Friday, January 31, 2020

Baby Yoda (The Child) & The Mandalorian Star Wars Series Reviewed

Baby Yoda (The Child) & The Mandalorian Star Wars Series Reviewed
With the release of "The Mandalorian" on the Disney channel, Star Wars fans have gone crazy over the adorable "Baby Yoda"!

In the The Mandalorian episodes, "Baby Yoda" is simply called "The Child".  After all, he is not Yoda.  He looks like Yoda to fans, therefore he is widely known off-screen as Baby Yoda. 

One look at "The Child", humans & creatures on and off-screen are smitten with his enchanting personality, as well as his looks.  A slight tip of the head is all it takes for "The Child" to have you under his spell.  You, too, will wish to hold and protect him! 
  



 

Star Wars:  The Mandalorian Series


 Star Wars The Mandalorian Poster BookCheck PriceMandalorians are an elite group of trained warriors who never reveal their own identity.  In the series, "The Mandalorian" is a bounty hunter for hire.  When a bounty hunter is commissioned to track, find, and capture a target, opinions of the target are not his concern.  However, when the Mandalorian sees the child, he doesn't have a clue about his species and wonders about his clients intent for this youngster.  As the story progresses, what becomes obvious to him is that "The Child" needs protection from his client.

To break the Guild code of conduct and steal the child in order to protect him, the Mandalorian must choose a lone existence, which makes him the hunted as well.

At times, he finds aid from friends, as well as a few who don't mind alliances as long as they are paid.  But every step alone this protective path has dangers.  The Child is fortunate to have a true warrior by his side and the Mandalorian finds out just how fortunate he is to have The Child by his side.

This is a fabulous Star Wars series that I highly recommend!  As a matter of fact, just reviewing it makes me wish to stop and watch it again.  I can hardly wait for season 2.  Beware though, "The Child" will steal your heart!





Season 1 is available to watch now on Disney Plus.  Season 2 is already in production and will release in the fall of 2020.







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Baby Yoda (The Child) & The Mandalorian Star Wars Series Reviewed Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse



 


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Thursday, January 30, 2020

An Invisible Thread - Book Review

"An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, and circumstance.  The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break."  ~ Ancient Chinese Proverb

Read an Excerpt
It began, for both the author and me, in much the same way.  We were two busy professional women, rushing past panhandlers, only to feel yanked back by an invisible thread.  Something we knew nothing about at the time, Laura Schroff in bustling Manhattan, and me in sleepy, rural Colorado, drew us to connect with individuals whose circles and lives were so far removed from our normal daily existence.

Was it destiny?  Perhaps.  All I know is that one instant of pausing to really see the person behind the sign became a moment of recognition.  For some reason, both Schroff and I were to have an awakening that came at the hands of destitution.

You never really see that coming—a whole new purpose born of paying attention, of listening, and of being drawn into the stories of those who have so little... those who are stereotyped as takers rather than givers.  This book review, of An Invisible Thread, is really the story within a story of how all of our lives are intertwined.

It seemed like any other ordinary day when Laura Scroff's life was profoundly, and forever, changed.  She had no intention of meeting up with a disadvantaged street child, but things that are meant to be tend to override executive sales agendas.

After initially passing up eleven-year-old Maurice, who asked Scroff for spare change because he was hungry, she found herself looking back over her shoulder at him, and then backpedaling to take Maurice to McDonald's for lunch.  This seemingly unassuming, one-time act of kindness then took on a life of its own.  Over Big Macs and fries, Laura and Maurice launched what would become a lifelong friendship.  Through months, and then years, of weekly meal dates and life-enriching experiences, these two became chosen family.

As one who had grown up with abuse, Schroff could empathize, and feel great compassion for this young boy who was attempting to survive the most extreme poverty—a poverty that extended well beyond that of hunger and lack of safe shelter.  Surrounded by drug-addled adults who were emotionally unavailable to nurture him, and living by his wits alone, Maurice's poverty went soul deep.

Though her friends and colleagues warned her off, thinking Schroff's outreach to Maurice was too risky, Laura's commitment to, and bond with him would not, and could not, be broken.  This would not turn out to be a one-way charity case.  It became a mutually beneficial friendship that transformed and healed both individuals.

He Shared His Story With Me Over a Subway Sandwich
Those who follow my Facebook postings know that I interact with homeless individuals on a daily basis.  It isn't something I would ever have thought would become a mission for me.  I just felt compelled one day to stop and listen to the personal story of the man behind one of those panhandling signs.

I Felt Compelled to Stop and Let Kindness Connect Us
I don't even like the word panhandler because of its negative connotation.  Doesn't it spark labels of beggar, or for some people, even something as ugly as loser?  I've seen and heard those drive-by insults when standing on a corner checking up on one of my homeless friends.  You know... the guy who rolls down his window and shouts, "Get a job, loser!"

