Monday, January 31, 2022

Book Review - The Wise Ass (The Claire Trilogy Book 1) by Tom McCaffrey

Oh my. I have no idea how to begin this book review. This book is part mobster murder suspense and part paranormal comedy. The cast of characters is a very unlikely bunch who somehow blend together in what turns out to be the absolutely best story. They are the perfect example of that sometimes our best family is the one we choose. This is not my usual genre, although, I'm not at all sure what genre this is if I'm being honest. But I am very glad that I read about how Jimmy found his way into a career as a New York mob lawyer followed by his escape with his wife into the witness protection program. But is his escape successful? Or will Valachi find him and "tie up" those loose ends? Mr. Valachi is used to getting what he wants and ordering a hit is part of his routine business transactions.



The Wise Ass (The Claire Trilogy Book 1) 

The prologue begins with Jimmy McCarthy as a young child growing up in the 1960s in an Irish family in New York near Yankee Stadium. 

"... my attention shifted to Jerome Avenue and the overhead squealing of a southbound No. 4 train pulling into the Yankee Stadium Station. At the ding-dong-ping sound of it's opening doors, my eyes followed the disturbed descending flock of pigeons gliding down from the guano covered steel girders of the El to sample the last of a patch of flattened Crackerjack on Jerome ten feet away."  - young Jimmy

Chapter One begins with Jimmy, an average guy "with a penchant for procrastination" who got himself through law school. He felt like an imposter, someone who didn't deserve to be there, having been "born with dirt under my fingernails". But not only did he get through law school, he landed a job with large law firm where he did well. He and his wife Gina, a Registered Nurse, had a stable and comfortable life as New Yorkers who worked hard and long hours. They loved their city and were living the life complete with seeing Baryshnikov at the Lincoln Center. 

Things changed only by chance. Dan Pearsall happened to be in Night Court when Jimmy was working his legal magic. Dan was there because his son was in Night Court as a defendant and Dan convinced Jimmy to get his son off the hook as he had the firm's client Jimmy had just represented. And there it begins. Dan was not only a concerned parent but also the gateway to Jimmy being introduced to Mr. Valachi. Jimmy is quickly offered a job as a mob attorney, handling the "legal" work... reviewing contracts and such. So his choice is the very lucrative and less strenuous contract work or to continue as a grunt in a firm working insanely long hours at the beck and call of the partners, and with no recognition. You can guess which he chooses.

For awhile, he and Gina live a plush life in a wonderful new home with savings accounts bursting at the seams... so much so that they have multiple offshore bank accounts to hold the excess.

Then the Feds arrive. In the early morning hours multiple important members of Valachi's group are scooped up. Valachi included. Jimmy included; he and Gina woken from their sleep by armored men breaking his door down and bursting into their bedroom.

Things take a huge turn, Jimmy turns state's witness and then he and Gina enter the Witness Protection Program. Following the trial, they are given new names and are relocated to a very small rural town in Colorado. 

In Colorado they meet the modern versions of Mr. Ed, Mork and Mindy, and Jennifer Love Hewitt's character in the Ghost Whisperer. Seriously, the book suddenly includes a talking mule named Claire, a couple of aliens, and a woman who talks to dead people in addition to a flawed FBI agent, a veteran who has gotten a handle on his PTSD, and a lesbian couple. In order to avoid spoilers, I will not describe the storyline after Jimmy and Gina "Moran" move to the country. And if you don't like to read spoilers, take care reading any reviews on Amazon and Goodreads as there are many, many spoilers.  I get it. This story is so difficult to describe without spoilers. 

My Personal Thoughts and Reactions

I will say that author Tom McCaffrey's writing style had me hook, line and sinker beginning in the prologue. I was transported to the streets of New York through the eyes of a child. Later, it somehow all seemed plausible that this talking mule and these people/aliens not only existed but were believable. They were relatable.

This is definitely NOT the type of book I usually read. I am surprised that I would recommend this genre at all. But as soon as I finished the last page, I knew I had to share it with you.

