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Weekly Book Club {10.18.17}

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This past week was a heck of a difficult one in our house so I didn’t have time to read a whole lot. But I did finish a book in one of my most favorite series by one of my most favorite authors. I took my time with it, mainly because I didn’t want it to end. 

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Dark Legacy by Christine Feehan– In a beautiful compound hidden away from the world, Emeline Sanchez tries to blunt the pain that has wracked her body ever since her terrifying ordeal in the labyrinth beneath the city—when she was forced to exchange blood with an evil master vampire. Now, it’s his voice that haunts her…that calls to her in the dark…that never lets her rest. And while the children that she helped to free from his clutches struggle to heal, watched over by their Carpathian protectors, Emeline knows one thing: She must sacrifice herself to keep them all from harm.

I’m totally biased about this series. I love it so much. And I’ve read every single book multiple times so the characters feel like family. I love that you see a lot of the old characters in the newer books but it’s not over the top. The story still very clearly revolves around one couple. The side characters add to the story rather than compete with the main characters. That’s a hard balance to achieve when you’ve written 27 books in one series, I think. And Christine Feehan does it beautifully. I really loved the main heroine in this book, she was strong and brave but she also knew her limits. She didn’t have any too stupid to live moments that required the big strong man to rescue her. I hate that. If you have not read any of this series I highly recommend it. While each book is a standalone story you will enjoy them so much more if you read them mostly in order. 

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10 Lessons Learned On The Neighborhood Website

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A couple of years ago my neighborhood started using an app called NextDoor to let neighbors communicate, post announcements, and the such. Now, at first glance this seems like a great idea. But a couple of years into this endeavor a few things have become clear- giving 1000 plus homeowners and residents an open forum to discuss whatever strikes their fancy is not a great idea. I try not to interact too much with these people. And below you’ll find 10 reasons why. 

1. Don’t poop where you eat. Puppies learn this lesson early. It’s taken the neighbors awhile to catch on. It’s easy to pick an argument online behind the relative safety of your keyboard. It becomes trickier when you have to see Harry getting his newspaper every morning after you called him a “big-headed ninny pants”. 

2. The neighborhood watch is a hot button issue. Not everyone likes being watched. 

3. Naming your wifi can start a war. On one street alone we have “Carl is a cable thief”, “Bob is a baby”, “Get your dog poop off my lawn”, and “that’s not dog poop”. These are grown people, y’all. 

4. Some peeps are scary crazy, not just eccentric. I’ve seen some For Sale posts that raised my eyebrows clear off my forehead. We won’t be trick or treating at that house. 

5. The old adage “Opinions are like buttholes” has never applied to anything more than the neighborhood forum.

6. There will always be that one neighbor who is never happy. Even when he gets his own way.

7. Quickest way to become a pariah in your own neighborhood is to let your dog poop on someone’s lawn and leave it there. See number 3. 

8. Everyone has a camera. Please wear pants while getting the newspaper in the morning.

9. Hiding excessive wine bottles in your neighbors recycling can will be noticed and you will find AA pamphlets in your mailbox.

10. There will always be that one person who can quote the bylaws by heart and loves to point out all the houses where the grass is 1/10 of an inch too tall. 

Best thing to do in my unsolicited, non professional advice? Turn off your lights, close your blinds, and hide in the back of your house where you can’t be seen. It’s safer that way. Then pop some popcorn and scroll through the posts on the forum shaking your head and marveling at the magnitude of crazy living right down the street from you. 

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Easy Chicken Parmesan Bake

One of my favorite meals is Chicken Parmesan. Unfortunately I rarely have time to make it from scratch. So I decided to make it into a casserole bake instead. My kids loved it so much. They actually preferred this version to my homemade from scratch real Chicken Parmesan! And this took less than 30 minutes! 

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Ingredients:
2 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
1 box penne pasta, cooked
1 jar (24-28oz) spaghetti sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs

Directions:
1. Combine pasta, sauce, chicken, and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese in baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.
2. Spread remaining mozzarella cheese over top.
3. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over cheese.
4. Top with Parmesan cheese.
5. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

I served this with a side salad and garlic bread and my whole family was happy and full. This is one dinner that’s definitely going on my monthly rotation.

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Weekly Book Club {10.11.17}

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I finished 2 books in the last week and made good progress on a third. One book I loved. One book made me uncomfortable. And the last one that I’m still reading is by a favorite author. So it’s been an up and down reading week for me. 

