Thursday, August 31, 2017

Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale Book Review

A friend told me that Kristin Hannah’s novel The Nightingale was an excellent book and it was. Though I know this book is a work of fiction, it does deal with real situations that happened during the time period that France was occupied by Germany in World War II.

I know things that happen in this book happened to real people in France. I have always read books set in this time period. However, what happened in that war is still hard to believe. Truly unbelievable. Despite knowing that people were treated in this manner, I still managed to come away in disbelief saying to my husband things like, "How could anyone treat people the way they did?" and "How did the French people manage to survive in those conditions?" We are not talking about one or two crazy people here, right? We are talking about an 'army' of people mistreating people.

Anyway, in my opinion, Kristin Hannah has crafted a wrenching story with a family and with characters that you will come to love. Yes, you are likely going to shed some tears. Yes, you will be upset by the violence and the cruelty and the sexual situations in this book though I must say that it is far from the worst book that I have read in those matters though perhaps more disturbing because it feels so real.

The Nightingale deals with the contributions made to World War II by women. Unfortunately, those important contributions like the women depicted in this book who joined the French Resistance or who managed despite incredible odds to feed their families, have not been as widely acknowledged or recognised as those of men.

In particular, this book deals with two quite different sisters: One who wants to keep her family safe; the other who is not willing to accept the things that are happening to them. It is a story of courage and survival parts of which were inspired by real women like 19-year old Belgian, Andrée De Jongh, who took considerable risks helping people escape from France.

Here is the book trailer. I do not know if it is official or not but it does give a good idea of the things that happen in this story:



This book is well done and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me and by many others. If you love a book that shares a great story about women’s lives and that is historically based you will enjoy The Nightingale. It is riveting. You will not even notice that it the hardcover book is 440 pages or that the paperback is 600, particularly if you read it as an ebook.

By way of further recommendation, you might take the fact that, according to The New York Times in 2016, this book had sold more than two million copies. This book has drawn both men and women as well as young and old readers. As one who has always been captivated by World War II novels it comes as no surprise to me when the Times stated that people are drawn to them. However, I was interested to learn that this book has drawn a younger generation of readers who perhaps relate to this novel because of how young people were drawn to the French Resistance.

If you are interested in reading The Nightingale, you can find it in all formats including eBook, audiobook and traditional paper book, on Amazon by clicking right here.  I’ve just noticed on the cover that this movie is to become a major motion picture. There is not much information available as I write this other than a rumoured movie release date of 2017, which means that once you have read the book you have a movie to look forward to.

If you like historical fiction, you might also enjoy these reviews on Review This:

Secret Healer by Ellin Carsta, which is set in 14th Century Germany.

The movie The Bridge of Spies, which is set in the cold war.

The One Man by Andrew Gross, which is set in Poland in 1944.

See you
At the book store!
Brenda

Quick Link:

Order your copy of Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale from Amazon.






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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Skeletons in the Closet, Life is Unfair

My Secret Sister: Jenny Lucas and Helen Edwards' Family StoryMy Secret Sister: Jenny Lucas and Helen Edwards' Family Story
It seems to me that many people use the quote "Life is Unfair" in a very flippant way! Usually when they don't get their own way about things. In the True Life story titled My Secret Sister, this quote really means what it says. I'd like to share this book with you and some thoughts of mine along the way, come along on my Review of My Secret Sister.


Jenny and Helen

Let's be clear, this is an autobiography of two women, who only recently became aware of each other. Their stories are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Jenny Lee Smith and Helen Edwards only found out about each other recently. Through lots of lies, half-truths, and wanton disregard for their feelings, these two sisters are finally putting all of the questions about themselves and each other to rest. They are busy making up for 44 years of searching that finally brought them together.


Background

Jenny:
Jenny Lucas had a charmed life. Oh she wasn't born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but her parents doted on her and she was the center of their universe.  The only child in a family where mom and dad were on the "older" side, she was the apple of their eye.  When her father took up golfing, he brought his daughter along and taught her how to golf too.  He even made her the very first golf clubs she used because she was only a little more than a toddler. Golf became her driving ambition. She was such a natural with the clubs and it gave her precious time with her father, whom she adored. When her father died, she really felt lost.  Cleaning up after his death, Jenny comes across a birth certificate.  It's the first inkling that she has about the possibility that she is not who she thought she was.  Not wanting to hurt her mother, she files this information away.  

Helen: 
Helen on the other hand was abused physically, mentally and emotionally most of her life. Her mother and father were either hateful, selfish and self centered at any given time. If any of those two characteristics came together at once, Helen paid the ultimate price for their mental state. Always told she was at fault for any and every turn of bad luck, she quickly learned to steer clear of her parents or do their bidding, whatever that may have entailed. Beatings at the hand of her father were not uncommon and her mother would just watch in a state of indifference, lest she also become a target of his rage.  Helen has an older half-brother who doesn't live at home anymore, but comes around trying his best to save Helen from his step father's wrath.  He is her "knight in shining armor." 

For years these two girls each wanted a sister, a confidant, to share their stories, troubles and tribulations with. Each in their own way was longing for some sense of belonging that wasn't being fulfilled in their own lives.  It would be years though before they would find each other.
I don't want to give away too much of the story, but want to encourage you to read it. 
my secret sister, siblings, sisters and friends,  family secrets
There is nothing like having a sister in your life.


