Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Review of Year End

One Year Ends Another Begins

As I write this we are celebrating the Year End of 2019 and welcoming in the new year and a new decade...2020. 

year end new begin
Wishing you all a Happy New Year
image courtesy of pixabay.com

Here is wishing you all the best in the coming year. I would like to leave you with this toast to end the year and begin our new one. It is a quote from Edith Pierce:

"We will open the book. It's pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and it's first chapter is New Year's Day."

As you fill the pages of your book of Opportunity, I hope you have few filled with sorrow and many filled with happiness. From myself and the other contributors of Review This, we wish you the best for this coming year and decade!




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Monday, December 30, 2019

Movie Review - The Aeronauts

The Aeronauts is a beautifully filmed movie that is both entertaining and educational. It gives the audience a glimpse into a pivotal event in the 1860s that impacted meteorology and scientists' ability to begin to understand and predict the weather. 


The Aeronauts an Amazon Original Movie

I use the word glimpse because this is a fictional version inspired by a true event. Some of the movie storyline strays far from the actual event. But overall, this is a beautiful movie depicting explorers who risked their lives to further our understanding of the weather that impacts our earth. 

My son recommended that I watch The Aeronauts via Amazon Prime. I am so glad he did. I enjoyed this movie immensely. I have always been in awe of explorers and inventors - not understanding how humans can be so inventive. I often say, "how in the world did they think of that?".  The Aeronauts kept me glued to the screen and made me realize that I've been completely unaware of an entire group of adventurers who fundamentally began space exploration from baskets lifted above the clouds by balloons.

James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) is a scientist, a meteorologist, who is determined to gather data while in the sky. He appears in front of the Royal Society to plead his case of creating a science of the weather. He is convinced that the ability to predict the weather could come from studying the weather while in the sky.  He advocated, and finally received funding and support for an expedition in the skies. Mr. Glaisher, a meticulous and studious young man seems to be the polar opposite of young Ms. Wren.

Amelia Wren (Felicity Jones) is the female aeronaut who reluctantly agrees to pilot Glaisher's trip. She is conflicted, not wanting to be his chauffer on one hand yet having a philosophy of "Look up. The sky lies open... ". Ms. Wren is as entertaining and dramatic as she is strong and athletic all while fighting the sad memories of the loss of her husband two years prior.

The balloon lifts the two explorers to heights that is currently the typical cruising altitude for commercial jets (37,000 feet). The views in the movie are breath-taking. The setting both beautiful and stressful; on the balloon, those in the balloon, and me while I was watching. The temperatures, oxygen issues, and atmospheric impact on the balloon are things that caused me to hold my breath and sit on the edge of my seat. 

I very much enjoyed Felicity Jones' portrayal of Ms. Wren. I don't think I have words that are sufficient to explain why I enjoyed her performance so much.  So I'll just leave it at that. 


The Aeronauts - Facts Versus Fiction


As it turns out, during the late 1700s to mid-1800s, women were passengers then pilots of balloons for entertainment purposes. These people who piloted the balloons were called aeronauts. Skilled as these women were, they were not a part of the scientific world. 

The Aeronauts that inspired this story were scientists James Glaisher and Henry Tracy Coxwell. These two men made significant discoveries related to weather during their record-breaking flights. And began the school of thought that weather can be predicted.

I found it a bit irritating that Coxwell was replaced with a woman. I'm not sure I like this sort of re-writing of historical events. It seems to take credit away from the very important life's work of another human being. 

However, if the director felt the need to put a female in place of one of the male scientists, I am grateful that he did so without a plot that included romance. 

In other parts of the internet, Director Tom Harper is quoted with an explanation that the worlds of science and Hollywood have had clear gender bias against women, and "we need to be active in our pursuit to redress that."  (Time, December 2019). I suppose that is why he replaced Mr. Coxwell with the fictional Ms. Wren. 

Even with my concern about erasing Coxwell from the movie, I highly recommend this movie. I enjoyed the themes of exploration, bravery, defying gravity, and a reminder of those who have been instrumental in society's progress over 100 years ago. Weather forecasts are something we seem to take for granted and it was very interesting to see a portrayal of someone so passionate in their career.




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For more information about Mr. Glaisher and Mr. Coxwell and their record-breaking flight, click here  (I recommend watching after you see the movie - to avoid small spoilers). You can be sure that I will be learning more about the early aeronauts, male and female, and their brave exploration. 


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Sunday, December 29, 2019

2020 is Body, Mind, and Spirit - Complete Life Balance, A Personal Commitment

2020 - Body, Mind, Spirit

Have you decided upon a new year's resolution for 2020? Do you prefer to avoid making one? When you review 2019 for you or your family, how does it rate?

2019 has been a challenging year for our family, and I know for many others. I'm looking forward to putting this year behind me.

I've made a resolution that I'd like to share here. It's about balance, but it's not about work-play balance. The balance I'm seeking is to nurse all three of these aspects in my life carefully.

Body, Mind, Spirit
Sounds corny right?

Not to me, not at this stage in my life. I've neglected my spirit. Even though it seems like I'm in a state of constant prayer, I still feel I haven't been feeding my soul properly.

The section on Spirit isn't meant to be about religion; I'm simply sharing what I do to expand my soul. However, whether you believe in God, a higher power, regardless of faith, or are a non-believer, we can all connect with our inner self, and free our minds with a little spiritual exercise.

I'm not an overtly religious person, but I do feel connected to a world beyond this one. It doesn't matter whether we feel that or not, what matters is that we make an effort to deepen our connection with humanity.

How I Personally Exercise Mind, Body & Spirit

The Mind

This one is pretty easy for most of us.

