Thursday, December 31, 2015

Homemade Chocolate Covered Cherries

I have always been a bit of a fan of chocolate covered cherries.  You know the ones that come in the boxes and are full of gooey filling.  If something store bought is okay, it will be much better when homemade.  I used the recipe found here.  It is fairly inexpensive and pretty simple too.

I bought a big jar of maraschino cherries from Sam's Club.  The first step was to count out about 60 cherries and put them on paper towels to drain.  You want most of the juice off them but do not stress about getting them completely dry.

Next mix the butter, corn syrup, and powdered sugar together.  I used my KitchenAid.  You want it to be mostly mixed but do not need it to be completely smooth.  Dump it out on a piece of waxed or parchment paper.

At this point you can knead it a few times until it becomes smooth.

If it is too soft at this point, pop it in the fridge until it firms up.  Some people roll it out into a sheet and cut out little circles.  I opted to just pinch off pieces and flatten them out.

Choose a cherry and wrap it completely in the sugar "dough".

Once all of the cherries are wrapped, put them into the fridge or freezer to firm up and set.

The final step of course is to dip the cherries in chocolate.  You want to do your best completely cover the sugar coating.  Again do not stress if a bit of the sugar is showing.

The original recipe instructs cooks to let the cherries sit for 2 weeks for the sugar to turn to goo.  I found that it only took 3 days.  I am not sure what the reason was.  It reminds me of an episode of the Golden Girls when Blanche says "We mature faster in the South.  I think its the heat.".  Maybe it is the heat or humidity.  Definitely keep an eye on them.  At two weeks mine would have been a runny mess.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Weekly Savings

I am going to try to cover the past couple of weeks of savings.

Two weeks ago I took our new cat, Thea, and the neighborhood stray, JJ, to a low cost clinic to be spayed and neutered respectively.  To give you an idea of the savings - I would have paid $110 to have Thea spayed at the vet's office.  At the clinic I paid $35 to have her spayed and given a rabies shot.  I saved enough on her to have JJ neutered.  A side benefit is that he has decided to stay at my house now and will hopefully have a peaceful life from here on out.

After my one big grocery shop at the beginning of December, I did no shopping for 3 weeks.  I did go earlier this week and spent $50.  That will cover the next two weeks and then some.  I bought chicken tenderloins marked down.  They were my favorite not full of antibiotics/steroid brand.  I prepped them to be baked as crunchy chicken tender and put them in the freezer.

We stuck to a modest Christmas budget this year.  I made several gifts.  The crochet purses I did for the 6 little girls in my family were a big hit on my side.  W and I opted not to buy gifts for each other and focused on saving for the new house instead.

I have spent some time each day working on Swagbucks.  I have made my goal each day so far.  I am using the gift cards I earn to buy some things for the new house.

I bought some clothing from TredUp during a sale with free shipping.  I got a dress, two skirts, and four tops.  The tops and skirts can be mixed and matched with each other as well as things already in my closet.

I am using some yarn scraps to crochet hair bows to put in the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  I already have some alligator clips on hand.

The mild weather means the garden is still producing.  I picked lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes.  I picked a cabbage (winter crop here) and gave some of the outside leaves to the rabbits as a treat.

I used a few gift cards to get more free magazine subscriptions.  I downloaded several free books.

Those are the top ones.  I stayed home for the most part which is a major savings in itself.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Book Review: Thread and Gone

Thread and Gone by Lea Wait was a cozy mystery and history lesson all rolled into one.  This book from the Mainely Needlepoint Mystery series easily stands on its own which is always a plus for me. Angie Curtis is the main character in this needlepoint themed mystery.  What starts with research on a piece of antique needlepoint quickly turns into something more when a local lawyer is murdered.

The author weaves in information about needlepointing as well as history lesson on Mary, Queen of Scots.  I have only a passing interest in needlepoint, but the book was held my attention.  The characters are easy to like and quickly felt like old friends. While not one of my all-time favorites, I would read more of the series if given the chance.

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

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Book Review: Happy Herbivore Holidays and Gatherings

If you ever had the opportunity to meet my family, you would find any Happy Herbivore book an unusual choice.  I was excited to read Happy Herbivore Holidays and Gatherings though.  While I am not against eating meat, I could do without it at most meals.  I find nothing wrong with tossing in a plant based side dish to my family's holiday meals.

I knew the book would be good when I saw the recipe for cranberry sauce.  The ingredients are fresh cranberries, sweetener, and an orange (plus some water).  By sweetener the recipe means a few tablespoons of maple syrup.  I could easily eat cranberry sauce with no sweetener, but I do add a little for the sake of others.

The recipes are divided into sections by holiday/occasion.  While not everything would appeal to my family, the cowboy caviar in the New Year's Eve section would be a hit with everyone.  The Homemade Spaghetti Ohs would be a good thing for W and much healthier than the canned variety.  I am anxious to try the Cola Barbecue Sauce.

Is this cookbook for everyone?  No.  I do think it has a wide enough variety of recipes that those looking into a plant based diet would be interested.  I think someone who is already an herbivore would get the most use out of the cookbook.  It gives me some ideas for incorporating meatless and vegan meals.

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Help Wanted

Help Wanted:  Desperately need someone willing to slap my hand the next time I even think about ordering another cookbook.  

I mentioned over the weekend that I have been on a cookbook kick recently.  I think I need a self-help group for people addicted to cookbooks.  Admitting a problem is the first step right.  I thought I was doing god when I avoided ordering a cookbook just to use the the 25% off discount.  After that I fell off the wagon.  Curious what cookbooks I bought over the past couple of weeks.  Here they are:

In my defense (hmmm....rationalization), this book has been on my wish list for several years.  This was not a snap purchase decision.  This price had dropped to a point that I could not pass up.  The book has step-by-step photos for several recipes and offers thorough directions.  It truly does focus on techniques as much as the recipes.  A bonus for me is that the recipes use basic ingredients. 

This was a total impulse purchase.  It was a Kindle Daily Deal over the weekend. I bought it as much to read as I did for the recipes.  I have not had time to read it and have not even flipped through it other than the very beginning.  It looks interesting and worth the bargain price.

Simply Suppers by Jennifer Chandler
This was another daily deal bargain.  I have already chosen several recipes to try.  It is a great little book with mostly basic ingredients.  This was a good purchase.

Simply Salads by Jennifer Chandler
This book was worth the daily deal price for the salad dressing recipes alone.  I started making homemade salad dressings a year or so ago.  Store bought dressings cannot even begin to compare to homemade dressings.  W strictly eats ranch, but I like to branch out and use different dressings.  This book is one of my favorite purchases.