Insights from my perspective:

If you know of anyone who is adopted, or if you are part of a circle of "Family Secrets", I want you to understand that those secrets can be very destructive and divisive.  They hurt people who are looking for answers.  If someone in your family comes to you with questions and they are old enough to know the answers, I would encourage you to talk to the parents, but if they are no longer alive, then tell them the truth.  Don't sugar coat the truth, don't make excuses, don't embellish the story, just tell them what you know to be truth.  

I am so grateful for the opening up of adoption records, so that children who want to know about their birth parents have that opportunity.   It doesn't mean that everything will be rosy and perfect, there is no such state in life, but it gives the person seeking answers, a hope that could fill in a lot of blanks.

From my own experience, I have an adopted grandson and I'm so thrilled that he is in our lives. He came to us at 2 days old.  He knows he's adopted and he also knows that we love him dearly. When and if he wants to know more he will be told the truth by his parents (my daughter and son-in-law).

 I also have a niece that was given up for adoption 40 plus years ago.  We (our whole extended family) became reunited 3 years ago.  It was a most joyous celebration of lost family, found. She was able to express to her birth mother that she was happy, and the birth mother had a hole in her heart filled. We have her in our lives again and it's wonderful. 

Unwanted pregnancies are as old as time itself.  It is high time that we take the stigma off of being born "out of wedlock" or "not wanted" and realize that when children are given up for adoption, the mother and/or father are trying to make the best decisions for their child.  They should be applauded for understanding that they may not be equipped to be the best parents, but they should also be ready to possibly meet that child again when they are all grown up.

My Secret Sister was not an easy book to read, maybe because of our family dynamic.  In the end, there is still longing and heartbreak, but there is also hope and joy.  It was a very interesting and enlightening book!

Picture from Pixabay.com





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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Locker For American Girl Dolls Reviewed

A Fun Accessory For Her Doll

american girl doll
Our American Girl Doll Needs A Locker
One of our little granddaughters is about to turn six, so I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. Her response was some "stuff" for her American Girl Doll. "Grandma, I would like stuff for her to use, not clothes but, you know, stuff to use and play with." she says.

So, off I went looking for some accessories (stuff) that she would enjoy. Let me tell you, there is no short supply of "stuff" for the dolls! I knew that but was amazed with all of the options available. Too much fun, I'm telling you, just too much fun for a shopping Grandma who wants to thrill a little girl.

Now, I should tell you that my husband and I have a couple of vintage school lockers in our home. We have one for me to use out in the sun room. I keep gardening supplies in it because it is close to the back door. We also have one that we let our grandchildren use to stash their prized possessions in when they are here or to keep safe until the next visit. The kids love that locker! 

So, when I found a locker made for the American Girl Dolls or any 18 inch doll; I knew my quest was over for a little while, anyway. There is Christmas coming after all! The birthday gift is taken care of with the cutest locker you can imagine!


I am really impressed with how well made this little doll locker is! It is metal, just like a real school locker. I chose the hot pink one for my granddaughter because pink is her most favorite color. There are other colors to choose from, if you don't care for the hot pink. It also comes with a little label that can be personalized for the Doll and a sticker that looks like a combination lock. Oh, it also comes with four little hangers to hang the doll clothes in the locker. Adorable! Just absolutely adorable! Additional hangers can be ordered separately.

Besides being a fun accessory, it will make for some great storage, too. She can put doll clothes in it but also the little shoes and small things that we wouldn't want her puppy dog to find and swallow. My granddaughter loves to have cubbies, boxes and such to store her things in. Sometimes, you will go in to see what she is playing and she is organizing her "stuff" into compartments. She is going to love this locker!

If you have a child's birthday coming up or are shopping early for the holidays; this little locker is a wonderful option for you to consider. The great thing is that it doesn't have to be for a little girl, I think boys would love having one to put toys in, also. This grandma loves it so much that she might have to get another one to have here; you know, for when the girls visit.




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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Create a Tech Free Sanctuary in Your Home

Photo via Pixabay
Are You Digitally Exhausted?

Information overload may be the understatement of this century. From the internet to social media, to 24-7 texts, news flashes, and emails on our phones, we are an overwhelmed society.

As we approach the end of this decade, people are facing this fact and looking for viable solutions that enable them to disconnect for a time.

Not everyone can take an off-the-grid holiday, and that's where controlling our own environment holds the power.

We can't change the outside world but we CAN change our inside world.

This Fall Season Go for More than Warm and Cozy in Your Home Décor - Create a Space that's Absolutely Disconnected and Tech Free

It's not easy to disconnect. According to Business Insider, as of 2016, 72% of the United States population uses a Smartphone. Globally that number continues to grow.

With artificial intelligence soon to become the new norm, and augmented reality already in use, the opportunities to disconnect at work and in our daily life activities are very few.

For this reason a dedicated 'calming space' in the home is more essential than it's ever been. The world won't stop just because we want it to and the oft repeated cliché, 'the only thing we can control is ourselves', means more than it ever has.

The control we do have is in how we design our homes. Digital free spaces, or calming disconnected rooms are becoming a design inclusion that more people are factoring into their décor.

