Books

Winter 2020 Books To Read

I have compiled my list of books that I would like to read this winter.  I came up with this list from a variety of sources including Goodreads, friend recommendations and my local newspaper book reviews.

  1. This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger – I received this book for Christmas and was told by the giver that it was her favorite book of 2019.  That is a pretty strong endorsement.  I can’t wait to get started.
  2. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood – I loved the The Handmaid’s Tale and have avoided watching the tv show.  Given today’s political climate, the tv show feels a little too real.  But, The Testaments won best 2019 fiction on Goodreads, so I will put it on my to read list.
  3. The Call of the Wild by Jack Wolf by Jack London – This is the next book on my pile.  I want to finish this in anticipation of the movie that will be released soon.
  4. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell – I have been on the waiting list for this one for months.  I can always depend on Lisa Jewell to write a great mystery and is also an easy read.
  5. The Institute by Stephen King – Another dependable author.  I have read so many Stephen King books and know that I have not even scratched the surface of the great stories he has written.

That’s about it for planned reading.  I like to keep my options open.  Working in a library, I see so many great books come through circulation that I never knew existed.

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Family Life, Frugal Living

My 20 Goals For 2020

This year I have decided to try a new approach to personal changes in the new year, instead of resolutions, I will have goals.  When I set a goal for myself, I usually do accomplish it.  When it’s a resolution, I fail miserably.  This year I have 20 personal goals set for myself.

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Photo by Evie Shaffer on Pexels.com
  1. I was recently diagnosed with VERY high blood pressure.  Until November, it was always normal.  Out of nowhere, it has gone up a lot.  I am now under the care of a cardiologist who has put me on medication and he is starting a round of tests to try figure this out.  So, my number one goal is to get my pressure back to normal.  Several of my goals have been set to help bring it down with the help of medication.
  2. Lose 20 pounds.  Truth be told, I could stand to lose more than 20.  But, small goals are best and 20 seems like a good start.  When I hit that, I will add 10 more to lose.
  3. Continue to get 10,000 steps a day in.  This has never been a problem for me.  But now, more than ever, I need to keep this habit in my daily routine.
  4. Go to the gym 3 days per week.  I need my daughter to hold me accountable with this one.  She is so good about getting herself to the gym on a regular basis, I need to follow her lead.
  5. I have spent a lot of time reading about the causes of high blood pressure and what I can do to bring it down.  Eat more fruits and vegetables.  I eat a lot as it is, but it’s time to add more, especially potassium rich produce.
  6. I downloaded the Simple Habit app to encourage meditation on a daily basis.  I keep hearing that meditation helps calm the mind.  I do meditate, but not daily.  Time to start trying to meditate at least 2 or 3 days per week.
  7. Get back into the yoga habit.  Several years ago I went to yoga 3-4 days per week.  I was in great shape, but I fell out of the habit as my kids got older.  Since they are now adults, I probably shouldn’t continue to use them as an excuse for not going.
  8. Cut down on the alcohol.  I really don’t drink very much. I have wine with dinner some nights and enjoy a cocktail when in a restaurant.   But, until I get my blood pressure under control, I need to eliminate alcohol.
  9. Now on to other goals.  Pay off the house.  We had every intention of paying it off December 31.  A couple of unexpected expenses put that on hold.
  10. Read 110 books in 2020.  I sign up for the reading challenge every year on Goodreads.  I don’t think I have ever missed my goal.
  11. Read 3 classic books this year.  I am starting small because in all honesty, I don’t always enjoy the classics.  But, my mom and I agreed to start with Call of the Wild in anticipation of the movie.  It seems easy to add 2 more to 2020.
  12. More dates with my husband.  In the past I told myself we would have a date night once a week.  That proved to be difficult to achieve some weeks, making it easy to just forget about it.  Date night once a month seems easier.
  13. We have a membership to the Milwaukee Art Museum that I plan on utilizing a lot more this year.  I really do need to spend more time taking advantage of the cultural activities my city has to offer.
  14. Spend more time outdoors.  It’s not always easy in the winter to be outside.  But in the spring, summer and fall, I need to spend a lot less time indoors.  I recently read an article that encourages 1000 hours per year which is about 2.5 hours per day.
  15. Throw away 20 items per day.  We have too much stuff in this house and some of it needs to go.
  16. More no spend days.  These are so easy to accomplish and the benefit can be seen in your checking account.
  17. Spend more time with my friends.  This is another one that I am pretty good about following through on.  I enjoy meeting friends for lunch, dinner and potlucks.  In 2019 I reconnected with several old friends that I have spent time with.
  18. Finish a knitting project I started in November and start and finish another.  I learned how to knit in 2019 and really enjoy it.  I hope to find more time in the coming year to year improve this skill.
  19. Learn how to can!  We usually have a prolific vegetable garden (2019 was a failure).  My husband is the one who usually preserves the bounty.  But, more job responsibilities means that I should take this one over.
  20. Go on 2 weekend getaways with my husband.  A full blown vacation is not going to happen, but a couple weekends away should be attainable.