The Blue Willow Inn Bible of Southern Cooking by Louis and Billie Van Dyke
A few reviewers gave this book bad reviews for not being true Southern cooking.  My very Southern granny cooked every day for her family and the farm workers, and I can see her making the recipes from this book.  While I did recognize a few, there were many that were new to me.  Another daily deal book that was worth the price.

Aunt Bee's Mayberry Cookbook by Ken Beck and Jim Clark
This is my least favorite cookbook purchase.  It is not to say that it is not good - recipes with a healthy dose of Mayberry thrown in.  I am just not loving the recipes.  It is the only one I would un-purchase if possible.  As it was a daily deal, I feel like I can get my money's worth out of it though.

Secrets of a Jewish Baker by George Greenstein
This has been on my wish list since I read A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets.  The e-book is currently $1.99 which was much too good for me to pass up especially considering that the used copies of the book are over $16.  The recipes are great, and the tips sprinkled throughout are are invaluable.  The breads are broken down with directions for hand, food processor, and stand mixer versions.

I was introduced to Mary Berry by The Great British Baking Show.  W and I both enjoy the show.  Part of the allure is the recipes and part of it is just how nice the contestants are. Have you ever seen American competition contestants with such manners and courtesy?  Mary's recipes do not disappoint.  Once again the recipes contain basic (or easily accessible) ingredients.  This e-book is also currently priced at $1.99.

Madeleines by Barbara Feldman Morse
Madeleines are one of my favorite desserts.  W is not a fan which means anytime I bake them they are all mine.  I had bought We Love Madeleines about a year ago.  It is a good basic madeleine recipe book.  Madelienes takes it to a whole new level.  The flavor combinations are amazing.  The book opens with helpful hints and tips on baking the best madeleines.  The author offers a classic method and a one-bowl method for mixing madeleines.  At the current price of $2.39, the book is a true treasure.

Now you can see why I have a problem.  I think it is safe to say you can expect some recipe reviews over the next few months (years!).  Since we are still in super saver mode, all of these purchases came from my allowance.  

To keep myself in check:  I hereby promise to keep my cookbook purchases over the next year to a minimum.  (Notice I did not promise to not buy any cookbooks.  I am keeping this realistic.)  

Monday, December 14, 2015

Weekly Savings

I have not done a weekly savings post in a while.  Honestly with everything we are spending on the house, I do not feel like I am saving at all.  I know that is not true.  Otherwise we would not be as far along as we are on the new house without borrowing any money.

I finally sat down and made a menu for the remainder of this month through the first of the new year.  I do not like going to the grocery store around the holidays.  I ended up doing one big shop.  Aside from a quick stop for a few perishables, my plan is to stay out of the grocery store.

I ordered a holiday blend of essential oils from Plant Therapy.  I took advantage of a sale to get a discount.  I no longer use artificial air fresheners or candles due to my allergies.  A few drops in the diffuser makes the house smell like the holidays.  The one bottle will last much longer than a purchased plug in air freshener would.  

The weather continues to be mild here.  Other than warming up the bathroom a bit a few times (using the electric) heater, we have not used any heat or air conditioning recently.  

I weeded the red onions I planted earlier in the fall.  The chickens continue to keep the weeds out of the pepper plants, which are still bearing.  

I purchased bar stools for the new house during Kohl's Black Friday sale.  I then used the Kohl's Cash I earned to buy a welcome mat, shower curtain liner, soap dispensers, toothbrush holder, and bathroom rug for $27 (which was less than the original cost of the welcome mat).  I intentionally chose basic items I knew I would be purchasing anyway.  Everything is basic colors since I am not ready to think about decorating and design yet.  At this point it is all function!

I got a shower head for the second bathroom for free thanks to Swagbucks!  

I won an Amazon gift card in a blog giveaway.  Entering took just a few minutes of my time.  This will go toward purchasing some faucet for the new house.

I guess I have managed to save some money over the past few weeks.  Of course, I have been doing the usual - cooking at home, hanging clothes to dry, using rags for cleaning rather than paper towels, etc.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Book Review: Happy Cooking

I have been on a cookbook kick lately.  We will not even discuss the number of cookbooks I have acquired in the past few weeks.  While picking out new cookbooks recently, I have been drawn to ones that are outside what I might normally consider.  One of those is Happy Cooking:  Make Every Meal Count...Without Stressing Out by Giada De Laurentiis.  While Giada is a popular chef, she has never been one of my favorites.  Her new cookbook sounded interesting so in the spirit of expanding my horizons, I chose her new book.

I can happily admit that Giada and her new cookbook had more to offer than I expected.  Not all of the recipes went on my to try list, but I have yet to find any cookbook that had a 100% win rate.  I am sure the ones I am not a fan of are at the top of another reader's best list.

Frank's Bolognese is a simple recipe, and I already have all of the ingredients on hand.  I could easily make a meal of the Make It at Home Fried Rice.  The Warm and Spicy Popcorn would be a healthy snack.    I am not a fan of the fact that pictures of Ms. De Laurentiis are featured almost as prominently as the food.  I understand this is part of her celebrity appeal, but I got the book for the recipes and the food.  This is a nice book but would be one that I would prefer to borrow from the library rather than purchase.  

I can say that I am more interested in Giada De Laurentiis' cooking and will no longer simply pass by her cookbooks and recipes.  For that alone I think the cookbook did its job.  My horizons have expanded a bit more!

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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Book Review: Life and Other Near-Death Experiences

I stepped outside of my reading comfort zone with Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagan.  Libby Miller is an eternal optimist until one awful day brings her entire world crashing down.  She responds by abandoning her life and escaping to the Caribbean in an attempt to ignore everything that has gone wrong.  While this is not my usual genre, I was drawn into Libby's life and did not want to put the book down.  I thought about the decisions I would make if I were thrust into Libby's position.  I do not wish to give too much of the story away.  The book is a thought provoking journey through dark times.  It forces the reader to choose what things are truly important in life.  I was happy with my selection and can see I need to push myself a bit more often in my reading choices if they all turn out like this!

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

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Book Review: A Pain in the Tuchis

A Pain in the Tuchis by Mark Reutlinger is a fun cozy mystery that made me feel like I was having a visit with a Jewish grandmother.  The story is set at the Julius and Rebecca Cohen Home for Jewish Seniors.  It seamlessly blends two story lines into one book.  Vera Gold's death raises no alarms until her sister begs Mrs. K to investigate.  Readers are introduced to a variety of characters at the home through the narration of Ida.

