Friday, September 12, 2014

Cane River by Lalita Tademy

Cane River by Lalita Tademy is the saga of a family born into slavery on the banks of the Cane River in Louisiana. I found it particularly interesting because a few years ago I visited Melrose Plantation in Natchitoches (pronounced Nak-a-tish) and could imagine the lives of Elisabeth and her descendants who lived in the same area.
But this isn't just any family saga, Lalita Tademy has uncovered her own family history and painstakingly researched historical records and family documents to put together this wonderful story that covers slavery, the civil war and eventually freedom. (The book has many pictures and copies of documents). Each of the women depicted were strong willed and determined to keep their family together. Although many children were lost to disease that was prevalent at the time, only one child was sold and later in life reunited with the family. Most of the family was kept together despite tremendous obstacles and eventually became free. It's difficult for me to understand that these women had no choices and were used at the whim of their owners and sometimes their owner's friends, who slept with whomever they chose, producing multiple children. But each of the mothers fought for their children's future, and managed to secure a home and land for the family.
One little tidbit I learned was that when slaves were freed  they could choose their own last name which I'm sure must make genealogy study difficult.

You can read an excerpt here.

This would make a great book club read.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Health Care Insurance Subsidies - Affordable Health Care Act

Like many Americans who were told that "If you like your health care coverage you can keep it" I thought I wouldn't have any problems, but apparently my plan didn't cover everything required by the Affordable Health Care Act and it was cancelled. I liked it - Obamacare didn't!

Apparently, all plans have to cover maternity and newborn care. Even if you are over 60 or a male, you still have to purchase a plan that covers maternity and newborn care!!!!!!!

So here's where the problems start if you lose your individual insurance.
You have 60 days to find new insurance otherwise you will have to wait until open enrollment which begins on November 15 for coverage beginning January 1, 2015. Aetna, whom I had insurance with and cancelled it without any notification, said they would be happy to offer me another plan at twice the amount of my previous one without loss of coverage. (They stated they sent out letters in April which I didn't receive.) Also, for coverage by the 1st of the month, you have to enroll in a plan by the 15th of the previous month or wait an additional month for coverage. i.e. If you apply by September 15, your coverage will start October 1. If you apply after September 16 your coverage will start November 1.

There are subsidies, but those are complicated too. You can read more about those here and there's a handy calculator on the Kaiser site where you can put in your income and personal information to see if you qualify. Subsidies for an individual are available for incomes between $11,490 and $45,960. Ironically, in some states, if your income is below that amount and below the poverty level you won't get any help. The Affordable Health Care was set up to encourage states to widen the requirements to qualify for Medicaid (Texas is one of the states that chose not to.) If for instance your annual income is $10,000 and below the poverty level you will have to pay the full amount of insurance unless you qualify for Medicaid in other ways (with a dependent). You can apply directly for Medicaid on the site.

To find out what is considered income you can view Questions and Answers here

On the Healthcare.Gov site you can also ask to view plans for your state and see what you will have to pay before and after subsidies if you qualify. Subsidies aren't available if you don't go through the Marketplace but don't let that discourage you from finding an insurance agent. They can offer advice, walk you through the process and answer any questions you might have. When you sign up through the Marketplace ( enter the agent's NPN (number) to show you have an agent working on your behalf.

Beware - If your income changes it could affect your taxes next year  if you have under-estimated or over-estimated your income and received higher subsidies than you are entitled to. Read an article about subsidies and the IRS here

Subsidies are actually Advance Premium Tax Credits and a way to get tax credits before you file your taxes.

And to add insult to injury, if your insurance company chooses to cancel your plan, and you can't find affordable coverage, you will have to pay a penalty for that privilege!

More useful information here with a chart showing poverty levels.

If you have any information that you can add to help others, please let us know in the comments section.

