Sunday, December 16, 2012

Heartfelt Wishes and Thanks!

It's been a pleasure hosting My Real Life Reviews for it's second year.
My sincere thanks to all my readers and friends.

 I truly appreciate your visits, feedback, comments, suggestions, emails. And your affiliate link purchases made from here too (they do add up, slowly but surely!) ;<)
Special thanks to the many individuals and companies that have supplied wonderful prizes, product samples and gifts throughout this past year. It's been a pleasure corresponding with all of you. Your generosity and kindness has meant so much. 
I just put a major (and all-consuming) ;<) project in the mail this past week so I am gearing up for new pursuits in 2013, including more reviews and hopefully great contests too, here at My Real Life Reviews.

I hope you all have a safe, happy and magical holiday season and look forward to seeing you in 2013! :<)

And thanks to Flickr for the original photo!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

20 Great Holiday Gift Ideas Under $20!

Wow, Christmas is less than a month away!
Is it just me, or did 2012 zoom by? :<) I can't believe it's almost 2013.
But before the new year begins, Christmas is on the horizon with all the goodies this season brings. Including gifts! Love it.
I thought it would be fun to share another 20 gift ideas including some of my new and past favs, all under $20
 I've included some products and books not previously reviewed here at My Real Life Reviews and some that are favs from the recent past.
Tis the season.....Happy Shopping! :<)
White Christmas // Frosted White Glass / Clear Crystal Snowflake Charm Bracelet Adjustable
If You Just Believe  //  Antique Brass Finish Charm / Czech Glass / Cluster Earrings
 First up, a bit of bling from Stacy Garrett Jewelry.  Wowsa, oh so pretty!
This is one of my all-time fav. places to shop over at Etsy. Beautiful and VERY affordable jewelry and excellent customer service too. And who ever really has enough bling in their lives!!!

A great online stop that will cut your shopping list down to size in a big hurry. Here's my complete review of Stacy Garrett Jewelry from 2011. Now there's even more beautiful choices to enjoy.  
I love some of the recent additions to Stacy's bracelet and necklace collections in addition to the dozens of wonderful earring choices available. Many with a seasonal flair!
Still at Etsy, another of my fav places to shop over there is Erzulie Cosmetics.
If you are looking for cosmetic and skin care products for yourself or those you love, with pure, natural ingredients and ones that are reasonably priced, Erzulie Cosmetics is definitely an online shop you'll want to check out.
I've reviewed a couple of their products here at MRLR already, including the best (by far) Clarifying Liquid Foundation that I have ever used! And I've tried a lot of brands over the years.
For gifting, here are just two of dozens of gift ideas from Erzulie Cosmetics:
On Sale 3 Pack Your Choice  Aromatherapy Balms  Lipstick Rx Color & Shine   Lipstick Blush
I use these lip and cheek color sticks  all the time. Beautiful, subtle shades, creamy smooth texture and they last and last. And best of all, no ingredients that make you cringe.
If you like a bit more shine to finish your lipstick or on their own:
Check out this all natural three pack of lip glosses.

As an avid reader, I don't think there's any better gift to give or to receive than a new book or ebook. A gift that can be enjoyed for years to come.
Here are some of my recent and past book favs. And all under $20:
Clattering Sparrows by Land, Marilyn published by (2010) [Hardcover]
Clattering Sparrows by Marilyn Land is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed recently.I read it in a couple of days and let other projects/books wait while I did! 
The name Clattering Sparrows is the English translation for the Chinese word: Mahjong, as early players of this ancient and beloved game equated the sound of the game tiles to a sound reminiscent of numerous sparrows squabbling over food crumbs and the sound of flax and hemp blowing in the wind.
I loved the characters in this book, the bonds of friendship and family that touched my heart and also the opportunity to share the author's personal, mini-historical tour of U.S. history from the early 1940's up until the present. In part autobiographical, truth can be stranger than fiction and in the case of this book, a story that provides an engaging and intriguing journey from the first page to the last.
From the Amazon product page:
The friendship between five-year-olds Sara Miller and Judy Levine begins in the summer of 1941, when their families move into adjoining row houses in Washington, D.C. Almost immediately, the United States enters World War II, and their childhood is thrust into a world dominated by the consequences of history. When asked to help their sick friend, Su Ling, keep up with her studies as she recuperates from rheumatic fever, her grandmother, An Lei, teaches them the ancient Chinese game of Mahjong, destined to become an invariable part of their lives as it merges cultures, love, and friendship. Separated for the first time when they enter college, their personal choices, shaped and impacted by half a century of unparalleled wars, loss, and heartbreak, only bring them closer together, as they marry, raise their families, and pursue their chosen careers. Their lifelong journey, caught in a web of intricate and surprising twists of fate, surfaces in the public eye when a Ukrainian farm girl inadvertently unlocks a thirty-five-year mystery that has haunted them since their graduation from high school. From coast to coast and across the globe, their heartwarming and compelling story confirms the powerful bond of friendship.