Perhaps We Are All Living on a Prayer
What Laura and I found, when really getting to know the person holding that piece of cardboard in his hands, was a whole new way of living... a whole new way of perceiving those willing to bare their vulnerable souls to a public that isn't always very welcoming to them.  We both discovered, and opened up, the gifts of these beautiful souls.  We became the recipients of change that is not spare.

I highly recommend An Invisible Thread, not because it has been a New York Times bestseller, but because of its focus on kindness and goodness.  Do I believe there is an invisible thread?  Oh, yes... absolutely... and I am so thankful for those on the other end of my thread.







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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Puzzles for Puzzle Day or Any Day: A Review

Puzzles for Puzzle Day or Any Day: A Review
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 


I love puzzles. I especially love jigsaw puzzles. It satisfies me to find the exact puzzle piece to fit into the space designed for it. I'm delighted when I finally finish a puzzle -- especially if it's a large one. Are you a puzzle fan, too?


Puzzle Day is January 29


If you didn't plan ahead or don't have time to work a puzzle on January 29, why not celebrate by buying a new puzzle you love, instead. Then enjoy it on any convenient day. Or have a puzzle party with your family or invite a friend or two to help you work your new puzzle. There are many excellent reasons to spend some of your leisure time working jigsaw puzzles.

Here's What Working Puzzles Can Do for You

  • Working puzzles can help you relax. When we work puzzles, we focus on our process instead of on our problems and the things that add stress to our lives.
  • Working a puzzle offers a welcome break from electronics and media. It lets us work at a slower pace and really focus instead of having our attention constantly refocused.
  • If you live alone, working a puzzle can keep you so absorbed you may forget you are lonely. Put on your favorite music and have a party for one. It beats television.
  • Working puzzles helps keep your brain working well. It keeps both sides of your brain busy and since both sides need to work together to complete a puzzle, the connections between the right and left sides of your brain grow stronger. The left side helps you sort pieces and figure out where to put them. The more creative right side uses your intuition as you consider where pieces may fit into the big picture or the individual section you are working on. Exercising your brain with puzzles may delay the onset of dementia or slow it down. The brain also produces dopamine when it's helping you work jigsaw puzzles.
  • Working puzzles together can foster closeness in families and between friends. Working a puzzle together is a social activity that puts people together who have a common purpose – working the puzzle – for an extended time. They may start by planning how to work the puzzle, deciding who will do what, but later they will naturally move on to subjects they probably wouldn't usually have time to discuss. Contributor  Dawn Rae has also written about her experience with puzzles paving the way for quality time. 
  • When children begin working jigsaw puzzles, it helps them develop many important skills. Among these are fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, color awareness, spatial relations, concentration, and working towards a goal.

Jigsaw Puzzle Strategy


Like most jigsaw fans, I have a strategy. Mine is pretty common.
  • Turn over all the pieces first so you know what you have to work with.
  • Find the pieces with straight edges and make the frame by forming and  connecting the edges.
  • Make sure everyone working on the puzzle can see the cover on the box as they work.
  • Try to complete one section of the puzzle at a time until it comes together to complete the picture.
Do you also use that strategy?

Finding the Right Puzzle

For the happiest puzzle working experience, you need to choose the right puzzle for your time, your skill level, and your interests. You will be looking at that puzzle for a long time. If you're a beginner, choose a smaller puzzle of about 200-300 pieces to develop your skills before moving on. Chose a puzzle with smaller blocks of color and many shapes instead of a puzzle with lots of sky or water that's the same color. That makes it easier to figure out which pieces fit.

I like nature. I created this puzzle from one of my photos of the sunset at Larry Moore Park. It comes in many sizes, but for a beginner I'd choose the 252-piece size. There is enough  variation in color and the tree branch shapes to make it easy to see how pieces may fit together. (Check out some of the other California places I made into puzzles.)




As you become more proficient, choose more challenging puzzles with more areas the same color or less pronounced subjects or designs. Or choose a larger puzzle of 750 pieces or more with a design you love and may want to frame afterwards. (Contributor Bev Owens reviews a great way to preserve puzzles you want to frame.) I love books and cats. This 750-piece puzzle by Buffalo Games is one I'd love to have on my wall. Buffalo Games makes quality puzzles. If you click through, you will see what makes them so special.





If you want to get your preschooler off to a good start, you can't go wrong with a Melissa and Doug puzzle. I used to sell these at homeschool conventions and there is a wooden puzzle to fit every interest and ability level. I like these sets for children 3-5 years old. Children this age love color and animals. The puzzles in the first set have both. These puzzles come packed in convenient wooden trays. But if you want something more educational, the pegged set has puzzles that teach the alphabet, numbers, and shapes. The pieces in this set have pegs to make them easy to lift out so that children can find the attractive pictures underneath each puzzle piece.







Puzzles Make Great Gifts

When you gift someone with a puzzle, consider the receiver's age, interests, and previous experience. You can even use a special photo to make a personalized puzzle at Zazzle, such as the one I made of the tree in the sunset I showed you above. Just click that puzzle. It will take you to the product page. Click “customize” on the top right of the page under “Designed for You.” It will show you many options. The first allows you to substitute your own photo. You can also add text if you wish.

