Sunday, February 27, 2011

Making progress

I'm not as far along as I'd like to be, and it's not as easy as I thought it would be.  The majority of these supplies I do not want and I gave a ton away to Goodwill, a girl at my local Agway, and threw out a lot of older charts .

There's a bunch of threads - fuzzy types, flower threads, beads, and buttons.







Then there are charts and charts that I have no use for and didn't burn!   A beautiful porcelain doll for a pincushion needs a home.




Another pile of charts and kits that I will be offering.









A good selection of Shepherd's Bush charts and kits.









Lots of Prairie Schoolers.












Yards of Klostern for Cinnamon Stick
  santas and what else?
      I have no use for this.






Jobelan is great but I'm never going
to use this fabric either. 
A whole box of colors and
lots of sage 28 and 32.


All linen.  All mine!  Yardage that I hate to cut, quarters, halves and pieces.  I found Scarlet Letter's hand dyed Saffron and a rust color from 20 years ago.


Beautiful Belgian linen tablecloths and runners, stamped for embroidery.  Hope I find good homes for these pieces.




Just Cross Stitch ornaments issues and a few other publications.







And finally the floss.  Not sure if I will bag and sell it all, but most of it I'm sure.

So that's my mess.  My sampler charts, tons of smalls, freebies and such are separated from these inherited items now.  As soon as I get my floss back in sequence from being scattered all over, I can go through the charts and pick a linen.
                                                                              

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My Hat's Off - or On

I have a lot of hats.  I don't work or go to fancy lunches, so most of them, well all of them, sit in their boxes in my closet.  I used to wear them to the symphony, but...  Some I have had for a very long time, as evidenced by the boxes. 

Crowley's closed its downtown store in 1977 and that was the only one I ever shopped in.  Others bear the names J.L. Hudson and Hudson's.  The fanciest boxes have the letter J imprinted in continuous scroll work for Jacobsen's.

I no longer buy hats other than to garden or ones that flatten for travel.  But next Sunday the library is having a celebration of its National Medal and I thought it might be fun to dust one off and put it on.  Problem is, I can't decide which one to wear.  Some are definitely off the list because of the winter season.  But there are three I am considering.

Here are my choices:

Designed by Diahann Carroll 


Ruth Alan Designs

 
Designed by Kokin

I'll take all suggestions.  Hopefully, the hat will look better on me than on the lamp shade.

Food for Thought

Those who seek absolute power, even though they seek it to do what they regard as good, are simply demanding the right to enforce their own version of heaven on earth. And let me remind you, they are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed.
  Sen. Barry Goldwater (b. 1909 d. 1998)

Speaking of the Weather

There have been several articles in the papers about the amount of snow we have had this winter.  I found a really nice chart online listing the top 25 snowfalls in Detroit.  I wondered how many of the top 25 I could remember (sixteen happened before I was born).

The heaviest one in 1886 was slightly before I was born and totalled 24.5 inches.  I wonder how long it took them to clear the roads.  It happened on April 6 so I am guessing Memorial Day?

While I would love to tell my children about how I had to walk to school uphill, both ways, through snow up to my waist, not one large snowfall occurred during the 1950's.  But, I certainly do remember #21 in February, 1965 at 11 inches. 

I was a freshman at Wayne State and road the 8 Mile bus to the State Fairgrounds and then the Woodward bus to campus.  Classes were cancelled for that Thursday and Friday.  The following Monday I set out at my regular time and it took me three hours to reach campus instead of the usual one plus, depending on connections.  I missed my morning class.  And now folks want the entire mess gone in hours, not days.

December of 1973 saw another two-day storm deliver 11.2 inches, but the following year, on Sunday, December 1, a whopping 19.3 inches began to fall, making it the second heaviest snowfall in history.  Someplace in my old slides I have a picture of myself standing in a tunnel of snow in my driveway.  I am guessing it might be that 19 inch snowfall.

Other storms in the list include January snow in 1982, 1992, 1994, 1999, and 2005, all dropping 10-12 inches (see a pattern here?).  And then at #24 is the storm on February 20-21 this year at 10.2 inches.

But one of my most memorable snowfalls happened in 1977.  On Sunday, November 27, Detroit received 5.6 inches of precipitation, the highest snowfall recorded in a single day in November.  My mother-in-law had come in from Chicago to visit us, including our new baby, for the Thanksgiving holiday.  She was supposed to fly home on Sunday afternoon.  We woke up to what the weatherman had said would be 'flurries, no accumulation', same thing he said in 1974.  He kept saying that as we watched the white-out conditions outside the window and saw flights get canceled.  Mom went home on Tuesday.  'Nuf said.

And They can't Read Either.

From the Michigan State Constitution:

§ 24 Public pension plans and retirement systems, obligation.
Sec. 24.
The accrued financial benefits of each pension plan and retirement system of the state and its political subdivisions shall be a contractual obligation thereof which shall not be diminished or impaired thereby.
Financial benefits arising on account of service rendered in each fiscal year shall be funded during that year and such funding shall not be used for financing unfunded accrued liabilities.

History: Const. 1963, Art. IX, § 24, Eff. Jan. 1, 1964

OK.  So maybe I can read but can't interpret?  Seems to me if the State Constitution says that an accrued benefit CANNOT be diminished, doesn't that mean that if you suddenly decide to TAX the benefit, you are diminishing it? 

The Detroit New reported today on how the proposal will affect seniors and others.  Get this:  A middle-income retired couple would see a 356% increase in taxes.  And not to just pick on seniors, the proposal would increase taxes for a single parent with low-income and two children by 92%. 