Chances are if you're reading this, you spend time online and probably have a blog, website, work for a company, or go to school. Just the amount of reading and learning we do to stay up-to-date with the above can give our mind a workout.

Most of my mind exercise comes from online reading. It seems I'm in a constant state of learning. If you're not online enough to be learning that way, then, of course, there are the usual, crosswords,  puzzle books, reading actual books and best of all, stimulating, productive and positive conversations with friends.

The Body

We all know that respecting our bodies can be pretty tough at times.

Eating healthy, exercise, and keeping ourselves free of substances not prescribed by a doctor are the common areas to focus on.

Personally, for health reasons, I made significant changes with my body in 2019. I decided to try the Keto Diet. I hate calling it a diet because, for me, it's not - it's a way of eating. I started May 4, 2019, and to date have lost 50 pounds; another 25, and I'm at my goal.  Anyway, I won't get into all the details of Keto; that isn't my point, taking control of my health is.

Sometimes caring for our body means relaxing more, enjoying ourselves more, and if we're healthy, merely being happy with the body we have.

The Spirit

In 2019 I did focus fairly successfully on Mind and Body, but I neglected spirit.

I started around December 12th, 2019, to do the soul work I should have been doing all year. The work I do is more than prayer. You can use the general concepts I use and convert them to fit your belief system. It's never my intention to push religion on anyone. I'm merely sharing the way I personally enhance inner-peace.

At night, a lot of people listen to meditation tapes, music, and audiobooks to fall asleep. If what you're doing is feeding your soul, keep doing that.

What I Do to Personally Feed My Soul

I was seeking a greater connection.

Six years ago, I came across a YouTube video Channel called Off The Left Eye. I had listened and followed them for several years, then life got in the way, and I drifted.

Off The Left Eye examines life through spirituality and faith, through the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg's (1668-1772 - Theologian, Scientist, Philosopher) personal experience with the afterlife.

Swedenborg was a famous scientist. After his otherworldly experience, he wrote ten thousand pages on his journey through the veil. Consequently, he was shunned by the scientific community of his day.

When I'm tucked in for bed, I listen to the videos featured by Off the Left Eye. Despite all of life's challenges, I do consider myself a peace-filled person. However, watching these videos expands my horizon and brings me to an even deeper level of understanding. Also, when I'm having a bad day, they're a must for rejuvenation.

These videos are erasing that persistent horrible feeling that another shoe is about to drop. I hate that feeling! I'm mastering its eradication with the help of these videos.

I love the metaphors that the Host, Curtis Childs uses; he has such a fun way of getting you to understand a concept that may seem too complex to grasp through Swedenborg's writing alone.

At any rate, for me, understanding the bigger picture is grounding. Letting God in, blocking out dark energy, and constantly praying (lol) makes for a happier me.

Whether you use music, quotes, other religious teachings, yoga, or meditation, it doesn't matter as all of it will feed the inner you.

Here's the very first video, from six years ago I tripped on by Off The Left Eye (It's a short inspirational summary of humanity):



Here's to a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2020. Happy New Year!





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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Reviewing The Forgotten Village by Lorna Cook

Today I'm reviewing The Forgotten Village, a novel by Lorna Cook, if you're thinking that you haven't heard from this author before then I'm not surprised as this is her first novel, but she has a new novel that will be released in March 2020.

Book Review of The Forgotten Village by Lorna Cook
The Forgotten Village by Lorna Cook

I picked up this book as it is set in Dorset, England where I grew up and I was intrigued by the snippet on the back as it is set in the village of Tyneham where I was never able to visit, but my mother finally got to see it last year. 

This novel has two stories interweaved throughout: that of Lady Veronica in 1943 and that of Melissa set in 2018.   Tyneham is actually the 'forgotten village' mentioned in the title - although it is apparently titled The Forgotten Wife in Canada and the US which isn't as compelling a title in my opinion.

Tyneham - Real World History


Post Office Row, Tyneham, Dorset - the forgotten village requisitioned by the MoD during the second World War
Photo © David Dixon (cc-by-sa/2.0)
In 1943 the villagers of Tyneham were given a month to pack up and leave their village.   The 225 residents at the time were led to believe that they would be able to return after the war had ended.   Being a village on the coast the Ministry of Defence wanted to use the village in it's war efforts and the villagers left as patriots.

When the war ended, however, the requisitioned village was not returned to the original owners and is in fact still owned by the Ministry of Defence.   It has now been made accessible on some weekends when the Ministry of Defence isn't using it for training purposes.

Surprisingly there are several villages in the UK that suffered similar fates (I had always believed Tyneham was the only one).

Fictional Tyneham


In the book Melissa is on holiday in Dorset when she sees that the forgotten village of Tyneham is having it's grand re-opening (this never actually happened).   She visits and comes across a photograph of Lady Veronica and Sir Albert Standish (this family and the people are all fictional) which intrigues her.   She also meets a television historian (yes there is a romantic angle to the book) and they both try and find out what happened to the Standish couple as they appear to have disappeared.

The Two Stories in the Novel The Forgotten Village


This book weaves through Lady Veronica's life in 1943 as they prepare to leave the village as well as Melissa's life as she tries to find out what happened to Lady Veronica (and falls in love at the same time).

If you enjoy a little romance, glimpses of Dorset and historical novels then you will enjoy this book.   I found that although I put it down to go to bed I was lying awake wondering what had happened so much I ended up getting up again and finishing the book before going back to bed at some ungodly hour!

The only bit that I didn't really enjoy was when Melissa refers to her parent's relationship which I feel was an unnecessary aspect to the book, although I can see why the author thought it needed to be there.   Personally I got aggravated by her contemplating her parent's relationship especially as they weren't actual characters in the book.