Puzzles make great gifts for grandparents and older friends who live alone. It will help them keep their thinking sharp and give them something fun to do by themselves or with a friend.

Give a young child a puzzle and you will be helping to develop that child's brain. Give a puzzle with a related book for a double treat that will let the child be thinking of the book as they work the puzzle.

Maybe you should also gift your own family with a new puzzle to work together.
Whatever day it is, happy Puzzle Day.







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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

CYZ Women's Pajama Bottoms Reviewed

Comfy Flannel Pajama Bottoms

Recently, I took some of my Christmas money and treated myself to a pair of CYZ Women's Pajama Bottoms. I thought I would review my purchase for you today. Who doesn't love a cozy pair of PJ's? 

women's pajama bottoms
Warm Pajama Bottoms for cold winter nights
image courtesy of pixabay.com

When it comes to cold winter nights, I prefer to sleep in cozy flannel pajamas, although fleece is pretty comfy, too. So, as I mentioned above, I took some of the gift money that I received to purchase a new pair of pajama bottoms for my nightly sleep time. I am more than happy with my choice.


Choosing A Brand For My Pajama Bottoms


I did not have a particular brand in mind when I went in search of my new PJ bottoms. There are so many manufacturers of this type of nightly apparel. When my search results came on the screen, I thought to myself, "Oh my, where do I begin?" I narrowed it down to flannel which made the choices slightly less daunting but that still left quite a lot to view. 

So, then I started scrolling down looking at the pattern options available. Some were easy enough to dismiss because I didn't like the color or perhaps the pattern. I don't know why but I am drawn to plaid patterns when it comes to pajamas. I don't wear a lot of plaid in my daily wardrobe but at night, there is just something about plaid. Maybe it is sort of a like a comfort food, I just feel comfortable in a flannel plaid. 

Anyway, I began to look at the options for flannel material in a plaid design. That is when I came across the CYZ choices. I found a color combination that I particularly liked and since the pajama bottoms all seemed to have 4 or 5 stars in the ratings of other customers I chose a pair from that manufacturer. 

Oh, they felt so soft when they arrived! They are still soft after a few trips through the washer and dryer, too. The fit is accurate (I chose the size from their chart). All in all, I am very happy with my purchase. So happy that I am considering getting one or two more pairs. 

If you are in the market for some new sleepwear or perhaps you have someone you would consider gifting some to, I can highly recommend the CYZ brand of pajamas.





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Monday, January 27, 2020

Hawaiian Shirts For Boys

Hawaiian Shirts For Boys

WHAT IS A HAWAIIAN SHIRT?


I've always called our Hawaiian shirts exactly that, Hawaiian shirts but I see now that some people call them aloha shirts. Whatever you call them, you know that we are referring to a type of shirt that originated in Hawaii.

The Hawaiian or aloha shirt usually features a bold pattern, short sleeves, a button front and a collar. They also feature a straight hem and are worn untucked. They usually have a pocket sewn on the chest and purists say that on a real Hawaiian shirt, the design on the pocket and on the shirt align perfectly, like a jigsaw puzzle.

Having the pockets line up exactly is an attention to detail that drives up the price so the shirts on this page do not have pockets that match the pattern on the shirt exactly. I thought that it was more important in this case to present an economical shirt than a totally authentic shirt.

Will your children notice? Maybe not but mine would have. That little but important detail about Hawaiian shirts is one of the first things that we learned when we were in Hawaii. However, my sons certainly would not have complained about being given any aloha shirt. They might, however, have had a problem in choosing just one of these color options from RJC.



LOOKING FOR HAWAIIAN SHIRTS FOR YOUR SONS?


Are you planning a family trip to Hawaii? Maybe you have already had your Hawaiian vacation or you are planning a Hawaiian themed party or costume. Whatever the reason you need one, you can be relieved that you do not have to travel to Hawaii to buy one.

Your boys, from size 2 to 18, will look great in any one of these shirts. Even after our vacation, my sons were thrilled to have a reason to put on their Hawaiian shirts. They had a feel for the retro style and they were reminded of the fun they had in Hawaii when they put them on. To my guys and even to my husband, a Hawaiian or aloha shirt means good times!

Buying from Amazon means that you can buy a shirt in advance of your trip or even afterward when you arrive home and you or your son really, really wish that you had purchased the one you saw while you were in Oahu. Of course, no trip to Hawaii is required at all. You can just buy one of these shirts because your son would love to have one!

Be sure to check out RJC’s Hawaiian shirts for boys on Amazon by clicking right here. You can find the Woodie-themed shirt shown on this page by clicking right here.

Aloha!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

More Hawaiian Reading:

Our Top 10 Hawaiian Gift Ideas
Aloha (2015) Movie Review
The Best-Ever Hawaiian Punch Recipe
There's even a little Hawaii in my eBay store!












