Wonder What It Is

300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles 5th Edition



See it at Amazon 


Pros: information, information, information

Cons: print is pretty small for old eyes, but the book is almost a thousand pages, larger print and it would be even longer!



300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles 5th edition is a massive work of nearly a thousand pages, with thousands of listings, photos and recipes. It has, according to the front cover Completely updated pricing and an all new color section.

I am a collector of kitchen junque, mainly that of the depression era, but now and then I see something intriguing at the jumble shop for next to nothing as a cost and put it into my basket.

The comprehensive Table of Contents is a gem beginning with an introduction & How to collect online.

Offered in eight sections the book begins with Preparation the doo dads, gizmos and whingdings needed for coring and cutting stirring and churning, straining and sifting, shaping and decorating. And more. This section begins on page 11 ends on 405 and separated into 4 parts.

The next segment is Measuring, pages 406-440. Holding & Handling, 4 segments, is found on pages 440 -558, Cooking 5 sections begins on page 559 and ends at 737. Preserving runs, 2 segments, 738 – 784, Furnishing 778 – 802, Electrifying work 803 – 844.

Researching comprising 5 segments beginning 845 – 887 offer information regarding researching patents, patent numbers and dates, patent Tuesdays and perpetual calendar, bibliography, and a German English utensil glossary.

A visual glossary with parts and handles 888-890 and index 891 round out the work with a color photo section following chapter XV, regarding preserving of foods and the things used in doing so.

I find this work to be fascinating for the collector of stuff, historian or docent for local museum, antique and jumble shop proprietor as well as the collectors who haunt those shops.

Many photos as well as some drawings appearing to have been taken from original works are scattered all through the book. From apple corers page 11, to cherry stoners and green bean slicers and stringers ending on p 31 it appears our forebears did up a lot of fruit and canned beans for winter.

Chopping knives, corn graters, egg slicers, and scales for weighing eggs, grinders and graters can all be found on these pages. Some I have seen, some I have not. Some I have. For a time I collected orange squeezers, both glass reamers and metal handled affairs that is have on the shelf and see on these pages. After a time you begin to run out of room.

Page after page of kitchen tools, implements and things to aid the cooks in the kitchen of yore, and some still in use today are described, often pictured and often available at the local jumble shop. The pages filled with old time hand held egg beaters I find fascinating, and yes, I do have a number of the ones I see, they were hard to use when I was growing up and Mama sent one sister or another to whip egg whites for meringue, or whatever needed beating. Today mine adorn the walls of the breakfast nook, or hang suspended from the ceiling …. On the points of corn driers originally used for drying ears of corn. I use a blender or mixer today.

On page 145 I see my mayonnaise maker, I admire those ladies who were our grandmothers, they must have had wonderful arms, and well behaved children to help make the spread for sandwiches.

It is a thrill for those of us who enjoy the old treasures we see in dusty boxes to find so many widgets, whatchamacallits and doo hickeys all gathered in one book.

I have several of the old can openers, and in a pinch get one down to use, stab the pointy blade into the can, hold handle securely, work the blade around the top of the can, careful, don’t but it all the way across… makes the lid hard to pick out of the green beans. Use spoon, pry lid up and DON’T touch the rim of lid or the can, those jagged edges cause a nasty cut, not good for dripping into the beans. Thank goodness for electric or even those hand held ones we have today that do not leave a slice your fingers to the bone border.

150 years ago not only did cooks prepare the meals, but if a holiday was near there was no go to the store for a bag of chocolate eggs and a bunny for the babies’ basket. Candy molds and other apparatus for making candy of every type are shown on these pages. I have not found any of these in jumble shops, but perhaps it was because I did not what to look for before reading these pages.

Cooky cutters, butter molds for prettying up the butter to set on the table, and cooky molds were all a staple in the kitchen in days long gone. Doughnut cutters and wheels and things are not ones we use today, there was a day when doughnuts were truly a treat as the whole family gathered to stir and knead, roll and cut, drop and sugar and then feast on the delicacies not made on a regular basis.

Churns and ice cream molds, pie crimpers and jelly molds as well as rolling pins plain and fancy, garnishing cutters to pretty up the veggies and make them appealing to children, waffle irons some electric and some not, every kind of pan you can imagine, measuring tools from spoons to clocks to hanging thermometers to … you name it, it is likely to be found.

Even pot holders have their place in this book, from the cloth type my granny made to crocheted… I didn’t make them but 2 of mine are on page 444!

Flue covers, cook stoves, stovetop ovens and lifting gizmos for getting the fried potatoes or the pancakes out of the pan or off the griddle are featured. One of mine is on page 666, it hangs with others from more of the corn driers in the nook.

I’m glad I got this book!

I especially like the asides, post cards, recipes, hints, and cautions scattered throughout the work. Hints for research, patents and trade marks are all included. All in all a wonderful work for the serious collector, or for reading on a rainy day for a step back in time.

 Happy to recommend 300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles 5th edition

and to submit to the   words to the July – August contest.



Book title:  300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles 5th edition

Author: Linda Campbell Franklin

Series: 300 Years of Kitchen Collectibles

Paperback: 896 pages

Publisher: Krause Publ; Fifth Edition edition (April 2003)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0873493656

ISBN-13: 978-0873493659

Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 8.5 x 1.8 inches



It’s Absurd! It’s Very Lame! It’s MEGA SHARK VERSUS GIANT OCTOPUS!



DVD or Blu-ray at Amazon

(0.5/5) bogus

Pros: I chuckled a few times

Cons: Dumb-duh-dumb-dumb-DUMB! Zero creativity, obnoxious CGI effects, atrocious acting performances, asinine dialogue; the list goes on and on…

You ready for this dose of pure genius in storytelling?

