Monday, December 8, 2014

Welcomed Gifts for Friends and Family Who Read

It is not always easy to choose a book as a gift for book lovers. There are many different genres and personal preferences vary widely. If you are fortunate, you will know what genre the person you are buying for prefers.  But you still may or may not know what they've already read from that genre. Even though it is difficult to buy gifts for readers, I can assure you that readers welcome book-related gifts. Kindles and gift cards are popular and perfect gift choices for people who love to read.

I am proof of that.

A Kindle is a Wonderful Gift Choice


My oldest son bought a Kindle for me, one Christmas, years ago.  I did not think I would like an e-reader as I was a book addict. I probably could have been classified as a book hoarder.  I loved the covers, and the pages, and the words in books.  I loved sorting books on my bookshelves. I had collections by author.  Therefore, I was a bit skeptical when I opened that box that held that Kindle.

That Kindle has been amazing.  I read it every night before bed.  Because it is so easy to read, and carry along everywhere I go, I am reading even more than I had before.

I have one of the early Kindles.  The one that is called the Kindle Keyboard.  I connect to WiFi to order my books.  I have one word game on it. Otherwise, it is my library of books. Please note, that some of the original Kindles and some of the lesser expensive Kindles are not lighted.

Kindle Paperwhite - photo by Amazon

It is easy to solve that dilemma. There are lighted cases available.  I have the lighted leather case for
my Kindle. It has lasted all of these years and has only just now started to loosen just a bit where the light pulls up out of the protective case. With this light, I can read it in bed at night, at the campsite, in the tent, and anywhere else that I need light or that I want light without disturbing others.

Lighted Leather Case for Kindle Keyboard - photo by Amazon

To learn more about Kindles, Susan Deppner  tells  us about her experiences on her Kindle buying guide.  I am grateful for the wealth of information and experience she shares. She calls herself a bit "Kindle crazy". I think I would have to agree, but that's not a bad thing at all.  If you have Kindle questions, I'd begin by looking at Susan's articles.

If you already know what you are looking for, you can visit the Kindle Store to begin shopping.

Everyone Loves Gift Cards


If you don't want to give a Kindle, or if the person you are buying for already owns a Kindle, an Amazon Card is always appreciated.  I love to receive amazon gift cards so that I can add to my enormous book collection. I have given and received Amazon Gift cards for years, and have never had a problem with these cards.


Amazon Gift Cards

Books Make Great Gifts


If you do want to choose a book as a gift, here are a few excellent recommendations:

Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly.  My review of a historical fiction based on true events related to the Great Potato Famine. This story follows a family, a community, and two nations during this difficult time.  An excellent choice for readers who like things historical, Ireland, or epic survival. Mary Pat Kelly both entertained and educated me with this tale.  I will always remember what our country's Irish immigrants may have gone through in order to survive.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. Brenda Little tells us about another historical fiction that was based on true events in the US.  A train carried orphans from the east coast to the midwest and beyond from 1854 to 1929. The topic is tough, as is some of the language and a scene or two. This story remained on the NY Times bestseller list for over 90 weeks, have you read it?

Three Word Books Every Writer Needs - Barbara Radisavljevic reminds writers that tools such as the dictionary and thesaurus are their best friend. But have you ever  heard of a Descriptionary or Word Menu? If not, she'd be glad to introduce you.

The Digital Photography Book by Scott Kelby - Photographer Mary Beth Granger outlines her favorite photography how-to books, volumes 1 through 4. If you enjoy photography, these are likely to be of interest to you too.

Don't Forget the Young and Young Adult Readers on Your List


Warriors by Erin Hunter -  Wednesday Elf reviews this juvenile fantasy series that has her 14 year old grandson riveted. The series is about the adventures of the wild cat clans that live in the forests. Any age-appropriate book that encourages readers to read has our thumbs up.

How to Draw Spongebob Squarepants - Sylvestermouse Cynthia knows how much children like to draw.  Clearly, many children love Spongebob Squarepants. So a how-to-draw Spongebob and friends book is a great idea.


Young or old, I think books and reading-related items make some of the best and most memorable gifts.  A good story is always remembered and a thoughtful gift to a reader has lasting impact.

