Saturday, April 30, 2016

Weekend Book Review: The Elements of Pizza

Pizza is a favorite meal at our house, and we prefer homemade to anything that can be purchased.  I was interested in learning more about cooking great pizza and was thrilled to get The Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish.  The different elements of making pizza are discussed in depth.  A wide variety of dough recipes are included as are sauce recipes and topping ideas.

Keep in mind this is not a quick, easy cookbook.  The doughs featured in the book take time.  I am sure all of the outcomes are superb, but I am not at a point in my life where I can spend that much time making pizza.  The dough recipes call for 00 flour which is impossible to find where I live and not cheap to order from Amazon either.  I know it makes a difference, but it is not in everyone's budget.

The bottom line is that if you are a serious cook and are looking for a serious book on pizza, The Elements of Pizza is perfect for you.  If you are a frazzled cook on a serious budget, this book will have less to offer.  I say "less" as it has something for everyone.  Even the frazzled cook will pick up some helpful hints along the way.

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

Friday, April 29, 2016

Feathered Friday

We have three hens with chicks right now.  I expect we will have more in the near future as a couple of hens come rushing in at feeding time.  That is generally a good sign that they have been sitting all day and not out eating bugs and such.

All of the hens and their chicks are currently in brooder boxes.  This is best when they are young.  Even though our cats will not bother the babies, I do not trust any neighborhood cats or other critters that visit us.  Pretty soon they will all be ready to move into the nursery pen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Quick Trip Around the Garden

I was in the garden and decided to snap a few pictures of what is going on.  This is not everything but a good overview of some of my favorite happenings from last week.

This bed has a bit of everything.  On the left side is borage with the largest of the Armenian cucumbers in the center and a sunflower on the right.  Too small to see are some zinnias and bee balm.

This tomato plant is certainly not the prettiest.  It was one that died back in the greenhouse and sprouted back out.  I am happy that it is covered with tomatoes!

I have wanted to add lemongrass to my herb garden for a couple of years but could not find a plant to purchase.  I was happy to find this in a larger city's garden center.  I divided it into three portions and put it in a large container so I can overwinter it in the greenhouse.

This lemon tree will be overloaded with blooms any day now.  You can already see one very tiny lemon.  I moved the plant into the main garden so it would be closer to the honeybees.

This is the smaller of my two lemon trees, but it has a nice sized little lemon on it.

Both of my pineapple sage plants have hit a growth spurt.  They are covered in blooms and I get a whiff of pineapple each time I walk by.

This raised bed contains a mixture of tomato plants.  I also added in borage and marigolds as companion plants.

One section of my potted herbs.  From left to right - oregano, rosemary, and garlic chives

Monday, April 25, 2016

Weekly Savings

I did minimal grocery shopping this week and only purchased about $10 worth of stuff.  Part of that was to test out a recipe.

I planned laundry for sunny days when I was able to plant it outside.

I transplanted more marigolds and zinnias to other parts of the garden.  I also transplanted more raspberries into the new raised bed W built.

I made more of an effort to cook meals using what we had on hand.  I have been making smoothies for breakfast to use up some fruit.

My church's computer refused to boot up past the initial screen.  I did a bit of research online and found a possible fix.  It turns out the simple fix worked.  I was happy to make the repair myself and not have to take it to a technician.  Many computer problems can be repaired at home.  One just needs to be brave enough to attempt it.

We left one section of the yard unmowed so that I could cut grass to feed the rabbits.  It is nice and tender, and they love it.  The fact that it is free makes it even better.

It was a quiet week but sometimes those are the best.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Country Cooking from a Redneck Kitchen

When I requested the book Country Cooking from a Redneck Kitchen by Francine Bryson, I did not connect the author with The American Baking Competition.  For me the main draw was the redneck kitchen part of the title.  I just knew it would be filled with down home Southern cooking recipes.  The recipes use basic ingredients that are on hand for most southern cooks.  This is important since I often like to choose a recipe to cook at a moment's notice.

