Monday, May 22, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 21

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
My big plans for last week were sidelined by a bad sinus infection.  I did managed to get some work done on the front porch but not nearly as much as I had hoped.  W did build a base for the craft room storage cabinet he bought.  This week I will work on organizing my craft room and maybe do some sanding on the front door.  I work on the front porch projects a little at a time over the next few weeks.  I did order a doorbell for the house since the price dropped.  I planned to get a wireless one as those have worked well for us in the past.

2.  Plan ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
I have asked W about his dad's gift, but he is still thinking.  I think I will order the book closer to my niece's birthday and just have it straight shipped to her.

3.  Use the Garden to be More Self-Sufficient
The garden work lately has been maintenance.  I do need to pull some weeds this week.  Wednesday I also have the last of this year's new fruit plants to share with you.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I finished the succulents class and really enjoyed it.  I started a class on Classic Desserts and made an apple cobbler from the first lesson.  I only plan to make one dessert a week so I will be doing a second class alongside this one.  I will get started on it later in the week.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
No progress again on this.

6.  Boost Savings
We added a bit of extra money to the credit card debt.  I should have this completely knocked out in a couple of months.  That will free up money to build up the savings account and start saving for a few outdoor projects.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

YumUniverse Pantry to Plate by Heather Crosby is a vegan/vegetarian cookbook.  I am always on the lookout for good vegetarian recipes.  Unfortunately I did not find many that I could convince my family to try.  I had a couple of problems with this book.  The author includes a wide variety of recipes for homemade basics such as enchilada sauce.  I was disappointed that a recipe for corn tortillas was not included.  They are easy to make at home.  If I am making enchilada sauce, I would want a great tortilla to pair with it.  My second problem is with the subtitle:  Improvise Meals You Love - From What You Have! The latter part is where the author lost me.  Maybe all vegetarians have the ingredients she uses, but I do not.  Pysllium husk (whole and ground), garbanzo bean flour, and rapadura are not commonly found in my pantry.  I feel that healthy recipes should not be so complicated. This book missed the mark for me.

Steven Raichlen's Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades--Bastes, Butters, & Glazes, Too is a great collection for any barbecue fan.  I am thinking this would be a wonderful Father's Day gift.  This is an updated version.  I ended up marking so many recipes that I knew I needed the paperback version.  The recipes include easy to find ingredients and cover a wide variety.  Since I started cooking from scratch, I find bottled barbecue sauces less than impressing.  This book offers so many that I will have no problem finding several I love.  This is a must have for any barbecue lover!

The Most Misused Stories in the Bible by Eric J Bargerhuff is an explanation of  fifteen Bible stories that are often misrepresented.  I have to admit that I have not heard most of the misrepresentations.  While it is interesting, it is closer to a short devotional book.  I appreciated the multiple Biblical references to back up the author's explanations.

Pat Olski's Crochet Stories:  Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland provides patterns for all of the characters from the book.  The patterns are clear and easy to follow even for a beginner.  The photos of each character are very helpful as well.  I think a set of the crocheted characters and a copy of Alice in Wonderland would make a great gift.  This is an excellent book for anyone just starting to crochet dolls.

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White is a cross between women's fiction and mystery.  Recently divorced Merilee and her two children rent a house from Sugar, who is a 90+ year old true southern woman.  An anonymous blogger seems intent on hindering Merilee from starting over by airing much of her family's dirty laundry.  Her friendship with the practically perfect Heather feels like the only bright spot.  One tragic night threatens everything and opens closets full of skeletons Merilee would rather keep hidden.  The book dragged at times with the blog posts being the only bright spot.  The last quarter of the book was by far the best.  It kept me reading until I finished.  Overall this was a good, southern themed book and makes me interested in reading more by the author.

The second book in the Kitty Couture Mystery series by Julie Chase is Cat Got Your Cash.  I had read the first book in the series, but I do not think it would be necessary.  Lacy's meeting with fashion designer Annie Lane is a disaster when Lacy finds Annie dead.  Lacy ends up caring for Annie's two Siamese kittens until the estate is settled.  The kittens end up cat-napped, and Lacy finds herself being stalked.  She works with Detective Jack Oliver to find the murderer and save herself and the Siamese.  I enjoyed this book as much as the first.  The characters and setting add to the appeal of the series.

No Charm Intended by Mollie Cox Bryan is book two in the Cora Crafts Mystery series.  I had read the first book, but this book easily stands on its own.  Cora and her friend, Jane, are hosting their second craft retreat.  It starts off on the wrong foot when the babysitter Jane hired goes missing.  A simple missing person case is complicated when a friend is found murdered.  I enjoy the characters in this series and how they interact together.  Ms. Bryan's series is definitely one of my favorites.

Every Body on Deck by G.A. McKevett is part of the Savannah Reid Mystery Series.  PI Savannah  and her entire detective agency are hired to accompany a famous author on an Alaskan cruise.  At the first port the author and her husband jump ship and are murdered.  Savannah is determined to solve the crime to protect her reputation and alleviate her guilt.  I liked the book, but I did not love it.  The story line was choppy at times and a bit annoying at others.  While it was enjoyable, I felt the mystery was a bit too easy to solve.

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

52 New Recipes Weeks 19 & 20

I am cheating a bit this week since I made two different ice cream flavors.  I used the same base recipe for both.  Each recipe makes about 5 cups in my Cuisanart ice cream maker.  I bought mine at a yard sale several years ago for $10.  It came with two bowls so it was a bargain.

Vanilla Ice Cream Base
2 cups milk (I use 2%)
3-4 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup half & half
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the eggs and sugar.  Heat the milk.  Gradually add some of the heated milk to the egg mixture until the bowl feels warm.  Add this back to the milk and continue to heat until it thickens.  Pour into a bowl and add the half & half and vanilla.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.  Churn as directed by your ice cream maker's instructions.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Combine butter and sugar in a pan until melted.  Add the chopped pecans and stir constantly until the pecans are toasted.  Allow to cool.  Churn the ice cream base mixture adding in the pecan mixture at the last 10 minutes.

