Thursday, April 27, 2017

Reviewing Tips on Backyard Perch for Bird Photography

Goldfinch on Perch
Backyard bird photography can be a relaxing and rewarding hobby.  There are many books to give you ideas on getting the most of backyard bird photography and they contain tips on everything from feeders, to lighting, to setting up an ideal setting for the birds. 

Backyard Bird Books

                                          

Setting up a Natural Looking Perch

On this page I would like to concentrate on one aspect of backyard bird photography, setting up a natural looking perch.  I have been photographing birds for a few years now, but I always felt I was fighting the background and surrounding features in my backyard. I would photograph birds on the feeders and sitting on the shepherds hooks but just never quite got that photo I was trying to get. When our photography club announced that our speaker would be talking on backyard bird photography I was really excited to be going and getting some tips.  

When the speaker first started he showed us lots of photographs he had taken of birds on natural looking perches.  I thought they looked great and figured he had to be out in parks or the woods to capture the birds sitting on those perches.  Then he told us his secret.  He creates his own perches in his back yard and trains the birds to come and sit there.  He does this by watching the birds habits when feeding and then setting up a natural perch nearby.  In his example he showed a feeding box he had made that he sat on the ground and then mounted a branch, using an old tripod,  to hang just above the feeding area.

I liked his idea, but I have a small backyard and wanted to keep my backyard attractive and yet still use the natural perch idea.  The next day I was wondering around my backyard thinking about the lecture and I came across a big tree limb that had fallen in the storm the night before.  I took the limb and buried it in an old flower pot and then moved it near the bird feeders.
Perch Limb
I set up the perch and now I had to wait for some birds to come.  I had my camera set up on a tripod just inside our patio doors and I would sit and watch all the birds but they never landed on the perch when I was watching.  

Moving Perch for Birds Convenience

I next decided to move the perch between my finch feeder and my songbird feeder to give a better landing place for birds waiting to get their turn at the feeders.  In just a few minutes I captured a photo of the first bird landing on the perch.  Since then I have captured many birds sitting on the perch.  I have added some green plants to the container to make it more attractive and I am quite pleased with my first attempt at setting up a perch.

Photos of Birds Landing on Perch

Here are some of the photos I have taken in the last week.  I have my camera set up just inside our glass patio doors and the photos are taken through the glass.  I have the camera on a tripod and I have a remote shutter that I have close by when I am sitting at the table in front of the doors.  This way if a bird catches my eye I can grab the shutter and click away.  The camera is set at aperture priority with a f5.6 setting and is focused at the very top of the perch.  








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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Start Now to Prevent Tax Preparation Stress Next Year: A Review

Does Tax Preparation Stress You Out?

I finished my taxes about a week ago. Medical circumstances caused us to leave them until the last minute. Getting the data together was stressful. Even last year, when someone else prepared our taxes, we had to find and list all the data on the accountant's form.

Start Now to Prevent Tax Preparation Stress Next Year: A Review
Image Courtesy of Pixabay, Text Added on FotoJet.com



It's not hard for me to enter data into tax software. I stress out when I don't have the data handy to enter. My husband manages our rental business and keeps the records in a black book. He files receipts -- all receipts and documents -- in an accordion file I find it hard to look through. Some tax information is in check registers and credit card statements. I keep my business records in a desk organizer designed for taxes. 

This year at tax time everything came to a head. I had trouble finding the documents  I needed in his file.  He couldn't find property tax records and I had to chase them online. I had to organize all the credit card statements for several different cards. Year-end statements from banks and insurance had not been filed anywhere and we had a treasure hunt. Part of the problem is that most mail still goes to our other house where he does his work. He gets behind in filing and things get lost. 

By the time we finished our taxes this year, I decided our system must change. We have got to start this year's tax preparation now -- not after the first of next year. This year is already one-third gone as I write this. The day after I finished the tax preparation and we mailed the taxes, I started sorting this year's receipts. Here are three things I'm doing now to make tax time easier and less stressful next year. You may want to do them, too. 

