Sunday, April 23, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

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


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

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

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

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

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

52 New Recipes Week 16: Parmesan Rice

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In the Garden

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

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


The cucumber and radish seedlings are growing strong.


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



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

Monday, April 17, 2017

2017 Goals Week 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

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


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

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

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

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

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

Friday, April 14, 2017

Frugal Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you had a frugal week?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

52 New Recipes Week 15: Korean Beef

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

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


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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

April Fair Trade Friday Box

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



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


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

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

2017 Goals Week 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Weekend Book Review: Good Veg

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

In the Garden

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

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



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


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


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


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



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


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


How are things growing in your garden?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hosting an Easter Egg Hunt

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

2017 Goals Week 14

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Weekend Book Review: The Acid Watcher Diet

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

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

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

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


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