Friday, September 4, 2015

Heart of Texas Volume 1 Book Review

I was totally out of library books and I was looking for books in a series that I picked out as one of my free books but I couldn't get them in stock in any of the libraries around my house.  I decided to grab something and start a series but went to the library with no preparations, I was looking at the shelves with confusion and very little time with my little helper showing his impatience in doing something that wasn't about him.  I picked out Heart of Texas Volume 1: Lonesome Cowboy\Texas Two-Step


Promise, a ranching community in the Hill Country, is a place with a mysterious past and more than its share of secrets. It's also a place where family and friendship matter….

Lonesome Cowboy

Savannah Weston lives quietly on the family ranch with her brother, Grady. Until she encounters a stranger named Laredo Smith, a disenchanted cowboy who just might change her life—in the best possible way!

Texas Two-Step

After her father's death, Ellie Frasier takes over the feed store in Promise. Still in mourning, she relies on her friends for comfort. But now her long-standing relationship with one of those friends, rancher Glen Patterson, seems to be turning into something else….

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Easy Stir Fry Recipe (made with stuff around the house)

I was set on making stir fry for dinner but we have used a bunch of different options previously and I was putting an end to it (mostly based on poor planning but trying to be frugal).  We have used jarred sauce, bagged sauce, pre-packaged kits and spice packets previously looking for something to rival take out Chinese food.  We did find some that we liked but it was discontinued and too expensive to eat often.  I defrosted the chicken cubes and bought the green beans but didn't have any sauce for dinner so I was off to the internet and I found this recipe (here).


I started by coating the chicken with corn starch.  We found this to be a wonderful a way to get a crunchy outside on the chicken to make it taste a little bit more like take out.  It is easiest to shake in a bag or you can use a bowl if you don't like to use plastic bags.  I used the same bag that I froze the chicken in so there wasn't any added trash.  Sorry, I never take pictures of raw chicken if I can avoid it because I have "chicken hands" because I am touching it and no one wants to see it. This is a picture of my freezer from my old house...can't wait to fill up the freezer again at the new house.



Add the chicken (or other meat) to hot oil like canola or vegetable oil mixed with sesame oil (if you have it which I didn't).  I added a little garlic to the pan because I think that it infuses the flavor into the meat.  Cook the chicken on all sides until crispy.   Add veggies and more garlic or oil if needed.  Stir fry until the vegetables are warmed or browned.  We did green beans and I might have overcooked a little but it was still yummy. 



Add the mixed stir fry sauce and boil until it thickens.  I used about half of the jar.  The small black bits are because I decided to put minced garlic in the oil while stir frying because I didn't know if the sauce would have enough flavor but it was totally unnecessary.



Serve over rice or pasta.  If you are interested, you can also mix the rice or pasta in the sauce to have added flavor to the whole dish.  I like to do it with pasta but not as much with rice unless throwing in leftover rice to heat up.  There are plenty of options to make this dish your own. 


I hope that you try it out for yourself.  It is super easy to make the sauce and this yummy dish that tastes like good Chinese food at home.  Next time, I might add a little bit of crushed red chili flakes to spice it up!!  We like our Chinese food spicy.

 

Easy Stir Fry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 -3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 14 c brown sugar, packed
  • 14 tsp ground ginger (or a bit of fresh minced ginger)
  • 2 cloves garlic or 1 tsp minced or chopped
  • 12 c soy sauce or Ponzu sauce
  • 14 c cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • 12 c water
  • 1 12 c vegetable broth or 1 12 cups beef broth or 1 12 cups chicken broth (based on what you are cooking)
  • 1 tbsp teriyaki sauce

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large glass jar with a lid.
  2. Screw lid on.
  3. Shake well.
  4. Can store in fridge up to 2 weeks.
  5. Shake well before using.
  6. To use sauce: stir fry your vegetables and meat as desired, add appropriate amount of sauce, bring to a boil, boil for 1 minute or until slightly thickened.
  7. Serve over rice or pasta.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

First Trip to the Grocery Store to start the Month off Right!!

