Friday, May 29, 2015

Never Say No Book Review

I wasn't sure about getting this book because I read the blurb on it twice before I said, this might be something that I am interested in.  I actually don't even remember signing up for Never Say No: Raising Big-Picture Kids by Mark Foreman, Jan Foreman with everything else going on but I wrote it on the calendar and the book arrived so I was looking forward to finding out what it was all about.  The cover looked interesting and aren't we always trying to make things better for our kids so here is hoping there is something helpful with raising my son.

The question Mark and Jan Foreman are most often asked is: How did you raise your kids?  Never Say No takes you on a personal journey to learn first-hand how they raised Jon and Tim of Switchfoot. They share practical advice for instilling wonder in a media-saturated culture, cultivating specific gifts, and balancing structure with individual choice. Our purpose as parents is the same as our child’s: to live creatively beyond ourselves, bringing the love, beauty and nature of God to this world. Let the adventure begin.

The book tells stories of their children growing up and how they dealt with the strange things that kids do.  It was an interesting book that didn't preach or quote bible verses but actually gave you interesting ideas on how to be a better parent.  There are silly titles like Pizza with God and Thank You for Passing the Salt but when you read the chapter and learn exactly what they mean.  The great writing of the authors was wonderful to read and even better to learn all of the great insights that they had in raising kids.  The best part was never saying no which seems like a silly statement for a parent to believe because setting limits is the major job of the parents like no swimming in shark infested water and no crossing the road without looking both ways but the authors don't want you not to set limits for your kids safety but they want to teach the children to make better decisions themselves without negative words like no.  There are a lot of great ideas in this book and I hope that you pick it up and check it out for yourself.  Even if you aren't a parent, there are some great stories that you might enjoy!! 

**I was sent a copy of this book for my review and honest opinion.  All opinions here are my own.

The Proposal at Siesta Key Book Review

I went through my email to clean things out because I was so far behind and I saw an email about  The Proposal at Siesta Key: Amish Brides of Pinecraft, Book Two (The Pinecraft Brides) by Shelley Shepard Gray which I missed the response date!!!  I was so bummed because I loved the first book in the series and really wanted to read the second one.  I sent an email to the publishing people and begged for a copy of the book.  She added me on to the list and put me at the end of the tour.  I was super excited and got the book super early...I swear the day after I asked about it.  I was so excited to be on the list but I had so many other books that I needed to read first because the reviews were due first.  I put this one on the bottom of the stack but it sat there calling my name since the mailman brought it!

Penny Troyer, a young Amish woman, never disobeys her parents. In the years since her sister’s tragic death, they’ve wanted nothing more than to keep her safe…even if it means never leaving the house.  But she is bending the rules to be with friends to see The Knoxx Family, a traveling Mennonite Evangelical family, scheduled to speak. Penny loved hearing how he lost part of his leg in a terrible accident and uses the experience to inspire others. So, for the first time ever, Penny stands up to her parents and goes out on her own to make her own life and get a job.  Though he speaks about living life to the fullest, Michael knows he needs to take his own advice. Life on the road is grueling and Michael wants to slow down, to rest…to perhaps meet someone who sees him as a man, not just a celebrity. So when a twist of fate allows him the chance to stay a little longer in Pinecraft, Michael knows God is showing him a new path, especially when he discovers how much he and Penny Troyer have in common.  But new friendships can’t stop time. Soon, Michael's time in Pinecraft will be over and he'll be back on the road. Her time with Michael has brought her happiness, but will she be able to follow her heart? Or will she be faced with the one thing she’s sure she'll never have the courage to do?

What is not to love in this Amish fiction book?!  If you loved the first book in the series, then the obvious conclusion is that you will love the second book.  It follows up with the same characters and you get to meet new ones.  I knew as soon as I picked up the book and was reminded of where I left off in the first book.  This book could stand on its own if you have read the other book in the series because it casually mentions the information that you might have missed in the first one but not so much that it is repeating everything if you have read it.  That is a super hard balance to try to get which is only successful because the author had great writing.  It is a great book with some great characters which I know that you will want to get to know.  I hope that you pick this up at your local library or bookstore and check it out for yourself soon!!!  I know that you will love it as much as I did!