It's snowing again outside.  Guess what I am thinking.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Remember 1994?

Does anyone out there remember the 1994 elections?  On the day after them a friend of mine said that the Republicans were taking over for good after their 54-seat increase in the House of Representatives.  I laughed and told him to wait two years.  I told him that with Newt Gingrich leading the charge, they were sure to find defeat in 1996.  And two years later the Republicans gave up nine of their House seats.  In addition, though maintaining control of the House, they lost the popular vote and Bill Clinton got a second term as President.  Even I voted for him.

I am thinking of all of this as I watch what is going on in Wisconsin and Michigan.  They say elephants never forget, but obviously these elephants do not only forget history, they forget who votes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Get Over It

West Bloomfield stress may not have given me a heart attack, but I swear that the City of Pontiac may.  I should just ignore all the articles in the Oakland Press, but it may be too late for that.

Here it is in a nutshell to the citizens, especially the elected officials:  GET OVER IT.

The new piece of legislation that has passed the House in Michigan, HB 4214, would establish new procedures for Emergency Financial Managers.  Specifically, the act, if passed in its present form, would give power to an EFM : to revoke labor contracts, suspend collective bargaining for up to five years, become the sole trustee of an underfunded pension system, and suspend the power and authority of city managers and local elected officials.

Where does it say in this legislation that people will lose their pension?  The pension board chairman has confused the Municipal Employees' Retirement System with the (State of) Michigan Employees' Retirement System.  I mean, my head starts spinning when I read these stories and I wonder if perhaps I am the one who is confused.

If residents do not like that idea that someone will come in and run their local government, then they need to make better choices about who they elect in the first place.  We cannot continue down a path of voting for our friends, or the guy we want to share a beer with, and then allowing them to run a municipality into bankruptcy.

We do need to get back to only supplying services mandated by law and charters and not all the perks that residents want, unless the residents are willing to vote extra millage for doing so.

Is this new proposal scary?  It should be.  It should be meant to scare every elected official who thinks that getting elected to run a government is the same as leading the neighborhood block club.  That we can make up the rules as we go and that there are no consequences for poor choices.  This proposal should serve as a wake-up call to the millions in this state. 

Everyone thinks government would be more efficient if we ran it like a business.  So I ask you, would you want any of your local elected officials to run the business you own or have a vested interest in?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Making one Think

Four years ago today, I was here at home with all of my family and friends.  We were eating take-out food, something that doesn't happen too often at my house.  The reason was simply that I was out of commission and out of the kitchen.

The day before, February 22, 2007, I slipped on the floor at Town Hall and suffered a tri-maleolar fracture of my left leg. In simple English, I fractured the tibia, fibula and ankle bones.  A steel plate and nine screws were used to repair my leg.  While in the cast, I broke a bone in my other foot.  I was out of work until June.  I was in physical therapy for several months and then in April 2008 I had another surgery to remove all the hardware and then another round of physical therapy. 

It was during that time at home that I fully realized how much stress I was under at work.  While I was connected to the Town Hall computers from home and did my daily work, I totally ignored what transpired at the Board level.  Never watched a meeting, never read my packet, never asked questions.  I was cool.  I also decided that I no longer wanted that level of stress in my life and made a decision not to run for election in 2008.

I thought of all of that again this past week after I learned that another of my former co-workers at Town Hall had passed away.  It was the third person to die within less than two years and all were in their mid-50's.

The obituary written in the Oakland Press for the Budget Director, Steve Brideau, quotes his wife as saying he was under stress.  I do not doubt that at all.  He had a stressful job in a very stressful time. 

I have often referred to Town Hall as being 'toxic'.  Those who are there or are familiar with the situation know exactly what I am talking about and I feel sad knowing that it exists.  My thoughts are often with them.

Toast, part 2

I purchased a bright yellow Escape years ago, for one reason.  When I went for groceries/errands, I was in such a hurry to get home that I did not have time to peruse the parking lots of gray, red, blue, black, and white SUV's.  I needed something to catch my eye as I was exiting the doors without any hesitation.   Just making a point about how rushed my life was at the time.  Its' only taken a few posts for me to clearly see why I wasn't stitching.  I guess writing about an issue is the best way to take a step back and understand.  So.  I stopped at the local nursery to get corn for the squirrels, seed for the birds, and suet for the peckers.  I got the goods, opened my hatch and loaded.  When I got in the car and started it, the door ajar light came on.  Leaving the car running, I got out and slammed the back hatch, got back in, still on.  Got out, slammed the hatch harder, jumped in the car.  Still on.  Got out, opened and shut every door, light still on.  Again, SLAMMED the other doors and the hatch again with a few choice words.  Light was still on.  Choice words became louder, slamming doors so hard my bracelet flew off, in a frenzy.   Back to the car, still running, light on, almost in tears.  I couldn't spare an extra 15 minutes of commotion.  Three old guys with tube socks, white belts, and pastel shorts (looking cute as heck) were conversing close to my car and observing the frustration of a menopausal maniac with wild hair, running around her car slamming doors and swearing, when one of the old farts said gently, "ma'am if you would shut the driver side door when you got in to check the light, the door ajar light would go out".  Toast.

