Showing posts with label BarbRad. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BarbRad. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Photo Review of a Random Act of Beauty in Paso Robles

 

Sunflowers on Parking Strip
Sunflowers on Paso Robles Corner Parking Strip, © Barbara Radisavljevic

A Random Act of Beauty?

Would you rather see these gorgeous sunflowers next to your house every day or would you rather have the view below?

City Maintained Paso Robles Corner Parking Strip, © Barbara Radisavljevic


That's what I thought. And that's probably what Tiffany, the woman who planted the sunflowers, thought, too. This is part of the parking strip the City of Paso Robles planted.  It's across from the house next door to Tiffany. I can see why she preferred sunflowers. 

I discovered her literal forest of sunflowers on my way to the grocery store in Paso Robles California one July afternoon. I was participating in a Medium Photo-a-Day Challenge and I hardly ever go out of my neighborhood. When I do go anywhere I can't walk, I try to take a picture of something unique for the challenge. So on my way to the store my plan was to drive around the block the store was on, park behind the store, and walk until I found something worth taking a picture of. I hadn't even turned the corner when I saw this in front of me. 

Sunflower Forests on 21st Street
Sunflower Forests on 21st Street, © Barbara Radisavljevic


In the foreground you see the sunflowers in the parking strip in front of Tiffany's house. In the background is the center strip across the southbound lane of the street heading toward Vine Street. I walked the center strip and it appears that besides the flowering trees there, the city had also planted some hummingbird sage (unless someone else did). Most of that strip past the sunflowers looked like this.

Hummingbird Sage in July on 21st Street Median Strip, © Barbara Radisavljevic


There was also a lot of this grassy plant on the median strip. I'm not sure what it is but the city plants it in all these storm drain strips. The white flower is bindweed or wild cucumber. It's a weed. I've no idea what the green plant at the back is. I can understand why Tiffany preferred sunflowers.

Unidentified Grasses and Bindweed on 21st Street Median Strip, © Barbara Radisavljevic


You Can Also Create This Kind of Beauty

When I see sunflowers in bloom they lift my spirits. They speak of the energy it takes to grow tall and reach for the sky. And they are easy to grow. Would you like to get involved in your own random act of beauty in your neighborhood or property? You could even make it a family project. 

First you need seeds. Here are some good choices for an awesome display.



8 Sunflower Seeds to Plant | Bulk 1000+ Seeds | Heirloom Seeds | Non-GMO Flower Seeds for Planting Outdoors | Garden Seeds for Baby Shower Favors or Wedding Favors | for Birds and Bees8 Sunflower Seeds to Plant | Bulk 1000+ Seeds | Heirloom Seeds | Non-GMO Flower Seeds for Planting Outdoors | Garden Seeds for Baby Shower Favors or Wedding Favors | for Birds and BeesSunflower Seeds for Planting | Autumn Beauty Non-GMO Sunflower Seeds | Planting Packets Include Planting InstructionsSunflower Seeds for Planting | Autumn Beauty Non-GMO Sunflower Seeds | Planting Packets Include Planting Instructions

 



Start Your Day with Sunflower Energy


I confess my normal wake-up default condition is not energetic. It's groggy. I can't even get my eyes to focus when I first get up. Until I've had a couple of cups of tea I'm not very alert. Having your preferred hot beverage while looking a sunflower in the eye should brighten your morning perspective as you fuel up. So I made this for you on Zazzle. You can make it whatever size or style you like best. The largest size mug is eleven ounces. That's enough to wake the brain up!


Sunflowers to Perk You Up as You Enjoy Your Drink Coffee MugSunflowers to Perk You Up as You Enjoy Your Drink Coffee MugSunflowers to Perk You Up as You Enjoy Your Drink Coffee Mug

 


Are you ready to go plant sunflowers this autumn and help brighten the corner of the world where you live? Too many sunflowers live lonely lives with only a few weeds for companionship. 

Lonely Sunflower Surrounded by Weeds on 21st Street Parking Strip, © Barbara Radisavljevic






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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Book Review of The Golden Cup: A Cornwall Family Saga

 

Image by falco from Pixabay 


The Mysterious Photograph

This family saga by Marcia Millett is set on the north coast of Cornwall. It begins and ends with an American man who brings a letter and photograph to Mrs. Honor Trevannion, better known to her family as Mutt. She is a widow who had returned to her husband Huber's family home, Paradise, after his death in India, bringing his two young children, Bruno and Emma. Only Bruno and Mutt knew Mutt and Emma weren't who they were supposed to be. Huber's family had never met his wife. The reader knows from almost the beginning something is fishy. Because of the letters. 

Mutt and Bruno were knowingly living a lie that affected everyone around them. The American with the photograph, Dan Crosby, led all those affected by the lie unknowingly to the truth. He was seeking news of his great-aunt Madeleine Grosjean. 

