Sunday, March 31, 2019

Greenworks Blower Reviewed

Let the Spring Clean Up begin! Tidy up the yard, the  porch, the lawn and the garage in minutes with the Greenworks Single Amp Electric 160 mph Blower.

Greenworks blower

Easy To Use

Very easy to use with a one touch control. The Greenworks blower was ordered with Amazon Prime and arrived in two pieces. Simply snap in piece A to piece B and the assembly is complete in under one minute.
The cord is adequate, but more than likely an extension cord rated for outdoor use will be necessary depending upon the location of the electrical outlet. I highly prefer a lightweight blower with an extension cord versus a heavier cordless model.

Power

The Greenworks Blower has plenty of power for blowing leaves off the deck, the front porch and off the driveway. It provides enough power for a light Fall or Spring clean up for a small yard or between visits by a lawn service if the area is full of trees.

Trees drop their leaves in our area from September through November and last year we were buried in leaves between the last lawn mowing and the Fall Clean Up. The blower was a great convenience to blow a path on the driveway until the Fall Clean Up was completed.

Light!

The Greenworks 160 MOH Blower weighs in at a nice and light 5.6 pounds. Light enough to generate the power needed with the maneuverability necessary to aim the blower at its' target(s) without shoulder and arm fatigue.

Dust Off The Car Inside And Out!

This is not my original idea which begged me to ask myself, "Why didn't I think of that!" It is a little leaf blower hack that works great!

My friend mentioned to me when the Fall weather started to worsen and the outdoors was not conducive to car washing. Use the leaf blower to dust out the interior of the car. Yes!
Simply open all four doors and remove any objects in the car that are NOT to be blown onto the driveway or the garage.

Point the handy dandy Greenworks blower to the interior of the car and blow out all the dust! It works! Fabulously! Three minutes and the dust and debris from the interior of the car is gone.
This was a great hack for the middle of winter to freshen up the car in the throes of salt and winter weather.

Recommendation

I highly recommend the Greenworks blower if a lightweight blower is necessary for the health of your shoulders and arms. The blower has come in very handy and is one of my favorite home purchases. This Spring the blower has already used for a car dust off, driveway clean up, garage clean up, porch dust off and cobweb clean out.




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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Review of Stouffer's Escalloped Chicken and Noodles


I remember being introduced to Stouffer's Frozen Foods as a teenager in the 1950s when my Uncle Pete went to work for them in Cleveland (the home base of the company).  Frozen foods were fairly new to us at the time and my parents found them to be very handy for quick dinners after working all day.

I found the Stouffer's meals delicious and, as a result, I have been a fan of them ever since. I have tried a large variety of frozen dinners over the years, but none as good as Stouffer's. 


Stouffer's Escalloped Chicken and Noodles


My very favorite is Stouffer's Escalloped Chicken and Noodles, a hearty combination of white meat chicken, egg noodles, mushrooms, celery, carrots and peas in a creamy sauce




Old-Fashioned Home-Cooked Escalloped Chicken Recipe


(c) Elf
An old-fashioned 'from-scratch' recipe for Escalloped Chicken comes from the Garden City Cookbook (Centennial Edition) published in 1979 by The Community Church

My in-laws lived in Garden City, Kansas and this cookbook was compiled by church members to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the first church in Garden City and dedicated to all of the brave pioneers who in 1879 organized the First Congregational Church in town. First published in 1908 and revised and re-published in 1930, this cookbook is the 1979 edition.

The recipes contained in this Garden City Cookbook were favorites of current church members, many of which were passed down from generation to generation. 


Aunt Alta's Escalloped Chicken


INGREDIENTS:

1 can mushrooms
1 (4-5 lb.) stewing hen or large fryer
Salt
Celery Salt
Paprika
2 c. fine cracker crumbs
1 recipe of white sauce

WHITE SAUCE:

4 T. chicken fat or butter or oleo
3 heaping T. flour
Broth from chicken and juice from mushrooms
1 c. milk or cream

INSTRUCTIONS:

Boil and then simmer hen until tender and done.  Take meat from the bone and cut in small pieces about ¾-inch long. 

Make medium white sauce.  Put layer of cracker crumbs in flat pan and then a layer of chicken and mushrooms. Season to taste with salt, red pepper and celery salt. Pour almost half the sauce over this and make another layer of each. Pour remaining sauce over this and sprinkle cracker crumbs on top and a little paprika. Bake 450◦ for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the depth of the pan.

*Author's Note: This 'from-scratch' Escalloped Chicken recipe does not call for noodles, but I imagine noodles could be added or even served on the side or spoon the dish over cooked  noodles.  If you choose to use cream instead of milk, you will find that the dish is very rich. Yum.

