Sunday, July 28, 2019

Tales: True Appaloosa

Photograph of "Zip Me Impressive"
Not a horse from the movie but a beautiful
example of an Appaloosa.
What could possibly cause a 69 year old woman to leave her countryside home in New Zealand and travel - with strangers - to remote parts of Kyrgyzstan? The answer is horses. The love for her horses and her commitment to the Appaloosa breed. At the age that many folks are contemplating retirement and winding down. Instead, Scott Engstrom goes on the adventure of a lifetime. 

Thank goodness Conor Woodman filmed the journey to find the True Appaloosa so that we could ride along from the comfort of our living room. 

This video speaks to me because of the attention to horses. This story also inspires me because of the passion displayed by a 69 year old woman who wanted to do something and just went off and did it.

Appaloosa Horses

Most people in the horse world believe that the Appaloosa breed was brought to North America via Spain when the US was being explored and settled. A smaller group of people - primarily Scott Engstrom - believed that the horses originally came across the Bering land bridge connecting what is now Russia and Alaska. 

No matter how the Appaloosa horses originally arrived in North America, all agree that the Nez Perce tribe were the first North American people to selectively breed these beautiful spotted horses.

Appaloosas have some notable characteristics: mottled skin under the tail, mottled skin on the muzzle, striped hooves, white sclera around the eyes and often (but not always) a spotted coat.

At times when I was young we owned horses. My favorites were the Arabians and the Appaloosas. People familiar with these two breeds are often puzzled by this statement, since these two breeds are very different. But the Appaloosas from my childhood were beautiful and reliable. My sister owned a beautiful Appaloosa mare - so beautiful that I later purchased a painting of a similarly colored horse. 

The Adventurous Spirit of a Woman

Scott Engstrom loves her horses. A lot. So much that she contacts a man from a documentary solely because he had in his possession an Appaloosa horse in an Asian country.

Not only did she make contact, she made plans to travel from her home to Kyrgyzstan, in search of the foundation Appaloosa herd. She knew enough to be prepared to provide documentation, photos, measurements, and material for DNA testing if she found this herd.

The specific horse that Mr. Woodman had traded was not able to be found. And the search to find any Appaloosa horses dragged on - from one dead end to the next. Finally, they are told to go to a valley located between the mountains and near the border of China. This is where the "Char" (spotted) horses can be found. The only problem is that this area is only accessible by crossing the mountains on horseback.  Is this a journey that a senior citizen can make successfully?

Filmmaker Conor Woodman

Conor Woodman filmed a documentary Around the World in 80 Trades. One of his trades was trading horses in Kyrgyzstan. One of those horses was an Appaloosa. 

Ms. Engstrom was channel surfing one day and came across Mr. Woodman's documentary - and his horse-trading. She contacted him and he agreed to go with her (and film) her search for the horse that he traded. 

Sometimes people meet others through chance. I'm so glad these two met, went on their adventure, and filmed it for the rest of us to see!

I watched True Appaloosa through my Amazon Prime account and I loved it so much that I watched it again the next week. Because I'm considering watching it again today, I decided to make sure to spread the word about this video.  True Appaloosa is the documentary about Scott Engstrom's love of Appaloosa horses. Her commitment to this breed takes her to Kyrgyzstan in search of the disputed origins of the Appaloosa breed. 

Related Links:

For more information, an interesting travel destination, or gift ideas for the horse lover you know, check out the Appaloosa Museum in Idaho. 

I have always loved the realism of Breyer Model horses. And their selection of Appaloosa horses is no exception.

photo credit: Intro photo courtesy of wikimedia commons under the CC BY SA 3.0 - photographer: Kersti Nebelsiek

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Sunday, June 30, 2019

Tales: Living Proof Movie Review

Tales: Reviewing Living Proof by Matt Embry
I have recently watched a movie (twice in a row) on Amazon Prime that has really opened my eyes about several things. Living Proof is about a young Canadian (Matt Embry) who has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). And how this young man, his father, and others are on a journey to find answers, treatment, and possibly a cure. 

