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Econogal Replaces a Power Button Board

Recently, the power button on my HP Envy x 360 stopped working. After removing a computer keyboard for the first time ever, I discovered a hardware problem. A key component of my power button had sheared off interrupting the connection. For the last few days I literally had to open up the computer and hold the broken piece in place in order for the power button to function.

So, the arrival of the replacement part came none too soon. I ordered the GinTai Power Button Board Replacement for HP X360 774599-001 15-u 15-u001xx 15-u002xx 15-u010dx 15-u011dx 15-u050ca 15-u000 15-u110dx 15-u111dx 15-u170ca 15-u100 15-u200 CTO last week through Amazon. Click here if you need to order a replacement board.

Do It Yourself

To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive with the idea of a DIY when it came to replacing the internal part of a computer. But, I am serious about creating new brain connections and I believe learning new things helps make new connections. New connections are important for Brain Health. So, I searched articles and watched videos until I felt comfortable attempting the replacement of the power button board.

There were some considerations made before deciding to attempt the replacement. First, I backed up files, folders, pictures and the like before starting anything. Second, I was prepared to replace the computer if I irreparably damaged the computer. These are things everyone should think about.

Having said that, I found replacing the power button board on my HP Envy x 360 one of the easiest repairs I have made in a long time. Furthermore, the satisfaction was tremendous. (Remember I grudgingly belong to the Baby Boom Generation.) Replacing a computer part and having the computer still function is an absolute thrill.

So, I thought I would share a step by step tutorial on how I replaced a power button board. Keep in mind I am not an authorized repair person. So, this is just for those willing to take the risk. And it is your risk.

Power Button Board Replacement

Step One

Remove the keyboard. To do this, you actually start on the back/bottom of the laptop. Tiny screws rim the outside of the back. There are also six screws with covers. Two small ovals mid-back. Remove both as well as the screws beneath. There are also four round circles. The two circles nearest the hinges are safe to remove both the covers and the screws underneath.

Bottom side of HP Envy x 360
Back of Laptop

But do not touch the bottom two circles nor their corresponding screws!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Back side of laptop with a warning not to remove to specific screws
Do not remove the two lower circle covers nor the screws beneath.

 

Step Two

Once the screws are removed, carefully flip the laptop upright. Then gently pry up the keyboard. You will only be able to lift it an inch or so because several connector ribbons. First you need to remove these connectors, including the battery connector by gently lifting up on the connecting bar. Once all are disconnected, carefully place the keyboard cover on a nearby flat surface.

Connector ribbons inside a laptop
The white and gold ribbons connect the keyboard cover to the Laptop
Step 3

Another connector ribbon ties the power button board to the motherboard. Disconnect this in the same way by lifting up the connecting bar. Then I carefully moved the end of the ribbon out of the way of the power button board.

Connected ribbon and power button board
Close-up of ribbon connector and power button board
Lifting bar connecting ribbon
Lifting bar connecting ribbon
Connector ribbon tucked aside
Gently fold connector ribbon out of the way
Step 4

The circuit board for the power button rests upon two posts that resemble a plus sign a bit more than an x. A single screw holds the board in place. Once this screw is removed, the board easily lifts out. Then the new board can be positioned over the two posts. If the new circuit board does not slide down the posts so that the two posts are slightly above the level of the board, you may need to apply a very, very slight bit of pressure.

Power Button Board
Power Button Board ready for removal
Small phillips head screwdriver removing screw
Remove screw from power button board
New power button board
New power button board
Step 5

Now it is time to begin re-assembly. Replace the screw that attaches the power button board. Do not over-tighten.

replaced screw in power button board
Replaced screw
Step 6

Reattach the connector ribbon.

Re-attaching connector ribbon to power button board
Reattach the connector ribbon
Step 7 (Optional)

I took the opportunity to remove some dust with Q Tips.

Step 8

Reattach the four ribbons connecting the keyboard cover to the internal machine. Now test your power button. It should power up the laptop.

Reattaching Keyboard Ribbon connectors
Reattaching Keyboard ribbon connectors
Screen from laptop powered on
Successful powering from newly installed power button board
Step 9

Gently press the keyboard back onto the case.

Step 10

Flip the laptop over and replace all screws and all covers which includes the 2 circles near the hinges as well as the two small oblongs in the middle.

Replacing exterior screws with small screwdriver
Replace exterior screws

 

I realize my terminology may be incorrect. But this process worked for me. If you have any concerns about replacing this part or are not willing to risk messing up your computer beyond use, I suggest you find a computer repair person. Also, check and see if this would void any warranty. My warranty expired a long time ago, so I had nothing to lose.

Nonetheless, I found this repair quite simple. And very satisfying. I am adding some additional photos below. I wanted you to see which part of the power button board broke. This tiny piece of hardware is actually responsible for my newest learned skill.