Additional Notes:


Source: Pixabay
This long-ago 'from-scratch recipe is a bit amusing to read, especially the parts about the 'chicken fat' and referring to the chicken as a 'stewing hen'. These are terms we don't use much today. Garden City, Kansas, back in the day, was primarily a farm-based small town in western Kansas, so I can imagine many of the 'stewing hens' were raised by the farmers for their own use. If you were to ask today's 'kids' about where chickens come from, they'd no doubt say “the grocery store” (unless they are farm kids). 


Summary


If you want to make your own homemade escalloped chicken, try this old-fashioned recipe in this article.  

Or try the one I found online on the Go, Go, Go Gourmet blog for a homemade recipe that duplicates the Stouffer's dish called Stouffers Copycat Escalloped Chicken and Noodles.

When you want the same as a quick, and delicious, dish, use Stouffer's  Escalloped Chicken and Noodles.

For quick, yet tasty, dishes with a wide variety of choices, give Stouffer's Frozen Meals a try.


Happy Eating












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Review & Recipe by (c) Wednesday Elf 3/23/2019





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Friday, March 29, 2019

Needle Minders for Needlework & Sewing Enthusiasts Reviewed

Needle Minders for Needlework & Sewing Enthusiasts
A few years ago, I was gifted with a beautiful needle minder.  At the time, I had no idea what a needle minder was, but I quickly learned what a fabulous aid a needle minder can be for those of us who love to sew and do needlework.

The best description of a "needle minder" that I can think of would be to refer to it as a needle magnet that attracts and holds needles.  

I couldn't begin to guess at how many needles I have dropped, and lost, over the years.  I have even been know to wash them simply because they were attached to a blouse I was wearing while sewing.  Let's face it, when we sew, we get interrupted.  The needle is stuck quickly into "something".  We may not get back to our work within the hour, or even on the same day and we have totally forgotten what we did with our needle.

Therefore, I now consider a needle minder an essential sewing & needlework tool. 


My Needle Minder


Needle Minders for Needlework & Sewing Enthusiasts Reviewed
My needle minder is a lovely mouse, which is totally appropriate to me.  Clearly, the gift giver knew me well.  

When I am sitting behind the sewing machine, I attach my needle minder to my shirt like a brooch.  When I am cross stitching, I attach it to the aida cloth itself.  

Magnetic needle minders do not damage clothing or fabrics.  They are ingenious designs with a strong magnet that holds the needle minder from the back side.  

The magnet "attracts" needles and holds them for us.  When we return to our work, we know exactly where to look for our needles. So much better than randomly poking them somewhere and finding them later, often by surprise, when they stick you.  

I am currently working on a cross stitch design that requires dozens of different floss colors.  I frequently thread several needles in different colors so I can continue cross stitching without having to change the floss on one needle too often.  As you can see in the photo, my mouse needle minder hangs onto the multiple needles nicely, and all in one place.


Needle Minders Available Online


There are several places online that offer needle minders.  I happen to know that mine came from True North Needleminders on Etsy because it arrived attached to the store's business card.  She has a large variety of choices available so you can select the character that best reflects your preferences and personality.

Here are a few that are currently available at True North Needleminders, but you can click the store link above to see the entire collection. 

I can tell you from experience, they make awesome gifts for needlework and sewing enthusiasts.  I am most grateful to Olivia for giving me mine.



 

 

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More Gift Ideas for Needlework & Sewing Enthusiasts


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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Reviewing Crystal Photography Ball


For Christmas, I received a Crystal Photography Ball.  These balls have become quite popular with photographers and  I was anxious to get one and try it out.  The great thing about these balls is that they are a fun way to try different techniques with your photography no matter what type of camera you use.  When I got mine for Christmas my  nephew tried it out with his iPhone with wonderful results.  So whether you use a DSLR, a mirrorless camera, a point and shoot or even a camera phone try out a photography ball to add some new interest to your photos.

Taking Photos with a Crystal Photography Ball

I have found that it takes a bit of practice to get used to shooting with the photography ball, but with a bit of practice you can get some interesting shots.

Here are a few tips that may  help you.

  • Try using a wide angle lens and get close to the ball.
  • For landscapes you may want to try a zoom lens.
  • Be sure to focus on the image in the ball
  • Be careful not to use the ball too long in bright sunlight...you could get burned from the reflection.
  • Take care to keep your  ball free of fingerprints.  Bring a cleaning cloth with you.
  • There are lots of tutorials on You Tube.  Take a look at a few to get additional ideas.



Editing Photos

One of the first things you will notice when  you look at the photos you have taken is that the image in the ball is upside down.  There are several things you can do in editing to correct this.