1. Have the Proper Organizers on Hand

I use two desk organizers. One is for paying bills so I don't get behind. The other is for organizing receipts and other documents in tax categories. When the mail comes in, I pull any bills or important tax documents immediately. Bills go into my bill organizer by month. I usually put the date due on the envelope and put them in the pocket in order of when bills are due with the first to be paid on top. Documents go immediately into the tax organizer. 

After the bills are paid, they are marked with the date paid and method by which they were paid. If I pay online by electronic transfer, I write the confirmation number in the check register and also on the bill itself. Then I file the paid bills where they belong. Credit card statements are filed by issuing bank in separate folders. It's too bulky to put them in the tax organizer book pockets. Statements from the medical insurance companies also go in the file cabinet, as do utility bills and other bills that come every month and may not be tax deductible. 

Medical receipts for out-of-pocket payments to medical professionals go into the proper pocket in the tax organizer. So do year-end interest and income statements, 1099 forms,  and business expense receipts. Here are some very good organizers. 


I personally use the Adams Tax Preparation Organizer pictured above. It has pockets to hold receipts for each tax category. Above the pockets are lines for listing the records contained with their dollar amounts. The inside front cover explains what belongs in each pocket.

The All-in-One Income Tax  Organizer pictured would be a good substitute for the larger more complex accordion file my husband uses. The Budget Book pictured would make it easier to keep track of personal finances than the organizer I use now. It has more budgeting features for keeping track of anticipated expenses and income. The Tax Minimiser is designed especially for small business owners. 


2. Set Aside a Time Every Week to Organize Receipts


Early Preparation Prevents Last Minute Stress

Start Now to Prevent Tax Preparation Stress Next Year: A Review
Image Courtesy of Pixabay

This year's mad dash to find the receipts and documents we needed to prepare our taxes was stressful enough to send Hubby to the ER. I'm determined to avoid that last-minute stress next year. We started so late this year that we had missed our accountant's deadline to get data to him. We would have had to file an extension. But one needs to have a good idea of how much one will owe before filing that extension. We really had no idea. 

That's why we decided to go back to doing the taxes ourselves using TurboTax, my favorite tax software. I have used it for years, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it was even easier to use this year. Because I have two small businesses now and we both help with the rental business, we needed the Home and Business version of TurboTax. It has all the tax schedules we need. 

By doing the taxes ourselves, we were able to prepare them at the last minute and know for sure how much we needed to pay. We also saved ourselves about $800. Waiting until the last minute created stress, though. I needed to finish the day before taxes were due because of a previously scheduled a doctor appointment on the day taxes were actually due. I didn't realize it was the day taxes were due when I made the appointment.

We bought the software on a Wednesday and then we tried to get the data together. I worked on my Schedule C forms and Personal Information while Hubby gathered the other data on the rentals for Schedule E. 

We had to work almost nonstop during the day and evenings, but we did take a break for two hours on Friday night for dinner and TV. Then I went back to my computer and Hubby went back to his black book.

 A few minutes later he developed some mild chest pain, so we were off to the Emergency Room. He does have heart problems, and it seemed wise to be safe rather than sorry. He was OK, but we didn't get home until early morning and we had to sleep late. Neither of us was at our best for the rest of the day, either, and we had to spend Easter Sunday working on taxes. We did finally finish by the deadline.

Start Now to Prevent Tax Preparation Stress Next Year: A Review


Weekly Organization During the Tax Year Could Have Prevented This Stress


As demonstrated above, we can't know ahead what the future holds. We cannot predict medical events that can occupy our time when we had intended to start our taxes. The solution? Start preparing your taxes for next year now by keeping receipts organized as you get them. At least once a week make sure you have receipts in the proper pocket of your organizer and that you have written the business purpose for each receipt. 

As you pay your credit card bills each month, circle deductible expenses and make sure you have the register receipts that match them in your file. If you manage rental properties, make sure you write on each receipt which property it was for and the purpose of the purchase. Then you won't have to look at your Home Depot or Lowe's receipt the next year and try to figure it out. It's much easier to remember what you did during the week than what you did last year. 

