Come On In and Set a Spell

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

Welcome! Or, Welcome Back! as the case may be. 🙂

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The Big Book Of Amazing Cakes

I love to bake from scratch and I’ve been a fan of The Great British Baking Show. When I discovered the following it was a match made in Heaven.

The Great British Baking Show: The Big Book of Amazing Cakes by The Baking Show Team

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a long-time fan of the show, I have been looking for something like this book for years. The recipes are well written – and converted for us non-Brits who have issues using their processes. My absolute favorite thing about the book, however, is that several base recipes are set up with different measurements depending upon the size of the bake you want to make. This means if you want to make a different size version, the measurements are provided for you. Genius!

From what I’ve seen, no matter your skill level there is something in the book you can make.

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Taking A Breather

Or I might have overdone it a bit yesterday.

Much to my amusement, Saturday once again turned out to be a Busy Day. I don’t know why, but even though I’m retired I seem to get more done during the weekend than during the week. Truly, it makes no sense to me. A friend mused that it is a result of all those years when the only time to do housework, etc., was on the weekend.

The lawn guys came and mowed the lawn – and I can not tell you how thrilling it is to realize that I actually have a lawn after a few too many years of too much shade and too little grass. After all the rain we’ve had they had a bit of a clean up to do, but it still is beautiful!

I turned the telly on to “The Lawrence Welk Show” and went into the Library/Craft Room to start in on a clear out. I’d been working on it for a while; getting rid of old magazines and catalogs, sorting through the papers that needed to be shredded, collecting the no longer needed cardboard and started hauling it all to the trash/recycle bins. I even managed to kill my 25+ year old shredder. And I wasn’t even trying! LOL!

Clutter not only takes up space physically but it crowds out creativity, too. I recently splurged on replacement ink pads since my old one are a bit old. I also picked up a couple of paper packs that I really liked. After the major clear out, I sat down and put the color/name labels on the ends of the pads and set them up for storage. I drooled over the new papers, too. Why not!

I’ve been bingeing on card demonstrators to see new ideas for the new papers. Stampin’ Up’s new catalog goes live on Tuesday, May 4th so there are a lot of new ideas out there!

Paige over at Farmhouse Vernacular has introduced The Vernacular Society, which I think is brilliant. She has all the information on her website. I will be looking into joining.

The Garden Adventure continues. I have a window full of planters all with at least one seed that has sprouted and is in some level of growth. Many have 4 leaves or more!

Weather-wise we’ve gone from cold to wet to hot to cold to wet to …

My U.K. folks – Mr. Carrington, Hermione Chantal, and Luke Catleugh, posted recently about their adventures now that the charity shops are once again open and people are able to get out and about for a while. I honestly don’t know which I like most; the opportunity to do some armchair traveling or checking out the hauls.

DIY Danie has done some great projects around her house, too. All of them give me some inspiration as I work to update my home.

I’m thinking that it is probably time to get back to what I had planned before the shingles came to visit back in March. That being said, don’t be surprised to see some updates.

If you like what you’ve seen and read, please click on the “like” button below and please share us with your friends. I’m always amazed that there are so many folks who come by to see what Bella Cat and I are up to. We appreciate your including us in your own adventures.

That being said, if you have comments or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

In the meantime, I’m off to put my feet up a bit. 🙂

From The Reading Table: ‘Another Time, Another Place’

Another Time, Another Place by Jodi Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one snuck up on me. I hadn’t noted the release date in my calendar and when I came upon a notice that the book was out I grabbed it. Needless to say, I have been up all night listening (and I still haven’t finished it).

One thing that continues to amaze me is the way Jodi is able to literally put me in the middle of whatever, wherever, whenever with such apparent ease that I feel like I’ve just joined in the latest expedition. Considering the track record of St. Mary’s, however, that might not be a good idea.

I admit, thanks to reading a review on Audible and being a bit, shall we say, concerned about the potential outcome, I did fast forward to the last chapter and then immediately return to where I left off. As a rule, this is a Major No-No for me. It did not fill in all the blanks or provide all the explanations but it did provide a bit of … relief before the next adventure.

