Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Two New Kittens

About two months ago two kittens showed up in our yard.  They were so young that I needed to feed them softened food.  They have grown and stayed around so we officially adopted them.  I named them Tucker and Libby.  Tucker is completely tame and most of the time prefers getting petted to eating.  Libby is still unsure.  She gets close to me and purrs but is not ready for pets just yet.

Libby is happy to have her picture taken and poses nicely.


Tucker on the other hand has a hard time being still long enough.

I did manage to get one good shot of him.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Weekly Goals Update Week 34

I am sorry for skipping any posts other than the pre-scheduled book reviews last week.  I was sick last week could only muster the energy to do the absolute necessary things.  Respiratory problems and high Southern humidity are not a good mix.  I am feeling back to normal now and am ready to tackle a new week.

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
Over the past two weeks nothing much was accomplished.  We spent most of the time dealing with downed pecan limbs.  We lost three large ones during that time span.  Each one meant a mess to clean up.


This is what was left from one that right at the back deck just missing W's kayak.  The top picture is what remained of the main branch after W limbed it out.  He cut that up into fire wood for my parents.  The bottom is one of two piles of limbs.  

This week we have some plans for smaller projects.  I hope to finish scraping the shower tile joints and maybe do some painting.

2.  Plan Ahead for Holiday & Birthday Gifts
I need to start shopping for a wedding gift.  I also have an idea for handmade holiday gifts for friends.  I just need to order the supplies and get started on them.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
At this point in the summer I am simply trying to keep the garden plants alive.  It has turned hot and dry.  If I can get everything through the next 3-4 weeks, I can focus on getting a second harvest of peppers and maybe tomatoes.  I am also getting ready to plant the fall crops in the empty raised beds.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I should have more time this week and be able to make the macarons.  Something always seems to come up to prevent that so I am hoping this is THE week.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I have 23 wash cloths to go.  My aunt also found some discounted flip flops for me.  I ordered coloring books and lip whistles from Oriental Trading.  I need to finish those wash cloths and pick up some socks.  Then I should be done and ready to pack!

6.  Boost Savings
Hmm...this is going well but not well at the same time.  We needed to purchase a small chainsaw due to all of the fallen pecan limbs.  I lost count of how many.  This past week our lawn mower started having engine problems so it is in the shop.  I am hoping for a best case (minor work) versus a new engine ($1500).  It is a necessary item though.  For right now the fencing is on hold.  I have been putting some extra money into the emergency fund instead.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Weekend Book Review: The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn

The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn by Robert P Watson deals with a little known part of the American Revolution.  A run down ship, HMS Jersey, was used by the British (along with other ships) to house thousands of war prisoners.  These men were packed into the depths of the ships with little food or water while disease after disease tore through the crowded quarters.  This is not an easy book to read, but I am glad that I read it.  It brings to life the sacrifices that were made for the freedoms we enjoy today.  It also makes me even more embarrassed by how those in Washington are currently behaving.

Mr. Watson did an excellent job in researching the book and telling the stories of these forgotten men.  He shares information about America's beginning and the Revolutionary War.  An important part of history is now brought to the forefront through this book.  I also learned about the Prison Ships Martyrs Memorial in New York state.  I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in history as well as those who want to know more about the cost of freedom.

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Weekend Book Review: Ghost of the Innocent Man

Ghost of the Innocent Man by Benjamin Rachlin is one of the best books I have read this year.  In 1988 Willie Grimes, a man with no violent record, is convicted of raping a 69 year old woman and sentenced to life in prison.  This happened despite the fact several witnesses gave him an alibi for the time of the crime.  During the time he was in prison, the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission (NCIIC) was formed.  This book tells the story of both.  Mr. Rachlin did an excellent job of switching between the two and then combining them into the final resolution of Mr. Grimes' story.
Even though this book saddened and at times frightened me, it is well worth reading.  I was touched my Mr. Grimes' continued push for justice.  I was also hopeful due to the continued work by the NCIIC to seek the truth.  Having a person wrongly imprisoned puts a black spot on the justice system of the United States.  The story was handled with great care to all involved.  I cannot recommend it enough.

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Dumpling Cats by Sarah Sloyer is a collection of 25 cats to crochet.  The patterns are slightly advanced for my current crocheting skill level.  I loved the descriptions of each cat.  The patterns were well written and featured pictures throughout.  Bonus patterns for food bowls, cat bed, and even a cardboard box are included.  I am adding this to my wish list so I can make these adorable cats when I am a more confident crocheter.  I suspect I will give them a try sooner rather than later as the cats are too cute!

Baby Bunco by Julie B Cosgrove is the second book in the Bunco Biddies Mystery series.  I enjoyed the first book so much that I was excited to review the second.  It is helpful to have read the first one but not absolutely necessary.  Janie and her Bunco friends are shocked when an abandoned baby is found in one of the empty homes in their retirement community.  Convinced it is part of a bigger mystery, Janie sets out on another investigation.  At first I thought the mystery would be lacking, but I quickly found out that was wrong.  This book is full of action and twists up until the end.  I love the fact that this book was just as clean as the first with a subtle Christian message.  Now I am waiting for book number three!

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

Thursday, August 10, 2017

52 New Recipes: Tuna Casserole

I have been searching for a good tuna casserole recipe for years.  The Old Fashioned Tuna Noodle Casserole from Sweet Little Bluebird might not be the healthiest, but it is delicious.  The mayonnaise and sour cream made it extra creamy.  I used elbow macaroni rather than noodles as that is what I had on hand.  I also used homemade bread crumbs rather than potato chips for the same reason.  I added some fresh sliced mushrooms.

I neglected to take a picture.  The leftovers were just as good the following day.   It was easy to put together.  This will be my go to tuna casserole recipe from now on.  I served it with side salads and garlic bread.  Yum!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Garden Update: Fall Seedlings

Here is an updated picture of the fall seedlings.

Most of the seeds started sprouting the day after I planted them.  Clockwise from the top left are artichokes, red cabbage, cauliflower, and savoy cabbage.  The leek seeds are just starting to sprout so nothing to show there yet.

My uncle has talked me into growing brussels sprouts so I need to order those seed later this week.  I am not a fan of them, but he assures me they are better if picked young.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Weekly Goals Update Week 32

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
Last week W worked to finish up the cabinet doors.  All of the kitchen cabinets were completed before we moved it.  However W built a second cabinet for his bathroom and had made the built in around the aquarium in the living room.

