Thursday, December 31, 2015

December Month End Budget Review

I really don't know where the month went but I spent most of the money at the beginning of the month.  You can see the beginning of my month review here.  There are details of what I got each place but I don't think that I got too much this month.  Luckily, I think that this sets us up for next month perfectly.

My mom and dad came into town so they brought some things with them including some produce (which was looking a little sad) and tons of chips for my son.  My mom also went to Aldi's with my husband and she paid for everything that they got including stuff for us and stuff for them.  My dad went to Trader Joes and he got a few more things for my son including cookies and apple cider.  We had an easy end of the month without too many more grocery expenses.

Below is what I got for the month:

Wegmans $1.27 + $30.74= $32.01

Harris Teeter  $9.44 + $7.26= $16.70

I got three Cinnamon Toast Crunch and two Honey Nut Cheerios.  Under advice from my 6 year old, we got 8 boxes of granola bars because they go very quickly because he likes them.

CVS $6.98

My son was sick so I went to the store and grabbed some medicine.   Got lots of coupons and deals so it was not a high ticket that it would normally be.

Safeway $2.75

My husband took my son to the store to get doughnuts and they brought them home to enjoy.

Aldi $4.70

My husband went to the store to get milk and also got two bags of chips.  The chips are already gone and this is an old picture that I took since I didn't take any pictures when my husband came home.

Harris Teeter $48.23

Walgreens $17.51

Aldi $3.05

I went to get Parmesan cheese so that I could make lasagna.  There was also a sale on carrots so I grabbed those so that I could make soup for my husband which was my plan for the last week off.

At the same time, we stopped at CVS.  I grabbed a ton of different things with my parents and used lots of my coupons to get some nuts for my dad and other things for my dad.  They ended up paying the total because there was a sign on the shelf that said that if they bought $15 of CVS products then they would get $5 ECB backs.  I grabbed lots of things that was free after coupon but I didn't even have to pay for them because it helped their they got all my coupons.  I got two nut bars and four bags of popcorn.

Total OOP $131.93

I don't really know what is on the list for the month but I guess I will know soon enough when I start working on the menu plan!!  I hope that you had a great month and an end to a wonderful year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Season of Angels Book Review

I picked out a ton of Christmas books at the library including A Season of Angels by Debbie Macomber which I got to read over Christmas break.  This book was the first in the pile and although I couldn't really figure out the order of these books, I knew that this was the first book with the special angels: Shirley, Goodness and Mercy so I knew that it was a good place to start.

The first appearance of delightfully ditsy yet well-meaning guardian angels Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy. A Season of Angels is a heartwarming Christmas story that can be enjoyed all the year round, as this trio of endearing heavenly helpers returns to Earth to answer the prayers of three lovelorn souls…and must teach them valuable lessons about love and giving in the process.  Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy—three willing but sometimes wayward angels—a reach given someone's prayer to answer . . .

Shirley: She's sent to help nine-year-old Timmy Potter, who longs for a new father. And although his mother, Jody, has vowed never to love another man, Shirley is determined to help her love again.

Goodness: She knows Monica Fischer longs for a husband and home of her own, but the young woman has practically given up on finding the right man to stand by her side with only herself in the way . . . until Goodness steps in to help.

Mercy: Can Mercy bring hope back into Leah Lundberg's life? This maternity nurse desperately wants a child to fill up the home she's made with her husband, Andrew.  The wish for a child is almost ruining their wedding.

But there's just one catch: Each angel must teach her charge a memorable lesson before the prayer can be granted .

I really enjoyed this book as I do most of Debbie Macomber's book.  It is a great holiday classic to really make you understand the joy of the season using other people's life as an example.  My only problem was that it switched back and forth frequently so it was a little hard to switch characters because their lives did not overlap (especially because my version had a few typos using the wrong name).  I really enjoyed following the stories of these three people who had angels following them to try to make their wishes come true.  The first step was to get out of their own way and the not cause their own road blocks.  I hope that you check this out and add it to your reading list!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Trading Christmas Book Review

I picked up a bunch of books at the same time at the library but I wasn't sure which order they all went in.  Trading Christmas: Trading Christmas\The Forgetful Bride by Debbie Macomber was the next in my pile to read.  It is a perfect time to read it since it is Christmas time!!  I thought that it was pretty fun to read about someone else's Christmas while we were in the process of getting ready to have Christmas at our house.