Chocolate Ice Cream
This one is made by the base instructions with the following changes.  Increase sugar in base mixture to 2/3 cup.  When heating the milk add 2 ounce milk chocolate and 1/2 cup cocoa.

W loved the butter pecan.  I liked it and I never like store bought butter pecan ice cream.  I made the chocolate for my little cousin.  It had a good flavor without being too rich.

I use whole eggs rather than just the yolks since I do not want to deal with the leftover whites.  I also think it makes the ice cream richer without the need to use whole milk and whipping cream.  Plus adding eggs means the ice cream stores better in the freezer - not that it lasts long at my house.

Next week I am planning to try a stuffed French bread recipe.

Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 20

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
W had several orders that he needed to finish so no work was done on the new house.  I have decided to do the summer edition of the Holiday Grand Plan.  I hope that it will help me finish some new house projects.  This week is the entry/foyer.  Our foyer is fairly basic.  I do want to think about adding a picture or mirror to the wall opposite the aquarium.  For the entry I plan to sand and repaint the front door.  I also want to work on the bench on the front porch.  Hopefully I will have some good progress to report next week.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
W's dad has a birthday coming up soon, and I need to buy a book for a niece's birthday next month.  I have money set aside for graduation gifts.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I transplanted some cosmos and more bee balm to the pollinator garden.  I did not get the herb seed planted last week, but that is on my list for this week.  The Jane the turkey's chicks ate the Mexican cucumber plants I set out.  I am debating on replanting or waiting until fall.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I did not finish the succulent class yet.  That will be on my to do list for later today.  I only have two short lessons left.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
No progress on this last week.

6.  Boost Savings
I was able to add some extra money to the credit card debt.  I have done a better job with cutting out extra spending.  I have started back doing Swagbucks to pay for a few things I want.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Weekend Book Review

Rarely do I read a book that unnerves me so much that I am unable to sleep, but The Art of Southern Charm by Patricia Altschul and Deborah Davis did just that.  I am appalled that people will read this and believe this is how southern people act.

I have several problems with her idea of Southern.  First every Southerner is judged by her tea (sweet is always implied) and not her martini.  Second "Bless Her (His/Your) Heart" is never, ever used with a compliment.  It simply softens whatever is being said.  Third tomato sandwiches are not tea sandwiches.  A tomato sandwich should be served on lightly toasted bread.  It is best eaten while leaning over a dinner plate or the kitchen sink.  A good tomato sandwich is always messy.  If it is not messy, you did not make it properly.  Finally I was shocked at the absence of funeral etiquette.  Funerals are a big part of Southern culture.

I did not realize that Ms. Altschul had a reality show.  If I had looked at some of clips on YouTube before reading this book rather than after, I could have saved myself some time.  I do realize that the author would consider me "common", but I am fine with that.  After watching clips of the author's show, I find it ironic that she criticized "Honey Boo Boo".  It is charming that Ms. Altschul finds a difference between the two.  Bless her heart!

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Frugal Friday

We continued to not use the air conditioner.  The weather is warm but not unbearable.  As long as we feel a huge temperature change when coming inside the house, I see no reason to turn on the a/c.

W wanted to get a new mailbox for his parents.  We picked one up at Lowe's but on our next stop at Tractor Supply we found the same mailbox clearance to half price.  The one from Lowe's was returned for an $8 savings.

Meals were eaten at home.  None have been fancy and a couple have been rushed, but they were better than fast food.  I should add that the nearest fast food place is 20+ minutes from my house.  Getting there would take more time than grabbing something quick at home.

I weeded the flower bed and fed the weeds to the chickens.  The rabbits have been eating lettuce from my parent's garden that started to bolt.

I was very happy to find the grapefruit juice W likes on Amazon Subscribe and Save.  It worked out to about half what I was paying at the grocery store.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

In the Garden

I was excited to finally receive some of the new plants that I ordered.  I ordered several herbs from Colonial Creek Farm.  I am not sure how I stumbled across this website.  I had it bookmarked since last year.  Since I had some extra garden money left, I ordered a few plants.

I was really pleased with how well the box was packaged.  All of the plants were in excellent condition.  I am always looking for different or unusual plants, and Colonial Creek Farm offers a wide variety.  Here is what I ordered.

Texas Tarragon:  Reading up on French tarragon convinced me that it was not a good option for the very hot weather my area has.  I then discovered Texas tarragon.  Since it is not a perennial for my zone, I will be planting it in a pot so I can overwinter it in the greenhouse.

Russian Comfrey:  I use comfrey in a homemade salve.  Since one of my goals is to be more self-sufficient, it made sense to grow my own.  I chose this variety, because it is sterile.  In the future I might grown common comfrey.  One Russian comfrey plant should supply all I need though.

Banana Mint:  I love mints.  I decided to slowly build a variety in my garden.  Colonial Creek offers 45 varieties of mint.  I thought the banana mint was unusual but useful at the same time.

Bay Laurel:  I always use bay leaves in cooking so this was an obvious choice to add to the garden.  It was much larger than I expected it to be.  I will plant it in a large pot and may eventually move it to the yard depending on how large it gets.

Munstead Lavender:  I already have one lavender plant, but I have been looking for a good one for culinary use.  This variety also handles the heat and humidity well.

Tangerine Sage:  I added pineapple sage to my garden last year and loved it.  I used the leaves in my herbal teas and just loved the scent of it in the garden.  Tangerine sage is also a culinary variety.  It has a light citrus scent.

I was extremely happy with everything that I ordered.  I will definitely order from Colonial Creek Farm again.

Monday, May 8, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 19

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property

We had plans this week that were sidelined by the weather.  I am not complaining as I would rather have the rain.  The rains also brought wind and chilly temperatures.  I think W plans to work on the property side of the goal this week.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I need to pick up two gifts this week.  I am also sticking up extra money for graduations too.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I added some additional herbs to my garden this week.  I have a full post on that Wednesday.  My plans for this week include weeding, planting some more herb seed, and planting the Mexican cucumber seedlings I started.

