Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Discover Chirp: Awesome Affordable Audiobook Deals

Audiobooks are a wonderful complement to print, Kindle and other reading formats. Listening to a novel or non-fiction book while driving, walking, riding or waiting for public transit, traveling, sitting in waiting rooms, crafting, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning or doing laundry or yard work can make these activities much more enjoyable. A talented narrator can significantly enhance the experience of consuming a good book. Jim Dale’s Grammy award-winning narration of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a perfect example. Unfortunately, production costs are higher than for print and digital books, which makes audiobooks more expensive to purchase.

This review will introduce my fellow bibliophiles to Chirp, a wonderful service that offers a changing selection of awesome, affordable, limited-time audiobook deals without the financial commitment of a monthly or annual membership fee that Audible requires.

Best-Selling Audiobooks for Less Than $5 - chirpbooks.com screenshot

Audiobooks Continue to Grow in Popularity

2020 was the ninth straight year of double-digit revenue growth for audiobook publishers, jumping 12% vs. 2019 revenues to reach $1.3 billion, according to this year’s sales survey conducted by research firm InterQ for the Audio Publishers Association (APA). More than 71,000 audiobooks were published in 2020, a 39% increase versus 2019, per the APA’s consumer survey of American adult audiobook listeners conducted by Edison Research. [Source: Audio Publishers Association press release, June 1, 2021]

This rapidly growing trend toward publishing titles in audiobook editions as well as print and e-book formats is wonderful news to the many avid readers (including myself) who love listening to books as well as reading them. 

The quality of the narrators and their performances has improved dramatically in recent years. More and more books are being narrated by award-winning stage and film actors. Depending on their contracts, narrators may be paid at an hourly rate per “finished hour” of audio, and/or may earn royalties based on sales. A sound engineer, producer, or other people may be required, and production and editing costs are much higher than for other publishing formats. Consequently, audiobooks are priced higher than their print or e-book counterparts.

Buying vs. Borrowing Audio Books

Because of their higher price tag, many of us download at least some of the recorded books we want to read the public library. Unfortunately, most libraries can’t afford to make a wide selection of audiobooks available to their borrowers, and the very long waiting lists for popular titles can be quite frustrating. As a result, many of us who love listening to them purchase at least some audio books rather than borrowing them from the library. In fact, 38% of audiobook listeners who responded to the above-mentioned APA consumer survey of American adult audiobook listeners indicated that they subscribe to at least one audio book service, such as Audible or Chirp.

Audible dominates the audiobook services market to the point where the Audible name is synonymous with this book format. As an Amazon company, no would-be rival can hope to compete with its enormous library, financial backing, in-house production studio, author and publisher relationships, and marketing and technology resources.

I have been an Audible member since 2006 and remain a huge fan and loyal customer. I appreciate the many major improvements, such as Whispersync for Voice technology (which allows you to switch seamlessly between listening to a book on Audible and reading it on a Kindle or Kindle app) and the excellent, exclusive content produced by Audible Studios. However, the steep increases in the cost of membership and the changes to their membership plan model in recent years has made it less affordable.

Over the years, I looked into several less expensive sources for audio books that others had recommended, but the limited selection and desirability of the titles on offer, the number of abridged versus unabridged books and, in some cases, the quality of the narrations (some of which were machine-generated) was always disappointing. After being an Audible member for so many years, the bar for a good audiobook acquisition and listening experience was set high, and nothing else I found came close to measuring up. I gave up on finding a less expensive Audible alternative for my own needs. 

However, Chirp, a competing service that offers amazing limited-time deals on popular audiobook titles at incredibly low prices, has turned out to be a fantastic complement to my Audible membership. And for less hardcore audiobook listeners who haven't built up a library of audiobooks in Audible's proprietary format over the past 15 years, Chirp might be a viable and much less expensive alternative. 

Chirp Audiobook Deals Make Listening to Books Affordable

Last year, as I bemoaned how much money I was spending on my growing Audible library, a close friend and fellow avid reader told me about Chirp, where he frequently found titles that interested him at a fraction of list price. Given my previous experience with lower-cost audiobook sources, I was somewhat skeptical about how good this Audible alternative could be. But, based on my friend’s enthusiastic recommendation, I went online to learn more about it.

I found several articles about Chirp that concurred with my friend’s opinion about this new-to-me site and book listening app. The more I read about the company and its audiobook deals, the more interested I became.

I went to the Chirp website and browsed their limited-time audiobook deals. If the selection of steeply discounted books didn’t interest me or had lots of negative reviews, they wouldn’t be a bargain at any price. To my surprise, that day’s featured deals included a few bestselling fiction and non-fiction titles priced at less than $5 each! I returned to check out the update crop of deals several times over the following week or two and was impressed by quality of the books across a wide range of genres being offered for just a few dollars apiece.

I signed up for the Chirp featured audiobook deals emails in October 2020 and have added quite a few new titles to my recorded books library since then. I still maintain my Audible membership for its enormous catalog, and because I own so many audiobooks in Audible’s proprietary format that I don’t want to lose access to. But, thanks to Chirp’s limited-time deals and notification emails, I’ve also discovered several new authors and series without paying a small fortune.