I would definitely recommend reading this and I can't wait to see what the new book is about.

The author says this about her book -

"The Forgotten Village doesn’t attempt to delve too deeply into the intricacies of the requisition of Tyneham. I’m not sure I wanted to give readers a history lesson. Instead I hope I’ve written a well-paced story of love both lost and found, great sacrifice and how all is not forgotten even though it often appears to be. "

Meanwhile before heading to your local library or bookstore be sure to check out all of our book reviews (we do love to read on Review This Reviews!).


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Friday, December 27, 2019

The Patriot Bride Book Reviewed

Daughters of the Mayflower - Book 4 in the Series


The Patriot Bride Book Reviewed
It is unusual to find a series where every book in the series deserves an individual review!  However, that is the case with the Daughters of the Mayflower historical series.

As I have read each book, I have thought it was my favorite.  At this point, I must declare that this is clearly a series of favorites for me.

Because these books are historically accurate, simply written with fictional characters included, I have felt I was walking the path alongside these women.  There are real places, real historical individuals, real historical events that are the foundation of each story.  It is easy to believe these "Daughters of the Mayflower" could have been real people.

In The Patriot Bride, both George Washington and Benjamin Franklin are important characters in the book.  Not one word cast these real men in a negative light.  Nor does the author take liberties with their integrity, as some fictional books are prone to do.  I appreciate her for being true to the character, wisdom and extreme sacrifice of these esteemed men of our real American history.  

This book made me sit back and really consider the price of America's freedom.  It isn't the first time in my life that I recognized the dedication and sacrifices of our patriots, but the book served as an excellent reminder that we owe them, at the very least, a debt of gratitude. 

I've seen the dates and years written in ink before, but until I read this book, I had not considered how long 8 years is, in reality.  I had not realized that George Washington had not been back even for a visit, to his beloved Mount Vernon for that entire 8 years.  Personally, I don't like being away from home for 8 hrs, or 8 days.  I can't imagine the enormous dedication required to endure 8 years.


The Patriot Bride

1774 Philadelphia - American Revolutionary War

 The Patriot Bride: Daughters of the Mayflower
Book 4
Check Price
Faith Jackson is a mere child whose parents were killed in a home fire.  Her neighbor, a young George Washington, becomes Faith's guardian.  Being an only child, Faith has always looked up to George, like an older brother.  Now, she depends on him for everything.  

Because George is a single, young man with a job, he places Faith with friends, a wealthy childless married couple in Boston, but he maintains frequent correspondence with Faith.  When her adoptive parents die, once again George is the only constant in her life.

George introduces her to a soldier, whom she marries.  Sadly, her new husband dies in battle within a week.  Now, Faith is an extremely wealthy young widow.  

As a prominent member of Boston society with plenty of free time, Faith, along with a group of friends, provides aid and volunteers frequently to community service.  These activities, along with her long standing relationship to George Washington, make Faith the perfect messenger for the patriots.  She is assigned a permanent contact, whom she meets regularly to exchange information.

It is necessary to trust messengers completely.  It doesn't take long for Faith to form a strong attachment to Matthew Weber.  When he doesn't show for "meetings", Faith worries something has happened to him.  Likewise, if Faith does not make a meeting, Matthew worries about her.  After all, no one understands better than Faith, how anything can happen in wartime and both sides would seek to eliminate spies or intercept inportant messages. 


A Few of My Personal Thoughts About The Patriot Bride


If I had previously read a review that told me about the personal tragedies in Faith's life, I might have thought it would be a very sad book to read.  That was not the case.  We were told of the deaths and difficulties, but we were not forced to read chapters of details or suffer with Faith as they happened.

The Patriot Bride Book Reviewed
Also, her fondness of George Washington, followed by their continued alliance, actually made perfect sense.  At no time did the author try to make their relationship inappropriate or unfitting of the father of our country.

I thoroughly enjoyed the intrigue, including the stressful uncertainties,  in this book.  Although, I must admit, my favorite part included Benjamin Franklin wearing a dress, which made me laugh out loud in the middle of the night.

Just as the previous books in this series, The Patriot Bride would not easily release me for sleep.  I literally had to find peaceful moments in the middle of chapters to decide to set it down so I could get needed rest.  But, be assured, I awoke with a desire to continue reading instead of attending to my daily work.

I give this book my highest recommendation!



The Daughters of the Mayflower Book Series


While this is a series, the books do not focus on one character.  They are based on a family lineage, descendants of one original Mayflower couple.  Furthermore, the books are written by different authors, which gives each story a unique quality.

Each stand-alone book is most excellent and deserving of individual praise for being outstanding literature. 
 

Previously Reviewed Book from the Daughters of the Mayflower Series

 
The Mayflower Bride Book ReviewThe Mayflower Bride Book 1 Reviewed

True American History woven into the fabric of fiction! An excellent historical romantic fiction about the Mayflower voyagers: Separatists & Strangers..



The Pirate Bride Book ReviewThe Pirate Bride Book Review

At the innocent age of 12, Maribel Cordoba's life changes forever. Her formative years & education are guided by nuns, but she never truly forgets the pirate who stole her heart.



The Captured Bride Book ReviewThe Captured Bride Book Review

An unlikely team is assigned a mission that is fraught with danger. It becomes necessary to trust a previously perceived enemy. I highly recommend this historical Christian fiction.