Trading Houses. Trading Towns. Trading Christmas!

Emily Springer, widowed mother of one, decides to leave Leavenworth, Washington, to spend Christmas with her daughter in Boston.

Charles Brewster, history professor, curmudgeon and resident of Boston, wants to avoid Christmas altogether. He figures a prison town should be nice and quiet over the holidays—except he's thinking of the wrong Leavenworth!

Through an internet site, Charles and Emily arrange to swap houses for the holiday. So Emily goes to Boston—and discovers that her daughter has gone to Florida. And Charles arrives in Leavenworth to discover that it's not the prison town—it's Santa's village! The place is full of Christmas trees, Christmas music and…elves.

Meanwhile, Emily's friend Faith Kerrigan travels to Leavenworth to visit her and instead finds Charles the grinch. Then Charles's brother, Ray, shows up at his home in Boston to discover that he isn't there—but Emily is.  Through all the mix-ups and misunderstandings, amid the chaos and confusion, romance begins to emerge in unexpected ways. Because everything changes at Christmas!

The Forgetful Bride

Caitlin Marshall's trying to go home to Minnesota, but at the last minute she gives her airline ticket to a stranded soldier. So Cait spends Christmas with Joe Rockwell, who was a childhood friend—and is still a terrible tease, claiming that Cait's his wife. Oh, sure, they were "married" in a pretend ceremony when she was eight, but now Joe wants to make their "marriage" real!

The first story was totally entertaining and had me wondering what was going to happen next.  The two people switch houses and Emily is in Boston and Charles is in Washington.  They are spending the holidays alone until they get visitors for the other people.  It was entertaining to see all the fun happening that are opening up Emily and Charles to new lives.  The second story which I knew nothing about it before I started was amazing (and nothing like the description on Amazon)!!  The story was about Caitlin Marshall who was spending so much time working that she didn't have a life until the day that she meets the contractor who is renovating her office.  He turns out to be a childhood friend of her brothers that she grew up with.  They rekindle their friendship while she is trying to balance her work life with a growing social life.  I hope that you enjoy this book as much as I did.  Check it out at your local library or bookstore and see for yourself.  I hope that you bring back the holiday season with a little reading!!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Menu Plan Monday 12/28

Monday- Pasta with oven fried zucchini chips
Tuesday- Chicken fries, popcorn chicken and homemade fries
Wednesday- Breakfast for Dinner and Leftovers
Thursday- Omaha Steaks with salad and baked potatoes
Friday- Roasted Chicken with stuffing
Saturday- ??
Sunday- ??

I wasn't planning on a menu this week because we were going to go away but we decided to stay home.  I am really excited that we are going to take the week at home because this has been a busy time.  I am exhausted and we need a little more time to get things done around here. 

We planned on finishing up a few projects before my parents arrived before the holiday but that turned into a really busy day all day because they were stuck in traffic.  We cleaned out their room and moved all the boxes to the back bedroom because it only has a double bed.  We got the shelves painted and into the linen closet which I loaded with tons of towels and other things clearing out boxes.  We still have another set for the linen closet in our bedroom which are getting sanded tonight.  We thought that would be an easy process because at the old house we just bought new shelves but the ones at the store is 3-4 inches too short so we (and by that I mean my husband) sanded and painted the old ones to make them pretty again which means that we are going to have to do that for every closet :( 

We have been working on reorganizing and unpacking.  I moved everything out of the storage room and packed it a little better while setting up my son's bookcase in the basement play area.  Sadly, we still have seven boxes of just my son's books.  I also unpacked a few boxes of my books but I still have at least four and I think some are missing.  We (and by that I mean me) unpacked a ton of DVDs and other boxes to try to get everything ready to start living.  We are still missing a few things including the box for N and O DVDs so there is a box hiding somewhere in the mess.  My husband took batches of cardboard to the recycle center to clear out the mess.  I moved everything back into the storage room and we set up three new bookcases- two with DVDs and one with board games.  The one that had board games on it is now being used for video games and other things in the play area which I still have to set up.  We could probably do with a million more and they would all be filled with different things.

