Garden pond with stock tank heater is an oasis for wildlife in the winter

This has been cold winter for us in Ohio. It seems like we’ve been shivering forever and that spring will never come. Our garden’s avian visitors are eager for food and water, frequenting our feeders of black oil sunflower seed and drinking from our garden pond. One of our guests is a flock of dark-eyed juncos. They’re members of the sparrow family. You can identify the slate colored dark-eyed juncos by their dark grey heads, grey bodies, white bellies and white outer tail feathers. They are winter visitors here in Ohio, little birds we love to see make their appearance each year. We love watching them hop around in the snow.

Here are two photos of dark-eyed (slate colored) juncos:

They leave these tracks on our pond when they come to drink.

bird tracks on frozen pond surface

 

The floating stock tank de-icer you see thaws the surface enough that there’s a hole even in the sub-zero temps we’re experiencing this year. Brrr! If you get a stock tank de-icer, make sure it’s safe for plastic if your pond is a formed pond or has a rubber liner.  They’re great things, ensuring the local wildlife has fresh water and lets oxygen into the pond so our pond fish don’t suffocate under the ice during prolonged freezes. There are raccoons and neighborhood cats drinking from the pond as well. So far, no deer have ventured up, at least not as far as we can tell.

 

We had our last heater for six or seven years, maybe longer. We finally had to replace it for this season. Even if you don’t have a garden pond, it’s possible to provide water for wildlife in the winter. You can either keep a hole chipped in a container of water or get something like we used to use, heated birdbaths. There are traditional bowl-shaped models as well as more natural-looking birdbaths that just sit on the ground, patio or deck. Here are some examples:

 

At some point, we should find an alternate way to aerate our pond in the winter that is more cost-efficient. Our pond heater pulls over 1000 watts when on compared to the smaller heated birdbaths that only use the equivalent of a light bulb. However, the little heated birdbaths don’t necessarily keep the water thawed down to frigid temps like we’re experiencing this winter.

Review of Sunset Inn Restaurant in Hebron, Ohio

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

For years, we drove past this place thinking it was just a little bar. My husband heard they had good food, so went there for lunch with a friend. He raved about it and took me back there for dinner last week. The food is made fresh from scratch — not frozen — and is reasonably priced.

We split an order of chicken wings as an appetizer. They had a very light, crispy breading and had good flavor. I think there were 10 wings and the cost was only $5.95. We had the option of having the wings tossed in BBQ sauce or having the sauce on the side. We chose the latter. They make the wings fresh for each order, and it shows. They were good wings. A wider selection of sauces would have been nice, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker.

For my entree, I had fried frog legs. Having had big frog legs in Louisiana, I set a pretty high bar. I’ve had them at Asian buffets, but they’re always little previously-frozen wimpy frog legs. When I asked how big theirs were, our server brought out a pair of frog legs ready to go into the fryer so I could see for myself.  They were plump, fresh frog legs cooked intact. Lightly-breaded with just a dusting of a seasoned flour, they were really tasty. The thighs’ circumference was about the same as a US quarter. Forgive the poor quality shot, but I took it with my phone in dim light.

 

Four nice-sized frog legs with a side of cottage fries.

Four nice-sized frog legs with a side of cottage fries.

 

Yes, I giggled when I saw them. In all my previous experiences with them, the legs have been separated. We remarked about how they looked like little people. Now there’s a nice thought, huh? I must admit I held up a pair and made them dance a little jig. My husband did not video record this, unfortunately. I did stop (just) short of singing “Hello! Ma Baby!” as I did it. Even I have a few filters left.

 

 

Here’s the whole film, “Some Froggy Evening” cartoon with Michigan J. Frog. It’s one of my favorite Looney Tunes films!

 

But I digress.

My husband had baked steak, which was also good. The mashed potatoes and gravy were great. We both liked that they didn’t salt the heck out of the recipes. We don’t use a lot of salt when we cook at home, so it’s almost inevitable that most restaurant fare is way too salty for our taste. I had to add a little salt to my food, but I prefer that any day. You can always add salt, but you can’t take it away!

