Valentine’s Day Outdoor Space Ideas

Romantic Gestures That Keep on Giving (Unlike Cut Flowers)

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Lilies blooming in the flower bed
Lilies blooming in the flower bed
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Valentine’s Day is a perfect example of a holiday that inspires us to redesign spaces inside and outside our homes. Designing an outdoor space for a Valentine’s Day gift or parties and celebrations can be a lasting surprise for someone that you care about pleasing. Many gardeners remind us that Valentine’s Day is the time to trim our rose bushes so that choice makes perfect sense.

Any climate-appropriate plants are a great way to improve the look of your yard, flower bed, garden, or outdoor living space. Here are a few plant, seating, and lighting ideas that can help you design the space of your dreams at this time of year when nature is just busting out. Just think of it as the opportunity to tackle that list of new year’s DIY projects!

Choosing the Perfect Flower

Almost every woman that I’ve ever met loves to get flowers on Valentine’s Day, and some would far rather receive something living that will bloom on more than just that one day. After all, why limit yourself to a wilting bouquet when you can have cut flowers on a regular basis?



Many of us don’t mind caring for the flower or floral arrangement minimally, either, especially during the mild spring and fall months. Annuals, such as the coriopsis below, are very hardy and come back year after year once established. Our bird friends help to distribute the thistle seeds so keep those bird feeders full.

Coriopsis flowers in full bloom
Coriopsis flowers in full bloom

It goes without saying that the perfect flower species should be designed to suit your climate, sunlight requirements, and of course, soil conditions. If you are unsure of this type of information, talk to someone in a garden center, nursery, or plant retailer for more details. If your community is lucky enough to have a Master Gardener group, they are very knowledgeable about local plants and are generally very free with their information. Most even conduct indigenous plant and tree sales in the spring.

One useful tip is to find out her favorite color, and keep in mind how much time and energy will need to be devoted to caring for the plant. Design your outdoor Valentine’s Day surprise with this basic information in mind, so that you can be sure that your significant other will appreciate what you have created.

Find accents and accessories for the space in the favorite color if you cannot find in-season plants that are blooming for this special occasion, such as lighting, flags, decorations, water features (ponds, fountains), and similar items designed for outdoor use. These all are animal-friendly and count towards your nature-conservation efforts.

Choosing Outdoor Seating Arrangements

If the space is large enough, why not consider adding seating to your outdoor space to create the romantic environment this day is known for inspiring.

A great garden bench is a wonderful idea, so that two can sit comfortably, but be sure that any seating arrangement you choose is intended for use outdoors, including fabric choices. Marketing claims are not always what they seem. If you have a homeowners association, check to ensure that your project falls under their (often unreasonable) guidelines. A garden bench with storage such as the one shown below, doubles as a spot to keep your gardening tools.

High-quality and functional furniture will ensure that your gift lasts much longer, and the durable and beautiful addition will add monetary and aesthetic value to your home. We can’t say enough about home equity, can we?

Your seating needs to strike a balance; make it comfortable without presenting health risks. Select fabrics that are specifically designed and treated for outdoor use, so that the fabric does not mildew or mold after the first hint of condensation or dew.



Choosing Exterior Lighting

You may or may not be spending a significant amount of time in your space outdoors after the sun sets, but adding exterior lighting changes that parameter and gives you that opportunity should you desire to sit, entertain, and relax after the sun has gone down. A simple lantern, LED spotlight, or a couple of Tiki torches for the space is ideal for most arrangements.

The right combination and choice of illumination will add that perfect touch of light for a romantic rendezvous, this Valentine’s Day and into the foreseeable future. Certain lighting resembles candlelight, which is the most popular lighting for romance, so you can’t go wrong with a hint of light that doesn’t cost you an abundance of time, energy, or money to purchase or install.

Finally, if you really want to go big when you consider Valentine’s Day outdoor space ideas, think about a relaxing backyard deck. Springtime and income tax returns are coming; hint, hint.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Build a Bay Window Seat with Storage

Take Advantage of That Breakfast Nook or Kitchen Window

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
A bay window seat with storage drawers
A bay window seat with storage drawers
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A bay window seat, with or without cushions, can function as storage space, bookshelves, and a place to relax while enjoying a view of nature and landscaping.