This unit still needs to be painted, and I ordered cabinet magnets to keep the bottom doors closed.  Otherwise the cat keeps opening them.

These match the sink cabinet in the front bathroom.

This is the access panel below the tub.  It is attached with just two screws for easy access.  We have quite a bit of painting left.  W wanted to install everything to make sure it fit properly before I did any painting.

We have also done some work to the second half of this goal, but I will share that next week.  While building the doors, W cut his finger with the router.  He has been out of commission for the past week on any major projects.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
The focus here is still on saving.  I am thinking of going with books for the younger children and money for the two older ones.

3.  Use the Garden to be More Self-Sufficient
I picked more jalapeno peppers from the garden and made poppers for the freezer.  We have been eating herbs, yellow pear and cherry tomatoes, and lunchbox peppers.  My fall garden seeds are off to a good start.

4.  Take One Class a Month
The tartlets were a hit with everyone except W who hates lemon desserts.  I ended up being too busy to make the macarons.  I had planned that as a project for yesterday, but W had other plans.  We ended up working on the second half of goal #1.

5. Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I think socks are the last item on my list to purchase.  A friend sent a huge box packed with items to use as fillers.  It is always a blessing as what she sends fills specific needs as I pack.  I have no idea what fillers I need and neither does she.  It just always works out perfectly.  Hmmm....I am still working on wash cloths - 26 to go.  I think next year that will be a purchase item.

6.  Boost Savings
Planning ahead for purchases allowed me to put some money into savings this past week.  W also found a place where we can get the fencing at a lower price.  It will save us at least $500.  I am excited to start setting aside money for that project!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Peppers of the Americas by Maricel E. Presilla is packed full of information on peppers.  The first part of the book is a thorough history of peppers and covers how they were used and changed over the years.  The second part of the book is a description of the types of peppers.  I was thrilled to see one of my favorites, the fish pepper, included.  The final section is recipes featuring many different varieties of peppers.  The pictures are absolutely gorgeous.  My favorite part of the book is the section focusing on the peppers.  It is a bit dangerous as now I have a list of peppers to add to my garden next year.  If you are a fan of peppers, I recommend checking out this book.

Sarah Schmidt's See What I Have Done is a debut novel that gives a fictional account of Lizzie Borden.  The book focuses mainly on the time immediately before and after the murders of her father and stepmother.  While the subject matter is interesting, I found the book to be lacking a bit.  It dragged at points.  Lizzie, her father, and her stepmother are imagined as a mixture of horrible and mentally unstable.  The only likable characters are Emma Borden and the maid, Bridget.  A final character is Benjamin, who has been hired by Lizzie and Emma's uncle to take care of how the sisters are being treated by their father.  The book does not tackle the mystery of who actually committed the murders.  Still for anyone interested in alternate ideas of the story and life inside the Borden house, this is worth reading.

Cat About Town by Cate Conte is the first book in the Cat Cafe Mystery series.  I loved this book, and I am so happy I was able to start this series at the beginning.  Maddie owns a successful business in California but has returned to Daybreak Island for her grandmother's funeral.  She stays to help her grandfather adjust to life without his spouse.  She discovers that her grandfather is being harassed into selling the family home.  This situation gets more complicated when the harasser turns up dead, and her grandfather is the main suspect.  I loved the setting, the writing style, and the orange cat named JJ (who reminds me of the JJ I used to have).  I look forward to the next book in this series!

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

Frugal Friday

I started this post and kept adding to it, but I never got around to actually scheduling it to post.  This covers about three weeks.

I finally got around to mending some clothing.  Three items needed buttons which I had in my sewing supplies.  Two items needed to be resown at the seams.  I had thread close enough to match both and did this repair using my sewing machine.  Even though I am not a good seamstress, these were all easy repairs.

W and I had bought some fish from a local pet store that did not survive more than a few days.  We returned them within the refund policy time and were able to get some new fish.

We ate at home and ate up all of the leftovers.

I mowed our yard myself twice over two weeks saving at least $200.  Our mower has long ago paid for itself.  Mowing season here lasts from March to October.  The lawn needs mowing at least every two weeks.  This year will all of the rain I have mowed every week.

I had ingredients on hand to make food to give to the neighbor's who lost a family member last month.  It does pay to have a well stocked pantry since we live so far out in the country.

We went out to a local restaurant for my birthday.  I set aside money each year for birthday dinners out.  We rarely eat out so this is a nice treat.  I also got a free piece of cake for my birthday.

I cleaned out the refrigerator and made a big batch of marinara sauce with vegetables.  I use a large can of crushed tomatoes from Sam's ($3.28) as the base.  I added in mushrooms ($1.89) and onions and garlic ($1).  I ended up with 7 containers of sauce for $6.17.  It is packed full of peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and herbs from my garden which were free. 

I used paint that we already had for a project.  W also reused a few more things from the old house on the same project.

The rabbits enjoyed some cucumbers from the garden as well as some vegetable scraps from my mom.  It is always nice to give them a free treat.  Between them and the chickens very little food is every wasted.

I stayed home for the most part except for once a week trips for groceries.  I have also limited my online shopping which saves too.

I used recycled plastic containers for starting my seeds.  I packed W's lunch stuff in reusable containers.  I hung laundry out to dry.  I cleaned my own house rather than hiring it out.  We ate the majority of our meals at home.  Some weeks it is the little things that add up.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

52 New Recipes Weeks 30 & 31

I am behind on posting, but I have been trying out some new recipes.  Week 30 I made barbacoa tacos.  Other than using venison rather than beef I followed the recipe exactly.  I should have added the extra adobo sauce, but otherwise it was very good.  We ate it with cheese and other toppings on flour tortillas.  I put the leftovers in the freezer for future meals.  Some of the comments mentioned that it was very sour, but I did not find that to be the case.  I will definitely be making this in the future.

For Week 31 I made lemon meringue tartlets from my Miniature French Desserts class on Craftsy.  I opted not to use the Italian meringue for two reasons.  One candy thermometers and I are not friends.  Second I prefer a baked meringue rather than just a torched one.  I decided to try Swiss meringue.  This was the first time I had ever made meringue for a pie.

