Thursday, January 31, 2019

Pet Partners Therapy Dog Team Review

Finn Looks Deeply Into Each Heart He Encounters
When you have a dog with special gifts, like I do (and many of you do), it would be selfish not to let him fully develop and use those wondrous strengths to bring cheer into the lives of those aching for connection and comfort.  Having adopted a joy dog, it just seems wrong to keep all of that great goodness to myself.  In the case of Finn, a dog that was previously kept locked away from the outside world for all of his life (until rescued), the best possible antidote to having been shut away and hoarded is to bring all of his beauty into the light of day. To share Finn, is to share love in its purest form.

In our determination to lift the spirits of others, Finn and I are on a new year's mission.  Though we have engaged in animal welfare and educational outreach work on a daily basis over the past year and a half (since Finn became a part of my forever family), we want to take this work to the next level by going through a rigorous screening process to become a registered therapy dog team.  Anything worth doing, is worth doing to the highest level of professionalism and integrity.  To that end, we have chosen to pursue approval through Pet Partners.

The Pet Partners Organization and Website

There are a number of organizations through which volunteers can seek an official status for their therapy team service.  We chose Pet Partners for several reasons:
  • Theirs is a very reputable organization with a well-established history;
  • They put animals first;
  • Their process provides unlimited opportunities for demonstrating team growth;
  • They provide quality resources that enhance both animal and handler skills;
  • Their community is one that connects teams of beautiful individuals; 
  • They provide insurance coverage for registered teams; and
  • Membership can bring a greater credibility to volunteer therapy teams.
Quality of Life is the Soul of the Mission
Once the decision was made to align ourselves with Pet Partners, Finn and I jumped right into our training.  First, I enrolled in the required handler's course.  Taking the course online was a good fit for my learning style and was also the best option given the distance I would have had to drive to attend an in-person class.  I found the course to be very informative and helpful in preparing me to set Finn and myself up for therapy dog team success.  Most importantly of all, it was a reminder that we are in the business of generating quality of life experiences... that we are to exude a reverence for life in all that we do.

Having passed my course, our next step is to visit Finn's veterinarian to get him signed off as healthy and fit for therapy dog consideration.  Because he has a disability, Finn's vet will need to indicate appropriate accommodations (like the use of Finn's K9 cart and/or dog stroller during therapy visits and the assessment process). Once Finn has passed this medical exam, we will be eligible to sign up for our team evaluation session.

Finn and I must prove ourselves both in terms of aptitude and skills.  Our evaluation process seeks first to confirm that both of us have the heart for this service.  I know, without a doubt, that therapy team outreach is a calling for me.  And, having watched Finn display his "people whispering" essence over the many months since his adoption, I feel sure that he is also well-suited for this mission.  Finn leans into this work, rather than merely tolerating it.  That is the key qualifier when it comes to passing our aptitude testing.

Finn is a Willing Student, Teacher, and Therapist
When it comes to skills, Finn and I must demonstrate that our encounters with strangers will be predictably safe.  Finn must be responsive to my guidance at all times. In addition, Finn must show a tender restraint in his dealings with a wide range of individuals.  Before even considering therapy service, I spent over a year socializing Finn to ensure that he developed the confidence necessary to meet with new people in a wide variety of settings.

Finn came to me with no prior training.  He knew no commands when we began our pursuit of this quest.  We currently set aside time every single day to push the boundaries of our learning.  Finn must show a mastery of a number of commands: come, sit, down, stay, and leave it, for starters.  He will be tested in a number of role playing situations common to what he is likely to encounter during visits to hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities.  Right now, as a part of his preparation, I am focused on immersing Finn into the most common types of experiences he is likely to have when he officially starts his therapy dog work.

You may be wondering what Finn gets out of all of this.  As a mix of two of the most intelligent breeds of dogs, I have found that Finn needs a great deal of stimulation.  He is a combination of working dog breeds.  In my rehabilitation work with rescue dogs, I have seen the importance of providing smart, energetic animals with a job and a purpose.  As a Border collie mix, Finn would normally be involved in herding, or agility, or some form of highly evolved activity engaging both body and mind.  He seems to really enjoy stretching his mental muscles during our training sessions.  Finn's emotional tank also appears to be filled up by all of the attention and affection that comes his way as a result of our interactions with others.

Finn is a whole new dog compared to what he was on the day of his emancipation from the life of a shut-in.  In many ways, I feel his people-whispering nature is what it is due to his having overcome such a barren existence during his early years.  Finn has a way of cracking people's hearts wide open and making them feel things deeply—things that are healthy, and lovely, and healing.  How do I know this?  Well, Dr. Finn began by practicing on me.  A dose of Finn every day has been the best prescription for living a life filled with what matters most.  My desire is to give as many people as possible a taste of this good medicine.

Author's Note: If you enjoy reading about the healing power of animals, you may be interested in my book review about Bella and Jean.  Joy Unleashed tells the story of how they have been transformed while touching lives in beautiful ways.  Another book, Moose! The Reading Dog, will appeal to the children in your life.






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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review

The Best Weed Field Guide for the West I've Seen


I just discovered the best field guide I've ever seen for identifying weeds here in California. I'll finally be able to properly name all those I find and photograph while out walking and on my own property. The book was sitting on the shelf at my local public library. At almost an inch and a half thick, Weeds of the West includes almost every weed I've seen in my area. It's published by the Western Society of Weed Science. Its seven authors all have advanced degrees and specialize in weeds. I'm reviewing the 5th Edition published in 1996, but there are later editions I haven't yet seen.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
Wild Cucumber with Grasses and Mustard, Photo © B. Radisavljevic


What I Love about This Reference Book


It's more like what's not to love? The picture quality is excellent. The arrangement of listings is logical. The descriptions provide all the information farmers, campers, gardeners, or hikers need to identify the weeds they encounter. Finally, the pages at the back make everything easier to find and understand.

