Monday, January 30, 2017

2017 Goals Week 5

1.  Completely Finish the House
For the next month or so I expect nothing will get done toward this goal.  W is preparing for a show at a local sporting goods store.  I will wait patiently until this is over so we can then focus on the house.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
I have decided on books for the younger children in our families for birthdays.  I ordered the first one from Amazon for a February birthday.  By planning ahead of time I was able to choose no rush shipping.

3.  Use the Garden to be More Self-Sufficient
I spent the weekend going through the seeds I already have and making a list of what I need to order this year.  I have been browsing the seed catalogs and am trying to keep myself from going crazy.  Those seed catalogs are dangerous!

4.  Take One Class a Month
I finished the first lesson of Designing Elegant Edible Gardens.  I am not sure that my garden will ever be described as elegant.  I am getting some helpful tips and ideas from the class.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I bought some organza bags to hold the bracelets I already have for the girl shoeboxes.  I am tentatively planning to do 50 girl boxes so I will have leftover bags and bracelets for next year.  These are a bit of a splurge item, but I think they make the bracelets more special.

I also had a question about the wash cloths I crochet.  I have done a couple of patterns over the years.  I have settled on one I made up myself (light green one in the picture below).  I chain 27 stitches.  I do a row of single crochet, 17 rows of half double crochet, and one last row of single crochet.  It makes a nice size wash cloth.  I made one of these this week.

I spent an hour sorting through the items that I already have on hand.  It helps give me an idea of what I need to buy.  It will also help me when it comes time to pack the boxes as things are better organized.

6.  Boost Savings
I am still chipping away at the credit card debt.  I put some of the grocery savings from the pantry challenge toward the credit card debt this past week!  

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Weekend Book Review: Eat Beautiful

Eat Beautiful by Wendy Rowe is focused on improving your skin by what you eat.  The book is divided into four seasons.  I love that the spotlight is on eating what is in season.  Each season begins with an introduction of foods and their benefits.  The end of each section features recipes using the highlighted ingredients.

I like that the recipes feature ingredients that are easy to find in most grocery stores or gardens/farmers' markets.  Some of the recipes on my to try list include the Chicken Satay, Sticky Chile Beef, and Iced White Tea.

The book ends with beauty tips including DIY beauty treatments and suggested skincare routines.  It ends with a section on nature's pharmacy and a guide to nutrients.  Overall the book provides good information.

I do have a few minor negatives.  The photos of the models while artistic add little to the value for me.  I would have preferred to see real women rather than women who have been professionally made up.  The nature's pharmacy section suggests to use comfrey as a tea.  In my reading most herbalists recommend that comfrey is best used topically due to the risk of liver damage when taken internally.   It should not be used topically on open wounds.  I would lean toward the recipes as the best part of the book.

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

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

The Aisles Have Eyes by Joseph Turow is an eye opening look at just how closely shoppers are watched both in-store and online.  The book begins with a description of how advertising began and how it has evolved over the years.  Mr. Turow discusses how stores such as Wal-Mart and Amazon have changed the way we shop.  As time has progressed stores (both online and brick & mortar) track individual shoppers gathering as much information as possible. Offers and incentives are tailored to each individual shopper based on his/her value to the company.  Smartphones are used to track shoppers as they walk through the stores.  The amount of information being gathered is a bit surprising.  Before I read the book I found the idea of a body implant to gauge shoppers' reactions to products absurd.  After reading the book, I can believe it is possible.

Mary Feliz's Scheduled to Death is book two in the Maggie McDonald Mystery series. Maggie picks up a high profile client with hopes of boosting her organizing business.  Professor Sinclair is a brilliant scientist who is hopeless at organizing his home.  Things take a turn for the worse when Sinclair's fiancee is found dead on his laboratory floor.  With "Detective Awful" on the case, Maggie feels she must solve the murder before Professor Sinclair ends up in jail.  The characters are engaging, and the mystery kept me hooked until the end.  The side stories easily fit into the plot of the book.  I look forward to reading more in this series!

Dead to Begin With by Vivian Conroy is the first book in the Country Gift Shop Cozy Mystery series.  Vicky has returned to her hometown in Maine with the intention of opening a British themed gift shop.  The past quickly comes back to haunt her as the 20 year unsolved disappearance of a teenage girl is once again the talk of the town when Vicky finds a body.  The dead man was blackmailing someone in connection with the disappearance.  I enjoyed the setting of the small Maine town as well as the characters.  Since this was the first book, it had a slow start.  The mystery took center stage though.  This is a wonderful start to a new cozy mystery series.  I look forward to reading the next installment.

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

Friday, January 27, 2017

Frugal Friday

Once I again I planned laundry around the weather so I did not use the dryer again this week.  Truthfully W has not hooked up the dryer since we moved into the new house.  This winter has been so mild that I have not felt the need to ask him to fix it.

We watched a movie for free from Amazon with a coupon code and shipping credits for choosing no rush rather than two day shipping.  I have found that most of the time the no rush shipping is only a day or two longer if that.  It is worth a bit of a wait to rent a movie for free.

Except for one day when the weather was bad the rabbits have had lettuce, clover, or greens from the garden areas.

At the grocery store we found several packages of our favorite chicken discounted.  We opted to buy all of the marked down packages. We had one for dinner and the rest went into the freezer for future meals.  I ended my pantry challenge just in time.

I received some magazines from free subscriptions.  I have a few magazines that I will pay to get.  Most of my magazines are from free subscriptions.

I baked hamburger buns rather than buying them at the store.

I planted some grapefruit seeds and lemon seeds.  It will take a bit longer to see any fruit this way, but both the grapefruit and lemons were gifted to us.  Any trees will be completely free.

