Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Christmas Key Book Review

I picked up this book at the library because it had a great cover and I have never read the author or the series before but I was interested.  The Christmas Key: A Twilight, Texas Novel by Lori Wilde was part of a series and this showed as the new release so I figured that I would get to read some new books if I liked this Christmas story.

There’s a legend in Twilight, Texas. If you sleep with a kismet cookie under your pillow on Christmas Eve, you will dream of your one true love. She saw him in her dreams . . .It’s impossible! Naomi Luther was standing face-to-face with the man she’d dreamed about over a year ago. Was it the magic of kismet Christmas cookies that brought him to her? Or is there an even greater force at work? All Naomi knows is she is falling, hard and fast, for the one man all good sense says she should not have.

She was his buddy’s sister . . .Rebellious Mark Shepherd found order in the Marines but chaos on the battlefield. In a mission gone wrong, Mark is injured and one of his fellow soldiers loses his life. Haunted by guilt, he arrives in Twilight to keep a solemn promise. But when the Luthers mistake him for their handyman, he’s swept up in playing Santa to his buddy’s orphan son . . . and falling hard for Naomi’s irresistible bright spirit and sweet, sexy smile. But what will happen when she learns the truth?

I picked this book up and had trouble putting it down.  Naomi Luther is the daughter of a pastor and the sister of a solider.  Naomi makes cookies for the local charity fundraiser, works on every volunteer opportunity and is raising her brothers child after he died in battle.  She is an amazing women who puts all others ahead of herself to make sure that they have the best life that they can.  She works hard to be a member of her small community of Twilight and be the best for everyone else.  Mark Shepherd comes into the small town because he was sent by her brother to deliver a Christmas key but he is quickly assigned as the handyman of the church.  Mark gets involved in the family and the town and ends up being Santa for all the kids of this small town.  Naomi grows close to Mark before learning the truth of why he is really there and who he really is.  Find out what happens if she finds out the truth.  It was a great story and a quick read.  I hope that you check it out and like it as much as I did!!  I will be looking for more in this series for sure!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Menu Plan Monday 10/21

Sausage Lasagna and Spaghetti
Chicken Paninis and Turkey and Rice Soup
Mini Tacos, Taquitos, and rice
Philly Cheese Steak Pasta
Fried Rice and Egg Rolls
Breakfast for Dinner
Chicken Fries, Chicken Wraps and french fries

I feel like every week has been busier and busier but this week is actually a slower week.  I made two lasagnas last week so we had one for dinner and one went into the freezer because of a sale on canned tomatoes.  I started taking an inventory of the pantry last week and cleaned out the upstairs freezer this week to get more of a handle on the things that haven't gotten used.  I defrosted some turkey to make turkey and rice soup and pumpkin to make pumpkin bread.  I took all the bread bits and cut them up and toasted them in the oven to make bread crumbs and stuffing.  I made rolls and bread to have some of our basics.  It is like jam packing everything into a week because you have time to do it.  I also bought some berries to make Strudel Topped Muffins this week.  The best thing is that the weather finally got colder so it isn't horrible to turn on the oven because we haven't turned on the heat in the house yet.  Lots more baking going on in the coming weeks and hopefully cleaning out the freezer more.

Middle of the Month October Budget Update

I work to maintain $160 monthly budget with using sales, coupons and deals to get as much as I can as low priced as I can.  I make as much of our food as I can from scratch and use the items from the pantry and freezer to stretch the budget as far as possible.  Making our own bread, rolls and baked goods means that I am not running out of things and going to the store to get one thing that means that I get more then we need.  We also work to maintain a budget of $40 for eating out.  The total for both is $200.

The trips to the store are detailed below with the amounts and break downs with a picture of everything that I got.  The bottom has the total retail and the total savings with the total out of pocket spent so far this month.  Check out how I did against my monthly budget and what I got for that amount.

Harris Teeter $8.10

The rice was free and the chicken ended up free because it rang up wrong.  The pasta was $0.25 per box. The Children's Motrin was $2.99 each which is a huge discount off the $7.99 shelf price.  The salsa was $1 and there was a Ibotta rebate for $0.50 back. I got back $1.10 in rebates.

Harris Teeter $10.97

I got the same thing from the last trip which is free rice, $0.25 pasta, $1 pace salsa and $2.99 Children's Motrin.  I also grabbed peas because they are on sale for $1.25 and we were out and only had frozen corn left.  I like peas in my fried rice.  YUM!

