Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sweater and Jacket Choices for Dogs Who Need Them

I grew up on a farm. Dogs needing sweaters did not cross my mind. After all, the outside dogs had a barn or shed, straw, and the warmth of the livestock to protect them from the cold. But things change and so has my thinking. I now live in an apartment with two small dogs. We love being outdoors during all types of weather. And my little Daisy definitely needs a sweater to help keep her warm. Would your dog benefit from a sweater too? 

Protect Your Dog Now That Cold Weather Has Arrived

Any dog that remains outside during cold needs to have a shelter, warm and dry bedding, and plenty of food an water.  But what about my little dogs that live inside. They become accustomed to heat and haven't become acclimated to the elements.

My little Daisy is a Rat Terrier. She is small with very short hair. She is nearly hairless on her belly.  It is because of her thin build and short, sparse coat that I looked for her sweaters and jackets when we went for a hike in the woods today.

Daisy in the woods today - protected from the cold wind

Daisy has two different types of outdoor wear.  She has a sweater and a jacket.  

I think jackets are preferable when we are in the woods, when we are hiking for some distance, and if there is no snow.  The jacket is less likely to pick up burrs than the sweater is. The jacket also provides more ventilation while she is exercising. Sometimes, in the sweaters, she becomes over-heated.

I think the sweaters are preferable when it has snowed and we plan on being outside for a shorter period of time. When Daisy's belly is going to be exposed to the snow or when it is bitterly cold, I prefer that she wears her sweater for increased warmth. During snowy weather, I make sure I have two sweaters on hand.  I can put her into a dry sweater while the one that is wet from the snow during a previous walk has time to air-dry.

Both styles can be easy on-off.  Her jacket is an example of straps with velcro that make getting her in and out of it an easy process. Her sweater has long slits (as opposed to actual "sleeves") for her legs. These slits make it easier to get an excited dog in and out of the sweater. I've been very pleased with a variety of dog sweaters and jackets. In my opinion, the most important feature of a good dog sweater is the access opening for the leash.  Sweaters or jackets without those openings are difficult.

Dog Sweaters & Jackets: Things To Consider

These are the things that I keep in mind when purchasing a sweater or jacket for my dog:

  • size of my dog
  • length and thickness of the dog's hair
  • activity level - what will the dog be doing while wearing the sweater or jacket
  • how the sweater or jacket fastens
  • how thick the sweater or jacket is
  • whether or not the sweater/jacket has an opening for the leash
  • is the sweater or jacket washable
  • health of the dog - old dogs, dogs recovering from illnesses, and other situations that make dogs more vulnerable make a sweater or jacket a worthwhile investment

*graphic design courtesy of FotoJet

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Reviewing Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castile Soap

Dr Bronner's Castile soap
I have been without Dr. Bronner's organic castile soap for some time. Yesterday, with an unrelenting migraine torturing me, I went to the local pharmacy to replenish my supply. I was desperate to use some of the peppermint soap hoping for some migraine relief. Fortunately, there was a bottle in stock. I will review some of the reasons Dr. Bronner's pure-castile soap is highly recommended.

Reasons I use Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap

There are many reasons I like Dr. Bronner's soap. I initially purchased a small bottle many, many years ago for a camping trip. I understood at that time that the soap was better for the environment if washing and bathing outdoors. Since then, I just use it because I like it so well.

