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

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.






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 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.





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, 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". 






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, 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. 




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, 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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Monday, July 20, 2020

Travel: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge - Wildlife Drive

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. We spent our time on the Wildlife Drive. Despite the heatwave and oppressive humidity, it was a wonderful experience. I am writing this review because I highly recommend this destination for birdwatchers, wildlife lovers, bicyclists, hikers, photographers, travelers, and anyone who appreciates being immersed in nature.





Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Cambridge, Maryland


Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is located in south eastern Maryland - the region commonly known as the eastern shore. The refuge is over 30,000 acres of tidal marsh, forests (hardwood and loblolly), managed freshwater wetlands, and croplands.  It was established in 1933 as a refuge for migratory birds.





The Wildlife Drive


With 30,000 acres of refuge, Wildlife Drive was a manageable chunk of area for a brief visit. We paid our nominal fee and entered that portion of the refuge. 




The drive includes a paved road (approximately 4 miles in length) with a few branches of unpaved - but wide - walking trails. Due to the heat and our limited time, we remained on the roadway.  

Our first stop was the observation deck and viewing area. Had we more time, I could have remained in that area for hours.  A raised wooden walkway and deck were positioned in the middle of the marsh. Two benches were available as were two free/permanent binoculars.






We observed fish swimming in the clear sections, a large number of Red-winged Blackbirds and dragonflies, and in the distance we easily spotted what appeared to be a Bald Eagle nest and two eagles perched in nearby trees.

As we left that area, I spotted what I believe to be a Green Heron in a tree (I am a beginning bird-watcher so please do not use my guesses of species as factual). I was so excited! I believe this is only the second time I've spotted a Green Heron since I've begun to list birds I've spotted.




In the distance, I saw a little marsh "Shack". Of course I was intrigued. If you know me, you know that I have my very own Shack.  This shack turned out to be a permanent viewing blind!






Along the road, we pulled over at various spots to observe turtles, ducks, Great Blue Herons, Osprey nests, and a Great White Egret (again, I'm only sure of the identification of the Great Blue Heron and Osprey).










Wildlife and Marsh Seasons


The pamphlets that were available at the entry gate included quite a bit of helpful information. Including a general "Wildlife Calendar".  From January to December, the refuge is a living and changing community of wildlife.  As we there in July, the time frame (depending on weather) generally includes swallows, kingbirds, and flycatchers feasting on the huge amounts of insects. Hibiscus begins to bloom near the end of the month and the Osprey babies begin to leave the nests. We were fortunate to find that the Ospreys were easy to spot on their nesting platforms.





If you are a bird watcher, you may want to refer to the migration information to increase your chances of seeing the species you'd like to see. For example, I believe we saw Teal. Whether they are "blue-winged" or "green-winged" I'm not sure. I'm not even fully confident they are Teal. But Teal is listed as a species that is traveling through the area during this time on their migration from North to South. 

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is definitely worth a visit for any outdoors person or birder. And the Wildlife Drive is a scenic and comfortable front seat for Mother Nature's show.






Related Links:

Eastern shore, Maryland has many great places to visit and things to see. Assateague Island (home of wild ponies) is my favorite place in that region. For more travel information check out VisitMaryland.org.

I recently read Chesapeake by James Michener. During my entire time at Blackwater National Refuge I thought of the people depicted in that historical fiction. From the Native American peoples, to the slaves and the slave owners, to the pirates, and those who worked hard to survive in the marshes of the Eastern Shore... they were all on my mind as I wandered the refuge. Read my review of that epic novel here.

Harriet Tubman lived in this area. I have seen the home that she was born in (from a distance and during a tropical storm). I have also visited the Harriet Tubman underground railroad state park. For more information about additional Harriet Tubman sites in the Dorchester County (Cambridge, MD) area, click here



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Monday, June 29, 2020

Reviewing Royal Wing No Waste Bird Seed with Fruit

If you would like a larger variety of birds visiting your bird feeder and you haven't used Royal Wing Total Care No Waste bird seed with Fruit, you should give this a try!


Royal Wing bird seed brand available at Tractor Supple Company

I enjoy bird-watching have had a large variety of bird feeders over the years. But I have had the most luck with this particular feeder and bird seed combination. The birds literally began to line up as soon as I put this No Waste Blend with Fruit in a hanging platform feeder. It has been amazing.

In the past, I would put out Nyjer seed for the finches, suet for the nuthatches and mixed bird seed for everyone else. Of course, Cardinals like sunflower seeds. Some seed mixes did not seem to attract Cardinals. Perhaps not the right type of sunflower or not enough sunflower seed to other seed ratio. I don't know.

