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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chocolate

I've been following news of Woodhaven through Facebook and other websites for quite a while. There have been a few articles on Schmidt's, a candy store. It's not just any candy store, they make their own chocolates and have been doing so for three generations. They are a Woodhaven institution.

Since I was going to be in Woodhaven, Queens getting my hair done today I decided to stop in and pick up a piece or two of chocolate. I've been craving chocolate for the past couple of weeks so I gave in. For some strange reason I didn't make the connection that Sunday is Easter. I thought I'd just go in, pick out my chocolate then leave. Boy, was I wrong. There were so many people buying bunnies, chicks, eggs and lollipops. I started getting impatient, but it would have been difficult to leave, the end of the line was in the back of the store. I'm glad I stayed. I picked up 12 marshmallow eggs, 2 bunnies and some jelly beans. Hopefully they will last a long time (yeah, right). I've already had two eggs. They were very good.

I also stopped in another institution, Manor Deli for my coffee for the ride and some salads for dinner. They make the best food. The shrimp salad actually has shrimps in it. The pieces are about 1/2 to 3/4" long.

Now, all I need now is for someone to visit the Parrott Candy store in Helena Montana and send me a box of their chocolates. This would be for a strictly scientific experiment to see who makes the best.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Travel

Today I received my copy of the Rosetta Stone for German. I can hardly wait to start. I've always wanted to learn German and now I can. I guess I'll be able to cross that goal/dream off my list.

Unfortunately, I have to wait until Thursday to start since I'm going up to Queens to get my hair done. I don't know why, but my hairdresser is surprised that I still travel to see her. It's about a 100 mile round trip, but that's nothing compared to the woman who was on Jeopardy last week.

She travels to London about 3 or 4 times a year to get her hair done. She then does a little visiting while she's there. I don't think I'd travel 3000 miles to look good, no matter how talented my hairdresser is.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Structure

Later this year I'm taking a river cruise in Germany. So, of course, I've decided to learn to speak and understand German. I ordered the Rosetta Stone and plan on spending an hour a day studying. That will be my job.

I also have to get back in shape so I can go on those walking tours on my trip. The thing I like least about living in suburbia/country is that there are no sidewalks and I have to drive everywhere. In my community, we have sidewalks on one side of the street only. But, if I leave the community, I have to drive even if I'm only going 1/4 mile.

A friend of mine is going away in a few weeks and I'll be catsitting. She's not too far away and I hope to walk there. I've already started working on my arms with some weights. I guess my fitness plan will have to be scheduled into my day along with the German lessons.

I always did like structure in my days and now I'll have it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Courage

Yesterday, I watched "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon". I know this is not a true story, but it does make mention of some historical events and shows the difficulties of the move west.

While watching, I was struck by the courage of the early settlers of the west. It must not have been easy for them to leave their homes. Most of them probably had to sail across the ocean first, then head west not knowing what they would find. They most likely left family and friends along the way. They travelled in small wagons, some only on horses. Some stopped and started farming and built cities in the midwest. How many of us could do that.

A few years ago I drove across the country and my friends all think it was a big deal. I stayed in nice hotels, had maps of the area. I never had to do without food or water. And I was perfectly safe. It was so easy.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy

I did something this week that makes me impatient when other bloggers do it. I went three days without blogging. Now I know why others do it.

I had the busiest week. Tuesday is my busiest day with scrabble, working in the clubhouse and a Singles' meeting. On Wednesday and part of Thursday I was getting all the articles for the newspaper together. Thursday afternoon, a few of us went to Costco. I barely had time to put the refrigerated items away before we went to dinner. From dinner I went to a photography club meeting.

Friday morning I brought all the articles to the publisher. This was my first time as editor. I brought hard copies of everything in addition to a memory stick. Of course, I forgot one picture and had to email it later. Then I discovered that I gave the publisher a cd of pictures and another picture which she didn't need. I really hope it turns out well. I hope I still enjoy being editor once the finished produce comes out.

After the trip to the publisher I went to lunch with a friend. After lunch I had to put all my purchases from Costco in the freezer. Last night I was so tired I couldn't move.

It looks like I'll have a quiet week. Just my usual week and a trip to Woodhaven to get my hair done. Of course the week hasn't really begun yet.

