Sunday, February 28, 2021

Long Distance Friendship Lamps - Send Love and Light With Just a Touch

Long Distance Friendship Lamps - Review for a Great Gift Idea

I've been reading about these lamps for over a year now but haven't jumped in yet to get one. However, this one is on my list of original gift ideas.

Unique Gift Idea for Separated Loved Ones During Quarantine, or Any Reason

I've been thinking about getting this gift for both a friend of mine and my mother. 

When I first read about this lamp, I was confused about how it worked. I won't pretend I've seen it in action, but I had to share this funky lamp with you all today.

What Are Friendship Lamps?

When you buy the lamps in pairs, you give one lamp to a friend, grandparent, parent, or anyone for that matter, and you keep the other lamp at your place.

Each of you set-up your lamp via WiFi. Yes, you both need WiFi.

When you touch your lamp, it lights up at the other end to let the other person know you're thinking of them. 

Apparently, it cycles through colors when you touch it.

Plus, you can assign different people different colors. For example, each grandkid could have their own color that lights up when they touch the lamp to let grandma or grandpa know they're thinking of them. Popular grandparents could have these things going on and off all day!

Here's a Brief Video on How to Set The Lamps Up

If you're viewing this article via mobile, you can view the YouTube Video for Friendship Lamps Here.


Why A Friendship Lamp Would Be Nice to Share Between Long-Distance Loved Ones

Here are a few things that come to mind:

  • Grandparents may not have cell phones, and for that reason, they don't get the frequent communication that texting provides to most of us. My mom doesn't have a cell phone, so this lamp would be a nice way to say hello throughout the day. I do call her every night, but we could all be lighting up her life during the day.
  • For those who have trouble hearing, this is a quick way to send frequent loving light messages.
  • It's a lovely way to say goodnight when talking isn't possible.
  • Since it's as simple as a touch, loving light messages can be sent throughout the day.
  • Those who work many hours could bring one to the office and have the other at home for their spouse.
  • This is an ideal gift for besties. Best friends could share light messages whenever a little support or love is needed.

Featured - Friendship Lamps Below

If you can't see the products below, you can find them on their product page here.




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Saturday, February 27, 2021

Book Review of Confessions on the 7:45

 


Lisa Unger's Latest Novel


You may remember the novel by Patricia Highsmith called “Strangers on a Train” which became a famous Alfred Hitchcock movie in 1951. It was a psychological thriller about two men who meet on a train and whose lives become entangled after one of them proposes they "trade" murders. 



Confessions on the 7:45
by Lisa Unger is a bit reminiscent of “Strangers on a Train”.  The story begins with two women, strangers to one another, who begin talking when their commuter train is stalled on the tracks. Unlike “Strangers”, there is no proposed murder involved.  Instead, the women end up sharing confessions. Martha confesses she is having an affair with her married boss; Selena ends up admitting she suspects her husband is having an affair with their nanny. The women part ways, presumably never to meet again. 


The Plot


Days after the strange 'confessions', Selena's nanny disappears and soon Selena's near-perfect life begins to turn upside down.  The fractures in her marriage become deeper and the mystery surrounding the missing nanny intensifies. 


Be careful to whom you tell your darkest secrets 


In the midst of all that is going on in her life, dealing with her husband who admits he had been sleeping with the missing nanny and with the police who are investigating, Selena receives a text message from Martha.  Before she can figure out how Martha got her phone number, another text arrives saying:


It's Martha, by the way.


From the Train.


Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha, really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover… 


Summary


The chapters of this book are labeled by names as the plot unfolds.  There are chapters called SELENA, and other chapters labeled PEARL and ANNE. Who are these other women and what do they have to do with MARTHA? Deep into the book we have a chapter called HUNTER. Each of these people have a role in what happens in the story. 


Confessions on the 7:45 is a riveting thriller by master of suspense author Lisa Unger about a chance encounter that unravels a stunning web of lies. 




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Book Review of Confessions on the 7:45 written by (c) Wednesday Elf






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Friday, February 26, 2021

Relief for Migraine Sufferers with Cold Rice Packets Reviewed - Heated for Muscle Pain Relief

Eye Pillows

Years ago I learned the secret to getting some relief from migraine headaches by using rice filled cold compresses directly on my forehead. Used behind my neck, it will often relieve the nausea that accompanies migraines. 

I made cold rice compresses with kitchen towels for myself and to give as gifts for Christmas over 25 years ago.  I simply made the kitchen towels into "bags" by sewing the sides and ends together and filling them with a package of rice.  I used mine for decades.  However, I recently purchased eye pillows on Etsy filled with rice to replace my threadbare towel rice packs.

The rice packs can also be heated in the microwave for 15 - 20 seconds to apply to aching muscles or sore shoulders.  I made one towel rice pack for heating. 

Rice will mold around the area of your body which helps distribute the heat or cold.  In both cases, the rice "weights" the pack and holds it in place, unless you move.

While the cold packs will not cure a migraine, they do bring some relief while waiting on medication to work its magic.  The cold rice packs are absolute miracles themselves on their effectiveness to relieve nausea


Eye Pillow Face Rice Pack on Etsy

I love these extra-large eye pillows!  Because these eye pillows cover forehead and checks, they effectively shut out light, which is also imperative to migraine sufferers.

I keep my eye pillows in my freezer at all times.  Therefore, they are immediately ready when needed. 

