Thursday, March 30, 2017

52 New Recipes Week 13: Chocolate Pound Cake

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Fair Trade Friday: March Earring of the Month

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

2017 Goals Week 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Weekend Book Review: Murder is No Accident

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

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

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

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

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

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Frugal Friday

Friday:  This was a normal day here.  Meals were eaten at home.  Laundry was hung to dry.  I picked lettuce from the garden for the rabbits.  I honestly do not know anything special that I did.  Some days are like that though.

Saturday:  I baked baguettes and sandwiches bread.  Both recipes are basic - flour, salt, yeast, water, and a bit of oil for the latter.  Both are delicious and inexpensive to make.  I normally make some type of bread once a week.  I have no idea how much bread costs, but I can guess that homemade is cheaper.  W and I both ate leftovers.  I packed his lunch.

Sunday:  Sundays are always quieter days.  Aside from going to church, I spend this day resting as much as possible.  I answer letter or read.

Monday:  I hung sheets out to dry on the line.  I transplanted seedlings into recycled pots.  I spent some time organizing the pantry and made a plan to use up some items.

Tuesday:  I worked in the yard part of the day.  I planted herbs into some cement blocks left from building the house.  The idea is that the roots can go out the bottom while the top will keep the chickens from scratching up the plants.  I used bags of potting mix purchased last year on clearance.  I hung clothes out to dry.  I cooked our meal using ingredients already on hand.

Wednesday:  W and I ran our errands together.  I stuck to my list at the grocery store.  We bought in season produce which was on sale.  We had meal plans at home which kept us from being tempted to eat out.  We gave my uncle some leftover paint to use on a project.  This might not seem thrifty for us, but we often trade needed items back and forth.  It was nice to have something on hand that we no longer needed but he did.

Thursday:  Another quiet day spent at home.  It was cooler so I stayed in for the most part. I did hang a load of clothes outside as well as some on drying racks inside.  We had leftovers for our main meal.  W bought parts to fix my car - something to do with the battery cables - for $20.  I am thankful he is able to do things like that as it definitely saves money!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

52 New Recipes: Weeks 11 and 12

This week has me caught up on new recipes.  Hopefully I can stay on track now.

The first recipe is Creamy Parmesan Garlic Mushroom Chicken.  As usual I made a minor change to the recipe.  I left out the spinach this time and used chicken tenders.  I already had the chicken tenders in the freezer.  I loved how quickly the dish came together.  It had three steps:  cooking the chicken, cooking the mushrooms, and making the sauce.  I opted to serve this with mashed potatoes as I had some that needed to be used.  W said that he would rather have it with potatoes.  He loved the dish and was happy to learn that it had cheese.  At first he thought I had made lumpy gravy.  This will definitely go into our regular rotation.  I neglected to take a picture of the finished dish so hope over to The Recipe Critic to see her lovely photos.

Keeping with the forgetful theme - I did not take photos of the Seasoned Rice Pilaf from Good Cheap Eats.  I was pressed for time the day I made this.  I ended up just tossing everything in the rice cooker.  At first I thought it was going to be bland, but it turned out really good.  I might up the amount of chicken broth next time.  It was better than the boxed variety as it was not overwhelmed by salt.  This is definitely a budget friendly recipe.  It made a large amount with inexpensive ingredients especially if you make your own chicken broth.  I will absolutely make this again

I am planning to make wheat thins next week.  I know stores sell them, but I am trying to get away from processed foods.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

In the Garden

Brrr!  Last week we had a low one night of 25 degrees.  That is a January low and not a March low especially when the highs in February were in the 80s.  I knew we would have damage from the frost, but it was not as bad as I expected.  Here is the fig tree.

This is the same fig tree.

That seems to be the way the frost damage went.  It was hit and miss.  I think the only thing it got completely was the mulberry tree.  It is a male tree so we never have fruit, but it might affect our neighbor's tree which is a female and does fruit.

The temperatures are warm once again.  I have been very busy in the garden so far this week.

I am planting herbs around parts of the chicken house.  I have mints, oregano, thyme, and lemon balm.  The chickens do not seem to be bothering them - yet.

