Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Best Last Minute Christmas Shopping

Amazon Gift Card in Snowflake Tin
Oh how I procrastinate. Especially around the holidays. My shopping this year has been delayed even more than usual.  I have a few special gifts purchased and another couple of specific items in the virtual shopping cart. However, the remainder of my last minute shopping will likely be Amazon Gift cards. Thank goodness for Amazon!

I love Amazon.  I mean, I really, really love Amazon.  No one is paying me to say that (however, if you order through my affiliate link I may earn a very small percentage that does not add to the cost of your order).  I just really like Amazon. I always have. I love Amazon for many reasons but mostly because it is easy, reliable, and I have not yet had any problems with an order.

Restaurant Gift Cards
I am not a good shopper.  I don't enjoy it. I do not enjoy fighting the holiday crowds, lines, and traffic. And it seems that I am rarely able to find what I am looking for in the stores. Even outside of the holidays and special occasions, I like to order from Amazon as much as I can.  I know that some people enjoy the excitement of shopping and finding items on sale.  But the thrill for me is doing my shopping while laying here in my pajamas while sipping my iced coffee.

In addition to being able to be comfy and in my own home to do this kind of shopping, I like that I also have many options.  I can choose to send a large variety of cards - store, restaurant, entertainment, or cards that I know will be used to add books to a Kindle. Definitely my idea of one-stop-shopping.  

But more important than my comfort during shopping, I feel like if I give a gift card, the recipient can choose what they want. The item with be the right size. Or the right style and color.  

I hope your shopping has gone well. And I wish you a Merry Christmas! If you need a few last minute items, I highly recommend gift cards.

Entertainment Gift Cards

Friday, August 21, 2015

Idaho, a Wedding, and Wildfires

Backcountry Roads Idaho by Lynna Howard & Leland Howard
This month I traveled to Idaho for the first time in order to attend my oldest son's wedding.  I had a lovely time and will probably tell the tales later.  Today, I will focus on my thoughts on the wildfires.

Boise, is gorgeous. The landscape from Boise to McCall was not at all as I had expected. I expected potatoes. And flat, patchworked green farmland similar to Indiana.  Most of Idaho's landscape was not as I had expected.  Leaving Idaho, the large hills were dirt and some sort of short brush.  Much more dry than I had imagined.

As I drove along Highway 55 to McCall, the landscape turned more green and dramatic as the s-curved road ran along the gorgeous Payette River. 

When I emerged from the river valley, I could see smoke from the wildfires in the distance. I remembered overhearing the conversation at the car rental desk - wildfires had closed a nearby highway.  I began to feel anxious as I watched the plumes of smoke rising from the ridges. I had no idea how close the wildfires were to my accommodations.  I know how to hunker down during a midwestern tornado warning and have learned how to prepare for the east coast tropical storm. But I have no idea how to be prepared for a wildfire. 

While it ended up that the wildfires were not close enough to disrupt the wedding or cause evacuations where we were, the skies were often smoke-filled. During one evening, little bits of ash fell from the sky as we sat on a balcony watching shooting stars.

Following the wedding, as I drove back to Boise to catch my flight home, the fire activity had moved closer.  Emergency helicopters were parked in a field along the road and the mountains were hidden by smoke.

Since the time I lifted off the ground and flew over those smoky mountains of Idaho, I have kept an ear to the news reports of the wildfires. California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho continue to burn.  I have thought about the folks I met at the wedding who were returning to their homes in those states - hopeful that the fires didn't move any closer to their homes.  I cried for the firefighters who lost their lives and I worry about the firefighters and military who continue to go toward the flames to fight them.

I have a new understanding and respect for wildfires, the people who have to prepare to flee them, and the heroes who fight them.  I pray the fires end soon. And I can't wait to travel back to beautiful Idaho. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Peacock Feather Canvas on Amazon
Those who know me intimately will do a double-take at the title. Blessings. A word that is too close to traditional religious-speak for me.  I am not traditionally religious. But I am spiritual. I always have been. Lately,  I have been working hard at trying to live a more contented and "in the moment" life.  Too many years have gone by with me embracing the bah-humbug philosophy. There have been times that I put Scrooge to shame.