I only made three tartlets since W does not like lemon desserts.  He decided to take a bite and immediately declared it the worst thing he had ever tasted.  Thankfully my parents, who ate the other two tartlets, disagreed with him.  It was really quite good.  I will make this meringue to top pies again in the future.  It was easy and very good.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Weekly Garden Update: Planning for the Fall Garden

Even though summer is in full swing, now is the time to plan for the fall garden.  In my area many spring garden crops are best grown in the fall/winter.  My parents and I split up the fall garden.  They are growing regular cabbage, collards, rutabaga, and broccoli.  I have started seeds for leeks, red cabbage, savoy cabbage, cauliflower, and artichokes.

The leeks are a new crop for me.  I have never grown or even eaten a leek.  The seed package said they started best in cooler temperatures so I am leaving these inside.

I put the remaining seeds in a cage on the front porch.  The cage is to protect them from the free range chickens.  Being on the porch will allow them to get plenty of morning light but protect them from getting drowned when it rains.

I tried growing artichokes before but have learned in my area they are a fall/winter crop.  Hopefully I will have better luck this time, but I expect to need to make adjustments.  Here the peppers and tomatoes will last until our first hard freeze which is normally in January but possibly earlier.  It is not uncommon to be eating fresh tomatoes at Christmas.  I will also direct sow some seeds at the end of September.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Galaxy Crafts

Last month my church held Vacation Bible School with a galaxy theme.  I signed up to do crafts.  I have children ranging from about two years old to 15 years old.  The toddlers usually do just one craft while the older children/youth do three to four crafts.

The toddlers plus the next two older groups made glow in the dark star art.  I painted basic canvases black and added a Bible verse using a silver marker.  To make my life easier I added glue dots to the back of plastic glow in the dark stars in advance.  You can see the original instructions here.


All of the groups except for the two youngest made galaxy bottles.  I did make the bottles for those two groups.  I used bottles that came with safety caps and glued them on as an added pre-caution.  I think my glitter was too large as ours never separated into three levels, but everyone including the teens liked them.  Here is the link to the instructions.

Everyone except for the teens made glow in the dark ornaments.  We used q-tips as the paintbrushes.  I showed them how to make dots but then just let them do whatever they wanted.  I got the idea here, but I changed it a bit to make it easier for a large group.

One of the simplest but most popular crafts was paper rockets.  The printable and instructions can be found here.  I did pre-cut the rockets due to limited time and little hands.

The three older groups made washer necklaces.  I found the instructions here.  The washers and cording were inexpensive, but the alcohol ink was on the pricier side.  It all balanced out.  I had plenty of ink left over and plan to do a bunch of these to include in next year's Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  I was happy to see some of the teens wearing their creations the following day.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Weekly Goals Update Week 31

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
I feel like we really made progress on finishing the new house this week.  W managed to finish putting up all of the tile around the tub and in the shower for the back bathroom.

I sanded and painted the large bookcase that W built for my craft room and started setting it up.  I am about halfway through organizing the craft room.  I need to move out a few things and have some things to hang on the wall.  I used paint that we already had on hand.

While I was painting the bookshelf, I decided to touch up the back bathroom cabinet.  This will allow the drawer pulls to be installed.  The color of the bookshelf and the bathroom cabinet is the same.

On the schedule for this week:  I will clean up the tile and joints so we can grout the tile.  W plans to get some help from his dad to make the doors for our aquarium built in and the second cabinet in the front bathroom.  I also hope to do some more work in my craft room.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I am done with birthday gifts until much later this year.  I will focus on saving for the next few months.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I will harvest more peppers this week.  I will also need to spend a bit of time pulling weeds.  We have continued to get showers of rain.  I definitely need to start the seeds for my fall garden this week!

4.  Take One Class a Month
Work on the house was the priority last week.  I hope to have time while W is gone to make the tartlets.  I also have everything to do the macarons, which is what I am most looking forward to trying.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I have 27 wash cloths left to crochet.  W and I found cups and fork/spoon sets on clearance this past week.  I cleaned out the store closest to us.  I will divide the forks and spoons into bagged sets. I plan to divide out the hair bows and hair elastics this week as well.

6.  Boost Savings
The plan is still to limit purchases in August.  I am not saying that nothing will be purchased, but I do want to tighten the spending a bit.  The goal is to save enough to pay for the new fencing with cash!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

A Toast to Murder by Allyson K. Abbott is book five in the Mack's Bar Mysteries series.  This is the first book I have read in the series, and I was not lost at all.  Mack (Mackenzie) owns a bar and has a neurological condition that allows her to experience multiple sensations at once.  For example when someone speaks, she hears as well as sees or tastes their voice.  She and the members of her Capone Club work together to solve mysteries.  In this book that means tracking down a letter writer who is taunting her and targeting her friends.  The story is told entirely by Mack and moves along quickly.  The book is a bit darker than the usual cozy mystery, but I enjoyed it.  The plot was well thought out, and the mystery kept me guessing until the end.

Mary Marks' Knot What You Think is part of the Quilting Mystery series.  I had not read any of the previous books but had no trouble jumping right into this book.  Martha and her fellow quilters discover the body of Dolleen, whose husband had swindled people of their life savings.  Martha plans to steer clear of the investigation until one of her quilting friends becomes the prime suspect.  I enjoyed the focus on friendship and family in this book, and I did not mind the touch of romance thrown in.  This book makes me want to read more of the series!

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

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Killer Party by Lynn Cahoon is book nine in the Tourist Trap Mystery series.  Jill and her boyfriend, Greg, are getting a staycation in the form of a reunion with Greg's friends at The Castle in South Cove.  Jill is looking forward to the break from her shop, Coffee, Books, & More, before she starts back to college.  When the leader of the group is found dead in the pool, Greg asks Jill to help with the murder investigation.   Balancing that with being back in the real world of running a business all while dealing with her bridezilla Aunt Jackie has Jill running in circles.  This book stands alone.  I did connect to the characters better since I was familiar with the background.  I did figure out who was the killer before the end, but I still enjoyed the book.  Killer Party leaves readers with a bit of a cliffhanger so I am already looking forward to the next installment.