Let's Review 5 Ways to Create a Calming Space:

1. Create a playroom that only offers toys that are free of any digital technology - Add books, popular retro games, play rugs featuring games and learning, dolls, astronomy, space, science, puzzles, wooden toys and more. Decorate the space to reflect another time and give the room a theme name like 'The Way Back When Room' or 'Yesterday's Space' or 'Back to the Future'. Make it fun and colorful so the kids can't wait to enter.

2. If you can't successfully turn a kids room into a technology free space, then how about including a bed tent or enclosed canopy where the rule is, only non-digital items allowed. Tell the kids the space is for story telling, fractured fairy-tale fun and catching up on their day. To add interest give it a name as well.

3. The most obvious room to convert into a calming space is the master suite. If you're disciplined enough to do this, then enhance your design with soft airy drapes, rugs, and bedding and use calming tones and color combinations and don't forget the soothing scented candles.

If you can't make your master suite a tech free space, use an extra bedroom if you have one. In fact, don't even include a clock in the designated tech-free room. Think of it as the 'timeless bedroom' - a time free zone.

4. Create a sitting room or library that only allows soft music and reading. However, permit only vinyl records. No other devices permitted. Put a fun bucket at the door that says people can't enter the space unless they put their phone in it first. Make a sign that gives rules for entering this tech-free room.

5. Let the dinner table be the technology free zone. Use fun games to ensure no phones are brought to the table. Make a rule; if someone sneaks a phone to the table, that person has to clear the table and do the dishes. If another person breaks the rule, they help. For every ten successful dinners without devices, create a family reward like movie night or other prizes the family may enjoy.

Here are a few visual examples of how to create that Tech free area in your home:




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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Let's Review My Favorite Hand Held Lemon Juicer, That's Not For You!

The best hand held lemon juicer could be yours!
I absolutely love my hand held lemon juicer and when I purchased it I really believed that it was the best lemon juicer available.

If I was to buy a lemon squeezer today, however I would buy a different one, read on and find out why I absolutely love, love, love my lemon juicer, but would still buy a different one if it needing replacing!

I have a hand held aluminum lemon squeezer style of citrus press that I use for my lemon juice and what's not to like? This is what it does -


  • It produces lots of lemon juice
  • It is really easy to use
  • The bright yellow really brightens up your day when you get it out of the drawer!


Really it does everything it needs to do and it does it really well so why would I not say that it's the best lemon juicer around anymore?

Well I was browsing Amazon as you do and I came across a citrus squeezer with that little banner over it - Amazon's Choice - so I looked at it and wondered where it had been a few years ago because I would definitely have brought it instead.

Let's look at the two of them and see if you can guess why (mine is on the left)



Can you spot the difference?  It's the lime insert!

Fresh Lemon Juice is the BEST Lemon Juice!


Now when I was younger no one I knew used fresh lemon juice they used a bottle of lemon juice that was kept in the fridge once opened and that was what I thought lemon juice was until I moved to New Zealand.

In New Zealand back then most people seemed to have a lemon tree in their gardens (this isn't the case as much any more unfortunately) so fresh lemons were abundant and the idea of buying lemons was almost unheard of!   When my husband and I brought our first home we had the requisite lemon tree and I realized that I was never going to go back to using 'fake' lemon juice again!

Unfortunately these days I have to buy my lemons, but I am planning on planting my own tree again soon!

Why Use a Lemon Squeezer?


When I squeezed my first lemon by hand I used one of the type of lemon squeezers pictured below, what about you?

How do you squeeze your lemons?


The problem with these is that the action required is no good for my wrists (I have Rheumatoid Arthritis so twisting motions aren't the easiest for me), plus it takes more strength then the hand held squeezer I now use.  I also used to always find that the pips would manage to get into my cup/bowl every single time!

Now if you don't fancy the old fashioned lemon squeezer featured you could try an electric juicer.  I do have one and it is awesome, but if I want to squeeze some lemon or lime juice for a recipe or drink I find it's too much trouble.   To be honest making a lemon and honey drink or squeezing some lemons to add into my tea or for cooking (like this Tex Mex Lasagne) I'm not going to use my electric juicer.   I'm lazy and as great as the juicer is I'm not cleaning it for a little lemon juice!

The heavy duty hand held lemon squeezer is awesome - it squeezes the lemons or limes with little effort on your part, no pips get into the cup/bowl and you can wash it up in no time - perfect!

Why a Metal Lemon Squeezer?


I choose a metal lemon squeezer because I really wasn't sure that a plastic one would last for long.   The one I have is an enamel coated heavy duty aluminium lemon squeezer and I've had it for years.  It still looks brand new even though I couldn't begin to calculate how often it's been used.

My lemon squeezer was also available in two other sizes -

Hand Held Citrus Presses

The smallest one is for limes, the yellow for lemons (which is the one I chose) and the orange for oranges.  My husband was going to buy the green one for me as well, but I said no.

I have actually used the lemon one for limes as well because basically I didn't want two gadgets that did the same thing cluttering up my kitchen drawer.  If the other hand held juicer had been available with the lime insert in it I would have purchased it in a heart beat!

So as much as I love mine, it's not the one for you - the one I recommend for you has a lime insert with it - Click Here for a short video showing it in action


So Which Do You Think is the Best Hand Held Lemon Juicer


I recommend the hand held metal lemon/lime squeezer myself, but I do still love my own lemon squeezer and I have no problems squeezing limes with it!