For many more book reviews, visit ReviewThisReviews.com







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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Noel the Christmas Ornament Book

Noel the Christmas Ornament
Noel is a wonderful Christmas story written by Romeo Muller, the writer of numerous popular holiday classics such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and The Little Drummer Boy.

Noel, the cartoon and book, were both absolute favorites in our home. If you're finding it difficult to get a hold of a copy of the DVD or the book, I'm not surprised. It's a bit hard to find the DVD in particular online. You'll notice the VHS version can still be had; at least at the moment. The book is also currently available, but of course that could change since it's a bit of rare find.

Years ago we watched the Cartoon on TV as a Christmas Special, and after seeing it, we had to have the book. All my boys are grown and we still have the book. We've passed many books down to other family members, but we couldn't part with this particular book. I've since passed it along to our youngest teenage son and told him to keep it for his future family. Thank goodness he loved the idea.

WHAT is the STORY of NOEL About?

Noel is about a Christmas Ornament that gets passed down through the generations as the owners of a home change.
Noel on VHS

It starts out with a family in a Victorian home in the Victorian Era who, when Christmas comes, put brand new Christmas decorations up on the Tree. Noel is one of the ornaments that was adorned with a happy tear from it's maker. Noel is joy filled during the holiday season because he gets to be around a loving family during a magical time that he doesn't really understand.

Every Christmas, Noel is curious about the purpose of the Manger that sits under the tree. Since he is positioned higher up on the tree, he's never able to see the Manger.

Noel hates the New Year because he's shoved back into his ornament box, put back in the attic, and must wait nearly a year to see the family again.

As the years go by, and the family gets older, the house changes ownership multiple times. Poor Noel is sad as the families age and leave. Eventually the house is abandoned and lonely Noel and the rest of the ornaments are left for decades. Until one day, in current times, a new family purchases the home and fixes it up. They find the ornaments in the attic and put them on the tree. Noel is so happy...he calls this his 'happiness'....but something terrible happens; his old ornament age causes him to fall from the tree and break!

When he falls, something amazing happens; although his ornament shell is broken, he can still see, and his ornament happiness spirit continues to live. With his spirit free from it's ornament trappings, he finally gets a look at the Manger. That's when he learns what Christmas is all about.

You can also watch the Story on Youtube - It's divided into three parts:


By Barbara Tremblay Cipak 
Funkthishouse.com


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Reviewing Christmas Home Decor

With December comes decorating homes for the holidays. Therefore, it's time to review some great ways to add Christmas decor to your own home. From the living room to the bathroom, your house can be festive and ready for the holidays with these ideas and suggestions. 



Holiday Accents Around the House



Christmas Wall Decals
For me, any decorating needs to be easy. That includes my Christmas decorating. So I look for those accents that I can add to my home decor that don't take work. Simple festive accents are what I
found. 

Holiday wall decals are one of those simple accents. Author Mandee provides us not only with some great suggestions for Christmas wall decals, but also easy ideas for how and where to use them. She has such an imaginative way with home decor. 

More easy accents include Christmas throw blankets. I love how simple this can be. Just toss a blanket over the back of the couch and you have a festive touch. Choose one in the style of your decor. If vintage is your style, then Vintage Christmas Throw Blankets is for you. Now, that's easy decorating in my book.


Festive Home Decor for Christmas



Decorative Christmas Tree Accent Pillows
Walls and couches are not the only way to add easy festive touches. Christmas Bathroom Hand Towels offers you many choices to add the holiday mood to that often-forgotten room of the house. Fun and cute hand towels to elegant and beautiful ones, there is a set perfect for every holiday home decor.

Of course, I have to include the bedroom as well. For me, that's a decorative pillow propped on the bed. Since a Christmas tree isn't usually included bedroom decor, put it on a pillow instead. Decorative Christmas Tree Accents Pillows has a selection of some beautiful ones for you to browse. 


Keep the Fun in Christmas Decorating


Besides easy decorating for Christmas, we also want to keep the fun in the holidays. Some suggestions include shopping online. Our own Review This Gift Guide gives you so many great choices to find just the right home decor items for your own holiday decorating.


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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Photographs on Calendars

Are you struggling with find a gift for someone?  How about a calendar?  It is a great gift that keeps on giving all year long.  I love turning the pages of my calendars each month and enjoying a new picture.

