Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Movie Review: The Roommate

Reviewed by Alyssa Ast

Movie Title: The Roommate (2011)
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Director: Christian E. Christiansen
Writer: Sonny Mallhi
Stars: Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester and Cam Gigandet
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 91 mins
Recommended? No

College student Sara finds that her new roommate Rebecca has an obsession with her, which quickly turns violent.

You know how you have 100 channels on satellite and there's still never anything to watch? Well, Saturday was one of those days so we rented The Roommate on Demand. I vaguely remembered what the trailer for the movie was about and thought it would be a nice horror type movie to watch. Oh how wrong was I.

The Roommate is definitely geared towards a younger audience. I would say middle school or high school students would like it. It reminded me of the movie Swim Fan for how it just seemed very....immature and unlikely. It was one of those movies where you spend forever waiting for something to happen, and then when it finally does happen, it's just a huge disappointment. I think the trailer for the movie was very misleading. There was very little thrill and too much drama, basically.

It definitely wasn't worth the money we spent to rent it. I don't recommend it unless you're in your teens.

Book Review- Detective Sissy Stringbean: Where's Uncle Bill?

Title: Detective Sissy Stringbean: Where's Uncle Bill?
Author: Shelia Burket
Publisher: Lulu
Recommended? Yes

Review: This is a children's illustrated book, written Shelia Burket about Sissy Stringbean and Sarah who are left in the care of Uncle Bill. But a mystery evolves when neither girl can find him or plate of chocolate chip cookies. The girls search high and low around the house after spotting a trail of cookie crumbs.

The story is cute and has rhyming, which is ideal for children ages four and up. The 16-page softcover book has handmade illustrations and pictures as well as a photograph of homemade chocolate cookies. 

I would recommend this book for any one with a preschooler up to age 7 years. Very sweet story, a simple age appropriate mystery and ideal for young children. 

Detective Sissy Stringbean: Where's Uncle Bill? is available on Lulu
Friday, May 27, 2011

Product Review: iPad App

Source: This Is My Story website graphic

Product Name: This is My Story (And I’m Sticking to It)               

Manufacturer Name : Company 5; Retail Gramercy Consultants, Patuto Press

Retail Price: $0.99

Where to Get It: iTunes

Sizes/Specifications: For iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later. Soon in iPod, iPhone use. Book out in 2012.

Product Description: Educational/Game for pre-school, aged 4 yrs.

Recommended? Yes

Review: Looking for an App with game appeal plus educational merit for a young child? You might want to check out the recently released app, This is My Story (And I’m Sticking to It).

Company 5’s creative team, including Michele DeGrace, has designed a product that appeals to children on so many levels. Right from the start, the sticker concept is a winner with young minds.

This app has many attributes as it enables children to do many activities: make stories, match drawings with stickers, maneuver stickers, save and reopen their own story.

The format is
o   Colorful—intense shades of blue, red, green
o   Tactile—iPad touch format will attract small fingers to play this “game”
o   Bold Font—easy to recognize, eventually read words that relate to pictures
o   Audio—personable comments will appeal to children along with the rather honky tonk music score playing in the background
o   Responsive with comments that are encouraging, questioning, congratulatory as children are advancing throught the various stages.

For a minimal cost, it seems that you can obtain this App that is entertaining and educational, just plain fun!

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Product Review: LG Optimus S- Android

Reviewed by Alyssa Ast

Product: LG Optimus S- Android
Manufacturer: Sprint
Operating system:
  • Ships with Android 2.2
Battery information:
  • Standard Li-Polymer Battery (1500 mAh)
Talk time:
  • Up to 5 hours Talk Time

  • 3.2" 320 x 480 capacitive HVGA
  • 4.6 oz
  • 600MHz Qualcomm MSM7627
  • 512 RAM and 512 ROM, microSD slot for expendable storage up to 32GB (includes 2GB microSD card)
Bluetooth profiles:

HSP 1.2, HFP 1.5, OPP, FTP, PBAP, DUN, A2DP 1.2, AVRCP,GAVDP, GOEP, SDAP/SDP, SPP, Stereo Streaming, AVDTP, and OBEX

Price: $299.00

Recommended? Somewhat


Recently, I upgraded my phone to the LG Optimus S by Sprint. I'm the type of person who thinks simple is better so I was kind of hesitant to upgrade my phone to such a new model with so many features. I think phones should be used to make phone calls and that's about it. The first thing I noticed when I activated my phone is it's very difficult to navigate, and the touch screen is extra sensitive, which makes it even harder to navigate. It takes me easily two to three times longer to text because the screen is so sensitive. I hang up on people a lot because my cheek presses the screen. I end up calling people when I don't intend to simply by trying to find something on the phone.

