Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Rice Bags for Hot and Cold Packs

This is a review I did for Amazon's Vine program for some washcloths.
The minute I saw these washcloths as available for a Vine pick, I wanted them. Not because I needed washcloths as such, but because THESE washcloths had evenly spaced channels down them. I make rice bags for myself and family members for all our various aches and pains. Rice bags can be heated in the microwave (cautiously!) or put in the freezer for cold packs. They can be made in any size or shape, but the easiest and most efficient that I have found is to make them with washcloths. Generally, when making them I should measure out the spaces since you can't just fill two washcloths together and fill them with rice. With these already having the spacing, all I had to do was pin the channels in place, sewed down the channels with a triple thread stitch for sturdiness, fill each channel with rise, and then sew up the top and you are good to go. They make a nice practical, quick to make, if not a bit homely gifts. Each rice bag takes around a pound of rice, being sure to leave space at the top so you can flattened the end enough to sew the ends closed without sewing over rice. For use in the microwave, until you are used to each bag and how they respond to your microwave and its wattage, heat them for 30 second increments checking on them as you go until they are very warm but NOT burning hot. And yeas you can end up with problems when overheating them. Other than maybe another layer of toweling wrapped around them during use to keep them clean. Do NOT wrap them up in lots of towels etc. - ask me how I know this?? They can spontaneously combust if you heat them too hot and then wrap them up too much. Be very careful using these with the elderly, children or those that do not have good nerve sensation in their skin. You can just put them in the freezer to use as ice packs when needed. Before a couple of knee replacements, I made a whole bunch of them so I could keep rotating them. Besides the warm/cold properties they also add some extra weight to the sore, achy spot which in itself can help remove some of the pain. I've gone through 4 knee surgeries as well as suffer with arthritis and I don't know how I could have gotten through the surgeries without the constantly rotating cold packs.

I'm sure they make good washcloths as well, but these won't be used that way! And they come in other colors as well.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Magdalen Girls by V. S. Alexander

Magdalen Girls by V. S. Alexander, to be publishes December 27, 2016 by Kensington. ISBN ISBN-10: 1496706129 or ISBN-13: 978-1496706126. Paperback, Audio CD or Kindle e/Book.

I had the privilege to read this book for the Amazon Vine program. If you are a frequent reader of my blog, you know I don't consider it a privilege to read a lot of the books from the Vine program as many of the newbie writers just aren't that good. Below is my review of Magdalen Girls.


From the first sentence, I was immersed in this book. The book is based on the true happening at places called Magdalen Laundries. Where girls if they were unwed, too pretty, flirted too much, mentally challenged, etc. were sent to live and work without due process of law. These laundries, many of them attached to convents, were run in silence for the most part, cruel nuns, poor food, poor clothing, inadequate heat and light and no education for girls that were still school age. If one of them somehow managed to escape, the Guard/police (this book taking place in Ireland) would find the girls/women and bring them back. New girls coming to the laundry/convent were placed initially in a penitent’s room. It contained a stool, no windows, no lights, complete blackness while the girl contemplated her 'sins'. Note that for many of the girls, they may have done nothing at all to be sent away, but had been trapped by what others had done to them.
This book covers a little over a year in the life of three of the girls as they managed to make friends with each other. One of the first things they had to give up on admission was their own names and take on the ones assigned to them that were ‘Godlier’ apparently. Then they had to give up their hair as it was chopped short and kept that way. They were given uniforms and aprons to wear with no variation. Monica and Teresa spent every minute they could contemplating escape. Teresa (real name Teagan) is the main character in the book had been caught up in a lie by her parish priest. Monica (Nora) had been caught kissing her boyfriend. Some of the women were 'fallen' in the traditional sense of the word, yet did they deserve a life sentence washing dirty clothes because of it? Remember, these young women were sent here at family’s requests, not by any legal means. They were not released on their coming of legal age birthday, but had to stay there until or if, and it was a very big IF, someone such as a family member came and requested their released.
This was a fascinating story of the inner workings of the inner working of a fictionalized Magdalen Laundry. If you would like more information about them, do an internet search for Magdalen Laundries and I'm sure you will be very surprised. The thing that surprised me the most, was not that this was happening in the 1860's, but the book took place in 1962! the last one closed in 1996. Some women too old to live on their own and with no family left, and after having spent their lives as inmates, are still living at the convents. A movie about this has also been made that can be rented via Amazon. Actual copies seem hard to find and expensive.
Many thoughts came my way as I read this book. The horror of it for one thing; that a girl can be happily be going to high school, starting in with a first boyfriend, and due to circumstances beyond their control find themselves locked away in a place such as these Magdalen Laundries....for the rest of their lives! One of the simple things that I find hard to comprehend while reading this book as well as the fictional Jane Eyre and others like them; was why were the cooks in these places always burning the toast, burning or undercooking the food constantly? Considering that many of these places emphasized frugality, why were they purposely wasting food or making it so terrible that no one would eat it. Wasn't it enough that the people are locked up and their freedom taken away, but they had to eat deliberately spoiled food? Why would any cook worth the name deliberately make food bad as an extra punishment? I talked to my Mennonite cleaning lady about this and she too was appalled at the thought of wasting food in that way by deliberately not cooking it correctly. It takes less effort to make toast without burning it than burning it intentionally.

