Showing posts with label Dawn Rae. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dawn Rae. Show all posts

Monday, November 21, 2022

Reviewing Why the Sitivien ST139 Knife is a Great Gift Idea

 I recently gifted myself with a Sitivien ST139 knife and immediately wondered why I let "knife" languish at the bottom of my to-buy list for so long. I know little about things such as blade material (what makes a knife sharp versus durable) so I finally accepted help and recommendations from others who know knives. As soon as I began sharing my experience with this knife there were others that said this would be a great gift; hint-hint.  

As I said, I am not a knife afficiando. Quite the opposite.  I only recall owning 3 or 4 folding knives before this. Most recently, two of those were Kershaws that I really liked. And two others prior were really cheap knives - one of which I kept clipped to my kayak life vest because I had a terrible fear of capsizing and becoming entangled in some underwater mess.  I know, I know, a somewhat irrational fear and yet I felt better having a blade handy in case I wanted to cut myself from my vest or my 'yak leash. Since that specific knife was junk, it didn't take more than 2 seasons to corrode.

The Sitivien ST139 Folding EDC Knife

In order to educate myself about knives, and stay within my very low budget, I began listening to people who know much more than I about the subject. Of course, being knife collectors and daily users, they have their eyes on high quality knives and carry knives with a smaller price tag than their "next" knives. That smaller price is still out of my range. One day I was brave and asked point blank for a recommendation for someone with with a very tight budget. Sitivien was the answer. 

The ST139 was my choice because it looked like the handle would be the best for my weak hand grip. And I chose the yellow and black handle so I could find it more easily if I drop it in the woods.

In the description online it states:

  • Knife dimensions: Overall length: 7.48" inches(19cm); Blade length:3.15" inches(8cm)
  • Handle length: 4.33” inches(11cm); Weight of Knife: 4.37 Ounce OR 124 grams
  • Blade: Sandvik 14C28N Steel Knife : Durable 14C28N steel blade hardness 60-61 HRC, provides a perfect balance of edge sharpness, edge stability and corrosion resistance. 
  • Handle: Micarta Handle Ensures a secure and confident grip during use and comfortable in-hand feel.
  • Ball Bearing knife can open extremely smoothly on its ball bearing pivot,
  • Lock: has a simple and reliable Liner lock [that] is resistant to dirt and prevents unexpected closure.
I did NOT verify the dimensions but overall length sounds right.

I do know that the Amazon description was wrong about 2 things; a leather sheath was not included and the clip isn't (in all the research I've done since getting my knife) interchangeable from right-handed to left-handed.

I am a lady in my late 50's who just moved to my land and is homesteading. I need a knife for many reasons.  Just a few I can think of at this moment are:
  • I could have used it with garden plants, pruning, and cutting tomato stake ties.
  • Harvesting... if I had veggies to harvest this year (it wasn't a good gardening year for me).
  • Building my chicken coop and similar projects (cutting paracord and zip tie ends).
  • I needed a good knife to cut that Black Gorilla tape I needed to use (that was a nightmare with dull scissors and tin snips).
  • I've used it for opening boxes. 
  • I've used it for cutting up meat (it was FANTASTIC for that purpose as the handle did not become slippery).
  • I desperately needed a sharp knife last year when I installed my water line heating cords under the house.
I think that others who could use this would be people who:
  • do simple or emergency household and/car repairs
  • go hiking
  • go camping
  • live/work on a farm or homestead
  • people who hunt and fish
  • are crafters or artists (whittling, trimming, sharpening, and who need a sharp cutting tool larger than an Xacto blade)
  • collect knives
  • and people who have the skills to use it for self-protection and/or emergency situations
  • perhaps in medical kits - I imagine it would be good for cutting those large band-aid wraps

Why Did I Choose to Review a Knife on Review This? 

I believe that our readers are more females than males. So why would I review this here?  I almost didn't. Then I changed my mind.  Women also need quality tools that suit their needs. I think we tend to overlook that. Also, buy gifts for our fathers, husbands, and sons. I'll never forget when my dad had started to down-size and he had many new shirts to get rid of. And I wondered if that pile of shirts were many of the shirts that he had received as gifts over the years. And that it was too bad we didn't have a better idea of what to get for him.  When he was elderly and in an apartment he might not have appreciated the knife but when he was a builder and a farmer he sure would have put it to good use (if only for cutting bale twine).

If you'd like to see more, you can see my personal video review and how the knife fits in my hand you here:

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, November 7, 2022

Movie Review: News of the World

News of the World is a western drama movie in which a Civil War veteran finds himself responsible for an orphaned child. Both girl and man have suffered great losses and face many continued dangers traveling the across the southwest with a goal of taking her home to reunite with family. Since he's taking her to Texas, he may finally return to his own home. At one point, he says, "We all have demons to face going down this road".  This movie is beautifully acted and set in a rugged, wild setting. 

Years after the end of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd has not yet returned home to San Antonio. Instead, he travels by horseback from town to town reading the news to those who would pay ten cents. He is welcomed and paid for his readings. In small towns, often with either people who cannot read or towns so remote that news from the outside world is rare, his reading is information and entertainment. The country is still torn with settlers taking Indian lands, Indians killing the settlers, the military killing the Indians, and settlers clashing against each other. But the Captain travels alone and minds his own business. At least until the day he finds a hanged man who had been transporting a young Kiowa girl. Her blonde hair and her agency orders inform the Captain that this Kiowa girl was abducted six years ago and is now being returned home to her biological family. As he is at the scene of this ruined wagon and murdered man, the military rides up. They question the Captain and allow him to go. They advise him to fetch her to Red River to the command post. And he does. The glitch is that Captain Kidd is informed there that the next Indian agent in line to take responsibility of the child is not due to return to the area for months. Captain is expected to care for her until that time.

We soon learn that no one wants this child. She no longer speaks English or German. Only one other person they come across speaks Kiowa. Most people consider her to be wild and treat her as such. No one wants her except for the one group of men who want her for nefarious reasons. 