As might be suggested by its oh-so-subtle titling, Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus revolves around a pair of absurdly gigantic sea creatures and humanity’s efforts to stop their reign of terror on the open seas. Following (DUH!) a secret government test involving sonar, the two titular creatures are released from a glacier after being trapped millions of years ago in the middle of a fight to the death. Now, after the octopus destroys a Japanese oil rig and the shark not only snatches a jet airliner out of midair (!), but also takes a bite out of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge (!!), it’s up to a trio of marine biologists who’ve been accosted by a bigoted, snake-like government agent to try and devise a way to kill the beasts before they cause even more destruction. Their solution seems to suggest they’ve seen a few of the old Godzilla movies since they attempt to lure the creatures back together so they can continue their epic battle and effectively wipe each other out.

Yeah…about that…

Though this film garnered some attention (mainly due to its outrageous and completely preposterous storyline) and a reputation of being a film that’s “so bad, it’s good,” I’d have to seriously question the taste of anyone who actually enjoyed this piece of cinematic refuse. It’s yet one more example of modern film makers mistakenly believing that they can recreate the genuinely fun atmosphere in schlocky monster/sci-fi/horror movies of yesteryear. What today’s genre writers and directors don’t seem to comprehend is that purposely bad films seldom are as amusing or entertaining as straight-faced films that simply turned out badly. Typically, intentionally-made schlock turns out to be pathetic, suggestive of the fact that the people behind the camera knew they couldn’t possibly do anything interesting with the script and resources they were offered due simply to their own ineptitude, so they just went after creating the lowest form of entertainment they could. Obviously, the makers of Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus are simply trying to make an entertainment picture; they don’t have any grand aspirations. Still, one would have hoped the final product would actually be entertaining or at least watchable, and that simply isn’t the case here.

bad enough
It’s bad enough the special effects are awful, but then the visuals are muddy on top of it.

Any way one looks at it, Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus is a bottom-of-the-barrel effort. Loaded to the brim with terrible-looking, cheap Charlie computer graphics that are re-used throughout the picture thus making it look even more cheap, this film demonstrates that not one iota of imagination, creativity, or (God forbid) inspiration went into its production. It’s really not a good sign when writer/director Jack Perez (whose “highpoint” as a film maker may be Wild Things 2, an atrocious nearly scene-by-scene remake of the fairly decent original thriller) has his name removed from the credits in favor of a pseudonym. Everything here operates on a painfully cliched, “I’ve seen that five hundred times before” level, with stereotypical characters (portrayed by actors who can’t inject one smidgen of life into them) and a plot-line that will have a viewer yawning in seconds. If that’s not enough, the film is plain unexciting: Chris Ridenhour’s downright boring music score doesn’t help, but I’m not sure even Hans Zimmer could have done much with these lethargic, supposed action sequences. The climactic final battle of the titans amounts to nothing in the bigger scheme of the film – hell, the title creatures aren’t intimidating in the least.


And then we have this cast: typical for a production of this nature (MSvGO was produced by The Asylum, a studio that specializes in frequently outrageous, low-budget “mockbuster” type films that attempt to capitalize on big-budget mainstream films; looking through their list of credits is enough to make one lose faith in the movie industry as a whole) the actors here are has-beens at best and never-shoulda-beens at worst. “Deborah” Gibson (yes, the ‘80s music sensation) stars as marine biologist Emma MacNiel and proceeds to turn in one of the most emotionless, cardboard performances I’ve seen in quite a while. Watch as she conducts a tremendously awkward romance with Japanese scientist Dr. Seiji Shimada (played by Vic Chao, who may turn in the best performance in the film), and attempts to convey distress during several “tense” scenes. Sean Lawlor appears as the stereotypically gruff Irishman who helps Shimada and MacNiel devise a plan to get rid of the creatures, while a slimy Lorenzo Lamas collects a paycheck sleepwalking through the role of an abrasive and racist government official in command of the operation.

Perhaps the only decent special effect in the film, created through forced perspective.

Writer/director Perez’s script hands these characters the most soul-destroying lines of dialogue imaginable: I realize we’re dealing with a lousy, made-for-video monster flick here, but Perez really doesn’t have to treat the viewers like kindergarteners. Several instances of harsh profanity are thrown into the picture simply to achieve an R-rating – a notion that not only seems positively absurd considering that this film would be perfect for younger audiences rather than older ones, but also indicates the level of thought process that went into the script – i.e. it’s moronic. Exhausted all your options for continued story development? Why not drop a few F-bombs into the film – that’ll grab the viewer’s attention…or not. By far the most frustrating thing for me though was Perez’s use of flash-edits and black and white throwaway shots to end most scenes in the picture – a very awkward, incredibly ill-advised way to transition from one scene to the next. Honestly, this man never deserves to work in Hollywood again after his catastrophically bad handling of this project from top to bottom.

’80s superstar Debbie Gibson gets her moment to shine…or something like that.

Though I’ve never been a fan of CGI effects in the first place, the visuals presented in MSvGO look horrendous. As rubbery, unrealistic, and ridiculous as Bruce the shark in Jaws looked, a viewer of that film can instantly tell that there was something there and the way the creature was handled (and hidden) by director Steven Spielberg made the beast not only believable, but downright threatening. Looking at wave after wave of unsubstantial digital artifacts being used to represent supposedly threatening creatures in Perez’s film rapidly grows tiresome: this film flaunts its goofy visuals in the viewers’ face and the overload of trash-level digital effects on display made me nauseous. Bear in mind this film was made in 2009 – digital effects had come a long way since the Tron era, but you wouldn’t know it judging from what we see here.  Mega Shark’s effects resemble 1990s-era computer-game graphics unceremoniously dumped into a feature film – they seem out of place and woefully unimpressive.  It’s kind of a wonder given that nearly every visual in MSvGO was created digitally that the entire picture wasn’t filmed in front of a green screen, but lo and behold, The Asylum actually constructs a few extremely lousy (we’re talking 1950s low-budget bad) submarine sets. The mind-bogglingly bad effects work is just the icing on the cake though in a film that’s a complete disaster through and through.

