Showing posts with label Bev. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bev. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Notre-Dame de Paris Reflections

Mourning The Loss Of History

notre-dame de paris
Notre-Dame de Paris image courtesy of pixabay.com
Today I will be reviewing some history of Notre-Dame de Paris with you. The world watched in horror and shock yesterday, 04/15/2019, as this beautiful historical landmark of Paris burned. Whether you are a member of the Catholic Church or not, the loss of this beautiful cathedral that had survived wars and rebellions for over 800 years was devastating to see. This icon of the city of Paris and the country of France will never be the same. 

Our Lady Of Paris, the English translation of Notre-Dame de Paris, was commissioned to be built in 1160 by Bishop Maurice de Sully. He would never see his dream fulfilled of the French Gothic structure because it took almost 200 years for the church to be completed. It does not appear that the Bishop randomly chose a site for the cathedral to be constructed. He must have felt that there was something sacred about the land, at least I feel that way. A religious structure of one kind or another had been on that piece of ground since the days of the Roman Empire. A Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter was the first known structure. Four churches would eventually replace the temple before Notre-Dame began to be built. A 4th Century basilica dedicated to Saint Stephen was the first. In the 7th Century the basilica was replaced with a cathedral for Childebert I who I happen to be a descendant of. Two renovations of the Romanesque style churches followed. The Bishop of Paris, Maurice de Sully, opted to demolish the existing building but did recycle many of the materials for what would become the most popular tourist attraction of France and the city of Paris.

As I watched the soaring red flames lighting the sky of Paris yesterday, one of the factoids by a reporter caught my attention. Something like 52 acres of wood had been used to construct the portion of Notre Dame that burned. It was often referred to as The Forest. No wonder it seemed to be consumed by fire so quickly! The timber had been drying for over 800 years. 

You might have assumed as I had that this historical cathedral belongs to the Vatican and the Catholic Church. The statement of President Macron that Notre-Dame de Paris would be re-built baffled me at first. Why would he be so committed to re-building when the French Government feels so strongly about the separation of church and state? Wouldn't it be up to the Pope to decide on what to do? Well, a little searching on my part revealed the answer. A law in 1905 made the famous cathedral the property of the French state. The Catholic Church is the designated beneficiary with the exclusive right to use the building for religious purposes. The paying of employees, the maintenance of the building, the utilities, security and other expenses are the responsibility of the Archdiocese. The Catholic Church does not receive any subsidies from the French Government. I found that fascinating to say the least.

If you would like to find out more about the history and architecture of the cathedral, there is a wonderful book that you can purchase. 

 They may be able to build a new structure but it can never be what stood before. There are not artisans today like the ones who built the original. The amazing craftsmanship of the past would be very difficult to replicate. 



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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Best Ever Backyard Birding Tips Reviewed

Want more birds in your backyard?

backyard jay
Backyard Blue-jay image courtesy of pixabay.com
When I first retired one of my first goals was to attract more birds to my backyard. I purchased the book Best-Ever Backyard Birding Tips to help me in that process. I would like to review it for you today.

The book is written by Deborah L. Martin who specializes in gardening and nature topics. I particularly like her easy to understand writing style. She filled 339 pages with tips and illustrations of tips to attract more birds. An additional 17 pages are dedicated to resource pages, an index and a hardiness map. 

One of the tips that I found interesting pertained to water for birds. Now, I knew that birds like a birdbath to drink from and wash their little bodies in but I didn't know about mud puddles. Have you ever noticed after a significant rainfall that leaves puddles and mud in the yard that there are more birds? I always thought they were foraging for worms in the softer ground. Well, that might be but they are also eating the mud. Birds need certain minerals in their diet which they find in the mud. 

Have you ever been tempted to try to knock a wasp nest out of a tree? I am not that brave because I don't want to get stung! I found in the book that it is better to leave it alone and not just because of the stinging factor. If you look closely around that wasp nest, you might just see a bird's nest too. Those stinging insects are actually help to defend against predators that might try to get into a nest with baby birds in it. Now, isn't that cool? 

Did you know that you can place pieces of fruit in your backyard to attract birds? Many varieties of our winged friends love fruit. Try it with a piece of melon or a ripe peach and sit back and observe which birds swoop in for a treat. Butterflies will flutter in, too.

There are 11 chapters covering all sorts of tips on backyard birding. The last chapter even covers some of those lesser appreciated guests that will come to your feeders and yards. Some bird species are more pests than they are welcomed guests and this chapter gives tips about how to deal with them. It also talks about squirrels that although some may think are cute will rob more than their fair share of the food you want the birds to enjoy. Raccoons and other wildlife might also visit, the author gives suggestions on how to let them know that they aren't really on your guest list.

I have learned a lot from the book and still refer to it once in a while. If you love birding in your backyard, I think that you will find it helpful, too.



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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Writing Roni Rainer Mysteries

Reflections From The Author

writing mysteries
It starts with a blank page (image courtesy of pixabay.com)
I thought that a review of my journey writing the Roni Rainer Mysteries might be a little interesting to those of you thinking about writing your own novel. Those of you who do not have that desire but enjoy reading the works of other authors might like some insight into what it takes to provide those books for you.