One thing that most homes have in common is a lack of storage units. And oftentimes, the space in front of windows is under-utilized. Why not kill two birds with one stone and install an attractive bay window seat that doubles as storage space?

Designing the Window Seat

It’s a given that the dimensions of the window are not going to change, so that’s a good starting point. The seat shouldn’t be any higher than the bottom of the window; that would be impracticable. The one variable is the bottom strip of window trim or casing. The seat can come up to the bottom of the trim or the trim can be removed to gain a couple more inches in height. Whichever route you take, be sure to winterize this area while you are working there.

On the other hand, if the window bottom is over 18 inches or so off the floor, the window will have no impact on the seat. 18 inches is an acceptable height for a seat, although going a few inches either way to allow for individual tastes is certainly an option. We are not one-size-fits-all, so to speak.

The basic design in most cases is simply a rectangular box, although V-shapes happen as well, with or without doors similar to the ones found on kitchen cabinets. For storage purposes, the two common styles are front access (kitchen cabinet style), and hinged top.

A bay window seat, with a hinged top, under construction
A bay window seat, with a hinged top, under construction

To take the green and sustainable building approach, just use salvaged cabinets if some are available that fit the space. This is a great time to learn about restoring vintage kitchen cabinets.

Hinged Seat Storage or Front Access

A hinged seat can work well for storing items that aren’t used on a regular basis. The issue is that by design, things are stacked on top of others. Think a hope chest or an old-style trunk. Another consideration is that extra material and woodworking hardware will be required. This includes hinges at a minimum.

Front access can be either an open design or closed with cabinet doors. An open design is the best way to go if the space is going to be used as a book case or for a knickknack display area as an alternative to alcove shelving.


Most loved on @amazonhome

If cabinet doors are installed and the window is in the kitchen, why not use the space for storing dishes, cookware, and small kitchen appliances?

Basic Window Seat Construction

As mentioned above, the structure is basically a box, or some sort of V-shape if that is what you are working with. The most basic way to build it is to construct a basic frame and sheath it with plywood that has a finished side. If the seat is to be attached to the wall, the top rear support is a ledger board screwed to the wood framing studs.

The baseboard should be cut away or removed and a framing member matching the ledger board should be attached to the wall at the floor. The remainder of the unit is to be build off these two framing members. Adequate bracing should be added to the seat area appropriate for the size of the seat. When deciding on the depth, allow a bit extra if the seat will be used for napping. See this article for more information on residential wood stud framing. Finally, add cushions or pillows and relax.

I hope this article on building a bay window seat with storage in your kitchen, breakfast nook, or another room has given you some good ideas for your own project. For more information please check out the articles listed below and check the search box at the top of this page.

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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Homemade Dog Food Recipe

How to Give Up on the Kibbles and Bits Dog Diet and Embrace Nutrition

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Homemade dog food ready to serve
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I guess there’s no sugar-coating it; I do dote on my dogs. Which is not such a bad thing. Heck, I like dogs more than I like most humans. Cats? Not so much. But dogs? Yep. I am always looking for ways to make things better. Already I have gotten away from store-bought treats an make them chicken jerky in my food dehydrator.

So the next step? Well, She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed read an article about all the bad stuff that goes into your favorite Kibbles-n-Bits type of commercial dog food. It’s pretty crazy. What the heck is a meat by-product anyway? If it is not meat, just say so. Well, long story short, a bit of research and imagination got me to this first stab at a homemade dog food recipe.

Homemade Dog Food Ingredients

This is my first take at the recipe and it is subject to change according to my ever-changing whims. Note however, there was nary a complaint when I served it up!

  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 2 lbs. broccoli, carrots, cauliflower (in a frozen bag or regular produce, your choice)
  • one chunk of ginger, grated, about as big as your thumb.
  • 2 oz. olive oil
  • 1 lb. chicken livers
  • omega 3 source, I just threw in a few capsules
  • pumpkin seeds, about 30 or so

Preparation

This is simple. Just put your very large sauce pan or Dutch oven on the stove and cook everything together. The dogs really don’t care but the meat should be well-done.



I hope you and your dogs will enjoy this homemade dog food recipe. As with all my culinary concoctions, feel free to adapt and make substitutions. Life is good. Appreciate the pups.