 XL eye pillow/face rice pack:
Migraine & sinus relief hot/cold pack
Check Price

 

You can opt to have your eye pillows scented. I chose "Scent: none" because fragrance of any kind will increase the pain of my migraines.  

I purchased two eye pillows.  That way, when the first one starts to warm to room temperature, I can grab the second one from the freezer when returning the first to re-chill. 

My migraines normally last for hours but the pain lessens after the first hour or so once my medicine kicks in.  Unfortunately, some other family members suffer with them for days.  Granted, mine were much longer lasting when I worked full time and couldn't immediately grab a cold press and medicine.  I have vivid memories of coming home from work in great pain and sticking my head in the freezer for relief.  It really is easier to lay down with a cold rice filled eye pillow than to stand with your head in the freezer.




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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Reviewing a Heated Dog Bowl for Birds

 

Carolina Wren enjoying the Heated Dog Bowl


I enjoy watching and photographing birds in my back yard.  In order to attract birds to my yard I know it is important to provide a steady supply of food and fresh water. 

For food I fill several different feeders with different types of food.  I love song birds so I make sure to put out a steady supply of black oiled sunflower seeds.  I also put out nyjer seed for the little finches.  I love to attract woodpeckers so I offer both suet cakes and suet pellets.

For water I have a birdbath which the birds love both for drinks and bathing.  This winter has been particularly cold and the bird bath water is always frozen so I searched for a good way to provide fresh water.  I know there are heated birdbaths, but they were a little out of the cost range I was considering.  I read on one of my bird groups that a heated dog bowl works great for birds and is inexpensive so I decided to try that.

Heated Dog Bowl


After looking at several sites I settled on this dog bowl.

                                  

This bowl had several features which I find works well.  At one quart it is a good size for my deck.  It is thermostatically controlled so that it only operates when it is necessary.  The bowl has an anti-tip construction and the cord is covered with a heavy duty protector.  It comes in several colors and I chose the bright blue because I was hoping to attract some blue birds and I thought that would look great in the photographs.

I have had the bowl for 2 months now and it has worked great.  It has really been tested the last two weeks when our temperatures have been below freezing the entire time and we've had wind chills in the -10 area.  The bowl has worked perfect and provided water for the birds in the chilling weather.  When it has snowed the snow just melts into the bowl.  I am very pleased  with my purchase and I think my birds are too!

Photographs of Birds at the Water Bowl


Here are some photographs of birds taken at the new water bowl.  First of all it did attract the Eastern Blue Birds I was hoping to get.  I love the way their coloring matches with the bowl.





Here are some of the other birds enjoying the water. The Robin looks pleased to have some fresh water and the Cardinal and House Finch also enjoy the water.  








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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Super Comfortable and Flattering Yoga Pants for Women

I finally discovered the joy of wearing comfortable yoga pants and workout leggings as an alternative to jeans or pants after beginning a successful ketogenic diet journey that culminated in a nearly 60–pound weight loss. After purchasing several different styles and sizes of yoga pants over the past 21 months, there have been three (so far) that I can recommend highly, each for different reasons. The pair I've chosen to feature in this product review, the IUGA high-waisted workout leggings, are by far the most comfortable yoga pants for women I've tried. 

They not only feel wonderful and are available in a choice of several, they're also flattering, even on those of us who aren't blessed with model-perfect bodies. 

Photo of IUGA yoga pants on model with superimposed text "The Most Comfortable Yoga Pants Super Soft Fabric That Doesn't Bag or Bind for a Flattering Fit
There's no bunching, bagging, or binding with these ultra-soft, ultra-comfy workout leggings! 

Yoga Pants and Workout Leggings Have Become Wardrobe Staples

The fashion experts at Vogue magazine just released this year's Vogue Wardrobe Essentials Guide. and black workout leggings are one of the editors' 34 wardrobe staples for 2021. (Who knew?)

Originally, yoga pants and workout leggings were made specifically for yoga practice and working out, respectively, and had different fabric and design features. But as they have evolved from fitness-only to fashion, those distinctions have gradually eroded, and now the terms "yoga pants" and "leggings" are often used either together or interchangeably in product descriptions.

Yoga Pants Provide Greater Comfort and Freedom of Movement Than Pants or Jeans

My first time buying a pair of yoga pants wasn't until shortly after my 65th birthday, when I began a health-driven weight loss journey and switched to a clean, ketogenic approach to eating. I completely eliminated sugars, grains, and highly processed foods from my diet, and between May 2019 and August 2020, I lost 59 pounds and went from a size 16-18 to a size 6-8. Every two to three months (even less, at the beginning), I was dropping a size, and boxing up my almost-new clothing to donate. Having to buy them again in a smaller size every few months meant limiting my clothing purchases to a few, basic wardrobe staples—underwear, jeans, black pants, shorts, and a couple of tops—until I reached my weight loss goal.

As you may have noticed, neither yoga pants nor leggings were on my initial list of wardrobe staples. I had always associated them with much younger, slimmer women and girls, with taut, toned bodies and cute figures, so they weren't even on my radar at that point! However, my attitude toward this type of clothing changed significantly once I accepted that my commitment to healthier living would require becoming more active, in addition to nourishing my body better.  

