Tuesday, November 26, 2013

20 Gift Ideas Under $20 for Christmas 2013!

20 Gift Ideas Under $20 for Christmas 2013
Wow, Christmas is less than a month away!
Did 2013 zoom by or is it just me? I can't believe it's almost 2014.
But before the new year begins, Christmas is on the horizon with all the goodies this season brings, including fun to give and to receive gifts! 
I thought it would be fun to share another 20 gift ideas this year, including some of my new and past favs. And all under $20. 
 I've included some products and books previously reviewed here at My Real Life Reviews and some new favs from the recent past.

Happy Holidays and Happy Shopping! :<)

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:
lace one skein wonders
crochet one skein
only $2.51 for the eBook version

only $2.91 for the eBook version

The print versions for both of these books are both under $20.

I've been a fan of the "One Skein Wonders" book series for a long time.

These two are new to me and I am loving the patterns in both of them. And what a great buy they both are right now.

Here's a gift idea for any knitter on your list:

Cast On, Bind Off

by Leslie Ann Bestor.
I must admit, I've been 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've been expanding on 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.
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 crafters 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. 

I'm a big fan of John Grisham's work and The Litigators continues to be my favorite of all his novels that I've read to date.

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.

This is a real "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 the book lover's on your list.


 And now for a bit of "shameless" self-promotion. ;<)

My new haiku book: Haiku Reflections II  is now available in print and Kindle versions.

If you enjoy haiku poetry and/or know someone who does, I hope you'll check out this newest addition to the Haiku Reflections series.

PS: I don't know why the cover is showing up here as a bright lime green, it's actually a very pretty soft, spring green.

 If you click through to Amazon you'll see what it actually looks like. ;<) Blogger...what gives? 

For the cooks and wannabe cooks on your list:

The Groovy Green Kitchen: Weeknight Veggie Slow Cooker

is available in both ebook and print versions.

Click to enjoy sample recipes for Moroccan Vegetable Stew with Fragrant Orange Basmati Rice from The Groovy Green Kitchen.
On the supper menu here today! ;<)

I love using a slow cooker for all kinds of recipes. A great way to save time and bring out all the flavors in recipes. And at this time of year, saving time is even more important. .

You can check out all my books and ebooks at my Amazon author's page.


There are so many people forgoing gluten-containing products these days, for health reasons.

I don't have any problems with actual gluten-intolerance but I do think it's a very good idea to cut back on gluten-containing foods, for everyone.

One of the books that I've found so helpful in this regard is:

The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook by Judith Finlayson

 (click to read my review to enjoy a fabulous and personal fav, grain-salad recipe from this book).

There are a lot of gluten-free cookbooks out there that fall well short of delivering on their promises for delicious, gluten-free recipes. Happily, not the case here. This is a cookbook that delivers!

If you are shopping with gluten-free and healthy in mind this holiday season, make sure to check this one out.


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.
For anyone who has been intimidated by the thought of making homemade pickles and preserves, this might be the cookbook to change their (or your) mind!

Another gift idea for the foodies on your list.
The Spice House is my new "go-to" online shop, for all my dried herbs and spices, including their fabulous blends. Using quality herbs and spices can make a real difference in how a recipe turns out. I know! ;<)

Superior products with great selection, reasonable prices and exceptional service.

They have lots of beautiful gift ideas too.
And for a limited time, for Canadian shoppers, The Spice House is offering a shipping promo discount. Use the code CANADA at checkout for 15% off your order.
Here's my previous full review of The Spice House. 

After giving those cookbooks a "workout" ;<) here are some easy ways to get and stay fit!

I am loving the: Jane Fonda Prime Time 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 mid- 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 you are or what your present fitness level is.

Jane Fonda: Prime Time - Walkout

I also purchased the Jane Fonda Walkout another DVD in this series and use it on a regular basis. 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!
Both of these DVDs are priced at less than $5. at Amazon now! What a great bargain.