O. M. G.!!!!!

Which, come to think about it, is pretty much the reaction of the reviewer who enticed me to do my fast forward. That, in a nutshell, should tell you a lot.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m heading back to continue the adventure and then start over for that all-important second round (of many) to make sure I caught all the little things that might have been missed. Or not.

Buckle up. It’s a grand adventure!

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Rediscovering Aloe Vera

Or, how I found a fabulous collection of skin and hair care products.

When I was a kid, the next door neighbor lady had a wondrous garden full of beautiful flowers and interesting plants. One of those plants was an Aloe Vera plant that was carefully tended in its own pot. When I asked about it, I was told that should I get a burn or a cut, the gel from one of the fronds of the plant would help reduce any pain and help the wound heal. Turns out, it did!

I never forgot the lesson learned, but it was years before I had an opportunity to use the plant again.

A Little History (Mine)

For many years my skin was rather oily and decidedly not dry and my hair bordered on oily with lots of frizz should I be in a humid area. I learned that the <cough> lower cost products for hair and skin just didn’t work for me. I found a mid range brand of hair care that worked for me and a brand of skin care that was reliable, affordable and fit my style.

I should note, that I don’t use lots of ‘product’ on my hair or skin. I have never been one of those girls (!) who liked all the fuss and bother of hair styling; I prefer as little effort as possible. My blow-drier, for example, hasn’t been used in … years? As for makeup, let’s just say I used to go through periods where I enjoyed playing with it, but at the end of the day, so to speak, it was just so much stuff to be cleaned off my face. <shrug> 🙂

I do still find it fascinating, just not on me.

When I find a product that works for me, I stick with it. I’d been using the same shampoo/conditioner for years usually alternating formulas depending upon need and access. I prefer to find a 2 in 1 version (shampoo/conditioner in one bottle) but am open to using 2 different products if necessary. I’d used the same skin care for decades because the moisturizer was Fabulous.

So, why did I change if I loved them so much? Because, as is usual, both I and the products I was using changed.

Let’s Start With My Hair, Shall We?

Actually, everything actually began with my hair. I’ve not had a hair cut in over a year. This was partly because I wanted a change and partly because the world had a bit of a change. Anyway, thanks to a good cut (Thank you, Carol!) my hair retained good layers and was decent even though much longer than expected over time, but I started to notice that as I was brushing out my hair after my shampoo I was getting more tangles and a lot more left in the brush. I also noticed that my hair wasn’t growing as much as it had been. Hmmm

At the time, I was watching several YouTubers who were talking about a brand they used who also happened to sponsor them in a product review. I was interested and looked into the product. The price point stopped me in my tracks. Literally.

Now, I’m not cheap by any means but I was not prepared to pay what they were asking for just to try something that might, or might not, work for me. It didn’t matter that I could choose my own colors or fragrances or add stickers to the bottles, either.

I mentioned my conundrum to my friend, Kate, who had used similar (in some cases the same) products as I had for quite a few years.

As it happened we were in our yearly “what would you like for Christmas?” discussion. My friend asked me if I would be interested in trying something she was using and, if so, she’d send it along as my present that year. She also asked if she could send along some samples of other products to try. Turns out she loved the products so much, she became a consultant. Sure, why not?

Well, the box with my present and the samples of other goodies both arrived around the holidays and I was intrigued to discover that the main ingredient for all of the products was aloe vera.

Unexpected Results

I have to tell you I was surprised about the shampoo and condition right from the first try.

First, “Less is More” applies with both. You don’t need a lot to get clean, soft and shiny hair. The shampoo has no frothy detergents so if you are expecting lather you’ll be disappointed. On the other hand, you will get a clean scent and a thorough clean. The conditioner has the same scent and even the small pea sized amount massaged through your hair will do the job. And what a job it does!

Remember I mentioned that I had been having difficulty with tangling and hair loss? No more! My brush went through my still wet hair with no catches and no dragging. When my hair dried, there was no frizz, either.

