Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas to You

Whether you celebrate Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa  - or don't celebrate any occasion during this season at all - I want to take a moment to send you good wishes.

I want to especially send good wishes to my readers, friends, and those who visit and support my blog.  I hope the season brings you every treasure you hope for.

To all of our first responders, law enforcement, and military personnel.... thank you. I wish you safety and peace - not only this day but this coming year. To all of you who are deployed, I especially thank you. You are always in my thoughts. May all of your Christmas wishes comes true.

Whether you celebrate the season with boisterous gatherings or quietly at home alone, my hope is that the good things come to light and are the focus of the day. I hope the gift of silver linings shine bright.

This is the season of charity. I hope we all give more than we take - not only today but in all of the days to come.

May your day be bright, happy, and full of love - no matter where you are or what you are doing. Merry Christmas to you.

From me.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Got Wine - Need Glasses

I just spent the day with a friend and was given a bottle of my favorite wine.  After I arrived home, I realized that I have no wine glasses. I believe having at least one favorite wine glass is important and having no wine glasses is a problem. I am going to share some of the treasures I have found during my search for my next wine glass.

I prefer to have a variety of different wine glasses - buying by the stem. That eliminates the "is this my glass or yours?" confusion.  And while wine glass charms are adorable, they are an extra thing to keep track of during times between gatherings.  Below are four wonderful wine glass choices I have found.

New Year's Wine Glasses

I am seriously leaning toward a wine glass that is decorated with a New Year's motif in order to commemorate the New Year. This past year has been a year that has felt productive. I am continuing to more toward some of my life goals. While I likely will not be at any public celebration to ring in the new year, I am feeling excited about welcoming a new year and continuing my journey.  

Last year, I rang in the New Year at The Shack (my little off-grid cabin on a mountain ridge).  I drank wine from a plastic cup because I had forgotten to bring a glass. But this year, whether I end up at The Shack or stay at my apartment, a New Year's Eve glass may be the perfect thing.

However, wherever, and for whatever personal reasons you are feeling celebratory this year, a glass for 2017 might be the thing for you.

Lolita hand painted and jeweled wine glass for New Year's Eve

pros: beautiful, unique, welcomes the new year in with BLING
cons: hand wash only

Mouth blown Wine Glasses

I love mouth blown wine glasses.  I think they are beautiful and they often come in gorgeous colors. Since they are hand-crafted, no two are exactly alike. I love watching the artists who make mouth blown items.  It is magical to see the red-hot soft glass form into a functional item

This mouth blown and hand painted LARGE wine glass is gorgeous and is a best seller on Amazon. At the time of this writing, over 1,300 reviews indicate this glass is the one to buy. 

Antoni Barcelona large hand painted wine glass

pros: beautiful colors, unique, delicate
cons: I break them more easily

Leaded Crystal Wine Glass

I lean toward cut crystal wine glasses.  They are usually heavier than the mouth blown glass and can withstand my clumsiness a bit more.  But what attracts me most about crystal wine glasses are the cuts.  I love how the cut designs sparkle. 

Crystal wine glasses come in a large variety of designs and sizes. From a few cuts to an intricate pattern and from a small, modest size of just a few sips to a bowl large enough to house a happy goldfish, you are likely to find what you want with crystal wine glasses.

Waterford Lismore Hock, 6 oz

pros: heavier, tend to be more durable, and it is fun to make that ringing sound by running your finger around the top of the glass
cons: good crystal tends to be more expensive

We have a Winner - The Luigi Bormioli Romantica Wine Glass

I believe I have chosen my next wine glass set. This is out of my ordinary, as I often purchase by the stem, and a mixed set. But this set of 4 eye-catching glasses are a perfect bowl size for me (13 oz), are priced within my budget, and have received good reviews. 

Luigi Bormioli all purpose wine glasses, set of 4

pros: beautiful, reasonably priced, and can buy water glasses, champagne glasses, and double old fashioned glasses to match
cons: the tall (9") stems are too tall for some cabinets and dishwashers

One final thing, are you aware that in many states wine can be purchased from Amazon?  I was aware of this a few years ago but had not looked at the selection again until recently. While my favorite wine is not available through the Amazon Wine & Champagne Shop, I see several other wines that I enjoy listed there. 

