Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Heart of a Runaway Girl - A Book Review

Heart of a Runaway Girl is a novel that keeps you turning pages!

Trevor Wiltzen is the author of this book and he has made it available to me pre-publishing for an honest review! 


Heart of a Runaway Girl is his debut novel featuring Mabel, a single mom, with a penchant for "reading" people.  She's a hard working mom, whose own life is difficult given her circumstances, but that doesn't stop her from helping someone in need.

Blue River is the community where she lives with her two sons and her niece.  She has a full plate with her family and the motel/restaurant that she runs.

The two biggest employers in the town are the mines and the sawmill.  Both see their share of casual laborers who come and go as the wind may blow.

In the midst of all this, Mabel still has time to get to know and observe the comings and goings in her small town.

What she doesn't like is that this town also has a dark side.  There is one school with about 30 kids and each one of those kids wants to leave town as soon as they can.  There just isn't anything here for them.  




The town is ripe for a drug dealer to get his contraband into the hands of people looking for some fun.  With only one law enforcement officer in town, drug dealers are able to go about their "business" unchecked.  The dark side seems to have the right to do whatever it wants, with a blind eye turned in their direction.

Enter a young man and his girlfriend.  Things are not quite right with these two.  During a meeting of the two in the restaurant, Mabel notices both of them and wonders what is going on.  The young lady is sad, angry and upset, while the young man is at a loss at what to do.

Trouble begins when it's the last time she is seen alive.    

Winston (the young man) the last person she has been seen with, is picked up and charged with her murder.

But Mabel, having watched the two of them together is convinced that there is NO WAY that Winston did what they allege he did.  Deep in her heart, she knows that this young man is being railroaded by a bunch of bigots and bullies.

Oh Winston is no saint, that's true, but he's not capable of committing the heinous crime he has been charged with.  Mabel just can't sit by and watch this young man's life go to waste.  No one else seems to care what happens to him!



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I don't want to give away too much of the story, but suffice it to say that this book was an enjoyable book to read. 

Since I was given the book, it has now been published and you can get it for yourself on Amazon.ca or  on Amazon.com.  This book is available either in Kindle or paperback form on either site.

If you enjoy the book you can go to Trevor Wiltzen's Website and sign up for his newsletter so that you will be the first to know when his new books are coming out!  




  



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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

How to Plan for a Move

 

How to Plan for a Move
How to Plan for a Move - Reviewed
Getty free images

Moving is a daunting and stressful task. I've read that moving is one of the most stressful things that you'll ever do. So, if you’re going to be moving here are some helpful tips and tricks that I’ve learned from doing this several times myself. I’m by no means a professional mover; these ideas are based on my own experiences.

 Moving from one end of town to the other is stressful enough. When you move away from your home to another town it’s really tough. There are many more things to consider.


There are so many things to consider, where do you start?

My best advice is to start by making a list of things that you'll need to do. In other words, begin to make a plan. These things don’t need to be in any specific order right now, just start to write things down. 

Following are some things that you’ll need to consider:

  • If you're hiring a moving company make sure to read and understand all of their policies. Look for online reviews and make sure they are reputable. 
  • A new school for your children, this was always number one on our list. Especially if you're moving to another city. When we moved from Pennsylvania to Western New York this was a high priority for us. You'll need to get all of their school records transferred to the new school.
  • New Doctor and Dentist for you and your children. You'll need to transfer all medical records.
  • Change your address and forward mail to the new address.
  • Finding a new neighborhood, everybody wants to live in a nice area. Find a local realtor in the new city to help with this.
  • New bank or credit union for checking and banking.

Moving companies will do everything including packing for you. packing is something we always did ourselves. Most people don't want strangers packing their belongings.

Things you'll need are boxes, packaging material, such as bubble wrap, or kraft paper and tape. My preferred packaging material is bubble wrap and it is expensive. 


Packaging Material Tip:

To save some money, check with small to mid-sized manufacturers in your area. Most times these places receive materials with packaging such as bubble wrap and often throw it away. Most times all you have to do is ask and you can get it for free.

Double Wall 18x18x28Double Wall 18x18x28" Heavy-Duty BoxesCheck the Price

For dishes and breakable items, you'll want to use these double-wall corrugated boxes. The double-wall gives you added protection for anything that's breakable.

Wrap dishes in paper or bubble wrap and place them on end, not flat and stacked. Cups and glasses should be standing up.

Make sure that you fill all empty spaces with paper or bubble wrap so dishes, cups, and glasses can't move.

These boxes are expensive so, you only want to use them for kitchen breakables and other breakables such as lamps, vases, and pictures.


 

Small Moving Boxes - 16x10x10 - Cardboard BoxSmall Moving Boxes - 16x10x10 - Cardboard BoxCheck the Price


These are the perfect size boxes for heavy items. Such as books, tools, CD's, silverware, canned goods.

The idea here is that the box is small so it will fill up fast and the box won't be too heavy to handle. The last thing you want to do is overload a box.

You can also use these boxes for pots and pans since they are not breakable items.





