Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Sorcery Code ebook Review #SorceryCode

I rarely read fantasy.  I tend towards modern literary fiction, the classics, and nonfiction.  However, my movie and TV watching has begun delving more into the fantasy realm as of late thanks to the influence of several friends.  So, when I was offered the chance to review The Sorcery Code by Dima Zales based on the description that it would appeal to fans of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, I was intrigued enough to dive in.  

The first night I decided to just read a chapter since I'd already had a long day and knew I had an early morning.  Next thing I know, even though it feels like only five minutes had passed, I was on page 41.  Even though I stopped myself that evening in the hopes of making it through the next day without being completely bleary eyed, I found the rest of the book to move this quickly.  

The story takes place in a world where sorcerers are the ruling class. Told through a 3rd person omniscient point of view, the main characters are Gala, Blaise, Augusta, and Barson.  Blaise and Augusta are both sorcerers and exes who unsurprisingly are far from on good terms. Gala is Blaise's magical creation who appears in human form.  Barson is a warrior as well as Augusta's new lover.   Blaise though one of the most brillant of the sorcerers has chosen to leave the ruling council to live in exile.  It is in this exile where he has spent a year researching and creating Gala with the intent of bringing magic to all not just the sorcerers.  Naturally, the potential of Gala's power creates a riff in an already somewhat unstable world among those who find about her which is the main conflict within the story.

The authors physical descriptions are sparse at best.  My few dalliances into the world of fantasy prior to this book tended to involve authors who provided both descriptions of both the characters and their surroundings that were so clear I could picture it all quite vividly.  However, Zales' description of Gala is so limited that I can only tell you she is the most beautiful creature anyone has seen with blonde hair possibly thin with skin that glows; and, I believe she is the character's whose physique is the most fleshed out.  For me, this lack of description does leave me a bit less connected to the narrative as I don't feel they are as whole as I do in most novels.  

I would not say the characters are not necessarily one dimensional as most have secret motivations and many find themselves conflicted morally by actions they feel they must take.

Finding a character's motivation less than believable is a pet peeve of mine in stories.  While the author does eventually give us clues to most character's backstories that allow us to understand for instance why Blaise has made it his obsession for the previous year to create a magical creature, Gala's carnal desire for Blaise feels contrived to say the least and somewhat disturbing as he at one point indicates he is her creator indicating a parental role.  

This book is the first in a two part series.  So, very little of the plot is concluded when the novel ends.  Despite the criticisms I may have of the book, I find myself needing to read the second book to find out how everything ends.  I certainly hope the second book spends a good deal more time on character development as well as wrapping up the storyline.

I would say this book is enough for even a teen to read containing no profanity, very limited gore despite multiple battle scenes, and only allusions to sex but no sex or even sexually explicit descriptions even of the characters.   However, even if you considered this book to be young adult fiction, adults will enjoy it as well.  

As of today, I noted that this book is available for free on Amazon here, though the regular price is only $2.99 which is what it was just a week ago.  I am not sure how long it is available for free, so I recommend scooping it up now while it is still free. 

I received this product for free in exchange for a review, but all opinions are honest, genuine, and my own.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

No Candy Easter Basket for a One Year Old

Since today is Ash Wednesday, I thought we should talk about Easter Baskets since Easter is now less than 6 weeks away.  Since I try to do things on a budget, I had everything purchased for LB's basket less than a week after Christmas.  I tried to take advantage of the after Christmas sales especially on toys to fill her basket.

We love clearance at my house.  DB jokingly calls it Clarence.  He says Clarence is nice fellow always making things more affordable for shoppers.
Some toys, though, are still on clearance left over from the holidays.  In fact, just last week, I picked up one of the GoldieBlox sets on sale at Walmart for 70% with the intentions of saving it for a present for DB's niece's birthday in June.  So, it's still possible to score some deals for Easter Baskets.

Since we don't do candy or processed snacks with LB, I had to think on what to get her for her basket.   I, also, felt like I had just gotten her many of the things I would put in an Easter basket in her stocking.  Since Easter is so early this year, many of these things will be barely used by Easter.

I decided to not go with a traditional basket again this year for her.  I was concerned how she would do with one, so I'll just use the fabric one she had last year.  We're also going sans grass in the basket since I'm worried she'll either eat it or drag it everywhere.

LB with her Easter basket last year.

Here's what I got for her Easter Basket.

1. I ordered 2 of these hand puppets from Gearxs for $2.99 each with free shipping.  LB loves hand puppets and finger puppets, and this price is just amazing.  I was completely surprised by their quality.  We got her the ladybug since I have a thing for ladybugs and the crab since we live in Virginia.  The butterfly and caterpillar, though, would be quite appropriate for spring.

2. I bought a 3 pack of bubbles at Christmas from the Dollar Store.  One went in her Christmas stocking.  One will go in her Easter basket, and the other will be for when those two are empty.