Another book that I read in the past year and thoroughly enjoyed is by one of my all-time fav author's John Grisham. You can read my full review here.

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. And lots of (unexpected)laughs too, not the norm in most of Grisham's novels. 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.

Grisham fan or not, this is definitely a novel to consider for book lover's on your list this season.

Here's a great gift idea for any knitter on your list: Cast On, Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor.
I must admit, I've been for the most part one of those "lazy" knitters who use the same bind-off and cast off techniques for most of my knit projects, year after year. But after getting this book, I feel like I'm ready to expand my finishing techniques, thanks to the easy to understand instructions and photos (not hard- to- fathom diagrams, love it) provided in this knitting reference book.

Spiral bound so it stays flat at the page you're using too, I like that too. As it says on the cover: this book really does provide: the perfect start and finish for every knitting project.
From the Amazon product page:

Discover the perfect beginning and ending for every knitting project! This one-of-a-kind reference presents more than 50 ways to cast on and bind off, creating edges that are tighter, looser, stretchier, lacier, longer-lasting, prettier--whatever your project needs, you'll find it here. Detailed instructions for each technique are combined with step-by-step photography so that nothing is left to chance. At-a-glance charts identify the best cast on or bind off for various types of knitting, as well as cast on/bind off pairs that work well together. This indispensable guide will ensure that all of your knitting projects are polished and pleasing, from start to finish!

Speaking of craft books, here's one endorsed by the oh, so fabulous Mr. Cheddar: Crafting with Cat Hair by Kaori Tsutaya. 
A book to consider for all the cat-lovers on your list. The easy-to-make crafts in this book are definitely doable by crafts and wannabe crafters alike, including some that would be fun for kids to make too (with adult supervision).  
How's this for a visual endorsement for collecting cat-fur from grooming sessions!
Read Cheddies' full review of this fun book. 
Another great reference book, this one perfect for any writer on your list:
The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages is an excellent resource for writers looking for online places (websites, blogs, newsletters...) that publish quality book reviews.
 As a writer/author myself, I know how hard it can be to find really good reviewers who write quality, comprehensive reviews.

This book provides detailed information for over 200 reviewers including: what types of books they review, readership, web links and other pertinent specifics for that particular blog/website.

 I was not aware that a review resource book like this even existed up until this past year but I'm certainly glad I found out about The Book Reviewer Yellow Pages (now in it's third edition).
And yes, My Real Life Reviews is included in this latest edition! My blog is in excellent company. Stop by their website for even more valuable resources and updates for all writers.


And now for some suggestions for the cooks and wannabee cooks on your list.
The Pickled Pantry by Andrea Chesman is a not only a treasure-trove of recipe ideas for all kinds of pickles, relishes, chutneys and preserves, it also provides a recipe section including main dishes,  salads and dressings of all kinds, incorporating some of the preserve recipes from the book.
This is a visually stunning book. The colorful and whimsical illustrations throughout are so appealing and eye-catching. Best of all, the instructions are easy to understand and go a long way towards demystifying the fine art of preserving and canning. On sale now at Amazon so a great time to buy one or several copies of this luscious cookbook. If you've never tried making homemade pickles and preserves before, this might be the cookbook to change your mind!