I was pleased with the progression of the story and the way secondary events were introduced.  Mark Reutlinger has found a new fan in me.  While this was the second book in the Mrs. Kaplan Mystery series, it easily stands on its own.  I appreciate that as I do not often read series in order.

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Time Flies.

Rather than finish the quote I started in the title, I opted to put a period at the end.  These past few months it seems that time has flown by faster than normal.  I try to write my posts for the coming week on the weekends when I have some more free time.  The problem is that lately even my weekends are busy.  I am just in an extra busy time in my life.  I hope you, dear readers, will bear with me during these breaks.  I will post as often as I can and will hopefully settle into a new routine soon.  Thanks for your understanding!!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Book Review: Andy and Don

I would not call myself a huge fan of The Andy Griffith Show, but I did enjoy watching the entire series from beginning to end on Netflix a couple years ago.  I was interested in learning more about the friendship of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts.  Andy and Don:  The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show by Daniel de Vise was a great first choice on the subject.

The book opened with the early years of Andy and Don from their Southern roots to their first trips to New York City.  As the book transitioned in the years of The Andy Griffith Show and shortly after, I started to regret my choice.  The author did not sugar coat how Andy and Don truly were which was not the idyllic life portrayed in Mayberry.  I wanted to remember the pair in good terms without all of the bad things.  The further in I got the more I realized they were truly normal people and responded to fame as most people do.

By the end of the book, I was nearly in tears.  Changes occurred in the lives of Andy and Don in their later years.  I understood that one constant through everything was their genuine friendship.  While the classic TV show may be the most common remembrance, their relationship was so much more.  The book was everything I had hoped and then some.  Be prepared for some unexpected stories of the pair.  Otherwise the book in a wonderful tribute of friendship!

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Furry Friday: Baby Bunnies

A couple of weeks ago we were a little (though not completely) surprised to find six baby bunnies in one of the nesting boxes.  Last week they started to get their eyes open.

They are usually found sleeping in one big pile and are so fat and fluffy.  We are not sure who the mom is, but she is doing a great job.  Before long they will be hopping all over the place!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Homemade Fruit Leather

I have wanted to try making fruit leathers ever since I got my Excalibur dehydrator.  I never got around to buying the special non-stick sheets.  Instead I found a good, easy alternative.  W loves to make jerky, but it makes a huge mess.  It sticks to the dehydrator sheets which means cleaning them is a major chore.  That made me look for disposable solid sheets.  I found Paraflexx Disposable Parchment Paper Dehydrator Sheets that are pre-cut to the size.  First I tried them out for jerky.  They worked so well.  My only regret is that I did not buy them years ago.  That led me to trying them out for fruit leathers.

I decided to try two types.  The first one was apple using my homemade apple sauce.  I only had to open the canning jars for that one.  We have an abundance of gifted peaches in the freezer so I took a pack of those out to thaw.  Once they thawed I drained off a bit of the excess liquid and dumped the remainder into a blender.

I blended it until it was a smooth puree.

Next it was out to the dehydrator where I lined a couple of trays with the disposable sheets.

I poured the peach puree on one and the applesauce on a second.  These went into the dehydrator at 135 degrees for about 3 1/2 hours.  I should not have spread it out as thin as I did.  In the bottom tray, you can see the paper through the applesauce.  It was a learning experience.

This is after drying.  I just rolled up paper and all before cutting it into strips. I think if I had left it a bit thicker the finished product would have been chewier.  It was still delicious.  I will definitely do this again.  The ingredient list is super short.  The peach leather has peaches with a bit of lemon juice, and the apple leather has apple.  The store bought fruit strips have many more.  This is a healthy alternative when I am craving something sweet.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Yard Sale Finds

Each November a local Methodist church hosts a holiday bazaar.  They sell holiday items and baked goods but also have a yard sale section.  We usually get there in time to stand in line 30 minutes before the doors open.  It is a popular event. Here are my finds.

This hat was in perfect condition for $3.  I often wear hats to church and was excited to find this one.

The canning book was 50 cents and the decorating book was 25 cents.

I walked past this magazine rack three times before I picked it up.  The bronze color goes with our color plans for the new house.  I am not sure if I will use it for magazines or for my crocheting yarn.  It was a bit more expensive at $8, but I really loved it.

I then rode around a couple of neighborhoods and found a small yard sale.  The homeowners had several brand new sets of stationery.  This is a rare find.  I picked out five sets that I liked.  They were priced at fifty cents each, but I offered $2 for the five.  My offer was accepted.  My pen friends can look forward to receiving letters written on this stationery in the coming year.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Weekly Savings

Once again meals were all served at home.  A few of them were not anything fabulous, but they were less than eating out.  I stuck to my budget including buying a turkey for Thanksgiving.  Spreading out the holiday food purchases has worked well thus far.

I found a few yard sale items (more on those tomorrow).

I avoided using the dryer even though it meant I needed to wash a bunch over the weekend to hang on the clothesline.

We returned some items we did not use on the new house construction.  We also borrowed all put one set of scaffolding we needed.  That saved us the cost of renting.  We did have to purchase one set which W will use throughout the building process.  I went through Swagbucks and placed the order for in store pickup

I made breadcrumbs out of several bits and pieces of bread in the freezer.

W fixed a pair of my shoes when the shoe repair shop said the shoes could not be repaired.  They were a pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes which I bought used from eBay as I could never afford full price designer shoes.  They are practically as good as new for nothing out of pocket.

I picked more flowers from the garden for an arrangement.

Those are the highlights.  I was very busy with the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Packing Party set up for most of the week.  I will share more about that later this week.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Book Review: The Healthy Mind Cookbook

I love cookbooks, but it takes a really good one for me to be impressed.  When The Healthy Mind Cookbook arrived by UPS, I took it out of the box and immediately started reading.  I was so engrossed sitting on the back steps of our new house that both W and my dad came over to ask what I was reading.  I was drawn in by the wonderful photos and the useful information.

Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson created a cookbook of healthy recipes that I want to cook and eat.  For the most part all of the recipes contain common ingredients.  The ones that are less common (kombu and ground kudzu root) can easily be purchased through Amazon.  I know this because I have already added both to my wish list as they are in recipes I plan to make.

The book provides information on 80+ ingredients and their health benefits.  Rather than getting the health benefits from pills, readers are encouraged to get them from food.  The recipes combine these ingredients into easy recipes to improve your brain and its many functions.  From Classic Magic Mineral Broth to Brandon's Roasted Broccoli and Pomegranate Mock Mojito to Chocolate Cherry Walnut Truffles, there is something for everyone.  This is a gorgeous cookbook that even a novice cook would find easy to use.

