Monday, September 30, 2013

Menu Plan Monday 9/30

Monday- Chicken and Rice Casserole
Tuesday- Salsa Sloppy Joes on homemade rolls
Wednesday-Philly Cheese Steak Pasta
Thursday- Basil Parmesan Grilled Chicken with pesto pasta and biscuits
Friday-Tacos with saffron rice and corn bread
Saturday- Little Caesars/Grilled Chicken with white rice
Sunday- Leftovers or Simple Fried Rice with egg rolls/Chinese food

I started to try to plan out the week and then I found out that my parents are coming into town so I am working on a meal plan that will include two extra people for the weekend. We are going to have a lot of things going on with the Christ Church Consignment sale on Saturday and George Mason Library book sale on Sunday.  We need super easy lunches and dinners that aren't going to take a lot of prep time in the kitchen.  I am hoping that I can pull this off but I am not sure.  I put two take out meals in there because my mom loves to take my son to get his favorite pizza and she loves the Chinese food here so she tries to have it every time she is here and we didn't have it last time.  Hope that with these two meals planned in, we have enough time for everything including a special breakfast or two!!

Another month over and I was surprised to see how quickly it went.  I picked up the calendar and tried to put a few meals on the October calendar and I was having a hard time planning on whether it was going to be warm or cold to pick out meals.  Here is hoping that the weather stays cool but we can still do a lot of grilling.  The great thing about the weather in Virginia is that you can basically grill all year.  Of course, that never stopped my mom in Upstate New York because she would shovel a tunnel to the grill to do things in the middle of the winter so I guess where there is a will, there is a way.  I try to move things around so that my husband isn't standing out in the pouring rain or snow while making our yummy dinner but sometime you just have to have some yummy grilled chicken.  Right??  I hope that you have a great month planned and I look forward to sharing my plan with you.

The Confession Book Review

Beverly Lewis' The Confession (The Heritage of Lancaster County) by Beverly Lewis is the second book in the Heritage of Lancaster County series.  I read the first one and have had this on my list for awhile.  I was super excited to get it through the library reserve system.  It was farther down in the stack but when I got to it, I couldn't put it down.

In this book, Katie Lapp has been shunned from her Amish order and is living with Mennonite cousins while trying to figure out her next step in life.  Most of the upheaval happened in the first book so if you haven't read it, you might want to skip this review because it is a spoiler to the first book!!  She decides that she can't delay after hearing that her birth mother is sick and dying.  She calls the operator and gets the numbers for the people with the Bennett and luckily, she reaches the correct house on the third call.  Unfortunately, she reaches her mothers husband and not her mother.  He doesn't give her mother the message and decides instead to make his own plan.  She gets on a bus a few days before Christmas to travel from Pennsylvania to New York.  When she gets to the house, she is greeted by the help and told that things are really busy because the mistresses daughter has returned.  Katie, now going by Katherine because it is the name that her mother gave her, knows that isn't turn and that is only the beginning.  Pick this one up to find out what happens because it is amazing!!

I really enjoyed this book.  I had trouble sleeping one night and I picked up this book and read it from start to finish.  I tried to put it down and get some rest but either the book was that good or I was just not getting sleep because it was done when I put it down and went to bed!  I highly recommend this book but I would start with the first in the series.  I hope that you check them out at your local library or bookstore.  If you have read this series, what did you think?  This is my second series by Beverly Lewis and I can say that I am excited to start the next one!!!  Hope you are too :)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Weekly Goals 9/29

I had a really overwhelming week and I realize that I have to do more on the nights and weekends in order to fit everything into my days.  I have so much stuff to do and so little time to do it in....really wonder how I got it done when I had a job too!!  I didn't go to exercise class on Wednesday or Friday because I had to do things around the house.

Here is a snapshot of my Friday morning after dropping my son off at preschool:  Return books at the library, return vitamins that my son decided that he didn't like at Harris Teeter, get gas (because I was almost out again), get groceries at Giant to use coupons that were going to expire in a few days, go home and unpack everything, clean the counters, clean the floors, put the laundry in the dryer from the load that did early in the morning, and then turn around and go pick up my son.  After I got my son, we went to another Giant to get more of the Gerber stuff with the coupons and then to the library to pick up my books on reserve (because they were closed when I went there in the morning) and then it was past time to go home and have lunch.  We had lunch and did some activities and it was time to start getting ready to make dinner so I put the ingredients in the bread maker to make the pizza dough and then we walked around the neighborhood and played outside.  Brief break to come inside and then we were back outside to ride bikes and Daddy came home so he stayed outside while I went to make three individual pizzas for dinner.  I don't know how I could have made it to exercise class and gotten even a quarter of that done because the exercise class takes up most of the time that my son is in school.  Does anyone have the answer to add more hours into the day??  I really need it or a way to become way more productive while still entertaining a four year old :)

Hope you had a good week and have plans to have an even better week this week!!