Not a scene from the film, but it would be cool if it was…

I’ll admit it: I laughed a few times during this film at just how absurd the whole thing was getting. The acting alone would inspire a few guffaws, and instances where in-camera shaking and/or Debbie Gibson dry humping a table are used to create the illusion of a monster attack just about made my jaw hit the floor. Unfortunately, this film is nowhere near as clever, amusing, or enjoyable as it would have (or like) a viewer to believe. It winds up being a chore to get through this mess, and if the fact that this abomination of a movie led to a(n ongoing?) series of sequels (Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus; Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark) doesn’t speak to the level of creative bankruptcy that’s ruining the movie business, I simply don’t know what does. Do yourself a favor: avoid Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus anyway you can and save your braincells and time for something more important.

disc deets
Original DVD release from The Asylum features an near-worthless 8-minute “making of” segment which is little more than dull interviews with the actors, and a three-minute blooper reel. A pretty lousy disc, and none of the other home video releases are any better.

blood & guts
3/10 : Some “creature violence,” but minimal onscreen gore or carnage. Honestly, this is more disaster movie than creature flick.

smack talk
4/10 : Completely gratuitous profanity thrown in just to secure an R-rating; Debbie Gibson does drop an angry F-bomb.

fap factor
1/10 : Out of the blue, Gibson has a brief sex scene with her Asian lover in a broom closet, but unfortunately, no nudity.

whack attack
5/10 : Undoubtedly, there’s a crowd out there that would like this movie. I feel sincerely sorry for them and their utter lack of taste.

The movie in a nutshell: “Point is, if we have a sense of humor about this thing, everything’s going to work out – I promise.” Um, you sure bro?

4 Million Viewers Can’t Be Wrong, Right?…RIGHT?

Seven-foot bookcase works well in “music library” foyer

Safeco BOOKCASE pic

Safco® Square-Edge Veneer Bookcase, Adjustable Shelves, 84″H x 36″W x 12″D, Walnut


See it at Office Depot 


Pros: This seven-foot-tall bookcase satisfies me in my finished basement’s foyer.

Cons: Lacks some of the cachet of custom-made or solid-wood cabinetry. Price seems a bit high. Requires a fair amount of assembly (but a mere screwdriver – plus a hammer or rubber mallet – is all that’s needed).



“Vertically speaking,” there are four levels to my suburban Kansas City house, with two of my three “man caves” being upstairs (on the second and third floors). But the finished half of the basement became particularly compelling once I finished converting it into a “classical music library and theater” in 2012. Whenever I’m about to enter the main room (whose expansive media shelving generally lies within built-in, glass-doored cabinetry), I’m initially greeted – in the little foyer – by my favorite category of “music” tomes, i.e., classical composer biographies.

Speaking here strictly of conventional, printed books (excluding my sundry “digitized” media), and counting neither my 20-volume New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians nor my roughly 120 miscellaneous reference volumes on “classical music” generally, my classical-composer-biographies collection encompasses about 260 titles – 206 of which reside within the subject of this review:


As of this writing, this Safco product remains available via various vendors, including OfficeDepot.com – via which I ordered my specimen in 2012 for $264.99 (including shipping, and factoring a “$25-off” coupon code). That price seemed steep to me, considering that this was, after all, a “veneered” bookcase (albeit an above-average one). Even so, since its color, configuration and dimensions (84″H x 36″W x 12″D) were ideal for my purpose, I reckoned its cost tolerable.

This bookcase has seven shelves (not counting the top panel), and each shelf measures 34.75 by 12 by 0.75 inches. Five of the shelves are adjustable, meaning that there are many wee holes predrilled partway into the inner sides of the upright panels.

Note that Safco has also marketed this product in different veneer colors than “walnut” (e.g., “cherry,” “mahogany,” “medium oak” and “light oak”). Also note that this “walnut” version’s actual hue isn’t exactly the traditional “dull/medium brown” that you might expect; instead, there’s not only a tasteful degree of glossiness but also an agreeable trace of reddishness almost suggesting a “mahogany” aesthetic; nonetheless, my specimen’s level of reddishness is subdued enough to be aptly termed “walnut” (not “mahogany,” much less “cherry”). However, it is significantly darker than what the above product image conveys. [This unexpected outcome actually delighted me, because my foyer’s adjacent décor dictates – ideally – just such a dark-walnut hue (instead of the merely “medium” walnut shown above).]

It could be easily argued that this affordable bookcase is a big step down from my music library’s other (mostly built-in or specialized) cabinetry, much of which was fashioned of solid, walnut-stained oak. Even so, I remain satisfied with this Safco product [whose uncomplicated style is dubbed “Traditional”], which still makes for an appealing display of the bulk of my composer biographies.

Since such (mostly hardbound) volumes are collectively quite weighty, I needed this three-foot-wide bookcase’s shelves to incorporate not the cheapest grade of “composite” wood but rather a suitably stout grade not prone to warping. And I’m pleased to report that all seven shelves – after two full years of constant use – still look precisely horizontal.

To assemble this bookcase you’ll need merely a Philips screwdriver and perhaps a rubber mallet (for tapping 18 wee wooden dowels into predrilled holes).

Assembly involved the following hardware: 12 cams; 18 wood dowels; 24 little screws (to attach the large, single-piece back panel); and eight screw posts. Since I disdain rushing such work, it took me at least an hour to finish the chore.

I never discovered the exact weight of this bookcase from any provided documentation, but it’s certainly rather heavy and bulky for a single person to move. So, I placed four furniture-moving “sliders” (available at hardware stores) beneath its bottom corners prior to scooting it across the main room’s carpeting to the adjoining foyer.

I arranged the adjustable shelves such that all seven of this bookcase’s tiers ended up appearing about equally tall (with actual heights ranging from 9.75 to 11 inches). And since the depth of this bookcase is 12 inches, any of its shelves could house any but my most oversized tomes.

Safco states that each shelf has a weight-bearing capacity of 100 pounds. Each board’s internal “composite wood” appears to be appropriately high-quality and extremely strongly compressed. The outer, veneered surface looks to be a suitably hard, durable, moisture-resistant, thin layer whose exact nature I couldn’t discover. In any case, I like the slightly glossy look and feel of it.

The upshot is that I remain content with the overall aesthetic and functionality of this “walnut” bookcase in my music library’s foyer. After two full years I’ve encountered no problems whatsoever with this product’s durability.

