Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Songs that Could Have Been by Amanda Wen #Giveaway

A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Our weather here has been a bit of a rollercoaster as far as temperatures go, we get a few days in the 90s with high humidity, followed by a few days of mid 70s and low humidity, and then back to the 90s again. When we have had some cooler evenings, I thoroughly enjoy sitting outside and reading a book. There is something so nice about the fresh air, the light breeze and the warmth of the sun, while being engaged in a good story. Most recently, i have been reading The Songs that Could Have Been by Amanda Wen.

The Songs that Could Have Been by Amanda Wen is the second book in the Sedgwick County Chronicles. Interestingly, I read on the authors Facebook post about how she actually started to write this one before the first one was even picked up by a publisher. I don't know how often that happens but I can see the risk of writing a second book without your first one being committed to. You can read my post about her first book, Roots of Wood and Stone here.

This story intertwines the story of Lauren and her grandmother, Rosie, and Carter Douglas. Lauren and Rosie were introduced in the first story, being Garrett's sister and grandmother. This book is fine as a stand-alone, no need to have read the first book - but it is good and always fun to learn more about the characters and what is happening with them as time moves forward. As with her first book in this series, the story was told within two separate time lines: a current and contemporary story, told alongside a historical story. This interweaving of the two timelines is smoothly executed and really kept the story moving and the reader wanting to learn more. The story is told from the view point of the three main characters. The view point of Rosie, who has Alzheimer's, was really interesting and well-crafted, sharing the inner thoughts of a woman somewhat trapped in her own mind and locked out of her own memories. As we meet the three main characters in current time, we learn a little bit about the past connection of Carter and Lauren and we discover that Rosie is wondering where Ephraim is, stating that he should have been here by now. It is following this brief partial memory that the historical time line is started and we find ourselves in Rosie's senior year, 1955, learning through her story about Ephraim and their connection. The story continues switching time between the present and 1955, revealing more about the history and moving the current day events forward.

I really enjoyed the story and the way in which it was told. The characters were well developed within the interwoven timelines and the use of flashbacks for the modern storyline. Each of the characters has faced adversity in their life. In the modern time line, we learn about how Carter and Lauren struggle to overcome their challenges, through both current dialogue and memories. We see how they learn the need to lean on their faith in God to find the best path forward. For Rosie and Ephraim, their struggles are more against social norms than internal challenges. We learn what the author was referring to in the title, as the story comes to a hopeful close.

I definitely recommend that you take the time to meet Lauren, Carter, Rosie and Ephraim, whether you first met them in Roots of Wood and Stone or if you are meeting them all for the first time.

About the Book

Two couples in love. Two sets of impossible circumstances. One powerful God of grace.

After a devastating tailspin in her late teens, Lauren Anderson’s life is finally back on track. Then a chance meeting with Carter Douglas, her first love and the man who broke her heart, threatens to throw her well-balanced world out of control.

Now a TV meteorologist, Carter is determined to make amends with Lauren. After all, she still owns his heart. But his old demons are forcing him toward the same decision he faced in the past. Is he courageous enough to make a different choice this time around?

When Lauren’s elderly grandmother, Rosie, begins having nightmares about a man named Ephraim--a name her family has never heard before—a fascinating and forbidden past love comes to light. As Lauren and Carter work to uncover the untold stories of Rosie’s past in 1950s Wichita, they embark on a journey of forgiveness and second chances that will change their lives—and Rosie’s—forever. Along the way they’ll learn that God wastes nothing, his timing is perfect, and nothing is beyond his grace and redemption.

The Songs That Could Have Been is full of the same deftly handled, resonant writing that readers and critics alike enjoyed in Amanda Wen's first book in the series, Roots of Wood and Stone. Fans of Lisa Wingate and Rachel Hauck will add Amanda Wen to their must-read shelves.

Click here to read an excerpt.

About the Author

Amanda Wen is an award-winning writer of inspirational romance and split-time women’s fiction. She has placed first in multiple writing contests, including the 2017 Indiana Golden Opportunity, the 2017 Phoenix Rattler, and the 2016 ACFW First Impressions contests. She was also a 2018 ACFW Genesis Contest finalist. Her debut novel was a 2021 Christy Award First Novel finalist.

Wen is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and regularly contributes author interviews for their Fiction Finder feature. She also frequently interviews authors for her blog and is a contributor to the God Is Love blog. She is the author of Roots of Wood and Stone and The Songs That Could Have Been.

In addition to her writing, Wen is an accomplished professional cellist and pianist who frequently performs with orchestras, chamber groups, and her church’s worship team. She serves as a choral accompanist as well. A lifelong denizen of the flatlands, Wen lives in Kansas with her patient, loving, and hilarious husband, their three adorable Wenlets, and a snuggly Siamese cat.

To find Amanda Wen’s blog and short stories, visit Readers can also follower her on Facebook (@AuthorAmandaWen), Twitter (@AuthorAmandaWen), and Instagram (@authoramandawen).


a Rafflecopter giveaway
No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me. The giveaway is not specific to this blog and is not sponsored by this blog

Monday, June 20, 2022

Game Night - featuring Five Crowns and Farkle #playmonsterfun #tryazon

Complimentary copies of Farkle and Five Crowns games were provided to me through Tryazon so that I could share them with friends and through my blog.

