Friday, November 30, 2018

Leather Professional Planner Calendar by Gallery Leather Co. Reviewed

Leather Professional Planner Calendar by Gallery Leather Co. Reviewed
For years I have been using the Professional Planner Calendar by Gallery Leather Co.  It is, by far, the best planner calendar that I have ever owned and I do love the leather cover.  I used to buy a different color each year as a way to differentiate between the years at a glance on my shelves.  However, for the last 2 years I have purchased the burgundy.  I just love the deep wine color.  I plan to order the navy this year.  I need to get back to using a different color per year.    Or, perhaps I'll opt for green in the hopes that it will represent strong earnings for the year.

I am reviewing the Gallery Leather Co. Professional Planner today simply because I want the opportunity to point out the fabulous features of this calendar.  I admit, I take them for granted now.  One glance at a different planner reminds me why I choose the Gallery Leather Co. planner year after year.  The fact that they are pretty on my shelf is only one reason.



Fabulous Features of the Leather Professional Planner by Gallery Leather Co.


Aesthetically, it is a beautiful calendar with it's leather cover and gold gilded page edges. Plus, as the name suggests, it has a very professional appearance.  The year is embossed on the front cover, but is not colored or filled with anything.  I love that professional simplistic design.  I am never embarrassed to pull this calendar out in front of anyone when setting appointments or making notes.


Speaking of notes, there is a special note section in this planner.  I use that section to write down ideas for articles, or things I need to do that don't have a deadline.  

Leather Professional Planner Calendar by Gallery Leather Co Reviewed



Leather Professional Planner Calendar Reviewed
The first page displays a quick reference showing a calendar of all of the months and dates in the standard square box display (shown on the right).  That helps when I just need to pull the dates quickly for every Friday in a particular month.   Or to quickly count the number of Fridays in a particular month.

A quick glance page for the previous year and the next year immediately follow the current year calendar.

Following those pages is a larger breakdown of the months for quick notes.  Each month has a page with boxes, one for each date, and area to make quick notes.

Professional Planner by Gallery Leather Co.
  

However, the section of the planner that I most rely on, the one that I refer to multiple times everyday is the daily calendar that displays each day of the week with appointment times.  This is where I organize my work day.  Without it, I would be lost.  The satin bookmark could be used anywhere to mark your place in the book, but I use it to mark the current week so I can quickly flip the planner open to it.


Professional Planner Calendar by Gallery Leather Co.
My fellow contributors already know a great deal about my busy schedule.  They see me at work daily.  But, I am here to tell you, without my trusty planner calendar, I would be lost.  It keeps me focused on what I need to accomplish each day and what should get my attention first each morning.  

I know I am not alone.  Many people scurry from one activity to the next trying to stay ahead and on their fast paced schedules.  I can tell you from experience, this planner calendar really makes a huge difference!
 





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Thursday, November 29, 2018

DesignCap Free Online Poster Maker Reviewed

DesignCap is the free online poster maker offered by PearlMountain to make all your poster and flyer graphics easy to make and easy to design. The variety of templates, colors, text and background options are endless and will whet your appetite to make free posters in a few minutes for all your events.

WYSIWYG What You See Is What You Get


The DesignCap software is WYSIWYG which is very helpful for all levels of poster designers.
Beginner designers will enjoy the ability to change a template with the click of a mouse and the visual changes are immediate. Graphic designers with more advanced skills will find the templates easy to adjust with the text, color and image options.

DesignCap is an online program which is a bonus as software is not required to download to your computer; design the poster and simply save the poster as a download for its' future use.

I used the cover of my cookbook to test DesignCap and loved the ability to upload an image and change the background in a few seconds.

Background Options DesignCap

DesignCap offers a large variety of background colors and one can get lost (in a good way!) browsing through the options and making changes.

This is the DesignCap template I used for my cookbook.



This is the same template with a different border using the background menu.
The Low Oxalate Cookbook

The border was changed with a quick of the mouse when browsing the background menu. It was very helpful to have different colors and designs available to change the colors of the background.

Intuitive Design

Overall I found the menus easy to use and intuitive. The text menu to change the font size was less intuitive; however this is more than likely dependent upon the skills the designer has prior to using DesignCap. Two options exist to change the font size: the A+ or A-  or the font size can be changed manually. I like the ability to choose the font size manually; however, a first glance it appears the font size is limited to the drop down menu sizes when in fact any size font can be chosen by typing in the size. DesignCap offers tutorials for assistance and step by step guidance through its' menu options.

