Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Piano Maker Book Review

Austrian Kurt Palka’s THE PIANO MAKER is a fictional adventure story with a strong female lead and, true to the title, it is actually about the world of the piano. It is the story of one woman’s life journey from France in the time of the First World War to Canada in the 1930s. Given exceptional training as a child and a young woman as both a pianist and as a piano maker for the family firm, she loses everything during the war and eventually winds up in a small town on the French Canadian shore.

When she arrives, she appears in good clothing and with a nice car but everything that she owns, besides her skills related to the piano, is packed in that car. Her pianist skills, however, are enough for the local church to take her in as a pianist and choir conductor without even checking her references and she is thrilled to have found a new and simple life. Unfortunately, the years in between her time in France and this town contain a secret that she is unable to be rid of.

The story flips back and forth between the time of her new life and the times that have passed. It shares the piano training she received as a young woman and her struggles with that business during war time; the love of a solider and the subsequent loss of that man; another man who rescues her when she needs help supporting both herself and her daughter. The journey includes time spent searching for treasures of different sorts in Indochina and Canada. It includes some uncomfortable situations as the woman recalls at trial her struggle for survival in the frozen Canadian north.

The Piano Maker is RECOMMENDED by me. As a Canadian, I loved that it is partially set in Canada. Anyone with an interest in pianos might enjoy the references to piano playing and piano making that are included in this book. As well, those from the Maritimes and those who enjoy war-time fiction might want to pick up this book.

Amazon says that readers who enjoy The Piano Maker will also like The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway and Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. I have not read the first two but remember loving Sarah’s Key.

For those looking for piano-themed fiction, it turns out that there are an endless variety of books available. You might enjoy The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason (a Nobel prize winner), The Piano (which is also a movie) by Jane Campion or The Piano Shop on the Left Bank (which is set in Paris) by Thad Carhart’s. Apparently, books with the word piano in the title are a bit trendy though apparently not all include very much about the world of the piano. You can see Amazon’s collection of Piano fiction here.

You can read more about Kurt Palka’s The Piano Maker or buy it from Amazon here.

Have you read The Piano Maker or maybe any of the related books? What did you think?

See you at
the book store!

Brenda

Quick Links:

Buy The Piano Maker on Amazon.







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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Cree Blue Psychic Eye Mystery Series Reviewed

Cozy Mystery Series With A Paranormal Flair

Psychic Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
Recently I began a mystery series: the Cree Blue Psychic Eye Mystery books. I would like to give you a little review this morning. Most of our regular readers are aware that I love a good mystery book and that I am partial to the Cozy Mystery genre. I began writing my own cozy series last year so I am a bit partial to the genre.

This series caught my eye as I scrolled through my choices of options for a new series to read. First of all it is a set of cozy mysteries so, it won't be too graphic on the murder details and then the touch of paranormal intrigued my brain. The thought of a sleuth that had psychic abilities seemed interesting and just a tad different. I like different!

Well, I am here to tell you that I am not disappointed in clicking the buy it button for the first book! Kate Allenton, the author, has not made me regret my choice. Her premise for the setting and characters are fun to read. Cree Blue is witty, smart and a little bit on the sassy side. She is a modern southern belle who just happens to have the ability to "see things" whether she wants to or not. She would also just as soon that people not know about her gifts. She uses her unusual ability to see beyond the veil to help solve cold case crimes, not for money or fame but because she wants to help the victims and to get the justice their lives deserved.

Cree Blue has made me laugh several times with her witty comebacks and her descriptions of people and events. There were also times I found myself thinking, "You go, girl!". She is quite an enjoyable little sleuth to get to know as I turn the pages.

Because these are cozies there are not things within the plot that are super gory, no frightening spirits or explicit sex scenes. The couple of ghosts that show up in the first book are friendly and helpful sorts. They won't make you scream and throw down your book! There is a bit of a romantic attraction but not in a way that will make your cheeks turn scarlet.

If you like a well written mystery, the kind that keeps you guessing; then I think you will enjoy the Cree Blue Psychic Eye series as much as I am. They are not tomes so they don't take an extremely long time to read. I think that if you give the first book a chance, you too will become a fan of this female sleuth who has psychic abilities.



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Monday, January 29, 2018

Book Review - Wild Horse Scientists

Reviewing the Wild Horse Scientists
Assateague Island is a barrier island off the coast of Maryland. On that island lives a wild pony herd. In my opinion there is nothing better than relaxing on the beach during a day off, watching the wild ponies walk by. Meanwhile, behind the scenes there are people who work hard at managing the wildlife on this island - including working to keep this beautiful herd of horses safe and healthy. Wild Horse Scientists by Kay Frydenborg is an interesting and enlightening book that I recommend to everyone interested in horses, islands, or wild life management. 


Wild Horse Scientists



Wild Horse Scientists by Kay Frydenborg is listed as a Junior Library Guild Selection, a part of the Scientists in the Field series, and is marketed as a book for children. The Amazon product description lists it as age 10 and up and grades 5-9. But I must say, as an adult who has spent much time on Assateague Island, feeling exhilaration at the sight of the ponies, the book enthralled me.

