Friday, January 31, 2020

Friday Funnies

Hopefully, all those who guessed at last week's Friday Funnies had a bit of fun trying to figure out the what is this? posted photo. As for those who didn't venture a guess, there just could be a next time.

Honestly, I thought that some folks might have found the answer too easy and that it wouldn't have been a challenge — How wrong I was  as only 3 folks got it — BIG kudos to fellow bloggers, Buttercup of Buttercup Counts Her Blessings blog, Doris of Fun Times, and Sara, a non-blogger friend. 

Many people thought it looked like exercise equipment. In fact, it was taken at my recent dental appointment. I stared at the overhead light that looked like an alien image.
After saying that to the dental hygienist, she flipped it to show the other side and remarked that it looked like a steer and that was the image posted last week.
Thanks to all who participated. Unfortunately, there's no cash or prize involved, just the knowledge of getting it right. I hope that's enough for Buttercup, Doris and Sara.

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Readers and Contacts

Last spring I had cataract surgery. The procedures and aftermath, which are not gory in the least, were described in two separate posts in late April (The Better to See) and early May (Seeing Clearly Now). Those details won't be repeated in this post, which is more of an update.

As posted earlier, both surgeries were successful in giving me distance vision which has eliminated the need to wear glasses for driving/seeing things far off and in seeing colors much brighter. Prior to surgery, my glasses did not correct well enough for distance while driving, especially when trying to see road signs.

And, everything was totally covered by basic Medicare. However, we also have a Medicare Supplement plan which would have taken care of any additional costs, if needed. The only "expense" was the co-pay required for eye drops used before and after the surgeries.

All has been great, except that reading glasses became a definite necessity to read anything with fine print not only papers, magazines, mail, but also grocery store labels which became the most challenging as I disliked taking the "readers" on and off.

Yes, I know, it's a minor inconvenience and far less costly than my previous eyeglass prescription and frames. So I bought some readers many to put in the apt — kitchen, bedroom, living room, by the PC, also a pair in the glove compartments of our two vehicles, my purse. Also a spare pair in the suitcase so as not to forget one when going on a road trip.

Sounds excessive, perhaps, but as noted above, they are comparatively inexpensive. Dollar Stores, pharmacies, and many other places carry them. No prescription is needed, just a recommended strength, which for me is +2.00.

Still, I wanted freedom to not need to carry/look around for readers, especially when using a cell phone, tablet, and especially a digital camera. The smaller the camera, the smaller the settings to read.

The solution — a single contact lens that's worn in my left eye and corrects for close reading. The right eye remains corrected for distance. Unlike when wearing reading glasses, I can walk around and, yes, even drive my car with the single contact. However, I've opted not to wear it when driving. I prefer to have both eyes distance corrected when on the road.

Yes, I still have reading glasses strategically placed around the apartment and in the cars, but now I have a choice. The contact lens is a "daily wear" that's removed nightly, cleaned with a solution, and placed in a lens case overnight. It can be worn for up to 2 weeks. If necessary, it could be worn overnight; my optometrist doesn't advise this on a regular basis.

A separate exam was required before a prescription can be written. Our medical plans don't cover the cost of the exam or contacts. However, my optometrist's office price-matched so I was able to save $ and shop locally. 

If anyone else has or will be having cataract surgery and wants a choice, this might be something to consider.

So far, it's been working well for me.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Bear & Baby

Near the end of 2019, a blog post shared the happy news that welcoming a New Year would also see welcoming in a new family member for a cousin and his husband.

That earlier post shared photos of a baby shower for families of the two dads. This one introduces their son who was born two weeks ago.
He already has a constant companion, the Vermont Teddy Bear gift we gave his dads at the baby shower. Coincidentally, his middle name is Bear in memory of his late grandfather's nickname.
His grandmother Anita and other family members were there to welcome the newest family member. 
Welcome to the family 🧸

Friday, January 24, 2020

Friday Funnies

In closing out the week with a Friday Funny, I've included a puzzler for all of you.
It may not be that difficult for some to guess what (or where) this was spotted, but the answer won't be shown until next Friday. 

Feel free to guess away all week long, unless you already know for certain and, if you do, please share where you've seen it. And, I'll do the same (but not until next week). 

Enjoy Your Weekend Everyone

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Made at "Home"

No, this post doesn't refer to items made in the home but rather products made in one's home country. (Spoiler alert: it's a long one that deals with USA made products, but the same concept also can apply to your home country.)

Do you get excited when you find something made in your home country ?