Before we start with a blank page like the one on the left, there has to be an idea in our mind. From the time I was a little girl, I have wanted to write novels. Several times over the years, I started different stories but it took me decades before I finally reached the point where everything began to fit. I would get so far with the early ones and then give up. I just couldn't make it all flow. It wasn't until Veronica (Roni to her friends) popped into my head one day as clear as if she were standing in front of me that I was able to write that first book. I introduced her in Death Takes A Spin. Oddly, many of those early book ideas have worked their way into each of the three completed novels and also in book four of the series that I am writing now.

Okay, so I had my protagonist but there were other things to consider before the first book could be written. What genre would her story belong in? Where does she live? Who are her friends? Since mysteries have always been my favorite, the genre was a no brainer for me. Thinking that I might struggle with detailed murder scenes, I opted for the lighter Cozy Mystery sub-genre of Mysteries. Roni could be a sleuth but she wouldn't have to be professional to solve the mystery. I decided early on that I wanted her to be very amateur in her methods. An accidental sleuth, if you will. It isn't so much that she is driven to solve the crime or that she thinks that she can do a better job than the police. Her desire comes more from her empathy and compassion for those affected by the crime. She doesn't want to be a Miss Marple, Nancy Drew or Jessica Fletcher. Roni sort of stumbles upon information that she can then share with the real investigators. 

The next question in my mind was where does she live. I have always heard that a writer should write what they know. Having grown up in a small town and lived in other small towns, I know that life the best. I also, knew that if I put her in a town that really exists I would have to make sure to be accurate with every location in the story. Using a fictional town allowed more leeway. I can create the locations, businesses and people in any way that I want. So, Roni lives in the fictional town of Beaver Falls in the fictional county of Butler in the very real state of Indiana. 

Who populates the town of Beaver Falls with Roni? A very diverse group of people because that is what we find no matter whether we live in a small town or a large city. I've tried really hard to create a cast of characters that come from all walks of life. In book one, readers meet a few of her friends, family and neighbors. Most of them continue in book two, Illegal Harvest with a few new additions. Some play a larger role than others while some just sort of pop in and out from time to time. I've grown to love these characters as I hope my readers have. One person said to me after reading book one, "Please don't kill off any of them!" I promise that I don't intend to at least not any of the favorites. 

Each book in the series continues to reveal more of each character, not just Roni. Book three, The Puzzle of Talking Rock brings back the favorites with a little more about them along with a couple of new people that have joined the growing cast of characters. These new people are just too much fun to include and keep weaving their way into the books. As I write book four, I have some people who may or may not come back. Perhaps they will have intermittent interactions with Roni but not be an integral part of future plots. 

What I am trying to convey is that authors don't just sit down and write a book without giving a lot of thought about who will be in it and where it all happens. We have to get to know our characters and we have to be able to see where they are in our minds before we can come up with the words to tell you the story. A lot happens in the author's mind before that first sentence in the first chapter ever gets put onto the first page of the book. We love it or we wouldn't do it. 

One last thought, when you read a book, any book by any author, consider taking a few minutes to leave some feedback for that author if you can. We need your honest viewpoint. It lets us know if we have written something worthwhile, enjoyable, or enlightening for you. We also need to know if a reader did not enjoy the book and why. It isn't much fun to get a bad review but I think they are extremely helpful. I want to grow as an author; I want each book to be better than the last one. I think that every author hopes for that growth in themselves but they won't know unless their readers tell them.



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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Black Butterfly Movie Reviewed

Movie Full of Suspense

Black Butterfly Tattoo courtesy of pixabay.com
A few weeks ago, I watched the movie Black Butterfly after it was recommended to me by my daughter. Let me just say that I was not disappointed.

One of the first reasons that my interest was piqued was that Antonio Banderas was one of the leads in the movie. I can't remember ever not enjoying any character that he has played. Good guy or bad guy, I like his portrayals. Besides, he isn't hard to look at either!

My daughter didn't give me many clues as to why she thought that I would enjoy the movie. Her comment was just that she was pretty sure that I wold enjoy it. Since we often like the same films and books, I took her advice and streamed it one Saturday night.

Banderas plays a writer who is struggling with writer's block while he tries to create a career saving screenplay. He has had some success in the past but not recently. In the beginning of the movie we see him at a typewriter typing the words I'm stuck several times. Being a writer, myself, I could relate to that frustration. He lives alone in Colorado in a pretty secluded area. His money is running out so he is trying to sell his property as quickly as possible while working on the story that just won't come to him. 

After a chance encounter with a drifter one day, he invites the stranger to his cabin for a meal and a night's stay. Knowing that the man needs some money to continue his travels, Paul (Banderas) offers Jack (the drifter) a few odd jobs to do before he goes on his way. The relationship gets quirky pretty quickly. 

There have been a series of abductions and murders near where Paul lives and it doesn't take him long to suspect that Jack may have something to do with it. Jack is a pretty edgy guy confronting Paul about his writing and his drinking.

I won't go much further than this little narrative because I don't want to give anything away. I can't tell you how many times that I thought that I had the plot figured out. I love when a story either in movie or book form keeps me guessing. Black Butterfly has several twists and turns to keep the viewer interested. The ending blew me away! It looked as if it was ending one way only to twist one more time. I loved it!

