Wednesday, September 23, 2020

RYOBI Laser Level Review

RYOBI Laser Level Review

 There are always projects to do around the house. Some are big projects, and some small are projects.

Whatever the project is in my house I like to tackle it myself. I'm not the best handyman but I can hold my own when comes to work around the house.

I've learned some tricks over the years to help me get by with most of my own projects.

One day I was in our local hardware store and noticed this laser level. My first thought was why would I ever need one of these. 

Then I thought, wait a minute, one of my problems was hanging pictures or adding a shelf on the walls and keeping them straight.

I can tell you that I've patched up many holes in the walls fixing my mistakes while hanging pictures and shelves. Well, not anymore because this little laser level makes it so easy even I can do it.

 I now have pictures and shelves that are perfectly level. Although, I do miss those words from Fran, "that's not straight". This handy little tool helped me fix all of my mistakes.


This shelf is now perfectly level, but that wasn't always the case with this shelf. This shelf requires it to be hung from two points on the backside. There are two notches that screws fit into on the back of the shelf. Trying to get the second screw level with the first screw was a nightmare for me.

The laser level made this easy, just set the first screw, then mount the laser level on the wall. Line it up to the centerline of the first screw, using the level on the tool to make sure it's level. Now, measure and mark the wall on the laser line for the second screw. Wow!! Perfect every time.

Some other projects that my laser level made easy, hanging wallpaper, and borders, pictures, and curtain rods. I had to add some new posts for our deck, I used the laser level to determine the correct height of each post. I even lined up the photo eyes on my garage door with it. So, it turns out that I really did need one of these.

RYOBI Laser Level Features:

  • Vacuum suction will seal to smooth walls
  • The laser beam will shoot around corners which makes hanging shelves or wallpaper around the room easy.
  • Tacks will hold the level in place on textured walls.
  • The laser beam will shoot a distance of 30 feet.
  • Easily mounts to a tripod. (tripod is not included)

Ryobi ELL1002 Air Grip Compact Laser Level with Tripod Mounting and Corner Rounding Capability (AAA Batteries Included)Ryobi ELL1002 Air Grip Compact Laser Level with Tripod Mounting and Corner Rounding Capability (AAA Batteries Included)

 

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Good Dee’s Keto Cookie Low Carb Baking Mix Review

If you have been following my ongoing series of posts here about my successful keto diet weight loss journey, you’ll know that I love baked goods and desserts. You’ll also know that finding ways to indulge in keto desserts has helped me maintain a fairly strict ketogenic diet approach to eating since May 2019, a very low carb, healthy lifestyle that I continue to follow now that I have achieved and surpassed my original weight loss goals. 

I also enjoy baking, but I don’t always have time to do low carb baking from scratch. That’s why I keep a selection of high quality keto baking mixes in my pantry, so, I can enjoy fresh-baked sweet treats in just minutes. In a recent post, I shared my favorite low carb baking mix brands and keto recipes for low carb keto muffins. In this post, I'll share the excellent Good Dee's Cookie Mix low carb baking mix line.

Introductory image photo collage of Good Dee's low carb keto cookie baking mix flavors
Bake fresh keto cookies in just minutes 
with Good Dee's low carb cookie baking mix

Good Dee's Low Carb Cookie Mix

Fresh Baked Keto Cookies in Minutes!

All Good Dee's Low Carb Cookie Baking Mix flavors are sugar free, gluten free, grain free, and wheat-free. Some (but not all) are also manufactured in a dedicated gluten free facility. Anyone who either has a food allergy or bakes cookies for someone who does will appreciate the allergy information on the packaging and the brand owner's efforts to accommodate multiple common food allergies.

A Changing Flavor Selection

Good Dee's continues to expand their low carb baking mix line for keto cookies and other products. Not every flavor is available year round, and some are considered seasonal. I recommend checking on both Amazon (free shipping for Amazon Prime members) and the Good Dee's website (free shipping for orders over $50) to see which flavors are currently in production and in stock. Occasionally, these products also go on sale, another reason to keep an eye out on both websites, and also to sign up for the Good Dee's mailing list for exclusive offers.

Last week, I used the three Good Dee's low carb baking mix flavors I had on hand to bake the three dozen cookies I photographed for this post. I've also tried a fourth flavor (double chocolate chip) that I didn't have in my pantry at the time. Today, I'll share my product reviews of the four low carb baking mix flavors that I've purchased and made into keto cookies.

Good Dee's Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

Side by side photos of Good Dee's Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix and baked cookies
These thick, soft, chewy chocolate chip cookies 
are also low carb and keto diet friendly treats

It's not surprising that the first keto cookie mix Good Dee's introduced was chocolate chip. After all, chocolate chip cookies are the most popular cookie in the United States, and the second most popular cookie in the world, after French macarons. 

