January 2011 Book List

It has been a LONG time since I did a book review list!  I have read a ton of books since the last list but I guess I just got a little tired of doing it for a  while.  I have 6 books to share for this month.

First, let me tell you about my Kindle!  I got an Amazon Kindle e-Reader for Christmas from my husband and I love it!  It is easy to hold, easy to read and I never have to be without a book.  When I finish one, I can download another and don’t have to make a trip out to the store. (Although I still LOVE to look at bookstores. I just bring my Kindle along and add the books I find to my wish-list to download later.  Plus they are always cheaper on the Kindle than they are in the store!)

There are a lot of e-Readers out there with the two most popular being the Amazon Kindle and and The Barnes and Noble COLOR Nook.  I researched both and decided that for me the Kindle was the best option.  The Color Nook was at first glance pretty cool. It is a lot like a giant iPhone.  It is touch screen, has “apps”, and is in color which means the book covers and any pictures in the books are in color.  There were some things I really did like about the Nook.  First, was the “Library” screen where all your books are on virtual shelves and you pick the book of the shelf that you wish to read. 

 There were some major drawbacks to the Nook.  First the Color Nook was HEAVY!  The Nook weighs 15.8 ounces! Just shy of a pound where as the Kindle only weighs 8.7.  Even with a lighted cover for my Kindle it still weighs less than the Nook without a cover.  Second was the price.  The Nook Color is currently $249.  My Kindle was only $139 and even after I added in a lighted leather cover for my Kindle and a few book purchases it was still cheaper than the Nook.  But the biggest draw back to me was the back-lit LCD screen of the Nook.  Sure it looks pretty but I look at a computer screen or a smart phone all day.  I read books to relax and I do not think of a bright LCD screen as relaxing.  My eyes get very tired looking at a computer screen but I have never experienced that tired eye feeling from the screen of my Kindle. 

I think the Nook has some GREAT features but in effort to be the “First” to offer a color e-Reader I think they jumped the gun a little. I applaud Amazon for making the decisicion to research color options more and to develop e-ink technology that is up to Amazons high standards before putting an inferior product on the market.  I love the Kindle and it was the right choice for me.

Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Wi-Fi, Graphite, 6" Display with New E Ink Pearl Technology

You can click the picture to purchase you very own Kindle e-Reader for only $139.00!

 

 

 

 

 

Sweetie by Kathryn Magendie  ****

Sweetie

This book is about Friendship and the lengths to which friends will go for each other.  Two girls who are labeled as social outcasts come together and become close friends until tragedy and heartbreak touch the lives of both girls and their friendship is tested.  This book was well written and was hard to put down. It was happy and sad, made me laugh and made me cry. I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Click here to purchase the book in paper back for $14.50.

Click here to purchase the Kindle e-book for $9.99.

 

 

Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent *****

Fireflies in December

Fireflies in December takes place in the 1930 South where the rights of black people are still being tested and challenged.  A young white girls family decides to adopt the black daughter of a couple that worked on the families farm after they are killed in a tragic accident.  The book tells the story of two unlikely paired girls who grow up as sister. It chronicles the good times and the bad times and the heartache and joy both girls must face as they grow up in a community which refuses to understand or accept their relationship as sisters and a family.

Click hereto purchase Fireflies in December in pape back for $10.41.

Click here to purchase Fireflies in December e-book for $8.79.

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Cottonwood Whispers

Jennifer Erin Valent  has also written two sequels to this book.  Both were equally as good as Fireflies in December.

Click here to purchase Cottonwood Whispers in paperback for $10.59.

   Click here to purchase Cottonwood Whispers for Kindle for $8.79.

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Catching Moondrops

  Click here to purchase Catching Moondrops in paperback for $10.13.

  Click here to purchase Catching Moondrops for Kindle for $8.59.

 

 

 

 

The Justice Game by Randy Singer ****

The Justice Game

  Randy Singer is a real-life attorney turned author so his writing is authentic and well detailed.  This book was based on a real trial that looks at both sides of the never-ending gun rights battle.  The book was exciting and thrilling and was hard to put down. By reading the Author’s Note at the beginning of the book I learned that while writing this book he presented the facts of the case to his readers and allowed his readers to cast the verdict in the book.  I thought this was a really neat and interesting concept.  There are a lot of characters in this book, some with slightly similar names, so you do have to pay close attention to the character introductions. 

Click here to purchase the Justice Game in paperback for $11.41.

Click here to purchase the Justice Game for Kindle for $9.39.

The Perfect Women by James Andrus ***

The Perfect Woman

 The Perfect Women was the only book I read in January that I didn’t enjoy 100%.  It was a well written book and the story line was interesting but it was also very creepy and scary.  I don’t usually like things that scare me.  I found that I was unable to read this book close to bedtime because I would have nightmares about it.  In the book a Detective John Stallings discovers a body while searching for a runaway teen.  After the body is discovered the police begin to realize they have a serial killer on the loose.  The story is told from the perspective of the detectives, the girls involved and the serial killer. It gets very creepy and gruesome at times.

