Saturday, July 21, 2018

How to Conquer Clutter by Stephanie Culp – Book Review

The 'clutter' shown in these photos is my house at the present time. My house does not normally look like this ~ this is the result of weeks of sorting and packing to make a major move.  But if your house frequently assume a look such as this, you might be ready for this book by Stephanie Culp titled “How to Conquer Clutter”


Clut`ter To fill with scattered or disordered things that restrict movement or efficiency.  A collection of things lying about in an untidy mass.

Or, as the author says, “all that stuff you've got all over the place that everybody keeps telling you to get rid of." 


Normal Clutter Invasions



(c) Wednesday Elf Sorting & Packing to Move

We all deal with some form of clutter from time to time, no where near as bad as my current chaotic "moving mess". 


  • The children scatter their toys throughout the living room because they want to play where their special adults are instead of in the playroom or their bedrooms. 
  • We get out a project and the dining room table stays cluttered while we are working on it.
  • You get interrupted in the middle of a long-term desk or computer project and would lose your place if you put it away before you were finished with it. 
  • You have a sewing or crafting project that will take several days to complete and putting it away before you are done would be wasted effort. 


The clutter referred to in this, and similar, books refers to the stuff that starts as a small problem and, over time, becomes a very large and overwhelming situation. By that time, we make excuses for not dealing with it. Now the 'clutterbug' handles it by saying “I'll just put it over here 'for now'. But soon 'for now' becomes forever and here  comes that clutter crisis.


Author Stephanie Culp


Stephanie Culp is an organization and time management consultant who has written several books on getting organized. Her organization firm has helped people and small businesses get – and stay – organized since 1982. 


How to Conquer Clutter


Source: Pixabay

In How to Conquer Clutter, Stephanie helps you get yourself organized and reduce or eliminate the clutter that has taken over your life. This book is informative and humorous and will give you simple ways to take back control of your stuff. 


Pack Rat – A large, busy-tailed rodent from the Rocky Mountains that collects and stores food and miscellaneous objects. Just like you!

Available on Amazon
Stephanie includes a “Pack Rat's Excuse Almanac to help you deal with the mess in your life, a 'clutter quiz' to help identify problem areas and 19 'Clutter Checklists” to provide practical ideas for storing everything you cannot live without. She deals with each area of clutter from A to Z, from addresses to ziplock bags and everything in between.  Included are areas inside the house, outside the house and under the house! Culp even tells you how to use this book by defining the worst area of clutter in your life and identifying specific problem areas so you will know where to begin. 

How to Conquer Clutter is a helpful guide to get control of and 'conquer' your clutter!  Having read this book myself (which helped me especially with my admittedly biggest clutter problem area ~ dealing with paper - filing, purging, processing, etc), I am now passing my copy of the book on to my daughter, who is an admitted  'pack rat' just like her dad. 

(c) 2018 by Wednesday Elf












Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Review of The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

Review of The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers
The Masterpiece is Francine River's most recently published book. Like all of her books, The Masterpiece isn't a typical cookie-cutter Christian fiction where everything is perfect after salvation. It is a story about people with very real issues in life.  

Rivers doesn't write about fairy-tale versions of life as a Christian.  She writes about down to earth people who have been hurt or are struggling with life and in some cases, struggling with God.  Her books are not meant to malign Christians.  Rather to assure us that we are not alone and that it is not abnormal for a Christian to hurt, suffer, or even fail.  

She also doesn't steer clear of difficult subjects like adultery, divorce, abortion, pregnancy outside of wedlock, prostitution, separation from loved ones, or even going to hell, quite literally.

For nearly two decades, Francine Rivers has been my favorite author.  Ever since I picked up her series, Mark of the Lion.  I have read and reread that series several times.  I originally purchased it in hardback since Kindles were nonexistent.  But, it was one of the first sets of books I added to my Kindle when one was gifted to me.

It may seem odd to you that I read some books several times.  I do that when I want to read something I know I will love.  It is like watching the same movie over and over again because it touches something deep inside of you.

Even though most of my current day book purchases are made in Kindle version, I collect Francine Rivers' books in hardback copies too.  I never want to be without them.


Plot of The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers


 The MasterpieceCheck PriceWhen Grace Moore's father kills her mother and then commits suicide, Grace is found hiding in the closet.  Already she has seen and experienced too much for her young mind to comprehend.  She will be scared by the murder-suicide of her parents for the rest of her life.  

Grace is sent to live with a grieving single aunt she does not know.  Aunt Elizabeth has no idea how to truly care for a 7 year old child, nor does she want to learn.  Every time she looks at Grace, she is reminded of the man that killed her beloved sister.  It doesn't help that Grace looks like him.    

