Sunday, December 31, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

The Plot is Murder by V.M. Burns is the first book in the Mystery Bookshop series.  Recently widowed Samantha is opening a mystery bookstore.  When the crooked realtor who sold her the property winds up dead in her yard, Sam finds herself in a real murder mystery.  She sets out to solve it with help from her grandmother and other senior women from a nearby retirement village.  Sam is also an aspiring writer, and her British cozy mystery is sprinkled throughout.  This did not bother me but some may find it annoying.  The book is a wonderful start to a new series, and I look forward to seeing how the characters develop as the series progresses.

Very rarely do I give up on a book, but I did just that with Full Bodied Murder by Christine E. Blum.  This is the first book in the Rose Avenue Wine Club Mystery series.  Due to the foul language in this book, I never got past chapter two.  I can overlook a bit of language, but I do not want it to overtake the book especially when I am reading a cozy mystery.  This one was simply not for me.

Mayhem and Mass by Olivia Matthews is the first book in the Sister Lou Mystery series.  Sister Lou (short for Louise) invites her friend, Maurice, to be the guest speaker at a special presentation.  While Maurice is popular, he has just as many people who do not agree with his views.  When he is found dead in his hotel room, the suspects are many.  The police do not seem to be taking the case seriously.  That leads Sister Lou to team up with her nephew and a local reporter to solve the death of her dear friend.  This is a religious themed mystery of sorts but religion is not the focal point.  I enjoyed the characters and would definitely read another book in this series.

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

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Etched in Tears by Cheryl Hollon is the fourth book in the Webb's Glass Shop Mystery series.  I adore this series.  I have read the previous books, but it is not necessary to enjoy this one.  Savannah's first high school boyfriend, Dennis, returns to Florida for an art show.  She barely has a chance to speak to him before his is whisked away only to end up dead before morning.  Savannah agrees to help the police as an art consultant, but she gets pulled in much deeper.  She and her friends set out to solve Dennis' murder.  The glass shop setting is fun, but Jacob (an apprentice) and Suzy (his service dog) are easily my favorite part of the series. I am already looking forward to the next book!

Lynn Cahoon's Of Murder and Men is the third book in the Cat Latimer Mystery series.  Cat finds herself pulling more than her weight at the writers' retreat when her business partner, Shauna, falls madly in love.  The final straw is when Shauna fails to show up to prepare breakfast.  When it turns out that Shauna's boyfriend has been murdered, Cat is pulled into yet another mystery.  She juggles this new one while continuing to work on solving her ex-husband's murder.  While this book can stand on its own, reader would benefit from having read the previous two books.  I enjoy this series for the characters and setting.  I especially liked the crossover with a character from the author's other series, Tourist Trap Mystery series. 

Altered to Death by Christina Freeburn is the sixth book in the Faith Hunter Scrap This series.  Faith is busy planning her wedding and putting together a scrapbook of the town's history.  The mystery of what happened to the founding family is puzzling enough, but then a body is unearthed at the family's abandoned mansion.  I read this book in less than a day.  The story moved quickly, and the book was hard to put down.  The mystery and sub-plots had several twists and turns that kept me guessing until the end.  While this is the first book I have read in this series, it will not be the last.

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

Friday, December 29, 2017

Weekly Goals Update: Week 52 - Wrap Up

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
Looking back I can see this was a huge goal and much too big for one year.  The difference between doing it yourself on a budget and paying to have it done is enormous.  While we still have some house projects and the yard needs work, we are happy to be in a completely paid for house.  I know we will knock out the rest of the items involved with this.  It just did not happen in 2017. 

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
This was a success.  I am actually ahead on birthday gifts for next year.  I am more focused on keeping an eye out for gifts throughout the year rather than right before the date.  I feel like it got me back on track with gift giving.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
We had a good garden year.  I can see some things I need to change going forward.  It will help me be more focused in the future. 

4.  Take One Class a Month
I did fairly well with this one.  I slipped when things got busy around the holidays.  I would have been happy if all I did this year was learn to make macarons!  I still have a long list of classes waiting for me.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
This was a great success.  I love being able to support this ministry.

6.  Boost Savings
This one was a bit hit and miss.  I did add to savings just not as much as I would have liked.  I am calling it mostly a success though.

Stop back by Monday when I will be sharing my goals for 2018!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

X Marks the Scot by Kaitlyn Dunnett is the eleventh book in the Liss MacCrimmon Mystery series.  This is the first book I have read in this series, but I had no problem jumping right in.  Liss buys an old painting from the Chadwick mansion auction and is shocked to find a treasure map hidden in the back.  It quickly become apparent that she is not the only one interested in the map.  When strange things start happening even on her trip to Canada, Liss becomes determined to solve the mystery of the mysterious map.  While it was not the strongest mystery I read recently, it did hold my interest until the end.  The characters work well together, and the side stories were all relevant.  This is a solid cozy mystery.

Where the Wild Coffee Grows by Jeff Koehler promises the "Untold Story of Coffee".  Mr. Koehler definitely delivers. While a bit slow at times, it covers everything from the beginning of coffee in the wild to the problems it faces today. I particularly enjoyed reading about the culture of Ethiopia and how this region shaped the coffee we love today. If you are interested in learning more about coffee, this book is the one to read!

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

Monday, December 18, 2017

Weekly Goals Update: Week 51

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
W got the new curtain rod and curtains up in the bedroom.  He also started putting up the new fencing.  I have serious doubts that much else will be done over the last two weeks of this year.  There is still time to finish a few minor projects.

2. Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I finished Christmas shopping although I still need to wrap everything.  I even ordered the books for the first five birthdays of next year!  I will definitely be keeping my eye out for gifts throughout 2018. 

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
The chickens have been enjoying greens from the garden as have the rabbits.  I started some of the pepper seeds for my spring garden.  I will get the rest of those planted by the end of this month.  I want to fix the garden fence to seal off any escape routes so the puppy can get out there with me and run freely.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I decided to take the rest of this year off and will get back to it after the new year.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I got a start on next year's by ordering soap from Amazon yesterday.  I might try to do some posts on packing a box on a seriously tight budget next year. 

6.  Boost Savings
I added a bit of money to savings this past week.  We had a couple of unexpected bills which is just life.  I was thankful for the money to pay them.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

How the Finch Stole Christmas by J.R. Ripley is the sixth book in the Bird Lover's Mystery series.  Christmas is fast approaching in the small town of Ruby Lake.  Amy, owner of Birds & Bees, finds that very few residents are in the holiday spirit once Franklin Finch takes over Christmas House Village and starts making changes.  She never believed that anyone would go so far as to murder him though.  I enjoy this series, and this book was just as good as the previous ones.  It does stand on its own, but I high recommend the entire series.  The characters mix well together, and the mystery kept me interested until the end.

Melissa Caughey's How to Speak Chicken focuses on chicken behavior especially the how and why.  This is a wonderful book for new chicken owners.  Long time chicken owners will find themselves nodding along at the information included.  There is still something for everyone to learn about chickens from this book.  The gorgeous chicken photos were an added bonus!

