Carrie’s Corner 7/17/13

  Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
First of all, I’d like to send a thank you out to everyone who has expressed to me their enjoyment (and sometimes outright laughter) from reading my little article. Last week, I discussed the do not’s of handling container plants. So, to keep with the theme of container plants, I will continue this week with some more handy duty little ‘don’t even think about it’ tips. It should come as no surprise to people when their container plants start to actually grow. It should also come as no surprise to people when their container plants start to out-grow their containers. Then, it is time to transplant. Now, for some people, this seems to be akin to understanding advanced astrophysics. It isn’t.
There is absolutely no need to handle a transplanting as if you were transplanting a liver. It’s really not that complex. In fact, you can recycle a bunch of old items in your house….including dirt. That’s right, you can recycle dirt. The art of transplanting includes taking the plant out of it’s current container, and putting it into a larger container. That’s not rocket science. That’s Lego science. Most plants are also partial to one specific area of the home. They are not too tolerant to being moved around all over the place. That would be similar to someone picking up your house, with you in it, and moving you around to random parts of the town about once a week. If you’re doing that to your plant… stop that. Your plant doesn’t like that.
To transplant, all you need it a larger container than what the plant is currently in (preferably one that’s about twice the size of the current container to allow for ample growth), some additional dirt (the stuff outside in your yard is perfectly fine) and some water. Take the plant out of one container, put it in the new container. Add dirt to fill in the additional spaces, and add water (but do not soak the living daylights out of the dirt. Then it’s no longer dirt. It’s mud. Plants do not like mud). Voila! Plant is in its new container and ready to shock and amaze you by growing even bigger.

Carrie’s Corner 7/10/13

7/10/13

Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
For some people, house plants can be a real issue. I’ve heard just about every reason under the sun as to why people can’t get house plants to grow ‘properly’. For some, they think that once they put a house plant in a nice spot, that plant will just grow like a weed, and require a once a week watering. The biggest mistake people make regarding house plants is the idea that “It’s in a sunny spot, and I water it good….therefore it will grow big and tall”. Wrong. That idea needs to be completely thrown right out the window that the plant is sitting near. Preferably through the glass. House plants are basically like any other type of plant, with the only exception being that they are in containers, instead of in the ground. They need regular care, which includes watering, and making sure that their leaves are as free of dust and pollen, so that the plant can absorb the maximum amount of sunlight possible.
Another idea that ought to be run over by a herd of elephants and rammed into the nearest lamp post is the thought regarding “miracle grow” to help your house plant. For the love of anything that’s even remotely holy, never do this unless you are an absolute expert horticulturist. If you pick up a package of ‘miracle grow’, stop. Slap yourself in the face, and put it back down….and walk away. If your intention is to soak your plant roots in a vat of battery acid…then by all means, use the ‘miracle grow’, because that is basically what most people end up doing to the plant. If you think that your plant needs some plant food, purchase a plant food spike. Use ONE. I don’t care if your house plant is the size of the Chrysler building. Just use one plant food spike.
Finally, if you purchase a plant do not bring it home, set it in a nice place and walk off. No matter how much water and sunlight that plant will get, it will not grow beyond the confinements of the container it’s in. Transplant it into a larger container, to allow its roots to spread and grow. Transplanting is not rocket science. You are not required to have any level of education in order to transplant something from one container to a larger one. It requires 3 things. A larger container than the one the plant is currently in, dirt, and water. When a plant becomes too large for the container it’s in, it starts to get ‘root bound’. In essence, when kept there for too long, it starts choking itself to death. Literally. The roots start wrapping around each other. Eventually, they’ll manage to find their way out of the container through the drainage holes. Take that as an act of rebellion, and a clear sign that the plant needs to be put into a larger container. Take it easy, have fun playing in the dirt and always remember to be safe!

Carrie’s Corner 7/3/13

Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
While everyone in the United States is more than aware of the Independence Day celebrations, traditions and usual festive activities, here are a few things you may NOT know about July 4th. First, US Americans consume an average of 55 million hot dogs just on this day alone. That’s enough to stretch from L.A. To D.C. 5 times, with hot dogs left over.  Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died within hours of each other, on July 4, 1826. However, Calvin Coolidge (the nation’s 30th president) was born on July 4, 1872.
The US American will consume over $600 million dollars worth of fireworks, which will result in approximately 1400 hand injuries, with the majority of those injuries coming from 1800 degree sparklers. Fortunately for us, our fireworks consist of plastic material that makes a wonderful sound, especially when traveled over by several dozen of our townsfolk. No hand injuries there folks!
If  you’re going to party, please, do not believe that it is perfectly ok to get in your vehicle (or, on your vehicle), and drive. July 4th, is the deadliest day of the year across the nation for car accidents.While Massachusetts became the first state to recognize the 4th as an official holiday in 1781, Congress took their sweet time, and waited to make it a federal holiday until 1870.
And last, but not least, July 4th is the 6th most popular party holiday during the calendar, and the only one that falls during summer months. The city that throws the most July 4th events? San Diego, California! Clearly, the folks in San Diego have never been to the Sierra County festivities. Have a wonderful holiday everyone, and remember, please…be safe, drink responsibly and enjoy the bubble wrap!