In an impulse buy during a shopping trip at Tractor Supply Company (TSC), I bought this seed. It is a bit more expensive than the mixed seed at the big box stores but it was well worth it! The very next day I saw Cardinals and a variety of other birds - some birds I've never seen at my feeder before -- such as this Grosbeak. This was the very first Grosbeak I've added to the list of birds I've seen! In addition to the Rose Breasted Grosbeak, I am excited that the Indigo Bunting pair have nested somewhere very close to this feeder and a Spotted Towhee makes a daily appearance and sings to us -- both birds I had never seen prior to bird watching at The Shack.  I think this food has helped attract them to the area on a daily basis. 




The birds line up for their turn at this seed. I have continued to use the remaining nyjer seed. But it seems the finches are coming even when I don't add the nyjer seed.  



If you are not familiar with TSC (Tractor Supply Company) or prefer shopping via Amazon there are similar "waste free" seeds with fruit to chose from.





Related Links:

I'm not as good at bird photography as I would like to be. Our own Mary Beth is both a wonderful photographer as well as a bird-lover. Please check out some of her posts featuring birds such as Review of Spring Bird Photography and Review of Bluebird Facts and Photography. I love bluebirds and Mary Beth's photos of them are outstanding!

To read more about my personal adventures at The Shack click here. It is my piece of land, and future home, on top of a mountain ridge in West Virginia. Bird watching there has been an amazing experience. 

My basalt bird bath by Stone Age Creations has been very popular with the birds. The Eastern Bluebirds and sparrows (Chipping Sparrows I think but I'm not sure) are daily bathers. I was very excited to see a Cardinal using the bath recently. See my review of this particular bird bath here. This bird bath has been one of the best splurge purchases I have ever made.






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, June 15, 2020

Book Review - One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker

I was transported to 1876 Wyoming each time I began reading One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow here I left off. The story is so descriptively written that I felt as though I too were on the prairie. I will remember these two families and this natural setting for quite some time.




Each chapter was written from the viewpoint of Nettie, Cora, Beulah or Clyde. Each of them had a different reaction to the crimes that take place as the story opens. The tension between Nettie and the others is nearly as harsh as the Wyoming winter. Cora is as uncomfortable in the rural setting as Nettie is in Beulah's presence. And Clyde suddenly becomes the man of the house, of two households, but is still a boy who needs to decide whether or not to follow in his father's footsteps. 

The two families are oil and water but they must pull together to survive the winter.

Cora was from St. Louis. She met and married Ernest, who moved them to Wyoming. On her first night, she quietly ventured from the wagon as far as she dared and watched the turning stars in the night sky. She felt she could love the place. But it turns out that she didn't. Cora missed the excitement and socializing of Saint Louis too much. After Ernest left, she was suddenly solely responsible for her four children and the homestead.

Ernest found his wife at the river with Nettie's husband. He immediately leaves the homestead and heads for the sheriff's office in Painted Rock to turn himself in for murder.

Nettie is not the forgiving sort. She can't find it in herself to forgive Cora for her many sins but mostly for the sin of causing her husband's death. And Nettie is sure that the strange daughter of hers, Beulah, must be as corrupt as her mother. She directs her son Clyde to stay away from this girl. Nettie is stoic and strong. She has all of the right answers and solutions. Or does she?

Clyde is talented with the horses and knowledgeable with the sheep. He is hard-working and responsible but his father's anger bubbles just under the surface. This story is about Clyde's coming of age as much as it is about pioneers doing the best they can on the prairie. 

Beulah. Nettie is correct. Cora's daughter, is a strange girl. Beulah appears slow or lazy. But she's not lazy at all. She cares for the three younger children, gardens, helps Clyde with repairing fences, and she knows things. She knows things she shouldn't. Whether it is intuition or visions she knows things before they happen. And Nettie finds this very disconcerting.  




Life on the frontier is not peaches and cream. It is difficult. This story is about grudges, loss, forgiveness, a spirit, and the natural world - both good and bad. And two very broken families that may or may not find their way. There are portions of this story that are difficult to read offset by the beauty of love and healing. And family.

Related Link:

Renaissance Woman reviewed The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker. That story is set in Nazi Germany 1942. "To immerse ourselves into Anton and Elisabeth's war-torn lives is to see glimmers of unimaginable beauty beneath the desolation of loss, shame, failure, and fear". Continue reading the review here.  


