Friday, September 30, 2022

Waffle Plates for Cuisinart Griddler Reviewed

Heart Waffles
Almost 7 years ago, I purchased a Cuisinart Griddler Countertop Grill & Griddle. We bought it primarily so my husband could grill steaks, hamburgers, and pork chops indoors during the winter months.  However, we quickly found additional uses for the Griddler. 

The Griddler plates are two sided. The grill is on one side of the plates and the flat griddle is on the other side of the plates. You simply insert them on the side you wish on cook on. I frequently use the griddle side for pancakes and eggs. The Griddler is so much easier to use than a skillet because it sits higher and has no sides to work around.

I've never been particularly fond of waffles, but my husband loves them. I also purchased the standard Griddler waffle plates imagining that I would make waffles for him. However, in the 7 years we have had our Griddler, I have never used the standard square waffle plates. Then, a few weeks ago, I noticed Griddler now has heart shaped waffle plates. I immediately bought them!  Because I was excited to make heart shaped waffles, I used them as soon as they were delivered. They were so much fun to make, plus they are delicious, that I have made them several times in the last few weeks.

Turns out, if they are heart shaped, I love waffles!  

 

Heart Shaped Waffle Plates for the Cuisinart Griddler

Using the Griddler is very easy.  All of the cook plates are coated with a non-stick Teflon, but I still use a cooking spray when making waffles.  

 Waffle Plates for Cuisinart Griddler GR-4NP1 5-in-1, Cuisinart Griddler Waffle Plates, Nonstick coating baking waffle plates,2 pcsCheck PriceThe cook plates are dishwasher safe. I normally wash the waffle plates by hand, but I do put the grill plates in the dishwasher to make sure all meat residue is washed away and the plates are clean. 

To make waffles, I used Pearl Milling Company (previously Aunt Jemima) Original Pancake & Waffle Mix

 

Waffle Recipe for Cuisinart Griddler

  • 1 Cup of Pearl Milling Company Original Pancake Mix 
  • ¾ Cup Milk 
  • 1 Egg 
  • 2 Tablespoon Oil 

Whisk all together well and let it set for 5 minutes. Spray each Griddler plate lightly with a cooking spray.  Cook on Griddle Setting on 375 for 3 – 3 ½ minutes 

One recipe makes 2 full 5-hearts shaped waffles & 1/2 of another. Serve them with maple syrup or other flavored syrup. I personally love Smuckers blueberry syrup, but my husband prefers the maple syrup.

You can cut the waffles into individual hearts after they are fully cooked or leave them whole.  We have laughed over whether the waffles are hearts, flowers, or ice cream cones.  Yes, they are meant to be hearts, but we have enjoyed "seeing" other shapes in the waffles.


Waffles


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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The Best Affordable, Super Sharp Kitchen and Steak Knives Set

Sharp knives are the most important tools in any kitchen. A good chef’s knife, slicer (AKA carving knife), santoku, utility or prep, paring, and serrated bread knife (along with a boning knife, if you frequently debone bone-in meat or poultry) can help you accomplish any food cutting, slicing or chopping task faster and more efficiently.

Using only very sharp kitchen knives is extremely important, not just because they enable you to make faster, easier, more precise cuts but also because they’re safer. A dull blade that doesn’t slide easily into the food you are slicing, paring, etc., requires more force and is much more likely to slide off the food and slice into your finger or hand instead.

Fortunately, with a little effort, it is possible to find good quality kitchen knives that retain their sharpness well with just simple, routine maintenance. In this product review, I’ll share the well-made, affordable, super sharp kitchen and steak knives set I bought last month that also includes a wood storage block.

Photo of Astercook 15-piece knives and knife block set

True confession: I held onto our 30+-year-old Chicago Cutlery stainless steel kitchen knives for way too long. I received the set as a gift when I was too young to know that kitchen knives shouldn't go through the dishwasher (regardless of "dishwasher safe" marketing claims that benefit manufacturers and retailers by increasing both short-term and long-term sales, since blades with ruined edges needs to be replaced more often). The riveted wood handles had become loose and wobbly thanks to swelling and shrinking during dishwasher cycles, and the blades had become so nicked and dull that they couldn't hold an edge even with routine honing and sharpening. This made slicing, dicing, chopping and cutting slow and laborious and caused more frequent cut fingers. I don't know why I waited so long to replace them.

