Saturday, September 25, 2010

Crown Ridge - Reserve Fund

If you have lived in a condominium association or known of someone that has lived in one, there is the common fee.  The common fee is collected from each of the unit owners to pay for the common expenses and to set aside money for future major repairs and replacements.

The future major repars and replacements is referred to in condo lingo as the Reserve Fund.  Finally, throughout the country, condominium accounting and finances have received more attention.  It's about time.  The Reserve Fund is, in my opinion, the most important part of the condominium financial ownership equation. In the last two years, the Federal government got on track to say to condo associations, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae won't be underwriting your home mortgage unless the association is saving at least 10% and has some type of reserve funding and savings balance.

When I moved here, I volunteered to do the study for the reserve fund.  My previous experience at my first condo and my professional training in the speciality of condo accounting allows me to do the calculations with ease.  I knew when I purchased that their reserve fund was in very bad shape.

The board approved that I do the study.  During the first year I couldn't get them off the ground.  So at the next unit owner's meeting, I spoke up for the second time.  I had reworked the numbers and handed out a sheet at the meeting (not to the pleasure of the board).  Oh well, I thought to myself, maybe it will motivate them.  It did in one way, as several of my neighbors volunteered to help out.  Community involvement is crucial!

Fast forward - the group met once and we all learned from each other.  As this past spring and summer went by, I collected information.  Received another 'nod' (finally) to go forward with the change in format of the budget. Barbara & I began a inventory of the windows and doors (another big conflict in the association).  It's really amazing as we learned lots about each of the units/buildings in our community.

Last week I completed a packet on the Reserve Fund.  It was given to the Board just as they received the first draft of the budget for next year.  I was thorough, attempting to include all repairs and replacements that the Association is responsible for.  In our case, that's just about everything someone could imagine.  Looking up costs, some of it science and some of it estimated, the back up of the data is daunting.  In the end, using several samples from others, why invent the wheel, I laid out a scenerio to look at.

The news is not good - is it doable one should ask?  Yes it is doable, though it will take serious backbone, dedication, and discipline of how the common fee is calculated and subsequently how the common fee is spent.  One thing that was said at the meeting by one member, "oh we are only having a 3% increase this year".  Wow, this person hasn't seen the results, but they must have the magic crystal ball. 

Stay tuned - while I'm not on the board - I am hosting, at my home, the board and those interested the budget work session for our association.  I've got my work cut out for me in preparing for the meeting. 

PS  I just recieved the "budget" worksheet from the board, time to get to work :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's Fall and It's the BIG E!

It was Connecticut Day at the Big E this past Wednesday and according the staff, one of the largest attendance days.  Go CT!

I choose the day as it's in the middle of the week, and of course I like to see the parade.  Over the past couple of years, I've demonstrated making lace for part of the day and that gets me a ticket and parking!  Actually, the Big E would not be able to operate without all the volunteers at the fair. 

The Parade - there are lots of CT related high school bands, the Governor and her Foot Guard, the State Police, fife and drum, Miss Pre-Teen CT, Miss Teen CT, and Miss CT all riding in shiny convertible cars and lots of others.  The end of the parade was the Budweiser Clydesdales and the Hallamore Clydesdales each had a eight-horse hitch. Of course there is the poo zamboni ending the parade.  The horses are so amazing, their size and strength of these gentle giants pulling the wagons.  If you go to the barns, you can get pretty up close to these horses.

After a bout with morning traffic, I arrived and set up at the the New England Building / Creative Arts.  Actually we don't really have a space, we set up in the aisle. It would be nice if we had a 'real' space we could set up in (hmm idea for next year).  Linda (fellow lacemaker) met me there and we organized ourselves so we could talk with the patrons about lace.  I met Linda at the fair last year and helped her rekindle her love for lace making.

Before you know it, the building opens with a raising of the American flag, accompanied by a group of fife and drum musicians.  It is fun to watch the patrons go by, some are outright curious and come up and declare that I'm tatting (lol) and others are too shy unless you invite them over to see what we are doing.  The patrons like to touch - so I bring a pillow for folks to actually work some lace - the 'snake'. Time goes so quickly.  Some where around three and a half hours into it, I could feel my voice getting scratchy.  I really enjoy it, and can continue on and on about cross and twist and counting to four.  Stop by next year and watch us lace makers.

