Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Hallmark Gifts for Mom

FUN AND AFFORDABLE HALLMARK GIFT IDEAS FOR MOM

Discover five fun, fabulous and affordable gift ideas for mom on Mother's Day or any day of the year!

No doubt your Mom raised as Hallmark says, "Good, kind kids who are a great gift to the world." Who better then to offer up a special gift idea for your Mom than Hallmark, whether it be for Mother's Day or on any day of the year? 

On this page you will find gathered together six wonderful Hallmark gift ideas including the Blooming Expressions flowers; the Mom and Me Recordable Conversations To Keep book; a shadow box picture frame; the There is No One Like Mom CD; the movie Soldier Love Story; and, a fun Mom-themed coffee mug series.

I am sure that you will find something here that is within your budget and perfect for your Mom.

BLOOMING EXPRESSIONS FLOWERS



Hallmark's Blooming Expressions flowers will bloom every year for mom!


There are an assortment of Hallmark Blooming Expressions flowers available, including pink and red rose versions as shown here. Each vase features a variety of expressions like, "I Love You" and "You Are the Heart of Our Family." I like the idea that this item is an everlasting gift that mom can use to decorate her table, dresser or desk. They are will bloom for mom forever!  Find your Blooming Expressions flower on Amazon by clicking right here.


Hallmark Mom and Me Conversations to Keep Recordable Storybook records Mom and her little one talking.

MOM AND ME CONVERSATIONS TO KEEP RECORDABLE STORY BOOK


Some of the most beloved gifts given to Moms are those that are personal in one way or another. A Hallmark Mom and Me recordable book fits that bill very nicely. With a Mom and Me recordable storybook, a young Mom records the voices of herself and her children having an informal and fun chat.

The book provides fun, open-ended questions like, "If you and your mom had a super power, what would it be?" and "What do you want to be when you grow up?" With this special memory book, she records their thoughts NOW so that she will have them as a treasured keepsake when they are grown up.

We believe that a Hallmark's Mom and Me Recordable Storybook is the perfect gift idea for any mother with young children. You can find find the Hallmark Mom and Me Recordable storybooks on eBay by clicking right here


SHADOW BOX PICTURE FRAMES


This Hallmark Shadow Box is filled with treasures from Treasures By Brenda on eBay but your mom can of course personalize it with her own momentos!

With Hallmark's personalized shadow boxes, you can frame pictures of your family and small mementoes and quotes. Whether you chose to do the decorating or you leave it up to mom, there are a variety of frames available. See the Hallmark Shadow Box frames on eBay by clicking right here.

MUSIC CD FOR MOMS

Hallmark's lovely music CD for mom features music by assorted artists.

Hallmark's There Is No One Like Mom CD features music by various artists including Sheryl Crow, Elvis Costello, Elton John, Diana Ross and Sting and is an appropriate and affordable gift for moms everywhere. Find it on eBay by clicking here.

SOLDIER LOVE STORY


Faith and Family's Soldier Love Story launched the 2009 Countdown to Mother's Day on the Hallmark Channel, thus feeding the confusion as to whether or not it is a Hallmark movie.

In Soldier Love Story, a ten-year old boy named Jared's life fell apart when his parents. His Dad seems to put his job ahead of him and his mother makes him move in with his Grandma in California so that she can take a job there. When the boy's classroom writes letters to U.S. troops who are posted in Afghanistan, a sergeant named Vince who himself had no father takes a shine to the boy and corresponds with him in a fatherly manner. When Vince returns from Afghanistan, he is warmly welcomed and becomes a boyfriend to the boy's mother, with the understanding that there can be no commitment because he will likely be sent back to Afghanistan.

Soldier Love Story was originally called Meet My Mom. It is a lovely story and would make a wonderful Mother's Day gift for any Mom who loves Hallmark movies and in particular for any Mom with a connection to the Armed Forces. It is a hugely popular Hallmark movie with viewers praising it because it combines a bit of romance and family with a lot of respect for soldiers.

Please note that this is not actually a Hallmark movie. However, it is a made-for-tv movie that first aired as the lead movie for the Hallmark Channel's Countdown to Mother's Day in 2009. That's good enough for me. It is still a great movie choice for mom. Find  Soldier Love Story on Amazon by clicking right here.

KEN SHELDON MUGS FOR MOM

This is one of a series of Hallmark mugs featuring Ken Sheldon and a mom theme.

Of course, there's nothing quite like a mug for Mom, especially if she loves her cup of tea or coffee. If she does, she will appreciate using a mug every single day that you chose with her in mind. I enjoy the sentiments on these Ken Sheldon mugs, of which there is a series that includes various pieces, not just coffee mugs, and pieces for dad, too. Find all of Hallmark's Ken Sheldon items on eBay by clicking right here.

What will you be giving your mom for Mother’s Day this year?

See you 
next time!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

More Gift Ideas for Moms:



Vintage Taylor and Ng Coffee Mugs

A Clowder of Black Cat Coffee Mugs

Note from Author: This page previously published in part elsewhere.




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Monday, April 12, 2021

Aootek 182 Solar Light Reviewed - A Favorite!

The Aootek 182 Solar Light is by far my favorite solar light that delivers as promised. Bright, easy to install, easy to use and an environmentally friendly solar solution.



