Monday, November 28, 2016

Weekly Savings

I am covering a couple of weeks in the post.  I managed to come in close to budget on groceries for the holidays.  I did a two week shop since I plan to stay far away from the grocery store this week.  W did make a quick stop to pick up three items for me.

W picked three big bags of lemons from a neighbor's tree.  The tree is in a pasture, and the neighbor never picks even one so is glad to share.  I  gave one bag away.  We juiced the rest.  Most went into the freezer for lemonade.  Some of the juice will become lemon curd.  I did forget to buy lemonade concentrate for Thanksgiving, but we will have free homemade lemonade which is better.

I used a gift card (one of the found ones) to purchase Christmas ornaments for the new house.  It was nice to get free decorations!

Thanksgiving was a potluck affair at my house.  One aunt provided the paper products.  My mom, another aunt, and mother-in-law contributed some food.  W's brother brought ice.  We had 23 people for dinner (lunch to the non-southern areas).  Eleven of us gathered for supper to eat leftovers.  It was a fun day, and the layout of our living room kitchen worked just as we had hoped for hosting a large crowd.

I spent some time working in the garden.  I topped off two raised beds with dirt from pots that were in the garden.  Since the dumped dirt was full of earthworms, I put the wire covers on top of the raised beds to keep the chickens out.

I started addressing Christmas cards.  I bought the cards on clearance last year since I knew I would not have time to make my own.  My $14 worth of cards cost me just $3.50.

I have been using homemade cleaners (vinegar/essential oils/water) and old washcloths for cleaning.  The washcloths get washed and reused.  It is cheap, effective, and no waste.

I stayed away from the stores this past weekend.  I did purchase some DVDs and two books from Amazon with gift cards.  My only real purchase (a small toaster oven) was planned in advance.  I found one at Lowe's with free shipping.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Weekend Book Review: A Killer Location

Sarah T. Hobart's, A Killer Location, is book two in the Home Sweet Home Mystery series.  This book easily stands on its own which is always important to me.  Let me start with the bad.  The book opens with main character, Sam, dating her sister's ex.  That might go over well in the fictional town of Arlinda, California.  Here in the rural south it is just weird.  I had a very hard time getting over that point, but I continued reading.

The mystery was decent, but the characters were too weak.  Sam seems like the worst real estate agent ever.  The book had promise but is just not a favorite of mine.  The story seemed a bit all over the place. Perhaps I could not get over the fact Sam was dating her sister's ex.  I will give the series another chance, but I hope to see some overall improvements.

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

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Historic Rural Churches of Georgia

I love old churches.  Historic Rural Churches of Georgia  is a fascinating book about the oldest churches in Georgia.  The pictures are gorgeous and show the true beauty of each of these churches.  The history of the churches adds to the interest of the book.  Once I started I could not put the book down.  Even my husband who is not a reader came over to look at the pictures and started reading the historic profiles.  This book would be a wonderful gift for the hard to buy for history buff on your Christmas list.  This is an excellent book and one of my favorites from this year!

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

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Cat Got Your Diamonds

Cat Got Your Diamonds by Julie Chase is the first book in the Kitty Couture Mystery series.  The main character, Lacy, is the owner of Furry Godmother, a pet boutique and treat bakery, in New Orleans.  Everything is going well until someone is murdered near her shop.  She is questioned by the police, and her investor drops out.  Lacy must solve the murder in order to save her shop and her freedom.

This is a fun book.  The characters are interesting, and I look forward to seeing how they develop as the series progresses. They mystery side of the book was also good and kept me hooked until the end.   Several small plot lines were interwoven into the main story of the book.  The pet recipes at the end were a nice addition, and I look forward to trying some of them for my pets.  Cat Got Your Diamonds is a wonderful cozy mystery for animal lovers!

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

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Weekend Book Review: Another Day Another Dali

Sandra Orchard's book, Another Day Another Dali, was an engaging mystery.  This is the first book I have read by Sandra Orchard, but it will definitely not be the last.  Serena, the main character,  works for the FBI in the art theft division.  When her very proper Nana requests her help, Serena is pulled into a dangerous mystery.  With help from her family and friends as well as her partner, she tries to unravel the mystery before she ends up dead.

While this is not the first book in the series, it easily stands on its own.  Another positive is that the book is clean - no ugly language and only a slight bit of romance.  The characters add to the interest of the book.  Aunt Martha is my favorite!  I especially like the focus on family.  Serena's cat is also quite the character and adds to the charm of the book.  I will definitely be reading more in this series!

disclosure:  I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Growing and Harvesting Roselle

Roselle is a type of hibiscus used for herbal tea.  It is easy to purchase, but I am trying to be more self sufficient.  You can purchase seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  They are currently out of stock, but seeds can be purchased from other places.  I think I got mine from eBay.

I started my seeds in peat pellets early in the spring.  I transplanted the plants into my raised beds and left them to grow.  The plants got very big, but there were no blooms.  By September I was beginning to think it had all been a waste of time.  Finally in October I saw some tiny blooms starting to form. Maybe the fact that it was still nearly 90 degrees had something to do with it.

The blooms last just one day and then fall off.  After this the calyx will continue to grow.

Here is a calyx right after the flower has dropped off.

This is one that has continued to grow.  You can see the size difference as well as the seed pod.  I was able to just snap them off by hand, but you can also use a pair of clippers.

This website has a good explanation of how to remove the seed pod.  I cut the bottom of the stem off and was able to pull out the seed pod.  Here is another good resource.

