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

Monday, January 18, 2021

Reviewing the Mueller Premium 1500w Electric Kettle with Speedboil

 I recently purchased the Mueller Premium Electric Kettle because I needed a way to heat water for teas and lunches in my office. There are many brands and types of electric tea kettles. I suppose they all work well but I'm really happy with my Mueller.

My Mueller Electric Kettle - Perfect for Home and Office

With the world gone topsy-turvy, my usual routines have been disrupted for the past 10 months. I have been very fortunate to keep a job during quarantine. It has just shifted from remote work only, to going to the office some days, back to remote only, and back to some days at the office and throws off any chance for routine.

I have almost always packed my own lunch or ordered lunch from our cafeteria. But during these many months, the cafeteria has been closed. I have been extremely hesitant to order fast food during this time. And I've been lazy about walking up and down all of the stairs in order to use the microwave or I don't always remember to bring a lunch.

I finally decided to buy "something" to heat water at my desk so I could have oatmeal, add-water meals/soups, and teas without leaving my office. I half-heartedly looked at electric kettles for weeks before making a purchase.

WOW... such convenience!  I wish I hadn't waited for so long!


The Mueller Premium Electric Kettle with Speedboil

I ordered this "water heater" because it was pretty, it had good reviews, and I liked the glass and lights (again, it was pretty). I also liked that it was 1500w - which is more powerful than some electric kettles I looked at.

This Kettle sits on the corded base. So there is no cord to get into the way while filling the pot or pouring the hot water.

The spout has a filter screen. For just boiled water, I think the screen doesn't matter much. However, my office is in a historical building and we sometimes have flying insects enter the building (those ladybug look-alikes!!). I'm thankful for the screen to keep pests out of my water.

This kettle is easy to use! Push the button to open the secure top. Fill it with water (I have to use a cup to fill it or bring water because our building sink faucets are too low), return the pot to the base, and click the switch on. The light comes on and very small bubbles start to rise from the bottom of the kettle almost immediately.  There is a full and rapid boil in less than 5 minutes. After the boil begins, the switch kicks off automatically so there is no risk of boiling it dry.

I LOVE watching the bubbles and the blue lights. It boils so quickly. I did take a video with my phone even though I am a fairly inept videographer. Unfortunately, my phone mic is very sensitive and the sound was obnoxiously loud.  You can hear the boiling but it is not loud enough to interrupt phone calls or Zoom meetings. And personally, I like the bubbling sound.

This little item has been more convenient than I had expected. I no longer have to walk down the stairs to find a microwave and then decide if I'm going to eat in the public breakroom or carry my hot food back up the stairs. I no longer have to wait for longer breaks between appointments in order to make hot water... I can start this little electric kettle between appointments.

The kettle is much larger than I had expected. I fill it once and use it over several days to a week (depending on how many days I'm working from the office and how many cups of tea I make).

It looks like this Mueller Kettle is available online through many stores: Home Depot, Office Depot, Staples, Walmart, Target, Macy's, and so on. I ordered mine from the Mueller store on Amazon.


My only complaint is the cord. While it is a 3-prong and heavy-duty cord, it is short. Plenty long for a kitchen countertop but not long enough to sit on top of my desk and reach the power strip on the floor. If your desk top area is far away from an outlet, as mine is, be prepared with a surge power strip that accepts 3-prong plugs. 

Related Link:

Mueller is a European company, with a California address, that appears to focus on Kitchen gadgets. This kettle is the first time I remember hearing of Mueller. While the company advertises as "Austria", my kettle was made in China. Which is not something I'm thrilled about. But this electric kettle seems to be made very well. The cord, glass, and synthetic handle material all have a very sturdy feel. The handle is large and isn't difficult for my hands (sometimes I have trouble with grip and/or lifting). This is the official Mueller website if you'd like to see what else they offer.




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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Monday, January 4, 2021

Reviewing Grypmat: the Ultimate Tool Mat

 When I give gifts, I try to give something that connects with that person's passion. Or something that is very practical. It is a happy moment when I give a gift that hits both marks. I gave the Grypmat to my best friend and he immediately let me know how wonderful this product is.



What is a Grypmat?

A Grypmat is a trademarked, silicone tool organizer that sticks to surfaces and so much more.

Grypmats:

  • come in a variety of sizes
  • are made of silicone polymer and "special ingredients" to make it "extra grypy".
  • are anti-static and clings through a combination of suction and friction
  • protect surfaces from marring and scratching
  • prevent the loss of tools, bolts, and other small items
  • are not magnetic (does not pick up bits of metal fragments that scratch)
  • are rated for very hot and very cold temperatures (climate, engine, workspace, etc)
  • are washable; oils and chemicals (used in mechanic work) wash off easily and do not harm that mats
  • can be used in a variety of activities; mechanical work, jewelry-making, gunsmithing, and almost any activity that requires keeping track of items. 
I chose this size of Grypmat because it was in my gift-giving price range. The bright orange color is a bonus and will help him find the mat if (when) he misplaces it. Also, it is the size that fits on a ladder step. I cannot count the number of times I've watched my friend at the top of a ladder trying to hold on to multiple items while working. 

