The Bane of trying to be creative with too many options available

I just read an article from a woman whose title is toilet dress and it was all about her frustration dealing with independent patterns fit style and fabric choices I completely understand your frustration it is such a B major supplies companies out there mainly here in America Jo-Ann’s and Hobby Lobby, and God help us Walmart, leave little in the way of being creative. Yes I quilt but my interest is more in fashion.

Indeed, I have stuck with the big four (Vogue, McCall’s, Simplicity and Butterick) for basic construction needs but, I have found that I added my own special touches to set things apart from the typical look. Of course using these patterns can be helpful but can be a complete nightmare. I don’t even Venture into the ‘independent market’ for fear of what they’ll cook up, not knowing which we the sewing crew are used to or even want to try. I will grant you they have some lovely designs but fitting, draping, and sleeves can be a nightmare for those of us who weren’t familiar with fitting our own body types. And therein lies the rub.

Years ago I inherited 4 books from McCall’s, including one on Tailoring which completely opened up my skills in fitting, hand-stitching and even color Construction. It was here that I learned how to shape the bodice, things to be careful with the shoulders seam, and even pants construction (since WHEN has a crotch worked on ANY pattern without measuring 12 times?!?). Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am one of those body types where my trunk is a petit but my arms and legs are extra tall, hence my problem with measuring, measuring,  measuring the lone shoulder pad installation! How many here even know what a sleeve head is?

Needless to say, I am quite weary of the so-call independent designers because their visions are far outside my needs or skill set. As for the Big Four, I have patterns that are over 10 years old because they are all classic styles and I’m not a cocktail dress/ just for fun sewist (funky term but it works…) so my need for loungewear, or just hanging out is quite minimal. Of course, this much more to this conundrum. Fabric.

Those of us who are looking to design garments, or dare I say sew, are losing out on quality fabric, locally available. Now we have to go Prout poking around on the internet to see if we can find the right color, the rent material and the right price. The most important thing here, as I can see it, is making sure the fabric matches the pattern you want to make. The other problem is, there are no standards for purple, blue, green or even brown. Frustrating enough already, to say the least. Then we get into fabric content. These fabric companies have come up with all sorts of creative ways to describe fabric oh, so you have no idea if what you’re ordering will work with what you want. Wool gabardine from the Midwest has a bunch of polyester in it and won’t work in the Northeast. But I found one delightful company, up in Minnesota, that understands what February is like above the Mason-Dixon line. And because of their creativity, I have to do a lot of digging to figure out if I want to order 4.5 yards of anything on any site.

And, of course there’s buttons but I’ll save that for a future blog because that will be long enough by itself….

Navigating Long-Term Health plans

This last summer, my family was presented with a medical catastrophe. My husband had a Stroke and suddenly, we were forced into an entirely new reality.

hospital bed

It was as if the Heavens had decided that I was getting too complacent and wanted to present me with a challenge that would force me to concentrate on an issue that would test my abilities to navigate bureaucracy in an entirely new manner. To start with, no one, in any agency, had any idea what steps I needed to take to make sure my husband was protected. The current coverage we had didn’t take care of what we needed when he was discharged. I made 40 (yup, actually kept track) phone calls, some to agencies three or four times, and could not get a straight answer or the information I needed to take care of business.

Enter Long-term Health care. I have dealt with the State Health Care system for far too long already (another discuss/opinion I will save you from) and now, it was the same malarkey but in an monstrous new way.

Of course I already knew I’d have to submit  a lot of paperwork to show need but this time, I had no direction or idea on the struggle that lay ahead.

lots of paperwork

The Home Health agency finally sent a woman out to explain what I needed to do in November (5 months later) and things finally got going in the right direction.  As I wrote, I’ve been through this mess numerous times before so I gathered all the items I knew they would ask for—if you have any sort of asset, be it life insurance, savings accounts, a house and/or a car that you own, a business that you started, be prepared to prove that you:

  • No longer have it
  • Transferred it to some distant cousin in the Cayman Islands
  • Shut it down because it just wasn’t viable
  • Are making a million dollars and really shouldn’t be asking for help from anyone

This is also known as: the FIVE YEAR LOOK BACK. WHAT???? Ok, I don’t know about your memory capacity but mine is only set-up for ME, not my family—i.e. things that happened to me, affected me, made me happy, made me sad, etc. etc. The operative term here is ‘me.’ As for my husband, for the last couple of years he was just a long for the ride so to speak. Now, every little project he started and messed with suddenly became a reason for the State to say, “SHOW US.” Sigh…

Needless to say, I gathered all the paperwork, trotted down to the city office, dropped it off with some poor minion at the Front Desk and she gave me a nice little receipt showing, not only the date but, also the time as if that were relevant in any case (they’re only open until 4:30 pm so who cares?!?!). Then the fun began.


