Showing posts with label BuckHawk. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BuckHawk. Show all posts

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Mystery Series Review: Cats, Cupcakes and Killers

Cats, Cupcakes and Killers
Mystery series are always fun to read, especially when you can get them in a nice boxed set. Author Sylvia Selfman has done just that with her Izzy Greene series in Cats, Cupcakes and Killers. All seven mysteries are published together for Kindle and e-readers. What could be more enticing for a mystery story lover such as myself?



Cats, Cupcakes and Killers Starring Izzy Greene


This fun series is considered a cozy mystery series. (More about that coming up.) It's also an enjoyable romp through life with Izzy Greene, our amateur sleuth. The setting is a modern day Palm Springs retirement community. Yep, our Izzy (short for Isadora, of course) is a widow living happily in retirement. Happily that is, until murder comes knocking at her door. Well, the murderer comes knocking, followed by the police detective who wants her to just find a hobby. And one that doesn't involve murders, please.

In the first book, Izzy ends up with a companion cat named Sherlock. Really, that's his name. This ushers in pets as integral parts of the various murder investigations. Which allows the author to weave some extra humor in.

Cats, Cupcakes and Killers
Not that she needs extra humor. There is plenty around the cupcake and dessert loving duo of Izzy and her best friend and sleuthing partner, Flo. Of course, we are treated to decadent descriptions of these rich sweets. Enough to make a chocoholic like me go rushing to the nearest bakery. With chocolate cupcake in hand, or mouth as the case may be, I'm off reading the next in the series. 

Author Sylvia Selfman has put together a humorous premise for this mystery series. Every one is just plain fun reading. None of these books will ever win a Nobel prize for literature, but they don't have to. In my opinion, fun reading is worth it's weight in gold. (Not sure what that weight is, but it sure sounds good, doesn't it?)

Cozy Mysteries - The History and Progression


In the days of Agatha Christie, the term cozy mystery got it's start. It was meant to describe a mystery setting where a very limited number of people could be the murderer. A family gathering at the locked estate of the victim, a weekend getaway on an island resort, even a formal birthday party where all the guests stay overnight.  The victim and the suspects are all in a "cozy" situation.

Since that original description, the term cozy has come to include a broader use. It's not just about the suspects anymore. It's now applied to mysteries that allow you read them curled up on the couch for an afternoon. Instead of the suspects, we the readers are cozy.

Sylvia Selfman decided to include both definitions in her Cats, Cupcakes and Killers series. I have been curled up in my favorite reading chair enjoying the stories of Izzy's limited setting for suspects. Cozy mysteries from any angle.

My Word of Caution for this Mystery Series Review


It's rare for me to care much about a typo or two in a book that I'm reading. Proofing isn't all it's cracked up to be. And we know that we're all only human, we make mistukes. But, with this series, along with many others I have read recently, typos seem to be popular. Maybe it's the software that put these into Kindle format, maybe it's the authors themselves. Whatever it is, be aware that there are enough typos to cause you some reading stoppage. My advice - try to ignore them and enjoy the story. Typos included, the cozy mysteries are worth it.

Besides, the price is completely right. Ninety-nine cents for the complete series of 7 mystery novels. For that price, I'll forgive the typos. It's even better if you belong to Kindle Unlimited. So take a risk - not much of one anyway - and enjoy Cats, Cupcakes and Killers.





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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Easy in the Kitchen: Slow Cooker to Make Homemade Beans

Programmable Slow Cooker
Yes, I admit it. I have 2 slow cookers and I use them both regularly. Easy in the kitchen is my preference and I'm going to review with you how I make things easier with my slow cookers. They aren't just for making dinners anymore. There's plenty to enjoy about slow cookers.

My two are different sizes. I have a smaller one that is a 4-quart cooker, and I have a larger programmable 6-quart size (www.kitchen-basics-small-appliances.com/programmable-slow-cookers-easy-cooking). I have made plenty of chilis, stews and soups in my slow cookers and I will continue to do so. The joy of tossing in all the ingredients, turn the thing on and come back to dinner ready to serve can't be beat. Plus, why not make enough for 2 or more dinners? That's easy in the kitchen in my book.

Homemade Beans


One of my favorite uses for my slow cookers is making my own homemade "cans" of beans. I was one of those people who would buy cans and try to force myself to use them. Sure beans are good for you, but I could never stomach the boring taste and slimy liquid canned beans were packed in. Discovering how to make my own beans made a world of difference.

  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Pinto beans
  • Navy beans or any white bean
I start with dried beans - so much cheaper! About 1/2 cup of dried beans will equal a standard can size of cooked beans (about 1 1/2 cups). My smaller slow cooker easily handles a cup and half of dried beans, so I make 3 "cans" of beans at a time. 

Dried beans need to be soaked first, so I do this in my slow cooker. Usually overnight. Then drain and rinse the beans, put them back in the slower cooker, add enough water to cover the beans with about 2 inches of water on top, and cook. I set my slow cooker on high for 4 hours and the beans are cooked to perfection. If you have a programmable slow cooker, you can set it to cook the beans when it's most convenient for you. 

Packaging Homemade Beans


Freezing your cans of homemade beans is the easiest option.  I use half-pint mason jars which hold about 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans - the equivalent of a standard can. Remember to label them with the date as well. Frozen beans should last about 6 months. Of course, I can't ever test that out, I use my frozen beans too fast! 

Here's an easy in the kitchen trick for you. With any frozen foods, top the food with a piece of parchment paper. That will prevent ice crystals from forming and will keep freezer burn out of your food. 

Choosing a Slow Cooker


If you're in the market for a slow cooker, whether your first, second or ninth, there are things to consider before you buy. The options are numerous. You'll want to think about what size you need, what features will be helpful and what your budget allows. When you have the right appliance for the right cooking needs, you will have an easier time in the kitchen. 

So stop depending on store-bought cans of beans. Make your own. Flavor them to your own tastes and enjoy healthy and delicious homemade beans in your slow cooker. 