For blankets, sheets, pillows, and clothing look for wardrobe boxes 20 x 20 x 34 with a bar for hanging clothing. These are much larger but the items are light. These boxes are also expensive. You hang your clothing and then pack pillows and blankets on the bottom.

Moving within your current area is one thing but if you're moving to another city or state it takes a little more planning. If you're planning a move I hope you find these tips and tricks helpful.


Find more DIY tips on ReviewThis Here: ReviewThisCrafts.com

You'll need to decorate your new home see these decorating tips on Review This Here: ReviewThisDecor.com

 




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Monday, January 18, 2021

Reviewing the Mueller Premium 1500w Electric Kettle with Speedboil

 I recently purchased the Mueller Premium Electric Kettle because I needed a way to heat water for teas and lunches in my office. There are many brands and types of electric tea kettles. I suppose they all work well but I'm really happy with my Mueller.

My Mueller Electric Kettle - Perfect for Home and Office

With the world gone topsy-turvy, my usual routines have been disrupted for the past 10 months. I have been very fortunate to keep a job during quarantine. It has just shifted from remote work only, to going to the office some days, back to remote only, and back to some days at the office and throws off any chance for routine.

I have almost always packed my own lunch or ordered lunch from our cafeteria. But during these many months, the cafeteria has been closed. I have been extremely hesitant to order fast food during this time. And I've been lazy about walking up and down all of the stairs in order to use the microwave or I don't always remember to bring a lunch.

I finally decided to buy "something" to heat water at my desk so I could have oatmeal, add-water meals/soups, and teas without leaving my office. I half-heartedly looked at electric kettles for weeks before making a purchase.

WOW... such convenience!  I wish I hadn't waited for so long!


The Mueller Premium Electric Kettle with Speedboil

I ordered this "water heater" because it was pretty, it had good reviews, and I liked the glass and lights (again, it was pretty). I also liked that it was 1500w - which is more powerful than some electric kettles I looked at.

This Kettle sits on the corded base. So there is no cord to get into the way while filling the pot or pouring the hot water.

The spout has a filter screen. For just boiled water, I think the screen doesn't matter much. However, my office is in a historical building and we sometimes have flying insects enter the building (those ladybug look-alikes!!). I'm thankful for the screen to keep pests out of my water.

This kettle is easy to use! Push the button to open the secure top. Fill it with water (I have to use a cup to fill it or bring water because our building sink faucets are too low), return the pot to the base, and click the switch on. The light comes on and very small bubbles start to rise from the bottom of the kettle almost immediately.  There is a full and rapid boil in less than 5 minutes. After the boil begins, the switch kicks off automatically so there is no risk of boiling it dry.

I LOVE watching the bubbles and the blue lights. It boils so quickly. I did take a video with my phone even though I am a fairly inept videographer. Unfortunately, my phone mic is very sensitive and the sound was obnoxiously loud.  You can hear the boiling but it is not loud enough to interrupt phone calls or Zoom meetings. And personally, I like the bubbling sound.

This little item has been more convenient than I had expected. I no longer have to walk down the stairs to find a microwave and then decide if I'm going to eat in the public breakroom or carry my hot food back up the stairs. I no longer have to wait for longer breaks between appointments in order to make hot water... I can start this little electric kettle between appointments.

The kettle is much larger than I had expected. I fill it once and use it over several days to a week (depending on how many days I'm working from the office and how many cups of tea I make).

It looks like this Mueller Kettle is available online through many stores: Home Depot, Office Depot, Staples, Walmart, Target, Macy's, and so on. I ordered mine from the Mueller store on Amazon.


My only complaint is the cord. While it is a 3-prong and heavy-duty cord, it is short. Plenty long for a kitchen countertop but not long enough to sit on top of my desk and reach the power strip on the floor. If your desk top area is far away from an outlet, as mine is, be prepared with a surge power strip that accepts 3-prong plugs. 

Related Link:

Mueller is a European company, with a California address, that appears to focus on Kitchen gadgets. This kettle is the first time I remember hearing of Mueller. While the company advertises as "Austria", my kettle was made in China. Which is not something I'm thrilled about. But this electric kettle seems to be made very well. The cord, glass, and synthetic handle material all have a very sturdy feel. The handle is large and isn't difficult for my hands (sometimes I have trouble with grip and/or lifting). This is the official Mueller website if you'd like to see what else they offer.




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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Review of a Bedding Set and Throw Pillow Covers - Ideal for Teens and Young Adults

 

Review of An Affordable Bedding Set for Teens and Young Adults

One of my sons recently switched to another bedroom in our home. In the process, he opted to make a few changes to his decor.

After scrolling through Amazon to find a bedding set that wasn't too expensive, he selected the Queen Size "Madison Park Essentials Cozy Bed in a Bag Comforter Set." The set he selected was charcoal and tan. You'll notice several designs and colors to choose from.

What is Included in The Madison Park Bedding Set:

  • A comforter
  • A sheet set which includes the fitted sheet, flat sheet, and two pillowcases with the queen set
  • A bed skirt
  • Two matching shams
  • One decorative pillow
The nice thing about this set is the price. At the time we purchased it, it was just over the hundred dollar range on Amazon Canada, and is under that range on Amazon USA.


