Thursday, July 20, 2017

52 New Recipes Week 29: Sweet & Spicy Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

I started making my own salad dressing a few years ago.  Honestly neither W nor I can eat the store bought salad dressings anymore.  I have thinking of trying my own barbecue sauce for a while.  This week I picked a recipe - Sweet & Spicy Chipotle Barbecue Sauce.  W is a big fan of chipotle so I figured this was a good place to start.

I followed the recipe as written.  I thought that it was good but slightly sweet.  W thought it was too sweet and suggested that I leave out the molasses next time.  I loved that it was easy to mix up.  It thickened up just as nicely as store bought sauce.  The less I eat preservatives, the more I lean toward foods that do not have them.

I will make some minor adjustments, but I think this is a very good barbecue sauce.  W expressed interest in a mustard based sauce.  I have a couple of recipe saved and will be trying that in the near future.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Comments/Questions

I had a few comments/questions over the past few weeks and thought I would share those in a special post.

Little Penpen asked if I was planning to try out the new kayak my husband is getting.  The short answer is No.  I am a terrible klutz on solid ground.  I should just skip the kayak and go swimming.

Terri asked about the source for my bay laurel.  I ordered mine and several other herbs from Colonial Creek Farm.  The bay was not large, but I was more than pleased with the quality of it and the other plants.  Everything arrived well packed and in excellent shape.  I would highly recommend Colonial Creek if you are searching for any unusual plants.

Rhonda mentioned the lack of drama on the British competition shows.  That is so true.  I love how the contestants on the Great British Baking Show encourage each other.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Weekly Goals Update Week 29

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
I was busy prepping for Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our church this week.  W spent time on the old house.  He got quite a bit of work done.  He uncovered an old pot in the attic.  I have no idea what it was doing there.  I cleaned it up and will keep it in our kitchen.





2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I found out about an unexpected wedding shower.  My mom picked up a gift, and I will split the cost with her.  I took the money from the gift money envelope.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I have been neglecting to add here that I have a lovely compost pile at one end of the garden.  All of our tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, and vegetable peelings go here.  The chickens are free to get in it and scratch around - adding some fertilizer and mixing things up.  We also dump in some yard clippings and rabbit manure.  The compost pile gives free dirt to use in the garden.  It is much better quality than I could purchase.

4.  Take One Class a Month
Nothing here.  I was too busy with VBS prep.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I have ?? washcloths left to crochet.  I did not get as many done this week as I had hoped but each one is progress!

6.  Boost Savings
I knocked out the last of the credit card debt from the new house.  I have a few things to pay off over the next two weeks, but this goal is right on track!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Murder at the Puppy Fest by Laurien Berenson is part of the Melanie Travis Mystery series.  Melanie has her hands full with her children and her pedigree Poodles.  She agrees to volunteer at Puppy Fest, an annual fundraiser for a dog rescue.  Life gets more complicated when she finds the owner of the mansion where the event is being held dead in his office.  The mystery was interesting, but I did not enjoy the time spent on the dog shows.  I adore dogs but everything involved in pedigree dog shows is not for me.  I also found it a little odd that Melanie took her youngest son along when she questioned her suspects.  This is a good book but just not for me.

J.C. Eaton's Booked 4 Murder is the first book in the Sophie Kimball Mystery series.  Sophie/Phee is an accountant for a police department in Minnosota.  Her mother calls asking her to come to Arizona and help her book club with a "cursed" book that causing the deaths of those who read it.  Phee's mother is a handful to put it nicely so Phee has little choice but to give in.  This is a nice start to a new cozy series.  I would like to see Phee become a stronger character and her mother toned down a notch or two.  It has potential, and I look forward to the second book.

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


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

If the Haunting Fits, Wear It by Rose Pressey is the fifth book in the A Haunted Vintage Mystery series.  I have read a previous book in the series.  While it is helpful, it is not necessary.  This is a paranormal themed mystery series and requires some leniency with readers' imaginations.  Cookie headed to the Kentucky Derby to help a client with her ghost, Charlotte, and her grandmother/cat in tow.  Add in two love interests, two additional ghosts, and one dead body for a full story line.  I do enjoy the Southern sayings sprinkled throughout the book.  This book is a very light, quick read.  That is not a bad thing - just be aware what you are getting.

The Windfall by Diksha Basu proves that no matter the culture everyone is focused on "keeping up with the Joneses".  Mr.and Mrs. Jha are embarking on a new life thanks to the sale of Mr. Jha's company.  They are moving from their tiny apartment to a new higher end neighborhood.  I enjoyed the characters and how similar the problems are to those here in America.  It is a nice reminder that people are basically the same.  I found the characters realistic and therefore likable.  Each had flaws, and I enjoyed how the relationships evolved throughout the book.