4.  Take One Class a Month
This week I plan to finish up the succulent class and maybe start another by the weekend.  I am thinking one of the cooking classes will be next.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
Not much progress on those wash cloths:  44 to go

6.  Boost Savings
I was really excited about our low electric bill this month - less than $80.  We also took advantage of a sale to have our gas tank refilled.  We only used about 30 gallons over the past year.  Our

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Kale to the Queen by Nell Hampton is the first book in the Kensington Palace Chef Mystery series.  Carrie Ann moves from Chicago to London to start her new job as personal chef to the duke and duchess at Kensington Palace.  Things are going well until one assistant turns up dead and the other winds up in jail.  I started this book with mixed feelings, but by the end I was wishing book two was out.  The characters are fun and have ample room for development.  The setting is interesting, and the mystery kept my attention to the end.  This is a nice start to a new series.

Horace Winter Says Goodbye by Conor Bowman is a fictional novel about living.  Horace retires from his job, which aside from his mother was the main focus of his life.  Shortly after he receives a life changing medical diagnosis.  The story can be a little hard to follow as it jumps from past to present.  Horace also compares everyone to either a butterfly or a moth.  Once I adjusted to this, the story pulled me in.  Horace's choices affect himself as well as all those he encounters.  The book is a reminder that it is never too late to start living.

Kathi Daley's Treasure in Paradise is book seven in the TJ Jensen Mystery series.  This is the first book I have read in the series.  Reading some of the prior books might have helped, but I was not at all lost.  TJ and her family are headed to Gull Island to oversee renovations on a friend's resort property.  The vacation starts off badly when a body is found in the attic.  The local police seem to be covering up a murder, and TJ sets out to determine why.  The setting and characters are enjoyable.  The mystery kept me guessing until the end.  I do plan to add the previous books to my reading list.

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

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Mayhem on the Orchid Isle by Aysia Amery is book three in the Maui Mayhem Cozy Mystery series.  I had not read any of the previous books in the series, and it did not hamper my enjoyment of this book.  Ginger and Jemma are cooking for a private party at a horse ranch when they get stranded by a storm.  This would not be a problem if the plot to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None was not being played out with the guests.  This was an easy read, and I finished it in one day.  The mystery kept me guessing until the end though.  I would happily read the other books in the series.

Ellery Adams and Parker Riggs are the authors of A Killer Keepsake, book six in the Antiques & Collectibles Mysteries series.  This was the the second book from the series that I have read, but it could stand on its own.  Molly has written an article about the Forget Me Not Doll Club.  However, before the article can be officially published, one of the club members is found dead.  Molly is asked by Dectective Lombardi to help with the case.  The plot was a bit darker than the usual cozy mystery as it dealt with domestic violence.  I did enjoy the hints at haunted dolls.  This book includes a story from the past that relates to the present story.  The backstory was just as interesting as the main story.

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

Thursday, May 4, 2017

52 New Recipes Weeks 17 & 18

My new recipe for week 17 dish is strawberry crisp.  The strawberries have done very well this year.  I put a bunch in the freezer and made a pie one week.  W is not a fan of strawberry pie so I thought I would try a crisp.  I followed the recipe for the most part.  It had the right amount of sweetness and was easy to mix together.  I did not measure the strawberries but did enough to fill the pan.  I have tried a few recipes for strawberry crisp in the past, but this will be my go to recipe.  Aside from the time spent prepping the strawberries, it is a quick dessert.

For week 18 I made Spicy Chipotle-Lime Hummus.  I like hummus and have only ever eaten homemade.  W thinks regular hummus is a bit bland.  Since he is a fan of chipotle, I thought this recipe would be perfect.  I skipped the coriander and went a bit lighter on the lime juice.  This is definitely a spicy hummus.  If you are not a fan of spicy foods, adding half of the chipotle would be a better option.  We ate it with pretzels.  I also used it when making some quesadillas.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

In the Garden

I am trying to get back on track with posting.  Over the past two weeks I have mainly been working on maintenance in the garden.  I have pulled some weeds and watered daily due to the lack of rain here.  I have also pulled poison ivy and oak from the yard.  W is highly allergic, but it does not affect me at all.  I never wear gloves or anything.  That makes me and W a good pair.

I snapped a few pictures earlier this week.  The bee balm is starting to bloom.  I had no idea how much it would spread.  I have some plants to move into my bee/butterfly garden.

The herbs around the chicken house are holding their own.  Someone found one of the mint plants.  It had gotten so big that the snacking barely had an effect.




The jalapeno plant left from last year already has some good sized peppers.

I had several radish plants that never made radishes.  I am letting them go to seed before I feed the plants to the animals.

What is happening in your garden?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Jane theTurkey

I am not sure if I ever mentioned that we have a turkey named Jane.  Jane lives with three chickens (Jack, Janet, and Chrissy) in a partially free range area of our property.  At the end of March Jane decided to start sitting.  The chickens had been laying eggs in the nest area.  Last month Jane became mama to nine baby chickens.

She is very protective and does not live anyone to get close to her babies. It is funny to see these little chickens following a big turkey.  She loves them, and they love her though.  Thanks to Jane I suppose I will have nine bilingual chickens.

Monday, May 1, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 18

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
This week W put the molding around the hallway side of the aquarium.  He also finished the molding around the living room and kitchen windows.  He put down baseboard molding in the hallway.  A few small projects each week will have this goal wrapped up.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
W and I need to discuss amounts for graduation gifts.  We lean toward to gifting money.  It seems to be the normal for our area.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I did not dry chamomile or mint last week.  I did use herbs from the garden for cooking.  I planted fennel seed, dill seed, and basil seed.  The first round of dill and basil did not come up.  I think the pumpkin seeds will have to be replanted as well.  I need to order new ones though.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I am continuing with the succulent class.  I have gotten into the arrangement portion and am learning quite a bit.  I do need to look into getting a collection of succulents.  I am thinking the most cost effective way will be cuttings.  Fortunately the class offers some sources for these.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I am working on wash cloths and have 45 left to make.