Tomorrow, I am moving a chest of drawers from my 97 year old aunt's apartment, who passed away a few weeks ago.  This will give me the storage I need to get the rest of my stash in order so stitching is close.  How do I chose the chart?  Small for sure, but which one?  Maybe a medium sized sampler?  I guess I won't know until I get the charts in order which will confuse the heck out of me.  Hopefully, at this time tomorrow, I will be making that decision.   But I still have an uneasy feeling that seems to be holding me back.   I was getting inpatient when stitching Notforgotten's Sewing Basket, and I think I might be afraid that what I enjoyed years ago, may be gone.  Do I love the look of the stitched pieces but won't enjoy the process? 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yummy Scones

Combining one recipe with another's technique, I came up with a really yummy, not dry, scone.  OK, so it was more of a merger than a new venture.  Anyway, for those of you who enjoy scones, here is the recipe:

Cranberry and Pecan Scones
Makes 12 scones.

Ingredients:

• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 cup butter, cold and cut in small cubes
• 1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans
• 1/2 tsp orange extract
• 1 cup buttermilk

• 1 tablespoon milk or evaporated milk
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preparation:

In a large bowl, combine flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir to blend. With your fingers, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (If butter gets too soft, place in freezer for 15 minutes before adding cold buttermilk)
Add orange extract to buttermilk and mix into flour mixture with a fork just until dry ingredients are moistened.
On a floured surface, pat dough out into a 12 x 12 inch square. Fold in thirds as you would a letter. Pat again to 12 x 12 and fold in thirds again. Flatten to 12 x 12 and sprinkle nuts and cranberries over top. Roll up from long end. Cut into 12 triangles.

Place scones on a large greased baking sheet, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart. Brush with milk. Combine 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon; sprinkle a little of the mixture over each scone.

(You can refrigerate at this point and bake off when oven is hot.  It's important to keep the dough cold.)

Preheat oven to 400° (375 for convection). Place scones on lower oven rack. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Cool on racks until cool enough to eat, about 10 minutes.  While you are waiting you can make some tea.

Update: I froze three of the scones on Tuesday and removed them from the freezer on Thursday morning. Friday morning they were just as fresh as on day one. Good to know.

Top-selling Reads

I've talked about many of the books I have read and am reading on this blog.  In a recent email from the West Bloomfield Library, there was a link to a site where I could find out the best sellers in my birth year.  I wondered if I had actually read any of the books, so I gave it a try.

The number one best seller was by Daphne DuMaurier.  While I have read many of her novels, 'The King's General', does not ring a bell.  Then again, I read many of these when I was in high school and college, and cannot remember as well as I used to.

Speaking of ringing bells, number four is 'The Miracle of the Bells' by Russell Janney, a book I do remember.  It made quite an impression on me when I read it in the early 60's.  While trying to find a link for the book (could not), I discovered that a movie existed.  How did I miss that?

OTOH, I never read 'The Snake Pit' by Mary Jane Ward, but I did see the movie

And my affinity for old movies was proven by my never realizing that the movie 'The Egg and I' was actually based on a best selling non-fiction work by 1930's egg farmer Betty MacDonald. 

I think I'll keep the list and see if any of these are available at the library.  Many are out of print, of course.

If you are interested in seeing what the best sellers were when you were born, just click the link.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What a Difference a Day Makes

Yesterday morning at this time I was sitting here at my computer working on a report and when I looked outside I saw nary a snowflake.  On Saturday I walked around the yard picking up broken tree limbs that were lying on the ground.  Good luck seeing any of them now.

The snow came down steadily all afternoon on Sunday.  By seven last night I decided it was time to get rid of some of the snow on the drive.  I found six inches of it.  Thirty minutes later when I came back inside, the drive was already covered with a new layer.  Looking at Doppler radar before retiring for the night, all I saw was white.

My first look outside this morning told me all I needed to know.  Time to get back into the boots and heavy coat and clean the drive again.  I found another five inches of snow, more in front of the garage door where wind coming over the roof deposited an additional two inches.  There was more than a foot of the white stuff at the end of the drive after the snow plows cleared a single path down the street.

I was thinking I needed to get ready for my yoga class when the phone rang telling me it was canceled.  Seemed the instructor made it there, but decided it was too much to ask students to make the attempt.  I actually thought I had a better chance of walking there than driving, since it is less than a mile away.

Doppler radar shows a huge ice storm moving through Indiana and Ohio right now.  They are predicting more snow for us.  My sons tease me about the food in my freezer and pantry and say I could hold up for some time without needed to leave home.  All I can say is 'Welcome to Michigan'.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Toast

Starting this blog has brought back a few memories of situations proving my hub's diagnosis of "distraction".  Two in particular still bring a chuckle.  I had someone stay with mom so we could get out of the house for a little while, and we needed to stop at our car dealership.  As we were driving, I was pensively looking out my side window and very quiet.  Hub gets out and heads to the service department door and I got out and went into the front to look at all the new vehicles, just for something to do.  I was looking at a white diamond Cadillac Escalade and admiring the paint, (no, I don't and won't own an Escalade!) then on to a few Jeeps, telling the salesman that I was just waiting for my hub.  I did notice that all the salespeople were out on the floor and watching me.  I mean really keeping an eye on me and I was getting uncomfortable.  What was it?  Did I look that confused and depressed that they were concerned?  Were my pants split?   Hmm.  Well, I left and went back to our car, staring out my window again.   My hub returned and knowing I needed quiet time, just started driving me around for a ride on a beautiful sunny day.  After a while, we started talking and as I was getting choked up, I turned my head from my window view to look at him.  He started laughing harder than he had in a while.  I was stunned.  He then told me to pull down the visor mirror and take a look.  The tears started flowing - from laughter!  I hadn't laughed that hard in years.  Just to show you how out of it I was, (my husband said I was toast), unaware of something that should have been obvious, these were on my face.......


