Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wednesday February 10th Umbrella Day!

For all of you who like to follow the Weird and Wacky feasts and holidays of the year, you might already know that today Feb. 10th is Umbrella Day!   Now you are probably wondering why in heaven's name anyone would get excited about that.  I'm here to fill you in.

Umbrellas in the past were used to keep the sun off of the Gentries' skin.  Pale faces, light completions, were something that was desirable. Hence, if a lady did have to go out during the sunny parts of the day, her umbrella or parasol was a much needed accessory.  We've all seen the pictures of the ladies of old, in their finery strolling down the lane with a parasol firmly held on high to keep the suns rays off of their heads.  Gloves were also mandatory so the hands would not show signs of sun either, and the dresses were long, so no worries there. You can see for yourself in this painting of John Singer Sargent, just how covered up the ladies of yore were!

Moving into the modern era,  our tastes for what is beautiful has certainly changed and sun kissed skin, lots of skin became the way to look and to feel beautiful.  We went from one extreme to the other in a short 100 years.
By Pedro Simões - Flickr

From being totally covered up in the 1880's, to being almost totally uncovered in the 1990's and now to our current time in the 2016's and beyond, we are finding out that uncovering our bodies, so that the sun can "kiss" our skin, was not the brightest of ideas.

New research and just the plain facts coming out of the medical community, points out how much damage the sun can actually do to our skin.  Not only does it cause premature aging in our skin, but the rising occurances of skin cancers of all kinds, is just a little disturbing.

But, and here's the real good news, umbrellas are making a beautiful comeback and when I say beautiful I mean BEAUTIFUL!

Gone are the days when umbrellas were strictly used to keep us dry on rainy days.  Their utilitarian use was important (especially for those ladies with hair that curls like crazy on those damp days), to keep us dry in the most sever downpours, while going about our regular business.  But more and more people are opting to use umbrellas to keep the sun off of their skin (again).  Maybe the ladies of old, were onto something.

Today, umbrellas are beautiful to the eye and come in such a variety of colors and shapes.  They are again a fashion accessory that should be used often.  Just take a look at a couple of these beauties and see if you don't agree with me that they are fantastic to look at and even nicer to use, than those dreary plain black or navy ones that leave nothing to the imagination.  Plus many of them fold down to almost nothing, so slipping one into your purse is quite easy to do.  No need to be unprepared!

Galleria Stained Glass Dragonfly Folding Umbrella

                            Galleria Exotic Orchids Folding Umbrella

These are just two of the beauties that I'm telling you about!  I certainly wouldn't mind keeping my skin free of exposure to the sun's rays under one of these.  How about you?  Are you willing to take the risk of getting too much sun on your skin and afterwards having problems that need surgery to fix the damage, or would you rather spend sometime under the protection of an umbrella?

They can and still do double duty, because, if it should start to rain, you are protected there too!

Happy Umbrella Day to all!


If you enjoyed this article, you can find more at or

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.”


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Reviewing Trash Bags by Glad

Ever Had A Trash Bag Fail?

Well, I haven't had one fail for a very long time but the other day while helping a neighbor do some cleaning I did. She was using cheap (very cheap) trash bags that honestly were a waste of her money and time. What an awful mess it was to clean up when her less than durable bag dropped everything out of the bottom! I am pretty picky about a lot of things and the brand of trash bags is one area that I won't scrimp on. 

My neighbor found me out near the trash container picking up the mess while swearing under my breath and she said to me, "Oh, I should have told you that you need to use two bags together. I buy these because they are so much less expensive than the name brands."

I'm not kidding there were warning bells going off in my head and I swear I heard the robot from Lost In Space say, "Warning, Will Robinson! This does not compute!" Where is the logic in buying cheap bags and then having to double them up because they so easily fall apart? How is that less expensive? Isn't it more expensive in the long run? What kind of math is she using to figure that she was saving herself money? She can't be using the math I learned in school, that is for sure. As Spock might have said to Captain Kirk, "This is highly illogical."

