Sunday, September 17, 2017

Chesapeake Cozy Cat Trees and Condos

Chesapeake Cozy Cat - Baltimore Co., Maryland
If you are a cat lover and would like to supply your cat with a quality cat tree or cat condo and you are in the Baltimore County area, I have some good information for you.  Both Mittens and I are thrilled about the treasure I acquired yesterday from Chesapeake Cozy Cat.


Buying Local - in Baltimore County, Maryland


I prefer to buy things that are made and sold locally, but it is not always easy to find what you are looking for. It often becomes much easier to mail order items. It is also often less expensive to buy from the big box stores.

One item that I have put off purchasing is a large cat condo. I didn't care for the quality and the prices at the local stores. And I didn't feel like spending that much money on Mittens the Maleficent. Frankly, she is constantly in the top of closets, on top of my kayak (that I store across the top of closet doors - next to the ceiling), and in every other nook and cranny she can find. While I really wanted a large cat tree for her, it wasn't a priority.

However, her knocking things from this shelves and spaces to make room for her napping has grown old. I definitely wanted to have a "high" space dedicated to Mittens.

Years ago I had seen a variety of cat trees and condos being sold yard sale style at the park-and-ride across from Martin State airport. But I hadn't seen this set-up for quite awhile and had given up on being able to shop those items - UNTIL YESTERDAY!


Chesapeake Cozy Cat


The Chesapeake Cozy Cat tent was in front of the park-and-ride in front of Martin State Airport yesterday. I pulled a U-turn and stopped to shop.  I grabbed a card so I could remember to provide the contact information to you.



The gentleman (I forgot to ask him name in my excitement) said that he doesn't do mail order business yet. He attends local shows and continues to sometimes set up at the location I found him. He builds all of the items himself.

I found that his prices were less expensive than the items at a local pet store I had been window-shopping. And in my opinion, the item I purchased is a higher quality.


Mittens and Her New Tree


Some of my readers occasionally ask about Mittens. She is the cat that I adopted from a local shelter in 2015 and we had adventures before I ever brought her home. In fact, I was a bit worried about whether or not Mittens the Maleficent Kitten would be allowed to come live with me. 

Mittens continues to do well with me. Rather, I continue to do well with her. She is clearly in charge of both myself and the dogs, and the apartment is her apartment. 

As soon as I brought this 42" tall tree into the door, she claimed it. She wasn't quite sure what it was, but she claimed it by laying on the base. 

Later she hopped up into the 1/2 tube beds. When I was making my purchase, I initially thought I should buy the enclosed cat houses, but I am glad I bought the tree with the two 1/2 tube beds. She loves them. Some day, I'd love to buy her one of those HUGE cat trees (on the far left in the intro photograph) but for now, this tree is perfect for Her Highness and a good size for my apartment. 



Maybe you do not live locally. In that case Amazon may be a really good option for you to find a cat tower or condo in the shape and size that you want. Simply click the banner below and shop the pet section for cat towers.




But if you are lucky enough to live local to Baltimore County, and are looking for a quality cat tree, you definitely should contact Chesapeake Cozy Cat. Mittens certainly has given her stamp of approval.



*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, August 20, 2017

Bent River Woodworks in Capon Bridge, West Virginia

I found a treasure during my travels just the other day. During this most recent camping trip I finally visited a wonderful little store that I've been eyeing in Capon Bridge, West Virginia. I have driven past this store every time I make the drive up to my land but I have never stopped because I am on the road well before or after normal business hours. This most recent trip was cut short. I was sad to leave early, but that meant I was finally driving past during normal shop hours. Let me introduce you to Bent River Woodworks in Capon Bridge, West Virginia.


Bent River Woodworks - Capon Bridge, West Virginia


Capon Bridge is a small town in West Virginia on highway 50.  As I am driving to my West Virginia land (from Baltimore) I find myself on this beautiful two-lane highway. At one point, after climbing in elevation, I begin the curving descent before suddenly entering a small town called Capon Bridge. There is a bridge and it crosses a river and lush valley just before the road begins it's ascent out of town. 

There on the right, I have always admired a large brick building with handmade rustic wooden furniture in the front. Even though my new home will be small (well under 800 square feet) I have always wanted to stop and take a better look at this beautiful furniture made of logs and branches. Although, I did not expect to find anything that I'd be able to incorporate into my small home after it is built.