Image Size


The design can be saved in either jpg or png format. Remember this is a poster therefore the size is large. The image can then be scaled down if necessary or optimized prior to using on a website.

PearlMountain

DesignCap is the latest online design program from PearlMountain along with the established Fotojet and DesignEvo, the free online logo maker. The mission of PearlMountain, "We aim to make professional photo editing and graphic design capability accessible to everyone."





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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Christmas Inflatables Make Decorating Easy and Fun

In a Heartbeat, Thanksgiving is over and everyone is in Full Christmas Holiday mode!

Part of the whole fun of Christmas is decorating, both indoors and out!  I know many people are just chomping at the bit to get their Christmas trees up and decorated, so that they and their families can enjoy this holiday for as long as possible.
Christmas Decorating getting to difficult for you to handle?  Don't want to be climbing on ladders and such?  There is an easy way around that!  And you will feel the spirit with just a flick of a switch......
Photo courtesy of my niece Tara Hocaliuk!  One very talented lady! (Please do not copy without permission)

Children love getting into the "spirit" of the holidays too!  Schools and Church groups are busy making Christmas decorations or preparing for those Christmas pageants that every parent and grandparent love to attend.  Videos and pictures will grace everyone's favorite social media and the joy of our children will be shared everywhere.

For years we decorated not only the inside of our homes, but we would put up Christmas lights and boughs of evergreens on our porch with the Most Beautiful Wreath on our front door!  These sights would greet all our friends and family as they came for visits over the holidays and we had lots of visitors! 

 Christmas Decorating getting to difficult for you to handle?  Don't want to be climbing on ladders and such?  There is an easy way around that!  And you will feel the spirit with just a flick of a switch......
Photo courtesy of my niece Tara Hocaliuk!  One very talented lady! (please do not copy without permission)


Today, I would not ask my other half to get up on a ladder to attach lights to our gutters, even though he did this for years.  Decorating outdoors has become much easier!  Thank goodness for the ability to share ideas on Pinterest and other social media as well.  If you have the time, these ideas are all very doable and need not cost an arm and a leg.

If you don't have the time, then there is another alternative!  And it does not require anyone getting up on a ladder either!  

Christmas inflatables have become very popular and they are so easy to install and enjoy.  If you have a power source, you are ready to decorate in minutes.  You just need to take the inflatable out of it's box, and plug it in.  Done!  It can't be any easier and there are so many different styles to choose from.

The larger the inflatable, the more expensive they become.  Don't be discouraged, these inflatables can start at very affordable prices and make a big impact!  Santas and snowmen, trains and sleighs, polar bears and penguins are all very popular motifs for the holidays.  Many of them will come in several different sizes, ready to fit your decor ideas.  

Inflatables are a lot of fun, easy to install and enjoy.  Again the choices are many and varied.  Some of these inflatables are animated as well.  That just adds another whole dimension of enjoyment. The biggest problem (I hate to admit there might be one) is that someone may be tempted to steal it from your front lawn.  This is easy to remedy with a little forethought and a handyman or woman.  All you need to do is get a few metal tent pegs and a couple of holes drilled in the base of your inflatable.  Hammer the stakes into the ground and your worries are over.

The children and the adults as well will enjoy the sights that you have so thoughtfully prepared for the Holidays.  I'm sure more than one person will stop to admire your handiwork!  The best part, you didn't have to get up on a ladder and worry about falling off!

Christmas home decor is one of the fun parts of getting ready for the best holiday of the year.  Take a little time and let the whole world know that you still believe in the Magic of Christmas!






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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Alex Spa Totally Henna Set Reviewed

Body Art For Kids

henna body art
Henna Body Art image courtesy of Pixabay.com
A super fun gift idea for young girls is the ALEX Spa Totally Henna Deluxe set. Let me review it for you this morning. 

Tattoos and body art in general are quite popular with the generations who are younger than myself. Children see the adults around them with a tattoo and often want to have one too. Obviously we can't, or shouldn't, do a real tattoo on a child but there are some alternatives. 

We have all seen the sticker style of tattoos that can be used for children. There are also decal types that can be rubbed on a child. Did you know that you can now do a Henna style of body art on children? It is pretty darned cool in my humble opinion.