I can't imagine what those salespeople thought!  The incident brought me to tears so many times for a long while after.  It was a release that I needed and laughing hard enough to cry was wonderful.  I'll tell you about the second incident next time.

It's Over

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra Board has made it official.  The 2011 season is over.  I received two emails this morning announcing the decision and got out my remaining tickets for the year.  I went online and filled out a form for each of my tickets. 

When I was done, an old song popped into my head.  It is an old Eydie Gorme rendition of the Irving Berlin song, 'How About Me'.  It appears on an album from 1966.  So long ago that my vinyl copy is in mono, not stereo.  The first line of the song is 'It's over'.  The last line is 'But how about me?'

And that is just what I was thinking. 

Frankly, I have found I have not missed the symphony, as such.  Especially not not the driving downtown.  I've watched classical performances on TV, listened to my CDs and enjoyed Sirius XM classical in the car.  But there is something exciting about being there in person.  I have been fortunate to have seen many, many artists over the years.  And I have missed that experience this year.

I hope that the musicians have made what they think is the best decision for them.  But in this economic environment, I am not so sure.  Maybe they should have spent less time thinking about 'how about me?' and thought more about the big picture.  I hope that each of them fare well in this decision.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

TA-DA

I should have picked something a little smaller.  I didn't have patience with the pattern of the bowl, so I did what I wanted instead of following the chart.  Not a good sign.  But that's OK.  Baby steps.
I always remove a linen thread when mounting for framing or sewing on a back. I sew 2 or 3 threads in from that line which positions the piece perfectly.  
When I line the linen, I sew the backing on first with the linen facing up (right sides together), turn the piece over so the backing is up, lay on top of pressed lining, and sew directly next to and outside (not inside) of the stitched seam on the backing.  It's an extra step but I would rather stitch the edges straight, where I can see the threads rather than over a lining.  I also have better luck stitching separate straight seams that cross each other, than one continuous with corner turns.  You already know all of this, but I didn't have anything else to say.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Ghost Breakers

No, that is not a typo.  It is Ghost Breakers, not Ghostbusters.  'The Ghost Breakers' is a 1940 movie that stars Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard.  I rented it after reading some of its one-liners in a book I was reading.

Anyway, Bob is on his way to a haunted castle in Cuba.  He hears there is a zombie there and asks a Cuban what a zombie is.  The reply is 'a zombie has no will of his own and you see them sometimes walking around blindly with dead eyes, following orders and not knowing what they do, not caring'.  Hope replies, 'You mean like Democrats?'

OK.  So not everyone in the movie audience probably thought it was funny.  But unless the folks in Lansing do some serious discussing of these new tax proposals in the Governor's budget, the description  might fit both parties.

Remember this

Headline in the online Oakland Press:  TOWN HALL at 4 p.m. to discuss Rick Snyder's proposed budget

The speakers will be Rep. Melton and Rep. Moss.  I hope that Rep. Moss remembers a few things from years past.

In 2007 I was considering a run for State office.  I met with Rep. Moss and members of the Republican Party.  Obviously, running without party support is not a great idea if you want to win.

So, off to Lansing I went.  We spent a good 45 minutes to an hour discussing my pro-choice stance.  It did not play with the men.  Then we moved on to gun control.  I told them if they kept their hands off my uterus, I would keep my hands off their guns.  Did not go over well, to say the least. 

Anyway, those issues were incidental to my being asked if I would have supported Governor Granholm's tax increases.  I said that I thought the income tax should have stayed at the higher levels instead of rolling it back and that I favored a state tax on services.  BZZZT.  Buzzer alert.  WRONG answer.

See my name on a ballot in 2008?  Of course not.  I hope that the Republican Party and Rep. Moss remember all of that when they start looking at taxing seniors' pensions.  This is OK how in relation to a service tax?  Or any other for that matter. 

What ever happened to the mantra of Governor Engler:  Promises Made, Promises Kept.

Death Tax?

Here's one our nerd Governor missed: 

As of January 1, 2011 it costs money to die in Seattle. King County, which includes Seattle, has instituted a $50 fee for reporting a death to the Medical Examiner's Office. If you don't pay, you don't get the permission and paperwork needed in order to be buried.

If you think this sounds ridiculous, it is, nevertheless, absolutely true.  The online article gave me my first smile of the day.  And that was because I could envision bodies piling up all over with relatives saying, 'Oh, WTH?' and government sitting around waiting for their money.  How crazy can you get?

Sounds like a case of someone protecting their job, more than providing a needed service or oversight.  Just when I think I have heard all of the craziness possible, I am again proved wrong.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It's all in the Advertising

I subscribe to several food and cooking publications, both in printed form and on the internet.  I could never hope to make even a small fraction of the recipes, but I still enjoy reading the articles and getting ideas.

I have a habit of skipping over most of the advertisements when I first read the print versions.  Later, as I re-read the magazines and decide what recipes I want to keep, I usually will peruse the ads.

Yesterday I received one of my magazines in the mail.  For this one I especially like that all the recipe titles are in Italian.  I try to guess what each is supposed to be, for while I can recognize many words, translating to make the recipe title make sense is not always so easy.  Anyway, while flipping through the magazine, I saw an ad for rice.  Specifically, gluten free rice.  What?  Gluten free rice?  Really?  Rice is naturally gluten free, isn't it?