Here's a Photo of  the Tan Madison Park Bedding Set in My Son's Bedroom:


Madison Park Bedding Set - Photo from My Son's Room

What I Like About the Bedding Set:

  • I like the price. Since you get the sheets, the comforter, the skirt, pillowcases and throw pillow, I feel it's a good price.
  • I like the design. It's masculine enough for a boy's room, but of course, it could work for either a girl or a boy.
  • The bedsheets are very nice. They're not "cheap feeling" like can sometimes happen with these less expensive bedding sets.
  • The bedsheets washed nicely as well. Granted, we've only washed them once.
  • It looks gorgeous with his black and tan decor. The photo doesn't do it justice.
  • The comforter is a satisfactory thickness. 

What I Don't Like About the Bedding Set:

  • I don't like the feel of the comforter. That's a personal thing. My son likes it. It's kind of a shimmery finish. I'm not sure if I'm describing it accurately - but it's not heavy fabric.
  • Since the comforter's fabric isn't heavy in texture, my concern is that it may pull at the seams easier or not hold up in the wash.

Here's A Close Up Photo:


The Throw Pillow Covers


This set does not include the two black throw pillows, throw blanket, and the two body pillows featured in our photos.

We used the body pillows (two of them) to raise up the pillows for decorating purposes. On top of the body pillows are two regular-sized pillows that feature the pillowcases from the sheet set. Positioned in front of that stack of pillows are two pillows with the comforter's matching shams.

We ordered two pillow covers to cover two existing throw pillows we already had. We selected throw pillow covers with a furry texture to provide contrast. I highly recommend them. They don't shed, and they look terrific. Here are the throw pillow covers we purchased on Amazon.

Also on order are two black body pillow covers to complete the set.

Do I Recommend This Bedding Set?


For a teenager's room, child's room, even a guest room, absolutely. However, I would want a higher quality, more durable set for the primary bedroom.


Madison Park Essentials Cozy Bed in a Bag Comforter SetMadison Park Bed in a Bag Comforter Set

 




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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Devoted by Dean Koontz – A Book Review

 

Long-time fans of Dean Koontz know he is a dog-lover and, in particular, of Golden Retrievers. He has written 3 books from the point of view of Trixie, the first Golden that he and wife, Gerda, owned, plus a memoir about Trixie after her death.  Today they live with their Golden Retriever Elsa and the enduring spirits of Goldens Anna and Trixie.


All of us Koontz fans have read Watchers, which featured a very smart Golden Retriever. All together, Dean Koontz has written four novels where one of the main characters is a dog.  Now, with Devoted, he again features a very special Golden Retriever around whom the story revolves. 




Cast of Characters:


Woody Bookman – an 11-year-old boy who has never spoken a word. Woody has been diagnosed with a rare form of autism, although he is also a high-functioning autodidact with a high IQ. He taught himself to read at age 4 and was reading at the college level by age 7. He is also an accomplished computer hacker. 


Megan Bookman – Woody's mother, who loves him with all her heart.  Widowed at age 30, she is an artist whose paintings are quickly gaining a following. She doesn't really care whether critical acclaim waxes or wans; she's just grateful to have discovered that there was life after life after her first life ended with the death of her husband, Jason. Now her art and her child are enough for her. Keeping her boy safe and happy is what matters. 


Kipp – a uniquely gifted dog with a heart as golden as his breed. Kipp is devoted beyond reason to people. When he hears the boy who communicates like he does, without speaking, Kipp knows he needs to find him before it's too late. 


Lee  Shacker – The villain protagonist.


The Plot


A Mother, A Boy, and a Dog Against the Night


Woody believes his father's death was not an accident. He believes a tremendous evil was behind it and now threatens him and his mother.  As Woody gathers information through his computer skills and his suspicions take shape, an evil man sets a depraved plan into motion. And he's coming after Woody and his mother. Only a force greater than evil can stop what is coming next.


One boy with the power to save the world. One man with the will to destroy it.  ~Google Books


Other Dean Koontz Books Featuring Dogs


Watchers, Fear Nothing, and its sequel Seize the Night, and The Darkest Evening of the Year.


Summary



Devoted by Dean Koontz


Devoted was published in March, 2020. If you love mysteries or thrillers with dogs and children and great writing, you will love this book. I  found it fascinating and impossible to put down.


Dean Koontz writing has the ability to show the extremes of good and evil, and the overwhelming power of love.


Book Facts:


Originally published: March 31, 2020

Author: Dean Koontz

Genres: Suspense, Thriller, Horror fiction


*Available in hardcover, paperback, audio book and on Kindle Unlimited on Amazon.


Book Review of Devoted written by (c) Wednesday Elf.








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Friday, January 15, 2021

Did You Hear About the Morgans? - Comedy Movie Review

Did You Hear About The Morgans?
I discovered this movie when seeking an easy movie to watch that would make me laugh. This movie definitely fit that bill! 