How to Grow More Vegetables, Ninth Edition by John Jeavons promises to help gardeners grow more food on less land.  The book seems to focus on building better soil.  The author is against many things and one of them is the use of manure.  I live in the country and have a never ending supply either from my own animals or my neighbors' animals.  I found some of the information very useful, but nothing that made me excited to have read the book.  I felt like I had stumbled into a trap where the author promised one thing but really only wanted to push the GROW BIOINTENSIVE (always written in all caps) method along with Ecology Action.  Both of these may be worthy things, but they are not the reasons I chose to read the book.  One mention at the beginning would have been sufficient.  The book is not focused on the average backyard gardener that wants to grow food his/her family will eat.

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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Garden Update

This year I was all set to have a good raspberry harvest.  I had carefully pinned up the branches to the fence line.  Unfortunately we are also set to have a good pecan harvest.  All of the pecans combined with the rain weighed down a large limb which broke.

The limb fell right on the fence where my raspberries were growing.  Some of the plants are just fine.  The ones that had the most berries ended up with broken branches.

We will still get a good harvest I think.  The pecan limb also took out a water spigot.  Thankfully we had all of the necessary parts on hand.  W was able to get the spigot hooked back up and the fence righted.  We were too busy cleaning up the fallen limb for me to get any pictures.  The smaller branches of the limb went onto a brush pile.  The larger portions of the limb were cut up for firewood.  I am almost certain that will not be the last pecan limb to fall before the harvest.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mercy House Global Artisan Recipe Cards Giveaway

When I ordered a couple of gifts from Mercy House Global, I received a set of Artisan Recipe Cards.  Since I already have a set from a Fair Trade Friday box, I decided to give this second set away.  The cards feature recipes from six different countries.

The recipes included are:

  • Costa Rican Beans and Rice
  • Rwandan Tomato and Plantain Soup
  • Rice Pudding from Nepal
  • Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken
  • Afghanistan Rice with Chicken and Carrots
  • Tropical Jicama Salad
The winner will receive one set of Artisan Recipe Cards.  This giveaway is open to US residents only.  

Monday, July 24, 2017

Weekly Goals Update Week 30

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
This past week W and I had set aside a day to finish tiling the back bathroom.  A death in the community changed our plans.  We have rescheduled that project for this week.  I also plan to sand and paint the bookshelf for my craft room.  We got an estimate on the new fence for the front yard

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
No gifts to be bought this week.  I will set aside some money from the budget for the gift account.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
Another week with rain showers meant that I only had to water some potted plants.  I harvested peppers, herbs, and tomatoes from the garden.  We have been eating a few raspberries as well. We did have a garden mishap which I will share on Wednesday.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I finally got to make the citrus madeleines.  After the ruined mocha madeleines, I cut the baking time on this recipe by nearly half. They turned out perfect and were simply delicious.  This week I will be making lemon meringue tartlets.  I am a bit nervous about the meringue.  The point of the classes is to challenge myself though.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
One of my nieces gave me a bag of items to use in the shoeboxes.  It included a cute pair of sunglasses, individual tissue pack, and other filler items.  I have 29 wash cloths left to crochet.  I also need to order boxes as I plan to pack early this year.

6.  Boost Savings
I was reimbursed for a few things and paid that off from the credit card.  I am doing a pantry challenge and plan to limit purchases in August.  That should help with the other items on the credit card and get a head start on the cost of the fencing.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Death Plays a Part by Vivian Conroy is the first book in the Cornish Castle Mystery series.  Guinevere and her dog, Dolly, arrive at Cornisea castle for a summer job while the theater she works at in London is being renovated.  During a historical reenactment a man who wants the castle for his own is found murdered inside a locked cage.  Guinevere sets out to solve the murder before her summer job is ended by her boss' imprisonment.  The book moves along slowly, but the mystery is a clever one.  I enjoyed writing style and found myself immersed in the setting.  Cornisea is a lovely setting for Guinevere and Dolly's adventures!  This was a good start to a new series, and I am already looking forward to the next book in the series.

J.R. Ripley's To Kill a Hummingbird is book four in the Bird Lover's Mystery series.  I have read the previous books in the series.  While it is not necessary to enjoy this particular book, I do recommend this series.  Amy, owner of Birds and Bees, is preparing for a visit from a former professor who has written a book all about hummingbirds and is in town for a book signing.  The professor seems distracted, and Amy finds him dead following the book signing.  I enjoyed the mystery and especially the focus on hummingbirds.  This is another wonderful addition to the series.

Dead Storage by Mary Feliz is book three in the Maggie McDonald Mystery series.  This book stands on its on.  Maggie is scheduled to help some friends organize their home before renovations begin.  One is called away on an emergency trip, and the other is a no show the morning of the appointment.  When their dog shows up severely injured, Maggie finds herself in the middle of a very complicated mystery.  This book has a complicated plot dealing with numerous social issues.  A times it felt like a bit too much.  Maggie is a character with a good amount of common sense for staying out of dangerous situation.  I did enjoy this book, but it is not my favorite from the series.

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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Weekend Book Review: Over Maya Dead Body

Over Maya Dead Body by Sandra Orchard is the third book in the Serena Jones Mystery.  This book easily stands on its own.  Serena Jones is on Martha's Vineyard to celebrate the engagement of a family friend.  She cannot leave her job as FBI agent behind though and soon finds herself in the middle of a antiquities smuggling mystery.  The case gets more complicated the deeper she digs.  With her Aunt Martha, co-worker Tanner, and neighbor Nate by her side, she sorts through all of the suspects to find the killer before she is the next victim.

The author does an excellent job of describing the characters and setting.  I enjoy the writing style.  It is always nice to find an author that writes without foul language or too much romance.  I was pleased that a couple of loose ends were tied up.  It makes me excited to see what direction the series will take next.

disclosure:  I received this book from Revell (a division of Baker Publishing Group) but was not otherwise compensated for this review.  All opinions are my own!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

52 New Recipes Week 29: Sweet & Spicy Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

I started making my own salad dressing a few years ago.  Honestly neither W nor I can eat the store bought salad dressings anymore.  I have thinking of trying my own barbecue sauce for a while.  This week I picked a recipe - Sweet & Spicy Chipotle Barbecue Sauce.  W is a big fan of chipotle so I figured this was a good place to start.

I followed the recipe as written.  I thought that it was good but slightly sweet.  W thought it was too sweet and suggested that I leave out the molasses next time.  I loved that it was easy to mix up.  It thickened up just as nicely as store bought sauce.  The less I eat preservatives, the more I lean toward foods that do not have them.