The Photographs

Poison Hemlock

There are three photographs for each plant listed. Let's look first at the poison hemlock plant listed on pages 22-23 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West. It's a weed found almost everywhere in San Luis Obispo County that's not cultivated. Each listing has three images like this.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review. This book has all one needs to identify weeds growing in the Western United States.
My scan of pages 22-23 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West (Western Society of Weed Science)
First we see the overview of the plant in bloom in its habitat. We can compare its height to the other weeds near it. The opposite page shows a close-up portion of the stem, covered with the purple spots that help one distinguish poison hemlock from similar looking plants. We also get a close-up of the leaf. It's a much more detailed look that one would get from the overview shot.

In Roadside Plants of California, Thomas Belzer has given poison hemlock a playing-card size color photo of the top of one flowering stem. It has a good shot of the flowers and a couple of leaves, but the descriptive paragraph doesn't even mention the purple spots. It does mention that Wild Celery is a near look-alike that is not poisonous. Weeds of the West does not mention that.

The Sunset Western Garden Problem Solver's photos of  poison hemlock are so small they are almost useless. You get an overall idea of what one section of leaves and flowers looks like, but no view of the entire plant or its surroundings. You have to rely on the written description of the purple spots because the inset photo is only an oval of 1" x 1½."  It's a good book as far as it goes, but it's purpose is more to help gardeners identify the weeds so they can manage them.

The large full-page photo in Weeds of the West shows as much of an overview as possible, and if a plant is too tall for a photo to hold it all, you will see as much of it as possible for identifying its form. The two smaller photos on the opposite page under the description zero in on the two most important plant characteristics for identifying it. For poison hemlock you see the purple stem and a leaf. For western waterhemlock the smaller photos are a branch with leaves and a split distinctive root, its most poisonous part.

Matt Ritter in California Plants and Plants of San Luis Obispo County has photos with the same high quality, but the book lacks the overview shot. The book also has fewer plants included than Weeds of the West, since it's more specialized. See Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter for a more thorough review of his field guides.

Jointed Goatgrass

When I work in my garden, it seems the weeds that bother me the most are the grassy weeds. So far I've had only the Ritter books and the Sunset Western Garden Problem Solver to help me identify these pests, and they haven't helped as much as I'd hoped. But Weeds of the West identifies at least twice as many of these grassy weeds as the other books. I'll admit it covers more than just California, and that may be part of the reason why.

My scan of pages 408-409 in the 5th edition of Weeds of the West (Western Society of Weed Science)
Look at the right page of the photo above. The top photo on that page shows the part of the plant where the leaf joins the stem -- something people like me might not even notice. (I do now.) This leaf juncture often provides key identifying information, but many books only show the grass blades or spikes and the flowering part of the plant (inflorescence) or seeds with or without a pod. I like that the photos in this book show a close-up of this juncture when important. The text also points it out so I know what I should look for.

The Arrangement of the Listings


Weeds of the West entries are arranged by plant families. Many other books are arranged by habitat. Both arrangements are useful, but I find the arrangement by family helps me see that plants I never would have suspected are related to each other. Since related plants don't always need the same growing conditions or share a habitat, having them together in a book section make the relationships more obvious. 

If you look at the tops of my scanned pages above, you will see the left page has the common name for the weed in boldface at the top. Under it is the scientific name in italics. On the page on the right we see the common name again followed by the plant family's scientific name. Under that is the common name for the plant family. I'm not surprised that poison hemlock is related to wild carrot and wild caraway. I am surprised that the bull thistle is related to the sunflower. I'm amazed at all the cousins the sunflower has.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
This photo I took in my yard features the wild cucumber (also called manroot.) Weeds of the West will help me  identify the wild grassy weeds that surround it. Photo © B. Radisavljevic


The Text Descriptions


The text that accompanies the photographs in Weeds of the West provides any other information it takes to identify the plant. It points out where to look for what in the photos. It tells you where the plant is native, its size, and its growth habit -- tall and erect  or prostrate and sprawling. Words describe the color and the odor of each plant part if it's a factor in identifying it..

Leaf descriptions include whether they are dull or shiny, how their edges look (smooth or sawtoothed), whether they are divided and if so how many times, how they are arranged on the stem (opposite or alternating), and anything special about how they are attached. Flowers and seeds are also thoroughly described.

The last paragraph explains where you are likely to find the plant (habitat.) It also mentions any other important  information you may need to know. Is the plant poisonous to humans or animals? If it's poisonous, does it resemble closely a plant that is safe?

Handy Helps in the Back of the Book


Many listings use terms laymen may not understand. So there is a Glossary at the beginning of the back matter. Next is an  easy-to-use "Key to the Families in Weeds of the West." It describes what the plant families have in common and what distinguishes them from one another. The final  aid to readers is an index that includes both common and scientific names.

Used editions of this book vary in price.

Should You Buy This Book?


If you live in the American West and garden or spend a lot of time outdoors where wild plants grow, I think you would find this book a helpful addition to your home library. I take a lot of photo walks in parks and I also garden. I like to be able to identify what I photograph, and most books don't supply the information I need. This book is more complete than any of the others I have seen or have on my shelf. The print is large enough for even me to read easily, and the publisher did not skimp on the photos.

