Monday, February 27, 2017

2017 Goals Week 9

1. Completely Finish the New House & Update Property
Sad news that our last potential old house owner fell through.  It looks like it will have to be torn down.  That will take a backseat to finishing the new house.  I also added finish the property to this goal.  Construction takes a toll on the yard which needs work.  That portion will be a multiple year process.

2.  Plan ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
I found a great deal on a set of toddler board books.  I ordered those for our nephew who will be two later this year.  The price made it worth ordering in advance.

3.  Use the Garden to be More Self-Sufficient
I did not get the lemon balm dehydrated and will try to work on that this week.  I was happy to find that W took good care of the plants while I was sick.  I will share more on that Wednesday in a garden post.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I did finish the garden class, which was my second class of the year.  I got some good ideas on how to improve my garden and make it a refuge.  I did not start on a new class last week but will get to that this week.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
W got a free hat that he did not want.  It will go into a 10-14 year old boy shoebox.  I hope to crochet several wash cloths this week.

6.  Boost Savings
I put some extra money toward the credit card debt this week.  We have paid on one-third of it so far this year. 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Weekend Book Review: Harvest

Harvest by Stefani Bittner & Alethea Harampolis is a wonderful blend of a garden book, a cookbook, and a crafting book.  Forty-seven plants are featured.  Along with growing information, each plant has a corresponding project.  These range from flower arrangements to beauty products to recipes.  Some plants and uses were familiar to me, but many were new.  I would have loved the book for the growing and harvest information alone. 

The plant and project photographs are stunning and add to the enjoyment of the book.  Harvest would be a perfect gift for the gardener in your life especially one who prefers growing plants that are a bit unusual.  A word of caution:  reading this book may cause you to start searching the internet for where to buy Australian finger lime or pineapple guava plants.  My husband and I have chosen those as well as bay laurel and artichoke to add to our property.  I was pleased to find plants such as bee balm, thyme, pomegranate, and borage that already grow in my garden.  As a bonus the projects are elegantly simple enough for anyone to do leaving you plenty of time to work in the garden!

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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

A Measure of Murder by Leslie Karst is the second book in the Sally Solari Mystery series.  Since I enjoyed the first I was looking forward to this book.  Sally finds herself joining the local chorus singing Mozart's Requiem.  The chorus is thrown into chaos when one of the singers falls to his death during the first rehearsal.  Sally sets out to solve the murder when running two restaurants.  While I enjoyed the mystery, I wish Sally's life was a bit calmer.  I have no idea how she can do have of the things she does: chorus, two restaurants, active social life, and extra long bike rides.  Just reading about everything exhausts me.  This is not enough to be a negative - yet.  I do think it could become annoying if it does not change in future books.

Miranda James' book, Twelve Angry Librarians, is book eight in the Cat in the Stacks Mystery series. I was happy to get back into the world of librarian Charlie and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel.  Charlie's employer, Athena College, is hosting the Southern Academic Libraries Association conference.  As if that were not stressful enough, one of the attendees is his least favorite person from library school.  Gavin Fong seems to be everyone's least favorite person.  When he is murdered, the suspect list is massive.  This book is just as good as the last one in the series and easily stands on its own.  Charlie, Diesel, and the other characters are charming.  The mystery portion of the book was very good.  A few other side plots to the mystery fit in perfectly and added to the overall story.  I look forward to many more books in this series.

Smugglers and Scones by Morgan C Talbot is the first book in the Moorehaven Mysteries series.  Pippa run the Moorehaven Bed and Breakfast, former home to mystery author Richard Moore and open only to mystery authors.  When Pippa rescues a boat pilot in the middle of the night, she has no idea the secrets that have been just below the surface of Seacrest.  I absolutely loved the twist to the bed and breakfast with the only guests being mystery writers.  The book flowed smoothly, and the characters were engaging.  It is an excellent start to a new series, and I am already anxiously awaiting a second book.

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

Friday, February 24, 2017

Frugal Friday

I mentioned yesterday that I had been sick.  I was under the weather most of the past week.  W did make one quick run to the dollar store to pick up a few things.  Otherwise we have both stayed close to home.  He stayed clear of me, and I stayed clear of him.  Thankfully he avoided getting sick.  I did realize that I need to stock up on a few "sick person" items over the next few weeks.  It would have prevented the extra run to the store.

Unfortunately I got very little of what I had on my list done this week.  Fortunately none of it was pressing.