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Thursday, December 26, 2019

Explore St Louis - Visit Missouri- Review of Zoo Lights

The St. Louis area has many beautiful light displays during the month of December and one of my favorites is the Zoo Lights.
On a chilly night in mid December my friend and I spent an evening at the St. Louis Zoo enjoying the lights and taking photographs.  We had never been there before and wasn't sure what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised.  We spent about 1 1/2 hours out in the park enjoying the lights before we went inside to warm up with some hot chocolate.  In that time we didn't even begin to see all the beautiful lights.  The displays were wonderful and all focused around the animals in each particular area.  

Information about Zoo Lights

The Zoo Lights display is open from Thanksgiving through December 30th.  It starts at 5:30 each night and there is a nominal fee for entrance which includes free parking.  What a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays with family and friends.  Besides enjoying the lights you can was a 3D movie of Rudolph the Reindeer, roast marshmallows over fire pits, enjoy hot chocolate and other snacks at several stands around the park and have your photo taken at several different displays.

Photographic Tour

I enjoy taking photographs and shooting the zoo lights was a real pleasure.  I found that I was able to get wonderful shots without a flash.  I hope you enjoy my photographic tour.








Zazzle Poster from my Photos




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Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas and Blessings for a Happy New Year!


Merry Christmas and Blessings for a Happy New Year
Christmas morning has arrived and before all the hustle and bustle begins, I would love for you to take just a moment for you!

Close your eyes, and remember the first time you held your baby.  If you don't have children, the first time you felt that spark of love.

Hold that feeling in your heart for the day and really, really enjoy those around you!

May your Christmas be Blessed, by the Child Jesus in whose name we celebrate Family, Friends and the love we should have for all of our human family.

God Bless you all!

May music fill your heart and soul with the love and peace of the Season!


 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas Wishes from Our Contributors










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Monday, December 23, 2019

Feast Of The Seven Fishes Book Review

Is your family archive of recipes full of recipes tucked away in notebooks, on napkins, folded pieces of paper and the old school recipe cards? And haven't you always wanted to turn those treasured recipes into a book along with the family memories?


Book cover of Feast Of The Seven Fishes with old family photos and fish on the cover.


In Feast Of The Seven Fishes a families' authentic Italian recipes are shared in combination with the stories of each recipe and the neighborhood which shaped this family and its' traditions.


Memoir + Cookbook

Feast Of The Seven Fishes: A Brooklyn Italian's Recipes Celebrating Food & Family by Daniel Paterna is a combination memoir and cookbook. This is the story of the community of Bensonhurst in Brooklyn and the impact the community had upon the author and his family through the generations. Food, family and community are interwoven with delightful neighborhood anecdotes with the impact of remembering history for those who grew up in Bensonhurst and to preserve it for future generations.

The story of Bensonhurst will resonate if your Grandma, food, family dinners and family owned neighborhood shops were apart of your community. It is rare for a cookbook to read as a memoir and vice versa which is what makes this combination so unique and enjoyable.


The Recipes

Do you have a treasure trove of family recipes written or typed on the old school index recipe cards? I suspect you do and the photos of this families' recipes handwritten on index cards certainly evoke fond memories of my Grandma and Mom's favorite recipes! And of course there are the personalized "notes" on the cards ...

The authentic Italian recipes are detailed throughout the journey of the neighborhood as the author recalls the family food shops which were an integral and historical part of the family recipes. 

Take a journey through each major holiday and the traditional Italian recipes which accompany each holiday.  The chapter with a compilation of Feast Of The Seven Fishes recipes is amazing and slightly intimidating (due to the number of dishes) for one who has never cooked such a feast! However, the recipes are inspiring to all cooks to either compare your family recipe or for those seeking authentic Italian recipes.

I am excited to cook these recipes and up my cooking game with authentic Italian recipes! Memoir fans and cookbook fans are sure to enjoy this book. This is a perfect gift for those who want real Italian recipes - old school - and aren't those recipes usually the best!

I received this book from the Publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.


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Sunday, December 22, 2019

Happy Birthday Capricorn! Let's Review How Wonderful You Are

Happy Birthday, Capricorn - Dec 22 to January 20
The Goat

For the proud Capricorn, the Goat is not an acronym lol (greatest of all time - sorry!). If your birthday falls between December 22nd and January 20th, you were born under the sign of Capricorn. 

Since I'm a fan of astrology and often on the hunt for funky home decorating ideas, I've added a section on Funkthishouse called 'Astrology Home Decor.' Each astrology sign is featured with suggested home decor items for creating a zodiac-themed bedroom. 

When decorating a bedroom to reflect your astrology sign, don't restrict yourself to just the sign name and symbol. Each sign has several other aspects; lucky numbers, birthstone, your sign's lucky days, your ruling planet, your sign's element, and more. Here are some suggestions for Capricorn's room.

Capricorn: Practical, Realistic, Persistent, Disciplined, Intelligent, Caring, Analytical, and Organized.

Traits: Capricorns tend to be rule-followers and prefer systems and boundaries that are clearly defined. If you're looking for a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type, it's likely you won't find that trait in a Capricorn. 

Work: Preferring structure makes them ideal candidates to climb the corporate ladder. Whether they climb that ladder or not, they approach their profession seriously and with dedication.

Home: Capricorns are a bit fussy about their home and how it's presented. Hey, there's nothing wrong with that is there? 

Responsibilty: If your significant other is a Capricorn, they might be the banker of the family. Since they can be counted on to abide by structure and are detailed, the family finances are probably in good hands with a Capricorn. 

Love: In relationships, they're committed and will focus on doing what it takes with a partner they can count on. Since they prefer structure, a stable relationship that offers that has value to them.

Capricorn 2020

As one year ends and another begins, I visit my favorite Astrologer on YouTube, Kelly Rosano. She offers up fun and interesting videos for each sign. Her presentations are broken down in an easy to follow format. 