I was trying to go to the store at the end of the month even though I was crazy over budget but I didn't get time.  I finally made it on Tuesday but had to take a sick kid with me so it took a little pre-planning.  Sadly, my coupons were a mess.  I worked on Monday to go through all my coupons and pull the expired coupons and all those that were expiring on the last day of the month.  Then, I still have 7-8 inserts to cut and put in my coupon basket. I didn't get two of them cut but I had to make it out of the because it was already noon.  My husband was also sick and ate all the soup on the house so I needed to get noodles and drop them off to him at work as well as make it home to meet up with a friend at 1:30.


I made it to Harris Teeter with very little organization and only a list in my head.  Not the best thing to do with a sick kid in the heavy kid cart.  I almost took out three people in the produce section just trying to drive to the free cookie station.  They only have the low sugar option but my son doesn't care as long as there is a cookie to be eaten.  We were then off to shopping and here is what I got:


I got the Coke deal which was buy 2 and get three free and the cases were $6.99 each.  I thought that I had coupons but I must have used them or hidden them because I couldn't find them anywhere so they were $2.80 per case.  My husband is in the middle of big Coke addiction so I grabbed him three so that I would hope to get through a lot of the month and added two diet for me. 

Some stuff was purchased just with sale price to get great deals including the corn tortillas $0.99, String cheese $1.83, and Cheddar Cheese sticks $1.84, Jif Peanut Butter $1.47, Ramen Noodle 6 pack $1.17, and lettuce $0.99. I got two jars of Pringles at regular price but used a coupon to get them for $0.94 each.

There were some things that I got on sale and with coupon to add up my savings.  I got a roll of Bounty towels for $1.50, Puffs tissues for $1.17, Blue Bunny ice cream $2.39 and Lunchmeat $1.24  The best deal that I got was three bags of Perdue pre-cooked chicken which were on sale for $3.50 and they had $2.00 meat coupon on them and I had a $0.75 coupon off each bag that doubled so they were all free.  SCORE!!!

I used some rain checks to get some deals.  I did find my $1/2 coupons for any Quaker items so I used the rain check to get buy one, get one free Quaker Oatmeal (limit 4).  I grabbed my son's favorite Dinosaur oatmeal (in case you haven't had it, there are little eggs that hatch into dinosaurs so that the kids dig to get all of the dinos) so they ended up being $1.20 per box.  I also used the rain check to get some Domino's sugar to get them for $1.99 each and used my coupons to get $.75/2 so they ended up being $1.24 each and I got to stock the new kitchen on much needed and used items.

I put in the lettuce rebate in for $0.25 so I will get that huge rebate back soon.  Overall, I thought it was a success even though they were out of a few things.  I grabbed some rain checks and forget to get one that I needed because I didn't write them down as I was going because I had my little man and the huge kids shopping cart which is hard to fit anything into!!  One trip down for the month and many more to come.

Total Retail $123.61
Total Savings $82.35
Total OOP $41.26

Kids Wednesday: Making Homemade Lemonade into a science experiment

My son decided that he wanted to make lemonade because he loves lemonade so we went to find lemons.  They weren't pretty and they were a little overpriced at $3.50 for the bag but we decided to get them anyway because we were currently on a mission to make this lemonade and knew that no one would have them cheaper then Aldi.






My mother washed the lemons.  My son rolled them to get the juice loose.



My husband was in charge of juicing the lemons with the wonderful handheld juicer that my in laws purchased for me from Christmas.






We were left with a pile of lemons that were very sad looking



Then my mom decided that she wanted to zest the lemons.  She did a few that were whole and went back and did some of the already juiced ones.


After getting a cup of lemon juice and only a few lemons left in the bag, we decided it was time to stop.






We put away everything in order to have dinner which is what I was doing during this process that was happening all over the dinning room table.  We started round two the next day.  I got out the pitcher, measuring cup and the lemon juice.  I added 8 cups of water which ended up filling up most of the pitcher which was perfect.



The lemon juice had a few seeds and lots of pulp so I decided to use a fine mesh strainer.



