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 lbs.plus 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 holidays....family, 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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Smartfood White Cheddar Cheese Flavoured Popcorn

I'm a big fan of popcorn! Love, love love popcorn.

For the most part, I make homemade, using either an air-popper or the Stir-Crazy Popcorn Popper, we recently purchased and I reviewed a while ago here.

But sometimes, I'm feeling too lazy to actually make the popcorn.  And when it comes to the Stir-Crazy Popper it's not a lot of fun cleaning this popper, after use. I'd rather be reading or watching a movie LOL. Then there's the cheesy-factor! That can be a consideration too.

So in between healthy air-popped popcorn with a pinch of sea salt  and the fluorescent-orange  commercial cheesie-type products available ;<)  I've found Smartfood White Cheddar Cheese Flavoured Popcorn

This popcorn snack  has a fresh, pleasant, almost "just-popped" taste.

Just enough cheese-flavour to satisfy THAT craving.

Click here to read the full ingredient list for this popcorn. I'm loving that  2 cups is less than 200 calories (and 2 C. IS quite generous I think) and that the sodium content is acceptable too, for a snack. Almost guilt-free munching!

A couple of  things that come to mind that I think would make this an even better product. Organic would be great, if this company should decide to come up with another choice for Smartfood Popcorn. And I do think the sodium could be reduced a bit too. Again, another option they might want to consider, adding a low-sodium version.

But as it is right now, Smartfood Popcorn is certainly a lot better choice than most of the commercial snacks similar to this, that are available. And certainly better than a bag of greasy, salt-laden potato chips. Those I don't eat, ever!

If you've been looking for a quick popcorn snack to pour and enjoy on movie night or anytime, you might want to give Smartfood White Cheddar Cheese Flavoured Popcorn a try.

 If you love popcorn and cheese, you will enjoy this snack. Happy Munching!

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

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nature Clean Dishwashing Liquid

I've been searching for a really good "green" dishwashing liquid for a long time. I was so pleased to recently find and try-out Nature Clean dishwashing liquid. This one's a keeper!

I'm kind of fussy when it comes to dishsoap. There are a lot of things that I look for in a good product for washing dishes. Nature Clean Dishwashing Liquid delivers in so many ways.

First of all, there's the "grease-cutting" factor. Nature Clean gets the job done, no problem! That's been an issue with some of the other "green" dishsoaps I've tried in the past. And if it doesn't cut the grease and really leaves dishes clean,  being "green" doesn't make up for this. 

Next, the scent. Or should I say, lack of scent. I'm using the Unscented Nature Clean Dishwashing Liquid right now and it has absolutely no scent. I like that a lot! As I mentioned in this review of another leading green dishsoap, this is one of the ways that so many products fall short. Heavy scents that linger even after the dishes are thoroughly rinsed. Who wants to taste/smell dishsoap on dishes and glasses when they are trying to enjoy supper? Not me!

This product does not suds as much as some of the more mainstream brands and that is explained in this information from the Nature Clean website:

Our Dishwashing Liquids are formulated with essential oils, NOT synthetic fragrances and many fragrances contain phthalates (mainly used to soften plastics). The oils we choose have both antiseptic and aromatherapeutic properties. About 95% of the chemicals used in traditional fragrances are synthetic which can lead to headaches, wheezing and skin irritation.

Our dish liquids also won't create as many suds as a synthetic dish liquid but that's because we avoid using the sudsing agent called Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). This ingredient is a suspected carcinogen (cancer causing agent) and no amount of suds is worth that.

We also formulate without ingredients such as formaldehyde based preservatives like parabens (suspected carcinogens), phosphates, chlorine, or dyes. All this makes our Dishwashing Liquids safe enough for even the youngest member of your kitchen clean up crew!

For people who do prefer scented dishwashing liquid, Nature Clean is also available in: Lavender & Tea Tree and Mandarin & Grapefruit. These sound rather nice. But I'm sticking with the Unscented. It so pleasant to find a good dishwashing liquid that is truly scent-free!

95% Natural source ingredients. Biodegradable, Non-Toxic, Hypoallergenic. Not tested on animals.

Price is very competitive too. The large 1 L. size bottle sells for around $6.  Available at retailers across Canada and US. These are listed at the companies website.

Do stop by the Nature Clean site to check out all their products. An impressive range of laundry detergents, household cleaners, dishcare, stain removers and personal care. I'm looking forward to trying more of their products in the near future.

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Take-Along Knitting from the Editors of North Light Books

I've been knitting and crocheting for a long time. In recent years, I've started to enjoy making smaller, "take-along" projects more and more. It's nice to finish a project in a matter of hours or maybe a weekend. Not the weeks (sometimes months!) of work that can be the reality when making larger, and/or more complicated items.

On a recent online book browse, I noted this book and thought it sounded like a great find: Take-Along Knitting. 20+ Easy Portable Projects From Your Favorite Authors with a variety of patterns that included: hats, socks, totes, baby items, gloves, slippers, a pair of knitted wire earrings....

I was hoping this book would be my inspiration to try some new knitting projects. And ones that would still be quick to finish and enjoy!  I tend to gravitate towards beginner's and advanced beginner's patterns for the most part.

As shown in this recent post, hats are something I really enjoy making. I've been hoping to try some new hat patterns with a bit more of a challenge. Branch out from the basics a bit but still without being too difficult or time-consuming to complete.Well, I can't say much about the hat choices in this book, after actually having it in hand. Yes, there are lots of hats but none that I found appealing. And not one beret to be had in the mix.

Some rather difficult sock patterns that look like they'd be anything but portable in terms of take-along instructions. The earrings looked kind of intriguing but I couldn't find a finished size for these and the instructions again appeared to be rather complicated.

Several scarves, rather ho hum...The felted tote on the front cover looks great but the finished size on this one is very small- about 11" square. Way too small when it comes to any tote I'd be carrying. And with felting, you really do need some accurate measurements to begin with, before the item is felted (ie: shrunk to completed size).

The ballerina slippers are just plain ugly! I have seen knitted ballet-type slippers elsewhere that were so pretty, but these are just a footlet type pattern with a straight buttoned strap over the instep. Not attractive, judging by the photos.

I did note an adorable set of baby bibs and a cute baby sweater but that's about all that stood out, looking through these patterns. There is also a good reference section at the beginning of the book with knitting basics thoroughly explained including good diagrams, so that's a positive. But overall, not the book I had hoped for. And definitely nothing out of the ordinary or very original here.

This book is going back for a refund. Any suggestions for a better "quick knits" book choice? Do share!  :<)

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