information is useful and the tips provide actual value to your pocketbook. In addition to describing various tools, both hand and machine, the author shares how the implements must be cared for in order to comply with organic farming.

Soil Care

Chapter three discusses the science of the soil better than any book I have previously read. The diagrams and photos gave a great understanding of soil composition. The information given by ph table and the points on soil typing are easily understood. Tomolonis incorporates the natural ways to improve soils into the chapter. This informative chapter includes composting, soil sampling and testing.

Calendar of Farm Chores

Organic Hobby Farming gets to the heart of organic gardening in chapters four, five and six. Chapter four contains a calendar of farm chores. Tomolonis shares the fact he is in zone 6 and explains how readers in other zones can adapt the information. Each month goes into detail what needs to take place on the farm (or in your yard) that month. For example, the book highlights floating cover crops during cooler weather and pests and diseases once the temperature warms up.

While chapter 5 extends the discussion on bugs and distinguishes beneficial from bad, the information focuses on individual plants. Not every vegetable known to man has its own spotlight. But the book details those typically grown at home or found at a farmer’s market. Also, the chapter discusses herbs.

Tomolonis gives great information on each highlighted edible. He begins with the basics. The reader learns about the plant family, key points about sowing, growing times and harvest lengths. Then Organic Hobby Farming details soil temperature, ph needs and germination.

The author indicates the ease of growth, shares varieties and my favorite, discusses companions. (For more information on companion planting, click here.) But the information does not stop there. Tomolonis gives tips on growing, pests, diseases, challenges and harvesting. He concludes each synopsis with marketing tips. Organic Hobby Farming is geared toward selling produce.

Chapter six focuses on berries and fruit trees. A caveat about what can be planted gives readers a glimpse on why this chapter is quite a bit thinner than the preceding one. The advice is good and Tomolonis is spot on with the information shared. However, if you want to grow grapes you will need to find another source.

Switching to Animals

The author begins discussing farm animals and their potential income in Chapter 7. Chickens are the topic of this chapter. Tomolonis shares the requirements to label both eggs and meat organic. This is timely information for those living in America. Across this country, many cities are allowing chickens back into the backyard. Organic Hobby Farming is a great resource to read before you build a chicken coop.

Next in the animal section is a chapter on honeybees, rabbits and goats. After chickens, these three animals are most likely to be found on a small homestead or even in suburbia depending on zoning laws. Once again, the author provides outstanding information in the “Easy Does It” sidebars. Other tips and tricks are abundant throughout.

Organic Hobby Farming Marketing Tips

The final two chapters are business related. Tomolonis has one chapter with information on marketing your organic produce. Much like the beginning chapters much of the information shared is specific. Quite a bit of time is spent on Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA). These co-operatives are located across the country.

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the book is the last chapter. Tomolonis stresses the importance of developing a business plan for your Organic Hobby Farm. The advice is good. If you plan to sell any of your produce, or even just have honeybees, you need to think about liability issues. I found this chapter as important as those focused on the crops.

If you are serious about gardening, especially organic gardening, I encourage you to buy this book. It is quickly becoming a go-to book in my home library. Andy Tomolonis provides great information applicable for any serious gardener.

Boondocks Connections

Living in the boondocks as I do, one has to put up with frequent interruptions in modern communication connections. Bandwidth available for use of the Internet is considerably less in sparsely populated areas. Additionally, cell service, even though on alternate frequencies, is spotty in rural areas. The commercials for national carriers brag about 99% coverage. I think the one percent without coverage all live in the boondocks.

Frustrations abound for anyone trying to work from home living in a rural location if that work includes communicating via Internet. The website Tech Terms does a nice job of explaining how bandwidth works. Their analogy of sending varying amounts of sand through a tube gives a great visual.

In our little town, Fridays and weekends when the kids are home from school are peak traffic times for the Internet. First thing in the morning is also tough. Perhaps people are checking their email or searching for overnight news. For someone trying to work, the slowdown or inaccessibility is quite frustrating.

But are there any solutions? There are a plethora of articles on the subject. An online article on the site The Conversation titled Reaching rural America with broadband internet service posits several ideas. But all come with a cost. Obviously, if connecting the rural areas of the country made a profit, the connections would exist. Just how much of the cost should be subsidized? And who pays for the subsidy?

Cell Service

The internet is not the only spotty connection affecting rural areas. Within 30 minutes of my small town in just about any direction are pockets of no service. In fact, one country home, built just yards from a large carrier transmission line is without access to landlines.