Further Reading



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

No-Knead Skillet Focaccia

This Organic Italian Bread is Suitable for a Dipping Sauce or As-Is

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
No-knead skillet focaccia
No-knead skillet focaccia
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Focaccia is a flat oven-baked Italian bread similar in style and texture to pizza; in some places, it is called “pizza bianca”. Focaccia can be served as a side dish or as homemade sandwich bread.

This recipe is rich with olive oil (which keeps it extra moist), topped with fragrant lemon zest, Parmesan cheese, and rosemary, and baked in a skillet to give it a perfectly golden, crispy crust.

You will be using an oven-safe skillet for this recipe. A cast iron skillet is best for achieving a super-crispy crust (and an effort-free way of getting a bit more iron into your diet)), but any oven-proof skillet will work.

Focaccia Ingredient List

Note: Use organic ingredients whenever possible.

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink or Himalayan salt
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed meal
  • 1 package Fleischmann’s RapidRise yeast (or comparable)
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves (straight from my herb garden)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest (I just picked one off my Improved Meyer Lemon tree in my garden)
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • Chopped fresh basil to taste, if desired


Preparation Steps

  1. If you have a food processor, put the flour, salt, and yeast in it, fitted with the blade attachment, and pulse to combine. Add the water and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Pulse until a rough ball of dough forms, about 15 (2-second) pulses. If you don’t have one, mix by hand in a mixing bowl.
  2. Drizzle 2 teaspoons oil in a large bowl. Flour your hands, scoop the dough out of the food processor, and form into a smooth ball. Put the ball of dough in the oiled bowl and turn it so it’s coated on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let it sit at warm room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of the oil into your cast iron or other ovenproof skillet and rub it well over the bottom and sides. Punch down the dough and place the dough in the skillet. Coax and stretch the dough to cover the bottom of the skillet until it reaches all the way to the edges. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let it rest at warm room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 450°F.
  4. Lightly dimple the surface of the dough with 2 knuckles. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over the dough so that it pools in some of the indentations and lightly coats the rest of the surface. Sprinkle with the rosemary, lemon zest, Parmesan cheese, basil if you opted for it, and a bit more salt if desired. Of course, if you have high blood pressure, don’t.
  5. Place your skillet in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 400°F. Bake until lightly golden-brown. Start checking at 20 to 25 minutes but it may take longer than that.
  6. Remove your skillet from the oven and cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Focaccia is best eaten when warm, but is also good at room temperature. If the crust gets too soft, reheat in a 350°F oven to crisp it up.



See, making no-knead skillet focaccia is a breeze, although it sounds very ooh-la la and exotic. The grocery store certainly prices it that way. But, throw off your consumer price shackles and make your own. Don’t be afraid to modify and experiment.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Window Blind DIY Wand Replacement

Why Settle for Replacement Blind Components? Put Your Woodworking Skills to Work.

by Kelly R. Smith

DIY Venetian blinds wand crafting and replacement
DIY Venetian blinds wand crafting and replacement
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Things like window blind wands get a lot of use. Not rough use usually but they are usually made very cheaply and are bound to break at some point. You’ve got two choices. First and easiest is to buy a replacement blind wand. My preferred choice is to make my own. That way I know it is sturdy and I can match the finish to the window casing. So, consider this short tutorial just another woodworking tip.

The wand usually connects to the blind assembly via a small plastic nub with a hole in it. The wand has a hook on the end that fits through the hole. I have worked two possible scenarios.

  • The plastic nub is intact.
  • The plastic nub broke.

Use a Wooden Dowel for the New Wand

Dowels are available in all hardware stores as far as I know. At Home Depot they are available in pine and oak, in various diameters. I usually go for the pine; it is cheaper and I’m going to stain it anyway. These dowels are smooth finished so all you need to do is cut it to your desired length and sand the ends and smooth out the sharp end edges.

To work on the dowel, I use a Bessey drill press vise with a rag wrapped around the dowel so as not to mar it. The crosshairs on the end of the dowel are for drilling the connection hole.

