Monday, February 29, 2016

Weekly Savings

W took Monday off work as he had some vacation time that had to be used up.  He needed to pick up a few things for the house, and I needed to go help with the birthday party at the nursing home.  He dropped me off and I caught a ride home with another volunteer.

Also on his day off he built me four new raised beds with boards and scraps leftover from building the new house.  We used compost, rabbit manure (we have an abundant supply), and peat (purchased) to fill the beds.  We planted 4 blueberry bushes which had been purchased on clearance in one bed.  Two of the beds got raspberry canes which we dug up from our raspberry plants.  I wanted to move them to a different area of the garden to give them more sun.  I have not decided what I will plant in the third bed yet.  Most likely it will be herbs and flowers to attract bees.

I also made a bee/butterfly watering area using items from around the yard so my cost was $0.  I will share that in a separate garden post this week.

A neighbor brought over a big box of not so fresh fruits and vegetables.  The farm animals were happy for the extra treats.  W was able to get several avocado seeds to try to root.  He desperately wants an avocado tree or two (or ten).

Someone told me that a local grocery store had marked down a bunch of items.  When W and I went into town to run errands, we stopped by and walked the aisles.  We bought flour, cereal, herbal tea, and tuna.  I also splurged on some Izze sparkling juice drinks.  I love them but rarely buy them due to the price.  At 50% off W encouraged me to splurge.  I am stocked up on flour for the next few months which is a plus with all of the baking I do.

While in the grocery store W asked about lunch, I offered him a big salad with diced ham and cheese once we got home.  It used up some items we already had on hand and stopped us from picking up any extra food or takeout.

Not an exciting week but some are like that.  How did your savings turn out this past week?

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Ghostwriter Anonymous

Ghostwriter Anonymous by Noreen Wald introduces readers to Jake O'Hara, a mystery ghostwriter.  Things were fine for Jake until someone starts killing ghostwriters, and she is apparently the next target.  The pace of the book was good, and I was kept guessing until nearly the end.  It was a fun, cozy mystery that did make me wonder just how many ghostwriters are out there.

Ghostwriter Anonymous is due to be released this coming week.  It is the first in the Jake O'Hara Ghostwriter Mystery Series.  Jake's mother and friends are great supporting characters.  I have high hopes for the continuation of this series.

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

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Weekend Book Review

I am combining a couple of reviews in today's weekend book review post.  I may be doing this more often as I have been reading more lately but not all of the review require a full post.

Wedding Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
I have been a fan of Joanne Fluke for years.  I enjoy her books as much for the recipes as the story.  I was excited to read her latest book Wedding Cake Murder which was released this week.  It pains me a bit to say that I found the book disappointing.  The conversations between characters were a bit too artificial even for a fictional cozy mystery.  Imagine a B-rated movie and you have an idea of how the dialog went.  I read forever - close to half of the book - before I got to the murder.  I am not sorry that I read this book, but it is definitely not as good as previous books in the series.

The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire by Charles Morris
I love historical non-fiction books and The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire did not disappoint.  It was written in the style of the time immediately after the earthquake occurred.  It is not as easy to follow if you have something against non-modern writing.  I found it interesting as Mr. Morris discussed not only the earthquake and fire but other events of the time.  The story does not follow a set timeline but does jump around.  Overall it was a good account of a very tragic event in US history.

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

Friday, February 26, 2016

Feathered Friday

Our yard in fenced in and for the most part our chickens stay in the fence.  Lately some of the bantams have been going through the fence to get to the park beside our house.  They wander around the front yard before coming back into the yard.

Bantams are rarely known for eating plants.  They are mainly interested in bugs.  I am not too worried about them going out past the fence.  Of course the girls have a rooster or two nearby to keep them safe.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

In The Greenhouse

It has been some time since I posted what is growing in the greenhouse.  This is just a peek as I do have several pots of herbs that overwintered in there.  My dad dug up and potted a jalapeno pepper plant earlier in the winter, and it is sprouting out well.  He should have some early peppers.

This tomato plant is one that was bitten back before W got the heater in my greenhouse hooked up.  It had a small tomato on it, and the stalk never froze so I kept watering it.  In a few days I will be rewarded with a vine-ripened home grown tomato.

One of my pineapple plants had bloomed in the fall and put on a tiny pineapple.  It has continued to grow in the greenhouse but has a few more months to go.  Homegrown pineapples are a lesson in patience.  The flavor of one picked off the plant when ripe blows away a grocery store pineapple.

I am late with starting my seeds this year due to the new house craziness.  I am planning to purchase some of my pepper plants and maybe a tomato or two from a neighbor who runs a nursery.  I planted seeds for pepper plants that I have trouble finding (baby bell, purple bell, and pepperocini).  I also prefer heirloom tomatoes so I grown those myself and have started some herb seeds too.  I bought the plant labels on clearance last year and am wishing now that I had bought more.

I use saved mushroom containers to hold the peat pellets.  They are the perfect size to hold up to four seed starts.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Valentine's Decorating

I am a bit late posting this.  For the Valentine's banquet at church, the men were in charge.  W agreed to handle the decorations.

