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

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.






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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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Monday, March 30, 2020

Movie Review: This Mountain Life

This Mountain Life is a beautiful, inspiring documentary about a grown daughter and her 60 year old mother who ski traverse the Coast Mountains of British Colombia, a six month trip in the winter. But this movie is not just about them or their trip. It is about people who choose to live their lives and pursue their passions.


Movie review: This Mountain Life

"Shot in cinematic detail, This Mountain Life is a riveting examination of human passion set high in the peaks of British Columbia". - This Mountain Life homepage.
Martina Halik (at age 29) is planning to ski/hike/climb the Coast Mountain range in British Columbia from Squamish, BC to Skagway, AK. This is a trip that is over 2,300k (1,400+ miles). She invites her mother to come. Martina describes her mom as super hardcore and very humble. 

Tania Halik was 59 when her daughter was planning this trip. Without hesitation she said that she would go along. And would consider the trip her 60th birthday present. Tania tells us how proud she is of her daughter. That her daughter has not done anything this difficult. She says this with love. And we learn that this is the 2nd time Tania has crossed mountains. I thought that I couldn't imagine taking this trip, but after learning about Tania's first trip I realized that this 2nd trip was probably the equivalent of a pleasure cruise compared to her first adventure.

"Maybe when I'm old I'll [do other trips]. And then I get these odd looks and I realize, oh they think I'm old now. I don't feel old. "  - Tania Halik

It is a wonderful thing to see a parent and an adult child admire and appreciate each other the way the Halik women appear to. 

The planned route
This movie is not a detailed look at their trip. Nor is it a how-to-traverse-mountains video. Although, you may learn something. For example, I had no idea that it was possible to ski up steep mountainsides! This documentary is a variety of brief glimpses at the Haliks as individuals, as a mother and daughter, and of the terrain they are traveling through on this very long trip. It is a movie about living.

In addition the Halik story, the movie cuts out to vignettes about 5 other people. At first, I found the vignettes to be pretty but jarring. But by the end of the movie I felt that it was a gift to have met these people. I viewed the movie a second time within the same week and those vignettes were my favorite portions. I looked forward to meeting those folks again.
"I'm not interested in dying. I'm up there because I want to live" - Barry Blanchard, mountain guide/climber

This movie is about people who are following their passion and living their lives. Really living their lives - not just going through each day habitually. It is also about the magic of the mountains and encourages us all to experience that magic.  Granted, not all of us will make art in the snow, survive an avalanche, climb frozen mountains, be a nun who skies across snowy clearings at the mountain monestary, live on a remote homestead for 50 years, or ski for 6 months from one country to another.

Us less skilled folks do not have to go into the backcountry for months in order to experience nature's benefits. But we can each appreciate the beauty of the outdoors around us and become rejuvenated through the sights, sounds, and fresh air. Us folks who are not skilled in the mountains, can choose to actively follow our passions where they lead us.

I watched this movie in bed late one night. I expected to fall asleep during the movie. Not only did I not fall asleep but I became energized. I got out of bed after the movie feeling stirred and excited to continue to pursue my own passions. It took me hours to settle and fall asleep - in a good way.

Perhaps this movie hit me hard because my dream is to live in a small house, on my own piece of land, in the mountains of West Virginia. But I think this movie would be appealing to a broad range of people. Especially those who want to live a more inspired life.

I saw the movie via Amazon Prime. You can find it here. Amazon also offers the video in DVD format.

Watch the official video trailer on Vimeo here

If you would like to know more about my mountain homesteading dreams, you can read more about me and The Shack here


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Monday, March 16, 2020

Book Review: Chesapeake by James Michener

Until now, I had never read Michener. For some reason I had the pre-conceived notion that his stories would be long and boring. I am happy to announce that I was wrong. While Chesapeake by James Michener is indeed a long novel, it is far from boring. It is a captivating account of the families who settled the colonies and waterways of the eastern United States. And their ancestors in the Delmarva region over the next 400 years. 

