Saturday, December 10, 2016

Weekend Book Reviews

Mistletoe Mysteries:  Tales of Yuletide Murder is a collection of Christmas themed short mysteries.  The mysteries are light and provide quick reads. The subtitle is a bit misleading as not at all of the stories involve murder.  Each of the stories revolves around the holiday season.  My favorite was a Christmas themed ghost story, "The Live Tree" by John Lutz.  With tales from Mary Higgins Clark, Eric Wright, and Susan Dunlap, this book offers something for everyone.

Detox Delish:  Your Guide to Clean Eating by Jennifer Mac has a Biblical side focus for plant based  eating.   As the title suggests the book has a main focus on detox.  The first portion of the book explains about the author's life and her reasons for a raw, plant based diet.  The second half focuses on the detox plan and the raw food recipes.  While the idea is good, I am not convinced it is for everyone. The idea of a multiple day fast will work for some but not all.  Many of the ideas and recipes can be incorporated into anyone's diet though.

The Seven-Course Christmas Killer by Rosie Genova is a holiday themed short mystery from the Italian Kitchen Mystery series.  I have not read anything else in the series, but I was easily able to follow this short story.  This is a fast paced mystery that takes place during a traditional Italian Christmas Eve celebration.  Victoria and her sister have to find out who is trying to kill the mayor before the seventh course is served.  I found this to be a wonderful little taste of the series and definitely made me want to read more.  It is a fun, short, holiday mystery

disclosure:  I received these e-books from NetGalley but was not otherwise compensated for these reviews.  All opinions are my own!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Furry Friday

I needed some pictures of the grandpets for my mother's Christmas calendar gift.  I thought I would share those today.

Lucy is very prim and proper

Paris' favorite napping spot in the new house

Leo loves his big beds and his cozy nook

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

My Latest Favorite Cookbook

When I was searching for a cake to make for Thanksgiving, I stumbled across a recipe for a Maple Streusel Pumpkin cake.  It looked beautiful and seemed simple enough.  I knew when I mixed the batter that the cake was going to be good.  I had no idea just how good.  It was moist, sweet but not too sweet, and delicious.

The recipe is from the book Simply Beautiful Homemade Cakes by Lindsay Conchar of the blog Life, Love and Sugar.  I knew when I made the cake that I wanted the cookbook.  Now that I have the cookbook, I want to bake my way through the entire thing.

I also made a banana pudding cake that seems to be all the rage right now.  The problem is that the cake layers are awful.  I turned to Live, Love, and Sugar for a banana cake recipe.  I made it into three layers filled with a whipped cream/vanilla pudding mixture and sliced bananas.  I covered the outside with stabilized whipped cream and vanilla wafer.  The revised cake was so much better than the first.

I highly recommend both the blog and the cookbook for great dessert recipes (disclosure:  I purchased the cookbook myself.  Lindsay has no idea who I am.  I just love her recipes.)  My only problem is deciding what to bake next!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Weekly Savings

I did my grocery shopping earlier in the week when I had an errand to run and did not go back into town.  I stuck to my budget.

I finished crocheting two more infinity scarves for gifts.  I decided to make matching hair bows since I already had plenty of yarn and the alligator clips.

I worked on gifts for friends.  I am not sharing what those are since several friends do read the blog.

I hand delivered a few Christmas cards rather than mail them out.

I did minimal post-Thanksgiving shopping.  I used gift cards to get some free magazines.  I used another gift card to get myself a very nice pair of fingerless gloves for shipping only.  I ordered W a reusable water bottle for free with a promotional code.

I bought some clothing for W and myself from during their Cyber Monday sale.  W and I both wear hard to find sizes so I try to stock up on items when I find a great deal.

I got back to basic cooking.  I made hamburger buns, rolls, and ranch dressing this week.  I also made cornbread from scratch rather than purchase a boxed mix.  I made chili without the use of a seasoning packet.  I find cooking from scratch to be cheaper and much healthier.

W and I processed a deer he killed.  We eat mainly venison.  The cost of having a deer processed where we live is crazy.  The equipment was worth the investment and has paid for itself many times over.  We vacuum seal the meat so that it lasts longer in the freezer.

W picked several baskets of lemons from the neighbor's tree.  We have slowly been juicing them and freezing the juice to use throughout the year.  He also had permission to dig up a few young trees that had sprouted to add to our little orchard.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Classic German Baking

When I saw that Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss contained an authentic recipe for Black Forest Cake, I knew I wanted to add it to my collection.  Unfortunately I have yet to actually try that recipe since no one else in my family eats that cake.  Let's look at the positives of the book first.  The hardcover version has a lovely binding.  The cover of the book is beautiful.  A wide variety of recipes are included ranging from cookies to tortes to breads/rolls.