Comments, Photos, and a Brief Review from My Friend

I knew I'd review the medium Grypmat as soon as my friend started text-bombing me with photos and comments about the gift I gave to him. As a side note, my friend works in building maintenance and car repair. I know that he HATES when people are careless and scratch things by laying their tools on surfaces. I've been with him when the socket drops out of his hand, falls through the engine, and a hide-n-seek game ensues. As soon as I saw these Grypmats, I knew that he would put it to good use. But I had no clue how much he'd love it. In fact, I had apologized that this gift was probably a really boring/practical/work-related gift.

The following is a selection of photos and comments from my friend (used with permission):




"I'd say I've had numerous times I'd like to have it on the window....

a place to sit stuff"

"Even the mirror job... I had tools on the wiper cowl and if you miss one... crunch... hoodcrumple"



"Now watch this.. bridge over an area !!!!!!!"

"And it's an electrical insulator... won't arc battery..."




Of course, there are Grypmat knock-offs available. I decided to purchase the original Grypmat out of the expectation (an expectation that was met) that the materials would be high quality and the product would perform as advertised. I'd imagine that the knock-offs would provide a non-marring tool mat but I imagine that the "gripping" ability would be absent. For example, my silicone soap molds are heat-resistant in an oven and would prevent tools from making scratches in surfaces if used as a mat. But the grip factor is missing as is the industrial level quality. I am also not confident that my silicone items would stand up to the chemicals used in auto repairs and similar activities. 

Who Invented Grypmat?

"Grypmat is a Veteran-founded company founded by former Air Force F-16 Mechanic, Tom Burden" from the Grypmat official website.

Another reason I chose Grypmat was related to who the inventor is. While I am not someone who does a great deal of shopping, I do try to support Veteran-owned businesses when I spend money. I also support entrepreneurs and small business as often as I am able. Finally, who better to design a tool mat than an F-16 mechanic? 

I felt that my decision was validated when I realized that Tom Burden had also appeared on The Shark Tank. If The Sharks have faith in this product, I thought it would be a good choice as a gift for my friend.

And clearly, it was an excellent and much appreciated choice. 

Related Links:

If you are interested in a Grypmat, or want more information, you can check the official website. You can also find Grypmats on Amazon via the Grypshon store or using the link below. 


Photo credit: truck and Grypmat photos courtesy of Dawn Rae's BFF.




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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Monday, December 21, 2020

Book Review: Nickel's Luck by S.L. Matthews

Nickel's Luck is the debut novel by S.L. Matthews. I overlooked this book because westerns are not my preferred genre. However, I did eventually download it to my Kindle and devoured the story of Ryder Wheeler, a sailor named Old Joly, a cowboy named Bannack, and the beautiful gulf coast town of Indianola, Texas set in the late 1800s. This is a western slash historical fiction slash coming of age slash story that I hope to someday see as a television mini-series. I enjoyed getting lost in this story.

Book Review: Nickel's Luck by S.L. Matthews on ReviewThisReviews

Ten year old Ryder is an adventurous, charming child who cannot turn down any dare. He has rejected his family name and calls himself Ryder because he claims to be able to ride anything, and has proven this to be true until the day he could not ride the dolphins because the waves drug him out to sea before he could catch up to them. His best friend, Les, calls him "Nickel" because Ryder is lucky; unnervingly lucky at times. Nickel becomes the town's golden child and everyone adores him.

Everyone except his father and an older brother. Oren Wheeler is a drinking, smoking, angry man who produces many children that he isn't very concerned about providing for. He is a fisherman, like many residents of Indianola, but his family often goes hungry. Alastor, an older brother, seems to be following in Oren's footsteps. Ryder literally sleeps with his eyes open due to Alastor's malintent.

Part way into the book, and with tears streaming, I paused to do an internet search to see if Indianola, Texas was an entirely fictional place. Surely, this had to be a figment of the author's creative imagination. I was stunned to find that the town had indeed existed. Indianola was a gulf coast town in the 1800s. A bustling port where business was booming and life revolved around the sea and fishing. People like Old Joly, a sailor, lived life on and next to the water. That way of life is described; the myths, sea monsters, tattoos, fishing, and floods. I felt I was there with my toes in the sand and listening to the waves on the shore. 

Bannack is the type of cowboy I tend to imagine when I think about westerns. The lone, dark stranger and his horse. Complete with hat and jingling spurs, fists and gun. Bannack knows nothing of the sea life or those who live it. Les and Ryder loved dime store novels. Loved is probably not the correct word. They obsessed over dime store novel heros. And Mustang Grey, pony express rider, was their favorite. Les had re-read these books to Ryder repeatedly. They had all of the details of Mustang Grey's life or death ride memorized. Les and Ryder are quickly suspicious that Bannack is Mustang Grey. I am not adept at writing reviews and I am concerned that any more I say about Bannack will create spoilers. So I will stop here. 