6.  Boost Savings
A few necessary expenses this past week but a hamper on savings.  I would love to make this a no or at least low spend week.  After three trips to town last week, I will be happy to stay close to home this week.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

The Yellow Envelope by Kim Dinan is part travel book and part memoir.  Kim decides she is tired of living the life she is expected to live - the right job, big house, etc.  She convinces her husband, Brian, that they should quit their jobs, sell their belongings, and travel the world.  Reading this book was a bit like riding a roller coaster.  At times I loved it, and at other times the author's complaining annoyed me.  The yellow envelope is filled with money gifted by friends to Kim and Brian and intended to be gifted to others during their travels.  Even with the ups and downs, I enjoyed the book.

Maddie Day's latest book in the Country Store Mystery series is When the Grits Hit the Fan.  I have read a previous book in the series, but it is not necessary.  Robbie's country store/restaurant continues to thrive even during the winter months.  She and a friend stumble across a dead body.  With the suspects piling up, Robbie is determined to solve the mystery.  While I enjoyed this book, I felt the story became too political in several places.  Politics have taken over everything, but I hope that the series will go no deeper.  A good book should be an escape rather than more of the same.

How to be a Hepburn in a Kardashian World by Jordan Christy is a revised edition of a previous book.  Targeted audience for the this book is teen girls.  I appreciate the idea of this book which is to help young girls focus on style, class, and grace.  It does not provide good advice for very young teens especially in regards to dating.  In some areas it is too light and in others too deep.  I am uncertain exactly what age group if any would benefit the most from this book.  I feel that it missed the mark slightly.

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

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Tightening the Threads by Lea Wait is the fifth book in the Mainely Needlepoint Mystery series.  I have read previous books in this series, but it is not necessary to enjoy this book. Angie's friend, Sarah, invites her to a birthday weekend for a local artist and gallery owner, Ted.  The weekend takes a turn when Ted makes some startling announcements.  During the weekend clam bake, Ted has to be rushed to the hospital and dies unexpectedly.  A second "accidental" death makes Angie and the police suspicious.  I love how needlepoint is always part of the books but not necessarily the main focus.  The characters are well developed and work well in the Maine setting.  Tightening the Threads is another excellent book from Lea Wait.

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fair Trade Friday: April Earring of the Month

I love to get my surprise earrings in the mail each month.  I loved March's earrings, but I think April's might be even better.

These earrings are made by women in India working for Rahab's Rope.  Rahab's Rope gives hope and opportunities to women and girls rescued from the commercial sex trade of India.  Fair Trade Friday continues to open my eyes to wonderful ministries around the world that are helping women.

The online store offers a wide variety of fair trade products.  I received the Egg Pearl Earrings from Fair Trade Friday.  The earrings are lightweight and delicate enough to wear with any outfit.  You can start your own Earring of the Month Subscription here.

Monday, April 24, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 17

1.  Completely Finish the New House and Update Property
Last week we started on a couple of projects.  W began building a coffee table made from an old door in our previous house.  We still have to decide what color to paint the sides and if we want to paint the legs or leave them as they are.

I painted a storage cabinet that he bought for my craft room.  I wanted to keep the industrial look and chose to go with flat gray and blue as the main colors.  I ordered some new card holders for the front and will paint them white.  W is going to build a small base to lift it slightly off the floor.  This will allow me to get rid of some plastic storage bins and make my craft room look better.

2.  Plan ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
Not only did I order the birthday and weddings gifts last week, I also ordered a baby shower gift.  Next up is saving for graduation gifts next month.  

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I harvested and dried more chamomile this past week.  I also finished the planting and weeding tasks from last week.  I will probably dry more chamomile and maybe some mint this week.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I finished the French bread class.  The other lessons were good, but I most wanted to learn to make baguettes.  I started a class on succulents.  I finished two lessons and have already gotten some very helpful information.  I am looking forward to creating a few succulent arrangements.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
Wash cloths... I finished some but not five. Hopefully this week will be more productive.

6.  Boost Savings
We were repaid some money we loaned a family member which gave our savings account a nice boost.  I was happy to have a bit of extra money to put toward the credit card debt.  It is great to see that continue to drop.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

The Ground Beneath Us by Paul Bogard is literally about the ground or dirt.  The book is divided into three main sections with different chapters within each.  Mr. Bogard travels to different areas and discusses the ground in each.  I did like the book although toward the end the book lost much of its momentum.  The book should be read more for enjoyment than scientific information.

Whit Gibbons' Snakes of the Eastern United States is an informative book on the over 60 snake species found in the eastern US.  I most appreciated the tip on distinguishing venomous and non-venomous snakes.  Even more reassuring was the data on snake bites and fatalities.  The full color photographs of each snake featured helped reinforce the identification material.  I will never be a fan of snakes, but I did want to be able to identify the type of snakes I see.  The book also covers invasive species of snakes.  The book is well written with clear, concise information.

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Grand Prize: Murder!  by Vivian Conroy is the second book in the Country Gift Shop Cozy Mystery series.  While it is not necessary to read the first book, it is helpful.  Grand Prize: Murder! takes place immediately after Dead to Begin With.  Vicky receives a special gift from the city for her help solving a mystery.  Rather than calming down, life gets more hectic as cozy author Bella Brooks arrives for a book signing at Vicky's gift shop.  Mysterious people seem to have flocked to Glen Cove and one ends up dead.  To keep Bella our of jail and save her shop's reputation, Vicky must find the real killer.  My return visit to Glen Cove was just as nice as the first.

Mother's Day, Muffins, and Murder by Sara Rosett is book 10 in the Ellie Avery Mystery series.  I had read a previous book in this series, but this one easily stands on its own.  Ellie is busy enough with her organizing business and end of the year activities at her children's school.  Her business rival says she saw a dead body in a closet at the school, but no one can find it.  Unfortunately the rumor turns to reality when the body reappears in the woods during the school's field day.  Ellie is a wonderful, realistic character.  The murder mystery was excellent and kept me guessing until nearly then end.  I enjoyed this book even more than the previous one I had read.  I am happy to find a cozy mystery series that remains well written after the first few books.

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

52 New Recipes Week 16: Parmesan Rice

I like the idea of flavored rice like those sold in packs at the grocery store.  I do not like the amount of salt and preservatives included.  The recipe for Creamy Parmesan Rice has all of the flavor without the extra stuff.  (I did not get a good picture of this week's recipe so click through the above link to see the final product.)