I tend toward psychological thrillers, stories with terrible people who do terrible things. I think reading a fictional story that has characters who are worse than humans (even if it is just barely) really is an escape for me. Rarely, I read romances. And more recently, I am enjoying historical fiction.  But it was late one night, and while I have many to-be-read books in my Kindle Paperwhite (which I love!) I wanted something different. I was in a rut. Nothing sounded appealing. I had my browser open to one screen in Amazon and one screen in my public library digital loans. I browsed description after description. And thought time and again, "been there, read that".  I was becoming annoyed that so many stories seemed cookie-cutter that night.

I read the description of The Wise Ass and quite frankly thought "that's probably stupid".  At a cost of $0.00 with my Amazon Prime, and in my desperation for something to read for bedtime, I downloaded it. After all, if I hated it, all I would lose a bit of my time and gain more temporary irritation related to my reading rut. 

I am so glad I chose it! 

I enjoyed Tom McCaffrey's writing style and was transported from the streets of New York City to fields of Berthoud, Colorado. The writing style somehow made everything believable. Even Claire, the talking mule, became someone I'd like to meet. In some of the reviews I read there were mentions of this book representing the LGBT community (with the same-sex relationship of Bobbie and Helen) as well as the animal rights community (Claire was rescued from a trip to the slaughterhouse) and the vegetarian folks (again... Claire). I not only thought the story line was going to be stupid, but also thought the book would be full of heavy-handed social commentary. I was so wrong. This story and these characters were entertaining and engaging; each one unique and interesting. And there was no lecturing. Only flawed humans (and aliens and a mule) who were trying to find their way through life and find their place in a community. 

I believe I have found a new favorite author and as soon as I have this review completed I'll download An Alien Appeal (The Claire Trilogy Book 2) and spend the remainder of my day snuggled up and getting lost in a good book.





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


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Sunday, January 30, 2022

Five Handy Free Tools For Self Publishing

 

5 Free Self-Publishing Tools

As some of you already know, I self-publish riddle books, word search books, sayings, and poetry. If you're so inclined, here's my author page on Amazon.

My entire self-publishing process was self-taught, so let me stress that I'm not a "guru."

I've learned the self-publishing process and shared various articles over the past several years. Today's article is a brief list of a few of my favorite tools for writing books.

Handy Tools I Use for Self-Publishing - I Learn in Compartments (Like Compartmentalizing Thoughts and Tasks) 

First, let me stress I'm not an expert on every aspect of the tools I use. The best way for me to work is on a need-to-know basis. 

If I tried to learn a program or tool from top to bottom, I'd never have time to write or publish.

I use these tools in the limited scope for the task needed to complete. When needing to learn more about the tool, I then educate myself further. I learn in compartments, that's what I like to call it.

1. Canva - A Free Online Web Publishing Tool

Canva.com is an online web publishing tool. Over the past two years, I've come across numerous articles and videos mentioning Canva. In 2021, after reviewing and comparing, I decided to give Canva a try. I use this program to create word search books. Of course, it doesn't make the puzzles; rather, I use it as a glorified word processor. Canva does umpteen additional things, and I hope to expand my knowledge of Canva as I continue along my self-publishing journey.

Note that there is an upgrade to a paid version for Canva; however, I'm still using the free version only.

There are numerous free Canva tutorials on YouTube; here's one that's quite extensive for beginners.


2. Finding Related Words - Free Online Service

Along with using the free online service, Thesaurus.com, I recently discovered another handy free site called relatedwords.org. The broad range of word suggestions provided by relatedwords.org is excellent, especially when creating activity books. Using both Thesaurus.com and Relatedwords.org provides even more word replacement choices.

3. Adobe Spark for Creating Covers - Free Online Service

I've been using Adobe Spark to create book covers, banners, website graphics, and more for years. I'm quite familiar with it, and for that reason alone, I haven't taken the plunge to learn another program to create graphics.

Case in point, Canva.com (mentioned above) has an excellent graphic creating aspect to it, and I've yet to take the plunge and try that website for graphic creations.

There is an upgrade for a paid Adobe Spark version; however, personally, I haven't found the need to upgrade.

If you'd like to understand some of the fundamental differences and similarities between Spark versus Canva, here's a short video from YouTube that sums up some of the key features.

4. LibreOffice - A Free Online Word Processing Download

For writing my riddle books, I use Libre Office Writer. I don't own the paid version of Microsoft Word, and I needed a word processing program to write my riddle books. 

