Sunday, January 31, 2021

6 Handy Work From Home Office Gizmos and Gadgets

Review of Handy Home Office Accessories & Gadgets

Since many of us are working from home these days, acquiring just the right gadgets and gizmos for our desks can be fun! 

For me, it's fun. Maybe, you're like, "no clutter, please." These six items don't really clutter the office up; they're all useful.

My family tends to give me gifts that fit nicely into my home-office set-up. Since I spend so much time here, I appreciate every little thing I get from them.

Here are six handy items that I've either purchased or received as gifts you may also want to consider.

Handy Home Office Gizmos and Gadgets

1. A Calendar Mousepad

My 2021 calendar mouse pad is on order. Last year, I decided that I needed a handy calendar that didn't have to hang on the wall or be buried in a drawer. The perfect solution was a mouse pad that doubles as a calendar. Sure, you can't write on it, but who cares! If I need to quickly glance at a particular date while viewing the whole year at a glance .... bingo! Problem solved.

Here's My 2020 Mousepad Calendar - 2021 Just Ordered - Waiting for Arrival

I find the calendar mouse pad handy when I travel to my mother's house. I'll work from there, and since the year is displayed in one handy spot, boom, I have a calendar at my fingertips, literally. The best part is I don't have to look at my phone or google a calendar. The mousepad gives me immediate access when working.

I'll end up with a collection of calendar mousepads as the years go by, but how cool is that? After many years of collecting them, God willing, I was considering sticking them in a photo frame for the wall and pinning a small photo in the middle of each year to represent the major event for that year. I guess the covid virus will be the 2020 photo? Um, maybe not. We'll see. 

I would love 2021 to represent something positive about my riddle books, or better yet, my first grand-daughter due in August. There you have it, she gets the 2021 photo billing.

2. HomeMedics Hand-Held Massager

This thing is so darned convenient! This massager is very inexpensive and needs batteries - yah, that part sucks, but honestly, it's worth having on hand. Sitting at my desk can cause tightness and cramps in my thighs and knees. When I'm in the middle of a project and not willing to get up and walk around, I grab that little massager and use it in those painful spots. Works great. 

3. Motivational Words

These can come in many forms. For some, it's a quote on the wall or a plaque on the desk. For me, it's a gift from my grandsons. They gave me three rocks, each printed with a motivational word; "wish, hope, dream." I love these rocks! Here they are:

Wish, Hope, Dream Rocks on My Desk

4. Candles, Yes, Candles, Lots of Candles

Over the holidays, I received three new candles, and I've used two of them completely, and it's only the end of January, lol. These particular candles came in lovely pastel-colored, small glass containers. They fit perfectly on our kitchen window ledge, so I've cleaned them and plan on planting herbs inside in the spring. If fire freaks you out, go for the led battery operated version. The ambient light, no matter which you use, is lovely, and of course, the scent of a real candle can be calming. Lemon, my fave - #anythinglemon.

5. Plants - Plants Are a Must

Plants clean the air. For that reason alone, I include them in a room. Certain plants are ideal for rooms with a lot of electronics, such as Spider Plants. I have one of those plants by our family room TV.

 Fresh flowers are nice and are normally only on my desk when given as a gift. For that reason, I keep plants. I have two plants, one on my desk and one on my credenza: They're easy to keep, they can handle indirect light, and I only water them once a week. I insert a fertilizer stick once a month or so. They're self-sustaining, and the greenery is lovely. This year I plan on adding a floor plant to the room.

Here's the plant on my desk. It's approximately six years old. It was originally at my mom's house, and during her snowbirding days, she'd give her plants to me.

Plant on my Desk - About six years old now - Easy to care for

6. A Portable Heater or Cooler

There's an electric fireplace in my office; however, I prefer the stand-up portable heater. I live in Canada, it's winter, and we're having a cold spell right now. The heater is a gawd-send during the winter months. You can find ones that offer both heating and cooling. However, with central air, the cooling option isn't necessary for us. 

What I like most about the heater is the soothing effects of it at night. When I'm working late, and the room is cold, I pull the heater within one foot of where I'm sitting, and the heat pours over me. When I've had enough, I turn it off. I'm actually turning it on and off all night long. This was a gift that I said I didn't want (since I have a fireplace) - I was wrong. Best gift evah!

I hope your workspace is cozy and filled with encouraging and handy gizmos and gadgets; working from home is much better when it is. Turn your office or desk space into a reflection of yourself.




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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Stuffed Mushroom Day Review

Image Source: Pixabay

Stuffed Mushroom Day is celebrated on February 4th each year.  As the name implies, it is a day set aside to enjoy this tasty treat by everyone who loves mushrooms.


Stuffed mushrooms can most likely be credited to the Italians, as mushroom recipes resemble the Italian stuffed zucchini.


Crab Stuffed Mushrooms: Allrecipes

A favorite recipe for stuffed mushrooms most often includes breadcrumbs, parsley, olive oil and garlic. Other favorite ingredients are crabmeat (my favorite) or sausage, and other vegetables to your liking. Topped with parmesan cheese and baked, they make a very tasty appetizer you won't be able to stop eating. Check out a variety of stuffed mushroom recipes here on Allrecipes.


Crafty Stuffed Mushrooms


In addition to being interested in Stuffed Mushroom Day because I love how they taste, I was just as drawn to it because I am a crafter.  Being an Etsy seller, I have seen so many adorable hand-crafted mushrooms by my fellow shop owners that I just had to show off some of them. And Stuffed Mushroom Day seemed like a good day to do so. 


