Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Quick Garden Update

My poor, neglected garden continues to do well.  I have been watering it as our temps are hovering around 100 degrees with a heat index of 106-110 degrees.

The eggplants are starting to bloom.  They were added in at the last minute, but I hope to harvest a few before the season is over.

My tiny orange tree has a few blooms.  I am not sure if it will actually hold any oranges though.

The discounted Gerbera daisy is growing well and has its first bloom.

I had almost given up on the Armenian cucumbers producing this year.  They were loaded with blooms and visited by bees but did not seem to be putting on any cucumbers.  I guess they were just off to a later start as I saw a small cucumber this week.


My little potted herb area is working out very well.  In the front right you can see two of W's avocado plants.  In the front left is one that was repeatedly dug up by the squirrels, but it has sprouted back out.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Weekly Savings

The internet was down last weekend and part of last week so I am combining two weeks of savings in this post.

W's parents came over several days to help us put up dry wall in the new house.  I planned easy meals to feel everyone on those days.  We had chicken salad with homemade bread and turkey sandwiches using a turkey breast I baked.  I also served ham steaks (bought cheap on sale with coupons), homemade macaroni & cheese, and green beans and potatoes from the garden.

Every so often a crew comes through to trim trees off the power lines.  They also have an industrial chipper and give away the wood chips.  We were able to get two loads for free.  I plan to put this between the raised beds to help control weeds.

I harvested tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and herbs from the garden.

I pre-planned dinners for our errand days so we would not be tempted to purchase take out.

We bought culled watermelons from a local farm for $1 each.  They were still perfectly delicious but not nice enough to be sold at market.

We continued to work on the new house ourselves.  It means progress is much slower than if we hired everything out.  Not having a house payment at the end will be completely worth it.

I divided up a container of grape juice and froze it in two cup portions.  I like to add juice to my homemade herbal iced tea.  I usually use pomegranate, but it has not been on sale recently.  The grape juice was in the pantry and made a good substitute.

I opted to save my time by turning down a teaching job several towns over.  The pay would not have been enough to make up for the driving and class prep time with everything else I have going on right now.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Weekend Book Reviews

Maggie Dove by Susan Breen is the first book in a new cozy mystery series.  The lead character, Maggie Dove, is a Sunday School teacher living in a small town.  Maggie has isolated herself a bit following the deaths of her husband and daughter.  I found her to be a charming character.  Maggie's most difficult student (now all grown up) is accused of murder, and she steps in to prove him innocent.  While not an overly exciting book, it was interesting and a relaxing read.  I look forward to reading more from this author!

Laura Levine's latest book, Murder Has Nine Lives, finds Jaine Austen counting the days until a Hawaiian vacation.  Her luck seems to be all good when her cat Prozac lands a spot in a cat food commercial.  Things go from bad to worse when Prozac blows the commercial and the creator of Skinny Kitty cat food winds up dead.  I loved Prozac's background thoughts as well as the emails from Jaine's parents.  This was a fun and entertaining cozy mystery.

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

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Weekend Book Reviews

Cracked to Death by Cheryl Hollon is book three in the Webb's Glass Shop Mystery series.  Having read the first book, I jumped at the chance to read another in the series.  I was not disappointed.  The latest book finds Savannah helping her friend Amanda not only to teach her first workshop but also to beat a murder charge.  Add in a mysterious treasure and the same cast of characters from the previous books and Ms. Hollon has another winner!

A bit further out of my usual reading list is Colony of the Lost by Derik Cavignano.  Colony of the Lost falls best under the horror category.  While I am a big fan of horror movies, I rarely read horror books.  I did enjoy Colony of the Lost and found it to be a solid horror story.  The story was different but not in a bad way.  It stayed just this side of being too graphic.  It kept me interested until the end.  Colony of the Lost is a great book to read if you are a fan of the horror genre.

Marriage, Monsters-in-Law, and Murder by Sara Rosett is book nine in the Ellie Avery mystery series.  I was easily able to slip into the world of Ellie and her family in spite of the fact this is the first book of the series I read.  That is always an important thing for me.  Ellie and her family head to the Georgia coast for her sister-in-law's wedding which seems to be cursed.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book and look forward to reading more by Sara Rosett.  My only negative was the wedding tips throughout the book.  While I see how they could fit into the theme of the book, I was not interested in planning a wedding.  I skipped over them.  They did not add to the story or merits of the book.

