Showing posts with label Margaret Schindel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Margaret Schindel. Show all posts

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Good Omens 2019 TV Miniseries Review

Lovers of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman rejoice! Good Omens finally has been released as a television miniseries for Amazon Prime Video and BBC Two viewers.

Good Omens TV miniseries on Amazon Prime Video - image courtesy of Amazon

When Pratchett and Gaiman's World Fantasy Award-nominated satirical fantasy novel Good Omens was published 29 years ago, it was my first introduction to Neil Gaiman's wonderfully twisted mind and wickedly funny sense of humor. If Neil Gaiman’s name doesn’t ring a bell, you may know him from the big-screen adaptations of some of his novels, such as the 2007 movie Stardust starring Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Mark Strong, Rupert Everett, Ricky Gervais, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Peter O’Toole or the 2009 3D stop-motion animated film Coraline featuring the voices of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French.

My husband and I have long been huge fans of Sir Terry Pratchett's work, especially his well-known and much-loved Discworld fantasy novels. We have read or listened avidly to pretty much every Pratchett book or audiobook we could get hold of (many of them multiple times). So when Good Omens was published, we were quick to buy the paperback. It was bizarre and intriguing, but it had such a huge cast of characters, many in fairly minor roles, that I found the story hard to follow and had to listen read it a second time. Both Pratchett and Gaiman are brilliant – and hilarious – but they do require their readers to do their part by giving the their full attention to their extraordinary writing, especially if you don't wan't to miss all the puns and dry humor. Admittedly these authors' works aren't to everyone's taste, but my husband and I love them.

We also love audiobooks, so when Good Omens was released as an audiobook narrated by one of Pratchett's favorite narrators, Stephen Briggs, I downloaded immediately. I enjoyed it immensely - much more than the print edition. Briggs' distinctive voices for the different characters also made it much easier for me to keep them all straight! Sadly, that recording is no longer available for some reason, but there is a very good unabridged audiobook of Good Omens on Audible narrated by Martin Jarvis.

Good Omens – The Miniseries That Almost Wasn't


After listening to Good Omens I thought what I always do after reading or listening to a Terry Pratchett novel: "Wouldn't this make a great movie?" I didn't hold out much hope, however, since none of Pratchett's books have been made into movies and only three of his Discworld novels have been made into television miniseries: The Color of Magic with Sean Astin as the naive and ever optimistic tourist Twoflower, David Jason as the hapless "wizzard" Rincewind and Jeremy Irons as the wily Patrician; Hogfather; and my personal favorite, Going Postal starring Richard Coyle as Moist von Lipvig, Claire Foy as Adora Belle Dearheart and David Suchet as dastardly Reacher Gilt. (Pratchett's characters' names are always a hoot!)

However, there were, indeed, concerted efforts to have Good Omens made into a movie, to be directed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame, which continued long after the book’s publication in 1990. Then in 2011, Gaiman’s website announced that a television series adaptation of the book was “in the works” from another member of the Monty Python troupe, Terry Jones. But in 2016, Gaiman announced that he himself was writing the scripts for a six-part TV series at the request of Terry Pratchett in 2015 shortly before his death from Alzheimer’s disease.

When my husband and I heard that Amazon Studios and BBC Studios would be co-producing a miniseries based on Good Omens and written by Gaiman himself, we were really excited, especially when the cast was announced, including David Tennant (our favorite Doctor Who), wonderful Welsh actor Michael Sheen, Mad Men star Jon Hamm, Miranda Richardson and the voice of Frances McDormand!

Often, movie or television adaptations of books are poor imitations of the original. In the case of Good Omens, however, having to streamline the story for video made the TV miniseries even better than the book in many respects. It makes the intricate story line much easier to follow. (Even so, this isn't something you'll want to watch while checking email, or you're likely to miss an important detail or plot point.)

What I Love About Good Omens, the 2019 Television Miniseries


The Fabulous Cast and Terrific Performances

While the entire cast is wonderful, David Tennant and Michael Sheen are simply outstanding. Sheen, an actor I wasn't familiar with before watching Good Omens, is marvelous as the fastidious, antiquarian bookshop-owning angel, Aziraphale, who sometimes chafes at the restrictions of being "good" by the book, especially when it prevents him from doing what he believes is right. He's the perfect foil for Tennant's inspired portrayal of  Crowley, a creepy yet strangely likeable demon who enjoys his powers and revels in the freedom of being "bad" but who also, deep down, shares Aziraphale's secret desire to do what's right for humanity.

Jon Hamm's Archangel Gabriel pulls heavily from his Mad Men character, Don Draper (without Draper's infamous womanizing tendencies, obviously!). Miranda Richardson is perfect as the endearing medium and former madam with the heart of gold, Madame Tracy. And Frances McDormand is perfect as the voice of God, who narrates the miniseries.

The Authors' Perspective on Good vs. Evil

The interplay between the "good" angel Aziraphale and the "evil" demon Crowley is brilliant. Watching these two find common ground over the course of centuries in pursuit of a worthy goal –saving humanity from Armageddon – is both fascinating and believable.

The Brilllant Script and Deft Word Play

Pratchett and Gaiman share a deep love of language and word play (as well as irreverent but affectionate satire), such as placing common phrases in uncommon or ironic settings. For example, Crowley catches himself starting to say, "Thank God!" and Aziraphale catches himself starting to say, "What the hell..."

In Gaiman's script for the miniseries, the conversations between Aziraphale and Crowley are masterpieces where what isn't said is as important as what is said. These conversations serve to draw the arc of growth for these two central characters as these historical enemies first learn to understand each other, then work together and, finally, develop a true and lasting friendship. And, even though they can never overtly state their affection for one another, Tennant's and Sheen's superb performances allow us to watch its growth over the course of the show.