I resisted the urge to buy a cookbook or two.  Cookbooks are definitely my weakness.  Saying "no" is a win for me!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

52 New Recipes - Week 3: Linguine Carbonara

I was browsing the internet last week and came across a weekly menu.  One of the items was Linguine Carbonara.  I realized with a few adjustments I had everything needed to make this recipe.

My version looks a bit more orange that the original, because I used bantam eggs.  These chickens spend all day on the yard eating bugs and greens.  The result is yolks that are neon orange.

I obviously used spaghetti instead of linguine.  I also did not have white wine so I substituted chicken broth.  Otherwise I followed the recipe.  Next time I might add a bit more garlic.  That is more personal taste than anything being wrong with the recipe.

This recipe made a big pot full.  I froze part of it for a future meal.  It was quick to make which is a bonus too.  W declared it to be delicious so this will go into our regular rotation.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Pantry Challenge Day 28

Breakfast for W was cereal.  I had another piece of fruitcake.

Dinner was an altered linguine carbonara - more details on that tomorrow.  I considered serving a salad.  Unfortunately we had so much rain over the weekend that getting to the back garden where the lettuce is growing is impossible right now.

Supper:  I had leftovers and W ate cereal (again).

I made it four weeks into the pantry challenge.  I am considering easing up slightly.  I plan to still focus on using what we have on hand.  I want to be able to branch out a bit with trying some new recipes.  I would eat more on the weekends if I freed myself up to buy some snacky supper items.

For now I am going to call my official pantry challenge done.  I will still keep up with a lower grocery budget.  I am saving the extra money for garden purchases this spring.

In the Garden

It is time for another walk through the winter garden.  Although with the warmer weather, it hardly feels like winter here.  

Marshmallow holds up very well to all types of weather.  It survived the hot, dry summer and the freezing temperatures earlier this month.  While it did die back a bit, the base of the plant is strong.

The garden peas are growing well.  They are starting to attach themselves to the wire that protects them from the chickens.  

You will see in this raised bed I have a large amount of stinging nettle.  When I pulled weeds I left all of the nettle.  Once it grows a bit more, I plan to cut and dehydrate it for herbal tea.  I drink nettle tea for allergies.  If you have this in your yard you know that it sets you on fire when it brushes up against you.  Aloe is a wonderful treatment for this stinging pain.

This container is full of lemon seedlings.  I will let them grow a bit more before putting them in individual containers.

The warm weather has caused the chamomile seeds to sprout.  You can see the ferny looking plants in the above photo.  

I also have yarrow seeds that are sprouting.  Both of these pictures also have more nettle in them.  Harvesting this helps my goal of self-sufficiency.  I will have an amble supple of dried nettle for free from my garden.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Pantry Challenge Days 26-27

These were "weekend" days for me due to W's odd work schedule.

Sunday was a weird day.  We were under tornado and severe thunderstorm watches/warnings off and on all day.  I was hesitant to do any major cooking since I kept expecting the power to go out.  Breakfast was English muffins and cream cheese.  I popped in to check on my parents and had a bite of dinner with them.  None of us were very hungry mostly from being on edge from the storms.  Supper for W was cereal.  I had a cup of cocoa and some crackers.

Monday, Day 27:  I had fruitcake for breakfast.  Dinner was a sandwich and snack mix.  Supper was the last homemade veggie burger from the freezer and a bag of chips W had brought me.  As usual W ate cereal for supper.

In Memory

May 2, 2013 - December 14, 2016

Leo passed away as the result of an accident on December 14, 2016.  It has taken me some time to be able to write and share this.  I want to focus on the happy times and the things he loved. 

Leo joined our family on May 2, 2013 and was the tiniest puppy.  He fit int he palm of my hand and fell asleep on the way to his new home.  He grew from that tiny puppy into a "big kid" who wanted to do everything the big dogs did.

Leo loved golf cart rides, cheese, cheesy crackers, treats, and eating in general.  He loved playing with tennis balls, sticks bigger than he was, his best dog friend Jack, and his best cat friend Thea.  He loved visits to Grammy and Grampy's house and truck rides to the feed store.  Leo loved belly rubs from me and playing "gotcha" with W.  He loved wallowing in the grass and napping in the sunshine.  He loved climbing in his bed at the end of the day and settling in for a good night's sleep. 

Leo was a rescue and while his life was short, he was loved and spoiled.  I always told him he was the greatest puppy dog ever.  He has forever left paw prints on our hearts!

Monday, January 23, 2017

2017 Goals Week 4

1.  Completely Finish the New House
The weather continued to be warm and sunny.  I burned the tree limbs and other yard waste we had piled up.  W moved around some piles of dirt to start leveling up the yard.  He also filled in some holes left by the installation of the power lines.  This was a big job made a bit easier with a tractor.  Unfortunately again no work was done on the inside.  We will get to it.  For now the yard is looking better.

2. Plan ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
Nothing new to report here.  Most of the birthdays for the next few months are for little girls in our families who are all the same age.  To keep things simple, they will all get the same gift - a book.

3.  Use the Garden to be More Self-Sufficient
I spent some time pulling weeds from the two raised beds of garden peas.  I was happy to find some kale and radish seedlings.  The chickens and rabbits ate the clover and other weeds I pulled up.  I left the stinging nettle to grow a bit bigger.  I will harvest and dry it in a few weeks.  I also planted lemon and grapefruit seeds.  Buying plants would be easier and produce faster, but W likes to grow things from seed.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I finished up the card making class.  The information was good.  I plan to put it to good use making cards over the next few weeks.  Next up is Designing Elegant Edible Gardens.  I purchased this class last year.  Since it is too early to do any serious planting outside, I am hoping to get some good planning ideas from this class.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I worked on crocheting some wash cloths this past week.  The yarn was donated so I only have my time in each one.