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Sunday, January 26, 2020

Craig Morgan's Incredible Song, The Father, My Son and The Holy Ghost

A gorgeous and moving song about losing someone you love
It's been about three years since singer-songwriter Craig Morgan released new music. Unfortunately, this incredibly emotional song was written to help others who have also experienced gut-wrenching loss. It honors the passing of his 19-year-old son.

These Truthful Lyrics are Extremely Personal, They'll Grab Your Soul - Tissues Needed

I'm listening to "The Father, My Son, and The Holy Ghost" as I'm typing this review, and my eyes are pouring tears. Like any mother, trying to fathom this kind of loss is more than I can wrap my head around.

The lyrics are excruciatingly painful, truthful, and still - filled with healing hope.

"I cried, and cried, and cried until I passed out on the floor
Then I prayed, and prayed, and prayed til I thought I couldn't pray anymore,
And minute by minute, day by day, my God, he gave me hope,
I know my boy ain't here but he ain't gone"

The lyrics tell a personal story of heartache that not one of us wants to feel, yet many have. Man, it breaks me in half even trying to understand how parents can survive the loss of a child.

I've been tested in multiple ways in this life, and I often mention to the good Lord that he no longer needs to keep testing, because I'll pass every exam. However, please dear Lord, this is a test that I'm sure I couldn't pass. 

As Craig Morgan sings this song, I want to reach through the computer screen and give him a compassionate hug, and honestly wish I could erase this horrendous pain. I'm blessed with four sons and beautiful stepchildren and I can't, I just can't imagine this kind of pain. 

"I Won't Completely Heal Til I Go Home"

This part of the song describes the absolute truth about this kind of loss; We won't completely heal until we go home. We learn to live with our new version of life after a soul-crushing loss and know the previous way we lived will never, or never can be experienced again.

I'm almost feeling guilty even thinking about the pain of losing my father because Craig Morgan's loss of his son is pain beyond my comprehension.

Text, Call or Email the Ones You Love Right Now

That's what this song did for me. I just sent a quick "I love you" text to each of my children. I did it for me, for them, and to honor Craig Morgan's beautiful son.

I imagine by now you're wanting to listen to this song? Get out the tissues, because yes, you're going to need them.

Blessings to you, Craig Morgan, and to your family. Thank you for writing this moving song and helping others through their own pain.

You can listen to Craig Morgan speak directly about his loss here on The Kelly Clarkson Show.

This live performance by Craig Morgan at the Opry is spectacular. Listen with high-quality headphones if you're able.




I've been a Craig Morgan fan for a while now and reviewed a few of his other songs that feature story-telling lyrics and inspirational messages. You can find them here.

Virtual hugs.


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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Reviewing The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

In a nutshell The Slight Edge is about applying the principles of compound interest to your life or at least that's how I understand it!

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
Photo by Lou16 featuring the book & my Green Ogre Drink!


If you had told me a few years ago that I would be reviewing personal development books I would have thought you were nuts.  In my mind personal development books were great for some people, but I didn't need them - I'm sure a few of you can relate to this!

It was really during 2018 that I started reading these books and mainly because they were being recommended to me by a very positive and supportive network of friends that I had.   I have struggled with a few of them and loved others.   If you're new to the world of personal development reading I think you will love this book.

The first personal development book that I found the most beneficial was The Magic by Rhonda Byrne, this was mainly because you read a chapter a day and there were tasks to do each day.  This is a great introduction to personal development.

I have found quite a few great books to read, but I had missed The Slight Edge for some reason (even though it had been recommended to be several times) so when I saw it on the end display at my local library I snapped it up.

The way Jeff Olson writes makes this book very easy to read and the slight edge he talks about is so, so simple to apply.   As he explains how little steps every day works you realize just how simple (note I said simple not easy) having success at whatever you want is.

I realized that there have been many times in my life where I have applied the slight edge and it has worked, but I also realized how many times I have done the opposite.

As I said at the beginning of this review I really think the slight edge is the same application as compound interest except it's about your life not money.   Jeff talks about a couple of fables in the beginning and one of them I have seen repeated online in different forums as a great example of compound interest.   In fact I used the story to explain to my daughter about the importance of saving money from her pay every week (I started my own super fund when I was 19).  It's a story about an old man and his two sons, let me know if you've heard it (or a variation of it) before.

An old man called his two sons in to see him and gave them both a choice they could choose$1 million which he would give them in 31 days or they could choose 1 penny which would double each day and at the end of the 31 days he would give them that amount.

One son took the million dollars, but the other chose the penny.   At the end of the first week the penny had turned into 64 pennies, but by day 31 (and the power of compound interest) the penny had exceeded $10 million.

I really recommend The Slight Edge as it really does just make total sense and really makes you think about the actions you take every day which turn into habits.   I will add that I have added The Slight Edge to my shopping cart for the next time I place a book order something I never do when I have already read a book through my library.


