Month: January 2018

January 2018 Wrap Up

Books and magazines on a table
Reading material stacking up.

The first month of the year is over. I am still on track regarding my 2018 resolutions which you can read about by clicking here. In January 2018, I entertained at my home twice and enjoyed a lunch with two ladies I had not seen in over a year. So my quest to socialize more is moving in the right direction. I have also kept up with the posting on Econogal. The writing makes me happy so I do not think that particular resolution will be tough. However, I have not learned any new skills yet. But I have an idea for a new raised bed. I am still researching the topic and hope to start on it if the milder winter weather holds out.

Travel in January 2018 included a presence in four states. You might want to read Wintertime Santa Fe if you are thinking about a President’s Weekend getaway. My time spent in the Orlando area yielded some ideas for posts which include this one and another about small neighborhood “libraries” which will be forthcoming.

While in Orlando, my reading included the Orlando Sentinel as well as some periodicals I don’t usually read including Kiplinger, Time and AARP The magazine. Additionally I came across some blogs. These include Always Trust In Books, The Historical Diaries and Old World Garden Farms. I am still adjusting to reading on a laptop, reader or smart phone as opposed to something I can hold in my hand. I think there is a place for both in this world.

A conversation over the lunch table during a nursing home visit sparked this particular post. One of the individuals brought a book with him. California Girl by T. Jefferson Parker started a conversation on good books to read. I have added the book to my list. Additionally, I decided to add a post at the end of each month sharing the various items I have read since not all make it to a Friday book review. Furthermore, I am asking for input from this blogs’ readers.

Readership Community

January 2018 Wrap Up starts a year of monthly posts in an attempt to build a readership community. On the last day of each month readers will be encouraged to share book, blogs and magazine articles they read. For any of the newer blog readers, you do not need to use your whole name and you can have an alias. However, the email must be real. For privacy buffs like me, the emails are not listed and are not shared. Emails are necessary. I realize some blogs do not require an email to comment. I believe requiring an email prevents spamming and robots from attaching a variety of things including ads to this website. Again, I will not sell or share the email and it will not be published.

There are thousands of books, blogs and articles out there. I am interested in what you are reading. Please consider sharing what you are up to in the comment section below. The photo above shows the books received as Christmas presents, library check-outs, magazines and seed catalogs. I have a lot, but I look forward to your recommendations. I am sure I am not the only one who prefers books to television. Happy Reading!

Two Girls Down Book Review

Book on table
Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna on the surface is a story about two young girls kidnapped from a strip mall parking lot. Any mother has nightmares just at the thought of this happening to their child. Luna does a good job of painting the desperation of the young single mom.

The kidnapping takes place in rural Pennsylvania with a police department quickly out of their league. Fortunately for Jamie Brandt, her employer aunt hires a hot-shot private investigator from California, Alice Vega. Vega is a bit of an enigma. The author tries at various times in the story to unravel the puzzle, but I never fully understood Vega’s back story. Perhaps a sequel is in the works.

After the local LEOS tell Vega “Thanks but no thanks” she approaches an ex-cop turned private eye to join her in the search for the two missing grade school girls. Max Caplan initially says no. But as incentive Vega brings in a child support shirking dad Caplan has been searching for. Additionally, his own daughter puts in her two cents, and Caplan agrees.

The plot and pace of the story is good. Luna begins Two Girls Down painting a picture of a distraught mother filled with guilt, desperation and a drug/alcohol cocktail to dull the pain. So from the start, the author blends fiction and reality. In today’s world of accessible pharmaceuticals the mother’s actions ring true.

The characters are interesting. Caplan and his daughter Nell were the most likable even though at the start of the book he was heavily drinking as a way to deal with his divorce. Any parent could appreciate having a daughter as mature and confident as Nell. Luna uses her as a contrast to the older of the two kidnapped girls.


The wackos involved with the kidnapping could be divided into two categories. The druggies and the sickos. Both allow Luna to comment on today’s society. The use of drugs and alcohol is a common theme throughout. The chief of police belongs to AA, Caplan drinks more beer than he should, and these are the good guys. The thugs are heavy into street drugs and Vega and Caplan must wade through the sludge in their search for the missing girls.

Two Girls Down is fiction but reflects life to a certain extent. Almost everyone under thirty in the book, including the distraught mom are misusing some kind of drugs. In some cases, excuses are made for the users, such as a dying mother and disappearance of a disabled brother. Others are clearly enabled by a parent. Luna’s writing is a commentary on the seedy side of our culture. Lest the reader think that only one segment of society is messed up, she gives us the sickos.

The masterminds behind the kidnapping are not trolling the streets for drugs. Beyond that I won’t say much. But I do like how Luna’s final twist pulls everything together. The motivation for what turns out to be multiple kidnappings should sicken you. There are many problems in our society and much can be tied to street drugs. However, true sickness of the mind does not require outside help.

