Thursday, July 29, 2021

Hacks, Facts & the Almanac 2022 -- Summer Reading Essentials from Nat Geo Kids [Review & Giveaway]

101 Life Hacks: Genius Ways to Simplify Your World (ages 8-12)

My thoughts:  If you've lived a "frugal lifestyle" for any length of time, you already do a lot of the 101 Life Hacks that are mentioned in this little book. That doesn't mean that you can't learn a few more "make-do" or "neat-do" tricks using stuff you have for purposes not intended.

One I found doable is the bandage for the finger. Take a regular bandage and make a horizonal cut in each end of the bandage. Then apply. This creates a similar bandage to the "finger strips" that are much more expensive than standard bandages. The cut strips are maneuverable. A quick fix.

The hack to tell time with your hand and the sun is a winner! Each finger represents 15 minutes. So the number of fingers between the horizon and the sun times 15 equals the time until the sun sets.

You can amplify your phone's sound by placing the phone inside a tall glass (of course, it must be empty). The sound bounces inside the glass and echoes creating volume.

A very informative and creative book.

About the book: Turn ordinary into awesome with this fun book, jam-packed with science-inspired ideas kids can use to simplify, prettify, and eco-fy their lives at home, school, and on the go.

Upcycle, recycle, and/or repurpose your stuff and engineer your way out of all kinds of sticky situations--all while learning about science and sustainability as you do it. Make cool lantern lights for your room, discover a tried-and-true brain freeze cure, learn how to boost your memory power, and more. In this easy-to-follow guide, kids get tips and tricks for upcycling and reusing old stuff, as well as hands-on activities, fun facts, and insights from professional-grade life hackers who use their problem-solving skills to change the world. By the end, you'll be able to hack your way through all kinds of problems, from a messy backpack to stage fright, a drippy ice pop to smelly shoes!

More Surprising Stories Behind Everyday Stuff (ages 8-12) 

My thoughts: This was interesting to read and, yes, surprises abounded about how everyday stuff came into being. 

The section on food included the origin of cheese. It stated that it had long been assumed cheese originated in medieval times. But later archeologists discovered an implement with holes similar to a device used in today's cheese making straining process in Poland. They dated it back to 7,000 years ago. Also, it mentions that early humans did not have the ability to digest milk because of lactose intolerance but they would have been able to digest cheese. Interesting to consider that early humans could not handle milk of cows, goats, and sheep for nutrition.

An interesting book that will intellectually entertain for hours.

About the book: Prepare to be amazed by the surprising backstories behind the things you use or do every day. Ever wonder how haunted houses got their spooky rep; where cheese originally came from, who invented slime, why do we put money in piggy banks and how Bubble Wrap came to be?  From familiar foods and common clothing items to bizarre beauty regimens and quirky products, this book covers all your burning questions: Who thought of that? Where did that come from? Why is that a thing?

National Geographic Kids Almanac 2022 (ages 8-12) 

My thoughts: I have reviewed the National Geographic Kids Almanac for several years now. My grandchildren absolutely love this and look forward to a copy every year. 

The variety of information is simply stunning and categorized for easy finding. The history buff as well as the budding scientist will love the information. Geographic and cultural features and animals, both currently living and prehistoric, have coverage that tickle the intellect and encourage further study.

Fun, games, puzzles, jokes and riddles are sprinkled through the book giving the opportunity for a bit of fun and entertainment.

This is definitely a must have.

 "...this gathering of upbeat, vividly illustrated, browser-friendly dips into topics ranging from black holes to blue-footed boobies to Bolivian street food is hard to put down, and the pop quizzes and research guides at each chapter’s end will give studious sorts a leg up, too." - Kirkus

The latest installment of the New York Times best-selling almanac features amazing animal stories, explorer profiles, and outrageous attractions that kids know and love, plus more of the incredible inventions, awesome games, and fresh challenges for curious kids who want to learn all about the world and everything that's in it.  Tons of fun facts, crafts, activities, and fascinating features about animals, science, nature, technology, conservation help kids keep up with our quickly changing world and is why this is the number one selling kids almanac on the planet.  There's a whole chapter full of fun and games, including activities, jokes, and comics and the colorful compilation also includes an Almanac Challenge 2022 — which inspires kids to reduce their plastic waste. 