Wild Horse Scientists follows the journey of several people who study and attempt to preserve the Assateague wild ponies via the least intrusive means possible. Left to fend and breed on their own, their life cycle would overpopulate the island. While there is no way to predict how many horses the island would support in any given year, and any given season, it is fact that overpopulation of the island would cause the untimely deaths of the ponies; among other environmental problems.

This small, 80 page book really packs a punch. It briefly addresses things such as:
  • The world history of the horse
  • How wild horse populations came to be in the US
  • Describing that there are two horse populations on Assateague Island; the Maryland end and the Virginia end. While the Virginia herds are the most well-known through history, the two herds are managed very differently.
  • Different ways of wild horse management through the US, through the years.
  • What PZP is and how it came to be
  • An idea of how the study of animals is very time consuming: familiarity with travel patterns, feeding, habits, reproduction, and being able to document each individual animal in order to keep accurate records.
  • Major Human Players

In Wild Horse Scientists, you will meet the following people who dedicate their lives to good works toward wild horses, wildlife, and the environment. If you have ever thought that wildlife protection and studies are easy and an enviable career, this will show you that this important work is not easy work. These talented folks have done far more than listed here, but this is a glimpse of the part they played in learning how to manage the Assateague pony population.

Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick – World renown for his advocacy of wild horses, wildlife reproductive expert, and developer of non-hormonal birth control (PZP).

Ron Keiper – An Ethologoist (studies animals in their natural habitat) who braved the weather, terrain, and flesh-eating insects on Assateague in order to provide information and begin providing individual documentation of the Assateague ponies.

Allison Turner – a 20+ year National Parks Service biological technician. She monitors the wild species, all of the wild species, on Assateague.

Dr. Lisa Ludvico – studied the reproductive strategies of wild mares – providing helpful information through reproductive behaviors and DNA analysis.

Dr. David Powell –his Doctorate consisted of exploring the social behavior and reproduction of wild horses; important information in considering birth control for wild horses.

Dr. John Turner – A research partner who led the research that resulted in improving the forms of PZP, making it longer lasting.

Robin Lyda - and had a large role in making and purifying PZP.

The “two BLM cowboys” with the Pryor Mountain Range mustangs whose request for help, in essence, was the beginning of the story.

These folks along with everyone behind the scenes worked hard at finding a way to manage the Assateague wild pony population. The controversy and issues surrounding the delicate balance of healthy horse herds in the US abound. Left alone, the book confirms that horses repopulate very quickly – causing environmental issues. Culling the herds is costly to both humans financial sources and to the emotional peace of the horses. Selling the horses for meat is distasteful in the US. And finally, removing foals from the mares in order to maintain the population has been statistically proven to make the mares produce more quickly.
Some of the beautiful ponies I've seen on Assateague


My Skepticism About Wildlife Birth Control



I bought the book with some bit of skepticism. Some years ago, after seeing newborn fawns (deer) in what seemed to me dangerously late in the season, I did a small bit of research. I thought I had read that trials of birth control being used in deer herds could cause mating season and birthing season differences. I do not recall at this time if the birth control being tried was PZP or other chemicals. And I did not follow this topic further. But I always worried about the impact of chemically altering the reproduction cycle of wild animals.

I purchased this book mainly because I loved the photographs when I had flipped through. I ended up learning quite a bit about wildlife contraception.

It appears that PZP has been created with a great deal of thought, research, and effort and seems to be doing a great job with managing the horses on the Maryland end of Assateague Island with no negative side effects. I am a believer.

This is good news and important work that may help wildlife management on so many levels.

Whether you read this for the beauty of the photographs of the ponies, to gain some Assateague Island experience from the comfort of your home, or to learn more about the science of animal birth control, I think you will love this little book.

I found this book during a day trip to Assateague Island National Seashore, I made a stop at the Barrier Island Visitor Center. I had toured the original Visitors Center, built in 1967. But I had yet to stop at the new Visitors Center that opened in the fall of 2010.

The Visitor Center is wonderful and will need it’s own review. I highly recommend that travelers to this area make time to stop and enjoy what this center has to offer. And I highly recommend this great little book called Wild Horse Scientists by Kay Frydenborg.





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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Decorating Your Living Room With Pink and Purple

It takes a certain amount of bravery to decorate a room with such powerful yet soft colors. Not a lot of people are up to it.

Think about how many people you know who have taken the plunge and painted their foyer or main rooms Lavender. I'll take a wild guess and say, very few.

Of course bedrooms and bathrooms often see pink or purple on the wall, but it truly takes a free spirit to turn a living or dining room into a pink/purple haven.

A Pink and Purple Living Room Design Can Be Done

The first step before any decorating begins, is to determine the mood you want to create for that space when it's completed.

How do you want the room to feel to those who enter? If the answer to your question is, relaxed, calm, and serene, mixed with a touch of royalty and class, then hang on to your decorator's hat .... you're a candidate for a purple and pink living room. Yikes you say?

The Basic Template for the Room

The basic template for you space is what goes on the walls, ceiling and floor. After deciding on the mood, you must next decide these items.