One of the most important benefits of losing weight and follow a clean, ketogenic diet was the amelioration, and eventual elimination, of the chronic, acute pain in my knees, hips, back, and feet that I had been living with for decades. Being able to go for a walk or a Segway ride with my husband  without being in agony was not just liberating, but life-changing! As I was searching online for a new, smaller pair of classic, high-waisted, basic black pants (which I wore more often than anything else I owned), I was surprised to see more high-waisted leggings and yoga pants than regular pants in the search results. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to expand my list of wardrobe staples to include a couple of pieces of activewear, to support and encourage my efforts to make physical activity part of my new, healthy lifestyle. In fact, it might even be time for me to consider a pair of workout leggings a try.

Of course, I could wear them...but should I? Would it be possible for yoga pants to look attractive (or, at least, not unattractive) and age-appropriate, on this out-of-shape senior? I debated with myself for a while, but finally acknowledged that I couldn't see myself objectively, and decided to ask my husband what he thought, knowing he would give me his honest opinion. He encouraged me to order a pair and try them on. 

When I did, I was surprised and delighted at his reaction, which was more positive than I could have imagined! You could have knocked me down with a feather. I also was thrilled to discover how much more comfortable and less restrictive those yoga pants felt, compared to the jeans and tailored pants I had always worn, Before long, I found myself wearing them several days a week, not only for walks and Segway rides, but also for routine, everyday activities, like working, reading, cooking, or watching a movie. They quickly went from being completely off my radar to becoming a staple in my new wardrobe. 

I'm pulling my hamstring and calf muscles together as far as I can, the fabric doesn't bind or cut into them, it simply conforms to the compression I'm creating

Since that first pair, I have purchased other pairs from different brands and with slightly different features, and my IUGA high-waisted workout leggings have been the most comfortable yoga pants I've owned to date. 

What I Love Most About My IUGA High-Waisted Leggings

Ultra-Soft, Opaque Fabric

  • The first thing I noticed about these yoga pants was the extremely soft, silky, luxurious fabric, which gave these a totally different feel than any of my other leggings. The best word I can think of to describe it is "touchable," with a lovely, tactile quality similar to that of microfiber. 
  • The "non see through" fabric is completely opaque. 

Flattering Fit

  • The fiber content blends polyester for shape retention with spandex for excellent stretch and recovery, as well as abrasion-resistance.*
  • The 4-way stretch provides good compression and support. 
  • The high-waisted silhouette, seamed front and back yoke construction, and increased compression around the lower torso are designed to "contour your curves" and "pull in your tum and bum." 
  • They are made in six sizes, ranging from XS to XXL, and there's a size chart to help you determine which one will fit you best. (I followed the size chart when I ordered mine, and they fit me perfectly.)
* Note: The description on the Amazon product page states that the fiber content of these workout leggings is 80% polyester and 20% spandex. However, the fiber content printed inside my light blue IUGA yoga pants is 87% polyester and 13% spandex. Sometimes, a product's fiber content may vary slightly different from one color to another, which is one possible explanation for the discrepancy, but your guess is as good as mine.

Extremely Comfortable

  • The smooth, soft, supple polyester and spandex fabric also wicks moisture away from the body to keep you dry and comfortable while working out.
  • These yoga pants provide less compression around the the legs than around the lower torso, so they don't bind or cut into your legs, but also enough to remain conformed to your legs and prevent the fabric from bunching or sagging as you move, bend, and stretch. 

Waistband Pocket

Photo of built-in pocket in the waistband of the IUGA workout leggings/yoga pants
  • The built-in pocket is completely hidden, and remains undetectable unless or until you decide to place something inside it.
  • Although I haven't had to use it very often, I'd guess it could easily hold a couple of keys, a lip balm, and a few tissues, for example.  
    • According to the product description, "You will be able to stash your phones and keys safely." Keys? Probably. But unless your phone is quite small, I wouldn't consider the waistband pocket a secure place to stash it. 
  • Access is easy and convenient.

Excellent Quality

  • I purchased my IUGA High Waisted Leggings three months ago, and I machine wash and then hang them over a clothes drying rack to dry. After having laundered them quite a few times so far, there appears to have been no fading, pilling, or changes in the fit or performance of these yoga pants. 
  • At the time this post was published, they had more than 5,400 5-star ratings from Amazon customers.

A Choice of Colors and Lengths

  • Currently, these yoga pants come in black, dark coffee (dark brown), dark violet, dark blue, gray, light blue, pale red violet, carnation purple (lilac), maroon, and tranquil green. 
    • Note: The ones I own are the "light blue" shade. In real life, the color is a bit less aqua than it appears in the Amazon product page photos.  
  • Most of the colors (but not all) are offered in both regular and capri lengths. 

Very Affordable

  • These IUGA workout leggings retail for $24.95 and, at the time of publishing, were priced at $19.95 on Amazon with Prime free one-day shipping and free returns for Amazon Prime members.

Super Comfortable and Flattering Yoga Pants for Women review by Margaret Schindel


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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Antoine Laurain's Vintage 1954 Book Reviewed

Antoine Laurain's Vintage 1954

I usually know exactly how I am going to start a book review before I even put the book down. However, that was not the case with the book Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain because I was concerned that speaking of any of the individual moments in the book would ruin the fun surprises.

Inspired by the tagline on the front of the book I decided I would simply ask, “What would you do if you could travel to the Paris of your dreams. In 1954?” That is exactly what happens in this book though it is definitely a case of time travel for entertainment purposes and not a scientific look at time travel.