Below info. from site

Health Insurance Premium Tax Credit

Starting in 2014, individuals and families can take a new premium tax credit to help them afford health insurance coverage purchased through an Affordable Insurance Exchange (also known as aHealth Insurance Marketplace). The premium tax credit is refundable so taxpayers who have little or no income tax liability can still benefit. The credit also can be paid in advance to a taxpayer’s insurance company to help cover the cost of premiums. On May 18, 2012, the Department of the Treasury and the IRS issued final regulations, which provide guidance for individuals who enroll in qualified health plans through Marketplaces and claim the premium tax credit, and for Marketplaces that make qualified health plans available to individuals and employers. On Jan. 30, 2013, the Department of the Treasury and IRS released final regulations on the premium tax credit affordability test for related individuals. On April 30, 2013, the Department of the Treasury and the IRS issuedproposed regulations relating to minimum value of eligible employer-sponsored plans and other rules regarding the premium tax credit. Additionally, Notice 2013-41, issued on June 26, 2013, provides information for determining whether or when individuals are considered eligible for coverage under certain Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, TRICARE, student health or state high-risk pool programs. This determination will affect whether the individual is eligible for the premium tax credit. On May 2, 2014, the Department of the Treasury and the IRS issued final regulations on the reporting requirements for Marketplaces. On July 24, 2014, the Department of the Treasury and the IRS issued proposed, temporary and final regulations providing further guidance on the premium tax credit. In particular, the regulations provide relief for certain victims of domestic abuse or spousal abandonment from the requirement to file jointly in order to claim the premium tax credit. In addition, the regulations provide special allocation rules for reconciling advance credit payments, address the indexing in future years of certain amounts used to determine eligibility for the credit and compute the credit, and provide rules for the coordination between the credit and the deduction under section 162(l) for health insurance costs of self-employed individuals. Rev. Proc. 2014-41, also released on July 24, 2014, provides methods for determining the section 162(l) deduction and the premium tax credit for health insurance costs of self-employed individuals who claim the deduction under section 162(l).
For more information on the credit, see our premium tax credit page and our questions and answers.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough

I just started reading The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough (you may remember her from her well known novel, The Thorn Birds). At over 800 pages this is by no means a short read and added to the lengthy book are hand drawn portraits, maps (all by Colleen McCullough), a glossary and pronunciation guide.

The First Man in Rome begins on New Year's Day in 110 B.C. where Romans are celebrating the new year and two men have political ambitions to become The First Man in Rome. Hop on over to a blog review here.

Colleen McCullough's painstaking research is evident in the book where she gives details of life in Rome and the underlying battles for political recognition.

This is the first of a series.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

RIP Rosco

After 14 years with us, at age 16, our sweet dog Rosco passed away on Thursday. Anyone who has had a beloved pet knows how heartbreaking this can be. Rosco arrived on our front porch one day after wandering the streets for months and decided this was where he was going to live.

I hadn't wanted another dog after already taking in my neighbor's dog that they no longer wanted and being a single parent was worried about the cost of pet food and vet fees. Everyone else felt differently. My son pointed out that Rosco played with him and could even play soccer. My neighbor said he could sleep on the back porch and wouldn't have to be an inside dog. She offered dog food. Then one of the attorneys where I worked (a dog lover) offered to give me his monthly contribution, that he usually sent to the animal shelter, to help me pay for vet fees. How could I refuse? Of course Rosco was soon sleeping in our living room on a comfy bed next to our other dog.

A dear friend sent me this lovely poem and I picture Rosco crossing the Rainbow Bridge where his friend Sandy is waiting for him.

Heaven's Doggy Door
My best friend closed his eyes last night,
As his head was in my hand
The doctors said he was in pain
And it was hard for him to stand

The thoughts that scurried through my head
As I cradled him in my arms
Were of his younger, puppy years
And oh . . . his many charms

Today, there was no gently nudge
With an intense "I love you" gaze
Only a heart that's filled with tears
Remembering our joy filled days

But an angel just appeared to me
And he said "You should cry no more,
God also loves our canine friends
He's installed a doggy door"