However, you should have the couch, chair and rug colors established at the same time so that you can match one of the colors from those pieces with the wall and/or ceiling paint. And yes, you can paint your ceilings dark colors.

Wall Treatments - Will You Have Any?

If you're planning purple for the wall, and your budget permits it, add Wainscoting to the living room. Put the Wainscotting all the way around the walls or just on one wall - you decide. Quite frankly, all the way around is a fantastic look, especially when a great deal of color is about to be introduced to the space.

Wainscotting painted a light soft blush, versus, the standard stark white, would look incredible with dark purple walls that match a shade of purple in the area rug. This Pinterest Board features various wainscoting styles and designs. Take a look to get an idea of the choices available. There are plenty.

The Furniture and Accessories

There are an abundance of options to choose from. However, if you need the choices narrowed down, check out these pre-selected purple and pink furniture items featured here. The design choice was centered on softness and grace.
  • The Sofa: Soft Pink/Blush
  • The Rug: Darker Purple
  • The Sideboard: Dark Wood with Purple Tones
  • The Pictures: Flowered with Purple and Pink Tones
  • The Floor Poufs: Faux Fir White
  • The Coffee & End Tables: Rose Gold and Glass
  • The Chairs: Soft Pink Striped
  • The Drapes: Graceful Soft Linen Light Pink
  • The Accessories: Pink, Purple, White - Plants, Flowers and Candles
  • The Lamps: Dark purple base with light colored lamp shade (white or pastels)



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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Reviewing Plastic Bag Sealing Clips

 Click to Buy a Set of 38 Plastic Sealing Bag Clips
One of the cheaper, yet indispensable items in my kitchen are my plastic bag clips. We use these without even thinking about it and yet I don't think I've ever seen them reviewed - until now that is!

Have you ever tried them? They usually come in packs, often consisting of different size clips and they are an absolute godsend in my kitchen let me tell you.

I thought everyone used them until one of the young accountants I work with came out holding a small one and asked 'do you know what this is?' Even after telling him what it was used for he looked at me as though I was from another planet - so maybe NOT everyone has them!

Why Do You Need Plastic Bag Sealing Clips?  


To keep your food fresh of course!  Seriously I use these bag clips for lots of different things.  People who know me (or have read some of my posts on kitchen organization) would know that I do like to use containers to store things in, but sometimes that's not always possible.

plastic bag sealing clips
Photo by Lou of Lou's Designs
Let me give you two examples - if you look at the photo you'll see I have a bag of spiral pasta and a bag of brown rice with sealing clips on them.

I usually have dried spaghetti and dried penne at home and I keep them in containers, but I wanted to try a recipe using spiral pasta.  Now I could have found a container and used my favorite pink labelling machine to label it spiral pasta, but I didn't know if I'd be buying another packet so I just used a bag clip.

With the brown rice I had a container with basmati rice in it and one with long grain white rice.  I have just brought a new container to use for the brown rice, but for the last month (the previous brown rice I had came in a resealable bag) I've used a bag clip as you can see.

How to Keep Chips Fresh After Opening The Bag?


You simply grab some bag clips!  I love my bag clips when it comes to corn chips as when making nachos using corn chips I usually have some left in the bag.  Now we used to just snack on them until they were finished, but by saving them (we usually have nachos on the weekend instead of takeout) I find that I'm saving myself one bag of corn chips a month on my grocery bill!

We haven't been having nachos as much lately and I realized that I'd had a bag of corn chips in the pantry (sealed with a clip) for three weeks and you know what - they were still fresh!  Need I say more.

Now chocolate is my downfall, but my husband's weakness is potato chips and it's often cheaper to purchase large bags than smaller ones, but I really don't want him to eat a large bag - I also don't want to waste any.  Since we've found that our bag sealing clips work so well with corn chips we've tested them on potato chips and they keep them fresh too - win/win!

Can You Use Plastic Food Clips in the Freezer?


can you use plastic bag clips in the freezer
Photo by Lou16
Absolutely!  I don't know how you store your packets of frozen peas or frozen sweetcorn once you've opened them, but I use food clips.  I figured if they were plastic they would be fine and I was right!

Are There Other Uses for Plastic Bag Sealing Clips?


Probably, but these are the ones I use them for and I think that is plenty.  Let me know if you have other uses for them in the comments.

For an inexpensive 'gadget' this is one kitchen tool that everyone should have in their kitchens.  I know some people say well I use ziplock bags and I admit I use them too, but seriously if you can use the bag it came in why waste more plastic bags for storage?











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Friday, January 26, 2018

Reviewing What We Know About the Red Panda

Reviewing the Red Panda - Endangered Species
Photo © Cynthia Sylvestermouse

One Pretty Baby


I really do love all of the animals at the zoo, but there is just something so sweet about the Red Panda

For one thing, almost any time I see one at the zoo, it is alone.  His solitary existence just seems to tug at my heart.  He is so adorable that I always want to just reach in and grab that little cutie and give it a hug. 

It breaks my heart to know that the Red Panda is endangered.


