Month: May 2019

The Last-Book Review

The Last by Hanna Jameson has a mix of mystery combined with the psychological aspects of a nuclear war. The protagonist is Dr. Jon Keller and the premise of The Last is that these events are captured in his journal. Keller, a historian, believes he is describing the end of the world. This writing ploy utilized by the author works.

Mystery of The Last

During the process of survival, the small group of humans stranded high in the Alps comes across a dead body of a small child. Cause of death is unknown, but time of death approximates the nuclear attacks across the globe. Keller is determined to find the truth.

His obsession with the mystery combined with the stress of surviving the nuclear blast create a study in psychology. Keller and other survivors handle the events in a variety of ways. Hanna Jameson has written a book that straddles genre lines. The survivalist theme focuses more on mental health and less on day-to-day needs. She accomplishes this with her setting, a high end Switzerland resort.

Thus, The Last offers much to readers not focused on end of the world scenarios. The cast of characters is diverse. Keller interviews each for his journal. Again an excellent format by author Jameson. The reader connects with the characters. The mystery slowly unravels as the individual back stories are revealed.

Realism

For the most part the book is plausible. The fears of the characters, including those with visions of ghosts, ring true. Communication after the blast continues via social networks. It seems even a series of nuclear attacks cannot defeat the Internet.

However, there were a few points requiring a suspension of belief. This includes the end scenario. A functioning city is not far from the hotel. Here the murderer is himself murdered. The journal entries may be used to justify the actions. But Keller does not write the final entry. His refusal to address a rotten tooth has endangered his life.

The Last by Hanna Jameson is entertaining. The book would be great read for a beach or mountain vacation. The psychological components are intriguing. While there are some violent scenes, much of the book focuses on the mental challenges individuals face after a world changing event.

 

Winter Range Book Review

Winter Range Book Review

Winter Range by Claire Davis depicts the harsh environs of Montana cattle country. The story takes place during winter in the midst of a long drought. Davis is accurate in her portrayal of both land and people. The disturbing plot conveys the many nuances of living and working in a rural, isolated small town where events are dictated by nature and the weather.

Triangle of Characters

Ike Parsons is the protagonist of Winter Range. He is a transplant, not a native of Montana. Parsons is the sheriff and he takes his job seriously. He runs afoul of the western code of live and let live.

But the job did not bring him west, love did. Pattiann is his wife. A daughter of a long time ranch family, she met Ike while back East for school. She is complex. Still angry that the ranch will pass down to the male heir, her past relationship with Chas Stubblefield creates an added twist to the conflict.

Stubblefield is a villain. Or a man down on his luck. It all depends on perspective. His herd of cattle is starving. His debts are too great and he has been cut off by the bank and the feed supplier. The conflict becomes critical when the sheriff interferes.

Unwritten Code

Winter Range provides a look at personal conduct in the rural areas of the western United States. Life is impacted by the harshness of nature. Hot summers and cold winters combined with rainfall that may not even reach a foot in one year create a demanding climate. Thus, the inhabitants face challenges not found in urban areas.

This hardscrabble life dictates a different outlook on life. One of non-interference. A man’s property (or family) does not brook interference. Thus, a belief that Stubblefield has a right to let his herd die. Since Parsons is an outsider he does not share this view. So there is a showdown.

Winter Range

Claire Davis has written a book that is disturbing to read. There is violence both man-made and natural. The secondary characters round out the book. But the triangle between Ike, Pattiann, and Chas centers the story. Winter Range is both a commentary on the western way of life and a tale of love and expectations.

Miss Colorado USA-Madison Dorenkamp

Miss Colorado USA-Madison Dorenkamp

Madison Dorenkamp is Miss Colorado USA for 2019. She just competed in the Miss USA pageant which was held in Reno Nevada. The following is an interview via email. I hope you enjoy reading about this remarkable young woman. She is a genuine person. Hardworking and determined, Madison Dorenkamp is a great representative of the Millennial generation.

