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

Monday, June 21, 2021

Book Review: Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

In this tale we meet a variety of people who are living the best they are able after the Second Conflict. The Second Conflict which was also called "The Fall",  "The Reformation", and most commonly, "The Big Stupid". Nana said that some called it the Rapture. Her grandchild is only seven years old and doesn't remember a time before it. Regardless of the name, it was an event that set everyone back to zero in relation to technology, created massive weather events, and left people living hard lives trying to survive.


Wolf Road is an apocalyptic psychological thriller. It will not be eveyone's cup of tea.   The villain (or villains?) in this story function along the lines of Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs or Colin Stanton in Bone Collector.

Nana

"My house, girl" she said "you just a guest here till your parents come back. Pray that it be soon"

Nana was caring for her 7 year old grandchild because her daughter had run off with a man. They had run off to look for gold in  the north. Nana lived in a shack that she had built and rebuilt with Grandpa. He was killed in the Second Conflict and left Nana to fend for herself during these hard times. Now she also had to care for a child. A sassy, disrespectful child. 

Our introduction to Nana is brief as a thunderhead roared into their small town which was situation in the valley between the hills. 

Seven-year-old Girl a.k.a Elka

A seven year old child was arguing with Nana after being told to go collect pine resin. During their argument it was clear that conflict between the two was not a one-time thing. The child continued to refuse and Nana left the house with the final words "Don't you follow me. I don't even want to look at you no more."

While Nana was gone, the thunderhead rolled into town; terrifying the little girl who shouted for her grandmother to return. She hid under the table and before she knew it, both she and the table were in the air, being carried off in the storm. When she landed, she had no clue where she was or how to return to Nana's shack. But terrified, tired, and hungry she set off to find her way back.

Trapper a.k.a Kreagar

The man found a little girl eating his meat that was hanging on drying racks outside of his hut. She ran and hid but he tracked her (probably very easily given his skill living off the land). When she woke, with her head wrapped in a bandage from being knocked unconscious with the butt of his gun she noted

He sat on a chair by the door, staing at me with eyes like the devil. Shotgun rested against his leg, his hat on his knee. He must a' fallen asleep, his face was all covered in streaks of black dirt. "Where'd you come from?" he said. His voice had a breath of kindness to it.

 The little girl referred to him as Trapper. He was "the strangest I'd met" and after he couldn't locate Nana (did he really try?), he named the girl Elka (she could not remember her real name) and trained her how to hunt and trap.  It was not until much later that she learned his name was Kreagar and the grotesque things he was accused of doing.      

Magistrate Lyon

Magistrate Lyon is after Kreagar. She is the law, such as it is during those times. And she rides with a posse. They ride horseback from town to town and posted black and white printed wanted flyers everywhere. Magistrate Lyon wants justice. She wants revenge. 

Penelope

During and after an apocalypse, it is not safe for a young lady. Elka figures it is especially unsafe for a pretty, feminine, delicate girl who doesn't know her way around the woods. Who has absolutely no outdoors skills. A girl like Penelope. However, Elka learns that Penelope has other life-saving skills such as reading and quick-thinking in situations that involve people. 

The two very young ladies have a love-hate relationship and take care of each other (mostly) while both are fleeing danger and while Elka is on the road north to find her parents. Based on the one letter she had received from them, and the letter she had Nana read to her over and over, she pictured her parents living a happy life on their gold claim and her singularly focused plan was to join them. 

Wolf Road 

This story kept me interested with it's blend of apocalyptic fiction with hints of old western. I wasn't sure if I were reading about future events or events that occurred in the past. Even though I was unsure, it worked for me. The characters were unique and easy to imagine. Each one both villain and hero. So much so that it was hard to know who to root for at times.

Due to the pollution and weather related to whatever occurred during the Damn Stupid, there was a slight element of fantasy. Or was it? It is hard to say what would happen when the environment is polluted following bombings.

This was Elka's coming of age story. Where she survives childhood and begins making adult decisions for her life. During a time that she struggles with understanding whether or not she was Trapper's adopted daughter or Kreager's evil accomplice. She has great difficulty understanding those two as the same man. And difficulty deciding how to manage the situation.

This story is about nature versus nurture. Are children born with their instincts and desires, or do we train those things into them? Are evil people inherently evil? Or taught to be evil? Are those who are taught to be evil able to overcome it? 

Elka struggles with these things until the very last pages.