**I was sent a copy of this book for my review and opinion.  All opinions here are my honest opinion.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

As Waters Gone By Book Review

As Waters Gone By by Cynthia Ruchticame into my email as a new book that I had a chance to review through the publisher.  I signed up to read this book because I just liked the cover.  Is there a silly reason to want to read the book?  I guess that means that the person who did the cover art should get a lot of credit.  Do you like the cover on the book?  It really brings up the idea of a small cabin that seemed really interesting to me and the book was about interesting sounding characters so what could be bad about that.  Nothing except my use of tissues!!  This book should come with a box of tissues attached to it because it really pulled on my heart strings.  I hope that you enjoy not only the cover art but the book itself like I did!

Emmalyn Ross has only a few months left to figure out if she and her husband, Max, can ever be a couple again. In prison for actions that ensured his wife could never be a mother, Max is now scheduled for release, and Emmalyn wonders how she can let him back into her life after all he’s put her through. During his five-year incarceration, Emmalyn moved to the beautiful, but remote Madeline Island in Lake Superior because she can't afford their house anymore. With the help of a circle of misfit town residents, including the exuberant owner of the Wild Iris Inn and CafĂ©, Emmalyn begins to restore her heart while refurbishing her very own island cottage. She learns what it means to love unconditionally and finds that her dream of a house and a home filled with God’s love might become a reality, but only if she and Max can find a way to rebuild their marriage…and win the fight of their lives in the process.

I loved this book.  I can't say enough about the characters but you really feel like you are in the middle of this book and want to jump up to help every time that they needed anything.  The descriptions of the foods will make you want to make these wonderful tasty comfort foods and the description of the surroundings will make you want to take a trip to this remote island.  I don't know why I have always wanted to live on such a small island but the thought has always been appealing!! This book will make you feel like part of this fun little community that pulls together in times of trouble.  Emmalyn, M for short, has gone through her life doing as she thought she should do but coming to this town makes her grow up and realize that there are other things that can make you happy and you need to open your life up to let them happen.  I hope that you check out this inspirational book and find out for yourself.  I know that you will want to run out and get the book (or come borrow it from me).  The even better news is that they sent me a second book from the same author that I get to read too!  You will see the review soon.

**I was given a copy of this book for my review and honest opinion.  All opinions here are my own.  If you are interested in becoming part of the publishers review, check out Litfuse Publishing here for details.

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Love Like Ours Book Review

I was so excited to get A Love Like Ours (Porter Family Novels) by Becky Wade.  It looked like a really fun book that would keep me interested and I wasn't disappointed...except maybe by the lack of sleep.  I started this book on Saturday and went to bed early so that I could get some more sleep.  I read a little bit of the book and then went to sleep.  I woke up a few hours later and couldn't fall back to sleep.  I read for at least a few hours before making myself shut my eyes.  I woke up in the morning and finished reading the book.  It might not have been the most productive use of time but I promise that once you pick this book up, you will want to find out what happens next!!!

Former Marine Jake Porter has far deeper scars than the one that marks his face. He struggles with symptoms of PTSD, lives a solitary life, and avoids relationships.  When Lyndie James, Jake's childhood best friend, lands back in Holley, Texas, Jake cautiously hires her to exercise his Thoroughbreds. Lyndie is tender-hearted, fiercely determined, and afraid of nothing, just like she was as a child. Jake pairs her with Silver Leaf, a horse full of promise but lacking in results, hoping she can solve the mystery of the stallion's reluctance to run.  Though Jake and Lyndie have grown into very different adults, the bond that existed during their childhood still ties them together. Against Jake's will, Lyndie's sparkling, optimistic personality begins to tear down the walls he's built around his heart. A glimmer of the hope he'd thought he'd lost returns, but fears and regrets still plague him. Will Jake ever be able to love Lyndie like she deserves, or is his heart too shattered to mend?

I loved it!  The characters and the writing was great!!  I was super glad to see that it was the third book in the series and I can't wait to get the previous two books to check them out.  I am sure that the are going to be just as good while getting to know other characters in the big family.  This book was very emotional and had me feeling everything that the characters which is why I couldn't put it down.  If you love books where you feel right in the middle of things, this is your book.  It deals with the struggles of PTSD, jobs and love.  All of the issues at the same time makes for a great story that is hard to put down.  I hope that you pick it up at your local library or bookstore and check it out for yourself!!  I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did!!