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

Frugal Friday

I took advantage of a couple of Amazon Prime Day deals.  I bought a gift card and earned a free $5 gift card.  The gift card was for a planned purchase of two seasons of "Elementary".  I used the $5 toward a large package of peat pellets - also a planned purchase.  I used the $5 book discount for a plant propagation book that has been on my book wist list for over 7 years.  I have recently gotten more interested in propagating plants, and my chosen book has excellent reviews.

We had some surprise rain showers one afternoon before my laundry was completely dry.  I quickly brought it inside and put it on drying racks to finish.

W and I had a full morning of errands planned.  I fixed a tuna pasta salad the day before so we could eat as soon as we got home.  Knowing that I had a meal planned meant we were not tempted by fast food or something extra from the grocery store.

I picked herbs, peppers, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes from the garden.

I used old wash cloths as cleaning cloths rather than paper towels.  I do keep paper towels on hand for really messy stuff.  For every day cleaning I have found that rags work best.


A neighbor gave us a small grill that he had won but did not want.  It is the perfect size for grilling for two.

While out running errands, W wanted to stop at a store we do not always shop.  I decided to purchase some items from my list that would be cheaper at that store.  We decided to make a once a month trip to stock up on items that are significantly cheaper there.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

52 New Recipes Week 28: Pineapple Bars

I canned some zucchini pineapple earlier this year.  I had a jar of it in the refrigerator that I needed to use up.  The recipe for pineapple bars calls for crushed pineapple, but my zucchini pineapple swapped in perfectly.  My only other change was decreasing the amount of sugar to 2/3 cup.


I loved that it made a small amount.  This dessert was light and extremely moist.  I took it to Sunday dinner with my parents, and they both agreed it was delicious.  My family are semi-professional taste testing guinea pigs.  For any of them to say they loved a dessert is a big deal.  I will save this recipe to make again either with the zucchini pineapple or crushed pineapple.

Next week I plan to try a recipe for homemade barbecue sauce.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Garden Update

The weather turned hot quick here, and the rain disappeared long enough that I had to water the garden.  I was afraid that we were in for our usual dry summer after all.  Then we got a surprising inch of rain one evening and another inch the next afternoon.  I ended up running out in between showers on the second day to plant those fall garden seeds.


I added bachelor's buttons, zinnias, sunflowers, and cosmos to the bee garden.  I am already growing cosmos, but these should add some different colors.  I finished weeding the bee garden and was happy to see that I had fewer bare spots than expected.  If these seeds sprout, it should be perfectly full.

Some indoor plant news - I finally managed to keep an orchid alive.  I have killed more than I would like to admit.  The only thing different about this orchid is that it is planted in soil rather than bark.


Not only is it alive, but it has new growth including a tiny new leaf.  I am not sure that I can get it to bloom again.  For now I am calling it a victory.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

July Fair Trade Friday Box

I received my Fair Trade Friday box last week.  Once again it was filled with wonderful items.


First is a Hello Sunshine tote bag from Joyn in India. It is a perfect size and has a lovely lining.  I think it will be my new crochet bag.  It is a great size for carrying my yarn.

Second is a tube of Zambeezi lip balm with SPF 15 sun protection.  W has claimed this.

Finally is a set of paper bead earrings from Have Hope in Kenya.  These are lovely and a nice length for every day wear.


Once again I am more than happy with everything included.  As usual I am keeping everything for myself.  Well...I am giving W the lip balm so that counts as sharing right?

Monday, July 10, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 28

1.  Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
This week we work in the yard.  W cleaned up several areas that had gotten overgrown with the recent rains.  He also started building the bookshelf for my craft room.  It needs to be sanded and painted before we move it in.  Then I will be able to unpack the last of the boxes.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I am continuing to set aside money for Christmas.  I want to start keeping an eye out for gifts for my family gift swap.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
This past week I started pinning up the raspberry canes.  They are starting to get full of blooms and tiny berries.  I want then out of the reach of our free range chickens.  I will need to pick peppers for another batch of jalapeno poppers for the freezer.  Rain is in the forecast so hopefully I can get the flower seeds planted.

4.  Take One Class a Month
Hmm...those citrus madeleines...I still have not made them.  I am aiming for today if my morning goes as planned.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
The hair bows I ordered are wonderful and really worth the price and my sanity.  I have 32 wash cloths left to crochet.