 There are bound to be a few mistakes in a book this large -- 630 pages. I don't have the scientific background to judge the facts, but the authors certainly have academic credentials that indicate they know these plants well. I did find one omission quite by chance. I wanted to see if Queen Anne's Lace was listed in the book, since I hadn't seen it with others in the parsley family. It was in the index, but the name of the plant on the page I was directed to only said  "Wild carrot" with Daucus carota L. under it. Nothing in the page for Wild carrot mentioned that Queen Anne's Lace was another common name for it. I had to find that out on the internet.

As soon as I can afford it I will probably buy this book. I'm interested in nature and especially in wild plants, so for me it would be worth it. I like the convenience of a handy reference book when I have a question.



Buyers should be aware that this is not exactly a field guide. It's too large and heavy to take hiking. It does, though, draw attention to parts of plants you should remember to photograph to identify at home later. I have never realized how important it is to observe how the leaves are attached to the stem, for example. If you have found other books for identifying wild plants too limited, I believe you will find this book is different. I believe it's worth buying for the presentation and completeness of the information.




As I was finishing this review I saw another book that may be even more complete. If you're interested in California weeds, you may also like Weeds of California and Other Western States (in two volumes.) I used the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon to check it out and it, too, looks like a book I'd like to own.

Weeds of the West: A Field Guide Review
Photo © B. Radisavljevic

More I've Written about Common California Weeds


Poison Hemlock: Lovely and Lethal: a photo essay with original photos from my property and my nature walks.

Milk Thistle and  Hemlock: The Prickly and the Poisonous: A Photo essay that shows both these common western weeds at all stages of growth so you can easily identify them.

Oak and Poison Oak in Photos: Can You Tell the Difference?: This will help you recognize poison oak  during all stages of growth and in any season. Our local police department asked to use parts of this to help train their search and rescue teams.

Weeds I Love to Hate: Photos of my worst weed enemies and why I hate them

Vetch Runs Wild: Short post from my gardening blog with many photos of vetch I took while hiking

The California  Weeds You Need to Pull Now! If you get them while they are young they won't cause as much trouble later.





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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Bamboo Pizza Paddle Reviewed

Convenient Way To Remove Pizza From Oven

pizza
Pizza image courtesy of pixabay.com
I recently received a bamboo pizza paddle and honestly wasn't sure that I would ever use it. To my surprise, I actually love it! Can I tell you how many times that I have burned myself trying to take a pizza out of the oven? Let's just say a lot and leave it at that. 

We have pizza often at our house. There is an establishment near us that makes them for you to take home and bake in your own oven. These pizzas are delicious and this paddle has come in handy when I am ready to remove them. The size of the paddle more than accommodates the size of the pizza and it is so easy to use. Another advantage is that with it being constructed of bamboo, I can take the pizza out of the oven and also use the paddle as a cutting board. 

I don't know if you are aware of this or not so I'll share something about cutting boards and bamboo. This dense wood has become very popular with chefs and cooks around the world for use as a surface to cut fruits, vegetables and meats. Bamboo does not need as much maintenance as some of the other woods that are used for cutting boards. The bamboo doesn't retain water so your board won't become warped or cracked like the others do. Plus bacteria is less likely to grow because there is no water in the wood for it to propagate. Knives do not scar the bamboo as easily as other woods. Those scars can also be a breeding ground for bacteria. Bamboo is earth friendly and easier to grow than say a maple tree. The bamboo will mature in three to six years where a maple won't mature for thirty or more years. 

So, I am loving my bamboo pizza paddle as both a way to remove a hot pizza out of the oven and as a cutting board for the pizza and other foods. It is lightweight and with the handy hole at the end, I can hang it on the side of one of my cabinets for storage. Honestly, I wish that I had purchased one a long time ago. 

What about you? Do you already own one or are thinking that maybe one would be nice to have in your kitchen?



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Monday, January 28, 2019

Reviewing the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Reviewing The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is an Amazon original series set in New York in 1958, starring Rachel Brosnahan. Mrs. Maisel (Brosnahan) is living her dream. She is married, loves her husband, has two children, and lives in a beautifully appointed apartment in Manhattan. From a very young age, she has dreamt about and planned it all: college, wedding, and her adult life trajectory. She tells us about it during a flashback to her beautiful wedding. Everything is going exactly as planned, until suddenly - in one evening - Mrs. Maisel learns that others can completely de-rail her best plans.

Midge Maisel is a loyal, happy housewife who works hard to please her husband. Mr. Maisel (Joel) is a salesperson with an office job. But at night, he performs at a club as a stand-up comedian. He's not very funny and Midge bribes the club manager with briskets to get Joel into better time slots with a better audience. On the same night that he completely bombs, things completely fall apart for Midge. She is devastated and lost. Am I making this sound like a drama? It is not. It is a comedy full of quirky characters.

A co-worker told me to watch the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Since she has recommended an author that has quickly become my favorite, I trusted her opinion and I began watching the series the first weekend I had a few spare minutes. I am able to watch it for free because of my Amazon Prime membership. I watched several episodes that first day and binged watched into season 2 the next weekend. 




The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel reminds me of I Love Lucy - but a naughtier version. The buildings, clothing, baby carriages and way of life are all from that time period. Rachel Brosnahan's facial expressions and/or timing of her humor remind me quite a bit of Lucille Ball. She's a bit sneaky, like Lucy. An example being reminded of Lucy was during a scene at bedtime. Midge goes to bed in a negligee and still made-up. As soon as Mr. Maisel is asleep, Midge gets up and does her beauty routine; putting her hair in curlers and applying an over-night face mask. She sets the blinds so that the sun shines through the crack in the morning - waking her before the alarm. She completes her beauty routine and is back to bed; perfumed, made-up, and looking beautiful. She closes her eyes and he wakes. This scene made me laugh and reminded me ever so much of I Love Lucy

Am I making this sound like an I Love Lucy rehash? It is not. There is cursing, "sex" scenes (not the type of sex scenes shown on cable tv but sex scenes nonetheless), and some modern colloquialisms that aren't from the 1950s. For me, these things are a bit like watching a cartoon with a child and the cartoon includes adult humor and references - out of place but funny (although, I wouldn't be bothered by less profanity).