All 3 National Geographic Books featured.
Begins July 29
Ends August 22 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresses only.
DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary copies to facilitate recommendation post. Prize copies are provided and sent directly to the winner by publisher or publicist, MM Publicity. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.

Friday, July 23, 2021

A Man with A Past (Brothers In Arms #2) by Mary Connealy

My thoughts:  
A MAN WITH A PAST by Mary Connealy is #2 in the Brothers In Arms series. As usual the author writes an engaging story that combines the old west and lots of joviality that gives the reader an engaging, entertaining, and relaxing read. Good clean fiction. Loved it!

I think it best to read book #1 in the series first although not necessary. It isn't really necessary because the author gives plenty of background about the characters and their interaction with each other setting the stage for the man who is "the man with a past." 

The intrigue of cattle rustling, sniper shootings, and downright mystery is mixed and stirred with an ample amount of funny comments and scenes.

I can always count on Mary Connealy to give me something to laugh about, a good dose of faith, and a well developed set of characters and story line. 

About the book: Falcon Hunt awakens without a past, or at least not one he can recall. He's got brothers he can't remember, and he's interested in the prettiest woman in the area, Cheyenne. Only trouble is, a few flashes of memory make Falcon wonder if he's already married. He can't imagine abandoning a wife. But his pa did just that--twice. When Falcon claims his inheritance in the West, Cheyenne is cut out of the ranch she was raised on, leaving her bitter and angry. And then Falcon kisses her, adding confusion and attraction to the mix.

Soon it's clear someone is gunning for the Hunt brothers. When one of his brothers is shot, Falcon and Cheyenne set out to find who attacked him. They encounter rustled cattle, traitorous cowhands, a missing woman, and outlaws that take all their savvy to overcome. As love grows between these two independent people, Falcon must piece together his past if they're to have any chance at a future.

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Two reads about Olympian athlete and a beloved coach from Soulstice Publishing [Giveaway]

Abdi's World: The Black Cactus on Life, Running, and Fun

Five-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman is releasing his new memoir right before heading to Japan for the Olympics in July. When he qualified for the 2020 Olympics, he became the oldest American runner ever to make the Olympic team.

In the book (Pub Date: 7/10, Soulstice Publishing, LLC), Abdi shares his thoughts on the world, running, and living. Readers will also discover his personal story, not just in professional distance running but also leaving Somalia for a refugee camp in Mombasa, Kenya, and eventually settling in Tucson and finding joy and opportunity in his new country.

Abdi has spent his entire adult life as a professional runner, competing in the Olympics, World Championships, major marathons, track meets, and road races worldwide. But Abdi doesn't define his life by his running career. 

Instead, Abdi believes life is defined by the choices one makes, the way you look at the world each day, and the people you surround yourself with. Known as "The Black Cactus," he is one of the most beloved and respected figures in the sport because of his longevity, work ethic, and positive attitude. 

Chasing Excellence

Chasing Excellence will take you on the fascinating and inspiring journey of Dr. Joe I. Vigil. Known simply as "Coach" to virtually everybody he has ever met, Coach Vigil rose from poverty to become a towering figure in the running world. Coach has won 19 national championships and coached 425 All-Americans, 22 Olympians, and an army of "Vigilantes" who seek to emulate his unique blend of compassion, competitive spirit, and commitment to others.

In this long-overdue biography about America's preeminent distance-running coach, author and Vigilante Pat Melgares shares Coach Vigil's tale, not just through the consummate storyteller's own words, but also through those of more than 50 former runners and foes who have been shaped by his presence over a lifetime.

"Chasing Excellence" has been Coach Vigil's mantra for decades, for himself and those he teaches. At age 91, he's as relentless as ever in that quest.