New power button board above broken circuit board
Comparison of new and broken circuit boards
ner circuit board
Close up of new circuit board with critical piece center top

 

 

 

August 2019 Wrap-Up and Labor Day Greetings

August 2019 was long, hot and eventful. So eventful that this is just now posting on Labor Day. Of course, that means the calendar has moved to September. Such is life when one is busy. Enjoy this August 2019 Wrap-Up!

August 2019 Wrap-Up

Road Trip

A road trip to the East Coast and back took up over half of the month. It was a quasi-business trip so no time to sight see. But plenty of time to observe. Since it is summer time in the Northern Hemisphere, lots and lots of road construction all along the way. However, that was not the only construction.

Small towns and big cities alike appear to be adding restaurants, stores, houses and apartments. Of particular note is the new trend of Big Box complexes. For those of you in other countries, a Big Box complex is a variation of a strip mall. Stores such as Home Depot or Best Buy anchor an area of restaurants and smaller retailers. Lots of choices for the shopper or one looking for a place to eat.

Of course no trip across country is complete without a stop at a Buccee’s. This gas station on steroids is geared toward travelers in cars. Semi-trucks are limited to the refueling tankers. Of interest to me, was the fact that attached to the fuel tanks were Help Wanted signs complete with information on pay. As you can see by the picture, the starting rates are above minimum wage. Yet another indicator of current economics.

Image of a help wanted sign
Looking for employees

Foreclosure Project

The long road trip allowed me to transport some building supplies and equipment. The newest project is coming along. In addition to finding specialized contractors for the AC, plumbing, electrical and roof repairs, we are using a general contractor for much of the work.

Econogal using a jackhammer to break tile floor
Breaking up the tile

However, we did get in on some of the deconstruction. Removing the existing tile from the kitchen floor was quite a chore. Taking the cabinets out required care since each came with under cabinet lighting. The wainscoting in the formal areas was actually a thick cardboard made to look like wood on one side. But the ancient and painted wood paneling in the fireplace room was the real deal. It too is no longer present.

The walls are down and the preliminary work is done on expanding the kitchen. I am looking forward to seeing everything progress. A walk-in pantry will anchor a peninsula with enough space for cooking and eating.

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment was the successful trapping and relocation of the armadillo making a home too close for comfort. These animals cannot be lured with bait. Thus it took a few days for the animal to wander into the cage.

Armadillo
Cute but destructive.
Armadillo in a cage
Ready for a new home

 

Spider Update

For the faithful readers of this blog, the mystery of the spider is partially resolved. After releasing Mystery of the Resident Spider (Click here to read) I patiently watched as the spider “ate” its web. Research leads me to believe the spider belongs to the Orb family of arachnids. They take their webs down each day.

We enjoyed the spider for the better part of a week. Then a new mystery. A double web stayed and stayed. But no spider. The only clue was a small bit of a down feather caught in the web. My best guess is the circle of life continues.

 

In the Garden

Meanwhile, the garden continues to produce. But, the successes are not the same as last year. For instance, I have only harvested one cucumber to date. Fortunately, other crops are keeping me busy. The cabbage is fantastic as are the various types of tomatoes. The concord grapes are ripening and I believe I will be making grape jelly in the next week or two.

However, my beans continue to flower without producing beans to eat. Perhaps it is the heat. We expect another triple digit temperature on this Labor Day.

 

Labor Day Festivities

A quick trip to the Front Range started the Labor Day weekend. Gathering with family from far and wide is always a treat. But, it is good to be back home for the actual day. Travelling on holidays is stressful. So returning home early alleviates the stress. Plus, the Floridian in the family needed to return home in order to prepare for a potential strike from Hurricane Dorian. Remember September is National Preparedness Month.

Hardware Issues

Finally a note on computer hardware in this August 2019 Wrap-Up. I use a HP Envy 360 for my work. It has served me well. But, the machine dates back to 2013. So it was not too surprising when a hardware issue popped up. Or maybe I should say popped off.

The on/off switch on the outside of the laptop should connect with a button which in turn presses down on a circuit. However, the inside button broke off. This tiny piece is critical. For a temporary fix, I can unscrew the keyboard and hold the button in place. But this is not very practical.

So, I have ordered a replacement power-on board. Hopefully I will find You Tube as helpful replacing the board as I did when I was troubleshooting the problem in the first place. In the meanwhile, my posts may remain sporadic.

Size comparison between a penny and a computer part
Broken hardware piece compared to a penny

 

 

 

Mystery of the Resident Spider

Spider web

This past weekend we spotted a beautiful web attached to our back porch. Since I was busy in the garden, I did not stop to study. But I did leave the web and its’ resident spider alone. However, during a break from gardening I noticed the web was completely gone. A brief discussion ensued with neither of us recalling accidentally  running into the web. Plus the web was big enough to notice if one passed through.

Speculation abounded. Perhaps a breeze knocked it down. Or one of the many birds inhabiting our trees enjoyed a tasty breakfast. The hummingbirds use the silken strands in their nests. So perhaps they were the culprits. Maybe even the sprinkler destroyed the web. But the next day another web appeared and disappeared.