Strange but True! Science Channel’s THE UNEXPLAINED FILES



Website at Science Channel 

(3.5/5) decent

Pros: Based on fact; fascinating subject matter; level-headed presentation

Cons: Not as flashy or exciting as other similar shows

Following a six-episode first season that premiered in 2013, Science Channel’s The Unexplained Files returned on July 29, 2014 for a second season. This program probably has more in common with the classic Unsolved Mysteries series than with most of the more recent shows dealing with mysterious happenings, although it somewhat reminds me in its basic set-up of the outstanding Dark Matters: Twisted but True that also airs on Science Channel. One of the best things about The Unexplained Files is that the subjects discussed in this program, like those covered in Dark Matters, are both factual and compelling – it’s possible to do follow-up research on anything featured in this show if desired. Episodes in the first season dealt with a wide range of fascinating subjects including examination of the enigmatic Voynich Manuscript, the disappearance of pilot Frederick Valentich under bizarre circumstances (i.e. aliens are involved), the appearance of so-called “chupacabras” in the American Southwest, and even the freak illness known as Morgellon’s Disease. Like many programs dealing with such subjects as the Loch Ness Monster, UFO’s or even Bigfoot, The Unexplained Files would be one of those shows that a viewer would be likely to keep watching if he stumbled upon it while channel surfing – there’s something inherently captivating about TV programing of this nature.

“Chupacabras” stalking rural Texas? One of many intriguing UNEXPLAINED FILES segments.

Episode one of the second season actually stood in my mind as being a little “blah” compared with some of the previous episodes – not necessarily a bad episode, but not quite as interesting to me as some of the others. This episode featured two stories, the first of which is a fairly lengthy investigation into the real-life story that inspired the novel and hence, classic horror film The Exorcist. In this segment, researcher and author Troy Taylor heads to St. Louis, MO to uncover the truth behind a 1949 case that involved demonic possession. Amazingly, Taylor was able to track down one of the Catholic monks who actually was present during the exorcism ritual as performed on a young man and the elderly man was able to recount the unbelievable events that took place during the possession and exorcism. This entire segment is fairly well executed, providing a well-rounded investigation into the case which, aside from detailing the nature of demonic possession cases, also examines the possibility of mental illness or religious fervor having been the root cause of the incident.

The 1949 exorcism case discussed in this episode served as the basis for this award-winning 1973 film.

The second story here seems quite a bit more frankly inconsequential – it’s a tale about a New Mexico Fish and Game officer named Kerry Mower who in August 2013 discovered a herd of 113 wild elk who had suddenly and mysteriously died. First suspecting a sort of poisoning, Mower’s examination of the bodies eventually revealed that no known toxic agent had killed the animals, though the game commission is quick to declare that a toxic algae bloom had infected the creatures’ drinking water which led to the mass die-off. Officials jumping to this conclusion without any substantial evidence leads to – you guessed it! – notions of some sort of conspiracy, and an ex-sheriff starts his own investigation into the case, one which mainly revolves around the possibility of a connection to UFOs and cattle mutilations. Much as I could roll with the story about the deaths of this group of elk, this segment started to lose me a bit when it really pushed the alien angle. Even to my rather open mind, an outdoorsman’s story about elk being more or less abducted by an alien craft seems positively ludicrous. To each his own I guess…

dead elk
Dead elk everywhere, but what is the cause?

Narrated by Bruce Greenwood, this episode mainly kept on the straight and narrow, simply offering up the known facts in each case using interviews with experts and eyewitnesses to describe and analyze the scenarios and brief dramatized sequences to reinforce the stories. While I might have hoped for more actual evidence, the program does makes a pretty strong case based mostly on the testimony of those involved. It’s pretty hard for instance to argue with the 90-year-old former monk who’s about to die of cancer – what possible motivation would this guy have to lie about his recollections of the exorcism event? Though The Unexplained Files does seem to push certain agendas (the conspiracy angle relating to the deaths of the elk for example), it’s commendable that this show at least attempts to exhaust possible scientific explanations. To this end, not only were weather experts consulted to determine whether or not a lightning strike may have been responsible for the deaths, but the elk carcasses were also tested for anthrax, the deadly EHD contagion, and for contamination by toxic algae. It’s only after these potential causes were ruled out that the show pursues the more outrageous explanation dealing with flying saucers, crop circles, and alien experimentation, but ultimately, it’s left in the hands of the viewer to make sense of the information provided and come to his own conclusion.

chuck testa
Yeah, I can’t believe I put a Chuck Testa joke in here either…

On the downside, it’s apparent to me that this program is produced quickly and inexpensively. It isn’t nearly as flashy and attention-grabbing as other, vaguely similar shows, though in some ways, I think this is to the program’s credit. The Unexplained Files mostly allows the information it contains to speak for itself instead of impressing a viewer with graphics, flashy camerawork, or overblown and phony suspense sequences. It’s rather refreshing that this program neither rams its opinions and conclusions down a viewer’s throat nor assumes that its viewers are complete morons. In my mind then, The Unexplained Files is easily one of the more recommendable of the current wave of speculative documentaries airing on television, and for the viewer interested in these sorts of subjects, this would be one to check out.



Pendleton Plaid Blanket with Leather Carrier


Pendleton Camping Blankets


Pros: Extremely well-made, lasts for years

Cons: Pricey, and not easy to find the blanket dimensions on their website

I’ve written reviews lately on camping gear, such as my Coleman PerfectFlow 1-Burner Stove, and Coleman Chest Cooler. I’ve even mentioned sleeping bags I own, but ironically, never use.

First let me say, I am not claustrophobic - elevators, vehicles, small rooms, etc. don’t bother me a bit - however, being encased in a sleeping bag inside a tent, RV, or vehicle, unable to bolt or react immediately to an emergency, definitely gives me the weemies.  

After several years of aggravating  wrestling- matches with uncooperative sleeping- bag zippers, bulky, uneven roll-ups, and the feeling of being overly restricted, I determined there had to be a better option – and of course, there was/is – blankets. But not any old blanket - 100% Virgin Wool Pendleton Blankets.