After looking at the strainer, I was glad that I used it!  It took out a lot of the pulp and the seeds so that I didn't have to stick my hand into the juice.


While that was going, we made a simple syrup (also known as dissolving sugar in water).  We put one cup of water on the stove.  My son measured (with a little help) one cup of sugar and poured it in the pot.  Some got out as always does when a 6 year old is pouring and my mom cleaned it off and put it into the pot...which then had a very suspicious basil or oregano floating in so you know that it wasn't cleaned off great from the last use. I picked out the unwanted spice and suggested that the rest go into the trash can.


It dissolved pretty quickly to show my son that it was water soluble and he was quickly done stirring it.  I was left alone in the kitchen to stir the sugar water and watch for it to boil which happened pretty quickly after I turned up the temperature a little.  I let it cool and then added it to the lemon and water mixture to make lemonade.  My family had their glasses of lemonade for dinner that next night.  We got to make something my son loves and talk a little bit about science so it was a victory!

When I went searching for the right quantities, I found that everyone makes this in huge batches but we were looking to make it with our one cup of lemon juice which worked out perfectly to a pitcher so we changed the quantities down and went with this recipe because who can go wrong with the Pioneer Woman!!


Homemade Lemonade


Ingredients

  • 1 cups Sugar
  • 1 cup Water
  • 10-12 whole Lemons, Juiced for 1 cup of juice
  • 8 cups water (additional)

Preparation Instructions

Juice the lemons and chill the lemon juice if you have the time.

Heat 1 cups sugar with 1 cups of water in a medium saucepan until it's dissolved. Set this in the fridge to cool.

Measure 8 cups of water into pitcher.  Strain the lemon juice into pitcher. Pour in cooled syrup/sugar water.  Stir until combined.  Add more syrup if it needs sweetness, or more water if it needs dilution.  Make sure if you are going to serve over ice that you leave it a little stronger.

Serve immediately!





"Tis the Season Book Review (including Under the Christmas Tree, Midnight Confessions, and Backwards Glance)

I was going through the library catalog trying to find anything that I hadn't read by some of my favorite authors and I found this book,'Tis The Season: Under the Christmas Tree\Midnight Confessions\Ba​ckward Glance (A Virgin River Novel) by Robyn Carr.  It was a book with three short stories in but when I got it home, I realized that two of the short stories were in other books that I read but I was pretty sure that I had read the last one.  Well, it had been awhile so I decided to read the book since I went through the effort of reserving it.





'Tis the season for family, friendship and the thrill of a holiday romance…

Under the Christmas Tree 

With snow falling over the redwood forests, secluded Virgin River is the ideal place to spend the holidays. Each year, the close-knit community gathers in the town square to decorate and light a massive tree. Carols are sung, hot chocolate is shared—and a surprise left under the Christmas tree is about to bring two special people together!

Midnight Confessions 

Holiday kisses don't end with Christmas—there's still the New Year's Eve party at Jack's Bar to attend. Locals and newcomers alike find themselves eager for that special countdown…and that midnight kiss. The only two single people in the bar who are left after the 9 pm bedtime of most of the town decide to spend some time talking and comparing notes on past relationships.

Backward Glance

A bonus short story which originally published in Apr. 1991 in the "To Mother With Love" anthology, along with stories by Linda Howard and Cheryl Reavis. This is the story of Leigh Brackon and John McElroy, reunited lovers who need to get beyond their pasts (and one big secret) in order to find their future.

Even though I read the first two in other books, I enjoyed the book.  Although I guess if I went to the effort to purchase the book thinking that it was a new book, I would be a little more upset.  This is a nice book with three short stories that aren't related but are all entertaining.  The hard part is that it usually makes you want a little more of the characters.  I have already read the Virgin River and Grace Valley series so there isn't a lot more to read while waiting for new books to come out.  I hope that you check out this book if you are interested in a little introduction to the series.  Just beware that the stories may pop up in other books if you jump into the series.  I hope that you enjoy this and pick it up at your local library to check it out for yourself.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

One Wish Book Review

I read this in a day like less than 12 hours! One Wish (Thunder Point) by Robyn Carr came off a long reserve list and was on my shelf at exactly the right time.  I finished the whole other series that I was reading and had no library books left in my pile.  I got a migraine and was super exhausted but totally bored.  I stayed in bed all day and finished this book in a day.  It was super great and hard to put down even though I really wanted to take a nap.  I couldn't stop reading!!!!