*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, December 17, 2016

Handmade Treasures: Slouchy Crochet Beanie

I am in the process of crocheting an adorable, lightweight slouchy beanie. I am so excited about this cute and easy crochet pattern and yarn that I have to share this treasure with you - before I have even finished the project. If you like to crochet, or if you would like to learn, this is a cute and easy pattern. Simple enough to finish in a few days and cute enough to give as a gift. 

I am unable to take credit for creating this pattern.  I am not that talented. In fact, I had chosen the yarn before I even had a pattern. I feel fortunate that I was able to find this yarn and this pattern for this particular project.

There is a young lady at work who has tentatively expressed a desire to learn to crochet.  In order to try to tempt her to give crochet another try (we have tried on one other occasion), I decided to have her choose the yarn, and I would try to crochet something easy for her. 

She chose this cheery red and white yarn.
Red Heart - Team Spirt (red and white)

I am pressed for time.  Because I did not feel that I would have time to mail order it, find a quick and easy pattern, and then complete it in the time frame I had set for myself, I went to a local craft store.  In fact, I went to two craft stores, trying to find her red and white yarn.

Stitch Studio by Nicole - picnic
I was unable to find the yarn she had chosen. Instead I found this beautiful, lightweight yarn at AC Moore.  It is Stitch Studio by Nicole - Picnic. It is a lightweight and soft yarn.  It will make a beautiful beanie.

I then located an easy and quick crochet pattern by The Crochet Crowd.  Fortunately, they provide both the written pattern and a step-by-step video tutorial. 

In the tutorial, they are using Caron Cakes yarn, which is a gorgeous, soft yarn that is dyed in a way that it creates a beautiful change in pattern without changing yarn. I was tempted by the Caron Cakes yarn while I was shopping at the stores, but unfortunately there were no bright red options. Because I have chosen a slightly lighter weight yarn, I did test the gauge and chose the hook that will give me that gauge. However, even with that preparation, I believe these hats will not fit large heads (like mine). But that works out well for this project. I believe it will end up fitting the young lady perfectly.
Caron Cakes yarn

Introduction photo credit: author's photo of beanie in progress (graphic courtesy of FotoJet)

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 led to my curtain purchase.

I have hung this YOJA curtain over my door.  I've used Command brand heavy-duty, removable 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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Shipping Containers - Tiny Home Option

Two 20 feet shipping containers
I am still trying to decide the best option for housing on my land. I've looked at modulars, RV's, log cabins and more. Today, I went to look at shipping containers.  The idea of using shipping containers as homes is hard to imagine for some people. But I've seen plenty of examples of beautiful living spaces that began as a shipping container.

Baltimore - An Endless Supply of Shipping Containers

A good thing about living just barely outside of Baltimore City is that it is a port city. And shipping containers come in an endless supply.  Not long ago, my daily commute included driving past a shipping container and temporary office company.  So today, I stopped by there.  What I had in mind was checking out the price of one of those "mobile office" boxes.  I was thinking that if I choose to tear down The Shack and replace it with something that takes a bit to build, I'd have shelter in one of these little offices (imagine a small guard shack - the small offices are similar to those).  One of those small mobile offices should be easy to haul on to and off of my property.  Or I could use it for a shed when I'm finished living in it. Right? 

But that thinking was derailed as soon as I walked into the Wilmot Modular Structures office and met Lori.  

Lori was thrilled to talk to someone who didn't think using a shipping container as housing was odd.  In fact, she'd love to have her own shipping container home.  But that's her story and she should tell you her story. Back to mine.  I told her that I had considered shipping containers for a home, but I was too inexperienced to cut the windows and doors, and such.

"We do that for you" she said. And she happily showed me a shipping container that was being worked on and the plans she has worked up for several other shipping container abodes. 

I apologize to you that my only photograph of my adventure today was of a pair of the "many trip" containers.  I wanted a reminder about size.  Which reminds me - Lori talked to me about making sure to purchase a "one trip" container. That is a container that has only been shipped to the states once. They are in almost new condition, as I could easily see. I just wish I had taken photos of some of the one trippers. 