Reviewing Chesapeake by James Michener


I was in the mood for a story that highlighted life in the outdoors. As I searched my local library's digital selections I chose Chesapeake with the thought that if I find it to be over-rated, under--whelming, and difficult to read, at least it was free. I was surprised that I was immediately hooked with the first character.

This story begins in 1583. Pentaquod, of the Susquehannock tribe, is a widower who has voiced an opinion against the plans of the tribal council. As a result, the family of his new love interest has refused to allow her to marry him. He is looked upon with suspicion by the members of his village. Pentaquod does not want to war with the northern tribe and he wants to continue to live in peace. Because he disagrees with the tribal council, he is increasingly an outcast. He flees the village for parts unknown downriver.

"It was toward morning of the third night, when he had had only two small fish to eat in three days, that he came to those falls which his people called Conowingo, and here he faced the test which would determine the success of his escape. When he approached the white and leaping water he intended to drag his canoe ashore and portage it a long distance downhill, but as he paddled away from the middle of the river to the safety of shore.... "

Pentaquod's journey south by canoe from the Susquehanna River to Chesapeake Bay were stories that seemed familiar. The water and wildlife descriptions are similar to what can be experienced by those of us who sit along the banks or kayak these waters.  

Pentaquod had never traveled as far as the open water of the bay. He chose an island on the eastern shore for his new home. There he is introduced to Blue Heron's, crabs, and the natural rhythms of life on the water. Later, he joins a part of the local tribe (later named the Choptank) and lives a long, mostly peaceful life living on the rivers and in the marshes of that area. Michener's descriptions of the flora and fauna make me feel as though I am sitting there, on the banks of the Choptank river. 

In 1606, Captain John Smith brings ships and crews to the New World with a plan to "conquer Virginia". He also brings Edmund Steed. The Steed family is one of the families we follow over the centuries.

In Chesapeake, the focus is on a 400 year saga of these families who settled the area. Each of the families intertwine with the others over the years. While the characters, and an island on which one of the main families settle, are fictional the issues are historical. We are reminded how the people in the first colony barely survives. We are reminded that many of the first settlers are fleeing religious persecution and how that continues in the New World. As time goes on, "letter brides", indentured servants, and slaves join the growing population. Public whippings - including that of a Quaker woman - are the norm of the day. I was reminded that settling this country was no easy task. And this was just the beginning.

James Michener paints a picture of the area and of the families whose ancestry intertwine over time from the 1500s to the late 1970s. I will think of them every time I sit along the banks of the local waterways or watch the water spilling from Conowingo Dam.




Related Link:

Not long after I began reading Chesapeake, BarbRad reviewed The World is My Home by James Michener. She explains that in this memoir he shares stories of his life, travels, interests, and writing. I've added this memoir to my reading list and look forward to learning more about the author who wrote the engrossing story I'm reading now.


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Monday, March 2, 2020

Easy Meal Recipes: Fish Tacos

I am always looking for easy week night meals that are easy and inexpensive. Thanks to a suggestion from my son, I made these easy and delicious fish tacos. I want to pass this meal idea on to you.


Easy and delicious Fish Tacos with Avocado Cream Sauce


My youngest son regularly sends photos of the beautiful and delicious meals he prepares for his family. One recent evening, in response to his mouth-watering food photo, I responded something like: 


" I'm stopping for frozen fish sticks. Yay."

He responded that I should make fish tacos. That sounded way too difficult after a hard day at work and an irritating commute home on the beltway. Fortunately, he sent a link for avocado cream sauce. That did it. I stopped for the frozen fish sticks and the 5 ingredients that I didn't have in my kitchen already. And I made easy and delicious fish tacos. I am so glad I did.


Avocado Cream Sauce


The link he sent was the Avocado Cream Sauce recipe by Barefeet in the Kitchen. Along with the recipe on the page there are links for many recipes using the avocado cream sauce. But my taste buds were firmly set on fish tacos.



