Wednesday, November 29, 2017

My Italian Bulldozer Book Review

I was at the library picking up some things from reserve and I saw this book sitting on the new release section and I couldn't pass it up.  My Italian Bulldozer: A Novel by Alexander McCall Smith is a book that is not in his other series and is about Italy.  I was instantly interested because I love the author and his writing style and this is more of the same just in a different setting. 

Paul Stuart, a renowned food writer, finds himself at loose ends after his longtime girlfriend leaves him for her personal trainer. To cheer him up, Paul’s editor, Gloria, encourages him to finish his latest cookbook on-site in Tuscany, hoping that a change of scenery (plus the occasional truffled pasta and glass of red wine) will offer a cure for both heartache and writer’s block. But upon Paul’s arrival, things don’t quite go as planned. A mishap with his rental-car reservation leaves him stranded, until a newfound friend leads him to an intriguing alternative: a bulldozer.

With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts the offer, and as he journeys (well, slowly trundles) into the idyllic hillside town of Montalcino, he discovers that the bulldozer may be the least of the surprises that await him. What follows is a delightful romp through the lush sights and flavors of the Tuscan countryside, as Paul encounters a rich cast of characters, including a young American woman who awakens in him something unexpected.  A feast for the senses and a poignant meditation on the complexity of human relationships, My Italian Bulldozer is a charming and intensely satisfying love story for anyone who has ever dreamed of a fresh start.

I thought that this was another great story but Alexander McCall Smith.  It was in the normal fiction section where some of his other books are in the mystery section (although it seems a bit loose of a category of me).  This book was about Paul, an author who went into a slump after breaking up with his girlfriend so his editor decided that he should go to Italy and write the book there.  Of course everything that can go wrong does so you need to pick up the book to find out how he ends up driving a bulldozer across many miles from the airport to the place he is staying.  While there, he writes a lot and is super inspired by the countryside.  The best part is the things that the bulldozer does that a normal rental car wouldn't do so this is one of those times that we should look at the glass half full and figure out that it is going to work out for the best.  Pick up this book and find out for yourself because I think that it will have you laughing right along with it.  I know that you will enjoy this book as much as I did!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Menu Plan Monday 11/27

Monday- Chicken Fries, Buffalo Chicken with homemade french fries
Tuesday- Pasta
Wednesday- Friends House for Italian Dinner (bringing bread)
Thursday-Barber Chicken with white rice
Friday- Leftovers
Saturday- Lasagna

I can't believe that we are already through November.  Trying to plan December's menu is hard because have so many guests coming and going and I don't know when anyone is going to be here so the whole meal plan is up in the air.  In addition, we start basketball practice so we are back to the grind in getting out of the house at night and getting dinner and homework done first.  Here is hoping that we make it through December in one piece.  Full Menu to be done soon.  Hope you have a great week!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Huckleberry Christmas Book Review

I have a pile of books overflowing on my book shelf and I am finally starting to read them. Huckleberry Christmas (The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill) by Jennifer Beckstrand was the one that caught my eye because I love to try to get in the Christmas spirit with lots of books about other people getting into the Christmas spirit.  So I decided to read it first because I knew that I had read it before and I don't know that I have read anything by this author.

Now that they've happily married off two of their grandchildren, Anna and Felty Helmuth are ready for their next matchmaking challenge. What better way to celebrate the most heartwarming of seasons--and make Huckleberry Hill, Wisconsin, the place for unexpected love. . .

A difficult marriage has left the Helmuths' widowed great-granddaughter, Beth, finished with wedlock. She's content to live with them and make a life for herself and her toddler son. But once she turns down handsome Tyler Yoder's proposal, it seems only fair to encourage him to find a suitable wife. Trouble is, his gentleness and generous ways are showing her how joyous a real meeting of hearts can be. . .

After a failed courtship, Tyler thought the best he could hope for in a wife was mere companionship. But spirited Beth is the one he longs to protect, and hold close. Earning her trust is the hardest thing he's ever had to do. And soon, both will discover that forgiveness and understanding are gifts that only rekindled faith--along with the happiest of holidays--can bring.

I haven't read any other books in this series but I got this one from one of the book sales through my free coupons so I was going to start with this one regardless.  It seems that Anna is a matchmaker who likes to make sure that everyone is matched with their perfect mate.  Although she has met her match when Beth moves home after being widowed with her young son.  Beth is getting over a horrible marriage to a controlling man and has trouble trusting the good things that others do for her.  It is true that we all bring our baggage forward with us and Beth is trying to overcome her problems.  Tyler is patiently trying because he loves both Beth and her son and wants to make a life with them.  First he tries to make a proposal based on necessity and then turns to making her realize that she loves him too.  It is a great story and I know that you will enjoy finding out all the steps forward and back that they make in their journey.  I hope that you check out this book and enjoy it as much as I have.  I am going to be looking for more by this author especially the rest of this series because I enjoyed it a lot!  Wonderful holiday story to show you what is really most important and to get out of your own way.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Girl of His Dreams and Playing by the Greek's Rules Book Reviews

I grabbed this book off the new shelf at the library without any idea if it was part of a series.  The Girl of His Dreams: Playing by the Greek's Rules (Harlequin Bestselling Author Collection) by Susan Mallery was the last library book in my pile and I got to enjoy reading it.  I am not sure if it was part of a series but if there are some by either author, I am totally in for more.  I will have to look them up and see.

The moment she turns twenty-five, Kayla Bedford is going to grab her trust-fund money and take off for Paris. She'll drink wine, read at quaint cafés and meet a handsome prince who'll sweep her off her feet. It's been her dream since she was twelve. And now she's so close to realizing it, she's counting down the days. But first she's got to do something for her boss-slash-landlord-slash-best-friend. Patrick is a handsome, caring vet. But he needs someone to love, even if he doesn't think so. Yet, just as she finds the perfect person to set him up with, Kayla gets a last-minute case of blinding jealousy. Does she have feelings for Patrick? Should she abandon her dreams to find out?
And how can he hold her back if he feels the same?

