Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Spring Into the Garden, Give Nature a Helping Hand! A Garden Review

 

Spring has sprung!  Gardeners and Conservationists are all jumping for joy! A Garden Review.

But wait a minute, before you get all excited about getting your hands dirty and your gardens in shape, let's take a few minutes to think and see what Mother Nature would have us do instead!

Many gardeners are just itching to get their gardens cleaned up and looking tidy and I can't say that I blame them.  After a long cold winter, making things (garden beds) look nice is a job that many gardeners love to do.  Why wait?  Well, would it help for you to know that many bees are still hibernating within the leaves and debris that is in your garden?  We have a serious problem with declining bee populations, so anything you can do to help them would be a welcome thing to do.

I'm not advocating that you leave your gardens in a messy state, but rather wait just a few weeks before getting to the "mess".  That will be time enough for the bees to wake up from their winter slumbers and start looking for those first dandelions for food.

That brings up to the second thing that gardeners should really stop doing in the springtime.  Did you know that dandelions are one of the first spring flowers to come up in your gardens?  Well they are and they are full of good nutrition for the bees who wake up hungry.  Leave those flowers alone, let them bloom and welcome the sight of those bees that are doing the hard work!  If you don't want a proliferation of dandelions in your lawn, just watch the flowers and when they have all been pollinated, and start to produce their seeds heads, go out then and cut them off and dispose of them so no seeds are flying around the garden!  The parent plant will produce another flower for the bees and then you can do the same thing again.  Pluck the spent flower head before it sends it's seeds everywhere.  This way you will be providing food for the bees without dandelions taking over your gardens.  Easy peasy!

Spring comes on quickly, so you need to be ready for all kinds of wonderful things that will happen during this time.  Number three on my list of things to do (or not do) is check for migrating birds in your area.  Hummingbirds are the Number One bird everyone is looking forward to seeing.  They too will come to your gardens hungry from their travels north!  You can check out this Hummingbird Migration Map to see when they will arrive in your area!  

So what can you do to help those Hungry Hummers?


Have your hummingbird feeders out a week or so before they are due in your area.  Keep them clean and available with fresh nectar that is changed weekly!  Why do you need to change the nectar?  Well as with anything left out to the elements, nectars can go "bad".  That means they will get moldy and rancid.  The idea is to feed those hungry hummers, not to harm them!  So clean fresh nectar is a MUST!  (p.s. nectar is simply four parts water to one part sugar, NO DYES)  In the early days of their migration you can make up nectar and keep it in the fridge.  Just put a small amount in the feeders until you know they have found you!  Once you know they are around, then you can fill up those feeders to a cup of nectar and again keep the nectar fresh!
                                                                                  Ruby Throated Hummingbird

           
Migrating Birds, what you need to know!

 Along with the bees, migrating birds are also having "human" problems!  What are those, you might ask?  Well in large urban areas where skyscrapers and really large windows are the norm, many migrating birds fly into those windows and drop like stones onto the pavement below! They suffer broken necks, wings and sometimes are just so stunned that they don't recover.  This is truly a sad situation for birds that fly so far to get to their northern nesting areas.  Large windows are almost invisible to the birds, so their tracking is off!  How can we help them?  It's easy, first is awareness and then there is something as easy as placing "cling decals" on the windows so that they will see them and avoid crashing into them.  You can easily purchase these decals in many styles, some are transparent to the human eyes or others are decorative and produce an ambience in your homes as you look out those windows.  It's a small price to pay for the benefit of the birds and possibly for you to enjoy them as they make their homes in your yards. 

Did you know that there are several species of migratory birds in North American?  Taken from All About Birds.org:
  • Magnolia Warbler by Gerrit VynLong-distance migrants typically move from breeding ranges in the United States and Canada to wintering grounds in Central and South America. Despite the arduous journeys involved, long-distance migration is a feature of some 350 species of North American birds.

  • Learn More About Bird Migration

  • If you want to know more about Bird Migration, there is a wonderful website by Cornell University that follows and updates information on all kinds of migratory birds!  You can find it RIGHT HERE!  This is excellent reading material for any bird enthusiast!  Don't stop with dedicated Birders, get your young ones involved in becoming Bird Ambassadors, they will learn and do so many things in a fun and really rewarding way.
  • There are great books available for children and adults too!  Easy to read and understand, they will teach you everything you need to know and look for when searching the skies and yards for those feathered friends.


Yellow Rumped Warbler

This Easter, instead of just filling our children with chocolate and candy, let's feed their minds with some easy and interesting ways to keep their future in balance. Add some of those window decals or a bird feeder to their Easter basket for an Eco-Friendly alternative to chocolate or candy! 

Happy Easter to Everyone!
 



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Fun & Fab Book Accessories and Gift Ideas

A page full of fun and fabulous book accessories and gift ideas for friends, family and yourself!

If you love books, you will love the fun and fabulous book-themed gift ideas and accessories that I have catalogued for you here on this Review This blog page. If not exactly what you are looking for, they are sure to be a great jumping off point for a gift idea for yourself or for a friend or family member who just cannot take their nose out of a book. All of these book-themed gifts are from Etsy, many of them are available in a variety of materials and patterns and some of them can be personalized with your or your loved one's name or initials. 

HOLDER

Wooden book holder frees your other hand to handle a mug or glass or whatever needs handling!

If you love to read while enjoying your favorite beverage, you will love this little wooden tool. It is designed to help you hold the pages of your book open with one hand thus freeing up the other to hold a mug of your favorite hot and steamy beverage. 

