Monday, May 22, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 21

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
My big plans for last week were sidelined by a bad sinus infection.  I did managed to get some work done on the front porch but not nearly as much as I had hoped.  W did build a base for the craft room storage cabinet he bought.  This week I will work on organizing my craft room and maybe do some sanding on the front door.  I work on the front porch projects a little at a time over the next few weeks.  I did order a doorbell for the house since the price dropped.  I planned to get a wireless one as those have worked well for us in the past.

2.  Plan ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
I have asked W about his dad's gift, but he is still thinking.  I think I will order the book closer to my niece's birthday and just have it straight shipped to her.

3.  Use the Garden to be More Self-Sufficient
The garden work lately has been maintenance.  I do need to pull some weeds this week.  Wednesday I also have the last of this year's new fruit plants to share with you.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I finished the succulents class and really enjoyed it.  I started a class on Classic Desserts and made an apple cobbler from the first lesson.  I only plan to make one dessert a week so I will be doing a second class alongside this one.  I will get started on it later in the week.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
No progress again on this.

6.  Boost Savings
We added a bit of extra money to the credit card debt.  I should have this completely knocked out in a couple of months.  That will free up money to build up the savings account and start saving for a few outdoor projects.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

YumUniverse Pantry to Plate by Heather Crosby is a vegan/vegetarian cookbook.  I am always on the lookout for good vegetarian recipes.  Unfortunately I did not find many that I could convince my family to try.  I had a couple of problems with this book.  The author includes a wide variety of recipes for homemade basics such as enchilada sauce.  I was disappointed that a recipe for corn tortillas was not included.  They are easy to make at home.  If I am making enchilada sauce, I would want a great tortilla to pair with it.  My second problem is with the subtitle:  Improvise Meals You Love - From What You Have! The latter part is where the author lost me.  Maybe all vegetarians have the ingredients she uses, but I do not.  Pysllium husk (whole and ground), garbanzo bean flour, and rapadura are not commonly found in my pantry.  I feel that healthy recipes should not be so complicated. This book missed the mark for me.

Steven Raichlen's Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades--Bastes, Butters, & Glazes, Too is a great collection for any barbecue fan.  I am thinking this would be a wonderful Father's Day gift.  This is an updated version.  I ended up marking so many recipes that I knew I needed the paperback version.  The recipes include easy to find ingredients and cover a wide variety.  Since I started cooking from scratch, I find bottled barbecue sauces less than impressing.  This book offers so many that I will have no problem finding several I love.  This is a must have for any barbecue lover!

The Most Misused Stories in the Bible by Eric J Bargerhuff is an explanation of  fifteen Bible stories that are often misrepresented.  I have to admit that I have not heard most of the misrepresentations.  While it is interesting, it is closer to a short devotional book.  I appreciated the multiple Biblical references to back up the author's explanations.

Pat Olski's Crochet Stories:  Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland provides patterns for all of the characters from the book.  The patterns are clear and easy to follow even for a beginner.  The photos of each character are very helpful as well.  I think a set of the crocheted characters and a copy of Alice in Wonderland would make a great gift.  This is an excellent book for anyone just starting to crochet dolls.

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White is a cross between women's fiction and mystery.  Recently divorced Merilee and her two children rent a house from Sugar, who is a 90+ year old true southern woman.  An anonymous blogger seems intent on hindering Merilee from starting over by airing much of her family's dirty laundry.  Her friendship with the practically perfect Heather feels like the only bright spot.  One tragic night threatens everything and opens closets full of skeletons Merilee would rather keep hidden.  The book dragged at times with the blog posts being the only bright spot.  The last quarter of the book was by far the best.  It kept me reading until I finished.  Overall this was a good, southern themed book and makes me interested in reading more by the author.

The second book in the Kitty Couture Mystery series by Julie Chase is Cat Got Your Cash.  I had read the first book in the series, but I do not think it would be necessary.  Lacy's meeting with fashion designer Annie Lane is a disaster when Lacy finds Annie dead.  Lacy ends up caring for Annie's two Siamese kittens until the estate is settled.  The kittens end up cat-napped, and Lacy finds herself being stalked.  She works with Detective Jack Oliver to find the murderer and save herself and the Siamese.  I enjoyed this book as much as the first.  The characters and setting add to the appeal of the series.

No Charm Intended by Mollie Cox Bryan is book two in the Cora Crafts Mystery series.  I had read the first book, but this book easily stands on its own.  Cora and her friend, Jane, are hosting their second craft retreat.  It starts off on the wrong foot when the babysitter Jane hired goes missing.  A simple missing person case is complicated when a friend is found murdered.  I enjoy the characters in this series and how they interact together.  Ms. Bryan's series is definitely one of my favorites.

