Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Groovy Holiday Wish

Ain't he the cutest?

Mr. Cheddar may not like hats but he sure makes me laugh when he wears one; even if it's only the painted-on type this time! LOL

We both want to wish you a very happy and safe holiday and all the good things in 2012.

Thank you to my readers for all your visits, comments, emails and continued support, here at My Real Life Reviews. I appreciate your feedback and every time you drop by, so very much.

And to the companies and their representatives who have sent along their comments, compliments and yes, sometimes great gifts too! Of course, the gifts usually only arrive when I've really enjoyed a product and shared it here. ;<)

I "tell it like it is" and I hope my sincerity is evident, with every review that I write.

 It's been so much fun hosting this blog, during my first year. My only regret, I wish I had started  even sooner! I am glad that I did take the suggestion from a couple of online friends and went on to create: My Real Life Reviews.

I didn't know what to expect when I began, but the reality has exceeded my expectations, in so many ways. It's been a very positive and rewarding experience.

I look forward to sharing many more products with you in the coming months. And Mr. Cheddar (of course) has a number of reviews in the works/paws too!

Enjoy the best of the holiday season!

Savor every special moment...

Geraldine and Mr. Cheddar


PS: I am taking a blog-break in January to complete my novel so I won't be posting at any of my blogs during that month. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy browsing the MRLR archives.
See you in February!  :<)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mr. Cheddar Needs Your Vote!

Calling all Mr. Cheddar (and Facebook) fans!

Mr. Cheddar is entered in a photo contest and needs your votes.

Click here to vote and to check out the competition. I think he's a "paw-in" but I am biased!!!!

Thank  you for your support. :<)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Seventh Generation Dishwashing Liquid

On a recent hurried trip to the grocery store, I picked up a bottle of Seventh Generation Dishwashing Liquid,  as my dishsoap of choice these days: Nature Clean (click to read review) was not available at that particular store.

I didn't bother to read the ingredient list on the bottle at the time. And when I got home, I noted something rather strange about the label. It had a top layer that (with difficulty) peeled-back to reveal a second label underneath. It was there that I found the ingredient list.

From the Amazon product page: Ingredients: Aqua (water), sodium lauryl sulfate, lauramine oxide, decyl glucoside and lauryl polyglucose (plant-derived cleaning agents), 1,3 -propanediol (plant-derived foam stabilizer), citric acid (cornstarch-derived water so_ener), sodium chloride (thickener), magnesium chloride (cleaning enhancer), 2-Methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one & 1,2-Benzisothiazolin-3-one (MIT/BIT) and 5-Chloro-2-methyl-4-isothiazolin-3-one (preservatives).

What an eye-opener that was to read!

Right after the water, sodium lauryl sulfate (a suspected carcinogen) often used in various cleansers because it is cheap. And this at the top of the list, in a supposedly "natural" dishwashing product! The rest of the list didn't read much better.  Was the sticky, peel-back label there so that consumers wouldn't bother to read what was inside the bottle?

 I had heard about Seventh Generation products for many years but up until this time, had never bought one. As for trying this product, well that didn't happen. I did take it back to the store for a refund and even the customer service rep. who refunded my money was surprised to note what was in this so-called "green" dishwashing liquid. May as well buy the mainstream brands of dishwashing liquid if you aren't concerned about what goes on your dishes, right?

This kind of trickery and misleading of consumers, especially when it comes to supposedly better choices and greener products, really makes me mad!
I found this so disheartening too, considering that many people don't take the time to read ingredient lists still but rather go by a company's reputation for "walking the talk" when it comes to providing a product they can feel good or at least better about using.

Personally, this will be my first and last purchase of any of the Seventh Generation products. I wouldn't trust or support them now, even if they do "clean up their act" in the future.

Overall rating for this product: BAD. 0 out of 5.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Easy Vegetarian One-Pot. Delicious Fuss-Free Recipes for Hearty Meals

As any of my regular readers already know, I am an avid cook, vegetarian cookbook author and cooking instructor. I just love to spend time in the kitchen!

I am also a (big time) cookbook lover. I have an extensive collection of all kinds of cookbooks. I recently added another selection to my cookbooks of choice with:

This is a collection of one-pot vegetarian recipes created by a number of cookbook authors. There is something for everyone in this cookbook, and definitely not just for vegetarians.

