Saturday, February 14, 2009

On Valentine's Day, some heart-warming news

Finally, some economic news we can feel good about: $10 billion is coming towards Florida very soon, thanks to the stimulus package just approved by lawmakers.
It’s good that they recognize the fact that our state has been beleaguered with money woes for a long time. We have the highest home foreclosure rate in the nation; Tampa Bay alone has lost more jobs than in any other area of the state. Major retail chains have pulled out of the area, or simply shut their doors.
So if anyone needs a bailout, it’s us.
A large chunk of that, just over $4 billion, will go to bolster Medicaid, good news for families relying on that extra help to make it day to day.
Gov. Crist has promised that $1.3 billion will be for transportation projects around the state. Those road construction projects in the Tampa Bay area, like the I-4/Crosstown corridor and the 118th Avenue extension in Pinellas, can push forward, meaning thousands of jobs will open up.
The package also means tax breaks for those who purchase their first home, buy a new car, or make certain energy saving upgrades to their house. And millions of workers will start seeing more money in their paychecks this summer, as the $400 tax credit for individuals takes hold around June. Couples will get $800. Low-income families will get a $1,000 child tax credit. And folks getting unemployment won’t have to pay taxes on the first $2,400 they receive.
And, those who lost their health insurance along with their jobs because they could not afford to pay the full premiums will also benefit from this recovery plan. For the first nine months, the government will cover 65 percent of that cost.
Money will also go to help out law enforcement agencies put more officers on the street. Pell Grants for college students will increase up to $5,550 by the 2010-1011 school year.
All good news, a nice heart-warmer on Valentine’s Day.
This stimulus package will jack up the National debt, however. I don’t know about you, but I’m a little more concerned with my personal debt right now than the nation’s. However foolhardy that may be.
Thank goodness this is coming now, and it won’t be a wait-and-see situation. Our state’s in crisis, so this will be a welcome rescue.
Now if we can only get through that pesky hurricane season…

Friday, February 13, 2009

Books, Chocolates & Mimosas party, Dec. 8

We had a great time at Sea Breeze Manor in Gulfport last Sunday. There were books, chocolates and mimosas ... And the coolest people in town!

How could we possibly NOT have a great time?

Thanks to Lori Rosso for her hospitality. Her b&b, Sea Breeze, is absolutely gorgeous. If you want to impress out-of-town guests, or if you want a nearby weekend escape, it's the perfect place to go. Here's the Web site:

Thanks also go out to JChocolates, one of the hottest new chocolatiers in the Tampa Bay area. We had a delicious tray of chocolate-covered strawberries and other chocolates. Here's more on their company, and better yet, info on how to order some:

Lsst but not least, thanks to our featured authors:
Margo Hammond, co-author of "Between the Covers: The Book Babes' Guide to a Woman's Reading Pleasures"
Molly Barnes, author of "A Good Day for Uncle Elmo: Stories from a Schoolteacher's Journal"
Deborah Frethem, author "Ghost Stories of St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Pinellas County"

Here at last, party pictures!

How lucky do I feel, on Friday the 13th?

Friday the 13th is just a couple of minutes away and already I’m crossing myself and doing other little quirky rituals to ward off the bad spirits.
It’s not that I’m very superstitious; I mean, I do believe in karma, and that there’s another side of nature that we don’t see or understand. But I routinely step on sidewalk cracks, I’ve opened up an umbrella inside (by mistake) and I don’t dive out of the way if a black cat happens to mosey on by. And, I’ve broken a mirror or two in my time.
Just not on Friday the 13th.
The rules change on this unlucky day, and I think they change for everyone. A sense of foreboding has settled in amongst my friends, who I consider to be rational, intelligent people. A rash of stories from Fridays the 13th past is circulating, people that have gotten into car accidents or lost money; one even had his shed burn down.
Of course, you can chock these things up to coincidence. And there are those that swear there’s no such thing as coincidence. Everything happens for a reason.
My Tarpon Springs friend Tsambika, my authority on all things Greek, follows a whole other set of superstitions daily. It’s just the way she was brought up. Like the “mahti” she wears, a little blue eye set in different pieces of jewelry that is supposed to ward off any hexes others might put on you. She gave me one on a little pin; I know that doesn’t make me an honorary Greek but I wear it when I’m feeling the heebie-jeebies just the same.
Of course, none of these things are based on reason or even empirical knowledge. A lot of it comes from culture and religious beliefs, and have somehow weaved their way into our reality, where they transcend mere superstition and simply become rules. How many of us won’t walk underneath a ladder? I know I’ve caught my husband throwing salt over his shoulder if he knocked over the shaker.
Whether or not you want to write it off as quirky nonsense or quaint tradition, I will certainly be watching my p’s and q’s until the 14th. And I’ll have on my mahti for an extra dose of good luck.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Clothing Swap, Feb. 7

Thanks to everyone who came to our Clothing Swap last Saturday in Gulfport! We were overwhelmed by the huge turnout and the generosity in our community. Everyone got cool new clothes, and we STILL ended up packing a whole truck full of donations for CASA, the shelter for victims of domestic abuse.

The Courtyard was PACKED. Yummy's and Java Nirvana were overflowing with customers. Neighboring businesses participated, too, by donating raffle prizes. Backfin Blue, Domain, O'Maddy's, Dominic's, they all donated gift cards.

And our very own Pat Largo was keeping the crowds laughing all day long.

It truly was an amazing day. Thanks, everyone.

Now, for the pictures: