Friday, August 21, 2015

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Movie Review

http://www.reviewthisreviews.com/2015/08/mission-impossible-rogue-nation-movie.html
I had the opportunity to see Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation a few days ago and I did find it to be mildly entertaining, yet somewhat unbelievable.

My husband had previously seen the movie and loved it.  He thought I would enjoy the movie as well.  He knows that I appreciate movies that have leading women who are treated as intellectual beings and not sexual objects.  The relationship between the two main characters, Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson, maintained the professionalism of respect and admiration of two co-workers who rely on each other to accomplish a "mission".  That particular aspect of this movie was definitely appreciated by this reviewer.

It is to be expected with any of the Mission Impossible movies that the characters would have "impossible" physical abilities.  However, this particular movie exceeded my ability to suspend reality enough to avoid being distracted by the inconceivable.


Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation Movie Review


 Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation [Blu-ray]If you can ignore the plot and over the top action scenes, you will find that there are a some redeeming qualities, namely a few of the actors who you just can't help but like.

Simon Pegg, who played Benji, was by far my favorite actor in this movie.  As the loyal friend and agent partner to Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), his character was more realistic.  He is intelligent, but not perfect.  He provided what light fun and entertainment I derived from the movie.  He actually made me laugh a few times.

Jeremy Renner and Alec Baldwin both played believable characters who each faced moments of personal decision and crisis with loyalty, strength and character.

The two main characters in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation were actually simply stated, impossible.  They both had superhuman physical abilities that reminded me of a combination of Spiderman and Superman, both fictional cartoon characters who we love, but we also know they are not even remotely "real".


Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is categorized as an action thriller, but personally I would have to say I found it to be more of a fantasy filled with wishful thinking.


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Thursday, August 20, 2015

SLS-Free Toothpaste and Why I Brush With Tooth Soap

"I'm Going to Wash Your Mouth Out With Soap!"


Did your mom ever say that to you? I hope not, but if she did, she was actually onto something. In fact, after extensive research, I no longer use toothpaste. Instead, I brush my teeth with tooth soap!

SLS-Free Toothpaste and Why I Brush With Tooth Soap
Most of my life, I had a major problem with mouth ulcers. If you've ever had those white, painful sores on the inside of your cheek or lips that make it difficult to eat, then you know what I'm talking about. Several years ago, I started searching for a cause for mouth ulcers and I came across several articles about SLS in toothpaste. A good number of people like me were reporting that using an SLS-free toothpaste put an end to their mouth sores.

I was interested, in fact I was thrilled. But what toothpaste should I use? And where could I find toothpaste without SLS, one that was safe to use? My research continued.

SLS stands for sodium lauryl sulfate which is used in many products from toothpaste to industrial cleaners. Why? Because SLS causes a reaction in those products that makes them foamy or sudsy when they're used. But get this. It's also used as a skin irritant in testing of products made to heal skin conditions.

What about other potentially harmful ingredients in toothpaste? Did you ever wonder about the “Do Not Swallow” warning on the label or why many toothpastes say they are not to be used by children under six-years of age?

Many of the ingredients in toothpaste can be dangerous. For instance, there's silica. Medicinenet.com defines silica this way: “The chief component of sand and a substance responsible for lung disease and cancer.” Read the label on your own toothpaste and I’m guessing you’re going to think twice before you squeeze that tube tonight on your way to bed!

But back to SLS-free toothpaste and why I brush with tooth soap.

My research eventually led me to tooth soap which at that time was expensive and somewhat hard to find. Since then, I make an effort to put fewer ingredients that I can't pronounce into my body. A few of the "natural" alternatives for brushing that I've tried are these (prices are subject to change):

* The Tooth Soap brand is what originally sold me on tooth soap. Get a 4-ounce jar of peppermint shreds for $23.86 with Amazon Prime.

 * Squigle Tooth Builder, Sensitive, 4.4 oz Toothpaste, $9.50 with Prime. Ingredients: 36% Natural Xylitol, water, calcite, glycerin, poloxamer, cellulose gum, Methocel, calcium propionate, lactoferrin. I like this, but it doesn't make my teeth feel as smooth as they get with tooth soap. And it's expensive.