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


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Monday, June 7, 2021

Reviewing Farmhouse Decor Ideas: Character Wood and Metal

I have a small home that is currently under construction. The exterior is purposefully barn-like. The siding is sheet metal and the side facing the road is windowless. I plan for the interior to also suggest (suggest or scream - I'm not quite sure yet) barn interior. While shopping and planning I have found that the look I am imagining is not always easy to find examples of but my plans are slowly coming together.

on ReviewThisReviews


One problem I have had while shopping and researching decor ideas is that search words such as "rustic", "country" and "cabin" brings results of bears, moose, mountains, bentwood, and plaids. All very lovely, and very appropriate for the mountain ridge where my home is being built, but not quite the look I am going for. Many "farmhouse decor" searches yield lovely photos that include monotone white decor and flower bouquets. Again, quite gorgeous but not exactly what I'm going for. 

I am looking for barn doors, concrete floors, metals and wood combinations. While there are entire books written on other home styles; contemporary, coastal, southwestern, industrial, and more, the books on the "rustic" style comes closest to my goal. But aren't quite what I'm after.

One of our contributors is an incredibly talented DIYer. Lucky for me, Renaissance Woman shares projects that are exactly what I'd like to make for my future home. She shared how she made a DIY Pallet Book Nook. In that project she utilized character wood (from pallets) and corrugated metal to turn a small, odd space in her home into a uniquely wonderful spot to read, hangout, and relax. She shares the definition of character wood; "weathered wood that captures your imagination." This style is very much what I'm imagining.


Renaissance Woman's DIY Pallet Book Nook

If you enjoy her DIY Pallet Book Nook article, you can find more of her reviews under her tab here. She is quite talented.

This wine rack is a much smaller example of barnhouse decor. In this example, it can be purchased fully assembled. But people with DIY talent could easily make their own.


Rustic Barn Door Wine Rack


Not everyone needs or wants a wine rack. But most everyone likes to have a wall clock in plain view for convenience. And how much better if that wall clock compliments the decor.  This wood and metal clock is a wonderful example of my definition of barnhouse decor.


Vintage Farmhouse Clock

Sliding barn doors are one of the most notable farmhouse (barnhouse) features. They are so popular that not only are they functional doors but they are also a part of furniture, wall-hangings, featured in paintings, and more. I have even seen printed shower curtains that mimic wooden barn doors.

I want a barn door. I have watched video tutorials and hope to make my own sliding barn door to cover at least one window. There are versions that do not required angled cuts and I think I can manage simple straight cuts and assembly. I am hoping for both functionality (blocking sun on hot days in that south-facing window) and visual appeal (a barn door hung in my barn). 

If I decide I am unable to build my own sliding barn door there are many options for purchase. This is just one example:

sliding barn door kit; assembly required

While I've never shopped at Pottery Barn, I have noticed that some of their wood furniture fits my idea of the farmhouse style. If you don't already shop there, you may want to take a peek.

If you are looking for some barnhouse inspiration, I hope these ideas spark your imagination. 




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


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Monday, May 17, 2021

Reviewing Round Tree-Swings

 As a child, my favorite playground toy was the swing. Metal  A-frame swing sets were in many yards. My family had one. And I loved to play on it, swinging so high that the legs lifted out of the ground and threatened to tip over. As I am making plans to move out of my apartment and into my own home, one of the things on my "must have" list is a swing. But what type? I have recently decided that I will have a single round tree swing.

My son on their tree swing

Over time, my son had sent photos and videos of my grandkids in their round swing. They loved that thing and laughed the entire time I pushed them in it during visits. It was durable and only needed a sturdy tree branch to hang from. And as you can see from the photograph above, it was sturdy enough for adults. However, I am a larger adult and did not feel confident using it. 

As time grows closer to moving to my own land, I have thought about swings. I want one the grandkids can enjoy when they visit but also one that I can use.  And I weigh a good bit more than my son does. So I was considering using an old fashioned wooden swing hanging from a tree branch or from the underside of my deck.

Then, a benefit of being an Amazon affiliate, I see what others are purchasing. I saw the SUPER DEAL 48" round, web swing. Rated up to 700 lbs, I can easily swing on this securely.

You see, as an Amazon Affiliate, I am able to see what was purchased via the links on my reviews. I cannot see who purchased it (providing privacy for the buyers) but I do get a link for the item. And I was thrilled to see this swing! It was a sign that I need a comfy tree swing rather than a wooden swing.

SUPER DEAL Extra Large 48" Web Swing

With over 1,000 ratings, this swing is rated at 4.8 out of 5 stars (at the time of this writing). Reading over the reviews and comments, a couple of the previous complaints have been addressed and have been fixed. For examples, there were a few older reviews that stated the knots/fasteners did not hold up. A more recent review shows photos of the improved clamp system. 