Jan Cooper 1995

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Murder on the Isle of Capri

Murder on the Isle of Capri by Dr. Karen Donahue and Thomas Donahue is a fast moving thriller which takes the reader through Italy and bordering countries. This isn't the first book in the Ryan-Hunter Series, but I didn't find it necessary to read the preceding books first. As a professor of criminology, Karen Donahue takes us into a world of crime and intrigue. I liked the characters and it definitely kept me on the edge of my seat although the rushing around without necessarily developing the story did get a little tiresome. Of course, a tour around Italy is always a good backdrop for any book.
This was free for Kindle when I read it.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A little piece of Italy for around $7,500 deposit

A home on the side of an Italian Hill in Sicily can be yours for $1.50 plus a $7,500 deposit (refunded after the house is renovated). Gangi is situated on the isle of Sicily which is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. The Gangi Council are selling homes in the hope of restoring the 12th century village. There are a few stipulations, you will also be required to renovate the property within five years and pay legal costs.

The project will bring industry to the village as construction workers will be hired to renovate the homes.
Concerns about Mafia activity? Apparently there is no need to worry in this village:

"The Mafia exists, of course, but they are operating at a different level - they are interested in multi-million euro construction projects, not restorations like this," said Ms Wester. "Some people think that if you come here you'll see them walking down the street with guns, but it's not like that."

You can view a video about the project here

Friday, August 22, 2014

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

If you're interested in reading the classics, most of them can be uploaded to Kindle at no charge. (Books eventually become part of public domain) I had not read Frankenstein before, although I'm sure everyone is familiar with the name and the monstrous figure associated with it.
The book wasn't what I expected. Using the story of Prometheus, Mary Shelley sets her character, Victor Frankenstein, up for dire consequences resulting from his seeking power and knowledge. He tells his tale of regret over creating a monster.  It is thought that Shelley's inspiration for the Gothic novel may have come from Giovanni Aldini's experiments where he tried to revive the body of a hanged man using electricity. Have you read Frankenstein? What are your thoughts?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

1964 The [Beatles] Tribute

Last night 1964 The Tribute was performing at the Bass Hall in Fort Worth. Obviously this band is a hit in our area, as there wasn't an empty seat to be seen, and I can see why. They sounded just like the Beatles and their mannerisms were even similar. Their Liverpudlian accents are very reminiscent of John, Paul, George and Ringo although none of the 1964 band was born anywhere near the Caverns of Liverpool. The band members said they started the band as a lark, but it evolved and they later negotiated an agreement with Apple Corps Ltd. permitting them to perform their show around the world. If you like Beatles music and 1964 The Tribute come to your area, they're well worth seeing. It's a very entertaining show with lots of audience participation.

Friday, August 15, 2014

No Use Dying Over Spilled Milk by Tamar Myers

No Use Dying Over Spilled Milk is an Amish gem by Tamar Myers. Her character Magdalena Yoder is a feisty Mennonite of Swiss ancestry, but with family ties to the Amish community. When a second cousin twice removed dies in a milk vat, she feels obligated to travel to Ohio for the funeral where she finds that this isn't the first death in the past few weeks. Keeping her company is her wayward sister, Susannah who was once married to a Presbyterian. What ensues is an hilarious look at the local customs and events that ensue when Magdalena meddles with investigating a crime which has already been ruled accidental.

My thoughts:
I loved Magdalena and as it was written in first person the reader had a glimpse into her crazy thought process. The plot was well thought out and I also liked learning about the Amish and Mennonite ways. There were lots of quirky characters and many laugh out loud moments. Definitely an author I will put on my TBR list.

Monday, August 11, 2014

12 Places You'd Never Believe Were in the U.K.

I received this in an e-mail and thought it was too good not to share. Many of the locations are in Cornwall (which most of you know I love) and in particular St. Ives which is a favorite village of mine. 

1. The Maldives?
Put away your passport (and your sun cream): this perfect white sandy shore is actually Seilebost Beach in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland.

2. Mont Blanc?

This is actually the Observatory Gully on Ben Nevis in the Lochaber area of the Scottish Highlands. Standing at 1,344 metres (4,409 ft) above sea level, it's the highest mountain in the UK.

3. Italy?
Good guess, but this is actually the quirky Portmerion Village in Gwynedd, North Wales. It was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village. If it looks familiar, that might be because it was used as the location for surreal 60s spy drama The Prisoner.

