Category: Uncategorized-A Bit of This-A Dab of That

Random Thoughts on Stay at Home Orders

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

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

Economic Impact of Stay at Home Orders

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

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

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

Essential Business

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

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

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

Mandates versus Personal Responsibilities

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

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

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

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

Amid

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

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

Extroverts versus Introverts

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Ready for Covid-19-Econogal’s Preparation

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

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

Covid-19 Readiness

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

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

Financial Readiness

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

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

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

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

Buy What You Need

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

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

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

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

Covid-19 is Serious

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

This novel corona virus is not just another flu.

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

Mental Preparation

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Twitter:

@richisalsohere

@onlyyoontv

@peakprosperity

@APHL

@ScottGottliebMD

 

On the Internet:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

Valentine’s Day is Special

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

Mom and Dad

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

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

Valentine’s Day 2020

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

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

Share the Love

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

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

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

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

February Freeze

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

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

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

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

Indoor Activities

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

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

Sophie’s Story

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

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

February Freeze Keeps Sophie Inside

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

Cat looking out at February freeze

 

In Defense of the Reader

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

Books Read in 2019

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

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

Learners

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

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

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

Parents

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

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

In Defense of the Reader

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

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

Final Thoughts In Defense of the Reader

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

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

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

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

Successes and Failures

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

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

Albertus Magnus College

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

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

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

Passage of Time

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

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

Successes and Failures

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

2020 Resolutions

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

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

Goals Related to Econogal

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

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

2020 Resolution Influences

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

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

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

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

Summarizing Econogal’s 2020 Resolutions

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

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

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

 

Christmas 2019

Christmas 2019 is upon us. This holiday season, shortened in the United States by a late Thanksgiving, is almost over. The next eight days will be full of baking, feasting, and visiting with friends and family. A frenzy of activity before the quiet days of winter march on toward spring.

Last Christmas I was fortunate to have all my offspring around me. Only one will come home for Christmas Eve. Another will join us for Christmas Dinner. Although attendance on Christmas Day will be smaller than usual, we anticipate spending time with the newest and youngest member of the family.

Shy of seven months, without a doubt she will have no memories of her own. But, she will absorb the love of family. By good fortune, both sets of grandparents live in fairly close proximity. So both families will create an abundance of memories.

Holiday Traditions

I love traditions. This year I continued a long tradition started many generations ago in my mother’s family. A Christmas stocking was made for the newest member of the family. You can read about the project by clicking here. Other traditions revolve around the dinner itself.

My husband will make a corn casserole for dinner. The recipe was passed down to him by his father. We love it so much we make it about once a month during cooler weather. The holidays don’t seem complete without it.

I will make a cranberry-orange sauce. The freshly made sauce is one both our maternal grandmothers made.  Also on my list are baked goods. The pecan pie is challenging for I have not mastered pie crusts. Truth be told I am tempted to cheat. I need to make one more run to the grocery store and I might, just might, buy a roll of pre-made pie crust.

Baking For Christmas 2019

However, dinner rolls are best when made from scratch. I will not be making my gluten free rolls, since the family member with allergies will be elsewhere. But if you need a recipe for Soft Gluten Free Dinner Rolls click here.

Instead I will use a recipe that will allow me to do most of the work today, keep overnight in the fridge and then pop in the oven tomorrow morning. Thus, fresh rolls without waking in the middle of the night! I will endeavor to take pictures so that I can later post. Bread Illustrated was reviewed a couple of summers ago and it is still one of my go to cookbooks. This make ahead recipe for dinner rolls was adapted from the honey-wheat dinner roll recipe found on page 133.

Christmas Tree

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

I did break with tradition in one area, the Christmas tree. Usually, I decorate an artificial tree with white lights. The ornaments are themed. Lots of angels, wise men, nativity scenes and even crosses. But this year is a departure from the norm.

For starters, we bought a real tree. Yes, falling needles and all. The pine smell is wonderful. And the watering has not been too much of a hassle.

I decided to use an array of light strings. So the white is accompanied by red and green. Some of the lights have covers. Peppermints, hot peppers and poinsettias along with Ohio Star quilt lights make the tree pop with color.

The ornaments differ as well. Truth be told, I am feeling very nostalgic this Christmas. Instead of the themed ornaments, I dug out family oriented decorations. A few date back to ones I made during summer vacations at my grandmother’s house. Others can be attributed to my kids. Masterpieces made at school, either Sunday or secular. Each are treasures and treasured. Perfect for my needs this Christmas.