* Xyli-White Toothpaste 6.4 oz $3.99 add-on item. Ingredients: Water, xylitol, hydrated silica, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium bicarbonate, sodium carbonate, sodium coco-sulfate, carrageenan, tea tree leaf oil, peppermint oil, spearmint oil, papain, potassium sorbate. I've tried this and it's actually pretty good (discounting the silica on the ingredient list) and it's cheaper than most on this list but, again, it doesn't clean as well as tooth soap.

* Tom's Toothpaste. Tom's has a reputation for using natural ingredients in its products. Unfortunately for me, they use sodium lauryl sulfate as a dispersing agent, so I have to eliminate this product from my "recommended" list. Apparently there is a low-sudsing variety without SLS, so look for that and give it a try.

* Coconut Oil Toothpaste. I have tried brushing my teeth with coconut oil, fresh from the kitchen, and that wasn't a very satisfying experience, though your results may vary. Additionally, I tried a coconut oil toothpaste in a tube and had mixed results. Why mixed? Because since coconut oil is responsive to temperature, during cold weather it became partially solid and was nearly impossible to squeeze out of the tube, so I became very frustrated and quit using it until summer.

* Today's winner and my overall recommendation: Uncle Harry's Tooth Soap (peppermint) $8.99 for a 2-ounce jar, free shipping. This is something I found recently, started using it a few weeks ago, and I really like it! The price is right (those 2 ounces will last a long time), I love that it's a whipped formula and not a shred like the original Tooth Soap brand, and my teeth are getting much cleaner than they did with the xylitol toothpaste I previously used. Recommended!

You might be asking yourself, does tooth soap taste like soap? Well yes, it actually does. The Uncle Harry's tooth soap that I've been using contains organic peppermint essential oil so when I open the jar, it's the minty fresh smell that I notice. It doesn't take much soap to brush, just a dab on the tip of my toothbrush, so my mouth doesn't fill with suds and spread the soap taste to my taste buds. Plus, by now I've gotten used to brushing with soap and it doesn't bother me a bit. You'll get used to it, too.

Bottom line, I brush my teeth with tooth soap, always SLS-free, and my mouth ulcer problem has disappeared. I no longer wake up with an icky mouth and a coating on my teeth. Instead, my teeth feel smooth and clean after I brush. And, (did I mention?) no more mouth ulcers with SLS-free tooth soap! It worked for me and I hope it will work for you.

(To learn more about SLS, visit this page at Mercola.com.  It's a very interesting topic to research.)

--Susan Deppner





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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Site Review: Heart of the Home Kitchen

Looking for Kitchen Ideas?

In most homes the kitchen is apt to be the one room in the house that family and friends gather to share both food and time together. The website Heart of the Home Kitchen honors this long standing tradition with ideas for items to use in our kitchens, ways to decorate our kitchens and even gifts for the kitchen.

Old fashioned kitchen
If we look up the word kitchen in the dictionary we find that it simply means a room or area where food is prepared and cooked. Kitchens in a home are so much more than that simplistic definition, though. At least that is the case for me in my life's journey and I would imagine it is more than just the room where food is prepared for most people. It truly is the "heart of the home", the one room where most activity takes place during any given day.

We could most probably trace this tradition all the way back to prehistoric peoples. The community fire would have been where the women were cooking the food for the clan, the children would have been close by to play and be looked after, the men would have been gathered around to stay warm and to discuss the next hunt or the new peoples who had entered their territory. It was the gathering place, the heart of the community.

What can you find at Heart of the Home Kitchen?

I love this website dedicated to the concept of the kitchen being the heart of the home for all sorts of reasons. You can find categories like: 
My kitchen has always been the hub of activity in our home as it was in my Grandmother's and my Mother's kitchens. As I was working on a meal, my children gathered around the table to do their homework and tell me about their day. It is where my friends have always gathered to share their joys, divide their grief and laugh together. Because I spend so much time in my own kitchen, I love to find sites like Heart of the Home Kitchen that have ideas for products that I can use or decorate with.

I love to bake so when I found this idea for heart shaped bakeware, I was delighted! There are ideas for cake pans, pie pans, muffin tins and even casserole dishes all shaped like hearts. Now, those would come in handy for holidays like Valentines Day but I will use them for other occasions , too. When I know the grandchildren are coming, I'll bake up some goodies and it is fun to have them shaped like a heart. The kids love it and it is just another way for me to show my love for them. 