Anyway, long story to tell you that I had to quickly go through the freezer and cupboards to figure out what to eat this week and hopefully pre-planning some of January.  We have a lot of things in the house so here is hoping that I can make a plan for most of the month without too many things to get at the store....who knows what will happen because it always seem to run out of something super important that sends me to the store.  Going to quickly work on the January menu plan and hope that I can get it done before January!!  Hope you have a good week!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Wishes Book Review

I reserved a book at the library because I was looking for all of the books in the Blossom Street series.  I started reading as soon as I got it.  Christmas Wishes: Christmas Letters\Rainy Day Kisses (A Blossom Street Novel) by Debbie Macomber was a great novel that I realized that I read the first story in the book.  I remember that I really enjoyed it but I skipped it (I never do that but there were so many books in my stack to read).

Katherine O'Connor (known as K.O.) adores her five-year-old twin nieces—and objects to her sister's plans to dispense with Christmas. Zelda is following the theories of child psychologist Wynn Jeffries, author of The Free Child (and, as it happens, K.O.'s neighbor). K.O. is particularly horrified by his edict to "bury Santa under the sleigh," and she's out to prove that Wynn and his ideas are full of…snow. He's not going to ruin her nieces' Christmas! Too bad the guy's so darned attractive…

Rainy Day Kisses is a delightful romantic comedy at Christmas—or any other time of the year!

Seventeen years ago, Susannah Simmons was a career girl who knew nothing about babies. But after babysitting her niece, Michelle, Susannah discovered that one determined—and screaming—infant can make the corporate world look like child's play! Thank goodness for Nate Townsend, her charming neighbor at the time. Now he's her charming husband, and Susannah is a mother as well as an aunt. And every Christmas Eve, Michelle tells her cousins how their mom met their dad…

I enjoyed the stories and really enjoyed reading the new second story that I hadn't checked out before.  Rainy Day Kisses was a wonderful story about how if you work to hard you might miss the whole meaning of life.  It is a great reminder in this holiday season to take a chance to sit back and enjoy the important things in life.  I think that you will be happy if you check out the wonderful message of this book and of course the great writing.  Check this out to bring back the holidays in your home the next time you are at your local library or bookstore.  I hope that you enjoy this one as much as I did!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thrifty Thursday: Swagbucks Victory!!

I have been inspired to start using Swagbucks after signing up for it in 2014 and not doing anything with it because Nathalie at Imperfectly Frugally does so well with it (check out her blog here).  There are videos, surveys and different things to do that earn you points.  The points can be used to pay for gift cards for a ton of places.

Since I love free things, I decided to take the challenge.  They give you a daily goal and if you reach that goal you get a bonus.  Even better if you reach the goal for 7 days then you get another bonus.  There is also a bonus for 14 days and 21 days so hoping to make those too.  There is a bonus for a month which since I am not that far seems to be for a calendar month and not a 30 day period so I am going to miss out on that this month but cross your fingers that I can get it next month because it is 300 extra points!!

Currently I am at about 1,500 points.  If I get 2,200 points then I can order one of the $25 gift cards.  It is my goal to get to that point before the end of the vacation.  That will take about 6-8 days if I am really good at doing everything that I can in a day.

You can do swagbucks on the computer and on the smart phone so there are plenty of things to run all day long and not do a ton of work to make the money.

If you want to sign up to be on my team, here is the link. When you sign up, you get a 150 SB.  That isn't a ton but at least it is a start.  I hope that you can use that use that earn a little free money to use.  I know that every bit helps!!  There are certain things that things that you do as a team but I don't know because I am not on a team.... Just so you know, I get something back from what you earn too if you join me.  You can pass on the love and get other friends to join you.