Easy Vegetarian One Pot is a cookbook I gravitate back to, again and again.
Providing a sumptuous variety of vegetarian main dishes, all made in one pot. My kind of cooking with recipes that are easy to follow, for the most part contain easy to find ingredients and provide consistently good results. Full color photos throughout, add to the visual appeal of this beautiful cookbook.
Read my complete review here, including a recipe sampler from the book for a luscious Fall/Winter fav soup that made me a parsnip-lover in the process! And parsnips were NOT one of my fav veggies before I tried this soup.


After all those yummy cookbooks, some easy ways to get and stay fit! ;<)

I am loving this Jane Fonda fitness DVD series!

 Here's my complete review for Fit & Strong.  

This DVD helped me to transition back into working out on a regular basis, when I had lapsed (big time) in that area. Jane Fonda, now in her 70's (amazing, but true, she looks fantastic) continues to inspire people, including me, to get up off the couch and just do it, no matter what age your are or present fitness level.

Jane Fonda: Prime Time - Walkout

Since I wrote my first review, I've  also purchased the Jane Fonda Walkout another DVD in this series. I like it just as much as the first one. This DVD features 2 aerobic workouts, each providing the equivalent of walking 1 mile. Again, a great way for anyone to ease back into a regular exercise program.

 Jane is so personable, encouraging and inspiring. I look forward to my exercise time these days and rarely skip. Not something that's always been the norm in the past. A wonderful gift idea too for anyone who is trying to shed their "couch potato" persona and get moving again! Priced at less than $10 now at Amazon! That's my kind of bargain.


Mr. Cheddar is back with another gift suggestion, this one for the cats and d-o-g-s too!

Mr. Cheddar is a big fan of Zuke's treats, he reviewed their Hip Action Natural Cat Treats a while back and continues to enjoy them (a lot!) on a regular basis. Available in a variety of types, flavours and purrfect for adding to your fav feline or canine's stocking this Christmas.


Speaking of stocking stuffers here are some of my fav choices in that category:

I've been a big fan of Caf-Lib Organic Grain Beverage for a long time (click to read my complete review). After a recent health scare (click to read about that day!) that was traced back to caffeine, I've now kicked the regular coffee habit completely and am enjoying Caf-Lib Organic on an even more frequent basis.

I've tried a lot of coffee substitutes over the years and this product (click to visit their website) is by far the best. Great taste, no caffeine and organic too! Love it. Would make a great stocking stuffer or gift basket addition, for anyone trying to kick the coffee habit or as a delish coffee alternative.


Back  in May of last year, I reviewed the Seven Year Pen, after receiving one as a gift (mine's the pretty mauve one with the feather). I'm happy to report that my pen as of today is still writing just fine.

 I think this is one of the coolest little gifts for yourself or someone else, that $$ can buy. And for less than $10 too! Considering the millions and millions of pens that are discarded each year, this is definitely an easy way of putting a personal dent in that particular "waste pile"!


For the full scoop on a soothing, foot pampering product, read my review of Badger Foot Balm.

 I've tried a lot of foot lotions, creams and rubs over the years and this product is definitely at the top of that list. And who doesn't need more TLC for their overworked and under appreciated footsies! Love the attractive tin that this natural product comes in too, great for gifting! Nice for sharing too, with someone you love.

There's something so special about getting a foot rub, isn't there?
Just don't forget to return the favor! ;<)


For anyone transitioning away from harsher, additive-laden hair care products, here's a hair cleansing duo to consider, for yourself or as a welcome stocking stuffer.

I've tried a lot of natural and some, not-so natural shampoos and conditioners over the years and I've yet to find any other brand that I like better. Nature Clean Pure-Sensitive Shampoo and Conditioner (click for my full review) leaves my hair feeling very clean but not stripped, soft, manageable, even humidity resistant.

With a ingredient list that won't make you cringe and priced at about $20. for both of the products at retail stores I've checked. The shampoo is available at Amazon, but I couldn't find the conditioner there and at other online retailers.


More natural tress-care! Again, this is another product that has become my personal fav. Giovanni L.A. Natural Styling Gel (click for full review) . Natural hair gel/styling products are few and far between, when it comes to those that truly do "walk the talk" and deliver with ingredients that (I'll say it again!) don't make a person cringe and still deliver great results.

