Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Have a Happy, Healthy and Safe Holiday!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Product Review - Blue Bell Ice Cream Gingerbread House


To me, nothing says the holidays like the intoxicating smell of gingerbread!  I'm a big fan!  And this year seems to be the year of all-things-gingerbread for the Christmas season! 

So, we started with cookies, now on to ice cream!!!

Blue Bell Ice Cream, that wonderful Texas-based ice creamery, has out a new flavor for the holidays - Gingerbread House ice cream!  






Product Description:


A creamy cinnamon ice cream with flavorful gingerbread pieces, festive red and green sprinkles and miniature marshmallows all surrounded by a vanilla icing swirl.


My Thoughts:

Oh my gosh, this stuff is to die for!  It's not too too terribly sweet, but has just the right amount of cinnamonto offset the vanilla-y flavor of the ice cream. The chunks of gingerbread pieces are generous, and the vanilla icing swirls are wonderful!  The red and green sprinkles make it festive and give it a nice crunch! 



The only thing I didn't particularly care for was the marshmallow pieces - I thought they tasted a bit like jelly-beans, but there weren't that many so it was easy to overlook this in the overall deliciousness of this treat!




RECOMMENDATION:

If you are a gingerbread nut like me - You'll LOVE this ice cream!  If you are an ice cream afficiando - you will LOVE this ice cream!  But get it soon, it's for a limited time only!


Stay tuned for reviews of Blue Bell's two other Christmas ice creams flavors - Christmas Cookies and Pumpkin Spice Pecan!


For more information on Blue Bell Ice Cream - check out their website at www.bluebell.com


I purchased this product for my personal use. I was not compensated for my opinion.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Concert review - "The King: Eras of A Legend"

Recently, my husband and I were asked to review a new "Elvis Presley" show being put together by a friend of our's production company. 

The show, featuring renown "Elvis" tribute artist, Kraig Parker, is a multi-media presentation of the many different eras of the life of Elvis Presley, and is called "The King: Eras of A Legend." 

Here is our review:





Elvis Presley may have died in 1977, but his music lives on in countless tribute artists. One of the best of those, Kraig Parker, wowed Wichita Falls again Thursday night when he debuted his new "The King: Eras of a Legend" show at Memorial Auditorium.

Depicting the distinctive periods in Presley's long career, "The King: Eras of a Legend" opened with Arlington, Texas student Drake Milligan's dead-on take of what it must have been like when Elvis Presley first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry.

Milligan followed that up with what Presley was like on the Louisiana Hayride, and during his first chart success. It was impressive to note that Milligan went through three different costume changes within a blink of an eye during his portion of the show!  Pretty cool!

The large and respectful audience warmly awarded the talented 14-year-old with rousing applause. It looks like there is a new Elvis star in the making.

Parker took over from there.

Kraig Parker has performed as Elvis all over the country in various different styles of shows, and is well-known for his dead-on look of "The King" and his vocal stylings that sound so much like Presley! So going into the show, the North Texas audience members might have thought they knew what to expect from this new show, "The King: Eras of a Legend." But show creators have structured the performance in a way that delighted even somewhat jaded fans when he launched into music from Elvis' early TV experiences. Songs like "Shake, Rattle and Roll," "Train, Train," "Treat Me Like a Fool," and "Don't Be Cruel" delighted the crowd.

A quick onstage costume change later, and Parker was transformed into Presley during the King's movie years. He sang "Rock a Hula" and "Blue Hawaii" from Elvis' Hawaiian movies before changing into a racing jacket for "Little Less Conversation," "Love My Baby," "King Creole," "Return to Sender" and, after another onstage costume modification, "Jailhouse Rock."



The lights faded and then Parker was back in the black leather outfit from Presley's legendary 1968 comeback special. Parker re-created the famous TV show with songs like "Heartbreak Hotel," "All Shook Up," "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and "Make My Dreams Come True."




During the intermission, Charles Stone came on stage to talk about his experiences as the real Elvis Presley's tour manager in the 1970s. His personal recollections and anecdotes about "The King" kept the crowd spellbound, and most audience members would have liked to have heard more.

