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

Monday, November 20, 2023

Book Review: October in the Earth: A Novel by Olivia Hawker

Mrs. Wensley is a proper preacher's wife living in Harlan County, Kentucky in 1931. Life has always been hard in coal country but it became even more difficult after the Great Crash of 1929. Is it blasphemy that Adella questions her life in the largest home with 100 miles in any direction, her difficulty becoming pregnant after 8 years of marriage, and her role as the preacher's wife? Is it wrong that she disagrees with him in how to respond to the homeless folks passing through? 

book cover photo of October In The Earth

While she ministered to the women of the county tirelessly and she felt as though she were failing. Something did not feel right to Adella. 

"That afternoon, I came up the last shaded rise of the old road with that loaf of bread tucked under my arm, and I rounded the bend, and there before me was home - the only place that had ever felt like home to me, even after I'd settled with my eminent husband in the finest house in the whole danged valley. My parents' place could scarcely be called a house at all." - October in the Earth

Adella was visiting her family's shack when her brother pulled up; pale and shaken. Miners were in the midst of strikes after the mining companies had slashed wages due to the economy. Violence was breaking out, men killed during a shooting related to a mining company. 

"A couple of fellas pulled up in a truck that was all painted with the sign of the Evarts company". "They jumped out of the cab" Benjamin went on, "hollering and wringing their hands about a full-on war."  - October in the Earth

Benjamin drove Adella back to her home so that she could share the news with her husband and they could minister to the local families involved. 

As the plans to help defuse the situation were made, Adella found herself questioning the responses. Internally questioning what should and shouldn't be done - what is a sin and what isn't. Adella finds her husband in the midst of what is clearly a sin and yet she cannot openly address it. She cannot bring herself to question things aloud. 

"It's the baby. My thoughts tripped over one another, tangling themselves. No baby. I haven't given him a family. No wonder he's losing interest." - October in the Earth

Adella visits the Granny Woman, as her mom has advised. The Granny Woman who can help women with their health problems. But it wasn't fertility help that Adella finds during that visit. She finds a woman willing to speak truth aloud. The shocking truth.

In her desperation, she prepares to flee. Adella follows the hobos that she has secretly fed - against her husband's wishes - during their trip through town looking for work. The proper preacher's wife dresses as a man, takes the few belongings she is able to carry, and hops a train away from it all.  The remainder of the story is a peek into the life of hobos on the rails. Riding from one town to the next, in a desperate search for work and food during the great depression. If the hobos are barely able to survive, will Adella be able to transform from a proper preachers wife living in plush comfort - thanks to the collection plate - to a lone woman traveling from town to town to find work? 

Unfortunately, I am not doing this story justice. I have clearly become an Olivia Hawker fan and find myself drawn into the stories of people living lives very different than mine. Olivia Hawker writes about believable characters with descriptions that immerse me into the story. 

I previously read and reviewed One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker. You can read my review 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.”

Monday, November 6, 2023

Reviewing What Makes a Great Bowl Cozy

Over the years I've often had a Bowl Cozy in my kitchen. Some I've loved and some were so annoying that they simply weren't used. Bowl Cozies are similar to a hot pad and are used to help you safely handle your bowl of soup, chili, or other hot items. They are quilted pieces of fabric and feel as though they have at least three layers - similar to a hot pad or a quilt. Whether you've ladled your meal from the pot on the stove or are removing your re-heated leftovers from the microwave, you know that those bowls can become uncomfortably hot to the touch. Sometimes, dangerously too hot to handle.

Hot bowl of food and a colorful printed cloth Bowl Cozy

As autumn erases the last chance of warm summer weather, I knew it wouldn't be much longer until I wouldn't be eating meals on deck. So I grabbed my new Bowl Cozy from LoudBrightandHappy, scooped up some steaming hot Impossibly Easy Beef Pot Pie and headed out to the deck.  I am so pleased with my new Bowl Cozy set that I decided to tell you about them.

While I use my Bowl Cozy for hot dishes, my friend has also used his favorite bowl cozy for his daily serving of ice cream. He loves ice cream but does not like to feel the cold bowl. So he keeps his hands warm with the bowl cozy. And I never thought to ask, but I wonder if the bowl cozy also slows the melting of the ice cream since the cozies add some insulation to the bowl. 

My new set of Bowl Cozies came from a shop on Etsy called LoudBrightandHappy. While you can find a Bowl Cozy at many places online, in brick-and-mortar stores, and at craft festivals there are many different versions and I'm just not happy with some of them.

I do not want a Bowl Cozy that is too flat. If it is, I might as well use a regular, square hot pad. I want my Bowl Cozy to hug the bowl.  I want my Bowl Cozy to wrap around my bowl - whether my bowl is a small bowl that comes with most tableware or one of my larger ceramic or polish pottery bowls (think larger spaghetti or salad bowl). However, I don't want my Bowl Cozy to be so large that it flops over into the bowl. And speaking of flopping, I want my Bowl Cozy to have some structure to it: I like when a Bowl Cozy is able to stand on it's own. You'll see that my new Bowl Cozy is made in such a way that the corners automatically tip out and away from my food. 

All of those boxes are checked with my new Bowl Cozies from LoudBrightandHappy Etsy store.

  • well-made with evenly stitched/quilting lines
  • a variety of beautiful colors and patterns to choose from
  • large enough to cover my larger bowls
  • Structured and solid; does not flop down into my bowl

And best of all, excellent customer service. I ordered hand-made Bowl Cozies that were already created. They arrived quickly and with a receipt that included the photo of the item I ordered. 

I couldn't be more thrilled with my new Bowl Cozies. If you've never heard of a Bowl Cozy, you may want to see what they are all about. If you already know and love them, I highly recommend the Bowl Cozy Selection at LoudBrightandHappy

colorful fabric prints
photo taken from above - looking down into the "bowl"

If you prefer shopping on Amazon as opposed to Etsy, you can see some Bowl Cozies here. I have not purchased any from Amazon so you'll have to check the reviews there.