Despite his luck, Ryder is in danger many times from age 10 into his adolescent years. Old Joly saves his life immediately and Bannack sets out to save him long term. The residents of Indianola are superstitious and love their lucky golden child. Girls line up, vying for his attention. Ryder's nickname sticks as the residents believe that if you give him a nickel, you can buy some of his luck. Through the book, and through the years of Ryder's life (experiencing abuse, love, trauma, and loss) I began to wonder if he had sold all of his luck.

Nickel's Luck is a wonderful peek into two very different worlds (sailor and cowboy, seaport and ranch). The superstitions and myths believed of those who live on the water was intriguing. The rootin', tootin' and shootin' of the wild, old west was intense. 

I thought I had guessed how the story would end. But I was wrong. While I raced to the ending (quite frankly, to see if anyone would survive) I was sad when I reached the last page. This was a gritty, sometimes violent and heart-breaking novel that kept me turning pages late into the night. 


Related Link:

S.L Matthews is a multi-talented and interesting soul. She is a photographer and living history reenactor. Over the years I have enjoyed her photographs on social media. I completely relate to her statement that her favorite smells are "horse sweat, saddle leather, and campfire smoke. These are prioritized even over the aroma of chocolate." To learn more about her, visit her author page here. 

Author S.L. Matthews

For the purpose of transparency: I had met the author and family once when they lived in my area. Via social media and mutual internet friends, I was aware that the author was in the process of writing and publishing a book. Westerns are not my go-to reading genre (although, I do enjoy Westerns in the movie form) so I had no intention of reading this novel. But between the down time created by the current socially-distant environment and comments by mutual friends who enjoyed reading Nickel's Luck, I decided to give it a try. I feel this is an honest review and I did not receive a copy for review. Over time, I have seen how much the author enjoys all things related to the 18th and 19th centuries; especially the Old West and that love and familiarity clearly shines through in her writing.

*Images used with the permission of the author. 





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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Monday, December 7, 2020

Reviewing Gift Ideas for People Who Crochet

People who learn to crochet often get hooked (pun intended) and always desire more yarn,
more supplies, and more time to crochet. We joke about our excessive hoards of yarn but would go shopping for more in the blink of an eye. My dream is to someday go on a Crochet cruise vacation (yes, those existed prior to social distancing limits) and if anyone would like to gift me a crochet cruise I'd happily accept. However, there are many great ideas for crochet gifts with smaller price tags. 



Crochet Gifts

There are so many gifts that can be given to someone who crochets. From Tshirts and mugs with messages that make yarn lovers smile to items that make the process of crocheting easier there is something for every crocheter. I've compiled a few samples in this review. 

Crochet sets. There are sets that include a little bit of everything. This set by BeCraftee is a good example: case, stitch markers, yarn needles, a set of hooks, and more. This is a great option and would be an appreciated gift. 

Crochet Set by BeCraftee

Yarn Bowls. What are yarn bowls?  They are wonderful "bowls" (usually made of wood or ceramic) that hold the balls of yarn that is currently being used. Why is this important? Because nothing is more irritating than knots in your yarn while you are crocheting or the balls of yarn rolling off the table or your lap while you are working. A yarn bowl holds the ball of yarn in one place while allowing it to spin freely while crocheting. A very functional item that is also a pretty gift.

Yarn Bowl by Athena's Elements


Round Knitting Looms.  Round looms aren't quite knitting or crocheting. With a bit of yarn, a hook, and a round loop almost anyone can make cute hats! I love my round knitting looms and use them when I want to add a bit of variety to my crafts or take a break from a large crochet item. I love my round looms so much that I wrote a separate review and you can see that here.

Round Loom Knitting Set

T-Shirts. This is a T-shirt that people who crochet will understand. There are others to chose from, with a variety of yarn and crochet messages. Some messages are funny, some a bit naughty, but this one fits me (and many people who crochet) perfectly!

T-shirts for Crocheters


Coffee Mugs. There are some really funny, and some really bawdy, coffee mugs with messages that suit crocheters perfectly - including a coffee mug that matches the T-shirt listed above. The message on this mug made me laugh and sums up 2020 perfectly.

Crochet Coffee Mug

Crochet Books

There are many books about crochet; stitch and pattern books galore! One of the best crochet books ever isn't about the stitches or patterns, it is about a young crochet phenom named Jonah Larson. You may have seen him on social media or talk shows with celebrities. I had. Even so, I didn't fully know his story. This book about this young man is a wonderful story and would make a wonderful gift. You can read my full review here

Hello Crochet Friends by Jonah Larson


This list is a small sample of the many pattern and crochet stitches books:

A to Z of Crochet: The Ultimate Guide for the Beginner to the Advanced Crocheter

Dog Sweater Crochet: Step by Step Guide to Get Crochet Sweater for Your Dogs

Big Book of Christmas Crochet 

Cats in Hats: 30 Knit and Crochet Hat Patterns for Your Kitty


Gift Cards !!!!

Does my list of options make your head spin? Are there too many options? If so, you can never go wrong with gift cards. Amazon offers many crochet and crafting items. Joann Fabrics and Michaels are two of my favorite crafting stores. All of these cards are available through Amazon - which is an convenient way to give long-distance gifts. I especially like (giving and receiving the Amazon gift cards in the holiday tins. Others prefer the digital/emailed gift cards.

