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Reviews Written by
A. Ryan "Merribelle" (Westminster, CA USA)

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D.W.'s Lost Blankie
D.W.'s Lost Blankie
by Marc Brown
Edition: Paperback
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Humorous and sympathetic, a great pick, July 15 2004
This review is from: D.W.'s Lost Blankie (Paperback)
Marc Brown's children's series on PBS is priceless; Arthur and his friends were introduced to us that way. It was only recently that I became aware of the books, which actually came first! Well, if you're a fan of the cartoon, you'll love the books even more.
DW's Lost Blankie is a classic kind of story that all kids can relate to - who can't remember the sudden anxiety of losing their own blankie, or some favorite toy when they were very young? This is a short story with a light touch of humor which shows how they can deal with it, offers sympathy and reassurance and helps kids know how they can keep calm and work through tracking down that all important security object. My mom heard me reading it to my kids and laughed out loud at one point, it was so true to life.
Author Marc Brown apparently illustrates his own books. His watercolors are warm, nicely done and perfectly suited to the subject matter. We really like his style in general, so my kids (aged 2 and 5) and I will be selecting more of his stories for our bedtime reading. Highly recommended for all children from early toddlerhood through the primary school years.
-Andrea, aka Merribelle

Butterfly Effect [Import]
Butterfly Effect [Import]
DVD ~ Ashton Kutcher
Price: CDN$ 16.76
51 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars If you could go back to your past and change one thing..., July 14 2004
This review is from: Butterfly Effect [Import] (DVD)
"Oh goodie, another teenage movie featuring the pretty-boy-of-the-moment", was my thought when my husband brought home The Butterfly Effect last night. He rarely picks anything I would have, although about half the time his selections surprise me by being good. Happily this turned out to be one of those situations.
TBE is about a boy growing up under a peculiar curse; he has occasional blackouts, during which he does things that he cannot remember afterwards and which usually traumatize everybody around him. They often come at key moments of his life that end up in disaster before he comes back to himself. CAT scans of his brain show no organic disorder. Hypnosis doesn't reveal much. His mom and circle of friends learn to accept him and cope with him, and he grows up with some strong friendships until he has to move at age 14. That's the last he hears from them until he revisits childhood sweetheart seven years later. Her life has been a downward spiral since he left and after he leaves this time she commits suicide. Remorse drives him to reexamine his childhood journals for clues and answers to why things got so bad, and he makes a disturbing discovery: he can travel back in time to those blackout periods and redo them. The question now becomes, should he? Because on every one of those "trips", his tampering has unexpected, horrible results for one or more of his loved ones.
I never used to think much of Ashton Kutcher, for better or for ill, but TBE changed my mind about him. He proved that he can play a smart, compelling character with a good range of emotions. I believe that Kutcher may have a future in Hollywood aside from the himbo roles he's been stuck with up until now. Let's hope some casting directors agree.
My final opinion of TBE is that it is a somewhat dark, but well done film. The plot is not perfect (toward the end there is a big plot hole that I won't reveal so I don't spoil it for you) but it does raise intelligent questions for the viewer to ponder on the long-term consequences of everything we do and what moments in our lives really decide who we will become. It was also engaging on a more gut level that I can't explain, but I enjoyed the entire hour and fifty five minutes. Recommended.
-Andrea, aka Merribelle

Calendar Girls
Calendar Girls
DVD ~ Helen Mirren
Price: CDN$ 4.88
41 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The flowers of England in full bloom and full wit., July 11 2004
This review is from: Calendar Girls (DVD)
Despite the suggestive nature of the title and the idea that these women posed nude, Calendar Girls is really very wholesome and PG. This is the type of movie you can safely see with church friends, your mother, and/or your sisters.
The members of Napely, England's chapter of the Women's Institute have been in a rut for quite some time now with trivial activities and a yearly fundraiser that barely breaks even. Best friends Chris and Annie only joined because their mothers wanted it and because, well, there's not much else to do for fifty-somethings in a northern village. When Annie's husband tragically dies of cancer one year, the two are inspired to raise money for cancer research and break out of their ruts and their stereotypes as middle-aged women; an artistic calendar featuring nude chapter members is just the thing.
Naturally, the very idea sends the whole country into an uproar as soon as the calendars are released.
Calendar Girls has a charm and a snickering wit about it that makes for a surprisingly entertaining film. This story could have turned slapstick or lewd, but I find that it was actually very tastefully done. In fact, much of the plot really involved the funny and touching releationships between the women of this idyllic village. Without being heavyhanded on the central message, the story suggests a hopefulness to the viewer; the idea that nobody runs out of potential at any age, and that indeed anything is still possible for those who challenge their own perceived limits in life. And of course as an American, I thought the "snapshots" of life in northern Britain were a very charming bonus.
I can happily recommend Calendar Girls to just about anybody over the age of 10, but especially to women who would dearly love to see what happens when the world is shocked just a little and forced to change its view of women that are typically taken for granted.
-Andrea, aka Merribelle