Henna has been used since the days of antiquity to create body art, dye hair, color fingernails and in fabrics. Henna comes from a plant known as the Henna tree, the mignonette tree or the Egyptian privet. Dried leaves are ground into a powder and then a liquid is added to create the stain to apply to skin, hair, nails or fabric. 

What I like about this kit that can be purchased for a child is that it acts much like real henna and will last for a few days or can be washed off with soap and water at any time. We just played with the kit with my seven year old granddaughter and had a lot of fun!

The kit comes with three tattoo pens that can be used with your choice of stencils that stick to the skin and can then be pealed off when the design is finished. You can enhance parts of your design with some one of the two shimmer writers that are included with the set. One of the shimmers was a copper color and the other was a soft gold. There are also some little plastic "jewels" that can be applied to the design. It was very easy to work with and the colors were subtle. 

I did notice that as the day progressed the design was wearing away just a little with normal play. At bath time, it came off easily with no residue or staining to the skin. 

We really had a lot of fun picking the stencil we wanted to use and deciding which color to place where. After the initial work was done, it was fun to add some shimmer and a jewel or two. 

What a fun alternative the the stickers and rub-ons for temporary body art for children! This might be a fun item to include in your gifts for the holidays or for birthdays.



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Monday, November 26, 2018

Summer Island by Kristin Hannah - Book Review

Book Review on Review This!
Summer Island by Kristin Hannah, the audio version, has been playing during every free moment for the past few days. This story has kept my attention. I am so glad to have discovered this author following the recommendations by two of our Review This writers and one co-worker. Kristin Hannah has a large fan base. And it is easy to understand why. Summer Island is a story about families: mothers and daughters, and how our memories about the very same thing can be so wildly different.

While they were still young girls, Ruby and Caroline Bridge were abandoned by their mother. Caroline, now a wife and mother, has begun working at building a relationship with her mother. But the thread of trust between the two is new and fragile. However, Ruby remains angry and unforgiving. She masks her pain with humor, a struggling stand-up comedian. 

Nora, their runaway mother, has spent the years becoming wealthy. She is a famous giver-of-advice, with a newspaper column and a radio show. She is a modern day "Dear Abby". Her focus is on giving relationship advice. Nora's fans know nothing of her abandoning of her children. Until, the tabloids publish the photos of her affair while married to Ruby and Caroline's father.

We meet the family at the time the tabloids publish the scandal. And the readers follow along, as this angry and broken family are pushed back together through illness and car accident. Ruby and Nora have the most work to do to heal. 

To me, the story is realistic and the voices are clear. It is a sample of difficult mother-daughter relationships. And the fact that parents are humans too, complete with flaws. Also, that they too were at one time someone's child. Summer Island gives us both Nora's version and Ruby's version of what happened. Will they come to an understanding? Will they agree to meet in the middle and find some common ground? Will fences be mended before it is too late.


"To you, it was the beginning of the story. To me, it was deep in the middle" Nora Bridges says to Ruby about her disappearance.


Whether you buy this book or rent it from the library like I did, it is a story I recommend. At this point, I plan to read Kristin Hannah's entire collection.  




Related Links:

Brenda reviewed Home Front: a novel about a women who is sent off to serve her country and the family she leaves behind; holding things down at home. It is a story of "love, duty, honor, commitment, sacrifice". Brenda recommends this emotional book by Kristin Hannah. Please see Brenda's review for more details: Home Front Review. 

Brenda writes in her Home Front review that The Nightingale is the book that led her to read more books by Kristin Hannah. The Nightingale is set in occupied France during World War II. Both Brenda and a co-worker, describe this story as "excellent", a "favorite", and highly recommend it. 

It is because of Renaissance Woman's review of The Great Alone that caused me to finally pick up a Kristin Hannah book. Set in an off-grid cabin in remote Alaska, the story appealed to me on the setting alone. We joined the Allbright family as they were chasing peace. The descriptions of the family and the setting pulled me in. Please read Renaissance Woman's Review of The Great Alone for a better description of why you too should read this book.




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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Blue Home Decor - One Stop Shopping by Color

Blue Home Décor Items by Funkthishouse.com
A Place Where You Can One-Stop Shop for Blue Home Décor Items

I've been working to reduce shopping time for those shopping by color for major home décor items.

We all know that shopping on the internet can suck hours out of the day.

However, the convenience of online shopping is unmatched. 