Amigurumi Mushroom


Crochet Amigurumi Mushroom

Adorable stuffed mushroom handmade by Ashlyn from Texas for her Etsy Shop Smiley Bee Crafts


Stuffed Mushroom Set in Crochet


Set of Stuffed Mushrooms

This is a set of 10 plush stuffed mushrooms handmade by Tatyana of Ukraine for her Etsy Shop TsvitanaLove.


Mario Mushrooms


Mario Mushrooms in Handmade Crochet


These adorable Mario Mushrooms are handmade in crochet by Bessy for her Etsy Shop Sontara's World


Make Your Own Stuffed Mushroom in Crochet


Stuffed Mushroom Crochet Pattern


If you are a crochet crafter and would like to create your own stuffed mushroom, check out this cute mushroom pattern by Sara. It's available in her Etsy Shop Saras Stuffies.


The Summing Up of Stuffed Mushroom Day 


Stuffed Mushroom Day is also known as National Stuffed Mushroom Day.  It may be one of those made-up unofficial holidays, but I, for one, am glad someone decided to designate a day that clearly encourages people to make and consume lots and lots of stuffed mushrooms. 

And for the times you are not able to make your own edible stuffed mushrooms, or go out to a restaurant that features these yummy appetizers, you can remember your favorite mushrooms with one or more of these adorable handmade 'pretend' mushrooms featured here. 


National Stuffed Mushroom Day

February 4


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National Stuffed Mushroom Day written by (c) Wednesday Elf






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Friday, January 29, 2021

Taste of Home Instant Pot Cookbook Review

The "Taste of Home Instant Pot Cookbook" is an absolute must for anyone seeking recipes for their Instant Pot.

Instant Pot Cookbook
A few years ago, my parents gave me an Instant Pot.  I really wanted the Instant Pot and was most grateful for the gift.  However, it has taken time for me to find and perfect recipes cooked in the Instant Pot. 

There is a talent for cooking in the Instant Pot that must be developed through experience.  Or, I guess some just cook by faith.  Unlike the stove top or oven, you can't see what is happening.  Therefore, you are cooking "blind" and trusting the pot to get it right for you.

I love to cook, but I don't like wasting my time and food on a recipe that my family cannot eat.  When testing a new recipe, I am careful to choose the timing.  I want to make sure there are dinner alternatives available for us should the recipe end in disaster.

I also love cookbooks!  Some might even say I enjoy collecting cookbooks.  Let's face it, not all recipes in any cookbook are wonderfully perfect for every family.  If I see a few recipes in a cookbook that I want to try, I'll buy it.  Therefore, I do have a very nice collection of cookbooks.

One of my most recent cookbook acquisitions was another gift from my parents.  They gave me two new cookbooks for Christmas this year.  One of them was the "Taste of Home Instant Pot Cookbook".  My son also gave me two new cookbooks.  Christmas night I was sitting on the couch with my mom pouring over my new cookbooks and getting really excited about testing new recipes.  I have tiny post-its poking out in all of them that mark recipes I want to try, but I started with a recipe from my Taste of Home Instant Pot Cookbook .


Recipes in the Taste of Home Instant Pot Cookbook 

 Taste of Home Instant Pot Cookbook:
Over 100 Recipes Made Easy in the Instant Pot
Check Price
The first meal I cooked was a Cranberry-Mustard Pork Loin.  It was delicious!  We will be having that meal again.  It took less than an hour to prepare and cook the pork loin.  The sauce was quite unique and one I would expect a professional chef to devise.

The second recipe I tried was a little more risky in my opinion.  I've never been keen on mushrooms and the recipe for the Beef Tips called for Portobello mushrooms.  After reading the ingredients and instructions several times, I decided to try it.  After all, I could shove all of mushrooms onto my husband's plate since they are cut into slices.  It just sounded too delicious to pass up.  The Beef Tip recipe is the best new recipe I have cooked in decades!  

The savory beef tips are served over, or alongside, mashed potatoes with the thickened sauce they cooked in.  This meal is so easy to prepare, and again, in an hour.

Both of these meals taste like you spent hours cooking and years to perfect.  They were both fabulous on the first try.  No wasted time or food.  And no need for multiple tests and trials before I got them right.  They were excellent prepared exactly the way the cookbook recipe instructed.

The only concern or challenge I have had with this cookbook is choosing what to cook next!

Beef Tips Instant Pot RecipeBeef Tips Instant Pot RecipeCreamy & Delicious Mashed Potatoes RecipeCreamy & Delicious Mashed Potatoes Recipe


Using the Taste of Home Instant Pot Cookbook 

The inside cover of this cookbook has "flaps" that can be used as bookmarks. I find them extremely helpful, especially when cooking a specific recipe and referring back to the page for more directions.

This cookbook, like all of the Instant Pot cookbooks I have, uses generic terms like "select manual setting".  I don't have a manual on my Instant Pot, but I have learned that means "PressureCook" on my cooker's settings.  I can only assume this varies by brand, model, or age of manufacturing. 

I recommend reading through the recipe completely before you begin cooking so you know what to expect.

I also recommend pre-measuring ingredients and setting them around your pot.  It would be easy to overlook an ingredient in a recipe, but if you have it already sitting out, you will notice it before you close and lock your lid.  Keep in mind, Instant Pot cooking is not like simmering a pot of stew all day.  You can't add a forgotten ingredient an hour into cooking and it not matter.