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book Review: Yarned and Dangerous

Cozy mysteries are some of my favorite books to read.  Before bed I need something interesting enough to keep me reading but not so exciting that I cannot relax and fall asleep.  Not every cozy mystery fits those two items.  Yarned and Dangerous by Sadie Hartwell hit on both accounts.  I have recently taken up crocheting as a serious hobby.  While this book has knitting as a backdrop, it was close enough to count for me.

The book follows Josie Blair who has returned to Dorset Falls to care for her grumpy great uncle.  I enjoyed the small town aspect of the story as I could definitely relate to that.  I did guess part of the outcome of the book from the very beginning.  The mystery side was strong enough to keep me uncertain for most of the book.  The characters were likable, and I look forward to reading more about them in future books.

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Walk and What Happens When a Three Year Old Gets a Camera

A couple of weeks ago I went to a Homecoming service at my grandmother's childhood church.  Several family members went along.  We ate outside under a tent.  Since the weather was so nice, I took my three year old cousin for a walk.  Being that we were at a church, the only real place to walk was the cemetery.

I spent half of the walk explaining why we could not take flags or flowers from the graves.  She agreed that she would not want anyone taking her stuff, but it did not translate into not taking things from other people (alive or not).  The other half was spent looking at and photographing some of the older tombs - many from the late 1800s.

Maybe I am a little strange for enjoying a walk through an old cemetery.  I expect if you will ask many older people (I said older not old) in the south they will feel the same though.  I especially love the look of this style of tombstone.  It just feels nicer to me and is something I would rather have than a fancy marker.

Back at the tent my cousin asked to take some pictures.  I showed her which buttons to push and turned it over to her.  She took several candid photos of family members.  They will be forever grateful that I am not sharing those with you.  Three year olds are not known for making sure you look your best.  I think part of it was due to the angle of her shots.  The pictures were all clear so I see potential.  She got a couple photos of the top of the tent.

She did take a very nice one of the table decorations.  It was an assortment of greenery, a rose, and a few flowers in a canning jar.  They were simple and very elegant.  

It was a lovely day of visiting with family I rarely see.  We could not have asked for nicer weather.  I was also happy to find someone who did not mind wandering around a cemetery with me even if she was only three.  Perhaps it was the start of passing on that tradition to a younger generation.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Weekly Savings

This week flew by in a rush.  It was so damp and dreary that little was actually accomplished  Cleaning the house seemed futile, and working in the yard was impossible except for one day.

The rain did revive the garden.  The pepper plants that barely perked up with water from the sprinkler have new life after rain water fell on them.  I managed to pick a big basket of assorted peppers as well as two cucumbers.  The onion sets are sprouting well, and I have high hopes for a good red onion harvest in the spring.

Once again we filled the regular trash can up with construction trash.  All of it did not fit, but I held the excess over in hopes of catching up this week.

I discovered a variety of new crochet patterns for free on Pinterest.  I did purchase a skein of yarn and started making myself a cowl and a pair of fingerless gloves.  I have yet to find a good button for the cowl.  I did find enough buttons for the gloves though.  (Pictures will follow when then are completed.)

My mom planted a bunch of zinnia seeds in her fall garden.  They have done really well.  I picked some for myself this past week.  I added in some fern fronds to finish off the arrangement.  I definitely want to plant more cutting flowers in the garden this spring.

I took advantage of some sales to stock up on some grocery items this week.  I also focused on using up some things from the freezer/pantry/garden.  We had salads for one meal using lettuce (purchased), popcorn shrimp (freezer), tomato (gifted), peppers, and cucumbers (last two from the garden).  Homemade salad dressings finished it off.

I made sure to freeze any leftovers into single serving meals for myself.  I like to have quick meals on hand for dinners when W is at work.

W fixed the clothesline which was sagging a bit too much.  He used some pieces of pipe we had on hand to anchor it a little better.

I packed W's lunches and put everything into reusable containers.  It takes a bit more time afterward since the containers must be washed.  I do not mind as it keeps me from buying disposable bags.

Those are the main items from the past week.  How did your week go?

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Book Review: Lights Out

Lights Out by Ted Koppel has been on my To Read list since I first read the background information on the book.  I enjoy non-fiction books but felt this was an especially important book to read.  The basis of the book can be summed up by the following:  "Imagine a blackout lasting not days, but weeks or months. Tens of millions of people over several states are affected. For those without access to a generator, there is no running water, no sewage, no refrigeration or light. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Devices we rely on have gone dark. Banks no longer function, looting is widespread, and law and order are being tested as never before."  Rather than being the plot of the next Hollywood blockbuster, this is a possible scenario.  

As much as I anticipated reading this book, I was uncertain how I felt about it after it was over.  The first section of the book was spent convincing readers that a terrorist attack on our power grid resulting in major consequences was possible.  I cannot speak for other readers, but I chose this book based on the fact that I believe something like this is possible.  I did not need approximately 90 pages to convince me of that point.

Mr. Koppel also focused quite a bit on history which I will agree is important.  Already America seems headed in the direction of repeating history. I do see the point of a history lesson.  The problem is that very few people remember what it is like to be totally without electricity.  The radical changes would be a major adjustment from our current way of life.

One thing that annoyed me is that the book states that in the Biblical account of the floods in Genesis that Noah built the ark in seven days.  I immediately stopped reading to check that "fact".  After reading for myself and checking several references (written and actual people), I could not find anything to back up that statement.

In the end I felt the book was well written but could have been better written.  Perhaps it is meant for people who do need convincing that the government and industries do not have everyone under control.  I would have liked to read less about the whys and more about the aftermath and what can be done.  Nevertheless I would recommend the book.

disclosure:  I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review with no other compensation given.  All opinions are my own!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Book Review: The Herbal Apothecary

Just in case you are looking for a book or two to curl up with on the weekend, I decided to start posting all of my reviews on the weekends.

I am a big fan of herbal remedies.  I know modern medicine is great, but if herbs were so awful, humans would not have made it this far.  The internet is full of information.  One never knows quite how reliable it is though.  I do have a few favorite blogs that I trust.  I am always interested in reading and researching on my own.  The Herbal Apothecary:  100 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them by JJ Pursell is a great reference guide.  The first part of the book offers a look at herbal traditions and basic human anatomy.  This leads readers into a directory of 100 medicinal herbs.  My favorite part is that is that each herb featured has a thorough description and a full color photo.  This helps with identification.  The medicinal uses of the herb are discussed and a medicine cabinet section discusses dosage.