I confess to a little bias as Pendleton Woolen Mills are located, and their superb woolen blankets and garments are  manufactured, right here in Oregon – coincidentally in the city of Pendleton.

Pendleton Woolen Mills have been a family owned business for over one-hundred-fifty years. Founded by Thomas Kay in 1863, Pendleton Woolen Mills is what is known as a “Vertically Integrated Company”, meaning they begin with the very basics - A thru Z, to create their end  product.

The process starts with the purchase of  raw wool from sheep ranchers. Next, processing the wool, including cleaning, carding and weaving the fibers to create an absolutely mind-boggling array of brilliant colors and designs. On to manufacturing the many different woolen fabrics, fourteen of them, in fact. Finally, worldwide sales and distribution to the hundreds of shops and outlets where their products are sold.

So, what makes Pendleton blankets and garments so special and (almost) immediately recognizable?

  • Made exclusively from 100% Virgin wool
  • The items are easy to care for. Because they’re low-static and have a “hairy’ surface, they repel dirt better than most fabrics.
  • Comfort. Wool is a natural insulator that lets skin breathe. It keeps the wearer cool(er) in summer, and warm in the winter. 
  • Beauty. Pendleton Blankets and garments are known for their intricate colors, interesting, authentic designs, and quality construction. 
  • Durability. I can personally attest to this feature having one Pendleton blanket in particular that has lasted more than forty years. 

 The blanket on the bottom row (right) is very close to mine in design and colors. I just looked at it and after all this time there are still no snags, pulled threads, nor flaws of any kind.  I call that durable!

As previously mentioned, Pendleton uses fourteen different types of wool to create their blankets and garments – Boiled, Doubleface, Jacquard, Tricotone, Tropical Weight Wool, Virgin and Umatilla to mention a few. Some are even machine washable.

I was unable to find the exact dimensions and prices for the blankets pictured at the top of the review, but one very similar measures 54×66″ – $149.00

So, getting back to my original point – I love crawling into (camp) bed – whether I’m tent, or ‘tramp-camping’, as I call sleeping in my rig.  I’m comfortable and feel less anxious using blankets instead of a bag. And best of all, since camping is usually done in the warmer months, it’s much easier kicking off a blanket, then a few hours later, when the temperature has dropped, covering up. That just doesn’t work with a bag, Which brings about one final universal dilemma:  The 2:00 A.M. ‘Why did I drink that last soda?’  issue?  Anyone, but I’m thinking especially of us ladies who are familiar with camping, know all about that time-sensitive  issue – ‘nuf said?

Pendleton Woolen Mills

P.O. Box 3030

Portland, Oregon 97208


Mills operating in Pendleton, Ore – open for tours

Giorgio Tsoukalos Explains Everything (Hint – It’s Aliens!): IN SEARCH OF ALIENS

IN SEARCH OF ALIENS on History Channel


Website at History Channel 

(3/5) decent

Pros: Interesting subjects; more focused approach; Giorgio Tsoukalos!

Cons: Aliens – explanation for everything…


If nothing else, History Channel’s In Search of Aliens confirms the status of the internet meme relating to charismatic and wild-haired “ancient astronaut theorist” Giorgio A. Tsoukalos: no matter what, no matter how, aliens are the ultimate explanation for EVERYTHING. Debuting in July 2014, In Search of Aliens combines the basic premise behind History’s long-running Ancient Aliens show (which explores the possibility that extraterrestrials visited Earth in the distant path and provided knowledge and guidance for our human ancestors) with that of America Unearthed, a show that follows forensic geologist Scott Wolter on a quest to prove that American history “isn’t what we’ve been told in schools.” Basically, America Unearthed attempts to dispel the notion that Columbus first discovered America, and In Search of Aliens’ opening declaration that “…what we’ve been taught by mainstream scholars is not the whole picture…” is an almost word-for-word recreation of the thesis of Wolter’s program.


Any way one looks at it, it’s pretty clear that what we’re dealing with here is yet one more speculative documentary being passed off as hard fact. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that: I’m a big fan of Ancient Aliens not because I necessarily believe every damn thing the show says, but because the program promotes thought about the topics it examines. It’s automatically then several (giant) steps above the mindless entertainment that plays on History Channel nearly around the clock in the form of various positively asinine reality shows (Cajun Pawn Starsreally??!?). Unlike that reality show bunk, Ancient Aliens certainly challenges a viewer to examine his own perspective on different, usually fascinating subjects (the underlying themes of the show often focus on ancient civilizations, religious notions, ideas of genetic engineering, and technological discoveries) and think outside the box.

Tsoukalos in Portugal, discussing the possibility that Atlantis actually was located here “beyond the pillars of Hercules.”

In Search of Aliens
, hosted by Tsoukalos (long-time contributor to and producer of Ancient Aliens) seems to be doing much the same thing, although each individual episode of this program is much more specific in its focus. Episode one followed Tsoukalos around the Mediterranean in search of the lost city of Atlantis. Described in detail by the Greek philosopher and mathematician Plato in a pair of early works, the Atlantis civilization supposedly was enormously wealthy and extremely technologically advanced, but it disappeared virtually overnight and its exact location has never convincingly been pinpointed. Tsoukalos’ quest for the truth behind the Atlantis legend takes him from Greece (where the story originated) to a potential location in Silves, Portugal and back to the Greek island of Santorini. During this journey, Tsoukalos interviews several experts who offer up their explanations of where Atlantis actually was located and what happened to it, and he also examines some interesting relics – including a so-called “Cosmic Egg” in Portugal. This huge stone was carved thousands of years ago, and may feature the design of a double-helix DNA strand on it – but if so, how did ancient people know about genetics at all? Questions like this lead Tsoukalos to an obvious explanation of Atlantis: the civilization was actually an alien craft that was misinterpreted as a city by ancient humans unaware of alien technology.


Aliensthey explain everything.