A beautifully presented cookbook, brimming with inspiring recipes. And all with the "one-pot" theme/advantage. Making preparation and clean-up a breeze. And who doesn't appreciate saving time, while still enjoying a wonderful new recipe!

I've tried 5 of the recipes in this cookbook so far and have several others picked out to add to that, in the near future. The recipes I've already tested are:

  • Creamy Curried Parsnip & Butter Bean Soup (delish, turned me in to a parsnip-lover!
  • Penne with Blue Cheese, Pecan & Mascarpone Sauce (very rich and satisfying)
  • Smoky Hotpot of Great Northern Beans (good but I added a bit of seasoning to this one)
  • Sweet Potato, Spinach & Chickpea Stew with Coconut (loved it, oh so yummy)
  • Chickpea & Fresh Spinach Curry (ok but not on my list to make again)

My favorite of this group was the parsnip soup. Not only was it delicious and very satisfying; it also ended a lifelong dislike of parsnips for me LOL! The addition of the curry flavor to this soup turned a rather bland veggie into something to savor.  Definitely a keeper for winter soup recipes!

Here is the beautiful photo of  Creamy Curried Parsnip & Butter Bean Soup and the oh so easy and luscious recipe; courtesy of the publishers: Ryland, Peters & Small.

Creamy Curried Parsnip & Butter Bean Soup

This is a real winter warmer, perfect for a weekend supper at the end of a cold day. Don't overlook the parsnip- it's a really tasty root veggie and inexpensive too at the right time of year, just when you want to eat it most.

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves,chopped
2 tablespoons mild curry powder
500 g/ 1 lb. parsnips,chopped
1 litre/ 4 cups vegetable stock
400 g. /14 oz. can butter/lima beans, well drained and rinsed
125 ml./ 1/2  cup single cream
1-2 tablespoons freshly snipped chives
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
warmed flat breads to serve

Serves 4

Heat the butter in a large saucepan set over medium heat. When the butter is sizzling, add the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions have softened.

Stir in the curry powder and cook for 1 minute until aromatic. Add the parsnips, stock and butter/lima beans and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until the parsnips and beans are tender.

Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Transfer the mixture in batches to the food processor and process until smooth. Return the soup to a clean saucepan and set over low heat. Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the chives. Serve with warmed flat breads.

A couple of minor "tweaks" I made with this recipe. I added a 2 more cloves of garlic as we love it here and I used white lima beans that I cooked myself, not canned. I had the time to do this step and I always prefer non-canned beans, when I'm not rushed for time. Canned beans (preferably organic) are a convenient choice though, when in a hurry.

I made chappatis from my own cookbook and they were a perfect choice to go with this soup.

Here are photos of two of the other recipes I've tried from this cookbook:

Penne with Blue Cheese, Pecan & Mascarpone Sauce
(Very rich and decadent, would be great for a in- a- hurry dinner party main dish)


Sweet Potato, Spinach & Chickpea Stew with Coconut
(I love the subtle flavor of coconut. Paired beautifully here with sweet potatoes. A great stew!)

I appreciate the variety of recipes and ingredients included in this collection and also the numerous (easy) methods of one-pot cooking used. Soups, salads, pasta, stir-fries, casseroles, stews, gratins and bakes,curries and would take a long time to tire of trying out the choices in this beautifully designed cookbook. And with full-color, page-sized photos included throughout the 200 + pages.

Only one improvement that I think could have been made with some of the recipes, to improve them. Amounts given were a bit "sketchy" for some ingredients. Example:  1 onion, a handful of basil leaves....not a problem for me and certainly not something that was an "issue" in all of the recipes. But I do think that novice cooks ( I've been told this, again and again) in particular appreciate ingredient amounts to be as specific as possible.

 I also added a bit of spice here and there as I mentioned above, but that's the norm for me when I cook. We all have our personal preferences when it comes to flavors. 

I'm looking forward to more cooking adventures with  Easy Vegetarian One-Pot. I'm sure I'll be cooking up a lot more "keepers" from the cookbook, in the future. And any cookbook that results in 5 or more great recipes to enjoy again and again, I call it a winner!

