Saturday, November 14, 2015

Have a Party with Your Bear Day

Roly Poly Teddy Bear on Etsy

There are a bunch of bear-related celebration days throughout the year.  Lets review of few of them, beginning with the upcoming Have a Party with Your Bear Day on November 16th.  It's not clear whether the creators of this day meant a stuffed teddy bear, a toy bear, someone dressed in a bear suit, or a real bear! If you happen upon a real bear, use caution. :)  

Perhaps it would be best to just READ about a real bear, such as in this interesting story about the magnificent Grizzly Bear by Sylvestermouse, after you finish the party with your favorite stuffed bear.

The Teddy Bear Picnic

The Teddy Bears' Picnic (Classic Board Books)

This 'bear-party' day is not the same as the Teddy Bear Picnic Day, celebrated on July 10th.  Since this day occurs in the summertime, it's the perfect time to grab your favorite stuffed teddy bear, pack a picnic lunch, and enjoy some outdoor fun with your teddy bears, family and friends.  Everyone could bring their favorite teddy bear!

  Special 'Bear' Days


Plush Polar Bear - Etsy
Teddy bears are very important to children (young and old) and they deserve recognition.  There are a variety of special days throughout the year set aside to celebrate these cuddly bears, plus bear-related days for fictional bears and real bears.

  • January 18 is Winnie the Pooh Day
  • February 27 is Polar Bear Day
  • March 16 is National Panda (Bear) Day
  • July 10 is Teddy Bear Picnic Day
  • September is 'Save the Koala' Month
  • September 9 is the annual National Teddy Bear Day.
  • October 12 is Take Your Teddy Bear to Work Day written by our Review This contributor Olivia Morris
  • November 7 is National 'Hug a Bear' (stuffed bear) Day
  • November 16 is Have a Party with your Bear Day 

    Plush Pooh Bear available on Amazon


    Many teddy bears have become famous, including Paddington Bear, Rupert Bear, Pudsey Bear, Smokey Bear and, the most famous and my favorite, Winnie the Pooh (who has his own special day on January 18).  

    Favorite Teddy Bear

    Baby Teddy Bear

    My son's first teddy bear was forever his favorite stuffed animal. He acquired him as an infant and they were 'inseparable' all through his early years. He named him simply "Teddy".  He looked a bit like this one shown above.

    Party Time with your Bear

    Any of these bears ~ or your own favorite teddy bear ~ would enjoy a party on Teddy Bear Party Day every November 16th.

    *Note:  For an in-depth description of the crocheted bears featured in this article, check out "A Parade of Plush Teddy Bears" on the Crochet-Crafts-Critters blog.

    *(c) Wednesday Elf 11/14/2015. Updated 10/20/2019

    Quick Links

    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.”


    Friday, November 13, 2015

    Site Review: House of Rumpley - Home Decor Site

    When we first step into any house, we know almost instantly if we feel at home, and everyone desires a home.  

    People who have to go to work everyday need a refuge from the stress of the workplace, and that place should be their home.  For those of us who work from home, we need areas of the house where we can go and find our refuge.   We all desire to create just the right balance in a house where every member of the family can feel at home.  That is what you will find in the House of Rumpley

    From the kitchen to the den, to the bedrooms and bathrooms, you will find wonderful decorating ideas, as well as DIY projects, which happen to be among my own personal favorites.

    Let's take a peek through some of the doors at the various rooms and floors in the House of Rumpley.

    The Kitchen in the House of Rumpley

    Decorating Kitchens in the House of Rumpley
    As I would do if I were touring any home or department store, I will start in the kitchen area. My own home kitchen is painted blue, so I am instantly drawn to the article about Red Kitchen Ideas.   I love the idea of adding touches of red in my kitchen, but Bev goes further than just recommending small red appliances.  She actually explains the effect the color red has on all of us and why we would desire including it in our kitchens.

    I also loved the coffee decor post!

    Be sure to take a look at the other fun ideas Bev "rounds up" for us on the Decorating Kitchens floor at House of Rumpley.

    More Decorating Ideas from House of Rumpley

    While the kitchen demands my immediate attention, the other rooms of our homes are equally as important when it comes to beautiful decor.

    There are fabulous ideas for Decorating Family Rooms, Living Rooms, and Decorating Kids Rooms, but don't miss out on visiting the bathrooms in this house.  While there are several really beautiful suggestions for bathroom decor on House of Rumpley, the ideas that really caught my attention were the ones that made me howl with laughter.  I do love a home that is filled with laughter!  You simply will not believe where the toilet brush is hidden.  I am laughing even as I write this article and remember the most unusual accent piece in this bathroom.  (No, I'm not going to tell you!  You have to look for yourself.)

    Decorating by Themes in House of Rumpley

    When decorating our homes, there are times when we want a consistent theme.  House of Rumpley has you covered there too.  With themes like "Granny Chic Decor", Decorate with Red, White & Blue", and "Steampunk Style Home Office", anyone would be intrigued to explore the depths of these decorating styles and suggestions.

    I may not be a "granny" myself, but I gotta tell you.  That Granny Chic Decor has my name written all over it.