Last week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family- We got to spend a lot of time together this week and my husband even got to visit with his sister.
  • Swimming Lessons- This weeks class was a little better.  If there was something that we were supposed to do, I just did a little more then the other kids because my little man is a little bigger then the others and can do it a little faster.  He was getting bored before so I wanted to keep him interested.
  • Get to preschool on time everyday- A fight as always and we barely made it one day because as we were leaving the house, he decided he needed toast and couldn't do it without toast.
  • My Gym class and Open Play- This was our last week of class and I think that he is going to be sad but I am trying to find things to fill in the gaps.
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons- It is a miracle but I cut all of the past coupons that I had on the counter including a pile or inserts that my friend gave me and I cleaned out all the expired coupons in my basket.  I started this last month at the end of the month instead of the beginning of the next month because it gives me a chance to pull at the coupons that expire at the end of the month and figure out if there are any that I would like to use before they expire...seems smart right?  I have a full recycling bin of all the expired ones and then a little basket for those that expire in the next three days which will mostly likely end up in the recycling.  My coupon basket closes now!
  • Get coupons on Friday- My husband went to get the papers at the library after I was unsuccessful earlier in the day with CVS, library and Giant because they weren't delivered yet.  The man at the library told him that he could only take two papers... umm, since when?  So he took two and went to Giant and grabbed the last eight that they had there.  I went to another library by my exercise class on Saturday and got another ten papers and a few books that I wanted to check out.  A little more work this week but mission accomplished.  Now I have three inserts to cut.
  • Go to Jazzercise- I went to Jazzercise on Tuesday and brought my friend with me on Thursday.  I was super glad to have a friend join me!! It is always hard to drag yourself to exercise class but better with a friend.  I made it on Saturday but really didn't want to drag myself out of the house...glad that I did but three times this week again.
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy- I did forget to shut off the computer at the beginning of the week because I was falling asleep on the couch but I got it off most of the times that we left the house so it got lots of rest.
  • Start new book since I just finished my last one- I read a lot this week and finished the next few books.  All of the posts should be up soon because I wrote and scheduled them.
  • Read next book in the pile- I read almost the whole pile this week with the remaining book that I need to read being the book review book that I just started.  I wish that I put that one up top but library books are on a deadline and seem to call to me so I waited to pick up my library reserves until I was reading that book so that I didn't get side tracked again :)
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week- Kitchen was rough this week and I did really well with the counters and horrible with the floors.  I decided that I would clean them on my hands and knees on Friday to make up for it along with the million other things on my list that I wasn't getting done so they are better now.  I wish that I was a neater cook but I think most of kitchen mess is my fault.
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning- This week was rough but my husband washed the dishes two mornings and I finally washed them on Thursday night so that the kitchen would be totally clean on Friday morning to get the last day of the school week off right.  I had so many other things to do during the week that whenever I went into the kitchen, I usually ended up making more dishes instead of cleaning them with muffins and cookie bars and dinner!
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family)- Getting towards the end of the month always makes for a lot of posts to close out the month so there are way more then 7 posts this week.  We are going to reach 1000 posts next month so I am super excited about it!!  I can't believe that I have written that much.
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)- Done
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week- Done but need to do more
  • Post Sunday Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, Kid Wednesday and Thrifty Thursday Tip I did okay this week but with so many other posts up, I did move some other posts to Thursday and skipped the Thrifty Thursday.  I am sure that I could have come up with something but there was nothing burning that I had to get out so I just decided that I would spread out all the other things that I had since I have so many end of the month posts.
This week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family including Grandma and Grandpa
  • Swimming Lessons
  • Get to preschool on time everyday
  • Park on Wednesday since we don't have anymore My Gym classes
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons
  • Get coupons on Friday 
  • Go to Jazzercise 
  • Consignment sale
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy
  • Finish reading Forever Friday by Timothy Lewis
  • Read next book in the pile by Robyn Carr or Beverly Lewis (hopefully both)
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family)
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week
  • Post Sunday Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, Kid Wednesday and Thrifty Thursday Tip 

Big Baking Powder Biscuits

I really wanted more biscuits since the last time that I made them and it has been on my list to make them since I ate the last one.  I found a new recipe over at a new blog that I stumbled upon, I decided that I needed to get up and make them right then!  If you want to check out the new blog called Countrified Hicks, click here to see some of her money saving ideas and great recipes.  I marked a few more to make soon so you will see her again soon.  In her recipe, she also includes a chocolate sauce so if you are thinking how yummy that sounds, make sure you check out the recipe on Countrified Hicks.

I took out everything that I needed....can I tell you how important this is to make sure that you don't have any last minute runs to the store to make a recipe.  I didn't used to do this before I had a blog and often found myself in the middle of recipe without important ingredients.

I put all the dry ingredients into the bowl.

Then, I used the pastry cutter to cut the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients.  I don't think that this is totally necessary but I figured better safe that sorry.  If you want, just mix in with a fork.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  I mixed the egg into the milk but you don't have to do that if you don't want to.

Mix until the fork won't move anymore.

Knead the dough until everything is incorporated.  I do it in the bowl to save on the mess but if your bowl isn't big enough, make sure to flour the counter.

Roll or press out to 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick and cut into size wanted.  Place on baking sheet.

Here is the finished biscuit.  It rose up so nicely!!

Then, I decided that I had to test one hot out of the oven.  I love biscuits and this recipe was great but what made it even better was this Smuckers Natural Jelly!  I got the red raspberry kind and it was amazing.

I decided that I would save some and got one the next day for breakfast and the next and the next!!!  These were amazing and I can't wait to make them again.  I cooked them a little light because I like to put them in the toaster oven to heat up to melt the butter so this is what the top looked like after it was in the toaster oven.

I hope that you try them soon and throw some of the Smuckers Natural Jelly in your cart (nope, not getting any money from them but it is really good so you should try it).  I hope that you enjoy the yummy recipe and don't forget to check out the original recipe for a yummy chocolate sauce if you want to mix it up a little.

Big Baking Powder Biscuits
                                        3 c. flour                                              4 tsp. baking powder
                                        3 tsp. sugar                                          1/2 tsp. salt
                                        1/4 tsp. baking soda                             1/4 c. shortening
                                        1/4 c. margarine, softened                    1 egg
                                        2/3 c. milk.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Add all your dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir with a fork.  Do not use a mixer or biscuits will be tough.  Cut in butter and margarine with pastry blender or fork.

Measure milk and add egg.  Beat slightly and add to dry ingredients.  Mix until combined or until you can't mix anymore.

Knead of a floured surface about 20 times gently (I knead in the bowl to save a mess instead of on the counter so pick a bowl big enough to get your hands in).  Roll out the dough to about 1/4-1/2" thick and cut with biscuit cutter or band lid from a canning jar (if you don't have it, use a glass). 

Place on an ungreased jelly roll pan or cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes depending on size.  I used a 3 7/8 cutter and it made 7 biscuits (original recipe makes 12).

Optional:  Take a stick of margarine and using the end of the stick, smear butter over the top of the biscuits as soon as they come out of the oven.

