Merino Wool: The Warmest Fabric

For several years I have relied on SmartWool’s Merino Wool layers to provide winter warmth.  I am not an avid winter sports girl, in fact, I can barely stand being outside for an hour in the dead of winter.  I am paralyzed due to a spinal cord injury.  One of the side effects of my injury is that I get cold easily.  In fact, I can be cold even when my body is truly warm.  I know it sounds like an oxymoron but you just have to live the life of someone with a high level spinal cord injury to understand.  Starting in October I count the months until April and cherish each warm day.  In September, I brace myself for the blowing of cold winds and prepare for the winter chill – even in my moderate southeastern U.S. climate.194

I’ve searched high and low for every kind of heater, warm weather gear and warmth gimmick, and I seriously don’t care much about the electric bills in the winter.  I’d rather sacrifice other things to keep warm.  Once the air dries out and the temperatures drop there is nearly a constant background noise in my head whispering, ” I’m cold”.  It can be a rather annoying.

I discovered my favorite find for cool weather clothing a few years ago when I read an article about how wool keeps you warmer than synthetics and why wool is such a great fabric.

smartwool micro

People say it’s itchy, but they haven’t experienced fine merino wool made by companies like SmartWool, Icebreaker and Ibex.

I wear wool all year.  In the heat of the summer I have a couple lightweight wool tee shirts that I use as the perfect shirt.  It keeps me comfortable in the air conditioner and cool outside in the heat.

The Pros and Cons of high quality merino wool

  1. Warm:  It is by far the best solution I have found to keep warm!  In the winter I always layer with a lightweight SmartWool or Icebreaker shirt and add a mid-weight merino wool top over that.  I consider these my base layer and then if needed I put on the sweater or shirt I plan to wear on the outside.  I don’t do well with coats because they are binding on my arms, so this is what I wear all day inside and out with the exception of adding a vest occasionally.
  2. Odor resistant: Whether you perspire or not, this fabric is extremely odor resistant and does not need to be laundered often.  I wear my shirts for a couple weeks at least…  And I mean I wear the shirt underneath whatever I’m wearing for two weeks straight without washing it!  It may sound gross, but I promise even if you perspire you will be surprised how long it takes before it smells!
  3. Soft: You’ll never know you’re wearing wool!  This fabric feels a lot like cotton with stretch.  It is very comfortable and soothing.  I’ve been known to wear my lightweight wool to bed in the summer!
  4. Durable: These pieces do not wear out quickly.  They are high quality and well made.  If you have a few, you can wear them every day for multiple winters!
  5. Requires minimal care: Like I said above, you don’t need to launder them often.  My recommendation is not to launder them unless needed.  Give them the sniff test.  They are machine washable and can go in the dryer!   Sometimes I don’t put mine in the dryer and they will hold up better with fewer washes!  I have, on occasion, taken a piece that is a couple years old to the cleaners to have them freshened up.  The dry cleaners have a way with wool and can remove any pilling.  For every day care I simply lay my shirts out at night!  They can be folded or hung up for storage.
  6. Worth mending: Because I wear one of three light weight shirts next to my skin all  winter I have taken a couple to the dry cleaners to mend an elbow hole.  I’m always leaning on my elbow!
  7. Temperature regulating:  Choose the right weight and they will keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.



  1. Limited selection of color and styles.
  2. Price: Find a sale!  I buy most of my merino wool on sale.  At first I paid full price for a couple pieces, but now that I know I love the product, I buy on sale and clearance!  I often get it as gifts!  There is nothing like a great pair of warm wool socks for any cold nature friend!  Price is probably the reason every cold natured person doesn’t buy high quality merino wool.  Full-price for a lightweight item like a long sleeved shirt is $70-90.  A mid weight ¾ zip shirt can run $90-120.  A wonderful pair of socks can run $25-30.Smartwool Women's PhD Snowboard Medium Sock

If you are not convinced to make an investment in high quality merino wool clothing, treat yourself to a pair of SmartWool socks, then decide on your next piece.

Stay warm and share your tips for beating the cold below.


Cup4Cup Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix Review

Are you looking for scrumptious gluten free pizza crust?

Yes, we know. It is nearly impossible to find.

Occasionally we venture to local pizzerias for a GF pizza, but most GF crusts are nothing more than cracker-like ‘topping transporters’. When desperate, a ‘topping transporter’ can do the trick to satisfy one’s taste for a pizza pie…but don’t you want more?

Recently, I bit the bullet and ordered pricey Cup4cup gluten free pizza mix from Williams Sonoma…and low and behold…it makes a pretty darn good thin crust pizza

The mix makes two 12 in crusts and contains dry ingredients with a yeast packet. We only wanted to use half the mix since we don’t eat pizza often. What would we do with a single mix?
1 – Use the whole mix and refrigerate one half the dough or
2 – Measure the ingredients and use only half or
3 – Bake both crusts and freeze one.

We didn’t want to eat pizza again within 3-4 days and freezing seemed risky. It was easy to measure the dry ingredients and a bit tricky halving the yeast…but definitely do–able. We used half the warm water then mixed up one egg. I confess, we didn’t use half an egg!

If you have more than two people this halving ritual shouldn’t be an issue. You will need two pizzas!

The dough was simple. Just add warm water and egg to the dry ingredients and knead. The instructions specifically say not to add additional flour when forming the crust. When our dough got sticky, a tiny bit of olive oil on the fingers did the trick. Once the dough is together, simply pat it into a 12 inch round and put it on an olive oiled pan. Add olive on top of the crust and par-bake it in a 500 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.