I like Two Girls Down and I had not read any of Luna’s work before although I believe at least one of her Young Adult novels resides in one of the our bookcases. The interaction between the characters is believable for the most part. I liked the grittiness of private investigator Alice Vega. She is a tough lady tamping down on some emotional baggage of her own. However, I am uncertain of the chemistry between Vega and Caplan. They worked well as a team but I do not see them developing a further relationship. But, you never know.

Technology and the Very Young

The Very Young

There are times I wish I didn’t hate biology so much. This is one of them. I took a three-hour flight and in the row adjacent to mine was a 17 month old. She was quite fussy during the extra-long wait in the terminal and a bit perturbed at the start of the flight, but once electronics could be turned on, she became much happier. She touched the screen with purpose even though her language is limited to simple words, i.e. Mama, Dada, dog. How are those brain connectors wiring in her mind? Will this next generation be more comfortable with icons versus the written word? All I know is technology kept her entertained during the flight.

Smart Speakers

Already our machines tell us how much change to give, where to turn right (or left), and control our lighting and temperature in home or auto. I have yet to purchase an Amazon Echo or Google Home because I am leery of what they hear more than what they will tell me. According to this article in Macworld, the soon to be released Apple Home Pod will send less of your conversation on to the big data banks. However, Home Pod will still be listening.


GPS is treated skeptically because the technology can’t handle the many peninsulas along the Florida Coast. I still remember the tough time Siri or her android counterpart had back in January of 2013 when we flew into Fort Lauderdale on our way to Hallandale Beach. Maybe things would have been better for us in daylight. We would have identified the problem with the lady from GPS much sooner. At any rate by the third loop we knew to turn off the latest technology and go old school, we stopped and asked. Thank Heaven for 7/11.

Technology and Kids

Back to the youngster, I was tempted to ask to take a picture for the blog, but that goes against the grain as well. So I will try to paint a picture. This little one was very serious about her interaction with the I-pad or notebook. I couldn’t tell if she was playing a game or watching a cartoon. But, she was definitely interacting, most times with serious control and precision touch. She did not look like she was randomly touching the screen (although that may have been the case) and her touch was gentle. Yet there were old comforts nearby as well in the form of a much-loved bunny rabbit. When she finally fell asleep she snuggled with the bunny not the tablet.

Of the kids sitting directly behind me, one was a pre-teen and reading an actual book and reading aloud. Her little sister had pretty nice head phones on and was glued to some type of tablet with a curved top playing an animated movie. Again, a field day for the scientists. How does this technology change the hard wiring of their brains? There are many books out there discussing left and right brains and how technology is biologically changing the wiring of the brains. We are definitely at a major change in history, no less powerful or less significant than the industrial age and these young people will hopefully fully function with the new technology.

Economic Impact

The flip side is a dislocation of the working force above a certain age. I am not willing to put a set number on the age as there are always exceptions. However, I think part of the last recession was due to structural unemployment. The technological revolution is already impacting the economies of the world. Many of those pushed out of work did not retrain because their brains are not wired to the new technology, which makes retraining difficult. Face it, those of a certain age grew up to Captain Kangaroo and Romper Room and maybe a few added shows Saturday morning. Quite a difference from this generation who could watch animation 24/7 on a multitude of devices.

Currently, the economy in the United States as registered by the stock exchanges is skyrocketing. While I cannot confirm all Main Streets are also benefiting, I know that our small hamlet has had two commercial buildings completed in the last six months. One from the ground up and the other a rebuild from the shell of a building. This is considerable. In some recent years zero building permits were issued. I believe the growing economy ties directly into the surging technology I see our youth embracing.

Final Questions

There is a great unknown. How will occupations match up with capabilities? Let’s use microwave ovens as an example. Almost everyone can make a microwave heat something up, a simple matter of pushing buttons. However, few individuals could build or repair that same microwave. And how many could explain how one works?

Hence the parallel. Many of the kids learn at a very young age, like the 17 month old above, how to push the buttons. But how many will be able to fix, explain or, one step further, conceive the idea of the next invention to make our lives easier, our world better. Yet they are still ahead of the older generation. Some of us cannot even push the correct buttons needed to integrate the DVR, flat screen T.V. and independent sound system. Or program a Smart whole house climate control linked to a Smart phone.

Some of the remaining structural unemployment will ease each year as more Baby Boomers retire. But will the remaining workforce adapt to the new occupations? What changes will need to be made in training and education? How will Artificial Intelligence compete in the workforce? Will the IOT (internet of things, such as Bluetooth printers) become a security threat? So many questions for the next generation to help answer.

Year One Book Review

Year One

Year One by Nora Roberts surprised me. Perhaps I need to read more of her work, but I tend to think of her writing in terms of romance combined with mystery as in Carolina Moon. I am not sure quite how to categorize Year One. While there are heartfelt relationships, there is not the typical romance plot. So I would not place the book in that genre. Furthermore, this is an ensemble cast. Only towards the end did I realize who the lead characters were.


The novel begins by depicting the start of a pandemic. The virus spreads quickly and is terminal for all infected. Thus, the world faces a die off greater than that of the Black Plague of the 14th Century. Roberts introduces the cast of characters mostly based in New York City as the pandemic gets its’ start.