As the story begins Mutt was recovering from an infected broken ankle and was in bed.  Mousie, a close family friend and  her nurse, did not let Dan in to see her. He left the letter and photo and said he'd return the next weekend.



Why Deceive?

Mutt (Madeleine) had assumed the identity of Honor Travannion suddenly in 1946. She and Honor had been nurses together in India when Honor, her husband Huber, and their young daughter Emma had died of an illness. They had been planning to go back to America and had the papers to leave. Emma was the same age as Madeleine's daughter Lottie. 

There was much civil unrest and it was likely that foreigners who remained might die in the violence. To protect herself, her child Lottie, and Honor and Huber's child Bruno, Madeleine made the quick decision to use the papers to get all of them safely out of the country. Lottie became Emma. She was too young to remember being Lottie. They returned to Bruno's family and home in Cornwall. Madeleine lived with the constant fear of being discovered. 

Bruno already loved Mutt and Emma (Lottie). They and their parents had  been like family to each other in India, so it made sense for them to stay together. But both Mutt and Bruno knew they had a secret they had to keep. That's pretty hard for a five-year-year old, but he said nothing except when he and Mutt were together. 

By the time the American arrived with the photo, Emma and Bruno had grown up. Emma was married with a grown daughter, Joss. Bruno was separated from his wife. Mutt was on her deathbed. And Joss, had read the letters. 


The Letters

Mutt had been lonely after moving to Cornwall. She missed the company of her sister Vivian. The photo the American had brought was the picture of a double wedding in which Madeleine and Vivian were the brides. Vivian lived in America with her husband and family.
 
In her loneliness, Mutt began to write to her. Writing the letters helped her connect to her past self, but she realized she should not mail them.So they piled up where she had hidden them in her desk.

 After the American came, she remembered them and asked Joss to find them. She didn't ask Joss to read them, but she couldn't resist. The letters told the entire story. Then she let Bruno know she had read them and that he needed to read them. They had determined Emma should never know, but things don't always play out as planned. 


Should You Read This Book?

If you like well-developed characters and the fun of unraveling family threads and motivations, you probably will enjoy The Golden Cup. But be ready to spend some time getting the characters sorted out. It's a bit confusing at first because there is a large cast of characters in Cornwall. They are all important to the plot. I'm glad I didn't let the beginning bog me down and discourage me from reading further. All in all it was a very satisfying book. I'd enjoying walking along the paths around Paradise to to Bruno's Lookout with Joss, Mousie, and Bruno. There are also a few romantic threads that have readers hoping they work out. 

The setting is gorgeous. It made me want to visit the Cornwall coast. It's obvious that all who live at Paradise, the family home, and on the rest of the family estate, love their land and the beauty around them. 

However some of the younger generation and Emma's husband, an outsider, would be willing to trade it for more wealth. That makes the legalities of everyone's identity important when Mutt finally dies and the search for her will ensues. Most agree on who should inherit what, but the real issue is the amount of inheritance tax. Everyone worries about what they might have to sell to pay the tax and who might lose their homes. 

As I read, I got to know a solid family bound together by shared history even where there was no blood connection. Even when the secret was exposed, it did not break their connection. Out of tragedy love survived, sacrificed, and nourished. And one wonders what would have happened if Madeleine had not become Honor.



Image by falco from Pixabay, modified







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, February 26, 2020

Review of The World is My Home: A Memoir by James Michener

Review of The World is My Home: A Memoir by James Michener
Photo of Bora Bora, a favorite place of James A. Michener, Image by WikiImages from Pixabay 



James Michener's World



James A. Michener has packed 85 of his 90 years of life and travel memories into the 577 pages of The World Is My Home. As I read his book, I felt I was there with him. He walked alone in some of the world's most beautiful places.  He traveled by air with heads of state. He ate garbage on Navy transport ships commanded by drunk captains, and he had dinner with Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt. 

By reading The World is My Home I feel I've become acquainted with James Michener. I better understand why he wrote what he did.  I was impressed not only with his skill as a writer and the breadth of his knowledge,  but also with his humility. 


The World Is My Home


 The World Is My Home is a weighty book. Within its pages you will probably find out almost anything you could want to know about James Michener, his life, his motivations, and his values. Although he felt at home anywhere in the world, he never became an expat.  He believed he needed to stay connected to his American roots to feel nourished and he didn't want to lose touch with America.

If you like stories, he tells many in this book. He also talks about his writing life and his numerous interests.  I am amazed at how much was packed into one life. I can hardly begin to scratch the surface here about the content of this encyclopedic memoir. But if you are interested in the cultures of the world, Navy life, aviation, true adventures, writing, art, music, how subjects for postage stamps are selected, travel, bull fighting, the publishing industry, United States politics behind the scenes, what it takes to be a writer, what a novelist's life is like, how much it costs a publisher to print a book, how much a best-selling author gets paid, and any number of other subjects, you will want to read this book.