I've read mixed reviews on "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" which I really don't understand.  This is not meant to be an epic movie, rather it is light entertainment.  While neither of the main actors are on my list of favorites, I must say, this movie made me like both of them better.  Together, they really made me laugh.  

Admittedly, having a cameo appearance of a stunning grizzly bear, did help.  Hugh Grant's reaction and facial expressions during his bear encounter truly made me laugh out loud.

This is a movie to watch when you simply want to sit back and enjoy a show that doesn't require a great deal of emotional involvement, other than humor.  


Did You Hear About the Morgans? Movie Synopsis

"Did You Hear About the Morgans?" is a just for fun movie starring Sarah Jessica Parker (Meryl Morgan) and Hugh Grant (Paul Morgan). 

 Did You Hear About the Morgans? DVDCheck PriceThe Morgan's live in New York and are both successful in business.  Meryl owns a real estate company and Paul is an attorney.  In spite of their professional success, there are problems in their marriage.  Due to Paul's infidelity, the Morgans are separated.  Of course, adultery is not funny, but in this movie their separation does provide the set-up for some rather humorous situations.

Meryl agrees to have dinner with Paul and afterwards they decide to walk to her next appointment together.  Upon arrival, they witness the murder of her client.  They see the murderer and he sees them!

When it is clear, the murderer plans to eliminate the witnesses, Meryl & Paul are placed in the witness protection program "together" as a married couple and sent to a very remote area in Ray, Wyoming.  They are placed under the protection of two federal agents who happen to be married.  

Clay (Sam Elliott)  and Emma Wheeler (Mary Steenburgen) have provided shelter and protection for many witnesses in the past. They have a bedroom set up just for their "guests" and have restricted access to phones and computers, which keeps their guests from contacting friends or family.  Meryl still manages to make a phone call back home, which brings the killer right to their temporary door step.

I highly recommend "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" for a anyone seeking to relax, laugh and enjoy the show!







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Did You Hear About the Morgans? - Comedy Movie Review Written by:
House of Sylvestermouse



 


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Thursday, January 14, 2021

Book Review of What It's Like to Be a Bird

Robin in my Backyard

 Are you ever curious about the habits of birds?  Did you realize that a bird's senses of vision, hearing, touch and smell many times surpass the same senses in humans?  Did you know that if you "ate like a bird" you might eat more than twenty-five pizzas each day?  These are just a few of the many things you'll learn about birds in the book What It's Like to Be a Bird.  


I received a copy of this book as a Christmas gift and have found it fascinating.  It is a rather large, coffee table type book that is full of information on the birds of North America.

The book is divided into three sections.  In this review, I will give you some insight into each of the sections.  The photographs I am including in this review are birds that I photographed in my backyard.


First Section: Introduction

Female Downy Woodpecker

  • The introduction section of the book is 32 pages full of information on birds in general.  This section talks about the feathers on birds, the senses of birds and how they relate to human senses.  There are sections on 
  • Food
  • Survival
  • Social Behavior
  • Movement
  • Physiology
  • Migration
an much more.  This area is full of interesting information.  Some examples include:
  • There are 11 thousand species of birds today and 800 are regularly found in North America.
  • Birds visual ability varies greatly between species.  Owls have great night vision  and Eagles see five times more details than humans and 16 times the colors.
  • Some birds spend their entire winter in the air, even sleeping while they fly.

Second Section: Main Body of Book

In this section of the book the author tells us about over 200 different species of birds.  The author has two pages for most species and they include beautiful colored illustrations of the birds and are full of interesting facts about each type of bird.

One good example is the section on Finches.  The first page shows a beautiful illustration of a male and female House Finch building a nest.  The information says that these finches are aptly named because they have adapted to living around houses and often make their nests on items around the houses such as hanging plants and window ledges.  On the page with Goldfinches we are told that they travel in flocks almost all year and it is believed that some birds stay together in small groups for months or even years.

Third Section: Listing of Birds in this Book

In this last section of the book you find a list of all the birds that have been covered in the book.  It includes the page number for more information along with a paragraph summarizing that particular bird.

Here is some of the information included on the Northern Cardinal.  It tells that the bird is named for its bright red color which is like the cardinals in the Roman Catholic church.  The paragraph goes on to say that the Northern Cardinal is one of the most widely recognized birds in North America.  It adds a couple of interesting facts such as that it is common for male cardinals to feed the adult females.  In this way they are signaling their ability to find food.

This is a book I would highly recommend for anyone interested in finding out more about birds.
Here is a calendar I made of my backyard bird photos.  It is offered on Zazzle.
  



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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Loaf Pan Review

I discovered the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Baking Pan line while researching options for replacing my old Teflon nonstick baking pans with ones that had newer, more durable, and safer PFOA-free coatings. 

I purchased the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro 1-Lb. Loaf Pan recently, and I am quite impressed with its value and performance so far. In fact, I'm seriously considering buying other pans from this line to replace my older Teflon nonstick bakeware.