From the beginning, the author prepares the reader for a departure from everyday characters. Individuals with unworldly powers are a major part of the story line. As such, some suspension of disbelief is required. Although you may already be open to the “Uncanny” as she calls them. For readers skeptical of supernatural powers, Roberts first takes a plausible approach. For example, Jonah, the paramedic, can sense death. Later character introductions stretch both their powers and the reader’s imagination.


Since the virus quickly kills off much of the population, Year One develops into a doomsday/survival story. Those immune to the virus feel compelled to leave the city. Their flights from the city are a large part of the story as some of the Uncanny are evil. Another threat comes from what remains of the government as it begins rounding up some of the survivors.

Roberts does a nice job of foreshadowing. In one instance, a newly introduced character talks of a cleansing of the people. In my case, this turned me off the individual even though he is presented as a good person. Eventually he shows his true colors. I liked how the writer uses both characters and plot to posit the key theme of good vs. evil.

I could describe this book as an action adventure detailing the escape of the characters from doom. Or the book could turn into one of those mid-October reads because of the heavy supernatural theme. However, even with the coupling of some major characters, I did not feel as though the book was a traditional romance where all works out with a happy ending.

Nora Roberts leaves the reader hanging with the ending of Year One since the lead character is separated from the rest in a surprise attack. The book is slated to have multiple sequels which I will look for. I would like to know if the character I bonded with the most managed to survive the battle. Naturally, there is also interest in the lead who escaped, heart-broken but alive, and with the promise of a savior.

Senator Bob Dole Congressional Gold Medal

Senator Bob Dole

Today, January 17, 2018, Congress honored former Senator Robert “Bob” Dole  in Washington D.C. with the Congressional Gold Medal. Because Kansas holds a special place in my heart and Bob Dole is a great representative of the state and its populace I watched the coverage. I was moved enough by various parts of the ceremony to write this post.


First, I almost cried when I realized Senator Dole, who is in a wheelchair, was being aided into a standing position for the presentation of the colors. For me, the flag represents our country. I realize this has become controversial as of late, but I am firm on this position. Men and women died for the freedoms we enjoy. These freedoms are privileges and they come at a cost. Many not only fail to show respect, but also fail to understand the importance of respecting each other’s opinions. This division as I alluded to in my review of Hidden Target may not be entirely of our own making.


Second, I welcomed the bipartisanship. Our Congress represents our country. Currently there is much division in both. It is good to see unity. All 100 U.S. Senators voted to bestow this award on Senator Bob Dole. Congressional leaders from both side of the political aisle spoke favorably about the former Senator. One can hope Congress can return to compromise and cooperation without prompting from a disaster. Since we have a large country, we need a functioning government.

Most of the speakers highlighted Senator Dole’s sense of humor in addition to his bravery and devotion to the American public. We were treated to a glimpse of his personality with his personal address. Senator Bob Dole spoke with effort and handed the rest of his response to his wife, Senator Elizabeth Dole by “yielding the remainder of his time.” This phrase brought a smile and memories as one who spent much time in the galleries of the Capitol chambers.

If you were unable to watch this momentous occasion, consider searching for the video. You will find both small segments as well as the full length which was well over an hour. I believe the time would be well spent.

Wintertime Santa Fe

Inn of The Governors
Street view of Indian Market
Indian Market at Santa Fe Square
Dried flowers in balcony boxes
Dried Flowers fill the Boxes
Dried arrangements in large pots
Dried Arrangements Welcome Guests
The Santa Fe square without crowds
A quiet winter day

I traveled to Santa Fe for the three-day weekend. It was the first trip in the heart of winter. I have visited Santa Fe many times but always in warmer weather. However, the day time temperatures were spring-like with highs in the mid-fifties.
There were some differences. Fewer tourists translated into some restaurants closed for a week or so. Some of the stores had shorter hours. The number of sellers at the Indian market on the plaza also seemed diminished. A perfect time to visit from my point of view.

Inn of the Governors

The last few visits to Santa Fe I have used the Inn of The Governors as my base. This independently owned hotel prides itself on service. The owner applies the Total Quality Management Theory of Dr. Edward Deming and it shows. In addition to great service, the hotel is centrally located with easy access both to the Plaza, Canyon Road, and my favorite shopping spots.

I fell in love with the Inn of the Governors back in 2010 when I was staying at another hotel just a few blocks away. Each morning I ran an 8 mile circuit since I was training for a marathon. The Inn of the Governors has boxes of flowers hanging from the balconies. Each time I reached those flowers I had less than a mile left. As you can see in the pictures, the hotel uses dried flowers in the wintertime to achieve this same welcoming look.


Even though some restaurants take a few weeks off in January, there were great places to eat. One of my favorite Italian restaurants is in Santa Fe. Osteria D’Assisi is about six blocks from where we stay. It was too cold to eat on their outdoor patio this visit but we enjoyed a wonderful meal listening to live piano music. I love eating here.