Old housing stock can be a challenge! Are the electrical sockets ever conveniently located? Ever located in a place you actually could use a socket? Unless your home or condo or apartment has been updated at quite the expense with new wiring - outdoor lighting can be a challenge.

Installation

It is very, very easy to install the Aootek Solar light. The hardware comes with the light, but I found a reviewer had a valuable suggestion for those who do not want to wield a screwdriver. The two holes which could be used for the screws can be used with cable ties to attach the light. As we were in the middle of a polar vortex the logistics of cold, snow, ice and installation was not practical.

I simply used two cable ties and attached the light to a fence in the same area of the hard wired light which did not make it through the winter. Perfect!

Three Convenient Brightness Settings

The light has three settings:

1. Security Option: Light turns on with motion automatically and then turns off automatically.

2. All Night Option: Light turns on at night automatically and stays on until sunrise.

3. Combination Motion and Dimmer: Bright light triggered with motion and when motion ceases the light stays on but will be dimmer until sunrise.

As two lights were included with the purchase I use Option 1 for the garage area and Option 3 for the deck. Option 3 works wonderfully if you have a dog as the light will be bright when the dog is being let out and then is dim for the porch area.

The light is very bright. This is not garden decorative lighting; if bright and secure is your desire then this light is a great option.



Setting the Options

There is a toggle button on the back of the light to access the three settings. My one consideration with the light is the design of the button. The button is covered with a plastic plug which can be a challenge to remove then place back after the setting is chosen. I suggest tweezers or a comparable tool to help with this feature.

Solar

Because the light is solar, the light does need to be charged with sunlight before installation. I admit I was a bit skeptical with the lack of sunshine in the upper midwest in the winter. I have been disappointed before with solar lights as they just could not stay charged in the winter months or even become charged if installed in the "shade".

This light is a champ. On a rare(!) sunny day, I charged the light inside at a sunny window. The light was then installed in an area which receives very little sunshine anytime of the year. No problem! 

I highly recommend the Aootek Solar Lights. There is a reason this light has over 20,000 reviews and this light delivers as promised at an economical purchase price and then uses the sun to power the light flawlesly.




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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Owl Wall Decals Review for a Baby's Room

Fantastic, Affordable Owl Wall Decals for the Nursery

The mommy-to-be recently added these Owl Wall Decals to her baby registry.

With wall decals, it can be a crap-shoot whether the quality of the stickers will be decent.

My main concern when I ordered them was the fact that they weren't expensive. I know, I should have been cheering on the fact that they weren't expensive. However, I was more worried that they wouldn't stay on the walls or look cheap.

These Owl Wall Decals Are Fantastic


The brand name of these wall decals is "Decalmile." I'm so pleased with them; I'll look for this company again if we order more.

Mommy-to-be had never put up a wall decal in her life, and neither had I. I watched her put these up, and it was easier and quicker than the time it took me to peel off the safety stickers on the crib!

The decals come in small sheets. If I had to guess, I'd say they were on 8.5 by 11-inch sheets. At any rate, they are shipped compactly in a small, durable envelope of about the same size. 

Owl Wall Decals - Looks as Good, or Better Than this Photo
We Purchased This 'Decalmile' Decal Via Amazon Here


How Mommy Put Up These Decals
  1. She laid out the sheets in the proper order for the design she wanted
  2. These owl decals show you a couple of different options for laying out the designs
  3. She decided where to place them on the wall
  4. Mommy wanted them coming out for the corner to make it seem like a branch from a tree
  5. After laying each sheet on the floor, she cut out the pieces one by one to start placing them on the wall
  6. She chose to go high enough so baby can't reach them in the crib
  7. She kept them to one side versus directly over the crib for safety purposes
  8. We pulled the crib out of the way so she could safely work on the decal
  9. Using a safe step-ladder, she placed each piece on the wall
  10. Once complete, back went the crib, and it was done
  11. The job took maybe 30 to 45 minutes

How Well Do These Owl Decals Stick to the Wall


These decals stick perfectly. They're removable and repositionable, although we haven't tried either of those options yet. They are vinyl, so I'm confident they'll come down fairly easy when it's time to remove them.

The wall surface needs to be a standard, clean, drywall. It may stick on other types of surfaces, but if you're planning on putting them on stucco or cement, I'm not sure that would work.

The walls in this baby's room have been freshly painted, so the owl decals went on beautifully.

They're colorful, cheerful, and gorgeous.

The Baby's Room Isn't Finished Yet


The baby's room is currently being set up, so the photos included here are the decor's early stages. Look for a review in the coming weeks on the crib featured in the room. Great-grandma gifted that one to future mommy and daddy, and I give it five stars.

Owl Wall Decal in Proportion to the Crib
Look for a Future Review on This Lovely Crib


When the room is completed, with all the accessories, look for a full review of the entire nursery.

Here's the Product on Amazon - (We also purchased it via Amazon)








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Saturday, April 10, 2021

I Love This Yarn - A Review





I Love This Yarn! is the Hobby Lobby store brand by Yarn Bee. It is a very soft and smooth yarn that is perfect for all sorts of projects.  It's well recommended for hats, scarves and shawls. But it's softness makes it lovely for baby blankets (afghans) and especially for plush toys and animals (my favorite to crochet). 