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Monday, June 1, 2020

Reviewing the DB Moon Women's Summer Casual Dress

I recently decided that I needed a new piece of clothing. I needed lounge wear that didn't look too much like pajamas. I wanted something extremely comfortable that could be worn in public. I didn't really want stretchy pants. What I chose was a casual summer dress by DB Moon and I like it so much that I'm ordering a second dress in a different print.





Summer Casual Short Sleeve Dress with Empire Waist 


This dress has a scooped neck, short sleeves, and an empire waist. The waist is elastic. The dress has pockets (in-seam and deep) and what I call a full skirt. 

The material is 95% Rayon and 5% spandex. It is machine washable - cold. And it is "hang dry".  It is offered in a variety of colors and prints (including floral, polka dot, and snow leopard). 


Why I Chose This Dress


During this work-from-home time frame, I found that I do not have adequate lounge/casual clothing. I have pajama dresses and jeans/slacks. Period. I decided I needed some dresses that I could wear both while lounging/working from home and while doing errands or walking the dogs. I was also thinking of future camping trips. While camping at The Shack, I tend to slip my boots on with my pajama dress when I go out to walk the dogs or look around the yard in the morning. Typically, no one can see me when I am tucked down the hill and hidden from the road. But recently, the builder pulled up while I was in my boots and pajama dress!  

I wanted a comfy, casual-but-appropriate dress.

The DB Moon dresses offer a variety of color choices. It was hard to choose which color to try first. And is knee-length (to the bottom of my knee since I'm 5'4") which means I feel adequately covered for errands or visitors. The material is very soft and cool and drapes/swings nicely. But I think I like the pockets the best. The pockets are deep enough for a roll of doggie bags, my key, and my phone. 

Some people may be put off by the "do not tumble dry" care directions. I'm not. I already prefer to hang dry as much clothing as possible. Also, while most of the reviews are good reviews, a few ladies were disappointed with the fit of the dress.  From their photos, it seems that they maybe chose a size too small. I chose XL and the dress does not fit me as tightly as it seems to fit those who didn't like the fit. So I guess I am recommending that when in doubt about the size, go a size up.




Related Links: 

Bev reviewed comfy flannel pajama bottoms. I love flannel and that sort of pajama pant is what I often prefer to wear. However, we are moving toward summer and warmer weather. I wanted something cooler during warm days.  

Our friends on the other side of the world are moving into cooler weather. They may prefer the flannel pants. Or, they may prefer this fun Cow Onesie that LouAnn reviews. I know I want one! Just not as our summer is arriving. Maybe this fall I'll be seen wearing a cow (or chicken!) onesie while puttering around the yard at The Shack. 


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Monday, May 18, 2020

Reviewing the Dexter Russell 8-Inch Bread Knife

All knives are equal in the kitchen, right? Wrong! I immediately put my original bread knife in the trash after using the Dexter Russell scalloped bread knife for the first time. 



Over the past couple of years I have focused on learning to bake homemade bread and biscuits. I typically need very easy recipes. As I bake successful loaves of bread, I tend to share with friends and family. Recently, I baked a wonderful Artisan-like loaf of crusty bread. The bread itself was amazing. But as usual, I struggled cutting even slices.

My friend laughed at me, as he watched me saw and hack away at the bread. Sometimes squishing the softer loaves more than cutting them. He said I needed a bread knife. I told him that I had a bread knife.

It was only a few days later that a bread knife arrived in the mail. After my very first slice of bread I immediately realized why my friend laughed at me and my original bread knife. With the Dexter Russell knife I could cut even slices of bread, thick or thin, with great ease.  There was no "sawing" involved.

I am so incredibly thankful for this knife!


Dexter Russell 8" Scalloped Bread Knife with Polypropylene Handle



This knife is SHARP, cuts through bread like cutting through warm butter, and seems very durable. The handle is very comfortable and large enough that I can firmly grip it.

You may already know that Dexter Russell is advertised as the "largest manufacturer of professional cutlery in the United States." So although this is my first experience with a Dexter Russell knife, it is clearly a company that has a history and a good reputation.

Some facts about this bread knife:

  • made in the US
  • superior blade shape
  • 400 series stain-free, high carbon steel
  • formed handle with finger guard
  • slip-free polypropylene handle

My knife was ordered and shipped via Amazon. However, knives ordered on the Dexter Russell website can be engraved at extra cost. 



An engraved bread knife would make a special and memorable gift for a housewarming, wedding, or culinary arts graduation. I know this gift is a much appreciated addition in my kitchen.