What's Not to Love? 


The Questionable Motives of both Divine and Infernal Characters

Gabriel, Beelzebub and their respective followers in Heaven and Hell are absolutely obsessed with starting Armageddon, just to see which side wins.

The Negative Portrayal of Organized Religion

The authors of Good Omens appear to view organized religion as a human construct that has been used as a tool for both good and evil throughout human history.

The Implication That Neither Good nor Evil is Absolute 

There are no purely "good" guys or purely "bad" guys in this story, an idea that some people may find disturbing.

An Irreverent Religious and Social Satire


Humans often struggle to determine the right thing to do in a particular situation, especially when the only option seems to be choosing the lesser of two (or more) evils. The fundamental message of this extremely funny, firmly tongue-in-cheek story seems to be that most humans – and even an angel and a demon who live among us and have become extremely fond of our kind – are neither purely good nor purely evil, and that human morality is not absolute and may sometimes depend on the circumstances.

In Good Omens, there are no sacred cows (as it were). The authors lovingly and humorously poke fun at everyone and everything, although that humor also points out serious human failings. For example, Pestilence has retired as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and has been replaced by Pollution, a scourge of humanity's own making. The story also puts a humorous, contemporary twist on things. For instance, The Horsemen – actually, two horsemen and two horsewomen – ride motorcycles.

Fair warning: if you find religious and/or social satire offensive, Good Omens is definitely not for you.

The Good Omens television miniseries provides nearly 6 hours' worth of rollicking entertainment with a brilliant script, a fabulously talented cast and extraordinary sets and special effects. It definitely doesn't take itself seriously, and neither should its viewers.

Good Omens Main Characters


Aziraphale – the angel who is Heaven’s representative on Earth; previously the guardian of Eden’s eastern gate, now the owner of an antiquarian bookstore in London. Fastidious in his dress, language, posture and manners. He loves humans even though he's often disappointed in them.

Anthony Crowley – the demon who is Hell’s representative on Earth; previously known as Crawly, the serpent who tempted Eve with the apple. His most prized earthly possession is his beloved, pristine 1926 Bentley. Predictably hedonistic, coarse and jaded, he swaggers, slouches and lounges. He's grudgingly grown fond of the humans he routinely tempts as part of his demonic duties.

Agnes Nutter – a 17th-century witch, history’s only 100% accurate prophet and author of The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. Burned at the stake in 1656 by a mob of Agnes’s neighbors led by Witchfinder Major Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer. Like the witches in Pratchett’s Discworld novels, Agnes wore many hats, including those of midwife, doctor, herbalist, wise woman, psychologist, undertaker, showman and the moral center of her witching “territory”.

Anathema Device – witch, occultist, Ph.D. holder and distant descendant of Agnes Nutter. Also, the only person who can prevent the impending Apocalypse – if she can just figure out what Agnes’s cryptic prophecies mean in time.

Adam Young – a sweet and charismatic but also odd boy with a dog; also, respectively, the Antichrist and his hellhound. Due to a hospital mix-up by Satanic nuns under Crowley's direction, the newborn Adam was switched at birth with the baby of a random couple, Mr. and Mrs. Young, instead of with the baby of the U.S. ambassador to Britain and his wife, the Dowlings.

Newton Pulsifer – a failed, would-be software engineer whose attempts to fix any electronic device are pretty much guaranteed to render it unusable. A descendant of Witchfinder Major Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer, Newt is working as an overqualified wages (payroll) clerk when he is reluctantly recruited into the Witchfinder Army by Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell.

Gabriel – archangel and leader of the forces of Heaven; hell-bent (so to speak) on winning the Ultimate Battle Between Good and Evil against the forces of Hell, led by Beelzebub. Sees humans as a way to keep score in the final battle between.

Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell – the last remaining member of the Witchfinder Army; invents fictitious additional members with names inspired by whatever his eyes light upon, e.g., Sergeant Cabinet. Lives above the rooms of Madame Tracy.

Madame Tracy – professional name of Marjorie Potts, an over-the-hill but warm-hearted madam; also a medium who offers weekly séances for the gullible. She has a soft spot for crusty Sergeant Shadwell, who calls her Whore of Babylon, Painted Lady, Jezebel, etc., yet still grumblingly joins her for afternoon tea and accepts her financial help when he’s a bit short of funds.

Good Omens Plot


Two of Hell's Dukes, Haster and Ligur, deliver the newborn Antichrist to the demon Crowley who, in turn, entrusts him to the Chattering Order of St. Beryl, a Satanic sisterhood that runs a hospital in Lower Tadfield (a fictitious village in South East England). Crowley instructs the nuns to switch the newborn Antichrist with the infant son of U.S. Ambassador Dowling and Mrs. Dowling. But, thanks to a mix-up at the hospital, Satan's spawn is given instead to Mr. and Mrs. Young, a perfectly ordinary Tadfield couple. While Mrs. Young is sleeping after giving birth to her biological child, Sister Mary Loquacious suggests several names to her husband for the newborn he believes to be theirs. But Mr. Young rejects those names (e.g., Damien, Wormwood) in favor of "a decent English name," which is how the Antichrist was christened Adam Young.

The Archangel Gabriel and Beelzebub are both gung-ho for long-awaited Armageddon to finally start so they can see, once and for all, which side will ultimately win,  But their earthly representatives, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, respectively, aren't exactly keen on their bellicose and very competitive superiors' plans to destroy the human race.