As mentioned above, I use Canva to write my word search books; however, having Libreoffice for my other books is handy, and I'm more familiar with it simply because I've been using it longer.

Be aware there is a learning process with Libreoffice, and I did have to have my mouth washed out with soap a few times while educating myself.

5. GIMP - A Free Open Source Editing Software Program

I use GIMP for one specific purpose; to convert my graphics to the minimum requirement of 300dpi that Amazon Publishing requires for photos in books and/or book covers.

After researching what DPI is and how to convert photos to the correct DPI for uploads to KDP Publishing and pulling all my hair out in the process, I found GIMP to work best for my needs.

Here's a quick tutorial directly from GIMP's tutorial section on how to change the DPI using this program.

Apparently, Canva will also convert images to 300dpi, but I haven't used that feature yet. 

Additional Self-Publishing Articles:

Basic Tips for the Newbie Self-Publisher

Matte or Glossy Book Covers

Confessions of a Newbie Self-Publisher

5 Helpful Self-Publishing Tools

3 Tips for a Newbie Self-Publisher

How to Get Started on Your First eBook




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


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Saturday, January 29, 2022

National Lego Day Review

 


What: National Lego Day

When: January 28


Attention all Lego fans!  And I think anyone born after 1962 ARE fans! 


As we celebrate the yearly holiday of National Lego Day, this year, 2022, is extra-special as we celebrate the 90th birthday of LEGO. They were invented in Denmark in 1932 and this fascinating building toy as we know it today was introduced to the United States in 1962. Most of you enjoyed playing and building with Legos as children. Many of you have continued your interest into adulthood. Or, if you won't admit to your grown-up self that you still love playing with Legos, you can easily hide your 'fandom' by 'helping' your children and/or grandchildren build their latest set. 


The writers on Review This! have written reviews of many Lego sets, from small ones to very large ones.  In case you have missed any, I give you this compilation to check out many of the favorites which are on the market today. 


Reviews of Lego Sets in Themes


CITIES


Peanut Butter Fudge RecipeLego Creator Holiday Bakery Set
The Lego Creator Holiday Bakery is a fun accessory set to Lego City. Reviewed by Louanne Cox.


Lego City Fire StationLego City Fire Station
Every city needs a fire station and Lego City is no exception. Louanne Cox reviews the Lego Set #7208 fire station.


Lego City AirportReviewing Lego City Airport |Set #3182
The Lego City needs an airport. This Lego Set #3182, with 703 pieces, comes with everything you need, including mini figures of a pilot, flight attendants, a service man and a passenger. Review written by Louanne Cox.


Lego City Construction Site SetLego City Construction Site
Help build your Lego City with this construction site set #7633. The set comes with 3 vehicles and 5 minifigures and has 898 pieces. Review written by Louanne Cox.


Lego City People PackReviewing Lego City People Pack
When building your Lego City, you sometimes need more people. Lego has People Packs to add to your city's population. The Lego People Pack #60202 has 14 minifigures (Lego People). Review written by Louanne Cox.


SUPERHERO


Spider-Man Far From Home Lego SetSpiderman Far From Home Lego Set
The Spider-Man Far From Home Stark Jet and the Drone Attack Lego Set #76130 has 504 pieces. Review written by Sylvestermouse.


TV SIT-COMS AND CARTOON CHARACTERS


Lego Big Bang TheoryLego Big Bang Theory Reviewed
The Lego Big Bang Theory set for grown-ups and kids. Review written by Louanne Cox.


Scooby-Doo Mystery MansionScooby-Doo Mystery Mansion Lego Kit
A fun holiday set perfect for Halloween. The Scooby-Doo Mystery Mansion Lego Kit is retired, but still available on Amazon and on eBay. A delightful cartoon character in a Lego Set. Review written by Sylvestermouse.


CREATOR SERIES

 

Lego X-PodsReviewing 2004 Lego X-Pods
The creator sets for the Lego X-Pods first came out in 2004. They were essentially 'Legos-on-the-Go', with everything you needed to start building all in a pod you could carry around. Reviewed by Louanne Cox.