High Strung by Janice Peacock is the first book in the Glass Bead Mystery Series.  It took me a bit of time to get into the book as it started off slow.  Once I got through the character introductions and the scene was set, it was an interesting book.  The main character, Jax, moved to Seattle from Miami as a requirement of inheriting her aunt's home.  She is quickly welcomed into the artistic world of glass bead crafting. One murder and an attempted murder need solving before Jax or her friend Tessa end up in jail.  I believe the series has real potential and look forward to reading more.

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

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Strange History

Do not let the author, Bathroom Readers' Institute, turn you off from reading Strange History.  The book covers a little of everything of the strangest moments in history.  I learned about the best finds on Antiques Roadshow, odd inventions, and even the history of onions.  Each section is compact which makes the book easy to pick up and read in short bursts.

This is a fun book for anyone who has an interest in the history not always covered in school books.  It was especially interesting to read how Hollywood and politicians have their own interpretation of history.

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

Feathered Friday

This mama hen has 13 babies.  She hatched out all but one of the eggs she was sitting on.  Fortunately it was easy to round her and her babies up and move them into a brooder so they would be safe.

As soon as I opened the door she started herding everyone away from me and to the back toward her.

Even though she is very protective, it is not safe for her to have so many tiny babies out in the yard.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Quick Garden Update

I have been working in my garden when I can find some spare time.  I have not been able to put as much into this year as I had hoped, but I am happy with the progress.

I have added more flowers to the garden this year.  The bees and butterflies love them.

The lavender has recovered from being repeatedly dug up by the chickens.

The marshmallow and blue hyssop have hit a growth spurt over the last few weeks.

My lemons are growing well.  It will be several months before they are ready to be harvested.

The fig tree is loaded this year.  I see fig jam in my future.

I have started harvesting a few cherry tomatoes.

Finally the cucamelon vines are growing like crazy.  I am happy that I decided to push the containers up against the fence this year.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Weekly Savings

I gave myself a pedicure.  I have given up on manicures until after I get done finishing dry wall.  I used polish I had bought with a coupon and received a compliment on my toes.

I bought tomatoes and corn from local farms.  The corn was creamed and put in the freezer going into sale purchased freezer bags.  Part of the tomatoes were turned into Rotel style tomatoes and some were plain.  I had picked green tomatoes to make into pickles.  I opted to get the tomatoes in varying degrees of ripeness so I could spread the canning out over a few days.  While it might not be cheaper over purchasing canned tomatoes, I think the flavors are much better.

I used peppers from the garden in the Rotel style tomatoes.  I also re-used jars that I have collected over the years.

I had a Amazon Prime Pantry box returned by UPS due to damage.  I emailed Amazon to ask that the items be reshipped and requested a refund of the shipping charge.  Amazon quickly processed the refund.  It never hurts to ask for what you want as a resolution to a problem.

I made and decorated a giant chocolate chip cookie for one of my Bible class students.  I am not sure how much a big decorated cookie costs, but I feel certain it is more than the $5 I have in the treat.

I picked flowers from the garden to use as decoration inside the house.

I dehydrated oregano from the garden.

Cantaloupe and watermelon are in season here and cheap when purchased from local farms.  W has been eating cantaloupe, and we share the watermelon.  He took these in his lunch.

I gave the rabbits from over-sized cucumbers from the garden as a treat.  The chickens got the cantaloupe and watermelon rinds.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Weekend Book Reviews

Murder on a Designer Diet by Shawn Reilly Simmons is book three in the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series.  The characters worked much better together in this book than in the previous one I read.  The catering business side of the story takes a backseat in this book.  Penelope's friend Max is the top suspect in a model's murder.  She has to help clear his name without ruining her relationship with boyfriend Joey.  I am growing to like Penelope and even her Hollywood friends more and more.  The series continues to improve, which makes me look forward to the next book.

Maggie Sefton's latest book, Knit to Be Tied, is book 14 in the Knitting Mystery series.  I found myself a bit lost as so many characters were introduced at the very beginning.  Since this is the first book in the series that I have read, I was a touch lost.  I was able to straighten everyone out in my mind and jumped into the story.  I found that it had more to do with baseball/softball than knitting.  The conversations do not feel natural and certain aspects were repetitive.  The story also jumped quickly from one thing to the next with no warning or real sequence.  Based on this book I am not at all interested in reading more of the series.

A Premonition of Murder by Mary Kennedy was one of my favorite recent reads.  I loved the southern setting in Savannah.  The characters were wonderful - fun but not perfect.  I enjoy a character with a few flaws as it makes them more believable.  Sisters Ali and Taylor get pulled into the mysterious death of reclusive heiress Abigail after meeting her to interpret a dream.  This is book three in the Dream Club Mystery series, but I was easily able to follow the characters and story.  I am not 100% sold on the dream interpretation aspect of the book, but a couple of the characters are hesitant to believe it all so this is not a deal breaker.  I am anxious to read the other books in the series.  Overall it was a great book with an easy story line to get pulled into.