That's what happens to us when we find a product label, Made in USA. Compared to not so many years ago it's become harder (and harder) to find goods produced "home."

Imagine our excitement a couple of weeks ago when shopping for new bath towels. We found these at a Bed, Bath & Beyond retail store advertised Made in the USA

The towels were produced by 1888 Mills located in Griffin, Georgia. The facility, started by a group of textile veterans, employs over 200 workers, many have been in the industry for over 30 years. It's among the last remaining towel manufacturing plants in the U.S.
Not only were we pleased with the quality (and color) of these towels, but more so after learning where they were produced.

And, it started me wondering HOW many companies were currently making products in the USA. That led to a few hours some online sleuthing. We've purchased products from several of those listed during road trips that took us directly to the facility.

During my research sleuthing, I learned that many consumers view Made in USA as a mark of quality that makes a purchase worthwhile, even if it's costlier than something produced elsewhere. In a 2017 Reuters survey, about 7 in 10 said it was important to them to buy American-made goods; 21 percent said they'd be willing to pay up to 10 percent more. 

Made in (somewhere else) is seen on many product labels, especially electronics, as well as clothing and home goods. Yet, there's still many USA made household products. Here's some that many may be familiar with over the years and perhaps some surprises.

Weber Grills are made in Palatine, Illinois, but gas models are made overseas. The recognizable rounded shape of the original Weber charcoal grill was first designed in 1952.

Wiffle Balls are a lightweight ball invented in the 1950s by a former semi-pro baseball player who wanted to his son to avoid injury while practicing. His invention has become a staple of backyard ballgames. The company has changed little — its products are still cheap (under $10 for a bat and three balls), the dimensions remain the same, and manufacturing operations are still in Shelton, Connecticut.

Wilson footballs are produced in Ada, Ohio where more than 4,000 leather pigskins are produced daily by a workforce of 120 people. Wilson is the official supplier to the National Football League.

Louisville Slugger baseball bats are produced in the USA even though baseballs are no longer made here. While the brand was sold to a Finnish company, Louisville Sluggers are still made in Kentucky, as they have been since 1884. Prices for a signature wooden model start around $30.

American Plastic Toys, as per its name, are made at five facilities in Michigan and Mississippi. In business for 55 years it has resisted outsourcing to China where more than 90 percent of toys are now made. Products include toy cars, dollhouses, wagons, toy strollers, and more. Prices range from less than $10 to under $90.

K'Nex Toys is one of the few leading toy companies committed to manufacturing its products in the USA. Raw materials come from American sources as well. The company employs 150 people at its plant in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. A 521-piece kit of building toys is $25.

Green Toys has recycled more than 55 million milk jugs to make eco-friendly toys which meet rigorous standards for sustainability, safety and durability. The company relies on a an all-American supply chain and has become a top seller of eco-friendly children's toys which include toy vehicles and sorting sets priced from under $10 to $30. At a local thrift store this week, I saw my first Green Toy product shown here.

KitchenAid mixers have been around for over 100 years and are still produced at the company's flagship plant in Greensville, Ohio. The iconic stand mixers are noted for durability and performance. KitchenAid also makes many non-American appliances as well.

Regal Ware has been producing high-quality stainless steel and cast-iron cookware from its Wisconsin manufacturing facilities for over 100 years. The company's products are sold under brand names such as Kitchen Fair, Lifetime, and Saladmaster. Prices range from $25 to $200.

Stetson Hats is (no big surprise) a Texas company founded at the end of the Civil War and the only company that produces cowboy hats entirely in the USA, but also is one of the largest hat manufacturers in the nation. Millions are made at the company's Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, plant.

New Balance Shoes beat all other brands in the manufacture of athletic footwear in the USA; however, it does make some styles in other countries. Each year the company makes more than 4 million pairs with at least 70 percent domestic materials. Shoes labeled "made in USA" are often more-durable but priced higher, starting at $180.

Gillette Blades has been manufacturing its razor blades in Boston, Massachusetts, since its 1905 founding. The company has expanded operations to multiple nations since, but its best blades still come from the original Massachusetts location. American-made blades are available in 10-count packs for around $20.

Zippo Lighters have been made in Bradford, Pennsylvania since 1933 with thousands of variations. The reusable metal lighter is an iconic American brand. Basic models start around $11.

Lasko specializes in small heating and cooling appliances for home use. Some of its products are made overseas and motors come from China, but the company produces many American-made products, including an oscillating stand fan, at plants in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.