Dowel in the Bessey drill press vise
Dowel in the Bessey drill press vise


Finishing and Attaching the Connector

When the plastic nub is intact, you just need a cup hook or simply make a hook out of wire (like a metal coat hanger) using needle-nosed pliers. If the plastic nub is broken off you will need to drill a hole in the end of the dowel and glue it into the nub. I used Locktite GO 2 Repair Xtreme. While the glue is setting up I kept everything together with a piece of electrical tape. This is why I didn’t use polyurethane Gorilla Grip glue; the foaming, expansive curing action would push things apart. Regular wood joinery techniques don’t really apply here.

Use the finish of your choice. Here I used Minwax Penetrating Stain. Later, after a couple of days I’ll apply a high-quality furniture wax.

Finishing with Minwax Penetrating Stain
Finishing with Minwax Penetrating Stain


Blinds wand with a hook connector
Blinds wand with a hook connector

That’s about all there is a window blind DIY wand replacement. It doesn’t even have to be broken. It is a good way to give your window dressing a custom look on a budget and a little spare time.

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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

8 Benefits of Hibiscus Tea

And How to Grow Hibiscus for Tea at Home

by Kelly R. Smith

Dried hibiscus flowers for healthy tea
Dried hibiscus flowers for healthy tea
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Hibiscus tea (sometimes called “sour tea”) might not be so well known in the USA but it certainly is in other parts of the world. I’ve been drinking it for a few years now, both for the taste and the health benefits; it’s another item in my toolbox to keep my blood pressure in a reasonable range.. I add it to the grounds of my cold brew coffee maker, sometimes with fresh mint from my garden. Yeah, I know; wild, living on the edge. There are several hundred species of hibiscus plants that vary by the location and climate they are grown in, but Hibiscus sabdariffa or roselles is most commonly used to make hibiscus tea. As a bonus, they are stunning in tropical landscape plantings. But we are here to talk about the health benefits of hibiscus tea.

Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea

  • It lowers blood pressure. This is a big one for me. All blood pressure medications have side effects. For me, I take lisinopril, an ACE inhibitor. It causes coughing and the feeling of being lethargic. Rebekah Edwards says, “A 2013 review by the University of Arizona discovered that hibiscus tea is used in 10 or more countries as a normal hypertension treatment without any reported adverse events or side effects — except in extremely high doses.”1
  • It’s packed with antioxidants. What are antioxidants? They are molecules that help fight compounds we call free radicals, which inflict damage to your cells. The National Library of medicine noting their study says, “Hibiscus anthocyanin extract has reducing power that is approximately 2-fold that of the synthetic antioxidant, butylated hydroanisole.”2 Other than hibiscus, many other foods contain them; tart cherries are a good example.


  • It supports healthy cholesterol and triglycerides. Dyslipidemia is a type of disorder that is characterized by noticeable changes in plasma lipids or lipoproteins, including two you are probably familiar with: cholesterol and triglycerides. As with blood pressure, hibiscus tea’s ability to reduce high “blood lipids” also extends to those with diabetes. A 2009 study had diabetes patients drink hibiscus tea two times a day for a full month and they found a significant increase in HDL (good) cholesterol and a marked decrease in total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • It may help to lower blood fat levels. The National Library of medicine citing a study of sour tea (ST) and black tea (BT) says, “The results of the present study showed that ST has a significant effect on blood lipid profile in patients with diabetes.”3 Many studies have shown that hibiscus tea reduces blood cholesterol and triglycerides in people suffering from diabetes and metabolic syndrome. That said, other studies have shown conflicting results. Obviously, more research is needed in the general population.
  • It prevents oxidative stress. Like most healthy teas on the market, hibiscus is chock full of antioxidants that combat free radical damage caused by substandard nutrient diets and frequent exposure to dangerous chemicals. These antioxidants are found primarily in the anthocyanins of the plant, the natural pigments that give this flower its brilliant red color.
  • It may boost liver health. Your liver is essential to your overall health. Some of its jobs include producing proteins, secreting bile, and breaking down fat. One small human research study found that supplementing with hibiscus tea raised the antioxidant load in the bloodstream as well as reducing compounds that contribute to oxidative stress that damages cells.
  • It shows promise in fighting certain cancers. Although this idea is only starting to gain traction, there is already some evidence to support hibiscus tea’s anticancer power. It has been shown that hibiscus extracts cause apoptosis, or cell death, in leukemia cells. Although the exact mechanisms behind this aren’t clear as of yet, this could be a promising step in the ever-going fight against leukemia, which affects about a quarter of the children and adolescents currently struggling with cancer.
  • It reduces obesity and related risks. How? Human and animal studies have found a link between hibiscus tea and an elevated metabolism. Hibiscus extract may even inhibit you from absorbing as much starch and sucrose as you might from a typical meal. One study in particular gave 36 overweight participants either hibiscus extract or a placebo. After 12 weeks, hibiscus extract reduced body weight, body fat, body mass index and hip-to-waist ratio


