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Friday, April 14, 2017

My Walk Through Life 4/14/2017

YouTube is a great media for entertainment and education. My introduction to it was watching videos my husband and children would find. The Nu Ma Nu Ma Guy was the first video I watched. Then there was the The Llama Song which my kids loved. My friends and I ended a dinner party one evening watching Trunk Monkey Videos.
   One daughter listens to her favorite music and another watches television shows and Broadway musicals.
  After the death of my husband, I had to learn to use tools and fix things. Instead of calling someone in to fix the belt in my dryer, I found a video on how to fix the exact same dryer that I had. That saved me a lot of money! Since then, I have fix toilets and a lawn mower. 
   You can learn to play an instrument, make crafts, cook any meal, paint, and so much more. Ask the 8 year old boy in Ohio. 
   The little boy wanted a McDonald's hamburger. Everyone had gone to bed, so instead of waking his parents, he watched a video on YouTube so he could learn to drive a car. He stood on his tiptoes to reach the keys, put his 4 year old sister in the van, and off they went. When the server at the drive-thru window realized that it wasn't a prank, the police were called. The police stated that it was amazing that he did so well. He caused no damage and obeyed all the laws, including stopping at red lights. 
   I always tell people to look on YouTube if they need to learn something :)


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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

My Walk Through Life 4/12/2017

The library. That was my refuge when I was an insecure kid, going to a new school every few years. I volunteered where I could, and just read and checked out books where I couldn't. I had always felt at home in a library no matter where I lived. 
   Books are not as popular as they once were. People use other means to read, such as online and book readers. Libraries have had to figure out other ways to serve their communities. 
  All libraries have different things to offer, but here are some of the things that I have found:
  If you have children, find out what is on the calendar for them. Some things I have seen offered are movie nights, authors reading their books, reading circles, craft classes, and games.
   There are great varieties of music, movies, and television shows you can check out.
   Do you want to learn a different language? See if you local library offers Mango. It is free and you can sit at home instead of a classroom. You can even learn Pirate! If they don't have Mango, they may have Rosetta Stone. 
   The library offers a place for different clubs to gather. I have seen book clubs, coupon clippers, crafters, for some examples.
   If you don't have a computer at home, they have them at the library for you to use. A great way to apply for jobs, do research, or if you have a high school student, they can do their FAFSA. 
  Most libraries have a genealogy section but you can link in with HeritageQuest online if you have a library card.  
  Do you need to do work around your home but don't have the tools? Some libraries lend out the tools you need for home improvement and gardening.
  With a library card, you can get free passes to local museums and attractions. If you can't get a free pass for the day, there may be a discount. My library system will lend out a backpack for a week. In this backpack there is a free pass to the local state parks, books on birds, plants, or bugs, a Go-Pro and more for your adventure.
  Don't have a library card? You might want to get one and open up a new world. 


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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

My Walk Through Life 4/11/2017

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Pets Throughout History

My dogs are a large part of my life and I know many people who have pets that are part of their own families. These pets can be dogs, cats, turtles, fish, or even a pig. We love them and our lives are focused on them. No vacation is taken without making arrangements. I have seen a photo of my daughter's fish tank fastened in a set belt while taking it to the "babysitter."
   The famous and infamous have also had pets. Some a little odder than others. 

President Andrew Jackson was a tough "bird" and had a pet parrot that learned some bad habits from the war hero. Parrot copy sounds and words that they hear often. This bird heard a lot of cuss words, so it seems. During the president's funeral, the bird had to be removed because it let loose a string of cuss words and shocked the attendees. 

Re-gifting is okay if the recipient is responsive to it. President John Quincy Adams received a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette that was given to him from a grateful nation, for the help he gave George Washington to achieve American independence. The gift the Marquis decided not to keep was an alligator. The president kept his pet in a bathing tub in the unfinished East Room. Adams used the alligator to pull some pranks on visitors before it was homed elsewhere.

Cambridge University did not allow Lord Byron brought his pet bear to university. After Percy Shelly visited his friend in Venice he wrote: "Lord B's establishment consists, besides servants, of 10 horses, eight enormous dogs, three monkeys, five cats, an eagle, a crow, and a falcon....I have just met on the grand staircase five peacocks, two guinea hens and an Egyptian crane." Lord Byron at one time also kept a wolf named Lyon and a dog named Boatswain. Boatswain died of rabies and was memorialized in marble.

