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One Plucky Survivor Defying Nature

Nature is harsh. Anyone studying the food chains can see just how harsh nature can be. Many of the smallest animals and insects survive by producing large numbers of offspring. However, sometimes survival in nature takes an unusual twist. This is a short tale of one plucky survivor.

One Plucky Survivor

A three-legged doe has frequented our yard for over a year now. The first time I saw her was just after a large buck had to be put down. He had decided my tree line was a good place for his final days. He was unable to hold his head up much less walk. The Division of Wildlife mercifully put him out of his misery. Fortunately for the doe, she was still on the move and eating heartily.

Our local office of the Division of Wildlife knew of her existence when I called. At the time they were taking a wait, watch and see approach for how she coped with the loss of her back leg. We saw her around the neighborhood off and on all summer and into the fall. Then around Christmas time I lost sight of her. To be honest I thought she had become fodder for the local coyotes. Thus, when the deer presents started showing up all over the backyard, I did not even consider her to be the culprit.

However, our weather has been wacky lately and this may be why she is here day as well as night. After a weekend of 70 degree weather, the first part of the work week has arrived with single digit temperatures and cold North winds. Each morning the three-legged survivor grazes next to the house.

She was impervious to Sophie the Cat stalking her under the tree line. Unfortunately, the camera was not at hand because the sight was highly amusing. Hopefully her only stalker will be Sophie. At any rate she is one plucky survivor.

Naming the Deer

I think the doe needs a name. Maybe one that fits with survivor since that is clearly what she is. Right off the bat, all I can think of is Survivor Sally. She is also plucky, so perhaps Plucky Pauline. Maybe you have a better suggestion. Please enter a name in the comment area. I hope the video shows this plucky survivor in a non-upsetting way.

Color Wheel Use in Art and Life

Color Wheel 

My elementary school had an art teacher. Each week the class went to the art room twice for an hour at a time. The art teacher taught us many basic principles. We learned about dimension, texture, line of sight, shading and shadowing, balance and proportion along with many other art elements. But most important, in my opinion, we mastered the color wheel.

Mastery of the concepts put forth by the color wheel is important both in artwork and everyday life. Think about how toddlers dress themselves. Most mix and match with abandon. As adults few can get away with clashing outfits. Homes and workplaces are more pleasant if colors are coordinated. Use of the color wheel can create harmony in our lives.

Basics of the Color Wheel

The primary colors of the color wheel are red, blue and yellow. These three colors combine with each other or with neutral colors to make all known colors. Secondary colors are blends of two of the three colors. These colors are green (yellow and blue) orange (yellow and red) and violet (red and blue.) As kids we used the term purple for violet. The three secondary colors have an equal amount of each pigment.

Tertiary colors are a blend of a primary color with a secondary color. The six colors are yellow-orange, yellow-green, red-orange, red-violet, blue-green and blue-violet. The tertiary colors are placed adjacent to the primary colors on the color wheel.

Values of colors

Value refers to the amount of lightness (or darkness) a color has. This concept is tricky because a color’s surroundings impact its value. The exercise often used in art classes is to use two squares the same color and size surrounded by vastly different colors. The neighboring colors make the squares appear dissimilar. The pictures below illustrate the difference. The orange blocks in the middle are all the same size.

Contrasting three same size orange blocks on black, white and yellow sheets.
The center orange blocks are all the same size.
Orange squares of same size on black and white sheets.
The orange squares appear to be dissimilar in size.
Orange diamonds on black and yellow backgrounds,
Even using to bold backgrounds still creates a difference.

A contrast of color can be achieved by using different values instead of different colors. Thus a monochromatic color scheme (using just one color) can create depth and contrast. One of my favorite artist’s is Quang Ho. In his painting Harmony in Whites, he creates a beautiful stallion. Although there are a few bits of color in the horse tack and some shadowing, the overall impression is one of a white stallion in a white background. Thus a monochromatic color scheme. Yet the horse pops out of the painting as if he is in the room. Both depth and contrast are evident as you can see in the photo.

Warm and Cool Colors

The color wheel divides into warm and cool colors. Yellow and violet are the dividers. The reds stretching from red-violet to yellow-orange are the warm colors. The cool colors are opposite on the wheel and are found from yellow-green to blue-violet. The acrylic painting depicted below is one of cool blue tones with a splash of red for contrast. The warmth of the red adds a spark to the artwork. In the quilt Sophie the Cat is admiring, the overall tone is warm. Again there is some contrast provided with the addition of a cool color.

An abstract painting in blues with a splash of red accent.
Cool colors
A striped cat with a quilt featuring warm orange tones.
Sophie the Cat with a warm quilt.

Color Schemes

In both cases, the tone of the contrasting color was important. This is where the color wheel becomes so useful. Knowledge of how the colors combine is critical. Colors directly opposite one another on the wheel are considered complementary colors even though they are contrasting. For example red and green are complementary; think Christmas. The contrasting colors harmonize. However, in some applications complementary colors are difficult for the eye to process. You would not want books of blue pages and orange ink, even if you are a Florida Gator fan.

Analogous colors are colors that are adjacent on the color wheel. Yellow-orange, orange and red-orange are analogous. This blending of colors can be very soothing to the eye but care must be taken so the result is not boring. On the other hand, contrasting between two sets of analogous colors can be quite pleasing to the eye.

Monochromatic schemes are based on one color altered by tints or shades. Tints are created by adding varying amounts of white. Shades are achieved by adding differing quantities of black. Greying occurs by mixing two contrasting colors together. Thus Easter eggs dipped in all the colors becomes a muddied grey/brown depending on the dye colors.

Resources of Color Theory

Unfortunately, many schools today no longer have art teachers and so the task of teaching art falls on the classroom teacher. Time spent on art is also limited so that often the time spent on art is geared toward creativity. Kids need to have creative expression. However, the time constraint can mean art theory is not covered as thoroughly as in the past. Thus, only students who pursue an art education may fully understand the many nuances of the color wheel.

Fortunately there are many sources available for the motivated self-learner. One of my favorite books is a color workbook for quilters. Color and Cloth by Mary Coyne Penders does go beyond the color wheel to include textures and scales. But there is an abundance of color theory. This is a great book for quilters even if they are confident in there color selection.

Another book I own is Color: A Stroke of Brilliance by Leslie Harrington with Joan Mackie. This paperback published by Benjamin Moore Paints is geared toward use of color for interior designs. This has the basics of color wheel theory and has many sections of questions and answers. I refer to this book frequently when working on interiors in commercial locations as well as in my own home.