Stop by the Ryland, Peters & Small website to read more about this cookbook and the many other fine books that they offer.

Easy Vegetarian One-Pot. Ryland Peters & Small, $23.95.

Photo Credit: Ryland Peters & Small

Overall rating for this book: Very Good. 4 out of 5.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Weleda Pomegranate Regenerating Hand Cream (with gloves)

I'm always on the look-out for great hand care products. Those that make a significant and lasting improvement in the appearance of my hands, contain nourishing, natural ingredients  and are pleasant to use.

 After testing (love it!) and reviewing Weleda's Pomegranate Regenerating Body Oil recently, I was eager to give some of their other products a try. I was happy to find this hand care kit that includes not only the Weleda Pomegranate Regenerating Hand Cream but also a pair of soft, washable gloves to wear when using the product overnight. That extra step really seems to work wonders!

Yes, I do feel a bit like Minnie Mouse when I wear these gloves! ;<)  But it's worth it to wake up to soft, smooth hands the next day. My nails and cuticles look so much better too. And the nail area can be a tough one to tackle!  I don't use the gloves every night but have been trying for a few times a week. In between, I apply the hand cream on it's own, usually first thing in the morning too. Non-greasy and with a lovely, subtle scent.

Our hands do so much for us throughout each day. They withstand exposure to: cold weather, hot water,various soaps and cleaners, dish washing... the list goes on and on. It's nice to take a bit of time to give them the pampering they need. And with a product that shows results and oh so quickly too. I've only been using this hand cream for about 2 weeks and I've noted impressive results already

From the Weleda website: "Hands showing signs of aging are nourished and revitalized by this skin-renewing Pomegranate Hand Cream. It’s a powerful regenerating treatment with potent antioxidants and rich essential fatty acids that restore youthful beauty to your hands.

This natural cream for aging skin contains organic pomegranate seed oil which is naturally rich in antioxidants that protect your hands from free radical damage and promote skin renewal. Organic shea butter, a soothing emollient packed with essential fatty acids, renders your skin silky smooth and lavishly moisturized.

Dermatological tests show that our Regenerating Pomegranate Hand Cream increases the skin’s moisture level by 34%* and reduces roughness by 9.1%** in just four weeks."

If your own hands are sorely in need of  some TLC, give this kit a try. It would also make an excellent gift or stocking stuffer for anyone on your list. Reasonably priced too at less than $ 15. for the kit. Available online at the Weleda site and in stores everywhere.

Overall rating for this product: Excellent. 5 out of 5.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A. Vogel Absolut Arnica (Pain Relief Gel)

I've been using A. Vogel Absolut Arnica pain-relief gel for a couple of years and I just love it! 

A. Vogel Absolut Arnica  helps to relieve all kinds of pain: joints, muscles, arthritis, over-training, sprains... in a natural and drug-free way.

For me, it's been a Godsend for alleviating the pain associated with my foot problems which started quite a while back. The result (or so my doctor surmised) of wearing very flat sandals one recent summer, combined with my very high foot arches and miles and miles of walking every day. This resulted in painful plantar faciitis (in my left foot only, go figure).

After a series of physio treatments, my foot has improved quite a bit but it still flares up when I do too much walking; especially on inclines,uneven streets and bumpy paths (the norm in our city). On days like that, I truly appreciate the effectiveness of this product.

Absolut Arnica gel is made with organically grown arnica flowers (click to read more about the healing properties of this plant).

-This product can be used to soothe many types of pain and inflammation caused by sprains, overexertion and arthritis too.

-Pleasant to apply, non-greasy and with no overpowering scent.

 -Works quickly to relieve pain and without the use of harmful chemicals, drugs or other questionable ingredients.

-Apply sparingly (a little goes a long way) with no rubbing required.

-Reasonably priced too. Locally a 50 ML tube sells for about $14. CDN. I note the price on Amazon is even better.

You can read more about this soothing gel and many other innovative, natural products/remedies at the company's  website.  I was also happy to note that they do not test their products on animals.

If you've been looking for a natural pain-relief gel or rub that really works and quickly too Absolut Arnica might be a product you'll want to try for yourself.

F.Y.I. Amazon  is still showing the old packaging but this is the same product.