I am reading a book about being present and having faith in the moment. Being open to the little signs from God. Again, too "traditionally religious" for me. But I do believe in synchronicity, that all humans are somehow connected to each other in some way, and signs.  I truly believe there are signs in our lives. We just need to watch for them.I have been trying to be more aware. It is not easy for me to have faith. But today I felt it come a little more easily.

Sugar was our little foster dog. We began our goodbyes a couple of days ago and today I drove her home. I will miss her but it was a happy thing to do. She was lovingly greeted by her family members - both two and four-legged.  It was good to reunite her. It was good to have contact with decent people.

As I began the trek home, in flooding rain, I felt content. 

With the wind rocking the Jeep as I drove, visibility nearly zero at times, and the downpours causing the roadways to turn into rushing creeks, I found myself enjoying the drive. There is something awesome about the massive amounts of spray that comes from the wheels. The flapping and tapping of the raindrops on the soft-top. Jeep lovers know exactly what I mean.

The drive was a great adventure as it was. Then I noticed something moving in the edge of a field.  I watched, and slowed to a crawl.  The shadows moved slowly and confidently into the middle of the road. And stopped. They looked at me. And waited.

I watched as the windshield wipers cleared the blur.

At first I thought they were turkeys. Then I realized they were peacocks. I love peacocks! I know little about them but I have a few good childhood memories of peacocks. I am always so excited when I see peacocks.

And there they were. Calmly watching me.

They stepped into the road, in front of me. In the middle of this storm.  I swear, they turned and looked at me, as if to say "well?" More than once they looked over their shoulders at me.  They moseyed ahead of me and I enjoyed their presence. They continued to walk ahead of me, very slowly moving down the center of the road before finally moving to the edge of the road.  I watched for a few more moments, before slowly beginning to accelerate around them. I had followed them slowly enough and long enough that I was concerned the farmer would think I was doing something questionable. So I sped up a bit. As I passed and began to draw ahead, they began to run. And I swear, they were trying to keep up and still watching me.

Maybe their owner drives an orange Jeep too. Maybe they were looking for their dinner. I don't know. But I know that traveling with peacocks during a pause in a powerful storm was a gift. A blessing. Truly a blessed day.

There are blessings all around us. We just need to watch for them.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Our little Sugar baby is heading home very soon.  I could not have asked for a better guest and first time foster dog experience. I am a bit sad to see her go but thrilled that a dog will soon be reunited with her human mom and her pack.

I have a ton of photographs of this sweet and elegant girl but when I saw her and Willy laying quietly on the edge of the bed, I just had to snap a few more.  It's so rare that Willy holds still or is in lighting that I can take his photo. And there they were relaxing together in the late afternoon light.

Just as I began to think my photo-taking was becoming excessive, I felt a horrible pulling of my hair. I was reminded of my childhood and my mom struggling to get the snarls out. I have forgotten how tender-headed I am!

For those of you who have wondered how Mittens the Maleficent has settled it... well... she's the Queen.  I don't believe I've ever met a more naughty kitten. But I adore her. She and Willy play together, chasing each other through the apartment.  Sugar isn't afraid of her but is far too dignified to be bothered with the kitty shenanigans.

The photo session ended with Mittens combing my hair to get my attention.

My little family will soon number three again. Willy the dog, Mittens the kitten, and me... her grey twin!

Thank you so much to the owner of Sugar, for allowing her to come visit and to add to our lives. I will not forget her adorable dances to get treats, finding her burrowed inside of my pillowcase, and the way she sits watching everything that's going on.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dogs Begging for Bones

There is excitement at my place after work each day. A sort of doggie drama.  If you are a dog lover, there's a good chance you know what I'm referring too. That period of time when you arrive home and there is frantic doggie walking, kissing, hugging, and begging for those before-dinner treats. Recently, Willy and Sugar have been extra ecstatic, performing all sorts of attention-seeking maneuvers for their bones. Even my picky eating Willy dances and begs for the newest flavor of Milk Bones I brought home. However, he can't hold a candle to Sugar's adorable dance moves.

 Oh, look Willy! I think she's reaching for the yummies. Can you see?

Ah, yup.  It looks like it.

If I look pretty, maybe she'll hurry.

Geez Sugar. Like she hasn't seen that a billion times. Even I can do that.

But you can't do this!  Special dance, special dance, super fast special dance.

Here she comes!