Lego Off-Road Power SetLego Off-Road Power Set
The Lego 5893 set comes with instructions for three different Lego builds, a Lego Truck with Digger, the Off-Roader, and a Dune Buggy. The set is part of the Creator Series. Review written by Louanne Cox.

Lego Gingerbread House SetLego Gingerbread House Set
The Lego Gingerbread House Set is a fun set to create for Christmas. It also makes a pretty holiday table centerpiece. With 1477 pieces, this set will keep the kids busy while they wait for Christmas to arrive. Review written by Sylvestermouse.


OCCASION THEME

 

Easter Egg Hunt Lego SetLego Easter Egg Hunt Set Reviewed
The Easter Egg Hunt Lego Set has 126 pieces and is perfect for Easter. Review written by Beverly Owens


DISNEY


Disney Castle SetLego Disney Castle Set – Cinderella's Castle
The Fabulous Lego Disney Castle Set #71040 has 4080 pieces – a fun challenge for older Lego fans. It comes with favorite Disney characters of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck and Tinker Bell. Review written by Sylvestermouse.


Disney Winnie-the-Pooh Lego SetDisney Winnie-the-Pooh Lego Set
Everyone loves Winnie-the-Pooh. With this Lego Set #21326 with 1265 pieces, Winnie and his friends can enjoy the Tree House and all the 'Pooh' adventures. Review written by Sylvestermouse.


BASIC


LEGO Classic Creative Supplement SetReviewing a Set of Basic Classic Legos
The LEGO Classic Creative Supplement Set is a set of basic Legos to create whatever you can imagine. Review written by Wednesday Elf.


DISPLAY SHELVES


The final touch to your Lego Hobby is to have the perfect place to display your completed creations. Sylvestermouse gives you this lovely home decor piece.

Lego Display ShelvesLego Display Shelves
When you complete your Lego Sets, especially the large ones, you will need a place to display them. The display shelves reviewed here by Sylvestermouse are the perfect solution.


SUMMARY 


This quick resource guide to reviews of Lego Sets will hopefully guide you toward the exact set(s) you are looking for. More reviews will be added as they appear, so come back anytime to see the latest. 

Happy Lego Day! 


Check Out More Toy Reviews at
ReviewThisToys.com
Or
Reviews on Lego Sets
Right Here On Review This Reviews!


Holiday Reviews on Review This Reviews!



*Lego Day Holiday Review written by Wednesday Elf





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


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Friday, January 28, 2022

Snowkissed - Hallmark Movie Review

Snowkissed
As autumn has turned to winter in our area, the trees and grounds have already been kissed by snow several times. When I saw the movie entitled "Snowkissed", I immediately thought it was a rather romantic way to describe a light snow.  

When it is below freezing outside, I tend to stay inside with a cup of hot cocoa, a warm blanket, and a romantic Hallmark movie.  When the title caught my attention, I decided to check it out.

Setting my first thoughts aside, I read the movie description and thought it might be a nice love story, but I watched it because the title evoked lovely mental imagery.  

Because I prefer clean and wholesome movies, I most often scan Hallmark movies first for a new film to watch when I just want to relax, not have to think too deeply, and simply be entertained by beautiful settings and likable people.

When a movie makes me smile, or even laugh, I know I have discovered a  cinematic gem.  As it turned out, the love story was sweet, I laughed several times, the scenery was fabulous and was definitely snow kissed.

This movie clearly has it all and was a wonderful escape for an hour and a half.

 

"Snowkissed" Movie Synopsis 


 SnowkissedCheck Price Kate (Jen Lilley) is really excited when she is offered an interview with a popular author, but her excitement is quickly diminished when she finds out she will have to travel to conduct the interview.  She hates to travel.  She likes her well organized, clutter-free life in Manhattan and she has no desire to change anything. However, with the prospect of becoming a staff member instead of a freelance writer, and a lot of encouragement from her photographer friend who will go with her, she decides to face her travel fears and take the assignment.

They arrive at the B&B in Canada to find a struggling business run by two single men who are desperate to get the endorsement of an international travel company that will send a lot of business their way.  As the only two guests for the week, the guys ask Kelly & Jane to go through their 3 day tour and give them honest critiques and suggestions.  However, constructive criticism is not always easy to take, even when it is given by request.