Once readers are familiar with the herbs, herbal treatment plans are introduced.  Each process is described in depth.  Readers then have a variety of recipes for various health issues.  These recipes alone make the book an excellent reference guide.

My only negative is that one could go broke purchasing all of the herbs used in the recipes.  Many recipes require four different herbs.  While many of the herbs are used in multiple recipes, one would still need an extensive variety.

Overall I do like the book and would definitely purchase it to add to my herbal library.  The information is useful to anyone looking for alternative treatment options.

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Weekly Savings & Reasons for Lack of Posts

First an apology for the lack of posts.  This is an especially busy time of year not counting the new house.  I am working hard to get everything ready for the Operation Christmas Child shoebox packing party in 11 days.  We are packing 192 boxes this year, and I feel less than organized.  My posting may be sporadic for the next couple of weeks.  Let's move on to a quick recap of last week's savings.

I found a few things for the shoeboxes at a yard sale.  I also found some clothing for me and W at the same yard sale.  Finding some jeans for W was unexpected as he is over 6' tall.

I put all of the construction trash in the regular trash can again with two bags going in my parents' trash can.  I know this probably will not last, but I am enjoying it while I can.

The weather continues to be on the mild side although warmer than normal for this time of year.  We have not needed to use the heat or air conditioner.

I have been focusing on cooking from the freezer.  We moved some of the older deer meat from the outside freezer to the inside one.  This allowed us to put the fresher meat outside.  I can also find the older meat now to make sure it gets used up first.

I earned a $5 Amazon card from Bing Rewards.  I can usually get $5 per month. You can sign up here (disclosure:  this is my referral link).  It only takes a few minutes per day.  I plan to use all of my earned gift cards to buy things for the new house.

I was gifted with locally grown corn and tomatoes.  We had boiled corn and tomato sandwiches for lunch one day

Those are the highlights for this past week.  What did you do to save money?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Weekly Savings

Life got extra busy over the past week, and I did not have a chance to do anything extra.  I should have taken time to jot down some of my savings.  Since I did not I will hit the ones that stick out best in my mind.

I have started back entering online sweepstakes and instant wins.  It is a free hobby and only takes a few minutes each day.  Over the past two weeks I received a coupon for Thomas bread products which I used to get two free packages of bagels (the only bread I do not make from scratch).  I also received a speaker for my MP3 player from Kool-Aid.  It is small but has a good sound.

We returned some unused items from the construction of our foundation for a credit.

We planned to get rid of our couch which was a bit worn and smelled a bit too much like Leo.  W set it on the front porch but had not had time to haul it to the landfill.  A neighbor stopped to get some eggs and asked about the couch.  I explained the problems but she still wanted it.  She offered to pay, but I refused.  She was saving us money (and time) by taking it.

I once again stuck to my $30 grocery budget.  I was honestly a bit surprised that I have a cushion of $6 which I can use for stocking up.

I made ranch and honey mustard salad dressings.  Both are super easy to mix together.  The flavor is so much better than bottled dressings.

Thus far all of our construction trash has fit in our regular weekly trash can.  This saves us from paying additional fees to dispose of the trash.  It also means we are not producing an enormous amount of waste.

I did the usual:  packed W's lunch in reusable containers, hung laundry outside to dry, cooked meals at home, and opened the windows thanks to the mild weather.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Book Review: Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix

I loved Mark Bittman's book A Bone to Pick so much that I jumped at the chance to get his newest book, Mark Bittman's Kitchen Matrix.  Kitchen Matrix is a different type of cookbook.  Rather than featuring hundreds of individual recipes, it provides various options for recipes.  You start with a basic recipe and are then presented with alternatives  For example in Tomatoes +12 ways readers are given four categories of tomato preparation:  salads, soups, stuffed, and sauces.  Each category then has three options.

My favorite part of Kitchen Matrix is that it helps cooks build on basic recipes and techniques.  I can see using it to expand from a simple recipe to something with flavors that I would not have normally considered.  I already make gnocchi, but this cookbook offers instructions for turning a basic gnocchi into carrot or spinach gnocchi.  Kitchen Matrix covers everything from soups and salads to desserts.

Most of the ingredients are common.  For those of us living out in the middle of nowhere some are impossible to find.  The knafeh a la creme looks amazing, but I will never (ever, ever) be able to find knafeh pastry (shredded phyllo).

I am not sure that this will be one of my top go-to cookbooks, but it does offer something for everyone.  I can easily see me using it to expand my menu.  The 10 recipes for spice blends is a great section.  I love cookbooks that are made with basic, real ingredients.  This cookbook fits that perfectly!

disclosure:  I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.  All opinions are my own!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Book Review: Flipped for Murder

Flipped for Murder is the first book in the Country Store Mysteries series by Maddie Day.  This cozy mystery is set in Indiana and focuses on newcomer Robbie Jordan.  Robbie has opened a country store/restaurant.  Things are off to a great start until the mayor's much disliked assistant turns up dead.

I enjoyed the storyline as well as the characters.  It was an interesting portrayal of life in a smaller town.  As far as cozy mysteries go, this could be the start of a favorite new series.  The story had enough twists and turns to keep things interesting but not so many that it left my head spinning.

If you are a fan of cozy mysteries, I recommend you give this book a try.  Flipped for Murder will be released on October 27, 2015.  I am already looking forward to the next book in the series!

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

Friday, October 16, 2015

Furry Friday: Introducing Thea

About a month ago when W fed the chickens by himself, he asked me did I know there was a cat in the chicken house.  I had no idea.  He found her eating an egg.  A cat in the chicken house was no problem.  A cat in the chicken house eating eggs was a big problem.  I solved that by putting out bowls of food and water.  We rarely saw the cat anywhere but up a tree after that.  The cat food was disappearing, but we could never prove she was actually eating it.

Fast forward a month and we have officially been adopted by a gray calico kitten we named Thea.  She still lives in the chicken house but no longer eats eggs.  She will allow us to pet her a bit and comes when called for supper.

Thea likes to watch while I work in the garden.

She loves to play and cannot understand why none of the chickens want to play with her. 

We have no idea if she was left at our house or found it on her own.  She is a sweet cat and has a forever home with us!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Key Lime Cake

Last month my father-in-law asked me to bake a cake for my mother-in-law's birthday dinner.  I remembered that she loved key lime pie, but I needed a cake recipe.  I turned to Pinterest of course.  I found several recipes for key lime pound cake.  I wanted something a bit grander though.  Then I stumbled upon this key lime cake recipe from Bakerella.  The recipe used basic ingredients for the most part and was easy put together.