Reader Dickenson said, “I decided to finally read all the big books on my shelf, and my thumbs have been suffering. This thing is amazing! I will probably be buying ten of these as Christmas gifts later this year.” I think that is a brilliant review and I know exactly what it is like to try to keep the pages of a big, trade paperback book open! 

This device is simple and practical and small and affordable. It is something you probably have never heard of  before but once you have seen it you will surely appreciate it. You will find this little wooden book holder from Engaged Book on Etsy by clicking right here.

COFFEE MUG & SWEATSHIRT


It’s a good day to read a book coffee mug!

Did someone mention a steamy hot beverage? Now that one of your hands has been freed up by the book holder, you need a mug for the other hand!  Book lovers will want to consider this coffee mug that will make you smile. It reads “It’s a Good Day to Read a Book.” If you are a big reader, you know that rule applies to every day and you will therefore want to use this mug every day, too! 

Fun bookt-themed t-shirt reads "It's a Good Day to Read a Book."

Sets make wonderful gift ideas. Why not make it a matched set? The "It's a Good Day to Read a Book" slogan is also available on a t-shirt or a sweatshirt. 

Reader Inbelding says, "I collect literary shirts and this one is my new favorite!" You will find the coffee mug, the tee and more book-themed items from The Harper House on Etsy by clicking here

It is definitely worth noting that The Harper House has many other book themed tees and sweatshirts with fun slogans like "Bookish", "Bookmarks are for Quitters", "One More Chapter", "Books and Coffee and more Books", "One More Chapter" and "It's Not Hoarding if its Books.

METAL BOOKMARK


Metal Bookmark Personalized with Your Name!

This bookmark is so pretty! I love the uniqueness of this personalized calligraphic bookmark with the little heart and a bead. Instead of a name or a word like mom or dad, Charlene also fashions bookmarks with other items on the top like a jigsaw puzzle piece, a bird or a wine glass. 

Reader Janet says, "I think so highly of Charlene! Her artistry and creativity has helped me make so many people extremely happy!"  

You can find these unique bookmarks on Etsy from kraze4paper by clicking right here.

SPOON BOOKMARK


Upcycled vintage hand-stamped bookmarks share a love of books and reading!

How about a hand-stamped bookmark? The text on these vintage spoons makes me smile and can be customized to whatever you want to say. I really like “Drink Tea. Read Books. Be Happy” because that fits me to a tea, pun intended. However, I will admit that “Fell asleep here” would be really appropriate, too. 

Reader Ziehr says, "This is the third spoon book marker that I have ordered. It fits snuggly on my book and it does not move around. It's a great personalized gift for any reader.

Find these fun vintage spoon bookmarks on Etsy from Stamped Frosting by clicking right here.

BIRD BOOKENDS


Attractive metal bird bookends will make you smile!

Bookends, anyone? If you enjoy displaying your books, a pair of bookends can be found to suit any interest. I love these bird-themed bookends and think they’d do a great job organizing the stacks of cookbook in a kitchen exactly as they appear in this photograph. 

Reader Fulkerson says, "These bookends look so cute poking out the sides of my open shelving.

Find them from Max Foundry on Etsy by clicking here.

TRAVEL BOOKENDS


A pair of travel themed bookends for the armchair traveller's books!

Those, like me, who are armchair travelers will love these vintage globe-themed bookends though because they are vintage, they are one-of-a-kind find. Once they are sold, they will be gone and you will have to look further afield to find a set that appeals to you. You will find these globe bookmarks on Etsy from Marchpuces by clicking here

You can also check out all of the vintage globe bookends on Etsy by clicking here.

UPCYCLED BOOKENDS


These upcycled bookends are sure to please any dog lover!

How about some dog-themed bookends? These ones are perfect for a dog lover. They are upcycled bricks painted by the artist in a variety of themes including this dog one.

Reader Bilhartz says that they are “Even nicer in person than I expected!! You’d think painted bricks are just painted bricks, but no! These are really well done. You can tell there is artistic talent, attention to detail, an eye for attractive color combos, and that very high quality, thick and vivid paint was used!” What a great review! What more can I say? 

You can check out these and a pair of cat-themed bookends from Brickends on Etsy by clicking right here.

PADDED BOOK SLEEVE


Pretty Watercolor Wildflowers padded book sleeve will help keep your book safe when you are on the go!

I will admit that when we travel, I put my book into a plastic bag to give it some protection in the car or in my carry-on bag. I never thought that there might be a more attractive way to carry my book around while at the same time offering it some protection. Enter this beautiful padded book sleeve. 

Reader Saelua says, "Beautiful fabric and well made! I got the largest size so I’d be ready to carry any book I need. Right now I’m able to fit one medium sized book and one small in it at the same time. Looking forward to using this for a long long time." 

Annette offers a few fun patterns that currently include this pretty Watercolor Wildflowers. You are sure to find one that best suits you or your recipient's interests. 

You will find them on Etsy from Fred 'N Polly by clicking here.

--------------------------------------------
 
Well, there you have it. A page full of fun and fabulous book accessories and interesting gift ideas. You will find all of them gathered together on my Etsy Favorites page. Just click here and then follow the Book Accessories tab.  Is there something here for you or the book lover in your life?

See you
At the bookstore!
Brenda


 
For those who love their books, here's a page full of book accessories and gift ideas.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Monday, March 29, 2021

Movie Review: Land

“Why am I here?” she asks her sister. Edee is a woman who is suddenly without her family after a traumatic event. So traumatic that she cannot discuss it. The movie opens with a woman in an upscale therapist office silently watching the grains of sand in the hourglass fall.