I had been looking for a better option when it came to hair gel for a long time and this one is definitely a keeper! Available at Amazon for less than $10.And you don't need a lot of product (and I have very thick hair) so this 6.8 oz. tube goes a long way!!!


And last but certainly not least. A unique gift idea for almost anyone to enjoy!

I've been training with Lumosity Brain Training programs for about a year now and I continue to be impressed by what their services provide. You can read my initial full review here.

What I've been most pleased with is that the training areas (speed for one) that weren't my best when I started are now the ones that I continue to significantly improve upon. Overall, my BPI (brain performance index) has gone up over 800 points and still rising! The games continue to be fun and just enough of a challenge, with only a limited time commitment required.

Lumosity offers free trial programs. This would be a thoughtful and unique gift for anyone (and all age groups) on your list. If they like it, they can always sign up for a paid membership and these are very reasonably priced.


I hope you find these gift suggestions helpful and inspiring!

Wishing You a Magical Holiday Season!

And the Winner of the Pre-Holiday Book Lover's Contest is....

....Lissa from Don't Rain on Mondays.
Congratulations Lissa! Send along your mailing address to:
MRLR at myway dot com
so that I can get your 15 book prizes on the way.
Thanks again to all the entrants. Really enjoyed all your comments and book suggestions.
I will be posting a Holiday Gift Suggestion post shortly with lots of unique (under $20) gift ideas. :<)
Happy Reading and Happy Shopping!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

MRLR November Pre-Holiday Book Lover's Contest and October Winner!


As promised, this month's contest is a BIGGIE! :<)
Not 5, not 10 but 15 wonderful books in a variety of genres, will be won by one lucky winner. And just in time for the holidays too!
Total value for this prize package over $300!
Here are details and links for each of the books:
The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger is a BIG bread book! A bread-maker's 'bible"so to speak. This is a must-have book for anyone who enjoys baking breads of all types and not just from the bread-maker. Lots of tips on bread making basics too.

Instant Karma by Barbara Ann Kipfer is one of my fav new inspirational books to pick up and enjoy every day. Featuring 8,879 Ways to Give Yourself and Others Good Fortune Right Now. A great way to refocus and reinspire yourself, or as a gift for someone you love!

101 Designer One-Skein Wonders. I am loving this yarn book! I've already made the Guilty Pleasure Socks and they came out great. Have several other projects picked out for gifts and for myself too. A beautifully presented craft book that is chock full of one-skein wonders! Everything from socks, mitts, baby hats, a couple of wonderful vests, felted bags. Truly amazing that all of these beautiful designs were crafted from just one skein of yarn!

How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds of Less by Nicholas Boothman If you've ever struggled with meeting new people, making a good first impression, felt shy or withdrawn at a social function, this is a gem of a self-help book you won't want to miss. I found some excellent pointers throughout that I've been implementing (with good results) since reading this book.

Paper Jewelry by Denise Brown is a unique and beautifully designed craft book featuring jewelry designs crafted from paper! If you are envisioning papier mache from your childhood days, formed into "clunky, chunky crafts" think again. This is designer quality jewelry, each one a work of art! Definitely a book perfect for the adventurous crafter looking for new creative challenges.

All 5 of these quality books and hundreds more are available at/via Thomas Allen & Son. A great way to cut your gift list down to size, in no time at all. Stop by their website for a book browse soon, you won't be disappointed. It's one of my fav online stops! Only downside, so much temptation for any book-lover !!! ;<)

John Lennon & the Mercy St. Cafe by William Hammett (click through for my complete review) is one of my all-time favorite novels. If you are a fan of John Lennon, the Beatles or just love finding a book that is an engaging read from start to finish, this is one you won't want to miss. I recently picked up and re-read this book on of all days: October 9th: John Lennon's birthday! Talk about a fun coincidence. It was just as enjoyable, the second time around.


10- Minute Feng Shui by Skye Alexander  (click through for my complete review) made me a believer when it comes to all things Feng Shui. This little gem of a book is packed with all kinds of suggestions how to easily incorporate Feng Shui components and accents into your home and office environments.