GIVEAWAY ~ 2 Books
Begins July 21
Ends August 10 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresses only.
DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary copies in exchange for this book spotlight and hosting the giveaway. Since I have not read the books, I can not vouch for the content. Prizes are provided by PR By the Book LLC, Publicist. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Candlewick children's picture books review & giveaway [USA/CANADA- 2 Winners]

Phoebe Dupree Is Coming to Tea! by Linda Ashman & illustrated by Alea Marley 

My thoughts: 
This is an absolutely delightful book. The hostess, Abby, is preparing for a visiting by Miss Phoebe Dupree and she is quite anxious to have everything just right at her tea party because Miss Dupree is so very perfect.

I suppose most everyone feels this way at some point in time, and the delightful rhyme and adorable pictures set the stage for learning a lesson in adaptability is just wonderful.

I highly recommend this book.

About the book: Abby is anxious to host the perfect tea party for a friend she idolizes, but life serves up a sweet taste of the fun to be had when perfection is off the table.

Have you met Phoebe—Miss Phoebe Dupree?
Phoebe’s as perfect as perfect can be.
To Abby, her friend Phoebe can do no wrong. Phoebe is speedy. Phoebe is smart. She’s equally brilliant at science and art. So when the budding hostess invites Phoebe over for a tea party, everything from the sugary treats on the menu to Abby’s dog, Louie, must be, well…perfect. But when life—and possibly Louie—send a clear message to let loose, the girls indulge in a perfectly imperfect playdate. Linda Ashman’s vivacious rhyme and Alea Marley’s inviting illustrations serve up a classic tale of enduring friendship at a tea party that will leave readers wanting to pull up a chair. 

Hugo by Atinuke & illustrated by Birgitta Sif 

My thoughts: 
This is a delightful story with charming illustrations that tell the tale of a park pigeon who is tasked (by whom? we don't know) to be the guardian and caretaker of the park. In his day to day tasks he notices a curtain move in an upper window but no one comes out from the window.

Alas, our pigeon is injured and he is rescued by the mysterious person behind the curtain. 

A lovely story of compassion and watching-over. I recommend.

About the book: A Parisian pigeon passionate about people makes a new friend - with gentle themes of community and inclusivity. Hugo the pigeon has an important job. He looks after the park and everyone who lives there. Everyone except for the Somebody whose curtains are never open. But one day, Hugo is so busy doing his showing-off dance that he doesn't see the dog approaching ... and Somebody has to fly to the rescue! A charming story about community and the value of friendship, beautifully brought to life by Birgitta Sif's energetic illustrations.

Noah's Seal by Layn Marlow  

My thoughts: 
A small boy and his grand mother are at the beach. They are in a land where seals visit from time to time. The boy wants to see the seals.

While he awaits their appearance, he makes a sand and seashell seal. His grandmother encourages and praises him. Then the storm comes and sweeps the sand seal away. But they are not disappointed because magically the real seal appears.

A bit of fantasy set in a typical day at the beach. Cute book.

About the book: In a picture-perfect ode to the perfect day at the beach, a young boy experiences the joys of being left alone to play and dream at the edge of a wild sea.

Waiting is hard. In a gentle multigenerational story that blurs the boundaries of real and imagined, Noah waits on shore while Nana fixes their sailboat. The boat will take them out to sea where the seals live, and Noah can hardly contain himself. In the meantime, he sculpts his own seal out of sand. Noah collects shells for the seal’s speckled back, spiky dune grass for whiskers, two shiny pebbles for eyes, and a smiling line of seaweed for a mouth. He lies beside his new friend to watch the rolling sea until a storm blows in and Noah must take cover. Later, he wonders: did his seal swim away? Readers will delight in pondering the mystery too in this sun-splashed book for young adventurers—an essential summer-vacation read. 

Begins July 19
Ends August 11 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA & CANADA
Phone required for Canadian winners
DISCLOSURE: I received complimentary copies to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine, alone and are freely given. Prizes are provided and shipped directly to the winners by publisher, publicist, or author. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Root veggies at the root of it all

We all know how good root vegetables are for us. Just chock full of nutrients. And.... there are so many varieties., 

We depend greatly for the diverse white potato. I like the red-skinned potato as well as the Yukon Gold potato. And of course Russets for baking. 