My Favorite Bread Recipes



In 2016 I had my first bread baking success with this Peasant Bread recipe. The round loaves are incredibly easy to make and end with a buttery flavor and crunchy crust.



In 2017 I began having success with making delicious loaves using Patara's bread recipe and a Pullman Loaf pan. Making my sandwiches using my own bread is wonderful. And having a good knife to cut those bread slices will be even more wonderful!



Only recently I became successful at baking crusty, round loaves of bread. I think this bread's appearance is as wonderful as the taste. If you'd like to know more about this bread, you can read about it here





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Monday, May 4, 2020

Reviewing the Lifetime Folding Utility 4' Table

I cannot believe I am this excited about a folding commercial utility table purchase. But I am! The Lifetime table is extremely durable, adjustable to three different heights, and is a convenient length. And it has just made my life easier.
Lifetime adjustable folding 4' table

Lifetime 80160 Commercial Height Adjustable Folding Utility Table


This table top is made of an extremely durable high-density polyethylene. These table tops last for years without breaking or cracking. I know because our conference tables at work are made of the same material (and I've knocked one over while trying to put it away but didn't cause any damage).

The legs are adjustable, easily moving between children's table height, adult table height, and countertop height. 

When set up, the legs are strong and lock into place. The feet of the table hold the table in place - even on carpet. 

This 4' long table is the perfect size for my current needs. I am using it as a temporary desk.

During this sudden and expected work-from-home situation, I was struggling with working comfortably on my laptop for 8+ hours each day. When I write blogs, or browse the internet, I sit in a chair, on my bed, or on the floor. I get up frequently and move around. But that wasn't at all comfortable for work. I needed a desk or some suitable work space. But I have neither the room for that or the desire to buy that furniture.  

This table is a very similar size to my desk at work. I can work on my laptop with everything I need nearby.  And when I'm finished working I merely fold the table up and move it out of the way. Perfect.

I spent only $55 on this solution - which is the same price as a decent folding card table but far more sturdy.


Lifetime 4' folding table


Other possible uses for this table include:

  • seating (adult or child) for family reunions
  • all-weather resistant so it is perfect for outdoor uses such as picnics and parties.
  • extra table, desk or countertop space for small living areas (such as dorms, small apartments, mother-in-law suites, etc)
  • the smooth top is perfecting for crafting, sewing, and large crochet projects - no rough edges for snagging things. 
  • desk or table work space for children and their school work
  • perfect table for jigsaw puzzles
  • extension of counter or kitchen space for canning or other large projects
  • small buffet table or dessert table
  • workshops and garages





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Monday, April 20, 2020

Reviewing Meditation Videos as Sleep Aids

photo courtesy of Pixabay
While some people have suffered from insomnia over the decades, this review is being written during the current pandemic situation. And during an increase in sleep problems. Including my own. I have found that meditation videos and a sleep timer on my television have been very helpful for me. 

Historically, I am generally exhausted. I quickly fall asleep each evening. I would occasionally have some insomnia caused by particularly concerning things happening at work or because I am a light sleeper and I have noisy neighbors. Sleep hygiene is something I'm familiar with but had not been something I've had to be particularly focused on for myself - until now.


Sleep Hygiene


Sleep Hygiene is another way of saying good sleep habits.  It is often the topic of discussion in my work. No matter the age, most humans benefit from getting sleep that is long enough and deep enough.

The CDC gives tips for better sleep here. Not all of those tips work well for everyone. But I've included the list because it is a great place to start thinking about what might work for you. For example, I'm such a light/anxious sleeper that for decades I needed the television to be on as a background noise to cover any outside noises that would wake me and prevent me from falling back to sleep. As a rule, it is recommended to remove electronic devices from the bedroom. Including the television. But in my case a television has been helpful. Not every sleep hygiene tip will work for every person. But that list includes great things to consider.


Major Insomnia


Wow. I've been hit with major insomnia during this stay-at-home time period. I was trying a variety of things with very limited success. Even my trusty television as white noise was suddenly a distraction and it was keeping me awake.

Stretching, doing yoga, and meditation before bed helped. But not enough. 

Then I discovered the sleep timer and meditation videos on my smart tv.

I find a relaxing video on YouTube and start it. These videos are created on loops so the same thing runs for many hours at a time. I then set the television sleep timer for 90 - 120 minutes (which is enough time for the neighbors to settle down). The video lulls me to sleep and the tv eventually turns off. I remain asleep and have noticed that I'm getting a much more restful sleep. I'm waking up refreshed in the mornings.