Overall rating for this product: Excellent. 5 out of 5.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Litigators by John Grisham

I've been a fan of John Grisham's work for many years. Just when I thought he couldn't get any better or provide a new "angle" to his novels; along comes The Litigators.

What did I like about this book? In a nutshell: everything. Entertaining from the first page to the last. Characters that literally  "jump off the page" with their authenticity. A page-turner that I read in two days and that would have been even less time, if I hadn't had other things I had to do.

I really couldn't put this one down!

So what made this one different from other John Grisham books I've enjoyed to date? I found myself laughing so much as I was reading along. Really loud, can't stop, side-splitting laughter.

Not that there isn't usually some clever, witty content, in most of Grisham's books. And again, that is often a result of the true- to- life characters that he is so skilled at creating. But several parts of this book are truly hilarious in addition to the usual suspense and drama that are in keeping with Grisham's signature style.

The twists and turns of the plot continue to the very last chapter. Complete with a satisfying ending that ties up all the loose ends (so many novelists fall short in this respect) but the norm when it comes to a Grisham novel.

A bit about the plot....

If ever there was a stereotype for a "seedy lawyer" Wally Figg is one of them and in spades. Wally and his partner world-weary Oscar Finley, have been waiting (and waiting) for that "big break" for over 20 years that will free them up from the "nickle and dime" cases they've been handling at Finley & Figg for far too long.

Wally Figg (multiple divorcee) and his new, oh-so tacky girlfriend DeeAnna provide a big part of the LOL's in this book. If ever there was a sleazy couple, made for each other, it's these two. Some clever "accounting practises" on the part of Wally also include DeeAnna. Suffice to say, it makes for some hilarious and engaging reading, throughout the story.

By a series of events, that seem to be coincidental at the time; a young, upwardly mobile but burnt-out and disillusioned lawyer by the name of David Zinc "lands" drunk as a skunk at their office one afternoon. This sets off a series of events that will change the course of Finley & Figg forever.

From the Amazon product page:

"The partners at Finley & Figg—all two of them—often refer to themselves as “a boutique law firm.” Boutique, as in chic, selective, and prosperous. They are, of course, none of these things. What they are is a two-bit operation always in search of their big break, ambulance chasers who’ve been in the trenches much too long making way too little. Their specialties, so to speak, are quickie divorces and DUIs, with the occasional jackpot of an actual car wreck thrown in. After twenty plus years together, Oscar Finley and Wally Figg bicker like an old married couple but somehow continue to scratch out a half-decent living from their seedy bungalow offices in southwest Chicago.

And then change comes their way. More accurately, it stumbles in. David Zinc, a young but already burned-out attorney, walks away from his fast-track career at a fancy downtown firm, goes on a serious bender, and finds himself literally at the doorstep of our boutique firm. Once David sobers up and comes to grips with the fact that he’s suddenly unemployed, any job—even one with Finley & Figg—looks okay to him. "

And speaking of Amazon  this book is currently ranked at #15 in books, as I write this review. Not surprising. One of the things that was mentioned repeatedly in the Amazon reviews I read was that John Grisham seems to have had a lot of fun writing this book and I definitely agree with that. Hopefully this will be made into a movie too.

The Litigators  joins my list of Grisham all-time favorites which to date include: Ford County (short stories), The Street Lawyer and The Rainmaker.

If ever the term "you're not getting older, you're getting better" applied, that's what I think of John Grisham and his first-rate writing. No wonder he's called "America's Favorite Storyteller". And certainly not just for Americans either; his fans are everywhere!

 Keep them coming Mr. Grisham! I only wish you wrote more than one book a year. They don't last long when I start reading one.

The Litigators is a must read for Grisham fans and for anyone looking for an entertaining, suspenseful AND humorous novel. Would make a great gift too.

Overall rating for this book: Excellent. 5 out of 5.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Mr. Cheddar Review: Petstages Easy Life Hammock & Scratcher

Mr. Cheddar here!

Hope you are all enjoying the mad scramble right now to find those purrrfect feline gifts for all your favorite, fluffy, fabulous, fun and furry friends. FFFF.....can be such a useful letter snort....ooops!!!

Back to the topic at paw...As I've stated in the photo above, product-testing can be soooooooooooo tiring some days. Meowmie finds all sorts of things for me to check out. Some good, some ok and some headed for the litter bin! 