I made it in the rice cooker, which is one of my favorite kitchen tools.  When W came inside for dinner, he immediately said that something smelled good.  It was the Parmesan rice.  The garlic and Parmesan were perfect together.  Other than cooking it in a rice cooker, I followed the recipe exactly.  I almost never do that, but this one truly was perfect.

We had leftovers the following day.  It reheated nicely. This rice side dish will be a permanent part of my menu.  It was practically as easy as a packaged mix.  The flavor made it worth the extra few minutes it took to put together.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In the Garden

My main progress in the garden recently has been the addition of a bee/butterfly garden.  I planted piles of flower and herb seeds.  Many of the seeds are starting to sprout, but they are still very tiny.  Photographs would be dull at this point.

Saturday I received the kiwi plants I ordered from Baker Creek.  Unfortunately they are out of stock until next season.  The plants were beautiful.  I planted them in 5 gallon buckets where they will stay until next spring mostly likely.

The cucumber and radish seedlings are growing strong.

I also have blooms on some of the tomato and pepper plants.

This week I will plant the pumpkin and hibiscus seeds.  I told myself I was done with planting after that except for succession planting of seeds.  As usual I found myself tempted by just a few more plants and seeds.  I will wait until those arrive to share them with you.

Monday, April 17, 2017

2017 Goals Week 16

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
We worked on the second half of this goal over the past week.  We hauled off a load of  trash from the yard as well as some leftovers from working on the new house.  We also filled our regular trash can as much as possible.  I have no idea what we will work on this week.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I need to order a birthday gift as well as a wedding shower gift this week.

3.  Use the Garden to be More Self-Sufficient
Last week I harvested and dried chamomile.  I will pick the chamomile to dry again this week.  I picked strawberries and added those to the freezer.  This week I plan to weed the garden, plant pumpkin seeds and red roselle (hibiscus) seeds, and plant my three new kiwi plants.

4.  Take One Class a Month
My plan is to finish the French bread class this week.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I have fallen behind on making wash cloths.  I plan to finish 5 this week.

6.  Boost Savings
Money that could have gone to knock out some credit card debt went to paying taxes instead.  It is a new week with new chances to save though!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

The Inheritance by Niki Kapsambelis is one of the best books I have read on Alzheimer's disease.  I would even go so far to say it is the best.  The book focuses primarily on the DeMoe family.  This family carries a genetic link to the disease.  It is fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time.  The timeline follows the family as well as researchers' race to find a treatment.  Anyone with an interest in Alzheimer's especially those affected personally will find this book hard to put down. The author does an excellent job telling the DeMoe family's story with compassion.

Food52 Ice Cream and Friends is a collection of 60 ice creams of all flavors.  The choices will take you way beyond basic vanilla or chocolate.  Ice cream is a big deal in my family so I am no stranger to making it myself.  While the recipes are good, I found most of them to be more complicated than necessary.  I did try out the recipe for Coffee Frozen Custard.  The resulting ice cream was good but not great.  I did not find enough recipes to make it worth adding to my cookbook collection.  I do recommend that you preview the book before making your own decision.

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Murder at the Fortune Teller's Table by Janet Finsilver is the third book in the Kelly Jackson Mystery series.  This is one of the best cozy mysteries I have read in a long time.  The book easily stands on its own (although I am now planning to read the previous two).  Kelly is the manager of a bed and breakfast.  She and the crime solving group, the Silver Sentinels, are soon caught up in a mystery when two accidental deaths seem anything but accidental.  I loved the setting and especially the characters.  The book is very well written, and the mystery kept me interested until the end.  I am happy to have discovered this wonderful cozy mystery series!

Never Out of Season by Rob Dunn is a fascinating look at modern agriculture and its problems.  The lack of diversity may soon lead to a collapse of the foods we depend on.  The book was well researched and covered a variety of topics all related to agriculture.  I learned about everything from mealybugs to the vast consequences of drought in Syria.  Although a serious subject, I found the book well worth my time.

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

Frugal Friday

I have been mostly frugal but have also felt a bit spendy these past few weeks.  None of it was frivolous silly spending but just life spending.

Friday - I packed W's lunch items for the week in reusable containers.  Packing as much as I can in advance helps in case things get busy on his work days.  It is easy to grab the pre-packed items and toss them in his lunch box.  We ate pineapple sandwiches for supper using the $1 pineapple I purchased earlier in the week.

Saturday - I helped host the church/community Easter egg hunt.  I am not sure it counts a frugal thing, but I try to keep it that way as much as possible.  I spent most of the remainder of the day relaxing at home.  I did take time to hang a load of clothes outside to dry and bake two loaves of bread.

Sunday - Sundays are always quiet.  Besides going to church I wrote some letters and read.  I gave my Bible class children treat bags made with leftover egg hunt candy.

Monday - I had leftovers for dinner.  I spent most of the day working in the garden.  I repotted plants and planted the rest of the seedlings from the greenhouse.  The weather has been mild enough that we have not needed the heat or air.

Tuesday - I spent this day working in the yard. Doing my own yard work definitely saves money.  I am physically able and see no good reason not to do it myself.  I am reminded of my nearly 100 year old neighbor who used to mow his own lawn.  I worked on the bee/butterfly garden.  I will share more about this on Wednesday's garden post.

Wednesday - W needed to run errands so I tagged along.  He had to stop at the home improvement store so I wandered into the garden section looking for the poblano pepper plants I needed.  I had room for two plants but hated to spend $3+ each.  Instead I looked through all of the pots until I found one that contained two plants.  It was like getting the second free.  I have noticed that I can usually find a container with a bonus plant if I take the time to look.

Thursday - I had to stop and think what I did yesterday which is a bit sad.  I watched a free movie on Vudu.  I hung clothes out to dry.  I pulled weeds from the garden.  Last year I barely had time to do anything with the garden.  My idea of fun is to pull a few weeds from my raised beds.  Seeing those clean beds with growing plants makes me happy.  I know that this bit of time and effort will reward me with delicious vegetables and fruits fresh from my backyard.

