Of All The Silly Things……

Finished Hearts For Amelia Quilt with Sam, My Daughter-in-law

When I decided it was indeed time to take up quilting, I had already made the decision to stick with smaller quilts which could be crib quilts or lap quilts. The reason for this was threefold. Space was the primary issue as we do not have the room for a large dining table that makes for an excellent quilt layout spot. We also don’t have room for a large sewing machine which comes in very handy as you’re trying to work anything from twin bed size on up. The third reason was I am not, in general, in a hurry to get any particular project completed and so the definitely slower element of hand quilting was not going to be an issue. Since the first quilt was to be the one for Amelia, there was a bit of a deadline and with all my other obligations, plus the relative complexity of the quilt (which was a great way to learn), I did have to push a little to make it. The one rule about the quilt was that it was fully intended to be dragged about and eventually no doubt torn up rather than treated as something special. I’ll make quilts for her at different stages of her life, so trying to preserve the first one wasn’t necessary.

Anyway, one of the things I’ve discovered is I cannot seem to find a thimble I can comfortably use. None of the other quilters appear to have this problem and haven’t noticed I don’t use one. At this point, I’m too embarrassed to bring it up. I did discuss it with a friend who agreed it was an unnatural feeling and a little awkward. I will keep searching about and see if I can work through it, then eventually ask for help I imagine. If anyone out there has an idea, I’m open to suggestions.

Amelia and Quilt (Bright sunshine making her squint)

Watching an Orchid Unfold….

I have been quite clear in my posts that Hubby is the plant person. A rock garden is the only type genuinely safe around me although I have gotten better with succulents. I’ve also posted before about our experiences with orchids and sure as the world, the two we thought were thriving may not be after all. The large one in front affixed to one of the palms is fine and in almost constant bloom. The two small ones in the back yard are the ones we may lose/may have already lost. Which brings me to the fourth one.

Thanks to our environment, orchids plants are a frequent table decoration at events. Last September when we attended the Chamber of Commerce Installation Dinner at the beautiful Schnebley Winery, we happened to be the ones from our table who won the lovely orchid as a door prize. It was in full bloom and kept the blossoms for quite some time. The leaves looked healthy enough even though we weren’t sure what was going to happen in the longer term. About a week ago, we realized there were not only buds on it, there were even more than when we first brought it home. Over the past three days, the first bud opened slightly, then about half-way, and fully late yesterday. I took a photo at each stage, but unfortunately for the second time lately, me emailing myself photos from my phone isn’t working. I’ll have to ask Hubby to see if he can “unblock” them. If so, I’ll edit the post and insert them

Experimenting With “No Crust” Pizza…..

Carnivore Alert! Last year when we were in Chicago, it turned out we weren’t close to any of the famed pizza houses. One that had been recommended was further than we wanted to bother with, although I did look at their menu on-line. I was intrigued by the description of a “Low Carb” crust which was essentially made from sausage. I’ve been playing around with it lately and am getting close, I think.

I suppose I could go on-line and get some tips as well. What I’m trying is a multi-step process because I’m taking the bulk sausage and cooking it first. Then I cool it and mix in a little shredded cheese. Right now I’m using a 6-inch oven-proof skillet instead of a pizza pan because I’m working with a smaller size. I think 400 degrees for 8 minutes to “crust” it is correct. I’m wondering though if grated Parmesan would work better than shredded cheese. After the 8 minutes, I take it from the oven, put more cheese and veggies on top, then back in the oven for 6-7 minutes and sit for 3 minutes after taking it out. The taste is fine, but if you don’t use a knife and fork, it’s basically messy in the same way ribs are. I am using turkey sausage and reduced fat cheese. You could add more meat as a topping although you use quite a bit of sausage, so for my taste, I’ll stick with veggie toppings. I’ll continue to tinker with it and see what happens.

A Delightful Concert…..

