Monday, June 27, 2016

Menu Plan Monday 6/27

Hash Browns
Chocolate Chip Muffins

Olive Oil Pasta with garlic bread (Penne Pasta with garlic salt for little man)
Tacos with yellow rice and spicy yellow rice
Hamburger Philly Cheesesteak Pasta
Mac and Cheese
Little Caesars Pizza
Pete's Steak Shop for Steak and Cheese
Grottos for Pizza
Green Turtle

So I am taking it a little different this week and just making a list of all the meals that we are going to have so that I am prepared for anything.  Since lunches and dinners often switch on vacation based on when we are most hungry and not at the pool or out doing fun stuff, I am not even separating those.  We are all on vacation this week so we will be eating breakfast, lunch and dinner together and so I made a plan for all of the meals.  Here is my best guess of what we are having this week in no particular order!! Some meals may swap out for others if the need arises but this keeps the eating out to a minimum if I have yummy meals planned to eat at home while still getting the treat of eating in a restaurant.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Jilted Book Review

I was excited to get Jilted: A Novel (Mended Hearts Series) by Varina Denman and start reading but since this was the third book in the series, I wanted to start at the beginning.  I read the first and the second book in the series before starting on the third book.  These books are all nearly 400 pages so it was a lot of reading!!! 

Jilted is the story of a woman abandoned fifteen years ago, the man determined to rescue her heart, and a long-hidden mystery that throws their quiet west Texas community into a tailspin.  Lynda Turner has struggled with depression since her husband abandoned her and their young daughter fifteen years ago.  Yet unexpected hope awakens when a local ex-convict shows interest. As long-hidden secrets resurface, Lynda must fight for her emotional stability and for a life where the shadow of shame is replaced by the light of love.  Jilted tells of a woman who has lost the joy of living, a man determined to draw her back toward happiness, and a town that must—once and for all—leave the past where it belongs. It is a gentle reminder that all things can work together for good.

Although the description on Amazon leaves a lot to be desired (the first sentence in the previous paragraph was all that was listed), the book was great.  I read the first two books in the series first before starting on the third book.  Lynda Turner was a character discussed in the previous books but a book from her perspective was unexpected.  Previously she was more one dimensional but this book really brought her to being a whole person that you were totally pulling for.  It brings to light how some people live with depression and try to have a "normal" life outside of the disease.  I hope that you check out this book for yourself and the other books in the Mended Heart series.  I know that you will enjoy it as much as I did! All of the books are a great piece of the puzzle that can be read by themselves or in series to enjoy the small Texas town and all the great characters.

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

Celebrate the release of Varina’s Jilted by entering to win a $50 gift card.
One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Jilted to kick off a summer of reading
  • A $50 Kohl’s gift card to make your summertime sweet
The giveaway ends on July 1st. The winner will be announced July 5th on Varina’s website.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Thrifty Tuesday (normally Thursday): Getting Back into the Frugal Swing Over the Weekend

I was working 5 days a week for 2 weeks of summer camp and everything else went out the window even though it was only about a 6 hour day, it was all that I could take because I had time to run maybe one errand or do one thing before picking up my son from school.  Sadly, I got behind on everything- housework, cooking, cleaning and anything else!  Everything suffered!!

I spent the monthly grocery budget in the first half of the month and only had $1.12 left in the budget and still more spending to be done.  I decided that I better hunker down and use the things that I had at home well and get back on track.  I only got popcorn made for my son's lunch and was starting to use frozen rolls for my husbands lunch because I was totally out.  I made a batch of fresh rolls which he said were really yummy!!  My encouragement to know that the frozen ones weren't really making the cut because fresh is always better.

On Friday after I was done, I tried to catch up by doing dishes....haha!!  The stack was too large to handle.  I had broken into a sweat with the air conditioning running and had to take a break.  I did a few loads of laundry to get back on track with clothes during the break from dishes.  I did a bunch more and ran the dishwasher.  There were still more when I had to give up and run to the library before picking up my son from school.  I had some books that were due back with no renewals left.  I almost cried when we had late charges this week because I was at the library and didn't renew the books!!  I was so disappointed in myself that I have to pay $0.90 because I didn't renew them so I returned them instead.  Bonus is that I remembered to pick up the local papers to get the free coupon inserts and I picked up a reserve of a book on CD that my son wants to read so that we can listen to it as a family on our vacation.

