Oct 3, 2019

Took The Plunge

Time For Retirement
Nine and half years ago, I was excited to purchase my Chrysler 300.  You can read about it HERE.  It's now 13 years old and has been costing me several hundred dollars in repairs each time I've had to take it to the shop.  At over 136K miles, it's no longer worth the repairs I've been investing.  I decided it's time to retire the 300.

One would think car dealerships would want to sell a car.  I researched a car I was interested in and I kid you not when I say I contacted no less than five dealerships that had the year, make, and model I was interested in with reasonable miles on it.  Incidentally, prices were ALL over the place with no rhyme or reason.  For instance:

•  30,233 miles, $23K
•  14,475 miles, $25K
•  29,160 miles, $25K
•  29,631 miles, $26K
•  11,165 miles, $26K
•  13,812 miles, $28K

Keep in mind all these are the same car just different colors!  Back to the dealerships, I contacted them all via email because all of them were a distance away from where I live.  Most just wanted to get me into the dealership.  They ghosted me once I started asking questions about the particular vehicle I was interested in.  Some didn't even respond to my "Contact Us" for the car on their website.  WTH?

Road Trip
One dealership stood out from the get-go.  I received a nice introduction email about the dealership and salesperson.  He answered all my questions via email in a timely, friendly manner.  The dealership was the one that had the car I was most interested in.  I took a 3 hour drive (each) way to east central WI to talk to the salesperson and test drive the car.  In my research, I was pretty impressed with the make and model before seeing it in person.  

The Test Drive
I had to chuckle internally when the salesperson asked for my license and took a photo of it with his phone.  Goes to show you how high tech we are.  Gone are the days of photocopied licenses.  The dealership is next to a freeway, interstate, and shopping center so I was able to drive it in several different conditions. 
OMG... test driving it was awesome!  It has a wonderful get-up-and go that my Chrysler 300 lacks.  I pulled into the shopping center parking lot to give the car closer inspection.  It's in excellent condition with no scratches or dents.  Under the hood looked really good, too.  Tires still have a good amount of tread.  I did look at the CarFax:  One owner, it's been regularly into the dealership for maintenance, and the two airbag recalls have been resolved.

The "Sit Down"
There wasn't any negotiation on the price because the dealership uses "up-front price" business model.  This means autos are priced aggressively to the market in order to move vehicles quickly and create volume. In these dealerships, the margins are lower, and they will typically do less (or no) negotiation, and more showing you documentation of why theirs is the value that it is.  Statistics show that most people do not like the negotiation process so some dealerships have moved to the up-front price model.  I didn't need the documentation since I'd already did my homework in this area.  
 I did try to negotiate for not a lower price, but for other things.  No dice.  

For me, the sale was contingent on how much I was going to get for trading in my 300.  I'd done my research on this, too.  Average trade-in value was $1,100.00 for a car in fair condition.  On the low end $925 and high end $1,468.  My car with 136K miles has some rust, a hole in the rear bumper, burns oil, lifters that knock, and needs some suspension work -- way too much $$ for me to want to keep it.  But, I digress.  When the salesperson came back to me with trade-in value of over $1,500.00, the deal was made.  

Since I hadn't planned on actually purchasing, I wasn't prepared. I put a deposit down and we planned on doing paperwork and delivery of the car on the following Thursday.  Yes, they are going to drive it 3 hours to me!  How awesome is that?!

Since this was the first time I've ever had a car delivered to me, I didn't know what to expect.  Especially, when the salesperson joked about how the delivery drivers were retired 80-year olds and don't get paid much. LOL

The day before, I received a call from the salesperson to set up delivery time and place as well as answer any remaining questions I had.

My New Ride
Readers are probably wondering, "Well, what did she get?" I've kept you in suspense, haven't I?  I purchased a 2016 Toyota Avalon Limited.  I thought it was the high end of the Avalon series.  The salesperson told me there was one more higher up called the Platinum series, but not many were sold.  From what I've researched, it is very similar to the Lexus 350ES.  Both cars have the same chassis and powertrain, but the Avalon has more interior room and trunk space.  It's also less expensive to purchase.

Exterior color is called Sizzling Crimson Mica.  Crimson is a strong, red color, leaning toward purple.  Mica is a crystalline mineral used in the paint to make it pearlized and creates a multicolored effect on vehicles. On my new-to-me car, this means in bright sunlight it looks red.


In the shade, or on overcast days it looks maroon or purplish.  The interior is light gray with black accents.

Size-wise, the Avalon is about the same length as the 300 and just a few inches less wide.  Both have 18" wheels with the Avalon having Super Chrome Alloy vs. the 300's aluminum rims.