6.  Boost Savings
While I did not have any extra money to add to the CC debt, I avoided any unnecessary spending this past week.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Pantry Challenge Days 23-25

I got behind on this and then just kept putting it off.  I am catching up and getting back on track.

Day 23 (Thursday) - W had cereal for breakfast.  I ate an English muffin with cream cheese.  Dinner:  I splurged on some discounted tortellini at the grocery store.  We had that with marinara sauce from the freezer, salad (lettuce from the garden) & homemade dressings, and breadsticks from the freezer.  Neither of us was hungry at supper and just snacked a bit on some random things.

Day 24 (Friday) - Breakfast was the same.  Dinner was leftovers from Thursday's dinner.  Supper was.....  I cannot remember.  How sad is that?  I feel like we snacked again, but I am not sure.

Day 25 (Saturday) - W was headed to work and took the usual with the addition of grapefruit his mom gave us.  I had an English muffin with cream cheese again.  Dinner for me was a plate of leftovers from the freezer:  meatloaf, mashed potatoes, garden peas, and oatmeal cookies.  Supper for W was cereal, and I ate more random snacks from the pantry. 

Weekend Book Reviews

From Atheism to Christianity:  The Story of C.S. Lewis by Joel Heck is not a light read.  This is not a bad thing though.  The book takes readers through C.S. Lewis' life explaining what made him an atheist as well as how he returned to Christianity.  I found the book to be very emotional at times.  The author did a wonderful job at conveying Lewis' feelings throughout his life.  The book gives insight into Lewis' thoughts on being an atheist and how Christians can communicate with and witness to atheists.  While it is a deep and thought provoking book, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I now want to read more about Lewis as well as his books and writings.

The Recipe Hacker Confidential by Diane Keuilian is full of recipes without grain, soy, dairy, gluten, or cane sugar.  I nor my husband have any food allergies, but this cookbook would be very helpful to those that do.  I found many of the recipes way to far out of my husband's comfort zone.  I loved the baked plantain chips.  I have also marked several other recipes that I would make for myself.  I do look forward to trying out some of the recipes on family/friends.  While it may not be one of my most used cookbooks, it is definitely one that I will keep and use.

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

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

River City Dead by Nancy G West is book four in the Aggie Mundeen Mystery series.  Aggie and her boyfriend, police detective Sam, have planned a getaway during Fiesta week in San Antonio.  The plans come crashing down when a body is discovered in their hotel penthouse suite.  Aggie pushing aside Sam's warnings and tries to solve the crime herself.  I have not read any of the prior books but did not feel lost.  However, I felt the book was average at best.  The mystery was okay, but the writing felt choppy and not at all smooth.  I could never connect to the characters and found Aggie to be a bit annoying.  At times I wondered what Sam saw in her, which is not good as she was the "star" of the book.  The book is fine if you are looking for something extra light.  I do not list it as one of my preferred series though.

Time Out by Suzanne Trauth is book two in the Dodie O'Dell Mystery series.  I had not read the first book, but I was not at all lost.  The book focuses on Dodie who is the manager of a restaurant and on the Etonville Little Theater.  Dodie plans a food festival with a menu to go along with the theater's play - Arsenic and Old Lace.  Unfortunately while at the festival, the play's director dies.  Even though none of the signs point to the food, the town is wary of returning to the restaurant.  Dodie must solve the mystery to save the restaurant.  The characters are fun and definitely remind me of small town people.  I did find the book to be a bit rambling as there were several sub-plots.  I think the series has potential for growth.  I will definitely read more in this series!

Dumpster Dicing by Julie B Cosgrove is book one in the Bunco Biddies series.  Janie and Betsy Ann live in Sunset Acres, a retirement community.  While out on their morning job, they see body parts in one of the dumpsters as it is being emptied.  The ladies and their friends decide to solve the mystery at Janie's urging.  I loved this book.  The ladies were so much fun.  The description of the retirement community made me wish that I lived there.  This is easily one of the best cozy mysteries I have read lately.  The books do have a religious undertone.  I liked it, but it may not appeal to all readers.  I look forward to more from this series!

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

Friday, January 20, 2017

Frugal Friday

First of all I am happy to report that Thea is using her house on the deck.  She has a cozy cat bed inside which was given to us by the couple who sold us our living room furniture.  The house is large enough that her food bowl goes on one side.  This is very useful as it keeps it hidden from the chickens.

I used one of the free greeting cards I had received in the mail to send to a friend who had a death in the family.

I watched the weather forecast and washed clothes that needed to be dried outside (sheets & W's jeans) at the beginning of the week before the rain came.

I continued to stick to the pantry challenge.  I still feel like we are not making much of a dent in the freezer, but the pantry is looking a bit less full.

I worked in the yard picking up trash and used feed sacks to dispose of it in our weekly trash pickup.

I saved the water from boiling eggs for W to use as fertilizer for his African violets.

I fed the rabbits excess produce from the garden as well as clover that was pulled from some of the raised beds.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Pantry Challenge Day 22

We both skipped breakfast.  I definitely need to work on our eating habits.  Lunch was the leftover egg salad & sprouts on homemade bread and chips.  Supper for W was cereal.  I had a barbecue sandwich on a homemade pineapple bun and chips with salsa.  I did have a cup of cocoa before bed made with almond milk.  Another less than exciting day in our kitchen.

52 New Recipes: Week 3 - Labneh

I saw a recipe for homemade labneh in a recent issue of Cooking Light.  I used homemade yogurt and following the directions.  I have no idea what went wrong (homemade yogurt maybe?), but it never thickened up at all.  I ended up tossing the whole soupy mess.

This week was a complete fail.  Unfortunately some recipes are like that.  When something goes wrong, I do prefer to try to find out why - my error or recipe error.