Main image - text over textured background reads "Why the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Loaf Pan Deserves a Place in Your Kitchen"
This durable one-pound loaf pan features a durable molded, seamless construction, sturdy square-rolled edges to prevent warping, and a PFOA-free nonstick coating in a light champagne-gold color and micro-textured bottom surface that promote even baking.

Pre-2015 Nonstick Bakeware Is Not Safe to Use

Until six years ago, most nonstick bakeware (and cookware) used a Teflon coating made with both PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). PFOA has been linked to cancer and other health risks, and is one of a group of manmade chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). In 2006, because of concerns about the impact of PFOA and long-chain PFASs on human health and the environment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a PFOA Stewardship Program, asking the eight leading companies in the PFAS industry to commit to voluntarily eliminating PFOA and related chemicals and emissions by 2015. 

PTFE continues to be used in Teflon and other nonstick coatings, and while some people have concerns about its safety, most experts consider nonstick bakeware and cookware with coatings containing PTFE to be safe, as long as they are:

  • treated and cleaned with care to avoid scratches or abrasion
  • not overheated or preheated empty
  • replaced after a few years, when the coating begins to show signs of fine scratches or abrasion
  • discarded as soon as the coating is scratched or chipped 

Time to Replace Old Nonstick Baking Pans!

Last year, I replaced all my old nonstick pots and frying pans with Copper Chef Black Diamond Nonstick Cookware. During my research, I discovered that some of the newer nonstick coatings not only are safer, but also perform better than older types. Now, I'm starting the process of replacing my large collection of older nonstick baking pans, too. (Copper Chef Black Diamond Nonstick Cookware has a diamond-infused ceramic nonstick coating that is both PFOA-free and PTFE-free, and that I know from experience delivers excellent performance. If only they made baking pans, too!)

I became an avid home baker at the tender age of nine. During my mid-twenties and early thirties, when I was married to an attorney at a prominent New York City law firm, we did a lot of formal entertaining, and our dinner parties always ended with a choice of elaborate cakes or pastries for dessert. Now, more than 30 years later, I am happily married to a man in a different profession, and we live in the Boston suburbs, and if I never host another five-course dinner party extravaganza, that will be just fine with me! Since I live a very different lifestyle now than I did back then, I've decided to replace only the pans I use on a regular basis, rather than the entire, extensive collection of both basic and specialty bakeware I am getting rid of.

Since trying out nonstick pans from a few different companies was a successful strategy that helped me determine which brand and type of coating performed best in my kitchen, I'm planning to follow the same approach as I begin the process of replacing my old nonstick baking pans 

Ever since I switched to a low carb keto approach to eating in May 2019, I have been baking, rather than buying, the majority of the low carb bread I use. So, I decided to shop for a nonstick loaf pan first. 

After doing a bunch of online research, as usual, before deciding which one to buy, I recently ordered an OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Loaf Pan (with fast, free shipping, thanks to Amazon Prime!). I thought it might be helpful to share the things I looked for in narrowing down the available options, and why I ultimately chose this particular pan. I will need to see how well it performs over time before I can recommend it without reservations. 

I often like to bake two loaves of bread and put one in the freezer, which doesn't take much more time and effort than baking a single loaf. Given my strategy of testing individual pieces from a few different brands (or with different coating materials), I'm still trying to decide which one to buy for my second nonstick loaf pan. However, when I do, I am looking forward to comparing how the two measure up against each other. Stay tuned for future updates!

Key Features and Benefits of the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Loaf Pan

Amazon product image of OXO nonstick loaf pan
Product image courtesy of Amazon

I have long been a fan of the OXO kitchenware brand, and have been buying and using their products for a very long time. However, I was quite surprised to discover the OXO Good Grips brand (which I have always associated with kitchen tools and cooking utensils) on a line of bakeware, as I was doing my online research! 

It's definitely not a brand that comes to mind when I think about baking pans. But, since the kitchen tools and cooking utensils I have bought from them over the years have been durable, well made, and well designed, I decided to give OXO the benefit of the doubt and keep an open mind. I'm glad I did!

Here are the most important features and attributes that influenced my decision to choose the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Loaf Pan, rather than one of the many other nonstick loaf pans on the market from competing brands.

Ceramic-Reinforced, Two-Layer, Commercial Grade Nonstick Coating for Durability

Obviously, the most important among my selection criteria when researching and shopping for a new loaf pan was a PFOA-free nonstick coating. I also knew from my experience with my Copper Chef Black Diamond nonstick pots and pans that a ceramic component adds durability to nonstick coatings, so I was pleased that the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro line uses what the company describes as a "Swiss-engineered, PTFE, ceramic reinforced, two-layer, commercial-grade coating," ILAG Non-Stick Ultimate Resist R Plus, that resists scratching, staining, corrosion, and abrasion. These qualities help give these pans a longer, safer, useful life, as long as they are treated with care and not preheated empty or allowed to get too hot. (For example, I would never use a pan with a nonstick coating to bake a recipe with a topping that needs to be caramelized under the broiler.)