Followers of the blog know I ‘ve been part of Homestead Center for the Arts (http://homesteadcenterforthearts.com) for quite some time now. There are almost two dozen Affiliate members within HCA – those are the structured groups devoted to arts and culture. Those are groups like Homestead Community Concerts, The Children’s Art Gallery and Center, etc. We also have two committees within HCA; one for the Bea Peskoe Lunchtime Lecture Series and the other for the Music Series (MuSe). In general, we have four lectures per season (Oct-April) and 3 MuSe events. Last night we had three wonderfully talented students from the Frost School of Music down from Miami. Miclen LaiPang was on violin, William Locke, cello, and Jonny Cruz, piano. I do not profess to “know” classical so I can’t speak knowledgeably about their selections other than to say it was a terrific concert. Bach, Beethoven, Paganini, Liszt, and Saint-Saens were featured.

Aside from their sheer talent, their stage presence was impressive. When we have classical music, we try to hold the events at City Church because the acoustics are so well-suited and the three young men agreed. We will see about having them again in the not too distant future. Hubby couldn’t attend last night so we don’t have cool photos. I took a couple with my phone and for whatever reason, the email I sent myself hasn’t worked. (Yet again, frustration with my lack of tech ability.) Anyway, I know how hard these guys must have worked to achieve what they have and their parents (and perhaps siblings) have no doubt made sacrifices of money/time to help them. I also know how proud they must feel when they watch them perform.

Reverse Mortgages…..

For reasons that aren’t particularly important, the subject of reverse mortgages have been recently discussed among my friends. When I wrote, Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid, I touched briefly on the topic. At that time, reverse mortgages were fairly new and there were some issues that seem to have since been smoothed out. As with any major financial decision, consulting an expert is strongly advised. In general, a reverse mortgage is good for certain categories of individuals and not suitable for others. In a nutshell, a reverse mortgage is sort of what it sounds like. A financial institution “mortgages” your home for a percentage of the appraised value (usually a pretty high percentage). You can take the money of that value in multiple ways which I’ll get to in a moment. You do not repay the mortgage until you move from the home. In the event all individuals who signed the reverse mortgage pass away, the estate is to repay the mortgage. That would ordinarily mean the house is sold by the estate and like any other sale, if the value is greater than the amount owed, the estate keeps the balance. If the market is weak and the property cannot be sold for the amount owed, the financial institution cannot go after any source of payment except the estate. In other words, if you have heirs who don’t want to pay off the mortgage to own the house, they do not assume that debt.

Okay, getting money from the reverse mortgage usually comes with four options; a lump sum for the entire allowed amount; a monthly payment spread out over an agreed-upon time; a line of credit, or a combination of options. It’s important to remember this money is not taxable. Which option suits you will depend on your circumstances. The point to a reverse mortgage though is to allow you to remain in your home and the requirement is you must keep the home maintained, carry insurance and pay your property taxes. So, when deciding how to take the money, you have to make sure you can fund those items.

There are usually three areas that trip people up. There will be some costs to taking out the reverse mortgage just as with any other type of mortgage and this amount is usually subtracting from the final amount allowed. Your home may not be worth what you think it is, and therefore, the final amount may be less than you anticipated. As you age, in all likelihood, you will require more assistance in maintaining the house, and that usually incurs costs. Depending on your age, you could easily remain in your home for 20-30 years. Another important point is the bank cannot “call” the mortgage as long as you maintain the house, insurance and pay your property taxes.So, let us say whatever amount of money you received is spent and you are still in your house. That’s okay as far as not repaying the mortgage goes. If, on the other hand, you have not set aside adequate money for the minimum upkeep, insurances and taxes, the bank can foreclose. When people take the lump sum or even have a multi-year payout, they don’t always apply the money in such a way to ensure they can cover these costs.

All of this is a general overview and everyone’s situation has unique aspects, but if you have no one to leave your house to, a reverse mortgage could be a useful financial tool. The specifics and rules do change, but it might be something worth exploring.