I weeded all of the raspberry beds.

I planted pineapple sage.  These are pieces cut from my mom's plants.  Her's sprouted back out and spread from last year.

I also set the bee hive back up.  I cleaned it out well and am hoping some bees looking for a home will move in.  I plan to buy some bees once we have more bee -friendly plants spread around the property.  In the meantime I will not turn down a swarm of homeless bees.

I still have so much left to do, but I am making progress.  I would love to plant more, but I do not trust the weather until closer to Easter.

Monday, March 20, 2017

2017 Goals Week 12

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
W put up the rest of the mini-blinds.  I know you are thinking it is crazy to live in a house for 5 months without all of the blinds in.  We live in the country.  Our neighbors would need binoculars to see in our windows.  That would be creepy no matter what window treatments we have.  We have progress even if it is small.

2. Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I ordered the book for March's birthday.  I need to keep my eye out for a diaper deal for a baby shower coming up soon.  I also need to choose a bridal shower gift for next month.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
My goal this week is to spend at least one hour a day working in the garden.  I have plenty of weeding to do.  I also need to work on filling a raised bed and transplanting some seedlings and plants.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I am enjoying the French bread class.  My first attempt at baguettes was decent.  I can see where I can improve.  It felt time consuming, but I am sure that will change the more I make it.  The baguettes are perfect for crostini.  I have a second baguette lesson to do this week before moving on to a lesson on additional shapes.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
This week was quiet.  I have started checking prices on soap.  I am also continuing to work on wash cloths.  I am halfway done.  It looks like I will not get them all done this month.  I still have plenty of time to finish them.

6.  Boost Savings
My plan for this week is to eat from the freezer and hopefully keep grocery spending to a minimum.  I need to put more focus on the little things that save money.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Zip It by Karen Ehman is a 40 day devotional subtitled The Keep It Shut 40-Day Challenge.  Each day's reading contains Bible verses relating to what to say or not say in our daily lives.  Words can be extremely powerful for good or bad.  Mrs. Ehman's devotionals are kind but direct reminders of using words and silence for good.  I liked the layout and how devotionals were divided by topic.  This book definitely made me think about how my words affect others.  It is an excellent individual devotional but would work well for a group study also.

Eve Schaub's Year of No Clutter is a memoir of Eve's battle with her clutter.  I wanted to like this book.  Eve's writing style  is a bit like her home - messy.  She took a long time to get started, and I am not certain that she really accomplished anything.  It is important to remember this is a memoir and not a self-help book.  The book is light on substance but did make me want to declutter my own home.

Bitter Harvest by Wendy Tyson is book two in the Greenhouse Mystery series.  This is a wonderful follow up to the first book, but it easily stands on its own.  Megan's town is hosting a big Oktoberfest meant to bring attention to the small town charm of Winsome.  The celebration is threatened when bodies start piling up.  The mystery is strong as are the characters.  Of course, I still love the gardening theme.  I am always happy when a series remains strong.  I look forward to many more books from Ms. Tyson!

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

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

I put Botanical Beauty by Aubre Andrus on my Amazon wish list as soon as I had an opportunity to preview it.  The book is filled with easy to make natural spa products.  The creams, lotions, and scrubs would be excellent for your own home use or as gifts.  The sections feature products for Hands & Feet, Body, Face, and Hair.  The book also includes instructions for handmade items such as pedicure slippers and a spa hair wrap.  The pictures are lovely, and all of the products include ingredients that could be purchased at health food stores or online.  Many of the items are probably already in your kitchen cabinet.  This is easily one of my favorite beauty books as I love to make my own body care products.  The simple but thorough directions makes this a wonderful book for anyone just getting started or for someone who needs some new inspiration.  I highly recommend it.

Murder in White Lace by Karen Sue Walker is the first book in the Bridal Shop Cozy Mystery series.  Max works at a bridal shop in her hometown but has dreams of returning to New York City.  A bride collapses while trying on her bridal gown and later passes away at the hospital.  When her friend is arrested, Max steps in to solve the mystery.  This cozy mystery was not unusual but at the same time I could not put it down.  I read the entire book in less than 24 hours.  The characters worked so well together.  I wanted to stay longer in Crystal Shores and look forward to a return trip with the next book.

