Saturday, December 10, 2016

Gift of a Letter - Book Review

Gift of a Letter

As Christmas cards and holiday letters from faraway friends and family begin to arrive in my mailbox, I'm reminded once again of how much I love receiving handwritten notes.  In today's 'instant' society, with communicating reduced to emails and cell phone texts, our outside mailboxes now contain mostly junk mail and any bills one hasn't changed over to 'paperless' delivery. Seldom do we find a real letter today arriving as 'snail mail', except greeting cards for holidays and birthdays, perhaps with a handwritten note.


Gift of a Letter by Alexandra Stoddard


Available on Amazon

In her book "Gift of a Letter", Alexandra Stoddard tells us about the 'power' of a letter and includes the elements of letter writing and how it touches those you love.

Letters are the most natural form of autobiography, allowing us to be personal and specific. The author tells us that by writing a letter to a friend, it brings that person into your day! The scenes and stories told linger as long as the letter, and beyond!  It's a special way of sharing ourselves with others.

Image Source: Pixabay
A phone call is a convenience, an email or text is quick, but a LETTER is a Gift!  It's never interrupted, it doesn't require immediate attention, and it can be saved and savored.   It's a treat with no strings attached.

Letters are sent to people we want in our lives and a way to stay close to friends who mean so much to us. Re-reading old letters can remind us of past pleasures and memories.  The  nostalgia it produces can be a wonderful reward.  Author  Stoddard states that "there is always time to write, just as there is time to enjoy life."



I Love Mail


Image Source: Pixabay
The importance of receiving letters became immediately apparent to me my first week in college living in a dormitory.  Suddenly I found myself over 1,000 miles away from home ~ for the very first time. Going away to college is an adventure and a wonderful feeling of being independent and 'grown up'. But you don't realize until then also how lonely those first few weeks can feel. The first letter-from-home I received was such a happy moment.  Before I even read the letter, the feeling of being loved and 'remembered' nearly overwhelmed me. Such a small thing, that letter, yet it instantly connected me with my faraway family in a way I've never forgotten. After that day, mail call became my favorite part of each day.  The anticipation of receiving a letter got me through some difficult adjustment times in the beginning.  And it set up an expectation I've never gotten over -- so much so that even today, 50 years later, I still hope to find a real letter or handwritten note in my mailbox. With today's instant communications, it doesn't happen very often, but when it does it's a very special moment.


Because of the joy I've always felt from receiving letters, all my life I have been a  letter-writer. Even with the quick availability of emails and such, I just enjoy mailing out everything from long letters to a couple lines on a postcard to cute greeting cards all year long to my grandsons. Kids LOVE getting mail addressed to them. It makes them feel someone knows them for themselves. 


Notes as a Thoughtful Gesture


Image Source: Pixabay
Letters don't have to be long to be enjoyed and appreciated by the recipient. How many of you have done as I have and stuck little 'smiley face' notes in our kids' lunch pails or a quick "I Love You" note in our husband's briefcase. 


Coming across little notes like that is sure to be a sweet surprise and undoubtedly will bring a smile to their faces. 


Author Alexandra Stoddard


When Alexandra was just five years old, her godmother sent her a note inviting her to visit for the weekend.  She remembers vividly that her full name was spelled out on the envelope and the letter was signed by an adult she loved.  To her godmother, she was a real-live person, not just her parents'  little girl. That letter instilled in Alexandra a passion for letter writing and receiving she has had her entire life. 


Alexandra Stoddard is more than an author of numerous books; she is also an interior decorator, a contemporary philosopher, and a speaker. You can find her website at alexandrastoddard.com


At age 75, she continues with her writing, seminars and lectures which contain a positive personal philosophy of ways to live a beautiful and happy life.  For a list of her other books available on Amazon, click here.



Give the 'Gift of a Letter'


(c) Wednesday Elf
This book "Gift of a Letter" was published in 1990 and today is hard to find.  Some sellers on Amazon and others on eBay still have copies. 


Other books on the subject of letter-writing ARE readily available, as seen in the list below. But I DO like my little book, as it's a wonderful reminder for me to dash off a note or send a card with a hand-written message or even write a long letter to a dear friend I've been missing.  The time it takes to do so is rewarded ten times over by the joy the recipient has when the letter/card/note arrives in their mailbox! 