I tried Good Dee's Chocolate Chip Cookie Low Carb Baking Mix for the first time shortly after I discovered it on Amazon and, truthfully, I was a bit underwhelmed. Fortunately, the "new & improved recipe" lived up to its promise, and the second batch I made, using the mix with the new recipe, was much better. Like all the Good Dee's cookie mixes I've tried to date, the improved chocolate chip version produced cookies that were large, thick, soft and chewy. That's how I prefer my "chippers," but if you like thin, crisp cookies, you probably won't be a fan of the Good Dee's mixes. 

As you can see, they certainly weren't the best-looking chocolate chip cookies I've ever baked. Both times I've made them, the batter underneath the chocolate chips seemed to pull away from them, resulting in small, chocolate-filled craters after baking. However, I don't care that much about how pretty they are, since they meet my much more important criteria for being tasty, satisfying, and keto-friendly.

The other thing to know about this mix is that the chips are very dark chocolate and not very sweet. I rather like the contrast of the barely sweet chocolate chips and somewhat sweeter cookie dough. 

Good Dee's Sugar Cookie Mix

Side by side photos of Good Dee's Sugar Free Cookie Baking Mix and plate of cookies
A different texture than traditional
sugar cookies, but a similar taste


Like all this brand's products, Good Dee's Sugar Cookie Low Carb Baking Mix is actually sugar free. Although the texture is coarser and chewier than conventional sugar cookies, the taste is surprisingly similar. 

These also make a great base for adding your own flavor mix-ins. I'm thinking of adding some tiny wild Maine blueberries and chopped walnuts or pecans to my next batch. Yum! 

Good Dee's Butter Pecan Cookie Mix

Side by side photos of Good Dee's Butter Pecan Low Carb Cookie Baking Mix and baked butter pecan cookies
If I had to pick my favorite, it would have to be this
awesome Good Dee's butter pecan cookie baking mix

Of the four keto cookie mix flavors I've tried so far, the Good Dee's Butter Pecan Cookie Low Carb Baking Mix has definitely turned out to be my favorite. To me, they have an awesome flavor and a less coarse texture than the other flavors, making these extremely similar to old-fashioned butter pecan cookies made with white flour and cane sugar. 

My husband, who eats conventional cookies or cake daily for dessert, likes these low carb butter pecan cookies a lot, too—the ultimate compliment for keto baked goods!

Good Dee's Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

If you're a chocolate lover, Good Dee's Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Low Carb Baking Mix would be a good flavor to try. These are rich, not-too-sweet, dark chocolate cookies studded with dark chocolate chips. Since there are no golden brown edges to tell you when these are done, I suggest keeping a close eye on them and pulling them out of the oven as soon as the edges appear set.

Other Good Dee's Low Carb Cookie Mix Flavors

I haven't had a chance to try the Good Dee's Snickerdoodle Cookie Mix or Peanut Butter Cookie Mix yet. But since I love both those types, I'm definitely looking forward to picking up a bag of each.

About Good Dee's Low Carb Baking Products

The Dee behind Good Dee's is owner and founder Deana Karim, who finally succeeded in losing weight and adopting a healthy lifestyle after embracing a LCHF (low carb, high fat) approach to eating. She knew that thinking of this way of eating as a diet (and, by implication, temporary), and feeling deprived because she could no longer enjoy cookies and other baked goods, would be a "recipe" for failure. At the time, there weren't any baked goods that met her requirements for being healthy, low carb, and delicious — so she started developing her own low carb keto recipes for brownies, cookies, muffins, and cakes. 

Understanding that there were many other people following a low carb diet who, like her, had an unmet need for easy-to-make, healthy, and delicious sugar free baked goods, Deana invested her $5,000 savings into launching her Good Dee's low carb baking mix business. A month later, her low carb, gluten free, sugar free chocolate brownie mix was the number one brownie mix (not just low carb) on Amazon! 

She continues to expand her line, and has listened to customer feedback to improve several of her baking mixes. She now offers Good Dee's allulose-sweetened sugar free chocolate chips (currently out of stock on Amazon, so check back to see whether it's available), sugar free just add water frosting mix in cream cheese, dark chocolate, and white chocolate flavors, and even sugar free rainbow sprinkles and naturally colored sugar free edible glitter for decorating cookies, cakes, cupcakes, and ice cream sundaes. 

Tips for Baking With Good Dee's Keto Cookie Mixes

All low carb baking mixes behave differently than their traditional flour- and sugar-laden counterparts. Here are my tips for baking successful keto cookies from a Good Dee's low carb baking mix.

