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

Monday, August 5, 2019

Book Review: A Curve in the Road by Julianne MacLean

Abbie is a woman with a great life. She has a successful career as a surgeon. She has been married to Alan, a cardiologist, for 27 years. Zach is their son. Zach is a good kid who will soon be on his way to college. Winston is the aging family dog. They have everything a happy family could have. Until it literally comes crashing down. Will Abbie survive? Will she be able to put the pieces back together? This novel written by Julianne MacLean kept me interested and kept me turning the pages well past my bedtime.

Abbie's family lives in a city in Nova Scotia while her mother lives in a small historic town nearby. Abbie and family typically spend Sunday evenings with her mother. However, on this particular evening, Abbie and Winston have gone alone. 

While they are headed back to the city, Abbie anxious to catch Zach's hockey game, an oncoming car crosses the center line. A drunk driver nearly kills her and her dog in a horrific wreck. Abbie is trapped and Winston has been thrown from the car and is missing.

With the tragedy of the wreck, devastating family secrets are revealed. Between the discovery that her life was not as she had believed and the resulting physical problems from the wreck, she finds she has to reinvent herself. The decisions she has to make from the crash forward are not easy ones. And many of the dilemmas have no "right" answers. These are not things that anyone can plan for in advance.




There was one point in the story that I thought, "hmm, I'm not a doctor but I really don't think that would have happened that way."  But for me, the rest of the story kept me engaged. There were a couple of times that I thought I could guess what was happening next. Happily, I was wrong. And while this is a love story, about life and adult relationships, there were no sex scenes. I am not against gratuitous sex scenes but I know that some readers prefer not to read them. So I thought I would mention that there are none in this book.

After I read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens I had a really hard time starting another book. The characters and scenes of Barkley Cove were so vivid in my mind that subsequent
books just didn't seem interesting. I started several books but wasn't able to get past the first chapter or two before laying them down. But A Curve in the Road was easy reading and interesting enough to get me going again. Some reviews refer to A Curve in the Road as "stunningly emotional" and "gripping".  I would not refer to the story as that intense for me. However, I did want to know what would happen next. It says a lot when a book keeps me up long enough to read a few chapters each night before bed.


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Monday, July 29, 2019

Reviewing the Origami Rack: Folding Storage Racks

Reviewing my Origami Rack.
A friend told me that he had a shelf for me. He said he'd bring it over if I wanted it. I said yes with some hesitance. Maybe I am a shelf snob. Because I did NOT want a flimsy plastic rack or one of those ugly metal racks that are often used in workshop spaces. Fortunately, the shelf unit he brought to me is an Origami Rack and it is AMAZING! I couldn't be more thrilled with this storage solution.


Origami Folding Racks



My friend carried the folded shelf up to my third floor apartment. In the living room, he pulled the shelf open with one move and fastened it open with two small latches. My shelf is on wheels, so I easily wheeled it to the corner of my teeny dining room.

These racks are great for indoor use, laundry rooms, garages, and anywhere that extra storage space is needed. 

The folks at Origami Racks state:



If I don't need to use this shelf, it folds flat to approximately 3 inches thick. (Unfortunately, I did not measure it while it was still folded).


My Storage Needs



I need storage in this teeny, tiny apartment. There is barely space to turn around, let alone store things. Even though I'm not looking for "pretty" storage, it helps that this shelf isn't ugly.

My rack measures 63" tall x 2' wide x 2' deep. It is on wheels and has four shelves.

When in use, this shelf is incredibly strong. On one shelf I have two partial 20 lb bags of dog food, the plastic dog food bin (I mix two brands and put the ready-to-use food in the bin) and a 5 gallon bucket that is full of cans of food and bags of rice (we were expecting a hurricane and I stocked up on food). One shelf easily holds these large items. I will need to do some re-arranging and decide exactly what I want to store on these shelves. I just excitedly threw these items on the shelves: glad to get some of these things out from under my table and up off the floor. Also, the cat litter took up a large bit of the space in my bathroom linen closet. I'm glad to have extra space in that closet and thrilled that the Origami shelf holds such heavy items. 

Some of the photos online make the shelves appear flimsy, as though the joint in the shelf would be a weak point. But be assured that these shelves are strong!

Related Links:

Origami Rack has a shop on Amazon - if you are like me and are a prime member and love the free shipping and the delivery (I hate carrying things up my three flights of stairs). On that Amazon page, you can see a variety of items as well as photos of the shelves when folded. 

Visit the Origami Rack website for more information and to see what shelves are currently offered. 




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Monday, July 15, 2019

Reviewing the NuWave Gourmet Accessory Kit

NuWave Air Fryer Accessories
With my recent purchase of the NuWave Brio air fryer I also purchased the NuWave Gourmet Accessory Kit. At first I thought the little pan and cooking rack were over-priced and I felt silly for spending that extra money. But after using them for nearly every healthy meal - multiple times a day - I consider them invaluable.

If you aren't at all familiar with the NuWave Brio air fryer, you can read my review here. The Gourmet Accessory Kit is sold separately here


NuWave Gourmet Accessory Kit


Because I am typically cooking only for myself I purchased the Gourmet Accessory Kit.  It sounds much more fancy than it is. It is really just a 6" x 6" square pan (2 Qt) with a handle and a 6" x 6" cooking rack.  Rather than cook my foods in the pan included with the machine or on it's existing rack, I use the little pan the most often. 