I called the city office a week later and said, “I dropped off everything already so all the worker needs to do is review our paperwork and let me know when my husband will be eligible. Problem is, it took them a month to figure out they still needed more. They sent me a list of all of my husband’s prior activities (asset-wise) and said, “Please provide copies of these too.

Between bureaucracy and patience, I will attest that this has certainly been the greatest challenge I have faced.  Every phone call I made went down the proverbial rabbit hole and if I ever hear, “let me know how you made out,” ever again, I promise you’ll witness a large Mushroom cloud…

Mushroom cloud


10 productivity tricks successful people use every day

I got this on my weekly email and think it’s REALLY good advice to share.  The piece below was written by:

Elana Lyn Gross, Monster contributor

1. Focus on your “why”

If you see your work as meaningful, you’ll work harder and be more productive as a result. At the start of the day, ask yourself what you love (or really like) about your work and what value you create for your colleagues or customers, suggests Steve Farber, president of the San Diego-based leadership coaching firm Extreme Leadership. “It will have an immediate, positive effect on your mindset and personal energy,” says Farber.

2. Check your email in blocks

If you spend all day pruning your email inbox, you’ll have less time to focus on your tasks at hand.

“Set three specific times per day to review your emails,” says Alex Moore, CEO of the Mountain View, California-based email productivity company Boomerang. “Research shows that it takes 64 seconds to fully recover from an email interruption, so checking email only three times a day can end up saving people 20% of time spent.”

3. Prioritize your to-do list

Add “organize your to-do list” to your to-do list ASAP.

Your first step is to organize all your to-do’s into one list instead of having one on your phone and one on your desk, plus a few random coffee-stained Post-it notes, says Matt Girvan, co-founder and president of My Gung Ho, a California-based productivity app company.

He says your next step is to choose the five to 10 tasks that are the most crucial. “This immediately shortens your giant task list and allows you to focus on what is really important.

4. Write a to-don’t list too

“Once you decide what you most need to do in a day, also write a list of what you’re not going to do, in order to make progress on your priorities,” says Brown.

Write down that you will not check social media until you finish writing an article or you won’t check your texts until you finish sending meeting agendas, for example.

“By writing down what we’re not going to do, we become conscious of our distractions and can refer back to our own intention as soon as we naturally feel the urge to switch to a new task,” she says.

5. Use your time (and calendar) wisely

Don’t fall into the workday quicksand of spending all day in meetings, answering emails and completing busy work.

“Blocking out time is an accountability trick,” says Claire Tompkins, a San Francisco-based clutter coach and time management expert. “It makes you honor the time you know you need to devote to that project.” If other people can see your calendars, mark this time as busy so that your time stays meeting-free and uninterrupted.

6 Get to know your optimal focus time

Are you more focused right when you get to your desk in the morning with a steaming hot mug of coffee, or after you’ve been in the zone for a few hours?

“Observe when you are most alert and how long you can stay productive,” says Tompkins. “Schedule your important work for that time of day and that length of time.”

If you realize you can only truly focus for an hour without having your mind (and mouse!) wander, schedule a short break after each hour of uninterrupted focus.

7. Resist the urge to multitask

You may think you’re great at moving seamlessly from one task to the next while listening to music or having the television on as “background noise”—but are you really?

“We’re far more effective and productive when we focus on individual tasks,” says Girvan. By doing so, you’ll find that you make more progress, produce higher-quality work and be more productive. (Win-Win-Win!)

8. Institute the “Five-Minute Rule”

If you can do a task in five minutes or less, do it right away instead of putting it on the metaphorical back burner.

“If you spend a minute or so understanding a task but don’t take action, you’ll have to go back and re-familiarize yourself with the task later on,” says Girvan. “Multiply that by hundreds of times throughout a week, and you’ll soon see large chunks of time wasted that could have been better spent.”

9. Track your progress

Celebrate your accomplishments (big and small) by tracking your progress.

“It’s easy to lose track of the progress we make,” says Lisa Skeete Tatum, founder and CEO of Landit, a New York City-based career-coaching tool for women. “Write them down and reflect every week to make sure you are making progress toward your goals.”

