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!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Weekly Goals Update Week 38

I am still without internet so posts will be limited until it is back up.  At this point my provider has absolutely no idea when it will be restored.  I hope they have a better post-natural disaster plan in place for the next hurricane.

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
Prior to Hurricane Irma we cleaned off the porch and decorated it for fall.  All of that was removed as was everything off the back deck.  We are waiting to see where Maria will go before we do much.  I have managed to clean up all of the fallen leaves and limbs.  The pecan tree that fell will stay until the pecans make.  Then we will deal with removing it.  I hope to work on the foyer and hallway this week.  We need to do some touch up painting and put up a few pieces of molding.

2.  Plan ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I got another shower invitation. I have the gift for that.  I have written ideas for other gifts but need the internet to research and shop.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I was happy to find that my garden survived the storm just fine.  Even my seedlings that had just started sprouting survived just fine.  I expect it was a combination of the raised beds and having wire over the top which protected them from falling limbs.

4.  Take One Class a Month
This is on hold until my internet is back on.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I finished crocheting all of the wash cloths for this year and have gotten a head start on next year's.  I guess being without the internet has made me more productive.

6.  Boost Savings
We picked up the lawn mower, and it was at the lower end of estimate.  I can start setting aside money for our new fencing this month and begin building up savings.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Cat Got Your Secrets by Julie Chase is the third book in the Kitty Couture Mystery series.  This book stands easily on its own although I do recommend the others in the series.  Lacy is the owner of Furry Godmother, a pet boutique and bakery.  Lacy's father is accused of murdering a friend, and Lacy finds herself being blackmailed.  A cliffhanger from a previous book is solved, but it is explained along the way so reader of this book alone will not be lost.  This is a clean, light cozy mystery.  While the mystery is not completely strong, it does move along quickly and kept me interested.  I enjoyed this book and look forward to more in the series.

Asking for Truffle by Dorothy St. James is the first book in the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series.  Charity Penn has won a trip to Camellia Beach, South Carolina, complete with free cooking lessons at the chocolate shop.  Knowing the she has not entered any contest, she accepts her friend's offer to check it out in advance.  When he dies in a vat of chocolate, Penn's guilt sends her to South Carolina to look into the death.  Initially I did not enjoy this book.  Penn is a difficult character to like.  Her character flaws are blamed on her upbringing, but at this point she is grown and is simply making excuses.  As the book went on her character evolved enough that I would give a second book a chance.  The mystery was interesting.  I was not drawn into this book as much due to the characters.   None of them were particularly heart-warming or inviting.   While it is not bad at all, this book is simply not one of my favorites.  I am not giving up on the series yet though.

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

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Doom with a View by Kate Kingsbury is the second book in the Merry Ghost Inn Mystery series.  I had read the previous book, but it is not necessary to enjoy this one.   Melanie and her grandmother, Liza, are welcoming their first guests to the Merry Ghost Inn.  The inn is a bed and breakfast with a permanent resident ghost.  The week is off to a good start until one of the guests is found dead in the driveway.  Melanie, Liza, and the remaining guests are all suspects.  Determined not to let this latest murder ruin the inn's reputation, Melanie and Liza risk the wrath of the detective in charge to solve the mystery.  This was an easy to read book.  The characters including Max the dog and Orville the ghost add to the charm of this series.  I am already looking forward to the next book.

Neila Young's Brewing Up Murder is the first book in the Coffee Cup Mysteries series.  Blake is the owner of Mystery Cup Cafe in Wilton, a town made famous by a series of murders years ago.  When Blake's flighty barista is found dead in the cafe, Blake finds herself drawn into the mystery.  This was a strong first book.  The mystery was interesting, and the characters engaging.  I enjoyed the unusual theme of the setting.  The story includes a bit of romance and plenty of family shenanigans.