Grace Dillon was a champion figure skater until she moved to Thunder Point to escape the ruthless world of fame and competition. And though she's proud of the quiet, self-sufficient life she's created running a successful flower shop, she knows something is missing. Her life could use a little excitement. In a community where there are few eligible singles, high school teacher Troy Headly appoints himself Grace's fun coach. When he suggests a little companionship with no strings attached, Grace is eager to take him up on his offer, and the two enjoy…getting to know each other.  But things get complicated when Grace's past catches up with her, and she knows that's not what Troy signed up for. Faced with losing her, Troy realizes Grace is more than just a friend with benefits. He's determined to help her fight for the life she always wished for but never believed she could have—and maybe they can find real love along the way.

It was a little hard to clear the cobwebs in my brain and think back to the last book that I read in this series (especially with my headache).  I remember loving this little seaside town but the people and all of the histories were a little slow to come back.  You don't need to read the previous books in the series in order to enjoy this great story.  These characters are so great to watch grow and fall in love.  Grace kept all of her past secret from everyone in the town and they slowly all learned the truth but it didn't change their opinion of her or how they treated her except for Troy.  Troy thought he was okay with all of the past coming out but when presented with the reality, it was a little different then what he thought.  Grace and Troy have a lot to work out if they want to stay together.  I hope that you check this out at your local library or bookstore soon!!  I promise you will love this book and all the others in the Thunder Point series with more books coming out soon.  I can't wait for the next in the series to get released because I am already on the wait list at the library :)

End of the Month and Over Budget!!

I guess I should know better than to just buy and stick the receipts in the drawer until the end of the month because I got a lot of things but was over budget.  Here is what I bought for the month of August.  How did your month go??

Giant $2.78 and $2.50

We were at the beach so my husband needed a shaver and shaving cream because he left his electric shaver at home.  He was willing to not shave but we were there for 5 days so he was starting to get itchy. We also decided to get a gallon of ice cream because it was cheaper then getting ice cream out so we grabbed Friendly's Mint Chocolate Chip which is a favorite flavor of the whole family and the one that was on sale.  We brought cones from Aldi in our food bag so we were all set for eating ice cream and watching fun TV after going to the pool in the hotel.



Aldi $21.10

I grabbed a bunch of things that I didn't think that I was going for but got lots of yummy food and remembered the things that I did go for so it worked out well.  We had been out of parmesan cheese for awhile which I kept forgetting.  I also really wanted celery and blue cheese to make my husband some fun buffalo chicken salad and buffalo chicken rice.



Safeway $64.00

I went crazy with the sale at Safeway and they wouldn't take any of my competitor coupons so I lost out on some money there but I grabbed a ton of food including 4 cases of soda, 1 case of Redds Apple Ale, 3 peanut butter, 5 Buddig ham, 4 Cran Grape Juice,  8 boxes Granola Bars, 2 boxes of oatmeal, bag of Doritos, 4 lb Sugar, Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, Fruit slice candy, firecracker popsicles and green beans.  It wasn't the best shopping that I have even done but I got lots of stuff that we wanted and saved over 50%



Harris Teeter $9.55

 I wasn't sure what was on sale but I went to get some stuff and check out the deals.  I ended up finding the Cheez Its and remembering the coupon made them $1 a box.  I grabbed two boxes of my husband's favorite breakfast cereal.  I also grabbed string cheese and eggs because I thought that we might need those.  Eggs have been so expensive so I figured that $1.47 was as good as I was going to get for awhile but I probably didn't need them that early because I didn't do a lot of baking through the month and just finished my 18 pack of eggs at the end of the month.