After spending hundreds of thousands of years living side by side with humans and intervening in their lives, both Aziraphale and Crowley have grown extremely fond of them. And while the angel and demon are enemies in theory, in reality their shared love of humanity, coupled with the humans' very brief lifespans, have made the unlikely pair each others' only real friends. Crowley accepts this reality with equanimity, but Aziraphale is loathe to admit their friendship, even to himself. His inner conflict about collaborating with Crowley while trying to stay true to his "good" principles is portrayed very cleverly. For example, his deeply ingrained good manners compel him to hold the door open for Crowley while saying to him, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" – followed immediately by a polite, "After you."

Crowley persuades Aziraphale that they will need to collaborate if they are to have any chance of thwarting their higher-ups' elaborate plans to trigger Armageddon, The frenemies hatch a plan to provide Adam Young with Divine and Satanic influences in equal measure during his formative years, in the hope that he will grow up as an ordinary boy and not fulfill his dreadful destiny. They help cover for each other so Gabriel, Beelzebub and the rest of their minions won't discover their disobedience as they try to protect humanity.

In fact, it is Aziraphale's and Crowley's plan that is thwarted, Even a decade later, no one has found out about the Satanic sisters' mix-up at the hospital. So the pair have spent the past 10 years focusing their efforts on the U.S. ambassador's son, Warlock Dowling, whom everyone on both sides still believes to be the Antichrist. The hellhound designed by the Infernal Powers to obey and protect the Antichrist is destined to appear to him on his 11th birthday. Crowley and Aziraphale anxiously await the arrival of hound at Warlock's birthday party, but when tit doesn't materialize, they realize that something has gone dreadfully wrong and that they've been trying to influence the wrong boy for the past 10 years!

They rush back to the hospital run by the Chattering Order of St. Beryl to find out what happened to the infant Antichrist 11 years earlier, After Crowley finally gets the truth, he has to figure out which child is the Antichrist and more importantly, where he and Aziraphale can find him before it's too late. Then, as if things weren't bad enough, their bosses find out what they've been up to. Now they're really in Trouble, with a capital T!

Fortunately, Crowley and Aziraphale aren't the only ones trying to prevent Armageddon.

Back in 1655, rural witch Agnes Nutter published The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. To this day it remains the only book whose prophecies were 100% accurate, as well as extremely cryptic. (For example, one of her prophecies mentions "an apple you can't eat," which turns out to refer to Apple Computer.) The following year, knowing she was soon going to be burned at the stake by Witchfinder Major Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer and the mob of locals he has riled up, prophetic Agnes arranged to have the book passed down through various interim caretakers over the next three hundred-plus years  and, eventually, given to far-distant descendant, Anathema Device. Anathema will need to finish decrypting Agnes’s huge volume of prophecies in time to prevent the impending Apocalypse.

Anathema has spent most of her life working her way through Agnes Nutter's prophecies and, as a result, has moved to a cottage in Tadfield. She meets Adam Young, who seems like a sweet boy and the natural leader of his inseparable group of four friends. She shares with him some of her collection of magazines on the occult  and conspiracy theories, which he devours with fascination, while his friends pooh-pooh his assertions that Atlantis and aliens are real.

Meanwhile, Newton Pulsifer, a hapless, would-be software engineer working as a payroll clerk and, more importantly, a distant descendant of Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer, becomes a reluctant recruit into the Witchfinder Army. While doing his witchfinder research, Newt finds what might be clues to witchy doings in Tadfield. Witchfinder Sergeant Shadwell sends him off to Tadfield to investigate, where he meets Anathema.

These two descendants of enemies from 300 years earlier are thrown together and must work together if the end of the world is to be prevented. In Good Omens, religion, rather than politics, makes strange bedfellows.

I'll stop here so as not to spoil the fun. As you can see, the plot is pretty complex, but fortunately, the 6-part television miniseries makes everything perfectly clear and the fabulous acting makes watching it a wonderfully fun and funny experience.

By now, you're probably wondering...

  • Will Crowley and Aziraphale escape their dooms at the hands of Beelzebub and Aziraphale?
  • Will Newt destroy Anathema before she can finish decrypting Agnes' final prophecies and prevent Armageddon?
  • Will Atlantis rise from the sea and little green men in UFOs land in England?
  • Will Adam Young fulfill his destiny as the Antichrist?
  • Will you laugh out loud while watching all the insanity unfold?

The only way to find out, of course, is to watch the Good Omens TV miniseries on Amazon Prime Video or on BBC Two, starting with the Episode 1, "In the Beginning."


An Inside Look at the Making of the Good Omens TV Miniseries 

I always enjoy behind-the-scenes special features. Since the bonus behind-the-scenes video of Good Omens is only 2 minutes long, I'd love to get the companion book to the miniseries, The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion by Matt Whyman. Since it's edited by Neil Gaiman, it's sure to be both excellent and accurate. And it's full of photos from the sets. Fun!

The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion by Matt Whyman, edited by Neil Gaiman, image courtesy of Amazon


Watching Good Omens on Amazon Prime Video


As Amazon Prime members, we were able to binge-watch all six episodes of Good Omens on Amazon Video for free, as well as two short bonus videos (a trailer and a 2-minute behind-the-scenes look at the making of Good Omens), as soon as the miniseries was released in the U.S. on May 31, 2019. For our friends across the Pond, the Good Omens miniseries will also will be shown as six weekly broadcasts on BBC Two.

IMPORTANT! In the US,  only Amazon Prime members can watch Good Omens and the TV miniseries adaptations of Terry Pratchett novels. 



We have been Amazon Prime members for years and have found the many benefits of membership well worth the annual fee, especially the enormous libraries of free video, music and Kindle content. This high-quality content includes Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning Amazon Original TV and movie productions, such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Manchester by the Sea, Sneaky Pete, Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle,. Other benefits of Amazon Prime Membership including free 2-day shipping, free 1-day shipping (depending on your ZIP code) and Prime Now local delivery service with free 2-hour delivery (including groceries from Whole Foods Market), among other benefits. If you'd love to try out all those benefits and more without obligation, you can get a free 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime.