Seeds of Revenge by Wendy Tyson is the third book in the Greenhouse Mystery series.  It is December on the farm, but Megan cannot focus on the upcoming holidays when there is another murder in Winsome.  Megan picks up stranded Becca and soon get pulled into the family drama surrounding Becca and her estranged father, Paul.  When Paul is found dead, Megan sinks deeper into the drama and mystery.  This series continues to get stronger with each book.  The characters mesh well together, and I enjoy the farm/cafe setting.  The mystery is strong and kept me guessing until the end!

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

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Weekend Book Review: Ring in the Year with Murder

Auralee Wallace's Ring in the Year with Murder is the fourth book in the Otter Lake Mystery series.  It is New Year's Eve, and Erica finds herself as a working guest at a party along with co-worker and best friend Freddie.  The two run Otter Lake Security and their job is to keep an on eye on a guest who has received threatening notes.  The mystery was good with quite a few twists and turns.

What makes this series for me is the combination of Erica and Freddie.  The situations the two end up in and the banter between them is wonderful.  I literally laughed out loud a few times.  I had read a previous book in the series, but it is not absolutely necessary to enjoy this book.  Ms.Wallace's writing style is wonderful and adds true humor rarely found in a cozy mystery.

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

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Canal Days Calamity by Jamie M Blair is the second book in the Dog Days Mystery series.  Cam is rushing to finish the planning for Canal Days when she finds a local man dead behind her sister's shop.  When the town handyman is arrested, Cam knows she must jump into the investigation and find the real murderer.  I read the first book in this series.  While it is helpful, it is not necessary.  The mix of characters in this book is a definite plus.  I enjoyed this book, and the mystery kept me guessing a bit until the end.  The only downside for me was Cam's constant use of "good gravy".  It is not enough to keep me from reading book number three though.

I was excited to read The Herbalist's Guide to Formulary by Holly Bellebuono.  I am a big fan of using herbal remedies.  This book is based on using a 4 Tier system for making remedies.  While the book provides good information, it is not for a beginner.  Very little information is given regarding preparation and dosing.  I found the descriptions of how the body works a bit unnecessary.  As good as the information is, the book left me wanting more.

A Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen Hughes is the first book in the Keepsake Cove Mystery Series.  Callie reconnects with her Aunt Melodie.  Her aunt's sudden death finds Callie the sole heir of her estate which includes a music box shop and cottage in Keepsake Cove.  Callie is not convinced that her aunt's accident was as simple as that and begins an investigation.  The mystery in this book is not strong, but the characters and setting more than make up for it.  Keepsake Cove sounds like such a charming place.  This is a great start to a new series!

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

Monday, December 4, 2017

Weekly Goals Update: Week 49

1.  Completely Finish New House & Update Property
The only thing I accomplished on this goal was finally buying curtains for the living room and bedroom.  I have picked out a curtain rod for the bedroom, but W will need to build one for the living room.  The weather is supposed to be damp and rainy all this week.  That will limit what we can do. 

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I did end up ordering a second copy of Moo for my nephew.  I am almost done with the photo gifts for my parents.  The plan is to order those this week.  With the cooler weather moving in, I will put on a Christmas movie, make some hot chocolate, and wrap gifts this week!  The photo gifts should be the last thing on my list to purchase.  It will be nice to be done early.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I will start harvesting some lettuce this week so salads will be on the menu more often.  I have also been harvesting greens for the rabbits.  I need to harvest some for the chickens this week.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I will be focusing on Christmas treats this week.  I doubt there will be any extra time for a class.  I plan to pick this back up after the holidays.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
Done!  This year's boxes went to Tanzania, Mali, Belize, and Jamaica.

6.  Boost Savings
No extra money into savings this past week.  This seems to be a bad time of year for savings.  I did use some Amazon gift cards to buy a few wants/needs.  I am at least trying to avoid any impulse purchases.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Slay Bells Rings by Karen Rose Smith is the seventh book in the Caprice De Luca Mystery series.  Caprice is busy with holiday home staging for Chris, a friend of her dad.  Chris also plays Santa for the town.  Chris' strange behavior confuses his friends and family, but nothing is as bad as when he is found murdered.  Caprice finds herself drawn into the mystery which is not as simple as it seems.  I enjoy the characters and setting of this series.  While I have read a previous book, it is not completely necessary.  I found the mystery very interesting, and the side stories added to the book!

Daryl Wood Gerber's A Deadly Eclair is the first book in the French Bistro Mystery Series.  Thanks to a generous benefactor Mimi realizes her dream of owning her own bistro and inn.  She is set to host the wedding of a famous talk show host, Angelica.  The wedding guests are an eclectic mix that do not always get along.  The weekend takes an awful turn when Mimi's benefactor and uncle of the bride is found murdered.  Mimi sets out to avenge his murder.  The setting is fun, and the characters definitely have room for growth and development.  I look forward to seeing how the series develops since the first book left me wanting more!

Garden of the Lost and Abandoned by Jessica Yu tells the story of Gladys.  Gladys is a reporter in Uganda writing a column titled "Lost and Abandoned".  The column features children searching for their families.  Gladys takes it much further by investigating both children and families.  When no families can be found Gladys takes on the children's care all while struggling to support herself.  The stories are hard to read at times, but Gladys in an inspiration.  The book is wonderfully written and captures the hard truth of daily life in Uganda.

Ellen Crosby's The Vineyard Victims is part of the Wine Country Mystery series.  Lucie witnesses former presidential candidate Jamison Vaughn drive his SUV into a pillar at the entrance of her winery.  It seems like much more than a tragic accident.  Lucie dives into the mystery that becomes more and more complicated.  While this book fits into the cozy mystery genre, it is more serious than a typical cozy mystery.  The characters are well developed, and the mystery was filled with twists and turns.  If you prefer your cozy mysteries with a bit more depth, this is the book for you!

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

Friday, December 1, 2017

Frugal Friday

In spite of being a bit spend-y recently I have worked on saving some money. 

I did very little Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping.  I had been on the lookout for a new crockpot since the lid on mine no longer closes securely.  I ended up purchasing it from Kohl's along with some on sale curtains for the house so I could get free shipping. 

I waited on sales for the online consignment stores (Schoola, Swap, and ThredUp).  I was glad that I waited until Cyber Monday when the sales were better, and I got free shipping.

I never got around to making my Christmas cards this year so I followed a tip from Frugalwoods.  I ordered postcards from VistaPrint.  I waited for a sale so they were budget friendly. 

I focused meals on what we had on hand.  I am cleaning out the refrigerator freezers first, and then I will tackle the big freezer.  I am not doing an official pantry challenge, but I am trying to eat what we have. 

I ordered some free magazine subscriptions with a couple of free gift cards, points from Recycle Bank, and Reward Survey. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Weekly Goals Update Week 48

I started off so good with the goals and updates.  Then life got in the way.  I have decided that some need to go on the back burner for the rest of this year. 

1. Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
This was a crazy month.  Honestly I feel like every one of my goals took a back seat, and I accomplished close to nothing.  W did finish the touch up painting in the hall and foyer.  I picked out and ordered a door handle for the pantry door.  We hosted Thanksgiving at our house.  My focus was on cleaning and preparing for that.  This week W is working on vehicle repairs.  He is putting house projects aside to get two of our vehicles plus the golf cart running again. 

2.  Plan Ahead for Holiday & Birthday Gifts
Birthday gifts are done for the year.  I finally found books for the four nearly six year old girls.  I bought two books from The Princess in Black series.  My two year old niece liked Cat so much that I ordered Moo for her.  I might get that for the two year old nephew too.  I need to get pictures together for my parents' photo calendar. 

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
Nothing happened in the garden this past week.  I do need to harvest some peppers this weekend.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I need to focus on baking holiday goodies.  I doubt that I will get around to any classes until after New Year's. 

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget - Done
The boxes were sent to a local collection location earlier this month.  They will then go to a distribution center before being sent out to the children.  I used trackable shoebox labels so I will find which countries the boxes go to.

6.  Boost Savings
Hmmm....November was a spendy month.  We purchased the fence, but it ended up being higher than quoted.  We also adopted a puppy.  We did not know that he was sick, and he ended up spending 5 days at the vet.  Thankfully that bill was lower than expected, but it was still an extra expense.  We are still focused on saving, but at this point it will be paying ourselves back.  Life - it goes that way sometimes.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Knit to Kill by Anne Canadeo is part of the Black Sheep & Co. Mystery series.  There are other books in the series, but this is the first one I have read.  I was not at all lost.  The characters were introduced well.  While knitting plays a big part in the book, it is not the main focus.  A group of knitters heads to a resort for one last fling before one of them is married.  The weekend gets off to a rough start when they witness a nasty argument.  One of the men involved is murdered the next morning.  The women's hostess and her husband are in the middle of the investigation.  The knitters decide to help solve the mystery.  The friendship aspect of the book was wonderful.  The mystery had some twists and kept me interested until the end.

Lea Wait's Thread the Halls is the sixth book in the Mainely Needlepoint Mystery series.  It is Christmas in Haven Harbor, Maine.  Angie has big plans for Christmas that get side tracked when her friend Patrick's movie star mother plans to visit with several famous guests in tow.  When one of those famous guests is murdered, Angie finds herself in the middle of yet another murder mystery.  The setting of this series draws me in every time.  The characters are a nice mix, and Angie is a great heroine.  This book easily stands on its own, but I recommend reading the entire series!

Much Ado About Murder by Elizabeth J Duncan is part of the Shakespeare in the Catskills Mystery series.  This is the only book in the series that I have read, but I had not trouble following the characters.  Costume designer, Charlotte, is thrown for a loop when the current director quits suddenly.  The star of the play demands that the new director be Edmund, who is someone she worked with previously.  Things go from bad to worse when Edmund is found dead of a suspected suicide.  Charlotte must uncover the truth to keep the play on track.  This book got off to a slow start.  Once I really got into it, I could not put it down.  The varied characters and side stories were added bonuses.

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

The Wildlife Gardener by Kate Bradbury focuses on creating wildlife habitats in the home garden.  The book will help you welcome everything from birds to creepy crawlies.  Each section includes 10 things to do for the particular species of wildlife.  Most of the included projects are very easy and can be done with items already in your garden.  I think my favorite is the bumblebee nester.  The final plus of this book is the list of plants including trees to plant for wildlife.  This is a great book for gardeners who want practical advice for welcoming wildlife into the garden.

Valerie Bertinelli's Valerie's Home Cooking promises recipes for family and friends.  I found many recipes that my family and friends would enjoy as well as some that I would love.  The all-in-one breakfast smoothie is one that I would not want to share.  I am excited to try my hand at homemade tater tots.  I was disappointed that so many of the recipes were for alcoholic drinks.  Overall this is a good and useful cookbook.  I would actually make many of the recipes rather than just read the cookbook!

Looking at the cover of The Artful Baker by Cenk Sonmezsoy I thought it would be way above my home baking skills.  I was pleasantly surprised to find myself marking recipe after recipe to try.  A few were more adventurous than my liking.  Overall I was pleased with the mix of recipes.  I decided to try the recipe for dulce de leche brownies. It mixed up well and the flavors were good.  My problem was with the baking time.  I had to back them almost an hour before they were done in the center.  This made the edges a bit over done.  I think they would have baked better in a quarter sheet pan.  I am not writing the book off completely, but some adjustments do need to be made. 

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

The Quiche and the Dead by Kirsten Weiss is the first book in the Pie Town Mystery series.  Val is recently separated from her fiance but happily the owner of her own pie shop.  It seems like life might be turning around until a customer drops dead after eating a quiche in her shop.  To save Pie Town Val and her crust maker, Charlene, must solve the mystery.  This is a good start to a new series.  I would like to see more background information on the town and human characters and maybe a bit less focus on Charlene's narcoleptic cat.  The main mystery might not have been the strongest, but the mini mysteries were fun.  I would happily read more from this series.

The second book in the Berry Basket Mystery series by Sharon Farrow is Blackberry Burial.  Marlee, owner of the Berry Basket, is excited for the summer tourist season and the celebration of the Blackberry Arts School.  While out planning one of the activities, Marlee finds a long dead body with the help of a great dane.  When it turns out to be a woman who disappeared from the school 20 years ago, the reunion takes a sad turn.  Marlee finds herself in the middle of another mystery.  I liked the first book.  My only problem with this one is Marlee's fiance.  He is not exactly husband material so I am curious to see where this goes as the series develops.

Cremains of the Day by Misty Simon is the first book in the Tallie Graver Mystery series.  Tallie is recently divorced from her wealthy husband Waldo.  She is now cleaning the homes of the people she used to call friends.  This is her way of not getting sucked back into the family funeral business.  Her new job is even less exciting when she finds the body of one of her employers in a closet.  That is only the start of everything that is going on in this book.  I did enjoy the book, but a bit less chaos would be a good thing. 

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

Weekly Goals Update Week 45

I had started this earlier in the week but never got around to finishing it.  I am posting it late.  Sorry for the lack of pictures!

1.  Completely Finish House & Update Property
I painted the aquarium cabinet with some help from W.  The thought of painting it was much worse than actually doing it.  It took part of day to get it all painted and put back together.  It looks so much better.  We decluttered a bit while we were at it.

W also put some more molding down this past week and ordered the new fencing.  I am not sure what is on the plan for this week.  I expect some touch up painting will be on my list.

2.  Plan ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I plan to work on handmade gifts this week. 

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
The artichoke seedlings are doing well.  They are too small to be set outside.  I am keeping the pepper plants and greens watered.  Otherwise I am in between seasons.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I hope to get back on track with this goal during November.  I might tackle an easier class with the holidays looming.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
Done - I finished packing the boxes with help from the youth.  I just need to go through the last 50 and give them a final check.  They will be ready to send out next week.  I plan to take a few weeks off and then organize the leftovers for next year.