So, how is this any different from any other rice on the market?  Of course, I had someone tell me today that rice has flour in it.  So, I guess if you believe that, then the advertising for gluten free rice is just what you may be looking for.  I guess it is all in the packaging.  Or advertising.  Maybe Michigan should start advertising salt-free lake water.

Distractions

After talking with my hub about what I posted, he simply said "distraction". Exactly. A diagnosis for my stitching slump. It wasn't just my parents that I was dealing with.  Mother-in-law a week before my mom, sister-in-law (and best friend) three weeks before mom, father-in-law a year later after lengthy illness, and finally our much loved 15 year old Lab.  Everyone has to deal with these issues, but I guess it was just too much for my menopausal brain to handle.  ANY distraction is a problem for me.  Miss one stitch in a border and I'm cooked.  So what's my problem now?  I do hate to cut into a yard of linen - feels like I'm causing disfigurement - but I have plenty of smaller pieces to use.  And plenty of large, small, intermediate samplers, pincushions, little freebies, santas, yada yada.  So why did I order these recently?


Because I love santas, birds, and I want to stitch Eliza with family names for my Christmas tree, including my BJ that I miss so much.  And this.....

I still have a way to go on organizing. I lost two friends last year and inherited their stash. SO many things to get rid of and linens to identify, and magazines, and threads. I'll have one huge listing on EBay or maybe here when it's time.  I made the mistake of trying to incorporate when I should have kept their items separate. But I'll get there. I feel it coming on - not as intense as the flash I'm having right now - but it's strong.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Repeating Myself

I am beginning to think that instead of just listing my blog in my email signature, I am going to put it first in the message.  That way, folks could just look there for their answer.

I could not begin to count the number of emails I get asking me a question regarding something I already blogged about.  And not because they read the blog.  It's because they do not and ask my opinion about something that is already written.  It gets very tiresome.

Now, I do communicate a lot by email.  It is very efficient and sure beats the phone.  And I must say that even people that I meet in person will ask me something I have already opined about.  My first response is always, 'Do you read my blog?'  The answer of course is, 'no'.  Followed by an eye roll that says 'why bother?'

I suppose if everyone read the blog I would have fewer emails and less to talk about at lunch, but it only takes a minute and I get tired of repeating myself.  I'm beginning to feel like a broken record. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Beginnings....

Well.   It's about time.  I could have started posting quite some time ago, but as with all my projects, put it off. I'm having the same problem with stitching.  For a number of reasons, some.....excuses.  Long ago, in the land of tight jawlines and balanced hormones, there were a number of wonderful needlework shops.  About a 30 minute drive, the best were set in old homes flaunting every count and color of linen you would want.  The worst was a sterile single building, smelling of smoke, with very few models, one unknowledgeable clerk, a vast number of charts in no order, and mostly Aida.  It was the last to close, over 22 years ago. Scarlet Letter's catalog became my only source and over the following years, I lost interest.  I never lost my love of samplers or the feel of the linen, and held on to my supplies.  About 12 years ago, I started spending a lot of time helping my elderly parents with house and yard chores.  Two years later, my claustrophobic Dad slowly suffocated for two weeks in a hospital and died, after a "specialist" failed to diagnose a pulmonary embolism after he suffered a bad fall.  I was so angry and hungry for vengeance that it consumed me.  The man that caused my Dad's horrific suffering and panic, was off the hook, because my parents' generation did not embrace today's litigious mentality.  It wasn't closed for me, and affected my ability to focus on projects.  From then on, taking care of Mom in my home kept me busy enough, and stressed enough, that stitching was more a frustration than a joy. Once she became bedridden, I wondered why I didn't stitch away while sitting with her.  But I never did.  Stress? Menopause was raging as were my moods.  When she passed, the suppressed grief and anger returned, in addition to grieving for my Mom.  That was 3 years ago and I think the grieving will never end, but I am beginning to feel like I could relax again.  I need to get my supplies in order so I can find what I need without getting snarky and causing a wave of hot flashes.  I plan on starting with small projects rather than picking up a large sampler, and am hoping that keeping a blog will give me a push.  Another benefit of stitching - losing weight!  If I am holding a piece of linen, I certainly can't allow my hands to get greasy from chocolate and treats that I consume every evening.  As for blogging - not sure it will always be about stitching until I get several projects going.  So here I go....starting again.....hoping you will join me in rediscovering my passion..... and hoping that passion is still there.  What if it isn't?  Stay tuned.....

Friday, February 11, 2011

Whatever the market will bear?

This is the time of year when folks may be busy doing their taxes, planning Valentine getaways, taking trips to warmer climates and, perhaps, waiting for the dreaded assessment notice from their local community.

Seems like a day does not go by without an article in some paper or online about the falling value of homes or the number of foreclosures.  If you are a glutton for punishment, you can register with zillow.com and get an email update of your falling property values on a regular basis.

Does anyone really know what your property is worth without making an 'in person' assessment?  And do we want these assessors tromping through our house?  (My answer is a resounding 'no'.)

When market prices (notice I did not say 'value') were escalating, everyone was complaining about their property taxes, so we passed Proposal A in 1994.  (I voted with the minority.)  Many were more than happy to sell their house for a lot of money, they just did not want to pay the taxes on that value.  As a result of Prop A, only new buyers paid the higher taxes on the uncapped assessment, always upward in those days, and the others sat back and dreamt about how much they could sell their house for in the future.