Line Your Cookie Sheets With Baking Parchment

Even if you have a Silpat or other nonstick baking pan liner underneath, I recommend lining your baking sheets with baking parchment, as directed when using these low carb baking mixes. The cookies are extremely fragile when they come out of the oven, and the parchment paper helps them release without breaking. I have switched to using unbleached baking parchment exclusively, and my high quality Fasmov Non-Stick Parchment Paper Baking Liner Sheets are shipped flat, so the edges of the paper don't curl (which I love!). 

Prepare and Measure the Wet Ingredients

Photo: Bag of Good Dee's chocolate chip cookie mix next to beaten egg, melted butter, and vanilla extract
Setting out and measuring all the ingredients, the mixing bowl,
and a mixing spoon keeps your work space organized

As with any type of baking, ingredients should be at room temperature unless otherwise specified (for example, using chilled fat in pastry dough or biscuits). 
  • To bring the egg to room temperature, you can either set it out on the counter or, if you want to start baking sooner, gently place the whole egg (still in its shell) into a bowl of warm (not hot) water and leave it for 5–10 minutes. 
  • Either butter (preferably unsalted) or coconut oil will work for any of the Good Dee's cookie mixes. I prefer the taste of unsalted butter for most keto baking. When I've been low on butter or baking dairy free cookies to accommodate another person's dietary requirements, however, I've substituted my favorite unrefined, cold-pressed, organic virgin coconut oil, which adds a very subtle hint of coconut flavor that I quite enjoy. If you prefer a more neutral flavor (or just don't like the taste of coconut), you can use refined coconut oil, but it doesn't offer the health benefits that unrefined, cold-pressed, organic virgin coconut oil does.
  • I find it easiest to melt the butter or coconut oil in a Pyrex measuring cup, covered with wax paper, microwaving it in 15-20 second bursts, and stopping when most, but not all, of the fat has melted. After removing it from the microwave, I gently swirl it in the glass measuring cup, letting the hot melted fat finish melting the remaining solids. If you prefer, you can melt it over simmering water in a double boiler. Set the melted butter or coconut oil aside to cool while you preheat the oven and prepare the cookie dough.
  • In any baking recipe, I always recommend using the best quality, pure vanilla you can find (and afford). Penzeys pure vanilla extract is my favorite.

Stir Dry Mix Before Adding Wet Ingredients

Photo of cookie baking mix in bowl, next to the wet ingredients on countertop
Getting ready to add the egg, butter, and vanilla extract
after stirring the dry cookie mix in a mixing bowl

The directions for all Good Dee's cookie mixes call for pouring the baking mix into a bowl and stirring with a spoon before adding the wet ingredients. I'm guessing the reason is that nut and seed flours are heavier than wheat flour, so they may tend to separate out and settle to the bottom during shipping. If that's the case, they might need to be stirred back into the rest of the mix to redistribute them evenly. 

After stirring the dry mix in the bowl, add the egg, melted butter or coconut oil, and vanilla extract, then mix thoroughly.

Use a Cookie Scoop to Portion the Dough Evenly

Image of 12 scoops of Good Dee's low carb chocolate chip cookie dough on baking parchment lined cookie sheets
I used a medium cookie scoop to divide the prepared
keto chocolate chip cookie mix into 12 equal portions

Dividing dough into 12 equal portions with any accuracy can be a pain. I could weigh the prepared dough in grams, divide the total weight by 12, and then weigh out each portion of the dough. But if I'm using a baking mix, I'm not interested in spending that amount of time and effort just to portion out the dough equally. 

Since I still track my daily keto macros and calories, ensuring that dough is divided as evenly as possible is important to me. Most of the mixes call for dropping 1½ to 2 tablespoon portions of dough onto the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet to make 12 cookies. However, the butter pecan cookie mix package says to use 1 tablespoon of dough for each cookie to make "approximately" 12 cookies, yet when I did that, I had used up only slightly more than half the dough. By trial and error, I found that 1/12 of my prepared butter pecan cookie dough measured out to slightly less than 2 tablespoons per cookie.

So, if you track your daily keto macros and calories (for example, on the Carb Manager app), I recommend using a 1.5 to 2 tablespoon stainless steel scoop with a trigger mechanism to help release the sticky dough, such as the Solula Professional 18/8 Stainless Steel Medium Cookie Scoop #40 (with a 1.7 tablespoon capacity) to help you measure out 12 equal portions of cookie dough. You'll quickly find out, through trial and error, whether you need to use a level scoop, a scant scoop, or a slightly rounded scoop of dough for each cookie.