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Friday, August 25, 2017

Perfect Plan (2010) Movie Review - Emily Rose & Lucas Bryant

Perfect Plan (2010) Movie Review - Emily Rose & Lucas Bryant
Perfect Plan is not in my normal genre of movies to watch, but surprisingly I liked this thriller mystery movie. It was fairly predictable, but that was mostly because of the written movie description. It revealed too much of the plot in my opinion. When it comes to a mystery movie, I prefer that the "mystery" be left to be discovered when watching, not in the movie description that should be labeled spoiler alert.  Nevertheless, the actors still make the movie worth watching.

Some of you may already be familiar with the actress, Emily Rose.  This was the first movie I have ever seen her star in and it made me look her up to see her other tv films.  I did see several TV films listed that I plan to watch soon.  Frankly, I liked her better than many of the current day major movie actresses in Hollywood.  


The Perfect Plan Movie Plot

The movie opens with two campers being murdered one night.  Their identities are not revealed until later in the film when their brother starts searching for them.  Within minutes of the first scenes, we are moved from the Appalachian Trail to Chicago city where we meet Lauren Baker.
  
 Perfect Plan (2010)
Starring Emily Rose & Lucas Bryant
Lauren (Emily Rose) is co-owner of In the Loop Realtors.  She and her best friend, Maddie, are struggling to keep the company open in the depressed real estate market.  When Lauren lists a mansion in an exclusive area, they see an opportunity for things to financially turn around for them.  

The mansion is owned by a brother and sister who inherited it when their parents died in a car accident.  Since neither of the siblings live there, they want to sell fast.  When Lauren quickly finds a cash buyer, everyone is happy.  At least, they are happy until they see the newspaper article about the bodies of Sean and Rebecca Crawford being found on the Appalachian Trail in PA.   


Perfect Plan Movie Rating and Recommendation


Personally, I thought the movie was pretty good.  I appreciated the plot twists and lack of grotesque murder scenes.  However, this movie is for mature audiences only due to adult scenes and content.

While it may not be an "edge of the seat" thriller mystery, it is well worth watching. 


Perfect Plan (2010) is available on Amazon and is included for free with Prime Membership.




Perfect Plan (2010) Movie Review Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse





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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review of Great American Eclipse

The Experience of a Lifetime



On August 21, 2017, I like many Americans, experienced my first total solar eclipse.  This eclipse which stretched from one coast to the other has been called the Great American Eclipse.  I had read a lot about the eclipse and we had talked about it in my photography club, but I don't think I was really prepared for the awesomeness of the totality.  It really was an experience that cannot be explained in words or even photos.  It needs to be experienced.

Our house was on the edge of the path of totality so after considering my options, I elected not to get a solar filter for my camera but rather to completely experience the few seconds of totality that we would experience.  My friend Susan,  my husband Ray and I gathered on our deck at about 11:45 to experience the eclipse.  The first hour or so went by rather slowly with the moon slowly covering an increasing area of the sun.  Then during the last 15-20 minutes the time went by way too quickly as we watched the sun going from about 3/4 covered, to a sliver, to finally totality.  The sky went darker and darker during this time, the shadows changed, the birds began to chirp and the cicadas became increasingly noisy.  Then totality and we took off our solar glasses and saw the diamond ring around the sun.  Totally AWESOME!!  We could hear cheers go up all around our neighborhood and from a schoolyard down the road.   Everyone was amazed.

During totality I did take one photo with my Canon point and shoot camera which has a 35 times zoom lens. That photo is depicted at the start of this article. It was handheld so it is a bit blurred,. but I wanted one photo that I took, after that I just tried to take in my surroundings.  

There will be another total solar eclipse in going through the USA in 2024 and if you can make it I would strongly recommend trying to get to the point of totality.  The partial eclipse is great to see, but seeing totality is definitely the experience of a lifetime!  


Photographs from Fellow Photographer

One of the members of my photography club, Bob Krause takes excellent photos and had a solar filter for his camera.  He got some great shots of the eclipse, taken on his deck in Lake St. Louis, Missouri,  which he said I could share on this post.  Here are 3 phases of the eclipse selected from Bob's photos.





Movie with Eclipse

This lively musical starring Bing Crosby features time travel and the predicting of eclipse and is based on Mark Twain's novel of the same name.




Buy a T-Shirt to Commemorate your Eclipse Experience

If you have not already gotten a T-shirt of the eclipse you can still purchase them on Amazon.  Click on the link below to see a wide selection of shirts.

Solar Eclipse Shirts


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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Let's Review The Best Proven Seed Saving Practices

Summer is coming to an end and already we (gardeners) are looking forward to next year's gardens. Let's Review what happened in the garden this year and the best way to keep seeds for next years masterpiece.   Looking at what we have  growing now , gives us the opportunity to analyse what worked in the garden and what didn't.



Every gardener I know has some complaints about the plants or vegetables that have made their garden home for the last few months.  We are never completely satisfied with our results!  I think the gardener's motto must be something like:  Next Year The Garden will be Perfect!

Alas, that year has never happened for me and if I know most (humble) gardeners would say the same thing. Even the most perfect garden seems to fall short, somewhere.  Let's not dwell on that, let's look for ways that we can improve what we have.