A Pleasant Show…..

Not everyone enjoys home improvement shows although they have certainly gained in popularity over the years. A friend got me started on Fixer Upper (HGTV). Joanna and Chip Gaines are a couple in Waco, TX who live on a farm with their four children. Farm as in animals and acreage, not crops. Cows, chickens, goats, dogs and cats around and I’m not sure what else.

They do all different size projects and unlike some shows there is no attempt to create drama. The backstory piece is their own family life which is filled with such a strong sense of family. In some cases, the clients’ story has extra meaning as in one episode I recently watched. An older couple had spent a lot of time in either missionary or just humanitarian work in some remote places. As is common with people who do these things, they were not wealthy and their house budget was limited. They wanted a small place they could settle in and picked what was not much more than a cottage with a detached garage. They were headed back out for however many months to Uganda where they lived in less than 200 square feet as they helped the village residents. They left the coordination and most decisions for the remodel in the hands of their adult children. The work was progressing well with the decision made to convert the detached garage into a separate sitting/reading room. The completely heart-warming part was a number of their friends came together when they heard of the plan and donated money and materials to add a nice master to the cottage. They were able to keep this and the conversion of the garage as a surprise and instead of the one-bedroom home the couple expected, it was a charming two-bedroom with the additional bonus space. Needless to say, they were overwhelmed with the generosity.


Little Weird Things in Life…….

Those of us who live in warm climates quickly adapt to wearing sandals pretty much all the time. In my case, it has a dual benefit because I wear a 4.5 in closed toe shoes. I’ve posted before about how difficult it is to find shoes and with sandals, I can often wear a 5. Not that the selection in that size is extensive, but it’s certainly better than with the 4.5. Anyway, several weeks ago, I managed to somehow smack my uncovered big toe against a door jam. The momentary pain got my attention and then I realized the little sucker was bleeding a fair amount. I took care of that and as expected, it was mildly sore for a couple of days. Not too surprisingly considering the amount of blood involved, the nail then turned that blue-black color although it was no longer sore.

I didn’t think much about it and as it was healing, there was a bit of extra thickness to the nail. Again, it wasn’t drastic and I wasn’t paying much notice to it. A couple of days ago, I slid my feet into sandals and felt something odd – not pain – just odd. That was because my old toe nail popped off. It was very much like something molting and I have to admit I was startled. I gently pressed the new nail, but if felt fine. At least the half of it that had grown. I looked closer. Apparently, the nail grew to a certain length and the skin that isn’t currently covered toughened as well. I guess the rest of the toenail will grow eventually. I suppose this is all normal since I’ve never had anything like this happen before.

The Scientific Method….

Serious content alert. If I had been good at math (an interesting aspect of my youth I will perhaps address in a future post), I would probably not have followed my sister’s fascination with science and leaned more toward engineering. However, because she not only fixed on science at a young age and had a wonderful female mentor (rather unusual at the time) and she married a scientist, and I went into the military where science and engineering are more prominent than people often realize, I’ve been exposed to quite a bit of science during my life. Generally speaking, in the scientific method, you develop a hypothesis, determine how to test the hypothesis, conduct the tests, gather results, analyze results, either prove or disprove your hypothesis, or determine your testing wasn’t adequate and you “go back to the drawing board”. Another important element is the ability to duplicate results by independent means. If you, as a scientist, “prove” something, any other scientist following what you did should arrive at the same or very similar results. When you have credentialed scientists who give opposite expert opinion about the same matter, a very large “Huh?” should be raised.

Hubby with his background of applied physics and nuclear engineering and I have a standing joke about cold fusion which made quite a splash a number of years ago. It was such an appealing idea, it was written into numerous novels and movie scripts. Since as the TV show “Mythbusters” often demonstrated, “Hollywood physics” are not required to hold up to reality. The cold fusion “success” did not hold up to replication and the joke between Hubby and I is, “Just because it wasn’t true doesn’t mean it can’t ever be true. After all, the laws of physics as we know them might have other secrets waiting to be discovered. (My point, not his).