Four residents of a Parisian apartment building meet and, after sharing a very special bottle of 1954 Beaujolais, they discover that it has, as the back cover of the book says, special properties. They wake up the next morning in 1954 with some of them temporarily unaware of the difference and others instantly aware that things are not as they should be.

The characters are an interesting mix that includes a man whose family originally owned almost all of the apartments in the building, an antique restorer, a mixologist and an American tourist who is renting an Airbnb. It is through each of their perspectives that we see Paris of the 1950s.

NB Magazine put it perfectly when they say that, "the comedy is gentle and slightly absurd and that there are many clever vignettes and sketches that enrich the novel." I totally agree. Vintage 1954 is a lightweight but charming, entertaining and sometimes funny book that is RECOMMENDED by me. 

The book was exactly what I and perhaps even you need right about now. It is historical fiction of a different sort. It is quirky or whimsical. It is a romantic book but one in which the romance stems from the setting and the storytelling rather than the fact that two of the characters in the book discover that they love each other. Some might call it a good summer read.

In my mind, there is nothing dark or nasty about it at all though there is a sex scene and the drinking of alcohol. The book is a chance for a trip to Paris from the comfort of your armchair and an opportunity to see and think about some of the contrasts between the Paris of 2017 and the Paris of 1954 and of course, simply the contrasts between those years wherever you may be. The world is a very different place today than it was then.

I enjoyed meeting the characters, seeing Paris through each of their individual lenses, seeing the city of lights in a different time and having the opportunity to meet some of the celebrities who frequented 1950s Paris. I am not naming the celebrities so that you can enjoy them when you meet them in the book.  I was surprised at the very end of the book when the author managed to squeeze in a little life lesson for each of them.

How about it? Would you like to travel back to 1954 or to read this book? Find your copy of or learn more about Vintage 1954 on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy your copy of Vintage 1954 on Amazon.
The Time Traveler’s Wife movie review.
An American in Paris movie review.
Discover French Kiss, the ultimate romantic movie soundtrack
Pam Jenoff's Lost Girls of Paris book review. 









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Monday, February 22, 2021

Favorite Hallmark Winter Movies Reviewed

Being an unabashed Christmas movie Hallmark fan there can be a Hallmark movie letdown after the holidays. While the Hallmark Christmas movies remain my favorite - the winter brings some entertaining Hallmark movies not to miss. 



I'm no fan of winter, but winter is a bit more tolerable with a Hallmark movie to view after a day battling the snow, ice, salting and shoveling of a typical winter day in the Northern United States.

My Favorite Winter Theme Hallmark Movies

Love On Ice

Ice Skating, another winter sport I enjoy, is the backdrop for this Hallmark movie with Hallmark favorite Andrew Walker. He plays a figure skating coach hired to continue a young skaters' ascent through skating competitions. However, Hallmark fate steps in as he finds a former figure skater teaching at the same rink. The three combine to skate, compete and begin their collective journey to the figure skating championships. Figure skaters and figure skating fans will appreciate the nod to their sport in this delightful Hallmark movie.

Winter In Vail 

This is a very cute winter movie with two of the popular Hallmark leads Lacey Chabert and Tyler Hynes. The story revolves around a displaced event planner who inherits a beautiful Vail home. She teams with the local to preserve the history of his family business and the business itself. Strudel, beautiful scenery and quick banter are the theme of the movie which keeps true to the Hallmark romantic theme.

Taking A Shot At Love 

New for 2021 is Taking A Shot At Love with Alexa Penavaga and Luke McFarlane. Alexa plays a ballet instructor with the unexpected side gig of rehabbing a professional hockey player. Ballet, wit, and hockey play out through this charming and entertaining movie.

Two For The Win

Also new for 2021 is Two For the Win. I love skiing so this movie was fun to watch. The local ski instructor and professional skiier have a long history and the Hallmark sparks fly when she is hired to coach the professional after rehabbing an injury. Picturesque winter scenes and plenty of snow dominate the background of this ski loving movie.

Winter Castle

Have you ever dreamed of taking a vacation to an Ice Hotel? Hallmark veterans Kevin McGarry and Emilie Ullerup are at the Ice Hotel to attend the destination as the best man and maid of honor. The scenery is gorgeous as this was filmed at the real life Hotel de Glace in Quebec. Staying at an ice hotel is not for the timid traveler! Enjoy the ice hotel backdrop with the Hallmark romance intertwined.

More Hallmark Christmas Movies Reviewed




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Sunday, February 21, 2021

A Handy Pinterest Tool That Predicts Future Trends

Review of a Pinterest Tool That Predicts Future Trends

Most of us don't choose what to write about based on what is popular. However, there are specific exceptions. For example, if you have a Home Decor website (as I do), you may want to feature trending products or ideas that are projected to be the current year's rage.

I have to admit, I rarely approach selecting a funky home decor item to write about based upon its popularity. However, I also don't just select items willy-nilly either.