Author Skye Alexander is a prolific author and has written numerous fiction and non-fiction books on a wide variety of topics, with an emphasis on body, mind and spirit.  Stop by her website to read about all her books, interests and passions. This is one amazing  and talented woman!


Sea Glass Hearts by Josie Iselin (click through for my complete review). If you aren't familiar with this author/artist's work, she uses a process called Scannography (click to read more) and takes seemingly ordinary objects like stones and shells and transforms them into images, books, prints and collections that are uniquely beautiful. As I said in my review: you are in for a visual treat when you visit  Josie's blog and also enjoy her numerous stunning books. Some great gift ideas too, that are truly unique.


Haiku Reflections; The Four Seasons and My Poetic Path by Geraldine Hartman. Now for a bit of (shameless) self-promotion. ;<).

Haiku Reflections: The Four Seasons: takes the reader on  a seasonal tour of Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter shared in 120 haiku poems. Haiku is one of my favorite forms of poetry and one that I continue to enjoy more and more, as a poet and a reader too. It was a joy to create each of these poems and to bring this collection together, with full-color details in this edition.

My Poetic Path : is a compilation of traditional poems with contemporary themes that I wrote between 2000-2010. Exploring the wonders of nature and the changing seasons. The ebb and flow of life and love. Timeless themes that will resonate with many readers. 

And do stop by my poetry/writing blog: My Poetic Path. I'd love to have you visit me there too!

Finding Kate Huntley by Theresa Ragan (click through for my complete review) is the first Theresa Ragan novel I've read. This was a compelling page-turner from start to finish, with plenty of action, romance and intrigue. If you haven't read any of this author's numerous novels already, they are definitely worth checking out.


Crafting With Cat Hair by Kaori Tsutaya (click through for Mr. Cheddar's complete review) this is a book that Mr. Cheddar and I BOTH love! What a fun idea, using cat hair to create all sorts of wonderful small crafts and accents. I'm still saving up Ched's cat fur from his weekly grooming session and plan to try a couple of the craft projects in this book in the near future. Ched's review includes some great pics of the Chedster too, so make sure to click through for a look! :<)


Down & Dirty (gardening book) by Ellen Zachos (click through for my complete review) is the first gardening book that actually convinced me that I could be a gardener who could grow more than the absolute basics, and succeed. When I've had small garden plots in the past, I always stuck to the easy stuff like: potatoes, carrots, beets....but never beyond that. When I do have a garden again (hopefully soon) Ellen's gorgeous gardening book will be the one I'll turn to for inspiration and advice. This is a wonderful book!


Orchid Growing for Wimps by Ellen Zachos is another beautiful gardening book by Ellen Zachos. Orchids are a type of flower that I love, can usually identify as such and that's about it! But I do know of people who are absolutely smitten with growing these beauties themselves. And from the title of this book, it appears that you don't have to be an expert to actually make that happen!


The Vegetarian Slow-Cooker by Judith Finlayson is one of my new fav "go-to" cookbooks, when I'm using my slow-cooker. This is a gorgeous cookbook with full-color photos throughout and over 200 delicious, tested, slow-cooker recipes with everything from appetizers, breads (yes breads), cheesecake, soups, pasta, grain and vegetable's all here.

Slow-cooking has come a LONG way from the days of just cooking a big "slab" of meat or a whole chicken, in one of these small appliances. As a vegetarian, I use mine all the time and love the convenience and great results. I blogged about the Sweet Potato Lasagna from this cookbook a while back at my cooking and craft blog. Do click through to enjoy this wonderful and hearty pasta recipe you'll want to make again and again. I'm actually making it again today! :<)


So there's the line-up!

One lucky winner will win all 15 of these great books! :<)

And for everyone who's reading along, I'm sure you'll find at least a couple of great gift inspirations here, with the festive season just around the corner.

Books are always a welcome gift. And one that can be enjoyed for years to come.


This Month's Contest details

-To enter: leave a comment below including the name of one of your all-time favorite books and a bit about why it is one of your favorites. I'm always looking for good book suggestions! :<)

-Contest is open to US and Canadian residents. Exception: void in Quebec you can read why here. I've had to add this to my contests. Provincial laws in Quebec regarding contests are hard to understand but I'm not able to by-pass these restrictions.