6.  Boost Savings
I feel like we have been spendy lately.  I did a big stock up trip to Sam's.  I wanted to get it done in advance of the holidays.  Crowds are not my favorite thing about this time of year.  We also paid our house insurance for a year, auto insurance for six months, and property taxes.  I stick up money monthly for these expenses, but it is a big amount going out at once.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

52 New Recipes: Cheeseburger Soup

Since I am trying to focus on using what we have on hand, I was happy to find a cheeseburger soup recipe that used onions, potatoes, carrots, and celery.  As usual I made just a few changes. 

First I cooked the meat, onions, carrots, and celery together all at once.  That is a personal preference since I feel like it blends the flavors together.  Also it kept me from messing up another dish by setting the meat aside.

Second I added beef broth rather than chicken broth.  It enhanced the burger flavor a bit more.

Third I added in a homemade version of the block processed cheese.  I cannot eat that processed cheese stuff.  I will spare you the gory details, but it shall never pass my lips again.  This trick makes any cheese melt as creamy as the block stuff.  You can buy sodium citrate from Amazon.  It is truly magical. 

Finally I used a cup of half and half simply because we were out of milk. 

It was delicious.  The soup was creamy and filling without being too rich.  This is going into the regular meal rotation.  I did freeze the leftovers and will serve them with a salad later in the month. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Weekend Book Review: Queso!

Queso! by Lisa Fain offers readers regional recipes for the oh so popular cheese dip.  I admit that I was a bit scared to get this book.  You see I do not eat the blocks of processed "cheese" that are normally used in queso.  I was afraid I would not find anything to make.  I was happy to find that many of the recipes use cheese.  For those of us who fall into the anti-processed cheese category, the author solves that problem with a sodium citrate cheese sauce.  While the name is not the most appealing, the finished product is.  It allowed me to make a block of colby cheese as smooth and creamy when melted as the processed cheese.  It was even better since it tasted like real cheese.  I have used the cheese sauce in other recipes calling for "you know what" and it worked perfectly. 

The author gives readers a history of queso as well as an in depth descriptions of chiles and cheeses used in making queso.  I marked a variety of recipes to try including Bacon-Green Chile Queso Burgers, Greek Queso, and Spinach Queso Blanco.  With this book you can be the hit of any party, if you are willing to share!

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

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh promises 110 recipes for sweets and baked goods.  This cookbook definitely delivers.  I would not consider these everyday dessert recipes but many could be.  Thanks to online shopping I was able to get the halva I needed to make the tahini and halva brownies.  They are as addictive and delicious as described in the book.  My mom could not stop talking about how good they are.  I marked several other recipes to try and am expecting the same great results!

Steve Bender's The Grumpy Gardener is an extension of the popular Southern Living column.  Since it is one of the first sections I read in the magazine each month, I was thrilled to see a book was being written.  I was not disappointed.  The book is a wonderful mix of Bender's saucy humor and valuable gardening advice.  While some gardening books are tedious, The Grumpy Gardener is entertaining and fun.  It is a great addition to every gardener's library!

Someone's Mad at the Hatter by Sandra Betting finds hat and headpiece designer Missy working on New Year's Eve without eating any lucky black eyed peas (a Southern tradition).  Her day becomes unlucky when she find a body behind her shop.  It turns out to be a wedding planner.  With the murder hurting her business, Missy sets out to solve the mystery.  I enjoyed the book although I did not find either of Missy's love interests to be worth her time.  Perhaps her boyfriend, Ambrose, was just having an off book.  The book stayed true to its Southern theme which I greatly appreciated. 

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

Frugal Friday

As I mentioned in my Weekly Update post, I took Tucker and Libby to the low cost clinic to be fixed.  At our local vet having a boy cat fixed is around $90 with the girl costing more.  I spent $80 for both cats to be fixed and receive their rabies shots.  The people at the clinic are wonderful.  I dropped off the kittens that morning and picked them up that afternoon.  My mom took her kitten Mozzie to be fixed at the same time.  It makes taking in homeless kittens a bit more affordable.

I looked at buying invitation envelopes for my Thanksgiving note cards and Christmas cards.  I could get 100 pre-made envelopes for around $11 online.  A pack of 250 sheets of cardstock was less than $8.  I have plenty of glue sticks bought during the school sales.  I have an envelope tool/scoring board that makes them easy to make.

I got two Amazon gift cards from Coke's new reward program.

I ordered two inserts for my door mat for free after using a gift card earned through Swagbucks.

I ordered Woman's Day and Good Housekeeping subscriptions from Recycle Bank.

I gave myself a Halloween manicure.  It was nothing fancy, but I expect it would cost me more than I would want to pay at a salon.

I had a nice dinner out at a women's ministry meeting at a nearby church. 

We have used the heat/air minimally as the weather has settled into what passes for autumn in the south.

I made cookies instead of buying candy for Halloween. 

I did the usual:  packed W lunches, hung out laundry, and planned meals from the pantry/freezer.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

52 New Recipes: Jalapeno Popper Deviled Eggs

I am completely off track with new recipes.  While I have been trying a bunch to go along with cookbooks I am reviewing, it is not easy to share those.  I decided to simply jump back in and start from where I am.

This week's new recipe is jalapeno popper deviled eggs.  These are so yummy and are now my favorite deviled egg recipe.  I adjusted it slightly.  I skip putting a jalapeno slice in each egg.  Instead I leave the seeds/membrane in when I dice up the jalapeno.  It adds an extra bit of spice without being too hot.  These have been a hit each time I made them.  I plan to add them to my Thanksgiving dinner spread.

I love using this deviled egg tray.  It has a nice area in the center for me to add sliced jalapeno peppers.  It gives people a clue that the eggs are spicy and allows those who want more heat to pick up a few slices. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Yard Sale Chair Makeover

Last year W and I purchased a sad looking chair at the Peaches to Beaches yard sale.  It had good bones, but that is the nicest thing I could say about it.  I think we paid $10 for it.  I neglected to take a great before picture.  Here is a mid-deconstruction picture.

The bottom had a cushion which we tossed.  The back had a piece of cardboard covered with fabric.  Each arm was padded.

W opted to get rid of the padded armrests.  We picked out upholstery fabric on sale from Joann's.  He used a couple of old pillows to re-pad the the seat and back.  The back also got a piece of beadboard as we did not want to cover both sides of the back with fabric.  Here is the finished product.

We added decorative nail head strips to cover the edges where it was not perfect.  W painted the chair with a spray primer and a chalk finish spray paint.  We were really pleased with how it turned out.  I think we have about $60 in the chair with the fabric being the most expensive part.  W is in no rush to go into the upholstery business though.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween!

I thought today would be the perfect day to introduce my new pet.