Can Caption Kidd keep her safe and help her find home? Can young Cicada/Johanna find a place in the world and a family of her own? Will the Captain return to his home? These questions will be answered as they battle would-be kidnappers during an out-gunned shootout, roadside desperados, a dust storm, and long days of travel across the dry and rugged Texas terrain.

I enjoyed this movie very much. It deals with issues of grief and loss. And finding family after family is gone. It deals with how people respond to children who are different and how different cultures view each other. Young actress Helena Zengel was mesmerizing. She seemed to be genuinely experiencing the loss, fear, uncertainty, and return of memories during their travels. Tom Hanks' performance was wonderful but there was one occasion that I was taken back to his role in Saving Private Ryan. Regardless, the pairing of Hanks and Zengel was amazing and both were perfect for those roles.

There are bonus sections at the end of the DVD version of the movie that I also enjoyed. The bonus sections included outtakes, interviews, behind the scenes, and commentary by the writer-director. My favorite was the section showing the Kiowa tribe members who came to tutor actress Zengel and to be a part of the movie. 

This movie is available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Amazon Prime Video.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, October 31, 2022

Reviewing Two Styles of Aprons Found on Etsy

I have had aprons on my wishlist for many years. But they are just one of those things that don't seem like a necessity - until I slop tomato sauce on a favorite shirt. Because I don't spend as much time in the kitchen as some people do, aprons definitely felt like a splurge. Now that I own two aprons, I'm not sure why I waited so long!  I did need them. I chose two different styles and I am very pleased with both. 

Old Fashioned CrossOver Apron by TheFortiesRevisited

The Apron:  I have wanted a crossover apron for years.  I prefer to slip something on and off over my head as opposed to messing with ties. The aprons in this shop caught my eye because of the retro style (I think it was the edging that made me think of older style aprons) and the beautiful choices in prints.  The word calico always makes me happy. 

The apron I chose was a cute, light colored, calico floral print with contrasting edging. I chose the style with the sections edged, giving the apron a somewhat geometric shape. The shop offers styles without so much edging. But the contrast on the apron I chose caught my eye. 

The online description is:

"This old fashioned Grandma full apron has subtle coral and blue flowers on a pale yellow background that has a tiny dot. It's trimmed in a dark green bias. The apron design is an 1940's vintage style to complete the look."

 The apron is handmade. The material is cotton.  It is machine washable. 

The Shop: Sally Hill is listed as the owner of TheFortiesRevisited. The shop is located in Worthington, Ohio, US. 

The store lists a variety of items including: full aprons, half aprons, clothes pin bags, smocks/cobbler aprons, children's aprons, and mother/daughter matching aprons. There is a large selection of premade items but if you don't see what you want special orders are accepted. Do you remember rick rack? She even offers aprons with rick rack! She also offers a wide variety of holiday prints. I had a hard time choosing which print I wanted because there were so many I liked.

The Mexican Apron by Orozocosshop

The Apron: While I went to Etsy to shop for a long, crossover apron, these Mexican aprons took me back in time to a neighborhood I lived in years ago. Many of the older Mexican women wore aprons in this style. I remember one abuela in particular who wore similar aprons every day. In fact, I'm not sure if I ever saw her without her apron.

I purchased the black and white check pattern apron because it was more my style than some of the floral embroidered styles offered on Etsy. Honestly, since it reminded me of that sweet woman it was an emotional purchase rather than a purchase with a plan of using the apron regularly. But, I now wear this apron daily!

The online description is: 

"A Mexican style two pocket apron made of lightweight check fabric poly/cotton with bias decoration, opened at the bottom back. Four pleats in front and four at the back.  30 inches long from the shoulder."


The apron is handmade. The material is cotton. I did not see that it is listed as machine washable but I am sure it is. However, I will hand-wash it because the material is a bit more thin and I already hand-wash many items.

The Shop: Gabriela is listed as the owner of the Ozorocosshop. The shop is located in Chicago, IL, US.

Comparing the Two Aprons

These aprons are different and I like each for different reasons.  The crossover apron is a thicker material so it will likely last longer. The Mexican apron is made from thinner cotton and will likely wear out sooner. BUT it will be more comfortable in the summer months. The Mexican apron is more full coverage around my torso and protects my entire shirt while the crossover apron is longer and protects most of my jeans. 

Frankly, the aprons have more similarities than you might expect. Both aprons have generous pockets (I've collected the chicken eggs using those pockets!).  And both aprons are very easy to get on and off by slipping them over my head; the crossover with it's straps and wide open backside and the Mexican apron with the very long slit in the back (I apologize that I could not get a good photo of the backside of that apron but if you look closely you can see the slit in the photo).

Now I know when I drop things with liquids, splash, or cook and splatter that my clothes are protected. Both aprons make me very happy and I'm pleased with these two purchases.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, October 17, 2022

Movie Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

 I enjoy reading more than keeping up with the newest movie releases so I have mixed feelings when one of my very favorite novels is adapted for the big screen. I am often disappointed in the movie version. But not this time. Not with Where the Crawdads Sing. I have enjoyed this movie so much that I've re-watched it several times since purchasing the DVD just a few weeks ago. I think the producers did a phenomenal job bringing Kya to the screen and keeping her story true to the book.

Movie Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

The setting is a small town near the marshlands of North Carolina. The town is shook in the 1960s when the popular young man, Chase Andrews, is found dead at the lookout tower that stands watch over the marsh. But the story begins years before that with the Clark family.

The Clark family lives in a small shack near the water's edge, in the marsh. Mr. Clark is clearly fighting some sort of inner demons and takes it out on those closest to him. Mrs. Clark is a mysterious lady. She lives in that marsh, with an angry man, a handful of children, and a pair of alligator shoes. She is an artist of some sort; painting plein air. She loves her children. Including her youngest, 6 year old Kya.