Carrie’s Corner 6/26/13

Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
It is time once again for the whole of the area to prepare for the onset of Summer activities and festivities. It is also time, once again, for me to remind our dear readers of a few things that can help make everyone’s Summer much more enjoyable, and safe. For our lovely travelers that enjoy our area for their Summer vacations, I’d like to take a moment to brief you on some items that are well….safety related. First of all, I’d like to send a big thank you to both our local law enforcement officers and our local CFS workers, that go out of their way every day to help make this area as safe for us as they possibly can. Having said that, keep in mind that this particular area is already on a high alert for fires. Mother Nature does quite a good job of making sure that our fire fighters, law enforcement officers and CFS workers are kept on their toes. These men and women do not need any help from the humans in the area. So, please be sure to follow all of the fire safety regulations, right down to the last ‘T’.
Yes, we have cell phone service. Yes, we have television. Yes, we have computers. However, we also have 500 foot mountains, high winds and other such natural conditions that can, at times, make the use of these items a bit challenging. You’ll also notice that there are garbage bins located strategically around the area. Please use them. This not only helps keep the garbage from flying all over the area, but it also helps keep the bears at bay. You read that correctly….we also have bears. As much as we love our bicyclists that visit our dear area, please keep in mind that if you are riding your bike, you are also expected to adhere to the rules and regulations of the road, just as those of us who use cars and trucks. The speed limit is 15 mph, we have red zones (no parking/standing zones), stop signs and yield areas. Local, or not, bike, or not, you are expected to follow the rules of the road. Again, this area is not protected by Officer Barney Fife, and even our locals that have no badges, are more than willing to help remind you of our road safety rules and regulations. Or, you can just do an Internet check on the DMV web site.
If you are using a cell phone, and decide that you would like to continue using the cell phone while you are gassing up your vehicle, please do not be offended if one of the workers comes out of the gas station and politely asks you to stop using your cell phone. It’s a safety request. Quite frankly, we need our gas station as much as you do.  When using the restrooms at our Visitor’s Center, please remember that in order for us to be sure that you remember that the public restrooms are not designed to be showers, mud collectors, canvases for graffiti…or all of these at the same time. In order for these restrooms to be kept up to par for all of you, they have to be cleaned. Please try to be understanding about this. We are fully aware that when you gotta go, you gotta go….none the less, it’s much nicer to ‘go’ in a clean environment, than it is having to wade through bits of paper and mud all over the floor, and walls. The restrooms have garbage bins, please use them accordingly.
I wish everyone a wonderful, safe and happy Summer break, and may Mother Nature always be in your favor.

Carrie’s Corner 6/5/13

Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
With the heat getting worse already, try to keep in mind that not only can the heat cause damage, but it can also make you sick. Keeping yourself hydrated with cold, fresh water is one way to keep your body cool. However, water alone will not help you keep up your health. Try alternating water with other cool fluids, such as fruit juices and energy drinks (such as Gatorade or Activate water). As refreshing as they are, try and keep clear of carbonated drinks. It takes more for your body to break these drinks down, and the ‘cooling effect’ they have is momentary, at best. Remember, your pets will also need to keep cool during these hot days. Keep a small wading pool outside in the shade for your dog…and keep fresh bowls of cold water outside in the shade for all of your pets that are out door pets.
In order to keep the heat-related damages down to a minimum, keep all ground debris out of the way. If you can, try keeping your refuse raked up and placed in a plastic bag or container. Make sure the container gets a slight bit of air flow, and if necessary, water it down until you’re able to take it to the dump. Remember, even plastic can get very hot, so always use protective gardening gloves, or safety gloves when you’re handling items out in the sun.
Most of all, keep your children safe during the heat. Keep a small wading pool outside in the shade for them. Make frozen juice pops for them to cool off with, and during the height of the heat, keep them inside (if possible) in the cooler temperatures. Heat sickness/stroke is not biased towards any particular age group, so please keep yourselves, and your families safe from heat-related harm. This includes your ‘fur-babies’.

Carrie’s Corner 5/29/13

 
By: Carrie A. Blakley
What do you do when you have a bunch of stuff, and no place to put all of your stuff? Right, you try and get rid of some of your stuff. Instead of getting rid of it, however, how about trying to find new uses for it? Almost everything in your home can have double, or even triple, functions. For instance, if you have only one shoe lace, why not use that to help keep your growing tomato plants standing upright by supporting the plant to a garden stake with the shoe lace? Have a spare glass jar? Use it to hold all of the little items that seem to somehow get lost inside of your catch all drawer.
If you’re like me, and have a trash burning stove, kindling is not only easy to come by, it’s also highly economical. Simply keep a galvanized bucket next to the stove and use it to collect all of the paper items you would otherwise throw out into the garbage. Broken small appliances, that can’t be repaired, can be stripped down for parts that can be used for other common household projects. Screws, nuts, bolts, washers….all can be kept in the spare jars and re-used for other items.
Here’s another one, that my mother has absolutely perfected (to a certain degree): facial tissue boxes. Granted, no one needs to keep every single facial tissue box that crosses over their door step. However, thanks to the decorations on these boxes, and their unique size and shape, they can be re-used for a multitude of purposes. The idea, however, is to actually re-use them. Cardboard paper towel and toilet paper rolls can be used to safely hold everything from linens, to children’s artwork, and back again.
So before you toss out something, take a moment and ask yourself: “Can I re-use this for something else, or get parts off of this item that I might need in the future?”. If the answer is yes, not only have you provided yourself with an economical resource, but you have also helped to cut down on the amount of garbage that will pile up in the land fill. Remember….it’s better for you, and the environment! Recycle!