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Friday, January 24, 2020

The Gregory Sisters: While Love Stirs - Book 2 Reviewed

The Gregory Sisters: While Love Stirs - Book 2 Reviewed
The Gregory sisters were all strong willed, independent thinkers, and activists who were ready to challenge the social norms of their day.  Even though they were not prepared to be financially independent, when their supporting parents died, by necessity, they faced that challenge head on with determination and action.

In my last article, I reviewed the first book in the series, When Love Calls, that focused on the oldest sister, Hannah.  In this review, I'll tell you about Charlotte, the middle sister and the second book in the series, While Love Stirs.

Each of these books is categorized as a historical romance.  While that is true, the stories are so much more than simple romance novels.  They are about women who must survive in a time that females were not expected, in many cases not even allowed, to work outside of the home.  They each must find a niche that will allow for an income and is acceptable in their society.


While Love Stirs Book Synopsis


 While Love Stirs
(The Gregory Sisters Book #2)
Although an independent thinker like her sisters, Charlotte Gregory's interests follow a more traditional role for a woman in the 1910's. She loves to cook!  Believing that the only job for her would be a chef, or chef's assistant, she heads to a renowned restaurant in a local hotel. After all, she is a graduate of Fannie Farmer's School of Cookery.  Surely an esteemed hotel/restaurant establishment would recognize her value and give her a chance.  

After being directed to the side entrance of the hotel designated for unaccompanied women, she quickly discovers the head chef's "not a chance" attitude toward a woman being employed in the kitchen.

Then, when she visits her sister in the hospital, she is disgusted with the lack of concern for proper nutrition for the patients.  She tries to explain to the doctor how the right meals could help patients get well sooner, but she is once again met by the steel wall of male dominance and superior thinking.  Not to mention the hospital's very limited budget and inability to make changes.

Dejected, distressed, yet still determined to get a job cooking, Charlotte returns home to consider what other options might be available to her.  When she finds a newspaper article advertising a contest being hosted by the gas company promoting gas ranges, she believes she has found her answer.  If she can just win that contest, surely she would be recognized as a real chef with an education in nutrition and be able to find suitable employment.  But, there are other women who wish to win that contest too and will stoop to deceptive levels to accomplish their own personal goals.



And, that is the limit to how much of the plot I will divulge.  You will simply have to read the book to find out what happens!


My Thoughts & Opinion of "While Love Stirs"


I admit, it had not occurred to me that a woman would have trouble finding a job as a cook in the 1910's.  This book gave me a new appreciation for the plight of a single women who did not wish to be forced to marry just to survive.  I believe I have taken the vast opportunities for granted in my lifetime.  I've always had the right to vote, I've always been able to wear comfortable clothing, I've always been allowed to walk through the front doors of public places, I have always been able to get a job when needed, and I was most certainly allowed to make my own marriage decision.  

While this series has been entertaining to read, it has also been somewhat educational and thought provoking.  I knew the history of the suffrage movement, the history of fashion in America, and the history of etiquette.  But, I still found it enlightening to read how it could have affected individual lives.  I have no doubt the real life stories would be far worse since there is not always a happy resolution in reality.








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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Review of Book Clubs

Belonging to a book club can be a fun and rewarding experience.
Book Club Luncheon Outing January 2020
I have belonged to a book club for the past 17 years.  I always look forward to the next meeting and discussing the books we have read.

Book Club Information Online

I did some research online in preparation for writing this post and found there is really no "one size fits all" approach to book clubs.  

There are book clubs hosted by groups of friends, by libraries, by publishers, by churches, by special interest groups and a multitude of others.  You can find online book clubs, clubs that meet at peoples houses, clubs that meet at public places and library sponsered clubs meeting at the library.

Some book clubs have books selected by the sponsoring organization or person and others have members select the books.  There are book clubs that only read one genre of books such as a mystery book club or a history book club and others that read a variety of different genres.

In looking for some history on the start of book clubs, I came to the conclusion that the discussion of books in groups dates back as far as we had the written word.  In the USA I found references back to 1634 on a ship headed to the Massachusetss Bay Colony and another literary society started in 1727 by Benjamin Franklin named Junto.


My Experience in a Book Club

The book club I belong to has about 12-14 members at any given time. This seems like a good amount of people for a good discussion.  Each month there are some people missing but we still have enough for a lively discussion.

Our club actually started 20 years ago and still has 5 of the original members.  As members have to leave due to illness, moving or other obiligations new members are added to our group. I joined when we moved to the area and a friend invited me to join the group.

We meet once a month at a different members house and that member leads a discussion on the book and provides refreshments for the group.  

We read a variety of different genre's, each book is chosen by the hostess for the month.  The hostess will have given us the name of the book and the date she will host the meeting at the previous meeting.  So we have a month to obtain and read the book.  Some members get the book from the library, some order an ebook online and others purchase a paper book.