Having been raised in a loveless home, Grace doesn't really know or remember what love looks like.  It is no surprise that she ends up marrying a man who uses his charm to get what he wants from Grace, but who doesn't love her.  Because she believes her husband's education should come first, she drops out of college and goes to work full time to support them both and pay his tuition.  She is devastated when she comes home early from work one day and finds him with another woman.  Adulthood doesn't look anything like what she wanted, needed or expected.  She must get away and start over.  Even though she is a Christian, her problems are far from over.  

Seeking to find love in all the wrong places, she leaves a bar with a man she just met.  The decision to cast caution to the wind will change her life forever.  She ends up being a single mother torn, trying to choose what is best for her child.  She had planned to give her baby up for adoption.  Now, she wants to keep him, but the parents she had chosen to adopt her child, still want him too.

Elsewhere, Roman Velasco is a wealthy artist who has lived under the shadow of evil his entire life.  He never knew his father, and his mother died of an overdose when he was a child.  Roman moved from one foster home to another where the parents either gave up on him, or only wanted the money for taking in a foster child.  He joined a gang just so he could have a place where he fit in.  Selling drugs did not appeal to him, but he found his niche within the gang by painting graffiti on buildings.  After he is caught and arrested, he is sent to Masterson Ranch.  An isolated ranch that makes running away impossible.   However, the Mastersons and his teacher encourage him to develop his artistic abilities.  

As an adult, he changed his name from Bobby Ray Dean to Roman Velasco, and found a place where he, or at least his art, was wanted.  He became a workaholic and spent every day drawing or painting, often forgetting to eat.  He needed a personal assistant to take care of his daily tasks like grocery shopping, laundry, paying bills, answering the phone, etc.   Things a wife might do, if he had one.  But the last thing Roman wanted was a wife and he certainly did not want another personal assistant who wanted to be his wife or his girlfriend.

When Grace is sent by a temp agency to be Roman Velasco's personal assistant, she is not really impressed with him.  He is demanding, yet distant.  However, the distant part is much preferred by Grace.  So much so, that she ends up moving into the cottage on his property for convenience and going to work for him permanently.  


Conclusion


You may think from the description above that you can guess what is going to happen and to some extent, you might be right.  However, expect the unexpected.  Grace is a Christian, but Roman is not, so it is hardly a relationship made in heaven.  

It is what happens to Roman when he suffers a heart attack that I found most gripping.  I have heard people describe going to heaven when they die, or even seeing the white light, but reading River's description of what going to hell might look like, sent chills down my spine.  Frankly, it isn't as far fetched as I would like for it to be.

While this may not be my all-time favorite book by Francine Rivers, I would definitely recommend it.  




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Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Language of Flowers - Book Review

Read More Reviews
To read The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, is to reflect on how the bouquet of each of our lives is crafted flower by flower.  As we enter Victoria's story, none of us would want the bouquet she sees as the definition of who she has become: thistle, peony, and basil (flowers that represent a deep mistrust of people, anger, and hate).  Well before the end of this book, I suspect, like me, that you will be urging Victoria, in your heart of hearts, to pick a few white violets and daffodils.

Who is Victoria, this self-described thistle?  She is a child who has spent her entire life in the foster care system.  Victoria's self-image has been shaped by the one constant she has known throughout her childhood: rejection.  After being bounced from 32 different placements, Victoria is finally aging out of the system.  Having turned 18, she is eligible for emancipation.  While that freedom is welcomed, it comes with a whole new set of challenges.  Victoria has no money, no family, and no place to call home.  What she has, though, is an extraordinary gift for changing lives.  It will be the discovery of this gift that offers up new hope for a girl who has always been too afraid to hope, or trust, or love.

We learn early on that Victoria had one significant relationship at the age of nine.  Her foster parent, Elizabeth, taught Victoria how the meanings of flowers were an important form of communication during the Victorian Era.  This language of flowers is something intuitive for Victoria.  Plants, flowers, and growing things become her solace, her sanctuary, and the very life of life.

As Victoria seeks to find her way in a world that frightens her, individuals from her past reappear.  One offers the chance for true love.  The other offers the chance for redemption.  Both can give Victoria something she has always wanted more than anything: a family and a sense of belonging.  Will Victoria be able to move past the shame and feelings of unworthiness that stand in the way of making her way home?  You will want to read The Language of Flowers to discover the answer to that question.

Before we go, were you curious, in the introduction to this review, about why we might want Victoria to pick some white violets and daffodils to replace the thistles, peonies, and basil in her bouquet?  Those white violets represent the sentiment "let's take a chance on happiness" and daffodils are symbolic of new beginnings.  When it comes right down to it, isn't that what we wish for everyone who has waited a lifetime to grow into something beautiful?