4. Ancient Greece?

No, this is Cornwall. The Minack Theatre is an open-air theatre, constructed above a gully with a rocky granite outcrop jutting into the sea. The theatre is at Porthcurno, 4 miles from Land's End in Cornwall, England.

Note: Minack Theatre has a very interesting history 

5. Normandy?

Nope, Cornwall again! St Michael's Mount Cornish name means a grey rock in the woods, and may represent a folk memory of a time before Mount's Bay was flooded. The Cornish legend of Lyonesse, an ancient kingdom said to have extended from Penwith toward the Isles of Scilly, also talks of land being inundated by the sea.

Note: The island has a causeway that appears at low tide and you can actually walk across.

6. Cyprus?
This might look like a Mediterranean sun-trap, but it's actually Achmelvich Beach in the Highlands of Scotland. Sutherland, to be precise.

7. Polynesia?

You don't have to go to the Pacific ocean to visit this reef-like inlet. It's actually part of the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. Two miles to the north of Lizard Village lies the secluded Kynance Cove, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

8. South of France?

Although it looks Provence-like, the road signs and very British-looking onlookers clearly show that this picture-perfect village is actually in England. It's called Cockington and it's only a stones throw from Torquay in Devon.

9. Portugal?
This lookalike starts with the same letters, at least. This is Porthmeor Beach in St Ives, Cornwall. The deep blue water is popular with surfers.

10. New Zealand?

This is actually a view from the top of the deliciously named Cheddar Gorge in Somerset's Mendip Hills. No hobbits here!

11. India?
This Taj Mahal style building is Brighton's iconic Royal Pavilion. It was built in three stages as a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales, who became the Prince Regent in 1811.

12. Skyrim?

No, it's not actually a location from a video game. This is the spectacular Smoo Cave in Durness, Sutherland (Scottish Highlands). The cave is unique within the UK in that the first chamber has been formed by the sea, and the inner chambers by rainwater.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Murder Passes the Buck by Deb Baker

Deb Baker has found a winning character in Gertie Johnson - a 60 something widow who gets herself into difficult predicaments while trying to solve a murder.
Murder Passes the Buck is set in the Upper Michigan Peninsular and Ms. Baker gives us a great glimpse into life on the peninsular jutting into the Great Lakes, adding many laugh out loud moments.

Book Description:
In Book 1, Gertie's Finnish neighbor is shot right between the eyes while holed up in his hunting blind. Everyone in town thinks he was hit with a stray bullet except Gertie. But the local sheriff has ruled it an accident, and the sheriff just happens to be Gertie's son. 

Unfortunately, the publishers didn't share my zeal for this series and ceased publishing the books. But like many other authors finding themselves in the same predicament, Deb Baker took advantage of the self publishing avenues and asked for her rights back. Thank goodness these gems weren't discarded because this one is going on my favorite reads list for 2014.

This one was free for Kindle when I read it.

Note: Deb Baker also writes under the name Hannah Reed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Middle East Problem - Israel/Palestine Conflict

If you, like me, are confused about the whole Palestine/Israel conflict, here is a video explaining the history. After thousands of Jews immigrated to the Palestine territory in the 1920s and 30s (and more in the 1940s who escaped persecution by Nazis), the state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948 by the League of Nations and the United States endorsed the partition. British troops left Palestine at this time (it was previously under British mandate). Palestine was left to try and form a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza. You can read more about the history with timeline here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

English Newspapers

Newspapers are a matter of personal preference and although many areas in the world get only a few choices, England has a multitude of newspapers to choose from. I found this list which I thought was humorous.

The Times: Read by the people who run the country.
Daily Mirror: Read by the people who think they run the country.
The Guardian: Read by the people who think they should run the country.
Morning Star: Read by those who think another country should run the country.
Daily Mail: Read by the wives of the people who run the country.
Financial Times: Read by the people who own the country.
Daily Express: Read by the people who think the country should be run as it used to be run.
Daily Telegraph: Read by the people who think it still is.
The Sun: Read by the people who don't care who runs the country as long as they are young, female and attractive.