Friday, December 21, 2018

Hangman's Sonnet Book Review

I was looking for some other books to read when I found Robert B. Parker's The Hangman's Sonnet (A Jesse Stone Novel) by Reed Farrel Coleman.  It was the newer releases from the Jesse Stone series so I was excited to read it.  Then I found out that I actually missed two books so I was excited to get to read them back to back. 

The stellar new novel in Robert B. Parker's New York Times--bestselling series featuring Paradise police chief Jesse Stone.

Jesse Stone, still reeling from the murder of his fiancée by crazed assassin Mr. Peepers, must keep his emotions in check long enough to get through the wedding day of his loyal protégé, Suitcase Simpson. The morning of the wedding, Jesse learns that a gala 75th birthday party is to be held for folk singer Terry Jester. Jester, once the equal of Bob Dylan, has spent the last forty years in seclusion after the mysterious disappearance of the master recording tape of his magnum opus, The Hangman's Sonnet.

That same morning, an elderly Paradise woman dies while her house is being ransacked. What are the thieves looking for? And what's the connection to Terry Jester and the mysterious missing tape? Jesse's investigation is hampered by hostile politicians and a growing trail of blood and bodies, forcing him to solicit the help of mobster Vinnie Morris and a certain Boston area PI named Spenser. While the town fathers pressure him to avoid a PR nightmare, Jesse must connect the cases before the bodies pile up further.

The book quickly jumped in and had references to the previous book to get me caught up.  I had forgotten all that happened in the last book so it was nice to get back to knowing what was going on.  It started off quickly with Suit getting married and talks about Terry Jester having a big party in town.  Things get off to a fast start and there is already questions on how things are going to turn out.  An elderly women dies in her home with mysterious circumstances so everyone is on edge.  The quiet town is not used to having people break in to houses.  Jesse is dealing with all the issues with the death and trying to figure out the motivation.  Make sure you pick up the book and find out what happens with the large party and the search for the killers that leads to more murders.  I hope that you check out this book and all the other books in the Jesse Stone series.  I was so glad to get a chance to read more about this and fingers crossed for more movies!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Every Breath Book Review

I was like 1,000 people down on the reserve list at the library to get this book but I was ready to read the next installment of the Nicholas Sparks book.  His books are always filled with great stories and amazing characters.  I was excited when this got on my reserve shelf that I knew I had to start reading soon.  Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks was not a disappointment because it was hard to put down and you were instantly pulling for the characters.

In the romantic tradition of The Notebook and Nights in Rodanthe, #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with a story about a chance encounter that becomes a touchstone for two vastly different individuals -- transcending decades, continents, and the bittersweet workings of fate.
Hope Anderson is at a crossroads. At thirty-six, she's been dating her boyfriend, an orthopedic surgeon, for six years. With no wedding plans in sight, and her father recently diagnosed with ALS, she decides to use a week at her family's cottage in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, to ready the house for sale and mull over some difficult decisions about her future.
Tru Walls has never visited North Carolina but is summoned to Sunset Beach by a letter from a man claiming to be his father. A safari guide, born and raised in Zimbabwe, Tru hopes to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding his mother's early life and recapture memories lost with her death. When the two strangers cross paths, their connection is as electric as it is unfathomable . . . but in the immersive days that follow, their feelings for each other will give way to choices that pit family duty against personal happiness in devastating ways.

Illuminating life's heartbreaking regrets and enduring hope, EVERY BREATH explores the many facets of love that lay claim to our deepest loyalties -- and asks the question, How long can a dream survive?

It was amazing to read the next book by Nicolas Sparks and it didn't let me down.  It was hard to put down this book after I got started because the story was so great.  I was pulling for the characters and had to see what was going to happen next.  Hope goes to her parents beach house for a weekend because she has a wedding close by.  She is dealing with her parents selling the house and moving on because they need the money for ongoing care for her sick father.  Tru comes to the same beach town from Africa to meet his birth father.  He ends up staying in the house next to Hope and rescuing her dog after he was hit by a car.  The friendship grows quickly between the two and you can see that they are growing to more then friends.  Neither can figure out how they can change their whole life to make any relationship work.  You have to pick up the book to find out what happens after the few days at the beach because you will totally be surprised.  I was ready to keep reading more of the story of these two people who found each other on the beach of North Carolina.  I hope that you check out this book for yourself and enjoy it as much as I did.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Middle of the December Budget Update

I work every month to save money through our grocery shopping.  I budget $160 for groceries and $40 for eating out so that we are under $200 every month.  I shop sales, use coupons and as many deals as I can find to meet my budget.  We cook almost all of my meals at home from scratch and use all the groceries to spread the deals as far as possible.  We have tons of stuff in the pantry, fridge and freezer to use for the coming months.

