Friday, August 7, 2020

Secondhand Lions (2003) Movie Review

Secondhand Lions (2003) Movie Review
Secondhand Lions starring Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, and Haley Joel Osment is a fantastic movie! It was released in 2003, but is well worth watching now. 

Each week, I take a little time to visit my parents.  We select a movie to watch together, eat snacks, and enjoy our time together.  This past week, Mom selected the movie.  She wanted to watch one of her all-time favorites.  While I remembered the name of the movie, I did not remember much about the story line.  After watching it again, that is pretty surprising.  Secondhand Lions is a fabulous movie! 

If you haven't seen it before, or if it has been a long time since you watched Secondhand Lions, I highly recommend seeing it now.  It is totally appropriate for mixed company of all ages.  I doubt it would be entertaining for young children, but I can't think of a single thing offensive in the movie, although it is rated PG.  I'm sure it got that rating for some reason.  


Secondhand Lions Movie Synopsis


 Secondhand LionsCheck PriceThe introduction of the movie starts with two old men having a blast flying a bi-plane around the countryside, through and into places not meant for planes.  This is the first, but not the last, moment of laughter for us.  

The story begins with 14 year old Walter Caldwell (Haley Joel Osment) riding in the car with his mother, Mae (Kyra Sedgwick).  They are on their way to Mae's uncles home in Texas where she plans to leaves Walter for a few months while she attends court stenographer school.  Even at his young age, Walter is immediately skeptical of her plans.  Apparently attending court stenographer school is another questionable idea in a long line of bad ideas and decisions by Mae.   

Walter isn't very happy with this decision.  He doesn't know his great-uncles, Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine).  Until this trip, he has never even heard of them.  Mae explains that they had "disappeared" for many years, but have turned back up in Texas, believed to be quite wealthy.  Driving up to their home, the place doesn't look like it is owned by anyone wealthy, or welcoming.

Staying with his uncles, hearing their fantastical stories of adventure, bravery and extraordinary travels, plus watching the way they behave, Walter doesn't quite know what to make of Hub & Garth.  They seem to live by their own rules and don't care one bit what others think of them.  They even have a real lion brought in for a lion hunt.  Turns out the lion is not up for the chase, but that is as much about the lion as I am going to say. I wouldn't want to ruin the lion fun for you.

By the time Walter's mother returns to pick him up, Walter loves his eccentric uncles and he can clearly see the truth about many things. 


Secondhand Lions is a movie that will make you laugh often, perhaps cry a bit, and leave you feeling good.  This is a must-see movie!  Even if you have seen it before.




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Secondhand Lions (2003) Movie Review by:
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Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Garden of Small Beginnings - Book Review

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Let's start with the harvest here.  Lest you think this is going to be a book about a widow who has had a breakdown after her husband's untimely and tragic death, and who is still struggling with that loss, let me assure you that this is a book where the reader reaps joy.  I found The Garden of Small Beginnings, by Abbi Waxman, to be a brilliantly written, and delightfully humorous, take on how we get through the gritty times in life.

It's not often that a book begins with whale genitalia.  This is when you know this is not going to be your grandmother's gardening guide.  No... not at all.  This is where the irreverent humor and quirky cast of characters begin to emerge.  

You see, Lilian Girvan is a textbook illustrator.  And sometimes, though perhaps not every day, you are called upon to draw things like a whale's, ahem, penis.  Am I allowed to use the word penis in a book review?  This is surely a first for this reviewer.  

Anyway, getting back to Lilian.  On the day of her infamous illustrating assignment, she is called up to meet with her boss.  Lilian has been assigned a plum project designing the illustrations for a series of vegetable guides.  In order to garner favor with an important client, Lilian has been volunteered to take a Saturday morning gardening class at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden.  This is where the plot (literally) thickens.

Over the course of six weeks, lives will be changed in beautiful and unexpected ways by an eclectic crew of aspiring gardeners.  Though this is not a gardening book, per se, it is a book about how we grow from loss, and grief, and other heartbreaks into who we will become in the next season of life.

I loved this book's characters and witty banter.  Lilian's young children are sheer delight.  This is my favorite kind of read: so well-written, clever, funny, and full of heart.  Highly recommended.





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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Totally Natural Healthy Ways to Increase Your Garden's Growth - A Garden Review


It's mid-summer and everyone who has a garden is starting to reap the rewards of their spring labor.  Now I must confess, I did not do a whole lot of back breaking labor.  I live on the 18th floor of an apartment building and digging in the ground is not an option for me.  So I have three Rubbermaid Tubs on my balcony.  These are my "garden" and that is my space to grow my tomatoes and cucumbers.  




Don't go feeling sorry for me, I like it this way.  I gave up my "home garden" a few years ago, but missed my fresh tomatoes so much, I had to find a way to grow some higher up.  