Click here to purchase The Perfect Women in paperback for $6.99.

Click here to purchase The Perfect Women for Kindle for $4.39.

You can view many of the books I have read in the past by clicking over to my Amazon aStore.  Thanks and happy reading!

Meal Plan Monday

Last week I mentioned that I would be making a Pork and Chicken Tortilla Casserole.  This was a new recipe for us and I can not say enough good things about it! It was SOOOOO YUMMY! And it was so easy.  I used up some leftover pork from pork tenderloin we had had earlier in the week but I also cooked up one chicken breast because it just wasn’t quite enough pork.  The only change I would recommend from the published recipe is to leave out the 2 cups of chicken broth.  It seems that canned cream soups are much “runnier” than they were a few years ago and that may account for the difference or perhaps I just prefer a “drier” casserole.  We enjoyed this with some refried beans and fresh salsa.  I also topped my serving of casserole with a little sour cream and some cilantro.  The leftovers were also very good!

This week I start teaching art for the after-school program on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Since I wont get home from work until after 5:30 you may notice that Tuesday and Thursday dinner options are either something my husband can get started or something that is very simple and quick to make.

Mon – Ribeyes, Baked Potato, Creamed Spinach and Salad
Tues – TaterTot Casserole (From the freezer) and peas
Wed – Homemade Clam Chowder and Lobster Rolls
Thur – Hot Dogs and Mac&Cheese, Sauerkraut
Fri – chicken strips, loaded roasted potatoes, broccoli
Sat – ??? Richie may be going to a chess tournament in LR so this day is undecided.
Sun – Stuffed Chicken Parmesan, Salad,  fresh bread

Getting the most for your money

There are a lot of great websites and blogs out there that aim to help you to save money on groceries and other household items.  Many of these sites offer some really great advice and helpful hints but many of these sites seem to have two major drawbacks.  First many of the sites assume that I live in a large city and have access to several nationally know grocery chains such as Aldi’s, Dillons and Kroger.  Secondly, many sites assume that I actually have time to drive around to several grocery stores in a week and to go to Walgreens or CVS and play the “drugstore game” to rack up in-store points and coupons.

Well, we do have a Kroger but it is very tiny, has limited selection and doesn’t even have a deli counter!  Secondly, I work all week and the last thing I want to do on my time off is drive around to four grocery stores and make multiple purchases at Walgreens all just to save a few dollars.  It may be controversial in this day and age but I am a Wal-mart girl.  Our local Wal-mart isn’t as nice as some I have been in but it is fairly close by, has a pretty good selection of items and the convenience can’t be beat.  Not to mention the fact that Wal-mart will match any advertised competitor price so I can still get the great deals that the other small “local” grocery stores are offering.  In fact, more times than not, Wal-mart appears to check the local circulars and usually is offering a lower price on many items than the other stores are.

Anyways….there are a few sites I have come across that I think would be helpful to anyone trying to save money on groceries.

The Coupon Project  – this site offers daily posts regarding great buys in several grocery chains as well as links to coupons and advice on playing the “Drugstore game” if you are so inclined.  There are recipes and other helpful information as well.  One of my favorite things on the site is the download for the Savings Tracker.  The Savings Tracker is an excel document that allows you to track your monthly grocery budget and how much you are saving through discounts and coupons.

Money Saving Mom - This site is similar to the coupon project but has tons of giveaways and features weekly meal plans as well.  This is probably my favorite of the two.

Penny Pincher Gazette - This site is a great place to go to get access to all the printable coupons from the major publishers of weekly coupon inserts.

There are tons of other sites out there.  Some better than others.  You just have to search and see what works best for your needs.

Here is this weeks menu.  I think we will finally be back on track this week!

Mon – Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches and Chips
Tues – Crock Pot Pork Roast
Wed – Pork and Chicken Tortilla Casserole
Thur – Eat at the Hungry Man in Newport
Fri – Homemade Pizzas and Salad
Sat – Chicken Strips and Mac&Cheese
Sun – Still undecided! I’ll keep you posted!

Snow Day

Snow days are great in the first few weeks of February when its been over a month since we’ve had a long weekend and will be over a month before spring break.  But I honestly hate having snow days right after we’ve just returned from Christmas vacation, especially when that means that we will now have to go to school on the one day off we would have had in February.  I know – I am a Grinch.  I love the snow I just wish it would be more timely.

Regardless of my apathy to the snow day, I did manage to enjoy myself.  Richie and I stayed up late last night and slept in late today.  We made breakfast, played outside, made sugar on snow and sat around doing a whole lot of nothing.  Plus, much to my chagrin, Richie got to prove to me that the totally DORKY goggles he bought weren’t so stupid after all.