Don't Overbake

I've noticed that keto cookies I've made using a Good Dee's Low Carb Baking Mix tend to progress from underbaked to overbaked fairly quickly. Since every oven is different, I recommend setting your timer for one minute less than the package directions' shortest baking time and then keeping a close eye on the cookies so you can pull them out as soon as the edges turn golden (or, in the case of the double chocolate chip cookies, until the edges have just set). 

Let Baked Cookies Cool Completely Before Removing From the Baking Parchment

These keto cookies have a much softer, somewhat coarser, and chewier texture than conventional cookies made with flour and sugar, and they are also more fragile, even after they have cooled. If you try to lift them off the baking parchment before they have fully cooled, they are likely to fall apart. So, don't let the scent of freshly baked cookies tempt you to try to eat one, or even move them to a serving plate, while they're still warm.

In fact, I find that both the flavor and texture of these low carb baked goods are even better after a day or two!

Consider Freezing Some (or Most)

If you think it might be hard to resist eating more of these cookies than will fit within your daily calories and keto macros, or if you don't plan to eat one every day and want to enjoy them as a sweet treat from time to time, you may want to freeze some or most of them, after snugly wrapping them individually in plastic freezer wrap and then placing them inside an airtight freezer-safe food storage container (or, if necessary, inside a heavy, zippered freezer food storage bag). 

Wrapping each cookie securely in plastic freezer wrap not only provides another layer of protection against freezer burn, it also makes it easy to remove just one or two cookies, which will thaw fairly quickly after being unwrapped.

Keto Cookies vs. Conventional Cookies

Photo: small plate of three different types of low carb cookies
Gluten-free, sugar-free, grain-free, butter pecan,
chocolate chip, and sugar cookie keto cookies,
made with Good Dee's low carb baking mix

Unless you're just starting a keto diet, you've probably discovered that ketogenic cookies, cakes, pies, etc., have a different texture and, often, a somewhat different taste than conventional baked goods made with high carbohydrate ingredients that can spike your blood sugar levels and cause inflammation. So, it's important to have realistic expectations of any keto baking recipes or low carb baking mixes. 

That said, I found that my taste buds gradually adapted after several months on a fairly strict ketogenic diet, and since I no longer eat conventional sweet treats, my palate no longer compares very low carb desserts to traditional baked goods. My experience is pretty typical of people who stick to a fairly strict keto diet for at least 8–12 weeks. 

So, while these cookies don't taste like my grandmother's cookies (or mine, prior to last May), they make yummy, satisfying keto desserts for those of us following a very low carb lifestyle.

Why Use a Keto Baking Mix Instead of a Low Carb Recipe? 

Ease of Use, Time Savings, and Convenience


Baking is based on chemical reactions between ingredients. And the chemistry that makes conventional baking recipes work involves interactions between ingredients that aren't keto friendly. Even for those of us who have decades of experience as excellent home bakers, there's a significant learning curve in converting old, beloved family recipes for low carb baking. That's a challenge I haven't had an interest in tackling (at least, not yet!), so I prefer to let low carb baking experts do the work of developing delicious, foolproof recipes for keto cookies and other baked goods. 

Sugar free, gluten free keto baking also requires stocking the pantry with different ingredients than the ones we're accustomed to using. For example, instead of white and whole wheat flour and cornstarch, we might need to buy almond flour, coconut flour, sunflower seed flour, watermelon seed flour, and xanthan gum. (And it's not as though any of these ingredients can be simply substituted 1:1 in a keto baking recipe!) 

So, although I keep those and other low carb baking ingredients in my freezer and pantry, and enjoy making a number of keto baking recipes for rolls, buns, muffins, etc., when I have time and inclination, I also appreciate the convenience of having keto baking mix varieties on hand. I try to buy ones that contain the same high-quality, low carb ingredients I use in my scratch low carb baking, and that produce keto baked goods that taste as good as the ones I bake from scratch (or close enough).





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Monday, September 21, 2020

Reviewing Baker Creek Seeds: Strawberry Watermelon

 I am excited to have been able to order a packet of Watermelon seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I am very excited about this coming gardening season. This Watermelon variety is the "Strawberry". It is the most delicious watermelon I've ever tasted. 


For the sake of transparency, I have to share that I am not currently gardening. I am in a metro-area apartment. I have grown some fantastic tomatoes on my southwest facing balcony. But I barely remember my last real garden. I own some land in a rural area. While I don't have a garden there yet, I did experiment this summer and was surprised to grow some monster zucchini squash and some very healthy looking cabbage. That experiment made me even more anxious to plant more edible plants this spring.

However, with the current craziness of 2020, including difficulty with the supply chain, I thought I'd buy my garden seeds now. In order to ensure I have seeds when it is time to start them.  This watermelon is one of the plants I am most excited to try to grow.