The biggest surprise, however, came a few weeks later when I discovered that not only was my hair growing the color had cleared, too. Now I’ve not colored my hair in years, and really, the only reason I did was my natural color was dull and, to my mind, boring.

Let me tell you that my hair is no longer dull, no longer boring. It has a clarity and shine I’ve not seen since I was maybe four. As for the frizz, well, unless I happen to be in high humidity, it is gone. So, too, are the dry ends.

All of this using approximately a 1/2 teaspoon of shampoo and a 1/4 teaspoon amount of conditioner?!!!!!

Let’s Talk About Skin Care, Shall We?

I started out with oily skin that over the years has evolved to a moderate combination skin. I don’t use strong soaps or detergents on my face because they not only strip natural oils they can inflame the skin enough to have it over produce oils that lead to blemishes.

I also look for a moisturizer that does the job without being sticky, gloppy or sitting on my skin rather than working in the lower levels. (I wasn’t a skin care consultant for a few years for nothing…)

Because I liked the shampoo and conditioner so much, I ordered the free samples of the skin care collection. They arrived at the opportune moment because I developed a case of Shingles on the back of my head down to my shoulders with a few touching base on the side of my face.

I discovered that the aloe vera in the products really helped the blisters heal and soothed the inflammation as the healing process occurred. Between the aloe in the hair care and the aloe in the cleanser and moisturizer, I think I managed a better result than if I’d just used a lotion and my old shampoo/conditioner.

One of the samples Kate sent was the basic aloe gel which I used when the outbreak was in the early stages.

Now that the outbreak is almost completely gone, I do have some dark spots that are fading but no scarring.

What I also have is a good cleanser and a moisturizer that is so concentrated they recommend you add a drop of water to it to loosen it up a bit.

Oh, and let me tell you about that Smooth n’ Firm Eye Repair Gel. O.M.G.!!!!!

I’ve never used anything like that before and the results were astounding! I occasionally have bags both under and over my eyes. A little dab (really!) of the gel cleared that up almost immediately. I literally could not believe my eyes.

So, now what?

Well, for me, I’m looking to check out the body care. I know I will be buying more shampoo & conditioner and they have a collection that includes hand and body wash and lotion along with a body butter that Kate said was marvelous.

Why am I telling you about this? Simple. I believe in sharing knowledge about good products. I don’t recommend things I’ve not tried. If you are looking to try something that might work for you, go over to L’BRI PURE N’ NATURAL and see what they have to offer.

But, don’t take my word for it. Check it out yourself.

Remember I said that Kate liked the products so much she became a consultant for them? The link I’ve shared is to her site. Please go over and check it out and, should you have any questions, you can reach out to her directly.

To clarify, I am not being sponsored for this review by either L’BRI or Kate, this post is my experience with the products.

Odds And Ends

I spent March down with Shingles which provided an opportunity to change the way I did some things and create chaos with the way I want to create things. <shrug> 🙂 April has turned out to be an opportunity to ease back into a ‘normal’ work process here at the Mulebarn. Bear with me – it hasn’t been easy.

Have You Seen?

I don’t know about you but I’ve been struggling to keep some sense of order with my viewing habits. Some shows have had short seasons, constantly interrupted by specials, repeats or whatevers. Other shows have had episode drops that allow a binge to occur – even when I’d rather not. I have a long list (!!!) of things I think I might actually want to watch, but… never quite find the interest, time, or gumption to actually sit down and do it.

Sound familiar? What do you do?

By the way, for those of you who love documentaries and the BBC, check this out: BBC Select. I will be investigating to see if I will be picking it up. Note that YouTube does have at least one episode available.

Have You Heard?

I’m still listening to Pumpkin FM, but I recently went back to TuneIn radio and dove into a few Old Time Radio stations there. Like Bygolly OTR and Radio Once More. I occasionally think I would like to try regular radio, but frankly, the local signal interference can be annoying and I really don’t want to deal with the hourly news broadcasts.