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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Book Review: Illusions of Magic

Illusions of Magic
It doesn't take long to realize that author J. B. Rivard has a talent for writing fiction. In Illusions of Magic, his first fiction work of intrigue, page one draws you into the characters. Most especially the main character, Nick Zetner. From then on, you race through a world of excitement, humor and love. The subtitle is Love and Intrigue in 1933 Chicago. True to it's name.

Illusion of Magic: The Plot, The History


The setting is Chicago in the era of the depression, gangsters and political turmoil. It's also an era that is ushering out live stage presentations in favor of the new world of Hollywood movies. Our hero Nick Zetner, known as the Amazing Mr. Z, is losing out. His magic show bookings have dwindled to nothing. The man is in need of some money.

In steps a dubious banker in need of a man who can quietly find and return some stolen photos. And pay well for success. Nick's mysterious adventure is off and running.

The setting of political turmoil in 1933 Chicago is a fascinating feature of the plot. Franklin D. Roosevelt is about to be inaugurated as president. When giving a speech in Miami, an assassination attempt is made on his life. Roosevelt is uninjured, but the beloved mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, is mortally wounded instead.

Little known bit of history here. At the time, Chicago had no procedure for replacing it's mayor! Ergo, tremendous political turmoil in the city. For 19 days after the shooting, Mayor Cermak lived. And this is where Nick finds himself as he searches for the stolen photos.

Author Rivard's Writing

Illusions of Magic

So lots of people write mysteries and stories of intrigue. It's Illusions of Magic author Rivard who writes fast paced. The man has a talent for not wasting words. It comes from a 25-year career as a technical writer, but he has translated it well. Rivard pulls you in to the story quickly, then never lets up as the plot takes twists and turns I never expected.

As the owner of the site, Mystery Book World Live, I've read thousands of mysteries. Very few have the style of writing as Illusions of Magic. Minus a wealth of flowery adjectives and adverbs, Rivard sets a pace from the beginning that continues to the end. Few first time authors can achieve that.

Illusions of Magic Review


Yes, I am a fan of mysteries of all varieties and I have some history myself of living in Chicago, so this story was a match from the beginning. But, it certainly exceeded my expectations. I was impressed from the start with the writing style and impressed further with the plot development.

An added feature is the author's illustrations. This is something we rarely see in fiction these days, other than children's books. Many of the characters Nick meets on his quest are illustrated for us to enjoy.

Author Rivard draws on his own artistic talent as well as his ability in sleight-of-hand to offer up an intriguing story. I found it to be a fast-paced novel worthy of my time to read it.

See more book reviews, including more mysteries, at ReviewThis! Book Reviews.


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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Sweet Ginger Cheese Muffins - Recipe Review

Sweet Ginger Muffins copyright BuckHawk 


Looking for easy, vegan and gluten-free muffin recipes, I came across a delicious looking sweet ginger one. But, it wasn't completely perfect to go with the soup I was planning for dinner. Therefore, I did the conversions needed to end up with Sweet Ginger Cheese Muffins.

Here I'll tell you about the original recipe along with the changes I made to create my new muffin recipe. Although my recipe is both vegan and gluten-free, I've included the easy changes you can make to convert it to standard diet fare.



The Original Muffin Recipe


Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats
One of my favorite vegan and gluten-free cookbooks is Allyson Kramer's Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats from Around the World. In her section titled Tasty Treats from Central and South America, she includes a recipe for Chilean-Style Sweet Ginger Cake. This was the recipe that enticed me into creating my own version.

Sweet Ginger Cake is meant to be a dessert. But, to go with the potato leek soup I was serving, I wanted something a bit less desserty. Ergo, less sugar and sweet ingredients and the addition of vegan cheese shreds and nutritional yeast. The result was a delicious cheesy muffin similar to sponge cake in texture.

Sweet Ginger Cheese Muffins Recipe


Ingredients and directions:
  • 2/3 cup vegan margarine 
  • 1/3 cup raw sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream these ingredients together until they form a smooth paste. I used my stand mixer for this. It just goes so much faster.

Then add in:
  • 2 teaspoons dried, ground ginger
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 cups gram flour
  • 1/4 cup honey, agave or other sweetner
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
Mix all of this together until you have a smooth batter. Finally fold in 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. I used a combination of Daiya brand mozzarella and cheddar style vegan shreds.

Grease and flour 12 standard muffin cups and divide the mixture among the tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Recipe Notes


For those of you who are not familiar with vegan and gluten free cooking, many of these ingredients will sound foreign. But every single one is available in health food stores and online.

If you want to make these muffins in a more conventional way, you can easily replace the vegan margarine for butter, replace both the tapioca and gram flour with all-purpose flour, skip the xanthan gum and replace the vegan versions of milk and cheese with dairy versions.

Nutritional yeast is not like standard bread yeast. It's deactivated and more similar to brewer's yeast. It adds a cheesy flavor and vitamin B12 to anything it's added to. Nutritional yeast is found in a dried version, either flakes or powder. If you don't have nutritional yeast, you may want to add more cheese shreds.

Either way you want to make this recipe, you will enjoy a combination of flavors. Unexpected combination, I agree, but the result will complement soups and stews wonderfully.


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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Aroma Digital Rice Steamer Review

Rice Steamers Review
It's been 3 years since I got my Aroma Digital Rice Steamer. So I decided it was time to share my review of how it's worked in my kitchen. Along with sharing some of my favorite recipes for delicious rice and grains, you can learn a few of the tricks I've discovered to make perfect grains every time. You can never go wrong with a great rice side dish. Or maybe a base for a yummy stir-fry. Or any number of other ways to enjoy rice and grains.



Review of Aroma Digital Rice Steamer


Aroma Digital Rice Steamer
After reviewing many different choices, I picked the Aroma brand for my rice steamer for several reasons. First, the capacity. This can make 8 cups of rice. At a half cup per portion, you could feed 16 with one batch. Granted I've never tried to feed 16 people at once, but it's nice to know I can. Second, it has both a white rice setting and a brown rice one. That's important when you use healthy grains like quinoa and millet. Use the brown rice setting for these, which cooks a bit longer giving you fluffier grains.