We went to the pool on Friday night and then, I made even more making a mess for dinner.  My husband really thinks that we should go back to using paper plates but I am hoping for actually having enough energy to clean up after dinner which I never do!! We went with a mix of leftovers and other items to get dinner on the table.

I slept horribly on Saturday and woke up to my husband saying that he was washing dishes, emptying the dishwasher, and putting things away.  With a bonus cleaning the stove which he said took him 2 1/2 hours.  I continued to wash a few dishes but we had to head out for soccer. We stopped at the library on the way home from the game because they emailed me like 15 minutes after I left on Friday to let me know that one of the books for my son was in!!  I hate that because I go in the afternoon because I know that is when the reserves come in but they stock them at 4:15 after school gets out!!!  Anyway, picked up a few more of the free local newspaper.

After getting all these and hearing from Natalie that Super Doubles was coming, I realized that I better get going on the coupons.  I sorted all of the inserts that I had and then went through and started cutting (way too much cutting so it happened in a few shifts).  I worked pretty hard to get my basket totally cleaned out and ready to go!  Now I have to go through and make a note of the $1 or more coupons that might be great values!!

I came home and made a bigger mess with brownies from a box mix (my husband's favorite), nutella oat breakfast cookies (I am the only one who likes these), and cinnamon rolls (for our fathers day treat).  I did more dishes and finished all the old dishes...sadly, made more that I didn't get done before going to bed. 

My husband made another batch of ice tea!!  We finished all the Lipton tea bags and we are on to the Tetley which is my favorite brand.  Sad thing is that means that we are cutting into the supply and we have not gotten enough sales and coupons recently.  The good news is that I have a fresh pot of tea.

I made a loaf of bread.  Because my son loves peanut butter sandwiches during the summer when he can get them fresh. It also helps because I use them for paninis and other meals.  Fresh bread is hard because it doesn't always stay fresh long enough to use but we use a lot more in the summer.

It was a team effort to make popcorn to get ready for the week.  My husband helped me while I was doing other things in the kitchen. We also then washed the popcorn maker to stick back in the cupboard.  It doesn't get washed every time but I so love it when it is cleaned and put away.

We also made a big batch of brown sugar because we were totally out. We made 4 cups of brown sugar which filled up the brown sugar and emptied the white sugar so I filled that too.  I mixed and shook and got exhausted.  My husband helped and finished the mixing so that my arm could rest.

We had meal of leftovers including buffalo chicken panini, grilled buffalo mac and cheese, rice and other leftovers for Friday night.  On Saturday, my son asked for chicken fries and diced hash browns so I made them for him and me and my husband had a burger.  On Sunday, I made edamame, egg rolls and chicken lo mein stir fry from a bunch of things in the freezer.  YEAH using up what was on hand!! I am glad that I had the flexibility to do that this weekend and use a bunch of things so that they weren't wasted.

While making dinner, I realized that I needed to package and freeze the ground beef that I bought so I took the package and put it in individual bags to make at least 6 meals. Put them in the upstairs freezer but I need to carry them to the deep freeze in the basement.

We also spent some time on Sunday cleaning out the grill and seeing if we could get new parts for it again.  I am so glad that I have a husband that fixes things!!  He headed to Home Depot to pick up the needed parts with gift cards.  He used most of them recently to buy the attic ladder for our garage so I have a feeling that we are going to run out soon.  Buying another one through Swagbucks in July again because we still have tons of things that we need around the house!!  Hoping for a grill that I can work again so that I can at least preheat before he gets home if the occasion calls for it! Here is hoping we can get it cleaned up and working. The other great news is that we both cleaned the inside of it so it should work even better through the summer months.