Garden Journal

Hopefully you have been keeping a "Garden Journal".   What's a Gardening Journal?   Simply put, this is a book of your choice, where you note how your plants are growing, flowering, and going to seed.  You can also add information like what kind of pest problems they have encountered or how much watering they require.  Where they were planted, ie:  Full Sun, Partial Sun, Afternoon sun etc.  If you want to be really technical, you can also take note of other garden issues.  What plants go well together and which combinations were not as effective as you would have liked.  How well they flowered and so on.  The details of each plant and how it fared in your garden, are completely up to you. The garden journal I have shown you in the Amazon listing is great for filling in all kinds of details.  But, you can also do this with a simple plain lined notebook.

Finding the Seeds

If you go out in your garden you have to find the seeds.  If you are saving flower seeds, you will have to look where the flowers are and look at the base.  It helps if you have a little knowledge of plant biology.  You don't have to be a scientist, but it will make finding the seeds easier if you know where to look.


A Beginner's Guide to Flower Structure  


Every flower has the same "basic" structure in that there is the flower, inside is the pistil and stamens (these are the important parts when it comes to seed production) and underneath there is the sepals/calyx to hold the flower all together.  Let's see if a picture can make it easier to understand. The first picture is a jasmine blossom.  The petals of the flower are white.  Internally you can see the stamens and pistil.  If you look at the flower facing away from the camera, you will see the sepals/calyx.  Bees or other insects come and rub against the stamens to collect the pollen that they produce.  When the insect is leaving the flower, it may rub against the pistil and that will trigger seed production.  This is the basic way seeds are produced and if you'd like a little more in depth breakdown of the Parts of a Flower you can watch this short but precise You Tube Video: Parts of a Flower
Jasmine Flowers showing Basic Flower Parts


Poppy Flower Pods Center one is ripe and the two on either side are not quite ready yet.
In this picture you see the seed pods of a poppy flower.  The tallest one is ripe, you can see that there are little holes under the "cap". Tilting this stem will make the poppy seeds pour out.  The other two pods in this picture still need to mature a little longer.  Once they show signs of the little holes, they too will pour out their seeds easily. Poppy seeds are small round and black or dark brown.  Each seed pod has thousands of poppy seeds within.  It is one of the most prolific seed producers.


Storing the Seeds

So now that you know where to look for your seeds, we need to store them until spring.  This is an important part of the whole exercise.  If you don't store the seeds properly, they may turn moldy and rot.  Then when spring comes you will be left with buying seeds again.  So let's not do that.  Let's store our seeds so that when spring arrives, we will have plenty of seeds for our wonderful garden of 2018.

Seeds can be stored in a variety of ways.  I personally like envelopes that are opaque.  They let you see the seeds within the packets so that you know right away that they are not rotting.  If you place your seeds in plastic bags, any moisture will remain contained and could adversely affect the seeds within.  Some of my gardening friends keep their seeds in old pill bottles.  That works too, so long as the seeds are really dry when they are placed inside.  Always use clean containers that will be labelled with the name of the plant on the outside.  Again I like to use envelopes because I place them into my Garden Journal along with the notes about that particular plant. Make sure you label your envelopes with the flower's name, color, and any other information you might want to keep.

If you are using a different method of storage, whether old pill containers or small jars, again, make sure you label them.  Keep all your seed filled containers in a nice box for easy storage.   You think you will remember what seeds  you put into each jar or pill bottle, trust me, you will not remember. It's much easier to do it NOW! 


Cool and Dark and Dry

Now that you have all your seeds nicely categorized and labelled clear out a nice dark and cool space to keep your journal or container of seeds.  Make sure it's a nice dry spot too.  We don't want to disturb our seeds during the months that they will be sleeping.  We just want to ensure that when the right time comes (spring of 2018) they will be more than ready to do their magic.  


Seed Collecting is Fun

Seed collection is fun, but it is also a great way to educate your children and grandchildren.  With all the talk about Genetically modified seeds and plants, you know that you can have your own supply of seed that is not modified and will grow.  Heirloom seeds are making the news all the time.  You can start your own heirloom seeds if you follow the instructions you find here.  This Review is about flower seeds mostly, but the same principles can apply to vegetables too.  That is why I included some books for your reading pleasure. Vegetable seeds need a little more attention when it comes to collecting, preparing and storing them.  Please do yourself a favor and do some reading, I don't want you to be disappointed with your results.  

Beginners will want to start with seeds that are easy to find.  Here's a whole bunch that will start you off on the right foot!

  • poppies
  • Four O'Clocks
  • snapdragons
  • moss roses or portulaca
  • marigolds
  • cosmos
  • morning glories
  • bleeding hearts

Please let me know in your comments if you are planning to do some seed collecting and what types of seeds you will be adding to your "stash".  I'm always interested in knowing more about other people's gardens.  




**all pictures are from Pixabay.com 










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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Mary's Message To The World Reviewed

Spiritual Messages For All

mary mother of jesus
Mother Mary image courtesy of Pixabay.com
I'll be reviewing an older book today, Mary's Message To The World. Originally published in 1991 the content isn't as outdated as one might think. This book and the messages within will not appeal to everyone, I'll just say that right up front. I know in my heart that some will read it and scoff just as I am sure they have since it was first published. Still, others who will read it for the first time will be moved and I believe will grow spiritually. Read it with an open mind and open heart, is all I'm asking.