Recently I was gifted an odd looking root veggie that resembled a small sweet potato (or yam) but yet different somewhat in outer appearance. I assumed it was a turnip of some sort. The sweet lady that gifted the veggie to me said it had "tops like a turnip." So I'm assuming, too, that it is a turnip.

Smaller pieces are "unknown root" or Golden Beet
and larger pieces are peeled Red Skin Potato

It was small so I thought I'd cook it together with one peeled Red Skin Potato. So both roots were peeled, lightly salted and peppered, water added to "boil" them and a small amount of butter.

I cooked them until tender. The liquid cooking down a bit to where it was a thickened a bit naturally.

After eating, I believe the new, unidentified root is a golden beet or yellow beet. The texture and taste resemble regular red beets  slightly. The taste was definitely not that of a turnip.

The combined potato and "golden beet" is delicious and a dish I hope to recreate again sometime soon.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Organic Boneless Thin Sliced Chicken Breast for dinner

Today we'll talk about what I did with the FarmerFocus Organic Boneless Thin Sliced Chicken Breast. I thought there were 4 servings in the pack so when I lifted out 1 breast I thought, "Well, it's thinner that those monster huge breasts that are so tough. We'll see." I began the prep thinking one serving. I'm just preparing a very simple dinner with this lovely chicken. 

I seasoned lightly with salt, black pepper, and chili powder (yep, light dusting) on both sides. In doing so I saw the one piece was actually two very thin slices. After seasoning, I set it aside to allow flavor to penetrate meat. 

I then prepared the sauté pan with extra virgin olive oil and a little butter. I heated the oil/butter in pan and placed meat in. Then after a couple minutes flipped it. I was using a medium-high temp to sauté the chicken. Once done (it's thin so I had to be quick and not over cook it) I placed it on a cutting board and sliced it to place atop the already prepared salad.

Salad: I used Butter Lettuce, English cucumbers, locally grown tomato, grated cheese, croutons, and a bit of homemade Thousand Island Dressing. Chicken was placed on top and served immediately.

Vegetable: A dear friend gave me some already cooked, locally grown green beans. Yummy.

Nice to know.... My package of FarmerFocus Organic Chicken was from the River Bottom Farm in Virginia. I enjoyed reading online about this farm and feel confident eating meat produced at it rather than on a mega-farm.

Meal prepared in my home kitchen solely by myself. I enjoyed it consuming it all.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

"MARS IS Stark Slopes, Silvery Snow, & Startling Surprises" & "Abraham Lincoln's Dueling Words" from Peachtree Publishing [Review & Giveaway USA/CANADA]

MARS IS Stark Slopes, Silvery Snow, & Startling Surprises by Suzanne Slade 

My thoughts:  The stunning photographs taken with the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera along with the clear, understandable text brings the "Red Planet" a bit closer to us. Our minds can begin to grasp just what is so special and unique to Mars.

As people of Earth expand their exploration and knowledge of outer space and the planets, we begin to see that there are elements about them that are hard to comprehend.

I am delighted to read through the pages of Mars Is and see with my own eyes the images captured with this amazing camera. Information at the back of the book tells some of the story of the HiRise Camera.

I highly recommend this book for classrooms, homeschoolers, and libraries everywhere.

About the book: Award-winning author and former mechanical engineer Suzanne Slade (Countdown, A Computer Called Katherine) explores the remarkable beauty of Mars in this timely photo-packed space extravaganza.

For young readers eagerly following NASA's Mars Exploration Program and awaiting continued discoveries on the Red Planet.

For centuries, people have been intrigued by Mars, and over time, scientists have made exciting discoveries, such as the planet's Earth-like weather and seasons. But curious earthlings want to know more. Does Mars have deserts? Volcanos? Or signs of life? Could people live there someday?

Scientists decided to take a closer look. They built a powerful camera called the HiRise (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) and loaded it onto a rocket. The rocket blasted off on August 12, 2005, and seven months later, the camera began orbiting Mars. It sent back astounding, revealing photos showing the world what Mars really is.