Meet Agatha.  She is a juvenile stripe knee tarantula.  It took me over a month to get her.  I had no idea that tarantulas were so popular.  She will eventually grow to be about 8 inches.  She is quite laid back and is happy with her diet of a daily cricket.

In the people world of Halloween, I spent all day yesterday making decorated sugar cookies to pass out to trick or treaters.  Since we live out in the country, we only get families that we know well stopping by. Otherwise I would not give out handmade treats.  W helped out with decorating when he got home from work.

This is only my second time working with royal icing.  I am gradually getting better.  I do not think the children will care too much about how they look though.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Weekly Goals Update: Week 44

1.  Completely Finish New House & Update Property
W have put down a fair amount of molding.  We still need to finish the kitchen and back bathroom, but the hallway and living room are done.

W put up the door to the laundry room, and we picked up the door for the pantry.  I am hoping we get more molding put up this week.  I also want to start painting the aquarium cabinet.  Honestly just having most of the molding in makes the rooms look finished.  

Wondering why we are still doing finish work a year after moving in?  W was burnt out.  It is so much work to build a house rather than have one built.  He simply needed a break.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
I am done with birthday gifts for this year.  I have started on my handmade gifts and plan to have them done by Thanksgiving.  I will finish my holiday shopping by the end of November if all goes as planned.  I try to avoid stores in December.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
The cooler weather has given my pepper plants a bit of a boost.  The greens seed we sowed have sprouted.  I know the rabbits and chickens are looking forward to those.  I planted more artichoke seeds.  I am hanging on to all of the summer garden plants until a frost kills them.  Sometime in the next couple of weeks we need to recover the greenhouse with plastic.  I will move my fruit trees into there to protect them during the winter months.

4.  Take One Class a Month
Can I just say that I was completely lazy over the past couple of weeks?  I do not know what got into me.  I have a bunch going on this week, and I am not sure that I will get anything done on this goal.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
My youth have been a bit scattered over the past two weeks.  We still have time to get the boxes packed the first couple of weekend in November.  I still feel on track with this one.

6.  Boost Savings
I have more money to add to our fence fund.  We were a bit spendy but on necessary things.  I took Tucker and Libby to the low cost clinic to be fixed and get rabies shots.  It cost $80 to get both of them fixed and have rabies vaccinations.  I was happy to spend that money as it was cheaper than at our local vet, and it will keep them happy and healthy.  We also had our gas tankless water heater serviced.  This annual maintenance will save money in the long run.  I can see next year that I will need to add in more small funds to cover these extras.  

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Murder Over Mochas by Caroline Fardig is the fifth book in the Java Jive Mystery series.  Juliet is done investigating murders.  She keeps that agreement until her no good ex-fiance Scott dies in front of her.  She is the main suspect.  I have not read any of the previous books, but I did not feel lost.  The mystery was interesting, but the main focus of the book seems to be on Juliet's love life.  That includes her ex-fiance, her ex-boyfriend, and her current boyfriend.  If you lean toward enjoying romance with your cozy mystery, this is a wonderful book.

The first book in the Brie Hooker Mystery series by Linda Lovely is Bones to Pick.  Vegan chef Brie finds herself working and living on a farm after her Aunt Lilly's death.  She takes over several duties to help out her Aunt Eva.  Things take a bad turn after her aunt is accused of murder when the skeletal remains of Eva's long missing husband are uncovered by the farm's pig, Tammy.  I loved the southern setting complete with southern sayings.  This is a nice start to a fun series.  I was less than thrilled with Brie's overactive hormones in the midst of a lust (not love yet) triangle. The mystery was not as strong as it could have been, but I see potential for future books. 

Munchies by JJ Goode  and Helen Hollyman promises recipes for Late Night Meals from the World's Greatest Chefs".  I was very disappointed with this book for three reasons.  First, I do not understand the foul language.  I know professional chefs curse, but adding it to a book does not make one cool, intelligent, or professional.  Second, one of the recipes is for a grilled cheese.  It literally lists the ingredients as bread, butter, and cheese.  If someone needs a recipe for a grilled cheese, I am not sure she should be operating a cook top unsupervised.  Third, another of the recipes includes two cans refried beans in the ingredient list.  Am I supposed to believe that the "World's Greatest Chef's" use canned refried beans?  Refried beans are easy to make.  This book is obviously for a different audience than myself. 

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

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Quakery by Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen discusses all of the medical wonders that turned into "I wonder why anyone thought that was a good idea".  It combines humor with medical history to give readers a glimpse into the highly questionable medical practices of the past.  The book was fascinating and scary all at the same time.  It made me wonder which medical marvels of today will become the cautionary tales of tomorrow.  I do wish the book had been a bit more serious.  Otherwise it was well put together.

Julie Mulhern's Cold as Ice is the sixth book in the Country Club Murders series.  I have not read any of the previous books, but I was able to easily keep up with the characters.  The book is set in the 1970s yet it did not feel dated at all.  Ellison is raising her teenage daughter Grace on her own after her husband's death.  Ellison has her hands full with Grace's no good boyfriend and wild parties.  Add in a demanding mother and social activities, and the last thing she needs is to find a dead body.  Unfortunately that is exactly what happens.  I adored the characters and Ellison's prim and proper mannerisms.  This book was good enough that I have added the first five to my reading list.

The Dinner Plan by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion offers a variety of Simple Weeknight Recipes and Strategies for Every Schedule.  I marked several interesting recipes.  I liked that most of the recipes used basic ingredients.  Another bonus is that there was little risk the dishes would include anything my sometimes picky husband would not eat.  I opted to make the Pasta e Fagioli.  I stuck to the recipe although I did cut back on the spinach (picky husband, remember?).  The picky husband declared that the soup was delicious and that I could include more spinach next time.  I love having another meatless meal we both enjoy.  The soup came together quickly and like many of the recipes is an excellent weeknight meal.  This is a wonderful resource for busy families.

Best Laid Plants by Marty Wingate is book six in the Potting Shed Mystery series.  Gardener Pru thinks she has found the perfect job.  She gets to look at reviving a neglected arts and crafts garden and bring her husband along on the trip.  When the garden's designer is found dead under suspicious circumstances, Pru's detective husband steps in to help the police.  He even invites Pru to help him investigate.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the plants as much as the mystery.  Pru and her husband are joined by a variety of great supporting characters.  This is a wonderful gardening themed cozy mystery series.

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

Frugal Friday

  I have not done the best job with keeping track of my frugal doings recently, but I figured a post was long overdue.

I watched a free movie through Google Play.  I need to keep a regular check of any specials.  W and I never go to the theater.  When I figure in the drive, cost of the tickets, and cost of snacks, I would much rather rent a movie online or buy a used DVD if I think we will really like it.

I have wanted nice, tall planters for the front porch.  I had hoped to find something on clearance at the end of summer.  Everything I saw was more than I wanted to pay or not the style I wanted.  I decided to just work on getting some gift cards through Swagbucks to buy what I wanted.  I ended up getting the two planters I had been eyeing for less than $5 total.  I used two gift cards and a coupon code, but they are perfect for the porch.