When we first moved into the apartment, I tried to grow tomatoes in smaller pots (10 inch diameter), I would water, feed (with fertilizer) and talk to them daily.  I was somewhat successful that first year.  My husband would eat his balcony fresh tomato and say, "that was a lot of work for this tomato, you can buy them cheaper at the farmer's markets now that they are in season!"  

He was right, the first year, even though I did my best at caring for these plants, they did not produce anything that would have made a gardener's heart go pitter-patter!  Our garden produced a few tomatoes that we did enjoy, but overall we were disappointed.

Fast Forward to today:  My balcony garden has been expanded (no more little pots) and I have found the secret (I think it's the difference between the first year and now) to keeping my garden happy, healthy and producing more fruits than ever before.  


So do you want to Know What Made the Difference?

As a gardener (we share what works and what doesn't work) I will tell you!  I have NOT used one ounce, tablespoon, teaspoon or any other measuring device, of fertilizer this year!  Yet, I have already picked, eaten and enjoyed at least 10 cucumbers since the beginning of July, and countless cherry tomatoes!

As you can see in the picture above and the ones below, there is no lack of little tomatoes for us to enjoy in the next little while.



Our balcony garden has been prolific in producing these cherry tomatoes for our enjoyment.  I attribute it all to the help I have procured for my containers.  The "help" is totally organic, pesticide free, natural and abundant.

What is this help that I keep mentioning? 

Red Wigglers (they get all the credit)  have made all the difference in my containers this year.  

As I mentioned earlier, I have used NO chemical fertilizers in my containers this year.  A dear friend of mine (Cheri Kochir Salt (owner and operator of  Mobius8Organics.) and I have been trying our best to minimize our carbon footprint on the earth.  Many people are interested in doing this and have no idea where to start.  If you are a gardener, you could start right here.
 
In many discussions with her, I found that red wigglers can make all the difference in the world to your gardens (whether in the ground proper or in a container). Helping the earth to renew, means (for me anyways) not adding any extra chemicals and getting rid of organic wastes, without adding to landfills.  

When you have red wigglers in your containers you can do both of these things.  Red Wigglers love to eat all your organic waste (peels, cores, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags and even your paper products).  Yes you should read that list again (and it's just a small list, there is much more they could eat if you have an outdoor garden and compost heap.)
These are just a few of my "Red Wiggler" family, who are enjoying their home on my balcony!  I have uncovered them for you to see how these guys and gals (actually worms are both male and female scientifically known as hermaphrodites) work.  Their home usually looks more like this picture below:

Red Wigglers and earthworms in general do not like the light!  They work best in a dark, damp environment.  So, I make sure that they are happy by covering the soil surface with damp cardboard or my weekly newsprint flyers!  You can also see coffee filters with the coffee grounds still in them on the surface of the soil.  My worms, like myself,  seem to love coffee.......

Now the only absolute must that you have to maintain is a certain level of moisture in your containers.  You cannot let them dry out, or your earthworms will dehydrate and die as well.  So far in my experimentation this year, that has not been a problem.  I water regularly and sometimes the rain helps too.  My worms seem to be happy and multiplying without any further help from me.  

What do these worms do that makes the garden grow so well?

Earthworms and red wigglers in particular are prolific at eating  organic waste.  When they eat this waste, the worms then expel the waste(worm poop) and if your garden is in a container, this waste becomes part of the soil composition. Vermicomposting is the "proper name" for working with worms in the garden.  For you homesteaders who are looking for a cottage industry growing  worms and selling Red Wigglers for both fishermen and farmers is a growing industry (no pun intended).  Once you have your vermiculture set up, there is nothing more for you to do!  

The worms will provide you with deep rich soil, full of nutrients and depending on how you set yourself up, you may even have worm compost tea to feed your plants.  This worm tea (my version) is the best fertilizer you could ever want.  It's rich in nutrients, has no odor and your plants will thrive. This worm compost tea won't burn the roots of your plants either.  I have a set up on my balcony that allows me to enjoy collecting this worm tea and if you are interested you can do this too. 

Behind the picture of my worm tea, you can see my garden tower.  It has 50 different pockets to plant and a nice tower in the center to add organic waste without disturbing your plants.  There is a drawer at the bottom which collects all the extra water and worm tea (again my version).  The castings remain in the tower for your plants to thrive on.  You can watch a video here and see the difference between this and other vertical gardening options: Garden Tower 2 Project

There will be no need for Chemical fertilizers!  Chemical fertilizers, if they are incorrectly mixed  can sometimes do more harm than good.  Save yourself the time and trouble by using an Earth Friendly Natural Way to fertilize your plants. I know that this has made the difference between my first attempts at gardening 18 stories up and this year's attempt!  We've had a great year so far and I'm sure it will continue to prosper and grow well into the fall.