Interview Questions

Econogal: What has been the most stressful part of the pageant process and how did/are you coping with it?

Madison: Oddly enough, planning outfits was super stressful to me. I didn’t really have many outfits that I felt fit correctly, expressed my personality, and worked for the occasions at Miss USA. Leading up to Miss USA, I bought outfits that I felt expressed my vibrant, flirty personality. To keep everything organized I took photos in every outfit with accessories so that when I got to Miss USA I wouldn’t have to stress about it at all.

Econogal: Going forward, what do you hope to give back to the Miss USA pageant and to the State of Colorado?

Madison: I am trying to do as much with this title as I can. I am doing my best to make connections, set up sponsorships for the girls who come after me, and attend as many events as I can. I think it is easy to watch the Miss USA pageant, and feel like that is not a real girl. I hope to make those who meet me know that it is possible to be a real girl, and make your dreams come true.

Goals

Econogal: I remember you had two goals when in my classroom. Earning a four year degree and becoming Miss Colorado. Now that you have achieved both of these, have you made new goals? What are they?

Madison: I have so many new goals. I have prioritized my health and fitness, and am keeping that as a permanent goal. I have come to realize that eating healthy and exercising really do affect all areas of life. My short term goal is to be the best Miss Colorado I can be while balancing my full time career and continuing to be successful at it. My long term goal is to be a very successful lifestyle entrepreneur. I want this to include my blog/brand, a cookbook, a novel, and someday a restaurant or coffee shop. I like the hustle, and unknown, and knowing that I can inspire someone every day, even if it’s just one person.

Tips

Econogal: Do you have any tips to share on achieving a work- life balance?

Madison: Good luck (lol), but really I don’t know if that exists. I try to block out some me time usually this is from 5-9am. During this time, I take a workout class, maybe take my dog for a walk while listening to music or podcast, and I meditate. I try my best not to be on my phone before 9am; however, that doesn’t always happen. I love my job, and being Miss Colorado, and am constantly thinking how grateful I am for my life, but when it comes to a social life, I don’t really have one unless it involves taking a workout class together.

Econogal: What message would you like to send to your supporters?

Madison: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Every time I went on stage, including at Miss Colorado, I told myself one word, grateful. I believe that gratitude towards everyone who has supported me, and continues to support me is what has made me able to reach my goals. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support I have received from everyone.

Final Comments from Econogal

Each decade I remain on Earth, I hear more and more disparaging remarks about the younger generations. In the far reaches of my memory I remember similar comments about my generation. One of the reasons I like blogging is the connection it gives me to other individuals braving the technological changes in our world. These changes may be daunting for me, but nothing new for the Millennials.

Madison Dorenkamp and her generation entered this world on the cusp of a technological generation. Cartoons such as the Jetsons showcased a make-believe lifestyle of robots and self-driving modes of transportation when I was a kid. Now the reality is one of robots not only vacuuming the home but truly able to run the home.

Thus it is inspiring to see individuals such as Madison striving to make a difference in their world. I love the hashtag #ownyourdifferent that Ms. Dorenkamp uses on her Instagram accounts. I admire Madison and the many, many Millennials in my life for their hard work and dedication to their specific goals. The future is bright.

Miss Colorado USA

If you would like to follow Miss Colorado USA 2019 you can search for MissCOUSA on Instagram or access her website at www.madisondorenkamp.net both are entertaining. The ‘In the Kitchen’ section of her website has a recently released recipe for Vegan Rice Krispy Treats.

I would like to thank the wonderful staff at Miss USA for arranging this interview. I last saw Madison Dorenkamp in October of 2017, but I love the ability to follow her successes on social media. Another bonus of technology. Thank you for the interview Madison!

Baby of the Family Book Review

Baby of the Family Book Review

As a debut novel, Baby of the Family shows tremendous effort by Maura Roosevelt. The book is complex. The author explores a number of social and economic issues. But the key message of this coming-of-age Great American novel is the importance of family-even a dysfunctional one.