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review

It Began with Pride and Prejudice


The love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy as written by Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice has been one of the most popular in all of English literature. Now over 200 years old it's been made into numerous movies, plays, and variations. Understanding Elizabeth is one of these variations.

Since most of the characters in Understanding Elizabeth came straight from Pride and Prejudice, I'm going to refresh your memory with this diagram to show how they are related.

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review
Pride and Prejudice Character Map by Jellomania at the English language Wikipedia

It has been sixty years since I read Pride and Prejudice, and that's why I needed to read it again before writing this review of Understanding Elizabeth. If you haven't read Jane Austen's original recently enough to remember the plot and characters, you can watch this video summary or download the free book from Amazon, as I did. This is the best of the summary videos I found.




If you prefer to read a plot summary with descriptions of the original characters in Pride and Prejudice, Wikipedia provides it. I reread the 410 pages in two days to refresh my memory, since the plot is complex and my memory isn't what it used to be. I found I appreciated Pride and Prejudice more at 75 than I did at 15.

Understanding Elizabeth

Understanding ElizabethUnderstanding Elizabeth

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm focuses on Mr. Darcy's inner thoughts. Although the narrator tells the story, Robin Helm lets the reader inside Mr. Darcy's head. Whereas Jane Austen reveals what her characters are thinking through their words to each other and comments from the narrator, in the Helm book Darcy's italicized thoughts are interspersed between his spoken thoughts and the narration.

We discover what motivates his words, including those infamous insulting words spoken to his friend Mr. Bingley at an Assembly. Bingley wanted Darcy to dance with Elizabeth and offered to arrange an introduction, but Darcy coldly replied, 'She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me...' Elizabeth overheard him, and although wounded, she joked about it with her friends. The offending words came from Pride and Prejudice, but they play a major part in both books.


In Understanding Elizabeth, Elizabeth writes in her journal: 
Fortunately I need not care for Mr. Darcy's good opinion, as I have known from the first moments of our acquaintance that I am not handsome enough to tempt him. After all, in his own words, I am barely tolerable....As I told Charlotte, I could easily forgive his pride had he not mortified mine. 

Darcy Reads Elizabeth's Journal


It was in trying to understand Elizabeth that Darcy alienated her. After hearing that her sister Jane who was staying with the Bingleys at Netherfield had become ill, Elizabeth immediately left for Netherfield to care for her .

Darcy was also staying there, and one evening while a group was in the parlour, Darcy observed Elizabeth reading a book. That impressed him because he liked intelligent women who read. He wondered what she was reading. As he observed she was also writing, he became curious about that, as well.

When she left to go back to Jane's room, she accidently left her book behind. Darcy took advantage of this and grabbed it, hoping to read the pages she had written and concealed in the book's pages. He battled his conscience before doing this, knowing he shouldn't, but he couldn't stop himself. He hid the book in his newspaper and took it to his room.

The first papers reveal her thoughts on the poem she was reading, but then after arguing back and forth with himself about invading Elizabeth's privacy, he yields to the temptation to understand her thoughts. As he reads her notes on Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," he sees her opinion that 'to be generous and sincere is better than to live for worldly fame and fortune.' He wonders if she thinks he "wallow[s] in luxury and pride." He questions his own character.

As he reads her opinions,  he 'picture[s] himself under a magnifying glass held in her small hands.' Then he realizes the rest of the papers in the book are her personal journal. As he reads he realizes she overheard his remark about her not being handsome enough to tempt him, and he admits to himself he hadn't meant it but was merely trying to get the matchmakers, including Bingley, off his back. By this time he knew he was becoming attracted to Elizabeth against his will.

He closes the book and sneaks it downstairs to return it to where Elizabeth had left it, now dark. Everyone else had retired by then, and, newspaper in hand, he is headed back to his room when he runs smack into Elizabeth who had come to retrieve her book. After a brief conversation about why they are there, they return to their rooms. And he realizes he is in danger of falling in love with Elizabeth.


The Dreams


Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review of a Pride and Prejudice Spin Off
Image Courtesy of Pixabay

By this time Darcy deeply regrets the insulting words he had spoken to Bingley about Elizabeth. He had never intended for her to know about them. Now they were thwarting his desire to have her think well of him and she made it clear that she loathed him. As he wishes he could take back his words, the theme turns Faustian as the devil appears in a dream to ask what he'd give to take back his words. But the angel who also appears in the dream reminds him that anyone dealing with the devil has a price to pay.

These dreams are repeated all through the book as Darcy tries to repair the relationship damage his words have caused. Elizabeth still doesn't realize he knows that she overheard them. That comes out later just as the relationship seems to be healing.