**I was provided this book for my honest opinion and review from the publisher.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Called to Be Amish Book Review and Recipe

I wasn't sure about this Amish book because isn't of the normal Amish fiction, it was Amish non-fiction.  What a true story from the Amish?  I was skeptical but interested so I decided that I should read it and get an opinion from the actual book.  Who isn't interested in the Amish and how someone would have joined them?  I was!!! Called to Be Amish: My Journey from Head Majorette to the Old Order by  Marlene C. Miller was an retelling on one women's life who left a "normal" life to be part of the Old Order sect, her husband was a former member.

Fewer than one hundred people have joined the Old Order Amish and stayed since 1950. Marlene C. Miller is one of them. In this rare memoir, Marlene recounts her unhappy and abusive childhood, how she throws herself into cheerleading and marching band, and how she falls in love with Johnny, the gentle young Amish man who helps her lace her ice skates. Against the wishes of both sets of parents, Marlene and Johnny get married and begin a family. Follow the author on this unusual journey to find out how God's love called her out of bitterness and depression and into the warm embrace of her new Amish community. Accompany her as she dons an Amish dress and prayer covering and gets baptized. Learn how she endures the strain of ten children, a hundred-acre farm, and accidents and tragedy, and find out how she comes close to walking away from it all. Turning Amish has proven to be anything but plain and simple for this former majorette. But nearly fifty years later, Marlene is still living out God's call as an Old Order Amish woman.

The beginning of the book was a little hard to read going back and forth between parts of Marlene's life.  I was afraid that I was going to have to fight to get through the book.  Then everything changed and I got into the book and couldn't put it down.  I am at a mixed opinion on what type of rating to give this book because at the end, I was glad that I read it but at the beginning I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to get through the whole book so I am in between it was OK and I liked it.  It is worth reading because there is lots of information about the Amish community that Marlene joins and learning the difference between fact and fiction.  The parts that I didn't like about it was the parts where Marlene says how patient Johnny (her husband) was with her because she was so bad at being Amish.  She gave up her whole life to become closer to his family and faith and she spends all of the time saying how bad she is at cooking, cleaning, taking care of 9 kids and farming.  I know people can be hard on themselves but it is a little much to read over and over in a book.  The other part was more of an implication that she became Amish because her parents abused her.  There are plenty of people that have been abused and don't turn to the Amish so that is a silly conclusion but everyone upbringing affects them so I can certainly understand that she made decisions based on her past that lead her to her current life.  Overall, the story was heartwarming about how she found her place in the world and very sad with some of the trials that she went through but I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who won't give up at the beginning of the book because the journey is worth the read.  I hope that you pick this up at your local library or bookstore and see what you think!

In addition, the back has a few fun recipes including some that I know I will never make mixed with a few that I just might.  She has Amish Dressing, Scrapple, Old-Fashion Date Pudding, Potato Doughnuts, Puffball or Quick Tea Doughnuts, and Dampf Knepp (Caramel Dumplings).  The two that are most interesting to me are, of course, the doughnuts. I went straight to the internet to see if there was anyone else out there making these tasty treats and found one here.  She suggests a little thinner batter so I am going to try it out and see and so can you with the following recipe.  The recipe for Mashed Potato Doughnuts seem to be all over the place on the internet so I am going to make a note of this one and see if I get a chance to make them.

Puffball or Quick Tea Doughnuts

3 eggs
1 c. sugar
2 c. milk
2 Tbsp. melted fat (or canola oil)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 c. flour (plus more later in recipe directions)

Beat eggs.  Add sugar and milk.  Add dry ingredients together and into the liquid.  Beat thoroughly and add melted fat.

Add more flour to make a batter stiff enough to hold a spoon in a standing position. (I found that made pret-ty dense puff balls. I add flour to make it like stiff pancake batter, or the same consistency as corn fritter batter. That makes much better puffballs!) Drop by spoonfuls into deep fat at 375 degrees.  Remove when brown and drain on absorbent paper.  This makes approx. 4 dozen.