Economics of Old Money

Although his death occurs at the beginning of the story, the character of Roger Whitby, Jr is instrumental to the plot. His life is a reflection of many third-generation moneyed Americans. There is pressure to build upon the successes of those before. But Whitby was unable to handle life’s adversity. So success eluded him. Thus, downward mobility commenced.

Fathering nine children from four wives added to the complexity of his life. The reader barely glimpses the offspring from the first marriage. So their financial status is unknown. Instead the focus of Baby of the Family is on Brooke Whitby, the youngest surviving child of the second wife; Shelley Whitby ,Roger’s youngest biological child born of the third wife; and Nick Whitby, the adopted son from the fourth and final marriage. The novel centers on the social lives and finances of these three characters.

Baby of Family #2

Brooke Whitby is the most grounded of the three. She is a nurse in Boston. Her parents’ marriage fell apart shortly after the death of her younger brother. Brooke has contact with her older siblings but is not close to them or her mother. Flashbacks give the reader a glimpse into the unraveling of her immediate family.

But the main social thread for Brooke’s story is her sexuality. She is a pregnant bi-sexual who is jilted by her same-sex partner. She has decisions to make. Her partner’s parents are minor characters important to the plot.

From an economic standpoint, Brooke is self-sufficient. But, the reading of the will displaces her. Brooke’s wages will not allow her to remain in the Back Bay (very old money) area of Boston. So added to her relationship crisis is a need to find a new place to live.

In her late thirties, Brook is considerably older than Shelley and Nick. Her compassionate nature ties her to Shelley and by extension to Nick. More mature than the younger siblings, the reader is witness to Brooke’s struggle for self-actualization as Baby of the Family unfolds.

Baby of Family #3

Shelley Whitby is the protagonist of the story. She is the connection between new and old. At just twenty-three she is not handling life very well. Her mother is mentally ill; her father long out of the picture. Shelley is lost. And very messed up.

But her character tugs at the heart. Upon hearing of Roger’s death and disinheritance, she drops out of a prestigious liberal arts school late in her senior year. She was already failing.

Shelley runs home to an empty New York City abode. Her mother is absent, whereabouts unknown. She immediately looks for a job she is qualified for. Her choices are prostitution or as an assistant to a blind architect/author. She lands the job with Yousef Kamal, the author, but she justly suspects her surname played a role in her hiring.

Shelley’s story is intriguing and heartbreaking. And also a bit sickening. Her relationship with the Kamal family gives great credence to the #MeToo movement. Maura Roosevelt excels in tying current social issues into the lives of her characters.

Baby of the Family

A year younger than Shelley, adopted son Nick Whitby is the baby of the family. His connection to the rest of the Whitby offspring is tenuous at best. He is an angry young man. He sees his mother’s marriage and his subsequent adoption as the actions that destroyed his happy childhood. Thus it is easy to understand his anti-capitalist beliefs and actions.

Nick is involved with a group that lands a terrorist label. After an incident literally blows up, he runs to Shelley knowing she will hide him. She does. But she withholds the information of their father’s death.

Social and Economic Issues

The author tackles key issues. Family dysfunction is first and foremost. Income inequality plays a significant role as do a host of sexual issues including fidelity. Other social issues include the value of a liberal arts education, work ethic (or lack thereof), alcoholism and mental illness.

But above all, Baby of the Family is about familial love. Roosevelt shows how extended families can still share this type of love. The dynamics between Brooke, Shelley and Nick ring true. Sibling bonds are every bit as important as those of parent and child.

Maura Roosevelt

Throughout the novel, the author posits the question “Are you one of THOSE Whitby’s?” As a Roosevelt related to “Those” Roosevelt’s she has a basis of knowledge on how succeeding generations are impacted by wealth or success. Her learned insights are apparent in The Baby of the Family. Thus, her background lends authenticity to the story. America is a country of both upward and downward mobility.