There is even a video in the article that shows how to make cream cheese filled cupcakes that of course would be fun if they were baked in a heart shape! Yummy and fun!

My kitchen is the first room I go to in the morning and the last one to have the lights turned out before I go to bed. It is the soul of our home, the place where I feel that I can nurture family and friends with my food and my company. That is why I appreciate sites like Heart of the Home Kitchen where I can find new ideas for my kitchen and gift ideas for others who feel the same way about their special area where not just food is prepared but where family gathers. I think you will love this site, too.





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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Back Packs or Rolling Totes!

For many of my friends and family, the time is drawing quickly to a close when summer holidays are a done item and the back to school craziness is again upon us.
Along with all the clothes shopping that needs to be done, there is also that list of items needed for the start of the new school year, and that list seems to grow every time you head out to the store.
There is just that one other new thing you just know will be perfect for your scholar. Whether it's a new backpack, lunch bag, pencils and pens or notebooks, you are sure that you will need them all.



So Will it be a Back Pack or a Wheeled Tote?

The answer will depend on the child....read on!

When kids come home from school, their back packs or rolling totes, seem to be the most important item they will have. After all you need something strong and sturdy to carry home all the books and journals/notebooks that are the sign of a new school year.  Their backpack will need to be large enough to contain all their "things" and at the same time, be manageable for youngsters to either have on their backs or roll home.

Now, I know that many parents seem to be divided when it comes to the "type" of school bag, their kids are going to be using.

Young kids in grades 1 through 3 seem to like back packs that go over their shoulders and hang down their backs. These types of bags do tend to make the children stand up straighter, but sometimes the weight is a little too much for their growing bones to handle.   So,  instead of them standing up taller, they slouch in a way to make the weight lie across their backs a little more evenly. Either that or you have children that have sore backs from carrying the weight of all those books, or the bottoms of their bags are falling out, because they are dragging their backpacks home.  You will have to keep an eye out on your child's behaviors when dealing with their back packs and moving them back and forth.
Having a carrier that has good straps and functional pockets is half the job, the other half is being ergonomically designed so that filled with books, it is still easy to have on your back and not make you tired or sore.  If you are finding that your child is dragging their backpacks along the ground, it just maybe too heavy for them to handle.  In that case a rolling tote is a much better answer.  You don't want your child to arrive at school already tired from the load they are carrying.

If your child is wanting a rolling pack for school, there are also lots of choices.This is just one of the styles available and suitable for school aged children. The only down side to the wheeled packs would be, winter where lots of snow, would make pulling this, just a little cumbersome.

Which ever way you choose to for your youngsters to get their books and gear back and forth to school, I'm sure that there is a fashionable and fun way to do just that.

For every child there is a Back Pack or Rolling Pack to suit their tastes and needs.






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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sobriety Rings for Men Inscribed with the Serenity Prayer

Choose from These Men's Sobriety Rings
If you've ever journeyed through the pit of addiction with a loved one, you know how profound, and deeply consuming it is. There isn't very much in this life that compares to this kind of hurt.
The pain of this plight, this horrible plight, can only be understood when you've personally held the crushed and broken soul of someone you love raining mountains of tears as they wonder how they can ever, IF they can ever, fight this all consuming demon.
This men's sobriety ring is inscribed with the well known Serenity Prayer: God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.
I can't think of a more appropriate gift for the brave, the very brave, who have fought, and are still fighting for their lives. Wearing this prayer holds more power than a quote in a wallet or a quote displayed on the wall. There's a common saying we've all heard, 'we are what we think'. Certainly a sobriety ring inscribed with the serenity prayer gracefully reminds the bearer that these powerful words are worth repeating multiple times a day, each and every day.
  • One single ring (photo shows two stacked on each other so you can see much of the inscription around the ring)
  • Can be For Men or Women
  • Comes in Many Size Choices
  • Sobriety Ring Inscribed with the Serenity Prayer
Sobriety jewelry, is jewelry like no other; it holds a forever meaning and like taking that first step, represents the ongoing battle with self.
I would like to take a minute and dedicate this song to those who cried, hoped and held the heart of a loved one suffering from addiction. The moment I heard it, I broke down in my parked car, screaming inside for God to help me help my loved one. The words say it all, "I'm just trying to reach you, 'cause I don't want to lose you, why won't you let me get close to you, 'cause there's nothing I wouldn't do". 
Blessings to all of you trying to reach someone you love. Stay with it, persistence gets you closer every day.