Felicitations to All

Many readers of this blog are from overseas. Traditions vary from country to country as well as among the many different religions. If you are celebrating a holiday now or in the near future, take time to treasure both the present and the past. For my fellow Christians, I wish you a very, merry Christmas 2019.

 

 

Joyful News!

My family received joyful news this week. The multiple  scans of bone and body showed no cancer spread beyond the one lymph node for my Dad. So, he begins radiation treatment next Monday. For those with more experience than I, it will come as no surprise that in preparation for the treatment he was tattooed.

His first comment to me was “Why would anyone willingly get a tattoo?” I chuckled since I agree, but also have multiple family members with tattoos. Methinks the tattoos are either generational or a fad. Hopefully I will never Have to be tattooed.

Holocaust Survivors

Perhaps my aversion stems from the first time I saw a tattoo. My Mom had stopped outside a store in a strip mall near the beach to talk to an elderly lady she knew. I was young, innocent and curious. (Grade school but I don’t remember which year other than at least 3rd grade.) The lady had some numbers tattooed to the back of her hand.

I flat out asked why. This may have embarrassed my Mom, but her friend seemed glad I asked. She had been a child in a concentration camp during WWII. She gave me my first lesson in the terrors of genocide. Perhaps this is why to this day I read so many stories with a WWII setting. I feel a real connection. And I don’t want to be tattooed!

Cancer

That feeling of connection is the same with cancer. Once you personally know someone who is facing or has faced cancer, you become more attuned. This not only holds true for cancer but other diseases as well. This connectedness can generate both positive and negative feelings.

Thus, it is no surprise that I was extremely stressed out over the last weeks. The unknown is always scary to me. The extent of  Dad’s cancer was unknown. The days felt overly long. However, the docs’ moved fairly rapidly in diagnosing my Dad.

I have supported various funds fighting cancers and diseases I have been personally affected by. And even some causes that I have not had a personal involvement with. I bought into the 1000 Points of Light campaign posited by the late President George H.W. Bush. I feel an obligation as well as a desire to help. I don’t want to leave it to others. Donations have not always been monetary. Time and personal effort have also been given to various causes.

Joyful News

The better than expected results are truly joyful news. My thankfulness will be displayed in many ways. The least of which will be in the form of donations to my favorite causes. Foundations tied to supporting those affected with Breast Cancer will of course figure into the equation.

But there are many ways to express joy. Writing and painting allow one to share the joy. So does designing. Singing and praying also express joy. We often pray when we need something, but thankful, joyful prayer is just as important.

As I said above both positive and negative emotions are generated from a connection. My connection to cancer began as a child. Treatments back then were few. Outcomes were seldom good. This is not the case today. Furthermore, my Dad detected and acted quickly. Thus, in his case the outlook is good. The joyful news is certainly welcome at any time. But it definitely makes this holiday season one for the memory bank.

Breast Cancer Ribbon
Not for Women Only

 

 

 

Stress Relief, Art Therapy, and a Felt Christmas Stocking

This past week was quite stressful as I accompanied my Dad through his various medical visits. My blood pressure which is usually quite low spiked a bit. So, I turned to art therapy. Since I am away from home I cannot access my quilt room nor my acrylic paints. So I began working on a felt Christmas stocking for the youngest member of the family.

As discussed in Economical Christmas Traditions, each generation is welcomed by the grandmother making a felt Christmas stocking. This is my first and there has been a bit of a learning curve. But, so far I am quite pleased. The felt Christmas stocking is almost finished.

Artistic License

The kit for the felt Christmas Stocking features a snowman surrounded by cardinals. As soon as I spotted the design I knew this was the one-my Dad loves cardinals. The stocking is a positive reminder of his love now and in the future.

However, I am making a few color changes. Instead of the ice blue vest and two-toned green scarf, the snowman will don a vest of fuchsia. Additionally, the scarf is now K-State purple with an accent of the fuchsia used in the vest. I also switched out the green ribbon on the top hat with purple felt.

The bright fuchsia color reminds me of the bright pink of Stargazer Lilies. This is the lily often seen on Kentucky Oaks Day. Churchill Downs honors breast cancer survivors on Oaks Day. For me, using the color in the stocking will always remind me of this time spent with my Dad; A time of courage and of love.

The purple color so familiar to Kansas State University graduates belongs in the home of two alumni. Perhaps their little one will attend school there. At any rate, the colors are favorites.