**I received a copy of this book for my honest opinion and review from the publisher.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Going to the Chapel Book Review

I was on the search for more books at the library and found Going to the Chapel (Life, Faith & Gettin​g It Right #19) (Steeple Hill Cafe) by Janet Tronstad.  I didn't know anything about it but I put it in the bag to bring home from the library.  I figured that since I like everything else by the author that I would love this one too.

Her rich, spoiled, about-to-be-married cousin always loved making Julie White feel inferior. So to impress Cousin Elaine, Julie lets her think she's landed her dream job--as a wedding planner. But when Elaine's real wedding planner runs off with all her families wedding money, she begs Julie to save her big day, forcing her to organize a huge, splashy wedding at the chapel where she actually works. Hopefully, the bride, the groom and two hundred assorted guests somehow won't notice that it's really a funeral chapel.  Pick up this book to find out how it all goes!

It was a fun book that was totally different then the other books by this author in the Dry Creek Series.  I was thinking that there was going to be more similarities but I think that this is more like Janet Evanvovich series with Stephanie Plum.  If there was something that could go wrong, it did and there are so many fun family fun times.  I thought it was a great character development book and I am going to start looking for a few more like these ones by Janet Tronstad.  I hope that you can pick this up this at your local library or bookstore and check it out for yourself!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Snowfall Book Review

I reserved a bunch of books at the library that I was interested in and I gave them all different times to come off reserve.  I got an email that two books were waiting for me at the library so I went to get them.  Snowfall: A Days of Redemption Christmas Novella by Shelley Shepard Gray was one of the books that was waiting for me.  It was the one that I decided to pick up first to read when I finished the book that I was reading while I was at the library.  I knew that it seemed a little familiar so I figured out that I read the teaser from another one of the Shelley Shepard Gray books that I read previously.  The book has a NEW sticker on the back which means that it is new to the library so I guess I was just lucky that I finally got to read it since they bought it at the library!

Twenty-year old Ruth Stutzman is a wonderful caregiver—but she has no experience with kinner (children). Laid off from her job at a retirement home due to budget cuts, she’s relieved to find work—even if it means temporarily watching widower Martin Rodes’ brood of six!  Martin has done the best he can since his wife’s passing, but he and the children need help. Their house, once full of laughter and light, has been darkened by sadness. Soon after Ruth arrives, the children are drawn to her warmth and gentleness, and so is Martin, even though he feels it’s wrong. But the harder he tries to ignore her, the deeper he begins to care for this attractive young woman who has brought joy back into his children’s lives . . . and his own.  Each passing day brings the Rodes closer to Ruth . . . and closer to Christmas, when she will have to say goodbye. Ruth, too, cannot deny the bond she feels with the children and with Martin.

I love these Amish fiction books that include great characters and the ever present setting of the Christmas snow.  The book gets you from the beginning with the similarities to Sound of Music where there are six children in need of someone to watch them while their widowed father is working.  The children have trouble getting along with anyone and run off the previous caregiver but Ruth knows what it is like to not belong so she quickly gains the trust of the children.  It is so easy to fall right into the lovely story and characters that you will also love this book.  The short 222 page book is a great quick read that will leave you wanting more of these characters and more books in the series!!  I hope that you pick it up the next time you are at the library or bookstore.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Thrifty Thursday: Prepping for the Week and Some Freezer Cooking

I love to get time over the weekend to prepare for the week.  There are a few things that you can do to make your week go so much easier and I was working on a plan to do just that.  I also love freezer cooking because it helps with middle of the week cooking because the items you need are already in the freezer ready for the meal. Cooking ahead saves time and money!  Then there is no need to order out!

This weekend was a little busy on Saturday with working on the new house and soccer games.  There wasn't a lot of extra time except to make dinner.  I was looking forward to Sunday being a slower and super hopeful that it would give me time to prep for the week.  I started by making a batch of rolls!  I love homemade rolls and I will leave out enough for dinner this week and freeze the rest for next week.

Then, I decided to make that loaf of applesauce bread that I had wanted all of last week.  In addition, while I was making that, I mixed up an extra jar of the dry ingredients which is super easy to do and then I have them on hand to whip up a fast loaf of bread in the coming weeks without haven't to pull out all the ingredients (or even having to have them at the same house).  I love my neat blue canning funnel but for those of you who don't have that, I used a funnel made of paper before which is super easy to roll with a little hole at the bottom and a little tape on the side.  They don't last long but they work well and are super easy to make!