Gift Cards

Crochet Stocking Stuffers

Like many people who crochet, I feel that I could always use more hooks, stitch markers, measuring tapes, round counters, and other small items. These items make excellent stocking stuffers.

Dedicated Scissors or Yarn Cutter. There is nothing more annoying than crocheting and having to get up to look for scissors. I eventually bought a pair of dedicated scissors that are supposed to be used for crochet only. However, they still sometimes wander off. Also, I have found that pointed scissors in my project bag sometimes snag the yarn. So, my crochet scissors are currently blunted tipped scissors (like child's school scissors). I would very much like some of the ornamental "embroidery" scissors or this yarn cutter pendant by clover! Such a great idea. And ends the frustration of not being able to cut yarn when I need to.

Yarn Cutter by Clover


Locking Stitch Markers. Stitch markers are such a little thing but such a huge help. They are small, plastic pieces that work very much like a safety pin. But because they are plastic they do not snag your yarn. I never knew how much I needed stitch markers until I bough some. Now I can't do without them. I like them so much that I wrote a review that you can read here

Locking Stitch Markers


Counters. Another little gadget that helps keep track of rows or rounds, that I'm not sure how I managed without for all of those decades of crochet, is a counter. No more misplaced slips of paper trying to track what row or round I'm on in the pattern. Such a helpful tool to have.

Click Counter

 

Vacations for People Who Love Yarn

Cruises: Prior to 2020 and related pandemic restrictions, I was trying to determine how I could go on a crochet cruise. Mikey from the Crochet Crowd provides some of my favorite online video crochet tutorials. I was THRILLED when they began offering crochet cruises. Currently, of course, cruises are not being offered. But I am including this link for future reference. 

Fiber Festivals: An internet search for "Fiber Festivals" provides a list of festivals where yarns and crafting supplies are the focus. During normal times (when travel and gatherings are not restricted), you could plan a day trip to a local festival or a full vacation that includes a festival in the area you are visiting. 

Farm/Ranch/Fiber Mill Tours: Many people who love yarn crafts also want to know more about the fiber animals, spinning, dyeing: all of the steps in the process of creating natural yarns. Again, an internet search can locate Farms, Ranches, and Mills that are open for tours and sales of the fiber. In just a few moments, I located Mountain Meadow Mill (sheep/wool in Wyoming) and Mountain Hollow Farm Store and Studio (cashmere goats/yarn, classes, and more in Tennessee)





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Monday, November 30, 2020

Reviewing Fragrance Oils from Bramble Berry

 I have recently begun making my own soaps. While making soaps, I've started to purchase fragrance oils and I am already learning which fragrances I prefer. Which fragrance oils I can depend on. Bramble Berry is quickly becoming my favorite fragrance oil supplier.

Reviewing Bramble Berry fragrance oils 


Bramble Berry Fragrance Oils

I discovered Bramble Berry while looking for video tutorials related to soap-making.  They have a channel with many tutorials. I learned that they also offer supplies: molds, fragrances, oils, and more. Initially, I continued ordering supplies from Amazon - based on fragrance rather than brand or supplier.

One shipment from Amazon (from one of "these sellers") arrived and despite seemingly being packaged adequately (including bubble wrap) the oils had leaked making both a mess and triggered a migraine from the over-powering scent.

Other fragrances I've ordered work great in Melt & Pour soap recipes, but end up loosing strength in the cold process soaps I'm learning to make.

So far, the fragrance oils from Bramble Berry have been wrapped so that they don't break or leak during shipping. The lids are taped (or shrink wrapped?) to ensure they do not leak. These fragrances are rich-smelling and as described. The Bramble Berry scents remain through the saponification process (when the lye and oils turn to soap while some of the other scents I've used have weakened to the point of creating a nearly unscented soap.

The Bramble Berry fragrance is immediately one of my favorite oils. I have a cold process wine soap loaf curing now. The apartment smells divine. The Bramble Berry site describes this fragrance as:

"It is a sweet scent of bergamot, blackberry, raspberry, peony, honeysuckle, and violet leaf. Notes of white woods, golden amber, and musk add complexity and depth"

Even if you aren't interested in making soaps, people use fragrance oils for a variety of things: lotions, home and office oil diffusers, cleaning supplies, vaporizers, candles, and more.  

Pros:

  • wonderful, rich scents that smell as described
  • scents that remain through the saponification process; creating wonderful scented soaps
  • a variety of fragrances to choose from
  • packaged to prevent breaks or leaks
Cons:
  • compared to Amazon prime's very quick delivery, receiving an order from Bramble Berry takes longer (but delivery is within the time frame given).
  • some of the packing (padding) materials are large in size and while they are printed with recycle symbols, it seems like a lot. (Then again - I'd complain if the bottles leaked during transit wouldn't I?)
If you are interested in learning more about Bramble Berry, visit their website.