  • The easiest solution is to simply flip the entire image as you can see I have done in this image.  This works particularly well when the background is blurry and you have lights in the background.  Here is one of my first photos with the photography ball.

  • Another solution would be to add a textured background to the photo.  I did that in the photo at the beginning of this post, where I added a fire background to the candle in the ball.
  • A third solution is to flip just the ball in Photoshop or a similar program.  I have not quite mastered that technique yet, but you can find lots of videos on YouTube to take you through that process.


Some of My Favorite Crystal Ball Images

Here are a few more images I have taken with my crystal ball. These are some that I took while on a trip to Jupiter, Florida.  I still have a lot to learn, but I love the challenge.




Purchasing a Photography Ball

A crystal photography ball can be rather inexpensive.  Here is one like the one I have with a clear stand and a pouch to keep it.
                                                             


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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

What You Need to Know about Basic Birdhouse Construction

birdhouses, building birdhouses, learning about birds

Basic Birdhouse Construction, What you Need to Know.


For years I have built birdhouses for friends and family and for myself.  Why?  Well let's just put it this way, I love my garden and I love nature.  When I'm working outdoors there is nothing more special than being able to watch the birds and the bees while taking a short break.

To say that I enjoy their antics would be an understatement.  You will find me out in the garden at almost any hour of the day, just to see what there is to see.  Most of the time it is the birds and the insects that I purposely attract to my garden that give me the thrills of the day.  And because I love them so much, I want my friends to enjoy them that much too!

I want to focus on birdhouses in this review, because, while everyone loves birds, enticing them into your garden is a special thrill!   Seeing them rear their babies is even more fun.  If you have children or grandchildren, it is also a wonderful time to teach them some nature lessons and life lessons too.


Birdhouse Basics

If you have a yard, you have a great place to start.  Flowers, shrubs and a tree or two would be ideal as well.  A water source or a bird bath will surely entice some lovely feathered friends to come for a visit.  After that, if you want to build some birdhouses, that will help them to target you for their next place to live!

It is said that if you build it, they will come! (Taken from the movie ............The Field of Dreams.)  This may be true for birdhouses and it may not be true.  Some birds really don't care what their homes look like, but they are particular about the size and the placement.  Other birds will readily nest in any dry and sheltered spot, Robins in particular will nest in a dry space and not really need or want a birdhouse.

If you are hoping to attract certain kinds of birds to your yard, you need to build a house that they will really like.

Placement of that birdhouse will also be important.  Some birds require homes set at a certain height and proximity to other essentials  for their welfare.  Water and food sources being the most important ones.

Some birds are solitary nesters and others need to live in community.  So again depending on the birds you want to attract, you will need to take these things into consideration as well.

I have found this book on Amazon will help you build birdhouses, but also takes into account each different species likes and dislikes.  Working with an ornithologist, these plans have been made for specific birds.  It doesn't help you to build a house that no one wants to occupy.  So build something that you know they will appreciate and you will be rewarded with the lovely sounds of birds thanking you.


Here you will find plans to make up to 19 different types of birdhouses. Each one can be executed by the novice as well as the expert woodworker. These are great projects for Moms and Dads to make with their children.  The basic houses are wooden and can be left plain or dressed up with colors.

Three things that you should never do!

While we are on the subject of attracting birds to your garden, I want to make absolutely sure that you don't do these things:
  1. DO NOT put out lengths of yarn for birds to use as nesting material.  
  2. DO NOT put out dryer lint for the birds
  3. DO NOT put out pet hair for their use either.
You may ask WHY NOT!
Here are the reasons,  yarn, unless it is cut up into tiny (less than an inch long) pieces, can actually act as a noose that works it's way around baby birds necks.  When they try to fly out of the nest, they strangle.  Birds are used to  scavenging for nesting materials and they know what they want in there.  If you feel inclined to help them, rake up your grass and leave little piles of dried grass for them to find.  

Dryer lint is also a definite no-no.  Most people use fabric softeners of some sort with  their dryers and the chemicals in those sheets or liquids also ends up in the lint.  These chemicals may harm the babies either by contact, or by ingestion.  Don't do it!

Pet Fur is also a no-no.  If your pet is taking medications, or you use flea powders or flea shampoos on them, their fur is also "contaminated".  Baby birds are naked (just like human babies) when they are born.  Anything that cause a reaction to their tender little bodies should be avoided at all costs.
birdhouses, building birdhouses, watching nature
Naked baby birds!


It would be much better for you to spend your time reading a little about what they would appreciate and then building a nice house for them to enjoy.  The most perfect part of this whole idea is that you will build one house, but that two families will get to enjoy it.  The bird family and your family too!