Game Night has always been a favorite activity at our house. We have been fortunate to have many friends and family members that enjoy not only hanging out but also playing games. We always have way too much to eat and always have a good time. We compete and we laugh and we genuinely enjoy the time together. Some nights, we play card games, some nights we play board games, some nights we visit so long that we never get to the games. When the kids were little, we would put them to bed just before game night or shortly after it started. Now that they are older, we invite everyone's kids and we set up multiple game tables, one in the basement and one upstairs, so that everyone can get in on the fun. Durning the past couple of years, those types of nights slowed down but so glad to be back in the swing of things again.

Recently, we had the chance to share Five Crowns and Farkle from PlayMonster with our friends, as a participant in the Tryazon party. Both are games that we had played before but not with our friends.

Five Crowns is a rummy-style card game that featuring 5 suits and rotating wild cards. The box says that you can play with 1-7 players, ages 8 and up (it says 99 but I bet you could play if you were 100). I've not played the solitaire version but always love a game that you can play on your own. The game is easy to learn and with an estimated game time of 45 minutes, is easy to fit in a quick game almost anytime.

Farkle is a dice game that can be played with 2 or more players, ages 8 and up (although, you could actually play by yourself - maybe challenge yourself to reach the target in the fewest turns). Another game that is easy to learn and quick to play at an average game time of 30 minutes. It is also easy to take on the go and play almost anywhere. We have a pocket version that has a scoring pad that you could tuck in your purse or glove box and a small tube that holds the dice (about the size of a 35 mm film cannister for those of you old enough to remember).

Both games are family-friendly and can be enjoyed by young and old alike. The ability to play with only a few people, how easy it is to learn the games and the ability to play a full game in a short-time, makes them appealing game options. We have foudn that card and dice games have always been favorites to play with grandparents when they visit us.

You can learn more about PlayMonster and order your own copies of the games at I recieved a coupon code to share with my guests but I also see that if you join their mailing list, you can get 25% off your first order.

What are some of your favorite games? Have you played Five Crowns or Farkle before?

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family and friends. Complimentary copies of the games were provided to me through Tryazon so that I could share my experience with friends and through my blog, with enough to share some with my friends too.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Selefina Spices

Complimentary samples of the spices were provided so that I could try them and share my expierence.

I love to bake and cook, to experiment with flavors. I have a spice rack that I registered for when I got married, it has been refreshed many times over because I love being able to have the variety of spice close by when cooking. Of course, I also have a pantry that holds the other spices that we use (and refills for some that we use a lot of). When I consider how many spices I have in my pantry, I am always surprised when a recipe calls for a new spice. Of course, when I buy it, then I try to think of or find other uses for the spice.

I recently had the opportunity to try some samples from Selefina spices. (You can order samples from Selefina for only $.75 each and shipping is free with 5 samples.) I recieved several to try in order to share about my experience.

I first tried the cinnnamon and nutmeg from the samples. I was making homemade macaroni and cheese for my daughter and I like to add a little bit of the earthen flavors when I make it. So, in addition to ground mustard, I use a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon. The flavors were good and the grind was even. The pouch format made them easy to measure - unlike a jar, I could stick the measuring spoon down in to grab the spice I needed.

The weather was chilly the other week, so the next thing I tried was the recipe for the Hot Chocolate Infused with Cardamom and Rose. The recipe was easy and the aroma was awesome. The presentation with the rose petals was also pretty and felt a little fancy. I have only had cardamom as a component in the filing for Skool Bread (Norwegian dessert), so it was nice to have another option for use. The rose petals gave off a nice floral aroma, as I drank the hot chocolate. Next time though, I would likely filter out the rose petals before drinking, as the texture of them in my mouth was a little strange. You can find the recipe on their website - Hot Chocolate Infused with Cardamom and Rose. You can even add the samples for the spices you need right to your cart with a single click on the recipe page.

Next, on another coolish day, I thought I would give the Golden Turmeric Milk recipe a try. I'm not sure what I expected, I had heard great things about turmeric's benefits but had never tried it. The recipe called for black pepper, which seemed odd but worked out well in the overall flavor. I will say that although I liked the flavor overall, after I added additional hot milk to rewarm the drink after I got distracted and it cooled, I actually liked the drink a lot better. You can find their recipe for Golden Turmeric Milk on the website as well. Interestingly enough, on this page, scroll to the bottom to add the spice samples needed for the recipe to your cart.

The samples all came in the reasealable pouches. I like the convenience of this and assume that from a shelf life perspective that this helps extend shelf life and ensure that the spices aren't exposed to too much light. I assume as well that the pouches are a lower cost / less waste option. The challenge is, I have no good way to store and organize the pouches. I could probably get a bin that would be the right width and simply place them alphabetical in there (that's how my spice rack is organized). Alternatively, since they also have glass jar sizes, I could go with those and use the pouches as refills. A win-win situation and I only have to thumb through when I need to refill a jar.

Overall, I have been very satisfied with the freshness and consistency of the spices that I have tried. They have good aroma and deliver the flavors I expect from the spices. I look forward to trying more of their options as I look to restock spices as I run out. I have found their website to be very informative. They offer several recipes featuring the spices. On the page for each spice, they offer a good amount of information about the spice, tips, usage and more. In addition, they have some primers which help you learn more about the spice - it's history, forms, use, and more. They seem to be working on expanding their spice offerings and their primers.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. Complimentary samples of the spices were provided for my family and I to try, so that I could share my experience.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Replacement Wife by Eileen Goudge

A few weeks ago, Goudge, who I follow on Facebook shared that there was a deal for an eBook version of her book The Replacement Wife. The book, one that was published in 2012, was one that I hadn't read. The blurb shared on the site was intriguing and I decided to request a copy from the library (I'm just not a digital book reader, give me the good old-fashioned paper version). I have read a few of her other books, including Once In A Blue Moon. She is one of many authors that I have discovered through the blog and continue to read.