Related Link: Bulk Apothecary (Nature's Oils) on Amazon

When I MUST have a fragrance a few days sooner than Bramble Berry can pack and deliver, I do order with confidence from Amazon. But only when I order from the Bulk Apothecary Amazon store. They offer a "Nature's Oils" line of fragrance oils. 

My favorite scents from Nature's Oils are the Cinnamon, Orange, Clove and the Roasted Oatmeal Stout.





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Monday, November 16, 2020

Travel: The Choptank River Lighthouse

I have visited Dorchester County, Maryland many times over the years. I've visited Blackwater National Wildlife refuge, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical park, and a pavilion area on Fishing Bay during a tropical storm. But I had never seen The Choptank River Lighthouse in Cambridge - until recently.


It was a drab and rainy day. We were driving around, exploring. We had visited Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge again but with the pouring rain, it was difficult to get photos of the birds. There were plenty of birds to see... being water birds, they didn't seem to mind the rain.  We also drove around the small town of Cambridge, Maryland. 

We ended up in Long Wharf Park. With the heavy rain, the birds outnumbered humans. And we had a perfect view of The Choptank River Lighthouse from the comfort of the Jeep.




The Choptank River Lighthouse, Cambridge, MD

This lighthouse is a replica of historic, river lighthouses of Maryland. Specifically, a replica of one of the Choptank River Lighthouses that were at Choptank River Station. Yes, "lighthouses" plural at that original site. The first lighthouse at Choptank River Station was built in 1871. After that structure was destroyed by an ice floe, a different lighthouse was moved to the site in 1921. Then in 1964, that lighthouse was removed and replaced with a modernized flashing light.

With visiting the current Choptank River Lighthouse, I learned that it is a screwpile style lighthouse. I have seen many photos of this style of Maryland river lighthouse but never thought about the architecture.

This structure also houses a small lighthouse museum. It is normally (pre-pandemic) open to the public, no charge but donations are welcome. The space (also during normal times) can be rented for events. 

I definitely plan to visit again on a sunny day so I can sit and watch the boats sailing in and out of the marina.


Dorchester County, Maryland is a wonderful place to visit. It is a rural area teeming with wildlife, migratory birds, and recreational activities related to water. Every single time I visit I wonder about Harriet Tubman's life and marvel at her bravery walking though these marshes and forests. 

Related Links:

Our Mary Beth is the Review This lighthouse contributor and photographer. If you love lighthouses, be sure to look for her lighthouse reviews and her photography store. I enjoy touring this wonderful lighthouse parks through her stories and photos.

If you are unable to travel to Maryland's eastern shore in person, and enjoy reading historical fiction I recommend Chesapeake by James Michener. You can see my book review here. The area and it's rich history makes my visits even more meaningful.

For more information about the history of the original Choptank River Lighthouse, it's replacement, and this replica in Cambridge, refer to Choose Cambridge: About the Lighthouse.

For more information about types of lighthouses, including the screwpile style and Alexander Mitchell refer to Chesapeake Chapter United States Lighthouse Society: Types of Lights.






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Monday, November 2, 2020

Reviewing Beginning Soap Making Molds

My soap-making adventures began recently. Two weeks ago I wrote a Beginning Soap Making Supplies review recommending melt and pour soap bases for people like me who have wanted to make soaps but are intimidated by the hot and cold processes that use lye. It is true that soaps made with those processes can more easily be textured or their colors swirled. That made me feel as though I would be missing out on making pretty soaps. I was wrong. I cannot do color swirls as easily with melt and pour soaps but I can make beautiful soaps using these silicone molds.


If I am making soaps for myself, the simple rectangular molds (as pictured in my previous post) are perfect. But when thinking about making soaps for gifts or for sale, I quickly wanted more interesting molds. 
I made the decision to purchase more silicone molds since the rectangular bar soap silicone mold made such nice soaps. 

The reasons I purchased these most recent molds:

  • Silicone molds produce smooth soaps 
  • silicone molds come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs
  • the withstand the heat of the hot soap bases
  • they do not crack or break
  • soaps are easy to pop the finished bar out of the flexible mold
  • I have not yet learned how to measure the soap mix to fit into a "loaf" pan - I do not feel as concerned about having the right amount of "batter" for these single-bar molds
  • the silicone is super easy to clean. I pick off any larger bits of soap remaining on the tops of the mold (the "overflow" or drops of soap I left behind) then I run the mold under hot water. Voila, the mold is clean and ready for the next use.

My first choice of fancy molds were the flower molds. And I couldn't be more pleased. With these soaps I shave a bit of a solid color bar (using Shea or Goat Milk base) I made (using the plain single bar molds). Then pour over those shavings with a clear soap base. 

I think the flower molds are gorgeous! And I've only used the flower that looks like a Dahlia thus far. This mold includes three different flower styles. To me they appear to be a sunflower, a daffodil, and a dahlia. 



I also purchased the ocean waves silicone mold. It produces a larger bar of soap with a "wave" or engraved style top. In this example, I used one of the clear bases and stirred in fragrance, bits of tea leaves, and a mica powder that creates sparkle. 



I do not feel experienced enough to give the instructions for using Melt and Pour soap bases. There are many tutorials online (written and video). I strongly recommend watching a variety of tutorials before diving in. 