Harris Teeter $1.04

I just got one salsa for $1.

Harris Teeter $9.63
 I got $0.25 pasta, $1 pace, and $2.99 Children's Motrin and put in the Ibotta rebate for $1.10 for the pace and any item.
Target $1.52
I got a gift card from Swagbucks and went to the store to use it up and the new Target cartwheel replacement didn't work right.  I was hoping for very little out of pocket after coupons.  I went to customer service to get a little bit back that didn't come off but they gave me a $5 gift card instead of cash back that would have come off this total.  Way more money so it will work out later.
Aldi $9.19
I went to the store to get a few things that we were out of before vacation so we didn't need too much.

Harris Teeter $15.42
I went to the store to get some lettuce and my free Taste and Tell ice cream. I saw the evic specials with the tomatoes for $0.37 and the sugar for $0.97.  With all the tomatoes, I decided to grab sausage to make lasagna which was on sale for $2.50 each.  I got the limit on both but the tomatoes didn't ring up correctly so I got it fixed at customer service and my Taste and Tell didn't come off either.
Aldi $32.01
After vacation trip to the store to get lots of things that we were low on or out of.  I wasn't planning on chicken but I figured that I would grab it to cut and add to the freezer.

 Total Retail $244.28
 Total Savings $156.40
Total OOP $87.88

Eating Out

We got Pizza Hut take out and went out at Cracker Barrel while on vacation but my parents paid for it because I made all the dinners in the room and packed lunch and snacks.  When we got home, we bought Chinese food for all of us to have for dinner for $40.12.  We got take out pizza after a soccer game but I used points to get it for free.  We only went over budget by $0.12 so I would call that a win.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Good Ones Book Review

I went through the library new release shelves and found this book.  The Good Ones (Happily Ever After) by Jenn McKinlay was on the display.  I wasn't sure where it was in the series but I decided to check it out anyway.  The amazing thing is that it is the first book in the series and the second book isn't released yet.  I guess I am ready to start my Christmas book reading since the weather is getting a little cold outside. 

A romance bookstore owner finds her own happily ever after with a single dad in a new romance series from the New York Times bestselling author of Every Dog Has His Day.

Ryder Copeland is an accomplished architect and one heck of a father...not to mention tall and sexy. He's everything a hero should be, and Lord knows, Maisy Kelly has read enough of her great-aunt Eloise's romance novels to recognize one when she sees one. But like all fairy tales, Maisy can't help but wonder if this Prince Charming is too good to be true...

Ryder is drawn to the shy, curly haired professor who hires him to convert the Victorian house she's inherited from her aunt into a romance bookstore. Attracted to a woman for the first time since his divorce, Ryder finds himself wishing for a future with Maisy that he knows is impossible. Ryder has never wavered from his plan to leave the small town of Fairdale, North Carolina, so he can give his daughter the life she deserves. But suddenly he's not so sure. And the closer he gets to Maisy, the harder it's going to be to walk away...

Ryder is living as a single father and trying to make the best life for his daughter.  He is working his last job as an architect in the small town before getting another job to pay his daughters way through private school.  Maisy is an college professor who left after a failed relationship with another professor who turned out to be married.  Maisy was living in her aunt's house and deciding to renovate and turn it into a romance bookstore.  She hires Ryder to do the job and build her a turret that was in the original plan of the house.  There is an immediate pull between the two and they are quickly in a relationship.  It is fun to watch the house get renovated and the relationship change at the same time.  Maisy is looking for a long term relationship but Ryder can't provide that because he is leaving.  There are some interesting twists and turns but you have to pick up the book and find out for yourself.  I am going to have to look for more from this author.  It was super entertaining and a quick read and I can't wait for the next book in the series!!

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Second Worst Restaurant in France Book Review

I saw this on the new release section at the library so I put it on reserve.  I wasn't sure if it was part of a series but I figured that I would enjoy checking it out.  This was an interesting and amusing story that turned out to be a series.  The Second-Worst Restaurant in France: A Paul Stuart Novel (2) (Paul Stuart Series) by Alexander McCall Smith was the second book in the series after the Italian Bulldozer.