I have seen many backyards with ponds full of carp. In ancient Rome, the aristocrats kept moray eels in theirs. It is reported that Lucius Licinius Crassus adorned his favorite pets with jewels and wept when the eels died. 

Do you like quiet pets? How about a pet lobster? The French poet, Gerard de Nerval was on the coast one day and rescued a lobster from a net. He named it Thibault and took it back to Paris with him. Lobster can stay out of water for a few days, so Nerval would tie a blue ribbon around Thibault and take him for walks around Paris. "lobsters are peaceful, serious creatures, who know the secrets of the sea."

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Monday, April 10, 2017

My Walk Through Life 4/10/17

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Stale bread is one of largest items that cause food waste. When I have stale bread, and remember to grab it, I take it to my brother's house to feed their chickens. There are so many good ways to use stale bread, we should never have to throw it away. 
   It can be refreshed by putting the bread in a damp paper bag and heating it in a 300F oven for three minutes.
   Use it in recipes like grilled cheese, strata, bread pudding, French toast, or French onion soup. You can add bread to a soup to add texture. If you are not ready to use it in a recipe, freeze in a zip-lock freezer bag. Bring it to room temperature before adding new bread.
   Make bread crumbs by laying the bread out on a cookie sheet and drying it out on your ovens lowest setting. Grind in a food processor and then dry some more for an hour. Store it in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Add some Italian seasonings if you want to flavor it up.
   Make croutons by cubing the bread. You can season it by tossing the bread squares in olive oil and seasonings. Lay out on a cookie sheet and dry at a low oven setting until golden brown. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. 
   I store my brown sugar in a tight covered container and add a slice of stale bread to it to keep it soft. You can add a slice of bread to a container of soft cookies to keep them soft. Also, if a slice of bread is kept with your vegetables in a crisper drawer, it will keep them fresh. Put in new bread every couple of days. 

Make a beer or an ale from bread:
   Fill a glass jar or other container with pieces of stale bread or crumbs.
   Fill container with water or make an herbal tea of your choosing.
   Cover with cheese cloth. You want to let air circulate but keep insects out.
   Let the mixture sit for 1-2 days. 
   Strain through cotton flannel, a jelly bag, a pillowcase or other cotton material, to remove the solids.
   Measure the amount of liquid that has been drained out.
   For each pint of liquid, add 2 tablespoons of sugar. You can choose to use white sugar, barley sugar, honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, etc.
   Drop in a few raisins.
   *I apologize for the next couple of instructions. I have researched and not sure I understand them.
   You may or may not need to add yeast or a yeast starter. The bread and the open air may have allowed the yeast to generate or the raisins will carry in yeast. Allowing it to sit for a couple of days will help the process. If not, you can add yeast at this point. Using yeast meant for beer brewing is recommended but you can use any yeast. Add a pinch of yeast for each cup of liquid.
   Cover the jar with an airlock.
   When the raisins start to float, the beer is ready to drink. I will mildly carbonated and low in alcohol. If you want it to be more alcoholic, add more sugar and brew for longer periods.
  This recipe came from the site Wind in the Roses. She has a lot of interesting recipes for home remedies, ideas for frugal living, and more.

There is a brewery called Toast that is based in England. They use surplus bread from bakeries to make their bread. They even share their recipe. 

Make French Toast Sticks
    4 thick slices white Texas Toast bread (stale is best)
   1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
   2 eggs
   1/4 cup milk
   1/4 cup sugar
   1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
Remove the crust and cut the bread into 4 sticks.
Using a large bowl, mix milk and eggs and a pinch of salt. 
In a flat bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon.
Heat the butter over medium heat in a skillet.
Roll the bread sticks into the egg mixture, shaking off the excess and place in the pan.
Turn each side until golden brown.
Once done, transfer immediately into the cinnamon sugar mixture and roll to coat. 
If desired, put syrup in a small container and dip.

Recipe for Austrian Dumplings from Mother Earth News


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Thursday, December 1, 2016

My Walk Through Life 12/1/2016

Christmas Story:
For the Man Who Hated Christmas
By Nancy W. Gavin
It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years.
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas. Oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it—overspending and the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma—the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.
Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was on the wrestling team at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.
As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.
Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids—all kids. He so enjoyed coaching little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came.
That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes, and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed a small, white envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done, and that this was his gift from me.
Mike’s smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year. And that same bright smile lit up succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition—one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.
The white envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children—ignoring their new toys—would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents. As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the small, white envelope never lost its allure.
The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree. And the next morning, I found it was magically joined by three more. Unbeknownst to the others, each of our three children had for the first time placed a white envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down that special envelope.
Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.
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Monday, November 28, 2016