Probably the biggest difference between In Search of Aliens and its obvious inspiration Ancient Aliens is that In Search of… plays more like a travelogue at times than a more wide-reaching documentary. This opening episode literally followed Tsoukalos on a zigzag course across the Mediterranean, and the somewhat flashier production afforded to this show ensures that the program had some breathtaking landscape photography including a few awe-inspiring aerial shots. I rather liked the history and explanation of various legends relating to Atlantis that were provided in the show, and to some extent was surprised that this program almost used the whole alien connection as a sort of afterthought. As might be expected, Tsoukalos made a few fleeting, ominous references to the Anunnaki (mysterious Sumerian deities) and the Sumerian Kings List, but In Search of Aliens surprisingly seemed a bit more rooted in reality or at least plausibility rather than wild conjecture. Will this tendency last as the series goes along? Only time will tell, but given the track record established by Ancient Aliens, I’d expect this new program to eventually descend into a fantasy land itself. Hopefully, when it does do this we won’t have to witness the spastic movements of author David Hatcher Childress getting himself all hot and bothered while discussing these type of subjects…

Childress; per usual, maniacally gesticulating.

Speaking of fantasy land, possibly the most dumb moment in this opening episode was where the “student” (i.e. Tsoukalos) went to Switzerland to meet the “teacher” (i.e. Chariot of the Gods author Erich von Däniken, who’s largely responsible for the popularity of the ancient astronaut theory) at the positively goofy amusement park built by von Däniken in order to promote his theories. To me, this sequence of the show seemed very cheesy, as if Tsoukalos had to receive “the master’s blessing” as it were to make his statements throughout the program seem more credible. von Däniken’s brief appearance adds nothing of value to the program – essentially, he just spouts out his thoughts on the mystery of Atlantis, yet Tsoukalos is quick to point out that the discussion he had with the Swiss author was “mind blowing.” Could have fooled me – it seemed very inconsequential and mostly irrelevant when compared to what the more established, mainstream scientists featured in the program had to say. But again…ALIENS

Yes, von Däniken’s “Mystery Park,” does actually exist.

Considering that episode two of In Search of Aliens deals with the (rather fascinating) story of the perplexing Nazi experiment known as Die Glocke, I guess an audience can assume there’s going to be some overlap between subjects discussed in Tsoukalos’ new show and those featured at one point or other on Ancient Aliens. Honestly, if you’ve seen one of these shows, you know what to expect from the other, and I can almost see this new show as an attempt to give the undeniably enthusiastic and popular Tsoukalos his own gig. In Search of Aliens seems entertaining and interesting enough though, and I’d probably recommend it to those who enjoy this type of program in the first place. As with all speculative documentaries, it’s best to take this one with a grain of salt, but its ability to get a viewer thinking is, in my opinion, most commendable.



Where did I put my thimble?

The Copper Braid of Shannon O’Shea



See it at Amazon 


Pros: Child friendly, fun tale, Good St Patrick’s reading materials, Children like the book, lots of rhyming words

Cons: replace this with your list of cons

A troupe of copper tressed sprites marching across both leaves of the frontispiece set the scene for the fun to follow.

The Queen of sprites leads the group, there are old and young, some with picnic baskets, some with babies on their backs, male and female, children sprites towed in a cart and some flying overhead.

The copper braid of Shannon O’Shea begins the tale, was unbraided one fall on account of the hay

 Directed by Bernice, their queen, the sprites who should have known to leave the braid bound began undoing ribbons and bows holding Shannon’s braid. As they worked more and more things began to appear, beginning with the hat the sprites found thimbles and buttons, crab apples, a jar of orange marmalade and raccoons and even some crows nibbling on corn growing in the coppery braid.

Shannon began to sneeze due to the dust and the pollen, but nobody could hear, the sneezes were drowned out by the honking of geese. And so it went with seagulls, and silky cocoons, butterflies, moths and a flock of lost loons, carolers still singing were surprised to learn the holiday was now 9 months passed. Steeples and pillars and spires, purple potatoes, wild green tomatoes, and some marvelous beasts, a griffin, a sphinx with a hummingbird perched on his head, emeralds and gold nuggets, limos and taxis AND much more!

At last the diligent sprites release everything cause in that coppery braid, and they reach the girl! Ah, the reeling and serenading, laughter and song. Shannon asked them what took you so long.

 It took dozens of sprites to rebraid the hair as Shannon sat sipping lemonade while sitting on a chair seventeen miles from the end of her braid.

I have always enjoyed St Paddy’s Day, the wearing of the green and all. And while we talk of leprechauns and little folk and Ireland; nothing is quite so Irish for Osage County First Grade as when I bring out the book featuring Shannon O’Shea and all that wonderful coppery hair.

I find Osage County First Grade enthralled with the tale of Shannon O’Shea, her hair, the sprites and all the strange and wonderful and fun things going on in that braid. What a lovely imaginative read! Sprites all have coppery hair, are dressed mainly in turquoise with a little orange and green added here and there, are cheery in appearance and do not appear frightening at all.

The family with the cart also have a dog, Osage County First Grade looks on each page hoping to find the dog.

The page showing raccoons also receives much attention, Osage County First Grade loves the stories I can tell about visiting raccoons who come to my house each night hoping to find left overs from the food I put out for feral cats, abandoned dogs, and the raccoons themselves. These in the book are some might cute, roly poly raccoons, and they eat the orange marmalade found by the sprites.

A super fun, child friendly, totally implausible tale, filled lots and lots of fun two line rhymes

Bernice found raccoons and a rather large crow, Nibbling on corn in a dark copper row,

 As they unbraided, a song filled the air From some caroler who had been tangled in there

 And the old barn cat, come to no harm, Along with the cows from the Henderson’s farm

 Are but three of the couplets children laugh, and listen and adore.

As the sprites unravel the braid, Osage County First Grade begins to realize we have not seen Shannon O’Shea, until at last, page after page is unplaited and THERE, two red shoes can be seen, and on the next page is SHANNON O’SHEA.

And Shannon joined in with the laughter and song, After she’d asked them ‘What took you so long?’

And the sprites quickly set to rebraiding all seventeen miles of that, clean, beautiful, coppery hair while Queen Bernice and several of the babies sit smiling and munching bagels, Shannon is shown sipping lemonade, and that cute dog sits nearby.