Designer Scrapbooks with Anna Griffin: Memorable Moments Captured with Style
Designer Scrapbooks with Anna Griffin: Memorable Moments Captured with Style
by Anna Griffin
Edition: Hardcover
30 used & new from CDN$ 2.91

5.0 out of 5 stars Tasteful, feminine, stylish: scrapbook pages for grownups, July 3 2004
This is a very personal collection of the author's own scrapbook pages; the photographs are all of herself, her family and friends. In all, there were perhaps sixty samples with full instructions for recreating them at the end of each chapter.
The emphasis throughout the book is on allowing traditions to star as the theme ideas for all kinds of pages: the sections include Birthday, Valentine's, Easter, Family Vacation & Travel, Anniversary, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. I was surprised that really very few of them were wedding themes, which is of course what Anna Griffin is widely known for. On the other hand, watch out for the Thanksgiving section, which contains some (in my opinion) very sorely needed and wonderful ideas that any family could use in a scrapbook.
As you might expect, this book showcases pages made exclusively with Anna Griffin's own designer line of papers, accents et al. The author explains in the introduction that she gets her inspiration from antique textile patterns, engravings and botanicals. Typically, a page design utilizes about half a dozen or more coordinated patterns, little (if any) solids, and perhaps a memorabilia envelope, pocket or surprise foldout section. In place of purchased accents, the reader is shown how to make the most of cutting and folding the papers for some very stunning effects. The final touches are often satin ribbon bows or buttons. The end result is a very flowery, multi-patterned look on every page; some will think it's lovely, others might feel that it is too cluttered or busy. I would say that it isn't truly a "collage" style, since it is so carefully coordinated and not random at all, but rather Anna Griffin has succeeded in creating an authentically Victorian look and feel to her scrapbooks. The only downside is that there seems to be precious little space reserved for meaningful journaling.
My bottom line impression is that creating pages the Anna Griffin way is a very involved process that requires planning, a few precision papercrafting skills (beginner/intermediate level) and of course the exclusive Anna Griffin line of papers and die cuts (I doubt many of us have much success trying to mix patterns from other designers for these results).
If you like the lavish Victorian style and you have a reliable source for Anna Griffin supplies, then you'll love this book.
-Andrea, aka Merribelle

All Boy Scrapbook Pages
All Boy Scrapbook Pages
by Memory Makers
Edition: Paperback
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.41

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My eyes thank MM for the break from pink and flowers, July 1 2004
Somebody has finally assembled boy-themed scrapbook pages into a book. As a mom of two boys I can't tell you how many times I've wished that books about scrapping for kids didn't get dominated by so much darn pink! Oh well, now I have no excuse not to start my kids' own Growing Up Years albums.
All Boy Scrapbook Pages is from the Memory Makers folks who think of just about everything. The book is divided into themed sections to display examples of:
Introduction/Basics of how to scrapbook
Attitude (portrait/moments of the "macho" stuff)
Softer Side
Boy's Life (enthusiasms like sports and hobbies etc.)
Boys will be Boys (various antics)
Page title ideas
I was impressed with the clean, modern look of the pages. I noticed that a lot of color blocking was used, also much thoughtful journaling. It was a welcome change of pace from the floral- and accent-laden pages that (IMHO) we women seem to gravitate more naturally toward. The color choices were sometimes on the bold graphic side, other times muted, but very elegant and sophisticated overall. I think this collection is a good representation of the range of subjects and looks that are possible when dealing with boys' pages.
Each page included detailed instructions on how to recreate it. I was left with few questions and a lot of inspiration. My only nitpick: the pages were light on boys under the age of two and boys in the later teen years. I suppose that's what those baby books are for, but what about teenagers? I for one do not consider teens to be "grown ups" quite yet!
So, this is a must for parents of in-between toddler and teen boys as far as I'm concerned. Unreservedly recommended.
-Andrea, aka Merribelle