After volunteering for four hours (requirement to get a ticket and parking), I had the rest of the day to get around the grounds.  I watch the beef cattle get showed and receive their ribbons.  There were dairy goats, dairy cows, sheep and assorted other farm animals.  This is the best part of the show/fair for me.  I love to watch the hatchling chicks pop out of their eggs and tiny pigglettes wiggle around in a pen.  Sheep are the best. Sheep Rule.  One thing you need to know about the fair especially if you want to see the animals.  There are barn change over days so watch what day you want.  There may not be many animals to see.

Better Living Center is a riot.  There are all kinds of vendors willing to sell you anything to make your life better.  From fancy showers for your bath, to window screens, a blender, lots of pots and pans dealers,  and even a guy selling a mop!  It is really alot of fun.

So what is a country fair without eating your way around? That's easy - it wouldn't be a fair.  There is just about everything known to man to have to eat at this fair.  Big E Cream Puffs are amazing.  (not for me this year)  I was pretty good, a large fresh brewed Sam Adams beer to walk around with after demonstrating was just what my voice needed.  Lunch, a taco chicken salad in a shell, lots of water to drink.  Dinner had me search for fried clams that I found in the Rhode Island State house (yum yum), a little ice cream and a coffee to go at the end of the night.  Of course you can eat your way into oblivion. 

My feet were giving out, I actually walked around enough to log some 4 miles on my pedometer!  I found gel insoles in the Better Living Building.  That helped a bunch.  Though the best find was back at the Fiber Nook - (near the sheep).  I have a new genuine handcrafted sheepskin scuffs!  Even better - they are made by Golden Fleece Fashions in Caterbury, CT  !  I met the owner, Adele, and she said they are good 'forever'.  She was repairing a pair a customer brought back because the dog ate off the toes!

I have a great pair that family gave me from LLBean.  Each year I call to get another pair, unfortunately they don't carry this type any longer made slippers any longer and they weren't US made when they did.  My feet are nice a warm and I can have now preserve the other pair a bit longer. Don't you just love sheep!

While food is plentiful, so is the shopping. Everything you could imagine. I give the vendors a hat's off. These guys travel in motor homes and are on the fair circuit for five months of the year. Most of them say the Big E is the best! I took cards from several artist types, need to do some measuring at home before buying.

Another year, and another Big E.  I was trying to think of the number of times I've come to this festival.  My parents brought us and we camped out somewhere near there.  I think that in the last ten years, I missed one year due to weather.  There is still time to see the fair - it is well worth the trip!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It is Fall already? It's time for the PLAN...

I guess it is. Something about going to the other side of Labor Day weekend kinda puts an end to the summer season.  Some feel saddened by it's end, me on the other hand, love the changes in the season.  I can smell the autumn in the air.

This last week it has been just wonderful here in CT. The weather has been warm in the days and cool in the night. Sleeping at it's best. It is also when I get a new surge of energy. 

Time to look back at the Plan for this year.   Take a moment to pull out your Plan.  How did you do?  What does it look like?  Did of my post of throwing out 50 things help?

Here's a few successful ones.   
Garden - planted a great patio herb garden. I have been enjoying fresh herbs all summer long.  Learned that pansies don't last well in containers and planting mini bells in the garden do well.  My large fern in the front garden is just a bit too big.  A little later in the season, I'll dig it up and move it.  The water hyacinth, while the bloom doesn't last long, it is a beauty.

Garage - I've been able to consolidate down the bit's and pieces and have labeled the boxes for future reference!  Wow it is great.  I've actually made some space there.  Now there are a few boxes on the floor with various plasticware containers in them that don't fit in the kitchen. Again, time to resort them into using on a regular basis vs. use for picnic and big party events.

Office - All but one box is scanned.  All shredding is up-to-date. Thanks to my nephew Spencer. We can now recyle the junk mail so my older study guides will get tossed out.  The lighting challenge has been addressed with the electricians.  I may have an expandable plan to set into action. 

Guest Room - nothing is better than having guests visit.  Since the guest room also doubles as my creative studio, I have had a chance to spiff it up. It will be a work in progress.

Lately I have found some 'guest' items to make them feel right at home.  Heck, I wasn't even here for my last guest, Pat's visit.  The card Pat left for me on my kitchen counter said it well "Every time a heart is touched by kindness, another flower blooms".

You can have extra tooth brushes on hand, small size toiletries, soap, towels, etc. I purchased a bunch of them at the Dollar Store or Big Lots.  All of them were supplied in a basket and waiting on a table in the room.  I supplied a small electric strip so my guests could plug in their techy gadgets.  As hostess, I wish my guests to feel right at home. Something I learned growing up. I wise person said, "'s not the size of your home that matters, it's the love the guest feels.  Second guess their needs and wants, don't make them ask". 