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Friday, August 14, 2015

The Call of Cthulhu Review

Review of The Call of Cthulhu:  The Call of Cthulhu is a thrilling short story about a creature that by merely knowing of his existence, places you in danger.
By BenduKiwi (Unknown) via Wikimedia Commons
Source: CC-BY-SA-3.0

If you like Edgar Allan Poe, you will definitely enjoy H.P. Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu."

My son introduced me to this author by suggesting that I read "The Call of Cthulhu."  I was so enthralled in this short story that I didn't put the book down until I had read the last word.

This is a review that will no doubt surprise my friends and follows because I don't normally like horror stories, but this one has a paralyzing effect on the reader and I was simply too mesmerized to stop reading.

Apparently I am not alone!



 

 

The Call of Cthulhu Short Story Synopsis

Written by Cynthia Sylvestermouse


 THE CALL OF CTHULHU AND OTHER WEIRD STORIES By Lovecraft, H. P. ( Author )Oct-01-1999 PaperbackCheck Price>The Call of Cthulhu is a thrilling short story about a creature that by merely knowing of his existence, places you in danger.  From the very beginning of the story, you feel as if you are being entrusted with a great secret that could cost you your life.  In the days that followed my first reading of this tale, I found myself glancing in dark corners with a certain "expectancy."

This story starts as a narration by Francis Wayland Thurston who was named as the executor of his granduncles estate.  His uncle, George Gammell Angell, died after an encounter with a unidentifiable dock worker.  In sorting through his granduncle's effects, Francis finds a bas-relief of a mysterious alien entity.  He was intrigued by this cast and conducts an investigation of its origin and meaning. What he finds is horrific!  It seems that an encounter with this "creature" results in mental illness or death.

Actually nothing could describe this story better than the very opening statements of the tale.  "The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.  We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.  The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."



About the Author, H. P. Lovecraft

A True Literary Genius

 

Source: Wikimedia Commons
"Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 - March 15, 1937) was an American author of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, known then simply as weird fiction."

Like so many other great authors and artists, Lovecraft had a very limited following during his life.  His reputation as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th century, has only been established since his death.

With so many products, books sold, and cult following status, it seems quite the shame that Mr. Lovecraft himself, never got to enjoy any of the proceeds and know the extent he has touched so many lives. 

Stephen King has called Lovecraft "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale."

Not that I would have as much influence as Stephen King, but I must say that I honestly have never read more captivating tales than those that were written by H. P. Lovecraft.



Call of Cthulhu Games & DVD's


This short story has also inspired a role-playing game similar to Dungeons and Dragons.   If there are only two of you who want to play, don't worry there is also a boxed card game.   And for those of you who prefer a video game, fear not!   An Xbox game has been produced for you.

I have not seen any of the Cthulhu videos, but I do know there are a couple of different versions to choose available.

 Call of Cthulhu: Horror Roleplaying in the Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft, 6th EditionCheck Price Call of Cthulhu LCG The Mark of Madness Deluxe Expansion Card GameCheck Price The Call of Cthulhu
Collectors Edition DVD
Check Price
 Call of Cthulhu Rpg Keeper Rulebook: Horror Roleplaying in the Worlds of H.p. LovecraftCheck Price



 Toy Vault 12" PlushCheck Price

Cute Cthulhu?


There are actually quite a few "cute" Cthulhu puppets, plush and other toys also available.  Not everything is eerie or scary.

My own son carried a Cthulhu backpack for several years to school.  If you didn't know the story of Cthulhu, you would have just thought it was a funny green creature backpack.

He also has several of the Cthulhu plush, including a Cthulhu Christmas wreath.




The Cthulhu Birthday Cake

 

A few years ago,  I made a Cthulhu birthday cake for my son.   In true Cthulhu form, the cake split down the center and started falling apart before I could even finish drawing the image!

It was, as if, Cthulhu was breathing down my back.  I felt chills and an eerie sense of being "haunted."

Cthulhu Cake by Sylvestermouse

Weird, you say?   Absolutely!