Who Was James A. Michener?


One might ask, which one? Writer James A. Michener shared his name with many others. One even lived in the same town. But James really was not a Michener at all. He never knew who his parents were. He had no birth certificate. He had been taken in by a widow, Mabel Mitchener, and used her name, but her dead husband's sisters would always make sure James knew he was not a Mitchener. Until he was a young man he wondered who his parents really were, but finally accepted the fact he'd probably never know. He decided not to bother his head about it anymore.

James' Childhood


Mabel was poor. She took in laundry and sewing work to make a living. As a boy James never had what other boys his age seemed to. Once his “mother” explained why he couldn't have roller skates, a red wagon, a bicycle, or a baseball glove, he acted as though they did not exist and closed his mind to them. In spite of the poverty he lived in, though, he always felt loved.

To help out he started earning money when he was nine by harvesting chestnuts from the forest and selling them around town. When he was eleven he got his first real job with the Burpee Seed Company. It taught him to hate phlox. He worked from 7 am until 5 pm six days a week. Of this time he says: “I have sown phlox, thinned phlox, hoed phlox, gathered phlox, and heaven knows what else, and if my birthday were tomorrow and someone were to give me a bouquet of the horrid flowers, I would punch him in the nose.” He gave the $4.50 a week he earned to Mabel.

Phlox flower
Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay 


James always worked at some job. He was apprenticed to a plumber when he was still young and he was good at plumbing. He considered quitting school to become a plumber, but his Uncle Albert squashed that idea and made him quit. He said, 'James, you were not intended to be a plumber.'

Later James was a paperboy and loved it. He got to know where everyone in town lived and learned many secrets about his neighbors, as well. He delivered handbills for the theater on Saturdays in exchange for seeing the movies free. During this time he gained his first insights into the motion picture industry.

His next job was with the Willow Grove Amusement Park, a job which tested his character. It provided cheap rides, food, and four free concerts a day. The job also enabled him to make friends with Victor Herbert, John Philip Sousa, and members of the Philadelphia Orchestra who often played at the park.

Jim was a cashier for one of the rides and soon learned that management didn't care if he gave too little change for entrance fees. Stealing from customers in this way was known as 'honest cheating' and management expected and tolerated it. 'Dishonest stealing' was when cashiers stole from the company. James only tried that once, but reformed quickly when an older cashier was arrested. Soon James was removed from his regular job and asked  to substitute for suspect operators when they were absent or on breaks and report to management if he found anything fishy. Management knew he had cheated that once and then stopped cheating on his own.

Attitude Toward Wealth


Because Jim grew up poor, one might think that he'd want to become rich someday, but he was not ambitious in that way. He was content with enough to support himself and a wife. When his books won prizes and became best sellers, he was pleased, but he still lived simply and gave away what he didn't think he needed for his expenses. He used his wealth to help others. He donated most of the royalties from his books. He felt he had a debt to pay back for the free public education he had received all the way through graduate school. He wanted to assist other young people who needed financial help to get an education.

Jim didn't like to negotiate book deals or discuss print run sizes. He left that to his agent. He wasn't arrogant or greedy,  and was content to let his agent look after him financially. 

Life Purpose


One night toward the end of World War II, James came close to being in a plane crash after leaving his duties in the Fiji Islands and exploring Bora Bora. (One reason he'd been sent there was to find out why none of the enlisted men wanted to leave when it was time to go home. You'll have to read the book to find the answer to that.) He was on his way back to headquarters in French New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific. When it was time to make a sunset landing at the Tontouta Air Base, the sky got dark and visibility was low. It took three tries to finally make a safe landing. He had known the third attempt to land would be the final one. It was a close call.

Later that night he went back to the airstrip to walk and to calm his nerves. He thought about what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He didn't come to a conclusion as to what work he wanted to do, but he decided 'I'm going to erase envy and cheap thoughts. I'm going to concentrate my life on the biggest ideals and ideas I can handle. I'm going to associate myself with people who know more than I do. I'm going to tackle objectives of moment.' He also decided that he would support the things he believed in.

It was at this point in his life he began to listen more carefully as other transients with travel orders told stories in the hotels. He looked for those with unusual experiences. He learned “what the Pacific adventure meant in human terms.” Although many complained, he believed that later, when they got back home, the ones who complained most would want to explain to others what their time in service had been like. He knew the Pacific better than almost anyone. He believed he could tell their stories more accurately than anyone else. From these stories came his first book, Tales of the South Pacific, which won a Pulitzer Prize. As you probably know, it was turned into a popular musical, South Pacific.




Michener did not like calling himself an author. He considered himself a writer. He believed good writing was “trying to use ordinary words to achieve extraordinary results.” Words fascinated him. I was happy to see he shared my appreciation for Rodale's Synonym Finder.



Should You Read This Book?