So, what brand of trash bags do I keep on my shelves? I really prefer Glad trash bags for my own needs. I use the tall kitchen size (13 gallon) in several places in the house and the large yard sized bags out in the garage.

I can't think of one time that this brand has ever failed me. A long time ago, I purchased another brand and found I was just happier to stay with my Glad bags for my trash needs. There might be bags out there that are just as good but I prefer to just stay with what I know works for my home.

Who wants to have to gather trash in a bag over the course of a couple of days and then when you go to put it in the container for trash pick-up have it drop the trash onto the ground before it hits the container? Good golly, Miss Molly you would have to pick it all up again and probably use another bag! Not an efficient use of my time or yours.

When it comes to tools (trash bags are a tool of sorts) I tend to go with what I know is reliable. If it costs me a few cents more, I am willing to spend it. Although, in the case of my bags versus my neighbor's bags; I think I spend less money in the long run because I don't have to double my trash bags for one job.

How about you? Have you given much thought to the reliability of the bags you use for your trash? Do you feel that a bag is a bag and that they are all the same? Or are you like me and you prefer to get a bag that you know won't fail on you?

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, February 8, 2016

Austenland Book Review

Visit Jane Austen's world via Austenland the book by Shannon Hale

As a huge fan of Jane Austen movies and books, my antennae perked up when I heard of the movie, Austenland. When I discovered that the movie is based on a book written in 2007 by Shannon Hale, I decided to check out the book before taking in the movie. This became doubly important when I saw a crushing review for the movie, which I had really been looking forward to.

The book was a pleasure to read. All right, it was a light and fluffy read but sometimes that is exactly what you want. Reading, along with movies and okay, I'll admit it, food, are two of my escapes and I bet they are for you, too.

Within the covers, Jane Hayes escapes the ordinary world in which she has been unsuccessful in finding a man and travels to an English resort where she trades her modern conveniences and clothing for period items and enters the world of Jane Austen. She is hoping to rid herself of her obsessions with the world of Pride and Prejudice and, in particular, the handsome Mr. Darcy as played by Colin Firth whose image has kept her from finding her own Mr. Right.

From the back cover of the book:

"Enter our doors as a house guest come to stay three weeks, enjoying the country manners and hospitality - a tea visit, a dance or two, a turn in the park, an unexpected meeting with a certain gentleman, all culminating with a ball and perhaps something more..."

If you have enjoyed previous contemporary books and movies from Jane Austen, you will enjoy the charming and funny story found within the covers.  I read the hardcover edition as shown here and, given the choices, I think this is the version I would pick if I were buying one as a gift for a "Janeite." However, the book is also available in trade paperback, as a movie tie-in and for your Kindle or other eReader. You can find your copy in whatever format you prefer on Amazon by clicking right here. The book features 197 pages of what can only be called pure escapism.

If you are curious about the movie version, be sure to visit my Austenland movie review.

Will you read Austenland?

Happy Reading!

More Jane Austen and Period Drama Reading:

Which Is The Best Emma Movie?
Are you taken in by every Jane Austen movie? Have you seen all of the versions of Emma? Which one is the best? Do you know or would you like to find out?

Writing Jane Austen Book Review
Imagine if you were given a chapter of a seventh Jane Austen novel. A novel, that is, which she never finished. Then imagine being asked to finish the book for her and you will have a basic understanding of what this book is all about. Georgina...

Downton Abbey on Pinterest
I discovered Downton Abbey seasons 1, 2 and 3 after the fact. That meant I watched each one almost without pause...

Grantchester: A New Period Drama Mini-Series
A minister and murder. An unlikely mix, perhaps but I'm really enjoying Grantchester.

Author's Note: Originally published on another website in 2014.

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.”


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Do I Really Want to Sell My Home? That is the Question in the Spring Air?

Do You Really Want to Sell Your Home? Or Do You Just
Need a Change? Heart Rug Featured Here
Don't Let Spring Push You Into Selling Your Home Just Because You're Getting that 'Fresh-Air Fresh-Start Itch'

Twenty-five plus years in Real-Estate allowed me to see first hand the many reasons people decide to sell their home. Believe it or not, boredom of environment or needing a change was one of those reasons; especially during spring time when that 'new beginning' feeling hits!