  If you are already doing Swagbucks and have any tips, let me know what I can do to get this mastered.  I hope that you sign up and make lots of gift cards!  I can't wait to order my first one.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Silver Linings Book Review

I went through a long list of books that I wanted as well as new releases and put a ton of books on reserve.  The crazy thing was that I had no clue what was coming or what was on the list because I reserved way too much at the same time.  I got Silver Linings: A Rose Harbor Novel (Rose Harbor Novels) by Debbie Macomber and I was glad to start it even though I didn't know which series this book was in.  I jumped right in!!

Set in Cedar Cove’s charming Rose Harbor Inn, Debbie Macomber’s captivating new novel follows innkeeper Jo Marie and two new guests as they seek healing and comfort, revealing that every cloud has a silver lining, even when it seems difficult to find.

Since opening the Rose Harbor Inn, Jo Marie Rose has grown close to her handyman, Mark Taylor. Jo Marie and Mark are good friends—and are becoming something more—yet he still won’t reveal anything about his past. When Mark tells her that he’s moving out of town, Jo Marie is baffled. Just when she is starting to open herself up again to love, she feels once more that she is losing the man she cares about. And as she discovers the secret behind Mark’s decision to leave, she welcomes two visitors also seeking their own answers.

Best friends Kellie Crenshaw and Katie Gilroy have returned to Cedar Cove for their ten-year high school reunion, looking to face down old hurts and find a sense of closure. Kellie, known as Coco, wants to finally confront the boy who callously broke her heart. Katie, however, wishes to reconnect with her old boyfriend, James—the man she still loves and the one who got away. As Katie hopes for a second chance, Coco discovers that people can change—and both look to the exciting possibilities ahead.

This book series always includes some of Jo Marie's life at the Rose Harbor Inn and you always get to meet some of her guests.  I love to get to know more about Jo Marie through her interactions with the guests.  You learn about how her life is changing based on what she shares with them and also how the guests change after short visits at the inn.  This book was no different with a class reunion with Katie and Coco going back to their ten year high school reunion.  They both have things in their past to deal with and although the one seems like it is going to be much harder to overcome then the other, both ladies struggle to get over their past and move on with their future.  Their lives will both change forever just by attending this reunion and staying at the wonderful inn.  I hope that you check out this book and all the others in the Rose Harbor series because I know that you will love it as much as her other series.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Middle of the Month Shopping Update

Okay, this month this might be more for me then you but I can't believe that it is the middle of the month.  I thought that I was doing pretty well this month with the monthly meal plan done so I didn't think that there was much more that I need but I was wrong!  We needed a lot and I was ignoring the cabinets as they were running bare.  I made way too many trips to the store for half of the month but the good news is that it is nearly over so one more big trip and I will hopefully be done for the month (and under budget with any luck).

Wegmans $1.27 + $30.74= $32.01

I went to Wegman's with my son to get some more ground beef.  I had some coupons for $3 off $15 and $1 off Health and Beauty and $1 off the cheese shop which I was trying to use. When I was there I found another coupon for the cheese shop so my son did a check out with his cheese.  I found the smallest piece of blue cheese that I got for $1.27.  I got the ricotta cheese for $1.99 which I figured was a good deal for me to make lasagna.  If I get it all made then I am going to have some lasagna soon!!  My husband also needed vitamins so those ended up being $1.79 after store coupon and manufacturers coupon.  The flour was on sale for $0.99 for 5 lbs.  We grabbed two more Cran Grape for my husband and Macaroni and Cheese for my son.

Harris Teeter  $9.44 + $7.26= $16.70

I got three Cinnamon Toast Crunch and two Honey Nut Cheerios.  Under advice from my 6 year old, we got 8 boxes of granola bars because they go very quickly because he likes them.

CVS $6.98

My son was sick so I went to the store and grabbed some medicine.   Got lots of coupons and deals so it was not a high ticket that it would normally be.

Safeway $2.75

My husband took my son to the store to get doughnuts and they brought them home to enjoy.

Aldi $4.70

My husband went to the store to get milk and also got two bags of chips.  The chips are already gone and this is an old picture that I took since I didn't take any pictures when my husband came home (oops!!!).

