Friday, August 8, 2014

Debt-Proof Living by Mary Hunt



I do not have any debt and consider myself pretty savvy about financial matters. I am in my mid-40's and have spent a considerable time reading about budgets and financial planning,etc. I was so impressed with this book that it kind of took me by surprise. I learned a few new things from Mary Hunt and I am very thankful for this excellent and sound resource.

I will be recommending this book to many people as a sound way to budget and manage a plan that will keep you safe from financial disaster. If you are looking for a place to start in terms of learning about how to view your money and resources then this is a SOLID book to start with. This is an especially helpful book for those folks that had no financial training growing up. This book is up-to-date with great resources and it is a very encouraging read. It is not an overwhelming book by any means and it will ease you into thinking about managing your money.

Mary Hunt makes so many excellent points about money that I hardly know where to begin in terms of laying out the wisdom of her plan. From learning to enjoy the things that you have budgeted for to remembering to plan for yearly expenses so that they don't catch you by surprise to finding peace in knowing where your money is going from day-to-day. Just an excellent, excellent book.

**Disclosure** This book was sent to me free of charge for my honest review from Revell.

Monday, June 23, 2014

I Need Some Help Here! - Book Review



I thought that this book was imminently practical.  Kathi Lipp has "been there done that" and she teaches others in a way that is "acceptable" to hear.  She has some great advice for those of us that are still in the process of rearing our children.

Here are the chapters,

1.  Unlikely Gifts
2.  Don't Hang Out in the Motherhood Alone
3.  You Are Not the Only One
4.  When My Child Is Different
5.  When My Child Is Overwhelmed
6.  When My Child Is Troubled
7.  When My Child Is Sick or Injured
8.  When My Child Makes Poor Choices
9.  When My Child Is Running Away from God
10.  When My Child Is Lacking Character
11.  When My Child Is Struggling
12.  When My Child Is Left Out

I always find it helpful to view the Chapter headings in a book before making a decision to purchase the book.  I did not grow up in a Christian home and I found Kathi's advice very helpful.  Her suggestions for what "not to say" to your children were invaluable.  Although they are just her opinion I found her help very welcoming to my situation.  :)

I received this book free from Revell Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion of this book

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Everyday Confetti




I am not the type of girl that does anything for the holidays.
I don't even celebrate the holidays.
In fact, when most holidays roll around I curl up and hide in my house!

If I did celebrate the holidays...............then this would be the book that I would go to for help.  It actually made me WANT to celebrate the holidays and it made planning for the celebrations much less daunting because these authors "have a plan" for helping you to make wonderful memories without too much effort.  I love the simplicity of the book as well as the food and party ideas.  I enjoyed reading all of their ideas.

These authors also have a great website with some freebies from the book.  You can find it here:  http://www.everydayconfetti.org/

If you are the kind of person that likes to plan special ideas for the holidays then this is one of the better books that I have seen on the subject.  It is simple, fun and easy to read.  No fuss.  No complications.  Just wonderful ideas.

NOTE: I received this book free from Revell Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion of this book.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Couponing for the Rest of Us




 


I wanted to take some time to review this book which offers a very good introduction to the world of couponing. 

Some background information on me so you know the perspective that I am coming from....I have been a couponer since 2006.  I ran a blog in Nashville which highlighted the deals for Publix (a grocery chain based out of Florida that has stores in FL, GA, AL, SC, NC and TN).  I taught coupon classes in Nashville from 2007-2010. 

I really enjoyed reading Kasey's book.  She gives a very thorough and well-written overview of couponing.  Her writing style is excellent and I actually thought that book was easy to read and very comprehensive but not too overwhelming.  Perfect for the person that is trying to learn about couponing.  I also thought that the book provided a nice personal perspective on her own journey with couponing.  She is an affable writer and is probably someone that I would enjoy spending time with so you will also enjoy purchasing her book and spending time with her.

If you are interested in learning how to coupon and the subject matter is overwhelming to you then I highly recommend purchasing her book.  You can read it a chapter a night and the information is very useful.  It will teach you why you should use coupons, how to gather coupons, how to organize coupons, and how to organize your shops.

In general I loved the book but I disagree with Kasey in a few areas. 

1.  She utilizes some scriptures throughout the book and I found these distracting as they didn't fit the context of what she was writing about.  I am a bible-believing Christian and was actually put off by her use of the scriptures as they were taken out of context and inserted carelessly at times. I'm sure she means well, however, careful consideration should always be given when inserting God's word.  A proper hermeneutic is essential when dealing with scripture. 

2.  She tries to set standards for couponers regarding how many coupons they should take at the store and whether or not they should take peelies off of products.  I believe that these are personal conscience issues and they shouldn't be dictated by her opinion.  I also found her information to be inaccurate regarding peelies.  IRC's (Instant Rebate Coupons) are put on the products by the manufacturers (not the store managers) and the manufacturers could care less if you peel them before you buy the product (yes, even if they have language that says that they are to be used after purchasing the product).  I researched this issue and spoke with many manufacturers and they informed me that they are to be used just like regular coupons.  My neighbor used to be one of the people that put "peelies" on products for a living.  The author may have an ethical issue personally with peeling the stickers off the product but it is not "wrong" to do so.  I believe that coupon ethics are not black and white and everyone should do what their conscience dictates and that will be different for each person.