Every Body on Deck by G.A. McKevett is part of the Savannah Reid Mystery Series.  PI Savannah  and her entire detective agency are hired to accompany a famous author on an Alaskan cruise.  At the first port the author and her husband jump ship and are murdered.  Savannah is determined to solve the crime to protect her reputation and alleviate her guilt.  I liked the book, but I did not love it.  The story line was choppy at times and a bit annoying at others.  While it was enjoyable, I felt the mystery was a bit too easy to solve.

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




Thursday, May 18, 2017

52 New Recipes Weeks 19 & 20

I am cheating a bit this week since I made two different ice cream flavors.  I used the same base recipe for both.  Each recipe makes about 5 cups in my Cuisanart ice cream maker.  I bought mine at a yard sale several years ago for $10.  It came with two bowls so it was a bargain.

Vanilla Ice Cream Base
2 cups milk (I use 2%)
3-4 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup half & half
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the eggs and sugar.  Heat the milk.  Gradually add some of the heated milk to the egg mixture until the bowl feels warm.  Add this back to the milk and continue to heat until it thickens.  Pour into a bowl and add the half & half and vanilla.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.  Churn as directed by your ice cream maker's instructions.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Combine butter and sugar in a pan until melted.  Add the chopped pecans and stir constantly until the pecans are toasted.  Allow to cool.  Churn the ice cream base mixture adding in the pecan mixture at the last 10 minutes.

Chocolate Ice Cream
This one is made by the base instructions with the following changes.  Increase sugar in base mixture to 2/3 cup.  When heating the milk add 2 ounce milk chocolate and 1/2 cup cocoa.

W loved the butter pecan.  I liked it and I never like store bought butter pecan ice cream.  I made the chocolate for my little cousin.  It had a good flavor without being too rich.

I use whole eggs rather than just the yolks since I do not want to deal with the leftover whites.  I also think it makes the ice cream richer without the need to use whole milk and whipping cream.  Plus adding eggs means the ice cream stores better in the freezer - not that it lasts long at my house.

Next week I am planning to try a stuffed French bread recipe.

Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 20

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
W had several orders that he needed to finish so no work was done on the new house.  I have decided to do the summer edition of the Holiday Grand Plan.  I hope that it will help me finish some new house projects.  This week is the entry/foyer.  Our foyer is fairly basic.  I do want to think about adding a picture or mirror to the wall opposite the aquarium.  For the entry I plan to sand and repaint the front door.  I also want to work on the bench on the front porch.  Hopefully I will have some good progress to report next week.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
W's dad has a birthday coming up soon, and I need to buy a book for a niece's birthday next month.  I have money set aside for graduation gifts.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I transplanted some cosmos and more bee balm to the pollinator garden.  I did not get the herb seed planted last week, but that is on my list for this week.  The Jane the turkey's chicks ate the Mexican cucumber plants I set out.  I am debating on replanting or waiting until fall.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I did not finish the succulent class yet.  That will be on my to do list for later today.  I only have two short lessons left.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
No progress on this last week.

6.  Boost Savings
I was able to add some extra money to the credit card debt.  I have done a better job with cutting out extra spending.  I have started back doing Swagbucks to pay for a few things I want.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Weekend Book Review

Rarely do I read a book that unnerves me so much that I am unable to sleep, but The Art of Southern Charm by Patricia Altschul and Deborah Davis did just that.  I am appalled that people will read this and believe this is how southern people act.

I have several problems with her idea of Southern.  First every Southerner is judged by her tea (sweet is always implied) and not her martini.  Second "Bless Her (His/Your) Heart" is never, ever used with a compliment.  It simply softens whatever is being said.  Third tomato sandwiches are not tea sandwiches.  A tomato sandwich should be served on lightly toasted bread.  It is best eaten while leaning over a dinner plate or the kitchen sink.  A good tomato sandwich is always messy.  If it is not messy, you did not make it properly.  Finally I was shocked at the absence of funeral etiquette.  Funerals are a big part of Southern culture.

I did not realize that Ms. Altschul had a reality show.  If I had looked at some of clips on YouTube before reading this book rather than after, I could have saved myself some time.  I do realize that the author would consider me "common", but I am fine with that.  After watching clips of the author's show, I find it ironic that she criticized "Honey Boo Boo".  It is charming that Ms. Altschul finds a difference between the two.  Bless her heart!

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Frugal Friday

We continued to not use the air conditioner.  The weather is warm but not unbearable.  As long as we feel a huge temperature change when coming inside the house, I see no reason to turn on the a/c.