Harris Teeter $48.23

I made a huge trip to the store and was a little disappointed that I spent so much but I got bread flour which was on sale for $1.77 for a 5 lb bag.  This is the season to get those and since I had to have my mom buy be two 25 lb bags at Sam's Club this year, I know that I need to stock up.  I think that I have 6 bags now and what is left of the last 5 lb bag my mom got.  

We really needed lunchmeat which I might have over bought because my husband took two weeks off around the holidays.  We were also almost totally out of margarine and my husband has declared that Aldi brand changed too much and he dislikes it so I splurged and bought the brand we used to use.  I grabbed Miracle Whip because we didn't move any with us and my husband likes it on turkey sandwiches after the holidays.  I grabbed the 18 packs of eggs because they were on special and we were almost totally out of eggs with my recent splurge of baking sugar cookies.  My husband is a little addicted to this new sugar cookie recipe so I have been making double batches.  I was also at the bottom of the shortening container and needed to refill the Fry Daddy so I figured that $2.87 was close to what I pay at Aldi and it wasn't worth another trip to another store.

My son really needed popcorn because I thought we used the last bag from Aldi (but I found one more in the freezer).  My son has also used all the tissues in the house and my car so I had to buy another box of tissues which I think is mostly all gone now too!

I splurged and bought the toilet paper because we were running low and it always seems to go a lot faster when we have company over the holidays.  I also grabbed three boxes of cereal for way more then I would normally pay and I can't really tell you why but they were a decent deal around $1 per box but we could have done without.  I also grabbed the Crisco butter sticks because I had a coupon and they were on sale.  It is so much easier to bake with them and they were $0.75 each after coupon (don't know if it was a good deal but at least it was easy to make the last batch of cookies).  Seriously thought that I was almost out of honey mustard (which I like on my chicken fingers) and I got them for $0.50 each.  I got home and went to put them in the cupboard and there was one of my favorite brand still in there.  I obviously was doing a lot of impulse shopping with not list and no direction.  I also grabbed two vanilla because it was on sale and I had a coupon (I said that I wouldn't do that and I would start making it because I use so much but of well).

There were two things on my list to get and they were both free!  Free cinnamon hard candy and I used a rain check to get free chocolate because the shelf was fully stocked.  I also got the instant potato packets which I use in my baked potato soup to thicken it (YUM) for free after sale, coupon and electronic coupon.

Last but not least, my mom got addicted to this holiday Celestial Seasonings (which I picked up two years ago free after sale and double coupon) so I bought her these for Christmas which I ended up spending $4.50 for $9 worth of it was a thoughtful gift.  Still hoping to catch it when they put it on clearance and get her a bunch more but this is all that I could get since it wasn't the best deal!

Walgreens $17.51

My husband looked online for deals on Coke and found the best deal at Walgreens.  It was 3/$8 which is less than $3 per case.  I had two coupons for $3 off that I "bought" with my coke rewards earlier in the year.  I didn't know how it was going to go because I always have trouble at Walgreens with coupons and deals.  I got the popcorn tin for my dad for Christmas (already wrapped and under the tree).  My husband was totally out of Cran Grape and it was on sale for $1.99 (my buy price).  I got the two off the shelf and asked the sales person if there was anymore in the back.  They said that they would check and he brought three more out.  We took them all...he was a little surprised. 

Total OOP $128.88

The only good news is that this includes gifts for Christmas which really aren't groceries but I am leaving them in there so that I don't have to separate everything out.  I also used the rest of my free rebate card to get some of the groceries so this means that my real money out of pocket wasn't so high.  I did get a few gift cards for Christmas to Target which I promptly went out and spent.  I still have a few to Trader Joes, Starbucks, Panera, Amazon and a local restaurant chain so those will be well spent to offset the cost of Christmas.  Looking forward to starting to add up the year and seeing where I end overall!!  Hope that the rest of this year goes well for you too!!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Menu Plan Monday 12/21

Monday- Chicken Stir Fry Noodles with egg rolls
Tuesday- Salsa Sloppy Joes with homemade rolls and mac and cheese
Wednesday- Penne Pasta with garlic bread or pizza bites
Thursday- Barber Chicken with white rice
Friday- Dinner with family (probably bringing rolls and dessert)
Saturday- Chinese Food or Take Out
Sunday- Leftovers or Breakfast for Dinner

We are going to have family in town for the week and we are going to be super busy but I think that we will basically stick to this and move things around if we are too busy.  Hope you have a great holiday!!  I also hope that you have a yummy week and a great holiday.  I know that I will enjoy the relaxation of not having to go to work and get all those things done but I might be exhausted living through the excitement of the little man during the holidays.  Hopefully the two will balance out and I will get more sleep and have enough energy for all the excitement!!

