Friday, August 11, 2017

**RECIPE** Soothing Hot Cocoa

Anyone who reads my blog regularly know that I have a condition that requires me to take certain medicines. One of those medications is a weekly injection that happens to make me dog-sick for about 30 hours. (Yeah, I have actually counted and done an average!)

 A couple of weeks ago, after I got especially med-sick, I decided to put some of my talk about natural products into action. To get my energy up and keep the nausea at bay, I made a cocoa just full of healthy stuff.

Here are the ingredients - along with why I chose them. I have to tell you that I am in love with this cocoa. I have been drinking it the last couple of days just because. I will drink it during the day (instead of coffee), or at nighttime if I feel cold.

I make about a 9 ounce cup of whole fat milk for the beverage  but I will let you come up with your own measurements. It all depends on how bitter or sweet you want your finished product. I like mine on the bitter side so I use about 1.5 Tablespoons of cocoa powder. Every other ingredient amount depends on what mood I am in. Also, I only make my beverage on the stove top. I use a small pan and a whisk on low-to-medium heat. It takes a while and I guess you could heat your milk in the microwave then add the other ingredients, but I like the old-fashioned way.

First, measure out your milk into whatever cup you will drink from. This way you won't make too little or too much. If you don't have a whisk, use a large fork so you don't get clumps of cocoa and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the milk in your pan a little at a time - especially if you are working without a whisk. Whether you use a fork or a whisk, you want to keep stirring while the mixture is on the heat so you don't get that "skin" film right away.

Organic Cocoa Powder 

Cocoa powder has lots of health benefits, but the one I am interested in is that it fights fatigue. Here is just one article discussing the pros. Also, I wanted to include something from WebMD that discusses more benefits and even warnings.

Ceylon Cinnamon

The taste of this is not as "sharp" as regular cinnamon. It's a lot softer so you can use more than you might think.  This explains Ceylon cinnamon basics.

The cinnamon is mostly for the benefits to my mental health. There are other pros to cinnamon, but you have to be watchful. The thing is that there is "good" cinnamon vs the kind with an ingredient that can be damaging. Once I learned that over-indulging in certain types of cinnamon can damage the liver, I started using only Ceylon cinnamon. This is the brand I like and happen to be using.

Blackstrap Molasses

I use this as the sweetener in the cocoa beverage. Sometimes, I use more molasses (just over a half tablespoon)  and don't add any other sugars; sometimes, I add less (around a teaspoon) and include some raw granulated sugar. Depends on my mood.

'Strap is high in iron and calcium. I use the unsulphured molasses and there is a difference between this and the sulphured variety. You will see why I prefer unsulphured. There are tons of benefits, in my opinion, and good nutritional value. One I focus on is that it's a "bone booster".

As much as I raved about this, I stopped using it on a regular basis some months ago. I was getting ready to move and could have used the energy boost but needed more ways to incorporate the molasses into my daily intake. This cocoa is a great way. Also, now that I have a full kitchen to use again, I cook more and like to  sweeten hot cereals and other dishes with the molasses.

(A little mention that, even for people who don't like the taste of molasses straight from the bottle, it's got a really good taste when added to milk and stirred well. That's how I take it when I just want to get a quick dose.)

Organic vanilla extract

I only add a drop or two of this. I don't add it when heating the cocoa, but just drop it in when I'm about to drink up.

Everyone I know loves the flavor of vanilla in some form. Not many people use the actual and real extract or even understand the benefits.

Vanilla extract has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Those are the two important ones I care about. There are other good reasons to add the extract to this cocoa.

NOTE: Try to rinse out your pan immediately. Milk and cocoa are tough to clean later. I also just add some water to the dirty pan and put it on the still warm stove top until I'm ready to wash it out.


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Beautiful Mattie Powell

When I am heartbroken, my instinct is to write. Today my heart is in pieces.

My mother's best friend (and the woman I claimed as my Godmother) passed away on this past Friday.