    Themed Decor Ideas at House of Rumpley

    The House of Rumpley Network of Sites

    Now, we have explored a few areas of the foundation site of House of Rumpley, but I do want to take a few minutes to delve deeper into the complete network of sites.

    The House of Rumpley network includes several sites and Bev aptly describes the different areas of her site as floors in the House of Rumpley.  I love that description!  It immediately brings to mind a home with multiple levels or my favorite department store with several floors.

    Like many families and homes, the House of Rumpley has expended and grown over the years.  Just as members of any family can be found at various addresses, different "floors" of the House of Rumpley network are found online under different url addresses. They each have their own "personality" or topic, but they are all equally wonderful and fun to visit.

    House of Rumpley Website Review by,

    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.”


    Thursday, November 12, 2015

    Review of Challenges in Identifying Lighthouses from a Cruise Ship

    I love to photograph lighthouses and traveling on a cruise ship is a great way to see lots of lighthouses from the water.  When the lighthouse is near a port it is easy for me to identify the lighthouse and look up information for it online.  The challenge becomes when the ship is not near a port and I see a lighthouse in the distance.

    The lighthouse above was photographed after the cruise ship had left the port of Vancouver.  We had been traveling for about 2 hours when I saw this cute little light just outside the window. I grabbed my camera and got a few photos but I had no idea where we were or the name of the lighthouse.  Now was the time to  put my detective skills to work!

    Getting a Closer Look

    I knew I would need to know some details on the lighthouse in order to determine the name of the lighthouse, so I zoomed in for a closer shot of the building.
    The square tower and white railing on the lighthouse would be good clues as I looked at lighthouse photos.

    Zooming out for Further Clues

    Next, I zoomed out for a long shot to see if the surroundings would give me any clues.  I had been so focused on the lighthouse at first I missed the beautiful mountain peaks in the background.  What a glorious site!  Still I wasn't sure which mountain I was viewing and at this point I wasn't sure if we were off the coast of Canada or the USA.

    Doing a Bit of Research

    When I got home,  I went online to try to determine the name of the lighthouse and the mountain.  Here are the steps I took to find my  answers.
    • First I posted my long shot photo on Facebook and asked friends for help.  I got various different guesses on the name of the mountain from Mt. Rainier to Mt Hood to Mt Baker.  These gave me some food for thought and starting points for my search.
    • I first tried to do a search for lighthouses off the coast south of Vancouver.  In studying the maps I had found that the ship had gone down the Inside passage from Vancouver to near Seattle before turning out to sea.  I first searched the  Canadian lighthouses and found some that looking very close to the lighthouse in my photos, but as I zoomed in on each lighthouse I found something just a bit different so I continued my search.
    • Since several people had identified the mountain as being in Washington state, I decided to search for lighthouses off the Washington coast.  Again, I found lots of lighthouses along that Inside passage but none were exactly like my lighthouse.  
    • Finally I decided to do a search of "Washington lighthouses with mountain in background."  I thought it was a long shot but then I've found most everything is available somewhere online.  In this search I was successful, someone else had posted a photo online almost identical to mine with the lighthouse and the mountain in the background.  From this photo I was able to go further and find more information on both the lighthouse and mountain.

    Patos Island Lighthouse

    The lighthouse I discovered is on the western tip of Patos Island.  This island is in the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington.  The lighthouse was built in 1893.  

    The mountain it turns out is Mt Baker in Washington which stands at 10,781.

    Art from my Photographs

    I enjoy creating art from my photographs.  Here is the Patos Island photo on a piece of wood wall art from Zazzle.

    Patos Island Lighthouse Wood Wall Art
    Patos Island Lighthouse Wood Wall Art by lighthouseenthusiast
    Browse more Patos lighthouse Wood Wall Art at Zazzle

    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.”


    Wednesday, November 11, 2015

    Reviewing Knitting Handbooks

    Learning To Knit: Will I master the needles?

    I have been looking at Knitting Handbooks lately, because I have decided that 2016 will be the "year of the needles" for me. I want to learn to knit or at least become better with what little (very little) skills I have in this hobby. I can do the basic knit stitch and the basic purl stitch but I'm very slow and awkward with the needles and yarn. So, I plan to ask my family for a couple of books that can help me in this journey.

    I know from my many years of crocheting that you need to practice, practice, practice in order become proficient in the craft. I am in no way a master in crochet but can hook my way around just about any pattern. In order to get started, I am working on a scarf using the knitting needles and some blue yarn. If it turns out looking good, it will be a Christmas present for my husband; if it turns out looking like a 5 year old did it I can always use it as a dusting cloth. I figure that I won't learn unless I just dive in and work on something. A scarf seems like a good project to start with and I liked this pretty simple waffle stitch since it will give me practice with both the knitting stitch and the purl stitch, counting and working with the needles and yarn. It won't be much different than crocheting a scarf in that you follow the pattern and remember when to do the knit stitch and when to do the purl stitch. I am finding it is a little harder to determine which row you are on unlike crochet where it seems more obvious but that may be a matter of training my eyes to look for certain stitches so that I will know. 

    What books should I start with?