Has anyone made labneh?  I noticed all other recipes online say to mix the salt with the yogurt before spooning into the cheesecloth.  Perhaps that was the problem.  I may try this again with the salt added at the beginning.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pantry Challenge Days 20 & 21

Day 20 was really quiet as far as the pantry challenge.  W ate the usual at work and had cereal for supper.  I worked in the yard pretty much all day.  I did eat some Brunswick stew with the last of some wheat thins.  I am sure you have heard about people who forget to eat.  I am one of those people.  When I get busy, I do tend to forget to stop and eat which is not a good thing. 

Day 21 - W had cereal for breakfast, and I ate an English muffins with cream cheese.  Dinner was egg salad sandwiches with sprouts and chips.  Supper was barbecue on homemade pineapple buns with tortilla chips and cheese sauce. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday Tip - Protecting Your Identity

From time to time I will be sharing a random Tuesday Tip.  Over the weekend I saw this report on Fox News.  I am a big fan of genealogy and often do searches to try to track down long deceased relatives.  Fox News shared about a "genealogy" website that has too much information on living people.  If you go to Family Tree Now and search for yourself, odds are you will find yourself, almost every address you have lived at, and your closest living relatives.  If you are like me, you probably do not want this to be easily accessible.

Here is how to Opt Out:

  1. Click This Link.
  2. Follow the steps to search for yourself.  Narrow it down faster by adding in the state or birth year.
  3. Make sure you select all records that link to you.  I found multiple ones for myself and my husband.  You can easily find the appropriate records by scrolling down to the addresses.
  4. Share with your family & friends.
The website states that it will remove the records within 48 hours.  I checked and mine were removed in less than an hour.  Your name will still show up in the search.  However, when you click on "view details", you will be directed to a "webpage cannot be found" message.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Pantry Challenge - Grocery Spending Update

This past week I only spent $1.55 on baby carrots for W's lunch.  Since I had very low spending this week, I got away a bit from the challenge and bought a pound of sprout seeds from Amazon ($14).  I had just a few sprout seeds left, and they were barely sprouting.  I dumped those into the compost and ordered some more.  That puts this week's spending at $15.55.

January Spending:
Week 1 - $19.00
Week 2 - $20.54
Week 3 - $15.55

Total for this month so far:  $55.09

2017 Goals Week 3

1.  Completely Finish the New House
We are having crazy warm weather.  This past week W and I opted to take advantage of the nearly 80 degree temps and sunshine to work in the yard.  He cleaned off the small back deck and put a house for Thea.  We both picked up trash and tree limbs.  I also cut back some plants that got hit hard by last weekend's 20 degree temperatures.  While the inside has no progress, the outside is looking much better.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
I added some money to the gift budget envelope.

3.  Use the Garden to be More Self-Sufficient
I started looking through seed catalogs and trying to narrow down what I want to add to the garden this year.  I spent a bit of time pulling weeds.  I started growing some sprouts in the house which is as close to gardening as I can truly get in January.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I did lesson two of the card making class.  This one was for a penny slide card.  I liked it, but I did not make a sample card this week.  I do appreciate having this public goal so I actually make a little time each week to do it.

5. Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I went in search of some discount items on clearance from Christmas.  I found some of the items in my local store, but they were only 25% rather than 75%-90%.  I will keep checking.

6.  Boost Savings
W had a smaller paycheck due to the holidays.  I was still able to put some extra money toward the credit card debt.  Yeah!  I will be so glad when we knock that out completely.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pantry Challenge Days 17-19

I combined three days into one post since overall they were very boring.

Day 17:  W had cereal for breakfast, and I drank a Boost again.  We both brought home leftovers.  For dinner we took one of the chicken tenders and made big salads.  I used lettuce from the garden and the last of the tomatoes that we bought.  I added onion and pepper to mine.  I also diced up half of a piece of Texas toast.  Supper I fixed some instant mashed potatoes and garden peas to go with his hamburger steak.  I ate my leftover chicken tenders and sweet potatoes.

Day 18:  W was off to worked with a packed lunch of the usual.  I had an English muffin with cream cheese for breakfast.  Dinner was a tuna sandwich and chips.  I skipped supper (not good), and W ate cereal.  

Day 19:  Breakfast was another English muffin with cream cheese.  I was busy the day before and did not make a dessert for dinner with my parents.  W had cereal for supper.  I ate a slice of toast with peanut butter.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Dead and Breakfast by Kate Kingsbury is the first book in the Merry Ghost Inn Mystery series.  Melanie and her grandmother Liza are opening a bed and breakfast in a reportedly haunted mansion on the Oregon coast.  While renovating the pair stumble across a long dead body.  The small police force puts the cold case on the back burner.  If the B&B is ever to open, Melanie and Liza must solve the mystery themselves.  This is a great start to a new series.  I loved the ghost story aspect.  Liza and Melanie are wonderful characters.  I look forward to finding out how the bed and breakfast setting develops as the series progresses.

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli's She Stopped for Death is the second book in the Little Library Mystery series.  Jenny and her mother, Dora, are receiving nighttime visits from the town's reclusive poet, Emily Sutton.  Soon Emily drags Jenny, Dora, and their next door neighbor Zoe into her peculiar life. I have mixed feelings about this book.  The first half was a struggle to get through.  The characters, especially Jenny, are weak.  I am not a fan of women who cannot survive without a boyfriend.  The mystery only took center stage in the second half of the book.  The mystery was good and did help to redeem the book.  At this point I am on the fence about the book.   I would hope to see further character development in future books.  A book with all female leads needs to have strong female leads.

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

Friday, January 13, 2017

Pantry Challenge Day 16

I had a Boost drink for breakfast and W had cereal.

