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!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Book Review: Treat

Treat by Stephanie Banyas is a small book full of tasty recipes.  It elevates the simple rice cereal treat to a new level while keeping the simplicity of the preparation the same.  The book begins with recipes for homemade marshmallows.  Since candy thermometers and myself are arch enemies, I skipped over this part. Nearly all of the recipes build upon the basic rice cereal treat recipe.  I made the salted caramel treats and the peanut butter cup treats and shared them with several people.  I received nothing but positive comments.

The size of the book is smaller than normal books but is the perfect size for this book.  The recipes do not have dozens of ingredients, and the instructions are four to five steps in length.  The book easily lies flat when opened to a recipe so I was not constantly trying to prop it open.  While not all of the recipes are accompanied by photographs, Treat has a variety of bright and fun pictures throughout.

I love that the treats are fancy enough to share at a potluck or church dinner but have flavors that will appeal to most people.  I often find myself looking for an easy to prepare sweet treat and can see myself turning to this book time and time again.

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

Feathered Friday

I shared on A New Home in the Country about the start of construction on our new home.  The first phase involved digging which thrilled the chickens.  As the construction crew dug, earthworms were unearthed.  The chickens happily wandered around eating worms.  

I am pretty sure the chickens thought this was the best week ever.  Someone else was doing all of the work, and all they had to do was show up and enjoy the buffet!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Moringa Tree

I had never heard of a moringa tree until I read about it on one of my favorite blogs, Schneider Peeps.  Angi hosted a giveaway in June with a prize of a moringa tree root.  I entered and was very excited to win one of the roots.  The giveaway was courtesy of Karen at Blue Yonder Urban Farms.

Moringa is full of nutrients.  The seeds can be used to purify water.  You can see a couple of posts on the benefits here and here.

I received my moringa root through the mail and was happy with the size and condition.

I opted to plant my root in a large container so I could move the plant into the greenhouse during the winter.  In recent years we had a winter day where the high never got out of the 20s.  I know that is warm to many of you, but it is scary cold to me.  I opted not to take any chances on losing my moringa tree.

The picture above was taken at the end of July . The picture below is what the root looked like about a month later.

The tree is continuing to grow well.  I am starting to look more into the uses of the leaves.  It seems to be a good substitute for kale in soups and the young leaves are often used in salads.  The dried leaves are used for tea or ground into a powder.

Are you interested in growing moringa?  Blue Yonder Urban Farms has a store and offers a 12 month old moringa tree root (which is what I received), cuttings, and seeds.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Handmade Gift Idea: Insulated Casserole Carrier

I am a novice seamstress.  I can sew a (mostly) straight line.  I was pleased that the insulated casserole carrier was a simple project.  The tutorial is courtesy of 2 Little Hooligans.  The instructions were easy to understand.  I loved the step-by-step photos.  I made a change and use the cotton belting for the handles.  I am not a fan of turning long tubes of fabric.  To attach those I followed a tutorial from Homemade by Jill. I did use the original instructions to place them correctly.

Here is my finished carrier.....

I did opt to use fabric that I already had on hand to keep the cost a bit lower.  I ordered the cotton belting and velcro from Amazon as I live in the land of no craft stores.  This is a good challenge project if you are a beginner at sewing.  I had enough of the insulating layer left to make an oven mitt as a future project.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Holiday Grand Plan: Week 3

The official cleaning area for this week is the entry/foyer.  My house does not have that room so I will be switching things up a bit.  My pantry is in horrible shape.  I have too much in there and it is poorly organized.  Go here to see the official list for this week.

Cleaning- Pantry
My plan this week is to organize the pantry.  It is a huge mess, and I want it to be functional.

Holiday Prep
~Finalize card list and print labels
~Make two freezer meals (French bread pizza & taco meat)

~Felt paper dolls - I want to get all of the dolls cut out and begin stitching them together
~Crochet baby blanket - this will be a Christmas gift.  I have no plans to finish but want to start.
~Crochet baby hat - this is a gift to match the blanket and ruffled diaper cover.  I just have to decide on the pattern

Operation Christmas Child
~Sort stuffed animals - I promise to get this done this week.
~Bag toy cars - the children like to put two cars in each box so the recipient can play with a friend..
~Bag building bricks - I have 3 bags and would like to get 1 divided this week.

~Keep calm.  Major changes are coming.  More on that when they have started.
~Move more baby chicks.
~Read.  I am making an effort to take time to relax so reading is on the schedule.

I am working more on crafts and Operation Christmas Child since cleaning is on the light side this week.  Have you started thinking about the holidays yet?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Update: Holiday Grand Plan Week 2

Here is my week two update.  I stayed very busy, but I feel like I accomplished quite a bit this week.  Go here for a reminder of everything that was on my list.

Cleaning - I finished everything on my living room cleaning list.  The room feels much better.

