Sunday, January 31, 2016

How to Visually Increase the Size of Windowless Room

Faux French Door - See more here
Last week we talked about three affordable ways to increase the size of a room, and today we'll talk about how to trick the mind so you won't feel caged in a windowless room.

The three previous suggestions were to use a faux window, 3D Scenery Drapes or Mirrors. Today we'll add three new ideas to the mix. 

Although your first choice should be a faux window, here are a few other ideas to consider:

Faux French Doors

Yes, that's right you can easily feature double french doors in your space, without so much as picking up a hammer and banging a nail into the wall!

Faux door wall graphics, usually made of easy to put-up vinyl or a pre-pasted material, are very effective. You'll have to read the directions, and patiently approach the project, but the overall completed look makes it all worth while.
Suggested Tip: If you paint the walls to coincide with the actual faux doors you're putting up, you can easily create a seamless visual effect by choosing a wall color that will blend or compliment the doors. 

Animals Bursting Through Your Walls
3D Animals Bursting through the Wall

These are so creative! Do you know anyone who has 3D animal art on their wall? Probably not, so get ready, you're going to make an impression when your guests see this!

By using 3D wall art to create the illusion of something busting into the room, you automatically trick the mind into believing the room has been opened to the outdoors.

Best of all, this unique approach provides a decorating foundation to use when adding accessories; add animal pillows, throws or rugs and all of a sudden you have a theme going!
Faux Book Wall Shelf

Where a real bookshelf takes up too much space in a small room, a faux bookshelf takes up no space! 

If an actual faux shelf isn't your cup of tea, there are many other book wall decals you can choose from and most have a three dimensional look: Some feature a dog with a stack of books, others just a stack of books that look so real you'll reach out to touch them, and some are designed as sketches. Visit the link above to see examples of these.

There you have it, three more creative ideas you can use to visually increase the size of a windowless room. 

Featured Photo: 3D Faux Book Wall - Via Amazon

Stay Open!

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.”

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Book Review: The Virgin of the Wind Rose: A Christopher Columbus Mystery-Thriller

If you like mystery thrillers and are looking for a good read, then I would recommend The Virgin of the Wind Rose: A Christopher Columbus Mystery Thriller by Glen Craney!

Not too long a book, but it definitely keeps you interested from the beginning right to the end.  If you liked Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, or Dan Brown's, DaVinci Code, you will find this story interesting too.  Thank goodness this story isn't as detailed in its gory moments, but they are there too.

virgo star constellation

While a work of fiction, you can see that a lot of  study went into the backgrounds and historical parts of the work.  Some facts may be exaggerated or skewed, for the sake of the story, but there is always something to learn that you didn't know before.  Recently there has been  much talk about Christopher Columbus and his character or lack thereof, and he (Columbus) plays into this story as well.  Will we ever know the whole truth?  I doubt it, but having some fictional additions certainly makes you stop and wonder a little more.

We have all heard about the different conspiracy theories and who is controlling whom.  The Virgin of the Wind Rose adds another whole dimension to those theories.  These theories span decades of history at a time when the world as we know it today, did not exist.  The world consisted of Portugal, Spain and most of the European areas and the Middle East. While parts of  Africa were known, much of it still needed to be discovered. Seafarers were still looking for the way around Africa to India.  Beyond all that,  was still a dream for most seafarers.  Many who boarded ships were certain that they would never be heard from again.  The two camps were still arguing about whether the earth was in fact flat and that they were  tempting fate to go further.  North America hadn't even really been given any thought.  Seafarers were thinking that the earth was much smaller and that India would be on the other side, not another whole continent.

I like the way that Mr. Craney was able to bring both the  1400's and present day together. The stars in the heavens, are the same stars that were there centuries ago.  They have not changed, but our world certainly has.   I was as interested in what was going on in history, as I was in keeping on top of the present times too. Portugal and Spain's changing powers in the world of exploration, explorers who had their own power struggles and who were vying for who would be the first and best seafarer all play into the historical figures.  While today, characters in Government departments who had vested interests in what was going on in the middle east, helped to keep the conspiracy theories alive and vibrant.

History, archeology, genealogy, geography,  and fiction are all dished up in large heaping portions, sprinkled with truth for extra seasoning.  At times you have to remind yourself that this is fiction. There are moments when you can see and apply what is happening in the story to our current times. The fight between Christians, Jews, Muslims and everyone else is still going strong, even more so today.  Who knows where it will all end?

History, prophecy, secrets societies, anagrams, cryptograms, symbols and the stars all come together to send you searching for the truth.  Will the truth ever be known or is it still buried, along with the dead from centuries ago?  What is our truth today?  Will we ever know that?  This book is wonderful in that when you are finished, you are still asking yourself all kinds of isn't over, until it's over.

Thank you Glen Craney for this book, it is a great story and one I enjoyed thoroughly.

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.”

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Revenant Movie Review

The Revenant movie dvd cover

The Revenant may sound like a movie that most women, including myself, would not be interested in seeing due to it's graphic violence.  Any of the trailers for this movie tell you well in advance that this movie is going to be hard to watch for the tenderhearted.  I can tell you from experience now, that it is hard to watch even for the not so tenderhearted. 

However, it is loosely based on the true story of a real life frontiersman, Hugh Glass.  Therefore, it is an enticing movie to history buffs.

The actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, is a major draw for this movie.  He already has a very large group of fans that will flock to his movies regardless of plot. His acting in this particular movie is quite likely to add even more followers to his "club". 

Plus, the scenery in the movie is breathtaking. 