W wanted to get a new mailbox for his parents.  We picked one up at Lowe's but on our next stop at Tractor Supply we found the same mailbox clearance to half price.  The one from Lowe's was returned for an $8 savings.

Meals were eaten at home.  None have been fancy and a couple have been rushed, but they were better than fast food.  I should add that the nearest fast food place is 20+ minutes from my house.  Getting there would take more time than grabbing something quick at home.

I weeded the flower bed and fed the weeds to the chickens.  The rabbits have been eating lettuce from my parent's garden that started to bolt.

I was very happy to find the grapefruit juice W likes on Amazon Subscribe and Save.  It worked out to about half what I was paying at the grocery store.



Wednesday, May 10, 2017

In the Garden

I was excited to finally receive some of the new plants that I ordered.  I ordered several herbs from Colonial Creek Farm.  I am not sure how I stumbled across this website.  I had it bookmarked since last year.  Since I had some extra garden money left, I ordered a few plants.

I was really pleased with how well the box was packaged.  All of the plants were in excellent condition.  I am always looking for different or unusual plants, and Colonial Creek Farm offers a wide variety.  Here is what I ordered.


Texas Tarragon:  Reading up on French tarragon convinced me that it was not a good option for the very hot weather my area has.  I then discovered Texas tarragon.  Since it is not a perennial for my zone, I will be planting it in a pot so I can overwinter it in the greenhouse.


Russian Comfrey:  I use comfrey in a homemade salve.  Since one of my goals is to be more self-sufficient, it made sense to grow my own.  I chose this variety, because it is sterile.  In the future I might grown common comfrey.  One Russian comfrey plant should supply all I need though.



Banana Mint:  I love mints.  I decided to slowly build a variety in my garden.  Colonial Creek offers 45 varieties of mint.  I thought the banana mint was unusual but useful at the same time.


Bay Laurel:  I always use bay leaves in cooking so this was an obvious choice to add to the garden.  It was much larger than I expected it to be.  I will plant it in a large pot and may eventually move it to the yard depending on how large it gets.


Munstead Lavender:  I already have one lavender plant, but I have been looking for a good one for culinary use.  This variety also handles the heat and humidity well.


Tangerine Sage:  I added pineapple sage to my garden last year and loved it.  I used the leaves in my herbal teas and just loved the scent of it in the garden.  Tangerine sage is also a culinary variety.  It has a light citrus scent.

I was extremely happy with everything that I ordered.  I will definitely order from Colonial Creek Farm again.

Monday, May 8, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 19

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property

We had plans this week that were sidelined by the weather.  I am not complaining as I would rather have the rain.  The rains also brought wind and chilly temperatures.  I think W plans to work on the property side of the goal this week.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I need to pick up two gifts this week.  I am also sticking up extra money for graduations too.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I added some additional herbs to my garden this week.  I have a full post on that Wednesday.  My plans for this week include weeding, planting some more herb seed, and planting the Mexican cucumber seedlings I started.

4.  Take One Class a Month
This week I plan to finish up the succulent class and maybe start another by the weekend.  I am thinking one of the cooking classes will be next.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
Not much progress on those wash cloths:  44 to go

6.  Boost Savings
I was really excited about our low electric bill this month - less than $80.  We also took advantage of a sale to have our gas tank refilled.  We only used about 30 gallons over the past year.  Our

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews


Kale to the Queen by Nell Hampton is the first book in the Kensington Palace Chef Mystery series.  Carrie Ann moves from Chicago to London to start her new job as personal chef to the duke and duchess at Kensington Palace.  Things are going well until one assistant turns up dead and the other winds up in jail.  I started this book with mixed feelings, but by the end I was wishing book two was out.  The characters are fun and have ample room for development.  The setting is interesting, and the mystery kept my attention to the end.  This is a nice start to a new series.

Horace Winter Says Goodbye by Conor Bowman is a fictional novel about living.  Horace retires from his job, which aside from his mother was the main focus of his life.  Shortly after he receives a life changing medical diagnosis.  The story can be a little hard to follow as it jumps from past to present.  Horace also compares everyone to either a butterfly or a moth.  Once I adjusted to this, the story pulled me in.  Horace's choices affect himself as well as all those he encounters.  The book is a reminder that it is never too late to start living.

Kathi Daley's Treasure in Paradise is book seven in the TJ Jensen Mystery series.  This is the first book I have read in the series.  Reading some of the prior books might have helped, but I was not at all lost.  TJ and her family are headed to Gull Island to oversee renovations on a friend's resort property.  The vacation starts off badly when a body is found in the attic.  The local police seem to be covering up a murder, and TJ sets out to determine why.  The setting and characters are enjoyable.  The mystery kept me guessing until the end.  I do plan to add the previous books to my reading list.