-No anonymous comments please. Please sign in with a valid blog account, if at all possible.


-Winner picked by a random system and will have 2 weeks to claim their prize. If prize package not claimed within two weeks, an alternate winner will be chosen.

Optional: If you'd like to have an additional entry, subscribe to My Real Life Reviews (see right sidebar for subscription link) and mention that you have subscribed in your comment. My stats continue to go up every month, but the subscriptions haven't. ;<)

Contest closes November 30th. Stop by the first week in December to see if you're the winner.

And the winner of the October: Caf-Lib and Cookies contest is: Miss T !
Congrats to Miss T. You have two weeks to claim your prize package.


A big "thank you" to all the authors and publishers that supplied books for this contest. 

PS: I'm finishing up an important offline project so I won't be posting any product reviews here for the rest of this month. I will be back in December with some new reviews and gift suggestions, just in time for the holidays!

Good luck to everyone and Happy Reading!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Last Chance to Enter the Caf-Lib and Cookies Contest!

Only a few days left to enter the October contest!
You can enter here if you haven't already.
And make sure to stop by in early November to find out if you're this month's winner and also for a BIG pre-holiday November contest announcement, you won't want to miss! And this upcoming November contest will be open to US and Canadian residents.
Good luck everyone! :<)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews

Do you ever crave a truly LOL funny novel to enjoy and finish in a day or two? I certainly do, on a regular basis actually. ;<) But these kinds of books are not always easy to find.
There's nothing like unwinding and de-stressing and being transported far, far away with memorable characters and an engaging and humorous story.
I recently read Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews, and it had all of the attributes I've mentioned above and then some. I read this book in a couple of days and I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish.
Set in the small town of Passcoe, North Carolina the story begins at the wedding of Mason Bayless and his soon to be second wife: Celia Wakefield. But fate lends a hand and the marriage is (literally) stopped just short of the altar, by Mason's  young daughter/flower girl Sophie, who is having issues of her own on that special day.
What follows is a hilarious, sometimes touching, always entertaining story that reveals the secrets of many of Passcoe's colorful residents including Mason's first wife: Annajane Hudgens and Pokie Bayless, her best friend and coincidentally, sister to her now ex-husband Mason.
From the Amazon product page:
"The New York Times bestselling author of Summer Rental delivers her delicious new escapist novel about small towns, old flames, and deep secrets.
Annajane Hudgens truly believes she is over her ex-husband, Mason Bayless. They’ve been divorced for four years, she’s engaged to a new, terrific guy, and she’s ready to leave the small town where she and Mason had so much history. She is so over Mason that she has absolutely no problem attending his wedding to the beautiful, intelligent, delightful Celia. But when fate intervenes and the wedding is called to a halt as the bride is literally walking down the aisle, Annajane begins to realize that maybe she’s been given a second chance. Maybe everything happens for a reason. And maybe, just maybe, she wants Mason back. But there are secrets afoot in this small southern town. On the peaceful surface of Hideaway Lake, Annajane discovers that the past is never really gone. Even if there are people determined to keep Annajane from getting what she wants, happiness might be hers for the taking, and the life she once had with Mason in this sleepy lake town might be in her future. "
I can't remember when I laughed so much recently, reading a novel. Mary Kay Andrews (click to visit her website) has a real gift for bringing characters to life. Her writing is first-rate. Fast-paced but with just enough detail to set the stage perfectly for each chapter to unfold. This was a page-turner at it's entertaining best. I hadn't been familiar with Ms. Andrews work before this but I will certainly be reading more of her books in the future.
If you are looking for a good "escape" novel with plenty of laughs, romance, small-town intrigue and some surprises along the way, do check this one out. I think you'll be glad you did. :<)
Spring Fever is available in book, ebook and audio formats.
Overall rating for this book: Excellent. 5 out of 5.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Simple Pleasures (various contributors)

I recently received this book as a gift.

In a nutshell, Simple Pleasures IS a simple pleasure!

As the sub-title says: "soothing suggestions and small comforts for living well year round".

I couldn't agree more!

This beautifully-designed book contains 200 + suggestions from various contributors, how to make the most of the simple, day-to-day pleasures in life. To stop and really "smell the roses".