Not All High-Carbon Stainless Steel Knives Are Alike

Several years ago, I took advantage of an Amazon Prime Day deal for a kitchen and steak knife set with sharp blades and molded plastic handles. It also included kitchen shears and a wood storage block with a built-in blade sharpener instead of a honing rod (before I knew that frequent sharpening was a bad idea!).

I explained to my husband that, unlike our previous, beat-up set that had been through the dishwasher countless times (and had the beat-up, dull edges to prove it), our new one had high-carbon stainless steel blades that would need to be hand washed and towel dried thoroughly immediately after use to avoid rust. John is a wonderful cook who makes dinner on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights (I am so blessed!). However, whereas I try to clean as I go when I'm cooking, he prefers to focus on the food and leave the clean-up until after dessert. Old habits are hard to break, and despite his best efforts, he often forgot to wash and dry the new kitchen knives right away. Predictably, the blades routinely developed light rust spots. Eventually, we gave the set to a young relative who was moving into his first apartment.

I bought a Victorinox Fibrox Pro 8-Inch Chef's Knife (model 45520), the winner of Cook's Illustrated favorite chef's knives under $75, which my husband and I really enjoy using. It has a molded, ergonomic, thermoplastic handle for a comfortable grip and sharpens very nicely. Best of all, it can be hand washed and left to drip dry in our awesome over-the-sink dish drying rack without developing rust stains, which makes both of us happy, and cost less than $40 on Amazon (as of this post's publication date). We love it so much that I gifted one to my brother when he started teaching himself to cook. It's still my husband's go-to kitchen knife.

We already owned an excellent handcrafted, serrated bread knife with a beautiful handle that I had purchased long ago at an upscale art and craft fair from the man who made it. Between it and our Victorinox Fibrox Pro, we made do just fine for a year or two. However, while a chef's knife is the single most useful size, shape and style, it isn't optimal for tasks like paring, carving, or making precision cuts or paper-thin slices. So, a few months ago I started looking for a new kitchen knife set that we could use without having to worry about rust spots developing if they weren't washed and dried as soon as we finished using them.

My first step was to check out Cook's Illustrated's knife block set reviews. None of the preconfigured sets they tested met their criteria for top picks. Instead, they put together two highly recommended sets that buyers could assemble but purchasing specific, individual kitchen knives and the testers' favorite knife block. The total cost of these two assemble-your-own "knife block sets" came to $440 and $224, respectively, well above my target price range.

Next, since I really wanted the sharpness and more refined edges of high-carbon stainless steel blades, I decided to look at moderately-priced high-carbon stainless steel kitchen knife sets with "dishwasher safe" marketing claims. Even though I would never put mine in the dishwasher, I reasoned that a set that claimed to be dishwasher safe might be less prone to rust or corrosion than our previous set.

After copious research and reading products reviews to see what customers experienced in terms of both performance and ease of maintenance, I found an affordable set with good reviews on Amazon and decided to buy it.

Astercook 15-piece kitchen knife block set
My Astercook 15-piece knife set with storage block includes kitchen shears, an excellent honing rod and six serrated seak knives (one of which is shown below the honing steel).

Astercook 15-Piece German High-Carbon Stainless Steel Knife Set with Storage Block

Our new Astercook 15-piece German high-carbon stainless steel kitchen knife block set has performed admirably since I bought it nearly two months ago. It is serviceable rather than fancy, which is exactly what we need, and it has not only the essentials but also several nice-to-have and bonus tools.

The Essentials

  • 8" chef's knife
A Western-style chef's knife, with its curved tip, is the most versatile and efficient tool for many tasks, especially those requiring a rocking motion. It's the one we use most often.

    • 8" serrated bread knife
    This versatile blade has many uses beyond just slicing bread. We like using it to cut through fruits that have a thick skin or rind (e.g., pineapple, watermelon) and delicate foods (e.g., slicing cake horizontally into layers).