Easy Clean Up: The pan has been keeping mess to a minimum. The juices and splatter stay in the accessory pan. It is non-stick so it is easy to lift out and wash off. 

Portion Control: The Gourmet Accessory Kit also helps with portion control - without leaving me feeling deprived. The pan holds just a small amount. I cook that small amount and after a bit, if I'm still hungry, I can quickly cook a bit more in the Brio air fryer. However, I haven't felt like I needed that second portion very often.

Cooking Items Separately: I can also cook two different items at the same time. I place one item in the pan - sitting on the original rack in the machine - and cook veggies on the original rack next to it. I have not yet cooked a meal large enough to have to use the Accessory rack in addition to the original rack. But it's good to know that I will have that extra space if I need it.  

Weight Loss: After loosely following the eating habits recommended by the Embry family in Living Proof and using the NuWave Brio air fryer, I have lost 4 lbs in approximately 2 weeks. That doesn't sound like much, but I am thrilled with that much loss after just changing what I eat. 





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Monday, July 1, 2019

Reviewing the NuWave Brio 10 Qt Air Fryer

Reviewing the NuWave Brio on Review This! 
Just this week I purchased the NuWave Brio 10 qt air fryer. And I am immediately in love with this way of cooking. I had to immediately review my new kitchen appliance.  If I find that over time I become disenchanted with this air fryer, I'll update this review. But right now I cannot imagine changing my mind about this machine.


NuWave Brio 


I bought an air fryer due to a recommendation from a co-worker. My co-worker had a cardiac event at a very young age. Thankfully, he recovered fully and returned to work. Not only did he return to work he clearly was losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle.  I asked him what his secret was. He said that he was using an air fryer. And if I was interested in losing weight and/or becoming healthier, I should definitely get one.

After looking at video reviews and comparison shopping in the stores, I chose the NuWave Brio 10 Qt machine. I made this choice for three main reasons.

  • similar pricing to the other machines
  • 1500w (double the power of some of the other machines)
  • a larger cooking space than some of the other machines

The NuWave advertising lists the highlights of this appliance as:

  • digital controls
  • evenly distributed heat
  • dishwasher safe parts (the parts - not the machine)
  • program functions - program your favorite recipes
  • stage functions - create up to 10 stages of time/temp adjustments
  • rotisserie - adjustable forks and rotates 360 degrees
  • sear function 
  • reversible wire rack (to adjust the height of your food and/or make room for up to an 8 lb chicken)
  • built-in "safe start" sensor
  • precise temperature control from 100F - 400F degrees. 

My Skepticism and Hesitation


That initial air fryer recommendation came to me close to two years ago. When my co-worker suggested an air fryer, one of the reasons I was very skeptical is that I didn't believe that I'd use one regularly. After all, I never deep-fry foods and I already often bake my meats/french fries rather than fry. 

Since then, a second co-worker has had a cardiac event (she is fully recovered also - thank God!). With my friends having major health scares, my own increasingly health problems, and after watching a movie of a young man who controls his Multiple Sclerosis (MS) symptoms via diet and exercise, I decided to take the plunge and purchase an air fryer. 

(No, I do not have MS, but his story about healthy diet was so motivating I decided to focus on cutting out even more carbs, sugars, and junk foods. If you would like to see my review of Living Proof by Matt Embry, click here).


The Past Week with the Brio Air Fryer


Since I have bought this machine, I have had a wide variety of cooked vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, green beans) that I normally would not have unless I was eating out. For some reason, I have never been able to stir-fry or saute vegetables and have them turn out appealing in any way. The one vegetable I cook well is summer squash, but I was frying them in a small amount of oil. Now I'm air frying them with only a dusting of cooking spray.

I've made chicken livers in this machine and they turned out GREAT.  I did not expect them too. The light flour coating browned and crisped. I was amazed. Another perk was that cooking the chicken livers in the machine greatly decreased that cooking liver smell that permeates the apartment when I cook them in the frying pan!  

I've also made a beef and broccoli Chinese food recipe that turned out GREAT. This is something I've never been able to cook successfully previously. 

I have made both lightly floured chicken nuggets and BBQ chicken chunks that looked and tasted as though they were grilled.

But the best thing about this appliance has been cooking great foods, foods that I often would pop into the oven for 30 - 45 minutes. But this apartment is hot and we've been having a heatwave. Without the Brio, I would either be on the verge of heatstroke while making dinner or I would forgo a real meal. With the NuWave Brio, I have been making great meals during this heatwave and adding very little, if any, extra heat in the kitchen. 

I am really pleased with this purchase and I'm very glad I finally acted on my co-worker's recommendation.







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Monday, June 17, 2019

Reviewing FLEXUS by Spring Step Shoes

Cute and comfortable shoes.
I dislike shoes. I really, really dislike shoes. So when I find a pair that I enjoy wearing I feel compelled to tell others about them. The FLEXUS shoes made by Spring Step are affordable, comfortable, and everyday cute. 


FLEXUS by Spring Step


The other day I wore my FLEXUS shoes to an event and got several compliments. Perhaps my co-workers were so surprised to see me wearing something other than my same ol' tennis shoes that they complimented my shoes out of shock. But I don't think so. These shoes are cute. 