Here are the things I love most about using Chirp.

Find Fabulous Deals on Popular Audiobooks

Every day, you’ll find a good selection of limited-time Chirp Featured Deals that sell for a fraction of their list prices, with discounts up to 95% off!

At the time of publication, for example, there were 381 featured deals from $0.99 to $6.99, with the vast majority priced between $1.99 and $4.99, from popular authors as diverse as Janet Evanovich, Jane Austen, David Baldacci, Lisa Scottoline, Robert Heinlein, James Patterson, Agatha Christie, M.C. Beaton, David Sedaris, Jeffrey Archer, John Steinbeck, Stephanie Laurens and Robert Frost.

Chirp screenshot - audiobook Featured Deals

No Membership Fees, No Minimum Purchase

With Chirp, there is no ongoing financial commitment. Unlike Audible, whose listening plans are based on monthly or annual subscription fees, Chirp lets you buy as few or as many books as you want, as seldom or as often as you want. Never Miss a Great Audiobook Bargain You can sign up for Chirp’s daily or weekly featured deals notification emails to make sure you don’t miss a great deal. Or, if you prefer, you can opt out of the emails and visit the site whenever you wish to check out the bargains on offer that day.

A Low Cost Way to Try Audiobooks

If you're curious about audiobooks and want to give them a try, Chirp is a great way to start building a listening library without spending a lot of money.

Listen When You Want, the Way You Want

You can use the Chirp app on your iOS or Android phone or tablet, stream audiobooks from your Chirp library in a web browser on a laptop or other device, and even listen to your Chirp audiobooks on your Alexa-enabled devices after you enable the Chirp skill on the device and link your Chirp account.

Buy Once, Listen Again and Again

All books you purchase are yours to keep, so you can revisit your favorites even years later.

A Perfect Complement to Other Audiobook Sources

Whether you’re borrowing audiobooks from the library or buying them on Amazon or Audible, Chirp’s limited-time deals can help you listen to more of the books you want while saving you money.

A More Flexible Alternative to Audible, With A Smaller Catalog

In addition to the deeply discounted, limited-time deals, Chirp also sells many other audiobook titles at what they call "everyday value" pricing. Although you won’t find the vast selection of titles that Audible offers, there are still plenty of books to choose from. So, if you’re new to audiobooks or listen to them less frequently, Chirp can be a viable and far less expensive alternative to an Audible subscription plan.

Discover Great Reads With Book List Recommendations

The Chirp website has a well organized Book Lists section with smart, well written recommendations to help you discover titles you might not have known about otherwise.

Chirp website screenshot - top of Book Lists page

Books for Adults, Books for Kids

While the majority of titles on Chirp are for an adult audience, you'll also find plenty of books for kids, as well as some excellent recommendations in the "For the Kids" section of Chirp's Book Lists.

Screenshot of Chirp's recommended book lists for kids

Get 20% Off Your First Audiobook Purchase on Chirp

If you use my Chirp referral link, you'll get 20% off your first audiobook purchase (and I’ll also get 20% off my next purchase). It’s a win-win!

Explore today's limited-time audiobook deals on Chirp and save 20% on your first order!

Do you have other favorite sources for buying or borrowing audiobooks? If so, please share them below in the comments. 



Discover Chirp: Awesome Affordable Audiobook Deals product review by Margaret Schindel

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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

ThermoPro TP-20 and TP-18 Food Thermometers Reviewed

 

ThermoPro TP-20

Three years ago I received my Char-Griller offset smoker as a Father's Day gift. I was so excited and could not wait to use it. My Char-Griller is a combination smoker and charcoal grill.

As I was in a hurry to get started, I quickly realized that I needed some additional tools to help control the temperatures of the grill and the food. Even though the grill has a thermometer on the lid of the grill the temperatures can vary by 40 to 50 degrees throughout the grill.

After much research, I found the ThermoPro TP-20 remote food thermometer with dual probes. Now, I can remotely monitor the internal temperature of the food that I'm cooking along with the inside temperature of the grill.

ThermoPro TP-20 Features:

LCD Display (Liquid Crystal Display) - Displays all icons temperatures and time
Dual probe temperature display
Programmable alert with preset temperatures for different foods
Tolerance for internal food temperature is + or - 1.8 degrees
Displays in Fahrenheit or Celsius
Count down or count up timer
Remote Transmitter

The dual probes allow me to monitor the internal temperature of two types of meat or two sections of a large piece of meat.

With the 40 to 50-degree variance that I mentioned earlier, you want to be sure that you are cooking the meat at the proper temperature.
 
I always use the second probe to monitor the grill temperature of the cooking surface of my grill. The unit comes with a handy clip so you can clip the probe onto the grill grates. With the remote transmitter, I can monitor the grill and the food from anywhere. 

ThermoPro Instant ReadTP-18:

I have the old-style meat thermometers but you have to insert them into the meat and wait for the temperature to read. When your cooking over a hot surface this presents a problem.