I would recommend this book to any writer who wants to learn more about writing and traditional publishing. Among other things, James was an editor at Macmillan for many years and he shares what he knows about the industry from the point of view of both writer and editor. Almost half the book is about writing.

If you are interested in travel, this book will show you most of the world. It also shows you military life during World War II.

If you are interested in art or music, you will find that James was, too. He started collecting art in postcard form early in his youth. His uncle brought him his first Victrola and some records when he was about seven. He became an opera fan and later branched out into other classical music.

If you are interested in politics, you can learn a lot from Michener. At one point in his life he ran for Congress and he takes us behind the scenes of a campaign. He didn't win, but he did get appointments to committees and we learn much about the workings of government from him. One of his committees selected who would be honored with a postage stamp. I was amazed at how controversial that was. There was pressure to honor Elvis right after his death, which was against the rule of waiting until someone had been dead for ten years. Lillian Gilbreth's family (remember Cheaper by the Dozen?) also put pressure on the committee to honor her. I enjoyed these stories.

Why Michener Wrote This Book


Jim was 85 when he wrote this book. He knew he was getting to the end of his life but he still still had the qualities that made him want to write when he was 45: "a passionate desire to communicate, to organize experience," and to tell stories.

In his own words, here's his reason for writing The World Is My Home: "I want the reader to see in careful detail the kind of ordinary human being who becomes a writer and then to see the complex and contradictory motivation that enables him to remain one."

I believe he achieved that goal. Don't miss this informative and entertaining book. Get it now while you are thinking about it. You will be glad you did. 










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, February 12, 2020

What Beavers Do - Review of Beaver Valley by Walter D. Edmonds

Beaver Dam: Review of Beaver Valley by Walter D. Edmonds
Image by Jerzy Górecki from Pixabay  I added text.

What Skeet Sees


My photo of  book cover
Skeet is a young deer mouse who lives in a burrow on a spruce knoll above a swamp in a peaceful valley. A brook runs past the knoll toward a pond. Skeet lives with his mother, his sister Samantha, his baby brother Loopey, and his grandfather, Overdare.

One day while he's getting a drink in the brook, he hears something making a loud splashing sound. He was curious, so he drew nearer to the sound. He heard a high-pitched whistle. The splashing stopped. Then he saw a dark brown head looking cautiously around an edge of grass. He had never seen such an odd creature as that which emerged. He thought it looked comical with its large orange front teeth and its paddle-like tail. Skeet stopped being afraid because he could see this awkward creature would never be fast enough to catch him. The creature was soon joined by five more like it.

Skeet ran home to ask Overdare what these creatures might be. “'Beaver!' exclaimed Skeet's grandfather....'I hoped I'd never see in my lifetime when beaver get into this valley.'” (p, 7)

Overdare confirmed the beaver weren't dangerous to mice, since they didn't eat meat. So Skeet couldn't understand why his grandfather didn't want them around. Overdare explained:

“Beaver...think they know the way everything ought to be in any place they settle down. If it isn't that way, they make it so, and they don't care a bit what happens to anyone else in the process.” (p. 8)

What the Beavers Do


Grandfather hopes the beaver will leave, but curious Skeet hopes they hang around long enough for him to watch. And watch he does. He sees the beavers build a dam, chop down trees, raise the level of the pond, build a canal for transporting logs from the places where they had felled them, and build a second dam. The water level kept rising higher and higher.

Photo of p. 16-17, Beaver Valley, Leslie Morrill's illustration, text by Walter D. Edmonds
Photo of p. 16-17, Beaver Valley, Leslie Morrill's illustration, text by Walter D. Edmonds


What Author Walter D. Edmonds Thinks of Beavers


Edmonds was raised in upper New York State in the small town of Boonville. He frequently observed beaver at his family home, Northlands, along the Black River . He personally saw how negatively the beavers impacted the ecosystem when they moved into an area.

Beavers have always fascinated me. Most of us who have never seen one in the wild think of them positively because they are such industrious animals. Teachers often hold up the hardworking beavers as examples their students should follow. Edmonds seems to see them as industriously destroying their environment to please themselves.

He reveals this attitude in one of the book's last sentences. He describes a mother who had brought her young son to the spruce knoll for a picnic to see the beaver ponds. She wanted to teach her son some natural history. She didn't seem interested in all the dying trees whose roots had gotten too wet. She was only interested in all the work the beavers had done building their dams, their home, and their canal. Let's eavesdrop on her:

“Isn't it wonderful, Tommy?....They're as clever as engineers. They're just like men.” (p, 69)

Should You or Your Child Read This Book?


Whether you love beavers or not, you will learn a lot about their behavior in this book from one who has observed beavers over time. Older readers will pick up the author's attitude. The book would be perfect to read aloud as a family and discuss. 