Laura Childs' latest Tea Shop Mystery is Pekoe Most Poison.  Lead character, Theodosia, gets wrapped up in another murder after attending a tea party.  The supporting characters/suspects are a bit out there.  The book was good but not quite great.  I did enjoy the mystery and especially the time spent in Theo's tea shop.  This book easily stands on its own which is always nice when a series is ongoing.  Overall this is a book worth reading especially if you are a tea fan.

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Frugal Friday

Friday:  We headed out to the Peaches to Beaches yard sale.  We packed drinks and food items rather than eating out.  It saved time and money.  Moving was still fresh in my mind so I was careful with what I purchased.

Saturday:  Back to the yard sales even though we were tired.  Drinks and food was packed for a second day.  We took a shorter route and came home with time to rest.  My aunt and her grandchildren came over to visit the rabbits.  They brought carrots for the rabbits and cabbage for the chickens.  

Sunday:  The weather turned cold so other than church and feeding the animals it was a quiet day.  I stayed in and answered some mail.

Monday:  The weather was cold and rainy.  I was happy to get some water for the outside plants though.  I ate leftovers for dinner and supper.  I watched a horror movie that I rented for free with Amazon shipping credits.  I crocheted some wash cloths and answered  few letters.

Tuesday:  I made soup for dinner using ingredients already on hand.  It was cold so I stayed in except for feeding the animals.

Wednesday:  This is our usual errand day.  I picked up some sale items at the grocery store.  The sun finally came out so I was able to wash and hang out a load of laundry.  We used some leftover plastic from the greenhouse to cover up the raised beds.  Last month's temperatures near the 80s have many of my herbs sprouted out.  These will not handle cold well so we covered them in an attempt to save them.  We moved a few potted items into the house and greenhouse.

Thursday:  I picked lettuce from the garden for the rabbits.  When I cooked soup earlier in the week, I only used part of a pack of ground venison.  I used the rest in chili for Thursday's meal.  The chili also used home canned tomatoes and pinto beans I cooked myself and froze.  It was a frugal meal with homemade cornbread on the side.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

52 New Recipes: Week 10

I had hoped to get caught up this week, but catching up will have to wait until next week.  Meals ended up being tried and true recipes rather than new ones.  All of the cozy mysteries I read did have me craving scones.  I searched King Arthur Flour for a recipe.  I ended up choosing this recipe.  It was a basic scones recipe with room for creativity through add-ins.

I did follow the recipe fairly close.  I used half and half since that is what was in the refrigerator.  I ended up with 1 1/2 cups of add-ins.  My scones have mini chocolate chips and chopped almonds.  I had both in the pantry.  I would have added dried fruit, but W is not a fan of dried fruit.

Freezing them prior to baking definitely helped. I added a touch too much liquid and could not separate them until after their stay in the freezer.  They turned out very well.  I might not make these every week, but they are a nice treat.  I also liked that they were not overly sweet even with 3/4 cup of mini chocolate chips.

I have chosen two recipes to try next week which will put me back on track.  I am going to make a chicken and mushroom dish and also a homemade version of a boxed rice mix.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

In the Garden

I think everyone can agree that the weather has been a bit odd lately.  Winter here was warmer than usual with a few cold days thrown in.  This week the weather has been very cold with highs barely in the 50s and lows near freezing.  This is what the sky has looked like.

I have not been doing any work in the garden but have been hiding in the house instead.  I have run out to the greenhouse to keep an eye on things.  The tomato plants are growing well.  The moringa tree has sprouted back out.  I think this year I need to find a spot outside for it.

The pepper plants need to be transplanted into bigger containers this coming week.

I will also transplant the plantain and bee balm.

I am really hoping that we do not get any below freezing temperatures as most of my fruit trees look like the fig tree below.

Come back next Wednesday to see if my outside plants survive or not!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Yard Sale Finds

This past weekend was the annual Peaches to Beaches Yard Sale.  I had a very short list of things I was looking to buy.  Moving was still fresh in my mind so I did not want to add unnecessary items to the house.  One thing I wanted was a rice cooker. My old one quit working.  The last one did not allow me to add any seasonings to the rice while cooking so I wanted a different style.

