Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Housing Crisis

This video got my attention about the housing crisis. Check it out before it is pulled.

* *This one is even more revealing. How did it all get started? Watch the video.

If I were to vote: No bailout! No rescue! How many are we going to "bailout" before it is all over? How much of this is the American taxpayer going to pay? When does it all stop?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

From a friend in East Texas.....

Lessons Learned During and After the Storm:

No matter how many times you flick the switch, lights don't work without electricity. Lucy: This is a fact, I tried to turn the lights on so many times out of habit. Our power came back on Tuesday night at 7:30pm. and now the light switch works again….

Vienna sausages only appear on the food pyramid during hurricane season. Lucy: So true….

Gas mileage is recalculated based on miles per fume. Lucy: Gas was a “hot” commodity after the storm. I am grateful that I filled up the car before the storm. I drove very little the first five days and still had a half a tank of gas when I finally filled up.

Lovebugs do not disappear in 80mph wind gusts. Lucy: This I did not check for during the heat of the storm…

Disasters can cancel Texans football game. Lucy: Games, like school, were cancelled. Many of our kids are back in school, but Bonnie is still out because of extensive damage at her college. I hope they begin soon so she doesn’t get too far behind.

Despite protests, kids can re-live their parents¹ youth when there were only 3 tv channels! Lucy: She is talking about the portable TV’s and I was lucky to get two during the storm. I was up at 4:00am. the night of the storm, watching where it was and what it was doing. I am grateful for that.

Cats are even more irritating without power. Lucy: Our cat hid during most of the storm.

Houston without traffic lights resembles Mexico City , Rome , Los Angeles and New York City all rolled into a single snarl. Lucy: Some people just don’t know how to use a 4 way stop…..It is a wonder no one was killed.

There are/were a lot of really big trees around here! Lucy: I know that our neighborhood has a lot less trees…..Sure looks different around here.

Just because you're 18 doesn't mean you can stay out as late as you want. Mayor White meant business when he said curfew. Lucy: They were arresting people who did not follow the curfew. Mayor White really did mean it. I did not venture out because it was really dark at night and it was spooky.

People will get into a line that has already formed without having any idea what the line is for. Lucy: There were a lot of lines for ice and drinking water. I thank God for the Champions Forest Baptist church who were the friendliest people I have meet in a long time.

Calories consumed during a hurricane or power outage do not count. Lucy: I sure hope this is true. I ate some really weird food during the power outage.

Telemarketers function no matter what the weather is doing. New Delhi does not check the weather report in Houston . Lucy: Most of the phones were down, so I didn’t get any of these calls…..

Most popular text message after September 11: do u hve pwr Lucy: A friend of mine, in the neighborhood, just came by and asked if we had power. He still does not have power….I hope he gets it soon.

Twenty-seven of your neighbors are fed from a different transformer than you,
and they are quick to point that out! Lucy: We only have four houses on our transformer….I am glad our power situation wasn’t transformer related because they have been put on the back burner till all of the switches are up.

Crickets and cicadas can increase their volume to overcome the sound of 14 generators. Lucy: We had a generator about every two or three houses. The sound of the generator was very annoying at night when the windows were open and we were trying to sleep. I’m grateful that we had one though….

Dirty clothes in an unsupervised hamper multiply at an exponential rate. Lucy: I washed up all of the clothes before the storm and we went two days on a set of clothes after the storm. I did wash “whites” mid way thru and hung them on a make shift clothes line. Now that we have power, I can use my washer and dryer…..YEA!!!

Coffee, spaghetti and frozen pizzas can be made on a grill. Lucy: We used our single burner butane stove to cook on, but I did not try spaghetti and frozen Pizza….Ha Ha.

He who has the biggest generator wins. Lucy: He who has any generator wins…

Tree service companies are under-appreciated, except after hurricanes. Lucy: Most of them are great, but he had some who charged outrageous prices for their work. I hope the Attorney General is paying attention…

Water will fill the I-10 & SW Freeway. Lucy: Water will flood any freeway. The Gulf Freeway has some extensive damage because of this hurricane.