One might assume that since this book is about the Mother Mary that it was written for the Catholic faith due to the strong devotion to her. That is not the case, Mary chose Annie Kirkwood (of no particular denomination) to visit and urge to spread her message to the world. In the beginning of the book, it tells of Annie's struggle with the visits from Mary. She kept telling the Holy Mother that she was not a Catholic and that Mary should visit her friend who was of that faith. At one point, she reiterates that she is not a Catholic and Mary says, "I'm not, either." Needless to say, Mary did not give up on Annie and visited her many times from 1987 to 1988 and in later years, too.


I'm not one who caters to the idea of coincidences in our lives. Since a very young age, I have believed that all things happen for a reason. We may not understand them for a while but eventually the lesson we were to learn is revealed. We might see them as blessings, some will see them as a punishment of some sort and even more will ignore the lesson or message altogether. It is human nature.

I bring up the idea of a coincidence because of the way that this book literally fell into my hands. My husband was helping a lady that we know sort through her household belongings for a long distance move that she was about to make. She had several books that she no longer wanted and told him that if he saw any that interested him; he could take them. He saw this book and knew that I have a special connection to the Holy Mother and brought it home to me. Coincidence? My heart says, "No." My soul tells me that I was supposed to read this book and reconnect with the Mother Mary.

Reconnect?  You are probably wondering why I would say that. At the age of 12, I was visited by the Mother Mary. I did not understand at the time who she was. I was a young Protestant girl who knew that Mary was the mother of Jesus but we didn't have statues of her in our church so her image was not familiar to me. I somehow knew that she was a holy woman and that this visit was a special one but received no guidance from the adults around me. In fact, they called me a liar and ordered me to stop talking about it. My imagination was a little out of line, I was told often. I can't help but believe that the adults knew exactly who I was describing and closed their minds to the possibility of her coming to me, a child of 12 and a Protestant to boot. About 30 years later, I would see her again in a Catholic church holding her arms out to me with that loving look of peace on her face. She looked the same as she did 30 years before and my life was forever changed.

I bring this up because it helps me explain that I do believe that Mary came to Annie Kirkwood and gave her the messages in this book. The Mother Mary has come to many people for hundreds of years. Some of her apparitions have been confirmed by the church while many others have been dismissed. Mary tells Annie that the men of the church often times dismissed her visits and messages because they didn't want the people to hear what she had said, warned of, or predicted. They had their own agenda and her visits didn't fit. This is one of the reasons that Mary chose Annie, she was not a Catholic; not affiliated with any particular denomination. She had a faithful heart and a good prayer life. She might be able to reach people of all cultures, all races, and all religions.

In the book, Mary makes predictions and warns of changes in the earth. She tells of the increase in earthquakes, volcanoes and hurricanes. She warns of the climate changes with droughts and floods. Weather that is unusual and unpredictable. She describes much of what we have and are witnessing right now and in the recent past.

Now, I should explain that in the book that was published in 1991 the predictions were all to come to pass by the end of that century. This is where people will begin to scoff; but hold on! Not so fast! Mary also explains that the "end" can be postponed if people heed her warnings and begin to prepare. Mary explains that we all need to connect with God, we need to pray, communicate and love ourselves and the rest of the world. It is a simple message but not one many people will pay attention to.

Mary has told Annie since the first publication of the book that the "end" has been postponed due to the prayers and connection of so many people. When I use the term "end"; I'm not saying that the earth will end. No, it will change dramatically, though. Life as we know it will change drastically but that is actually a good thing. This goes along with the predictions of the Native Americans who have been saying for a few decades now that we will be entering into the next world soon. It also goes along with the Book of Revelations in the Bible. Mary even mentions John's writing to Annie.

As I said in the beginning of this review, the book will not appeal to everyone. However, if you are open to spiritual growth and want to grow in your faith; I recommend that you read this book. I believe it will touch your heart, sooth your fears, and help you become the person that you were meant to be.





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Monday, August 21, 2017

Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls

Half Broke Horses; A True-Life Novel
Welcome to the book review of Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls. The thing is, I haven't completed the book, so can I really consider this a review?  I'm not sure. What I am sure about, this is one of those stories that is painted so vividly that you don't want to put the book down. It is one of those stories that as soon as you begin, you want to start asking folks if they've read this book. And if they say no, you want to tell them to start. That's what this book review is about. To encourage you to sit down and meet Lily Casey Smith.


Why I Chose Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel 


I have a long list of books that are yet unread in my Kindle. There are so many books and so little free time. So why would I add yet another book to that list?  What would cause me to start a book that I hadn't even considered previously?

I was in the process of packing for my most recent camping trip and there was a commercial on the television about a soon-to-be-released movie titled The Glass Castle. The commercial went on describing the movie that is based on the best selling book by Jeannette Walls and so on and so forth.  So I stopped what I was doing an did a quick internet search to find out what all the hub-bub was about.