3. Socks.  I got some Teenage Mutant Ninja Mutant fuzzy socks clearance down to .10 cents at Target after Christmas.  I think she'll like the texture, and we're starting a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle collection for her since it was her dad's favorite as a kid.

4. A stuffed bunny.  I had got a new one with tags from Freecycle from someone who was moving before Christmas along with some books and other toys.  Since it was still new, I decided to use that bunny instead of buying a new one.

5. Light up Ball.  Her last one died recently, so I picked up a new one in the dollar spot at Target.

6. The Foot Book: Dr. Seuss' Book of Opposites.  LB loves Dr. Seuss.  I try to pick up used copies of Dr. Seuss books whenever I can find them.  However, I had to shop for a first birthday present for one of her playmates, so I ordered two copies off of Amazon since it was a cheaper price than I see Dr. Seuss books elsewhere.

7. Freeze Dried Fruit. We are pretty conservative with our snacking options for LB.  We prefer homemade puffs, homemade applesauce, fresh fruits, veggies, and hummus.  With her lactose intolerance and our preference to avoid processed treats.   However, especially when we're out and about, we like freeze dried fruit. Before the Superbowl, lots of stores have most snacks on sale.  Target still has their brand of freeze dried fruit on Cartwheel until April.

8. Five Little Monkeys finger puppet book.  LB loves books and finger puppets, so we've been meaning to get her a finger puppet book.  When Aldi added the Little Learners finger puppet books as a special buy, we had to pick up one.  I've since picked up another for her to play with now.  They still have a few of these at our local Aldis.

9. Bath fingerpaint, I picked up in the dollar spot at Target.  Yes, I know I spend way too much time at Target.

Other ideas for a one year old that aren't candy:
1. crayons
2. sidewalk chalk
3. headbands or barettes
4. sippy cups
5. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
5.toddler silverware or tableware
6. bath toys
7. bath mitts
8. finger puppets
9. sensory balls
10. toothbrush
11. sand pail
12. toy cars
13. bath crayons
14. new shoes
15, musical instruments especially a shaky egg
16. blocks
17. toy camera
18. toy phone

Monday, February 8, 2016

Organic Matcha Powder Review #Matcha

Let's be honest, being a mom is exhausting.  Don't get me wrong.  I love LB and really couldn't be happier to be a mom.  It is still draining.  My little toddler is my alarm clock and non stop action from then on.  Now that I am not breastfeeding, I definitely get my fair share of caffeine.

Given the opportunity to try Organic Matcha Powder imported from Japan, I jumped at the opportunity for any extra caffeine in my life.  I read up on the metabolism boosting powers and was sold since I packed on more than a few extra pounds since I became a mom.  I like that green tea is an all natural means of helping me with that extra weight that has been used for generations as opposed to a fad diet pill.

Opening the package, that bright green almost took my breath away as I ADORE lime green.

It has an earthy smell I enjoy as well.

Up until now, I had only tried Matcha in smoothies at one of my favorite Japanese spots in a local mall.  So, I thought I would start off using the package directions to make some hot tea.  I made the mistake of adding a bit extra since I normally like my tea even green tea strong.  Big mistake.  A tiny bit of this powder really does go a long way.  I had to throw the first cup out and try again.  This time I used less than the 1/2 teaspoon per 3 oz recommended.  It took a bit of stirring for the powder to dissolve.  When it did, I got this gorgeous cup of tea.  I was concerned it might be chalky due to it being a powder; however, I found it to be smooth almost silky to drink.

I added a touch of honey as I always do with hot tea and sipped away.  

The tea helped me make it through our evening routine without feeling drowsy.  I can't say much about the fat burning benefits since I've only been using it for a few days.  If so, it's definitely a delicious way to help me out with working off the baby weight.

I'm also looking forward to trying this for some adult only cooking due to the caffeine content.  I'm trying my hand at a green tea faux ice cream made with bananas first, but haven't mastered the right mix yet.  I can definitely see some Matcha cookies or a cake in my future with St Patrick's Day fast approaching.  

If you're interested, you can purchase some from Amazon here.

I received this product for free in exchange for a review, but all opinions are honest, genuine, and my own.

Toddler Friendly Vegan Butternut Squash Chili

Meatless Monday

Toddler Friendly Vegan Butternut Squash Chili

Since yesterday was Superbowl Sunday, I felt it appropriate to make some chili.  I know the title is bit wordy, but I wanted to reflect that this chili is toddler friendly unlike my normal 5 alarm chili.  While my child likes spicy food, I felt it necessary to tone this down.  Additionally, since toddlers have sodium restrictions, I made this without salt and added it to our dishes individually.  Frankly, I think my little one preferred the natural sweetness of the chili as is.  She had two ladlefuls along with a piece of pumpkin cornbread after eating a clementine and some frozen peas.