The True Story of the Real Hugh Glass 

The Real Revenant - Revenant means "one that returns after death or a long absence"

newpaper new article
"Hugh Glass News Article" by The Milwaukee Journal - Yahoo News. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

  • The historical Hugh Glass enlisted with the second Ashley-Henry expedition to the Rocky Mountains in 1823.  He was an expert marksman / hunter for the party and was in fact mauled by a mother bear with 2 cubs.
  • After the bear encounter, the expedition party made the decision to move on, leaving 2 men behind to care for Glass. 

Quote from the article above:  "Delay of the party in this hostile Indian country might mean disaster to all and a lengthy council was held to determine which course to take.  Finally Major Andrew Henry induced two men by reward of $82 to remain with Glass until he should expire, as not the slightest hope for his life was entertained."

  • After 5 days, those 2 men did indeed abandon him, leaving him without any supplies or weapons.  They then rejoined the expedition party reporting the Glass had died and that they had buried him.  

  • Hugh Glass did indeed survive in spite of being abandoned by his companions.  He did, in fact, crawl 100 miles alone to the safety of Fort Kiowa.  He also did eventually find one of the men who left him to die. 

However, that is as much as the real Hugh Glass and the movie have in common.

The Movie Revenant

 The Revenant [Blu-ray]The movie starts with the hunting party, which included the widower Hugh Glass and his son, Hawk, being attacked by Indians.  Only a small regiment of men escape the massacre by reaching their boat and setting off downstream.  They are, of course, pursued by the Indians on the cliffs surrounding the river.  Hugh Glass advises Capt. Andrew Henry that their best chance would be to abandon the boat and track across land back to their fort.  Not all of the men agreed with Glass, but Capt. Henry makes the decision that they will follow Glass.

At this point, John Fitzgerald, the man who most vehemently disagreed with Glass, takes the opportunity to verbally attack Hugh Glass and his half Native American Indian son.  Even suggesting that he has previously killed an army officer.  Anything seems to be an acceptable accusation from the man who wished to diminish Glass in the eyes of the Captain and the other men.

Later, as Hugh Glass is out scouting, he encounters a mother bear and her two cubs.  He is mauled by the mother bear before he is able to kill her.

The hunting party arrives on the scene and pulls the dead bear off Glass.  They build a stretcher for Glass and try to carry him along with them as they traverse through the woods back to their fort.  When they come to an exceptionally difficult mountainside to climb, they make the decision to leave Glass with 2 of the men who are willing to be paid to stay with him until he dies.  Ironically, one of the men who stays for the pay is none other than John Fitzgerald.  Hawk, his son, also stays by his side along with another young volunteer named Jim Bridger.

John Fitzgerald kills the son in front of the incapacitated, but very much awake Glass.  Fitzgerald lies to Jim Bridger saying that he has spotted a group of a dozen Indians by the river and they must flee to save their own lives.  He acts as if he has no idea where Hawk is, but that they must leave immediately. 

They abandon the still living and breathing Hugh Glass after dragging him into a shallow grave, which Fitzgerald did take the time to do even though they needed to make their getaway.  

Just as the real Hugh Glass, this fictional Hugh Glass miraculously survived and crawled to the safety of the fort across the rugged, mountainous, freezing terrain.   He survived by eating whatever he could find, including abandoned buffalo meat.

The fictional Hugh Glass did get help along the way, including having his wounds stitched up somewhat and treated.  There is no report that any such aid was provided to the real Hugh Glass.

Amazingly, the fictional Hugh Glass also managed to rescue the Pawnee Chief's captive daughter when he witnessed her being raped by one of her abductors.   

The Best Parts of the Movie "Revenant"      

I have no doubt that by now you already know how I felt about this movie.  You may even wonder why I stayed until the end.  

I stayed mostly because I was not alone.  I went to the movie with my husband and my son.  However, I did find a few things to enjoy while I was being mentally battered by the violence.

snow covered ground covered by snow capped mountainsI loved the scenery in the movie!  Perhaps that is simply because it was real and not filmed in a studio.

I also appreciated the very believable acting job by Leonardo DiCaprio.  This is probably his best ever acting.  Of course, even I recognize that his "acting" was truly real.  The man was freezing to death out there.  Still, I admire his fortitude and determination.  I must tell you, he so clearly communicated that he was freezing, that I started freezing.  I put on my coat and gloves right there in the theater and I was still cold! 

I also feel somewhat better prepared should I ever be mauled and abandoned in the wilderness.  He exhibited some excellent survival skills by eating after wolves, catching and eating live fish, using the carcass of a death horse to warm himself and stay alive.  I am hoping I never need to use these lessons, but I do feel better prepared now.

My Conclusion and Why I Give the Movie "Revenant" Low Ratings

Would I recommend this movie to anyone?  Absolutely not!  It was violent from beginning to end.

I do understand folklore and how stories as they are handed down from generation to generation are embellished.  However, I have a real problem with the extreme liberties that the movie took since they used the history of a real men and completely submerged it in fiction.   I do not embrace revisionist history even if it does make a story "more entertaining."

The real Hugh Glass's struggle to survive after being abandoned, eating berries and whatever he could steal from wolves would be a fabulous movie without all of the other social agenda and ridiculous attempt for romanticism.  

There is certainly no need to add a fictional son who is killed by the men left to care for the mauled man.  Being abandoned in the wilderness to die without any means to even defend yourself is indeed sufficient incentive to seek revenge.

In my opinion, the only true redeeming points for "The Revenant" were the exceptional acting and the gorgeous photography.   Oh!  And, the fact that it did have an end even though I wondered for nearly 2 hours if the movie was ever going to end.

The Revenant Movie Review by:
House of Sylvestermouse

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.”