We try to stay on topic, but sometimes that is difficult as we have been together for a long time. Sometimes we just need to set some time aside to socialize before we start the book discussion.

For refreshments we might serve wine and/or soft drinks and a variety of snacks.  We usually end the evening with a dessert.  Many of our hostesses will look for a food theme from the book and serve a snack or dessert that fits that theme.

Over the years we have done some fun things with the group.

  • Several times we have invited an author to our meeting to lead the discussion of their book.  It is fun when we find a local author to do this.
  • We have gone on field trips before.  One in particular that I remember was to a historical house in the area where one of our members is a docent.
  • Another time we decided we would try our hand at writing a book.  We each wrote a chapter and then passed it on to a member at the next meeting to write the next chapter.  We did not have a plan ahead of time about where the book would head so it was a surprise to all of us when we got the final story.  It wasn't a particularly compelling book but it did give us an experience of what an author goes through in writing.


Guidelines for a Book Club based on my Experience

Here are some of my thoughts on book clubs.

  • Set your schedules a year in advance ( or at least 6 months).  Before we did this we spent a lot of time each meeting discussing who would have the next meeting.  Now we send around a sign up sheet each January and everyone picks a month.  They don't have to choose the book or the exact date till the month before.
  • The hostess should plan a few questions to help get the discussion rolling.  A lot of times these questions can be found on the author's or publishers websites.
  • Having prepared questions are a good way to get the discussion back on track when someone tries to sideline it.
  • Keep  an open mind to reading types of books you  wouldn't normally choose.  I have read so many books in book club that I would never have chosen, but when I read them they are great.  It has really broadened my horizons in my reading.

Books we Have Read

In the 17 years that I have belonged to book club we have read nearly 200 different book.  I can't begin to list them all in this post but here are a few of the ones that we have read in the past couple of years that I thought you might enjoy.

The first one is the one we are reading for this month.  It is a historical fiction book, which is one of my favorite genres.  This was a very interesting book.

   
The next book is one we read last year.  It was an interesting study involving cooking and the different personalities that took a cooking class.  It was different from others we have read but I found it very interesting.



Here is a list of several other books we have read in the past several months.

  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarity
  • Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
  • The Book Club by Mary Alice Monroe
  • Leaving Time by Jodi Piccoult
  • No Way Back by Andrew Gross
  • Long Road to Mercy by David Balducci
  • A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
  • I've Got My Eyes on You by Mary Higgins Clark
  • The Address by Fiona Davis
  • The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
All of these are books that I enjoyed and would recommend.
Happy  Reading!!



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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane - A Review

If you have been reading our reviews, you know that January is Tea Month!  It is also part of the Chinese New Year celebrations that will be happening all around the world on the 25th of  January.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane Book Review

It's also time to share a new book that I truly enjoyed.  The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane caught my eye on two counts.  One, I love birds, so was interested in the address and the second was the ambiguity of the title.  Who goes around being known as the "Tea Girl" and why?


The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane Book Review


Lisa See, the author has extensive knowledge of what is happening in the areas where China has taken over the lands that once belonged to some really isolated tribes.  Such are the Akha, that  lived in the high mountainous regions of Laos, Myannmar, Thailand and Yunnan province in China. 

                                                           Map courtesy of Google Maps

As with many indigenous tribes, they are unaware of the political struggles or the ramifications of being overtaken by another government.   They farm and cultivate their land for their own use. Daily life is difficult enough without worrying about politics.  Rice, tea and poppies are their main crops.  Opium, derived from their crops is sold to the outside world for medicines.  They themselves have used opium for medicines for centuries.  Tea is the other common denominator.  They grow tea and cultivate the leaves of trees that are hundreds of years old.  This tea is sought after by tea aficionados from around the world.

They are a land of people who have stayed together and lived according to the laws and customs of their "tribe".  They have their own language, yet they are encouraged to learn Mandarin and leave their language behind. Education is minimal unless they show a talent for learning.  Then maybe they have a chance at a better life.  The question is, "Who's ideas of a better life will they follow?" 

Each child can confirm their lineage for 7 generations.  This is one of the most important things they know for sure.  Girls and boys can recite their lineage and will do so when they find a mate.  The elders of the community will give their permission to marry, based on that lineage!  There will be no marriages allowed that are too close in family ties.

Image from Wikipedia 


This story and it's people grabbed my attention and held it right to the very end.  I was fascinated by their customs and horrified by some of their practices too.  What really caught my interest though was how the people, because of their beliefs did things that we would consider so unacceptable.  The Akha, like many of the Asian peoples, have a profound wish that their first child be male. Because of China's one child law,  many girls are given up for adoption.   

Over the years, these girls have been adopted into American, Canadian and European households.  The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane finds herself caught up in a cultural tug of war.  Her adopted parents are caught up in it as well.  She does not look like them, She will never look like them!  Yet, her parents love her as if she were born to them like any other child.  