When it comes to this latest "find"...the Petstages Easy Life Hammock & Scratcher: I'd give it an OK but nothing I'd personally use.

This "hammock" is actually two cardboard scratcher boards, that are fitted together to form an X shape. Meowmie finally managed to figure out the complicated and brain-taxing (snorrrrt..) assembly after studying the directions that came with it. She was truly fortunate I was there to help though. Abstract shapes are NOT her strong-suit! 

So, we got this put together and then Meowmie sprinkled the catnip (included) liberally over the top of this thingey. She then (oh horror of horrors!!!)  proceeded to "hoist" me up on the top where I was supposedly meant to recline and relax.

Puuuulllleeease...when I want to relax, I want to stretch out to my full and glorious length. And I make no apologies for being ahem...15 either. All muscle and sinew, not an ounce of fat here. And don't get me started on "bag-belly" fat with Meowmie reading this. There may be serious consequences if I spilled that hamper of dirty laundry of the human-kind, in public. 

Ok, to cut to the kibble.... This hammock/scratcher combo MAY be ok for the little, dainty cats out there; this might be an item to add to the feline furniture around your home.

To digress just a bit and I simply must at this point. Speaking of graceful, dainty female felines...I am still looking for L-O-V-E, my dears. Send me your photos (the naughtier the better!!!) and bios.

It may be hard to imagine but I am even better looking in reality and I am just getting better with age. Kind of like a fine, vintage, how shall I put this... chunk/hunk of CHEDDAR! So witty too!!!

Write soon. I will get back to you when things slow down here a bit. Promise!

Ok,  back to the hammock... This is NOT for the larger felines out there like me, who need space to really stretch-and-chill properly.  If you are 10 lbs. or less, maybe, just maybe this is something you might want to consider and refer your humans to. But don't regret a pass on this if you are big and beautiful. You ain't missing out on much, in my expert opinion!

It's an ok extra scratching surface too, although personally, I still think nothing can beat the back of the sofa; wow...that's really shaping up/falling apart nicely!

 Just kidding Meowmie. Meowmie...where are you going???

Gotta go... Christmas is on the way, can't jeopardize my extensive gotta-have list at this point, must cut off Meowmie and re-route her to the kitchen. That's her fav room it seems, snort....

Laters, The Ched, Fearless Bug Warrior and Celebrity Feline Blogger...

Giving this product a no-go for personal use, but may be ok for smaller felines.

and Meowmie's (yeah, like she tested this... but must keep her sweet!!!) 

Overall rating for this product: Fair. 2 out of 5.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Weleda Pomegranate Regenerating Body Oil

I recently received a bottle of Weleda Pomegranate Regenerating Body Oil as a gift. I've never been much of a fan of after-bath/shower body oils before this. But this product has changed my mind and how. I just love it!

Unlike many other body oils (and some lotions) on the market, Weleda Pomegranate Regenerating Body Oil is:

-Pleasant to apply. Absorbs quickly without a greasy feeling left on the skin.

-Beautifully and delicately scented.

-Contains all-natural, nourishing ingredients

-Makes a significant difference in the appearance of skin; even those tough-to-tackle oh so dry footsies!

From the Weleda website: "Aging and tired skin is revitalized by the renewing Pomegranate Body Oil. This natural oil moisturizer is a nourishing full-body treatment that regulates moisture balance and restores your natural vitality with potent antioxidants and essential fatty acids.
Organic pomegranate seed oil contains powerful antioxidants that help promote skin renewal and protect against free radical damage. Organic jojoba seed oil preserves your natural moisture and acts as an emollient in this natural oil moisturizer, nurturing your skin and improving its firmness.
Dermatological tests show that our regenerating Pomegranate Body Oil accelerates natural skin renewal by 50% in just two weeks.* Indulge yourself after your shower or bath with our natural oil moisturizer to renew your youthful, full-body radiance. Pomegranate Body Oil lets you experience your body’s timeless beauty day after ageless day."

Up until recently, I had never tried any of the Weleda products but I am certainly looking forward to trying more after using this wonderful and pampering body oil.