She's completed an annual 2020 summary for all twelve signs and also features a monthly summary for each. I'm a Leo, and I found her projections for 2020 to match almost everything I had been planning and thinking. Interesting!

Capricorn, if you're wondering how 2020 may look for you, check out Kelly Rosano's video below:







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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Card Playing Day - Reviewing a Winter Entertainment Holiday

National Card Playing Day
Playing cards any time of year is fun, but it's an especially entertaining activity in inclement weather.  Thus it is the perfect indoor wintertime activity. This unofficial holiday is held on December 28 each year right after winter officially begins.


There are literally hundreds of different kinds of card games that can be played using a standard pack of cards.  Some of the top favorites include  Spades, Poker, Solitaire, Spite and Malice, Hearts, Spoons, Gin Rummy, Black Jack and Texas Hold’em. 


With a Deck of 52 …


Source: Pixabay

You'll Have Hours of Entertainment

From the 9th century to modern day, people have been entertained with playing cards. A simple deck of 52 provides us with hours of fun in a wide variety of card games, either by yourself (solitaire) or with groups of 2 or 4 or more. It's an activity that will never go out of style!


Cards are Popular at Any Time


Source: Pixabay

No matter what the seasonal time of year or time of day, this is a very popular form of entertainment. From simple 'matching cards' for very young children to intricate ones for adults to the ageless variations of Solitaire, cards hold our interest in many forms:


  • UNO is the Number One card game for kids (in my opinion) -- it is just as much fun for us grown up parents and grandparents to play, especially with the kids.
  • GIN RUMMY (or Gin) is a popular 2-player game that has been around since 1909. It is one of several variants of Rummy, which has been played worldwide for centuries. 
  • POKER and Texas Hold'em are both a popular choice with men
  • PINOCHLE - A game we played for several years with our best friends.
  • SOLITAIRE - Now it's Everyone's Favorite Card Game on the Computer!


Solitaire is also called Patience and refers to single-player card games involving a layout of cards with a goal of sorting them in some manner. Anyone who enjoys card games likes Solitaire. There are more variations than you can 'shake a stick at' and in today's computer age the standard Solitaire game on computer has really increased it's popularity and is irresistible when sitting in front of your computer. (My favorite version is 'Spider Solitaire)


  • THREE-THIRTEEN - a Fun 'Rummy-Style' Card Game

Source: Wikipedia

A couple years ago I learned a new card game called "Three Thirteen" that is such fun. It's a form of Rummy and is an eleven-round game played with two or more players. The Rules can be found on Wikipedia. I've played it with just two players, with three players and with 6 players and each way is enjoyable. My favorite part of the game is the fact that the wild cards change with each hand! 

*My son & I have been playing 3-13 once or twice a week all year. We have been keeping a running score sheet of each person's score, with the prize being dinner for the winner (paid for by the loser) at the end of the year. At the moment, I am 199 points ahead and have my choice of restaurant picked out!


My Love of Card Games


Personal Photo (c) Wednesday Elf

I've enjoyed card games all my life, from childhood hours of Canasta with my grandmother to teaching MY grandchildren "War" and "Uno". I grew up in a card-playing family.  My parents seemed to learn some of the most unusual card games over the years, having a "new" one to try every visit. 

My favorites are Pinochle, Kings-on-the-Corner and 3-13. And the most fun card game ever I learned by the name of "Dwindle". It may be known by other names. You can't beat a deck of cards to give you or you-and-a-group hours of entertainment


The Most Fun of All...


Playing cards were found in China as early as the 9th Century, and it's popularity has continued to grow ever since. I can't imagine not having a deck of cards around. It is fun entertainment for all ages.



Grandson Tyler (age 5) playing the  Card Game  War.



December 28 is "Card Playing Day"


Related Post:




Reviewing Monopoly Deal

The Playing Card Version of the Classic Monopoly Board Game






(c) Wednesday Elf 12/21/2019






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Friday, December 20, 2019

A Gift Wrapped Christmas Movie Review

A Gift Wrapped Christmas Movie Review
Most people would say that a review of "A Gift Wrapped Christmas" could be summed up with one word.  I can hear the men in the house saying words like cheesy, sappy, predictable, mush, but the women would say, adorable, sweet, loving, and romantic.  While I doubt very many males would sit down and watch this movie, I do think women will enjoy it.  It provides a nice escape for 87 minutes.

Before I watched this movie, I was not familiar with any of the actors, but I thought I would give it a chance. I was seeking a Christmas movie that didn't require me to be heavily invested. Because I was physically tired and emotional exhausted, I simply wanted a reprieve from reality for just a bit.  That is exactly what I got with A Gift Wrapped Christmas!



A Gift Wrapped Christmas Movie Synopsis


 A GIFT WRAPPED CHRISTMASCheck PriceGwen is a personal shopper that has a unique talent.  She knows what style and colors would look best on her clients at first glance. Matching their personalities requires more individual interaction, but her vivacious personality endears her to them quickly.  

When she is assigned as Charlie Baker's personal shopper, he is not particularly happy with her clothing choices for him.  However, he learns to trust her opinions and gift selections for the people on his Christmas shopping list.  

Because Gwen researches the gift recipient, she is able to buy relevant gifts that are perfect for everyone.  When Charlie reaps the benefits from the gifts she has sent to others in his name, he begins to reconsider his initial opinion of Gwen and her advice. 

In addition to Gwen's ability to delight Charlie's associates with gifts, she also seems to have a knack for making his 8 year old son happy.  