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Valentines Crafts for Seniors

Valentine Crafts for Seniors The following information is a review of some Valentine crafts I did at my Mom's nursing home during the last year of her life.  I hope you will find it useful in working with Seniors or Children in your life.

Easy Valentine Crafts

Crafts for the elderly with dementia need to be very basic. I work with the residents at my Mother's memory unit and help them to do a different craft activity each week. I have been doing this for the past year and have learned by trial and error which types of crafts seem to work well with the group of women. The crafts need to be involved enough to keep their interest, but simple enough that they can do the majority of the work by themselves.

On this page I will tell you about two crafts that they will be doing for Valentines this year.

photos by mbgphoto

Valentine Treasure Box - a place for trinkets and treasures

heart shaped box

The ladies in my Mom's group love to make special boxes for different occassions. They will then put the boxes in their rooms and keep small items such as candies, jewelry or other trinkets in them. For Valentines day I was able to find some great boxes in the dollar racks at Target. These boxes are heart shaped and made of heavy cardboard. As you can see from the photo, they have a design on the box but the lid is a solid color. This will leave plenty of space for the ladies to decorate the top of their special box.

Heart Decorations - provide lots of variety

foam stickers

I am keeping the heart boxes fairly simple. I give each lady a box and a variety of stickers. I show them a sample of a box that I have made and then encourage them to design their own boxes. The decorations that we are using include a variety of different heart shaped stickers. I have puffy stickers, 3D stickers, foam stickers and rhinestone stickers. From experience I have found that some of the ladies like to line up their design very precisely and others like to cover their box with lots of different stickers. I have also found that some of the ladies like to copy exactly what I have done and feel frustrated if they don't have an example, so I also make an example and tell them they can make the box like mine or design it however they would like. Although, I am only using different stickers this time, you could use a variety of materials to decorate the boxes. Some thoughts that come to mind are buttons, rickrack, or cut out hearts. They could also paint a design on the boxes or use markers.

heart stickers

Puffy Sticker to Decorate

puffy stickers

Homemade Valentine Card

Blank Cards Ready to Decorate

blank cards
I found these blank cards in the Target dollar bins. They came 8 in a pack with a bright pink plain outside and a white inside. They will be perfect for making some Valentine cards. You can also find these types of cards at craft stores or you can make your own from construction paper.

Valentine Sticker Sayings

valentine stickers
These stickers are one of the varieties I will have out for the ladies to use in decorating their cards. I liked them because they include a variety of sayings for Valentines day. The ladies can use these to add a message to their cards. As an alternative I could have them cut sayings out of old magazines or cards. I could also provide markers for them to write their own messages.

Finished Card

finished card

Inside Card

inside card

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.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review of the World's Softest Socks, Classic Collection

It's the Season for the World's Softest Socks

Even though I live on the California Central  Coast, it's cold this winter. That's why I've been stocking up on products to keep myself warm. One of my recent purchases I'm very happy with is an order of The World's Softest Socks from the Classic Collection of socks. I'm wearing one in this photo. I wish I'd gotten a better picture, but it's hard to take a picture of the side of a sock when you  have it on your foot. Neither the top of the sock or my calf is as fat as it looks. I love these socks. That's why I just went back to Footsmart's sock selection and bought more along with some other sock types since they were on sale.  There usually is a promotion or sale going on. You can see a link to it at the top of the page when you get to the site. 

Review of  the World's Softest Classic Collection Socks
World's Softest Gray Sock on my Foot
© B. Radisavljevic

Why I Love the World's Softest Socks

My feet have been giving me problems for years. In 2014 I had a partial toe joint replacement. Finding shoes to fit properly was a problem. Finding socks that don't have rough seams that hurt my feet was also a problem. I spent a lot of time looking for socks online that were warm and that would not rub against my feet in a way that hurt. My search led me to where I  discovered the World's Softest Socks  Classic Collection.  I  also discovered some other items, such as the Angora sport knee warmers I reviewed earlier and some IMAK Arthritis gloves which I will review another time.

Review of  the World's Softest Classic Collection Socks

The World's Softest Socks are wonderfully soft and warm. They do not have bulky seams that cut into my toes. The tops stay up all day without slipping or binding. They are thick enough to wear with my slippers and boots. Did I mention they were really, really soft? Since I got them I haven't wanted to wear any others. I bought two pair -- the gray pair I'm wearing now and the navy blue pair you see above. I have already washed those. Since I bought these and my knee warmers, the two almost meet on my legs and I haven't needed to wear my silk long underwear over them to keep my legs warm except on the very coldest days.

I machine-washed these socks on a gentle cycle inside out in cold water. The manufacturer recommends fabric softener, but I didn't use it. I made the mistake of using Ivory Snow powder that was on hand instead of a liquid detergent like Woolite, and it never dissolved. That meant I rewashed everything in that load in plain water to try to rinse all the powder out. I air-dried my socks inside, but they can be tumble dried on low heat. The photo above was taken after I had washed and dried the socks.

I wear a shoe size of 8.5 and 9, depending on the brand. I ordered size Medium socks for women's shoe size 5.5 - 9.5 or men's size 5-8. My socks fit perfectly. They run pretty true to size. You don't need to order a larger size than you normally wear. The World's Softest Crew Socks in the Classic Collection come in a variety of colors, so I chose what would go best with my clothes. My socks do have the cloud symbols on the toes. Many reviewers on Amazon said the clouds were not on the socks they ordered there, though they are supposed to be the same socks. The reviewers felt the socks without the clouds were not as good quality as previous socks they had ordered that had the clouds. Maybe Amazon is substituting socks from a different manufacturer. I've had my socks less than a month, so they have been ordered recently, since people bought the inferior quality socks on Amazon thinking they would get what I got.