 

For additional Instant Pot tips, click here and read the section entitled "Instant Pot Use Tips".  
For the Beef Tips Recipe and Preparation Tips mentioned above, click here.





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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Review of Folly-A Folly Beach Mystery Book

My Photo of the Morris Island Lighthouse

I just read a book that has all the elements that I find fascinating.  First let me tell you I am a photographer whose favorite subject is lighthouses.  I also enjoy mysteries. This book has all of those things along with a cast of quirky characters that make the book a real page turner.

Summary of Book

 I started reading this book and I was hooked on the very first pages when a photographer sets off to take a photo of the sun rising over a lighthouse.  It just so happens that this lighthouse is the Morris Island Lighthouse, a lighthouse that I too have photographed.  As he is walking down the path to the shore  I can vividly remember myself walking down that same path.  Needless to say my interest was captured right from the beginning.

In this delightful first book of the Folly Beach Mystery Series Chris is taking a month long vacation in Folly Beach South Carolina, a beach town near Charleston.  While Chris is on his first outing to photograph the lighthouse he hears shots fired and discovers a dead body.  The rest of the book is filled with Chris meeting the residents of the small town and discovering some delightful characters along the way.  

When Chris's first rental house is burned he begins to suspect that someone thinks he saw something at the murder site.  Chris does not know what it could be but he becomes determined in discovering who the killer is and why they are targeting him.

Along the way Chris meets a reporter who shows him the sights in Charleston and a love interest develops.  He also meets a quirky character, Charles who calls him "Mr. Photo Man".  

The book has lots of interesting people and wonderful descriptions of both Folly Beach and Charleston.  If you haven't been there they will make you want to go and if like me you've been to both places they make you long to go back.

The Book on Amazon

Here is a link to the book on Amazon.  I highly recommend it for a relaxing and fun read.  As soon as I finished I went and bought book 2 in the series and I can't wait to get started.



My Photos on Zazzle

Here on Zazzle are several of the photographs I took when visiting South Carolina.






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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

VOLO Hero Premium Microfiber Hair Towel Product Review

I have worn my hair long for the past 60 years (yikes!). Although it began thinning about 15 years ago, for most of that time, my hair was thick as well as long. It has also been highlighted or color treated for the past 30 years. Like most people with long, thick, hair, especially if it has been colored, chemically processed, or heat-styled for a long time, I'm always looking for ways to dry my hair faster—without added stress to my tresses. I have purchased hair towels, hair wraps, and turbans, in a variety of shapes, fabrics, and sizes, with and without a button and loop or elastic closure, and from different brands. All of them promised to deliver everything I was looking for in a hair towel, claiming their towel would dry wet hair in half the time, be easy to wrap and close securely, stay in place without shifting, and without pulling or tugging on vulnerable, wet strands or abrading the hair's cuticle, which causes frizz. 

Unfortunately, none of them delivered on everything they claimed, and all fell short of my (admittedly high) hopes and expectations. But that was before I bit the bullet and invested in the VOLO Hero Microfiber Hair Towel, a premium product with a price tag to match. I thought about it for close to a year before deciding to see whether this could finally be the hair towel that lived up to its hype. I have been using it for the past two months, and so far, I have nothing but good things to say about it. It delivers on the marketing promises, and has significantly outperformed every other hair towel I have used. 

If you're happy with your current hair towel, there's no reason to spend more on one of these. However, if you have long, thick, color-treated, or damaged hair, and you can comfortably afford to upgrade to a higher quality, larger, more absorbent microfiber hair towel that can dry your hair faster and more gently, I highly recommend giving consideration to the VOLO Hero Premium Microfiber Hair Towel, which the company also refers to on its website as the VOLO Hero Quick Dry Towel. 

Main image - text - "Do VOLO Hero & Super Hero Hair Towels live up to the hype?"


Why the VOLO Hero Microfiber Hair Towel Is the Best Towel for Drying Long or Thick Hair

Based on my own experience, these are the features and characteristics that put the VOLO Hero Microfiber Hail Towel head and shoulders (so to speak) above all the others I've tried. 

Soft, Silky, Plush Microfiber Fabric Absorbs More Water, Wicks It Away Better, and Dries Hair Faster vs. Cheaper Hair Towels

Microfiber is known for its ability to absorb many times its own weight in liquid, and then wick away that moisture. This makes it ideal for drying hair. 

However, not all microfiber towels are equally effective at absorbing and wicking away moisture! 

Microfiber fabrics with longer, finer, more numerous fibers not only absorb more liquid, but also wick it away faster than those with shorter, thicker and fewer fibers.  

Close-up photo of VOLO Hero Hair Towel's plush microfiber pile fabric
This extreme close-up shows the thick, plush, super-absorbent pile of the VOLO Hero Hair Towel's premium microfiber fabric that allows it to dry wet hair faster and more efficiently

The cloud-soft, microfiber fabric of the VOLO Hero Hair Towel features an extremely plush, dense pile made up of many long, smooth, slender fibers, so it can absorb and wick away more water from your hair than other towels, pulling that moisture up to the surface where it can evaporate. 

According to the manufacturer, this premium microfiber towel can absorb 10x its weight in water and reduce drying time by 50% by removing more water than other towels. Although I have never tried to weigh and compare the amounts of water absorbed by different hair towels I have owned or the residual moisture in my hair after using them, my hair is noticeably drier, and in less time, since I replaced my previous microfiber turban with my VOLO Hero hair towel.