If you've ever sold a home, you've probably received the standard good advice to 'neutralize' your color schemes. The suggestions may have also included, to create a consistent flow between spaces, to repaint with neutral colors, to de-clutter, to remove large furniture in small spaces, and most of all, to limit patterns and prints where possible. Having your home professionally staged may have also been talked about ... good advice.

However, if the only reason you're selling your home is because you're feeling the need for change, then the first thing you should do to Fully Test that urge is to re-arrange a room, and if
Use Scenery Drapes to Create a New Focal Point
They allow you to add color and interest
 without painting - Available at BeddingInn
affordable, change it up by adding MORE color and interest

Pick colors and patterns that you and your family like. Throw out 'the house selling rule book' (to a point!), and decorate in a way that reflects your own personal likes. 

If you've never attempted to work with color and pattern, here you'll see an example of  how to choose a patterned couch with a patterned rug. It also features a handy short video on mixing color with pattern.

When spending a lot of money isn't an option, keep the room changes simple, try these five things first:
  1. Repaint the room
  2. Rearrange the furniture
  3. Create a new focal point
  4. Add accessories
  5. and sorry, clean and de-clutter
Focus on the things you like, but start first with 'the mood' you want to create; airy, fun, electric, cozy, serious ... you get the picture. Even if your existing pieces don't fit into your mood choice, use the things you add to do that task; paint, pillows, blankets, rugs, window coverings, or if you're going all out, furniture.

If you're thinking this is too much work, then think about all the time, expense, and energy it will take to sell your home. When you're just not sure what to do .. to stay or to go .. redo at least one room in the home before you make that larger choice to sell. 

Oh, and if you re-decorate that one room with neutral tones only because you think that's practical for resale, well, you're subconsciously out the door already! So resist that, and decorate that room in your own true funky fashion. Give it your touch.

When you're finally ready to sell, then go neutral-mad. But remember to test yourself with this re-do challenge, and ask yourself, do I really want to sell my home?

By Barbara Tremblay Cipak

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.”


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Reviewing the Significance of Super Bowl 50

There is no winner yet for Super Bowl 50. As of this writing, the game hasn't been played. But, there is a significance that will stand the test of time in the National Football League. The Old Guard versus the New Guard. And that's what is about to happen at Levi Stadium.

The Old Guard versus the New Guard

The old guard this year isn't being represented by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. It's being represented by Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Both teams have been participants and winners in past Super Bowls many times. They have faced upstart teams periodically. (Seattle Seahawks come to mind.) The Patriots and Broncos have been referred to as football dynasties.

Then up comes the new guard in the form of Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. We're certainly talking about a younger quarterback, and a newer behavior. Newton has been heavily criticized for his behavior on the field. Even criticized for his regular handing touchdown footballs to children in the stands.

But let me ask you, how different is that than the Lambeau Leap? That's a crazy activity that Green Bay Packer players are allowed to do after every home field touchdown. In my view, it's very different. Newton awards an official NFL football to some lucky child. And, frankly, all Newton is doing is showing his pleasure at his team getting a touchdown.

Isn't time for us all to show pleasure in the good things?

Don't get me wrong. It would be nice to see the future Hall of Fame Player, Manning, go out big in what could be his last game as a player. But when we are talking about the old guard versus the new guard, can an old (actually very old for this sport) player really compete?

Super Bowl 50 Brings Back the Offense

The Carolina Panthers with Cam Newton as their quarterback are bringing back the offense side of football. In my humble opinion, the sport had moved heavily toward a defensive game. The sacks, the tackles for losses and the turnovers all dominated the game. With Newton, great quarterbacking has brought back the excitement to football.

What is more exciting in the game than a touchdown?

The Cam Newtons of the NFL have many years to enjoy playing. The Peyton Mannings of the NFL are on their way to retirement. It's time for the new guard to bring in a new era of touchdowns and exciting play to the Super Bowl and the NFL in general.

