Category: Uncategorized

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

Free Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking Block

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

Free Style Motivation

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

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

 

 

The Elements Book Review

The Elements

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

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

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

Individual Elements

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

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

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

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

 

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

December 2018 Wrap-Up

December 2018

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

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

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

Reading List

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

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

Resolutions Kept

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

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

Happy New Year Everyone!

Christmas Shopping Challenge

‘Tis a week before Christmas and my Christmas shopping is only half done. While my greatest wish is for good health, happiness and World Peace, I also hope to give meaningful gifts to those I love. This is tricky. My gifts tend to be practical and perhaps not always appreciated. I confess to having traditional tastes.

 Practicality

For some oddball reason, I came equipped with a practical outlook on life. One Christmas my greatest wish was for a new dishwasher. Not jewelry, not clothing but a dishwasher. I had four hungry youngsters at home not to mention neighborhood friends. My small town offers primarily fast food. Furthermore, certain dietary conditions meant I cooked a lot. From scratch. The result was three loads a day in the dishwasher in a town of water so hard the softener could not keep up.

Furthermore, I am practical with my gift giving. Books are always on the list. Knowledge is power. But reading is enjoyable as well. So finding books that will be read and treasured is a challenge that I will cheerfully continue to face. Fortunately there are many lists one can review including Econogal’s Top 10 Favorite Books of 2018.

The gift of clothing is also practical. I live in rural America but am lucky enough to have three good women’s shops located in and around the county seat. So all the women on the list are covered. But I always fear my tastes are too old-fashioned. This perhaps gives me the greatest heartache since both my grandmothers and my mom were fantastic at picking out clothes I loved.

I fear I sometimes fell short. I refused to buy holey jeans for instance. No way would I spend $60.00 for jeans that were too ripped up to even make into jean quilts. The practicality gene at work.

Fun Gifts

Kids are easy to find gifts for. Even for those of us striving to stay away from electronics. (Although I fear that becomes more difficult each year.) My favorite fun gifts tend to be classics. Lego’s, dump trucks, stuffed animals and dolls are items I love to give. Puzzles and board games also make the list.

Teenagers can be trickier. Sports nuts can be given the appropriate gear. But not everyone is into athletics. So, again much thought is needed if you are Christmas shopping for an individualist. Those able to give the greatest gift throughout the year-the gift of time will be in a better position to find a thoughtful gift.

However, if this is not possible, the challenge remains. So as lame as it may sound, a gift certificate may be the best solution. Just make it fun. Perhaps to a movie theater, a clothing store, or even if must be, an electronics outlet. I hope the teenager on my list doesn’t roll her eyes too much Christmas morning.

Christmas Shopping Challenge

Adults are the hardest to buy for in my opinion. For one thing, they have spending power. So Christmas shopping for adults can be just as complicated as for kids. My biggest problem is I have great ideas of what each grown child would like, but find out they have already filled the need or want. This problem only increases with age.

I have yet to buy anything for either the two most significant older men in my life. Fortunately, the eldest is a regular reader of this column and mentioned how much he liked the review of Where the Crawdads Sing. But that still leaves the most important person of all. So I have a week of braving crowds to find something with enough meaning to convey my feelings. Christmas shopping at the last-minute. I hope I am up to the challenge!

Craving Christmas Cards

Two Christmas cards on display
Old-fashioned Christmas cards via snail mail.

One of my favorite things about Christmas is sending and receiving Christmas Cards. So far, I have mailed out three dozen with another dozen or so to go. Alas, only two have made their way to my doorstep. Both are on display. But I fear Christmas cards are a dying tradition.

In times gone by, Christmas cards were a method of sharing school pictures or the latest family news to cousins, aunts and uncles. And childhood friends. Now that sharing is often done via social networks. Personally I limit the number of people photos I share on the World Wide Web. As a youngster, I read biographies and Charles Lindbergh’s left me with an irrational fear of kidnappers. So I have “hidden” the faces on the card displayed on the left.