The third and final reason I chose the Aroma brand was the price. It's not the cheapest one on the market, but it's certainly affordable and fit nicely into my tight budget.

A feature of the Aroma Digital Rice Steamer that I didn't think I would need is a delayed timer setting. WOW - that has turned out to be the feature I most enjoy. If I want to serve dinner at 6, I just start the rice steamer at 3, set it for 3 hours delayed and the perfect rice is ready when the rest of dinner is finished. The delay cycle is long enough that you can set it before leaving for work if you want.

Cooking Different Grains in the Aroma Rice Steamer


Since I've cooked different grains and a variety of rices, I can offer you a few tips to make them perfectly every time. For grains like quinoa and millet, I've found that a little bit less liquid makes a perfectly cooked grain. The Aroma rice steamer comes with a measuring cup for the grains. Per each cup of grain, I use 1 1/2 cups of liquid. For wild rice, I use 2 1/4 cups of liquid. For stickier rice, I use about 2 cups of water and for long grain rices, I use about 1 3/4 cups of liquid.

This may seem a little picky, but it matters. You want the rice or grains to turn out to be perfect for the recipe you're making so a little pickiness works wonders. All the water is absorbed into the rice so the amount does matter.

Onion Wild Rice Recipe


One of my family's favorite recipes is Onion Wild Rice. And it's so easy to do. This recipe makes 4 servings.
  • Finely chop about half of a yellow or white onion.
  • Add the onions and the dry wild rice to your rice cooker.
  • Add 2 1/4 cups of broth, vegetable, chicken or beef broth works.
  • Add in a dash of salt and pepper to your own taste.
  • Stir the mixture up and turn on the rice cooker to the brown rice setting. 
See, I told you it was easy. I've tried it with ground dried Shitake mushrooms as well and that works great, too. With a rice steamer, you can let your imagination help you create interesting dishes.

Coconut Almond Grains


This is another easy recipe using quinoa and millet together. They are similar grains, but have slightly different flavors. To your rice cooker add:
  • 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened dry coconut flakes
  • 1/4 cup almond slivers or chopped almonds
  • 1 cup of mixed quinoa and millet - can be equal portions or not
  • 1 1/2 cup of liquid - water works just great, as does broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Stir this up and turn on your rice cooker, setting for brown rice. Another simple way to add healthy grains to you meals.


Choosing a Rice Steamer


The market has many different rice steamers. Nearly every small kitchen appliance maker makes one. So you will need to make a choice. The Aroma brand is not as well known as others, which is why I felt it needed a review after all my years of using it. 

Companies like Oster and Cuisinart also make rice steamers. You may be more comfortable with a brand you recognize. Besides the brand name, you also want to consider capacity. Make sure you can make enough cooked rice to feed your family. For many price is a major consideration. You need to balance how often you will use the rice steamer, the features, the capacity, and the price. See more about how to choose a small kitchen appliance for your own needs.

See more great product reviews at Review This! Products


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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Preparing for Winter's Backyard Birds

Backyard Bird World

It's time to review how to prepare your backyard for those charming birds that will spend the Winter months with us. It's not a difficult job, but it's a fun time to share the chores with children. Once the preparation is complete, you and the kids will enjoy a chance to see many different types of birds, even in the snow.
 
 
 
 

A Simple Preparation Process


Preparation for the Winter birds in your backyard involves a few easy chores.
  • Clean out birdbaths
  • Empty and clean all of your bird feeders
  • Repair or replace any damaged bird feeders
  • Fill feeders with a winter mix of seeds
Before you put away your outdoor hose, it's a good time to clean out your bird baths. Use a scrub brush on any concrete or porous surface baths in order to get any debris left. Then fill the bird bath with fresh water. And that chore is done.

Next tackle your bird feeders (www.backyardbirdworld.com/bird-watching/window-bird-feeders/). Make sure to empty any old feed and seed hulls. Clean them by either washing in mild soapy water, rinsing well, or wipe clean with a damp cloth.  This is the perfect time to check for any damage. Cracks in a bird feeder will only get worse with freezing temperatures. Repair the ones you can, but replace those you can't.

The last step is the most fun. Fill your bird feeders with good appropriate seed mixes. There are many options available on the market. Some are designed for all seasons, some are designed just for the winter months. So choose which is best for the birds that enjoy your backyard.

A Word About Birdhouses in Winter


Personally, I refrain from even touching my bird houses once they securely in place. Many of my backyard birds return to the same nest in the same house year after year. They handle repairing the nest as needed. I don't want to add my human scent to their protected baby-rearing home.

Choose a New Bird Feeder


www.Backyard Bird World
If I don't need to replace a bird feeder, then I choose a new one just to offer more feeding stations for my backyard birds. My favorite is a window feeder. I have several already, but adding another one just makes viewing the Winter birds easier.

Window feeders are mounted to the outside of your window with suction cups. Most are very easy to remove for cleaning and refilling. Once it's filled with food, the birds have no problem finding it.

So take a little time to prepare your backyard (www.backyardbirdworld.com/bird-houses-feeders/get-your-birdfeeders-ready-for-fall) for the birds that will share Winter with you. The chores are not difficult and it's a great time to show children the value of backyard birds. Make it an annual family event.


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Saturday, November 5, 2016

Reviewing Vegan Holiday Cookbooks

Jennifer Katzinger Vegan Holiday Cookbook
As a vegan cook, the holidays are especially tricky. Most holidays including Thanksgiving, usually center around a big meat dish. Here I'll give you my reviews of the vegan cookbooks I've used throughout the holidays.

Some are better than others, of course. Some give you menus to work from while others have given me ideas to get me started on my own menus for the various holidays. Whether you want to serve a full vegan holiday dinner, or just need some good ideas for vegan dishes for your guests, you can find the recipes and ideas you need in each of these vegan holiday cookbooks.