Quick Links:

Gift of a Letter on Amazon
Gift of a Letter on eBay



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Friday, December 9, 2016

The Spirit of Christmas (2015) Movie Review

 A fabulous romantic suspense Christmas movie.  When Kate is tasked with selling Hollygrove Inn, she finds the house is haunted by a handsome ghost who she finds hard to resist.
When I am decorating for Christmas, I have to take breaks to eat.   During those breaks, I kick my feet up and enjoy my dinner with a movie.  I frequently depend on the classics like "Miracle of 34th Street" or "Christmas in Connecticut" because I know the stories will be delightfully enchanting.  This year, instead of pulling out one of my faithful DVDs, I decided to watch a new movie online.   Well, at least for one of my breaks, I decided to watch a new movie. The classics still await!

After a brief search on Amazon, I found a new Christmas movie that sounded quite appealing to me.  The description of The Spirit of Christmas reminded me of one of my all time favorite movies, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.  Now, it would be most unreasonable for me to think I could happen upon a current day movie equal to The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, but I did very much enjoy watching The Spirit of Christmas

Part of what makes The Ghost and Mrs. Muir such a fabulous movie, are the actors that play the main characters.  Gene Tierney is timelessly gorgeous and Rex Harrison is simply a phenomenal actor that is appropriately dark, yet dignified.  By comparison, the main actress in The Spirit of Christmas, Jen Lilley, is stunningly beautiful and Thomas Beaudoin is a very handsome, distinguished ghost.  Both ghosts simply wish to be left alone in their homes.  Both women are determined to stay right where they are regardless of moody, sometimes overbearing spirits.

Plot of The Spirit of Christmas

The main story takes place current day, but as one would expect with ghosts, the past plays a huge part in the present.  Ninety-five years ago, Daniel Forsythe was returning home to his one true love for Christmas when he was murdered in the yard of his home.  Every year, he returns to Hollygrove Inn 12 days before Christmas.
 The Spirit of Christmas  
Present-day, Kate Jordan is a successful lawyer who is not successful in love.  Her career at Patton and Turner law firm comes first. And frankly, she isn't sure she even knows how to love.  

After the death of Henrietta Forsythe, Patton and Turner law firm becomes the executor of the Forsythe estate, which mostly consists of Hollygrove Inn.  As such, Kate is tasked with getting the inn appraised and sold before the end of the year.  That only gives her 3 weeks to get the job done.  The biggest problem Kate faces is getting a loyal appraiser for the property.  It is widely known that Hollygrove Inn is haunted by it's previous owner, Daniel Forsythe.

Shortly after arriving at Hollygrove Inn in Vermont, Kate meets Daniel Forsythe.  He is not at all what she expected.  To begin with, he is well dressed and she can actually touch him.  Plus, he enjoys eatting real food.  He is nothing like what she expected of a ghost.  After hearing the story of how he was murdered and how his fiance' subsequently married his brother, Kate decides her number one focus should be solving Daniel's murder so he can rest in peace.  Thereby, also resolving the ghost problem of the inn.  As Daniel and Kate start working together, digging into his past, exploring his memories, they quickly become friends.  She finds that she actually cares about him and what really happened to him. 

However, it is not that simple and Daniel is not the only ghost haunting Hollygrove.





This really is a wonderful romantic suspense Christmas movie that I can highly recommend!  So, be sure to take a break this holiday, sit back, kick your feet up and watch The Spirit of Christmas




The Spirit of Christmas Movie Review Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse





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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Photography Tips for the Holiday

Christmas at Missouri Botanical Garden

Everybody enjoys looking at photographs from the holiday season.  It is the time we gather with friends and families, decorate for the occasion and celebrate the birth of our Savior.  What a great time to document these wonderful memories with photos.  Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Before the season is upon us check out your camera.  Make sure it is in good working order and that all your lenses are clean.
  • Make sure your batteries are charged and recharge them after each use.
  • You may want to consider purchasing an extra memory card to use for your holiday photos.
  • Make a list of things you want to photograph during this Christmas season.
  • Every year I try to photograph something different for the holiday.  This year I plan to go to my church after the decorations are up and take some photographs of the nave.  I'm thinking they may make a nice card for the following year. What can you try new this year?

 

Special Events


Special events are always a great time to take photos.  In the photo at the top of this article I photographed a tree at Missouri Botanical Gardens.  Since the photo was taken in the evening I used a tripod and a remote shutter release.  If you don't have those items available to use try to find somewhere to stabilize you camera.  A post, the top of your car, a bench and other stationary items will help you to avoid camera shake and capture some beautiful evening shots.