Growing and Preparing Hibiscus for Tea at Home

Test your soil pH in a well-draining area that receives full sun at least six months before planting if possible, and, if needed, amend it using elemental sulfur or dolomitic lime to adjust the pH to between 6.1 and 7.8. The do best in humus-rich soil and full sunlight.

Harvest your flowers after they have bloomed. You want the calyxes (the main body of the flower). They should snap right off. Once you have your harvest, complete the steps to prepare and dry them. This video explains it in detail.

How to process hibiscus flowers for tea

Can you benefit from hibiscus tea? Of course! There’s something for everybody and if you grow your own supply you will save money and be certain it is organic.

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Reference

  1. .Rachael Link, Dr. Axe, Hibiscus Tea: The Antioxidant ‘Therapeutic Agent’ You Should Be Drinking, https://draxe.com/nutrition/hibiscus-tea/
  2. Taofeek O Ajiboye, et al, National Library of medicine, Antioxidant and drug detoxification potentials of Hibiscus sabdariffa anthocyanin extract, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21314460/
  3. Hassan Mozaffari-Khosravi, et al., National Library of medicine, Effects of sour tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) on lipid profile and lipoproteins in patients with type II diabetes, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19678781/


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Philosophy of Martin Luther King

Non-Violence in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi

by Kelly R. Smith

Martin Luther King and Barack Obama
Martin Luther King and Barack Obama
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Martin Luther King Jr., whose birth name was Michael King, Jr., was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. He died on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. He was a Baptist minister and social activist who led the civil rights movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968. The central theme of his teachings and leadership was his philosophy of non-violence in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi.

The King Center explains the Triple Evils that MLK defined, “The Triple Evils of POVERTY, RACISM and MILITARISM are forms of violence that exist in a vicious cycle. They are interrelated, all-inclusive, and stand as barriers to our living in the Beloved Community. When we work to remedy one evil, we affect all evils. To work against the Triple Evils, you must develop a nonviolent frame of mind as described in the ‘Six Principles of Nonviolence’ and use the Kingian model for social action outlined in the ‘Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change’.”1

The Triple Evils

  1. Poverty. This Evil encompasses unemployment, homelessness, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, infant mortality, and slums. Poverty is not something new but we now have the resources to get rid of it. “The well off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for the least of these.”1
  2. Racism. This Evil refers to prejudicial mindsets, South Africa style apartheid, continuing ethnic conflict, anti-Semitism, sexism, colonialism (the one that Obama is frenetic about), homophobia, ageism, discrimination against disabled groups, stereotypes.
  3. Militarism. This Evil concerns war, imperialism, domestic violence, rape, domestic terrorism (Antifa, BLM), human trafficking from undocumented illegal aliens to sex workers, media violence, drug proliferation, child abuse, and violent crime.


King’s Six Principals of Non-Violence

MLK defined these fundamental principals in his book Stride Toward Freedom.

  1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and like happiness, emotionally.
  2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.
  3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice not people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people. The nonviolent resister seeks to defeat evil not people.
  4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
  5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body. Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.
  6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win. Nonviolence believes that our righteous God is a God of justice.


Fact: Today over 700 streets in the Unites States are named after Martin Luther King Jr., with one such street in almost every major city.