MS is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to go awry - deciding the that spinal cord and brain "shouldn't be there" and attacks as it does any other foreign thing that enters the body. 

MS is on the rise.

Living Proof gives us a peek at what young Mr. Embry is doing to delay the inevitable physical deterioration that MS patients face. He shares the details of how he personally has continued to be symptom free for 20 years. And Living Proof gives us a peek into the wider scope of MS treatment and how big money seems to control the trajectory of research, financing, and the dissemination of treatment information. This movie includes very important information about the history of MS treatment progress and lack thereof. 

Matt Embry. Filmmaker. Advocate. Outwardly healthy young man. Multiple Sclerosis patient. Son. Matt travels the world to interview the experts and the patients (also the experts) to look for answers and hope. Some of the answers may include the treatments:  stem cell treatment, CCSVI procedure, diet, dietary supplements, and medication. The more he learns about the disease, the stronger of an advocate he becomes. Not only is he fighting the disease he has to fight those who appear to want to silence him.

Dr. Ashton Embry.  Geologist. Voracious reviewer of MS-related studies and treatments. Compiler of information related to MS. Advocate. Devoted father. 

Dr. George Ebers. Neurologist. MS Researcher. Head of Clinical Neurology at the University of Oxford (15+ years). 45,000+ academic citations. Principal investigator, FDA. Retired. Dr. Ebers headed down his path of study due to an Aunt who passed of MS. He has some very important insights to share.

Dr. Christopher Duma. Neurosurgeon. Has used stem cell treatment with a small sample of MS patients successfully. Stem cell treatment is not approved by the FDA for MS treatment (at the time the movie was made). He faced barriers in attempting to further provide this treatment to MS patients. 

"Where the industry wants to go is to produce a drug in the form of a stem cell.  ...that becomes their product. There is an incentive for them to create that product...." rather than use the free stem cells existing in the patients body. 

Dr. Paolo Zamboni - "Found that the majority of MS patients he examined had dangerous blockages in their juglar veins".  (A medical condition known as CCSVI. Treatable with angioplasty.) 

Dr. Mike Dake - Cardiothoracic surgeon. Stanford University Medical Center. Also Jeff Beal's cardiothoracic surgeon and who performed his CCSVI surgery to unblock Jeff's juglar vein. This procedure started to send Dr. Dake into research and treatment for MS patients. He treated approximately 59 MS patients. 57 of those 59 patients had this narrowing of the juglar veins. His work in this area has not continued due to being pressured to stop. 

Judy Graham - Author and MS patient. In 1970s she began writing about her experience with MS. She then published Managing Multiple Sclerosis Naturally: A self-help guide to living with MS.

Ms. Graham shares her struggle with the MS Society of Canada who were by her report, "beyond abusive" with trying to limit her sharing of her experiences with MS.

Books written by Judy Graham:
Books by Judy Graham on Amazon

MS Society of Canada. "One of the largest MS societies in the world with annual revenues topping $50 million."  A primary source of information to patients with MS. -- And shockingly absent from all things the Embry family has learned and is trying to share with others. Absent with the exception of sending Matt a legal "cease and desist" letter. 

Other appearances.  I am grateful to these people who agreed to appear in Living Proof and share about their own MS battle, progress, and treatment choices/limitations:

Larry Findlater 
Viola Tsang 
Jeff Beal 
Cindy Riffel
David Lyons)
Dr. Terry Wahls

MS Hope and Direct-MS by Matt Embry and Family.

Matt and his family created Direct-MS, a charity to help collect donations to fund research about diet and MS. They are 100% volunteer-based charity and because of this nearly all of the funds raised (95%) go directly to research, presentations, and information distribution. For more information visit Direct-MS

MS Hope is Matt's own website that shares the story of his fight with MS. He does not collect donations and his goal is to help spread the information about how he has used diet, supplements (Vitamin D), and the CCSVI procedure to continue to be a healthy, athletic young man who happens to have MS.  For more information visit MS Hope

It is notable that the only observable interest the MS Society of Canada has shown in what Matt is doing is the "cease and desist" letter they sent to him related to his personal website. 