One can argue that the time it takes to find what we want isn't any different than heading to the mall. In fact, it might be worse. 

Read below on how you can save yourself time finding blue décor items for your home.

Today's Home Décor Color is Blue

When visiting 'Blue Home Décor Items by Funkthishouse', notice that the major items for decorating a room have been broken down into 9 categories:
  • Blue Bedding Sets
  • Blue Couches
  • Blue Nursery Décor
  • Blue Area Rugs
  • Blue Chairs
  • Blue Drapes
  • Blue Side Tables
  • Blue Artwork
  • Blue Lamps
When on the page, scroll down part way then click the main photos in the box. The products featured in each category will drop down for you to see. You won't be taken off the page to view the products, prices, and stores they can be found in.

The Blue Home Décor Items Featured are from Multiple Major Retailers

You'll see items featured from multiple stores: Macys, Walmart, Wayfair, Target, Kohls, Zulily and many more

Once you click the actual product, you'll be taken to the respective store that's offering it. Sale prices will also be indicated. You can request a 'sale alert' for any item not on sale.

Even better, these blue home décor items are always changing. On occasion I switch out the products and add new ones. Check back from time to time to find additional blue home décor items.

The Blue Home Décor Items Are Personally Selected

If you're wondering how all of these blue home décor items are compiled and featured, I personally select them. My product hunting is designed to save you time.

Of course, I can't guarantee you'll find the blue home décor item you need or want, but if you start on this page, you'll save some time.

What's Next For One Stop Shopping By Color at Funkthishouse

'Shop by Color' will be created for each of the main colors. Be sure to check back as these Colorful Home Décor pages will be available in the near future: Purple, Red, Pink, Yellow, Green, and Orange.

Funkthishouse on Pinterest

1) The main Funkthishouse Pinterest account is here. You'll find many home décor and other items featured. Traffic is climbing nicely with over 700,000 views monthly and I'm sharing numerous other home décor tips, products and ideas. Be sure to follow and check it out.

2) The newest Pinterest account is a 'Shop by Color' design. Boards feature home décor by blue, purple, red, pink, orange, yellow, green, black and white. Go here to follow.

Happy Blue Shopping!



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Saturday, November 24, 2018

Wired by Julie Garwood – Book Review



Wired by Julie Garwood
Author Julie Garwood is well known for her romantic suspense novels, particularly those featuring her continuing and recurring characters in the Buchanan family. Her latest in the series is Wired where a beautiful computer hacker (Allison Trent) has to collaborate reluctantly with a sexy hotshot FBI agent (Liam Scott).


Synosis 


Allison has a brilliant mind for computers.  She loves to write code and has secretly been known to 'hack' into computers.  Before you condemn her for this behavior, you have to realize that she has only done it occasionally to help others who have been cheated by unscrupulous scammers and to 'right the wrong'. 


Source: Pixabay
FBI agent Liam Scott has discovered a serious problem ~ a deep leak within his own department leaking information about ongoing investigations. He needs a top-notch hacker unknown in his field to secretly break into the FBI computers and find the traitor. 

Allison is friends with Jordan (Buchanan) Clayborne, a genius in the technology field, whose husband and brother are both FBI agents and friends with Liam. With Jordan's help, Liam arranges to meet Allison and asks her to take on the job.  There is only one problem – Allison wants nothing to do with his job and turns him down.

Liam doesn't know that Allison is hiding her hacking secrets that she doesn't want the FBI to uncover.  She knows what she has done would be considered illegal by the FBI, even though she never benefited from her hacking and only helped others. 

How Allison's refusal to help is resolved, how she discovers the traitor and how romance blooms between her and Liam make for a very delightful story. 


Author Julie Garwood



Author Julie Garwood
Julie Garwood was born in Kansas City and today lives in Leawood, Kansas. She married young and had three children. Julie was always interested in writing, but waited until her youngest child was in school before she began writing full time.  She has written many best-selling novels.  

One of her most popular novels, FOR THE ROSES, was adapted for a HALLMARK HALL OF FAME production. 

Ms. Garwood has written 27 novels of romance since 1985, either in the historical fiction field or that of suspense.  Her suspense novels usually involve one or more FBI agents.  In each of  her books you will find a recurring theme based on family, loyalty and honor. Her romantic scenes are done in good taste. Her humor and poignancy keep readers coming back for more. 