I have a few days of breakfast food with the loaf of bread and then I have some ready to go for the next loaf because they don't last long here either.  YUM!

I mixed up another loaf of sandwich bread in the bread machine.  This helped me get ready for the week because my son got on a peanut butter sandwich binge for lunch on Sunday so I thought that I would have enough to last through a few days but all for the best because the milk was getting close to the date.

While I was making the loaf of bread, I decided to take the ends of last weeks bread to make garlic bread for this weeks pasta dish.  I buttered them and added garlic salt and decided to wrap them in aluminum foil and put them in the fridge.  They will be ready to stick in the oven as is when pasta night is here!!

I cut up the potatoes that I needed for dinner and put them in water in the fridge so that they wouldn't brown.  It always gets busy around dinner so good to have things done ahead even if for that evening.

The applesauce bread came out of the oven and I was off to the next thing on the list- bringing my husband lunch at the new house and going to the grocery store.  I barely ever do that on the weekend but since I was out, I figured that I would brave the crowds to get lunch meat and snacks for our trip.  I wanted to come back and make some baking mix but things always take a different turn so it was a little busier day with entertaining my son. There is always tomorrow!!  It will be first on the list if I don't do it late after bedtime for the little man.

Instead, I got to make the rosemary chicken and potatoes on the plan for dinner and enjoy some family time before my husband had to get back to finishing some work at the new house.  I know that we can't wait for this all to be over but at least I think that I am somewhat prepared for the week to start.  Did you do anything ahead this week to save you time when you didn't have it?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Amish Promises Book Review

I was excited to pick out another Amish fiction book to be able to read.  I also was glad to see another book by Leslie Gould.  I read Becoming Bea in 2014 and I haven't read anything else by this wonderful author. Amish Promises (Neighbors of Lancaster County) by Leslie Gould was super easy to pick and sign up for when I saw it offered by the publisher.  I really need to add some more of her books to my reading list. 

When Joel and Shani Beck arrive at their new home, they're looking for peace. Shani is thrilled to have Joel back from Iraq, but he needs time to heal, and the quiet of Lancaster seems just the place. They can't imagine any trouble with their Amish neighbors, the Lehmans, but things get off to a rocky start when their son is involved in an accident that injures one of the Lehman boys.  Eve Lehman has run her brother's household ever since the death of his wife, but Tim's a stern patriarch. Despite his protests, she's drawn to the new neighbor, Shani, and the two begin to form a strong friendship forged on faith and family. Things seem like they've quieted down until Joel's single and handsome army friend Charlie catches Eve's attention--a man unlike any Eve has ever met. Suddenly life for both families becomes more complicated than any of them could have ever imagined.

I enjoyed this book!! It was a great read which I couldn't put down until the end (even at it long 360 pages).  I loved the writing and the characters and was totally engrossed in the wonderful story.  The relationships that build between the kids was interesting to watch and wonder.  The friendships between the adult characters was equally great to watch.  The only hard character to watch was Joel but that was the writers point in writing such a difficult character who needs to heal but can't because he has closed his heart off to the love of his friends and family.  I can't wait to read the rest of the series and more of her writing (and to find out what happens with the characters next).  I am adding lots on to my must read list and I hope that you will to.  Pick up this book and others by this author at your local library or bookstore.

**I was provided a copy of this book for my honest opinion and review.  All opinions here are my own.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Menu Plan Monday 5/11

The farther we get into this process, the more things we run out of.  I realized that I should keep a running list of the pantry staples that we are going to have to restock when we get to the new house but I guess that ship has sailed.  We are out of toasted sesame oil, minced garlic, homemade baking mix and so much more.  I start making dinner and realize that I have to change up the recipe a little because I used up all of those items already.  The good news is that I am usually pretty good with changing things up and the meal turning out okay.