The TP-18 is an ultra-fast digital instant-read thermometer you will get reading in about two seconds. This comes in handy for checking different portions of the meat while cooking. 

I also use both the TP-20 and TP-18 while cooking inside. The wires on the TP-20 are long enough to have the probe inserted into your favorite roast in the oven and have the monitor on the countertop.

I am very satisfied with the performance of both of my ThermoPro thermometers for the past three years and would recommend them to anybody.

Check out just a few of my favorite smoking recipes:

Long Smoke Pulled PorkLong Smoke Pulled PorkLong Smoke Pulled PorkSmoked Bone in Chicken BreastsSmoked Bone-in Chicken BreastsSmoked Bone in Chicken BreastsSlow Smoke Pork RibsSlow Smoke Pork RibsSlow Smoke Pork Ribs

 

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Monday, June 28, 2021

Hallmark Christmas In July 2021 Reviewed

 Hallmark fan alert! Hallmark Christmas in July movies make a long awaited appearance this year.  The fun begins Friday, July 9, 2021 and continues through July 31st. The favorites are back along with a few Hallmark surprises.


Here are a few of my favorite Hallmark Christmas movies showing this July. 

Crown for Christmas  - Danica McKellar and Rupert Penry-Jones

One of the top Hallmark Christmas movies of all time (in my humble Hallmark opinion!)

Danica McKellar is transported from her job as a maid in a swanky hotel to a nanny to a princess and all the foibles in between. Great chemistry between the leads and the palace staff make this a modern day romantic comedy many will enjoy all year long.

Christmas at Graceland - Kellie Pickler and Wes Brown

Love, romance, country music against the backdrop of the beautiful Graceland makes you want to book a Graceland visit on your next vacation.



Christmas Under Wraps - Candace Cameron Bure, David O'Donnell

A career driven city doctor finds herself unexpectedly in Alaska to take care of the residents of this small Christmas town. Of course romance ensues with a resident who have a very Christmas family. One of the A team female leads at Hallmark, Candace does not disappoint nor does the male lead David O'Donnell to make one almost 'believe' Santa does exist...



Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas  - Lacey Chabert, Stephen Huszar

Mystery, romance and five degrees of separation? as five strangers find themselves drawn to a country inn for Christmas and find their lives intertwined as the mystery unfolds.

Our Christmas Love Song - Alicia Witt, Brendan Hines

Fans are in for a treat with these two stars who can sing and act. Country music is the backdrop along with an original song by Alicia Witt.



Soap Sunday 

New this year is an all day marathon of Hallmark Christmas movies with your favorite soap stars! 

 

New 2021 Christmas Movie

Hallmark fans will be delighted that Christmas In July this year will include a brand new Christmas movie - albeit early. Crashing Through The Snow premieres this July starring Amy Acker and Warren Christie. 

 

Hallmark Christmas Movie Reviews

Hallmark Christmas Movies 2020 Reviewed by The Savvy Age

Finding Father Christmas by Cynthia

Christmas Tree Lane by The Savvy Age




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Sunday, June 27, 2021

Reviewing The Growing And Care Of Dracaena As A Houseplant

Dracena House Plant

I rescued two lovely Dracaena houseplants recently. It was a spur of the moment decision, I had gone into the shop for compost!! Anyone who knows me will understand that I cannot resist a beautiful plant let alone two sitting unloved on a shelf. They were a quarter of the original price so an extremely good bargain, as long as I can keep them alive.

I do like to buy or rescue outdoor plants this way as bargains and bringing back to life the unloved and unwanted, but I have never bought a houseplant in need of rescue. Houseplants can be a little harder to restore to full health once they have been very neglected, but I wanted to give it a go. 

So this Dracaena is a stunning-looking plant. Both were sadly completely dried out and shrinking from their pots which is not good. So the first thing I did was to put the pots into a bowl of water and allow the plant to drink what it wanted for an hour. This way I did not overwhelm it with water but it could quench its undoubted thirst.

Next was to give it the very best of treatment. This means the correct position in the house, the food, water and environment it needs. It also means the correct soil, but on this, I am waiting as it is always stressful for a plant to be repotted and they had enough stress so far. So I will repot in a month or so when they are more settled.

Dracaena House Plant In Kitchen

The Name Dracaena

This plant is named Dracaena which means female dragon in ancient greek. Apparently, the red stems that are found in many of these houseplants are like the colour of dragons blood! Sometimes it is also referred to as the Dragon Plant which I like.

Dracaena Are Good For Us! 

The Dragon plant is also a great air purifier and therefore very good to have in our homes. It is a lovely thing to have a plant that is beautiful in our homes and this one is stunning especially as it grows tall, but quite another when it benefits us directly. 

Our homes are surprisingly full of toxins and pollutants from our furniture, paint, materials for building, clothing and cleaning chemicals we use every day.

If we can help to offset at least some of this pollution with beautiful houseplants we are doing our health good. Dracaena is one of the most effective plants for air purification and so deserves a place in every home.  

