Friday, May 31, 2013

Reduced Sodium Honey Garlic Sauce Recipe

Here is the recipe I talked about the other day, since I had some requests to share it.

First, the recipe I "freestyled" off of.....


1/4 cup soy sauce Yikes!
1/4 cup honey
1 TB rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. ginger
1 TB garlic
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. cornstarch

And here is my Version

2 TB reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup honey + 1TB
3 TB rice wine vinegar
1 tsp. fresh grated ginger(powdered is ok)
3 TB garlic(minced)
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp cornstarch(or more according to thickness of sauce)

You combine all but the cornstarch in a bowl and mix well.
To marinate your meat/protein, put raw meat into Ziploc bag, pour in marinade and refrigerate at least 30 minutes(an hour is better).
After 30 min.,  remove the meat and grill or pan sauté.  Reserve the liquid.

While meat is cooking, put marinade in small saucepan.  Pour all but 2 TB of marinade into pot.
Take the 2 TB of marinade and add your cornstarch to it, mixing onto no lumps remain.
Heat saucepan of marinade to boiling.  Slowly pour in cornstarch/marinade mixture, whisking or mixing as you add it.
Continue heating marinade mixture until it thickens to a sauce consistency.

Pour over your cooked meat, serve with rice, vegetables and/or other dishes.

Of course, you can monkey around with the proportions of the ingredients.  The sodium in this version is a lot better but still a bit high for me, because, well, reduced sodium soy sauce is an oxymoron.  Soy Sauce should be called Salt Sauce. lol
I cut the soy and added rice wine vinegar.

If you like garlic, add more garlic.....if you like spicy, add more of the red pepper flakes.
Or add more or less honey or vinegar to taste.

Next time I make this I'll sauté eggplant and make Garlic Eggplant.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Banjoes Are Calling Me....

Last week I experienced a flurry of genealogy activity.
The week before while noodling around on the interweb I found a library in Lynchburg, VA that has a wealth of genealogical information.
It's called the Jones Memorial Library.
They specialize in local history and genealogy.
Among their holdings are a large amount of local newspaper obituaries.

So I started poking around and came up with quite a few of my ancestors who had been brick walls for me.
I sent away for 8 obituaries at a cost of $80($10 per)......oh how I wish I knew someone locally who could have copied these documents for me cheaper!
This documenting family can get expensive ya know......

Anyway, they arrived very quickly via 1st class mail last week into my hot little hands.

All of the obits were informative and 1 answered a question my brother and I had talked about when he was here for the graduation, as we reminisced about long dead relatives.

The folks in question here are my maternal grandfather's family(my mother's father's side of the family) and/or folks who married into this family.
They lived in the central part of Virginia.  Yes, my mother's mother's family back during the depression was The Waltons, only a little further south....

My grandfather, Wirt Ross Harper, was the oldest son of Robert William Harper and Jennie Vie Tucker Harper of Campbell County, VA.  Wirt had 5 brothers and 2 sisters(in chronological order they were Ollie, Wirt, Royal, Lillie Vie, Robert, Raymond, Ernest and Tucker).
They were all born between 1907 and 1924.
Unfortunately I don't have a group photograph of all of this family.

The most important information I gained from finding these obit listings online was it narrowed down some folks death dates to within a few days for me, even if I didn't send for the obit itself, which also listed the day of the actual death and not just the day it was published in the newspaper.

One of the brothers I had the least information on was Royal.  He died when I was 4 so I don't remember him at all. His obit pegged his birth year(as it gave his age at his death....he was 49).
It also told me that he had been a veteran(as he died in a veteran's hospital), he had been married(listed his widows name, including maiden name), and where he was buried.
What it didn't mention was also telling surviving children, meaning he was childless when he passed. 
I went to put his information into my family tree on Ancestry and found a new piece of info. there-the application for a veteran's grave marker filled out by his widow in 1963.  This confirmed the military service too.

Now I have done an exhaustive search on Find A Grave for this family line over the past year, and I have never turned up a memorial/known burial plot for Royal in any of the cemeteries my other Harpers are known to be planted in. 
The obit gave me that he was buried in Smith Cemetery, which I assumed to be near Brookneal, VA, where most of this family group lived.
But a search on F.A.G. came up with no such cemetery.

A few days later I found the Campbell County Historical Societies Website.  They have a Project to find the "Lost Cemeteries" in the county and I found the Smith Family Cemetery listed as one of these MIA burying grounds listed there.
I also went onto F.A.G.(aka Find A Grave) and put up a memorial for Royal there and requested a photo from a local volunteer.  I did explain in a note with the request about the issue with where the cemetery was located.  There are 75 local photo volunteers and I am hoping one of them has a clue where this cemetery is or can ask someone locally they know, where to find it.
Cross your fingers for me!