By this time Jane's illness has become more serious and Elizabeth spends a great deal of time in Jane's room. To give her some diversion, Darcy suggests they play chess. Each has a chessboard. Each writes their next move on a paper. They arrange that Molly, a servant, and Watkins, Darcy's valet, carry the notes back and forth so Elizabeth and Darcy can play their chess games without being in the same room. (Molly and Watkins don't appear in Pride and Prejudice.)

The relationship continues to develop until Darcy makes a verbal slip that makes Elizabeth realize he had read her journal. When she confronts him, he at first denies it. She then ends the chess games and the relationship because he not only invaded her privacy but also denied it. She returns his book and tells him to burn any of her notes in his possession. She also forbids him to call her Elizabeth any more and insists it be Miss Elizabeth.

That night the angel and the demon return again in a dream. Only quoting the Scriptures keeps Darcy from dealing with the Devil. The demon says he will return only once more. The quote in the image below was a warning from the angel.

Understanding Elizabeth by Robin Helm: A Review


Comparing Understanding Elizabeth and Pride and Prejudice


Unlike many Pride and Prejudice variations, this book is not a sequel. Instead it parallels the plot of Pride and Prejudice, adding many more details about the period Jane and Elizabeth spent at Netherfield during Jane's illness. It also elaborates on what Darcy did to help after Lydia ran off with Wickham.

In Understanding Elizabeth, Darcy doesn't try to break up Bingham and Jane, nor does Elizabeth become as friendly with Wickham as she does in Pride and Prejudice. Darcy's marriage proposals are handled differently, and so are the weddings.

The most significant difference in the books is the Christian element. Whereas Austen devotes several pages to making Parson Collins look pompous and ridiculous, he is not so major a character in Helm's book. We get only a hint of his attitudes and see fewer of his interactions.

Helms also explores Darcy's spiritual life. She reveals the torment he goes through in his dream visions and temptations before he finally achieves a difficult victory in which the Scriptures play an important role.

In his search to understand Elizabeth, Darcy learns to better understand himself. As he sees more of his own sin, he loses ungodly pride and develops more humility. He is finally able to love more unselfishly.

My Recommendation 


Fans of Jane Austen will enjoy the additional details in Helm's plot. Helm doesn't change any of the main plot elements, but she gives readers deeper insight into what motivates Darcy and Elizabeth. She alters some of the plot details and adds some characters such as Molly and Watkins, but she doesn't change the personalities of the main characters Austen created.

Austen lets Jane recover from her illness and leave Netherfield in chapters 7-12.  Helm devoted at least her first sixteen chapters - more than half the book - to Jane's convalescence, thus giving Elizabeth and Darcy much more time to develop a relationship before Elizabeth breaks it. I appreciated this.

Understanding Elizabeth is much easier to read than Pride and Prejudice. Though it retains the style and customs of Austen's book, it's easier to keep the cast of characters straight in Helm's book. The language is not as obsolete. Many of Austen's words have different meanings today than they did 200 years ago.

That being said, Austen's book still surpasses Helm's in overall literary quality and character portrayal. Still, I'd give Understanding Elizabeth five stars. It's entertaining, the main characters are well-developed while remaining true to Austen, and the spiritual elements add depth. I loved the ending.

Many others have written variations of Pride and Prejudice I've not yet had a chance to read. I'm amazed at how many there are -- from historical to modern. Some make the romantic details much more explicit than others set in that historical period.  The three I'd like to read next are in the group below. Why not download one today?




You may also enjoy my reviews of these Christian historical novels:

  • Untamed Land by Lauraine Snelling - the story of two Norwegian brothers who settled the Dakota country in the 1800's with their wives
  • Paper Roses by Amanda Cabot: A Christian Mail Order Bride Romance



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Marvel Black Panther Gifts Reviewed

Ideas For The Fans Of Marvel's Black Panther

black panther
Black Panther image from Pixabay.com
Let's review some gift ideas for the fan on your gift list who loves the Marvel Black Panther movie and story line. My husband and I recently watched the movie and became new fans of this character from Marvel. 

Obviously, if the person you are looking to gift is a fan then I am sure they have seen the movie that was released in February of 2018. If you have not seen it yet; I recommend that you watch it. For one thing, seeing the movie will help you decide on items that your fan will love. Besides, it is really a good movie especially if you are one who enjoys the Marvel line of Superhero movies that are currently available. 

Before I suggest gifts, perhaps I should tell you a little about the movie. Most of the story takes place on the continent of Africa where we become aware of the legend of the Black Panther King. We learn about the advanced civilization of Wakanda that hides itself from the world to protect their source of vibranium from getting into the wrong hands. This metal is only found in the area where the Wakandans live and because it is the result of a meteor strike centuries ago, it has unusual elements. As with any substance that can give an advantage to power, the bad guys want the metal to do harm. The people of Wakanda know the potential danger to mankind and have protected it for centuries.