Mrs. Mattie Powell ("Miss Mattie" to me) was one of the sweetest and most beautiful women I ever knew. I'm talking beautiful inside and out. My siblings and I always called her "pretty Miss Mattie". You read in fiction about women who only getting more beautiful as they age, but Miss Mattie was the real thing.

Miss Mattie and my mother went through a lot together. I'm not privy to a lot of what they talked about, but I know that my mother (who was a very private woman and who didn't easily use the term "friend") trusted Miss Mattie more than anyone else I knew.

Miss Mattie's husband passed years ago. He had taken such good and loving care of her that, although she worked outside the home, she had never had to drive a car. She didn't like to drive, but she finally had to learn at a later age, it was my brother Chubby who taught her how. She never did like driving but she had the cutest little black and silver PT Cruiser that was perfect for her. The colors matched her hair and I always thought she should have personalized her plates to read "Silver Fox"!

My sister, Mike, adored Miss Mattie, as did we all. After Mama died, Miss Mattie was the one friend of Mama's that Mike held close to. Miss Mattie never called my sister by her nickname "Mike". She had her own nickname for her of "Mikey".

When Mike passed away, Miss Mattie was fighting her own health battles but she came to the service and she spoke. I was in such a daze of grief then, whether people could see it or not, that I barely heard much of what Miss Mattie said. I do remember that she shared how whenever she came to our house to visit, my mother tried to make her eat. If Miss Mattie wasn't hungry right then, Mama would still insist that my sister send her home with something for later. Miss Powell remembered this as my mother always instructing, "Mikey, make Mattie a plate."

Now that my mother, Chubby, "Mikey", and Miss Mattie are gone I can rejoice that they are all in Heaven together. At rest and with no more pain or tears or suffering. That is the only joy I can get out of losing the people I love. Like I said, right now, my heart is in pieces but those broken pieces are in Heaven.

I am praying for her family and know that they will be okay because they had a queen for a mother, as her daughter said, and their mother is with the King of kings now.


Monday, August 07, 2017

Online Groceries Shopping: Walmart vs Amazon Pantry

Ever since I even planned to move here to the Lower 48, I thought about doing most of my grocery shopping online. Now that I am here and mostly settled in the new place, I had a chance to try out the online grocery shopping experiment.

For my meats and dairy items, I can walk the block and a half to the little city market. The nearest large grocery store is too far away for me to get there on foot. Even if I could, getting the groceries back would be a hassle. The nearest Walmart is just over 7 miles away in the neighboring town.

I have a Prime account and an online Walmart account. I decided to see which would be most affordable for buying basic household supplies. I'm talking about pantry items (soups and some cooking staples) and things for cleaning and storage. Here is what I ended up listing:
  • Paper towels
  • Toilet tissue
  • Sanitary/feminine hygiene items
  • Soup
  • Beverages (I like Pellegrino in particular)
  • Trash bags and food storage baggies
  • Dish soap
  • Coffee
Since I wanted to know which online store would be best, I opened carts in both Walmart and Amazon's Prime Pantry and loaded them with almost identical items (brand, size, count, etc), then I compared costs.

Walmart ended up being the most affordable. The item prices were not only cheaper, so was the shipping. With Walmart, I get free shipping on orders of $35 or more. With Amazon's Pantry, things are more complicated. 

Okay. For Prime Pantry, the free shipping is contingent on ordering a certain amount of "qualifying" items. If you don't have 5 or more of the "qualifying" items, the shipping cost is $5.99 per box.

NOTE: straight from Amazon, here is the definition of a Pantry box:
Prime Pantry boxes vary in size and can hold up to 45 pounds. Your order will be packaged in an appropriate-sized box, based on the dimensions and weight of the items. This box could be anything from the size of a shoe box to as large as a suitcase.

That sounds simple enough, and I actually thought it would be easy enough to get at least 5 qualifying items. Uh... Nope. 

As I was filling my cart, there was a little meter showing me my "fill rate". I realized that it is a bit harder to fill a box with qualifying items. Unless I wanted to shop based solely on qualifying items, I was going to be paying that shipping fee.

Let's zoom in on some of that:

Of course, Walmart tends to be cheaper than almost any other retailer. Throw in the free shipping when I order over a certain dollar amount of goods and... Walmart is the winner.