While the set-up of two single men and two single women may seem like the perfect situation, it isn't always a guarantee that they will end up as friends, much less anything more to each other. After all, they live in different countries, all have jobs and responsiblities, and at least one definitely does not like change.

 



If you enjoy a romantic movie with a touch of humor and a lot of gorgeous scenery, then you will love Snowkissed

Watch on Amazon Prime or Buy a Hallmark DVD that includes Snowkissed.




More Great Movies Reviewed


Check Out More Movie Reviews at
ReviewThisMovies.com



Snowkissed - Hallmark Movie Review by:
House of Sylvestermouse



 



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


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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Reviewing The Joy of Bird Feeding

 

Eastern Bluebird


My husband and I enjoy watching the birds in our backyard.  We can sit at our kitchen table and watch the view through our sliding glass doors.  We were very excited when we received a Christmas gift from a friend to give us lots of great ideas for attracting and feeding our feathered friends. This gift was a book entitled The Joy of Bird Feeding. In this post I will give you a preview of the tips found in each chapter of this book.  I will also share some of the photographs that I have taken of birds in our backyard.




Chapter 1: The Five Steps to Bird Feeding Mastery

The first chapter gives a thorough plan on setting up your backyard to attract the biggest variety of birds.  It helps you to set up a plan to decide what foods to serve and when to serve them.
Downy feasting on Suet Pellets


Chapter 2: Thoughtful Bird Feeding Stations Elements in Detail

Details of the elements needed for feeding birds are described in this chapter.  One of the items suggested is year-round water.  In the photo below you see a group of bluebirds enjoying fresh water from the heated dog bowl I have placed on our deck on a cold winter's day.


Chapter 3: The Birds

This chapter gives us some interesting information on the birds that are found in our backyards.  The introduction talks about year-round birds, seasonal residents and migrant birds. It is also talks about how the birds find feeders.  The chapter then goes into photos of various birds and identifying information.  It is quite comprehensive.  Here is a Carolina Wren that is a frequent visitor to my backyard.
Carolina Wren

Chapter 4: The Foods

Great detail is given on the various foods that are available for birds. There is also a section on foods from your kitchen that are good for birds and a section on fun food shapes.  Here is a bird on a Penguin feeder that we received for Christmas.
House Finch on Fun Feeder


Chapter 5: The Feeders

Are you undecided about what types of feeders to purchase?  This chapter goes into detail on each type of feeder and tells you the pros and cons of each.  I like to have a variety of feeders in my backyard. Here is a photo of some Cardinals and a finch on one of my feeders.
Cardinals and Finch


Chapter 6: Poles and Hangers

Here we find some great ideas for poles and hangers including a nifty pole system.  I will need to look into that.

Chapter 7: Critter Solutions

Unwanted critters can play havoc with your feeding stations.  This chapter gives you ideas on how to mitigate the critter issues.  We have lots of squirrels in our yard and I have some squirrel proof feeders and others that the squirrels love to visit.  We enjoy seeing their antics too.  Here is a squirrel at one of our feeders.

Chapter 8: Situations and Solutions

Have you wondered why the birds aren't coming to your feeders or what you can do about the messy deck?  The answers to these and other issues can be found in this chapter.

Chapter 9: Buying and Storing Bird Food

Here you will find lots of tips for buying the best foods and storing solutions for your bird food.

Chapter 10: Common-sense Bird Feeding Hygiene

Here I find a lot of tips for making your bird feeding stations safe for the birds.  Some I have done, but there are certainly a lot of areas where I can improve.  

Chapter 11- Fun Bird Feeding Activities

This chapter is full of some great bird feeding activities including things like hand feeding birds and watching birds when you are not at home.  The activity that most interests me is photographing birds.  I love to set up my backyard to make some good backgrounds for taking bird photos and this book had lots of tips. 
 Here is a favorite photo I caught of some bluebirds turning their backs to the camera.  I thought it made a good ending for this review.





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


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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Electric Fireplace Television Stand

 

Electric Fireplace Television Stand
Electric Fireplace TV Stand Reviewed

Many homeowners dream of having a comfortable living space with the beauty of a fireplace. Although many homes do not have a wood-burning or gas insert fireplace.