My husband had the apple dumpling a la mode with vanilla ice cream for dessert. I had the red velvet cake, something our server said was a new item. The apple dumpling was a tad rubbery, perhaps microwaved a little too long. It had a light, flaky crust and tasted very good, though. The red velvet cake had a wonderful, light and fluffy, whipped icing, not the usual heavy cream-cheese type. The cake was high, a good 4″ tall. As delectable as that icing was, there was a bit too much cake in relation to the icing. It made the dessert a little more dry than I prefer. Had it been a layer cake, the icing to cake ratio would have been about perfect. The dessert is the only reason for 4 stars rather than 5 on my review.

When my husband went there the first time, the owner’s mom asked what his name was, saying she tries to learn the customers’ names. It’s just a friendly, homey place serving good old-fashioned American food.

Not sure just where Hebron is? Here’s a map:

View Larger Map
Whether you’re a local, in the Columbus area or out toward Zanesville, Mt. Vernon or Lancaster, it’s worth the a nice drive in the country and a day trip.

Crock-Pot Create-A-Crock great idea, but missed an opportunity

I recently saw Crock-Pot’s latest product offering via their Facebook page. The Create-A-Crock is a great idea! Customers can now choose from nine different stock designs, then upload four of their own pictures.

You have to click the green “Create Mine Now” button on the page to get to the design app. The app is a little clunky, but fairly intuitive. I experimented with it tonight, uploading some retro kitchen advertisements for fun.

Crock Pot Create-A-Crock design

It’s great fun to be able to customize an appliance. I participated in a market research focus group several years ago where participants were asked if they would pay extra to have the ability to somewhat personalize their major appliances with custom inserts and knobs. I’ve not seen it happen, unless I’ve missed it. Still, people are all about personalization now. Skins are in, for everything from cell phones to iPods to laptops and tablets.

But back to the app. Once a user’s designed her dream Crock-Pot and clicks to add it to her cart, a message comes up warning the user, “This is the final time you will be able to view your customized Create-A-Crock™ Slow Cooker.”

When I saw this, I realized the flaw in the campaign.

Kudos to Crock-Pot for putting this idea out there. However, they missed a huge opportunity when they didn’t also provide a means for users to share their designs with others. I’m not talking about sharing as in buying a Crock-Pot to give as a gift, though that is the company’s goal. I’m talking about letting users share pictures of their creations with friends and family via social networks, mobile MMS, and e-mail. Users might have created profiles in order to save their designs, providing Crock-Pot with fresh prospective customers’ information for their database.

Viral marketing involving personalization pops up everywhere (think OfficeMax and ElfYourself) and yet it’s nowhere to be found with this product. It’s a shame, because I think it could have driven a lot of traffic to their site. People like to play with apps like that. The longer a user stays on your site, the more they buy in to what you’re selling. These users might have created their own designs or, if allowed, ordered duplicates of their friends’ creations.

The Morphing, Man-Munching Mudmobile of Mile 81

Nom nom nom...


A couple days ago, I bought the latest novella release by Stephen King. Titled Mile 81, it’s an ebook-only release. I downloaded it to my Kindle app for Android.

Reminiscent of King’s Christine and From a From a Buick 8, this story contains some vivid, creepy imagery and features a car. I read it in a darkened room – just by chance, not by design.

To be honest, I found myself just a tad nervous as the story unfolded. One thing I love about King’s writing is his attention to characters; he fleshes out both major and minor (read: expendable) characters. In just a few spare sentences, he makes you care about these people and dread for their futures. There is plenty for them to dread here.

Unlike those who speed by on the turnpike without a thought, several good Samaratins pull off into the abandoned Mile 81 rest area to aide what they think is a stranded motorist, or, as the case becomes, several stranded motorists.