This is a book I get out during the last days of February, and begin reading 1 page a day, day 1 is page one, day 2 read 1 and 2 and so forth. Until on the last day before our spring break I read the book in its entirety, we get to finally see Shannon O’Shea and have enjoyed the tale and rhymes to the fullest.

Each day we write the new rhyming, onset and rime work, words in our journals and practice saying them. By books end we have added many rhyming words to our journals. And have enjoyed a really fun tale about a little Irish girl. During the period we work with our globe and maps to help us understand where to find Ireland in the world, we discuss leprechauns and societal tales and the fun of childhood.

All in all I find The Copper Braid of Shannon O’Shea to be a wonderful teaching aid, a lovely and fun narrative, and a book Osage County First Grade enjoys to the fullest.

Happy to recommend The Copper Braid of Shannon O’Shea and to submit 949 words to the July August contest.


The Copper braid of Shannon O’Shea

Author Laura Esckelson

Illustrator Pam Newton

Read to:  ages 4 – 6

Read with: Primary Readers

Read Alone: older Primary Readers and Grades 3 and older

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Dutton Juvenile; a division of Penguin

First Edition edition Language: English

ISBN-10: 0525461388

ISBN-13: 978-0525461388

Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches



Alan Weisman’s Countdown: What’s Humanity’s Best Chance For Survival?

Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope For A Future On Earth


See it at Amazon 


Pros: very compelling and engaging read; insightful

Cons: at times disturbing

As a kid at the beginning of the “Green Revolution” or around 1960, Alan Weisman found a stuffed passenger pigeon in his Minneapolis library museum, a bird wiped out by 1914, and later read that when only a million of the world’s once most numerous birds was living, they were considered functionally extinct because “the pattern that doomed their critical habitat and food supply was already set.” He then chillingly wondered if his own species might already be, well, the walking dead. That disturbing discovery was recalled as he wrote his latest book, 2013′s Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope For A Future On Earth?. His previous, critically and commercially successful book, The World Without Us, was a thought experiment that considered how resilient nature is if we give it a chance to recover from our abuse, but his latest is based on hard-hitting reality.

Every four and a half days another million babies are born, which is comparable to another New York City sprouting up on our planet. If you think that’s scary, our population growth would be doubled that if not for family planning programs over recent decades. The world’s population over the twentieth century has quintupled from less than two billion to about seven billion, with projections of ten billion or more by mid-century. The question is now whether we can continue to have a world with us and how do we go about determining the answers to four questions that many world experts regard as crucial:

How many people can the Earth hold without capsizing?

How robust must the Earth’s ecosystem be to ensure our continued existence?

Can we know which other species are essential to our survival?

How might we arrive at a stable, optimum population and design an economy to enjoy prosperity without endless growth?

I think most of us will agree that finding the answers to the first three questions is simply impossible without risking our lives – we can’t manage humans like we do wildlife, after all – but a few countries like Israel and Palestine are willing to try in spite of the misery it causes. That’s where Countdown begins as Weisman journeys to more than twenty countries around the globe that are struggling with too many people or, in Japan’s unique case, a dwindling population. The chapter about Japan, “Shrink and Prosper”, was especially fascinating because they are reluctantly leading the way for the rest of us from an economy based on growth to a steady-state one where the budget remains balanced.

They alone are really trying to answer the fourth two-part question and the world is watching them with great interest. Weisman met with, among other intriguing Japanese, a robot maker training it to be an elderly caregiver because his society has more old than young people.



Countdown is endlessly fascinating, not only because Weisman traveled to more than twenty countries like Libya, Niger, Nigeria, China, Iran, Thailand, Mexico, Costa Rica, England, Italy, Vatican City, the ones already mentioned and a few I’d never heard of, but I also learned so much about the world, its people, cultures, and history. Did you know the Philippines was once a U.S. colony and, I think, a quarter million of them were killed as they fought for independence in 1946? Puerto Rico still is our colony and in the 1930s or so our government tried out unperfected contraceptives on their poor women.

It’s also a compelling, five-part book because Weisman makes clear what our limited choices are if we wish to keep living on this Earth with its quickly-melting glaciers, rising, warming, and more acidic seas, depleting resources, and imminent ecological disasters. One solution will help prevent these changes and it’s making family planning programs available, affordable, and attractive to all girls and women, even men. It’s true that being less carbon-heavy users and wasteful will help to some degree, but as Weisman points out, we’re not going to willingly change our material ways and profit-driven economy, and so reducing our population is our best chance to ensure our future.

I sure don’t want to be one of the walking dead just waiting for my extinction. Do you? Read this insightful, sometimes disturbing book that was years in the making and become part of the solution.

Thanks for reading!




What IS sound?


Seals,  Sea Gulls and other Sounds



See it at Amazon 


Pros: well made, child pleasing illustrations, timely filled with child interesting poetry, short stories and topics

Cons: cover art shown on Amazon is not original

Available from Amazon, Seals, Sea Gulls and other Sounds hardcover $5.99 and paperback $3.06 edition covers do not do justice to the original work. Sometimes the old books we have in Osage County First Grade are some of the most favored by the six year old set.   Dolly K. Elligson’s marvelous work is as pertinent today as it was back in 1966 when it was printed.

The original cover features a zany seal lolling against a sand dune with his buddy, a sea gull wearing a captain’s head gear as the duo gaze out into the sea.

This is a read to book meant to be aloud by adult or student partner to young child; opening page asks the quest What is a sound and goes on to relate much of what we teach today. A sound is many things, you can hear it with your ear, it can wake you up, help you sleep, cause you to feel happy, and is everywhere.

Osage County First Grade listen raptly as I show the drawing of a head and explain how and where sounds are made as we speak. And that there are breath sounds and voiced sounds.

Using poems, short stories and child friendly graphics produced by an illustrator who obviously had young children nearby as he worked on the drawings for this book. Consonants, nasal sounds, blends, stop sounds, and long sounds onset and rime, last sounds and pairs are introduced. Because the sounds follow alphabetical order it is easy for teachers and parents to use the with any reading program. I do not start with page one and read to the end, I open the book to the particular sound, letter or phoneme we are studying this day or week.