Below is what I got so far for the month.  Each shopping trip is broken down below with details about how much things cost and how I used my budget.

Harris Teeter $0.06

I got these on sale and used a coupon so that I only had to pay tax.

Harris Teeter $10.28

The chips, yeast, bacon, Crest, band aids, and mug cakes were free.  The Vital Wheat Gluten was in the clearance rack so I got it for $0.49 which was better then sale and coupon I paid before but I think that they were clearing out stock so I won't be able to get it there next time.  The sugar was on sale for $0.97 each.  The Ortega was on sale for $1.25 so they were $0.25 after sale and coupon.  There was an additional rebate for $0.75 each from Ibotta so they were money makers.  The Energier batteries were on sale for $3.49 and I had a $1 printable coupon to make them $1.49 each and there was a rebate for $1.00 from Ibotta. Bonus was I got $0.25 any item rebate.

Harris Teeter $4.29

The chips, yeast and lotion were free after sale and coupons.  The beef jerky was my splurge for my husband at $2.49 each but I got some overage because the coupons fully doubled so I got $1.13 extra off.

Harris Teeter $0.06

I got these on sale and used a coupon so that I only had to pay tax. 

Harris Teeter $11.10

I got free yeast, chips, toothpaste, olives and tea bags.  The oatmeal was on special and my son's favorite and my friend gave me coupon that made them free so it was my best find.  The  beef jerky was because my husband ate a whole bag when I brought them home the other day so they were $2.49 each.  The Tide was $2.47 each which I was going to pass on because I had so many but my friend talked me into it.  The super glue was a need but got them on sale with a coupon for $0.99 each.  We have already used it for a bunch of projects.

Harris Teeter $0.06

I got these on sale and used a coupon so that I only had to pay tax. 

Harris Teeter $0.06

I got these on sale and used a coupon so that I only had to pay tax. 

Harris Teeter $0.04

I got these on sale and used a coupon so that I only had to pay tax. 

Harris Teeter $2.30

I got free lotion, bacon, yeast, spices, chips, tea and meat balls.  The Cheez Its were $0.49 per box with the coupon from Kelloggs Family Rewards.

Harris Teeter $0.13

These were all free so I only paid tax.

Harris Teeter $9.87

I got lots more freebies with the ranch seasoning, bacon, noodles, soup, sweet chili sauce, and biscotti.  The corn was on sale for $0.88.  The Dimatapp was $6.99 so I paid $2.99 after coupon but there was $2 Saving Star, $2 Ibotta and $0.25 any cough syrup so it was a money maker.  The batteries were an even better deal because I found a coupon for $1.25 so it doubled to $2.50 so they were $1 each and then I got back $1 from Ibotta and I got an any item $0.20 too.

Harris Teeter $6.45

Free band aids, spice packets, bacon, noodles, and biscotti.  The Cabot cheese was $0.99 each and the Nutella was $1 each.

Harris Teeter $0.18

Free after coupons and sales so I only paid tax.

Harris Teeter $1.76

I got free ranch seasoning, iced tea, noodles, meatballs and cheese raviolis.  The cranberry sauce was $1.49 which I grabbed because I thought I needed it for Christmas dinner but turns out that I am not cooking this year so I guess we will have a big meal eventually.  This was a crazy trip to the store with amazing meat clearances for sausage for $0.49 each.  I came home and cooked it all and froze it to use later. Some coupon was over doubled because it should have been more like $3.50 but I don't know what happened even after looking at the receipt.

Harris Teeter $9.59

I got free ranch seasoning and meatballs.  I thought that the cheese raviolis were free too but they were  $0.24 each because the price at this store was different...oops!  The cube steak was on sale for $2.35 so that was a tasty dinner.  The batteries were $1.50 for two packages and $1.00 for one package and then I did rebates for $1 back each. The Neutogena face wash was $6.99 shelf price and sale and coupon brought it down to $1.59 each bottle.  There was a rebate for $2 each so it was a money maker.  Two electronic coupons came off of the meatballs so I think that this came in cheaper then expected too.