A Little Disclaimer

Just to let you know, I may be a long time fan of pro football, but I'm not associated with either team. Frankly, I'm not formally associated with any team other than as a fan. I'm just one of those people who has an opinion. So feel free to agree or disagree with me.

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.”


Friday, February 5, 2016

Valentine Crafts Reviewed

Valentine Crafts Reviewed
My loyal readers will not be the least bit surprised to hear me say, I love crafts!  Not only do I enjoy creating things myself, but I love to look at tutorials.  Even if I don't end up making a particular craft, I often take away really valuable advice and tips when watching or reading tutorials.

Some of my personal favorite gifts have been handmade crafts.  My mom quilted a throw for me several years ago.  My grandmother made a huge stuffed mouse for me when I was little.  I have ornaments on my Christmas tree that friends and family have made for me.  Year after year, I loving place them in their "spot" on the tree.  

Some of my best childhood memories were opening my gifts and discovering that Mom had made me a new dress, blouse, or rayon* overalls.  Yes, I expect I was the only person ever to have silky overalls, but I loved them!  They suited my feminine tomboy image.  Although, I admit it.  I did not climb trees in those overalls, but I do believe I wore them fishing.  

By the way, did I mention that those rayon overalls were a Valentine's Day gift?  If memory serves me correctly, I do believe they were.  They were certainly lovingly sewn and made just for me.  Isn't that really the best kind of Valentine's Day gift?

Now, let's explore some really wonderful Valentine's Day crafts that would make fabulous gifts!

  *For those who may not know, rayon is a material that looks like silk or satin, but is actually more durable than either.

Valentine's Day Crafts Make Great Gifts

The Keepsake Box

Valentine Crafts for Seniors
Here is a great Valentine's Day craft!  One of our very own contributors, Mary Beth, shared how to decorate a heart shaped keepsake box in her article, Crafts for Seniors.  This is such a perfect craft for parents to make with their young children.  It requires very little, if any, crafting experience and gives a child a real sense of accomplishment.  

But the really cool thing about this craft is that it is not limited to little children.  Anyone could make a beautiful keepsake box for their sweetheart, mom, dad, friend, sibling, or child.  In Mary Beth's case, she helped her own mother make a beautiful box.  These types of memories, and times spent with the people we love, are a big part of what makes me love crafting so much.  Both the memory and the box are true cherished keepsakes.

The Sailor's Valentine

Sailor's Valentine by Sylvestermouse
The Sailor's Valentines that I made for our children is one of my own personal favorite crafts.  It is a simple technique that has stunning results.

A sailor's valentine is made with a variety of seashells.  The art of creating a sailors valentine is simply laying the shells out in a pattern that is visually appealing.  As my grandmother used to say, "how can you fail when you are using such beautiful things to begin with?"  She was absolutely right, of course.  Seashells are quite beautiful individually.   Placed in a pattern or design, seashells are spectacular!

You can learn the history of this craft as well as how to make an easy Sailor's Valentine in this tutorial:  Sailor's Valentine

Heart shaped Puzzles

The Heart Shaped Puzzle

If you want to give, or send, a secret message to your sweetheart, you will love the idea of creating a Heart Shaped Puzzle.

There are a couple of ways to craft a puzzle.  You can either purchase a puzzle kit, print your own design and completely make the puzzle yourself.  Or, you can simply craft your design with a message and allow the online company to print your image on the puzzle and send it to you to give completely ready to assemble.

I absolutely love the idea of making a one of a kind puzzle for your sweetheart with a private message or photo.  The question is, will you help put the puzzle together or simply watch the process in anticipation of the moment you sweetheart figures it out.

Handmade that is Ready-Made for You to Purchase

If the holiday has sneaked up on you, as holidays are apt to do, then I have a suggestion for you too!   You can still give a handmade gift.  Our own Elf has you covered.  In her Etsy shop, Wednesday Elf offers these really fabulous Valentine Heart Coasters.  Now, I shall forewarn you, there is only one set left, so you will want to act quickly.  I heard tell of a certain mouse that had her eye on these lovelies.  She might sneak right in there and snatch these coasters for her sweetheart.