Bent River Woodworks Furniture


This log furniture is rustic and elegant at the same time. I'm not at all sure how they do it, but they do. Perhaps it is how they finish the furniture. There is a ginormous "throne" outside, large enough to seat two people comfortably (sorry, I did not remember to take a photo of it). When I went inside, I found gorgeous tables, chairs, and benches. 



This light-colored bench was one of my favorite pieces of furniture. The size is perfect for a smaller home or deck. I am not a woodworking expert so I'll likely use the wrong terminology, but I love the "chunkiness" and how solid the piece is. The color of the wood and the shine of the finish is gorgeous.


This table was AMAZING. I love the tree trunk legs and the varying colors of the table. If the photo enlarges sufficiently, maybe you will be able to see the carve dips of the table edge and chair backs.  I loved that little addition. A smaller version of this is exactly what I've been imagining for my tiny dining area.


a cropped photo of a chair back for detail

Bent River Woodworks Chainsaw Carvings


Each trip past the store, I have noticed more chainsaw carved critters. I have always been drawn to things such as totems (they have one inside) and chainsaw carvings. So I was thrilled to stop and take a closer look at what they create.  

Ken, one of the chainsaw artists, was there and was very helpful and pleasant. He explained that this bear cub is part of different sections of an item. I adore this baby cub and as I mentioned, I want one lounging on my deck at some point. 

The details and finish are visually pleasing. Ken said that they do quite a bit of custom work.  Rather than ramble on, trying to explain how wonderful these carvings are, I'll just add some photographs.










Even though I did not think this store would have suitable furniture for my new place, I find that I was wrong. Not only could they (and would they) custom make something sized to fit my needs, they also make the exact type of chainsaw carvings that I've admired and added to my wish list years ago. Yes, at the risk of being redundant, I really want one of those baby bear statues lounging on my deck. And am happy to find ones that are carved in the more realistic style that I prefer. 





Related Bent River Woodworks and Capon Bridge Links:


For more photos and information, be sure to check out their Bent River Woodworks facebook page

They also have a website and on that website you'll find a photo of the store (pre-awning days) and that beautiful, ginormous, wooden throne.  Check it out here

*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. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Thank You to My Readers and Supporters

I'd like to take a moment to say thank you to my readers. I have a circle of folks who are providing emotional support for me while I'm balancing adulting with daydreaming. While I am living on the edge of a large city and taking care of responsibilities and making a glacially slow transition to a homestead in the country is a happy thing - but isn't always easy.  Today I am feeling thankful for each of you who are supporting me in this endeavor. 


Real Life vs. Dreaming


I have a toe in each world - the world of daily life and the world of future dreams. 

Real life includes apartment living, employment, and paycheck-to-paycheck budgeting. I don't care for my neighbors, my neighborhood, or the daily commute on the beltway. However, I keep at it. I am well aware that it could be worse. It could be much, much worse. I am thankful that in reality, it's not so bad. 


making the most of apartment living

Dreaming includes my land on a ridge in West Virginia and the dreams of retiring there someday. Living there sooner than later, I hope. I go camping there as often as possible, try to keep up with caring for the land and my Shack, and plan for the future. I have home plans chosen, trees planted, and big ideas. 


I dream of living here... this view every day


Blogging About It


I blog because I love to write. I love to read. I love peeking in on others who share their lives through their writing and videos. I want to share certain bits of my life. 

I have been blessed to have been mentored by some really kind ladies who have graciously shared their knowledge about SEO, affiliates, Google, and assorted things related to the world of writing on the internet. If I'm being too obtuse, let me say it more clearly - I am very thankful for the ladies who have all taken me under their wings and shared what they know with me.

I also blog for many other reasons:

I mentioned that I love to read and write. Blogging is an extension of that happiness I feel when I've written something coherent or moving.

I am practicing blogging. I have a long way to go in learning how to be a successful blogger. And I believe that practice makes close to perfect. I am practicing as often as time and energy allow.

I am practicing blogging so that I am better at it when I have even more important things to say. I hope to someday be able to share how I went from barely scraping by to retiring debt-free and living as self-sufficiently as possible. 

I blog because I try to spend as many days as possible in 'zero-spend' mode. Or as close to it as possible. Zero-spend days are the days that I am not spending any money. Now, clearly, having the internet isn't free. So technically there is a daily cost to having a roof over my head, connection to the internet, and electricity. But... sitting home using the internet is far less expensive than traveling, shopping, eating out, or a myriad of other things I could be spending money on.