Details:

  • 48" diamater, extra large swing
  • Durable - rope and frame made of UV resistant materials
  • Metal frame
  • 71" rope length
  • holds up to 700 pounds

You may be asking why I don't buy an A-frame swing set. Or a play set that includes a swing. 

The number one reason I don't want to purchase a stand-alone swing set is because then I have something to mow around.  Also, with my steep slope yard, the A-frame swing set would not be safe.  

My grandkids all live several hundreds of miles away. If I were going to have children at my home on a regular basis, a play set would be the best option (except for the large up-front expense). For all of these reasons I am opting for a round, web swing.

And this Super Deal, super-sized swing will be perfect as I'll be able to lounge in it. Whether hanging from a tree branch down in my woods or from a support beam on my deck, you can count on me using this swing often.




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


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Monday, May 3, 2021

Book Review - The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel by Kim Michele Richardson

Have you ever read a book that makes it hard to start another book because you have a hard time moving on from the characters that you just finished reading about? Or a book that was so good that you read it at least one more time? The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel is one of those books for me. I have started reading it for a second time. This novel, inspired by historical programs and people, includes issues of remote Appalachian living in the 1930s, literacy, poverty, spinsterhood, and the impact of having a different skin color. This is the personal story of one woman's life. A woman who is both astonishingly brave and who is as uncertain as most of the rest of us.

Historical Fiction Review on ReviewThisReviews.com

I was hooked from the opening paragraph:

"The librarian and her mule spotted it at the same time. The creature's ears shot up, and it came to a stop so sudden its front hooves skidded out, the pannier slipping off, spilling out the librarian's books. An eddy of dirt and debris lifted, stinging the woman's eyes. The mule struggled to look upward, backward, anywhere other than at the thing in front of it."    -- The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Cussy Mary Carter lived with her father in their one-room log house in Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. Her mother had passed away and her father was desperate to find a husband for his grown daughter. While his goal of her being a respectful woman and safe as someone's wife, it did not fit with her chosen career of librarian. A pack horse librarian to be exact.

From 1935 to 1943, The Pack Horse Library Project ran through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) (part of President Roosevelt's New Deal programs. The WPA focused on work relief programs). Librarians were hired to circulate books to families on their routes. The routes were up to 18 - 20 miles per day and the librarians rode these routes on horseback. The routes were often rugged and dangerous but the librarians were determined.

Cussy Mary was devoted to the families along her route. All of her families. Those who were avid readers as well as hesitant readers. She was often the only outside contact families would have for long periods of time. She was a hero to these families.

She was also a pariah. Cussy Mary was one of Kentucky's Blue People. I had never heard of this family group who (partly due to geographical region and partly genetic) had noticeably blue skin. Superstitious people in the region blamed the blue people for bad things that happened. These people were shunned, ignored, or abused. The opening of this story includes a victim of a hanging.

When testing and a possible "cure" for Cussy Mary's colored skin is offered she finds that fitting in may or may not be as easy as the doctor would lead her to believe. She has some difficult decisions to make. 

From the Author:

After the end of the novel, Kim Michele Richardson includes very interesting information in her Author's Notes.  She writes:

"I've modified one historical date in the story so I could include relevant information about medical aspects and discoveries"

In other words, The Pack Horse Project was not ongoing when the "cure" for Cussy Mary's blue skin was discovered. 

At times, when I notice that an author adjusted factual information in order to create a more interesting story I am a bit disappointed. But in this case, I was not bothered.  In fact, I was very interested by the information about the causes and cure of the congenital disease. I am still amazed that prior to this book, I had never heard of either the Pack Horse Project librarians or the Blue Fugates of Kentucky and the things they experienced in their daily lives. 

Other Recommendations:

The ReviewThis! contributors clearly love to read. Click our Book Reviews tab at the top of this page to see all our collective book reviews.

A few other historic fiction reviews I have written are: Galway Bay (a must-read that begins in Ireland during the potato famine),  Chesapeake (a James Michener tale that is set on the Chesapeake Bay and spans 400 years), and Nickel's Luck (a cast of fictional characters living in the real town of Indianola, Texas in the 1800s. Indianola is no more and I bawled learning the history of that town and it's people). 





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


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Monday, April 19, 2021

Reviewing Roasted Pineapple and Habanero Sauce by Robert Rothschild Farm

 Last week I was hungry for something different.  I thought I wanted salmon. No, I was certain I wanted salmon. But I wanted something different. Something flavorful. I went to my local Costco (which is where I buy my preferred frozen salmon) and happened past a large bottle of beautiful, golden Roasted Pineapple and Habanero Sauce. Initially, I walked past it. In fact, I walked the entire grocery portion of the store trying to decide what to make with my salmon. I was drawn back to the Roasted Pineapple and Habanero sauce and after reading the label, I took it home. I am so glad I did!