Handmade Valentine Heart Coasters

Your Turn!

I have shared some ideas, but I would love to hear from you too!  Please leave your Valentine's Day Craft link in the guestbook below.  I know I am not alone!  We would all love to discover more Valentine's Day crafts that would make great gifts.

Valentine's Day Crafts Review by:
House of Sylvestermouse

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.”


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bridge of Spies Movie Review

"Bridge of Spies" movie review, starring Tom Hanks. The movie is suspenseful, historically significant, a thriller that held my attention all the way through. Here are my top 3 impressions.
My husband and I went to the movies last weekend to see "Bridge of Spies." We don't go out to see movies very often, but this one attracted both of us, my husband because of the Cold War era setting (1957-1962), me because of the spy story. Other than knowing that the movie was inspired by actual events and that Tom Hanks was the star, I knew very little about it. I learned a lot during the 142 minutes we watched and that's what I want to talk about in this review.

There were a number of young people in the audience and by "young people" I mean teenage boys (Saturday night, $3 movie). There were a few old mature baby boomer-era folks like us, but most members of the audience were too young to remember first-hand much about the Cold War. As I watched and the story unfolded, I found myself wondering how much of this history the audience had ever read about, learned about in school, or knew about at all, and how they felt about the movie, the story, the characters, the historical significance, as the story was revealed.

"Bridge of Spies" tells the real-life story that centers around attorney James Donovan (Tom Hanks) and his role in defending accused (and widely presumed guilty) Russian spy Rudolf Abel, as well as Donovan's role as civilian negotiator, recruited by the CIA and tasked with securing the release of captured American U-2 spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers. Those two events become entwined in a tale of patriotism, duty, character, and the sanctity of the United States Constitution, the likes of which was impressive, to say the least.

It's hard to talk about the movie without giving away much of the story, so I'll focus on three impressions that I took from the film and try to avoid spoilers.

Berlin Wall, eastgerman border guard looks at the Kubat-Dreieck, July 1st 1988
Berlin Wall, East German border guard
looks at the 
Kubat-Dreieck, July 1st 1988
First was the representation of the city of Berlin, where construction of the infamous wall dividing East from West was being completed as Donovan arrived to negotiate Powers' release. Today many of us remember that wall in its later life, graffiti covered and coming down in pieces following the urging of President Ronald Reagan. The movie gave a taste of how horrifying life actually was on the east side of that wall for the honest-to-goodness human beings who lived, and tried to escape from, there. As I watched the movie, that part of history really came alive to me and affected me as no history textbook ever did.  

My second impression is that, while there were humorous moments, there was a little more laughter in the theater than I thought appropriate. That brings me back to the audience. I almost wish I could have done a quick exit interview with some of the movie-watchers to ask how they liked the movie and what about it impressed them the most. I really hope some of the young people in the audience will remember the film as they study the post-World War II period in history class. I wish I would have appreciated my world history class more, 'way back when I was in high school, still in the midst of the Cold War years.

Third, and perhaps the impression that is most important to me, was the character of James Donovan. This was a man who stuck with his principles unwaveringly, going above and beyond, doing the right thing not only when his own reputation as well as his patriotism were questioned by friends, neighbors, and coworkers, but also when his wife's and children's very lives were threatened. I'm not sure what drove James Donovan, but how impactful his actions must have been to his children and even to his neighbors once his task involving Gary Powers was revealed!

I recently read a movie review by friend and fellow reviewer Cynthia in which she gave the movie a low rating in large part because the writers strayed so far off the real-life incident on which that particular movie was based. That got me thinking and wondering how accurate "Bridge of Spies" is, in relation, especially, to the portrayal of James Donovan. So I went looking and quickly found this article from Forbes which confirmed that screenwriter Matt Charman felt "just how important it was to tell this story right and do justice to everyone involved." He also confirms in his interview, regarding the Donovan family at the movie premiere, "... their reaction was the most wonderful review you could ever get and I feel proud we put the real man up there." I was very happy to read those words.