Large, Flat Rectangular Shape = More Surface Area That Absorbs More Water vs. Triangle- or Teardrop-Shaped Wraps

Most hair drying towels, wraps, and turbans on the market consist of of two pieces of microfiber towel fabric, joined with a center seam to form an elongated triangle- or teardrop-shaped pocket that tapers to a point. This photo shows my old, light blue Aquis hair towel next my new, grey VOLO Hero Microfiber Hair Towel. 

To do a fair visual comparison of the total surface areas of these two towels, we need to double the visible footprint of the folded Aquis towel, since the two halves can't be laid out flat without ripping out the center seam.

Side-by-side photo of large, rectangular VOLO Hero Premium Microfiber Hair Towel and much smaller Aquis teardrop-shaped, seams hair towel
The tapered end of a seamed, curved, teardrop or triangle-shaped hair wrap or turban is to narrow to hold much hair, or absorb much water.   

Looking at these towels side by side, even after visualizing the half of the Aquis towel that can't be seen, there is obviously a significant difference between the volume and surface area of these two towels. 

This Oversized, Thick, and Plush Microfiber Towel Can Hold a Lot of Wet Hair, and Dry It Faster and More Effectively

The signature VOLO Super Hero Microfiber Hair Towel measures a generous 39.4 x 23.5 inches, which gives it enough length and width to easily accommodate even long, thick hair, and enough surface area to draw water out of even the most luxuriant locks and copious curls. 

It had dried my long hair noticeably better, and in much less time, than any other hair towel I've ever used. 

Comfortable to Wear, and Gentle on Your Hair

Over the years, I have tried several different elongated, triangle- or teardrop-shaped, turban-style hair wraps, and disliked them all. Here's why: 

  1. Most had a button and loop closure that I found awkward to use, especially since I preferred to have it at the nape of my neck, which meant fumbling with it behind my head without being able to see what I was doing. 
  2. If I fastened it in the front, the tapered part of the towel was too narrow to cover the front of my hair. 
  3. The wrap wouldn't cover my hair, or the weight of my long, wet hair would eventually cause it to shift to one side or sag down in the back, unless it twisted the long, narrow "tail" tightly. 
  4. Unfortunately, twisting it enough to keep both the towel and my hair in place immediately gave me a headache. It made towel drying my hair more like torture! 
  5. Putting my hair under so much torsion and tension when it was wet and, therefore, more vulnerable to breakage or abrasion of the cuticle (the root cause of frizziness). 
The first time I used my new VOLO Hero Microfiber Towel, I couldn't believe the difference in ease of use, comfort, and drying speed.  

The much larger size and rectangular shape makes enclosing my entire head of hair, from roots to tips and nape to hairline, practically effortless. After bending forward, a bit, I drape the towel over my head, with the elastic strap centered above the nape of my neck. Then, I just bring the ends of the towel around my hair, cross one end over the other, give them one or two loose twists, and bring them up and over my head, pulling the ends through the elastic strap at the back to secure them. No pulling, tugging, or tension on my hair or my scalp, no headaches, no breakage, and no risk of roughing up the cuticle and causing more frizz than I already have (thanks to decades of highlights and hair coloring). 

The thick, plush, microfiber fabric results in wider twists that form a taller turban than typical hair wraps, which keeps the bulk of the wet hair (and, therefore, the weight) centered on top of my head, instead of toward the back, so it seems less prone to shifting. I'm honestly amazed at how loosely I can wrap this towel and have it still stay put.

This hair wrap is so comfortable, and feels so soft against my face, that I'm happy to leave it on for as much time as I have (which is a welcome change from those tight, headache-inducing turbans!). 

The Softest, Silkiest, Most Luxurious Hair Towels Imaginable

That plush, dense, fine microfiber pile doesn't just provide superior absorbency and wicking properties that can dry wet hair faster and more thoroughly. It also makes these VOLO Hero and VOLO Super Hero Premium Microfiber Hair Towels incredibly soft, silky, lightweight, and luxurious to the touch. 

I never imagined that a towel could not only dry wet hair so quickly, but also feel so opulent!


Amazon product image - VOLO Hero Microfiber Hair Towel
VOLO Hero Microfiber Hair Towel - image courtesy of Amazon.com

There's Also a VOLO Super Hero Quick Dry Hair Towel for Drying Super Long, Super Thick Locks

The VOLO Super Hero Hair Towel is made with the same ultra-soft, plush, silky, premium microfiber fabric, but is seven inches wider and has 30% more fabric than the original, signature VOLO Hero towel. The VOLO Super Hero's whopping 39.4 x 30.5 inch size would be a match for even Lady Godiva's famous, ankle-length mane! 

A Premium Product With a Premium Price Tag 

I discovered the VOLO Hero through a rave review by a well known fashion and beauty expert. Even though it sounded like exactly what I had been searching for all these years, I resisted buying one for nearly a year because of the price. Since none of the other towels I had purchased lived up to their ambitious claims or 5-star customer reviews, why would I believe that this one would be different? It seemed gullible, as well as extravagant. to spend $39 for ANY hair towel that didn't have a $20 bill clipped to it, lol.