As usual I made a few changes to the original recipe.  I used juice from regular limes (at 25 cents each) rather than key limes.  I also added some lime zest to the cake and the frosting.  I substituted Greek yogurt for the sour cream only because I had yogurt that needed to be used.  I cut the amount of sugar in the cake to 1 cup.  I also halved the frosting recipe.  It was plenty of frosting for the cake.  I cannot imagine trying to put a full frosting recipe on one cake.  I added a fresh lime slice to the top.

The cake was delicious and not too sweet.  It was very moist.  I ended up making the cake again for a church dinner the following weekend.  This recipe is a definite keeper!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Holiday Grand Plan Week 7 and Last Week's Recap

Recap first and then my plans....I managed to do a bit of cleaning but not much.  I am beginning to feel like I should just give up.  Every little bit helps though.  I did get my craft room table cleaned and worked more on the Christmas cards.  I spent some time working on the baby blanket.  It is coming along well.  The weather finally cleared, and I was able to work in the yard.  I spent a couple of days in the garden and another afternoon cleaning up construction mess.

Week 7 of the Holiday Grand Plan can be found here.  I do not have a guest room so I can continue to work on catching up.

*I will try again to finish the bathroom.  Keeping up on regular cleaning keeps me busy enough.

Holiday Prep
*I will continue to work on the Christmas cards and may simplify the design slightly to go ahead and finish those this week.

*I am crocheting dish cloths and scrubbers to donate to a church sale so the blanket is on hold for a week.  These come together quickly, and crocheting relaxes me.

*Continue to move donations and Operation Christmas Child stuff to the church.
*Spend some time organizing the freezer in the house.  I do not want to do a major cleaning, but it does need some work.
*Keep up with cleaning the construction mess in the yard.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Weekly Savings

We received a bill from the building supply company for the materials delivered.  I compared the bill slips with the delivery slips and discovered we had been overcharged for blocks.  I took both receipts in and was credited for $10.11.

I stuck to my $30 grocery budget this week.  I used coupons toward milk, lettuce, frozen pizza, and frozen fries.  That amount also includes purchasing a pack of red onion sets for the garden.  I planted 50 and passed the others on to family members who also garden.

My mother gave me a vase of flowers.  They were used in a wedding and then used in a church service.  The original arrangement started to fall apart.  She saved the best to make individual arrangements.

I put out some Halloween decorations once again using items I already had on hand.  I have things that I love so I happily use them over and over again.

I planned leftovers for lunch on the day that I worked.  Having a meal already planned removes the temptation to pick up something from a fast food place or the grocery store.

I put together a simple birthday gift of lotion and candles using items from my pantry.  These items were free or very cheap so I had little out of pocket cost.  It made a nice, useful gift though.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Book Review: Cluttered Attic Secrets

Cluttered Attic Secrets is written by Jan Christensen, a new to me author of cozy mysteries.  The book started off strong and had a good flow throughout.  The story opens with friends Tina and Leslie investigating a possible haunting in Leslie's home.  The story takes a more sinister turn when a murder occurs.  The book has a touch of romance but not so much that it turned me off.  (I am not a fan of romance novels at all.

The plot kept me wanting to read just a few more pages.  The support characters added to the story rather than causing confusion which is often a fine line.  Once again I did not realize that this was not the first book in the series until after reading it.  Cluttered Attic Secrets stands well on its own.

My only criticism of the book is the sprinkling of minor errors throughout.  Perhaps this was due to the ebook copy that I received and was resolved in final editing.  While the errors did jump out at me, I was not annoyed to the point I wanted to quit reading.

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

My New Adjusted Grocery Budget & a Coffee Discount

Last week Susan from Retirement Fun(ds) left a comment regarding my grocery budet:

How will you be able to cut $20 from your grocery budget?  Won't you need every dollar to stockpile your pantry for Christmas baking?

 This is a great question considering that my budget was pretty small ($50/week for 2 adults) to start.  We eat 99.9% of our meals at home.  Here are some ways I plan to cut that to $30/week for at least the next few months.

  1. I already have a well stocked pantry.  My aunt lives near a larger city and loves to bargain shop.  She keeps me supplied with many basics  (pasta, sugar, etc) and also picks up some free after coupon items.  I currently have a large home freezer that is full of garden produce.  I also canned several buckets of tomatoes.  
  2. I cook basic foods.  Fancy ingredients are fun to use, but they are also more expensive.  Basic spices bought in bulk can be transformed into many things.  I have said before that I often toss packaged convenience foods, but I very rarely throw out flour, cocoa, salt, pepper, etc.  Having basic ingredients means you can easily create a wide variety of meals.
  3. We process our own meat (venison).  W is a hunter.  I know many people are against hunting, but meat does not grow in those wrapped packages you see in the grocery store. It is difficult to find meats at the grocery store that have been raised humanely.  I buy very little pork and only one brand of chicken.  W only kills what we need to eat and nothing more.  We have our own equipment for processing the venison and a vacuum sealer to keep it fresh in the freezer.  
  4. I buy in bulk.  I can get two pounds of yeast from Sam's Club for less than one jar of yeast at the grocery store.  also purchase flour and spices in bulk.  If you do not think you can use everything, consider splitting with a friend or family member.
  5. I buy items only when they are on sale.  This is a big money saver.  For example I never buy milk if it is not on sale.  Milk freezes well so I buy several gallons when it goes on sale.  By eating what I have in the pantry, I have a little extra money to buy things on sale to replace holes in my pantry stockpile.  
  6. I grow a garden.  I am fortunate to live in a climate where I can grow something year around.  Even if you cannot grow in the winter months, you can grow something in the summer.  Limited space?  Many things grow well in containers.  I have an abundance of peppers so I have been freezing them to use during the winter months.  Lettuce grows well here this time of year.  A package of seeds and homemade salad dressing means we can eat cheap but delicious salads.
Those are just a few of my money saving tricks.  I fully expect that some weeks I will go over the $30 budget.  That is okay.  Setting the $30 budget makes me think about my purchases.  It makes it easier for me to say "NO" to impulse purchases.  It is also forcing me to use what I have in the pantry.  