 Some homeowners are turning to electric fireplaces to give them that cozy ambiance in their homes. 

The technology of electric fireplaces has come a long way over the years giving you the look and feel of a real fireplace. Along with the added benefit of generating real heat for your living space.

 We recently purchased a Walker Edison Electric fireplace television stand for our living room.


 Our television is located in a corner of our living room so we purchased a corner unit. There are so many options to choose from for electric fireplaces so, I'm sure there is one to fit your home's decor.

The Features of our Electric Fireplace:

  • First, it fits perfectly in the corner of our living room
  • Two tempered glass doors
  • Storage on both sides
  • Each side has two adjustable shelves
  • Fireplace insert with blower for heat
  • Will heat a 400 square foot area
  • The top is large enough for a 55-inch Television
  • The fireplace display can be operated without the heat on
  • Available in 10 different colors
  • Plug-in fireplace; no electrician required (Caution here: see below)
The unit was well packaged with easy-to-follow instructions and was not difficult to assemble. Although I do recommend having a second person to help with the assembly. My grandson Bobby helped me with the assembly and we had the unit assembled in about 3 hours.

Over time an electric fireplace may help you save on your heating bill. By heating the room you are in you could lower your home's thermostat. On the other hand, the average cost of using the heater on an electric fireplace is about .15 cents per hour.

The outlets in our living room are all wired to a 15 amp breaker. The heater unit draws 1400 watts so, with the other draw of the television and lights the heater tripped the breaker. I did have to call an electrician to wire one outlet in our living room to be on its own 20 amp breaker just for the heater unit.  This was not a huge problem and it's much safer to be on its own breaker.

Although, our daughter and son have the same 1400 watt fireplace insert and did not need an electrician.

We are very pleased with our electric fireplace television stand. On a cold winter night, it adds the perfect ambiance to our living room along with some additional heat to keep us warm.

This is the Walker Edison unit that we purchased. You can shop for many options and styles.

Walker Edison Alcott Classic Glass Door Fireplace Corner TV Stand for TVs up to 55 Inches, 48 Inch, EspressoWalker Edison Alcott Classic Glass Door Fireplace Corner TV Stand for TVs up to 55 Inches, 48 Inch, EspressoCheck the Price

 


Find more product reviews on ReviewThis here: ReviewThisProductReviews.com





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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Why Insect Hotels Are Good For Wildlife And Gardeners Reviewed


Insect Hotel


Bug hotels or Insect Houses are an essential item in our garden. They are a feature in themselves and are a vital component of our wildlife-friendly garden.

Insect Hotels can be bought or handmade and are both equally effective. When you have a bug house you are aiming to attract all manner of insects and wildlife to gain a balance of insects in your garden which is vital if you are aiming to have a harmonious wildlife garden.


Insect Hotels Benefits To The Garden

Having an Insect Hotel in the garden is not entirely altruistic. The aim of any wildlife gardener is to use no pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides at all. 

These chemicals kill "pests" and beneficial insects equally in most cases and are not good for wildlife.

For the gardener, an insect hotel can attract all manner of bugs and many predators that will help us to keep a good balance in the garden thus eliminating the need to use pesticides. 

Bee on Daffodil

In the early days of converting a normal garden to a wildlife pesticide-free garden, this can take some nerve. A garden needs a natural balance of predator and prey.

If you or a previous garden have been using chemicals then stop, undoubtedly in the first year or so you will see greenfly and blackfly and all manner of pests eating our plants. This is because your garden became unbalanced. It is now for us to redress this balance and installing insect houses is one easy step.   

However, if we want a wildlife friendly garden we must resist the urge to use chemicals. Instead, we must attract the beneficial insects, spiders and predators to our gardens who will easily and quickly dispatch those pests eating our plants.

 A great way to do this especially in the early days is to have an Insect Hotel or several bughouses. Provide insects shelter and a food source and they will arrive. 

Insect Hotel In Garden

Personally in the first two years of taking on this garden, I simply did not grow plants I knew would be susceptible to aphid attack. The previous gardeners had used chemicals and had a very non-wildlife friendly garden, so I knew once I stopped all chemical use I would face some difficulties. 