The author shows us each step in the beavers' transformation of the valley, and suspense builds as the water level rises. Skeet at first is just curious. But as the water level continues to rise, he realizes that animals in burrows on lower ground will lose their homes. Some don't get out in time and are trapped to die. Skeet and his family wonder if they, too, will have to find a new home.

The copy of the book I have is illustrated by Leslie Morrill. I love her drawing of the beavers and the mice. Her hand-drawn maps help readers keep track of the changes in the valley.

Photo of p. 10-11, Beaver Valley, Leslie Morrill's illustration
Photo of p. 10-11, Beaver Valley, Leslie Morrill's illustration


This is chapter book is at a grade 3-5 reading level. It's a great book for homeschoolers. Almost any age from kindergarten on will find it interesting. Why not get a copy for your home library?

This book is out of print. It is still available at Amazon

All quotes and book illustration photos are from this book: Beaver Valley by Walter D. Edmonds, illustrated by Leslie Morrill; Little, Brown and Company, 1971.

Learn more about beavers and other wild animals in my review of Nature's Everyday Mysteries. I review some of my favorite picture books about animals here. You may also enjoy fellow contributor Renaissance Woman's review of Deep Creek.  





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 29, 2020

Puzzles for Puzzle Day or Any Day: A Review

Puzzles for Puzzle Day or Any Day: A Review
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay 


I love puzzles. I especially love jigsaw puzzles. It satisfies me to find the exact puzzle piece to fit into the space designed for it. I'm delighted when I finally finish a puzzle -- especially if it's a large one. Are you a puzzle fan, too?


Puzzle Day is January 29


If you didn't plan ahead or don't have time to work a puzzle on January 29, why not celebrate by buying a new puzzle you love, instead. Then enjoy it on any convenient day. Or have a puzzle party with your family or invite a friend or two to help you work your new puzzle. There are many excellent reasons to spend some of your leisure time working jigsaw puzzles.

Here's What Working Puzzles Can Do for You

  • Working puzzles can help you relax. When we work puzzles, we focus on our process instead of on our problems and the things that add stress to our lives.
  • Working a puzzle offers a welcome break from electronics and media. It lets us work at a slower pace and really focus instead of having our attention constantly refocused.
  • If you live alone, working a puzzle can keep you so absorbed you may forget you are lonely. Put on your favorite music and have a party for one. It beats television.
  • Working puzzles helps keep your brain working well. It keeps both sides of your brain busy and since both sides need to work together to complete a puzzle, the connections between the right and left sides of your brain grow stronger. The left side helps you sort pieces and figure out where to put them. The more creative right side uses your intuition as you consider where pieces may fit into the big picture or the individual section you are working on. Exercising your brain with puzzles may delay the onset of dementia or slow it down. The brain also produces dopamine when it's helping you work jigsaw puzzles.
  • Working puzzles together can foster closeness in families and between friends. Working a puzzle together is a social activity that puts people together who have a common purpose – working the puzzle – for an extended time. They may start by planning how to work the puzzle, deciding who will do what, but later they will naturally move on to subjects they probably wouldn't usually have time to discuss. Contributor  Dawn Rae has also written about her experience with puzzles paving the way for quality time. 
  • When children begin working jigsaw puzzles, it helps them develop many important skills. Among these are fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, color awareness, spatial relations, concentration, and working towards a goal.

Jigsaw Puzzle Strategy


Like most jigsaw fans, I have a strategy. Mine is pretty common.
  • Turn over all the pieces first so you know what you have to work with.
  • Find the pieces with straight edges and make the frame by forming and  connecting the edges.
  • Make sure everyone working on the puzzle can see the cover on the box as they work.
  • Try to complete one section of the puzzle at a time until it comes together to complete the picture.
Do you also use that strategy?

Finding the Right Puzzle

For the happiest puzzle working experience, you need to choose the right puzzle for your time, your skill level, and your interests. You will be looking at that puzzle for a long time. If you're a beginner, choose a smaller puzzle of about 200-300 pieces to develop your skills before moving on. Chose a puzzle with smaller blocks of color and many shapes instead of a puzzle with lots of sky or water that's the same color. That makes it easier to figure out which pieces fit.

I like nature. I created this puzzle from one of my photos of the sunset at Larry Moore Park. It comes in many sizes, but for a beginner I'd choose the 252-piece size. There is enough  variation in color and the tree branch shapes to make it easy to see how pieces may fit together. (Check out some of the other California places I made into puzzles.)




As you become more proficient, choose more challenging puzzles with more areas the same color or less pronounced subjects or designs. Or choose a larger puzzle of 750 pieces or more with a design you love and may want to frame afterwards. (Contributor Bev Owens reviews a great way to preserve puzzles you want to frame.) I love books and cats. This 750-piece puzzle by Buffalo Games is one I'd love to have on my wall. Buffalo Games makes quality puzzles. If you click through, you will see what makes them so special.