The movie is suspenseful, historically significant, a thriller that held my attention all the way through. Based on my impressions from watching the movie and what I have since read about the real events, I give this movie 9 stars out of 10 and highly recommend it for families including children over age 13 (based on the intensity of the subject).

"Bridge of Spies" stars Tom Hanks, directed by Steven Spielberg. Academy Award winner for Best Supporting Actor, Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel. Release date: October 16, 2015. DVD release date February 2, 2016.

Enjoy this trailer:

Recommended Reading: Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel and Francis Gary Powers by James Donovan (#1 NYT Bestseller)

Buy or Rent "Bridge of Spies" from:


Photo Attribution: Berlin Wall Photo CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Meet the Reviewer

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.”


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Marpac DOHM-DS Blocks Out Noise to Help Me Sleep

Do Noises Keep You from Sleeping?

All my life I've had trouble getting to sleep. Recently I solved some of my sleep problems with a better bed and solutions for my knee pain. I finally found natural supplements to help me relax at night and a mask to block the morning light when I need to sleep late in the morning. The last thing that tended to keep me awake were night noises I couldn't control. I wore out my music and rain CD's and although they had helped relax me, they still had contrasting quieter portions in them that did not block out all noise. Ear plugs didn't block out the sounds that disturbed me, either, from snoring to chirping birds. Instead, ear plugs just hurt my ears without making much difference in the noise level. I  finally found a new solution. The Marpac DOHM-DS sound machine blocks out noise to help me sleep through annoying sounds.

The Marpac DOHM-DS Helps Me Sleep Through Annoying Noises
My DOHM-DS Sleep Machine, © B. Radisavljevic

The Marpac DOHM-DS Helps Me Sleep Through Annoying Noises
Barking Dog
 © B. Radisavljevic
Can you relate to any of this? I climb into bed really tired. I've taken my sleeping supplements and calmed my mind. I am finally settled into a comfortable position. As I'm about to drop off into dreamland, the neighbor's dog starts barking, or someone parked practically outside my window on the street gets into his truck, slams the door and then sits there for what seems an eternity letting his loud diesel engine warm up before roaring away.

As I'm just getting settled and about to drop off again, my husband gets up to go to the bathroom and flushes the toilet which makes a series of loud sounds that indicate it's struggling to flush even though it's almost new. I finally manage to get to sleep and when the sun comes up, the windows start making this strange repetitive clicking noise. I think the temperature change makes them expand and contract. It's a  bit like a dripping faucet next to my bed. I could never sleep through it. The sound was too loud for my CD to drown out.

Using White Noise to Mask Annoying Sounds

In the past I had tried a cheap white noise machine with nature sounds that sounded really fake and did not relax me. Chirpy birds tell me to wake up, not sleep. I'd rather hear ocean waves breaking without the sea gulls, thanks. I prefer rain without loud claps of thunder. I mentioned in a previous post how my rain CD helped me, but it finally wore out because I had played it all night long for months. As I was searching Amazon with the thought of replacing it, I decided to take another look at the white noise machines.

I discovered that white noise today has progressed a lot. It's like comparing cassette tapes to MP3 music. After reading a lot of reviews, I decided to try a moderately priced compact white noise machine -- the DOHM-DS by Marpac. Simply put, it's a small fan in a round case. You can see it in the introductory photo. That's the one I have used for almost a month now. It takes up a little less room on my dresser than a soup bowl would and it's shorter than a 28-oz can of tomatoes. That is a small footprint even I found room for.

How the DOHM Works

The Marpac DOHM-DS Helps Me Sleep Through Annoying Noises
I plug it in, press a button and it's good to go all night long. It sounds like a steady wind that doesn't howl. Those are the controls in the photo. No programming needed. Press the top line for a medium sound. Press the bottom double line for the loudest sound. Press the circle in the center to turn it off. What could be easier.