      • 3.5” paring knife
      The blade is a great length for tasks like peeling, quartering and coring apples, while the sharp, pointed tip makes hulling strawberries a breeze.

        The Nice-to-Haves

        • 7" santoku
        This smaller, lighter, sharper Japanese-style chef's knife was designed for the more precise cuts used to prepare Japanese food and is nearly as versatile as its Western counterpart. I love it for cutting very thin slices of cucumber and other vegetables and prefer it to a serrated bread blade (which also works) for slicing tomatoes cleanly with minimal loss of the interior jelly and seeds. (Did you know that most of a tomato's flavor is in the "guts," i.e., the jelly and seeds?)

          • 8" slicer
          The long, straight blade makes this our tool of choice for carving large, even slices of meat, poultry or fish.

            • 5” utility knife
            Shorter than the chef's but longer than the paring, we love using this versatile midsize, mid-weight blade for slicing hard cheese or salami, mincing parsley, breaking down or deboning poultry and many other tasks.

              Bonus Items

              • Six serrated steak knives
              The 4.5" serrated blades slice effortlessly through cooked meats and stay sharp longer than blades with straight edges.They definitely add to our enjoyment of a good steak!

                • Honing rod (AKA honing steel)
                Like all blades, the ones in this high-carbon stainless steel kitchen knife set require frequent honing to keep them sharp and prolong the need for sharpening. The honing rod that comes with this set does a fabulous job and is far superior to the one from my 30+-year-old set. Just a quick pass or two lets me restore the edges from somewhat sharp to razor-sharp.

                Note: This stainless steel blade honing tool is often referred to as a "sharpening steel" or "sharpening rod." See "What's the Difference Between Honing and Sharpening?" (below) to understand why that's a misnomer.

                  • Kitchen shears
                  These have so many uses! I find it quicker and easier to use kitchen shears for things like making a chiffonade of fresh basil leaves (i.e., stacking, rolling and cutting them into thin strips), snipping fresh chives or scallions into small pieces, cutting up sticky dried fruits (oil the blades first to minimize sticking), and trimming excess pie dough, green beans, fat, etc. As a bonus, this thoughtfully designed pair also has a handy built-in bottle opener!

                  Tip: To help keep the blades sharp, reserve these kitchen shears for food use only and keep a pair of utility scissors in your kitchen drawer for non-food tasks, such as cutting open bags and boxes or cutting baking parchment paper to size.

                    • Acacia wood storage block
                    The wood knife block is not as well made or nicely finished as the tools it holds, which was a bit disappointing but definitely not a deal-breaker. The one we received is darker and has a less attractive wood grain pattern than those in the Amazon listing photos (but is very similar to the one in the product video) and the edges around the slots are a bit rough.

                    That said, it does its job of protecting the knives, kitchen shears and honing rod when not in use and, as you can see, it looks fine on our kitchen counter.

                      Excellent Value, Affordable Price

                      Here are some of the attributes that make this Astercook 15-piece knife set with storage block my pick for the best affordable, super sharp kitchen and steak knives set.

                      • 15-piece set includes everything a home cook needs to choose the best cutting tool for any task
                      • Comfortable in the hand, with enough clearance under the handles to wrap your fingers around them
                      • Forged (vs. stamped), seamless construction
                      • Extremely sharp, German high-carbon stainless steel blades that hold their edge well with frequent honing
                      • Rust-resistant (not rustproof)
                        • Even though the Amazon product listing claims this set is "dishwasher safe", that claim (for any knife set, not just this one) is a marketing gimmick. Believe the Astercook user manual that comes with the set, which clearly states that blades should never go into the dishwasher. That said, if you really don't want to wash and dry them by hand, you can run them through the dishwasher as long as you are willing to have them sharpened frequently and accept that they will need to be replaced much sooner than if you care for them properly.
                      • Lifetime warranty (note that a few Amazon reviewers had difficulty reaching the manufacturer)
                      • Impressive value—a full set of six good quality kitchen knives, six serrated steak knives, a honing steel, a pair of kitchen shears and an acacia wood knife block, all for less than $70 with free Amazon Prime shipping (at the time of this post’s publication)

                      How to Keep Your New Kitchen Knives Sharp

                      Frequent honing will maintain a blade's sharp edge(s) and prolong the its useful life, since most can only be re-sharpened a limited number of times.

