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

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-sock
  • 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.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


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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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Monday, February 25, 2019

Reviewing the Anker Ultra Slim Bluetooth Keyboard

Reviewing the Anker Ultra Slim Bluetooth Keyboard
I never thought I'd enjoy using an Ipad. I'm old-fashioned and do not do a good job of keeping up with technology. I was very satisfied with relying on my laptop. When a friend upgraded his Ipad and gave me his hand-me-down, I was skeptical. But it has slowly grown on me. Especially after he gave me an Anker Ultra Slim Bluetooth Keyboard for Christmas. This Bluetooth Keyboard is far easier and more comfortable to use than I had imagined. If you have an Ipad that you think you'd get more use from if you had a "real" keyboard, this option may be perfect for you.


Anker Ultra Slim Bluetooth Keyboard


This Ultra Slim Bluetooth Keyboard is small enough to be easily taken where I need it and sturdy enough to feel as though I'm typing on my laptop. It does not feel like those rubber mat keyboards I've tried in the stores - and I like that.

Miscellaneous Information:

  • measures only 11.2" x 4.8" x 0.7"
  • requires easy-to-find AAA batteries
  • the battery housing doubles as a raised edge - tilting the keyboard slightly and making it easier to use.
  • the on/off switch and the bluetooth connection was easy enough that even I could figure it all out

I'm still having trouble becoming accustomed to all of the Ipad's bells and whistles, but not having to "tap" everything out one letter at a time on the screen is no longer a barrier. Whether I use the keyboard on a table top or on my lap, it is comfortable. And this Ipad and Keyboard combination is easier to pack and take along to The Shack than my laptop. 







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Monday, February 11, 2019

Reviewing Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick and Quick Yarn

Reviewing Wool - Ease by Lion Brand Yarn Company
I have always loved to crochet. Recently, I have mindfully taken more time to crochet. As a result, my skills are improving and I've been creating things that people really enjoy. During this time I've begun to use a new yarn: Wool-Ease Thick & Quick by Lion Brand Yarns. Outside of using Bernat Blanket yarn in a couple of patterns, I've never branched out to the Bulky and Super Bulky yarns. But I stepped out of my comfort zone and I'm so glad I did. I am thrilled with this acrylic/wool blend yarn by Lion Brand.


Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick


I've never been a fan of wool - with the exception of work socks that have a small percentage of wool. I love those. But anything that has a larger percentage of wool I imagine as scratchy. I don't know why, but I do. I just always assume that wool is going to be uncomfortable.

During shopping trips down the yarn aisles, I am a toucher. I want yarns that feel good. One day I touched a skein of yarn that was so thick and soft that I bought a few skeins. I did not realize they were an acrylic and wool blend yarn until I got home. 

Wool - Ease Thick & Quick comes in two skein sizes: a regular skein size at 5 oz (87 yards) or the bonus bundle at 12 oz (212 yards).  Be aware if you are shopping online. It appears the some outlets show the regular skein size as the "bonus bundle". Be sure to read the weight/length if ordering online.




It is in the Super Bulky category (which is #6 on the label). And the recommended crochet hook size is "N" (knitting needle size 13).

Wool-Ease Thick & Quick is 80% acrylic and 20% wool. 

It is machine washable and dryable using cool temps. Do not bleach or iron.

I bought this yarn as I was experimenting - trying to crochet a very small neck warmer that someone had suggested. I ended up with the wrong pattern or the wrong size yarn during my experimenting. Then I gave this yarn and a "N" hook a try. And ta-dum, I have great neck warmers that people are enjoying.


Related Links:

My neck warmers on Etsy
If you'd like an acrylic/wool blend neck warmer and don't feel like making your own, keep your eye on my Etsy Store. I will offer these neck warmers with button closures at DawnRaeCrochet as I get them made.

If you'd like to make your own scarf from this yarn, you can check out the crochet patterns on Lion Brand Yarn Company site. If you are a beginner, this "Brunch With Friends Scarfie" would be a good pattern to try. 

I am not good at writing patterns. So I cannot give you an actual pattern for my neck warmers. But for those of you who do crochet this may make sense to you:

  • chain 9 to 11 (depending on the desired width)
  • turn and single stitch in each stitch; continue for 6 rows (beginning each row with a ch 1 and turn)
  • ch 3 and turn, DC in each stitch
  • continue for desire length (mine are around 27")
  • end with a row of single crochet for a finished edge
  • attach a button (or 2 buttons) near the end of 6 rows of SC
  • the button holes are the spaces between the DCs (making the scarf able to be worn in a variety of ways/lengths).