I used a promo code to order a free 8x10 print. 

W and I purchased more pumpkins at the grocery store.  One store has had them for $2.99 compared to $4.50 at other stores.  These pumpkins are much larger than the ones I saw at the higher price.  We will use them for decorations through Thanksgiving.  After that they will be tasty treats for the chickens.  Most of our other decorations are left from last year.  My only other purchase was live plants that will last through the fall holidays.

I knew we had a long errand day ahead of us this week so I planned ahead.  I had leftovers for us to eat when we returned home.

I made appointments to get Tucker and Libby fixed at the low cost clinic.  I can get both of them fixed for less than the cost of one at our regular vet.  My parents are also taking their new cat to be fixed so we will split gas costs.  I know the kittens will not be happy, but it is for the best.

Thanks to the cooler weather, our a/c unit has barely run at all.  The sunny, windy days are perfect for drying laundry too.

I was happy to see that the phone company followed through with lowering our bill after the internet mess last month.  We will save $30 a month.

I have continued to try to plan meals using what we have on hand.  It will help my grocery budget and keep the freezer/pantry under control.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Free Craftsy Class: Tuesday, October 17 Only!

Last week I talked about how much I love Craftsy classes.  Today only anyone can sign up for a free class:  Pasta Like a Pro.  This class offers six lessons.  You get everything from classic to contemporary pasta dishes.  You can even learn to make fresh pasta and gnocchi.  If you have wanted to try out a Craftsy class, this is the perfect opportunity.

The class will only be free on Tuesday, October 17, until 11:59pm MT. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Weekly Goals Update Weeks 41& 42

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
The first week I did not get any painting done due to the rain and general damp weather.  This past week I painted all of the molding/trim.  If all goes well, we can get some of it put up this week.  W also got a good start on refinishing the yard sale chair he bought in March.  I am quite impressed with how well he is doing.

We did finish setting up the area for my new pet.  When we bought our big aquarium we also got a smaller corner aquarium.  I am still waiting on the new pet to arrive though. 

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I knocked one birthday gift and two holiday gifts off my list this week.  The two oldest girls on my side of the family are turning into readers.  Yeah!  I ordered one a Junie B Jones book set for her birthday.  For Christmas both girls are getting books from the series.  I came in under budget on both. 

I still need to order two more birthday gifts for this year, but then I can focus on the holidays.  One of the items for my handmade friend gifts did not work out so I ordered a replacement and am waiting on it to arrive.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I feel in between seasons right now.  The days are getting shorter so it is definitely not summer, but it is much too hot to be autumn.  Water from the hose is just not helping my plants so I am hoping for some rain.  Later this week I want to pull some weeds and plant some more greens for the chickens.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I decided that while the opera cake is doable I simply have too much going on.  I am going to do it later and take a simpler class.  I need to make a confession first.  I am southern, and I cannot make biscuits.  Well, I cannot make typical southern biscuits.  My mom makes thin biscuits - basically two crusts - since my dad calls normal biscuits cat heads.  W on the other hand likes typical southern biscuits.  I am determined to learn and started a new class:  Tea Breads:  Biscuits, Scones & More.  The first lesson was biscuits!  I think they look pretty good.  I still need some practice.

I may skip around in this class and do the pound cake before the scone lesson.  It depends on how the week goes.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I decided to get the youth at church to help me pack the boxes this year.  We have finished 50 so far.  I do need to go behind them and rearrange things and probably add some filler items.  For the most part they are doing a great job.  We are on track to finish up by the end of this month.

6.  Boost Savings
I added some extra money to add to our fence fund.  Our electric bill was lower than budget so that extra money can go toward some house expenses. I am keeping with the goal of having the fence projected funded by the end of November.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

When I first looked at the table of contents for Sally's Cookie Addiction by Sally McKenney, I was not sure I would find any interesting recipes.  Then I started reading the cookbook and marked recipe after recipe to try.  I did end up making the Big Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and gave them to my taste testers.  Everyone loved the cookies.  The bit of molasses added an extra depth to the cookies.  The book is a nice mix of classics and unusual cookies.  The tips and tricks are an nice addition especially for new bakers.  Cookies always seem to be hit, and this book offers something for everyone!

The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook by Kate MacDonald and L.M. Montgomery is a great cookbook for fans of Anne of Green Gables.  The pictures of the finished recipes are beautiful.  I appreciate that the recipes use basic ingredients.  I made the apple dumplings.  Although I needed to seriously adjust the cooking time, the flavor of the finished dessert was delicious.  It is something that I will make again.  I have several more recipes marked to try.  The recipes are simple enough that they can be made with children. 

Perilous Poetry by Kym Roberts is book three in the Book Barn Mystery series.  Charli is thrilled when her cousin and aunt show up with two surprises.  Her cousin wants to use the Book Barn Princess to unveil his new app, and he has arranged for author Lucy Barton to do a book signing.  The problems begin when murders start happening that appear to be tied to the app and Lucy Barton's books.  Reading the previous books is not necessary to follow this one.  The why of the murders is sort of explained but seems to be a stretch.  This series is a bit heavier on the romance than some other cozy mysteries, but it is not annoying.  I did find the repetitive phrases (OMW - oh my word - and Get Out) to be tiresome.  Still this is a fun series.  I love the book store set in a barn, and Princess the pet armadillo remains my favorite character.

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Cat Among the Pumpkins by Mandy Morton is part of the Hettie Bagshot Mystery series.  Hettie and Tilly are cats and run the No. 2 Feline Detective Agency.  The book features only cats who live in a world just like people.  I wanted to love this book.  I had two problems with it.  The cats were too human for me.  I would have preferred that they were just cats. Second I found everything overly described.  I appreciate the scenes being set up for me, but I like to use my imagination some.  I think this series could be toned down a bit and would be perfect for the preteen crowd.  It is a clever idea.  I just did not care for it as much as I thought I might.

Rich Newman's Ghosts of the Civil War is part ghost story and part history.  The book covers everything from the major well known battles and locations to the lesser known areas of the Civil War.  October always makes me reach for a good ghost story.  I enjoyed Ghosts of the Civil War although it was a big light on the ghost stories.  I would consider it more a travel guide for Civil War ghost hunters.  I do recommend it for those interested in Civil War history with a side of ghosts.

Running Out of Time by Suzanne Trauth is the third book in the Dodie O'Dell Mystery series.  I have read the previous books, but I do not think it is necessary.  Dodie, manager of the Windjammer restaurant, is working on desserts to pair with the theater's new play.  It is a version of Our Town and is called Eton Town.  The production has plenty of problems but none as bad as the body discovered on stage on opening night.  Dodie once again investigates a murder to save the play and the theater.  I like Dodie.  She is fun but very real.  Etonville is a wonderful town full of eccentric characters which add to the story.  I adore this series and am already looking forward to the next book.