Just a block away from the hotel is Café Pasqual’s. Reservations will be needed if you want to eat at this restaurant featuring organic ingredients and community tables. I chose a traditional chicken mole enchiladas while my travelling companion enjoyed salmon that tasted like it was just caught. The space is small and inviting with great service.

Another busy spot is Del Charro, which happens to be connected with Inn of the Governors. This popular watering hole and restaurant is always packed. Movie crews often use Del Charro in their filming. The prices are very reasonable with set daily specials. I loved my chicken fajita but saw quite a few hamburgers being served. This is a great place if you feel compelled to watch a game on TV as Del Charro has multiple TV’s throughout their rooms.


In addition to great food, Santa Fe is known for its art. In addition to a plethora of museums, travelers on a tight budget can appreciate the many artists by strolling through galleries. Canyon Road can be overcrowded in the warmer months, but was very accessible on my wintertime trip. This road lined with art galleries winds uphill towards the mountain. However, the hill could be slick if a snowstorm hits.

The best part about art in Santa Fe is the multitude of mediums. Paintings can be found in oils, acrylics, watercolors and mixed. Furthermore, Santa Fe takes art to the next level. Water fountains, metal sculptures, bells from recycled material, furniture, traditional bronzes and many other art forms are present. At one museum I even watched video art for the first time.

Seret and Sons

My main goal this trip was to find a decorative gate to use with the exterior wall that will be built this spring. So my first stop was at Seret and Sons, just one street over from The Inn of the Governors. The Seret family specializes in unique furniture, but they also have a yard of ornamental doors. I found a pair of teak doors that will serve as the gate to my side yard. Again, the service was fantastic.

Since my goal was accomplished so early in the trip, the rest of the time was spent soaking up the glorious weather and wandering in and out of shops, galleries and a wonderful bookstore. Needless to say books were purchased and reviews will take place in the future. Just across from the bookstore is a neat shop called Sequoia.


Sequoia is named for the owner, a designer/artist working with iron, natural woods and stones to create beautiful furniture and artwork for the home. I loved many items in the store and one came home with me. Sequoia, the artist, another master of customer service, is someone I hope to do much business with in the future.

Santa Fe in the wintertime can be great for the serious shopper. The crowds are much smaller than at their peak. Fortunately for me the weather cooperated. Sunny skies and temperate days gave way to nights just chilly enough to use the fireplace in our hotel room. If you haven’t been to Santa Fe, consider a visit. This historical city tops the list of my favorite weekend escapes.

Snooze:The Lost Art of Sleep Book Review


I picked up Snooze hoping it was a self-help book that works. I was wrong, it isn’t a self-help book. Instead Snooze is a mix of philosophy and history with a bit of psychology and humor thrown in. This is a work of non-fiction and as with all such books I struggled at the beginning, but by the middle of the book I could not put it down.

Michael McGirr, the author of Snooze is a man I would like to meet. We both struggle with sleep but for different reasons. He discloses his diagnosis of sleep apnea early on. I still do not know the cause of my poor sleep habits. All I know is that often my brain just won’t shut down.

The approach McGirr took writing Snooze is a bit eclectic. He discusses famous men and women from the past who were notorious for their inability to sleep. Examples are Thomas Edison and Florence Nightingale. The author gives abbreviated biographies of both. Many of the notables whose lives we glimpse from the perspective of sleep are writers, others are philosophers, still others people of note.

Classic Works

We are treated to passages from classics such as the Odyssey and the Iliad as well as works from more recent centuries. Each instance allows the reader to understand sleep problems have occurred throughout the ages. Most of the authors are old friends but a couple were noted and their books were added to my list.

McGirr also dabbles into the psychology aspect of sleep. Of course no book touching on any psychological aspect is complete without reference to Freud. The author’s quirky sense of humor may be at its finest on these pages. But, McGirr manages to share important points among the jabs. His discussion of Freud includes a parallel with Aristotle where both posit the theory that one’s dreams reflect the experiences of the individual. Not all subscribe to this philosophy.

The descriptions McGirr gives of René Descartes and David Hume show how philosophers can differ. Descartes is famous for the quote “I think, therefore I am” while Hume, according to McGirr, was more of the belief that “I am, therefore I think.” Thus, it is not surprising that the numerous philosophers covered in Snooze have varied beliefs concerning sleep or lack thereof.

However, the book is not always in the past. McGirr treats the modern problems of sleep too. Discussion includes the stages of sleep before REM sleep. The study of REM over the last 50 years is not conclusive. But, a need for enough hours of sleep to reach the REM stage is apparent.

More Sleep Loss Now?

Sleep interruption has occurred for ages, yet the problem seems to be worsening. Consideration is given to the impact not only of light but also the light given off by computers. Yet another culprit is the hectic pace of our lives.

McGirr also covers some of the drugs used to combat sleeplessness. I appreciate the warnings given at the beginning of Snooze as well as the horror stories toward the end telling of the hazards of long-term use of Z-class drugs. I am thankful my docs shy away from continual use of these prescriptions.