This one came with everything except the book which was easily found online.  I paid $5.  I use a rice cooker more for steaming eggs than cooking rice.  Fresh hard boiled eggs do not peel properly while steamed ones do.

My other main purchase was herb plants.  I had looked at a big box garden center so I knew the sizes and prices.  Two nurseries normally set up each year, and this year was no different.  I bought three types of mint, sage, oregano, thyme, and lavender.  The plants were large and healthy and only $4 each.

I purchased a few exercise DVDs for $0.50 each and a Ninetendo 3DS for $1.  I am borrowing a charger from a friend's son to see if the 3DS even works.  If it does, that will be a good buy.

My main planned purchases were items for the shoeboxes.  We found some good bargains on stuffed animals and toy cars.  Some people gave us items for free, and others offered deep discounts.  One man was selling beanie babies for $1 each.  When I said that was too much for me since I planned to use them for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, he lowered the price to $0.25 each.  I bought 80 from him.  Another woman sold beanie babies to us for $0.10 each, and we bought 50 from her.  These were wonderful blessings since I am on a tight budget this year.  I do not have pictures since my mom quickly packed away everything.  

It is always a bit of a treasure hunt, and the weather tends to be iffy.  The weather was good this year, and we had fun.  I was happy with each of my purchases.  All in all it was a good weekend!

Monday, March 13, 2017

2017 Goals Week 11

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
This past week ended up being completely crazy so nothing worth posting about was actually completed.  With the cold, rainy weather in the forecast for this week, I am not too hopeful.  My painting project will definitely be put off for a week.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
The next three birthday girls are all getting the same book.  I might just order them all at once to make life easier.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I need to transplant the lunchbox peppers this week.  I had planned to move some stuff out of the greenhouse, but my area has a chance of frost toward the middle of the week.  If the weather improves, I will pull more weeds.  I have two-thirds of the raspberries left to weed.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I am continuing with the French bread class and will most likely order the needed tools this week.  I did resist the urge to sign up for another class.  I saw a puff pastry one that is very tempting.

5. Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I am off to a slow start with the wash cloth goal since I only finished two last week.  That needs to a priority this week.  I did get some awesome deals at yard sales this past weekend.  I was blessed with discounted and even free items once people learned what I was doing.  I have piles and piles of stuffed animals and a nice collection of toy cars.

6.  Boost Savings
I was able to put a bit more money toward the credit card debt this past week.  No money coming in the week so it will be more about keeping the spending under control.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Banana Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke is book twenty-one in the Hannah Swensen Mystery series. This book finds Hannah returning home from her honeymoon to solve the murder of her mother's friend.  For me the series seems to be going downhill.  Hannah spent more time developing new recipes than solving the murder.  It was practically an afterthought in the last chapters.  Hannah's marriage is just strange.  I cannot imagine any actual married couple acting the way Hannah and her new husband do.  Hannah seems to have lost the ability to function as a normal person.  Even my mom, who hates her cell phone, knows how to see a missed call.  The book did end with a major cliffhanger which means I will likely read the next book.  Otherwise I feel sure I would be done with this series.

Marilyn Leach's Up From the Grave is an older book, but it is new to me.  Former investigative reporter, Berdie is now the vicar's wife.  At the groundbreaking for a water feature for the church's garden, the body of a young child is discovered.  In the small village of Aidan Kirkwood, the gossip begins flying.  Berdie steps up to solve the mystery before things are completely out of hand.  The characters and setting were charming.  This was an excellent cozy mystery, and I am happy to have discovered a new favorite author.

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

Friday, March 10, 2017

Frugal Friday

This past week I made an attempt to sit down each day and write a few frugal things I had done.

I washed clothes in homemade laundry detergent and hung them out to dry.  I also used a bunch of leftover fruit to make W fruit salad to take in his lunch.  The apples that were beyond fruit salad use went to the rabbits.  The other fruit bits went into the compost pile.

