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?