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A Beautiful Terrible Thing by Jen Waite– What do you do when you discover that the person you’ve built your life around never existed? When “it could never happen to me” does happen to you? These are the questions facing Jen Waite when she begins to realize that her loving husband–the father of her infant daughter, her best friend, the love of her life–fits the textbook definition of psychopath. In a raw, first-person account, Waite recounts each heartbreaking discovery, every life-destroying lie, and reveals what happens once the dust finally settles on her demolished marriage. After a disturbing email sparks Waite’s suspicion that her husband is having an affair, she tries to uncover the truth and rebuild trust in her marriage. Instead, she finds more lies, infidelity, and betrayal than she could have imagined. Waite obsessively analyzes her relationship, trying to find a single moment from the last five years that isn’t part of the long-con of lies and manipulation. With a dual-timeline narrative structure, we see Waite’s romance bud, bloom, and wither simultaneously, making the heartbreak and disbelief even more affecting.

My Rating: 4 Stars

I’m not quite sure how to rate this one. It was a hard read. It’s a non-fiction first hand account of a marriage crumbling. It was intense and emotional and difficult to read. I almost felt like a voyeur peeking in the windows of a neighbor’s house watching their marriage implode. The story alternated between the past and the present giving readers a glimpse of how the relationship started and what went wrong. Definitely a story that made an impression. 

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Chasing Secrets by Lynette Eason– Elite Guardians bodyguard Haley Callaghan may be in South Carolina, but when a photo leads investigators in West Ireland to open a twenty-five-year-old cold case, her life is suddenly in danger. Haley knows how to take care of herself; after all, she’s made a career out of taking care of others. But after an uncomfortably close call, Detective Steven Rothwell takes it upon himself to stay with her–and the young client she has taken under her wing. A protector at heart, he’s not about to let Haley fight this battle alone. In a sweeping plot that takes them into long-buried memories–and the depths of the heart–Haley and Steven will have to solve the mystery of Haley’s past while dodging bullets, bombs, and bad guys who just won’t quit.

My Rating: 5 Stars

This is book 4 in one of my favorite series- the Elite Guardians series. It can be read as a standalone with no problems but the characters from the other books are in this one too so it will be a more enjoyable read if you start with book 1. And honestly these books are so great that you should read them all anyway. There’s action, suspense, romance, and bad ass women….it’s everything I love!

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Large Family Weekly Meal Plan {Week Four}

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Week Four Meal Plan:

Saturday- Chicken Tenders & Fries; Corn

Sunday- Crockpot Hearty Vegetable Soup

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Monday- Scrambled Eggs & Fried Rice

Tuesday- Crockpot Chicken & Stuffing

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Wednesday- Sausage & Rigatoni Pasta

Thursday- Crockpot Chicken Taco Burrito Bowls

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Friday- Football Friday (Find your own dinner night)

Grocery Lists:

Aldi-

1 can mixed vegetables- $0.46
1 can diced tomatoes- $0.46
1 can beef broth- $0.48
2 boxes cornbread stuffing- $0.89 each
1 jar spaghetti sauce- $0.99
1 taco seasoning packet- $0.35

$4.52

Walmart-

1 bag frozen french fries- $1.68
1 lb ground beef- $2.96
1 can corn- $0.40
1 can sliced carrots- $0.50
1 can diced potatoes- $0.50
1 can tomatoes & okra- $0.82
2 cans cream of chicken soup- $0.50
1 bag frozen green beans- $0.98
1 lb sausage link- $2.08
1 box rigatoni pasta- $1.00
1 jar chunky salsa- $1.62
1 can black beans- $0.57

$14.11

Notes:

*I buy two 10lb bags of frozen chicken breasts at Sam’s Club. The cost per dinner works out to be $1.67. 

*I buy rice in bulk from Sam’s Club once a month. The cost per dinner works out to be $0.45.

*I don’t include the cost of staples that I keep on hand such as oil, spices, milk, soy sauce, etc.

*There are quite a few items I buy at Sam’s Club that will be used all month long- like sour cream and shredded cheese- so I don’t include them in my cost per meal breakdown but I do include them in my overall budget. 

Cost Breakdown Per Meal:

Chicken Tenders; French Fries; Corn- $9.65

Crockpot Hearty Vegetable Soup- $6.58

Scrambled Eggs & Fried Rice- $1.41

Crockpot Chicken & Stuffing- $5.45

Sausage & Rigatoni Pasta- $4.07

Crockpot Chicken Taco Bowls- $5.64

Total Cost of Week 4 Meals: $32.80 (average of $5.47 per meal)

Total Monthly Grocery Costs For Dinners:

Walmart- $56.83

Aldi- $49.69

Sam’s Club- $58.59

$165.11

Recap- So my goal was to get my monthly grocery and household budget down under $800. It would be way too time consuming to break down every purchase I made this month at the 3 stores so I concentrated on sharing my meal plans. I kept all my receipts to add up and I came in at $801.46 for the month, only $1.46 over budget! Dang you, Aldi’s impulse purchase of pumpkin pie ice cream haha! I feel pretty good about my first month. I can’t wait to share the next month with you! 

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