Finally, in this age of internet, I like several websites. For color theory, visit Tigercolor which does a nice job covering the basics with an option of purchasing ColorImpact. Another site I like and use is Benjamin Moore. I use their Personal Color Viewer when I am working on projects. Simply upload a photo of the room and then follow the instructions to see how color changes the look.

Color theory is ingrained in my being. I love color in nature, in the home and in my work. Please feel free to share how you use color every day.



Little Free Libraries

Small glassed in box to hold reading material.
A Neighborhood box to share books.

Twice this year while travelling I have come across freestanding glassed-in boxes holding books. I had heard of such items but before my trip to Santa Fe had not seen one. There is an organization called Little Free Library behind this trend. Individuals can erect Little Free Libraries on their property. Books and other items are left in the boxes with a Take one-Leave one attitude.


I like the idea and would love to put one up. There can be obstacles. According to the Little Free Library organization’s website, some individuals have faced opposition from various entities. Homeowners Associations and some municipalities may require permission to set up Little Free Libraries. The site shares some creative ways to work around obstacles in establishing a library on your property.


One of the most interesting thongs to me about Little Free Libraries is some of the controversy stimulated by this free book exchange. A couple of Canadian librarians spent two years researching and writing a journal article which was very critical of the Little Free Library non-profit. They posited the movement was a way for the wealthy to feel good about themselves. Furthermore, they believed there was no need for these neighborhood boxes when so many had access to public libraries. For more of their opinion, click here.


I have not contacted my city officials to see if they are permissible. If I need to jump through hoops to place one in my yard, I will. Instead, my concern is more of how weather would affect the Little Free Libraries. The second location I spotted withstood hurricane strength winds last fall. However, I do not know if the box was in place at the time. We have very strong winds so I do worry about sturdiness. I do know the containers are rain proof. The night before I left my copy of Two Girls Down, a two inch rain occurred. As you can see from the picture the books inside were nice and dry.

Books on shelves
Leaving a book at a neighborhood Little Free Library.

The argument from the Canadian librarians does not concern me. Even if some experience self-gratification from placing the boxes, the Little Free Libraries serve a purpose. Neighbors sharing books is a positive activity. Too often individuals do not know people living just a block away. I especially liked the one shown in the photo below. The lower shelf is chock full of items for kids. While I can drive to the library anytime I wish, kids in my neighborhood do not necessarily have the same opportunity. What do you think of these book-sharing boxes? Do you use one? Please share below.

Children's reading material on low shelf
Kid Items on lowest shelf.

January 2018 Wrap Up

Books and magazines on a table
Reading material stacking up.

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

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

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

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

Readership Community

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

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

Technology and the Very Young

The Very Young

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

Smart Speakers

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


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

Technology and Kids

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

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

Economic Impact

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

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

Final Questions

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

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

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

Senator Bob Dole Congressional Gold Medal

Senator Bob Dole

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


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


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

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

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

Fact Checking Ground Rules

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

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

In The Library Book Reviews

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

In The Kitchen

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

In The Garden

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


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


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

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

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

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

Specifics Help

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

Sharing Resolutions

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

Econogal’s 2018 Resolutions

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

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

Ten Holiday De-Stressors

  1. Keep the commitments to a minimum.

This can be difficult especially if you are very involved in your community or if you still have kids at home. I remember the days when some event occurred each day in December. I don’t miss those days. Choir and band concerts, holiday ball tournaments and grade school plays are added stressors during the holiday season. Some events are required for a grade so they can’t be skipped. Thus, if you are at this stage you may need to be a bit anti-social and turn down that cookie exchange. I know I missed a few of the kids’ events. Try not to feel guilty and remember they sing, dance or shoot hoops because they want to– not for you.

  1. Don’t overeat or over drink.

Holiday parties play havoc with eating habits. Sugar and salt are staples of holiday fare. If you like veggies, load up on those. Don’t starve yourself all day, you might end up eating twice as much. Small meals are key. My husband and I try splitting the sweets if we can’t resist them all together. Half a cookie will yield half the calories. If I am on my own, I try a small bite of dessert and if it isn’t out of this world, I push it away.

If you imbibe, do so in moderation. Be wary of any spiked Christmas punch and of course don’t drink and drive. I am still waiting for Uber to come to towns smaller than 10,000 people.

3. Exercise

Stick to your normal exercise routine. You don’t want to risk an injury by kicking things up a notch to counter the extra calories. But, don’t skip a session because you need to get to a party. If you don’t exercise, see your doctor and start a New Year’s Resolution early.

  1. Stick to a budget.

This can be tough. I am not as stingy at Christmas as I am at Easter. (My kids received a book, a stuffed animal and a chocolate bunny each Easter.) But, I try not to overdo the gifts at Christmas. If you are not a tightwad, a good way to make sure you don’t go into debt at Christmas time is to join a bank holiday club. Each week for a year you make a deposit and then in late November, (at least at my bank) the money is dispersed. Of course you need to pay cash and not charge or the stressors will show up in January.

Another way to stay within budget is to make Christmas presents. Some of my family members love receiving Econogal’s Homemade Granola as a gift. Quilts and paintings are good gifts in addition to baked and canned goods.

  1. Spend time with friends not fr-enemies.

Negative people tend to become more negative around the holidays. Early last week I let a negative comment damper my day. I am sure the person didn’t even realize how negative they sounded. Fortunately, my spirits were lifted by some beautiful Christmas hymns later that day. If someone tries to ruin your holiday, run as fast as you can in another direction. Take in a holiday concert or watch a holiday movie. Two of my favorites are White Christmas and Die Hard 2. Yes, very diverse but I love them both.

  1. Reflect on the reason for the season.

This should probably be first, but in life, sometimes the reason for the season gets put on the back burner. I love the Advent season. It is a season of hope and love. Attend a religious service of your choosing to remember and reflect upon the holiday.

  1. Keep expectations realistic.

I can fail at this. I always want everything to go perfectly and life isn’t perfect. On several occasions we have had to alter Christmas plans under stressful circumstances. The toughest time was an unexpected death in the family in the days leading up to Christmas. This situation is the biggest of the stressors and happens for someone each year. My advice is to wrap yourself in family as much as possible and don’t add to the stress if at all possible. Just go with the flow. Sometimes Santa can leave a present under the tree that is not yet put together. This would be far better than trying to assemble through grief. I have failed at this.