This appearance then disappearance is on day five. But I finally have an answer. Or at least a partial answer. However, I now have many more questions.

Spectacular Web of the Resident Spider

Large intricate spider web
Spiral threads make a beautiful design

Today’s web is spectacular. The photos don’t quite do it justice. While taking the pictures, a breeze blew up. Then the spider skedaddled to the safety of the roof eave. (Our breezes on the High Plains can resemble gusts in other parts of the world.) So I now know what happens to the spider. I am typing this on the back porch in hopes of discovering what happens to the web.

I am not sure what type of arachnid is constructing these webs. There are some spiders I can identify. Tarantulas are easy and are currently on the move in this region. They are most often spotted on the roadways, but do occasionally appear in the side yard. Daddy Long Legs and Black Widows are also identifiable. Wolf spiders are given free rein in the garden, and it is possible that this one is related. But I’m not certain.

Close up of resident spider
Do you know this spider?

So, I think some research is in order. The youngsters in the family might know of an app I could use, but they are not around. Perhaps, I might do a web search. But, most likely I will make a trip to my local library. The generation gap exists for me. I tend to search for answers the old-fashioned way.

Meanwhile, the wind has died down. So the resident spider has returned to the web. Maybe the breeze is not the cause of the disappearing webs after all. But, do I have the time and patience to just sit and observe? Perhaps.

Dealing with Dementia: Changes on Many Levels

Dealing with Dementia

Today I am focusing on the many challenges of dealing with dementia. For anyone looking for a scientific based posting, this is NOT it. Instead, these are my personal reflections of coping with the dementia my loved one faces. Thus, I am writing anecdotally, but perhaps you will find my experiences helpful.

Brain Changes

As a layman, I find the workings of the brain fascinating. The brain is the control center for our bodies. Thus, we cushion the heads of babies, wear helmets if playing football or riding cycles, hard hats on construction sites and numerous other activities in the hope of preventing damage to the brain.

The brain can be impacted by other factors. I have read several of Dr. Daniel Amen’s books on the brain. His books, Change Your Brain Change Your Life (1996) and Change Your Brain Change Your Body (2010) were life changing for me as well as one of my offspring. Amen details how diet and exercise can affect the brain in addition to brain injury. Click here to visit his website.

Personality Changes

I have a hard time grasping the science behind how changes to the brain affect changes to one’s personality. But, I believe this to be true. My family member has not gone silent like so many. However, her sentences are non-sequitur at best. Under the worst of circumstances she makes absolutely no sense and gets frustrated if you cannot follow her thoughts. I get frustrated too. And very sad.

On the other hand, she still has a great smile and she smiles often. Furthermore, she continues watching TCM and the old movies with enjoyment. Recently we watched the version of Seabiscuit with Shirley Temple. She was fully engaged to the point of skipping the ice cream hour. She always enjoyed going to the races at Tampa Bay Downs so she connected to the movie.

Other changes revolve around games. Board games and card games were favorite past times. The whole family could spend hours playing Spinners and she belonged to multiple bridge clubs. But now the attention span needed to play is gone. Participation is limited to games where she can be guided.

Role Reversal

Individuals who are dealing with dementia in a parent also deal with a role reversal. This is my case. I have the power of attorney and am second in line as health advocate. Care decisions are stressful. As a result, I am already planning for my future. Just in case.

July 2019 Wrap-Up

My July 2019 began and ended in Florida. But the whole month was not spent in the Sunshine State. In addition to driving a southern route from the High Plains to the East Coast, I also spent a short time in the State of Indiana. As a result, my writing suffered a tad bit.

In addition to visiting family, I have embarked on a major project. Along with a family member, I am working on bringing a foreclosed property back to life. The house has some problems, but it is structurally sound.

Foreclosures from the Great Recession

The United States is still working through a backlog of distressed property. This particular home has been empty the better part of a decade. As with many of these properties, the house was purchased as is. We did pay for some inspections. We were not allowed to turn on electricity or water. Therefore, we planned on major overhauls of these two functions.

Many homes built on slab during the latter part of the 20th Century have problems with the pipes. Thus, we were not surprised by the need for re-piping. This is achieved by piping through the attic. Another of my Florida relatives had just had this done. Thus, I was familiar with the pricing.

For the most part, the electrical system was in good shape. But, the air conditioning was shot. I can’t imagine a house in the interior of Florida without air conditioning. The replacement is scheduled for later this week.

Much of the remainder is cosmetic. My family member, with a little design help from me, will tackle this. The process has been interesting.

Rehabilitating Foreclosed or Distressed Properties

There are many, many distressed properties. Homeowners for one reason or another fail to maintain their homes. Under the best of circumstances, the houses fall into mild disrepair. But the worst cases result in foreclosures with a loss of equity and the ruin of credit.

It is hard to determine exactly how many properties are falling into disrepair. Not all end up as foreclosures. I thought a neighboring house had also been abandoned due to the evident neglect. However, an elderly couple, (possibly on a fixed income) reside in the home. This is anecdotal. But may happen more often than one would believe.