Then the excitement level in the auditorium went through the roof to the opening strains of "Also Sprach Zarathustra," Presley's signature opening music during his Las Vegas years and beyond. With a full band blaring away, and drummer Rod Foster pounding out the familiar old grooves, Parker appeared in a startling white jumpsuit and launched into his trademark "CC Rider."




Music that defined so much of Presley's most successful years as a legend, including "Burning Love," "Sweet Caroline," "In the Ghetto," and "The Wonder of You," had many in the crowd coming to their feet with each new number.

And Parker's between-song patter kept the mood light and fun.

When he sang an extended version of "Love Me Tender" while women in the audience lined up for a kiss and a scarf, it brought back memories of what it must have actually been like in the Las Vegas Hilton showroom during his time there. It was so cute to see these ladies so excited about getting a kiss on the forehead and a silk scarf wrapped around their necks. There were girls of all ages in line to see Kraig, from a tiny little girl to more than one giddy "mature" lady!

By the time Parker changed into the kind of jumpsuit Presley wore during his last appearances, the crowd was no longer seeing Kraig Parker on stage; that was Elvis up there, and he was magnificent.

Parker's "The King: Eras of a Legend" was a spectacular experience that the audience won't soon forget.  If you are a fan of the late, great Elvis Presley, and if you get a chance to see Kraig Parker in concert, I highly recommend that you do so!  It's an event that you won't soon forget!

Be sure to check out Parker's website, www.thekinglives.com for more information on his upcoming shows, plus many pictures and videos from his performances!


(Photos courtesy of www.thekinglives.com)
 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Gift Recommendation - Ponderables - Books for those who like to think!

I love giving books for Christmas!  And when my kids were small, I thought I'd struck gold when I happened across books that entertained as well as educated!




I wish the new series of entertaining and educational books, Ponderables: 100 Breakthroughs That Changed History, had been around back then!  But lucky for parents today, they are here now!

There are three book currently available in this series -

  • The Elements: An Illustrated History of the Periodic Table
  • Mathematics: An Illustrated History of Numbers
  • The Universe: An Illustrated History of Astronomy


Each of these books are coffee-table sized, full of out-of-this-world photographs, and equally as full of fascinating information on subjects that might be considered a little weighty.  The editors of these books have put together mesmerizing stories, intriguing facts, and lavish illustrations to make these books not only useful but keepsakes for future generations as well!

Here is a breakdown of what each book is about:


THE ELEMENTS: An Illustrated History of the Periodic Table



In 1869 Dmitri Mendeleev presented the world with the Periodic Table. It contained 63 elements, many more than the four—earth, water, fire, and air—established in the ancient world, but less than half the total in our modern table. Mendeleev believed there were many elements still to come.
He was right.

In this essential guide to the Periodic Table, we track the history of the powerful yet elegant tool that lays bare the building blocks of the Universe. The journey begins just as the first cities are forming, and follows the contributions made by philosophers, alchemists, industrialists, and great scientists as they gather force to create this masterpiece of accumulated knowledge. The story includes Democritus of ancient Greece who said that the four elements of nature—earth, water, fire, and air—must be made of atoms, otherwise our world is just an illusion, and the French aristocrat Antoine Lavoisier, who was the first to show that water is not an element at all. With over three hundred illustrations, it opens a window into the very stuff of nature—stars, rocks, life, and more—and shows us the way to make even smarter technologies.
 
From the ancient Greek philosopher who noticed the unusual force exerted by amber, to the alchemist who boiled urine until it glowed in the dark, to the British inventor who described the powerful effect of electricity on a dead body to Mary Shelley (before she wrote Frankenstein) to the theologian who observed mice becoming unconscious when dangled over brewing beer, the discovery of the elements is a story with many chapters, each adding to our understanding of these basic substances that make up the world around us. The thoughts and deeds of great thinkers always make great stories and here are a hundred of the most significant. Each story relates a confounding puzzle that became a discovery and changed the way we see the world. We call these Ponderables.
 
Includes a removable fold-out concertina neatly housed in the back of the book. This fold-out provides a 12-page Timeline History of the Periodic Table that embeds the story of chemistry in historical context and shows Who Did What When at a glance. On the reverse side is a 12-page Chart of Elements in Atomic Order providing scientific data for all 118 elements, as well as their primary source and use.