Keep all register receipts that have some sales tax on them -- especially if you don't pay a state income tax. As tax law stands now, you can deduct the amount of sales tax you paid or the amount you paid in state income tax (but not both) on your federal return. Keep receipts from stores and from online purchases. I have a file in my email program just for receipts from online orders. Taxes on just those purchases came to several hundred dollars last year. 

I have already started preparing my taxes for this year using this kind of organization. I have instructed my husband to bring home all receipts and mail for me to go through so I can see that they are properly labeled and won't be hard to find next year at tax time. I still have the first four months of this year to catch up on, but I've been using my tax organizer since January. I always make sure I have the new one before the end of December each year so I don't have to wait to get documents and receipts where they belong. 

If you don't have your tax organizer for this year yet, get it now. Pick up an extra for next year while you are at it. Also, make sure you get a bill organizer or some financial software to make sure you always remember to pay your bills on time.

I prefer a desk bill organizer since I thought Quicken was too complicated for my situation when I previously used it years ago. Even though it imports bank and other financial information automatically, it was not intuitive to use.  I made mistakes because I didn't understand how to use it properly and those mistakes were impossible to undo. If you can use it properly, Quicken makes it easy to import your tax information directly to TurboTax.

3. Keep Track of Deductible Mileage


Whether you use your car as an employee of a company or for your own business, you may be able to deduct your mileage. To do that you have to keep track of your business miles driven. 

I cannot stress this enough. It's best if you keep a mileage log in your car. I have always found the Dome three-pack pictured below adequate for my needs. It's a great deal if you use more than one car at your house for business or other deductible trips.  Besides space for logging mileage, there is space for recording car expenses and parking fees.  You can deduct not only business mileage but also mileage for transportation to medical appointments and work you do for charity. Current tax laws may change, but it never hurts to keep track. 


The one thing you must write down each year is your beginning and ending odometer reading. Without that, you will have a tough time deducting any of your mileage. We record it in the logbook and on our calendars on December 31 of the old year and January 1 of the new tax year. Make writing that starting mileage part of your New Year's celebration. 

Believe me, you don't want to have to reconstruct the beginning and ending mileage from repair receipts or insurance mileage data a month or two from the beginning or end of the year.That means having to use your calendar and habits to reconstruct all the miles you drove for any reason between your receipt date and the beginning or end of the year, and your figure may not be 100% accurate.

Sometimes we can get impatient or find that it's hard to read the odometer and record mileage for every trip. We often make the same trips repeatedly for business, as when we visit a certain rental property, bank or the post office. You may only need to document the exact mileage for that place once, and then just record the date, place, and miles traveled the next time you go. Another great way to see how many miles it is to a destination is to use Google Earth. When you ask it for directions from one place to another, it will give you the total miles for the route you take.

Whatever System You Use, Start Now to Relieve Tax Preparation Stress Next Year

I prefer the organizers that sit on my desk to keep my finances and tax records in order. You may prefer software or some other system. What's important is to have some system that works for you and keep your records filed year round. Then when taxes are almost due you won't need to have a treasure hunt for missing receipts and documents. If there is a medical or some other emergency near the tax deadline, you will be much better prepared to face it if you aren't worried about getting your taxes done. You will already be organized and ready to plug the data into your forms or software. 

Disclosure: This post is not intended to give legal tax advice. It is based on my own experience. To be sure you prepare your taxes to conform to the latest changes in the law, consult a tax professional and/or only use tax software with the latest updates. 



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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Deterrents For Raccoons Reviewed

When Raccoons Get On Your Last Nerve

raccoon
Raccoon Image From Pixabay.com
Let's review some deterrents for raccoons, today. Shall we? One might look at the image to the left and think that a raccoon is such a cute little critter. Well, I guess there is a cuteness about that face but there is a reason they have that little bandit mask over those eyes! As cute as they might be, you do want to discourage them from visiting your yard and garden as much as possible. 

Currently, my husband and I have been battling with a mother raccoon and her ingenuous ways of finding food to eat in our backyard. It isn't the first year but we are hoping that it will be the last. I understand that she probably has young ones to feed but she needs to find her meals somewhere else. It was one thing when she or one of her friends came and robbed the bird feeders of the seeds. It is totally another thing when she discovered my hummingbird feeders and figured out how to shimmy up the skinny little pole and tip the feeder over for the sweet drink inside. What a mess! Not to mention she leaves nothing for the hummingbirds to drink. The ants love her antics because they can come swarm the sugar water that spilled on the ground. Enough, I say, enough!