My neighbors and I were amazed at what some homes sold for in our neighborhood.  Places that were unkempt on the outside and were even worse on the inside sold for more than we thought anyone would ever pay.  But the thinking in those days was that property values and prices would always go up, not down, so 'how could you lose?'  It was an investment, right? 

Fast forward.  We are now told that our properties are worth roughly what they were in 1996.  Really?  Is that assuming we have done nothing to them in the meantime?  (True for some homes I know of.)  But what about homeowners who upgraded and replaced fixtures?  What about curb appeal?  Does the Home and Garden channel on TV have it all wrong?

Every year I go over my home insurance costs with my agent.  They tell me they have to base the price of my insurance based on the replacement value of my home, not the market value according to the assessor.

So, let's realize that this mess we have with declining property values has to have some blame placed on aggressive assessors who were more than happy to use inflated sales prices to assess property and thereby generate more taxes for their local unit.  And now are backpedaling to adjust values lower.

All in all, we have a system that is a MESS.  Make me an offer.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Speaking of Food - Again

I had a request today for good recipes for soup.  I told my friend of some of my favorites and said I would make copies and give them to her.  I mentioned butternut squash, mushroom, five onion, among others.

Going through my recipe files when I got home I saw a recipe for cheese soup that I have not made in a very long time.  The recipe is a special one.  How could I have forgotten it?

Back when I was a stay-at-home mom, I sent a recipe into the Detroit News.  Imagine my surprise when they called one day and asked to come out and do a feature on my recipe.  Well, I wanted to make sure it was an experience I'd be proud of. 

I got everything ready, just as they told me to do.  Soup, ingredients, me and the boys.  Following is the article as it was printed. 


What I find interesting is that the plant hanging in the background, which I purchased in Trapper's Alley when it opened back in the mid-70's in Greektown, is still hanging in my family room.

Do you know where you are going?

I get interesting emails everyday.  Today I received one that was a learning experience. 

Back when I was in the fourth grade, a classmate and I drew a large map of the United States on the blackboard.  We did it in colored chalk and showed where all the capitals were.  I have to say we were sad when the day came to clean the blackboard.  It was a great learning experience.

So, if you have a few minutes and want to see if you know where all the states are, here is a link to a clever puzzle.

http://jimspages.com/States.htm

P---ing off the Seniors

This morning's newspaper talks about the Governor's budget for the coming year.  There has been a lot of talk recently about the exemption that seniors enjoy on the state income tax.  Well, I know what I will do if that changes.

When I was Treasurer, I spoke with a woman about her property taxes and I asked her why her house was shown as a non-homestead, meaning she was a non-resident.  She said it was financially beneficial for her and her husband to be Florida residents, rather than Michigan residents.

I have an article from Forbes.com that I saved on my computer regarding states that are advantageous to seniors.  Here is an excerpt:

... even as they slapped a new tax on hospitals, raised dozens of user fees and eliminated a low-income tax credit, Georgia legislators passed income tax relief for one group: well-off retirees. For residents 62 or older, Georgia already exempts from its 6% tax all Social Security and $70,000 per couple of income from pensions, retirement accounts, annuities, interest, dividends, capital gains and rents. But in 2012 the exemption for couples 65 and older will rise to $130,000, and by 2016 all their retirement income will be exempt--a break Governor Sonny Perdue championed as a lure for well-heeled seniors.

If you're looking for a domestic retirement tax haven, Georgia is hardly the only place worth considering. Seven states--Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming--don't tax personal income at all. New Hampshire and Tennessee tax interest and dividends but not other income. The rest of the states have broad income taxes but give old taxpayers breaks, some quite generous.

Michigan already taxes IRA withdrawals, while some other states do not. 

If I moved to Texas where my oldest son lives, I would not have to deal with snow on a daily basis in winter.  And I could visit my other sons up here during the heat of July and August down there. 

So, let's think about this.  All of our young, professional folks are leaving for other states.  Our seniors who have a comfortable income are leaving for other states.  What does that leave here in Michigan?  Do we become the welfare state for those who have no place else to go?

As they say, it's all about the money.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Let me make this perfectly clear

NO. No. A thousand times NO.  Nyet. Nein. Non.  Nie.  Got it?

I have been asked by several people if I am going to attend the State training for Emergency Financial Managers.  See answer above.

I guess some folks just cannot imagine that I am happy not working in finance.  Or working at all for that matter. 

For those who don't know it, I know how to do nothing.  (Witness this blog as proof.)  Some people think I did nothing for the 20 years I was in office.  (Just ask my opponents.)  Not true.  It was a 24-7 job.  So, now, I am enjoying not having a schedule to follow, reports to be made, places to be and things to do.  Unless I make the decision to do so.

We Americans think we have to go, go, go all the time.  I have some Italian cousins who came to Canada and after a short time decided to return to Italy to live.  Why?  Canadians, like Americans, feel like the wheels always have to be turning.  No after lunch breaks when the shops shut down.

Frankly, I like the European style of a leisurely lunch and rest after.  Growing up we always had holiday meals in the early afternoon and a lighter snack in the evening.  I tried that once a few years ago when I scheduled dinner for 4:00 pm instead of the usual 2:00 and my sons acted like I was starving them during the wait.

Life is not a race to the finish line.  Every day does not need to be crammed with something to do.  Yes, when we are young and building a career and raising our family, that is usually the case out of necessity.  But at some point, we need to sit back and enjoy.  Smell the roses.  Shoo the deer out of the yard.  Watch the snow fall and let it sit in the drive.  Read a book.  Anything...

Or run errands.  Ciao.