Over time, the Clark family grows smaller. At one point, young Kya is living alone with the man who physically abused everyone in the family. She trusts no one, has abandonment trauma, and relies on the marsh. Missing her brothers, it is not surprising that she grows to become happy when she sees her youngest brother's friend in his boat. At first, she can only wave and call a greeting to young Tate while her scowling father steers their boat past. 

Living at a level of loneliness that is suffocating, the marsh supports Kya. The townspeople call her "marsh girl". They bully her the one day she attended school as a very young girl. On any rare occasion that a human comes to her home, Kya runs and hides like a wild animal; disappearing into the marsh. 

Kya slowly begins to trust the waterfront shop owners and they grow to love her. As she becomes a beautiful young woman she becomes more interesting to Tate and to Chase Andrews. We see that she has inherited her mother's artistic ability but what else will she inherit?

When Chase Andrews is found dead at the tower that overlooks the marsh, everyone immediately defines it as murder and everyone immediately blames "the marsh girl". Was it murder? Was it an accidental fall?

The marsh knows.

Behind the Scenes

This movie is gorgeous. The scenery is wonderful with birds, tides, water, vast expanses and micro close-ups. In the special features, the producers (Reese Whitherspoon and Hello Sunshine) talk about the setting.

This movie is emotional. You feel the changing moods of the people as clearly as you see the changing times of day on the water.  

The actors and actresses were amazing. Most all of them were new to me and I look forward to seeing them in other roles. 

This movie stayed true to the Kya I met in the novel. Author Delia Owens appears in the features also. It was interesting to see them speak about choosing the actors, setting, and how to get through the timeline of Kya's story in the condensed movie version. I think they pulled it off wonderfully and could only  be improved (and not by much) in a mini-series length. 

Special Features included with the DVD:

  • Adapting a Phenomenon
  • Lyric Video "Carolina" by Taylor Swift
  • Creating the World
  • Women in Focus
If you have never seen this movie, or read the book, I highly recommend both. It may be more interesting to see the movie before you read the book in order to avoid the spoiler of knowing how Chase Andrews came to be dead.

Find Where the Crawdads Sing on Amazon Prime.

The Book Reviews: Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing was such a good book that two of us reviewed it here on Review This Reviews. You can read my review of the book (and see a photo of the marsh near where I was living) here and read Treasures by Brenda's review of the book here.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, September 19, 2022

Reviewing The Snake Grabber Tool

Today, I am reviewing the 60" Snake Grabber. This is not a glamorous review. Nor is it a fun tool to write about (not for me anyway). But wow, am I glad I had made that purchase and it worked better than I had expected. Snakes are not a fun thing to discuss for many of us. And that is all the more reason I need to share how well this Snake Grabber worked for me. This is one tool that you should consider owning if there is any chance at all that you'll deal with snakes. 

There are so many tools in our lives that we hope never to use. It seems a waste of money to purchase something we may never use. Frankly, to purchase something we hope to never have to use. For example, a lug wrench for changing car tires. Most folks call roadside assistance for flat tires. Easy peasy. But, if you get stranded with a flat tire, in an area with no cell service and no way to reach someone to come to the rescue, you are super glad that you have that lug wrench. Or, if your electricity goes out in some hurricane or ice storm for days. Investing in those expensive items such as generators may have felt frivolous at the time but they ended up being super important tools to have.

That's how I feel about the 60" Snake Grabber. It was not something I looked forward to using. In fact, I hadn't taken it out of it's box after it was delivered. But I used it last night and it probably saved lives (Quail lives). It made snake removal many times easier and quicker than my first experience.

Awhile back, I had a snake trying to get at my quail in their hutch on the deck. It was late in the evening and there I was trying to find things to poke at the snake to convince it to leave. Things that were strong enough (broom) were too large to fit where the snake was. Things that were thin enough (wall trim) were too flimsy to move that large snake. And most things were far too short. NO WAY was I going to get within inches of that thing. Luckily, I was able to harass that first snake for long enough that it chose to crawl out of the quail hutch pan, across my deck, and out of sight.  

Within days I ordered the Snake Grabber. 

And then I let it sit in the unopened box. Until last night.

Well after dark the quail were making a huge commotion. I instantly knew that a predator was out there. The first snake experience taught me that even if the snake doesn't enter the cage, it can cause serious/fatal injuries to quail by grabbing their toes from the underside of the hutch. I had to work quickly.

I wish I had practiced with the snake grabber. It took me a minute to unfold it and secure it. Then another few minutes to figure out how to open the "jaws" after I had squeezed them shut. But once I sorted through those two things, I was outside and grabbing the snake.

This snake grabber fit PERFECTLY in that 2" space. I placed the jaws around the snake and squeezed the handle. The grabber was secure around the snake. I had a difficult time pulling the snake from the opening but that was because the snake was so large and powerful. The Grabber was solid and I never once felt that it was going to collapse or let go of the snake. I moved the snake to a bucket and was able to relocate the snake.

This was NOT an easy task for me. But it was possible because I had the right tool. 

More About the Extra Heavy Duty Snake Grabber

Just a few quick details about this Snake Grabber:

  • this 60" long snake grabber keeps you a more comfortable distance away from the snake
  • the tubes are heavy duty stainless steel
  • the grabber can be folded in the middle for storage or transportation purposes
  • the tongs or jaws close easily when the handle is squeezed
  • an automatic locking mechanism keeps the jaws shut until you release it 
The only possible drawback that I read about in reviews and I experienced first hand is that the locking mechanism automatically falls into place after you squeeze the handle required both hands to release it.  Which felt clumsy. But in hindsight, I was happy to know that it was not going to accidently release the snake before I was ready. So I'm not entirely convinced that is a drawback after all.

Related Link:

If you would like to see me actually using the 60" Snake Grabber, you can watch me here:


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, September 5, 2022

Reviewing the Compact Folding Cot by Ozark Trail

On many occasions I have been in a situation where I needed a temporary and portable place to sleep. Many times that has been on an inflatable mattress. I have recently found a much better option at an awesome price point. The Compact Folding Cot by Ozark Trail is solid and comfortable. I cannot yet speak to it's longevity but I have napped in it and was surprised at how comfortable it was.