I have tried some of the other scents, but Peppermint is by far my favorite.  These are just a few reasons it is a personal favorite:

  • is reportedly safer for the environment
  • leaves me squeaky clean
  • the peppermint makes my skin tingle in a refreshing way 
  • does not dry my skin
  • often (the peppermint soap) eases stubborn migraines
  • none of the scents I have used (which are strong undiluted) have triggered a migraine
  • contains essential oils - and I'm a fan of essential oils
  • is concentrated and can be diluted to meet your needs
  • lasts over a long period of time

Other Popular Uses for Dr. Bronner's Liquid Soap

I think there are as many reasons that people like Dr. Bronner's soap as there are people who use it. After reading many reviews, I am listing some of those reasons here. Please keep in mind I am only repeating what others have written and I cannot verify whether or not these claims are true (however, I am pretty optimistic they are)

  • organic with no GMOs or chemicals - good for people with sensitivities
  • "castile" soap is made from vegetable-oil soap (other soaps are animal fat-based soaps) which meets the needs of Vegans and Vegetarians
  • hand wash and body wash
  • home and laundry deodorizing
  • household cleaner 
  • insect repellent spray
  • flea bath for dogs
  • no-poo shampoo
  • MANY scents to choose from: Citrus, Eucalyptus, Almond, Lavendar, Rose, Unscented, Peppermint, & Tea Tree

On second thought, I'll just refer you to the Dr. Bronner's FAQs page so you can read the recommendations, information, and cautions for yourself. See the section below for some of the many examples of scents and sizes - from 8 oz bottles to gallon-sized jugs there is something for everyone.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

YOJA Thermal Room Darkening Curtain Review

In my attempts to decrease spending and increase the efficiency of my apartment heating and cooling systems, I have purchased a YOJA Thermal Insulated Black Out curtain. The single curtain arrived just days ago and I am so pleased with the insulating properties that I am planning on purchasing a set for every window and door.  Whether you are looking for an insulating curtain or a room darkening curtain, I highly recommend the YOJA.

Heating & Cooling Savings in Apartments

If you live in an apartment, as I do, you often cannot control the quality (or lack thereof) heating and cooling systems, quality of weather-proofing, and ability to control temperatures in your living area. As a tenant you are often limited in what modifications you can do for yourself. But good news! There are some things that you can do to increase energy (and money) savings.

My battles in this small apartment are constant and ongoing.  This article will focus on my terribly inefficient metal entry door and the approach of winter. 

YOJA Thermal & Black Out Curtain Panels

Whether you are in a rental unit or your own home, these curtains are a great choice.  I am surprised at how pretty they are and highly recommend them for decorating purposes alone.  But if you are looking for insulating or room darkening qualities, I think these curtains are a MUST.

YOJA Thermal Black Out Curtains - 1 panel and tie-back per pack

Room Darkening

I did not purchase this curtain for room darkening purposes. However, I was curious about the room darkening claims. As soon as the curtain arrived, I walked around the apartment - facing different windows and eventually the very bright light in my bathroom, and held the curtain over my face.  It blocked all noticeable light. Out of curiosity, and because I'm a bit strange, I also went to those windows and that bathroom light with a variety of materials over my face: towels, jeans, khakis, and blankets.  All of those materials let light through in some way.  

In my reading of reviews, I learned that if the curtain is room darkening, but is on the wrong curtain rods, light will still enter the room from around the curtain.  If complete room darkening is your goal, you should use the proper curtain rods to help with that.

wraparound blackout curtain rod example

Insulation and Temperature Control

Back to my door dilemma.  My entry door is a problem. It is metal that must have little to no core for insulation.  It is ill-fitting due to the building that has settled over the decades.  My air conditioning escapes in the summer and horrendous cold drafts blow in during the winter. My heating and cooling bills skyrocket.

I have considered using the automatic closing, magnetic, door covering but cannot due to the angle that my door opens (it opens in to the apartment).  This is likely a really good option for sliding doors or doors that open out.

magnetized door curtain

In previous years, I've used door draft stoppers - very helpful but only when I'm inside and can place it there.  I've installed my own "weatherstripping" to some limited success.  And ultimately have considered installing a blanket of some sort over my door.

The blanket idea is what let to my curtain purchase.

I have hung this YOJA curtain over my door.  I've used Command brand heavy-duty, removal hooks to avoid hammering nails into the wall. The curtain drapes flat against the door.