This cookbook includes everything from appetizers (Redneck Whatnots) to main dishes, sides, and breads to sweet treats.  I especially enjoyed the following included with the recipe for Buttermilk Pecan Skillet Cake:  "If  Granny heard someone say 'puh-CON,' she would ask, 'Do you see an 'o' in the word PEA-can?'"  I would have loved Mrs. Bryson's Granny as that is the correct pronunciation of the word pecan.

I tried out two recipes from the cookbook.  First was the German Chocolate Cookies which I made twice.  I admit to doing "a little fiddling" with the recipe just as Mrs. Bryson did.  My only change was cutting the amount of chocolate chips in half.  Out of everyone who tried these cookies (about 30 people), only one person did not love them.  His complaint was that they had coconut, and I pointed out that they were German chocolate.  The recipe was spot on both in the number of cookies and the cooking time which tells me that these were truly tested and not just put in a cookbook.  I also tried the Most-Requested Spinach Dip.  Taste reviews on this were mixed.  I loved it, and even W who does not eat spinach said it was delicious.  This will become an often used cookbook in my kitchen!  If you love country cooking, I highly recommend you add it to your cookbook collection as well.

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

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Weekend Book Review: The Daughters of Red Hill Hall

Best described as a historical mystery/thriller, The Daughters of Red Hill Hall by Kathleen McGurl spans two generations of friends as close as sisters.  First Rebecca and Sara and then Gemma and Nat are friends who grew up to be closer than many sisters.  Sadly jealousy began to seep into the bonds of friendship and tear apart the relationships.

The story goes back and forth between 1838 and 2015.  The change in time is marked by the change in chapters so it is easy to keep track of what is happening.  I enjoyed the story of Rebecca and Sarah a bit more than the one of Gemma and Nat . The main reason for this was Gemma's lack of fight or even the slightest ability to stand up for herself.  She basically allowed herself to be a doormat, and I found that part very annoying.

The mystery was good.  I stayed up much too late one night reading as I was so caught up in the story.  While not a fluffy book, this would be a great summer read!

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

Friday, April 22, 2016

Furry Friday - The Baby Goats

I was asked to share some updated photos of Annabeth (AB) and Cash, the two goats that were being bottle fed by my parents.  I did have a problem actually getting a good photo of them.  The reason is that AB and Cash are generally more pests than pets.  As soon as I went toward their pen, I got the picture below.

I did finally manage to get a couple of decent photos.

They also have a new friend who has a mother that takes very good care of him.

I guess it is more fun to hang out with goats near your own age though!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

New House Update

I am trying to get back to posting the new house progress as well.  You can pop over here to see the latest post.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How Having Honeybees Changed Me

We were given an empty bee hive by our beekeeper friend.  We placed this hive in one corner of our garden and waited.  Earlier in the spring we saw some bees buzzing around but a few days later there was no activity.  This week we again saw bees buzzing around and heard even more buzzing from inside.  A quick peek confirmed that our empty hive was no longer empty.  As I work in the garden I noticed some changes pre- and post-bee.

Pre-bee:  I was petrified of anything that buzzed close to me.  I would go immediately into full panic mode.

Post-bee:  I can stand in the middle of a swarming pile of bees with no problem (and no fancy bee gear).  I follow the rules of staying calm and making slow, deliberate movements.  The bees and I get along just fine.

Pre-bee:  I was determined that if I could not eat it I would not grow it in the garden.  Why water something that was giving me nothing in return?

A Grouping of Marigolds


Zinnia Seedlings

Post-bee:  I have piles of flowers growing and more flower seeds planted.  Rather that just one or two flowers, I have groupings of the same type of flower spread all over the garden.  The more flowers the better.  Flowers even make an appearance in the main garden.

Pre-bee:  Weeds were a major nuisance to be removed from the garden.  While I was never into spraying any chemicals or pesticides, I would work hard to pull all of them up.

Post-bee:  I have embraced having weeds in the garden.  Right now very little is blooming in the garden.  The bees have flocked to several different blooming weeds.  The rattlesnake weed above is one very annoying weed that is near impossible to eradicate.  I pulled up a bunch but got busy with other garden chores before I got it all.  The bees love it though.  I have plenty to keep them happy until the rest of the garden is in full swing!