So, the first gift that I suggest for the fan of Marvel's Black Panther is the Lego set that builds the Royal Talon Jet Fighter. The advanced technology that the people of Wakanda have developed from the vibranium has allowed them to have jets of this nature. It is a pretty darned cool machine!

Something that I really loved about the movie and story line was that we have a Superhero of color. There is quite a lot of violence as in any superhero plot so this is not for children under 12 or 13. That being said; I do love that kids can be introduced to a different culture. The people of Wakanda are split into five tribes which have totem or spirit animals that they identify with. Obviously, there is the Black Panter as one. We also see the Rhino who the Border tribe identifies with. The Jabari who have moved up into the mountains see the Gorilla as their spirit animal. Personally, I love that this is a part of the story. I also loved that the warriors for the Royal family are women.

Additional ideas for gifts are:

  • Action figures
  • T-shirts of several designs
  • A really cool jigsaw puzzle
  • bedding for a child's bed
  • a vibranium power claw glove
  • sleepwear for boys
  • dvd of the movie
Currently the selection is a little limited. I have a feeling that as we approach the gift giving season that additional items will become available for you to consider for that fan on your list. 

I hope that we see more of this particular Marvel Superhero! He really grabbed my heart! I have been a fan of all of them but the ones that have been introduced or re-introduced in the past few years are so very interesting. As I said earlier, if you have not seen this movie yet; you really should. Perhaps you will also become a fan. 






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Reviewing Younique Moodstruck Epic Mascara

Moodstruck Epic mascara review.
What is a mature woman who has never worn full make-up on a regular basis doing reviewing make-up? I have found a mascara that I'm super excited about, that's why. I splurged on Younique's Moodstruck Epic Mascara and like it so much that it will be my daily "eyes".  If you like to have good lashes, I think you'll like this mascara too.

Moodstruck Epic Mascara by Younique


I LOVE this stuff. I rarely wear make-up with the exception of mascara. Mascara is a necessity. I try really hard to never leave the house without mascara. I even wear mascara when camping at The Shack.

My eyelashes are puny and nearly invisible. But I hate spending money, so I nearly always buy the cheap stuff in the health and beauty aisle at Target or Walmart. Occasionally, I have purchased more expensive brands - but they flaked, smeared, or ran. So I stuck with the popular but cheap brand.

Last week I splurged and bought Moodstruck Epic Mascara and WOW!  My lashes suddenly looked like those ladies at work who have really good lashes. I thought they all went to the salon to have such great lashes but with Moodstruck Epic my lashes are now pretty great too. My lashes were suddenly long and thick; with individual lashes visible. My lashes were visible! 

What I like about this mascara is:

  • The brush actually brushes my lashes. I can feel it "combing" them. Not just passing across them.
  • It coats the lashes separately. 
  • The mascara hasn't smudged or ran all over my face yet. 
  • It takes no more time or work to apply than my cheap mascara
  • The difference in quality was noticeable immediately
  • It is very thick, but not clumpy.
  • It is more expensive (I don't like spending extra money) but I realized that I was spending money on mascara that really wasn't doing much at all - in the long run, this brand may not be much more expensive after all.

Here is my attempt to show you the vast difference in my lashes with no mascara, my box store mascara, and my amazing lashes with the Moodstruck Epic mascara.


Before: my puny, almost invisible eyelashes

side by side comparison: LEFT -popular box store mascara - RIGHT - Moodstruck Epic

If you are only looking for information about the mascara, you can skip straight to shop for the mascara here. The rest of my review will be a brief bit about the company and my wonderful presenter, Liz. 

note: I hate photo comparisons that are "staged" or use different lighting to make the product look better.  I did my best to use the same angle, distance, and lighting to give a real comparison. But as a person who doesn't take selfies, this was the closest I could get. And yes, I really did apply the mascara on the left. The way I normally do. And the way that I had mistakenly thought helped my eyes look better. 


More About Younique


I want to tell you a bit about the company and about Liz. I am a supporter of women and their home businesses. I'm on a tight budget so I can't always support these businesses as much as I would like. But in this instance, the company, my presenter, and the product make it worth the extra couple of bucks.

Younique is a direct sales beauty product company. Their statement on their About Us page is:
Younique's mission is to uplift, empower, validate, and ultimately build self-esteem in women around the world through high-quality products that encourage both inner and outer beauty and spiritual enlightenment while also providing opportunities for personal growth and financial reward 
Women become presenters and show the items they use and love. If  you are my age, you can think Tupperware parties - except with Younique the home parties happen only if you want it to. Most of the sales are "virtual parties" or individual orders (like mine).