Here is what I have listed for the week in no particular order:

Salsa Sloppy Joes with mac and cheese on homemade rolls (need to make more)
Spaghetti (or other pasta) with homemade sauce and garlic bread
Leftovers or Breakfast for Dinner
Fast Food or Pizza Take Out x 2
Rehersal Dinner
Wedding Reception Dinner

We are going to be here there any everywhere this week with the floors being refinished in the new house and traveling to my cousin's wedding so it looks like we are going to be on the road for most of our meal times shuffling to and from different events.  I am packing a cooler with snacks and juice boxes and a big bag with lots of snack food but I am sure it is going to be a tough week for all of us in terms of eating well.  We have I hope that you have a yummy week planned!!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Heart Sisters Book Review

I decided to start signed up for more book reviews again because we were supposed to be settled in the new house at this point but sadly, we are not and I have lots of new books to read with deadlines.  Heart Sisters: Be the Friend You Want to Have by Natalie Chambers Snapp was the first of these books to come in to read.  I finished all the books from the library and started reading this one for my review.

Heart Sisters is for women who want to both be and have better friends and want a helpful guide to take them through the process. Author Natalie Chambers Snapp uses her own and others’ stories of successes and failures to illustrate what she has learned about girlfriend relationships. Healthy boundaries, honesty, tact, sharing, and agape love all play a part in being and maintaining a circle of close confidants. She also deals with the inevitable challenges that face many relationships including how to handle conflict; life changes like a new baby, move or divorce; and when it is right to “break-up” with your friend. Discussion questions, space to journal, photos, and quick interviews of healthy female friendships are included within each chapter.

This book wasn't really something that interested me which I didn't know until I read the Letter to the Readers.  The blurb on the back did not give the content of the book justice.  I know that there are going to be lots of people out there that really like this book but it was much more based on the Bible than I was expecting. I do not think that talking about an issue and backing it up with quotes from the Bible actually helps make the point clearer.  There are many "self-help" books out there that state opinion and then follow up with statements from studies or other experts.  This book followed the same format but there was rarely any facts used and just quotes from the Bible.  The main idea was to help get more close friends and the only thing that she said was join a MOPs or Bible study group.  I don't think that either one of these things helps people find more close friends because it doesn't give any tips on how to actually make those friends other then to be outgoing.

In addition, there were a few comments that were down right insulting like you can have friends who don't believe in God or the Bible because they will encourage you to give up your marriage and not fight for it.  I don't go to church but I am a strong believer in my marriage and certainly plan to work through ever problem with my husband and never get divorced.  I am not sure how me not going to church has anything to do with that aspect of my life.  She also stated that men and women cannot be friends which I think is also totally crazy.  I had friends when I was working that were male because I worked in a male dominated job and my husband had female friends at different jobs.  Having a friend at work never made either of us cheat or do anything to compromise our marriage.  The author felt that having an emotional connection with someone of the opposite sex was as good as cheating.  I just can't disagree enough!!  Friends should be friends whether they are black, white, purple, or green as well as male or female.  I had a female friend who worked and her husband was a stay at home dad so I tried everything to invite him to different events that I thought he would enjoy with his son because I knew that he was struggling with being a stay at home dad.  It was hard for him because other groups wouldn't hang out with him because he was a man and I think that is a horrible way to show your Christian love by making someone not feel welcome.

I read the book cover to cover and I am sorry to say that I would not recommend this book.  I didn't enjoy any of it and got no information on how to be a better friend or make more friends.  I think that there might be some people out there that this book would be a good fit for but it wasn't me.  I wish that the blurb on the back cover was a little bit more in line with what was inside the book!!

**I was provided a copy of this book for my honest review and opinion.  All of the opinions here are my own.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Thrifty Thursday: What Did I Make This Week?

I always start my week out looking to plan what I need to do for the week which is why I start with the menu plan.  It helps me get off to a good start if I start with a plan.  I make most of our food from scratch (during a normal week when we aren't doing construction and moving). Making our food helps to keep the grocery budget low because I have most of the ingredients around the house and I don't have to buy more food.  If you add in a few other foods to make the week go smoothly like frozen egg rolls and chicken nuggets which we had this week.  Sometimes I would make these from scratch but few and far between because I can get them cheaply at the store and it saves me a little work during the busy week.

Here is how my week looked! If you want the recipe, click on the title and it will take you to the original post.

I start all weeks with a loaf of bread to make sandwiches with.  My son likes it super fresh and doesn't eat it after the first few days usually but it works for my husband for the week. I love my bread machine and even having to take it out of the closet and start it up once a week is worth it!

