Category: Lifestyle

Family Recipe: Wassail

Happy holidays! Well, in preparation of the holiday party and New Year season, I have a little recipe for you all. I have seen feedback that many people don’t like getting a story before the recipe so I’m going to post the recipe straightaway. If you want to hear about Wassail – go read below the recipe for that.

image description: image of cranberry juice, apple cider, cinnamon sticks, an orange, and whole cloves all assembled on a blue mat.

Wassail

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


Ingredients
2 Quarts apple juice or cider
1 pint cranberry juice
2 sticks cinnamon
1 tsp whole allspice
1 whole small orange, studded with whole cloves
1 cup rum (optional)
1 tsp aromatic bitters (optional)

Instructions
Put all ingredients in crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour, then on low for 4 to 8 hours.
Serve warm from crockpot..

image description: a white ceramic mug with cider in it and an orange slice on the rim, then two orange slices, a cinnamon stick, and whole cloves arranged on a blue mat.

Wassail is hot mulled cider – many different formulations exist over different cultures – my mother’s family is part British so it’s possible this is an old family tradition. I was always under the impression that most of my family’s traditions derived from their time spent stationed on the Army base in Germany though.

The word, according to Wiki, is derived from the Medieval Christmastide tradition of wassailing – or an English drinking ritual to guarantee a good harvest in the new year.

Wassail is a drink that we have made every single holiday as far as I can remember. Thanksgiving – when we celebrated it – included putting the Wassail on early in the morning and beginning to drink it by noon. Also, I personally have never had the alcoholic version, so this was a very innocent tradition from my childhood.

When I had my first holiday party in our home in Atlanta, I made wassail as one of the things I had – it was one of the biggest endeavors I ever undertook – but it was so much fun! I haven’t managed to replicate it in Baltimore mostly because of the size of our row home.

Hopefully you enjoy this recipe too! Let me know what you think.

❤ J

Holiday Gift Guide: Dog Mom Edition

This holiday season is challenging for me, now that we only have two dogs and my longtime service dog has gone over the rainbow bridge. But for some reason, concentrating on the pet dog and service dog in training we do have is helpful to distract me and make life a little brighter.

There isn’t much more fun for me than giving my service dog in training pup new toys and sometimes finding new (or replacing old) devices that make our lives with pets easier.

A dark miniature schnauzer curls up against a human’s legs in the foreground and a lighter schnauzer is curled up against the end of the sofa in the background.
image description: gift guide: dog mom gifts. images include a spot bot, a car belt harness, an automatic ball throwing device, hooves and antlers to chew, dog treats, and a stuffed dinosaur.
  1. SpotBot Pet Handsfree Spot & Stain Cleaner – We have replaced this a few times. Not by any fault of the spot bot itself, more because of inattentive cleaning patterns. It works GREAT. Got our carpets in our old rental that were off white when we moved in back to true white when we moved out in SPITE of five years of pets and being right on the backdoor. – If you have ADD be aware that it needs to be immediately emptied and cleaned when it’s done cleaning the rugs otherwise it does tend to gunk up the gears.
  2. Dog Safety Vest Harness – We bought two of these for use in all car travel with our dogs. It keeps them safe and keeps me from spending all my time being worried about them falling off the seat.
  3. Automatic Ball Launcher – I do not have and have not used this, but it looks like it would be a really fun toy for both our toy-chase obsessed SDiT and his buddy the cat.
  4. Natural Cow Hooves for Dogs – We have these and have replenished them for the dogs every year or so. There are plenty to go around for the two of them and they last a long time.
  5. Zuke’s Mini Natural Soft Treats – Dog treats are a very individual sort of thing, but we have used these mini treats very successfully in training and the pups love them. The size makes it much easier to avoid overfeeding.
  6. Deer Antler Dog Chews – my older dogs never got into these antler chews but the SDiT loves them so he’ll probably get a pack in his stocking this year.
  7. Dino Dog Toy – This dinosaur dog toy has chew guard technology. It also has a squeaker – which is one of my dogs favorite things ever. We haven’t tried the chew guard technology yet, but I’ll report back!

What are your pet’s favorite things? Any toys we should look into?

❤ J

Holiday Gift Guide: Chronic Illness Edition

Knowing what to get for your friends who are disabled, or chronically ill is sometimes challenging – there are allergies to consider, many are poor, living in very small spaces, and often your best bet are things to help comfort – or checking their Amazon wishlists!