About the Compact Folding Cot by Ozark Trail

I found this cot to be surprisingly comfortable and sturdy. I stretched out on it - and took an impromptu nap - as soon as I brought it home. I wanted to try it out immediately because I half expected to return it. I unfolded it to find that the legs were short. The cot was approximately 8 1/2" above the ground. Because it is low to the ground, it didn't tip or wobble as I got in and out of the cot. I also believe it didn't tip or wobble because of the way the legs are made. There are five wide, U-shaped legs that maintain contact with the ground. The legs at each end of the cot lock into place and needs to be manually released in order to fold the cot. 

The material stretched across the frame is comfortable. I was expecting either some sort of thin nylon or thick canvas. I was hoping for a thick canvas. I cannot find any description of what the material is made of but it feels to me like a canvas with some sort of stretch. Not too much stretch. Just enough to help alleviate any pressure point I would experience from laying on a stiffer material. 

Finally, have you ever sat or slept on a futon or a pull-out bed in a sofa and ended up feeling one of the bars of the frame under your back? It is impossible to get comfortable in that situation and I always woke up stiff and sore. This Ozark Trail cot does not have any support bars just under the material where I laid!

The information from the manufacturer is:

  • Frame design provides solid and comfortable sleeping surface
  • Low profile allows for extra headroom inside tents
  • Compact for easy storage and makes it easy to carry it with you most anywhere you go
  • weight of cot: 12.7 lbs
  • dimensions: 75.6"L x 25"W x 8.4"H
  • weight capacity: 300 lbs.
They forgot to mention that there are two small straps with a plastic buckle and velcro configuration that holds that cot closed when folded. And there are two straps that when velcroed together create a padded carrying handle. 

My Experience: The Compact Folding Cot by Ozark Trail Versus Air Mattresses

Over the years I have purchased several different air mattresses for camping. When I camped regularly on my land, in an off-grid structure I called "The Shack", I thought an air mattress would be the best option. I could inflate it when I arrived, deflate it when I left, and pack it in a tote for safe-keeping. However, the air mattress didn't turn out to be the best option. In cold weather, the air mattress became extremely cold - more cold than sleeping directly on the floor in a sleeping bag. I was shocked at how cold that mattress became. Also, I quickly found that air mattresses were not durable.

The first air mattress I purchased was inexpensive and leaked after just a few camping trips. I thought it leaked because I purchased the least expensive version. So I purchased more expensive brands over time hoping they would be more durable. Subsequent mattresses did last longer, but not by much. I believe my dog's toenails punctured one of the mattresses in the middle of the night as it suddenly began to hiss and quickly dropped me to the floor. What a startling way to wake up! Another time, when visiting family, I slept on an air mattress that did not blow up "tight". There was that sagging spot in the middle from the beginning. It caused me to be uncomfortable and it caused me to snore because of the position I was in. At least that is my excuse for snoring during that trip. 

I purchased my Compact Folding Cot from Walmart at a very nice "rollback" price. I now wonder if the reduced price tag was because camping season (for most folks) is coming to a close. There are also a few of the cots listed for sale online - but I'm not familiar with those outlets so I will not advertise those sites. 

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, August 29, 2022

Book Review: The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White

The Promise Between Us is a novel about a group of people living with varying degrees of anxiety. Trying to get through each day is difficult enough, then add to that that some of them are trying to keep their individual past traumas secret. The characters are flawed and their lives are complicated and messy. 

"Best selling author Barbara Claypole White writes hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness" - About The Author on goodreads.

 The Promise Between Us by Barbara Claypole White

Maisie MacDonald, 5th grader, is a quirky, young girl living with her father and step-mother. Her mother passed away when she was very young. At least, that is what she has been told. On the outside, to those who meet her, she looks and sounds confident. She has her own style of dress and is quite able to self-advocate. On the inside, she is constantly worried about things such as whether she's been bad or disrespectful. If those around her are going to die and if they do it will be her fault.  She tries to keep her fears and thoughts secret but they are starting to show to those observing her.

Callum (Cal) MacDonald is Maisie's father. He would do anything to protect his daughter. Cal has recently married Lilah. Together, they are working together to sort out the intricacies of becoming a family. They are aware that Maisie has some anxiety; especially about transferring to middle school after 6th grade. 

Uncle Jake,  "who's Dad Point Two" as Maisie refers to him, is a family friend (Cal's best friend) who has helped raise Maisie thus far. On one hand, he is a shallow, handsome actor. On the other hand, he cares for Maisie deeply and probably understands her the most.

Katie Mack is an artist that is volunteering at a program for 6th graders.  Even though Maisie is only a 5th grader, she and her friend have been enrolled in this program. Katie and Maisie meet at the art museum. Katie has struggled with debilitating (life-threatening) anxiety and OCD with fire being one of her main fears. She responded by taking control of those fears to the best of her ability and learning to weld and create metal sculptures. Maisie is drawn to Katie's work. 

Personal Thoughts About The Promise Between Us

Perhaps I enjoyed this story so much because I work with children who have a variety of mental health diagnoses. Day after day, I am both exhausted by the work AND exhilarated by something said or done by these unique individuals. Day after day I have the thought that if we (the allegedly "normal" folks) tried a little harder to listen or understand our lives would be that much more enriched. Instead, we generally try to teach others to "act right" or "behave" or think a certain way. I enjoyed The Promise Between Us because of it's real portrayal of characters who are struggling. 

There are a small number of reviews that mentioned their dislike of the repetition in the story. The truth is, that is the reality of anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Repetitive and intrusive thoughts that occur over and over and over.  That sort of repetition is what real humans live with on a daily basis. Although, difficult to read at points (yes, it is repetitive) it is part of what made this story so believable and made the characters real. If the repetition irks you, imagine what it is like to try to live a productive life with that happening in your head.