Watermelon - Strawberry 

I had been hearing, from serious gardeners, that they were extremely pleased about their Strawberry Watermelons. They were happy about the plants, the size of the melons, and the wonderful taste. At that same time, I had the opportunity to taste some of this melon. It was delicious! So flavorful. I love watermelon and eat some about 5 days a week during season. Some from the grocery and some from local farms. But none were as flavorful as the Strawberry Watermelons.  There is a bit of a berry flavor - slightly different than a typical watermelon. But it is not overpowering. And the traditional melon flavor is present.

More about this variety:

  • Name: Citrullus lanatus
  • 85 days
  • sugary sweet pink flesh
  • ripens to within a 1/2 inch of the rind
  • oblong melon, 15-25 lbs.


About Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds


Baker Creek specializes in heirloom seeds.  It is highly recommended by avid gardeners, especially those who like to save their own seeds for future gardens. You can find Baker Creek seeds at their website: rareseeds.com

They carry familiar plants and varieties as well as plants and varieties you have likely never heard of. I have placed two orders and have received both orders without problems and in a timely fashion. 

The headquarters is a place that during normal times (as opposed to during times of quarantines and social distancing) can be visited. Watch for announcements for the re-opening of their village, store, and restaurant near Mansfield, MO. 

In the meantime, you can browse their selections online or request a printed catalog. 

In addition to their vegetable seeds, they offer some gorgeous flowers. I always try to plant some flowers for the pollinators. This year I can't wait to plant these gorgeous Zinnia's along with several varieties of sunflowers.

I have never seen these types of Zinnias, have you? I love "regular" zinnias. I can only imagine how amazing these will be in my "garden". 






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Sunday, September 20, 2020

2 Popular Rustic Furniture Styles that Fit into Both Modern and Country Designs

Popular Rustic Furniture

Live Edge Wood Coffee and End Table Slices

These rustic designs are choice pieces by young adults to seniors alike.

The furniture is designed from a slab of unused wood. They're a coffee table DIY gurus can handily tackle. My skilled son constructed his own. Although he's a full-time Realtor, his ironworking skills came in handy for this project.

The table below is the result of his discovery of a gorgeous piece of live-edge natural wood at a flea-market. He then custom-designed the legs to complete his table.

Photo Credit J. Cipak - His Personal DIY Table

You can view a collection of wood slice coffee tables from a variety of retailers here. Or check them out below.

Wood Stumps that are Both Extra Seating and End-Tables

My son also has a couple of these cute pieces. They're relatively basic in shape and size and available in other more elaborate designs as well. Here they are:

Photo Credit J. Cipak - Wood Stools

You may have heard the term, 'Twisted Stool?' Some designs are precisely that - twisted wood stools that can double as an end-table.

You can view a collection of Twisted Stools from a variety of retailers here. Or you can check them out below.

Modern and Contemporary Decor Can Host Both of These Unique Designs

Wood furniture, especially with a rustic look, is generally preferred for a cottage or country designs. Typically we look for furniture pieces to match our decor theme. As an example, for modern decor, we'll select contemporary pieces, and for country decor, we choose rustic elements. 

However, with newer apartments and condominiums being deniably modern, especially in urban settings, we rarely think of adding a contrary rustic piece.

In fact, adding natural rustic pieces to contemporary or modern design is a superb way to add depth, interest, and texture to an otherwise linear design. When you find a room is cold in appearance, utilize the decorating principle of Texture. Texture can include anything from patterns, colors, materials, or in this case, opposing furniture with character.

Twisted Tables and Wood Table Slices Featured Below - Or You Can View Them on Their Product Page Here





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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Reviewing the Joie Yogurt on the Go

I love my little yogurt on the go container, although sometimes it's got something different in it!

My yogurt on the go container complete with today's lunch!
Photo by Lou16

I first say the Joie Yogurt on the go in a shop at a time when I was doing the 30 days to healthy living and I thought it might be a really handy container.   Now I have only ever seen the red and white container, but having a look on Amazon you have a choice, check them out -

Purchase from Amazon

Now obviously this is designed to have a yogurt in the main part and some toppings in the dome part of the container which is kept completely separate.   The first time I used it I left the dome empty and filled the container with some overnight oats - having a spoon attached meant I had everything I needed to eat wherever and whenever I wanted and it was great.

The next time I added some toppings in the dome and I have to be honest - I could screw the dome container off to eat my yogurt, but I couldn't open the dome.   Finally I had found the downside of this product.   I took it home and went to demonstrate to my husband how the top couldn't be opened and what do you know - it worked!

I have no idea what my issue was the first time because I have not had a problem since!