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

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews



Mayhem on the Orchid Isle by Aysia Amery is book three in the Maui Mayhem Cozy Mystery series.  I had not read any of the previous books in the series, and it did not hamper my enjoyment of this book.  Ginger and Jemma are cooking for a private party at a horse ranch when they get stranded by a storm.  This would not be a problem if the plot to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None was not being played out with the guests.  This was an easy read, and I finished it in one day.  The mystery kept me guessing until the end though.  I would happily read the other books in the series.



Ellery Adams and Parker Riggs are the authors of A Killer Keepsake, book six in the Antiques & Collectibles Mysteries series.  This was the the second book from the series that I have read, but it could stand on its own.  Molly has written an article about the Forget Me Not Doll Club.  However, before the article can be officially published, one of the club members is found dead.  Molly is asked by Dectective Lombardi to help with the case.  The plot was a bit darker than the usual cozy mystery as it dealt with domestic violence.  I did enjoy the hints at haunted dolls.  This book includes a story from the past that relates to the present story.  The backstory was just as interesting as the main story.

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



Thursday, May 4, 2017

52 New Recipes Weeks 17 & 18

My new recipe for week 17 dish is strawberry crisp.  The strawberries have done very well this year.  I put a bunch in the freezer and made a pie one week.  W is not a fan of strawberry pie so I thought I would try a crisp.  I followed the recipe for the most part.  It had the right amount of sweetness and was easy to mix together.  I did not measure the strawberries but did enough to fill the pan.  I have tried a few recipes for strawberry crisp in the past, but this will be my go to recipe.  Aside from the time spent prepping the strawberries, it is a quick dessert.


For week 18 I made Spicy Chipotle-Lime Hummus.  I like hummus and have only ever eaten homemade.  W thinks regular hummus is a bit bland.  Since he is a fan of chipotle, I thought this recipe would be perfect.  I skipped the coriander and went a bit lighter on the lime juice.  This is definitely a spicy hummus.  If you are not a fan of spicy foods, adding half of the chipotle would be a better option.  We ate it with pretzels.  I also used it when making some quesadillas.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

In the Garden

I am trying to get back on track with posting.  Over the past two weeks I have mainly been working on maintenance in the garden.  I have pulled some weeds and watered daily due to the lack of rain here.  I have also pulled poison ivy and oak from the yard.  W is highly allergic, but it does not affect me at all.  I never wear gloves or anything.  That makes me and W a good pair.

I snapped a few pictures earlier this week.  The bee balm is starting to bloom.  I had no idea how much it would spread.  I have some plants to move into my bee/butterfly garden.


The herbs around the chicken house are holding their own.  Someone found one of the mint plants.  It had gotten so big that the snacking barely had an effect.



Zucchini


Cucumbers


Cantaloupe


The jalapeno plant left from last year already has some good sized peppers.


I had several radish plants that never made radishes.  I am letting them go to seed before I feed the plants to the animals.


What is happening in your garden?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Jane theTurkey

I am not sure if I ever mentioned that we have a turkey named Jane.  Jane lives with three chickens (Jack, Janet, and Chrissy) in a partially free range area of our property.  At the end of March Jane decided to start sitting.  The chickens had been laying eggs in the nest area.  Last month Jane became mama to nine baby chickens.


She is very protective and does not live anyone to get close to her babies. It is funny to see these little chickens following a big turkey.  She loves them, and they love her though.  Thanks to Jane I suppose I will have nine bilingual chickens.

Monday, May 1, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 18

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
This week W put the molding around the hallway side of the aquarium.  He also finished the molding around the living room and kitchen windows.  He put down baseboard molding in the hallway.  A few small projects each week will have this goal wrapped up.



2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
W and I need to discuss amounts for graduation gifts.  We lean toward to gifting money.  It seems to be the normal for our area.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I did not dry chamomile or mint last week.  I did use herbs from the garden for cooking.  I planted fennel seed, dill seed, and basil seed.  The first round of dill and basil did not come up.  I think the pumpkin seeds will have to be replanted as well.  I need to order new ones though.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I am continuing with the succulent class.  I have gotten into the arrangement portion and am learning quite a bit.  I do need to look into getting a collection of succulents.  I am thinking the most cost effective way will be cuttings.  Fortunately the class offers some sources for these.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I am working on wash cloths and have 45 left to make.

6.  Boost Savings
A few necessary expenses this past week but a hamper on savings.  I would love to make this a no or at least low spend week.  After three trips to town last week, I will be happy to stay close to home this week.