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Monday, February 4, 2019

Book Review: True Places: a Novel by Sonja Yoerg

True Places: A Novel by Sonja Yoerg
I chose True Places as my Amazon First Reads pick a month or so ago. I had not previously heard of the author, Sonja Yoerg. I chose the novel because of the setting: the area on and around the Blue Ridge Parkway. I could relate with many parts of this story and with several of the characters. The story kept my attention and I wanted to find out what would become of the woman, her family, and the wild child she found along the road.


True Places by Sonja Yoerg


This is a tale of country life, suburban life, and what may happen when the two are combined. 

The country story begins with a child living alone in a remote cabin in the forest with her mother. Tragedy strikes. 

The suburban story begins with Suzanne Blakemore, an over-extended mom, wife, and fundraising organizer extraordinaire. Feeling the pressures of too many commitments and too little time, forty-two year old Suzanne impulsively drives her Navigator (full of the over-powering scent of the hyacinths she is transporting for the Boosters auction) away from it all.

While driving at a break-neck speed on the Blue Ridge Parkway, she finds a sick and emaciated child. After hospitalization, that child - who turns out to be a very small 16 year old - joins the Blakemore family. We hold our breath at times as we watch Mr. Blakemore and his son, Reid, butt heads. And we watch as the Blakemore's daughter, Brynn, is guided by adolescent emotions, peer pressures, and social media. Social media - where mocking and bullying occurs by the minute and no one is immune - especially not the "wild child". 

Will this family be able to blend or will tragedy strike again? 

My prediction was that the author would portray one setting and it's inhabitants as better than the other. One group of people right. And the other group wrong. I would have put money on the story being about the civilized suburban folk saving the poor country bumpkins.  I was pleasantly surprised that the author showed the good, the bad, and the ugly of both worlds. 

The moral of the story is about the difference between doing things because they are the expected things to do and doing the things that make us feel right. It was about finding our True Places and our true selves. 




Amazon First Reads


Amazon First Reads is a program through Amazon in which each month a book from a selection of approximately 6 books are offered for free (for Prime members) or a reduced cost for First Reads subscribers. On the 1st of each month, I choose a book from those books are offered. 

I have found some new-to-me authors that I probably would not have read otherwise. I can't say that I've liked all of my First Reads picks, but I can say that I look forward to the 1st of each month and have found some authors that I will watch for in the future.

First Reads is one of many reasons I continue to renew my Amazon Prime membership. 





Image credit: photo courtesy of Fotojet


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Monday, January 28, 2019

Reviewing the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Reviewing The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is an Amazon original series set in New York in 1958, starring Rachel Brosnahan. Mrs. Maisel (Brosnahan) is living her dream. She is married, loves her husband, has two children, and lives in a beautifully appointed apartment in Manhattan. From a very young age, she has dreamt about and planned it all: college, wedding, and her adult life trajectory. She tells us about it during a flashback to her beautiful wedding. Everything is going exactly as planned, until suddenly - in one evening - Mrs. Maisel learns that others can completely de-rail her best plans.

Midge Maisel is a loyal, happy housewife who works hard to please her husband. Mr. Maisel (Joel) is a salesperson with an office job. But at night, he performs at a club as a stand-up comedian. He's not very funny and Midge bribes the club manager with briskets to get Joel into better time slots with a better audience. On the same night that he completely bombs, things completely fall apart for Midge. She is devastated and lost. Am I making this sound like a drama? It is not. It is a comedy full of quirky characters.

A co-worker told me to watch the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Since she has recommended an author that has quickly become my favorite, I trusted her opinion and I began watching the series the first weekend I had a few spare minutes. I am able to watch it for free because of my Amazon Prime membership. I watched several episodes that first day and binged watched into season 2 the next weekend. 




The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel reminds me of I Love Lucy - but a naughtier version. The buildings, clothing, baby carriages and way of life are all from that time period. Rachel Brosnahan's facial expressions and/or timing of her humor remind me quite a bit of Lucille Ball. She's a bit sneaky, like Lucy. An example being reminded of Lucy was during a scene at bedtime. Midge goes to bed in a negligee and still made-up. As soon as Mr. Maisel is asleep, Midge gets up and does her beauty routine; putting her hair in curlers and applying an over-night face mask. She sets the blinds so that the sun shines through the crack in the morning - waking her before the alarm. She completes her beauty routine and is back to bed; perfumed, made-up, and looking beautiful. She closes her eyes and he wakes. This scene made me laugh and reminded me ever so much of I Love Lucy

Am I making this sound like an I Love Lucy rehash? It is not. There is cursing, "sex" scenes (not the type of sex scenes shown on cable tv but sex scenes nonetheless), and some modern colloquialisms that aren't from the 1950s. For me, these things are a bit like watching a cartoon with a child and the cartoon includes adult humor and references - out of place but funny (although, I wouldn't be bothered by less profanity).

If the title sounds familiar, it may be because Rachel Brosnahan won a 2019 Emmy for Best Actress in a Television Comedy. Deservedly so, I think.






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