Where to Get These Socks

Amazon carries these socks, but they are not necessarily a better deal there and I didn't see that they were eligible for the free prime shipping. Here is Amazon's page for these socks and the Amazon reviews, if you prefer ordering from Amazon. I ordered mine from  Footsmart because they offered free shipping if my order totaled $75. It was very easy to find $75 worth of things I wanted. I was satisfied with all I bought there except for one item -- the Chooze Canvas slippers. They  just never felt right on my feet. It's possible I ordered the wrong size, but I don't recommend them. The soles felt bumpy. I've had better luck   with Daniel Green and Acorn slippers, both of which Footsmart also carries. Footsmart has everything that can make your feet feel better, including orthotics and remedies for bunions, hammertoes, and other common foot ailments. 

Although there is overlap between what Amazon and Footsmart carry for feet, Footsmart has many exclusive products. Although some people complained they had trouble making returns at Footsmart, my receipt came with a prepaid return label on the back for exchanges. If returns are made within 60 days with receipt, Footsmart will refund your purchase price if you made your purchase with a credit card or PayPal (but not PayPal credit.) If you are not exchanging, they will deduct the price of return shipping from your refund. I was happy with my purchases and did not want to return anything.

Even knowing that Amazon carries the World's Softest Socks, I'd still order them at Footsmart again, especially after reading that Amazon may be sending a product with the same name but lower quality. As far as I can see, the price is the same and it's easy to buy enough to get free shipping at Footsmart. I highly recommend Footsmart for products to keep your feet healthy and comfortable.  

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.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Reviewing the Shopkins Mini Toys

Move over Barbie there some stiff competition

shopping cart
When asking one of my grandchildren what she would like for Christmas last season, I figured she would have a specific doll that she wanted to add to her ever growing pile of dolls but she surprised me. She said, "I would really like some Shopkins, Grandma." I will admit that I was at a loss because I had no idea what she was referring to.

"Are they like a Barbie or a Monster High doll?" I asked.

"Oh no, they aren't anything like that," she answered. "They are just cute little toys that my friends and I like to play with."

After doing some research so that I would know what I was looking for, turns out these miniature toys are more popular right now than the fashion dolls that have been on top of every little girl's wishlist for decades.

Above is an example of just one of the choices for little girls to add to their collection of Shopkins. I have to admit that they are really pretty cute and so little that they don't take up much space. Well, not much space until the collection grows, anyway.

An Australian based company came up with the idea of these mini toys back in 2014 and they have a real hit on their hands. They specifically marketed young girls for a collectible toy because they could see that there was hardly anything to compete with. Most of the toys are very inexpensive and come in small sets. As I did my shopping I noticed that I could purchase 3 or 4 sets for less than the price of a Barbie doll.

I looked over all of the sets available at the time and finally decided to get one that had the little toys encased in a vending machine that acts as a storage container, too. I also purchased a few small little sets. I just wasn't sure which ones she already had. When we were opening gifts on Christmas morning she opened one that was identical to the vending machine one that I got for her. I was so disappointed. So, when she opened the one that I gave her I told her that I would take her with me and we could return it. "Oh, no! We don't have to return it, Grandma! I can use these to trade for things that I don't have!"

Here is what I love about these little toys: they are encouraging almost an "old school style" of play. Girls are using their imaginations to play with items that resemble products in a grocery store. They are talking about which ones they have and actually trading each other for items that they don't have. There are even harder to find toys that the girls understand are worth more in a trade. They are learning about value (I know in an odd way but still) and having fun while they do it. Remember the Pokemon cards? Kind of the same thing except these are geared to girls and they can actually set them up and play with them.

Collectible toys are nothing new. I remember when my girls were little back in the 1980's it seemed like every week there was some new toy that came out with characters to collect. Remember, Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony? Goodness, our house was full of them! Here is the thing about Shopkins, though. The toys are much smaller and actually less expensive when you consider that you are getting more than one toy in every package and most packages are less than the price of one doll.

If you are looking for something to give a young girl from the age of 5 to 12, I don't think you could go wrong with a set of Shopkins.

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.”

Monday, January 25, 2016

Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning Book Review

Anne of Green Gables New Beginning Book Review
In the book Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning, the war in Europe is winding down and Anne Shirley is a middle-aged writer returning to the island for a visit. Without thinking about it, she agrees to create a play to be performed during the White Sand Hotel's summer season. However, she admits that the play is just one way to try NOT to think about the recent issues - like her missing son - in her life. She discovers a secret at Green Gables which proves to be a distraction of another sort and she must look at suppressed memories and troubled years at the same time as she tries to write the play. She learns about her parents, her quest for kindred spirits and about her imagination.

Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning is the unauthorized prequel to the book and movie, Anne of Green Gables. The book was adapted from Kevin Sullivan's televised screenplay which aired in October, 2008. Only recently did I discover that this book was available. I had heard and seen the television movie. The book seems to have been rather low-key and I am guessing you may have missed it, like I did.

Click here to order your copy of Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning from Amazon.

Why Should You Read This Book?

Kevin Sullivan takes us where L.M. Montgomery did the time in Anne Shirley's life before she was sent to Prince Edward Island. If you are a fan of this famous fictional character, you must be curious about Anne's life before she arrived on the Island.  You will also want to check out the authorized prequel, Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson.

Hannah Endicott-Douglas as Anne Shirley
Hannah Endicott-Douglas as Anne Shirley in A New Beginning.

Who Is Kevin Sullivan?