Dinner was tuna melts and chips.  We had been working in the yard and wanted something quick. 

Supper was a break for me.  W had a business dinner, and I went with him.  He had hamburger steak, baked potato, and salad.  I had a salad, chicken tenders, and sweet potato fries.  We both brought home some leftovers.

Frugal Friday

The temperatures were cold in the south this past weekend.  *I will pause here while everyone up north giggles a bit.*  My ideal temperature has a low of 75.  I am that crazy person who loves when it is 90+ degrees. I did keep the central heat cut lower and wore a cozy cardigan while in the house.

As much as I would have loved to stay in all weekend, I still had outside chores to do.  I bundled up in a set of coveralls that I purchased at yard sales.  I got the overall pants at one sale and found the jacket at another.  Since they were children's sizes (L and XXL), I was able to score a very good deal.  I have used both for several winters now.

I made several birthday cards from items that I had on hand.

I took advantage of some deals at Amazon.  I bought Glad trash bags as W hated the cheaper ones that were free with sale/coupon.  I also bought canned cat food for less per can than I was able to get locally on sale.  I chose the slower shipping on both items to get credits.

I took advantage of a sale and a coupon to get some OTC medicine that W uses at a bargain.

I wanted a house for Thea on the back deck.  We used a small rabbit house that we already had - modified a bit by W using materials on hand - so we had no out of pocket cost.  This was important for a starter house as we have no idea if Thea will even use it.

I received coupons for free candy bars which I won in an instant win game.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pantry Challenge Day 15

Breakfast was cereal for W - surprise, surprise.  I ate the last of the pancakes I had frozen.

Dinner was tostadas.  I had some masa harina flour in the freezer and decided to make my own corn tortillas.  I had tried before, but as with flour tortillas I used hot water this time and found the dough came together much easier.  I will not purchase pre-made ones again.  The flavor of homemade is so much better.

After I cooked these, I topped them with the leftover taco venison/lentil mixture from the freezer and some cheese.  I served them with tomato (purchased last week) and lettuce from the garden.  We also topped them with some homemade salsa and a bit of sour cream.

Supper was leftover soup for me.  W ate macaroni & cheese with ham and peas from the freezer.  The homemade frozen dinners are working out very well.  They give the convenience of a frozen meal but are much healthier.

52 New Recipes - Week Two

I pulled out my cookbooks this past weekend to find a recipe to try this week.  I looked at a couple of recipes that sounded interesting.  After I started feeling crummy, I decided that Ree Drummond's potato soup was in order.

I did not have any bacon, but I had the other ingredients on hand.  I added in some shredded cheese that was in the refrigerator.  I was worried that it was not going to be thick enough after the 5 minute simmering with the flour added.  Once I pureed the soup with an immersion blender, it was perfectly thick but not too thick. Please excuse the poorly lit picture.

Any soup recipe that starts with sauteing carrots, onions, and celery is going to be good. I left a few potato pieces rather than having a completely smooth soup.  I do regret not having any bacon.  I can imagine it would add another level of flavor.  I loved that the soup was made with basic ingredients.  I will definitely make it again.

This month due to the pantry challenge, I am trying more basic recipes.  Once February arrives I will branch out a bit more.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Pantry Challenge Day 14

Day 14 was a quiet day in the kitchen. For breakfast W ate cereal, and I ate pancakes.  Dinner was fish sandwiches on homemade buns and chips.  That used up the fish sticks from the freezer.  By supper I was feeling under the weather.  I decided to make potato soup.  W chose to have some oyster crackers with his.  The soup came together quickly and was nice since the weather was cooler still.

In the Garden

One of my goals is to make better use of the garden this year.  I decided we could pop into the garden once a week to keep me focused and accountable.

I am having almost no luck with the pepper seeds I planted.  Only the fish pepper seeds have sprouted.  The funny thing is that these are the oldest seeds.  I planted fish peppers several years ago and then lost the seeds I saved.  I found them when we moved and surprisingly they are growing well.

We took advantage of a warm day to clean up the garden area.  W moved the compost pile into the garden so it will be more convenient.  He tore apart some raised beds that were rotting or not working out well.  The garden looks very, very sad right now.

Over the weekend we had some cold weather (for the South) with a low one night of 22 degrees.  That explains the dead eggplant in the picture above.  Garden peas grow well even in the cold temperatures.  This variety is called Tom Thumb and is a compact plant.  I planted radish and kale seeds between the rows of garden peas.  Those are not sprouting yet though.

I did some experimenting this year by planting lemongrass and pineapple plants into the dirt rather than just in pots.  I covered the lemongrass with some plastic.  It came through the cold okay.

I did nothing to the pineapple plants.  They are planted under the shelter of large oak trees which provided some protection. Still I am quite please that they had no damage.

I will continue to plant these around the edge of the fence - maybe on both sides.  Once spring arrives I will plant some flowers between and around them to make better use of the space.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pantry Challenge Day 13

Breakfast was a cupcake. Dinner was the last of the leftover pizza  and a big salad with lettuce from the garden.  W decided to go by to visit his parents after work.  I had the last of the french fries and pizza rolls from the freezer.  The weather was cold all day but since I was home alone making soup made no sense.  It was easier to just eat whatever was convenient.

Now for some pictures of the freezers since I am abut two weeks into this.

As you can see I have not really made a dent at all.  It does not help that I have added marinara, black beans, single serve homemade frozen meals, and soups.  I have used up a few things in the pantry, but we are in no danger of running out of food.  It makes me think seriously about meals for the coming week and trying to get by with no grocery shopping.  

New Amazon Prime Feature

In the Kindle Store Amazon now offers a Prime Reading section.  This is a collection of books and magazines that you can read for free with your Amazon Prime account.  Each month the options change.  It is a great way to try out a magazine before deciding if you want to subscribe or to get a new book to read. 