Even though both Charlie and his son, Owen, enjoy having Gwen around, his girlfriend, Victoria, does not.  As a matter of fact, Victoria has her own plans for a special Christmas gift she expects Charlie to give to her.  She is happy to give Gwen a precise description of the engagement ring she should purchase for Charley to give to her.  However, Gwen is not too happy to take her instructions from Victoria.  

I'm sure you can imagine what happens next, but imagining is not as much fun as watching.  I recommend you find a hour this holiday season to gift yourself with the time to watch this delightful Christmas movie.  It will put a lovely smile back on your own face!  

A Gift Wrapped Christmas Movie Review



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A Gift Wrapped Christmas Movie Review by:
House of Sylvestermouse




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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Christmas Jars - Movie Review

Watch Christmas Jars - Free Online Streaming
This time of year I am looking for inspirational movies in keeping with the true spirit of Christmas.  I love stories with heart, so when I came upon Christmas Jars, I knew I had found my kind of holiday movie.

Based on Jason F. Wright's New York Times bestselling novel, this film is for anyone who appreciates a focus on kindness, generosity, hope, forgiveness, compassion, and family.

As the movie begins, Hope Jensen, a 22-year-old aspiring writer is going through really hard times. Just when she is at her lowest, Hope discovers that someone has left a jar filled with coins on her doorstep.

The mystery of who committed this random act of kindness grips Hope.  She goes into full investigative journalist mode in her quest to uncover the perpetrator of this anonymous generosity.

Of course, there are twists and turns along the way, for that is the nature of life, and a good holiday movie.  Hope does find the beautiful individual who left her a gift much bigger than a sum of money.  Things become complicated, however, when she must choose between protecting the identity of her benefactor or achieving the long-awaited dream of publishing the feature that skyrockets her career.

This isn't a spoiler review, so I am being careful not to reveal too much.  Let's just say there will be elements of romance and finding what you have always needed.  In wrestling with her moral dilemma, and coming out on the other side, Hope experiences the power of compassion, forgiveness, and chosen family.

Though the movie is associated with a faith organization, there are no religious overtones.  It is simply a wholesome family film that can be enjoyed by all.  Originally released in November of 2019 as a special one-night theater event, Christmas Jars recently made its debut on television.  Both the original novel and the movie have spawned an ever-expanding kindness movement.  Millions of dollars in spare change has been collected and distributed to individuals in need.

In conjunction with seeing the movie (I've provided you with this link to watch it for free online), I encourage you to visit the Christmas Jars website to be moved by the personal stories of recipients of that kindness.  There is so much goodness that often goes unreported by the news networks.  I found that these true stories were a reminder that it is the small acts of love that change the world for the better—one person at a time.

As I was working on this review, and doing my own Hope-esque search for the backstory behind this movie, and the phenomenon of the Christmas Jars, I discovered something really wondrous.  The author of the book, Jason F. Wright, actually started the tradition of the Christmas jar with his wife and young children back in 2004.

When they were looking for a new family tradition that would make the holidays extra special, they decided to place all of their spare change in a jar throughout the weeks leading up to Christmas.  Then, they would select someone—an individual or family—who needed some encouragement.  That first jar contained about $88.  On Christmas Eve, they crept up on the chosen family's porch, placed their jar of coins by the door, rang the doorbell, and then ran to hide behind some bushes.

Here's where it gets really good.  In 2005, when Wright's book was first released, and had not yet achieved NYT bestseller status, he found himself downsized at work and a bit financially strapped.  It was at that moment when someone anonymously left Wright and his family their very own Christmas jar.  The tradition had gone full circle.  How beautiful is that?

It may not seem like much, but as you will read from the testimonies, a Christmas jar can be miraculous to the one needing a miracle, or a reminder that they are seen and loved.  I am filling my own jar of coins even as we speak.  On Christmas Eve, I plan to leave someone a little bit of tender loving kindness.  For what are the holidays if not a time to be a messenger of hope and light?











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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

How to Prep and Store Organic Raspberries to Keep Them Fresh Longer

For the past year or more, I've been on a quest to find a way to prolong the time I can refrigerate fresh raspberries before they go bad. A few weeks ago, after extensive research and numerous failed experiments, I finally succeeded! In this review, I’ll share the preparation and storage method I developed that allows me to store fresh berries in the refrigerator successfully for days longer than any other method I tried.
The method I developed for prolonging the storage of ultra-perishable organic raspberries
was a labor of love that took more than a year of research and experimenting!

Organic Raspberries Are Extremely Perishable

Fresh berries are one of nature’s most delicious treats. Unfortunately, they don’t keep long in the refrigerator, especially the ones that you buy in a store rather than from a local farm stand. I try to buy mostly organic produce these days, and organic berries have even shorter lifespans than their conventionally grown counterparts. In fact, during the winter, many of the organic raspberries we get here in Boston are imported from Mexico, and after such a long journey, they rarely last more than a day, if that! That’s a waste of both food and money.

I adore organic raspberries and started eating them every week when I switched to a very low carb / keto lifestyle. That's when my search to find a way to prolong their edible life became a much higher priority.

My extensive online research produced lots of information and advice from reliable sources. Unfortunately, much of it was conflicting. Most sources advised not rinsing fresh raspberries until just before eating them. Some suggested soaking the berries in a vinegar and water solution immediately after buying them, then rinsing, drying and storing them. I remembered and looked up a 2015 article by my friend Grace who, after doing her own online research, developed a similar method for prepping and storing most types of produce that includes a 10-minute soak in a saltwater solution, followed by a 10-minute soak in a vinegar-water bath.