Some of my personal favorites, are often chosen by students as their favorites too. These include Captain Young’s Yaks, with a duo of long haired yodeling yaks, Denty The Duck Who Didn’t Want To Do Things a morality tale in which a young duck learns the value of working with the group, listening to elders and learning that older members have learned what he needs to learn. Great Grandmother’s Garden is a sweet tale of a little boy and barefoot walks at dusk when stars are showing and magic of childhood is completed with grandma nearby. Larry Lee Lives in a Lighthouse introduces children here in landlocked mid-continent to some of the commonplace activities, sights, sounds, activities of a child who lives near the sea and how his life though different is also the same as is ours where we do not see the sea.

Mark Moose, and Mohini A Marvelous Mammal introduces sounds and many M words along with scientific notions regarding mammals, warm blooded living things in addition to the social concept that adults work and work may be mundane and may be something more.

A Seal And A Sea Gull is a meandering poem filled with s words, focused on the sea and many facts about the worlds oceans.

Osage County First Grade enjoys Seals, Sea Gulls and other Sounds beginning on the first day of school as I introduce the letter c and   read Chair CH CH CH a breath sound. During the first week of school Chang Fu Was a Chinese Child, introduces a junk, vendor, chestnuts, fortune cookies, egg rolls, allows us to search our maps for China and piques our interest for the sounds, words, worlds and learning we will enjoy throughout the term.

I use the book every week, nearly every day, and should I not have used the book by rug time signifying the close of our day, children are quick to point out the lack and hope we will use it tomorrow. Seals, Sea Gulls and other Sounds is carried home each day to be shared with parents and siblings as Little Learners show off their learning.

Osage County First Grade and I like Seals, Sea Gulls and other Sounds very much despite the fact that it is not new, glitzy filled with slick or bright or showy graphics. I find the work as significant for use in Early Childhood Education classroom today as it was when I began my teaching career three+ decades ago.

Happy to use and recommend any copy you can find   Seals, Sea Gulls and other Sounds  for use in the classroom, home school environment or as an adjunct to online learning and, to submit 797 words to the July – August contest.

Seals, Sea Gulls and other Sounds

Author: Dolly K Elligson

Illustrator: John Everds

Paperback: 95 pages

Publisher: Systems for Education

Language: English





Coleman Perfect-Flow 1-Burner

Model # 2000004124


Coleman PefectFlow 1-Burner Stove



Pros: Ridiculously easy to assemble, instant flame

Cons: Wish the base were just a bit deeper for greater stability

 Ramen Noodles, camping and my Coleman PerfectFlow 1-Burner were simply meant for each another – like Timmy and Lassie, or Donald Trump and hairspray. 

I recently posted a review on Coleman Chest  Coolers, including a picture of an impromptu campout from my personal album. Also in that photo, setting atop the cooler, is my Coleman PerfectFlow 1-Burner Stove. Well, here’s slightly different picture, but the same stove. I have absolutely no idea why I snapped these rather mundane photos – the Camping Gods must have known I would need them someday. And what better testimony could I offer of my personal preference for, and confidence in, this product?   



The box with the open flaps holds the burner until it’s ready to be used. I try to keep things in their original container primarily to protect them from getting damaged and to keep things orderly – (also known as OCD – ha!) 


Mt. Washinton, Oregon
Mt. Washinton, Oregon

 So, envision this: It’s just breaking daylight.  Although it’s dang chilly at 5500 ft. elevation, you manage to crawl out of your sleeping bag.  It takes just a minute or so ( really!) for the Coleman PerfectFlow 1-Burner to heat enough water (about a quart) to wet a face  cloth for a quick morning facial. Oh heaven!

 Next, pour a substantial amount of hot water into a metal cup, add your favorite flavor instant coffee or tea, sit back and enjoy the view.  These are the moments campers daydream of all through the long, cold winter. And speaking of winter – and cutting Christmas trees - and playing in the snow – and hot chocolate – and Ramen Noodle Soup, what’s  more fun and family oriented than spending a day playing in the snowy woods? And what makes it even better? Hot food, drinks – and toasted marshmallows!   



 Of course, fire in any form always has its serious side. . .

  • Never! use this burner, or any other propane-operated piece of equipment to light or heat the inside of a tent, vehicle or RV – with the exception of a propane heater that is designed for that purpose.
  • Never! let young children operate the burner.  Personally, I would choose teen age as an appropriate age to allow usage. Then again, it depends on the child.
  • Never! attempt to dismantle the burner while it’s operating – in other words, while lit.
  • Never! throw a used (even empty) propane bottle in a campfire or fire pit.  Take it home.
  • Never! leave the burner unattended while lit.  If a single match can cause a forest fire – think what an eight-inch-diameter match can do.  

Some features of the Coleman PerfectFlow 1-Burner Model # 2000004124 are:

  • It has an 8″ burner which distributes quick, even heat.
  • The flame is fully adjustable with a twist-type knob - up to 10,000 BTU’s.
  • It has a pressure-control system that keeps the heat steady.
  • Built-in pot/pan support to provide wind protection
  • Uses a 16.4 oz. propane cylinder (Coleman brand preferably)
  • Burns 2.2 hrs. on High setting and 9 hrs. on Low,
  • Dimensions – 7.75″ x 7.81″ x 6.62
  • Made in China.

To Use:

The Burner comes completely assembled.

  •   Just screw the burner clockwise onto a 16.4 oz. cylinder of propane.
  • Place the cylinder into the base and set on a level surface.
  •   Turn the propane/flame valve until you hear a slight hissing noise.
  • With a match, or better yet, a long-handled BBQ lighter, place the match or lighter close to the propane jets. It will immediately ignite.
  • Adjust the valve to the flame height desired.

Look for other Coleman stoves of varying sizes and number of burners.  This model sells for around $30.00 at most discount and outdoor stores.

The Coleman Company

Golden, Colorado