Kathi Daley's Fireworks in Paradise is book eight in the TJ Jensen Mystery series.  TJ rushes home from South Carolina when she receives word that her father is in a coma following a serious car accident.  As she begins to piece the story together, it becomes obvious that the wreck was no accident.  TJ and her friend Kyle investigate along with police officer Roy.  The investigation has to be done quietly when Roy's new partner threatens them.  I have read a previous book in this series, but it is not necessary.  I look forward to seeing how the characters progress as the series continues.

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Craftsy Classes

Terri asked about the online cooking classes that I am doing.  I do all of my classes through Craftsy.  I live in the middle of  nowhere so taking classes locally is not an option.  Craftsy is convenient and allows me to go through the lessons at my own pace.  Another plus is that the purchased classes never expire. 

To make the classes more frugal, I highly recommend signing up for the emails.  Craftsy offers specials all of the time.  I normally pay $14-$16 per class by waiting until what I am interested in is on sale. 

The information provided is extremely helpful.  While there are free recipes/tutorials online, I appreciate the professional information provided.  The macaron lesson is one that springs to mind as being worth the cost of the entire class.  By taking the class first, I avoided all of the common macaron making problems. 

The classes include video lessons and downloadable recipes.  You can also interact with the instructor to ask questions.  Each class generally covers multiple things under the chosen topic.  You can see the topics covered prior to purchasing as well as read reviews.

disclosure:  I was not compensated for this post.  I just adore Craftsy classes!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Ellie Alexander's Death on Tap is the first book in the Sloan Krause Mystery series.  This cozy mystery series deals in depth with brewing beer.  While I do not like beer personally, I found the information on craft beer brewing to be very compelling.  Sloan works as a brewer for her husband's family.  Her world is turned upside down when she finds her husband in a compromising position with another woman.  Sloan takes a job with a new to town brewer and owner of Nitro.  Things are off to a great start until she finds a body in the fermenting tub.  While the mystery in this book is not the strongest, the characters and town make up for it.  The town features a range of characters from those I loved to those I did not like at all.  Of course it takes all of them to make the story work.  I look forward to seeing how the characters as well as some of the side stories develop as the series progresses!  

Death by Eggnog by Alex Erickson is the fifth book in the Bookstore Cafe Mystery series.  I have read some previous books in this series, but it is not necessary to enjoy this book.  Krissy's vacation becomes a staycation after her father plans a last minute trip.  The co-owner of Death by Coffee insists that Krissy take time away from work.  That leads to her taking a part in the local theater company's holiday musical.  Things are going well enough until Santa is murdered and Krissy's ex is the main suspect.  The characters and setting for this book are fun and perfect for a cozy mystery.  Reading this book only makes me look forward to more from the author!

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

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner by Ann Larkin Hansen gives readers advice on when do necessary chores on the homestead.  It includes chores for the garden, orchard, barn, pasture, and equipment upkeep.  This book provides good guidelines but definitely no hard and fast rules regarding the seasons.  According to this book, my area would be in early summer for the majority of the year.  It is geared more toward those on a larger homestead.  People with established homesteads of that size might find the information too basic.  The information on garden and orchard crops was good.  While the book does include a wealth of information, readers should skim through to see if the information would be helpful for their homesteads.

Raquel Pelzel's Sheet Pan Suppers Vegetarian covers everything from breakfasts to snacks to desserts.  I found that it went beyond sheet pans and neared the casserole dish territory.  While the ingredient lists are long, the recipes have minimal preparation steps.  I was most impressed with the breakfast chapter.  It is filled with dishes that will appeal to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.  My favorite recipe was the mushroom risotto.  With the variety of recipes included in this book, it offers something for everyone!Ov

The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn is about her journey to overcome her brother's sudden death.  She is also dealing with the loss of her relationship, her dysfunctional upbringing, and the separation of her family.  The book was well-written but take the discussions of the South with a grain of salt.  The author was fascinated by real dirt roads.  While I have seen many real ones, I have no idea what a fake dirt road would be.  I enjoyed the recipes sprinkled throughout the book.  Overall I found the book interesting.

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

Weekly Goals Update Week 40

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
This past week some extra items popped up that had nothing to do with this goal. We did router out the boards needed to finish most of the molding.  It made a mess on the back deck that was quickly swept away. 

We need to pick up one more board and get our previously purchased on sale can of paint tinted.  My plan for this week is to paint the molding so W can start putting it up.  I wanted to burn one pile of leaves/limbs, but this week is forecasted to be windy so that is out.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I ordered the supplies needed for my handmade friend gifts.  Since several of my friends read this blog, I will not be sharing any more details about that.  Everything should be here by the end of the week so I can get started on those. While W has a lighter schedule, I want to work on the personalized cups for the youth I work with at church.

3. Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I need to order the seeds for W's hydroponic system.  He wants to try bok choy and butter crunch lettuce.  I need to weed the garden and clear out a spot to plant some mustard and turnips for the chickens.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I need to watch the opera cake lesson this week and make the cake toward the end of the week.  Then I will move on to a new class.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I have to spend a day this week setting up everything to pack the 25 boxes for the 2-4 age group with the youth group.  If it goes well, we will pack the remaining boxes and be ready ahead of the collection date.

6. Boost Savings
I shopped sales this past week or skipped purchases all together.  I earned a $25 gift card from Swagbucks which I will use for a flower pot I want for the porch.  This month's goal is to focus on saving for the new fencing.  W wants to get it done before cold weather sets in.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Dial Meow for Murder by Bethany Blake is part of the Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery series.  I had read the previous book in this series, but it is not necessary.  Daphne is the laid back owner of a petsitting business.  She is the complete opposite of her high strung sister, Piper, and her highly motivated realtor mother.  Daphne agrees to help with a pet fundraiser at a local mansion.  The evening is cut short when the town's wealthy volunteer Lillian is found dead in her bathtub.  I enjoy the characters is this book - both the human and furry ones.  The mystery kept me interested, but the sub-plots were the highlight.  I am already looking forward to the next book.

Meera Lester's A Hive of Homicides is the third book in the Henny Penny Farmette Mystery series.  I had read a previous book in the series, but this one easily stands on its own.  Abby, a former cop, is happy on her farm with her dog and chickens.  She attends a her friend Paola's vow renewal at a local winery and is shocked to witness a shooting.  Paola is seriously injured, and her husband is killed.  Abby cannot completely escape her former profession and begins her own investigation.  In the previous book I had some concerns about this series going forward.  I was completely happy with this book.  The characters and story line flowed well.  I am excited about Abby's character development from this point onward.

Turkey Trot Murder by Leslie Meier is part of the Lucy Stone Mystery series.  Lucy is training for the annual Turkey Trot 5K when she and her canine side kick discover a body in a partially frozen pond.  Wealthy Allison's death is blamed on an overdose, but Lucy has her doubts.  Sadly this cozy mystery strayed into the political area.  Personal opinions are fine, but I read for entertainment not political commentary.  For me it does not matter whether or not I share the opinion, I am tired of politics taking over everything.  While I enjoyed the mystery, the politics ruined the book for me.