The spotty coverage results in a danger for those needing emergency services. Out of area travelers beware. No service readings are common. Calling for roadside help may be impossible, if any national branded help is even in the area. Often the roadside assistance carriers in rural areas only contract via reimbursement. Thus, a company will require a payment at the time. Then you file the claim with your roadside insurance company. Even just for a jump-start. A far cry from the service found in our cities.

Those of us living in the boondocks understand the difficulties in communication. Most of the time we make do. But productivity can suffer. Furthermore, to stay on top of things we must be organized and plan ahead. For example, students with online classes run the risk of not completing assignments on time due to sketchy connections. Therefore, individuals must complete tasks beforehand. Thus, in actuality rural students have less time to complete the work.

Work Arounds

At this point in time, residents of the boondocks must make do. Jobs dependent on glitch free connections are not an option. But with careful planning most other careers are doable. Writing is a good example. As long as one stays ahead of deadlines, submissions can be made.

Origin of Boondocks

A side note for the history buffs, boondocks came into use in The United States of America at the turn of the 20th Century. The word originates from the Tagalog word bundok. The Tagalog people and language hail from the Philippine Island of Luzon. At the conclusion of the Spanish-American War, war broke out between the United States and Philippine nationalists. The nationalists did not care for any authority and desired independence. The war was very bloody with losses on both sides.

Just recently, church bells appropriated by U.S. troops were returned to the Philippines and the people of Balangiga. For a complete story read this NPR story. Returning the warehouse stored bells makes sense to me.

A great information source discovered while researching the origin of “Boondocks” is a “retired” website established by the State Department. There is no ongoing maintenance but the site is chock full of historical information. You can access it by clicking here.

 

Pandemic Book Review

Book cover of Pandemic by Robin CookPandemic by Robin Cook opened my eyes to the dark side of the biotech world. Protagonist Dr. Jack Stapleton, a New York City medical examiner, fears an influenza virus is the cause of a sudden death on the subway of a young woman. He is wrong about the cause of death. But his instincts are on target.

Stapleton is married to his boss, Dr. Laurie Montgomery. There is quite a bit of tension in their relationship. Both at home and at the office, tempers flare. Jack begins to shut his wife out. In the end this puts his life in jeopardy.

Organ Transplant

At the center of the plot is a young heart transplant patient. The reader watches her race along the subway platform in order to catch a train. She makes it. Her heart beat returns to normal. Then death strikes. The first symptom is a chill followed by breathing difficulties. She dies before reaching her destination.

The autopsy reveals a heart transplant, with the heart in fantastic shape. But the lungs are filled with pus. Stapleton hypothesizes death by virus, but pathology tests are inconclusive. To make things worse, the patient is a Jane Doe. Stapleton, unwilling to face problems on the home front, buries his troubles in his quest to identify both the woman and her cause of death.

Characters

This was the first Robin Cook novel I had read, so all the characters were new to me. But to existing fans there are both recurring and fresh faces in the story. For a new reader, the returning characters were not as richly developed as the newbies. Only the stress of living with a special needs child defines the relationship of Stapleton and Montgomery.

CRISPR/Cas9

The acronym CRISPR stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. Cas9 is a protein. A better explanation of this genetic breakthrough than I can give can be found in this video from University of California-Berkeley

Cook uses the novel Pandemic to introduce the promises of CRISPR/Cas9 as well as the serious consequences of the misuse of technology. The possibilities remain to be seen. But, birth defects such as Cystic Fibrosis and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy are among the targets for this technology.

Mirroring Trends

I found it unsurprising that a billionaire capitalist was the villain of the story. Nor was I surprised that the communist leaning millennial son saves the day for both Stapleton and the world. Yet, the virus was concocted by the son. Definitely some mixed message in this book.

Cook even throws in some comments from the son of how divisive America is as compared to a more unified younger Chinese population:

In dialogue, the young man states: “We Chinese university-age generation are all on the same page, whether we are in school in Wuhan, or Canberra, or Paris, or Boston. We are of the same mind-set to truly make China great again, pardon the hackneyed phrase. Whereas here in the USA there is depressing divisiveness and a kind of anti-immigrant neotribalism that is getting progressively worse, in China we millennials are coming together.” (Cook, 2018, page 372)

My economic background understands mixed economies. Capitalist societies have some socialism within the market. The same holds true for the other “isms.” I tend to cringe when I read praise for Communism and Socialism. But we have a generation raised after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The fears of yesterday disappear as time marches forward.