With elegant spare prose, award-winning nonfiction author and former rocket engineer Suzanne Slade leads readers through some of these stunning photos taken by the most advanced camera ever sent to another planet. A visual feast for space enthusiasts and STEAM fans that will expand readers' assumptions and understanding of Mars.

Teacher's guide available! 

Abraham Lincoln's Dueling Words by Donna Janell Bowman  

My thoughts:  This story about Abraham Lincoln is a great introduction to biographic reading for elementary children. When incidents in the lives of real people are entertainingly written and illustrated, it creates a desire to further pursue learning about that person or other real people.

In this recounting of the incident involving Lincoln and his political rival, we learn that Lincoln was a flawed individual who acted in an ill conceived manner. He penned a letter to the editor using a different name than his own and this incited his rival to call him out for a duel.

Lincoln ultimately learned his lesson to guard his words carefully. The outcome of the duel was not the catastrophe it could have been.

About the book: Abraham Lincoln was known for his sense of humor. But in 1842, early in his adult life, it nearly got him into trouble. He had to use his imagination to save his career--and maybe even his life.

When Abraham Lincoln became frustrated with the actions of James Shield, a political rival, he came up with a plan. It was silly. It was clever. And it was a great big mistake! Lincoln, his future wife, and a friend of hers wrote a series of fictional letters to the editor, complaining about Shields. But when Shields took offense, he challenged Lincoln to a duel. How would our future president straighten things out and save the lives and careers of both himself and his rival?

Donna Bowman's humorous voice and S.D. Schindler's expressive illustrations are the perfect match for this story of Abraham Lincoln's humor and wit. Back matter includes an author's note with a bibliography. 

Begins July 13
Ends August 5 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA & CANADA addresses.
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine and are freely given. Winner's prize is provided and shipped directly to the winner by Peachtree Publishing. Chat With Vera is not responsible for lost or misdirected prizes.

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Heart's Charge by Karen Witemeyer (Hanger's Horsemen #2)

My thoughts: The story takes off hilariously heart warming right from the start. Two stalwart warriors come charging in to take charge of a childbirth situated in the wilderness with a despondent distraught widow and no one to help her.

From that we go to the disappearance of boys, a home for foundlings, and two strong ladies.

Two sweet romances - one is a rekindling after a decade of lost contact and the other a drawing together of kindred souls.

Huge warrior horses that seem at one with their riders and have knowledge beyond their innate capabilities.

All in all, a fun read that ends with the good guys catching the bad guys and sweet romances a-bloom, and uncared for children given homes and love. 

About the book: On a mission to deliver a baby to a nearby foundling home, Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks encounter two women who capture their attention. When a handful of urchin children from the area go missing, a pair of Horsemen are exactly what the women need. As they work together to find the children, will these two couples find love as well?

DISCLOSURE: I was provided a complimentary to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine and are freely given.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Masks even for the "fully vaccinated" continue to protect against COVID-19 [Giveaway & Review]

Much to our dismay, Covid-19 and it's variants is still with us. I'm doing my bit to promote vaccination against this virus.

Sure, I didn't jump on the vaccine bandwagon at first call, I waited. I had my reasons for delaying but finally realized that it was something I needed to do. Just as I needed the polio vaccination back when it first came out.

First, I got my two shots of Pfizer and hardly noticed any reaction. Then I scheduled my husband's. He's only had his first shot but the second is due very soon.

What about you? Can you say, "Vaccinated and proud of it!" Many are shedding their masks but some of us are still remaining cautious because of the delta variant. Stay safe. It’s not over yet. 

Current thinking is that the aggressive Delta variant of Covid-19 can be passed by vaccinated individuals who are asymptomatic. Wear a mask to be safe for others.