I put them in the dehydrator to dry completely.  Then I vacuum sealed them in glass jars.

Now that I know what I am doing.  I will grow more.  I plan to leave a few of the calyx on the plants so that the seed pods can dry.  I will grow some in the garden but will most likely put a few in the front yard as the plants are quite pretty.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Fall Decorating - Cotton Bolls

I mentioned last week and in the weekly savings post that I decorated for fall using cotton bolls.  Just in case you are not sure what cotton plants look like, I took a picture of a field near my home.

Farmers now defoliate the cotton so it all opens at once making for more efficient harvesting.  I am fortunate that I have family that grows cotton so I was able to get a few stalks for free.

My original intention was to make a wreath for the front door.  I used a grape vine wreath as a base and just added pieces of cotton until it was as full as I liked.  I have not actually hung it on the door since I am not certain where to hang it.

My uncle brought me more than the two stalks I asked for so I had plenty of leftover cotton.   I used it and some small artificial pumpkins that my mom gave me on my mantle.  I bought the scarecrow many years ago on clearance.  The pumpkin floral arrangement on the right was one I made many years ago.  The orchid in the center was a gift from W and while not exactly frugal it will last for some time.

Looking at the setup I realize that I need to rearrange things a bit before I am done, but this will work for now.

My only purchase this year was a real pumpkin that I got for $1.  I will use it as part of my Thanksgiving table decorations.  I wanted it primarily for the seeds which would have cost me more than $1.  I hope to be able to grow some of my own next year.

Remember the pumpkin flower containers I made last month.  The mums still looked good, and I hated to put the containers away just yet.  I simply turned them around so the jack-o-lantern face was not visible.  I will be able to get another month's use out of them.

Those are my thrifty decorations for the month of November.  Have you done any Thanksgiving decorating?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Weekly Savings

I stuck to my grocery budget this past week.  Yeah!  That felt really good.  With the upcoming holidays I know those on or under budget grocery trips will be fewer.

We had a moving sale over the weekend.  I advertised on Facebook and through a radio station's free call in program.  We sold quite a bit of stuff and had nothing out of pocket since the sale was held in our old home.

I decorated for Thanksgiving very inexpensively.  My mom offered me some small artificial pumpkins to put on the mantle.  I used more of the cotton bolls.  My only expense was a pumpkin purchased on clearance for $1.  I will use it for decorating through Thanksgiving.  After that I will save the seeds to plant next year and feed the pumpkin to the chickens.

I finally harvested  my roselle (Jamaican sorrel) and dried it in the dehydrator.  I use this in my herbal teas so it is nice to be closer to  knocking one more item off my purchase list.  I will be saving seeds to plant next year.

I baked four loaves of bread this week.

W and I had a movie night at home with a used DVD I had purchased and snacks.

I did the usual too - hung clothes to dry, packed W's lunch, cooked meals at home, and avoided any unnecessary shopping.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Weekend Book Reviews

Dangling by a Thread by Lea Wait is book four in the Mainely Needlepoint Mystery series.  I had read (and reviewed) a previous book in this series, but the book stands on its own.  In this particular book the needlepoint took a back seat.  Angie gets wrapped up in the mystery of the death of a hermit, Jesse.  Jesse has created a sanctuary for Great Cormorants, an endangered bird.  The setting and characters are a main draw of this book, and I look forward to more in the series.

Susan Farrow's Dying for Strawberries is the first book in the Berry Basket Mystery series.  Readers are introduced to Marlee Jacob who returns to her hometown of Oriole Point.  She owns The Berry Basket, a store for all things berries in this small harbor town.  A dead body as well as an attempt on her own life put Marlee at the center of a mystery.  She must solve the crime before she becomes the next victim.    The mystery was well thought out, and I enjoyed the book.  I can see great opportunities for character development with this series.

Eggnog Murder is a set of three short cozy mysteries by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross.  The other two stories are Death by Eggnog and Nogged Off.  The holiday themed stories are perfect with the Christmas season fast approaching.  They are quick fun reads, but I felt the mysteries were still strong.  As always, I enjoyed the characters and settings each author created.  The books are a wonderful introduction to each author's cozy mystery series.  This is a great choice if you are new to these authors.

Pocketbooks and Pistols by Dorothy Howell is part of the Haley Randolph Mystery series.  The mystery aspect of this book was good. The main character, Haley, leans toward shallow, self-centered, and annoying.  This is definitely light reading, and I would have enjoyed it more if Haley had more depth to her.  Her obsessions with designer shopping and coffee are a sad commentary on today's society.  If you can get over the main character's weak personality, it is a good book.

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

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Late Holiday Planning Start & Freezer Cooking

Normally every year at the end of August I do the Holiday Grand Plan.  This year was too crazy with finishing up the new house.  We are hosting Thanksgiving and two family Christmas parties at our house this year though.  I cannot put off thinking about the holidays any longer.

Yesterday I sat down and wrote out a gift list.  As for the meals Thanksgiving and one family party will be potluck.  I will let W give me an idea of the menu for his family party and go from there.  One thing I like to do is have a few meals/sides in the freezer to make things easier on me at mealtime during the holidays.  It frees me up on the days prior to the actual party days so I am not stressed and end up having takeout.  Since time is limited this year, I made a smaller freezer meal list.

Chicken pot pie filling
Chicken tenders
Brunswick stew
English muffins
Macaroni & cheese
Tomato Basil Soup
Barbecue pork
Spaghetti sauce
Spaghetti pies

Do you have any favorite freezer meals/sides?