There are a lot more stars in the sky than most people thought. Lucy: It is wonderful to look up at night and see stars. With all of the power down and no back lighting the skies were awash with stars……They are heavenly gifts from God. I especially enjoyed the full moon that we had while the power was out, it lit the way in the darkest of night.

If you owned a store that sold only ice, chain saws, gas and generators, you would be rich. Lucy: This is absolutely true.

With only a small amount of guilt Houstonians can collectively pray a second hurricane to landfall in another state or country. Lucy: I know that when Gustav was coming our way I “wished” it would go elsewhere, but I know deep down that wherever it went, someone was going to get a real mess. I really don’t pray that on anyone.

And so to our friends and families, some who are still without power and others who have endured great personal loss, you are in our prayers. Hang in there, we are making progress. Thank you to all our first responders, healthcare professionals, service technicians, teachers, police officers, small business owners, and more who join with the thousands of individuals sharing their time and talent to help restore our community to wholeness.

The most important lesson of all learned from Ike in the last week is that the human spirit has an amazing resilience that even a hurricane cannot bend. Through God’s love and amazing grace we can endure all things.

Have a great week everyone.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

How Shall I begin......

Quick Note: This is a neighbors house, not ours...

As we watched TV on Friday, Sept. 12th we noticed that Galveston Bay was already seeing the effects of Hurricane Ike, which was to come ashore in the wee morning hours on the 13th. High tides were bringing in water much higher than expected and beach houses were already seeing water flowing under them. As the news cameras showed waves pounding up on the seawall in Galveston, a day before the storm was to hit, it was an eerie warning of what was to come. It was becoming too late to leave the island and those that did not heed the warning were suddenly trapped with no way out. They had been warned with a mandatory evacuation, but many did not heed those warnings.

All week long I had been preparing our family for the storm. Thursday evening, we filled all of our cars, and all gas cans with gas. I washed all of the clothes in anticipation of no power for several days. We had all of our batteries and our oil lamps were prepped for the storm. We put up all of our light weight items, from the yard, so that they would not become flying projectiles and “storm” groceries were purchased. I hunted down my single burner butane stove and three canisters of butane to cook with, just in case. Everything was ready. I got a call from my brother that he would be staying at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where he works for the duration of the storm. Both of my sisters are “sheltering in place”, just as we were. I prayed everyone would be safe.

Friday night came around and the wind started to pick up. As the evening progressed, so did the wind. Our neighbors were out in their back yard having a hurricane party. The barbeque was going and music was playing. The night progressed and the wind picked up more. At 9:00pm. we had our ham radio net and decided that we should monitor the storm and meet again at 9:00am., 4:00pm. and 9:00pm. the next day. It was eleven o’clock now and the group next door, were still partying. I wondered, how can they do this? The wind was pretty strong and I was getting really nervous. We watched TV and all the news of the storm as its outer rain bands were coming on shore. We had been told that we would get the wind first and then the rain and it was so true.

The group next door went inside and TF decided that he was going to go to bed. How can he sleep with this storm almost on top of us? Around 2:00am., our power went out. I turned on the battery powered TV to see where the storm was. Jennifer called to see if we were alright. At 3:00am. William called to see if we were alright. The rain was finally starting to fall and I wanted to go the sleep, so I lay down for a while. The phone rang again at 4:00am. and it was Jennifer checking on us again. I decided that I wasn’t going to get any sleep so I turned on the battery powered TV to see where the storm was. We were just on the west side of the eye and it had just passed us. The wind was now coming from the other side and it was getting worse. The rain was coming down harder and it was almost impossible to sleep. I kept looking out the front window to see what our next door neighbors pine trees were doing. They were swaying in the wind but they were still standing. I finally feel asleep and slept for two hours.