Last fall, I started adding butternut squash to chili because I wanted to add more veggies to my chili and felt the texture somewhat simulates ground beef.  Even DB who is definitely a meat eater loved the chili.

You could easily make this with just one type of beans instead of 5, but I prefer the differences in the size and colors of the beans.

1 butternut squash
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can dark red kidney beans
1 can light red kidney beans
1 can white kidney beans (cannelli beans)
1 can small red beans
1 can pinto beans
1 green pepper
1 white onion
3 cups tomato juice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
olive oil
salt to taste
optional: 1 bag of vegan meat crumbles

1. Prep the squash for peeling by cutting the ends of the squash then poking holes in the squash all over with a fork.  Place the squash in the microwave for 3 1/2 minutes.  Once the squash cools, you will be able to peel the squash much more easily.

2. Once you've peeled the squash, remove the seeds, and cut the squash into 1 inch cubes.

3. Roast the squash on a parchment lined pan for 25-30 mins until golden.

4. While the squash is roasting, dice the onion and pepper.

5.  Place enough olive oil in the bottom of a pot to coat it.

6. Saute the diced onions, peppers, and minced garlic.

7. Drain and rinse all of the beans.  I prefer to do this in a colander.

4. Add the beans, tomatoes, spices, and meat crumbles if you are using them to the pot.

5. Puree the squash with as much tomato juice as is necessary to allow for a thorough puree.

6. Add the puree and any remaining juice to the pot.

7. Bring the chili to a boil, and then, turn it down to low to simmer for about 20-30 minutes. 

Yootech MicroUSB cable Review

Recently, we seemed to have reached a point where all of our charger cords are either going missing or on their last breath.  The main reason why the cords we have seem to be slowly dying is that the area where the cable connects to the USB connector tends to receive stress from ending up at a 90 degree angle.  In need of new cords, I was glad to review Yootech's MicroUSB cable.  

As soon as I opened the package, I noted how much more durable this cable appeared than expected.  The cable is nice and thick.  I would even say it is thicker than the factory cables I already had for my products.  I suspect this will reduce the pinching of the end of the cables that seems to be destroying my cables currently.  

Also, the USB connector is feels sturdy as well.  All too often these are not reinforced and easily bend making it difficult to plug them into a USB port.  As you can see from the picture, the white plastic piece is an added protection from bending happening.  

The cord itself is shorter at just over 3 feet than I would prefer as I often prefer to plug into a wall socket to charge products, but at this length, I can easily attach it to my laptop or car charger when needed.  

I received this product for free in exchange for a review, but all opinions are honest, genuine, and my own.

Stratos Spheres Game Review #ThinkFun

I love games.  In fact, this summer,I had so many board games I had to get rid of a few of them I rarely play anymore due to lack of space.  Part of why some rarely get played anymore is that we are nervous about the choking hazard some of the small pieces are with a little one around.  Stratos Spheres seemed large enough to not be a choking hazard, so I was definitely interested in trying this game.

The first thing I noticed when opening the package when it arrived was the nifty bag they included for the parts.  I was definitely impressed with the company for thinking of including this bag and a set of instructions small enough to be thrown in the bag.  I can't tell you how many times we've had to search for a part that fell out of a box especially during transit.  And, if I just use the bag, I don't even need to keep the box.  The bag filled with the spheres takes up less than half the space of the original box which I love.  It also makes it easy to grab for travel.

After our little one had gone to bed, we decided to try the game out.  Conceptually, it is basically a four in a row game.  However, they have added an additional layer of difficulty with both the 3-D aspect and the prongs.  As you can see in my pictures of our second game, not all sides have prongs on them.  So, you have to be careful when aligning your pieces to ensure you have them in the correct direction to attach them together.  Additionally, you can use the prongs as blockers since you can't move pieces to attach new ones.  

Here are the results of our second game.

So, even though the game is rated for 8 and up, as adults, the two of us had fun playing the game.  Due to the compactness of the game, we were able to play in bed and set the bag on the nightstand when we were finally done several games later.  The spheres attach firmly, so we could easily pass it back and forth in between turns,  We will definitely get lots of use out of this game.

Another view of the second game.

You can purchase the game for yourself from Amazon by going to this link.

I received this product for free in exchange for a review, but all opinions are honest, genuine, and my own.

Getting back on track

Unfortunately, we had a family member end up in the hospital out of town this week.  As a result, we've spent much of the week on the road.  Friday alone, I spent over 8 hours driving various family members in different directions beginning my day at 4:10 am and not ending until 2:30 am.  While he is now on the road to recovery and back home, I got behind blogging.

I missed Thrifty Thursday, but it will be back this week.  I do, however, have a Meatless Monday post ready to roll tomorrow.  Plus, you'll be getting lots of product reviews this week.

Please be sure to leave me some comments with your feedback on my posts.  I'd love to get your perspective.