It is very easy to clean and the spoon really does stay easily attached which makes it so easy for me to take a snack or even a meal out with me for the day.   

Sometimes when I'm working and on the plan I really don't feel like a shake for lunch and I don't have the facilities to make pancakes or waffles at work so I'll make up either a thick smoothie that I can eat in a smoothie bowl with toppings or I make some overnight oats.   I put the overnight oats in this container and also add a few nuts and seeds in the dome part to add a little crunch to my lunch.

If we're travelling and I know I'm going to feel like a snack I will sometimes put coconut yogurt in the container along with some fresh berries and I may or may not add something to the dome - this can then be safely put in our cooler and I don't have to worry about remembering to add a spoon.

I have also added coconut yogurt in the container and put some protein powder in the dome container so that when travelling if we don't find anything that I feel like eating which is on plan I can simply have something little like sweet potato fries or a salad and then add the protein powder to the yogurt for 'dessert' and to make sure I get some quality protein to keep me from feeling hungry.

I do recommend this container, if I'd come across it when my daughter was younger I would've sent her to school with yogurt and toppings (she always wanted those yogurts in the supermarket with yogurt on one side and toppings on the other that you open and mix together.   This would've been right up her alley!




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Friday, September 18, 2020

Otherwise Engaged by Joanna Barker - Book Reviewed

Otherwise Engaged is a fabulous book!  It is a clean and wholesome romance for those of us who do not like explicit content.  It is also a historical fiction which is one of my favorite genres.  

This is the first book I have read by Joanna Barker, but it will not be the last!   She is a phenomenal writer who includes vivid descriptions of people and surroundings.  I was barely into the first chapter of Otherwise Engaged when I noted how much I loved this author’s captivating descriptions. I could easily envision the people and places in my mind’s eye. 

I also enjoy the touches of humor Barker includes throughout the book.  Several times I laughed out loud at the witty repartee between characters. 

All of these exceptional elements made this a thoroughly enjoyable book which I would highly recommend.   


Synopsis of Otherwise Engaged
England - 1822

Rebecca Rowley has just returned home from Brighton.  She has a big announcement to share with her family.  One that she knows her family will not be excited to hear.  Rebecca is engaged to Edward Bainbridge, whom she just met while in Brighton.  
 
She had heard the Bainbridge name before.  Their fathers had been business partners years before.  The reasons for the dissolution of that partnership had always been a secret that the parents never shared with their children.  Neither Rebecca nor Edward knew why they couldn't be together.  They agreed to find out the secret and, together, try to get their families to leave the past in the past, forgive and forget whatever was necessary, so they could be married with the acceptance and support of both families.  
 
 Otherwise EngagedCheck PriceRebecca had another secret.  She loved to ride her horse, Stella, but she enjoyed riding bareback.  She knew her family would disapprove of her riding in such an unladylike and dangerous way.  So, she would leave the estate with Stella saddled, then remove the saddle when they reached a secluded meadow.  Together, they would run like the wind, free and unencumbered by restraints. 
 
After one of their unconventional rides, Stella heard someone crying for help.  She and Stella immediately responded.  A child was drowning.  Rebecca ran into the water and swam to the girl, whose dress was caught on an underwater tree branch.  Once Rebecca freed her, she pulled her to safety on shore where they were joined by the child's very angry adult half-brother, Lieutenant Nicholas Avery.  This was definitely not the best way to meet new neighbors, especially since Rebecca was soaking wet and anyone could see that her nearby horse was not wearing a saddle.  This stranger now knew one of her best-kept secrets.  
 
Rebecca soon learned that Nicholas Avery was his sister, Olivia's, guardian.  Her mother had recently died and their father had died a few years before.  Nicholas barely knew Olivia since she was a much younger step-sister.  He had been in the navy all of her life and had only seen her a few times.  He wasn't always sure how to handle Olivia.  As a navy lieutenant, he knew how to make men obey his orders, but was clueless about how to deal with his little sister.  Rebecca stepped in to try to help.
 
Over the next few weeks, Rebecca and Nicholas became friends.  She confided in him and he kept her secrets, plus he enabled her to pursue activities that were otherwise not considered acceptable for a lady in society.   Rebecca's mother thought Nicholas would make the perfect suitor for her, but Nicholas knew Rebecca was otherwise engaged.
 

Conclusion


I immediately adored the free-spirited Miss Rebecca Rowley.  I applauded her desire to take on difficult tasks and live life on her own terms, not by wealthy society rules that stifled women.  I was tickled by Lieutenant Nicholas Avery’s independent little sister, Olivia, who clearly had a mind of her own.  I loved the witty quips of Rebecca’s family, as well as her conversations with Nicholas, and the jocular repartee they shared with each other.   
 