I was excited to use the weekend to get my act together and clean the house and get everything ready to have a good week.  I am hoping to get lots done this week and follow this super productive weekend but that usually doesn't work out as well as I plan.  Great news is that I have a few days of no working while my son is still in school.  Plans to make blueberry strudel muffins and banana bread for the week.

How are you doing with the beginning of your summer?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Menu Plan Monday 6/20

Monday- Spiedies Chicken and white rice
Tuesday- Pasta
Wednesday- Chicken fries, Popcorn Chicken with homemade fries
Thursday- Chicken Paninis with Leftovers
Friday- Barber Chicken with white rice
Saturday- Hamburger and baked potato
Sunday- Take Out At Restaurant

I finally got the whole plan written down to see what we were going to have for the month only to have another month mostly gone again.  The great news is that is official summer now and my little man is out of school.  We are going to have a little down time since I am done with camp, little man with school and my husband is done with the busy time.  We are going to have a little vacation time after all this before the 4th of July holiday.  We are planning for a really low key week since this is the last busy one!!  We have had a heck of a time trying to keep up with the dishes this month with so much to do.  I hope that you have a tasty week!

Friday, June 17, 2016

My Fathers House Book Review

I picked My Father's House: a novel by Rose Chandler Johnson even though I had some hesitation because it didn't look like a happy book.  I keep picking these books that look really serious and I thought that I should get some lighter reading for the summer.  I am glad that I fought the urge and got this book even with the heavy subject matter because it was a great book!!  I had trouble putting it down and going to sleep but it was a great story!

Growing up, life is idyllic for Lily Rose Cates due to one constant – her father’s love. But in her sixteenth summer, all that changes without warning. There begins Lily’s struggle to find herself and the life she’s lost. . . . Marriage promises fulfillment, but her happily-ever-after barely survives the honeymoon. Her husband’s sophisticated fa├žade hides a brooding man with even darker secrets. When all illusions shatter, Lily must make hard choices – abandon her husband or risk losing much more than her marriage. She flees their home in Detroit and sets out on a fearful journey to a house in Georgia that her husband knows nothing about. This is one woman’s compelling tale of love and survival as she finds her way back home to who she’s meant to be . . . in her father’s house. "...had it not been for Annie Ruth, I would have ended up right there rocking on the front porch beside Mama. Annie Ruth took care of me. She and Mr. John drove up in his dusty pickup truck every morning at six o'clock. She got out and came in, bringing her life and soul into the house...We were her cherished charges, and I was like her own." --My Father's House

This book was hard to put down because I had to find out what was going to happen next.  Lily Rose is working on making her life complete after loosing her father and her anchor in her life.  She works hard through college and makes many close friends but her life is still not settled as all of her friends are settling down and having families.  Lily jumped at her first serious relationship and ended up in a difficult and abusive marriage.  I don't think that it was stressed as much how hard it was to leave her husband because of her religious beliefs but you could tell that she had made a very tough decision to leave him and try to move on with her life.  The wonderful southern charm of the small town that she chooses to hide out in is essential to the story and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what other stories are going to unfold.  You will be amazed when you pick up this book and see all the action that happens and you will be pulling for Lily Rose too.  I hope that you check out this book for yourself because I know that you will enjoy it as much as I did.

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Justified Book Review

I was excited to start the second book in the series right after reading the first.  Justified: A Novel (Mended Hearts Series) by Varina Denman was the next book which started from a different point of view in the same small town in Texas.  My son pointed out that it had a lot of chapters and a lot of pages but my husband assured him that I would read it quickly before the deadline.  I finished the huge book within 24 hours of starting so I obviously couldn't put it down.

Award winning author, Varina Denman, returns with a new story of love and second chances for a young mother and the small town's beloved football coach.  In a small Texas town ruled by gossip, Fawn Blaylock believes others are justified in condemning her untimely pregnancy. Stifled by guilt, she yearns for grace while the local football coach treats her with gentle respect.  Justified perfectly captures the rhythm and romance of life in a small town, telling the unforgettable story of a woman searching for renewal, a man looking beyond what others see, and a community torn between judgment and love. It is the unforgettable story of broken dreams, second chances, and relentless hope.