Avocado Cream Sauce shopping list


I did not use a blender to prepare my sauce. I was too tired to drag out a blender, wash it, and put it away. So I used a potato masher and mashed the avocados, adding the other ingredients while mashing. I liked the slightly chunky texture and I think it turned out great. But if you prefer a smoother sauce, make sure to use a blender as directed in the original recipe.


Cheap and Easy Weeknight Fish Tacos


Of course, these fish tacos would be even more delicious with fresh fish in place of the frozen fish fillets. However, whether you are cooking for yourself or for the family after a hectic day of work/school/activities, frozen fish fillets make this an easy meal.

Meal Ingredients:

  • small flour tortillas - approximately 6" size
  • frozen fish fillets - prepared per package instructions
  • half head of cabbage - shredded
  • Avocado Cream Sauce - prepared per the recipe instructions
Directions:
  1. Bake fish per the package instructions
  2. While the fish bakes, make the sauce using the avocados, sour cream, fresh garlic, lime juice, salt and pepper. Set that aside in the refrigerator.
  3. Cut the cabbage into small strips
  4. Allow the fish to cool slightly before assembling the tacos. Then assemble by placing a bed of cabbage onto a tortilla, a fish fillet on the cabbage, and a spoonful of avocado cream sauce on top of the fish.
Enjoy!

This recipe was a wonderful change of pace from my normal easy/cheap meal line up. The avocado and lime added a fresh summery flavor in the middle of our mild but dreary winter. The fish, avocado, and cabbage was definitely a healthier alternative to most fast food drive-thru meals. 

Related Link:

After looking more closely at the Barefeet in the Kitchen site I learned that the author is Mary Younkin. She has published recipe books that look right up my alley! Ms. Younkin caught my attention with the philosophy of "cooking from scratch as simply as possible".








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Monday, February 17, 2020

Reviewing the Muscle Max Massage Ball

The Muscle Max Massage Ball looks like a gimmick. It looks like an over-sized, hard rubber tennis ball with grooves. However, it is somehow much more than that and has helped me immensely with pain relief. After the first time I used one I knew I had to have one of my own. 


Reviewing the Muscle Max massage ball on ReviewThisReviews.com


The Backstory


I have had migraines and a constant daily headache since the late 1980s. Relief has been elusive. And costly. The causes of migraines are as individual as each person that has them. In my opinion, that is what makes them difficult to treat. I have recently found pain relief with treatment and the Muscle Max Massage Ball by Epitome Fitness is a part of that treatment. 

I have started treatment that has included chiropractic, dry needling, stim/heat treatment, stretching and exercise. With this treatment, I'm experiencing greatly reduced pain and actually have some days with no pain at all.


The Muscle Max Massage Ball


The physical therapy portion of my treatment began with the initial focus of loosening me up and increasing range of motion. The pain over the decades had kept me in a constant state of gritting teeth and shrugged shoulders. When the PT staff handed me this little rubber ball, I was so skeptical that I nearly laughed. But I did as instructed.

Standing against the wall, I placed the ball between my back/shoulders area and leaned back. As I moved my body up and down or side to side, the ball gave a deep muscle massage. I could adjust the pressure by how hard I leaned back. Finding a knot in my muscle, I pressed back and rubbed until I could feel the knot loosening.

It was so effective that I left my appointment and hopped on Amazon to order my own Muscle Max Massage Ball.  

A few descriptive blurbs from the Epitome Fitness site:

  • high density rubber
  • trigger point massage grid
  • provides Myofascial Release therapy (MFR)
  • relaxes contracted muscles
  • improves blood circulation

The Epitome Fitness site also highlights a few different ways to use the ball.

Clearly, the Muscle Max ball is only one piece of my recovery. I would not say that it alone cured my migraines. I would say that it immediately feels good and I can feel improvement each time I use this strange rubber ball. With daily use, the tension in my shoulders has released dramatically and my range of motion has increased noticeably.

Important Note: I am not a doctor or physical therapist. If you have chronic pain or health problems, as always, consult your provider before beginning a new treatment or exercise. 





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