Harris Teeter $2.15

I got the beef raviolis for $0.99 per bag and the ranch seasoning for free.

Harris Teeter $0.89

This is when I finally realized that the pricing wasn't the same at my normal Harris Teeter but I got the ranch seasoning for free and the ravioli were $0.24 each.

Harris Teeter $15.83

It was the end of super doubles and I went a little crazy.  I am still not sure what happened but I got free noodles, soup, bacon, and meatballs. I got the beef ravioli for $0.99 and the cheese manicotti for $0.99.  The All Detergent was on sale and I had two coupons left so they were $1 per bottle.  The eggs were on sale for $0.87 a dozen so I grabbed two to stock up for baking.  My last items were the Aveeno lotion was $3.19 after sale and coupon.  There was $2 Ibotta rebate.  The other was the expensive Neutogena face lotion which was $6.15 after sale and coupon but the price was different on the app so I went to customer service and they gave me around $0.78 cash back.  There was an Ibotta rebate for $4 back.  I also got $0.25 any item rebate and $1 Aveeno/Neutogena bonus.  Super happy to have my SPF lotion that I need for every day.

Harris Teeter $6.16

My husband was out of lunch meat so I grabbed two packs with the coupons that I printed from the website so they were $2.49 each.  We were totally out of of lettuce too so I grabbed a head for $0.99.

Aldi $28.89

I went to Aldi in Manassas after a doctors appointment.  I got $0.59 pretzels, $0.75 nacho chips, $0.99 salsa, $1.69 skim milk, $0.85 margarine, $2.29 Parmesan cheese, $1.25 corn tortillas, $1.55 cookies, $0.89 corn starch, $0.89 mini marshmallows and $1.45 blocks of cheese.  The chicken was on clearance but the scanner didn't work so it should have been $13.81 less $2 but they charged me $8.72.  In addition, there was a coupon for $5 off a $30 purchase so I got lots of great deals!

Aldi $30.28

I went to the store to stock up on frozen chicken with my $5 off coupon to use.  I also grabbed popcorn kernels because we were running low.  My husband also wanted hamburger rolls for the hamburgers he just got for Christmas.  My husband also picked the special kettle corn.  We also grabbed a big mad libs for my son for Christmas so I might have to figure out if I have to subtract $5 at the end of the month.

Trader Joes $4.09 

We went shopping for new furniture and my husband decided to get this treat after shopping.

Harris Teeter $4.08

My son needed a can of frosting for a school project and the rest is for my son's birthday party since he loves store bought frosting. They were $0.99 each after sale and coupon.

 Harris Teeter $5.21

They were on sale for $1.27 so I got the limit and stocked the cupboard.

Total Retail $803.27
Total Savings $649.46
Total OOP $153.81

I went a little crazy at the beginning of this month with some splurges including laundry detergent, beef jerky, lotion, and cookies but I have $6.19 left for the month to spend but I don't think that we are going to need much of anything.  I know that I got a ton of great values and stocked up on a lot of things so hoping that I made some good choices to get through the month even though I spent almost all my budget for the whole month in half the time.

Eating Out

We got Pizza Hut at the beginning of the month for $10.60.  I had a gift card for $5 for Chik-Fila and I stopped and used it to get a sandwich which was a tasty treat in a busy day of running around and no money out of pocket.  We had a gift card which we used to go to lunch after furniture searching and we only left an extra $3 tip beyond the gift card.  We have left some money to eat out again during the holidays in case we have too many things going on and need to fit in a meal on the go.  I have $26.40 left for the rest of the month.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Menu Plan Monday 12/17

Chicken Fries, Chicken Wraps with homemade fries
Chicken with rice
Salsa Sloppy Joes with mac and cheese

Last week went pretty much according to plan except Thursday and Friday switched.  Sunday was the night without a plan until I saved a little ground beef that I cooked Tuesday so I made Philly Cheese Steak Pasta and used up a box of shell pasta which is a new one for us but it didn't turn out super good because they got stuck inside each other and some were under cooked..  