I was interested to follow along with Fawn's life and how she is trying to start over after her parents threw her out when they found out that she was pregnant (especially after meeting her in the first book).  She moved in with people that she didn't call friends before and they quickly became her friends and family.  She counted on them and they did not disappoint by providing housing and emotional support while she got back on her feet.  She found a job one day a week doing accounting at the feed store and keeping the store in order on paper.  The pain and pleasure of a small town was clear in this book while Fawn was trying to live as an unmarried, pregnant women who was still attending church and making the choice not to marry the baby's father as is standard in the small town.  She learns a lot about herself, her family and people that she can trust while making her new life.  She ends up being very happy with the new life that she has created and as the reader, we get to see it all unfold.  I hope that you check out this book and all of the books in the series and that you enjoy them as much as I have!!

**I was provided a copy of the book with no expectations of a review in return because I am reviewing the third book in the series.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Jaded Book Review

I picked out the third book in this series to review and the wonderful publisher sent me all three books in the series.  Jaded: A Novel (Mended Hearts Series) by Varina Denman is the first book in the Mended Hearts Series so it is where I started.  I was really excited to start at the beginning and get them all read before the deadline for the review of the third book.  Challenge accepted and almost 1200 pages to read ahead of me!!

As a child, Ruthie was shunned by the local congregation. Thirteen years later, Ruthie’s heart begins to stir when an attractive single preacher arrives. But their relationship is bitterly opposed—unearthing a string of secrets which threaten to turn the church, the town, and her world upside-down.  Jaded is the rare novel that is both love story between a woman and man ... and God and His church. Plunging deep into the waters of shame, forgiveness and restoration, it will resonate with every woman who’s experienced a loss of heart ... and a thirst for hope.

Loved it!!  It took me forever to actually get enough time to read this without falling asleep but I really enjoyed the book and couldn't wait to find out about the story with Ruthie and how she was trying to live in a small town where she was basically shunned by most of the town.  She has a close friendship with her aunt, uncle, cousin, and very few other people in her small Texas town.  It makes you understand exactly how aliened she was from her mother and the rest of the small town while trying to stay and support her mother with a job at the public school and local grocery store.  It is a wonderful and heartfelt story getting to know Ruthie and other new members of the small Texas town.  I hope that you check out this book and the rest of the series to see how much you will like it!!  The best thing is that the book is actually long enough to cover all the topics and it doesn't just end so I was so happy to read this wonderful story and I immediately picked up the second book in the series so stay tuned for that review!

**I was provided a copy of the book with no expectations of a review in return because I am reviewing the third book in the series.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Menu Plan Monday 6/13

Monday- Barber Chicken and white rice or Pasta
Tuesday- Dinner with Soccer Team
Wednesday- Chicken fries, Popcorn Chicken with homemade fries
Thursday- Chicken Paninis with leftovers
Friday- Chicken and Rice Casserole
Saturday- Hamburger and Baked Potato
Sunday- Leftovers??

This is our last week of quick and easy freezer Barber chicken kiev and cordon bleu that I got for free at the store so we have been going every other week with these easy meals.  I think that we have totally had enough to get our fix for the next few years.  My husband actually used to love them and since they were free at the store, I couldn't pass them up.  We ate all the first batch and these are the ones that we got with the rain check.  Super easy meals gone bummer but back to home cooked yumminess!!  We still have soccer going for a little while longer so we need the quick and easy pasta meal to get in my little man and husband before they head out to play in the heat.  The rest of the week was a little bit of a mystery but after I finished the month plan, I was very happy with the start to our summer (even if we are still in school).  I am hoping to use all in the fridge and freezer and make the most of what we have before going on vacation and clearing everything out.  I hope that you have a tasty week!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

AHHHHHH!!! June Shopping Gone Wild! Not Even the Middle of the Month :(

I have been at the store way too much recently.  The great news is that I bought tons of granola bars which should last us until school starts but who knows.  I also grabbed tons of ice cream that was on a special great price less than Aldi with sale and coupon.  Tons of sales but crazy amount of shopping and still more to get through the month.  Here is hoping that I can stay sort of close to budget but it certainly doesn't look like I can with most of the month left and most of the $160 monthly budget gone.