The Glass Castle: A Memoir is written by Jeannette Walls and has been "more than seven years on the New York Times Best Seller list". Some of my favorite books have never been, to my knowledge, on the New York Times best seller list. So that information does not guarantee that I'll purchase the book. I read the Amazon reviews and considered. Unfortunately, I really don't care for spending over $10 for a digital copy of a book so I did not click the "buy now" button.

However, I went on to look at the other books Ms. Walls had written. Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel is advertised as "Laura Ingalls for adults" and that appealed to me. I read the "look inside" excerpt and was hooked. 

This story is about Ms. Walls' grandmother's life. The life of Lily Casey Smith. Ms. Lily began in Texas. Helping to break horses and raise her siblings. Flash floods, broken bones, and tornadoes were not unexpected parts of her children. Her father, gimpy, with a speech impediment, and a quick temper depended on her to help on the ranch. Her mother, a delicate and proper woman who was prone to fainting spells. Likely due to the tightness of her corset.  As Lily became older (a whopping 15 years old), she left the nest by teaching in frontier towns over 500 miles away from home. She filled the teacher vacancies the war created at these small town schools. However, the war ended and the teachers returned. Ms. Lily was forced to return home. 

As I said, I'm only halfway through the book and after her teaching stint, I've accompanied Ms. Lily to Chicago, have witnessed the impact of the growing ownership of cars by the public, and have seen her struggle with her mother's constant warnings of becoming a spinster. However, I believe that particular disaster is about to be avoided. Honestly this time. And just as she seems to be falling in love with a decent man, I understand that the Great Depression is looming on the horizon. I am anxious to witness how Ms. Lily navigates this true disaster.

I am glad to be reading the story of Lily Casey Smith before considering reading the memoir of Ms. Walls' life. I am also very glad to be reading this before watching the movie. If you think you'd enjoy a not-so-sweet adult version of Little House on the Prairie, you ought to take a peek at Half-Broke Horses. Not that I'm speaking poorly of the Little House series. I was a huge fan. But where Nellie was the anomaly, it seems the Nellie-like characters are the norm in Ms. Lily's life. 


selections available on Amazon

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The contributors on Review This! love to read. We enjoy a wide variety of genres. For the complete list of our book reviews click the site directory here.

The last book (series) I read that grabbed my attention and imagination like this was the Refined By Love series by Judith Miller. I could not put those books down! Rather than doze off after a chapter or two, I stayed awake, neglect housework, and devoured the three books in the series. For more details, see the review of The Brickmaker's Bride which is the first in that series.



I seem to currently be in the mood for stories of a certain time period in the earlier history of the United States. If you prefer more current memoirs and/or heartfelt stories involving dogs, check out Renaissance Woman's book review of Will's Red Coat. This is definitely one of those books on my to-read list, as soon as I come out of this historical mode. 






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Sunday, August 20, 2017

How to Decorate a Long Narrow Living Room

Photo via Pixabay
We see photos online of beautifully decorated long narrow living rooms and think, 'oh that's easy to do', until we're actually face to face with our own blank space to fill.

Long narrow living rooms provide a number of challenges.

Here's a list of the Do's and Don'ts when it comes to planning the furniture layout for your skinny space:

DON'T:  Don't jam all the furniture against the walls.

You're not alone in thinking that placing furniture up against a wall will make a room seem larger, however it's the opposite ... furniture jammed against the wall all around a long narrow space will merely add to the 'bowling ball feel'.

DO: Pull furniture away from the wall on at least one side. As an example, do you have a love seat or couch that can be pulled away from the wall?

If your room's shape permits it, pull the sofa away from the wall by about a foot (or whatever distance your room permits) and place a long narrow table behind it featuring tall lamps and a photo collage that goes to the ceiling. By pulling the furniture away from the wall and adding the decorative table, you're able to create a cozier, inviting sitting area.

If the room doesn't allow for any furniture to be pulled away from the wall, then place a rug in front of the couch and position the complimentary chairs perpendicular to the couch. That way you still get the effect of a cozy sitting area.
Convenience Concepts Northfield Hall Console Table, EspressoConvenience Concepts Northfield Hall Console Table, EspressoPut this behind a couch ******

DON'T: Don't fill the room without thinking about the walkway through the space.

How will people get from one area to another. If there isn't a clear flow, the room will appear unbalanced and confusing.

DO: No matter how you position the furniture in your space, keep a clear path for people to walk from one part of the space to the other.

If you're wondering what a clear path means, it means design your layout so people don't have to zig and zag around things to get through the space.
******

DON'T: Don't restrict yourself to using long regular sofas.

It's harder to create cozy seating arrangements when you do this. Not impossible, just harder as the sofa will take up more of the room.

DO: Perpendicular designs are a practical layout for long narrow living rooms, so try two love seats facing each other.

Again, use an area rug as their foundation and create a cozy seating area - if you can add a wall unit or cabinet to the wall that's perpendicular to the sofas, you'll achieve a tighter cozier feel.

Another tip, in very small spaces use smaller sized furniture with legs. The open bottoms help the room to feel that much more open.
******

DON'T: Don't use just square boxy furniture and tables. This makes the space too linear.

DO: Add some round or oval accessories.

A round ottoman coffee table, or round wooden table will help to break up that back alley look. Try using round and oval shapes in other accessories such as lamp shades and vases.
******

DON'T: Don't just think of space usage horizontally.

Keeping everything normal height on the walls can make a long narrow living room feel closed in.