Safeway $2.84

We went while running around and I had to stop at Safeway again because I really wanted these taco shells but I left the coupon on the printer at home last time.  Then, it turned out that I couldn't use the coupon because I loaded a coupon on my Safeway online thing so I could have gotten them on the last trip.  UGH!!  Oh well, I think that they had different choices at this different Safeway so I am just going to be excited that I had enough time to stop.  I love hard shells especially the nacho cheese ones.  YUM!



Harris Teeter $4.15

I got a chance to go back and pick up four more boxes of the Toasty Cheez Its which were a great deal at $1 a box after sale and coupon.  I couldn't pass those up and these are super yummy!!  



Aldi $12.37

I was sad about the price of the potatoes but my son loves the homemade fries and we had been out of potatoes for awhile and the price didn't seem to be changing at all.  I had to get the hand sanitizer for my son's school supplies and Aldi had it the cheapest.



Wegman's $7.72 (My mom gave me $20 for check out) 
and Aldi $0 (My mom paid most of it and I chipped in change)

 

Giant $30.63

I had to get the last of the school supplies so I bought the Lysol Wipes, Tissues and Gallon Sized Storage bags.  There was a deal where if you bought $25 worth of groceries, you got the ice cream for $1.99 and the peanut butter for $1.49.  I decided that I would buy the boneless skinless chicken that was on sale for $1.99 per lb.  The granola bars were buy 3, get 2 free and I had two $1/2 coupons leftover from Safeway so they were super good priced.  I also used a competitive coupon for $3 off $15 purchase from Wegman's.  Lots of coupons but the total was still pretty high for what I got.



CVS $12.10

My first trip to the 75% off summer sale.  I grabbed the ice packs because I threw all mine away when we moved because they were the soft packs and they were leaking.  I have already used them to get groceries and keep our picnics cold (I think that they were $0.49 each).  I got the two cups for teacher gifts for $1.49  My son really wanted the face mark so I got that for around $1.50.  The note pads were for my son's birthday party gift bags.  I grabbed 15 notebooks for $0.25 each.  Super excited to stock up on things when you can get them this cheap.



CVS $6.36

Playground balls were originally $6.99 so it was a great deal to get them for $1.75 so I will have them for presents for birthdays.  The dive fun was $0.75 so we have already used them at the pool.



CVS $19.77

I went to my third CVS and grabbed a bunch more things including smaller ice packs $0.32, toothpicks and holders $0.25, Mason Jar cups for teacher gifts $0.49, and microwave covers $0.49.  I grabbed the toy for my son because he thought that it looked fun when someone else was playing with it.  I also grabbed the 20 oz and 24 oz cups for $1.49 and $1.99.  I think that everyone is going to be getting these for Christmas :)


I went a little crazy this month but I grabbed the 75% deals at CVS including the ice packs that I really needed since all of my other ones started leaking.  These will be super great to get groceries with!!  I now have 6 big ones and 4 small ones.  I also grabbed some stuff for teacher gifts and birthday gifts for kids birthdays.  I grabbed 15 notepads for the gift bags for my son's birthday party goodie bags.  I love to grab the stuff when I can get it cheap because I can give more and much nicer things so I don't have to get cheap junk.  

I was able to stock up on ground beef and chicken that I didn't use during the month because I was finishing up the rest of what I had in the freezer.  Sadly, we went through most of the junk food that we got for the month but luckily, I am getting back into the swing of things and making lots of food from scratch again.  I am hoping to get the family back into the groove of a little cleaner living but they might revolt!!  But I need to make sure to get back under budget for next month.

Total Purchase OOP $195.87

Over budget by $35.87 but it counted in some school supplies and vacation purchases that we would have otherwise spent as a restaurant purchase so it wasn't horrible.

I also did get $2.19 from saving star for Honey Nut Cheerios, Old El Paso Shells, and Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix. I got $0.20 from Ibotta for green beans.  Checkout 51 credited my account $2 for the Cheez Its and Buddig ham.  Total rebates was $4.39 for the month.