Julie states her goals as:


“I want my readers to laugh and cry and fall in love. Basically, I want them to escape into another world for a little while and afterwards to feel as though they’ve been on a great adventure.” 


More Romantic Suspense by Garwood



Pixabay

Wired is Julie Garwood's most recent book (published 2017) involving one or more of the Buchanan family.  The family consists of the mom & dad (who is a judge), six brothers and two sisters, all of whom are involved in either the technology field or law enforcement, most particularly the FBI. I've always enjoyed reading series with continuing characters and Garwood's books are among my favorites. 

So, if you read and enjoy Wired, be sure and seek out some of the other Julie Garwood stories involving the Buchanan family


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(c) Wednesday Elf, November 24, 2018








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Friday, November 23, 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Reviewed

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Poster
Newt Scamander and his Fantastic Beasts return to discern and defend what is right in the magical realm of Harry Potter.  Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, just like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, takes us back in time to 1927, decades before Harry Potter is born.  It gives more details about the past than we were ever given in the Harry Potter books or movies. 

For Harry Potter fans, you will be very pleased to see the background relationship and understand the bond between Grindelwald and Dumbledore.  For Fantastic Beasts fans, you will be trilled to see some of your favorite beasts again, as well as meet a few new beasts.  

Our entire group was immediately enchanted by the baby Nifflers at the beginning of the movie.  

Speaking of enchantments, as you would expect, this fantasy movie is filled with magic, spells, and special powers.  We even get to see Newt ride some of the Fantastic Beasts, which was truly fantastic!

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Released In Theaters on Nov. 16, 2018


The Plot of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald 


 FANTASTIC BEASTS: CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD (2018) Original Authentic Movie Poster 11x17 - Single - Sided - Eddie Redmayne - Johnny Depp - Ezra Miller - Kathrine WaterstonCheck PriceGellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), who has been imprisoned by the Magical Congress of the United States of America, is being released into the custody of representatives from the London office.  However, on their return to London, Grindelwald escapes with help from one of his followers.

Grindelwald has a cult-like following that desires to maintain the pure blood line of wizardry, as well as declare their supremacy to muggles (non-wizards).  According to Dumbledore, Grindelwald  has "a vision that he would rise to dominance over the Wizarding world".  

Because of a childhood pact, the beloved Hogwart professor, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law), cannot move against Grindelwald, so he meets with Newt Scamander to ask him if he will take on the task.  But, Newt prefers to remain neutral.  He does not want to pick a side, even though his own brother, Theseus, works for the Ministry of Magic. 

Regardless of his wish to remain neutral, Newt is once again pulled into the feud between the Ministry of Magic and Grindelwald.  There are some interesting plot twists and family ties that keep you spellbound right up to the end.



My Recommendations and Personal Opinion


Before you see the movie, be prepared and committed to paying close attention.  Distractions could cause you to miss some very important insights, comments or even characters.  For instance, Harry Potter fans will be especially interested in the character, Nagini.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and highly recommend it to Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts fans.  Most likely, you will come away from the theater with a greater appreciation for Newt Scamander.
 




Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie ReviewIf you haven't already seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, you can read that review and rent the DVD by clicking here.
Unlike the Harry Potter movies, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is not based on a published book. It is a screenplay based on a text book that was written by a fictional character in the Harry Potter books.







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Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Movie Reviewed Written by:

House of Sylvestermouse




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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Photographing Plymouth Harbor









Happy Thanksgiving from the staff of Review This.  Today's post is a bit of history and photography from the site of the first Thanksgiving.

Plymouth Massachusetts is a delightful harbor town on the shores of Cape Cod Bay. It is located 40 miles south of Boston.  I'd like to share some of my photos of the harbor with you but first let's review a bit of the history of this historic town.  

History of Plymouth

The colony of Plymouth (first called Plimouth) was established in late 1620 when the Mayflower landed in this area on the shores of Cape Cod Bay.  These early settlers from England were called Pilgrims and had embarked on the new country to escape the religious beliefs of the Church of England.  

They landed in Cape Cod in December and were not prepared to handle the harsh New England winters.  Their first year was very rough and they survived with the help of friendly Indians.  After surviving the first year they had a celebration to thank God for protecting them during the first year.  This celebration is considered the First Thanksgiving Feast.