I had managed to do some work in the garden.  I finished weeding one bed that had the most herbs sprouting.  I have stevia, marshmallow, blue hyssop, chamomile, and yarrow growing again from last year.  It is frugal in that I will not need to replace those.

We skipped grocery shopping this week.  I had plenty of things for Warren to take in his lunch.  He had milk and cereal so we can make do with everything else.

I received a free product coupon from a sweepstakes I had entered.  That was a nice surprise.  I will use it to get a package of bagels.  I also received an assortment of coupons from the grocery store I shop at most often.  I was happy to note that all were for items I already buy.

Those are the highlights from the past week.  I hope to stay healthy and accomplish more in the coming week!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

52 New Recipes Weeks 6 & 7

I apologize for being late with this post.  I have been under the weather for a bit with two different things at two separate times.  In between I did manage to try two new recipes.

For week six I made popovers.  I had wanted to try them forever, but I just never got around to it.  One day we were having ham and corn chowder for lunch, and I decided popovers would be a nice addition.  We liked them well enough that I plan to get a popover pan so they can be done properly.  I did not get a picture as I simply felt too bad.  We also ended up with a guest that day so all of the popovers were eaten.

Week 7 had a few days when I felt better.  We were having a meal of leftovers from the Valentine Banquet at church.  Our pastor had asked me to make rolls.  At the last minute I decided to make a dessert.  I had seen a recipe from King Arthur Flour for a Tanyard Farm Buttermilk Cake.  I had all of the ingredients on hand, and it was basic to make.

At the time I did not take a photo.  It was late, and I figured I would have plenty leftover.  The plan was to get a good picture the following day.  This is what I brought home:

I cannot begin to tell you how much everyone loved this cake.  I thought there was going to be a fight for the extra pieces.  I was not going to step in the middle of that just to get a piece for a photo.  Instead you get a picture of the empty pan, which I say is the best sign of how good a cake was.

If you get the chance, I highly recommend this cake.  The crowd I served this to is hard to please.  For them to argue over who would take the extra pieces home means it was very good.

I have no idea what I will make for week 8, but I am certain that I will find something.

Monday, February 20, 2017

2017 Goals Week 7

1.  Completely Finish the New House
The second potential owner of our old house never got back to us.  We have another person coming this week.  Third times the charm, right?  I sure hope so.  I continued to work on the yard by cleaning up an area of the property which will become our turkeys' new home in a few weeks.

2.  Plan ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
I ordered another book for the next birthday girl.  We will not be going to the party.  I will give the gift to my mother-in-law to deliver and save the cost of shipping.

3.  Use the Garden to be More Self-Sufficient
I dehydrated more stinging nettle.  I have enough dried nettle so I will pick the rest and dry it in the greenhouse to feed to the chickens.  Next on my dehydrating list is lemon balm.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I did not watch any lessons from the gardening class last week.  I do plan to finish the last two lessons this week and maybe start on a cooking class.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I crocheted a few more wash cloths.  W won several small flashlights at our church's Valentine Banquet.  Those will go into the shoeboxes as we have plenty of flashlights.

6.  Boost Savings
Nothing special toward this goal this past week.  I do hope to find a bit of spare money in the budget this week though.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Frugal Friday

W requested two cakes for work for a dinner.  I made a coconut cake and a red velvet cake from scratch.  I do not know the current bakery prices, but I expect I made both for less than one would have cost to purchase.

I used my newly purchased soil sifter to sift through the excess dirt in the chicken house.  That was added to a new raised bed.

We sold a few rabbits and excess roosters.

I ordered an 8x10 print for free from CVS.  I chose some free subway art that I can put in a picture frame to display during the spring.

I made bread crumbs using a bunch of end pieces from homemade bread that I stashed in the freezer.

W had a friend visiting around dinnertime and invited him to eat with us.  We had a simple meal of ham and potato soup with popovers.  W said that he went on and on about how good the soup was.  It goes to prove that meals need not be expensive or elaborate when having guests.

I dehydrated more stinging nettle from the garden. 

I received a $5 Amazon card from Microsoft Rewards.

I did the usual - hung clothes to dry, packed W's work lunch, cooked meals at home, etc.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

In the Garden

The weather here is so warm.  Normally February means I am stuck indoors with quick trips to the greenhouse.  This year I have worked out in the yard nearly every day.  I am trying to hold off from planting anything outside since I have no guarantee that cold weather will not make one last stand.