My Personal Opinion of Cthulhu

 

Cthulhu is a work of literary fiction, but it is very easy for me to embrace the idea that there is a demon (my word) roaming this earth stealing minds, driving man to insanity or suicide.

I have noticed when I read other critiques of this story, that each one had a different emphasis.   I find it fascinating that we all read the same short story, but were "touched" in such a wide variety of ways.

Perhaps one of the reasons this short story has been so popular is because we can all define Cthulhu by our own established personal beliefs.   I would love to hear what you think about the story.






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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Creative Flower Photography

Getting Creative with Flower Photography

Use your Imagination to Create Beautiful Flower Photos

Everybody takes pictures of flowers and it takes minimal effort to take some really nice shots. With just a bit of practice and patience you can take some unique photos that will really stand out.
When you are photographing flowers you need to first remember some basic tips.
1. Look for flowers that are in good shape. That may seem obvious but it is amazing how many times I start to take a photo of a flower only to realize that the weather has gotten the best of it and it is on the downhill side. Take the time to look for the best flowers.
2. Use a tripod to get a steady image.
3. Kneel down to get the best angle.
4. Shoot when there is little or no wind.
5. Early morning or late evening shots are best.
Now that you know some of the basic rules, don't be afraid to break them. Any of the above rules can be changed to fit your creative needs.
I took all the photos on this page with my Sony D57 DSLR camera but I will tell you that I have taken nice flower shots with my point and shoot camera and even with my camera phone. So you see, you are not limited with the equipment you have with you. The big thing is to enjoy what you are doing and try something different. You will be happily surprised by the results.
Happy Photographing
all photos by mbgphoto

Single out One Flower

One technique to use in flower photography is to focus in on a single flower within a group of flowers. This geranium is a single bloom within a pot that is sitting on my patio. If I were to photograph the entire pot it would look pretty but rather ordinary. The geranium would blend in with the rest of the pink flowers in the pot. It didn't particularly look interesting until I zoomed in on it and looked at it apart from the other flowers.
To create this photo I used a 50mm lens and set it on aperture priority. I used an f stop of 1.8. By doing this I was able to focus in on the one bloom and put the rest of the flowers in a blur. The background then washed out completely and became a nice green backing.
If you are using a point and shoot camera try putting it on the macro setting (look for the little flower symbol) and it will give you similar setting to capture the individual flower. Be sure to get as close to the flower as the camera will allow.

Learn from Others

One of the best places to get ideas is to look at the works of others. View the photos, imagine what they did to get the image and then try to recreate it. Once you have mastered the techniques it will become increasingly easier to use you imagination to create unique images of your own.

Try a Closeup Filter

A closeup filter on your camera will allow you to get in even closer and pick up the very small details. In this photo I am using a Cokin closeup filter on my 50mm lens. You will note that when I do this I only get a small portion of the flower in focus and the rest is a blur. You will need to have your camera on a tripod to get this type of shot.
This is a great way to get raindrops on a flower petal.

Daisies up Close

DSLR

If you are looking for a good basic DSLR camera, I highly recommend looking at Sony. I have been shooting with Sony products for the last 8 years and have been very satisfied. When I started I virtually knew nothing about the DSLR cameras and the instructions and books I read with my camera were very helpful. This camera is great for the beginner as well as the more advanced photographer.

Using Props

Props can be useful in capturing a unique flower photo. I took this photo for an assignment for my photography class to take an unique flower photo.
To set up for the photo I used a few props. I had a small pot of Gerbera daisies that I sat on a chair in front of our glass patio doors. I then took a black velveteen skirt that I draped over the back of the chair. I set up my tripod in front of the chair and started shooting from various angles. I was using a 70-300 mm zoom lens on my Sony DSLR.
I had taken several shots of the front of the flower and they turned out great but not really anything different so I decided to shoot from just below and behind the flower. I love the way the flower petals are bending down to give just a touch of the peach colored front of the flower. The black skirt gives a great background to make the bloom pop out in the photo.

Capturing a Bouquet

If you receive a special bouquet of flowers it is nice to have a photo to remember the occasion. This is a bouquet that I received for Mothers Day. I took several shots of the whole bouquet with the vase but I think that this shot taken from above the flowers turned out best. I sat the bouquet on the floor and then stood above it to photograph the flowers.
Shooting flowers indoors is a great way to practice different techniques. You don't have to worry about the wind or insects getting in your way. I place my flowers near an open window to capture the outdoor light.