This week's free time has been spent tracking down whether my mother's side of the family dearly departed are listed on F.A.G. or not, and if so, to request that their memorials be transferred to my care so I can link them all up and post more details or photos of them on the site.  So far I have 14 Baker/Vassar/Tucker/Harper/Foster/ ancestors under my wing now.  
I am having a devil of a time getting my grandparents out from the grasp of one F.A.G. contributor.  He does NOT respond to emails or his public messages or memorial suggestions/edits.  I've been trying to get these grands for months now and I will turn this over to the admin on the site very soon.  I suspect the contributor may be dead or infirmed and no longer active.  Why else would he ignore me?  If it comes down to a pissing contest, they are MY grandparents and not mother was an only child so besides my brother, I am the closest living relative, and F.A.G. gives precedence to the closet relative for ancestors within 4 generations.

I would like to take a trip down to Virginia this summer to do some genealogical research at the Campbell Co. Historical Society/Public Library.  I see that they have TONS of research available on site to comb through.  I am at the stage of the game now that online census reports and such have been exhausted and I need official certificates and wills books and old newspaper microfiche now to continue the search.  Plus I'd love to go visit some graveyards in the area too and pay my respects.

I heard that one of my mother's cousin's wife is the unofficial Baker/Vassar family historian in that area, who has photos and such that I don't have and might have some written down stories.  I'd love to get together with her, as well as the cousin of my mother on her father's side who still lives in the area for additional information on the Harper/Tucker lines.

Maybe I'll take #2 Son on a roadtrip once school is out in just over a week.  He can help with the driving now and be my legs when mine wear out.  Oh, I KNOW the thought of spending time with me, a library and cemeteries will thrill him to no end......but if I keep him full of pizza and crap and let him sleep to 2pm, he might not complain too much.  lol

Anybody out there live in South Central VA((Farmville, Lynchburg, Appomattox areas) and want a house guest sometime next month?? 8-)


Food & Eating on a Restricted Sodium Diet

I want to mention two grocery items I found lately that are super low in sodium, in case there are some folks reading me who want or need to lower their intake of that yummy but possibly unhealthy food.

I found this brand of salad dressing....

Braswell's brand of dressing.  This particular one is a peach vinaigrette.
It only has 30 mg sodium(compared to the 250 or much more in other commercial dressings).
The herb vinaigrette variety has only 100 mg as well. 
This peach flavor goes well with greens and nuts, not so good if you add tomato to your salad.
It's not cheap at $3.99 a bottle but it's been on sale at Weis(Poundmeintheass)Markets lately for $2.99(not on sale this week).  It comes in a reusable glass carafe....very convenient for your summer wine soirees. ;-)

I know I can probably makes this cheaper myself(I buy bulk bags of frozen peach slices at the restaurant supply store, so the cost of the fruit is lower than paying $3 or more for a 1lb. bag in the grocery store), but it's good to have on hand for those days when you don't have the time or energy to make 6 or so items from scratch because you can't have the commercially prepared equivalent anymore.

I also found a partial answer to my cheese dilemma.....I LOVE cheese, but it's basically all sodium, even fake cheese has tons of sodium in it.
HeluvaGood is my new "besty".....

They make a reduced sodium cheddar cheese.
25 mg per 2 oz. serving.
I found the only place around here that carries it is Wegman's.  It's $2.49 an 8 oz. package.
Now I say this is a PARTIAL solution for two reasons.

1-They only make this reduced sodium cheese in a cheddar variety.  Cheddar cheese is a very small part of the Fromage Universe and being restricted to 1 type of cheese for life chaps my butt.
But at least there IS some cheese I can have in quantity.

2-It tastes terrible.  Ok....maybe not terrible but it's not as good as cheddar cheese make with salt.
It's terrible as an "let's have cheese on crackers" cheese, but it's good as a "melted in a sandwich or in a casserole" cheese.  It just doesn't have much flavor at all.  And I am telling you this as someone who's palate is use to not having salt and finding flavor in bland food now.
Mostly I'll probably be using this WITH a real cheese, to extend the amount I can have but have the flavor of reg. cheddar, on days when I have seriously restricted all other sodium consumed so I have lots of room left in my sodium allotment.

I did use this reduced sodium cheese thusly a couple of weeks back.
Weis(PMITA)Markets had Cubanelle peppers on sale for $1.29 lb.  I bought some and made Chile Rellenos one night for dinner.
Though I have enjoyed this dish in restaurants before, I had never made this myself before and was a bit intimidated.
It really wasn't too bad but it was difficult as you need to be quick once you get the egg whites whipped up.
Here are the peppers once I had put them to char on the grill and then sweat in a plastic bag.....

I should have charred them more as the skins would have been easier to pull off.   But luckily the skins of cubanelle peppers aren't as tough as poblano peppers so the dish was still edible.
I did the traditional frying of the egg white batter dipped peppers(the most difficult part was coating the peppers) but next time I'll try baking them instead.  I stuffed my pepper with my special RS cheese but still put some reg. Monterey jack cheese on top when I baked them off in the casserole dish.  It was enough to give it cheese flavor but not so much that I went over my sodium limit for the day.