Pandemic is worth reading. Cook brings attention to a rapidly changing world. Yet, pausing to think about the consequences of the change has merit. Let me know what you think of this novel.
For those of you interested in learning more about gene therapy the following website is informative:

https://www.neb.com/tools-and-resources/feature-articles/crispr-cas9-and-targeted-genome-editing-a-new-era-in-molecular-biology

January 2019 Wrap-Up

January 2019 Wrap-Up

The first month of the year flies by for our family and January 2019 was no exception. In addition to the many birthdays celebrated, a new great-nephew was born. He is the recipient of The Train Quilt which you can read about by clicking here.

New Projects

Winter is a great time for indoor projects. I live too far north to count on any extended outdoor time. This year has been colder than last, so the pruning of the grape vines is still on the “to do” list. But, I am still spending some time perusing through the seed catalogs both online as well as the hard copies received in the mail.

Tiles being knocked off from wallLest you think I have been lazing about, I am sharing some photos of my latest remodeling project. This is an easy remodel for the most part. I am stripping the wallpaper in the kitchen and breakfast room. Additionally, I am replacing the back splash over the cook top. Unlike the popular home remodel shows on television, I am striving not tear up the dry wall behind the tile.

My old wallpaper was beautiful. In fact one of my youngest daughter’s acquaintances once remarked on the homey feel the kitchen had. But, the wallpaper was over twenty years old and was dating the house.

In my travels, I had noticed the use of textured wallpapers in many of the hotels I stayed in. So I decided to look in that direction. I found some scrubbable paper with texture. As I am just starting on the tear down, I plan to provide full details in a later post.

Tile and wall paper samples in gray tones.
Some of the samples for the kitchen re-do.

Hobbies

The new projects include two of my hobbies. I have started a new acrylic painting. Usually when I paint a landscape involving mountains, the perspective is one of looking up. But this time I am attempting to look down from the mountain top. Definitely tricky.

I am also working on the design for a two-sided quilt. One side will be a panel quilt with a Bohemian look. The other side will be a modified Train Quilt. The train will be a circus train. Not politically correct, but fortunately newborns know nothing of politics.

Reading Selection

The seasonable weather is also offering a chance to whittle down the pile of books to be read. Of course this pile will never disappear since I continue to visit my local library and the neighborhood Little Free Library. But reading is one of my greatest pleasures. So no complaint intended.

Books read and not yet reviewed include the latest Stephanie Plum book (Look Alive Twenty-Five) from Janet Evanovich, Breakpoint by Richard Clarke and Everything for Everyone by Nathan Schneider. Two books reviewed but not yet posted include Pandemic by Robin Cook (which will appear tomorrow on Econogal) and Organic Hobby Farming by Andy Tomolonis.

I continue to read the Wall Street Journal. Our household receives magazine subscriptions as Christmas gifts, so I enjoy both The Economist as well as Better Homes and Gardens. Visiting the garden used in the latter publication was a highlight last summer which you can read about by clicking here.

While visiting my local library, I noticed a list of New Year’s resolutions for young readers. A full-page of resolutions centered on ways to expand reading. For example, the resolutions included reading a biography and reading various genres. I like this idea. So, I plan to incorporate some of the resolutions into my reading habits.

As always please feel free to share recommendations.

Hiding Behind “SOME” – Commentary

Hiding Behind “SOME”

This past week I managed to listen to a critique on the overuse of the phrase “Some People” in a monologue by Greg Gutfeld. In fact, I think this term received criticism from Mr. Gutfeld more than once over the past week or two. Justly I might add. For I too am sometimes guilty of hiding behind the word. Oops I did it again. (With apologies to Ms. Spears.)

Seldom do I watch television on my own unless I am in the hand quilting stage of a project. However, some of the time I will have the TV turned on for background noise. This past week I was stripping wallpaper in the kitchen and so this became one of the times the television was on.

I believe the point of Mr. Gutfeld’s commentary was to highlight how journalists and others are hiding behind the phrase some or some people. The monologue made me stop and think. How often have I used some on Econogal? And why?

Defining Some

After starting the previous paragraph, I Googled some and came up with this:

/səm/

determiner

determiner: some
1. 1.
an unspecified amount or number of.
“I made some money running errands”
2. 2.
used to refer to someone or something that is unknown or unspecified.
“I was talking to some journalist the other day”
3. 3.
(used with a number) approximately.
“some thirty different languages are spoken”
4. 4.
a considerable amount or number of.
“he went to some trouble”
5. 5.
at least a small amount or number of.
“he liked some music but generally wasn’t musical”
6. 6.
expressing admiration of something notable.
“that was some goal”
o used ironically to express disapproval or disbelief.
“Mr. Power gave his stock reply. Some help”

pronoun

pronoun: some
1. 1.
an unspecified number or amount of people or things.
“here are some of our suggestions”
2. 2.
at least a small amount or number of people or things.
“surely some have noticed”

adverb

INFORMAL•NORTH AMERICAN
adverb: some
1. 1.
to some extent; somewhat.
“when you get to the majors, the rules change some”
Phrases
and then some
and plenty more than that.”we got our money’s worth and then some”
some little
a considerable amount of.”we are going to be working

I found the second example under the use of determiner quite interesting. But maybe Artificial Intelligence is not involved and it truly is a coincidence. I also checked with Merriam-Webster and you can compare the definitions by clicking here.