This month I chose three magazines - Clean Eating, Consumer Reports, and Dr. Oz The Good Life.  I picked A Quiet Life in the Country to read as well.

Considering my rural area I am happy to get free two day shipping with my Amazon Prime account.  When I add in the Prime Music, Prime Video, Kindle First, and now Prime Reading, it is an excellent deal.  I easily save the cost of $99 per year or $8.25 per month in gas alone. 

What is your favorite Prime benefit?  Are you taking advantage of Prime Reading?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Pantry Challenge Days 11 & 12

I decided to lump the weekend together since they are rather simple.

Day 11 breakfast for me was leftover pancakes and sausage.  W was back at work and took pretty much the same thing as last weekend.  I have mentioned variety, but he likes things the same on work days.  My dinner was the leftover taco bake and the last of the cheese dip.  Supper for me was leftover pizza.  W was not hungry.

Day 12 I skipped breakfast.  Dinner was with my parents as usual.  I made mocha nutella cupcakes for dessert.  W took some to work to share.  The recipe was from Simply Beautiful Homemade Cakes.  Supper was various leftovers as I was trying to clean out the refrigerator.

2017 Goals Update

1.  Completely Finish the New House
I thought we had one project knocked off our list when we picked up the doors for the cabinet over our refrigerator.  W put them up and discovered that the doors were too wide and overlapped.  Ugh!  He will take the entire thing down and take it back to be fixed.  One step forward and two steps back on this one.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts 
I saved a few books to my Amazon wish list as presents for February birthdays.  I will watch the prices and make a purchase decision within the next couple of weeks.

3.  Use the Garden to be More Self-Sufficient
January is a slower garden month.  I have planted garden pea seeds as well as kale, Swiss chard, and radish seeds in two of the raised beds.  I have started some pepper seeds in the house.  My plan is to work on a new layout for the garden over the next few weeks.

4.  Take One Class a Month
Since I am doing a pantry challenge this month, I opted to stay away from any cooking classes.  Instead I chose Create Stunning Birthday Cards.  This is a free mini-class.

This week I made a birthday card with a slot for holding a gift card.  It was lovely and quite easy.  I will make two more and use them for my older niece and nephews.  The card was made with materials I had on hand.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
While I had some leftovers from last year, I have decided to start the spending totals with the current year and will consider anything else as a donation.  I won a $5 gift card to a store where I do not usually shop.  Since I did not need anything, I bought 12 pairs of boy's socks for just 32 cents out of pocket.

6.  Boost Savings
I was able to put some money toward the credit card bill from our two side jobs.  I found a few aluminum cans and added them to the pile I plan to sell.  I know I will not get much but every bit helps.  

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Towhee Get Your Gun by JR Ripley is book two in the Bird Lover's Mystery series.  Amy, the owner of Birds & Bees, is back and finds herself roped into a local production of Annie Get Your Gun.  The accidents at the theater keep escalating until someone winds up dead.  Amy must find the murderer and save the production.  This is not an easy task since she also has a store to run while fighting to keep the town from demolishing her shop/home and rescuing a towhee.  Not sure what a towhee is?  Click here to see one.  A bonus of this book is the bit of bird knowledge.  I enjoyed this book as much as the first, but it can easily stand on its own.  The mystery was good and the characters continue to entertain.  I look forward to more from this series.

Fudge and Jury by Ellie Alexander is book five in the Bakeshop Mystery series.  This book does stand on its own although not as well as it might have.  I was not lost, but I felt a bit was missing.  Juliet and her mom run Torte, a bakeshop in Oregon.  They are in the midst of a remodel and also dealing with the annual chocolate festival which this year includes a murder.  I enjoyed the setting of the series and also the characters.  The author tended to ramble however which took away from the flow of the story.  Overall it was interesting, and I would read more from this series.

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

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Pantry Challenge Day 10

*Sorry for the late post.  I thought I scheduled it, but I just saved it.  I also lost the pictures I took. Sigh, some days are like that.*

Breakfast was cereal for W.  I ate more English muffins with cheese dip.

Dinner was homemade tomato soup with homemade croutons, salad (lettuce from the garden), and grilled cheese.  I had baked two loaves of bread.  Two of the ends became croutons.  The other two ends went into the freezer for bread crumbs.

Supper was pancakes (from scratch) and homemade sausage.  My dad and uncles made the sausage last month.  My dad brought home a gallon bag full which I divided into meal sized portions.

Weekend Book Reviews

The Perfect Blend by Tess Masters is a book of 100 blender recipes for everything from smoothies to desserts.  I thought that even among health food books this one qualifies as super healthy.  I did appreciate the focus on eating plenty of vegetables as well as a variety.  While this book would be good for the very health conscious, it simply is not for me.  In some cases other kitchen tools such as an immersion blender would have been a better choice than a traditional blender.  Many of the ingredients are not cost effective for me.  I would rather focus on eating foods I grow in my own garden.

The Capsule Wardrobe by Wendy Mak offers to help readers build a wardrobe of 1,000 outfits from just 30 pieces.  I found some parts of the book helpful  Ms. Mak reminds readers that the clothing should match reality and not wishful thinking.  While the idea of the book is good, I feel it is a bit limited.  Between Pinterest and many great fashion blogs, finding free fashion help is easier than ever.  I was not impressed with the outfits enough to recommend the book.

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

Friday, January 6, 2017

Pantry Challenge Day 9

Breakfast was cereal for W and homemade English muffins with some of the leftover cheese dip from the previous night.

Dinner was Brunswick stew and grilled cheese for W.  I had a homemade black bean and mushroom burger with chips.