    I am thinking that the best place to start is with a book or two that covers the basics along with moving on to more advanced knitting techniques. Sure, I could just ask for a book with patterns but until I understand the basics, I know I will just get frustrated. In my search for the right book, this one caught my eye. I liked the title but then I think the book would be very helpful, too.

    Not only does the author cover the basics but she goes further in explaining more advanced knitting techniques and she does it with humor which I think I would enjoy. She also tells the reader how to fix mistakes (I'm sure I will make many) and that will be really helpful for my beginner skill level. I think I may be able to join the "chicks with sticks" (knitting needles) in the quest to make some fun and funky along with some traditional knitted items following Debbie Stoller's instructions.

    I know when I was first learning to crochet, the terminology sometimes confused the daylights out of me. I might see something like FPDC and think what the devil does that mean? Well, now I know it means to do a front post double crochet stitch and I also know how to do that with my yarn and hook. I am guessing that knitting will be no different. There are going to be directions in a pattern that will at first glance make no sense to me at all. So, this book looks like a wise choice for a beginning knitter like myself.

    What I like about this knitting handbook is that it promises to teach in plain English and not in terms that I am going to have to go to a glossary to figure out. I like that idea! Learning the way to use my needles and yarn to make something neat without having a thesaurus next to me to determine just what she is telling me to do. The basics in basic terminology, that sounds pretty darned helpful.

    It remains to be seen if I will learn to knit with the same confidence that I have for crocheting. I am determined, though. In the past the using of two needles instead of one hook just seemed to be beyond my capabilities but that was a mental block, I think. So, maybe I have passed the first hurdle...I CAN do this. It will take persistence and practice and I am willing to put in the hours to really learn to knit.

    I have some time left before Christmas morning to find out if my family paid attention and got me at least one of these books. So, in the meantime I am working on my little scarf that may be under the tree for my hubby or it might be in the rag drawer, only time will tell. By the way, the color I chose will look good on my husband and it is the team color for the Indianapolis Colts which is his favorite football team. I figure he might actually wear it, at least on game day, if it doesn't look too amateurish. Here is what I have so far. It is working up very slowly but I don't mind being the turtle in the race, after all that rabbit never wins anyway! I will continue to work with the yarn and needles and keep a piece of paper next to me to mark down which one of the rows I am doing in the repeat of the pattern to make the waffle look and hopefully it will turn out to be something my husband will be proud to wear.

    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.”


    Tuesday, November 10, 2015

    The Day Before 911: A Review

    September 11, 2011 (911) Changed the Lives of All Americans

    The Day Before 911 reflects on how 911 changed a DOD teacher overseas and the students he served and their families. It begins in 2011, ten years after the terrorists took out the World Trade Center. At that time Elliot was teaching in Germany. He hadn't expected to be back in the classroom. He had cleaned it out at the end of the previous year when he retired to become a writer. But life happened, and he returned to teaching after all. Although he had been teaching high school students in the previous year, he is now facing sixth graders because that's the grade that needed a teacher.

    Ground Zero, Public Domain  Courtesy of
    Ground Zero, Image License CCO, Public Domain

    As he enters the class, he sees he needs a way to build rapport with these new students. He decides to use the school’s coming commemoration of the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 as an excuse tell them a story about a hero named Tony who loved baseball and stood a very good chance of being drafted into the big leagues. Then terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York and brought down the Twin Towers, killing over 3,000 people,  Tony quit baseball and joined the Marines. He was blown up eleven times, but still kept going back to fight.
    Elliot’s students found this hard to believe, but he explained that the qualities that made Tony good at baseball were the same qualities that made him a good Marine. He had learned teamwork in baseball and would have done anything for his teammates. Elliot told his students that Tony had “loved baseball and his teammates so much that he joined another team and put on a different uniform just so he could protect the way of life that he was giving up."
    As Elliot was beginning his story, one of the girls raised her had to say that her birthday was (September 11.) It hit Elliot that she had never been able to celebrate her birthday on the actual day she was born. The terrorist attacks had happened on her very first birthday. After that, they always celebrated her birthday on September 10, the day before 9/11. It struck Elliot that since he’d taught high school before, this was the first history class he’d taught that had not remembered 9/11. 
    Sources: All quotes used here are from The Day Before 9/11 by Tucker Elliot. I noticed after writing this that Amazon also featured some of these quotes readers, including me, had highlighted, on its Kindle edition page.

    9/11 - The Filmmakers' Commemorative Edition

    See What Happened on that Horrible Day in American History

    This documentary film was shot as a result of videographers being at the right place at the right time. They were there to record the training of a firefighter at a firehouse a short distance from the World Trade Center when the first tower was struck.

    Child Abuse in the Military

    One of he undercurrents in The Day Before 9/11 was child abuse in the military. Elliot blamed himself for the death of two sisters, Angel and her little sister Grace. Angel had many absences from school he should have investigated in person. He also didn't read an email Grace sent not long before her death that might have motivated him to intervene.
    He was at a family gathering after burying his grandmother. He was to fly out the next day to speak at a conference. His mother had ordered take-out pizza and he was supposed to pick it up. While waiting to go, he was scanning his email and saw the header of an email sent a few hours earlier by Angel. By this time his nephew was screaming loudly for him to go get the pizza. He deleted the email, not realizing its importance, and had gone to pick up the pizza.