I did pick up a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories on audio read by Derek Jacobi and, to be honest, am hooked! He is an excellent reader, provides a wonderful experience with all the stories, and makes listening a pleasure. Even though I can probably recite them from memory at this point. 🙂 You can find this on

In the Meantime

I’ll be waiting to see when Spring actually arrives and the dreaded cold and rain moves on.

I have a product review that I’ll be posting soon. As long timers know, I don’t recommend things if I haven’t used them and feel good about them. This one is quite a find.

See you soon!

Getting Creative – Expanding Your Style

I recently spent a lovely evening bingeing DIY Danie over on YouTube. Last year she purchased her very first home and has been working on updating many of the rooms. These past couple of weeks focused on the reno of her Master Bedroom which turned out amazing. Her friend, Alexandra Gater, took on the task of designing Danie’s Guest Room and that project was the “Ah-Ha!” project for the house, IMNSHO.

Danie’s vibe is very open, bright, airy with lots of plants and splashes of color along with some inspired DIY projects. Alexandra has been very much pale pink and pom-poms with plants and some interesting DIY projects.

Color can be intimidating for many, many people. If you have been a renter for any period of time, chances are you are stuck using white or variations of the same because many landlords aren’t interested in repainting once you move on. White can be very safe, but also very boring. Adding tints of other colors might seem to be a step forward, but you still run the risk of getting stuck in the same old rut. Is it any wonder folks find themselves caught in a rut they don’t know how to get out of?

Danie did a project a while back working with the 2021 color pallet of one of the major paint companies. She stepped out of her comfort zone using one of the blues and while it was intimidating for her at first, she found she liked the end result.

Gater has also stepped out of her comfort zone a bit while working on projects but it was this latest project she worked on with Danie that really pulled her out of her comfort zone and moved her game up an entire level. Danie was hesitant at first but the end result was Awesome – and if you go over to Gater’s channel, pull up the video and read the comments, Danie said that every guest who has used the room loves it, too.

The point of all of this is to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and experiment a bit. Not sure if you want to make an entire room a particular color? Get a small can of the paint and use it on a bookshelf.

Not sure what colors will work with the color you’ve chosen? Look for collection sample cards and see what goes with what. Don’t particularly like all the colors? Pick a few and consider using some as accents. A little goes a long way.

If you have a decor piece that you love, why not pull colors from that and put them into the room? One of my very favorite finds was a bedroom linen collection picked up at Target years ago. It was a floral with a black background – the black made the colors Pop. All of the colors on the linens worked together and when matched with paint samples, provided a blueprint for accessory pieces that I painted myself.

Getting out of the box allows you more freedom to express yourself and create a room that is comfortable, cozy, and makes you want to spend time there. Don’t be afraid to experiment a bit. It is only paint after all. 😉

Getting Creative With What You Have Part Two

Cathy Hay – How To Finish What You Start

This might seem to be a bit of a side track to being creative with what you have, but I think Cathy’s comments about getting the job(s) done make sense no matter what the job might be.

How many of us take on a new hobby or a project only to feel overwhelmed and defeated but not knowing exactly why? As Cathy stated about her embroidery project and her cookery issues, it came down to tools.

You might be surprised to learn that sometimes the apparent roadblocks to success can be overcome with some very simple solutions.

I mentioned that I am often slow to jump into some projects but once I’ve made up my mind on what I want, in I go not always certain of how it will turn out. For me, the idea of failure (it isn’t perfect) is not an issue. I can fix it to suit myself and, should I be creating a gift, as long as the issue isn’t excruciatingly obvious, I’m okay with that. That mindset provides a lot of freedom.

As Maymay says: “It’s only paper!” The point is simply to be happy with the end result or start over. There is no Quilt Police, Card Police or whatever. And, as someone has said, if recipient is going to be picky about a handmade gift, they won’t be getting one from me anytime soon.