I really like savory food. I think heat and spices are delicious. Sadly, what my brain thinks is completely different that when my mouth can tolerate. As soon as I arrived home from the store, and had started the rice cooking, I texted a photo of the Roasted Pineapple and Habanero sauce to my sons.  



Their collective response: "Haha, best of luck!" and "Let me know how that turns out for you."

My response: "It is supposedly mild. I read the label and put the jar back several times before I decided to try it."

More skeptical responses from my sons. 

Fortunately, the sauce was truly "mild". It was also flavorful and delicious. I immediately regretted not having made more servings of salmon. And I craved it during my camping trip over the weekend.

My Roasted Pineapple and Habanero Salmon over Rice

Nothing fancy happens in my kitchen. But I love tasty food. In this case I made white rice (following the directions on the bag and cooking for 20 minutes).  

During that time the rice cooked, I thawed a frozen salmon filet in a container of room temperature water (the frozen salmon filets I buy are individual wrapped which is perfect for me).

I baked the salmon per the instructions, adding just a bit of sauce in the baking dish with the salmon (about 3 tablespoons). 

I served the baked salmon over the cooked rice, salt and pepper to taste, and added about another tablespoon of the sauce over the rice.

YUM!

Robert Rothschild Farm

I purchased my large jar of Roasted Pineapple and Habanero sauce at my local Costco.  You can be sure that I am going to purchase a couple more bottles to add to my pantry and keep them in stock!  You can also find this delicious sauce on Amazon from the Robert Rothschild Farm store.

If you want to know more about Robert Rothschild Farm, you can visit their website. I love all of the products they offer (sauces, salsas, dips, fruit spreads, savory spreads, and more) as well as a few recipes that use their products. In short, the Rothschilds moved from California to Ohio in the 1970s and were committed to their land. They produced more raspberries than they needed and that inspired their recipes and flavor combinations.

After visiting their site, I have a "wish list" of several of their items. 

Side Note:

Many years ago I had a wonderful opportunity to visit Charleston, South Carolina. During that trip, we ate at a little island restaurant. I still sometimes talk about the dish I had there; scallops, mashed potatoes, and "some kind of citrusy/spicy sauce". That was the best tasting dish I have ever eaten and have never had anything like it again. This sauce reminds me very much of that long ago dish. You can be absolutely sure that I am going to learn how to prepare scallops so that I can serve them with this sauce and try to cure that 20-something  year old craving. 




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


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Monday, March 29, 2021

Movie Review: Land

“Why am I here?” she asks her sister. Edee is a woman who is suddenly without her family after a traumatic event. So traumatic that she cannot discuss it. The movie opens with a woman in an upscale therapist office silently watching the grains of sand in the hourglass fall.

Movie Review: Land 


Therapist: Edee, why did you decide to come here?

Edee: Emma, my sister, said you were magic.

The session continues. Slowly and with pauses. We learn that Edee is in the session at her sister’s request.

Therapist: How are you feeling, right now, in general, what are you feeling?

Edee: I’m feeling, um, that it’s really difficult to be around people. Because they just want me to be better

We do not know how Edee lost her loved ones (until the last few minutes of the movie). She has flashback memories of her son and husband so we are aware they are dead. Her grief is overwhelming and numbing. She tells the therapist that in the beginning she shared her feelings with others. But she stopped. 

Edee: Why would I want anyone to share in that? They can’t anyway.

Therapist: But that means you are alone with your pain.

And that seems to be all that Edee can manage. Being alone with her pain.

Edee is a “city” woman who packs up and moves to a remote cabin in the wilderness. Edee cuts off all human contact. She tosses her phone into the trash, which severs all ties with the world including with her loving sister. It is unknown to me if her goal was to heal herself or to “not be here” – which she almost succeeded at on more than one occasion (warning: some of the scenes are uncomfortable - a potential trigger for some.)

She clearly should not have survived her self-imposed “cure”. She was clearly ill-prepared to wander off into the wilderness and exacerbated the risk by having her rental car picked up. From the flashbacks we know that she has been fishing and has that skill. And she seems to intend to provide food for herself from the land in addition to the very small amount of canned goods she brought along. From a drawing in crayon, we know that in the past there was someone who wanted to go fishing and live in the mountains. Perhaps this is why she chose to move to this off-grid cabin.

Edee (Robin Wright) is found by Miguel (Demian Bichir) nearly frozen and starved to death. Miguel and Alawa (a nurse from the nearby small town) nurse Edee back to health.