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cocoa Pebble Treats

I had a few bags of marshmallows left in the cupboard and I just got two boxes of Cocoa Pebbles for free at Harris Teeter.  It was only a matter of time before my son would find the boxes and want to eat them.  Sadly, as tasty as they are as an afternoon treat, they are messy.  I decided to make a bar out of them so that they would be neater.  I got out the needed ingredients during a nap one day when I had an opening to make these without "help".

Pick out a sauce pan that is big enough to hold all of the marshmallows and the cocoa pebbles because I save dishes by mixing everything in the pot.  Add butter or margarine in the pan.  Let the pan heat up while the butter is melting.

It really depends on you but I use 2 tbsps of butter and it turns out tasty but my rule of thumb is to melt the butter before adding the marshmallows.

Then, open the marshmallows and dump them in.  If the butter coats them all, then you are all set.  If they aren't coated and start sticking to the pan, add a little extra butter (which will melt quickly once in the pan). Do you see that the outside of them is a little yellow from the butter?  Might be a little hard to tell in the picture but you can stir and nothing sticks to the sides of the pan.

I use melting marshmallows as arobic activity but it is really up to you.  Turn the heat down to medium or if you are really fast, medium high. Stir until the marshmallows are all melted and let it bubble for a little bit.

While the marshmallows are melting, butter a 9 x 13 pan.  I saved the margarine paper so that I could use that.  There was a little bit of butter on it and it was just enough for greasing the bottom of the pan.  If you want, you can use non-stick cooking spray but there is a great use for the paper in another minute so stay tuned.

Then, remove from heat and add cocoa pebbles.  Stir until combined which is a little difficult but all of the cocoa pebbles should be evenly coated.  I used 6 cups but I might use a little more next time because they were really sticky.

After everything is mixed, pour into the greased pan.  Press down the mixture with the butter paper so that it fills all the corners and is a little more compacted.  If you don't have the butter paper, you can use waxed paper or a plastic bag sprayed with non stick cooking spray.

Cut and enjoy when you would like after they cool.  It is a tasty treat that my son thought was great!

Hope that you try it out and see what your family thinks!  I thought that it was a way to use what was in the house and my son called them sticky treats so I think that we were both pleased.

Cocoa Pebble Treats

6 c Cocoa Pebbles
2 tbsp butter
1 bag mini marshmallows (regular one can be used but it takes a little more time to melt)

Melt 2 tbsps of butter in large sauce pan until melted.  Add marshmallows and stir until melted.  Let bubble for a few minutes before removing from heat.  Add cocoa pebbles and stir.  Once combined, spread in greased 9 x 13 pan and press out.  Serve when cooled.

8 Sandpiper Way Book Review

8 Sandpiper Way (Cedar Cove Novels) by Debbie Macomber was a great read!!  I loved it and was eager to pick it up and start reading because I wanted to know what was going to happen and sad when it was all over!  I enjoyed the book a lot and was sad that I didn't have the next ones to dive into from the library yet.

8 Sandpiper Way is the home of  Emily and Dave Flemming.  Emily is dealing with issues with her husband Dave, the pastor, because she thinks that he is cheating on her.  She tells her mom her concerns and her mom agrees that Dave is hiding something but refuses to believe that he is cheating on her.  More and more evidence piles up and at the same time, Dave is a person of interest in the robbery of an old women who turned up dead.  You have to read this to find out what Dave is hiding and if he did steal the jewelry.  

Troy is dealing with the loss of his relationship with Faith based on the decisions that he made while at the same time, his daughter, Megan is making friends with the new town nurse who is Faith.  Megan decides that this is the right person for her father but it is a little late because Faith refuses to talk to Troy.  Tannith Bliss goes to the local high school and makes friends with Shaw, Anson's friend, over art work.  They work together to improve his art and big surprises come for him.  Christie is dealing with her feelings for James, her sister's driver and trying to make ends meet on her pay from her job at Walmart.  There are more updates with all of your friends at Cedar Cove so pick it up and find out what each of your favorites are up to!!

As always, I love this series and recommend it to everyone.  I enjoyed the different perspective and the new characters in the book and I thought that it gave a new twist to the books to keep the series fresh.  I hope that you pick it up at your local library or bookstore and see if you love it as much as I do.  I can't wait to read the next few in the series.  I think that it is a Christmas one next so I guess I get to really enjoy the colder weather and I might have to curl up with a hot chocolate and read the book.

Friday, September 27, 2013

One Year Book of Amish Peace Book

I have been really into the Amish fiction series through Beverly Lewis, Suzanne Woods Fisher, and more!!  If you have really enjoyed all those reviews then you should check out The One Year Book of Amish Peace: Hearing God's Voice in the Simple Things by Tricia Goyer


There is a new book that is coming out about Amish life, check it out here.  If you want to see a sample of the book, check it out here.  I can't wait to see this great non-fiction book about Amish life.  I have feeling that after all my fiction books, this will be a super great read!!!

74 Seaside Avenue Book Review

74 Seaside Avenue (Cedar Cove) by Debbie Macomber was the 7th book in the series and next in my quest to read the whole series. I started this one right after finishing the last one and with the lack of things on television, it got quickly read.

 74 Seaside Avenue is the home of Bobby and Teri Polgar, newlyweds who are dealing with threats to Teri over Bobby's chess ranking competition.Bobby and Teri were married after a brief love affair showed them how much they meant to each other.  Teri left her small apartment and they bought a new house together on Seaside Avenue.  Teri put a lot of effort into making the house a home while Bobby was busy at chess tournaments. Teri's brother, Johnny, comes to the house to see if Teri will invite the family over for a family dinner which she agreed to do.  Teri's sister, Christie, always tried to pick up the men that Teri was involved with so she had a strained relationship with her.  Her mother, Ruth, had a drinking problem and often got out of hand when alcohol was involved and she brought her own beer to the dinner (and was quickly asked to leave).  However, Teri and Christie rekindled their relationship after Bobby turned down Christie's advances.  Christie starts to have feelings to James, Bobby's Limo driver.