About the book:
The Replacement Wife
A professional matchmaker with six months to live tries to find her husband’s next wife in this poignant novel by a New York Times–bestselling author.
Camille Hart, one of Manhattan’s most sought-after matchmakers, has survived more than her fair share of hardships. Her mother died when she was a young girl, leaving her and her sister with an absentee father. Now in her forties, she has already survived cancer once, though the battle revealed just how ill-equipped her husband Edward is to be a single parent. So when doctors tell Camille that her cancer is back—and this time it’s terminal—she decides to put her matchmaking expertise to the test for one final job. Seeking stability for her children and happiness for her husband, Camille sets out to find the perfect woman to replace her when she’s gone.
But what happens when a dying wish becomes a case of “be careful what you wish for”? For Edward and Camille, the stunning conclusion arrives with one last twist of fate that no one saw coming. At once deeply felt and witty, The Replacement Wife is an unforgettable story of love and family, and a refreshing look at the unexpected paths that lead us to our own happy endings.

The concept behind the story in this book left me feeling a little sad. On one hand, I can totally relate to a mother and wife wanting to ensure the best for her family, especially given her own childhood. On the other hand, I immediately had a sense of foreboding. There simply were too many ways that this could go wrong. When she shared the idea with her husband and with the selected candidate, both met her request with reservation and yet she pushed forward. Even those around her that she shared her plan with wondered if it was the right thing.

The story challenged me and left me wondering, would I particpate, could I stand by and not try to reason with them if I was aware of what was going on. It left me feeling frustrated for the kids who not only had to deal with their mother's illness but also the outcome of this 'game' that the adults were playing. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and I liked how the side storylines were carried forward through intersections, even as they fell from the main story. I felt that I came to know them and connected with the emotions that they were processing, feeling anger, sympathy and frustration as the story unfolded. I appreciated that the book included both a six months later and a year later look into the lives, allowing the reader to feel like although this story was finished, they knew how the characters would be moving forward.

Have you read any good books recently?

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Burned by a Fake Store Site

Uggghh! I consider myself reasonably savvy and generally careful when it comes to online transactions.

Sometimes, you just let yourself get too comfortable and make an assumption that if you had looked into things the same way you always do, would have showed you the error of your ways.

I know that its not uncommon to find spoofs of websites that use the same logos and offer a similar array of products. And yet, I misssed obvious signs and other signs that I would have normally questioned.

My daughter recently started a job and had a few things that she wanted to buy - a couple items she needed for work and a few that she simply wanted. She had talked about them earlier in the week and showed them to me on her phone. One evewning, I had her pull up the items that she was wanting on the computer and put the right size and color in the cart so that I could place the orders for her.

It was past my bedtime and I wanted to get the orders placed, so I checked for coupon codes and offers and completed the three orders and went to bed. The shipping for the one order was $10, which was higher than I liked but I had looked on a few other stores that carried the brand and they were all more than the 'brand' site even with shipping. It was only two days later when I received a ship notice on the one order that I thought, I don't remmeber seeing an order confirmation email from the one order. I pulled up my e-mail and searched and found the paypal payment with my receipt and another that had almost no content and said your payment was recieved.

I went to the site and realized that indeed, she had found a site that was not the brand site. Why it had come up at the top of the page was a bit of a mystery until I entered the brand in my search bar and noticed that it was at the top of the search results as a promoted/ad driven link. I immediately looked how to cancel my order and started to find everything that should have warned me. The product doesn't ship for 15 - 20 days and ships from China, so it told me to expect 4-6 weeks for delivery (once it shipped). The customer service contact information was an e-mail that was clearly not that of a product brand website. I had no order number either. I sent them an e-mail asking them to cancel my order. I replied to the payment received message and asked the same thing. On PayPal, I submitted a request to refund, selecting product not received as my answer.

I got no response from the company, so I reached out to Paypal by phone. They were able to escalate the request and about a week later I did get a credit for my money. In the meantime, the company contacted me a few times asking why I wanted to cancel, even in response to my message that explained that with the long lead time, they would not arrive in time to fit my needs

In the meantime, I ordered from the right website and got the product before I had credit for the cancelled order and had to do an exchange for size, which was super easy through the brand site.

And now I know. I need to continue to be savvy. I need to make sure that I am on a legit site before ordering. I didn't realize that 'spoofs' would advertise and put themselves at the top of the search results to find unsuspecting consumers. I am sure that I would have received a knock off product eventually but am glad that I realized the issue in time to cancel it and not lose my money.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Walking - the benefits of Cold Air

Of course, as I write this, spring is finally arriving in full force - which makes me very happy. I love to see the spring flowers and the budding and blooming trees. But there is still merit in sharing about the benefits of walking, even when it is cold. In fact, one article I read encouraged you to keep the top of your coat open and skip the scarf to ensure that you had enough exposure to cold air when walking.

I had heard long ago that a cold shower is a good thing. I know that it can help in the summer if you rinse in cold water at the end of your shower. I know that the cold water is good for your hair and helps close the strands when rinsed in cold water. I know that it helps me be less itchy in the dry months of winter. At the end of each shower, I turn the faucet back half way and quickly rinse in the cold water.