I Love This Yarn


Source: Pixabay

I Love This Yarn (ILTY) is a size 4 medium worsted weight yarn that is 100% acrylic. This makes it machine washable and dryable. It is recommended for 5mm (size 8) knitting needles or 5.5mm (size 9) crochet hook. Since I primarily crochet stuffed animals and toys, my favorite hook sizes are E and F and this yarn works up just fine in these smaller hook sizes. In other words, ILTY yarn works well with whatever size knitting needles or crochet hooks you prefer.


Yarn Specs


  • Based on the recommended sizes of knitting needles and crochet hooks, the gauges are: 
    • Crochet Gauge: 12 Single Crochet x 15 Rows – 4”
    • Knit Gauge:  18 Stitches x 23 Rows – 4”
  • Skein Weight: 5 ounces
  • Skein Yardage: 252 Yards


Metallic Yarn


I Love This Metallic Yarn (c) Elf

I Love This Yarn also comes in a metallic version, which is 97% Acrylic and 3% Metallic Polyester. This yarn gives a nice 'sparkle' to all kinds of projects.


Image by (c) Elf


A few years ago I was given a custom order for five crocheted dolphins, specifically requested in the metallic version of the I Love This yarn. I created them in the five different colors shown, using a metallic white for the belly of each. They turned out darling, as you can see in the photo. 


Crochet Dolphin in Christmas Ombre Yarn

Although those dolphins are now living in new homes, I DO have on hand one dolphin created in the I Love This Christmas Ombre yarn.  It is available in my Etsy Store. I can also recreate any of the others shown in the photo, or in a color of your choice, upon request by contacting me at Coastal Crochet Crafts.


Crochet Octopus in Metallic Yarn (c) Elf

Crochet Octopus Keychain Charm Collection

I also have a group of crocheted octopi created in this metallic yarn. They each have a (removable) chain attached to use as a keychain charm or to hook onto a purse or backpack. By removing the chain, each octopus makes a cute little toy. 


I Love This Cotton Yarn


I Love This Cotton Yarn on Amazon


Since I first discovered I Love This Yarn, Hobby Lobby has come out with a cotton version which is also very soft.   


The yarn specs are similar, except for the size. I Love This Cotton comes in a 3.5 ounce skein with a skein yardage of 180 yards.


Summary


As a crochet crafter, I Love This Yarn! has become one of my favorite yarns to work with. I am delighted that a custom order request resulted in introducing me to this yarn. I definitely recommend it for any or all yarn enthusiasts. 


Source: Pixabay


Related Yarn Reviews:



(c) I  Love This Yarn review written by Wednesday Elf





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Friday, April 9, 2021

Bush Trimming Cleanup is Easier with Disposable Drop Cloths Reviewed

Trimming my Juniper bushes is the first thing I do in my backyard in early spring and it is the last thing I do before winter.  Thanks to my small, yet sharp, Black & Decker Hedge Trimmer, the trimming part is easy.  However, the cleanup used to be back-breaking and take hours.  I dreaded the job as the work days approached.  So many times I had to tell myself just get out there and get it done! Then one year I had an epiphany that made that job so much easier and faster. 

I started laying out disposable drop clothes under the bushes.  That way, as I trim, all of the debris and clippings fall directly on the drop cloth.  When I am finished, I simply roll up the drop cloths and throw them away.

Now, instead of taking 2 or 3 days, wearing myself out and having to take Advil for my back pain, I can finish the entire job in about 4 hours.   

Over the last few years, I have found that the lighter weight drop cloths are not a good choice. They tear, which defeats the purpose of using them.  

The plastic drop cloths I prefer are heavy duty, 1 MIL, 9" x 12".   Since I only use them one time and throw them away, this size and thickness are very easy to handle without being too thin to handle the weight of bush trimming. 

I buy them in packages of 2 or 3.  I use 3 drop cloths to surround the large bushes I have to trim and I lay them all out before I start trimming.  That way, I don't end up trimming in an area of the bush that doesn't have the plastic underneath it to catch the clippings. 

When I have finished trimming the entire bush, I fold the length side of each plastic drop cloth over the middle, covering all of the trimmings.  Then, starting at one end, roll it up, put it in a big durable Contractor's trash bag, and throw it away.

 

Buying plastic drop cloths is a very inexpensive way to make a hard job much easier.  Plus, I can enjoy my freshly trimmed bushes a lot sooner and call it a job well done.






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House of Sylvestermouse






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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Book Review: A Splendid Ruin by Megan Chance

 

A Splendid Ruin


I just finished a wonderful historical novel by Megan Chance and I couldn't wait to start this post and review it for you.  The novel takes place in San Francisco before and after the historic earthquake of 1906.

Plot Synopsis


The story unfolds as May Kimble, whose mother has died, leaves New York and travels to San Francisco to live with relatives she didn't even know existed. When she arrives she finds her relatives living in luxury and she is introduced to a life she only dreamed existed.  Her cousin Goldie takes her under her wing and introduces her to society and everything about San Francisco.  Goldie helps her shop for a new wardrobe, introduces her to all her friends, and takes her to see the sights of the city.  For the first time May wears beautiful gowns and attends balls.



As the plot continues to unfold May sees that everything is not what it seems and she may be in real danger.  She wonders who she can really trust and must use her wits to survive a possible terrible future.  How will she escape?  This is a compelling novel that shows just what a human being must endure in order to survive.