Kevin Sullivan is the writer, director and film producer of this story, Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning. He is, however, very well known for his very popular, family-friendly period movies and televison shows, like the original Anne of Green Gables movie series, The Piano Man's Daughter, Road To Avonlea and Wind At My Back. He has won hundreds of awards, which include three Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, a Prix Jeunesse and four Cable Ace Awards. He is also an author and his writings include Beyond Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables: The Official Movie Adaptation.

If you are interested in reading Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning you can find it on Amazon here. When you've finished reading the book, you might want to watch the movie, which was originally broadcast in Canada in October, 2008. You can find it on DVD right here. They're nicely priced now so gifting them would make a lovely and affordable gift idea.

Happy Reading!

More Anne Reading:

Before Green Gables Book Review Discover author Budge Wilson's version of what Anne Shirley's life might have been like before she arrived at Green Gables in Prince Edward Island.

Controversial Anne of Green Gables Book Cover What do you think of this Anne of Green Gables cover? Not quite how you pictured the red haired, freckle faced child? Learn more about the controversial cover.

Author's Note: This page originally published elsewhere in 2009.

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.”

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Three Affordable Ways to Visually Increase the Size of a Room

Find This Window and Additional Choices Here
With real estate at a premium in many locations and rent equally expensive, numerous apartments and homes have smaller rooms, or at least one room that's not an ideal size. 

Don't despair, here are three affordable ways to visually increase the size of a room:

Use a Faux Window Decal

Three dimensional wall decals come in a variety of funky design choices, including actual faux windows with scenery.

Put up a fake window without the hassle of having to use wood by using vinyl wall decals instead. There are an endless choice of 'views'; choose from snow scenery, mountain scenery, beach scenery to Halloween horror scenery! The 3D effect creates automatic depth.

Use Draperies with 3D Designs
Find 3D Curtains with Scenery Here

Drapes with scenery are another option. Again, much like 3D Faux Windows, these drapes come in a large variety of landscape choices. 

Go ahead and use them in a room with no windows. Just put the drapes up, keep them closed and they'll serve a double purpose; they create the illusion that a window is behind them and by keeping them constantly closed they also provide faux depth with their three dimensional designs.

Use Mirrors

This isn't a new trick, but it's always effective. Feature a large mirror on the wall above a piece of furniture. In fact, you could also install a wall-to-wall mirror. 

If a large mirror isn't something you're interested in, try mirrored accessories, such as a wall clock. Essentially anything that goes on the wall that has a mirror built into it will help to create depth.

Choose from these three simple suggestions and your room will seem larger to anyone who enters. You've tricked the eye by creating depth.


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.”

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Pie Day Review - January 23

National Pie Day ~ January 23

Image of an apple pie
Apple Pie Image Source: Wikimedia
In my opinion, every day should be Pie Day, but let's review a few pie facts in honor of National Pie Day held each January 23rd.

Pie Day was begun in the 1970s in Colorado when Charlie Papazian declared his birthday to be National Pie Day.  Today 'Pie Day' is sponsored by the American Pie Council, which is an organization set up to preserve America's pie heritage and promote “America's love affair with pies”.

There are fruit pies and custard pies and cream pies, with apple pie leading the way.

A Few Pie Facts

You could go to Pie School to learn about pies, or you could learn a great deal by reading this Pie Post!

Pie School Cookbook book cover
Pie School Cookbook

  • Nearly one out of five Americans prefer apple pie. Next favorite is pumpkin pie, followed by pecan, banana cream, and cherry pie.
  • Pumpkin pie was first introduced to the holiday table at the pilgrim’s second Thanksgiving in 1623.
  • When invited to a family or friend's house for a holiday dinner and asked what dessert we could bring, pie was the winner at 29%, followed by cake (17%) and cookies (15%). Surprisingly, ice cream wasn't in the top three spots.


In our own glad and fortunate country the seasons are known by their respective dominant pies—for each there is an appropriate pie, with apple pie for all the year round.... The perfect days of June welcome the lip-painting berry pies.... Then, as nature paints the forests with her magic brush, comes in the golden glory of the year, the royal pumpkin pie!

             ~New York Times, 1902 May 3rd

Besides National Pie Day celebrating all pies, we have individual days to recognize specific kinds of pies.

*There's Cherry Pie Day on February 20, naturally associated with President's Day due to the George Washington story of cutting down the cherry tree.  

Cherry Pie was my hubby's favorite and instead of a birthday cake for his birthday on February 23rd, we always had Cherry Pie!

*Apple Pie has it's own special day (Apple Pie Day) held on May 13.

Did you know that the first apple pie recipe was printed in England in 1381? 

*March 2 is National Banana Cream Pie Day

*May 8 is National Coconut Cream Pie Day.

Image of a coconut cream pie
Source: Creative Commons Photo by Whitney Wright

My mother was not much of a cook (our dad did most of the cooking in our family), but she was a wonderful pie maker and coconut cream pie was my dad's favorite, so we had it often. Yum! 

*On July 12 we have National Pecan Pie Day, a true Southern favorite.

*National Lemon Meringue Day is held on August 15 and Peach Pie Day is August 24.

*September brings us National Strawberry Cream Pie Day on the 28th of the month.

*October 23rd is National Boston Cream Pie Day.

*November has two special 'pie' days: Bavarian Cream Pie Day  on the 27th and Lemon Cream Pie Day on the 29th.

National Pumpkin Pie Day

We tend to associate Thanksgiving with Pumpkin Pie, but the actual designated National special day for it is actually Christmas Day (December 25).   But pumpkin pie is also associated with Halloween as pumpkin is the symbol of Harvest Time.

Image of a pumpkin chiffon pie
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Sylvestermouse Cynthia has a yummy recipe for Pumpkin Chiffon Pie.  It can be found on her Cooking for the Holidays site.