Edee continues to exclude people from her life, but allows Miguel just enough contact during infrequent visits to teach her how to trap food and to hunt game. After all, Miguel said that he would respect her wishes. He would teach her to trap and to hunt in the fall. Then he would leave her alone. Miguel is a man of his word. The seasons go by: planting, foraging, harvest, hunting, and a return to snow. The years go by. Two years.



My Thoughts About This Amazon Prime Movie.

I rented this movie on Amazon for far too much money. I regret having spent that much for an Amazon Prime rental. However, as odd as it sounds, if/when it is released in an inexpensive blu-ray or CD version I will buy it and watch it again. 

The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. The cabin scenes were filmed in Alberta, Canada atop Moose Mountain.

I found it to be well-acted and I think the messages related to grief and trauma are supremely important reminders to us all. Each person handles depression, trauma, and grief differently. Not every mainstream treatment is effective. And most of all, depression, trauma, and grief are very painful. It is not easy for people to just “be better.” 

Some reviewers complain that Land was “slow”. And that the character was “egotistical” and “selfish”. Some reviewers complained about the choppy flashbacks. I found all of those things to be a realistic part of the experience of many people with debilitating depression. Severe depression does not allow the person to think of others. It impacts the person’s thoughts and their 5 senses. Memories can be intrusive – sometimes welcomed, sometimes not.

I think the “slowness” of the movie was perfect. Yes, it was slow-paced. I don’t believe the movie was meant to be an action/adventure movie. True depression and hopelessness is like swimming through neck-deep mud. It is restricting. People are busy trying to survive each moment of every day.  I felt the pace of movie portrayed this feeling perfectly.

I only wish that the movie had been longer. That we would have been spectators of more details of the journey, the landscape, and of each season. And of the lessons taught by Miguel.

I hope the message of the movie is, and is understood as; depression, grief, and trauma are difficult things to get through. But they are survivable. And while every person has an individual response and recovery, it is better when it is not done alone. Each person who gets through it has the ability to be meaningful to the next person who is struggling.


Related Link:

This movie reminded me a bit of Wild with Reese Witherspoon. The movie was based on the written memoir of Cheryl Strayed and was another story of how a woman left civilization after experiencing severe grief and loss and ending up finding herself.  You can read my review of Wild here.

The effects of loss and trauma on a human are not pretty. And yet many people not only survive, but thrive after they get through it. These two stories are examples of surviving the nitty-gritty and finding the reasons to live. 





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


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Monday, March 15, 2021

Book Review: The First-Time Gardener Growing Vegetables

Perhaps you want to grow your own food but are afraid and have no clue where to begin. Or maybe you can relate to me, having had some experience and success growing literally a couple of vegetables over the decades but far more familiar with wasted time, money, and failed gardening attempts. If you would like to grow your own vegetable garden with confidence, The First Time Gardener Growing Vegetables: All the Know-How and Encouragement You need to Grow and Fall in Love with Your Brand New Food Garden by Jessica Sowards is an excellent investment.

The First Time Gardener - Growing Vegetables

With the purchase of my land, construction of my home, and dreams of having a successful vegetable garden, I am familiar with Jessica Sowards of Roots and Refuge Farm fame through her youtube channel. I spend nearly all of my indoor free time watching videos about gardening and homesteading and her channel has been one that I have learned a good deal from. Her love of gardening is contagious and she is a wealth of vegetable knowledge. When she announced that she had written a book I knew I had to buy it.  

The First Time Gardener Growing Vegetables: All the Know-How and Encouragement You need to Grow and Fall in Love with Your Brand New Food Garden 

This 176 page book is written by Jessica Sowards with photographs by Makenzie Evans Photography. It is part gardening guide, part inspirational prose, and part coffee table visual feast. This book is not an in-depth, encyclopedia of plant names, varieties, and specific growing details of each plant. It is summarized bits of encouraging information.

The Chapters include:

  1. Welcome to the Classroom
  2. The Foundation - What Every Gardener Needs to Succeed
  3. Creating Your Garden
  4. Growing with the Seasons
  5. The Needs for Seed... or Not
  6. Grow Something Lovely - Designing a Captivating Space
  7. The Nitty-Gritty of Garden Management
  8. Making the Harvest
  9. Conclusion - Grow on, Gardener
The chapters are short. Brief blurbs hitting the most important parts of gardening. Including some boxes of summarized information, lists, and charts. The information is chunked into small portions that are not overwhelming for the brand new gardener and would be good prompts and reminders for gardeners with some experience. 

aka "fertilizers" - I've only recently learned about coconut coir

a list of some of the best food plants for container gardening


More About Why I Chose This Book

I currently live in a metro area apartment. I have successfully grown some tomatoes (and a small handful of tiny potatoes) on my south-facing balcony. But I haven't tried to grow a garden in the ground for some years (oh my gosh, decades! My how time flies!). With my planned move to four acres, I am dreaming of having a garden with a variety of vegetables that I will be able to eat fresh or can for later. While I am excited about my plans, I am also afraid.