After 10 or 11 more months of needless aggravation every time I shampooed, I decided enough was enough. So, I finally bit the bullet and ordered a VOLO Hero microfiber hair towel. If you've gotten this far in my product review, I'm sure it will come as no surprise that I am absolutely thrilled with my purchase, and consider it well worth every penny I paid for it. My only regret is not having bought it much sooner!

For someone with extremely long or very thick hair, I definitely would recommend the VOLO Super Hero version that, for $10 more, gets you an extra 7 inches of width and 30% more fabric, so can easily accommodate even the longest, most voluminous hair, and absorb the higher volume of water from all that extra hair. 


VOLO Hero Premium Microfiber Hair Towel Product Review by Margaret Schindel


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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Jeffrey Siger's The Mykonos Mob (Island of Secrets) Reviewed

Jeffrey Siger’s The Mykonos Mob

My accidental introduction to Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis via Jeffrey Siger’s tenth book, The Mykonos Mob, came about because of the pandemic. Limiting trips to public places means that my husband has become the designated library picker upper. Most of our library books are requested in advance online and then picked up when they are available but on this particular day I felt like reading something different and my husband left home with instructions to find me something different to read. Maybe something that was recent. Maybe a mystery or a thriller. 

He came home with a number of options including this one, The Mykonos Mob, which follows Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis who leaves Athens for the Greek island of Mykonos. To those not very familiar with Greece, like myself, Mykonos is a Greek island with a thriving tourist industry and a reputation. That is, a reputation for a busy beach scene and lots of nightlife. It is considered an international playground and may not necessarily be the kind of vacation I would be looking for but is interesting as a destination nevertheless.

In this book, Kaldis works to solve the murder of a corrupt former police officer who now runs a protection racket on Mykonos. We meet the main players who include Kaldis, his Special Crimes unit, his wife and an interesting American woman who has transplanted herself to Mykonos and who plays piano in a bar at night and solves local crimes during the day.

As an armchair traveler, I don’t think any of my ‘trips’ have included Greece. This book offered a look at the seedy underbelly of the island but also at some Greek culture. It is not a travel guide nor a travel book per se and some parts of the life reflected in this book might have you thinking you do not want to visit Mykonos but it was interesting to learn about some of the issues of life in Greece and in particular on Mykonos. The author, Jeffrey Siger, left a career as a Wall Street lawyer in New York to live on the Aegean Greek island that is Mykonos and to write books like this one. It is intentional that they share a fast moving story and some real life Greece.

RECOMMENDED?


I enjoyed The Mykonos Mob and yes, I do recommend it. I enjoyed the look into life in Greece, a place that I would like to visit one day, and I liked the main characters. I will be reading the rest of this series. I think this book would suit any man or woman who enjoys a good murder mystery as well as someone with an interest in life in modern-day Greece.

Jeffrey Siger’s Island of Secrets

BOOK LIST


Here’s the order you should read the books. Note that this book, The Mykonos Mob, is number ten in the series. Starting with number ten is not my usual style and I doubt it is yours. Another important note is that the book name was changed to Island of Secrets when it was released in paperback.

Murder in Mykonos
Assassins of Athens
Prey on Patmos
Target
Mykonos After Midnight
Sons of Sparta
Devil of Delphi
Santorini Caesars
An Aegean April
The Mykonos Mob (Island of Secrets in paperback)
A Deadly Twist

Find your Jeffrey Siger book on Amazon in hardcover, paperback or Kindle by clicking right here.

Do you like a good murder mystery?  Have you read any good fiction books set Greece that you would recommend, mystery or otherwise?

See you
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

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Buy The Mykonos Mob (or any of Jeffrey Siger’s books) here on Amazon.
Jeffrey Archer’s False Impressions Reviewed.
The Coffee House Mysteries reviewed.
Death Takes A Spin: An Upcycling Mystery reviewed.










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Monday, January 25, 2021

Ice Castles Movie Reviewed

Flashback to 1978! This is a favorite movie. It has been quite awhile since I watched this movie and after I found it again on Amazon Prime this movie brought back the memories.


Love Story

Ice Castles is a love story set within the world of figure skating. Figure skater fans will appreciate the skating and love story fans will appreciate the old flame comes to the rescue storyline.

Figure Skating

The story contains plenty of figure skating and the competitive skating world is the backdrop for the love story. If you love to watch figure skating you will enjoy the figure skating scenes throughout the movie.

Persistence

Ultimately this is a love story of persistence. Persistence to overcome, persistence to prevail and the persistence of how love can prevail.


The Stars

Lynn Holly Johnson is the small town figure skater with Olympic hopes whose eye injury renders her blind. Lynn Holly was actually an Ice Capades figure skater when producers recruited her for the part of Lexie.
Robby Benson has been described at the IT star of the 1970's plays the hockey player and old flame of Lexie who comes to her aid as she navigates life as a blind figure skater.
Colleen Dewhurst is the small town coach who is instrumental in coaching Lexie on her way up and holding Lexie up while recovering from her accident.

Through The Eyes Of Love


Melissa Manchester's Through The Eyes Of Love is the theme song for the movie. If you don't remember the movie the theme song may bring back a few memories! The song was nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards.




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Sunday, January 24, 2021

His Gift Was Knowing - A Short Story



I've had the privilege of reading and reviewing many short stories by friends of mine. Being a writer of poetry and riddle books, I've never tackled a fictional short story online. As a young girl, I wrote many. However, as an adult, nope, never fictional.