Shooting after the Rain

You can never go wrong shooting flowers right after a rain storm. I love to capture them before the raindrops are gone. When there is no rain for days, try spraying them with a fine mist. It can take the place of the real thing or perhaps you catch some flowers right after the sprinkler goes off.

Favorite Flower Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Photography Techniques

Sometimes I need a nudge to get my creative juices flowing. Reading or looking through photography books usually does the trick. Here is one on flower photography.
Click Here to View on Amazon




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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Reviewing Carpet Stain and Soil Remover

Best Product I Have Found

If you are looking for a good product to help you remove carpet stains and soil from your home or office, I want to tell you about the product that I use. I have found the R2X Carpet Stain & Soil Remover by Shaw to be the best on the market. I have used it for several years in my own home when I find a stain or soiled area on my carpets. 

Oil stain
Let's face it, no one wants to see a stain like this on their carpet or any stain for that matter. When my children were small, it seemed that we were constantly having some kind of accident that caused a spill of some sort on the carpet. Now to be fair, it wasn't always the kids who made a mess; the adults (me included) often tipped something over or dropped something that wasn't easily wiped up. 

Back then, I did not have a lot of options available to get some of the stains removed. Sure, I could call a company to come and clean the carpets but that was not only expensive but a royal pain in the hind end to have done. You had to clear out the entire room and then not use the room until the carpets were dry. Sometimes that might take a day or two. Who has a room that they don't need to use for a couple of days? 

The option of renting a carpet cleaner from the local hardware store or grocery store became available but that could be a real bother, too. Sure, you did not necessarily have to clear out the entire room like you did when using a service but you were limited to how much time you had the machine and you had to pick it up and take it back. Although, it was less expensive than using a specific company; it wasn't exactly cheap, either. 

An over the counter solution

Even though the kids are grown and on their own, we still get an occasional stain on the carpets. It might be from the grandchildren having spilled something or one of our pets tracking something in from outdoors. I no longer have to stress over getting the stain out since I found:


I have to tell you, I absolutely love this stuff! It works like a dream! Just spray it on the stained area and wait 1 to 5 minutes, then with a dry cloth begin to blot the area until it is cleaned. Most of the time it just takes a little bit of blotting and the stain is gone. A stubborn stain that has been around for a while might take longer or maybe even a second application but I haven't found the need to use it more than the first time. There is no need to rinse after you have blotted it dry, either.

It works on things like fruit juice, oil, ketchup, wine, coffee and salsa. Once my dog tracked in some nasty dark mud and left his paw prints on the carpet, the R2X took it right off with no problem.

This product will also work on clothing, furniture and car upholstery, too. As long as the fabric is water-safe you can safely use the stain or soil remover. It even works on wool! I have used it on the seats in my car when my grandchild spilled her drink all over herself, the car seat she was in and the back seat of my car. It was marvelous!

As I said, before, I just love this product! I use it often when something gets spilled, dropped or tracked into the house. I use it on my car seats and even on my wool winter coat if I happen to drip something on it. It is so easy to use and is much less expensive than using a steam cleaner for the carpets.


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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Reviews of Books for Children Which Bring American History to Life

These Amazing Books Bring American History to Life


Peter Crabtree and Bobbie Kalman are responsible for some of the most appealing American history books for children of all ages that I've ever seen. I first became aware of these books while I was in the business of selling educational books for children. They are not boring, like textbooks. They are designed to make children want to pick them up and read them. When I sold these at home school conventions, even the parents loved reading them. These books sold themselves as soon as people looked inside of them. I myself learned much from them. 

The Early Settler Series


Buy Early Settler Storybook
Educator Bobbie Kalman wrote most of these books. The first series she produced was called the Early Settler Series. It is now mostly out of print, but copies are available on Amazon. As you can see by the cover art on this title, the art is nostalgic in style. The books look old fashioned. There are lots of illustrations to enhance the text. The reading level is about third or fourth grade and up. The illustrations will not be considered too young by older children. 