Another potentially stressful Christmas occurred because a car plowed through our business on Christmas Eve. Fortunately, the occupants were not badly hurt. We ended up skipping out on the family that year which made some mad, but it really ended up for the best. The kids loved sledding in the park and we cobbled up a home dinner at the last-minute. This was much better than driving on very little sleep. Reduce or eliminate stressors in response to the unexpected.

  1. Try to keep regular sleeping habits.

For those of you fortunate not to have insomnia, this is for you. Holiday parties and events take us out of our normal routine. I have read that routine is key for sleeping though the night. If you normally turn in at 9:00 p.m., make sure you leave the party early. Events, especially involving kids, are a bit harder to sneak out on. In this case, make sure you wake up at the normal time instead of catching some extra sleep.

  1. Do something for someone not expected.

This is my favorite thing to do. I experience great joy in helping others. Last week, I put together a care package for some of the individuals impacted by the California fires. My husband had already sent a check but I like the tangible act of sending and/or doing. So, I visited the local feed and tack store and bought a variety of needed items. The package was sent anonymously. I am sure it is just one of many. This is one of the greatest things about this country. The willingness to help others.

  1. Treat yourself to your favorite relaxer.

December can be full of stressors. Each individual has their own way of relaxing. For some, it may be running a quick 5 or 10K. Others enjoy window shopping. I de-stress by taking a hot bath with a candle burning and a glass of wine. Find what works for you and relax.


Economical Christmas Traditions

Economical Christmas Traditions

We have many traditions throughout the year. December is no exception. Our Christmas traditions begin on December 1st and continue until the big day. The first of these traditions is the changing of the dishes.

Spode China

Many Christmases ago I was given Spode Christmas Tree china. Instead of just bringing out the china for the big day, I bring the dishes out December 1st. Therefore, my regular dishes are put up for the month and the Spode fills the cabinet. Thus instead of special Christmas plates enjoyed once a year, they are utilized 31 days. Since the dishes were a gift, my direct cost is zero. However, they were not free-someone in my family paid good money. Since I reuse them each year, the average life time cost continues to decrease. Durable gifts/decorations like the Spode Christmas Tree plates are a great value over time. I have had the pleasure of using mine for over twenty years.

Bucilla Stockings

Another of my favorite Christmas Traditions is the hanging of the stockings. We do not have a fireplace, so I hang them on a half wall at the front entrance. My grandmother made my stocking. She also made one for my husband and gave it to him the first year we were married.
Once I started having kids, the tradition passed on to my mother. She made each grandchild a stocking. As you can see from the pictures, each has a different design. Since I do not have grandchildren, I have not made any.

Research over the Internet repeatedly brings up Bucilla Felt stockings available for sale through numerous retail avenues. However, I could find very little history of the company and no direct links. If you are interested in making a Bucilla stocking ask your local craft or sewing store if they carry the kits. Most of the stocking kits I found listed on-line were under $30.00. Again, spreading the cost out over the years yield a very economical Christmas tradition.

Holiday Decorations

Outdoor decorations are wreaths on the doors. This is one of the few expenses of the season. I buy a fresh evergreen wreaths from one of the local youth fundraisers. Sometimes I buy from the Boy Scouts and sometimes from the high school. In each case I feel the money is well spent.

Indoor decorations are treasured family heirlooms. Nativity sets and ornaments which have been in the family for generations are on display. Some of the nativity sets are kid friendly so they can reenact the story. Others are displayed atop the china cabinet. Most of the kid friendly nativities were found at auctions or yard sales.

Many of the ornaments were acquired through another of our Christmas traditions. Each year I would take the kids downtown and they were allowed to pick out one ornament. I always looked forward to that Thursday night of ornament shopping. It truly is the one thing I dislike about being an empty-nester.

I love the holidays and have many Christmas Traditions. Most do not involve spending large amounts of money. Please feel free to share some of your favorite traditions.

Garage Door Update

Garage Door Update

Between the travel and the weather, the home projects are tough to complete. I am happy to give a garage door update. Both doors are finished. Or should I say refinished.

Work on the single door occurred in late September. Since then I have travelled to both coasts and states in between. Weather also delayed things. Ideally temperatures should be in the 70s for staining. As November rolled on, I began to think I would have mismatched doors for the winter.

However the third week of the month turned uncharacteristically warm. I did have a planned trip back to Kentucky so the race was on to see if I could strip, sand, stain and varnish in the allotted six and a half days. I made it!

The challenge was great. This time I was working on the double door. That is twice as much surface area to work on. Also I learned from some of my earlier mistakes.

Taping the door took quite a bit of time. On the single door I left the tape on the windows throughout. This left a sticky residue. So this time I removed the tape from the windows after each step and the tape from other areas after the staining. No residue is evident anywhere.

Because the wind kicked up on two days, I worked occasionally with the doors partway up. This may have caused a problem with the mechanism. The door is now off kilter and we are waiting for the installers to come adjust it.

This has happened before so it may not be related. I love my wood doors but the heavy weight has caused problems with the double door. My recommendation to anyone would be to use them only if all your doors are singles.

The garage door update is related to an earlier post. If you are a new reader you can click here for the initial report. I am a DIY individual. The money saved on this project was considerable. But the main reason I refinished for a garage door update was the inability to find someone willing to do the work.

If you are a young person out there struggling to find work, look around. Many skilled labor jobs are going unfilled. Ten years from now I may not be in shape to do another garage door update. I hope someone can be found to do the work then.


The Gatekeepers-How The White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency

The Gatekeepers- Book Review

In mid-October I happened upon a press conference where John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, made his first statements. He made quite an impression on me. Shortly thereafter I spotted The Gatekeepers-How The White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency on a relative’s coffee table. I borrowed the book.

Kelly soon after ran into a maelstrom of controversy. As an outsider looking in, I believe much of the trouble stems from the great political divide our country is currently facing. The Gatekeepers provides a history of the Chiefs of Staff from President Nixon forward. However, reading the book also gave me a sense that the current divide in our country is nothing new.

Chris Whipple

Chris WhippleCover of The Gatekeepers, the author of The Gatekeepers, provides evidence of the importance of the non-elected, non-Congressionally approved White House Chief of Staff. He iterates his opinion a need by President Trump to have a strong honest broker as Chief in order to stave off disaster. Whipple’s historical accounting demonstrates how Chiefs can make or break a presidency.