There are many different options you can do with calendars.  Here are some suggestions for you.

  • Pick a subject you know that the person who will be receiving the calendar loves.  Perhaps it is a favorite hobby, animals, or anything they really enjoy.  I love lighthouses and would always love a lighthouse calendar.  Here is one I created on Zazzle from my lighthouse photographs.  You can also purchase many lighthouse calendars on Zazzle.
Browse for another calendar at Zazzle
  • Another option would be to use family photos to create a special memory of photographs in your yearly calendar.  I use Shutterfly to do this.  I save up photos all year and then I make a calendar for special people.  Here is the cover of one I made for my Mother a couple of years ago.
  • A fun option for a calendar is to use favorite vacation photos to relive your trip.  This would be a great gift for a family member or friend who accompanied you on the trip.  We visited Quebec City this year and I made this calendar.  It is also available for purchase on Zazzle. 
Scenes from Quebec City Wall Calendar
Scenes from Quebec City Wall Calendar by mbgphoto
Find more Calendars
All of the calendars shown on this page can be ordered in various sizes and styles.  Think about the people on your list and pick a calendar that will be special to them for the coming year.



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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Homemade Christmas Centerpiece Decoration Ideas

Christmas tree globes setting in a dish for a homemade Christmas centerpiece decoration

When it comes to Christmas decorations, shop your favorite store or browse your favorite websites for inspiration. Here are a few festive homemade Christmas centerpiece decoration ideas using common holiday ornaments that are fun and easy.

The simple decoration above of Christmas tree globes setting in a dish is a combination of cold colors that brings brightness to the center of a table. And, it is so simple to put together. All you need is a pretty platter and a trio of decorative globes. Look for globes that are a color that compliments your holiday decor.

If you like this frozen holiday theme, you and your kids will have a fun time building igloos. Not the big blocks of packed snow igloos, but igloos made of sugar. Corinna Johnson shows us How to Make a Sugar Cube Igloo. She suggests using frosting to build the igloo so that you can use the sugar cubes in a dessert later.

A Christmas centerpiece decoration using small wrapped packages tied with a Tiffany bow

The Christmas stocking isn't the only way to hide extra special presents. Make a centerpiece that is simply an arrangement of tiny wrapped packages, similar to the ribbon-wrapped boxes shown above, neatly nested in evergreens or holly. Wrap a tiny treat inside each box and pass out these miniature presents after dinner.

A pretty ribbon gives these tiny boxes an elegant touch.

Christmas sleigh centerpiece decoration idea

It wouldn't be Christmas without poinsettias, evergreens, and reindeer. Glittered poinsettias fit in with any decor, the evergreens add an aromatic appeal, and reindeer statuary creates a unique touch.

Need ideas on how to arrange a menagerie of ornaments, the House of Sylvestermouse shows us How to Make a Christmas Sleigh Centerpiece that will add a touch of Santa Claus to your home.

I hope you enjoyed these homemade Christmas centerpiece decoration ideas.

Find more inspiration on Pinterest. 
This Victorian Christmas board is full of easy vintage crafts with a bit of Steampunk style.




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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Crafty Signs of the Season

A Humpty-Dumpty Santa Doll
As we enter December and the beginning of the holiday season, we realize that the Christmas season began as Thanksgiving weekend ended. In many cities people enjoyed watching Thanksgiving parades and the traditional finale to every parade is the arrival of 'Santa Claus'.







Santa Claus and Friends


Christmas Crochet on Etsy

Images of jolly old St. Nick in all forms make darling seasonal decor.  This set of a crocheted Santa Claus and his snowman friend would look terrific as part of your Christmas holiday decor or would make cute stocking stuffers for your kids.

Handmade by HelenaCrochetToys in the Ukraine.


Holiday Decor



Other signs of the season begin to appear as Christmastime gets closer. Christmas bells and poinsettias, Gingerbread men and candy canes, ornaments for the tree and stockings hung by the chimney with care.



Christmas Design Coasters
It's time to display holiday themed items, like these Christmas Coasters for your holiday beverages.  These colorful coasters are the crafty work of the Christmas Elf at Coastal Crochet Crafts on Etsy.








