Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Freezing Milk

Avalon asked a question on last week's savings post about freezing milk:

"I have what is probably a silly question about freezing milk. My husband says his mother always bought milk and froze it, but the times I've done so (I don't do anything special, just toss it in the freezer) it sours almost immediately when defrosted. What am I doing wrong?"

It is not a silly question at all.  My first answer is that you are not doing anything wrong.  One problem could be the brand of milk.  A major store sells milk that I have never had any luck using after it is frozen.  It separates as soon as it thaws and cannot be shaken enough to return to a proper consistency.   I know several people who have had the same problem when trying to freeze this brand of milk.  Try switching brands if possible.  I shop at a different store which sells a different brand of milk and very rarely have problems.

I try to freeze milk for no more than 6-8 weeks.  After that it can be more prone to separating.

I do let the milk sit on the counter until it is partially thawed but never completely thawed.  Terri mentioned the same thing in her reply.  Thawing a gallon of milk is not a quick process and rushing it will not give you the best results.

Freezing milk really is just as simple as putting it in the freezer.  It allows you the freedom to stock up while the price is good.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Weekly Savings

I skipped grocery shopping for the week.  We ate what we had with a focus on using up leftovers.

W cut down an old light pole in the yard.  It was given to us after the power company disconnected it several years ago.  W will use part of it for mounting the meter in our yard.  The other half will be a post for the new garden fence.

I made 15+ cups of breadcrumbs from end pieces of homemade bread that I had been stashing in the freezer.  I like to grind them up a bit in the food processor before toasting them.  It gives them a consistency similar to panko bread crumbs.

I got free garden help when our plumber's youngest daughter came over after school.  She helped me plant a few things, move some of the volunteer marigolds, and even pulled weeds.  Her dad assured me she was never that interested in their garden.

I received my free postage stamps in the mail for taking part in the Quad Readers' mail reporting program.

We returned a pile of items to Lowe's and got enough credit to cover one-fourth of the items we bought.

I made two loaves of bread for sandwiches.

I managed to get all of my laundry done before the rain moved in and was able to dry it on the line.

Once again all of our construction trash fit into the regular garbage can.  We recently rode by a new house construction and saw a huge dumpster sitting out front.  I know it was certainly more than our $18.50/month trash bill.

I did purchase two poblano pepper plants this week for $3.68 each.  These two plants will give me much more than $7+ worth of peppers.

My aunt purchased a six pack of eggplants but did not want all of them.  She shared one with me.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Weekend Book Reviews

This is an end of the month wrap up on book reviews. I have been making an effort to read more so I have several reviews to share with you today.

Shards of Glass by Cheryl Hollon:  I loved the characters and the background story of glass making.  My problem with this book is that I figured out who the killer was at barely one-fourth of the way through.  I read until the end hoping that there was a twist.  As much as I enjoyed the book, I like to be kept in suspense.  This is one area that the book was lacking.

Murder Most Wholesome by Staci McLaughlin:  This was a fun cozy mystery.  I enjoyed the setting at the O'Connell Organic Farm and Spa.  As a serious gardener it was fun to immerse myself into the world of an organic farm and the farmer's market.  Dana works at the organic farm and is pushed outside of her comfort zone when friend, Zennia, discovers a body in her garden.  Dana is now responsible for cooking duties at the farm and takes side trips to the local commune in an attempt to solve the mystery and get Zennia back in the kitchen.

The Skeleton Garden by Marty Wingate:  I adored this book.  It reminded me so much of the British show "Rosemary and Thyme".  Pru is a Texas native getting to know her brother Simon while restoring an English garden.  Two bodies murdered decades apart put Pru right in the middle of the mystery.  The plot is not fast paced, but I loved all of the side characters, garden discussion, and sub-plots.  It is one of my favorite recent reads!