That statement inspired a Bonus in my current year Plan.  I've developed Guest Info pages; like you'd find in a hotel.   It lists the how and what of the household like mechanicals and appliances, take out menus, alarm systems, how to operate the remotes, phone numbers for the house, cell numbers, emergency numbers.  Computer related information like 'guest passwords', etc. and let us not forget what  Ms. KC needs <meow>!

Overall, like many of us, our Plan is longer than we anticipate. Just spending time reviewing my Plan, I feel great.   I love my bonus above, I love what has been accomplished, and it has inspired me to think about what I need to schedule for this new season.  How about you?  Are you re-inspired? 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Make a Difference

Great video on performance - it's about 10 minutes and may give you an AH HA! Sometimes we need to see it differently, see the why in life - Thanks Dirk for the link.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Stove, Fridge, a work in progress

Since I moved in, I have struggled with the ever-running fridge and a stove which burners were hot or cold and not inbetween and an oven that really couldn't calibrate the temp.

 I did well with it, trying my best to cook on top.  I love to cook.  Heck baked potatoes would take 1-1/2 hrs at 350F? 

My neighbor, Jules and I have discussed at length various solutions to our kitchens.  She has the same one but just the opposite layout.  She even tried to get a new fridge awhile ago, but ran into broken delivery promises.

A couple of weeks ago, a P.C. Richard & Son opened down the street.  She's on the ball!  Bless this woman as she goes about checking prices and models and styles, etc.  She then makes an expedition to the new store, physically inspects the goods and buys.  I recieved a phone call to come on over after the install.  I was so impressed.  What a difference it made to our older style kitchens.  She's so kind that she gave me a copy of her receipt. 

I'm no fool - so I go down the next day and buy the same ones.  What is missing?  Did you guess the new range hood?  If you did, it's not missing, it is just not installed.  Later this week, the electrician will be stoping by to install the new microwave/hood and do a bunch of other small electrical repairs.

Wow - the kitchen looks so much better.  I'm considering changing out the counter tops for something updated and add the same material to the wall between the cabinets and counter.  While it isn't my dream kitchen, my electric bill will decrease, it feels newer, my cake baking won't be so challenged and I'll live with it for a few more years.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Camp back in CT with Spencer

Spencer beating the computer!
It was a great time in St. Louis, though Camp was unattended back home.  With few days back on the ground, and attempting to see if the local nieces/nephews wanted to get to camp, Spencer came out on top.  His time spot was limited as he was going to begin football practice by mid-month in August.

First of all, his dad got him to me by 8 a.m. on Thursday morning!  Spenc - what a trooper.   We took the day a bit easy only after making sure I noticed that I am now shorter than he was!  Hmmm something happened in the last six month!  He's wearing a size 10-1/2 shoe already.  We kidded each other all weekend long. 

It was an easy day - he helped in the office and made a few bucks!  Let me tell you, he's a great assistant.  Follows directions, was neat, asked great questions, and he was able to complete all the shredding in the office.  We searched the internet about some really great sneakers, got the pass from the Library and did a little bit of grocery shopping.  We also began to design his blanket! 

We went to the New Britain Youth Museum at Hungerford Park with a pass from the Library.  It was so hot outside!  We did see the various animals inside, turtles, furry creatures, fishes, and all type of rodents.  There was one snake there, oh my goodness, it was enormous.   The animals in the outside cages were not showy due to the heat.  We tried to hike around the lake, though the temperatures were soaring.  Instead we headed for home, only after going to the store and finding the exact sneakers he was looking for on-line.  I had him try them on for size and walk around.  Heck I got a bonus, and I found a pair of new sneaks for myself.

Friday was the big day - we went to the CT Science Museum again.  Of course we saw a 3D movie - The Oceans.  It was really amazing.  So today's plan was to start at the top and work our way down.  This way we should be able to see all the exhibits.  Unfortunately the car race was not there, but the mind relaxation game was.  This game is based on your brain waves.  You put a headband on and it measures your output.  The less of the output (more relaxed) the more the ball moves to your opponent!  Spencer was really good at this the year before and beat me heads down.  This year, we equally won.  Actually one game wasn't going to end until one of us got the giggles.  We agreed that it wasn't as exciting as last year, I guess we can choose something different for next year. 