When I'm featuring a product on Funkthishouse.com, it's because:

  1. It's different, funky, and something everyday decorators would not consider.
  2. It's a home decor item loaded with color, design, and style.
  3. It's a product that a select group of home decor junkies tends towards.
  4. It's a creative item or idea that can be added to existing decor.
  5. It's through the roof expensive! For the shock value alone.
  6. It's through the basement inexpensive! Shock value savings.
  7. It's bright, cheerful, and, most of the time, not a neutral color.
  8. It's popular, but only for its originality.
  9. It's a common item, with uncommon prints and designs.
  10. It's bizarre but very cool.
However, there's a particular Pinterest Tool that I do use once in a while to see what future trends for the year will be. After all, who better than Pinterest to be able to compile shopping trends and data?

Pinterest Business - Pinterest Predicts

Have you ever taken a look at this part of Pinterest?


It's interesting to read their stats on a projected year-over-year increase in trends.

When you're over there, you'll notice that the categories are broken down for you: Fashion, Beauty, Travel, Food, Home, Parenting, Well-Being, and more! You'll be able to see each category clearly.

What Information Are You Provided on Each Category?

Click the category you're interested in, and you'll see some easy-to-read information on the popular trend(s) for it. 

You'll be provided with a previous year versus current-year estimation of the global increase in stats/searches/interest items within that category. You'll see easy-to-read and understand percentages broken down by category for items/products/interests.

Since my niche for Funkthishouse is funky home decor, obviously, I had to check out the "Home" category. The projected popular item for 2021 is "Vibey Lights." 

Pinterest points out that Gen Zs (born in the late 1990s to early 2000s) are very much into mood lighting for their rooms. As soon as I read that, I thought, yep, bang on! I have a Gen Z'er in my house, and he's been into LED ambient lighting for several years now. His room features LED lights; behind his piano, behind the bed headboard, and behind his desk; it's lovely.

You can view a collection of vibey-mood lighting here. Most of the products featured at that link are popular LED strip lights.

My son recently purchased these 'vibey' LED strip lights. I highly recommend them. They went up easy, and so far, work perfectly. Oh, and they're not expensive!

Have You Used Pinterest Trends - Another Handy Tool

Pinterest Trends (trends.pinterest.com) gives a breakdown of the top weekly trends by country. You can search by item or category - whatever you want.

I use Pinterest Trends to find popular pins. I like to share a variety of pins, and of course, that includes popular pins. 

Go take a peek at both tools; they're a bit addictive!






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Saturday, February 20, 2021

Tracing Your Family Tree - Reviewing Some Genealogy Adventures

 Adventures in Genealogy - Discovering Your Roots

As Alice fell down the rabbit hole and discovered the secrets of Wonderland so a Genealogist can discover a wealth of addictive history while climbing along branches of the family tree.   My first adventures in genealogy began quite innocently enough and I couldn’t have predicted that it would stay with me for my entire life.


Alice Beatrice Gale - a sepia photograph of my great grandmother


I sometimes watch the television program – Who Do You Think You Are – where celebrities trace their family tree and it saddens me to think that some people don’t even know the names of all of their grandparents let alone further back.   I think knowing your roots helps in making you feel confident in yourself – it means you don’t feel alone because you know you have a family that goes back and out and you’re just a little twig on this solid oak tree!

My first ‘adventure’ as I referred to it before started in school where I was asked to make a family tree which I should just mention earned me an A (not that I’m bragging or anything!).   We were told to add ourselves, our siblings, our parents, their siblings and our grandparents and anything else we were able to.

The pretentious young girl that I was I made sure to add all of my grandparents’ siblings as well as the names of my great grandparents and while I was finding this out I made an amazing discovery – one of my great aunts had a marriage certificate that belonged to my great great grandparents.   I wasn’t allowed to take the original to school, but my dad let me get a photocopy to take in – I don’t know why this didn’t earn me an A+, but still!

All the photographs on this post are from the author's family and are used with permission - information on the people in them can be found at the bottom of the post.

 How to Start Researching Your Family Tree

Am I Descended from Royalty or is There a Criminal Mastermind in My Tree?

People want to trace their roots for a variety of reasons, years ago people would claim that their family were aristocrats – you just had to go back a while!   These days more and more people want to discover criminals in their backgrounds!   Whatever drives you to discover the people you’re descended from you have to start somewhere so where?

The first place to start is with the living – talk to your relatives, your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and find as much information as you can from them.   You might find that some aren’t very helpful and that’s often because of skeletons in the family closet and with older relatives, this was often to do with birth dates and marriage dates not quite gelling or ‘sisters’ turning out to be daughters!

When I was looking into my maternal grandfather’s family mum suggested I contact her godmother who was also her cousin (we were living in New Zealand at the time and our family were from the UK).   I was lucky enough that my grandfather’s sister was staying with her at the time and wrote to me herself.   I had never met any of my grandfather’s family as my Nan fell out with them after his death (when I was 6) so it was great to ‘discover’ a great aunt and I still have her letters today.

I had only asked a few questions, but she had not only supplied that information but more besides including a family mystery and a scandal and the most important piece of information - my great grandfather's name wasn't what I had recorded!   I had been looking for Richard Butcher, but he was actually christened Arthur Richard Butcher, he'd just used the name Richard since he'd become an adult.  

What to Ask Your Relatives?

The basic questions to start with are their first names and date & place of birth – if they’re married ask for their spouse’s names and the details of their marriage along with details of any of their children.
Next, ask for their parent's details along with any of their parent’s siblings – move on to their grandparents after that.

It doesn’t matter if you already have details from other family members as it can either help confirm the information or show a discrepancy – both of which can be very helpful.   You can also discover different stories AND you never know who the family secret keeper is.