I tried them all. Many, many berries were sacrificed on the alter of my research! Unfortunately, none of the methods I tried succeeded in extending the storage life of my beloved organic raspberries. Nonetheless, I was determined to find a solution that would keep them going bad within a day or two of bringing them home.

Through Trial and Error, I Eventually Worked Out My Own Method for Storing Organic Raspberries Successfully for Several Extra Days

Undaunted (well, sort of), I started combining various aspects of some of the prior experiments. After each new experiment, I analyzed the results and tweaked the process for the next attempt. After a few more months, my stubbornness persistence finally paid off!

The prep work needs to start the minute the raspberries are brought home. After discarding any mushy ones, any remaining berries that have softened a bit are set aside to be eaten the same day. The rest get a brief saltwater bath, followed by a brief vinegar and water bath. The berries stay in each solutions for only 2-3 minutes, a much briefer soak than in any of the other methods I tested.

Next, they are rinsed, drained, and sorted further based on their firmness. Then they are set on a paper towel-covered cooling rack(s) for several hours to dry out thoroughly. As far as I know, mine is the first method to use this multi-hour drying time - an idea that turned out to be a game-changer in my experiments!

The storage method turned out to be as important as the prep process. Lining my storage container with two to three layers of paper towel was a step in the right direction, but not enough to slow down the berries' deterioration significantly.

The last piece of the puzzle fell into place when I stopped layering the berries between paper towels in a sealed storage container before refrigerating them. After another series of experiments and tweaks, eventually I was able to prolong the storage time by another 1-2 days by switching to a large, shallow storage container and storing the berries face down in a single layer, spaced apart so they didn't touch, and letting the lid rest on top of the container instead of sealing it.

Now My Organic Raspberries Remain Good for 5 or 6 Days!

Since I don't drive and I need to ask my husband to replenish my supply each week, my goal was to be able to have him buy me two 6-ounce containers of organic raspberries and keep them fresh for three to four days in the refrigerator. But once I started to make significant progress with my experiments, I raised my sights on a more ambitious goal.

Once I started experimenting with significantly longer drying times, my results improved dramatically! Obviously, how long fresh berries will keep depends on their condition when they are purchased. (Don't you hate not being able to see the berries at the bottom of the container, which are the most likely to be damaged or moldy, because they're hidden by the absorbent pad?)

After another month or two of trial-and-error, I finally achieved my new "stretch" goal: figuring out a way to prep and store three 6-oz. containers (18 ounces) of organic fresh raspberries so they stay fresh for 5 days. In fact, when I've been able to get a container of berries that are very fresh, firm, and unbruised, I've been able to prep them, store them in the refrigerator, and enjoy them for as long as 6 days!

A discovery like this is too good not to share. So, if you want to try my method for yourself, read on.

How to Prep and Store Organic Raspberries So They Stay Fresh Longer: Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Gather your tools and supplies.

Some of the supplies for prepping organic raspberries
to help them last up to 5 days (or even longer) in the refrigerator
Here's what you'll need:
  • Fresh organic raspberries (or any other type of berry, organic or conventionally grown)
  • A small bowl
  • A medium-to-large mixing bowl
  • A large slotted spoon
  • Water
  • Table salt or sea salt
  • A timer (after trying out many different brands and models, this simple, inexpensive, and accurate kitchen timer is definitely my favorite, thanks to the intuitive buttons, a large, easy-to-read display, and a ring loud enough to be heard from another room!)
  • Easy access to the kitchen sink (preferably with a sprayer-type faucet)
  • A roll of paper towels, preferably with closer perforation lines (like these Bounty Quick-Size Paper Towels) that let you tear off only the length you need
  • Shallow food storage containers with lids - one large and one medium sized
  • Optional: Paper clips
  • Optional: FreshPaper Food Saver Sheets
*Heinz All-Natural Distilled White Vinegar is one of the few white vinegars that aren't made with petroleum (yuck!). It's made from grain, which could be GMO, of course, but since it's a choice of that or a petroleum-based product, I'll stick with the former. Since I use a significant amount of it for prepping my raspberries, making my sugar-free pickling brine for my refrigerator pickles, and diluting it 50/50 with water to make a non-toxic kitchen surface cleaner/degreaser spray, I sometimes buy it in the large, 1.32-gallon economy size jug.

Step 2: Pick through the berries.

Carefully transfer them from their containers and spread them out in a single layer.

Pick through the berries, throwing out any that were damaged and setting aside any that need to be eaten that day rather than stored.

Then gently place the remaining berries in the small bowl.

Step 3: Soak them briefly in heavily salted water and rinse.

Fill the mixing bowl partway with enough water to just cover the berries. (You'll quickly learn eyeball the amount of water based on the volume of berries you're prepping.) Add about 3 tablespoons of table salt or sea salt and stir to dissolve.
Preparing the saltwater bath for the berries
Set the timer for 2 minutes, but don't start it yet. Adjust the "arms" of the colander so it rests on the edges of the sink. (Alternatively, place a traditional, small-holed colander over another mixing bowl, resting it on the lip of the bowl to elevate it for better drainage.)

Hold the bowl of raspberries just above the surface of the liquid in the mixing bowl, then tip them into the salty water. Start the timer.

Give them a brief, gentle stir so all sides of every berry come into contact with the saltwater solution, then stir them gently again after a minute.

As soon as the timer alarm goes off, use the large slotted spoon to lift the berries out of the water and place them into the over-the-sink colander so they are spread out over the entire surface of the colander. (Try to avoid piling the berries on top of each other, which can bruise the ones underneath.)

Run the cold water faucet and use the sprayer to quickly and gently rinse the berries in the colander. Leave them to drain while you empty and rinse the mixing bowl.
Keep the water pressure gentle to avoid bruising the berries!
Tip: The less you handle the berries and the more gently you treat them, the longer they'll keep!