Not only are they cute, they are affordable. I bought my pair (the style: Bedrock) at DSW

They are comfortable. The soles are slightly flexible and the shoes are lightweight. I like to keep my toes covered and the wide toe box is comfortable. No squished, cramped toes crammed into a pointed toe! The treads of the shoe are a type of hard rubber - solid but not loud and clackity on hard surface floors. 

On the Spring Step website, they list the 5 points of comfort of the soles as:

  • anti-shock
  • anatomic
  • self-moulding
  • slip-proof
  • flexible

The older I become, the less I like to wear heels. Once upon a time I liked wearing wedges for special occasions. And prior to that I LOVED stacks. Yes, I'm giving away my age. But honestly, I would just prefer to be barefoot. If I absolutely must wear shoes, I'm glad I found the FLEXUS line by Spring Step.

If you prefer shopping on Amazon, there is a large selection of shoes by Spring Step.




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Monday, June 3, 2019

Dog Company: A True Story of American Soldiers Abandoned by Their High Command Book Review

Troops at FOB Airborne preparing for a mission.
Each year over Memorial Weekend, I deliberately spend some time learning about and remembering our American military individuals who have given their lives in service to their country. This year I read Dog Company: A True Story of American Soldiers Abandoned by Their High Command and I am still reeling from what I read - knowing this is a story our government would prefer it's civilians not know. 

I already had some understanding that our troops who were deployed to Afghanistan often lived in very dangerous and "austere" conditions. I also had some awareness that rules of engagement made it difficult for our troops to stay alive. But authors Lynn Vincent and Roger Hill paint a detailed picture of how completely impossible the situations over there really were - and some reasons why so many families back home lost their loved ones.


Dog Company: A True Story of American Soldiers Abandoned by Their High Command by Lynn Vincent and Roger Hill


Dog Company is partially a day-in-the-life portrait of soldiers trying to carry out their missions in Wardak Province, Afghanistan and partially a court drama with accusations of war crimes. I'm immediately hooked in the story - getting to know the handful of soldiers at FOB (Forward Operating Base) Airborne.
'Sargeant Raul Lopez, the platoon sergeant at Sayed Abad Base, coming through his cell: "The CLP didn't bring any food and water with them this time, sir" '
Life sustaining supplies weren't getting through to Captain Roger Hill's troops. Not because they were cut off by the bad guys but due to the complacency or ineptitude of the leadership. The book begins with plans to move supplies from FOB Airborne to Sayed Abad.

The descriptions of the dusty dirt roads, narrow cliff-hugging mountainous roads barely wide enough for the vehicles, and how the men jumped into action every time something went wrong made me feel as though I were watching it all. 

All supplies, not just food and water, were in short supply. Vehicles were unreliable. There were not enough men to guard the FOBs. At night, our guys put dummies up to look like there were more overnight guards and a larger presence than there really was.

And if that wasn't bad enough, they learn that there are spies among them, Afghan Nationals approved to work on the FOBs, giving the information to the Taliban to set ambushes. Ambushes like the one that killed Carwile and Conlon.


Remembering...


On that supply run, to deliver the food and water that Battalion (the higher-ups) couldn't seem to supply, two soldiers lost their lives.

Lieutenant Donnie Carwile:


"Formerly enlisted, Carwile, twenty-nine, had put himself through college while working as a policeman in Oxford, Mississippi, then returned to the Army as an officer."

SPC Paul Conlon:


"Back in June, Conlon, twenty-one, of Mashpee, Massachusetts, had taken heavy shrapnel wounds during a vicious firefight. this trip to Sayed Abad was his first chance to bet back into the field with his platoon brothers, and he was pumped."

Throughout the book, many other men were physically wounded. Yet they all wanted to remain to continue the mission and to continue to take care of each other the best they could in these dire circumstances.




Rules of Engagement


Due to the rules of engagement during that period of time, the procedures (or lack thereof) for handling dangerous detainees, and the lack of support on these distant FOBs, caused life and death decisions at every moment. In trying to prevent more of his men being killed in action, CPT Roger Hill made a decision that some view as criminal. He and First Sargeant Scott are carted off to military court due to their decisions and actions.

I found this story to be riveting; both the stories of the missions and the description of the court process. 

As an army mom, I appreciate CPT Roger Hill and his attempts to protect his men, including sacrificing his finances and his career. I don't know that his decision was the right choice - the line between right and wrong is often thick and blurry. But I also don't think he was given any other choice - except to watch more of his men die. I also appreciate First Sargeant Scott and his determination to follow his conscience against the odds.

This book was written via accessing many sources including: interviews of the men of Dog Company and others deployed with them, review of the documents used at the Article 32 hearing, the criminal investigation reports, and more. The authors also submitted the manuscript to be reviewed for issues of national security. As a result, there are portions of the book that are redacted. 

I am extremely grateful to Lynn Vincent and Roger Hill for going through all that they have in order to publish this story and shine a light on what some of our troops have gone through at the direction of our country. 

Photo Credit: public domain photo by Spc. Justin French. Delta Company, 2nd of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division - FOB Airborne. Original photo cropped due to space considerations.

Previous Memorial Day readings:

Mindfulness on Memorial Day 2018. In 2018, I learned about the Bataan Death March. Prior to that time, I had not heard a thing about the invasion of the Philippines and the thousands of POWs held from 1942 to 1945. 