Sorry, I didn't snap a photograph of them devouring the gravy bones. I used that opportunity to check my emails. It is just about the only time I have without them on my lap or doing the special dance for treats.

Gravy Bones 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Fostering Love

Willy, Sugar (our house guest) and I were enjoying a lazy day and a warm sun puddle.  We will miss her when she goes.

Join us on Wordless Wednesday Blog hop with all of our four-legged friends in the BlogPaws community.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Foster Dog and Her Sporn Harness

The Adorable Sugar 
Sugar, a wonderful dog I am fostering, is visiting us and getting settled in nicely. Her thoughtful owner sent her with a Sporn Harness. The harness has been amazingly easy to use and works so well that I'm considering getting one for my dog, Willy. If you are shopping for a harness for your dog, I highly recommend the Sporn by Yuppie Puppy.

Sporn Non Pull Mesh Harness Review

I've walked dogs with harnesses on occasion before. For example, my daughter-in-law used a harness for her small dog.  I don't know why, but I had a mental block with that particular harness and had trouble getting it on and off the dog. It was very frustrating to me and furthered my belief that dog harnesses are unnecessary.  But I don't have that problem with the Sporn harness at all. For some reason - perhaps the fleece covered straps - it is extremely easy to put on and take off the dog. The harness slips right on and the cord pulls tight to secure it.
Sporn Harness by Yuppie Puppy

It seems very well made and very comfortable for the dog. Two or three times Sugar suddenly decided she didn't like being attached to me and she fought against the harness very briefly. It stayed put and I was immediately relieved that she was not going to slip out and run away.

Why Use a Dog Harness?

I have never been a fan of the dog harness.  But now I see the benefit of using a harness. Especially with dogs like Willy (Treeing Feist) and Sugar (Rat Terrier).  With Feists, my concern has always been that their heads are very small. That makes backing out of a collar or slipping out and running away very easy.  I have used "choker chains" in the past, but they definitely aren't my preference.  

I currently use a PetSafe webbed collar that pulls tight on Willy without being a choker. It works very well for him most of the time. It tightens when he pulls so there's no chance of him slipping out of if if he were to fight against the collar. And when he's not pulling, it hangs loosely.  It has been an extremely good collar for him.
PetSafe Premiere Quick Snap Collar
The only time I have had seconds thoughts about using a collar with him is when we are in the woods when squirrels are running around.  He's a squirrel dog. He wants to chase squirrels. I'd love to let him every time. But I cannot let him off-leash at the local wooded areas.  Now that I've had experience with the Sporn Non Pull Harness, I think I'll get one for him for our walks in the woods to protect his poor neck.

I'll leave it to the experts to demonstrate the Sporn Harness. If you have a dog that pulls, or want an easy and reliable harness, check out what Yuppie Puppy has to offer. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Sugar - Our Temporary Treasure

Car Magnet
Have you ever considered fostering a dog? 
I have. And this weekend Sugar has joined our family. She is my first foster. Her family has relocated and is in the process of settling in. So she has come to visit Willy, Mittens the spirited kitten, and I while her family gets settled.  We are thrilled to have her here.

Rat Terriers

I truly believe that not every person should be an owner of a Rat Terrier but that every owner of a Rat Terrier knows how amazing these dogs truly are.  Ratties are typically extremely smart, energetic, and an indescribable balance of independent and exceedingly loyal. 

True Statement 

Sugar is a rat terrier. I am super thrilled to have a rattie back in my home. And she is a wonderful dog. She's an adult and a bit shy. But frankly, who wouldn't be shy around my young and energetic Willy and my kitten who seriously think she rules the place?  Those two are enough to wear anyone out - human or animal.

Sugar - my foster dog

Someday, when the day is right, I will bring my own Rat Terrier puppy home. But until then, I am going to enjoy Sugar's sweet kisses and hugs while she's here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Entitlement

Mittens. The lovely, rescued, "spirited" kitten. 

I've never met such a naughty cat. She has knocked things off of every shelf in my house. She has shredded entire rolls of toilet paper. I search for things for days only to find that she's carried them off and left them in odd places.

Mostly, she just goes where she wants, when she wants, brushing barriers aside. I've adopted Mittens. I'm hoping to be able to adopt her philosophy.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Easy Felted Soap Project

Very recently I decided that I wanted to try wet felting.  I knew I would need an extremely easy project since I am craft-challenged. I found many methods for felted soap online and decided that was where I would start.  Here is how I made my first wet felted project.