Honeybees (and other types of bees) have really influenced my thinking on gardening.  In addition to thinking about what to grow for myself, I now think about what to plant for them.  I might not have the best garden, but I have a happy garden.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Weekly Savings

A couple of hectic weeks here meant that blogging had to be put to the side.  I expect things to be slightly calmer for the next two weeks.  I am going to do my best to get back to a regular schedule.  Today's weekly savings post will cover what I can remember for the past couple of weeks.

I dried all of our laundry on the line.

I got a discount on my favorite brand of nail polish by using a coupon.  I adore Zoya nail polish which is a bit higher than other brands but still much cheaper than paying for a manicure.

W had a movie night at home.  I took advantage of a sale on used DVDs to buy several movies we have wanted to see.  A less than $5 DVD and a bowl of popcorn make for a cheap movie night.

I focused on eating up leftovers so very little went to waste - meaning to the chickens.

I transplanted marigolds and zinnias that self-seeded from last year.  It was great to have free flowers to put all over the garden.  I am doing my best to keep the bees happy.

I bought a few herbs on sale to finish out my garden.  I was also very excited to find lemongrass which I thought I would have to order online.  I used compost from the garden and rabbit manure to fill the pots I planted the herbs in.

I picked radishes and garlic chives from the garden.  It is not quite as easy as shaking dried chives from a container, but I am not complaining about free, fresh chives.

A bit on the short side, but I wanted to get this posted and get myself back on track!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Layered

I love to bake and have a ready group of taste testers.  Layered by Tessa Huff follows up on its subtitle:  Baking, Building, and Styling Spectacular Cakes.   The cakes in this book are works of art.  The book begins with sections on the basics - ingredients and techniques.  Layered includes chapters on everything from classic cakes to adventurous cakes.

Various elements are put together to create a variety of cakes.  One of the recipes that caught my eye are banana custard, coconut cream cheese frosting, and maple candied pecans.  These are all elements from different cakes that I could use in other recipes.  Layered offers so many recipes that can be used in many other ways.

One downside for me is that the cakes are complicated.  These are not desserts that can be put together when you come in from work.  These spectacular cakes are definitely for special occasions.  If you are looking for simple, this is not the cookbook for you.  If your aim is to impress, add this to your cookbook collection!

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

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Weekend Book Reviews

Keep Me Posted by Lisa Beazley was a book that I really wanted to love.  Two sisters (Cassie and Sid) decide to become pen pals in an effort to get back in touch with each other's lives.  Things are going well until Cassie decides to save the letters by creating a private blog that becomes public.  I have pen friends and was intrigued by a book of people writing letters rather than e-mailing or checking in on social media.  

I had several issues with the book though.  First I wondered why Cassie created a blog rather than saving them to a jump drive or external hard drive.  Second the letters were like nothing I have ever sent or received.  I chalked that up to Cassie and Sid being sisters rather than friends.  Sid's letters were interesting, but Cassie came across as a whiner and a bit of a drama queen.  Parts of the book were a bit crude for my taste.  At times I liked the book, but at other times I hated it.  Overall it was just okay.  

Dying for a Taste is the first book in the Sally Solari mystery series by Leslie Karst.  Following her mother's death, Sally Solari returns to the family restaurant to help her father.  The plot was interesting, but there was just so much going on.  The characters were somewhat likeable but not my favorite.  I cannot quite put my finger on the reason I did not love this book.  It was a good book just not a great start to a new series.  I would give a second book a try though.  

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

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Weekend Book Reviews: Rejected Writers and a Happy Dog

The Rejected Writers' Book Club by Suzanne Kelman is a fun book.  I picked it mainly for the cute cover and the unusual title.  Plus it is not my usual type of book.  Janet works at the Southlea Bay library and is pulled into an adventure courtesy of Doris and the other members of the Rejected Writer's Book Club.  This book is different which is not always a bad thing.  The plot is a bit out there and the subplots are a little silly.  This is the perfect book if you need to just lose yourself in a story.  

The Rejected Writers are a quirky, eccentric bunch of women.  Their adventures are somewhat hard to believe.  I enjoyed the fantasy of the book though and found myself laughing aloud a few times.  If you are looking for a quick easy book to read, add this one to your list.  Try not to think too much and just enjoy the adventure!