Troy Davis was working with his daughter to clean out all of her mother's clothing so that he wouldn't have to deal with it after loosing Sandy to MS a few months ago.  Justine and Seth were working together to sell the Lighthouse property and open a tea house in town.  Charlotte is working to write down all her recipes for Justine.  Rachel was dealing with her boyfriend, Nate, getting transferred to San Diego with the Navy while she was maintaining her life in Cedar Cove and her friendship with Bruce and Jolene.  Linette McAfee packed up all of her things and left Cedar Cove after having her heart broken by Cal and decided that she was driving across the country until she found a place that she could settle down.  Maryellen was enjoying her new born son, Drake, and three year old daughter, Katie while getting back to a more normal life not on bed rest.  Will Jefferson moves into town and decides that he is interested in buying the art gallery after the owner decided that it was closing.  There are so many things going on with the different characters so pick it up and find out what is going on with your favorite characters.

I highly recommend picking up any book in this series.  This book was an adventure packed book with lots of interesting twists and turns.  I hope that you pick this up at your local library or bookstore soon.  Let me know what you think of it!!!

Month End Coupon Organization

It is that time of the month again to remember to print coupons because some go away at the end of the month....also remember to check back in a few days and see what new ones have appeared!!  Do you know where this month went because I am not sure!!!  The beginning of school and all that September has to bring does change the schedule and make things whiz right by! 

Check the following sites:
This is a good time to remind you to clean out all of the expired coupons and put them in the recycle bin!!  I try to remember to clean out my coupon basket but I usually end up going to the store and realizing that so many are expired that I can't find the ones that I am looking for before I get organized.  Make sure that you get cleaned up so that you can find the coupons you need to save money!!

Make sure you don't miss a coupon!!  Keep this list for next month too because the new coupons are normally loaded at the beginning of the month so it is a great time to go back and check.  Please let me know if there are any other coupon websites that you like to visit and I will gladly add them to the list.  Hope you all had a wonderful month and I look forward to hearing all about it!!!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

6 Rainier Drive Book Review

6 Rainier Drive (Cedar Cove) by Debbie Macomber is the 6th book in the Cedar Cove series.  I was excited to start this one after finishing the last one.  I seem to have the problem now that I am starting (or even reading the whole book) before I write the review and then writing it later and trying to not give away the ending because I already know!  I think that I need to start the review about the book when I first start the book so that I don't give away the end :)

6 Rainier Drive is the address for Seth and Justine Gunderson who are the owners of the Lighthouse Restaurant that was burned down and they were trying to find answers.  The couple was going through a hard time adjusting to life without the schedule that they were keeping at the restaurant and dealing with the emotions that someone set the fire intentionally.  The main suspect was one of the high school students, Anson, who was fired over missing money from the cash box at the restaurant.  Anson had disappeared on the night of the fire and the last person to see him was Allison Cox, his girlfriend.  She continued to believe that he couldn't have done it but the police still had him as a person of interest.  The evidence piled up because he came to her smelling like smoke, disappeared the night of the fire and then his cross was found at the scene.

There are so many other people in Cedar Cove with exciting events going on in their lives.  Maryellen Bowman was on bed rest so was left to sleep on the sofa during the last five months of her pregnancy.  Her husband, Jon, is a photographer who also made extra money working at the Lighthouse Restaurant.  When that burned down, the family was struggling even more to make ends meet since Maryellen had to quit her job at the studio.  Jon's estranged parents came to help around the house when Jon had to take on another job during the day and there was no one to watch Katie, their three year old daughter.  Jon left during the hours that his parents were at the house and they lived at a hotel in town but Maryellen and Katie really enjoyed having them around.  Maryellen's mother, Grace, was working on her relationship with her new husband, Cliff but still find time to come out to visit Maryellen three times a week when she wasn't working at the town library.  Cliff was a kind man and did what he did to help out like sending out her hair and nail people to give her a haircut and do her nails since she couldn't leave the house.  They also hired cleaners and sent food over as often as possible.  There are so many other things going on in this book so you better pick it up to find out what your favorite characters are up to!!

I hope that you have taken my reviews seriously and picked up one of these books (if not I am sure you are sick of the reviews but stay tuned because I plan on getting through the whole series).  I love to start at the beginning of the series and work my way through and this one is really easy because it starts with the first number of the house and it goes through so the first book was 16 (using the "1" to signify the first book), the second was 204 , third was 311, fourth was 44, and fifth was 50.  It is easy to pick the next one off the shelf because you just pick the one with the next number!!  I hope that you have taken my advice and picked up one but if not, this is the time to visit your local library or bookstore and pick one up!!  I promise that you won't be disappointed in these fast paced novels which leave you feeling like you are a part of the town.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Kids Reading and Math: Ten Dots

Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews is a great book!!!  I heard it recommended in a few different places so I grabbed it one day when we were at the library.  We read it while we were there and had a blast.  Both my son and I were interested to see what the next picture was going to look like as well as counting the number of dots on the page just to make sure it was the right number.

Each page gives a different number with a picture drawn around that number of dots.  There is one dot that makes a sun or a moon.  Two dots makes the eyes of a fox or the eyes of keys that open locks.  It goes from one to ten which my son was interested in around 2-3 years old.  It has a good rhythm to the writing as well as simple pictures that the kids enjoy.  Amazon recommends the book for ages 4-8 years old but I would say that it is good for a much younger audience too for first exposures to numbers.  Great for parents or teachers to introduce the numbers, counting and the pictures that correspond.  It is much better then some other bedtime books that we get to read every night at our child's request so introduce this book and see what your child thinks.

There are a bunch of different things that you can do after reading this book to follow up with all of the learning that it provides. The main suggestion that I have found is to put a number of dots on the page and have your child draw a picture with it but my son immediately went and got the book and only wanted to copy the pictures in the book instead of coming up with other pictures.  I suggested other pictures to draw and he said that it wasn't right.  I hope that this is something that might come with a little more maturity but it might be a different type of child who loves the artistic creativity that activity allows.