Chocolate pie doesn't appear to have a designated day, but being MY favorite of all pies, it definitely SHOULD.  Any day is special to me when I can have chocolate pie! There IS a National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day on August 20.

There are also meat pies, especially popular in England and perhaps the forerunner of the original pie, and vegetable pies such as Sweet Potato Pie and Rhubarb Pie and Tomato Pie, but our focus today has been on favorite 'dessert' pies.

Pie Town, New Mexico

Daily Pie Café in Pie Town, New Mexico
Daily Pie Cafe, NM

If you REALLY love pies, there is a special place for pie lovers.  It's called Pie Town, New Mexico, a small community that got its name from an early bakery for making dried-apple pies established by Clyde Norman in the early 1920s.   Located just north of the Gila National Forest, Pie Town has a population of 186 people.  A "Pie Festival" is held on the second Saturday of September which includes a pie-baking contest, games and races, music, food, and arts and crafts.

Photographer Russell Lee (working for the Farm Security Administration) photographed Pie Town and its people in 1940. In 2005, Lee's photos, and the local restaurant the Daily Pie Cafe were the subject of an article in Smithsonian magazine. CBS News Sunday Morning aired a story about the town in 2015.

Delicious Homemade Pie Recipes

300 recipes for homemade pie in this Pie Cookbook - book cover
Available on Amazon

Whichever pie is your favorite, you can find a whole lot of pie recipes (300)  in Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie.

Rated near the top at #29 in pie cookbooks, this recipe book with the short title (PIE) is filled with 300 pie recipes for everything from fruit pies, berry pies, nut pies, custard pies, turnovers, and ice cream pies to the perfect pie crusts.  Author Richard Haedrich is a cooking teacher and cookbook author who compiled this Pie cookbook because of his lifelong passion--the making and baking of all manner of pies.

Besides January 23rd, we have December 1st also designated National Pie Day. With two national days and a host of days associated with individual kinds of pies, we will never be without an excuse to indulge this favorite dessert.

Come tell me YOUR favorite kind of PIE, this most traditional of American desserts.  If I've left out any, let me know. 

Quick Links:

Cooking for the Holidays
PIE Cookbook on Amazon

*National Pie Day article written by Wednesday Elf (c) on 1/23/2016.  

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.”

Friday, January 22, 2016

Animalese ~ Book Review


If Only We Could Hear or Speak Animalese!

I recently read "Animalese" by Ram Ramakrishnan and I found it quite engaging!

Have you ever wondered why the little bird is singing or why the squirrel in chattering? How about when your dog is barking and you don't see anything, and you say "what is it, boy" only to have the pup turn to you with a quizzical look that conveys, "Why don't you understand?" 

Wouldn't it be wonderful to know with certainty what animals are saying when they speak to us in Animalese?

Ramakrishnan has taken this idea and has written an enchanting fantasy that will tweak your imagination and have you looking across the room at your kitty and wondering what is she really thinking about your new sweater.

Prescription for Book Perfection 

A good book is entertaining, 
A great fiction injects reality, 
Add a bit of fantasy,  



From the Cover of Animalese

Deep within a remote forest in Central India, a village finds itself in disorder. As the humans and animals experience its ill effects, debris from a passing comet falls into the village lake, infusing its waters with a mysterious power that enables those who drink from it to communicate with other life forms.

Deciding to exploit this ability to set matters right within the village, the animals, along with the assistance of a village girl named Vennela, focus their efforts on the principal architect of their woes: local abattoir owner Ganju Hindolba.

Can Vennela and the animals possibly win against the like of a shady business owner?

My Review and Recommendations 

I am always searching for books that can be recommended to any age.  It is imperative that we educate our children to read.  Many years ago, when our own children started reading, I got in the habit of reading a book before they read it.  That served two purposes.  First, I was able to make sure that the book did not have content that I, as their parent, would not approve.  Second, since I also read the book, we were able to discuss the story, the value, the characters and our overall opinions with each other.  

While this book, "Animalese", certainly appeals to older readers like myself, it is also an excellent choice for the younger generation.

I thought this was a great book!  Thoroughly entertaining and enchanting.  Anytime I can identify with or empathize with a character, I know I have found a book that will either challenge or substantiate my own beliefs.  While reading Animalese, I found myself laughing with the animals, crying with the animals, cheering for the animals and I mentally joined their mission for fair treatment, just as I would literally do in reality.

A Must Read!  My highest recommendation for any age!

Ram Ramakrishnan
Ram Ramakrishnan

About the Author, Ram Ramakrishnan aka Wordwinder on Hubpages

You may already be familiar with the writing of Ram Ramakrishnan.  He has authored several beautifully written and illustrated articles on Hubpages.

His style is poetic and reveals the heart of a real artist. 

Animalese Book Review by:
House of Sylvestermouse

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.”

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Iron and Wicker Baker's Rack With Drawers

Shopping for our new house, this wrought iron and wicker bakers rack with drawers caught our eye immediately. There's no question that we made the right choice.
Our Iron and Wicker Baker's Rack
Several years ago, when we were building our new house, we spent hours looking for just the right furniture to fill it. Since this (hopefully) will be the last house we ever own, it was important to us to choose what we really loved and, in many cases, what we had always talked about having in our home.

One item we had dreamed about for years was a baker's rack. The new kitchen had just the perfect wall for one, so we began our hunt. This wrought iron and wicker bakers rack with drawers caught our eye immediately. We've had it almost four years now and there's no question that we made the right choice. Here's my review.

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

Why Choose This Baker's Rack?