Fresh Brewed Iced Tea

I make one pitcher everyday cause I drink too much tea but I love it!  It is easy and cheap and tasty!  My husband hates this pitcher because it drips when you pour the first few cups but it is so easy to make and serve in the same safe pitcher instead of doing something in plastic.  I use one tea bag and boil water to steep it in.  I add some sugar so I don't need to use any sweetners but I used to use it with sweetners.

Ultimate Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies
with Crisco and Butter

I made this batch with 1/2 c Crisco stick and 1/4 butter because I thought that the last batch was too greasy.  It did the trick and they were fabulous.  My husband and son have been asking for chocolate chip cookies for weeks so they are going to be happy to see them!

Betty Crocker Pie Crust from box

My husband's favorite pie is cherry pie.  My mom bought the boxed crust and two cans of pie filling which have been sitting in the cupboard since the holidays because she never got a chance to make it.  So I decided I better make it instead of moving everything.  I made the crust and put it in the fridge to chill because it was super sticky.

made with taco, cheese and butter seasoning

We were out of the majority of the Kernel's seasoning so I was working with what I had.  I have a taco seasoning mix that we didn't ever use so I decided to throw that in.  In addition, I had extra packages of cheddar cheese powder from noodles that I re-purposed so I threw that in.  In addition to add a little extra powder and flavor, I added a little Molly McButter.  I think that they turned out okay.  I am excited to try new mixtures for these super yummy oyster cracker creations.

Olive Oil Spaghetti with Fresh Basil

I got a coupon to get $2 off $5 of produce at Wegman's.  I already was planning on buying a head of lettuce and green beans (and I might have put an artichoke in the basket too).  I just needed a little more to buy when I found the wonderful basil plant and my mind was made up!  What a bargin!!! Now I have yummy food through the summer without even having to grow it.

Garlic Pizza Bites

Okay, I didn't make these this week!  I made them last week but we toasted them up in the toaster oven and had two each with our meal dipped in pizza sauce.  YUM!!  Does it count if I get to take it out of the container that I made last week?

Fresh Stovetop Popped Popcorn
 with Butter Flavored Salt

My son has this every day for snack at school so I make two batches at the beginning of the week and if I stay out of it then it usually lasts the whole week.

Simplified Fried Rice
with chicken broth and soy sauce

I toasted the rice in the pan before adding the chicken broth mixed with soy sauce.  It is my attempt to make it a little more Asian to go with meal we were having and to add a little more flavor.

Stir Fry Green Beans

Sadly, used up all of the garlic last night so I got a little creative and used sesame oil, red pepper infused oil, and salt and pepper in the pan.  Then I added garlic powder and garlic flavored rice vinegar.  Topped with sesame seeds and they were yummy!!

Cherry Pie
with pie crust from fridge
and two cans of cherry pie filling

The can of pie filing said 425 degrees for 50 minutes so I went with the instructions although I didn't do a egg wash on the top of the pie just a sprinkling of sugar.  My husband was excited about the cherry pie so we enjoyed it through the week because normally we only have pies around the holidays so it was an extra special treat.  It was a surprisingly good crust and to add a little bit of yummy, I sprinkle the top with a little sugar.  I left the pie in a few minutes too long because I got distracted but it was still super tasty even if it wasn't super pretty.

Homemade French Fries

My son's favorite food was on the list as it is most weeks.  I peel and cut the potatoes and soak them in water.  The great thing is that means that I can do it earlier in the day and then have them in the fridge waiting for dinner.

Since there is still a little left of the week, here are the rest of the things that I have planned for the week.

French Dip Sloppy Joe
on Homemade Rolls

I found this recipe awhile ago and it is so super simple that I can't stop making it.  It makes for a tasty and super easy meal which is also something that can be made ahead and frozen.  I making mine with a little extra sauce which I like to pour on my roll but my husband likes his a little drier so I scoop just the meat with the flavoring.  I have also spiced it up a little by adding 2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce and 2 tbsp Al (which I use half regular and half hot and spicy) instead of either.  Great flexible recipe that changes based on what you like.  The rolls are something I found in 2012 and haven't stopped making since.  They are easy and tasty while freezing and reheating great.  They are a go-to recipe for me that I wouldn't be able to live without.