There was another benefit to using Walmart: most of the items ship faster. Maybe because of the location of where they ship from? Also, there is the option of putting together an order for Store Pickup.

Here is my first Walmart order. Total cost for at least a month and a half supply of everything on my list: $70 + tax.

At any rate, I will probably continue to use Walmart for my every-other-month shopping of basics household stuff. I will reserve Amazon for the other Prime items I use. 

Hope this helps anyone who has been thinking of using Amazon or Walmart for basic household shopping needs.


Thursday, August 03, 2017

**ALERT** Audio & Digital Resources at Local Libraries

Question 1: How many plastic cards are in your purse or wallet?
Question 2: What kind of freebies do those cards offer you?
Question 3:What would you do with a FREE card, no interest rate, and very few limitations?

I'll let you answer the questions later. First, this:

I've posted before about how much I love local libraries and the free resources they offer. I have been listening to audiobooks via my library and Overdrive Media. Thanks to that, I was able to get rid of my Audible membership to give my budget some breathing room. What I didn't know myself until I got here to Iowa is just how much libraries have to offer.

If you have a membership at your local library, please go to their online site and look for the following streaming and digital resources you may have been missing out on:

**Those links are for reference only. You should use your free library access if you sign up for any of them.**

I discovered Hoopla and almost lost my mind. For someone who hasn't owned a television for several years, I was so happy to find that I could watch TV shows and movies via a library resource. Listen, I'm not talking stodgy old faded black and white shows from from back when TVs had rabbit ears and theaters featured newsreels. The first movie I watched on Hoopla was Odd Thomas and Freakonomics. So far, I have bookmarked/favorited a few TV shows and some Agatha Christie movies and series.

When I saw this during a Hoopla search, I almost wept:

My beloved Zora! 

So, in spite of all the worst that the internet supplies is balanced out by the access to so much that is beautiful.

If you have not been using your library - maybe because you're not a "book perrson", or you don't have time... - I suggest you start. 


Monday, July 31, 2017

**REVIEW** Honeywell Quietset 8-Speed Whole-Room Tower Fan

Don't get me wrong - I love my new state (Iowa), but it is hot and humid!

Thank goodness for a small apartment and affordable electricity. The first week here, I ran the AC constantly. I was doing a first-month test of running the AC on around 75-80 degrees to see just how horrendous the bill would be. When I got nervous about that, I ordered this Honeywell fan to help with the cool-down:

 The fan also comes in white, but the black color works better with the rest of my stuff.

I am SO glad that I got this fan. First of all, it was a great price. Second, I've never had a Honeywell appliance that let me down as far as quality. Third - and most important - this baby works like a dream! I am able to turn my AC to around 90 and use the fan to do the rest of the work.

There is a ceiling fan in the bedroom that works really well. I never turn that bad boy off! The Honeywell travels with me from living room to bedroom. I can set it just outside the kitchen when I am cooking and it cools the whole front area of the apartment. At night, I turn it to the lowest 2 settings and it keeps me comfy while I'm sleeping. I love this fan..

What I like most is that it looks nice. I had to decorate my place on a really tight budget and I didn't want a big old ugly fan sitting out anywhere. This is sleek-looking and very unobtrusive. When I place it in the living room, it doesn't stand out like an eyesore. In the bedroom, it's more noticeable but ~shrug~ it's not ugly so who cares?

Next best thing is that it runs so quietly. There are 8 speeds, running lowest to highest in this order:

  • Sleep
  • Whisper
  • Calm
  • White Noise
  • Relax
  • Refresh
  • Cool
  • Power Cool
The settings light up in hues of blue when the fan is running. There is a little light switch button that allows you to dim that light. 

There is also a sleep-timer function. You can set the fan to run for 1, 2, 4, or 8 hours. On nights when I go to bed early, I will set the timer for 2 hours because I know the outside temps will start to cool off where I won't need the fan all night.

The fan comes with a remote that will control the Power, Speed, and Oscillation. Because I am a neat freak, I like that the remote tucks away in the back of the fan when not in use.