Sorry I forgot to snap a photo of the finish dish, but trust me, everyone ate them right up! lol

Last week I had a 2lb. bag of large shrimp(21-30 ct. I think?) I wanted to use.
Not wanting to go the battered and fried route, I tired grilling them on skewers.  I went searching online for a honey garlic sauce recipe.
Found one and then did my monkeying around with it to make it almost sodium-free but still tasty.
Let the shrimp skewers marinate for an hour before I threw them on the grill and used a can of coconut milk to make coconut rice to go along with the shrimp.
Then I thickened the marinade with cornstarch and served the resulting sauce over the shrimp.
Hubs & I agreed that the sauce tasted just like the Garlic Sauce they put on Eggplant at our favorite Chinese restaurant!
I could have sworn I snapped a picture of the finished dish but can't seem to find it in my files....

The sauce was so good, I used leftover sauce to form the base of a new batch of sauce last Saturday and made Garlic Chicken and Broccoli over leftover Coconut Rice.  I also added water chestnuts to give the dish a little crunch....

"Good enough to eat" close-up.....

I'm so spiffy, the dish coordinates with my dinnerware colors! lol
We have 2 servings of this dish left so it will be on the menu either tonight or tomorrow as it's too hot to cook here the next couple of days.

If anyone would like my reduced-sodium Honey Garlic marinade and sauce recipe, just give out a holler and I'll post it.

I'm off to another dr. appt. in a bit here....oh goody!


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Non-Stop Toilet Cleaning

Hubs and I are going into the Designer Hotel business.


It needs work but it's a steal!
Look at the trim work inside on that staircase.
The only draw back is the number of toilets.
I just wish I could talk him into it.

He wants to leave his job soooo badly and doesn't want to wait the few years he needs to stay before he retires from there.

I told him he can leave now, we can fix this up and run it.
After a few years, when it's a going operation, we can hire a manager to run it, and then sit back and count the profits.

That's what childhood friends of Hubs did when they retired as teachers.  They bought a B&B in the Berkshires, eventually hired a manager, retiring from the B&B biz and had a passive income stream.

I guess I'll have to save this idea for my second husband...... ;-)



Bluegrass Banjo

Let's get in touch with our inner hillbilly today.
This is for you Linda.



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Just For Laughs

One of the fine moments of an underrated film.....


VITALCHEK-Scam Artists Who can Kiss My Ass

If you do genealogy I sure hope you NEVER have to obtain documentation/vital records from a large city!
You will, without a doubt be driven crazy by it.

My father was born in NYC.  I sent away through VITALCHEK online for his birth certificate back in February.
Paid a whopping $38.30 for it.
And then I sat and waited.....and waited.....then waited some more.

The Vitalchek website showed no information(the status of my request)for a month.
I got busy with other things and just refound, last week, my receipt for the order I made.....3 full months since the request.
I have heard not one peep nor gotten anything in the mail in all this time from either Vitalchek or NYC.

So I went back to the Vitalchek  website and there is a message that they can't show any information on my purchase/request after 45 days(for MY privacy...yah, riiight!)and I have to call them for information.
So I call and basically they tell me I have to call the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene directly now to inquire on the status of the request.
They further said they show that the request was received on Feb. 27th by the NYC H&MH and there is no evidence that anything was ever mailed out.

Oh goody!

So  I call the number the gal gives me and it's not the Dept. of H&MH but a 311 information line for NYC parking rules today, when is the next garbage pick-up....that sort of thing.
So I hang on the line what seemed like an hour before I got a live person....a live person who spoke too fast and with a heavy accent.
I couldn't make out anything they said except they will transfer me to the Dept. of H&MH.
And I sat on hold some more.....

FINALLY got someone at the actual agency I needed to contact. 
After taking every piece of information from me short of when my last bowel movement was, she tells me that the order was CANCELLED....cancelled back on Feb. 27th!!!
Well, THANKS for not letting me know that for 3 months!
Damn government.....

She says all birth certificate requests have to be done in person or via snail mail with a physical application.  Since my father is dead I also need a certified copy of his death certificate with the application.
So now I have to go to Virginia and pay $12 to get that. (Yah, I can snail mail andapplication but that will be another 4 weeks or more and I've already waited 3 months for this stuff!)

Then I can send it all into NYC and wait the devil knows how long!

Oh, and the $30 I paid NYC for the birth cert. and shipping?
They still have it.
The gal at the Dept. of H&MH said I could expect a refund in the mail in 6-8 weeks from when the application was cancelled.
After a long pause on my end, while I waited for her to realize the lunacy of what she just told me, I reminded her that my application was cancelled Feb. 27th and it was now May 28th, so the 6-8 week time frame had long passed.
She then, put in a request for my refund so we shall see how long(or if EVER)it takes to actually see my money again.