Main Characters


This book is full of interesting characters.  Of course there is May who is a talented undiscovered artist. 

May's relatives the Sullivans are certainly interesting.  Goldie the cousin who is all about being in societies limelight.  Uncle Jonny  is so generous to May, but is there an ulterior motive?    Aunt Florence  is May's mothers sister.  Why is she so ill she cannot visit with May?  There are so many questions May wants to ask her about her Mother and Father.  In the Sullivan household are several servants and one in particular, Shinn, is a big help to May.

Other characters of interest include Ellis Farge, an architect who admires May's artwork and Stephen Oelrichs, an attorney and Goldie's former fiance. Then there is Alphonse Bandersnitch, a writer for the society pages of the newspaper.  Don't you just love that name?  Bandersnitch is not his real name and everyone is trying to guess his identity.  He does a great job of remaining anonymous even while attending all of the society happenings around town.

Recommendation


I could go on and on talking about the book, but I don't want to spoil it for you.  Let me just say it is full of mystery and intrique with lots of twists and turns.  I recommend this as a must read!



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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Good Chocolate 100% Organic No Sugar Dark Chocolate Review

The Good Chocolate bars - Bean-to-Bar, Zero Sugar, 100% Delicious

The Good Chocolate: Great-Tasting, Healthy Chocolate Bars With No Sugar

I love chocolate! When I was younger, milk chocolate was my favorite. As the health benefits of dark chocolate became more widely known, however, I gradually retrained my taste buds to appreciate bars with a higher cacao or cocoa content. Now, my preference for dark chocolate has been reinforced by my keto diet lifestyle, since milk contains 2–8% lactose (a sugar naturally present in dairy milk).

Several months ago, I discovered The Good Chocolate, a brand of top quality, bean-to-bar chocolate made with 100% organic, ethically sourced ingredients and no sugar. It has since become one of my favorite brands of sugar free chocolate.

I'm pleased to be sharing my in-depth product review to introduce you to this terrific, principled company and its wonderful chocolate bars and mini-bars.

Can a Premium Quality, Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Be Delicious and Also Healthy? 

The Good Chocolate is the brainchild of two lifelong friends and partners in a branding and design agency, who in 2014 began to cut out all forms of sugar (including honey and agave) from their diets and replace them with organic, low- or no-calorie sweeteners with a low glycemic index. Six months later, they were thrilled with the results. They had each lost 10 pounds, were feeling great, had more energy, and were able to maintain their focus throughout the work day, without the mid-day crashes that frequently result from consuming sugar (in beverages, desserts, or snacks) in the late morning or early afternoon. (I experienced the same benefits (with a much bigger weight loss) a few months after I switched to a ketogenic weight loss diet, which included eliminating sugar in any form.) 

During this process, they learned about how most food companies are well aware that adding sugar (or salt) to their products makes us eat, crave, and buy more of them—a cycle that is very profitable for the manufacturers...and very unhealthy, and expensive, for consumers. 

The partners were inspired to help others break free from their sugar addiction and experience the improved health, wellbeing, energy and productivity they themselves were enjoying. So, they challenged themselves to create a bean-to-bar chocolate that would live up to their own high standards.

Within a few months, they had come up with a "sweet-blend" of three organic, low-glycemic-index sweeteners that met their exacting requirements for taste, health, and sustainability. They also immersed themselves in all things chocolate making, developing the required expertise in every step from sourcing organic cacao beans in Central and South America to perfectly tempering the roasted, winnowed, and ground chocolate. 

They describe the result as "an exquisite, 100% organic bean-to-bar chocolate that’s as delicious as it is healthy." Source

It also has up to 45% fewer calories than similar dark chocolate!

What Is "Bean-to-Bar" Chocolate Making? 

"Bean to Bar" production means that chocolate maker controls every step of the process, from sourcing the cacao beans to roasting, winnowing, and grinding them, and then tempering the chocolate before it is molded and packaged for sale. 

The bean-to-bar method gives artisan or craft chocolate makers better quality control and produces a healthier product (since craft chocolate makers, unlike many big brands, do not try to accelerate the manufacturing process with chemicals or other additives). Source

It also gives the producers more control over the supply chain, so they can promote ethical and humane business practices.  (More about this important topic later.) 

The Good Chocolate controls the entire production process for its 100% organic chocolate bars at its factory in San Francisco.

Most Sugar Free Chocolate Isn’t Great “Eating Chocolate”

Since many chocolate bars with a higher cacao content, especially those with no sugar, lack the intense, rich flavor and luscious mouthfeel of bars with a lower cacao content, I have become extremely picky about sugar free chocolate.

In the past two years, I have tried many brands of low sugar and sugar free chocolate. There are plenty of low carb chocolate options. Unfortunately, many are sweetened primarily or exclusively with stevia or erythritol. Like many people, I find that anything sweetened only with stevia has a pronounced aftertaste that I dislike intensely, and that erythritol, when used as the only sweetener in a food, creates a cooling, almost mint-like sensation on the tongue. 

Apart from BochaSweet sweetener (made from a pentose-type rare sugar extract from the kabocha squash), blends of two or more keto-friendly sweeteners, such as allulose, monk fruit, erythritol and stevia, taste more like sugar and don’t have the unpleasant aftertaste or cooling effect that stevia or erythritol can have when used alone. 