My Favorite Vegan Holiday Cookbook

Reviewing vegan holiday cookbooks
Gluten-Free and Vegan: Celebrating the Year

My favorite, the one that I turn to most often, vegan holiday cookbook is by Jennifer Katzinger titled, Gluten-Free and Vegan: Celebrating the Year with Simple, Satisfying Recipes and Menus. I've reviewed it more extensively in an article for Cooking for the Holidays site, so I'll just summarize here.

Author Katzinger is a long experience vegan chef, but she's a baker by love. Her desserts are amazing. She shares her vegan and gluten-free versions of traditional holiday desserts. It's her Thanksgiving menu, with all of the simple recipes that I turn to most often to celebrate this holiday. Appetizers, main courses, side dishes and desserts are all combine to make a great Thanksgiving dinner.

reviewing vegan holiday cookbooks
Happy Herbivore Holidays

The Happy Herbivore Vegan Holiday Cookbook


Lindsay Nixon has made a name for herself as the Happy Herbivore. She has many cookbooks on the market, but her Happy Herbivore Holidays and Gatherings: Easy Plant-based Recipes for Your Healthiest Celebrations and Special Occasions is one of her best in my vegan opinion.

I was delighted at how easy her recipes are. Since I'm basically a lazy cook, I needed simple, yet tasty recipes. She has a wealth of them. And she doesn't require exotic ingredients in her recipes. That sure helps if ethnic markets are not close by.

Fair warning here. If you are already a Happy Herbivore fan and have others of her cookbooks, you will discover that she recycled many of her other recipes. But, these are organized for those big holiday celebrations.

The good news is that all of my non-vegan friends and relations enjoyed my vegan menus. Even my son-in-law didn't feel the need to rush to McDonald's for a McRib sandwich or two! Now that is a true compliment to the Happy Herbivore.

Planning Your Own Vegan Holiday Menus

Reviewing Vegan Holiday Cookbooks
But I Could Never Go Vegan

If you want to plan your own menus for the holidays or just looking for interesting vegan recipes, I have a favorite cookbook for you. But I Could Never Go Vegan, by Kristy Turner, is it. Forget boring standard fare, Turner gives you an amazing collection of unique and interesting recipes.

Avocado and Kale Florentine is one of those unique and interesting recipes. I've included it many brunch menus. Talk about a hit! Author Turner has plenty of these hits. Her vegan Cheesy Veggie Stromboli is usually part of my vegan Thanksgiving dinner. Savory Corn Cheesecake makes a stunning presentation of your holiday table.

Whether you want a full menu to make a vegan holiday meal, or just looking for something special to add to your table, any of these cookbooks could be your answer. Each one holds a special place in my cookbook collection.

You can always find more cookbook reviews at Review This! Books.


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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Mystery Book Series Review: Jessica James Series by Kelly Oliver

Coyote by Kelly Oliver
Yes, I am a huge fan of mysteries and series are a favorite. When I was asked to review the Jessica James mystery series for my site www.MysteryBookWorldLive, I was sure it would be worth my time. I was proved right. Author Kelly Oliver sends us on the exploits of heroine Jessica James in this 3-part mystery series.

Fair warning here, the third in the series is not yet released.

 

Reviewing Wolf and Coyote by Kelly Oliver


Wolf by Kelly Oliver
The first novel in the series, Wolf, (www.mysterybookworldlive.com/mystery-series/wolf-kelly-oliver-mystery-book-review)  introduces us to Jessica James (yes, truly called Jesse at times), a Montana "cowgirl" who ends up working on her doctorate in Philosophy at prestigious Northwestern University in a Chicago suburb. It may be a far cry from her Montana small town roots, but that doesn't stop Jessica from stumbling on the murdered body of her doctorate advisor. You can read my full review of Wolf and see more for yourself.  (www.mysterybookworldlive.com/mystery-series/wolf-kelly-oliver-mystery-book-review/)

The second in the series is Coyote. Author Oliver sends Jessica back to the mountains of Montana and builds an intriguing load of subplots when Jessica's beloved cousin is killed. Well, murdered is what Jessica believes. So off she goes into a world of Native American troubles, big oil fracking and corruption to solve the murder. You can read my review of Coyote, (www.mysterybookworldlive.com/mystery-series/coyote-kelly-oliver-mystery-fiction-review/) but I promise I never give spoilers.

As of this writing, I am awaiting the publisher giving me the release date of the third in the series. When I know that, I will update this review for you.

Masterful Characters in the Jessica James Mystery Book Series


Coyote by Kelly Oliver
Personally, I have no doubt that author Kelly Oliver is a masterful creator of interesting characters. She offers up characters that I want to follow. I want to see what happens to them next. And I'm rooting for them all along.

I wonder, though, is Oliver playing with us a bit in her choice of names? There is first off, Montana cowgirl Jessica James. Then we have the stunningly beautiful, but lethally dangerous with her black belt in Karate, Russian best friend of Jesse's named Lolita. Hmmm. Kelly Oliver is a talented writer and one that I wouldn't expect to accidentally name her characters so cliched. Me thinks she did this to make us think differently.

Anyway you want to think of her character names, she doesn't skimp on their personalities and dialogue.

To Sum Up the Review of the Jessica James Series


For mystery lovers, and especially those who enjoy reading about women sleuths, the Jessica James series by Kelly Oliver will be good reads. There is certainly plenty going on in both Wolf and Coyote. The publicity refers to "ripped from the headlines" plots and subplots. Certainly drugs, rape culture, corruption and more set the stage for these murder mysteries.

And there is a healthy dose of gritty realism in both novels.  I could have done without all of the realism without hurting the story. But overall, the mysteries are good.

That leaves me anxiously awaiting Novel 3 in the Jessica James mystery series. And hoping Kelly Oliver won't stop at just three.

If you like book reviews, we have plenty more at ReviewThisBookReviews.