And somebody needs to tell VITALCHEK-who can now officially KMFA!-that they shouldn't allow consumers to request birth certificates online to certain places without other documentation first.....and in some states can't EVER request a cert. online.
They are scamming people out of a fee of $8.30 to do NOTHING!!!


More on this saga is and when it develops.
Off to take my lunch time blood pressure pill....



Meal Plan and Grocery Spending

I haven't been keeping up on the showing y'all the Meal Plans here.
Just too much to do some days, keeping track of dr. appts. and phone calls and cooking from scratch, cleaning and all that other junk.
Something has to give......

But I'm being all good and stuff this week.
I have still been recording my grocery receipts every week and so far in May, through the 24th, I have spent a grand total of $421.49 on food, with a reg. retail value of $699.21.

On my grocery list for this week?
Well it ain't much.

A quantity of "ICE" drinks at WeisPMITAMarkets
A few bags of Texas Toast Croutons on sale $1 ea.
A lb. of low sodium turkey deli meat.
A tomato or two for sandwiches.
And maybe some ice cream and milk for #2 Son.
That's it!

Trying to get through the last week of the month on $40 and keep the food spending well under $500.

I can't tell you what we ate last week except for Meatball Subs(turkey/beef balls and homemade sauce for me) on Wednesday, Honey Garlic Shrimp with coconut Rice on Thursday, a Roasted chicken on Friday and Chicken and Broccoli with leftover Honey Garlic sauce and coconut rice on Saturday.
The rest of the week was 'this and that' I put together from around the pantry/freezer mostly, trying to get back into my eating routine after the trip to Graduation last week when I went off the plan a bit.

This week I'm going into the week WITH a plan for a

Sunday--Cookout...burgers, dogs, homemade potato salad and baked beans and new pickles(all low sodium except for the nitrite-free bacon in the beans)
Monday--Bob Evans cooked us dinner(used a coupon for a BOGO deal)...I had potato crusted flounder.
Tuesday--Chicken & Dumplings-using leftover roasted chicken-not sure how much of this I can let myself have yet
Wednesday--Catfish fry, leftover baked beans, carrots and potato salad
Thursday--leftover Garlic Chicken w/Broccoli and coconut rice
Friday--Ravioli in Sauce w/leftover meatballs, green salad
Saturday--Whatever is still leftover

The only cooking I need to do the rest of the week is make the Chicken & Dumplings, fry the fish, make spaghetti sauce and boil the ravioli.
Did I just say "only"?.....because this sounds like a lot as I look at that sentence.  ;-)

We are due for some really warm weather the end of the week(can you say 89??)so all meals are subject to change, needless to say.... lol

So that's where the food money stands now and what's appearing on the kitchen table this week here at Chez Sluggy.
What's getting fixed and served at your house this week?


Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day 2013

Busy day here today.
We did our Memorial Day cook-out yesterday.  Today was all about working on projects both big and small around the house.

First I finished cleaning off the sofa and chair in the den and putting everything into the bookcase.....
Look!  I can even close the doors on some shelves......

Ignore that man behind the curtain that pile of crap still sitting on the ceramic garden seat next to the bookcase....

Then it was off to run furniture window shopping.....

Running to the beer distributor to stock Hubs up on liquid refreshments for the beginning of summer, to the garden nursery for plants and finishing the trip off with a late lunch at Bob Evans with a BOGO entrée coupon.....go me! ;-)

Then home to prepare the garden beds and do a little more yard maintenance and voila! We are ready to plant.....

Now it's time to chillax with drinks......

And a crabby summer snack gotten for half-price at the bakery.....go me again!

Tomorrow if the weather holds up I'll make a trip to a local cemetery and give some thanks & rememberance to the veterans I find there.

So what are you up to today?


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Going Outside for A Change

It's a nice day today weatherwise.
It's going to be in the 60's.
Not as cold as yesterday so we will be outside this afternoon working on outdoor projects like the lawn, the garden, tree trimming, etc.

I've got yellow eye beans on boiling, almost ready to go into the crockpot for baked beans.
I can't have the canned baked beans(too much sodium!)so I have to make my own.  I will sneak in a little nitrite-free bacon, though not all the salt added to the canned brands.
We'll be grilling out today as well.

#2 son did some yard cleanup for me yesterday before he went to work at the restaurant and Hubs turned over the soil in the garden bed out back and the flower bed in front.
We are a couple weeks late in getting the garden refreshed this year.  Last weekend we were at Graduation and the week before it was freezing(good thing we didn't try to get an early jump on planting!).

Here's what I found when I went outside a few days ago to the garden bed.....