Chocolate sweetened this way can be quite tasty. For example, I often sprinkle ChocZero chocolate chips over sugar free desserts such as my Low Carb Keto Chocolate Yogurt Granola Chip Pudding Recipe, and they're fine for baking keto chocolate chip cookies, for example. ChocZero's dark chocolate keto bark is quite good, and their seasonal dark chocolate peppermint truffles are pretty yummy, for sugar-free chocolate. 

On the other hand, their dark chocolate contains only 55% cacao. The ingredients aren't organic. And the taste and mouthfeel are not in the same ballpark as the very high quality, sugar-sweetened dark chocolate I loved and enjoyed for many years, before I decided to cut sugar out of my life. 

So, I have been on the lookout for a great "eating chocolate" (i.e., chocolate meant to be enjoyed as is, rather than with a filling, as a garnish, or in baked goods) with a higher cacao content, a more intense flavor, and a superior mouthfeel.  

The Good Chocolate Bars Are Worth Savoring!

The Good Chocolate has the decadent taste and smooth, luscious mouthfeel of the artisan dark chocolate I used to indulge in before I chose a very low carb lifestyle. Like those, these bars are made from top quality cacao beans and cacao butter, roasted, winnowed, ground, tempered, and molded with the same care and expertise. 

Unlike those, however, they don't contain sugar in any form. This means they won't cause your blood sugar levels to spike. It also means they won't cause you to crave more chocolate than is good for you. One of the biggest benefits of cutting out sugar from my diet is that I can I still enjoy and indulge in sweets without being at the mercy of my former cravings!

Having been a foodie for as long as I can remember, one of the keys to setting myself up for success on a keto diet was finding yummy healthier, keto-friending alternatives to my favorite foods so that I wouldn't feel deprived or be tempted to stray from my new eating plan. I was lucky that, unlike some people, I was able to conquer my sugar addiction without having to give up desserts, beverages, candy, and other foods that were sweetened with healthier alternatives to any form of sugar. 

That's why I was so delighted when I tasted The Good Chocolate bars. They are luxurious enough to savor slowly and should please even gourmet chocolate aficionados. 


A Unique Blend of Organic Healthy Sweeteners 

In addition to using the highest quality, organic raw ingredients and a bean-to-bar process that gives the company full control over every aspect of production, another key thing that sets this brand's sugar free dark chocolate bars apart from most others is its organic "sweet-blend" of erythritol, stevia leaf extract, and mesquite powder. 

Erythritol is a very popular zero-calorie sweetener that is naturally found in pears, mushrooms, and other plants and has a 0 glycemic index. It's easy for most people to digest (unlike many other keto-friendly sweeteners), and has the added benefit of preventing tooth decay.

Stevia leaf extract also has a 0 glycemic index. As I mentioned, combining stevia with the right blend of other keto-friendly sweeteners can mask its bitter aftertaste, which is what The Good Chocolate has done.

Mesquite powder is a traditional Native American product made from the ripened and ground seeds from the seed pods of the mesquite tree. Although traditionally used as an alternative to flour in sweet baked goods and breads, it has gained wider popularity as a "super food." In addition to adding a natural, subtle sweetness to foods, mesquite powder (sometimes called mesquite pod meal) also is high in fiber and protein, and has a very low glycemic index (25).

Even a Single Square Is a Deliciously Satisfying Indulgence

Each bar of The Good Chocolate is scored into six generously sized, squarish sections (approximately 1½ inches by 1 11/16 inches). If I wanted to, I could eat an entire bar in one sitting and still stay within my daily net carbs and calories for maintaining my nearly 60-pound weight loss (currently 59 pounds). However, I almost never do, because this brand is so rich and delicious, has such an intense chocolate flavor, and doesn't trigger my former addictive sugar cravings.

Unwrapped bar of The Good Chocolate dark chocolate

So, when I am in the mood for a piece, I break off one of the six sections, then fold over the elegant silver-lined gold foil wrapper and slide the rest of The Good Chocolate bar back into its heavy paper envelope-style pouch, with its distinctive cover art and graphic design. 

I savor the section I broke off, nibbling off small pieces and letting each one rest on my tongue for a few seconds to warm a bit before I consume it. By the time I have slowly worked my way to the last little bite, I'm usually satisfied. 

Occasionally, however, I may decide to indulge in a second piece, if I want one. It always feels like a guilty pleasure, even though there is nothing to feel guilty about!

Sophisticated Flavor Choices to Please Any Palate

Most of The Good Chocolate bars are 65% cacao dark chocolate. My favorites include Himalayan Salt, Mint, Ginger, and Salted Caramel, although they also made their plain 65% cacao Signature Dark Chocolate bars.

Currently, there is also a limited-edition  Coconut & Turmeric Detox Bar, a 65% cacao dark chocolate bar with developed in collaboration with model and actress Charlotte McKinney and filled with delicious, nutrition-packed superfoods.

The brand also makes a 54% cacao "Dark Milk Chocolate. At the moment, there is also a limited-edition 58% Double Crunch Vegan Milk Bar (which they also refer to as "mylk" chocolate).

I believe that, other than the "Dark Milk Chocolate" bars, all the other bars are vegan. 