The Gatekeepers is fascinating. The view of the White House from the inside provides a different perspective on the historical events of the last fifty years. But the account meshes with personal recollections.

Whipple treats each administration fairly. Strengths and weaknesses of the Gatekeepers and the Presidents are presented. The discussion centers on how the interaction of the principles weighed greatly on defining each presidency.

Most of the administrations started on shaky ground. Some Presidents attempted the spokes in the wheel approach where they themselves tried to act as a gatekeeper. Others gave little power to the Chief of Staff. In a few cases the Chief wielded too much power.

Students of history will find The Gatekeepers compelling. Whipple posits the success of a presidency depends more on the organization of the administration and less on the individual. The intellect does not always prevail. For example, historians perceive the Carter Administration as an ineffective one. Yet President Carter himself is considered to be one of the most intelligent presidents of the last fifty years.

The inside scoop Whipple provides helps the reader understand why some administrations are more successful than others. Each administration faces crisis. How those events are handled says much about the Chief of Staff. But the gatekeeper has just as important role in the interaction with Capitol Hill.

Understanding Washington D.C.

The individual serving as the Chief of Staff needs the political knowledge of how Washington D.C. works. Even though President Obama was an outsider, his first Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel was not. The book gives much credit to some of the early successes of the Obama Administration to Emmanuel and his ability to both work with Congress and organize the White House.

Through the years, individuals serving as the gatekeeper without the understanding of how Washington politics worked did not fare well. But there was also a need for organization. The administrations without an organized White House were chaotic and ineffective. The key role of the Chief of Staff is the running of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Everyone wants time with the President. Many want to be the last voice heard before a decision is made. In some administrations that last voice was the Chief of Staff.

The Gatekeepers is a well written historical document explaining the importance of the Chief of Staff. Whipple clearly shows how administrations with strong gatekeepers have more success than those without. The take away is a message for the current administration.

Like many before, the Trump administration has already had turnover in this critical position. Reince Priebus lasted six months. John Kelly did impress in his first two months. The organization of the White House precipitated any public message. Kelly’s first press conference was well received. It is unfortunate that controversy soon followed.

This is a difficult time for the country. The divisions are great. Historical perspectives are beneficial. The Gatekeepers provides this perspective. This book is well worth the time spent reading. Consider reading it yourself or giving a copy to your favorite history buff.


Fall Clean-Up Time: Organization Tips and Tricks

Organization Tips and Tricks

It is officially fall here on the High Plains. Sleet has ushered in the days of staying inside. I prefer to spend my mornings in the garden, but this is the time of year to reclaim the house! Today I am going to share some organization tips and tricks to keep things uncluttered.

Junk Drawers

Clutter comes in many forms. Junk drawers are famous for holding clutter. I confess I have more than one junk drawer. The one in the kitchen is reorganized most often. As you can see from the top right picture, it is time to do that again.Kitchen junk drawer

I believe completely emptying the drawer is the best way to start. This also gives you a chance to wipe the drawer clean of dust bunnies. As the photo on the left shows, the contents of the drawer are better viewed when spread out on a table or countertop. The amount of junk is amazing.Junk Drawer Emptied

Identifying trash is not easy. Some items which may seem like trash to others might have sentimental value. For example, wine corks or even the outside foil of the wine bottle may have personal significance. In this case, you need to have a plan. Can the items be displayed as a keepsake? Many people collect corks to display. In my case however, they will go into the compost pile.

Some things simply need to return to their designated home. I keep batteries in another place, so the package I found has been returned to its rightful place. A place for everything and everything in its place is a good motto.

Items that stay in the drawer are separated in two categories. The small articles are placed in baggies, either snack size or quart size. I use baggies I have previously used and washed out. The larger items are placed directly in the drawer. The lower right photo shows great improvement.Organization achieved

Bedroom Closet Organization Tips and Tricks

The bedroom closet is next on the list for reorganization. I use two key organization tips and tricks I in my closet. Now that cold weather is here, I group all the summer outfits and move them to the back of the closet. Next are items that can be layered. Then I place cold-weathered items up front where they can easily be reached. This is reversed in the spring.Hangers facing two ways

Second, at the beginning of each year, I turn all the hangers in my closet backwards. By the fall the majority of the hangers have changed position. Those hangers still hanging backwards represent outfits that I have not worn in ten months. Most of these outfits are placed in a bag to find a new home at the rummage shop. Again, sentimentality can intrude. Once more, organization tips and tricks can help with this.

One Thing In One Thing Out

Recently, we implemented a one thing in one thing out rule. For every item purchased or gifted, another item needs to leave the house. This simple rule is helping reduce clutter. Since it is unlikely we will ever move again we need to address clutter creep. In the past, moving equaled purging. Staying in one place means a huge build up in items.

Now, before I buy something, I think about what can leave the house in place of the new item. Sentiment can give way easier if you keep this in mind. There is some flexibility. A new dress does not mean an old one must be deleted, just some item.

Charitable organizations reap the benefits from this organization trick. Books are donated to the public library, clothing to the rummage store and other items to the church yard sale. Thus my organization tips and tricks benefit the community and remove clutter from the house.

Progress is reached in the closet and the kitchen. If anyone has any tips or tricks for the laundry room please share. That small space is next on the list!


2017 Hurricane Season Economic Aftermath

The 2017 hurricane season is about over and it was active. In fact, the season ranks in the top ten most active seasons. Of the 16 named Atlantic Ocean storms, 10 became hurricanes. Six of the storms reached major hurricane status. Visit Dr. Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University webpage for statistics. Naturally, many are experiencing an economic aftermath.

Economic aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

The first storm I wrote about was Hurricane Harvey. Even though Harvey lasted only two days, damage is extensive. This hurricane was a rainmaker. A report from Business Insider cites almost 52 inches of rain from the storm in Cedar Bayou. The economic aftermath will include repairing or replacing approximately 20,000 homes due to storm damage.

I met with some Houston residents and former residents in mid-September. Their eyewitness reports were hard to comprehend. The area of West Houston where I used to live and work was heavily flooded. The flooding came in part from engineered release of water from two dams. This intentional flooding is comparable to controlled burns. Minor flooding, while damaging some, saved many more homes and businesses from the destructive force of water. Each person I met with estimated a timeline of years for full recovery.

Hurricane Irma Economic Aftermath

Hurricane Irma followed Harvey. The pictures on this post are from a part of Central Florida Hurricane Irma struck. You can view pictures from just after the storm by clicking here. The economic aftermath was greater in South Florida, but Central Florida shares in the repercussions. For starters, much of the disaster relief naturally centered first on the damage in the Florida Keys.