Mindfulness on Memorial Day 2017.  In 2017, I read World Changer: A Mother's Story: The Unbreakable Spirit of US Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn. Karen Vaughn wrote about her son, memorializing him and writing with such honesty that I sobbed. 




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Monday, May 20, 2019

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing on Review This!
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens was such a beautifully written story that I am having difficulty moving on into any other books. The wait list for this book at the library is long. More than one friend insisted that I read this story. The editorial reviews are glowing. The hype is not wrong. I'm considering reading this story again, only a couple of weeks after finishing it - the story was that captivating. I can't stop thinking about Kya and the marsh life that surrounded her.
"Marsh is Not Swamp."
"Swamp water is still and dark, having swallowed the light in it's muddy throat."
Kya is a young girl, living with her family in a remote shack in the marshes of North Carolina. She is still very young as her broken family disintegrates and disappears. Initially, her explosive father remains and her survival skills begin to develop as she learns to navigate the moods of her father and the moods of the natural world. Beginning at age 6, we watch as the decades of Kya Clark's life unfold. Near the beginning of the story, with the exception of the gulls she feeds, she is completely alone. 
"Hands to her mouth, she held her head back and called "Kee-ow, kee-ow, kee-ow.' Specks of silver appeared in the sky from up and down the beach, from over the surf"
"Crying and screeching, the birds swirled and dived, hovering near her face, and landed as she tossed grits to them. Finally, they quieted and stood about preening, and she sat on the sand, her legs folded to the side. One large gull settled onto the sand near Kya."

" 'It's my birthday' she told the bird." 

The townspeople of Barkley Cove are aware of her. They call her "Marsh Girl". Collectively, they consider her a dirty oddity; literally an untouchable as a mother shields her child from contact during one of Kya's limited trips to the grocery store in town. 

Truancy folks tried to enforce school attendance. Mrs. Culpepper was able get Kya to attend one day, a difficult day, of school; the only positive experience being the chicken pie served at lunch. But after that day Kya decided to never return. And Kya, like any being attuned to living in the wild, was able to disappear each subsequent time Mrs. Culpepper arrived at the remote shack. 

Tate is a young local man. Kya knew him as her brother Jodie's friend. But her brother is gone.  Even so, Tate has been nearby and his quiet and gentle way of being allows them to form a tenuous bond.

Chase is the town hero - the Barkley Cove football star and the guy who got all the girls. If there are any stereotyped characters in this book, it is Chase. But then again, we've all known this guy, haven't we? And what girl who is alone and lonely, and who is becoming an adult, doesn't fall for the practiced charms of a guy like Chase at least once?

Jumpin' is the owner of a marina gas station. In an era where whites and blacks had separate schools and his family lived in Colored Town instead of Barkley Cove, Jumpin' did not have any pre-judgements about the child Mr. Clark had left alone. Kya found Jumpin to be an unlikely friend, mentor, and advisor.  Over time, Kya limits her shopping and bartering to Jumpin's store and avoids town altogether. When tragedy happens - Chase is found dead - Kya's solitary world in the marsh and the civilized world of town collide. Was it an accident or was it murder? And did that wild Marsh Girl, that Swamp Rat, kill the most popular guy in town?


"Tutored by millions of minutes of alone, Kya thought she knew lonely" 

Sometimes I read the book then watch the movie. Sometimes I watch the movie and then read the book. In this case, I highly recommend reading the book first. I can't imagine that a movie - even produced by Reese Witherspoon - will do this story of coming of age while surviving in the marshes justice. 

Ms. Owens knows how to write. Her descriptions of the natural surroundings paints a picture that is easy to imagine. After reading the book I felt as though I had spent the summer at the beach. My review does not come close to conveying the beauty of her prose and her ability to transport you to the location. I encourage you to read a sample of the book and decide for yourself if this is a story you'd like to lose yourself in.
"The morning burned so August-hot, the marsh's moist breath hung the oaks and pines with fog. The palmetto patches stood unusually quiet except for the low, slow flap of the heron's wings lifting from the lagoon. And then, Kya, only six at the time, heard the screen door slap."


Photo Credit: The photo was taken by and is the property of Dawn Rae and was taken in the marsh at North Point State Park, Baltimore, MD.



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Monday, May 6, 2019

Lava Stone Bracelet Review

Reviewing my beautiful Basalt bracelets.
I recently purchased a pair of lava stone bracelets and am very happy with them. They are available on Amazon. As another reviewer says, "don't be fooled by the price".  At this price, I half expected to receive cheap synthetic trinkets. But I was surprised to receive beautiful stone bracelets. These bracelets are a great gift to give and an awesome treat for yourself.


Lava Stone Bracelets 


I was shopping for Lava Stone specifically. So I was thrilled that there were many options to choose from: lava stone, tigers eye (brown or blue), malachite, wooden beads, and howlite. 

These bracelets are fully adjustable due to the sliding knot. Pull each end of the cord to tighten. Pull each side of the bracelet to loosen. I have a small wrist - just under 7".  These bracelets snug up to fit me perfectly.  Open to it's widest, my bracelet measures approximately 13". 