    Screen Shot of Email Interface on my Computer

    The deaths haunt Elliot through the rest of the book and he fights his guilt and his loss of faith because he believed God hadn't answered his prayers for his students. He knew his students were dealing with the issues these videos discuss. He especially saw the effect on the children of not only absent parents, but the fear of the children whenever a parent left to go to a new post.

    These are some of the same issues faced by children Tucker Elliot taught.

    The video above explains the unique problems children of military families face. 

    Two Special Girls - Sami and Angel

    Although this book will show you a lot about living as an expat civilian on a military base during wartime, you will learn much more about what it means to be a teacher and a human being. As Tucker Elliot looks at how his life and the life of his students changed after 9/11, he is filled with shame and guilt. Four girls entered his life -- Sami in Korea and the others, Angel, Grace, and the Birthday Girl, in Germany. Two of them died, and he believes if he'd followed his better instincts instead of withdrawing he might have saved those two who died.
    The first special student was Sami. She walked into his life the year he was teaching in Korea. She loved soccer, and he was the athletic director. He used soccer to reach her and help her be strong in the face of change. When the school had to close for ten days after 9/11 for security reasons, Sami had missed Tucker. When she returned after the school reopened, her parents came with her. Sami hugged Tucker tightly and buried her face in his chest as she said she'd missed him. She introduced her parents. He was impressed with both. Her father was high on the chain of command, and Tucker could tell he was as good a father as he could be while gone so much. Tucker thinks:
    I knew right then, my worst fear was going to come true.
    Not letting the terrorists win means sometimes the good guys are going to die.
    I thought, God no. Not this family.
    When the classroom was empty, Tucker would go from desk to desk and pray for each student.
    Marine looking at wall of Vietnam Memorial  Source: Wikipedia,
    Marine looking at wall of Vietnam Memorial 
    He himself came from a military family. His dad and uncle had fought in Vietnam. His uncle never came home. His grandmother said she had 'received a flag for a son.' Tucker had visited the Vietnam Memorial in the company of his dad, but he couldn't get his dad to talk about his war experiences. Then at the memorial, his dad's actions changed. As he walked along the wall he ran his fingers over several names and prayed. When he came to his brother's name, he fell to his knees, rolled himself into a fetal position and cried.
    Tucker had been named after his uncle and felt the burden of needing to be heroic himself and live out the kind of life his uncle never had the chance to live. He saw it as a heavy burden and says he resented carrying that burden because he could never be as good as his uncle.
    There is too much pain and wisdom in the book to share it all here. But I will try to share some of it.
    He says:
    Teaching isn’t rocket science. It’s about being engaged, listening, paying attention. Despite conventional wisdom, you don’t need to talk a lot to teach well. You do need to care, though. Not so much about what people think of you or whether or not they like you, but about the kids and doing what’s best for them.
    Sami's family was transferred to another part of the world. She emailed Tucker, but he never opened her emails. When he got to Germany the next year, he met Angel.
    It turns out Sami had been Angel's best friend, and was delighted to have Tucker as her teacher. By the time Tucker met Angel, her mother, whom he'd not yet met, was already suffering from depression. Tucker had visited Ground Zero by then, and he reflects, "So many lives had been lost on that day, but ... I'd come to understand that military children continued to be victimized by these attacks." They were constantly losing their parents to deployment, not knowing if they would ever see them again. He couldn't deal with seeing that pain. He had transferred to Germany so he could teach in a larger school and be more anonymous.
    It didn't work, though. Angel found him and told him Sami was upset because he didn't answer her emails. Angel had brought a brand new mousepad. She put it down beside where Tucker's computer would go and wrote her name on it in big letters. When he asked what she was doing, she said, 'You forgot Sami. I don't want you to forget me, too.'
    Tucker still hesitated to be involved outside of class hours and usually went home at the end of the school day. Compared to the way he had interacted with his students in Korea, in Germany he was almost aloof as he tried to maintain emotional distance.