The fifth definition under determiner; at least a small amount or number of and the second, correlating pronoun definition; at least a small amount or number of people or things represent how I most often use the word. My belief is that it keeps me honest. As in SOME readers may like the book. Am I hiding behind this phrase? Quite possibly.

Generalizations

Staying away from words that generalize is as important as not making generalizations. The problem with broad statements are the myriad of exceptions. Very few things are concrete. In fact, outside of the hard sciences, the only inevitable is death. (I am not excluding a life in the hereafter. Just excluding immortality on Earth.)

I grew up trusting journalists both print and broadcast. But now I consider most individuals in the field commentators not journalists. My belief is the 24/7 news cycle created this skew away from journalism. There is just too much time to fill.

Also, it is my belief that “Fake News” is not new. My older readers may recall the time a major network showed an exploding American made car on television. After the airing, the information came to light that the vehicle had an incendiary device attached to ensure an explosion.

So, how should one proceed?

Stop hiding behind words like “some” is a first step. Then, get the facts. Next, don’t jump to conclusions. Finally, remember the Internet does not equal truth. Nor, in this day of self-publication does the printed word.

So, for my part, I plan to limit my use of determiners. Furthermore, I will do a better job of sharing my sources. Even though this website is an opinion based blog, I will strive for accuracy. This includes letting readers know both website and print material sources. Happy reading!

Only Killers and Thieves Book Review

Tree suffering from droughtPaul Howarth’s debut novel Only Killers and Thieves is a gripping work of historical fiction. The story begins in 1885 and takes place in Central Queensland, Australia. The McBride family struggles to survive on the drought stricken land. Thus, from the start, the reader knows some hardship will befall the family dependent on a cattle operation for their livelihood.

Weaved into the plot is the tension between rival landowners, the indigenous population, settlers encroaching on native lands. But Howarth adds more. Only Killers and Thieves does more than give a glimpse at the past. This book reminds us how important it is to preserve an accurate history.

The McBride Boys

Billy is the elder. Sixteen at the start of the story. Tommy, 14, follows his lead. The third McBride child is Mary. Since the drought, most of the hands have gone. Arthur, a Mission raised black is the only reminder of a once productive operation. He is as much a mentor to Tommy as his father, McBride.

The only other help on the land is Joseph, a Kurrong. But Joseph leaves after the group finds the bodies of two Kurrong. The same two men the boys had recently seen alive chained behind the Native Police at the request of neighbor John Sullivan.

Soon after, tragedy strikes the homestead. The evidence seemingly points to Joseph. In the rush to get help for the gravely injured Mary, the choices begin. Once a path is chosen, the past cannot be undone. Tommy wants to head for the nearest town. The doc is there. But it is a two-hour ride.

Billy over rules him. Thus they ride toward the Sullivan holdings. Life changes forever.

Only Killers and Thieves

John Sullivan convinces Billy to alter the story of the evidence found at the homestead. Thus Billy tries to keep his younger brother out of the loop. But Tommy insists on participating. They become liars. Witnessing a sworn statement that a group of the Kurrong over ran their home. However, the downward spiral continues.

The McBride boys join the posse. Four white men and four Native Police comprise the entourage. The Kurrong are hunted. Then massacred. But Joseph is not among the group. Both teenagers take part. But the impact is not the same. Tommy has regrets. And questions. Why wasn’t Joseph with his people?

The division between the boys begins. Billy falls lockstep in with Sullivan and his view that all the blacks must be eliminated for the safety of the settlers. On the other hand, Tommy is truly a Doubting Thomas. He questions what really happened to his family. He questions himself. Then he seeks the truth and justice for the innocent.

Only Killers and Thieves is a work of fiction. But Howarth captures all the nuances of the time. The struggle between cultures. The fight to survive in a harsh environment. Furthermore, through the character of Tommy, Howarth displays how individuals must wrestle within themselves. Is there right from wrong? Is there a God? Or are we just specks in time?

This debut novel deserves much praise as does the author.

Picture of dry land with small patch of irrigated grazing

Winter Weather: Tips to Entertain Kids

The Northern Hemisphere is in the midst of the winter season. Many places have already experienced hazardous winter weather. Here in North America the jet stream is pushing one system after the next across the continent. Both Canada and the United States have websites focused on issued weather warnings. I like consulting these sites since they are straightforward and without media hype.