My little guy loves numbers and math so we started with the chart at the end of the book and made our own.  It was super fast for me to make up with a marker and a ruler on a regular 8 1/2 x 11 piece of copy paper.  I drew the line and wrote in the numbers and my four year old used the Bingo "dotters" to make the dots.  He counted and re-counted each line to make sure that there were the right number on each line.  He had a little trouble fitting in 10 on the last line but made the last one squeeze in.  If you don't have the bingo markers, use stickers for the same effect.

If you don't have any of the bingo or dot markers already at home, I highly recommend checking your local dollar store because there are millions of uses for these great tools and they are only a dollar each.  We have three colors and use them all the time for different crafts.   They are great for doing adding and subtracting as well as the bingo pictures.  They can be used as markers that are easier for little hands.  I am sure that once you have them in your house, you will come up with a million different crafts just as I have to use them!

After we finished this, my little guy wanted to continue with the dots to see what else we could do.  We made patterns by holding three dots together and putting them on the page.  Then, my son decided that it looked like a dot to dot picture and connected all of the dots.  Then, he wanted another one so we made a second one.  It is a good activity even if it doesn't make a picture because you can tell them to connect just one color dot or other instructions to make them stop and think.  

What crafts can you think of using dots??  I hope that you check out the book and do a few crafts with your kids because they will really enjoy reading this creative book which practices their counting.  I know that I enjoyed it too!!

50 Harbor Street Book Review

50 Harbor Street (Cedar Cove) by Debbie Macomber is the fifth in the series and the next in my pile to read.  I was excited to find this on the shelf at the library when I was searching so I grabbed it up before I found the earlier book.  Glad to be able to pick up the next in the series right after finishing the previous one!

50 Harbor Street is the location that Corrie and Roy McAfee live.  Roy is a private investigator working on a bunch of different cases, including the mystery of who is sending the postcards and messages to Corrie and himself.  Their daughter, Linnette, moves to Cedar Cove to be a physician's assistant at the medical clinic.  She has a date set up with Cal Washburn, purchased from the Dog and Bachelor Auction by her mother.  Their son, Mack, is at odds with his father but working to make his own life with his new dog from the auction and working as a volunteer fireman in Seattle.  

Cliff and Grace have a few more ups and downs with their relationship which is on again and off again and then some.  Maryellen is put on bed rest with their second pregnancy while Jon is left to care for everything else around the house and trying to make ends met on one income.  Kelly, Maryellen's pregnant sister, is no longer able to care for her sister's daughter because of sickness during pregnancy adding more stress to the situation.  Jack and Olivia deal with their difference in house keeping skills and healthy eating.  Allison Cox is trying to live through her boyfriend, Anson, dealing with legal issues after burning down a shed in the park.  Cecilia and Ian are dealing with a second pregnancy after loosing their first daughter shortly after her birth.  Full of more surprises and twists and turns.  I don't want to ruin yet another book so pick it up and check it out yourself!!

I love this book and all of the others in the series.  It feels like the characters are friends that you might have show up on your doorstep after getting into this series which I always love.  I can't wait to get to the next book in the series because it always gets more and more interesting.  I hope that you check out this book and the rest of the series at the at your local library or bookstore soon!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

44 Cranberry Point Book Review

44 Cranberry Point (Cedar Cove) by Debbie Macomber was the next in the series and not available at my branch of the library.  I put it on reserve at the library and waited patiently for it to come into the library while reading a bunch of other books to distract me.  I was excited to get it as soon as it came in and started reading!

In this book, the title location is the address for the Thyme and Tide bed and breakfast that is run by Bob and Peggy Beldon.  They are trying to get past the death of a man in their establishment while deciding that they are in danger and closing the B&B to guests.  The man turned out to be a friend of Bobs from Vietnam and the second man dead in their four man team.  The business shut down causes a financial strain since that is their source of income.  But Peggy and Bob let Hannah Russell move in, the daughter of the dead solider, while she is trying to find her way.

At the same time, the book follows all of the other characters through their trials and tribulations.  Cecilia Randall is dealing with being pregnant and having her husband going away for 6 months on an aircraft carrier missing the birth of their second child.  The first died after a few hours of life and almost cost the young couple their future together.  Maryellen Sherman moved out of her rented apartment and in with her new husband Jon Bowman but they are on shaky ground when she contacts his estranged parents against his wishes.  Charlotte Jefferson goes in front of the court for civil disobedience after protesting to get a health clinic in town.  The fight was worth it because she finally gets her health clinic and she grows even closer to her partner in crime, Ben Rhodes.  Grace Sherman is working to gain back the trust of Cliff Harding through e-mails, letters and daily attention after their date purchased by all of her friends through the Dog and Bachelor Auction to benefit the animal shelter.  There was lots going on with all of the characters in this book but I don't want to give it away so pick it up and check it out!!!

As always, Debbie's books have great characters and great story lines.  I hope that you pick up this one or any other from the series from your local bookstore or library soon. It is well worth it and I look forward to the new series on the Hallmark Channel even though I don't have it!!  Has anyone seen it??  I am already started on the next book so stay tuned for the next review soon!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Menu Plan Monday 9/23

Monday- Campbell's Fire Roasted Chicken
Tuesday-French Dip Sloppy Joe with melted cheese
Wednesday- Spiedies with white rice
Thursday- Sausage Tortelloni
Friday- Tacos
Saturday- Leftovers/Chicken Nuggets and Mac and Cheese
Sunday- Leftovers/Breakfast for Dinner

Trying a new Campbell's pouch on Monday which I am not sure if we are going to eat over rice or in wraps.  It depends on how it tastes when it is cooked.  I am excited to try it and see how we like it (and use up something in the pantry that has been sitting there for awhile not getting used).  We really liked the sesame garlic chicken one so I am holding out a lot of hope!  Hope you have a yummy meal plan this week too.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Weekly Goals 9/22

This week went by super quickly with a million things to do.  Getting my little man to and from school doesn't give me a lot of time to get things done.  If I exercise on his short days, I have just enough time to get home and shower and pick him up.  It is a hard to get anything done to be productive but I have taken my son to go run a few errands and I think that we got everything done that we needed to through the week.  We even got to have an extra fun surprise with a My Gym open house on Friday!!  It was a great week for both of us with little man using up all his energy without destroying the house :)  Sadly, we both got sick right after that so hoping to shake it off quickly.  Hope that you had a great week too!!