More about Birds from the writers at Review This Reviews:


You can read more about the life cycle of a Robin at Tracey's Review of that incredible sight at her home.
Birdwatching and Photography go hand in hand.  One of Review This Reviews writers, Mary Beth Granger, has shown and taught us how to capture some beautiful pictures of the birds in her area. If you love Bluebirds you can read up right here!  Or if Woodpeckers tickle your fancy, you can check out some great pictures and facts Review of Woodpecker Facts and Photography 





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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Black Butterfly Movie Reviewed

Movie Full of Suspense

Black Butterfly Tattoo courtesy of pixabay.com
A few weeks ago, I watched the movie Black Butterfly after it was recommended to me by my daughter. Let me just say that I was not disappointed.

One of the first reasons that my interest was piqued was that Antonio Banderas was one of the leads in the movie. I can't remember ever not enjoying any character that he has played. Good guy or bad guy, I like his portrayals. Besides, he isn't hard to look at either!

My daughter didn't give me many clues as to why she thought that I would enjoy the movie. Her comment was just that she was pretty sure that I wold enjoy it. Since we often like the same films and books, I took her advice and streamed it one Saturday night.

Banderas plays a writer who is struggling with writer's block while he tries to create a career saving screenplay. He has had some success in the past but not recently. In the beginning of the movie we see him at a typewriter typing the words I'm stuck several times. Being a writer, myself, I could relate to that frustration. He lives alone in Colorado in a pretty secluded area. His money is running out so he is trying to sell his property as quickly as possible while working on the story that just won't come to him. 

After a chance encounter with a drifter one day, he invites the stranger to his cabin for a meal and a night's stay. Knowing that the man needs some money to continue his travels, Paul (Banderas) offers Jack (the drifter) a few odd jobs to do before he goes on his way. The relationship gets quirky pretty quickly. 

There have been a series of abductions and murders near where Paul lives and it doesn't take him long to suspect that Jack may have something to do with it. Jack is a pretty edgy guy confronting Paul about his writing and his drinking.

I won't go much further than this little narrative because I don't want to give anything away. I can't tell you how many times that I thought that I had the plot figured out. I love when a story either in movie or book form keeps me guessing. Black Butterfly has several twists and turns to keep the viewer interested. The ending blew me away! It looked as if it was ending one way only to twist one more time. I loved it!

If you are looking for a movie that will grab your attention and keep it until the end, I highly recommend this one. I don't think that you will be disappointed.



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Monday, March 25, 2019

Book Review: Down Bohicket Road: An Artist's Journey

Artist Mary Whyte
Down Bohicket Road: An Artist's Journey is a collection of exquisite watercolor paintings by Mary Whyte and excerpts from her book Alfreda's World. The combination of stories and portraits of the Gullah women and girls of John's Island moved me to tears at one point. 

My opinion is that women are generally cruel to other women. We are judgemental based on looks, culture, race, religion, and other differences. We tend to exclude women who don't fit in our group. This book is a gentle and beautiful display of women who accept, love, and nurture other women - transcending all of the wrong lessons we are taught as girls. 


Artist Mary Whyte 


Mary Whyte is a talented watercolor artist who was raised in a typical segregated, rural, white home of the 50s and 60s. Her exposure to people of color included the attendants in the private club her family belonged to and the man who cleaned their 12 acre property two times a year. 


Down Bohicket Road: An Artist's Journey
As an extremely brief summary, Mary grew up to be a painter, wife, and cancer survivor. She and her husband owned an art gallery in Philadelphia during her battle with cancer. They decide to relocate to Charleston, South Carolina. Even though Mary had planned on painting beach scenes and children on those beaches her focus quickly became painting the amazing Gullah women of Hebron St. Francis Senior Center.


"While the words here may reveal some of their character, I hope that my paintings and sketches more closely capture the lilt of their voices, the heat of the kitchen, and their fierce love of God."  - Mary Whyte



The Gullah Women and Girls of Johns Island


Years ago I saw a random, short video clip of a Gullah parade, funeral, or celebration. I wasn't sure what it was but I was immediately interested in learning a bit more about that culture. Which is how I learned about Mary Whyte's amazing watercolor portrayals of Gullah women.

I will probably never be able to afford a Mary Whyte painting (original or reproduction) so I recently bought this hardcover book for the collection of paintings. Little did I know that the story behind the paintings was just as beautiful.

When Mary Whyte, a privileged white woman, arrived in their community the Gullah women of Hebron St. Francis Senior Center immediately took her in. They fed her, loved her, and added her to their family. Nevermind that these women had no material wealth, some had been impacted by hurricane Hugo, and most (if not all; I'm still learning) descended from lowcountry slaves.