This week I am totally not sure what I am making but we have family coming into town so we might be out and about.  I guess I will make it up from the stuff in the fridge and freezer if we are home or we can do breakfast for dinner or soup and sandwich. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Menu Plan Monday 12/10

Chicken Fries, Chicken Wraps with homemade fries
Chicken with rice
Dinner Out with Friends

Last week, we had my son's favorite meal on Monday like normal.  We had a chicken stir fry with white rice and edamame.  Wednesday was Pasta night.  Thursday night I made Chili with cheese and Fritos.  Friday night we had Steak with Hassleback potatoes.  Saturday was Cube Steak with white rice.  Sunday was Turkey and Rice Soup for my husband for lunch so he was pretty full so we ended up with a late dinner and he had a grilled burger and I had Roasted Corn Soup.  It was an easy week with construction done and I was at the store a lot because of super doubles.  Luckily, with a great meal plan, I got dinner on the table every night and here is hoping that I can get that luck this week.

Old Black Magic Book Review

I was searching for some more books to read while I was at the library when I saw some new releases that I hadn't read yet.  I grabbed Robert B. Parker's Old Black Magic (Spenser) by Ace Atkins at the library.  I was excited to see what trouble Spenser had been up to since the last book.  I have not done the best job keeping up the new releases for the series that I enjoy so it was great to find something quickly to read.

Iconic, tough-but-tender Boston PI Spenser delves into the black market art scene to investigate a decades-long unsolved crime of dangerous proportions.
The heist was legendary, still talked about twenty years after the priceless paintings disappeared from one of Boston's premier art museums. Most thought the art was lost forever, buried deep, sold off overseas, or, worse, destroyed as incriminating evidence. But when paint chips from the most valuable piece stolen, Gentlemen in Black by a Spanish master, arrives at the desk of a Boston journalist, the museum finds hope and enlists Spenser's help.

Soon the cold art case thrusts Spenser into the shady world of black market art dealers, aged Mafia bosses, and old vendettas. A five-million-dollar-reward by the museum's top benefactor, an aged, unlikable Boston socialite, sets Spenser and pals Vinnie Morris and Hawk onto a trail of hidden secrets, jailhouse confessions, and decades-old murders.

Set against the high-society art scene and the low-life back alleys of Boston, this is classic Spenser doing what he does best.

I was excited to see that Spenser was still up to his old tricks with his detective business.  He was working for the museum to help recover stolen art work that was stolen 20 years before.  It was fun to watch him follow the bread crumbs and try to find the art work even after he was fired from the museum.  He continued to follow until he found the painting.  Since we was well known with the good and bad side of Boston, people trusted him with information that they wouldn't tell others.  He uncovered lots and many people died but he stayed safe through the book which might be a first...not saying that he wasn't shot at or people attempted to murder him.  You have to pick up the book the to find out what he finds out and where he chases the clues to and what they uncover.  I hope that you check out this book and the rest of the series.  I have really enjoyed this series and the quirky character.  Even though these are written by a different author, I feel that he has stayed so true to the original that you might not even know!!  I hope that you enjoy.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Christmas to Remember Book Review

A Christmas to Remember: An Anthology by Lisa Kleypas was a book on the new release shelf at the library so I put it in my bag because of my love of Christmas books!!  I didn't know that it was another anthology that I picked up from the new release shelf and I hadn't read any of the authors.  I was interested to see what it was about.  Quickly realizing that it was a historical book set in times very long ago, I was interested to see if it was something that I would relate to.  I normally find the historical books to be a little hard to get into but these stories were all great.

Romance stars Lisa Kleypas, Lorraine Heath, Megan Frampton, and Vivienne Lorret prove in this collection of stories that love is the most magical during Christmas…
"I Will" by Lisa Kleypas
To be reinstated into his father’s will, Andrew, Lord Drake, must court a respectable woman-his friend’s spinster sister, Miss Caroline Hargreaves. After he blackmails Caroline into helping him, the charade begins-but is it really a charade once love takes hold of their hearts…?
"Deck the Halls With Love" by Lorraine Heath
Alistair Wakefield, the Marquess of Chetwyn, devastated Lady Meredith Hargreaves when he proposed to another. But when he becomes free to pursue her, it’s too late for she’s on her way to the altar….. As Christmas approaches, Chetwyn vows to lure Lady Meredith back into his arms.
"No Groom at the Inn" by Megan Frampton
James Archer detests his mother’s matchmaking ways. When ordered to attend a Christmastime house party filled with simpering maidens, he produces a fiancée-Lady Sophronia Bettesford. James and Sophronia pretend to be in love for one month. But their pact soon turns into love.
"The Duke’s Christmas Wish" by Vivienne Lorret
To the Duke of Vale, science solves everything-even marriage. When the impulsive Ivy Sutherland makes him question all of his data, he realizes that he’s overlooked a vital component in his search for the perfect match: love.
Four previously published stories together for the first time.

