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I have been watching the Olympics and it is really quite amazing to see events going on in so many different arenas on the other side of the world. NBC is doing a great job of coordinating all this media input.

Last night there were a couple of instances when I felt that the athletes did not really set a good example for other athletes and children who might be watching this spectacle. Case in point number One: The men’s 400M Relay with four men from the men’s swimming team each swimming 100 Meters.

First off the block and the U.S.A. had a nice lead over all. Then Michael Phelps hit the water for the second part and the lead was even greater. When the third swimmer took his turn, it appeared that the USA was for sure going to get another Gold medal.

Now it was Ryan Lochte who swam in the final heat, and at the very end of the race was narrowly overtaken by France, and USA wound up in second place for a Silver medal.

Now, one would think that these four grown men would be happy with that, or gracious enough to congratulate the French team, which were right next to them on the platform.

But no, they acted like a bunch of spoiled brats, who had just lost their neighborhood game. When they accepted the Silver Medal on the podium, they looked happy for the photo and then in the next moment they looked dejected, when they thought the filming was done.

I think the coaches should prepare their athletes for how to behave if they lose, not just if they win. And to place second is not so great, but not so awful.

Then there was women’s gymnastics. This is an event I always like. It amazes me that these young girls can do all these intricate and dangerous moves and still look so poised.

Poised but very unsmiling. I remember when Shaun Johnston won the women’s gymnastics, she had a blazing smile during all of her performances. These five girls looked pretty serious and even grim.

Then when the captain of the team, Jordyn Wieber didn’t make the cut for the finals, instead of acting happy and congratulating her winning teammates (who are also her best friends), she couldn’t stop sobbing.

Again I blame the coaches, for not preparing these girls for this. If only two out of five can make the finals in the all events series, then three are going to be disappointed.

Think of the Miss America contest. The runner up is always sweet and gracious to Miss America, when the final bell is rung. Even if the Miss number two is sad and dejected, she doesn’t show it on the stage.

And in tennis matches, there is a handshake over the net.

But in the Olympics? The expertise in the sports is amazing. All the players are outstanding. The sportsmanship, not so much.


Mushroom Gravy

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I just found out that my ten year old grandson likes his steak with mushroom gravy. As this is something that my own children would never have requested, this came as a big surprise.
Having never made this before, I looked on the internet and found a very simple recipe. Amazing enough, I had all the ingredients, even the mushrooms.
I had a large jar of dried Shitake mushrooms and all I had to do was put a handful or two in a pot of boiled water for ten minutes to reconstitute and Voila. I chopped them up with my kitchen shears.
I used ‘I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter’ for the butter and it was just fine.
I didn’t have beef broth, so I used chicken broth (which I make all the time) and added some beef bouillion for flavor, as it was going to be served on meat. Next time I’ll try it on chicken and just leave out that last part.
Mushroom Gravy RecipeMushroom Gravy Recipe
What isn’t great topped with a nice mushroom gravy recipe? Whether served over steaks, meatloaf, or roast chicken, this versatile sauce is a winner. Easy to make, and so much better tasting than any jarred or packaged sauce mix. This basic mushroom gravy recipe can be made with chicken, beef or vegetable broth depending on how you plan to serve it.Makes About 4 Cups of Mushroom Gravy

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes


  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 quart cold beef, chicken or vegetable stock or broth
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste


Melt the butter in a large saucepan, over medium-high heat. When the butter starts to sizzle, add the mushrooms and cook, stirring for 10 minutes, or until the mushroom juices have evaporated, and they’ve begun to brown. Stir in the flour, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for another 5 minutes.Whisk in 1 cup of the cold broth. Once incorporated, pour in the rest of the broth, and add the thyme. Bring back to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Serve hot.Note: For thicker gravy, turn heat up to medium, and reduce to desired thickness. For thinner gravy, simply add more broth.

Opening Ceremony/Olympics

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Well, I guess I know where I will be over the next two weeks. Glued to the TV, watching the Olympics.

The opening ceremony started off on a poor note, I thought, with children singing on a man made rural/real grass mountain. Sound of Music meets Wales? But then it got better and it made you realize what a great contribution Great Britain has made to our world.

Just the literature alone would have been enough, from Shakespeare to Harry Potter. Then there was a great number showing the music over the past fifty years. Everything from the Rolling Stones to the Who, the Beatles and beyond.

The man who started the World Wide Web is evidently from England and he was there. Each of the 65,000 seats had an LED screen on the armrests, and the effects of digital lighting around the entire stadium was pretty spectacular.

Of course the highlight of the show was the arrival of the Queen. There was a great bit with James Bond going to Buckingham palace and bringing the Queen in a helicopter to the Olympic stadium. Then they ‘skydived’ into the center of the stadium, as the Queen and 007 entered the stadium. Quite an effect.