Her adoptive parents go through all the trials and tribulations involved when you have a child that is "different".  As many parents are aware, whenever something is NOT just so,  many questions are asked and need answers.  Yes, their child is adopted.  No, they don't know anything about why she was given up for adoption.  No, they are her parents and they love her unconditionally.  Yes, she asks questions all the time.  No we don't have the answers to all her questions.

What makes this story interesting is that bond between the birth mother and the daughter that she no longer knows.  I don't want to give anything away from this story, I want you to go and pick up the book and read it for yourself.  


My Conclusion & Final Thoughts


I learned so much about the Akha people and I also learned a lot about myself.  It was easy to put myself into the characters of this book.  What would I do?  How would I react?  How would I feel about being given away?  Where do my loyalties lie?  These are all questions you will find yourself asking as you are reading this book.

There are no right or wrong answers.  For the Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, there are lots of different answers and many roads that could be taken.  See how she deals with the way,  and the road,  her life has taken.  I promise, you will learn something about yourself in the pages of this book.







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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Fiber Good Gummies Reviewed

Supplement For Adding Fiber To Your Diet

Today, I would like to review an alternative to the supplement often suggested by our physicians for adding fiber to our diets. Fiber Good Gummies are much more palatable than that awful powder that we are often directed to add to water. I'm sure if you have needed to add fiber to your diet, you know the product I am referring to. Oh my goodness that stuff makes me gag!

fiber good
Fruits can be a good source of fiber
image courtesy of pixabay.com

 I know that I should eat more fruits that are rich in fiber along with other sources like beans, nuts, and some vegetables. I know that I should, but I'll be honest; I don't do a very good job of seeing to putting those things on my plate. Several times, my doctor has told me that if I don't actually eat the foods for the fiber that I should use a product as a supplement. I'm sorry, the powder forms just make me nauseous. I've tried more than once but it just feels so slimy in my mouth and tastes nasty. 

Last week, I was at the local pharmacy looking for some things that my Dad needed. I found myself on the aisle where the above mentioned powders can be found. I noticed an option that I hadn't seen before. There on the shelf was a soluble fiber supplement in the form of gummies. I almost jumped up and down with joy as I read the label on the bottle! 

The gummies are made from fruits like strawberry, apple, grape, cherry, orange and lemon. They taste pretty good and I can chew those without feeling sick to my stomach. They are easy to use, too. Basically, you chew two Fiber Good gummies twice a day. That is it, it is that easy.


Fiber Good Gummies Work


So, I purchased a bottle and began taking them that day. It has been about a week since I began chewing the little fruit flavored gummies and I can see a difference. My digestive system is working better, much better, than it was. I wish that I had visited that aisle sooner.

The next office visit that I have, I'm going to tell my doctor about these little morsels. I think sometimes they might not realize that there are alternatives to the products they often recommend. At least he might consider telling his other patients that if they can't stomach that powder stuff that they can try the Fiber Good Gummies. 

If you or someone you know struggles with providing enough fiber in their diets, give the Phillips Fiber Good Gummies a try. They have worked for me and I plan to make them a part of my daily routine from now on. 




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Monday, January 20, 2020

Reviewing Acorn Spice Dish Soap by Mrs. Meyer's

I am a big fan of the Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day household cleaning products so I was excited to receive my latest shipment of dish soaps. Acorn Spice is a new favorite and it smells as wonderful as it cleans.


Reviewing Acorn Spice dish soap.

In 2018, I was introduced to the Mrs. Meyer's soaps during a visit to my son's home. I've been a satisfied customer since then. I am always looking for a cleaning solutions that use few (or no) chemicals, smells good, and cleans well. Mrs. Meyer's soaps are made using plant products and essential oils. At that time, my favorite scents were: lemon verbena, sunflower, and then radish.

With this order, I decided to branch out and try new scents. One of those is Acorn Spice. The nutty, outdoorsy, spiced scent seemed familiar. Reminiscent of holiday meals cooking in grandma's warm country kitchen. This soap leaves a wonderful aroma in the kitchen.

Mrs. Meyer's describes the scent as:
"The satisfying, nutty scent of acorn is blended with a touch of cinnamon and vanilla for an irresistible air of comfort and warmth"
In addition to the Acorn Spice, I ordered two other scents (Mint and Orange Clove). I'm stocked up for awhile with some really amazing cleaning products. 

Because I am raving about the wonderful scents, you may be wondering if these soaps are functional. I have found that these soaps cut grease better than the majority of the dish soaps available at the grocery stores. 

If your focus is putting fewer chemicals into the environment, avoiding scent-triggered migraines, enjoying clean scents in your home, or all of the above like me, I believe you'll love Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Acorn Spice dish soap too.

Related Links:

You are able to purchase Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day products on Amazon, Prime Pantry, and from the Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day website. When I am ready to order, I check all three stores in order to find the scent I want and to find the best price and shipping deals. 