There is always someone in the family (it seems) who remembers all the skeletons, hoards all of the photos and sometimes even possesses the family bible or other papers which are all great things to see (if not own) as a family historian.     This person is the family secret keeper and did I mention you’re now a historian?

It's the little family stories that we hear that add the foliage to our family trees.

Don’t be in a rush as you’re talking to your living relatives either as it’s amazing the little pieces of information that they may tell you about which help you to breathe life into the photos and/or names on your family tree.

I remember a few years ago I looked at how my family tree was progressing and I felt a little dissatisfied as they were just names on paper, I didn’t know anything about them.   I decided then that I would ask my parents questions about what hobbies their parents and grandparents had, did they have any idiosyncrasies about them etc.   I just wanted to build up some sort of an idea about who they were and a few of the stories that I’ve been told have really helped bring my tree to life.

Family stories also sometimes have a little grain of truth in them (after all the tales had to come from somewhere) and when you hit a brick wall you can try throwing out some of the information – I used a name that some branches of the family used with our surname and some had dropped that apparently had something to do with grandma (it hadn’t!) and also a tea plantation that the family owned.   Well I had hit a brick wall so I did a broad search for our surname with the other surname and I found a marriage between what would turn out to be two great grandparents – I don’t think a train driver owned a tea plantation though, but it was a help nonetheless.

 

Alice & Eli Read with children Edward, Lona & William - my great grandparents, grandfather and a great aunt and great uncle - genealogy through photos
Eli & Alice Read with children Edward, Lona & William

 Birth, Death & Marriage Certificates

Getting More Information on Your Ancestors

When I was first setting out on my genealogy adventures the advice was to get birth, marriage and death certificates on everyone and they’re definitely full of invaluable information.   Unfortunately this does get expensive which is where the internet has been invaluable in both providing free information on births, marriage and death (bmd) records and also in helping you get in touch with other people who are researching your family.

I’ve been able to share certificates & research with people around the world and we’ve all benefited by filling in different parts of our histories.

Now, what information is found on these certificates?   Certificates look different in different countries and can also show different bits of information.

Birth Certificates will show both parents’ names as well as the full name and date of birth of the family member in question.   Birth certificates can also show the father's occupation as you can see on the certificate below of one of my great grandmothers.

UK Birth Certificate of Lily Maud Mary DEAN my great grandmother
Birth Certificate of Lily Mary Maud DEAN


As with all the certificates different countries will supply different information for example on the New Zealand birth certificate that I have for one of my husband's relatives it shows not just the father's details but the mothers' names and maiden names as well.   I think that New Zealand certificates were designed by a genealogist myself!

Marriage Certificates show the names of the bride and groom as well as their fathers (and of course details of the marriage).   Other information shown can differ from country to country.   I've enclosed the marriage certificate that ignited the genealogy bug in me way back in the 80s for you to look at.

This certificate is too long for me to scan fully (a problem with a number of UK certificates), but I hope you like it anyway.   The date of the marriage was 31st Jan 1877 and as a schoolchild trying to wrap my head around the fact that it was only a little over 100 years beforehand and my great grandparents couldn't write was just mindblowing!

1877 UK Marriage Certificate between Robert Gale and Martha Parsons my great great grandparents
Marriage Certificate of Robert GALE & Martha PARSONS

When it comes to death certificates, most of the ones in my genealogy files are from the UK which shows the date of death, name of deceased, sex, age, occupation and cause of death.   I'm going to show you a scan of my husband's grandmother's death certificate here instead though because it's a New Zealand death certificate.

Like the marriage certificate, the New Zealand death certificate also has a wealth of information contained on it and really is a treasure trove for people tracing their family tree.

NZ Death Certificate - Clara Emily COX nee PEASE
Death Certificate for Clara Emily COX nee PEASE


This certificate can hold a lot of information and I love that surviving issue is included as it's not always easy to find all of the birth records when you don't know how many children a couple has had together.   Another part that is very handy for a country that's based so much on immigration is the question - how long in New Zealand.

The thing with death certificates, however, is that the information is only as good as the surviving family members know and as you can see her mother's maiden name obviously wasn't remembered (or known) by her family which is a shame.

Free Alternatives to Getting 'Official' Certificates

One site that I have used in the past is called FreeBMD and is great for finding UK ancestors.   It’s not a complete site but they use volunteers to transcribe records of births, deaths & marriages from 1837 throughout England and Wales.

http://freebmd.org.uk/

The drawback is that you don’t get the extra information, but it’s still very handy.   I knew the names of two of my great grandparents and by using freebmd I was able to find when they were married and in which district which meant I could send away for their actual marriage certificate.    This was incredibly helpful as I had no idea when they were married.


Parish Records are another way of finding out information and if you’re researching for family in the UK then some counties have an Online Parish Clerk which is fantastic.   Different counties have different resources available online and some of the clerks will actually do a little digging for you if a census (for example) hasn’t been fully transcribed at the time.   Of course, these positions are voluntary and every clerk is different with different work loads etc.

I’ve used the Dorset OPC site and found it really great, other OPC sites haven’t had the information I’ve wanted for different family members, but I have only viewed a few of them so the best thing you can do is to Google county (the one where your ancestors are from) online parish clerk or opc and you’ll find the right page for you.   Be sure to check the counties on either side if you don’t find the information you need in the county you thought they were in.   A couple of different family lines of mine popped into neighboring counties for a few years here and there!