Those are 4 "volunteer" Collard plants.  I had Hubs turn the soil around them and not plow them under or pull them up.  Perhaps I'll have volunteer Morning Glories as well since I plant them over in that corner and they usually reseed from the pervious year's vines if I don't pull them out.

And the Rhododendron is in full bloom too....

Unfortunately I fear my lemon magnolia tree we planted 3 years ago out front is dead.  It just couldn't take the wacky weather last year and gave up.  sigh
I guess I have to move back down South if I ever want a true Magnolia tree in my yard again.....

I'm off to weed wack the yard....oh goody! ;-)
Are you working in your yard/garden today?


Saturday, May 25, 2013

It Has Begun.....

With Favorite Daughter moving 1300 miles away from home and Oldest Son graduating from college and now officially out of the house, it has begun.
What you ask?
Why the Great House Fix-Up and Purge of 2013!
After years of neglect and deferred spending on our home, we are in Spend Mode.

I knew there was a reason I had been socking away all that cash in my yearly Savings Challenges!
But be advised that we will be spending with an eye toward could I not?! 8-)

The game plan of Project Living Space is to--

A-Take care of many maintenance issues on the house, both inside and outside.
B-Upgrade and/or change out broken and "just doesn't work for us" furniture, appliances and features of our home.
C-Further purging and decluttering in preparation for selling and moving.  The timeline for this to occur is 3 to 5 years down the road.
It's the perfect time to start whittling down on the big list of things to get done to get this house ready to sell when we retire.

We began on a small scale the weekend before last, when Hubs and I replaced my old, ugly, ginormous, broken computer desk and equally worn chair with this duo from Office Max....

Though this new desk is only 12 inches shorter in length, visually it's so much lighter than the clunky massive looking desk it is replacing.  The computer drawer has a good strong magnet closure so I can use the pull-out tray as a real drawer to hold stuff instead of for a keyboard.
I'm not crazy about the velour on the chair, as it will retain heat(yuck!)but it "went" with the desk color and it was on sale and it was comfortable.
The desk was on clearance too and better still as far as Hubs is tools were needed to put it together! 
I didn't marry him for his handyman skills.... ;-)

The desk is small enough not to be a dumping ground for papers/dishware/office supplies/mail/children's items they are too lazy to put away/etc.  It can hold the printer, my laptop, a lamp, a box of tissues, a mouse pad and mouse, and a coaster.
Any more room than that and I can't help myself and not collect/hoard stuff on it. ;-)

And since I had a ginormous hanging file drawer crammed with assorted office supplies/computer peripherals/etc. in it's predecessor, this is what I now have to deal with today.....

And this.....
(But not the Chihuahua...I have to deal with her all. the. time.)

I have a Barrister Bookcase(the ones with glass doors) next to my desk area.  Hubs and I cleaned it out the old books, appliance manuals and cookbooks and all the stuff from the old desk I still need will go in that bookcase.
This is what I'm working on today.

If I remember, I'll post a photo of the finished product.

Now I know the desk and chair do not match my family room/kitchen color scheme but some of that will also be changing in the coming months as we progress with the Great House Fix-Up & Purge of 2013.

Do you have any house/apartment projects to start soon?
Have you saved up the funds to pay cash for what you need to buy to accomplish your project?


Friday, May 24, 2013

A Frugal Splurge

Frugal and Splurge are two words you don't normally see used together but today I am gonna use 'em.

I mentioned having spent money on a designer purse earlier this week while out in western PA to see my son graduate.

I was good all weekend, except for the motel room, gas costs to go out there, food, alcohol and buying a celebratory dinner for 11 people.....and then my long latent impulsive demon kicked in.
It kicked in at breakfast on Sunday morning.

But I am blaming my son's girlfriend.
It's all her fault!

She just had to bring her designer purse to breakfast.
And I just happened to notice the awesome fabric it was made from......

It's no secret that my absolute favorite colors are any shade/tint of purple and most shades/tints of green.
Loved this fabric!!

She said it was a Vera Bradley purse.
Now anybody who knows me knows I am not a slave to labels, brands and designers.
I had no clue it was a designer bag and I really don't care that it is.
I just knew I wanted a purse made of the same fabric as this particular one.
But I am frugal at my core so I was going to settle for just admiring her purse.

And then she said those little words I love......I got it on sale at the Vera B. outlet in Grove City.
I only go and buy things there when they have an additional % off sale going.

She had me at additional % off sale.

Since the outlet mall is only about 4 miles past our exit onto I-80 I asked Hubs to make a detour to the Vera Bradley store.

Here is my booty....

And here is the receipt in it's own little envelope.  How hoity toity....

I'm not going to show you the actual receipt.
Let's just say it's just over 3 figures......

But man, did I get some deals for those 3 figures.

I got this one of course....

I liked it because it had handles and a strap, so I can choose how to carry it, depending on the situation.