Harris Teeter $40.73

I went to get a few deals and grabbed way too much stuff.  I got two packages of toilet paper, 9 packages of Quaker Granola bars, 4 bags of popcorn, 2 bags of Chex Mix, 2 Hamburger Helper, 2 Dominos Quick Dissolve, 3 tubs of ice cream and Whole Fruit Ice Pops.  We are totally ready for the vacation with lots of these purchases but I think that I went a little crazy with these deals because they certainly weren't super great but I did put in for online rebates.

Aldi $17.15

I grabbed another bag of popcorn chicken because we were at the bottom of the stash.  We were out of milk so I grabbed another gallon which was quick to expire and a little high priced but oh well.  We finished all of the lettuce so I grabbed another one even though I didn't have plans for it yet.  I got another package of sugar cones, marshmallows, corn tortilla, margarine, cheese, and crackers.  The bananas were on sale for $0.18 per pound so I grabbed those great deals which my husband enjoyed for breakfast and then I used the last two with a frozen banana to make banana bread.

Rite Aid $6.24

I decided to stock up on the soda with the deal at Rite Aid and the My Coke Rewards $3 coupons.  I was glad to get those because we are going to take a case of each on vacation.  Super excited to get a great deal so that we will have a special treat through vacation but this is getting to be horrible habit.

Giant $3.49

I am super upset that Aldi has stopped filling the turkey and chicken lunch meat.  There seems to be an issue because the ham is in the other side of the box and they can't order because there is so much ham left so the system won't let them order more.  I finally found some at Giant and got two ears of corn.  YUM!!  We really enjoyed them for dinner.

Harris Teeter $29.60

I went for another round at Harris Teeter before the sale ended.  I got 9 boxes of Quaker Granola Bars and 3 ice cream gallons.  I got mustard because we were totally done with our bottle and my husband likes it on his hamburgers.  I ordered four coupons for Cheez Its from Kelloggs Family rewards so I got 4 boxes for a good deal on a family favorite.  I got two ears of corn but they weren't nearly as good as the ones from Giant so I guess I am going back there to get some more soon.

Harris Teeter $9.27

I went earlier in the day and my husband took my son with coupons in hand to get a few things of their choice.  There were only three boxes of granola bars left and they picked their ice cream choices.  We might have an ice cream problem but we are all eating it just about every night and we are going through a ton of ice cream.  The lady at the cash register didn't want to take one of his coupons so he called me and asked me what to do and I told him to go to customer service.  They did something weird on the computer and instead of just giving them $1 for the coupon, they got $3.08 back and they didn't even ring up the coupon so who knows what they did but we got a great deal on this transaction because my husband was willing to go to customer service which a few years ago he totally wouldn't have done!!!  YEAH!!  Frugal win!!

CVS $8.70 + $9.49= $18.19

My son got sent home from school with a rash so we headed to the doctor because we needed a note to get back to school.  AHHHH!!  The doctor told me that I needed to give him Benadryl so I bought store brand.  DUH! So we stopped at the store to get it and Cortisone in case it was itchy.  The Heinz ketchup was on sale 2/$4 so we got 4 bottles because we were totally out.  My son wanted to the popcorn and there was a deal where you get $1 ECB so I did two transactions and used a printed coupon with the breakfast biscuits...those were eaten in the car ride home by me.  I want to go back and use the coupon to get a few more of them!!  LOVED THEM!! I wasn't expecting this expense but did the best with what I had to get what I needed.

 Total OOP $124.67

I put in for rebates and got $0.25 from Checkout 51, $2.50 from Ibotta, and $0.30 from Mobi Save.  So I will get a little bit of money back in different accounts but now I only have $35 left in the whole months budget and we are out of white rice, cereal, crackers and a few other things that I was planning getting for vacation like ground beef which is quickly going to eat up the remaining budget.  I better get a little more creative to make it through the month with everything that is at the house and stretch the current budget and stop looking at the sales because they are very tempting to get more of them!!! AHHH!!!