MATHEMATICS: An Illustrated History of Numbers



Legend has it that the first magic square, where all lines and diagonals add up to the same figure, was revealed more than 2,000 years ago when a river turtle appeared to have ancient Chinese numerals inscribed on sections of its shell. Patterns are everywhere in nature, and counting, measuring, and calculating changes are as old as civilization itself, as are many of the theorems and laws of math. The Pythagorean Theorem was used to plot out fields for planting crops before the ancient Greek Pythagoras was even born, but the story begins long before that, with tally marks on rock and bone surviving from the Stone Age.

Here is the essential guide to mathematics, an authoritative reference book and timeline that explores the work of history's greatest mathematicians. From the teasing genius of Pierre de Fermat, who said he knew the answers but rarely gave them up, to the fractal pattern discovered by Waclaw Sierpinski now used to plan the route a mailman takes, here are 100 landmark moments in this intensely rigorous discipline, seen through the eyes of the people who lived them.
Glimpse the abstract landscape of infinite numbers and multi-dimensional shapes as you learn about the most famous math men of all. Pythagoras had a love of numbers so strong it led to a violent death. Then there is Fibonacci, whose guide for bookkeepers changed the way we add and Descartes, who took inspiration from a fly to convert numbers into shapes and back again, changing math forever.
 
Over many centuries, great minds puzzled over the evidence and, step-by-step, edged ever closer to the truth. Behind every one of these breakthrough moments there's a story about a confounding puzzle that became a discovery and changed the way we see the world. Here are one hundred of the most significant and we call these Ponderables. In Mathematics: An Illustrated History of Numbers, you'll get a peak into the Imponderables, too, the mysteries yet to be solved that will one day lead great thinkers forward to an even greater understanding of the universe.
 
Includes a removable fold-out concertina neatly housed in the back of the book. This fold-out provides a 12-page Timeline History of Mathematics that embeds the story in historical context and shows Who Did What When at a glance. The reverse side features some of the greatest mathematical enigmas and interesting facts about the world of numbers.



THE UNIVERSE: An Illustrated History of Astronomy



Astronomers today believe that the Universe may have begun 13.7 billion years ago, when its entire energy, mass, space, and even time, expanded out from a single point. New, empty space was lit by innumerable baby stars and infant galaxies, their light finally reaching Earth many billions of years later. Every scientific discovery about space and the stars—their beginnings as well as our own—derives from this ancient light.

Here we track the history of the Universe and our quest to find our place within it. The story begins among the rough-hewn rocks of ancient megaliths such as Stonehenge, when they are positioned to catch the rising Sun. It continues when the Greek genius Aristarchus pictures the geometry of Earth, Moon, and Sun, revealing the huge empty spaces between them; when Edwin Hubble shows that the Universe is getting ever larger; and when Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky finds that most of the Universe is missing. These moments were turning points, times when years of accumulated thought converged upon one astronomer's obsession, to turn a confounding puzzle into a discovery that changed the way we see the world. We call these Ponderables.
 
Here you'll find the life and works of great astronomers as they watch the night sky, build observatories, discover galaxies, spot new objects and send probes into space. Together the insights of these great thinkers create an increasingly precise picture of an ever-expanding universe, one still full of mystery.
Today, the largest telescopes ever designed are probing farther into the Universe, deeper into the past, looking for clues to constantly evolving questions. What are today's Imponderables, mysteries yet to be solved? Where will they lead? What will be the next discovery?
 
Includes a removable fold-out concertina neatly housed in the back of the book. This fold-out provides a 12-page Timeline History of the Universe that embeds the story in historical context and shows Who Did What When at a glance. On the reverse side is a 12 page Star Chart of the Night Sky of the northern and southern hemisphere for every month.



RECOMMENDATION:

I think these books would make great additions to any home library for kids of all ages!  After all, you're never too old to stop learning!

A Note:  Three more books in this series will be available soon - Physics, Philosophy and Computing!




My thanks to Newman Communications for supplying the review copies of these books. I was not compensated for my opinion.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Product Review - Gingerbread Oreos!

I love anything Gingerbread, so I was intrigued to find out that Oreos Cookies would be offering a "Limited Edition" Gingerbread Oreo for the holidays!