Unfortunately, a certain stigma is attached to buying such a property. A few contractors have refused to work with us. Perhaps there is a feeling that we are gaining from someone else’s misfortune. Perhaps they do not understand the gratification which comes from making something bad into something good. Currently, I see little if any monetary gain, but that may change.

Other Activities in July 2019

Of course, the summer months mean time in the garden. I am delighted in the continued success of the Raised Row Garden. The cabbages are gorgeous and the beets delicious. I will not be home for the County Fair. So no blue ribbons this year.

I plan to be home in time for some major canning mid-August. In the mean-time the garden is being watered by the man of the house. He reports the eggplants are abundant and tasty in eggplant parmesan.

July 2019 Reading

Unfortunately all the travel and planning have cut into my reading of novels. (I am always reading, just not always for fun.) This month websites and design magazines have stolen the show.  I may need to borrow an idea from my favorite South African blogger and keep posting with Just A Paragraph if life remains hectic. If you like blog reading, visit her website at despatchesfromtimbuktu.

Visiting The Little One

Perhaps the best part of July 2019 was the 24 hour trip to the Front Range. I was able to spend some tummy time with the newest member of the family. She makes such funny faces, I predict she will have an amazing personality.

Thank you to all my loyal readers. I appreciate your bearing with the less than regular posts. But, I wouldn’t trade this experience for much. Life is interesting when it is unpredictable. Bringing a foreclosed home back to life certainly qualifies as making life interesting.

 

Battling the Summer Heat

Battling the Summer Heat

Things are heating up in the Northern Hemisphere. Summer is here and so is the heat. So I thought I would share my tips for battling the summer heat. Most are common sense. But sometimes when we are in the thick of things we forget to utilize our brain sense.

Early Riser

Growing up I was always a night owl. Consequently, I tended to sleep in. But now I am an early riser. The first hours of the day are the coolest. The semi-arid region I live in takes all night to cool down. But around 5:00 A.M. it is almost pleasant. The upper 60s and low 70s (Fahrenheit) are a relief from the 100 plus afternoon temperatures. It also helps to have an early sunrise. We live on the far Eastern edge of the Mountain Time Zone so dawn comes very early.

Hydrate Frequently

A second key to battling the summer heat is to drink plenty of liquids. Most of the time I prefer water. However, there are occasions when you might choose something else to hydrate with instead of water. Extraordinary exertion may indicate a need to supplement water. You know your body best, and if you have any questions consult an expert.

In addition to drinking liquids, don’t forget to eat! I know I have encountered days where it was just TOO hot to eat, but starving oneself is never good. Instead, look at increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Experiment with new recipes. Last week I made chlodnik for the first time. This chilled soup is especially good with beets and cucumbers fresh from the garden.

Fun in the  Summer Heat

Battling the summer heat can be fun. Our city pool has evening open swim hours. This is a great way to cool down. Taking in a movie matinee is another way to escape high temperatures. A bonus occurs if the movie prices are reduced at this time. Other indoor activities to keep one busy include bowling, rambling through museums or art galleries, and a great American past-time, going to the mall.

This summer heat has given me a great appreciation for the countries and cultures that practice siestas. Closing down in the mid to late afternoon makes great sense. But, I don’t see many around my part of the world adopting that habit.

Whatever methods you use battling the summer heat, enjoy the warm nights. Time does not stand still. Winter in the Northern Hemisphere will be here before you know it.

 

 

June 2019 Wrap-Up

June 2019

This month has been a whirlwind! New family member, second year production on the big garden, and travel to multiple states. Most of the travel has been business related, but the end result was a very busy June 2019.

In the Garden

Highlights of the garden are the leafy greens, peas, radishes and a few early beets. But the star of the show was the garlic harvest. The heads vary in size, but at least half are what I call grocery store quality. Since the total is in the hundreds, I am set for a while. Some are still drying along the garage wall, but I have earmarked some of the early harvest for long term storage. These heads of garlic are in a burlap bag in cool storage of a basement room.

The big disappointments of the garden was a lack of maturing spinach and the small crop of sour cherries. While I know the latter is a result of the late freeze, I am not sure why I am having trouble growing spinach in the big garden. I will try a fall crop and hope for a better outcome.

In the Library

In addition to the books reviewed, I have read the latest “Brit in the FBI” from the duo comprised of Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison. The Last Second was action packed. I also read another fictionalized biography of a woman in history. Karen Harper’s American Duchess revealed much about Consuela Vanderbilt unknown to me. Much like The Only Woman in the Room, the author acknowledges that the book is a work of fiction.

Keep posted for reviews of the above. Additionally, I am reading quite a bit on the latest and greatest in kitchen and bath counter tops. I have engaged in working on a foreclosure and the house needs quite a bit of updating. Hopefully I will be able to share some before and after pictures.