Red Pandas


Reviewing What We Know About the Red Panda
Photo © Cynthia Sylvestermouse
The beautiful Red Panda lives, eats and sleeps up in a tree. When it is cold, it will wrap itself with its gorgeous furry, ringed tail to keep warm. The Red Panda sleeps mostly during the day and forages for food at night. They eat fruit, berries, acorns, eggs. mushrooms and bamboo.

Because of his lovely red hair, he has also been named a Firefox and because he resembles a domestic cat, he has been called a Bear Cat and even Red Cat. Ironically, the Red Panda is not a bear, it is not a cat and it is not a fox. It is in fact in a family of its own. It is a Ailuride, part of the Musteloidea superfamily which includes the skunk, weasel and raccoon.

This endangered animal is still illegally hunted for his fur and even for his tail, which is considered a good luck charm.


A Few Facts About the Red Panda

  • Weight: 12 - 20 lbs
  • Length: 20 - 26 in.
  • Tail Length: 12 - 20 inches
  • Average Lifespan: 8 years
  • Lives in China, India, Myanmar & Nepal
 

ENDANGERED

This is an especially adorable video of two Red Pandas playing in the snow. You will be able to see for yourself their tremendous ability to climb and hang in a tree and I know you will enjoy watching their antics in the snow as much as I do. 


Where You Can See a Red Panda


Because Red Pandas are endangered, plus they are awesome at camouflaging themselves within tree branches and leaves, it is rare to see one in the wild. However, many zoos care for Red Pandas.  I highly recommend visiting a zoo sometime soon to see a Red Panda in person. I know you will simply fall in love with them!

Be sure to take your camera too!  Once you spot a Red Panda, you will want to memorialize the moment with a snapshot, or perhaps a dozen or more. I always find it difficult to step away from these little sweeties. If he is sleeping, I always want to hang around until he wakes up. If he happens to be awake and moving around, I am simply mesmerized by his ability to slowly climb head first down a tree trunk. Makes me wish I had retractable claws!

Red Panda's on Binders, Mugs & More


I love photographing beautiful animals. Sometimes I offer those photos for sale on Zazzle products. The image of the Red Panda below is offered on several different products, including ornaments, mugs, posters and the featured binder.

 

Zoos That I Know Care for Red Pandas


How about you.  Do you know a zoo that cares for Red Pandas.  If so, please leave the name of the zoo in the guestbook below and I will add it to the list above.  Everyone prefers a zoo near them.  Plus, it is really cool to discover who helps these gorgeous creatures.

Visit AmazingWildAnimals.com 
to Read about More Beautiful and Endangered Animals!


Check Out More Animal Reviews
Here on Review This!



Reviewing What We Know About the Red Panda Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse

           This article was originally published by me in 2009 on a site that is no longer in existence.  




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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Review of Facts and Photos of the Northern Cardinal

Male Northern Cardinal
The Northern Cardinal is one of my favorite birds.  They frequently visit my backyard feeders and birdbath and I never get tired of photographing them.  I find both the male and female to be very photogenic.

Fun Facts About the Northern Cardinal

  • State bird of 7 US states
    • Illinois
    • Indiana
    • Kentucky
    • North Carolina
    • Ohio
    • Virginia
    • West Virginia
  • Diet consists of seeds, insects and berries
  • Also known as redbird
  • Featured as the name of numerous athletic teams including my favorite St. Louis Cardinal baseball team.
  • Beautiful songbirds who sing year round.  Loud whistling song that has many variations including: cheer,cheer,cheer and purty,purty,purty.
  • Male sings to defend nesting territory.
  • Cardinals do not migrate and live their entire lives within a few miles.
  • Cardinal lifespan can be up to 15 years.
Thanks goes to my granddaughter Kate for sharing some of her Cardinal facts with me.

Differences between Male and Female Cardinals


The male Cardinal is perhaps the mostly widely recognized bird in the USA.  Male is completely red except for small black mask and a black chin.  These birds have heavy bills to deal with their diets.

Although the female is duller in color, I think they are equally beautiful.  They are a tawny brown with a small amount of red on the crest, wings and tail.  I love their bright orange/red beak.


Photos of Cardinals in my Backyard

This little guy is all puffed up against the cold winter winds.


I like the look on this Cardinals face.  He seems to be saying "it's my turn here now...stay away!"

Products with Northern Cardinals

Because they are such a colorful and popular birds you can find numerous products that feature cardinals.  A search on Amazon will show you toys, household decorating items and much more.  Here are a couple that caught my eye.

I love this colorful Cardinal trivet.  What a great way to bring this colorful bird into your home.


                                                           
If you are looking for some decorations with Cardinals for your deck or patio this beautiful wind chime is just for you.  I love the sound of chimes in the wind and I'm sure you will love this colorful decoration.
                                       

Cardinal Magnet from my friend Vicki's Zazzle store




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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Who Loves Laundry? Let's Review a Great Way to Make that Job Easier!

No one I know loves to do Laundry!  But the fact is it needs to be done regularly, otherwise your friends may not be friends for long!  Let's Review how to make this chore more enjoyable and more organized!

It's been almost 7 months into our big change in lifestyle.  We moved from our home into an apartment and as you can imagine there are some changes that we did not foresee!