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Good Omens TV miniseries on Amazon Prime reviewed by
Margaret Schindel


Read more Amazon Originals and movie reviews on ReviewThisMovies.com.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.


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Sunday, June 9, 2019

Thermos Stainless King Travel Tumblers & Travel Mugs Review

Image: Thermos Stainless Steel Travel Mugs & Tumblers for Home, Office and Travel - copyright 2019 Margaret Schindel
Today I'm reviewing my favorite Thermos insulated stainless steel travel cups. I use mine every day, whether I'm at home, at work, or on the road. Staying hydrated is important to everyone's health and wellness. If you're on a keto diet or low carb diet, you need to drink even more water to help avoid damage to your kidneys. So, to help me drink enough water daily, I keep a Thermos Stainless King Vacuum-insulated Stainless Steel Travel Tumbler and a Thermos stainless steel hydration bottle next to me so I can take sips of water and hot or cold decaf or green tea throughout the day and refill the containers as needed.

Several years ago, my husband and I decided to replace our motley collection of plastic and probably BPA-laden water bottles and travel mugs (most of them free swag from employers and trade shows) with high quality, vacuum-insulated stainless steel bottles and mugs that had the features we care about.

We really liked our new Thermos stainless steel hydration bottles, so we ordered two Thermos Stainless King Travel Tumblers to try out. We loved them so much that we ordered three more, one for my husband's office, one for my office and an extra for home. So, now have five of these wonderful stainless steel travel cups, in Electric Blue, Cranberry, Midnight Blue, Raspberry and Matte Black. (The Matte Black cup isn't in my photos because my husband keeps it at his office.)

Prefer a Travel Mug With a Handle?

The Thermos Stainless King Travel Mug is identical to the travel tumbler except it has a handle.

Thermos Stainless King Travel Mug 16 Ounces - Pine Green - photo courtesy of Amazon.com

Why I Love Thermos Stainless King Travel Tumblers and Travel Mugs

Large Capacity

Both the stainless steel travel tumbler and the travel mug version with the handle hold a generous 16 ounces of your favorite hot or cold beverage. Both the tumbler and the mug are 7.8" tall and 3.3" wide (excluding the handle on the travel mug), tapering down to 2-5/8" wide at the base so they fit in most cup holders.

Keeps Hot Drinks Hot and Cold Drinks Cold

I love being able to use my Thermos travel tumbler for hot or iced tea or coffee, hot or chilled apple cider, hot cocoa, cold milk or any other non-carbonated drink I'm in the mood to drink.

Thermos' Vacuum Insulation Technology

The most important criterion in choosing a travel mug or tumbler is how long it can maintain the temperature of whatever beverage you put into it. Thermos’s vacuum insulation technology and double-wall stainless steel construction mean that hot drinks stay hot for up to 7 hours and cold drinks stay cold for up to 18 hours if you preheat or pre-chill the travel tumbler with hot or cold water for 5 to 10 minutes just before filling it with your beverage.

Travel Tumbler Exterior Stays at Room Temperature

Whether you fill it with a hot or cold beverage, the outside temperature of the tumbler is not affected by the temperature of its contents. (Of course, if you take it outside on a very hot or very cold day, the exterior of any metal container will get hotter or colder, based on the temperature of its environment.)

No "Sweating" Even When Filled With Ice-Cold Drinks

Even if you fill it with ice cubes and a cold beverage, this stainless steel travel tumbler doesn't "sweat" — i.e., condensation doesn't form on the outside of the mug. So, I never have to use a coaster under this tumbler to protect my antique mahogany dining table, coffee table or end tables.

The DrinkLock sealing lid has two openings

Leak-proof Lid

Thermos' DrinkLock sealing lid makes this travel mug leak-proof (unless you don't close the lid properly or reassemble it correctly after taking it apart for cleaning).

Dual Openings for Easy Access

There are slots on opposite sides of the lid that are controlled by a single lever. Sliding the lever to the side opens or closes both drinking slots simultaneously. So, when you pick up this travel tumbler, one of the openings will be no more than 1/4 turn away from your mouth.

Built-in Tea Bag Hook

The underside of the lid has a clever built-in hook for wrapping a tea bag string around or attaching the chain of a loose-leaf tea infuser.

Attractive and Functional Design

This vacuum-insulated stainless steel travel tumbler's graceful shape not only looks good but also feels good. The narrower "waist" (where the Thermos logo is) makes it easier for my small hand to hold this wide cup securely. Hand-washing is recommended and the surface colors and finishes stay looking great for years if you don't put these mugs in the dishwasher. There's also a great selection of colors to choose from:
  • Electric Blue (AKA Royal Blue)
  • Cranberry
  • Midnight Blue
  • Raspberry
  • Stainless Steel (Matte)
  • Pine Green
  • Army Green
  • Cranberry
  • Matte Black
  • Smoke (Grey)


Follow the Care and Use Instructions to Enjoy Your Thermos Stainless Cups For Many Years 

We bought the oldest of our Thermos travel tumblers, the Cranberry and Midnight Blue ones, in 2015. As you can see, after four years they've held up extremely well. However, to keep your Thermos travel tumbler or mug looking and functioning well, it's important to follow the manufacturer's care and usage instructions.

Hand Wash Your Cup in Warm, Soapy Water

Although these Thermos stainless steel travel tumblers and mugs are top-rack dishwasher safe in terms of their function, the company recommends hand washing them with mild soap and warm water to preserve their attractive appearance.