A Clue in the Stew by Connie Archer:  Lucky Jamieson is the owner of a soup shop called By the Spoonful.  Her tiny town is thrown into a tizzy when a famous author plans a book signing.  The author's entourage is a crazy cast of characters who are front and center of the investigation when the author is found murdered.  Lucky must figure out how that murder ties in with an earlier one and help keep a friend from being wrongfully accused.  The one drawback is the newest waitress at the soup shop.  She was downright annoying, and I found it hard to believe anyone would put up with her as long as Lucky did.  Aside from that one thing, the book was very enjoyable.

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

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Book Review: Fast Metabolism Food Rx

I originally decided to read Fast Metabolism Food Rx:  7 Powerful Prescriptions to Feed Your Body Back  to Health since it promised to help with a variety of health issues.  I am all in favor of taking a more natural route when dealing with health problems.  The first four chapters are background information on the author's methods.  Each of the seven health issues - GI stress, fatigue, hormones, mood, cholesterol, diabetes, and autoimmunity.

Each of the prescriptions begins with a list of power foods and is complemented by a meal map and a brief section of recipes.  Honestly I found it all to be overwhelming.  I had hoped it would help give me ideas W's acid reflux issues.  I simply cannot see me convincing him to eat cooked green beans or spinach as a mid-morning snack.  I would also like to see more meal ideas or recipes.  The author does mention more recipes can be found on her website but having them included in the book would have been more convenient. The website recipes are related more to her other books.

I was happy to see one of my concerns addressed in the "Your Frequently Asked Questions - And Some Answers".  One of the questions is "Sometimes I feel too overwhelmed to follow a plan.  Are there simpler ways to benefit?".  The author offers five mini-steps toward progress.  I think this is something that I would feel better doing.  I was able to gather some helpful information and will work on making some small changes.

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

Friday, March 25, 2016

Furry Friday - Happy Birthday, Leo!

This week Leo turned 3.  It is hard to believe that he is that old already.  It seems like just yesterday we brought home a tiny little puppy.

He has certainly grown and become a great member of our family.  Even the cats tolerate him now.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

In the Garden

With the warmer weather and rain over the past week, the garden has made good progress.  My pesky chickens refused to stay out of the raspberry beds so I was forced to take action.  We used some shelving material that was on a no longer using table to cover them.  The chickens will stay out, but the raspberry canes can grow up through the shelving.

The cherry trees are starting to bud out.  I was a bit concerned about these.  W wants to put them in the front yard so they will need to stay in containers a bit longer.  These are actually bush cherries which will grow well in my zone.  They will stay short enough that we can use them as hedges.

Some of the seeds I planted have started to sprout.  I put some flower seeds for the bees in with this pot of plantain.  You can see the sprouts on the left side of the picture.  I will thin and transplant as they get bigger.

The Armenian cucumber seeds have started to pop up as well.  I planted borage along side them, but those seeds are not sprouting just yet.  The first cucumber sprout is a bit hard to see as it is just popping out of the dirt beside the brown oak leaves in the center.  The second one is up completely.

The volunteer marigolds are growing well.  These sprouted in the path between two of the raised beds.

Finally a few volunteer jalapeno pepper plants.  There is one weed in this picture, but every other green thing is a jalapeno pepper plant.  I will have plenty to transplant and give away this year!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

This Year's Goals - Check In

I thought since we are about one-fourth of the way through the year it was time for a check in on my goals.  I only made two this year.  The first goal was to finish building and move into the new house without losing it.  We are doing pretty well on that one finally.  Progress is being made, and I can see things moving at a more rapid pace.

One of the sub-goals was to spend less money than the bank gave us.  That one is out the window as the bank never gave us any money.  We did borrow a lower amount from W's 401k, and I am sticking up extra money in case we go over that amount.

Decluttering:  I wish I could say I was getting more of that  done.  I have started on my craft room.  The first task is to move anything related to the shoebox project out of the house and to the church.