Whoever said retirement is quiet and boring?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Healthcare Idiots

What is wrong with people? Are they so spoiled that they have to resort to violence, or threats of violence, if they don't get their way?

I just heard that the capital police are investigating reports of death or bodily harm threats against the members of congress who voted for the new healthcare bill. I don't believe this bill will help the majority of Americans, but the way to express your displeasure with congress is to vote them out in November, not threaten them.

These idiots who are, or may be, threatening members of congress are hurting their own cause. They are giving a bad name to the opponents of this bill. Granted, the riots of the 60's and 70's got results, but they also polarized the country. We cannot afford that to happen again.

There is no excuse or reason for this childish behavior. They should just accept that the bill has gone through and vote in November for new members of congress. There is no justification for threatening another person.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Health Care Bill

We all know now that the health bill has passed the house of representatives. What we don't know are all the provisions and deals that have been made.

I did hear some interesting news this morning. All during the process, the president, speaker and senate leader all vilified the pharmaceutical and insurance companies saying they were responsible for the high cost of health care. This morning, I heard that the pharmaceutical companies will have 12 years after a new drug is introduced before any generic drugs can be used. Also, there will be no cap on insurance company rates.

I thought this new bill was supposed to "rein in" the profits of pharmaceutical and insurance companies and benefit the people. It doesn't look that way.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mature(?) Women

I did something today that brought me right back to high school, but not in a good way.

We're having a show in the clubhouse tonight and I signed up for a table. Because I was the first to sign-up, I'm considered the table captain. We had about five people signed up for a table of 10. One Saturday, quite a while back, the woman on the desk called to see if I would mind if one particular woman sat with us. She's also a "single". I was surprised that anyone would check when we had plenty of room, but I let it go. About a week later I saw that they added six more, making 11 people at our table, but no one called to see if it was OK.

This afternoon I made the mistake of mentioning the name of the person who called. Immediately she found out and denied making the call. She insisted that someone was using her name. I said they were using her voice too. Still she denied, but ended by saying that they really didn't want that particular woman at their table. I just said whatever and walked away. I still can't understand why the fuss and why she had to deny calling and acting like a teenager and not the 80+ woman she is.

Now I know why I'd rather be the odd person with my married friends.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Congress

We've always been told that we should write our congressman about upcoming legislation. They want to hear our opinions. They may want to hear, but they don't consider them when it comes time to vote. At least that's how it looks regarding health care. The majority of Americans polled are against this current scheme, but it looks like congress will vote yes.

I saw a good example of this recently. Back in January I sent a sarcastic email to my senators stating that they were foolish to show their approval for the health care bill. If they held out, they could have gotten a nice deal for New Jersey like the people in Louisiana and Nebraska did. I didn't have to write my congressman, he will vote no.

Today I received a reply from one of my senators. He said that he appreciated hearing from me on this important issue. He then explained how the process works. He assured me that he will keep my concerns in mind as Congress continues to work on legislation addressing health reform.

Does that mean that he will hold out for a better deal before he votes the party line and says yes?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Writing

Today at our Writing Group meeting, one of our neighbors who has had several articles published in magazines gave us some hints about writing. There were the usual hints - write to your audience, keep it simple, etc.

There was one that got us all interested. He said that when we do a spell check, we an check a box that will give us more information such as word and character count, along with the grade level readability. This is something that none of us thought of doing and we couldn't wait until we got home to try it.

He also said that the New York Times is written for a 6th grade level reader. I was quite surprise to hear that. I would have thought it was higher since the Times seems to appeal to the more educated among us.

Of course, when I got home I checked most of my previous articles. It was quite an attack on my ego to find that some of my writing is on a 4th grade level. I did go up to a 10th grade level. That was the proposal for video equipment that I made when I was working. No wonder we got the equipment.

If you're interested in checking your work and have Microsoft Word 2003 or 2007 just do a spell check, then click on options. There you will find a box to show readability statistics. Then, whenever you do a spell check, you will also find your readability level along with a word and character count.

