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

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. 





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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



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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.






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 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. 





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Monday, December 7, 2020

Reviewing Gift Ideas for People Who Crochet

People who learn to crochet often get hooked (pun intended) and always desire more yarn,
more supplies, and more time to crochet. We joke about our excessive hoards of yarn but would go shopping for more in the blink of an eye. My dream is to someday go on a Crochet cruise vacation (yes, those existed prior to social distancing limits) and if anyone would like to gift me a crochet cruise I'd happily accept. However, there are many great ideas for crochet gifts with smaller price tags. 



Crochet Gifts

There are so many gifts that can be given to someone who crochets. From Tshirts and mugs with messages that make yarn lovers smile to items that make the process of crocheting easier there is something for every crocheter. I've compiled a few samples in this review. 

Crochet sets. There are sets that include a little bit of everything. This set by BeCraftee is a good example: case, stitch markers, yarn needles, a set of hooks, and more. This is a great option and would be an appreciated gift. 

Crochet Set by BeCraftee

Yarn Bowls. What are yarn bowls?  They are wonderful "bowls" (usually made of wood or ceramic) that hold the balls of yarn that is currently being used. Why is this important? Because nothing is more irritating than knots in your yarn while you are crocheting or the balls of yarn rolling off the table or your lap while you are working. A yarn bowl holds the ball of yarn in one place while allowing it to spin freely while crocheting. A very functional item that is also a pretty gift.

Yarn Bowl by Athena's Elements


Round Knitting Looms.  Round looms aren't quite knitting or crocheting. With a bit of yarn, a hook, and a round loop almost anyone can make cute hats! I love my round knitting looms and use them when I want to add a bit of variety to my crafts or take a break from a large crochet item. I love my round looms so much that I wrote a separate review and you can see that here.

Round Loom Knitting Set

T-Shirts. This is a T-shirt that people who crochet will understand. There are others to chose from, with a variety of yarn and crochet messages. Some messages are funny, some a bit naughty, but this one fits me (and many people who crochet) perfectly!

T-shirts for Crocheters


Coffee Mugs. There are some really funny, and some really bawdy, coffee mugs with messages that suit crocheters perfectly - including a coffee mug that matches the T-shirt listed above. The message on this mug made me laugh and sums up 2020 perfectly.

Crochet Coffee Mug

Crochet Books

There are many books about crochet; stitch and pattern books galore! One of the best crochet books ever isn't about the stitches or patterns, it is about a young crochet phenom named Jonah Larson. You may have seen him on social media or talk shows with celebrities. I had. Even so, I didn't fully know his story. This book about this young man is a wonderful story and would make a wonderful gift. You can read my full review here

Hello Crochet Friends by Jonah Larson


This list is a small sample of the many pattern and crochet stitches books:

A to Z of Crochet: The Ultimate Guide for the Beginner to the Advanced Crocheter

Dog Sweater Crochet: Step by Step Guide to Get Crochet Sweater for Your Dogs

Big Book of Christmas Crochet 

Cats in Hats: 30 Knit and Crochet Hat Patterns for Your Kitty


Gift Cards !!!!

Does my list of options make your head spin? Are there too many options? If so, you can never go wrong with gift cards. Amazon offers many crochet and crafting items. Joann Fabrics and Michaels are two of my favorite crafting stores. All of these cards are available through Amazon - which is an convenient way to give long-distance gifts. I especially like (giving and receiving the Amazon gift cards in the holiday tins. Others prefer the digital/emailed gift cards.

Gift Cards

Crochet Stocking Stuffers

Like many people who crochet, I feel that I could always use more hooks, stitch markers, measuring tapes, round counters, and other small items. These items make excellent stocking stuffers.

Dedicated Scissors or Yarn Cutter. There is nothing more annoying than crocheting and having to get up to look for scissors. I eventually bought a pair of dedicated scissors that are supposed to be used for crochet only. However, they still sometimes wander off. Also, I have found that pointed scissors in my project bag sometimes snag the yarn. So, my crochet scissors are currently blunted tipped scissors (like child's school scissors). I would very much like some of the ornamental "embroidery" scissors or this yarn cutter pendant by clover! Such a great idea. And ends the frustration of not being able to cut yarn when I need to.

Yarn Cutter by Clover


Locking Stitch Markers. Stitch markers are such a little thing but such a huge help. They are small, plastic pieces that work very much like a safety pin. But because they are plastic they do not snag your yarn. I never knew how much I needed stitch markers until I bough some. Now I can't do without them. I like them so much that I wrote a review that you can read here

Locking Stitch Markers


Counters. Another little gadget that helps keep track of rows or rounds, that I'm not sure how I managed without for all of those decades of crochet, is a counter. No more misplaced slips of paper trying to track what row or round I'm on in the pattern. Such a helpful tool to have.

Click Counter

 

Vacations for People Who Love Yarn

Cruises: Prior to 2020 and related pandemic restrictions, I was trying to determine how I could go on a crochet cruise. Mikey from the Crochet Crowd provides some of my favorite online video crochet tutorials. I was THRILLED when they began offering crochet cruises. Currently, of course, cruises are not being offered. But I am including this link for future reference. 