Generally, for the majority of people this plant is safe to be around. For most people, this plants leaves are not toxic if touched and handled, but clearly as with any houseplant avoid anyone eating them. If anyone has especially sensitive skin or allergies to plants then direct contact with the plant is best avoided.  

Dracaena Is Toxic If Eaten By Pets

It must be noted that beautiful as it is, Dracaena is toxic if our pets eat it. It is the chemical in the plant, saponin that causes the issue. This will result in vomiting and diarrhea and if that occurs get your pet to a vet immediately for treatment. 

If you have pets it is wise to keep this houseplant out of their reach. 


Dracaena House Plant In Bathroom With Filtered Light

Where to Position Dracaena

Dracaena comes from the floor level of tropical rainforests and arid deserts. I know mine came from Costa Rica. Dracaena like humidity so unlike the houseplants I have reviewed previously this one loves being in a bathroom or kitchen.

This is great news as I love houseplants in these rooms. To keep them happy and in good condition, they appreciate regular misting of the leaves and a humid environment so placing them on a dish of pebbles topped up with water is also helpful.

The dragon plant likes to keep warm so heat of about 15 to 20 degrees celsius is good, but it hates direct bright light so after some thought I have positioned one in the bathroom window that is south facing but the window is opaque so it filters the suns rays very well which is just what this plant requires, filtered sunlight.

This plant is currently quite small but it will grow much taller which is not a problem here as the window is quite tall as well. The taller one is in the kitchen again by a window this time east facing but quite sheltered from the sun by the foliage in the garden. So I will see if it likes it there.


Leaves Of Dracaena House Plant 



Water And Food Requirements For Dracaena


The soil must always be moist for this houseplant but it does not like to sit in soggy wet conditions. The best soil is free draining so compost mixed with perlite would be a good combination. It allows for generous watering but permits good drainage to let excess water through. Always make sure there is an inch or to at the top of the pot to allow for easy watering. 

Once watered allow the plant to drain through before you site back in its outer container. I would recommend having the plant in a plastic or terracotta pot then putting that pot inside a slightly larger decorative pot. That way you can water thoroughly but allow it all to drain off before repositioning.

If the leaves go yellow and droop then it has been overwatered and we must cut down on the watering and ideally repot into fresh compost to give it the best chance of recovery.

My two both need repotting and then placing into proper decorative pots but that will wait until they have settled down.

Feeding is quite important and a task we need to do every fortnight during spring and summer, reducing to once a month in autumn/fall and no feeding is necessary during winter. You can buy Dracaena feed or any usual houseplant fertilizer is fine.





Pruning Dracaena

It is not necessary to do any pruning of this houseplant. The only reason I can see to prune is if it grows too tall for the space. It grows in an upright habit so actually occupies only a small space on any surface. 

However, if you need to prune the canes or stems to reduce the height you can simply cut them with secateurs like these Wolf By Pass Garden Secateurs and then in time new growth will shoot from the pruning cut.

I am going to allow these two to grow pretty tall as I think they look especially stunning as a huge plant and I love having them in our home.

Dracaena House Plant 

So in summary Dracaena is a stunning plant that takes up little room on a surface, but can grow quite tall. It is beautiful and requires filtered sunlight, warmth and steady watering and feeding.

Do be careful where you place it if you have pets as it is toxic to them. Keep it out of the way of any person who is especially sensitive or allergic to plants. 

It is a very easy care plant overall and has air purification qualities to help us be more healthy in our homes. Overall a very deserving plant and one I am glad I rescued.
 
 

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Saturday, June 26, 2021

Reviewing Vera: A British TV Drama

I must admit I love British murder mysteries and Vera is definitely one I enjoy a lot, let me tell you a little bit about it.

Vera, a British police drama
Press Release photo (itv.om) adapted by Louanne Cox using Canva

DCI Vera Stanhope is a middle-aged, blunt-talking woman with a brusque attitude who gets things done.   Donning a trench coat, tatty hat and driving her (very old) landrover around the wonderful landscape of Northumberland she hasn't been portrayed as a sex symbol and there's no love interest in the cast.   Basically, her team feels like 'real' people which means you can concentrate on the crime at hand and trying to solve it .... along with the panoramic shots of the area (British tourism must appreciate this series).

I love her down-to-earth mannerisms, her use of the words love and pet just really consolidates her character.   She gets frustrated with her team on occasion, but you can tell they have respect for her and the unit is very cohesive.

I haven't watched Vera from the beginning, I stumbled across it one evening as it was about to start so watched it, then I found another episode a few weeks later.   It was a few seasons in before I started to watch every episode, I have since watched older episodes so I think I'm completely up to date now and eagerly awaiting Season 11 to be aired.

I mention this because you could easily watch just an odd episode and enjoy it without needing to start from the beginning.   In fact, some critics have panned the first series (even though it continually ranks well in the countries it's shown) so maybe it was good that I saw a couple of later episodes first.