Carrie’s Corner 5/15/13

Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
It’s a wonderful feeling when we can open our windows and finally let the fresh air permeate our homes. Along with the fresh air, also comes fresh dust, pollen and airborne molds and mildews. This means that with the added air, comes added cleaning and sanitizing. Fortunately for us, the 3 best items to use for these purposes, are also the 3 least expensive. Those three are, rubbing alcohol, apple cider vinegar and white vinegar. Bleach can possibly be considered as a 4th, however because the fumes from the bleach can be quite caustic in and of themselves, I personally suggest leaving the bleach in the bottle for house cleaning purposes.
As for the rubbing alcohol. This substance is fantastic for killing germs on contact. However, it is also something that you have to use with extreme caution if you have pets and/or children (of any age) in the home. I suggest storing it in a location that is hard to reach for children (preferably behind a locked door), and even harder to reach for pets. When using the rubbing alcohol, make sure that the area is well ventilated as well as away from any ‘forced’ air circulation (i.e.: fans, air conditioning vent ducts…etc.). In this case, an open window, and/or door, will circulate the air just fine, without allowing the air to be mechanically forced into un-natural circulation.
When using the vinegar mixtures, use 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. You can adjust the cleaning mixtures in strength depending on how much is required for the task. White vinegar is one of the best cleaning substances to use for coffee pots, blenders, food processors (and other like smaller appliances). Vinegar is best to use on any item that will come into direct contact with food of any kind. Rubbing alcohol is best to use to clean up the exteriors of any item in the house that is made of stainless steel and will NOT be coming into contact with any food item, ever.
Areas that are best cleaned and sanitized with rubbing alcohol are: exteriors of stainless steel ovens, refrigerators and faucets. You can also use rubbing alcohol to clean off the exteriors of electronic items such as toasters, blenders, food processors, scales, coffee pots, tea pots and just about everything else in the kitchen, so long as those areas are NOT going to touch food. So remember, exterior surfaces ONLY are to be cleaned with rubbing alcohol. Use the vinegar for all other types of cleaning.
Regardless of what types of cleaning items you use throughout your home, remember that it’s better to have things cleaned and free of as much dust, pollen, mold and mildew, than it is to ingest and/or inhale these tiny little particles. Be safe, and always remember to wear cleaning gloves, and if you feel the need, wear something to cover your nose and mouth with while cleaning. Enjoy the fresh air, not the fresh pollens.

Carrie’s Corner 5/8/13

5/8/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
Up here in the mountains, the weather can be quite a bit ‘different’ than most other places. As we prepare for the warmer season ahead, we are also all too familiar with the city folks that travel up our way to enjoy the area…..and are completely and utterly unprepared for the weather. During this time of the year, we can see up to 5 different types of weather, all within less than 24 hours. Yes, my friends, sleet, snow, and hail are among those weather types. My best advice to our dear travelers, is to pack a rain coat, a set of warm clothes, a compact umbrella and some water proof boots or shoes. Up here, you will eventually run into some nasty weather, so it’s best to be prepared, rather than be caught out in a rain storm that might happen to come through the area for a couple of hours.
I would also like to remind our dear travelers that there is one way into this town, and one way out of this town….and those ways are on the same single road. The Downieville Classic is not held here because the trails and roads are easy to maneuver. In fact, even the best drivers in the world use extreme caution when they travel on these roads. Please use caution. Also, if you are asking someone for ‘a better’, or ‘an easier’, way out of the town, please do not be offended if you are looked at with a ‘deer in the headlights’ stare. People up here only need to know if you’re heading north, or south. East and West, to us, means that you either want to go kayaking, or mountain climbing.
As a final note, I’d like to also remind everyone that Downieville is not protected by Officer Barney Fife. We have very hard working law enforcement officers up here that are more than willing help you safely arrive at your destination. Therefore, heading out of town while ‘popping a wheely’ on your motorcycle, or ‘burning rubber’ as you take the first 25 mph curve out of town (which is often done just after you tell your passenger to ‘hold my beer and watch this’), is not really a recommended exiting strategy. So be safe, enjoy your stay with us and be prepared for weather changes up here. We love having everyone visit us, and it’s a lot more fun for everyone if you’re alive and not so cold that you require a period of heated incubation in order to rejuvenate your body temperature.
5/1/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
With the bears out, and, according to many locals, ‘the biggest bear anyone has ever seen on the planet’ walking about the area, it’s probably a really good idea to take a small bit of time to be sure that your yard, garage or home does not become an unintentional dinner buffet for the local wildlife. Granted, in many cases, this is easier said than done. The reason? Bears are not stupid animals by any stretch of the imagination. These are very smart creatures, and, like humans, are also creatures of habit. That being said, a simple bear bar over your dumpster, or some heavy logs and/or bricks on top of your trash can lid, is NOT going to keep the bears at bay. Here’s a secret….invest in locks.
The lock does not have to be some kind of intricate lock that even the best locksmith would be incapable of opening. These are bears, not rocket scientists. If any animal in our local wild kingdom is going to pick a lock, it’s going to be the local raccoons, not the bears. We don’t tend to really think about locking our garbage up all that well. We naturally assume that anything that’s named a ‘bear bar’ will stop the bears from getting into the trash bins. However, ‘bear bars’ across trash bins have holes in them for a reason. Those holes are made for latches and locks, that bears can’t pick and open.
Also keep in mind that a bear can smell food a long way off, so keeping the odor down is another very good way to keep them guessing. So unless you are the type of person that just loves to spend their mornings picking up garbage from all over the place in your pajamas, it’s a good idea to really take a moment to think about where you place your garbage, and how you take care of garbage odors. Remember, just because it smells like garbage to us, doesn’t mean that it’s going to smell like garbage to the bears….and the raccoons….and the birds and…well, just about any animal out there that happens to be hungry at night (which, is pretty much all of them).
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4/24/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
Now that the weather is getting nicer, many of us have started our little seedlings in starter pots, waiting for that moment then we see those new tiny green stems pop out of the soil. What we have to remember is that plants that are started in small 6/9 pack containers, or even 2 inch containers, can quickly become root bound. When transplanting these beautiful new plants, take care! Make sure you know just how big your plants will grow, both outward and upward. Take a few moments to read through the seed packet information, so that you know how far apart to plant them. Remember, many plants need a good amount of air circulation, as well as water and sunlight.
If you have extra soil left over, remember to recycle that soil. It will save you a trip to the nursery, and can also help to provide additional nutrients for your future planting. Make sure to keep an eye on transplanted plants. Some plants are more fragile than they appear, and can take awhile to adjust to their new home. If you see any wilting, or yellowing, of the leaves, stems and/or flowers, make sure to remove them as soon as possible. Always be sure to follow the watering directions for each plant. If you have to, you can go on the Internet and find out everything you need to know about any plant you may have. Enjoy the warmth, and enjoy your happy plants!
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4/17/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
Organizing cupboards, cabinets and closets can be a real pain, especially when the bulk of the items are placed in there for long-term storage. Keeping things properly, however, can become an issue if the items in storage are kept ‘un-contained’. Dust and must can be two of your worst enemies when it comes to keeping things stored for long periods of time. A few minor investments, and a little bit of organization can help to ensure that even your best items (such as your grandmother’s wedding dress, or your grandfather’s top hat) are kept safe for many years.
First, you want to invest in lavender scented items and/or some cedar scented items. These two are the best, and most natural, ways of warding off the unwanted silverfish, moths and bugs. Next, you want to invest in some air tight containers. These do not have to be clear, but they do have to be as air tight as possible. Even using Zip-lock plastic bags will do the trick, so long as you make sure as much of the air is out of the bag as possible prior to sealing it shut. If you are storing hanging items, make sure that you have a good plastic hanging bag, that is sealed at the bottom, and has a good zipper on it.
Now, onto the organizing. If you’re using plastic containers, those can be easily stacked and labeled. If you are using hanging clothes bags, make sure to try and wrap some plastic on top of the item, prior to hanging it inside the bag. If you are using plastic sealable bags, make sure you have a box, or basket, that you can easily stack and store those bags in (which helps to keep them from lunging out at you every time you open the closet door). Finally, make sure that you place some lavender, or cedar, in the bottom of each storage container. There you have it. A bit of time, a few labels, some plastic and a closet….and now you won’t have to worry about where on earth you placed your grandfather’s top hat, much less having to worry about moth holes on the brim.
4/10/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
With the warmer days upon us, and the plants beginning to sprout their new buds, it’s time to start thinking about preparing your pets for the warmer months that lay ahead. Making sure that they have a good brushing now and then is a really great way to not only maintain a healthy coat of fur (or, hair, as the case may be), but it also helps them get a tremendous amount of relief. Now is the time when they will begin (if they already haven’t) to shed their winter coats, and for many animals (especially cats and dogs), this can end up in us humans finding strategically placed hair balls all over the house.
Also be sure that your pet has all of its shots updated, and check their ears for dirt, dust and pollen build ups. Remember, even if your pet is an indoor pet, we still can carry things inside the home on our shoes and clothing that can be problematic for our pets. To cut down on this, try leaving your shoes and/or boots just inside the doorway, or an area where your pets don’t travel as often. Perhaps on a plastic mat placed just inside a closet, so the pets don’t get curious and try to sniff, and/or lick your shoes/boots.
Also bear in mind that any pets that go outdoors are prone to various ailments that can be contracted just by walking about the yard. Raccoons, mice, moles, voles, deer, bear, bobcat and mountain lions often find the yard not only a wonderful place to hunt down a midnight snack, but often find certain areas of the yard to be rather convenient ‘restrooms’. Make sure that if your pet goes out doors and it is protected as much as possible. To find out more about how to protect your pet from unwanted ailments, contact your local veterinarian for more information. And as always, be safe. If you think that something is around that your pet might even so much as think about exploring, that can cause it to become ill, move the item, or make it a point to restrict your pet’s access to that area. Be safe and may you, and your pet, have a beautiful Spring! 
4/3/13  (Something may be wrong with Carrie)
Cantankerous Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley

It’s time to make a wonderful Springtime cake! You will need the following: A cup of water, a cup of sugar, four

Large brown eggs, two cups of dried fruit, a teaspoon of salt, a cup

Of brown sugar, lemon juice, nuts, and a bottle of whiskey.

Sample the whiskey and check for quality.

Take a large bowl. Check the whiskey again. To be sure it is the

Highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the

Electric mixer, beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add

One teaspoon of sugar and beat again.

Make sure the whiskey is still okay. Cry another tup. Turn off the

Mixer. Beat two leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of

Dried fruit. Mix on the turner. If the fired druit gets stuck in the

Beaterers, pry it loose with a drewscriver.

Sample the whiskey and check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups

Of salt. Or something. Who cares? Check the whiskey. Now sift the

Lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Spoon. Of sugar of

Something. Whatever you find.

Grease the oven. Turn the cake tin to 350 degrees. Don’t forget to

Beat off the turner. Throw the bowl out of the window. Check the

Whiskey again and go to bed.

3/27/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
So we’re now officially in Spring, and many of our thoughts turn to the dreaded ‘Spring Cleaning Season’. Yes, I know that I wrote about this for the past 2 years, and most of you are wondering; “Why, for the love of all the gods above and below can’t she write about anything other than cleaning when it comes to Spring?!” Well, I am.
Many of us like to go out and enjoy the flowers and the beautiful trees that come into bloom….and fishing. Let’s not forget that we like to go fishing..and hiking, camping, picnic-ing, and yard sale browsing. There’s just one little problem. After a full day of being out and about, we realize that our vehicles can be well, a bit on the messy side. Easy solution. A medium-sized cooler, packed with everything you need for a day out. Sorry, lunch is not included in this cooler. This list will seem long, but when you look, you will actually have quite a bit of room left inside the cooler for other, more important things. Like, lunch..for example.
Inside you can place: Plastic drop cloth, accordion organizer (sm – med), blanket (sm), bungie cords, handi-wipes, small galvanized bucket, a newspaper (preferably, this one), a roll of paper towels, plastic grocery bags (stuffed inside the cardboard roll of the paper towels), mini broom and dust pan, scissors, flashlight and, spare batteries for said flashlight. You should have enough room left over to also add a travel sized first aid kit, some bug spray, spare sunglasses, plastic utensils, a small hand saw, a pair of flip flops and some various sized zip lock style sandwich bags.And if all else fails, wear the bucket on your head. Trust me, it will make you feel better.
3/20/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
With Spring well on the way, and those adorable yellow Daffodils blooming all over the place, the Forsythia coming out in bright spots of gold and the Crocus showing beautiful colors, now is the time to really start preparing for your garden (if you have not already started).  If you want to attract birds to your yard, now is a good time to start cleaning out and hanging up the bird feeders. This includes Hummingbird feeders. Make sure that any stagnant water areas are cleaned up (save for water gardens), as these are prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Then again, if you’re trying to attract bats (which are good for the garden), then perhaps a puddle here and there wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Another idea, that is far more attractive than a puddle, is a water garden.
Make sure that all of your gardening tools are cleaned, honed and sorted. If you have an older large plant pot, that can be a handy, and decorative, way to store your smaller tools. Always remember to keep the handles up, or, if they’re laying flat, keep the handles facing towards you. Not only does it make it easier to just grab a tool and go, but it’s also safer. Make sure any gardening gloves you have are clean and free of any holes or pesticides. If you need to, stock up on a pair, or two.
Last, and most certainly not least, plan for ‘strange weather’. Remember, it is not all that unusual for it to rain, sleet, snow, hail and have sunshine, all within 1 day in these parts, especially during this time of year. So if you’re starting plants in seedling pots, be sure to keep them indoors until the threat of frost has passed. Or, in this area….June.
3/6/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
Most of us probably remember our parents keeping jars around the house for various reasons. Our mothers would use them to hold little craft, or sewing, items (buttons, snaps, pieces of ribbon), and our fathers would use them to hold smaller household items (nails, bolts, washers, etc.). Today, we can go into just about any store and find decorative jars that we can use for any number of things. Some of these jars can be quite pricey however. So instead of purchasing jars, why not just save the ones we use, like many generations before us have done?
If we take a closer look, we can find jars of all shapes and sizes in the markets. In one store alone, I found an octagon, square, oval, round and even a rectangular jar…and in many different heights and widths. There are many benefits to using jars as well. If they’re clear glass, you can just look and see what is inside, without having to open them and inspect the contents (this comes in real handy when you’re storing a bunch of little random items in a container – such as buttons or nails). They can be re-used for many different purposes, even if you’ve used them to store small bits of food or liquid in, and, the plastic type jars, can be fun for kids to use for storing small toys, crayons and hair accessories.
A fun project for adults is to use a decorative jar and make a ‘vacation jar’. Perhaps you’ve found that adorable small shell, or that special little trinket from your travels. Make a vacation jar by placing your small items in the jar and showing off your travel collection on a nice shelf. Perhaps place a theatre ticket stub, or an amusement park ticket stub, some shells or other little finds, into the jar. Whatever you use a jar for, one thing is certain, the jars will thank you for it. Remember to be safe. Make sure the jars are kept clean, and air dried before re-using them!
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2/27/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
Believe it, or not, gardeners have a pretty good sized ‘to do’ list in March. Seeds need to be sorted and sewn into their beginning containers. Any early mulching that can be done needs to be taken care of fairly soon. Old winter growth that is brown and wilted can be cut back now (if you have not already done this). Rose bushes and trees should be starting to show signs of new growth, and small buds should begin to start forming on the branches.  Pull the mulch away from perennials, shrubs and trees to allow the soil to warm around them during the day. Carnations, daisies, marigolds, petunias and snapdragons can also be planted, and, towards the end of March, you can start fertilizing the lawn…unless, of course, the lawn is white.