So, when there are opposing scientific views, the old adage of, “Follow the money”, may very well be appropriate. If sizeable sums from either government or corporate sources are involved in a particular desired outcome, well, how one interprets data may not be entirely objective. As for “soft science”, that is indeed another subject.

The Thing About Scuba…..

Like many adventure sports, scuba is not for everyone. From a physical perspective, there are few conditions that prevent one from diving. Since Hubby entered into working with “adaptive” scuba for those with situations such as paraplegic, amputees, etc., he has in fact gained an even greater understanding of the physiological aspect of scuba in addition to already understanding the physics. An example of something that had never occurred to either of us if is you have an individual who is paraplegic, there may be the associated inability of the individual to assess hydration. When you are on the water in the heat, hydrating is quite important. Therefore, in a situation such as this, you have to keep watch and perhaps remind the individual to consume water or other appropriate beverages. In actuality there are only a few physical barriers such as someone who has ear issues and therefore can’t manage the pressure involved with diving. Exercise-induced asthma is another one that in general is  risky to try to manage. Severe claustrophobia is another because the mask causes too much of an issue.

Aside from physical, however, there are individuals who have either had a bad experience or a high level of anxiety for whatever reason. Interestingly, when Hubby started teaching younger students (they lowered the minimum age from twelve to ten), he discovered there were times when he had to approach training from a slightly different angle. In some cases, the student was quite open about a particular fear and in others, it would come out in conversation. By more or less coincidence, Hubby adapted this technique to adults who seemed to be extra anxious about diving. Mostly, these individuals fall into the broad categories of a) doing this for the sake of a diving companion or b) was always intrigued, but couldn’t define actual anxiety. While there may be similarities, every individual is different and often quietly working through the anxiety enables the individual to identify the root cause. Although it isn’t always successful, he has had mostly success.

When people who have never been diving ask me, I suggest the one-day “Discover” course (it’s called different names) as the best approach. It does add an extra layer of cost if the individual goes on through full certification, but it also adds an extra layer of confidence because one of the most difficult aspects of learning to dive has already been accomplished. That, by the way, is taking the first breath underwater. Intellectually, our brains might cognitively understand it’s okay, but another part says, “Whoa, what do you think you’re doing?” It happened to me and it was the strangest sensation. It’s a very common reaction and instructors are fully prepared for it with a new student. And as much as I love to dive, I realize not everyone feels the same way. For some people, snorkeling is the answer as a means to enjoy beautiful reefs and fascinating marine life. For others, going to a nice aquarium is the answer.



This May Sound Really Odd….

Okay, as I have explained in previous posts, I’m cautious when writing my novels to make everything as realistic as possible when crafting different scenes and plot points. The Internet is a terrific asset, and as I bookmark different sites, my “Favorites” list has some very odd combinations. Lord knows if I’m being monitored, I’m probably on a watch list or two. With that said, for reasons that will become apparent when I publish Shades of Deception (scheduled for the fall), I was researching retention of organs after autopsy. I ran across http://www.sciencecare.com that addresses body and organ donation to science.

Hubby and I have been organ donors for years and intend to be cremated. Last time I visited with my sister, she mentioned they will be leaving their bodies to the medical institute where she has worked for more than forty years. The site I referenced above explains how you can combine both organ and body donation. From the looks of the site, it is incredibly well-organized and there are aspects to this type of donation that never occurred to me. I also did a quick search to see if there were any negative reports around about them and didn’t find any. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, merely that the first pass was clean.

I intend to check into them some more and will re-post if I find anything alarming. If not, we may very well change our end-of-life plans. I totally understand this is not the sort of thing everyone agrees with, but for those of you who are interested, you might want to take a look.