Arthur Richard BUTCHER & his daughters - adding faces to the family tree
Arthur BUTCHER & daughters

Census Records - A Family Historian's Goldmine

Material a Genealogist Can Get Their Teeth Into!

As well as parish records you can look at a lot of census records for free – UK census records anyway.   I use a site called FreeCen for a lot of my research – they’re run by the same people who provide us with FreeBMD that I’ve mentioned before.


For my Dorset relatives, I don’t have as much luck with the site however and I tend to go to the Dorset OPC as they have some of the early census returns transcribed so be sure to use both resources.

It can be incredibly handy to trace the family using several resources and the census is great for this, it even helped us to take our family tree up a few more branches on one line.   The moral to the story is to take note of all members of the household listed as if one disappears you can search for their name and you might discover them staying with other relatives – it happened on one of my adventures which I talk about under the 'putting the family tree together' section.

Army Records

Another Way of Tracing Your Family

If you have an ancestor who was in the army then I would recommend you get their army records as they can have some great information in them.   It seems as though every regiment holds different information - in the case of one of my grandfathers I received about 5 pages worth from his regiment, but with my husband's great grandfather we only received a single page.

Both regiments provided the age of the soldier when they joined up (be aware that at certain times in the past this was lied about and not always checked by officials!), where they joined up to (this can be handy if you want to know where they were living at the time) and their occupations at the time.

The records will also usually show identifying marks on the body such as scars and the fact that great grandfather had a tattoo before he joined the army!   The records also show where they were stationed - one of the regiments had very little on his actual duties except the place where his regiment was stationed for the time he was in there.

Another regiment's records had a lot more information, including how much time of service was spent abroad, what battles he participated in and medals awarded.

Let me tell you how using army records gave me the first break in tracing one part of the family tree ......

Putting the Family Tree Together

Being a Family Detective

My daughter doesn’t know why I like history, but I think of it as being a little bit like a detective which appeals to her a lot more.   When you’re researching the family history it really is like being a detective as no one (unless you’re extremely lucky) has written a number of books on your family for you to use as research tools.   Instead, you have to look at things like certificates, census returns and other records.

Let me tell you about how we tracked our family back a couple of generations by using free records.

My husband’s great grandfather had served in the army, but we had no idea what part of England he had originated from (we just knew he ended up with his family in New Zealand).   He was buried in a returned services cemetery and his regiment was listed on his grave so I wrote them an email and got his records sent to me.  

On his records, it included where he enlisted to along with his age and trade.   He joined the army in 1904 so I took a chance that he’d be living in the same area in 1901 and looked at the census and there I saw him living with his widowed mother and some siblings.   Looking at the census for 1891 I found both of his parents, himself and some siblings – one sibling was missing so I searched for him as well.   I wasn’t really expecting to find him, but I did and he was listed as a grandson which gave me the (possible) maiden name of great-great-grandma.   Armed with this information I then looked for a marriage using the ‘new’ name in the family tree and there it was!

Another generation discovered and another name to add to a branch of the family – always remember to keep track of siblings along the way.

Other reasons for keeping track of a sibling’s name is to make it quicker to find the family on census returns, let me give you an example.   On one side of the family, my direct descendant is called Richard a fairly common first name, but he had a brother called Twentyman which isn’t so common so if I were to search for census returns I’d look for his brother’s name first to find the household and hope they were both at home together on census night!

More on Military Records in Genealogy

  • USA Military Records
    Now I haven't used this site as I don't have any ancestors in the US (that I've found yet anyways!), but this site is part of the National Archives and tells you how to go about researching your genealogy in military records.
  • British Armed Forces Records
    If you have relatives that served in the British Armed Forces then this is one site to start looking on. I actually just Googled the regiment when I was looking for records and my father got the other records so I'm not sure how good this site is, but it's at least a stepping stone.

Peder (Peter) Christian HANSEN - an old grainy photo of a great great grandfather born in Denmark 1829in
Peder (Peter) Christian HANSEN


Eek! I've Got the Wrong Surname!

Adventures in Genealogy Sometimes Have Unexpected Twists

Genealogy 101 says you need certificates and this makes it quite an expensive hobby, I have often bypassed the certificates and used parish records, census records and other free online resources to trace the family tree, but occasionally that can backfire!

I had been tracing my husband’s paternal line and I couldn’t find his grandfather’s birth details anywhere – apparently, he was born in India, but I couldn't find any birth details of anyone by his name at all.   Luckily my husband’s great-granddad lived with his family for a while and was buried in the cemetery in his hometown.   He had been in the army so I took the name of his regiment from his gravestone and wrote to them – army records can be an invaluable source of information for family historians.   What I found in these records enabled me to trace his family back a couple of generations, but I still couldn’t find granddad even with the dates that great-granddad was serving in India to go on.

I hadn’t looked at this side of the family for a while and decided to do another search for him along with another surname which I know had something to do with the family – it wasn’t further up the line as far as I’d gone, so maybe it was great grandma’s name.   Hello, I found the marriage – they were married in India a month after he left the army, but the timing of the marriage didn’t gel with when my husband’s grandparents were married (grandad would've been too young) – things were getting murky.