The Happy Face Yoga DVD has been a very popular review, here at My Real Life Reviews. 
Most of us work at keeping fit from the neck down, but often give up on fighting the battle of the sags and bags, from the neck up.
After trying Happy Face Yoga, I'm a believer in this facial exercise regime, it worked for me! In only a few weeks time, I saw significant improvement in my neck and chin areas in particular:
Before Happy Face Yoga
this photo btw, is from 2 years ago

and after!
photo taken in late August of this year
Read my full review, including a link to order the DVD here.

A unique gift idea that will definitely give the recipient a special lift! ;<)

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.


And speaking of stocking stuffers here are some of my new and old favs in that gift category:
What would any holiday be without plenty of good chocolate?
 I recently found out about Theo (organic and fair trade) chocolate bars and now I'm hooked. They are so delish. Silky smooth texture, unique ingredient blends, I even love the wrappers. Stack a few of these together and tie with a ribbon and you've got a lovely little gift!
I've tried the: Nutcracker Brittle, Gingerbread Spice and Coconut Mint so far and there's a Peppermint one in the fridge that's calling me right now. Hard to ignore!!! ;<)
Made in Seattle which I think is pretty cool too, by some of our talented neighbours to the South.
If you like superior chocolate and want it to be organic and fair trade too (don't we all?)  plan to stock up on these yummy treats for yourself and for gifts
 Stop by their website to see all their products.
Wow, that's my kind of sweet shop!
I'm not usually a fan of herbal-type teas but Four O'clock Teas are changing my mind about these kinds of beverages and in a big way.

I just love having a cuppa of Four O'clock Tea, after a long session on the computer or coming in from the cold. Wonderful, flavorful and oh, so soothing too.
 I've tried the Licorice Spice and Chocolate Spice (organic and fair trade) flavors so far and I just love them.
Stop by their website to see all their fine products, including their holiday-blend teas.

 Only in Canada from what I read but hopefully they will be expanding their distribution, at least to include the U.S. This is a superior product!

I've been a big fan of Caf-Lib Organic Grain Beverage for a long time (click to read my complete review). In the past year, I've kicked the regular (caffeine) 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.


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 after using mine of a fairly regular basis for the past 2 years, it's still working 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"!



 I've tried a lot of foot lotions, creams and rubs over the years and Badger Foot Balm is definitely at the top of my favs on that list.

Who doesn't need more TLC for their overworked and under- appreciated footsies?

I love the attractive tin that this natural product comes in too, great for gifting! Nice for sharing too, with someone you love.

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

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


Another product that has become one of my personal, must-have favorites.

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 thick hair) so this 6.8 oz. tube goes a long way!!!



I hope you find these gift suggestions helpful and inspiring. And do share if you can too!

Wishing You a Magical 2013 Holiday Season :<)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Deadly Readings by Laura Bradford

About the only "plus" of being sick (as I was last week) is having lots of time to do nothing but read or knit, without feeling guilty. ;<) 
 I was feeling too lazy to even knit most of the time, so instead I napped and read a LOT of eBooks, including:
The cover and title of this book got my attention right away. And the story itself did not disappoint, I loved this book!
From the Amazon product page:
The Jersey Shore has always been known for warm sand, lively boardwalks, and the promise of carefree summer days. This season the small scenic town of Ocean Point, New Jersey, is not nearly as carefree as tourists would hope. The discovery of the body of a young woman is the first in a string of seemingly random and senseless murders, murders connected only by a warning from the same boardwalk fortune-teller.

It’s a crisis that puts local detective Mitch Burns on edge, and his job in jeopardy. It’s up to him to solve the crimes and protect the livelihood of the town, a livelihood that relies almost entirely on tourists. With the help of newly hired local reporter Elise Jenkins, the two step out to discover who the killer is, before another body is found.