These women welcomed her into their weekly Wednesday gatherings; quilting, eating, and worship. They posed for her paintings. And she portrayed them with the light in their eyes shining through.

When asked what Ms. Alfreda thought of Mary the first time they met, her answer moved me to tears:
"Here was this skinny, kind of pitiful white girl comin' in, not knowin' where she was goin' or what she was looking for, and definitely in need of some love..." 

I'll leave the rest of it for you to read in context of the story. I think it will be better that way. 

I will say that I don't know if Mary and her husband knew what they were looking for when they moved to South Carolina following that year of cancer treatment. But I don't imagine they had any idea they'd find someone like Ms. Alfreda and the other women of Johns Island.





This book is a gentle weaving of memories and paintings, descriptions of ordinary lives, and examples of extraordinary love and acceptance. This is not a hit-you-over-the-head social commentary even though it is a powerful example of how women should love and care for each other during the "little biddy amount of time" we have on this earth.


"All royalties from the sale of this book benefit the Hebron St. Francis Senior Center on Johns Island, South Carolina."  - from the backflap of Down Bohicket Road



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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Blue Shoe Guys Disposable Shoe Covers Reviewed

Weather is a challenge! It is raining,it is pouring, it is still snowing and welcome to Spring! Spring in the northern midwest can wreak havoc on your lawn, carpet and landscaping. Last year after a particularly challenging and wet Spring I purchased Blue Shoe Guys Disposable Shoe Covers and it was one of the best purchases of the year.
blue disposable shoe cover

What Are Blue Shoe Guys Disposable Shoe Covers?

Yes, the name is self explanatory. Strong, resilient, convenient and disposable paper shoe covers once associated with the the blue shoe covers seen in the hospital or on the shoes of the plumber or the cable television technician visiting on a service call.

The shoe covers have migrated to the mainstream and are an affordable and extremely easy way to protect carpet, hardwood floors, tiling and automobile carpet from the elements all with the flick of the shoe cover.

Shoe Covers For Fall And Spring

Four letters in this area describes the grass, mulch and landscaping with Spring and Fall ... mush!
Spring is a combination of snow melt, rain, more snow, more rain and so it goes through May. Fall brings the opposite of rain into snow, add another dose of rain plus a nice dollop of clay soil and the lawn and landscaping are soggy!

Uses For Blue Shoe Guys Shoe Covers

Saves The Carpet & Floor

I originally purchased the shoe covers as a landscaping required many trips touring the yard in wet, mushy conditions. Loved the convenience of quickly putting on the shoe covers to run in and out of the house without bringing in wet mulch, mud, grass clippings.

The shoe covers are a carpet saver for light colored carpets!


Dogs  

(Do dogs on outdoor leads only get the lead tangled in bad weather?) The shoe covers are perfect to pop on to head outside to retrieve the dog and just as easily pop off when entering the home. There seems to be a direct correlation the dog will go out on its'lead and seek and find the one lone branch to create the dog/lead/fallen branch tangle.

Guests/Visitor

So easy to have shoe covers available for service techs or guests who pop in during in climate weather when light colored carpet is a concern. It's not unusual for guests to carry a spare pair of shoes when visiting during the winter as no guest wants to track winter into your home. The shoe covers are great to have on hand when the guest forgets their spare pair of shoes and the guests are so thankful they don't have to walk around the house in stocking feet.

Car

Tuck a pair or two into your car for emergencies! I've been grateful more than once to have a pair handy for an unexpected muddy park to walk the dog or visiting a friend in the winter where I am the guest who forgot the spare pair of shoes (see above!)

Not Just For Shoes

The shoe covers are very flexible and forgiving in size. I've used the covers for any size and type of shoe or boot from the slimmest shoe to the very sturdy and very wide fuzzy winter boot.

Recommendation

I highly recommend the Blue Shoe Guys Disposable Shoe Covers! One pack contains 100 shoe covers which is more than ample for a home with a few extras to tuck into your car, briefcase or garage.


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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Girls Night Out - A Novel

Girls Night Out - A Novel of friendship, lies and resentment
Girls Night Out - A Novel
Today's review is about a book by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, Girls Night Out takes place in Mexico where 3 estranged friends (Ashley, Natalie & Lauren) are having a girls getaway to heal old wounds.

Of course the wounds can't be healed quickly or there would be no book to read! We find out gradually the reason behind the rifts between all three friends as the book progresses.

The chapters show the events from the different girl's perspectives and are titled - The Day After, Natalie or Three Days Before, Ashley.