In this delightful sequel to the best-selling comedic novel My Italian Bulldozer, Paul Stuart's travels take him to a French village, where the local restaurant's haute cuisine leaves a lot to be desired.  Renowned Scottish cookbook writer Paul Stuart is hard at work on his new book, The Philosophy of Food, but complicated domestic circumstances, and two clingy cats, are making that difficult.

So when Paul's eccentric cousin Chloe suggests that he join her at the house she's rented in the French countryside, he jumps at the chance. The two quickly befriend the locals, including their twin-sister landladies, who also own the infamous local restaurant known to be the second-worst eatery in all of France. During their stay, the restaurant's sole waitress gives birth mid-dinner service and the maître d' storms off after fighting with the head chef. Paul is soon drafted to improve the gastronomy of the village, while Chloe, ever on the hunt for her next romance, busies herself with distracting the handsome but incompetent chef. Could he be husband number six?

With all this local drama to deal with, Paul finds it next to impossible to focus on his writing, and that's before he learns that Chloe's past is far more complicated than he'd ever imagined. Paul will have to call upon al his experience—with food and with people—to bring order back to the village. And he may just learn something about family—and about himself—along the way.

 This amusing story was another travel book where Paul moves to a small French village with his cousin Chloe.  Chloe is an interesting character and she is getting Paul into the local culture and neighborhood.  Paul has come to avoid his ex-girlfriend and try to get his next book written before his deadline.  Chloe and Paul are really enjoying the small country town and Paul walks to the local bakery to get croissants in the morning so that they get to eat the treat warm for breakfast.  The landladies recommend the local restaurant but then quickly turn around and tell them that it is not really good.  Paul and Chloe go and the menu is super limited, the service is horrible and the food ends up making Paul sick.  It is a horrible place but they get in the middle of it to try to help turn the restaurant around.  As it happens in all the books, there are a few unexpected twists that I wasn't expecting but worth reading to find out what happens.  I hope that you check out this fun series and you laugh a little at the funny situations in the Second Worst Restaurant in France. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Beyond Summer Book Review

I had this book on my shelf for me to read so I was excited to start it. Beyond Summer (Blue Sky Hill Series) by Lisa Wingate was the next book in my pile to read after I read all the books that I had from the library.  I hadn't read anything by this author but I thought that it sounded like something that I would be interested in based on the summary.

When eighteen-year-old Tam Lambert learns that her family’s upscale home is in foreclosure, the life she's known is forever changed. Tam and her family must move into a tiny house in a changing Dallas neighborhood called Blue Sky Hill...

New resident Shasta Reid-Williams knows nothing of real estate schemes when she and her husband purchase a home in Blue Sky Hill. To her it’s the perfect place to raise her children. Better yet is getting to know Tam, who lives right across the street. When neighbors realize that a corrupt deal could force them from their homes, friendships and loyalties are tested.

Over the span of one summer, two young women discover the strength and maturity to do the impossible. They find that even in Blue Sky Hill, life-altering relationships and amazing possibilities can begin to blossom...

I read this book a long time ago and didn't write a review because it didn't have to go back to the library so it sat on my side table until I took the time to get it done.  It was a little bit of a review because I wasn't even sure what the description summary of the book was about because there was so much more happening in the book.  Shasta and her husband buy a house in the neighborhood as their starter home when they should be living in an apartment because the real estate people make it seem like such a good deal.  She finds out after getting into the house that they are involved in a big scheme where the prices are quickly inflated and many people have been thrown out of their houses and lost everything because they can't afford the increase in the cost of the house.  The house ends up back with the developer so that they can do it again to another family.  Shasta becomes friends with her neighbor across the street, Tam.  Tam moves into the house because her father is part of the real estate scheme and other companies that are being raided and investigated by the FBI so they have all their assets frozen and have nothing left.  A friend of the family moves her into the house and leave them there to figure it out for themselves.  Tam's step mother can't deal with things and shuts down so Tam is left to raise and watch her half brothers and sisters.  The two grow closer and work with the local church to help teach English and feed the more poor people in the area.  It is interesting to see how the very different lives have ended up in the same place and how it makes them stronger.  I think that this was a great book and I am going to look into more by this author and in this series to see what it is all about.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Parenting Love and Logic Book Review

I got a recommendation for Parenting With Love And Logic (Updated and Expanded Edition) by Foster Cline from a facebook group.  I reserved it at the library and got it pretty quickly. I was excited to get started reading and see what it was all about.  The great thing is that it was a quick read.