This year though, was the first time that I had read that walking outside in the cold air and skipping the scarf and leaving your collar loose was a good thing. According to the article, citing NIH, exposing your collar bone to the cold activates fat-burning cells called brown adipose tissue, which sits in pockets around the neck and shoulders and has impressive calorie-burning powers. The cold air doesn't create the brown adipose tissue just activates it, but the good news is that exercise (which walking is) develops the tissue. So, in walking in the winter, you can both develop the brown adipose and activate it for calorie burning power.

I am glad to learn of these addiitonal potential benefits but I have to be honest. I like walking in the cold of winter because I like the fresh, crisp, clean air. I like overcoming the sluggishness that I sometimes feel in the winter when getting in a walk is an invigorating, blood pumping way to eliminate the sluggishness. Of course, if you walk in winter, be wary of the ice. I took a few spills this winter but thankfully all but one was a graceful slide to bent knees - one was an unexpected tail bone bruising fall to my backside.

Of course, this week, I may be able to ditch the jacket for most walks and soon, it will be time for shorts and wishing it weren't so hot on my walk.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

My Wife is Missing by D.J. Palmer

A complimentary advanced readers copy was provided to me through a contest hosted by the publisher.
Do you have an author that you simply read every book they write? No need to read the back cover, just pick up a copy as soon as you can? One that you can't wait for the next one to finally be available? That is how I am with D.J. Palmer and was with his father's books too. I'm always amazed when an author can continue to release books, each as good or better than the last. Where do the ideas come from? How do they assemble the story? So many questions.

The newest, soon to be released book by D.J. Palmer is My Wife is Missing. The book is being released on May 10th. Needless to say, when I had a chance to enter for a chance to win an advanced copy of this book, I entered right away and was excited when I learned that I was chosen along with several other entrants to get an advanced copy. You can pre-order a copy now from your favorite retailer (I highly recommend it).

I recieved the book a couple weeks ago and just finished reading it. The book did not disappoint. It was one of those books where each night I had to force myself to put the book down so that I could get some sleep. The book is told from three points of view - the husband, and the wife, before she disappeared and after. The current timeline keeps the story moving but the regularly interspersed 'before she disappeared' sections allow the reader to gain some insights on what had happened and how we got to the current situation. As a reader, this is part of what draws me in to reading more than I should at bedtime. The regular feed of flashbacks helps my theories continue to evolve with time and has me wanting to know some more, so as to help solidify or disprove my theory. As an added plus, there were defintely some unexpected things learned through those flashbacks, as well. I love it when a book keeps me guessing, and even enjoy it when there is a twist at the end that completely surprises me. I can proudly say that I had a suspicion on the right who but no idea on the why, which is why I wasn't fully convinced until I learned it in the story and continued to entertain multiple possibilities almost to the end of the book. And, was rather shocked by the other reveal in the epilogue.

I like the mystery and thriller nature of the book. If you read any of his ealrier work, as Daniel Palmer, this story is a little less on the scary side of thriller but definitely is high on the mystery side of the thriller. He keeps the reader guessing and worrying, as you wonder when the secrets will be revealed and who the characters (and you) can trust. My Wife is Missing was very enjoyable to read and I would highly recommend that you check it out. Then, if you haven't already, be sure to pick up and read the other books by DJ Palmer.

Natalie and Michael were the main characters, along with their two children. In addiiton, there was Detective Kennett, a few of Natalie's coworkers, a nanny and Natalie's friend that helped feed the story through conversation. Overall the character set was reasonably likeable, even as you started to question who was on the good side and who was on the bad side.

Book Details
When a woman disappears with her two children, one husband will do anything to find them--even confront the secrets of his own past--in D. J. Palmer's My Wife Is Missing, a twisty thriller from the author of The New Husband...

A family vacation turns into a nightmare for Michael Hart when he discovers his wife and two children have disappeared from their New York City hotel room. Horrified, he fears they’ve been kidnapped. Michael’s frantic search to find them takes a shocking turn when he discovers that his wife, Natalie, appears to have left quite willingly, taking their children with her. The police want to know why, and so does Michael. But there may be a reason why Natalie ran, something Michael can’t tell the police—the truth about his past.

While untangling his deceptions might be the key to locating Natalie, Michael knows it could also be his undoing. To find his wife, he must now turn to the one person capable of exposing all that he’s been hiding. Natalie thinks she has Michael all figured out and has hatched a plan to escape from him permanently. One detail, though, threatens to derail her efforts: sleep—or more accurately, the lack of it. Since the moment the shocking revelations about her husband came to light, Natalie’s insomnia has worsened to the point that she now suffers from delusions.

Are her fears about Michael valid—or a symptom of her condition? With her children’s lives at risk, the stakes for Natalie could not be higher. On her own, running low on energy and resources, avoiding increasingly close calls with Michael—who is on the hunt and closing in fast—Natalie needs someone to turn to for help. But who can she trust when she can’t even trust herself?

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. A complimentary review copy was provided to me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

New Coffee Offering from Lardera (by adagioteas)

Complimentary samples of the coffee were provided so that I could try them and share my expierence.