FREE BONUS STORY INCLUDED IN THIS VOLUME! Playing By The Greek's Rules (Mills And Boons) by Sarah Morgan It's time to throw away the rule book… 

Idealistic archaeologist Lily Rose craves a fairy-tale love, but in her experience it always ends in heartbreak. So now Lily's trying a different approach—a fling with her boss, infamous Greek playboy Nik Zervakis!  Anti-love and anti-family, Nik lives by his own set of rules. There's no one better to teach Lily how to separate sizzling sex from deep emotions! But while Nik has the world at his feet, he also has dark shadows in his heart…It starts as a sensual game, but can Lily stick to Nik's rules? And what's more, can he?

The first book was unexpected since I had no idea what it was going to be about because I didn't even read the back of the book before starting.  Kayla is working as a vet assistant because she loves animals and her boss just happens to be her best friend and landlord.  She enjoys her life but has been waiting her whole life for her trust fund to release at 25 so that she can travel to Europe.  She has gone so far to have a calendar at work that she checks off the days.  She has decided that going there is going to meet her prince and live happily ever after until she realizes that she might have already met her prince.  The second book was a little shorter then the first but it was amazing.  It was about Lily who was living as an archeologist in Greece and working other odd jobs to make ends meet like cleaning houses.  While cleaning one house, she presses buttons on the shower and ends up soaked and the home owner shows up while she is in just a towel.  Funny enough, he doesn't have a problem with it but his girlfriend does so she leaves and he is left without a date to the evening museum opening.  Nik takes Lily and their relationship blooms from there because she is trying to get over her ex who turns out he was lying about being married.  They were both great stories and had me not wanting to put the book down.  I hope that you check out this book and enjoy the extra one at the end!! I am going to look to see if there are any other books by this new author.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Positive Discipline Tools for Teachers Book Review

I got this book before the summer started and after I was already out of school for the year.  Positive Discipline Tools for Teachers: Effective Classroom Management for Social, Emotional, and Academic Success by Jane Nelsen Ed.D. was something that seemed interesting for me at work and at home.  I was sadly thinking about stepping down to try to take care of my health and let myself heal so I think that I set this book aside and totally forgot about it.  I can't believe that it took me this long to find it but I was cleaning underneath a side table and found it sitting there.  I looked to see if I wrote the review and sadly saw that I did not.  I was a little disappointed but I guess that happens when you spend the summer having fun with your little one instead of working, everything else took a back seat.

The Positive Discipline method has proved to be an invaluable resource for teachers who want to foster creative problem-solving within their students, giving them the behavioral skills they need to understand and process what they learn. In Positive Discipline Tools for Teachers, you will learn how to successfully incorporate respectful, solution-oriented approaches to ensure a cooperative and productive classroom. Using tools like "Connection Before Correction," "Four Problem-Solving Steps," and "Focusing on Solutions," teachers will be able to focus on student-centered learning, rather than wasting time trying to control their students' behavior. Each tool is specifically tailored for the modern classroom, with examples and positive solutions to each and every roadblock that stands in the way of cooperative learning.

Complete with the most up-to-date research on classroom management and the effectiveness of the Positive Discipline method, this comprehensive guide also includes helpful teacher stories and testimonials from around the world. You will learn how to:

- Model kind and firm leadership in the classroom
- Keep your students involved and intrinsically motivated
- Improve students’ self-regulation
-And more!

I read just about 50 pages before I misplaced this 275 page book so there was still plenty to read.  The basic layout was really easy that each chapter tackled a particular problem and gave real world examples.  Although the stories were sometimes quick and I had trouble connecting to the person having the problem, these examples were often paramount in making the chapter go along smoothly.  Although many had a great message like giving praise for working hard instead of for being smart because kids try harder if you are impressed by their effort.  That is a super hard concept to put into practice because the first thing that always comes to mind is great job or something that isn't supporting the effort the child made to get the task accomplished which is more important then the final result.  There is a lot of information in this book and if you have the time to sit down and read it, I know that you will find tons of ideas on what would help different kids with lots of different problems.  I hope that you check out this book and find something new that you haven't thought about before or reminds you of things that you should do.  There are also funny cartoons at the beginning of each chapter which should bring a smile to your face.  I know that this book certainly made me slow down and think about certain kids, as well as my own upbringing.  I hope that I will remember to use these practices to improve the situation with all kids including my own.

**I received a copy of the book for my review from Blogging for Books but all opinions here are my own and my review was not required.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Menu Plan Monday 11/20

Monday- Pasta
Tuesday- Chicken Fries, Buffalo Chicken with homemade french fries
Wednesday- Leftovers
Thursday- Thanksgiving Dinner with my parents
Friday- Dinner with my cousin
Saturday- Dinner with family
Sunday- Meatball Sliders

Last week I had to cut the three packages of chicken that I had purchased with the turkeys so I had lots of chicken ready for dinners.  We had our normal Monday night dinner.  Tuesday was pasta night so I made Chicken Marsala with the Freezer to Plate box.  Wednesday was supposed to be Potstickers and Egg Rolls but I had all the chicken in the fridge so I made the chicken tacos which were tasty.  Thursday night was Spicy Honey Mustard Chicken Nuggets with mac and cheese.  Friday was supposed to be leftover night but we didn't have a ton of leftovers in the fridge so I tried to be creative and it ended up working out.  I had leftover pancakes from my son earlier in the week, my son had spaghetti from the fridge and my husband had chicken buffalo mac and cheese all from leftovers.  Saturday brought hash browns for breakfast and I made some roast beef sandwiches for my husband and leftover spaghetti alfredo from the free Arla cream cheese with a little milk.  Saturday dinner was Rosemary Chicken and Potatoes.  Super glad that I cut the hash browns and potatoes for dinner on Friday and soaked in water in the fridge so I didn't have a lot of prep on a busy day.  Sunday morning was homemade doughnuts which were amazing and although I was hungry for lunch, I went to the grocery store and the boys ate lunch that they made.  Sunday dinner was the meal from Wednesday with Potstickers, Egg Rolls and Simple Fried Rice which was super tasty...although eaten in shifts because I didn't get everything cooked at the same time.  This week was a little different but went well and I am hoping that this busy week is going to go well.  Hope you have a great week!

Friday, November 17, 2017

You Say It First Book Review

I got this from the reserve list with the new release list.  I was super excited when I saw that it was a new book in the Happily Inc. series.  You Say It First: A Small-Town Wedding Romance (Happily Inc) by Susan Mallery is the second in this fun series.  I enjoyed this town set up all around making brides and grooms happy with weddings of their dreams. 