But it is the character development that drives the reader forward. One is easily caught up in the individual lives of the Whitby siblings. The dysfunctional family dynamic is always present. Yet the main characters endure.

This novel is long and complex. The perfect book for college literature classes and book clubs. Busy readers may want to opt for the audio version. Baby of the Family is a tremendous first for Maura Roosevelt. Hopefully the first of many.

Kitchen Remodel

Tile back splash
The new back splash

There are times when you want to update part of the home without making major changes. This was the case with the kitchen remodel I recently completed. The minor changes included wall paper and back splash. I also added a chair rail in the breakfast nook. The end result is a space that feels brand new.

The replaced wall paper dates from the turn of the century. I love it. The back drop of fruits gives a homey feel. But the best part is a wall paper border with an irregular edge. This adds a touch of class.

However, the kids have flown the coop. So, creating a vibe of comfort, reliability and permanence for the kids to come home to after school is no longer a need. Instead, we want to signal our ongoing vitality with a 21st Century vibe.

Out with the Old

I highly recommend utilizing the tips in Painting Secrets if you need to take down old wallpaper. Otherwise, stripping the old wallpaper is an arduous task. Not fun at all.

Removing the old tile back splash was another story. Quite a few of the tiles came down intact. One was a bit pesky and there was damage to the dry wall beneath. I made an effort to carefully remove the tile. But I can see how one could release some pent-up energy by smashing down the tiles.

Close up of tile demolitionMore Tiles Knocked OutPlastic scraper taking off dried adhesive.Back splash dry wall with coat of KILZDrop Cloth underneath tileView of wall paper between cabinets and countertopFruit border with straight edgeWall paper and curtains with trailing fruit designOpen Doorway Bordered by Wall Paper

Prepping for the New

Preparation is essential for success in a kitchen remodel. Surface repairs were the first element involved. While I could fill in nail holes, I had a contractor repair the damage to the drywall above the stove. He also relocated wiring for a vent that vented to nowhere. A new LED light bar replaced the vent.

Then, I used a wall paper primer over most of the wall space. Sealer was applied atop the drywall repairs. These added steps add time to the project since a drying and curing time is essential.

Other preps included assembling the needed tools for the job. In addition to a wall paper brush and a wall paper roller, an Exacta knife with a blade pre-scored to make snapping the dulled end off easier is essential. The use of multiple rulers including a yard stick and plastic rulers greatly help with measurement.

The plastic rulers are 2 feet long and six inches wide. Their original use along with the cutting mats is for quilting. I found both types excellent for doubling as tools for wall paper.

Finally, I picked out un-pasted wall paper. So wall paper paste was a must. I used some re-cycled heavy-duty plastic to book the wall paper. Un-pasted wallpaper is quite different from pre-pasted in prep and handling. There are pros and cons to both.

Tile Preps

The tile back splash and chair rail utilized the above rulers. Also needed were levels, tile adhesive and a wet tile saw. The old adage measure twice and cut once applies for all tile applications. It would have also helped to have multiple sets of hands since the tile application was on a vertical surface. Most important of all is a drop cloth to catch all the shards.

Since I was tiling alone, extra time was spent holding the tile in place until the tile adhesive had begun to set. This would be very tough for a beginner. As it was, a few choice words escaped while working on the back splash. Thankfully no one was around to hear.

Pattern Choices

The tile choice takes precedence over the wallpaper. Tile has permanency. It is harder to replace. I chose an Italian tile for the back splash. Décor Prism Mix is made by Fiordo Industrie Ceramiche and sold through Panaria as part of their Genesis collection. The measurements are metric. The size in the kitchen back splash is 20 x 20 cm. (This converts to just under 8 inch square.)

The tiles remind me of quilt patterns and are very neutral in color. But I did not like the online examples where they butted up against one another. So my design resembles a sampler quilt.