If you are looking for a movie that will grab your attention and keep it until the end, I highly recommend this one. I don't think that you will be disappointed.



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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Widow Series Reviewed

Interesting Drama Series

jungle scene
The Widow searches in the Jungle
(image courtesy of pixabay.com)
My husband and I just finished watching The Widow, a drama series that we streamed from Amazon. I thought you might be interested in a review of the series.

We thought that this eight episode series was fascinating to watch. The episodes are each around 45 minutes so it didn't take too awfully long to watch. 

The story begins with Georgia Mason (played by Kate Beckinsale) suspecting that her husband Will might actually be alive after a plane crash three years before in the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo). The reports of the crash stated that there were no survivors of that crash and Georgia has spent three years in mourning her loss. A broadcast of a riot in the DRC shows a man that looks very much like her husband that begins her search to find him. She can't see the man's face but he is wearing an orange baseball cap just like the one her Will wore. 

As you can imagine, Georgia decides to go to the DRC hoping to find her husband. She had been there before just after the crash and had befriended a man who had lost his wife in the same crash. Georgia meets Emmanuel again on this second trip; asking for his help to find out if her husband somehow survived that crash. 

The series is filled with suspense and action as Georgia encounters people who knew Will. As viewers we see corrupt people taking advantage of the poverty stricken people of the region. We find out about smugglers and the recruitment of children for rebel militias. While watching each episode we are given a hint of what it might be like to live in the Congo as a person with some means and as a person who is barely surviving. 

My husband and I liked the several twists in the plot as the story unfolds. There were some flashbacks offered to explain some of what drove the different characters in their choices and those were interesting, also. Overall, each episode kept us interested and wanting to see more. We have found that we very much enjoy the original series that Amazon has produced.

If you like suspense and action that occurs in a place you might never be ever to see, I think you will enjoy this series, too.




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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Cat Dust Plugs Reviewed

Prevent Dust From Getting Into Your Earphone

earphone plugs
Earphone plugs can get dusty (image courtesy of pixabay.com)
Did you know that there are some very clever little dust plugs for our devices? Whether it is our cell phone, tablet or laptop; we all have a place to plug-in a jack for earphones. 

Over the passage of time, quite a bit of dust and small debris can enter into the inside of our devices. That isn't such a good thing for the hidden working parts, I wouldn't think.

So, there are some really clever little charm like figures that we can use to plug-up that little hole when a set of earphones or earbuds aren't being used. Let's face it, most of the time that earphone jack isn't used 24/7. 

We happen to adore cats in our house, as I'm sure that many of you do too. Don't worry, if you aren't a cat person these little dust plugs can be found for the dog lovers, too. In fact, there are several types of animals made into a plug for that tiny little jack on our devices. If animals aren't to your liking there are other styles, too. Some look like little gems in a variety of colors and I even saw some that look like a little coffee cup. 

Some of the dust plugs have some real bling to their appearance while others are just a cute little charm that looks adorable while preventing dust and debris from getting into the inside of our phones or tablets.

I found a set of cat dust plugs that I think are really adorable! Depending on my mood, I can switch them around on my phone or my tablet. A set like this can also be used for party favors at a Tween's birthday party. They are so inexpensive that you can purchase more than one set to divide up amoung the guests.

What do you think? Would you choose a dust plug with cat figures or a different style?



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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Wicker Basket For Easter Reviewed

Useful After Easter

wicker basket
Wicker basket image courtesy of pixabay.com
Have you ever considered using a wicker basket that is not necessarily promoted to be used as an Easter Basket? Walking down any aisle of a store, we can see several options of baskets to be used on Easter morning. We can find them made in a variety of materials and most are extremely cute but will they last beyond a day or two?

I will admit that I have a penchant for baskets as a whole. I can't honestly say when my love for them began or even why. It might be from memories of my Grandmother using different baskets to complete chores with. She had a basket for gathering eggs, one for picking items from the garden, one for the apples and pears and a few others for specific duties around her home. All of those magnificent baskets were worn from use but sturdy and helpful to her.

It occurred to me the other day as I was looking at an option for baskets this year for my grandchildren that I really didn't want to give them one that was commercially produced for the occasion. I just realized that they looked as inexpensive as their price tags indicated. I would rather give them something that could be used again for another purpose. Perhaps something they could smile at one day when they remembered that Grandma gave them that basket.

I think I found a nice solution for this year. I like the idea that the basket I have chosen can be used to store items in if they want. I can picture my youngest using it to keep her crayons, markers and colored pencils in. My oldest could store her music CDs or other items in. I like this idea much better than a basket that will end up broken and in a landfill somewhere in the near future.

How about you? Would you rather place your Easter goodies in a wicker basket that can find multiple uses for after the holiday?




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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Gratitude Journal Reviewed

Embrace An Attitude of Gratitude

prayer of gratitude
Praying Hands image courtesy of pixabay.com
Twenty-five years ago my soul was suffering from the lack of gratitude. My doctor said that I was depressed. He said that there was a chemical imbalance which suppressed my ability to feel happiness. Technically, I suppose that his diagnosis was correct. In the months following that visit to the doctor, I came to realize that it went much deeper than a "happiness hormone" not being produced in my body.