Movie Review: Land 


Therapist: Edee, why did you decide to come here?

Edee: Emma, my sister, said you were magic.

The session continues. Slowly and with pauses. We learn that Edee is in the session at her sister’s request.

Therapist: How are you feeling, right now, in general, what are you feeling?

Edee: I’m feeling, um, that it’s really difficult to be around people. Because they just want me to be better

We do not know how Edee lost her loved ones (until the last few minutes of the movie). She has flashback memories of her son and husband so we are aware they are dead. Her grief is overwhelming and numbing. She tells the therapist that in the beginning she shared her feelings with others. But she stopped. 

Edee: Why would I want anyone to share in that? They can’t anyway.

Therapist: But that means you are alone with your pain.

And that seems to be all that Edee can manage. Being alone with her pain.

Edee is a “city” woman who packs up and moves to a remote cabin in the wilderness. Edee cuts off all human contact. She tosses her phone into the trash, which severs all ties with the world including with her loving sister. It is unknown to me if her goal was to heal herself or to “not be here” – which she almost succeeded at on more than one occasion (warning: some of the scenes are uncomfortable - a potential trigger for some.)

She clearly should not have survived her self-imposed “cure”. She was clearly ill-prepared to wander off into the wilderness and exacerbated the risk by having her rental car picked up. From the flashbacks we know that she has been fishing and has that skill. And she seems to intend to provide food for herself from the land in addition to the very small amount of canned goods she brought along. From a drawing in crayon, we know that in the past there was someone who wanted to go fishing and live in the mountains. Perhaps this is why she chose to move to this off-grid cabin.

Edee (Robin Wright) is found by Miguel (Demian Bichir) nearly frozen and starved to death. Miguel and Alawa (a nurse from the nearby small town) nurse Edee back to health.

Edee continues to exclude people from her life, but allows Miguel just enough contact during infrequent visits to teach her how to trap food and to hunt game. After all, Miguel said that he would respect her wishes. He would teach her to trap and to hunt in the fall. Then he would leave her alone. Miguel is a man of his word. The seasons go by: planting, foraging, harvest, hunting, and a return to snow. The years go by. Two years.



My Thoughts About This Amazon Prime Movie.

I rented this movie on Amazon for far too much money. I regret having spent that much for an Amazon Prime rental. However, as odd as it sounds, if/when it is released in an inexpensive blu-ray or CD version I will buy it and watch it again. 

The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. The cabin scenes were filmed in Alberta, Canada atop Moose Mountain.

I found it to be well-acted and I think the messages related to grief and trauma are supremely important reminders to us all. Each person handles depression, trauma, and grief differently. Not every mainstream treatment is effective. And most of all, depression, trauma, and grief are very painful. It is not easy for people to just “be better.” 

Some reviewers complain that Land was “slow”. And that the character was “egotistical” and “selfish”. Some reviewers complained about the choppy flashbacks. I found all of those things to be a realistic part of the experience of many people with debilitating depression. Severe depression does not allow the person to think of others. It impacts the person’s thoughts and their 5 senses. Memories can be intrusive – sometimes welcomed, sometimes not.

I think the “slowness” of the movie was perfect. Yes, it was slow-paced. I don’t believe the movie was meant to be an action/adventure movie. True depression and hopelessness is like swimming through neck-deep mud. It is restricting. People are busy trying to survive each moment of every day.  I felt the pace of movie portrayed this feeling perfectly.

I only wish that the movie had been longer. That we would have been spectators of more details of the journey, the landscape, and of each season. And of the lessons taught by Miguel.

I hope the message of the movie is, and is understood as; depression, grief, and trauma are difficult things to get through. But they are survivable. And while every person has an individual response and recovery, it is better when it is not done alone. Each person who gets through it has the ability to be meaningful to the next person who is struggling.


Related Link:

This movie reminded me a bit of Wild with Reese Witherspoon. The movie was based on the written memoir of Cheryl Strayed and was another story of how a woman left civilization after experiencing severe grief and loss and ending up finding herself.  You can read my review of Wild here.

The effects of loss and trauma on a human are not pretty. And yet many people not only survive, but thrive after they get through it. These two stories are examples of surviving the nitty-gritty and finding the reasons to live. 





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Sunday, March 28, 2021

3 Inspirational Songs to Sing When Your Spirit Needs A Boost


Today's review is about finding peace in a busy and often chaotic world.

When my soul needs a boost, I sing. At night, I'll play various lyric videos and blast out every word as loud as I choose.

I've long since stopped being self-conscious about it. My boys hear me singing all the time. I actually love that they hear their mother singing; I like to think I'm teaching them to be brave. It's also a way for them to see me making time to feed the soul.

For two years now, I've actively taken steps to balance in my mind, body, and spirit

For the body, I've lost over 60 pounds on Keto

For the mind, I've written nine books in a year, and for my spirit, I sing and listen to this spiritual channel on YouTube

No, I'm not superwoman. I turned 60 in 2020 and made a decision that, before that monumental milestone birthday, I was going to tick off some boxes on my 'get-er-done beyatch' list. 

So I stopped the talk, and walked the walk.

Today I'd like to pass along some of my personal choice lyric videos. Sing along, or just enjoy the words and message.