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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Planning a Halloween Party


Halloween Witch, GraphicStock.com

Halloween Party Planning Reviewed


Any good party requires some planning and a Halloween party is no different. So it's time to review getting your plans together for a good Halloween party. There are basics that we all need to think about. When is the party? Who are we inviting? What will they eat and drink? Along with other things. That's what we'll go through here. The things to consider for Halloween party planning.

Halloween Party Preparation


As with any party, preparation is key to helping you have a great celebration and getting to enjoy it yourself. And the preparation needs some planning. Get started early so that you have plenty of time to order the fun home decorating items, buffet decor and specialty goodies.

Look at your planning list and make sure you're timing gives you enough time to get everything done.
  • Plan the date, time, location and theme if you want one, like All Spiders or Zombie Invasion..
  • Decide on the guest list.
  • Order the Halloween party invitations - remember to include special notes about theme, costumes and food where needed to prepare your guests.
  • Plan the menu, buffet or table decorations and what extras you need to make creepy or ghoulish treats (like dry ice for a punch or brain molds for food fun.).
  • Determine what home decorations you want. This may include your front porch or yard for welcoming your Halloween party guests. 
  • Make absolutely sure you plan in time for you to enjoy the party. You don't want to be cooking while everyone else is having fun. 
  • If you have kids included in your party, remember to plan Halloween games and activities for them.

Halloween Bathroom Decor for the Party


Decorating the bathroom your guests will use is a big part of the fun. It sure is for me and I've got some great ideas for you.
  • Start with a funny skeleton door cover. Let your guests know immediately where the bathroom is located with the perfect addition.
  • Add a ghoulish toilet topper. These are clings that can complement your theme, or just be another way to decorate for your Halloween party. 
  • Then finish off with a set of Halloween hand towels. Make sure your guests are fully immersed in the fun of your party. 

Halloween Party Planning Review


Get your Halloween party planning ready. This way you won't find yourself scrambling for what you need or settling for something not nearly as good. Party planning is the key to a great and fun Halloween celebration.  And be sure to check out my Halloween Haven - Website Review for more tips and suggestions for your own Halloween party.



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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Halloween Haven - Website Review

Halloween Haven's Safety Tips
Reviewing a website is always an interesting job for me. And the website Halloween Haven proved to be that and more. Since the site is so specific to a single day, I was delightfully surprised with the amount of information I found. Certainly costumes and party goodies for the ghoulish annual event, but plenty more ways to celebrate this event. Halloween Haven shows itself to be the place for everything Halloween.

Let the Fun of Halloween Begin


Certainly in the U.S., but in other parts of the world as well, Halloween is considered a holiday. Not one where everybody gets the day off work and the banks are closed. No, not that kind of holiday. Rather one that lets those who enjoy it, celebrate it.

Many, myself included, truly enjoy the event of Halloween. We start early planning:
  • parties, 
  • costumes,
  • home decor,
  • trick or treating.
So it was great news for me to wander around Halloween Haven and find all sorts of ideas and suggestions. It's never too early to start planning for Halloween.


Even Off-beat Ideas for Halloween


Halloween Haven
Halloween Haven caught me by surprise, I have to admit. Not just the usual stuff, but some good Halloween Puzzles. Now who would have thought that? If you are part of the crowd that greets trick or treaters, you know how much time you spend waiting for the knock on the door. As the author suggests, working through a jigsaw puzzle is a great way to pass the time.


And she found plenty of fun Halloween jigsaw puzzles to keep us happy. So let me add another suggestion. Set out one of those puzzles on a card table at your Halloween party. Some of your guests may have fun just fitting a few (or more) pieces together.

Halloween Jewelry for Some Added Costume Fun


One of the fun discoveries I made on the website Halloween Haven was a whole category for Halloween jewelry. I wandered through the world of poison rings (those nifty little devices where a deadly powder can be discretely poured into an enemy's drink), cobweb bracelets (with the spider wrapped around your finger), and ear-wrapping dragon earrings.

Granted this whole site is around Halloween, but I found some fascinating jewelry that works well for other events and lifestyles. Lace collar necklaces can work with many an interesting outfit, not to mention the joy of dressing goth-style.

Start Your Planning on Halloween Haven


The website Halloween Haven is a place worth checking out as you start planning. It's well laid out, easy to navigate and comfortable to read. The visuals of the site are right in line with the holiday. I found myself getting excited to start my own planning.




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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Reviewing July 4th Appetizers - Part III of the Review This 4th of July Menu

Ah, appetizers, the food teaser for any fun meal gathering. July 4th, in the heat of the summer brings many families and friends together for some great meals. That naturally includes appetizers. So it's time to review some of these. Be sure to check out Parts I and II in our 4th of July Menu reviews as well. Susan Depner brings us some delicious main courses and Sylvestermouse presents favorite red, white and blue desserts.

A Tasty Dip Appetizer

Deb Lindsey for the Washington Post

Although I've not enjoyed hot and spicy food, I did enjoy this take on a south-of-the-border favorite. is a tasty dip appetizer that combines pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and a flavorful variation on tomatoes (tomatillos). It's simple to make and can be prepared ahead of time. That's a big help for busy folks who still want to have a great gathering for July 4th.
Pepita-Tomatillo Dip

The Washington Post newspaper published this recipe with it's variation from Food editor Joe Yonan. Be sure to check out his delightful addition of a touch of honey to make this a great addition for your July 4th celebration.




Refreshing July 4th Appetizer


I was delighted to find one of my favorite chefs, Jacques Pepin, has created a delicious and refreshing appetizer to enjoy for any July 4th celebration. His Watermelon with Feta Cheese and Mint adds a bright spot of color to your table. It doubles nicely as a salad, too. And who doesn't love double duty recipes?

This is a simple to make dish. But, fair warning - make on the day of your celebration for the best presentation. Watermelon tends to lose its crispness when stored for very long. The good news is that it takes very little time to make Watermelon with Feta Cheese and Mint. So enjoy this refreshing appetizer.