Generally we are happy with our move into a flat, one level apartment.  We are blessed with an apartment that is almost as big as our home was, so space is not an issue!  Our kids were informed and invited to our home(before the move) to select from our discards, anything that they felt personally attached to and whatever it was, found a new home with them. 

laundry day, sorting clothes, hampers, wheeled rolling sortersThe one change that I did not foresee was being able to go and do laundry at any time.  If I had a special outfit that needed laundering or I was just tired of having a pile in the hamper, I would go down to my laundry room and get on with the job at hand.  In an apartment it's a little different. 

Each wash load and dryer load costs you on your "laundry credit card".  So the idea of doing only a few items at a time becomes an issue.  Luckily, our building and the laundry facilities are wonderful and well maintained.  There is no issue with not having enough machines to do the work.  The only issue is that they are not as adaptable as a home washing machine is.


Solutions for Laundry Struggles


These machines are industrial in size and capacity.  Small loads are not an option and I understand that completely.  So when laundry day rolls around, it's nice to have everything already sorted and ready to place into the machine. In my home, when sorting was done, one black sock would always manage to stay out of the dark cycle. Don't you hate it when that happens?

To that end, Hubby and I invested in a Laundry  Sorter Cart that is both practical and it's not too bad to look at either.  It fits nicely into a corner of our bedroom, and because of its design the laundry gets sorted into colors, whites and darks, as our day clothes are being changed into PJ's. 


Half of the laundry work is already done now!  When we were in the house, everything went into one hamper, so sorting was another part of the job, before it went into the machine.  Not anymore!


This cart allows you to sort your laundry and it has nice big wheels so that moving it from the bedroom to the laundry room is as easy as taking the garbage out to the garbage chute.  Down the hallway to the elevators, into the laundry room without having to lift big loads or cumbersome laundry baskets.  When the laundry is complete, you have the choice of folding in the laundry room or bringing it back to the apartment to do that job in the comfort of your own space.  It all fits back into the trolley and rolls with you back to your abode.  Easy, quick and it does not require any lifting or lugging!  How many times had I folded everything, put it nicely back into the Laundry baskets and had one of the handles slip out of my grip?  All my clothes are now unfolded and on the floor.  Talk about frustrating and upsetting!  Not Anymore!  

If I can suggest anything to someone who is moving into an apartment, it would be this Laundry Cart!  It has made a big difference for us and I'm sure it will for you too!  A great gift or housewarming present for every senior who is downsizing and decluttering.  Neat, tidy, and useful, these are the things I look for nowadays.  This fits that bill perfectly.  

There is just one other thing that I have purchased to help with laundry days and that is a small collapsible dryer for those things that I really don't want to go into the dryers.  My Delicates go on this and within a few hours they are dry too!  I guess my south facing balcony helps there.   


When this little wire dryer is folded flat it takes up only a few inches of space. I hide it in our Storage area until I need it again. Light and easy to unfold, it takes up room only when it's opened up. The rest of the time, it is hidden away.

When we made our move, I was worried about adjusting to the common laundry area, but I see now that my worries were unfounded.  It just took a little bit of tweeking to get everything just right!

Hope this Review of Rolling Laundry Sorting Carts makes your laundry day routines a little easier too!
air drying, clothes rack, drying rack




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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Pie Cookbook Reviewed

To Celebrate National Pie Day Or Any Day

fruit pie
Fruit Pie image courtesy of Pixabay.com
As I write this on January 23rd, I will start out with Happy Pie Day! I'm going to be telling you about a Pie cookbook a little further down the page but first let's talk about pie. 

Personally, I prefer pie over cake. One year when my birthday was approaching my grandmother asked me what kind of cake I wanted. I looked at her for a minute and said, "I would really rather have a black raspberry pie, Grandma." She laughed her wonderful laugh that made her whole body move and her eyes twinkle. We shared a birthday, my grandmother and I, which happened to be in April. That is not the time of year that one finds black raspberries. I did not get a pie that year but every year after until she went to heaven in 1990, that dear woman baked me a black raspberry pie for our birthday. 

A few years back another of our Contributors here at Review This told us a lot about National Pie Day. I won't repeat what she wrote about but instead will recommend a cookbook that you might like to own in order to make your own pies whether it is for National Pie Day or any day of the year.

There are over 100 recipes in this delightful cookbook. Of course you can find traditional types of pie with both sweet and savory fillings. The author also includes more modern versions of pies like pie-pops and pie-in-a-jar. I think you will be delighted with the recipes no matter if your favorite is a fruit pie, a cream pie or a meat pie. The author, Sherry Gore, covers them all in her delightful cookbook.

Another feature of this wonderful cookbook is that the author shares personal stories of her Amish life and the culture of people. For me, that is a nice bonus!

How do you plan to spend National Pie Day? Will you bake a pie for your family or will you go to a local bakery to get a pie? I plan to bake a black raspberry pie and have happy thoughts of my wonderful grandmother. 