I blog because it helps me to keep track. I can look back and see the memories, the timeline, the details of things I did or wanted to remember.

I blog because I can share my little bits of experience or opinions with the people who want my opinion. Sometimes I have useful information I'd like to share.

I blog because sometimes I make a few bucks. I can spend those few bucks on the things I need or want. If I figured my "hourly pay" through blogging over the years, I'd be quite depressed. And frankly, I'm not sure I'm mathematically talented enough to find that fraction of a penny. However, there have been spurts of internet income that have helped me make purchases I would not have otherwise enjoyed. 


Thank You to Each of You


After having had several days vacation and some quiet time to reflect, I have had time to really think about how grateful I am to those of you who support me during this time. Some of you know me personally and provide support by listening to my daydreams and don't think me silly. Or if you do, you don't let it show! Others of you know me via the internet and provide your support through teaching, tweets, and shares. A number of you make purchases through my affiliate links and provide financial support. And finally, a great number of you are complete strangers who share links to what I have written just for the sake of sharing. 

As I am counting my blessings and cursing the continued barriers to living my dreams, each of you are very important during this journey. Each of are greatly appreciated.


Thank you.



*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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

My Plant Journal: Figs

Olympian Fig plants on Amazon
Last week, at The Shack, I planted several trees and shrubs. One of those plants was a Fig. I am not familiar with Figs (other than the famous dancing Fig in the cookie commercials) and I am not an organized gardener. Due to those two things, I am recording the beginning of my Fig adventure here.


Why Figs?


I decided to plant a Fig for the simple reason that a friend loves the fruit and swears that I'll enjoy having the fresh figs. Recently, every time I follow recommendations about fruit (i.e. PawPaws) I have been thrilled with what has been recommended. Also, I want to plant a large variety of fruit on my land.  During this camping trip to The Shack, I was already planning on planting PawPaws, a Persimmon, and a Japanese Maple. I had plenty of room to plant other plants, so I grabbed up a little Fig plant at a local big box, home and garden store.

After all, there is no harm in giving Figs a try. My planting technique up there is a little bit like throwing one of each and seeing what sticks.


Olympian Fig Information


I had no idea there were so many varieties of Fig. Fortunately, what I blindly chose was an Olympian Fig. Now that I've studied a bit more about Fig varieties, I am pleased that I have the Olympian variety. If that goes well, I'd like to add a few other varieties just for fun. But for now, the Olympian Fig seems to be a good variety for my place in West Virginia for these reasons:

  • grows in a small, dwarf, habit
  • grows 4-8 feet
  • hardy to zone 6
  • self-pollinator (I don't need a second plant for pollination)
  • like PawPaws, Fig plants are reportedly deer resistant


My Olympian Fig


Since the Fig variety I chose is a dwarf variety, I planted it in what is to be my "flower bed".  Flower bed is stretching it - a very kind and gentle way to describe this area of my yard.

My land is steep and rocky land on a ridge in West Virginia. So far my "gardening" requires the use of a pickaxe. I apologize that the quality of lighting in this photo isn't the best. I had taken this photo while I was working at my plantings and headed back home to my apartment before taking a better photo.



I planted the Fig in this area - between the lilac bush and the rose bush. And I placed the little garden flag very close to the Fig. While some plants are listed as "deer resistant", we all know that deer really seem to find any leaf a delicious appetizer. I am hoping the fluttering of the flag will help keep the deer away.

What will I do with the figs - if I am successful at growing them? I will find ways to prepare them and I will share them with people who love them. As I do my research, I am finding that there are many people who enjoy eating them.



*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, June 10, 2017

Char-Griller Duo 5050

In today's terminology, I've "done a thing" and "this happened". And I couldn't be more excited. I finally decided on a barbecue grill and I made the purchase. In one more week I'll be on vacation at The Shack and will be cooking on my new grill.  I purchased the Char-Griller Duo 5050 dual fuel and I couldn't be more thrilled.


Cooking Off-Grid at The Shack


I've purchased land with a small hunting cabin that will someday be my retirement homestead. In the meantime, I go camping up there at every opportunity.  The previous owners left behind an amazing woodstove inside and a old, dilapidated propane barbecue grill outside.  I've been grateful for both.

In the colder months (yes, I camp up there in the winter) I use the woodstove for my meals. Learning to cook on/in a woodstove has been trial and error but between using hobo packs and finding a perfectly sized enameled cast iron dutch oven, I've been able to prepare some really delicious meals.