If you want to get your preschooler off to a good start, you can't go wrong with a Melissa and Doug puzzle. I used to sell these at homeschool conventions and there is a wooden puzzle to fit every interest and ability level. I like these sets for children 3-5 years old. Children this age love color and animals. The puzzles in the first set have both. These puzzles come packed in convenient wooden trays. But if you want something more educational, the pegged set has puzzles that teach the alphabet, numbers, and shapes. The pieces in this set have pegs to make them easy to lift out so that children can find the attractive pictures underneath each puzzle piece.







Puzzles Make Great Gifts

When you gift someone with a puzzle, consider the receiver's age, interests, and previous experience. You can even use a special photo to make a personalized puzzle at Zazzle, such as the one I made of the tree in the sunset I showed you above. Just click that puzzle. It will take you to the product page. Click “customize” on the top right of the page under “Designed for You.” It will show you many options. The first allows you to substitute your own photo. You can also add text if you wish.

Puzzles make great gifts for grandparents and older friends who live alone. It will help them keep their thinking sharp and give them something fun to do by themselves or with a friend.

Give a young child a puzzle and you will be helping to develop that child's brain. Give a puzzle with a related book for a double treat that will let the child be thinking of the book as they work the puzzle.

Maybe you should also gift your own family with a new puzzle to work together.
Whatever day it is, happy Puzzle Day.







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 15, 2020

A Review of My Favorite Teas from Bigelow and Celestial Seasonings

A Review of My Favorite Teas from Bigelow and Celestial Seasonings
Image © Barbara Radisavljevic


Hot Tea Warms Me up During Every Season


I am a tea drinker. Although I tried, I could never learn to enjoy coffee. As I read my friend and fellow contributor Louanne's review on hot tea, I realized I had a few favorite hot teas, as well. The ones I drink on a daily basis are pictured above. You've probably seen them in the tea aisle when you shop -- unless they are missing. I've found I can't always rely on my local stores having them in stock when I need them. Here's what I do to make sure I always have the teas I drink daily on my shelf. And here's how I drink them.

I Break All the Rules

I'm a tea heretic. I make my tea a pot at a time and reheat cold tea in the microwave as needed. When the pot is empty, I make another one. I first boil a full kettle of water in my Cuisinart Aura Kettle. I bought it and wrote that review in July, 2018. It's still serving me well after 18 months, and I expect it will last forever. 

While I'm watering for the water to boil, I prepare two of my five teapots by putting the bags in. I know I'm supposed to wait until the water boils and rinse out the pots with boiling water, but I don't. I still think the tea tastes good. I'm not a purist.

When the water boils, or slightly before for green or herbal teas, I pour it into my two prepared pots, one which makes about four cups and one which makes about two. If it's afternoon and my decaf teas are running low, I set up the larger pot with herbal and/or decaf bags. I make an herbal tea in the smaller pot, usually one my husband likes. If it's evening and my green tea is running low, I set up the large pot with my Honey Lemon Ginseng Green and the smaller pot with a decaf tea. I normally make four pots a day for the two of us to share. 

Morning Tea

Why I Like Celestial Seasonings Honey Lemon Ginseng Green Teas with White Tea for Smooth Taste.
Image © Barbara Radisavljevic


My preferred morning tea is Celestial Seasonings Honey Lemon Ginseng Green Teas with White Tea for Smooth Taste.  The teabags come in pairs. I use four bags in my larger teapot. This tea has just enough caffeine to ease me into my day. I like its mild taste with just a touch of sweetness. I prefer my tea with no sweeteners or milk. As you can see, the teabags are not sealed from the air. They have no strings, tags, or staples, either. This is because Celestial Seasonings wants its products to be sustainable and not put anything unnecessary into the landfills. That being said,  these bags are not as easy to remove from the pot as the less sustainable ones with strings and tags. 

Since I drink a pot of this tea every day, it goes fast. Each package is almost a week's supply for me, and I don't like to run out of it. So I order it in 6-packs from Amazon and use their Subscribe and Save plan so that I will get an even lower price and will be sure I won't run out. 
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Late Afternoon and Evening Tea


My preferred teas for late in the day are pictured in the image at the top. Again, I break the rules. I mix the two. I've always liked the mild orange-spice Constant Comment from Bigelow. It used to be the only tea I drank for several years after a friend told me about it. I sometimes also drank Bigelow's Lemon Lift, another great black tea. But I know I should avoid caffeine late in the day.

Now I use the decaf version of Constant Comment late in the afternoon and evening and mix it with the Celestial Seasonings Honey Vanilla Chamomile. I mix two bags of each in the large teapot. As you can see, Bigelow does seal their tea bags, and they do have tags and strings.