Travel

All of the trips I made were to places I had already visited. However, an overnight trip to Salina, Kansas was eye-opening. Most of the time I have just stopped for gas as I was passing through on one of the two Interstates that bisect the town.  I enjoyed spending the night there and will feature this small city in a future post.

Time flies when you are having fun. June 2019 flew at supersonic speed. Very appropriate for this fifty year anniversary of Apollo 11. For those of you looking for a scholarly account of the Apollo mission I highly recommend Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations: The NASA History Series by Benson and Faherty. Fair warning, the original edition is so lengthy that when NASA re-released the book it was split into two volumes with distinct titles.

The Home Edit Book Review

Reading The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals felt like I was listening to a conversation between authors Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin. Perhaps it was the introduction which gave a glimpse of how they met. Or maybe it was the first person point of view. The end effect was a book that felt like you were part of a conversation.

The Home Edit takes household organization to a whole new level. I love the approach taken by Shearer and Teplin. Instead of jumping into the fun part of buying organizational units for the home, they have a straightforward approach to editing your home life.

The Home Edit Process

The first step in the process posited by Shearer and Teplin is to take everything out of the space undergoing an organizational face lift. By everything, they emphasize every single thing! Then, once all the items are out, group like things together.

Then comes the tough part, the editing. Writers understand editing often means cutting out or reducing words. Well, the same thing applies to individuals implementing The Home Edit. After everything is taken out of the space, purging is required.

Shearer and Teplin give solid advice on reducing the amount of “Things” in storage. Letting go of all the items we accumulate over the years can be tough. But I liked the common sense approach they took.

Organizational Fun

Measuring each storage space is critical for the organizational plan. Then, the next step to the Home Edit is the fun part. Armed with the measurements, Shearer and Teplin send you shopping for containers. This is a key part of the plan and sounds fun to me. The authors suggest utilizing containers for all the groupings made during the home edit process.

Another key aspect of their shared organizational process is ROYGBIV. For those unfamiliar with that acronym, sorting or grouping colors in the order of the rainbow, This concept carries throughout the house. Clothes, toys, and even food can be grouped using ROYGBIV.

Real Life Examples

A bulk of the book features real life organizational examples. The authors suggest beginning with organizing drawers and working up from there. They even provide a list of easy versus difficult parts of the home to organize.

In addition to photos providing lots of inspirational examples, the authors give a few tips. One of their basic tips for keeping an area organized is the one thing in one thing out motto I talked about in a Fall 2017 post which you can view here. Reducing the amount of “Things” needing storage is key to an organized home.

I found The Home Edit inspirational. Since I have never been to a store that specializes in containers, I am anxious to visit one. Most of the ideas shared by Shearer and Teplin are ones that can be adapted to suit individual needs. If you are someone that doesn’t know how to get a handle on clutter, this is the book for you.

 

Slow Dancing with a Stranger Book Review

Today is the longest day of the year. The Alzheimer’s Association uses this day to generate awareness for the disease. The topic of Alzheimer’s is a tough one for me to write about. I have a close family member suffering from this memory thief. So, I thought a book review of Meryl Comer’s Slow Dancing with a Stranger: Lost and Found in the Age of Alzheimer’s was an appropriate choice.

Personal Story

Slow Dancing with a Stranger tells the story of Dr. Harvey Gralnick, the husband of Meryl Comer. An extremely intelligent man, Gralnick was able to compensate for the disease at work for quite some time. However, behavioral changes at home signaled to his wife that something was off.

Some of the details shared by Comer hit home. She shares her frustration of a doctor ignoring her concerns and diagnosing the problem as a combination of stress and depression. In essence, the medical providers stuck together. {Fortunately, when my family member was assessed, it was by a panel. She charmed the pants off the eldest male in the room. (She minored in drama.) He found her vivacious and felt the problems with memory and mobility were natural aging. However she scored poorly on the tests.} Thus I could emphasize with Comer.

Caring for Alzheimer’s Patients

A good amount of Slow Dancing with a Stranger discusses the difficulties in caring for an individual with Alzheimer’s. Comer discusses the many types of care she sought out for her husband. Her shared experiences are valuable to others. The decision on the best way to care for a family member with dementia is incredibly hard. It helps to read about another’s experience.

The decision on type of care may change as the patient progresses through the stages. Comer tried a variety of approaches. This insight is perhaps the most helpful part of the book. While no two patients experience the disease the same, it is helpful to understand the different steps in the deterioration of an Alzheimer’s patient.

Advocating for Alzheimer’s

Comer focuses on advocacy for Alzheimer’s in the latter pages of Slow Dancing with a Stranger. I found this part of the book uplifting. Since she was a former television journalist, Comer was contacted by the PBS News Hour to spotlight her struggle caring for her husband. After much soul searching, she agreed. The airing of the segment spotlighting Alzheimer’s re-opened doors for Comer. Friends and strangers alike reached out. The end result was non-profit work focused on early recognition of Alzheimer’s as well as ways to delay if not prevent the onset of the disease.