PS. With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays fast approaching, I want to add that a Bowl Cozy makes a GREAT gift. The variety of patterns can make a Bowl Cozy a more personal gift. 

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.”

Monday, October 30, 2023

Cookbook Review: Betty Crocker Bisquick Impossibly Easy Pies

Imagine, "Pies That Magically Bake Their Own Crust". The Betty Crocker Bisquick Impossibly Easy Pies cookbook has been a very welcomed addition to my kitchen. With just several ingredients, Bisquick, an egg, and milk I have been able to make savory and sweet pies and have over 130 pages of recipes to try.

Homemade chicken pot pie

As someone who isn't incredibly talented in the kitchen but likes good food, I have tried baking pies in the past. (Sams recipe?). Combining my lack of experience with my lack of time and energy, I am always looking for hardy - but extremely easy - meal ideas. These Impossibly Easy Pies hit the mark perfectly. I can whip one together very quickly after work, pop it into the oven, and dinner is ready by the time I walk the dogs and feed the chickens.

My favorite so far is the chicken pot pie.

Stir together these ingredients and place in a pie plate:

  • 2 cups of chunks of cooked chicken (I used canned chicken)
  • 1 cup of frozen peas and carrots (I used a frozen vegetable mix that also included green beans)
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion

Stir together the Bisquick, egg, and milk. Pour this mixture over the vegetable mixture. Bake.

The final product is a hot, filling, delicious, comfort food. In my household, as a single person, I am left with extra portions to use for my lunches at work. 

I have begun to use a can of cream of chicken soup, the frozen vegetables, and the cooked chicken chunks routinely. Making a creamier version of the meal. 

I did find that my cookbook recommends one part Bisquick to two parts milk. This makes a thin crust that forms more evenly over the top of the dish. The recipes on the internet reverse that to two parts Bisquick and one part milk. I prefer that amount as it makes more of a thick biscuit or dumpling topping (as seen in the my photo). 

homemade chicken pot pie

This week I am going to make a beef pot pie - with a can of vegetable beef soup, frozen vegetables, and grilled chunks of steak.

Additional Tips:

I found my copy of Betty Crocker Bisquick Impossibly Easy Pies cookbook at a store called Ollies for only $3.99. If thrifting is your thing, have a look at the discount stores.

Similar recipes can be found on the internet. I usually refrain from the expense of the cookbook purchase by using the internet. However, in this case, having the book with all of the different menus in one place is easy and inspiring. In this case, having the printed version is helpful to consider the varieties of pies that could be made.

The cookbook has a contents section that lists the pies into chapter based on the ingredients. Such as Beef, Chicken and Turkey, Ham/Sausage/Bacon, Fish and Seafood, Meatless, Fruity, and Sweet-Tooth Temptations. They also list some of the pies into these helpful categories:

  • All-American Supper
  • Summer Dinner on the Deck
  • Mexi-Meal
  • Sunday Brunch
  • Kids' Choice
  • Thanksgiving
  • Special Occasion Dinner
  • Appetizer Party

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.”

Monday, October 16, 2023

Book Review: The Girl Behind the Gates by Brenda Davies

Nora Jennings is a 17 year old in England during the 1930's which is a time of war and a time of mental asylums. While Nora is a privileged young lady, she is also found to be a "moral defective" and as such she is moved to an asylum. Based on a true story The Girl Behind the Gates is a harrowing, moving, and hopeful account of a young lady trying to survive her mental health treatment the best she can and the few people who are kind to her and help her stay alive.

photograph of the book cover for The Girl Behind the Gates

The Girl Behind the Gates by Brenda Davies

The book begins with the Author's note that ensured I would tear through this story in every free moment. The author is a medical practitioner, who came to work in the asylum when Nora had been held for decades. 

"Over the years I tried to encourage Nora to tell her story, but she always backed away from doing so. However, several times she asked me if I would write it for her. I always refused. Then following her death in 1995, one of her friends sent me a note and included a letter from Nora reminding me of her request. So, at long last, this is a true yet fictionalised account of Nora's story."

At 17, Nora made two life-changing decisions that began with falling in love. Those decisions were deemed by her parents, The local religious and governmental folks  in charge, and by the mental health practitioners of the day as morally defective. A person that needed to be kept out of the public in order to protect society. 

Little to no patient records were kept, many who worked in the asylum were abusive, and it was acceptable to slap a patient into line. It was extremely easy to find yourself placed in an asylum and impossible to find your way out while still alive. 

Some staff were kind, but those staff had little to no power in the hierarchy. Kind staff were reprimanded and/or did not remain employed at the facility. The treatments of the day included sedation, ice baths, removal of personal belongings, and electric shock therapy. Nora experienced all of those treatments.

Forty-two years later, in 1981, Dr. Janet is newly employed at the Hillinghurst Hospital and is working in the acute ward when she is directed to do a review of the patients on the back wards. Dr. Janet begins with reviewing the files before entering the back wards and meeting the staff and patients.

"She's been at it for hours and feels pretty over-whelmed. No real patient notes, just individual sentences, often separated by bald patches where nothing at all was recorded, as though the patient simply stopped existing for months at a time."

It is in those back wards that she meets the woman who has been kept there since age 17. A woman who has learned to survive the abuse, neglect, and psychological trauma. A woman who inspires Dr. Janet to re-examine her own life and eventually write a book to tell the story.

A Personal Note

Having worked in mental health for decades, this story was profoundly meaningful to me. Dr. Janet's thoughts and approaches rang true. So many "patients" (then and now) have exceedingly important stories to be told yet go unheard due to the issues of confidentiality, difficulty with timelines, and hazy details. Yet, they are stories that should be shared. 