My Walk Through Life 11/28/2016

Green Christmas Pickle Shatterproof Ornaments - 3 Pack Bundle - 4.5" Tall

Do you have a Christmas Pickle ornament hidden on your Christmas tree? If not, here is a new tradition for you.
   In the 1880s the Woolworth stores received ornaments from Germany. Many were in the shapes of fruits and vegetables, and for some odd reason, pickles. It was told that the Christmas Pickle was an old German tradition. The ornament was the last on hung on the tree, and the child who finds it first gets an extra present. Well, it seems that this story is a myth, but what a fun tradition!
   There are two other stories linked with the pickle. One is of a Bavarian born American Civil War soldier. He was a prisoner and was starving. He begged a guard for one last pickle before he died. The guard gave him a pickle, which gave the soldier the strength to live on.
   Then there is a medieval story of two Spanish boys traveling home from boarding school. They stopped at an inn that was owned by a very bad man. He killed the boys and hid them in a pickle barrel. St. Nichola stopped by that evening and miraculously brought the boys back to life.


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Saturday, October 22, 2016

My Walk Through Life 10/22/16

West Virginia State Penitentiary, Moundsville, West Virginia

  When we drove upon this massive stone structure, all we could say was “Wow!”. There was no doubt we were at the right place. Our first view was the twenty-four foot high walls, which we later found out were five feet deep. We drove around until we came to the main entrance. It is Gothic in style, complete with turrets and battlements. To look at it just brings out the excitement in anyone interested in ghost stories!
  The penitentiary opened up for operation in 1876. It was commissioned during the Civil War when West Virginia succeeded from Virginia and found themselves without a prison. It was denied several times, and Governor Arthur Boreman was told to use the existing county jails. The press got involved when nine inmates escaped from a jail. Boreman finally received the funding to build in Moundsville, West Virginia. Prisoners were used to build the structure, which at first included the Wagon Gate, a home for the warden, a hospital, a kitchen, dining area, offices, a facility for women and a chapel. It housed 251 male inmates. The second phase included workshops.
  Some of the inmates had jobs to support the prison. There was a bakery, a tailor shop, and a wagon shop. In 1921, a coal mine opened up in the area. This mine helped supply the prison with coal, so some of the prisoners were sent to work at the mine. At the turn of the century, prison conditions were reported to be good. Many of the prisoners were productive. A school and library were built to support education and rehabilitation.
  Gradually, the conditions worsened and the prison was listed on the United States Department of Justice’s “Top Ten Most Violent Correctional Facilities” list. Due to overcrowding, three inmates had to share the tiny cells, two on the bunk beds, which were attached to the walls, and one on a pallet on the floor. Gambling, fighting, murder, and rape occurred daily.
  January 1, 1986, a deadly prison riot was launched. A small group who called themselves The Avengers, plotted to take over on a holiday when many guards would call off work. Conditions of the prison had deteriorated. There was disease due to insects and bad plumbing. The third floor of the prison did not have heat in the winter and was stifling hot in the summer. Prisoners could pick the lock of their cells and would roam freely. Security had become lax. At around 5:30pm The Avengers took action. Six guards and a food service worker were attacked and secured with handcuffs. None of them were seriously wounded. However, in the two days of rioting, three inmates were killed by other inmates. The governor was sent to the prison for negotiations. New rules and standards were set.
  Later that year, the Supreme Court ruled that the conditions were not suitable and the 5’x7’ cells were cruel and unjust punishment. The prison was shut down. Even as bad as this prison was reported to be, Charles Manson requested to be sent to Moundsville. His mother was once housed in the women’s facility and he still had family in the area.
  On record, ninety-four men were executed. Eighty-five were hung in the Wagon Gate. In 1951, the State began to use the electric chair, nicknamed “Old Sparky”. Nine men were electrocuted until the State abolished the death penalty in 1959. There were thirty-six homicides, and numerous suicides. With all the death, anger, and hatred that went on inside these thick walls, there has to be ghosts!
  The prison is now used to bring in a profit. It is used as a museum to learn of the justice system, to look at the artwork of talented prisoners, to learn of prison history, and yes, you can visit “Old Sparky”. For Halloween fun, there is the Dungeon of Horrors. The spooky feel of the prison is intensified by the haunted house effects. From March until November, you can use ghost hunting techniques and get locked in overnight. During any of these events you have a good chance of encountering a previous inmate.