In the past, I tried an ammonia deterrent. It was simple but honestly not that effective. The premise for it is that you soak a rag in ammonia, place it in a coffee can that you have punched holes in and sit it where you want to keep the raccoons away. It worked for about 2 days and then no matter how often I replaced the ammonia soaked rag; Ms. Raccoon was up to her antics again. 

I have read that raccoons do not like hot peppers. So, I have considered leaving some hot pepper suet at the base of my hummingbird feeder. I worry that this deterrent might harm other creatures that may visit the yard, though. It isn't supposed to harm birds but what about cats or dogs who might get into it? 

I also saw that they make raccoon baffles that sort of work like a squirrel deterrent. That might work except those darn raccoons are pretty smart and I worry that they might figure out how to get around the baffle by jumping above it. 

The premise of the baffle for raccoons is that it fits at the base of your feeder. I don't know if it works or not. I can see it would be difficult to get onto my pole but maybe not all poles. It would certainly be worth a try for many people.

So, you may be wondering what is my plan for this year? It turned out to be pretty simple, actually. Each evening around dusk I plan to just bring my feeder into the house. Ms. Raccoon can't get into it if it is inside the house. Her babies won't bother it nor will any of her friends. Raccoons are pretty clever but there isn't any way that they can figure out how to open a locked door and I seriously doubt that they would break the glass so I think I have come up with the best deterrent of all. If there is nothing out there for her to get into, she will finally decide to move on to the next victims.

I wish Ms. Raccoon, her babies and her friends no harm. I just do not want her or any of them coming to my yard to drink the sweet nectar left for the hummingbirds or anything else for that matter. Since I am pretty sure that Ms. Raccoon can't read, instead of a sign saying that she is not welcome; I just will not put out anything that she can feed on at night. A silent message, if you will, to go away.



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Monday, April 24, 2017

I Am Heath Ledger Documentary


I saw some exciting news on the television today!  Kate Ledger appeared on a morning show announcing the upcoming release of I Am Heath Ledger. I immediately opened Amazon and pre-ordered my copy of this documentary. This is not a movie review as I have not yet viewed the documentary, rather, it is an attempt at spreading this exciting news to other fans who enjoy Heath Ledger movies.

Heath Ledger


Heath Ledger was a handsome  Australian actor who made my heart flutter when I saw him in 10 Things I Hate About You.  His twinkling eyes and face-splitting smile caused my second "star crush" (second only to Elvis, of course). Unfortunately, Heath passed away in January 2008 from an accidental overdose. He was gone far too soon and far too young.

I  never bothered to watch any of the unauthorized biographies. I never really felt like seeing what other people had to say about him. But this morning, Heath's sister Kate was announcing the upcoming release of I Am Heath Ledger (DVD release date May 23, 2017).  

This documentary is a feature length film created with many of Heath's personal and private film clips. That is what made me excited about this movie. I want to see the movies and clips he had made of himself over the years.

It is described as:

"... a feature length documentary celebrating the life of Heath Ledger: actor, artist, and icon. The documentary provides an intimate look at Heath Ledger through the lens of his own camera as he films and often performs in his own personal journey"  - Amazon 

19 Films with Heath Ledger


Believe it or not, I have not yet seen Heath Ledger's two most popular - and award winning - movies: Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight.  I guess it is because those two movies came out during very busy times in my life. There is no other reason I've not seen those two movies.

But three of his other movies I have not only seen, but have viewed many times over. These three very different movies are: 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot, and A Knight's Tale. I adored him in each role for reasons as different as the roles. 

Heath Ledger's complete movie list includes:















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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Three Ways to Hide Clutter

Yep. It's that Time of the Year ... We Look at all our 'Stuff' and Think, "It's Time for a Tidy"

Of course, half the battle is admitting there's a problem! After that it's twenty five percent action and twenty five percent organizational and creative storage solutions.