Central Florida damage was due mostly to wind. Trees and tree limbs remain piled along roads in late October while the storm struck September 11. Blue tarp covers parts of roofs. Eventually, damaged roofs will be repaired even if out-of-area work crews are needed.

During the hurricane and immediately after, laborers lost clock time and wages. Insurance companies treat hurricane areas differently in the form of higher deductibles. Therefore, some homeowners with minor damage such as screens torn by tree limbs may be out-of-pocket for all expenses.

Additionally, small towns and cities will need to pay overtime for the clean-up efforts. The Federal government is paying a large proportion of these costs. In some places out-of-state crews aid local crews. The work crew in the pictures above and the video below hails from Ohio.

Property owners will re-landscape once the debris is removed. Homeowners may want to remove tree trunks. New sod will cover the grass areas killed by the piles of debris.

Destruction from Hurricane Maria

The very destructive Hurricane Maria is still causing hardship in Puerto Rico.  Governmental issues compound the clean-up. One of the best analysis of the economic aftermath can be found in this The Economist article. It is impossible to tell at this point what the long-range impact will be. Thousands have left the island. At least one neighborhood is still stranded. According to the Miami Herald, a zip-line provides access to food and water.

Puerto Rico faces difficulty on many fronts. Since it is an island, individuals could not drive in to help as they did to the areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Additionally, Puerto Rico received a glancing blow from Hurricane Irma prior to the bull’s-eye hit of Hurricane Irma. Back to back storms created a greater need. The infrastructure of the island is in poor condition. Apparently the company hired to repair the electric grid may not have the manpower for a quick fix. Unfortunately, the timetable for restoring electricity to the entire island is Christmas. The citizens of Puerto Rico still have a long recovery ahead.

Natural Disaster Economic Aftermath

Humans cannot control natural disasters. 2017 to date has 15 separate billion dollar disasters in the United States alone. This article and chart from The Weather Channel show the locations and events. In addition to individual preparedness, one needs to heed other factors. Individuals who can choose where to live need to be aware of the surrounding environment. This would include fault lines, fire and flood dangers, and areas prone to blizzards, tornadoes and hurricanes.

However, many of us have little choice in where we live. The economic aftermath for those in this category can be mitigated to a certain extent. Buildings along coastal areas can be built on stilt foundations. Furthermore, one can construct hurricane strong rooms. Likewise, buildings in America’s tornado alley can also include rooms constructed to withstand the wind force. Construction codes can fortify buildings in areas prone to earthquakes. Certain types of landscaping can reduce fuel for fires. Thus, advanced mitigation of some factors diminishes economic aftermath of a disaster.


Colorado Custom Roofing Review

Recently we had our roof replaced. The golf ball size hail from earlier this fall took its toll as you can read here. Usually I like to use local companies, but due to a supply shortage, we hired a company from out-of-town. I am glad we did. Colorado Custom Roofing did a great job.

Roofing companies popped up in our community almost as soon as the rain stopped. Yards were peppered with signs to the extent that it looked like a Presidential election year. I am not big on promoting others with yard signs. So you will not find a political sign in my yard, and you won’t find commercial signs either.

Colorado Custom Roofing President James Forbus

I was not home when James Forbus of Colorado Custom Roofing first came by. However, he left a business card with a handwritten note on the back. I have long been a fan of personalised messages. This was one of many things making Colorado Custom Roofing the company I chose.

Another thing I appreciated was the thoroughness of his bid. Everything was itemized. Furthermore, he had experience working with my insurance company. Finally, unlike others that tried to change the shingle type, he instead stated he had worked with the Certain Teed Presidential shakes many times. I really like how my roof looks and works and I did not want to change material.

Part of my satisfaction with Colorado Custom Roofing is the amount of interaction I observed between Mr. Forbus and his work crew. While I do not expect the president of a company to complete all the work, I was quite pleased with the oversight. He directed key phases of the work. By this I mean, he was on the roof overseeing the process. I also like how polite the crew was and the cleanup was thorough.

If you need a new roof consider calling James Forbus of Colorado Custom Roofing. His contact information can be found on the website I think you too will be pleased with the workmanship of Colorado Custom Roofing.


Helicopter View of Kilauea Volcano

Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tour

On my trip to Hawaii last summer, a highlight was a helicopter flyover of the active volcano on the Big Island. I do not like flying and the thought of a helicopter ride scared me. But I am trying to get out of my comfort zone. So I scheduled a flight for late afternoon the day before we left. This gave a little room for rescheduling in case of inclement weather.

We landed in Hilo about two hours before our scheduled flight. We used the extra time to pick-up the rental car and checked into a hotel. Since Hilo is a nice sized city we were able to accomplish everything in plenty of time to arrive back at the airport for the Blue Hawaiian Helicopter tour.

The afternoon was perfect. We were lucky because Hilo has a lot of rain. The amount depends on what part of the city you are but ranges between 130 and 300 inches. Therefore Blue Hawaiian Helicopters Hilo location recommends back-up times in case the tour needs to reschedule. Fortunately the weather was perfect.


There were eight of us on the flight. We had to estimate our weight when we signed up for the flight. However, Blue Hawaiian Helicopter did not leave anything to chance. We were weighed upon check-in. It is important to distribute the weight.

Wes the pilot was fantastic. He put me at ease before we ever left ground. Maybe he could tell just how scared I was! We loaded one at a time and I entered first. My assigned seat was next to the pilot. Even though the placement scared me at first, it was a good decision. No way was I going to fool around with any of the controls.

Once we were all loaded, Wes reassured us that the weather would be monitored closely and if conditions warranted we would return to the airport immediately. Next, he explained what the flight would entail. Kilauea Volcano was our prime target. We would look at the lava flowing into the ocean near Kamokuna before a flyover of the crater.

On the way to the volcano we flew over cropland. The Big Island grows coffee, tea, vanilla, bananas and avocados just to name a few.  If it weren’t for the active volcano, I would consider this an ideal place to farm.


After the crop land, the ground transitions to rock. Blue Hawaiian Helicopter is a great way to see the lava flows. From the air you can see how irregular the lava flow is. The lava rock envelopes islands of vegetation. There is even a spot where you can see a road that has lost both ends to the flow. The active volcano is a constant threat. Places on the island such as Pahoa Village, which was threatened in 2014, are always at risk.