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Monday, January 22, 2018

Reviewing Easy No-Bake Bliss Balls

No-Bake Bliss Balls
Bliss balls are extremely easy-to-make and no-bake delicious snacks. They require few ingredients, can be made to suit your cravings, and are typically considered to be healthy snacks. In fact, some sources attribute Bliss Ball recipes to Keto or Paleo diets. I do not know the origination of these snacks, nor do I care. I do know that I made some and had to spread the word.


My Coconut Peanut Butter Bliss Balls


I had a craving for no-bake cookies today. After perusing the internet for a good bit of time, I had found Paleo and Keto recipes for Bliss Balls. Many of the recipes called for ingredients like protein powder or chia seeds - none of which I have on hand. However, many Bliss Ball recipes call for items that I have in my kitchen.

For an actual recipe, you'll need to follow one of the links below. But clearly, Bliss Balls do not require a recipe.  I made mine using shredded coconut, peanut butter, oats, vanilla, and cinnamon.

I used approximately:

1/2 cup coconut
1/3 cup honey peanut butter
1/4 cup oats
1 tsp. vanilla
a couple of shakes of cinnamon

I did not use a food processor (or my Nutri-Bullet) which might have made the consistency of this snack a little different. But combining it with a fork worked well.

I formed the "dough" into balls - approximately tablespoon sized. Then refrigerated.  

A few random items:

  • As one recipe writer noted, do not try to roll this into balls. Rather, just squeeze them into ball shapes (They are slightly too crumbly to roll into balls)
  • The longer they are refrigerated, the better they taste! The consistency changes a bit - a little more "cakey"
  • Despite having a good bit of peanut butter, these were not sticky or mushy
With these Bliss Balls, I have taken care of my craving for sweets. I like the taste so much that I haven't touched (or been tempted) by the bag of candy bars I have nearby.  And, unlike the candy bars, just one small Bliss Ball satisfies me for quite awhile. With candy bars, once I start I have trouble stopping until I've finished the entire bag. There is something about the Bliss Balls that feel more filling.

Related Links: 

Quite frankly, at the beginning of my recipe search, I was looking for Susan's No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookies. It turned out that I didn't have a stick of butter... so I continued my search and found the Bliss Balls. Susan Deppner, you may be gone from this earth but you are not forgotten.

After talking to some of the gals at work about their Keto diets and remembering how much better I feel with little to no carbs and sugars, I have been trying new recipes with a focus on lower carbs/sugars. This recent discussion is why the Paleo Bliss Ball recipes caught my eye. Paleo Grubs gathered a list of  21 Paleo Bliss Ball recipes. The recipes all sounded delicious and the photos made my mouth water. Unfortunately, I haven't been to the store and was missing the key ingredients for each recipe.

I continued to search and found 8 No-Bake Energy Balls on Bless This Mess. Chunky, delicious, every-day ingredients is what Melissa uses in her Bliss Balls (you have to go take a peek at the photo of her varieties). And it is from her that I decided on my coconut, peanut butter, oats, vanilla, and cinnamon mixture. And I'm so glad I did!



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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Decorate with Purple in 2018 - Why? Because Ultra Violet is Pantone's Color of the Year

That's Right, Ultra Violet (Shade 18-3838) is Pantone's Color of the Year for 2018: Although not the exact shade, choose any Shade of Purple to Decorate With and You'll be Fitting In with 2018's Trend 

If you're not familiar with how Pantone's Color of the Year is selected, in summary, it's chosen as a reflection of society and it's current cultural expressions and often by it's needs.
“The Pantone Color of the Year has come to mean so much more than ‘what’s trending’ in the world of design; it’s truly a reflection of what’s needed in our world today.” – Laurie Pressman, Vice President of the Pantone Color Institute"
Individuality, unconventionality and artistic brilliance are some of the words Pantone uses to describe the reasons Ultra-Violet was chosen for 2018.

Spirituality is often associated with Purple. As an example, if you're a church goer you've seen the spiritual connection with purple during Lent when a Catholic Priest wears his purple robe. With Lent being a time of empathy for suffering and penance, purple is the chosen color for this time. It's not meant as a negative, but rather to give something of ourselves as a way of acknowledging Jesus' suffering for us.

If you're not a believer in traditional religions, purple is still referenced as an associated color for mindfulness. Whether it's for Yoga, Meditation or InspiringButterfly Lilac Bedding Duvet SetButterfly Lilac Bedding Duvet Set Gatherings, purple lighting, purple scents and purple art, are often used to compliment and reflect the calming intention of a group.

In home décor you'll find that purple is used to enhance a design that is bravely unique to the point that a home owner has no qualms about creating an environment that boldly stands out for all who enter. Call it, 'a little shock and awe in home decorating'.

Where the conservative decorator tends toward neutrals, purple is often for the individualists among us. It's not so much about being fearless, but more about recognizing self within our environment. Of course, if you're not a fan of purple it doesn't matter how much of an individualist you are, you simply won't decorate with the color!

In Business Marketing, purple is often used to represent trends, services or products that are higher in quality or sophistication. If your business reflects a higher level of quality, purple may be a color to include in your branding.