The first story was about a Lord who was written out of his dying fathers will because he was always chasing women and not picking women that were suitable for marriage.  He decides to deceive his father with a women that is a sister of a friend.  It turns out that this relationship has to seem real and it starts to seem just that to Caroline. It is a great story that you have to read to believe but it will have you pulling for love to win out.  The second story is about Chetwyn who is upset when the women he loves is proposed to by another.  He was set to be married to a dying friend's wife to make sure that she was taken care of when she falls in love with another.  He is then free to pursue love and might be too late.  Although this sounds confusing, the writer does a great job of explaining and has you in the middle of the story and hoping for the best.  The third story is about James who is going to attend a party with all single women to be set up by his mom so he decides to come back home with a fiancée to take with him.  Sophronia has just lost her father and is having to move in with distant relatives in order to have a home.  She decides to help James with the deception so that she can ensure her future.  The last story is about the Duke of Vale who loves science and data and is trying to figure out with data the best wife.  He is working to find his future wife at a big party at his house but finds that the data although it might be easy to work with, does not tell who he should fall in love with.  As is often the case, the last one is always my favorite because it was the last that I read so I might be biased.  It is maybe my favorite story to watch unfold especially the ending which you have to read to believe.  I hope that you check out this book for yourself and see all the great stories included.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Menu Plan Monday 12/3

Chicken Fries, Chicken Wraps and homemade french fries
Chicken Stir Fry with white rice and edamame
Ground Beef Chili
Steak with Potatoes

Last week was a blur but we went with leftovers on Monday and moved the original plan down a day.  Tuesday we had Chicken fries, Chicken Wraps, and homemade fries.  Wednesday was Pasta with Sausage Sauce and breaded zuchini.  Thursday was Pork Chops and mac and cheese.  Friday was Grilled Buffalo Chicken Wraps with white rice.  Saturday was a church program where we got to have pasta and garlic bread before doing some fun Christmas crafts.  Sunday we were going to have soup and sandwiches and then changed to get Pizza Hut instead.  Exhaustion and scheduling made it the best option.

I went through the freezer and we are scrapping at the bottom of the meats in the freezer so I am going to have to get creative to make it through the month and use up more of the freezer items but I am determined to get more things gone before buying more.  Fingers crossed with the next few weeks meals!!

Never Christmas Without You Book Review

I picked up this book at the library and knew nothing about this book except that it was Christmas book.  Never Christmas Without You: An Anthology (Kimani Romance) by Reese Ryan was another anthology of Christmas stories.  It was nice to read the shorter stories which were perfect to read before going to bed at night.

All you need this Christmas are these sizzling stories full of love and a touch of holiday magic…

Just for the Holidays by Nana Malone

Justin Morrison would do anything to make his ailing grandmother happy. Even if that means inventing a fake girlfriend to take home for the holidays. His best friend, Alex Winters, reluctantly agrees, but it’s not easy to keep her long-buried feelings for Justin under wraps when they’re sharing a room…a bed…a kiss. Christmas in Catalina is turning out to be hotter than anyone expected, but is theirs a love for all seasons?

His Holiday Gift by Reese Ryan

Pleasure Cove’s prodigal son just got the ultimate Christmas surprise—Madison, his five-year-old daughter he knew nothing about. Maddie’s aunt, Mikayla Mitchell, was once one of Dash Williams’s best friends…and his secret admirer. Now, seeing the sexy, ambitious lawyer with his little girl, Mikayla’s more smitten than ever. And Dash is starting to realize Mikayla’s the only one who could make his days merry and bright, and fill his nights with bliss…

The first book was Just for the Holidays which was about Justin Morrison trying to make his grandmother happy.  She wants to set him up with different women so that she could see him happy.  She wants to make sure that he is taken care of after she is gone.  She ended up in the hospital so he decides to bring home a fake girlfriend.  It is fun to watch how their relationship unfolds and you have to pick up the book to find out.  The second book was His Holiday Gift which was set in the small town of Pleasure Cove when Dash comes to spend time with his new found daughter.  He learns that he has a daughter and her mother has died but she is being raised by her aunt and his childhood best friend.  They become friends again until she learns that he was out to take away the only child she ever knew or could have.  It is a crazy roller coaster that you have to read to believe but I promise you won't be disappointed.  I hope that you check out this book and the fun stories in it.