Types of Relaxing Videos for Sleep



There are many types of meditation and relaxation videos to choose from. Far too many to list here. I tend toward the thunderstorm or rain/wind chimes sounds.  Additional themes are:
  • beaches/waves
  • birds
  • forests
  • meditation chants
  • talk/guided meditation
  • Native American flute music
  • what I generally refer to as "spa music"
  • a crackling fire
  • and much more

Some of the videos have one photograph as the visual. Others have a black/blank screen (which would help if light in the room keeps you awake). And still others have scenes with some movement such as raindrops falling, lightning flashing, or scenes that have some very minimal movement added digitally. I like the videos that show the rain drops.

As examples, I am including my two favorite relaxation videos. You may find that these are not helpful to you. That's okay. There are plenty of others to choose from.

Rain and Wind Chimes:



Rain and Native American Flutes:



Swamp Sounds at Night (in this video, it is the visual that relaxes me. I enjoy the fog and the smoke from the chimney. Others may find this particular video a little on the creepy side):




Related Links:

I am not a tech-nerd. Far from it. I usually do not replace any of my electronics until they are so out-of-date that they no longer work properly. But I purchased a smart tv and LOVED it so much that I bought a second one for the bedroom. The two televisions are different brands, therefore they have different apps. But both allow me to watch Amazon Prime and Youtube. It is the wonderful new technology that allows me to watch these relaxing videos while in bed. You can read my smart tv review here.

Our BarbRad has written about the things that help her get a good night's sleep. Among other things, she finds that a sleep mask is very helpful. Barb gives extremely good tips about finding an effective sleep mask here

Don't have a smart tv? Or a television in the bedroom? There is a large selection of video and audio relaxation selections on Amazon. There are just a few:





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Monday, April 6, 2020

Crochet: Using Those Leftover Yarn Balls

As soon as I crocheted the first afghan for my grandbaby I had thoughts of using that leftover scrap yarn to make a throw. A sentimental way to keep pieces of their blankets for myself. Now is the perfect time to do it and I've made huge progress on my own afghan. I want to share the super-easy idea with you.

using my scrap yarn to make something special for myself

I crocheted afghans with VERY different colors for my three grandbabies. As a result, I kept my idea of using all of the scrap yarn (orange, purple, white, pink, and a variety of "under the sea" colors of tans, blues, and greens) in one project to myself. I adore rag rugs. So I suppose it wasn't a far jump to crocheting a blanket with this odd color combination. It was just a matter of finding the crochet pattern I'd want to use. But this kind of wild color combination...who does that?

Apparently, a lot of people do! 

There is even a name for this particular blanket - Scrapghan.

In searching for patterns, I find that making scrapghans is a fairly popular thing to do. And using a wide variety of colors that may not typically go together can lead to some beautiful projects. In addition, these projects save odd bits of yarn from being wasted and ending up in the local dump.

Personally, I have the best luck with learning new projects via video crochet tutorials. Sometimes it is a bit frustrating finding a video with someone whose teaching style matches my learning style but I've always managed to find someone eventually. If you have thought about using your scrap yarn to make a blanket, Ophelia tells us about her scrap blanket (and uses the Granny Stripe).

Ophelia Talks About Making a Scrap Blanket (Ophelia Talks):


If you are interested in learning the Granny Stripe stitch, I recommended viewing  How To Crochet Granny Stripes, episode 246 (Fiber Flux):




I prefer the look of the "granny stripe" patterns with the different colors of scrap yarns. In addition to creating a wide stripe of each color, the pattern works up very quickly. I also personally think that a granny stitch creates a "softer" blanket than a straight single stitch. I already know that this is a project that will create a functional and meaningful blanket I will treasure.

Related Links:

Colors from Ardin, Harper, and Bentley's blankets
For my grand-daughter's baby blanket, I used the Bernat Pipsqueak yarn. The yarn is unbelievably soft!  And when used with worsted weight yarn, in a lined pattern, the Pipsqueak creates a soothing sensory texture.  To see my Pipsqueak review click here. Notice that in 2017 I was already planning on using that yarn in a project for myself!

In two of the grandbaby blankets I made, I used the Done in a Day pattern by Dabbles & Babbles. I LOVE that pattern. It is easily adjusted for any size afghan and any size yarn. You can see my review of that pattern here

Of the three grandbaby blankets I made, I used the Under The Sea pattern for my grandson who is already on his way to being a marine wildlife expert! You can find my review for that fun crochet project here.


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The Review This Contributors

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Review This is Dedicated to the Memory of Our Beloved Friend and Fellow Contributor
We may be apart, but You Are Not Forgotten

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