The Everyday Low Carb Slow Cooker Cookbook: Over 120 Delicious Low-Carb Recipes that Cook Themselves
The Everyday Low Carb Slow Cooker Cookbook: Over 120 Delicious Low-Carb Recipes that Cook Themselves
by Kitty Broihier
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.78
67 used & new from CDN$ 0.59

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy, delicious, quick -- this book has it all!, June 30 2004
So you're on a low carb diet, looking good and feeling great, but your family is definitely on a high carb diet and getting tired of the plain meat dishes you've been serving up lately. Or maybe you are the one who's tired of them. You would like to be able to expand your low carb recipe list, but you don't have a lot of time to spend on the fancy schmancy rigamarole that some low carb cookbooks require. If only you could have your fine palate and your waistline both satisfied...
Say no more my meat-eatin' bretheren! The Everyday Low Carb Slow Cooker Cookbook was literally the answer to my prayers some months ago. As a mom of two small boys and wife to a very picky man I was having a hard time keeping everybody happy at the dinner table while I watched my weight; the "two-entrée meal" was becoming the norm and it took way too much time. In my high carb days I had used my blessed time saver, the crock pot, regularly but recently it was gathering dust on the top shelf. Thank the Lord I can put it to work again and regain my time/sanity.
Now I have to try a minimum of six recipes before I feel that I can review a cookbook with fairness. The recipes that I have completed from TELCSCC are:
Seafood Crustless Quiche (I didn't miss the crust and neither did they - Fabulous!)
Orange Pork
Sausage and White Bean Soup (my dh literally told me it was the best soup ever, bar none)
Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Artichokes (rich and hearty, a complete meal)
Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic (yes, really!)
Pesto Beef with Grape Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella
I think the genius of this cookbook is that the authors recognize that low carb dieters are not only just as busy as everybody else, but also come in a variety of skill levels in the kitchen. Accordingly, there is a special section at the beginning just for the quick'n'easy crowd that features fewer ingredients and timesavers like canned food and packaged mixes to add to your fresh meats and veggies. Believe it or not, the Pesto Beef recipe was one of these! Not that the more "complicated" recipes are that much longer or harder, believe me: the authors make it clear that since slow cookery is all about convenience, their mission is to keep it as simple as possible without sacrificing taste. It would appear that their mission was successful.
In many cases these recipes are so loaded with veggies and hearty broth that you won't need to make a salad or a side dish and nobody will even notice. There are so many more that I haven't gotten to yet, but I'm dying to try the desserts next; Peanut Butter Fudge Cake with Peanut Butter Fudge Drizzle, Coconut Custard, and Pumpkin Pudding, which is promised to be like the pie without the crust. Judging by my success with the quiche, the slow cooker is a natural with those eggy custards and puddings (averaging about 3-4 hours on low).
I would compare this cookbook to Mable Hoffman's Crockery Cookery (the high-carb "bible" for slow cookers) in terms of quality & variety of recipes and simplicity of use. My family has had no complaints since I've started using it, in fact they like TELCSCC dishes better than many of my higher carb dishes. I believe that this is truly the answer for the lifestyles and tastes of a modern health-conscious Americans.
-Andrea, aka Merribelle