There are many places to purchase a Lava Stone bracelet but I purchased mine on Amazon by M MOOHAM. My pair of bracelets arrived quickly. They were packaged in a soft drawstring bag and inside a cardboard box.





Reasons to Buy a Lave Stone Bracelet


Yoga Bracelets:  People seem to use the term "yoga bracelet" to mean either as a Mala for meditation, as stones that are thought to have healing or calming properties, or as some combination of those two things. Malas are used in meditation by counting along the string of beads during a chant. Malas and other jewelry are often made from stone beads. Those stones are thought to have properties that benefit us.  
For example:
"Lava Stone is a grounding stone that strengthens one's connection to Mother Earth. It gives us strength and courage, allowing us stability through times of change. It provides guidance and understanding in situations where we may need to "bounce back". A calming stone, it is very useful in dissipating anger"            -- from CharmsofLight.com

Wearable Essential Oil Diffuser:  Many people like essential oils either for the fragrance or for the calming properties. Lava stones can be used as a wearable oil diffuser. Simply rub a drop or two of your favorite oil onto a lava stone.  Allow the oil several minutes to dry before wearing.

Fashion Accessory:  Wear these lava stone bracelets just because they look good. 

My interest in lava stone (also called Basalt) is increasing because of my recent purchase of a Basalt stone bird bath. I fell in love with the stone and decided to purchase a basalt bracelet to wear.

Related Link:

Our Louanne shared a review about her essential oil diffuser necklace. She includes "how to" photos in her article about this functional and beautiful piece of jewelry. If you prefer necklaces to bracelets, her necklace may be just what you are looking for. 


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Monday, April 29, 2019

Reviewing the Basalt Birdbath by Stone Age Creations

My birdbath on a West Virginia ridge.
I have been eyeing these beautiful carved stone birdbaths for years. Only last week did I finally splurge on one. The Basalt stone bird bath by Stone Age Creations carried what I consider a hefty price tag but I think it is worth every penny.  This unique stone bath speaks to me, it is a perfect addition to my "yard", and it will be appreciated by the birds that visit me at The Shack for years to come.

Why Bird Baths are Important


Not only are bird baths wonderful lawn ornaments but they also provide water for the local birds. Birds need water; most birds drinking daily. And birds bathe in order to clean their feathers. Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides important information about proper upkeep of healthy bird baths and why birdbaths are useful. 

Birdbaths also attract a variety of birds to your yard. If you enjoy backyard bird watching and want to attract more birds, you'll love Mary Bath's gorgeous photographs and story about her own backyard birdbath. I always look forward to seeing her photography of her feathered visitors.

What is Basalt?


By looking at and touching the birdbaths at Sun Nursery (where I purchased my birdbath), I could guess that Basalt was some sort of stone. For the purpose of this article, I looked up more information.

Basalt - "the dark, dense igneous rock of a lava flow.... often displaying a columnar structure"  - dictionary.com 

Basalt is also described as
  • as heavy as granite, sometimes heavier
  • high in iron content
  • as durable as granite
  • aesthetically interesting due to the iron content
  • is a stone that has been used in architecture for centuries
  • in addition to landscaping and architecture, basalt is used as massage stones and as healing stones in jewelry
And an interesting bit of trivia is that some of the iconic "head" sculptures of Easter Island are carved from Basalt! I don't know very much about those Moai carvings but I have always thought they are made from beautiful stone. 


Easter Island Moai stone carvings
(photo credit: public domain courtesy of Aurbina)

A Basalt Birdbath at The Shack


I wanted this particular bird bath for several reasons. It is beautiful. The rustic stone exterior and super smooth interior portion of the dish is interesting in appearance and blends perfectly with the rugged ridge landscape.

It comes in two pieces. Each piece is still quite heavy, but the two pieces allowed me to haul it in the Jeep and carry it to it's spot under the apple tree.

My beautiful basalt birdbath
The bowl is quite shallow. During my next visit I am going to add a flat rock to the bowl - giving the smaller birds another spot to perch or use as a step. I really like that this bowl is flat-bottomed and Cornell Lab recommends shallow bird baths. 

The deer are into every single thing that is outside at The Shack. I am hoping that they are not able to knock this heavy birdbath over if they decide to help themselves. Also, the wind blows quite hard coming up and over that ridge. I am sure this bird bath will not blow over.

My land is at the top of the ridge. The terrain is rocky and dry. There is a creek somewhat nearby but it is at the bottom of the hill. I'm sure the birds will be appreciative of a convenient water source.

Related Link: 

During my last trip to The Shack, it rained a lot. So much so that I didn't get much done. I wasn't able to prepare a spot so the bath sits level. But I did have an opportunity to take a hike. If you want to see the photos from that hike, click here

I have wanted this bird bath since discovering Sun Nursery years ago. Sun Nursery has a HUGE selection of plants and staff that are both helpful and knowledgeable. If you are near the Maryland and DC areas, Sun Nursery is well worth a visit. 

Stone Age Creations makes some gorgeous items. I am partial to their birdbaths, benches, and boulder owls. If there is not a distributor of their items in  your area, you can find some of their items on Amazon. 