6. Boost Savings
I am waiting to be reimbursed for a few things, but we are still on track to knock out the credit card debt.  We had a few unexpected expenses over the past week.  I hope the rest of this month is calm.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

I can always tell how good a cookbook will be by how many recipes I mark on the first pass through.  The Harvest Baker by Ken Haedrich is one of those books.  Offering everything from muffins and quick breads, pizzas and pies, and cakes, The Harvest Baker offers something for everyone.  I enjoyed the beautiful photographs and easy to follow recipes.  It is not often that I review a cookbook and know that I must add it to my library.  I found more than enough recipes, such as fresh mint brownies and mushroom, spinach, and blue cheese-stuffed baguettes, to make it worth the purchase.

The Tell-Tale Tarte by Maya Corrigan is the fourth book in the Five-Ingredient Mystery series.  Val has her hands full with catering, running a cafe, and writing her grandfather's cookbook.  When someone dressed exactly likely her grandfather dies mysteriously, she gets pulled into the mystery.  The story has several subplots and includes many references to Edgar Allen Poe.  I enjoyed the slight creepiness to this book as well.

Lee Hollis' Death of a Lobster Lover is part of the Hayley Powell Mystery series.  Hayley heads off with her best friends, Liddy and Mona, on a girls' weekend getaway.  They find themselves harassed by the local sheriff and in the middle of a murder mystery when Liddy's love interested is found strangled.  I have read previous books in this series although I do not think it is necessary.  I enjoyed the mystery with the twists and turns.  I almost quit reading the book at the very beginning due to Hayley's friends.  In the previous books I read, they were barely mentioned.  This time they were front and center and seemed to be the two most annoying people on the planet.  Liddy is obsessed with her material possessions, and Mona is easily the rudest person ever.  Fortunately Hayley is a wonderful character so I stuck with the book until the end.  As long as Liddy and Mona have bit parts, I will continue to read the series.  This book is just not one of my favorites.

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

Frugal Friday

I did no grocery shopping this past week.  Meals were all planned around what I had on hand.

I added more jalapeno poppers to the freezer.

I was under the weather for much of the week and used home remedies to control my sinus symptoms.

W has wanted a kayak for years.  He found one on sale.  I found a coupon code online to save him $20.  Then I remembered a $25 gift card we earned when we bought a bunch of appliances for the new house.  He was happy with the extra savings which brought it well below his budget.

I needed to order one item for VBS.  I combined what I needed with items the woman over the kitchen needed to get free shipping and save $5.

I was able to put 5 feed sacks of small trash from the old house demo into our regular garbage pickup.  It might not have been a huge savings, but every dollar counts.

I have been watching "The Great British Baking Show" for free on PBS through our Roku.  A new episode is added each week.

I drank water, dried laundry on the line or drying racks, used recycled water for the plants on the porch, and packed W's lunches in reusable containers.

It was a quiet week overall.  Staying home means we spend less money by staying out of the stores.



Thursday, July 6, 2017

52 New Recipes Week 27: Oven Fried Okra

I am continuing to eat garden produce.  This past week we had okra from my parents' garden.  W and I both generally only like fried okra unless it is added to soup.  I searched online and found this recipe.  My only change was added an entire egg rather than just the egg white.  I loved that it could be mixed all in one bowl and then spread on the cookie sheet.

I did not take a picture unfortunately so visit the recipe to see how yummy it looks.  The flavor was great.  It was crisp but not oily and definitely not slimy.  This will be my go to recipe for okra.

I think next week I will try to find a dessert recipe to test.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Garden Update

It has been several weeks since I have done a garden update.  In that time we have gotten a bunch of rain which means I had to do a bunch of weeding.  The bee garden is slowly filling in.  I have some more flower seeds to plant to hopefully keep it blooming through the fall.



I have quite a few cantaloupe growing.  I hope they will hold long enough to ripen.


The herbs are growing well.  


Soon we will be eating plenty of blueberry tomatoes.


A pretty pollinator visiting the garden.


I have a good crop of peppers growing this year.


The bay laurel is already putting on new growth.


The passion fruit plant is growing really well.  I added tomato cages to give it something to climb.


The summer heat has finally arrived here.  The garden will need a little extra care.  Hopefully we will continue to get some rain.  How are things in your garden?

Monday, July 3, 2017

2017 Goals Update Week 27

1.  Completely Finish New House & Update Property
This was a busy week with some non-new house chores.  I did work on the garden areas.  I weeded around the rabbit area, the bee garden, and the main garden.  W has started demolishing the old house as we were unable to give it away.  He has made good progress on it.  He did find that the bathroom door was a good fit for the hole at the heating/air conditioning unit in the new house.