By the way, I seem to have improved my writing even if it's only today. This is written for a 6.5 grade level reader.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Monuments

Today I saw an interesting editorial in The Wall Street Journal. In this, William McGurn talks about the recent trend in monuments commemorating the famine in Ireland. Mr. McGurn tells us that these monuments focus on victimhood. Yes, times were bad, and the potato blight in Ireland in the mid-19th century resulted in an influx of Irish immigrants into our country.

These people took jobs and helped build St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and many other churches. The priests and nuns built a parochial school system that ushered millions of Irish into the American dream and today that often is the only hope for a black or Latino child to achieve that dream.

Even here, the Irish faced discrimination, but they kept working and many succeeded. They were the backbone of the various police and fire departments in the country. Mr. McGurn was saying that the successes of the Irish immigrants are the true monuments. That should be the emphasis, not the famine.

After reading this, I started thinking that all over we see signs of victimhood. Too many people dwell on their problems instead of looking for solutions. They are pessimists, they suffer from colds, flu on a lesser scale and they suffer from the economy, their neighbor's success.

It's time that we stopped allowing ourselves to be victims and start being successes, one step at a time. Maybe then, we'll return to erecting monuments to the good things in life. The potato blight forced many Irish to leave their homes for a new and better life in America. Let's build a monument to their success in America.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Book Review

I'm going to try my first book review since the dreaded book reports from high school. As I mentioned yesterday I have a friend who wrote an autobiographical book.

This is a story of love for family and motherhood, loss of life and faith. After the grief of losing a premature baby, the author Marion and her husband look into adoption of a hard to place child. Instead of one, they adopted two brothers who had been taken from their home because of parental neglect.

This is the family's story. The good times and the bad. They went from a family of two parents, two boys and a girl to a family of two parents, four boys and a girl. And Marion found her faith again.

This is a wonderful story, I actually read it in a weekend. I couldn't put it down. I kept wanting to know more about the boys, their background and their future.

I hope I've been able to pique your interest. I highly recommend this book. It's called Hard to Place and the author is Marion Goldstein, who I have known since 1st grade. After high school, we went our separate ways and reunited about 7 years ago at our grammar school reunion.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Navigator

Ever since I got my car almost two years ago I've had a love/hate relationship with my navigator. I can't make any entries when the car is moving, which I wouldn't do anyway, but if I had a passenger he couldn't either. One time, it kept telling me to go south when I knew that my destination was north.

This morning I headed out to north Jerey to a book reading and signing by a friend of mine. I had never been there before so I went to MapQuest and Microsoft Streets for directions. They gave me two different ways to get to my destination. Before I left the house I also programmed the address into my navigator. I was following the directions from MapQuest and they seemed to agree with the navigator. Suddenly, the navigator started giving me different directions. Eventually, I listened to him. Those directions were pretty good and I found my destination easily.

When it was time to go home, I typed my address, but I was told there was no such house number. I eventually convinced the navigator to accept my address, but it would go no further than accepting my city. Finally, it calculated the trip and I was on my way.

We've been having terrible rain and wind here, so it was no surprise that traffic was backed up. It took me 1/2 hour to travel 1 mile. Then I discovered that the route I was on was closed and I had no idea how to get home from there. As soon as I went off the main road, the navigator recalculated the trip and directed me back to the main road. Later on, I came across another closed road, but it was close enough to home that I could find my way.

So, even though I still have a few problems with my navigator, it was very useful today.

I will give you a review of the book, Hard to Place in a day or two. It's a wonderful story and true.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Eating Disorders

I had originally planned on writing tonight on photography and my experiments with Photoshop Elements, but then I heard a frightening statistic on the TV.

If the food police are to be believed, there is an epidemic of obesity among our youth. There is so much emphasis on banning soda from our schools. Some school districts have even banned cake sales in which parents provide home baked (no preservatives) goodies for sale to the students for the benefit of the school. However, some schools that have banned these sales continue to sell commercial goodies to the students. Is someone getting a commission on these sales?

Yes, there is a problem with obesity. However, it is the responsibility of the parents to "police" the food their children consume. New York is even trying to put a special tax on soda to discourage children from drinking soda. What they don't mention is that soda has always been subject to the sales tax. This soda tax looks like double taxation.