Holiday Prep - I made two freezer meals (macaroni & cheese and turkey sausage).  I did not quite complete the 20 cards but I am close enough.  I need to add a stamped sentiment on the inside of each card.  I also did not print the labels.  I am seriously considering revising my list for budget reasons.  My tape supply is good.

Crafts - The casserole carrier is done.  I will share that later in the week.  I have a good plan for the felt paper dolls.  I also finished the diaper cover.

Operation Christmas Child - The sewing kits are done, but I still have not sorted the stuffed animals.  I need W's help to get the container of stuffed animals.  Hopefully he can help me with that this week.

Weekly Savings

This week flew by in a whirlwind.  I hardly remember what I did so I am going to hit the high points.  Next week I need to write things down throughout the week.

The temperature has dropped enough that we only needed the air conditioner a few times.  We also had a few days of rain which helped the garden.

Meals were all cooked at home using ingredients I had on hand.  I am making more of an effort to especially have an easy at home meal option for our errand days.  This way we are not tempted to stop and get take out.

I did take advantage of the Ultimate Healthy Living bundle.  It contained an essential oils online class that I wanted to take. The class was valued at $135. I also found a Craftsy class (Designing an Edible Garden $30) that I wanted to take.  This was in addition to the many ebooks.  I had already saved up the money to purchase this bundle.

I cut mint and lemon balm from the garden.  I also harvested an assortment of peppers

I started a free online course on essential oils and natural health (available because I signed up for a previous free offer).

That covers the main points.  Do you have any weekly savings to share?  Leave a comment sharing your frugal accomplishments!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Book Review: Gorgeous for Good

Gorgeous for Good has been on my reading list since I saw author Sophie Uliano discussing it on a news show.  I loved the idea of a natural approach to beauty.  Even better was the fact that it was not an all or nothing natural product book.

First are the things I loved:  The book never made me feel like I was a horrible person for not following a strict set of rules.  This alone kept me reading.  I was happy to consider making changes to my lifestyle...the main one being skin care. In the days after I finished reading, I found myself being more mindful of how I treated my skin as well as what I ate.  Gorgeous for Good gave me the little push I needed to take better care of me!

I did not really have things I considered negatives.  I will call them things to consider.  The first two-thirds of the book had a large amount of information.  It can feel a bit overwhelming.  I know it is not possible to remember everything, but the book will serve as a good reference.  The 30 day program was not discussed until nearly two-thirds of the way into the book.  One downside for me was the amount of changes made all at once.  I know some people could jump into all of the changes with no problem.  I prefer starting small and building gradually.

I cannot see myself making all of the changes suggested in this book.  Even small changes can have a positive effect and Gorgeous for Good inspires those.

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

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Fun Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Item - Building Bricks

Since my church has a packing party each November, I am always on the lookout for items that I can purchase in bulk.  I first saw building bricks featured on Clip with Purpose earlier this year.  Building bricks are simply Lego type bricks.

I purchased a few of the 1000 piece packs  from Amazon for $39.95.  Amazon also offers a 500 piece pack for $24.95.  I put between 30 and 40 pieces in each of our 5-9 and 10-14 boy boxes.  These would also be great in girl boxes too.  My testers are the children in my Sunday night Bible class.  Their ages range from 5-13.  Everyone enjoyed trying out the building bricks, and they were a definite hit.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Curious about the New House

I posted an update (of sorts) at A New Home in the Country.  Hop over there to see the latest!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Holiday Grand Plan: Week 2

Week 1 went great, but I have a long time to go until Christmas.  I hope posting here will keep me motivated.  Go here to see the official week 2 information with printables.

Cleaning - Living Room:  Once again the focus is on cleaning
~Wipe Down Walls
~Clean Fans
~Clean TV
~Clean Rug
~Clean A/C Filter
~Clean Aquarium Cabinet
~Clean TV Cabinet
~Divide DVDs
~Vacuum Well (including moving furniture)

Holiday Prep
~Finish Making 20 Cards
~Make 2 Freezer Meals
~Print Card Labels
~Check Scotch Tape:  Nothing is worse than discovering you are out of tape when it is time to wrap gifts.

~Casserole Carrier
~Felt Paper Dolls
~Ruffled Diaper Cover (Using up some grey yarn left from the blanket)

Operation Christmas Child
~Sort Stuffed Animals
~Finish Sewing Kits

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Weekly Savings

While not a very exciting week, I feel like I managed some good savings.

*I stuck to the grocery budget.  I did take advantage of a sale and some coupons to stock up on inexpensive garden peas.

*W borrowed a front end loader from my uncle and moved some dirt into the greenhouse to level the floor. The dirt was free (from the back part of our church's cemetery).

*I refreshed the porch and front yard with no money spent.

*The weather was cooler for a few days so we did not need the air conditioner.  I take those days when I can get them.

*Meals were a focus of using up what we have as well as eating up leftovers.

A simple week but there were still savings to be found!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Update - Holiday Grand Plan Week 1

I thought I would share updates on Saturday evenings of how the week's plans turned out.  Go here to get a reminder of what was on my list.