The book begins with Natalie waking up in wet clothes on the beach and feeling very hazy about the night before which had been their girls night before they were due to head home. Going back to the room she'd been sharing with Ashley there's no sign of her. Lauren also hasn't seen or heard from Ashley since the night before, Natalie can't remember what happened that night except for fragmented pieces and so the mystery is set up.

As the book weaves through the trip we find that none of the girls have been completely honest with each other and the secrets and resentments come through as we hear their stories.

What happened to Ashley? You'll have to read the whole book to find out, but I do have to say when we finally get there, it was totally not what I thought it was going to be.

If you like a bit of a mystery and sifting through women's relationships then you may enjoy this book. I have to be honest and say that I didn't find any of the characters to be very likable, this may have been deliberate, but it did really highlight how some friendships can become toxic over time. 

Even though I didn't particularly like the three ladies, I still couldn't stop reading the book until I had finished it as I needed to know what had happened!

I read this book as a free book through my Amazon Prime membership and if you enjoy reading and watching movies/television shows (such as Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan and The Widow) then you should really consider getting Prime. I also notice that it is one of the free books available on audible which is something I have been considering getting.


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Friday, March 22, 2019

The Interlude by Lin Stepp Reviewed

The Interlude by Lin Stepp Reviewed
Definition of Interlude: an intervening episode, period, space, etc.  

Everyone has times in our lives when we need a break from work and responsibility, especially when we are grieving.  Therefore, most of us can identify with Mallory Wingate as she seeks a refuge of peace in The Interlude.

The story takes place in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, which is the perfect place for respite and recovery.  I know from my own experience that the Smoky Mountains are a little piece of heaven here on earth. 


Synopsis of The Interlude


 The InterludeCheck PriceMallory has spent the last few years working full-time and also caring for her terminally ill mother.  When her mother dies, Mallory has an emotional breakdown at work.  Her concerned boss insists that she take time off, so Mallory returns to the one place where she has always found love and care, her grandparents home.

On the plane, a handsome man is seated next to her, but Mallory prefers to be left alone.  However, Lucas James is intent on engaging Mallory in conversation.  He even invites her to join him for dinner during the layover between flights.  What seems like a casual meeting and flirtation when traveling, actually takes on a totally different significance when the two passengers find their destination is exactly the same place, her grandparents home and resort.  

Mallory is slightly embarrassed to find out that Lucas is the pro-golf instructor at the resort.  Lucas is shocked to discover that Mallory is actually his employers granddaughter.  Both would prefer to keep their "interlude" a secret between just the two of them.  Both have their own issues and baggage that keeps them from desiring a romantic relationship.  

One of the things I found most interesting about this book was how the author showed us just how easy it is to say something hurtful to someone else without realizing, or even intending, to cause pain.  Most likely, we have all experienced that to some degree in our own lives, but seeing it written so vividly in the context of a conversation in a book, really can be eye-opening.  A promising friendship, or relationship, can be irreparably fractured by careless words and assumptions.


My Copy of the Book, The Interlude


I would like to thank the author, Lin Stepp, for gifting me with an advance copy of "The Interlude".  That gave me the opportunity to read and review it before the actual release date.  You will definitely want to grab your copy of this wonderful book today and start reading as soon as possible.

  


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Thursday, March 21, 2019

DIY Pallet Book Nook - Part One

Pallet Wood Feature Wall and Window Seat
When I purchased my current country home, many of the features that most appealed to me were the quirky, whimsical touches that made it so unlike all of the other cookie-cutter properties.  After moving in, though, I discovered a few things that were just a little too different for my taste.  Still, in renovating those oddities, I wanted to remain true to what had drawn me to this house in the first place: the use of character wood (weathered wood that captures your imagination).

In today's post, I am sharing part one of a two-part series focused on creating a DIY pallet book nook from a previously unused space in my upstairs bedroom.  We will start with the woodworking elements of the project and then finish with handcrafted decorating touches (a homemade cushion, pillows, rug, and other decor to cozy up the space).

Because I have poured so much of myself into my master bedroom renovations, it has become my favorite room in the entire house.  One last improvement remained to make this space visually and functionally cohesive.  There was a funky "hallway" in the room that housed my exercise bike (because it didn't lend itself to much else).  The thing that really bugged me about that long, narrow space was a weird, uneven application of drywall.  I couldn't knock that wall down because it housed my closet and was most likely structural (helping support the roof).  And, hanging, mudding, texturizing, and painting new sheetrock just wasn't on my bucket list.  Been there, done that.  Not my idea of a good time.  So, what to do?