That’s my list.  What kind of goals have you set for yourself as you start a new year and a new decade?

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Happy New Year!  I have a feeling that 2020 is going to be my best year yet.  This will be the year that my youngest graduates from high school and oldest graduates from college.  We are starting the year with a new puppy, which has been so much fun.  We have wonderful friends and family who we see on a regular basis.  We both have jobs we love and aside from the typical conditions associated with getting older, we are healthy.  Life is good.

Even though the last few weeks are generally very expensive, we still found some ways to save money.

  1. I had all of my Christmas shopping and wrapping done before Thanksgiving.  This was intentional.  I do not enjoy last minute Christmas shopping and the crowds associated with it.  I enjoyed the month of December without the pressure of preparing for the holidays.
  2. We spent New Years in, separately, which was kind of sad.  I was with my parents for several days and spent New Years with them and some of their friends.  Eric enjoyed the silence that comes with having the house to himself.  My understanding was that he watched a movie and enjoyed pizza.  Neither of us made it to midnight.
  3. We have enough food in this house to feed an army.  January is going to be devoted to shopping the freezer and pantry.  I will need to purchase fresh produce, but it will be easy to spend very little at the grocery store this month.
  4. I have started the long process of decluttering this house.  We have so much stuff.  Too much stuff.  My goal is 10 items a day, out of the house.  I appreciated that so many of our gifts this year were either consumables or items we can actually use.  We received a very large bottle of local maple syrup and lemon olive oil, among so many other things.
  5. I found some very old gift cards.  Make sure to look up the balance because some do not expire.  I found an old theatre gift card from 2014 that still had $10 on it.  I used it while visiting my parents.  Proof that the small things add up.

I plan on sitting down in the next few days and really figuring out our 2020 budget.  Fall 2020 will be an expensive one for us, all 3 of our kids will be in college.  We are going to need to do even more belt tightening this year.  As always, I look at it as an adventure and not something to stress over.  What are some of things you plan on doing to save in 2020?

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One of my gifts this year.  My daughter had a portrait made of Luna in the  attire that proves her royalty in this house.

Books

My Favorite Books Of 2019

Reading is without a doubt my favorite hobby.  I can spend hours with a book in hand, ignoring the world around me.  I have been like this since childhood.  I remember many nights when I was supposed to be studying for a test and instead, I was quietly reading.  My tests grades were often a reflection of my lack of preparation, but I did not care if I was in the middle of a good book.  In fact, 7th grade earth science really took a hit when I was 12.  So far, I have read 110 in books in 2019.  I will likely add 1 or 2 more to that total, but I feel confident in my 2019 favorites and doubt that I will add to that this list.  My list is not in any particular order, I had too many to consider favorites.