Light-Colored Nonstick Coating and Micro-Textured Surface for Even Baking

Most nonstick loaf pans, cake pans, muffin tins, and other bakeware has a dark coating. Unfortunately, since dark colors absorb heat, the sides and bottom of whatever you put in them bakes (or cooks, in the case of a meat loaf, for example) faster than the top or center of the pan's contents. In fact, by the time the center tests done, the bottom and sides are often overbaked or even burned. Until recently, all nonstick baking pans had dark-colored coating, which is why some recipes tell you to reduce the oven temperature if you use a nonstick pan. 

By contrast, light colors reflect heat instead of absorbing it. So using a pan with a light-colored nonstick coating promotes more even baking (or cooking). 

I first discovered bakeware with a light, metallic gold- or champagne-colored nonstick coating quite a few years ago at Williams-Sonoma. Then Nordic Ware came out with gold-colored nonstick versions of their gorgeous, elaborate, specialty baking pans. I confess, I have secretly coveted them ever since! But back when I was drooling over them, the prices for pieces with the light-colored coating seemed exorbitant, compared to the cost of their counterparts with the much more common dark-colored coating, and I refrained from indulging. 

When I started my current product research product, I was surprised and delighted to find that the prices for pans with a lighter champagne- or gold-colored nonstick coating have come down quite a bit, which makes these a much more affordable and practical option. 

I also love the look of these lighter-colored coatings. Since I usually make myself choose function over form when buying something practical, like a nonstick loaf pan, it's quite a treat to find one that whose excellent performance is also paired with a beautiful finish.

Extreme close-up photo of micro-textured surface on the bottom of the pan
The light-colored ceramic-reinforced PFOA-free nonstick coating promotes even baking, and the micro-textured bottom surface of the pan promotes airflow. 

There is also a unique, micro-textured surface pattern on the bottom that minimizes contact between the food and the pan, and allows some airflow under the loaf. I've found that this not only prevents my bread loaves from having a burned bottom crust, but also avoids sogginess that can occur from steam condensation when a freshly baked loaf needs to stay in the pan at the start of the cooling cycle before being removed to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Seamless Interior and Rounded Corners for Easy Clean-Up

One of my pet peeves about nonstick baking pans is the seams, especially the corner seams. I always grease my pans, even those with an anti-stick coating, before adding a dough or batter, sometimes followed by a thin coating of cocoa powder or low carb flour. Thoroughly cleaning the residue from the narrow points at the bottom corners, using nothing narrower or firmer than the edge of a soapy sponge (to avoid abrading the coating), can be challenging. 

I always dreamed of having nonstick baking pans with rounded corners and no seams, like my old glass cake pans. When I saw this OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro loaf pan, it felt like someone had overheard that dream and decided to make it come true.

The seamless interior and rounded corners really do make this loaf pan is an absolute breeze to clean! I'm pretty sure that the lack of seams or sharp corners will also make the nonstick interior less prone to wear or cracking.

Strength and Structural Rigidity for Warp Resistance

I have a few pieces of cookware and bakeware that, despite being constructed from heavy-gauge metal, tend to warp after they have been on a hot stove or in a hot oven for a while. This really bugs me, and especially on a nonstick pan, whose coating was not designed to hold up to repeated flexing and twisting! So, now that I'm shopping for new pans, I'm looking for ones that are made to resist warping. 

One of the things I liked about the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Loaf Pan it that was designed with structural integrity and rigidity in mind, which increase durability and help prevent warping. 

Square-rolled edge increases rigidity, creates a wider lip/more secure grip
This metal pan is made from commercial grade, heavy gauge, aluminized steel, which not only has excellent thermal conductivity for fast, even heat distribution, but also provides durability and structural stability. The micro-textured bottom also contributes to the pan's structural rigidity. 

The square-rolled edge is another important feature for better structure, strength, and durability. Unlike most loaf pans, whose rim is formed by folding the sheet metal over a piece of wire, the rim around the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Loaf Pan is formed from a single piece of steel, molded into what the company calls "a unique square-roll shape." This uniform construction and substantial, square-rolled edge creates a thick, solid rim that not only adds structural rigidity, it also makes the pan easier to grip and lift. That's a design feature I really appreciate, especially when I'm moving a full, hot metal loaf pan from the oven to a heatproof mat or cooling rack!

Commercial Grade Materials and Construction for Superior Performance

While it may be tempting to buy the cheapest nonstick pans you can find, since they have a limited recommended lifespan, in my experience, that approach is penny-wise and pound-foolish. I've only made that mistake twice, when I was much younger, and it taught me the value of spending a bit more to get nonstick bakeware made with high quality materials and durable construction. Commercial grade materials and construction, designed to meet the much more demanding requirements of a commercial kitchen, will perform better, last longer, and resist not only warping but also scratches and abrasion, significantly extending their safe, useful life before they need to be replaced. 

I have found that in the long run, the cost of buying well made, commercial quality bakeware and cookware is almost always a better investment than buying cheaper, lower quality, less durable pans that don't perform or hold up as well and need to be replaced much sooner.