Friday, December 18, 2015

End of a Super Busy Week and Month!!

Well, I think that it is enough that I have had a post with this title in my drafts for a month.  I knew that I was going to get a chance to catch up with everything but I didn't know how long it would take me.

We were super busy and stressed with everything going on at work, home, and getting ready to leave for a trip so my son ended up with strep throat.  My husband took him to the doctor while I was at work and he got to have two days home before we left for our trip so that he wasn't contagious.

We got a new car!!  It came in early so we got to pick up with sick boy in tow.  We took the full new gas tank from the dealership and drove to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday.  We got to spend lots of quality time in the car because the traffic was crazy but we found my son's favorite exit in PA with a Playplace McDonalds that we got to stop on the way up and the way back so that he got a break to play.

Then, we did lots of Black Friday shopping at Walmart and Target for me and my husband and mom went on a special secret trip after that to other stores.  Then we went to visit my cousin and we hit Target and Carters to get lots of other great things.  We didn't get things for everyone but it was as good as the holidays was going to get.  We saved lots of money!!

I started working on making chocolate houses for my second part time job as an assistant to a realtor.  There are molds all over one counter and half melted chocolate on the other counter.  The boxes of chocolate and finished product is in the dining room.  I have had two blasts of making all of these and I think that I have made nearly 500 houses which are being delivered all over the Northern VA area to different customers.  The great thing is that I can do all this at home but the bad thing is that I am making a mess of things at home so there is barely a free space in my kitchen to make anything else like those cookies my husband was wanting.

We did lots more unpacking and moving of boxes to get ready for holiday guests.  I am still working on the front bedroom but we are getting closer to having a usable house.  We cleared out the living room which was mostly filled with tools, paint and air compressor which I am sure most people keep in their living room.  We now have a Christmas tree and have cleared out all of the junk to be ready to host any holiday gatherings.  Even wrapped some presents and got them under the tree even if the walls aren't painted in that room but you will see the wonderful priming on the walls to reflect the lights shining.

We went to see Santa.  My husband went to wait in line early so that we wouldn't have to wait.  I picked up the little man from school and we got a pizza and met up with him.  Santa came early so we didn't get a lot of time to eat the dinner that I brought but we did end up finishing it on the way home so that we could get home and finish my son's goods and services social studies homework.  Are you wondering what was on his Christmas list that he is showing Santa?  He said that he didn't need anything because everything that he wanted Grandma, Grandpa and Grammie were going to get him!!  He just wanted to go and wish Santa Merry Christmas so that went well. 

We got home and back to school with more homework and more things to do at school and after school with lots of going on including a big power point project on shapes which we have had for weeks and still not started (just in case you were wondering my little guy is in first grade).  My son went to a library program on Saturday morning and was set to work on his project when he got home but he started complaining of severe pain.  My husband rushed him to urgent care to find out that he has a double ear infection (I think that I might too but I wasn't there so I didn't get checked).

Hope that you and your family are a little healthier this holiday season and enjoying all of the different things that are going on with friends and family!!  We are hoping to get this all out of our system so that we can have a happy and healthy new year.  Also hoping that I can get back to blogging since I have missed a lot of posts in the last few weeks.  I am sorry for being missing in action but hoping to be back now even with a little cold...good news is that you can't catch it online.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop Book Review

I was looking at this book on and off and kept passing on it.  Have you ever had something you were interested in but weren't sure exactly why?  I kept looking at so I decided that I had to order it.  I just think that the cover was calling to me even though I knew that I probably wasn't going to need most of the information in the book.  I was drawn to order Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Art of Mokuhanga by April J. Vollmer to find out what it was about.  At least then I could stop starring at it!!