My physician followed the proper procedure from the annuls of medicine by prescribing an anti-depressant. He explained that the medication would help my body to remember how to produce the chemical that would take away the depression and help me to feel happy again. Oh, how I despised that medication! I remember thinking that it seemed impossible that it would work because while I was on it I didn't "feel" anything. While medicated the feelings of despair were gone; I'll admit that. The trouble was there didn't seem to be any feelings at all; none. I didn't want to live a life devoid of feeling!

I began a time of inner reflection to see if I could figure out why the blue bird of happiness had abandoned his nest in my heart. I knew for certain that he used to live there. So, why had he left? I eventually realized that I had been neglecting to feed him his favorite food. He hadn't received not even a little morsel of gratitude in a very long time. 

I tell you this today because I recently received a message from a dear friend who has passed on to a better place. She wanted me to know how much that I meant to her before and during her long illness. Her message explained that my example of finding gratefulness all around me had taught her so very much and made those last months easier to bare. 

After receiving that touching and loving message from my sweet dear friend, I remembered  how it is so very easy for any of us to forget to be thankful for the big and small blessings that surround us every single day. We don't have to let it be that easy. We can make a habit of looking for more gratitude in our lives.

I found a wonderful tool to help anyone begin to focus on what they have to be thankful for on a daily basis. This journal is a 52 week guide to help you cultivate a garden of gratitude in your heart. There are inspirational quotes along with an area to jot down three things you are thankful for each day. It can be something big like a warm home or it can be something simple like the laugh of a child. If you or someone you know needs some help in this direction, a gratitude journal might be just the tool to plant your seeds.



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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Lego Easter Egg Hunt Set Reviewed

Fun Idea For Easter Basket Stuffer

easter eggs
Add some Lego Fun to the Basket
(image courtesy of pixabay.com)
It is a good two months before those Easter Egg Hunts take place but I am already looking for some fun ideas to add to the baskets. Of course there will be eggs to be found. I always look for some different sorts of sweets to add but I like to hold that sugary stuff to a minimum. So, I start searching for non-edible ideas rather early. I have found something fun for this year. 

Those that know me might remember that I love to play with Legos. My brothers and I built things with those plastic bricks when we were little. Hours of fun were spent with my daughters with them. This grandma still plays with the colorful plastic pieces with her grandchildren. I even have a display of the Big Bang Theory done in Legos in our family room. 

Imagine my thrill when I found a set of Legos that creates a scene for an Easter Egg Hunt! It is a small little set with only 145 pieces so the box will fit nicely in the kid's baskets. The set allows you to build three separate locations (to hide the 3 eggs). There is a carrot garden, a flower garden and a hen house. Two figures come with the set; an adult and a child. There is a wheelbarrow, a cute little basket and a magnifying glass. Well, it is just down right adorable! 

As with most of the Lego sets once this one is assembled the different locations can be easily added to any other display you might already have on display. We rarely tear our finished sets down in this house. They are fun to pull out and play with when the kids come or Grandma goes to their house. 

If you are looking for something to add to an Easter Basket that won't throw your child or grandchild into a raging sugar high, consider a set of Lego fun with the Easter Egg Hunt.
  



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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Floor Liners For Jeep Reviewed

Dressing up A New Ride

jeep liberty
Hubby's Jeep Liberty
Last week my hubby traded in his old jeep for a newer model. You can see it pictured at the left. It is a pretty little thing, isn't it? It rides much better than the older one, too. 

So, he has a birthday approaching and I thought that it might be fun to get him something for his Jeep. The old floor liners are pretty sad looking even though they will fit this year and model. I went on a quest to see if I could find some new floor mats for him.

Sure enough, they were not difficult to find. I searched for floor liners for a Jeep Liberty and found the color that I thought would go well with his interior. To my surprise a pop-up appeared asking me to verify that the liners would fit the vehicle. It turned out that the ones that I had first picked would not fit the floor configuration of his year of Jeep. What a convenience! It would have certainly been a disappointment to me as the gifter and to him as the recipient if those new mats wouldn't work!

What I like about this particular brand of floor liners is that they are digitally measured and molded to fit the interior of specific models of vehicles. This line of mats is more than just a flat little piece of protection for the carpet of the car. They are molded to the contours of the floor board giving more protection. These will not slip around and allow mud and dirt to get under them. I like that because I really don't like having to vacuum those floors and my sweet hubby is a bit of a "Messy Marvin" when it comes to tracking in mud and dirt (in his vehicle and our home). The floor liners that I have decided to get for him are much nicer and sturdier than his previous ones. I think that he will be extremely happy with them.

Obviously, you may not have a Jeep but it doesn't matter what make or model of vehicle that you drive. You can find these well designed floor liners for any make and model feeling certain that they will fit your ride. These will be a birthday present but they would also work for Father's Day.



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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Heart Waffle Maker Reviewed

Another Way To Say I Love You

heart waffle
Heart Waffles image courtesy of pixabay.com
With Valentine's Day rapidly approaching, I have had hearts on my mind. I found an adorable little kitchen gadget that will allow me to make little heart shaped waffles anytime of the year that I want to. 