Have you had a frugal week?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

52 New Recipes Week 15: Korean Beef

I found this recipe on Pinterest and saved it since it looked like a good way to use up ground beef.  I had mushrooms and zucchini in the refrigerator to use up.  I also loved the fact that it was a quick meal.  I followed the recipe as written but did use the sweet chili sauce substitution.  The recipe was so good that I will be looking for the sweet chili sauce when I make it again.

I did follow the blog's suggestion of adding mushrooms.  W requested a few more veggies next time. The food processor chopped them up perfectly and quickly.

I served it over rice cooked in the rice cooker - another of my favorite time savers.  I love that I can just set the rice cooker and forget it.  The flavors were good, but I think the actual sweet chili sauce will make it perfect.  W and I both agreed that this should be a regular menu addition.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April Fair Trade Friday Box

I am always excited to receive my Fair Trade Friday package in the mail each month.  I am not sure how they do it, but honestly the boxes get better and better each month.  The first item is this set of bracelets.  They are made by a group of women with Have Hope in Kenya.  This set is Spring Blues and can be purchased from Mercy House.

The second set of items is this beautiful notepad and handmade pencil.  Some of my friends will be receiving letters written on this paper in the near future.  The artwork is an original design by an artist at Have Hope in Azberaijan.  The pencils support youth in India at a rehab center.

The third item and my favorite in the box is this necklace made by Repurposed on Purpose right here in the US.  The leather and pearl necklace includes a metal bar stamped with the word Priceless.  You can purchase this necklace from Mercy House as well.

Once again I am more than thrilled with everything I received from Mercy House.  If you are interested in signing up for the Fair Trade Friday Original box, click here.  Remember if you receive an item that is not right for you, gift tags are included so you can share with someone.  Be prepared to want to keep everything for yourself though!

Monday, April 10, 2017

2017 Goals Week 15

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
Other things came up this week including two days of bad weather.  We ended up not doing anything to the new house.  I did order the tool W needed to finish the entertainment center cabinet doors.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Anniversary Gifts
I bought a gift card this week for my youngest nephew.  For the older relatives it is easier to go with a gift card.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I bought a couple more herbs to add to the garden.  I was pleased to see that this past week's rain helped everything grow.  I have a few more items to clear out of the greenhouse this week.  The weather should be sunny with mild temperatures - perfect for working in the garden.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I have fallen behind on the French bread class but am still working on it.  I have plenty of time to finish 12 classes this year.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I sorted a few things that were in my craft room.  I am still planning to start packing a few boxes after Easter.

6.  Boost Savings
I feel like this goal took a hit since we had to pay taxes.  That is a necessity though, and I do save throughout the year.  I was able to knock a bit off the credit card debt.  Having a meal plan should really help with the grocery spending for this month.  Savings is a marathon and not a sprint.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Weekend Book Review: Good Veg

Good Veg by Alice Hart is described as a modern vegetarian cookbook.  My family is not vegetarian although I do like to serve a vegetarian meal from time to time.  I was hoping this book would give me some good ideas.  While there are good meal ideas, I do not feel it is good for picky or less adventurous eaters.  I should also remind you that I live in a rural area so finding many of the ingredients is not cost effective.  That and the length of some ingredient lists were negatives for me.

I did find some recipes and helpful tips throughout the book.  I loved the Hibiscus Honey Tea.  The tips for making sweet potato fries that are not soggy were excellent.  The Four Essential Dressings were great and offered something for everyone.

While the book has good and not so good points, it was simply not what I needed.  My family is too picky for me to make much from this cookbook.  I would recommend that you preview it and make your own decision!

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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

For Whom The Bread Rolls is the second book in the Pancake House Mystery series by Sarah Fox.  This book stands on its own, but I had read the first book in the series last year.  Marley is back at The Flip Side, a pancake house she inherited in her former hometown.  When the woman harassing her is murdered, Marley becomes a person of interest and works to clear her name.  I enjoyed this book but did not love it.  I was annoyed at the amount of time spent on Marley's love life.  I read cozy mysteries because I like mysteries not romance.  I am not giving up on the series.  However, I would like to see the mystery have a more prominent role in the next book.

Alison Cayne's The Haven's Kitchen Cooking School is a wonderful resource for beginning cooks.  It is divided into nine focused sections from soups to sauces to desserts.  The book includes teaching recipes that cover cooking basics and then builds on those.  I tried the recipe for Crispy Sauteed Mushrooms and found the cooking times to be spot on which is important for any recipe book.  While more established cooks might not find much new information, a new cook need look no further to gain confidence in the kitchen.

Purr M for Murder by TC LoTempio is the first book in the Cat Rescue Mystery series.  Sydney returns to her hometown to help her sister Kat with the local animal shelter, Friendly Paws.  Things are off to a bad start when Sydney's pop up cat cafe plan meets an adversary, Trowbridge Littleton.  When Trowbridge is murdered, Kat is the top suspect.  Sydney begins her own investigation to clear Kat's name and save the shelter.  I loved the setting and the characters.  This series has great potential for growth.  I am already looking forward to the next book.

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

52 New Recipes: Week 14 ~ King Arthur Flour April Bakealong

My planned new recipe fell through when we ate leftovers a couple of nights.  I kept pushing other planned meals further down until the new one was off the menu.  I got an email for the April Bakealong with King Arthur Flour - Chocolate Babka.  I had pinned several recipes for chocolate babka.  Those recipes tended to be very involved and used expensive chocolate.  I had everything on hand to make King Arthur Flour's version.

I did halve the recipe and used the bread machine to make things even easier.  I mixed the filling and topping right by the recipe.  I think this is the first recipe in a long time that I followed exactly.  While I do need to work on my twisting/shaping, I thought it turned out well considering I was finishing up dinner at the same time as the babka.

My picture is not great as it was late when we actually cut the bread.  It was delicious - sweet but not overly sweet.  I really loved how easy it was once I tasted it.  This will go into my recipe book. Now I want to go back and do the other bakealong challenges.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

In the Garden

I was so busy in the garden last week that I never got around to taking pictures to share.  I have all of the raised beds weeded.  The newest bed is filled, and the chickens have done an excellent job of mixing all of the dirt/manure for me.