Warning: This book deals with difficult subjects related to anxiety, OCD, and trauma. There are difficult scenes in the story that may trigger some people.  And if it were a movie, it would carry a warning for nudity/sex. 

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, August 15, 2022

Reviewing the Octopus Kite from the Hengda Kite Store

I had so much fun flying my new Octopus Kite from the Hengda Kite Store that I knew I had to share it with you today. I was very skeptical ordering a $10 kite online. But with over 3,000 positive reviews, I took the chance. I'm glad I did.

During different periods of my life I have flown kites. I am not an expert on kites, nor do I understand much about the different styles of kites and why they fly better on different speed of winds. But whether it was flying kites with my sons when they were young, flying kites as an adult on the beautiful Assateague Island in Maryland, or the few times I've tried to launch a kite up here on my ridge in West Virginia, I do know that I love flying kites. And good kites make the experience almost magical.

Octopus Flyer Kite from the Hengda Kite Store

My preferred type of kite is the Delta style. I find that they are easy to fly in a variety of wind speeds. I have flown parafoil kites but have never owned one. Until now.

The "Software Octopus Flyer Kite" is a parafoil style kite. That means, there are no "sticks" to assemble - no cross bars that we are familiar with in the diamond style and delta style kites. Parafoil kites are only the material, sewn in cells - or tubes - that help catch the wind and keep the kite aloft. 

Information from the Henga Kite Store page:

  • no kite sticks; soft [parafoil] style 
  • strong, durable, and lightweight polyester 210 material
  • measures 31" wide and 157" long
  • comes with a plastic handle and kite string
  • made in the International Kite Capital, Weifang, Shandong, China
  • Hengda has been manufacturing kites for 20 years

My Experience with the Octopus Kite

The Octopus came with a length of kite string on a handle. But I prefer to use my own kite string on a wooden spool. So I attached the hook from my string into the end of the strings attached to the kite, and off I went.

An internet search showed that I probably should have chosen a day with more wind for my kite's maiden flight. 

"Deltas, Diamonds and Dragon kites fly well in light to medium winds (approximately 6-15 mph) while Box Kites and stickless Parafoil kites fly better when the winds get a little stronger (approximately 8-25 mph). 
                                                            -- NationalKiteMonth

But I was too excited to wait another day. With my weather app showing winds of 2 miles an hour at the most, and feeling that there were periods of no wind at all, I headed up to the top of my hill to give this kite a try. 

It flew! Sluggishly on the very low wind day, it flew. And when it came down I had to wait for the next puff of breeze before I re-launched. But it flew. And I loved it!

This Octopus Kite is HUGE, bright, and interesting.  I purchased it for an upcoming visit with my grandkids and I can barely wait to see them and fly it with them.

The Kite Loft in Ocean City, Maryland - A Brick and Mortar Kite Store

I mentioned having spent time on Assateague Island, Maryland flying kites. Whether it is Assateague Island or nearby Ocean City... beaches are the best place to fly kites in my opinion. There is a store in Ocean City called the Kite Loft. If you enjoy flying kites, this store is a must-see. 

This specialty store is located beach-front that offers top-of-the-line kites. They also host a variety of festivals and kite-related events; including the SunFest Kite Festival. It is quite a sight to behold seeing the sky above the beach full of intricate and interesting kites. 

This year the SunFest Kite Festival is September 29 to October 2, 2022. If you love kites and have any chance of attending, I strongly encourage you to go. It is a fantastic event. If you cannot attend, you could get a feel for it on the Kite Loft Beach Cam.  The cam can be viewed any day and I often take a peek just to see what the ocean front looks like that day.

I purchased my favorite kite from the Kite Loft - a Delta style kite with a Kokopelli and lizard design. I have since misplaced that kite during moves or someone decided they wanted a fantastic kite. I'm not quite sure what happened but I miss that kite.

While kites at the Kite Loft have a larger price tag they are completely worth the investment. 

Related Links:

Our BarbRad took us to visit Moonstone Beach in Cambria. In that review, she enjoyed watching a family flying stunt kites. Stunt kites have 2 lines and you hold one in each hand. This gives you the ability to control the kite and cause it to make turns and loops. I was never able to master the art of stunts kites because they are very responsive to small movements and I wasn't coordinated enough. I enjoyed watching the video in her review - maybe you will too. 

Visit the Hengda Kite Store link on Amazon here.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, August 1, 2022

Reviewing How Others Impact My Life and a Thank You to Melanie Ham

As I have moved physically to a peaceful location I have begun to move to a more peaceful emotional place in my mind. Over the past 6 months I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on who and what is important to my life and health. Since January 2022, when it was announced that Melanie Ham left this earth, I have focused even more on how we impact each other and who I should choose as mentors.

Who Was Melanie Ham

Melanie Ham was most known for her YouTube crochet and quilting tutorials. If you are a quilter or crocheter and have searched for help on the internet chances are good that you've come across her name. That is how I became familiar with her name and her gentle and affirming approach.

I would like to add to the heart-felt tributes to her life but I cannot imagine writing an adequate tribute. I do not have sufficient words. Prior to her death, Melanie and her husband began to prepare a documentary of her life. Made With Melanie - A Feature Documentary by Robert Ham went live just a couple of days ago. While I cried much of the way through the video, it was ultimately encouraging.

Life is cyclical. Life is a never-ending group of connections. I never imagined that I would find a crochet pattern to help comfort my friend during her battle with cancer - a pattern written by a woman who was ultimately taken from us by cancer.  

Jenny was a co-worker and friend who was battling cancer in 2019. The loss of her hair was devastating and we worked together to find a pattern for crocheted hats that would work for her. You can see my blog post about how I tweaked a pattern by Melanie Ham to suit Jenny's needs. Before Jenny passed, we worked together to mail off hats to a cancer treatment center. Even during times where she felt terrible physically, barely able to stand and concentrate, it was important to her to continue to give to others. 