Here are a few things that I personally use and appreciate for comfort when I am dealing with pain flares, ongoing colds during the beginning of winter, and being stuck in the house because of illness.

  1. Weighted Blanket – This has been invaluable to me since the loss of my service dog. He used to provide a very direct weight to help me sleep, and this blanket does a fairly decent approximation. It has also anecdotally helped many other people both disabled and abled.
  2. Electric Blanket – I prefer the Serta and Sunbeam brands – and I especially love the reversible sherpa and fleece throw I have on the sofa right now.
  3. Kindle or E-Reader – I get so much mileage out of my Kindle, in general, but especially when I’m sick. Cold and flu season means I spend a lot of spare time inside in bed or on the sofa catching up on sci-fi reads. E-readers are especially good for disabled people because we can check out books from the library on them – you can change the formatting to larger or smaller letters to help with vision – and they are much lighter than chapter books or other tablet readers to hold for long periods of time.
  4. Car Adaptor Electric Blanket – This blanket is ideal for long car rides over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house – or Aunt Janelle’s in my case – I love it because we have to keep the car colder for both my partner AND my service dog. This helps me regulate my own temperature and stay comfortable for long periods of sitting.
  5. Contour Orthopedic Cervical Pillow – This pillow has helped immensely with neck and back pain from a pinched nerve. Supposedly sleeping on our backs reduces pressure and compression to help with chronic conditions. It is also helpful if you have sinus problems – for example – I notice my partner snores if he’s not sleeping on his back, it’s particularly bad if he ends up on his stomach. We both have these kinds of pillows to support back sleeping.
  6. Bathrobe or other cute loungewear – I personally linked the bathrobe because I like that it goes well with my final dream gift, and it is nice to have something easy to throw on to answer the door when you spend all day on the sofa.
  7. Coleman Inflatable Hot Tub – This hot tub was a wishlist purchase. After spending a weekend at the hot springs in Colorado, we realized that a lot of ongoing pains we had were drastically reduced. So my partner started investigating how to go about getting a hot tub in a Baltimore row home — let’s just say that wasn’t a very inexpensive or easy endeavor. He finally came across the Coleman hot tubs and realized we could do it! We got the square one because we’re very particular about shape and aesthetic but the round ones are even cheaper! This is a GREAT family gift.

Let me know if there’s any particular disability mitigating gift you’ve thought of or given that you loved over the years. Thanks for reading!

❤ J

Airstream Adventures: Ruggable

image description: a silver airstream hooked up to a silver truck from a distance – the foreground and parking area are gravel and there are trees losing their fall leaves.

I’m afraid I’m not the first person to say this, but living in a tiny home on wheels is a dirty business. Even when we take our shoes off immediately upon entering Twinkie – there’s still going to be an abundance of dirt, leaves, and rocks depending on the weather, the time of year, and the environment you’re staying in. I have only encountered paved RV parks a few times and honestly, it takes something away from the appeal!

That being said, we also have two miniature schnauzers. Even if we’re only gone for a week, they have a tendency to get leaves stuck in their beards, and even though we don’t keep them in show style cuts with the finishings – they track in all sorts of things on their fur (usually leaves, thankfully not too hard to clean up).

image description: a blonde sitting in the doorway of an airstream with one salt and pepper schnauzer on her lap and a black and silver schnauzer laying beside her in the doorway.

Our current rug has been in this Airstream since we bought it. Airstreams are generally not carpeted, especially not the modern ones. Ours is no exception, with the flooring throughout being a light grey pebbled look. I bought the rug on a whim and I rather enjoy the colors although they don’t entirely take into account our decorating scheme – they are a medallion print in orange, tan, and grey.

We have worked hard to keep this typical rug clean over the years – we usually spray a diluted mix of Oxiclean and water on it and vacuum to dry – and obviously vacuum the worst of the dirt up often! (I will give a hearty support to Oxiclean, though! Our best friend spilled chinese food in the back of our then brand-new truck and Oxiclean got it out! We used precisely the method I mention above.)