1. Don't Give Up on Me by Andy Grammer

This is a bounce-in-your-chair song. There's a section of lyric I use as inspiration to continue writing my riddle books. At 60, I'm just getting started, so yah, don't give on me. If you're viewing via mobile, the lyric video is here.
"Cause I'm not givin' up,
I'm not givin' up, givin up, no, not yet,
Even when I'm down to my last breath
Even when they say there's nothing' left,
So don't give up on me"

 

2. You Say by Lauren Daigle

This is one of the most famous Christian songs to reach number one on the Hot Christian Songs chart. It stayed there for 113 weeks, and that alone was a record. It also charted on the Billboard Top 100, Contemporary Chart, and the Mainstream and Adult Top 40 charts.

This song is my anthem for handing over my issues to a higher power. It reminds me what's possible when I let go and simply believe in a greater purpose. Mostly, it humbles me. I'm sure you've heard it. If not, be sure to listen; it's a gorgeous song. If you're reading this via mobile, the video is here.
"You say I am loved when I can't feel a thing,
you say I am strong when I think I am weak,
And you say I am held, when I am falling short,
and when I don't belong, oh you say I am Yours,
And I believe, oh I believe
What you say to me, oh I believe,
Taking all I have and now I'm laying it at your feet,
you have every failure God, You have every victory" 

3. The Most Beautiful Things, by Tenille Townes

When you need a song that reminds you of how small yet significant we all are, this is the go-to spiritual fix. This song is my universal remote for traveling away from earthly problems. If you're reading this via mobile, the video is here.
" So why do we close our eyes,
when we pray, cry, kiss, dream,
Maybe the most beautiful things in this life
are felt, and never seen"


Spiritual Medicine

We're all struggling in one way or another. I fight darkness with light. 

In 2013, the year my father died, I decided to find my way through darkness, fear, and especially over-thinking by learning more about what lives on when we physically don't. As mentioned above, it's this YouTube channel that guided me out, and I believe, through.

One particular video struck me with how dark energy (whatever you want to call it) tries to feed on us around the clock. We need tools in our toolbox to fight back. Repeating Psalm23 was one suggestion. You can select anything spiritual to repeat.

As soon as my thoughts tailspin into a whirlpool of 'what-ifs", I repeat Psalm23 in my mind. In fact, I've written it on a card and placed it near my computer. When darkness creeps in, I read the card. Sometimes I'll simply repeat the first few lines over and over until the dark path my thoughts were heading to disappears.

There's a saying that "95% of what we worry about never happens". With that in mind, I work to turn that 95% into positive thought.

Here's a video written and created by me in January 2020 to celebrate light and love. If you're viewing via mobile, here's the video link.



Blessings to you and your family for this coming Easter weekend.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Saturday, March 27, 2021

The Return by Nicholas Sparks – Book Review

The Return by Nicholas Sparks


. . . in life, to move forward, we must often return to the place where it all began.


The above quote from the jacket of The Return, rather speaks to the meaning of the title of Nicholas Sparks' latest novel.  As always, Sparks brings together fascinating characters and a love story for the ages. 


Synopsis


The Return
By
Nicholas Sparks

The Return is the story of Trevor Benson, an injured Navy doctor, and the two women he meets whose secrets will change the course of his life. 


Trevor has returned to New Bern, North Carolina, to his grandfather's home he has inherited, to try and get his life together after the devastating injuries he received in a mortar blast in Afghanistan.  He finds that the familiarity of the home he spent so many happy childhood hours in, and tending to his grandfather's beloved beehives, is beginning to bring peace and healing back to his life. 


Then things get complicated.  First, he meets Natalie, a local deputy sheriff. From their very first meeting, Trevor feels a connection to her and soon realizes he is falling in love.  But even as Natalie seems to reciprocate his feelings, she remains distant and Trevor wonders what she is hiding.


Later, Trevor meets a sullen teenage girl – Callie – who knew his grandfather.  Trevor hopes Callie can shed light on the mysterious circumstances surrounding his grandfather's death, but she appears reluctant to discuss it with him. 


Suddenly a crisis triggers a  race to uncover the true nature of Callie's past.  While attempting to unravel what his grandfather's last cryptic words meant, and to discover the secrets both Callie and Natalie are keeping, Trevor will learn the true meaning of love and forgiveness. 


Author Nicholas Sparks


Author Nicholas Sparks
One of the world's most beloved storytellers, Nicholas Sparks has had over 100 million copies of his books sold, plus has had fifteen #1 New York Times bestsellers. In addition, eleven of his books, including Message in a Bottle, have been adapted into major motion pictures. 

You can visit him at NicholasSparks.com




Related Links:

  • Two By Two - a Nicholas Sparks book review by Wednesday Elf
  • The Choice - a Nicholas Sparks movie review by Sylvestermouse Cynthia
  • Safe Haven - a Nicholas Sparks movie and book review by Sylvestermouse Cynthia.



Book Review of The Return is written by (c) Wednesday Elf.






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Friday, March 26, 2021

Carrot Cake Cupcakes Recipe Reviewed

Carrot Cake Cupcakes Recipe
Carrot Cake Cupcakes are a delicious treat anytime!  

My mother recently made 2 dozen carrot cake cupcakes using the recipe below.  She was generous and thoughtful enough to share them with me and my household.  I was beyond thrilled to receive this gift. I understand the time commitment and work behind making a few dozen cupcakes. Therefore, I can really appreciate receiving a dozen homemade cupcakes.

Cupcakes are a personal favorite since they are made in single serving portions. That saves serving preparation and clean-up.  You can grab a cupcake, toss the paper liner, and eat it without needing to get out a plate or utensils. So fast & easy!