                      What's the Difference Between Honing and Sharpening?

                      Honing realigns and smooths the metal along a blade's existing cutting edge to restore its sharpness. Since no metal is removed, you can hone a blade as often as you wish (some people do it either before or after each use) without damaging the edge, as long as you maintain the correct angle as you are sliding it across the honing rod. However, honing won't sharpen a dull blade, which is why it's important to hone frequently to maintain the sharp edge as long as possible.

                      Sharpening removes metal (with abrasives such as a whetstone, diamond sharpening block or manual or electric knife sharpener) to create a new cutting edge. Even with routine maintenance, a blade that gets a lot of use will dull eventually and will need sharpening. Creating the original cutting edge and sharpening the blade correctly when it becomes dull requires precision. For example, different types of blades have cutting edges at different angles, and some are beveled on both sides while others are beveled on only one side. A professional knife sharpening service will deliver the best results at a very reasonable price. However, it's also possible to do a creditable job yourself if you are willing to invest in a high quality knife sharpener, such as Cook's Illustrated's top picks, the three-stage Chef's Choice Trizor 15XV Knife Sharpener and the more affordable, two-stage Chef's Choice 315XV Knife Sharpener.

                      Side view of Astercook 15-piece knife block set
                      This attractive, well-appointed set would make a wonderful gift!

                      A Thoughtful Gift

                      This 15-piece set of high-carbon stainless steel kitchen and steak knives, kitchen shears, honing rod and knife block makes a great gift! Here are just a few ideas for potential gift recipients:

                      • Engaged couples or newlyweds
                      • Cooking enthusiasts
                      • High school graduates headed to college away from home
                      • Anyone who is moving into their first apartment or house and needs to outfit their first kitchen
                      • A would-be home cook who wants to improve their knife skills
                      • Grandparents who haven't replaced their kitchen knives in many years
                      • Anyone with old, dull, or low-quality kitchen knives
                      • Someone who frequently cuts their fingers while prepping food
                      I'll bet there's someone on your gift list who would be thrilled to receive this set as a wedding, engagement, graduation, housewarming or "just because" present.

                      Also, if your current tools aren't as comfortable, well-balanced and sharp as you would like and prepping ingredients takes more time and effort than it should, consider this affordable, super sharp kitchen and steak knives set as a gift to yourself. Remember, dull blades are more likely to skip, slip and accidentally cut you instead of your food. A set that can maintain a very sharp edge with just routine honing makes food prep not just faster, easier and more enjoyable but also safer! 


                      The Best Affordable, Super Sharp Kitchen and Steak Knives Set by Margaret Schindel

                      Read More of My Kitchen Product Reviews

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                      Thermos Stainless King Travel Tumblers & Travel Mugs Review




                      Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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                      Tuesday, September 27, 2022

                      Air Fryer Apple Hand Pies

                       Air Fryer Apple Hand Pies are so easy to make, and make the perfect after-school or anytime snack for your family. My review will show you just how easy these are to make.

                      Air Fryer Apple Hand Pies
                      Air Fryer Apple Hand Pies - Reviewed

                      The weather is starting to cool off, and that always puts me in the mood for apple pie. Instead of making a whole apple pie, I decided on making these easy hand pies in my air fryer.

                      I bought the 9-inch pie crust ready-made and a can of apple pie filling. If you would like to make your own pie crust and apple pie filling See my recipe here: Sam's Apple Pie.

                      Apple Hand Pie Ingredients:

                      • 2 pie crusts (9-inch)
                      • 1 can apple pie filling (I used a 21oz. can of Duncan Hines Comstock Apple Pie Filling) 
                      • 1 egg beaten
                      • Water to wet the edges
                      • White sugar to sprinkle over top

                      Apple Hand Pies Air Fryer

                      I cut out 5-inch circles from the pie crust. I didn't have a 5-inch cookie cutter so I used a small bowl that measured 5-inches across.

                      I got three circles out of each pie crust, and after rolling out the remaining dough I got three more for a total of 9 hand pies.