That said, this rug has kind of worn out it’s welcome. It’s tired, and we’re tired of it after five years. I think that length of time means it’s probably acceptable to replace it. Enter, Ruggable. I saw my first Ruggable rug in either an RV showroom or a camping store and immediately knew this would solve so many problems! However, the color they had wasn’t great with our Serenity’s color scheme so I waited until I got home to look for a runner that would be a good fit. A peek at our current runner below (and color scheme).

Ruggable is a 2-piece rug system that consists of a removable, waterproof and stain-resistant Rug Cover and a nonslip Rug Pad. Finally, a rug you can actually throw in the washing machine! This is the thing the RV community has needed for years! Anyway, we checked them out online, here.

Below we have a selection of runners my partner and I have narrowed down to choose from – and here’s where we’re stuck! We like different runners for different reasons. So I am going to attach all three in a gallery, and then add links. You let me know in the comments which runner you would choose for our space!

If you’re interested in Ruggable, you can get a discount from them on your first order by following this link. And I might get a discount eventually too. Win-win.

Runner 1. Watercolor Floral Coral Rug.

Runner 2. Santa Fe Multicolor Rug.

Runner 3. Endah Multicolor Rug.

Truly, we would love your help making this decision! We love them all for different reasons. The first reminds me of what we currently have (though I have no idea why), the second is very reminiscent of our time and upbringing in the American Southwest, and the third, an ikat print, is my very favorite print that ever existed, but I’m not sure about it on a rug.

What do you think?! Would you use a Ruggable in your home? I’m looking forward to your input on my dilemma.

❤ Jennifer

Friday Faves

image description: the photo is of two cups of coffee on a wood surface. superimposed are the words Friday Favorites: A few of my Favorite Things. Hear Her Hands Blog.

I am not entirely sure if this is going to become a new series, but currently, I have a few major favorites for the changeable season and I am hoping that by hoping hard enough we can get a sunny, warm, long fall before the too many months of winter hit the Mid-Atlantic. (Without hurricanes, please).

I am a fan of everything pumpkin spice but in the last few months I have been struggling with a sensitivity or allergy that means I am transitioning more fully to lactose and dairy free. I miss my cheese! But in this transition, I have found some really great products and I still get to enjoy my pumpkin spice.

  • NutPods Pumpkin Spice Creamer
image description: is an orange box with pictures of coconut, pumpkin, and cinnamon. The Nut Pods logo is a green circle with white lettering. It reads limited edition pumpkin spice, naturally flavored. almond + coconut creamer.

I initially was comparing this creamer to the flavor of Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte – and that wasn’t working! After the second try, it did start to grow on me. I really enjoyed the strong cinnamon flavor and the fact that I haven’t had any ill effects from it either. Great option if you’re looking for ways to reduce your dairy intake with coffee and especially if dairy and coffee together make you sick.

  • BareMinerals bareskin brightening foundation in 06 – Bare Satin.
image description: a foundation bottle in a medium tone. the lettering says bareMinerals BARESKIN Pure Brightening Serum Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 20.

When the weather starts changing with the seasons, my skin gets more difficult to manage. Especially in spring and fall, I do not feel confident enough to go out without makeup for special events although I truly do not wear make up often otherwise! This BareSkin foundation has been a favorite of mine for a very long time. It’s easy to use, it travels well, the brush is one of my favorites in general, and it requires very little thought to use (which is great when brain fog is the order of the day). Check it out.

  • OGX Organix Argan Oil of Morocco Shampoo & Conditioner
image description: two blue bottles with gold tops, one is shampoo and the other conditioner: both labeled with the words Renewing + Argan Oil of Morocco.

When the weather changes and particularly after a long summer of lots of swimming and time outdoors, my hair is dry and I end up using far more conditioner than shampoo. Since March, I have been using this Argan Oil of Morocco shampoo and conditioner set. I wash the roots of my hair every third day with the shampoo and then every time I have trouble brushing it, I will wet it down and use this conditioner (rinseing afterwards!). It has made a lot of difference in the strength of my hair and I have had far less breakage and flyaways.

What are some of your current favorites for the fall? Let me know in the comments!

❤ Jennifer

Disability Pride Month Reads: Lost in Time

image description: photo of an opened book with an iPhone and glasses on top of it. the phone displays the cover of Lost in Time by A.L. Lester – which depicts an old time scene with two men in twenties clothing. image from @CogentHippo on Twitter.

Really lovely concept. This book is about a man from modern day who uses ‘magic’ to time travel back to the 1920s. He originally goes looking for his sister – and he finds a lot more than he bargained for.