The second goal was to take care of myself.  I had a few lapses on that one.  I fell away from doing the "52 Small Changes".  The good thing is that it is easy to just start over.  This week I am back to making sure I drink more water.  I have also been working in the garden more which fulfills my goal of "have fun".

I like to think that goals can start (or re-start) at any time.  You do not have to wait to January to make a change.  If you made a goal in January but have not followed through, start today.  Each day is a new beginning and a fresh chance for change!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Weekly Savings

W and I found milk discounted at the grocery store.  We purchased several gallons to freeze as the price was cheaper than the normal sale price.

I discovered more volunteer plants coming up in the garden.  I will transplant these to other areas as they get bigger.

I repainted the pots from last week's post.  I was concerned that the paint would not completely cover all of the black and bright purple.  The spray paint I bought included primer along with the paint, and the pots turned out great.

I made a real effort to eat up all of the leftovers.  We cleaned out the fridge of any extras.  I added a bit of water to help get the last bit of barbecue sauce out of the jar.

I took cuttings from a fig tree and sour pomegranate tree in hopes of having some new plants.  I also took a couple of cuttings from the pineapple sage plants.

We had used up all of the dried chives I had purchased at Sam's Club.  Rather than buying more I have been cutting garlic chives from the garden to use.

I took advantage of a free shipping offer to order a few more garden seeds.  These are harder to find seeds from a company I like but do not order from often.  Free shipping made it affordable to place an order.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Weekend Book Review: A Trio of Cozy Mysteries

I am combining a few reviews again this week.  All three are new to me authors and series.

Murder on a Silver Platter by Shawn Reilly Simmons introduces readers to Penelope, owner of Red Carpet Catering.  Penelope is personal chef and friend to Arlena, a Hollywood actress.  Penelope is the caterer on a movie staring Arlena.  While out searching for Arlena's missing dog, Penelope stumbles onto a dead body.  Soon Arlena becomes a target for the murderer, and Penelope is in the middle of the mystery.  While Hollywood stars area important supporting characters, they are not the crazy characters we are used to in real life.  Penelope shines as the main character.  This book was an easy read but included several twists to keep me interested until the end!

Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross is book four in the Maine Clambake Series.  Even though I started in the middle of the series, I had no trouble being drawn in by the characters and the story.  Julia and Chris (her boyfriend) run Gus' Too, the evening portion of a local restaurant.  One particularly nasty evening brings four couples to the restaurant and an accident down the road keeps them there longer than expected.  The next morning Gus, owner and daytime proprietor, finds a dead body in the walk in refrigerator.

Julia is immediately pulled into the mystery which spreads farther the more she investigates.  The mystery kept me guessing until the end.  The descriptions of the characters and scenery really drew me in.  I felt like I was visiting friends.  This book alone makes me want to read the rest of the series.

I was first attracted to A Muddied Murder by Wendy Tyson due to the fact the series was titled Greenhouse Mysteries.  I love everything gardening and with the addition of a cozy mystery I could not resist.  I was not disappointed in the book at all.  

Megan lives with Bibi, her grandmother, and is working to bring an organic farm and cafe to her small town of Winsome.  Some suspicious activity on her farm and the discovery of a dead body, which happens to be the man trying to put a halt to her plans, means Megan is caught in the middle.  Megan's dreams are in danger of falling apart.  I loved the back story of the farm and cafe.  I look forward to more from Ms. Tyson and the greenhouse series.

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

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Death by Sunken Treasure


Kait Carson's latest book, Death by Sunken Treasureis a wild ride into a deep sea diving murder mystery.  Hayden Kent is a paralegal investigating the mysterious death of her dear friend's son who had recently discovered a ship wreck.  The book had a wonderful story line with enough twists and turns to keep me guessing until the end.  Ms. Carson descriptions of the Florida Keys and dives to the bottom of the ocean made me feel like I was right beside Hayden the entire time.  While this book is categorized as a cozy mystery, I do not completely agree with that.  It is a excellent choice for any mystery fan.