Versatile Size for Different Types of Recipes

The OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Loaf Pan is designed for a 1-pound loaf, which is pretty standard. Since my previous loaf pans had always been 9" x 5" and this one is 8.5" x 4.5", I wanted to make sure the slightly smaller dimensions would work for the majority of recipes. 

The baking pros at King Arthur Baking Company are a trusted, authoritative source of professional expertise. Their advice (like their recipes) is consistently excellent, helpful, and reliable. So, when I was researching nonstick loaf pans, their website was one of the resources I turned to.

The King Arthur blog post on "Choosing the right bread pan" explain that some yeast bread doughs can be baked successfully in either a 9" x 5" or an 8.5" x 4.5" loaf pan, while others turn out better in one size pan or the other, depending on both the type of flour and the number of cups of flour the recipe calls for. 

According to the post, any yeast bread loaf recipe that uses 3 cups of flour (or slightly less) should be baked in an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" pan. A recipe that uses 3 1/2 cups of flour can be baked in either size pan (although the smaller loaf pan is recommended for whole grain breads and the 9" x 5" pan is preferred for yeast doughs made with all-purpose or bread flour). The only yeast bread doughs that definitely should be baked in the larger pan are single-loaf recipes that use at least 3 3/4 cups of flour, regardless of type. 

Since I can't foresee many occasions when I might want to bake a really large loaf of bread, the article confirmed that an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan would be fine for the majority of recipes, including the (yeast-free) low carb bread I'm mostly baking these days, most of which specify this pan size. It's also a nice size for baking a meatloaf whose slices fit neatly between two slices of bread. (Meatloaf sandwich, anyone? Yes, please!)

photo of length and width markings stamped into the inside of the nonstick loaf pan
The length and width markings are permanently stamped into the metal, instead of the more common printed dimensions that can wear off over time

I also really appreciate having the dimensions in both inches (4.5 x 8.5 in) and centimeters (11.5 x 21.5 cm) stamped permanently into the metal, in large, raised letters and numbers that are very easy to read, without having to turn the pan over to see them.

Note: The exterior dimensions of the OXO pan are 9" x 5", due in part to the wide square-rolled edges; however, the interior dimensions, which are the ones that count, are 8.5" x 4.5".

Made in the USA

It's getting harder to find well made, reasonably priced products manufactured in the USA. I prefer to buy American-made goods, when possible, so the fact that this OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro loaf pan is made in the USA was definitely a big point in its favor. It feels good to support American businesses that make high quality products and continue to manufacture them in this country and providing employment opportunities for American workers, especially now that so many companies have relocated or built plants in countries where they can lower their labor costs by paying cheaper wages.

Note: This pan is "Made in the USA from globally sourced materials." That's not surprising, since fewer and fewer products are being manufactured exclusively with USA-sourced materials. 

Excellent Value

For me, the value of a product is a function of both price and quality: is what the product provides in terms of function, form, useful lifespan, etc., worth the price? It's common for manufacturers to compete for market share by identifying popular, successful, highly rated products from other companies and creating their own versions (knock-offs) that look and sound extremely similar and cost less. But in order to sell the product for less, they need to manufacture it for less (or use a different distribution model, such as direct-to-consumer sales). And, often, the way they bring down the retail price is to cut corners, either by removing certain features or using less expensive (and usually lower quality) materials or manufacturing/construction methods. 

Since the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Loaf Pan looks quite similar to the higher-priced Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Pro Loaf Pan of the same size, I decided to compare their technical specs and product descriptions before finalizing my decision to purchase the OXO pan. Here's how they stack up against each other, as of this writing, with differences highlighted in green (better value) or orange (not as much value):

OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Willams-Sonoma Goldtouch Pro
Size: 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.75 inches high  8.5 x 4.5 x 2.75 inches high
Capacity: 1 lb. 1 lb.
Where It's Made: Made in the USA with globally sourced materials Made in the USA with globally sourced materials
Materials: Commercial-grade aluminized steel Commercial-grade aluminized steel
Light-colored, ceramic-reinforced, PFOA-free nonstick coating Light-colored, ceramic-reinforced, PFOA-free nonstick coating
Max Temperature: Up to 450 ℉ Up to 450 ℉
Dishwasher Safe: Yes, but hand washing recommended Yes, but hand washing recommended
Construction: Seamless, molded construction Seamed, folded construction
Square-rolled rim formed from a single sheet of steel Rim reinforced with coated wire
Micro-textured diamond-patterned bottom surface Smooth bottom surface
Price as of 1/12/21: $17.99 on amazon.com $21.95 on williams-sonoma.com
Shipping Cost: Prime FREE delivery (for Amazon Prime members) $6.99 shipping and processing fee for standard shipping (3-Day Select)
MA Sales Tax: $1.12 $1.37
Total Cost (Delivered): $19.11 $30.31

Based on the product information I was able to find on Amazon, Williams-Sonoma, and other retailers' sites, the two pans are extremely similar in some ways. However, the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Loaf Pan's seamless, molded construction and rounded corners give it an edge in terms of durability, warp-resistance, and ease of cleaning. Best of all, those superior features and attributes also come at a better price. The total cost for this pan, including the purchase price, sales tax, and delivery, is 30 percent less than the total delivered cost of the similar Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Pro Loaf Pan!