If you are starting new herbs, be extra careful with Basil plants! These tend to turn black very quickly when they are exposed to cold weather. So be sure to keep any herbs I their containers until it is well past the last frost. In this area, that can be anytime between late April and….whenever. Now is also a really good time to get those gardening tools cleaned up, and any gardening shears sharpened and ready for the season ahead. Be sure to take a good look for worn parts of your garden and yard tools. Replace them if necessary, keeping the old ones for those ‘just in case’ moments. However, be sure to discard any tools that have been rusted, have broken metal or warped plastics. Those can accidentally get into the soil, and cause unwanted problems.
Now is also a good time to go through any plant foods and pesticides that you may use. If you use frog houses, ladybug homes, bird feeders or bat houses, now is also a good time to check those out and make sure they are ready to go for the season ahead. Any bee and/or wasp traps should be cleaned out, and/or restocked. Be sure to check the garden hoses for any potential splits, leaks or other damage, as well as checking the connections to be sure the washers are properly in place, and the tap itself is working properly with no leaks. Make repairs as necessary. It may seem like a lot to do now, and much of it might seem to belong on the “I’ll-get-it-done-later” list. Some, perhaps, you can put off. However, when it comes to the plants themselves, try not to put those items off. Your plants will thank you for that in May.
2/20/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
During the cold Winter months, we keep many of our items in storage. One item we generally don’t keep too stored up is candles. During the power outages, we use them for light. Other times, they’re used for decoration and for birthdays. As we all know, candles are relatively inexpensive, and come in hundreds of shapes, sizes, colors and scents. Candles can also be a real pain in the neck to store properly, especially colored and/or scented candles. Candles also pose a fire danger, so both using them, and storing them, properly are essential.
Storing candles can require a little bit of work, especially if you have dark colored candles, or heavily scented candles…or both. These types of candles can ‘bleed’ their colors onto anything near them. Both color and scent are infused into the wax, which makes the candles themselves wonderful, but also difficult. To store these types of candles safely, wrap each candle individually in wax paper. Wrap the wax paper covered candles in either parchment paper, or pieces of plain brown paper bag material (simply cut a paper bag into sheets in the size you require for each candle). Store the candles in a cool, dry location. Shoe and boot boxes are excellent storage containers for candles.
Smaller candles, such as birthday candles, or Advent candles, can be a bit trickier to store. In the case of birthday candles, we generally keep them in the box which they are purchased in. If you intend on using these candles often, that box is fine. However, if not, simply wrap the candles into small sheets of wax paper, and bundle them with kitchen twine. The smaller bundles can then be wrapped together in paper and stored. The additional benefit to using the paper exterior wrap is that you can use a pen and mark what the contents are, which, in the long run, saves you a lot of searching around for the right candles to use. Always remember safety!! Never leave any candles burning unattended, even for a few seconds, especially if you have pets or small children in the house!
Editors Note: or cats and don’t go to sleep with a candle burning on the TV (right Miriam?)
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2/13/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
I can’t count how many times I’ve gone through boxes, bags and old suitcases that have been crammed with clothing that I’ve been just stashing away for one reason or another. The excuses are numerous. Too good to throw out. Too cute to give away. Saving for any grand-children I might have at some point in the future. Torn a bit, but would come in handy to use as a smock for craft projects. Material is still good, even though there are a couple of moth holes here and there. Pick an excuse, I’ve probably used it to save clothing and blankets. The problem is that these items tend to pile up almost as fast as dust bunny piles under the sofa.
So one day, while browsing through some old magazines, this photo of some really unique toss pillows caught my eye, and I found myself staring at this photo thinking: “How on earth did they do that? This is brilliant!” Here’s how. Old clothing. So, I decided to see if I could get my mind wrapped around the use of old clothing. Two months later, I had a patch work denim quilt pattern laid out across my kitchen floor, that was fashioned from pieces of old denim clothing bits I had been saving. I still have the quilt stored protectively in my closet.
This brought me to begin looking at older clothing in a whole new way. This sweater would be great as a toss pillow. That blanket would make a beautiful body pillow. Those jeans would make for great quilting material. I even took a pair of my son’s jeans and made a fun one-of-a-kind Christmas stocking for him. Still looks perfect, even after 10  years. So, before you throw out that semi-worn sweater, or those hole-in-the-knee jeans, take a second look and see if you can’t give those items new life, outside of the trash bin. Besides, you never know when an extra toss pillow will come in handy!
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2/6/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
Have you ever woken up in suddenly in the middle of the night, because something in your brain triggered a memory spark, and you realize, at 3 in the morning, that you perhaps forgot to take care of something the day before? Have you wandered into a store, only to come out with a huge bag filled with items, gotten half way home and then suddenly realized, you never purchased the item(s) you went into the store for in the first place? Have you ever walked into a room, and completely forgot why you went into that room at all? Have you ever spent a long time looking for your eye glasses, only to figure out that you can’t find them, because you’re still wearing them, or they’re on top of your head? Have you ever gone searching for your pet, only to turn around and figure out that your pet has been following you around on your search the entire time? Me too!! Why do we do that?
We often simply chalk all that up to forgetfulness. This isn’t, I suspect, just good old fashioned forgetfulness. I tend to chalk these memory lapses up to what I call a mental overload of information. Thanks to all of the various types of educational and communicational forms of media, our brains are taking in more information in 1 day, than most people’s brains took in within a month just 60 years ago. Simply put, our brains are working over time. We walk around thinking ‘I need to do this, this, that, this, that, that and this”, instead of taking one task on at a time. We think of a million different things while we’re performing various tasks too. It’s a mental overload. This is part of the reason why meditation, Yoga and other such types of relaxation exercises have become to vastly popular.