And Speaking of Watermelon Appetizers 


Deb Lindsey for the Washington Post
As long as we are enjoying watermelon, we can't forget the delightful gazpacho as a July 4th refreshing appetizer. Worldlyvegetarian blogger Visi Tilak has created a delicious gazpacho from watermelon and tomato. 

This is one simple recipe. (Hmm, I guess you might be noticing a theme in these appetizers - simple, easy.) Literally just run everything through a blender and serve. Tilak adds a topping if you want to do that. Frankly, I was just delighted with how delicious the base recipe was. But, you can make a nicer presentation with her basil, avocado, and red onion topping. And yes, this recipe works nicely to make ahead and store in the fridge.

More July 4th Menus from Review This


Be sure to check out more of Review This July 4th menus. Start with main dishes reviewed by Susan Depner. She offers up some fun, interesting and unique options for your celebration.

Then get all the patriotic dessert ideas you want from Sylvestermouse. She presents some of the most beautiful looking and delicious desserts.

Enjoy your 4th of July celebration and keep it safe.


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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Backyard Garden Birds: Springtime Review

Backyard Bird World
With the arrival of Spring, many of us see charming birds return to our backyard gardens. So, it's time to review what these birds need to encourage them. Besides Robins, which nearly everyone of us sees as heralding Spring, there are many regional birds. Like the Eastern Bluebird. OK, that's one of my personal favorites. And I found an article on Easy Backyard Gardening that highlights these delightful little birds.

Great Photo Opportunities


The author of Best Wooden Birdhouses shares photos of the Eastern Bluebirds that occupy her own backyard garden. She has a wooden birdhouse for them that blends well with her wooden fence. A nice security features for the birds themselves.

Anytime you add bird-friendly features to your own backyard gardens you get great photo opportunities. I can attest to that. I have been able to get photos of baby Swifts in the nest, brilliant Northern Cardinals on my window feeder and Yellow Finches hanging out in my Cedar trees.

The simple addition of a good wooden birdhouse will give you plenty of photo opps. Just make sure to stop and see the birds.

Hummingbirds in Backyard Gardens


Most everyone can enjoy the return of the tiny hummingbird. With a few-well placed feeders (www.backyardbirdworld.com/bird-houses-feeders/care-of-hummingbird-feeders), these
Care of Hummingbird Feeders
birds will return to your backyard garden year after year. Hummingbird feeders take a little bit of care, but are definitely worth the time. Seeing the hovering little birds around your yard is a site worth enjoying.

So make sure to add feeders that will encourage hummingbirds to share your garden space with you. For those of you who enjoy planting flowers, add some bright red ones. That will also help hummingbirds be attracted to your backyard gardens. The beauty of the flowers will be enhanced by the presence of charming birds.

Get Your Backyard Garden Ready


Make sure to take a little time and get your own backyard garden ready to welcome back the springtime birds. Whether it's a new wooden birdhouse or a hummingbird feeder, the birds will appreciate it. And you will appreciate seeing the birds in your garden.





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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Grilling Vegan Style, Cookbook Review

With outdoor grilling season soon to be upon those of us in the colder climates, it's time to tell you about a new cookbook I found. Grilling Vegan Style, by John Schlimm, is way more than just another vegan cookbook. It turned out to be an eye-opener for me.

It's true I have had to turn to vegan eating for my own health, but I also discovered how exciting and delicious the foods can be. One thing I wanted to do was to grill vegetables. Haha - you think a vegan lifestyle is stuck with grilling veggies only? Then you are in for a treat with Grilling Vegan Style.

For the Novice Griller and Expert Alike


Now, I will have to admit that I was a complete novice when it comes to using an outdoor grill. I had just gotten my first grill. But how much charcoal do I put into it? How will I know when the coals are ready? My list of questions was long. And author John Schlimm came to my rescue. He starts off with a simple explanation of how to handle a charcoal grill. After reading his explanation, I made my first grilled dinner easily.

So maybe you have lots more experience than I do. Maybe you have a gas or electric grill. Don't worry. Schlimm has you covered there, too. He details what temperatures look like on your settings, how to prepare your grill for cooking, even how to work with direct and indirect heat.

Covering Recipes for All


Granted, my initial grilling attempts were simple things like veggie kabobs and veggie burgers, but I knew I would expand into all numbers of delicious dishes after looking through Grilling Vegan Style. Schlimm shows you how to grill any number of foods including fruit. Grilled pear halves is now a great favorite at my house.

Those of us who enjoy tailgating have a friend in Schlimm. He has a whole chapter full of great recipes just for tailgate parties. Take a look as his Halftime Pizza recipe for example.

More than just tailgating, he covers picnic options, summer salads topped with grilled goodies, even PB & J sandwiches for the kids in all of us. Personally, I can't wait for watermelon season. Yep, you heard that right. Grilling Vegan Style includes a recipe for a grilled watermelon salad.

Helpful Tips Make a World of Difference
Grilling Vegan Style


John Schlimm is not just your average cookbook author. He adds many helpful tips to make grilling easier, better and more flavorful. My favorite trick, learned from Schlimm, is to soak potato fries in hot water before grilling them. That gives the fries that crispy outside.

He includes a whole chapter on marinade recipes. Not only are they delicious, but he offers timelines to help you. How long to marinate different veggies, fruits and other yummy treats, like tempeh and tofu.

As my world starts to gain warmer days, I'm grilling more and more outside. And my go to cookbook, not only for new recipes, but new ideas as well has become Grilling Vegan Style. Frankly, I'm not sure I would have been so successful from the beginning without it. May you have as much fun grilling as I do.







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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Reviewing the Significance of Super Bowl 50

There is no winner yet for Super Bowl 50. As of this writing, the game hasn't been played. But, there is a significance that will stand the test of time in the National Football League. The Old Guard versus the New Guard. And that's what is about to happen at Levi Stadium.