He built a reusable photo booth for $20.  Most of the materials were things he had on hand.  He built it in sections so that it was easy to take apart for storing.  We ordered props from Amazon.  He used a paper tablecloth as the backdrop.

For the tables we used a white tablecloth and then cut patterned tablecloths into strips to use as runners.

For the dining tables we used the same base as the food tables.  He added a valentine to each place setting.  We also added some inexpensive centerpieces.

We purchased vases at Dollar Tree as well as some foam heart stickers.  W cut some branches from a tree in the yard, and we stuck the hearts to them.

We also purchased some simple frames.  I made an insert for each one with clip art and a Bible verse.

While we did purchase items, all of them (except the foam hearts and tablecloths) are reusable for another event.  The photo frames and vases can be repurposed for pretty much anything.  The photo booth can be used at other events as well.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Weekly Savings

I apologize for the lack of posts last week.  Life got super hectic, and I just needed some time to handle the craziness.  Now onto the savings....

I stuck to my grocery budget again for the past week.  I bought fresh items only as we are still eating from the pantry/freezer.

I delayed our coffee order for an extra week.  Good coffee is one area that W refuses to compromise on.  Since it still only costs us around $3.50 per week, I will happily indulge him.

I worked in the garden a couple of days while the weather was nice.  I have one raised bed that is full of weeds.  I borrowed a garden tool from my dad to make breaking it up a bit easier.  I also used some cardboard we had on hand to act as a weed barrier for a new raised bed.

I went through my seeds left from last year and discovered that I had most of what I needed.  While I had to order a few, my total was much lower than I expected.  It only took a few minutes to sort through what I had, but it saved me quite a bit of money.

I dried all of our laundry either on the line or on drying racks.

I used feed sacks to collect trash from the yard rather than a trash bag.  Both do the same job, but we always end up with a pile of empty feed sacks.

We are continuing to put the construction waste in with our regular trash.  We pass another home construction site while going to W's parents' house.  The one thing that always stands out in the enormous dumpster in the yard.  I am happy to avoid that expense.

I was in charge of finding a guest speaker for women's day at church.  I asked a friend at a neighboring church to speak and wanted to give her a little gift as a thank you.  I shopped from my pantry and included a nice bottle of lotion, two candles, and some of my homemade lip balms.  It all went into a gift bag I had gotten for free.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Furry Friday - Baby Bunnies

Baby goats are not the only new additions around here.  We have six baby bunnies.  They prefer to sleep in one big bunny pile.  They are about a month old and are getting into everything.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Weekly Savings

This past week felt hectic simply because we had so much going on.

W and I decorated our church social hall for the Valentine's banquet.  I will share pictures of that tomorrow.  We used some things we had on hand and purchased some items that are reusable another year.

I combined my grocery shopping with a teaching job to cut out an extra trip to town.  The grocery store was on the way home from my job.

Once again we worked on eating foods we have on hand.  My goal for this coming week is to eat from the freezer.  We also ate up all of the leftovers.  It helps that W is on board with this.

I dried all of the laundry on the outside clothesline or on drying racks in the house.

I pulled weeds out of some containers in the greenhouse.  These went to the rabbits, ducks, and chickens as a treat.

We sold some of our rabbits.  That is always hard for me to do.  We are raising rabbits, which means we need to sell some from time to time.

I gave myself a manicure using nail polish I already had.

I think the main thing this week was to skip out on any extra shopping.  I just need to keep it up!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Weekend Book Review: A Room with a Pew

A Room with a Pew by Peg Cochran is full of quirky characters.  At first I thought I might be put off by their odd behavior.  The more I read the more likeable they became.

Lucille and her best friend Flo are on the trail of a killer after Lucille's cousin, Louis, is murdered.  When it turns out the perpetually broke Louis had a pile of cash, Lucille and Flo are even more intrigued.  Their search leads them to a run in with some dangerous characters with plenty of laughs along the way.

A Room with a Pew is a good, lighthearted mystery.  I grew to love the characters and how they are just normal people.  I am looking forward to more books by Peg Cochran.

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

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Weekend Book Review: The Bee-Friendly Garden

I originally chose The Bee-Friendly Garden because we have added honeybees to our property, and I wanted them to be happy.  This book seemed perfect for teaching me how to make my garden more enticing to the honeybees.

I was pleasantly surprised that it is so much more.  The Bee-Friendly Garden begins with an explanation of why bee friendly gardens are important.  Then it talks about the varieties of bees including all of the types of native bees and not just honeybees.  I became even more inspired to add more plants to my garden to attract all types of bees.

In addition to chapters on the types of plants for a bee garden as well as plants to include in an edible garden, the book gives hints on designing your garden.  Readers are also provided with input on becoming bee activists.  One of my favorite sections is the guide to plants separated by region.  I also loved all of the color photographs of the types of bees.  I can hardly wait to go bee watching in my own garden.

Whether you are interested in making your vegetable garden more productive or helping the bee population, this is a wonderful reference.  I plan to keep this in my garden library and will continue to refer to it.  

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

Friday, February 12, 2016

Furry Friday - Baby Goats!

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

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

Here are a few more adorable baby goat pictures!

One last picture of Annabeth who follows my dad around everywhere

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Baking Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 8, 2016

Weekly Savings

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

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

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

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

I gave myself a manicure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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