It needs a piece of bottom trim and a couple coats of paint.  I will eventually change out the door knob to match the new house.  For now I am excited about the recycled (free) door.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday & Holiday Gifts
I took advantage of Mercy House Global's summer sale to purchase gifts for a couple of friends.  I also found an idea for a handcrafted Christmas gift.

3.  Use the Garden to Be More Self-Sufficient
I picked herbs, cucumbers, and zucchini from the garden this past week.  My plan for this week it to make supports for the cantaloupes and do more weeding.  I also need to add more jalapeno poppers to the freezer.  According to Southern Living July is a great time to plant zinnias, cosmos, bachelor buttons, marigolds, and sunflowers for fall blooms.  I ordered a few seeds and hope to get those planted this week.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I did not get the citrus madeleines made last week, but they are on my list for today or tomorrow. The next lesson is mini tarts.  I need to order some pans for those.  I have my eye on a set from Amazon and gift cards to pay for them.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I have 37 wash cloths left to make.  I also decided to order some pre-made hair bows.  My goal is to pack the boxes during August so I will pick up what I need to finish.  That will give me time to organize leftovers and make a list of needed items to buy/make for 2018.

6.  Boost Savings
I am planning to avoid going into town this week.  I did knock another chunk off the credit card debt.  We are still on track to be done with that by the end of this month.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Bad Housekeeping by Maia Chance is the first book in the Agnes & Effie Mystery series.  Agnes is suddenly dumped by her boyfriend and finds her well planned life up in the air.  When her eccentric great aunt arrives in town with plans to makeover the Stagecoach Inn, Agnes reluctantly agrees to help.  When the most outspoken opponent of the inn is found dead on the property, Agnes and Effie must solve the mystery to save the inn and themselves.  I enjoyed this book from the start.  Agnes and Effie are hilarious, and the story is full of action.  The characters are a bit unusual, which made them even better.  I loved this book and look forward to the next one in the series!

Dorothy Cannell's The Trouble with Harriet is part of the Ellie Haskell Mystery series.  Ellie is all set to embark on a trip to France with her husband, Ben.  Her long lost father suddenly appears with an urn of ashes from her beloved Harriet.  What comes next is a comedy of errors.  From her father's refusal to turn the ashes over to Harriet's family to the absent minded vicar, Ellie has her hands full.  I liked this book, but I did not love it.  Ellie's dad, Morley, was more dramatic than a teenage girl.  He had only recently met Harriet, but one would think they had been married 60 years or more.  My second problem was the vicar.  Calling him forgetful is putting it lightly.  He "forgets" that a car is not his own and drives off in Ellie's for over a day.  I find it impossible to believe that he can be a working vicar in his condition.  Those two characters made it a struggle to get through to the end.

Death of a Bachelorette by Laura Levine is part of the Jaine Austen Mystery series.  Jaine is on her way to the tropics with her cat Prozac in tow to be a writer for a new reality tv series.  The fabulous job in paradise turns out to be anything but.  The bachelor on the show is incapable of reading his lines, and the entire crew is miserable.  When one of the bachelorettes is murders, Jaine must solve the crime or be stuck on the island forever.  I guessed the murderer early on, but I still loved the book.  Prozac and e-mails from Jaine's parents continue to add entertainment.  This is an enjoyable summer read.

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

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Recipes from the Herbalist's Kitchen by Brittany Wood Nickerson went onto my wish list as soon as I had the opportunity to preview it.  I have an ever expanding herb garden in my backyard, and this book is the perfect accompaniment.  I was pleased to see information on a variety of herbs than went beyond basic growing instructions.  The recipes were a pleasant bonus.  A yard full of fresh herbs is not advantageous without practical ways to use them.  If you are a fan of growing or using herbs, this is a great book to check out.

Treble at the Jam Fest by Leslie Budewitz is part of the Food Lovers' Village Mystery series.  This book stands on its own and is different from the usual cozy mystery.  It has the cozy mystery elements but is missing a bit of the coziness.  I had a little trouble connecting with the characters and getting into the story.  The writing style was good, and I am unable to pinpoint my exact problem.  Erin runs the family store which stocks all sorts of local food and craft products.  The town is gearing up for a jazz music festival when the headline singer is murdered.  I enjoyed the setting of this book enough that I would read another book in the series before making a final decision on the series.

Fany Gerson's Mexican Ice Cream is a treat.  This book is worth owning for the sorbet section alone.  I made the Spicy Watermelon Sorbet (although I left out the spicy part).  It was delicious and so very easy.  I know I would love the added jalapeno, but half of my taste testers are not spicy food eaters.  As good as the recipes are the stories and background provided in the book are equally valuable.  I will definitely use this book to spice up the next family ice cream party.

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