My shopping month isn't going great but I hope that you are having a good month!!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Medical Judgement Book Review

I have read a few books by this author and his background as a doctor makes his stories amazingly detailed.  I was excited to read Medical Judgment by Richard L. Mabry and find out what trouble is going to appear for the characters in this medical drama!!  I didn't even read the description to see if it was going to be a continuation of another book or all new.

Someone is after Dr. Sarah Gordon. They’ve stalked her and set a fire at her home. Trying to recover from the traumatic deaths of her husband and infant daughter is tough enough, but she has no idea what will come next. Her late husband’s best friend and a recovering alcoholic detective are trying to solve the mystery before it’s too late, but both appear to be vying for her affection as well. Sarah finds herself in constant fear as the process plays out.  As the threats on her life continue to escalate, so do the questions: Who is doing this? Why are they after her? And with her only help being unreliable suitors in competition with each other, whom can she really trust?

I really enjoyed this book as I have Richard Mabry's other books.  There was a lot of action and mystery trying to figure out who was trying to do Sarah harm.  The way the story is written, you don't know what evil is around each corner.  Sarah is trying to rebuild her life after loosing her husband and daughter but having a hard time trying to figure out how to carry on.  After eight months (which is repeated frequently in the book), she is working and trying to maintain a life and everything falls apart because someone starts a fire in her garage.  After looking more into the problem, they realize that she was being stalked long before that with strange phone calls and other strange happenings.  She has avoids a bullet and many other aggressive acts while trying to find out who is behind the attacks.  She is supported by two men in her church who end up both wanting to keep her safe and win her over.  Although there are many different churches, it seemed a little far fetched that the pastor, police detective and lawyer are all a member of the same church as the doctor because there was never any mention of this being a really small town so it would have been more believable to me if they were all Christians and not all members of the same church.  There is a lot of bible references that seem a little pushed into some parts in the book but overall the wonderful story and great writing had me turning pages and having trouble putting it down.  It was a little different then the other books that I have read but I enjoyed it and I know that you will be on the edge of your seat waiting to find out what happens next.  The best part is that the writers medical background really brings truth to the doctor and hospital scenes and makes it seem like real life.  I hope that you check it out and enjoy it as well!!

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

Join Richard in celebrating the release of Medical Judgment by entering to win an e-reader!

medical judgment - 400

One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of Medical Judgment
  • A Kindle Fire HD 6
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on June 21st. The winner will be announced June 22nd on the Litfuse blog.

medical judgment - enterbanner

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

May Reading Review

I read a lot of books for review this month and fit in time to read a few books at the library. I was a little overwhelmed by the pile on my side table but I moved all of the books that weren't going to be going to read in May so that I had a better idea of what I had to finish during the month.  I put a little note in the front of each one with the date that it needed to be posted so that I was able to read it and post all with the information in the book and not have to pull my calendar out to double check.  I was super happy to get through lots of my pile but now it is a little small and I have to figure out what is going to happen for next month!!

If you missed the review the first time, click on the title of the book and it will take you back to the original post.  I hope that you add a few of these books to your most read list.  Let me know which ones you like!! 

by Cynthia Ruchti

by Shelia Roberts

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine
by Alexander McCall Smith

What We Find
by Robyn Carr

Someone Like You
by Victoria Bylin

Fading Starlight
by Kathryn Cushman

Her One and Only
by Becky Wade

The Quieting
by Suzanne Woods Fisher

A Daughter's Dream
by Shelley Shepard Gray

Reading for 2016

January           13
February          11
March              9
April                 8
May                 9

Total Books     50

Currently Reading:


Monday, June 6, 2016

Menu Plan Monday 6/6

Monday- Spiedies Chicken and white rice
Tuesday- Pasta
Wednesday- Chicken fries, Popcorn Chicken with homemade fries
Thursday- Beef Enchiladas with spicy yellow rice
Friday- Chicken Paninis with mac and cheese
Saturday- Leftovers
Sunday- ?