Lower in Calories and Net Carbs Than Similar Dark Chocolate Bars

Here's a high-level nutrition data comparison between The Good Chocolate's 65% Signature Dark Chocolate and two other popular brands of dark chocolate, Lindt 64% Dark Chocolate, and Lily's 70% Dark Chocolate (nutrition data pulled from TGC's website).

The Good Chocolate
65% Cacao
Lindt
64% Cacao
Lily's
70% Cacao
Sugar (%) 0 37 1
Sugar (Teaspoons) 0 6 0
Net Carbs
(Total Carbs
minus Fiber & Erythritol)
2 26 6
Calories 227 397 289

Buying Ethically Sourced Chocolate Protects Impoverished Farmers, Children, and Refugees

Against Dangerous Work, Slave Labor, and Human Trafficking

Nearly two-thirds of the world's cocoa beans are produced in West Africa's Côte D'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Ghana. Indonesia has become another top cocoa producer.

Tragically, cacao production has long been notorious for the worst forms of forced labor, child labor, and hazardous child labor, sometimes a result of human trafficking. Unfortunately, many cacao bean farmers are paid less than $1 a day for this dangerous, backbreaking work, and can't afford to hire additional laborers to help. Instead, of allowing their children to go to school, they use them as unpaid, forced labor so their family can survive.

The customers for most of this production are large, global chocolate corporations, including Mars, Nestlé, The Hershey Company, and Mondelez International (formerly Kraft foods), and others. Although most have policies prohibiting forced labor practices in their supply chain, those policies are hard to enforce because, for the most part, they don't purchase directly from the cacao bean farmers.

Currently, seven of the world's biggest chocolate companies have been named in a landmark class-action lawsuit in which they are accused of "aiding and abetting the illegal enslavement of 'thousands' of children on cocoa farms in their supply chains" by eight children who claim to have been forced to work as slave labor on Côte D'Ivoire cocoa plantations. 

The Good Chocolate Is Ethically and Sustainably Sourced and Packaged

The best way to help break this terrible, systemic cycle of inhumane practices is for consumers to buy their chocolate from smaller, bean-to-bar producers who have more control over their supply chain than these huge corporations, so they are better able to promote ethical, humane, and not only socially but also environmentally responsible business practices. 

One of the easiest way to find these smaller, craft chocolate makers who are committed to ethical sourcing is to look for brands that are organic, fair trade, direct trade, and/or Rainforest Alliance certified

  • Whenever possible, The Good Chocolate purchases Fair Trade or Rain Forest Alliance certified cacao beans.
  • The company uses only 100% certified organic cacao beans and cacao butter in its bars.
  • It is also committed to sustainable farming practices and is working with its cacao suppliers to reach 100% sustainability as the company grows.

The company also worked with some forward-thinking companies develop cost-effective, renewable packaging solutions that can be recycled or composted.

The Good Chocolate takes its name and mission to heart, "to create delicious chocolate that is [not only] good for you, but also good for the planet." As the website states, "We may spend a little more time, effort and money on renewable packaging, but we hope that our effort, care and responsibility will inspire others and leave the planet a little better off along our way." Source

More Expensive, But Worth It

The Good Chocolate makes premium, small-batch, chocolate bars made with 100% certified organic cacao beans and cacao butter, as well as the blend of erythritol, stevia leaf extract, and mesquite powder, sweeteners that all cost significantly more than cane sugar. 

The company also is committed to following ethical, humane business practices in an industry known for terrible physical, moral, and financial abuses of vulnerable populations, paying a fair price for the cacao beans and cacao butter it purchases, and practicing social and environmental responsibility to protect our future as well as our present.

As a result, these extremely high quality, no sugar dark chocolate bars cost more than some of the high-quality, 100% organic dark chocolate bars sold in Whole Foods Market and similar stores. When I first read about The Good Chocolate and looked into the company and its products, I thought charging $7.50 for a bar of dark chocolate was outrageous (unless the gold foil wrapper was made of real gold!). So, the only reason I decided to buy a 6-bar assortment was that, at the time, there was a promotion that offered a significant discount on your first order. 

I never thought I would even consider ordering more at full price after I finished the six bars from that introductory offer. However, as soon as I taste this new-to-me brand, it immediately became apparent that this premium, sophisticated candy was head-and-shoulders above any other healthy, sugar-free chocolate I had tried. Also, because it was so rich, dark, and delicious, I found that just one section of a bar of The Good Chocolate was enough to satisfy me. That meant that I could indulge in a generously sized square from time to time for $1.25 per serving which, while still pricy, cost less than the 1/3 to 1/2 bar serving of one of the high quality, organic, fair trade chocolate bars I used to buy before I eliminated sugar from my diet. 

Now Available on Amazon With Prime FREE Delivery!

The Good Chocolate just launched on Amazon. So, in addition to Amazone Prime Free Delivery, if you try The Good Chocolate and love it as much as I do, you can save up to 5% with Subscribe & Save (or 10% on your first Subscribe & Save subscription). You can also choose your auto-delivery frequency, as often as every two weeks to as seldom as every six months. 

I highly recommend ordering The Good Chocolate Bar Variety Pack first, which includes six 2.5-ounce (70g) chocolate bars, including all five flavors of 65% Dark Chocolate (Signature Dark, Himalayan Salt, Mint, Ginger, Salted Almonds) and a 54% Dark Milk Chocolate. It's the perfect way to sample their core flavors and pick your favorites before placing another order. 