Throughout the book, the author blends personal experiences with both the history and the philosophical discussion of sleep. This approach worked for me. I strongly recommend Snooze for anyone interested in psychology, history or philosophy. I have a better understanding of sleep even if I still have trouble surrendering to that state of being.

Sleep disorders are multitudinous and varied. Read Snooze for an insight of sleep.

Twenty States In 2017

Wedding couple2017 was a year of travel. I recorded time in twenty states. Since the United States has fifty states altogether, I reached forty percent of the country. Others look forward to overseas trips (and I do have some favorite spots overseas) but I love travelling through this vast country. The landscape and people vary so much from one shore to the other. I am sharing the highlights of all that travel in alphabetical order.


I spent three different nights in Alabama and visited four towns; Dauphin Island, Dothan, Huntsville and Selma. Since family members from both sides reside in the state the overnight stays were easy on the budget. The National Park Service has a small but well done museum documenting the march from Selma to Montgomery. This center shares many stories from the Civil Rights era and is on U.S. 80 west of Montgomery just before you reach Selma. I was travelling the back roads of America when I came upon the historical site. The time spent there gave me a nice break from driving.

Dauphin Island is a barrier island in the Gulf of New Mexico. My quick overnight trip allowed me the chance not only to walk barefoot along the shore but also to hike a marshy area. The Audubon Bird Sanctuary is a designated National Trail System and starts with ocean dunes, winds through maritime forests and includes marshes and swamp land. This is an off the beaten path gem. If you are in the area please take some time to explore and learn. Interpretive signs line the trail.


Unfortunately my time spent in Arkansas was brief. I love this state, not just because my maternal family is from there, but for the beauty of the land. If you haven’t spent time in Arkansas I highly recommend a trip.


Just a quick weekend trip to California this year. I shared some highlights in this blog post Sampling San Diego. I now live in a land locked part of the country so I like indulging in watching ocean waves. The Pacific Ocean is vast and not where I grew up, but still gives me a sense of home.


There is so much to do in Colorado. Highlights included visits to Denver and Boulder. The largest metropolitan area in the state centers on Denver. My favorite place to stay is in the Tech Center area. There is good proximity to some great shopping. Furthermore, the hotel rates on weekends are better than the downtown hotels.

However, downtown is the heart of the entertainment district whether you are interested in sports or the arts. The city has four professional sports teams with arenas in or adjacent to downtown. If you are a soccer fan, your stadium is further east. Downtown is home to both a performing arts center as well as several museums. However, you won’t want to miss the Natural History located near the City Zoo a few miles east of downtown. The National Stock Show is held each January just to the north of downtown. Finally the 16th Street Mall has shopping and dining. The street has free mass transit from one end to the other.

Boulder houses the University of Colorado. A visit to this campus is well worth the time. The architecture is unique and the location against the Flat Irons is dramatic. One of my favorite parts of the campus are the planet markers which are part of the Colorado Scale Model Solar System. After touring the campus you can eat and shop along Pearl Street, part of which is pedestrian only.


I made repeated trips to Florida last year. Highlights included a family member’s wedding in Tampa. The Tampa-St. Petersburg metropolitan area is growing and has a bit of sprawl. There are beautiful beaches, some professional ball teams and a racetrack. While the area is home to both the Tampa Bay Rays and Buccaneers, it is also host during spring training to the Yankees. People can watch batting practice for free at the George Steinbrenner Field.


My Georgia destination was the small town of Plains. The 39th President of the United States of America, Jimmy Carter and his wife Roslyn are both natives of this rural farming community. While many would not go out of their way to reach Plains, I made the effort. Plains reminds me of the many small towns surrounding my current home. The population is below 1000 and the commerce is home-grown not Big Box.

Even though I visited on a cold windy day, the warmth of the populace was evident. I enjoyed being a tourist. The small Main Street catered to the intrepid visitors willing to divert from the beaten path. However, those of us from the west would not consider the town isolated since the travel time to the interstate is less than an hour.


I spent close to a week on two of the Hawaiian Islands. Check the posts on the Big Island and Germaine’s Luau. This is a place I would love to visit again but I probably won’t. Unlike the continental 48 states, you can’t drive there.


I love Kansas even, the seemingly endless drive along Interstate 70. The state rainfall varies so much from east to west. The eastern third of the state receives enough rain that the land has trees, rivers and lakes everywhere. The western section of the state reflects the Dodge City landscape of the movies. Dry, windy climate, the land peppered with small towns similar to Plains, Georgia. But many of the towns require drives of several hours to reach an Interstate. Some of the state highways allow you to drive 70 M.P.H. and traffic outside of the cities and major highways is light. This is a slower paced part of America I truly appreciate.


Many nights were spent in the Bluegrass State. If I had to live east of the Mississippi River again, I would choose Kentucky. I love the farms. Agriculture is an important industry in the state. Crops include corn, hay, hemp, tobacco and wheat. The state has a large cattle industry but is better known for the numerous horse farms.