In fact non-profit and government websites along with blogs offer good advice for dealing with adverse weather. Sites like Red Cross, FEMA and the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (CA) have many lists to help one gear up to face adverse conditions sent by nature. But are there other situations to prepare for during the winter?

Kids and Winter Weather

Common sense needs to guide kid activities in winter weather. Most people understand bundling up the kids before letting them out to play. But how many realize how important hydration is in cold weather? Because of the extra layers, some activities such as sledding can cause excess sweating. Water is always good. But warm liquids help maintain body temperature. Since caffeine is counteractive to hydration think hot teas or warm milk with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Yet sometimes the outdoors are unsafe for anyone. Blizzards come to mind. In fact the Blizzard of October 1997 was particularly bad for us. The National Weather Service had issued advisories for both human and livestock a full 5 days prior to the weather event. I stocked up twice that week at the grocery store. With four kids under ten and one still in Pull-ups I didn’t want to run out. The preparations were well advised.

Three feet of snow with high winds made things treacherous. But one of the biggest tasks was keeping the kids entertained inside. The older ones were quite curious. So much so that I had to keep close tabs because they wanted to test for themselves the outside visibility. They had still not formed a sense of mortality.

Indoor Activities

Furthermore, blizzards tend to cause power outages and cause disruptions to T.V. and Internet. So a plethora of indoor activities are needed. Fortunately, my kids were (and still are) readers. Other ideas to entertain are board games and puzzles. A table set aside or card table set up will allow a long game like Monopoly or large puzzle to stay out during meals or sleep.

Prior to losing electricity or if you have a generator, kids can bake and decorate sugar cookies. If a storm is just prior to Christmas, Gingerbread Houses are also fun to create. Some may roll their eyes, but often winter storms are slow moving and/or come with bitter cold. A 72-hour confinement can make things tense. So the more options for entertainment, the less stress.

Away from Home

One scenario that offers even greater challenges is encountering bad weather away from home. Perhaps you are visiting relatives or stranded in a hotel. There are still ways to keep kids occupied. Charades is a game not needing any props. Drawing is another. Although crayons and markers are desirable, pen and pencil will work.

A favorite of my kids was the alphabet game. Although we utilized it most in restaurants and on airplanes, this can be played anywhere. First you pick a subject like animals or food. Then starting with the letter A, each person comes up with a unique answer. Of course some letters are tougher than others. Again no props are needed.

These are just a few ideas for those winter days where normal schedules are disrupted. A little creativity goes a long way in de-stressing the situation. Keep kids occupied and their unhappiness of being cooped up will diminish. And your sanity will remain intact.

Snow man

Nine Perfect Strangers Book Review

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty is the most entertaining book I have read this year. One of those just can’t stand to put down books. If you like books that throw you for a loop then you must pick up a copy of Nine Perfect Strangers.

The premise is straight forward at first. Various individuals are participating in a transformational cleanse at a health spa in Australia. Moriarty tells the story through each one of the characters. The alternation of the point of view is aided by chapter titles identifying which character the scene is centered on. Each of the characters has a story to tell.

Nine people; two single men, two single women, a young couple and a family of three check into the resort for ten days of renewal. They are expecting to cleanse themselves. Both a physical cleanse and a mental cleanse. Thus, no outside food nor electronic connections to the world are allowed.

Noble Silence

In addition to a ban on comfort food and social media, the Tranquillum House retreat commands absolute silence for the first five days. This noble silence will start the guests on their way to healing. Of course a rebellion rears up. Tony starts pushing back first. He questions whether the staff has gone through his bags. Both he and Frances tried to sneak in goodies.

Seemingly, Masha the director of the retreat gets everything back on track. Even to the point of re-starting the Noble Silence. But the temporary revolt has thrown her off track. After five days of “silence” and ordinary expectations of what goes on at a spa, Moriarty throws the readers for a loop. A totally unexpected discovery (at least to this reader) by one of the characters turns the plot line upside down.

Nine Perfect Strangers Unite

The story line becomes quite tense at this point. Each of the characters unravels. And in that unraveling readers will identify somehow, someway with at least one. Laughter, some tears, and a shocking revelation or two will keep the reader spellbound as these nine individuals work their way through a crisis.

Liane Moriarty has written another bestseller. I loved it. She ties things up and yet she leaves some things to your imagination. Nine Perfect Strangers may be as transforming to the reader as Tranquillum House was to the characters. The book is fun to read, it provides food for thought…and perhaps, most importantly, food for the soul.