Supper was homemade pizza and salads with tomatoes.  The lettuce came from the garden.  W picked up the tomatoes from Dollar General.  Has anyone else shopped the produce section at Dollar General?  Ours has good produce and excellent everyday prices.  I also made a Dijon vinaigrette using the last bit of Dijon mustard in the bottle.  I just added some olive oil, white wine vinegar, and spices right into the mustard bottle.  Delicious and no waste!

Frugal Friday

I washed clothes on the sunny days to take advantage of line drying.

I finally cut up the pumpkin I bought after Halloween.  Some of the seeds were saved for planting later this year.  The pumpkin went to the chickens!

I picked lettuce from the garden.

I chose "No Rush Shipping" for a few items I ordered from Amazon.  I am going to save the $1 credits to rent a movie for W and I to watch one evening.

I ordered several free magazine subscriptions from Recyclebank.

I have been sticking to the pantry challenge and focused on using foods we have on hand.

I took some time each day to work on the reward sites I use.  I will do this less during the spring when the weather is better for working outdoors.

I have been using the diffuser and essential oils to freshen the house.  It is cheaper than store bought air fresheners and much easier on my breathing.

I found clearance candy to use as prizes for a little game for my Bible class at church.

I saved a box from an Amazon delivery for W to use for transporting fishing rods for his business.

I used water from washing lettuce to water the plants on the front porch.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Pantry Challenge Day 8

Meals first and then I will give the totals for the weekly grocery shopping trip.

Breakfast for me was a bottle of Boost.  W skipped breakfast.

Dinner was a bit early due to the sad breakfast.  I heated up the leftover pork from last night's supper and served it over baked potatoes with cheese and sour cream.  We had salads to round out the meal.

Supper was a taco bake.  I placed lightly crushed tortilla chips in a pie pan and topped it with taco seasoned meat/lentils, taco sauce, and cheese.  I served this with a cheese dip and tortillas.  We had fruit for dessert.

Now for the grocery shopping.  I bought lentils, lima beans, rice, cereal (6 boxes), pepperoni, pomegranate juice, cheese, popcorn, milk, and yogurt.  I spent $20.54 this week.
I had coupons for the cereal, cheese and pepperoni.  I plan to use the milk and yogurt to make my own yogurt.  Thanks Terri at Blue House Journal for the encouragement to make my own yogurt again.  The lentils were used to stretch my taco meat for more than one meal.  The pomegranate juice will go into my homemade herbal tea blend.  I was under my $25 wishful budget and will call this week a win.

New Recipe Challenge - Marinara Sauce

The Frugal Girl put out a challenge to try one new recipe a week.  With all of the cookbooks I have (not counting the pins and magazines), I definitely need to do this.  The first recipe I tried is a crockpot marinara sauce from Mom on a Mission.  I have made small batches of marinara sauce.  This one was very easy.  I opted to add in some extra veggies.  I had zucchini in the freezer and mushrooms and bell pepper in the refrigerator.

I added everything into the crockpot and let it cook as directed.  I did leave it in the refrigerator overnight where it thickened up nicely.  I used this in the spaghetti pies I made earlier in the week and had three bags to add to the freezer.  This was so much better than bottled sauce.  It was a bit of work up front but worth it in the end. I will use this recipe again and again.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Pantry Challenge Day 7

We had a late thunderstorm last night which kept us up later than usual.  Between the wind and weather alerts, sleeping was next to impossible.  We decided to sleep in this morning so meals times were a bit off.  I neglected to take pictures of anything.  I made a mess prepping dinner.  So you will not be completely picture-less, Lucy volunteered to pose.

Breakfast for W was cereal.  Are you surprised?  Honestly if I let him, he would eat cereal for every single meal.  I had some of my homemade pancakes from the freezer.

Dinner was spaghetti pie (which I call poor man's lasagna), salad with lettuce from the garden, and homemade bread sticks.  I put two spaghetti pies into the freezer as well as two servings of bread sticks.  At this rate I will never put a dent in the freezer.  W pointed out that all of the ingredients were from the pantry so I was making progress somewhere.

Supper was barbecue sandwiches with pork and pineapple hamburger buns both from the freezer and chips left from holiday celebrating.


Now that I am not spending every waking minute on house building, it is time to get back on a schedule.  I am working on this in sections.  This week it is the morning schedule.  I have a list of daily must do items.

~Make Bed
~Get Dressed Completely - Hair, Make Up, Shoes
~Feeds Animals
~Clean Bathrooms - Quick Wipe Down
~Empty Litterbox

My plan is to focus on the morning schedule for this week.  I am also working on a daily cleaning area.  Mondays will be the master bedroom.  The daily area will get extra attention.  I am sure this will be a work in progress as I get used to being in the new house.

Do you have a daily schedule or cleaning schedule?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Pantry Challenge Day 6

Day six was a particularly boring day foodwise.  I hate to waste food.  Often that means eating leftovers.  Fortunately neither W or I have a problem with leftovers.  Unfortunately it makes for a very boring blog post.  Today's post is an excellent example of that. 

Breakfast for me was a warmed piece of the marzipan stollen from yesterday.

Dinner was equally exciting as it was leftovers from the New Year's Day.

Supper was snacks again for me - pizza rolls, homemade baked jalapeno poppers, and chips.  W had cereal.

Reward Sites

Rhonda posted a comment asking about Microsoft Rewards and what other reward sites I used.  I thought it was best to do a separate post.  You will find that the rewards on many of these websites change quickly.  Keep checking back if a reward you want is not available.