Even though our clutter is organized, most of the time we're just sick of seeing the neatly stacked piles of life that take away from the overall look of our room.

The solution is equal to the mess you're dealing with: Simple mess, simple solutions, horrendous gut wrenching disaster ... major project.

If you're dealing with a relatively simple mess, here are three ways you can hide clutter:

DECORATIVE ROOM DIVIDERS

Today's room dividers are inventive and artistic. They not only give you a practical way to hide clutter, they also double as art.

When you check out the choices of room dividers available you'll notice the wide range of art scenes featured on them. They come in designs from landscapes to cartoon characters, making them ideal for any room in the home or office.

These are particularly useful in a bedroom that doesn't have a closet. As an example, if you're using a standing hanging rod to hold clothes, put it behind a room divider and it doubles as a place to privately change clothes and it hides the clutter.

A STORAGE BENCH
Storage Bench Featured on Funkthishouse


If your clutter problem is more about the miscellaneous items that never seem to find a home, use a bench as the main gathering place for them.

Whether it's shoes, school books, extra blankets and pillows, seasonal clothing, or photograph albums, a storage bench is a magnificent piece to tuck them away into.

Not only is it a place to hide the mess it's also an extra spot to sit. There are many places you can use a storage bench; the master suite, a child's bedroom, the front foyer, the family room, in your home office or even in the garage.

There are numerous storage bench designs to choose from, so be sure to check them out. You'll find additional styles when you visit the page featuring the above storage bench.


A SECRET PASSAGEWAY BOOKCASE

What? Yes, that's right, they really do exist. Of course this solution is certainly more involved and will require at least intermediate DIY skills, or you'll have to have someone put it in for you ... BUT it's worth it, they're super cool!

They really are as described, an actual bookcase that either swings inwards or outwards leading to a secret room or other space in the home.

If you have a small office in the corner of room and would like to hide important or private papers from prying eyes, then put one of these James Bond creations in .... I mean how many people do you know that have one?

There are a number of designs to choose from. They vary in style, color, features, size and type of wood. You'll see more bookshelf doors when you visit the above featured Hidden Door Bookshelf.







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Friday, April 21, 2017

Best Gifts for Tea Lovers

best gifts for tea lovers
Let's review some of the best gifts for tea lovers, I've been given a few of these gifts myself as one of my aunts affectionately calls me 'an old tea bag'!

I've been drinking and enjoying tea for many decades and even though I enjoy my coffee if I have to make a choice tea is still hands down my favorite.

What to give a tea lover?   Well there's lots of great options available from a selection of teas to strainers, mugs, tea pots and much, much more.

Let's have a look at a few things that I'd like to see gift wrapped for me!

Cute, Fun, Unique, Retro & Anything BUT Boring Tea Infusers!


There are so many different tea infusers available to purchase from cute tea infusers, to fun ones, cool retro tea infusers and more - one thing these tea infusers have in common is that they're unique and are perfect gift ideas.

I have been in love with the Sloth tea infuser for a while, but that didn't stop me absolutely falling head over heels in love with the manatee inspired infuser I received one year.  Check out my fun tea infuser reviews below -


These tea infusers are a couple of my favorite tea inspired gifts that I've received and they put a smile on my face every time I use them.

I may only have a couple at the moment, but that doesn't stop me looking at others all of the time - here are some of my favorite ones -

Unique and fun tea infusers from the collection at Lou16.com
Click the image to be taken to a great range of fun tea infusers that you'll love


Tea Pots & Tea Pot Gift Sets


Of course you can't go past a tea pot as a gift idea for a tea drinker and there's an awesome selection available.  The great thing about a tea pot is that you can use it with tea bags or loose tea so it doesn't matter what their preference is.

I love the stackable tea pot sets that you can get that combine a tea pot and cup (some of them even have a saucer as well) .  If you're buying for a cat loving couple who enjoy tea then this set is sure to bring a smile to their faces -

Isn't it adorable?  Even a dog owner like myself would still fall in love with the black cat's face!

In my household both my hubby and I enjoy drinking tea, but I do like to experiment with different teas whereas he sticks with his standard cuppa.

