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.
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