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pardon My Absence

I just wanted to let everyone know that I am cleaning up after Hurricane Irma.  My family and I are perfectly safe but quite busy.  Thankfully we have power.  I am simply working on cleaning up our property and cooking for those "neighbors" who are expected to be without power until the weekend.  I will be back as soon as I can!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Stock the Crock by Phyllis Good is a collection of 100 recipes.  A wide variety of recipes are included from soups to sides to sweet treats.  I marked several recipes that I was interested in.  I tried out the recipe for Chicken and Wild Rice Soup.  The recipe included basic ingredients and was good.  I will adapt it a bit to give it more spice and flavor.  It was a bit to bland for my family, but the base is good.  The hints and variations for each recipe are helpful.  Overall this is a useful slow cooker cookbook.

A Christmas Peril by J.A. Hennrikus is the first book in the Theater Cop Mystery series.  Sully has left her job as a cop to be the manager of her hometown's theater.  Her current job is to keep the theater's production of A Christmas Carol on budget and on track.  When her best friend is accused of murdering his father, she reverts back to her cop training to help find the real killer.  The characters are well developed for a first book, and the mystery kept me interested until then.  I look forward to seeing how the characters evolve as the series continues.

George Bellairs' Death of a Busybody is part of the British Library Crime Classics series.  Miss Tither, the village busybody, meddles a little too much and is found dead in the vicar's cesspool.  While the language of the setting/era did slow me down slightly but not so much that I found it impossible to follow.  I do enjoy vintage British mysteries, and this one did not disappoint.

Holiday Cookies by Elisabet der Nederlanden features 50 cookie recipes as well as ideas for packaging your finished cookies.  Do not let the title fool you though.  I will be making many of the cookies from this book year around.  I tried out the recipe for Triple-Chocolate Chunk Cookies.  I followed  the recipe exactly.  Aside from an issue with the baking time (my oven required considerably less time), the cookies were delicious.  The flavor was wonderful with the addition of three types of chocolate.  I bookmarked several more recipes to make.  It has given me several ideas for holiday gift giving and cookie trays.  If you are a cookie fan, I highly recommend this book.

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Weekend Book Review & a Giveaway: Dead in the Water

Dead in the Water by Denise Swanson is the first book in the new Welcome Back to Scrumble River series.  I am sure I read some of the previous Scrumble River books, but I cannot remember any specifics. Readers will not be lost if they have never read any of the prior Scrumble River books.
Skye and her police chief husband Wally are expecting their first child.  As if that is not stressful enough, the town of Scrumble River is hit by a devastating tornado with one death, councilman Zeke.  To make matters worse Wally disappears while investigating Zeke's death.  Skye is dealing with the loss of her home and a missing husband.

One word of warning - do not start this book if you only have a short amount of time to read.  I stayed up way too late two nights in a row to finish the book.  I know a book is great when at the end of each chapter I decide to read "just one more".  The book is full of action from the start.  The characters work well together, and the writing flows so well.  I am excited to read more in this series!
Now for the giveaway.  You have a chance to win a "There's No Place Like Scrumble River Emergency Survival Kit".  Enter through the form below or at this link.  

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Weekly Goals Update: Week 36

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
This week I started the Holiday Grand Plan.  My plan is to use it to get these last house projects done as well as preparing for the holidays.  This week is front porch, and I include the yard.  I have a few finishing touches to add to the porch.  This morning W and I loaded up a bunch of trash and took it to the land field.  We will have another load to take off next week.  W also moved another pile of pecan limbs.  We need to repair a window screen, and I want to get the old storage building emptied.  I will share an update on what we actually accomplish next week.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
I was ordering something from WalMart and needed a bit to get free shipping.  I decided to order the 20oz tumbler that I want to personalize for the youth in my Sunday night Bible class at church.  I will have plenty of time to personalize them and will have one set of gifts marked off my list.  I did make out a beginning holiday gift list to keep me on track.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I planted lettuce, radish, kale, and beet seeds in the garden this week.  I need to clean out a few more areas to plant some mustard and turnips seeds.  One set of tomato plants is dead, but the cherry tomatoes are blooming so I will leave those.  I have plenty of empty areas in some raised beds to plant greens for the chickens and rabbits.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I made macarons!!! Even better they turned out great.  The Craftsy class was a huge help.  Cheryl, thank you for your encouraging comment last week.  I had convinced myself that they would be next to impossible to make.  They turned out to be easier than I feared.  I am going to make a couple of batches for a wedding shower later this month.  The lesson here is that you should never be afraid to try.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I have 9 wash cloths left to make.  I ordered boxes and the youth at church have already assembled them.  If all goes well, I will start packing next week.