Then I got this one because it's summery and bright.....and it was on clearance so less than $20....
It has an exterior pocket, an adjustable strap and a drawstring.

And then, because I couldn't make up my mind and only get two, I got this purse......

It's lime green and bright royal blue and suits my darker moods.

I made these purchases because I have no summer purse.  I wore mine out last year.  These fabric bags are more casual and that's how I roll, especially in the summer.  My other two purses are black and that doesn't cut it in the warm weather....unless I want to take up being a Goth.

I also didn't go into debt to buy these and I didn't dip into money reserved for bills and needs so I refuse to feel guilty about buying these bags.
I could sit here and justify this purchase until the end of time but I don't need to since I can clearly afford to spend the money.
If I was in debt though, I'd be kicking myself for dropping the cash.

I couldn't believe that Vera B. store.  More paisleys than I've ever seen in one place in my entire life!
Some of it was ugly but some was very nice and all of it had reg. retail prices I couldn't believe.
It's fabric people, not spun gold!
You could drop serious bucks in that place, even at outlet prices AND additional discounts during a sale.

Have you spent money lately in a moment of impulse on a want?
And do you feel guilty for doing it?


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Karma is A Supreme Bitch

Though it gives me no satisfaction really, I am going to be all smug today and ramble on about local political stuff.  Even those of you not from around here probably have heard about some of this stuff.
Heck, so many in public office(as well as private,  prominent leaders)around here have been indicted and convicted I have lost count on the tally board of them all!

(And by the way, I LOVE this photo taken by Mark Moran, staff photographer for the Citizens Voice.)

And then there is this photo taken by a NBC News photographer outside the courthouse in 2011.  It takes justice to a whole other level.....

Let's talk about our notoriously infamous(that's kind of redundant, huh?)Teeny Tiny Town homeboy, EX-Judge Mark Ciavarella, who got whacked with a prison sentence.
I haven't posted about him since 2009 when his trial was pending.

He finally was convicted and got a 28 year prison sentence in 2011.  With good behavior he'll be out in 24 years at age 85.
Karma is a bitch Mark, ain't it?

All I can say is-It took those particular wheels of justice waaaaaaaaaaaaay too long to move forward and that they can't keep this clown in jail long enough for the kids who's lives he ruined!
Four THOUSAND juvenile convicts had to be overturned in the wake of his evil doings.
And he still to this day denies he did anything wrong....
I hope they give him a river front cell on da Nile because denial is where he lives in his head.

Video of the scumbag after the verdict HERE.
(The mother of a young man who committed suicide after being sent away by Ciavarella makes an appearance in this video and you can hear other parents of wronged kids off camera in the background.)

(And the guy who asked off camera if the ex-judge will still get his state pension....oh yes, the state of PA-home of the corrupt-was still going to let Ciavarella have the FULL state pension, which was estimated to top $4.3 million over the course of his life, way more than the $231K he paid into it.
Ciavarella did eventually get back his $231K in contributions but after legal fees and paying lawyers I would bet he doesn't have enough money left from that for a cup of coffee.

HERE are some reactions from when he was sentenced in 2011 from local residents who did not have loved ones involved in his verdicts.

If there is a hell I like to picture it as a dunk tank at a carnival.....the water is on fire like it was purported that Lake Erie was when it was so polluted.....and the tank is filled with sharks who haven't eaten in a week.  I  hope whoever attempts to dunk Ciavarella when he finally arrives at the Carnival from Hell has really good aim and only has to use one ball. ;-)

Here's some background on all this that I wrote about a few years ago HERE and HERE.

(Something worth mentioning....a follow-up to the story about the ex-NFL player, turned local coach, turned local politician I wrote about in the second post linked above....after the date of that post, he was arrested for taking kickbacks, tried and convicted,  fined and did 2 years in a state prison.)

This corruption circle just got wider and wider after those two posts I made in 2009.  In the end(not that the FBI isn't still here finding "things")the local dirty politics brought down an additional few school superintendents, some state congressmen (in first a money scheme and then a sex scandal) and then a highly placed State Senator who's surname rhymes with YELLOW(who received 16 months for conspiracy and tax fraud).
I could also mention a now ex-US Congressman who secured $9 Million in federal grants for his nephew in 2002 for a water-jet technology business he owned with his siblings.  The company never produced anything and filed for bankruptcy in 2006.  Then in 2010 same ex-US Congressman arranged a $400 MILLION federal loan from Obama's administration  for a solar panel manufacturing scheme for same nephew. (This same solar outfit received a $3 Million grant in 2008.)
We are still waiting for the other shoe to drop on this particular cesspool of corruption......

And don't get me started on the whole Jerry Sandusky/Penn State affair down the road from us.

And I could also mention a local US Congressman who was tried and acquitted of bribery and racketeering charges in 1996(acquitted because it was before the FBI got involved around here).  In 2007, after he retired from politics, he was charged with indecency.
Check it out HERE.  (He plead incompetent to stand trial on that charge.)

