Friday, February 12, 2016

Furry Friday - Baby Goats!

I have not expanded my little farm.  These are my parents' baby goats.  They are just so cute that I had to share.

This is Annabeth.  Not all of the baby goats get named.  Annabeth has a sister and a brother.  Her mom decided she could only handle two babies at once so Annabeth is being bottle fed.  That means she will be a big pet and gets a name.

Here are a few more adorable baby goat pictures!

One last picture of Annabeth who follows my dad around everywhere

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Baking Day

Every now and then I get the urge to spend a day in the kitchen baking.  This usually happens on a day when W is at work so I have no extra meals to plan.  This past weekend I decided to bake a few new things.

First I tried a recipe from a cookbook I had bought quite some time ago -  The Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed Baking Book: Over 300 Irresistibly Delicious Recipes.  This was a simple recipe for chocolate cupcakes all using basic ingredients I had on hand.  The recipe said it made a dozen.  I could have filled the liners slightly less than recommended and gotten 15 cupcakes.  They also would have baked a bit better.

I topped them with a basic buttercream.  It is crazy easy to make and so much better than canned frosting.  Here is the recipe I use:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
3-5 T cream (or milk)
vanilla, to taste

Cream the butter and add 2 tablespoons of the cream.  Add in vanilla.  I never measure and just pour a bit in.  Slowly add in the powdered sugar.  Then beat until smooth and fluffy.  Add in additional cream to reach the consistency you want.  This makes enough for a cake or 24 cupcakes.  It is easily halved.

Then I decided to make some madeleines for myself.  No one else seems to like madeleines as much as I do which is nice.  I do not have to share.  I made the Madeleines Au Chocolat from Madeleines which I bought in my pre-holiday cookbook craze.

I have two different madeleine pans which is the reason that the bottom two do not look as pretty as the top two.  The top madeleines were cooked in a Bellemain pan.  I do grease it but have skipped that step and they still turn out just as lovely.  The bottom ones are baked in a Chicago Metallic pan.  While the quality is nice, nothing I do makes them come out of the pan properly.  I have tried butter, shortening, shortening and flour, etc.  They taste just as good, but the appearance leaves much to be desired.

I also tried a recipe from Pinterest but neglected to take a photo.  I made Blueberry Oatmeal Crumble Bars to use up some blueberries from the freezer.  They turned out good and made a nice breakfast food the following morning.  My favorite part was that they could be mixed using one bowl.  The less dishes to be washed the better - especially at the end of a big baking day.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Weekly Savings

This covers a couple of weeks since I never got around to posting at all last week.

I stuck close to my grocery budget only going over slightly this past week.  That included stocking up on sale priced butter.  It will all balance out in the end.

I have tried my best to make good use of leftovers which helps with the grocery budget.  W also requested that I try to use up the food that we have on hand before we move.  Even though we are only moving across the yard, it is a good opportunity to use what we have rather than continuing to buy more.

I made envelopes for mailing letters to friends.  I used colorful copy paper and a glue stick.  These envelopes are fun and a fraction of the cost of a similar purchased envelope.

I gave myself a manicure.

I have been enjoying the TV show "Chef's Life" via the PBS channel on Roku.  The cooking tips are very good, and it is an interesting show.

I avoided buying any of the "deals" offered online.  I enjoy looking at all of the sales.  If I do not need something though, it is not a deal.  Saying no means saying yes to a larger goal.

W fixed our sound machine which I need at night to sleep.  It kept cutting off randomly in the middle of the night at which point I would immediately wake up.  It took a few minutes of time, but it is now as god as new.

I sent cupcakes to work with Warren for him and his co-workers to enjoy.  They were made from scratch and were budget friendly since they helped use up some buttermilk.

We used a coupon at Lowe's for something we needed for the new house and saved $10.

I used more scrap yarn to crochet hair bows for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

I am sure there are more items, but this covers the highlights.  What did you do to save money this past week?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Dearly Departed

Dearly Departed by Hy Conrad is book two in the Amy's Travel Mystery series.  I had not read the first book prior to this one.  I was a bit put off by the numerous references to book one, but it was not enough to make me dislike this book.  Amy is the co-owner of a New York City travel agency.  She teams up with another travel agency to fulfill the last wishes of MacGregor, a surprisingly rich maid who wishes to send her rich former employers on a trip around the world.  One death along the way is compounded by an "accident" later on leaves Amy with no choice but to solve the mystery rather than let her travel agency get a bad reputation.

While Amy was likeable enough, I was more impressed with the secondary characters Fanny and Marcus.  Fanny (Amy's mother) and Marcus (Amy's boyfriend) are the true standouts of this book.  Their attempts to investigate while back home in New York are entertaining and add to the story.

This might not be my favorite cozy mystery series, but it is definitely worth checking out.  The book features several sub-plots that will keep readers guessing until the end.

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

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Louisiana Saves the Library

I have been looking for something other than just cozy mysteries to read and stumbled onto Louisiana Saves the Library by Emily Beck Cogburn.  I would best describe it as women's fiction.  The main character, Louisiana (aka Louise), is a single mom who moved from Minnesota to Louisiana for job that ends unexpectedly.  She takes the only job she can find at a small public library in Alligator Bayou Parish.  The author does a good job of depicting small town life.

Louise and her friend, Sylvia, soon turn things at the floundering library upside down in an attempt to bring life back to it.  Add in a library director who is resistant to change and Louise's critical ex-husband and new wife moving to the area and life is anything buy simple for Louise.

I do have a couple of problems with the book.  First, the characters could have been developed a bit more.  Several of the characters seemed one-dimensional and lacked depth.  My second issue is that the ending was rushed.  Many things were wrapped up with an "after the fact" description.  The story was good, and it was a nice change from my usual books.  I am looking forward to more from Emily Beck Cogburn.

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

Friday, January 29, 2016

Furry & Feathered Friday: Thea and the Rooster

Many people question having several types of animals living together.  Cats and chickens are one I get asked about often.  Thea lives primarily in the chicken house (with access to a better shelter if she chooses).  As a result she has gotten used to being around the chickens, and they have gotten used to her.  She does like to run through a group of chickens every now and then but has never tried to catch one.

Her food bowl is at the back of the chicken house.  I kept wondering who was helping her eat the cat food.  I thought it might have been her friend, Barney, who is my parents' cat.  Then I started noticing that some of the chickens were hanging around her bowl.

That was nothing compared to finding Thea and the bantam rooster eating together with both of their heads in the bowl at the same time.  A good paw swat from Thea would send him running, but she seems content to share.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How to Soften a Rock Hard Bag of White Sugar

Normally I store granulated sugar in a large tote in my pantry.  That tote got overfilled with vacuumed sealed packs of tea.  I put a few bags of sugar on top of the tote, and they promptly became hard as cement blocks.

I searched online for ways to soften it.  One suggestion was to treat it like brown sugar and use a slice of bread.  I put it in a container with three slices of bread and sealed it up with no luck.

Another suggestion was to microwave the sugar.  I set the timer for 30 seconds and was really surprised at how well it worked.  I was able to get half of the block of sugar shaved down with a large spoon.  Another 30 seconds and the entire four pound (remember when sugar was in 5 pound bags?) was soft enough to put into the canister.

 I have another bag that is just as hard and am glad that I have an easy way to soften it.  Throwing it away is not an option, but I like to having a less stressful way to make it useful again.