I am thankful that Brenda Davies found a way to share this story to not only educate about the common treatments used decades ago but also the personal story of a woman who survived it all. 

Nora Jennings survived. But how? And did she thrive or remain merely the shell of a person? You'll have to read the story to find out.

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.”

Monday, October 2, 2023

Reviewing the Keychain LED Flashlight by Olight

Recently, I've spent some time with folks who require high quality, everyday tools and I noticed that many of them were referring to their Olight brand flashlights. I started paying attention to what they were saying about the brand. I'm so glad I did. My recent Olight order included the i3E EOS Keychain LED Flashlight as a free gift and I couldn't be happier.

Bright Orange Mini Keychain Flashlight

The i3E EOS Mono-Output Keychain LED Flashlight by  Olight

This small and convenient flashlight is great for hiking, camping, fishing, walking in unlit areas, sudden power outages, dark areas of parking garages, lighting locks instead of fumbling to insert your key in the dark, and much more.

The specifications are listed as:

  • LED Light Source Type
  • Powered by one AAA battery
  • Twist to turn off and on
  • 90 lumens and 44 meters/144 feet beam distance
  • Made of durable aircraft-grade aluminium and anti-scratch anodizing
  • Waterproof rating: IPX8
  • Run Time: 70 minutes (NiMh battery) and 45 minutes (akaline battery)
  • Currently offered in 7 different colors

To be honest, I had to look up the definition of the IPX8 waterproof rating. I learned that:
"IPX7 and IPX8 are specific levels of Ingress Protection (IP) ratings that define the water resistance of electronic devices. IPX7 denotes protection against immersion in water up to 1 meter for 30 minutes, while IPX8 indicates protection against continuous immersion beyond 1 meter depth." - Keystone Compliance

My Personal Thoughts about the Olight Keychain LED Flashlight

In the distant past, I often purchased flashlights based on their price tag. Those flashlights were often made with plastic parts and would chip or break. They quickly ate through batteries.  Or would stop working from some internal malfunction.  More recently, I've started to purchase flashlights that are more durable but are still at the lower end of pricing as far as flashlights go. I've been very happy with my two flashlights that I currently use around the house and for chores. I keep one of those flashlights in my bedroom and one near the front door. 

As the days are growing shorter, I am leaving the house in the pitch dark. I am determined to not leave my porch light on all day just so I can see my way to the truck in the morning. That leaves two options, use a flashlight or stumble to the truck in the dark. If I use my chores flashlight, I have been forgetting it in the truck and then don't have it available the next morning. Having a mini flashlight attached to my keychair is a PERFECT solution.

I imagine I won't only use this handy flashlight in the mornings to get to my truck. If I am driving in the dark and pull over to check something (e.g. it sounds like something is happening with my tire) I have a quick source of light. 

Recently, my office building has been experiencing multiple, but brief so far, power outages. I have quickly learned that when the power goes out my office is pitch black. Fortunately, I have just had to sit still for a few minutes until the power flickers back on. But now I am prepared for a lengthier period of darkness if need be. 

This light is not meant for hours of hiking in the dark as there is only one level of light (not a choice between high and low beam) and the battery life is 45 to 60 minutes. But it is perfect for brief situations in which you need light. 

Best of all, I received this little flashlight as a free gift. I have heard that Olight runs specials and giveaways from time to time. And in this case, existing customers only needed to log in and add this flashlight to the shopping cart to secure a free light. How fun is that? I had already been planning on ordering some of their small flashlights for the reasons I mentioned above. A free light and bonus points that they offered one in orange!

This tiny light, not much larger than my post office box key, is perfect in size and accessibility. It would make an awesome gift and is the perfect size for a stocking stuffer. It comes in nice packaging and with a "Quality 5 Year Warranty Promise". 

This tiny flashlight can be found on the Olight Website and is also currently listed on Amazon

Related Links: 

I recently reviewed the two flashlights that I've been using for chores and around the house. If you want to read what I think about the JobSmart and Diehard flashlights you can see that here.

Sylvestermouse Cynthia reviewed the Coleman LED lantern and you can read that review here

Sam Monaco reviewed a way to keep all of those batteries organized with the Battery Daddy Organizer. You can read that review here

Tracey Boyer reminds us of the importance of having a Safety Kit with you for emergencies. She includes a flashlight in hers. You can read about that 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.”

Monday, September 18, 2023

The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon Book Review

A newborn was abandoned in a small town laundry. He was left in a basket and found on the verge of death. His story made the news and he was named Moses. Unlike the biblical babe left in the basket and placed in the river, this Moses was a crack baby. Crack babies, due to being exposed to drugs before their birth, are expected to have many physical and mental difficulties. In some ways, Moses followed a similar trajectory as many children born with drug exposure and with absent parents.  He was passed from home to home, had difficulty in school, and was thought to have seizures and hallucinations. However, he is also very different than those similar children in a way that can either be considered a blessing or a curse - depending on how you look at it. 

The Book of Moses written by Amy Harmon

"People love babies, even sick babies. Even crack babies. But babies grow up to be kids. Nobody really wants messed up kids."

I was lost in Amy Harmon's The Law of Moses. From the prologue that warned of heart-breaking loss to the last few words I was hooked. I fell in love with Georgia and Moses. We join their lives as they are in their senior year of high school. 

Moses eventually comes to live with Kathleen, his great-grandmother. He is turning 18 and will be aging out of the system. He is a very talented mural painter, painting his graffiti where he shouldn't and he sometimes knows people he shouldn't.  Kathleen lives next door to Georgia's family and has made arrangements for Moses to work on their farm. 