Sterilite Containers makes plastic storage containers, and other home storage products. It was created by Earl Tupper, who also invented Tupperware. The company's product line has expanded since its 1939 founding as it continues to manufacture products exclusively in the USA. The company is based in Townsend, Massachusetts and last year it began production at its 7th U.S. plant in Davenport, Iowa.

Pyrex Glassware was founded in 1915 and sold to Corning Inc. in 1998. The new ownership avoided transferring American manufacturing operations overseas. While Pyrex's metal bakeware now is manufactured abroad, the oven-safe lidded glassware still used to preserve leftovers in many households, including ours, is still made at the factory in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. 

Nordic Ware was founded in 1946 and still makes the vast majority (about 98 percent) of products from a facility in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that houses its corporate headquarters. Products include its flagship cast-aluminum bundt pan. (Bundt, what's a bundt? is a line from the 2002 film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.)

Lodge Manufacturing is a rare company that has remained family-owned after over half a century of continuous operation. Its factory store and foundry in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, has been in operation since Lodge's 1896 start and continues to produce cast-iron cookware in a wide range of styles and prices. In 2017, the company fired up a 127,000-square-foot foundry adding production capacity. We visited and purchased cookware from the TN factory store.

Gorilla Glue Co. is a family-owned adhesive manufacturer whose heavy duty products, most notably their namesake product, Gorilla Glue, supply DIYers and woodworkers. Their glues, tapes, epoxies are made in America at their headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, where they're ranked consistently as one of the city's top places to work.

L.L. Bean Boat and Tote Bags have been made in Maine from sturdy 24-ounce canvas since first introduced in 1944. The Freeport-based company manufactures other products abroad, but its online store has a "Made in the USA" category that includes footwear and outdoor gear in addition to the bags.

Igloo Coolers produces some of the most-common cooler designs. All the company's products come from a 1.4 million-square-foot facility near Houston, Texas. The brand has recently expanded to sell more heavy-duty coolers. Many folks have fond memories of their first Igloo cooler, including myself.

Slinky was introduced in 1945 by naval engineer Richard James and is one of the most successful toys in history. The company is now owned by the larger toy corporation Alex Brands, but Slinkys are still manufactured at the same facility in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. They can usually be bought for under $6.

Viking Appliances first introduced professional-grade oven ranges and still makes all ovens, refrigerators, and other products in the USA. Viking employs more than 1,000 people at four manufacturing facilities near its headquarters in Greenwood, Mississippi.

Vermont Teddy Bears are produced in Shelburne, Vermont, at a factory we've visited a couple of times and shopped at too. Vermont Teddy Bear manufactures all its stuffed animals at its Vermont facility and the tours are fun as well. 

Two factories produce nearly a half-million bears each year, making the company one of the largest producers of teddy bears and the largest seller by mail and online orders. The stuffed friends start at around $40 each and are made with recycled cotton and guaranteed for life. 
Crayola Crayons are manufactured at the company's flagship factory in Easton, Pennsylvania. An average daily production totals 13 million crayons.

Anchor Hocking Glassware has been producing glassware in the USA since the company's founding in 1905. It employs more than 1,500 associates across the nation, most of them concentrated around its manufacturing plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Anchor Hocking has plenty of products between $10 to $40 marked with a "Made in the USA" label, except for a select few collections that are sourced internationally.

Harley Davidson is named for William Harley and Arthur Davidson who built their first motorcycle in Milwaukee in 1903. Since then, Harley-Davidson has survived rough periods and ownership changes to remain an iconic part of American biker culture. The company and its manufacturing operations are still headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and today the bikes sell for between $8,000 and $45,000. 

Airstream Trailers are made at a plant in Jackson Center, Ohio, that employs 500 workers. This iconic aluminum trailer is the oldest trailer in the RV world.

Vermont Castings has been making energy-conserving wood and gas stoves and smaller wood burning inserts from their foundry in Randolph, Vermont, since 1979. 

W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Co. was founded in 1889 and employs more than 350 people in Bradford, Pennsylvania, where it produces legendary handcrafted pocket knives, plus cooking, hunting, and specialty knives. Some knives are family heirlooms that have been passed down for generations.

Cutco Knives founded in 1949, employs more than more than 600 employees at its factory and headquarters in Olean, New York. The largest maker of kitchen knives in the U.S. and Canada, Products come with a "Forever Guarantee" promising customer satisfaction and lifetime sharpening. 