My aunt dropped off some cabbage leaves for the rabbits.  The cabbage were from her garden.  My rabbits are quite spoiled as they most often eat produce from the garden.  I packed W's work foods in all reusable containers.  I had macaroni & cheese (from the freezer) with sliced tomato (from my dad) for supper.

I transplanted some seedlings into recycled plant containers using a potting mix I bought on clearance last year.  I baked two loaves of bread.  I paid bills.  The last one might not seem like a money saving item, but late fees are not frugal.

We both had dentist appointments.  A couple of years ago I started scheduling them for the same time so we only made one trip.  We also did our other errands while we were out.  Meals were eaten at home even though we spent quite a bit of time in town.  I bought the e-book version of a book I had on my wish list for $1.99.  It pays to add things to a wish list and scroll through it from time to time. 

I ended up going back to town with W.  I picked up a sprinkler hose for free with a gift card I won from an instant win game.  I will use this for my new bee/butterfly garden area.  Most of the flowers are drought tolerant, but I need to get them established.  I also picked up some flowers on clearance to put in pots on the front porch.  I spent $1.61 for a six pack of sweet william and a pot of English daisies.  I split these between two pots.  It should fill in nicely over the coming months.

We had leftovers for both meals today.  It gave me a break from cooking and helped stretch the grocery budget. I took advantage of the warm temperatures to open the windows and air out the house.  

Thursday, March 9, 2017

52 New Recipes: Weeks 8 & 9

I am still a week behind on this challenge, but I am determined to catch up next week.

Week 8 is more of a cooking technique/recipe.  I had a half a package of refrigerated tortellini in the freezer.  I wanted to serve it for supper one night, but I needed a hands off approach.  I used this recipe for crockpot tortellini.  My homemade marinara was already full of garlic, basil, and vegetables so I left the extras out.  It was super easy, and we ate this better than the way I had cooked it previously.

Week 9 is another crockpot recipe.  I made Slow Cooker Chicken Bahn Mi from 100 Days of Real Food.  I was surprised that W liked it as much as he did.  The onions stirred in well with the chicken and were not overpowering at all.  We used homemade hamburger buns.  I had pickled veggies on mine, but W did not.  I would probably use some fresh ginger next time instead of the powdered.  I will make this again especially during the summer.  It is a good sandwich option for busy days.

It was late both evenings and neither dish was particularly photogenic.  I will try to do better next week on pictures.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

In The Garden

It has been a few weeks since I posted a garden update.  I am making slow progress on weeding the raised beds.  The warmer winter means things are sprouting sooner and that the weeds have thrived.  The chickens are helping me dispose of them.  That means I rarely pull more than they can eat in a day.

In the greenhouse I planted the seedlings in recycled plastic containers.  The peat pellets continue to help them thrive by holding onto moisture.

This week I also planted the Meyer lemon and grapefruit seedlings that were started from seeds.  To the right of them you can see some bunny tails which I am growing just for fun.

My garden helper for the day - Paris

In the outside garden the herbs that sprouted are growing well.  This bed has stevia, marshmallow, blue salvia, chamomile, and yarrow.

When I weeded another bed, I was thrilled to find that the bee balm had sprouted back out and multiplied!  I always pays to weed carefully so plants you want are not tossed aside too.

One of last year's jalapeno pepper plants surprised me by sprouting back out.  I removed a thick layer of leaves from this raised bed and am hoping to see some pepper seedlings.

Finally the loquat trees that my uncle gave me have grown over the past year.  I will transplant them into larger pots for a year before finding a permanent home for them in the yard.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Giving Back

Last year I was introduced to Mercy House Global through a post by Angi at Schneider Peeps.  It is hard to put into words how much I have been touched by this ministry.  Impoverished women are empowered through jobs earning fair wages in safe working environments. The stories of these precious women remind me how blessed I am.

I signed up for the Fair Trade Friday Original Box thinking I would try it for a month or two.  I was instantly hooked.  The appeal was not only by the wonderful items I received, but also the knowledge that I was helping women have a better life.  The items often include the name of the woman who made it.  I find myself saying a prayer for the artist each time I use or wear an item.  I have not been disappointed once.  A few items have been gifted to others simply because I had a friend who would love a certain item.