If the title sounds familiar, it may be because Rachel Brosnahan won a 2019 Emmy for Best Actress in a Television Comedy. Deservedly so, I think.






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Sunday, January 27, 2019

Review of the Meaning Behind Different Colored Roses

The Meaning Behind Different Colored Roses
Did You Know that Each Rose Color Has a Unique Meaning?

With Valentine's Day around the corner, there's nothing carved in stone that says you have to give Red Roses.

If you want to send a different message, check out the meaning of each colored rose as described below. Once you determine what you really want to say, send a dozen roses of that color instead.

Red Roses

This one you know. It generally means "I love you". Sending red roses tells the person in no uncertain terms that you love them. It also speaks to beauty and lets the person know, that in your eyes, they're perfect just the way they are.

Yellow Roses

If you want to send someone a flower that expresses thanks for the friendship you share, yellow roses are a good choice. Yellow roses tell the person that they make you happy and you're thankful to have them in your life.

Lavender (Purple) Roses

If you've just met someone and you've got that love-at-first-sight thing going on between the two of you, then sending them purple roses says you're eager to continue and grow this unexpected relationship. Purple is also associated with Royalty, so if you happen to fall in love with a Prince or a Princess at first sight, send them purple roses.

White Roses

If you're looking to send flowers to someone you just met, white roses are the ideal choice. They're used in weddings to symbolize new beginnings but you don't have to be getting married to experience a new beginning. Don't hesitate to send them in the case of anything new; new job, new baby, new friendship, new love.

Pink Roses

Is there someone in your life that you admire? If so, send them pink roses. Perhaps it's a person who has accomplished a great deal, been an awesome friend or set an unparalleled example with their life. Sending your mother pink roses speaks to your admiration for her. Pink also represents gracefulness. For the person with high integrity and who behaves in a classy manner, pink is their flower.

Orange Roses

Orange roses speak to your excitement about being with a person. You're anxious to take on new adventures with them and your relationship is all about enthusiasm and, where applicable, desire. Give orange roses to the person you want to take on the world with. It doesn't have to be a love interest. In fact, if it's a good friend, give them a combination bouquet of yellow, orange and white roses.

Peach Roses

Do you want to send someone a 'Thank you'? If so, then peach roses deliver that message. If you're grateful for someone and what they've done for you, or for just being in your life, peach roses say it without words. When you want to show someone how much you appreciate them, add peach roses to your bouquet.

Now that you understand the general meaning of each rose, consider the message you want to convey and either mix and match them or give a dozen of one color.

If real flowers aren't doable, here's a collection of faux bouquets to send to that special someone:




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Saturday, January 26, 2019

How to Keep Post-Workout Soreness At Bay - The Easy Way!

Phytosport After Workout Supplement to reduce post workout soreness
Arbonne's Phytosport After Workout
2018 was my year of rebooting my body and building up strength again.   I joined a gym halfway through the year and go every second day.

Now if you are a gym goer you'll know that after a particularly good workout you can feel quite sore the over the following days!   I remembered that when I was a couple of decades younger and was 'gyming it' I would take BCAAs to help reduce and/or stop the soreness.

I was really happy when I found that Arbonne had a phytosport range that included their After Workout - guess what one of the ingredients were?  BCAAs!  I knew this would help and the fact that it's a sachet that you mix with water to make a drink is even better because you need to keep your water intake up.

What's in Arbonne's Phytosport After Workout?


So what exactly is in this product and how do they help is probably what you're all wondering.

Arbonne's Phytosport After Workout Sachet - an easy to use way to reduce muscle soreness after a workout
Phytosport After Workout Sachet
Branched-chain amino acids, commonly known as BCAAs are one of the key ingredients.  To explain how they work let me tell you what happens when you work your muscles.   The muscle fibres actually pull apart, when you stop exercising they have to go back together.   It's actually this action which causes people to develop bigger muscles, but the time when they are knitting back together is when you can experience muscle soreness.

Where BCAAs come in is that they help the muscles to knit together faster thereby supporting muscle repair while also alleviating muscle soreness.

Now a side effect from exercising is that your body produces something called free radicals.  Free radicals can cause aging - I once heard someone talk about them with this analagy; if your body was a car free radicals would be the rust!

This is why when people exercise a lot they're encouraged to increase the intake of anti-oxidants either through their diet or supplementation.   In After Workout there are also anti-oxidants formulated from pomegranate.

Also included are calcium, magnesium and vitamin B12. 

How to Use Phytosport After Workout


When you buy this supplement it comes in a box full of sachets, you add the contents of one sachet to approximately 500ml of water and mix.   The drink is a mixed berry flavor and has a pink color as you can see in this photo of me.

Louanne with Phytosport After Workout Drink in tow!
Louanne with her After Workout Drink
I have just finished my usual circuit PLUS started a running program when this photo was taken so I knew I needed to have something to stop myself feeling sore the next day!

It even tastes nice, which is true of all three of the Phytosports range (yes I use all of them!).

What Isn't In Phytosport After Workout?


Sometimes what makes a product great is just as much about what isn't in it as what is in it!   This sports drink is certified vegan and also has the BSCG certified drug free stamp of approval.