Last week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family - We had a good week of family dinners and games to keep us busy but we have still had a lot of playing outside.  We are enjoying the cooler weather and getting things done outside before the weather gets too cold!
  • Swimming Lessons- The lessons were a little basic and there was way more talking then doing but I guess it was nice to get in the water and we stayed after to play for a little longer in the pool.  I might get there a few minutes early next time so that he can get more of his energy out before class so that he will stop and listen to the teacher but it is hard for him to stop while he is in the water because that isn't what we normally do at the pool.
  • Get to preschool on time everyday- It might have been hard to get everyone out the door in the mornings but we did it!
  • My Gym Class- Although he is exhausted after a long day at school, I think that this is still a good thing for him to get his crazy out and he is really enjoying it.  I hope that we can do another class soon but last week is out last one :(
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons- With triples in the middle that came up as a surprise to me, I didn't even get to the pile of coupons that I had to cut from this week.  There were three inserts so I started the process of sorting and cutting on Friday.  I got two inserts sorted by lunch and then was starving and had to stop :)  I hope to finish on Sunday.
  • Get coupons on Friday - I have to remind myself a million times that it is Friday so that I make it to the library but I am getting better.  Once I am settled into the routine of getting my son from school and getting the papers, I will probably be better off!!  We had to go to CVS so I grabbed them when we went to use my expiring ECBs!
  • Go to Jazzercise- I made it Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.  It is hard to go and exercise when I have so many things to do around the house so I was super productive with all of my chores around the house so that I would make the most of my "free" time on Wednesday, making pumpkin muffins, rolls, 2 loads of laundry, making ice tea and picking up which was just enough time.
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy- I shut the computer off every night and some when I left the house and it seems to be doing well this week :)
  • Finish 74 Seaside Avenue by Debbie Macomber- I read it and posted the review
  • Read next book in the pile either Debbie Macomber or book review book- I read the next Debbie Macomber book and posted the review.  Then, I read another Amish fiction book which was great.  I am running low on books in my pile but I think that I have some coming in soon from the library reserve.
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week- I cleaned up the kitchen this week but keeping up with the dishes is hard because I am working on getting everyone out the door in the morning and being gone for Jazzercise makes it hard to get things done in the morning.  Then, we do something after school and home to make dinner and then I am exhausted.  I am working on a better system but I know that means standing and doing dishes while I am cooking which is hard to manage.  The kitchen floor got scrubbed on Thursday so it is much cleaner now and I hope to keep things going into next week when the new TV programs start :)
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning- Ummm, didn't do great with this but my husband did them on Friday night.  Do I get credit for that??
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family)- Done
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)- Lots more book reviews posted!
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week- Didn't get a lot of new ideas going but got a few things posted and worked on my menu plan for October so that I could get those posted.
  • Post Sunday Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, Kid Wednesday and Thrifty Thursday Tip- Done
This week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family 
  • Swimming Lessons
  • Get to preschool on time everyday
  • My Gym Class
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons
  • Get coupons on Friday 
  • Go to Jazzercise
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy
  • Start new book since I just finished my last one
  • Read next book in the pile
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family)
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week
  • Post Sunday Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, Kid Wednesday and Thrifty Thursday Tip 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Brethren Book Review

The Brethren (Annie's People Series #3) by Beverly Lewis was the last and final book in the Annie's People series.  I started this right after reading the second one and couldn't put it down.  If I could have figured out how to read in my sleep, I would have been doing it.  I wanted to find out what happened to all the great characters in the first two books.

In this final story, Annie Zook is living with her shunned friend Esther while dreaming of the days that she can start painting and be with her Englisher boyfriend, Ben Martin.  With Louisa and Ben back in the "fancy" world, Annie is left wondering if she can join them and making plans to do so while leaving everything that she knows behind.  She decides on some drastic measures when Ben returns and she doesn't want to loose him again.  Instead of loosing him and her family, Ben learns a family secret and retreats to the Amish world for comfort and answers.  The questions are all answered in this book and the dramatic events start to settle down in this small Amish community but you have to read it to believe it!!

The book was bitter sweet to get to the end because I was super glad to find out what each person decided to do with the next stage in their lives.  I could have probably read a few more in this series and would love to see a fourth one that follows up with them later in life because the end of the book is certainly open ended and leaves you to figure out what you think their futures will hold.  I hope that you pick it up at your local library or bookstore.  I think that you would enjoy the whole series but please do start with the first one and work forward so that you don't miss the build up to the end of the story!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Englisher Book Review

The Englisher (Annie's People Series #2) by Beverly Lewis was my second in the series which I started right after the first one was finished.  I stopped at the very beginning to write the review for the first book before I got too far into it.  That was about as long a pause as I took because I was ready to find out what happened next in the adventure.  If you are planning on reading the first one, spoiler alert because this starts right where that one left off.

In this book, Annie is dealing with the pressure to join the Amish community and give up all things not supported by the church.  Annie's pen pal, Louisa, is visiting from the "fancy" world and enjoying the ease of Amish life and the close friendship with Annie and her family.  At the same time, Annie is forced to give up her art by her father after she is caught winning a art contest.  Her father asked her to give up her art for 6 months and see how she could do it.  An Englisher, Ben Martin, is becoming Annie's friend and she is falling for him and thinking about leaving the church so that she can do art and be with Ben.  Louisa suddenly leaves after falling for Sam, an Amish boy who is trying to decide whether to leave the Amish community, because she doesn't want to force his decision.  After Annie looses her art and Louisa, she moves in with her best friend, Ester, a shunned woman who is busy carrying for a family and farm while her husband is away getting help dealing with his history of guilt over the death of his younger brother when he was 8 years old.  It seems that things are going very wrong for Annie and her family and friends in this book but you still want to keep on reading to find out more.