Granted, many of us simply no longer have the time to shut down life around us, and go meditate for an hour (or two). We don’t have the energy left over at the end of the day to take on an hour’s worth of Yoga. We are mentally drained to the point that if we slowed down for even 10 minutes to take a few nice, slow, deep breaths……we’d literally pass out from exhaustion. The harsh truth is, we need to. Our bodies are asking us to. Even if we live somewhat calm lives, the information we’re taking in daily, is enough for our brains to want to run screaming from our skulls in self defense. Take time to relax. Set aside a good amount of time to sleep at night. Let your body, mind, and soul completely relax….and the next day, you’ll be ready to face the day a little better off, and a lot less stressed out. Remember, sleep and relaxation are your friends!
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1/30/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
Many of us generally have drier skin in the winter time.  There are salves, and creams, and scrubs, and ointments….and the list is nearly endless. The true question is, which type of treatment is best for you? If you have any type of known skin condition (such as Psoriasis), it is obviously best to talk to your doctor prior to using any type of new skin moisturizer. However, if no such known skin condition exists, the best type is the type that is easily absorbed into the skin, and as natural as possible.
Do it yourself (DIY) lotions and creams are best, because you can control what ingredients go into these items. You can find all of the necessary items for a relatively low cost, in just about any natural food store, or, just do a quick search on the Internet. Prices obviously vary, depending on the company, the quantity and, of course, the quality of the product itself. Moreover, although many companies sell these items in bulk, there are quite a few out there who have adjusted their products for smaller sized purchases, and many companies offer discounts!
Always keep in mind that your skin, even though it may be dry, needs to breathe. Try not to overload on the products you use. Although it may seem as if the product has already completely absorbed into the skin, it is best to carefully read the usage instructions provided for you on the product packaging. Some products, such as body oils, are made in concentrated form, which means that a very small portion of that item will go a long way.  Always use these products in moderation, and play it safe! If you notice and changes in your skin, rashes that occur or other such changes, stop using the product and contact your doctor to have it checked out.
Our skin needs some extra TLC in the winter time. Moisturizers, salves, lotions, oils and creams often do the trick. However, a good cup of tea and a nice warm blanket can also feel just as soothing. Stay warm everyone!
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1/23/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
Folks around here know that when it comes to being safe, knowledge is the biggest weapon. We’re taught about keeping ourselves safe from wildlife as well as plants that can pose a health threat to us (Poison Oak being at the top of this list in these parts). None the less, we are all human and will be human for the rest of our lives. That being said, although we are creatures of habit, we have this extraordinary talent of screwing up now and then.  We hunt. We fish. We trap. We camp, and we also have accidents while partaking in these activities.
Many have have the fishing mishap, where we begin to cast our line into the water, only to find that we also just about cast our pants into the water along with the line. We set a small trap during a hunting trip, and nearly trap our left legs in the process. We go camping and wake up to realize that we hadn’t closed the cooler properly, and the local raccoons had yet another party with the cooler being the center of attention. We go hiking, and forget to wear bug repellant, and aren’t paying much attention to what’s around us…inevitably returning home covered in bug bites and Poison Oak rashes.
However, there then comes the case of having to potentially worry about facing down very large wildlife. Particularly bears and mountain lions. These are animals that can eat your feet (and then some), and the last thing anyone wants to do is confront these animals with anything less than absolute and complete respect. Yet, we still go into their territory ill prepared for such a potential meeting. They are always prepared. They are born prepared. The very nature of their survival is based entirely upon preparedness. There are two very important things to remember when you are trekking into their homes. First, just because you see them does not mean it’s a photo opportunity. They do not like cameras and would probably rather have them for a snack.
Second, they do not like to be talked to, or treated as a domesticated pet. Saying “nice kitty” if you are confronted by a lion is not a good idea. These animals are not going to roll over and let you pet their  belly. They might roll over while holding you in a death grip, but that’s about the only rolling over those ‘nice kitties’ will be doing. Why am I writing an article like this during this time of year? Because up here, these animals don’t take ‘long winter naps’. The food sources are too plentiful still. Be careful. Be safe and please…don’t feed the bears.
1/16/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
One of the headlines in the news this week was ‘California Braces Itself For The Flu’. I sat here wondering how long it was going to take the media to realize that California, along with the rest of the country, was already dealing with the flu season. I also sat back, wondering just how one of the most common, and bothersome, members of the ‘infectious disease’ family, came to be given its own ‘season’. None the less, it’s here. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon. So I suppose the best anyone can do is to prepare themselves for the ‘season’ that lies ahead of us. As much as we don’t like the flu, and would rather not have it show up at our door steps like an unwelcome guest, it would probably be a good idea to get to know the flu a bit better. You know, keep your friends close….keep your enemies closer.
The first step involves getting to understand the flu itself, and its history. For that, you can visit the WikiPedia site here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influenza. This page offers a very good set of ‘who, what, where, when, how and why’ regarding the flu. He second step involves learning about the many aspects of the flu, including treatment, prevention and symptoms. For that, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.
We were all raised with the standard ‘put on your coat’ and ‘cover your head’ for winter outings. Your mom was right about that, and you should pass on that knowledge to your children. The truth of this is that you aren’t necessarily going to prevent yourself from getting the flu, but rather, will make yourself less appealing to the flu (so to speak). Your head, hands and feet are considered ‘extremities’. Covering these up, means that you will keep much of your body heat in. In other words, you’re making yourself less vulnerable. Keep yourself as healthy as possible too. Eat plenty of well-balanced meals, and exercise daily – even if it’s a walk around the block, or a few stretches in the living room.
Talking to your doctor about flu prevention is one of the best courses to take, especially if you are already dealing with a medical issue. Keeping warm on cold days, eating plenty of the right foods and getting some exercise each day is a good way to keep your body at its best. Don’t’ worry about it if you can’t get out there and jog 3 miles, or do 100 sit ups in your living room. The object is not to go into Olympian style training, but rather to keep yourself active and healthy. Oh…and wear a hat. Your head will thank you for it when you get home.