We had a nice shower of rain earlier in the week.  I have no idea what it is about rain water, but plants simply grow better after a good rain.  First up the catnip.  It is beginning to fill the cage.  The cats have already been visiting.

The eggplants have really grown.  I have one that sprouted back out from last year and one my aunt gave me.

One section of my herb garden - sages, oregano, garlic chives, and thyme.

The bee balm has grown like crazy over the past two weeks.  

Pepper plants - I got a bit carried away with different varieties.  I have red, yellow, and green bell, jalapeno, banana, cubanelle, fish, and lunchbox.  I still need to get poblano pepper plants.

I planted tomato plants in with the kale.  They are nearly the same size now, but the tomato plants will soon outgrow the kale.

The cucumber seeds I planted last week have sprouted.  I love to see the little seedlings pop up out of the ground.

How are things growing in your garden?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hosting an Easter Egg Hunt

For several years I have co-hosted the community/church egg hunt in my neighborhood.  Over the years I have narrowed down what works best for us.  Maybe some of these tips can help you.

Our egg hunt is open to children aged baby through 12 years old. Living in a very small town allows me to know who most likely will come.  If you are hosting a neighborhood hunt, you most likely will also know the families that will attend.  It helps to have an idea the number and ages of children who will attend.  I add a couple of children to each age group to be on the safe side.  I plan a dozen eggs for each child.

For our egg hunt we provide all of the plastic eggs and treats inside.  Children only need to bring their baskets.  I have a family member who has kept us stocked in plastic eggs bought on clearance after Easter.  Fortunately we have room store store all of these eggs.  Alternately you can ask people to donate empty or filled plastic eggs in the weeks prior to the egg hunt.  

Having the eggs ahead of time allows us to hide the eggs before the egg hunt.  A bonus of doing it this way is that we do not need to provide entertainment/games for the children while someone hides all of the eggs.

What I put inside the eggs varies a bit from year to year depending on what I have found.  For the youngest age group I normally put Saf-T-Pops or small packs of gummy bears.  Stickers are another nice item for the toddler group.  The middle age group gets candy and stickers.  The older age group primarily gets candy.  I normally buy a bulk package of candy from the regular candy aisle.  I have found the prices to be better.

We serve a light lunch.  Most often this is grilled hot dogs, individual bags of chips, and mini cupcakes.  This gives the children a chance to open their eggs and play.  The parents have a chance to visit.  Most years we provide treat bags.  I try to find things on clearance.  Some popular items are small coloring/activity books, small bottles of bubbles, and either candy or cookies.

Have you every hosted an Easter egg hunt?  I would love to hear your tips for making it a success!

Monday, April 3, 2017

2017 Goals Week 14

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
I am excited that we are getting some of the small things done.  This past week we braced up the aquarium cabinet.  The 80 gallon aquarium had sagged a bit due to the weight of the extra thick glass, water and gravel.  I was very, very nervous about this.  I kept imagining the aquarium cracking and water going everywhere.  Our aquarium is partially inside the wall which would have resulted in major damage.  All went well though.  The aquarium is no longer leaning, and the cabinet has extra bracing.

W also finished the cover for the water manifold.  We needed something that provided easy access and did not want just a door.  This frame was at W's parents old house.  I cleaned it up and painted it.  He used some scrap wood which he painted with chalkboard paint to go inside it.  It turned out great and only cost $10 (paint).

This week our plans are to work on the entertainment cabinet doors and possibly the doors for the aquarium cabinet which is actually a large built in.

2.   Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I have chosen a few items for the wedding shower.  I think I will crochet some dish cloths with cotton yarn I already have as an add in.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
All of the raised beds are weeded.  I have a good bit of garden pea seeds saved for next year's planting.  The forecast was warm enough that I planted the seedlings I had in the greenhouse and the pepper plants I bought.  More on the garden in Wednesday's garden post.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I am still on the French bread class.  I am baking more loaves today and will have one lesson left for next week.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
Nothing going on with this goal until after Easter.  I am continuing to work on the wash cloths though.

6.  Boost Savings
This goal was hit or miss for the past week.  I did not buy unnecessary items but we did do some spending.  I needed stuff for an Easter egg hunt.  I will share that tomorrow.  I had to have a battery for my car.  Life happens sometimes.  I made a menu plan for April.  I tried to focus on using items we have on hand to keep my grocery spending low.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Weekend Book Review: The Acid Watcher Diet

The Acid Watcher Diet by Dr. Jonathan Aviv interested me primarily because my husband deals with acid reflux.  As I was reading the opening chapters, I was surprised that many other symptoms my husband has are tied to the reflux.  Dr. Aviv does an excellent job of explaining what reflux is and how an individual's diet affects it.

He starts the diet portion by giving a list of habits for reducing acid.  Many are general habits that anyone trying to improve his/her health should do.  His advice ties into the popular belief that processed foods are one thing to be avoided.

Next comes the 28 day healing diet.  While I can see that it would benefit someone with acid reflux, I do not think my husband has reached the point that he would want to follow the diet.  It is quite restrictive.  Dr Aviv has obviously never been to the middle of nowhere (AKA my hometown) as readers are encouraged to go to the local juice bar for freshly made juices.

Overall this is a good book with excellent information.  My husband may never be completely on board, but the book does give lists of foods which are better than others for acid reflux sufferers.  I think anyone dealing with reflux would find something useful in The Acid Watcher Diet.

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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

The Backyard Gardener by Kelly Orzel is a wonderful guide to gardening.  The six chapters cover everything from soil to a monthly gardening calendar.  Many plants from flowers to vegetables are covered with thorough information.  I especially appreciate Ms. Orzel's guide to succession planting and companion planting advice.  While very helpful for beginners, this book will also appeal to longtime gardener's too.  The beautiful photographs added to my enjoyment of the book.  It will be a book that I refer to for many years to come.