    Autumn and Winter, and Sami Again

    Five months later Sami entered his life again. Angel missed three days of school just after Sami came back. He thought of checking on her, but Sami was draining his energy.
    Autumn Leaves, © B. Radisavljevic
    Autumn Leaves, © B. Radisavljevic
    Tucker tells us autumn and the first part of winter seemed to move along with no visible problems, but then all hell broke loose. Sami's dad got called back to Qatar and Angel's dad was sent to Kuwait. Neither family was ever the same again, nor was Tucker. By this time he strongly suspected something was wrong in Angel's family, but Sami wouldn't betray Angel's confidence to tell him what she knew. Angel herself said she wasn't supposed to talk about "family stuff."
    Sami kept nagging Tucker to go visit Angel's home to see why Angel was missing so much school. Instead of going, Tucker told Sami to send her mother over to check on Angel's family. When Angel's family was leaving for their new location, Tucker gave Angel his email address and encouraged her to get in touch with him if she needed help. He told her talk and email were two different things.
    I got the feeling that Tucker had not opened his emails from Sami because he could see how dependent she was on their relationship and it drained him emotionally. It's obvious, though that he cared about her. He also cared about Angel. Angel finally did send him an email after she left, but he didn't see it until several hours later, and then circumstances discouraged him from opening it. I never could understand why he ignored the girls' emails. I wanted to yell at him to read the emails. His deleting an email from Angel (under pressure from his nephew) may have sealed her doom. (See introduction to video module above.)
    It's tough to review memoirs sometimes. Novelists create the ending they want. One can't always control how one's own life or the lives of others will turn out. I don't want to spoil this narrative by telling you all of it. I have hinted at what changed Tucker Elliot. He carried the footprints of Sami, Angel and Grace in his heart. I believe they will always be there. Perhaps he will also discover who he really is and I hope he finds his peace with the God he seems to have lost faith in.
    At the end of the book he is on his way to the place where his uncle died, wondering what he will think and feel when he arrives. He wonders if he will find God and forgiveness at the end of his journey. He wonders if he will be strong enough to be good. He ends he book with these words:
    ...pain is the harbinger of hope. You have to be alive to feel pain. If you are alive, then you have purpose. If you have purpose, then you have hope....God I want to tell Sami that....I want to tell Sami I'm sorry.

    The Day Before 9/11

    Don't miss this teacher's heartbreaking account of his emotional journey after September 11, 2001. We may have seen the photo of the jets hitting the Twin Towers in New York, but much of the damage done that day is not visible to outside observers. It damaged the spirits of many like Tucker and the families of the children he taught. It destroyed the lives of many who were not even in the United States that day. It just took more time.

    See more of my  reviews of books for adults at Bookworm Buffet, the blog I started for that purpose. At Books to Remember, I review some of the best children's books and educational resources for teachers created before Common Core Standards existed. The books  I review there will supplement any honest curriculum and may not be politically correct, even if the companies that published  them now are.

    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.”


    Monday, November 9, 2015

    Every Time I Lose a Dog Quote

    Decal for the Wall
    I never believed I would create a dedication page for a dog; I love them of course, it's just that we've owned cats most of our life. Only cats. 

    However, our life was changed in 2009 when we adopted a nine year old dog from an elderly family member. She was our first family dog.

    The biggest reason we never committed to owning a dog in the past was the realization that a dog was very much like raising a child: As dog owners already know, they require a great deal of attention and of course, there's a lot of work involved. 

    Having raised many kids, we knew only too well what the demands were, and until we could fully commit for the sake of the dog, we would never just casually jump into dog ownership.

    Unfortunately the inspiration for this article comes from people close to me who recently lost their dog, but mostly from our own hearts ... 

    Our precious dog was called to doggie heaven earlier this year (2015). She was elderly and it was her time, but that didn't make one speck of difference, the pain of losing her was fierce.

    We were all present with her as she underwent the procedure to end her suffering. There were seven of us with her; my husband and I, our four sons and our second son's girlfriend. 
    My second son insisted that we all be there for her, he said "she deserved that, she gave us unconditional love for five years" ... he said, "we owe her our presence during her hour of need". I'm not kidding you, that's how he put it. Although I was moved by what he said, I told him it was up to each person whether they could deal with seeing her lose her life, and in the end, everyone decided they could handle it, and everyone wanted to be there, for her.
    I called the boys and my husband from the Pet Hospital to let them know it was time, and they showed up with an ice-cream from Dairy Queen for her as a final treat. Still breaks me up to think of that.

    For those who've been through this, you know only too well how brutal it is. I have never seen so many grown men cry at one time. We went through two boxes of tissue. We stayed in that room with
    Here She is, On One of Our Many Christmas Eve's
    her for two hours, before we could all agree to let her go. We all held her, and told her how much we loved her. The boys took it so hard. In typical mom style, I kept it together for them, but later, in my own quiet and private moment at home, I wept.

    Our 'girl dog' (my nickname for her sometimes), made everyone smile. As soon as the boys walked through the front door, they called her and she'd come running and barking and that tail would always be wagging. She was loving, and gentle. She was the boss. She had all the power. And everyone loved that. That little Shih-Tzu taught us what it means to love a dog.

    When she passed, I couldn't sit at home and work for at least three days. She was my sidekick, and was very attached to me. Wherever I was in the house, you could pretty much count on finding her close by. She slept in her doggie bed while I worked. She was a sweet girl, I miss her. 

    The day she left us, not one of us could be in the house. We all headed to the arena to watch two of the boys play hockey. Sitting in that house without her on that first day, may qualify as one of the emptiest feelings we've felt. We couldn't get out of there fast enough.

    Every time I lose a Dog .... not sure we could go through that again.

    This Christmas coming up will be our first in five years without our girl-dog romping through the holiday wrappings. But we know she'll be running around spreading doggie love in heaven this Christmas.

    Love Barb,
    Owner of

    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.”


    Friday, November 6, 2015

    The Hunger Games Trilogy ~ A Review of a Very Romantic Book Series

    The Hunger Games Book Series from a Romantic Viewpoint 

    The Hunger Games Book Series
    I would be the first to admit, that I never expected "The Hunger Games Trilogy" would end up being on my list of most romantic books of all time.  I had heard mixed reviews about the books and I wanted to see for myself what all of the fuss was about.