If you want to know more about Vermiculture or Worm Farming there are several really good websites and YouTube Videos that you can watch. 
Basic Vermicomposting or 
How to Compost are just two of the really good sites to learn from. 

If you want to get started you will need a good bin.  I use these ones for both growing my garden and I will use these for my worm farm too! 

My own experiment will continue in the fall as I try to bring my worms indoors so they won't freeze over the winter months.  I will let you know how it goes come spring of 2021.
 
Stay tuned there is more good sound ecological information coming up!



***All of the pictures in this Post are from my balcony garden, taken August 4, 2020.  




 




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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part Two


Main image: More Ways to Prep for Success on a Keto Diet

This is the third in a series of posts in which I will be reviewing my experience and insights after following a very low-carb lifestyle for more than a year.

Quick update: Since my previous post on the importance of preparation in setting yourself up for success on a ketogenic diet was published 2.5 weeks ago, I was surprised to discover that I have lost another pound. So, my total weight loss since May 25, 2019 is now 58 pounds.

Choosing a Start Date

I was highly motivated to begin my new keto lifestyle, thanks to a medical scare that forced me to face the serious health risks of being both postmenopausal and obese, and of continuing to consume added sugar and highly processed foods. I understood the urgency of getting down to a healthy weight, and I was anxious to start lowering my risk for developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes or another serious illness as soon as possible. It was hard to resist the urge to just get started on keto as best I could, and figure things out as I went along.

At the same time, I knew how difficult it was going to be to overcome my food addictions, particularly to sugar and baked goods; cut out all grains, rice, and beans; and severely restrict my consumption of roasted carrots, parsnips, beets, white or sweet potatoes, and other root vegetables, which had been a staple of our weekly menus for years.

So, as impatient as I was to "get the show on the road," I understood the importance of preparing myself mentally, emotionally, and environmentally before committing myself fully to the radical changes that would be required—especially at the beginning, when my starch and sugar cravings would still be at their strongest.

Last but not least, I understood my need for a clear framework and road map to help me stay on track and make consistent progress toward any type of goal.

So, ultimately, I made the wise decision to choose a start date a few weeks out, so I could have the time to prepare myself properly and give myself the best chance of success.

When choosing the date for starting your own keto diet, I encourage you to consider your own fears and challenges, decide how best to prepare yourself to overcome them, and pick a start date that leaves you enough time to complete the preparations that will help set you up for success.

Deciding Whom to Tell, and When

The ketogenic approach to eating is widely misunderstood, remains controversial, and tends to provoke strong responses, whether positive or negative, whenever the topic arises. I knew that switching to this radically different approach to eating was going to be hard enough without the added stress of dealing with unsolicited, well-meaning, but unwanted opinions, advice, or criticism about my decision to follow a ketogenic diet. I chose to keep that decision private for as long as possible. 

When I started, no one except my husband (and my surgeon) would know. Once I became fat-adapted and overcame my cravings for high-carb foods, I would tell a handful of other people if, and when, they needed to know, e.g., telling my brother shortly before we flew across the country to stay with him for a week-long visit. Down the road, when I was noticeably slimmer and people began to ask about how I achieved my weight loss, I would need to decide what, and how much, I wanted to share about my new approach to eating. But I would have at least a month or two to make that decision.

Unless you live alone, the other people who live with you—your spouse, partner, children, roommates, etc.—will likely be affected by your decision to radically limit your food choices and, obviously, will need to be told. 

If you tend to be very social, you may prefer to tell your friends, family members, and co-workers up front about starting keto diet and ask them to cheer you on and help you through the rough patches. The important thing is to take a little time to think about and decide on a communication approach that will suit your individual needs and preferences.

photo of "ASK" sign hanging from brick building
Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Soliciting Support From Family and Friends

To achieve my health and weight loss goals, I knew I would need help from my nearest and dearest. What I couldn't be sure of was how my family, friends, and colleagues would react to my decision to adopt a moderately strict ketogenic lifestyle, especially given how anti-keto I used to be before I became better educated about this way of eating.

Fortunately, as I gradually shared my news with more people, as situations arose when they would need to know, they were surprisingly supportive, especially after I explained the medical necessity for me to lose my excess weight safely but also expeditiously.

Here's the approach that worked for me.

Think about the people whose support, or lack of it, could potentially bolster, or threaten, your commitment and progress the most, especially during the first few months, when you will be battling your cravings for sugar, baked goods, chips, candy, pizza, etc. before your taste buds adjust to enjoying and, perhaps, even preferring healthy, keto-friendly foods.