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Okay let’s be honest. They still LOOK totally dorky but they were really great to have when riding around on a four-wheeler in snow and freezing temperatures.

It sure was pretty outside though and I did enjoy riding around on the four-wheeler.

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After we came in and warmed up we decided to make Sugar on Snow. Snow Cream is a popular Southern Treat made with snow but Sugar on Snow is a northern delicacy and much tastier in my opinion. Unfortunately, we had eaten most of it before I remembered to take a picture.

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Sugar on Snow is made by boiling REAL maple syrup (preferably from Vermont) over low heat until it reaches “hard ball stage” or 255 degrees. You have to watch the syrup VERY carefully because it can boil over and/or burn in a blink of an eye. We were impatient and took it off heat a little early so it didn’t quite harden up like I would have liked when we poured it on the snow. It was more the consistency of caramel or butterscotch. But it is SO GOOD! Just grab a spoon and enjoy!

Meal Plan Monday

It is cold and snowy today.  Richie and I are home with a snow day.  We’ve been out playing in the snow and are now warming up with a mug of hot chocolate.  I have formulated a menu plan but depending on the weather it could possibly change if we don’t make it to Searcy on Wednesday because I am missing a few ingredients.  But that is something you need to remember about meal planning – it should be flexible.  Things come up all the time and you have to be willing to monitor and adjust.

1/10/11 – 1/16/11

Mon – French Toast
Tues – Tacos
Wed – IHop (We have coupons for free meals)
Thur – Chicken and Rice Soup
Fri – Cheese Steak Sandwiches
Sat – Leftovers
Sun – Eggplant Parmesan (Still in the freezer – we didn’t get to it last week)

I have also been working on a sort-of “Master List” of meals that we like to eat.  It is still a work in progress but I think it will be helpful.  Richie and I can pull out the list when we sit down to meal plan and we have a ton of ideas to work from.  So here is a copy of my Master Dinner List.  What kind of meals are on your master dinner list? I would love for you to share!

Not On My Worst Enemy

I was SICK this week.  It was the worst sickness I experienced in my adult memory.  It hit me like a ton of bricks at about 10 am on Wednesday – right in the middle of work.  I made it home, barely, and spent the next 8 hours camped in front of the toilet.  I will spare you the VERY grim details but I am slowly inching my way back to the living.

Meal Plan Monday

Richie and I have been working hard to decrease the amount of money we spend on groceries each month.  Over the summer we looked at our spending and realized a TON of our money was going to Walmart each month and we weren’t quite sure what exactly we were spending it on.  Due to the lack of convenient, quality grocery stores in our area we tend to due most of our shopping at Walmart.  The main problem with Walmart is that because they carry so many things beside groceries we often ended up purchasing non-grocery items that we didn’t really need.  Because shopping at a different grocery store wasn’t really a convenient or cost-effective alternative we opted to change the way we went about  doing our shopping at Walmart.

Richie and I sat down and decided on a grocery budget that we felt would work for us.  We made the decision to withdraw our budgeted amount from our checking account when we received our paychecks and use only the cash we had to purchase the food we needed.  If we ran out of money before the end of the month we would learn to make due with what was available in our pantry until our next paycheck.

We have had great success so far.  Not once have we spent the entire budget amount, although we will be getting very close this month!  Every penny we have left gets automatically put into savings and we will reevaluate the budget in March and lower it if possible.  In order to get the most out of our money we have been doing three things.
1.  Shop the Sale Fliers – The sales fliers for other local stores come out every Sunday or Wednesday.  Walmart will match any competitors published sale price so this often allows us to save money on items that are not lower priced at Walmart.
2.  Clip Coupons – Each Sunday I browse through the coupon inserts and clip out all that we can use.  I also check several online sites for coupons that I can print.  I ONLY clip coupons for items we actually use and I do not purchase unusal items just because there was a coupon.
3.  Meal Planning  – We have been planning a weeks worth of meals in advance each week.  This has been beneficial by allowing me to make the best use of ingredients that are on sale or that we have excess of in our pantry.  This also helps the afternoon to go more smoothly because we already know what is planned for dinner and we do much less fast food, take out and dining out.

My goal is to post our Dinner menu each week. So without further ado, here is the menu for Monday 1/3/2011 - 1/9/2011.

Monday – Cheese Burgers with bacon, onion and mushrooms, Frozen French Fries
Tuesday – Potato Soup made with leftover mashed potatoes, grilled cheese
Wednesday – Homemade Flatbread Pizzas, Salad
Thursday – Beef Roast at MIL’s house
Friday – Maple Mustard Chicken, Rice, Steamed Veggies
Saturday – Breakfast
Sunday – Eggplant Parmesan, Salad, Italian Bread

Do you make a menu plan?  If so, leave a link in the comments!

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