Weleda has been around for 90 years, which is quite a record in the competitive world of skin care manufacturing. Not only was I very impressed by their numerous products; I also appreciate their commitment to being responsible: ecologically, socially and economically. Making a corporate and continuing effort to be in harmony with nature and the human race.

Their beautiful website is definitely worth checking out and includes: the history of the company, information about their social and environmental initiatives throughout the world, their spa locations and detailed product information including ingredient lists that won't make you cringe. Far from it actually. And what goes on our skin does matter, almost as much as what we eat!

There is still time to add this wonderful gift to your list: for yourself and those other special people you'd like to treat. Available at retail stores everywhere and online at Amazon .

We all deserve to be pampered. It nurtures the mind not just the body. And Weleda Pomegranate Regenerating Body Oil is definitely all about pampering! 

Overall rating for this product: Excellent. 5 out of 5.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Yoga Zone. Gentle Yoga for Beginners DVD

After a (too) long hiatus from practising hatha yoga on a regular basis, I recently purchased the DVD: Yoga Zone Gentle Yoga for Beginners as a way to help ease back into doing postures/poses at home. It sounded like just what I was looking for at this point.

For over 15 years, I practised yoga on a regular basis, at home and also in classes. I loved everything about what yoga added to my life: better breathing, improved flexibility, the ability to handle stress better...the list goes on and on. I don't know why I gradually stopped finding the time to incorporate yoga into my regular exercise regimes but I hope that I won't make that mistake again. It's just so worthwhile!

Maybe I was spoiled by having a couple of excellent yoga teachers, many years ago. To this day, I still remember and do many of the exercises/postures that we regularly practised in classes. But I thought it would be nice to try something new at this point and that's why I decided to give Yoga Zone, Gentle Yoga a try.

Well, I can't say I was impressed by anything about this DVD. It's obvious from the get-go that this DVD contains 2 rather rushed and not well thought-out routines. And routines that are supposedly geared for beginners. Short and rather hurried I'm assuming due to them being part of a TV series of the same name.

The negatives....Rushing through postures, with hardly a mention of breathing, let alone the proper breathing technique which is such a big part of why yoga "works" . This is not a given or an assumption that should be made, especially at a beginner's yoga level.

No relaxation techniques mentioned either, which for me is always the way a yoga session should conclude.

Instead of trying to "jam it all" into 2 -20 minute session, I think this DVD would have been much more beneficial by having one longer session (maybe 30-40 minutes) that DID include an explanation of proper yoga breathing, adequate stretches between postures and a relaxation session at the end, complete with some soothing music.

I found the instructor Charles Matki annoying, not engaging or interesting.  And Charles, please cover up that armpit hair, yuck! LOL  All kidding aside; yoga is all about de-stressing for me. Charles Matki doesn't have a particularly soothing voice (again, I guess I was spoiled by enjoying that in previous yoga classes) and the music used on this video is not appealing either. The volume ratio of the instructor's voice and the music is out of sync too. The music is rather loud, making it hard to focus on the instructions given along the way.

Having had a background doing yoga, I didn't find any of the postures too difficult to do, although as I've said above, they were all done rather quickly. Some of the comments I've read elsewhere online from people who have tried this DVD and who were complete yoga novices found the postures difficult and overly challenging.

The positives....the background scenery/setting was nice; that's about it!  ;<)

If a DVD for any type of exercise says "beginners" it should be just that. Not something that's only going to discourage first-timers before they even get started!

I think this is a poor choice for anyone looking for a good yoga DVD to get them started with this wonderful form of exercise. I'd still like to find the perfect yoga DVD for me to shake up my current routine a bit. And if I could, I'd be returning this DVD for a refund. As is the case with books, you can't tell a DVD by the cover. But it's opened so no-go for money back this time, unfortunately.

If you know of a good beginner or advanced beginner yoga DVD, do share. And if you are looking for one yourself right now: Yoga Zone Gentle Yoga is not a good place to begin. Don't give up on the search though; yoga is soooo worth finding the right instruction (on DVD, in a class or books)  and making it a regular and ongoing part of your life.  I'm glad I made that decision again!