Buying Christmas Cards

My mom always ordered the most beautiful cards with the family name printed inside the card. One of my favorites had an old map of the world embossed in gold with a message of world peace. Then my dad would write a handwritten message on the back cover.

Today, I buy my cards at the local discount store. However, I pick them out early so I can get the four dozen needed to all match. I lean toward nativity scenes but sometimes I will buy ones with winter scenes or with cardinals.

Some years it is difficult to mail Christmas Cards. This is especially true after the death of a family member. In this case the cards often are mailed with a simple signature and no news.

Other years, so many great things have happened I am tempted to print out a letter. But the tradition of handwritten notes continues. In 2012 I even mailed out a collage of photos from key events. That was a fun year! But most of the time our life is humdrum so the stock cards suffice.

Receiving Cards

The best part of course is receiving the cards. I know this is selfish and usually believe it is better to give than receive. But I really like Christmas cards! Each day the mail comes in December, I stop whatever I am doing and hurry out to the mail box. I look forward to seeing school pictures. Or vacation pictures.

My two cards (so far) this year have both been from cousins. Both are Texans although that may or may not play a part in the promptness of getting cards out. The first arrived December 1 with a comical cover and a handwritten note. A perfect start to the Christmas season! The other was delivered on the 11th.

This second card is from a cousin with many artistic talents. The two kids are featured with a background of the Brooklyn Bridge. Absolutely gorgeous-the kids, the back drop and the photography. My heart swelled as soon as I opened the envelope.

Christmas cards connect us with friends and family. Geographical distance makes it hard to see everyone on a regular basis. While the social networks help fill these gaps, Big Data may become the downfall of these networks. The quest for profits by selling information to advertisers has left a bad taste in many mouths.

I am connected via the same social network to both these cousins. However, the artsy photographer has not logged in for over a year. The other cousin is a bit better at keeping on top of things. My own log-ins are sporadic.

So I encourage all of you to consider sending some old-fashioned Christmas Cards. Ones that can be picked up and re-read over and over again. Cards that will not result in pop-up ads. Mail some Christmas cheer this year!

November Wrap-Up

Yes this month’s wrap-up is two days early. But the last day of November falls on a Friday. I try to keep Friday’s posts reserved for book reviews. The blogs I regularly read tend to keep a schedule and I know I am disappointed when a website goes off track. Perhaps one of you can offer a solution to conflicting posts other than releasing two at once.

November is a time to reflect. It is also a time of thanks. I shared many of the things I am grateful for in the post, Thanksgiving Thankfulness. Our own holiday gathering this year was small in numbers but the atmosphere was delightful.

I grew up in a small family. I do not remember having more than a dozen people for either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. However, I married into a large family. Thus, one year I entertained over sixty in my home. We put up card tables everywhere! Of course this number included second cousins along with the various “Great” grandparents, aunts and uncles. It will be interesting to see how close the next generation remains. Rural areas continue to lose their younger generations to the cities.

Quilting

The quilting room is the focus of my days. I finished piecing the Love Quilt began last spring. This panel quilt combines pre-made panels with traditional blocks in an original design. The quilt is ready to layer. However, the completion of a small baby quilt takes priority. I will be a great-aunt yet again in January. Look for a post then on the design. I don’t want to spoil the surprise!

November Weather

Our weather has been quite wacky. We have already enjoyed the moisture from two snows. Yet today the temperature will be in the mid-sixties. On the plus side, I am still harvesting rosemary and sage from the herb garden. The mint on the back patio has also survived. While the raised row garden has been mulched with leaves for the winter, a few green onions remain to use in the kitchen as well.

However, the possibility for cold and snow makes travelling trickier. These last weeks of fall often resemble winter. Tips for winter travel sounds like a good idea for a post. Other posts to look for next month include a ranking of my top book reviews. Holidays are a great time to give books! They are also a time to try new recipes. Check back to see what December brings to Econogal.