 

The Train Quilt

One of my favorite things to make is a baby quilt. First of all, a new baby is someone special. A quilt just for the newborn is a wonderful way to celebrate. Secondly, the small size of the quilt makes the process fun. Even if you can only work on the project nights and weekends, completion occurs in no time at all.

The Train Quilt I just made for a great-nephew comes from the Railroad Crossing pattern found in Sweet Dreams: Heirloom Quilts for Babies. This detailed book of instruction for over a dozen baby quilts was written by Deborah Gordon and Helen Frost. The design looked very difficult but I was pleased with just how easy the piecing was and the applique train cars are adorable.

Color Selection

The colors chosen for this quilt reflect those of the nursery. Before I began the quilt I visited the expectant mother and took a peek at what she was planning for the baby’s room. A palette of primary colors with a deeper tone will create a room the child can grow into. The yellow is mustard, the blue is very deep with gray overtones and the red is also deep, either garnet or wine. Finding fabrics in my stash to blend well with this combination was fun. Knowledge of the color wheel is a must.

The picture to the right shows the railroad ties. The above mentioned colors have lighter colors mixed in as accents. The overall tone is warm. All the fabric used in this quilt was already on hand. A few pieces came from fat quarters which had not been used before, but most have appeared in prior quilts.

Quilt using mustard yellow, garnet and gray-blue colors as a base
Primary Colors with a Twist

I diverged from Gordon and Frost’s directions in color choice and fabric. For example, I used all cotton fabrics. I am already planning the next quilt with this pattern and I will have additional changes. I plan to use ribbon for the train ties. The quarter inch width is difficult to work with and the ribbon will automatically finish the edges.

Cutting and Piecing

Railroad Crossing provides printed pattern templates for all pieces. But the authors also suggest strip sewing. I opted for the strip sewing. But to vary the tracks, not all the strips were adjoined the same way. This added time to the work but allowed the use of extra fabrics. The directions called for eight. But this quilt has fourteen in the tracks and middle border. Additionally, the tracks are not all the same which I think adds interest.

The middle border was pieced in the same way. Instead of using six fabrics at a time I used groups of two and four. I like the randomness but still save time over cutting each piece individually.

Train Quilt Outer Border

I must confess. I have never used this pattern before because I was intimidated by the border. But, I remember how much my little ones liked the trains that run through our little town. So I gave the pattern a try.

Template of a caboose atop wine colored fabric
Plastic Template of Caboose

Templates are created by tracing over the patterns in the book. I did not add seam allowances. If you are fond of needle-turn applique you will need to add a quarter-inch. I chose to use fusible webbing to secure the train cars to the border. Then a combination of decorative machine stitches and embroidery floss finishes the applique. Remember to pull any threads on top to the underside. This will help secure them.

Machine Decorative Stitching outlines passenger car
Machine Decorative Stitching

Quilting

The suggested quilting for the large squares is an outline of the train engine. I opted to put personal details instead. So the quilt has the baby’s name, birthplace, date, time, length and weight spread across the different blocks. A light blue floss gives a subtle contrast to the blocks. Unfortunately, the camera does not do justice to this part of the quilt. But the close-up photo provides a better look.

I loved making this quilt. The piecing of the train tracks is very easy to do. Even though the applique outer border is intimidating, all but perhaps the newest of beginners should be able to accomplish this quilt design. The Train Quilt made for this latest member of the family has inspired me with an idea for the next addition. The little girl due in June will have her own quilt based on the Railroad Crossing design from Sweet Dreams but there will be quite a twist to the outer border.

Check back this summer!

 

Adding inner order to center of quiltAdding outer border to center of quiltQuilt with binding addedpieced box carfabric cutout of caboosefabric caboosecomparing colors of floss to quilt appliquefabric coal carfabric train enginedetailed quiltingcenter of quilt railroad crossing patternironing quilt seamsquilt pieces ready to assemblefabric log carfabric passenger car

Troublemaker Book Review

Troublemaker by Linda Howard was released in 2016. Even though I just now read the book I am so glad I did. This novel intertwines romance and suspense. The romance is spicy not sweet. But the hot scenes are tastefully done. What I like most about Troublemaker are the characters.

Both respect and envy come to mind when describing Howard’s knack for bringing both major and minor characters to life. Morgan Yancy is the leader of a secretive government team. He is ambushed and barely survives. His boss sends him to an ex-stepsister who resides in the mountains of West Virginia. Isabeau Maran, Bo for short, is the Chief of Police in Hamrickville. She reluctantly provides the place for Morgan to recuperate.