It took a year or two to fully balance the garden again. I was lucky as my neighbours also stopped using chemicals which helps a lot as wildlife do not know about boundaries. It was so worth it as since then I have not had to spend any money on insect prevention, the predators do it all for me free of charge night and day! 

In this article, we will mainly talk about insect houses with a mention and further resources to our ground-dwelling beneficial creatures need as well.


Location Of an Insect Hotel.

A Bughouse is best located in a warm undisturbed spot in your garden. For insects, it is important it is in a fairly dry area so under the house or shed eaves, in a tree or against a sunny fence. 

Some may be a thing of beauty or they may be something you wish to hide from full view. Either way, it does not matter to the bugs as long as they can go about their business undisturbed. We like the look of ours so we do not make any particular effort to hide them. 


Who Lives in an Insect Hotel?

Close Up Of Insect Hotel

So what can you expect to live in your insect house?

Generally, you can expect a variety of insects such as ladybirds and woodlice. You will get spiders of course and hopefully bees or maybe wasps.

These are all beneficial creatures to your garden. These creatures need a place to shelter, raise their young and keep themselves and their young hidden from predators. 

You can of course just put up your insect hotel and forget about it, but It can be good fun to carefully observe your insect hotel to see who has taken up residence.


Types of Wildlife Hotels. 

It is better to have several insect-specific bughouses around the garden in suitable locations than one great big multi-bug house.

The idea is that each will be more suitable for one species than another. Of course, there is no way of knowing who will decide to take up residence! 

The rationale is that different species require different approaches. For example, a home to attract bees requires a warm sunny dry location. Ideally, it should face south or as near south as possible and the area in front of it would be clear of vegetation. It is important to be a few feet off the ground and secured strongly to a wall, tree or fence.   

Insect Hotel In The Woods

Spiders are happy in a site with more cover where they can spin webs between tree branches and the insect hotel but in my experience, they are not too fussy.

In addition, while you are siting your bug houses spare a thought for ground dwelling creatures like hedgehogs who are also very beneficial to our gardens.

Hedgehogs are a species in serious decline. A lovely pile of wood and leaves in an undisturbed corner of the garden will go a long way towards helping these enchanting and ancient creatures. If you would like to take it a step further you can purchase a special house for them known as a Hogitat. Please read more about How To Help Hedgehogs In Your Garden  


Well Established Wood Pile 

If you are wanting to attract frogs and toads they will love a warm wet, damp environment in a shady spot down on the ground.

You can start a wildlife hotel at any time though you may be more successful if you put one up in early Spring or Autumn/Fall. 


Materials For An Insect, Bee Or Spider Hotel.

Ideally, you will have a bug house made of natural materials. The wood is best untreated with no paint or preservatives as that will only deter and harm insects.

Wooden tubes for insects in Bug House

If you are making your own do try to use items already in your garden to promote recycling within the garden. So small branches, hollow stems tied together, dried leaves, seed heads will all contribute to your insect hotel.  

The structure needs to be strong and solid with a sloping and wide roof to keep the rain out.

If you are buying a bug house with pre-drilled holes in the wood they should be smooth and if doing it yourself make sure there are no splinters. 

Think about the types of creatures or insects you want to attract and the habitat they require. 

Wood shavings for insects in bug hotel

Looking After An Insect Hotel.

You can expect an insect hotel to last about 2 years on average, maybe longer depending on the materials used. As it is made of natural material it will degrade over time. 

During this time it is recommended to clean it out at the end of each summer to remove any dead cells or insects and replace any worn-out sections. That is all that is really needed. 


Insect Houses Are A Learning Opportunity For Children

Bug houses are a great learning experience. It is also a wonderful fun and educational opportunity for children to learn about and appreciate the natural world. 

In a small wood near a busy residential area, primary school children have made insect houses to site all over the wood to help the local wildlife and they take great pride in their creations and interest in the inhabitants. 

Bug Hotel In The Woods Good For Winter Shelter

In our garden, we have a dry insect house 3 feet off the ground on a sunny fence, a log pile in a shady but warm corner to attract hedgehogs and in a corner near the garage a large saucer of water with dense habitat around it to attract frogs and toads. The spiders seem to make their home in many of these locations as well. 