All of Arbonne's products are also gluten-free.   The After Workout contains no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners.


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Friday, January 25, 2019

Velvet Hangers for Clothes Reviewed

Velvet Hangers for Clothes Reviewed
For decades I used plastic hangers because I hated the creases made across the shoulder of my blouses when I used wire hangers. However, I recently started changing out my expensive plastic hangers and replacing them with thin velvet hangers. 

I absolutely love the velvet hangers!

I'll be the first to admit that I am really surprised by how much of a difference the velvet hangers make in my closet.  When I first purchased them, I wanted to see if they would really keep my blouses and sleeveless tops on the hangers.  For years, I have fought the battle of having my blouses slide and fall off the plastic hangers simply because plastic hangers are smooth and slippery.  

What I did not expect was to end up with more room on my closet clothes rod.  



Black Velvet Hangers for Clothes


 Premium Velvet Heavy duty-50 Non Slip Black Suit Clothes Hanger Hook Swivel 360-Ultra Thin, 50 PackCheck PriceSince we have extreme weather during the winters and the summers, I have a lot of seasonal clothes.  During the winter months, I rarely wear anything lightweight or sleeveless.  However, during the hot summer months, you won't catch me wearing sweatshirts.  Unfortunately, that means I have what seems like too many clothes for one person and those clothes take up a lot of room in the closet.  At least six months out of the year, I have sleeveless shirts and lightweight blouses that are not touched.  They just hang there taking up space.  Likewise, the sweatshirts, heavy sweaters and jackets just take up space during the summer.  

I have two rods in my closet for my clothes.  One is above the other.  The lower rod doesn't give me as much grief simply because I can easily reach it and if a second sweater starts to come off the hanger when I am removing one beside it, I can usually catch it before it hits the floor.  However, that is definitely not true for the blouses and tops that hang on the upper rod.  

Before I started using the velvet hangers, I couldn't get dressed without having a second blouse come off the hanger next to the one I was trying to remove.  That was extremely annoying since I was already having to reach up over my head to get a shirt.

By the way, dress slacks don't slip off velvet hangers either!  Just make sure you purchase the ones shown here with the lower pants rod across the bottom of the hanger.


My Introduction to Velvet Hangers


 Home-it 50 Pack Shirt and dress Clothes Hangers Black Velvet Hangers - Ultra Thin No Slip neck (hook) swivelCheck PriceLast summer I needed a few new hangers.  I went to my favorite online shopping place to buy a package of plastic hangers.  When I looked down the page at the "related items", I saw the velvet hangers and I was intrigued.  After reading a few reviews from women stating their clothes didn't fall of these hangers, I bought my first set of velvet hangers.  What a difference those hangers made in my closet!  I no longer have to fight blouses, shirts and tops on all sides just to remove one to wear.  I call that more than awesome!

When winter arrived and I started fighting my sweaters just trying to remove one, I thought to myself, oh no I won't!  I promptly purchased a set of 50 velvet hangers.  Each time I take something out of my closet now to wear, I hang it on a velvet hanger, after it has been laundered, instead of the original plastic hanger.  My closet is being transformed a little at a time.

Now, nothing slips from the hangers and another fabulous unexpected benefit, there is more room on my rods!  Yes, that is right!!!  The velvet hangers are a lot thinner than the plastic hangers and it really does make a difference.  Even though they are thinner (like a wire hanger) they do not make that horrific crease across the shoulders of my blouses.

My battle of the slipping garments has now ended and I will never go back to plastic. 




 



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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Reviewing Dryer Balls







During the Christmas holidays, I was washing a batch of sheets when one family left and another would be staying in the guest room.  I was frustrated because the sheets tangled in the dryer and didn't get dry in the middle.  My daughter was observing this and said "Mom, haven't you tried dryer balls.  They work great to keep things from tangling in the dryer and your clothes get dry faster."  

I had never heard of dryer balls before, but thanks to my thoughtful daughter a bag of the balls were delivered to my house 3 days later.

Features of Dryer Balls

  • Great for people with sensitive skin.  Non-toxic and Hypoallergenic
  • Reduce wrinkles and drying time
  • Eco-friendly way to soften laundry
  • No more tangled laundry
  • Good for 1000-2000 loads
  • Reduce need to iron clothes
  • Minimizes clothes damage and lengthens clothes life
I have been using the balls since I received them.  The bag came with 6 balls so the will last for years.  I put 2-3 balls in each small to medium load of wash and 3-4 balls in a large load.  I am very pleased with the results.


Buy Your Own Dryer Balls

Here is a link to the dryer balls like the ones I use.


                                                                       


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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Are You in Charge of Someone Else's Health Care?

How to Effectively Be an Advocate for Your Loved Ones

Today many people find themselves in "charge" of a loved one's personal and medical needs. This could be a parent or another relative, or just a really good friend who has no one else to advocate for them. I am in that position on two different fronts. I have my mother and my uncle who are both in their late 80's and finding daily tasks to be more difficult everyday.

While they are in good health generally, there is much that needs to be tracked to keep them that way.

When an emergency hits, then you are in real "trouble", so to speak. And this is why I am here to let you know about a resource that will help you in those stressful times.

What do you do in an emergency?


Just recently I had to call an ambulance for my mother. She could not walk, she was in a lot of pain and she had just been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease that came up out of nowhere. To say I was a little stressed was the understatement of the year. The EMT's (emergency medical team) were wonderful. When they arrived though, they had questions that I should have been able to answer at my fingertips. Because of the stress of the moment, there were things that I forgot about, or did not have the answers too! Who knows if that would have made a difference. All I know is that I was very upset with myself for NOT having all the answers to their important questions. Because of this incident, I have been looking into ways to keep track of her symptoms, medications, dates of surgeries, prognosis (es) and such.