I read this eBook in a couple of afternoons. It kept my attention to the very last page. Suspense, romance, intrigue...and up until the last couple of chapters, I had NOT guessed who the real killer was. I like that. Nothing too predictable here.
Laura Bradford is an excellent writer. Her characters are realistic and easy to visualize. The story moved along at a good pace, with no filler or lag time, which has been too often the case with some other stories I've been reading recently.
A couple of  reviewers at Amazon did make negative comments about the religious undertone of this book but I disagree. I am not an overly religious person and I don't like being "preached" to in a story of any kind. That REALLY turns me off and in a big way. But I didn't find the religious references in Deadly Readings over the top or superfluous. They were a part of the story that fit. 
I just noted that this eBook is available for FREE over at Amazon right now, so a great time to get a copy. I am definitely going to check out more of this author's books in the very near future. Based on this story, I'm guessing they'll be well worth the time too.
Overall rating for this book: Very Good. 4 out of 5. 


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Getting Over the "Snuffles" :<( and an Upcoming Free eBook Promo :<)

Hope you're having a healthy and productive week.
I've been spending most of my time in the past few days, reading and napping, while I get over a cold. :<(
On a happier note, I do have a free Kindle promo coming up this Friday and Saturday, you can read all the details here.
I'll be back to posting here at My Real Life Reviews, as soon as I'm feeling better.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Critter Knits by Margrit Lohrer

I just noted Critter Knits on the top 100 free ebooks, over at Amazon today.
I've just taken a browse through the book so far, haven't made anything yet obviously.
But I did want to share this ebook here, while it's still available for free, that's why I'm posting this now. ;<)
All 4 and 5 star reviews (60) over at Amazon so that sounds like a good start.
 The patterns are adorable from what I've checked out so far.
I'm thinking the Cat Wrap is a must and Mr. Cheddar, who is sitting on my lap, agrees!
Any critter-lovers out there who also knits, will definitely want to give this one a try.
Happy Knitting!
**PS: On a completely different topic, is anyone else having a problem with their link lists on Blogger? I can't add review links to my sidebar now, only text.
I checked the Blogger forums and I thought it would be fixed by now. **
Overall rating for this book: Very Good. 4 out of 5. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Falling Star by Diana Dempsey

I read a LOT of books, including various genres of novels; usually 2-3 books (sometimes more) per week. Since getting my Kindle Paperwhite (click to read my review of this ereader) my reading addiction has gone to an even higher level! :<)
At the same time, with so many books to chose from now, arriving within seconds to my Kindle, I tend to pick and choose more, what books I actually read to the end. If it doesn't capture my attention in the first few taps of the screen, it's a goner. LOL
What a treat it is to find a truly engaging story, that is hard to put down and enjoyable right to the last page.
 I read Falling Star by Diana Dempsey in a couple of days. I had other things I should have been doing but I kept going back to find out what would happen next in the story.

From the Amazon product page:
About the author:
"Diana Dempsey traded in an Emmy-winning career in TV news to write fast, fun romantic fiction. Her novels have been called “almost impossible to put down” (Romance Reviews Today), “skillfully plotted and filled with realistic detail” (Library Journal), and “spicy, sexy, and sultry” (Booklist)."
About this story:
"Natalie Daniels’ husband just dumped her. Her boss is scheming to replace her. And she’s falling in love with her sexy Australian TV news agent – who’s about to propose to somebody else.

What’s a woman to do? Dig deep and show what she’s made of – which just might land her both the job and the man of her dreams."

When I read this book, I wasn't actually aware of the author's background in TV news. But the authenticity of that fast-paced, at times cutthroat work environment came through, page after page.
Falling Star is Diana Dempsey's debut novel and was nominated for a RITA award for “Best First Book” by the Romance Writers Association.
The story is fast-paced, with characters that come alive and make the reader want to succeed or go down hard! And with just enough details provided to set each scene but not over the top.

Natalie Daniels, the protagonist in the story is "the real deal". You want her to win, to get even, to conquer and overcome....and Natalie does not disappoint! 
I won't spoil the plot by saying too much. Get a copy and prepare to enjoy a great read. One of the best novels I've read in quite some time.
I just noted that this ebook is FREE today over at Amazon. 
Click now, I  don't know how long that offer will last. ;<)
I'm looking forward to reading more books by Diana Dempsey. She's written quite a few since Falling Star.
Overall rating for this book: Excellent. 5 out of 5

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