Georgia was the youngest child, born years after her own siblings. But she had grown up with many children as her parents were foster parents. As the story begins, her family is running an equine therapy program. While Georgia has seen Moses previously, during his visits with Kathleen when he was younger, this is the first time she's getting to know him. Or trying to get to know him. While most everyone else is suspicious or afraid of Moses, Georgia is drawn to him. But he's one of those "troubled" kids that most people avoid. Even the horses want to remain far from him. But Georgia can't stop herself. 

"Whatever it was, when Moses came to Levan, he was like water-cold, deep, unpredictable, and, like the pond up the canyon, dangerous because you could never see what was beneath the surface. And just like I'd done all my life, I jumped in head first, even though I'd been forbidden. But this time, I drowned."

The story continues over the next several years as Georgia and Moses go through some very difficult times, with and without each other, moving into adulthood. They are faced with adult problems and adult decisions.

My review does not do this story justice. I almost didn't write a review because I cannot describe it adequately without spoilers. Amy Harmon's writing is beautifully descriptive. It is easy to imagine the horses, scenery, and breath-taking murals. The characters are unique. Georgia and Moses are independent, strong, very different from each other, and both are very stubborn. This is described as a young adult and/or a coming of age romance but it is far from being confined to those genres.  It includes the mysterious disappearances of young ladies, beautiful murals being painted on buildings and overpasses of people who are missing or passed away, and a "different" young man who everyone blames for some of the bad things that happen. This story also has a paranormal aspect. I hadn't known that before I chose to add this book to my Kindle. If I had known, I probably would have passed the book by. I feel that most books with a paranormal bend seem contrived and difficult to believe. But Amy Harmon introduces and proves Moses' special abilities in a way that seems possible. Georgia and Moses are flawed characters who might not be easily likable but who won't be easily forgotten. 

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.”

Monday, September 4, 2023

Reviewing Captain Jack's Bt and Controlling Garden Pests Organically

As a new gardener, I was thrilled when I had a group of beautiful and perfectly formed cabbage heads growing and approaching harvest. I was so proud. Then I went away for 3 days. When I returned, the leaves were full of holes and the plants were covered in slimy spots. My cabbage was no longer perfect and I was concerned that it wasn't edible. Honestly, the mysterious damage caused me to lose my appetite.

Cabbage covered in cabbage worms

I immediately  turned to my gardening mentors on the internet and they informed me that I had severe insect damage. Some folks called them cabbage worms and some folks called them cabbage moths. The slimey black dots were the droppings. I did wonder which it was... the worms or the moths. Turns out, it was both. The life cycle of this destructive thing includes moth and worm. 

The moths are white. The type I recall seeing since childhood in pastures and gathered on the edge of mud puddles. The worms are green... almost the color of my cabbage and very difficult to see. Once I knew what to look for I found that I did have a severe (and sudden) infestation.

Some friends stated they use insecticides that most consider to be chemicals. Others stated they use an oil in order to remain organic.  I opted for Captain Jack's Bt spray as it is advertised as organic. And I ordered the chemical powder as a back-up because I didn't trust that something organic, after this much damage, would take care of the problem.

One heavy spray of Captain Jack's Bt took care of the worms and the moths! 

Ultimately, I was disgusted by the amount of droppings I had observed on the cabbage so I didn't end up eating any myself. But the chickens loved the heads of cabbage for snacks.

Captain Jack's Bt Organic Spray

Please do your own research. I am a very new gardener. So I am only passing along what I have been told and what I observed. I do not feel that I can personally confirm that Captain Jack's Bt is fully organic. But it was so strongly recommended as an organic treatment that I feel I must share the information. 

The active ingredient of Captain Jack's Bt is "bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis". This is a naturally occuring bacteria in the soil. When eaten by certain insects, it damages the gut health of the insect and kills the insect. 

When you spray the Captain Jack's Bt on the cabbage, the moths and the worms ingest it.  I found that this works very quickly (a matter of days) and my cabbage moth/worm problem was solved.

It is reported that bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) does not harm beneficial insects as the normal chemcial balances in their guts are not impacted by the Bt. Same with humans.

Captain Jack's Bt is useful for the following insects:

  • cabbage looper
  • hornworms
  • tent caterpillar
  • gypsy moth
  • bagworm 
  • and many more

In addition to cabbage plants, it is useful for the following:

  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • kale
  • mustard greens
  • eggplant
  • pepper
  • melons
  • tomatoes
  • shade trees
  • ornamentals

Whether you are a seasoned gardener or as new as I am, you may find that Captain Jack's Bt is a great choice for you. I know I'll be ready next year and treat my cabbage before I lose all of those beautiful heads to pests.

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.”

Monday, August 21, 2023

Reviewing iLIDS - Mason Jar Lids (Not for Canning Use)

I  have used iLIDS for Mason Jars for several years now and have noticed that when I go to the cupboard for a drink container, I am reaching for a glass jar and an iLID the vast majority of the time.  I find that making my drinks in a jar is cost-saving, environmentally friendlier, and visually pleasing.


Colorful iLIDS for Mason Jars on Amazon


iLIDS Mason Jar Drink Lids

Mason jars are a glass jar that are most known for canning. Households over the generations have depended on these jars for food storage. The jars are durable and withstand boiling temperatures in the canner, are dishwasher safe, and store food in the refrigerator after opening. While I have not tried it myself, I am aware that some people use their jars in the freezer. 

Many kitchens, including mine, have a supply of these jars. So it is not a stretch to begin using jars for drinks and the storage of drinks. I began making teas and ice coffee in the jars, then pouring the drinks into a glass. Before too long, I discovered iLIDS drink lids and began drinking right from the jar.  Insulated steel tumblers have many benefits, but I have found that I prefer the versatility of canning jars with iLIDS.

iLIDS drinking lids come in many colors. The underside has a gasket which creates a good seal when screwed on to the jar and helps prevent the lid from becoming hard to unscrew. The drinking lid has a sliding closure to protect your drink from unwanted items. When the slider is opened, you can drink directly from the lid or insert a straw. 