6.  Boost Savings
I got good news on the mower.  The repairs will fall at the lower end of the budget.  This month we can start saving for the new fence.  I hope to have that done by the end of the year.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Assaulted Caramel by Amanda Flower is the first book in the Amish Candy Shop Mystery series.  Bailey is a chocolatier in New York City on the verge of becoming head of JP Chocolates.  She drops everything to go to Ohio when she learns her grandfather's health is failing.  Her Amish grandparents own Swissmen Sweets which is being sought after my an Englisch businessman.  When that same businessman ends up dead in the candy shop kitchen, Bailey is the main suspect.  She must clear her name and save her grandparents' reputation.  I really enjoyed this book.  The combination of Bailey who is not Amish and her grandparents works well.  Bailey's personal journey was as big a part of the story as the mystery.  Even though I thought I knew who the killer was, I was surprised by the ending.  This book features a strong religious theme, but it does not come across as pushy.  I loved the inclusion of the polka dot pig, Jethro.  This is a wonderful, clean cozy mystery.  I am already looking forward to the second book in this series.

A Catered Costume Party by Isis Crawford is a Halloween themed cozy mystery.  Sisters Bernie and Libby are catering a Halloween costume party for Darius Witherspoon.  Even though his wife recently disappeared, he carries on with the party.  Unfortunately Darius' grand entrance to the party is at the end of a rope.  Bernie and Libby get pulled into the mystery of Darius' death and his wife's disappearance.  I like how Bernie and Libby play off each other.  Although they are sisters, they have very personalities, and it works great.  I had not read any of the previous books from this series, but I was not lost at all.  I look forward to reading more books by Ms. Crawford!

Vivian Conroy's Rubies in the Roses is book two in the Cornish Castle Mystery series.  I read the first book in this series, which was helpful but not necessary.  Guinevere is continuing her summer job of cataloging books on Cornisea.  A friend of her employer arrives with grand plans of discovering a wedding goblet hidden on the island.  As more people show up to claim the still missing goblet, the castle is thrown into an uproar.  Once a body is found on the island, Guinevere and her sweet dog, Dolly, are again in the middle of a mystery.  I enjoy the setting of this book most of all.  The characters work well together, and the writing style makes the book a joy to read.

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

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

3-Minute Devotions with Charles Spurgeon compiled by Barbour Staff is a nice devotion book when you need a quick message.  The inspirational readings are as relevant today as when they were written.  I appreciated the addition of scripture and a short prayer for each devotion.  This book would make a wonderful gift.  I am planning to purchase a few for upcoming the holiday season.  I must confess that I spend more than 3 minutes meditating on the devotions.  The devotions make a wonderful starting point for spiritual growth.

Zainab Khan's Kawaii Doodle Class gives readers simple instructions for creating adorable characters.  I have no artistic ability when it comes to drawing.  I thought if nothing else this book would be fun to look through.  I was surprised at how easy some of the doodles were to replicate.  The illustrations were easy to follow.  While my drawings were far from perfect, it gives me the confidence to keep trying.  I have already used what I learned to amaze a few young relatives.  I am glad I did not let my artistic short comings stop me from checking out this charming book.