The Celestial Seasonings Honey Vanilla Chamomile is often out of stock where I shop, so to be sure I have it when I want it, I order it through Amazon's Subscribe and Save program, too. The chamomile helps relax me before bed and the delicate honey and vanilla flavor blends well with the orange and spices in the Constant Comment. Have you experimented with mixing tea flavors yet?

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Constant Comment is popular enough that I can usually find it where I shop, but sometimes they don't carry the decaffeinated version. Not everyone carries the Constant Comment Green Tea, either. That's why I also use Subscribe and Save to get those. It usually saves money, as well.

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Whenever and however you enjoy your tea, you may want to try one or more of the teas above that have become my favorites. And if you're not feeling up to par, you may also want to try a medicinal Life Style Awareness Tea. Learn more about all kinds of tea from Cynthia Sylvester Mouse, who started this blog so that all of our contributors could share their reviews in one place.



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 1, 2020

Transform Your Prayer Life with This Classic : A Book Review


Transform Your Prayer Life with This Classic : A Book Review of Prayer: Conversing with God
My Photo with some help from PicMonkey

My review of Prayer: Conversing with God by Rosalind Rinker


Does your small prayer or Bible study group find praying together awkward or uncomfortable? Do you spend more time sharing prayer requests than actually praying together? Do you find yourself thinking about what your own prayer will be as your turn to pray approaches? Or do you just not attend prayer meetings because praying aloud makes you uncomfortable?

Perhaps you don't see any reason for praying with a group. After all, didn't Jesus say to go into your closet to pray to our Father in secret? Yes, He did. But He also said that if two or three gathered together in His Name agree on what they ask in prayer, they will receive it, and He will be right there with them.

Rosalind Rinker's book addresses these seeming contradictions in detail. She shares God's promises and an exciting method of conversational prayer that can make your group anxious to pray together.

Who is Rosalind Rinker?


Ms. Rinker was a missionary in China from 1926 until 1940. When she came home, she studied at Asbury College and graduated in 1945. She then served as a staff member for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a collegiate Christian group.

She also wrote. Christianity Today named Prayer: Conversing with God as the book that most influenced evangelicals from 1956-2006. (Facts via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosalind_Rinker)

How I discovered Prayer: Conversing with God

Table of Contents, Prayer: Conversing with God by Rosalind Rinker
Table of Contents, Prayer: Conversing with God. My Photo.


While I was a student at UCLA, a friend from my dorm invited me to a small group Bible study at Hollywood Presbyterian Church. She drove, so we were able to get better acquainted as we talked coming and going. We often stopped at IHOP on the way home for pancakes.

The group was going to study two books. The first was The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ by James Stuart. The other was Prayer: Conversing with God. During the first part of the meeting we'd study the book about Jesus, and during the second part we'd pray, using what we were learning from the Rinker book.

I didn't know anyone in the study group but my friend Betty. Yet as we began to practice conversational prayer, we all drew much closer together. Why? Because we were talking to Jesus together as we met with Him. As we each got closer to Him, we also got closer to each other.

P. 48, Table of Contents, Prayer: Conversing with God by Rosalind Rinker
My Photo

What's the difference between conversational prayer and other methods of group prayer?


Usually small group prayer times take one of these forms. The members of the group share their prayer requests first, and then the members go around a circle, each praying by turn.  One problem with this method is that the members spend so long sharing their prayer requests that's there's little time left to actually pray. Another is that people are often thinking more about what they will say when it's their turn than actually hearing the prayers of the others who come before them in the circle. Some shy people may be intimidated by praying aloud with others. Sometimes people just pray as the Spirit moves them, but often each one who prays tries to cover all the requests. This can lead to a very long meeting.

Rinker addresses each of these problems as she explains how to pray conversationally instead. It's simple and natural. Instead of sharing the requests with each other before praying, those in the group speak to each other and God at the same time, introducing topics one at a time. Then people pray about each topic until the Spirit leads someone to introduce a new topic of prayer. Rinker gives examples of how this works in practice. I've noticed that using this method, no one feels pressured and most are excited about praying.

I have shown you the Table of Contents and an excerpt from the book in the images above. Rinker covers a lot of ground. Most Christians who read this book cannot wait to get a couple of friends together to try conversational prayer. Once they've done that they don't want to return to their old prayer habits.

This book is now out of print. Some of the best books are. You can still buy this used at Biblio and help support independent book dealers. Or you can buy it at Amazon if you prefer. Both sources offer only used books, and often the same dealers list the same exact copies in both places. I prefer buying my used books at Biblio. Both links are affiliate links. Wherever you get the book, I believe reading it will transform your prayer life in both group and private prayer. I highly recommend it.

Let 2020 be the year that you revolutionize your prayer life.

Happy New Year!