My Piece of Land and Situation

We chatted about several of my concerns about my lot... the drive up to my lot is a major concern. The road is nicely maintained, but it is a gravel road with switchbacks.  Long loads may not make it past the curves. Also, my lot is steeply sloped.  A fork lift or crane may be hard to get down to my spot.  

But the great news is that I could stack two or three shipping containers on top of each other. And doing that would most certainly get me high enough to see over the top of my lot... giving me a 360 degree, long range view.  Ah, heaven. I could place a smaller container on top of a larger container, and have a second story patio.  I could do so many things with this.

Small Homes and Big Decisions

I have so many decisions to make. And I think I'm still leaning strongly toward the log cabin on wheels.  But the containers are exceedingly tempting. Especially when you read what others have to say about their shipping container homes.

If you are at all interested in shipping containers for living space there are several awesome video tours to see, but this video is a must see:

*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, July 30, 2016

Tiny House, Big Living Review

Tiny House, Big Living
I find that I've said "I don't know why I waited so long" in my reviews on more than one occasion. This is another occasion. I have purchased my very first television show from Amazon and I'm thrilled I did. I purchased episode 4 of Tiny House, Big Living season 1. I feel a series binge coming on and I am pausing just long enough to tell you about this show.

Tiny House, Big Living on HGTV

I have not had cable for awhile.  I've only had cable for a short stretch of time (about 2 1/2 years) over the past 10 years or so.  I despise paying that much money for such poor service. The price tag seems so high for what it is and they hike the price higher each year. Basically, the only reason I had cable for those couple of years was for a few specific channels.  HGTV was the primary channel I wanted to watch.

Somehow, I didn't see Tiny House, Big Living while I had cable. Perhaps it came out just after I disconnected cable.  I had watched shows (I can't recall which channels.) such as  Tiny House Nation, Treehouse Masters, and Tiny House Hunters. 

Today, I started to search Amazon for those shows. And I found Tiny House, Big Living instead.

Tiny House, Big Living Season 1 - Episode 4

I chose episode 4 because the photo showed a plain but attractive exterior and a metal roof.  Simple with a tin roof is along the lines of my preferred tiny home exteriors.  But rest assured, there is a variety of exteriors to choose from in this series.

In this episode we watch a dad help his young adult daughter build a tiny house on a frame.  Her goal was to have her own living space and to be debt free. His goal, among many including some ulterior motives, was for her to increase her ability to be independent through knowledge of home building. 

We watch as choices are made and the home goes up.  I loved their creativity, their choices for the interior, and how this young lady imagined an ingenious ladder system for her loft.

I will stop here. There's not much that can be said about a single episode without leaking some spoilers.  If you are interested in Tiny Homes and haven't seen Tiny Homes, Big Living you might want to give it a peek. 

Purchasing Television Shows and Movies From Amazon

In case I am not the only one who hasn't purchased television shows from Amazon I want to tell you how easy it is.

  • Search Amazon as you would for any other item
  • Search under the Television and Movies category
  • Choose your item and click the "buy" button
  • My episode opened immediately and I viewed it
  • When I returned to watch a second time, I located it in my account in Amazon - under "Your Video Library"
Happy watching!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

I Met an Eastern Hercules Beetle Today

I wasn't sure whether to scream or faint when I saw it lying there on the steps.  It was THE biggest, strangest, and most frightening beetle I've ever seen.  It was on its back with legs in the air.  I skittered past it quickly and hurried upstairs. However, once upstairs I felt sorry for the little creature on it's back - legs slowly pumping, useless in the air.  I took my camera, and righted the creature, taking enough photos to be able to identify it as a Scarab Beetle known as an Eastern Hercules Beetle.

What is a Scarab Beetle?

Other than carvings on Egyptian artifacts I had no clue what a Scarab Beetle was.  I had to look it up.  According to :


  1. any scarbaeid beetle, especially Scarabaeus sacer, regarded as sacred by the ancient Egyptians
  2.  a representation or image of a beetle, much used among the ancient Egyptions as a symbol, seal, amulet or the like.
  3.  a gen cut to resemble a beetle.

Ah, so that settles it. My visitor was a Scarabaeus sacer.  Except, I didn't know what that was either. So I had to look it up.  The Scarabaeus sacer, otherwise known as a Mediterranean Dung Beetle. Aha! I've seen those on television shows on nature channels.  Yes, Dung Beetles.  Except this prettily painted beetle was not plain black in color. So I had to look some more.