I love history, particularly the 1920s. I loved the ideas in the book, and even got into the paranormal themes. However, I felt like there was no real wrap up – even in the sequel and the prequel (I read both, trying to get a satisfying ending).

I’m also not entirely sure where disability own voices came in. I can see LGBTQIA own voices pretty clearly in the book – as the main character Lew meets a gentleman who becomes a fling in the bathhouses – and then falls for another main character.

If you’re looking for a good story, it’s a fun read, but if you REALLY want your books to have a satisfying ending – I would avoid.

ARTECHOUSE: Infinite Space

image description: photo of a shadowed person in a mirrored space, overlaid the image are the words ARTECHOUSE What You Need To Know: Especially If You’re Disabled.

If you’re a disabled person considering visiting ARTECHOUSE in Washington, D.C. here are a few things you will want to know before heading out and shelling out for a ticket.

First, the location is nondescript – the entrance is next door to chain restaurants well outside the typical D.C. center – don’t plan to walk to this museum from your stop at the Capital or the Lincoln Memorial.

Be prepared to do a lot of unusual standing and sitting. The foyer where you enter the museum is a small square space, all hard surfaces with only a few small benches. Everyone has to read and sign documents upon entering about understanding the nature of this exhibit – even before you get to see what it is, or have an idea what you’re agreeing to.

There is one elevator that services the museum, however, it is very small and as we are not wheelchair users, we were not able to absolutely tell if it was possible to get down to the museum level by elevator (or other accessible means).

When you get to the rooms where all the technological art is displayed – there are warnings at every doorway to let you know that if you have vertigo or any issues with flashing lights to not enter. I’m sure it was somewhere in the initial paperwork we signed as well, but it *is* disorienting if you ever have issues with balance or flashing lights. Be aware of this. I have vertigo and was mostly ok, but if I was having a bad day it would not have been the place for me.

The whole point of the exhibit was the special Infinite Space room, which required signing up again, and waiting for up to 30 minutes – for what was a mere 2 minutes in the exhibit – shut in with two or three other people you didn’t know. Something to be aware of. We ended up in the space alone because of being Deaf and having a lot of difficulty communicating with the staff members who were taking names and making phone calls for turns.

We did enjoy hanging out in the beanbags and getting kombucha at the bar.

image description: orange kombucha in a black futuristic goblet with a special ARTECHOUSE coaster underneath.

As the current iteration of ARTECHOUSE is data based, my computer programming partner looked over all the code he could see and was not impressed. We still enjoyed the overall experience, but if you’re knowledgeable about data and coding this might not be much fun for you.

All in all, it was an interesting experience – worth it for one trip – and probably not something we would ever venture out to see again.

Disability Pride Month Reads : Moon-Bright Tides.

I read this book as part of my review of #OwnVoices disability authors/writers for disability pride month.

This is a sweet, cute, quick read about a romance between a mermaid and a witch. The witch is sad, lonely, and traumatized because of how she ended up being the person to sing in the tides. The mermaid she meets is also sad, and literally starving – they connect and it is a lovely story of friendship and care taking that becomes love.

I judge books by several things – character development, world building, story, and how quickly I want to read it all! This book easily met my requirements. I suggest it if you are looking for a sweet, quick read.

Weekend Wander: Boulder

I have traveled to Boulder – both when I lived in Colorado – and several times since moving to Maryland. My best friend growing up lived in Boulder and a chosen family member lives fairly close now as well.

image is of light trails around a hairpin curve above Boulder Colorado’s city lights. Overlaid in white letters are the words Weekend Wander: Boulder, Colorado. Photo by Shiro hatori via Unsplash.

On your first morning in Boulder, I would take you out for brunch. The Buff is a Boulder institution. I would recommend a Homestead Skillet – and if you like it spicy, I’d go for the Ole since you’re in Colorado. It has chorizo, green chile, and jalapeños. If you love coffee, give the local Nitro Cold Brew a try. Or we could go for a breakfast burrito at Illegal Pete’s.

It’s famous for a reason! You shouldn’t miss Pearl Street. The downtown mall was designated The Downtown Boulder Mall in 1977. It also prohibited cars – and this made the mall more attractive to tourists and locals alike.