If you are like me and get invested in characters you will get a shock in one of the episodes in season 6 (I won't ruin it by telling you which one) as something happens which almost made me cry.   For the record, I rarely cry over television shows or movies.

If you have heard of the novelist Ann Cleaves you may have heard of Vera as this drama series has been based on her novels: Hidden Depths, Telling Tales, The Crow Trap and Silent Voices. 

If you want to watch Vera you can see her for free on the ITV in the UK and ABC in Australia, you can also watch her on Prime Video in other parts of the world or purchase her DVDs.   Each series has four episodes in them, but according to the latest information Series 11 which is being filmed as I write this should be having 6 episodes, two being filmed in 2021 and four in 2022.

If you enjoy series such as Broadchurch, The Stranger, Endeavour or Shetland (also written by Ann Cleaves) then you should really check out this series.




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Friday, June 25, 2021

Mini Increment Measuring Spoons for Tad, Dash, Pinch, Smidgen & Drop Reviewed

Small Increments Measuring Spoons
When I first started cooking and saw the words pinch or a dash in a recipe, or had verbal instructions to add a pinch of salt to something, I was confused by those words.  Exactly, what is a "pinch" of salt or a "dash" of cinnamon?  

Because I tend to take things literally, I would pinch the salt and drop it into the bowl or grab a shaker and dash the ingredient into the mix.  But, it still bothered me that I didn't know exactly how much to add.

This past Christmas, my sister-in-law gave me a set of mini increment measuring spoons.  I love them!  Now I know how much a pinch of salt is (1/16 tsp) and I have a measuring spoon in that tiny increment. How awesome is that!!!

I prefer to take the mystery out of a recipe so I can duplicate a cooking creation that is perfected.

Also, I love having measuring spoons that are in such tiny increments.  After all, it is pretty hard to measure out 1/16 of a teaspoon!  


Tiny Increment Measuring Spoons

These measuring spoons take the guesswork out of those not so well defined measurements in recipes.  

  • Drop - 1/64 teaspoon
  • Smidgen - 1/32 teaspoon
  • Pinch - 1/16 teaspoon
  • Dash - 1/8 teaspoon
  • Tad - 1/4 teaspoon

I never would have guessed that a drop is only 1/64 teaspoon!  Plus, I never would have been able to accurately measure it.  I would have previously thought a smidgen and a pinch were the same thing.  Clearly, I would have been wrong.

These measuring spoons have the words and the measurement engraved in the stainless steel, which means they won't have the measurement plate knocked off. 

My mini increment measuring spoons are dishwasher safe and come with a ring to keep them together in my kitchen drawer.  I also like the brushed stainless steel appearance. It just looks clean and rugged by design. No need to worry that they could be melted when cooking or cleaning. Plus, I don't have to worry about them picking up smells with years of use.

For those of you who enjoy cooking, I highly recommend these must-have kitchen utensils. Why guess when you can know for sure!

Oh, and they make a great gift!








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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Beneath Devils Bridge by Loreth Anne White-A Book Review

 

A Book Review
Beneath Devils Bridge is a compelling mystery that had my attention from page one.  In this story the author weaves a tale about a ambitious podcaster, Trinity  Scott, who is interviewing a condemned murderer. She wants to tell the story of a 24 year old murder of a 14  year old girl in a small town in British Columbia.  The  story flips between the present day story of the podcaster and her quest for the truth and the crime that took place 24 years in the past.  The murderer Clayton Jay Pelley confessed to the crime and is now serving a life sentence, but is that all there is to the story.  When Trinity starts to dig into the past the members of the small town community are not anxious to help her uncover what really happened.



Characters

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is the way the author developed the characters as the story progressed.  Here is a short synopsis of some of the main characters.

 Trinity Scott

 Trinity is an interesting character.  She is a podcaster who is very ambitious.  She researches cold cases and features them  on her podcasts.  At first glance you feel that her interest in this case is purely to have a great podcast.  But is that completely true or does she have some ulterior motive?

Leena Rai

Leena Rae is the murder victim in this mystery.  She is a fourteen year old girl who wants very much to belong, but she is very plain, shy and awkward.  She is often bullied and made fun of by others in her class.  On a cold November night she is brutally murdered on her way home from a "secret" bonfire in the small town of Twin Falls.  The circumstances of her murder are covered up by the people in the village till podcaster Trinity Scott brings up the case 24 years later.

Rachel Walczak

Rachel is the lead detective on the case and also the mother of one of Leena's classmates.  When she and the other detective start interviewing the students after the murder they both feel something is being hidden from them, but when a teacher confesses the case is quickly closed.

My Thoughts on the Book

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I like the way it was written giving both Trinity's and Rachel's perspective.  The book really pulls you in and has several twist and turns that I did  not anticipate.  It also has a lesson to be learned on what happens when bullying becomes the norm and a small town sticks together to hide the truth.



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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

There are Big Celebrations Coming our Way - Show Your National Pride!

Whether you live in Canada or the USA, July is a month for Celebrating! 