The fun part is that with this mini waffle maker you and I are not constrained with just making waffles. Any wet batter will work. So, we can make heart shaped hash browns, paninis or even biscuit dough for a little heart shaped pizza. Now isn't that a fun idea? 

This little waffle maker is very light weight (about a pound) and does not take up much room for storage. It is a perfect size for a small apartment and can even travel with you on vacation. It heats up fairly quickly, too. The one drawback is that it only makes one waffle at a time but it shouldn't take too much time to whip up several due to the miniature size. 

I couldn't help but think of one of my family members who traveled around the country in an RV. This little heart waffle maker would have been great for them to have on their trips because it would pack away nicely in that very limited kitchen area. You are not limited to a heart design, either. There is an option for traditional round waffles if you would rather have them instead of hearts. 

What a fun idea for a house warming gift or a gift for the new bride and groom. Kids can make heart shaped waffles for Mom or Dad on Mother's and Father's day. There are just so many fun ways that this little gadget can be used! I think that it would be such a fun little addition to any kitchen. What about you? Do you think that you would have some fun with it? 




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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Bamboo Pizza Paddle Reviewed

Convenient Way To Remove Pizza From Oven

pizza
Pizza image courtesy of pixabay.com
I recently received a bamboo pizza paddle and honestly wasn't sure that I would ever use it. To my surprise, I actually love it! Can I tell you how many times that I have burned myself trying to take a pizza out of the oven? Let's just say a lot and leave it at that. 

We have pizza often at our house. There is an establishment near us that makes them for you to take home and bake in your own oven. These pizzas are delicious and this paddle has come in handy when I am ready to remove them. The size of the paddle more than accommodates the size of the pizza and it is so easy to use. Another advantage is that with it being constructed of bamboo, I can take the pizza out of the oven and also use the paddle as a cutting board. 

I don't know if you are aware of this or not so I'll share something about cutting boards and bamboo. This dense wood has become very popular with chefs and cooks around the world for use as a surface to cut fruits, vegetables and meats. Bamboo does not need as much maintenance as some of the other woods that are used for cutting boards. The bamboo doesn't retain water so your board won't become warped or cracked like the others do. Plus bacteria is less likely to grow because there is no water in the wood for it to propagate. Knives do not scar the bamboo as easily as other woods. Those scars can also be a breeding ground for bacteria. Bamboo is earth friendly and easier to grow than say a maple tree. The bamboo will mature in three to six years where a maple won't mature for thirty or more years. 

So, I am loving my bamboo pizza paddle as both a way to remove a hot pizza out of the oven and as a cutting board for the pizza and other foods. It is lightweight and with the handy hole at the end, I can hang it on the side of one of my cabinets for storage. Honestly, I wish that I had purchased one a long time ago. 

What about you? Do you already own one or are thinking that maybe one would be nice to have in your kitchen?



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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

When Women Ruled The World Reviewed

Women Ruling As Kings In Ancient Times

Egyptian hieroglyphs
Who was ruling when this was carved on a monument?
A man or a woman? (image courtesy of pixabay.com)
I recently read the book When Women Ruled The World and wanted to review it for you today. This non-fiction book was given to me by one of my lovely daughters at Christmas. She knew that I have a fascination of Ancient Egypt and thought that I would enjoy it. She was not wrong in her assumption, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 

The book by Kara Cooney gives an historical account of six Queens of Egypt that actually ruled the mighty kingdom. Some only ruled for a short time and others ruled for several years. You will most likely recognize two of these remarkable women but the other four are probably not familiar to you at all. These female Pharaohs (a ruler of Egypt) were not usually called Queens, at least not in their own lifetimes or even when they were married to the King (Pharaoh). Some even tried to dress more like a man during their rule because for the most part the Ancient Egyptians did not consider a woman ruler to be desirable. There were times when it was a dire necessity but it was not a common occurrence if it could be helped.

The rulers outlined in the book are: 
  • Merneith (reign 3000 b.c. - 2890 b.c.) at the end of Dynasty 1
  • Neferusobek (reign 1777 b.c. - 1773 b.c.) at the end of Dynasty 12
  • Hatshepsut (reign 1473 b.c. - 1458 b.c. ) close to the end of Dynasty 18
  • Nefertiti (reign 1338 b.c. - 1336 b.c.) at the end of Dynasty 18
  • Tawosret (reign 1188 b.c. - 1186 b.c.) at the end of Dynasty 19
  • Cleopatra VII (reign 51 b.c.- 0 b.c.) end of the Ptolemaic Dynasty and during the Roman period
There were many instances when a mother of the heir to the throne would act as a Regent until their son was old enough to rule. Not all of the Regent mothers were considered the Pharaoh or King at those times but some took it upon themselves to be elevated to such a position. As you can imagine that did not bode well with the upper or lower classes of citizens. 