I recently was introduced to Lardera coffee, offered by the same people that are behind Adagio Tea. Lardera offers four single-origin medium roasts, all sourced directly from Costa Rican farmers. The farms are located in two different regions of Costa Rica which is a contributor to the flavor that the different beans deliver.
Its "direct from farmer's" advantage bypasses brokers and middlemen. This allows Lardera to source the freshest beans whiles ensuring that the farmers receive the largest percentage of payment. Each farmer is highlighted with their own unique "know your farmer" profile. Read about how they got started in the industry and what makes their coffee worthy of the Lardera name. And, with samples starting at only $3 each, Lardera makes it easy to sample its assortment without committing to larger quantities.
One of the things that I like about their approach is the direct link to the farmer and that most of the money is going to the farmers. I found it interesting to read up on each of the farmers and learn more about them and their farms. There are four farmers that Lardera sources their fresh coffee from.

Lardera offers their coffee both as a whole bean coffee, or ground coffee - for those like me that don't have a coffee grinder (I did see though that Lardera also offers gear for grinding and brewing coffee) and in two sizes, 2 oz samples and 6 oz packages.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have taken the time to try each coffee a couple of times so that I could share my experience with you.

Catuai Anaerobic
I chose to try this one first because of the description on the package:
fruit bomb with lush notes of cherry, black currant, passion fruit and cocoa
I was intrigued, I don't know that aside from a flavored coffee that I had seen so many fruit notes listed for a coffee. I made a half carafe in my coffee maker using the classic brew style (you can learn more about my new coffee maker here). I decided that I wanted to taste it black so that I could really taste the coffee.
In my first taste, I was impressed with the coffee. It didn't have any of the bitter notes that I generally assoicate with coffee. It was flavorful and had body. I definitely picked up fruit notes (I couldn't have named them without the description likely but still noted it had fruity notes). In fact, it was so smooth and had such a great flavor that I realized that this was a coffee that I could absolutely drink black and enjoy. My current creamer is a sweet cream though, so I decided to give it a try in my second mug.
The sweet cream enhanced the flavor and the smoothness of the coffee, in my opinion. This is definitely a coffee that I will buy again.

Catuai Honey
Since I liked the first one that was called Catuai, I decided to try this one next.
complex blend of juicy clementines, tart cranberries, and ripe pomegranate
This coffee was also very good. I found it flavorful and full bodied. I could detect the touch of tart associated with the fruity notes it listed. I really appreciate how smooth the coffee is. Not only can I enjoy it without cream, I also found that when my last mug got cold, it was still enjoyable without that bitter note.
I did however decide to add cream at this point to make it more of a sweet drink, since it wasn't a hot beverage anymore. This is a coffee that I would buy again.

Kenya Washed
I decided to try this one third, choosing it based on the description.
layered notes of juicy citrus accented by sweet sugar cane and milk chocolate
Sweet sugar cane and milk chocolate remind me of a dessert, a treat. Based on the last two I had tried, I did start with this one black.
It was good. The citrus notes hit early but I didn't feel that the sugar cane and milk chocolate popped liked I expected. Then, I added a splash of cream. This brought foward the notes of sweet and of milk chocolate. It was very good. I could drink this coffee black but most likely I would add the cream to deliver on that treat expectation that the description gave me. As with the prior two, a coffee that I would buy again.

Tipica Honey
This was the fourth coffee that I tried, by default.
solid, well balanced cup with lingering notes of citrus, red apple, and pear
This coffee was a nice easy, smooth cup when I enjoyed it black.
It didn't have any noted pop like some of the others did but it was enjoyable in its simplicity. It also made the perfect canvas for a splash of creamer to really shine providing a smooth, creamy texture and a sweet flavor. I'm not sure that I would put this one at the top of my list but I certainly would enjoy it again.

Overall, I was impressed by all four of the coffees I tried. I was not surprised that I enjoyed the medium roast coffees, as I generally lean in that direction when I choose. I was impressed by how smooth they all were, the lack of bitterness or acidity on the tongue when enjoying it black. I definitely would recommend trying this coffee for yourself. You can try any of their coffees for just $3 for a smaple size, or if you are a drinker of single origin cofee, they have a free coffee offer that you can find on any of the coffee variety pages.

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. Complimentary samples of the coffee were provided for my family and I to try, so that I could share my experience.

Friday, March 11, 2022

I think I'll go for a walk outside now...

As I started to write this post and tried to decide on a title, the first thing that came to my head was that starting lyric to a song that is now running through my head. If you aren't familiar, it is from the Brady Bunch and the song It's a Sunshine Day.

Two years ago, I committed to making time to get outside for at least a thirty minute walk each day. It was the start of COVID shutdowns. The kids were home from school, for two weeks to start (that later extended, as we all know). I knew that I needed to make time to stay active, and not just sit in the house all day. With everyone home, I knew I would benefit from some me time, doing something just for me. I also knew that I needed the mental break, a chance to get away from the news and everything.

So, I headed out that Saturday for a walk. I was pretty close to 30 minutes the first few days, because the pool at the Y was still open and I was putting a couple of miles in in the pool each day. When the Y closed, along with gyms, I was left with just walking and started to stretch my walk most days to a longer. In the beginning, I was unemployed and I tended to walk mid-day. As time passed, I finally was reemployed and I started to mix it up and walked in the morning or the evening working around my schedule. I had a couple of different paths that I took around the neighborhood but started to see people outside on my walks. Some commented, most just said hi.