Funky Drywall Before Renovation
Recycled pallets are the answer to most of the truly pressing needs in my world.  Seriously.  Pallet wood can right most wrongs.  It just requires a little—well, okay, a lot—of elbow grease.  I'm good with that.  The finished product has always proven worth it.  We'll just skip over the less than scintillating details of finding, hauling, deconstructing (pulling a massive number of ornery nails), and refinishing (cutting, sizing, planing, and sanding) a tall pile of pallets.  On to step eight.

Tape Marks Studs Where Planks Will Be Nailed
With the feature wall pallet planks ready for installation, I prepped the wall by finding and marking the studs.

Leveling Wall Sections With Lath
Next, I applied thin strips of wood lath to level the two sections of drywall, which will provide a more solid backing when nailing in the pallet planks.  The wainscoting pictured above consists of three framed pieces of corrugated metal topped by a chair rail.  It provides a nice contrasting texture, as well as adding a reflective surface to lighten up the space.

Oh the Tales This Wall Could Tell
When I nailed in the rows of pallet wood, I decided to alternate different widths and colors.  I left all of the wood in its natural state, as the original saw blade marks, nail holes, knots, and checking is what adds personality.  As I started working on this step, I got the inspiration to separate rows of planks with horizontally placed strips of recycled lath removed from inside the plaster walls of an old ranch house.  The definition of the chiseled edges of lath created an effect similar to the chinking seen between bricks.  Really, though, it is the history of that lath, and the story it tells, that adds so much value and interest to the feature wall.

Rustic Pallet Window Seat 
No book nook would be complete without a window seat.  Again, I used rustic pallet parts, purposely choosing planks with nail streaks, and then trimming the bench with pallet skids.  Where there was fresh wood from making the cuts, I applied chalkboard spray paint, and then sanded off most of it to blend the color with that of the naturally weathered surfaces.

Books Feed and Seed the Mind
Above the window, I created a decorative king post truss trim that matches the actual support truss on the front of my house.  I like the way it ties everything together.  While working on this truss, I happened to find the metal  Feed & Seed sign at Tractor Supply Co.  It seemed like the perfect message for my new space, as books certainly do feed and seed our minds.  When I got home with the sign, I was amazed that it fit exactly in place between the truss and the window.  That never happens.  I knew then that it was meant to be.

My Nook is Ready for Accessorizing
With the construction work done, I am now in the process of accessorizing my new nook.  I have selected fabrics and will soon start sewing the window seat cushion and pillows.  Stay tuned for part two of this DIY series when I post the final reveal.  So, what do you think?  Could you see yourself curled up with a book in this sunny space?













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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Every Note Played Book Review

Every Note Played Book Review
Every Note Played: A Novel by Lisa Genova

Welcome to the world of the classical pianist or rather, to the world of a famous classical pianist who has ALS.

Stay with him as the disease progresses through his body and takes away not just his ability to play the piano. Watch as it quickly robs him of all of his body functions starting with the use of his arms and legs and going on to eventually claim his ability to talk, to eat and even to breathe.

I am sure that introduction will NOT make you want you to read Every Note Played by Lisa Genova but please do not let it put you off. As the cover says, this books contains “searing writing and it is a must read.”

Genova is a neuroscientist who writes books about people living with neurological diseases. She wrote Still Alice, which was about the life of a women with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

As a matter of fact, Every Note Played relates directly to Still Alice. The man who directed the movie Still Alice was diagnosed with ALS shortly before he read the story and he directed the movie while suffering the symptoms. He did so without a voice and using one finger on an iPad.

We have all heard of ALS, of the Ice Bucket Challenge and know that Stephen Hawking had it. However, many of us do not know much about the disease nor do we really understand what it is like to live with it. Every Note Played will change that fact.

Genova reads the medical books, interviews the experts and gets to know the patients so that we do not have to. Using that thorough research into all aspects of the disease, she brings us information about the disease in the form of a fictional story.

In Every Note Played, there are some truly exceptional and caring people but there is also one totally selfish individual. He just happens to be one of two main characters and the one who has ALS. Imagine being a caregiver for someone who never thought of anyone except himself before he became sick. Doesn't sound great, does it? It certainly makes an interesting story and, of course, not only nice people get ALS. Even unpleasant people need the support of family, friends and the health care system when they are stricken with any disease.

I do recommend this book though, of course, the subject matter is not pretty. It is honest and it is truly a look into living with ALS. It is a medical drama that you will want to end sooner than it does but it manages to be a page turner despite the subject matter. It is a horrible disease but this book, while educational in terms of the disease, is also a well-crafted story about family relations, love and forgiveness. My heart goes out to those stricken with ALS and my wonder, amazement and gratitude goes out to the people who act as caregivers. If you want to learn more, read Every Note Played, which you can find on Amazon right here.