Divided into the seasons of the year, this is the kind of book that will lift spirits on even the dreariest of days. And speaking of dreary, it's been cold and rainy here in Interior BC for weeks now! Reading a few suggestions from this book can always help me to forget the grey skies outside and focus on the good things in life, that really matter. That make up a life, well-lived and time, well-spent.

Some of the suggestions from the book include:

Spring: Keep an artist's journal.  Make a Bread and Butter Pudding (ultimate comfort food) recipe included. Joining a book club. Taking a walk in the rain...

Summer: Adding edible flower petals to a seasonal salad. Preparing homemade herbal teas.Taking a long hike on a new trail. Baking bannock over a campfire.

Autumn: Making homemade herbal vinegars.Making scented notepaper (great for a gift too). Clean up the clutter that's accumulated in your home. Make some mincemeat cookies.

Winter: A walk on a winter's day in freshly-fallen snow. Making handmade bookmarks. Hosting a slumber party for your children's friends. Putting on flannel sheets.

These are just a few examples of the many, many simple pleasures shared in the lovely book. The cover of: Simple Pleasures truly does convey the tone and content of this entire book: soothing, serene, relaxing....and one to enjoy again and again.

An excellent gift idea too and appropriate for almost any occasion. Or for no occasion at all!

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

Friday, October 12, 2012

One Skein by Leigh Radford

I've been knitting up a storm lately!
I'm also gravitating toward smaller projects like: socks, slippers, mittens, gloves....recently, as opposed to my usual choices of sweaters, shawls and throws. It's a lot of fun to complete a project in only a couple of days as opposed to (sometimes) the weeks required for larger projects.
One of the books I've been using for smaller knitting projects is: One Skein by Leigh Radford. 
Unlike many of the "one skein" smaller project books available that feature endless variations of scarves and baby hats....this book is filled with a 30 diverse and beautiful quick to knit and crochet projects, with something for everyone.
I just finished the Cabled Footies in this book and they turned out great, you can read more about that pattern/project here.  
Some of the other patterns in this book include:
-Unisex gloves (next on my list, will be my first attempt at "real" gloves) ;<)
-Tank top (this is so nice, with a unique pattern design)
-Candy wrapper sachets (would make great stocking stuffers)
-Baby Bolero (with a lovely "luck"motif added to the back of garment)
-Bath mitt and puffy (this set looks like a fun project)
There is also a section that includes patterns to use up combined, smaller quantities of stash yarns. And a detailed instruction section for all the basics at the back of the book, including the Kitchener Stitch. I appreciate that as it's something I still need instructions to refer to, when completing toes on socks!
This book is currently on sale at Amazon for less than $14. so it's a great time to buy one for yourself and perhaps for gifting too. I'm sure it would be a welcome gift for any knitter or crocheter on your list. While you're at Amazon, make sure to click inside the book to see some of the great patterns and gorgeous photos included and the complete index and table of contents too.
Overall rating for this book: Excellent. 5 out of 5.
Updated rating as of Oct. 16/12: Good. 3 out of 5 (see comment below)

Monday, October 8, 2012

So Nice for Coffee (non-dairy creamer)

 As any of my regular readers already know, I love Caf-Lib (see contest post directly below this one for a chance to win some great products from Caf-Lib) coffee, some teas...And in all of them, I like to add a "splash" of cream or even better, a non-dairy alternative to cream.
I tried So Nice for Coffee (Original) a few months ago and I loved the creamy and pleasant taste it added to all kinds of hot beverages.
 I must admit a long-ago weakness for sigh....Coffee Mate (click to read the bad news about that product) non-dairy creamer (the powder kind!)  which I did ditch many years ago, in spite of also loving the taste.I had used this Coffee Mate before ingredient lists were on most "food" products and having to cringe at what was actually in the jar. ;<)
So Nice for Coffee reminded me of Coffee Mate's smoothness and taste without all the guilt LOL.
But what I was curious about in regards to So Nice for Coffee was one of the ingredients in this creamer: Dipotassium Phosphate which I found out is an additive that keeps ingredients in a product from separating. A coagulant. Other than that, the list of ingredients was readable and had nothing else that raised any particular concerns.
I try to avoid food additives as much as possible these days and in spite of the article at Wikipedia listing this ingredient as generally considered safe, I thought it was worth contacting the company to see just how much of this ingredient is actually added to this product.
Here's my email from June, with the reply that I received promptly after that:
Sent: June-27-12 10:40 AM
To: EarthsOwn
Hi from BC,
I host a product review blog at:
I’m interested in reviewing your: So Nice for Coffee product.
I wanted to find out a bit more about the ingredient: dipotassium phosphate. Is there very much of this coagulant added to this creamer?
I’ve been checking around online and it seems to be ok in terms of being safe to consume. At the same time, if a person drinks 3-4 beverages in a day, with your creamer, would this be excessive?
Love the taste of this product but don’t want to recommend or review if it’s an issue re: this additive.
Thanks in advance,
Geraldine Hartman
My Real Life Reviews