Upscale-itis

It seems like the folks in Oakland Township have contracted the disease that has infected West Bloomfield Township for many years.  It is called 'upscale-itis'.  This disease affects politicians and the NIMBYs.  Anything that even suggests we are not 'above the rest' of the populace causes fits of rhetoric at Township Board meetings with a subsequent rush to the attorneys.  SUE the b--t--ds!

In Oakland Township the issue is the Rochester Cider Mill.  The headline in today's Detroit Free Press reads:  Cider Mill owner could be fined for selling Christmas trees.   OMG. 

As a former Township official, I know how all this occurs.  The cider mill just does not fit the image of how we want our township to look.  Cider Mills?  How old-fashioned and totally low-end.  It's like having big box stores in the local strip mall.  No, no, no.  C'mon.  Franklin has a cider mill and they call themselves 'the town that time forgot'.  None of that for us trendsetters.

For example, in West Bloomfield we do not allow drive-through restaurants.  Of course not.  All of our residents are dining at The Lark.  No need to grab a coke on the go, let alone a burger.  We only sit-down at cloth napkin restaurants.  Give me a freakin' break. 

Another thing we do not allow is multi-level parking structures.  We carp about the coverage a homeowner is allowed for a patio on his property, then we tell hospitals and shopping centers to pave over everything to provide parking for their patrons.  How does this help the environment?  It doesn't, but it provides beautiful vistas when we drive by (that is how it was explained to me years ago by a planner).  It also does not allow penetration of the water into the soil, but hey, it's more 'upscale', right?

As for the NIMBYs, many of these people move in 'after the fact' and then complain, much like the folks who move near an airport and then complain about the noise.  Or buy a house near vacant property and then complain when the owner of said property wants to use it.  Or behind a shopping center and complain about the trash pick-ups from dumpsters.  Or the view of same.  I could go on.  I've seen and heard it all.

And people ask me why I retired from government.  Huh!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Remembering the Good Old Days in Song

I know there are lots of you out there who are my age.  Many of you remember the songs you heard growing up and still listen to them on the radio.  So, for those who would like an instant juke-box on their computer, here is a link to one.

Enjoy. http://carolynspreciousmemories.com/50s/sitemap.html

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Day After - Super Sunday

I did not watch the Super Bowl yesterday.  I have not watched it in many years.  Boys gone, no more sports on TV.

I mean, why waste time watching on Sunday, when you can watch all the commercials, football-free, on Monday.  As a matter of fact, this year I actually saw some before the game was even on.

So, while I have not seen all of them yet, I must give a nod to a few.  First, the football fans.  The NFL did a nice job with this one, although I am sure some young people will not know all the characters. 

Then there is Eminem and Chrysler.  Whoever came up with that ad deserves a bonus.  Update:  2/8/11  I am told the ad cost $9 million, so forget the bonus.  I'll just clap.  And despite all the controversy it caused, I think it beats the talking babies and animal tricks.  But then, I am not your average Joe watching TV. 

And for those of us who are die-hard 'Star Wars' fans, a little chuckle with the VW ad.

Most times I tune out the ads on TV.  Some are downright irritating, especially the insurance commercials of late (with the exception of that Australian lizard).  Super Bowl ads are in a separate category.  Nice job.

Spoofing Michigan

The Oakland Press ran a story this morning about spoofs of the 'Pure Michigan' commercials.  One of my sons told me about these videos last summer and I have to say, as a former boater on Lake St. Clair, the fish-fly commercial was really funny.

This morning I went online to see the latest and found one on winter. There is offensive language, but it speaks the truth.

Who Reads this Stuff?

I have asked myself on several occasions, 'Who reads this stuff?'  Fortunately, Google allows bloggers to track their audience.  Since the blog started thirteen months ago, over 5,000 people have read my posts. 

Now, in the grand, worldwide scheme of things, that is not a lot of readers.  I blogged back in October about some of the readers' locations.

Yesterday, someone asked me why there seem to be no comments on my blog.  Other than the fact that I edit them, I do post almost all that I receive. 

What is interesting is that people I know who do read it send me an email to an address not associated with the blog.  Or to the gmail address shown on the website.  And when they do, I have no way of posting that comment.

On the other hand, when someone sends a post through 'blogger', I have no way of responding to them unless they provide a separate email address.  So, I hope they do not think I ignore their comments after they get posted.

I also know that some folks have chosen not to be a 'follower' because they do not want to be shown as a reader for 'personal reasons'.  And I fully understand that.

Now, at the bottom of each of these posts you have the ability to choose what you think of it:  'Funny', 'interesting', or 'right on'.  If you hate it, you can skip to the next blog by clicking the link up top.

All in all, even if no one read the posts, I would probably continue.  I find it very cathartic.  Especially when all I can see out of my window is 'white'.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Weather Update

NEARLY ALL OF THE WINTRY PRECIPITATION HAS EXITED TO THE EAST OF THE REGION. HOWEVER...THE LAYER OF ICE FROM EARLIER FREEZING DRIZZLE AND FREEZING RAIN IS STILL UNDERNEATH THE SNOW. MOST ROADWAYS ARE STILL ICED OVER AND EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. TEMPERATURES ACROSS THE REGION WILL CONTINUE TO REMAIN BELOW FREEZING EARLY THIS MORNING. TEMPERATURES ARE EXPECTED TO REACH ABOVE FREEZING BY 11 AM TO NOON ACROSS AREAS GENERALLY ALONG AND SOUTH OF A LINE FROM KERRVILLE TO SAN MARCOS TO LA GRANGE. AREAS NORTH OF THIS LINE WILL BE SLOWER TO WARM...BUT ARE EXPECTED TO REACH ABOVE FREEZING BY NOON TO 1 PM. THE ICY ROADWAYS ARE VERY DANGEROUS. DO NOT DRIVE UNLESS IT IS AN EMERGENCY.