The ocean entry near Kamokuna draws sightseers both in the air and on the water.  The helicopter ride makes the view safe. This is the youngest part of the island. The interaction of the hot lava with the ocean is dynamic. The molten debris is unstable and creates dangerous conditions. At times, the rocks slide into the ocean.  Additionally, the hot steam can cause problems.

After a few passes of the ocean entry point for the lava, the helicopter headed to the crater. On the way we saw several areas of steam rising from the land. In these spots lava was just below the surface. In some areas vegetation is trying to re-emerge.

The aerial view of the crater is unbelievable. We were fortunate because the activity was high on the day we toured. As you can see in the pictures, multiple areas were erupting. A video camera would show the actual bubbling and Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours creates a video of each flight. I could have circled over the crater for hours. The helicopter approach is the only way to safely see the lava erupting from the base of the crater.

On the return to the airport we flew over one of the many waterfalls on the Big Island. The view from the air was impressive, but I have hiked safely around water. I do not think I would hike to the edge of an active volcano. I am very glad I challenged myself. The helicopter ride ranks in my top five experiences of my Hawaiian trip. I highly recommend Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours.

Helicopter Photos

Hawaiian fields
Cropland near Hilo
Overview of Hilo
Lava Flow
Vegetation and lava
Vegetation surrounded
Road and lava
Road to Nowhere
Entry point Lower Left Corner
Steam created at entry point.
Hot flow
Steam from underground vents
Approaching the crater
Smoke from crater
First look of hot spots
Close up of bubbling lava
Crater 5
Last look of crater
Hawaii flight
Flying overland

Refinishing Wood Garage Doors

Refinishing Wood Garage Doors

One of my big fall tasks this year is refinishing my wood garage doors. I really like the doors because they reduce the sound from the street. Since they face southwest the finish absorbs a lot of heat. In previous years I have just added a coat of varnish but it is time to start anew.

Refinish safely
Protect yourself

As you can see from the pictures, peeling of the varnish is occurring. The bottom of the panels are taking the brunt of the heat. I hope the stripping and refinishing will improve the look of the doors.

Refinishing wood garage doors
Peeling Varnish


The first step in refinishing wood garage doors is stripping the finish. It is important to use correct safety equipment in the stripping process. I am using a Safety Works Half Mask Respirator and chemical grade gloves made by Magid Glove & Safety. The stripping gel is Citri-strip. Other tools are a step-ladder, plastic scraper and a natural bristle brush.

Stripping works best when the temperature stays between 65 and 85 degrees. Therefore, fall is the perfect time for this type of work. Forecast temperatures for this week are within this range. Since this is a lengthy project I need more than just one day of ideal conditions.

Refinishing wood garage doors takes elbow grease. My first task was taping around the glass windows and the rubber seals. I am unsure of the potency of the chemical agent in the stripper. While it may only etch the glass it could eat away at the rubber door seals.

The stripping gel will take off layers, but I have many layers so it is taking more than one coat of gel. The minimum time suggested for leaving the gel on is 30 minutes and the maximum is 24 hours. As the temperature warms, the time needed decreased for me.

Yesterday,I spent about 5 hours on the single door. As you can see by the picture I have a way to go. If the weather cooperates, I hope to have this door completed in 3-4 days. The double door will take more time. I plan to have after pictures and a full report in a few weeks.

Collecting Seed from the Home Garden

Fall is both officially and unofficially here. I still have some tomatoes and peppers producing well but signs of nature slowing down is evident in the number of plants starting to set seed. Time for collecting seed from the Garden is here.

In the past I have saved potato, squash and herb seed. In addition to those, this year I collected seed from Scarlet pole beans, early peas and carrots. Some of my garlic has been set aside to use as seed. I hope to save some tomato seeds as well.

This year’s dismal potato crop has a silver lining. Many of the potatoes are the perfect size to save as potato seeds. Small potatoes with multiple eyes are how I start my potato plants. Both the purple and white potato plants can be grown from these “seeds.”

Maturing on the Vine/Stalk

The annual herbs actually started producing seed last month. I allowed the parsley to flower and the seed head to dry on the plant before collecting seed. As you can see in the pictures the seeds are quite small. Once I cut the stems I allowed the head to dry even more before harvesting the seed.

Coin compaison
Parsley seeds tiny next to a dime.

Carrot seeds process the same way. I allow one carrot plant to go to seed. Just one plant provides all the seed you will need. Nature allows the carrot seed to easily travel. If you look at the close-up photos, the carrot seeds have small hooks which can easily attach to animals passing by.

burs on carrot
Close-up of carrot seed.

The early peas are easy to dry in a similar fashion. One vine is left alone. The peas saved will go into the ground early in the spring. If you love peas and have a lot of space, you will want to let several plants go to seed.

Collecting Seed when Ripe

Pole beans were a new crop for me this year. Several varieties yielded good results. The bright red flower of the Scarlet Runner is a cheery addition to the garden.

Flowering Scarlet Bean

The Cherokee Trail of Tears beans produce beautiful purple-green pods. Ripe beans were gathered and then allowed to dry on the back porch. The seeds inside provide a secondary use in the winter as additions to soups or stews.

Pole bean
Purple-green beans

Different crops necessitate differing manners of collecting seed. The techniques discussed above are relatively easy. Collecting seed through a fermentation process is a challenge to discuss another day.

National Preparedness Month

September is National Preparedness Month. When I think preparedness several things come to mind. The first is Girl Scouts. I was a scout for many years and the Girl Scout motto Be Prepared is ingrained in my psyche.

The second group to pop into my mind are my Mormon friends. I have quite a few friends that belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am amazed at just how prepared they are for just about anything.

The last thing I think of are the reality TV shows. They seem to be all over the place. To be honest, the only show I have actually watched is on The Weather Channel and takes place in Alaska. But I could not tell you the title of the show.

Preparedness is important because we cannot predict what will happen with the weather. This year’s hurricane season is a good example. Both Harvey and Irma have already created havoc in the United States and as of this writing Hurricane Maria is a Category 5 and aiming straight for the Caribbean.

Growing up I experienced both Tropical Storms and ice storms. Since moving out west, we had one tornado miss us by just a mile. Multiple blizzards have shut travel down for days. Additionally, we have had a few minor earthquakes. But we have never been forced to leave our home.