Also, unlike home parties from days gone by, customers are able to order online just like they order any other product that is offered online. No commitment to having a party, no high-pressure sales, no having to clean up and plan to have guests (unless you want to - but I don't have the desire to "entertain").  


Meet Liz - My Younique Presenter


Liz is one of the kindest women I know. She also happens to be my grandson's other grandmother so I have gotten to know her a bit over the past few years. I have seen her putting on her face in the mornings and it's clear that she loves her make-up. And watching her, it was easy to see why. Her make-up always looked so good.

Then she very recently started her own business with Younique. Liz (and other Younique) presenters give online demonstrations and tutorials. The very best part of this is being able to watch women of my same age using make-up. I am excited about Liz's new  business adventure and wish her the best of luck.


Liz following a live tutorial

Where to find Liz:

Her Enhance Beautiful You  FB page (you can watch her live demonstrations here)

Her Enhance Beautiful You VIP FB group page (you can find weekly giveaways here and you can post your questions and comments on her timeline)

Liz's personal Younique company page - the place to order the goodies from her. Online orders with no fuss, no muss.


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Landscaping Solution for Areas Where the Grass Won't Grow

Our Front Yard Fix - My DIY Stepping Stone Solution
When You Want to Keep Your Trees but Can't Keep the Lawn

If you don't have to, don't cut down the trees.

Let me start by saying that I'm not a gardening expert. 

However, I did manage to pull off this DIY. Review the photos featured here to get a good look at the results.

Over 20 years ago we moved into our home in a new tree-less development. Other than the one tree the city provided, the yard was simply grass and a builder's walkway.

Landscaping was a must for us so we got busy planting trees and had a lovely interlocking walkway put in around the home.

My husband picked a tree he liked, a Birch Tree, and I picked a tree I liked, a Blue Spruce. We had both planted in the front yard with the birch tree surrounded by a small island featuring easy to care for Juniper. 

We put Boxwoods along the walkway, cedar trees on each side of the garage doors and a Bristol
A Close Up of Part of the
Front Yard
Ruby Weigela by the porch. On the other side of the driveway we had an English Oak Tree planted, which today, is magnificent.

For the back yard we planted about 50 cedar trees around the fence. You can see pictures of the backyard here with some gardening tips here.

In those early years, the trees were essentially our height or lower so keeping the lawn green and healthy was never an issue, until the trees became very large and as you can well imagine the little bit of exposed lawn in the front yard turned into a disaster.

One Day, I Decided that Was IT! No More

LOL I'm not exaggerating. One day about ten years ago I arrived home from work and solicited the help of my sons to do some Diy landscaping. Off we went to the local Home Depot to purchase the stepping stones you see in the photos. 

I chose bigger irregular stepping stones for most of the what was left of the lawn area, and smaller ones to go in front of the island. 

Not wanting the dirt to show between the stepping stones and not wanting to wait for planted ground cover to grow, I choose small red gardening rocks to fill in the cracks.

The only thing I forgot to do was to line the area with a protection barrier fabric to prevent the weeds from growing through the stones. But that's ok, I just dig out the weeds between the stones from time to time. It's good exercise, in fact I just did it again the other day.

A Closer Look - DIY Stepping Stone Fix
Also, to finish the look I put red cedar wood chips around the bushes and along the walkway. 

Was This a Hard DIY?

No. Since the lawn was mostly gone, there wasn't much digging to do to get the yard ready to receive the stepping stones. We poured the small red colored rock between the stones. Oh, and my sons did the heavy lifting.

Had I Ever Done This Type of Work Before?

No. I was totally inexperienced. The only advantage I may have had was that in my real estate years I had seen a great deal of property, and thus had a lot of visual assistance stored in the back of my mind.

What Tips Would You Give?

The most important aspect, at least for me, was to look carefully at the yard to roughly determine the
A Section of the Backyard Along the Fence where
the Grass doesn't Grow - These stepping stones are NOT
positioned close together on purpose!
size of the stepping stones needed and then do a bit of math to establish how many stones to buy.

It's easier to be as exact as you can than to continuously go back to the store to get additional stepping stones. However, I didn't get it right the first time either; I ended up at the store twice.

Also, install enough stepping stones. In other words, don't try to save money by spacing them too far apart so you won't need as many.

The closer together they are, the better the finished product will look. Plus, having them closer together means fewer red colored rocks.

What Did this Project Cost You?