Snowman Wall Hanging



Snowman Wall Hanging


For a seasonal wall hanging that doesn't have to be taken down after Christmas, as it is a nice decor all winter long, create this Woodland Friends Snowman Door or WallHanging from a kit. Everything you need, except the stuffing, is all in one package ready to craft. 



Turtle Cookie Balls

Turtle Cookie Balls Recipe Card









Christmas cookies are another sign of the season and cooking is every bit as much a craft as needlework and sewing.  Mary Beth Granger (mbgphoto) shares her recipes for Cookie Balls which are wonderful for your own holiday time and also make terrific homemade gifts for friends.  Mary Beth created a beautiful recipe card on Zazzle for her cookie balls and the card would be a lovely addition to your gift.  Tuck it into the package and your friend can have a gift that 'keeps on giving'.






Christmas Tree Ornaments




Don't forget the Christmas Tree ornaments.  Sylvestermouse shows us a wonderful group of Bead & Sequin Christmas Ornament Kits we can craft for our own tree or to give as a gift.  




Another contributor to Review This Review, Dawn Rae, brings us some easy Christmas ornament crafts you can do with your children as you get ready for the holiday season.



When it's Time to Put Away the Crafts

At the end of the day, it's time to put away our craft supplies.  Susan Kennedy (BuckHawk) helps us get organized with helpful tips and tools at her "Organize Craft Supplies" site.


Christmas Shopping Ideas


And for an extra easy way to begin your Christmas shopping, check out this handy online Holiday Gift Guide brought to you by the contributing members of 'Review This'.


Have a Happy Holiday!



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Sunday, November 30, 2014

How to Put Fun into Your Holidays

Wouldn't we all love to put some fun back into our holiday preparations? Here are tips to help you do just that. Remember those days as a kid when the holidays were all about excitement, anticipation and just plain fun. It's time us grown-ups got to enjoy that as well.

Shop Online for Some Fun


Skip the crowds, the traffic, the lines and the surly salespeople. Shop online for just about everything you need from holiday decorations to gifts. The contributing writers for Review This put together a great holiday gift guide just to help you do that very thing. 

You can get in the mood for some fun Christmas time while still
curled up in your pj's and fuzzy bunny slippers. Just do it online. Christmas Time Treasures has lots of those great pages to help you with holiday decorations for your home, like pre-lit Christmas trees, festive kitchen towels, even holiday cats on decorative pillows (www.web-surfing-with-susan.com/christmas-cat-throw-pillows). 

Get your Christmas tree decorated with personalized ornaments or something even more fun like Eiffel Tower ornaments (www.web-surfing-with-susan.com/eiffel-tower-christmas-ornaments). Holidays are definitely easier and much more fun when you shop online from the comfort of your own home. 

Take Some Time to Relax


Since you won't need to spend many extra hours fighting the malls and the traffic, use that time to relax and do something you love. For me, it's a long hot bubble bath with festive scented soaps (www.the-bubble-bath.com/get-in-the-holiday-spirit-with-a-festive-bubble-bath) and reading a great Christmas mystery book (www.mysterybookworldlive.com/holiday-mysteries/christmas-mysteries).  Now, we're talking relaxing. 

Whatever you like to do to relax, do it. Your own holidays will be more fun. More like those days when you were a kid and the whole month of December was all about the excitement, anticipation and fun.





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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Blessings

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States.  I would like to take this opportunity to wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving.  May you find a few minutes today to reflect on your many blessings and each in your own way give Thanks. 

I have been very blessed and thank God for my faith, my family, my health, and the love He has surrounded me with.

May You and Your Family have a Blessed Thanksgiving Day!






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EVA Airlines Goes the Extra Mile!

Review of EVA Airlines


Want to fly to Asia and haven't picked your airline? I've discovered a fantastic airline company, EVA Airlines.  We booked our trip to Hong Kong online at FlightHub.com which a travel group I belong to suggested and we could not be happier with our experience of EVA Airlines! (I booked our whole trip at FlightHub.com and it was smooth as silk with no problems whatsoever.)

First of all the fare was outrageously low, only $521 each from Los Angeles to Hong Kong including taxes and landing fees. It's a long long way to  Hong Kong! 