After all the hoopla with the athletes arriving, the Olympic committee and flag ceremony, the torch lighting was a first of it’s kind, with seven young athletes representing the future of the next generation of Olympians, carrying the torch.

The finale was Paul McCartney singing and playing. He then got the entire 65,000 people singing along.

What an emotional evening!

Your Call is Very Important to Us


“Your call is very important to us”. “Due to an unusual high volume of calls, the wait time may be long, please call back at another time”. “All operators are assisting other customers, please hold for the next available operator”.

And my favorite, “All calls are answered in the order received, please do not hang up”.

Any of these greetings are met with dismay, when I call a company for assistance. It seems that the more high tech we get, the harder it is to actually reach a real live person in case there is a question or a problem.

Some companies start right off with a series of questions, which you answer by pressing a number. “If you are calling about a billing or payment question, press one now, if you are calling about a lost or stolen card, press two now, if you are calling for technical support, press three now. And so on.

I usually forget which number I am supposed to press by the time the robot has gotten to five or six. Then the robot will ask you your name, address, birthday and account number.

When you are finally transferred to a real person, the real frustration begins. Usually the first thing they say is, “What is your name, address, birthday and account number?”

If you reply that you just gave all that information, they will ask you a couple of security questions, such as mother’s maiden name, town you were born in, or your email address.

Once it is determined that you are you, it is time for the, “How may I help you today?” Once you state your problem, it is very likely that the person you are now speaking to is not the the actual person who can help with this particular concern.

This is when they say, “I am going to transfer you to our…” When you balk at this, the reply is,”It will just be a brief moment.”

Do you know the average time a brief moment is? One minute? Two minutes? Three minutes? NO, it is 15 minutes. All I can say is “Thank Goodness for the speaker/phone feature.”

The worst companies to try to reach by phone are insurance companies, medical anything, banks and credit card companies.

The best company for phone service, customer service and any other kind of service is Amazon. They have a button on their web site that says, “Phone me now”. The second you press this button, your phone will ring and it will be Amazon customer service just as cheerful as can be.

Have you noticed that whether you call Bank of America, Wells Fargo, or City Bank, they all have an operator with the exact same voice answering their phone.

Some companies don’t want to have to deal with customer service at all and only have an email address or a physical land address.

I would like to see a change in the Hello greeting that one normally get’s from a company. How about “Thank you for calling (such and such) today, how may I help you?”


Shipping to Hawaii…Problems in Paradise

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I saw this nifty medicine organizer and thought it would be the answer to my prayers. I take about ten different pills each day. I currently have a one week organizer and have been looking for one with more compartments.

The item is $24.99 and the shipping charge shown on the Amazon site was $7.19.I would rather sit down at the dining room table once a month and set this up, than to have to deal with this every seven days. I figure this should save me nearly an hour a month.

Twelve hours a year adds up to a whole day and is certainly worth more than $24.99 (plus shipping). I was feeling very organized and efficient.

Today I received a shipping confirmation showing that the item had been sent.
Your estimated delivery date is:
Monday, July 30, 2012 –
Monday, August 6, 2012

Your order was sent to:
Sandra Conrad
HONOLULU, HI 96815-1401
United States
Your package is being shipped by UPS and the tracking number is 1Z00029Y0247149425. Depending on the ship speed you chose, it may take 24 hours for your tracking number to return any information.
Shipment Details

Sold by DBROTH
Condition: new

Item Subtotal:     $24.99
Shipping & Handling:     $19.99
Total Before Tax:     $44.98
Shipment Total:     $44.98
Paid by Visa:     $44.98
Returns are easy. Visit our Online Return Center.

What is this? $19.99 shipping?

For those of you folks who think living in Hawaii is a paradise, you have never had to deal with the shipping charge problems we face here. When I mail something to New York, it doesn’t cost one penny more than if I were sending it one mile away.

Here is the saga of the Shipping to Hawaii problem. I contacted Amazon. They have a great customer service department that phones you immediately to answer your concerns.

The operator I got said to contact the seller. This is what I did:

Dear Sirs: I ordered the two tier medicine organizer and was shown a shipping charge of $7.19 on the Amazon website. Today I received a shipping confirmation showing a $19.99 shipping charge. This is totally unacceptable. I would never have ordered the product if I thought that the shipping charge was $19.99.
I expect an immediate refund of $12.80. Sandra Conrad

p.s. I saw this exact same item advertised in the Enquirer with the same price and shipping charge of $7.19. I decided to order from Amazon as it was simpler and they had my address etc.