One purchase is non-negotiable, and that is our Camano Island Coffee.  I would switch over to grocery store coffee.  I am not saying I would like it, but I would make the sacrifice.  W on the other hand says this is one of the last food areas he will give up.  The coffee is shade grown, organic, and fair trade.  While the first two are good, I feel strongly about the last.  It is also roasted fresh-to-order  We use the Coffee Lovers Club which costs $34.99 for two pounds of coffee.  Yes, it is more expensive, but the taste is beyond comparison.   We each generally drink two cups of coffee a day, and this amount lasts us for 10 weeks.  That comes out to $3.50 per week.  Many people spend that much (or more) on one cup of coffee.

Now for the discount, by using this link you can get $20 off your first order.  (disclosure:  I will also get a $20 discount on my first order if you sign up through my referral link.)  You can choose the type of coffee and the grind.  You also get to choose how often you want the coffee delivered.  If you try it but do not like it, you can cancel any future shipments.  Details on how can be found at this link.  Just be forewarned that the coffee is delicious!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Holiday Grand Plan: Week 6 and Last Week's Recap

This week I will start with a recap.  Let me say if you are building a new house, do not plan to do much else.  I did not get any extra cleaning done.  I had to go into town three days - standing volunteer work, errands (mainly for the new house), and work.  The last meant extra money which is good.  My craft room is a disaster so I did no work on the Christmas cards.  The weather was wet all week so no work in the yard.  (My prayers go out to the flood victims, and I am thankful it was only damp and a minor disruption here.)  I never made it to the church to do work on the shoebox stuff.  Finally I gave up on doing the felt paper dolls this year.  They became more of a dreaded chore than a lovingly crafted gift.  I will plan to do them for next Christmas.

I have given myself permission to accept that things are not always going to go as planned.  Building the house is a once in a lifetime adventure.  For this season of my life, I will do what I can and let the rest go!

That does not mean that I do not have plans for the coming week and for the Holiday Grand Plan.  Here is a link to the official list for Week Six.  The good thing for me is that I have no kid's room to clean so I can try for a bit of catch up.

I am going to try again to clean the master bathroom.  If I can get the cabinet decluttered and the bathtub/shower scrubbed, I will be thrilled!

Holiday Prep
I hope to clean off my craft room table enough to work on Christmas cards.  I now need to keep an eye out for six little girl gifts.

It is a relief to not have to think about the felt dolls.  I am back to crocheting the baby blanket which will be a Christmas gift.  I am about 1/5 of the way done.

Depending on the weather, I hope to work in the yard.  My other plan is to haul boxes of items to the church for a yard sale at the end of the month.  I am donating the items just to get them out of the way.  I also want to move all of the Operation Christmas Child stuff to the church.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Weekly Savings

I had to go into town to volunteer at the nursing home on Monday.  I went straight there and back home spending nothing than a little gas.

Wednesday was another trip to town to pick out a tub and a shower insert.  I stopped at the grocery store and only bought 2 gallons of milk.

I lined dried all of our laundry working around the cloudy, misty weather.

I started back doing Swagbucks.  I decided that I could use some of the Amazon gift cards to buy general things for the new house for nothing out of pocket.  That will free up some money for other things.

I taught a private computer lesson at the local technical college.  I was able to pick up some paperwork for the new house on this day too.  I planned ahead for an easy lunch when I got home.  I made potato salad the day before and put ribs in the crockpot before leaving the house.  It kept me from picking up anything easy at the grocery store on the way home.

We had a dinner at church today.  I made deviled eggs (free eggs from my chickens), layered salad (with lettuce leftover for a salad later this week), six pans of dinner rolls (brought home leftovers to freeze), and a key lime cake (for $1.50 worth of limes).  I also made some sauces for the chicken tenders using items from my pantry.

I received $2 in Amazon credit for Kindle books by choosing the No-Rush shipping rather than Prime.  I was not in a hurry for the items and can use the credit for a free or discounted book.

I picked peppers and herbs from the garden.

I stopped at Dollar General on the way home from teaching to pick up dog and cat foods.  The dog food was on sale and had a $1 coupon on the package.  Both foods are cheaper there than anywhere else.

I have been making orange envelopes to go along with my homemade Halloween stationery.  I make the stationery and envelopes from copy paper.  It is much cheaper than buying stationery.  I use a Martha Stewart scoring board and glue sticks bought on sale at back to school time to make the envelopes.

I stopped buying air fresheners since they aggravate my allergies.  Instead I have been using essential oils in my diffuser to freshen the house.  It is cheaper and smells much better.

I picked up a few bananas and used fruit already on hand to make a big bowl of fruit salad.  It seems that when there are bits and pieces of fruit we will eat it better when made into a fruit salad.

I made a double batch of mini spinach quiche.  These and a salad make a nice meal for me when W is at work.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Book Review: Called for Life

I think most everyone can remember the news story of the first person treated for Ebola in America.  I do not watch much news coverage, but I distinctly remember watching Dr. Kent Brantly step out of an ambulance and walk into the hospital.

Called for Life:  How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic by Kent and Amber Brantly with David Thomas takes that basic news coverage to another level.  It puts human faces and names with the generic stories of the Ebola outbreak.  The book begins with the story of how Kent and Amber Brantly met and eventually became missionaries in Africa.  It transitions into the start of the Ebola outbreak and to how Kent Brantley first became sick.

I enjoyed how the story unfolded from both Kent's and Amber's points of view.  I started the book and read a couple of chapters.  Two days later I had intentions of reading a couple more chapters.  Instead I read until I finished the entire book.  The story was both fascinating and heart breaking.  It was a story that needed to be told.  Called for Life is a book that I will recommend and share.

disclosure:  I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.  All opinions are my own!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Furry Friday

 Leo has happily acted as supervisor while everyone has been working on our new house.  He has done more than enough barking as workers come and go.

Paris could not care less about the construction.  She was more interested in the string that was used to square up the house.  Fortunately there were some extra pieces for playtime.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Decorating for Autumn on a Budget

I shared this wreath earlier.  I have used it for several years so it has paid for itself long ago.  Using a wreath over and over is very frugal.

I bought all three scarecrows on clearance over 10 years ago.  They are older so I decided to use them on the porch rather than in the house.  The pumpkins are left from last year's harvest.  I have been feeding some to the chickens.  These were still in great condition so I decided to use them for decorating and will give them to the chickens after Thanksgiving!

The decorations are not fancy, but I was able to decorate without spending a penny.  That definitely works for super savings mode!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Review: Scrapbook of the Dead

I have another cozy mystery to review:  Scrapbook of the Dead by Mollie Cox Bryan.  The book centers around my favorite holiday, Halloween.  Add in scrapbooking, and it was a very interesting book.  My only issue with the book is that it jumped around to several different storylines in the beginning.  Most of the plots came together in the end.  Although one just seemed out of place.