Overall rating for this product: Unsatisfactory. 1 out of 5.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

20 Great Gift Suggestions with Reviews (and all under $20 too!)

first of
brought thoughts
of Christmas magic.
The Day, so soon to arrive.
Our expectations ran high.
Through snow days and blizzards.
Making a list and checking it twice.
Santa's letter printed and ready to mail.
Christmas baking: heady, wonderful aromas.
Pageants at school, with costumes of many colors.
The tall lush evergreen, centerpiece of the season.
We decorated so carefully; each bough lovingly adorned.
With some old, some new, every one used and none forgotten.
The long days of dark December. Finally, homework complete.
Sitting in the darkened living room; time alone to drift away.
Marvelling at the masterpiece of lights and shining ornaments.
Gazing far beyond to the bliss to follow. Hurry, hurry, hurry!
Christmas eve: midnight mass and carolling.Treats aplenty!
Then the long awaited, special treasures.
The secrets of shining boxes and ribbons.
Finally revealed and always worth the wait.
Off to sleep, to dream of a perfect snowy Christmas Day.
Now content, to still remember these childhood memories.
November day.

Ahhh...a little trip down Christmas memory lane to begin this post!

 I wrote this poem a few years ago on a cold November day. It always brings to mind the magic of the, friends, snowy days, festive treats, fun times and of course great gifts!!!

I thought with the Holiday Season just around the corner, that it was a perfect time to share a holiday gift suggestion list featuring some of my favorite products/books I've reviewed at My Real Life Reviews.

Priced right too, all are less than $20!  :<)


Gift suggestions include links to reviews and ordering options. 

Books, always a great gift ! These are some of my favorites

Down & Dirty Gardening Book by Ellen Zachos

One Yard Wonders by Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hoskins


Not Just for Vegetarians by Geraldine Hartman

Blush, blush...what can I say.
On sale at a great price. And reviews I enjoyed very much! ;<)

On Writing by Stephen King

Best Staged Plans by Claire Cook

John Lennon & the Mercy Street Cafe by William Hammett

Pampering gifts and some beautiful bling!

Just Pure Minerals Vegan Lipstick

Erzulie Eye Depuffer Balm

Badger Foot Balm

Live Clean Argan Oil Hair Mask

Stacy Garrett Jewelry Designs

Some yummy gift basket/stocking stuffer additions


Green & Black's Organic Chocolate Bars

CafLib Organic Blend Grain Beverage

Crofter's Organic Just Fruit Spread

Thoughtful, unique and inspiring choices!

The Seven Year Pen

Botanical Paperworks

KnitPicks Shine Worsted Yarn

For the Felines and Canines On Your List.
A Couple of Mr. Cheddar Suggestions:

Zuke's Hip Action Cat/Dog Treats


SlimCat Exerciser/Toy

(good for canines too!)


Happy, Happy Holidays...  savor every moment!

Link to the original poetry post with comments.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club

I've been writing all of my life. From the time I was a little girl, I was writing stories, plays  and poems. While I was still in high school, I had already written several editorials for CBC Radio and won a number of writing contests too. The love of writing began very early for me. I can't think of anything that has brought me more satisfaction and sense of accomplishment, than a story/post/poem/book completed and one that I was pleased with.

In the past 10 years or so, I've attempted to write my first novel, a couple of times. Sadly, my previous attempts fizzled out for a number of reasons. Left to languish forever on typed pages and computer disks.

In this past year, the "novel bug" has once again bit and I am very pleased to date with how I am progressing. What have I done differently this time? Top of the list of what's been helpful: I've read a number of writer's guides, including The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club. The inspiration and encouragement  I have derived from this book has really helped me on my journey to finally adding "novelist" to my accomplishments to date.

To back-track just a bit before reviewing this book, here's a link to a post over at one of my other blogs: Take A Happy Break, that gives a bit more background about my current novel aspirations.

From the Amazon product page:
“The most important thing to realize is that everyone is capable of telling a story.” –Maeve Binchy

If you scribble story ideas on the backs of receipts…
If you file away bits of overheard conversation from the coffee shop...
If you’ve already chosen the perfect pen name...
Well, then the journey has begun!

In this warm and inspiring guide, beloved author Maeve Binchy shares her unique insight to how a best selling author writes: from finding a subject and creating good writing habits to sustaining progress and seeking a publisher.

I agree with that quote above, by Maeve Binchy, whole-heartedly!