Since I've hung the curtain, we have had three mornings of cold temps.  I can feel a definite difference of temperature on each side of the curtain (the side against the door is much colder). so it appears that this curtain will aid in insulating.

The curtain is not long enough to hang on the hooks above the door and stop the leak at the very bottom of the door. I will continue to use a draft stopper for that.  

pretty draft stopper 

Perhaps folks would find that this curtain over the door looks silly. But I am so focused on decreasing my utility bills that I'm not concerned about it looking silly.  Frankly, the curtain is such a pretty material and drape, that I don't think it looks as bad as that ugly and cold metal apartment door. 

A sample of some of the many Yoja colors to choose from

opening graphic design courtesy of FotoJet and Pixabay

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Baking Bread on Sunday

What a wonderful day.I spent this autumn Sunday catching up on neglected paperwork and chores. I also spent it baking bread.  This delicious bread recipe by Alexandra's Kitchen is easy enough for me to bake successfully each time I try it. My kitchen smells of homemade bread. I feel obligated to pass it on to you.

6 Ingredient Recipe

This Peasant Bread recipe only requires 6 ingredients that (except for the yeast) even I keep on hand.

  • flour
  • salt
  • yeast
  • water
  • sugar
  • butter
I cannot claim any part of creating this wonderful recipe but I can lead you to Alexandra's Kitchen. Not only can you find this wonderful Peasant bread recipe there, she also provides photographs and videos that lead you step-by-step through the process. Including how to proof the yeast.

Someone, namely me, is thrilled to have these step-by-step baking tutorials at my fingertips. You may find the site as helpful as I do. And if you are at all inclined to bake easy bread, you may find this recipe as wonderful as I do.

Additional Recipe Sites

There are many healthy, easy, and fun recipes on Review This! A group of contributors provide a variety of recipes and food fun. You will also find kitchen gadget reviews and cooking tips.

Recipes For Real People provides recipes for those of us who need easy recipes with fewer and easy-to-find ingredients. I have been thankful for these quick and easy meal ideas.

Culinary Favorites from A - Z is a site that provides recipes, cookbook reviews, and introduces us to top-rated kitchen tools.

If you plan on Cooking for the Holidays, this site is for you. Holiday and celebration recipes and ideas, festive drinks, and holiday table settings are the focus of this site. 

At Sam's Place you will find a variety of things that Sam enjoys. Including delicious recipes. Some of the recipes he shares are family recipes passed down to Sam and then to us. I have to say, however, I'm partial to his grilling recipes.

The opening photo design is created courtesy of FotoJet using my own photograph of today's Peasant Bread

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wordless (almost) Wednesday - The Slope

This is a panoramic view from The Shack deck - looking North (give or take).  The yard slopes steeply from the road down into the woods. I feel like I am on top of the world, looking down on creation when I am there. And it is a beautiful thing. 

Planning and dreaming of small house placement, gardens, chicken coop, fruit trees, and so much more. 

(Photo by WLS)

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pawpaw Fruit Smoothie

Just this weekend I tasted pawpaw fruit for the first time.  And I loved it!  So of course, in addition to eating them with a spoon straight out of their peels, I had to try a pawpaw smoothie.  This fruity-sweet smoothie was delicious!


  • one ripe pawpaw (seeds and peel removed)
  • 5-6 mint leaves from my mint plant 
  • approximately 1/2 cup of orange juice
  • approximately 1 cup of frozen berries (strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry mix)
  • approximately 1/2 cup of spinach leaves
  • three ice cubes
  • and water to the fill line

I don't really measure my smoothie ingredients as I just throw the items into the cup by handfuls. You can adjust the amounts based on your mood as I do.

The pawpaw created the most silky and creamy smoothie I've ever made. I completely understand why people choose to make pawpaw ice cream. I may have to try that soon. 

Related Links:

I love my NutriBullet and feel better when I have fruit or green smoothies on a regular basis.  You can read my NutriBullet review on ReviewThis!