Sculptor Nick Mitchell grew up in a family of artists and learned from his volatile father that passion only leads to pain. As he waits on a new commission, he takes a day job as a humble carpenter at a theme wedding venue. The job has its perks—mainly the venue's captivating owner, Pallas Saunders. Pallas adores Weddings in a Box. But if she can't turn the floundering business around, she'll have no choice but to cave to her domineering mother and work at the family's bank. Then when a desperate bride begs Pallas for something completely out of the box, her irresistible new hire inspires her. Nick knows she doesn't belong behind a desk, and she knows in her heart that he's right—where she really belongs is in his arms.

Pallas runs the local wedding business that does themed weddings with Roman, Cowboy and other themes.  She inherited the business from her boss after his death and wanted to make the most of the business.  In the process, she hired a carpenter, Nick, to fix the wooden screens who happens to be a famous artist.  Nick helps Pallas be more outside the box when she agrees to make a custom wedding for a game creator couple that is looking to get married with the game theme.  Pallas is quickly supported by her friends in the small town and realizes that she wants to change her business through the process.  I think that it is a great story of trying to find passion and dealing with negative things in your life.  It was an amazing story of how she decided what was important in her life and made steps to make her happy.  I hope that you check out this book and enjoy it as much as I have!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Sugar Pine Trail Book Review

I got another reserve off my list and realized that I am getting down to the bottom of the list so I went through the new releases again and put a few on hold.  Sugar Pine Trail: A Small-Town Christmas Romance (Haven Point) by RaeAnne Thayne was one of the last four books on my list.  I can't run out of books because that would be horrible.  I am going to have to see what the rest of the winter is going to hold for me to read!!  Hope you have lots of great holiday stories on your list!!

An unlikely attraction brings comfort, joy and unforgettable romance this holiday season!

Librarian Julia Winston is ready to ditch the quiet existence she's been living. She's made a list of new things to experience, but falling for Jamie Caine, her sexy military pilot neighbor, isn't one of them. Julia's looking to conquer life, not become the heartbreaker's latest conquest. But when two young brothers wind up in Julia's care for the holidays, she'll take any help she can get—even Jamie's.

Happy to step in, Jamie reveals a side of himself that's much harder to resist. Not only is he fantastic with kids, he provides the strength Julia needs to tackle her list. She knows their temporary family can't last beyond the holidays, but the closer she gets to Jamie, the more she wonders if things could be this merry and bright forever…

Julia Winston was the best character that I have seen in awhile.  She was trying to make the most of her life after loosing her mother and father and now living alone.  She decided to rent out half of her house to pay for her new furnace since she is working as a librarian and didn't have the money to pay for it after splurging on a new car.  Her new upstairs renter turns out to be Jamie Caine who is a pilot and newly moved to the area to work for his brothers company.  When Julia decides that having Jamie living there is going to be a huge distraction, she finds two boys who are living by themselves without anyone to look after them.  She decides that she is going to take them in so that they don't have to be separated and they can stay in the same school.  In a matter of a few days she goes from being alone all the time to having someone with her all the time and her life is turned upside down.  Julia and Jamie work together to help these young boys and end up getting a lot more.  I hope that you enjoy this book and get as much Christmas spirit out of it as I did.  Even though I needed a few tissues, I thought it was a great book and I had trouble putting it down.  I hope that you enjoy this fun Christmas story as much as I did.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Middle of the Month Budget Update for November

WHAT?!  I swear the month just started so I am not sure how we are here already.  It is going to be Thanksgiving right around the corner and it seems to have come out of no where! Of course when I added up my spending for the month, I was super glad that it was the middle of the month because I am already over halfway through my $160 budget for my family of three.

I love to use sales, coupons and other things to stretch my budget as far as possible.  It is always hard in November because my main goal is to get two turkeys.  Normally the turkey deals in this area require you to buy a certain amount of stuff to get the price per pound on the turkey.  This year was no different and I found $0.47 per lb was the cheapest price around.  I always get stressed about those deals because I don't want to be a little shy of the amount and end up having to scramble at the cash register to get the pricing.

This month has gotten lots of free stuff and here is the breakdown of everything that I got below and what I spent.  How is your month going so far??

Giant $3.99

I got these three freebies in my electronic $1 off 4 Gerber coupon that I couldn't pass up so I headed out to Giant to get my deals.  I had my son with me and they offer a free piece of fruit for the kids to have but my son decided that he wanted a banana to bring home for Dad because he doesn't like them.  I also grabbed the tic tacs at the last minute because my little helper wanted to get a special treat and I just happened to have coupons (even though I had to run to the car to get them while we were in the checkout lane).  They weren't labeled but they were on sale for $1.25 so $0.25 after coupon and I turned them in for $0.25 rebate from Ibotta.

Harris Teeter $34.11

I mostly went to get the Harris Teeter Taste and Tell which was the Yoplait Oui yogurt which was really tasty.  I also went to get the Cranberry Juice that was on sale because we have been out for months and my husband has been super patient waiting for the sales so that I could get them at $2.  I decided after running out soda last time and no sale coming for a long time that I would grab the buy two, get three free Cokes even though it was a large purchase to start a busy month.  There was a evic special on Pillsbury flour which I got but the sale price didn't come off so I had to go to customer service and they refunded the difference.

Giant $39.24

I got another freebie in my Giant account for Organic Spice Packet but they didn't have a lot of choices (see the 6 in the picture below) so I went with rosemary because it would be the most useful for us.  I decided to go because I needed to get the turkey deal and it turned out that the sale was ending that night so I got up after dinner and headed to the store.  The first store was out of chicken but they had the brownies that were on special.  I decided to go to another Giant and the second Giant had the chicken and not the brownies!  I decided to not risk going to a third one so I grabbed three things of chicken to make the minimum $25 purchase and grabbed two 14 pound turkeys and my free spice!