Note: the slider is not sealed and will allow a small spill when the jar is knocked over. It is not leak-proof.

While quart jars are large and bulky, I find that my liquid intake is higher when using a quart jar. I can visually see how much (or how little) I've drank.  Glass jars are not insulated. But I find that I enjoy the visual aspect of infused waters or iced coffee. 

Quart jars and iLIDS are perfect for making sun tea. When finished steeping, the jar and lid can move to the refrigerator and be used for storing and pouring out one glass at a time. Or, once chilled, insert a straw and voila a super-sized ice tea for those hot days.

iLIDS come in wide mouth and regular mouth sizes. I prefer the wide mouth because it's so much easier to drop in ice cubes or fruit. I have also found that these lids fit on many of the spaghetti jars that can be purchased at the grocery. The taller, thinner Classico jars are a great size for drink jars. 

While preparing to write this review, I have learned that in addition to the drink lids with the sliding opening, iLIDS offer storage lids and sports drink lids! 

I began using jars for drinks around the time I began making my own iced coffee to reduce the cost of buying my daily ice coffee at a drive-thru. I also prefer to reduce trash waste by avoiding the use of single-serving items (such as Kcups) when I can.

To recap:

downside of iLIDS and Mason Jars for drinks

  • not insulated
  • bulky; they don't fit in car cup carriers
  • glass is breakable (although I've not broken one yet)

upside of iLIDS and Mason Jars for drinks

  • easy to screw on and off jars
  • wide mouth and regular mouth size
  • visually pleasing; for iced drinks, fruit-infused drinks, and coffees
  • monitor liquid intake; can see how much you've drank (or still need to drink)
  • making sun tea
  • resistant to staining (I'm not sure how but my oldest iLIDS have zero tea, coffee, or berry juice stains)
  • reduces costs of buying drinks outside the home and reducing waste of single serving drinks
  • many colors to choose from
  • different styles of iLIDS to choose from (drink, storage, and sports drink)

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.”

Monday, August 7, 2023

Reviewing the DeWalt 20v Max Cordless Pruner

Some time ago I bought my first cordless DeWalt tools. They have been reliable and durable for all these years. Imagine my delight when my son gifted me with two more Dewalt tools (a cordless chainsaw and pruner) for Mother's Day. The DeWalt Pruner has been far more useful than I had imagined and I highly recommend it.

the powerful DeWALT cordless pruner

DeWalt 20v Max Cordless Pruner

In just a few short months, I have put this pruner to good use in my yard and my woods. The blades are a really good size for trimming woody stems and small branches. I have not noticed any dulling of the blades.

My Pruner was the "tool only" option which did not include the battery or the battery charger. It does include a blade sheath and the wrench/tool that would be useful if I ever need to replace the blades. There are options with the pruner, battery, and battery charger included for folks who would need the set.

Some specifications:

  • non-stick coated blades
  • blade gap of 1.5 inches (Maximum cut diameter 1.5 inches)
  • 60 cut strokes per minute - 1 cut per second
  • powered by the DeWalt 20V battery (may or may not be included)
  • built in LED light 
  • weighs 3 lbs
  • covered by warranty (3 year limited warranty, 1 year free service, 90 day money back guarantee - see website for details)

My Thoughts About the DeWalt 20v Max Cordless Pruner

I already mentioned that I like DeWalt brand tools and have had good luck with their durability and ease of use. I have the perception that many cordless tools are not as powerful as gas-powered or corded electric tools. However, my DeWalt circular saw and drill started to change my mind. Yet I was still very surprised the first time I pulled the trigger on the pruner and the blades literally slammed shut. 

Having issues with weak hands ergonomics related to grips and triggers are important to me. Fortunately, the handle seems just right and the trigger pulls easily. In my opinion, it is a plus that your hand must be fully on the tool and engaging what appears to be a safety switch before the pruner blades will shut. I appreciate those types of safety features. Someone may wonder whether the 3 lb weight is prohibitive for someone with weak hands. Yes, the tool feels hefty but no, it's not a problem. Personally, I have far more difficulty squeezing manual pruners (both small hand-held pruners and larger loppers) together than I do holding this DeWalt Pruner up.

I want to also mention that the manual available for download online. The pruner came with a manual but in the event your manual becomes lost or ruined, the online version is easy to find and download. 

This pruner is an excellent tool and would be a perfect investment for yourself or a gift for a landowner.

Related Links:

My review of my DeWalt 20v Max  driver in 2016. That drill is still dependable, problem-free, and is used frequently. 

My video of the day I received my Mother's Day gifts: the DeWalt cordless chainsaw and DeWalt cordless pruner. My first impressions and first cutting.

And a very brief review and update now:

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.”

Monday, July 31, 2023

Book Review - Lethal Range (A Matthew Redd Thriller Book 2)

Matthew Redd is a former elite Marine Raider, a fighting machine with special skills, whose current mission is to locate one specific bad guy. Anton Gage is an obscenely rich biotechnology celebrity whose idea of saving the world's population and of ending world hunger is through reducing the amount of humans who need fed. Gage is not alone in his quest. He has the technology and the support to pull this off. Unless Matthew Redd and small group of men can locate and stop him. 

Lethal Range by Ryan Steck

Note: I received a copy of this book to review. I rarely accept books or products for review because I am not comfortable with the commitment of having to review something I may not like. Fortunately, I really enjoyed this story! So much so that I'm going to read the series.

Lethal Range (A Matthew Redd Thriller Book 2) by Ryan Steck

Fifteen months prior, the FBI counterterrorism division was closing in on a bioweapons scientist who was a primary person in this plot to reduce the world population. The Marine Raiders, inlcuding Matthew Redd, were sent to capture this scientist but they were ambushed and all but Redd were killed. Leaving Redd as the only "good guy" to know what Anton Gage looked and sounded like.