These books sold very well for me. Titles include Early Christmas, Early Stores and Markets, Early Loggers and the Sawmill, Early Travel, Early Village Life, Food for the Settler, Early Schools, Early Family Home, Early Settler Children, Early Settler Storybook, Early Artisans, Early Pleasures and Pastimes, Early Farm Life, Early City Life, and Early Health and Medicine.The link above should lead you to all available titles. A complete collection will show children exactly what life was like for the earliest settlers of what is now the United States. 


The Historic Communities Series


Bobbie Kalman's next series, Historic Communities, made some changes in format. These books look more modern. Wherever possible they are illustrated with photographs from living history museums and towns. If you've ever been to Williamsburg or Sturbridge Village, these books will make you feel like you are there again. There are several photographs and / or color illustrations on each two-page spread. Each book 32-page book also has a glossary to explain unfamiliar words and an index to make it easy for readers to find what they are looking for. These books are visually designed for children as young as first grade, but I would expect most children would need to be at a second or third grade level to read them independently. 


Buy A Colonial Town Williamsburg
Let's use an example: A Colonial Town Williamsburg. This book gives an overview of the history of Williamsburg followed by a beautiful pictorial map illustrating the buildings and their locations. The reader then gets a photographic tour of some sights that would have been common to the colonists. These include shops and taverns and the garden areas that were often behind them. We see children getting water from a well, since there was no indoor plumbing. We see a ladder on the roof for putting out chimney fires. We see a slave boy grooming a horse and we learn why horses were important to the colonists.

In the next parts of the book we visit the buildings: the Governor's Palace, the public buildings, Bruton Parish Church, The College of William and Mary, the apothecary, the windmill, and the shops. We not only see photographs, but we learn the purpose of each building and why it was important to the community. As the courthouse is shown, we learn about colonial justice and punishments. In relationship to the apothecary we learn about colonial health care and treatments. We learn how the windmill works.

We meet the people of Williamsburg, from the gentry down to the slaves and get a feel for their places in the community. We see a harness maker at work in his shop. At the end we learn about Project Williamsburg and how students are involved.

Each book in the Historic Communities series introduces readers to a rich pictorial presentation of some aspect of early American colonial life. Each book allows children to step hundreds of years back in history and see what a child's day was like, which games children played, how food was produced and cooked, what people wore, what a school day was like, and more. Here is a brief summary of selected titles. You can see all the titles available for sale on Amazon.

Buy A Child's Day
A Child's Day: Ever wondered what chores the early settler children did, or what they did in their spare time if they had any? How were their schools, foods, and clothing different from those of children today? Color photographs and original artwork bring these children from earlier times to life.

Classroom Games: Even back in early classrooms, teachers used games to help their students learn spelling and creative writing, arithmetic and science, geography, art, history, drama and reciting, good behavior, and music. They even had scavenger hunts back then. Besides games still played in classrooms today, such as spelling bees, students played word games, alphabet games, arithmetic games, and more. In outdoor classrooms, students made gardens and nature crafts. The games in this book are easily transferable to today's classrooms, where they can still make learning fun

Colonial Crafts: Watch the artisans and craftsmen at work in colonial times. Visit the workshops of the wheelwright, the cooper, the founder, the shoemaker, the milliner, the gunsmith, and many more. Discover how these people were trained through the apprenticeship program.

Buy Colonial Life
Colonial Life: Meet the hard-working members of a colonial community. Learn about the importance of family relationships and discover the importance of religion and education to these people. Watch plantation life and see the plight of the slaves. Observe how people traveled and spent their leisure time.

Customs and Traditions: This is one of my favorites. It explains how the early settlers preserved history, predicted the weather, cooked and ate, welcomed a new baby, and celebrated courtships, weddings, holidays, and the harvest.



Buy Fort Life

Fort Life: Forts played a vital role in the New World because they offered protection. Learn about the different types of forts, the parts of the fort and how they functioned, and what went in in the lives of the families who lived in the forts.



The General Store: The general store was the hub of a town's life. It's where people went to buy their supplies, sniff the marvelous aromas, and see the colors of bright, new fabrics. It was a place for people to dream, make deals, gossip, and socialize. The photographs and illustrations will make you feel you are there.

Home Crafts: In this book you will see, step by step, how the early settlers made candles and soap, carded and spun wool, dyed cloth, and sewed samples. The color photographs really make you feel as though you were watching.