Howard fully develops both main characters. Their personalities are brought to life through prose and dialog. A grudging friendship realistically develops into more. The relationship does not seem forced in order to continue the plot. Howard is a master.

An addition to the couple trying not to fall in love while danger abounds, is Tricks, the smartest golden retriever you will ever read about. Now I am a cat person but I would make an exception for this dog. She steals the show. She is the love of the town and the life of Bo.

Multiple plot lines

Troublemaker pushes the ambush plot to the background while developing the relationship of the two main characters. The subplot revolves around the people of Hamrickville. This allows Howard the opportunity to fully develop both the main characters and the support crew. True to life, a domestic violence incident divides the small town. Bo has her hands full both at work and at home.

Fortunately for the human heroine of the story, Morgan is intent on regaining his strength. He saves the day on several occasions. But Howard does not denigrate the females in the story. They hold their own. Furthermore, the developing partnership between Morgan and Bo is part of what makes their relationship one to relish.

Troublemaker is a great book for a weekend read. There is definitely adult content. But the scenes are not over the top. This was the perfect relief from some of the heavy books I have been working through. If you like the combination of romance and suspense, I encourage you to find a copy of Troublemaker. I think you will enjoy it.

Free Style

Sometimes topics do not flow easily. This is one of those times. Indecision strikes from time to time. Then my writing becomes free style.

Part of the problem is a waiting game. I have a wonderful baby quilt to post about, complete with pictures. But the baby isn’t here yet and the quilt is a surprise. It is hard to keep surprises when blogging on a public domain.

A great fun read has been written about. But it is not Friday. I plan to keep the book reviews for the end of the week. Just in case someone wants a weekend book recommendation.

I could talk about some of the horrible political junk out there. However, I do not want to run the risk of slander or libel. We live in such a litigious world. Plus negative news spurs on the winter blahs in my case. I lack the power to change others. I can only change myself. Hence, the tendency to make Econogal upbeat.

Even though I grabbed some herbs and onions out of the garden, wintertime is still in full swing. Not much is going on outside. Furthermore, planning for spring planting is limited to perusing seed catalogs with an occasional order.

My lack of photographing constantly hinders the kitchen articles. Last night’s pizza would have made for a great post. The dough was made from strong flour. The fine texture of the milled wheat lends itself to both pretzels and pizza dough. Perhaps I will make some pretzels AND remember to take photographs. Besides, my pizza dough is not measured out. I just look for the right consistency in the mixing bowl. Tough to share a recipe under those circumstances.

Thinking Block

I am actually experiencing more of a thinking block than a writer’s block. I have yet to decide any New Year’s Resolutions for 2019. So by default the ones I made in 2018 will continue. Plus, I have a number of quilts pieced and waiting for their turn to be quilted. For once I do not have one at the piecing stage. A similar decision problem is holding me back. I need to pick a pattern and a color palette. The same is true for the acrylic painting. What subject and what colors will I attempt next?

Free Style Motivation

Creativity can falter when you try too hard to come up with something new. Writing prompts can help motivate writers. But writing free style seems to help me the most. The unrelated paragraphs jolt my mind. Gray matter stirs into action just from putting words together into (hopefully) coherent sentences.

I am not a jealous type, but I envy the many prolific writers. Those writers that write and publish multiple times per year. They are far more talented. However, my writing brings me satisfaction and happiness. Two good reasons to keep writing. Even if the result is free style. The motivation derived from the writing is immeasurable. I am ready to create.

 

 

The Elements Book Review

The Elements

Some things I don’t remember learning. Reading for example came early, I just don’t know how early. Other concepts are vivid. Multiplication tables were memorized in third grade and the periodic table in high school. I wish The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe by Theodore Gray had been around back then.

Gray has produced a classic. The Elements is a fantastic example of how to make learning exciting. He starts off the book by giving a general overview of both the elements and the periodic table. Gray includes information on how the different types of elements are grouped together on the chart.

Also provided is a guide to the information he presents on each page. The reader can quickly identify such properties as State of Matter, Density, Atomic weight and radius on the sidebar labeled Elemental. Then Gray delves into the heart of the book-the individual elements.

Individual Elements

As you may recall, each element has a number. Thus the periodic table is not arranged alphabetically. (Probably why I had such a hard time memorizing the information.) Hydrogen has the first position on the table. The book finishes with Element 109 Meitnerium. To be honest, I don’t recall anything past (94) Pu or Plutonium. Fortunately Gray even has a brief explanation for these additionally named elements, those numbered from 95 to 109.

The elements I do remember each have a double page unto themselves. Gray includes pertinent information about the individual element. Then, photos illustrate the pages with either the raw material or examples of products made from the matter. Some elements such as lead and gold rate multiple page spreads.