Spencer shooting the ball with air
We finished up on the early side as I had reservations at the Rock Cats Stadium.  So off we went to the game.  Sad to say the Rock Cats were having a pretty bad season.  As I write this - they are 44/97 OUCH.  They were playing Akron at home.  First inning Akron gets two runs and the balance of the evening is three up and three down for both teams without much excitement until the ninth inning.  Then the excitment began.  Akron - three up and three down.  Now its the Rock Cats turn. They get hits, get a run,  and are on base (possible grand slam) with a chance to win the game.  It wasn't their night.  The fans were very generous in supporting the team.  Just as the last out was called, the announcers drop the lights and we had a fireworks display that would rival any fourth of July show.  It was fantastic.  Lasted some 30 minutes.  What a great day with Spencer.

Saturday was a family picnic.  I was up late the night before and early the next morning getting all the supplies and picnic stuff ready to bring.  The heat subsided, thank goodness!  It was going to be one of the most glorious days of summer.  We get to the park, it was a mess, I'm embarrassed.  Spencer helped with site cleanup. Family began to arrive and we began with our festivities.  I didn't see much of him as he buddied up with his cousins Trenten and Brenan for lots of fun playing bocci, some game in the woods, time at the pool.  He checked in throughout the day and that was good.  Before we knew it it was time to pack it up and take it back to base camp. 

Sunday, a lazy morning, he read the newspaper to me and had a chance to talk with his cousin, Chris in St. Louis.  We considered we could go to a movie.  One of his maternal side cousins had a bit part in an action movie.  I didn't like the trailers so we decided that the animated film would be a better choice.  We were off to see Despicable Me.  Really cute movie, the minions had me laughing,  lots of 'jokes' and who wouldn't just love the story line. 

Wow - time just flew by.  When you have the opportunity to spend time with your nephew - it's a real treat.  We had lunch and then I dropped him off.    His football schedule just arrrived.  I need to coordinate my schedule with his so I could see him play this year.

Spencer - you are a great nephew.  You made camp the best!  Designing your blanket will be very cool.  Now I need to make the pattern and samples and have you approve it.  Next year - we will find a new adventure!  Maybe the Yanks at the Green Monster?  Thanks and love you lots!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Shelby's Day at Camp

Last but not least was my time with Shelby. First we had a chance to taste some chocolate truffles. Last trip out, she and I went to this chocolate shop. She had a gift certificate and I filled in the rest.  Auntie explained, truffles are to be savored not gobbled. So we did. We bought one truffle for each day and we shared. So a tradition lives on. I think the champagne flavor was our favorite this time.

After lunch - see the post on Boiled Peanuts it was off to the City Museum. We found street parking, this time no charge as it was Saturday. This place was the invention of Bob Cassilly when he and his wife Gail purchased a bunch of vacant space in St. Louis. In a couple of years, City Museum opened. The Project for Public Spaces marked this as a "Great Public Space of the World" in 2005. This place is wild! I'd go back just to be able to spend more time again.

Our mission was to gain admission to the World Aquarium on the 2nd floor. It was really crazy and loud. Here we are - thousands of animals and fishes. We scooted through tunnels with the sharks swimming all around us. Yes, did but bring some wax paper to sit on so you can quickly to through. We petted stingrays - actually gentle giants and smooth as a baby's bottom. I swam with a few of them in the Bahamas! Oh course there was a shark feeding session. Pretty impressive. We fed more fishes in other parts of the exhibit.
There were parrotts and none of them wanted a cracker. We watched the otters play. A cockatoo that wouldn't stay in his pearch. He kept screeching on about something.  The slough didn't like the cockatoo and very slowly walked across a tree limb just above our heads.

(ring ring goes the cell phone - Chris heard it as I was almost deaf by the amount of noise - it was Denise - wanted to know what we were up to? Oh having an amazing ball! Why? She's worried about dinner. Heck we just ate. I told her I'd call her back later.)

Shelby  & Chris
In the middle of this day - it became spa day. There was one tank, Doctor Fish, that I could barely keep Shelby out of. Actually, I enjoyed it and Chris tried it a couple of times. The tank had several hundred Garra Rufa's in it. If you don't know what a Garra Rufa is then I'll give you a hint. They are little fishes, silver in color and about an inch long fish. Originating from hot springs in Turkey, these little guys love to kiss human hands and feet. It is quite the rage. After inserting my hands into the tank, feet not allowed at this timne, they came out better than the treatment I get at my spa and a lot more fun.  Every time I looked around Shelby had her hands in the tank.  Dang it the cell phone is ringing.
(ring ring again - guess who - it's Pete - well I didn't call back because, oh, I guess we were having so much fun. They were getting hungry.  Restuarant selection was a heated matter by all the locals.  I didn't care, I'm pretty easy.  Are you thinking that the mommy and daddy are missing out on too much fun?)