Giant $2.60

The deal on the brownies were that they were on sale for 10 for $10 and there was a $5 off coupon when you bought $10 worth.  I also used two printable coupons that I had to save an additional $2 and an electronic $0.50 coupon also came off.  The $5 coupon didn't come off but the cashier added it manually so this is the best deal on brownies since I got the freebies a long time ago.  My husband loves package brownie mix so much more then homemade so this won't go to waste

Harris Teeter $11.10

I was not looking to go this crazy at the store this week but I started looking at the list of deals and I just kept adding more to my list including the freebies which are the Puffs tissues, College Inn Broth, Fleschiman's Yeast, Betty Crocker Potatoes, Pillsbury Rolls, and Arla Cream Cheese.  I knew that I had to get to the store to get those.  I decided to add the Roast Beef because we love the sandwiches and I had one coupon left in my folder for it.  The Jimmy Dean Sausage was on sale for $1.97 limit 4 and I had two $0.75 printable coupons which doubled and $1 coupons from the insert to make them an amazing deal at $2.88 or $0.72 each.  To make the deal even better there was a deal to get $0.80 rebate back on three through Ibotta.  I got the Corn Pops which were on sale for $1.97 and I had coupons for $1 off in my printed folder so they were $0.97 which was more then I normally pay but we were low on cereal again.  The HT Canola Oil was on sale for $1.49 which is cheaper then I have been paying at Aldi so I grabbed the limit of 4.  My last find was the Barilla Protein Pasta which was on my list and the Barilla Collezione Pasta which were both on sale for $1.67 each and I had $0.75 printable coupons which would make them $0.17 each.  I got everything that I could because it is hard to find pasta for free anymore.

Harris Teeter $0.27

I got the last coupon that I had for the Barilla Collezione pasta and two more boxes for Puffs.

Harris Teeter $0.19

I was super glad to see that there were still some freebies on the shelves because it seems that they are having a hard time restocking during the sales anymore.  The great news is that I had two different College Inn Broth coupons and customer service said that I could use them to get 4.

Harris Teeter $0.17

I just couldn't pass up more of these great freebies.  It really makes me wonder how anyone would want to spend $18 on this when I can get it for the change out of my wallet.  My son was with me so he took all the pennies in the bottom of my wallet and counted them...we had $0.18 so he was ready to pay (I was holding the dime and the nickel just in case we needed them).  Turned out we didn't so he handed me a penny and the cashier the rest to pay for our shopping trip.

Harris Teeter $0.17

Did another trip to the store and got the amazing freebies!!

Harris Teeter $0.17

More freebies!!

Harris Teeter $0.17

More freebies!!!

Harris Teeter $0.17

More freebies but running low on coupons.

Harris Teeter $0.44

Went to the store and grabbed the freebies and added the cereal which I forgot to realize that it would be a money maker because of the sale and coupon but I checked out with a grumpy cashier and he wasn't patient with me trying to figure out what to do.  I should have run and grabbed lettuce or something but I tried to get something from the candy area and the lady behind me in wouldn't really let me look so I was super grumpy at the end of it all because I knew that I should have been more ready.

Harris Teeter $4.08

We were almost out of turkey again so I grabbed two that were on sale for $2.99 with a coupon for $0.55 which doubled so they were $1.89 each.  The cashier didn't scan one of my coupons so I had to go to the customer service counter to get the money back from the coupon but he changed something to take away the tax from it but at least I got the money back.


 Total Retail $439.04
Total Savings $342.17
Total OOP $96.87

I think that I did well this month so far even though I am above half of my budget but I got a ton and stuff and I am for sure ready for the holidays!!  I cut all the chicken and I am not sure how many meals it is going to make but I can tell you that there are a ton of bags of chicken in the freezer and it took two trips to carry them to the freezer.  I also got a pumpkin from a thing at school for I roasted the pumpkin and made tons of pumpkin puree which I used some to make two loaves of pumpkin bread.  There is some in the freezer for later!! 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Christmas in Icicle Falls Book Review

I am still in my process of getting the huge list of reserves that I put on my library account because there were so many new releases.  This book showed up on my shelf as another surprise when I went to return books.  Christmas in Icicle Falls by Sheila Roberts was the next book in the pile because I was trying to be better about reading the books as soon as I got them because I knew that I wouldn't be able to renew them.  It was a page turner so it didn't take very long to read this great story.

When Muriel Sterling released her new book, A Guide to Happy Holidays, she felt like the queen of Christmas. She’s thrilled when the new tree she ordered online arrives and is eager to show it off—until she gets it out of the box and realizes it’s a mangy dud. But rather than give up on the ugly tree, Muriel decides to make a project out of it. As she pretties up her tree, she realizes there’s a lesson to be learned: everything and everyone has potential. Maybe even her old friend Arnie, who’s loved her for years. Except, she’s not the only one seeing Arnie’s potential…

Meanwhile, Muriel’s ugly-tree project has also inspired her friends. Sienna Moreno is trying to bring out the best in the grouchy man next door, who hates noise, hates kids and hates his new neighbors. And while Olivia Claussen would love to send her obnoxious new daughter-in-law packing, she’s adjusting her attitude and trying to discover what her son sees in the girl. If these women can learn to see the beauty in the “ugly trees” in their lives, perhaps this might turn out to be the happiest holiday yet.

I thought that this was a good start to the Christmas season to try to get me over the Christmas funk.  It was super funny and filled with great stories when the person who throws the biggest holiday party can't get anything to replace the ugly tree she ordered online because the stores are sold out, she decides to make the most of it.  Inspiring everyone around her to make the most of their ugly things in their life.  Some might not like the message but there is always something not going right in our lives with horrible neighbors or new family members we don't get along with.  All the people in the town pull together with the help of the holiday spirit and being a better person.  My favorite parts were Muriel getting texts from her friends who went on a cruise that she passed on because she was having the hardest time being positive while she was telling everyone else to be positive.  Her jealous streak was strong but she tried to be happy for her friends.  I think that you will like how all the "ugly trees" turn out in this book but you have to pick it up to find out for yourself.  I hope that you enjoy this book as much as I did!  I hope that it helps you get into the Christmas spirit.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Menu Plan Monday 11/13

Monday- Chicken Fries, Buffalo Chicken with homemade french fries
Tuesday- Pasta
Wednesday- Chicken Potstickers, Egg Rolls with Fried Rice
Thursday- Spicy Honey Mustard Chicken Nuggets with mac and cheese
Friday- Leftovers
Saturday- Chicken Tacos
Sunday- Rosemary Chicken and Potatoes

I had a good week last week and switched Tuesday and Thursday based on the fact that the spiedies were defrosted earlier.  I was glad that it didn't make a complicated plan and that I was able to keep with it.  Of course I read ahead and thought that I was having pizza last week so I made that on Sunday so we are moving Chicken Tacos to this week since my brain switch the days.  This week is very similar with a simple easy plan.  I really need to try some new recipes soon when I have a little more time in my schedule.  I just bought three packages of chicken so I know that we be having lots of chicken in the coming months.  Hope you have a great week and enjoy some yummy meals.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Summer That Made Us Book Review

I knew nothing about this book when I put it on reserve except that there was a new book coming out by Robyn Carr. The Summer That Made Us: A Novel by Robyn Carr came on to my reserve shelf and I started reading it quickly so that I didn't have the same problem as the last few reserves that I have gotten.  It was a fast read and I got to go to bed early a few nights and curl up with the book which was so hard to put down.