  A group of us, friends and family, went for the overnight lock-in. There were about sixty other people with us, so we knew that conducting investigations were going to be hard, but the place is big, so we were not walking on top of each other. During our preliminary tour, we learned of the key places known to have paranormal activity. One area was a basement room called the Sugar Shack. It was the recreational area when the weather outside was bad. The guards didn’t monitor the area very well since there was only one door and no windows. Since security was lacking, it was a place for gambling and fighting. No murders were reported to happen there, however. We were told by our tour guide that occasionally a spirit will be seen digging here, but no one knows why. Sitting in the Sugar Shack in the dark was not pleasant but we stayed there for a while. We did not collect any evidence of paranormal activity there, but the energy is so heavy you can almost feel the violence. All the fake blood and random items left from the Dungeons of Horror didn’t help make the atmosphere any more comfortable.
  Another basement room was what looked to be an old kitchen. It has a large cooking fireplace along one of the walls. This section is called “The Hole” and was used to house R.D. Wall. He was favored by the warden and was given this section as his cell. Some inmates labeled him as a “snitch” and attacked him while he was sitting in his bathroom. He was skinned alive and burned. There have been reports of him haunting his old cell. One of my friends was touched by unseen hands while she was sitting in The Hole. On her digital recorder she recorded a male voice talking about a key. When I went into The Hole, the only activity I found was a bat.
   We spent some time in the hospital and psych ward. The hospital ward was below the warden’s quarters. Lana and I kept hearing footsteps pacing above us. We knew the section was off limits to visitors, and were wondering if anyone was able to sneak up into it. The entrance to the stairs looked to be very secure, so we were pretty sure we heard phantom pacing from the warden’s quarters.
  The North Wagon Gate is one of the oldest sections of the prison. Not only did wagons enter and leave here, but the hangings were conducted here. One of our recorders picked up the EVP “Carl Monroe”. Could he be a prisoner that still lingers here? I was not able to find any information on him.
  For me, the most fascinating and active place in the prison was “Red’s Cell”. William “Red” Snyder was in the area that housed the most dangerous prisoners. Red was put in prison for killing his parents. While in Moundsville, he had other prisoners killed. He was known for being a fan of the soap opera “Days of Our Lives”. Red was not friendly with many of the other prisoners and was a loner. The graffiti on his cell walls show that he was a racist and had an interest in the Aryan Nation. One day in 1992, he had a disagreement with another prisoner, Russell “Rusty” Lassiter. When the guards opened cells, Rusty rushed out and “shanked” Red. Before the guard could pull out his gun and stop the attack, Lassiter had stabbed Red thirty-seven times. On our tour, we were told that Red was the most active of spirits, especially if you discuss his favorite soap opera.
  My son and his friends spent some time in Red’s cell. They had a digital recorder and asked the question, “What do you like to do in your spare time?” The spooky answer was “I’m gonna take a nap”.
  Lana and I sat on the bunk of Red’s cell for a couple of hours. We tried very hard to get something, anything to happen. Lana’s husband joined us in the cell occasionally, but it was very tiny and with him inside it was crowded. (We had a hard time picturing three people living here!) He preferred to walk the hallway and take video. We were very disappointed to have had no activity to report. We did catch an odd EVP, however. Lana and I were discussing that we hoped we could get some evidence to prove that the prison was haunted, but we were rather disappointed. A man’s voice came on our recorder that said, “I’m still alive”.
  After the lock-in was over, Lana and I were in the gift shop buying tee-shirts. One of the tour guides Maggie, asked us if we had any experiences. We told her that we didn’t really, and even tried to get something to happen in Red’s cell. She told us that she was once a guard in the prison and knew Red. After the prison was shut down, and the tours had started, she was in on a Sunday cleaning up the water bottles and other trash the visitors left. She walked past Red’s cell and heard a familiar voice say “Morning Mag”. She automatically said “Morning, Red” and then realized she just talked to a dead man.
   This building almost has to be haunted with the horrible history that it holds, even if we didn’t come home with many personal experiences or exciting video.

Footnote:  My daughter and I were watching a special on television about Moundsville and its ghosts. The tour guide Maggie was on it and was with a local paranormal investigator. Rusty Lassiter was being released from prison and they felt the need to let Red know. They entered his cell with a digital recorderr. After they told Red’s spirit that Lassiter was released, a voice was recorded saying “I already know”. My daughter and I both recognized the voice. It was the same voice on our recorders!


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