But, I have digressed from the original point of my rant. I didn't mean to speak about obesity, but the opposite problem - anorexia. There are between 7 and 10 million anorexics in our country now. It too is an epidemic. While both problems can kill, anorexia can kill sooner rather than later. An obese child, with parental supervision, can decrease food intake and increase exercise, but an anorexic will deny a problem and need psychological help to improve health.

There should be more emphasis on the problem of anorexia. I wonder if any of the anorexics started out as obese children and have been frightened into their present state by all the hysteria about overweight children.

I haven't heard much about this problem lately.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Today was a beautiful day and I was chock full of ambition again. Back in January, Crash was in one of her moods where she just wants to be alone. She hides out in the guest room, props herself on a pillow and acts like feline royalty.

Today I decided to take back the guest room, and since it was sort of warm, I opened the windows, stripped the bed and aired everything out. I also rearranged the room, but I'm not sure whether or not I like it. I got new sheets for a good price so I put them on the bed. I dusted all the furniture and even washed the floor.

Then, after I aired the room and made the bed I closed the door. At least the room will be cat free for a few days before I forget and leave the door open and they slip in.

They enjoyed themselves before I banned them from the room.

After a little while Burnie got tired of all the fresh air and left Crash alone in the window.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Chair

I live in a gated community. It's supposed to be safe, no one can enter without being announced, I like that part, it makes me feel important. But I digress.

Over the past few years, we've had some vandalism - broken locks, pillows and TV remotes disappearing, games being taken, etc. I think that now, the vandalism has gone too far. It seems that someone has walked off with a chair. It's not a big chair, sort of like a padded dining table chair.

The big question is why would anyone steal a chair. If this person is at all sociable, someone would notice it in their house. Maybe they want to sell it. If so, we'd better chain the other three chairs to the floor so they don't get a set. It's very disturbing to think that someone in my community is a thief.

It may seem odd that I would get upset about a chair, but this person is stealing from me, even stealing from him/herself. If we have to replace it, that money comes from our general fund. If the general fund runs out of money, our maintenance fee will rise.

I still can't figure out why anyone would take a chair, or even how they got it out of the clubhouse.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Bread

About three weeks ago when I was watching QVC I decided to take the plunge. They were selling a bread machine. I've wanted one for such a long time, but at first they seemed too expensive, then it didn't seem necessary since I live alone.

I've never had much luck baking yeast breads so I thought this would be a good idea. I tried one yeast bread, it turned out pretty well. At least it rose. I've been making several quick breads - nut bread, apple nut bread and today I made banana nut bread. I certainly have been using a lot of nuts, but at least they're supposed to be good for you.

It's a funny thing about the banana bread. I bought bananas last week, but never got around to eating them. They started getting very ripe, so of course I had to make bread.

I just hope I haven't ruined my diet too much. I just have to have a slice of bread every day, it tastes so good.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Walking

A friend recently took a trip to Florida. She planned to be away for three weeks and wondered if she should ask the Post Office to hold her mail. I volunteered to pick it up for her. After all, she only lives a few doors from me and I thought that little walking would be good for me.

After a few days, I decided to take the long way. I walked around the corner, then to her house, then back to mine. It was hard at first, I've gotten so lazy. It still tires me, but I can go a lot further without thinking this was a mistake.

Lately, I've noticed that I have a lot more ambition in the house. I've been working on my office all week and you can actually see the floor and most of the desk. While I was cleaning, I found several cd's that I hadn't downloaded to my computer and i-pod. I also ordered some storage boxes for all my cd's and I've filled four of them. The fifth is almost full too. Now I can get rid of my cd racks, they take too much room. Although...they may make nice plant stands. I think I'll put them in the garage until I make a final decision.

We have bulk pick-up this Tuesday so I've been gathering all the stuff that's either broken or I no longer need. That's getting to be quite a collection.

All this because I started to take short walks. Imagine what I can accomplish once I start walking a mile or so. It boggles the mind.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Movies

Happy Birthday Dean.

This morning I wandered onto AMC and discovered that today is the birthday of Dean Stockwell and they were showing a few of his movies. The first one I saw was The Song of the Thin Man, followed by The Boy with Green Hair and my favorite The Secret Garden with Margaret O'Brien.