Outdoors, things are starting to sprout on their own.  The raspberry canes are coming back out.

The stevia plants which had died back are sprouting out too and seem to be much stronger this year.

The garden pea plants are loaded with little pea pods.  The Tom Thumb garden pea is a wonderful variety to grow.  They will definitely have a yearly spot in my garden.

In other outdoor garden news, I spent one day earlier this week with the help of my parents cleaning out an area of the property for our turkeys (Tom & Jane).  They are getting big and need a larger area.

In the greenhouse the pepper plants are growing and looking very strong.  Starting them in the house made a huge difference.

I am sprouting a mixture of wheat, rye, and oats for the chickens and rabbits.

I have a few seeds sprouting in the peat pellets.

Bunny tails on the left 

The first blueberry tomato plant

Bee Balm

In the house the lemon seeds I planted are just beginning to sprout.  I hope to have several lemon trees for our garden.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tuesday Tip - Software Alternative

I used to be an avid Microsoft Office user.  I fell away from it once it was offered only as a subscription.  I did notice recently that the non-subscription version is being sold again.  Fortunately a free alternative is available:  Open Office.  I downloaded the software and have used it for several weeks.

Open Office includes text document, spreadsheet, presentation, and database programs.  I am able to type documents, labels, and add pictures to documents using the text document program.  The spreadsheet program allows me to keep up with my budget on the computer again which makes me very happy.  I have not used the presentation or database programs, but I expect these to be equally as good.

If you only need these type of programs for home use, I highly recommend Open Office.  The software does everything I need and was free!

Monday, February 13, 2017

2017 Goals Week 7

1.  Completely Finish the New House
Nothing going on with the new house although I continue to work in the yard.  I am crossing my fingers that the old house will soon be moved.  The first potential owner fell through, but I met with someone else who is interested in moving it.

2.  Plan ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
I received an unexpected baby shower invitation this past week.  Fortunately I have a crocheted baby blanket in my gift tote, and I will be keeping my eye out for a diaper deal.  This week I need to order a book for a birthday gift too.

3.  Use the Garden to be More Self-Sufficient
I am starting to see the first signs of seeds sprouting in the peat pellets.  The wheat seeds did not sprout at all - most likely due to age.  I will feed those to the chickens.  We bought a bag of mixed seeds (wheat, rye, and oats) to sprout.  After just two days those have started to sprout.  I also harvested nettle and dried it in the dehydrator.  That is one less thing that I need to buy.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I did two lessons in the gardening class.  Now I have added garden decorations to my "yard sale want" list.  The section on artful touches was very inspiring.  This entire class has me thinking of my garden in new ways.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I crocheted a few more wash cloths this week.  I was also very excited to get a thank you note via email from the mother of a little girl who received a box I had packed.  It was my first reply ever.  My plan for this week is to divide the stickers and put the bracelets I have into the pretty bags I ordered.

6.  Boost Savings
We were able to put a big chunk of money toward the credit card debt this past week.  I love watching that number drop!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso is described as being about two women:  one black and one white.  For me this book was more about two women and the choices that led them to where they are.  Race played a role definitely in the story, but saying that is what the book is about sells it short.  Hortensia and Marion are both older and are bitter enemies.  The reasons for their attitudes become clear as each individually tells her story.  They are brought together by life circumstances.  This is a wonderful novel.  I found myself picking it up every time I had a spare minute.  It deals with race, growing older, choices, and attitudes.  While the topics are weighty, the book is very enjoyable.

I am normally a big fan of Dorothy Cannell's Ellie Haskell Mystery series.  I expected that I would enjoy Bridesmaids Revisited.  Ellie's family is out of town at a retreat, and she plans to work on redecorating the house.  Instead Ellie ends up taking a trip to visit "The Bridesmaids" who are friends of her long dead grandmother.  I found this book to be very disappointing.  First so many new characters were introduced that I found it hard to keep everyone straight.  These new characters also brought about many sub-plots.  I would have had no problem with it all spread over several books, but it was too much going on at once.  One would think for these reasons that the book would have been very exciting.  However, the story dragged on and on with no real stand out mystery.  This is one book in the series I wished I had skipped.

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

Friday, February 10, 2017

Frugal Friday

I planned ahead for our day out running errands and pulled something from the freezer.  This gave us a quick, inexpensive, home cooked meal. 

I picked lettuce from the garden.  It is still holding up well and should last until we are able to plant more once the weather warms up.