Celebration Products Reviewed!


https://www.reviewthisreviews.com/2021/06/there-are-big-celebrations-coming-our.html

July 1st is Canada Day followed very closely by July 4th Independence Day in the USA!

Those are two big holidays that just happen to fall in a great place this year.  Thursday July 1st and Sunday July 4th make it quite possible if you live close to the border, to enjoy each other and our holidays together.

After all the close downs, it will be nice to be able to travel even if its just down the road a ways.   I'm looking forward to that as a possibility!

Now whether or not that happens, don't let the holiday pass without getting some enjoyment from it all.

I love putting out my flag a week to two weeks before our holiday and then I leave it in place for the whole month.  Many Americans have their flags waving all year round, so it's a great time to make sure your flag is in tip top condition!  There is nothing sadder to me than seeing a tattered and tired flag.  There is no excuse!  Take a good look at it now and if it needs replacing then do the right thing and replace it!  Everyone will appreciate seeing a new flag flying. 

What I love even more than seeing a flag flying in the breeze during these holidays, is people getting their community spirit up by the wearing of "flag" inspired clothing!  Yes I love seeing the tee shirts and shorts, bathing suits and fitness gear all decked out in colors that represent your favorite place on earth!  After all this is the place you call home.

Cents of Style does a great job with T-shirts that reflect that patriotic notion.  And they do it in a great size range too!  




https://www.reviewthisreviews.com/2021/06/there-are-big-celebrations-coming-our.html

 T-shirts are a summer standard and everyone knows you can never have too many!  Are you getting the whole family together?  Can you just imagine the photo opportunities with everyone decked out in their finest deeply patriotic T's?

My bet is that everyone will be taking a picture of the whole bunch of you enjoying yourselves to the fullest.  Isn't that what these holidays are all about?

Now I'm sure that there will be food involved in all this celebration with family and friends, but did you know it's real easy to make something spectacular for everyone without breaking the proverbial bank?

Food and Family go together like a hand in a glove.  So be prepared ahead of time by getting some ice cream sandwiches (you know the ones with the chocolate cookies on the outside and vanilla ice cream in between).  Dip the outside edges of the ice cream with red and blue sprinkles to give them that holiday feeling.  Or dip pretzels sticks or ties into white chocolate and sprinkle them with red and blue to give them that Holiday feel!  Easy to do and can be done days ahead of time too.
4th of July Pretzels by craftcreatecook.com
                                                                       Linked Photo & Directions on craftcreatecook.com

Can you tell that I'm looking forward to this special time?  I enjoy the holidays, especially after the last couple of years when many festivities needed to be curtailed.  It's time to stretch out our wings and fly with the flags that are waving their hellos to the world.  Won't you come and join in the fun?

To all my friends Canadian and American who are celebrating these wonderful holidays,  May I wish you all the best from the bottom of my heart and my hopes that our tomorrows will always be brighter!





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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner – A Book Review



Before She Disappeared introduces us to Frankie Elkin, an ordinary woman and recovering alcoholic who has more regrets than belongings, more sad stories than happy ones. To cope with them, she has devoted her life to finding missing people the rest of the world has given up on. This seems too often to happen to minorities. 


When the police have given up, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never bothered to care, Frankie starts looking. For no money, no recognition, and most of the time, no help. Why does she do it? 


Maybe the question shouldn't be why am I doing this, but why isn't everyone looking?

                                                        ~Frankie Elkin


Synopsis


Frankie gets her new cases from online research; from national chat rooms where family members and concerned neighbors compare notes on various missing persons cases. There are too many such cases for local resources to handle, so Frankie, and others like her, step into the vacuum. 


Available now
on Amazon
Frankie's new case, the basis of this story, brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation.  She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier and has never been found. The Boston PD did search for Angel for awhile, but is just about convinced that she is basically a runaway who doesn't want to be found.  Angel's family believes differently.


As Frankie begins to ask questions, she discovers that someone doesn't want them answered. As she takes risks to discover the truth, Frankie might become the next person to go missing. 


Summary


Lisa Gardner has written 23 suspense novels to date, including this one just published in 2021. Her novels are well written and enjoyable to read.

*Reviewer's Note: Lisa Gardner, best-selling author of suspense novels in both her FBI Profiler Series and her D.D. Warren Series, appears to have begun a new series with this Frankie Elkin thriller.  Before She Disappeared is listed as a Frankie Elkin Novel Book 1.  One Step Too Far (a Frankie Elkin Novel Book 2) will be released on January 18, 2022. It is available for 'Pre-Order' here.


*More Reviews of Lisa Gardner Books on ReviewThisReviews.com


Book Review of "Before She Disappeared" written by 

~Wednesday Elf





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Monday, June 21, 2021

Book Review: Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

In this tale we meet a variety of people who are living the best they are able after the Second Conflict. The Second Conflict which was also called "The Fall",  "The Reformation", and most commonly, "The Big Stupid". Nana said that some called it the Rapture. Her grandchild is only seven years old and doesn't remember a time before it. Regardless of the name, it was an event that set everyone back to zero in relation to technology, created massive weather events, and left people living hard lives trying to survive.