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

Friday, March 18, 2016

Furry Friday - Thea

The other day, Thea, decided to play supermodel while I was working in the garden.  I stopped to take several pictures of her as she posed.

She started off with something simple

Not the clearest picture, but she had discovered her tail and was constantly moving.

A paused action shot

A thoughtful pose

My favorite

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Yard Sale Finds

Many years when yard sale season arrives I have a set list of items that I am looking to buy.  This year I did not.  I headed out just looking for anything that caught my eye.  At the same time it had to be something I really, really loved.

One of my favorite purchases was pineapple sage.  A small nursery sets up every year, and the owners always have something new.  W likes to say that as soon as she said it could be used for herbal tea, she had a sale.  The smell is amazing - just like a fresh pineapple.

W also found a few plants that he liked so we purchased those too.  I love coleus, and he is a sucker for succulents.

I also purchased some stationery sets for 50 cents to $1 each.  Normally I make my own stationery, but life is especially hectic now.  These will be used.

W found two candy type storage containers which will will use in the new house.  I bought a Lock 'n' Lock container.  I love these as they seal very well and prolong the life of fruits or vegetables.

I found an old Toshiba laptop for $5.  I planned to use it for parts if nothing else.  It was only missing the battery.  Back home W tightened up a few loose screws, and we discovered it works just fine.  The only problem is a loose connection in the charging port.  I will see if that can be tightened.  I have a nice spare computer for just $5!

I purchased two egg baskets.  The first one will be used for gathering eggs.  The second will be a display piece on an old pie safe in the new house.  We also got four ceramic eggs with it which will be nest eggs.  The nest eggs alone are worth the purchase price.

I got a garden claw for $5.  It is similar to this one.  My dad has one that I have borrowed multiple times.  It works great in my raised beds.  I am happy to have one of my very own now.

I also bought a huge stack (nearly 30) of specialty decorating magazines.  These are the ones that sell for $8-$10 at the grocery store checkout.  The seller gave me a price of 25 cents each.  I decided to gather a bunch and ask for a deal.  W and I picked out the ones we wanted.  I went back to her and pointed in his direction and asked for a deal.  She said $2, and I happily handed over the money.

I bought season 8 of Monk on DVD for $1.

I think that is everything.  I did not buy a ton of stuff, but I was very happy with each and every purchase.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

In the Garden

Just a short trip around the garden this week.  Since I have started regularly watering the jalapeno pepper plants, they have hit a growth spurt.  Our winter was fairly mild overall which means the plants never died completely.  I hope they will do even better this year since the roots are well established.  You can see a tiny volunteer plant next to the original one.

I was not kidding when I said that the marigolds were sprouting everywhere.  I had harvested some seeds but will definitely not need them for my own planting.  I counted at least five areas as thick as the one shown below.  My plan is to transplant them once they are bigger.

Here is the patch of garlic chives that came back.  I had thought these were regular chives, but with the flat leaves they are definitely the garlic variety.

The blueberry plants are beginning to really sprout out.  I am happy with how well they are growing in their permanent home.

In the greenhouse the plantain and some of the tomato plants are ready to transplant.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Weekly Savings

This was a busy week.  I spent some time in the garden - free exercise - and greenhouse.  Many of my seeds in the now open greenhouse have sprouted and some are ready for transplanting.  I never got around to pulling up the jalapeno pepper plants from last year and was pleasantly surprised to find them sprouting back out.  I also saw some extra pepper plants coming up as well as some volunteer tomato plants.  I will also have plenty of marigolds as those are coming up everywhere. I will wait until they get bigger and move them to different areas of the garden.

I took apart a Halloween decoration that was made from plastic flower pots.  I will repaint those and have three containers to use in the garden.

I harvested a tomato from a plant in the greenhouse.  It was delicious in a salad this week.  Both of the tomato plants in there are blooming which means an early harvest.