The chase has brought Redd and the US FBI counterterrorism fly team to the Isle of Majorca, Spain. They are surveiling a Villa perched in the island's hills and with all of the modern technology available they are spying on the occupants in an attempt to give Redd a chance to ID Anton Gage. 

While no one is killed during this mission, it again goes terribly wrong. Gavin Kline, sends Redd home to Montana. To his wife and infant son.

While he was away, Emily, Matthew Redd's wife, is harrassed on the highway while trying to take her son to the hospital. Their son has been ill with an unexplained fever so she makes the 90 minute drive to Bozeman hospital. En route, a grotequely huge and terrifying biker began to follow her and taunt her. When he was joined by two handfuls of gang members they surrounded her and beat on her truck.

The Redd family has muliple issues to deal with at the same time. Their son is ill. Matthew has failed the mission, again, which endangers the world. The local bikers are targeting them. Gavin Kline is Matthew's biological father but not the man who raised him. The man who raised him, B.J, has passed away and left the ranch to Matthew. Matthew tries to handle these things alone and Emily is not going to allow that to happen.

I received a copy of this book to review. I rarely accept books or products for review because I am not comfortable with the commitment of having to review something I may not like. Fortunately, I loved this story! So much so that I'm going to read the series.

I'm in love with Matthew Redd. He is an elite marine who is very protective of his country and his family. He's a killing machine and would sacrifice himself for others. However, he is neither perfect nor a superhero. Redd gets his butt kicked. And his relationship with his father, and quite frankly with others, can be fraught with conflict. But it's easy to imagine this handsome Marine cowboy riding his horse on his ranch in Montana in between biker bar brawls. I'm in love with his wife Emily. She's a strong woman, a nurse, who takes care of others and who responds calmly during crisis. She tells Matthew repeatedly that he doesn't have to do these things alone. And she means it.

I believe people who are fans of the Taken movie series will love Matthew Redd and Lethal Range. This is not a carbon copy of that story but the similarities are the spy technology, the men with a special set of skills, and the imperfect men who deeply love their family. 

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.”

Monday, July 17, 2023

Reviewing the Osprey Daylite Plus Backpack

The Osprey brand of backpacks has been a brand I have relied on for over a decade. My first Osprey pack was a large pack with a frame. It was large enough that I could carry nearly everything but the kitchen sink on my outings. As I have aged and my outings are shorter and less frequent, I thought it was time to downsize my pack. I purchased the Osprey Daylite Plus Pack and I couldn't be more pleased. 

Reviewing the Osprey Daylite Plus Backpack

Why I Chose the Daylite Plus Day Pack

I have recently begun to make time to resume day hikes and quickly discovered that my original Osprey pack was far too large for my current needs. Osprey has a huge selection of packs but I eventually narrowed it down to two:  the Daylite and the Daylite Plus.  Both bags are perfect for daily use (school, college, work, carry-on size for travel) as well as camping and hiking. I chose the Daylite Plus for the slightly larger pack.

The Daylite Plus has two compartment in the main portion of the bag.  I prefer having a divider in the bag as it can keep things separated. For example, if I choose to carry a water resevoir it will stay put in it's own section. If I choose to carry a laptop, it will stay in place in that pocket and away from the items in the other section of the bag.  

The Daylite Plus bag also has two side pockets that are the pefect size for carrying water bottles. And two zippered front pockets that can keep smaller items separate in addition to the "pocket" that I use for stuffing my jacket or small beach towel into. 

This bag can cinch up with the straps to make it streamlined when I'm not carrying much.  Those same straps loosen to allow much roomier space.  Not only do I think this bag will be great for my hikes but will also be great to wear to festivals and farmer's markets.  

The material is different than my original bag so I will have to update this later to report whether or not this new material holds up as well to the abuse I doled out as the material on my first bag did. 

Osprey Daylite Plus Backpack Features

The Osprey Brand

I've never been a hardcore hiker. But I used my orginal pack in a variety of circumstances.  I carried it for miles, one way, to reach a favorite fishing hole. I carried it on trails through marshes to get to a sandy beach. My original backpack was on my back while bushwhacking through thorny greenbriar patches in forests. That original pack is sunbleached, pocked with campfire ember holes. And still smells a bit of fishing bait.  But it is still very usable. It has held up while I've become semi-retired from those longer adventures. When I thought about purchasing a new pack, I knew I'd look at the Osprey brand first.

I have discovered that they offer "remnant" bags. Those are bags that are made from some of their remnants that result from the manufacturing of their bags.  I have also discovered that they are now using recycled materials but are still able to produce bags that are "durable and can take years of everyday wear and tear."  

Osprey currently offers a line of Daylite packs: 

  • Daylite Cinch
  • Daylite Kids
  • Daylite
  • Daylite Plus
  • Daylite Tote
  • Daylite Waist
  • Daylite Duffel 
  • Daylite Sling

The Osprey Daylite backpack line

On their website, you can find the entire Daylite line in the Lifestyle Day Packs category.

Finally, I do want to mention that if you like to save a few dollars it is helpful to comparison shop on both Amazon and the Osprey website. If you click each color offered, as I did, you may find a pack at a substantial savings. Personally, there's no way I'm paying full price for a backpack so I was pleased to find different colors of the same bag on deep discount.

Related Links:

The official Osprey Website 

The Osprey Store on Amazon 

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.”

Monday, July 3, 2023

Reviewing the Vera Bradley Frannie Crescent Crossbody Bag

I hate carrying purses and dislike crossbody style bags but I'm so excited to share with you the Vera Bradley Frannie Crescent bag and tell you why it is the perfect purse for people who don't care for purses. The versatility and the size are perfect for me. The colors and prints offered make it appealing to a variety of tastes.