Try a Photo Walk


A photo walk through a decorated area is a great way to capture some street shots and decorations.  In the photos below I walked through historic Main Street in St. Charles, Missouri. This historic town on the banks of the Missouri river served as the first capitol of the state.

Below are a couple of the photos I shot.


Click Here for Zazzle products from these photos

 

Group  Photos


Group photos are a great way to preserve the memories of the people that attended the gatherings during the holidays.  Although candid shots can be fun, a planned group shot is a great way to include everyone.  Take the time to check the background in your photo.  You wouldn't want to end up with a candle sticking out of someones head.
Also make sure to check your lighting.  I prefer natural lighting, rather than flash, so in these photos I used a lens with a lowlight capability and a 1.8 aperture on the camera.  If I end up with a yellow tone, I can always adjust it in post processing with a slight slide of the tint or exposure slide.

For both the lighting and the background you may have to move your group to a better location in the room.  The first photo below is of my sister and her family.  Although the tree is in the background, I zoomed in on the people.  I see too many photos where someone has tried to get the whole tree in with the people.  That is usually not a good combination so my motto is decide what your focus is (the people or the tree) and set up your shot accordingly.

The second shot below is a group of high school friends of my husbands (he is in red sweater).  These guys have known each other for over 55 years and I wanted to capture them all in the photo.  They were somewhat patient with me as I moved them around to make sure everyone was seen in the photo.


 

Special Moments


Be sure to have your camera ready for those special moments.  Here is my husband with our oldest granddaughter, Rachel.  In these shots the background are not always perfect but I zoom in on the faces and capture the moment.

 

 

Kids and the Tree


Kids under the tree is always a good shot for Christmas.  Remember to take some shots before the presents are unwrapped.  In these photos you see our youngest granddaughters.


 

Zoom in on the Ornaments and Decoration


Along with the photos of family, friends and events, I like to take some artsy photos.  Christmas decorations and ornaments are always good subjects.  I like to use a little Bokeh ( a term that refers to keeping what is important in focus and blurring the rest).  In the first photo I was sitting on the sofa right in front of the candle in the foreground.  I set my aperture to 1.8 and zoomed in on the candle.  I was hand holding the camera so I steadied it on my knee.  I got the effect I wanted with the candle in focus and the fireplace blurred.   The second photo used the same principal but was taken of an ornament on the tree during the daytime.



Another fun Christmas shot is to take a photo and then edit out all of the color except the red.  I did that in the photo below of our Christmas tree and fireplace.




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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Review: How to Choose the Best Snow Blower for Your Needs

Winter is Here!  Just in case you didn't know it yet.

While we have yet to experience our first big snowfall, I know it's coming!  So I want to be prepared!  There is nothing worse than waking up one morning to find that your car has disappeared under a mountain of snow.  Hopefully, this Review will help you figure out what your needs are and help you make an informed decision!
Pixabay.com
Last year we decided we had had enough of shoveling out our driveway. After the snow fall, we just sighed at the thought of having to go out there to move it all. We watched our neighbor quickly and easily get his snow removed with the use of an Electric Snow Shovel. While my husband and I were looking for our hot water bottles to place on our aching backs, he had his driveway done lickety split! It didn't take long for us to decide that this was what we needed. Our driveway isn't too long, so a huge snowblower is not a requirement. But, we do need help moving what we have. Our bodies are not as limber and youthful as they once were. 

How do you decide what kind of Snow Blower you need?



Choosing a snowblower is a matter of really assessing your own personal situation.  There are 3 basic matters to consider before buying a snow blower.

  • The area that needs to be cleared
  • How much snow needs to be moved
  • Your own terrain.  Are you on level ground or do you have hills and valleys to worry about?

If you have a long driveway with lots of snow to be removed, you will need something more powerful than my electric snow shovel.  If you live in a snow belt, then you know you will be using the snow blower frequently.  These are two of the first considerations to make when deciding to purchase a snowblower.  The third consideration is your terrain.  Many people forget to take that into consideration.  If you need to remove snow from a hilly area, you will need more power and possibly some added traction for the snowblower. If you only have a few inches of snow a year, then stick with a shovel.  They are environmentally friendly and give you some exercise at the same time.  Snowblowing if you have lots of snow and a long driveway with a hilly terrain, will give you a good work out too.