Step 4: Repeat, using a vinegar and water solution this time.

Refill the mixing bowl to the same level as before, this time substituting a mixture of roughly 3 parts cold water to 1 part all-natural white vinegar. (As an example, to make 2 cups of the vinegar solution, you would mix 1-1/2 cups of water with 1/2 cup of all-natural white vinegar.)

Gently tip the rinsed and drained raspberries from the colander into the vinegar solution in the bowl, then give them a gentle swish, soak, rinse and drain as you did in Step 3.

Gently spread them out on a double thickness of paper towels to absorb more of the water, turning them so the holes face down so any remaining water inside the berries can drain.

Step 5: Sort the raspberries according to firmness and let them dry for at least 3-4 hours (even overnight, if necessary).

Line the gridded baking rack(s) with three layers of paper toweling. Transfer the berries to the racks, one at a time, keeping them face-down and spacing them slightly apart so they don't touch their neighbors. Sort the berries into two groups as you do this, placing the firmest berries to one side of the rack (or on a different rack) and the softer berries to the other side.
Leave the raspberries on the rack until they are firm and the surface is very dry


Set the racks on the counter and set the timer for 1 hour. When it rings, use the lightest touch and the least amount of pressure possible to slowly and gently roll each berry onto its side and separate it from the paper towel, then return it to the rack. (If you don't do this, or if you wait too long, the berries can stick to the paper towel as they dry, making it difficult to remove them without rupturing the surface at the sticking point. Voice of experience here, lol!) After you roll and lift off each berry, check for any leaked juice stains and, if necessary, move it to another spot where the paper towel is clean and dry.

Leave the racks out on the counter for at least 3 to 4 hours, preferably longer, until the surface of the berries has dried out a bit and they feel firmer than they were prior to their brief saltwater and vinegar solution baths.

Letting the surface of the berries dry out enough before refrigerating them is key to extending their storage time. I've even left them out overnight a couple of times, when they hadn't firmed up sufficiently after 4 hours on the paper towel-topped racks.

Step 6: Prep the storage containers and refrigerate the berries.

The raspberries in the measuring cup were set aside to eat that night.
The ones in the containers are prepped and ready to be stored in the fridge.
Line both food storage containers with a double or triple thickness of paper towel, folding it neatly at the corners so the bottom to create a paper "tray" that fits perfectly flush against the sides and bottom of the container's interior. Holding four corner folds in place with paperclips helps keep the bottom of this liner flat and the sides at a 90-degree angle, which prevents that berries placed along the edges from tipping over and rolling toward the center.

When the berries have dried out sufficiently on the surface and are firmer to the touch than when you brought them home, place the less firm berries into the medium-size container, face down and spaced slightly apart. Then repeat with the remaining berries and the larger container.

Place the filled containers in the refrigerator, then lay the lids lightly on top of them and slightly askew, keeping the berries exposed to a small amount of air during their cold storage to help maintain their firmness. For the same reason, don't place anything on top of the lids.

Prepped raspberries in food storage containers with their lids askew
so the air can continue to circulate throughout the cold storage period 
Note: Moisture is raspberries' sworn enemy. So, before I made my multi-hour surface drying and unsealed lid breakthrough discoveries, I used to place a FreshPaper Food Saver Sheet inside each storage container before sealing the lids. Although the packaging says they can be reused for up to 2 weeks before tossing them, I found that the FreshPaper sheets absorbed so much moisture inside the sealed containers that I had to take them out and let them dry every other day. Now, I use them only when I get a container of out-of-season berries that are too soft to firm up even after leaving them out to dry overnight (although in that situation, being able to store them successfully for more than a day or two is unlikely). If you'd like too try a package, I got mine as part of a Whole Foods Market grocery delivery via Prime Now, a local shopping service that's free for Amazon Prime members.

Step 7: Eating the Raspberries

When you're ready for some fresh berries, simply remove as many as you want from the container and dig in. No need to rinse them again - they're ready-to-eat!

Store-bought, organic raspberries - still tasty (and not mushy)
even after they were stored in the refrigerator for 6 days!
Before you return the uneaten berries to the fridge, check that they are still standing up and spaced apart inside the storage container, then place the lid lightly on top.

Remember to eat the berries in the medium-sized storage container first, before starting in on the large container last.

Future Experiments

Over time, I've been swapping more and more single-use, disposable paper and plastic products for more eco-friendly, reusable alternatives. So, while this method works remarkably well for me, I'm troubled by how many paper towels it requires.

I could (and eventually might) substitute a dedicated set of cloth dish towels for draining and drying out the berries and cutting some to size for lining the storage containers. But since our bathroom towel racks are filled with towels and we have nowhere else to hang hand-laundered items to dry, hand-washing a bunch of berry-stained towels once or twice a week isn't in the cards. I'd be concerned about throwing the berry-stained towels into the washing machine with a regular laundry load because the dried berry juice might tint the water pink and ruin everything else in the washer. Running the machine with just the towels would be a waste of water and electricity.

I tried drying the berries directly on cooling racks with a grid design, but the openings were too large and many of the berries fell through.

I'm still hoping to come up with a way to reduce or eliminate paper towels from my process. At some point, I want to buy a couple of largish sheets of food-grade, stainless steel mesh and fold the edges down to make a drying tray. If I can figure out the right mesh to let the raspberries dry out over a period of hours without sticking to the metal, that might be a good solution.



How to Prep and Store Organic Raspberries to Keep Them Fresh Longer reviewed by:
Margaret Schindel








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