In my case, my husband would be my entire support system (other than online groups) during most of that crucial initial transition period. But since we also would be spending vacation weeks with my brother and, later, my husband’s parents, as well as joining my sister and brother-in-law for dinner from time to time, and going out to lunch or dinner with friends, when the time came, I would also need to enlist their support—or, at least, understanding—about my dietary restrictions. 

Think about what types of support you might want to request from each of the people in your inner circle, and be as specific as you can about the actions they could agree to that would help you the most. For example, if you have a friend with whom you go out often for brunch, and your favorite restaurant serves a brunch buffet featuring pancakes, waffles, French toast, bagels, and other tempting, off-limits foods you would find hard to resist, you might choose to ask whether they would be willing to change up your routine and meet for lunch instead, and suggest trying a different restaurant (one whose menu you’ve already vetted first so you know it includes a variety of keto-friendly options). 

If you need to tell someone that you’re following a ketogenic approach to eating and anticipate a negative response, you could try to explain up front that you have done extensive due diligence, educated yourself about the potential risks as well as benefits of this way of eating, and spoken with your doctor before choosing this path, and that it would mean a lot to you if they would accept your decision without challenge or criticism and, if they can, support your efforts to lose weight and improve your health.

Considering Ways to Get My Needs Met and Their Impact On Other People

Deciding to adopt a keto approach to eating also means accepting responsibility for making sure you have access to the types of foods you need to keep your commitment to yourself. At the same time, to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." So, throughout this journey, I’ve tried to think about ways to minimize the impact of my limited food choices on other people who had no say in my decision. 

As an example, six months after I started keto, by which time I had lost 50 pounds and my entire family knew about my ketogenic diet, my sister and brother-in-law invited us to their house for Christmas dinner. My sister asked me to help her understand my dietary restrictions so she could tailor the menu accordingly. After thanking her for her thoughtfulness, I asked what she would make if my diet weren’t a consideration. I was able to suggest fairly minor changes that would make most of those dishes keto-friendly, such as serving the salad dressing on the side, making a marinade for the pork that didn't contain any fruit juice, ketchup, barbecue sauce, sugar, honey, or molasses, and replacing one of the two high-carb side dishes with grilled, roasted, or sautéed asparagus or broccoli with butter and herbs. I told her I would bring my own keto-friendly salad dressing and dessert. When she expressed her reluctance to serve foods she knew I loved but would no longer eat, I explained that it was important to me that my decision to severely restrict my own food choices had the least possible impact on what everyone else was eating, and that it would give me pleasure to see my nearest and dearest savoring one of her decadent desserts while I enjoyed my keto-friendly sweet treat. The dinner was delicious, and a wonderful and festive time was had by all. A win-win!

Unless you live alone, minimizing the day-to-day impact of your dietary restrictions on the people you live under the same roof with can be significantly harder. Our household consists of just my husband and me, and when I was considering the keto diet as an option, I discussed the idea with him at length, and he said he would be willing to help me in any way he could in my efforts to get down to a healthy weight. I told him about the challenges and potential obstacles that concerned me the most, and we worked together to come up with solutions that would work for both of us. 

For example, I worried that having baked goods, chips, and other addictive foods in the house would be an unnecessary temptation, and we agreed that he would try to keep and eat those foods mostly at his office or outside the house without me. We also designated the lowest drawer of our refrigerator and the cabinets above the fridge as food storage “for John’s eyes only,” and he agreed to consume those foods out of my sight for as long as necessary, until I could see them—and especially, watch someone else eating them—without craving them. 

I’m blessed to have a very loving and supportive spouse, who was as invested in my success as I was. Many other people may have additional challenges, such as an unsupportive partner or having the primary responsibility for feeding the entire household, especially if it includes picky eaters, young children, or other people with different dietary restrictions. So, if you’re considering starting a ketogenic diet, it’s important to give some thought to what is and isn’t likely to be doable within the limitations of your individual situation, and to develop an actionable plan for how to get your own food needs met. 

It’s worth explaining to your family members how important it is to you to lose weight, give up sugar, lower your risk for developing a serious disease, or whatever other goals you have for starting keto, and ask the rest of the family participate in brainstorming ideas with you on what they can, and are willing, to do to help you succeed, including agreeing to changes in how their own food needs have been met until now. You might be able to negotiate making meal preparation a shared responsibility, for example. 

Be prepared for the possibility, or even the likelihood, that some or all of the other members of your household may be unwilling to inconvenience themselves or adapt to changes in the status quo to support your weight loss efforts. By the same token, they also might surprise you with willingness to help you achieve a goal that matters to you so much. your goals. 

Either way, accepting full responsibility for your own food choices will be the most important determinant of your long-term success. 


Exploring Online Keto and Low Carb Diet Support Communities

Since I had decided not to tell anyone about my lifestyle change who didn’t need to know, at least at the beginning, I checked out various keto support groups on Facebook. During the next few months, I joined eight or 10 of them, most for only a short time, and eventually winnowed those down to a handful that I still participate in roughly a year later, even after having met and surpassed both my original and "stretch" goals for losing weight. 