Product Review: The Good Chocolate 100% Organic No Sugar Dark Chocolate by Margaret Schindel


Posts In This Series About My Keto Diet Journey

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 Product Reviews by Our Review This Reviews Contributors

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




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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The Homeplace Saga Books Reviewed


The Homeplace Saga Books Reviewed

Author William Leverne Smith has Integrated his deep passion for genealogy study and family history into the Homeplace Saga series of books. He has created this fictional community and brings the characters to life in this four-book series.

Back to the Homeplace

Murder by the Homeplace

The Homeplace Revisited

Christmas at the Homeplace

Back to the Homeplace

The book begins in February of 1987, just after Mildred Bevins has passed away. The funeral and the unusual terms of the will of Frank and Mildred Bevins bring all four children and their families back to the family farm, The Homeplace.

The farm is located in Oak Springs Missouri in the Ozark Mountains and has been in the family for over 150 years. Bart Bevins is especially concerned about the terms of the will, as he is the only one who stayed in Oak Springs to run the family farm. 

You will meet and come to know each member of the Bevins family. Learn about their different backgrounds, their family secrets, and see how each of them struggles to hold onto their share of the family legacy. All while dealing with their own family secrets and problems.


Murder by the Homeplace

This is a short story that begins one week after the end of “Back to the Homeplace” A body is found on the Bevins property. This brings some of the secondary characters from the first novel to the main characters in this short story.  Introducing Penny Nixon a part-time reporter for the local newspaper. Penny springs into action and begins a series of interviews hoping for a story when the body is found. Penny is warned by her father who is also the editor of the newspaper to keep it to a human-interest story and do not get too involved. You will see how dangerously close that she comes to interviewing the real killer.


The Homeplace Revisited

The family saga continues, now in 1996 nine years later. The family has survived so much conflict, but there is more to come. 

Learn how the grandchildren of Frank and Mildred Bevins carry on, side by side with their parents to run the family business now known as the“The Bevins Trust”.

 How they continue the family legacy and continue to build Oak Springs into a thriving small community of family and friends. 

Christmas at the Homeplace

Continued in 1996 Karen (Bevins) Winslow the oldest daughter of Frank and Mildred is expecting all of her children to return home to Oak Springs for Christmas. Will they all make it? Find out, along with some other surprises that may change the inner workings of the family business “The Bevins Trust”. This one was special to me, as I finished reading it on Christmas Eve.

For me, these four books were a wonderful read, as I have a big family myself. Oak Springs and the characters in these books were so real to me; it was like I lived there and knew every one of them.

This series of books takes you on a journey with the Bevins family,  starting in February of 1987 and ending in December of 1996.

The author places news blurbs at the beginning of every chapter. I enjoyed reading what was in the news on that day. So the reader has a little history lesson.

A quote from the author William Leverne Smith: “May everyone have a homeplace, if only in your mind.”

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Monday, April 5, 2021

Spring Woodland Walks For Wellbeing Reviewed

 

Woodland Walks

Nature and wildlife are a huge part of my life in so many ways. They are an integral part of my life, my soul even. They are essential to my wellbeing. 

I had not been able to go for a woodland walk in a long time due to the Covid lockdowns in our country and having to stay local for walks.

I really missed our woodland walks and the absence of them made me realise how much I need to be connected to nature for my wellbeing. 

I love gardening and have done a lot of that this year but I know I also need the wildness of a forest. So today I would like to take you with me on our woodland walks and to discuss why connecting with nature and especially woodlands is so important.

Bluebells In Spring Woodland Clearing


Walking In Woodland

The obvious benefit to walking in woodland is the exercise. If you are on a treadmill or exercise bike I tend to notice how long I have been exercising. However, in a woodland walk, I can roam for hours up and down hills across streams and I really do not notice that I have in fact been exercising for maybe 2 hours.

In addition, you receive fresh air enhanced by the gorgeous trees and shrubs all around you and the experience being outdoors in a different environment. 

Also, I always find woodland to be so calming. Studies have shown that exercising in woodland decreases stress and anxiety.

There is always something new to see in a woodland from frosty winter trees against a blue sky, haunting misty scenes, to new buds and spring flowers.

We share the woods with many animals and birds and so far we have seen rabbits, squirrels, mice and many species of birds. In fact, it has made me want to learn more about bird songs as I can often hear the birds singing but cannot see them. 

Most of all I always feel tired yet refreshed after a woodland walk. There is something about the energy of the tall trees, the green environment, renewal and being surrounded by wild nature that makes the heart sing and sets me up for the rest of the day. 



Our forest walking began in late winter, early spring when we need some motivation to go out walking on a cold rather misty day. I love the photo below as it shows the woodland as a rather enchanted, mystical place.

The trees are bare with branches reaching for the sky and all around seems asleep, except that we know the buds on the trees and the flowers underground are just waiting patiently to emerge.

I have never felt afraid in a forest, it is all rather comforting and familiar to me. I like to feel small against the huge trees that are protecting, rather than intimidating. 


A Misty Woodland Walk In Early Spring


Tree Bark In Woodland

I love to look out for beautiful bark patterns on the trees. The bark is never just brown, it has amazing patterns and colours, shallow and deep rivulets.