Since all proceeds from Slow Dancing with a Stranger directly support Alzheimer’s research I strongly encourage each of you to purchase a copy. Then buy a second copy and give to a friend, family member or to your local library. If you have a friend or family member suffering from this difficult disease, reach out to them and their caregiver today; The Longest Day.

 

 

Rain, Rain and More Rain on the Plains

Rainy days are rare in the part of the world I live in. But rain has fallen four days in a row for a total of just over two inches. Considering our annual average rainfall is 15 inches, the rain over the last four days is significant.

Wet Season

April, May and June are the rainy months for our section of the High Plains. Snow often falls in April which hinders the garden. This year we had the frigid temperatures but not much in the way of measurable snowfall. Then May continued the cooler than normal temperature with a last frost on the 21st of the month. Unfortunately, the month was also dry. Just over an inch of rain watered the garden.

Thus you can understand my excitement of two inches of rain in just four days. The historical average has taken some hits this decade. The beginning featured a carryover of the drought that started in the late ‘00s. The lowest total precipitation for our county occurred in 2011 when just over six inches of rain fell. This was in the middle of a run of years where the rain total fell below ten inches.

Perhaps the ongoing focus on world economics kept this serious drought from the spotlight. This time period was actually drier than the Dust Bowl years. Our area lost a lot of population to the Front Range as individuals and families moved to where jobs could be found.

Fortunately 2015 heralded the end of the drought. The area received over 21 inches of rain. Everything turned green. The High Plains are beautiful with this amount of moisture. The wheat grows tall and the heads are laden with grain. The key to the harvest is a drying period in the weeks before harvest. That might be a problem this year.

Rain and Water Conservation

Since twenty inches of water is a banner year, we are accustomed to conserving water in our part of the world. Unless high winds and/or very hot days pop up, the garden will now not receive water for a week. During dry spells of little to no rain, I water the garden early in the morning. Soaker hoses are the preferable method since our winds carry the spray from sprinklers astray.

Plantings also come into play. After very dry winters and springs, the only flowers in the garden are the perennials. The food crops need the water. So no pretty annuals. The yards tend to brown during a dry year as well.

Stewards of the Earth

I believe gardeners are stewards of the Earth. Both water and soil conservation are important. Rain is welcome in my pat of the world but other areas are receiving more than what is wanted. Those areas with greater annual rainfall need to keep an eye on hard surfaces. Pavement keeps the rain from soaking into the soil. Thus dangerous runoff and flooding is a concern.

We have flash floods when a thunderstorm dumps inches of rain in a short amount of time. So even here in a sparsely populated area, street flooding can occur. The years (few and far between) of heavy spring rains can cause the creeks to look more like streams.

So hardscapes in the garden need to be thought out. Our recent patio addition has flagstone laid upon a gravelly sand. Additionally, a drain pipe was inserted to allow excess water to flow under the herb garden into the lawn.

During yesterday’s rain we looked for ways to improve drainage. We will make a few adjustments to the section of the patio covered by pavers instead of flagstone. The pavers serve as a flat area for the grill to roll out on. Our high winds necessitate moving the grill to a sheltered place when not in use. In fact, it is time to tackle that project since more rain is forecast for this afternoon!

 

 

May 2019 Wrap-Up

May 2019

While May 2019 is not officially in the books, the time is nigh. To avoid two posts in one day, I am writing and posting just a bit early. Considering the number of things that have already occurred this month, an early wrap on May 2019 will not hurt a bit.

Kentucky Derby

We began the month preparing for a Kentucky Derby party. Among the recipes whipped up were a Derby Pie from Racing to the Table and Bourbon Brown Sugar Nuts from the May 2019 edition of Better Homes & Gardens. The party was a great success despite or perhaps because of the outcome of this year’s race. Our weather was perfect as we migrated to the back patio after the telecast.

Not long after the Derby, I traveled to Kentucky. I was fortunate enough to take pictures of a 300 year old bur oak. Visit the slide show at the end of this post to see this amazing tree. I have a twenty year old bur oak in my yard. The trunk is only a foot in diameter. We are quite a bit drier in our part of the country, but if it lives 300 years, maybe someone will marvel the way I did over the tree in Kentucky.

Wacky Weather

The spring months on the High Plains of the United States are full of surprises. May 2019 is no exception. Last year I planted some tomatoes in the ground in late April. But this year I suspected would be one with a late freeze. I was right. The morning of May 21 I awoke to a frost in the garden. Immediate losses include eggplant and melon. I suspect further losses. Two of the tomatoes and half the peanuts look iffy. Fortunately, most of the herbs are close to the house. A micro-climate exists in their location. Not a single basil plant was lost.

Just a few days later, spring thunderstorms brought hail and a few small tornadoes to the region. We were spared both. The total rainfall for the month was 7/10th of an inch. Steady winds of 30 M.P.H. with gusts above forty dry things out in a hurry. Watering is essential.