Searching for "keto group" on Facebook will return a dizzying number of choices. I recommend looking at the ones that have been around for a while and have successfully grown their membership, which is one indication that a lot of people have found the community to be valuable.
 
Screenshot of Facebook search results for "keto groups"

If you’re active on Facebook and are considering joining one of the many keto groups and communities, I suggest you start by thinking about which types of support would be most helpful to you. Are you most interested in: 
  • Learning more about this way of eating to help you decide whether to try it? 
  • Asking for and offering encouragement and help and celebrating success milestones?
  • Being with other people who are just starting out, or with a mix of newbies and people who have been following a ketogenic diet for a while? 
  • Getting meal planning or recipe ideas? 
Being clear about what you hope to get by participating in one or more Facebook groups will make it easier to find ones that might meet your needs. Reading the rules or membership guidelines as well as the "About blurb for a group you’re considering can provide helpful insight into its culture as well as its focus. Plan to try out at least a few different groups, and don’t hesitate to leave any that turn out not to be a good fit for your needs. 

Tip: Don’t assume that, just because a Facebook group is sponsored by a brand or other business, it will be less helpful and more self-serving than peer-run groups. When I began my keto journey 14 months ago, it really bothered me that the groups I found most helpful, informative, positive, engaging, and worthwhile were created or sponsored by companies and entrepreneurs whose primary business was to produce, sell, and/or promote keto-related products or services. My perspective has changed significantly, and I am grateful that the brands who make many my favorite keto-related products have chosen to invest financial and other resources to build, grow, and nurture a vibrant community of people sharing a common interest, create a continuous flow of new, informative, fun, and helpful content and activities, and provide knowledgeable, active, and helpful admins and moderators to vet posts, ensure compliance with the community guidelines, respond to questions and comments in a timely manner, and troubleshoot customer service issues. 

For example, Maya Krampf, who wrote one of my go-to cookbooks, The Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Cookbook: 100 Simple Low Carb Recipes, 10 Ingredients or Less, and whose Wholesome Yum website is chock-full of helpful information and reference resources, as well as great recipes and her Besti line of sweeteners, has a terrific and very active Facebook group.

Screenshot of Keto Low Carb Support & Recipes - Wholesome Yum Facebook Group


Cleaning Out the Refrigerator, Freezer, Pantry, and Other Food Stashes

I systematically went through our kitchen cabinets, shelves, refrigerator/freezer, and pantry, the huge chest freezer in our garage, and anywhere else where there might be a snack, pack of gum, cough drops, hard candies, a chocolate bar, crackers, dried fruit, etc., including the pockets of my coats and jackets, my handbags, my bedside chest of drawers, the bottom drawer of my desk, and even the glove compartments and center consoles of both our cars. Then, my husband and I decided what should be done with each of those items to make sure they would be out of both my sight and my reach before my keto start date. 

Looking Ahead

Here's a peek at some of the topics I plan to address in future posts in this series:
  • My favorite keto-friendly food products and ingredients
  • My favorite keto cookbooks and recipe sources
  • Delicious ways to get enough fiber on a very low carb diet
  • Meal planning and grocery shopping lists
  • Avoiding the “keto flu” 


Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part Two 


Read the Previous Posts In This Series About My Keto Diet Journey:




Read Reviews of the Keto Diet by Barbara C. (aka Brite-Ideas):

My Personal Keto Testimonial

How I Stayed Committed to the Ketogenic Way of Eating


Read More Reviews About Health and Wellness by Our Contributors



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Monday, August 3, 2020

Reviewing the Basics of Cowboy Candy (Candied Jalapenos) Recipes

I just made a small batch of Cowboy Candy. While I probably will not be able to eat much of these candied jalapenos myself, my family members will love them. Meanwhile, I'm in love with the syrup and have already tried it in two different dishes. 



Cowboy Candy is the popular name for Candied Jalapenos. No matter which name you use, they are a delicious item to have in the pantry!

After about 30 years, I have decided to resume canning and preserving foods. Mostly in my preparation for moving to my land and my plans to have a garden. But also due to the difficulties in obtaining food at times during this crazy year. 2020 has been a difficult year for sure and has made me think about moving forward my canning timeline.

I chose to make Cowboy Candy (Candied Jalapenos) because I know my family members love spicy food.  I love spicy foods but I have a hard time tolerating the heat. So I may or may not be able to eat much of this treat as a condiment. I bet I'll be able to eat it over nachos and as a topping on crackers with cream cheese (in small doses). 

What is in Cowboy Candy? 

There are many variations in Cowboy Candy recipes.  But there are three ingredients that are listed across the board: jalapenos, vinegar, and sugar. 