There are several messages in this movie are important. And I hope I have the ability to convince you to view this movie. Even if you are not interested in MS treatment this movie exposes some very important things related to the general topics of health, diet, research, and how our donations to charitable groups are sometimes funneled into specific areas. If this happens in the realm of MS, it only makes sense that it also happens in the areas of cancer, diabetes, other autoimmune diseases, and etc.

If the focus is on cures that generate income, it would only make sense that then areas of other possible effective treatments or cures - that would generate less income for the pharmaceutical companies - would be overlooked. Or even worse - intentionally blocked.

Thank you to Matt and all who appeared in his movie to share their stories.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you

Personal Disclaimer: For the purpose of transparency, I want to add that my interest in health-related research and funding stems from a variety of things. One of these things is a history of difficult-to-diagnose family illnesses. My mother and her mother passed away at relatively early ages after battling illnesses that in hindsight seem to be related to autoimmune diseases. My sister is currently diagnosed similarly. I share many of her symptoms. Our family is also rife with diagnoses such as IBS, ulcerative colitis, and rheumatoid arthritis. I have often complained about the seemingly lack of interest in fund-raising for research for some diseases while millions of dollars are poured into research for specific diseases -- with no cures for any of them; highly funded or not. I have always thought that medication versus prevention, early/accurate diagnosis, and cures have been the focus of the medical and pharmaceutical communities. In this way, I went into this video with bias. My take-away from this video, among other things, is a renewed desire and commitment to continue to change my eating habits. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

First Hummingbird Visitor of 2019

Yay! They've finally arrived. I've had my feeder out for weeks. And I had begun to think they weren't returning this year. But, as you see, they're back!

It is Saturday. Early this morning I thought I caught a peek of one flying away from the feeder. Usually when I think I see one it'll come right back if I hold still and be quiet. But it didn't return while I was watching.


I took the feeder down, rinsed it out, and put fresh sugar water in it. I rehung it even though by now I was feeling very pessimistic. After all, I had put my feeder out during the last days of March - when the migration map showed that the hummingbirds were approaching. I was so excited about their arrival that I wrote about it here

Then nothing.

For over a month. Nothing.

I went about my business, puttering around on a lazy Saturday. 

Just a few minutes ago, while I was sitting on the couch crocheting Jenny Hats, I saw movement.  

There he/she was!  He/she took a drink then perched on the hanger. Watching me watch him/her.  The birds are always backlit. And I shoot photos through the screen. It is very hard to see what color they are. Unfortunately, if I don't keep the screen door closed my crazy cat goes out to the balcony and plans to catch the birds. You can see it in her eyes and in the twitch of her tail.

Maybe this year, I'll get better photos.  Until then... here are my photos of him/her perched there for about 10 minutes... letting my snap photos from this side of the patio door.

photo while seated on the couch ... through the screen

standing up and a bit closer to the door.. and
he/she is just watching me. Must be a bird from last
year who is comfortable with me.
He/she stayed there as I moved around, peeking
between the blinds!  Still can't get a good color
photo of the bird, but I could see a small white stripe
at the end of the tailfeathers.

Because of the white tail tips,and lack of other vibrant coloring (as far as I can see) I think this is the female of the Ruby-throated pair that visited me last year. Woohoo! Welcome back.

Related Links:

Ruby-throated hummgbird identification -

My first Hummingbird visitors of 2015. 