My favorite part of the state is the area surrounding Lexington. If you tour the area, make plans to visit horse farms in the mornings and then utilize the afternoons for shopping, site seeing and touring distilleries. A favorite town outside of Lexington is Midway. This burg has great shopping and eating along a railroad divided downtown. Parking is sometimes tight during peak times. Midway College was the last all women’s college in the state. The fall of 2017 ushered in the first class to admit men to the day college. After spending time in Midway, the Woodford Reserve is in the general area so that is a possible destination.


New Orleans is not the only place to see in Louisiana. Like most of the twenty states, I spent the night while visiting. Again, I took advantage of staying with a relative instead of a hotel. The Shreveport-Bossier City area is in the northwest part of the state. The Red River separates the two entities as well as serving as the location of gambling riverboats. History buffs can download the N LA Byways app from iTunes or Google play for a GPS guided tour.


I drove through Mississippi twice last year. I count is as one of the twenty states but I did not spend the night within the borders. However, this is a state that I love to travel off the beaten path. Highway 49 from Jackson to Gulfport should be driven in a relaxed frame of mind. There are lots of places along the route to stop, eat and stretch your legs. Another drive I like is from Tupelo into Memphis. The road is good, but it helps if you know your way around Memphis. I consider this route a hidden gem.


My visit to Nebraska was centered on the solar eclipse of 2017. I loved being in the path of totality. Several posts were written about this event which was a highlight of 2017. Nebraska is another of the twenty states where I spent the night.

New Jersey

Another flying weekend trip landed me on the Jersey Shore. I experienced gorgeous weather mid-summer and had a chance to dig my toes in beach sand while taking in my beloved Atlantic Ocean. Even though brief, and not entirely successful from a business standpoint, I still rank New Jersey at the top of my travels. Perhaps it was the company, or the graciousness of the hosts who lived beach side or maybe just the weather, warm but not hot, thanks to the ocean breeze. I would repeat this trip at a second’s notice.

New Mexico

Unfortunately my time in New Mexico was fleeting. However I plan to visit again very soon. Check back next week to read my thoughts on the town of Santa Fe.

New York

Upstate New York, specifically Saratoga Springs is my second favorite spot in New York. The town is just shy of 30,000 which is large enough for amenities but not too large. The area of mineral springs has long been a favorite getaway for those living in more populated parts of the state. I have never had a bad meal at any of the restaurants although reservations and long wait times are part of the experience. Many boutiques and some nice jewelry stores can be found downtown.


Several nights were spent in Oklahoma including a couple in Oklahoma City. I experienced my first Escape Room which you can read about by clicking here. I love the state having lived in McAlester many years ago. My favorite highway is 412 which runs the entire east-west length, dropping slightly south towards Clayton, New Mexico.


We flew in and out of the Pittsburgh airport and stayed nearby. Away from the city is a rural area experiencing development but we still managed to lose our way winding along the back roads. Western Pennsylvania blends into a jutting point of West Virginia. This is one of the interesting parts of travelling in the United States. Very rural areas are just not that far from populated city centers. For those who like to explore quiet back ways with the convenience of flying in an out, consider Pittsburgh as a starting point.


The juxtaposition of city and country life is also evident in the state of Tennessee. You don’t need to venture far from the major cities to experience rural life. I find Nashville a little easier to navigate than Memphis but that may be because in the past I have spent more time in Nashville while I usually just drive through Memphis. However, I encourage you to visit the Riverwalk in Memphis. I love the scaled map of the lower Mississippi River in the same way I like finding the planet markers on the CU Campus.


Another state I used to live in but last year just traversed. US 287 which runs northwest to the panhandle from Dallas is another of the alternative routes I like to take. The Texas Panhandle fits in with the high plains with respect to rainfall and topography. Again, you will find many small towns along the route. If you prefer staying in major cities, Amarillo would be a good choice.

West Virginia

I visited a part of West Virginia I had never been to. The locals call the area the Northern Panhandle. This geographical area has the Ohio River as its western boundary. A drive along state route 2 along the Ohio River is quite scenic. Small towns line both sides of the river. I enjoyed the beauty of the area and it was an easy drive from the Pittsburgh Airport.

Those are the twenty states I was in during 2017. I thought I would slow down this year. However by the end of January I will have reached four states. I still lack visiting Alaska, who knows maybe this will be the year. I have placed just a few photos in the slider below. Feel free to share some of your favorite travel spots.

Fact Checking Ground Rules

Tree in full bloom with white blossomsIn the classroom, I insisted the students used good sources for fact checking. Some colleges frown on Internet sources but I think facts found on the web can be valid. The self-publishing trend incorporates non-fiction as well as fiction so the printed word now has the same pitfalls as computer research.

In an attempt to make Econogal a good source I have created some fact checking ground rules for the website. I plan to share those rules in this post so the reader gains some insight in my methodology. Naturally, a site like Econogal contains the opinion of the author. But I differentiate between facts and opinion.