More about the Eastern Hercules Beetle

Hercules Beetles are in the Scarabaeidae family, which include June Beetles, Japaneese Beetles, and Dung Beetles. There we go, I have had some up-close-and-personal experiences with Japaneese and June Beetles.  

The Eastern Hercules Beetle is the largest.  And my visitor was a male as evidenced by his horns.  Mrs. Hercules has no horns and is a bit smaller.  Mr. Hercules can grow to almost 2 1/2 inches long.  

Their colors are varied.  When I look at just his color (and ignore that face and those legs) I am mesmerized. It looks like some sort of beautiful water colored Rorschack test.

Their life span includes egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. I will not share any photos of the eggs, larvae, and pupae because I do not find them at all endearing.  But the adult male - after a few minutes - I began to see him as pretty.  

The good news is, they are not considered pests and can be found both in Maryland and in West Virginia. If I keep my eyes open, I may see another Eastern Hercules Beetle at some point. 

Here are some children, some adorable children who are much more brave than I am. They were brave enough to hold their Mr. Hercules visitor in North Carolina:

My Hercules

I turned him over several times after moving him to the mulch, behind a shrub, and to the shade.  And when I checked on him later I found him belly-up again. And when I checked on him even later. It is a good possibility that he's at the end of his life cycle since they live for less than 6 months as an adult.

After my initial fright, I am glad to have seen this interesting beetle. My interest in scarabs has grown and apparently I am only catching up with many people who like these beetles.

A face only his momma can love

Scarab and Beetle Gifts, Clothing, and Jewelry:

I was aware that Scarabs were a part of Egyptian art and the carved gems are used for jewelry. I've always loved ladybugs. But I had no idea how currently popular Scarab and beetle items are.  And I MUST get the Book of Beetles: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred of Nature's Gems. If you are at all interested in beetles, you can see what this book has to offer in the "look inside" feature.  I can see that my visitor is not the only strange beetle in existence.

THE Book of Beetles

CowCow Women's Skater Dress - Beetles

Egyptian Sterling Silver Scarab Bracelet

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Keystone Kabins Park Model - Tiny Home Option

My original plan was to buy my land and make improvements over time.  On my less-than-shoestring budget, that would amount to a long period of time.  But my thinking was to pay as I go and hopefully retire to my little mountain homestead either debt-free or close to it. However, the more time I spend camping at The Shack, the more anxious I am to move there. This weekend I toured several options for housing. I was surprisingly impressed with Keystone Kabins' park models.

(Note: Since the writing of this article, the name of the company has change. It is now Lancaster Log Cabins. Same address, information, and cabin. Different name)

Keystone Kabins - Vacation Cabin Kits

I was originally interested in Keystone Kabins because they make vacation log cabin kits. You can either assemble the kits or have them assembled.  The floor plans and prices are on the Keystone Kabins website.  I liked the rustic look, the options, the small size, and most of all, I liked the prices. Their simplicity keeps the price tag lower than some other cabin builders I've been looking at.

I called to see if there were vacation cabin models onsite that I could tour at the Pennsylvania location. No. No vacation cabin models. But there are "park models".  I decided to go ahead and look even though I wasn't interested in a park model. Frankly, I didn't exactly know what a park model was but I'd go and look. At least I could get a sense of quality.

What are log cabin Park Models.

I've learned that park models are very similar to RVs. Or like Tiny Houses.  They are built on a trailer. They have VIN  numbers and are considered to be a recreational vehicle. Because they are suited for camping only, they are not considered to be mobile homes or permanent living arrangements. 

Originally, I thought there would be no way I'd interested in a home as tiny as the ones shown on the television shows.  I can live very small, but I'm not interested in living THAT tiny. Besides, I'm not very interested in living on wheels again.

However, these park model log cabins had an open feel.  And they were much more solid than I had expected. Later in the day I stopped at a model center to look at some of the modular floor plans I have my eye on, and there were park models there also. Those park models were gorgeous - shiny, fancy, decorated beautifully, and modern.  Visually crisp and clean. But they also smelled of chemicals and felt less solid.  