10. Take short breaks

You aren’t the Energizer Bunny; it’s okay to take breaks. (Just don’t take five-minute breaks every five minutes.)

“Take a quick, five-minute break and close your eyes, take a walk or meditate. Do whatever you need to do to reignite your fire for the final workday hours,” says Farber.

If your office doesn’t have nap pods or meditation rooms, do a few subtle stretches at your desk, go for a walk around the block, or refill your water bottle or coffee mug.


What it takes to be an Administrator

Definition of administration

1.performance of executive duties :  management worked in the administration of a hospital
2. the act or process of administering something the administration of justice the administration of medication
3. the execution of public affairs as distinguished from policy-making

4. a body of persons who administer b often capitalized:  a group constituting the political executive in a presidential government a member of the Bush administration c :  a governmental agency or board the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
5. the term of office of an administrative officer or body during the first Clinton administration¹

Office workerAs an office Administrator for more than 7 years now, I have taken care of everything from dry-cleaning to dish washing. Although a good part of my job description does not include the usual office jargon, everything that I do has one goal: keeping an office running smoothly no matter what challenge or problem arises.  Another way to look at it is the idea that my boss should not need to worry about anything but the business at hand and part of that is supplying the back up so that they can do their job well.

In this ever-changing world, knowing what the current movements or trends are is essential to business support.  Along with that, computers, printers, coffee machines and the latest in Washington’s version of Labor laws, the Office Administrator has the expertise to keep track of all these things. The Robert Half organization has done a lot of research on what it takes and has come up with a pretty handy list.

“Knowing the three T’s of the industry — terminology, trends and technology — means, as a new hire, you can begin to contribute immediately. A savvy administrative professional is not only familiar with these concepts, but also knows how to use them to full advantage.

Terminology — Knowing the language of a particular business sector means an administrative assistant new to the company can keep up with and contribute to conversations in the workplace right from the start.
Trends — Today’s administrative professionals should be knowledgeable about industrywide trends. They should also be thinking proactively about how these trends could potentially impact the company.,
Technology — Employers prefer administrative professionals who are not only tech-savvy but also well-versed in the company’s most often-used technology. They look for individuals who proactively stay up to date through training so they can maximize these tools.2
Does this mean said Administrator needs to spend a decade or more in some educational institution? Not in my view.  What it means is keeping up, paying attention and figuring out what the Administrator needs to do to keep up. This is all part of the Bottom-Line concept. To quote Bachman Turner Overdrive, it’s Taking Care of Business Every day. Hum if you like, that should be the theme song for everyone out there that oversees company operations. Of course, office minutiae, if you will, is only half of what it takes to get the job done.²

The other half is People. Be it staff, vendors, department heads, or the Boss’s nephew who just graduated from some hefty University, the half of what a good Administrator needs are People skills. Knowing how to negotiate, having the ability to foster collaboration, and recognizing talent are all essential. Robert Kartz from the venerable Harvard Business Review wrote what I deem the most definitive article on what it takes to be a great Administrator. Granted, his article was written in 1974 but, it’s relevancy is still at the forefront of today’s business needs.

In particular is what he has written about people skills.  The ability to speak to someone is the base of a rather important skill in the business world.  What Kartz has done is figured out what direction an Administrator needs to head in order to manage staff.


Human Skill

I now believe that this kind of skill could be usefully subdivided into (a) leadership ability within the manager’s own unit and (b) skill in intergroup relationships. In my experience, outstanding capability in one of these roles is frequently accompanied by mediocre performance in the other.

Often, the most internally efficient department managers are those who have committed themselves fully to the unique values and criteria of their specialized functions, without acknowledging that other departments’ differing values have any validity at all. For example, a production manager may be most efficient if he puts all his emphasis on obtaining a high degree of reliability in his production schedule. He would then resist any external pressures that place a higher priority on criteria other than delivering the required output on time. Or a sales manager may be most efficient if he puts all his emphasis on maintaining positive relationships with customers. He would then resist all pressures that would emphasize other values, such as ease of production or selling the highest gross margin items. In each case, the manager will probably receive strong support from his subordinates, who share the same values. But he will encounter severe antagonism from other departments with conflicting values.