Good Afternoon Geraldine
I will check with our R & D team and get back to you as soon as I can.
So Nice Regards!

   Well Dorothy, it's 3 months later and I'm still waiting for a reply!
I think it's SO important for companies of all kinds to follow- up with consumers, when they write with product questions or concerns. I love the taste of this product but I've decided not to use it anymore, given my concerns for this additive included in the ingredients.
I'm actually trying to wean myself off any creamers in coffee etc, and hopefully I'll eventually like hot beverages served "black" just as much. It's too bad that this didn't prove to be a viable alternative to dairy cream for me as I did love the taste.
Overall rating for this product: Fair. 2 out of 5.


Monday, October 1, 2012

MRLR October Caf-Lib and Cookies Contest and September Winner!

This month's contest at My Real Life Reviews is a yummy one! :<)
I've got two wonderful gift packages that one lucky winner will win.
As pictured above, CafLib/I-D Foods is generously providing an assortment of their fine beverage products in a lovely, reusable gift basket, valued at over $50.
Here's what's in the Caf-Lib basket:
1 jar of Caf-Lib original
1 jar of Caf-Lib dark roast
1 jar of Caf-Lib organic
1 box of Caf-Lib tea original
1 box of Caf-Lib rooibos cranberry
1 box of Caf-Lib earl grey
1 box of Caf-Lib rooibos chai
1 pack of Caf-Lib filter grind original
1 pack of Caf-Lib filter grind moka
1 pack of Caf-Lib filter grind vanilla
To go with all these wonderful beverage choices, I-D Foods is also providing an assortment of their gourmet cookies, valued at over $50!
One lucky winner will win all these delicious treats.

Total prize value over $100!
This Month's Contest details:

-To enter, leave a comment below including what your favorite cookie is.
-Contest is open to Canadian residents. Sorry US readers but the upcoming November contest is a biggie and that one will be open to US and Canada residents.Exceptions: void in Quebec you can read why here. I've had to add this to my contests. Provincial laws in Quebec regarding contests are hard to understand but I'm not able to by-pass these restrictions.
-No anonymous comments please. Please sign in with a valid blog account, if at all possible.

-Winner picked by a random system and will have 2 weeks to claim their prize. If prize package not claimed within two weeks, an alternate winner will be chosen.
Optional: If you'd like to have an additional entry, subscribe to My Real Life Reviews (see right sidebar for subscription link) and mention that you have subscribed in your comment. My stats continue to go up every month, but the subscriptions haven't. ;<)
Contest closes October 31st. Stop by the first week in November to see if you're the winner.
If you haven't tried Caf-Lib's fine line of beverages yet, you can read my reviews about Caf-Lib Organic and also Caf-Lib OriginalI'm hooked on Caf-Lib!!! ;<)
If you haven't enjoyed their products already, you're in for a real treat. Wonderful, flavourful hot beverage choices and so much healthier than all that coffee or tea!
And to go with a hot, satisfying cup of Caf-Lib, there's a whole lot of great cookies in this prize package too. I can't think of a better combo!
And the lucky winner of the September Yarn Lover's Contest is: Christy Pinheiro 
Congrats Christy! You have two weeks to claim your prizes.
Email: MRLR at myway dot com and include your full mailing address and I'll get your yarn goodies sent out.
Good luck everyone!

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