What is Wet Felting?

Until recently, I have never heard of wet felting.  I have a very artistic and exceptionally crafty friend.  She does felting with a needle. The projects I've seen that she has in progress are going to be gorgeous. It made me want to try felting. Yet, felting with a needle seems more difficult that something I should start with.

In my review of Wysteria Editions wool roving, I write a bit about what felting is.  But as a reminder, wet felting is the process of using soapy water, compression, and friction to turn wool or woolen fibers into material.  Beginning wet felting projects include coasters, bookmarks, and felted bars of soap. 

More difficult projects include clothing items, slippers, wall hangings, blankets, and so on. I hope to make a suitable pair of slippers for myself before too long.

What is felted soap?

Felted soap is a bar of soap that wool is placed over with the wet felting method. The end result is a bar of soap with a permanent piece of gently exfoliating material over. It eliminates the use of a loofah or washcloth. 

While looking at wet felting tutorials and articles, I saw some feedback that some folks didn't like the idea of their soap wrapped in wool.  I love the idea. I prefer bars of soap over body wash, except that bars of soap seem to get used up so quickly. According to the folks who like felted soaps, the felting helps the bars of soap last longer. Once I saw the beautiful soaps by Apartment Therapy and Thistlewood Farm,  I was completely hooked. 

This video by Traditional Living is a tutorial of how to make felted soap, along with an example of what the wool is like as the soap has been used.

The process I used

I had already purchased beautiful Wysteria Editions wool roving in anticipation of having time to do an easy project.
Wysteria Editions Wool Roving
I located a bar of soap that I like but have had in storage for a long time.  You can see that a previously good-looking bar of soap has become chipped and worn by being in storage and going through moves.  What a perfect candidate for being covered in wool.
Any moisturizing and scented soap is a good choice

I pulled bits of wool roving to thin and flat sheets, and layered them over the soap. I added little bits of "twisted" roving for the stripes.

I carefully sprinkled the covered soap with hot tap water - as hot as I could tolerate safely - and patted the roving flat. Because I didn't have the end of a used stocking, as most folks use when felting soap, but had a placemat that was the equivalent of a sushi rolling mat (used in other projects), I used the placement for "rolling" my soap. Counting how many times I "rolled" it and turning the soap to roll it for approximately the same number of times on the next side. Then I patted and rubbed the corners and edges; although they had already shrunk and felted nicely. 

During the process of "rolling" and rubbing it through the mat

After I finished, I allowed my soap to dry outside for most of the day, then inside on a rack overnight. As you can see, my wool felted up nicely, attaching the bar of soap even around the corners and the edges.  
My finished soap

I love my new felted soap. I am exciting about ordering moisturizing and scented soaps so that I can make more little treasures for pampering myself. 

If you are looking for an easy and beautiful craft to learn, you may want to join me in wet felting.

Wool Roving Review - Wysteria Editions

Wysteria Editions Wool Roving
I completed my first wet felting project today and am thrilled at how the Wysteria Editions wool roving performed.  Since I am an extreme wet felting beginner, I guess I should have titled this as "wool roving for beginners".  Wysteria Editions was certainly an easy and beautiful wool to use for my first project.

What is Wool Roving?

Roving is a natural fiber that has been prepared and made into very loose, slightly twisted, bundles of fluffy fiber. The same fiber that is often then spun into yarn.  Wool roving is wool that is at this point in the process and "woolen" if it is made from other materials.

What is Wet Felting?

Let's begin with the definition of the word "felt".

Wysteria Editions 
Felt as a noun:
Felt is a non-woven fabric of wool, fur or hair. Or an article made of this material.

Felt as a verb:
making the material into felt, matting or pressing the material together, or covering an item with felt.

Felting is not a new thing. In fact, it's a very old process and has been done in many cultures. There are a variety of different ways to felt.  I chose wet felting. Wikipedia gives a great description of different felting methods and the definition of wet felting. Their definition is (in part) is:

"Warm soapy water is applied to layers of animal hairs
placed at 90 degree angles to one another. Repeated
agitation and compression causes the fibres to hook together
into a single piece of fabric."  Wikipedia

As a complete beginner, I chose to start with wet felting. I have soap and water. And I can compress, rub, and agitate.  The other helpful items are things such as a sushi rolling mat, plastic bubble wrap, and the ends of recycled pantyhose.