Since the sound isn't digital, there are no little whirring sounds as there are when a CD is getting ready to replay or shut off. Neither have there been any metallic sounds that ceiling and other fans sometimes can make. I think I may be even able to travel again and actually sleep in the same room with my husband and his CPAP machine in a motel. The DOHM is portable and will work anywhere there's a polarized AC electric outlet. Marpac's DOHM blocks out barking dogs, the annoying window noise, slamming doors, car engines, power tools, and other obnoxious sounds.

It will not block a car alarm going off outside your window, as I found out two nights ago in the middle of the night. It will not completely muffle your husband's voice if he's on the phone on the other side of the wall talking as though the other person is on the moon instead of on the phone. I found that out this morning. It's not likely you will sleep through a smoke alarm going off, either, but that's good, right? I think it would muffle those nerve-wracking chirps when the battery of that same alarm is letting you know it needs to be changed at 2 AM and you don't have a replacement battery in the house.

The sound in the DOHM is somewhat adjustable. Besides the volume,  you can also change the tone of the wind sound by turning the top until you find the sound that's best for your ears. The sound may take a couple of nights to get used to, but after that, you won't notice it much anymore and it will block out the other sounds that have been keeping you awake or making it hard to get back to sleep after a bladder call. In case you're wondering, the fan does not cool the air in your room. Even if you hold your hand about six inches from the unit, you can   barely feel the air moving.

The Marpac DOHM White Noise Machine Really Solved My Problem

After several weeks with my DOHM now, I would heartily recommend it to others whose sleep is being disturbed or prevented by bothersome noises in an otherwise quiet environment. Are you a day sleeper in a neighborhood where neighbors or their gardeners use loud power equipment? Do you have a baby who is too often awakened by noises you can't control? A garage band next door? The DOHM is a perfect solution.

Amazon offers plenty of choices in white noise machines. I put one I still covet on my wish list, since it still offers me rain and ocean and other nature sounds. It is the Ecotones Sound + Sleep Machine and gets rave reviews. I just can't afford it yet.You can read the reviews and hear what it sounds like if you click the link. Meanwhile, my DOHM blocks out the night noises for me at half the price.

Get your Marpac DOHM at Amazon and enjoy the absence of sleep-interrupting sounds. Sometimes what you don't hear makes all the difference.

If this has been useful to you, why not pass it on to someone who might need it? There are sharing buttons at the end of the post, and the image below is perfect for Pinterest.

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.”


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Reviewing Mildred Pierce

A Classic Story Revisited

My husband and I just recently watched Mildred Pierce together. The version that we watched was the HBO mini-series first released in 2011. It had 5 parts to it that for the most part were 1 hour each so it didn't take us very long to get all 5 episodes finished. Over the course of a couple of evenings we were engrossed in the twists and turns of the plot.

Kate Winslet played the divorcee in this adaption of James M. Cain's classic novel from 1941. Oh the struggles that poor woman went through! The story takes place during the depression so life is pretty darned tough for everyone. Mildred lives in Glendale, California and is struggling to make ends meet by baking cakes and pies for neighbors and friends. She has a good business sense about her and eventually starts her own restaurant which is a huge success even in the dire economic climate of the 1930's. No small feat for a woman back then!

Mildred has a daughter named Veda that is just the most spoiled rotten kid you would ever want to meet. Veda is very demanding and wants a much better life for herself and she will stop at just about nothing to get what she wants. Her mother, Mildred, makes so many sacrifices trying to give Veda what she wants but it just never seems to be enough. Throughout the story that girl betrays her mother so many times!

We, my husband and I, really enjoyed watching this HBO version of this classic book and film but I have to admit that I really liked the original movie from 1945 that starred Joan Crawford better. Crawford won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Mildred Pierce. In fact, the movie was nominated for 6 Academy Awards that year.

I have not read the original novel but I think that I might put it on my reading list because I loved both of the adaptations of it so much. What I find remarkable about the story or plot that James M. Cain gives us is that he wrote it in 1941 at a time that we just didn't see the real struggles of a single mother portrayed in book or movie form. Having been a child in a single parent home, he pretty much nails just how hard it is and was for a woman to get by back then.