Cleaning - I finished everything on my cleaning/maintenance list.  I spent nothing this week to refresh the front porch.

This is a wreath I have used for several years.  It hints at fall while still taking into account that it feels like 100+ degrees outside.

I thinned out some plants.  Due to the heat and amount of sun the porch gets, I have mostly succulents.

The mailbox was sanded and got a fresh coat of paint.  I used part of can of paint leftover from another project so it was free.

Holiday Prep - I finished everything on this list.  

Crafts - I finished the baby blanket and did some more work on the casserole carrier.  I did not get started on the felt paper dolls though.

Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes - I still need to work on sorting some stuffed animals, but the rest is done!

Other - Done!  The garden is planted, and the baby chicks are happy to have room to run and dust!

Book Review: Blue Ribbon Canning

Blue Ribbon Canning by Linda J Amendt is a celebration of winning canning recipes from fairs across the nation.  When I was younger, my area had a county fair with competitions.  Back then I was too young to appreciate the allure of the blue ribbon.   This book captures the excitement of the blue ribbon.

First up let's talk about what I love about Blue Ribbon Canning.  It starts off with the basics - ingredients, canning equipment, techniques, and processing.  The focus here is on food safety.  No one wants to waste time and ingredients only to have the end result spoil.  The book has basic recipes but also includes unique combinations such as the Pear Lime Jam and Strawberry Lemon Marmalade.  The contributors are fair winners, and many are featured in special write-ups throughout the book.

My only problem with the book is the amount of sugar used in the recipes.  I prefer to have more fruit than sugar in my jams and jellies.  I know the amounts included in the book are common.

I found plenty of recipes to make the book a great resource.  I have yet to try pressure canning, but the step-by-step instructions make me what to take the leap.  The Sauces and Salsas section is packed with recipes full of natural ingredients that I can pronounce.  I can easily see myself making ketchup and BBQ sauce.  Overall I feel the book offers something for everyone.

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

Friday, September 4, 2015

Furry Friday: How the Indoor Pets Handle the Rain

The indoor pets have varying ways that they handle the rainy weather.  First up is Lucy.  Since she barely goes outside on a sunny day, she curls up on her favorite rug during wet weather.  

Next is Paris.  She will venture outside when the ground is damp.  When it is really rainy, she prefers to view the world from an open window.

Leo hates bad weather - thunder in particular.  He is not overly fond of being out in the rain but can tolerate a light drizzle.  This particular time the rain had been falling off and on for hours.  At the first break he ran out to sit in the grass.  Fortunately he picked a part of the yard that drains well so the ground was not soggy.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

In the Garden: Last Week

Obviously I did not get much done in the garden this week with rain off and on.  I am thankful for every drop though.  That is less that I have to water.  Rainwater is always better than water from the sprinkler anyway.

The main plants still producing are peppers and the herb plants.

The younger chickens can fit through the wire still and are doing a good job at keeping the bugs under control.

W has made good progress with moving the greenhouse to its new location.  A few of the windows came from a yard sale.  Most of them were free from a house that was being remodeled.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

September Menu

I have written down a general menu for this month with a focus on using what we have in the freezer.  The second part of my plan is to also write down what we actually eat.  I hope between the two I will have a good working menu that I can use again next September.  Meals are still pretty simple as the temperatures can still be quite warm.

*Hamburgers & Chips
*Spaghetti Pie, Salad, Breadsticks
*Baked Bean Casserole, Slaw, Cornbread
*Venison with Potatoes, Carrots, & Onions
*Taco Salads
*Pork Tenderloin, Macaroni & Cheese, Peas
*Big Salads
*Beef & Bean Burritos
*Pancakes, Turkey Sausage, & Fruit
*Tuna Sandwiches & Chips
*Sloppy Joes & Chips
*Tomato Soup & Salads
*Pizza & Salads
*Turkey Sandwiches
*Egg Salad Sandwiches
*Honey Barbecue Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Peas
*Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes
*Ribs, Potato Salad, Green Beans
*Black Bean Fajitas
*Barbecue Stuffed Potatoes, Salads
*PB&J Sandwiches
*Kabobs, Parmesan/Garlic Quiona
*Salisbury Steak, Rice, Veggies
*Spaghetti & Meatballs
*Barbecue Sandwiches, Chips

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Testing, Testing: Pineapple Upside Down Cake Trifle

I was searching for a dessert to take to a church dinner.  I had pinned the Pineapple Upside Down Cake Trifle twice so I decided I would make it.  Mine did not turn out quite as picture perfect, but it was delicious.

As usual I made a few changes to the recipe.  When preparing the cake mix, I used the pineapple juice that I drained off in place of the water.  I also used a stabilized whipped cream rather than Cool Whip.

I was really surprised that W ate several servings of this.  He is not a fan of pineapple upside down cake.  He kept talking about how good it was.  Not much of it was eaten at the church dinner though.  Still it is a definite keeper as the pineapple flavor was amazing!