Wysteria Editions Wool Roving

I knew that I wanted to purchase some wool roving. I looked at one local craft store and found one bag of neutral bag of roving. I didn't yet know what project I wanted to do but I knew i didn't want just one off-white item.  In order to save myself the frustration of driving around on a wild goose chase to the various craft stores, I began searching Amazon.

During my search, I found the Wystria Editions 2 oz packs of beautifully colored wool roving.  There are so many colors to choose from that it was hard to decide. I like orange, so I chose a pack with some orange in it.  My order arrived quickly and exactly as pictured.

By that time, I had continued to watch tutorials online and decided that my first project would be felted soap. It seemed like the easiest project for a first project. Frankly, I expected to not be able to successfully get the wool to felt. However, this wool roving felted very quickly and evenly.  Perhaps that is because the Wysteria Editions is "ultra fine" wool roving. I will have to do some more research and experimenting.

I expected the wool roving to have thicker and thinner sections, as yarn does. Or some discoloration since it is a natural product. But I found that it pulled apart very evenly, was without lumps or bumps, and was evenly colored.

If you want to add some color to your felted project, I highly recommend the Wysteria Editions 2 oz pack of wool roving. As I begin to make larger items, I will look for larger packs of bulk wool roving. But you can know that I will order more of this beautifully colored fluff in the future.

For more wet felting ideas, you can join me on Pinterest and check out the many, many beautiful and informative articles.

My felted soap

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tales: A Review of the Movie WILD

Wild with Reese Witherspoon
I love watching movies but I don't always love going to the theater. However, Wild was too tempting to wait until it was released on Blu-ray. I went to see Wild at the theater and am so glad I did. Wild is a gritty, dramatic, beautiful, and stark telling of a women's journey to healing.  I find myself becoming excited that the Blu-ray/DVD release is coming soon.

The movie Wild

The movie was based on the memoir written by Cheryl Strayed.  I had not read the book and went in with no real expectations. I half expected a "how-to" do a thru-hike from a woman's perspective. As someone who has been interested thru-hike tales, I was drawn to this movie. As it turns out, it was closer to a how-not-to thru hike. 

Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl Strayed.  I forgot that I was watching an actress on the screen as I watched a woman begin a long hike with little preparation. I cringed over and over as I expected this to become a story of physical survival on the trail; battling heat, snow, and rough terrain.  Instead, the story unfolded as a tale of emotional survival and of finding a purpose in life.  

The gritty flashbacks of sex, drugs, and traumatic events were uncomfortable at times, but I never felt they were gratuitous nude scenes. (After all, sex sells and I feel that nudity is usually just thrown in for good measure.) The scenes in Wild were glimpses into a hard life that is made more difficult by bad choices. It seemed to me that this woman jumped into the hike in a similar way as she jumped into some life decisions; not fully prepared.  However, while on the trail she seems to begin to find that she can survive and can do so peacefully and happily.

Laura Dern plays Bobbi, Cheryl's mother.  I loved her character and could relate to her struggle to balance being a good mom while living in uneasy circumstances while on her own journey in life. And her too soon journey through dying. Again, I forgot that I was watching an actress and felt immersed in her life.

The Book - Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

I occasionally see a movie that intrigues me so much that I go back and look for the book. I plan to do that in this case. I want more details about Cheryl Strayed's life and journey.

It seems that everyone has heard of the Cheryl Strayed story. After all, the book has nearly 9,000 reviews on Amazon and has been an Oprah book club choice. Wild is an award-winning book and is not Ms. Strayed's first published work.  I'm not sure why I was so unaware of this story. But I am aware now and I'm doing my best to make sure anyone else who has been left out is aware also.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild is a gritty portrayal of grief and what women sometimes do to themselves. And how many women react to life circumstances.   Some of the scenes weren't comfortable but they were pertinent to the story.  Life is not always pretty and neither is this story. But it has beautiful scenes along the way and an uplifting ending.

The movie will be released on blu-ray/DVD on March 31, 2015.  I can't wait to get a copy and watch it. I am sure this will be one of those movies in my collection that I watch over and over.