I hope Jenny and Melanie are hanging out in heaven crocheting together.

How Those Around Us Impact Us

My dad was wrong about a good number of things. And while I thought he was wrong when he said "you are who your friends are" I now know that there is nothing more true.

If we choose to be around those who are cruel or angry, we will be cruel and angry. If we choose a mentor who says "I knew feelings would be crushed" with a gleam in their eye, we too will be pleased to crush others.

Now, the conundrum is what to do with those who are close to us but who have a negative impact on our peace. Do we cut them lose and end the relationships? Or do we work on improving the relationships?  The easy thing is to cut ties. The right thing may be to work on the relationship in a way that can move the relationship to a peaceful, productive, and good thing; as Robert and Melanie did.  

Whether we decide to cut ties or work to improve the relationship, we must do our own work. Moving from one person (or one group) to the next without doing our own work will do nothing to improve our lives.

How Will We Choose to Impact Those Around Us

Moving from a chaotic address to a peaceful address and from an extremely chaotic place of employment to a less chaotic jobsite has done wonders for my own peace of mind. I want to continue to broaden that peaceful feeling enough to be able to share it with others. 

Melanie Ham is a wonderful example of teaching and supporting others in a kind manner. And in a manner that spreads positivity.  She ran a highly successful business without cutting others down. Yes, sex and drama sell and there's a good chance that those business plans can bring in more dollars - at least for a period of time. But is that who we want to be? Profit via big drama? Some people want that in their lives. I have realized that I don't. 

"Pay It Forward" is often a tangible action; paying for the coffee of the person in line behind us. But it can be an emotional gift also. We can teach, donate, comfort, encourage, volunteer, and give with a kind and happy spirit.

I am a work in progress. There were long periods of my life that I was lost and struggling. And angry. I had a lot to be angry about but I truly didn't need to carry it with me for that long of a period of time. It's a bit sad that I am approaching my 6th decade of life before starting to live a peacefully. I imagine all I could have done with my life if I had found peaceful living sooner. But... I'm finding it now.  I am finding it by surrounding myself with good, peaceful, and faithful people who give of themselves. 

I wish you peace. And the ability to pay good things forward. Thank you Melanie for the shining example of living a best life during our time on earth and the crochet patterns that gave us comfort.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, July 18, 2022

Reviewing the Fiskars Clearing Machete

Why on earth would I be reviewing a machete? There are many good reasons to own a machete. Personally, I live on a piece of land with difficult terrain. While I intentionally allow some of the lot to grow wild, hopefully as welcoming habitat for the birds, butterfly, and wildlife, these weeds quickly take over areas I do not want them in. Lawn mowers and weeders (both wired and manually operated blade) do not suffice. I am very pleased with the Fiskars Clearing Machete.

The Fiskars 15" Blade Clearing Machete

After watching many machete reviews, I chose the Fiskars. To be honest, I mostly chose the Fiskars due to price point and availability (it was available here locally and I purchased it on the day I wanted to use it for the first time). While I honestly wanted to purchase some of the other machetes that were recommended, I did not feel I could spend $100 at the time. For something that I didn't know whether or not I'd be able to use it productively. I am very pleased with my purchase.

The Fiskars Clearing Machete Official Information:

  • 15" blade (24" total length)
  • curved steel blade
  • cushioned, composite, comfortable grip
  • weighs 2 lbs
  • Full lifetime guarantee
  • Nylon sheath included
Additional things I have noted, the blade is steel and reportedly can rust, however, it comes new with what appears to me to be some heavy, protective paint. I have not yet chipped or worn down that paint and I am very pleased with the blade. I am aware that tools made of steel should be stored in a dry place and benefit from being cleaned with appropriate oils.

I purchased an axe sharpener in order to sharpen my blade. While a few online reviewers complain of a dull blade, I was aware that I'd need to do some sharpening (as you need to do with axes and such) and I have only good experience with the blade sharpening and retaining the edge while using this in my yard/woods.

I LOVE the handle. It is a longer handle so I can choke up near the blade or hold on near the very end of the handle (my usual choice due to wanting distance from the thistles I'm cutting).  The handle is comfortable and I feel protected from the blade with the shape of the handle and that "bumper" between the handle and the blade.  I like that the handle also has a hole where I can insert a rope handle.

This machete is heavier than some. Two pounds is quite a bit for a woman in her late 50s to be swinging around. Two pounds is quite a bit for a younger active person to swing for an all-day job. But.... I only use it in small bursts of time. And I believe that the weight adds power to my wimpy swings. 

Yard Care

My yard is on a small mountain ridge. The slope is steep and the ground is rocky shale - from a sandy texture to very large rocks scattered everywhere. Mowing is difficult to impossible.  I have been advised to use weed control chemicals to eradicate these weeds. I do intentionally allow the weeds to grow because the monarch butterflies love the thistle, the birds love the mullein flowers, the pollinators love the assorted wild flowers, and the deer use the cover to hide in.  The problem is that all of these invasive plants, thistle, and wildflowers grow up quickly and are a nuisance where I don't want them. 

For example, the thistle grew to 6 - 7' tall behind my house (where the meter-reader needs to walk). 

The first area I cleared with the machete (the meter is to the left)
I was impressed with being able to clear out a significant portion of that thistle patch

The thistle has also grown around the back and sides of the chicken coop (allowing more cover for predators and more scratches on me when trying to herd a naughty chicken to the coop).

A manual weed cutter is very helpful for the grass-like plants that grow up to around 6 - 
10" tall in open areas.  But it does nothing for the mullein and thistle plants. And those plants got away from me.

The Fiskars machete is perfect for the larger weeds; especially the thistle. It cuts through them like cutting through warm butter.  

Outdoor Adventuring, Overlanding, and Off-Roading

When I had my Jeep and did ORV (off-road) trails and primitive camping, this machete would have been perfect! I regret not having purchased on during that time in my life.  I could have bush-whacked through brush on overgrown trails or areas where I needed to turn around but didn't have room.  I could have cleared the green brier thorny vines in areas where I needed to pass through on foot.