You can read my original review of Mrs. Meyer's soaps here


Reviewing Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day soaps




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Sunday, January 19, 2020

6 Ingredient Banana Loaf - Mix and Bake

6 Ingredient Banana Loaf
There are so many banana loaf recipes online that I'm hesitant to add another to the mix.

However, some people may appreciate this simple 6 ingredient recipe. It's easy to remember, and the items are what most people have in their cupboard.

This recipe has been my quick go-to solution for using up ripe bananas for over thirty years.

"This is a no egg, no milk recipe"

The Basic Ingredients:
  •  3 mashed ripe bananas
  •  1.5 (one and a half) cups of flour (I use white flour)
  •  1 cup of sugar
  •  2 tablespoons of butter (on the softer side but not melted)
  •  1 teaspoon of baking soda
  •  1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
For Chocolate Chip Banana Loaf, add a 1/2 to 3/4 cup (your choice) of chocolate chips.
For Banana Nut Loaf, add a 1/2 to 3/4 cup of your favorite chopped nuts.
For Cherry Banana Loaf, add a 1/2 to 3/4 cup of jarred cherries (only the cherries, not the liquid)

Directions:

Everything goes into one bowl. 

Mash the bananas, then add the other five ingredients. Mix it together. It's ok if the butter isn't completely dissolved. You can bake it as is, or go ahead and add any of the suggested items above, chocolate chips or nuts or cherries. 

Put the mixture in a non-stick loaf pan. Personally, I've never used a pan that's not non-stick, so if you plan to use one, spray it with non-stick cooking spray or rub a layer of butter on it.

Bake at 325 for approximately 1 hour or until it's fully cooked. With my oven, it will cook faster. I check it at about the half-hour point by giving it the touch test on top. When I think it's fully cooked, I'll put a knife down the middle, and if it pulls out clean, it's done.

Adjustments:

Over the years I've altered the recipe from time to time. I've used more bananas (four) and sometimes fewer bananas (two). Also, the size of the bananas can call for small adjustments. If the bananas are small, then I'll use four without adjusting the flour content.

When I use four large bananas, I tend to add a bit more flour. Generally, I go by the feel of the batter. 

When I feel the batter needs additional moisture, I'll add a bit more butter - a third heaping tablespoon.

Slicing Your Banana Loaf

I always cut-up my banana loaf, then display it in a cake dish. It's a visual thing and entices the gang to eat it. 

I've cut the loaf in two ways: 

1. Once it cools, you can cut it in horizontal one inch wide pieces like you see in a bakery, then display it in a pretty cake dish.

or,

2. Cut it in two-inch wide horizontal pieces, then cut it vertically down the middle giving the pieces a larger square look.

My family prefers the chocolate chip banana loaf - Here it is, cut in larger squares as described in point number two above.




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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Honey Walnut Drops – Cookie Recipe Review


I own an old Church Cookbook from my mother-in-law's collection.  It's the kind many churches put out, especially in small towns, with recipes from church members handed down from one generation to the next. Many of you probably have something similar, acquired the same way.



While browsing through this Garden City (KS) Cookbook one day before the holidays, I found a new (to me) cookie recipe with two of my favorite ingredients ~ walnuts and coconut. I thought it would be fun to share it with you today. 








Honey Walnut Drops Recipe


Ingredients:

1 c. sugar
1 c. honey
2/3 c. shortening
3 eggs
3 ¾ c. flour
1 tsp. Salt
1 c. commercial sour cream
1 c. chopped walnuts
¾ c. flaked coconut
1 tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. soda

Directions:


Cream sugar,  honey, shortening and eggs. Mix flour (not sifted) with soda, salt. Add alternately with sour cream to creamed mixture. Stir in walnuts, coconut and vanilla.

Drop teaspoonfuls on greased cookie sheet.  Top each cookie with walnut half and coconut. 



Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

*Yield not given in this recipe, but I got about 6 dozen cookies from my batch. 

PS: I did not have any extra walnuts, so did not top the cookies with a one-half walnut. Lots of walnuts IN the cookies, though. 

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This cookie recipe was published in this Garden City cookbook in 1979, so no nutritional information is included of the kind you often find in today's recipes (such as calories, fat grams, carbs, etc.), in case you were wondering. :-). Considering the ingredients, I am sure there are a 'number' of calories in it, but, after all, it is a cookie! 

Old Joke:  Did you know that if you break a cookie in half before eating, all the calories 'fall out'? LOL. 

More About Cookies




For more cookie recipes on this site, check out ReviewThisRecipes.com


In case you want a special day to celebrate cookies, December 18th is National Bake Cookies Day



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Review of Byrd's Famous CookiesReview of Byrd's Famous Cookies

The Byrd Cookie Company has been an established company in Savannah, Georgia since 1924


Autumn Eats - A Review of Seasonal Cookie CuttersAutumn Eats - A Review of Seasonal Cookie Cutters

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+All images in this article were personally taken by Wednesday Elf

(c) Written by Wednesday Elf on 1/18/2020.




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