That was then… For the Hempsteads, summers were idyllic. The lake was a magical place, a haven where they were happy and carefree. All of their problems drifted away as the days passed in sun-dappled contentment. Until the summer that changed everything.

This is now…After an accident turned the lake house into a site of tragedy and grief, it was closed up. None of the Hempstead women speak of what happened, and relationships between them are uneasy at best to hurtful at worst. But in the face of new challenges, one woman is determined to draw her family together again, and the only way that can happen is to return to the lake and face the truth.  Robyn Carr has crafted another beautifully woven story about the complexities of family dynamics and the value of strong female relationships.

This book was a total change from other Robyn Carr books and I even had to go check the cover to make sure that I was reading the author that I thought.  This books was an emotional journey for the 6 cousins and their mothers to grow together after the summer that ended their summer fun 27 years before.  The family was splintered and Meg decided that this is what she wanted as her dying wish to go to the lake and spend time with family.  Charley went to the lake and hired people to clear out the trash and fix up the place so that they could stay over the summer months.  Meg invited all the family members by letter to join her there.  Krista showed up first straight from prison where she had been for 23 years for killing her boyfriend during a robbery.  Other people slowly starting showing up so that this family could use the time to heal.  It was an amazing book with great characters who all changed over the course of the book.  I know that I needed a few tissues towards the end of the book so make sure you are prepared and not reading it out in public because this one is emotional.  I hope that you check it out and enjoy this book as much as I did!!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Map of the Heart Book Review

I was surprised when a book showed up on my reserve shelf.  I put a bunch of things on hold and they seem to be coming off at the strangest times when I am totally not ready for a new book because I am already reading another and these books come with no renewals.  I normally have to read really quickly to get done before the deadline and this was no different.  I finished Map of the Heart: A Novel by Susan Wiggs in time and returned it to the library to then have to review it without the book which I hate to do but this was such a great book that I wanted to make sure to pass on the recommendation.

Widowed by an unspeakable tragedy, Camille Palmer has made her peace with the past and settled into the quiet safety of life with her teenage daughter Julie in a sleepy coastal town. Then the arrival of a mysterious package breaks open the door to her family’s secret past. In uncovering a hidden history, Camille has no idea that she’s embarking on an adventure that will utterly transform her.
Camille, Julie, and Camille’s father return to the French town of his youth, sparking  unexpected memories — recollections that will lead them back to the dark days of the Second World War. And it is in the stunning Provençal countryside that they will uncover their family’s surprising history.
While Provence offers answers about the past, it also holds the key to Camille’s future. Along the way, she meets a former naval officer who stirs a passion deep within her — a feeling that she thought she’d never experience again.

Camille Palmer is making the most of her life with her daughter Julie in Bethany Bay, Delaware after the death of her husband.  Camille is working with many people to develop film and work with historical pictures in order to make a living.  Her life is turned upside down when her daughter gets hurt and Camille uncovers that Julie is being bullied at school.  It is upsetting to see her child hurt and continually hurt but an unexpected family secret is revealed when a large crate is delivered to her father's home from his childhood home which brings up more questions then answers.  They decide to head to France even though Camille has a great fear of flying after loosing her husband.  The best part of this book is that they went back and forth between the past and the present so that you could get everyone's point of view on what was happening.  Of course, you have to pick up the book for yourself to see what happens but I promise that it is totally worth it.  This is a very different book by this author and goes into a lot of emotion and pain from the past.  It is best if you pick it up for yourself and check it out because I know that you will enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Plain Leaving Book Review

I was excited to read another book by Leslie Gould because I have enjoyed all of the books that I have read by her.  I quickly looked and A Plain Leaving (The Sisters of Lancaster County) by Leslie Gould was the first book in the Sisters of the Lancaster County series so I was even more excited by this new start to a new series that I was going to enjoy.  The cover showed a great picture of the country life and living on a farm but I was excited to get into the book and find out what it would be all about.

At age twenty, Jessica Bachman left her two beloved sisters and her Amish community after clashing with the new bishop about her role in the family and the future of their farm. She tried to convince Silas Kemp, who'd been courting her for two years, to join her, but when he said no, she fled anyway. Three years later, she returns home for the first time since leaving Lancaster to attend her father's funeral. Her arrival back revives all sorts of emotions--yearnings and sorrows alike. Jessica knows things will never return to how they were. But in seeing Silas again, she can't help but wonder what might have been.  Struggling to decide where her next step should take her, she learns the story of a Revolutionary War-era ancestor that echoes her own choices. Will Jessica leave her family and community forever, or is there peace and healing and love yet to come?

This book was interesting because two members of the family come back to the family home after their father dies so that they can morn him with their family.  Jessica and Amos left for different reason but came back because of their love for their father.  Their father was the only contact that either of them had with their families after they left and they were upset to learn of his passing.  At the farm, they had to sit at a different table to eat and work to maintain the family farm while being treated very badly by the family members.  Both Amos and Jessica use this time to make peace with the past and try to move forward but the family members are stopping them at every turn except their Aunt Suz who tells them a story from their family history.  This story is about how the family lived through the war and the choices that the family members made.  I hope that you pick up the book and find out for yourself how the story affects both the past and the current situations with the family drama.  I think that you will really enjoy it as much as I did!

**I received a copy of the book for my review but all opinions here are my own and I was not required to post a positive review.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

List of Everything I Got In October

I decided that I would list out of the things that I got this month to see if there were any different categories that were standing out and see how I did getting things and staying under budget (okay close to budget).  I work hard every month to get the most for our family and maintain a budget under $160 per month for our family of 3 to include all household groceries and other goods like paper and cleaning products.