There are several different types of Snow Blowers let's take a quick look at them here.


For small jobs, a single stage motor will suffice quite nicely.  This is for areas that get less than 4-6 inches of snow at one time. You will have to help the snowblower by pushing it forward, but it will shoot the snow away quite nicely.  

For more snow and a larger area to clear, a two stage motor is recommended.  If you consistently have more than 6-8 inches of snow in one snowfall, the two stage motor will make removing the snow easier and quicker too. Two-stage snowblowers have the auger to pick up the snow and an impeller that helps to blow the snow into the chute and away from your driveway or walk.  The two stage blowers also have a drive to help push the snowblower forward.  

For really large areas where the snowfall is greater than 8 inches at a time, the three stage* snowplows are great.  They have an added impeller that brings the snow to the auger and then, the second impeller to move the snow to the chute and out.  Again, this is only for really large areas with lots of snow fall.  Most people in the city will do quite nicely with either the one or two stage snowblower. (*three stage snowblowers are really a two stage blower with an added impeller, some say it's a two stage blower on steroids)

For your convenience, you can check out consumer reports for their unbiased opinions on the best snow blowers on the market.  You can check out their link right here : Consumer Reports, Snow Blowers Buying Guide

What can you expect to pay for a Snow Blower?

That will all depend on what features you want on your machine.  Snow Blowers come with all kinds of added features, from heated hand holds, to power chute manipulation and more.  Some of these bells and whistles are nice to have and others are just extras that you can do without.  Prices for a good machine will run from $2,000.00 at the top of the scale to a mere $100.00 for an electric Snow Shovel.  You have to decide what your needs are and then make an informed choice. 

My Conclusions


For years we have shoveled our snow by hand.  We are now in our late 60's and find that shoveling by hand is no longer what we want to do.  Having said that, we purchased an Electric Snow Shovel for our needs. We have a short driveway on level ground so this more than fits our needs.  If it snows a lot, we will go out two or three times.  For our area, the amount of snow we get and our conditions, this is more than enough for us.  Whatever your needs may be, I would highly recommend listening to the Consumer Reports and reading through some of the comments below it.  Without a subscription to Consumer Reports, I could not see the ones that they recommended, they want you to purchase a subscription before they give out that information.  Having said that, it is still full of very useful information.

This is the power shovel that we purchased...
On Sale right Now!
I hope this review has helped you to make a better and much more informed decision on which Snowblower you need for your own particular circumstances.

Happy Winter!
Pixabay.com










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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Adopting An Elephant

Giving A Unique Gift This Year

elephant
Elephant Image from Pixabay.com
In my last post I spoke of my granddaughter and her passion to save the elephants. Besides the gift of the stuffed elephant that I plan to give her, I came up with another gift idea. I have adopted an elephant in her name. 

How does one adopt an elephant you may be thinking. It is actually very easy to do. Obviously, one doesn't actually take on an elephant to raise. The adoption is really a creative use of words for a donation to help in the conservation and protection of elephants in Africa and Asia. I chose to donate the money to the World Wildlife Fund as a gift to my precious little 5 year old granddaughter as one of her Christmas gifts. 

This may seem like an unusual gift for a child but she isn't a typical 5 year old. After having visited Disney World this last spring the one thing she came home with was the desire to save the slaughter of elephants for their tusks. It has occurred to me that not only is this the perfect gift for her this year but one that I can continue to give each year. It is a gift that can be given to someone who feels passionately about saving the endangered species of wildlife across the globe. You can choose from several types of animals, not just the elephant through The World Wildlife Fund which has helped protect wildlife for over 50 years. 

Another option for helping elephants is the International Elephant Foundation. Donations to this organization also help to protect the elephants. The IEF operates conservation and education programs in the wild and facilities to protect, manage and perform scientific research. The foundation was formed in 1998 in Fort Worth, Texas when there was a lack of reputable organizations for this very purpose.

We so often think of giving our children and grandchildren toys, books and clothing as a gift. There is nothing wrong with that at all. I just wanted to do something different this year and making a donation for the elephants will really mean something to my sweet little granddaughter. I think it will be a gift that she will remember for many years. 

I also want to clarify that the links that I have provided in this post are not affiliate links which means that there is no monetary gain for me when you visit the sites. If you choose to donate to either of them, all of the donation goes to the organization. This post is just a way to make a suggestion for a unique and different gift that you can give to someone special in your life who is passionate about saving our wildlife whether it is an elephant, rhinoceros, orangutan or any other endangered species.  