Here's why I chose this particular piece of furniture for our kitchen. One, wrought iron has always been a favorite of mine, possibly because it's pretty much indestructible, plus I just like how it looks. We already had chosen wrought iron and glass coffee and end tables for the living room, plus our front door has a swirly iron-looking design, so the style fit. Really, I think it would fit any decor.

Next, I love baskets. The four wicker basket drawers not only look beautiful and add texture to the piece, they're quite roomy and, at 14 inches deep, 11 inches wide, and 8 1/2 inches tall, provide quite a bit of storage space. The drawers are sturdily built on a wire frame and are supported by a metal runner on which the drawers slide when pulled out or pushed back in. There are no rollers, but the drawers slide easily. I wouldn't load these down with anything particularly heavy but, after almost four years and plenty of use, our wicker drawers look and function as good as new.

Iron and Wicker Bakers Rack Fits Perfectly In Our Kitchen
Our baker's rack, a perfect fit between the
back door and kitchen windows.
The top shelves of the baker's rack are wire, not solid, spaced about an inch apart. Because I use the shelves to display my salt and pepper shaker collection, we chose to add a piece of our wood grain floor tile to create a solid surface. The wire surface is perfectly fine for displaying most items, but I did want to make it clear that if you intend to use those shelves for displaying very small items, you'll want to add a board or a perhaps a piece of glass to keep your treasured items from slipping through the space between the wires.

The oak-veneer counter surface above the drawers isn't fancy, but it's solid and very nice and, in our case, just happens to match our kitchen table. It's a roomy space, perfect for a cookbook collection, a cookie jar, or perhaps some larger decorative pieces you'd like to show off.

Iron and Wicker Bakers Rack With Drawers - Assembly Required

Assembly Required

Yep, as you can see in the picture the baker's rack arrived in a whole lot of very well-packaged pieces. While I'm sure I could have assembled it myself, I have a very patient husband (ahem) who managed to put the rack together with very little trouble. There was one piece that just didn't fit, though, and after a brief, friendly phone call, the manufacturer quickly shipped us a replacement piece and all was well.

Where to Buy Your Iron and Wicker Baker's Rack

When I shop for furniture online it's always where I know I'll get excellent customer service should a problem arise. Most of the time that leaves me with my two favorite sites, Walmart and Amazon, both of which carry this product. It's important to know that these two large, reputable retailers are very competitive when it comes to pricing. Today when I checked on this baker's rack the price, indeed, is identical on those two sites. For me, shipping is also free (your circumstances may differ).

So where should you buy? I'd say read both listings today, confirm costs, and choose your favorite. Always check for shipping cost and shipping speed and other nuances that might apply when shipping furniture. I think you'll be happy with your new baker's rack whichever site you choose.

So tell me. Would you choose this baker's rack? Do you enjoy shopping for furniture online? I love reading your comments and appreciate any input or insight that you care to share on the subject. Thanks for reading!

~ Susan
Meet the Reviewer


Bakers rack photos property Susan Deppner

Posted by Susan Deppner

Susan Deppner

About the Author

Susan Deppner is a baby boomer, a cancer survivor, and a Southerner who believes in the Golden Rule. She enjoys writing about food, faith, and fitness; health, home, and holidays; people, places, pets, and patriotism, and more. Follow Susan on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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.”

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Share Some Valentine Love with a Lonely Senior

What can you do to help a lonely senior feel appreciated on Valentine's Day?

Many aging seniors feel more alone every year. Many were widowed or never married. Many of their friends are beginning to leave them through death. Many outlive all their friends. Some are lucky enough to have children nearby, but even so, if their children have spouses or are part of a couple, they may be focused on their spouse or significant other on the day when people celebrate love. They may send Mom or Dad a card and / or make a phone call, but they may not take that lonely parent to dinner or go and visit on what may be the loneliest day of the year for those with no surviving partner or friend. There may be parties for those in senior residences, but that's not really personal. That lonely senior may be feeling pretty blue on the Red and White Day of hearts and flowers.

Love you forever book cover
If that lonely senior is your mother or grandmother, get her the book Love You Forever to assure her you will always love her. It will let her know you appreciate her love for you and that you return it. It will let her know that you will always be there for her while she needs you, as she was there for you.  It would be best, of course, to take her to lunch and give her your present there, but if you live too far away to do that, send the book with a loving message on the fly leaf. Trust me, she will like it better than a Valentine card, and it can substitute for a Valentine card.

Love You Forever has become almost a classic gift book about maternal love. It is meaningful to all ages. Children, mothers, and grandmothers will understand its message of unconditional love. From the moment a mother holds her newborn baby boy, she begins to sing to him: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be. ”

She continues to sing her song whenever her boy is asleep, even as he grows up. Eventually he becomes a mature man, marries, and moves away, but she sometimes still sneaks over to rock him and sing the song to him. (Though it looks silly as shown in the pictures, a mother who misses her grown child can easily see it as a mental visit, a longing for the relationship she misses.)

As the years go by, the mother grows older and older. Finally one day she calls her son to come because she is old and sick and needs him. We watch him pick her up, rock her and sing his own version of the song to her. His version ends with “As long as I’m living my Mommy you’ll be. ” But she can no longer hear it. You’ll probably cry while watching him during those minutes he stands at the top of the stairs in grief before going down. Later, he continues his mother's tradition in his baby daughter’s room. He picks up his daughter and rocks her, as he sings the song to her. This is a great gift for mothers and grandmothers.

What Lonely Person Needs a Card or Gift from You on February 14?

When we still have partners, it’s so easy to overlook our parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or maybe aging friends and acquaintances who may have lost theirs. We may pay special attention to them the first year, and maybe even the next one when February 14 comes around. But we often move on with our lives faster than they are able to move on with theirs. We are younger and busier and tend to forget that they will continue to feel lonely for years after their loss — especially on days such as birthdays, anniversaries, and, of course, Valentine’s Day.