I shop sales and use coupons to make the money stretch as far as possible.  I got a lot of things early in the month and had to slow down my spending quickly and then a quick up turn with a second Super Doubles the last three days of the month. I think that my list is pretty good even if I went a little crazy with two super doubles in one month!!  This month was a little bit of a struggle because I got some great deals early on but there were still some things on the list to get because we were running out.

The family made a list and put it on the fridge so that we could add and cross things off that I got at the store.  We were just a little over half way through the month and I only had $22 left.  Luckily there weren't too many things left on the list but they also had a super doubles rumored for the end of the month so I was a little worried but I made it through the month.

In case you missed the breakdown, here are the pictures and details of what I got for the month.  Below is the list of everything that I got in categories for the whole month for $164.96.

5 boxes Variety of Cereals
4 boxes Quaker Dinosaur Oatmeal
1 Doughnut
12 boxes Cheez-Its
4 jars Pringles
5 boxes Freezer to Plate Pasta
4 cans Organic Progresso Soup
8 cans Progresso Soup
2 boxes Old El Paso Shells
1 box Welch's Fruit Snacks
10 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 Minute Rice Microwave Containers
17 Atkins bars
8 Goodness Knows Bars
2 boxes Horizon Mac and Cheese
2 box Annie Mac and Cheese
4 boxes Barilla Lasagna Noodles
6 boxes Barilla Spaghetti
1 box Cheesy Hash Browns
1 package of 6 Maruchan Ramen Noodles
3 boxes Dole Mixations
4 bags Hungry Jack Pancake Mix
1 bottle Canola Oil
3 bags 4 lb sugar
8 Heinz Ketchup
4 Grill Mates Seasonings
4 Gerber Bananas
6 boxes Enjoy Life Cookies cookies
4 bags Airheads candy
1 bag Peanut Butter M&Ms
12 Enjoy Life Candy Bars

3 cases Coke
2 cases Diet Coke
17 boxes Tetley Tea
2 boxes Celestial Seasoning Tea
1 bottles Northland Cranberry
2 bottles Welch's Juice

2 package of Pork Chops
5 Turkey Lunch meat
2 Roast Beef Lunch meat
11 Hormel Natural Choice
4 Land O Frost Deli Snackers Chicken
6 Johnsville Chicken
2 Gallon Milk
2 Organic Valley Good to Go Milks
6 Galbani String Cheese
1 tub margarine
1 head of Lettuce
1 Dozen Eggs
12 Yogurt
11 packs Chobani Smooth 2-pack yogurts
2 Pizza Crusts
2 Perfect Bars
1 container Good Belly
1 Arla Cream Cheese
4 Crescent Rolls
2 Cinnamon Rolls

4 boxes Barber Chicken
2 boxes Pagoda Chicken Pot Stickers
6 bags Edamame
4 Sister Schubert's Sharable Bread
2 Celentano Meat Ravioli
1 bag Chicken Fries
1 bag Popcorn Chicken
2 bag Tater Tots
1 box ice cream sandwiches
2 boxes Blue Bunny Ice Cream cones

Personal Care and Cleaning
2 bottles Advil
2 Kotex Pads
1 container Target Kid's Vitamins
14 bottles Garnier Shampoo
1 Etos Shower Gel
2 Vick's Vaporub
2 Charmin Toilet Paper 6 Mega Rolls
2 Windex
10 Crest Toothpaste
2 Water Bottle Tops for Camelbak Kids

 Whiskas Cat Treats
Whole Pumpkin

I hope that I didn't miss anything but it was a really long list this month!!  How do you think that I did this month??  All this for $164.96 seems like a bargain to me and now I just have to work hard to use everything that we got to make a wonderful November menu plan and use everything before things go bad.  I am ready for the challenge!!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Menu Plan Monday 11/6

Monday- Chicken Fries, Buffalo Chicken with homemade french fries
Tuesday- Barber Chicken with white rice
Wednesday- Pasta
Thursday- Spiedies with white rice
Friday- Leftovers
Saturday- Birthday Party/Leftovers
Sunday- Chicken Tacos

Last week was the fairly easy.  Monday was my son's favorite meal and Tuesday was leftovers before trick or treating.  Wednesday ended up being pork chops with herb rice because I forgot to take out the chicken and I just bought the pork chops and hadn't frozen them.  It was tasty to get those two pork meals in the month with those amazing coupons.  We had Rosemary Chicken with potatoes on Thursday night which is one of our winter favorites.  We did leftovers and homemade mozzarella cheese sticks.  We did Pizza on Saturday with our end of season soccer party.  Sunday was meatball sliders to use up the rest of the rolls and my husband requested tater tots with them so that was a tasty dinner.  The week went really well with the change of only one meal.

I went through the month and got the entire menu filled early including weekends.  I have most of the things already in the house so I am hoping that I don't need to run out and get too much which will leave me free to get the best deals that I can while stocking up on a few things that we are out of like Cranberry Juice and Ground Beef.   Here is hoping that the month goes according to plan.  I have a bunch of things ready to go and a pretty easy plan moving forward.  Hope you have a yummy week planned for you and your family.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

October Reading Review

I normally keep a running post through the month of all the books that I have read so that I can keep track of how many I have read but this month it was all the way until the end of the month before I realized that I didn't have a clue how much I read because I didn't post anything!!  I don't think that I got them in order but partially in order is good enough for the end of the month so hopefully you won't hold it against me.

Here is a list of the books that I read in October.  If you click on the title then you will be linked back to my original post with the summary and review.  I hope that you add a few of these books to your reading list.

by Lori Benton

Bringing Maggie Home
by Kim Vogel Sawyer

by Ace Atkins

by Ace Atkins

by Susan Mallery

by Debbie Macomber

One Night
by Debbie Macomber

Education A La Carte
by Kevin Leman

Total Books Read for 2017

January    8
February  15
March     17
April      13
May        10
June         10
July          15
August       17
September  13
October      8

Total Books Read    126

Currently Reading:

A Plain Leaving
by Leslie Gould

Friday, November 3, 2017

Education A La Carte Book Review

I was interested in the description of the book but not as interested in sitting down to read a boring information filled book but this book was full of information and written in a way that had me wanting to continue.  Education a la Carte: Choosing the Best Schooling Options for Your Child by Dr. Kevin Leman wasn't a novel with lots of mystery and intrigue but it was still hard to put down.  Although, many things hard to put into practice, this was filled with great advice on education and making choices on what we need to choose for our children and why.