Even though one of my goals this year is to boost our savings, I will do my best to always make room in the budget for Fair Trade Friday.  The story behind the brass knot earrings makes me want to sign up for the Earring of the Month option as well.  Not interested in a monthly subscription box, you can make purchases through the online store.

Monday, March 6, 2017

2017 Goals Week 10

1. Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
W is ready to start back to work on the new house. We have some tile work, trim, and general odds and ends.  I have no idea what he will want to start on first.  We will not be spending 100% of the time on the house/property.  Neither of us wants to get burned out plus we both have other obligations.  I am excited to get everything wrapped up.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
I need to start looking for a wedding shower gift and a second baby shower gift.  I have one birthday gift to purchase and already have the book picked out.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I was excited to see more herbs sprouting back out as well as a jalapeno pepper that is sprouting out again.  I still have not dehydrated the lemon balm.  I want to get more of the garden beds weeded this week.

4. Take One Class a Month
I started the French bread class.  I need to purchase a digital scale and a few other tools to make it properly.  I am excited to make a really great loaf of bread and some baguettes.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
This past week I organized most of the leftovers.  My plan for March is to finish crocheting all of the wash cloths.  I need 60 and should get them all done by the end of the month.

6.  Boost Savings
I will be able to put a good bit of money toward the credit card debt this coming week.  We have kept extra spending to a minimum which definitely helps.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Weekend Book Review

Death by Chocolate Lab by Bethany Blake is the first book in the Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery series.  Readers are introduced to Daphne and her sister, Piper, who seem as different as night and day.  Daphne is a free spirit who owns the Lucky Paws Petstting company.  Piper is the extra responsible owner of a veterinary practice.  When Piper's ex-boyfriend is found murdered, Piper is the prime suspect.  Daphne and her canine companions - serious Socrates and hyper Artie - set out to help Detective Black solve the murder.  Daphne and her friend, Moxie, are wonderful characters in every sense.  While the writing style is a bit weak, the series has potential for growth.  I look forward to reading more by Mrs. Blake!

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

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Dead in the Water by Annelise Ryan is the latest book in the Mattie Winston Mystery series.  Mattie and her toddler have moved in with her boyfriend and his teenage daughter.  She is supposed to be planning her wedding while juggling a crazy home and her part-time job with the medical examiner's office.  Her work life becomes more hectic when her boss suffers a heart attack and a co-worker is found dead. I have only read part of the series, but I was found it easy to catch up with everything that was happening.  I felt that Mattie crossed the sharing boundaries on a few things in the book.  Otherwise the characters were fun and likeable.  The mystery was good with several twists and turns.  While this is quite far into the series, the possibility for character development is alive and well.

Winnie Archer's Kneaded to Death is the first book in the Bread Shop Mystery series.  Ivy returns to her seaside California home following the death of her mother.  Grief is at the center point of her life until she begins a bread making class at Yeast of Eden.  Ivy finds two new friends and begins to find hope again.  Unfortunately a classmate's death casts a dark shadow over this new chapter of Ivy's life.  With the help of her friends, she sets out to unravel the mystery.  This book's subject matter was heavier than the usual cozy mystery plot.  That is not a bad thing; just do not read it expect nothing but fluff.  The mystery portion was excellent and had me guessing to the end.  I hope there will be more books in this series.

The second book in the Cat Latimer Mystery series by Lynn Cahoon is Fatality by FirelightCat runs the Warm Springs Writer's Retreat in Colorado.  Once a month Cat and her friend, Shauna, open the doors to a new set of writers and provide meals, encouragement, and seminars.  Unfortunately one of their romance authors breaks from the pack and spends time with a local who winds up dead.  Cat must work with her uncle, who is the sheriff, to solve the mystery before her retreat's reputation is ruined.  The mystery portion was good.  I do wish Cat would not have spent half of the book complaining about dealing with the retreat guests.  I could empathize the first time.  By the tenth time she came across as whining and annoying.  The series would be greatly improved if Cat would embrace the life she has chosen. 

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