The Ancients of Egypt wanted to keep the pool of possible Kings at a minimum and to be what they considered "pure" in the bloodline. It was not uncommon for fathers to wed daughters and for brothers to wed sisters in order to keep the other nobility from seeking claims to the throne. If you notice from the list above these women all ruled close to or at the end of the Dynasty they belonged to. There was a reason for that! Most of the Dynasties of Ancient Egypt did not end because of a take over from an enemy but because the incest over many years created situations where the current ruler could not produce an heir either male or female. After so many years, children were born sickly, deformed and often didn't live long and eventually sterility would end a Dynasty. Cleopatra was the exception to the rule with a long reign only to be outdone by the Romans. 

This book was fascinating and I found it amazing that historians have been able to uncover these six women's sketchy stories. It isn't quite so difficult to know more about Cleopatra because the Romans wrote so much about her but the others might have gone unnoticed. A common practice was to destroy monuments that were built during the reign of an unpopular Pharaoh (male or female) after their death. Many monuments that survived have evidence of names of rulers scratched out and others put in their places. Such was the case of five of these women. 

If you have an interest in Ancient history and female rulers, I think you will enjoy this book. I do not generally read non-fiction so for me to recommend this book says a lot. It was not one of those books that you can't put down but it kept my interest and I am glad that I received it and read it. Perhaps you will enjoy it, also!




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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Valentines Rock For Him Reviewed

A Gift For Him

valentine hearts
Hearts For Him image from pixabay.com
Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching and I have been on the look-out for something to give that special man in my life. I would like to review a gift that I think is pretty neat for my man and might be for yours, also. 

When it comes to that special "him" in our lives it is sometimes difficult to come up with something clever and yet a little on the romantic side. At least it is for me. 

Some of you may not be old enough to remember the "pet rock" fad that swept across the U. S. back in the 1970s but I think a lot of you probably will remember. Just in case you don't recall this phenomenon, I'll give you a little history. Back in 1975 an advertising executive named Gary Dahl came up with the idea of pet rocks. For about six months these rocks were all the rage. Dipping into your wallet for around $4 you could get your own pet or one for someone else that came in a box with breathing holes and straw to keep the little guy or gal comfortable. Apparently, this Mr. Dahl was a bit of a genius because it is estimated that he sold 1.5 million of these quiet little pets that needed no extra care making him a millionaire six times over. Now do you remember? 

I've seemed to digress a little but I felt you should understand why I have picked this particular gift for my honey for Valentine's Day this year. There is some sentiment involved and some nostalgia. That was part of my quest in looking for a gift for him...a bit of nostalgia. I found this particular item that just seemed catch my eye.

I love the sentiment about my heart beating for him and that he is my rock. He truly is, you know. Always there standing firm and strong. Unlike the pet rocks of old, he does need to be fed and looked after but I don't mind doing those things for him at all.

So, what do you think? Would a Valentines Rock for him work this year? 





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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Homemade Tomato Soup Recipe Reviewed

Much Better Than Canned Soup

tomato soup
Make your own tomato soup
After trying your own homemade tomato soup, you will never open a can of soup again. At least, I am not sure I could stomach it after having made my own from this recipe. 

One of my most favorite lunches is tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. For me, it is comfort food at its very best. I love tomatoes so when Mom would fix tomato soup and grilled cheese when I was a kid, I was in heaven. Now, Mom never made it from scratch and to be honest, as a child, I never realized that my most favorite of all soups came from anywhere other than that famous red and white can. 

A few weeks back, I expressed that I hoped that I would get an Immersion Hand Blender for one of my Christmas gifts. Santa did not bring me one but I did use a gift card that I received to purchase one for myself. Want to guess what the first thing I made with it was? I'll give you a hint; it starts with tomato and ends with soup. Oh my goodness! It was so very good and really very easy!

Tomato Soup Recipe

1 15 oz can tomato sauce
2 garlic gloves minced
1 28 oz can peeled plum tomatoes 
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 shallot diced
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon fresh basil
3 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Place the olive oil in a large pot with the shallot and garlic. On medium heat cook the onion and garlic for about 4 to 6 minutes or until the shallot is translucent. Add the remaining ingredients including the juices from the canned tomatoes and stir. Bring the soup to a boil and then turn the heat down to a low simmer. Allow the soup to simmer for about 20 minutes with the pot partially covered. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup to your desired consistency. 

Serve in a bowl with a grilled cheese sandwich and you are in for a real taste treat!

I will offer a tip on the tomatoes. You can use either whole peeled tomatoes or you can use the ones that are already crushed. The only difference is that the crushed ones take less time with the immersion blender. Both work well. Personally, I love the taste of the plum tomatoes but you can also choose regular tomatoes for the recipe. It just boils down to your taste buds. 

As I said earlier, once I made my own tomato soup with this recipe I won't be able to open a can of soup again. This is so delicious and easy to make that I can't believe it took me this long to try making it from scratch. By the way, it passed the husband test, too. He absolutely loved it! 

How about it? Do you think that you might try making your own sometime soon? I can promise you that you will not be disappointed! 