Of course, living in Northeast Ohio, many of my days were not Sunshine Days, perhaps the quote from Greek historian, Herodotus is more appropriate - “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Somedays, I was limited on where I could walk based on snow or ice. Other days, I was ducking under the trees to stay dry for a few minutes. Regardless of the weather and the degree of light or dark, I found a way to get out and walk. Most days were by myself but occassionally, I was joined by friends. When I walked with others, we tended to go much further and for a longer time then when I walked on my own. I got to enjoy seeing the seasons progress and some beautiful sunrises. I fell a few times on ice but I got back up and kept going.

When the first year wrapped up, I decided that I would keep my streak going. In some ways, the streak serves as motiviation that I need to keep going. I wouldn't want to fall short of completing the year, especially as I got closer to the year mark and it was cold and snowy.

As of this morning, I have completed 104 weeks of getting out and walking at least 30 minutes every day, regardless of the weather or around whatever was on my schedule that day. Some days I struggle to get going but I am never not glad that I saw it through. Walking in the morning is invigorating and a great way to start my day, walking during the day is a great way to take a break and get away from the stresses of life, walking in the evening is a great way to wind the day down. The fresh air, the sunshine, the beauty of nature, all make it worth my while. Even in a rain storm, I get to see the beauty of trees reflected in the puddles and the occassional rainbow. Snow is pretty and peaceful, especially in the early morning before it has been disturbed. Whenever and wherever I walk, i am glad that I am doing it every day. Hopefully, this time next year, I will be sharing that I completed another full year, that I have 156 consecutive weeks of getting outside for at least a 30 minute walk each day.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Bright Lights, Prairie Dust by Karen Grassle

Growing up, I have memories of heading downstairs on Monday nights to watch Little House on the Prairie. Given my age and the show's run from from 1974 to 1982, I must have picked it up in the 5th or 6th season. Likely, it was shortly before I started reading the books that I started to watch the show. I caught the older episodes in reruns (syndication) and was totally into the show. Of course, it romanticized the life of a family on the prairie, showing some of the hard work and hardships but mostly focusing on the family and the great times that they had together.

Of course, as with most shows that run that long, you become attached to the characters and you begin to identify the actors as those poeple. Sure, there were lots of celebrity guests that there was no problem coorelating them to other roles. I remember the first time I saw Melissa Gilbert in another role and how strange it was to see her in a modern day setting.

When I read a few months back that Karen Grassle was releasing a book, I decided that I wanted to read it and promptly placed a hold on it at the library. I started reading it last month and finished it up a few days ago, coincidentally on Karen Grassle's 80th birthday (February 25th). I was scrolling Facebook and there was a birthday wish to Karen Grassle - how did it know that I was reading that book, that is one of many things that always surprise me a bit.

Grassle lead a very interesting life, far differnt than the character I knew from the show. Obviously, that is to be expected but still there were so many things in her life that I didn't know about. She struggled to get where she is and overcame a lot of obstacles on her journey.

I had in part expected that there would be more about Little House on the Prairie in the book but really, the focus was on Grassle's life - the challenges and obstacles that she faced, how she dealt with them and eventually overcame many of them. The book was engrossing and reasonably well-written, although there were times where it followed a path to tie up a loose end and then returned to the time that she went off on the tangent. She tells her story with honesty and perspective.

I enjoyed learning more about her parents, her childhood and her sister. You could feel the love for her parents and knew that she was raised in a loving home - "All they wanted was to have a family, give them a good education and be able to tell anyone to go to hell" - even though it was troubled with addictions and her parent's coping methods were not always ideal. I found it interesting that as a child she studied ballet, and was pretty good at it, before moving into acting. I enjoyed learning about her growing up, her college years and the time that she spent in England on a Fulbright Fellowship to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

She brought the reader along for the journey as she pursued her dreams, with financial support when needed from her parents, in the tumultuous era of the 60s and 70s. She found her fair share of trouble and actively sought counseling to help her through things. She was a participant and supporter of the activism that was part of coming of age in that era, and there was evidence of the influence it had on her as she continued to be an advocate for change. Her experiences working in the theatre and her classical training were influential in how she approached acting throughout her career. It was interesting to learn about the shifts that she had to make in approach as she moved into television and the schedules that they keep in television series.

When we first meet Michael Landon in her book, I totally expected a great relationship but as I continued I learned about several struggles that she experienced. I was not aware of those issues, like her struggle to acheive fair compensation. and never would have guessed it based on all my years watching the show, both while new and in reruns. It was interesting to learn more about some of the other actors and which she was friend's with off the set. I was not aware of the other side projects that she had worked on while filming Little House on the Prairie, including a show that she helped research, write and act in about abusive relationships. A show that impacted a lot of people and drove change for the good.

In the last bit of the book, she shared with the reader about finally recognizing that she needed help with her alcoholism. The efforts she made, the support she needed and the struggles as she sought to overcome it and move forward. She talked about the life that she was able to start to live. About finding love and having a family.

All and all, I enjoyed getting to know Karen Grassle for who she is and where she came from. She did a good job telling her story; honestly sharing with the readers about her life, her values, her challenges, her mistakes and her achievements. I liked learning about her life experiences and the people that crossed her path and how both impacted her life and the person she became. She faced many struggles and challenges and wasn't proud of some of the things that she had done but as she turned 80, I think she is good with where she is and who she ultimately is. In my mind, she will always be Ma living on the Prairie with Pa and the kids but now I feel like I know the rest of her story.

No compensation was received for this review and I got the copy I read through my local library. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Deflecto Room Refresh - a peek into my #Tryazon Party and how I organized with the Stackable Cubes

Complimentary chair mats and organizer cubes were provided to me through Tryazon so that I could share them with friends and through my blog.