Worn finish on bottom edges of Cranberry cup after
dishwasher vs. like-new finish on hand washed blue cup
A few months ago, I found out the hard way what happens if you wash one in your dishwasher. I was feeling lazy and decided to put our Cranberry tumbler in the top rack of the dishwasher as an experiment. After washing it in the dishwasher this way a few times, I realized that the shiny, colorful finish had begun to wear off around the edges on the bottom of the cup.

Fortunately, the finish on the sides of the Cranberry tumbler still looks fine and the bottom hasn't gotten any worse since I went back to hand washing it. You can see in the photo that the bottom of my Royal Blue cup, which has always been hand washed, still looks like it did the day it arrived from Amazon.

I hand wash my Thermos travel tumblers with mild yet effective sulfate-free Puracy Natural Liquid Dish Soap, a soft sponge and long-handled OXO Good Grips Bottle Brush.

Don't Use Cleansers That Are Abrasive or Contain Chlorine Bleach

Abrasive cleansers (including dishwasher detergents), scrubbing sponges, etc., can dull or even wear away the finish on your Thermos travel tumbler or mug. (That is exactly what happened to the bottom of my Cranberry cup after I washed it in the top rack of my dishwasher a few times.)

The company also says not to use bleach or any products containing chlorine on these containers. Over time, some beverages, such as tea, can stain the gasket and seal if the lid is not washed promptly and thoroughly. Fortunately, replacement gaskets and seals are available.

If You Disassemble the Lid For Cleaning, Make Sure to Reassemble It Correctly

I don't disassemble the lid every time I wash my travel tumbler, but I do so fairly frequently to make sure I've cleaned it thoroughly. If you don't reassemble it correctly, your travel mug won't be able to maintain the temperature of your beverages as well and the lid may leak. I highly recommend reading and following the Thermos Vacuum Insulated Mug and Tumbler Care and Use Guide.





Thermos Stainless King vacuum-insulated stainless steel travel tumblers and mugs reviewed by Margaret Schindel



Read more product reviews at ReviewThisProductReviews.com





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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Review of EltaMD® and Colorescience® Mineral-Based Physical Sunscreens

Photo of my favorite EltaMD and Colorescience mineral physical sunscreen products
I’ve known for many years that it’s important to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection whenever you go outdoors, rain or shine. (I didn't learn about the importance of applying SPF indoors as well until this year.)

When I was 20, I found out the hard way that you can get burned even on a gray, cloudy day. A friend and I had planned a day at the beach to do a little tanning. (In our defense, that was in the 1970s, when people were much less aware of sun damage than they are today. That, and we were young and foolish and more focused on our looks than on our health.) The day of our beach outing turned out to be cool and heavily overcast, but we were determined to get some color. So, we put on our bikinis anyway and lay on our towels, shivering, for several hours. We were both fair-skinned and soon discovered the error of our ways. By the next morning we were as red as lobsters! That full-body sunburn was so painful that I had to go to my summer job bra-less all that week (ah, the good old ‘70s!), wearing only the loosest dresses I could find so the least material possible would touch my roasted skin.

Four decades later my dad developed skin cancer late in life, thanks to his years in the Navy during World War II. So, I’ve become pretty obsessive about wearing SPF 30 or higher every day.

I apply a physical sunscreen from EltaMD® to my face, neck and hands every morning a few minutes after finish applying my skin care. Then I use a Colorescience® brush-on powdered mineral sunscreen every two hours to make sure I'm protected throughout the day from damaging UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) ultraviolet rays, as well as from the HEV ("blue light") emitted by screens from mobile phones and other digital devices, including TVs.

Sunscreen With Broad-Spectrum UVA/UVB Protection Is Your Best Anti-Aging Product

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in human beings. But Wearing sunscreen protects not only against skin cancer but also against wrinkles. People often mistake my age as being 20 years younger than my actual 65 years, and I attribute my youthful looks to a combination of luck (good genes) and faithful use of sunscreen. Using a well-formulated, safe, high SPF mineral sunscreen daily will do more to prevent wrinkles than any other beauty product.

The American Cancer Society advises using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection. Sunburn is mostly caused by UVB rays, which can damage skin cells' DNA directly and are thought to cause most skin cancers. If you have fine lines, wrinkles or hyperpigmentation (brown spots or patches), blame them on UVA rays. They also cause damage to skin cells' DNA, cause them to age prematurely and are thought to play a role in certain skin cancers.

The last letter can help you remember which ultraviolet rays your skin vs. age your skin: A is for Aging (UVA) and B is for Burning (UVB).

Moisturizers with SPF Don't Protect Nearly as Well as Physical Sunscreens

Many people look for moisturizers and makeup with SPF to avoid applying both a moisturizer and a sunscreen. But leading dermatologists say that's not a good idea.
  • Moisturizers are designed to soak into the skin to restore moisture balance and, depending on the product, to deliver ingredients deeper into the skin. But the purpose of sunscreen is to form a protective shield on top of the skin. The safest and most effective sunscreens use minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that form a physical barrier against damaging UVA/UVB ultraviolet rays. 
  • The FDA regulates sunscreen as a drug. Since they require a certain amount of SPF in a formula to  and in order to meet the agency's requirements for effectiveness, there isn't much room for other active ingredients. With a moisturizer, between using such a small amount (compared to sunscreen) and the dilution of the SPF by the moisturizer, you're effectively getting less significantly lower SPF protection than the number on the packaging.