How can you help? The most important thing is to make sure your lonely friend or loved one knows you are thinking of them. If you cannot make a personal visit, a gift with a personal note might be in order.

Should You Send Flowers?

You can order flowers online to be delivered if your loved one is not allergic to them. What has always worked best for me, though, if I can’t deliver the flowers in person, is dealing with a local flower shop. If you’ve never been there, stop in and make sure the flowers are of high quality and the shop is pretty well established in town with a reputation to maintain. Let them know what kind of arrangement you have in mind and let them suggest what is fresh and plentiful that will meet your needs. They will know of a reputable flower shop that they work with near where your loved one lives. They will make the arrangements and see that everything is taken care of to your satisfaction. If you already know the florist is first-rate, a phone call can take care of the entire matter.
Share Some Valentine Love with a Lonely Senior
Farmer's Market Roses, © B. Radisavljevic

Last time I sent flowers, I called a local florist I had visited many times. I talked to the shop owner who assured me they had a reputable store to work with five hours away. I placed the order and it was delivered as expected and the recipient was very happy with the result.

Keep in mind that hardly any florists will deliver on Sunday, and this is also true on line. Make your arrangements at least two business days ahead of when you want delivery. If you wait until the last minute your flowers may not make it on time.

If you are fortunate enough to be close enough to buy flowers locally and deliver them in person, there are options other than flower shops for getting quality flowers at reasonable prices. The ones in this picture were for sale at a local Farmers Market the Saturday before Valentine’s Day at a very inexpensive price compared to flowers you would have delivered. You can also buy cut flowers and living plants at Trader Joe’s and at many local markets. This lets you see the actual flowers your loved one will get. Don’t forget to deliver them in or with a vase you can put them in, so your loved one won’t have to hunt for something.

Don't Wait Until the Last Minute to Shop 

You will want to get a card or gift you have obviously put thought into. (This also applies to husbands. I sold greeting cards in stores for ten years, and sometimes I’d start to panic about five days before Valentine’s Day when so many cards for wives and mothers were still sitting there. The men would troop in either on their way home from work February 13 or on Valentine’s Day itself — leaving their shopping for the last minute when the selection was depleted. )

mailbox with a open field behind it
Let’s imagine you’re a widow and your children and grandchildren all live across the country and most of your friends have died. Maybe you do have a daughter close by, but she is going out with her husband on Valentine’s Day. You are bound to be feeling that you are alone on a day when so many are doing something special with their spouses. You miss that spouse who’s not there. You wish you had someone to go somewhere with — even just lunch. The only place you have to go is your mailbox. How do you feel when it’s empty, too.

Here are some suggestions for filling that mailbox. Be sure you write a personal note in your own writing. Maybe a blank card will give you more room to write. Pick a scene that might bring back a happy memory, or a flower that's a favorite. Try one of these blank floral cards from my collection at Zazzle. The one below is an example, but there are many different kinds of flowers in the collection.
Share Some Valentine Love with a Lonely Senior
Greeting Card with Coral Rose, © B. Radisavljevic

Give Your Loved One a Valentine Gift to Brag About

One aspect of making a gift to a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle who lives alone or in a senior residence is giving him or her something to show friends who visit. When he or she says "See what my son gave me" he or she means "See how my son loves me and remembered me." When you give something that lasts and will be used or displayed and seen often, your loved one will feel remembered, loved and significant whenever he or she sees it. It's a gift that keeps on giving, as long as it isn't a substitute for showing your care by personal contact on a regular basis. It reinforces the caring things you do year-round on those days when you can't call or visit. I still use the mugs my children gave me almost exclusively because they remind me of the good times we spent together.

These inspirational mugs from Amazon are for your mom.

Most of these items can be customized when you order them. Some designs are also available on shirts, hats, aprons, memo boards, magnets for the refrigerator, or other gifts. I chose mugs because they are used often and don't take up much space. Many seniors who live alone have limited space if they have moved from their former family homes. These are mugs you can customize at Zazzle. 

Maybe a teddy  bear will be just the right gift for a lonely mom or grandmother. My own mom had a small collection of them.
I think many women never outgrow their love for plush animals, especially teddy bears. This one holds a reminder of your love, even on days your mom may be feeling blue because she wishes you were there with her. If she prefers some other animal to a bear, you might want to browse through these other plush animals. 

It's not the Price of the Gift, but the Thought That Counts

When people start getting older, they begin to think in terms of getting rid of things instead of accumulating more stuff. Unless you know exactly what they really do need, something small and sentimental will probably have the most emotional impact.

When your loved one who lives alone is feeling unloved or unconnected during the other days of the year, a gift obviously picked with love will provide some comfort. It will remind your loved one that she is still loved on some of those days when you might be too busy to call or visit, or if you live far away.

Men may not seem need this as much as women do. But a widowed man who was happy in his marriage will still be lonesome on Valentine’s Day. A card, call, or visit to let him know he’s in your thoughts will be appreciated. And he also might like to go to lunch or dinner if you can manage it. If you are able to get off work early, maybe you can arrange to take your parent or grandparent to lunch and then have a romantic dinner with your spouse later on.

head holding a heart shaped box

Family is most important, but also try to remember those who may have no family left. Some people may never have had children, or their children may have preceded them in death. They may have no one left. If you know someone in that position, what an act of kindness it would be to remember them with a card or a small gift or the pleasure of your company on Valentine's Day. After all, it's a day for showing love, and no one needs love more than the lonely.

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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Memory of Our Beloved Friend and Fellow Contributor

Susan DeppnerSusan Deppner

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