    It turns out, The Hunger Games Trilogy is not only action filled, a bit of a thriller and almost seems prophetic at times, it really is a fabulous love story right up to the very last words, in the very last book of the series.

    I don't think I have ever cried as much over a book, or felt so close to the characters that I thought of them as personal friends.

    The very best part about this book, is that I would feel comfortable recommending it to any age or gender.  I don't recall any profanity in the book and absolutely nothing crude or immoral, including the love scenes.  Yet, every scene was vivid and consuming.

    The only thing that I would caution readers about, is obvious.  It is a book where people are killed.  Those descriptions are detailed, but I wouldn't categorize them as gory.  If you can say a book "tastefully" kills someone brutally, than that would be my description of those scenes.

    Background for The Hunger Games Trilogy

    Review Written by Cynthia Sylvestermouse

    The Hunger Games Card Set
    The main characters of "The Hunger Games Trilogy" are children, who are thrown into adult situations such as battle and survival.  As a parent, I wanted to protect these kids. I think that played a large part in the amount of tears I shed while reading these books.

    While some of them are experienced hunters, they are not murderers and have to find a way to survive when they are cast into a vast arena for days, in some cases, weeks, without any supplies and most of them without any real training.

    For the fans of the actual Hunger Games, they believe these games are set-up for sport, for the purpose of entertainment, reminiscent of the coliseum games in Ancient Rome.  In fact, they are much worse.

    They are established for the purpose of reminding the districts, which are comparable to the states of the United States, of the ultimate power and control the government has over whether they eat, work, live or die.  That the government literally holds their lives, and their children's lives, in their hands and they can do anything they want to, any time, to you and all that you love.

    How corrupt and evil to hold parents under governmental thumbs by killing, or threatening to kill their children while the whole world is watching for sport and entertainment.

    The Romantic Side of The Hunger Games Trilogy

    The Hunger Games: Official Illustrated Movie Companion
    But, once you look past all of the political aspects, you see there is a beautiful love story intertwined throughout the pages.

    Now remember, these are children, well teenagers actually, but from a parents perspective, they are children.  Had these children not been thrown into "The Hunger Games", I doubt they would have discovered or revealed their love for one another at such a young age, but they were placed in situations that forced them to grow up faster and that created an everlasting bound of dependence, trust, devotion and love.

    My heart broke for Peeta, who knew he loved Katniss long before they were the chosen participates in the 74th annual Hunger Games.  Upon first declaration of love, the reader thinks perhaps Peeta is playing a game himself for the purpose of winning support and favoritism with the fans, especially when it looks like he has teamed with an alliance to kill Katniss.  But, we find out rather quickly that he is actually trying to infiltrate the enemy with the intent of saving her life.

    The Hunger Games are designed to insure there will only be one participate that survives. There can only be one Hunger Games winner each year!

    "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." — The Bible ~ John 15:13


    The Hunger Games Trilogy - Easy Reads

    I Read All 3 Books in 2 Days

    The books are fast and easy reads and the story-line is gripping enough that you simply cannot put the books down!

    You will want to have all 3 books on hand when you start the first book, because you will want to keep reading.

    Okay, that's it!  That's as much as I am going to tell you!

    You simply must read the books for yourself!  No review, no excerpt could possible delve deep enough into the layers of this story to do it justice.

    It is a love story I doubt you will ever forget.  I know I won't!

    The Hunger Games Trilogy Books ~ Romantic Book Review 
    House of Sylvestermouse

    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.”


    Thursday, November 5, 2015

    InStep Fire Truck Pedal Car Review

    Every child, sometime in his or her young life, becomes obsessed with fire trucks. In fact, when does that attraction ever end? Grownups are drawn to fire engines, too, which may be why this authentic-looking fire truck pedal car is a bestseller and such a popular gift. The awesome InStep Fire Truck Pedal Car is durable, comes equipped with ladders and a bell, and your future firefighter will be thrilled to own it.
    This awesome InStep Fire Truck Pedal Car is durable, comes equipped with ladders and a bell, and your future firefighter will be thrilled to own it. Here's my review.

    Boys and girls will love this pedal car because of the bright fire engine red color, the shiny chrome hubcaps and ladder holders with removable ladders, the bell, and the storage compartment in the back to hold their fire fighter uniform or extra fire-fighting supplies. Once they get in and get moving, they'll love that their new fire truck is so easy to pedal and steer as they drive.

    Parents will love this toy truck because of the sturdy steel construction, rubber tires, and adjustable pedal car drive to accommodate growing children's leg lengths. Note that the recommended age range for the truck begins at 3 years, though some children may need to be older before they're able to coordinate the pedals. Maximum weight limit is 70 pounds.

    Grandparents will enjoy the old-fashioned, 1950s nostalgic look of the pedal car, likely to bring back fond memories of the old fire truck they had when they were kids. The price isn't bad, either, always a plus for grandparents who love to give nice gifts.

    Santa's elves will like this gift idea, too, because assembly directions are easy to follow, though let your friendly elves know to set aside a couple of hours to have plenty of time to get it put together.