Photograph of Plymouth Harbor Today

As I walked along this historic harbor I was struck by all the little everyday features of this small town.  Yes, there are the tourist attractions like Plymouth Rock (really only a rock engraved with 1620) and other sites of interest throughout the town, but I wanted to concentrate my photography on the features of the harbor and the docks.

Here are a few of the photos the depict the harbor on the June afternoon when I visited.  It includes a replica paddleboat for tourists along with items that represent the lobster trade that is popular today.






Zazzle Products from  my Photos





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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter

Who is Matt Ritter?


Matt Ritter is a biology professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, very near my home in Paso Robles, California. I'm very interested in the plants that grow in my area, the ones I see in the streets, in the parks, and in the yards of my neighbors. I like identifying them and photographing them. That's one reason I decided to take a guided tour of the trees in City Park at the art festival there a few years ago. Matt Ritter led that walk. I saw how knowledgeable he was.  Afterward I visited the native plant booth where his book, A Californian's Guide to the Trees Among Us, was for sale. I purchased it. I've never been sorry. I've owned the book since 2011 and I use it several times each month.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter


Why I Like Dr. Ritter's Trees Among Us


I have many field guides for trees. So why did I buy yet another one? Dr. Ritter's book has gorgeous overview color photos of most of the trees. You see the tree's shape and usually a closeup of the bark, the leaves, and even the fruits or seed pods. Most tree pages have an inset that gives information about other trees that may be confused with the tree pictured. If a tree has many different species living in California, there may be an inset that helps you see the differences and identify the individual species.

Whereas my Peterson Field Guide to Western Trees has maps, color photos of trees and fruits, and detailed plant descriptions, it doesn't have the same kind of photos of entire trees. Trees Among Us shows photos of some of the large trees next to buildings so one can better see their actual size. The descriptions of the trees also are more interesting to those of us who are not botanists. In some cases we learn about the tree's history in California -- how it got here, how it's been used, or something else special about it. The introduction provides classification and other scientific information. If you live in California and love trees, you really need to get this book.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter
A Catalpa Tree I Identified with Help from The Trees Among Us


California Plants: A Guide to Our Iconic Flora


Our Country Registrar has an office above the Atascadero Library, and my husband decided to fill out his early ballot in the library and then take it to the clerk. I had already turned my ballot in, so I checked the new books on the shelf. That's how I found Matt Ritter's California Plants: A Guide to Our Iconic Flora. I was quite excited and checked it out immediately to look it over. I fully intend to buy it when I have to return it.

This book describes the native flowers, trees, and shrubs one will be most likely to see when exploring California's forests, trails, and scenic routes. Habitats range from shrublands to beaches, desert, forest and everything in between. Plant entries are arranged by their habitat.  There are over 1000 color photos and photo collages (showing various parts of plants), along with maps showing the range of most pictured plants. You may see a field of wildflowers along with a close up shot of a single plant. As in Trees Among Us, there are stories and background information on the plants and their origins (if non-native) and their uses by native peoples. I did not find a lot of duplication between the trees in this book and the trees in California Plants. Trees Among Us concentrates more on urban and suburban trees than those that are uncultivated.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter
California Plants has a lot to say about this wild mustard.


 At the back of the book there's a section featuring non-native plants. It includes many of the weeds I've found in my garden. You will also find a glossary, bibliography, list of online resources and botanical gardens, a tree identification flowchart, a wildflower identification color chart, and an index.

Although I have other wildflower books, The Audubon guides cover too much territory, have smaller photos, and separate photos from their descriptions. The Peterson Field Guide to Pacific States Wildflowers is arranged by color, form and detail. Most of its drawings are not in color but black and white. There aren't any photos. And there aren't any trees or shrubs. Dr. Ritter's book has everything -- not just flowers.

Plants of San Luis Obispo: Their Lives and Stories


This is similar to California Plants but limits itself to 206 plants found in and near San Luis Obispo. Like Ritter's other books, it has full-color photos, but no range maps. I have compared the entries for some of the plants that appear in both books, and they are not identical. Others I have compared are identical but an identical photo may be of better quality in one book or the other. In some cases the photos are different. If you have to choose, I'd go with California Plants, since it's more complete.




My Recommendation 


These books are all wonderful additions to any California nature lover or gardener's library. I'm a nature and gardening blogger and find them the most useful books I have for identifying what I see when I go on photo walks. These books are beside me when I start trying to figure out the names of the plants I've seen and photographed. These books would be welcomed as gifts by California hikers, campers, nature photographers, and gardeners who like understanding what they see.