Fiction wasn't my thing. Maybe it's this whole getting-older-stuff that gets us stepping out of our comfort zone? That's exactly what propelled me to write and publish my first poetry book in 2019, and since then, six riddle books. For some unknown reason, I had and still have a sense of urgency.

I blame time for my bravery to try new things. Time is knocking on my door, and my sense of it passing by too quickly is front and center these days.

So today's review is about jumping in and doing that one thing you've been hesitant to do. For me, it's writing a fictional story. So judge away, lol.


His Gift Was Knowing - A Short Story by Barbara Tremblay Cipak

His Gift Was Knowing - A Short Story About Love and Light

She stood at the bottom of that radiant sun-soaked hill sobbing from a pain that she didn't fully understand. 

This kind of suffering was beyond anything Kathleen had ever experienced.

It hurt more than when her father unexpectedly died in his sleep from an unknown heart condition when she was only eighteen; and even more than her mother's difficult passing from dementia three months ago.  

At the top of that hill, Kathleen could see Jeffrey, dressed in a lovely black suit. Her heart could feel his soul as if he were still that precious two-year-old rusty haired boy she rocked to sleep every night for years. She wondered how he grew up so quickly into the dapper twenty-year-old she was looking at today.

Kathleen could see Jeffrey comforting his sister. Holly's strong independent nature couldn't console her on this day. At eighteen, Holly needed her brother's shoulder. Kathleen was grateful that her children were there for each other.

Then it hit her. 

Kathleen suddenly realized why she was feeling this indescribable pain. Her children were grieving, and she could feel every part of their anguish. The tears she cried were a combination of all her love, as well as theirs.

Kathleen remembered how it happened, how she died. 

Two weeks ago, life took a turn that led her to the road she was on today.
_________

It was a bright, beautiful Tuesday. With spring in full bloom, she remembered feeling like anything was possible. As she headed downstairs that morning, she had an unexpected moment of knowing that everything would be ok. It was so profound that it stopped her on the steps. She paused to inhale the gift and felt fortunate to be in tune with something that always felt personal to her, something cosmic.

While sitting in her kitchen, waiting for nothing, Kathleen was enjoying a fresh cup of morning coffee. Life had always been a struggle, but Kathleen managed to find rays of sunshine. She called them 'her moments of bliss.' 

Being a single mom, she tried hard to maintain an uplifting attitude. She couldn't afford to slip into hopelessness. She often said, 'my children save my life every day.' To her, that was the greatest gift, and being a good mother was the least she could do for what they gave to her; hope.

Doing everything and expecting nothing had been Kathleen's motto. "Just do," she used to say; the rest will take care of itself.

While sipping that coffee, her phone rang. It was a number she didn't recognize and almost didn't answer. But being a believer in chance, she thought maybe today good luck would shine upon them and send the money they desperately needed for Holly's medication. 

Holly suffered from a rare auto-immune disease and required expensive anti-inflammatories to keep her frequent seizures under control.  

She answered that unexpected call.

"Hello, Kathleen speaking." 
"Hi, is this Kathleen Summers?" 
"Yes, it is."
"Hello, this is the office of Brander and Dorval. We handled your father's Last Will & Testament."

Kathleen was confused. Her father didn't own anything; he didn't have anything. How could there possibly be a Will, and why would someone be contacting her thirty-seven years after his death about a Will!

"What?" Kathleen said sharply

"Yes, there is a Will, and Mr. Brander needs to speak to you about it. Could you come in today, how's 1:00 pm?"

Although nearly speechless from shock, Kathleen agreed. 

Kathleen could hear both her kids shuffling upstairs as they readied themselves for their day. Jefferey loved animals and worked to save money to go to school to become a Veterinarian. His determination alone woke him daily for his job. Never late, always dependable. That was Jeffrey.

Holly never let her health stand in her way. She was about to finish her last semester of High School. Her curiosity about her auto-immune disease led her to want to study within that field. Maybe a doctor, perhaps a researcher; she hadn't figured that out yet.

Kathleen was proud of their determined spirit. It hadn't been easy for them; lack of money was always the mountain they had to climb, but her kids never let that stop them from dreaming. 

Kathleen headed upstairs to ready herself for her unexpected appointment and let the kids know she would be out for the afternoon. She didn't tell them about the strange call since she wasn't sure it was real.

Hugging both kids as they left for the day, Kathleen reminded them she wouldn't be working from home this afternoon, and not to worry, she had an errand to run. "Love you both," she shouted. "Love you back mom, bye, have a great day!"

The Law Office was grand. This company had been in business practically forever. As she walked into the ornate building, she wondered how on earth her father could afford this caliber of a lawyer. "Nah," she said to herself, "This has to be a mistake."

A lovely, tall, dark-haired lady led her into Mr. Brander's office.

Mr. Brander proceeded to introduce himself and encouraged her to take a seat. 

Kathleen exclaimed, "this is a mistake; you must have the wrong Kathleen Summers."

"I'll get right to it, Ms. Summers." He pulled out a large brown envelope. Inside the envelope were instructions given to the law firm.

Mr. Brander pulled out a photo and asked Kathleen, "Is this your father?"

Almost fainting, Kathleen nervously answered in question format, "Yes?"

"Ms. Summers, your father left you an inheritance, not to be opened until this day."

Mr. Brander proceeded, "In these instructions, we're asked to give you this black notebook along with this key."

Mr. Brander informed her that the key was to a safety deposit box at a bank not too far from here and that he would have to accompany her to access the box. However, she would have to read what was in the black notebook first, as those were her father's instructions. 