The carrot cake cupcakes are fabulous for breakfast, a special treat, or dessert.  For 3 days straight, I was able to enjoy a carrot cake cupcake with my coffee for breakfast.  I was rather sad when they were all gone.  But, I have the recipe!  And, I am willing to share it with you so you too can start your day with delicious carrot cake.


Carrot Cake Cupcakes Recipe - Yields 36 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:

2 c. shredded julienne carrots
2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. canola oil
4 large eggs
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Frosting Ingredients: 

1/2 c. unsalted butter (softened)
8 oz cream cheese (softened)
4 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c. chopped pecans

________________________________________ 

 

Instructions for Cupcakes

1. Grate carrots & chop pecans
2. Preheat oven to 350°
3. Line large cupcake pans with cupcake liners (3 pans of 12 each)
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, oil, and eggs. Beat until well-blended.
5. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Beat for about 2 to 3 minutes.
6. (Set aside your mixer) Stir in shredded carrots & pineapple.
7. Fill cupcake tins 3/4 full and bake for approximately 22 - 24 minutes (toothpick test)
8. Set cupcakes on cooking racks and allow to cool completely before frosting
9. While the cupcakes are cooling, set out the butter and cream cheese to soften (about 30 minutes)

Instructions for Frosting

1. Beat softened cream cheese and butter together until smooth.
2. Add vanilla and powdered sugar. Beat until well blended. (Approximately 4 minutes)
3. Stir in chopped pecans (or hold them to sprinkle on top of frosted cupcakes)
4. Frost the Cupcakes


Recipe Substitutions or Additions

I prefer pineapple, but Mom suggests substituting raisins if desired. You may also want to add 1 cup shredded coconut for a more authentic carrot cake consistency & taste.


Baking Notes

I have a double oven, one is a convection oven. My ovens allow me to bake 3 pans of cupcakes at one time. (2 in the convection oven & one in the lower regular oven). 

Mom has one regular oven. Therefore, she makes larger cupcakes divided across two pans, which she bakes separately. Her yield is 24 larger cupcakes that take slightly longer to bake (approximately 26 - 28 minutes). 

Because oven temperatures vary, the toothpick test is required to determine when they are completely baked.



What is the Toothpick Test?

Quickly stick a toothpick down into the center of a cupcake or cake and pull it right back out. If it comes out clean, the cake/cupcake is done. If it has batter on it, you need to bake a little longer. I usually test in 1 – 2 minute intervals. 


Cupcake Baking Needs

There are a few kitchen tools that allow us to bake cupcakes with ease, starting with a large cupcake baking pan & cupcake liners.  Cupcakes are also very hard to transport from place to place.  If you do plan to take them elsewhere, I highly recommend the carrier featured below.

 

Just for Fun! Add Edible Carrot Toppers


Orange & Green Fondant

 Wilton Decorator Preferred Neon Fondant, 4-Pack Fondant IcingCheck Price Wilton Decorator Preferred Primary Colors  4-Pack Fondant IcingCheck Price

 

Check Out More Recipe Reviews at
ReviewThisRecipes.com






Carrot Cake Cupcakes Recipe Review Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse





© 2021 Cynthia Sylvestermouse
 



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Thursday, March 25, 2021

Review of The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice

Stoningham Connecticut





If you are looking for a thrilling mystery with an interesting mix of characters this book by Luanne Rice is the book for you.  Along with a great story the book also explores spousal abuse among unlikely people.

The Author


Luanne Rice is a New York Times best selling author of 35 books.  She loves to write about nature  and the sea and bases many of her novels on her home state of Connecticut.  

I had read her books before and really enjoyed them so when I picked up The  Shadow Box, I knew I'd find a good novel and I was not disappointed.  This was another of those books that I was hooked from page one.  


Basic Plot


The setting for the book is the Connecticut coast and specifically a posh enclave called Cataount Bluff.  It is an area occupied by five luxury homes whose owners have long standing roots in the community.

The main character in the book is Claire Beaudry Chase, an artist who makes unusual shadow boxes.  Her husband, Griffin, is a very well connected man who is going to run for governor.  One of Claire's shadow boxes depicts a figure that could point to Griffin as a participant in a decades old crime and could hurt his political future.

The men of Catamont Bluff belong to a secret society called the Monday Club.  There are also other members of the small and secretive society and they all stick together no matter what.

When Claire is attacked in her garage and left for dead the plot unfolds.  After her attacker leaves she is able to escape and hides out for weeks while she tries to solve the crime.  While she is in hiding she discovers that another women who has worked as a decorator for several of the families has been found dead on the same day Claire disappeared.

Questions Claire trys to Solve


The book has lots of twists and turns and lots of questions to be answered.  Who can Claire trust?
Her husband has much of law enforcement in his pocket so she doesn't know who to turn to and is forced to stay hidden.

Claire hears about Sallie, the other woman who died, and wonders if that is connected to her disappearance.

Are the other  members of the enclave involved?  They are all very close and all working hard to make sure Griffin is the next govenor and able to help them in their businesses.

Are Claire's two stepsons Ford and Alexander somehow involved?

Who was her attacker?  Claire feels sure it was Griffin and yet he had on a mask and it all went so fast she isn't sure.

A Must Read Book


To find out the answers to the mystery you will need to read the book.  I am sure you will find it as intriquing as I found it.

For  more information on the Connecticut coast here is a review I wrote about Stoningham.  It includes my photos from a trip there. Stoningham Connecticut




 




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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Wholesome Yum Keto Bread Mix and Yeast Bread Recipe

loaf of bread with text "Keto Yeast Bread made with Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Bread Mix"
Delicious keto bread that isn't heavy, dense, or crumbly!