The Love Quilt

I am approaching the finish line with The Love Quilt. I think I will finish before the newest addition to the family arrives. But it will be close. I like to hand quilt. Weaving the needle back and forth through the layers calms me. But the process is very time consuming. If or perhaps when arthritis strikes, (Some stiffness is occurring) I may need to invest in a long arm sewing machine.

The design of the next quilt is complete. So, I will begin the process of cutting and piecing once I finish the current project. The next is a challenge because it is two sided. The quilt design will need to be an allover pattern.

Garlic and Greens

The garden harvest for May 2019 consisted of greens-multiple types of lettuce- radishes, onions and garlic and garlic scapes. I have a bumper crop of garlic. I have only dug the ones in the front flower bed. But I have begun the process of drying and curing. Using the garlic scapes as an indicator, most of the bulbs will be ready the second week in June. I have never before had such success with garlic. The raised row garden concept is incredible. If you have not read my review of the book by Jim and Mary Competti, click here. My yields have increased exponentially. I love their website as well, Old World Garden Farms.

Reading Highlights

This month my reading focused on various blogs and websites I follow. I find first-hand accounts of what works in the garden quite helpful. But I also like to read blogs from around the world. Since I live in a rural, isolated area, the online community of bloggers keeps me connected.

On the book front, look for this Friday’s review of The Black Ascot. I loved this historical murder mystery. My gardening took a backseat Memorial Day because I spent hours reading this Charles Todd mystery. Definitely a page turner! Enjoy the slide show.

 

 

 

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!

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.

 

April 2019 Wrap-Up

Cabbage planted among garlic plants.
Cabbage inter-planted with garlic.

Typing with one hand is quite slow. But when you jam a finger, it becomes necessary. Thus, my writing has slowed down a bit. But I did want to catch everyone up on April 2019 events.

April is one of the nicest months on the high plains. Mosquitoes and flies are few and far apiece. The afternoons are sunny and warm. But the evenings can be crisp. Furthermore, these last few nights the temperatures have dipped into the 30’s (Fahrenheit) which is a bit colder than I like for this time of year.

My quilting is on hold until the right hand recovers. The lower temperatures mean the time to garden full-out isn’t quite ready except for a few cool weather crops. I did plant some cabbage among the garlic. Perhaps the pungent smell will deter the flea beetles this year. I do not plan to expand the garden any this year. Instead, I want to compare year one and year two to see if the inputs and outputs are similar.

Reading

Fortunately, I can turn pages with my left hand. Recent books include The Last, and Baby of the Family. The former I thought was a murder mystery, but I think I misjudged the genre. The latter is a first novel and is quite good.

I am also catching up on some of the magazines and periodicals that cross my path. Finally, I am discovering new blogs and websites. Thank you readers for the suggestions that you have sent my way. I love the online community even though I doubt I will meet many face-to-face.

Peaceful Patio

Most of all, April 2019 was spent on my back patio. I know it is not very adventurous. Nor does it make for a fascinating blog post. But the time spent reading and relaxing gives me great satisfaction and a sense of peace. Sometimes I am alone, other times I am joined by my husband and Sophie the cat.

Whether you’re in the city, a suburb, or live in a rural location, take the time to enjoy the surroundings. The changing of the seasons is inspirational. Spring and its promise of life is uplifting. Those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, get out and enjoy it!

Planning a Kentucky Derby Party

The first Saturday in May is less than two weeks away. So, it’s time to plan a Kentucky Derby party. I have hosted a few over the years. They have ranged from large co-ed parties to root on a horse belonging to the family of one of the guys attending  college down the hill to suburban bar-b-ques where the kids all played outside until race time.

This year we plan to host a small gathering. The new patio still lacks furniture so we need to limit numbers. But I am sure the event will be fun. We just need the proper preparations.

First, I need to harvest the mint. Since I have mint growing both in the ground under the water faucets and in pots, this will be doable even with the cooler temperatures. Next, I need to make sure all the other ingredients for Mint Juleps are on hand.

New growth of mint in a pot
Mint returning after winter dormancy

Invitations

Then, I need to create some invitations. The advent of home computers has advantages. Here on the high plains far away from Kentucky, the availability of horse themed invitations is not slim but none. So I can use a program to design my own.

Wording is important. We have some serious horsemen in our part of the country. They will be focused on the television coverage. However, some of my friends will likely never have watched this race. So a balance must be achieved to make it fun for all. I might place a link to my Derby Hat post on the invite to get creative juices flowing but indicate Derby attire is optional. (Our part of the country often allows for black denim jeans at weddings.)

Party Length

An important decision on the length and make-up of the party is also essential. The Kentucky Derby itself is also billed as the fastest two minutes in racing. Thus the actual race is only two minutes long. Naturally, the party needs to be longer.

In our case we will start about an hour and a half ahead of the feature race. We will likely switch between the national coverage and one or more of the horse channels. Again, providing a balance between the serious coverage and the anecdotal, “Fun fact” coverage most of the country sees.