The Old Guard versus the New Guard

The old guard this year isn't being represented by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. It's being represented by Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Both teams have been participants and winners in past Super Bowls many times. They have faced upstart teams periodically. (Seattle Seahawks come to mind.) The Patriots and Broncos have been referred to as football dynasties.

Then up comes the new guard in the form of Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. We're certainly talking about a younger quarterback, and a newer behavior. Newton has been heavily criticized for his behavior on the field. Even criticized for his regular handing touchdown footballs to children in the stands.

But let me ask you, how different is that than the Lambeau Leap? That's a crazy activity that Green Bay Packer players are allowed to do after every home field touchdown. In my view, it's very different. Newton awards an official NFL football to some lucky child. And, frankly, all Newton is doing is showing his pleasure at his team getting a touchdown.

Isn't time for us all to show pleasure in the good things?

Don't get me wrong. It would be nice to see the future Hall of Fame Player, Manning, go out big in what could be his last game as a player. But when we are talking about the old guard versus the new guard, can an old (actually very old for this sport) player really compete?

Super Bowl 50 Brings Back the Offense


The Carolina Panthers with Cam Newton as their quarterback are bringing back the offense side of football. In my humble opinion, the sport had moved heavily toward a defensive game. The sacks, the tackles for losses and the turnovers all dominated the game. With Newton, great quarterbacking has brought back the excitement to football.

What is more exciting in the game than a touchdown?

The Cam Newtons of the NFL have many years to enjoy playing. The Peyton Mannings of the NFL are on their way to retirement. It's time for the new guard to bring in a new era of touchdowns and exciting play to the Super Bowl and the NFL in general.

A Little Disclaimer


Just to let you know, I may be a long time fan of pro football, but I'm not associated with either team. Frankly, I'm not formally associated with any team other than as a fan. I'm just one of those people who has an opinion. So feel free to agree or disagree with me.


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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Koffee Kingdom Site Review

What can be more fun for a coffee lover like me than a site devoted entirely to coffee? Frankly, it's coffee everything. From bean roasts to cute-shaded sugar cubes, Koffee Kingdom has it all.

Yes, I will admit that I'm addicted to coffee. But for me, it has to be a good cup of coffee. Some things I knew about what makes a good cup for me, but I wasn't sure why. So I read a great article on this site: Coffee Bean Roasts and How They Effect Flavor. Now I know to choose the right roast to get the best cup of coffee for my tastes.

Coffee Makers: Keurig is King


What I also discovered is why I want to have a fresh cup of coffee every time. Sure I knew about Keurig Coffee Makers, but didn't know why I would want to get one of those until I read a review about these machines.

In the article Keurig Single Serve Coffee Maker, there is a list of all the benefits. Frankly, that sold me more than anything else. The idea of getting a fresh cup of coffee every time is just part of the appeal. No waiting for a pot to finish dripping, no wasting the extra coffee in a pot, and no handling filters and coffee beans all the time.

Coffee Home Decor As Well


Drinking good coffee is one thing, but enjoying a little coffee atmosphere in my home decor is also a treat. And don't you know the site Koffee Kingdom has some of that, too. My little breakfast nook has coffee-themed wall decals, but I was looking for just a bit more to carry the theme. Tin coffee signs looked like a good addition. I found some cute ways to add to my decor.

There are plenty of other options as well, including wall clocks with a coffee theme, serving trays that add a little coffee humor, even fun mugs. Well, honestly, do we ever have enough mugs to enjoy our favorite brew? I don't so I love to find new ones.

Koffee Kingdom for Enjoyment


So my analysis of the site Koffee Kingdom is that it's got it all. The kind of information I need to make a perfect cup of coffee, great additions to my coffee world, and some fun ideas for gift giving as well.

Is the site worth checking out? My answer is yes. If you enjoy coffee like me, you will enjoy Koffee Kingdom. Then let me know what you think, too. 


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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day: A Review of the Fun Side

Since this is Valentine's Day, it's time review a few of the fun and interesting things about this holiday. Some history, some cooking, even some romantic ideas. Along with some not-so-romantic ideas as well.

Historical Valentine's Day


Ever wonder how this tradition of Valentine's Day got started? Turns out to be a religious feast day, originally. There really was a man named Valentinus who was later cannonized in the Christian faith. Seems St. Valentine was known for performing illegal marriages. Of course, there is more to the history of Valentine's Day. But, it's fun to see how it's origins really happened.

Offbeat Holiday Traditions


Mind-floss.com pulled together a fun collection of offbeat Valentine's Day traditions (www.mentalfloss.com/article/61624/offbeat-valentines-day-traditions-around-world). Some are interesting, some are funny, while others are just plain strange.

My favorite is the tradition from Finland. They don't celebrate with romance but with friendship. Then there is the humorous, while traditionally romantic Valentine's Day custom in Taiwan. The meaning of the number of roses a guy gives a gal can change their lives significantly.

Valentine's Day Food Under Review


Certainly, modern day traditions include plenty of food for this celebration. Chocolate, of course. But, there are other fun options. Cooking for the Holidays author Cynthia gives us a fun collection of easy ways to decorate cupcakes for Valentine's Day.

Here on Review This, you can find a great review of other Valentine's Day food treats. Do we ever have enough heart-shaped goodies? Not in my view.

As long as we are celebrating Valentine's Day, why not celebrate with all kinds of love, whether the romantic kind or the friendship kind.


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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Reviewing Be My Valentine World


Every January, I start thinking of Valentine's Day. And searching the Web for ideas. That's where the website By My Valentine World comes into play. It's the kind of site that makes my preparation for this February holiday so much easier.

Celebrating Valentine's Day doesn't just mean your spouse or significant other. For me, it includes my family. Especially my darling granddaughters. So I look for delightful ways to show them how loved they are.

Valentine's Gifts for Children of All Ages


With my grandchildren, the ages span from pre-teen to toddler. That means I need to find a variety of gift ideas. And I found them. Be My Valentine World has a wonderful collection of ideas for kids of all ages. I found great gifts for my 13-year-old granddaughter. Now that's say something. Kids that age are hard to shop for.