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Monday, April 8, 2019

Attracting Northern Cardinals

How to attract Cardinals.
I love Cardinals. And frequently see them in the area around my apartment near Baltimore. They are plentiful here. But I rarely see them at The Shack. The Shack is located on a ridge in Northeastern West Virginia. I enjoy birdwatching at The Shack and have been puzzled about the absence of these beautiful red birds at my feeders there. So I reviewed what they are attracted to and am sharing that information here.


Types of Bird Feeders and Seed that Northern Cardinals Prefer 


Cardinals are attracted to the type of birdseed I purchase; mixes with black sunflower and/or safflower. Where I may be going wrong at The Shack is that they tend to prefer platform feeders or feeders with trays. My feeders at The Shack all have the circular openings for the seed.

After studying a bit about cardinals I realized that I already had witnessed that Cardinals preferred to feed from the ground or from platform feeders. A friend had kept a seed block on the ground and the Cardinals had flocked to it constantly.  At The Shack, the most bird seed that ends up on the ground occurs during the process of my filling, flipping, and hanging the feeder. After that process, the majority of the seed remains in the feeder. 


Cardinals Love Trees and Plants with Berries


While I have had some shrubs and trees that produce berries, I don't have a great amount of those plants. I have planted a thornless blackberry plant and plan to plant blueberry bushes. After reviewing what Cardinals like, I suspect I'll spot many more Cardinals after my berry bushes begin to produce!

Cardinals also are attracted to Viburnum shrubs and Mulberry trees. The Viburnum Dilatatum "Henneke" is highly recommended to attract cardinals. Yes, I've just added Viburnums to my lengthy plant shopping list.
Viburnum Dilatatum "Henneke"
Dogwood trees also attract Cardinals. I do have Dogwood trees but they are deep in my woods, at the bottom of my property. Perhaps I have more of these gorgeous red birds at my property than I know. They may stay down at the other end of my land.


Bird baths


Cardinals are a type of bird that "readily visits bird baths". I need to get a bird bath. The water at the top of my ridge is limited. And while I have no way of keeping the bird bath full during the dry months and in between my visits, at least I could fill a bird bath each time I visit. 

I've had my eye on the Stone Age Creations bird baths for a long time. Maybe it is finally time to splurge!
Granite Boulder Birdbath by Stone Age Creations
Hopefully, planting more berry-producing trees and shrubs, hanging a different feeder, and putting out a bird bath will help attract these birds to my yard at The Shack.

*photo courtesy of wikimedia commons/public domain. Photographer: Ken Thomas.

Related Link:

Mary Beth recently reviewed Facts and Photos of the Northern Cardinal. If you like these beautiful red birds, be sure to take a peek at Mary Beth's article.

My online source for bird identification and information: Cornell's All About Birds. The variety of photos and audio clips of the bird's songs are very helpful.


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Monday, April 1, 2019

Spring 2019 Hummingbird Migration

Reviewing the Hummingbird-Guide website
I put my first hummingbird feeder for 2019 out on Saturday. I am excited to see my first visitor of this year. According to the hummingbird migration map, a few ruby-throated hummingbirds are already close to my area (Maryland).

Reviewing the Humming Bird Guide Website


Did you know that there is a hummingbird migration map online?  I have used it off and on for the past few years. Last year, I didn't use it and only thought about hanging the feeder when I spotted a hummingbird hovering on the other side of my balcony sliding door; looking at me as if to say, "come on lady, where's the food?"

Saturday morning, the closest sighting submitted to Hummingbird-Guide.com was in northern North Carolina. I've driven from Baltimore to North Carolina. If the birds basically fly straight through, they should arrive at my house any day. 

In addition to allow you and others to submit their first hummingbird sightings, the Hummingbird-Guide site has many links for different information: blog, migration, attracting, flowers, feeders, inspirational stories and so much more. 

Hummingbirds at my Apartment


This year, I made sure to consult the map. My first visitor will have a meal as soon as he/she arrives. Actually, I seem to have one pair that comes to visit me. And it may be the same pair every year - they've become comfortable enough to perch on the hanger and on a plant shelf on my balcony.

I have had the best luck attracting hummingbirds with the 1:4 sugar water and boiled water recipe.


  • Boil water. 
  • Mix in 1 part of sugar to 4 parts water. 
  • Fill and hang a hummingbird feeder


I don't like to store the sugar water in the fridge, so I add 1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup of boiled/cooled water. I like working with a small amount. I have left the sugar water in the feeder for too long of a period of time and it started to turn cloudy with mold forming in the "flowers" of the feeder. For me, using only a small amount forces me to clean my feeder frequently. 

Hummingbird watching me while
I watched him/her

Related Links:

I LOVE hummingbirds. And for years I wasn't able to attract them. I now look forward to their return. I like books and movies about these winged miracles. Below are some links for those who loving these little birds.

Renaissance Woman wrote a book review about the Fastest Things on Wings: Rescuing Hummingbirds in Hollywood by Terry Masear. Read the review to see why this book about hummingbird rescue and rehab is highly recommended.

Grammie O loves hummingbirds too. She wrote 5 Ways to Guarantee Hummingbirds Will Come to You. One of the things that attracted hummingbirds to her yard were Canna flowers. Check out her article for her other tips.

Super Hummingbirds is a mesmerizing video by Nature. I can't really describe how awesome the film is. If you love hummingbirds, you'd love to see this beautiful film of them.