This months menu was super hard for me because I wasn't sure what we going to be eating because it is summertime already but we are still in school mode with my son in school and me working at summer camp.  We are getting closer to being on total summer schedule and it might be less confusing but we still need quick meals and not too hot.  We are also still playing soccer and waiting to hear if we are going to be having make up games on Sunday for the next two weeks to have a really busy weekend.  I hope that we know soon what the month will hold but I know any way we cut it, it will be busy!!  I hope that you have a tasty week!

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Daughter's Dream Book Review

I was excited to get the next book by Shelley Sheppard Gray, A Daughter's Dream: The Charmed Amish Life, Book Two. I love the characters and writing of this author and they seem to be a little slower coming to my library so I was excited to get it even before it was released!!  Of course, I signed up for way too many review books with one due every Friday so I had a lot of other books ahead and I couldn't skip the order or I would be late on my other reviews so I totally had to be patient and forget that I had this book farther down in the stack but I cheered when I got it out!!

In Shelley Shepard Gray’s second book in her Charmed Amish Life series, a young teacher and farmer discover they have much in common, especially when it comes to healing old wounds from the past…and finding love in one another.
Rebecca Kinsinger has always dreamed of being a teacher. But when she’s given the opportunity she’s been waiting for at Charm Amish School, she’s dismayed to discover that teaching is hard work—work she’s afraid she’s not very good at.

That is, until Lilly Yoder joins the class. A thirteen-year old who’s just lost her parents, Lilly is in need of someone like Rebecca. For the first time since starting her new job, Rebecca feels a sense of purpose. But when she meets Lilly’s uncle, Jacob, his good looks and sweet, easy-going temperament are hard to ignore. How can she even entertain romantic thoughts of Jacob when his niece is her student?
Suddenly becoming Lily’s sole caregiver, Jacob Yoder never thought he’d be a single parent—or a farmer. Having been living in Florida as a carpenter, Jacob feels more at home wielding a hammer than a backhoe. The only bright spot in his life is Rebecca Kinsinger. As Lily and Rebecca develop a bond, Jacob’s fondness for the pretty teacher grows, too.  But when a fateful accident brings them together, Rebecca and Jacob must choose between duty and desire. Will they follow the path before them? Or set out to find true happiness…and true love?

I love the characters and writing for Shelley Shepard Gray's books.  The even better news is that I read the first book in the series so I totally should have remembered all of the characters as the book unfolded (review of first book here).  The great thing was you didn't really need to know the characters until about a third of the way through the book, I forgot that there was a book before it and they mentioned something from the first book and I was super excited to be reminded.  I love how this story unfolded with the school and the mill being the central places that most of the action happened.  Rebecca was trying to fulfill her dreams by volunteering at the school instead of working at the family mill.  She tried to make herself happy and quickly learned that the school and the children there were wonderful but it wasn't her dream.  I love that her family was supportive enough to let her try something different and figure out whether it made her more happy.  I hope that you check out this book and others in the Charmed Amish Life series and enjoy them as much as I have!

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

If you would like to get your own copy, enter to win a copy of A Daughter’s Dream—five winners will be chosen! Click the image below to enter to win. The winners will be announced June 8th on Shelley’s blog!

a daughter's dream-400

Thursday, June 2, 2016

May Month End Budget Update

I have a monthly budget of $160 for my family of three to get all of our household items including groceries and all household goods.  I work very hard to stay under budget and get the most for my family to stretch the budget as far as possible.  In order to get the most out of our budget,  I make a lot of items from scratch including rolls, bread, cinnamon rolls, quick breads (this month was chocolate chip muffins and banana bread), lots of homemade cookies and of course lots of meals (many from scratch).  We eat leftovers for meals on the weekends usually or on a night that I am too exhausted to cook but I normally reinvent them with chicken panini, chinese fried rice, buffalo chicken fried rice and soup to make them seem like an all new meal.  I try to do my best to not have a lot of food waste so that I can make sure to stretch my budget as far as possible and use a menu plan to get the most out of everything.  If we aren't going to eat it right away then it goes in the freezer to use later.