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1/9/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
When we take down and store our old holiday decorations, it seems that somehow, a few of our smaller storage boxes have suddenly gone on protest and disappeared. Well, at least mine have. This is when it’s time to get creative, and start recycling a few things that we’d normally throw out. Examples are; egg cartons, hard plastic containers, styrofoam flats and cracker boxes. More often than not, we simply toss these in the trash, recycling bin or, in the cases of paper and cardboard, may rip them up and use them for kindling pieces. However, when your holiday storage containers go missing, these nice little items come in real handy. Simply clean these items out well (you don’t want any food particles running amuck amongst your holiday items), let them air dry and they’re ready to be used.
In the cases of food flats and plastic containers, you may also consider giving them a very light spray with a disinfectant spray. In the cases of storing holiday candles, remember to wrap them up well in wax paper prior to putting them in their storage containers. Paper towels, paper napkins and facial tissues are also good items to use for wrapping up your more delicate items, especially if you’re placing them in egg cartons or plastic containers. Once all of your holiday items are in place, it’s on to removing the tree…..and the pine needles that you’ll have to spend hours vacuuming off of your floors….for the next 3 months….
1/2/13
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
With 2013 upon us, many people like to make ‘new year’s resolutions’. While some are well thought out, and made with the best intentions. My advice is to either stick to them until the goal is reached, or don’t make them at all. Better yet, make resolutions that are more accommodating to your personal life style. For example, if you resolve to start living a healthier life style, don’t think you have to go all gung ho right off the bat, spending lots of money on expensive ‘health foods’ and beginning intensive exercise classes.
The idea behind making resolutions is to try and become a better person, inside and out, for yourself – not the world around you. And don’t do yourself in by announcing your resolutions to the world. That just puts additional pressure on you that is completely unnecessary. Also, when making resolutions, prepare yourself for a few ‘off’ days (or even weeks). No one has the ability to peer into the future and know exactly what’s going to happen in your life on a daily basis. You might get a cold. You might have a family emergency. You might have financial changes.
Just be prepare for life getting in the way of your goal(s), and don’t let that hinder you from pushing forward to reach your goal(s). Also keep in mind that not too many things change over night. Even a goal to lose 5 pounds doesn’t happen in a day. Don’t get stressed out. Keep calm, and carry on…and have a wonderful and happy new year!
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12/26/12
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
Snow, snow, snow, snow, SNOW! It’s beautiful though, isn’t it? It can also be dangerous. Sadly, people lose their lives each year in snow-related accidents that are almost always 100% preventable. What’s even more sad, is when these accidents also cause the loss of life for those rescue workers whose job it is to venture out into the weather in order to try and save the accident victims. Even locally, and as well as the roads are taken care of, this area is not to be taken lightly, especially during the dead of winter.
For example, never eat snow. The question is, why not? Isn’t snow simply a frozen form of water? Yes, it is. However, eating snow can actually not only lower your body temperature, but it can also contain germs, bacteria, pollens and pollutants that could very well make you sick, if it is ingested in large amounts. Another thing to consider are your extremities. Generally speaking, those refer to the hands, feet and head. Making sure that these are properly insulated from the cold will help to keep your body temperature normal, and thereby keeping you healthier when venturing outside.
Driving in the snow, especially in this area, can be (and often is) dangerous. Do not ever assume that just because you’re used to these weather conditions, that you can drive normally, or even close to the recommended speed limit. If the signs say “4 wheel drive or chains only”…either put the chains on, throw it into 4 wheel drive, or turn around and go back. Those signs are not there just for visitors. They are there for everyone. Safe driving is great, but, around here, there is also the very real possibility of seeing wildlife cross our paths. On snowy roads, the danger of attempting to avoid this, or even slow down and/or come to a complete stop, is 10 fold. Remember, not only is the snow and slush dangerous, but the oils, and other natural debris on the roads also pose a threat. So please, drive with extreme caution!
Finally, as anyone in this neck of the woods well knows, if the wind blows the wrong way here, the power goes out. For many, especially those with serious medical conditions, and the elderly, this can pose an even greater problem. Prepare for a power outage well in advance. Make sure you have plenty of water (fill the tub if you have to), already-prepared foods that need little to no heating, a cooler that you can put perishables in to keep them fresh and stock up on any over the counter medication you require. Although power outages normally do not last long in these parts, for those who have medical conditions, even 1 day without power can pose a potential health problem.
Be prepared. Be aware. Be safe. Enjoy the snow…just, carefully.
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12/19/12
Carrie’s Corner
By: Carrie A. Blakley
Almost everyone loves a good egg nog for the holidays (even without the Rum), but what is egg nog, and when was it created? Have people been drinking egg nog since the beginning of civilization? The answers may surprise you. The origins of egg nog are still debated, however the most solid information says that it was possibly derived from a medieval drink called ‘Posset’; made from hot milk, wine and spices, and was often used as a cold remedy, rather than a thick drink.
Recordings of egg nog being consumed do, however, date back as early as the colonial times. Isaac Weld, Junior, in his book Travels Through the States of North America and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, during the years 1795, 1796, and 1797 (published in 1800) wrote: “The American travellers, before they pursued their journey, took a hearty draught each, according to custom, of egg-nog, a mixture composed of new milk, eggs, rum, and sugar, beat up together;…”
There are many variations of the drink as well, from a modified Posset (which is served today as more of a mousse), to the Latin American version called Coquito (which is made using coconut milk and white rum, as well as cloves, instead of nutmeg). Either way you have egg nog, it is a treat indeed! If you pick up a carton of commercial eggnog at the supermarket, you’re probably getting much more nog than egg. FDA regulations only require that 1.0 percent of a product’s final weight be made up of egg yolk solids for it to bear the eggnog name. For “eggnog flavored milk,” the bar is even lower; in addition to requiring less butterfat in the recipe, this label only requires 0.5 percent egg yolk solids in the carton.