So the search was on!


I discovered that these cookies would be avialable only at Walmarts, so I figured it would be after Thanksgiving before our local Walmart would receive them - seems like we are always the last to get new stuff - but to my surprise, during my last trip , lo and behold - GINGERBREAD OREOS!

So, I decided to wait - NOT!   I grab those beauties off the shelf to take home and try!




And I was not disappointed!!!!  These cookies feature two golden Oreo cookies with a gingerbread flavored filling that is just wonderful!  Spiced with just enough ginger and cinnamon flavoring, these cookies are not too sweet (unlike the Candy Corn Oreos)!


Now, I'm off to find what other lovely gingerbread-y items are available this season!



RECOMMENDATION:

I highly recommend these lucious little treats for the holidays season!



Saturday, November 10, 2012

Christmas Gift Recommendation - For the "Batman" lovers in your house!




Christmas shopping season is in full swing (already!) and if you haven't started yet, well ... let's just say it's time to get it in gear!

I will have several posts this season on things that I have found to be interesting and would possibly make great Christmas present!

First up, for the "Batman" enthusiasists in your house, young or old - Insights Editions Press has two great, coffee-table sized books that pretty much cover anything and everything you might ever want to know about the Batmobile and the history of Batman!





Batmobile: The Complete History

About The Book:


Here for the first time is the complete history of the sleek, sophisticated, incomparable Batmobile. From its humble beginnings in the pages of Detective Comics, to its reimaginings every decade in the pages of DC Comics, to its unforgettable appearances on the big screen, this book explores each incarnation of the Batmobile in incredible detail and scope.

In addition to comic books, the Batmobile has been immortalized in nearly every imaginable medium, including film, television, toys, and video games. Most recently, it was given breathtaking new life—and incredible capabilities—in Christopher Nolan’s extraordinary film trilogy, which concludes with 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. While each of the Batmobile’s incarnations will be explored, special attention will be paid to the "Tumbler" Batmobile from Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises.
 
With stunning gatefolds and detailed specs, blueprints, and historical comparisons, BATMOBILE: The Complete History is an informational and visual delight for auto and Batman fans alike. It’s an unparalleled and high-speed journey that will leave you breathless.







The Dark Knight Manual: Tools, Weapons, Vehicles and DOcuments From The Batcave

About The Book:


In 2005, filmmaker Christopher Nolan redefined Batman for a new generation with Batman Begins, followed in 2008 by The Dark Knight, and now 2012’s conclusion to the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. Here, for the first time, is an in-world exploration of Christopher Nolan's Batman: The Dark Knight Manual, the definitive guide to his tools, vehicles, and technologies.

Following the destruction of Wayne Manor, Bruce Wayne began to assemble key sketches, diagrams, observations, and other top-secret documents germane to becoming Batman; he then entrusted this manual to his faithful butler, Alfred. Every defining moment is detailed here, charting Wayne's collaborations with Lucius Fox at Wayne Enterprises on the latest cutting-edge technology.
 
This package features a distressed vintage cover design and includes removable documents, including the design and capability of the famed utility belt, the hi-tech functions of Batman’s cowl, and every detail of his amazing arsenal of weapons and gadgets, The Dark Knight Manual reveals how Bruce Wayne operates as Gotham's greatest protector.




RECOMMENDATION:

I highly recommend both of these books as being quality books with fantastic photos!  They will be collector's items as well as well-loved keepsakes for the Batman fan in your house!


My thanks to Insight Edition Press for the review copies of these books.  I was not compensated for my opinion.

Friday, November 9, 2012

CD Review - Fanatic by Heart




It’s hard to imagine that the sister act of Ann and Nancy Wilson, otherwise known as “Heart,” have been on the music scene for over thirty-nine years. But the girls are still rocking, rolling and sounding better than ever as evidenced on their fourteenth album, “Fanatic.”

Ann Wilson’s powerful and mesmerizing voice is strong and fluid on this ten song CD. Recognizable for her throaty growls and raspy rock-ness, she is still able to knock the hard-hitting rock numbers out of the park. But she is also able to find tenderness in her voice for the ballads that are among the songs featured on this album.