In short, decorate the way you want to decorate! No matter the trends, your home is your personal space and should reflect who you are and what you love. But if you happen to love Purple, you're in luck for 2018!




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Friday, January 19, 2018

Teddy Ruxpin: A Parent's Review

Teddy Ruxpin:  A Parents Review
What Every Child Needs and Will Love

As a young mother, I was always thrilled when I found a toy, like Teddy Ruxpin, that teaches, entertains, and captivates one of my children. When that toy appealed to both of my children, I knew I had found a treasure.

Due to the demand, often times these toys are hard to find. With internet shopping today, it is not as hard to obtain the desired item, but 25 years ago, people actually fought crowds and long lines only to find extremely limited quantities.

That was the case with Teddy Ruxpin.

Tracking Teddy Ruxpin


Teddy Ruxpin:  A Parent's Review
My oldest child, our precious daughter, was only a year old when I made this discovery. I was intrigued when I saw the commercials on television. After looking him up in a catalog, I decided Teddy Ruxpin was a must have for my little girl. We didn't have a lot of money and we had to be very careful about our choices. It was my self-appointed job to find the best deal in town. I scoured the paper every Sunday for weeks waiting for this new toy to go on sale. I even employed my parents to be on the lookout.

Then it happened!  One Sunday morning, just before dawn, the newspaper hit the end of the driveway. I ran out immediately, opened to the store ads and there he was! 

Back in those days, my husband worked whenever he was called. It didn't matter if it was a weekend, a Sunday, a special occasion or even a holiday. This happened to be one of those Sundays when he was working. I grabbed the phone and called my oldest brother. He is 6' 4" and a phenomenal athlete. While I did not anticipate him needing to make high jumps for me, I knew he could easily run defense or offense. While my parents babysat, we ventured out at the break of dawn to take our place in line.

As we entered the store, women were running. We became part of the pack. Everyone knew what the objective was. By the time we reached the shelves, everything at my eye level was already cleared out. I wanted to cry. Then this long arm reached over my head. I saw the box as it landed right in my arms. Reality set in. My brother had reached out and grabbed Teddy Ruxpin from the top shelf and handed it to me. The bear was so high up and so far back on the shelf, I didn't even know he was there. I was beyond elation.

 Teddy Ruxpin The Original Storytelling ToyCheck PriceWe were laughing and moseying to the checkout with our sweet bear, when out of nowhere, this brazen, probably desperate, woman latched on to my box. I clutched Teddy to my chest as the woman continued to try to pull him from my embrace. Again, this voice from above said "I suggest you let go ma'am." Even in confrontation, my brother was polite. The woman backed off, she even apologized, but I was still a bit shaken by the assault. I don't believe I even responded.

When we got to the check out, I would not relinquish Teddy to the cashier. No, both hands remained on the box that held the treasure while she rang him up. I quickly paid and dashed to the car, fully expecting to be robbed of our new acquisition.

As we drove home, we both kept glancing behind us to make sure no one was following us home. We even drove a circuitous route, taking side streets in order to "shake" any "tail" we may have picked up when leaving the store. We did make it safely home that day. My daughter did receive her gift for Christmas and Teddy became like a family member. To this day, over 30 years later, he still graces the shelves in my daughter's bedroom.


A Forever Faithful Friend!


From the Teddy Ruxpin Lullaby Video Collection - This song is also on the Lullaby songs for the Teddy Ruxpin


Teddy, Too!

Seven years later, our son needed a Teddy Ruxpin too. Even though our daughter was more than willing to allow her little brother to play with her Teddy, I noticed that our "baby bear" was developing a habit of teething on Teddy's nose. Because Teddy was such a valuable friend to our daughter, I determined to purchase a second Teddy Ruxpin for our son. 

This time I was smarter!  I ordered a Teddy Ruxpin from the Sears Christmas Wishbook. That was so much easier and calmer that our first Teddy Ruxpin adventure. 



Teddy Ruxpin ~ A Child's Best Friend

Teddy Ruxpin:  A Parent's Review
I must give Teddy credit for encouraging my children to read. While I cannot say he is solely responsible, both children could read before they started kindergarten. I truly believe they excelled throughout their classroom years because they had such a solid reading foundation. 

Not only did Teddy read with them, he sang with them. When our daughter was really little, Teddy was difficult for her to lift and carry, but he was almost always with her. She would drag him around by his paw. When it was time for a little nap, I remember my baby girl sitting on the couch listening to Teddy Ruxpin and being lulled to sleep by his song. She would hardly part with Teddy. He even rode with her to her first day of kindergarten and patiently waited in the car for her return. 

I suppose our daughter was responsible for our son loving the bear too. When Teddy sang, they both joined in and we had our first family trio. Actually, make that quartet. Their Dad frequently sang along too. 

I will share a little secret with you, their Dad now sings the Teddy Ruxpin lullabies to the puppies. He thinks I don't know, but those little doggies tell me everything. 


Teddy Ruxpin:  Final Thoughts


Teddy Ruxpin is a sing along, read along, tag along companion. Both of our children treasure their Teddy Ruxpin bears. He is one of the few toys that is still prominently displayed in each of their rooms. 