However, one family member did evacuate due to a fast approaching fire. It is instances like this that make National Preparedness Month important. Are you ready to respond if you receive an order to evacuate? In the past I wasn’t but now I am.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Due to the hurricanes, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been in the news lately. FEMA has great information online about preparedness. Just two of the sites include National Preparedness Month and America’s PrepareAthon. Both sites provide great information. But it was a bit disconcerting that the latter site had a non-natural disaster listed first.

As schoolchildren we learn sayings such as “Turn Around, Don’t Drown” and “Stop, Drop, and Roll.” The first came in handy when one of my offspring experienced the Carolina floods two years ago. Hopefully no one I know ever needs to put out a fire on their person.

Planning is an important part of preparedness. After our one family member needed to evacuate, we started to seriously think about getting prepared. I found the main FEMA website invaluable. An already created emergency form is on the site. All you have to do is print it out and fill it in. The website can take time to navigate so you can access the form by clicking here.

In addition to making sure our important papers and contact information is recorded, we made Go-bags. Extra backpacks left behind when the kids left home were put to use. FEMA suggests contents of the bag should keep you prepared for 72 hours. Ours do and then some. Now if a knock comes on the door telling us to evacuate we are ready.

LogoThe official logo for National Preparedness Month 2017. [High Resolution JPG]



Hurricane Irma


When I wrote about Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief just a few weeks ago, I did not expect to write another hurricane story this fall. Mother Nature had other ideas. A second Category 4 storm made landfall. Hurricane Irma left a different destruction than Harvey. But the pictures are devastating nonetheless.

I am sharing some photos and video taken in suburban Orlando locations. This is the interior of the Florida peninsula but a best guess is that wind gusts reached close to 90 MPH. Hurricane Irma set many records during the assault on Florida.


The biggest impact I noticed from Hurricane Irma was the inability to easily reach my loved ones in the path of the storm. In this day and age we expect instant communication. During and immediately after the storm, cell phone coverage was spotty at best. The landline number I called connected to an all circuits are busy recording. Thus, Hurricane Irma served as a reminder that our modern technology can fail.

In Florida, some of my connections were unable to get information about area conditions. Cable television was knocked out. Additional methods of communication are needed in these situations. Some individuals reverted to radio as the primary source of communications. Others struggled with the poor coverage on smart phones to utilize social media. Alternative methods are necessary to keep open lines of communication. The time to line up the back-up resources is before an emergency occurs.

Hurricane Irma Photos

The photos and video that accompany this post arrived via text. The audio on the video gives you a sense of how strong the wind gusts were. Most of the damage is a direct result of wind. Clean up will take some time.

The video shot during the storm captured the view from a screened porch. Photos show images after the storm moved through the area. I cannot imagine the number of trees damaged or lost. Since my next trip to Florida is scheduled  I will soon assess the damage.

Clean up begins
Potential danger
Streets now paths
Nature swims by
Empty intersections

Escape Room-Trapped OKC Experience


Trapped OKC

Recently, I participated in an escape room. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it is a thinking man’s entertainment. If you know some intellectual or just downright nerdy individuals, find an escape room near you and take them. If you are in Oklahoma City, try Trapped OKC.

Some of our group fit the brainy description, the rest went along for the ride. We all had an interesting experience.
This concept is a no brainer. Why didn't I come up with it? For a business venture, the overhead isn’t great. Some locks and other props and rental space in a building with good parking are the main costs from the owner’s standpoint.

From the customers view you need a good price point. Fortunately we had a Groupon coupon for Trapped OKC, so the price in my opinion was a good value. However, others might think this type of entertainment pricey compared to a movie for example.

Creativity is essential. The Trapped OKC employees were very polite and provided the background for the challenge. My understanding is the rooms were designed by the employees. We were in the escape room Ms. Morris of Moscow. I think from a business standpoint, the scenarios would need to change often in order to have repeat customers.

As I have discussed before, many things have a learning curve. Our group chose an expert level escape room. The individuals in our group ranged from late 20’s to early 60’s. Some of the younger participants were veterans at escape rooms while others were definitely novices. As a novice, I was glad to follow the lead in the beginning, because even though I had watched the Big Bang Theory episode featuring a game room, I was clueless. Groups need veterans to enhance the experience.

Engagement came quickly. Three combination locks kept hidden clues to the solution. Additionally, we received three lifeline clues via a monitor. The clues on the monitor were quite helpful, but the first disappeared as soon as we requested the second. Once that happened, a member of the group adjusted by making note of the following clues.

While the younger generation definitely led the way, each individual aided in the quest. Some common sense is also needed and in our situation the elders of the group provided that component. We did chase some wild geese, but we succeeded in many ways even though the final lock eluded us.

I can see how this could be a good exercise for a training group. We were fortunate that tempers didn’t erupt as I can imagine sometimes happens. Instead, I exited the room with a feeling of camaraderie. And I want to go again.

Low cost Start-up potential
Escape room
2% success rate for escape

Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

Disaster Relief Efforts

Many of us are watching the news from the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Harvey has decimated many parts of Texas and Louisiana. I am particularly interested in the relief efforts since I lived in the Houston area for about 3 years. It is a city near and dear to my heart.

If you are like me, you want to help somehow, someway. But how can you tell which efforts are scams? Also, which relief agencies have the least administrative fees? Hopefully this post will help.

There are actually quite a few websites that rank charitable foundations. Charity Navigator and Charity Watch are just two. Each site has its own criteria. Some of the rankings are based on a ratio of administrative fees to funds handed out. Others rely on ratings from individuals, similar to web ratings for restaurants or hotels. A few do not include religious groups since they cannot access the IRS returns. However, for some these church sponsored groups remain valuable.

There are many organizations I trust. The United Methodist Church is at the top of the list. I will donate to their Disaster Relief Fund which you can access here. The church website relates stories of already completed help. Link to UMC website for more details.

Sometimes individual churches provide direct help. Many churches in the path of the storm became shelters for those forced from their homes. Others became staging areas for rescue efforts.

Churches outside the affected area can help in the months to come. After the tornados in Joplin a few years ago, members of our church traveled there months after the fact to help. Actually, a later visit to help often works better. Perhaps youth groups and other volunteers can plan now to help next spring or summer.

Unfortunately, Hurricane Harvey wreaked so much havoc that relief efforts will need to continue for the forseeable future. I know the neighborhood I lived in as well as the areas where I worked were inundated with water. At this point in time the best thing I can do is send money. In a few weeks or possibly months the dry goods could come into play. For now, it is a time to clean up. The restocking will come later.