The Vera Bradley Frannie Crescent Bag

Vera Bradley makes quality bags with a large variety of colors, prints, and styles. I had carried the tote bags for many years for work - until I've outgrown them due to the amount of stuff I have to carry back and forth. 

Personally, I stopped carry purses many years ago and only carry things in a wallet. That worked well for many years. I didn't have to carry extra items for my small children. And I no longer had to carry ladies' hygiene supplies.  With my wallet in one pocket, cell phone in another, and truck key in yet another I was set. Perfect. No chance of me leaving my purse lay somewhere.

However, as I grow older, I find myself needing to carry a pair of reading glasses. While I don't use them often when out, labels are very hard to read when shopping. Or while dining in a low-light restaurant with small print menus. I recently left my purse and glasses behind when my son treated me to dinner. I had to ask him to read portions of the menu to me!  

But enough about me... let's get on to why this Vera Bradley Frannie Crescent Crossbody Bag is so wonderful.

I do not like Crossbody style bags. I'm short and round that the strap just cuts across my body in an unflattering manner. I love shoulder carry bags but they are typically such large bags.  I only need a small bag. This Frannie Crescent can be used as a crossbody style bag if you choose. But the long strap is removable and the short strap remains. The short strap is just long enough to go over your shoulder and the bag tucks under your arm.

Like all Vera Bradley bags, there are a variety of prints and colors to choose from. I choose "bees". I LOVE this print. Many Vera Bradley colors are very bright which I like but I don't necessarily want to wear every day. Vera Bradley bags are durable. And being they are made from cotton there is no chemical smell that accompanies some faux leather bags. 

The Frannie Crescent bag has a quality zipper (I despite those cheap plastic zippers that pull apart easily). There are two interior pockets - one is zippered and one is not. The lining of the purse is slightly different than the cotton exterior. The interior feels more "wipable" than the exterior. The website boasts that this bag is made of "recyled cotton". Perhaps that is the difference I'm feeling. I like that the interior feels as though it will be easy to clean. And as always, Vera Bradely has made this cotton bag washable. I forgot to mention, the bag has a flat bottom. So it sits up where I place it. 

Beautiful Bee Vera Bradley Print
Vera Bradly Bees Print Bag on Amazon

I am very excited to find a bag with a print I love and the size I need to carry my 4 or 5 necessary items with me.  If you are looking for a smaller purse these might be just what you need also. I know I love mine and I thought I'd never want to carry a purse. While I ultimately chose the bees print, I had a hard time deciding between it, the black, and this adorable turtles print. 

Summery Turtles Print Vera Bradley Bag
Vera Bradley Frannie Crescent Turtles Print Bag on Amazon

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.”

Monday, June 19, 2023

Reviewing Marie Antoinette Season 1 (2022) on PBS

I rarely get interested in a television series so much that I begin looking for the next season's premiere date as soon as the last episode airs. But that is what has happened with me when watching PBS's Marie Antoinette (2022). The settings, costumes, characters, and the dilemmas that occur when a teenage girl is sent from one country to another to create an alliance had me captivated. I was hooked within the first few moments.

PBS Marie Antoinette 2022

I have no idea how realistic and historically accurate this portrayal of Marie Antoinette is. Frankly, while I read some historical novels I know that history is not my strength. However, I find myself wanting to know more after getting this glimpse at not only this family but of how countries chose to support each other. Especially after the episode in which young King Louis XVI makes a controversial decision to support the Americas as a country versus a colony. But I'm jumping ahead.

Beautiful, young (just recently a teenager) Marie Antoinette leaves her home in Austria to join her in-laws in France. She is expected to marry the Dauphin(1) of France (Louis XVI) and to quickly become pregnant with his child. A male child.  Antoinette is moved to Versailles where she is expected to follow the complex, confusing rules and etiquette there. Will she become Queen? Will she produce an heir - not only to continue her family line but for this Royal Family in France? 

Young Louis XVI is being raised by his grandfather. His Grandfather Louis XV and essentially his mistress, Madame du Barry. Louis XVI is far more gentle compared to his brother Provence. Provence eventually marries Josephine and in this series they are portrayed as trying to undermine Louis XVI and Antoinette.

While history disagrees with the cause, it is true that Louis XVI and Antoinette take a very long time to consummate their marriage and then take years to have a child. It is true that pornographic and disparaging pamphlets and rumors are spread about Antoinette in the French Court. Becoming Queen in a new country is not an easy thing.

People who review this series seem to love it or hate it. I love it. I love the setting, the costumes, and the portrayal of children who are expected to become leaders of countries. I fell in love with the children Louis XVI and Antoinette... temper tantrums and all. I love the family drama and the relationships that rise and fall when power is involved. People who dislike the series seem to dislike it due to the factual problems that come when a historical setting is portrayed by modern actors/actresses from a modern script. I don't believe it helped that this Marie Antoinette is advertised as feminist.  I approach movies and television series as entertainment with a dash of educational benefit (an example of that educational benefit is realizing the Louis XVI was a mere 20 years old when he became King of France. I don't recall that from High School history class). I assume that things on my screen are going to be factually inaccurate. It is with that bias that I found myself LOVING this version of Marie Antoinette and look forward to the 2nd season. I loved these characters so much that I have more factual (reportedly) portrayals lined up to read and watch.

While I have watched Marie Antoinette (2022) on PBS I have also viewed episodes on Amazon Prime Video.  The Season 1 DVD is available on the PBS site

Content advisory: nudity, violence, frightening scenes, alcohol use, foul language, sexual content

(1) Dauphin - the title of the eldest son of the King of France, the heir apparent to the crown, from 1350 to 1830

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.”