Of course, stuffed animals are always easy choices for the younger girls. Our own contributing writer Wednesday Elf shared some great red stuffed animals in her article right here on Review This. My favorite is that darling ladybug! But, for the adults, heart-shaped chocolate candy seemed ideal. 

Planning a Be My Valentine Dinner


Including in my celebration every year is a dinner for the whole family. I like to have a fun theme and Be My Valentine is an easy one. That's where the website came in even more handy. All the ideas for delightful extras are there.

Creating a centerpiece for the table is simple with things like vintage candy jars and Valentine's Day candle holders. These can be arranged on red or pink placemat to make a charming centerpiece for the dinner table.

Planning the menu will certainly include some great heart-shaped treats for everyone. Somehow, I never have enough ideas for those. But our own Sylvestermouse created a page here on Review This just for those kind of Valentine Day's treats.

Ideas Abound from Be My Valentine World


There are plenty more ideas for every way you want to share Valentine's Day on Be My Valentine World. That's one of the great parts about this holiday. You can celebrate it in many different ways. Whether it's a romantic dinner for two, the school kids day in the classroom, or a big family dinner for those you love, it's all still Valentine's Day.

It's also one of those things I enjoy about writing on Review This. I get to tell you about those great websites and articles that help you celebrate. Be My Valentine World is one of those sites.


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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Collectible Lego Toys Under Review

It's time to shine the review spotlight on collectible toys, specifically Lego toys. Even more specifically, some of my favorites for my own collection of Lego toys. Yes, I am a collector of toys. Not just Legos, but others types as well.

My Lego collection started by accident. I inherited my younger brother's Lego toys when he headed off to college. But that one accident opened up a whole world to me. Now, I'm always on the lookout for additions.

Lego Toy Planes


I couldn't resist adding a Lego toy plane to my wish list. The trick was trying to pick out which one. Lego offers us toy options from a Ninjago Storm Fighter plane to a passenger plane complete with airport terminal. In true Lego fashion, the planes are built from the a combination of bricks.

Lego Planes and Helicopters reviews not only my favorite toy planes but plenty more, including some fun helicoptor choices. Any collector of Lego toys will lots to add to his or her collection.

Lego Goes Game With Minecraft


My granddaughter introduced me to the world of Minecraft. I was hooked quickly into building villages, called biomes, and saving my communities for the zombies and bombs. Of course, I wanted my Lego toy collection to include my new-found game world.

Lego Minecraft Sets helped me out. The full collection of Lego Minecraft sets is reviewed, giving me the information I needed. Well, needed to know I wanted to add all the sets. Yes, my Lego toy collection is growing.  

Collectible Lego Toys


Even if you aren't an avid toy collector, Lego is still a fun way to enjoy playtime. My Legos provide hours of great fun for me as I build each set, but they do more. Because they are toys, they are meant to be played with. That's great for my grandchildren as well as me. How many toy collections can boast that feature?




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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Reviewing Handmade Toys for Granddaughters

With 3 granddaughters, I'm always looking for something unique to give them. Standard toys are one thing, but handmade toys are special. And, of course, my granddaughters deserve those special toys. When I discovered a whole collection of charming handmade toys, I knew I wanted to review them here for you.



Charming Handmade Toy Collection


They come from a shop called Coastal Crochet Crafts on Etsy. It turns out the creator of these toys is our own Review This contributor Wednesday Elf. She's a grandmother like me, so she understands the need for those very special toys for the grandkids.

It was a tough time making my choices. There are so many adorable handmade animals, or Critters, as she calls them. But I did finally make my decision. And you'll notice that even though I have 3 granddaughters to give handmade toys to, I have 4 choices here. That's because this delightfulgiraffe is for me!



My choices for my granddaughters include this oh-so-darling honey bee. How could anyone, young or old, resist this little critter? I can just picture my granddaughter hugging this honey bee with a huge smile on her face.

Frankly, all of these handmade toy critters are fully hug-able. Wednesday Elf is an accomplished crocheter and it shows with the quality of her work. That's why the decision to get her creations wasn't hard. It was hard to decide which ones to get.


Making Choices with Handmade Toys


My next choice is ideal for my oldest granddaughter. She has an owl collection. This Grace the Grey and Pink Owl is perfect for her. It turns out Coastal Crochet Crafts has a number of owls in different color combinations. So every owl lover will be pleased with your choice.

That final choice turned out to be Cuddly the  Caterpillar. This was tough for me. Cuddly is another one that I wanted just for myself. But, being the good grandmother that I am, my little one deserves him.

I know my granddaughters will cherish their special new friends. Handmade toys hold such a special place in my own heart.


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Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus"

Every year millions of children question if Santa Claus does exist. Just like 8-year-old Virginia did in 1897. The response of "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" became the most quoted editorial in world history. But, it became more than that. 

Young Virginia wrote her question in a letter to the editor of the New York Sun newspaper. At the time "if you see it in THE SUN, it is so" was a popular belief.  Editor Frank P. Church responded with the famous line. But, he wrote so much more in his eloquent editorial (www.newseum.org/exhibits/online/yes-virginia). 

"He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence." - See more at: Newseum (www.newseum.org/exhibits/online/yes-virginia/#sthash.jpxGOSIS.dpuf)  


Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus!" The world would be exceedingly dreary indeed. I think of the awe of seeing beautifully decorated houses as I drive down the street. I think of the anticipation as I see gaily wrapped packages under the Christmas tree. And I think of the laughter when I wake each morning to see a small pile of ornaments carefully guarded by my cat. 


Yes, Virginia, my Santa Claus exists in my own pleasure of the season. The Santa Claus of my world
may not be a physical person, but that matters not at all. My Santa brings awe, wonder and humor to my world. A better gift I could not imagine.

More than a century later, we can still look to Frank Church's editorial and agree. "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."


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