Tips for Felt Christmas Stocking Construction

Felt Broom with stitching for straw
Narrow handle cut on fold to eliminate stitching.

The stocking kit came with almost everything included. Construction is by hand-sewing not machine and a needle is provided along with the various colors of floss to correspond with the felt. Good lighting is suggested. Late one night I thought the pale pink floss was white.  But I don’t think the mistake is noticeable.

There have been a few do-overs. I re-cut one of the bird’s heads as well as the brim for the top hat. The kit has a bit of wiggle-room for mistakes, but not much. The biggest challenge for me is keeping the beads and sequins from scattering about. I can see a use for little plastic containers if one was to create many items like this.

I also purchased a small pair of really sharp scissors. The smaller pieces would be difficult if not impossible to cut with either large scissors or a rotary cutter. Many, many curved pieces are involved in the pattern. Also, when possible as with the broom handle, I placed the pattern on the fold thus eliminating a seam.

Art Therapy as Stress Relief

Several of my college cross-country teammates were psychology majors. I credit them with introducing the concept of using art as stress relief. New England winters were not always conducive to running a 10K to decompress.

An alternative is art. I am grateful for the felt Christmas stocking tradition. This craft-work is fulfilling the artistic fuel my body and brain need at this point in time. Concentrating on the instructions as well as adjusting the pattern to fit my expression of color is having a calming effect.

The change in stress levels is so dramatic that I think it may be a key to the anger and stress that rears up in our society today. Creativity and completing work with one’s own hands provides a feeling of accomplishment. This sentiment is a positive that counteracts the negative. Perhaps the simple action of creation and enjoyment in art can provide the stress relief needed in today’s world.

 

 

Waiting and Wondering

Today is the day we finely get to meet the oncologist my Dad has been referred too. It seems like an eternity since the surgery. The waiting and wondering of the last two weeks is almost over. Naturally, there has been a bit of stress.

Dealing with Stress

However, our moods have been fairly upbeat. I attribute this to a couple of things. First, the day after the surgery he felt up to walking. So we did. But we took it easy. A fifteen minute saunter around the neighborhood would be a more apt description. The following day the walk lasted a few minutes longer.

Now Dad is back to his normal pace and time. Thirty minutes of walking at a good pace. Last night he walked on his own while I made an early dinner. He had a club meeting to go to.

He has not resumed lifting weights, but my guess is the surgeon will give the green light next week. The physical activity helps keep the spirits up. Plus, he believes it helps him sleep at night. Octogenarians benefit from exercise and good sleep too.

Family Support

A second positive during this period of waiting and wondering has been support from family and friends. My Dad’s siblings talk with each other on Sunday afternoons. I believe this tradition started when they were in college. For the oldest two, the college years took place in the 1950s. Long distance calls were not common and of course cell phones and their unlimited calling plans non-existent.

Fortunately, staying in touch these days is easier. So the phone calls have been more numerous. The brothers are commiserating since each is now battling cancer. Their younger sister is offering support through prayers and advice.

In my case, my biggest support is my husband. He flew down over the Veteran’s Day holiday. Even though the visit was brief, my spirits were buoyed. I just wish the distance wasn’t so great.

My kids have texted and called and my daughter-in-law has shared videos and pictures of the youngest member of the family. The little miss has mastered rolling over and cut her first tooth. Wonderful milestones to offset the waiting and wondering.

Friends

Support from friends played a big role during the last sixteen days since the surgical waiting room. On a couple of occasions my Dad joined friends for lunch. And he stays active in his Lodge meetings. He also continues to visit my Mom in the nursing home. Unfortunately, her dementia makes support from that quarter flighty at best.

Since my friends are distant, the support comes from phone calls, including a timely one yesterday regarding the purchase of Kentucky Oaks tickets. The email from Churchill Downs had gone to the Spam box. Fortunately, my time block to buy is later today. Kentucky Oaks Day highlights the fight against breast cancer. Survivors march along the track prior to the race for three year old fillies. I love Oaks Day. Attendance next year will be exceptionally meaningful.

Reading and Researching

Most of my reading the last two weeks has been via the Internet. Armed with preliminary lab reports from his mastectomy, I am reading mostly so I can follow the conversation he will have with the oncologist this afternoon. I am very grateful for the thorough website of the American Cancer Society. Male breast cancer is not common.

The waiting and wondering will continue after today’s appointment. But, I am hoping for an action plan of a sort. Obviously more testing will be done to see if other areas of the body have been affected.