Fiber Festivals: An internet search for "Fiber Festivals" provides a list of festivals where yarns and crafting supplies are the focus. During normal times (when travel and gatherings are not restricted), you could plan a day trip to a local festival or a full vacation that includes a festival in the area you are visiting. 

Farm/Ranch/Fiber Mill Tours: Many people who love yarn crafts also want to know more about the fiber animals, spinning, dyeing: all of the steps in the process of creating natural yarns. Again, an internet search can locate Farms, Ranches, and Mills that are open for tours and sales of the fiber. In just a few moments, I located Mountain Meadow Mill (sheep/wool in Wyoming) and Mountain Hollow Farm Store and Studio (cashmere goats/yarn, classes, and more in Tennessee)





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Monday, November 30, 2020

Reviewing Fragrance Oils from Bramble Berry

 I have recently begun making my own soaps. While making soaps, I've started to purchase fragrance oils and I am already learning which fragrances I prefer. Which fragrance oils I can depend on. Bramble Berry is quickly becoming my favorite fragrance oil supplier.

Reviewing Bramble Berry fragrance oils 


Bramble Berry Fragrance Oils

I discovered Bramble Berry while looking for video tutorials related to soap-making.  They have a channel with many tutorials. I learned that they also offer supplies: molds, fragrances, oils, and more. Initially, I continued ordering supplies from Amazon - based on fragrance rather than brand or supplier.

One shipment from Amazon (from one of "these sellers") arrived and despite seemingly being packaged adequately (including bubble wrap) the oils had leaked making both a mess and triggered a migraine from the over-powering scent.

Other fragrances I've ordered work great in Melt & Pour soap recipes, but end up loosing strength in the cold process soaps I'm learning to make.

So far, the fragrance oils from Bramble Berry have been wrapped so that they don't break or leak during shipping. The lids are taped (or shrink wrapped?) to ensure they do not leak. These fragrances are rich-smelling and as described. The Bramble Berry scents remain through the saponification process (when the lye and oils turn to soap while some of the other scents I've used have weakened to the point of creating a nearly unscented soap.

The Bramble Berry fragrance is immediately one of my favorite oils. I have a cold process wine soap loaf curing now. The apartment smells divine. The Bramble Berry site describes this fragrance as:

"It is a sweet scent of bergamot, blackberry, raspberry, peony, honeysuckle, and violet leaf. Notes of white woods, golden amber, and musk add complexity and depth"

Even if you aren't interested in making soaps, people use fragrance oils for a variety of things: lotions, home and office oil diffusers, cleaning supplies, vaporizers, candles, and more.  

Pros:

  • wonderful, rich scents that smell as described
  • scents that remain through the saponification process; creating wonderful scented soaps
  • a variety of fragrances to choose from
  • packaged to prevent breaks or leaks
Cons:
  • compared to Amazon prime's very quick delivery, receiving an order from Bramble Berry takes longer (but delivery is within the time frame given).
  • some of the packing (padding) materials are large in size and while they are printed with recycle symbols, it seems like a lot. (Then again - I'd complain if the bottles leaked during transit wouldn't I?)
If you are interested in learning more about Bramble Berry, visit their website.

Related Link: Bulk Apothecary (Nature's Oils) on Amazon

When I MUST have a fragrance a few days sooner than Bramble Berry can pack and deliver, I do order with confidence from Amazon. But only when I order from the Bulk Apothecary Amazon store. They offer a "Nature's Oils" line of fragrance oils. 

My favorite scents from Nature's Oils are the Cinnamon, Orange, Clove and the Roasted Oatmeal Stout.





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Monday, November 16, 2020

Travel: The Choptank River Lighthouse

I have visited Dorchester County, Maryland many times over the years. I've visited Blackwater National Wildlife refuge, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical park, and a pavilion area on Fishing Bay during a tropical storm. But I had never seen The Choptank River Lighthouse in Cambridge - until recently.


It was a drab and rainy day. We were driving around, exploring. We had visited Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge again but with the pouring rain, it was difficult to get photos of the birds. There were plenty of birds to see... being water birds, they didn't seem to mind the rain.  We also drove around the small town of Cambridge, Maryland. 

We ended up in Long Wharf Park. With the heavy rain, the birds outnumbered humans. And we had a perfect view of The Choptank River Lighthouse from the comfort of the Jeep.




The Choptank River Lighthouse, Cambridge, MD

This lighthouse is a replica of historic, river lighthouses of Maryland. Specifically, a replica of one of the Choptank River Lighthouses that were at Choptank River Station. Yes, "lighthouses" plural at that original site. The first lighthouse at Choptank River Station was built in 1871. After that structure was destroyed by an ice floe, a different lighthouse was moved to the site in 1921. Then in 1964, that lighthouse was removed and replaced with a modernized flashing light.

With visiting the current Choptank River Lighthouse, I learned that it is a screwpile style lighthouse. I have seen many photos of this style of Maryland river lighthouse but never thought about the architecture.