King’s Six Steps of Nonviolent Social Change

  1. Information gathering. To understand and articulate an issue, problem or injustice facing a person, community, or institution you must do research. You must investigate and gather all vital information from all sides of the argument or issue so as to increase your understanding of the problem. You must become an expert on your opponent’s position in order to have empathy.
  2. Education. It is essential to inform others, including your opposition, about your issue. This minimizes misunderstandings and gains you support and sympathy.
  3. Personal commitment. Daily check and affirm your faith in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence. Eliminate hidden motives and prepare yourself to accept suffering, if necessary, in your work for justice.
  4. Discussion/negotiation. Using grace, humor and intelligence, confront the other party with a list of injustices and a plan for addressing and resolving these injustices. Look for what is positive in every action and statement the opposition makes. Do not seek to humiliate the opponent but to call forth the good in the opponent.
  5. Direct action. These are actions taken when the opponent is unwilling to enter into, or remain in, discussion/negotiation. These actions impose a “creative tension” into the conflict, supplying moral pressure on your opponent to work with you in resolving the injustice.
  6. Reconciliation. Nonviolence seeks friendship and understanding with the opponent. Nonviolence does not seek to defeat the opponent. Nonviolence is directed against evil systems, forces, oppressive policies, unjust acts, but not against persons. Through reasoned compromise, both sides resolve the injustice with a plan of action. Each act of reconciliation is one step close to the ‘Beloved Community.’

The philosophy of Martin Luther King is sound and timeless. Unfortunately, his concepts are sadly lacking in today’s society. Instead, the mainstream media, social media, and the monied few seek to indulge in social engineering through fake news, censorship, and rigged elections. We can do better, can’t we?

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Reference

  1. The King Center, https://thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy/#:~:text=Fundamental%20tenets%20of%20Dr.%20King%E2%80%99s%20philosophy%20of%20nonviolence,to%20evil.It%20is%20aggressive%20spiritually%2C%20mentally%20and%20emotionally.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Recipe: Chicken Jerky for Dog Treats

Save Money with a Sharp Knife and a Food Dehydrator

by Kelly R. Smith

Chicken jerky in dehydrator for dog treats
Chicken jerky in dehydrator for dog treats
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I know, you are probably looking at this and saying, “What? Chicken jerky for dog treats? Is that not just a wee bit indulgent?” Sure you’re right, but hear me out. It’s all about the money and the nutrition. Dog treats are like mattresses; the mark-up on them is outrageous for such a common commodity. Why? Because they can get it. And the nutrition? Just look at the ingredient list on the box. Now look at the ingredient list on a package of raw chicken pieces. No contest.

I have tested this out on our four rescue dogs Eddie, Frankie, Maggie, and Sammie. Why do their names all end with “ie?” I don’t know; another mystery of the universe. Anyway, offering them a commercial treat in one hand and a homemade one in the other, they choose my cuisine every time. Not to pat myself on the back, of course.

What You Need to Make Chicken Jerky

This is fairly easy. You will need a food dehydrator. Depending on the size of your dehydrator you will need skinless chicken pieces. For example, I use an Ivation 6-Tray Food Dehydrator. It’s a commercial version, but reasonably priced. It holds about 2 pounds of chicken. Or beef. Or lots of sliced apples. You get the idea. Yes, this is most likely a model that a prepper or homesteader would invest in. You will also need a very sharp knife and a large cutting board.

Making the Jerky

The process here is straightforward. In fact, it is the same as my teriyaki beef jerky recipe, omitting the marinade overnight step. Of course, if you are making it for you, knock yourself out. Better still, make 3 trays for Fido and 3 for you. That’s called humane, I believe.

Make the slices about 1/4 inch thick. As far as length of the strips go, 3 inches is good. Dogs are more into the dog treat itself, not the specific size. Arrange slices on your dehydrator trays, allowing some space between pieces for air circulation. Set the timer for 8 hours but begin checking it at 6 hours. You will know when it is done but the longer you go the crunchier it will be. That’s up to you and your furry friend. The picture below is our “done.” Compare it to the raw picture at the top of this page.

Dehydrated chicken jerky, preserved and ready to eat
Dehydrated chicken jerky, preserved and ready to eat

That’s about all there is to making chicken jerky for dog treats. Store them in the refrigerator and be generous. Your pup may even deign to share with you… if you’re a good human.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

What Happens When You Quit Drinking Alcohol

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
You are now entering the alcohol free zone
You are now entering the alcohol free zone
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This article was updated on 01/09/21.