  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama – Michelle Obama is an excellent writer.  Her book sets the gold standard for autobiographies.  I listened to this one and cried more than once.  Her descriptions of loss are truly heartbreaking.  Don’t go into this one thinking it’s about her husband’s rise in politics, it is not.  This book is about her life.  It made me miss the Obama presidency more than I thought possible.
  2. Inheritance by Dani Shapiro – This is another autobiography.  2019 was the year of the autobiography for me.  I have read a lot of them this year.  Imagine taking a DNA test and finding out that everything you thought you knew about yourself was not true.  For this author that is exactly what happened.  In the age of at home DNA kits, this is becoming a reality for a lot of people.  This one validated by position that somethings in life are best unknown.
  3. Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – This book was released in 2018 but I read it in 2019.  It was nearly impossible to get at the library for months, it’s that good.  This tells the story of girl left to raise herself in the marshes of North Carolina.  The descriptions of her natural world transport the reader.
  4. My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing – This one puts a whole new spin on dysfunctional family.  You know the author is talented at her craft when you find yourself hoping that these 2 truly terrible people will get away with their crimes.
  5. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – This book won best historical fiction on Goodreads.  It is written as an interview with the band members of Daisy Jones & The Six.  I kept picturing Fleetwood Mac and the story behind Rumors when I was reading this one.  It was an excellent read and rumor has it will be turned into a limited series, staring Elvis Presley’s granddaughter.

That is my list, I could have gone on.  I know that there are at least 5 more books that I could have added as favorites, but it needs to end somewhere.  I am really looking forward to what 2020 has to offer in the way of new books.

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

We had some wins in the area of frugality this week.  With it being less than one week until Christmas, I am very proud of myself with the amount of money we have been able to save.  This year, I had all of my Christmas shopping and most of my wrapping done before Thanksgiving.  That was very intentional, as I wanted to actually enjoy the season this year instead of being stressed.  Here is my list:

  1. Sadie needed her second round of vaccines.  We had a $100 credit at the vet, I applied that to her first visit.  Total cost was $3.50.78580050_10216418865809629_4087130804889583616_n.jpg
  2. I added Sadie onto our pet insurance plan.  We learned several years ago with our first golden, Stella, that the unimaginable can happen.  Having health insurance on our dogs eases our minds a bit.
  3. My husband has started the process of moving our phone plans to Mint mobile.  He is doing one line at a time because each line has to be paid a year in advance.  When the process is complete we will be saving about $1,200 per year.
  4. We have been entertaining friends in our home more.  It’s been nice to sit around our dining room table after a good meal and friends to laugh with.  I plan on doing this even more in 2020.
  5. We are keeping newly purchased Christmas decorations to a minimum this year.  My daughter made an adorable gingerbread house and I bought just a couple ornaments to represent things that are important to me in 2019 and going into 2020.

 

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I try to purchase the annual Human Rights Campaign ornament every year.  Here is 2019.

IMG_0409These little houses always turn out so cute

Misc

Change Is Needed

I am going to write a bit off topic today.  If politics triggers you, it would probably be best to skip what I am writing today.

My husband and I went to a funeral this last weekend.  An extended family member went to a local gun store, purchased a handgun and was able to walk out of the store.  Within a couple hours, this person was gone.  There are far more questions than answers as to why this decision was made.  Honestly, I did not know this person well enough to even venture a guess.  But the fact remains that this kind of death, no matter how close you are to victim doesn’t matter.  The outcome is heartbreaking and those left behind will never truly get over such a loss.

The state of Wisconsin does not have a waiting period when purchasing a firearm.  That safety measure was eliminated in 2015.  Why?  I have no idea.  But I would guess that the NRA donations to the powers that be in Madison had a lot to do with it.  With that single stroke of the pen, hundreds, thousands of lives have been impacted.  You have to wonder what a 48 hour wait would have done in this situation.  All of us know how a single incident can be so all consuming that you cannot possibly believe that you will get over it or feel better.  But, a good night sleep and time to think and reflect can make a big difference.  I myself cannot count the number of times I have gone to bed thinking that something was the absolute end of the world, only to wake up the next morning and think I can get through this.  Or in retrospect, it wasn’t that bad.  Waiting periods allow for that time of reflection, to cool off and realize there is another answer.