I am afraid of more plant failure. Over my lifetime, I have made many attempts to grow plants: houseplants, vegetables, berries, fruit trees... and I have failed massively. I have wasted so much time, energy, and money only to end up with seedlings that die, plants purchased from a store that I kill, and a variety of plants that never grow anything edible.

I am also overwhelmed by feeling as though there is so much information to remember; when to plant, what to use for fertilizer, when to harvest, and so on. While everything is available on the internet, I want to make sure to have some good reference books in my home. I do not have reliable connectivity on top of the mountain ridge. There will be many times that I will not be able to look up things on the internet. Also, with this book it will be quicker to flip open to a list or a quick reminder.

Last year I impulsively bought a couple of zucchini and cabbage starts from a roadside stand and planted them in my flower garden. Even though I only sporadically visited my land and did not provide care for those plants, several zucchini grew and I was able to make my own zucchini bread. With a little guidance and support from Jessica's book I should be able to have even more success this coming year.

Related Links:

Make sure you check out the Review This! Gardening tab to see the other posts by our contributors. Our group includes some very talented gardeners. Click this link or the gardening tab at the top of this page and scroll down to see previous gardening posts.

To read more about my land and future homestead please visit my personal blog or take a peek at the video of my house under construction. But be advised, I am not a "youtuber". But with a peek at the videos or blog post it will be easy to see why I will do much of my gardening in containers or raised beds. And that I will need all of the guidance I can get.

I mentioned Jessica's youtube channel. If you love to watch gardening videos and/or someone who finds quiet joy in gardening, be sure to check out Roots and Refuge.

To see what others are saying about The First Time Gardener Growing Vegetables: All the Know-How and Encouragement You need to Grow and Fall in Love with Your Brand New Food Garden be sure to check out the reviews on Amazon


The First-Time Gardener Growing Vegetables Book Review



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


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Monday, March 1, 2021

Phillips Frozen Crab Cakes Review and Recipe

 I recently made a meal that was both decadent and almost too easy to believe. Phillips Maryland Style Crab Cakes are delicious and were the star of show. Because they were from the local grocery freezer section, I was eating like a queen in 20 minutes with no work beyond popping the crab cakes into the oven and frying an over easy egg. That's all. 

look at that chunk of crab meat!

A Bit About Phillips Foods, Inc

Maryland is known for it's blue crabs. Fresh crabs and crab cakes are a favorite here. I am not a native Marylander so I did not begin to fully appreciate seafood until I moved here as an adult. However, even I immediately learned that a Phillips restaurant is an excellent place to grab a delicious crab cake. 

The Phillips Family seafood story began 100 years ago on the Chesapeake Bay. In the community of Hooper's Island where most families made a living on the water. Mr. Phillips owned a seafood packing plant (wild crabs, fish, and oysters in season) and they shipped their fresh seafood by steamship to Baltimore. In 1956, Bryce and Shirley Phillips opened a small carryout in Ocean City, Maryland.


Crab Cakes and Eggs Over Easy

One day recently, my son messaged me. He said that my young grandson wanted crab cakes with over easy eggs. What?! First of all, I was surprised that my grandson would list crab crakes as a meal request, let alone with an egg on top. After all, I was in my 30's by the time I had a good understanding of the deliciousness of crab cakes. But then again, their family had lived in both Florida and on the Gulf coast of Texas. Of course my grandchild would know about crab cakes.  But the over easy egg addition? Hmmm.

The more I thought about it, the more I craved crab cakes! And once I crave crabcakes, I must have them. I went straight to the grocery and bought a box of Phillips Crab Cakes from the freezer section.

This was the first time I've bought frozen crab cakes. Frankly, I thought they wouldn't be very good. But with all of the social distancing and such, I really wasn't up to picking up fresh crab cakes from one of the local restaurants.

The frozen Phillips Crab Cakes were easy and DELICIOUS! I was so pleasantly surprised. 

My son and family ended up making a fancy version of the crab cakes and eggs. It included beef in a surf and turf version. My version was ridiculous simple.