The earliest political scumbag from this area that I can recall is a former US Attorney General.  I only remember this one because his name was plastered on the business park where my Hub's office is located.  This bastion of ethics and morality was tried and convicted of bribery and racketeering we sense a theme here?

And the voters and taxpayers around here?
Or worse they just don't care.
Why is no one outraged?!
Why is no one boycotting and picketing and raising hell??

Heck, the voters here even keep electing these public figures to office even after they are arrested and indicted of crimes.  It's happened on more than one occasion.
A local School Superintendent recently indicted and then re-elected by the school board to his position comes to mind. (He was finally terminated but it took way too long.)

Now I know that there is corruption at all levels of government in every town, but really!.....does this place have MORE than it's share??
The local activity among the populous in this area is to watch them put up and within a few years take down local politicos names on public buildings, when their disgraceful actions are found out.  These megalomaniacs are all the same.....

This area seems to do one thing well--grow a bumper crop of convicted felons!



Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Never Open Medical Bills BEFORE Taking Your Blood Pressure Meds

Get the cheese out because this is going to be a bit of a whinefest.....

The bill finally arrived for my 4 day spa hospital stay at the beginning of April.
Wanna see it?

Yes, you read that correctly.......$25,688.83 for 3 days in the hospital.

(They charged me for 4 full days even though it was 3 days.....the crooks!)

Fortunately, the amount we actually have to pay is $1,456.58, including a $150 co-pay for the Emergency room, a $1,200 co-insurance maximum per 1 person in the plan(was partially fulfilled before this bill/illness), and a deductible amount of $106.58.
Of course $1,456.58 isn't ALL we will have to pay on this illness/treatment.
This is just the First Bill.......

We pay $5,892.12 every YEAR for the honor of having this particular medical insurance policy plus $4,000 in family deductibles.

If you compile the costs of  ALL the insurance--Dental insurance, Vision insurance, Long Term Care insurance and Life insurance, we pay $9,907.56 for medical/life coverage a year.
And that's if no one gets sick and has to use any of this fine coverage!

Add in the $4,000 in deductibles for a grand total of $13,907.56 paid each year(before co-pays).


I think I'll keep a running tab on my side bar for the rest of the year for our medical costs that we pay out of pocket in 2013.

On second thought, maybe I don't want to SEE the grand total we are paying out. 8-(

And I just remembered that this is a family plan HMO that doesn't increase per number of people in the family....the "family" can be 1 person or we can be the Duggars, we pay the same for however more people than just the person who's name the insurance is in.
The daughter can't use our $13K+ a year insurance plan in Louisiana, except for the prescription drug benefit and ER visits.
We have to buy her a separate policy which will cost us about another $70 a month, for another $420 in insurance costs(before co-pays)for 2013.
This raises our coverage costs at the moment to $14,327.56.

Don't get me wrong.....I appreciate that we have medical insurance!
But this third party payer system is insane!
Let's charge someone a smaller amount if they don't have insurance but if they do, well Nelly bar the door!, let's charge their insurance provider up the wazoo because we know they have deep, deep pockets.

And Obamacare?
Yah, I don't even want to see what 2014's rates will rise to!
Whatever happened to "you can keep the insurance you have now and your rates will not go up", and all that "free medical care"?
Oh I's an illusion.  It's a lie.

It figures that as soon as I go into menopause someone figures out a scheme to give woman free birth control.
The one freebie Obama has given to the masses and I can't benefit from

The medical bills from this latest health adventure I am on are starting to come in fast & furiously.
I don't have much hope for socking any money away for my $20K Savings Challenge this month.
And that is a really sad state of affairs since May is a 3 paycheck month for us.

 So what is YOUR medical insurance and all insurances(except property insurances)costing you a year?
You might not want to add it all up.......


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Student No More

Last weekend Hubs, my brother and I traveled to western PA to celebrate the graduation of my oldest child.
Our money Our son spent 4 years at this school.....HERE.

Brother drove up from VA on thursday.  Like his car?

He bought it used.
Like brother, like

On Friday we made our journey to the left side of the state, a 5+ hour drive.

I picked up oldest son a graduation gift when we stopped about halfway for gas.
I think it's something he will use and will be handed down as a family heirloom in the future.....

(It's a flask keyring if you can't make it out in the photo.)

I spare no expense for my kid.....

As quick as a flash, we were back on the road.....

Soon we were at the motel and Oldest Son drove over to see us.
Hadn't seen him since last Christmas.....

Since we were famished and hadn't had lunch yet, we went here to eat.....

No photos of us shoving food into our mouths today, sorry.

Then it was quickly over to the University for the Convocation Ceremony.  Oldest was graduating with Honors so he had to be there to get his honors stole.
I'm still getting use to my new camera so this shot is a little dark and I missed him shaking hands with the President or whoever that was in the fancy dress and blinged out necklace.....