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Were you one of the ones that woke up on the first morning of the new year and made a New Years resolution to quit drinking alcohol? You’re not alone. It is most likely the one day of the year that the greatest number of people pledge to embrace sobriety. Now you’re wondering what changes you will go through along your new lifestyle path. As with any habit or addiction, it varies from person to person but there are some concepts that are generally accepted.

How Sobriety Changes Your Body

WebMD.com says that if you are used to drinking anything more than one drink per day, “cutting back or quitting may lower your blood pressure, levels of fat called triglycerides, and chances of heart failure. Heavy drinking — at least 15 drinks for men and eight or more for women a week — can take a toll on the organ [liver] and lead to fatty liver, cirrhosis, and other problems. The good news: your liver can repair itself and even regenerate.”1

Whether losing weight was part of your impetus or not, that’s another nice side effect for a variety of reasons. Ditching alcohol means ditching empty calories. Also, since alcohol ramps up your ravenous appetite, you can easier resist impulsive overeating. Liquor also makes you more impulsive, and makes you lose your inhibitions so you are less able to resist the extra fries.



Alcohol and Your Immune System

Any alcohol consumption affects your immune system negatively, and the more you drink, the worse it gets. The US National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health Search says, “Clinicians have long observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia. This issue of Alcohol Research: Current Reviews (ARCR) summarizes the evidence that alcohol disrupts immune pathways in complex and seemingly paradoxical ways. These disruptions can impair the body’s ability to defend against infection, contribute to organ damage associated with alcohol consumption, and impede recovery from tissue injury.”2 And as we now know, many COVID-19 deaths are related to or precipitated by pneumonia.

Alcohol also alters the numbers of microbes in your microbiome and the structure and integrity of your gut are altered with alcohol intake. This is comprised mainly of your prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics.

When you stop consuming alcohol, you start rebuilding your microbiome. There’s no way to know how much time is needed to rebuild your gut, of course, since each person’s microbiome is unique — but eating a diet that is high in fiber (such as fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains) along with probiotic foods (yogurt and kimchi) can help you on your path to getting your gut healthy again.

Changes to Your Brain

There are known physical consequences resulting from heavy alcohol use. Two examples are liver damage and high blood pressure. Alcohol use at any level, however, also has its down side for your brain. It causes mental fog, anxiety, loneliness, and mood changes. Once you wean yourself off the bottle, your brain can begin the healing process and restore your brain’s natural function.

Your brain’s frontal lobe is responsible for a number of critical functions including reasoning, behavior control, memory, and motor function. The lobe takes a heavy hit when you drink to excess. Renewal Lodge has some good news though. They say, “Rational decision making and impulse control are crucial in fighting addiction, and luckily these powerful functions of the brain will return as you begin to heal.”3

Another thing that indulgence in spirits does is to create a complex imbalance of dopamine in your brain. A release of dopamine happens when you are involved in activities that you find pleasurable, such as eating candy, drinking coffee, or playing sports, and it teaches your brain what actions to repeat, and eventually, to crave. Insidious, yes?

Alcohol use overwhelms your brain with dopamine but it also reduces your brain’s dopamine receptors at the same time. When at first you stop drinking, the absence of dopamine along with diminished receptors may lead to feelings of sadness and hopelessness. The good news is that over time your brain will begin to normalize the dopamine levels as well as your brain’s response to it without the presence of alcohol.

An Experiment of One

Doing the research for this article, it all sounded fascinating. The fact that we are all so different means that these effects of going sober should be highly individualized. I decided to throw my hat into the arena as a test subject. I will be reporting on a weekly basis.