Hunting and Fishing

People who hunt and fish often use trails that become overgrown. In my opinion, this is a perfect tool to attach to a backpack and have along for clearing trails or sitting spots. I'm thinking of all the times I fought the thorny vines to get to my catfish spot at North Point. This machete would have been so helpful. 

Recreational Hiking Trails 

Whether trails are very remote or fairly well-used and maintained, the thorny vines often grow across very quickly. This machete is a good choice for people whose jobs it is to maintain these trails as well as people like me, back in the day, who preferred to strap on a back pack and walk the trails where others rarely walk. I am a short woman of only 5'4" so this machete hanging from my waist is not practical. But it would have been perfect tucked into the area of my Osprey pack between my back and the pack. 

Agricultural - Crop Harvesting and Brush Clearing

I cannot speak much to agricultural harvesting and machetes. I believe I have seen plenty of clips of pineapple harvesting with machetes but I may be mistaken.  I am sure that this machete would be an excellent choice for clearing fence rows of brush and plants.  I look forward to having an extra tool (non-chemical) to try to clear away some of my rampant poison ivy vines. 

I am quite sure that I am not covering most of the uses for a good machete in agriculture and forestry industries. 

Related Links:

Our Wednesday Elf previously reviewed the Fiskars Long-Handled Swivel Grass Shears. Those shears allowed her to remain in a standing position while trimming grass along sidewalks and around the mailbox post. They swivel to cut in a horizontal or vertical position. Great for folks with actual lawns and sidewalks!!  See her review here for more information.

And don't overlook that Review This has a Gardening section. You can find the tab at the top of the page or click here and start scrolling down to see the wonderful variety of reviews related to gardening. 

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, July 4, 2022

Reviewing Sugar Birds: A Novel by Cheryl Grey Bostrom

One way to describe Sugar Birds is to call it a coming of age story. Which it is. But it is also a look at parenting, families, relationships, survival, and faith. Each of these characters were unique. However, their common bond (for the most part) was having gone through some hard times then deciding how they would treat others. All of this while they are on a search and rescue mission to locate poor little Aggie. I was completely absorbed in this book from the beginning.

The story is told by Aggie and Celia in alternating chapters. 


Agate Esther (Aggie) is a just-turned 10 year old girl who lives with her parents and her brother. She is consumed with bird-watching. She is familiar with the forest around her and just cannot follow her mother's directions to stop climbing the trees to observe the birds. Aggie documents the birds in her notebook and is encouraged by her father to do so. However, she defies her mother's directions to stay out of the trees. After they have conflict about the issue again, Aggie decides to try to get back into mom's good favor by making kindling as a gift. Unfortunately, she inadvertently causes a house fire.

"Her chest clenched, wringing her insides hard, like a dishcloth. Dad. Mama. She killed them with those sticks. With her fire. She beat her legs with clenched first, bit her cheeks, tasted blood." - Sugar Birds

Believing she has killed her parents and will be arrested, she panics and flees to the forest to hide. She has plenty of survival skills but will she survive the predators? 


"We're on track for the cabin by eight tonight, Daddy" I flipped down the visor mirror and twisted the stud in my infected earlobe, my teeth set against its sting." - Sugar Birds

Celia is a 16 year old young lady, who thinks she's going to the family lake cabin in Washington state with her dad. Her mother, not the most warm and attentive on any day, has left them. Celia is trying to move on from that betrayal when her father discloses that he's not taking them to the cabin. He's taking her to her grandmother's home while he goes on a remote work assignment for several months. Celia is furious that her father is also leaving her and she immediately starts to formulate a plan to runaway. She believes that she'll find a way to return to Texas on her own and will stay with her friend Meredith. The very same friend that her dad doesn't approve of. 

I hope that I'm not making Celia sound like a run-of-the-mill ungrateful adolescent character. She is not. Celia is a high school math nerd, cross country runner, compassionate young lady who helps her grandmother rescue and rehabilitate birds. However, with Meredith's tutoring, she has just begun to catch the attention of boys.

"Dancing flames didn't cause those astonished stares when I walked through that crowd in Meredith's hand-tooled cowboy boots with Luke hanging on me. I swear Meredith sensed that I was about to ditch him and run to the ladies room to scrub my face and calm my hair down a little. She trotted up beside us, looped her arm in mine and whispered that I was a Harrison County version of Sandy in Grease." - Sugar Birds
After her father drops angry/hurt Celia off with her grandmother, she quickly catches the attention of Cabot. 


Marta Burke a.k.a Mender a.k.a Gram is an aclaimed biologist who has retired but who is active rehabilitating birds. She gardens. She prays. And she cares deeply for others. Mender has taught Celia the skills needed to handle and rehabilitate birds; raptors being Celia's favorite. Will Mender be able to keep Celia from being the prey?


Burnaby. Aggie's older brother and Loomis' employee. Burnaby has difficulty with interactions, eye contact, and affection. But his is a good employee, following rules and routines. He too loves the natural world and is very specifically drawn to bird and animal bones. 

I absolutely loved Burnaby's character. 

"Mama says I give speeches when I should be conversing. Misplaced monologues are selfish, she says. Talking should be reciprocal. Unselfish. Like tossing an apple back and forth so each hearer can catch it. She says I should listen without having a speech ready. Consider. Respond. Listen again."  - Sugar Birds

Harris & Bree

Harris is Aggie and Burnaby's father. He moved them to the area, after he left the Alaska Forest Service, in order to be close to family. He nurtured the children's love of the outdoors and knowledge base; such as foraging for edible plants and water that is safe to drink. Bree also loved the outdoors. And once-upon-a-time, she collected Agates from a cliff. And this is how they chose Aggie's name. Bree struggled with mental illness and Aggie resented the change.

Loomis & Nora

This couple is Aggie's Aunt and Uncle and Mender's neighbors. They own a dairy farm. They employ Burnaby and Cabot.