Many people enjoy receiving or buying handmade items. Crafts such as soap-making is a great way to spend quality time with kids (note: the melted oils are HOT, please supervise children closely). Whether you have considered making soaps for yourself or for others, these molds add something special to your project. 

Related Links - Make your own with these craft supplies:

My Beginning Soap Making Supplies review. I was happily surprised at how few supplies it takes to make Melt and Pour soaps. However, once you begin, if you are like me, you will soon want many different molds, fragrances, and bases. 

The holidays are approaching. These Easy Christmas Ornaments from beads have been a favorite and a requested activity over the years. Kids (and adults) love using tri-beads and pipe cleaners to make these beautiful ornaments. 

Margaret wrote a wonderful step-by-step tutorial showing us how to make beaded, dangling earrings. Her earrings are a beautiful Romantic, Beaded Heart pair but you can use a variety of bead colors and shapes.                                             

Our own Ms. Sylvestermouse also loves crafts and making things. Her Ebay store, House of Sylvestermouse, is a great place to find "a variety of crafts, craft kits, patterns, books, and supplies...".  I especially like the beaded craft kits and the cross-stitch kits. Oh, if only there were more hours in each day... 

Related Links - Some Handmade Items for sale: 

If you want to give handmade items as gifts but do not have the time or inclination to make them, there are plenty of options from our contributors and friends.

Ms. Elf creates crochet (including amigurumi animals) and needlework gifts and offers them for sale at CoastalCrochetCrafts.  Ms Elf's daughter-in-law also has an Etsy shop names Cute PurseNalities that offers "handmade purses, lanyards, coin purses, and table runners".  The seasonal prints are adorable and I especially like the season print purses/tote bags. 





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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Monday, October 19, 2020

Reviewing Beginning Soap Making Supplies

 I have always wanted to learn soap-making but have been intimidated by the recipes and working with lye. This year I tried an even more basic soap-making process with Melt & Pour soap base. I completed two batches using this easy method. It was an excellent start and required only a short list of supplies.



I ordered the Honey Melt & Pour Soap Base, a silicone soap mold, and a mixing cup with a pour spout. I already had essential oil, inexpensive mixing spoons, a spray bottle with rubbing alcohol, a cutting board and a knife.  The only other thing needed is a heat source. Most people use their microwaves for this process and some use a double boiler pan on the stove. 

The shortened version of melt & pour soap-making is:

  • purchase a melt & pour soap base
  • cut that base into small chunks and melt in the microwave using very short bursts of time
  • once melted, add in a very small amount of essential oil 
  • stir very gently (in order to avoid making bubbles)
  • pour into a soap mold
  • spritz the top of the soaps with alcohol (this removes the bubbles and is not a required step)
  • allow soaps to dry before removing from the molds

The Melt & Pour soap bases come in a variety of ingredients. I chose the honey base first. And so far it has been my favorite. I have since used a Shea Melt & Pour base. 

I used this silicone soap bar mold and I like it a lot. It came in a pack of 3. 


With the silicone soap mold, the bars popped out easily (pushing them from the back side) once they dried. Also, with 3 molds, I didn't feel pressured to make then pour the exact amounts needed for the mold. I just poured bars of soap until my mixture ran out. I made small batches so that was only about 6 bars of soap. 

Using Melt & Pour soap base is a great way to get over your fear of beginning soap-making. After I made 2 batches of soap using this process, I did move on to making a batch of soap using lye.

Soap making with lye can be done using either a hot process or a cold process. I used the cold process as it seemed the next natural step after using melt & pour. Someday I'll advance to the hot process of soap-making using lye.

In addition to using Melt & Pour as a beginning step in learning soap-making as a hobby, I highly recommend this as an activity to do with the children. Note: the melted soap base is very hot so children should be fully supervised and assisted. But like cooking and baking, making soap would be a great quality time activity with the kids. 

I do not feel qualified to instruct you in making Melt & Pour soap. There are many video tutorials if you search using the terms "melt and pour". I do highly recommend the honey base I've shown and the silicone molds I purchased. The initial cost for these items is not too high. And when finished, you'll have your own soap to use. 

With a little creativity, you can personalize your soaps. I used my favorite spiced orange essential oil in one batch. In another batch, I added some pulverized tea leaves and aloe vera from my plant. That batch ended up as an ugly bar of soap in appearance but I LOVE what it does for my skin. Melt & Pour is limited in that you cannot add large amounts of additional ingredients or you will change the ratio that is what makes it soap. However, just a few drops of essential oils goes a very long way. 

If you have been wanting to try soap-making, but haven't yet, consider giving Melt & Pour a try.

My first batch of soap: Honey Melt & Pour base.






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Monday, October 5, 2020

Review Updates: Anker PowerPort and Anker PowerCore

During a recent camping trip I once again depended on my Anker solar charger and battery charger. I realized how long I had been using those items. It was then that I decided to begin writing updates for a few of my favorite reviews.