2014 was the first year I was able to attract hummingbirds. 2015 was the year that I documented their visits more carefully. If you think you can't have hummingbirds visit your balcony, you may be  wrong. I was wrong. You can see my balcony visitors of 2015 here and here on my Budget Balcony Living site.


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Monday, March 25, 2019

Book Review: Down Bohicket Road: An Artist's Journey

Artist Mary Whyte
Down Bohicket Road: An Artist's Journey is a collection of exquisite watercolor paintings by Mary Whyte and excerpts from her book Alfreda's World. The combination of stories and portraits of the Gullah women and girls of John's Island moved me to tears at one point. 

My opinion is that women are generally cruel to other women. We are judgemental based on looks, culture, race, religion, and other differences. We tend to exclude women who don't fit in our group. This book is a gentle and beautiful display of women who accept, love, and nurture other women - transcending all of the wrong lessons we are taught as girls. 


Artist Mary Whyte 


Mary Whyte is a talented watercolor artist who was raised in a typical segregated, rural, white home of the 50s and 60s. Her exposure to people of color included the attendants in the private club her family belonged to and the man who cleaned their 12 acre property two times a year. 


Down Bohicket Road: An Artist's Journey
As an extremely brief summary, Mary grew up to be a painter, wife, and cancer survivor. She and her husband owned an art gallery in Philadelphia during her battle with cancer. They decide to relocate to Charleston, South Carolina. Even though Mary had planned on painting beach scenes and children on those beaches her focus quickly became painting the amazing Gullah women of Hebron St. Francis Senior Center.


"While the words here may reveal some of their character, I hope that my paintings and sketches more closely capture the lilt of their voices, the heat of the kitchen, and their fierce love of God."  - Mary Whyte



The Gullah Women and Girls of Johns Island


Years ago I saw a random, short video clip of a Gullah parade, funeral, or celebration. I wasn't sure what it was but I was immediately interested in learning a bit more about that culture. Which is how I learned about Mary Whyte's amazing watercolor portrayals of Gullah women.

I will probably never be able to afford a Mary Whyte painting (original or reproduction) so I recently bought this hardcover book for the collection of paintings. Little did I know that the story behind the paintings was just as beautiful.

When Mary Whyte, a privileged white woman, arrived in their community the Gullah women of Hebron St. Francis Senior Center immediately took her in. They fed her, loved her, and added her to their family. Nevermind that these women had no material wealth, some had been impacted by hurricane Hugo, and most (if not all; I'm still learning) descended from lowcountry slaves.

These women welcomed her into their weekly Wednesday gatherings; quilting, eating, and worship. They posed for her paintings. And she portrayed them with the light in their eyes shining through.

When asked what Ms. Alfreda thought of Mary the first time they met, her answer moved me to tears:
"Here was this skinny, kind of pitiful white girl comin' in, not knowin' where she was goin' or what she was looking for, and definitely in need of some love..." 

I'll leave the rest of it for you to read in context of the story. I think it will be better that way. 

I will say that I don't know if Mary and her husband knew what they were looking for when they moved to South Carolina following that year of cancer treatment. But I don't imagine they had any idea they'd find someone like Ms. Alfreda and the other women of Johns Island.





This book is a gentle weaving of memories and paintings, descriptions of ordinary lives, and examples of extraordinary love and acceptance. This is not a hit-you-over-the-head social commentary even though it is a powerful example of how women should love and care for each other during the "little biddy amount of time" we have on this earth.


"All royalties from the sale of this book benefit the Hebron St. Francis Senior Center on Johns Island, South Carolina."  - from the backflap of Down Bohicket Road



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Monday, March 18, 2019

Reviewing the DoBoard Dry Erase Chart

The DoBoard dry erase chart keeps me motivated. 
The large chart board by DoBoard is a great way to keep track of chores, appointments and goals at home or work. This magnetic dry erase board is also an easy way to display a menu at a restaurant or use in an office for lists that change frequently such as showing employees who are "in" or "out" and scheduled meetings. If you are looking for visual organization, this might be for you. 


DoBoard 12" x 17" Magnetic Dry Erase Chart Board


This dry erase board by DoBoard is magnetized and the entire back side is coated. No bumpy, annoying small magnets on each corner.

The chart board comes pre-printed with days of the week across the top and a chart grid to list 15 items. There is also room at the top and bottom to add a title, incentive agreements, reminders, and comments.

This board does not come with dry erase markers or erasers. I needed to use fine point markers for my list. I don't advise using regular, large tipped dry erase markers for writing the list. 

This board is very smooth and is easily erased - unlike my lower quality dry erase board I use at work.

DoBoard shipped this chart flat, in a large box. This avoided any crinkling or damage that may have occurred during the shipping process.


12" x 17" Chart by DoBoard



Why I ordered DoBoard's Chart


This is a perfect chore/incentive chart for children. No arguing about what needs to be done before they earn their goal - it is an ongoing check list of what needs to be done. This would also be a perfect way for our receptionist at work to keep track of who is in and out of their office.  But I ordered this for my own motivation and sanity.

When I become over-worked and super stressed, I start to become ineffective. I eventually stop doing anything because I'm not keeping on top of everything. In reality, I'm still doing a great deal of things. I'm working my butt off. But I begin to tell myself that I'm not doing enough. As those thoughts increase, my productivity decreases and eventually stops.