When the sun came up I decided to open the front door and look outside. I noticed limbs down everywhere and the rain was really falling hard now. I looked across the street and noticed that Mr. Blum’s huge pine tree had crashed into his house. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I stared at that sight. I ran to the bedroom and told TF to get up and go see if he could help Mr. Blum. He put on his pants and walked across the street to see what he could do. Bob (Mr. Blum), TF and Bonnie started to tarp the roof and at least try and keep as much water out as possible. They worked diligently for an hour before they could secure his roof from the rain. Bonnie dashed home and stripped in the entry way and ran upstairs to get a bath. TF followed and took a bath too. When our ham radio net met for the first time, we were just trying to get over the shock of all the mess outside. We made plans for our next net at noon and cleared the frequency. I stepped outside again to check out our own house for damage. There were limbs everywhere, but there was no damage to our house. Our neighbor’s fence had come down missing my car by about a foot. We have a lot of tall trees in our neighborhood and many of them were down. It looked like a war zone but without the bodies. Our water pressure was at a trickle so I decided that I could wait to take a bath. I cooked breakfast on our camp stove and the day progressed.

Noon rolled around and our next ham radio net met again. We started assessing the damage to our church members homes and worked to make a list of who needed help. The Funkes had six trees down, the Antezanna’s had two trees on the roof of their garage, the Washington’s, Schadlers, Scoggings, and many others had tree damage. Jack and Marta had a big pine tree twist off and fall right in front of their house. Many of our families had fence damage, the power was out and most had little water pressure. Cell phone towers were down so very few people had access to their phones. A lot of people had wireless phones and they didn’t work because the power was out. Those that had internet phone service were out of luck. Luckily we have a land line phone and it has worked all the way thru this mess. Our ham radio group went to work to keep communications going.

When the rain let up and the winds died down, our “chain saw gang” went to work to cut down fallen trees and limbs. Nigh time fell and it was time to rest for another days work. I trimmed the wicks on our lamp, in the den, and lit it. The flashlights went into service and the moon came out to help light our way. Since our power was out many of the ham radio operators moved to their cars for battery power for the radios. At 9:00pm. we held our last net for the day. I sat out in the car, with my flashlight, trying to do net control and take notes. We discussed what we need to do the next day and closed the net down. I was so tired that I just fell into bed.

On Monday, Bonnie and I decided to venture out into the neighborhood to see what it looked like. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw all of the trees down. I took lots of pictures. At this point our ham radio net decided to meet every three hours to ckeck in and pass “traffic”. Messages were delivered, work assignments were doled out and locations for gasoline were passed. Did I mention that gas and ice were a scarcity? We were told not to drive our cars unless it was absolutely necessary, because gas was impossible to find. Ice was a “hot” commodity and those without ice, in Houston’s heat, were out of luck. I am soooooo grateful that TF has a generator. He uses it for his business; it has been a real lifesaver for us. He runs it for two hours at a time and we have the refrigerator, freezer, computer, a small lamp and a small fan plugged into it. So many friends of mine had to throw away food from their refrigerator and freezer because they did not have power. Andy Ricker has been cooking on his grill and using his Dutch ovens to cook fabulous meals every night since the storm. He put his food, from the refrigerator, in coolers and has put ice on it daily to help it stretch until the power comes on again. Last Thursday night he cooked a large turkey in a trash can. From what I hear, it was to die for. Later I will blog on how he cooked this turkey.

Last Friday, we got word that the Champions Forest Baptist church was passing out ice, drinking water, and Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s) to anyone who needed it. Since the church is very close to me, I decided to go over there, mainly for the ice. Those people were so nice, that I almost started to cry. I took the water and some other ice to Chris Feriante so he could deliver it to some people who needed it. We spread the word about these items on our ham radio net and people were able to go over there and get what they needed.

Just so you know: Bob hired a tree company from Conroe to come out, with a crane, and take the tree out of his house. Bonnie counted 32 neighbors who came out to watch the event. I had never seen anything like this before and it was very interesting to watch these professionals do such a difficult job….They only charged him $ 2,100.00 to do the work. Don’t gulp, that is a fair price. There have been other tree companies out in our neighborhood, charging double and triple for the same work. The Attorney General of Texas will be breathing down their backs soon for price gouging.