Martin Guitars have been played by Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Paul Simon, and Beck, among many others. While Martin, which dates back to the 1830s, does have a production plant in Mexico for its less-expensive models, its headquarters in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, is where it makes its top-of-the-line guitars and ukuleles. Fans of these legendary guitars can see them made on factory tours five days a week.

Even though this post is fairly long, there's still many more USA manufacturers not mentioned here, including: Fiesta Dinnerware, Polarmax, Steinway Pianos, Chesapeake Bay Candle Company, Gibson Guitars, Allen Edmond Shoes, Goodwear USA Clothing, Burt's Bees, Smith & Wesson, Benjamin Moore Paint, Post-It Notes, Oreck XL Vacuums, Leatherman Multi-Tools, Hallmark Greeting Cards.

Just wondering — Do you look for products made in your own country as well?
If so, are you willing to pay more for them than a similar product made elsewhere?

Monday, January 20, 2020

First 2020 Snowfall

Did it snow where you live over the weekend?

Here in Nashua, NH, the first measurable snow of 2020 dropped about half a foot of snow from Saturday night into early Sunday morning.

The storm started about 5 p.m. Saturday and lasted until shortly after 3 a.m. Sunday. The morning was clear and bright and with no wind, and these reflections were seen in the Nashua River from our 5th floor apartment window.

Before the overnight snowfall, the city of Nashua issued a snow emergency as roadways became snow covered. That snow emergency ended at 8 a.m. yesterday morning.

Temperatures climbed into the 40s during daytime hours yesterday and snow was already melting. However, the overnight temps were in the teens. Ice on the river banks may stay around awhile. 
This week temperatures will be in the mid-20s in the daytime, with overnight temperatures this coming week and possibly snow next weekend once again.

Those warm temperatures that tempted us a couple of weeks ago are just a fading memory now as winter has taken up its seasonal residence. And, this eclectic group has taken up residence outside our apt entry complete with their own snowballs.

Winter was well described in this popular verse by Robert Frost, poet laureate of VT, a four-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry . . .

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Friday, January 17, 2020

UnFunny Friday

Friday is usually the day when there's a Friday Funnies posted on this blog.

But, not today as what I read recently in the news was not funny. It was, in fact, very troubling to me and perhaps others as well.

As stated before, other than blogging, I don't participate on social media sharing networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Reddit, Yelp, TripAdvisor, WeChat, Tumblr, WhatsApp to name a few. My non-participation is a personal choice.

Many folks, including those in our family, are eager FB participants and post much about their activities. Unfortunately, none of which I see (again, that's OK). Sadly, like others, they rely on social media and refrain from emails or texts to share family news/photos. Writing an email or posting a card/letter is fast becoming old-fashioned, albeit a lost tradition. (But, I won't go down that path here as it would be another rant.)

So, here's the backstory on this rant about social media. For those who may not have heard, seen on the news, or read about it, here's a version with no names. There's always room for interpretation or inaccuracies as various news outlets that provided the details are themselves a form of social media.

As reported, first in a local KY daily, and then exploded in the media, a private Louisville, KY, Christian school expelled a 15-year old female student after learning that she had celebrated her birthday with family at a local restaurant in late December

What & Why? 
In a photo, the girl's mother posted to her own FB page, the daughter was shown wearing a multi-color sweater and smiling in front of a rainbow-themed cake with candles. The mom said the cake was a fun treat. She provided a bakery receipt listing the cake design as "assorted colors" 

rainbow is seen as a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer pride (LGBTQ) rights. In a statement, the mom reportedly said, "Just because I'm wearing a rainbow doesn't mean I'm gay. I ordered the cake, and it didn't mean anything else.

The expulsion followed when the photo was shared with school officials by someone else. (That would make me wonder why? someone would do that, a personal vendetta?)

What did a top school official do? 
Nothing as personal as a phone call. The head of school sent an email in January stating the girl's enrollment was terminated, effective immediately, because of a social media post. The expulsion email read in part: “The WA Administration has been made aware of a recent picture, posted on social media, which demonstrates a posture of morality and cultural acceptance contrary to that of (the school's) beliefs. Any further promotion, celebration or any other action and attitudes counter to (the school's) philosophy will not be tolerated.”

The school reportedly stated: “Our code of conduct is on par with other private Christian schools in our area . . . It is unfortunate that one of the student’s parents chose to post internal family matters on social media."

Rejecting the mother's previous explanation about the cake, the school cited “inaccurate media reports” which suggested that the girl was expelled solely because of the FB post. “She has unfortunately violated our student code of conduct numerous times over the past two years.” 