                      Place one tablespoon of pie filling in the middle of each cutout, wet the edge with water, fold over and crimp with a fork.

                      Hand Pies

                      I brushed each hand pie with the beaten egg mixture and poked a fork through in three places to help release the steam. Then I sprinkled the tops of each with white sugar.

                      Air Fry Apple Pies

                      I started my Ninja Air Fryer and set it to Air Crisp. Set the temperature to 350 degrees and the time to 8 minutes. I could only fit four at a time in the basket of my air fryer, you don't want them to touch. Times and Temperatures may vary with different air fryers.

                      Cooling Apple Hand Pies

                      I set them on a rack to cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve with ice cream, or as you see in the intro photo I served some with caramel sauce. 

                      My grandsons were visiting so needless to say that these didn't last very long. The best thing about these is that they are so easy to make with an air fryer.

                      Don't have an air fryer? No problem preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until they are golden brown.

                      The Ninja Foodi Grill is so much more than just an air fryer, read my review here:



                      Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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                      Monday, September 26, 2022

                      5 Best Cooking Themed Hallmark Movies

                       As Hallmark fans know... the answer to many problems in a Hallmark movie is... hot chocolate! Hallmark fans also love their food and cooking themed movies. So many fun and yummy Hallmark movies to view it is difficult to narrow the field to just five movies. But here it goes, my top 5 favorite Cooking Themed Hallmark movies.


                      1. Cooking With Love

                      Lights, camera and conflict; well, romantic conflict of course this is a Hallmark movie. Alie Liebert and Brett Dalton comprise the TV producer and temperamental chef turned cooking show host with an easy rom com repertoire. Enjoy the witty comments between the leads as they navigate the foodie journey.

                      2. Truly Madly Sweetly

                      This cooking rom com movie scores on every Hallmark movie scorecard! Dylan Neal and Nikki DeLoach two favorite Hallmark leads unite for witty banter, rom com fun and Hallmark chemistry as they co inherit a small town bakery and where the baking journey leads.  These Hallmark stars do not disappoint!

                      3. The Secret Ingredient 

                      What happens when you are unexpectedly competing with your ex fiancée in a baking competition? Valentine's Day theme? Brendan Penny and Erin Cahill make a very believable rom com team in this cross between Top Chef, Top Baker and Hallmark Romance movie.

                      4. The Sweetest Christmas

                      Two High School sweethearts  meet up years later - will the romance be rekindled? Lacey Chabert finds herself competing in a gingerbread house sculpture contest with a little help from her old sweetheart Lea Coco a restaurant owner. Cute chemistry, cute theme, cute Hallmark movie!

                      5. You're Bacon Me Crazy

                      Two dueling food truck chefs compete and the bacon is aflying! Michael Rady and Natalie Hall lead their food trucks through the paces in what could be a life changing competition. Foodie and food truck aficionados will appreciate the storyline.

                      Bonus Hallmark Foodie Movies

                      Vineyards across the land are an integral backdrop to quite a few Hallmark movies. And what goes well with wine... food of course! So while not necessarily cooking themed, the following movies feature wine, romance and gorgeous scenery along with more than one meal!

                      In The Vineyard Collection:

                      • Summer In The Vineyard
                      • Autumn In The  Vineyard
                      • Valentine In The Vineyard

                      Hallmark Christmas Movies Reviewed

                      Hallmark Christmas Movies 2020 Reviewed by The Savvy Age

                      Finding Father Christmas by Cynthia

                      Christmas Tree Lane by The Savvy Age

                      Broadcasting Christmas by Cynthia

                      Top Ten Hallmark Christmas Movies by The Savvy Age







                      Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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                      Sunday, September 25, 2022

                      Review of 3 Free Useful Services for the Self-Publishing Maniac

                      3 free self-publishing tools

                      As many of you already know, I've been on a self-publishing journey for several years. 

                      I have to say that I understand what it means to truly love what you do! I find all I want to do is create activity books.

                      Self-publishing is an endless learning curve. I spend a ton of time listening to "Guru" training on YouTube and investigating products and services to make the process easier.