Overall Scrapbook of the Dead was a great book.  The twists kept me unsure of the outcome until the very end.  I will definitely keep my eye out for more of this series.

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Weekly Savings

My biggest savings this past week was not buying anything extra.  Focusing on needs and not wants is a positive thing.

We had to take down the clothesline so the cement truck could get into the back part of the yard.  W put it back up the next day in another part of the yard.

I cut my weekly grocery budget by $20.  We have a good stockpile of food right now.  I should still be able to take advantage of any great sales.  At the same time I can focus on using what we have in the freezer and pantry.

I need to make a cake for my mother-in-law's birthday.  I baked one from scratch for less than $6.  I will use some of the leftover ingredients to make a second one for a church dinner this weekend.  I also made some dinner rolls.

A neighbor passed away this past week.  I used ingredients I had on hand to make food to take to the family.

The weather has been cooler so we have not had to use the a/c.  That should definitely help the electric bill.

I decorated the front porch for autumn without spending a penny!  I used things I already had.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Holiday Grand Plan: Week 5 & Last Week's Recap

Last week was beyond busy.  With keeping up with things for the house construction, a family dinner, and a neighbor's death, I got next to nothing done on my list.  My plan this week is to carry on and play catch up as best I can.  You can find the official list here.  First my plans (which are much more basic) for this week....

Cleaning - Master Bathroom
Our current house has one tiny bathroom. I am going to spend 30 minutes a day working to clean and organize it.

Holiday Prep
Work on Christmas cards

Continue to work on felt paper dolls - This is my priority until they are finished.

*Spend some time cleaning up the yard and garden.  Building a house is messy.  If the weather permits I want to try to clean before it gets out of hand.

*Spend several hours working on Operation Christmas Child.  I want to have everything organized by the middle of October.

Now for last week....

The only cleaning I got done was boxing up a few things to donate.  I did decorate for autumn - more on that later this week - but did no work on my Christmas cards.  I started on a freezer meal but never finished it.

I did get some work done on the felt paper dolls.  I really need to focus on those.  I keep putting off working on them so it is best to just push ahead and finish them!

With everything going on I will be happy to keep our current house clean and get all of the homemade Christmas gifts done.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Holiday Grand Plan: Week 4 & Last Week's Recap

Life is busy here.  I had no idea that new home construction would suck up so much of my time even though I am not doing any of the actual work yet.  Week 4 of the Holiday Grand Plan focuses on the master bedroom  I am getting back to the schedule and plan to work in there this week.  You can find the official list and printables here.  My list this week will be a bit simpler as I have other things going on.  I am taking a week off from Operation Christmas Child prep unless I end up with some free time.

Cleaning - Bedroom
I plan to give the bedroom a thorough cleaning with dusting and washing all of the bed linens if the weather allows.

Holiday Prep
~Finish making half of my Christmas cards
~Make two freezer meals
~Decorate for autumn

~Sew faces and hair on felt paper dolls
~Continue to work on crochet baby blanket

~Move all yard sale stuff to storage building until it can be taken to church

How did I do last week?
Cleaning - The pantry is organized.

Holiday Prep - I did not work on my Christmas cards at all.  I made French bread pizzas and turkey & cheese pocket sandwiches for the freezer.

Crafts - I cut out all of the felt paper doll pieces.  I finished the baby hat so that gift set is done.  I started on a larger crochet baby blanket that will be a Christmas gift.

Operation Christmas Child - Stuffed animals, toys, and building bricks are divided.

Other - I am calm-ish.  I admit there have been times I needed a hot cup of tea and some quiet time.  The baby chicks are happily scratching in the dirt.  I am keeping on schedule with reading which helps with staying calm!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Weekly Savings & Super Savings Mode

Now that we have started construction on our new home, W and I have agreed to go into super savings mode.   We are getting a very modest amount of fun money which we will use for any personal wants.  Any other purchases much be a need.  If we can make do without buying something, we will.  The less money we have to borrow to finish the house, the better.

Monday we ran errands but decided to eat at home.  We stretched our Monday evening meal into lunch on Tuesday.

I have started paying for things with cash when possible.  I am keeping the change from cash purchases and putting that into a jar.  This extra money will go straight toward the new house.  I added the nickel that came in a junk mail envelope to the change jar.  If every penny counts, the a nickel counts even more.

I started a grocery list but then trashed it.  My mom was going to the store so I just asked her to pick up a bag of salad mix (on sale plus I had a coupon).  She had no trouble sticking to my one item list.

W requested sandwiches as light lunch meals this week.  I was tempted by the on sale deli meat from the grocery store.  Instead I baked a turkey breast from the freezer.  We ate sandwiches for several meals.  I made turkey and cheese pocket sandwiches for the freezer with the remainder of the turkey.

The sub-contractor used a roll of twine left from another job.  I put up the roll of twine that we had purchased.  If it does not get used this week, I will return it to the store for a credit.

The weather has been cool enough that we have not needed the air conditioner.  I have opened the windows to let in some fresh air.  This will add up to a savings on our electric bill.

I scaled back our Christmas card list.  I am making all of our cards with basic materials and will hand deliver any local cards to save on postage.  I will be mailing cards mainly to people I write letters to anyway.

I froze some bananas that were mushy.  Next week I plan to use those and some frozen blueberries to make banana blueberry muffins.  W will not eat them, but this will be an easy breakfast or snack for me.

Looking at the construction in the side yard makes it very easy to say no to any extra purchases.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Book Review: Dangerously Dark

One of my favorite types of books is cozy mysteries.  I find them interesting but relaxing at the same time.  A cozy mystery is the perfect bedtime book except for the fact that some are so good I have a hard time putting them down.  Dangerously Dark by Colette London is one of those books.  I was hooked from page one.  The main character, Hayden Mundy Moore, drew me into the story.  The pace was fast and seemed a bit choppy, but it worked.  The theme of the book was chocolate, and the descriptions in the book had me reaching for a cup of hot cocoa.

Once I finished the book I realized that it was not the first in the series.  The book stood on its own.  I was never lost regarding the plot.  The characters were well introduced and were interesting.  I did guess who the killer was, but the fun was in reading to the end to find out if I was correct.

The book concluded with several recipes.  Many times the recipes in food themed cozy mysteries are a bit too "out there" for me to even consider trying.  That was not the case with Dangerously Dark.  I have the "Now Now Now Chocolate Sugar Toast" at the top of my to try list.

Dangerously Dark will be released on September 29.  It is available for pre-order from Amazon.

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