The basic steps are: 

  • slice or dice the jalapenos (wear gloves! I did not and regretted that decision)
  • bring the vinegar/sugar mixture to boil 
  • add any additional spices
  • add the jalepenos for a short period of time

if canning:
  • separate the jalapenos from the syrup and pack the jars with the peppers
  • add the syrup to the peppers
  • follow canning instructions to can them safely

if you make a very small batch, you could store this in the refrigerator for a limited period of time. 

I used 3 lbs of jalapenos and ended with two half pint jars and six quarter pints. I also ended up with extra syrup and had about three cups that I put in the fridge and canned five of the quarter pint jars.

I also followed the recipe from Foodie with Family. In this recipe, the spices included turmeric, celery seed, garlic, and cayenne pepper. 

Some recipes include pineapple. The next batch I make will definitely include pineapple!  

Other Uses for Candied Jalapeno Syrup

So far, I've used the syrup in two recipes.  I baked chicken thighs in the syrup and it made the most beautiful, delicious glaze. I served that over rice.



The second recipe, I used a bit over my sweet Italian sausage bits and drizzled the glaze over my pasta in place of tomato sauce. I could have allowed it to carmelize a bit more but I was hungry and in a hurry. People who are talented in the kitchen will find many delicious uses for this syrup/glaze. 



Related Links:

I look forward to gardening (when my Shack is replaced with a permanent home and I am able to live on my land). And while I've had some wildly successful tomato and green bean plants in the past, I definitely need more "garden to table" lessons. 

I watch these two ladies who practice farm-to-table in their everyday lives.  I'm including the links to their Cowboy Candy/Candied Jalapenos here - in case you are like me and want the step-by-step directions. 

That 1870's Homestead



Living Traditions Homestead



And finally, if you are curious about my land, The Shack, and my plans to live on my land, you can visit me at Treasure, Travel, Tales.





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Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Best Garden Yard Hose for Women - A Review For Women by a Woman!

The Best Garden/Yard Hose for Women!


If the marketing gurus aren't marketing this garden hose to women, they need to get on it!

For years we've known about flexible, retractable hoses for the yard, but never bothered to invest in one.

Maybe it's Covid-shopping-itis, or something like that, but this year was the year we jumped in and bought one of these lightweight, shrinkable garden hoses.

Best. Decision. Ever. 

We've purchased one for the backyard, and now I want one for the front!

I honestly don't think my husband cares one way or the other, but I care! 

Here's the female perspective on this garden/yard hose:

1. It's so light! Yes, that matters. Dragging that heavy water/garden hose around was brutal for me. This lightweight hose is nothing to maneuver! I do mean nothing. I can haul that thing all around the yard without a problem.

2. When it's time to put the thing away, gheesh, it's easy to hang up over the hose holder - why? because it's light.

3. We bought the 50-foot hose for the backyard and it takes up no space at all on the hose holder. Of course, the reason is that it shrinks up when not in use.

4. It's not bulky and ugly. 

5. The other regular hose we had never assembled nicely over the holder. I know you can put the regular type hoses on those standing wind-up hose holders (we have one in the garage for the front yard). However, we didn't want one of those sitting on our backyard patio.

6. When I get up in the morning, I like to water the flowers and grass. It used to be a chore to haul the hose out to do that. Now, I just grab the new lightweight hose and bob's-your-uncle. Job done. No sweat. No effort.

Here's the hose on the holder in our backyard:

Can you believe this is 50 Feet of Garden/Yard Hose? I love this thing!

We purchased our hose at Canadian Tire. However, you can find these just about anywhere, even Costco or Amazon. Here's a popular 100-Footer on Amazon.

In summary, if you're a yard-working-junkie, get yourself one of these!




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Saturday, August 1, 2020

Heaven is for Real - Movie Review


The other night I came across the movie Heaven is for Real (2014), which I had never seen.  The story-line synosis caught my attention, stating it was an inspirational tale of a young boy who suffers a near-death experience and claims to have visited heaven.


Heaven is for Real Movie Synosis



Available on Amazon
This movie is based on the true story of a 4-year-old boy (Colton, played by Connor Corum) who emerges from life-saving surgery with remarkable stories of his visit to heaven. The story is told by his father (often in Colton's own words). The father (played by Greg Kinnear) who is a pastor in a rural small-town Nebraska church and a volunteer firefighter, finds that Colton's experience has turned their once peaceful lives upside down. The astonished parents try to find meaning in the alleged miracle, but friends and parishioners are skeptic and dismiss his claims about what Colton experienced. 

Colton begins talking about people he has never met or heard about, such as his great grandfather who died 30 years before he was born.  Colton shares impossible-to-know details about these people he met in Heaven and about having looked down (from heaven) to see the doctor operating on him and how he saw his dad praying in the waiting room. He also talks about how Jesus takes him to meet these people, including a sister he never knew about. 