The characters are so strong that you feel like you know the people and they are your neighbors.  There are always surprises in the choices that each person makes.  I loved it and was super glad that I picked up the third book to read next while I was at the library getting the second one!  I was enjoying the story and had trouble putting it down... Okay, it was impossible since while I am writing this review, I didn't even take a break to write this review before I started reading the third book from start to finish. Oops, I just couldn't stop even for a second to write the book review!!  I highly recommend the series and I hope that you get all three of them at the same time because you might have the same problem as me and read straight through from start to finish.  I hope that you pick these books and an other in the series at your local library or bookstore.  Let me know what you think of the great story and the great characters.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Thrifty Thursday: Fixing and Repuposing What You Already Have

Can you make do with what you have or do you need to get something new?

We have a toilet paper stand that for some reason the bottom came out and cracked.  I was a little confused on what happened but I assumed that with people moving it and the water and heat in the bathroom, it just gave up.  I started looking on Amazon and different websites on where I could replace it.  We found this one at Bed, Bath and Beyond for the replacement:

It wasn't exactly what we wanted and it was $25.  We lived with a broken stand for at least a week and then I was going out to get another one before it tipped over and cracked a tile in our newly remodeled bathroom.  After a few days of me not having enough time to make it to the store, my husband asked me an important question...  "Do you want me to glue it?"  Sure, if we were planning on a new on one any way and it doesn't work, we haven't lost anything but a little glue.

It worked great and we had the same stand back and no money out of pocket (assuming that you also have the glue sitting in your basement).  Check out the finished project!!  It is back to exactly the same as it was before it was broken.

It isn't new but it is just as good as it was before.  We weren't talking about replacing it before it was broken so I am not looking to replace it now.  If it lasts a little longer, we saved money in our pocket for a little longer.

It is also important to look for new uses for things you already have when you are in need of things.  Think outside the box because there is no reason that you can't use a dresser under your television, especially these huge flat screens.  It provides a nice storage solution for all those DVDs, manuals, and wires while giving you more options for your furniture choices.  We had end tables that we no longer used in the family room so we moved them to the bedroom to use on the side of the bed.  I took an old scratched bookcase and painted it a lighter color then the room and it made a nice bookshelf for my son's collection of books. Old dinning room chairs were moved to the living room to make more seating and one of them went into the spare bedroom.  Whatever stuff is determined to be extra can always be sold through Craigslist or a garage sale to make a money back and pass it on to someone who will use it!!

Have you ever gone out and gotten a replacement for something that could have gotten fixed?  Do you have anything in your house that you can move to another room to get more use out of it?  Take a second and think about it before replacing something to make sure there is no way to fix it.  It is frugal and green!  We save money and the planet by taking a little bit longer to be creative.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kid Reading and Writing: Letters and books to inspire

A Letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats and Dear Annie by Judith Caseley are great kids books about writing letters.  If you want to inspire your child to write a letter to grandma and grandpa, these are the way to go.  We read them in this order but it didn't inspire my son to write a letter to grandma and grandpa right away so I saved them to read a second time hoping that a second reading would inspire the next step.

In this book, Peter is writing a letter to Amy to invite her to his party.  His mother asks why Peter doesn't just ask her like he did everyone else.  Peter feels that this would be more special.  After finishing, he puts it in an envelope and walks out of the house but a storm is coming.  A strong wind knocks the letter right out of his hand and blows it so that Peter has to chase it.  It starts raining and the letter blows right to Amy but Peter grabs it so that the surprise is not ruined.  In his hurry, he knocked Amy into a puddle but Peter turn and ran to the mailbox.  Amy left crying so Peter was worried that Amy wouldn't come to his party.  On Saturday, everyone comes to his party but Amy and Peter was sad.  Amy and her parrot did make it to the party right before the cake was served.

In this book, the first letter from grandpa arrives when Annie is born and Annie's mom writes back since Annie doesn't talk or write but Annie is in her baby carrier to deliver the letter to the mailbox.  The second letter arrives on her first birthday which her mother writes the response but Annie is lifted up and mails the letter herself.  When Annie was two, grandpa wrote another letter and her mother wrote back what Annie was talking about and how she used the letter.  When Annie got older, she visited grandpa and he said that he was going to write her a letter when she left.  She waited at the window all night and her mother explained that mail doesn't come at night.  She waited the next day for the letter to arrive and her mother explained that mail doesn't come on Sunday.  When the letter finally came, Annie dictated what she wanted in the letter. Grandpa wrote back and Annie answered the letter with a little help from her mom.  Annie mailed the letter all by herself.  She brings the letters into school for show and tell and tells the class about how her grandfather is her pen pal.  It inspires the school to get pen pals because the children like all of Annie's letters!  The class made a board and posted mail from everybody.  Annie had over 100 letters and continued to write grandpa every week.

After you read these books with your kids, hopefully they will be inspired to write a letter.  There are forms that you can use that have some information to fill in which you can find anywhere.  I found an interesting one where there were a few things that the kids could fill in so that they don't have to come up with the ideas to write.  Check it out here on ReMarkable Home blog.  There is another friendly letter format that is a super good idea if you don't have friends and family far away to write to, use this to write a letter to a storybook character.  Check here for more ideas.  You can also just use nice lined paper for little ones or any other paper that the kids choose.