Monday, May 29, 2023

Observing Memorial Day 2023 - Movie Review - The Outpost

Memorial Day in the United States is a holiday to honor and mourn U.S Armed Forces personnel who lost their lives during military service. For many, this day represents a three-day weekend, travel, and barbecues. As a young adult I thought of the weekend only as the unofficial beginning of summer. I didn't fully appreciate the somber meaning of this day until my own children were active duty and deployed overseas. Now I spend part of Memorial Day weekend each year learning the names of a few of those for whom this holiday was created. 

Memorial Day Remembering with The Outpost Movie

I read a book or watch a movie that highlights those who lost their lives while serving our country. I have a deep respect for those who choose to serve our country to begin with. Personally, it is important to me to learn the names of at least one persona KIA (killed in action) and to keep their memory alive.

The Outpost

Today I watched The Outpost. It is a war film released in 2020 and directed by Rod Lurie. It is based on the book, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor by Jake Tapper.

The story is about an American military base in Afghanistan in 2009. The base is set in a valley fully surround by mountains. Not distant mountains but mountains towering over the base. Even a civilian like me knows that this isn't a safe position to be in when dealing with the Taliban during that time of conflict. But American troops are sent there because of the proximity to Pakistan and some of the supply routes coming out of that country and into Afghanistan. 

It is heart-breaking when this vulnerable outpost is attacked and the Battle of Kamdesh results in many deaths. This battle is historic for many reasons. I am not sure of any way that I can tell more about the storyline without giving spoilers. So I won't. I will say that, as an army mom, it gave me an idea of what our deployed family members went through with limited contact with home, deciding what to say and what not to say when that contact is made, and their "austere" living conditions. We know that our Armed Forces members are sent into harm's way. But sometimes it appears that some of the risk is preventable. 

This is a difficult story. But I believe it is an important one. When searching for recommended "Memorial Day movies" I found it listed on a military site. For that reason, I thought that the movie must be viewed as important or realistic - or both. I hadn't heard of this movie or seen advertising for it otherwise. 

This will be one of the movies I watch more than once. A movie I will probably add to my annual Memorial Day tradition.

Additional Links:

In 2019 I read Dog Company You: A True Story of American Soldiers Abandoned by Their High Command. You can see the original post here.

In 2018 I learned about the Bataan Death March in the 1940s and about a special reconnaissance mission was occurring in Afghanistan in 2005 (Lone Survivor). You can see my original post for that year here

In 2017 I read World Changer: A Mother's Story: The Unbreakable Spirit of US Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn by Karen Vaughn. You can see the original post here.

I don't believe I have ever reviewed the movie Saving Private Ryan. I do not have the words to adequately describe that powerful movie. I do watch it every year during Memorial Weekend. If you have never seen it, I highly recommend it. 

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.”

Monday, May 15, 2023

Book Review: You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham

I recently finished reading You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham and am still thinking about the characters and setting. Beloved grandmother Rozenn passes away quietly and while knowing that she is leaving a will that she could not explain to her two precious granddaughters. Rozenn leaves her beautiful home on the Helord estuary in Cornwall to Gwen and it appears nothing is left to Morane. Why would their grandmother, who clearly adored them both, drive this wedge between them?

You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham

"It's not the first time Rozenn has torn her family apart. Something heavy and round presses into her palm. The silver compass. Her guide through the next leg of her voyage? A mist lowers over her eyes. For the last time she looks out of the window at the water - green, grey and blue all at once, glittering in the sunlight."

The story begins with Rozenn quietly passing in her home Vue Claire. Then the story line alternates between Morane's life in the present and Rozenn's life in the 1940s. Both voices are strong and take us into their world.

Morane struggles mightily with her current situation - a broken relationship, starting over, and trying to salvage her business. Her career. Then adding to that the heartbreak of her grandmother's passing with all the second-guessing that might come from being left out of a will. Morane tries her best to be strong and to accept her grandmother's wishes. But it weighs on her and she wants to understand what caused her grandmother to make this decision.

Rozenn's story starts in Paris with her parents, brother, and eventually her twin sister joins the family. Her father is a doctor and they live in financial comfort and privilege. 

"Maman was in the salon with a magazine, distracting herself with photographs of clothes, one of many Parisiennes trying to persuade themselves that early June in Paris was just as it had always been."

Paris was occupied by Germany at that time and things were changing for everyone. Resources were becoming scarce. Young men were forced into labor and Jewish families were taken away. Rozenn's family relocates to Brittany, trying to hide her brother Yann from the Germans. 

I LOVED this story. The stress of the occupation, the sadness of a grandmother's passing, and the difficulties caused by family secrets were present but somehow lightened by the descriptions of the settings and the love family members had for one another. Sometimes dual storylines can become confusing. But in this case Ms. Graham pulled me in to each setting so completely that I swore I could smell the water and hear the waves crashing in that coastal village. And feel the peaceful setting of Vu Claire - designed by an adult Rozenn. 

FYI for Book Lovers - Readers Coffeehouse on Facebook

I had won this book during one of the Great Big Giveaways at Readers Coffeehouse. Readers Coffeehouse is a Facebook group page for people who love reading. The page organizers enforce a "positive" atmosphere where readers are encourage to share what they currently are reading or recommend. Negative reviews are highly discouraged (frankly, I don't see that they are allowed at all).

Some authors choose to give copies of their books away on this page. However, once a year there is an enormous book giveaway. For the day, authors make a post about their book and members leave a comment. The winner for each book is chosen from the comments. Hundreds of books are given away in this manner.  It is in this way that I won a copy of You Let Me Go by Eliza Graham.

If you use Facebook and would enjoy an upbeat place to see what others are reading, I encourage you to check out Readers Coffeehouse.

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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Memory of Our Beloved Friend and Fellow Contributor

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