One of the things that often brings enjoyment are the unexpected things in life. They don't have to be big or monumental to make a difference, sometimes just the smallest unexpected experience can provide fun and humor to your day. A few weeks ago, I received a text from FedEx letting me know that a shipment was on its way. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what I was expecting, and from a small town in Ohio nonetheless. My husband were sitting down, relaxing, catching up on some episodes of Aerial (enjoyable and education series if you haven't watched it) when the text came in. We sat there and racked our brains. We checked the websites for typical retailers and shipment e-mails for special items that we had ordered recently. Nothing matched. The small town happens to be near some of our friends, so he reached out to say, we are getting a package from that city, any chance they know what is coming? Of course, they didn't but their curiosity was piqued. Let us know when you get it, they asked. Of course, it didn't arrive the day it was supposed to but when it did - we shared the unboxing with them. We had a good laugh about it and they were the first to see the products that I had received as part of my Deflecto Room Refresh Tryazon Party.

Turns out that first shipment was only a partial shipment and there was a delay with the other part. That didn't stop me from partying but it did lead to me have to break the party up into a couple of different 'parties' instead of what I had planned, since the product wasn't all here in time.

I took advantage of a planned visit from an out of town friend to share with one group of friends about the product, I grabbed the samples I did have and headed out to hang out for the afternoon. Most of our day was focused on catching up but made sure to find time to share with them. I snagged examples and images from the party guide and website to share to show them the organizers in action. We talked about how versatile they would be in the kids room to hold art supplies. Combining the two drawer and four drawer units, clipping them together so they stayed together, was a great way to do just that. The smaller drawers worked perfectly for markers and pens and paint brushes, the larger drawers for paints and small stencils. Also, isn't it nice how the full drawer pulls out making it easy to access the right color too! We also talked about using the chair mat under the art table to help protect the flooring from any paint spills or other art mishaps. My friend with the youngest kiddos wasn't able to join us but I did tell her about the mats and how they work great under a high chair too.

When the rest of the product arrived, I set up for an 'around the house' party. I decided that I wanted to showcase the product in action. Since I had to move the party, I went with an open house style, to allow people to swing by when they could. It wasn't the gathering that I had planned but it was great and I got to spend time with everyone.

The art table:

When I was setting up, even though my art table has long been in storage (they just use their desks when they are doing something creative), I went ahead and filled a bin like I had discussed with my friends to share with others.
The kitchen:

In the Kitchen, I decided that the Deflecto Cubes were the perfect option for storing coffee and tea and associated supplies. I initially toyed with storing k-cups in the drawers but then decided that sweetener packets, drink mix and tea was a better combination. My k-cup caddy was able to easily sit on top of the unit, letting me store more in a small space. I also discovered that I could exchange drawers between sets - giving me two small and one large drawer in the unit.
The home office:

Who doesn't like to keep something sweet at hand. At our house, we do a mix of sweet and minty hard candies and the Deflecto Stackable Cubes gave me the chance to keep them all easily on hand with out them being in one container.
The homework/study desk:

Whether the desk in the bedroom is used for school or work, keeping it stocked and organized is helpful in providing a good environment to learn or complete that project for work. Here we again swapped some drawers around and used it to store pens, highlighters, dry erase, post it notes and more.
The bathroom:

One area that seems to be ever overflowing with small stuff, the bathroom counter was where I put to use a couple more Deflecto Stackable Cubes. Mix and match on the drawers was a great way to store the items of differnt sizes. The top makes a great space for those vitamins and pain releiver bottles too.
The computer desk:

My kids are older, so the floor mat works best in my house for the computer desk in the family room. It provides a pop of color and an easy way for the chair to roll at the desk. As you can see, I had some assistance from the cat in flattening it before placing it at the desk. That's an empty organizer on top of the desk there, perfect location for me to stock some pens and pencils for the desk and some candy too since it is often a place to game.

As I shared with friends about the product and the versatility, I shared some cubes and chair mats with them so that they could try them out for themselves. My friends shared with me how they decided to use their Deflecto Stackable Cubes that they took home. It was great to hear about other uses for the organizers - use in the camper to hold miscellaneious supplies neatly in the cabinet. Children using them to store their Calico Critters accessories. A teacher using one on her desk at school to organize desk supplies. A new at home office being set up with a chair mat to provide a pop of color to the room and an organizer on the desk for desk supplies.

Everyone agreed, the use of the product is varied and diverse. The product is well made and everyone liked how you could clip the units together to stack or have them stay together side by side. If you are looking to check them out, you can find them at Walmart, Office Depot and of course online at Amazon too (where I discovered the so many other organizers that they offer beyond the cubes and the chair mats).

No compensation was received for this review. All opinions expressed are my own or that of my family. Complimentary chair mats and organizer cubes were provided to me through Tryazon so that I could share my experience with friends and through my blog, with enough to share some with my friends too.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

A Coffee Maker for All Types

I was one of those people. I had a drip coffee maker. I had a K-Cup maker. I had a My K-Cup adapter.

I kept the drip coffee maker in the cabinet, pulling it out only if we had a number of guests.

I kept the K-Cup Maker on my counter and the adapter in a drawer.

Then, several years ago, I upgraded to a new K-Cup Maker but it had updated 'technology' to ensure that you were only using 'Keurig' cups and not any others, which unfortunately meant that the My K-Cup Adapter didn't work anymore.

