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Welcome to Grandma's Back Room

Grandma's Back Room is where you'll find all kinds of fun stuff, including GIVEAWAYS, REVIEWS, SPONSORED POSTS and more!

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    Review and Giveaway: "Writing Home" by Cindy La Ferle [CLOSED]

    When I was a young mother, I devoured Joyce Maynard's Domestic Affairs column that ran in my daily newspaper. She was a young, hip mom and I wanted to be just like her.

    The same went for Elizabeth Berg's essays in Parent magazine. Where Maynard was unconventional and cool, Berg was sweet and traditional. The heartfelt and often poignant words from both made me feel not so alone in the sometimes solitary madness of motherhood and inspired me to create -- and cherish -- the ordinary moments that make one's home "home."

    A recent reading of "Writing Home" by Cindy La Ferle did much the same for me.

    "Writing Home" is a collection of 93 columns and essays originally published in regional newspapers and national publications as esteemed as Reader's Digest and Better Homes & Gardens' Country Garden. Cindy recently sent me a copy of "Writing Home" to review on Grandma's Briefs.

    (Note to FTC-rule watchers: The copy was free. Note to my readers: The "free" status in no way influenced my review of Cindy's book.)

    I call Cindy by her first name because I feel like I came to know her well through her essays. Like a friend, I learned what makes her tick, and -- like the best of my friends -- it's the very same things that make me tick: family and home.

    Of course, home means cooking, and in the essay titled "Baghdad and Banana Bread," one paragraph in particular resonated with me:

    Fortunately, my attitude toward food preparaton changed after my son was born and I started working from home. This change of heart had less to do with my son's preference for homemade cookies and more to do with the fact that working in the kitchen was a creative release from parenting and writing deadlines. Recipes were easier to manage than a cranky three-year-old or an unruly paragraph. Sifting flour and breaking eggs seemed soothing, almost Zen-like.

    ... tick ...

    In "Willie," Cindy relates her enjoyment of a squirrel who resides on her property and nibbles nuts right outside the window where she writes every day. I, too, love the squirrels -- including the two white ones! -- who run from tree to tree outside my windows, much to the chagrin of squirrel-hating Jim. Cindy writes:

    I've asked myself why I find this so entertaining; why I'd bother befriending a nervy little rodent when I have bigger chores on my list.

    ... tick ...

    So many of Cindy's words resonated with me that I found it difficult to choose a favorite. So I e-mailed her to ask which of the essays were her favorites. Like me, she couldn't pick just one; she chose three. Here are her choices and why she chose them:

    "October Memories" -- "One of my favorite pieces honoring my beloved dad's memory. I was in my late 30s when he died, and his loss was difficult time for me. I wrote my way through my grief."

    "Grandpa's Ferns" -- "Both a garden essay and a tribute to my Scottish immigrant grandfather."

    "Home Sweet Office" -- "A favorite because it recalls the events that led me to become a work-at-home mom. I didn't begin writing personal essays -- which are now my forte -- until this phase of my life. In retrospect, being a mother made me a better writer -- not college, not journalism school. That's why this particular piece is special to me."

    ... tick, tick, tick ...

    If family and home are what make you tick, you'll enjoy "Writing Home." It may even do for you what Maynard and Berg -- and now LaFerle -- did for me: made me feel not so alone in the sometimes solitary madness of motherhood and inspired me to create -- and cherish -- the ordinary moments that make one's home "home."

    "Writing Home" is currently available on and is distributed to bookstores by Wayne State University Press. Proceeds from new book sales are donated to organizations serving the homeless in Oakland County, Mich.



    Cindy sent me one signed copy of "Writing Home" to give away to one lucky reader of Grandma's Briefs. If you'd like to be in the running for this collection of poignant essays and columns, comment to this post with your answer to following question:

    What is one thing that defines home for you? Is it a certain scent, a special family member, a piece of furniture passed down through the family, or something else special that simply means "home"?

    Comments will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. Thursday, April 1 (no fooling!) and the winner (randomly chosen by my trusty ol' BINGO ball roller) will be announced Friday, April 2.


    Review: Ecostore Lemon Cream Cleanser

    Back before the holidays made life insane, I received an e-mail from Maggie at Ecostore USA, "an extension of a 20-year-old New Zealand company that makes plant based, non-toxic Household Cleaning, Baby and Personal Care Products that contain No Nasty Chemicals." She wanted to offer me a couple free items of my choosing from Ecostore, in exchange for an honest review of the products.

    I like free products and I like being honest -- and sharing my opinion! -- so I took her up on her offer. The first item I chose was the Lemon Cream Cleanser. The website touted the cream cleanser, containing lemon verbena oil, as great for any and every surface from the kitchen to the bathroom, and its non-gritty formula made it safe for even glass stovetops.

    That's the part that got me: safe for glass stovetops.

    I bought a stove with a glass top a couple years ago. I pretty much like the thing -- boilovers are handled so much more easily when it spreads all over the stove instead of filling up the old-time pans under each burner.

    But I worry about scratching the stovetop when cleaning up burned-on messes. And although I received a bottle of cleanser with the stove, it leaves a filmy yuck on the stove top every time I use it ... no matter how much I rinse and wipe afterwards. Plus, a few recent marks have appeared that the cleanser I had couldn't get rid of:

    So I requested and promptly received the Ecostore Lemon Cream Cleanser.

    Anxious to rid my stovetop of its ugly black and brown marks, I proceeded to open the bottle. Which was a little more difficult than you'd think. But after stabbing away with a steak knife and nearly losing a finger removing the shrink wrap, I shook the bottle well, per the directions, and snapped open the cap in hopes of breathing in a lemony-fresh scent.

    Well, it smelled a little lemony ... and a lot like other household cleaners, just watered-down with a dash of lemon. But that's okay. The cleaner -- like all Ecostore products -- contains "no nasty chemicals" so I shouldn't expect a strong scent of the plant-based cleaner.

    Again, per the bottle directions for use, I squeezed the cleaner directly onto the surface. Just a smidgen, just on the black and brown marks, as you can see.

    Then, using minimal to no elbow grease, just a teensy bit of scrubbing with a soft scrubbie thingee ...

    ... the marks quickly seemed to disappear.

    So I rinsed ... and what to my wondering eyes should appear?

    No marks!

    And no yucky film that took 13 rinses to eliminate! Geez! How simple is that?

    The Ecostore Lemon Cream Cleanser gets a firm thumbs up from this grandma! It only took a bit to do a lot -- and since it came in a 12.7-ounce bottle, it's what I'll be using to clean my stovetop for quite some time.

    If you're interested in checking out the Lemon Cream Cleanser (which normally sells for $7.50 but is on sale for $4.50) or any of the other plant-based household cleaning products offered by Ecostore, visit The products are reasonably priced and shipping is always free for orders over $25. While there, sign up for the No Nasty Chemicals newsletter, available on Ecostore blog.

    (Stay tuned for my review of the second product I received from Ecostore: Herbal All Natural Ear Wash for dogs.)

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