                      If you're a self-publisher, I thought I'd share some must-have tools. 

                      1. ISBN Barcode Generator

                      If you are using your own ISBN numbers (the number that goes on the back of your book, on the pricing barcode), you'll need to generate a barcode to put on the back of your book. 

                      My favorite free service is Bookow - here is the link to Bookow

                      The service is free, but they do offer an opportunity to make a donation if you so choose.

                      There are many other free barcode generator services online, but Bookow is my favorite.

                      2. KDP Cover Calculator:

                      If you're self-publishing books through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), Amazon's self-publishing service, you'll want to keep the KDP Cover Calculator page saved for easy access.

                      To ensure the cover's margins are correctly allocated, you'll want to create a template you can save and bring over to the design platform you're using to make your cover. 

                      You'll need to know how many pages your book is, so don't bother creating your cover until you do! 

                      KDP Cover Calculator is easy - simply fill in the blanks and download the cover template.

                      Here's the link to KDP Cover Calculator.

                      3. Canva for Professional Cover and Interior Designs:

                      Canva offers a free version; however, I've recently switched to the paid version. 

                      The free version works perfectly fine, and if you're just starting your self-publishing journey, go with the free version to start. That's what I did. 

                      There's a learning curve with Canva; however, it's worth it! In 2019 I published my first book and had no idea how to create my own cover from scratch. Eventually, I was able to use KDP's cover creator and import my own front page. 

                      For a while now, I've been able to fully design my own covers with my own ISBN numbers and barcodes. I was baffled and intimidated about all of this a few years ago! After much practice and reading, it is much less daunting today. 

                      Once you get the swing of it, you'll be able to create some gorgeous covers using Canva.

                      This lady on YouTube has an excellent beginner tutorial on Canva.

                      You can check out Canva.com here




                      Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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                      Saturday, September 24, 2022

                      Backyard Wildlife – A Toy Review

                       


                      The most common animals you might find in your back yard are squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, perhaps a deer, or maybe a skunk. Some are found in nearly every yard (squirrels and rabbits); some you might find only if you live where your back yard is near a wooded area (deer, for instance). 


                      Because these animals are wild, it is practically impossible to get close to them.  That's where toy versions come into play.


                      Let's review a few of these animals one might find in a backyard in toy version made in crafty plush or wood. 


                      Squirrels


                      Nearly everyone with a back yard has squirrels, probably the most common wild animal seen there, flitting from tree to tree and across the yard. 


                      In Iowa, they have black squirrels. The intro photo above shows one that was seen on my son's backyard deck.


                      Red Squirrel Plush Animal

                      Squirrels come in many colors. This one by Aurora World is in a 'rusty' color and is super silky and soft for little hands. Recommended for ages 3 months and up, this sweet red squirrel from a trusted manufacturer will fill your child's imaginative play. 


                      Rabbit


                      Wooden Bunny Push Toy


                      This wooden push toy bunny is handmade in Iowa by Jesse & Stacey Bannor of BannorToys. Bunny push toy is 5.5 x 5 inches with wheels that are fully functional.  It features an interior cutout that makes an easy 'handle' for little fingers to grasp and helps babies & toddlers to develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination. 


                      Crafted from locally sourced Cherry wood, this darling push toy is finished with beeswax and flaxseed oil.



                      Raccoon Plush Toy


                      Raccoon Plush Toy Animal

                      This adorable soft and cuddly raccoon is handcrafted with care by Angela Gray and featured in her Etsy Shop GrayMomMakes.  It is created from soft plush 100% polyester yarn, stuffed with hypoallergenic 100% polyester fiberfill. Perfect gift for kids and adults alike. Can be used as a nursery décor or perfect companion for animal lovers and creative outdoorsy people.


                      Sweet Deer Toy


                      Velvety Plush Deer in Crochet

                      This adorable velvet plush deer is handmade by Viktoria in Turkey. Measuring approximately 11 inches tall (or 7 inches in a sitting position), this sweet little deer is cuddly and cute.  Deer can be found in Viktoria's Etsy shop Divohobby


                      Summary


                      Such cute, cuddly, sweet plush animals and educational wooden toys make a child's toybox a place for a fun collection of backyard wildlife. 