Eyre Affair
Eyre Affair
by Jasper Fforde
Edition: Paperback
122 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Not quite sci fi, not quite parody, but fun all the way, June 29 2004
This review is from: Eyre Affair (Paperback)
Don't bother reading this book if you are A, poorly read in basic English literature and/or B unappreciative of dry wit. Now that we've eliminated the apathetics, here's the review for the rest of us:
The Eyre Affair is a great love letter to the famous English authors of centuries past, notably Shakespeare, Bronte, Austen, Dickens, etc. Well not really - it's a clever alternate universe thriller in which Litratec investigator/enforcer Thursday Next takes on a case involving the kidnapping of some of the most beloved literary characters in British lore. You see, in Thursday's world, the supernatural is very often a natural part of everyday life; vampires and werewolves are regulated by a department very much like Animal Control, time travel -talented individuals are recruited for their services in government branches, and the integrity of national literary treasures is guarded zealously by top secret levels of those branches. I could love to live in this world were it not so chaotic, what with history being constantly tampered with by various factions and all. Even so, it's great fun to visit.
Author Jasper Fforde can be caught using this forum to stage literary debates and in-jokes, much to the delight of the Anglophile readers. In place of religious fanatics coming to one's door proselytizing, you have Baconians whose mission in life is to convince the world that Shakespeare's works were written by Francis Bacon. Fforde demonstrates a very British tendency to use proper names to lampoon a character. His prodigal creation of Thursday Next is an unlikely mixture of reserved-but-courageous traditional British heroines and modern pop culture action stars reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Evanovich's Stephanie Plum. Fittingly, Ms. Next's interesting life seems to parallel Jane's a little more closely than coincidence.
If there is one flaw in this book, it's that the reader is thrown into an alternate universe in which we are playing a lot of catch up thoughout the plot. This sometimes had the side effect of distracting me and sometimes it contributed to the humor. Perhaps the author should have included a prologue chapter which summarized the necessary backstory, but overall TEA is worth sticking to nonetheless.

The Eyre Affair is a great find, and I look forward to other tales from this adorably messy universe.
-Andrea, aka Merribelle

Quick & Clever Handmade Cards
Quick & Clever Handmade Cards
by Julie Hickey
Edition: Paperback
47 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely Quick, somewhat Clever, decidedly Classy, June 28 2004
The card projects in this book have a good balance of efficiency and attractiveness. Most of these designs and instructions are nicely applied to individual cardmaking as well as mass-producing for invitations and announcements.
Author Julie Hickey starts with a section that explores basic tools and supplies, including the card stock and envelopes. I can honestly say that this is the first cardmaking book I've come across that explains the logistics of stocking up on supplies so thoroughly well.
She has also perfected a standardized system which uses a few basic card sizes/shapes for all the designs. There are even patterns included for making envelopes (thank you!) so that if you can't find suitable envelopes at the craft store you won't be stuck with the ugly industrial kind to ruin the effect you worked to achieve with your custom card.
Hickey seems to start from an assumed beginner level and progresses the crafter though different projects to the more advanced cards at the end. All the steps are carefully illustrated with photos. I will describe the overall look of her designs as simple and elegant, but except for a few, not particularly innovative. A nice range of popular materials and styles are explored in the projects, including buttons, charms, microbeads, vellum, copper, shrink plastic and rubber-stamping. These are fun cards you might make up ahead for the sheer enjoyment and file safely away until an occasion calls for one; and yes as promised, there are card ideas to suit any occasion, or that can be easily adapted.
Recommended for card crafters that are looking for enjoyable, pretty projects that don't take up much time or money.
-Andrea, aka Merribelle

by Peter Bowler
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
21 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars You, too can learn charientisms in your spare time!, June 28 2004
I could feast all day on a book of fine words. To me, words have colors, flavors and textures. They roll around the tongue like savory morsels, each distinct. There is an art to combining them, much as there is an art to marrying flavors in haute cuisine. Sometimes a chef is adamant about a certain spice or food element for his special dish, as only that one will do to complete a complex palate. In the same way, I will search carefully for just the right word to complete my thoughts. It is a labor of love.
The Superior Person's Book of Words is just the thing if your dictionary proves uninspiring. Not only will you find just what you are looking for, but the entertaining and wry wit employed in the definitions will sally the keen reader upon new directions in sassy verbal repartee. Many of the listings are invaluable as veiled insults, and the author frequently highlights these with sample usage sentences. My only comment on that is, living with Peter Bowler must be like living with Oscar Wilde.
There are *some* pedestrian listings thrown in, presumably as padding. Or maybe they are intended as mollifiers for the "inferior" readers? In any case, words such as "heterosexual", "pastime" and "impalement" hardly count as tidbits for the esoteric lexicographer in my opinion. Thankfully, they are relatively few.
The best part of this book though is the way the author words the definitions. Some examples:
Papuliferous. Pimply. Typical condition of a groak.
Groak. One who stands around while others eat, in the hope that he will be invited to join in. A good name for a female relative's boyfriend.
Nugatory. Of no value, trifling, insubstantial, pointless. Unfavorable criticism of the present book could properly be so characterized.
Now how could you not adore a "dictionary" like this?
-Andrea, aka Merribelle