Swagbucks (referral link) is still at the top of my list.  I am sure most people are familiar with this one, but I will give a quick run down.  You can earn points for shopping through Swagbucks, watching videos, taking surveys, doing searches, printing & using coupons, and entering Swagcodes.  I think many people shy away from the surveys.  Here is my tip for earning more points with surveys:  look for the ones that take less than 10 minutes.  If you qualify you can finish quickly and earn a few points.  If you do not qualify you will know that after only a few questions rather than 20 minutes in.  I typically have no problem earning a $25 gift card each month.

Microsoft Rewards was formerly called Bing Rewards.  You sign in with your Microsoft/Hotmail account information.  I earn 150 points per day by doing searches.  You will not be penalized for searching in quick succession.  Several times a week I get 10 points for clicking on a pre-chosen search link.  Trivia questions are offered occasionally which will net you 30 points.  I generally only get a $5 gift card a month.  However this one takes very little time each day.

Recyclebank is another easy one and is good if you like free magazine subscriptions.  You earn points by watching videos, viewing slideshows, and answering quiz questions.  Also be sure to click on the Daily Pledge (found on the Earn Points section after Most Popular Reads) for 5 daily points.  As a free bonus you learn about recycling.  Other rewards are offered, but I use this primarily to get free magazines.

MyPoints is one I do not do as often.  It is a good source for a wide variety of free gift cards.  It is similar to Swagbucks in that you can get points for shopping, watching videos, using coupons, and doing surveys.

MyCokeRewards gives you points for entering code found on a variety of Coke products.  I use this one mainly for magazines.  I do love magazines, but I cut most of them out of my budget long ago. Getting them for free solves that problems.  Other good items are gift cards and coupons for free Coke products.  We do not drink much soda, but people do give me their bottle caps or box pieces.  A neighbor gives me all of hers since I pass along the magazines when I am done.  She gets free magazines without the need to do the "work" of entering codes.

Do you use one that I have not mentioned?  I would love to know about it!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Pantry Challenge Day 5

W took the same things to work as the day before.

Breakfast for me was pancakes again.

Dinner was eaten with my parents.  We had roast with rice and gravy and traditional southern New Year's Day foods - collards, black eyed peas and cornbread.  I do eat with my parents every Sunday.  I always provide dessert.  I had been gifted a marzipan stollen.  Since it was full of raisins and other dried/candied fruits, W was not going to eat a piece.  My parents like dried fruits so I took that as dessert this week.

Neither of us ate supper.  I was still full from dinner.  W had eaten pizza provided by his workplace and was not hungry either.

2017 Goals

This time of year everyone seems to be thinking about what to do in the coming year.  A fresh calendar brings thoughts of a fresh start.  I decided to set some goals in the hope of keeping up with them all year long.  Here goes....

1.  Completely Finish the New House
We are moved in and pretty well settled.  Unfortunately we have a pile of small projects to finish it up.  This one will depend in some part on W as many of the things I cannot do alone.  I want to get all of these little things done before they become permanently undone.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts 
This past year I was all out of sorts so I want to shop in advance for gift giving.  

3.  Use the Garden to be More Self-Sufficient
I realize that this goal is a bit vague.  By this I mean that I want to make better use of the space I have planting as much as possible.  I also want to start preserving herbs from my garden rather than buying them.  The more things that I grow myself means less that I need to buy.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I live in an area lacking in community center style courses.  Fortunately Craftsy offers a wide variety of classes (both free and paid).  I plan to finish 12 classes this year.

In previous years I have gotten donations to help with packing the shoeboxes.  I will not be turning down any donations, but I am going to step out on faith this year.  I will keeping my eye out for deals throughout the year.

6.  Boost Savings
Building a new house without having a mortgage means that we spent our money.  First up is paying off a minimal amount of credit card debt and then building up our savings again.

I am sticking with just six goals this year.  I might add to them as the year goes along.  These goals are big enough that I have no problem focusing just on them.  If I manage to complete them all, I will be thrilled!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Pantry Challenge Day 4

W went to work which means I packed his foods for the day.  He took instant grits, popcorn, ritz bits, baby carrots with homemade ranch dressing, a package of crackers, pineapple, and an orange. 

Breakfast for me was pancakes.  I wanted blueberry pancakes but could not find blueberries without digging deep in the large freezer.  I ended up making some plain ones and some with chocolate chips.  I froze the leftovers to eat later.

Dinner was a salad with lettuce from the garden and homemade ranch dressing.  I also ate macaroni and cheese with ham and peas from the freezer. 

Supper was cereal for W.  I had a snack plate again.  I ate pineapple, celery with homemade ranch, and cheese crackers.

I should add a note about snacks.  I am not exactly keeping up with what (if anything) we snack on throughout the day.  I did make a batch of roasted chickpeas using chickpeas I cooked myself.  We almost never eat canned beans.  They are so easy to cook in a slow cooker making them cheaper and healthier.  I ate a good serving of those which is one reason for the snack plate at supper.

Weekend Book Reviews

Custom Baked Murder by Liz Mugavero is the latest book in the Pawsitively Organic Mystery series. I enjoyed the previous book I read starring Stan (short for Kristan) and her human and furry friends.  This book was no different.  Stan's life is stressful enough with the upcoming opening of her pet cafe.  Add in her mother's engagement party with a murdered former co-worker and her sister's arrival and Stan is pushed to her limits.   I love the setting and the characters of this series.  The mystery is a bit easy to figure out, but I did not mind.  I look forward to reading more of Stan and Frog Ledge.

Iced Under by Barbara Ross is book five in the Maine Clambake Mystery series.  I have read a previous book in the series, but it is not necessary to enjoy this book.  Iced Under finds Julia settled in for the winter when her mother receives an unexpected package.  This package leads Julia to begin researching her family history and finding relatives she never knew existed.  The family element in addition to the historical points augment the mystery.  This is another winner from Ms. Ross.  While I would never want to live in Maine, I love visiting with Julia and her family in Busman's Harbor.

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