My grandson's recipe: filet mignon, crabcake, egg, and bacon
(photo courtesy of my son)


My Crab Cakes with Over easy Eggs and Guacamole

Ingredients:

  • 2 Phillips Maryland Style Crab Cakes (frozen)
  • 2 large eggs
  • Premade Guacamole
  • Butter or cooking spray
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Prepare the two crab cakes following the directions on the box (I baked mine in the oven using a small bit of butter in the pan and baking at 425F for 12 minutes, turning once and baking for 4 more minutes - until browned on each side)

After flipping the crab cakes, fry two eggs to over-easy; salt and pepper to taste (remembering that crab cakes contain salt and spices).

Plating: place the crab cakes on a plate. Gently place the eggs on top of the crab cakes. Top with Guacamole to taste (I used just over a tablespoon).

Enjoy!

Imagine all of the variations on this meal - from super easy (crab cakes alone or on a simple bun) to more advanced as my son and grandson made (filet mignon, crab cake, egg, bacon, on a bed of spinach). 


Related Links:

For more information about the Phillips family history or their foods (past and present) please visit their official website here

My son enjoys cooking and making interesting and beautiful meals. Once, I stated that I was going to have fish sticks for dinner. My son immediately sent a recipe for avocado cream sauce and suggested that I make fish tacos. I followed his advice and had an easy and quick dinner of Fish Tacos.

Fish tacos with avocado cream sauce

I am not the only Review This! contributor who uses frozen fish or seafood for an easy and delicious meal. Our Wednesday Elf has reviewed Sea Pak's Budweiser Beer Battered Cod and Gorton's Roasted Garlic and Butter Grilled Tilapa. She recommends both and I am especially interested in her comment "It's like having your kitchen become your new favorite pub". It has been far too long since I've had good pub fish and chips. I've been watching for the Budweiser Beer Battered Cod and will snatch some up as soon as I am in a grocery store that stocks them.






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Monday, February 15, 2021

Reviewing Handmade Pottery Mugs by Worthington Pottery

I have just purchased a beautiful handmade pottery piece by Jackie of Worthington Pottery. I am over the moon about my mug and very excited to introduce you to Jackie and her artwork.

Reviewing Worthington Pottery on Review This!

I have planned on buying a few handmade mugs for some time. They've been on my long list of things to have for the new house. One of my splurges. Little pieces of functional art for my new kitchen. I only had a vague idea of what I was looking for in mugs; that they must be handmade by a small shop owner and they must reflect or celebrate the natural world. Beyond that, I hadn't a clue where I would shop.

I had been watching Etsy for awhile, following the recommendations of others. There are so many artists creating so many beautiful mugs that I was more than a bit overwhelmed by all of the choices. Add to that the current supply chain problems and my home construction moving at a snail's pace (or slower) that had led to me feeling as though there is no rush to make a purchase. Also, I didn't feel that I had to have any of those mugs right now. 

Yes, there are many, many handmade pottery mugs available that are gorgeous. Created by many talented potters. But artwork is a very personal thing and none of those mugs called my name.

Then one day on Instagram, I saw pottery on the_crazy_potter_lady account and fell in love. I saw this snowflake mug, on a cold and snowy day, and knew I had to have it. 

The snowflake transfers are clean and cool, like newly fallen snow up at The Shack. The glaze at the top of the mug looks like an abstract painting of my view of the woods down the ridge from my future bedroom window.

The view from my future home with colors ever-changing

The colors of that glaze!

Cleary, I bought this mug because of the emotional response I had to it. Here are some factual bits about my mug:

  • Large size, holds the contents of a 16.9 fl oz soda bottle
  • a light, porcelain-like feel - but strong (I was concerned it would weigh a ton)
  • food, dishwasher, and microwave safe
  • beautiful glaze colors
  • sturdy, beautifully curved handle 
  • the snowflake transfer is permanently applied

My mug was mailed the day after my order/payment was complete and arrived safely in a priority mail box, marked fragile, wrapped in paper, and cushioned by packing peanuts. This card was also included:




Jackie Worthington aka The Crazy Potter Lady

Not only do I like Jackie's nature-themed pottery, I also like her presence. I look forward to her posts on Instagram.  She is genuinely warm and welcoming toward her followers and attempts to celebrate each day.  

Jackie also does short live videos while she is creating her pottery. I have always been intrigue by pottery wheels and it is extra cool to see the artist creating the mugs that are being sold. It is a cool process - one I had always wanted to learn but my hand-eye coordination is the pits. I think it is beyond cool that Jackie invites us to watch as she works.

Jackie currently sells her items via pre-sales. Contact her via InstagramFacebook, or her webiste to discuss what you would like to pre-order. I was fortunate, and the mug I purchased was waiting for me on her website thecrazypotterlady.com. She is currently working on pre-orders and does not have a restock/release date for her store.