I will make some minor adjustments, but I think this is a very good barbecue sauce.  W expressed interest in a mustard based sauce.  I have a couple of recipe saved and will be trying that in the near future.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


I had a few comments/questions over the past few weeks and thought I would share those in a special post.

Little Penpen asked if I was planning to try out the new kayak my husband is getting.  The short answer is No.  I am a terrible klutz on solid ground.  I should just skip the kayak and go swimming.

Terri asked about the source for my bay laurel.  I ordered mine and several other herbs from Colonial Creek Farm.  The bay was not large, but I was more than pleased with the quality of it and the other plants.  Everything arrived well packed and in excellent shape.  I would highly recommend Colonial Creek if you are searching for any unusual plants.

Rhonda mentioned the lack of drama on the British competition shows.  That is so true.  I love how the contestants on the Great British Baking Show encourage each other.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Weekly Goals Update Week 29

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
I was busy prepping for Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our church this week.  W spent time on the old house.  He got quite a bit of work done.  He uncovered an old pot in the attic.  I have no idea what it was doing there.  I cleaned it up and will keep it in our kitchen.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I found out about an unexpected wedding shower.  My mom picked up a gift, and I will split the cost with her.  I took the money from the gift money envelope.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I have been neglecting to add here that I have a lovely compost pile at one end of the garden.  All of our tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, and vegetable peelings go here.  The chickens are free to get in it and scratch around - adding some fertilizer and mixing things up.  We also dump in some yard clippings and rabbit manure.  The compost pile gives free dirt to use in the garden.  It is much better quality than I could purchase.

4.  Take One Class a Month
Nothing here.  I was too busy with VBS prep.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I have ?? washcloths left to crochet.  I did not get as many done this week as I had hoped but each one is progress!

6.  Boost Savings
I knocked out the last of the credit card debt from the new house.  I have a few things to pay off over the next two weeks, but this goal is right on track!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Murder at the Puppy Fest by Laurien Berenson is part of the Melanie Travis Mystery series.  Melanie has her hands full with her children and her pedigree Poodles.  She agrees to volunteer at Puppy Fest, an annual fundraiser for a dog rescue.  Life gets more complicated when she finds the owner of the mansion where the event is being held dead in his office.  The mystery was interesting, but I did not enjoy the time spent on the dog shows.  I adore dogs but everything involved in pedigree dog shows is not for me.  I also found it a little odd that Melanie took her youngest son along when she questioned her suspects.  This is a good book but just not for me.

J.C. Eaton's Booked 4 Murder is the first book in the Sophie Kimball Mystery series.  Sophie/Phee is an accountant for a police department in Minnosota.  Her mother calls asking her to come to Arizona and help her book club with a "cursed" book that causing the deaths of those who read it.  Phee's mother is a handful to put it nicely so Phee has little choice but to give in.  This is a nice start to a new cozy series.  I would like to see Phee become a stronger character and her mother toned down a notch or two.  It has potential, and I look forward to the second book.

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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

If the Haunting Fits, Wear It by Rose Pressey is the fifth book in the A Haunted Vintage Mystery series.  I have read a previous book in the series.  While it is helpful, it is not necessary.  This is a paranormal themed mystery series and requires some leniency with readers' imaginations.  Cookie headed to the Kentucky Derby to help a client with her ghost, Charlotte, and her grandmother/cat in tow.  Add in two love interests, two additional ghosts, and one dead body for a full story line.  I do enjoy the Southern sayings sprinkled throughout the book.  This book is a very light, quick read.  That is not a bad thing - just be aware what you are getting.

The Windfall by Diksha Basu proves that no matter the culture everyone is focused on "keeping up with the Joneses".  Mr.and Mrs. Jha are embarking on a new life thanks to the sale of Mr. Jha's company.  They are moving from their tiny apartment to a new higher end neighborhood.  I enjoyed the characters and how similar the problems are to those here in America.  It is a nice reminder that people are basically the same.  I found the characters realistic and therefore likable.  Each had flaws, and I enjoyed how the relationships evolved throughout the book.

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

Frugal Friday

I took advantage of a couple of Amazon Prime Day deals.  I bought a gift card and earned a free $5 gift card.  The gift card was for a planned purchase of two seasons of "Elementary".  I used the $5 toward a large package of peat pellets - also a planned purchase.  I used the $5 book discount for a plant propagation book that has been on my book wist list for over 7 years.  I have recently gotten more interested in propagating plants, and my chosen book has excellent reviews.

We had some surprise rain showers one afternoon before my laundry was completely dry.  I quickly brought it inside and put it on drying racks to finish.

W and I had a full morning of errands planned.  I fixed a tuna pasta salad the day before so we could eat as soon as we got home.  Knowing that I had a meal planned meant we were not tempted by fast food or something extra from the grocery store.

I picked herbs, peppers, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes from the garden.

I used old wash cloths as cleaning cloths rather than paper towels.  I do keep paper towels on hand for really messy stuff.  For every day cleaning I have found that rags work best.

A neighbor gave us a small grill that he had won but did not want.  It is the perfect size for grilling for two.

While out running errands, W wanted to stop at a store we do not always shop.  I decided to purchase some items from my list that would be cheaper at that store.  We decided to make a once a month trip to stock up on items that are significantly cheaper there.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

52 New Recipes Week 28: Pineapple Bars

I canned some zucchini pineapple earlier this year.  I had a jar of it in the refrigerator that I needed to use up.  The recipe for pineapple bars calls for crushed pineapple, but my zucchini pineapple swapped in perfectly.  My only other change was decreasing the amount of sugar to 2/3 cup.

I loved that it made a small amount.  This dessert was light and extremely moist.  I took it to Sunday dinner with my parents, and they both agreed it was delicious.  My family are semi-professional taste testing guinea pigs.  For any of them to say they loved a dessert is a big deal.  I will save this recipe to make again either with the zucchini pineapple or crushed pineapple.

Next week I plan to try a recipe for homemade barbecue sauce.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Garden Update

The weather turned hot quick here, and the rain disappeared long enough that I had to water the garden.  I was afraid that we were in for our usual dry summer after all.  Then we got a surprising inch of rain one evening and another inch the next afternoon.  I ended up running out in between showers on the second day to plant those fall garden seeds.

I added bachelor's buttons, zinnias, sunflowers, and cosmos to the bee garden.  I am already growing cosmos, but these should add some different colors.  I finished weeding the bee garden and was happy to see that I had fewer bare spots than expected.  If these seeds sprout, it should be perfectly full.