You may also be interested in my review of Nature's Everyday Mysteries. See all Book reviews on this site here.

Review of California Plant Field Guides by Matt Ritter
I identified this redwood by using The Trees Among Us




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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Being Thankful Reviewed

Celebrating Thanksgiving

thankful
Give Thanks every day (image courtesy of pixabay.com)
Instead of spending this morning reviewing a product, I choose instead to review being thankful instead. This emotion is not something that can be purchased but instead is a choice that we make every single day, not just on Thanksgiving Day. Well, at least that is what I think. It is a choice whether we realize it or not. 

For me, every morning when my eyes open I humbly say a prayer of thanksgiving for being on this side of the dirt for at least one more day. I do look at each day as a precious gift and promise each morning to try to make the best of that day as is humanly possible for me to do. 

Sometimes our lives seem to be filled with obstacles that could make us choose to be bitter, sad, angry and lost. Holidays, often times, bring our negative emotions closer to the surface. We find ourselves being depressed due to the loss of someone close to us that won't share the holiday with us. Perhaps we are far away from home and family and are heart broken with the thought of being alone during the holiday. I know those feelings well, more than I like to remember. I can empathize and sympathize with all who feel that way as Thanksgiving approaches with Christmas not far on the horizon. 

There was a time in my life when I wasn't sure that Thanksgiving, in particular, would ever be a happy time for me again. At the time my life was forever altered just two days before the holiday. I feared that this time of the year would forever be darkened by that horrible event. I realized the following year that it would only be darkened if I let it. I could sit around and feel depressed or I could make the choice to look for the people and things in my life to be thankful for. It wasn't hard to see hundreds of reasons to feel grateful and thankful. I made up my mind that year to always look for the good and wonderful things in my life.

So, this year as every year, I am most thankful for my beautiful family. My children, my grandchildren and my loving husband fill my life with joy every day. I am thankful for a roof over my head and food on my table. I am thankful for good health and an abundance of friends. I am thankful for each day that my eyes open. There are people who are not on this earth to share the day with me this year but I am thankful for the time that I did get to share with them and I know that they are here in spirit and will always be in my heart. I won't be saddened by the things that are lost but will be happy with what is here and look forward to what is to be found. I am thankful for it all.

For those of you who are reading this, my wish is that your Thanksgiving will be filled with joy and happiness. Actually, my wish is that you find something to be thankful for every day. Just remember to look, it shouldn't be too difficult to find if you open your heart.







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Monday, November 19, 2018

Easy Beef Stroganoff Crock-Pot Recipe Review

Easy Beef Stroganoff from Crock-Pot.
Easy and filling meals are a must at my place. Cooking this Easy Beef Stroganoff recipe in the Crock-Pot while I'm at work, or while I'm busy with chores on the weekend, has been a meal that I look forward to. It also makes enough to provide delicious leftovers. 


Easy Beef Stroganoff in the Crock-Pot


Crock-Pot Favorite Slow Cooker Recipes is a little cookbook with super easy recipes. One of my favorites from this little cook book is the Easy Beef Stroganoff.  With only 5 ingredients (if you include the water) and served over either noodles or rice it is a meal that could not be much easier. I have served this over rice. But I prefer to use "Amish Noodles" with this recipe.



I do adjust this recipe just a bit. I like more meat and less "gravy". So I use more than 2 lbs of meat and only 2 cans of the mushroom soup. Sometimes, I use beef roast instead of stew meat. I buy the cut of meat that is on sale. Stew meat results in bite-sized chunks of meat and the roast results in a shredded meat and both versions are delicious.

Whether you use the same Crock-Pot cookbook I have, or search for Crock-Pot recipes online and other slow cooker cookbooks, I'm sure you can find your own favorite recipes. Clearly, I'm a fan of the ease of slow cooker cooking and highly recommend giving a slow cooker a try.


Crock-Pots


Between work, a slow commute, and my lack of skills in the kitchen, it isn't always easy to find meals that meet my needs and are tasty. I depend on my Crock-Pot. In fact, I like using slow cookers so much that I own 2 of them (a large 7 qt size and a small 2 qt size). Cooking in a Crock-Pot seems to leave less room for error. It also provides significant cost-savings (taking easy, tasty comfort food leftovers to work for lunch is much less costly than purchasing a lunch each day). 