This parenting book shows you how to raise self-confident, motivated children who are ready for the real world. Learn how to parent effectively while teaching your children responsibility and growing their character. Establish healthy control through easy-to-implement steps without anger, threats, nagging, or power struggles. Indexed for easy reference. Raise children who are self-confident, motivated, and ready for the real world with this win-win approach to parenting. Your children will win because they'll learn to solve their own problems while gaining the confidence they need to meet life's challenges. And you'll win because you'll establish healthy control-without resorting to anger, threats, nagging or exhausting power struggles. Parenting with Love and Logic puts the fun back into parenting!

I thought it was a good book that gave a lot of good examples and was super easy to read.  The information was very easily broken down into two parts with the Love and Logic Parent and then the Love and Logic Parenting Tools.  The first section gave the breakdown of exactly what it looks like with real life examples for each area.  It was interesting to see the setting limits and gaining control and other areas.  After reading it, you are very interested in getting to part 2 which gives you the tools on how to make them work for you.  Sometimes there are more examples and how it works.  It was very good but almost like a reference book that if something happens it would be easy to go back and see what you should do to help fix the problem.  If you are looking for something to provide some other methods of parenting, this book has a lot of good ideas and I would totally suggest checking it out for yourself.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Department of Sensitive Crimes Book Review

I got this book off the new release shelf and was excited to start reading it.  The Department of Sensitive Crimes: A Detective Varg Novel (1) (Detective Varg Series) by Alexander McCall Smith was the next book in my pile but it took a long time to read it for whatever reason.  I am not sure why because it wasn't super long. 

In the Swedish criminal justice system, certain cases are considered especially strange and difficult, in Malmö, the dedicated detectives who investigate these crimes are members of an elite squad known as the Sensitive Crimes Division.  These are their stories.  The first case: the small matter of a man stabbed in the back of the knee. Who would perpetrate such a crime and why? Next: a young woman's imaginary boyfriend goes missing. But how on earth do you search for someone who doesn't exist? And in the final investigation: eerie secrets that are revealed under a full moon may not seem so supernatural in the light of day. No case is too unusual, too complicated, or too, well insignificant for this squad to solve.

The team: Ulf “the Wolf” Varg, the top dog, thoughtful and diligent; Anna Bengsdotter, who's in love with Varg's car (and possibly Varg too); Carl Holgersson, who likes nothing more than filling out paperwork; and Erik Nykvist, who is deeply committed to fly fishing.  With the help of a rather verbose local police officer, this crack team gets to the bottom of cases other detectives can't or won't bother to handle. Equal parts hilarious and heartening, The Department of Sensitive Crimes is a tour de farce from a true master.

I hope that you check out the start to this new series.  The first case was a strange one with a man stabbed in the back of the knee but the special detectives got to the bottom of the mystery.  It seemed strange that it would be the back of the knee but they figured out why it was that location and how it happened.  There was another crime where the women's boyfriend goes missing but it is really someone that she made up so that her friends wouldn't feel bad for her.  Another crime comes up because the friend who reported the crime went missing.  There was one more investigation about a haunted inn which was also solved.  It was lots of mysteries to solve and the team worked together and found all the answers quietly.  My favorite thing is that they drive a Saab which was my old car but what else would they drive in Sweden!!  It was interesting to see the "sensitive" crimes that I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Menu Plan Monday 10/7

Mini Tacos, Taquitos, and rice
Philly Cheese Steak Pasta
Chicken Paninis and Soup
Pizza Hut
Tacos and Rice
Pasta with garlic bread

Another weird week so using up everything we have in the house to have easy meals this week.  I was hoping for an easy week but we will see how it goes.  It is a holiday weekend so we are going to be out of the house lots doing fun stuff.  How is your week going??

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

September Month End Shopping and Eating Out Budget Update

I work to maintain a monthly budget of $160 for all of our shopping expenses including groceries and other household needs.  I shop sales, use coupons, and combine anything that I can to get the price prices for the items that my family uses.  I stock up on many things so my shopping trips don't always look like other people's trips because I have cases of toilet paper in my stockpile and many bottles of laundry detergent which should last me a long time.  I have a cupboard of pasta, rice and noodles when I get them for cheap or free.  I only get the items that I need when the price is right instead of going out every week and paying for the items that we need for the week.