There are some authors who leave me wondering how they do it. How they write so well that they capture my attention.  How they describe their characters with such detail that I feel as if I know them, that they are close friends who have shared every confidence. How they weave a story that captivates me to the point of tears, laughter and even anger. 
 
Joanna Barker has done just that, and more, in “Otherwise Engaged”.  I have no doubt that I will miss Rebecca, Nicholas, and even Olivia in the upcoming weeks.





I received an advance copy of "Otherwise Engaged" to review from NetGalley. I would like to express my appreciation to Netgalley, the author, Joanna Barker, and the publisher, Covenant Communications, for this opportunity.



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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

When is the Best Time to Learn Something New? September Sewing Month

September is Sewing Month and a Great Time to Learn Something New!

Fall Season has arrived and the evenings are getting so much cooler that spending lots of time outdoors isn't quite as appealing as it was in July.  So what are you going to do with all those evening hours?

If Television isn't your thing, then learning a new craft just might be.  I know I love to keep my hands busy and sewing is one of the ways I do just that.
                                                  
Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

Now, I must admit to you that sewing had been a big part of my life.  Before my retirement I was a designer/dressmaker for many, many years.

I was taught the craft by my mother, and by several courses taken from my early teens and beyond.  Each course building on what was taught previously.  

My grandfather used to say, "Learn something that you can do with your hands so that if need be, you would have a "job" using your talents. No one can take that away from you."    I think he was pretty wise with those thoughts.

Sewing is a talent that everyone can develop if they have the will to do so.  I know my very first attempts at learning how to sew, were used to make my room, mine.  I loved pillows and crazy colors.  So with my need to personalize, my mother wisely let me choose some fabrics that I loved and encouraged me to experiment with her sewing machine.  Of course I had her help (I was only seven or eight years old at the time). 

My point is that if a child shows a willingness to learn something, we as parents or grandparents can help them along by imparting our knowledge to them.  Arts of any kind require an inquisitive mind.  Children are always curious about all kinds of things.  It's a great time to teach and have fun without pressure!  At the same time, our kids learn that originality and creativity can go hand in hand in many different ways.  

While sewing and sewing skills are geared more for girls, I think that boys should have the ability to learn too, if they are so predisposed to do so.  Many of our esteemed fashion designers are men!

To help with this avenue for creativity, there are several kits available that girls and boys may find interesting.  I like these two for a starting point.  Pictures feature both girls and boys making and sewing their own creations.


The first book is geared to teaching some hand sewing techniques, while the second book includes the use of a sewing machine as well.  Depending on your children's motor skills and how well they can handle each task, you may like one better than the other.  **I will add a caution hereParents and/or Grandparents should be able to sit with the children while they are making these items.  There are sharp instruments involved and extra precautions should also be in place.**

If they are new to sewing, start with the first book and then when they have mastered or expressed that they really like this kind of craft, you can move to the second in the series.

Who knows if you will be the one to spark a new hobby, that could lead to much bigger and more beautiful creations.  

What started out as a pillow in my case ended up with me designing and executing some beautiful gowns, dresses, suits and so much more.  I made a nice living doing something that I enjoyed and also gave pleasure to my many customers over the years.

You never know the power you have to guide and form a new designer, they could end up on Making the Cut! (Our own Tracey, did a review on this show and it is quite a revelation in how many got started in the sewing and tailoring business)

Children love to learn new concepts and this is one that they can take with them into adulthood.  Mending and remaking clothes for the budget conscious may just become a "vogue" idea again.  Our days of "throw away everything" have got to stop.  Who knows where and when these skills will be put into practice as our children grow.  One thing is certain, there will always be a need for clothes and if you learn how, you can become quite a master!


I went from Pillows and Bedroom Decor to making beautiful gowns like this one!  Just one gown from my archives!  This was for a graduation and it's still one of my favorites.

Whatever you do, don't underestimate the joy that spending quality time with your children and grandchildren can have.  It will be memories for you and for them and teach them a really important life skill.  




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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Catherine Cookson Riley Book Review

Catherine Cookson Riley (1998) Book Review

Many years ago, I parted with most of my Catherine Cookson books, retaining only the few that I had not read, like the one shown here called Riley. It had been decades since I had picked up any of Cookson's books but I remember fondly having loved the stories, which are set in the 19th century in and around what was then at least a heavily industrialized area of northeast England called Tyneside. 

With the arrival in 2020 of the virus that would lock down most of the world, I set to reading through some of my old piles of books and hence returned to the works of Catherine Cookson via this novel, Riley. 


IS RILEY RECOMMENDED?