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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Colette London's Dead and Ganache is the fourth book in the Chocolate Whisperer Mystery series.  I have read the previous books in this series, but it is not necessary.  Hayden Mundy Moore is a chocolate whisperer.  She heads to her mentor's hometown to celebrate his retirement.  The party is cut very short when he is murdered.  I enjoy the chocolate theme of this series, but I have a hard time liking Hayden.  I keep expecting her to grow and mature, but I was disappointed yet again.  She is haughty and a bit ditzy.  This is a personal annoyance though, and you might find Hayden to be the perfect cozy heroine.

Holiday Murder by Leslie Meier is part of the Lucy Stone Mysteries series.  This is a collection of two holiday themed mysteries:  Mistletoe Murder and Christmas Cookie Murder.  The holiday theme is not very strong and is more of a minor backdrop.  These are definitely light reads and not too serious.  I enjoyed both of them, but I did not love them.  My problem with Mistletoe Murder is the animal violence.  It added nothing to the story and was quite unnecessary. I enjoyed Christmas Cookie Murder much more.  This story had more excitement and mystery compared to Mistletoe Murder.

Liz Mugavero's Purring Around the Christmas Tree is the sixth book in the Pawsitively Organic Mystery series.  Stan (Kristan) is preparing for the grand opening of her pet bakery which coincides with the town's Christmas tree lighting.  The festivities take a somber turn when Santa is dead in the sleigh.  The mystery become complicated when the man in the Santa suit is not who everyone expects.  The setting and characters in this series are outstanding, and this book did not disappoint me.  I enjoyed both the mystery and the holiday theme.  My only critique is that Stan spends precious little time actually running her bakery.  I suppose that is solved by her wonderful employee, but I hope some adjustments are made for future books.  That aside Purring Around the Christmas Tree is a solid addition to the series.

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Decorating for Autumn: The Porch

I have kept the autumn decorations fairly simple.  Our front door has an oval window.  I have not found a good place to hang a wreath on the door that suited me.  I mentioned to W that I would like to have a wreath post, and he built me one.

We purchased the topper and a can of black spray paint.  Everything else was scraps/leftovers already on hand.  The hook came from the old house.  I had an idea for a wreath but could not find what I wanted to make it.  Instead I picked up the leaf decoration from Dollar Tree.

Second on my porch wish list was a new door mat.  I saw some online that had interchangeable inserts.  I searched around and found the best price on eBay.  The outer black section is very sturdy.  The inner part can be switched out for the season.  Thea thought y'all would enjoy the picture better with her in it.

At a yard sale earlier this year we had purchased two hanging baskets.  I think we only gave a couple of dollars for the pair.  I bought the coconut coir liners and two mums.  I plan to change the plants out with the seasons as well.  

Of all the porch decorations the door mat was the most expensive.  The inserts are affordable, and I feel like the base part of the mat will hold up well.  The last item on my wish list is a pair of tall flower pots.  I will be using my Swagbucks for a couple of gift cards to purchase them.  I decided it is cheaper in the long run to get exactly what I want.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Weekly Goals Update: Week 39

1.  Completely Finish New House & Update Property
We spent the last week putting the porch back together.  I will share the things we added tomorrow.  The rest of our time was spent on the yard.  We have been piling up limbs and leaves to burn.  We also have another load of trash to take off.

This week promises to be busy.  I do want to get a can of leftover paint tinted for molding.  I do not know if I will get any done this week. Having everything on hand when I do have time will be a good thing.  I hope to get the last area of the property cleaned up from Irma this week too.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
No gifts to buy this week.  I will spend some time looking into some items on my holiday gift list.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
W has been working on plans for his hydroponic system.  I expect to order some supplies and seeds for that.  The lettuce seeds I have planted are growing very well in spite of the hot weather.  I am looking forward to some homegrown salads.  I also plan to transplant a couple of tomato seedlings into buckets so I can have tomatoes this winter.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I have one lesson left in the Miniature French Dessert class - Opera Cake.  I plan to watch the lesson even though baking the cake may have to wait until next week.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
All of the shopping is done.  I plan to get the youth at church to help me start packing the boxes next month.

6.  Boost Savings
W got a discount on our internet service and a credit for this month after the mess with the "outage".  It is a small savings over the coming months but a savings nevertheless.  I have started putting some money into our emergency fund.  We have also started saving for the new fencing for our yard.  I skipped grocery shopping last week and have planned meals mainly focused on our pantry/freezer.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews: Non-Fiction

The Man from the Train by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James is subtitled The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery.  I chose this book mainly for the link to the Villasca axe murders. Imagine my surprise when some of the murders happened in my own southern state. The writing style is much different from most non-fiction books, but in this instance it works.  I felt like the authors are sitting down with me and telling me a story.  The book is very well researched.  I appreciated how the authors were honest in saying when certain murders did not match or only might match the criteria of the serial killer.  I was impressed with the ending of the book.  The authors convinced me that they had correctly identified the killer.  This book is easily on my list of top ten books for this year.

Nicholas J.C. Pistor's Shooting Lincoln is the story of two pioneers of photography.  Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner began as employer and employee and turned into rivals.  The book deals with a variety of topics.  It is as much about the Civil War as it is photography and Lincoln.  The book is interesting but was a slow read.  It covered so many topics including the start of photography in America, Civil War battles, Lincoln's assassination, manhunt for Booth, and the years after the war.  I would have enjoyed it more if the story had been more focused.  Overall it is a good book for anyone interested in Civil War era history.

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

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Body on Baker Street by Vicki Delany is the second book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series.  Gemma is surprised to be offered a book signing with popular author Renalta Van Markoff even though it is on very short notice.  It turns out that Renalta is not popular with everyone.  When she is found dead, the suspect list is quite long.  Gemma and Jayne, owner of Mrs. Hudson's Tea Shop next to the bookstore, set out to find the real killer.  This book is even better than the first.  Gemma is the perfect female version of Sherlock Holmes from her investigative skills to her bluntness in social situations.  I am already looking forward to the next book!

To Be Where You Are by Jan Karon is the fourteenth book in the Mitford series.  Readers will definitely want to read the previous books before reading this one.  Even though it has been years since I read a Mitford book, I quickly slipped back into the lives of Father Tim, Cynthia, and all the others who live there.  I laughed and cried as I read but was not once disappointment.  For me this book was just as good as the first in the series.  The books do have religious ties, but the strong sense of community is what makes it most enjoyable.  I highly recommend not only this book but the entire series.

Herbs by Judith Hann promises Delicious Recipes and Growing Tips to Transform Your Food.  This book delivers.  It includes information on herbs that are well known but also some lesser known herbs.  I was thrilled to see pineapple and tangerine sage included along with a recipe to use pineapple sage.  I found the growing tips to be useful even for a seasoned gardener.  The recipes gave me creative ways to utilize the herbs growing in my garden.  I also have a list of a few herbs to add to my garden next year.

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