A couple of things to mention here; whether they matter or not I do not know but I’ll throw them out there. I am taking Lisinopril, an ACE inhibitor, and a diuretic, to control high blood pressure. Also, I have been doing intermittent fasting for about three months now

  • Week One. The first thing I noticed was having a hard time getting sleepy in the evenings. Even after a couple servings of camomile tea and a melatonin supplement, I didn’t feel ready to go to bed until midnight. Even at that, it took an hour or so to drift off. My dreams were very vivid and indulging in a bit of lucid dreaming way fun. In the mornings I was very groggy. Where’s my espresso?
  • Week Two. I’m still having a hard time getting to that sleepy state in the evenings. The good thing is that when I do lay down, I fall asleep very quickly, not so much “chattering monkey” in my head keeping me awake. I have more energy during the day.
  • Week Three. I’m getting sleepy earlier, going to bed earlier, and falling asleep faster. My Garmin GPS watch also monitors my sleep. I used to always register more “light sleep” than “deep sleep” but now that has reversed. Dreams are still fun. In addition to no alcohol, I’m using my blue-light blocking glasses at the computer consistently (Blue-light messes with your natural melatonin, and so, your sleep cycle).
Garmin GPS watch sleep analysis
Garmin GPS watch sleep analysis
  • Week Four. Sleep is now stabilized and I have more energy during the day. I’ve lost 5 pounds, a bit more than 1 per week! My energy level has been increasing steadily. I’m back to my stretching routine twice a day and I’m averaging 22,000 steps per day. 4 to 7 miles of that is walking my black-mouth cur, Frankie. That’s him in my author bio below. My average resting heart rate is 70. My VO2 Max has gone from 27 ml/kg/min to 28 ml/kg/min. This is the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilize during exercise. It’s commonly used to test aerobic endurance or cardiovascular fitness. So, an upward trend. That’s a good thing. All this is just more data I’m getting from my Garmin GPS watch. For anyone who likes to track and analyze dieting or fitness progress, an instrument like this is essential to gain an insight on what is working and what areas you need to work on.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens during week five after I quit drinking alcohol. Check back.

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References

  1. WebMD.com, What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking Alcohol, https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/ss/slideshow-quit-alcohol-effects
  2. Dipak Sarkar, M. Katherine Jung, H. Joe Wang, Alcohol and the Immune System, The US National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health Search, Alcohol and the Immune System, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590612/
  3. Renewal Lodge, 5 Ways Quitting Drinking Affects Your Brain, https://www.renewallodge.com/5-ways-quitting-drinking-affects-your-brain/


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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Ham and Onion Quiche Recipe

Perfect for Breakfast, Brunch, or Dinner

by Kelly R. Smith

Ham and onion quiche served up
Ham and onion quiche served up!
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Who doesn’t like quiche? It’s easy to make, versatile, and works for any meal. How about after a long weekend workout or a post New Years Eve brunch? The ingredient list is easy to procure if you don’t already have it on hand. As far as ingredients and spices go, there’s no limit that I’ve found. All you really need are eggs and cheese. Heck, you don’t even need a crust if you are on a low-carb regimen like the Atkins diet. To explore a broad range of possibilities, check out a quiche cookbook. But I digress. Let’s jump into my ham and onion quiche recipe.

Quiche Ingredients

  • 1 frozen pie crust, thawed, or make your own
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk (whole milk is richer)
  • Kosher or pink salt to taste
  • Freshly-ground pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped cooked ham
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used Parmesan last night, but it’s your call.)
  • 1 or 2 green onions, chopped (hint: reserve the root section with about 3/4 inch of the onion. Plant it in a pot or your herb garden, roots down, covered with 1/2 inch of soil. 99% chance it will sprout.)


Ham and onion quiche done!
Ham and onion quiche done!

Preparation Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 375⁰ F.
  2. Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper, and milk, in a mixing bowl.
  3. In the crust, make 2 layers; each has half of the ham, half of the green onions, and 1/2 cup cheese.
  4. Pour the egg mixture over it evenly.
  5. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over it evenly. Note: as you see in the picture above, I used an oven-safe skillet to hold the pie tin because it was SO full. If you have egg mixture left over, that’s OK; cook it up separately. Waste not, want not.
  6. I baked mine for an hour to perfection; I suggest you start checking after about 40 minutes. If the top jiggles when you shake it, it’s not done.
  7. Remove, cool for a few minutes, and enjoy!


That’s all there is to this easy ham and onion quiche recipe. It may be fairly basic but it’s not hard to see the many possible variations you can come up with depending on your mood. I’m a big believer in experimentation in the kitchen.

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Did you find this article helpful? Millions of readers rely on information on this blog and our main site to stay informed and find meaningful solutions. Please chip in as little as $3 to keep this site free for all.

 





Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.