Sunday, February 28, 2016

Show of the Month: February: Heartland


I have always loved horses and anything about the Great Plains (especially after first seeing one of my all-time favorite movies, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron).  Anyway, although Heartland came out in 2007, it isn’t really dated, and simply is a decent family drama about the lives of a grandfather, his two granddaughters, and the others that come and go at their ranch in Alberta, Canada.  So far, there are six seasons up on Netflix.

The main character is Amy Fleming, a teenager with a special gift inherited from her mom, who had a renowned connection with horses, particularly ones who needed special help.  To be honest, just as many people come into the ranch with problems to solve as the horses.  Amy’s sister Lou, acts as the manager of Heartland Ranch, and their Grandfather, Jack, is the levelheaded owner of the entire acreage.  They have to take over Amy and Lou’s mother Marion’s work at Heartland after she has an accident after rescuing a mistreated horse named Spartan.  Larger problems within the episodes are mingled with the smaller everyday issues of those in Heartland and their neighbors.


The acting is pretty good, and on the whole the cast of characters has a decent spectrum of personality, ranging from steadfast Jack, impulsive Mallory (the neighboring girl who prefers to live at Heartland), bossy but endearing Lou, na├»ve and spirited Amy, Lou and Amy’s somewhat narcissistic father Tim, the rather chivalrous but ranch hand Ty (who comes to Heartland on probation), spiteful Val and her spoiled daughter Ashley, to the other motley characters that grow and change during the course of the series.  As I mentioned, the characters do usually develop, and the irritating or negative ones often really have a reason for being the way they are, and often accept the help of others.


The scenery of the location is one of the best parts about Heartland, from the traditional large cabin home shared by the main characters, with a huge fireplace build before Jack was born, surrounded by acres of spectacular grasslands, pastures, forests, streams, and neighboring farmland, all encircled by enormous blue snow-peaked mountains in the distance.  The music also helps in setting the scene, with light background guitar strumming and different country songs at the end of every episode, with special attention to the particular mood driving each episode.


I have a few favorite episodes, including the one where Amy visits an old friend of her mother’s, a Native American man whose way with horses and people through spiritual means is unrivaled, and reaches both those in the TV and those watching thousands of miles away on their couch watching this fictional episode.


   
I also love the one that goes through Jack’s mind and memories as he is forced to accept the ancient truck his wife gave him is going to have to be replaced.  I also simply enjoy the trivial daily activities that I like in other shows and in books too, like pouring coffee or playing games.  (I loved little details like that in books like the Harry Potter series, it made the characters more “real”.)


I have been watching this show on and off for a few months, and have been binge-watching from the end of the first season well into the third for several weeks now.  There are plenty more seasons after this, so I may have to add to this post in the future.  I would give Heartland a solid four star rating, only detracting because of some underdeveloped characters, and some slightly misdelivered lines.  All in all, Heartland is pretty much a depiction of the introduction song, which is to “dream on”.


The show for next month I have planned already, as February, being as simultaneously cold and snowy and icy as warm and mucky, hasn’t been ideal for much in my free time that has to do with the outdoors.  Meh.  I assume the first half of March won’t be much different.  Stay tuned for Poldark as March’s show of the month!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Product Review: Too Faced Natural Eyes Palette


I just watched Alix from I Covet Thee’s recent video on her most underrated products, and Too Faced Natural Eyes Palette (in the older packaging) made her list.  I was slightly surprised that she mentioned it as an underrated product, as I go for it more than any other palette, and have done so for a couple of months since I bought it for myself just prior to Christmas.  I admit I had trouble finding reviews on it, and although I found a couple well-made videos and blog posts, they were few.  So I commented in Alix’s video pretty much what I just wrote here, and mentioned that more people should write or talk about it.  I figured I’d follow up on that and dedicate this little corner of my blog to this lovely product!