Lousy food was just one way to poke these girls with a stick. They also were rarely allowed to talk to each other. In this book they slept in a unheated attic garret in winter and with only one window that could be opened in summer until the nuns nailed it shut. And they wore rags. This book, as I had to keep reminding myself, took place in 1962. These were teen aged girls that had grown to like pretty clothes and showing their personality through what they wore and how they did their hair. Not so at the laundries. They wore uniforms with an apron and their hair was kept super short with haircuts every two weeks to keep it that way. No way would or should these girls look desirable to any guy was the apparent reason. The whole idea of these laundries was awful; yet they or similar ones were operated around the world until the 1990's! Who knew?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Heat Press Batting Together Book-Build As You Go Machine Quilting

This is a review for Heat Press Batting Together Book-Build As You Go Machine Quilting by Amy Smith and Jean Harwood                                                                                                 

This book was more of a booklet than a book. I didn't realize just how few pages there would be. The only color photos were on the back and front cover of the booklet. The quilt on the front cover is in reality, a table runner and not nearly big (at least from the instructions measurements inside the book) as it looks. So if you think you will get a baby or twin size quilt if you make this, you would have to add more blocks to get it wide enough.

ALL the illustrations inside the book were small black and white photos which made the steps difficult to see. For me doing a quilt as you go type quilt, literally means that! When you have finished the last block and attached it to the quilt, other than the binding, the quilt is done. In this case, once you have the quilt put together, then you add the entire backing and use machine stitches to tack it down so it will stay in place. I'm also hesitant to start a project that requires extra supplies that need to be bought whether at a store, if any of my local fabric or quilting stores have them, or buy them on line.

One thing I was hoping to see more of was the decorative stitches. This was sort of the case where like many quilt instructions end with a quilt as desired - period, the end. I would have liked to see some info on best stitches to use if you have them such as which looks better satin stitches or a single stitch decorative design. I realize fully that many don't have all the wonderful stitches that are available to use, but at this point, every book I have ever seen that talks about using the decorative stitches, just seems to do the decorative stitches as desired thing. Perhaps I need to write a book that gives some guidance here!

The book does give some interesting ideas that can be used as part of a quilt as you go quilting method, but to me, it seems to be adding steps, not taking them away. I'm in the midst of a quilting project currently, but when I'm done I will probably try another quilt as you go quilt and see if some of the book's ideas will be helpful. Since we all approach quilting in a different manner, some might find this book to be of tremendous value. It would still help if other editions were made to have the photos in color though.

According to the description of the book Build As You Go, This second book includes the backing as part of the building process. Wish I had bought it first to see how the authors deal with all three layers of a quilt at the same time as well as attaching them.

Friday, October 21, 2016

GeoSmart Educational Set - THE Children's Gift This Holiday!

What a terrific thing that I got from Amazon to Review this time. Some of the toys I have been sent were cheaply constructed, hard to put together, didn't have much to hold the child's attention, but this one, YES! I will admit to be about to turn 61 at the end of the month, and I had fun playing with this set and had to drag myself away because I had other things to do. You do need to check this GeoSmart Educational Set. Here is my Amazon Vine Review:


If you are going to buy your child only one big (price wise) gift this year for Christmas, Hanukkah, birthday, etc. this GeoSmart EducationalSet, 100 Pieces should be it! Buy this toy!!! If I could I would give it 10 stars and 5A+++. Someone with a brain or a team with a brain designed it. I opened the set with no kids around (my boys are grown-up) and got myself lost in making things and seeing what this GeoSmart Set could do. I made a mini-version of the Pope-mobile. As a quilter, I was putting together some quilt blocks. You or your child could spend hours making things and rearranging the pieces. I can hardly wait for my cleaning lady to bring her boy over for him to play with the set as I know he will love it.

Of note, just like my other favorite children’s toy, Legos, this set also has more sets that can be purchased with will add on more pieces and more specialized pieces to make all sorts of interesting things, especially space related. With the other sets, you can make a lunar rover, space station, solar spinner, etc. Of course, as anyone knows that the more sets of Legos you have the more things you can make whether the Lego folks thought of it or not. The add on sets to the GeoSmart main set works the same way and we aren’t talking 3-4 piece sets. Some of the add-on sets have 70 more pieces including the specialty pieces for that set.