Wolf Road is an apocalyptic psychological thriller. It will not be eveyone's cup of tea.   The villain (or villains?) in this story function along the lines of Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs or Colin Stanton in Bone Collector.

Nana

"My house, girl" she said "you just a guest here till your parents come back. Pray that it be soon"

Nana was caring for her 7 year old grandchild because her daughter had run off with a man. They had run off to look for gold in  the north. Nana lived in a shack that she had built and rebuilt with Grandpa. He was killed in the Second Conflict and left Nana to fend for herself during these hard times. Now she also had to care for a child. A sassy, disrespectful child. 

Our introduction to Nana is brief as a thunderhead roared into their small town which was situation in the valley between the hills. 

Seven-year-old Girl a.k.a Elka

A seven year old child was arguing with Nana after being told to go collect pine resin. During their argument it was clear that conflict between the two was not a one-time thing. The child continued to refuse and Nana left the house with the final words "Don't you follow me. I don't even want to look at you no more."

While Nana was gone, the thunderhead rolled into town; terrifying the little girl who shouted for her grandmother to return. She hid under the table and before she knew it, both she and the table were in the air, being carried off in the storm. When she landed, she had no clue where she was or how to return to Nana's shack. But terrified, tired, and hungry she set off to find her way back.

Trapper a.k.a Kreagar

The man found a little girl eating his meat that was hanging on drying racks outside of his hut. She ran and hid but he tracked her (probably very easily given his skill living off the land). When she woke, with her head wrapped in a bandage from being knocked unconscious with the butt of his gun she noted

He sat on a chair by the door, staing at me with eyes like the devil. Shotgun rested against his leg, his hat on his knee. He must a' fallen asleep, his face was all covered in streaks of black dirt. "Where'd you come from?" he said. His voice had a breath of kindness to it.

 The little girl referred to him as Trapper. He was "the strangest I'd met" and after he couldn't locate Nana (did he really try?), he named the girl Elka (she could not remember her real name) and trained her how to hunt and trap.  It was not until much later that she learned his name was Kreagar and the grotesque things he was accused of doing.      

Magistrate Lyon

Magistrate Lyon is after Kreagar. She is the law, such as it is during those times. And she rides with a posse. They ride horseback from town to town and posted black and white printed wanted flyers everywhere. Magistrate Lyon wants justice. She wants revenge. 

Penelope

During and after an apocalypse, it is not safe for a young lady. Elka figures it is especially unsafe for a pretty, feminine, delicate girl who doesn't know her way around the woods. Who has absolutely no outdoors skills. A girl like Penelope. However, Elka learns that Penelope has other life-saving skills such as reading and quick-thinking in situations that involve people. 

The two very young ladies have a love-hate relationship and take care of each other (mostly) while both are fleeing danger and while Elka is on the road north to find her parents. Based on the one letter she had received from them, and the letter she had Nana read to her over and over, she pictured her parents living a happy life on their gold claim and her singularly focused plan was to join them. 

Wolf Road 

This story kept me interested with it's blend of apocalyptic fiction with hints of old western. I wasn't sure if I were reading about future events or events that occurred in the past. Even though I was unsure, it worked for me. The characters were unique and easy to imagine. Each one both villain and hero. So much so that it was hard to know who to root for at times.

Due to the pollution and weather related to whatever occurred during the Damn Stupid, there was a slight element of fantasy. Or was it? It is hard to say what would happen when the environment is polluted following bombings.

This was Elka's coming of age story. Where she survives childhood and begins making adult decisions for her life. During a time that she struggles with understanding whether or not she was Trapper's adopted daughter or Kreager's evil accomplice. She has great difficulty understanding those two as the same man. And difficulty deciding how to manage the situation.

This story is about nature versus nurture. Are children born with their instincts and desires, or do we train those things into them? Are evil people inherently evil? Or taught to be evil? Are those who are taught to be evil able to overcome it? 

Elka struggles with these things until the very last pages.





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Sunday, June 20, 2021

Caring for A Mother In Laws Tongue As A Houseplant Reviewed

 


A Houseplant With Many Common Names

This striking plant has a prolific number of strange common names which include Mother In Laws Tongue- supposedly the ends of the leaves looking like the sharp tongue of the mother in law. Now I loved my Mum in law to bits so this does not hold true, but that is folklore...

Its other commons names are Snake plant as it could look a little like a snake and St Georges Sword due to its sword like look. 

In addition it is known as Viper's Bowstring Hemp due to it being one of the sources for plant fibers used to make bowstrings. 

It is also known as the good luck plant! There may well be many more names but that is enough names for one plant!

Its Scientific name is Sansevieria trifasciata. In our home it was always known as Mother In laws Tongue. In this article I will refer to it as the Mother In Laws Tongue or the Snake Plant.

It is a rather bold, striking houseplant with smooth thick sword like leaves hence I can see the St Georges Sword common name. 