Nutritional info aside, eggnog still has a strong following among holiday drinkers. It’s hard to top the devotion shared by a Virginia father and son in the late 19th century, though. In 1900, Good Housekeeping ran a story about the Christmas-morning eggnog traditions of Virginia, and it included this anecdote:So religiously is this custom of the eggnog drinking observed that Judge Garnett of Mathews County tells a story of rushing in on Christmas morning to warn his father that the house was on fire. The old gentleman first led his son to the breakfast table and ladled out his glass of eggnog, drank one with him, then went to care for the burning building.”

Egg nog’s nutritional values are wretched. The cholesterol count in one cup is so high, that it can equal up to 1/4 of the recommended daily intake of cholesterol. This is also dependent on the size of the glass you have, as well as how much of the preferred alcohol you use per glass (hopefully, if any, it’s only a pinch, just for the taste). Let’s face it, no one wants to see grandpa dancing around on the coffee table, wearing a lamp shade and singing horribly off-key versions of Frosty The Snowman, just because he’s had too much rum in his nog…er..noggin.

So enjoy the holidays, and now you can tell everyone how much you know about Egg Nog (and no doubt, several people will tend to argue with you over this knowledge, probably because they’ve had too much rum in their egg…er…nog), and please, no matter how over-whelming the urge, no dancing on the furniture, even if grandpa is doing a really good rendition of an Irish jig. Happy Holidays everyone!

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