I thought I was stylin' with a built-in garage remote control on the Chrysler 300. I am blown away at all the high tech features of the Avalon I purchased! 

•  Touch-based dash switches
•  Central touchscreen for GPS, radio, and phone
•  268-horsepower, 3.5-liter, 6-speed V-6 engine
•  Three driving modes:  Eco, Normal, and Sport that adjusts steering, throttle, and shift feel. 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds.  I can attest to this -- I was going almost 80mph coming from the off ramp onto the interstate and I didn't even know it!
•  Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection offers collision avoidance support for pedestrians.  No pedestrians to test this out, LOL.
•  Dynamic radar cruise control uses radar technology to adjust your vehicle speed to help maintain a preset following distance between you and the vehicle directly in front of yours
•  Automatic high beam headlights detects oncoming vehicles 2000 feet away and switches HB off then switches back on when vehicle passes
•  Lane departure assist signals if your car is about to leave your lane.  The alarm actually went off during the test drive when the car was too close to the center line.  So, I know it works!
•  Integrated backup camera with projected path.  Tested this out too and it works, too.
•  Heated power outside mirrors -- will come in handy during the winter months!
•  Leather heated seats in both the front and rear.  Cooled seats in the front.
•  Three zone heating/cooling:  two in front and one in the rear
•  10-way power adjustable drivers seat with lumbar support and cushion extension.  8-way power passenger seat

•  Entune multi-media bundle:  7" screen with split screen display, AM/FM radio, CD player, USB port for MP3/WMA playback, voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, phonebook access  and music streaming via bluetooth technology, Siri, and SiriusXM
•  Entune App Suite which gives real time info including traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports, and stocks.  It also does destination searches, has iHeartRadio, Pandora, FB places, and Yelp
•  Power moonroof, power windows, and power door locks, and power rear window sunshade
•  The steering wheel has paddle shifters (not sure what theses are yet) as well as controls for the hands-free phone, voice command, and multi-information display
•  Qi wireless smartphone charging system
•  Auto dimming rear view mirror with compass, map lights, and garage door opener
•  Rear window defroster/defogger with timer
•  Two 12 volt auxiliary power outlets
•  Push button engine start/stop
•  One of the neatest things -- the Smart Key System.  You can lock and unlock the front doors and trunk with just a touch of the hand.  THIS video explains how it works.  So cool!

Sep 25, 2019

When I Was Little...

When I was little, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.  As an adult, I've tapped into my artistic side by engaging in various hobbies: 

•  Photography -- I've been fascinated by cameras since I was about 7 years old.  I'd steal borrow my parents Polaroid camera to take photos.  My Dad gave me that same camera which he purchased when he was in the military before I was born.  For my 13th Christmas, my Mom bought me my first camera.  I've had one ever since.

•  Cross Stitch -- My first project in 1984 was a birth sampler I designed myself using motifs from an old women's magazine my Mom had.  It's now stained, but I still have it. I've been stitching ever since.

•  Watercolor Painting -- Hard to believe it's been three years since I started learning how to paint with what a lot of people call "a difficult medium".  I still consider myself a newbie, but I really enjoy it.  I'd like to think I've gotten better since my first painting.  I've taken some classes and learned about Chinese Brush Painting, Etegami, and watercolor painting by two local artists.

Recently, I did a watercolor painting for Vikki in FL.  One of her favorite things is coffee, so I did a coffee cup.  This one was so fun, I'm contemplating doing another one for my sketchbook.

Until Next Time...

Jul 26, 2019

Artistic Endeavors

At the beginning of June, my area has an event where there are 40 miles of garage sales along a highway.  One of the locations listed sewing machines and fabric.  When I got there, I wasn't interested in any of the fabric or the machine.  While perusing, I spied a row of art books -- some of which were watercolor painting books.  Through chit-chat with the residents, I learned her Mom had been into watercolor and had lots of stuff her Dad wanted to sell.  She went in the house and came out with two swiffer containers of watercolor paints and brushes.  I negotiated a price of $33 for all the paints, a package of 22x30" Arches watercolor paper, two 4x6 watercolor blocks, and the books.  Retail cost would be over $600.  I was a happy camper!!

I made a palette of the Grumbacher paints and for student grade, they are very good!  They re-wet nicely and are very vibrant.

While waiting for fireworks to start, I painted a postcard.  Happy 4th!

I participated in a Watercolor Postcard Exchange in June.  These are the ones I painted:

These are the ones I received so far:

I also did a birthday postcard for a little girl in IN. The skirt of the dress is overlaid with metallic paint. So cute!

During one camping weekend, I painted a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar.  It almost looks real!

Until next time...