We all have a story, sometimes many, many stories to tell. But it takes a lot of determination and drive to actually get the writing done and done well. Writing is a true pleasure for me but it's also hard work. And it's so easy to get discouraged and frustrated along the way to that final page.

Being inspired and encouraged by other writers is certainly a good way to stay motivated and on track. I've recently read some writing guides that just left me feeling discouraged and overwhelmed, case in point this one: Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy which I also reviewed here.

And then there are those like The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club that made me feel like I am on the right track. That I could and would write a novel that I would be happy with, this time! And maybe, just maybe get it published too.

The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club is a warm, engaging, non-intimidating and informative guide that provides the reader with an overview of what it takes to succeed when working on a variety of writing projects.

Some of the chapters included are:

-Murder, Mystery and Suspense
-Writing Comedy
-The Publisher
-Writer's Groups
-Writing Short Stories
-The Role of the Editor
-Finding Your Voice

to name but a few....

Reading this book felt like having a chat with a good friend. Maeve Binchy gives many personal accounts throughout this book of her own struggles and triumphs along the way. How she  "found her voice" and has gone on to be an international best-selling author, with millions of fans, all over the world.

If you are a writer or just always dreamed of being one and are looking for some friendly, helpful advice how best to proceed with your own particular writing project or goal; check out The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club. Click the link to visit the Amazon ordering page.

user-friendly, entertaining and informative writer's guide that just might make all the difference in your own pursuits as a writer.

(I should mention that the book I have has a different cover than the one shown above.An updated version may be the one that's currently available at Amazon. I don't think there would be much if any major differences though.)

Overall rating for this book. Excellent. 5 out of 5.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bissell 3106A Featherweight Lightweight Vacuum

When you are a multiple pet owner as I was for many, many years (4 cats aka "the herd)  you are always on the look-out for tools to help keep the "fur-factor" in check and to make the job as quick and easy as possible. 
 I was so pleased to recently note over at Amazon that the Bissell Featherweight Lightweight Vacuum is still available. This is by far the best small stick/hand vacuum that I have ever used!

I had this vacuum for over 4 years before it finally gave out. I used it almost every day, picking up a LOT of cat hair with the stick attachment and also as a handvac. Nothing seemed to faze this little "gem". Litter, dried mud, every day "dirt" and most of all, FUR!!! Visitors to my home at the time were always amazed how "immaculate"( a word I heard many times) everything was, considering the 4 cats in residence. This vacuum was definitely a big part of why my house was always looking clean and fresh and virtually "fur-free"!

I've always been a fan of Bissell products. Have used their carpet steamers and several of their vacuums for a lot of years. This stick vac is at the top of that list and is nothing short of amazing! I've also tried other small hand/stick vacs over the years (some that I received as gifts) made by other companies and they never worked as well. The Bissell Featherweight Lightweight Vacuum is durable, powerful and so reasonably priced.

In addition to cleaning really well this vacuum is easy to convert to the hand vac mode, without any straining. Again, I've used similar products that took "brute strength" to attach and also remove the stick and lower floor bar, when wanting to use as a hand vac. That being said, when the product is being used as a stick vac, all the parts stay together as they should.

Over and over over at Amazon, users of this vac mention how well it works with cat and dog hair. I couldn't agree more! For me, that's the feature that stands out most of all and sets this vacuum apart from similar products on the market.

It's all well and good to have a small, lightweight vacuum that will pick up a few crumbs around the kitchen and work well only on bare floors. It's quite another to find one like the Bissell Featherweight Lightweight Vacuum that can tackle pet hair with ease and as I found, almost as well on carpets too.

This vacuum comes with a dirt "cup" that should be emptied after every use. The filter also works better if it's cleaned on a regular basis but no biggie in terms of cleaning that part either.

The Bissell Featherweight Lightweight Vacuum is a great product for this type of small, lightweight vacuum. Available at Amazon for less than $25 (and eligible for free shipping too)! Talk about a bargain! I'm not sure about other retailers still selling this particular model so I was glad to see it's still for sale online.

If you have been looking for a smaller stick/hand vacuum cleaner to use between major clean-ups, check out the Bissell Featherweight Lightweight Vacuum. If you're a pet-owner too, definitely the one to buy!

Overall rating for this product: Excellent. 5 out of 5.
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