Ok.... Remember this was done around 2008. My estimated price for the work I personally did was about $1000(ish) Canadian. Of course that doesn't include the trees or the professionally installed walkways. That money includes the stepping stones, cedar red chips, and red colored rocks. No labour costs, as of course, it was a DIY.

Don't be afraid to try this, it's a lot easier than it looks. I am not an expert and managed, so I'm sure you could as well. The photos really don't do this DIY justice :)

This is a recent photo (2018) - Stepping Stones still Holding Up Nicely, 10 Years Later






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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Reviewing Ways to Earn Money That Aren't Your Average 9 to 5 Job

ways to earn money with a side hussle
Image by Lou16
The internet has made the world seem smaller, it has also opened up opportunities for many people to embrace the idea of a side hustle or to even take the place of a more conventional day job.

Let's review a few ways that you can earn money that aren't talked about by your careers adviser in school. The wonderful contributors on this website have embraced several different ways of earning money and if you have similar talents then you may wish to embrace some of their methods.

So what ideas shall we discuss? Writing, photography, craft, recommendations, graphic design and even singing to cats!

You have probably heard the saying that if you do something you love you'll never work a day in your life. My late (offline) boss used to love this saying and he lived it too as he was at the office every day until his final two weeks (a month shy of his 90th birthday), he was even still studying a few months earlier! A few people who's articles you may have enjoyed on this site also seem to have taken these words to heart such as Mbg Photo & Wednesday Elf ...

Photography, Graphic Designs & Art


Mbg photo loves both photography and lighthouses so how to combine two loves and earn money at the same time? You sell your photographs of lighthouses on different products that people can purchase online. This is done with the aid of a number of print on demand sites, a popular one of these sites is Zazzle and you can see some wonderful lighthouses at Mgb Photo's Zazzle store - Lighthouse Gifts and Photos.

Zazzle is a great site to upload your own photography on, but you don't have to stop there.  Other popular ways to earn with Zazzle include typographical designs, in fact I had two very popular t-shirt designs that were just word based!  If you have a graphic design background or are an artist you could do well on this site.

Crocheting and Other Crafts


Wednesday Elf enjoys crocheting and she can utilize her talents by selling some of her amazing crocheted plush animals (and other goodies) in her very own Etsy store - Coastal Crochet Crafts.  There are a number of different crafts that you can make and put for sale on Etsy.  So if you enjoy crochet, knitting, jewelry making or even creating butterfly wings for costumes then you can sell your goods on Etsy.

Writing


When it comes to writing there are several different ways to earn money - writing a blog about things you love, reviewing products or even writing a book!   Sylvestermouse loves Christmas and plans for it throughout the year which is why she runs a couple of different sites around the holidays including Christmas Time Treasures.

BarbRad (like many of us) is a self-confessed bookworm and amongst her many book related blogs she reviews books at Bookworm Buffet (an awesome name for a book review site in my opinion!).

Anyone can set up their own website these days whether it's on the blogger platform, wordpress or even a site like weebly.   If that idea is too daunting for you then you could start writing on content sites such as hubpages or wizzley - earning money on these sites takes a while, but it's a good place to ease into the world of online writing.

Writing a book has become a lot easier with the internet because you can publish ebooks yourself.  It takes a lot more discipline to write a book in my opinion though.  One of our wonderful contributors has done this, however, with not just one, but two books - Bev Owen's cozy mysteries can be brought through Amazon.

Uber, Airbnb & Airtasker


Other ways of making money include the ride sharing economy such as Uber - simply use your car (provided it meets the requirements), download the app and you can choose your own hours for making money as a driver.  I know people who do this as a full time income as well as people who do it around other jobs.

Airbnb is a very popular way to cash in on extra room at home that can also lead you to meeting a variety of people.  Friends of ours do very well with this source of income which enables one of them to stay home and look after the children full time.

Airtasker is one way to earn money that I haven't used and nor do I know anyone who has.  I have heard interesting things about it though and it certainly seems like an interesting way to offer up any skills you have to earn money.  I was watching a segment on our local news program where they interviewed the head of airtasker in Australia and he said that the most unusual way someone had made money in the past year was by singing to a pet cat for an hour a day!

Recommendations


Recommending things is a great way to earn money and this can be done in a number of different ways.   One way is to write reviews (as we mentioned under writing) and in this way we can earn advertising income on a blog or we can earn via affiliate marketing.

With affiliate marketing we get a commission on any sales we make when we recommend things so you could look at one of Treasures by Brenda's sites which is called Movie Treasures by Brenda.  This site reviews movies and if you click on the movie and purchase it Brenda can receive a commision.   Another way of making money with affiliate marketing is by setting up a niche site like Heather426 did with Halloween Fun Shoppe and then if people buy anything she features she can earn a commission.