 Having a bug hotel or two and making a habitat for wildlife is very enriching in our gardens and our lives.

Insect houses take up very little room, so most people could have an insect house in an outdoor space. The end result of all this care is a garden that is filled with the sound and sights of beautiful insects.

 Yes, we do still get greenfly and blackfly, but predator insects soon become aware of them and keep the numbers down or even eradicate them for me. We do perhaps have to accept some level of pest attack on our plants but when you achieve that crucial balance it becomes less of a problem.

I am certainly prepared to have some plant damage to know that I am not killing all insects indiscriminately. Chemicals kill both "pests" and beneficial insects.

I once had a houseplant that became invested with a type of whitefly, so as it was summer I put it outside during the day for a few days and the wasps ate all the flies for me and the plant survived.

Other insects like this gorgeous butterfly happily live in the garden now going about their daily lives and bring me a lot of joy. 

Beautiful Butterfly In Summer

People often think about the beautiful more visible wildlife like birds, but it all really begins with the small perhaps less beautiful or more scary insects. If we take more care of them they will help our gardens be more healthy and we will certainly see more birds and other gorgeous wildlife as well. 

 Without our negative influence of chemicals, over time the garden adopts an easy give and take, ebb and flow of natural processes and our plants and us benefit from that.

There are many useful and fun things you can do for wildlife in our own garden spaces, having a few insect hotels is a great start. 






More Wildlife And Gardening Articles

6 Ways To Help Wildlife In The Year Ahead

Spring Woodland Walks For Wellbeing Reviewed

Wildlife Gift Ideas Reviewed

Diary Of  A Wild Country Garden

Essential Wildlife Gardening Gifts

Gardening And Wildlife Articles On Review This Reviews 




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Monday, January 24, 2022

Cozilife Silicone Egg Poacher Reviewed

Why Are making poached eggs so tough? Well at least for some and I include myself in the group of egg challenged egg poachers. That is a mouthful! Sad, but true. I was harkening back to the days when my Grandma made the perfect poached eggs where the yolk was the perfect runny, not too runny, but toast dipping perfect runny.



Being realistic I decided to investigate if there is an easier way to poach eggs with a high degree of success and came upon the Cozilife Silicon Egg Poacher Cups. This sounded right in my lane of egg expertise and I so I embarked upon the journey to make a poached egg in about 30 seconds.

Learning Curve

There is a slight learning curve with the egg poacher as the success does depend upon the strength of the microwave. Just like stove burners and ovens each accomplishes the task, but the length of time does vary. The same holds true with the egg poacher. 

The timing for each microwave is just a little different. A few seconds does make a difference with the egg poacher as a few seconds can determine the difference between a soft runny yolk or a semi hard yolk or a hard boiled egg!

I suggest using doing an experimentation trial with a few eggs and your microwave. It will quickly be apparent if the egg is poached to your satisfaction. 

Cooking Spray Is A Necessity

The silicone poaching cups as recommended by many users should be sprayed with a very light coating of cooking spray. This ensures the egg is easily released from the cup when done. I also used a dab of butter on the bottom of the cup (as also recommended by users) and enjoyed the little extra butter added to the egg.


Also a necessity is using a toothpick to poke holes in the egg yolk prior to cooking. If the holes are not made the yolk will blow up like a balloon. Needless to say that is not the goal! Interesting to watch, but definitely not poached. 

The egg cups can also be used on the stove with a pan of water to make poached eggs. Directions are included with the egg cups on making poached eggs two ways.

Hard Boiled Eggs

Yes! The cups can poach eggs, but can also make really quick hard boiled eggs. What a time saver and no need to use a pan or deal with peeling egg shells. 

I love the versatility of the egg cups as they can double as baking molds too. I see mini cakes in the future with the baking cups. The cups are also versatile in that since the cooking time is so short the 4 cups can easily be made to order per person in the family. After all as any egg cooker knows - everyone likes their egg just a little different! Once persons over easy is another person's fried. And so it goes.

I will say noone made better poached eggs than Grandma old style, old school! But for this egg poaching hack, the silicon cups made me want to make poached eggs!




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