"It's private, only for you." Mr. Brander led her to a boardroom where she could quietly process the unexpected gift that was left to her thirty-seven years ago. 

Kathleen opened the cover.

"To my darling Kathleen and her children."

She gasped out loud, "how was that possible!"  She hadn't had children when her dad had died. 

She turned that first page and began to read.
__________

My Dearest Kathleen:

You have the same gift I do. From the moment you were born, I knew within you was the gift of knowing. You always seem to understand that in the end, everything would be ok. 

From as far back as I can remember, maybe back to when I was two or three, I could see significant events coming next. Everyone else calls it psychic; I call it life. I don't know why or how I have this gift, but it is a part of me. 

I'm writing this letter because, in less than a week, I'll be gone. I know I'm destined to die in my sleep. Rest assured, it will be from natural causes. You'll later find out I had a heart condition. I've seen several doctors about it, but all tests showed nothing substantial. However, I know I won't live. It's the same knowingness you carry about life.

You'll have two kids, and I know one of them will have a medical condition. I can't tell you any of this now, at eighteen. You wouldn't understand or believe me. But mostly, you don't need to know about this blessing and burden at such a young age. So I decided to handle things this way.

My grandchildren needed to be taken care of, so I started early in life making sure they would be alright. You'll eventually understand why this is so important and why I did things this way.

Go with the lawyer to open that safety deposit box. Please pass all its contents along to your children. I promise you; it will eventually make sense.

Love you more than you could  know - until we meet again,

Dad
_________

Kathleen felt both grateful and fearful, but a part of her was angry. 

"Why would dad leave something for children I didn't have and never think to leave things to me?" She wasn't jealous about the gift for her kids; she was baffled. 

Mr. Brander opened the boardroom door and asked her if she was ready to go to the bank. On the drive there, Mr. Brander informed her that her father and his father had been good friends and that it was his father who initially worked on her dad's Will. "Before my dad died, he filled me in on your dad's wishes and the Will our firm was holding for you," I promised him I would take care of it when the time came.

Inside the little room, and in her father's lawyer's presence, Kathleen opened the safety deposit box.

There were two large brown envelopes.

Printed on one envelope was "Open this one first," and on the other, "Open this one last."

Kathleen opened the first envelope to find another letter from her father.
_________

Dearest Kathleen; 

To help your children, my grandchildren achieve their purpose in life, I've taken steps to ensure they would have the resources they needed to achieve their goals and complete their contribution.

You'll find in the next envelope that I've invested $20,000 in a safe stock portfolio held by this bank. By the time you open this letter, it should be worth between 140,000 and 200,000 dollars. The bank can help you with those details.

Please ensure your children get all the documents and my letters.
__________

Kathleen felt more than loved. She began to get that cosmic sense she was accustomed to, that there's still more to this story. It both scared her and comforted her.

Mr. Brander handed her all the documents, including the little black notebook with her dad's initial letter, and they hugged and parted ways for the day. They planned to meet at the bank in the coming days to establish the value of the inheritance her father left to her children.

Kathleen arrived home at about 5:00 pm. Both Jeffrey and Holly were preparing dinner. "Hi, mom," they cheerfully blurted. "Where were you?"

"Well, you aren't going to believe my day; you both better sit down." Kathleen then proceeded to tell them the entire day's events.

The kids were beyond shocked. Like their mom, they were a bit confused about why their grandfather would wait all these years to give them this inheritance and why it would go to them. 

Later that night, as they were all preparing for bed, Kathleen hugged both of her kids, told them she loved them, and said, "Let's sleep on it tonight; maybe things would be clearer in the morning."

Kathleen died in her sleep that night.
__________

She understood the purpose of her father's Will now. As she stood at the bottom of that hill watching her kids at the top, she knew they were visiting her grave. She noticed something tucked under Jeffrey's arm; it was that little black notebook.

Suddenly Kathleen's tears stopped, and beside her stood both her father and her mother. Her first words were, "Mom, you knew all this time." "I did, dear, I always trusted your father's gift of knowing. We both planned this for you.

The three of them walked towards the children at the top of the hill. As they stood beside them, they heard Holly speaking. "Thank you, mom, for all you did for us. Grandpa's $20,000 investment is worth over $300,000 today. That's enough for Jeffrey and me to go to school. I'm going to be a Doctor, mom, and Jeffrey is going to be a Veterinarian. We promise to make you proud.

Kathleen, with joyful tears, had no doubt they would.

Kathleen's father let her in on the biggest secret of all. "Do you know why we did this?" Kathleen answered, "Yes, to help the kids achieve their dreams." 

Her dad said, "That was one reason, but not the main reason. Holly will be part of a global discovery on how to help those who suffer from auto-immune diseases. It will be the breakthrough of her time. She's going to help a lot of people. And Jeffrey won't just be Veterinarian; he's going to be a major contributor to one of the largest animal rescue facilities in the country."

"And you knew this when you were little, dad?" "Yes, I did," he replied.

"How?" she asked. "I don't know, we all have a gift; we just have to open our minds to see it and believe it.

As Jeffrey and Holly walked away, Kathleen asked her mother and father, "where are we going now?"

"Home Kathleen, we're going home."

__________

I had originally written this story to enter a contest but then decided against it. So there you have it, one more step outside of that familiar comfort zone.

Have you ever stepped outside of your comfort zone?