She has seen many different doctors for different episodes in her life, and they are all important!

When the answer to a situation is calling an ambulance, then it is much better for you and for your loved ones, if you have all the answers to all the questions right there in front of you.


Do NOT Rely on Your Memory!


I have called an ambulance for my mother on three different occasions and each one was a "medical emergency". Now you would think that having to call an ambulance would solidify that date in your mind. Well I'm here to tell you that it does not. I had to really rack my brains in order to come up with the year(s) that each of these episodes happened. This is not a good scenario when it comes to emergency medicine. They need to know everything about this person's health in the last 20 years. So unless you have a photographic memory, you should have a written record of each of these episodes readily available. To that end, I have found what I think will work really well for my mother and my uncle. It is a Medical Records Journal!  I cannot stress enough, how important this is.

Keep your Journal Up to Date!  It doesn't help if you don't keep the records for all doctor's appointments.  


I like this Medical Records Journal because it has pages that are removable(for things you don't need, like baby immunizations) or places to add pages(like when they had a flu shot or other procedures).   It  has a place for all the different times that she has been to the doctor for regular check ups and extra space for those times when something else has happened to change the direction of her health care. There are pages for specialists that she has seen, medications that they have prescribed and on-going return visits. I wish I had had one of these just a few weeks  ago.  There is even pages for emergency responses so that you can keep track of who and when they were transported to a hospital.  These are all very important things that you as a care-giver should know and have access to.  No more guessing if the heart attack happened in November of 2010 or January 2011. 


                                              

There are pages in this Medical Journal to keep track of all the information regarding the different physicians that have treated her.  There is space for their names, phone numbers, addresses and more.  You may not think that is important, but I'm here to tell you it is!  


There are pages with envelopes attached where lab results, blood work results and more can be inserted.  Pages of information regarding the patient's "medical issues" and ongoing care can be inserted into the proper spaces too.  Things like blood sugar levels, heart rhythms, kidney dialysis
days, and more.  Everything is in a really nice binder with a clasp, so that nothing goes missing.

https://amzn.to/2DkZd7K. medical journal, keeping records of illness

It is a great resource not only for doctors visits, but for you as well.  I know I listen intently when we are at the doctor's, but I often find myself going over the instructions in my head.  It is much better for you and for the patient, if you have everything written down. When all the emotional upset has cleared, you can revisit exactly what the doctor recommended.  What you hear and what your loved one has heard may be two different things altogether.  Written instructions are the much better alternative.

It is a great responsibility and pleasure to be able to care for a loved one but, it is also stressful.  When they are healthy it's great, but when something out of the ordinary happens, you have to be prepared.


Here's wishing you a Happy Healthy New Year with all your loved ones.

**I am not a doctor, what I have written here comes from my experience. If you are not sure ask your doctor for his/her recommendations.  I am sure they will agree that this is a great resource for you and for your loved ones.








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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

When Women Ruled The World Reviewed

Women Ruling As Kings In Ancient Times

Egyptian hieroglyphs
Who was ruling when this was carved on a monument?
A man or a woman? (image courtesy of pixabay.com)
I recently read the book When Women Ruled The World and wanted to review it for you today. This non-fiction book was given to me by one of my lovely daughters at Christmas. She knew that I have a fascination of Ancient Egypt and thought that I would enjoy it. She was not wrong in her assumption, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 

The book by Kara Cooney gives an historical account of six Queens of Egypt that actually ruled the mighty kingdom. Some only ruled for a short time and others ruled for several years. You will most likely recognize two of these remarkable women but the other four are probably not familiar to you at all. These female Pharaohs (a ruler of Egypt) were not usually called Queens, at least not in their own lifetimes or even when they were married to the King (Pharaoh). Some even tried to dress more like a man during their rule because for the most part the Ancient Egyptians did not consider a woman ruler to be desirable. There were times when it was a dire necessity but it was not a common occurrence if it could be helped.

The rulers outlined in the book are: 
  • Merneith (reign 3000 b.c. - 2890 b.c.) at the end of Dynasty 1
  • Neferusobek (reign 1777 b.c. - 1773 b.c.) at the end of Dynasty 12
  • Hatshepsut (reign 1473 b.c. - 1458 b.c. ) close to the end of Dynasty 18
  • Nefertiti (reign 1338 b.c. - 1336 b.c.) at the end of Dynasty 18
  • Tawosret (reign 1188 b.c. - 1186 b.c.) at the end of Dynasty 19
  • Cleopatra VII (reign 51 b.c.- 0 b.c.) end of the Ptolemaic Dynasty and during the Roman period
There were many instances when a mother of the heir to the throne would act as a Regent until their son was old enough to rule. Not all of the Regent mothers were considered the Pharaoh or King at those times but some took it upon themselves to be elevated to such a position. As you can imagine that did not bode well with the upper or lower classes of citizens. 

The Ancients of Egypt wanted to keep the pool of possible Kings at a minimum and to be what they considered "pure" in the bloodline. It was not uncommon for fathers to wed daughters and for brothers to wed sisters in order to keep the other nobility from seeking claims to the throne. If you notice from the list above these women all ruled close to or at the end of the Dynasty they belonged to. There was a reason for that! Most of the Dynasties of Ancient Egypt did not end because of a take over from an enemy but because the incest over many years created situations where the current ruler could not produce an heir either male or female. After so many years, children were born sickly, deformed and often didn't live long and eventually sterility would end a Dynasty. Cleopatra was the exception to the rule with a long reign only to be outdone by the Romans. 