When I began my successful keto diet journey in 2019, Maya Krampf's popular Wholesome Yum website and The Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Cookbook (which I have recommended in my Keto Gift Guide and other posts here on Review This Reviews) quickly became two of my go-to resources for quick and easy, healthy keto recipes and reliable information about the ketogenic approach to eating. Maya also has developed a line of high quality, low carb, gluten free, keto food products made with clean ingredients (including her excellent Besti keto-friendly sweeteners), and new products continue to be added to her Wholesome Yum Foods online shop. 

The Wholesome Yum Keto Bread Mix that launched on December 21, 2020 is one of Maya's newest products. I think it's also one of her best!

A few days ago, she also published a new Keto Yeast Bread Recipe for this bread mix that delivers even more impressive and delicious results. I’m excited to share my in-depth product review of this excellent Wholesome Yum mix and compare the differences in between the loaves I've made with original recipe and the new keto yeast bread recipe. 

Photo of Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Bread Mix package
This keto bread mix has all the pre-measured dry ingredients for a delicious, fresh-baked loaf

Wholesome Yum Keto Bread Mix, Original Recipe (No Yeast)

The directions currently printed on the bag require just three ingredients in addition to the packaged mix: 6 tablespoons of butter, 4 large eggs, and 3/4 cup (6 ounces) of unsweetened almond milk. 

You can replace the almond milk with a different keto-friendly milk, if you wish.

Line the Loaf Pan With Baking Parchment Paper

The recipe calls for the prepared bread mix to be baked in an 8" x 4" loaf pan lined with baking parchment paper, with the parchment paper overhanging at least the two long sides of the pan. 

However, the 8.5" x 4.5" OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Loaf Pan I have been using (see my product review) has worked fine.

Photo of parchment paper lined loaf pan with box of baking parchment and scissors
Make sure the parchment paper overhangs the long sides of the pan

I have been lining the pan with unbleached If You Care Parchment Baking Paper, which is chlorine-free and compostable. It's also silicone coated, and nothing sticks to it! 

For environmental reasons, the box doesn't have a serrated metal cutting strip. Since the larger, softer cardboard "teeth" don't cut as cleanly as the metal ones, I just use scissors to trim the a sheet of the desired length.

Allow Time to Bring the Ingredients to Room Temperature

All the ingredients should be at room temperature when make the keto bread dough/batter.

Note: Although there is an asterisked line to this effect in the printed directions on the bag, it's easy to miss, not only because the very small type is hard to read, but also because there are no corresponding asterisks attached to the individual ingredients. (A single asterisk with no corresponding reference is meaningless.) It would be helpful if this were fixed during the next packaging print run. 

When a recipe calls for room temperature ingredients, they should be at approximately 70 °F (21 °C), with the exception of butter. Room temperature butter should be a bit cooler, roughly 65 °F (18 °C). It has reached the correct temperature when it is still a bit cool to the touch and retains its shape, but has softened enough to leave an indentation when pressed with a fingertip.

Photo of ingredients to make Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Bread Mix: bag of mix, 6 tablespoons of butter, 4 eggs, and 3/4 cup almond milk
One bag of mix + butter, eggs, and almond milk = quick and easy keto bread!

Why Using Room Temperature Ingredients Matters When Making The Keto Bread Mix Batter

Using room temperature butter, eggs, and almond milk allows the butter to cream properly and the eggs and butter to be fully incorporated into the creamed butter, so there are no remaining clumps of butter after the dry ingredients in the Wholesome Yum Keto Bread Mix are added. 

Conversely, using ingredients that are too warm or too cold will likely produce less-than-optimal results.

When I tried the Wholesome Yum Keto Bread Mix for the first time this January, the New England winter meant that our north-facing kitchen (with its large expanse of windows) was quite chilly. As a result, even after sitting out on the counter for a couple of hours, my "room temperature" eggs, and almond milk were much cooler than 70 °F (21 °C), and even my butter was colder than 65 °F (18 °C) and had very little "give" when pressed with a fingertip. 

As a result, even after being creamed at high speed with my trusty KitchenAid mixer for for nearly 15 minutes, the butter never softened fully, and when I added the eggs and almond milk to it, they wouldn't incorporate smoothly, no matter how long I beat the mixture. 

You can see in following photo that the first batch of keto bread dough/batter didn't come together as smoothly as it should and would have if my kitchen hadn't been so chilly.

Photo of bread dough in parchment paper lined loaf pan
A cold kitchen made my butter a bit uncooperative!

In retrospect, I could have put the unshelled, room temperature eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5–10 minutes and warmed the almond milk gently on the stovetop or in the microwave. However, the butter still would have been a problem, since using any form of added heat to soften butter without melting it is a tricky proposition.

The Wholesome Yum Keto Bread Mix Recipe Is Pretty Forgiving

Despite my inability to bring the ingredients to "recipe" room temperature, and the fact that we currently have only a tabletop oven (our built-in double oven died a few years ago), the loaf baked quite nicely.
Photo of baked easy keto bread mix loaf in pan on rack
The first loaf I made with this keto bread mix turned out well, even with the too-cool ingredients

Making low carb, gluten-free bread with Wholesome Yum Keto Bread Mix was easy. The hard part was waiting until the next day, as the package directions recommend, before slicing into the loaf so I could taste it!