One of the very best things about being a part of the Review This! team is knowing that we write about the things we truly use, enjoy, and honestly recommend. The recipes are the foods we cook and enjoy. The product reviews are the things we use. Our site is not clickbait; clogged up with ads. And we very rarely write reviews because someone has approached us, asking for a review of their products. It is an honor to be a part of this group. 

Anker PowerPort Solar Charger and Anker PowerCore Battery:

I go camping regularly; off-grid in West Virginia.  Even though I go with the plan to be unplugged and get away from it all, I still want to have a fully charged cell phone at all times. I have 2 items from Anker that have been super reliable and keep me feeling secure at all times.

The Anker PowerPort Solar Charger was my first Anker purchase.  I reviewed this charger in September 2017.  I still use this solar charger during every, single camping trip and I have had zero problems with it. On 2 occasions, it shut down briefly and I thought perhaps I had broken it. But those were 2 extremely hot days and very bright sunshine. In hindsight, I wonder if it (or my phone) got overheated and shut down temporarily. That has not happened outside of those two occasions. 

This charger is lightweight but folds up in a way that is easily to carry in a backpack. I HIGHLY recommend this item for camping, hiking, and other off-grid situations.

Because there were times that I was camping during several days of rain, or in the winter when daylight hours are shorter, I added the Anker PowerCore battery to my camping supplies in 2018. I also keep it fully charged during hurricane season. 

This item is basically a rechargeable battery. I charge it fully using the outlet or my laptop (using the USB cord) and then keep it in my camping supplies. It provides enough power to charge my cellphone for multiple days. I have only had one issue with the PowerCore Battery and that was due to operator error. In short, Willy (my dog) got the zoomies in The Shack and ripped the battery off of a shelf when he ran under the cord. It was quite impressive how far the battery flew... and the cord now has to be finessed into the opening in order to make full contact. Frankly, I'm quite impressed that the battery didn't break during that incident.

The PowerCore battery chargers are offered in different sizes (or would that be capacities?).  I purchased the largest that I could afford at that time. But I plan on purchasing one that has a larger "mAh" capacity as soon as I am able. That way I am prepared with more charges in the event of a longer term camping or weather situation.
Between the solar charger and the battery, I am prepared for any weather and several days of being off-grid - whether intentional or due to emergency circumstances. 

In Summary:

Yes, that was a lot of rambling to say that I purchased these items in 2017 and 2018. I use them regularly. The dogs and I are clumsy and a little rough on things. And these two items have withstood our abuse. These two purchases were well worth the money spent. And years later, I still highly recommend them! 
 
The Links for the original reviews:

Reviewing the Anker Portable Solar Power Charger (on my personal blog: Treasures, Travel, Tales).

Reviewing the Anker PowerCore Portable Charger.





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Monday, September 21, 2020

Reviewing Baker Creek Seeds: Strawberry Watermelon

 I am excited to have been able to order a packet of Watermelon seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I am very excited about this coming gardening season. This Watermelon variety is the "Strawberry". It is the most delicious watermelon I've ever tasted. 


For the sake of transparency, I have to share that I am not currently gardening. I am in a metro-area apartment. I have grown some fantastic tomatoes on my southwest facing balcony. But I barely remember my last real garden. I own some land in a rural area. While I don't have a garden there yet, I did experiment this summer and was surprised to grow some monster zucchini squash and some very healthy looking cabbage. That experiment made me even more anxious to plant more edible plants this spring.

However, with the current craziness of 2020, including difficulty with the supply chain, I thought I'd buy my garden seeds now. In order to ensure I have seeds when it is time to start them.  This watermelon is one of the plants I am most excited to try to grow.

Watermelon - Strawberry 

I had been hearing, from serious gardeners, that they were extremely pleased about their Strawberry Watermelons. They were happy about the plants, the size of the melons, and the wonderful taste. At that same time, I had the opportunity to taste some of this melon. It was delicious! So flavorful. I love watermelon and eat some about 5 days a week during season. Some from the grocery and some from local farms. But none were as flavorful as the Strawberry Watermelons.  There is a bit of a berry flavor - slightly different than a typical watermelon. But it is not overpowering. And the traditional melon flavor is present.

More about this variety:

  • Name: Citrullus lanatus
  • 85 days
  • sugary sweet pink flesh
  • ripens to within a 1/2 inch of the rind
  • oblong melon, 15-25 lbs.


About Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds


Baker Creek specializes in heirloom seeds.  It is highly recommended by avid gardeners, especially those who like to save their own seeds for future gardens. You can find Baker Creek seeds at their website: rareseeds.com

They carry familiar plants and varieties as well as plants and varieties you have likely never heard of. I have placed two orders and have received both orders without problems and in a timely fashion. 

The headquarters is a place that during normal times (as opposed to during times of quarantines and social distancing) can be visited. Watch for announcements for the re-opening of their village, store, and restaurant near Mansfield, MO. 

In the meantime, you can browse their selections online or request a printed catalog. 

In addition to their vegetable seeds, they offer some gorgeous flowers. I always try to plant some flowers for the pollinators. This year I can't wait to plant these gorgeous Zinnia's along with several varieties of sunflowers.