Some indoor plant news - I finally managed to keep an orchid alive.  I have killed more than I would like to admit.  The only thing different about this orchid is that it is planted in soil rather than bark.

Not only is it alive, but it has new growth including a tiny new leaf.  I am not sure that I can get it to bloom again.  For now I am calling it a victory.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

July Fair Trade Friday Box

I received my Fair Trade Friday box last week.  Once again it was filled with wonderful items.

First is a Hello Sunshine tote bag from Joyn in India. It is a perfect size and has a lovely lining.  I think it will be my new crochet bag.  It is a great size for carrying my yarn.

Second is a tube of Zambeezi lip balm with SPF 15 sun protection.  W has claimed this.

Finally is a set of paper bead earrings from Have Hope in Kenya.  These are lovely and a nice length for every day wear.

Once again I am more than happy with everything included.  As usual I am keeping everything for myself.  Well...I am giving W the lip balm so that counts as sharing right?

Monday, July 10, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 28

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
This week we work in the yard.  W cleaned up several areas that had gotten overgrown with the recent rains.  He also started building the bookshelf for my craft room.  It needs to be sanded and painted before we move it in.  Then I will be able to unpack the last of the boxes.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I am continuing to set aside money for Christmas.  I want to start keeping an eye out for gifts for my family gift swap.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
This past week I started pinning up the raspberry canes.  They are starting to get full of blooms and tiny berries.  I want then out of the reach of our free range chickens.  I will need to pick peppers for another batch of jalapeno poppers for the freezer.  Rain is in the forecast so hopefully I can get the flower seeds planted.

4.  Take One Class a Month
Hmm...those citrus madeleines...I still have not made them.  I am aiming for today if my morning goes as planned.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
The hair bows I ordered are wonderful and really worth the price and my sanity.  I have 32 wash cloths left to crochet.

6. Boost Savings
I am waiting to be reimbursed for a few things, but we are still on track to knock out the credit card debt.  We had a few unexpected expenses over the past week.  I hope the rest of this month is calm.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

I can always tell how good a cookbook will be by how many recipes I mark on the first pass through.  The Harvest Baker by Ken Haedrich is one of those books.  Offering everything from muffins and quick breads, pizzas and pies, and cakes, The Harvest Baker offers something for everyone.  I enjoyed the beautiful photographs and easy to follow recipes.  It is not often that I review a cookbook and know that I must add it to my library.  I found more than enough recipes, such as fresh mint brownies and mushroom, spinach, and blue cheese-stuffed baguettes, to make it worth the purchase.

The Tell-Tale Tarte by Maya Corrigan is the fourth book in the Five-Ingredient Mystery series.  Val has her hands full with catering, running a cafe, and writing her grandfather's cookbook.  When someone dressed exactly likely her grandfather dies mysteriously, she gets pulled into the mystery.  The story has several subplots and includes many references to Edgar Allen Poe.  I enjoyed the slight creepiness to this book as well.

Lee Hollis' Death of a Lobster Lover is part of the Hayley Powell Mystery series.  Hayley heads off with her best friends, Liddy and Mona, on a girls' weekend getaway.  They find themselves harassed by the local sheriff and in the middle of a murder mystery when Liddy's love interested is found strangled.  I have read previous books in this series although I do not think it is necessary.  I enjoyed the mystery with the twists and turns.  I almost quit reading the book at the very beginning due to Hayley's friends.  In the previous books I read, they were barely mentioned.  This time they were front and center and seemed to be the two most annoying people on the planet.  Liddy is obsessed with her material possessions, and Mona is easily the rudest person ever.  Fortunately Hayley is a wonderful character so I stuck with the book until the end.  As long as Liddy and Mona have bit parts, I will continue to read the series.  This book is just not one of my favorites.

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

Frugal Friday

I did no grocery shopping this past week.  Meals were all planned around what I had on hand.

I added more jalapeno poppers to the freezer.

I was under the weather for much of the week and used home remedies to control my sinus symptoms.

W has wanted a kayak for years.  He found one on sale.  I found a coupon code online to save him $20.  Then I remembered a $25 gift card we earned when we bought a bunch of appliances for the new house.  He was happy with the extra savings which brought it well below his budget.

I needed to order one item for VBS.  I combined what I needed with items the woman over the kitchen needed to get free shipping and save $5.

I was able to put 5 feed sacks of small trash from the old house demo into our regular garbage pickup.  It might not have been a huge savings, but every dollar counts.

I have been watching "The Great British Baking Show" for free on PBS through our Roku.  A new episode is added each week.

I drank water, dried laundry on the line or drying racks, used recycled water for the plants on the porch, and packed W's lunches in reusable containers.

It was a quiet week overall.  Staying home means we spend less money by staying out of the stores.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

52 New Recipes Week 27: Oven Fried Okra

I am continuing to eat garden produce.  This past week we had okra from my parents' garden.  W and I both generally only like fried okra unless it is added to soup.  I searched online and found this recipe.  My only change was added an entire egg rather than just the egg white.  I loved that it could be mixed all in one bowl and then spread on the cookie sheet.

I did not take a picture unfortunately so visit the recipe to see how yummy it looks.  The flavor was great.  It was crisp but not oily and definitely not slimy.  This will be my go to recipe for okra.

I think next week I will try to find a dessert recipe to test.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Garden Update

It has been several weeks since I have done a garden update.  In that time we have gotten a bunch of rain which means I had to do a bunch of weeding.  The bee garden is slowly filling in.  I have some more flower seeds to plant to hopefully keep it blooming through the fall.

I have quite a few cantaloupe growing.  I hope they will hold long enough to ripen.

The herbs are growing well.  

Soon we will be eating plenty of blueberry tomatoes.

A pretty pollinator visiting the garden.

I have a good crop of peppers growing this year.

The bay laurel is already putting on new growth.

The passion fruit plant is growing really well.  I added tomato cages to give it something to climb.

The summer heat has finally arrived here.  The garden will need a little extra care.  Hopefully we will continue to get some rain.  How are things in your garden?

Monday, July 3, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 27

1.  Completely Finish New House & Update Property
This was a busy week with some non-new house chores.  I did work on the garden areas.  I weeded around the rabbit area, the bee garden, and the main garden.  W has started demolishing the old house as we were unable to give it away.  He has made good progress on it.  He did find that the bathroom door was a good fit for the hole at the heating/air conditioning unit in the new house.

