Thursday, March 31, 2016


Title: Heidi

Author: Johanna Spyri

Published: 1980 by Watermill Press (originally published in 1881)

Pages: 343

Genre: fiction

Obtained: given to me as a child

Summary: Heidi is a five year old orphan who has been living with her Aunt Dete since she was one.  She is now going to live with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps.  We follow along as Heidi becomes accustomed to her new life on a secluded alm in a cottage with her reclusive grandfather.  When she is eight we go with her to the city where she is to be a companion to a girl who is not well.  She again has to become accustomed to a whole new way of living.  Finally she returns back to her much loved home in the Alps.

Thoughts:  This was a slow paced, relaxing, simple children's story.  The writing was clear and easy to follow.  The author had wonderful descriptions of the settings, especially the Alps.  The characters were interesting and had distinct personalities.  The conflicts in the story were common problems children might face and could relate to, such as moving to someplace different, meeting new people, learning new things, and doing something wrong and being afraid of getting caught.
     The lessons in the story were good ones.  Heidi loved to help people and always put them before herself.  Nature, eating well, learning, keeping things clean and tidy, God, helping others and doing things to make people happy were all important to Heidi.  There were many references to the bible and God.  Heidi learned how to pray in the story.
     I really enjoyed the humorous and heart warming parts in this story.  I also liked the characters.  It is a long book, especially for a child, but I wanted to keep reading it.  Even though it is slow moving in places I still felt as if Heidi's life was adventurous and I wanted to follow along and see how things would turn out, not only for her, but for the other characters as well.  I enjoyed this book.


Tea: Happy Tea

Company: Art of Tea

Obtained: gift

     Art of Tea is based in Los Angeles, California.  This company hand blends and custom crafts their teas which they get directly from growers.
     "Happy Tea" is a combination of green teas, fruits, and flowers.  When you open the package there is a sweet berry aroma.  The leaves are browns and greens of all shapes and sizes.  There are small red and brown chunks of fruit mixed in.  The tea is packaged in an airtight, foil-lined brown bag.  It is plain and neat and does a great job of protecting the tea.
     I followed the recommendation of using one tablespoon of tea leaves for eight ounces of water. I thought that was a lot of leaves for eight ounces of liquid, but I did it anyway.  I brewed the liquid for 3 minutes (the package recommended 3-5 minutes).
     The liquid was a medium brown color with an orange tint.  The aroma was of berries with a floral scent in the background.  When I tasted the tea, the floral flavor was prominent with a hint of berry flavor.  I expected this tea to have a sweet flavor, but I wouldn't describe it that way.  It also tasted weaker than I thought it would.  So, I decided to try again.  I tried brewing the tea for 5 minutes.  The tea tasted the same, just stronger.  I liked it better brewed for 5 whole minutes.
     I would recommend this tea to those that like light teas that are floral and fruity combinations.  

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Sheen on the Silk

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Author: Anne Perry

Published: 2010 by Anne Perry

Pages: 515

Genre: historical fiction, mystery

Obtained: gift

Summary: Anna Zarides, disguised as a eunuch (a man that has been castrated), goes to Constantinople to prove that her brother is innocent of murder.  As a eunuch and a physician, she is able to attend to both men and women of all classes and can speak with and form relationships with all types of people.  This will make it possible for her to find out why the murder occurred  and who is guilty of it.  She hopes to free her brother from exile.

Thoughts: This story takes place in the late 1200's toward the end of the Crusades.  It is woven with history including politics, culture, medicine, and religion.  The time period was well researched by the author and she does an excellent job bringing the culture of the 13th century to life.  I found it to be a very interesting time period.  This was the greatest strength of the book.
     When I opened the book and saw a list of characters in the front, I thought this would be one of those books where I get the characters all mixed up because there are too many of them.  This was not the case.  There were a lot of characters, but I always seemed to remember who was who.  The characters had their own personalities.  The problem was that most of them just were not believable.
     The plot was okay. It was organized, but the main plot never had a climax.  The subplots (of which there were many) had better climaxes.  The author's writing was easy to follow, but some things were too repetitious.   Also, sometimes descriptions were good, sometimes excessive.  The book could do with some more editing.
     There was a lot going on in this book.  I found that I had to read it when I could concentrate on it without being disturbed or I would get lost and have to backtrack.  Not being familiar with the time period could have also contributed to my need to be free from distraction when reading this book.
     This was not a "light" read.  The book was long.  I would recommend this book to someone who is interested in this time period and in an in-depth novel.  I would not recommend it to  someone who is looking for a great mystery or a quick read.


Tea: Sleep Tight

Company: Art of Tea

Obtained: gift

     According to their website, Art of Tea is a "tea importer and wholesaler based in Los Angeles, California".  They "hand blend and custom craft the world's finest organic teas and botanicals".  Their teas are "carefully selected directly from growers".  They are a "market leader in Fair Trade Tea".
     "Sleep Tight" is described on the package as a "calming bedtime inspired blend that will send you off to dreamland quickly".  It is a caffeine free herbal tea blend made up of chamomile, spearmint, lemon balm, valerian, lemongrass, passion flowers, and rose petals.  The tea is packaged in an air tight, foil-lined resealable bag which protects the tea from light and heat and keeps it dry.  It is a plain looking package, but keeps the tea fresh.
     When I opened the bag there was a very strong mint scent.   The herbal blend is a pretty looking one.  You can see the yellow centers of chamomile flowers, dried lemon grass leaves, dark pink flower petals, and a variety of green leaves of all shapes and sizes.
     I poured eight ounces of water over one teaspoon of tea leaves as directed on the package.  I brewed the tea for five minutes (the bag suggests 5-7 minutes).  The liquid was a golden yellow with a light mint scent.  There was a floral scent in the background.  When tasting the tea, the prominent flavor was a lemony mint with an undertone of rose and chamomile.  The flavors blended well.
     I really enjoyed this tea.  It was light tasting and calming.  It would make a great nighttime tea.  It would also be an excellent tea to sip when you are stressed out, anxious, or just want to relax.