In the warmer months, I cook outside on the grill. The grill was so old and rusty that I had to replace the grill immediately, but that was a cheap and easy fix. However, the connections and knobs for the propane no longer function. I still used it as a charcoal grill/smoker and using apple tree branches for cooking gave my meals the most wonderful taste!

Imagine, apple wood smoked Delmonico steaks with a glass of wine. Mouth-watering!


Early spring camping - Delmonico steak, hobo packet potatoes, and a glass of wine


But the limping along with the little rusted out grill has lost it's appeal and I wanted a "real" grill. And the rusted out grill is so tiny. If and when I have camping guests, that size of that grill is not adequate.

But which model should I get?

After my adventures with the woodstove, the propane BBQ grill, and the grill as a charcoal/wood smoker, I knew what my criteria were.

I needed:

  • a side burner (for the times I just want soup, stew, etc)
  • a gas grill
  • and a smoker
  • an easy-to-read gauge (because I want to try baking while camping)


The Char-Griller Duo 5050


I've been window-shopping grills for nearly two years.  I will soon be camping for week. I needed to make a decision. Fortunately, when I finally decided to take the plunge, the grill I had decided on was on sale! Perfect timing.

I chose the Char-Griller Duo 5050 for several reasons.  It has the side burner I need. That side burner will be perfect for my little Moka pot of coffee. I will be able to barbecue using the propane side if I choose or I can use the charcoal side and add my lovely apple wood for smoking. There is a Char-Griller smoker attachment, but after using my old dilapidated grill for smoking, I'm pretty good at it without that added accessory and expense. 

Char Griller Duo 5050 


The Char-Griller Duo is not as heavy duty as some other brands. But at this point, the cost point is a priority for me. Also, I'm not sure I could move the heavy-duty grills around the deck by myself.

In the future, after I rebuild The Shack and have a real outdoor kitchen (off-grid summer kitchen) I will likely either purchase a higher end grill/smoker or I will have a custom stone BBQ/oven built. But in the meantime, I think this Char-Griller dual fuel grill is the perfect solution.

Of course I will write updates on whether or not I've made a good decision and the delicious test meals I'll be cooking.



*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, June 4, 2017

Roasted Beets!

I have just discovered roasted beets and they are amazing! There is a good chance that you are familiar with roasted beets but I was not. With my recent passion for roasted beets, I've done some research. Beets are reported to be a healthy food treasure. And a vegetable that I'll be able to grow and store.


Why Roasted Beets are Exciting


I lived portions of my childhood years on farms. We had gardens and my mom did a huge amount of canning. I am appreciative of those experiences and having learned the skill of storing food all those years ago. 

Unfortunately, my mom was not a good cook. Nor was she adventurous in the kitchen. She cooked many of the meats in a skillet with water. The only herbs or seasonings in our kitchen were salt and pepper. And I don't recall much use of the pepper. There were many things cooked in that kitchen that I swore I'd never eat again.

Beets were one of them.  We canned them. And we boiled them to heat them. They were slimy, mushy, and pungent. Somehow pungent but without flavor. Oh how I gagged trying to get those down while worrying about the starving and appreciative children in other countries. 

I swore I'd never eat beets again. Ever. No matter what.


Bringing Out the Best in Beets


The lesson: never say never. Roasted beets are amazing! I had them recently, by accident, in a salad served in the cafeteria at work (see the intro photo above).  At first, I thought the little dark red chunks were cranberries. Or something similar. But there was such a smoky, earthy, and only slightly sweet taste that I didn't think they could be cranberries or craisins.

They were roasted beets. And they were delicious.  I immediately wanted more.

Since then, I've had more.  I've roasted beets several different ways and have eaten them as a side. 

So far, I've roasted them wrapped in tinfoil and in a variety of dishes and pans. But so far the best method has been to roast them in my small enameled cast iron dutch oven.  

They are fairly easy to prepare. I prepare beets as follows:

  • cut the tops off, leave about 3/4 inch of the top
  • cut most of the root off, leaving a small bit
  • wash under running water with a vegetable brush
  • place them in my pan and drizzle a bit of olive oil
  • salt and pepper (using more than you usually would sprinkle)
  • stir to coat the beets evenly
  • cover and bake at 375 degrees 
  • bake until a skewer slides through easily (my biggest beets took about an hour - smallest took 30 minutes)
After they are baked, I let them cool until I can handle them. Then I use a paring knife to cut off the remaining stem and root. Be careful, they remain warmer under the skins. As I do cut off the tops and bottoms, much of the "skin" peels/slides off.  I then peel off any remaining skin.
summer couscous sala


Ways to Serve Roasted Beets


In a salad

As a side (they were great with pork chops)

As an addition to my summer couscous salad (I think I'll replace the tomatoes with roasted beets)

Health Benefits & Risks


I am not a medical expert or nutritionist. Research seems to show that beets have many health benefits. They are reportedly high in fiber, vitamin C, and potassium - all things I am in need of.  