Below are the things that I have gotten for the month with the amount spent on each transaction.  The transactions at the beginning of the month have more details in my beginning of the month post here.  The end of the month transactions are all broken down here.  I try to tell you how much each item cost so that you can see how I spend my budget.

Aldi $15.10

Harris Teeter $6.39

Harris Teeter $8.05

Harris Teeter $11.66

Harris Teeter $9.30

Harris Teeter $17.48

Harris Teeter $1.82

Wegmans $15.21

Safeway $0

Aldi $7.26

We were out of some things so I ran to the store and they were out of milk which was the most important thing on my list but I got these the rest of the list.

Aldi $2.45 

My second milk stop and it is more expensive at this store which makes me remember why I don't go to this one because it is just a little bit closer.

Harris Teeter $14.95

My weekend deal was the Cottonelle toilet paper which was $3.87 or $0.32 per roll which I got even though I already had a bunch.  Deals are harder to get more recently so anything lower then the $0.75 per roll shelf price is good even though I haven't gotten my stock up price of $0.25 per roll in ages.  There was a freebie of microwave rice which was in a cardboard stand in the dairy section so I was glad to find it.  The lunch meat was a great price at $3.99 and I used a coupon to get $1.50 off so it was $2.49.  I went to get the $0.19 tea and they changed the package again but super excited to add two more to the stockpile that was dwindling because of lack of coupons.  I was excited for $0.97 sugar because I only have two sugars left in my pantry.

Target $0

I used my Swagbucks to order a gift card and went into the store to get my son's vitamins.  We tried a bunch of others but these are the only ones that he likes and it looks like Target has discontinued the one so we might be in trouble again soon but I grabbed them.

Giant $7.71

I went in to get the freebie Duncan Hines cake. I found a bunch of Cheez Its with $1.50 off 2 coupons.  There was also electronic coupons to make it $1.50 each so I got 4 boxes.  I also got one Gerber bananas for $1.35 because there were none at Target when I went.

Aldi $5.59 

I was out again went to the store to grab some more.

Harris Teeter $4.61

Aldi changed the butter that my son has liked for years and it was a little bit of a crisis so I went to a few stores and ended up getting three choices so that we could do a side by side taste test.  I got the Old El Paso Enchilada Kit for $0.39 after sale and coupon.  I got the Eggland's Best with a coupon I found in a magazine for $0.50.  I used a rain check to get a free Kinder Egg.  My favorite deal was the frozen pizza Taste and Tell so we are going to enjoy that for dinner.

Harris Teeter $3.87

We used up all the potatoes we had and the lettuce so I got new at Harris Teeter because it was cheaper then Aldi.

Harris Teeter $3.32

There was a deal on Dixie Crystal sugar and a printable coupon to get them for $1.07 each. Another good addition so I have 9 bags of sugar.

Aldi $10.84

I got a new tub of margarine so that we can use this in the taste test and this is the winner so grateful that this huge thing won't go to waste.  We were also out of milk, ice cream sandwiches and bananas.  I got an extra bag of chicken fries to put in the freezer for next month.

Total Retail $473.63
Total Savings $328.02
Total OOP $145.61

I was excited to come in under budget for the month and get lots of the things that we needed and a bunch of fun things.  In addition, I got back $14.75 in rebates from Ibotta and Saving Star.  I also got back a bunch of points for Swagbucks and Fetch to earn gift cards.  Best news is that it is way better then last month where I was way over budget!!

Eating Out and Take Out

I went out to lunch with my parents and they paid for our salads which were a tasty treat but mostly because we were out and they wanted to do more while we were out instead of going home.  We went out as a family to my son's favorite restaurant and ordered a pizza and salad for everyone to split and my parents bought it.  We went to an event at school and my son got a shaved ice for $4.  We got Pizza Hut take out with a free cheese breadsticks so it was only $8.47.  Total eating out spending for the month was $12.47.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Menu Plan Monday 9/30

Simple Fried Rice with peas, Potstickers, and Egg Rolls
Frozen Pizza
Chicken and Rice
Breakfast for Dinner
Chicken Fries, Chicken Wraps and Fries

We got together as a family and discussed our busy week and figured out all the things that we could have that worked with our schedule and came up with a plan.  I forgot to post it on Monday but we have everything in the fridge, freezer and pantry so we are ready for the week as long as the busy week doesn't exhaust us!! Hope you have a great week!!