The Dangers of Using Chemical Sunscreens  

Dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen on your face, neck, hands and any other exposed skin all day, every day, except when you’re sleeping. They also recommend physical mineral-based sunscreens that rely on zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide for sun protection, sit on the surface of the skin and reflect UV light instead of chemical sunscreens that penetrate the skin and absorb UV light. Another advantage of physical sunscreens is that, unlike chemical sunscreens, they provide protection immediately.

Recently, a preliminary study by the FDA found that the active ingredients (avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule) in four popular chemical sunscreens were absorbed into the test subjects’ bloodstreams in higher concentrations than the agency’s threshold of toxicological concern. And the EWG (the Environmental Working Group), which publishes a highly respected annual sunscreen guide that grades products on safety, currently says both oxybenzone and octinoxate are chemical UV filters with "high toxicity concerns."

It's Hard to Find Physical Sunscreens That Look and Feel Great

Since that time, I've tried many physical sunscreen products over the years, from drugstore brands to fancy Sephora buys, in my quest for one that:
  • Provides broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection
  • Doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin
  • Doesn’t cause breakouts
  • Doesn’t feel or look heavy or chalky
  • Contains zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide
  • Doesn’t leave that ghoulish, slightly iridescent white cast typical of high-SPF mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide. 
Until a few months ago, none of the ones I tried met all my requirements,. Then, finally, I found my "holy grail" facial sunscreen!

EltaMD® UV Physical Tinted Facial Sunscreen

EltaMD® UV Physical Tinted Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 is water-resistant for 80 minutes, oil-free (so it doesn’t break me out) and, because it’s tinted and uses transparent zinc oxide (along with titanium dioxide), it doesn’t leave that awful purplish-white cast on my skin. After putting moisturizer on my dry skin, I let it soak in for a couple of minutes before applying the sunscreen to my face. This tinted version evens out my complexion like a sheer BB cream for a my-skin-but-better look on days when I go without makeup. It also works perfectly as a primer under my sheer foundation. In fact, I first learned about this product from a well-known makeup artist on YouTube who says it's her favorite primer!

The beautiful formulation make it feel more like skincare than a mineral sunscreen, so I actually enjoy using it every day. It costs more than a drugstore sunscreen, but after trying more than a dozen physical sunscreens that failed to meet my requirements, I’m happy to pay the price for one that does everything I need it to and also doubles (triples?) as a BB cream and a makeup primer.

I wear light-medium foundation colors. If you are Asian or African-American, you might prefer EltaMD® UV Elements Broad-Spectrum SPF 44, which has a darker, warmer tint as well as hyaluronic acid for hydration. If your skin is fair, you might want to try EltaMD® UV Replenish Broad-Spectrum SPF 44. Although the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in this untinted formula make it white when applied, some reviewers claim the whitish cast goes away after a few minutes. I have found that the best way to apply untinted mineral sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide is to apply them in two thin layers, rubbing each layer in very well.

Note: EltaMD® has many other facial sunscreen products, including two clear, untinted sunscreen formulas. I was sent a sample of UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 (untinted version) and it's quite lovely. (The company's product names can be confusing. For example, how can there be a tinted version of a "clear" sunscreen?) Unfortunately, only the three products I mentioned above are 100% physical, chemical-free facial sunscreen formulas. The active ingredients in all the others, including the two clear, untinted facial sunscreen formulas and the SPF 31 lip balm, contain chemical (octinoxate) as well as mineral (titanium dioxide) UV filters.

A Less Expensive Option for Medium Skin Tones

Before I discovered EltaMD® UV Physical Tinted Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 earlier this year, my everyday sunscreen was Australian Gold® Botanical SPF 50 Tinted Face Mineral Lotion. It's a very good sunscreen that meets most of my criteria. The finish is a bit too matte for my dry skin and the tint is a bit darker than my skin tone, so it's not ideal for year-round wear. But I still wear it sometimes in the summer to give my complexion a bit of that healthy, warm glow, especially if I'm going to the beach. And it's inexpensive enough for me to apply to the exposed skin on body as well as my face, neck and hands.

HEV (Blue Light) From Digital Devices Can Damage Skin As Much As – Or More Than – UVA and UVB Combined

High-energy visible (HEV) light (AKA “blue light”) is emitted by our mobile phones, computers, TVs and other digital devices. Many of us are in front of some type of digital screen for much of our day (and evening). A recent study found that HEV light can cause as much skin damage as UVA and UVB light combined (eek!). Fortunately, a few sunscreens block HEV as well as UVA/UVB light.

SPF Needs to Be Reapplied Every 90 Minutes, All Day Long

Sunscreen becomes ineffective within 90 minutes of being exposed to air and light, so it needs to be reapplied frequently throughout the day. But very few people actually do that unless they're sunbathing, since carrying around a bottle of sunscreen everywhere you go and reapplying it every couple of hours isn’t really practical for most of us – especially if we’re wearing makeup.

Colorescience® Sunforgettable® Total Protection™ Brush-On Shield SPF 50 Makes It Easy To Keep Your Skin Protected All Day 

I was delighted to discover Colorescience® Sunforgettable® Total Protection™ Brush-On Shield SPF 50. It’s a powdered mineral sunscreen that comes in a convenient, portable tube of powder with a built-in brush. Thanks to the company’s proprietary EnviroScreen™ Technology, this do-it-all powder protects against UVA, UVB, HEV and IR (infrared) rays and also environmental pollution! It's available in four shades to suit a range of skin tones.