My decision pretty much went on Zoella’s video from months back, in which she uses a few of the colors from this palette in a natural eye look, and I have coveted the palette from then on.  I love taupe, tawny, gold, copper, baby pink, vanilla, and brown shades, and this palette has all you need, as well as a mirror, a cheat-sheet for ideas, all in a neat little tin case, with a magnetic closure.  This means it is ideal for travel, and is also a lovely addition to any makeup table or boudoir.  The pale pink and gold scrolling is so 18th century, which makes me love it more!



The colors are divided into “Day”, “Classic”, and “Fashion”, going across, for those who like easy to use pre-coordinated color selections.  But you can mix any of the colors with any of the others, and they can be made suitable for any sort of occasion, as Zoella did in her video.



 
The “Day” colors are all matte, and are neutral and velvety to blend.  The quintessential vanilla color is represented in the first slot, called “Heaven”, followed from left to right by “Cashmere Bunny”, a warm chocolate matte suitable for the crease (or brows, if you’re a brunette), and “Sexpresso”, a deep neutral brown I like to use for lining with an angled brush.  The “Day” colors are great on any color eye.


 
The first two “Classic” colors are a pearl shimmer finish, and are slightly pinker and copperier in tones.  The larger shade, often used for highlight or all over the lid, is “Silk Teddy”, followed by “Push-Up”, a warm, rich copper (my favorite for crease with my red hair), and shimmery dark taupe called “Erotica”.  This row looks amazing on any color eye, but I think the pinks are particularly suited to blue.



The final “set” is “Fashion”, with the lid color as “Nudie”, a light matte taupe-brown (again fine for brows), crease as “Honey Pot”, a fiery gold pearl shimmer, with the liner as “Chocolate Martini”, a dark khaki-brown shimmer (I love this color for my green eyes, and I imagine hazel would be amazingly suited to this shade as well).



As I said, the colors are well-suited to mix with any combination, but I decided on the order of the packaging, because when I’m in a rush, it is certainly easier to follow the order that has been neatly given by Too Faced.  Feel free to experiment with the endless combinations, because even if this palette is “Natural” doesn’t mean it is boring in any way!  I will do a look or several with this palette soon, so keep checking back.

(Note:  I paid for this product because I have wanted it for a while, and have not been sponsored.)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Music: New Mandolin


I don’t play stringed instruments well, but my dad has been playing guitar since the 70s, and likes a whole lot of different styles.  About five years ago he got interested in banjo, and now the new thing is mandolin.  I’m not saying it’s a phase, because once a new instrument is acquired, it’s picked up again and again for years.  The mandolin is only slightly random because it was my mom who noticed several hanging up with the acoustics at a guitar store near where we live.  Several weeks and stores later, we went back to the same place and picked up a Loar A-style mandolin, used, at the lower end of the price range.  (It was about $250 used, where new versions ranged from $500 to $550.)


  
Now I don’t have much background in mandolins, but there are two types I’ve learned about and most often seen in music stores, the simpler A-style, which is what we picked out (shown above), and the ornate F-style, shown here (fstylemandolin.info).


One of the other mandolins we fiddled with was woodier-sounding, and others were tinnier and brighter (for lack of better adjectives).  I like both, and would have to do more research into what is preferred by particular artists.

The reason we were drawn to the mandolin was my mom’s and my interest in Celtic and Renaissance music, which often uses mandolin, along with fiddle, guitar, and flute.  I already play flute, and have for over ten years, love the history of this sort of Asian-European folk music.  I love history anyway, and music is an incredible way to connect and better understand the people who wrote and played these ancient songs.


(A medieval mandolin from Barcelona.  By Amador Alvarez, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29802080)

I will have to report back when we all have had a chance to play with the instrument, and as I know the least about how to play it, I have the most to learn!  If anyone has more knowledge and information on this fascinating instrument, links to artists and songs, or its history, let me know!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Baking: Lemon Tea Cookies


(I just loved the that the snowman on the plate looked like he was holding the cookie!  The book I am reading is Poldark.)