So, yep, I'm pretty happy with this fan. Like I said, it's helping me cut back on my use of the AC. That's going to save some bucks, I don't care how reasonable the electricity rates are.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

**Tip** Data Usage Numbers (finding them)

Just a tip for anyone trying to find/track their data usage so they don't go over on their internet plan. Sadly, I only know how to do this in Windows 10, but I'm sure the method is similar for other systems. I got curious about this when I signed up for a 400GB plan at an affordable rate. I have no idea how to visualize what 400GB means for usage. I was wondering if I'd have to give up binge-watching shows on Amazon Prime in order to still be able to surf the net for research and writing. Apparently, a lot of people wonder the same about internet usage and data limits. Last night, I did a little digging around and came up with a way to check on my usage.

The easiest way is to go to the Search Bar and type in "data"or "usage".

The circle is for "Search"

Then you can get to this screen:

Notice you can "View usage details". For me, this is what that page looks like:

By the way, I haven't made much a dent in my usage and I've been sick in bed and binge-watching tons of Youtube and Prime videos. My numbers, if accurate, really surprised me.

Before moving, I shared internet with family or I was with a familiar company local to Anchorage. Coming here and setting up internet limited me to 2 choices. One of those places was going to be a pain to use because of the way the apartment building is wired. I think I got a way better rate by going with Mediacom. (Not thrilled with their customer service, but...).

Of course, I can also sign into my Mediacom account and check usage, but it sure is nice to have backup numbers to compare with. If I start seeing huge discrepancies, then I will know to ask questions.

So, that's it. If any of you know how to check for different systems, be nice and share it with the rest of us.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Writing Status & Killing Time

The title of the post should actually be - Writing Status: Holding and Waiting, Not Procrastinating. By the way, excuse any rambling. I'm dealing with some brain fog today. However, to make up for it, I am including links at the bottom of the post. Have fun.

When I posted about getting settled in the apartment, a casual online friend asked if I was now back to working on the book(s).

Well, let's see...

This is my chair and desk.

All. Those. Pieces. Yikes!

As you can see, the chair is assembled - because it was a "Look Ma, no tools required" kind of thing. That desk... I broke down in tears of frustration just trying to identify all the parts and pieces.

Yeah, so, this is my current writing station:

Makeshift desk & my busted computer

At least I put on part of the un-assembled desk to good use.

When I said that I had gotten things in the apartment put together. I meant that I had managed to get myself to put things together enough so that I have somewhere to sit and sleep. For now, I am concentrating on recovering from the move. My energy was at rock-bottom levels for the past couple of weeks. I'm hoping that I'll be feeling better now that I've finally had my (overdue) infusion.
Not only do I still need the desk assembled, I have to hunt around for an affordable bedroom dresser. And there are still my unpacked boxes to deal with...

While I'm waiting for my energy to power back up, I have been checking out some great websites.

"Wrote a song about it. Like t'hear it? Here it goes."
In Living Color (David Alan Grier)

  • Lifehacker is just fun. It's a nice resource (sometimes) for writers
  • WonderHowTo is for when you wonder how to. See what I did there?
  • This video/GIF just because it nausates and fascinates me. 
  • Unsplash for free photos. I actually just like looking at them, but you are free to use them.
  • This is for when I need to let my brain just breathe. Good for when you feel overwhelmed and hyper.
  • AlternativeTo is for when you are either broke or cheap and need an alternative to paid apps/programs. Maybe, like me you are both broke and cheap!
  • Text Faces is just that. (ᵔᴥᵔ) See?
  • Lifewire has the name that makes me think of Motley Crue, but a motto I like: Tech Untangled. 
  • CamelCamelCamel is for Amazon addicts (me!) who like to price track (me!)
  • WhichBook helps you choose a book to read.
  • Have not checked out Instaread yet. Not sure if it will make me happy or sad...
  • So, GeoCron is an interactive history atlas.

So, I'm not back working on the writing projects yet. There is no procrastination involved though. Trust me, I can't wait to get back into my writing. When I do, you will hear my whoops of joy!


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