After our fill of fishes and all, we went to the ramp room to run about, they went through mystery mazes in the dark to come out the other side of the room. Heck this Aunt was getting a bit panicky when it seems like they were gone hours. I was almost ready to go in after them. My patience was rewarded as they came out from the other side of the room - so was my sunburn.

There was a rope swing, we watched shoe laces made on antique machines, we ran and jumped, though I did stop at taking the tube slide from the 2nd floor to the first floor.  The first floor must be 20 feet tall!! 

What is amazing is the level of creativity throughout this place. Enormous pieces of building architecture have been moved into the place and around every corner is a true surprise.  You can touch everything. Since it was over 90degrees, we skipped the roof top. Now I truly have something to go back and see.

Okay - Auntie convinced the kids that we would eat dinner with the family after crys of "but it's our day".  Talk about making you feel special.  I told them we could do something cool afterwards if we wanted.  Agnes (GPS) was not cooperating and finding the restuarant was hysterical and fustrating.

Denise, Chris, Shelby
Taylor, Me, Pete
Fast forward - we had dinner  at PF Changs - chinese food but not your usual.  It was great and we were able to eat glutin free ( ahem except for the beer).

Dinner is over and  we asked Agnes to guide us back.  It looks like it is going to rain - black skies and all of a sudden the skies open and it pours.  I mean pours, big thunder and great lightening.   I was looking for a place to pull over and wait it out.

There I am, navigating according to Agnes when GPS according to Chris speaks up.  We HAVE TO GO to Silky's Frozen Custard Stand.  Shelby is cheering and yeah, I'm game.  Agnes was getting a bit upset with Chris as she kept on recalculating.  There it is, reminds me of a place at the beach.  Quick, pull in and a mad dash to get out of the rain.  I was instructed what to buy (thanks Chris), a Concrete (like a DQ Blizzard for you east coast people).  WOW and  YUM YUM!  This is better than DQ.  When we finally got home, with our Concretes in hand, we were greeted with sadness that we didn't bring them some.  My response, with a sly grin, we could have got some on your day!

Shelby this was a great day.  Actually each day we tasted our truffles was special. Thanks so much for being a sport and sharing it with your brother.   I'm looking forward to having you & me for a whole day!  Maybe the Doctor Fish spa?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Camp with Chris

Gluten Free Treats
This was an early day.  At the crack of dawn, just after breakfast, we packed a cooler with some waters and Chris, Shelby and I (and Agnes GPS) were off for a day of adventure.

I know I said that I would have a day with each of my nieces and nephew. Unfortunately, the airline and my miles couldn't make it work. So let me say - Shelby and Chris - you are still owed a day each!

Grant's Farm was Chris's choice for his part of the day.  The farm is named after Ulysses S. Grant, our 18th president who farmed some of the land in the 1850s.  The farm was subsequently purchased by the Busch family(think beer).  It is now operated by Anheuser-Busch and is free to the public.  (ahem - except for parking!)

Chris & Baby Goats
Spotted Cattle
We took the trolley ride and saw quite a few of the 900 animals. At the end, we entered the part of the park that you can get up close and personal with the animals.  (note - I have lots of sun screen on today!) 

 "Aunt Patty we have to feed the baby goats" was  all I heard.  Now, some time ago, back when I was younger than Chris & Shelby, I had a run in with a goat.  That goat jumped and marked up my favorite sailor shirt.  Today - that isn't going to happen. 

So here we are at the pen of baby goats.  There are about 3 dozen of very hungry little goats all squeeling for milk.  There isn't much else that could be cutier.  I bought bottles of milk and we, along with lots of folks, were herded by the goats to get a lick at the bottles.

Bud getting ready to show off
We moved on to see lots more animals.  By now it is so hot, most of the animals are not in-the-mood to show off except for the elephant, Bud.  (I'm thinking of an ice cold one now - pun intended)  We climbed up the small stadium, found seats, and enjoyed the show. Woohoo it is in the shade. 

Bud did all sorts of tricks and we learned lots.  After the show, I held the kids back so we could have a personal one-on-one with the trainer.  Shelby and Chris had lots of questions and it was great to learn more about Bud.

Bud showing off
We wound our way back to the baby goats after going through a sprinkler system. It was helping with the hot and dust of the day.

Goats it is and what do you think?  It was lunch time and of course we had to feed the goats again!  One of then found me and followed me around - oh no, I'm thinking, was this guy is going to jump on me.  Nope - he was a leaner and just wanted to be scratched and petted.

Hey Chris, this was fun! I'd go again or lets try another adventure.  With a little navigation, and some info from 'mommy' about our choice for lunch, we were off to Bandana's.