The only negative about either Teddy Ruxpin is the motorized sound that his mouth makes when it moves.  But, like any ugly blemish on a loved ones face, we ignore that.  It really isn't hard to be oblivious to that sound when you love the bear so much.


Teddy Ruxpin - Easy to Find Online

The Teddy Ruxpin featured above is sold with one music cartridge and one illustrated companion book. The package also includes the Airship story cartridge and the Airship book so your child can read along as Teddy tells the story. There are other story cartridges and books also available separately. There is also an updated, newer version of Teddy Ruxpin available if you prefer.
 


Check Out More Toy Reviews
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Teddy Ruxpin: A Parent's Review Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse





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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Hobby Time from the Review This! Contributors




hob·by - an activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure. 

January is known as National Hobby Month.   The contributing writers here on Review This! each have their favorite ways to enjoy a relaxing pursuit and have written many reviews of various how-to books, crafting supplies and DIY tutorials, gardening tips, recipes & kitchen aids for the cook, photography lessons, reading or listening to music, sports, and a host of other hobbies. 

These are but a few of the hobbies enjoyed by the Review This crew. The list of hobbies is almost endless.  If you are interested in looking for what we writers here have reviewed, type in the name of your 'hobby' either in the box in the top left-hand corner of any Review This page, or in the search box down the right-hand side. By looking at the author's name, you won't have any problem figuring out which HOBBY is each writers' favorite! For instance, mine  (Wednesday Elf) is crochet and my hobby is shared by several other contributors here, so we learn and share with each other. A more comprehensive list is shown below.


National Hobby Month




Begun by the Hobby Guild of America in 1955,  National Hobby Month was celebrated in April until 1976, then in October until 1986.  Since then, it has been celebrated during the month of January. 

January was most likely chosen for National Hobby Month as it is the beginning of a new year and a good time to start a new hobby.  Many people have never had hobbies during their working years or while raising a family and begin one in their retirement or after the children are grown.  Others try many hobbies throughout their life before finding one or two that gives them the most enjoyment. 


Hobby Examples on Review This!



Hobbies can be passive (such as crafting, reading, writing, listening to music or watching a movie) or an activity such as gardening, cooking or participating in sports. Many people have more than one hobby and often combine them, such as listening to music while crafting. 

In addition to writing reviews here on Review This!, most of the contributing writers here write for their own blogs and websites.  Writers consider writing to be more work than hobby, so time away from writing is important. That's where the activities done in our leisure time become such a pleasure. It is also interesting to note that the passion we feel for our hobbies is shown in many of the subjects we write about.


  • Barbara Tremblay Cipak (Brite-Ideas) is crazy about country music and frequently writes about the artists and their music she is so passionate about.  She is also loves to experiment with color in home décor. 
  • Dawn Rae does crochet and participates in a group of fellow jeep owners.  She also enjoys gardening and lately 'learning about homesteading'.
  • Cynthia Sylvestermouse is a freelance writer and photographer who loves all different kinds of crafts, including crafting in the kitchen, creating fancy cakes and cupcakes. 
  • Barbara (BarbRad) is an expert on books and loves to read.  She is also a nature photographer who most enjoys photographing her central California area. 
  • Mary Beth Granger (MBGphoto) is a fabulous photographer who continually takes photography classes to learn more.  Photography has become her passion in her retirement, along with traveling.  Lighthouses and beaches are her favorite subjects. 
  • Wednesday Elf loves crochet and needlework, watching baseball and reading. 
  • Beverly Owens is busy researching her Native American Indian heritage and loves to write about spirit animals and the wisdom of her ancestors. She also enjoys crocheting. 
  • Olivia Morris loves gardening and following the fashion world.
  • Brenda Little (Treasures By Brenda) collects coffee mugs and researches the history of vintage cups and other vintage items which she shares in her eBay store.  She also loves reading, great movies, cooking, and pop culture. 
  • Diana Wenzel (Renaissance Woman2010) enjoys an off-the-grid lifestyle where she pursues her interests in animal rescue, wonderful nature photography, and DIY projects. She also loves to read. 
  • Louanne Cox (Lou16) loves reading, 80s music, zombies and dolls, among a host of other interests. 
  • Heather Burns (Heather426) is an artist, illustrator and graphic designer. Her hobby is her artistic accomplishments, including the colored pencils she has created for coloring pages and coloring books. 
  • Coletta Teske is a published book author and loves to sew. 

These are just the highlights of hobbies and interests I have observed from the articles they publish and the interaction we have as a team here on the staff of Review This!.  I am sure there are other interests each of them have.  


Quick View Home Page



By clicking on the Quick View Home Page button at the top of any Review This! page, you will have weekly examples of many of the articles your hobbyists here enjoy (plus many non-hobby reviews).  

Stop by the comments section and tell us your favorite hobby or activity. The Review This! staff would love to hear about what gives you pleasure in your leisure time.

(c) Written by Wednesday Elf on 1/20/2018







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Review This is Dedicated to the Memory of Our Beloved Friend and Fellow Contributor
We may be apart, but You Are Not Forgotten

Susan DeppnerSusan Deppner

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