The girl's family said it was stunned by the school’s expulsion rationale. Her mother confirmed her daughter was placed on earlier probation, but had since been improving. The family was told that the expulsion could be re-classified as "voluntary withdrawal" on her transcript if she applied to other schools. She now attends a public school. 

No details on alleged transgressions preceded expulsion, the school cited KY law and its guidelines, “All parents who enroll their children in our private school know upfront that we ask the students to adhere to a lifestyle informed by our Christian beliefs.”

The school is affiliated with a local Baptist church and can refuse admission/discontinue the enrollment of a current student who may go against its religious beliefs. The Louisville Fairness Ordinance, passed in 1999, contains exemptions for religious organizations and schools.

This incident received national news attention, The school has been inundated with negative feedback online, most likely on various forms of social media.

WHY this post?
First, the school and its administration are apparently within their legal rights. While I may not agree with the position, the point here wasn't to chastise or judge. Instead, what concerns me (and others) is how much people share on social media not realizing any repercussions or unforeseen reactions. And, yes this could apply to a blog post too.

What about you — Do you have strong thoughts (or not) on the impacts of social media.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

It's Beginning to Look

No, not like early Christmas, but every other holiday that follows.
Within a few days after Christmas, most local retailers here were stocked up for the next round of holidays, Valentine's Day coming first and being the most heavily promoted through so many displays.
It followed soon afterwards by St. Patrick's Day (March 17), then Easter (April 12) There's debate over which holiday sells the most candy — Valentine's Day, Easter, or Halloween.
There were lots of left-over bargains to be found for those included to stock up for 2020 Christmas. Sales at some retailers featured mark-downs of 75%.

Until this week, we had the holiday cards still on display and they have since been taken down, but saved for some of next year's decoration projects. The New England winter village and the manger setting still remain and will be packed away by the end of this month. (We had to wait until the Jan 6 feast of the Epiphany and the arrival of the Three Wise Men after Christmas.)
"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me."                                                           Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Christmas Road Trip

Christmas holidays went by quickly for Grenville and myself as they were taken up largely by visits to family and friends in several states. This longish post is a photo summery of all the folks we visited during our 1,000 mile+ trip.

First stop was RI where we spent Christmas Day with the grands and their mom.
As the grandkids have gotten older, their holiday gifts no longer consist of toy as grandson enjoyed a new metronome and granddaughter received a new iPad.
He recently had a December birthday and one of his birthday/Christmas gifts from Grandpa Grenville was an electric keyboard. He showed his sister how to play it for an impromptu performance.

Next stop on the Christmas family visits was a stop in CT to spend time with Grenville's aunt and uncle.

We've been taking Christmas photos with long-time friends Sara and David whenever we've gotten together during the holidays. They live in our native NJ and this was first time in several years that we were able to continue this "tradition." (Sara and Dorothy are former high school classmates and remain close friends.) 

We even managed to get a "selfie" with all four of us thanks to Grenville's long reach.

One of the most wonderful visits during our NJ stop was having breakfast with these ladies: Virginia (L) and Margaret (R). These 90+ year old women were both friends of my late mother's and met after her passing 5 years ago. They live within 5 miles of one another and talk on the phone nightly. I also talk with them weekly. They are amazing and graceful ladies and we never miss a chance to spend time with them when in NJ.

In NJ, we spent time with family, including newest family members, great nieces, Autumn Rose (L) and Savannah Marie (R). These two cousins were born in Oct 2019, 2 weeks apart. We met Autumn at Thanksgiving, but this was our first time meeting Savannah who's relocating to FL with her parents later this year.

In a baby switch, our two nieces are each holding their niece. Julie is holding her niece, Savannah while her sister, Jamie is holding niece, Autumn.
Happy grandparents shown above are my brother Tony and his wife, Anita, who became first-time grandparents twice within 2 weeks in 2019. Looks like they have their hands full.

It looked like Autumn and Ernie were quite taken with one another. We learned that she enjoys Sesame Street and figured this would be a great gift. Her mom, Julie, has since told us that Ernie travels everywhere with her.

After the NJ visit, we visited with youngest granddaughter and her mom.

As per our usual habit, we took selfies in places stayed overnight during our 2019 Christmas to New Year's Eve road trip with stops in RI, CT, NJ, PA and NY covering over 1,000 miles. It was great to see everyone (and we did) during the holiday, but in Christmas 2020 we're planning a quiet NH holiday at home. (It will be our gift to ourselves.)