Theodore Gray shares the information on each element in a readable entertaining style. He engages the reader and piques ones interest and curiosity. Thus one is not put off by the potentially esoteric subject matter.

For this reason, I include The Elements by Theodore Gray with photographic credit to Nick Mann as well as Gray as one of the must have books in a home library. The book was released in 2009 but I have seen it on bookstore shelves within the last 12 months. Of course online sources have copies as well. Take action now and add this to your collection.

 

Page from The Elements by Theodore GrayBarium Page in The Elements by Theodore GrayEinsteininium page from The Elements by Theodore GrayFluorine page from The Elements by Theodore GrayPage on Iodine from The Elements by Theodore GrayPage from The Elements by Theodore Gray on Protactinium

December 2018 Wrap-Up

December 2018

The last month of the year has come and gone. December 2018 provided a chance to travel and see family. Additionally, I acquired the last of my six learned skills for 2018. Furthermore I successfully kept my 2018 New Year’s Resolution. All in all I am quite content with the outcome.

My focus this winter is quilting. Soon I will post about the baby quilt I am working on. The little guy is expected any day. I want the pattern to be a surprise and since my niece is a reader of this blog the arrival date is delaying the article. Then I will move on to quilting the one pieced for the baby due in June. I also have a larger quilt to work on.

We have been enjoying the fruits from last summer’s labor in the garden. A serious dent has been made in the supply of canned goods. A recent cold snap made trips to the grocery store dreaded and delayed. Ratatouille pressure canned (one of the six learned skills) last summer made a great meal from storage.

Reading List

The cold weather also provides opportunity for reading. My reading list continues to grow. In addition to books, I am busy reading recent issues of both The Smithsonian and National Geographic. Both are good publications even if I don’t always agree with the editorial view point.

Several works of non-fiction are on my list in addition to my favorite genres. The current economic book I am reading is interesting and perhaps a bit controversial. Everything for Everyone by Nathan Schneider in the early going presents a case for cooperatives. I will keep you posted.

Resolutions Kept

Perhaps the best thing about December 2018 is that the month was completed with a final skill. Some of my millennial readers will shake their heads and claim it doesn’t count. But I am counting the downloading of a share riding app, installing and using that same app at 2:00 A.M. at the end of a 22 hour travel day as a skill. No one coached me even via text. And the travel circumstances are incredibly hard to believe. I am now a convert of this type of transportation.

Of course a successful year of keeping resolutions makes me want to try for a repeat. The problem is not knowing what to work on. I need to improve in many areas. As I wrote in Econogal’s Tips to Keeping 2018 New Year’s Resolutions, specifics help. I am stuck on the specifics for what I would most like to improve. The desire to articulate is a priority. But just how can one measure improved communication specifically? I also would like to carry on with the goals from this year, but I don’t think any carry-over should count as new resolutions.

Happy New Year Everyone!

The Break Down Book Review

Cover of The Break Down by B.A. ParisThe Break Down by B. A. Paris provides great satisfaction for the reader. The novel falls into the murder mystery genre. But the book also contains a psychological component. And many secrets and lies. While I did not read the debut work by Paris, I enjoyed The Break Down so much I plan to catch-up on her releases.

Rainy Night Break Down

The story centers on Cass, a thirty-something school teacher married less than a year. At the novel’s open she is leaving a faculty party as a storm is approaching. She tells her husband she is headed home. He implores her not to take the shortcut home. But she does. And then the lies begin.

The inability to tell the truth pushes Cass down a path that could lead to personal destruction. She becomes mentally unhinged by the death of the motorist she leaves behind. Unbeknownst to her, outside forces are an integral part of her slipping memory.

Early Onset Dementia

Paris uses a family history of Early Onset Dementia (EOD) to provide a pivotal twist in the story. One of the secrets separating Cass from her husband is a lie of omission. Cass neglected to tell him that her mother died from EOD. Now she fears she is experiencing symptoms.

Dementia is a malady that many can identify with. Paris is masterful with her incorporation of the illness and the many symptoms that accompany dementia. Cass is understandably fearful of EOD. This reader responded with empathy toward the character.

The first chunk of the book focuses on the downward spiral of Cass’s mental capacity. She fears she will be murdered. Irrational fears are a leading indicator of dementia. Pure luck rescues Cass. The last third of the book provides redemption.

The end of the novel is so satisfying, I read it twice. The many loose ends are tied up nicely by the author.
If you have not read The Break Down, find a copy. B. A. Paris is a relatively new author who has a lot to say. I look forward to reading more of her work.