I was delighted to find that the pieces were much bigger than they looked on the computer. For instance, the wheels for the set are 2 1/2” across, the square pieces are 2 ½” on all sides. The set is for ages 5+ and up, so the bigger pieces will be easier to manipulate for small hands. They seem just the right size for making projects so they don’t get way too big or too tiny to work with. The set is made in nice bright colors and the different colors come in multiples of two, four or six, so whatever you are making you can have a matching color on the opposite side of the first color. The magnets are imbedded in the pieces and don’t feel sharp at all. All pieces seem to be big enough so that younger brothers and sisters can’t swallow the pieces.

This is a great set and I highly recommend it!


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Reading on a Kindle

When the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook first came out, I couldn't imagine using one to read on. I love to read and love the feel of a solid book in my hands. At one point I finally had a chance to get a Kindle and fell instantly in love. I have had it for 3 or more years at this point and my actual style of Kindle is no longer made. I have a Kindle Keyboard which makes it easy to type into the Kindle if I am looking up an author or a word from the dictionary. Even when reading a 'regular' book now, if I run into a word I don't know the meaning of, I will look it up in my Kindle rather than having to get up and pull a very heavy dictionary off the shelve, look up the word and then put the dictionary back without dropping it of breaking a fingernail. I have found that the Kindle is a blessing to my arthritic hands and if I read all evening my hands aren't screaming at me like they would a regular book, especially paperbacks.

Amazon has come out with another model of a Kindle that is reasonable priced and offers almost all the conveniences that I have wished for in my Kindle (or any book for that matter). The ability to translate a foreign language into English, instead of getting up, finding the right dictionary from our 7-8 English to Foreign Language dictionaries, and looking the words up in that super tiny font that they think all high school and college kids have the ability to read. No longer do you have to jump through several pages to get your word definition as it will display right on the page you are reading. There are other things that make it so much easier to read and understand what you are reading. I still wish they would have an on board atlas for looking up current spots on a map as well as places that no longer exist since World War II. Reading any book before the 1950's, it is especially difficult to figure out where in the world the characters are. I don't know if they are working on this, but I suppose it would be a complicated project because of all the changes over 100's of years of time.

With the holidays coming you may want to consider a Kindle for you child that is meant for children only. It is the regular Kindle only bundled for children, with a 2-year long guarantee period, it has the ability to not allow a child to download 'adult' books, it is thinner and lighter for a child to hold, and it can help a child set reading goals. It comes with a vocabulary builder, dictionary, etc. It doesn't have games or email which means when you child is looking at their Kindle, they are reading! I have always felt that books are one of the best presents for children and so you might want to think about this gift for your child with the holidays coming!

Deciding to buy one now you can save up the money as well as being on the lookout for any sales that Amazon might have on this Kindle. If you have been good all year, you might want to do the same and move up to the newer Kindle as well.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

September is National Sewing Month! Get Ready!

September is National Sewing Month! What will you be making? Will you finish a UFO or just keep on with your regular sewing that you are doing? To help promote National Sewing Month, we are putting ALL our inventory on sale at  10% off for the entire month of AUGUST 2016 in both our Amazon ( and eCRATER stores ( For multi-item purchases (all at one time) there is a discount on shipping costs so don’t be afraid to add a few things to your cart. J
We realized that in our eCRATER store our Christmas items were scattered throughout the store, so we have set them all up within a ‘Christmas Store’ in our eCRATER store to make things easier to find.  Now you can find our Christmas patterns including Santa suits, craft kits and fabric there.  Please visit our Christmas Store ( We still have a lot to list in the Christmas store, especially Christmas fabric panels and Christmas fat quarters, so keep checking back as to what you might find!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Revlon RVST2160 Pro Collection 1" Wide Fast Pass X-Long Plated Flat Iron

Here is my review of this Flat Iron for hair that I received from the Amazon Vine program:


As a girl that grew up during an era when every girl that could manage it had long straight hair, I was the odd one out. I had wavy, unmanageable hair. Fast forward many years and I'm much older, still have wavy hair and as it has been growing out for several years, it is long and wavy and fly away so I was delighted to try out this flat iron for hair. After I got past trying to turn it on. I had to look in the directions to find that you have to hold the on/off button down until it comes on. The control buttons are tiny! It heated up very fast and I then got to try it out. I soon realized that I needed hair clips to hold most of my hair out of the way as you are only supposed to use a 1-inch section of hair at a time in the iron. But I made do with what I had and at least got the top hair in the front straight. So for the first time in my life I saw myself with straight hair! I actually did it before going to bed, and this morning the areas that I had straightened last night were still straight. I did like the fact that you use this iron on hair that has already dried as showering and washing my hair are exhausting for me due to chronic health problems, so doing anything to wet hair is out of the question. This iron did everything that it was supposed to. I'm sure most women using this won't have the physical problems that I do and so will find this a quick and easy way to straighten hair.