Riley was indeed very good and it did not in any way fail my memories of Cookson’s books. It is the story of a young lad with no direction who was surely bound for trouble but was indirectly 'rescued’ by a few heated comments from a caring teacher. The result of those comments was a tumultuous but successful life on the stage and marriage to a woman 20 years his elder. 

Riley is Highly Recommended by me for anyone who loves historical fiction.


THE AUTHOR

Author Catherine Cookson, despite being from an extremely poor, working class home in Tyneside, England, went on to become one of the richest women in Britain. More importantly in my mind at least, she also went on to become Britain’s most read author in the mid-1990s and remains on the list of the twenty most read British novelists. She wrote a remarkable two books a year in many years and, when she died in 1998, she left behind 103 novels and a fortune for charity. 


ROMANCE OR HISTORICAL FICTION?

Catherine Cookson's novels were often categorized as romance despite the fact that, as Cookson said herself, there was nothing romantic about the times or the situations in her books. Her stories offered up more than historical romance and are extremely well done in terms of depicting a time period in history, which would surely make them qualify as historical fiction today. 

I do not want to stop with recommending Riley, however. I want to make my post a call for people to pick up Catherine Cookson’s books whether they knew her before they arrived here on this page or not. It doesn’t matter which book you start with whether it be Riley or another, they are all sure to please. Just be careful if you start with a series like Mary Ann Shaughnessy, Tilly Trotter or the Bailey Chronicles that you pick the first one.  You will find Riley on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda

Quick Links

Buy Riley on Amazon.
Catherine Cookson’s Life 
Discover the new, used and vintage books in my eBay store by clicking here but be warned that unfortunately there are no Catherine Cookson novels!
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn reviewed. 
Fast Girls by Elise Hooper reviewed. 








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Monday, September 14, 2020

Garlic Expressions Vinaigrette Reviewed

Garlic Expressions Vinaigrette Dressing has become a favorite in this household. A flexible dressing which can be used for fresh vegetables, chicken or shrimp marinade or a dressing for submarine sandwiches. Flexible is its' middle name!


A Marinade

One of my favorite uses for Garlic Expressions is to use as a marinade for chicken or shrimp. Shrimp only needs a few hours in the marinade to dress up fresh shrimp and add a garlic twist.

Submarine Sandwich Dressing


Garlic Expressions makes an excellent dressing for a submarine sandwich! We use it regularly for the dressing instead of the dressing which comes with the sandwich. Perfect addition for homemade subs too.

Vegetable Dressing

Asparagus spears or fresh broccoli lightly drizzled with this vinaigrette are absolutely yummy!

Salad Dressing

If you are a fan of garlic then using Garlic Expressions as a healthy salad dressing is for you!

Where To Find Garlic Expressions


If you are close to a Whole Foods store or have Amazon Prime/Whole Foods option Garlic Expressions is available to order. I have found the vinaigrette at the local grocery store or independent grocery store. The prices online tend to vary, but normal pricing in my area is $3.99-$4.99 a bottle.


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Sunday, September 13, 2020

Craft Reviews, DIY & Craft Tutorials on Review This Reviews!

Treasures from the Archives of Review This Reviews! 


We are blessed to have several experienced crafters on Review This Reviews!  Not only are we home to a few crocheters & stitchers, but we are quite proud of our contributors who make their own DIY craft projects.  We all get pretty excited when a new and original craft tutorial is published here.   It is awesome to be surrounded by such creative talent.

If you would like to make an original cat bed, Renaissance Woman shared her very own creation and tutorial.  She has also taught us how to make a gorgeous birdbath and bird-feeder for our gardens.

If you prefer creating beautiful crafts from kits, our contributors have reviewed some pretty awesome kits that make crafting easier for anyone.  Some are made just for kids, while others will appeal more to adults.  Children can enjoy painting rocks or make a water globe, to name a few, while adults may prefer the challenge of a Quilt Magic kit or beaded ornament kits.  Plus, Bev reviewed a paper flower kit that is recommended for children, but adults would also enjoy.

If you don't wish to be confined to the contents of a kit and would rather select your own fabrics & embellishments, you will find multiple tutorials for creating a craft using your own materials & supplies.  Dawn shared a very popular detailed tutorial for making easy Christmas ornaments, while Mickie shared how to make a mosaic flower pot with tiles, broken dishes or pottery.

In addition to kits and tutorials, a few of our contributors have opened Etsy stores and sell their own handmade items.  They make awesome gifts and home decor.


Plus, there are many craft books, patterns, craft supplies, and featured offsite craft projects reviewed right here on Review This Reviews.  



Join us in our creative world of Crafts, DIY & Tutorials!


A Review This Reviews Pinterest Board - Craft Reviews, DIY & Craft Tutorials


The board below features 30 of our most recent reviews.






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