Sun Nurseries is where I purchased and tasted my first pawpaw. You can read about that adventure here. You will also find a little blurb, and a link to follow, about high level of vitamins and minerals found in pawpaws. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pawpaw Taste Test

Pawpaw fruit on a seedling tree
For some time I have seriously considered planting pawpaw trees on my four acres. Before I purchased this land, and was in the daydreaming stages of what my homestead might look like, I seriously considered Pawpaw trees. The only thing that held me back was the fact that I had no idea what pawpaws tasted like. Today, I tasted pawpaws for the first time and the decision is made - I will plant paw paw trees on my land as a delicious step to increased self-sufficiency.

What is a Pawpaw (Paw paw) Tree?

A pawpaw is a fruit tree native to much of North America - zones 5 -7 (areas with cold winters and warm summers) 

The fruit is in the "custard apple" family. And tastes of banana, papaya, and some say of melon

They are nutritious, with high levels of Vitamin C, iron, potassium, and other important vitamins and minerals

In it's native habitat, the paw paw tree has few pests 

The zebra swallowtail butterfly larvae feeds exclusively on pawpaw leaves - but not in large or destructive numbers

Deer tend to feed only on the fruit; leaving the trees and branches alone - making the tree deer resistant

The fruit do not travel well commercially or last longer than several days when fully ripe.  This is why you may never have seen pawpaws in grocery stores

(information gathered from Sun Nurseries Pawpaws and Kentucky State University Pawpaw planting guide)

Public Domain Photo by Manuel.conde 

My Pawpaw Adventure

I love Sun Nurseries and discovered it early this past spring.  It is a bit of drive to get to it, so I don't go as often as I would like. But when I realized they had Pawpaws for sale, I made plans to drive over.

I'm so glad I did. As usual, the Sun Nurseries staff were amazingly friendly and helpful.  I bought a pawpaw, they gave me a plastic spoon, and I went outside and sat on the gazebo step as I prepared to eat my first pawpaw.

I had brought my own knife, and I was a bit surprised by the spoon. As soon as I cut the top off the fruit, I realized that the spoon was pretty important.

The cold (it had been refrigerated), sweet, yellow fruit was very soft. In fact, the texture reminded me of flan.  The taste was a combination of subtle banana and papaya...with the fresh coolness of melon.  

When I was finished, I wrapped up the seeds (to avoid littering) and stuck them in my bag. I was glad I did. The staff told me that I could plant the seeds if I'd like - since I'm not in a rush to have mature trees quickly.  The seeds information was good news.  I was worried that the seedling plants they offered for sale would be too large to get safely from Maryland to my land in West Virginia. Sure, the trees could sit on the front seat of the Jeep and poke out the sun rider roof, but the wind would surely cause great damage to the tree.

You can bet I'll be planting my pawpaw seeds and trying to grow my own sweet, soft, wonderful fruit and/or trying to find a way to transport a seedling tree up to my land.

Related Links:

An article about my first trip to Sun Nurseries.  If you are in the Maryland area and are looking for a wonderful place to see, consider, and purchase plants, shrubs, trees, roses, garden benches, fountains, boulder owls, and so much more... Sun Nurseries is your best bet. Definitely worth a drive. Each time I've been there, the staff are friendly, helpful, and they go above and beyond to make sure you are a happy customer. Each time I go, I wander around for hours; planning my future outdoor space, listening to the birds, sitting near the fountains, and watching the butterflies.         

The Shack is where I'll plant my pawpaw trees and where someday I'll live a country and more self-sufficient life.  I think pawpaw trees will be a great addition to that little piece of land.  I think the perfect spot will be where the "yard" meets the woods - near MY other trees (It still excites me to call them "my" trees!).

In my search for pawpaw recipes, I've found this book.  Pawpaw: In Search of America's Forgotten Fruit has been added to my wishlist.

Pawpaw: In Search of America's Forgotten Fruit