Looking at the details of the marriage it noted that great-grandmother was older than great-grandfather and also a widow.   Just for the heck of it, I decided to search for grandad using her former married name and there he was – turns out the great-grandad that lived with the family and who everyone loved (grandad wasn’t let in the house – long story) was actually step great grandad so the family tree I’d been tracing didn’t actually belong to the right family :(

Now what was I told was genealogy 101?   That’s right – get certificates!

Sepia photograph of Edward Arthur Read my grandfather
Edward Arthur READ

Genealogical Links

Great Links to Help You Trace Your Family Tree

This free family search website is really good and I've recently had a lot of luck with their Indian data (this has obviously been updated since I last looked for this branch of the family).

  • Access Genealogy - Great for US Genealogy
  • If you're tracing family in the States this looks like a great site. I don't have any family lines in America, but I like the look of this site and I especially like the cemetery transcriptions - they are really handy.

  • Find My Past
  • This is a site that I have used in the past even though you do have to pay, I found quite a few records on one side of my family which made it worthwhile for me. There is also an American site available too which has a good reputation.

    Photographic Stars - Names & Dates

    Historic Photos From My Family Tree

    I hope you've enjoyed the family photos I've included in this article, but what if you think some of them look familiar or you just recognize a name?   Well if that's the case here's information on them and if you think there may be a family connection feel free to send a private message to me via Facebook.

    Introduction Image

    The image in the introduction is of Alice Beatrice GALE born 11 Oct 1884 at Loders, Dorset, England.   Alice was one of my great-grandmothers.

    Eli & Alice READ with children Edward, Lona & William

    This image is of Eli Reuben READ born 01 Jan 1879 at East Coker, Yeovil, Somerset, England along with his wife Alice (the same lady mentioned above) who were married on 14 Jan 1904.   They had eight children and are pictured with three of them from left to right they are - Edward Arthur READ (born 07 Sep 1907), Lona Frances Emily READ (born 21 Jul 1904) and William George READ (born 18 Dec 1905 ).

    Arthur BUTCHER and daughters

    This image is of Arthur Richard BUTCHER born 30 Nov 1873 at Caterham, Surrey.  He was one of my great grandfathers and is pictured with his daughters at a wedding.   The daughters are from left to right - Queenie Etta (born 19 Sep 1918), Constance Christina Winifred (born 17 Sep 1914), Mabel Beatrice (born 11 Feb 1898) , Eirene Hilda Dorothy (born 19 Sep 1899), May COMPTON (half sister) Gladys Kathleen (born 23 Apr 1906), Gwendoline Dorcas Joyce (born 27 Apr 1916)

    Peder (Peter) Christian HANSEN

    This image is of Peder (Peter) Christian HANSEN who was born 3 Dec 1829 at Tommerup, Funen Island, Denmark.   He was one of my husband's great-great-grandfathers and emigrated to New Zealand in 1874.

    Edward Arthur READ

    This image is of Edward Arthur READ (the same person in the photo with his parents Eli and Alice) who was born 7 Sep 1907 at Loders, Dorset, England.   Edward was one of my grandfathers although I never got to meet him as he died before I was born.

    I think photographs really help bring your family tree alive, but unfortunately, some of them can be in disrepair.  I've come across ones that have been ripped, covered in age spots and more.   I did write a post about removing blemishes in photoshop if you have some old photos that do not look their best.

    Are you interested in tracing your family tree?








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    Friday, February 19, 2021

    Camera Strap Harness Reviewed

    While hiking at Fort Pillow State Historic Park a few weeks ago, I realized that I really needed a camera harness that would take the weight of my camera off my neck and redistribute the weight across my back instead.

    Camera Harness
    I carry a Nikon D3100, which came with the standard 18-55mm zoom lens.  However, when I am hiking in the woods, I prefer my 55-300mm zoom lens, which is heavier.  The longer lens is required for capturing close-up images of birds in the trees, animals in the distance, or points of interest in the woods.  Normally the weight doesn't bother me at all.  However, on a 2 mile trail hike up and down hills, I've found that I do notice the weight.  After our hike at Fort Pillow, I found myself rubbing the ache from my neck and shoulders. Therefore, it was past the time to find a camera harness.

    As soon as I got home that day, I went in search of a camera harness and found this awesome harness. Upon arrival, I put it on my camera, adjusted the straps and prepared for my next hiking adventure.

    As you can see in the photo, I opted to leave my neck strap attached to my camera.  It is the strap I will use in my everyday life.  Since the harness has quick release buckles, it is very easy to leave off and quickly reattach for hiking.   


    Excellent Features of the USA Gear Camera Strap Harness

     USA GEAR DSLR Camera Strap Chest Harness with Quick Release BucklesCheck PriceThe camera strap harness that I selected is available in multiple colors and patterns.  It features a small pocket on each strap.  The pockets are a suitable size for batteries or SD cards.  The pockets alone would make this harness an excellent choice.  I always carry a spare battery when hiking.  The pockets have Velcro closure which makes them easy to open quickly, even when wearing gloves, but are otherwise securely closed. 

    As I mentioned in the introduction, the harness has quick release buttons so the harness can be used during specific activities like hiking, but not a permanent attachment when it is not needed.  These buttons are also helpful if you need to raise the camera above your head to get a certain shot.

    This camera harness is very inexpensive too.  If you wish to buy several in order to color coordinate with apparel, you could certainly do that.   

    Very easy to use!  Slips on exactly like backpack arm straps.





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