Being an antiques enthusiast, we really enjoyed the costumes and set designs in the mini-series, too! Oh my goodness! I kept noticing things that people collect now. There was one scene where Mildred is serving some coffee or tea and the pot is a Jewel Tea Autumn Leaf long spout tea pot that so fits the time frame of the story! She served the beverage in what was then Anchor Hocking mugs but would later become Fire King. It was the attention to detail in the surroundings that made the series so enjoyable. Sure, we loved the plot itself but those little period things just really added to the entertainment factor. The architecture was to die for!

So, if you love a good drama I can highly recommend watching either the original movie or the HBO mini-series of Mildred Pierce. You won't be disappointed in either version.

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, February 1, 2016

Enameled Cast Iron - Pricey But Worth It

Martha Stewart 6 Qt. Dutch Oven
I am a cast iron snob.  However, I recently was searching for a dutch oven that measured under 9 inches diameter.  I found a small enameled cast iron covered casserole that was the correct size. I fully expected to hate it as I immediately tested it with fire - literally - and found it to be such a great product that I want to purchase an entire set.  I think you will too.

My Kitchen Dilemma

I prefer cast iron and I needed a cast iron pan for cooking in the woodstove that came with my newly acquired "Shack".  Setting up kitchen in a plywood, ramshackle Shack is fairly hit and miss.  The first few pans and dutch ovens I moved up there were not suitable for woodstove cooking. Or they did not fit into the oven door that measured just over 9 inches.

While online shopping for small cast iron pieces, I began to research enameled cast iron dutch (also called a french oven or cocotte). But wow... enameled cast iron is pricey!

While checking the local brick and mortar stores, I happened upon the Martha Stewart collection at the local Macy's and purchased exactly what I needed.  

choose your color

The Solution 

The Martha Stewart Collection was the most economical collection - in the size I needed - that I could find.  You can find the entire collection at your local Macy's store.  The 6 qt. casseroles can be purchased on Amazon.  

I purchased two of the 2 qt. size and currently have one at the apartment and one at the Shack.  I LOVE the colors these come in. I was very skeptical about this pretty pan that I was putting into the woodstove.  I expected immediate discoloration, uneven cooking, and perhaps damage to the pan.  I certainly didn't expect the enamel to be as durable as my beloved old-fashion cast iron.

But it was as durable.  And I was amazed at how easily the pan cleaned up. The shack is a dry-cabin thus far so I use water for washing as sparingly as possible.  I also do not yet have things such as pan "scrubbies" up there.  With just rain water, a soft wash cloth, and a small bit of dishsoap, my pan washed up easily.  Almost as easily as non-stick really. 

I have already used it for approximately 10 meals. From things such as stews and casseroles in the oven to frying bacon on the oven top. I did not expect it to cook evenly.  Of course, in the wood stove, I turn the pan regularly as the wood heat is most intense on one side. However, this enameled cast iron beauty heats so evenly that I've considered testing it by making a meal without turning the pan.  So far,  I have only one spot of slight discoloration (from sitting directly in the fire, a sort of sooty mark) that I'm sure will scrub off the moment I have something other than cold rain water, soft cloths, and the barest amount of dish soap possible for dishwashing.

My 2.5 dutch oven in the woodstove

What I learned about enameled cast iron:

  • Durability - even inside of a woodstove, adjacent to flames
  • Cooks evenly
  • It is versatile - on the stove top, inside the oven (or woodstove)
  • Colors - so many pretty colors to choose from
  • Available in any size you need
  • Cleans up easily - unbelievably easily
  • Goes from oven to table

There are many brands of enameled cast iron to choose from:

  • Kitchen Aid
  • Lodge
  • VonShef
  • Le Creuset
  • Simply Calphalon
  • Staub

There are also a variety of shapes and sizes to choose from. I am sure you can find something to meet your kitchen needs.

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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