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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Hamilton Beach Wave Crusher Blender Reviewed

Make Milkshakes or Smoothies With A Blender

milkshake
Milkshake image courtesy of pixabay.com
Santa brought me a new blender with a travel jar this year for Christmas. I thought that a review of it was in order today. To be honest I didn't ask Santa for a blender and was a little disappointed when I unwrapped the box. I had asked for a milkshake maker so that I could make my own milkshakes. I already have a blender; never mind that it is probably 30 years old or older. The point is that I have a blender and I can make a milkshake in it but it isn't quite the same. When I looked at the box, I couldn't help but think that Santa did not have his listening ears on when I made my simple request. I should have known that most of the time he knows what I need better than I do. 

So, on Christmas morning I am trying very hard to hide my disappointment while secretly thinking that I really don't need another blender. After all of our gifts had been opened, I took the box out to the kitchen to try and figure out where I would put this second blender. As I begin to remove the parts from the box, I ungratefully think that this new one doesn't do even half the functions that my old one does. The little devil sitting on my left shoulder was working overtime to make me think negative thoughts! The little angel on my right shoulder says, "Now, be nice and give it a chance! Look a little closer, dear."  I look at the function buttons and realize that I had rushed to judgement unfairly. The functions are: Mix Milkshake, Puree Smoothie, Dice Chop, Grind Crush Ice. "Well, smack me with butter and call me a biscuit! Maybe Santa had done better research than I had." The little devil grunts and rolls her eyes but the little angel smiles her approval.

Suffice it to say, that I absolutely love the Hamilton Beach Blender with a travel jar that Santa picked out for me. I can make a milkshake in the 40 oz glass jar or I can make one in the 20 oz glass travel jar. The Wave Crusher Blender is really versatile. It is pretty ingenuous, really. The base will hold either jar securely. You see, the blade attaches to the large jar or the smaller one and then to the base. The removable blade makes for a really easy and thorough cleaning, too. No more worry about slicing my fingers while trying to clean the blade! Trust me, that is a real advantage in my case because I have a history of cutting myself with sharp objects. I think they call it the clumsy gene or something like that. 

I have already made a few milkshakes with this new little tool and I was able to find a place on the counter for it. Currently, my favorite is a chocolate peanut butter concoction but I am sure that I will come up with some other ideas as this new year rolls on. I may get brave and make a few fruit smoothies sometime soon. 

Santa knew what he was doing and I am very happy with his choice. I think you might be happy with one, also. 

May this new year bring you much joy, laughter and love! 



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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Wedding Forward Website Reviewed

When A Wedding Is In Your Future

wedding plans
Wedding Plans image courtesy of Pixabay.com
I thought that a review for a website for planning a wedding would be appropriate today. Here in the US and in many places of the world this article is being published on Christmas Day. Many men have chosen to "pop" the question to many a gal either on Christmas Eve or on the morning of Christmas. So, there are some weddings that will need to be planned. 

A truly awesome site to visit if a wedding is in your future is: Wedding Forward. As a soon to be bride you will find a plethora of ideas for every aspect of your special day. There are ideas for themes, dresses, hairstyles and so much more on this elegantly designed and easy to navigate website. 

A few of the categories that can be found on Wedding Forward are: 
  • Dresses & Attire
  • Flowers & Decor
  • Wedding Planning
  • Hair & Makeup
  • Photography & Video
You will see those top categories when you first land on the site but don't stop there! Scroll down the home page to find other very helpful categories to help you decide what you want for your wedding day. There are ideas for the music to be played, games to be played at your bachlorette party and tips about wedding vows. Ideas are shared for gifts and favors to be given to your wedding party and guests. Trending and traditional cakes are featured, too. There is also a convenient section with the Wedding Checklist that will be invaluable to you while planning your day to be the memorable event that you want it to be.  

If he just asked "will you" and you just responded with a thrilled and happy "yes", you should take some time to look over the website that will offer you some delightful and most helpful advice and ideas: Wedding Forward. The website can walk you forward from the time of his slipping that engagement ring on your finger to the moment that the words "I now pronounce you" are spoken. I feel certain that the ladies who contribute to the site will help take the stress out of the planning for you. 

Oh and I almost forgot to say, "Congratulations!" May your life be filled with joy and may you grow old together on one pillow.



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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Potato Soup Cooked In InstantPot Reviewed

Easy And Delicious Potato Soup

potato for soup
Potatoes for soup image from pixabay.com
Want to make some potato soup for your family to enjoy this winter? I can review a recipe that will delight your taste buds and be easy on your purse strings. 

Last year I asked Santa for an InstantPot and was delighted that he thought I was a good enough girl to get one. Since then, I have made many wonderful meals in that multi function pressure cooker. Just this past weekend, I tried some potato soup. Let me just say that it was a real hit in my house. I will even go so far as to say that it is the best potato soup that I have ever had. That is saying a lot on my part because my Mom's was pretty danged good stuff. 

This is an easy recipe that won't take you all day to make if you cook it in an instant pot. I think that it took me about an hour with the prep time and cooking time. The prep time and waiting for the pot to preheat took more time than the actual cooking time. Still, about an hour from start to that first delicious mouthful.

Potato Soup (Instant Pot) Recipe

Ingredients:
5 lbs potatoes peeled and cubed
1 shallot minced
4 Tblsp butter
1/3 cup cream cheese - softened and cut in small pieces
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1-2 cups of milk (enough to get your desired consistency)
1/2 cup bacon bits
Shredded cheese for garnish
Green onion cut for garnish

Add the shallot and potatoes to the pot and cover with the chicken broth. Cover and cook on the Soup setting for 10 minutes. Release the pressure with the quick release method. Let your pot stay on the keep warm setting.