A Shattering Crime by Jennifer McAndrews is book three in the Stained Glass Mystery series.  I easily slipped into the world of Georgia Kelly.  Georgia is juggling three part-time jobs, a new boyfriend, cat Friday, dog Fifi, and a visit from her mother and her mother's latest husband.  When a local activist is murdered, Georgia's grandfather asks her to help clear the name of Rozelle, local bakery owner.  I enjoyed the characters and the mystery.  The Stained Glass Mystery series is definitely worth reading!

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

Monday, June 6, 2016

Weekly Savings

This covers two weeks since I did not post last week.

I was gifted some peaches by my aunt and some cucumbers from another neighbor.

I shopped online to find the best prices on several things we needed for the new house.  It meant ordering from three different places, but I got free shipping from each one.

W used the pallets that our tile was delivered on  and some cardboard shipping boxes to set up a better place in the garden for my potted herbs.

I sold a book on  The extra money will go toward buying items for the new house.

Laundry was hung on the line to dry.

I harvested herbs from the garden as well as some banana peppers.

I used a coupon on painting supplies.

We got rain one evening which meant I did not have to water the garden.  Rainwater also seems to make everything grow better than water from the hose.

I made an effort to use what we had in the refrigerator before it went bad.

The rabbits and chickens ate weeds from the garden as well as some vegetables that had gotten too big.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Plated

Plated by Elana Karp and Suzanne Dumaine is a spin-off of the menu plan subscription service.  The cookbook includes a variety of options from kitchen basics to weeknight dinners to meals for a crowd.  The photographs included are beautiful and mouth-watering.

I tried out the recipe for Cheesy Baked Penne.  It includes seasonal vegetables and a creamy tomato sauce.  I used the Tomato Sauce alla Vodka and homemade ricotta cheese recipes included in the book.  The base of the sauce is a homemade marinara (recipe included in the book) that is similar to a big batch recipe I use.  It is nice to have a good recipe that makes a smaller amount.  Overall the baked penne was good.  The flavors went together well. I did alter the suggested seasonal vegetables and included eggplant.  My husband is not an eggplant fan but ate a second helping of the penne.

I have several things I like about the book.  The "Flavoring" section includes many wonderful recipes for dressings, sauces, and other basics.  I love that many of the recipes include suggestions for seasonal additions.  This allows cooks to use what is available and makes the recipes adaptable for any time of the year making them budget friendly.

The book does have a few deficiencies though.  The Pizza for Every Season recipe begins with store bought pizza dough.  If I am going to make pizza at home, I want a homemade crust.  I would have preferred to see a homemade pizza dough recipe.  Some of the ingredients include vague measurement and instructions.  A new cook that needs a very detailed recipe might be frustrated by this.  One example of this is the recipe for homemade ricotta.  Much more thorough recipes are available online.  Some of the ingredients (sushi grade tuna) may be very difficult to find if you live outside of a large city.

Overall most cooks will find this cookbook useful.  It covers a variety of cooking styles and food types.  Cooks of all experience levels will find something that interests them.

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

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Weekend Book Reviews

First up in this weekend's book reviews is The Calamity Cafe by Gayle Leeson.  This is the first book in a southern themed cozy mystery series.  The main character Amy Flowers is fed up with working for her bullying boss.  Not only does she turn in her resignation, she also offers to buy the restaurant.  The last part complicates matters when Amy's boss ends up dead.  The plot flows well and kept me interested until the end.  The characters were captivating, especially quirky Homer.  This is a great beginning to the series, and I hope Ms. Leeson continues the Deep South Cafe Mystery series.

Dead End Street by Sheila Connolly is book seven in the Museum Mystery series.  I had no problem following the characters and their backstories even though I have not read any of the previous books in the series.  The mystery was such a small part of this book that it pretty much could have been left out all together.  The story dragged a bit for my taste and was much too focused on politics which I have get enough of on the news already.  This book did not encourage me to read more in the museum series.

My favorite of the three books for this weekend was Murder, Handcrafted by Isabella Alan.  I have read other books in the Amish Quilt Shop Mystery series.  It is easy to jump in at any point and not be lost.  I cannot think of one thing that I did not like about this book.  The characters are wonderful, and the Amish setting only adds to the book.  Angie is thown into the middle of another mystery when an electrician is murdered in her parents' yard.  It is up to her to solve the mystery and save her friend Jonah.  If you are a fan of cozy mysteries, add this book and the entire series to your reading list.

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