To the extent that two departments’ values conflict with each other, skillful intergroup relationships require some equivocation. But compromise is often perceived by departmental subordinates as a “sellout.” Thus the manager is obliged to choose between gaining full support from subordinates or enjoying full collaboration with peers and/or superiors. Having both is rarely possible. Consequently, …internal intragroup skills are essential in lower and middle management roles and that intergroup skills become increasingly important in successively higher levels of management

If you are looking for a good Administrator or strive to be one yourself, Kartz’s article should be considered biblical in both size and importance. Of course, since it was written in a time that had very few computers, NO cells phones and office hours were solely 9am – 5pm Monday through Friday so the other skills I have mentioned should also be considered essential to today’s office Administrators. And what does this mean to the crew that wants someone to manage their details? You need to seek out someone who is willing to learn, willing to teach and willing to nurture.






The Syrian Debacle

Ok, they fled Syrian because of persecution, they ran because their lives were threatened. The daily News shows pictures of teaming masses begging for help and pleading shelter.  Every sex, every age, every size was hungry and desperate. And now, all the pundits are saying, ‘Not in my backyard!’ Now, wait a minute!

First of all, this beloved United States of mine (and yours) was founded on the idea of religious freedom (‘member those Pilgrims?), and a democratic government (Take That King George!). Based on that, I happen to think it would be ok if we didn’t slam our door shut.

Alright, I know, it costs money, effort and time but how many of you are Irish? Italian? Cuban? Ellis Island handled things with an X-Ray (base on that whole TB epidemic, etc.) and some paperwork. Florida, no idea how they handled it but things seem to have worked ok. The point is, given the chase to make your own success, to raise your children without fear of war, to conduct your life as you see fit within the parameters of Society, couldn’t we at least try?

This Melting Pot of ours is based on Emigration. My family hit the shores on New Jersey before it even was New Jersey (1700) and everyone I know is the child of an emigrant (as side from my Native America buddies…). What has changed? On the other hand, there is something else to consider too.

Fran (short for Frances) Townsend was on Face the Nation this morning and put forth an idea which made a lot of sense to me. Paraphrased, she said, the longer the refugees are in limbo, the more likely they will be come disenchanted with the States and the more likely they’ll fall victim to the intensive marketing campaign of Al Qaeda and/or ISIS. My point is, Congress, CUT IT OUT.

Let them come (another discussion on how is one I haven’t thought about yet) and go through the same process the rest do. Welcome them here and tell them ‘we understand.’ Remind them that we are all ONE nation and collaboration is the key to our success and let them give the US a try.

Am I wrong to think it won’t work?




Hi folks,

I know most of my posts are about cooking (will post a few recipes really soon) but I can’t help but state my opinion on the current crisis.  First of all, I married an emigrant.

The process was arduous but not hard.  It cost money but not a huge sum. There was some bureaucracy to be dealt with but nothing surprising. Oh, and that test? Think 7th grade Social Studies, and no, you don’t have to memorize the Capital of North Dakota (Bismark for all you East Coasters…).  It took my husband 6 years, while holding down a steady job, and a couple of trips to various agencies but he did it. Sound impossible?

Because I went through the process with him, I have given a lot of thought to the idea of solving a slightly different problem. Most of what I’ve heard about farm laborers is that they don’t speak English or they didn’t register. What if the farmers took 10% of their profits and each working gave 10% of their wages to a fund that would pay for their citizenship application? Beside that, loop in the Churches and communities to help them learn passable English. That’s been done with several other communities and does require some effort but the most that is needed is the desire to help. Big Deal? You bet!

Instead of pointing fingers and pontificating on the evils of Board Patrol, why don’t we try and solve the problem by providing answers? Is it really too much for people to volunteer some time? Is it really too much for those beastly, nasty, greedy Financial Institutions to set up savings accounts FREE OF CHARGE? Do we need to get a bunch of White, Anglo-Saxon Capitalists to put their heads together and get this going?

Sure, this sounds complicated but if we all gave some effort, we might just solve the problem.

Public Transportation and the apathy thereof

I work downtown, in Syracuse, NY, part-time. My diatribe on parking will have to wait for another post but, it is the main reason I do not drive to the City.  Since car-pooling isn’t really an option, I have discovered that Centro (our bus service here) has provided me with the means to work and be productive. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering what the big deal is.

Most half-way decently sized Metropolitan areas have some sort of public transportation and I highly prefer that to trying to find a parking place, trying to find a decent taxi or trying to figure out the fastest way to wherever I want to be. Of course, patience is essential with public transportation but you also gain a lot of practice in planning.  That said, I wondering, how come there are so few of us who have figured out that it’s easier to take the bus?