You can mash the potatoes at this point if you like although I don't think you need to.

Add butter, cream cheese and sour cream and mix well until butter is melted and the cream cheese and sour cream are blended. Add part of the bacon bits saving some for garnish in the bowls.

Add the desired amount of milk, stir and serve in bowls with desired garnishes. 

A few hints:
When cubing your potatoes, keep the size of the cubes rather large. Perhaps a medium to large size is best. The reason for this is the pressure cooking will cook those cubes down quite a lot and if the cubes are too small you will end up with "mashed potato" soup. You want some potatoes that you can bite into. If some seem too large you can cut them after the pressure cooking is done. Honestly, I feared that I had cut the potatoes too large but when they were done they were the perfect size and were completely cooked through. 

The cream cheese needs to be in very small pieces in order for it to melt quickly when added and stirred into the hot potato mixture. Having to stir the mixture too much will continually break up your cooked potatoes. 

Personally, I had to add more salt and pepper after cooking. That will be a matter of personal preference so try it with the amount given and adjust to your taste afterward. You can always add more but if you add too much to begin with; well, you can't take it out. 

So, that is my potato soup recipe cooked in my InstantPot. I hope you give this a try because I think you will really love it. It is perfect on a cold winter day! It also makes enough that you are sure to have enough to enjoy for another meal or too. You can keep it refrigerated for a couple of days and just reheat in a saucepan. As with so many meals, it tastes even better on the second day. All those ingredients kind of marry each other while resting in the fridge. Trust me, this is really very good!





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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Immersion Hand Blender Reviewed

Easy Way To Blend or Puree Foods

tomato soup
Soup probably pureed with an Immersion Blender
image courtesy of pixabay.com 
I don't own an immersion hand blender yet but I want one pretty darned bad. So, I thought I would review the one that I think that I will purchase in the near future. 

The main reason that I want one of these hand held blenders is that I love tomato soup and I want to be able to make my own. In order to get the correct consistency the soup needs to be pureed. Now, cooking up a big pot of tomatoes for soup and then having to pour batches of it into a regular blender is a pain in the royal keester. For one thing there is the most likely possibility that I will burn myself or spill quite a lot while trying to maneuver the contents from pot to blender. There is also the time involved! Not to mention that the clean-up will be a hot mess! I would have to clean up the pot that the soup is cooked in, the blender and the pot that I would need to put the pureed soup into while going through the blending process. An immersion blender solves all of those obstacles. 

With a hand held blender I can just puree the tomatoes in the pot that they have cooked in eliminating the use of so many tools, the burn factor and the spill factor. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! 

So, I have been looking at my options and there are several to choose from. I can go the expensive route or I can try to save myself a little money. I decided that maybe the best route to pursue is the one that most folks seem to be happy with. So, I looked at ones that have the best reviews and then picked the one that is marked as Amazon's choice; which by the way, happens to have the best review history.

Here is the model that I believe I will purchase after the holidays. There is a possibility that Santa might leave me one so that is why I plan to wait. 

I like that it has two attachments. One for blending and a whisk. So, I will be able to puree all sorts of foods or easily whisk ingredients for many recipes. There are six speeds so that should be handy, too. I will be able to make smooth and wonderful tomato soup or wonderful fruit smoothies. I think my possibilities will only be limited by my own imagination.

I think it might be helpful if I let you on something. Depending on the cook these hand blenders are known as immersion blenders or sometimes they are called emulsion blenders. Those two words are describing the same tool.

How about you? Do you own an immersion hand blender? If not, do you think it would be something that you would use? Not only do I plan on using mine a lot but I think this is a wonderful idea as a wedding gift or a holiday gift for your favorite cook. 



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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Multi-use Cake Stand Reviewed

More than just a place for cakes

no cake stand
Cake not on a stand (image from Pixabay.com)
One of the things that my youngest daughter asked for this Christmas was a cake stand. She also wanted a salad bowl. As one of Santa's dedicated elves, I found a perfect solution! Let me tell you about it. 

To be honest, I planned to purchase both of those items for her. When on my quest to find a nice cake stand, I came across something that has multiple uses that surprised and delighted me and I know it will be perfect for my daughter. 

The wonderful set can be a cake stand with a dome. The dome can be flipped over to create a salad bowl or a punch bowl. The base can be turned upside down to be used as a chip and dip tray or veggie dip. There are six different ways to serve whatever you need with this one set. Isn't that amazing? 

I also like that instead of having to store six different pieces for six different functions, this set only takes up the space of one piece. That is wonderful for my daughter since her storage space is limited. I think she will be thrilled!

I also like the simple design because it will go with any style of dinnerware and can be used throughout the entire year. It is made from acrylic so it isn't heavy to move, either. Let me tell you, this Santa's helper is so excited about this find!

How about you? Can you use something like this for your serving needs? Perhaps you know someone on your list who would appreciate its multi-function features. It is perfect for a gift for a bride or a house warming gift, too. 



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