My favorite Crock-Pot meals include pulled pork, shredded chicken, roasted beets (I've shifted from making them in the oven to the small crock pot), stews, chili (including white chili made with the shredded chicken), and squash "lasagna".

Related Links:

Louanne shares instructions for making her healthy Vegetable stock in a Crock-Pot

My next Crock-Pot will be the portable version; with the latches to hold the lid tight. And the travel bag. I have co-workers who use these for the potlucks at work and the locking lid and bag are GREAT ideas!






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Sunday, November 18, 2018

DIY or New Reusable Advent Calendars For a Treasured Family Keepsake

A Wooden, Cardboard, Cloth or DIY Advent Calendar

We've had a cloth advent calendar for Christmas for the past 20 years. Since the kids were little, the same advent calendar sees our family room annually. 

The nice thing about a cloth calendar with pockets is you can put treats inside for each of the 24 days.

Our family Advent Calendar is featured below.

Bring out your own Advent Calendar each year and make it standard part of family traditions.

However, if you're not into a store bought reusable Advent Calendar, you can make your own. Get the kids involved.

Five DIY Ideas on How to Make Your Own Advent Calendar:
Our Family Advent Calendar
by Funkthishouse.com
  1. Use 24 kiddie Christmas socks. Glue each sock to a painted cardboard or wooden backboard. Put treats in each sock for each day.
  2. Use 24 small boxes (ring size) glued to cardboard or backboard. Keep the lids on the boxes, and inside each box put treats. Decorate the boxes individually.
  3. Attach 24 small gift bags to a backboard or cardboard. Put treats in the gift bags.
  4. Use mini tree stockings. Put them all together on a piece of string with numbers on the front for each day. Put treats in each one.
  5. Use 24 empty toilet paper rolls. I know, that's weird right, but it works. Glue the rolls together in the shape of a Christmas Tree - 1 on the top for the star then, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, then 2 and 2 for the base of the tree. Glue them together then decorate each one. Place goodies inside each roll. 
Making your own Advent Calendar is a beautiful reminder during the kids growing years. When they're older, and no longer decorating with you, you'll pull out that calendar along with your past Christmas memories.

Time holds our treasures, and our treasures stop time. Think about the decorations your kids have made over the years, and what they mean to you. There isn't anything quite as precious.

Whether you use a pre-made Christmas Calendar or  DIY one makes no difference. Create memories during the little years to carry you through the big years.

When the time is right, take all the decorations your kids have made, wrap them up and pass them on. They can include them into their Christmas traditions along with your family stories.




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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Reviewing How to Clean Jewelry Like a Pro!

Connoisseur's Jewelry Wipes
I have recently discovered Connoisseur's jewelry wipes and I have to say they are fantastic!

My daughter has just graduated high school and I thought I would give her some moonstone ear rings that have some family history to them.   My daughter loves moonstones and these originally belonged to her great grandmother.

I got them out of a jewelry box that they've been in for about 17 years and they looked tarnished and old.   I popped them in some vodka overnight and then gave them a wipe with a soft cloth and they certainly looked better, but not great.

My husband went down to a manufacturing jeweler to see about getting them cleaned, she gave one of them a quick clean with a Connoisseur jewelry wipe to demonstrate and then gave him the price to purchase a pack and the price for a professional clean.

When I got home from work he showed me the two ear rings and in my mind it was a no brainer - we went and brought the wipes the very next day!

Using Connoisseur's Jewelry Wipes


When I opened up the container that the wipes came in I was a little surprised.  I expected the wipes to be damp, like cleansing wipes I guess, but they were dry.   I wiped the jewelry and the wipes looked black in places where they were doing their job.

All you have to do is gently wipe the metal part of the jewelry - you can wipe the stones, but the wipes make no difference to stones.  These wipes work on either gold or silver.

The end result was that the ear rings looked like they had just come out of a jewelers box brand new!

It was so easy to simply wipe the jewelry that I'm looking forward to 'refreshing' a few pieces of old jewelry I have.  One thing I will say, I do not think I'll be getting my jewelry cleaned by a jeweler again since discovering their 'secret weapon'.

I thoroughly recommend these jewelry wipes and if anyone is wondering, my daughter loved her ear rings and not just because they were moonstones, but because of the family history that was attached to them.

Have you ever heard of or used Connoisseur's jewelry wipes?


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