In cases where people are single, or the sole tea drinker in the house, or likes to try different teas then a stackable tea for one tea set is an awesome gift idea.


If you're not a fan of the pastel purple daffodil design you can check out a whole range by clicking on the image below -

Tea for one, gorgeous teapot and tea cup sets
Click the image to go to Lou16's gorgeous collection of tea for one gift sets

You may just want to get a straight tea pot, after all lots of people prefer to drink from mugs instead of cups these days and I do have a few for you to look at right here -


As you can see teapots can be found in a range of different styles, personally I like what I think of as a traditional teapot (The Pioneer Woman one featured below), but I know that a lot of people associate teapots and tea parties with the style of the porcelain butterfly & dragonfly teapot style above.

With more and more people being inspired by different teas and infusions the blue floral teapot featured makes me think of an Asian influence, perfect for a Japanese tea ceremony.

I deliberately haven't included any clear, glass teapots in this selection even though they do appear to be quite a popular choice these days.   If you're a tea drinker you'll be aware of how much the tannin in tea can stain your cup/mug/pot which is why I'm not sure how long the glass ones will stay looking as nice as they do.  

Despite this I was given a clear tea pot as a gift so I will be trying it out for myself and will report back with a review at a later date.  If the clear pots can be kept looking nice then there are a couple of different gifts that feature them including teapots that dispense the tea from the bottom and 'flowering' tea pots.   Stay tuned for more on these after I've investigated more! 


Tea Inspired Jewelry


Along with tea I do love jewelry and combining the two makes a unique gift idea for a tea drinker in your life.  Just check out some of these favorite pieces of mine -

Beautiful tea inspired jewelry - the best gift for a tea lover
Click the image to go to a selection of tea jewelry & find the perfect gift for your tea lover

As I've said other options can include a selection of teas or a mug.  When it comes to mugs there are some great personalized mugs available.  An alternative to a personalized mug is the mugs that come complete with a strainer that sits inside them and a lid - I received one of these from a work colleague a few years ago and it's fantastic!

I hope I've given you a few gift ideas for the tea lover in your life & maybe even a few things you'd like for yourself.


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Age Of Adaline Movie Review

The fantasy romance movie, The Age Of Adaline, grabbed my attention from the first frame and didn't let go. Here's my movie review.
Like the fantasy romance movie genre? I didn't know that I did until I recently watched The Age Of Adaline. And then I watched it again. I was mesmerized by the characters and totally spellbound by the story. The movie grabbed my attention from the first frame and didn't let go. But that's what a fantasy movie, or any good movie, should do, right?

The Story


The movie tells the story of Adaline Bowman (played by actress Blake Lively), born in 1908, who at the age of 29 suffers an accident that renders her "immune to the ravaging of time. She will never age another day." While the thought of never growing older may be appealing, the realities of the situation create circumstances that require Adaline to make major adjustments in her life as the decades pass.

Keeping her secret isn't easy. During her lifetime, Adaline must pass up many close relationships, including the opportunity for true love.

The most important relationship of her life, though, is with her daughter, Flemming (played by Ellen Burstyn). I loved the interaction between the two where the younger actress took on the mothering role to the older actress. The relationship was absolutely convincing and very touching.

Without giving away too much of the story (the trailer gives away much more), I'll just say that during the course of this amazing movie lightning strikes and love prevails.




Who Should Watch This Movie?


If you like romance movies, choose The Age Of Adaline. I wouldn't call it a chick flick, though. In fact, while my husband didn't start out watching with me, he was drawn in by the drama (and Harrison Ford's voice) and enjoyed what he saw.

If you like good drama, a fascinating story, and beautiful actors who bring complex characters to life, give this movie a try. If you're not sure about the fantasy element, give it a chance anyway. Like me, you might be surprised.

The Age Of Adaline is rated PG-13. Nearly 25,000 Amazon reviewers rate the movie 4.4 out of 5 stars. It gets five from me.

Buy or watch the movie here (currently included with Amazon Prime):




~Susan
Read more of my reviews.