Recommendations are very powerful you've only got to see how many Facebook recommendations you see in a day.  People just can't seem to resist giving recommendations (usually for free).  You don't have to write an article or blog post to earn money with recommendations you could try social marketing (previously called network marketing).

I actually belong to a social marketing company called Arbonne and basically I love the products so recommend them to people and then they buy them through me and I make a commission.  If they start recommending them to other people then I let them know that they could become a consultant themselves and make the commission for themselves instead of sending me clients!

The company I work for provide us with a website so the business can be wholly conducted online, but face to face recommendations works really well and I would recommend a combination of the two to be really successful.

There are a number of social marketing companies around, but my (albeit biased) opinion is that Arbonne is the best so if you are interested in finding out more please send me a message via my Facebook business page or via instagram.

Even More Ways to Make Money


Other ideas for making money is by offering to be a social media manager for small local businesses, setting up and/or looking after websites for local businesses.

Then of course there's always going back to basics and offering handyman services, shopping services, dog walking services.

The list really is endless, whether it's a local task or a global task there really seems as though there's nothing you can't make money from if you think outside of the office cubicle!




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Friday, July 13, 2018

Ant-Man and The Wasp Movie Review

Ant-man and The Wasp - The Official Movie Special Hardcover Book

Background for the Plot of Ant-Man and The Wasp 

Once again, Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), Michael Douglas (Dr. Hank Pym),  and Evangeline Lilly (The Wasp / Dr. Pym's daughter), join together in battle.  However, this time it is against a very unexpected, mysterious foe, while also having to elude the FBI.

Ant-Man and The Wasp picks up the story two years after the Marvel movie, Ant-Man, with Scott Lang under house arrest.  He was found guilty of violations of the world peace treaty for his actions in the movie Captain America, Civil War.  Dr Pym and his daughter, Hope, have been in hiding for 2 years thanks to Scott.  Because he used the Ant-Man suit when he helped Captain America, they were now wanted by the FBI.  

Dr. Pym and Hope are pretty angry with Scott.  They had realized that since Ant-Man had survived and returned from the Quantum Realm (in the Ant-Man movie), that Hope's mother, who was believed to have died there, could possibly have survived too, and they wanted to rescue her.  Because they lost their home, their lab, and had to go into hiding, their rescue mission was on hold until they could recreate their lab.


The Plot of Ant-Man and The Wasp
(Spoiler Alert - Ghost Identity Revealed - Another Surprise Break from the original Marvel comics)


 Ant-Man and the Wasp - Pre-order DVD
(Plus Bonus Content)
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I don't really like spoilers, but this one is imperative in order to explain the plot of Ant-Man and The Wasp.  However, I will not go further than needed to give you a basic plot outline.

When Scott experienced a mind-meld with Janet van Dyne, Hope's mother, he immediately called Dr. Pym, even though that was a violation of his house arrest terms.   Scott had no way of knowing that Dr. Pym had just opened access to the Quantum Realm again, but Dr. Pym knew as soon as he heard from Scott, that they unfortunately needed him.  Apparently, Janet was able to communicate with them through Scott.

Unbeknownst to Dr. Pym, a previous colleague, Elihas Starr, continued working on a tunnel to the Quantum Realm on his own after he was fired by Dr. Pym for stealing.  When his tunnel blew up, Starr and his wife were both killed, but their child was alive, yet changed forever.  Now an adult, she needed access to the Quantum Realm or she would die.  As the Ghost, she was determined to steal Pym's lab and tunnel to the Quantum Realm.

Ant-Man and The Wasp are required to fight Ghost in order to save Janet van Dyne.

You may think you know what will happen by what I have written, but once again, you are in for a shock.  Remember, all of the Marvel movies have tie-ins with each others plot. 

By the way, gotta love those ants!!!

 



Check Out More Movie Reviews at
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MORE MARVEL MOVIE REVIEWS

Ant-Man Movie ReviewAnt-Man Movie Review
Dr. Pym (Ant-Man suit inventor) & his daughter, Hope, train Scott Lang to work with ants and to become Ant-Man in preparation to "defeat" Darren Cross and his Yellowjacket invention.



Marvel fans love Avengers: Infinity War!  All of our favorite Avengers, plus the Guardians of the Galaxy join the battle to save the world from evil domination and genocide by Thanos. Expect some very shocking and even upsetting deaths in this movie. Real Mavel fans will need Kleenex!


The movie Doctor Strange is based on the Marvel comics character. A fabulous fantasy fiction movie that is quite accurate with the depiction.



Guardians of the Galaxy is a truly fabulous Marvel movie that I would recommend for anyone! The movie is a mix of sci-fi, great animation, engaging stories, & witty dialog.

House of Sylvestermouse



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