If you’re up for a treat we could check out the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse for the location – as the teahouse is considered one of Boulder’s most attractive and popular tourist attractions. It is also a local favorite for good tea, food, and atmosphere. When I was in high school we would drive the hour across the front range just for tea and chicken salad!

Boulder has a fairly accessible trail system (if you can handle hills, anyway) on the Boulder Creek Paved Pathway – with 7 miles of paved path from the foothills all the way to the plains where you can get a taste of the landscape of Boulder.

You didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you that there are a bunch of must-dos and sees in Boulder! One of them is to take the Celestial Seasonings factory tour! The tour is wheelchair accessible and the factory has chairs on site. The Celestial Seasonings brand began in 1969 when one of the founders hand-picked herbs in the Rocky Mountains.

If you’re an outdoors person or you enjoy hiking, Boulder is the place to be for easy access to trails of all levels of difficulty. Chautauqua Park is full of trails and there is a trail map here. Unfortunately, there isn’t great indication on accessibility – only on use type and elevation.

Image description: a blonde with her hair up is posing in front of the final ascent to Royal Arch in the Flatirons.

My latest hike in Boulder was Royal Arch in the Boulder Flatirons. This is a 3 mile strenuous trail, that ends at a natural rock arch overlooking Boulder with a gorgeous view. It tends to be busy though (as evidenced by all the people in my photo above). I enjoyed the hike and the view made every step worthwhile.

Want to collaborate and share your city! Email me.

 ❤ Always, J.

Weekend Wander: Denver

I lived in Colorado up until I got married and moved away, so I will detail some places I know well as well as some places I have visited since moving in my Weekend Wander posts.

First things first, we start with food!

I’d take you out for brunch at Snooze, an A.M. Eatery. I would recommend the Juan’s Breakfast Tacos, or if you’re a Benedict fan, I love the Smashed Avocado Benny. The local cold brew coffee is also worth a try! Another option is Jelly Cafe, known as Capitol Hill’s hottest breakfast spot. Pro Tip: Grab some doughnut bites for the road!

If you’re in Denver, you definitely shouldn’t miss Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater. Even though it’s a bit of a drive! If you can go to a concert, it is an experience you will have almost no other place. I also personally love hiking around Red Rocks Park. Check out the shorter loop at Trading Post Trail. My partner and I got married at the Trading Post, there’s a really beautiful building with a scenic overlook.

If you’re up for a treat, we can check out Little Man Ice Cream – where ice cream is served from an actual milk jug. The banana pudding ice cream is somehow better than real banana pudding if you like things chilly! Bonus, for every scoop of ice cream purchased, Little Man matches that scoop with a donated scoop of rice, beans, or other essentials to a community in need anywhere around the world.

image description: a blonde wearing a striped dress and purple jacket and a redhead with a dark jacket and jeans sit on a bench in front of Little Man Ice Cream.

If you’re interested in history, you should not miss The Molly Brown House Museum (the home of the Unsinkable Molly Brown of the Titanic). The Molly Brown House Museum stands as an enduring symbol of the turn of the 20th century in Denver. Margaret Brown, never known as Molly during her lifetime, was a true activist, philanthropist and creator of cultural change. She helped create Colorado’s juvenile court system and was one of the first historic preservationists in the area. You can learn lots more about her here. Accessibility information for the museum is visible here.

Getting around Denver can be relatively simple, as there is a comprehensive bus system and an expanding light rail and commuter rail network. But if you really want to get to know the active, outdoors, and adventure-friendly city, you should hop on a bike from Denver’s community bicycles and ride around town.

You didn’t ask, but I will tell you that a trip to Denver wouldn’t be complete without checking out one of the many historic railroad locations. If you’re in Denver proper, you absolutely must check out Denver’s Union Station – a historic destination over 100 years old. The Great Hall pays homage to the pioneer spirit that started it all, while still being modern and beautiful. If you’re hanging out in Golden after visiting Red Rocks Park, go check out the Colorado Railroad Museum. Here you can learn everything there is to know about Colorado’s rich railroad history.

A few other must-sees: Larimer Square, Clear Creek Riverwalk in Golden (it’s pretty accessible), several murals by artist Kelsey Montague of #WhatLiftsUs – one #WhatUnitesUs is/was on the east facing wall of Il Posto at 26th and Larimer, and a whole list of the murals is here.

Want to collaborate and share your city! Email me.

❤ Always, J.