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

Thursday, August 31, 2017

52 New Recipes: Week 35 - Mounds Layer Cake

Last week was Pastor Appreciation Day at my church.  Our pastor loves coconut so when I was debating on what cake to make this one topped the list.  The original recipe is actually an Almond Joy Layer Cake.  We have some people with nut allergies so I omitted the almonds.  Is anyone else singing the jingle?

I expected this cake to be extremely rich.  Surprisingly it was not that sweet.  The coconut icing is sweet, but I just ate it with bites of the chocolate cake to balance everything out.  Not all of the cake was eaten so W took the leftovers to work.  His co-workers have asked for an entire cake all of their own.  Once again Lindsay's cake recipe did not disappoint.

I wanted to do something cute for the table centerpieces.  Our pastor is also a big college football fan.  I was on a tight budget.  I found an idea for growing a wheat grass centerpiece on Pinterest.  I bought foil loaf pans and burlap ribbon from Dollar Tree.  I already had wheat grass seed.  I borrowed some footballs from the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox stuff.

I would have trimmed the wheat grass, but I wanted to give it to the chickens and rabbits after the dinner.  I had $7 in twelve centerpieces/tasty farm animal treats.  I kept the foil pans and am using them to grow more wheat grass for the animals.  I plan to do some sort of Easter centerpiece using the same idea.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Review: Start Where You Are Note Cards

I love sending hand written letters.  Fortunately for me I have friends that love to receive them.  The set of Start Where You Are Note Cards by Meera Lee Patel are absolutely beautiful.  The art is delightful and is accompanied by a quote.

Each of the 12 note cards is different.  The insides are blank making them perfect for a letter or the note of your choice.  The envelopes are decorated as well.

The note cards and envelopes are in a sturdy reusable box.  I will be saving the box to store items in or even as a gift box.  This set would be perfect for yourself or for someone who enjoys writing personal letters.

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

Weekly Goals Update: Week 35

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
The humidity finally broke here so I worked in the yard.  I spent time cleaning up the garden area and organizing the new storage shed.  We had two storms come through which meant more cleanup.  I have several other things going on this week that will limit my free time.  I am not making any plans and will just see what happens.

2. Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I found a gift for the wedding shower.  I have not ordered supplies for the handmade gifts yet.  I did put some extra money into the gift fund.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
The two good rains helped the garden this week.  I hope to pick peppers and put them in the freezer.  I am also going to dehydrate some basil.  I cleaned out two raised beds in preparation for planting the fall garden.

4. Take One Class a Month
Hmmm...those macarons.  I admit that part of the reason I have not made them is fear.  I wish everyone would stop saying how hard they are.  The main reason they did not get done is that we had too many sweets in the house already.  I made oatmeal cookies for a committee meeting and had leftovers.  I had extra chocolate sauce so W requested ice cream to go with that.  Then I made cookies from a cookbook I am reviewing.  I just need to shake off the fear and make the macarons.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I feel like I hit the jackpot this past week.  Dollar General had a summer clearance.  Some items were 50% off and some were discounted an additional 50%.  I found cups, bowls, balls, hair items, puzzles, stickers, etc.  I do not need all of it for this year so I have a great start on fillers for next year.  I was blessed by some very helpful employees.  I always like to mention that I am shopping for OCC if I am at a store or even a yard sale.  People generally get excited and what to help.

6.  Boost Savings
No word on the mower yet.  At least there were no more surprise expenses this past week.  I came in under budget on groceries so I set the extra aside for another week.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Grave Errors by Carol J Perry is book five in the Witch City Mystery series.  Lee and the other residents of Salem, Massachusetts, are gearing up for Halloween.  She and the students in her television production class decide to extend the fun by adding on a Dia de Los Muertos celebration.  One of Lee's students gets the class investigating the death of her sister.  Lee's psychic visions and the investigation leads everyone to realize all is not well in Salem.  I had read a previous book although this one stands on its own.  O'Ryan the cat and Aunt Ibby are my favorite characters.  I particularly enjoyed the discussion of the Day of the Dead celebration.  All of the talk of sugar skull cookies convinced me to order my own set of cookie cutters.    The mystery is full of twists and turns up until the end!