I am not interested in debating the 2nd amendment with anyone.  The fact of the matter is that as long as it is in the US Constitution, people in this country have the right to own firearms.  But that doesn’t mean that common sense can’t be applied.  Waiting periods and background checks need to be a part of the process of buying a firearm.  It makes absolutely no sense that purchasing a firearm is as simple as walking into a store and walking out with something that has the power to kill.  Yes, I am aware that there are thousands of products that also have the power to kill as well.  But as far as I know, nothing else has the shear force of a firearm.

The day before the funeral was December 14th.  That day was the 7th anniversary of  Sandy Hook.  This was the second deadliest school shooting in US history.  On that day 20 first graders were murdered in their classroom along with 6 adults.   The perpetrator of that mass murder was a mentally ill individual who had firearms purchased for him by his mother.   I remember thinking that this incident will finally bring meaningful change to gun laws in this country.  Seven years later, we are still waiting for the politicians in  Washington D.C. to put people over their donations from the NRA.

I respect people’s right to own guns.  I live in a state where hunting is an important part of our culture.  I myself have never hunted but that doesn’t mean that I am opposed to hunting or think that it should be eliminated.  I also understand why people want a handgun for protection.  These are rights that we have and in all honesty are not going anywhere.  I have accepted that as our reality in this country.  That set aside does not change the fact that we need some serious reform to protect everyone.

 

Family Life

We Got A Puppy

Saturday morning I woke up a little later than usual, around 7:15.  I was ready for a morning full of errands to prepare for friends we were having for dinner that evening.  But, first, I needed coffee.  It was then that I noticed my 17 year old daughter was also ready for the day, which was most unusual given that she is a teenager.  Teenagers like to sleep in on weekends.  My husband told me that they were going to Fleet Farm to purchase chicken food.  He had promised to take Maeghan to Aldi for chocolate if she came with.  What?  Honestly, that was the craziest thing I had ever heard.  Aldi’s chocolate is just not that good.   I asked why he felt the need to drag her out of the house for chicken feed and told her she didn’t have to go with.  She insisted, I rolled my eyes and said ok.  Truth be told, I was looking forward to a Saturday morning coffee in peace.

I went about my morning.  Showered, ate breakfast and then started to clean a little bit.  Eric had to take my car for this strange errand, so I needed to wait for him to do my own.  It was at about 10:00 am when I started to vacuum that they returned.  Thankfully, I resisted to the urge to comment that it should not take 3 hours to find chicken feed.  Because when Maeghan walked in behind him, she was holding this little girl.  If you look at the bottom, you can see the eyes of our very confused beagle trying figure out what the hell just happened to her perfectly balanced world.

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Meet Sadie.  She is the last of our three dogs.  She was an early Christmas present for me. But it is clear that my husband is just as smitten as the rest of us.  We now have 2 golden retrievers (a strange dream I have had since childhood) and a crazy beagle.  Gift giving will not be necessary for me now for several years, as this is all I have wanted.  It’s funny because I brought it up on Friday night and my husband’s no was so firm that I thought, I better not bring it up again.  Honestly, I had no idea that this was in the works.

The whole family, their significant others, coworkers and classmates all knew that I was going to be given a puppy for Christmas.  Not once in all those weeks of careful planning did they let the secret out.  I am a very lucky woman to have such a loving husband and family.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

It was a great week for saving money.  Below is a list of things we did this week to maintain our frugal lifestyle.