What I do like about the phone is all of the capabilities. I love the apps you can add, how fast the internet is and just the fact that it makes my life easier in many ways. I can check my email or Facebook whenever and where ever I'm at. I can download music for free. I can keep track of my to-do list for work. I can sync my work calenders with my computer. The list goes on and on.

So my recommendation is, if you need your phone for work, this is a great phone to have. But, if you're just looking for a phone to make calls and to text, I would say this isn't the phone for you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Product Review: Chicago Metallic 9" Brownie Pan

by: Anjanette Belloni

Product Name: Chicago Metallic Specialty Nonstick Slice Solutions Brownie Pan, 9"

Manufacturer Name: Chicago Metallic

Retail Price: varies, I've seen it as low as $14.00 and as high as $24.99

Where to Get It: Almost any kitchen accessory website, I purchased mine from Bi-Mart

Sizes/Specifications: 9" x 9" x 2-3/4"

Product Description: The Chicago Metallic Specialty Nonstick Slice Solutions Brownie Pan is a three piece set that bakes each batch perfectly. The divider is inserted before baking and removed after the brownies are completely cooled. Make different toppings for each piece by simply adding nuts, candies or other goodies before or after baking. Great for cornbread, crumb cake or crispy cereal bars.

Recommended? YES

I absolutely LOVE to bake and brownies just happen to be my specialty! I am constantly trying out new ways to make the traditional brownie just amazing. The excitement I felt when I finally purchased this pan was tremendous and made me feel like a kid in a candy store.

Here's why I must have this pan in my kitchen:

  • Cleaning is a SNAP!
  • Brownies come out of the pan in kid friendly squares.
  • Decorating each square is so simple.
  • All brownies have crisp edges and yummy gooey centers!
My only concern with this set was the instructions. All you have are the instructions on the box, not that it takes a degree in science to work with this pan. However, when I used one box of brownie mix with this pan the brownies rose quite a bit about the rim of the dividers. This made pulling the divider away from the brownies a bit challenging, but not too aggravating.

This was definitely a GREAT addition to my kitchen and I cannot wait for all the exciting brownie adventures (let alone other baking possibilities) I am about to embark on!

It's All About Home Cookin! Ma Belloni's Kitchen
Friday, May 20, 2011

Review: Christi Harris Plane Truth About Brows kit

Angelina Jolie at the premiere of Alexander in...
Image via Wikipedia

Beauty product review: Christi Harris Brow Planing kit
Price: $59.95, reg, but $39.95 on the website
Available at: Christi Harris Cosmetics
Recommended: Yes - I love this product!

What do Angelina Jolie, Beyonce, and Cleopatra have in common? Beautiful eyebrows.

A week ago, I won Christi Harris' brow kit from Hillary Quinn's Bargain Hunter website. If you've never been to the Bargain Hunter, then I highly recommend it. Hillary has the most amazing tips on finding everything for less, and she gives prizes, like Revitalash, AmLactin lotion and Sally Hansen Insta-Dri polish. But I digress, so back to the brows.

Christi Harris' The Plane Truth About Brows kit gave me perfect brows without tweezing - yes - it's true! With a few swipes of the planer and definer, my eyebrows fell into line and never looked so beautiful. I might even rival Beyonce in the bewitching brow category.

If you are looking to maximize your natural beauty, then check out Christi Harris' videos, and become Angelina's equal.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Review: The Rose Garden—A Great Spring Read!

Title: The Rose Garden 
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Great Spring Read!
Publisher: Allison and Busby, available at Amazon.com                        

Recommended? Yes

Review: Susanna Kearsley, internationally known Canadian author has done it again! In her recently published book, The Rose Garden, Kearsley has written a romantic historical fiction novel that captures your interest right from the start.