In The Library Book Reviews

The book reviews are my opinion. Long time readers may have picked up on the fact that I do not write negative reviews. If you see a book reviewed on this site, I liked reading it. There are books I dislike and I see no reason to give the authors any publicity.

In The Kitchen

Recipes are factual. If the recipe is adapted from another source, credit is given even if the recipe is a variation. Some recipes I use have been handed down from one generation to the next. New recipes are tested before I share them. Much like science experiments, multiple trials are required.

In The Garden

Much of what I do in the garden is experimental. The reports are as accurate as possible. The produce is weighed in order to report the yields. I live in Zone 5 A and the average rainfall is in the mid-teens. Pictures help record the outcomes. There are crop failures from time to time and those are shared as well.


This section helps encompass the various creative outlets I engage in. Since it is winter, quilting is at the forefront. Any quilter can tell you the importance of precision. I am currently working on a panel quilt I call The Love Quilt and have already encountered a problem with inaccurate seam allowances. While not the exact case of fact checking, the preciseness runs along a concurrent theme. Furthermore, any quilt pattern or kit needs to have all measurements verified before presented as fact.


My travel posts are a combination of fact and opinion. Therefore, I try to clearly express when I share my opinion about a place. Fact checking is also an important part of travel. Distances between points can be verified through traditional maps as well as online websites. The availability of food, gasoline, and places to stay combine fact and opinion. Both are important.

Before hiking Diamond Head in Honolulu, I read several online sources that gave accurate descriptions of the trail. More than one gave an exact number of steps (yes I counted as I climbed) and good tips on the heavily crowded tourist site. My goal is to share accurate descriptions of the sites I visit. Then you will be ready for any steep climbs.

Manhattan Beach- Book Review

Jennifer Egan’s latest book, Manhattan Beach is a well-researched historical novel. New York’s shipyards provides the setting. The story begins during the Great Depression and winds into World War II. The lead character, Anna Kerrigan, a young girl of the depression transforms into one of the many Rosie the Riveter’s needed during the war.

Depression Era New York

Manhattan Beach is a complex tale of life on the waterfront. Egan skillfully intertwines the many facets of social life during the late 1930’s. Characters represented the wealth of society, those struggling to put food on the table and the mob element that often reached between the two. We meet Anna and her father, Eddie, at the start of the story as he reaches out to Dexter Styles in hopes of landing a job. In addition to providing basic needs for a family of four, Eddie needs to have additional funds to care for Anna’s younger sibling, an invalid who cannot even sit on her own. Styles, although married to a society beauty, has ties to the mob.

World War II

After a short introduction, Egan skips ahead to World War II where we find Anna inspecting parts on an assembly line. The younger sister is still alive and still just as needy. However, Eddie Kerrigan has disappeared, affairs in order but no word to wife and family. First Anna is worried. Eventually anger overtakes the worry. From this point on Egan uses flashbacks to fill in the gaps of time.

Anna’s character is compelling. The reader pictures her easily. She is loyal to family and to country. The picture of virtue, yet the flashbacks reveal the human nature underneath. Her role as breadwinner during the war rings true. The storyline propels Anna from an assembly line filled with war wives to the first female underwater diver. Naturally there is adversity to overcome.

When Egan is not writing Anna’s story, the author is telling that of both Eddie Kerrigan and Dexter Styles. In a twist, Kerrigan is alive half way around the world although Styles believes him dead. Both men tangle with the underworld of organized crime. Both cross the “boss” and so pay a certain price.

Manhattan Beach is rich in historical detail. From the description of New York City to the actions and attitudes of the characters, Jennifer Egan accurately captures the good and bad of the era. There is some violence as well as a few adult scenes but they move the story forward. The supporting characters provide insights into the three main characters. I recommend Manhattan Beach especially to anyone interested in this time period.

Designing Panel Quilts

4 patch quiltI am currently working with  panels designed to be made into a table runner but I plan to turn the material into a crib or lap quilt. Panel Quilts allow my creative juices to flow. But I don’t make them often and have only turned one into a kit. Sometimes panel quilts can be difficult to work with.


School Quilt

Many years ago we had a quilt store in our little town. The owner was a neighbor who has since moved up the valley. I designed a quilt using a panel and coordinating fabrics from her store and she sold a few kits from the design. There were two panels of equal size. I turned it into a fancy four-patch. The two panels are on a diagonal. For the other two squares I used a rail fence design and yet another four patch based pattern of which I have forgotten the name. If someone recognizes it please let me know in the comment section. The rail fence fit the block size perfectly, really just a matter of division. But the four patch split a row at the top and bottom. I honestly can’t remember why the design is like that.

View of second panel in School quilt

Sunflower Quilt

The easiest designs for panel quilts use the panel as the center block. Then you build the design out from there. I used this approach in the Sunflower Quilt. The center panel showcasing a sunflower arrangement has a row of three Ohio Stars on each side. To create interest, I tilted the stars. Solid yellow stripes separate the panel from the two side pieces and form a top and bottom border. The side borders are pieced squares turned on point. Hand quilting highlights the stars. The quilting of the panel is more free form.