I am not sure how much fighting my Dad will do. Side effects of cancer treatment vary by type as well as by the individual. Whatever decisions he makes, I will support. It is the least I can do.

Breast Cancer Ribbon
Not for Women Only

 

 

 

Observations and Thoughts From a Surgical Waiting Room

Breast Cancer Ribbon
Not for Women Only

Surgery is difficult for both the patient and those in the waiting room. Some waiting rooms have more tension in them than others. A waiting room for elective surgery for example does not throw off the same stressed out vibes as one reserved for emergency room surgeries. But you find a mix of personalities in both.

Unfortunately, I have been in more than my share of surgical waiting rooms. So I have experienced both the life and death feeling as well as the mere anxiety that something could go wrong even with a fairly healthy patient. I tend to be the quiet one waiting in a corner. Although one time I was the only one waiting. Hospitals always have some level of noise in the background.

Elective Surgery

Today I am waiting on an “elective” surgery patient. But many, especially during this month of breast cancer awareness, would question the term elective. Unfortunately, a close member of my family found a lump in the right breast. It is being removed as a type. At 31 mm it is somewhat size-able. Why was it not found in a routine mammogram? Because most men do not undergo routine scans.

Yes, a male member of the family is having a tumor removed. I am thankful that during this month of breast cancer awareness, various media outlets including CBS, stressed that men can get breast cancer. This spotlight motivated the patient to not put off getting help.

Obviously, at this point in time I do not know if the tumor is cancerous. His doctors were in agreement that the lump needed to come out regardless of unknown toxicity. The needle biopsy that can be a prelude to removal was skipped. Perhaps the family history played a part in this. Or a belief that a quickly growing tumor needs to come out before it causes problems.

Waiting Room Patient Confidentiality

Back to the observations. This particular waiting room uses numbers instead of names to give the standard updates of when a patient goes into surgery or is in recovery. The numbers are displayed on a screen similar to those that show arrivals and departures at an airport. Instead of comments such as On Time and Delayed, this board posted Pre-op, Procedure-In-Progress and Recovery alongside a long number. Only the patient’s family knew which number represented their loved one.

There is a mixture of singletons as well as clusters of families waiting to hear the magical words that the patient is in recovery. Additionally, several languages fill the room. Along with the snores. More than one individual has fallen asleep. Not surprising since most of the same day surgeries require an early check-in. I woke the patient at 5 A.M. in order to make the drive for a 6:30 arrival and a ten in the morning surgery. The process is lengthy which can add to the stress.

Final Thoughts

In my case, I am not as worried about the procedure as I am about the final diagnosis. For an eighty year old, my Dad is in fantastic shape. He still lifts weights and exercises regularly. So the surgery should go well.

It is the findings that are concerning. Cancer or no cancer? If cancerous how far along? Difficult when you are the only surviving child. So many decisions to be made by the patient. So many by the caregiver. I am hoping for the best case scenario. Only time will tell.

 

 

Wired Book Review

Julie Garwood is known for her romance novels. Earlier novels had historical settings. But she has moved into the 21st Century. Recently, I read Wired and it revolves around computer hacking. The protagonist is Allison Trent, a Boston College student and computer geek extraordinaire. And a hacker. But, mostly to do good deeds.

Liam Scott is FBI. He needs a hacker. Someone, somewhere is putting agents at risk. Allison Trent fills the bill. So he arranges to meet her. His offer of employment cannot be refused.

Wired Attraction

The pair share a natural attraction. Thus, only a small bit of the plot revolves around the romantic tensions. Furthermore, this is not a sweet romance. So early on the question of will they end up in bed is answered.

Instead, Garwood focuses on the dangers to Allison Trent. Multiple people have it in for her. She thinks she can handle everything on her own. For the most part she can. But, Liam does come to the rescue a time or two. Garwood handles this in a way as not to offend women. Allison is not a scatterbrained character. But she has issues. She is way too forgiving.

The technology is vague. Perhaps Garwood does this on purpose. Other than sharing with the reader that her protagonist is a coder and a hacker, details are omitted. Technology is changing rapidly, so this keeps the story from dating itself. After all it is mostly a romance. As the reader, you know who is good and who is not right from the start. Thus, not a suspense.

I have read many of Garwood’s books, although it has been awhile since I have read a new one. Some are favorites to be read over and over. I enjoyed Wired. But I consider it to be in the good category. Definitely worth reading, but perhaps not compelling enough to re-read multiple times.

 

 

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

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

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!

 

 

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.

 

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.

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.