Nancy Wilson’s prowess on guitar is also still as strong and vibrant as ever. Her electric guitar work is heavy handed where it needs be, but it’s her acoustic work that truly shines on “Fanatic.” She just has a magical way of making her instruments come alive.
 



The songs found on “Fanatic” stretch a wide reach from the intensity of the title track “Fanatic” and “Mashalla” – songs  that bring to mind the Led Zeppelin influences that the band has often spoke of in the past to the slower, more melodic “Rock Deep,” - a tribute to their early days in Vancouver, Canada.

There are some gritty rock numbers here as the sisters stay true to their status as first-rate rock goddess. “Million Miles” and “59 Crunch” find Ann and Nancy giving their all to the down and dirty songs – proving they can still rock out with the best of them!

Tracks that I personally found most enjoyable were the dreamy “Pennsylvania,” the mystical feeling “Corduroy Road” and the tribute to their father, “Dear Old America.”  But perhaps my favorite track was “Walkin’ Good.” Featuring vocal assistance from Sarah McLachlan, this acoustic number is a great song. The chorus hook is memorable, the guitar work is spectacular and the vocals are just angelic. And it was great to hear Ann adding her flute work to the number.  Just lovely!




I admire Ann and Nancy Wilson for staying relevant and present in the music industry that they have given so much to. As “Heart” they have achieved great success, selling 30 million albums worldwide, with Billboard-charting hits in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. Not too many other bands can boast of that feat.  And with “Fanatic” they once again prove that they can keep the hits coming. 
 
You go, girls!

 

Friday, November 2, 2012

CD Review - Aftermath Of The Lowdown by Richie Sambora






 

For over 25 years Richie Sambora has been the steady-as-a-rock lead guitarist and right-hand man for Bon Jovi. Over the years, he has released two solo albums, “Stranger In This Town” and “Undiscovered Soul,” which highlighted his guitar-playing prowess.

Now, after a decade of some great personal turmoil that saw him going through a very public divorce, losing his beloved father to cancer, and a stay in rehab for some alcohol problems, Sambora has straightened up his life, and taken some of the lessons he’s learned in the past few years to pour into his songwriting, and the result is his third solo venture, “Aftermath of The Lowdown.” And it is a gritty, down-to-earth, authentic album that shows an emotional side of Sambora that is rarely seen.

While Sambora’s first two albums featured his blues and rock guitar influences, this album focuses on his songwriting skills and his singing, proving once again that he’s not just a backup singer for Jon Bon Jovi – the man has vocal chops of his own.
 
 

 
The eleven songs found on “Aftermath of The Lowdown,” span a range from a raspy, funky all-out rock numbers to the softer ballads, and there are some that do reflect his “Bon Jovi” roots. After all, this is the guy who co-wrote some of that band’s most iconic anthems, such as “Living On A Prayer,” “Bad Medicine,” and more, so it stands to reason some of his own songs would be similar in nature.

The first featured single off of this album, “Every Road Leads Home To You,” is a catchy, hook-driven number about a guy just wanting to get back home off the road. The number is brilliantly produced with a driving beat and lush strings that make it a memorable song.

“Taking A Chance On The Wind” shows off Sambora’s bluesy licks, with an almost country-feel, while “Nowadays” has a more pop rock flavor to it. “Sugar Daddy” is an irreverent, sassy number that is just fun to listen too.

“Seven Years Gone” tells about a man looking back on what all he’s missed or messed up in the past years and his regrets. “You Can Only Get So High” is also a reflective song about the ups and downs of life. Both numbers are soulful and heart-grabbing.
 
 

 
Two of my favorite numbers off the album are “I’ll Always Walk Beside You,” and “Weathering The Storm.” Both are emotional ballad numbers, softer in nature, and highlight Sambora’s range of vocal skills admirably.

There are a couple of songs that just didn’t work for me. The first number on the CD, “Burn That Candle Down,” was a little odd, with a lot of overdubbed effects that just weren’t necessary and didn’t sound like Sambora at all. “Learning To Fly With A Broken Wing,” while a well-written number, was overproduced as well with a heavy hand that took away from the lyrics.

Overall, “Aftermath of The Lowdown” is a wonderful look at where Richie Sambora has been in the past few years, and where he is headed once again – clean, sober and doing what he does best – making great music.