    Doting parents and grandparents who want the best for their kiddos know they can't go wrong when they choose the gift of a toy fire truck for their little one. This durable InStep pedal car fire truck is an excellent choice, one that will last for years, through uncountable hours of creative play. To make your gift complete, consider including a firefighter accessories set or even a toy Dalmatian dog to hang out with them at the station between calls. You'll have as much fun watching as they have playing!

    Maybe your little fireman (or firelady) will grow up to be a real-life firefighter, or maybe not, but in the meantime we think he (or she) will love this gift. Visit the links below to shop for yours and to check the excellent customer reviews.

    Quick Links:
    Find the InStep Fire Truck Pedal Car at:

    ~ Susan Deppner

    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.”


    Wednesday, November 4, 2015

    Reviewing Santas Village Cookie Jar

    Cookies At Grandma's House

    Whether you are already a Grandma or a Grandma in waiting, I'll just bet one of the things that you love to have around the house for children (actual kids or the adults in touch with their inner child) who visit are cookies. Now, it is one thing to just have the cookies available and it is totally another thing to have a special cookie jar for the children to get the cookies from. One of my fondest memories of my own Grandmother's house is her cookie jar. For one thing, it never ever seemed empty. Hers was not a fancy one, it was very simple, actually. As the Grandma to 5 precious little ones, I am carrying on the tradition and making sure that there are always cookies in a cookie jar when they come to visit. Oh who am I kidding? There are always cookies in my cookie jar! 

    I Might Have A Problem

    Unlike my Grandma, I have this penchant for fun cookie jars. I like to have ones on display that follow with the seasons of the year. It is a weakness of mine, I admit, but a fun little hobby just the same. In my opinion, one can not have too many cookie jars. 

    So, last year my Christmas themed cookie jar accidentally got broken. No, it wasn't one of the kids who broke the lid but one of the adult kids who dropped it on the floor. Was I angry? Oh no! The breaking of the lid offered up the opportunity to find a new one. I love the thrill of the hunt, don't you know!

    I've been looking around and finally found the perfect replacement for my Christmas Cookie Jar.

    This is perfect for me to place the cookies in! It is so very cute and festive and large enough to hold several cookies, brownies and other sweet treats. I love that it looks like it is a part of Santa's Village and I will tell the kids that Mrs. Claus and the elves have been busy keeping the jar as full as possible.

    How do I keep the jar full? Well, as much as I would appreciate Mrs. C and the elves help, they don't come through for me. So, I bake the cookies up ahead of time and freeze them. I can pull out a variety at any time. I start as early as October and keep them in empty coffee tins separated by waxed paper. This Grandma/Mom never runs out of cookies. And listen, if you don't enjoy baking like I do that is really not a problem. You can always buy an abundant supply at the store bakery or on the cookie aisle of the grocery. The cookie police are not going to come arrest you if the cookies and treats are not made in your own kitchen.

    Besides traditional Christmas cookies, I also make up batches of Buckeyes, those wonderful peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate! Those are my favorites even though technically they are a candy and not a cookie. I also make batches of what I call "wreaths" which are a form of Rice Krispie treats with a twist. Instead of the rice krispies I use corn flakes, put green food coloring in the marshmallow mixture and top with red M&M's. They kind of look like holly leaves and berries.

    How about you? Do you have a special Christmas Cookie jar in your home? What kinds of cookies do you like to have stored in them?

    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.”


    Tuesday, November 3, 2015

    How to Make a Personalized Ornament or Decorative Tile to Honor or Remember a Much Loved Pet

    Wouldn't you like an ornament of your pet hanging on your Christmas tree?

    Eldon the Cat Yawning, © B. Radisavljevic
    Eldon the Cat Yawning, © B. Radisavljevic
    Pets are an important part of the family, but unlike your children, they can't make special ornaments to hang on the tree.  They can, however, have their pictures displayed on customized ornaments you can create at Zazzle. You know your cat or dog (or rabbit or bird or turtle or whatever pet you have) is full of personality. You probably have a memorable picture of your pet on your computer right now, just waiting to be made into an ornament or decorative tile. 

    The process is simple Just follow my links to Zazzle and use my easy directions to customize. I used a former neighbor's cat, Eldon, as my model, since I don't have any pets at this time. Eldon has already crossed the Rainbow Bridge. An ornament is a great way  to memorialize him,  as you might want to do for a pet who is no longer with you. During the holidays, we miss those who are gone the most. That certainly includes our pets.

    Sarah the Cat Sitting, © B. Radisavljevic
    Sarah the Cat Sitting, © B. Radisavljevic
    And don't forget your friends. Maybe you have a pet sitter who would like an ornament or decorative tile with your pet's picture for Christmas. Maybe your children who have moved away from home and left the family pet behind would appreciate a decorative tile or trivet to remember them all year. Or maybe you have a great shot of a friend's pet that friend would appreciate as an ornament or decorative tile. Just use your imagination and you will soon know what to give those people who won't really tell you what they want, but they really do love their pets. These ornaments don't even have to hang on a tree. They can  hang anywhere you can attach them so you enjoy them all year. 