Check Out More Movie Reviews at




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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Happiness is Staying Dry & Warm in the Rain

Spring Rains Make Me Happy

I don’t know about you, but I know that I love a great rainstorm in the spring. As long as I have a way of staying dry and warm, while the pitter patter is happening, I am a happy camper. So, let’s review the ways that we can do just that and have some fun at the same time.

spring rains, rain boots, playing in the rain
  Photo: Pixabay.com https://pixabay.com/en/boots-splash-rain-puddle-fun-774533/
                                       

Little Kids and Rain are a Great Combination

Little kids are wonderful when the spring rains begin.  They are in awe that it’s no longer snowy, cold and bitter outside.  If you are a big kid like me, playing in the rain was something I looked forward to sharing with my youngsters.  I can remember getting my kids dressed in their rainboots, raincoats and heading out the door with umbrellas clenched firmly in our hands.  Dancing in the puddles was the best part of any trip outside when the spring rains came.  Laughter and giddiness seemed to come over all of us and a good dose of Hot Chocolate when we came home was the best treat ever.


Now that I'm a Grammie I get to enjoy the fun all over again.

Now that my children are old enough to have children of their own, I make sure that Grammie outfits the Grandchildren in a way that will keep them dry and warm too.  The colorfulness of raincoats has changed a lot since my children were young.  Today’s styles are so bright that even a downpour of humongous proportions can’t keep them invisible to the eye.  That is a good thing for sure.  Not only do I enjoy watching them play in the rain, but I also enjoy seeing their surprise when Grammie decks them out with the latest and greatest rain gear ever.

Amazon has pages and pages of raincoats, umbrellas, and boots for the children.  My problem is that I can't decide which ones I like the best and which ones they will enjoy the most.  So just to show you a small sampling of the rain gear available I have picked out a few of my favorites.  






For the younger crowd (ages 3 to 6), there are Paw Patrol matching sets of rain slickers and umbrellas for the boys and Disney Princesses for the girls. These sets are both really cute, and the matching umbrella just finishes the outfit. If either of these styles or characters are not to your liking or your Grandchildren's liking, there are other characters available like Firemen, Frogs, Butterflies and so many more. The Ladybug ones happen to be a favorite of mine too. If your Grandchildren already have raincoats, then add a pirate umbrella for some added fun.


So Many Styles

Let’s just say that in reviewing all the possibilities, of keep youngsters dry in the rain, there has to be at least a few hundred different choices and possibilities.  You can spend a lot of time trying to find the right one to match your child’s or grandchild's needs or wants.  Or you can ask the parents what their children really like and narrow down your search that way.

Playing in the rain never looked so good or was so much fun.  Add a pair of rainboots and even the deepest puddles will be a temptation for them to jump into.  That’s part of the fun of playing in the rain.  Finding the puddles that you just know you need to see, with your feet,  just how deep they are.  Slowly moving into the middle making sure that your rainboots are tall enough to keep the water out.  But, if they happen to fill up with water, it’s usually a quick trip home to dry out. 


I bet you will have a hard time getting the Grandchildren to come indoors, but maybe a great mug of Hot Chocolate will entice them to come in out of the rain.

hot chocolate after playing in the rain, warm cocoa, treat after playing outdoors
https://pixabay.com/en/hot-chocolate-mug-marshmallows-cup-1947765/
                                         

What about the Big Kids?

Now for the grown-ups, there might be some other requirements to staying dry.  One of the tricks  I learned early on, is not to stay too close to those little ones jumping in the puddles.  Depending on how deep the puddle is, the resulting splash might be more than expected. 

But, and here’s the big BUT, grown-ups like playing in the rain too.  At least I do and I’m sure that I’m not alone.  Tell me that feeling rain on your face in the spring isn’t one of the nicest feelings ever!

And there are some pretty neat and beautiful umbrellas out there for us bigger kids too!

If you need some encouragement to get outdoors on a rainy day, just remember how much fun it was when you were young!  It isn't too hard to muster up those feelings all over again.  

Spring is here and the spring rains are needed to make everything grow, don't waste the opportunity to have some fun and relive some memories.




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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Crochet Baby Blanket Pattern Reviewed

Modern Baby Blanket To Crochet

Napping baby image from Pixabay.com
I recently crocheted a project using a crochet baby blanket pattern from Yarnspirations. It was so much fun that I thought reviewing it for you here today would also be a great idea. 