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Monday, December 5, 2016

Easy Snickerdoodle Cookie Pie Recipe Review

I have always loved Snickerdoodle cookies. I remember eating them as a child, growing up in Amish country. I love eating fresh baked goods - cookies, breads, and pies. Unfortunately, I have very little time to spend in the kitchen so I am always looking for tasty shortcuts. This is a super fast, easy, and delicious way to bake something we call Snickerdoodle Cookie Pie.


Why and How I Make Snickerdoodle Cookie Pie


I regularly bake brownies (from a box mix, of course). Brownies from a box are quick, easy, and fairly fool-proof. Even for me. I love eating cookies, but because I'm fairly lazy in the kitchen I rarely bake cookies. After all, dropping cookies onto sheet after sheet and having to be attentive to the oven every few minutes seems like a lot of work to me. I end up burning more cookies than I bake successfully. Because of these tendencies, I thought I'd try to make bar cookies using Betty Crocker Snickerdoodle cookie mix. 

I have used the different Betty Crocker cookie mixes and have found every single one tasty and dependable. I know what I am getting when I buy this brand of cookie mix. I recommend this cookie mix for folks like me who aren't very talented in the kitchen. Or for people who have minimal time for baking.

After experimenting with a 8" square baking dish and just one pack of cookie mix, I then experimented with a 10 1/2" round baking dish and two packs of cookie mix. I do like the 8" baking dish with one package of peanut butter cookie mix (just follow the directions) but for the Snickerdoodles, I prefer the round dish.

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages of Betty Crocker Snickerdoodle cookie mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 T water
  • only 1 of the packs of cinnamon (included with each cookie mix package)
  • optional - crystal sugar sprinkles

also:
  • Baking dish 10 1/2" round and at least 1" deep baking dish
  • non-stick cooking spray

Step-by-Step directions:

pre-heat oven to 375 
set butter in dish and warm to room temperature



set the cinnamon packs aside

add cookie mix (both packages) to the bowl
add eggs and water

mix together



lightly grease the bottom of the baking dish

sprinkle approximately 1/4 of one of the cinnamon packs in the bottom of the baking dish




drop the cookie dough by large spoonfuls into the dish flatten/spread slightly

(the dough is very thick. Trying to pour then spread is only successful in pulling the cinnamon up from the bottom of the dish)




sprinkle the cinnamon remaining in one packet on the top

(you can choose to use both cinnamon packets, but I prefer less cinnamon. I simply save the extra packet for use on toast or oatmeal)



optional - during the holidays I use red and green crystal sugar in addition to the cinnamon




bake at 375 for approximately 30 minutes

test for doneness with a toothpick or small wooden skewer
when the skewer pulls out clean, bake for an additional few minutes

(I bake for an additional 5 minutes. If you end baking as soon as the skewer comes out clean, your cookie pie will be doughy in the center.)




cool, slice and serve

can be served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream




Notes:

You will need to adjust the length of baking time for your oven, elevation, and preference. I prefer my cookie pie to be a bit on the doughy or under-cooked side. You may prefer yours cooked through a bit more. 

As I was preparing this article I noticed that the Betty Crocker Peanut Butter cookie mix is less expensive in Amazon's Prime Fresh category than it is at my local stores. Be sure to check out the lower prices if you are an Amazon Prime and Prime Fresh member.







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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Pull Up Christmas Tree for Time Saving and Small Places

Pre-Lit Pull Up Christmas Tree Here
More Design Reviews as Well
Christmas time is often a mad rush.

Finding a way to navigate our schedules during the month of December can be an exercise in creative thinking.

With so much to do, planning to put up our Christmas Tree or more than one Christmas Tree can take up as much as an afternoon, evening, or even multiple days.

Yet most of us look forward to this time and make family memories while doing it. Whether it's watching holiday specials, sipping on cocoa, or basking in the aroma of baking cookies while we do all the trimmings ... all of it is something we know we'll look back on as memorable life moments.

HOWEVER .... When Space & Time Get In the Way .... Here's the Solution:

Pull Up Pre-Lit Christmas Trees

Did you know you can get a pre-lit pull up Christmas Tree that's fully decorated and that folds down small enough to fit in a storage bag?

Not only that, they make them in various styles, sizes, colors and designs.