                      Related Reviews:




                      *Backyard Wildlife is written by Wednesday Elf









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                      Friday, September 23, 2022

                      The Earl and His Lady (Book 4 in Branches of Love Series) Book Review

                      The Earl and His Lady
                      It is always a time to rejoice when two people you really like, find happiness together!

                      If reading the books of the Branches of Love series in order, long before the 4th book, readers have already met both Lady Virginia Macon, recently widowed, and Lucus Calvert, the Earl of Annesbury. They are both kind-hearted, thoughtful, yet long suffering individuals who truly loved their spouses. 

                      Because they feel like our old friends, you wish you could step into the pages of the book and help them, just as they help others. Fortunately, the series author, Sally Britton, felt the same way. 

                      For the first time in the series, Lucus meets Virginia in the book, "The Earl and His Lady". Even though she has heard stories about his eccentric ways, she had previously never been introduced to him.  She certainly never expected him to be the solution to her problems.

                       

                      The Earl and His Lady Book Synopsis

                      Virginia Macon, Baroness Heatherton, is grieving the recent death of her beloved husband, Charles. Unlike many marriages in society, their marriage was based on love, not social standing, even though they were peers. 

                      Society required her to remain in a state of moaning for one year, but Virginia doubted a year would be long enough to emotionally recover.  Plus, her brother-in-law had filed a suit against her, to obtain guardianship of her two sons claiming she was unstable. She knew he only wanted access to her son's inheritance and that he was not truly concerned about the boys.  She took Phillip and Edward, left their home and went into hiding at her cousin, Christine's farm.

                       The Earl and His Lady: A Regency Romance
                      (Branches of Love Book 4)
                      Check Price

                      Lucus Calvert's wife had died 6 years before, but he had grieved her for several years. His pain was evident to everyone and his family tried to protect him as much as possible from the young ladies of society and their mothers who wanted a titled husband for their daughters. A widowed Earl without an heir makes a most desirable target, but Lucus was not interested in marriage. He knew he would eventually need to marry again in order to provide an heir to his title and estates, but he still wasn't ready.

                      Christine & Thomas Gilbert were neighbors to Lucus, as well as friends. Upon his return from London, he decided to pay them a visit and discovered Virginia and her sons in residence. Hearing of her dire situation, he believed he had a solution. He could marry her, help her raise her sons, prepare her eldest son to be a baron, and protect them all from predators. He knew all too well how someone newly widowed needed protection and it seemed Virginia and her sons needed it more than most.

                      In her desperation for safety, Virginia had to consider his unusual offer.  However, the best of intentions and solutions come with their own problems and pitfalls.

                      Throughout the book, through all the trials and challenges as they adjust to each other's expectations, a reader cannot help but hope this family will find happiness.



                      I highly recommend "The Earl and His Lady", as well as the entire Branches of Love series, to anyone who enjoys a sweet historical romance. The series offers a look inside social society and the challenges faced by those who do not wish to have their lives dictated by the British peerage.

                      "The Earl and His Lady" is currently being offered for free to Kindle Unlimited members or you can purchase the book below





                      House of Sylvestermouse







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                      Thursday, September 22, 2022

                      Reviewing Hawks in my Backyard

                      Young Cooper's Hawk
                      I have always enjoyed watching the birds at the feeders in our backyard and have been told to watch out for Hawks because they can kill the birds.  Because of this, I had never really studied much about Hawks and just considered them a bird to avoid.  Recently I have photographed some Hawks in and around our backyard and now I have a new appreciation for the fascinating creatures that they are.  Up in the air they always looked menacing, but when seen up close in a photograph I realized what beautiful details they have.  In this post I will share with you some information on two of the Hawks I have photographed in our yard.  The first is the Cooper's Hawk and the second is the Red-Shouldered Hawk. 