I have never seen these types of Zinnias, have you? I love "regular" zinnias. I can only imagine how amazing these will be in my "garden". 






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Monday, September 7, 2020

Movie Review: Painted Horses

Watching Painted Horses was just what I needed the other night. A sweet, soothing movie to end the tough day.



Ms. Hoog is a high school teacher in transition. She has left her home and her job to live with her Aunt in a very small town. She is a young, suddenly single mother who is focused on securing insurance and income so that her young son can have the surgery he needs. Ms. Hoog is a young teacher who is nearly driven to quit on her first day. Despite warnings during her interview for the position, she accepts the job.

"These particular kids have a knack for chewing teachers up and spitting them out."

Her classroom is a small group of mis-matched high school kids who do not work well together. Sorry, that was a gross understatement. They fight each other and demean each other. When they do join forces it is to join against the new teacher. The group of students includes the usual subsets of groups: the goody-two-shoes, the angry guy with the knife, the boy scout, the nerds, the rich girl, and the creepy silent kid. Immediately, some of the kids plan to have Ms. Hoog fired.

The thing is... Ms Hoog LOVES history and she has been hired to teach it. And she will do nearly anything so she can schedule her son's surgery. The question is whether or not she's be able to spark the students' imaginations and become their teacher rather than their target. Perhaps her stories of Tennessee's buried and lost treasures can engage these students. 

In addition to the students giving the new teacher a hard time, some of the town leaders are suspicious of the new resident. 

Painted Horses is Breakfast Club meets Freedom Writers and reminded me of Disney on Sunday nights. Wow!  I am giving away my age for sure! I wonder how many people will know what I am referring to. 


This movie is without nudity, profanity, blood and gore. A knife is brandished on a couple of occasions but there is no graphic fight scene. The theme is about teaching, learning, and being in control of the trajectory of your life. I chose the movie because I thought it was focused on horses however horses only made a brief appearance. But I'm still glad I chose to watch. A few negative reviews of the movie cite poor acting and small errors. I agree that this is clearly not a movie with a huge budget or the top handful of celebrities. Honestly, I found it refreshing to watch new (new-to-me) faces.

I have to mention that Aunt Nora was played by Deana Carter. At times, I laughed out loud. Aunt Nora is a perfect example of a bossy, nosy, and supportive aunt. 




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Monday, August 31, 2020

Reviewing the Casdon TOY Dyson Ball Vacuum

Last weekend I traveled to visit my son and family and attend my granddaughter's birthday party. It had been over a year and a half since I had seen them so this was a special occasion on so many levels. But what to get a girl for her 4th birthday.  You get her what she wants. Thank goodness she wasn't asking for a pony.  She wanted a vacuum. I chose the Casdon Toy Dyson Ball Vacuum and she loved it.



Casdon Toy Dyson Ball Vacuum

As soon as my son told me that my granddaughter has been asking him for a vacuum cleaner, I began shopping for a suitable toy vacuum. 

Of course these toys range from lightweight and inexpensive toys, to better-built but "comic" vacuums (The Fisher Price version for example) to more expensive, battery-operated toys.  I was looking for a realistic but miniature style.

And I found the toy Dyson Ball vacuum.  It is offered by several different sellers on Amazon and I chose the CASDON version.  I am so glad I did. It arrived quickly (a day sooner than promised) and was better than I expected. Based on a couple of reviews, I am wondering if some of the sellers are selling knock-offs. 

These are the features I noticed about this toy:

  • this toy Dyson Ball Vacuum is well-made and sturdy.
  • uses 4 C batteries to make a suction sound and spinning motion (with an on/off switch)
  • there is a bit of suction and a 'dust bin" to empty
  • It is a nice size - just right for my 4 year old granddaughter (she's a small 4)
  • maneuvers like an adult-sized ball vacuum
  • comes in a variety of colors
I chose this in pink because granddaughter wears some favorite pink dresses.

Children love to be "little helpers".  This is one reason toys such as vacuums (tiny kitchens, brooms, tools, etc) are so popular. Toys such as this also help with motor skills and coordination. Also, as on reviewer on Amazon explained, some children with autism or anxiety disorders, who are fearful of the adult-sized vacuums, may be able to use and enjoy this tiny, quieter version to get over their fears. 

Initially, I thought I would not buy this as a gift, especially after having not seen them for such a long period of time. But then I decided that it was what she had been asking for and what she wanted. It was a hit. She exited the party (ours were the last gifts she opened thankfully) to go inside and begin vacuuming with a big grin on her face.

Click the photo for more information
Click the photo for more information

 

Related Link:

To see more of our Toy reviews and recommendations (many of which are toys we've purchased for our children and grandchildren) either click the "Toys Reviews" tab near the top of this page or check out our Toy Reviews board on Pinterest. 




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Monday, August 3, 2020

Reviewing the Basics of Cowboy Candy (Candied Jalapenos) Recipes

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



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

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

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

What is in Cowboy Candy? 

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

The basic steps are: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Uses for Candied Jalapeno Syrup

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



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



Related Links:

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

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

That 1870's Homestead



Living Traditions Homestead



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





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