Did I mention that our power is still out! We have been told that it won’t be back on till AFTER, next Thursday at the earliest. Evidently a tornado went thru the neighborhood and took out some of the major power lines and poles that service our area. We have also been told to boil our water for a little while longer. Of course I didn’t find this out till I had already washed a load of “whites” and hung them out to dry in our back yard. TF strung a 100 foot long extension cord between two trees and a fence post to make me a clothes line. The water looks fine to me and I have been showering in it. We have bottled drinking water and I wash my dishes with a little bleach in the rinse water. I know that sounds “Gross”!

With all of the tree work done and most of our phone lines working now, our ham radio net has officially closed shop for “hurricane IKE relief”. We will meet again next Wednesday night for our regular schedule.

Did I mention that my cousin and his wife, who lived in Crystal Beach, near Galveston lost his house to the storm. There is nothing left of his house or his charter boat business. I am so grateful that he listened to the authorities and left the area before the storm started. He is now in Oklahoma City staying with his son. If you have been reading the papers or listening to the news, Crystal Beach was virtually wiped off of the map. Galveston is devastated, with very little to come back to. If you compare the pictures of the 1900 hurricane, with the current situation, you can see comparisons. If you have noticed, the news channels has said very little about lose of life. TF has heard some things about this and I am not going to spread rumors, but there are things that are not being told to the general public……I can not say any more.

What have I learned from this:
1) People are at their best when the chips are down. I have never seen so much communication between neighbors. People are helping complete strangers and it gives me hope.
2) Be prepared……it is a must if you live in a coastal region. Even if you live in earthquake country or areas that have ice storms, you need to be prepared.
3) Stress can take its toile on the best of people and families. Be nice to each other.
4) Be grateful for all that you have, because it can disappear in a second.
5) Pray often.

To see some of our pictures, check out TF’s blog at:

One last thought: I want to thank CenterPoint Energy for all of the work they have been doing to reconnect 2 million electric customers. They are doing an outstanding job. I also want to thank all of the city and county workers who have turned their life upside down to serve the public..... Thank you so much!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ike will be here in about 24 hours….

Yes, we are “hunkering down” aka: “sheltering in place” for hurricane IKE. The hurricane looks like it will come in near Freeport, Texas some time in the wee morning hours of Saturday morning…..We should feel the affects of the storm as early as noon tomorrow….wait a minute, that’s noon today….Where did the time go?

We are as prepared as we can be. Today I went to Home Depot to buy 13 – 50lb. bags of sand and I made sand bags for our back patio area. Water tries to come in our back door for just a bad rain storm, what’s it going to do in a hurricane? We are protected from that now. Last Tuesday night I hired some men to come cut down a big limb that was hanging over our house. The last thing we need is a hole in our roof from a limb banging on it. We purchased lots of bottled water. We have extra bread and food that you can eat when the power is out. TF made sure that all of the cars were topped off with gas. He filled up all of our little gas cans to use with his generator if the need should arise. All of the lawn furniture has been put up and there should not be anything in the yard that can blow thru a window. I have the flashlights and lanterns ready to go and our little TV is charging right now and should be ready for use when the power is out. TF has filled our ice chest up with ice and has put bottled water and Dr. Peppers in there to chill down. I hope I haven’t forgotten anything. I found this awesome website to track the storm. Check it out.

Our ham radio club has been having practice nets and we are in the process of the real thing now, no more practicing…. I hope we can be of help to others when there is no other way to communicate. This should be an interesting “trial by fire”.

This afternoon, about 4 o’clock, Jennifer called to say that she was taking Jocelyne, my three year old granddaughter, to the hospital. She had a 104 degree fever and was acting really strange. By the time she had arrived at the hospital it had gone up to 105! I dashed down there in time to hear the doctor say that she has pneumonia. My poor sweet princess was lying in the bed with an IV in her arm and a bewildered look on her face. She was very happy to see me but she was in no mood to talk. They wanted to transfer her down to Texas Children’s Hospital but because of the hurricane they decided that she would do better at home. They got her fever down and Jennifer and Jocelyne should be getting home right about now. I hope Jen is able to handle a sick child and a hurricane…. This day has been a real roller coaster……

Pray for us everyone! Keep your fingers crossed………

Monday, September 08, 2008

From: How to buy corn to a pencil lead in his ear.