View of sunflower quiltQuilt panel with 3 Ohio Star Blocks

The Love Quilt

Currently I am in the process of designing and making what I call the Love Quilt. I bought a kit at a discount. The panel pieces and the template for the table runner don’t match so I have decided to make a small quilt instead. Panel quilts often come in kits. I failed to check the package to verify the panels exactly. However, I am happy to make a small quilt.

The process starts by decided the size of the finished quilt. The backing I want to use is 45 inches wide and 63 inches long. So I need to make sure my quilt top will fit inside these measurements. Since I want borders on the quilt, I subtract six inches from both dimensions. This means a border of three inches all the way around. I must add seam allowances to all pieces, so I will actually cut strips three and one half inches wide for the border.

Panel pieces in rough layout for quilt
Block layout

Designing Panel Quilts

Next is the creative part. The two panels that came in the kit were not the same size. Therefore, the quilt cannot be symmetrical like the School Quilt. Therefore, I think I will take an approach similar to the Sunflower Quilt and center the larger of the two panels. I call this the Love Panel. It is 20 ¾ by 14 ¾ and I will add an inner border to the top and bottom to reach a 24 ½ inch height.  On each side of the Love Panel will be two twelve inch blocks (not counting the seam allowances.) So the center of the quilt will measure 24 ½ by 38 ¾ including seam allowances. I do not know which block designs I will use yet.

Panel with word love in center of heart
Love Panel

The smaller panel, dubbed the Always Panel will have top and bottom borders as well as side borders.

Heart with word Always in the middle
Always Panel

The side borders will have die cut hearts. This bordered panel will be between two rectangular blocks of stripes.

For balance, an equal sized section will be below the Love Panel. The center of this piece will be an applique block utilizing more die cut hearts arranged in a flower pattern. This is based on a pattern in one of the many quilting books in my library. Again, the rectangular stripes will frame the center of the block.

Measuring Panel Quilts

I take an outside-in approach to the measurements. The finished size is determined first. Then I decide what type and how wide my borders will be. Then the math takes over. I add up the lengths and widths of the set pieces and make sure the measurements will fit within the allotted space. Inner borders help fill gaps. It is important to remember the seam allowances. They are an an essential part of the equation.

Graph paper with diagram of quilt blocks
Diagram with measurements

I am looking forward to completing the top. Once it is done I will work it into a follow-up post. Let me know if you have any questions! Panel Quilts take some work but are fun!



Econogal’s Tips to Keeping 2018 New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions are tough to maintain. Often the same ones are made each year and seldom last more than a month. Of all the resolutions I have made over time, only one has lasted years. In 2010, I gave up drinking colas. This particular resolution may not seem like much, but I drank cola the way others drink coffee. I think it is a Southern thing, some of my cousins also opt for a coke each morning.
In my case, I had two compelling reasons to keep this resolution. First, my insides were finally showing signs of no longer handling the ingredients. Second, and more persuasive, the carbonation gave me problems whenever I ran more than ten miles. Since I was training for the 2010 Marine Core Marathon, I regularly ran long distances. Thus, it is possible to conclude resolutions can be kept if there is a concrete goal and a reward for fulfilling the pledge.

Specifics Help

The more specific one is about the resolution, the more likely the goal can be attained. A popular New Year’s resolution is losing weight. People who are successful at this tend to have more specifics tied into the goal. For example a certain amount of weight, or an action plan such as giving up desserts or increasing the number of workouts. Those who are unsuccessful often try to go to an extreme. For instance, it is hard to transition from a couch potato to someone working out 8-10 hours a week. Furthermore, a radical change in exercise habits should be supervised by a health provider. Specifics help the most when they provide realistic goals.

Sharing Resolutions

While each individual will have distinct goals, sharing those goals leads to greater success. For example, if you want to increase the time you spend exercising, it helps to have a work out partner. Even verbally sharing goals with a friend or relative helps. Posting the list on the refrigerator or besides your computer is also beneficial. However, the best way to keep your resolutions is to make them meaningful.

Econogal’s 2018 Resolutions

1. Post a minimum of twice a week to Econogal. This is a very specific goal that I am sharing with all of you. The difficulty will be staying ahead on the book reviews. Not every book I read do I want to recommend.
2. Learn at least six new skills. This resolution ties into the goal of maintaining a healthy brain. My concern is not knowing in advance what skills I will learn. However, as you can read in my original post, keeping my brain cells as active as possible is of utmost importance to me. Six skills translates into one every other month. Since I have a new pressure canner which I need to learn how to use, I really only need to discover five skills.
3. Socialize more. I realize this is a strange resolution. But I have noticed I do not get out as much as I did when I had a house full of kids. I am a bit of a homebody with quite a few hobbies which tend to be solitary; gardening, quilting, reading and running. However, it is also important for brain health to interact with others. I am not sure how to make this a concrete goal so if you have any ideas please leave them in the comment section.

Good luck to all in creating and keeping resolutions for 2018! Feel free to share your goals.