                      Cooper's Hawk

                      I have seen Cooper's Hawks or at least what I think are Cooper's Hawks fairly often in our area.  The photo above was taken on our back fence.  It was identified by several people on bird sites online as a young Cooper's Hawk, so I feel fairly confident with that identification.  Sometimes I find hawks colorings are so similar, especially with the differences in adults and juveniles that I am not sure of my identification.  I wrote a review on one of my favorite bird books several months back.  It is the book I used to find the information on the Cooper's Hawk.  Here is a link to that review. What it's Like to be a Bird
                      Here is what it has to say about the bird.
                      • It is a medium-sized hawk at about 16 inches long.
                      • They often keep watch at feeders and then swoop in low hoping to surprise the flock.
                      • They target mid-sized birds that are slower flyers such as doves and starlings.  These birds are easier for them to grab with their talons.
                      • The juveniles have vertical brown streaks on their chests with brown back while the adults will have tight horizontal reddish barring on their chests with gray crowns and backs.  Both have barred tails that are rounded at the tips.
                      Here are a couple photos that I think fit these descriptions.



                       Red-Shouldered Hawk


                      The photo above is a Red-Shouldered Hawk.  I captured it sitting on the satellite dish on the roof of the house behind ours.  I zoomed in and quickly took this shot before he flies away and then I carefully check my camera settings and tried to wait for him to turn his head, so I get him looking my way.  Before I could get another shot, he took off and I was able to capture him in flight.  I am particularly proud of this shot. It was the first time I had seen one of these hawks.

                      I looked him up in my guide to backyard birds and found the following information.

                      • It is a fairly common, medium to large hawk.
                      • The adult has reddish colored upperwing coverts and also densely barred reddish underparts. The wings and tail are dramatically barred in black and white.
                      • The juvenile has brown-streaked underparts and a dark tail with many pale bands.
                      • They make a loud screaming sound that sounds like (KEE-ahh) which is given in a series.
                      • They are widespread and found in well-watered woodlands and suburban areas with nearby wood lots. 
                      • They are a perch hunter and feed on frogs, snakes, lizards and small mammals.
                      • Their nests are located high in trees and are made of bulky sticks.

                      Here is a link to the book where I got my information.




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                      Wednesday, September 21, 2022

                      Halloween Sweaters and Accessories ~ A Holiday Review

                       I am in a Holiday kind of mind because for the last few years many of our holidays have been put on hold due to the world wide COVID precautions and restrictions.  Well, the good news is that those many restrictions have been lifted and we can all celebrate together again.  That for me, is a big deal and I'm not alone!  Everyone is ready to have some fun and just kick back and enjoy the season and the holidays that are contained in there! 


                      Full Moon photo



                      What I love the most about a website that I happen to promote, is that there are so many things available to make your Halloween complete.

                      It's not just about the costumes (although that's the part I enjoy the most).  It's about all the other little things that make this holiday so much fun.

                      I happen to love the accessories page of HalloweenCostumes.com,  You have everything there that you haven't found anywhere else!  Accessories can sometimes even be the inspiration for the rest of your costume.  Starting off with a set of horns may become the impetus for one heck of a spooky or devilishly wonderful costume.  Tridents and Wands or Swords and Spears could send your costume look in a totally different direction.  The best part is that if you start now, you can tweak your costume for the next month and come out with something really wonderful and unique to you!  TIME is of the utmost importance and NOW is a great time to get started.

                      If you are not really into dressing the part of a Halloween ghoul or character, you can get into the Halloween spirit with a great Halloween Sweater.   Here in the north, Halloween can be quite chilly, so a warmer Halloween Sweater is perfect, especially when you are standing at an open doorway or maybe just opening and closing the door constantly.  The last thing you want as a Halloween treat is the first cold of the season.  So keep yourself ready by having a nice (scary or ugly) Halloween Sweater to compliment the night!  Some of their styles are already "Sold Out" , you don't want to miss out, so getting this done early is the best thing you can do!

                      If you live in the south, you might check out some lighter Halloween shirts at this ReviewThisReviews page! 

                      My hope for you and for me, is that after such a long absence of fun, we will all go out of our way to make the first big Holiday a fun time for all!   Then we can follow Halloween up with the best for Thanksgiving and Christmas that follow so shortly afterward.

                      Have a great time checking out all the good things to make your Halloween a "Spooktacliarly Good Time"

                      You can find everything you need right here at HalloweenCostumes.com!










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