Karen Sue Walker's Murder in Crimson Velvet is the second book in the Bridal Shop Mysteries series.  I had read the first book prior to reading this one.  While it is not necessary, I think it helped me connect to the characters better.   I enjoyed this book even more than the first.  Bridal consultant Max and co-worker Keiko get roped into the finishing the costumes for the community theater's production of Romeo and Juliet.  When the actress playing Juliet reveals that a psychic says she is going to die, Max thinks she is being dramatic until the actress turns up dead.  The characters and story line flow better in this book.  The ending created a nice segue for the next book.

Book three in the Cora Crafts Mystery series by Mollie Cox Bryan, Macrame Murders, finds Cora,  at a craft retreat on Sea Glass Island.  Her friends (Jane, Ruby, and Cashel) and boyfriend Adrian are along for the trip.  The retreat takes a dark turn when first one body and then another turn up at the resort.  Things go from bad to worse when Adrian is named the primary suspect.  Cora's plans for a relaxing retreat take a back seat as she works to find the real killer.  It was nice to see the characters in a new setting.  The mystery features plenty of twists and turn.  The crafts discussed in the book were interesting.  Macrame took center stage, and it piqued my interest in the craft.  I am always happy to find a book that not only is enjoyable to read but also inspires me to try something new!

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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Oh, Fudge! by Nancy Coco is the fifth book in the Candy-coated Mystery series.  Allie and her cousin Tori have not spoken since Allie inherited the McMurphy Hotel and the fudge shop.  Tori arrives in town to plan a fundraiser for the Butterfly House.  When Allie finds Tori standing over a dead body, she decides to find the real killer and get back in Tori's good graces.  Even though I guessed the killer early on, I enjoyed this book.  The fudge shop and the supporting characters, including the furry ones, made the book interesting.  I have read previous books in this series, but it is not necessary.  I found the cliffhanger in Allie's personal life makes me look forward to the next book.

Book two in the Tangeled Web Mystery series by Sadie Hartwell is A Knit Before Dying.  Josie, owner of Miss Marple Knits, is happy that her store is doing well.  She is even happier to have rented out the adjoining storefront to two antique dealers, Lyndon and Harry.  Lyndon, who arrives early to set up the store, seems like the perfect renter.  Sadly her first meeting with Harry is when he is found by Josie standing over Lyndon's dead body.  I read the previous book, but this one stands well on its own.  The mystery is well written with a few twists and turns.  While I am not a knitter, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  The characters feel like dear friends, and I can hardly wait to visit them again.

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

52 New Recipes: Weeks 33 & 34

Even though I was under the weather I did feel well enough by the end of the week to make two desserts for a family dinner.  I did not get a picture of the first as it went too fast.  I chose something easy for the first in case I woke up feeling less than fabulous.  I made Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars.  If my week had gone differently I would have use homemade cookie dough.  Obviously no one complained about the use of store bought dough though.  I loved that it was so easy to put together.  Honestly I might keep some store cookie dough in the freezer so it is on hand for making these.  Cutting these into 16 pieces made them a nice size.  I will add this to my recipe book as I know it will be making these often.

I did get a picture of the second recipe:  Creme Brulee Cupcakes.

I love every since recipe I have tried from Lindsay at Life, Love and Sugar.  She has made me hate boxed cake mixes.  I can just taste all of the preservatives in those boxed mixes now.  Lindsay's cake/cupcake recipes mix up easily and are so moist.  Okay back to these cupcakes...

I made the pastry cream the day before.  This recipe does have several steps, but they came together easily.  The cake portion was moist.  I loved the caramel icing.  An uncle came in while I was mixing it up and tasted it three times.  Torching the tops gave it an extra caramel flavor.  This were popular with my family too.  I could see myself doing these as mini cupcakes.  They would be delicious as bite sized treats.

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.