The best part of pre-lit pull up Christmas Tree is that it's a tree you'll have for almost a lifetime. It will grow and shrink with your lifestyle. When you need or want multiple trees in your home for Christmas, several pull-up trees offer a convenient solution.

When you're a little older and you need to downsize, just put up your pull-up tree and you're good to go! After-all, they're not only practical, they're perfect for smaller spaces.

Check out the various design options here!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, .... a good decorating experience.




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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Aroma Digital Rice Steamer Review

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



Review of Aroma Digital Rice Steamer


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

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

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

Cooking Different Grains in the Aroma Rice Steamer


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

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

Onion Wild Rice Recipe


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

Coconut Almond Grains


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


Choosing a Rice Steamer


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

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

See more great product reviews at Review This! Products


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Friday, December 2, 2016

The Night Before Christmas Book Review

The Night Before Christmas by Rose Collin is a very cute vision of the beloved poem illustrated with bears instead of people.
The Night Before Christmas is a classic children's Christmas book that we all know and love! 

The poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas, is often one of the first poems a child memorizes.  Children quickly embrace the poem's meter without realizing they are being exposed to a true art form.  It has such a lyrical cadence that it could almost be sung instead of recited.   Most parents have it memorized so well that they are rarely actually reading when they select that book for the bedtime story.

Every home with a child has at least one copy of this wonderful holiday book and some of us have several copies.  It is fun to compare the different illustrations!  Actually, the pictures are every bit as important as the story itself. 


History of "Twas the Night Before Christmas"

 The Night Before Christmas - 1963
It may surprise you to know that the author of the poem is contested.  

The story was originally named A Visit from St. Nicholas and published anonymously in 1823, but claimed four years later by Clement Clarke Moore.  The validity of that claim has been disputed.  

The family of Henry Livingston, Jr. maintains that he was the actual author.  Henry Livingston, Jr. was in fact a distant relative of Clement Moore's wife.   

In my opinion, that dispute casts a bit of a shadow over this wonderful poem.  It is so very sad when someone tries to steal another's work.  Obviously, 200 years after the fact, we can't know for sure which is the thief.  

It is just a real shame that a story with such impact for centuries cannot be unequivocally attributed to the proper author.


Review of the Visual Art


 The Night Before Christmas
by Rose Collins
The classic illustrations are colorful and magical.  We can almost feel the warmth of the fireplace, the cold of the snow and the see the twinkle in Santa's eye.  They beautifully reflect the words of the poem.

I was recently given a copy of "The Night Before Christmas" by Rose Collins.  I discovered an illustrated version that evokes nostalgic feelings in parents, but has a whole new appeal for children.  Instead of people, this version features bears.   Santa Claus is still human, but he visits a family of bears on Christmas Eve.

This digital book appeals to me personally because I love teddy bears!  Of course, I still love the original illustrations, but this is a really cute way to embrace yesteryear while giving it a touch of current day fun.

Rose Collins also makes a few changes in the words to current day language.  For instance, instead of "the children were nestled, all snug in their beds", she writes "the children were sleeping all snug in their beds".  I also emitted a wee giggle when I noted that she renamed Donner, Donna, which is obviously current day influence as well.

http://amzn.to/2gvyps8
A Page from the Kindle Book, The Night Before Christmas by Rose Collins


Reading Books with Illustrations Digitally


For several years, I have enjoyed reading books on my Kindle Paperwhite.  However, I have often lamented that I wish I could see the images in color, especially when reviewing children's books or viewing cookbooks.  So often, those images really do make a huge difference.  I asked my fellow contributor, Susan Deppner, our resident electronics guru, if she had a solution for that.  Boy, did she ever!  

I quickly hopped over to her comparison review of the different Kindles and knew in just a few moments that I needed the Kindle Fire! 

You, too, can read Susan's excellent comparison of the digital readers by clicking this link.  It is a must read when selecting a new Kindle.


I will continue to read my novels on my Kindle Paperwhite, but I have to tell you.  I do love my new Kindle Fire that shows images in color.

The Night Before Christmas by Rose Collin is a very cute vision of the beloved poem illustrated with bears instead of people.
A photo of my own Kindle Fire opened to a page of "The Night Before Christmas" by Rose Collins

Encourage Your Child to Read with Their Own Kindle Fire





The Night Before Christmas Book Review Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse





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Thursday, December 1, 2016

1byone Wireless Driveway Alarm Review

Let me tell you about the 1byone Wireless Driveway Alarm that we own and highly recommend to help keep individuals and families safe.