As townspeople ridicule these stories and school children tease the older sister, his parents try to find the courage and conviction to believe Colton and share his story.  


The Cast


Greg Kinnear does an excellent acting job of portraying Todd Burpo, the father in the movie.  The mom is played by Kelly Reilly and Colton by Connor Corum. The performances of this Christian film are notably thoughtful. 


Heaven is for Real – the Book



The movie is based on the best selling book of the same name. Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back (2010) is a memoir written by Todd Burpo, Colton's father, and Lynn Vincent The book was on the New York Times Bestseller list for a record setting 156 weeks. It is a Christian nonfiction story based on the true experience of the Burpo family. 







Summary


When asked what Heaven was like, Colton answers “Heaven is a lot like earth, except more colorful and more beautiful. “

This is a very sweet, well acted, movie with a Christian based theme. I enjoyed  it very much.



For more Movie Reviews, check out ReviewThisMovies.com




Written by (c) Wednesday Elf (8/1/2020)








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Friday, July 31, 2020

When Calls the Heart - Hallmark TV Series Reviewed

When Calls the Heart
Many years ago, I read the "Canadian West" book series by Janette Oke.  A few years ago, I started watching the Hallmark channel series "When Calls the Heart" which is based on that book series and is titled after the first book in the series.  

A few weeks ago, I decided to start watching the TV series again from the beginning.  I do love the show!  With the promised release of season eight in 2021, I wanted to go back to the beginning before the new series actually airs.  Yes, I realize I have plenty of time before 2021, but I rarely spend a lot of time watching TV during the holidays and I expect it to take me a few months to watch all of the episodes again.

I would also like to read the book series again.  Janette Oke is one of my favorite authors.  Decades ago, her books were responsible for my discovery of romantic books with a religious theme, which is my preferred book genre.  Any time I see her name on a book, I know I am safe to read that book.  That is extremely important to me.  I don't like grotesque or explicit content in a book or in movies.  Having authors I know will protect my eyes and mind from uncomfortable subject matter makes my book and movie selections a whole lot easier.

This sweet series, that deals with real life issues, is an inspiration.  I really like all of the characters and actors past and present.  

There are extremely sad times in the show, but overall I am left with a feeling of happiness after watching an episode.  And, I am always eager to watch the next one. It is so nice to be able to watch them back to back, without delays or months between the seasons. I have been surprised to realize there were a few things I had forgotten and have enjoyed rediscovering them.


The Synopsis of the Hallmark Series, When Calls the Heart


 When Calls the Heart - Seasons 1-5
Ultimate Collector's Edition
Check Price
In search of a purposeful life, Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow) accepts a teaching position in Coal Valley in western Canada.  She immediately discovers that her wealthy family background has not prepared her for the frontier.  That is pretty obvious to everyone, but she is determined to survive, thrive, and succeed.  Fortunately for Elizabeth, she is befriended by a very respected and loved resident, Abigail Stanton (Lori Loughlin) who supports and encourages her in her new life.

Coal Valley has recently endured a horrific coal mine explosion that has made dozens of the women in town (including Abigail Stanton), widows and many of the school children fatherless.  Their church, which housed their school, was burned down.  The classroom has been moved into the saloon, the only local business with a large enough room.  The saloon also doubles as a hotel, which means the students are occasionally interrupted by guests coming in or out, even though the bar is closed during school hours.

Shortly after Elizabeth arrives in Coal Valley, a newly assigned Mountie arrives.  Constable Jack Thornton is not happy with his new assignment.  He was headed to the desired and prestigious assignment of Cape Fullerton when he was redirected and sent to Coal Valley instead.  As soon as Jack hears Elizabeth's last name, he realizes she is the reason he was reassigned and is immediately resentful.  She is clueless about why the new Mountie seems to be mad at her until he explains that clearly her father had him reassigned so he could watch over his "princess" daughter.  Elizabeth isn't happy about it either.  She wants to prove herself capable and independent. She doesn't want or need a Mountie "taking care" of her and she is quick to point that out to Constable Jack.  This is just the first of many conflicts and misunderstandings between Elizabeth and Jack.

Each episode is filled with frontier adventure, drama, life, love, & loss.  Elizabeth is the main character, but there are several other individuals whose stories and lives become very important to the viewer.  Be prepared, you may find yourself talking to the TV, laughing, crying, hissing or even booing some of the people and scenes in this fabulous Hallmark series which will leave you wanting more.  
 

One Extra Note: Be sure you have access to Season 6 before you watch Season 5. You won't wish the finale of Season 5 to be the last thing you see.






Currently, the "When Calls the Heart" seasons can be purchased on DVD linked above, but are also available on Amazon to pay per episode though Season 7.  