I separated the various designs of the Décor Prism Mix with sashes of Gemstone Cool Listello Tile (519 A) by Florida Tile. Then with just one sheet of Florida Tile Silver Aspen Art Bliss Mosaic I connected the sashes. The entire back splash is framed by Questech Jolly Wrought Iron Egg, a pencil thin edging.

Chair Rail

The chair rail also utilizes the Questech tile. It serves as a lower and upper edging to Koala Grey Basket Weave Matte Glass Tile. This tile also comes in sheets. But I divided the tile into thirds for a railing. Acrylic paint covered the cuts in the tile.

Two different wall papers adjoin the chair rail. Below the tile edging is a textured wall paper by York. The Tuck Stripe Unpasted High Performance Wall paper is scrubbable. I bought the paper in two colors, Black/Grey for the lower half of the breakfast room and Beige for the kitchen.

The second wall paper in the breakfast room is made by Wallquest. They have an ecochic line which is environmentally friendly. The paper does have a large repeat. I ended up rotating back and forth between two rolls to avoid waste. I did have to piece one very small area. The piecing went well-I can’t even tell! This paper is also un-pasted and needed booking.

Booking wall paper is easier than instructions sound. The booking allows the paste to set-up enough to stick to the wall. There are some great online videos found by searching the term wall paper booking.

Kitchen Remodel Time Table

The time table for the kitchen remodel was about a month. I needed to make a visit to Florida during the renovation. This extended the actual loss of use. Fortunately we have a dining room in addition to the breakfast area so we could enjoy all our meals there.
Overall time was also extended by a one man workforce.

I love working on projects. Perhaps it is the satisfaction of completion that drives me. Unending tasks such as dishes and laundry are not fun. But designing an updated interior is. Unbeknownst to me while picking out tile is the resurgence of the Americana look represented by the back splash. Either that, or like many things in life, the style becomes noticeable once you have adopted it. I hope you enjoy the slide shows.

Tile back splashBreakfast table

Racing to the Table Book Review

Racing to the Table Book Review

Cook book page with recipes
Page with Kentucky Hot Brown Recipes
Cook Book Pages
Cook Book Pages

Cookbooks are well used in my home. I like to look through them to get ideas for everyday dining as well as special occasions. One book I use a lot this time of year is Margaret Guthrie’s Racing to the Table: A Culinary Tour of Sporting America. The book covers recipes across the country tied to various race tracks. But there is much more to this book.

Race History

Woven among the recipes are a plethora of pictures. Each helps illustrate the horses, cities and sites surrounding the multiple race tracks highlighted in the book. For example, photos of horses exercising in the Pacific complement the recipes and stories of Del Mar Race Track in California. A photo of the blanket of roses is included in the chapter on Kentucky recipes.

Most of the text centers on the recipes and their origins. But a brief history of how the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks began can be found as well. Other snippets of racing lore make this more than just a cookbook. However, I really like the recipes.

Favorite Racing to the Table Recipes

Guthrie did an outstanding job compiling signature recipes from the various race tracks. She includes both a traditional and modern take on the Kentucky Hot Brown. I have tried them both. In this same section of Kentucky favorites you will find a recipe for Burgoo. This regional dish is a must try.

The Louisiana dishes have a definite New Orleans flair as Fairgrounds race track is based there. If you like gumbo, shrimp or crayfish this section is for you. The desserts are mostly fig-based which is a fruit often spotted in that part of the country. The recipes from the New York section contain several winners from Saratoga Springs. Two of the savory recipes come from a restaurant in Saratoga Springs only open six weeks a year. My bet is some of the herbs are bought at the Saratoga Springs Farmers Market.

Cook Book Value

I realize many people only use online sources for their recipes. But I find great value in cookbooks. I love perusing through books such as Racing to the Table. They have a permanent place in my home. Racing to the Table by Margaret Guthrie is an odds on favorite and my pick of the day.