It needs a piece of bottom trim and a couple coats of paint.  I will eventually change out the door knob to match the new house.  For now I am excited about the recycled (free) door.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I took advantage of Mercy House Global's summer sale to purchase gifts for a couple of friends.  I also found an idea for a handcrafted Christmas gift.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I picked herbs, cucumbers, and zucchini from the garden this past week.  My plan for this week it to make supports for the cantaloupes and do more weeding.  I also need to add more jalapeno poppers to the freezer.  According to Southern Living July is a great time to plant zinnias, cosmos, bachelor buttons, marigolds, and sunflowers for fall blooms.  I ordered a few seeds and hope to get those planted this week.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I did not get the citrus madeleines made last week, but they are on my list for today or tomorrow. The next lesson is mini tarts.  I need to order some pans for those.  I have my eye on a set from Amazon and gift cards to pay for them.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I have 37 wash cloths left to make.  I also decided to order some pre-made hair bows.  My goal is to pack the boxes during August so I will pick up what I need to finish.  That will give me time to organize leftovers and make a list of needed items to buy/make for 2018.

6.  Boost Savings
I am planning to avoid going into town this week.  I did knock another chunk off the credit card debt.  We are still on track to be done with that by the end of this month.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Bad Housekeeping by Maia Chance is the first book in the Agnes & Effie Mystery series.  Agnes is suddenly dumped by her boyfriend and finds her well planned life up in the air.  When her eccentric great aunt arrives in town with plans to makeover the Stagecoach Inn, Agnes reluctantly agrees to help.  When the most outspoken opponent of the inn is found dead on the property, Agnes and Effie must solve the mystery to save the inn and themselves.  I enjoyed this book from the start.  Agnes and Effie are hilarious, and the story is full of action.  The characters are a bit unusual, which made them even better.  I loved this book and look forward to the next one in the series!

Dorothy Cannell's The Trouble with Harriet is part of the Ellie Haskell Mystery series.  Ellie is all set to embark on a trip to France with her husband, Ben.  Her long lost father suddenly appears with an urn of ashes from her beloved Harriet.  What comes next is a comedy of errors.  From her father's refusal to turn the ashes over to Harriet's family to the absent minded vicar, Ellie has her hands full.  I liked this book, but I did not love it.  Ellie's dad, Morley, was more dramatic than a teenage girl.  He had only recently met Harriet, but one would think they had been married 60 years or more.  My second problem was the vicar.  Calling him forgetful is putting it lightly.  He "forgets" that a car is not his own and drives off in Ellie's for over a day.  I find it impossible to believe that he can be a working vicar in his condition.  Those two characters made it a struggle to get through to the end.

Death of a Bachelorette by Laura Levine is part of the Jaine Austen Mystery series.  Jaine is on her way to the tropics with her cat Prozac in tow to be a writer for a new reality tv series.  The fabulous job in paradise turns out to be anything but.  The bachelor on the show is incapable of reading his lines, and the entire crew is miserable.  When one of the bachelorettes is murders, Jaine must solve the crime or be stuck on the island forever.  I guessed the murderer early on, but I still loved the book.  Prozac and e-mails from Jaine's parents continue to add entertainment.  This is an enjoyable summer read.

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

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Recipes from the Herbalist's Kitchen by Brittany Wood Nickerson went onto my wish list as soon as I had the opportunity to preview it.  I have an ever expanding herb garden in my backyard, and this book is the perfect accompaniment.  I was pleased to see information on a variety of herbs than went beyond basic growing instructions.  The recipes were a pleasant bonus.  A yard full of fresh herbs is not advantageous without practical ways to use them.  If you are a fan of growing or using herbs, this is a great book to check out.

Treble at the Jam Fest by Leslie Budewitz is part of the Food Lovers' Village Mystery series.  This book stands on its own and is different from the usual cozy mystery.  It has the cozy mystery elements but is missing a bit of the coziness.  I had a little trouble connecting with the characters and getting into the story.  The writing style was good, and I am unable to pinpoint my exact problem.  Erin runs the family store which stocks all sorts of local food and craft products.  The town is gearing up for a jazz music festival when the headline singer is murdered.  I enjoyed the setting of this book enough that I would read another book in the series before making a final decision on the series.

Fany Gerson's Mexican Ice Cream is a treat.  This book is worth owning for the sorbet section alone.  I made the Spicy Watermelon Sorbet (although I left out the spicy part).  It was delicious and so very easy.  I know I would love the added jalapeno, but half of my taste testers are not spicy food eaters.  As good as the recipes are the stories and background provided in the book are equally valuable.  I will definitely use this book to spice up the next family ice cream party.

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

Frugal Friday

I hung laundry out to dry or on drying racks in the house.  We still have not connect the dryer.  I am sure it will get done eventually, but for now I have no need.

Meals were planned using food on hand.  I also focused on eating up leftovers.  It meant stretching the food budget a bit further.

I picked peppers, tomato, herbs, cucumbers, squash, and zucchini from the garden.  My mom gifted me some okra from her garden.

Exercise lately has been garden work.  Thanks to rain showers in the evenings pulling weeds the following mornings has been easier (but not quite easy).

I gave myself a manicure complete with nail art.  I was happy with how it turned out.  It impressed my 5 year old niece enough that she asked me to do the same on her nails.

I made lemonade using juice frozen from gifted lemons last year .  I found a large stockpile of the frozen juice when I organized the freezer.

I took advantage of a free class offer from Craftsy.  I was able to get a pie and tart class completely free.

I also took advantage of a Schoola flash sale.  I got 10 tops for $19.  My mom and I ordered together to get free shipping.  I was able to buy nicer things for much less than I would find at my local thrift stores.  I also stuck to my needed items list rather than a "that looks nice" impulse purchase.

I printed a coupon for an item that was on my shopping list and saved $7.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

52 New Recipes: Weeks 25 & 26

My recipe for week 25 was Oven-Fried Green Tomatoes.  After I made green tomato pickles and chow chow, I still had several green tomatoes left.  Since I rarely deep fry food, I set out to find a recipe for oven fried green tomatoes.  I looked at a couple and basically made up my own.  In one bowl I mixed a couple of beaten eggs with a splash of milk (or water).  In a second bowl I mixed equal parts corn meal and bread crumbs (homemade or panko), salt, and pepper.  I sliced the green tomatoes.  Each was dipped in the egg mixture and the breading mixture twice.  This gave it a nice coating.  I baked these at about 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  I flipped them over halfway through the baking time.