My review of the movie Super Hummingbirds by Nature. I love this documentary. The video recordings of a variety of hummingbirds is amazing. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

April 2019 Camping at The Shack - Hike in Photos

The view, a swing, and a crocheted
blanket courtesy of Jenny.
I can't believe that I hadn't been to The Shack since January!  Work has been rough, the headaches have been terrible, and I am so fatigued that I hadn't felt like I could do what needs to be done to get myself up to my spot. Then our spring break (a 5 day weekend) was upon us. Even though I was tempted to sleep away my entire break, I packed up and headed to West Virginia. Those views and time away were exactly what I needed. 

Monsoons and Migraines

Between physically feeling out of it and the torrential rains that came soon after my arrival, I made no progress on doing anything important while I was up there. I did quickly refill the bird feeders, hung a new one, and checked the game cams. Otherwise, I spent most of 3 1/2 days snugged up with the dogs in the sleeping bags and read two books.  Yes, TWO books. Amazing reading pace for me. But back to the interesting part of the trip.

Rather than try write coherently about it, I think I'll just share some photos. I did get up and around enough to take a hike between the rain storms.

Thursday - the sunset before the storms

Friday - the deer moving during a  short break in the rain.
The amount of rain was amazing!

Saturday morning - looking west. The moon is setting, the sun is rising, and
it looks like I have enough time for a walk

Saturday morning - starting the hike. Come on sunshine!
 Looking east and watching for the sun.

Neighbors - They are building a small home.
It is EXTREMELY similar to my dream house.

Birds - They were out en masse; looking for the sunshine. This
guy was kind enough to pose for me.

WHEW!  - I'm out of shape and should turn back.
But I kept walking

OMG - I can't stop walking now. People won't know to look for me here.
There is a herd of deer crossing at the bottom, no imminent rain, and
I'm keeping an eye peeled for bear.

Isn't nature amazing? Everything and everyone has their job
to do. And they do it.


The beauty of the terrain and the heart-breaking destruction
of the invasive plants.

It was after this shot that I stopped taking photos. It was a gorgeous hike and perfect temps. But wow, I'm out of shape. I began to focus on just getting my old self back to The Shack - or finding a dry spot to take a nap.

I didn't see any bear (thank goodness! I only want to see them via game cam or binoculars). I scared up more deer than I can count, 2 turkey, and saw countless birds. Some of the birds I could identify (cardinals, tree swallows, eastern blue birds, and a pair of wood thrushes) and so many I couldn't (wrens and sparrows). 

I heard an owl call who-cooks-for-you but wasn't able to see it (darn it!). Some of you are aware that my goal is to be able to spot an owl. So far, I can only hear them occasionally.

And of course, as often happens when I walk up there, vultures circled over me. I think they think I might become an easy snack.
After this almost 2 hour hike, I began to think they might be right!

I wish I had gotten some photos of the rain storms. The amount of rain falling at one time was amazing. Much like the amount of rain I've experienced near Baltimore during tropical storms. My roof repairs held well (I'm so proud!). The roof only sprung one leak - right where I expected it to with a large amount of rain.

It was a much needed break away from work. And despite the rain, it was a gorgeous vacation.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Handmade with Love - Jenny Hats

Jenny Hats by DawnRaeCrochet on Etsy
I have spent months thinking about how to write this. There is absolutely no way to adequately share my thoughts about this matter. Because it is such a tough topic, I'll probably tend toward the factual and a bit away from the emotional. 

The first fact about what is on my mind is that cancer sucks. Absolutely and completely sucks. Period.

Some people battle cancer and win. Others don't. Throughout my lifetime I've known people in both situations. And every single person who I've known, who has/had cancer, is someone who is amazing to me. Each has positively impacted my life in some big way.

I wanted to list each of these people and describe their strength, love, and life lessons that have stuck with me over the decades. But there are too many. As a matter of space limitations I have here, I will not write all that I want to share. But I think that is okay. I will briefly tell you about only two of these people.

What feels like a million years ago, I knew a sweet, genuine spirit whose name during her stay on earth was Dorla. Everyone loved Dorla because of her kindness. She ended up with cancer. And I remember how she described (without bitterness, but with great sadness) that the most terrible thing about cancer was losing her hair. 