This book was fascinating and I found it amazing that historians have been able to uncover these six women's sketchy stories. It isn't quite so difficult to know more about Cleopatra because the Romans wrote so much about her but the others might have gone unnoticed. A common practice was to destroy monuments that were built during the reign of an unpopular Pharaoh (male or female) after their death. Many monuments that survived have evidence of names of rulers scratched out and others put in their places. Such was the case of five of these women. 

If you have an interest in Ancient history and female rulers, I think you will enjoy this book. I do not generally read non-fiction so for me to recommend this book says a lot. It was not one of those books that you can't put down but it kept my interest and I am glad that I received it and read it. Perhaps you will enjoy it, also!




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Monday, January 21, 2019

Kong Cloud Collar Reviewed

The dreaded two words for any dog or cat parent. The Cone. It is tough to be a conehead if you are the pet and sometimes even tougher to be the furball parent of a cat or dog recovering from surgery or an injury who returns home attached with the dreaded cone.

You are not happy. The pet is not happy. But you both will be sharing custody of the new nemesis in your life. The Cone.

Pets acclimating to wearing a cone run into everything and everyone! Imagine walking around with a plastic cone around your head and it is not difficult to imagine the problems it presents with eating, sleeping, playing, napping, squirrel chasing, stairs and the list never ends.

Kong's Cloud Collar


The Kong's Cloud Collar is an inflatable cone akin to an inner tube covered with washable soft fabric designed for comfort while not obstructing the peripheral vision of the pet. One of the main problems with a plastic cone excluding the discomfort is the lack of vision, difficulty navigating and eating from a bowl.

The Cloud Collar is designed to battle the inherent problems of the plastic cone. I purchased the Cloud Collar after my pets' last surgery and found the cone to be quite an improvement over the traditional plastic cone.


Positives Of The Cloud Collar


Easy to quickly put on and easy to take off
Soft
Adjustable collar
Washable
Pet adapted easily

Considerations


The velcro on the cone serves its' purpose to make the size of the cloud collar easily adjustable, however velcro is sticky! The velcro does attract the dog hair depending on whether the dog has fur or hair. My dog happens to be have curly hair which is a velcro attractor.

This is a consideration addressed in the customer comments so I was aware of the velcro consideration and prepared! The work around indeed worked like a charm: simply use one half of an old sock and cover the area on the collar where the velcro attaches.

The other main consideration is the type and location of the injury or wound the cone is trying to protect. A plastic cone generally stops the pet from reaching the area to be protected; the cloud collar provides the pet more mobility and therefore may be able to reach the area. My pet is very nimble and agile (code name gumby) and could reach the surgical area if he was so inclined.

Less Injury For Pet Parents


I still remember not so fondly when my dog in his energetic style of greeting ran full force into my shin with the cone. It was not pretty and surprising how much damage a plastic cone can inflict. The fluffball was no less worse for wear, but my shin was added to the recovery list.

I used a combination of the Cloud Collar and traditional plastic cone for the recovery. My dog definitely preferred the cloud collar and while under supervision I used the cloud collar. It was a nice break for the dog from the plastic cone and as the surgical area improved I used the cloud collar more.

Ten days or more is a long oh so very long time to keep a pet restricted plus wearing a plastic cone. I knew the wheels were starting to fall off when the we were gifted with a ten inch snowfall during the recovery period. Plastic cones are also excellent to scoop snow and throw snow and play with... snow! After being cooped up with snow and pet recovery cabin fever as a craft project we bedazzled the cone; confirmation the wheels had fallen off the snowed in recovery house.

Recommendation


Every pet is different regarding the tolerance of the plastic cone and cloud collar during the recovery phase. It can be a battle to keep any cone on! I recommend the Kong Cloud Collar as a means to aid the recovery while increasing the comfort of the pet and the pet parent.





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Sunday, January 20, 2019

5 Hacks to Make Your Bedroom Look Expensive Without Spending a Fortune

5 Hacks to Make Your Bedroom Look Expensive
Getting Our Homes to Look Anything like the Designs we See on TV or Pinterest Can be Frustrating!

Don't sweat it. Your home should reflect your taste. For most of us it not only reflects our taste, but unfortunately our budget as well.

For us average souls, the budget usually prevents us from spending obscene amounts of money on our décor.

The thing is, with a little creative thinking you can dress up your bedroom without spending oodles of cash. 

Here are 5 Basic Suggestions to Help You Achieve an Expensive Look in Your Bedroom Without Spending a Fortune

1.  Floor to Ceiling Drapes

Even if your bedroom has small windows, bring the curtain rod to one inch below the ceiling and feature long drapes that go to the floor. With floor to ceiling drapes, when your drapes are closed your room will appear large and elegant.

You can also put up drapes wider than the window. In fact, you can put them wall to wall no matter the size of the window.

2. Place a Chair in the Room

Don't use a chair from a table set. Place a chair in the room that has a bit of substance. Something that adds elegant bulk to the space, and something with cloth material. A few examples are featured below. Scroll to view all of them.


3. Add A Thick Luxurious Blanket or Comforter Folded at the End of the Bed

This is a trick I do in my home. Adding a decorative blanket at the end of a bed gives you the opportunity to increase the room's texture, color and style. Depending upon the design of your room, use the blanket to make a statement based on what the space needs.
  1. Does it need more bulk? If so, add a thick soft comforter folded at the end of the bed to give the room that warm lush look.
  2. Does it need more color? If so, add a blanket with a pop of color at the end of the bed.
  3. Does it need a slimmer leaner look? Then add a thin blanket at the end of the bed
The secret to adding blankets to the end of the bed is to have them reach over the sides of the bed by about a foot or so on each side. Don't let it go to the floor though. If you place a blanket that doesn't drape over the side, it looks like an after thought.