Of course, I had to watch all three. I had never seen the first two, they were pretty good, but I really enjoyed the last. I'm a big Margaret O'Brien fan. In recent years I've become a fan of Dean Stockwell as well.

You may remember him as the Admiral on Quantum Leap. He seemed to control the time machine which resembled a Palm Pilot. Through Wikipedia I learned he also appeared in Kim, Compulsion, Gentlemen's Agreement and others. One that I would like to see is The Werewolf of Washington. That looks interesting.

Dean Stockwell is a rare child actor who succeeded as an adult actor. Congratulations!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Car Chase

I have to admit that I watch a lot of TV. Well, maybe "watch" isn't a good description. I keep the TV on as background noise and go about my work in the house. If I hear an interesting story, I stop and watch.

That happened this morning. They were covering a car chase in California. And, I just had to sit down and follow everything. While I was watching, I couldn't help but wonder why the other motorists stayed on the freeway while the chase was going on. If I were driving, no matter where I had to be, or how soon, I'm sure I would take the first available exit. If I couldn't get off, I'd try to pull over. But those drivers stayed on the road and some of them even kept up with the cars.

It ended when the offending car seemed to spin out on the road under the Los Angeles Airport taxiway. It was hard to see what went on there, but I didn't see any speeding ambulances, so I guess no one was hurt.

I still don't know why all the other drivers stayed on the road with the chase. It's the same with all the chases I've watched.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Health Care

Today I started to watch the president's reading of his new, improved health plan. Of course, it started later than planned which is no surprise. His staff should be more organized.

He had his props behind him- doctors. That reminded me of his comment during last week's "Health Care Summit" to Rep. Eric Kantor when he brought the 1200 page senate bill. It seemed like a put down, yet, he had his own props today. That was OK though.

The president seems to be full of himself. His ego is so large that he felt it necessary at this same meeting to remind Sen. John McCain that the election/campaign was over. This from a man who has never stopped campaigning . Then he said that he can speak longer because, after all, he IS the president.

Today he said that we can keep our plan. That may be true initially, but what happens when the insurance companies go bust because they must insure anyone regardless of a pre-existing condition, or there are no caps on how much your insurance company must pay and they can't increase your premium arbitrarily. How can any company stay in business under those conditions.

But, in spite of how the majority of CITIZENS feel, this bill will be passed and signed into law. I wonder what he will force on us next.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Writing

When I started blogging, I was full of enthusiasm for writing. I wanted to be able to express my thoughts. I had the same enthusiasm when I joined the creative writing group in my community. But something seems off lately.

I just can't seem to think of anything to say. I don't want to be the one who always complains about the state of the world. This is why tonight when my friend called asking if I would mind cancelling writing tomorrow, I was so glad. I had nothing prepared for our meeting. There's an idea running around in my mind, but so far I haven't been able to put it all into words. Our topic is about decisions, how we make them, how they affect us.

Maybe, in spite of my delight in the cold and snow of this winter I'm tired of it and looking forward to spring. That's a possibility. I've been thinking of putting some roses around the house and other changes to my garden AND I don't like to garden outside. Give me my house plants and I'm in seventh heaven. Or maybe I need a road trip.

This too shall pass. All I need are a few 5 degree days, or maybe some sunshine with a little discipline thrown in.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lottery

Yesterday I watched several programs that focused on people who had won millions in various lotteries. It was very interesting. They covered people who handled their new money intelligently. Usually, these stories concentrate on people who went through their winnings in a short time.

That reminded me of my fantasies of winning the lottery. Whenever I had trouble sleeping I would think of what I would do if I won millions of dollars. I thought about a complete renovation of our home, putting money aside for college for my boys and also starting a travel fund, then making donations to the various schools that my boys attended.

Then I started thinking about now. Of course now, my priorities have changed. I live in a beautiful new home that doesn't need much improvement except for closets. But then, what house does have enough closet space. College is a thing of the past. About the only thing remaining for me to want is to travel. So, I guess if I won millions in the lottery, I'd set up a travel fund and give some to charity, including the schools that my boys attended.

Good grief, does that mean that I've grown up, matured? Or does that mean that I've reached a state of contentment in my retirement years? I'm happy with my life.