I harvested stinging nettle from my garden and dried it in the dehydrator.  I will use it to make a tea to help with my allergy symptoms.  I have bought it in the past, but free is much better. I did need to wear leather gloves.  Otherwise it was simple.

I resisted the urge to buy some clothes and cookbooks.  I did not need any of it though it was tempting. 

I made some birthday cards and note cards.

I watched a few shows for free on the History Channel. 

I used some materials on hand to make a sprouter for the farm animals.

I planted tomato and herb seeds in the greenhouse.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

52 New Recipes Week 5: Peach Jalapeno Jam

I like to look at the specialty products in the grocery store.  Then I come home and figure out how to make them myself.  One of item that recently caught my eye was peach jalapeno jam.  Before the freezing weather here, I picked the last of the jalapeno peppers and stored them in the refrigerator.  I already had peaches prepped for jam in the freezer. 

I prefer low sugar jam as it lets the flavor of the fruit shine.  I used this recipe from Pomona pectin.  My only change next time will be to leave add in some of the seeds from at least one of the jalapeno peppers.  I wanted more heat.  Otherwise it was a delicious jam, and one I will make again.

I ate it on an English muffin with a bit of cream cheese.  I think the strawberry-jalapeno jam will be good also. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

2017 Goals Week 6

1.  Completely Finish the House
I am still waiting patiently.  I should probably start a to do list to keep us on track once the work does begin.

2.  Plan Ahead for Birthday and Holiday Gifts
I realized that I will need three wedding gifts, a baby gift, and a graduation gift this year. I will need to up my gift savings amount now to compensate for that.  My budget will handle these extra gifts if I set aside the money in advance.

3. Use the Garden to be More Self-Sufficient
I started seeds in peat pellets in the greenhouse.  I like planting seeds for two reasons.  First I can grow varieties of plants that are not available at the local garden center.  Second it is more cost effective.  It does require some advance planning though.  I also started sprouting wheat seeds to feed the rabbits and chickens.  I am hoping this will help lower the feed bill.

4.  Take One Class a Month
I finished several more lessons of garden class.  One of the lessons had me drawing out a garden design and making a five year plan.  It got both W and myself thinking about what things we want to add to the yard/garden over the next few years.  I also enjoyed the lesson on "Artful Touches".  I will definitely be keeping my eye out for art that I can add to the garden area.

5.  Pack Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes on a Budget
I ordered some stickers from Amazon.  I got 1000 for $5.  They are the larger circle stickers.  I add some to all of my boxes each year.  I also crocheted a couple more wash cloths.

6.  Boost Savings
I was able to set aside the majority of my church cleaning check for the credit card debt.  We are slowly but surely knocking that out!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Weekend Book Review: Succulents

Robin Stockwell's Succulents provides a wealth of information on this easy to grow variety of plants.  The beginning of the book is focused on succulents planted in the yard.  The pictures are lovely, but for my yard it is was not as all helpful.  Further into the book are examples of DIY projects using succulents.  This is a bit more helpful but still left a little to be desired for me.

The best parts of the book are the last two sections:  My Favorite Plants and Planting and Care.  The first includes a very comprehensive list of succulents.  It includes types of succulents and the varieties for each type.  This is wonderful for choosing exactly what succulents you want.  The final section provides all of the information you need to properly plant and maintain your succulents.  

While the first half of the book might be lacking, the second half more than makes up for it.  This book is great for beginners and seasoned succulent growers.  I would have it in my home library for a reference guide if nothing else.  If you are a fan of succulents, this book is definitely worth checking out!

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

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Weekend Book Reviews

Murder Go Round by Carol J. Perry is book four in the Witch City Mystery series.  I have not read any of the previous books in this series, but I had not problem following the characters and story of this book.  Lee and her Aunt Ibby purchase a locker at a storage auction which yields some treasures and a pile of trash and trouble.  The mystery pulls in historical aspects which I enjoyed.  The characters were fun, and the setting of Salem was wonderful.  I did need to adjust to Lee's psychic powers, and the part they played in the book.  I did like what the cat, O'Ryan, added to the book.  Overall this was a good book with an equally good mystery.  I am already looking forward to reading the previous books as well as the next in this series!