Here is the reply:

From: DBROTH – Amazon Marketplace
Subject: [TID:644864] Shipping inquiry from Amazon customer Sandra Conrad (Order: 105-1509320-4287461)
Date: July 25, 2012 8:45:23 AM HST
To: Sandra Conrad <>
Reply-To: DBROTH – Amazon Marketplace <

Dear Sandra,

Thank you for contacting us, unfortunately we are unable to refund you the 12.80 due to the shipping charge is 19.99. Please note your location is Honolulu Hawaii and we are located in New Jersey as per the shipping charge went up. I’m terribly sorry for your inconvenience.

Best Regards,


So after this ‘Too Bad, So Sad’ response I called Amazon again. This time the operator was very sympathetic to my plight and he issued a $12.80 credit to me on my Amazon account.

This was satisfactory to me, as I order from Amazon all the time. But, what a hassle!

The funny thing is, Hawaii is part of the United States and it does not cost one cent more to send an item to Hawaii than to any other state. Many companies do not honor the state status of Hawaii.

One day I wrote to a company asking where my order was, as I had placed the order over a month prior. The reply was, ‘Oh, it is probably held up in customs’.

Redoing My Doll House

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It’s been a while since I have ‘played’ with my doll house. I decided it needed a little redecorating. This is the ‘original’ four room house, which has now grown into a fifteen room mansion.Note pink chair in living room. You will see it later, reupholstered in paper.

The kitchen was added, using a box from Costco as the shell. I decorated the kitchen, using cutouts and lots of glue and then I just set the ‘old’ house on top of it. (Of course I used hot glue to hold it in place).

The other ten rooms were added two at a time to the left, using the same method.

This is the back cover of a book I wrote about the dollhouse project.

I have always been a big fan of MacKenzie-Childs designs. The company makes beautiful hand painted furniture, dishes and household accessories. Everything from pillows and rugs to tea kettles and umbrellas.

Their signature ‘look’ is the Courtney check, black and white design. But there are lots of other patterns and it is fun to see what they will come up with next. Doll furniture? A clothing line?

Lately they have added light switch covers, knobs and pulls for cabinet drawers, reader glasses and aprons. Peter gave me the apron and it is one of my treasured items.Me in my MKC apron, and ‘dollhouse Sandy’ in her very own apron, that I cut out of a catalog.

There is a miniature furniture line that ‘copies’ the look of her designs. Each piece is hand painted and costs in the hundreds of dollars. I can achieve a similar look for zero cost. Just patience and time.

I get their catalogs each month and by now have quite a collection. I decided to do a little cut and paste upholstery, using cutouts from the catalogs.

If you plan to try this, this is how it is done. First you will need a base to work on. I used an old red velvet chaise lounge I have had for thirty years and a pink wing chair that I had in the ‘living room’.This is all paper. Except the rug underneath, which is a cut up petit point evening bag that I found in a thrift shop for $4. (Made two rugs out of it) And here I am relaxing after all this work. Later I added some little shoes sticking out from the coverlet.

You will need several copies of whatever it is you are using for the pattern… When you cut out the pieces, you will not have enough of any one part and will have to do some clever arranging and gluing together.Too bad I didn’t photograph a before and after. This was a pink wing chair upholstered in plain damask. The rug is the ‘other’ side of the same evening handbag.

Looking at the photo, I realize, I will have to ‘redo’ the chair side table to ‘match’ the chair better. This is an ‘old’ MKC pattern.This was the easiest part. I just glued and wrapped a cutout of a rug runner around the base, which was the top of a lotion bottle. The table top is a round cutout of another rug, glued to a round coaster. (And pressed down and sort of pleated)

Use lots of tacky glue, spread all over the part of the item you are working on. Be sure to have a very sharp scissors and plan on washing your hands a lot. (They get very sticky from the glue.)

Tacky glue dries clear, so don’t worry if it gets all over everything. In fact when you are done, spread a coat of the glue all over the item with your fingers to seal all the edges. It will dry like a smooth baked on finish.

I got inspired and decided to redo my kitchen, using the same method. That will be another day’s project.

Great Sun Hat/Visor

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Have you ever heard of Coolibar?

This is a company that makes great sunblock clothing for men, women and children. They have a terrific assortment of hats in a multitude of shapes and colors.

You can get to it online. Their clothing features a 50 sunblock protection and so do their hats. This hat/visor was featured in the Oprah magazine in July and I ordered two of them. The one shown here in black, and also one in navy.

The visor part zips off. But the brim is soooo wide, it gives great sun protection with it on the hat or off as a visor.

At $35 regularly it is not cheap, but much better than getting skin cancer on your face. If you use the word OPRAH when you check out this month, you will get 20% off your hat purchase.

There are lots of styles to choose from but I like this one, because you can lean back in your lounge chair, read and have sun protection. If you have a pony tail or long hair, you can pull it through the opening in the back.

Plus, most visors are not very stylish. This one is a real fashion statement.

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