Dedicated to Kearsley’s late sister, perhaps it is not surprising that the author writes convincingly of her main character Eva’s efforts to deal with the loss of a sibling. After her sister Katrina’s death, Eva heads to Cornwall, the home of Arthurian myth and legend, where she and her sister spent many a happy summer. There, she rereconnects with cousins, Mark and Susan, while she decides on the best place to spread the ashes of her dead sister, Katrina.

The plot evolves as Eva lives in the family’s historic manor, Trelowarth, surrounded by a fusion of roses but in dire need of a financial boost in order to maintain the ancestral home. Soon, the idea of a tea house becomes a possibility and Eva shares her social media expertise towards its promotion.
As the days go by, voices from the past begin to make themselves known to Eva who finds herself being drawn back into the tumultuous past on several occasions.
As in her previous novels, Mariana and The Winter Sea, Kearsley, once again, includes a time travel element as the major part of her historical fiction. In this story, the author has included current Internet research on relevant topics such as hallucinations; this adds a depth to the fictional work.

The award-winning author, Kearsley, has a knack for seamlessly weaving the past and present with her characters and geographic locations. Her main character, Eva, makes observations between the now and then: fashions, trees, and emotions. Human nature, for example, remains much the same—anger, jealousy, humor, fear—all abound in both time periods; whereas, fashion evolves with fabric, shape, coverage, especially for women. The role of women has changed much from the 1700s but there are still some limitations by gender, Eva notes to her companions of the past.

As the novel progresses, the past draws strongly to Eva, indeed entangles her in its grasp. Soon she has a decision to make, one that Claire can help her to choose as she too has a connection with the past. No spoilers here, you will need to read the novel.

I invite you, as tea room brochure did, to “Step back in time—come visit the old roses of Trelowarth”. You will not be disappointed!

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Movie Review: Fast Five

By Christina Newman

Title: Fast Five
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Run Time: 130 min
MPAA Rating: PG 13
Director: Justin Lin
Writer: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordan Brewster, Tyrese Gibson...
Recommended? Yes


Dominic and his crew find themselves on the wrong side of the law once again as they try to switch lanes between a ruthless drug lord and a relentless federal agent.


Nervous - yea I would say that was the word I would use to describe how I felt about this movie. After all, how many times can Hollywood get lucky using the same actors driving fast to create a box office hit? Turns out, at least five times. By this point you either care about the main characters or you don't but your love of the beautiful cars will never waiver.

Living vicariously through each of the actors behind the wheel of a beautiful, fast and very dangerous car might be the only reason you have to watch these films and that is okay. It's nice every once in a while to watch a movie and just enjoy the show. With amazing action sequences, funny banter and let us not forget a major smack down between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson (Don't tell me I was the only one waiting for this to happen?) why would you not want to see this film!

My bottom line - Stay through the credits, it's worth it.

Book Review: The Violets of March

Book review: The Violets of March (novel)
Author: Sarah Jio
Publisher: Plume at http://www.penguin.com/
Agents: Elizabeth Weed, Stephanie Sun, Jenny Meyer
Softcover price: $15.00
Available at: Amazon, Costco
Recommended: Yes - Sarah Jio's debut novel about second chances is a delight

The month of March will change heroine Emily Wilson's life, or so she hopes. After penning a bestseller and marrying the kind of guy you should only let buy you drinks, Emily faces writer’s block and divorce papers. Seeking inspiration and nurturing, she leaves New York City for Bainbridge Island on the West Coast to reconnect with her beloved Aunt Bee and her own teenage memories of first love.

After settling in Bee’s pink room, Emily comes across an old diary by “Esther,” a beautiful woman who loved a man named Elliot, but cast off his engagement ring when he was seen with another woman. While Emily, in the present day, is courted by her old boyfriend Greg and the artistic Jack, Emily relives married Esther’s life, including her one-night affair with Elliot that led to Esther’s car plummeting off a cliff.