Over the years, that has stuck with me. And as my crochet skills have recently improved, I have given serious consideration to making and donating chemo hats to help those whose loss of hair is devastating to them.

My first hat attempt didn't turn out well. 

Oops! Hide your loss of hair AND totally block your vision. Back to the drawing board - I continued to research appropriate yarns and patterns for my abilities.

Fast forward to now. 

About Jenny 

I have a co-worker who is battling an aggressive and rare form of cancer. She doesn't like to wear hats but was concerned about her surgery scar and what her hair was going to end up looking like. I made a hat for her. And she liked it.  So I made another one for her. Because she liked the hats, I decided to make these hats - my "Jenny Hats"  - and try to find a way to offer them inexpensively in my Etsy store and/or donate them to local organizations treating people with cancer. Or both.

At one point, with great reservation, I told Jenny about my Jenny hat plan. I was afraid that she'd not like the idea. What a weird thing to discuss. Then again, a lot of things about cancer are weird things to discuss, aren't they? But she said she loved the idea. In fact, I'll include a message from Jenny with the hats. 

The message is: 

About Crocheted Jenny Hats

After making a couple of hats using Melanie Ham's wonderful Easy Crochet Granny Cluster Beanie Hat pattern I realized that with just a few small changes, I'd be able to make a hat that would suit Jenny's needs. Thank you Melanie for that lovely pattern that gave me the start for my Jenny hats.

Jenny Hats are hand crocheted with soft cotton yarn. It is a thin yarn - thicker than the cotton string used for doilies and thinner than worsted weight yarn. I chose this yarn (Lion Brand Comfy Cotton Blend) to begin my Jenny Hat collection because organizations that accept chemo hat donations recommend yarn that is soft and non-irritating.

I use hdc instead of dc to make the Granny clusters. It makes the gaps in the hat smaller.  And I decrease differently on the last two rows of the top of the hat. 

If you are interested in buying a Jenny Hat they are listed in my Etsy shop here

* * * * * * * * 

Jenny, you are an important part of my world. You know that you are an important part of many people's lives (young and old). Even though you should know it, I feel the need to state the obvious - we all love you. You are now (and will always be) with me with every hat I crochet. 

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

January at The Shack: Owl Hunting

Okay, I wasn't actually Owl "hunting".  That isn't legal. But I spent a good deal of time trying to spot an Owl during my last visit at The Shack. I went up to spend the last few days of 2018 and the first day of 2019 at my favorite spot. 

Following a record-breaking rainy year, my vacation at The Shack was during unseasonably warm weather. Several days were wet and gloomy. But one day dawned clear and the temperature was pleasant.

I grabbed my camera and my binoculars and headed down the hill and into the woods to look at hollow trees. I wandered and sat, wandered and sat. I listened and looked.

Why Am I Looking for Owls in My Woods?

I am trying to learn how to better identify birds in general. And have seen several birds at The Shack that I've never seen before: Indigo Bunting, Golden Eagle, and Wood Thrush to name a few. 

I've only ever seen Owls in captivity. And I think I have occasionally seen an owl swoop through the woods at dusk during camping trips. But I was never certain.

I am sure (as sure as I can be) that there are owls in my area. During one winter time camping trip at The Shack I woke to a loud noise. I listened, in the pitch dark, as something seemed to fly up and down along the edge of the woods making a really loud calling sound. I was sure it was an owl. Completely unsure what type of owl.

After returning home, I looked up bird sightings in that region of West Virginia (on eBird) and confirmed that there are owls sighted in that general area. 

A Couple of Things I've Learned About Owls

In reading about owls in that area, I have learned that some adult owls are very small - nearly the size of robins. I had always imagined that Owls would be at least knee-high if you stood next to one. I was wrong. This information has me looking at smaller openings much more closely.

I have also learned that you can sometimes attract owls to your area by putting up a nest box. I definitely plan on putting up an owl-sized nest box in my woods!