Getting a better pan for less money definitely makes the OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro pan an excellent value.

Timing is Everything!

The day before this post was published, I noticed this pan wasn't in stock on Amazon, but could be ordered with an expected delivery date in late February. However, it is a few minutes before this post is set to publish, and it appears that, at the moment, the pan is no longer available to buy new at the $17.99 price with free delivery. A couple of sellers are offering new pans for twice that price, and it's currently available in Used - Very Good condition from Amazon Warehouse for $16.55 with free Prime Delivery. If you're interested in getting one or more of these nonstick loaf pans, I suggest checking back once a week over the next few weeks to see when it becomes available to order new for $17.99 again with free Prime delivery.

Wouldn't Someone You Know Love to Receive a New, High Quality Nonstick Loaf Pan?

Most home cooks and bakers own at least one loaf pan. But chances are good that either they don't yet have a well-made, nonstick loaf pan that's in good shape and has a PFOA-free coating, or that they have a nonstick loaf pan (or two) that is starting to show a few scratches and is no longer safe to use, but they haven't yet gotten around to buying a new one to replace it. 

Either way, I'm sure that one (or a pair) of these OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Loaf Pans would be a welcome addition to their kitchen cabinet, pantry, or wherever they keep their baking pans. And with a price tag of only $17.99, it's an affordable as well as thoughtful gift that they will likely get a lot of use from. 

Happy baking!


OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Loaf Pan Review by Margaret Schindel


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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Jeffrey Archer's False Impression Book Review

Jeffrey Archer's False Impression Book ReviewI started reading both the new book about Megan and Harry and the new book about the former U.S. president before I settled in with another Jeffrey Archer book, False Impression. I found the royal book a bit pretentious, the presidential book interesting but not quite what I wanted to read at the moment and the Archer book, a conspiracy thriller, riveting. Therefore, I am able to offer you a book review today of False Impression. Which book would you have chosen?

Anyway, it turns out that the difficult year of 2020 has had a very real impact on my reading choices. I seem to want well-crafted page turners, which give me a break from the simple, everyday routine of a life that is home bound. I work online, run essential errands, take plenty of walks and, like so many that are privileged to be able to stay home to stay safe, I do not do much else or see family or friends. A book to escape with has proven essential and Jeffrey Archer has fit the bill. 

I spent a large part of the spring and summer with his mammoth seven book series the Clifton Chronicles so this is the eighth Archer book I have read this year. When recently I could not settle in with any of my own book choices, my husband magically produced Jeffrey Archer's False Impression. I expect my husband was remembering how much I enjoyed the previous Archer books and that he picked this one because it includes a good look into the art world, which I do enjoy learning about.

THE STORY


The story? Well, start with a woman murdered in England the night before 9/11. Add in a brilliant art expert currently working for a crooked banker who is obsessed with owning various masterpieces at any price with his current choice being Van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Finally, add the banker's unlikely secretary, an honors graduate, and a handsome FBI agent.

The trip follows these characters around numerous bends that takes us on a trip that includes the cities of  New York, London, Bucharest and Tokyo until the Van Gogh painting finally has a new owner.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED


I could not put False Impression down. I read it for hours in the middle of night. I read it when I woke up in the morning. I gave my husband a good laugh when hours later I was still reading. Not surprising really given how much I enjoyed the previous Archer books but definitely surprising given that I am usually up bright and early every morning preparing eBay parcels and working online

Yes, this book is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. It does a good job of sharing a bit about the twin towers, art history, English aristocracy and it includes a nasty villain, a female assassin and the FBI. The story keeps you wanting to know what happens next and it does so until the end of the book. I particularly enjoyed the armchair travel, the art and art history and the occasional humor, which mainly arose between the two main characters.

You should know that the book does include the tragic events of 9/11 and that the main character works in the North Tower. 
  

MORE REVIEWS


Well, this is when normally I say "but don't take my word for it" and give you a few stellar quotes from other online reviews but it turns out that this book received mixed reviews from the professionals so I cannot do that. However, Artis-Ann of The Yorkshire Times did like the book saying "she realizes and admits that you can enjoy the most erudite (knowledge filled) compositions alongside a jolly good yarn which doesn’t require very much concentration. After all, each to his own and the world would be a poorer place if we all liked the same thing." She also said that "she enjoys the temporary escapism that books offer and their variety and that this is another example." I think she summed it up nicely. 

Amazon readers liked False Impression with 88 percent of them giving the book a 4 or 5 star rating and Goodreads readers gave it a score of 3.81.

If you're looking for an easy to read in the form of an entertaining book with art, art history and travel, you should add False Impression to your list. You can see all of the versions available on Amazon by clicking right here.

See you
at the book store!
Brenda
Treasures By Brenda

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Jeffrey Archer False Impression - Vincent Van Gogh's Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear








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