See you
At the book store!
Brenda

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Buy your copy of Every Note Played on Amazon.


Every Note Played by Lisa Genova









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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Widow Series Reviewed

Interesting Drama Series

jungle scene
The Widow searches in the Jungle
(image courtesy of pixabay.com)
My husband and I just finished watching The Widow, a drama series that we streamed from Amazon. I thought you might be interested in a review of the series.

We thought that this eight episode series was fascinating to watch. The episodes are each around 45 minutes so it didn't take too awfully long to watch. 

The story begins with Georgia Mason (played by Kate Beckinsale) suspecting that her husband Will might actually be alive after a plane crash three years before in the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo). The reports of the crash stated that there were no survivors of that crash and Georgia has spent three years in mourning her loss. A broadcast of a riot in the DRC shows a man that looks very much like her husband that begins her search to find him. She can't see the man's face but he is wearing an orange baseball cap just like the one her Will wore. 

As you can imagine, Georgia decides to go to the DRC hoping to find her husband. She had been there before just after the crash and had befriended a man who had lost his wife in the same crash. Georgia meets Emmanuel again on this second trip; asking for his help to find out if her husband somehow survived that crash. 

The series is filled with suspense and action as Georgia encounters people who knew Will. As viewers we see corrupt people taking advantage of the poverty stricken people of the region. We find out about smugglers and the recruitment of children for rebel militias. While watching each episode we are given a hint of what it might be like to live in the Congo as a person with some means and as a person who is barely surviving. 

My husband and I liked the several twists in the plot as the story unfolds. There were some flashbacks offered to explain some of what drove the different characters in their choices and those were interesting, also. Overall, each episode kept us interested and wanting to see more. We have found that we very much enjoy the original series that Amazon has produced.

If you like suspense and action that occurs in a place you might never be ever to see, I think you will enjoy this series, too.




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Monday, March 18, 2019

Reviewing the DoBoard Dry Erase Chart

The DoBoard dry erase chart keeps me motivated. 
The large chart board by DoBoard is a great way to keep track of chores, appointments and goals at home or work. This magnetic dry erase board is also an easy way to display a menu at a restaurant or use in an office for lists that change frequently such as showing employees who are "in" or "out" and scheduled meetings. If you are looking for visual organization, this might be for you. 


DoBoard 12" x 17" Magnetic Dry Erase Chart Board


This dry erase board by DoBoard is magnetized and the entire back side is coated. No bumpy, annoying small magnets on each corner.

The chart board comes pre-printed with days of the week across the top and a chart grid to list 15 items. There is also room at the top and bottom to add a title, incentive agreements, reminders, and comments.

This board does not come with dry erase markers or erasers. I needed to use fine point markers for my list. I don't advise using regular, large tipped dry erase markers for writing the list. 

This board is very smooth and is easily erased - unlike my lower quality dry erase board I use at work.

DoBoard shipped this chart flat, in a large box. This avoided any crinkling or damage that may have occurred during the shipping process.


12" x 17" Chart by DoBoard



Why I ordered DoBoard's Chart


This is a perfect chore/incentive chart for children. No arguing about what needs to be done before they earn their goal - it is an ongoing check list of what needs to be done. This would also be a perfect way for our receptionist at work to keep track of who is in and out of their office.  But I ordered this for my own motivation and sanity.

When I become over-worked and super stressed, I start to become ineffective. I eventually stop doing anything because I'm not keeping on top of everything. In reality, I'm still doing a great deal of things. I'm working my butt off. But I begin to tell myself that I'm not doing enough. As those thoughts increase, my productivity decreases and eventually stops.

After seeing this brand of "chore chart" at my son's home, I ordered one for myself. I really liked that it was pre-printed with everything except my list of to-dos. Some of the things I have listed are things I do on a daily basis (such as keeping the dogs and cat fed, walked, and watered), things I want to do on a daily basis (crochet and exercise), and chores that I hate (washing dishes and laundry) but have to do to avoid being referred to the television show "Hoarders". 

I definitely function better under stress with seeing a list of things that have been completed - I feel accomplished. As I'm checking off things, or adding tally marks for the things I do multiple times a day, that little nagging voice has a harder time sneaking in to tell me that I'm not doing enough. It also encourages me to not give up on my goal of building a small home and moving to my land. For example, I've added "go to work" at the top of my list to remind me that I'm not yet allowed to quit my job - yes, things are that bad right now. 

If you are looking for a chart, for whatever reason (yourself, children, or employees - menus, chores, or goals) this board by DoBoard is a great choice.






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