The mix of secrets and Emily’s own search for love creates a riveting read. When Emily sees her favorite novel, Years of Grace, on a gentleman’s bookshelf, the reader is thrilled that all the pieces fit together. The mystery of the island leads Emily to her rightful place and unlike her heroine idol, she is no longer adrift.

Author Sarah Jio has also found a home, as a novelist with a charming voice as welcome as spring.

Reviewed by BeyondBeautifulBabe, Jane Turner
Friday, May 6, 2011

Book Review: Cook This, Not That! 350-Calorie Meals

by Anjanette Belloni

Title: Cook This, Not That! 350-Calorie Meals: Hundreds of new quick and healthy meals to save you 10, 20, 30 pounds--or more

Author: David Zinczenko & Maurice Goudeket

Publisher: Rodale Press, Inc.

Recommended? Absolutely!!!

I absolutely LOVE to cook! Of course that means I am always on the lookout for good cookbooks. The problem I have is finding a cookbook that is family friendly. And just because I love to cook and bake does not mean I am a gourmet chef. When I stumbled across this book I had to have it. It just made sense, especially for my young family. Let me tell you, it is packed with healthy replacements for all those restaurant dishes we have come to savor.

Here are just some other reasons I am beyond happy with this cookbook:

  • Color pictures of every dish
  • Cost per serving break down
  • Cost comparison to it's restaurant counterpart
  • Technique bubbles on different recipes
  • Calorie breakdown of the dish vs. restaurant dish
  • Quick recipe change options
Book Cover:

Tired of always being too hungry (and tired!) to make smart food choices? Ever wonder why the less food you try to eat, the more fat you seem to gain? Ready to start enjoying all your favorite foods and never see an ounce of weight gain? Cook This, Not That! Easy & Awesome 350-Calorie Meals is the ultimate cookbook for people who love to eat—even if they don’t love to cook. The authors of the best-selling diet and weight loss series Eat This, Not That! teach you how easy it is to turn the expensive and unhealthy foods in America’s restaurants into fat-blasting superfoods that cost just pennies—and take just minutes to make!

Can you believe…

*At Olive Garden, an order of Chicken Parmigiana will cost you half a day’s calories—and a day and a half’s worth of sodium! Cook our Chicken Parm recipe at home and save 730 calories and $9.94!

*At T.G.I.Friday’s, a Santa Fe Chopped Salad carries a whopping 1,800 calories—the equivalent of three Pepperoni Personal Pan Pizzas from Pizza Hut! (You call that a salad???) Try the Cook This, Not That! home version and save 1,460 calories!

*Hungry for a panini? At Panera Bread, the Italian Combo on Ciabatta comes loaded with more than 1,000 calories and a side of 45 grams of fat! (In less time than it takes to order their version, you can whip up ours and save 690 calories)

With this illustrated guide to hundreds of delicious, simple, lightning-quick recipes—along with the nutrition secrets that lead to fast and permanent weight loss—you’ll make the smartest choices for you and your family every time.

Additional features in Cook This, Not That: Easy & Awesome 350 –Calorie Meals include:

  • A step-by-step illustrated guide to every cooking technique you’ll ever need to know
  • The 50 Best Foods in the Supermarket
  • The Milk Shake Matrix
  • The Rules of the Grill
  • 12 Ways to Better a Burger
  • The World’s Best Condiments
  • And more!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Book Review: The Memory of Running

By Christina Newman

Title: The Memory of Running
Author: Ron McLarty
Publisher: Penguin Book Group
Recommended? Yes


There are a great many things that I love about books. The Memory of Running does not contain many of the qualities that I look for. It does however have one, a great story. This is the story of everyday life and how with little effort one can float through it without giving it much thought. We can find ourselves forty years old, overweight, unmarried and not proud of much of anything. This story is moving without being deep. The main character hides from his own emotions and does not allow them to truly come to the surface. You follow him through is journey of self-discovery and eventually end up caring very deeply for him.

While I enjoyed this story very much it started slow and the writing leaves something to be desired. The paragraphs are a bit long for my linking and the overall dialogue between the main character and himself is very redundant. I do however understand that when you are on a journey and trying to better yourself you may need to repeat things to yourself so it was easy to look beyond this.

My bottom line - I'm glad I read it.

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