Buy In the Barn
In The Barn:  See all the activity that went on in the barns of busy settler farms. Watch as cows are milked, hogs get their slop, and the stalls get cleaned. Share in the work and fun of a barn-raising. See how the chores changed with the seasons.

The Kitchen: When you've read this book you will feel you've visited a colonial home, and entered the kitchen where the family spent a good deal of its time. You will see the fireplace, the tools and utensils surrounding it, and the chores that were done there (baking bread, churning butter, etc.)

Life on a Plantation: Watch the daily activities of plantation owners and their slaves. Compare their lifestyles. Readers will see life in the "big house," in the slave quarters, and in the cotton, rice, and tobacco fields. The customs and festivals of the estate are also explained.

Buy A One-Room School


A One-Room School: The first priority of any early settler community was building a school. This book explains what these one-room schools were like, what they taught, how students studied when books were scarce, how students were disciplined, and what went on during recess.













Buy Pioneer Projects
Pioneer Projects: In this book you will find step-by-step instructions for children and parents who want to make pioneer crafts. There are also instructions for making a model of a settler town.














Buy Early Settler Sayings
Settler Sayings: This is another of my favorites. Ever wondered why we say such things as "flash in the pan" or getting down to brass tacks"? This book explains how some of these old saying have their roots in the day-to-day lives of the early settlers.

Other titles this series include The Gristmill, Visiting a Village, Tools and Gadgets, Old Time Toys, Children's Clothing of the 1800's, The Victorian Home, Spanish Missions, 19th Century Girls and Women, 18th Century Clothing, 19th Century Clothing, Victorian Christmas, Colonial Home, Travel in the Early Days, Pioneer Recipes, and Schoolyard Games. You can find all Historic Communities titles in print (and maybe some that aren't) by following this link.

I highly recommend the books in these two series to parents who want to take their children to see places important in our country's early history. I found that using books to prepare my own children for living history museums and other historic places helped them to understand what they were seeing and got them thinking about which questions they wants to ask docents when they had the opportunity. 

These books are also great resources for children educated at home or in schools, who might not be able to visit historic sites in person as we did. Videos may also be helpful, but they move quickly. Books allow children good long looks at what most interests them.  These should be in every elementary school library. Because of their low reading level and visual impact, these books are also ideal for reluctant or low-level readers in upper grades. 

If you would like to show your children how the early settlers and colonists lived in America, don't miss these. 







Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Monday, August 10, 2015

Adult Coloring Books are all the Rage

It's amazing to me that a new fad has hit the market.  In a time when everyone wants everything done yesterday,  Adult Coloring Books beg for you to take your time!

It seems,  we have found out, that running the rat race is sometimes driving us to a place where we all need just a little bit of quiet and peace.

Adult coloring books are much like the ones we had as children, but the designs are a little more intricate and require a steady hand.

That and a little patience, along with a good supply of coloring pencils or markers will make you an artist of exceptional beauty, brought to life by your own hands.



The Secret Garden is one of these Coloring Books.  I have seen it entirely from cover to cover and they are beautiful in design!  You are free to use your own imagination, pick your favorite predominant colors and  complete them to your own tastes.

The author of these pictures was trying to sell 200,000 copies, so that she would have enough to start another project.  What she did not know is that she would sell over a million copies of her beautiful book.

So, book number two became a reality as well.....



The Enchanted Forest is as beautiful as the Secret Garden and will keep any adult occupied for hours. The best part of this whole coloring book craze is that when you need some peace and quiet, something that will soothe your overworked nerves, you just need to grab your book and turn to the page you last worked on (or start a different one), and within the hour, you will find yourself unwinding and relaxing like never before.

In our busy world, these easy, beautiful and inexpensive books, will save you from many hours of therapy.  We have forgotten how to relax and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.  These Coloring Books are just that, a simple pleasure.

Add some wonderful markers, crayons or pencil crayons and you are all set to go.  I dare you to try it, and I bet you will love it.


Once you have finished one of the pictures, come on back and let us see.......share and let us admire your handiwork or send me the link and I'll post it.....

Just take a look at one of the beautiful designs in the Enchanted Forest...



The Magic Garden and Enchanted Forest are works of Johanna Basford, author and illustrator. I think she has a great future with her designs and I'm grateful that she has shared her talent with us.



Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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