Every parent wants the best possible education for their child--one that fits their child's unique needs, challenges them to grow, and equips them to succeed. But there are so many options--public, private, and charter schools, plus homeschooling and online schooling--that it's easy for parents to feel overwhelmed and, well, undereducated about the choices. What's more, while one schooling option may be right for one child, it may be challenging for another. And sometimes the same child will thrive in one environment in elementary school but falter in that same environment in middle school.

What's a parent to do?

Parenting expert and longtime educator Dr. Kevin Leman can help. In this practical book, he clearly explains the pros and cons of various schooling options so that parents can make an informed choice about the kind of education that will help their child thrive. He shows parents how to stay involved and engaged with their child's education every step of the way, knowing that the choices they make about school now will reverberate long into that child's future.

I think that this was a great resource for helping parents pick what is best for their kids.  There is information about whether your child is ready for kindergarten, whether to change schools and how to deal with children doing homework.  It talks about adding before or after school enrichment where your school might be lacking and moving kids to schools to fit their love of learning.  There are tons of topics like the following:

The Top Concerns of Parents
Factoring In Your Child's Uniqueness
Schooling a la Carte
Finding Just the Right Menu for Your Palate
 Your Parental Role in Schooling
Preschool and Kindergarten
Homework and Grades
Top Traits of the Absolute Best Schools
Your Personal Menu to Educational Sucess

All of these topics are covered and go into a lot of detail to talk about how things might apply to you and yours children.  All areas of the country are different and have different challenges but the simple basic principles are great guides like make sure that the staff including the office staff are fond of children.  There are so many people that get into education for different reasons and I think that you want to make sure that they like kids and are able to deal with kids on their level.  There are some amazing guides in the homework section like letting your child fail for themselves and learn that homework has to be done or they will have the consequence.  I think that this is a great message to send because I know that fighting to get homework done when so many other things are going on isn't working in our house and it is always better to learn the lessons early on.  I am hoping that I can be strong enough to be able to let me son fail so that he can learn.  It is always hard for parents who are trying to do everything but I think that this book is a great picture into choosing the right school and path for your family.  The biggest plus I can say about this book is that it was published under a Christian Book title and it kept all of the Christian premise of being a good person and doing what is best without telling you bible verse for why you should be doing something.  I find that many books  Christian books take that stance and it isn't helpful when you are trying to figure out what is best for your family.  I hope that you check out this book and it helps answer some of your questions and helps find at least a little solution to what every education questions you might have.  I think that it provides a great overview of all the options available and education and might make you feel a little better about the choices you have made.

**I was provided a copy of this book for my review but all opinions here are my honest and my own.  A positive review was not required for participation.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

End of the Month Budget Update

I went to the store a lot the first week of the month and went a little crazy on the budget and posted all of my hauls here.  I would like to say that the first week of the month was the problem but I got some great deals.  They are pictured below but don't have descriptions so for the breakdowns, you can see them here.  Super Doubles is hard to pass up because they double coupons up to $2 and you can get lots of things for cheap or free.

I tried to stay out of the store for a little bit and not pay attention but there were some deals on ketchup that I couldn't pass up and then some freebies at Harris Teeter that pulled me back to the store.  I was less than halfway through the month and only have $45 left for the month.  I got lots of great deals but I went a little too crazy because we got a second Super Doubles for the last three days of the month.  I was over budget with one day left in the month so a little bummed but she how it adds up but you can see what you think below:

Check out the deals that I got below:

Harris Teeter $11.42

Harris Teeter $5.09

Harris Teeter $1.60

Harris Teeter $2.12

Harris Teeter $1.71

Harris Teeter $4.11

Harris Teeter $9.29

Harris Teeter $9.54

Harris Teeter $0.08

Harris Teeter $17.48

Harris Teeter $23.20

Harris Teeter $3.60

Harris Teeter $2.50

Safeway $4.10

We had a ketchup emergency before dinner and so my husband and son went to get this at Safeway.  We ran out of ketchup and there were no more in the cupboard!! They said that the store had no signs up and they had to ask for help and the person wasn't really nice.  The checkout took forever and dinner was delayed and there were only two.

Safeway $12.30

I went to get a bunch of  ketchup to stock up because this is the lowest that I have seen it in awhile.  I went to another store and they were much nicer, had signs up and had tons on the shelf.  I got 6!

Harris Teeter $7.38

I went to the store to get a few freebies before the weekend freebies hit.  I got the Hungry Man Pancake Mix, Annie's Mac and Cheese, Good to Go Milk, Goodness Knows Bars, Atkins Bar, and Air Heads Extreme.  The Quaker Oatmeal was on sale for $1.97 limit 4 and I had some coupons so they were $1.47 each.  I grabbed the pork chops which were on clearance and used a coupon to get them for $1.13 so I figured it would make a cheap and easy dinner.  Some of my coupons didn't double but I went to customer service and they gave me the money back... I think that it was the Goodness Knows bars so I will watch more carefully next time.

Harris Teeter $2.91

I went to the store to get the weekend freebies and I didn't have a lot of time so I was running through the store trying to make some quick decisions.  I got the free M&Ms, free Annie's Mac and Cheese,  and free Goodness Knows bars (yum).  I grabbed the turkey lunch meat and the tater tots because there was a sale and coupon on both.  I turned in a rebate for $1.00 from Checkout 51 in addition.

Aldi $4.75

I went to the store because we were close and our milk expired today (not bad yet but my husband gets freaked out by the date) so I grabbed the milk that should get us through the end of the month for $0.95 for the gallon.  I also grabbed Ice Cream Sandwiches because my husband and son really wanted them.  I got a back up tub of margarine because we were close to done with ours.  I didn't check the list but I probably should have gotten chicken fries so I will be back soon. There were two receipts in my cart and I turned on in for $0.10 on apples through Checkout 51. It went in the fridge and freezer before I got a picture I guess because I don't have anything!!

Target $0

I ordered online at Target and used my PayPal money to pay for this so it was no money out of pocket.  I got to buy the new spouts for my son's water bottles and my son's vitamins.  I think that I figured out a way to get grocery items and not spend any money.  This was super easy and quick for me to run in and grab.