All that being said, we often find ourselves creating our own speed bumps. Check out Cathy’s video:

Sometimes solutions are as simple as taking a moment to look at what the problem really is and then working to correct it. Sometimes the solution might be that you are so intimidated by the project that you are not ready to tackle it. As one who has taken years to resolve certain projects, I think that is fine. I will also go further and say that if you have taken on something that doesn’t work for you don’t be afraid to leave it behind.

I can not knit to save my life. However, I do enjoy crocheting, but I do it so infrequently <cough> I end up re-learning it every time. I have a particular liquid embroidery project that I started years ago but put it down because, frankly, I’d painted a portion of the design that intimidated me and I ended up not picking it up for a year or two later. In the end, it is a beautiful wall hanging but it was not a quick and easy project because of me.

There is no shame in deciding that you are no longer interested in doing something, but there is also no shame in taking the time you need to find out how to overcome completing something you do want to do.

What do you think?

From The Reading Table: Mycroft Holmes

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m always on the lookout for something interesting and different and this audiobook fits the bill.

Well written, well-crafted plot and characters, and a narrator/reader who did justice to all the characters, I thoroughly enjoyed this work – so much so I’ve listened to all in the series multiple times and am hoping for more.

This is an engaging back-story to the Sherlock Holmes canon. Mycroft Holmes introduces a twenty-something Sherlock via his older brother and fills in those blank spots that Conan Doyle originally wrote.

If you are looking for work equal to the original Conan Doyle canon, this is it.

View all my reviews

Getting Creative With What You Have Part One

Rachel’s Basement Project

I’m always interested in seeing how other people make use of their space. Some do it well while others seem to struggle. And, to be clear, I get the struggle. I really do. As friends will tell you, I can take my merry time (years at times) to make up my mind and continue on a particular project.

For me, it is a matter of being certain of what I want and how I want it to be without having to redo a lot. I am basically a lazy person so the idea of putting in extra work where more thought and less actual work is necessary appeals to me. I’m also the person who, once the mind is made up, jumps in with both feet not always being certain that where I’m jumping actually has a ‘floor’ if you will.

Rachel Maksy’s Basement Makeover is an interesting experience of knowing what needs to be done, having ideas (plans) for changes, gaining the courage and the where-with-it-all to actually jump in and – Voila! – enjoying the end of project thrill of it being better than anticipated, happy with how it turned out and, more importantly, learning new skills while gaining trust that you really can do it. Check it out:

Rachel has done a great job and learned a lot about herself in the process. She also has a great workspace that will cost her a lot less than the original plan. Added bonus? Without the need to leave the house to get to a studio, she’s removed a hurdle that could keep her from creating her amazing creations. Sounds like a win/win to me!

What do you think?

Check back next week for Part 2 of this Getting Creative series.

If you like what you’ve read, please let me know.

Thinking About Journaling?

I know lots of folks think journals, diaries and such are formal affairs where a specific book needs to be purchased. Many would never consider actually making a journal of their own.

Why not?

Let’s be clear here. Journals can be for a wide variety of things:

  • Gratitude Journals
  • Diaries
  • Food Journals
  • Wish Lists
  • Dream books
  • Recipe books
  • Projects (sewing, quilting, home decor)

You can literally have, or make, a book for any reason you desire. Got a project you want to document? Why not journal it? Collecting recipes you are testing? Why not journal that, too?

While a formal book might be a way to go – and some are quite amazing – sometimes it is difficult to find Just The Right Book for the project you are working on. (Been there.)

So, why not create your own?

You don’t have to be an experienced crafter to create a journal. You don’t need lots of fancy tools or spend a lot of money, either. Check out Maymay’s tutorial on her Gratitude Journal to see how she does it and then see if her methods will work for you.

You have unlimited options for paper packs. The Mintay papers that Maymay used are beautiful (the entire line is delicious) but you can choose papers that are in different colors, themes and designs.

Basic Tools Needed

At the very least you will need a ruler, glue, scissors, a pencil and the paper you choose. If you already have the trimmer and different adhesives, fine, but they aren’t necessary, just useful.

Don’t be afraid to try your hand at making a journal that fits your needs. It really is only paper, right? 🙂