NeanderThin: Eat Like a Caveman to Achieve a Lean, Strong, Healthy Body
NeanderThin: Eat Like a Caveman to Achieve a Lean, Strong, Healthy Body
by Ray Audette
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
20 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eat healthfully for the first time in your life, June 16 2004
I'm a low-carb dieter who lost 47 lbs on the Atkins diet last year. During that time I felt great, slept better, skin cleared up, had wonderful energy and also experienced other little side benefits to the weight loss that are too numerous to get into here. However, after several months I plateaued at about 25 lbs above my ideal, and of course I wanted to jump-start my weight loss again. So, I did a little investigating, discovered the Neanderthin diet and decided to give it a try.
A brief summary of the basics of this diet: eat no technology-dependant foods. By that, author Ray Audette meant that if a food needs technology beyond a sharp stick or stone to process it to become edible, or to exist in its present form, it was never a natural part of our human diet, which had its origins with hunter-gatherer societies. What foods absolutely must be processed and/or cooked are: grains, including wheat, rice and most others; starchy vegetables like potatoes and yams; legumes, including peanuts, beans and peas. Refined sugars and artificial sweeteners are absolutely unnatural, although a small bit of honey is fine. Modern fruits are okay but must be eaten sparingly due to the fact that they have been altered over thousands of years to barely resemble the wild originals that our ancestors snacked on, usually much larger and with a much higher sugar content. Fermented foods are of course absent without our technology, so that excludes cheeses, vinegars and alcohols. Dairy products are also absent from the lives of hunter gatherers for obvious reasons. That leaves us with meats, fish/seafood, eggs, nuts, most vegetables, greens, and small amounts of fruits and berries.
I tried the hunter-gatherer diet for about one month. Just as with Atkins, I felt wonderful and had all of the other side benefits of the low-carb diet, but my weight loss was still stalled. You see, the allowance of fruits on this diet was too great a temptation and I overdid it there. Longtime dieters may be familiar with the term "trigger", which is anything that causes your cravings to resurface. Some people like me have carb triggers so sensitive that even fruits can activate them. So, reluctantly I concluded that I would have to replace the Neanderthin diet with a low-carb diet that forbid me to have any fruit, at least during the weight loss phase. When I am finished and at my goal weight, however, I will return to the Neanderthin diet to maintain my excellent health, as I can't imagine a life entirely without strawberries, peaches and melons!
I should note here that the authors Audette and Gilchrist do not advocate this diet as an aid to weight loss per se, but for reversing health problems and improving overall fitness. They theorize that diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity and many other curses of civilization are the byproducts of an immune system response to unnatural foods like grains: they show how you can trace the origins and progression of these conditions from the time grains and other technology-dependant foods were introduced into a culture. Examples in our European culture point to the Industrial Revolution as the biggest health problem of our history, when steam powered mills made refined white flours and sugars commonly available and cheap to the masses. Until then heart disease and diabetes (just to pick two examples) were so rare as to be unheard of; now they are epidemic in the USA, which by the way consumes more refined flour and sugar per person than any nation in the world.
Audette's theories and explanations make perfect sense to me, a non-scientist. They may partly explain why other low-carb diets are successful for weight loss. I can also see the sense in removing refined and processed foods from my diet, along with all the chemicals and trans fats that come with them. It's just too bad that a hunter-gatherer diet has a built in flaw, namely that the diet food industry can't cash in on it (remember, no artificial sweeteners or processed foods), and therefore it won't get the kind of publicity that diets like Atkins and Protein Power have had. Hopefully, the good word of mouth from satisfied dieters will spread and eventually get Audette nd Gilchrist the acclaim they deserve for helping so many people get back their health and quality of life.
-Andrea, aka Merribelle

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