Secondly, or in my case, I should say first of all, they have Hello Kitty Jets! Okay, everyone who knows me knows I love Hello Kitty so that was the clincher for booking the deal. Then while in Taipei we discovered they have a Hello Kitty lounge in the terminal! How cool is that for Hello Kitty lovers.  

Sadly we were running to catch our connecting flight, so I could not stop to take a photo of the lounge but I did get a snapshot of the in flight magazine which did happen to feature that cute little character.

Hello Kitty magazine
Hello Kitty cover from EVA Airlines in flight magazine


So that had me enthralled but the service and the attitude of the attendants was just over the top fantastic! The attendants were all Chinese beautiful girls with porcelain skin and very sweet mannerisms. 

Then there is the fact that we got 3 full course meals for that flight! Not junk airline food either, real gourmet meals. They served things like salmon with dill sauce and veggies, roast beef with veggies, ham and cheese omelettes, rosemary chicken and rice, and all the meals came with wonderful desserts too. (plenty of chocolate!)

Plus they let you check 2 bags of luggage free too, unlike most USA airlines.  Then there were the planes themselves which were very beautiful inside and outside both. And despite the planes being gigantic, the pilots on both flights landed them like they were feathers. I just can't say enough good about this airline! 

We will definitely fly on EVA Air again! I even looked to see if they have an affiliate program; I was just bowled over by them.

Hong Kong photo
Hong Kong view from my hotel room


So if your travel plans include Asia, give them a try. You'll be happy you did! And for more photos and comments on Hong Kong and other destinations, visit Peace, Love, Travel Light


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Monday, November 24, 2014

Best Bread Recipe for Kitchen Dummies

Thanksgiving and the holidays are quickly approaching. This time of year brings discussions of celebrations complete with good food and good company,  As a result, I found myself getting into the baking spirit.  I began to look for easy bread recipes.  Historically, I have not been able to make bread that contains yeast with any success.  But I have found a recipe, of a bread containing yeast, that I am able to bake with reliable success.  I am thrilled about it and I will share that recipe with you in a just a minute. 

First, I want to begin with why I love homemade bread.  My mom sometimes made breads such as banana nut bread and zucchini bread.  As a child, I could help make those types of delicious breads. I haven't made a loaf of banana bread in decades and have recently asked around for a good recipe. 


Photo by Cynthia Sylvestermouse
Sylvestermouse shared her banana bread recipe with me. I am excited to add this recipe to my baking successes. With the exception of having bananas most of the time, not all of the time, I always have the necessary ingredients in my kitchen. I can almost smell the banana bread baking now. 


I also spent part of my childhood raised with Amish folks, farmers, and other women who baked their own breads.  Bread recipes that called for yeast. Since I was not able to get my breads to rise properly, I look for an alternative.  I have been baking wheat Irish soda bread for some time now.  The recipe does not call for yeast, which is why I've been able to bake it successfully.  We love this full-bodied, whole grain, dense bread.  I make long loaves in this amazing bread pan and we partner our soda bread with soups.  I don't end up baking this wheat Irish soda bread often enough and the Mister ends up asking me to bake some more.  

Photo by Dawn Rae
One Thing that has been indispensable when it comes to baking my Irish soda bread has been this amazing bread pan.  I had experimented with baking the soda bread in the traditional round loaf, in a little bread pan, and then finally in this loaf pan.  I love the pan.  And if you bake bread, you may end up loving this pan too. 

Now, I will tell you about this amazing white bread, with yeast, recipe that even I can bake.  Alexandra describes it as the easiest bread you will ever bake. She is not exaggerating.  She gives step-by-step instructions for every bit of the yeast-proofing and bread baking. There are videos and photographs, but even without the videos, she describes the process in a way that made perfect sense to me.  I made her mother's peasant bread in the round bowls a few times before switching to a small square baking dish that worked beautifully too.  I have not yet baked it in my amazing loaf pan, but you can bet I'll try that soon. 

Since I found Alexandra's mother's peasant bread recipe, we have not been without homemade bread in the house.

As I said, Alexandra's tutorial about baking peasant bread comes complete with photographs and videos. So, in case there is any doubt that you should also try baking this bread, I will leave you with this tempting video: 



Written by Dawn Rae
Disclosure: In affiliation with Amazon.com, Dawn Rae is a blogger and content writer who may earn compensation from the sale of  Amazon  products.








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