Photo of baked keto bread loaf cut in half on cutting board with bread knife
A lighter, less dense texture than most keto bread

Although it is possible to find low carb bread recipes that don't contain almond flour, most of them do. Ground almonds are heavier than grain flours, lack gluten for structure, and interact differently with leavening agents. As a result, most loaves made from a keto bread recipe are pretty dense, and tend to crumble easily.

So, when I cut into the loaf I made with the Wholesome Yum Keto Bread Mix, I was very pleased to see small air pockets, indicating a somewhat lighter, less dense texture than most low carb bread made with almond flour. (You can see the air pockets better in the close-up photo of my half-sandwich.)

Not only did it make great toast, it also was less crumbly than most other keto-friendly almond flour breads, which allowed me to make a sandwich that didn't fall apart as soon as I bit into it!

Photo of half sandwich made with keto bread, keto jam, and keto chocolate hazelnut spread
My sweet half-sandwich on keto bread made with the Wholesome Yum mix
(Note: For scale, this is a salad plate.)

After making a great slice of toast, the next thing I tried was a sandwich. I had just received my order of keto-friendly Good Good sweet raspberry jam (which is currently out of stock, but other flavors are available, including Good Good Sweet Blueberry Jam) and ChocZero Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (a keto diet friendly alternative to Nutella), so I decided to cut a slice in half and make myself a raspberry-chocolate hazelnut half-sandwich. (Hey, don't knock it until you try it! I like to think of it as a 21st-century update to the Fluffernutter, a lunchbox favorite back in the 1960s, when I was a kid, that I can't imagine eating today.) 

I was able to eat my half-sandwich without the bread crumbling or breaking, which was a major improvement over most other keto bread recipes or mixes I had tried. 

The New Keto Yeast Bread Recipe Makes an Even Better Low Carb Loaf 

Even though I was pleased with the results I was getting from Maya's new keto bread mix and had already begun to write a product review of it for Review This Reviews, I was extremely excited by her revelation last month in one of the Wholesome Yum Facebook groups I belong to that she had been working on a keto yeast bread recipe for the new mix and thought she was close to perfecting it. 

I knew that adding yeast to the batter/dough would result in a taller loaf with a lighter, airier, more sponge-like texture and might also give the bread some of the flavor characteristics of conventional yeast breads. 

I decided to hold off on my product review of the bread mix until the new recipe had been published, so I could compare it to the original and confirm or correct my assumptions about the effects of adding yeast to the batter. 

Photo of Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Bread Mix and other ingredients for the keto yeast bread recipe
Feeding the yeast with inulin allows this keto yeast bread recipe to be 100% sugar free 

The Yeast Bread Version of the Recipe Adds Two Ingredients

Active Dry Yeast

You can use any brand of active dry yeast, such as Fleischmann's or Red Star. I decided to order my favorite from my BK (before keto) baking, SAF-Instant Premium Yeast - Red, which is widely used by professional bakers and consistently produces superior results with any type of bread, pizza, croissant, or other unsweetened doughs. 

I discovered the red SAF-Instant Premium Yeast many years ago on the King Arthur Baking website (a reliable source of baking expertise and a go-to resource for baking enthusiasts). The fact that it's the yeast they use most often in their test kitchens was a good enough endorsement for me! 

In addition to improving bread dough baking results, a 1-pound vacuum-sealed bag/brick of SAF-instant yeast ends up costing much, much less per use than the 4-ounce jars or strips of three individual packets of active dry yeast sold in supermarkets. 

I keep mine in the freezer in an airtight container, where it remains good for years, and unopened packages have a two-year shelf life. 

Tip: If you're not following a low carb or keto diet, use SAF-Instant Premium Yeast - Gold, rather than the one in the red package, for making conventional sweet dough recipes. 

Inulin Powder

In this recipe, the active dry yeast is fed with powdered inulin, a soluble fiber and prebiotic, instead of the sugar or other high glycemic index sweeteners that recipes typically used for that purpose. 

I was in such a rush to order inulin powder for this recipe that I inadvertently ordered a huge 2.2-pound bag of it on Amazon (with free Amazon Prime delivery)! However, since it you need only one teaspoon of it per 2¼ teaspoons (or one packet) of active dry yeast, I recommend buying a smaller package, such as this 8-ounce bag of 100% pure inulin powder that is made in the USA (in Utah) from non-GMO Jerusalem artichokes, sometimes called sunchokes. 

Wholesome Yum Keto Yeast Bread Recipe 

To make the keto yeast bread recipe, you start by mixing the batter according to the original recipe, then fold in active dry yeast bloomed in lukewarm water mixed with inulin powder, and set the covered yeast batter aside in a warm spot to proof. After the yeast bread batter/dough has been allowed to rise for an hour, it is transferred to the parchment-line loaf pan and baked at the same temperature, and for the same length of time, as the original recipe. And, like the original recipe, the baked loaf should be removed to a cooling rack and left until it has cooled completely (overnight, if possible) before you slice into it. 

Here are the ingredients, tools, supplies, and equipment you will need to make Maya's new keto yeast bread recipe. 