  1.  Our youngest is a high school senior, which of course means senior pictures.  My husband has a nice camera and takes really nice pictures.  Since she honestly didn’t care who took her pictures, he did it.  Looks just as good as a professional photographer, in my opinion.IMG_0277
  2. I went to church.  Let me explain.  I go to a Unitarian church, our sermons aren’t typical sermons that you would hear in a traditional Christian church.  Instead, I refer to our sermons as being like TED Talks.  This week’s sermon was on being a people of belonging(s).  While I already try very hard not to put too much attachment into most of my belongings, it was good to hear it again.  There was emphasis on the idea of reduce, reuse, recycle.  I need to remind myself when I am a consumer to ask myself what is the environmental impact of my purchase?  Who is making the product?  Where is it being manufactured?  These questions along with the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra had me invigorated to be a better consumer.
  3. I made homemade shower bombs for cold and flu season.  I wish I could take credit for the recipe, but I can’t.  I found it on the Doterra facebook page.  But it was really easy to make.  It calls for 25 drops breath essential oil, 1 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup water.  Mix until sandy, put into ice cube trays to dry overnight.  D58E1356-D073-464D-BBF9-1785F63838CA
  4. I made homemade sour cream.  Again this is another super easy thing to make and it saves a plastic container from being purchased.  1 cup heavy whipping cream, 3 tbsp vinegar.  Pour into a mason jar, shake and leave on the countertop for 24 hours to thicken.  Put in refrigerator, it lasts about 2 weeks.
  5. I went to our local apple orchard to buy apples and pears directly from the source.  I actually drive by the orchard on my way to the grocery store that I go to.  They have the best honeycrisp apples out there.   I also get an apple cider donut to reward myself for absolutely no reason.Attachment-1 (1)

 

What did you do to save money this week?

Recipes

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Our garden gave us some beautiful acorn squash this year.  I decided that is was the year that I would do more than bake it with butter and brown sugar.  Below is a recipe for acorn squash that I came up with after reading over several recipes for squash

Stuffed Acorn Squash

3 squash

1 cup quinoa

2 cups vegetable broth

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion

1/3 cup dried cherries

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds

4 oz goat cheese

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Boil 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups broth.  Cover and simmer 20 minutes.  While quinoa is cooking, bake squash halves in oven for 30-40 minutes or until soft.  When quinoa is done, set aside.  Chop onion.  Heat olive oil and saute onion 5-7 minutes.  Add cooked onion, cherries, pumpkin seeds, goat cheese, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to quinoa and stir.  Scoop into squash halves, sprinkle additional parmesan on top and bake another 10 minutes.  I served this with a salad and zucchini bread that I found in my freezer.  Enjoy!

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Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Frugal Friday is back.  My life seems to be returning to some kind of normal.  My job requires I work every third weekend.  Sadly, I have not been able to work my weekend since August 4th.  But, it looks like I will be returning to my normal rotation tomorrow.  I have been home for nearly 3 weeks now without needing to leave for family reasons.  The relief that healing seems to have started is overwhelming.

This week was a return to saving some cash around here.  Here is our Frugal Friday roundup.

  1.  Tonight Eric and I are going out for a much needed date night.  I finally cashed in my OpenTable rewards and received a $20 voucher.  Side note though, it took me 12 years to earn enough points for $20, so it felt like a never ending effort.
  2. We have set our thermostat at 60 degrees from 10pm to 5am.  I know, it seems cold and it is.  But, we are going to give it a try and see if we can handle that over the winter.
  3. My daughter bought a new phone last week, the same one we bought our son for his upcoming birthday.  It isn’t an Iphone (gasp) and cost $140.  I am not tech savvy, but my understanding is that the phone is just fine, even without the Apple logo.
  4. I bought a countertop convection oven/toaster oven.  The initial investment might not be considered frugal, but after reading about ways we can save energy, this recommendation came up frequently.  I no longer need to make bake huge meals for a family of 5, as so often it is just 2 of us.  This oven takes less time for preheating, cooking and takes less energy.  Honestly, I love it.
  5. I got my flu shot, the rest of the family will be getting one as well.  Flu shots are usually free and in my opinion worth it.  I didn’t get the shot for myself, but for my loved ones who are not in a position to catch the flu and fight it without complications.

What have you done this week to save some cash?

IMG_0259.JPGA perfect vegetable pot pie in my new countertop oven.