How to "Prime" the Built-In Brush With Powder and Apply Colorescience® Sunforgettable® Total Protection™ Brush-On Shield SPF 50

The first time you open it, remove the cap, push down the sleeve that protects the bristles, remove and discard the rubber band, slide the sleeve back up over the bristles and re-cap the tube. To use the product, first hold the tube with the cap facing down and the clear end with the powder facing up. Tap the cap end of the tube forcefully against a hard surface a few times (tap it 5-10 times the first time you use it) to move some powder into the brush. Remove the cap, push down the sleeve to expose the brush and flick your finger across the bristles to make sure the powder is flowing. (If not, re-cap the tube and tap the cap a few more times.) Then, swirling the bristles across your skin in circular motions, apply the powder to your face and neck in multiple passes for at least 60 seconds. Done! Then I apply the powder to my hands and any other exposed skin.

Note: This brush-on sunscreen powder gets rave reviews on the Colorescience website. On Amazon there are quite a few critical reviews complaining about the dispensing mechanism, but I follow these directions and have never found it to be a problem.

The Delicate Skin Around Your Eyes Needs Protection, Too!

Chemical sunscreens shouldn’t be used near your eyes, so for many years, sunglasses were my only sun protection for the delicate skin around my eyes. That’s why, even though I have no wrinkles on the rest of my face, I do have crow’s feet.

Fortunately, it’s fine to apply physical mineral sunscreen around your peepers. Most days, I just apply my EltaMD® UV Physical Tinted Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 41 around my eyes as well as the rest of my face, neck and hands. When I’m wearing makeup, however, I prefer to use Colorescience® Total Eye™ 3-in-1 Anti-Aging Renewal Therapy SPF 35. This mineral-based sunscreen and eye treatment, a favorite among beauty influencers, provides skincare benefits as well as sun protection. It reduces puffiness, hydrates, tightens, serves as a peach-toned color corrector when worn under concealer and adds a nice brow bone highlight. (One well-known Youtube beauty influencer mixes it with her concealer.)

As a bonus, Colorescience® Total Eye™ 3-in-1 is also an eye shadow primer. (After applying any eye shadow primer, I always dust my lids and brow bone with translucent powder before applying my eye shadow to minimize creasing and make blending easier.)  And it can also be used at night as an eye treatment, although I don’t use it for that.

Even though it's spendy, you only need a very small amount for both eyes. And, since I only use it when I'm wearing makeup, a tube lasts me for quite a while.




Wear Sunscreen Indoors as Well as Outdoors, in Rain, Shine or Snow

It’s important to wear SPF 365 days a year, both indoors and outdoors. While UVB rays are strongest midday (noon to 2 pm) and can be blocked by glass windows, the UVA rays that cause our skin to age prematurely emit at the same strength 24/7 and penetrate glass. So, you are exposed to damaging ultraviolet rays even if you’re inside a building or car.

Helpful Articles on Protecting Your Skin Against UVA, UVB and HEV light

American Cancer Society, "What Is Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation?"
Allure, "Sunscreen Tips: This Is When and Where You Should Be Wearing SPF"
CNN, "Majority of sunscreens could flunk proposed FDA standards for safety and efficacy, report to say"
Forbes, "How Sunscreen Chemicals Can Get Into Your Blood"
EWG (the Environmental Working Group), "The Trouble With Ingredients in Sunscreens"
Byrdie, "Ask a Dermatologist: Are Moisturizers With SPF Actually Effective?"
DERMASCOPE, "Fact or Fiction: Skin damage caused by HEV light may be as harmful as the damage caused by UVA and UVB light combined."


EltaMD and Colorescience physical sunscreens reviewed by Margaret Schindel.



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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Nora Roberts’ “The Liar” Book Review

Nora Roberts "The Liar" Book Cover - Source: Amazon
Nora Roberts “The Liar” Book Cover

I’m a huge fan of Nora Roberts’ writing and have read most of her books (including her “In Death” series under her J.D. Robb nom de plume). I had purchased the audiobook of her 2015 romantic suspense novel “The Liar” as soon as it came out, but somehow it got lost in the shuffle in my Audible library. Coming across it again recently – and finally getting to listen to it with my husband – was a treat!

The things we enjoyed most about this book are that it's:
  • Authentic. One of the things we’ve always loved about Nora Roberts’ writing is her thorough research. This makes her characters and locations very believable, so it’s easy to be transported into the world she creates for each of her stories.
  • Detailed. Roberts’ characters, for the most part, are fully formed. She provides enough detail and history and weaves in enough backstory to make us feel as if we know each character personally. We feel like they have lives beyond just what’s in the story.
  • Well-paced. One of the hallmarks of Roberts’ writing is her excellent pacing. She doesn’t rush through the telling, but she also never lets the story drag. She doesn’t use adjectives for their own sake, like many other authors. Her descriptions are all well thought out and help move the story forward.
  • Dialogue-driven. Roberts is an acknowledged master of dialogue. Like all her books, “The Liar” is told largely through conversations. I’ve always appreciated her very sparing use of speech tags (e.g., “he said,” “she asked,” “they exclaimed”). She gives every character a distinctive, recognizable speech pattern, so readers can easily identify who’s saying what without naming the speakers every time. For example, Viola speaks straightforwardly and with authority, but also with the slightly formal, slightly flowery language of a proper Southern lady when she’s addressing someone outside the family; whereas Forrest, a cop to the core, speaks tersely and uses adjectives sparingly.
There were a couple of things that felt a bit off. Melody’s character seems a bit forced. She’s surprisingly one-dimensional for a Roberts character. She never shows even a hint of remorse and it’s hard to feel any sympathy for her. Also, my husband thinks Griff seems too good to be true. He always has time for Shelby and Callie. He always does the right thing. He doesn’t make even a single misstep. In a true romance, we need to follow the lines of both characters. But although Griff is the romantic foil, this is Shelby’s story, and in some ways he’s a supporting player. We never learn much about his backstory or any of his previous relationships. Fortunately, neither of those issues prevented us from thoroughly enjoying this book.