Murder Wears White by Stephanie Blackmoore is book two in the Wedding Planner Mystery series.  I had read the previous book, but it is not necessary to make the current book enjoyable.  Renovations on Mallory's bed and breakfast are underway.  They get pushed into overdrive when a June wedding gets pushed up to November.  As if that were not enough, Mallory's sister and most of the contractors believe that the B&B is haunted.  To complicate matters further the bride's aunt dies as the result of an allergic reaction.  This book is full of action and several subplots.  I solve one of the mysteries within the mystery very early on.  The main mystery kept me guessing until the end though.  I enjoyed this book just as much as the first.  Stephanie Blackmoore's series continues to be one of my new favorites.

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

Friday, February 3, 2017

Frugal Friday

I opted to order all of my garden seeds from one company this year. It saved on shipping since Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds offers flat rate shipping.

I was not able to get any lunchbox pepper seeds as Baker Creek does not carry them.  Instead I bought lunchbox peppers which were on sale this week.  I will eat the peppers and plant the seed!

I thought about buying birthday cards since I had not gotten around to making any for February birthdays.  In the end I got in my craft room and made birthday and anniversary cards for this month.  I will work on the cards for the remainder of this year over the next few weeks.  I saved myself a minimum of $4 this month and $30+ over the entire year.  It just took a bit of motivation to save the money.

I made some note cards for writing to friends.  I realize I could write letters on plain paper, but I like to send letters written on fun paper.

I used some coupons on planned purchase items at the grocery store to save some money.

I used an Amazon discount code to get inexpensive vitamins.  I ordered a couple of things for the shoeboxes and chose no rush shipping.  I have enough credits for a free movie rental for February and a cheap date night.

I have been drinking water in a reusable water bottle.

I intentionally chose flower seeds for my bee/butterfly garden that are drought tolerant and will reseed.

I watched tv shows and some movies for free though Crackle and Vudu.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

53 New Recipes Week 4: Cinnamon Strudel Coffee Creamer

One thing I used to love was flavored coffee creamers.  When I started cutting back on processed foods, those coffee creamers were one of the first things to go.  I do miss them from time to time.  This week's recipe is a simple but yummy one.  I made Homemade Cinnamon Strudel Coffee Creamer.

I do not have a picture as coffee creamer is not particularly exciting.  I will tell you that it was easy to make.  I did a half recipe of half & half, maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla. (I did not have any almond extract so I just omitted it.)

The smell of the cinnamon mixture hitting the hot coffee is heavenly.  I normally skip sugar in my coffee, but the maple syrup has just the tiniest bit of sweetness.  The above link takes you to a page with several options if cinnamon is not your thing.  Once I get some almond extract I will definitely be trying the chocolate almond coffee creamer.

I doubt I will make this an everyday addition to my coffee.  I will make it an occasional treat though. Are you a fan of flavored coffees?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

In The Garden

Work in the garden was minimal this week.  I did a quick check of the plants growing in the raised beds - a few herbs, garden peas, kale, and radishes.  I watered everything in the greenhouse a couple of times.  Since I had gone through my seeds, I placed my seed order.  This year I purchased all of my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  Not only are the seeds excellent quality, the prices of the seeds are very reasonable and shipping is a minimal flat rate charge.  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is easily my favorite seed company.

What did I order?  My process always starts with a list of what I need, followed by a list of what I need and larger list of what I want, and eventually I get to the final list  that is a scaled down version of list two.

Kiwi Plants - 3
Cherokee Tomato
Blue Berries Tomato
Yellow Pear Tomato
Honey Rock Melon

Gaillardia Indian Blanket
Butterfly Weed
Sweet Sultan Imperialis
Tall Sweet Alyssum
Gillia Globe
Blue Sage

A few items on my final list were out of stock so if those come back in stock I will purchase them.  I purchased more wildflower seeds since I talked W into adding a flower bed along a section of fence that borders a neighbor's property.  The flower bed means that he will not need to weed eat or spray the fence row so it was not a hard sell.  My plan is to attract more bees, wasps, beneficial insects, butterflies and hummingbirds to the yard.  I will add some of the flowers in my vegetable garden as well.  These flowers will self-seed, and I can collect seeds to put flower beds along other areas of our property.  The initial investment will be well worth it in the long run.

This is not an entire list of what I plan to grow.  I do have a pile of seeds left from last year.  I will still need to purchase some pepper plants and will probably find other seeds that was not on the original list.  I try to be strong while walking through the garden section, but I slip a bit each spring.

Have you ordered your garden seed yet?  What is on your must plant list this year?  Do you have a favorite seed company?