I am aware that owls are nocturnal. But I learned that sometimes you can spot them during the day. And that if you are near a nest, they will sometimes be visible in the hollow opening.

It is for that reason that I looked and looked at my trees; MANY of which are hollow.

I know I have Pileated Woodpeckers in my woods. I hear them constantly. I see them occasionally. 

I think I have more hollow trees than average in my woods. My plan is to plant native and appropriate young trees to replace these older trees that appear to be dying.  But in the meantime, I am attempting to search these hollow trees for any signs of owls. 

The following photos are very exciting to me. But I do not imagine they'll be very exciting to my readers. In fact, you may begin to wonder what in the world is wrong with me. But in hopes of getting better at spotting owl nests, I am sharing these photos.

This is a lousy photo. 
In part because of the lighting and in part because it is such a tall tree. 
But I hope you can see what appears to be a nest made of sticks in that crack.

The shape of this hole
and the thickness of the wood is interesting to me.

Holes made by wildlife? 
Or just a decaying, hollow tree?
I'm not at all sure.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Santa Claus Snowglobe Synchronicity

Ms. Pauline's snowglobe. 
After stopping at an estate sale this summer, I was reminded of the magic of snowglobes and of what a magical holiday decoration they can be. 

In my review of snowglobes on Review This! I highlight some of the many different seasonal pieces to choose from. And why they make great gifts and holiday decorations. But in this post, I want to talk about the synchonricity that has fanned the embers of my snowglobe passion.

Snowglobes of Christmases Past

Many years ago I had a small collection of high-quality, Christmas snowglobes. Over the years, and for a variety of reasons, that snowglobe collection dwindled. I was very young when I received my first snowglobe. And my children were so young when I owned my collection that they probably don't even remember the globes featuring Santa and his magic (flying reindeer, bags full of toys, and trips down chimneys).

Over time, I'm left with only one or two snowglobes. And they've been put away in storage for safe keeping. Add to that the fact that I'm not much into holiday decor. I just don't bring out decorations. I never decorated very much when my kids were young. Now that they are grown and flown from the nest I've gotten very lazy when it comes to decorating. I just don't.

Recently, during a drive home from The Shack, I impulsively stopped at an estate sale at a home on a winding country road. The road was so curvy that I missed the sign and drove past. Having never stopped at an estate sale before, I surprised myself that I felt the need to find a place to turn around and go back.

It was clearly the estate of an older woman who had loved Christmas. Among the household items for sale, the entire livingroom was filled with Christmas items. This collection included a beautiful collection of snowglobes. 

Her snowglobes were all beautiful. The one that caught my eye is quite large and solid. It features Santa Clause reviewing his list of children's names - surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the Elves working with the toys. I shook it and watched the snow fall and wondered how many Christmas family gatherings this globe had been a part of.

If only it could talk.

As I purchased the globe, I felt the need to ask the previous owner's name. My intention was to be able to remember at least her first name at Christmas and not let her become forgotten.

I guess I should not have been surprised that her name was Pauline. And that it just happened that I noted the estate sale alongside a winding West Virginia road that particular day I was driving home from a camping trip. I nearly didn't pull over - feeling dirty and stinky after an extended camping trip in that rustic, off-grid cabin of mine. But I did stop. And I bought Ms. Pauline's snowglobe.

My grandmother was also named Pauline. And Christmas was important to her too. She gathered her very large family around her at the holidays, all of us who would and could come. Family and holiday gatherings always a priority to my grandmother.

Both Paulines lived in rural homes on pieces of land surrounded by barns and fields. Both clearly with large families. It was not just coincidence that brought me to Ms. Pauline's snowglobe. 

I think I'll decorate for Christmas this year.

*This article may contain affiliate links. If you shop via one of the affiliate links, I may earn a small commission - at no additional cost to you.  I am very appreciative of every reader who visits my articles. Thank you.