More Great News for "When Call the Heart" - Hallmark has announced there will be a Season 8!


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When Calls the Heart - Hallmark TV Series Reviewed Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse



 


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Thursday, July 30, 2020

DIY Copper Bookmark - Painting With Fire

DIY Copper Bookmark

I have always been a maker.  At the moment, I find myself fascinated with copper as canvas. There is something entirely mesmerizing about painting with fire on copper.  Over the past few days, I have experimented with the creation of copper bookmarks.  I'd like to share the process for those who might enjoy giving this a try.

You can do so much with copper, but I am focusing, right now, on hammered, stamped, and annealed copper.  I call the annealing of my pieces "painting with fire."  It is my absolute favorite part of this project.  When you take a torch to copper, you never know exactly how the finished piece will look.  I am always delighted to see the surprising effects of heat on my metal works of art.

My M.O. (modus operandi) happens to be the repurposing of materials.  I love nothing more than to bring new life to those things that have unseen, or unused, potential.  In this case, I was fortunate enough to reclaim some small copper sheets that were the remnants of a solar installation.  Though the metal was scratched and tarnished, with irregular edges, I knew it held great promise, and a beauty to be found when its true colors were revealed.  These are the steps I took to transform the copper.

Step One: Cutting the Copper
I first considered using a hacksaw to cut the copper sheets into bookmark-sized pieces.  After trying that, I decided it would be much faster and easier to use my Dremel Saw-Max with the metal cut-off wheel.  That worked perfectly.  The important thing was to protect the surface of the copper using painter's tape.

Cutting the Copper Using Dremel Saw-Max

Step Two: Filing the Rough Edges
After cutting the copper, the edges needed to be deburred to remove the sharp slivers of metal.  I used a round file for this step.

Filing the Metal Burrs

Step Three: Rounding the Corners
Because the corners of the bookmark were sharp, the next step was to use my Dremel rotary tool, with a sanding bit, to gently round off those points.

Rounding the Corners Using Dremel Rotary Tool

Step Four: Cleaning the Copper Surface
Before heating the copper, I needed to clean off the surface tarnish, fingerprints, etc.  The simple way to do this is with fine steel wool (00 grade) and a little elbow grease.  When I was done, the copper was nice and shiny (see the center image below).  I chose to leave some of the character marks (a few nicks and minor scratches).  My work is not meant to have a machined look.  I want it to be wabi-sabi (where the imperfection is the beauty).

From Tarnished to Bright, Shiny Copper

Step Five: Painting With Fire
I love this step!  My bookmark blank is now laid on a moist sand mound.  I place the front side of the bookmark facing down (because that is the side of the copper that will have the most colorful effect after I torch the back side).  I use a mini butane torch to paint (anneal) the copper.  Basically, I just heat the metal until it begins to turn vibrant purple, blue, and fuschia colors.  The possibilities are endless and no two "paintings" are ever the same.

Butane Mini Torch and Fuel

Painting With Fire - Torching the Copper Blank

Newly Torched Copper Bookmark

The Infinite Variety of Fire-Painted Copper Bookmarks

Step Six: Water Bath
Using a forceps, I then plunge the hot metal into a cool water bath.  Next, I pat dry the copper with a soft cloth.  (It's also important to wear clean, soft gloves so you don't mar the metal surface with fingerprints, etc.)

Cooling the Torched Copper in a Water Bath
Step Seven: Stamping the Bookmark
At this point, I used metal stamps (Impress Art uppercase alphabet set) to imprint a message on the front of the bookmark.  This is the hardest part of the process.  Getting the spacing and impressions right can be extremely challenging.  I had to leave the perfectionist in me out of the equation and just go for it.  What will be, will be!  And that is okay.  It is the charm of handmade art.

Stamped Copper - Rumi Quotation


Step Eight: Edging the Bookmark
Depending on the look you want, you can leave the edges of the bookmark plain, but I wanted a hammered copper look.  This is where I used a ball-peen hammer to make some shallow depressions all around the perimeter of the piece.

Creating Hammered Copper Edge Using Ball-Peen Hammer

Step Nine: Finishing the Piece
I used a tiny bit in my Dremel rotary tool to drill a hole in the end of the bookmark (for attaching a chain and embellishments).  Next, I applied a finish wax (a natural carnauba wax) to protect the surface from fingerprints, tarnish, etc.  Finally, I chose a pair of wing charms to be a whimsical play on my chosen sentiment.

Finished Copper Bookmark

Your acts of kindness are iridescent wings of divine love,
Which linger and continue to uplift others
Long after your sharing.  ~Rumi

I may consider creating a few custom bookmarks for my Etsy store.  Most likely, though, these pieces will be offered as gifts because they are truly a labor of love.







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