In contrast, the Keystone Kabins log park models were solid under my feet and smelled only of wood (despite having been recently varnished - or stained. I'm not certain of the correct terminology). The rustic simplicity caught my eye and my imagination.

Good Customer Service Early On

Dan, of Keystone Kabins, had answered my phone call and was very inviting. I don't believe he was scheduled to work that day but had left the additional pamphlets and information where he said he would. In addition, he was present in the office when I checked - just in case. We did not have an appointment.  I was just rolling through as I went from one spot to the next. And frankly, traffic was so horrible that I was running an hour and a half later than I had wanted. But he was there.  

That is more than I can say for another builder who knew I was coming - the builder of the homes I most wanted to see during this trip. I arrived 30 minutes within closing and their office was closed. We did not have an appointment, but they were aware I was coming.  Perhaps they had an emergency that required closing before their posted hours.  Perhaps not.  Either way, it makes me wonder what their customer service will be.  I do not wonder that about Dan with Keystone Kabins. I already feel that he'd be reliable and go above and beyond.

Daydreaming about the Future

I am still completely uncertain about what my final choice will be. However, I'm more able to imagine having a home on wheels to camp in, rather than my little rickety shack. Who knows, maybe I'll opt for one of those slick and shiny park models. Or maybe I'll make more progress than I expect financially and build a stick-built family sized home.  I don't know. But I do know that I'm smitten with these natural, rustic, wooden, tiny log cabins. Clearly, if I choose a park model, it won't be my permanent home. But perhaps I can use it to comfortably camp in for years to come. 

I need to do more research about living so small. And have ordered this book just today. My apartment isn't very much over 400 sq feet, but I do have quite a bit of storage here that I won't have in a park model.

Tiny House Living 

I'm sharing the following photographs that I had taken only to refresh my memory after returning home.  The models were in process and I was not planning on sharing the photos. For better quality photos and more information, please see their website or the Keystone Kabins facebook page.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Eastern Box Turtles at The Shack

Eastern Box turtles are exclusive to North America.  Having grown up in the Midwest, coming across a box turtle in the fields was not uncommon. But I never, in a million years, expected to come across a box turtle at my property in West Virginia. Not only have I come across one, two box turtles have crossed my path in less than two months.  I decided I should educate myself about Eastern Box turtles. 

Eastern Box Turtles in West Virginia

In early May, I came across a box turtle that was crossing the road. I was surprised to find that turtle as I had believed turtles remained closer to water or wetlands.  The timing of that sighting seemed like a message to me. A well-timed message to be okay with slowing down.  I was moved to write about that turtle

This is the turtle in the road

This past weekend, I was driving onto my lot and spotted a turtle in my "yard". Of course, it was very near the area where I drive and was very glad to have spotted it. There is a good chance I would have driven over it otherwise. I got out and snapped a few photos and just watched it for a bit.

This is the turtle in the yard.

These turtles spiked my interest in learning more about them. I wanted to know what they were doing so high up and far from water. There is a creek near my place. But it is in the valley at the bottom of the ridge.  It seems far too far for turtles to stray.

This is what I've learned so far:

  • Eastern Box turtles are thought to be declining in numbers. Due to loss of habitat, being struck by automobiles, and from being taken out of their habitat as pets.
  • Eastern Box turtles have red eyes if they are male and darker brownish eyes if they are female. I can verify that the difference is easy to note - as the first turtle I saw had red eyes and the second turtle had brownish/golden eyes.
  • They hibernate (in the ground) in the winter months
  • The females lay their eggs in small holes they dig (I will watch the dogs closely so that they don't dig up anything other than rodent holes!)

What to do if you find an Eastern Box Turtle

  • Look and DO NOT Touch
  • DO touch if you find it crossing the roadway. If you can safely stop and move it to the side of the road (in the direction it was traveling) please do so
  • Do not encourage the taking of wild turtles as pets 
  • And as always, watch what your dogs are playing with when they are outdoors.  Not only are some things dangerous for your dogs... your dogs could be dangerous for some things

Rather than continue regurgitating the random bits of information I have learned I will share a link of a very helpful video about Eastern Box Turtles.  I hope that my next turtle update from The Shack will be photos of healthy and happy baby turtles safely crossing my path.