The leaves are not soft but neither are they spiky rather firm and bold to the touch. They have I think rather beautiful individual markings which are worth apprecaiting close up and I can totally see why they are given the common name of Snake Plant. 


Markings that give "Snake Plant" its common name.  


I can tend to these plants without gloves though I would wear gloves to repot. It can grow up to 3 or 4 feet high.  

It does flower but the flowers are insignificant and few people would grow it for its flowers. Neither is it scented. You need to like the shape and colour of the leaves to have this plant in your home. 

We always had two or three of these indoor plants around our home and the ones I have now are decendants or the original from my parents home. I find these house plants to be long lived and trouble free. 

It is essentially a succulent and as such needs a few care pointers which I cover below but is essentially a very easy houseplant to look after. 

 

Watering And Feeding The Mother In Laws Tongue. 

This plant has adapted to thrive on little water. All I do is to give it a good watering when I remember and let the soil dry out in between waterings. We need to water the soil, never the leaves or the space between the leaves as this will not be good for the plant.  

If we overwater or get too much water into the base of the leaves the signs are obvious. You will see the leaves go soggy to the touch and look damp and with possibly fungal or mold infections. If this plant is in standing water or overwatered for too long it will rot and then be more difficult to save. 

If we underwater and keep in a too sunny position as you can see in this photo the leaves shrivel up and may go brown or a pale sickly yellow. I have found it is a lot easier to rescue this plant if it is suffering underwatering simply by gradually increasing the water given and taking it a few inches away from the window. This is exactly what I will now do with this poorly underwatered plant and it will recover just fine.


Underwatered Mother In Laws Tongue In Wrong Position

If it is overwatered but not yet rotting, you can try to save it by totally repotting with fresh light well drained compost, leaving it in a light but not too sunny spot and watering lightly.  

We need to fertilise once a month in Spring and summer, but it is not necessary to fertilise in autumn or winter at all. 

Positioning A Snake Plant

It originates from areas of South Africa and Asia where the air is very dry and sunny with a desert like climate. Therefore it likes a light position and can even cope in strong sunlight though I think it does much better with a light spot out of direct sun.

The leaves on mine scorched a little and it never looked very happy when in a very sunny spot on a hot west facing windowsill. Positioned a few inches away from  the window on a table and it was quickly a different much happier plant. 

It needs to be in a dry room, not a bathroom or a kitchen or anywhere that is moist or damp. Perhaps a living or dining area or a study would be best. 


Beautiful Healthy Mother In Laws Tongue Houseplant

 

Division And Repotting

To make more plants I usually divide the plant in Spring and repot the separate parts. You can also grow from cuttings but I do find division easier and more instantly effective. 

You will know when the plant needs repotting as it will be pushing up against the sides of the pot and roots appearing through the end of th epot. I would advise repotting before you get to this stage as one of mine actually cracked the container it was growing in! 

Soil should be light and free draining so any good compost mixed with pearlight is a good choice for this plant. 


Mother In Laws Tongue Houseplant Sword Like Leaves

Care Around This Snake Houseplant

Do be careful if you have pets or young children, as it is toxic and if they eat it can cause vomiting and diarrhea and you may need a vet or doctor. We always kept ours in a room the dogs did not go into or higher up on a surface so that no one could not easily reach it. 

To be honest we never had any problems. I was raised in a house where we had many houseplants which could have been toxic but my perents just kept them out of my reach and I learned not to handle them. 

None of our dogs have ever shown the slightest interest in this plant either, but I would still be cautious and exercise common sense, especially with puppies, young pets or children just in case. 


Varieties Of Sansevieria Trifasciata 

There are a few different varieties of the mother in laws tongue. I just have the one variety I inherited years ago from my Mum but more are now available. 

The usual variety is Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’, which has very long dark green leaves with golden yellow edges.

There are also other variants  with different leaf colours and shapes such as those variagated with gold or silver. There is one which is almost white ghost like  and one that is verging on black. 

Some have a shorter length of leaf and some have rounder or more fan shaped leaves. Then there are those with smaller slimmer leaf shapes. 


 

Displaying Your Houseplant

 As this plant grows quite tall and fairly compact it is very useful for light areas of the home where you want some height and grandeur to a display.

 They good on their own but lovely when they are displayed together with other plants with different leaf shapes. If you have several of the different varieties of this plant it can look really stunning. I find this gives a lively, companion like social atmosphere to the display. 

 Another striking and possibly more modern way to display them is to have three or four in a row of the same variety, that can look very effective in its simplicity. I think this looks especially good in a minamilist white room where the shape and dark green colour really stands out as a feature. 

 As with many houseplants this one is very helpful and beneficial to us as it helps to purify and humidify the air thus providing a very useful service in our homes.


  

 

It is an excellent  houseplant and an easy guest.I think it is a great gift for a housewarming present or for a student or young professional who likes houseplants but perhaps does not have time to do a lot of caring for them.

It is arguably one of the best houseplants for beginners and busy people and thrives on very little care while still looking good. 


More Gardening Articles

Reviewing The Care Of Living Stone Flowers or Lithops As Houseplants




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