Jul 25, 2019

Frogging, FFO's, and Final Good-Bye

How important is your stitching lamp to you?  Long time readers may remember when I had to repair my stitching lamp.  Tutorial HERE.  In addition to stitching, I also use my lamp for reading and computer work on my laptop.  One day, I turned it on and I heard a crackling noise.  Tyra (aka Sock Monster) also heard it and ran over to the lamp to check it out.  Then I smelled burning.  At first, I thought the bulb blew so I tried another bulb.  No dice.  I tested the bulb on desktop lamp and it worked fine.  My lamp finally died after over a decade of service.  Good-bye old friend, Good-bye.  ::sniffle::  Thankfully, I had another lamp in my craft room.

In January, my second Mom Sue from VA sent me a stitched piece to make into a pillow for her granddaughter's birthday.  Here is the end result of our combined efforts.

This was the first time I made yo-yo's and used them in finishing. They turned out so cute, I'm sure I will use them again.

After four long winter months, I finally went to the monthly stitch-in with the Stateline Stitchers. I worked on Japanese Garden.  

I made a little progress, but then realized the bridge was off a few rows.  Frogging was in my future!

I re-stitched it and it was still off so I had to frog some more the entire bridge and water underneath.  Finally, I got it right.  Here's what it looks like now.

Last week, the weather was unbearably hot and humid so I stayed in and worked on some FFO's (fully finished objects).

Merry Christmas Grumpy Kitty was stitched in 2014 on 22ct red aida with DMC and Kreinik threads.  I mounted it on a wood snowflake ornament purchased at Michael's a couple years ago.  I "painted" the ornament with silver glitter glue.  Although it can't be seen in the photo, I also "painted" the edge of the snowflake with red glitter glue.  The ornament was embellished with cream handmade cording.  Design is a freebie by Brooke Nolan.

I stitched Snow Much Fun at the North Pole on 32ct sky blue linen with DMC threads.  I started and finished it during my Christmas 2017 visit with my second Mom, Sue V in VA.  The design is by The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery, JCS Christmas Ornament issue 2017.  I mounted it on the same sled I used for THIS ornament last year.  This sled ornament is embellished with handmade cording and snowflake buttons.

Meet Uncle Sam!  He is a Flatbed Zippie design by Bent Creek.  Love Bent Creek designs!  Last July, I received the chart as a RAK from Carol at Stitching Dreams. (It's only taken me a year to stitch it up and fully finish it!)  This cutie was stitched on 28ct Light Mocha Cashel Linen with DMC and Carries Creations floss.

This is the first time I've done an Altoids tin finish.  I looked at several photos of this type of finish before going my own way.

I made the inside of the lid magnetic which can hold pins, needles, or a pair of small scissors.  

The bottom is covered in the same fabric I used on the inside.  The bottom outside edge is trimmed with red gross grain ribbon and topped with another 1/4" ribbon in red/blue plaid.  The top outside edge is covered with a red ribbon with white dashes through it.  Best of all, I finished this with things in my stash!

Until Next Time...

Jul 24, 2019

Homestead Chronicles - New Toys, Gifts, and Greenery

A couple months ago, I decided to retire my Cub Cadet lawnmower that was given to me.  A refurbished mower that resulted from a dumpster dive.  It's jury-rigged to 'electric' start by attaching clamps to a motorcycle battery.  It's worked well for the past 7 or 8 years, however last year the starter became harder and harder to get going.

After some research, I bought a new lawnmower that is self-propelled and had an actual real electric start. Over the past couple years, I've had difficulty getting a pull-start mower started.  Getting old sucks is not for the faint of heart.

I purchased a Toro Personal Pace.  It's a mulcher and has a bagger.  Not only is it electric start and self-propelled, it determines the speed according to how fast or slow the 'driver' is walking.  I even tested it by running around the yard with it, LOL!  It does indeed keep up.  I mow every week and haven't had to re-charge the electric start battery yet.  I'm thrilled with my new mower!  My only complaint is that the front end is on the light side weight-wise and tends to tip up a bit when going over lumps and bumps in the yard.

All electric start mowers have a safety feature whereby a bar needs to be engaged in order to start the mower.  The downside to this is that if the bar is released then the mower shuts down.  Annoying if you have to bend down to pick up branches or trash from the yard.  Back in the day, I was chit-chatting with my Dad about it and he tied an old shoe string on my Cub Cadet.  So, when I got the Toro, I removed Dad's shoestring and put it on it.  It's a reminder of how smart he was at hack solutions. :)

A while back, I received some beautiful gifts from India.  My friend, Akila from Mostly Cross Stitch and More, sent me beaded ornaments and a set of four little vases.  The ornaments are so pretty and oh-my the vases are adorable!

Thank you Akila and V!