After practicing their letters, it will also give them a chance to put the return address label and the stamp on the envelope.  Then, you can go to the post office and they can put the letter in the bin or take it up to the person to get stamped.  It is a great opportunity to learn the whole process of mailing a letter.  Hope you have lots of fun with your letter writing after reading a few of these books!!!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Preacher's Daughter Book Review

The Preacher's Daughter (Annie's People #1) by Beverly Lewis was another series by Beverly Lewis that I decided to pick up when I was in the library because I was waiting for a bunch of books to come in off reserve.  It is a good thing that I did because I started reading it before making it back to the library and they didn't even have my reserved books yet :(  I was super glad that I had this book and that it was such a good book.

In this book, Annie is dealing with the issues of being Amish and all of the rules that go along with it.  Annie has not gone through the baptism to become a member of the church and she is reaching the age where she is going to have to or leave the community.  Annie loves to paint and draw but it is against her Amish community rules so she has to do it in secret so as to not shame her family.  If she pledges to the church, she has to give up art and she is currently not willing.

She has a pen pal, Louisa, who she has been writing since she was young who is worldly and not Plain (also known as Amish) who tells her all about her life while Annie responds with information about her life growing up Amish.  Louisa is in the middle of breaking up with her fiancee and decides to come stay with Annie to live a more simple life.  I don't want to give away too much but there are a lot of things going on in this book which I was amazed to find out of the next mystery.  I know that you will too!!!

This was great book and had lots of great characters.  I couldn't wait to get my hands on the next book in the series.  I went to the library to grab the second one (with my son in tow) and I decided that it was good idea to also get the third one.  I enjoy Beverly Lewis' writing style and this series is great..although I think that all of her series might be equally great.  I know that I am going to try a bunch of different series after finishing this one!!  I hope that you pick this up at your local library or bookstore and let me know what you think!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Menu Plan Monday 9/16

Monday- Chicken Nuggets with House Autry batter
Tuesday- Chicken Paninis
Wednesday- SW Spiedies with white rice
Thursday- Spaghetti and Meatballs
Friday- Pizza
Saturday- Leftovers/Simple Fried Rice and egg rolls
Sunday- Leftovers/???

Another week and another plan.  I don't think that I am doing anything super interesting this month but these are some of our favorite meals and using up things in the pantry and freezer.  I still have to go through the pantry and see what needs to be used up before restocking.  Another great month of planning so I hope that I can stick with the plan this week and not do too many changes!  Also hoping that with my "extra" time with my son in school that I can get some food cooked and in the freezer and plan ahead to use up all the items in the pantry before using my budget to get more items.  Do you have the same problem that I do with buying more of the stuff your family likes and not using the stuff you already have?  I have some quinoa and cous cous that really needs to be cooked so I am going to go searching for other things that need to be added to the menu plan soon!!!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

First Half of the Month Shopping

I am half way through the month and I don't know where it went.  I seem to take the pictures and then not get any farther with posting to share (minus one trip) but here is my fast review of the beginning of the month.

Aldi's $24.70

 I went to Aldi's to get eggs and milk.  We also really needed some butter so on my way to get that, I found the chicken!!!  It was on sale for $1.89 but it was near the date so they put an extra $2 stickers on a few packages so it make it around $1.60 per pound.  Who has gotten prices like that on chicken this year??  Not me so I thought it was too good to be true.  I grabbed two packages but I only had $25 and change to pay for my food.  I added everything up in my head and was praying that $2 off sticker meant what I thought it meant because if not, I knew that I didn't have enough money.  I was super excited when I had enough money but the worst part was that I didn't get the chips that my husband really wanted but my son was so tired that I didn't have enough time to make it to the bank and back because he was sound asleep in the car.

Harris Teeter $6.33

I went to the store to get the tissues with a rain check before my coupons expired.  I saw that they had eggs and ground beef on sale so I couldn't pass them up so I grabbed them too even though this meant that I had to go home instead of running more errands.

Giant  $2.35

I went to Giant while my son was in My Gym class and got a few things that we needed like bread flour, oatmeal and oil.  I used a bunch of sales and coupons.

Harris Teeter $30.11

I went to the store to get the Dixie cups for my son for school and decided to pick up a few other deals while I was there.  It is hard to see but I got four ground beef packages so that was about half of the cost.  I also got Tide because we were on our last one and they had it on sale and with coupon and evic coupon it was $8.19 instead of $15.49.  Gotta love getting it half off!!!  This was way more then I wanted to spend on groceries this early in the month but I got a bunch of snacks for school and food we needed.

HMart $1.70

After my son's first day of school, we went to Rita's to get Italian Ice and this store was next to it.  I went in to look around.  They had a good price on a head of lettuce and green beans.  There were some other very interesting things but my son was done so we headed out. 

Giant $6.35

I decided that I needed to get more bread flour while it was still on sale and I grabbed the big container of oil that was on sale for almost $2 off.  The main thing that I was going to the store to get was the Gerber mixed berries and bananas.  There was a promo if I bought 10, then I would get a $1 off my next purchase....they only had 6!!  Figures but I got my 6 and cleared the shelf.

Giant $2.02

I got a $2 catalina from an ongoing Gerber promo that you get $2 for every $10 you spend.  I guess I reached it on the last order which I went to spend the same day.  I grabbed everything on the shelf again... 6 seems to be the magic number which still didn't give me the $1 catalina.

I had a busy beginning of the month and got a bunch of things but they were almost all on the list.  It was way more then I wanted to spend in the first half of the month but it is still under half of my $160 monthly budget. 

Total OOP $73.56
Total Savings $104.93

We are going to need some more snack foods because we have eaten most everything in the house.  My son finished the cheese its and gold fish.  My husband finished the crumbs of the tortilla chips.  I am working on pulling out all of the boxes and trying to get them to eat the rest of the things in the house even if they aren't the favorites.  Everything else left that was stale was put into the bag to be ground down for chicken tender bread crumbs.  Have you ever had cheese it crumbs on chicken tenders because they are amazing!  I am still working on blending them all up but that is on the list to get done.

We are almost out of milk so there is another trip to the store coming for us soon!!  I am going to have to look over the list and see what else needs to be purchased this month but I think that I have made good progress to get most of the things that we need for the month.  What do you think of the first half of my month?  How did your month go so far?