An inspirational how-to course on Japanese woodblock printing's history and techniques, with guidance on materials and studio practices, step-by-step demonstrations, and examples of finished works by modern masters of the medium as well as historic pieces.

A Modern Guide to the Ancient Art of mokuhanga

An increasingly popular yet age-old art form, Japanese woodblock printing (mokuhanga) is embraced for its non-toxic character, use of handmade materials, and easy integration with other printmaking techniques. In this comprehensive guide, artist and printmaker April Vollmer—one of the best known mokuhanga practitioners and instructors in the West—combines her deep knowledge of this historic printmaking practice with expert step-by-step instruction, guidance on materials and studio practices, and a diverse collection of prints by leading contemporary artists. At once practical and inspirational, this handbook is as useful to serious printmakers and artists as it is to creative people drawn
to Japanese history and aesthetics.

I think that this book was very interesting because it showed the work that can be done whether more modern works of art or the classic Asian art works.  It provided tons of examples including how the art work was printed and used with other media like an x-ray.  There were some beautiful pictures of the art work.  There was also step by step instructions on how to make the wood blocks with details on the wood and information about the ink and colors to use with the process.  It was fascinating and I learned a lot about the process....not that I am going to try any time soon but super cool to follow the process.  I hope that you check it out at your local library or bookstore and see if it is something you might want to pick up and read.  I know that I learned a lot and can't wait to see more of this fascinating art work!

** I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  All opinions here are my own.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Homemade Life Book Review

I found this while I was wandering around the library looking for what I was going to read next.  A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg was not a disappointment.  It was like reading the best cookbook you could possibly imagine.  There were only probably 4-5 recipes that I would actually make but the writing in the rest of the book was so entertaining.

When Molly Wizenberg's father died of cancer, everyone told her to go easy on herself, to hold off on making any major decisions for a while. But when she tried going back to her apartment in Seattle and returning to graduate school, she knew it wasn't possible to resume life as though nothing had happened. So she went to Paris, a city that held vivid memories of a childhood trip with her father, of early morning walks on the cobbled streets of the Latin Quarter and the taste of her first pain au chocolat. She was supposed to be doing research for her dissertation, but more often, she found herself peering through the windows of chocolate shops, trekking across town to try a new p√Ętisserie, or tasting cheeses at outdoor markets, until one evening when she sat in the Luxembourg Gardens reading cookbooks until it was too dark to see, she realized that her heart was not in her studies but in the kitchen.

At first, it wasn't clear where this epiphany might lead. Like her long letters home describing the details of every meal and market, Molly's blog Orangette started out merely as a pleasant pastime. But it wasn't long before her writing and recipes developed an international following. Every week, devoted readers logged on to find out what Molly was cooking, eating, reading, and thinking, and it seemed she had finally found her passion. But the story wasn't over: one reader in particular, a curly-haired, food-loving composer from New York, found himself enchanted by the redhead in Seattle, and their email correspondence blossomed into a long-distance romance.

In A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, Molly Wizenberg recounts a life with the kitchen at its center. From her mother's pound cake, a staple of summer picnics during her childhood in Oklahoma, to the eggs she cooked for her father during the weeks before his death, food and memories are intimately entwined. You won't be able to decide whether to curl up and sink into the story or to head straight to the market to fill your basket with ingredients for Cider-Glazed Salmon and Pistachio Cake with Honeyed Apricots.

I hope that you check out this book because it really goes through every part of her life and how food played a role.  There is a chapter of the book for each experience followed by a recipe or two that she had talked about during the chapter.  There are many chapters that I wasn't sure where the recipe was going to go because there was a lot going on but she always brought it back to the recipe.  The last chapter and my favorite recipe was the chocolate wedding cake that they made for their own wedding.  I really enjoyed it and if you think that you might enjoy the most readable cookbook, check this book out at your local library or bookstore.  I promise that you won't be disappointed in the wonderful stories and great writing!!