Once your crust is par-baked, add your favorite toppings. We used Muir Glen organic pizza sauce, mozarella and parmesan cheese, roma tomatoes and crumbled Aidell’s GF organic meatballs.

cup4cup gluten free pizza mix

For visual instructions and videos see Williams Sonoma’s website.


Here are some quick highlights:


– High quality
– Easy to make
– Great flavor and taste
– Great texture as a thin crust. Nice and crunchy, stays together well.
– Helpful Instructions and videos
– Makes better leftovers than any gluten filled crust I ever had.


– Price 14.95 for two 12 inch pizzas
– Texture is not as chewy as gluten crust
– Can’t easily halve the mix to make one crust


– Let the egg come to room temperature before adding to mix if possible.
– Rub a little oil on your fingers if the dough gets too sticky to handle.
– Make the crust thin. Don’t try to make a thick crust – you’ll notice the lack of gluten’s chewiness more as the crust gets thicker.
– Use toppings at room temperature or warm them before you top the pizza. This will make the pizza cook more quickly and keep the crust from over baking or burning.

Be prepared for your next pizza craving and keep Cup4cup GF Pizza Crust mix on hand!

The Best Dog Park

When we go out of town we look for nearby dog parks where Tahoe can freely run and enjoy some playtime. As we rolled in to the parking lot of Nassau Humane Society Dog Park in Amelia Island, we had no idea that Tahoe would enjoy the best dog park we have ever visited.

It took less than a minute for Tahoe to make his way to the pool.  Such a happy dog. “Why don’t you come in, mom?”

“Okay, while I’d rather play with mom and dad, I’ll cautiously check out the the other dogs!”

There are nice benches and tables under grand oak trees for human parents.

Tahoe prefers to play with mom and dad over other dogs with few exceptions! He sure loved to swim in between fetching his Kong across the large grassy fenced-in field.

A moment for a happy family photo opportunity. We came to the park every morning after breakfast.

Tahoe habitually dropped his Kong in to the deep end and waited for Brent to fish it out with a net. After Brent was forced to wade waist high to retrieve Tahoe’s Kong we went to Petco and bought a floating Kong to use for the remainder of our trip! See Tahoe in the background just waiting to run for the Kong again!

Tahoe wasn’t a fan of doggie diving and enjoyed the floating orange Kong.

At 60 lbs, Tahoe qualifies as a ‘Big’ dog! There was a separate agility training area fully equipped with tunnels and jumps!

When you are on your way out, stop for a quick bath in one of four bathing areas. Complimentary shampoo, conditioner and towels are available in case you forget your own.

This black lab named Goose was our favorite doggie friend. He entertained us by diving for toys and he and Brent were instantly best buds. Ashly, we are still his godparents, right?

Say goodbye..until next time.

A ‘Fun’ Dog Friendly Destination

As spring ushers in beautiful weather it also inspires plans for family vacations and quick getaways to the beach. Last fall we took our first trip to Amelia Island. Wow! How had we missed this paradise?  We are blessed with the ability to take Tahoe everywhere we go whether it is a dog friendly place or not. He can stay at hotels with us because he is a certified canine assistant. But, if we needed a dog friendly destination Amelia Island would be the first place we would pick. It is the most dog friendly environment we have ever visited, additionally, the residents are friendly and community oriented and seem to treasure travelers that come to their area.

We stayed at the wonderful dog friendly Residence Inn (highly recommend it!) a block off the beach, and on the Egans Creek Greenway,  but there are many home rentals that are directly on the beach and high-rise hotels a few miles south in the Plantation area.The outside Lanai and putting green.

We had a nice kitchenette and a two bedroom ADA wheelchair accessible suite with a roll in shower.  They were out of the one bedroom accessible rooms and opted to give us this one! We enjoyed the complimentary breakfast buffet and afternoon snacks and Brent also used their gas grill on multiple occasions to prepare our lunch or dinner.

Brent and Tahoe relax by the pool.

The Greenway trailhead in the hotel parking lot!

If you head on down to the Fernandina marina, you can’t miss Brett’s Waterway Cafe. We ate there two times, and while you pay for the view, the food is excellent and we were surprised by their response to Tahoe. We had not even gotten settled at our table when they brought a big bowl of cold water and set it on the ground by Tahoe. As we were reading the menu and enjoying our water and the sunset view they brought two dog biscuits on a plate for Tahoe! Wow! He was getting better service than we were! It was so much fun.Tahoe sure looks excited to have yummy biscuits!

Well, he looks like he might just indulge without warning! He didn’t actually have the treats until we had finished our meals. We can be so cruel.Fernandina Beach is such a quaint town.

We took the opportunity to go on a cruise to Cumberland Island. While we didn’t disembark, it was a beautiful ride with views of wild horses and all kinds of birds and sea creatures.  We will try the sunset cruise on our next trip there.

Pajama Dave and Ellyn, the best tour guides, had no problem accomodating me and Tahoe.

If you take your dog, don’t miss the wonderful Nassau Humane Society dog park that is a couple miles inland by the airport! I’ll post about our experiences there in the future. It is so amazing that it deserves a dedicated article.

It seems like nearly every hotel welcomes dogs and the local business owners love them.  We went to Redbones Bakery and browsed the doggie fresh baked goods.

Of course we bought some yummy cookies to share with our neighbor pups when we got home.

Don’t forget to stop for fresh seafood at Lulu’s.

For more fun Brent added a segway tour! It was his first ride on one.

Even if you don’t have the need to take your dog with you on your trip, you will enjoy the community atmosphere in Amelia Island. It is a wondrous location with plenty of activities along with reasonable prices and friendly residents.

What destinations do you most enjoy? Where are you headed this year? Share your pet friendly experiences, please!