This book definitely had some drawbacks for me. First is the obscure ingredients.  Many of the recipes call for high-fat, European-style butter which I will never every find in any grocery store near me.  I appreciate that it might be needed for authentic German results.  I do wish the author had considered her American audience.  A lengthy process is given for making your own quark, but some research (not the author) told me that Greek Yogurt is an acceptable substitute at least for my purposes.  The second drawback is the lack of pictures of the food.  The book includes plenty of pictures of Germany which would be better suited to a travel book rather than a cookbook.  Some pictures could truly have been taken at any location and added nothing to appeal of the book.

Those negatives aside I did throw caution to the wind and baked the Schwarz-Weiss Geback (Checkerboard Cookies) with regular American butter.  Neither my husband nor I have tasted the true German version.  We both agreed that the cookies were quite good.  Despite the author's stern warning that non-European butter would not work at all, I will be trying more of the recipes with regular butter.

In spite of the negatives I do like this cookbook.  It will not be one that I use everyday.  I do expect to experiment with more recipes.  I am determined to make that black forest cake too!

disclosure:  I received this book from Blogging for Books but was not otherwise compensated for this review.  All opinions are my own!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Weekend Book Reviews

Shades of Wrath by Karen Rose Smith is book six in the Caprice De Luca Mystery series.  I had not read any of the previous books but had no problem jumping right into this one.  Caprice is a home stager and is asked to make over some areas of a mansion for a women's shelter.  Things are going well until the director of the shelter is found murdered.  Caprice gets drawn into the mystery.  The characters are interesting, and I liked the spotlight on domestic issues.  The writing was good but not great.  I felt that some aspects of the book (the reality tv show) added little to it.  I was looking for a bit more.  While not a bad book, Shades of Wrath is not one of my favorites.

Haunted is Always in Fashion by Rose Pressey is book three in the Haunted Vintage Mystery series.  This cozy mystery leans far to the fantasy side.  The main character, Cookie, owns a vintage clothing store and has a ghost following her around.  I like a good ghost story, but I am not sure this qualifies.  While the mystery was interesting, most of the book focused on what Cookie was wearing that day.  I felt that the book lacked depth and was lighter than what I prefer to read.  If what you enjoy is a fluffy, fantasy book, this will be perfect.

Queen of the Cookbooks by Ashton Lee is part of the Cherry Cola Book Club series.  It is marketed as women's fiction.   Overall I was very disappointed.  I kept reading thinking eventually something interesting would happen.  Spoiler alert:  The Queen of the Cookbooks is crowned about halfway through the book.  Things were too syrupy sweet and perfect.  I do not mind a feel good, fictional novel, but I do want the book to be sightly believable.  I have not read any of the previous books.  If there was any character development it happened prior to this book.  I think with a bit of adjustment it would be better for teens/young adults.

First Degree Mudder by Kate Dyer-Seeley is book four in the Pacific Northwest series.  This is the first book I have read in the series.  It features two mysteries.  The main mystery takes place when main character, Meg, signs up for Mind Over Mudder to help her train for a mud run.  She finds trainer and former drill sergeant Billy dead.  The side mystery involves Meg looking into the death of her father which happened years before.  The book also features a bit of romance.  I enjoyed the main mystery and also how the series has room for development over time.

disclosure:  I received these e-books from NetGalley but was not otherwise compensated for these reviews.  All opinions are my own!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Weekly Savings

I am covering a couple of weeks in the post.  I managed to come in close to budget on groceries for the holidays.  I did a two week shop since I plan to stay far away from the grocery store this week.  W did make a quick stop to pick up three items for me.

W picked three big bags of lemons from a neighbor's tree.  The tree is in a pasture, and the neighbor never picks even one so is glad to share.  I  gave one bag away.  We juiced the rest.  Most went into the freezer for lemonade.  Some of the juice will become lemon curd.  I did forget to buy lemonade concentrate for Thanksgiving, but we will have free homemade lemonade which is better.

I used a gift card (one of the found ones) to purchase Christmas ornaments for the new house.  It was nice to get free decorations!

Thanksgiving was a potluck affair at my house.  One aunt provided the paper products.  My mom, another aunt, and mother-in-law contributed some food.  W's brother brought ice.  We had 23 people for dinner (lunch to the non-southern areas).  Eleven of us gathered for supper to eat leftovers.  It was a fun day, and the layout of our living room kitchen worked just as we had hoped for hosting a large crowd.

I spent some time working in the garden.  I topped off two raised beds with dirt from pots that were in the garden.  Since the dumped dirt was full of earthworms, I put the wire covers on top of the raised beds to keep the chickens out.

I started addressing Christmas cards.  I bought the cards on clearance last year since I knew I would not have time to make my own.  My $14 worth of cards cost me just $3.50.

I have been using homemade cleaners (vinegar/essential oils/water) and old washcloths for cleaning.  The washcloths get washed and reused.  It is cheap, effective, and no waste.

I stayed away from the stores this past weekend.  I did purchase some DVDs and two books from Amazon with gift cards.  My only real purchase (a small toaster oven) was planned in advance.  I found one at Lowe's with free shipping.