Twenty-year-old Cabot likes Celia. As have the others, twenty-year-old Cabot has been through some rough times and he has chosen to hang on to his anger and lash out at others. He is the villain, and his behaviors are a perfect example of a budding abusive relationship. 

I LOVED Sugar Birds: A Novel by Cheryl Grey Bostrom

I am rarely able to read a book in a matter of 2-3 days. Not only did I read this in 2 days, I stayed up last night after 2:00 am trying to get to the end. I wanted to learn who survived and whether or not some of them didn't. Granted, I'm on vacation so it was an easier decision to stay up many hours past my bedtime. But I'm not so sure I would have put the book down even if I had to work the next morning. Not only were the characters interesting, but the descriptions of the setting painted the picture perfectly.

I do not feel that I've been able to review this book as it deserves. I hope you will take a peek at it on Amazon for not only the long list of awards this book has received, but the reviews from the other readers. 

If you read Where the Crawdads Sing and loved it, you'll enjoy this story. 

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


Monday, June 20, 2022

Reviewing YouCut Video Editor for Android

I have been using YouCut Video Editor on my Android smartphone since late 2020. I hadn't thought about how much I enjoy YouCut until I had received a few comments lately about how much time I must spend editing. I really don't spend any time editing. Living in a remote area it make take hours for a brief video to upload but it often takes less than 5 minutes to create that video because YouCut is so easy to use. And best of all, YouCut is FREE.  

About YouCut

YouCut is a video editing program for Android phones. It can be found in your Play Store app. Once you've download it, the icon can be found on your phone screen. I do not believe that there is a version available for laptop operating systems. The last time I checked in a web search, you can pull up sites with titles such as "YouCut for your PC" but they are offering "alternative" video editing programs - not YouCut.

Why YouCut Has Been an Excellent Option for Me

There are many reasons YouCut has been a fantastic tool for me. I learned about YouCut from Ann's Tiny Life and Homestead youtube channel when she shared this tutorial. I didn't give it any more thought until I wanted to post photos in a slide show on YouTube. But Youtube had eliminated that option at that time. So I went back to Ann's tutorial, learned about YouCut, and successfully posted my first video; which included photos in a slide show.

These are a few of the many reasons I enjoy using YouCut:

Price - It's FREE!

Accessible via my Phone - which means the app, my photos, and my raw video clips are all in the same place. Which also means all of that is portable and with me at all times (except the days I forget my phone and head to work!). Prior to 2020, I took all my blogging photos with my beloved Sony camera. But using a camera meant moving the memory card from the camera to the laptop in order to edit and use those photos. With YouCut and my phone, I eliminate that step when sharing editing and sharing videos. (Unfortunately, my Sony currently needs repaired, so I don't have that option even if I wanted it.)

No Laptop or Desktop required - Taking the photos and videos, editing them, saving them, and uploading them is all done via my phone.  I do manage my Youtube channel from my laptop because it is easier to view than on my phone screen. But I don't have to have anything other than my phone for the videos.

Flexibility - I can use photos or videos in order to make a video. I upload to YouTube but after you save your video, you are given options to upload to a variety of platforms: YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, e-mail, WhatsApp, Signal, Twitter, and "other" (which takes me to the options and apps in my phone).  

Easy to Use - I am not going to make a tutorial to show how the program works. I'm not the best person for that job. However, I recommend that you watch Ann's tutorial or one of the many others that can be found. All of the editing tools that I use already seemed familiar. 

Free Effects - YouCut offers many effects and editing tools; many that I don't even use. But I do use adding text, adding transitions between photos or clips, and I have added their free music on occasion. All of those things have been extremely easy to figure out and to use. And the best part is that the "undo" button is available. If I make a mistake, I can immediately put things back the way they were. 

the app is very easy to navigate - beginning with the start screen

adding, moving, and editing text is easy

Why Take Time to Create Videos?

There are many, many reasons to create videos.  I began making videos in order to share my personal journey (preparing to move from an urban apartment to my land, documenting my house build progress, and to keep my friends and family up-to-date on the progress).  I have continued making videos for those reasons (now that I've moved) but also to encourage others to chase their dreams. One woman saw me on social media and said that I motivated her to make the leap. She now is living her dream in a beautiful house, on a gorgeous chunk of rural land. I have made a choice to try to share more about what I'm doing because it might encourage others to act on their dreams and plans. I am a firm believer of "if I can, you can."

Some reasons others may make videos are:

  • Keep in touch with family and friends
  • A way to journal or document your life
  • Teach others what you know - share your skills
  • Show your handmade or store items - things you are offering for sale
  • Make money - many people are monetized and make money with videos
  • Review items - if a photo is worth 1,000 words imagine what videos are worth
  • Inspire others 
  • Share experiences
  • People love to watch videos
I have found only one minor issue with using YouCut and my phone as my video-making and -editing device. Videos save to my phone before they upload to the platform (for me that is YouTube). This is great as you don't lose your videos. However, it quickly fills up storage space on your phone. Most people probably already know how to move their files from their phone to some other storage area but it took me a bit to learn how to do that. It is such a minor issue for people who are technologically savvy... but when my phone stopped working correctly because I couldn't figure out how to do it, I was frustrated. I have since learned how to prevent that problem by transferring the videos to other storage more frequently.

One final thought, posting yourself on social media does come with some risk. So be careful with personal information and be aware that there are some strange folks out there. Otherwise, there can be many benefits from making and sharing videos. And YouCut has been a very quick and easy way for me to do that. 

Related Link:

My YouTube channel is about my puttering around my land (now that I've moved from the apartment to my home). My dream was to get moved to my land, prepare for retirement, and putter around learning how to raise my own food. Do not feel obliged to look - my goal is not to be a "YouTuber". But if you are interested in an older lady who is figuring out how to raise things, build things, and who is looking forward to retirement someday... feel free to visit me at Dawn Rae B. If I am making progress toward my dreams, you can too. 

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

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