While at a home store to pick up a few items, I wandered through the garden center.  I saw some honeybees buzzing around a potted flower but at $10 each I did not plan to purchase any.  When W and I got to the back, we found the same flowers (in perfect condition) on a clearance rack marked to $3 so I purchased two.

Our beekeeper friend stopped to check in on our bees.  He gave us an empty hive to keep and suggested we put it out somewhere in hopes of attracting some bees.  We set it in a corner of the garden and put one of the $3 flowers beside it.  We have already seen some bees buzzing around.

W, my parents, and I spent two days going to yard sales as part of a big annual event.  I took a note from Terri at Blue House Journal, and we packed lunches, drinks, and snacks for both days.  None of us are used to eating out and find that the fast food makes us feel rotten.  Packing our own food was healthier and definitely cheaper.  I will share my yard sale finds later in the week!

W and my dad continued to work on the tin roof of our new house.  W was uncertain of how to do the tin around the gable area.  W had asked our contractor friend to come by, but he has been extra busy.  I suggested W look on YouTube, and he was able to find several videos showing a roof exactly like ours.  He is now confident in how to finish the job.

I have picked up all of the scrap pieces of tin left from the roof.  Some may be big enough for another (small) project.  Anything leftover can be sold for scrap metal making a bit of money rather than being thrown in the trash.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Weekend Book Review: The Flower Workshop

The Flower Workshop by Ariella Chezar first appealed to me due to the subtitle:  "Lessons in Arranging Blooms, Branches, Fruits, and Foraged Materials".  I love fresh flower arrangements and was interested in creating my own.  Living in an area where there are no flower markets, I was especially happy to see foraged materials included.

When I first skimmed through the book, I was disappointed that step-by-step photos were not included.  As I went back and read the book, I discovered that I did not need photos.  The step-by-step instructions are just guidelines for creating my own arrangements.  Ms. Chezar gives tips on everything - choosing containers, useful tools, and alternate flowers to include in her featured arrangements.  The photos are gorgeous and very inspiring.  While I may never be a great flower arranger, I do feel more confident for making arrangements at home.

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

Friday, March 11, 2016

Furry Friday: A Sad Goodbye

A little over a week ago W and I came home from running errands to find that JJ had passed away.  He was in and out of our lives over the years and was often referred to as the neighborhood cat.  In the past few months he moved in with us and did not leave.  While he no longer came in the house due to his dislike of Leo, he had a warm bed on the front porch with a soft pillow.

With the nicer weather I was able to sit on the porch with him many days in the weeks prior to his passing.  Now that he is gone, I treasure that special time we had together.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

In the Greenhouse

Quite a bit changed in the greenhouse since my last post.  Remember the storms that went through the south?  My area avoided any bad weather, but we did get some gusting winds.  Unfortunately the winds caught the plastic on the greenhouse just right.  Once a small hole was torn, it was a hopeless situation.

The good news is that everything inside fared just fine.  I am crossing my fingers that the budding pecan trees are correct and the worst of winter is over here.  There is simply no putting the greenhouse back together without buying more plastic.  We would rather wait until the next winter.

The seedlings are good but slower in sprouting.  Now the temperature inside the greenhouse is the temperature outside the greenhouse.  If it were to get very cold, I could move them inside.  For now I am just letting them be.



Yellow Pear Tomato

Monday, March 7, 2016

Weekly Savings

W's birthday was this past week.  We are not buying gifts for each other while we focus on the new house.  I did want to do something special for him.  He mentioned wanting an Italian cream cake so I baked one for him to take to work.

In all of the craziness that has been going on here I had almost forgotten to purchase our vehicle tags.  I did make a special trip to town but avoided any late fees which would have certainly been more than I spent on gas.

My car was acting up so I took it to our local mechanic.  It turned out just to be low on oil.  My only charge was the cost of the oil.  I do adore our mechanic!

W borrowed a tool he needed for the new house from a neighbor.  W had something that would have worked, but this tool made life much easier.