    How to Customize an Ornament for Your Pet Keepsake

    You met Eldon above. Now let's see him on a premium square ornament. There are many shapes you can choose, but because Eldon has a long tail, I had to make a square ornament to squeeze it all in. Square is one of the easiest ornament shapes to work with. 

    Just click the ornament images to get to  them on Zazzle.

    When you click on Eldon's ornament, it will take you to its product page. I'm now going to change Eldon's ornament into one to memorialize Sarah, my neighbor's cat who visited me daily and hung out on my porch, always there to greet me when I came home, always hoping for the cat treat she knew she'd get from me. She died this year and we miss her. Read about my relationship with and see more pictures of Sarah here. 

    This is how you can change the ornament for Eldon to one in honor of your pet, as I did to make mine in honor of Sarah.   

    • On the ornament, you will see the  "Customize it!" button. Click it. The photo will change to a design view with some red boundary lines. 
    • Look to your right under "Customize it!" Scroll past the blue icons. 
    • Look for Eldon with "Change Image" on his right. 
    • To put your pet's picture in, just click to change.
    • Upload a picture from your computer. The picture you upload should be at least 2" square, 300 pixels resolution, and in png format. 
    • Use the buttons over where you changed the photo, to increase or decrease the size of the photo in the frame to fit or fill it. you can also use buttons to move the image up and down, left and right. Just play with it. You want to keep the image within the inner red box to keep it from being cropped. Test by clicking the button underneath to change to art view. That shows you how your finished product will look. 
    • Above where I changed the image, you can change the text to match your pet's name and date, to remove any text, or to change the text to whatever you want to say. While the square is still around your text, you can drag it wherever in the product you want it to be. 
    • As you scroll down the right side, you can change the background color or the ornament's shape and style.   I normally pick my style first and then fiddle with the images and text, either of which you can change from this screen.

    If your image doesn't look quite right, you can use the "arrange" or "edit" drop down menus, or you can mouse over the icons to see what they do and use them to make your picture large enough to fill all the space or smaller to  fit better. You can play with them until your ornament looks the way you want it to. The previews where you choose your shapes shows you how  your photo will look in those other shapes. When your ornament is just right, use the big blue/orange button near the top right to "Add to Cart." (It's blue until the mouse turns it orange.)

    Here's how Sarah's ornament turned out. Notice that I dragged the text to a location where it would show better.

    Now Let's Look at Some Other Ornament Styles

    First, meet Nicki. She was the shiest of one neighbor's cats and she didn't like to pose. I was lucky to get her at all. I have put her on a premium round ornament, and her photo had to be 2.13" x 1.25," resolution 300, png format. Larger pictures will also work, but they shouldn't be any smaller. The important thing to remember about round ornaments is that the subject should be easy to center. Before you choose a shape, be sure your photo can conform to it. 

    Let's Look at the Ceramic Ornaments You Can Make from Your Pet's Pictures

    Let's meet Pumpkin, the most docile of my previous neighbor's cats. She's a sweetheart, but I had to get candid shots. I have her on a ceramic round ornament. You can use the customize button to switch pictures and text. Your picture should be about 1150 pixels in diameter, 300 resolution, and png format. 
    See how easy it was to get her centered? 

    Ceramic ornaments have two sides you can fill and you have a lot of design flexibility. Be sure to customize both sides by clicking under the ornament to choose the front or back to work with. I put the date on the  back side, leaving the front for just the photo. You can also make both sides identical. 

    Zazzle is playing around with their image links and in some cases below you will see the design, not the actual ornament. If you click the title link of the ornament, it will take you to how the design will look on the ornament, and you will also have the option of choosing the design in a different shape.

    Here are some other appealing kitty ornaments you might get ideas from. This one has a frame. Just click through and put your cat into the frame.

    The heart-shape ornament is also very popular. Here are some of my favorites.
    This ornament is two sided. It features two photos of the same cat. I show you the back side here. One could also choose to put a picture of two  different pets on the two different sides -- maybe even a cat and a dog. 

    And, lest you think I'm anti-dog, here is an ornament featuring a canine pet.

    Some photos will do well on the oval shape. I like this one.

    Puppy Kitten Snow Cabin Christmas Ornament

    I think the star is the most complicated shape to fit a photo into, but here's one that worked well. 

    If You'd Like a Pet Keepsake Larger than an Ornament to Display All Year, Make a Decorative Tile or Trivet

    For a tile such as the one below, use a 4.25" x 4.25" picture, 300 resolution, png format. If you want some wiggle room, you might make your picture a bit larger to make sure it will fill the space. You can, of course, also add words. When you click through to the product page, you can customize with your own picture and words, but you will also have the option of adding a frame to make this a trivet or a box, for which this would be a decorative top. One tile gives you three different options. Here are what some others have done.

    Are You Inspired to Make an Ornament or Tile to Honor Your Pet Yet?

    I hope I've given you some inspiration and some practical help on how to do it. Please use the comment section for feedback, questions I've not answered, more ideas for using pet ornaments, or just to let me know you were here.

    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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    Review This is Dedicated to the Memory of Our Beloved Friend and Fellow Contributor
    We may be apart, but You Are Not Forgotten

    Susan DeppnerSusan Deppner

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