The tension builds as the story progresses, but left me feeling let down. For all the build up, I thought the ending was pretty simplistic. Then again, it IS a novella, the literary equivalent of a half-hour sitcom. Still, though it was a short ride, it was a decent one.

I would love to see this car described in more detail — maybe in a subsequent book? We never find out where this entity went, so something tells me we’ve not seen the last of the Morphing, Man-Munching Mudmobile.

For under three bucks, get it for yourself and let me know what you think!

Kandle LED book light for Amazon Kindle review

Our family pitched in bought my mother-in-law a Kindle 3 with Special Offers for Mother’s Day. This review isn’t about that, though — It’s terrific and deserves its own separate review.

I snagged this little Kandle LED Book Light for the Amazon Kindle at the same time as the Kindle 3 since the Kindle uses an electronic paper display (similar to the Sony Reader, only with much better contrast) rather than a backlit one. I know she’ll appreciate having a little light when reading in a dimly lit area or in bed at night. The package arrived today and I got everything set up for her.

Thanks to the low power consumption and LED diodes, this book light uses button batteries; that makes for a compact product that’s extremely lightweight. I think about how clunky my old Mighty Bright book light is with its four heavy AA batteries and extendable arm housing a flashlight bulb. Compared to the Kandle, that thing’s a behemoth. I like how compact this light is, even when clipped on the Kindle and opened so the arm containing the two LED lights is extended.

The clip mechanism that holds the light to the Kindle is strong, plus it has cushioning on it to improve grip and to protect a Kindle or Sony Reader from scratches. The light also folds into a compact bundle that fits into an included black velveteen carrying bag. Two spare batteries are included as well, along with a mini screwdriver used for accessing the book light’s battery compartment.

I’m really impressed with its design! If you want to be able to read your favorite eBook reader snuggled beneath your covers in the dark, or anywhere there’s not adequate reading light, I think you’ll like this. The sub-$20 pricepoint is a winner, too, and it qualifies for Super Saver Shipping and Amazon Prime since the orders are fulfilled by Amazon. Win!

Tear-Aid patch tape is amazing

I bought two rolls of the Tear-Aid Type A patch tape to fix some tears in our gazebo’s canopy and reinforce the stitching where hooks are attached around its edges. It has held up through wind and rain for about 3 weeks now and looks like it’s a winner.
Today, I used the Tear-Aid tape to repair some bad tears in one of our van’s leather seats. I should have taken a before shot so you could see how extensive it was. It was so bad, a chunk of the exposed foam cushion had broken off. The leather is very worn and paper-thin in places, so it wasn’t something we could sew. Tear-Aid to the rescue!
Redneck? Maybe, but it worked great for years! Tear-Aid tape repair of leather van seat.

Redneck? Maybe, but it worked great for years! Tear-Aid tape repair of leather van seat.

We are going to get seat covers for the two front seats, but in the meantime, this tape is doing an admirable job of holding everything together in an understated way. My father’s suggestion of duct tape was ignored. 😉 Duct tape just becomes brittle in the sun, plus it’s a sticky mess.
The TEARepair products are amazing. There is no gooey epoxy to deal with. The patches go on clear and are pliable. They are watertight, airtight, and puncture resistant. I learned with my first experience with it that it’s very sticky and once it sticks to itself, you might as well cut a new piece. I also learned that you should round the corners of any patches you cut — this I learned from the very detailed instructions enclosed with the product. I can’t emphasize this enough: Read them.

Tear-Aid Type A, in the tan box, is good on everything except vinyl; for vinyl, you need Tear-Aid Type B in the green box. It retails for about $25 for a 3″ wide, 5′ long roll, so it is not cheap. They also have small patch kits which sell for about $8.
This stuff does cost quite a bit, but it’s worth it. I was able to find Both Type A and Type B at Amazon.

UPDATE 5/25/2013: That tape held up beautifully on the van’s seat and on the canvas gazebo top. The van was totaled in a deer-van wreck, but the seat still held together. The canvas rotted on the gazebo canopy and tore, but never where the tape was. We highly recommend this repair tape!