There are also some slight risks to over-eating of beets for people at risk of gout and kidney stones. This is due to the beets being high in Oxalates (whatever those are). 

Finally, if you eat many beets, do not be alarmed if your bathroom visits begin to show a slight "beet" color. That can happen and is reportedly harmless. If it concerns you, please consult your doctor. I just wanted to include a blurb here so you aren't startled (as I was) if it happens to you.


Beets are for Me!


I will still never again can beets and serve them after boiling. Yuck. But you can be sure that I will find a way to grow these in next year's garden (whether it's my balcony garden or a garden at The Shack). And I will be finding more ways to serve these little vegetable treasures with my meals. 

roasted beets and pork chops

*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, April 22, 2017

Treasures: Farm Fresh Eggs at Willow Valley Farm

Oh what a wonderful find! Farm fresh eggs are only a short drive away at a local farm in Baltimore County. If you live in the Baltimore area and are craving eggs straight from the farm you need to know about Willow Valley Farm in Glen Arm, Maryland.

Farm Fresh Brown Eggs


Why bother with driving to a farm when you can buy your eggs at the corner store? TASTE! That's why. Organic eggs that are more healthy for you come straight from farms. 

I've been so disappointed with the eggs from the store lately. They really have less taste. The last dozen I bought promised to remain fresher for a longer time. I swear there was no flavor. And then I was worried that whatever process that makes them have a longer shelf life is probably something I don't want to eat. 

I know that brown farm eggs have a rich taste and are healthier eggs in general. So I did an internet search hoping for eggs somewhere nearby.

Willow Valley Farm in Glen Arm, Maryland


It turns out that this farm is a bit of a drive from my apartment. But I had errands to do this morning and I'd not be too far from Glen Arm. So off I went.

Willow Valley Farm is very easy to locate. Just a few miles "north" of 695 on Harford Road. Actually, I think it is northeast of 695 and northeast of Carney, but the roads here never really run north/south and east/west so it is hard to describe.  Regardless, the farm was very easy to find. And Harford Road, off of Joppa Road, is a gorgeous drive. 

The farm is well-marked with a sign at the road. Turn in to the drive and head toward the barns. There you will find a small chicken coop/shed. That is where the self-serve eggs are located.

I made the mistake of actually going in to the shed.  Don't do that. I stood there for a minute, looking at the chicken boxes thinking "oh wow, this is the ultimate self-serve!"

Silly me. On the front of the shed is a smaller door with a black handle. The door is clearly marked with the egg prices. Behind that door is a small refrigerator. Inside are the eggs in cartons. You pay (honor system) in the container located in the refrigerator (so remember to bring a few dollars).  If you brought an empty carton to donate, you just leave it on top of the fridge. It was easy-peasy and I shouldn't have had any problems with figuring it out. I guess I hadn't had enough coffee yet.

And there I was, the very happy owner of 18 LARGE brown eggs.



Willow Valley Farm Owners


Mr. Jamie happened to be nearby when I entered the wrong door and exited. It was clear I was trying to figure out what I was doing. He greeted me, showed me the ropes, and talked for a minute about their lovely farm. In addition to eggs, they also have a variety of meats available; beef, pork, and of course, whole chicken.  

It was easy to see that their farm is well maintained. As far as farms go, it was very clean. The stock nearby (chickens, hogs, and cows) were all clean, healthy, and clearly well cared for. They were in large pens and they were clean. (Sorry, livestock cleanliness was my father's first rule of farming. And it is the first thing I look for when I am around livestock. Habit.)

I will return for more eggs. And likely make arrangements for some of the cuts of meats.  

Related Sites:


Click the photograph below for the Willow Valley Farm website. On that site you will find hours, directions, products, and a bit of information about the farm and family. Or find them on their Willow Valley Farm facebook page. On their facebook page they seem to update with egg availability (i.e. no eggs due to weather).


photo by Willow Valley Farm, Glen Arm, MD