Although I also own the Kindle version, I much prefer the unabridged audiobook of “The Liar”. Narrator January LaVoy does a fabulous job of giving both the male and female characters distinctive voices. In many audiobooks, it can be hard to tell which character is speaking without speech tags, but that was never a problem with this one. LaVoy also makes the men sound like men and the women like women – a skill narrators often lack. Even more impressive is her totally believable voicing of three-year-old Callie. Her excellent narration brings an added dimension to the storytelling. This audiobook will keep you happily engrossed for 16 hours, 31 minutes.

Main Characters in “The Liar” Include:

Shelby Pomeroy Foxworth – a young wife and mother who grew up in rural Tennessee; former Homecoming Queen

Richard Foxworth – Shelby’s snobby, cold, jet-setting husband

Callie Rose Foxworth – Shelby and Richard’s three-year-old daughter

Viola MacNee Donahue – Shelby’s vivacious, ambitious, straight-shooting and wise grandmother, owner of Viola’s Harmony House Salon and Day Spa

Forrest Jackson Pomeroy – local cop and Shelby’s big brother

Ada Mae Pomeroy – Shelby’s mom

Emma Kate Addison – nurse and Shelby’s best friend

Matt Baker – Emma Kate’s boyfriend and partner in The Fix-It Guys

Griff Lott – Matt’s partner in The Fix-It Guys; originally from Baltimore

Melody Bunker – Shelby’s main nemesis in high school; second runner-up in the Miss Tennessee pageant; manager of the Artful Ridge artisan craft gallery

“The Liar” Synopsis

This novel is broken into three sections: The False, The Roots and The Real.

The False
Pretty redhead Shelby Pomeroy Foxworth learns that her husband, Richard, is missing and presumed dead. Richard Foxworth was everything Shelby wasn’t – urbane, suave, worldly, wealthy, sophisticated and well-traveled. He quickly swept her off her feet and into an unfamiliar world of glamorous jet-setting and an expensive lifestyle. When she met Richard, he had been attentive and flattering, but that didn’t last long. After their daughter Callie was born, he became increasingly insulting to Shelby and had little time and even less affection for their sweet, pretty, vivacious daughter.

Shelby discovers that everything she thought she knew about Richard was false. The man she had married, the father of her darling Callie, had been not only a liar but also a successful con man. Shelby had never suspected that Richard hadn’t purchased the fancy house in Philadelphia, elegant clothes and all the other trappings of their wealthy lifestyle outright. And he had racked up $3 million in debts that now fell squarely on Shelby’s slender shoulders. 

The Roots
Shelby sells all of Richard’s belongings and most of her own, as well as the huge, fancy house he had purchased (without consulting her) and the expensive custom furnishings she had always hated. Then she takes Callie back to Rendezvous Ridge, Tennessee, Shelby’s beloved hometown, determined to raise her daughter surrounded by three generations of Shelby’s close-knit, loving and supportive family.

Shelby moves back into her parents’ home and starts to build a new life for herself and Callie. She makes up with her best friend, Emma Kate, who has been angry at Shelby ever since she had taken off with Richard and seemingly ignored her family and friends back home. Emma Kate’s boyfriend and his business partner, Griffin Lott, have a fledgling construction and remodeling business. Griff falls hard for Shelby and Callie. He quickly wins Callie’s heart, but Shelby is reluctant to put her own on the line again or risk Callie’s getting hurt. 

As this section progresses, Shelby, Callie and Griff find themselves increasingly in danger. Shelby’s policeman brother Forrest tries to protect them while he figures out and tracks down who is responsible for murder, both attempted and successful. Things comes to a frightening head.

The Real
The last section consists of the final chapter and an epilogue. Telling you anything about them would be a major spoiler, so you’ll just have to read “The Liar” to find out what happens. It’s a worthwhile ride!



“The Liar” book reviewed by:
Margaret Schindel




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Friday, April 19, 2019

Meet Margaret Schindel, Review This Roving Contributor

I’m delighted to be joining the Review This! team, pinch-hitting for our regular weekly and bi-weekly contributors as needed.

My professional writing experience dates back to the 1980s and spans a wide range of topics and formats, from executive speeches to corporate video scripts, training materials, blog posts, white papers and articles. My career began in fashion retailing in New York City, where I started out as an assistant buyer and later took over the company’s executive training program. I have been involved with the Internet since the mid-1990s, when I worked for IBM on their first e-business and e-commerce initiatives not long after Jeff Bezos launched Amazon. Back then, nearly everyone who’d actually heard of the internet was sure it was a flash in the pan, a fad that would last a few years at most. It was the Wild West days of the web – exciting times! I’ve also worked at marketing and public relations agencies.

Designing and making one-of-a-kind jewelry is one of my passions. My favorite jewelry making materials include vintage beads, gemstone beads, Swarovski crystals, polymer clay and silver. I create many of my jewelry pieces using metal clay, a unique form of silver, gold, bronze, copper or steel that can be manipulated in ways that traditional milled metal cannot. I was not only a contributor but also the senior editor and technical editor of Metal Clay Artist magazine.

A lifelong “foodie,” I love cooking and baking (and eating!) and enjoy developing and adapting recipes. I love music and sang in clubs in my late teens and early 20s. My favorite author is the brilliant, witty and prolific British satirist Terry Pratchett, whose hilarious and thought-provoking Discworld fantasy novels have brought me countless hours of reading and listening pleasure in both print and audiobook formats. My husband and I are also big fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s beautiful movies.

Most of all, I enjoy sharing my special finds, from my favorite cookbooks to my favorite jewelry making tools – with others. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you here on Review This! You can also find my articles on HubPages and its sister sites, FeltMagnet and Delishably.


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