And this shot is 2 seconds too late since he's got the stole on already and was boogeying outta there so fast he was a blue......

Here is Oldest with his proud parents afterwards....

And with his proud Uncle......

Then we had dinner with our almost graduate at the Dinor in the college town.
Don't ask, it's a western Pennsylvania thang.....

Fanciest Diner OR Dinor I ever ate at.  An actual "chef" in the kitchen fixing us the night's special of Steak Diane.
Steaks that were overcooked and we sent back.
Hey, if we've spending $17.95 a pop and it's not done correctly, we send it back.
Wouldn't you?!
Then it was off to the liquor store for supplies. ;-)

That night we went to meet the grandparents of Oldest's girlfriend....the folks they have both been living with this school year.
It was a nice visit with some good people.

Saturday morning we were up and out to the University bright and early.  The ceremony started at 10am but the venue(the school's Fieldhouse)opened at 8:30am.  We had to get there early so we could get a seat on the ground floor of the bleachers.  Lugging my oxygen tank cart, I didn't need to be climbing stairs.
I sure wish I had thought to bring a cushion of some kind as the ceremony went 2.5 hours but since we got there at 8:30am, the 4 HOURS on that hard wooden bleacher was less than kind to my ass!
But I didn't complain......much......

They had two screens up above the stage.  One was used to simulcast the ceremony for those in the nosebleed seats in the back and the other was used to flash all the graduates degrees/schools/honors before the ceremony started.
Here's Oldest son's name....

It's blurry because it was starting to change as I snapped the photo so it's a double exposure....agh.
Here is the Honors board......

He's listed under Magna Cum Laude but he actually graduated Summa Cum Laude.  He had a borderline Magna vs. Summe GPA going into the last semester and with his 4.0 for that term, it pushed him above a 3.8.

Right at 10am we heard what sounded like cats being tossed in a burlap sack.
Pretty soon we saw that it was just the processional group......

And here come the drums.....

What other university do you know that has a full ride scholarship for a bagpiper....outside of Scotland, that is.....

Then the guy came with the big stick.....I wonder if he walked softly.....

We sat and sat.....and sat some more.
Then the Commencement speaker spoke.....

Not a celebrity and no one that any of you would recognize her name.  She's a bigwig in the state education game so let's move along, shall we?

Then after some more people speaking, a choral piece, some more people speaking and a band performance and yet ANOTHER person speaking, they got down to the important business of the day--the handing out of diplomas.
Of course, Oldest son's college, The College of Education, was the next to last group to be called up.
So after about 550 of the 600+ conferees, they got to Oldest.
As the conferees took the stage the screens overhead had a video of each kid saying his/her name, where they were from and what degree they were getting.  Oldest said that they filmed these without warning the students about it so he looked like the Unibomber in his video with a ratty old flannel shirt and a beard on his face.
It gets freaking cold up there in the winter so he stops shaving for a few months.

I had Hubs go forward and try to get a shot of Oldest son being handed his diploma but well, Hubs is a worse photographer than me so we don't have one.
But we do have this one after he came off the stage......

The white stole is for Magna Cum Laude honors and the red and white cords signify Departmental Honors.  He also was inducted into Phi Alpha Theta (the History Honor Society)last Spring.

Pretty soon, after I could feel my ass again, it was off for traditional photos with the family in front of the ginormous "Fighting Scot" statue.  Sorry Mel G., this Scot is much better.

First the parents......

Then with the Uncle.....

Then with the girlfriend.....

Now for the gratuitous silly photos.
Oldest son with his friend contemplating their futures....

Then with the 'rents again with mom making bunny ears....

 After a late lunch at Calamari's with Oldest and ten of his family and friends it was back to the motel room to celebrate our new graduate.
Oldest arrived with goodies in hand......

After a few hours it was time for snacks.
Pizza, anyone?

After a night of wild debauchery.....ok, not really unless you think eating 3 pieces of pizza is crazy......we were up bright and early, if NOT bushy tailed.
First on the itinerary was a hearty breakfast with Oldest and his girlfriend at a local dive dinor eating establishment, Libby's Chowhound Café.
The meals were HUGE!
2 pancakes as big as my head, 2 eggs and 4 strips of bacon.  I wept as I gave away some of that bacon to the Hubs.....sniff.......
Here we are afterwards.  We can barely fit into the

After the photo we said our goodbyes and began the 5+ hour journey home.
Well, we did make a stop at the Outlet Mall on the way home so I could buy a purse.
Yah.....that's my story.....a bought A purse.
Not three like some people might tell you if asked.
One purse.......
Just one.
Or maybe not just one...... 8-))

So that's the story.
And I didn't cry for real even one time.....well, not in front of anybody at least.

So we have one child off the family payroll.
Two more to go.....lord help me......