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, October 23, 2019

Review of The Only Clue: A Gorilla Novel by Pamela Beason

Review of The Only Clue: A Gorilla Novel by Pamela Beason: Mother Gorilla with Baby
 Image by Curtis Yancey from Pixabay 

The Open House


It was obvious to Grace McKenna that Neema, the mother gorilla, was worried and getting closer to a melt-down. She and her baby Kanoni weren't used to so many humans around.They weren't used to hearing blaring music, seeing and smelling popcorn carts, and having reporters and cameramen constantly in their faces. They really hated the smell of the portable toilets that had been brought into the area surrounding their compound for the day.

Gumu, the huge father gorilla, was the most upset of all. He had retreated to his "nest" --  a bunch of tangled blankets at the top of his two-story enclosure. Although Gumu was twice Neema's size, he was much more afraid of strangers than she was. When he was a baby back in Africa, he had watched helplessly while poachers shot the rest of his family and cut up them into pieces.

Neema, Gumu and Kanoni trusted very few humans. Grace McKenna and her staff and volunteers were about the only humans the gorillas would let get near them. Grace was studying the ability of the gorillas to learn language. Neema knew about 500 words of sign language. She could use her sign language vocabulary intelligently with humans and with her gorilla family.

The local college was funding Grace's studies, and the board had insisted on this Open House as a prerequisite for continuing their funding. Grace had a splitting headache, there were rude children teasing the gorillas, and Grace just wanted the whole event to be over.

She was glad when her boyfriend Detective Matt Finn and his helper finally ushered all the visitors out. They had volunteered to handle security for the event. Matt invited Grace to relax at his place for the night. The staff had a party on their trailer on the compound.

Back in the Gorilla Enclosures

Image by m k from Pixabay 


After the humans were gone, Neema ate some strawberries and wanted to play. She went in search of Gumu, but he wasn't in his nest. So she took Kanoni back to her own nest in the barn to see if Gumu was there. But he wasn't anywhere. Instead all she found was a big wet spot on the floor.

"Creeping closer to the big dark wet, holding Kanoni tight, she looked at the spot out of the corner of her eye. Red wet. She leaned close. Meat smell. She touched her fingers to the red and tasted the wet. Meat wet. Red meat smell. Bad, hurt, she signed."
Where was Gumu? She wondered if Gumu was meat and was never coming back. She turned to the back of the barn and saw the wall was open a crack. It had never been open before. She pushed the wall away, grabbed Kanoni, and went outside to search for Gumu.

The Next Morning


When Grace went to feed the gorillas the next morning, all was quiet in the barn. She called them to breakfast, but no gorillas came. They were gone. Someone had removed the padlock from the outside of the door. Matt began to look for evidence, since the animals could not have escaped by themselves. Then Jon Zyrnek, the staff member who got along best with Gumu, discovered the huge puddle of blood and called them all over.

Matt immediately wanted to put out an all points bulletin, but Grace nixed it. Many of their neighbors in their town of Evansburg opposed having the gorillas in their neighborhood in the first place. They had gotten out once before and they were almost closed down then. Word of the escape getting out would endanger their funding, as well.

Grace finally talked Matt into investigating the the disappearance by himself and the staff promised to keep quiet. They canceled all the volunteer shifts, saying that Jon had the flu and they'd all been exposed. They couldn't chance passing it to the gorillas.  They also made up a story about a valuable missing dog that had been at the open house. They needed to report some case involving an animal to get the blood they had found tested at the lab. Jon and Grace continued to search outside, calling and naming the gorillas' favorite foods, but no gorillas responded.

The Undercurrents


Matt doesn't like Jon because he and the volunteer staff are all part of the Animal Rights Union that has been freeing lab and other animals they believe are mistreated. They've all been arrested and Jon had served time. They had begun their volunteer work with the gorillas as a community service sentence. But they enjoyed the work so much they kept at it.

Matt is sure Jon and the others are involved somehow. The gorillas are very valuable, especially since they can sign and paint. The sale of their paintings has helped fund the work. Jon's father recently got out of prison. Matt also considers him a suspect. 

Grace is worried about whether her gorillas can survive on their own in the woods, if that's where they are. She's convinced at least one of them has been killed. When you read the book, you will also be concerned for them and wonder what happened. I couldn't stop reading.

My Review  


I recommend this book to those who are interested in the intelligence of gorillas and their ability to talk to humans. They would find the book fascinating even if there were no mystery. I read this, the second book in the Neema series, because I had enjoyed the first book so much. Now I see a third book is also available and I plan to read that one, too. I like learning more about the capabilities of gorillas. But I also like trying to solve the mystery.

I would recommend this to any animal lover who likes mysteries  It's full of not only gorillas, but also dogs and Neema's two pet cats. The human characters are believable, though Matt seems to have a stereotyped view of Jon. The animal characters are also well-developed.

I found myself looking for clues right along with the detectives. The author shows us not only what the humans are doing, but also what Neema is doing. We know just enough to hope that the story will end happily, but we still have to wonder until the very end.

You might also be interested in my review of the first book in the series: The Only Witness.






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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