I was shocked that W ate them and even went back for seconds.  The breading was very crunchy and just as good as fried.  Well, maybe better since there was no greasy taste at all.  I am looking forward to having them again before the summer is over.

Week 26 was a Zucchini Bake with Tomatoes, Garlic, and Parmesan.  I neglected to take a picture of my finished dish.  It was good but not great.  I think a bit more seasoning would help.  W liked it so that is enough to make me try it again.  We tend to have plenty of tomatoes and squash/zucchini during the summer so I am always happy to find new ways to serve them.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

June Fair Trade Friday Earrings

I have still been getting the Fair Trade Friday packages.  I have just been lax in sharing them with all of you.  June's earring is a lovely macrame earring from HandUp Global Goods.

These are lovely, and I have already worn them a few times.  The artistry in these earrings amazes me.  I am never disappointed with the earrings chosen by Mercy House.  I find that those are the earrings I reach for over and over again.

HandUp Global Goods is a wonderful organization that seeks to empower young men in Haiti.  You can read more about their mission here.  Stop by the shop and see what all they have to offer!

Monday, June 26, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 26

1.  Completely Finish New House & Update Property
This week W fixed the cabinet doors over the refrigerator.  They needed a slight trimming to fit properly.  He also fixed the cover on the kitchen smoke detector.  It worked properly, but the molding needed a bit of a trim so the cover set right.  We also measured the aquarium cabinet and bathroom built in for doors.  W got with his dad for a consultation on building the doors.  I expect we will work on a few small projects this week as we have a few other things going on.

I have started clean up on the property.  It is mainly moving things around and making it less cluttered.  This is important since snake season is upon us.  I tend to leave snakes alone if they leave me alone.  I do prefer to minimize the places they can hide though.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
I had planned to get a gift card for our niece.  She called searching for an aquarium to put a gecko.  W fixed one up complete with secure lid.  That will make a nice birthday gift since it is something she wants.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I put jalapeno poppers in the freezer using peppers from the garden.  We have been eating squash, cucumbers, and herbs.  I sold a few herbs this week.  The rabbits have eaten some of the excess cucumbers from the garden as treats.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I made the mocha madeleines this past week.  They turned out okay.  I will need to adjust the baking time for my oven.  This week I plan to make citrus madeleines.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
My mother-in-law gave me soap to put in the boxes.  I also made a couple more wash cloths.  I lost track of how many I need to finish so counting will be on my to do list this week.  I want to knock those out so I can crochet some hair bows.

6.  Boost Savings
No extra money was added to the debt this past week. I watched our spending this week.  The grocery spending was less than $20.  I am still hopeful that we can do away with the credit card debt next month!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Marriage is Pure Murder by Staci McLaughlin is book six in the Blossom Valley Mystery series.  Dana, who works at O'Connell Organic Farm and Spa, is getting married.  She decided that the farm will be the perfect wedding venue, and the entire staff is helping her pull off the wedding.  The bride gets sidetracked when she finds her florist, Bethany, dead.  I have read this series previously, but I do not feel it is necessary to enjoy this book.  The characters and setting are fun, and I especially like Wilbur the pig.  This is a wonderful addition to the series.

The second book in the Oakwood Mystery series by Leslie Nagel is The Antique House Murders.  I had read and reviewed the first book in this series.  The romance and foul language were toned down a bit in this book.  Charley is buying items from the estate of Augusta Mulbridge for her vintage clothing store with help from her mentor Calvin Prescott.  When she goes to collect her items, she found Calvin dead.  Despite warnings from her police officer boyfriend, Charley dives into the complicated investigation.  I liked the book.  The ending was exciting but seemed to drag on slightly.  I found the improvements over the last book to be enough to have me looking forward to book three!

Mulch Ado About Murder by Edith Maxwell is book five in the Local Foods Mystery series.  I have not read any of the previous books in this series.  At the very beginning, I was confused by all of the characters.  I was able to sort everyone out though.  Cam is busy with planting on her farm and a visit from her often absent parents.  Her own mother is protesting the new hydroponic farm when Cam arrives to deliver seedlings. When the new farm's owner is found murdered, Cam's mother is one of the prime suspects.  I really enjoyed the characters and the farm setting in this book.  Cam's father is the perfect match to her mother's personality.  I look forward to more from this series as well as reading previous books.

Vicky Fee's One Fete in the Grave is book three in the Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery series.  This series is not the most in-depth if you are looking for the focus to be on a difficult to solve mystery.  Often I like to read a book for the characters and setting with a little mystery thrown in.  This book easily stands on its own.  I love that it is a good Southern themed book.  Friends Liv and Di are trying to solve the death of an unlikeable citizen of Dixie.  The main suspect is Liv's mother's fiancee, and Liv is determined to keep the wedding plans on track.  I love how Dixie and its citizens are authentically Southern.  The book features plenty of sweet tea and proper Southern manners.  For those reasons and more, this series remains one of my favorites!

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 25

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
Last week was spent with me either tutoring or canning (with W's help).  The only new house project we finished was finally moving my piano from the old house to the new.  W actually did it while I was gone to pick tomatoes at a local farm.  This week has rain in the forecast for much of the week so I am not sure if we will get much accomplished.  He wants to work on the yard/garden or finish some tile work in the back bathroom.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I am saving for holiday gifts since we have a long stretch between birthdays for the next few months.  I have been keeping my eye out for anything that would be perfect for someone on my list.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I picked herbs, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and squash last week.  I have also ordered the rest of the seeds I need for my fall garden.  It might seem odd to be thinking about that before summer is officially here.  I do need to get some of the seeds started in peat pellets in about three weeks though.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I was so busy with tomatoes last week that I never made the mocha madeleines.  That is on my list for later this week.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I went to a neighbor's yard sale and got some wonderful things for boy and girl boxes.  She gave me a deal since she knew I doing with everything.  My goal is to start packing in August so I need to get busy on those washcloths.

6.  Boost Savings
I put another chunk of money toward the credit card debt and have watched my spending.  We are still on track to knock off that debt next month.