Rosemary Chicken and Potatoes

I love this recipe because it takes awhile to cook but it is all hands off time so you get time to throw it in the oven and then back to the little man because they always want more around dinner time.  It all goes right in the casserole dish and into the oven like this:

And it comes out like this, with both the chicken and the potatoes cooked and seasoned. YUM!

Leftover Night
when I am having
Salsa Sloppy Joe Topped Potato!!!

If things go really well (and we don't have house showings which also means that things are also going very badly), then I am going to make doughnuts.  My son's favorite and we all love the treat.  If I can't do it for breakfast, they are also a great dessert after dinner (recipe found here).

I really feel that you save a lot of money by cooking at home.  Whether you cook with the help of a box or from scratch, the end result is the same.  I have worked hard to try to come up with some easy and fast recipes for the middle of the week craziness so that we don't give it all up and order take out.  I hope that you try a few recipes that work for your family and see if there is anyway that you can make them easier like make a double batch and freeze, cook the ground beef or chicken ahead of time, or marinate the chicken in the freezer so that it thaws in the marinate.  How did your week go?

Hope it was tasty!!!

Linked up at:
Simple Saturdays Blog Hop

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Kid Wednesday: Teacher Appreciation Gifts for the Kids to Make

I know that it should come up as a surprise but it does every year.  We got the sheet of paper home saying that it was teacher appreciation week!!  They sent home a flower for my son to decorate and put his face in the middle of so we did that and sent it back into the teacher.  Of course, I guess she is going to see them eventually, it seems weird to appreciate the teachers by adding more work for them collecting all these flowers.  Luckily, I had a bag with lots of markers in it and he chose to use his new metallic markers and make a pattern with the petals but sadly, it had an uneven number for his pattern (although this didn't bother him at all).  I had my husband print out a pictures which I glued in the middle and cut out the flower and traced the edge in red glitter glue (mostly because it was all I had).  I thought it looked nice when we were all done and super happy to say that we turned it in early so that I wouldn't forget!!

We also do an art project for the teachers but this year with everything going on with the house for sale and renovations in the final push, I totally didn't even come up with something.  I was excited to see that there was a great craft session at Lakeshore Learning, a national chain teacher store, for free teacher appreciation crafts.  We made these door hangers with the teachers names and my son made a pattern so that the beads on each side would match.  This was a super easy craft to make with the "eraser" and "pencil tip" being pre-cut and only requiring gluing.  It wasn't as fancy as it looked in the pictures online but I still thought it was cute.

Then, he made a bag where he painted a W for the teachers last name and used a roller to paint around the outside.  There were some fabric markers for him to make the other designs that he drew.  Then he made a tag for us to attach when it was dry.

The last craft was the flower pot.  It is a cardboard flower pot that he painted and decorated with jewels (which are a little hard to see in the picture).  Then while that was drying, he glued the flowers on the dowel to put in the flower pot.  The flower stick is held in place with tissue paper.  I made a hole in the middle so that it would be in the middle but at the store, they were sticking it in the edge....I like my way better!! Another tag attached!

We got all of our teacher appreciation gifts all done in one trip to Lakeshore Learning and we are ready for taking them to school on Monday morning.  I hope that they like them and know that we do appreciate them.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

April Reading Review

It was an emotional and busy month with the house on the market and trying to remodel the other house still.  I think that my brain reached overload but luckily, I had my books after a long day or when I got a quick break to read during the day.  It was just a little more effort to actually get the review posted and I often had a pile that I needed to catch up on but I got them all up.

If you missed any of the reviews, click on the book title and it will take you back to the original review of the book so that you can see if you want to add it to your must read list.  I hope that this helps and happy reading!

by Shelley Shepard Gray

by Shelley Shepard Gray

by Janet Tronstad

by Shelley Shepard Gray

by Cindy Woodmall

The Found
by Shelley Shepard Gray

 by Shelley Shepard Gray

Small Town Brides
by Janet Tronstad and Debra Clopton

The Harvest of Grace
by Cindy Woodmall

Total Books Read 2015

January       9
February     13
March         14 
April           9

Total Books    45 

Currently Reading

Heart Sisters
by Natalie Chambers Snapp