Give the Gift of Home Security for Less Than $20

A few years ago at Christmas, one of our thoughtful sons gave us the gift of a 1byone Wireless Driveway Alarm. Having lived here with us for most of his life, he was well aware that sometimes visitors made it all the way to the porch before we had any idea there was someone walking or even driving down our long, rather secluded driveway. What a great gift idea!

After using the alarm for just a short time, not only were we glad we had it, we knew that we never wanted to be without it. Let me tell you about this wireless driveway alarm that we still own, use every day, and highly recommend.

The brand name of the unit we own is 1byone (one by one) and the cost for the motion sensor detector and the receiver system is less than twenty dollars (currently $15.99 as I type this, price subject to change). Even adding the cost of the batteries needed to power the unit, the word "cheap" comes to mind, but I don't want to give you the idea that this is an inferior product as it certainly is not.

How Does the 1byone Wireless Driveway Alarm Work?


The driveway alarm's weatherproof motion sensor uses passive-infrared (PIR) technology. | ReviewThisReviews.com
On the left is a photo of the weatherproof motion sensor with its passive-infrared (PIR) technology mounted on a tree partway down our long driveway. When a car comes down the driveway, the unit senses both a change in temperature and motion, the light on the unit flashes as it sends a signal to the receiver inside the house, and both the alarm and the light on our unit give us a signal that we should take a look outside to see who or what has set off the alarm.

The driveway alarm's receiver with settings on the sides. | ReviewThisReviews.com
On the right are pictures of the receiver which we keep in a convenient spot on a counter where we can both see it and hear it. The unit is on and, as you can see in the photo on the bottom right, is set in the low volume chime mode. Trust me, "low" is plenty loud enough that we can hear it throughout our entire house. If we used the receiver outdoors, for instance if we moved it to the back porch while we were working in the garden, we might set it to make more noise. In some situations, we might turn off the audible signal altogether and just use the light.

In our situation, one sensor for the driveway and one receiver for the house are all we need. However, the device is expandable so that, if you have more than one driveway or area to cover, you can add on multiple sensors and/or receivers. One reviewer uses a set indoors, with the sensor in a child's bedroom and the receiver in the parents' room, so that they can tell if their toddler gets up during the night. Another reviewer uses a set by the back door so he'll know when the dogs are at the door, ready to come back in for the night. With some creative thinking, perhaps you'll come up with even more great ideas on where to set up your driveway alarm system even if you don't have a driveway!

How Long Will This Inexpensive Alarm System Last?


We received our driveway alarm three years ago and it worked perfectly until about six months ago when, thanks to squirrels (we think), the outside unit became undependable. Rather than replacing just the sensor, I simply ordered an entire new system. As for battery life, we have changed the batteries about once a year.

What About False Alarms From the Motion Detector?


Yes, we occasionally get false alarms. Our sensor is mounted on an oak tree and deer love to eat acorns, so recently, as the acorn crop was plentiful this year, visiting deer set off the alarm on a regular basis. We are aware that deer cross our driveway frequently, so we take that into consideration when checking outside after the alarm sounds. We occasionally notice squirrels in the area, too, and occasionally a neighborhood dog passes by. Neither set off the alarm often enough that we complain. An occasional false alarm from our wildlife neighbors is expected and we're fine with that.

Heat is another factor that affects the sensor and can cause false alarms. It is advised that you don't install the sensor in an area that gets direct sunlight, including near a window that absorbs heat that might set off the alarm.

Occasionally, on a particularly windy day, we turn off the alarm to avoid false alarms from blowing leaves or tree limbs. Living in a wooded area, that is just a factor we have to consider and work around.

Would You Buy This Driveway Alarm Again?


Overall, I'd rather have occasional false alarms than not have the driveway alarm. I've come to depend on it when expecting visitors and, especially, when unexpected visitors or delivery drivers arrive.

I like to know anytime someone is coming or going and since I can't watch outside all the time, and because our trusty watchdog isn't always on duty (lots of naps, you know), I am thankful that the 1byone Wireless Driveway Alarm is always on the job.

So yes, I would buy it again and I definitely recommend it to others who care about keeping themselves and their loved ones safe.

P.S. Just a reminder that a driveway alarm system would make a wonderful gift for someone whose safety you care about. This is one of the most thoughtful gifts we've ever received. 

~Susan
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