Also, make sure it's folded nicely. A blanket in a messy heap loses it's impact and intent. Pull it tight to get all the wrinkles out.

Before you go out and purchase a new 'end-of-the-bed blanket', check your linen closet. You might have something stored away that will work.

4. Upgrade Your Lamp Shades

Plain old lamp shades can drag down a room. Take a look around your space and if the room lacks color, texture or patterns, then lamp shades are the ideal place to add these elements.

However, to keep the room classy don't go for lamp shades that have tassels or pompoms. Keep them conservative in style but interesting in design or texture.

Below are some example lamp shades to help spurn your creativity. Scroll through to view them all.
5. Change the Hardware on Your Dressers

If your furniture needs a pick-me-up, change the hardware.

Add elegant interesting handles on your end tables and dressers. With aged and tired furniture, let the hardware do the talking. Draw the eye to the new fixtures by using a metal that pops rather than blends.

If these five tips are not option, check out this article on how to decorate a bedroom without any money....


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Saturday, January 19, 2019

National Popcorn Day Review

Popcorn Image Source: Pixabay
National Popcorn Day is held each year on January 19, although there is some debate about the date.  Some say it is celebrated on the 'Big Game' day (Superbowl Sunday).  No one knows the origin of this fun holiday, but whoever began the tradition obviously had good taste.


Source: Pixabay
Having recently moved to Iowa where I can drive about 5 miles in any direction and be  surrounded by fields of corn, I became interested in learning more about Popcorn Day. 





What is Popcorn?



Source: Pixabay

Popcorn is a seed that does something nifty when heated.


Corny Facts



There are four kinds of corn. The sweet corn we all love in summertime, dent corn (field corn) that is grown mainly for livestock feed and some food products, Flint corn (best known as Indian corn) used mostly for decoration around harvest time, and popcorn, which is a type of flint corn but has it's own unique characteristics.  Popcorn is grown specifically for popping. You cannot pop sweet corn, for instance, and you wouldn't want to eat field corn. 


History of Popcorn



Popcorn dates back thousands of years.  An interesting bit of history can be found on the website Popcorn . org.

Today, Americans consume over 13 billion quarts of popcorn each year, which translates to about 42 quarts per person.  


Image Source: Pixabay
It is one of the most popular snack foods, and an absolute necessity at a movie theater.  Just wouldn't be the same going to a movie without having popcorn! 

Popcorn is also a favorite around holidays, especially Christmas, as a food, as gifts and as decorations.  Who hasn't strung popcorn as a kid to put on the Christmas tree? 


Cute and Clever Popcorn Gifts


Crocheted Popcorn Playfood


Popcorn Playfood on Etsy
This red and white striped popcorn bag with individual kernels of popcorn  hand sewn to the top is a  fun gift to add to your child's collection of playfood for 'pretend' movie time or snack times.  

Hand crocheted by Kyra of Cottage Grove, Minnesota, it can be found in her Etsy Shop called "The Bossy Princess"






Popcorn Socks



Popcorn Socks on Etsy

These popcorn socks make for the perfect gift for any Popcorn Lover!

Socks are 95% Polyester blend and are one size fits most. They are the creation of Carlee of California and are available in her Etsy Shop Palmzy



Popcorn Recipes



The Popcorn website has a large variety of popcorn recipes to suit any occasion.  Some delicious-looking recipes are available on the Popcorn website under Recipe Portal.


A Super Bowl Popcorn Snack  


Caramel Pretzel Nut Popcorn


Caramel Pretzel Nut Popcorn Image Source: AllRecipes


This tasty favorite from AllRecipes would be perfect for the upcoming Super Bowl Sunday or for a weekend of watching any favorite televised sport. 

Ingredients:

8 cups broken salted pretzels
20 cups popped popcorn
4 cups dry roasted peanuts
3 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup

1 1/2 cups butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:


  1. Place the pretzels, popcorn and peanuts into a large paper bag or, if you have one, a very large bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter. Cook, stirring to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar, until the mixture comes to a boil. Once the mixture is at a full boil, continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from the heat, and stir in the salt, vanilla, and baking soda. The mixture will foam up when you add the soda, so use a long spoon to stir. Immediately pour the sugar mixture over the popcorn and pretzels in the bag. Shake until evenly coated. For a crispier treat, boil the sugar mixture longer, or bake the finished mix in the oven at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 10 minutes.

*Prep Time: 15 m, Cook Time: 20 m Servings: 32.  Calories per serving: 378


Preparing Perfect Popcorn


Stovetop Popcorn Tips:


  • Step 1: Pour enough vegetable oil to just cover the bottom of a pan, turn on medium high heat.  Allow pan to warm. The best popping temperature is between 400 and 460 degrees F. Oil burns at 500 degrees. If your oil starts to smoke, it's too hot.
  • Step 2: Add enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pan single layer, shake to coat the kernels with oil, and cover with lid (too many kernels will “blow” the lid).
  • Step 3: Corn will begin to pop within 3 minutes. When the popping slows, listen until you can count 2 seconds between pops. Turn off heat and remove pan from stove-top.  Lift the lid to allow steam to escape away from your face.  Steam may burn and remaining kernels may continue to pop.
  • Step 4: Add additional flavors, herbs, or spices and enjoy.


*If you prefer microwave popcorn for a quickie snack, simply follow the directions on the package.



More Times to Celebrate Popcorn


Plush Popcorn Plush Toys - Etsy


October is known as National Popcorn Month





(c) Written by Wednesday  Elf on 1/19/2019




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