According to 2013 (latest I could find) census data, Syracuse (and its environs I assume) has a population of 144,669 people (every size, shape and color included).  [] Of that, according to a bunch of smarty-pants researchers who work for The City, only 3% use the bus. That’s 434 people and a crying shame.

Are we so enraptured with our vehicles that to avoid using them would cost us dearly? Are we so uneducated that we can’t figure out the bus schedule? Are we so intimidated by the thought of riding with strangers? Really folks, it isn’t that hard. The website for our buses is: and contacts a “trip planner.” That has saved me a lot of time and trouble to say the least. Just plug in your starting point and destination, and bada-bing! bada-BOOM, you’ll be told which bus to catch at what time, whether or not you have to transfer, and what time you’ll arrive. Not that hard…Then again, any effort beyond starting a vehicle seems to be much too much for people around here.

More Kitchen helps :)

Yes, Yes, I know! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything but Creation did not happen in a day, neither does my creativity.  That said, I’ve discovered a few more tips to help folks out with various items.

First off, one of my favorite gadgets:


The Mini-strainer.  If you don’t have one, get one! This comes in handy for all sorts of duties. I like to sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, paprika or any other powdery item with a lot more control than my fingers. It also stands in well for scooping out whatever from soups, etc. when you can’t find your slotted spoon. Think of it as a small sifter. Of course, this you need to find and, since it’s not quite popular amongst the general population, allow me to move on to items that are already in your kitchen

For instance:

PastaConsidering I’m married into an Italian family, having pasta around is a “given.” Considering there are a million places on the web on how to cook or prepare noodles, I will save you from the umpteen recipes but, fear not! Aside from adding to your waist-line, this stuff also comes in handy for all sorts of jobs.

I use long pasta a lot for testing bake goods but, this last December, I came up with another idea. Trying to light Luminaries is a lot easier (and CHEAPER) if you light up a piece of Spaghetti.  Takes a few tries but it works just as well as those gadgets they sell to help you light funky candles in tall containers.

FoilAnd, last but not least, Foil. This one gets credit from Cook’s Magazine but I thought I’d share it with the rest of you.  One of the things I always have stocked in my refrigerator is Celery.  It goes well with a myriad of dishes and every kind of protein you can imagine. Base on that, I’m always in need for it at one time or another.  Problem is, after a week, that which WAS Celery has become mushy, brown and just plain funky.  To solve that problem, Cooks came up with the nearly-perfect answer to preserving the stuff without sticking it in an old mayonnaise jar filled with water.

When you get home from the grocery store, take it out of the plastic sleeve, run it under some cold water then wrap it up snugly in foil—make sure you just enough foil to wrap it closely, Then, two weeks down the road, Voila! You will still have fresh, crunchy, worthy of any dish, Celery.  I have found that it lasts for up to 1 1/2 months using this method.

Well, that’s it for now.  If you’d like to share your ideas, please do! Since the Economy is still in flux and we’re all trying to manage with less, any frugal, cheap or fun ideas are always welcome 🙂

Where would we be without friends?

The song that comes to mind is “He ain’t heavy, he’s my Brother.” Over the past few months I have been challenged with a number of struggles that most people would collapse from. I didn’t give any thought to asking for help, I just tried to figure my problems out by myself.

Cancer? I have a bunch of Doctors and a lot of research. Child problems? More research and asking a lot of  questions. Finances? Dig, Dig, DIG to find an answer (including Lottery tickets…). All these problems/questions I tried to figure out on my own but, somebody upstairs said, “Hey, STUPID! You’ve got buddies galore! Ask for HELP!” (A blog on my spirituality but dislike of organized Religion will pop up at some point).

Now the average homo sapiens would yell, “HELP!” but, me? I started paying attention to all the letters, notes, cards, texts, emails and phone calls from all the people who know me as a friend.  You’d think I would have given in and said, “oh please!” immediately but, no. Instead, I muddled in and tried to solve my problems. Then things got a little harder to ignore.

Friends came to my house, packages arrive in the mail and people brought gifts of every kind. They took charge of what needed to be taken care of.  After the last “rescue,” I realized that I must be the luckiest person on Earth to have such an out-pouring of concern. Was it something I said? Did? Didn’t do? Took care of? Helped out with? Gave counsel for? Some how I was blessed and awakened to the fact that a lot of people love me and I am forever grateful for all of their help.