I had a good month for shopping, meaning that I didn't do that much of it.  Both good and bad because we didn't have a lot of extra food around the house and that made me stick to the meal plan. I made cocoa pebbles treats with the cereal that my son wasn't eating and Pioneer Women Seasoned saltines with some extra saltines that we had to have a few more snacks on hand.  I also used some caramel corn powder that we had around to make some yummy caramel corn which was a good treat but my husband and I finished up at least a batch in one was so good.  I tried to use up the milk before it went bad which seems to be a big challenge for me recently because my son isn't drinking as much but I used it in baking and lots of bread making.  I might actually have to start freezing some of it if we aren't going to be able to use it in time.

We have gone through most of the ground beef in the freezer as well as some other pantry staples.  We finally finished all of the red potatoes from the March purchase at Aldi with all the hash browns that I have been making and the funniest thing happened!!  I went to the store and they were on sale for $1.49 for 5 pounds again so I got 20 pounds which should last us another two or three months. 

I worked on using up all the flour and sugar in my storage containers so that I could clean them and start over.  It is something that I like to do every few months because if I just keep adding more flour over the flour that is already in there then the stuff at the bottom is getting older and older and not used (plus it is getting dirty from sitting on the dirty counter).  I emptied my sugar and flour container at the same time and washed them together.  My sugar container holds two 4 lb bags easily so I filled it right back up.  The flour container holds almost 15 lbs of flour.  After filling up both of those, I also decided to make the mason jar mixes to fill my pantry for easy use.  I used so much that I had to add a little more to both containers to have them filled.  I am still working on cleaning out my bread flour container but I am getting really close to the bottom so I feel like I could finish it any day now.  I am getting very low on the flour in the cupboard but I normally try to use it all up before it goes on sale again in November so it only has to last me 5 months.  After I fill the bread flour container, I will pull everything out of the cupboard and take an inventory.

My mom did come to town and bought some stuff at Aldi and some at Harris Teeter for us which totaled about $30 of groceries.  Most of the stuff was for her like yogurt, fruits and vegetables or things that she was buying for treats for my husband or son (the ones that she likes to spoil) like soda and ice cream.  I think that most of the things that she bought were gone before she left except the soda.

Aldi $8.88

Giant $0

Aldi $20.80

Harris Teeter $7.23

Wegman's $14.36

Aldi $6.32

Aldi $14.57

Aldi $7.74

Wegman's $9.27

I went to the store to get Children's Advil because we didn't bring any on our trip and my son hurt his neck.  I also grabbed a bottle of Wegman's suntan lotion and a bag of sugar for my cousin.  I didn't take a picture because everything went away when I walked in the door.

Total Retail $144.68
Total Savings $55.51
Total OOP $89.17

I think that I did really well because I used most of the things already at the house to make the meal plan and then stretched the things that we did already have.  Most of the months that end up shopping at Aldi's lots means that I really didn't need that much anyway.  We are almost out of tissues again because allergies and sickness have struck again!! We are also almost out of ground beef so I will probably head back to Wegman's to get some more but I am not sure what else is on the list.

I have two containers of bananas in the freezer already peeled and ready to go for banana bread so that will be a nice addition to the menu for June.  I also have enchilada sauce made and frozen so I look forward to using that.  I think that we have a few more things in the freezer that need to be used up or trashed so I have to investigate what we are going to use to start the menu planning process.

There are a few other things that we will need to get in June and over the summer months but normally the shopping takes a turn for the worse during the summer because my little helper is out of school and there isn't a lot of time for shopping deals so we will see how it works out this summer since he is whole year older then last summer.

How did you do this month with your shopping??

Take Out Total:

I have been tracking the amount spent on take out in addition and this month it was another pretty high month for us because of Mother's Day treat and trip to New York.   We spent $31.48 this month on restaurant food whether eaten at home, in the car or at the restaurant.