DO: Go vertical with your design.

What does that mean? Position draperies where the wall meets the ceiling and have them drape down to the floor.

Or add a tall wall unit that reaches the ceiling, or gets close to it.

Or try a lovely wall photo collage that goes all the way up to the ceiling.

A narrow room always looks best when the person entering has their eyes drawn upward. So don't be afraid of patterned, vertically striped drapes.
******


Most Important Tip:
Jennifer Taylor Home Lewis Collection Modern Bolster Hand Tufted Upholstered Accent Entryway Bench With 2 Detachable Bolster Pillows, NavyJennifer Taylor Home Lewis Collection Modern Bolster Hand Tufted Upholstered Accent Entryway Bench With 2 Detachable Bolster Pillows, Navy

Divide the space up into two or three areas. Think about what your home needs and design your divided areas accordingly.

Do you need an office area? If so put the seating area at one end and the office area at the other. You can create the division between the space a number of ways; using area rugs or a small open-two-sided bookcase (that isn't imposing).

If an office or a dining area isn't in the cards, go ahead and create two sitting areas using area rugs to define them.

If there aren't a lot of windows or natural light in the room, it's best to keep the two rugs the same, or very close to the same ... or in the same color family, or complimentary.

One very cool trick when you're creating two sitting areas in an open space is to position a chaise or bench chaise so that it's accessible to both sides. Because the piece opens on both sides, it allows for people sitting on the bench to face either seating area.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. Below You'll find a Growing Collection of Pins that Feature Long Narrow Living Room Designs, as well as Long Narrow Designs for Other Rooms in the Home:





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Saturday, August 19, 2017

One Last Strike - Baseball Book Review

Available on Amazon
The Remarkable Story of the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals

I was living in St. Louis in 2011 watching my favorite baseball team, the Cardinals, on TV every day. As the season dwindled down, I watched and worried and agonized with the rest of the city with 'fingers crossed' while our team fell further behind, ending up more than 10 games out with less than a month left in the season. As we went through September, the Cardinals came close to catching up, but every one of the last 5 games of the regular season was an elimination game.

In "One Last Strike", Tony La Russa, the third winningest manager in baseball history, takes us through his Cardinals' 2011 season, which was also his last season as a baseball manager. He describes how the team came from ten and a half games back to make the playoffs on the night of the final game of the season and how they went on to win the World Series despite being down to their last strike 'twice' in a comeback like no other! At the beginning of September 2011, not even Tony could have foreseen the magical and memorable ride the Cardinals were about to take.
 

Manager Tony La Russa and his St. Louis Cardinals Team


You don't need to be a St. Louis Cardinals fan to enjoy this book. Any baseball fan will love the 'behind-the-scenes' look into how a manager makes game by game and inning by inning decisions to bring his team to a win. The Cardinals had to have those 'wins' over and over to first make it to the playoffs, and then to the World Series in this hard-fought 2011 baseball season.


 

Busch Stadium - Home of the St. Louis Cardinals

In his book "One Last Strike", Tony writes,

 “all the cliches we (the Cardinals) used about never giving up on yourself, believing in yourself, bouncing back from adversity – they're all true!”

Tony La Russa describes how he used his 33 years experience managing baseball teams from the Chicago White Sox to the Oakland A's to being the St. Louis Cardinals' longest serving manager to bring the Cardinals to their final game of the World Series .. and win. He gives great credit to team unity and determination.



 
Tony La Russa (Source: Wikimedia)


Tony La Russa's Rules as a Baseball Manager


La Russa had simple rules as manager.

  • Don't do something to lose the game when on defense.
  • Do something to win the game on offense.
  • Be good enough and tough enough... and keep believing.

In a team meeting prior to the beginning of the 2011 MLB Baseball Playoffs, La Russa tells his players that sports are unpredictable. The best team or player can have an off day. Just come in as prepared as you can be and play the best of your ability.

He summed it up with “Play as if each game is the 7th game of the World Series --- or the last (baseball) game of your life, and play only one game at a time.”
 

Tony La Russa talks about his book "One Last Strike"

 


More Baseball Books...

 

Available on Amazon

Additional stories about manager Tony La Russa and his analytical manager mind applied to a game.


Written by Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights, Three Nights in August: Strategy, Heartbreak, and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager is about a three-game series between the Cardinals and Cubs in 2003. It describes manager Tony La Russa's decisions for each batter and each inning of this 3-game series, based somewhat on computer data, but more importantly his experiences managing nearly 4,000 games. 



My 'Salute' to some special St. Louis Cardinals




If I were to create my perfect 'Dream Team' for the St. Louis Cardinals, using players from the past to the present at each position, this is what it would look like.

Your Review This Baseball Contributor and Article Writer, Wednesday Elf, is a Big Baseball Fan!


When I'm not 'watching' baseball... or 'talking' about baseball, I love reading books about baseball. It was great fun to relive the St. Louis Cardinals' magical 2011 season through the eyes (and words) of manager Tony La Russa. What a wild ride he had in his final managerial season!

"One Last Strike" is their story. I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed being part of the St. Louis Cardinals 2011 season while living in the team city!



Article Originally Written © 2014 Wednesday-Elf.  Updated for Review This! Blog on 3/1/2018.





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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