Top mask features Dr. Fauci
Bottom mask features "Fully Vaccinated"
3 layers, nose wires and adjustable ear loops
Reverse sides: Top Dr. Fauci is of white cloth
Bottom "Fully Vaccinated" is Black/White Checkered cloth
Made in USA | 100% Cotton
Fully Reversible | Nosewire
Nicely packaged

You can stay safe, keep others safe, and support a small USA business by purchasing these masks on etsy or Instagram. 

Go to @etsy or @shopgalny on Instagram. DM questions or go to link in bio..... or click or..... Go online to for masks and other Made in Woodstock, NY, USA items.

1 Face Mask
Begins July 9
Ends July 24 @ 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresses only.a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received complimentary masks to facilitate a review. Opinions are mine and are freely given. Winner's prize is provided and shipped directly to the winner by D.Widger of @Shopgalny

#relaximvaxd #pfizer #fauciouchie #vaccinemask #fullyvaccinated #getthevaccine #cottonbandana #getvaxd 

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Merlot Advanced Fine Lines Cream - A natural skincare antioxidant that is made in USA [Review & Giveaway]

 Since 2001 Merlot Skin Care has developed gentle, good-for-you beauty products, each packed with the sensational power of natural grape seed antioxidants. 

Merlot's newest release:
Advanced Repair Fine Lines Cream.

My skincare includes using serums, moisturizers, oils, eye creams. Sometimes, I indulge in a spritz of Rosewater for refreshment. Today, we're talking fine lines - and specifically the new-to-market Merlot Advance Fine Lines Cream.

Merlot Advanced Repair Fine Lines Cream visibly improves skin by targeting fine lines and dark spots. It’s gentle and hydrating, and like all Merlot's products, made in the USA, with no parabens or animal testing. 

Merlot Advanced Repair Fine Lines Cream 

Merlot Advanced Repair Fine Lines Cream helps to visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines and dark spots. Protects with grape seed antioxidants and Vitamin C. Utilizes a retinoic acid-like peptide, Myristoyl Tripeptide-31, to deliver the benefits of wrinkle-reducing retinol without the side-effects. Helps firm skin and increase luminosity. Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5 helps boost skin’s appearance. Made in USA, 2 fl oz. Retail price:  $17
  • Powerful grape seed antioxidants
  • Non-oily, absorbs quickly
  • Firms skin 
  • Amino acids
  • Moisturizing Shea Butter
Directions: Apply to the face and neck, targeting fine lines on the forehead and near the mouth and eyes. Smooth into skin until product is absorbed. Can be re-applied throughout the day.
Click here to buy product

I firmly believe that we should use creams to moisturize our face and we should do this a minimum of once daily. Preferably, twice a day. Depending on the ingredients, the creams act differently to preserve a youthful appearance to skin. The key, however, is to moisturize and to do it regularly.

I am quite pleasantly surprised at the quality of this "purse friendly" (aka-speak for budget friendly) line of skincare products. And the Merlot product line is  vegan, natural, cruelty free.  (If you check the Merlot skincare line website, you'll see that their focus is on the use of grape seed antioxidants in all of their products.)

When I apply my skincare products, I take it also as an opportunity for a "spa massage" focusing on my temples, forehead, jaw line, nasal bridge, between eyes,  crows feet areas, and throat. I apply product with firm, upward rotating massage using my splayed fingers. I thoroughly believe this helps me to relax, relieves tension, and massages the lymph system to aid in drainage. I just feel this is good for me. I even do this more than once a day when I have a headache or a particularly stressful day. And then, of course, it is a skincare treatment as well.

Using the Merlot Advanced Fine Lines Cream is refreshing with a pleasant, light hint of "fresh air" scent, and literally feels good on my skin. Great under makeup or simply for those "go natural" days.

The recommended use is daily on cleansed skin. I am totally enjoying this lovely face cream.
All Merlot Skin Care products are made in the USA (in Texas) and are cruelty-free. Find them at
Jar: Merlot Advanced Fine Lines Cream
Begins July 3
Ends July 28 at 12:01 a.m. EDT
Open to USA addresses only.
DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary product to facilitate this review. Opinions are mine alone and are freely given. Winner's prize is provided and shipped directly to the winner by Merlot or its representative.