This structure also houses a small lighthouse museum. It is normally (pre-pandemic) open to the public, no charge but donations are welcome. The space (also during normal times) can be rented for events. 

I definitely plan to visit again on a sunny day so I can sit and watch the boats sailing in and out of the marina.


Dorchester County, Maryland is a wonderful place to visit. It is a rural area teeming with wildlife, migratory birds, and recreational activities related to water. Every single time I visit I wonder about Harriet Tubman's life and marvel at her bravery walking though these marshes and forests. 

Related Links:

Our Mary Beth is the Review This lighthouse contributor and photographer. If you love lighthouses, be sure to look for her lighthouse reviews and her photography store. I enjoy touring this wonderful lighthouse parks through her stories and photos.

If you are unable to travel to Maryland's eastern shore in person, and enjoy reading historical fiction I recommend Chesapeake by James Michener. You can see my book review here. The area and it's rich history makes my visits even more meaningful.

For more information about the history of the original Choptank River Lighthouse, it's replacement, and this replica in Cambridge, refer to Choose Cambridge: About the Lighthouse.

For more information about types of lighthouses, including the screwpile style and Alexander Mitchell refer to Chesapeake Chapter United States Lighthouse Society: Types of Lights.






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Monday, November 2, 2020

Reviewing Beginning Soap Making Molds

My soap-making adventures began recently. Two weeks ago I wrote a Beginning Soap Making Supplies review recommending melt and pour soap bases for people like me who have wanted to make soaps but are intimidated by the hot and cold processes that use lye. It is true that soaps made with those processes can more easily be textured or their colors swirled. That made me feel as though I would be missing out on making pretty soaps. I was wrong. I cannot do color swirls as easily with melt and pour soaps but I can make beautiful soaps using these silicone molds.


If I am making soaps for myself, the simple rectangular molds (as pictured in my previous post) are perfect. But when thinking about making soaps for gifts or for sale, I quickly wanted more interesting molds. 
I made the decision to purchase more silicone molds since the rectangular bar soap silicone mold made such nice soaps. 

The reasons I purchased these most recent molds:

  • Silicone molds produce smooth soaps 
  • silicone molds come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs
  • the withstand the heat of the hot soap bases
  • they do not crack or break
  • soaps are easy to pop the finished bar out of the flexible mold
  • I have not yet learned how to measure the soap mix to fit into a "loaf" pan - I do not feel as concerned about having the right amount of "batter" for these single-bar molds
  • the silicone is super easy to clean. I pick off any larger bits of soap remaining on the tops of the mold (the "overflow" or drops of soap I left behind) then I run the mold under hot water. Voila, the mold is clean and ready for the next use.

My first choice of fancy molds were the flower molds. And I couldn't be more pleased. With these soaps I shave a bit of a solid color bar (using Shea or Goat Milk base) I made (using the plain single bar molds). Then pour over those shavings with a clear soap base. 

I think the flower molds are gorgeous! And I've only used the flower that looks like a Dahlia thus far. This mold includes three different flower styles. To me they appear to be a sunflower, a daffodil, and a dahlia. 



I also purchased the ocean waves silicone mold. It produces a larger bar of soap with a "wave" or engraved style top. In this example, I used one of the clear bases and stirred in fragrance, bits of tea leaves, and a mica powder that creates sparkle. 



I do not feel experienced enough to give the instructions for using Melt and Pour soap bases. There are many tutorials online (written and video). I strongly recommend watching a variety of tutorials before diving in. 

Many people enjoy receiving or buying handmade items. Crafts such as soap-making is a great way to spend quality time with kids (note: the melted oils are HOT, please supervise children closely). Whether you have considered making soaps for yourself or for others, these molds add something special to your project. 

Related Links - Make your own with these craft supplies:

My Beginning Soap Making Supplies review. I was happily surprised at how few supplies it takes to make Melt and Pour soaps. However, once you begin, if you are like me, you will soon want many different molds, fragrances, and bases. 

The holidays are approaching. These Easy Christmas Ornaments from beads have been a favorite and a requested activity over the years. Kids (and adults) love using tri-beads and pipe cleaners to make these beautiful ornaments. 

Margaret wrote a wonderful step-by-step tutorial showing us how to make beaded, dangling earrings. Her earrings are a beautiful Romantic, Beaded Heart pair but you can use a variety of bead colors and shapes.                                             

Our own Ms. Sylvestermouse also loves crafts and making things. Her Ebay store, House of Sylvestermouse, is a great place to find "a variety of crafts, craft kits, patterns, books, and supplies...".  I especially like the beaded craft kits and the cross-stitch kits. Oh, if only there were more hours in each day... 

Related Links - Some Handmade Items for sale: 

If you want to give handmade items as gifts but do not have the time or inclination to make them, there are plenty of options from our contributors and friends.

Ms. Elf creates crochet (including amigurumi animals) and needlework gifts and offers them for sale at CoastalCrochetCrafts.  Ms Elf's daughter-in-law also has an Etsy shop names Cute PurseNalities that offers "handmade purses, lanyards, coin purses, and table runners".  The seasonal prints are adorable and I especially like the season print purses/tote bags. 





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