W and I had scheduled both of our dental appointments for the same day and time.  It was easier to make one trip and be done.  We also stopped by the grocery store while we were out.

I won a free subscription to Cooking Light magazine in an online instant win game.

I baked two loaves of bread, made salad dressings, and hung laundry on the line and drying racks.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Death with an Ocean View

Death with an Ocean View is the first book in a second new mystery series by Noreen Wald.  Widow Kate Kennedy is the primary character of this series.  When I first started the book I was a bit put off my Kate and was not sure I was going to like her.  A few chapters in she became my favorite new mystery character.  Kate's kind demeanor and down to earth attitude make her feel like a long lost friend.

Kate lives at the Ocean Vista condos in the beach town of Palmetto, Florida.  Since the death of her husband, she has kept to herself.  The murder of Stella Sajak, Ocean Vista's condo board president, spurs Kate into action to help solve the mystery.  I read half of this book one evening and finished it up the next day.  The characters and setting were too good to resist.  While I liked Mrs Wald's character Jake O'Hara (from last week's review), Kate Kennedy is the true star.  I am looking forward to reading more of Kate's adventures.

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

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Cravings

I know I said I was going to try not to acquire any more cookbooks.  I was looking for a new book to review and Cravings by Chrissy Teigen jumped out at me.  I truly had no idea who Chrissy Teigen was.  Just in case you are in the dark too, she is a Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model (among other things) and is married to John Legend.

I honestly am always let down by celebrity cookbooks.  I feel like they are so far off from what real people eat and cook.  This cookbook completely changed my mind.  Now I need to say "I am usually but not always let down by celebrity cookbooks".  I think the best thing about the recipes is that most of them use normal, everyday ingredients.  Do not expect any health foods.  The title gives that away.   I really enjoyed the quirky humor that is included in the recipe introductions.

Oh how I wish my life was a bit calmer so I could just cook my way through this cookbook.  On my to try list is the Pot Pie Soup.  I am even hoping for another cooler day before spring arrives just so I can make this soup.  The Honey Mustard-Ranch Dressing gave me a nice twist on the one I make.  I am also anxiously awaiting garden season when my jalapeno peppers are producing so I can try the recipe for Hawaiian Pizza Jalapeno Poppers.

I can say that I was pleasantly surprised by this cookbook.  I have also learned never to say "always" about anything.  Cravings changed my mind about celebrity cookbooks.  Wondering if it might be a cookbook you would enjoy?  Check out Chrissy's blog - Delushious - to see a few of her recipes.

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

Friday, March 4, 2016

Feathered Friday: Ducks

While the ducks cannot actually get into the garden, they love when I work in the garden.  I can almost always find an area that needs to be weeded.  They are happy to eat most of the weeds.  If I am not sharing anything, they stand in the corner and "quack, quack, quack" at me until I find something for them.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

In the Garden: Part 2

I have already made use of some of the new raised beds that W and Leo built.  One has blueberry plants.  I added in peat moss, rabbit manure with pine shavings, and compost.  I had purchased these plants on clearance and overwintered them in pots.  I have four plants.

In two of the new raised beds I planted a bunch of raspberry canes.  These were off of the plants that I already had.  They run and reproduce like crazy .  My initial investment has multiplied many times over.  I am putting them in an area of the garden where they will get more sun and hopefully produce better.  I had never eaten a fresh raspberry until I started growing them in my garden.  Now we cannot get enough of them.

I repotted a several pots of mint.  I try to keep this in containers since it spreads like crazy.  I know eventually I will need to start giving some away.

I have been cleaning out some of the raised beds and containers to prepare them for planting.  At this point I am leaving them open so the chickens can help mix (and fertilize) the soil.

Warmer temperatures means the flowers that self seeded are starting to sprout.  I have several marigolds that are coming up in and and around the raised beds.  I will move these to permanent spots when they are bigger.