The one recipe that my husband would like me to make is the Coconut Macaroons with chocolate ganache (found on page 94) or on her website (although a little different recipe) here.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Menu Plan Monday 12/14

Monday- Herb Butter Roasted Chicken with mac and cheese
Tuesday- Barber Chicken with white rice
Wednesday- Chicken Fries, Popcorn Chicken and homemade fries
Thursday- Penne Pasta with garlic bread
Friday- Spicy Honey Mustard Chicken
Saturday-  Stir Fry Noodles with egg rolls
Sunday- Breakfast or Leftovers

I planned this month in advance to try to make the holidays a little easier to plan for but things come up and days are easily switched with this menu plan.  Hoping that this makes it easier!!  I hope that you have a yummy week!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Muffins

We were at the store and my cousin decided that we wanted chocolate chip muffins.  She was going to buy a box mix at the store and I told her that is what you have me around for because that is what I am good for...baking!!  We bought baking powder which she thought was her only missing ingredient and we went back to make muffins.

I used my iPad to look up the recipe that I had in mind and I had never made before.  You can check out her recipe here. I grabbed all of the ingredients and we actually had everything we needed to make them!!

I mixed the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.

I melted the butter in the microwave.  Whenever I melt a stick of butter, I use the paper for the splash guard which usually works pretty well.  The butter needed to cool for a little bit to have the other wet ingredients mixed in.  I forgot to take a picture of them all mixed in but I added the milk next to use the measuring cup.  Then I added vanilla and eggs and mixed it all up until combined.

I dumped a ton of chocolate chips into the dry ingredients.

Then I mixed them together.  I realized that this was the perfect recipe for me to do in a mason jar because I could do everything including the chocolate chips in the mason jar and it would be ready to go with very little effort.  I can't wait to make a few jars to have one hand.

I added the wet ingredients to the dry mixture.

I mixed it together by hand so that it didn't get over mixed.  It was between a cookie batter and a muffin batter texture.  I did have a little flour stuck to the bottom but I mixed it as I went just in case so that I didn't over mix.

I sprayed my cousins nice new muffin tin and put in the batter in them but she only had one so I put in one batch at a time.  I topped with orange sugar because it was Thanksgiving and some with plain sugar and added a few chocolate chips to the top. 

The temperature on the oven was supposed to be turned down and I might have messed it up a little in the process but I think that the recipe made have been making jumbo muffins and not regular size so I would change the cooking time in future times making it to much lower.

The muffins were super puffed up and they were left to cool on the stove for a few seconds before we all ate them!!

My cousin's husband took one and came back in and "snuck" another one and came back into kitchen with a big smile to take another one.  So I think that they were a big hit.  The slightly crunchy edges were still yummy and didn't get in our way.  The inside was still moist and tasty.

I put the rest that were left from our batch on a plate.  We ate all remaining muffins for breakfast the next morning.  Heated in the microwave gave them the feeling that they were fresh out of the oven with the melted chocolate chips that we enjoyed the previous day.

I hope that you enjoy some of these great muffins too!!!  I made them again when I got home so that I could have a better idea of the cooking time and those turned out much better.  I hope that you try this recipe and see if you enjoy them!!

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Muffins

serves 24 regular muffins
(or 12 jumbo muffins- cooking time with vary)


  • 2¾ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp + ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1¼ cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
  • Optional - 1 tbsp coarse sugar or regular and additional chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Using cooking spray coat the muffin pan. Make sure that the whole muffin cup is covered.
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl and mix with a whisk so that everything is well combined. Stir in 11/2 cups of the chocolate chips.
  4. In a measuring cup melt butter and cool. Combine all the wet ingredients, making sure the eggs are well incorporated as well.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. IMPORTANT: If you stir too much the muffins will become too dense. You want the muffins to be fluffy and moist just stir everything until the dry ingredients just combine with everything.
  6. Scoop out the batter evenly into each section of the muffin pan to make 24 muffins.
  7. Sprinkle the tops of the batter with the chocolate chips and the coarse sugar (optional)
  8. Bake in the oven at 350°F for 15-20 min or until lightly browned
  9. Once the muffins are finished baking cool in the muffin pan for 5-10 minutes.
I hope that you love these as much as we have !!  Check out the original recipe if you want to make jumbo muffins because there is a different cooking time so make sure you check the recipe here.