I love chocolate anything, but I also love a twist on a basic sugar cookie, especially if it is meant to be consumed with tea and a book.  These lemon cookies are easy, don’t make too many, and can be pulled together quickly with basic ingredients.  I can just picture Piglet inviting his friends over to sample his little sweet treats by a cozy fireplace.
 
This recipe is supposed to make 3 dozen, but I only got 21 cookies (with a smallish cookie scoop).  I suppose they are supposed to be a little smaller than I made: think Piglet.

Ingredients:

Cookies:

½ cup (1 stick) softened butter
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup milk (whole is better)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 egg
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon lemon zest (fresh is always better)

Lemon-sugar glaze:

2 tablespoons lemon juice
¼ cup sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit.

Beat sugar and butter together until fluffy. 
   

Add the egg and mix.  Mix two teaspoons of the milk into the lemon juice.  Add this mixture to the wet ingredients as well as the remaining milk.  (It is fine if the mixture curdles somewhat, as it will look much better as the dry ingredients are added.)




Mix together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder (sift, if possible), and add the mixture to the wet ingredients in small batches.



Use a spoon or cookie dropper to drop even cookies onto ungreased cookie sheets.


Bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the bottoms and a tiny bit of the edges of the cookies are golden brown.



Cool each batch for a couple of minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to cool before glazing with the lemon glaze.

Directions for the lemon-sugar glaze:

Mix the lemon and sugar in a small bowl, and use either a spoon or a pastry brush to glaze the cookies.  The glaze will be sticky, so allow it to cool and harden before storing in container lined with wax paper at room temperature.



  
These cookies have a tendency to get dry if not eaten within a few days, but I don’t know of anyone who would have that problem.  Enjoy with a cup of tea and good book!


(I have found many recipes similar to this one; this is from the Winnie the Pooh Cookie Book.  I wrote five stars in the book years ago.  Copyright Dutton Children's Books, 1996, and the drawing is by A.A. Milne.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tea Review: Enjoying Tea’s Lady Baroness Grey Loose Tea


I can’t believe I haven’t done a tea review yet, as I love tea more than any other beverage (yes, more than coffee).  I grew up on Bigelow and Celestial Seasonings and have since branched out into more brands, and including those that do loose tea rather than tea bags.  Loose tea comes in all the varieties of bag tea (often even more), such as black, green, white, oolong, and rooibos (I haven't yet tried puerh).  Sometimes the tea is plain, and sometimes it includes pieces of dried fruit, flower petals, spices, and other ingredients.


The first order I made from Enjoying Tea was a few of years ago in late summer to buy a cast iron Asian-style teapot.  I had been seeing them everywhere, and they were just too expensive for what you get at places like Teavana (I can do a separate review on why I’m not so crazy about Teavana in another post).  I ended up getting a red and gold cast iron teapot with images of a Chinese dragon and phoenix on the sides of the pot and top of the coaster (for a lot less than Teavana).  I also decided to get a package of their Lady Baroness Grey tea, as I love earl grey tea, and needed more loose tea for my new pot (it’s specifically for loose tea).  I have the four ounce version, and it has lasted me a long time for an inexpensive cost.



Lady Baroness Tea is a black tea, with pieces of dried orange, some flower petals, and lime leaves (I will include the description from the website below), and of course bergamot (the main flavoring of any earl grey tea).  It is a black tea, so one teaspoon (or 2.3 grams) per one cup (eight ounces) of boiling (212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius).


The tea doesn’t take long to steep, and can get quite dark if left too long.  The recommended steeping time is only 3-5 minutes.  The tea is a medium amber color, like most black tea, and gives off a slightly floral aroma, heady with bergamot.  I think it is best with light sandwiches and dessert (or tea) items, such as coffee cake, cookies, and cake.  I have it without sugar, but it is good with some sugar or your preferred sweetener.


Although I always have to have my favorite Bigelow earl grey, this version is a little more dressed up and feels more luxurious, even though it is hardly more expensive than your average pot or cup of tea.

(Note:  I have not been paid to make this review.)