If the cities in the above weather update sound unfamiliar, they should.  The update is not for our area, but for Travis County, Texas.  That's right folks, Texas.

My son called this morning from Austin to say that while he might make it out of Austin this morning, it is not likely he would get out of Dallas, so the airline said they would rebook him for next weekend.  Another visit home bites the dust for now.  While we were on the phone, his employer called to say that all of their local buildings were closed for the day.  

Several years ago when I was visiting San Antonio, they had an ice storm.  Everything closed including the roads.  This morning on The Weather Channel, they showed a lone police car patrolling the closed freeways there. 

The next time I visited the City the temps were above 100 degrees every day.  A bar of soap and I could have showered outside.

Maybe we can't fool Mother Nature, but she sure is playing some nasty pranks on all of us.  Maybe she didn't like what those global warming forecasters were saying either.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How is this fair?

I've snow-plowed-blowered-shoveled (whatever) my driveway today on two separate occasions.    I went out at 8:30 this morning to get the accumulation from last night.  About four inches of snow on the long part of the drive where it is wide open.  About 18 inches in front of the garage door where the snow blew over the roof and landed.  So much for the benefits of an L-shaped drive and side entrance garage.  Yuck.  Twice as much to plow and more aggravation

But I digress.  I cleaned the entire area in front of the street area making sure I did not blow into the street, but rather into the mailbox and side yard.  I cleaned in front of the mailbox.

No sooner had I finished than the snow started again.  I kept checking Doppler radar to watch the snow clouds move across the area.  In the meantime, the company that plows our subdivision came through and made a couple of passes down the middle of the street.

So, with the snow stopped and only the wind to deal with, I bundled up and headed out for the second round.  When I got to the street, I am sure you can guess what I encountered.  The plowing company had piled snow a good three feet by two feet in front of the mailbox and in the end of my driveway.  (Actually an improvement over one incident last year where it was four feet high!  A neighbor came and helped me clear it out.)

I have had some rather nasty discussions in the past with the men who plow our sub.  When I asked them not to cover up my drive after it had already been cleaned, they actually said I needed to hire their company to do my driveway, otherwise they just plow it into my drive.  Is that not what is called 'Blackmail?'  Do it or else?

Anyway, my point is that the County says it is illegal for me to push my snow into the street.  Then why is it legal for a plowing company to push the snow into my clean driveway and block access by the mailman to my mailbox?  Just asking.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Facebook: To Be or Not To Be

I may be the last person in the world to be on Facebook.  That is because I have no intention of opening an account. 

I have received several requests to become someone's 'friend'.  Some of these people I do not even know and have no idea why they invited me.  I have refused all requests.  It is not that I do not like the people involved, but I just do not want to use the service.

Last night I watched the movie 'The Social Network'.  It painted the founder of Facebook in a rather poor light.  I do not know how much is true, but I really do not care.  The movie was entertaining, but not 'award worthy', IMHO.

My concern over social media, including blogging, is that we may be raising children who do not know how to interact 'face-to-face'.  Social media removes all tone and inflections from speech.  Lord knows I have sent many a personal email that was misinterpreted because the reader read it with a tone that I did not intend.

So, instead of Facebook, I'd rather sit and have lunch or whatever, even sit through slides of your vacation (a reference to my 400+ slides of my European adventure in 1969), versus going online and seeing stuff I have no interest in.  Or sharing more than I care to share with you out of some need to post.  For now, I'll stick with just leaving my opinions and boring adventures on this blog.  Which you are free to ignore at your pleasure.

Too Much Interference

So, a Federal Judge has struck down Obamacare.  Good for him.  But as far as I am concerned, that is just another blip, albeit a large one, on the ongoing drama of government interference in our lives.

Some examples:
1.  Light bulbs.  The United States, while not banning incandescent bulbs, has set standards, due to take place next year, that will make their sale impossible.  The State of California (no surprise here) has moved the standards forward into this year. 

I tried to put one of these new energy-efficient bulbs in my walk-in pantry.  I was out of the pantry before the light was bright enough to see anything clearly.  Back to the incandescent.  I have one in an spare bedroom and the same thing happens.  I might as well rummage around in the dark.  This may be good business for the eye doctors.  I am sure there are others out there remembering their mothers telling them to turn on the light while reading or they will need glasses.  (This is something mothers learn by osmosis, or whatever, during pregnancy, along with that clean underwear line.)

So, I have an entire cabinet in my laundry room stocked with various sizes of incandescent bulbs.  I'm set for life.  I hope.

2.  Salt.  I think I actually blogged about this before.  So, here we are less than one year later and the government is at it again.  Today's Detroit News  has an article telling us that your government wants you to eat less salt, less fats, less food.  Do these folks have nothing really important to worry about other than telling all of us what to do?

I had a doctor's appointment yesterday and my blood pressure was 91 over 61.  I tend to have low blood pressure (unless watching a township board meeting).  I wonder what would happen if I eliminated all salt from my diet?

Enough already.  I am tired of the 'food police', the 'light controllers', and the 'electric car/tree huggers'.  Too much control is what causes folks to revolt.  Is there something about this our legislators missed in government class?