What I loved about this pattern was that it had a more contemporary look to it and a little whimsy, too. You see the blanket is mostly a solid color with the words #NAPS centered in the middle of the blanket. These types of blankets are often referred to as "graphghans". 

I think most will appreciate that the pattern is so versatile and you have the option of doing it in any color combination that you choose to. As you will see in the video tutorial the pattern is shown in black and white which could be used for either gender of baby. I opted for a pretty princess pink yarn and did the wording in a lime green. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of the completed blanket before I gave it to a new Mom as a gift. 


The video gives good instructions for making the blanket and was quite helpful to watch before I began my little project. You might find it helpful to visit the Crochet Crowd page that shows both the tutorial for the blanket and a very good tutorial on doing graph work with the tapestry technique. You can find that page here.

Not only did I think this crochet baby blanket pattern was cute but I also had never used the tapestry technique before. So, this was a learning process for me. It was really simple to do and honestly did not take much time. I found it useful to sit at a table when I came to the area where I needed to work the graph for the letters. I could put the graph on the table and mark off the rows as I crocheted.

It turned out so adorable and it inspired me to create my own graph for a blanket for the holidays. I will show you the completed project when I am finished. Instead of the #NAPS for a baby, I created a graph with the words #SANTA. I will be doing it in a pretty Christmas Red with white lettering.

Even though I have been crocheting for many years, it is always fun to try something new. I think if you love to crochet that you will enjoy working with this pattern. If you do not know how to crochet and really do not want to learn, you could probably find a friend who could make the blanket for you. 



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Crow Lake Book Review

Crow Lake is Mary Lawson's debut novel. It immediately went to the top of Canada's best sellers lists just days after it's release. Crow Lake is described as a "deceptively simple masterpiece" and I agree with that description. The survival story of the Morrison children, Luke, Matt, Kate, and little baby Bo, is a story that will stick with me for awhile.


Crow Lake by Mary Lawson


In a remote farming community, in Ontario, families remain for generations making a living on the land. The farms pass down from generation to generation. The dating pool is slim, and the future dreams typically consist of marrying someone within the community and raising their own children.  

However, the Morrison family is celebrating - in their subdued Presbyterian farmer way - their eldest son's acceptance into teacher's college. Mr. and Mrs. Morrison drive into town in order to buy a suitcase for their eldest son's pending trip to university. Except, Luke never goes to university.

Mr. and Mrs. Morrison are killed in a tragic traffic accident, leaving distant relatives and local community members to care for Luke, Matt, Kate, and baby Bo. This story brings new meaning to the familiar phrase, "it takes a village".  Just how exactly will these four children either remain together to fend for themselves or be separated and raised by family members who have plenty of their own struggles? There are hard decisions to be made.

This is not a fast-paced dramatic thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Instead, it is a deep, and rich tapestry of sibling rivalry, family dynamics, the working out of how things should be. Survival is not always easy, but it is easier when surrounded by people who love you. From little Bo banging on the pots and pans, to the violent and volatile Pye family nearby, to Kate's summertime weeding of the neighbor's garden, we watch and wonder how things are going to turn out.


Kate Morrison


The story is told through Kate's perception - as reported in her childhood letters and her memories. As well as played out in her adult relationship with her boyfriend, Daniel. Kate idolizes her brother Matt. During the portions that Kate, the child, is relaying the story of the children's survival, it is clear how much she idolizes him and yet there are things she does not understand. Adult things. Adult things that make our idols do things we don't understand. 

As an adult, there are still things that she doesn't yet fully understand. Kate does not understand the decisions that were made and why. Kate has gone to college and has become a zoologist. She lives far from that remote farm home. She is sure about the things she examines under the microscope but she is not fully sure why she does not easily invite her boyfriend home. But Daniel has made her aware that she is a barrier to their full relationship. Kate is also not sure why it is so hard to go home. 

This story of siblings, tragedy, family, community, and redemption is a slow-building tale that comes to a satisfactory and meaningful end. Or perhaps, it is just the beginning.

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson







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