After seeing this brand of "chore chart" at my son's home, I ordered one for myself. I really liked that it was pre-printed with everything except my list of to-dos. Some of the things I have listed are things I do on a daily basis (such as keeping the dogs and cat fed, walked, and watered), things I want to do on a daily basis (crochet and exercise), and chores that I hate (washing dishes and laundry) but have to do to avoid being referred to the television show "Hoarders". 

I definitely function better under stress with seeing a list of things that have been completed - I feel accomplished. As I'm checking off things, or adding tally marks for the things I do multiple times a day, that little nagging voice has a harder time sneaking in to tell me that I'm not doing enough. It also encourages me to not give up on my goal of building a small home and moving to my land. For example, I've added "go to work" at the top of my list to remind me that I'm not yet allowed to quit my job - yes, things are that bad right now. 

If you are looking for a chart, for whatever reason (yourself, children, or employees - menus, chores, or goals) this board by DoBoard is a great choice.






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Monday, March 11, 2019

Reviewing Jeans Yarn by Lion Brand

Stonewash Jeans yarn by Lion Brand.
Lion Brand Yarn Company sells some of my favorite yarns. While I'm waiting for my order of Comfy Cotton Blend yarn to arrive, I'm using some Jeans yarn that I had on hand. I had forgotten how much I love this yarn for hats. The super soft yarn, in blue jean colors, was perfect in a hat for my grandson. I think it'll also be awesome for making my Jenny Hats.

I've started crocheting chemo hats. I call them my Jenny Hats. If you'd like to know more about why I started making chemo hats the link to that article is listed below.

I've been using Lion Brand Comfy Cotton blend yarn for my Jenny Hats. Because cotton is so comfortable and because the Comfy Cotton yarn is so soft. But this weekend I did not have enough Comfy Cotton blend on hand. So I started a hat with the Jeans yarn. My goal is to make the most comfortable hats that I am able to make. 

I LOVE the Jeans yarn. It is 100% acrylic yarn - not cotton as I had guessed. It is machine washable and dryable. And the colors are awesome. "Stonewash" is the color pictured. Doesn't it look like a favorite pair of broken in jeans? 

The yarn is labeled as a size 4. In my opinion, it is on the small side of size 4. It is working up in this Jenny Hat just like the size 3 Comfy Cotton blend worked up. The Jeans yarn does not split or fray easily making it very easy to work with.

At the largest yarn store in my area, I can easily find Jeans yarn in 3 shades of blue, black and 2 shades of brown.  As I was preparing to write this, I see that Jeans yarn is being made in other colors; shades of pink, turquoise, red, and burgundy. These are labeled "Jeans Colors"

Jeans Colors - pink


Related Links:

Read about Jenny and why I began making chemo hats. I also shared photos of the Jenny Hats made with Comfy Cotton Blend yarn here

Another Lion Brand yarn that I rave about is the Wool Ease Thick and Quick. An excellent chunky yarn for neck warmers and other projects that call for a thick, soft yarn. 







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Monday, March 4, 2019

Reviewing Flexible Tunisian Crochet Hooks

Using the appropriate hook for the project. 
With a great deal of skepticism, I recently bought a 24" Flexible Tunisian Crochet hook. It is the recommended hook for larger Tunisian (also called "afghan") crochet projects. I fully expected to not like my purchase. I expected it to snag and not feel as comfortable as my preferred aluminum crochet hooks. Not only was I pleasantly surprised at the smoothness of this wooden hook, I was very happy with the longer length. I should have purchased more than just the one. I can imagine using a variety of sizes of these hooks in the future.

A friend at work asked me if I would try to crochet a scarf for her - from a pattern she found on Etsy. I told her that I'd try, but I was very new to Tunisian crochet. 

I started on the first practice attempt with regular, aluminum Tunisian Crochet hooks. I wanted to first test the pattern. I found that I could work it correctly for the most part. Then the project became wide enough that handling the straight hook was difficult. As the yarn gathered on the hook, it became bunched and too bulky to manage. 

So I ordered the ChiaoGoo 24" Flexible Tunisian Crochet Hook size H8. 

The flexible Tunisian crochet hook is a wooden crochet hook. It has a thick synthetic "cord" that ends in a wooden bead. The bead works as a stopper. The length of the hook with the length of the cord allows you to work on a longer project comfortably. As you can see in the photo, as I add stitches, my scarf easily moves on and off the hook. The bulk does not gather and bunch under my hand.

As I mentioned, I was concerned that the transition between the hook and the cord would snag my yarn. It does not. The metal cap is smooth and makes a smooth transition.

Initially, that stiff cord (think of super thick fishing line) flopped around while I crocheted and it distracted me. But after just 2 or 3 rows, I no longer noticed that naturally curled cord. 

My longer Tunisian crochet projects are much easier with this flexible hook.




Related Links:

This is the third project I've made using the Sweet Roll yarn by Premier Yarns. The color is Wild Cherry Swirl. While they offer many colors in this yarn the wild cherry is my favorite by far. 

I only began learning Tunisian crochet just a few months ago (October/November) and I'm enjoying it very much. See my first Tunisian crochet project here.

I've been taking more time to crochet and as a result I'm gathering a sizable collection of crochet hooks. This Teamoy Tunisian Crochet Hook Case is very helpful in keeping my supplies organized. 




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