Hoedown Showdown by Misty Simon is part of the Ivy Morris Mysteries series.  Ivy's children are visiting their grandparents for the week, and she has plans to enjoy her child-free time.  Those plans come to a halt when she discovers a dead body in a neighbor's shed and a new overbearing police officer comes to town.  This book could have been great.  The mystery was interesting.  My problem was that the main character spent way too much time talking about her sex life.  Nothing graphic was mentioned, but the topic got old fast.  I thought I was reading a mystery, but for most of the book I had serious doubts.  I did make it to the end of the book, but this will be the only one I will read in the series.

Vicky Delaney's Elementary, She Read is the first book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series.  Gemma is an Englishwoman living in Cape Cod and running her uncle's Sherlock Holmes themed bookshop.  Her friend, Jayne, runs an adjoining tea shop.  Gemma's super observation skills get her in trouble when she discovers two bodies.  I adored everything about this new series.  The characters are charming, and the setting is almost perfect.  Readers do not need to be Sherlock Holmes fans to enjoy this book.  I look forward to reading more in this series!

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

52 New Recipes Week 13: Chocolate Pound Cake

I know I said that I was going to make homemade wheat crackers this week.  I also realize that chocolate pound cake is pretty much the opposite of wheat crackers.  I have several reasons for changing my mind.  1) I was under the weather and chocolate just sounded better.  2)I needed to use up some eggs.  This recipe took care of 10 bantam eggs.  3) I needed to use up some buttermilk.  Add those together, and I had no choice.

I found the recipe in Trisha Yearwood's cookbook, Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen.  The exact recipe can be found on Food Network.  I did drop the sugar to 2 1/3 cups and replaced the milk with buttermilk.  I prefer desserts less sweet and wanted to use up the last of my buttermilk.

If you are following the recipe online, I would like to add a couple of pound cake tips.  Grease and flour the pan.  The flour and cooling time means it will slide perfectly out of the pan.  Creaming the butter, shortening, and sugar requires at least five minutes, but I lean toward seven minutes.  This is the first step in making a pound cake light.  The other ingredients should be added with the shortest mixing time possible.  You do not want to undo all of the work from the creaming step.  These are steps I learned from older pound cake mentors and steps that are often left out of written recipes.

I did bake it slightly over an hour but kept a close eye on it so that I did not overbake it.  It rose beautifully and was light with a good chocolate flavor.  My only regret is that I forgot to add a scoop of instant espresso powder.  I will remember that for the next time I make this cake.  I will definitely make it again.

I have no idea what next week's recipe will be.  I hesitate to say the wheat crackers.  I prefer to cook whatever strikes my fancy at the time.  You will just have to come back next week.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Fair Trade Friday: March Earring of the Month

I had been on the fence about the Earring of the Month shipments for some time.  Several stories, as well as the fact that I had extra funds in my personal money, pushed me over the edge.  I signed up for the 6 month subscription which drops the price per month slightly.  I signed up in time to get my earrings for March.

At first I thought they would not be my style since I rarely wear such large earrings.  I tried them on and fell in love.  They are lightweight and super cute.  These earrings are Mafie earrings from 2nd Story Goods.  If you order directly from 2nd Story Goods, you have your choice of three colors.

I loved getting a pair of surprise earrings from Fair Trade Friday.  Are you worried that a pair of earrings might not be your style?  No problem.  Each pair of earrings comes with a lovely bag and a card for gift giving.

If earrings are not your style, you can sign up for the Bracelet of the Month subscription.  With any of the Fair Trade Friday subscriptions, your purchase supports women artisans around the world.  You will also be introduced to wonderful fair trade companies that you can buy from directly.

Monday, March 27, 2017

2017 Goals Week 13

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
I am saying we made progress on the update property portion of this goal.  We worked on the rabbit condo last week.  It got a remodel to make it better for the rabbits.  We are not done yet and will work on it over the next few weeks.  This week we plan to knock out a few quick projects on the new house too.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
No pressing matters on this goal.  Next up is to choose a wedding shower gift though.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I have one raised bed left to weed this week and will pick the last of the garden peas for next year's seed.  It is still a bit early for planting, but I might stop into the garden center to see what plants are available.  I can always store them in the greenhouse for a couple of weeks.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I am continuing on the French bread class.  It involves much more than I imagined.  I will be carrying this class over into the first part of April.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I divided out stickers which means I have everything to put together the school supply bags.  I continued to work on the wash cloths.

6.  Boost Savings
This week I cancelled my subscription to Mighty Nest.  I did enjoy the shipments, but this was an easy way to save $10 a month.  I will look this week for another little thing or two to cut back on.

Have you made any goals yet?  How are they coming along?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Weekend Book Review: Murder is No Accident

Murder is No Accident by A.H. Gabhart is book three in the Hidden Springs Mystery series.  Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane is in charge of Hidden Springs while the sheriff is on vacation.  He looks forward to a weekend of fishing until a body is discovered in an empty mansion.  What looks like an accident become more mysterious when a second body is discovered in the same house.  I had not read any of the previous books in this series.  The first few chapters were slow as worked to get the characters straight in my mind.  This book easily stands on its own.  The mystery was very good and kept me guessing until near the end.  My favorite part of the book was definitely the characters.  They were the perfect small town citizens.  I look forward to more visits to Hidden Springs!

disclosure:  I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell Books but was not otherwise compensated for this review.  All opinions are my own!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

The Cheltenham Square Murders by John Bude was originally published in 1937.  It has been re-released as part of the British Library Crime Classics series.  While some of the terms used then are no longer used, the book is still wonderful.  Superintendent Meredith is visiting a friend in Cheltenham Square when a puzzling murder is committed.  He extends his visit to help solve the crime.  I enjoyed the setting and characters of this book which reminded me a bit of Agatha Christie.  This is an excellent example of a classic British crime novel!

I am already a fan of Marty Wingate's books.  Her latest Every Trick in the Rook, part of the Birds of a Feather Mystery series, makes me love her writing more.  Julia works as the manager of a tourist center for a British estate.  She is happy with her job and her boyfriend, Michael.  Things begin to fall apart when her ex-husband is found dead on the estate.  The mystery was interesting, but my favorite part of the book was the characters.  Alfie the rook is the best character of all.  This is a wonderful cozy mystery especially for bird and nature lovers.

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