If you look closely you may see a tiny creature or two going about its day. An ancient tree has lived so many years, seen so much and overcome drought with heat and damaging storms.

An ancient tree can give us hope and peace that we too can overcome many things. While our lifespan is not so long as many trees, we can experience and overcome so much, flourish and grow. 


Beautiful Tree Bark


Fallen Trees In A Woodland

I love to see the fallen trees gradually becoming a habitat for new life. The natural life of a tree is usually a long one. Trees seed, grow into young saplings,  mature and live long productive lives.

Then if trees are managed well they are either allowed to fall when old or felled if they become in danger of falling to cause damage or injury.

Importantly if they are allowed to rest rather than cleared away, there is a further opportunity in death for them to still live on providing sustenance and homes for all manner of bugs, insects and mammals.

Their bark eventually decays and enriches the soil and from that springs more new life and so the cycle of nature goes on just as it should. 


Fallen Trees Giving New Life


Stunning Snowdrops  

As winter turns to Spring I eagerly look out for the stunning Snowdrop. I do not have a favourite flower rather I like to embrace each flower on its own merits and the snowdrop is a perfect example of a flower that has its moment in time.

Snowdrops look so delicate, so tiny yet they are strong and tough little flowers that survive and thrive  at one of the harshest times of the year

I adore the white purity of the flower against the shining green stems and am always amazed how such a tiny flower braves snow and ice, winds and wet and comes through it all defying the harsh conditions to bloom so brightly, so splendidly.

To me, they are a symbol of Hope that the winter is behind us and the warmer, sunnier lighter days are just around the corner. We also look forward to bluebells, crocus and the wonderful fungi that appear in the forest. 



Woodland Birds

Birds fascinate me more than most animals in the woodland. I am mesmerized by their singing, the clever way they build their nests and care for their young and the beauty of their feathers.

I love to look out for blackbirds, sparrows, blue tits and woodpeckers. It is a lovely way to spend a morning to find a place to sit and listen to this sound which is as beautiful as the most accomplished orchestra.

In one of the forests we visit, the local Wildlife Trust has set up birdfeeder stations. If you are quiet and still and patient there is nothing better than watching the birds dart onto and off the feeders. Sometimes I take photos, other times I simply experience the moment, in a state of just being. 

I was so lucky we were in the right place at the right time and actually looking upwards to the tops of the trees, to get the opportunity to take this photograph of a cormorant perching high to dry his wing feathers after diving.

Cormorants are distinctive birds that often live in the woodland but nearby water and there is a large pond in the middle of this forest that is perfect for this bird to fish in. They have as you can see a long neck and an almost prehistoric appearance about them. After fishing, it needs to find a high perch in the open where it can hold its wings out so they can dry after each dive.  I feel so privileged to have observed this moment in nature.


Cormorant Drying Wings After Diving


Spring In The Woods, Nurturing The Soul

As we approach Spring, the clocks go forward, we have longer hours of daylight and suddenly the forest changes occur very quickly.

The tiny tight buds we saw in early spring now unfurl at a rapid pace and the previously brown bare branches almost overnight turn into bright fresh green foliage. This is my favorite time right now.

 Everything is fresh and new and bright, the days are longer and there is the promise of much more to come. Any worries we have seem more bearable in this beautiful magical environment. I feel a fresh resurgence of the desire to do things, to grow, to explore.


Early Spring In The Woods


It is far too easy these days to become caught up in the everyday noise of our lives, the television, the news, the traffic to see what is occurring right with us if we take time to really look and listen.

There is nothing quite like a forest to see that renewal to view the changes in nature, to feel the growth of new life, to smell the damp soil underfoot and to hear the beautiful birdsong. To experience the sheer joy of finding a new flower that was not there the day before. 


Beautiful Bluebells!


I love this poem by WH Davies which encourages us to "stand and stare" in nature for our own good.


What Is Life If Full Of Care...?

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

by W.H. Davies


Woodland Walking And Wellbeing

I gave some thought to what word I feel when walking in the woods and I have concluded that the word is "Serenity".


That is the feeling and that is perhaps why so many studies are now showing that it is vital for us all to spend more time in a natural environment.

Even if that is only one walk a week it gives us benefits but if we can make it thirty minutes a day it is beneficial to our overall health and certainly to our mental and emotional wellbeing.  

Life can be quite challenging at times and we all have things we need to deal with, perhaps more so these days, so we need a place to go to ground ourselves, to find peace, to find that serenity. 


If you, like me love to connect with nature and the countryside and have a love for trees and woodlands and have enjoyed this glimpse into my woodland walks, you may enjoy reading this book Wildwood by the late Roger Deakin. He was a British nature writer and takes us on a journey through the mysteries of woods, trees and nature in several countries around the world. His writing is quite beautiful and uplifting when looking into the spirituality of nature and people's connection with the natural world.  

  


So for me walking in woodland is not only an enjoyable activity I always look forward to whatever the weather and a way to connect with nature, but it is also an essential part of ensuring my health and wellbeing. I hope you have enjoyed this walk through the woods with me. 


More Nature Articles

 Six Ways To Help Wildlife In The Year Ahead  

5 Wildlife Gift Ideas Reviewed

Spring Into The Garden Give Nature A Helping Hand A Garden Review

Joy Of The First Snowdrops Diary Of A Wild Country Garden





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