After the race we will most likely grill burgers and brats. But in the past, the end of the race has also signaled the end of the party. One can really tailor the event. I just hope the weather co-operates. Having an inside back-up plan is a good idea.

I have attended parties where a horse name is drawn out of a hat and that is “your” horse to root for. This works well for those who only watch a few races a year. However, two of the individuals on the guest list are very serious about racing, so that may not work. I have also attended parties where prizes were given for the best hat. That is a possibility.

Food Favorites

In addition to the Mint Juleps, certain foods remind me of Kentucky. Kentucky Hot Browns and Derby Pie are at the top of the list. Since leftover turkey usually goes into my Hot Browns, I may settle for Derby Pie. Chocolate, pecans and Kentucky Bourbon are key ingredients.

I have loved watching horse races since I was very young. The first Kentucky Derby I distinctly remember was in 1973. A horse named Secretariat won that year. Last year was also special since I was fortunate enough to see Justify become a Triple Crown winner. I won’t be travelling this year, but I am looking forward to watching the Kentucky Derby from the comfort of home.

March 2019 Wrap Up

March 2019

The old saying is March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. This year, the month is leaving like a lion cub. Yesterday, a skiff of snow on the ground greeted the dawn. But spring is in the air in the form of singing robins and tiny crocuses.

Kitchen Update

The refreshing of the kitchen is almost complete. New wall paper, a new chair rail and a back splash are complete. Only a change in curtains is lacking. But the material for the curtains has been purchased. Surely there will be a cold day or two in April allowing for completion of the curtains.

Tile Back splash being torn out
Tearing Out the Old

There will be a post dedicated to the new kitchen and breakfast room. The labor is intense but the result is great. Unlike the current trend to have one huge open space, I like the coziness of a kitchen and breakfast room nook.

Garden

There were a few days toward the end of March 2019 that resembled a lamb. I took advantage of these moderate temperatures to put up the deer fence and rabbit guard. I made a modification to the fence. I no longer need to move the recycled skirting. Instead I have a gate made from a stiff wire mesh.

The only downside is the height. At about five feet, a deer could jump it. But, I am hoping there is not enough distance for a running start. There is also the possibility that a raccoon could gain entrance. They are aggressive critters.

I think I planted too much garlic last winter. Plus we have had more moisture than usually, so little if any winter kill occurred. There is probably enough to take to a farmers market, but I have never been a vendor so I do not know what is involved.

Spring crops have been in the ground for almost a week. So I expect to see new shoots soon. Peas, radishes, beets, spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard and kale must have loved the thin blanket of snow. The newest tree to the yard, a North Star Cherry was planted just in time for the wonderful moisture.

I like to plant trees this time of year. April still has some freezing weather, but none of the triple digit weather that occasionally pops up in May. The young transplants have a tough time with hot weather. Dry wind added to high temperatures can be a death sentence before the plants have a chance to establish themselves.

Quilting

I am making steady progress with the hand quilting of the Love Quilt. For the most part I am quilting a quarter-inch from seams and along pattern details. But some of the fabric needs extra. So, using a chalk stamp, I have added rows of hearts. A king size quilt has been layered and is ready for the quilt stand.

Finally, I have designed a two-sided quilt. One side will have the Train Quilt pattern with a twist. The other centers on a panel. Taking cues from the many Trip Around the World Quilts I have made, squares will radiate from the panel to give a natural shading effect. I am quite excited to begin the piecing.

I hope your March 2019 has been as productive as mine! I am off to a baby shower, a great opportunity to continue my Lenten promise of connecting with others. Happy Spring!

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More Book Review

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!

Book Cover of I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont with illustrations by David Catrow has been around for a while. The book made its debut in 2005. I just read it for the first time on the recommendation of someone working with elementary school children. This book is a winner.

The story opens up with a youngster getting in trouble for painting all over the house. Enter the mom. The paints are taken away and put on a very high shelf. Of course any enterprising kid knows how to circumvent that obstacle.

Thus, the focus of this board book changes from a kid painting the walls to painting himself. All while singing a familiar tune. Adult readers will automatically sing the chorus as they read the repeating phrase. Perhaps this is how I missed the kindergarten humor the first time through.

Beaumont uses rhyming words in a clever way from this point forward. For example, one line the kid uses is “Guess there ain’t no harm if I paint my…” turn the page and he has painted his arm. This theme is carried out from head to toe and in between.

Until the story reaches a part of the body 5 year olds find hilarious.

Generation Gap

I hate to admit I had a generation gap moment. The first time through I kept repeating the phrase I ain’t gonna paint no more, no more. I ain’t gonna paint no more in my head. Truth be told I can sing the tune but can’t remember the song. Perhaps this is how I missed the punch line. Lame excuse I know.

But now that I get the humor, I too want to read it again. The finish certainly brings a smile to my face. I can just imagine preschoolers and early grade school students rolling on the floor with laughter. This book is great for storytelling. Repetition of words makes it a candidate for a learning to read book as well.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

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!”

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.

 

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!

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