Jackie is a veteran (as is her husband - thank you both for your service) and it is quick to see that she is concerned with issues of mental health and PTSD. She uses the hashtag #throwingforptsd to bring awareness to Veteran suicide.  

She has this message for Vets:


"Never give up on yourself. It gets rough at times but always remember to take care of yourself first". - Jackie

 

I am so happy to have found Worthington Pottery. I prefer to support artists, small businesses, and Veteran owned businesses when I am able. How wonderful that my beautiful mug came from such a business.

Related Links:

Although time gets away from me and I don't write as frequently as I would like, you can read more about my adventures on my land at Treasures, Travel, and Tales and see a brief tour of my home under construction here.




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


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Monday, February 1, 2021

OXO Good Grips POP Container Review

 I have been searching for large canisters for my kitchen but none seemed to suit me. The cute canisters were too small or didn't seal. The large canisters weren't a nice shape or were far too expensive. I recently came across the OXO Good Grips POP containers and purchased just one for a test run. I was skeptical of the fit of the lid. But after filling the first container with flour, I quickly bought 5 more containers because I liked the first one so much.



I need more organization and better pest-proofing. In an apartment, with an extremely small kitchen space, I can never seem to store everything in a way that makes sense and allows me to access everything I need easily. Organization has become even more difficult during these times of social distancing and remote working. Between trying to make fewer trips to the store and stocking up when things are available, my kitchen has been bursting at the seams. In addition to the space issue, the pest issue has been more troublesome. Dry goods (especially flour, rice, and pasta) have potential for the presence of insects in the cleanest of kitchens. Then add neighbors and a rental situation on top of that and food loss is increasingly possible.

OXO Good Grips POP Containers

The OXO Good Grips POP containers are clear, hard plastic (BPA free) canisters with lids that have a softer plastic/rubber gasket. 

The lid has a push button that breaks the airtight seal and allows the lid to be opened. I love that it operates with one hand. Push the button, release the seal and the button pops up, and the lid can be lifted off with one hand. My other hand is free to continue stirring or doing other things. (Do not attempt to carry the containers by the lid button. If the button is up, the lid is not secure.) Press the button down, it is flush with the top, and the lid is sealed.

The containers are stackable which saves space.

The containers are clear - making it easy to see the contents of each one.

These OXO canisters can be found locally or on Amazon. I purchased mine first container at Target and  the remainder via Amazon. At that time - using Prime free shipping - they were several dollars less expensive through Amazon and arrived at my doorstep.

Living in a metro area, I fell into the habit of stopping at the grocery store every 2-3 days on the way home from work. I tended to buy what I needed for only the next few days. We our area closed down I could easily be out of flour after one or two batches of biscuits or loaves of bread. I would be out of pasta after just a few meals. During the pandemic shut-down, I occasionally had to stop at 3 different grocery stores to get the ingredients for a single meal. With these containers, I can keep a larger amount of food and be less reliant on multiple trips to the store. 

I am also happy to have found the OXO canisters as they are exactly what I want in my future kitchen. My home is under constructions. The kitchen there will be small but over two times larger than the kitchen in my apartment. In the new home, I will have both a pantry and open shelves. I have always imagined clear containers on those shelves; making it easy to spot what I am looking for and always know quantities without having to open containers and look in. In the pantry, I have always imagined containers that can stack. 



Related Links: 

It seems I am not the only Review This Contributor who trusts the OXO brand. Margaret reviews the OXO bread pan. She writes "I discovered the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Baking Pan line while researching options for replacing my old Teflon nonstick baking pans with ones that had newer, more durable, and safer PFOA-free coatings". Read her full review here.

I still love my biscuit jar. The jar is not airtight but is perfect for housing fresh biscuits or cookies on the countertop. There is nothing better than having A Jar Full of Biscuits. These biscuits are one of the reasons I need so much flour on hand. Yum!

A biscuit worthy of display in a jar on the countertop.






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Monday, January 18, 2021

Reviewing the Mueller Premium 1500w Electric Kettle with Speedboil

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

My Mueller Electric Kettle - Perfect for Home and Office

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

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

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

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


The Mueller Premium Electric Kettle with Speedboil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Related Link:

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




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Monday, January 4, 2021

Reviewing Grypmat: the Ultimate Tool Mat

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



What is a Grypmat?

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

Grypmats:

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

Comments, Photos, and a Brief Review from My Friend

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

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




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

a place to sit stuff"

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



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

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




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

Who Invented Grypmat?

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

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

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

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

Related Links:

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


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




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Monday, December 21, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Related Link:

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

Author S.L. Matthews

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

*Images used with the permission of the author. 





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


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