I haven't had the gumption desire to do any gardening since my parents passed away five years ago.  This year, I made up several planters with flowers, tomato plants, and basil.  They are coming along quite nicely.  I have two large 24" long planters with beautiful molded designs on the front. I put quite a few plants in each one.

A month and half later, they filled in quite nicely.

Last year, I saw a 3-tiered planter at my local Aldi store.  I didn't get it when I saw it and when I went back, they were all sold.  At Aldi, you never know if they'll get seasonal items like again.  When I saw they had them back in stock this year, I grabbed one up and filled it with flowers.  It fits nicely in a little alcove I have next to the side entrance steps.

The basil grows profusely and is so fragrant when harvested.  I ate my first cherry tomato off the vine yesterday. It was SO good!

Until Next Time...

May 3, 2019

Eight States in Nine Days - Part 2

The second part of my vacation involved driving three hours to Washington D.C. 

Ford's Theatre/Petersen House
Parking is at a premium in Washington D.C.  Thankfully, there is a parking garage under Ford's Theatre.  Ford's Theatre is where Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, was shot by John Wilkes Booth.  It is still a working theatre.

From looking at the outside, one would not think it's filled with so much history.  Before entering the actual theatre, you enter a museum that details politics during Lincoln's era, the timeline of the day he was shot (both Lincoln's and Booth's).  I am from Illinois as was Lincoln so it's fascinating history for me. 

The theatre itself is very ornate and is a step back in time.

The box where President Lincoln was shot.

Across the street from Ford's Theatre is Petersen House where Lincoln died from his gunshot wound.

Only the downstairs is accessible to the public.  It contains: Front Parlor where Mary Todd Lincoln sat while the President was dying.  Back Parlor where politicians stayed in the aftermath. The room where Lincoln died.  Even though there is a bed in the room, the actual bed Lincoln was on is in Chicago History Museum.

Next to Petersen House is an education center with history and artifacts of the assassination and funeral of Lincoln.

At the end of the Petersen House/Ford's Theatre Education Center tour, there is a 34ft tall a Tower of Books... all about Lincoln.

National Mall
The plan was to park at Union Station and take the DC Circulator to the National Mall.  As they say, best laid plans...  After going around and around and around and around (I'm not kidding) the street in front of Union Station, we realized the parking garage was closed.  I scrambled to find a parking garage (Thank goodness for smartphones!) that was a 20 minute walk from Union Station.  Luckily, the weather was nice.  It did curtail how late site seeing at the Mall was going to be.  For the months of March and April, the DC Circulator bus was free to ride.  Normally, it's just $1 to ride.  Just hop on and hop off at whatever spot you wanted to see.  All of the monuments and museums have free admission!  It definitely takes more than one day to see everything.

National Museum of American History
The only reason I wanted to go here was to see the First Lady dresses. It was so awesome!  I did think of Vickie at Reading and Stitching... she loves 'fancy lady' dresses.
Caroline Harrison 1889-1892
Frances Cleveland 1893-1897
Lucy Hayes 1877-1881
Mary Todd Lincoln
Mamie Eisenhower 1953-1961
Michelle Obama 2009

There were many, many more as well as several sets of White House china used during different presidencies.

Also in this museum were the ruby red slippers from the movie, Wizard of Oz.  One of my favorite movies after Gone With The Wind.

There is lots more in the museum, but since there was a time crunch I set out to see the things that really interested me.

While in Washington, D.C., I had to see the presidential memorials. 

The Washington Monument was closed due to renovations so I didn't get to go inside.  My two favorite photos:

Washington Monument and Infinity Sculpture
located in front of Museum of American History
View from the top of Lincoln Memorial

Both the Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial are very awe inspiring.  When standing at the foot of the stairs, these monuments are so massive!  Of course, I climbed the stairs of each one.

Jefferson Memorial
Thomas Jefferson's words are etched in marble
on the inside walls of the memorial
Also in the interior is a 19ft bronze statue of
Thomas Jefferson
Lincoln Memorial.  It was spring break so there were lots of kids everywhere!
Inside the memorial is also 19ft tall. With the pedestal, it weights 175 tons!
Walking to the bus stop, I noticed that all the state names are carved into the stone around the top perimeter of the memorial.  I found Illinois... how cool is that?

Also while in D.C., I saw the Capitol Building and the U.S. Court House.

As dusk set in, it was time to head to Tennessee.  If you can't tell, traffic is horrendous in Washington D.C., daylight or dusk.

See that car directly in front?  Not sure what the problem was, but it stopped right in the middle of the interstate and put it's flashers on.  Because it was bumper to bumper and side to side traffic, it was quite the trick trying to get out from behind it in order to go around.  Ugh.

Until next time...