Ingredients:

  • 2¼ teaspoons (or 1 packet) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) lukewarm water, 105–115 °F (41–46 °C)
  • 1 teaspoon of inulin powder *
  • 1 bag Wholesome Yum Keto Bread Mix
  • 6 tablespoons butter **
  • 4 large eggs ** (not medium, extra-large, or jumbo size)
  • 3/4 cup (6 fl. oz.) unsweetened almond milk ** ***

Tools, Supplies, and Equipment:

  • A hand mixer or stand mixer 
  • A large mixing bowl
  • A rubber scraper (to scrape the bowl and beaters)
  • Plastic wrap (to cover the bowl of prepared yeast dough before setting it aside to proof/rise) ****
  • An 8" x 4" loaf pan
  • Baking parchment paper to line the pan (I highly recommend using unbleached baking parchment)
  • A cooling rack

* The inulin powder is a prebiotic fiber that is used in this recipe to feed the yeast. It is a keto-friendly alternative to feeding the yeast with sugar, honey, or other high-glycemic sweeteners that can elevate your blood glucose and insulin levels. If you follow a strict sugar-free or keto diet and want to ensure that your keto bread is absolutely sugar free, the inulin in this recipe is an essential ingredient that cannot be substituted. However, for people whose dietary requirements and preferences are less strict, the recipe also offers the option to replace the teaspoon of inulin powder with a teaspoon of coconut sugar. 

** At room temperature

*** Use plain, unsweetened almond milk for this recipe. Unless the package specifically says "unsweetened almond milk," assume it contains added sugar, and is not suitable for a low carb, sugar-free, or keto diet.

**** I recommend biodegradable, reusable beeswax food wrap as a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to disposable plastic wrap (aka cling film). It's available either precut or in rolled sheets that you can cut to size, as needed. Although I own and use both types, I'd suggest buying an uncut roll to ensure that you'll have a large enough piece to cover your large mixing bowl while the keto bread batter is proofing.

Directions:

Follow Maya's full Keto Yeast Bread Recipe on Wholesome Yum, which provides not only step-by-step directions with photos, but also helpful tips, refrigerator and freezer storage instructions, and an FAQ that answers questions such as as whether yeast and inulin are keto-friendly ingredients.

This Keto Yeast Bread Recipe Turned Out Even Better The Second Time!

Update 4/8/21: Last weekend, we finally had a warm-ish spring day here in New England (a "balmy" 58 degrees Fahrenheit, lol!). I had just finished the last slice from my first loaf, and hoped that my room temperature eggs, butter and nut milk would be warmer and more cooperative this time. Indeed, they were! I was able to get the butter to cream properly, so it was nicely pale and fluffy. And the eggs and nut milk (I used macadamia nut milk this time) were fully incorporated into the creamed butter, so there were no large lumps of butter in my yeast bread batter, which made it much easier to smooth the top after transferring it to the parchment paper-lined loaf pan.

Second loaf of keto yeast bread on cutting board
My second keto yeast bread loaf 

Comparing Wholesome Yum Keto Bread Mix Original and Keto Yeast Bread Recipes 

Height

When I followed the original Wholesome Yum Keto Bread Mix recipe printed on the bag, the top of the baked loaf remained lower than the rim of the baking pan.

Photo of baked keto bread loaf in pan, made with recipe on bag of mix
The basic recipe without yeast produces a shorter loaf

However, when I followed the new keto yeast bread recipe, the batter's volume increased considerably as it proofed, which produced a baked loaf that was taller than baking pan.

Taller loaf in pan, made with keto yeast bread recipe
Adding yeast to the original batter recipe produces a larger, taller loaf that rises above the pan rim

Size and Texture

The recipe printed on the bag produced slices that were slightly larger, and had more air pockets and a lighter texture, than typical keto breads.

Sliced Wholesome Yum Keto Bread

As you can see, the slices of this loaf, which was made with the Wholesome Yum Keto Yeast Bread Recipe, were significantly larger and had many more air pockets and and an even lighter texture vs. those cut from previous loaf made with the original Wholesome Yum Keto Bread Mix recipe.

Sliced Wholesome Yum Keto Yeast Bread loaf

Time and Effort

The time it takes to bloom the yeast and fold it into the prepared batter is minimal. 

However, the yeasted dough also needs to be covered and set aside to proof before it is transferred to the parchment paper-lined pan, which add 60 minutes to the total time, start-to-finish . 

On the other hand, since the batter doesn't need to be monitored while it's proofing, that time can be spent elsewhere, on other activities.

Bottom Line

Unless I'm pressed for time or can't start baking until later in the day, I consider the superior loaf produced with Maya's new Wholesome Yum Keto Yeast Bread Recipe well worth the minimal additional effort and the one-hour delay while the batter is proofing.

However, even without the addition of yeast, the Wholesome Yum Keto Bread Mix is a convenient, time-saving, and delicious option for making freshly baked, keto-friendly bread.


Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Bread Mix and Yeast Bread Recipe by Margaret Schindel


Posts In This Series About My Keto Diet Journey

The Best Advice to Maintain Your Keto Diet Weight Loss

The Best Low Carb Keto Cinnamon Muffins

The Good Chocolate 100% Organic No Sugar Dark Chocolate Review

Wholesome Yum Easy Keto Bread Mix and Yeast Bread Recipe

The Best Low Carb Keto Gift Ideas: Keto Gift Guide

The Ultimate Keto Hot Chocolate Recipe

Keto Cheddar Cheese Biscuits With Chives Recipe

Good Dee’s Keto Cookie Low Carb Baking Mix Review

Low Carb Keto Chocolate Yogurt Granola Chip Pudding Recipe

Low Carb Muffins & Cupcakes: Treats to Enjoy on a Keto Diet

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part Two

Preparing to Succeed on the Keto Diet, Part One

My First Year on The Keto Diet


Reviews of the Keto Diet by Barbara C. (aka Brite-Ideas)

My Personal Keto Testimonial

How I Stayed Committed to the Ketogenic Way of Eating


Read More Reviews About Health and Wellness by Our Review This Reviews Contributors


Read More Product Reviews by Our Review This Reviews Contributors





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