News from Dollar Stretcher website.
Advice from the Farm

We've all seen people at the grocery store peeling down the cornhusks a little to check if they are buying nice looking ears of corn on the cob. Yesterday, I ran into a lady who told
me how her farming father taught her to select the best ears of corn.

Never peel down any of the cornhusks until you are ready to eat the corn. Pulling down the cornhusks releases the moisture and dries out the ear of corn. Instead, feel the corn silk. If it is wet, the corn is moist and fresh.

For several years now, we have been cooking our ears of corn in the microwave instead of a pot of boiling water. Leaving the cornhusks on the ears of corn, we cook each ear separately for about 3 1/2 minutes. Leaving the corn husks on not only gives the ears of corn great natural flavor, but it also keeps the ears of corn hot/warm until we are ready to sit down to eat together. We remove the cornhusks just before eating the ears of corn. We rarely use butter any more. We just don't find it necessary to slather on the butter and salt as we did in previous years when we boiled our ears of corn. Susan H.
Note from Lucy:
I’m not sure I would cook my corn in the microwave with the husks on but I did learn not to pull back the husks….lol

Planning for Christmas

I am getting several Christmas gifts for friends and family this year for free! You might have heard of www.paperbackswap.com, but what you may not know is that they have beautiful hardback books as well. The best part is that you can trade your paperback or hardback books that you have already read and swap those for gifts for people on your Christmas list. For example, if you have a sports nut on your list, you can get them books on sports and maybe tie them up with their favorite snack, and you've got a great gift. Put some gardening books together with some garden gloves or some seed packets and you've got another great gift. Nicole B.

editor's note: I found many other similar sites by Googling "book swap sites". Or you can accomplish the same thing if you have a used bookstore in town. Just bring in your old books and use the credit to buy books for those on your Christmas list.

12 money-management tips for college students
Dollar Stretcher page for families
Cleaning Engineered Hardwood Floors

Well it has been a busy week here in the Stern household. We worried our way past Hurricane Gustav and now we have “Ike” lurking our there, trying to decide which way to go. I will be soooo glad when hurricane season is over. The Stern “roller coaster of life” is on the go with never a dull moment.

I was watching the grandkids last week and discovered an explosion of bananas in my freezer. I questioned JJ to find out why mashed bananas were all over the place and he said that he was trying to make a frozen banana float and he had to freeze the bananas first. He wanted to do it himself and he secretly did his deed while grandma was changing Jocelyne’s diaper. Jocelyne and I walked into the kitchen to see JJ whipping the floor with a bath towel, he was cleaning up, when Jocelyne exclaimed, “What a mess!” It was so funny that I just couldn’t fuss at him too much. BTW: I’m still cleaning up banana fragments in the freezer.

Another day last week, Jennifer called me to ask if I could go over to JJ’s school and help the nurse take some pencil lead out of JJ’s ear…..What? It seems that she was not allowed to put anything in his ear so the parents had to come do it. Jennifer was on the other side of town giving an estimate and she asked me to go. I got to the school and found JJ and two other students in the nurses office, the nurse was no where to be found. I waited a minute or two and decided to take matters into my own hands. I found a bottle of peroxide and poured a tiny amount into his ear. With his head to the side, we let the magic begin, the peroxide bubbled and tickled his ear. After a minute, I turned his ear to the side to drain the peroxide and the tip of a pencil came to the edge of his ear. I pulled the lead out and then cleaned his ear with a Kleenex. One more time with the peroxide and the job was done. I finely found the nurse, in the break room, and let her know that JJ was fine. School was to be over in about 20 minutes, so I decided that I would just take JJ home with me……I never did get an exclamation as to how the tip of a pencil got in his ear….What a day!
Have a great week everyone!