This was frustrating. I liked being able to have options and to buy ground coffee, which was a better value. So, I started looking for options. I wanted flexibility to still make a single cup of coffee from ground coffee but having one coffee maker would be better. There were a few options out there but none of them were quite right for me. Several of the options brewed the cup and the carafe in separate spaces, making the coffee maker much larger than my counter could accomodate.

Then, I saw it, in an ad. The Ninja DualBrew Specialty Coffee System. It had everything! I could make a cup of coffee (or hot chocolate) using a k-cup, I could make a cup of coffee up to a full pot of coffee with grounds, I could make a cup to a pot of hot or boiling water, I could froth milk for my coffee or hot chocolate. And, it's footprint was smaller than my current K-cup maker. Win-win! Of course, it was more money than I wanted to spend, so I started to watch.

Finally, there was a sale and I had 40% off and I earned Kohl's cash. Another Win-Win!

I went and bought the coffee maker. I cleaned everything and set it up. I ordered some cone coffee filters. Then I began to use the coffee maker. I was pleased with the results. The k-cups use an insert and can brew up to 12 oz.
I liked that the hot or boiling water didn't deliver through the space where the coffee brewed (of course, that was an issue when I tried to brew a cup and hadn't changed it off of water - I got a cup of water, even though I had a k-cup in place.)
I love that the filter basket is spring loaded, so when I remove it from the coffee maker to dispose of grounds, it doesn't drip. When I wash it, I have to squeeze to get water through the drip point and/or turn over to dump out the water. When you brew into the pot, it fills from the bottom...which I read years ago helps with the flavor of the coffee. When you brew from 1/2 carafe up to carafe, the burner will keep the coffee warm and shuts off after a set amount of time. I learned that there were two settings - classic and rich for the coffee. And, there is an option for over ice, which my daughter loved for making iced coffees over break. The coffee scoop guides how much coffee to use for a mug, a travel mug, a 1/2 carafe, a full carafe. The frother doesn't heat but does make a nice foam and is easily detached for cleaning.

Once I knew it was going to work for me, I sold both my K-Cup Maker and my Drip Coffee Pot, helping me further reduce the effective price of this new investment. I enjoy the flexibility. On days where I only have a cup, I will still use K-Cups out of convenience mopst of the time but if I want a couple of cups or we have company, I can make from 8 oz -18 oz in a mug or travel mug and anywhere from 28 - 55 oz (classic brew) in the carafe (I supposed i could make 8 oz in the carafe but that seems silly).
My daughter has used the hot water for hot chocolate and for oatmeal, she uses the Iced Coffee setting to make a single cup of iced coffee from grounds.

This new kitchen addition was a great decision and made me glad that I had waited to find the one that was right for me.

I bought this product and all opinions are my own.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Finding a Better Way to Drain Dishes

This year I did some shopping for myself to solve problems that I have had for a while and wanted to find a better solution for.

A few years back we updated our kitchen. I love the new kitchen layout. An area where we had a narrow cabinet, we rotated and put the cabinet doors on the 'side' allowing for a wide but not deep cabinet. i use it for my spices, my food storage containers and some of my baking dishes. It utilizes the space so much better than the old style and since it backs up to the fridge, it helps encase the fridge. On the other side, we replaced a bifold door with wire shelf pantry with a pantry cabinet with roll-out shelves. Again, being able to use and access all of the space was a huge improvement. We added a credenza style cabinet that replaced our desk and added a computer shelf under the penisula so we can use it as a workspace but store the computer out of the way when we cook or entertain. We added an open shelf unit at the end of the peninsula, allowing us to display a few pieces and store cookbooks within easy reach.

One other thing we did was upgrade to granite countertops, and in so doing, went with an undermount sink. The undermount sink we chose is asymetrical, with one larger than normal well and one smaller than normal. This works great for washing dishes and food prep but it was a challenge for us when it came to drying the dishes.

We tried to find a small drainer that we could put in the small side of the sink but none of them seemed to work. It also didn't do well accomodating larger pans and dishes because of the narrow space. I could have gone with any size and had it always on my counter (or would have had to find a place to store it), which I didn't want. So, for several years, I would lay a dish towel on the counter, wash dishes and then let them dry for a bit on their own before drying and putting away. I wasn't a big fan of the wet towel laying the counter for a period of time. The dishes sitting on the wet towel only partially dried on their own with that moisture filled towel below them. I would go through 2-3 dish towels at a minimum each day too.

So, I was constantly on the outlook for a better way to solve my problem. Late last year, I found the solution. A roll-up dish drying rack. It was perfect for me. It solved the problem of drying dishes on towels all over my counter, it allows for the water to drain from the dishes, I can drain dishes large and small and it rolls up for easy storage.

Now, I can wash my dishes, leave them to drain for a while and come back and give a quick dry and put them away. No more need to put them away immediately after washing to keep the wet towels from lingering on the sink. The dishes can breath, helping to prevent those weird smells that were in water bottles after being left to drain even for a short period on a damp towel. I go through fewer dish towels on a daily basis.

When I am done using it, I give it a quick wipe dry to get rid of any excess moisture and then I roll it up. I have a tendency to leave the drying rack rolled up in the sink most days so that I can simply unroll it when I am ready to do dishes but it is also compact enough to stow under the sink when we are entertaining.

What problem have you recently solved with a new tool?

I bought this product and all opinions are my own.