Social and Economic Aspect of the Solar Eclipse

Blacked Out

Minions Eclipse

Charlie Brown Eclipse

The Social and Economic Aspect of a Full Eclipse
As I previously wrote, I was fortunate enough to watch the 2017 eclipse from a position within the path of totality. Today I plan to share with you some of the social aspect as well as the economic impact. I was in a group of about 40 of which the vast majority were complete strangers. But there is a certain bonding which occurs in such an event. It is this social aspect which adds to the thrill of watching a total eclipse.
About half the attendees were children. Most were in the K-12 range with a few younger and perhaps one or two in college. The nearby schools made the day optional for attendance. I was one of the oldest, if not the oldest and so the mid-fifties was the upper range. Therefore, many of the adults took the day off or if on a night shift, awoke early. One individual had his business shut down by the state due to the anticipated crowds. When you see the negative economic impact figures, this loss of productivity is what the numbers represent.
Since I am at a stage where I am beginning to forget things, I forgot to pack a shirt for the overnight trip. Shortly after arriving, I made a stop at the local Target and bought two eclipse shirts. Only adult medium and youth large were left. They were sold out of all other sizes. I also enjoyed dinner at a restaurant with two good friends. I don’t think they planned on eating out before I called them that morning. Additionally, I bought a tank of gas both coming and going to the event. I do not know if these expenditures, which offset the loss of productivity, are counted in any way.
The eclipse party also included some extra consumer spending. As you can see from the pictures, there were other t-shirts sporting the eclipse. Even though I was a stranger to most, I was not the only guest at the party from out of the area. There were at least three individuals from Dallas, Texas and several other towns, cities and states were represented. Most drove but at least one attendee flew in for the event.
While many observers of the eclipse were watching from parks, soccer fields and even the sides of highways, I watched on private property. As I previously noted, most of my fellow watchers were strangers to me. I was the outsider, but am grateful to my host and hostess for including me. They like me, have an appreciation for privacy. Therefore the group of forty was quite small in comparison to the amount of space available. It remains to be seen if any longstanding relationships develop from the experience, but I will never forget the people I met.
A total eclipse is special. An experience that inks permanently on the brain. My only regret is echoed by a fellow observer on the following video clip. I wish I had a better camera.

Short Eclipse Video

Path of Totality Solar Eclipse 2017

Eclipse Day
August 21, 2017 will be in my mind for years to come. I was fortunate to watch the eclipse from the heartland. The location was in the 70 mile stretch called the path of totality. Approximately 40 people were enjoying the 2017 solar eclipse from a private ranch with incredible views of the horizon in all directions.

Yet another piece of luck was the presence of Dr. Michael Dowling. A veteran eclipse watcher, this was his fifth total eclipse, Dr. Dowling was invaluable in sharing his knowledge. Many had never experienced any type of eclipse. For most this was the first time watching from the path of totality.

As shared in Awaiting the Eclipse of 2017, my previous experiences were limited to partial eclipses. I am so glad I made the trip to see the full eclipse because there is a huge difference. Now I understand why people go to great lengths to travel to the path of totality. I am looking forward to 2045 when the path leads over my house. The eclipse will last about 5 minutes that year, more than twice as long as yesterday.

Over the next few posts I will share pictures and movies of my experience. The final minutes leading up to the total eclipse are shown in the longest video posted below.The camera is a bit shaky because I was holding it behind my back while watching the sun with my glasses. The shadow that sweeps across the land just prior to the moon totally covering the sun comes from behind. You cannot look both for the shadow and watch the sun. I chose to watch the sun and hope the camera could pick up some of the shadow. I was pleased that the video was able to capture the event. The audio tells the story as well.

All were shot with a two year old cell phone camera. I definitely need to upgrade. However, I was able to capture much more of the event thanks to Dr. Dowling. He was great. In addition to bringing a shadowbox to view the moon covering the sun, he provided explanations of what was going to happen. At one point he had volunteers act as the sun, moon, and Earth in order to demonstrate the process. I think this was particularly helpful for the kids in the group.


The pictures to the left are of the solar scope. Due to Dr. Dowling and his explanations of the eclipse highlights, I had a tremendous first experience of a total eclipse.

My absolute favorite part is called the ring effect. I did not try to capture this instant on the film. I just wanted to enjoy the moment. Sometimes photos can’t quite capture the human experience. Bailey’s Beads and the diamond ring effect fall into this category for me.

I plan to share the social experience in a later post. I have two chances to repeat this experience without leaving the continent. The first is in 2024 which would involve driving to Dallas. The second is over 20 years later. I plan to watch both from the path of totality.

Where were you for the 2017 Solar Eclipse?

Awaiting Solar Eclipse of 2017

I live about 5 ½ hours south of the path of totality for this year’s solar eclipse. Naturally, I wanted to take part since my previous experiences have been partial eclipses. Fortunately I know several people who live in the path and found someone willing to put me up for the night.

Since the news outlets repeatedly released warnings about eclipse traffic I took the back roads which added a small amount of time. Of course, in my neck of the woods the main roads are two lane U.S. highways for the most part. The back roads are state highways and in some cases county roads. For the most part the traffic was not difficult. So maybe the traffic will be heavy the day of the eclipse, or maybe I am late to the party.

However, the farther north I drove the more crowded the gas pumps were. Perhaps this was a direct result of the warnings of possible gas shortages. Or maybe people wanted full tanks to go home on.
In addition to the temporary signs warning of higher volumes of traffic, the states I traveled through had other preparations. Lots of no stopping or standing signs appeared as well. As I reached the area that will experience the total eclipse cones and barrels appeared on the side of the road to keep people from parking on the shoulder.

I vividly remember some partial eclipses from when I was a kid. We made pinhole projectors with a piece of cardboard and a white piece of paper. This year I will be using specialty glasses. I will also observe shadows.

Another thing I hope to do this year is to take lots of pictures. Since I will be using my cell phone, the quality may be questionable. However, I plan to take pictures of the social aspect of the event as well as the eclipse itself.

The most important thing is not to look at the sun without special glasses. According to the NASA website it will be safe to look directly at the eclipse for the brief time it is fully covered and ONLY if you are in the path of totality. However, much like experiencing the eye of a hurricane, you do not want to misjudge the timing of the re-emergence of the sun.

I hope many of you take the time to see either the full eclipse or the partial depending on where you live. Be sure to check back on Econogal for a full report.