Target $4.17

I went to Target to pick up my other items and decided to run back and grab four of these which were on special and had a cartwheel.
Aldi $10.38

We were totally out of oil and running low on our chicken fries and popcorn chicken so I ran in to grab just these few things.

Safeway $0.71

My husband promised to take my son to get a doughnut because he said that he was living a horrible life because he hadn't been to the grocery store on the weekend to get a doughnut in forever!!  Although we had tons of food here, he got his wish.  He picked out one with Halloween icing and sprinkles so he was extra happy.

Aldi $2.55

We went to Aldi at least four times to try to get a pumpkin and my husband ended up getting a pumpkin.  He lined up three and took pictures and sent us a picture of what he found and my son picked the one he liked.  This picture doesn't do it justice for how large it was because the other ones were even bigger but it was a great pumpkin for carving.

Giant $0

I went to Giant to get the free stuff and it was a little weird looking for things because they were hard to find but I took pictures of the details on the items and got exactly what I needed.  The shower gel came up on sale and the cat treats did not but I finally got a customer service person to credit it.  Then she walked away again and the transaction was stuck.  She came back and released it and then she wanted to take the receipt.  I told her that I couldn't leave the store without a receipt for my items.  She gave me the paper and said that she would cancel the transaction.  This is the reason that I have trouble at Giant because the customer service is not great but I left with my two freebies.

Aldi and Trader Joes $0

My parents bought a ton of stuff at the grocery store when they were here visiting.  I made most of our meals at home and didn't touch most of the food that we got at the store but I was grateful to get this which should be most of my groceries from Aldi to last me through all of November especially with the holiday at the end.  My main goal is to just make sure that I get organized and nothing goes bad because there is a ton of things here but I am sure that we will put it to good use.

Harris Teeter $0.19

I got three of these way over priced cookies because there was a catalina that would make them a money maker during super doubles and the catalina machine didn't print the coupon.  Instead of making it work at customer service, they just gave me $3 back so it wouldn't turn into a great money maker but I got three boxes of cookies for $0.19 so I couldn't complain too much.

Harris Teeter $9.20

We were totally out of lunch meat and the sale was ending in the next few days so I used the last two coupons that I had to get these for lower then Aldi price at $2.49 each.  My main reason for the trip was to get the Dixie Crystal Sugar which was on sale for $1.97 and there was a $0.40 coupon so I got them for $1.17 each.  The Garnier Shampoo, Grill Mates seasoning, Pagoda Dumplings, Chobani Smooth Yogurt, So Delicious Yogurt, Tetley and Hormel Natural Choice were all free.  I turned in a rebate to get $0.75 back from Ibotta for the Pagoda dumplings.

Harris Teeter $3.60

I went to another Harris Teeter and got some free Garnier Shampoo, Tetley Tea, Hormel Natural Choice, Grill Mate Seasoning, and String Cheese.  The pork chops were $0.02 with the pork coupon.  I got a catalina coupon for free Good Belly Probotics Juice so I got that free too.  The expensive items were the Johnsville Grilled Chicken which was $1.99 after sale and coupon and I put them in for $1.50 rebate each on Ibotta.

Harris Teeter $0.25

Everything was free and I paid tax only!!

Harris Teeter $0.00

I got some free stuff and brought my mom with me and she got the same thing so she paid my $0.20 for this transaction cause she used some of my coupons to save a bundle on her things too.  Of course, she bought other things without coupons that made me cringe a little because I could have gotten her coupons on them but I didn't have them with me but I took it because it was a good deal for her and I saved her $15 on her groceries with coupons.

Harris Teeter $2.23

 I got free Pringles, Garnier Shampoo and Chobani Smooth yogurt.  I only paid for the Advil and then turned in for an Ibotta rebate for $2.00 so it a great deal.

Harris Teeter $0.30

I got everything here for free and even got another Perfect Bar which I ate for lunch on the way home.  I only paid tax.  I turned this in for $2.25 back for the Perfect bar and $0.25 on any item so the transaction was a money maker and maybe my best at this super doubles.

Harris Teeter $3.65

I knew that I was going to Super Doubles for the last time and I grabbed the free shampoo, yogurt and Pagoda dumplings.  I got the Blue Bunny ice cream treats for $0.64 after sale and coupon.  I got the frozen veggies because they finally had our favorites which is the frozen edamame.  It worked out to $0.34 per bag which is a great deal.

Harris Teeter $4.27

I went to get a few more freebies with the time that I had between work and going to a Halloween Party at my son's school.  They didn't have anything else left but I got the Johnsville Chicken for $1.99 and turned it in for the $1.50 rebate from Ibotta per bag.  I also grabbed two more free shampoo.  More then I wanted to spend but the $3.00 back helps offset that cost.

Harris Teeter $0.28

At the first checkout, I got a coupon to get free Idahoan Steakhouse Potatoes so I decided that these would be yummy and different.  I thought that they would be good with the pork chops but I was afraid my husband might not like them so I made rice instead.  I also decided to use the soon expiring coupon to get the Maruchan Ramen because the sale was ending even though it was only $0.40 off and the coupon was $0.50 which doubled so it was $0.19 after sale and coupon.  I didn't need it and could have passed but $0.03 for a lunch through the winter months seemed like a good enough reason since I was already over budget, I went for broke!

 Total Retail $1008.88
Total Savings $843.92
Total OOP $164.96

Over budget but not unhappy!!!  I went a little crazy this month with the shopping but it is hard to pass up the deals associated with super doubles so I knew that I had to make the most of the month regardless of my overage.  I was also very proud because we had a no spend for take out or eating out for the month so there was still a little wiggle room because of that $40 left in the budget.  I know that I could have passed on some of these deals but I don't think that $4.96 is that much when I look at the list of everything that I got.  Stay tuned for another post with a list.

I put in for lots of rebates this month!!  I got lots from Ibotta which added up to $38.00.  I did some through Checkout 51 which added up to $3.30.  I got $9.50 in my Saving Star plus a little something for my purchase of Coke but it doesn't say the actual amount in the app so I am not sure but it wasn't much.

Eating Out $0

We didn't eat out this month except for one Red Robin lunch that my parents paid for and one Chinese and Pizza take out that my parents paid for when they were visiting.   Both were done because we were way too busy with all of our activities when they were visiting.