One Hundred Ways to a Happy Dog by Celia Haddon is a short book on keeping your dog happy.  While the book is easy to read, it is quite basic and does not have much in depth information.  The book would be best suited to someone new to dog ownership.

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

Monday, April 4, 2016

Weekly Savings

I spent a bunch of time on new house stuff and did not have much time to blog last week.  This will be short as I cannot remember much of what went on.

I bought some chicken on markdown.  I will only purchase one brand which does not have antibiotics or other icky stuff fed to the chickens.  Obviously it is more expensive so I keep my eye out for any deals.

I prepared meals at home and fixed a few things to add to the freezer.  I made crunchy chicken tenders, marinara sauce, English muffins, three spaghetti pies, and two pepperoni pizzas for quick meals.

I combined errands to save on gas and time in an extra trip to town.

I mowed our yards but skipped a small section that had young, tender grass.  I have been pulling it up to feed the rabbits.

The weather has been mild enough that we have not really needed the heat.  We opened the windows on the days it was warmer.

We priced having our new house insulated and discovered it was cheaper to hire out than doing ourselves.

A electrician friend came over to inspect the work W did on the wiring before we called in the building inspector.  W has done electrical work but never wired an entire house.  He got two thumbs up from a certified electrician, and we saved a bunch of money by doing it ourselves.

Those are the high points for this week.  What did you do to save money?

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Closer Home

Closer Home by Kerry Anne King is not my usual type of book.  It falls best under the category of women's fiction.  I have been looking for books that are not my type though.  This was a wonderful choice.  The story opens with Lise at her estranged sister's (Callie's) funeral.  Callie was a megastar with an empire and a teenage daughter, Ariel.  Both of those are now entrusted to Lise.

Callie almost seems to be the main character even though she is more of a ghost in the lives of everyone.  This book could easily be an interesting movie of the week.  Callie's passing brings up memories, regrets, and questions for both Lise and Ariel.  I read this book in less than a day.  The story was engrossing and easy to read.  The book did contain a bit of foul language, but that is the only negative aspect.  It was nice to read a women's fiction book that did not revolve around romance but rather had a deeper meaning.

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

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Weekend Book Reviews

A Devious Lot by Ellery Adams and Parker Riggs is book five in the Antiques & Collectibles Mysteries.  This book easily stands on its own.  I have not read any of the previous books, but I was not at all lost.  Readers join Molly and Matt on their honeymoon in England which includes a visit to her Great Aunt Tessa.  A murder and some missing people threaten to ruin the newlyweds' trip.  This cozy mystery also included a backstory from the Victorian era which was placed in chapters during the regular story.  Rather than taking away or being confusing, it added to the main story.  I enjoyed the characters, the setting, and the writing style of this book.

Killer Reunion by G.A. McKevett is part of the Savannah Reid series.  I have not read any of the other books in this series and was only introduced to Savannah as she returned home to Georgia for a high school reunion.  I certainly hope Savannah is more realistic in the books set in California.  As I started reading I was annoyed at the portrayal of southerners A few things were true.  Southern grandmothers are often called Granny, and southern families do stick together.  A few other southern rules were broken.  In the South women who are your elders are referred to as "Miss", for example Miss Jane.  You do not refer to every single woman as Miss.  We also do not go around spouting off every single southern saying that comes to mind 100% of the time.  If we did talk like Savannah and her family, we would be kicked out of the south for the lack of "y'all" and "bless your heart".  I got the feeling the author has never been to the south or even met someone from the south.  While I generally enjoy southern themed books, this one completely missed the mark.

Death of a Bacon Heiress by Lee Hollis is a fun cozy mystery that is part of the Hayley Powell series.  I had no idea there were so many other books in this series, and this book makes me want to read them all.  Hayley is the food and cocktails columnist for her local newspaper.  She finds fame after appearing on a morning talk show and meeting bacon heiress Oliva Redmond.  Unfortunately for Hayley, Oliva soon turns up dead.  Hayley then becomes the caretaker of Oliva's pet pig, Pork Chop.  I loved Hayley's columns which are sprinkled throughout the book.  The characters are loveable, and the mystery kept me guessing until the end!

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