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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner – A Book Review


Lisa Gardner has two popular series in her list of suspense novels, the FBI Profiler Series and the Detective D.D. Warren Series. Right Behind You is the seventh (and latest) book in the Pierce Quincy/Rainie Conner FBI Profiler series 


After writing the first six books in her FBI series between 1998 and 2008, Gardner went on to write 11 books in the D.D. Warren series, along with six non-series books. Now she finally returns with another Quincy and Rainie story at the insistence of her long-time fans. THIS fan is delighted, as these characters are my favorite of all her books.


Introduction


Pierce Quincy is now a retired FBI profiler and Lorraine (Rainie) Conner is a retired police detective. They are married and also partners in a Cold Case or weird murders consulting business, helping small local police departments who lack the personnel and equipment to handle a major violent crime. In Right Behind You they have also been foster parents for the past three years to Sharlah, a 13-year-old orphan girl they are soon to adopt.  Suddenly they are involved in a case that hits far too close to home


Synosis


Available on Amazon


As Quincey and Rainie begin to assist their town sheriff with a double murder at a local gas station, more murders are discovered and the suspect appears to be the foster son of a local couple who, it turns out, is also Sharlah's older brother. Eight years ago the brother, 9-year-old Telly Ray Nash, saw his father kill his mother and then come after the children.  Telly beat his knife-wielding drug-addicted and drunken father to death with a baseball bat to save both him and his little sister Sharlah.  


Now 17, Telly is suddenly being blamed for the recent murders. A massive hunt for Telly is launched and Quincy and Rainie must answer two critical questions: Why after eight years has this young man started killing again? And what does this mean for Sharlah?  


Sharlah has her own questions. Is her brother who once saved her life a hero or a killer? And how much will it cost her new family before they learn the final shattering truth. 


Summary


Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner, published in 2017, is available in hardback, in paperback, as an audio book and on Kindle.


*Editor's Pick in Best Mystery, Thriller and Suspense.


*Interesting Note: Titles cannot be copyrighted in the United States. Therefore, two or more books can have the same title.


Another book by the same title of Right Behind You is by Rachel Abbot and is reviewed here on ReviewThisReviews by Louanne Cox (Lou16).


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*Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner book review written by (c) Wednesday Elf





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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Her Silent Knight (Belles of Christmas: Frost Fair Book 1) Reviewed

Her Silent Knight Book
Did you know that it is recorded that the Thames River has frozen over 24 times?  Seven of those times, the ice was solid enough that they held a Frost Fair in London.  

The celebrated Frost Fair of 1683-84 featured multiple activities including horse races, football, bowling, ice skating, sledding and more. Vendor booths were set up to sell souvenirs, food and refreshments. Londoner's clearly knew how to quickly make a rare occurrence into a fun festival for all.  

In 1814 (the last Frost Fair), an elephant was led across the ice. Reminiscent of previous frost fairs, there was dancing, ice skating and of course, vendors.  It lasted only 4 days before the ice broke up and several people drowned.

The very real historical Frost Fair of 1814 is the setting of the entire "Belles of Christmas: Frost Fair" series.  This series provides a wonderful look back into history, as well as some really awesome romantic stories. 

First in the series is "Her Silent Knight". It was such a captivating book, that I read it in one night.  Yes, it was nearly 4 am before I went to sleep, but it was worth it!  I thoroughly enjoyed the sweet story.


Her Silent Knight Synopsis

 Her Silent Knight: A Christmas Regency Romance (Belles of Christmas: Frost Fair Book 1)Check PriceSelina Ellis becomes secretly engaged to Noah Skinner, a solicitor who is below her social status. Mr. Skinner would never be considered an acceptable suitor for Selina, especially by her own mother.  But, Selina doesn't care!  She believes she is in love with Mr. Skinner and when he proposes marriage at the Frost Fair, Selina agrees to marry him, even if it means they would be required to elope.  

The couples embrace is witnessed by a childhood friend that Selina hasn't seen in years. When Sir Edmund Sharp recognizes the two people hugging each other, he knows he must find a way to save Selina from the man with a scandalous reputation.  She is young, naive, and clearly unaware of Mr. Skinner's "manipulations". What Sir Edmund cannot immediately figure out is why Mr. Skinner would pursue a lady with no inheritance. Upon her father's death, their home and money was entailed to a distant relative since Mr. Ellis has no sons.  That left Selina and her mother living on a meager stipend.

Sir Edmund agrees to keep Selina's secret if she will make sure he is invited to spend the Christmastide (the 12 days of Christmas) in her home. The request makes sense because his grandmother recently died and he has no other family in London. Selina's mother had always adored Edmund, plus she saw him as the perfect suitor for Selina. Therefore, securing an invitation for Christmastide was not difficult at all.

Now, Sir Edmund only has to figure out how to separate Selina from Mr. Skinner.  That won't be as easy as Sir Edmund had originally thought since Mr. Skinner has possession of Edmund's grandmothers will. Skinner is willing to do whatever is necessary to keep Sir Edmund from interfering in his relationship with Selina.




 

"Her Silent Knight" is a sweet story of love, chivalry, and childhood loyalties embedded in an enchanting historical fiction, set in the fantastic short-lived Frost Fair on the Thames River in London.  It is the first book in the Belles of Christmas: Frost Fair series shown below.

All but one of these authors are new to me.  I love that when it happens in a co-op series!

 

 Belles of Christmas: Frost Fair (5 Book Series)Check Price



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