3. I found alot of the information in her book to be more useful for the markets where there are Publix stores as several of her examples are for these specific stores (i.e. the Buy 1, Get 1 deals and the doubling of coupons).  Some stores do have Buy 1, Get 1 deals but they are not as prolific as the deals at Publix.  I have lived in several different states and you can get the most for your money if you shop at Publix when they double store coupons.  The other states that I have lived in (CA and TX) are vast wastelands for couponers and it is much more difficult to save large amounts although you can still save some money.  These states, for example, generally do not allow for doubling of coupons at most of their stores and the Buy 1, Get 1 deals are fewer and far between.

4.  The store coupons that Publix puts out in their fliers are actually coupons that they have negotiated with the manufacturers.  Publix is not losing money on these coupons.  They are essentially manufacturer coupons (even though they say "store coupons" on them).  You can still use them in conjunction with a manufacturer coupon.  I just wanted to make it clear that the store is not taking a "loss" on the product when you use these coupons.  The manufacturer's work with Publix to put out these coupons for all kinds of reasons.  Sometimes the manufacturer really wants their product to move off the shelf (i.e. grocery stores set limits for that manufacturer's product and if the manufacturer doesn't meet that limit then their product can get pulled and the store will put another product in it's place) and sometimes they just want to be the market leader in their particular category.  Sometimes they are just changing their packaging and they practically give their products away to get them off the shelves.

Still, even with the above, I thought that this was an excellent introduction.  In fact, I thought that it was one of the best introduction books that I have ever read.  It is very well-organized that is important when covering a topic like couponing.  Good job Kasey!

Available May 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

5 Days to a Clutter-Free House




The authors....two very experienced women.  I love that the people that wrote the book have been working professionally as organizers.  They are very positive and helpful.



Let me start off by saying that this book is very well written.  I read books constantly and the spelling, grammar and punctuation in most of the books that I read is horrendous.  This book was a welcome breath of fresh air because it was easy to read and actually enjoyable to read.  The writers are organizers and you can tell that they are good at their jobs from the way that they organized their book.  Their advice is clear and concise and simple to follow.

They have a quick and effective plan for helping you to get your house clear of clutter.  It is a good plan.  A solid plan really.  The most difficult part of the plan.....assembling a team of people to help you to clean up the clutter in 5 days.  This might be a reasonable plan depending on what stage of life you are in or depending on the kind of community that you live in.  For example, when I lived in a small town in Nashville I probably could have found 5 friends to come over and help me clean up my clutter.  I live in Dallas now and everyone here is busy so unless you have some kind of incentive to dangle in front of your friends this might be difficult to plan.  You can always pay for help, however, that isn't feasible for many people. 

Still, the plan is solid and would greatly help someone that has loads of clutter in their house.  I have a mild amount of clutter in my home (mostly due to getting rid of stuff during each of my 4 moves over the last two years).  I probably enjoyed the chapters in the second section of the book more as they focused on managing yourself, your house, your family and your time.  The writers give several examples throughout the book to help you to get a "move on" and get "organized."  I found their tips to be imminently useful (which is why I am giving the book 4 stars instead of 3).   I am already an organized person but I really learned alot about my motivation for keeping my home tidy.  They gave me new reasons to stay on top of the clutter in my home. 

I think if you approach the book with the attitude, "I'm going to learn a few new things," then you will be happy with your results.  Organization can be overwhelming for many.  Taking things one step at a time will help to lighten the load if your home is disorganized.  I have small children and I just think that this stage of life is a busy and messy one.  I don't want to spend all of my time keeping my house tidy while I have small children underfoot.  I know that it would be impossible for me (a very organized person) to keep my house tidy at all times.  I know that my children will suffer from my absence.  So, read the book and learn a few new things and enjoy a more organized home.

**Available February 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.**

Monday, January 21, 2013

"Cheaper, Better, Faster" by Mary Hunt




When I first received this book I wasn't sure what to expect.  I've thumbed through several "tips" books and have found them to be less than helpful.  I was thoroughly expecting to be frustrated by this book.  I didn't think that the book was going to be that useful.  I have always had a difficult time sifting through the tips offered in these kinds of books as either the organization of the material is not useful or the information itself is mundane.  Imagine my surprise when I found myself actually learning a few things while going through Mary Hunt's book.  I even found myself enjoying her book.  I am definitely glad that I own a copy of it.  This is a great book to keep for some light reading.  It is definitely not something that I would just sit down and read from cover to cover.  I would keep a copy in the bathroom and thumb through a few pages at a time.  I promise that you will learn some things that you didn't know.  Here are some of the helpful tips that I learned while perusing it's pages over the last month:

ROAST - faster with the bone
A roast with the bone in will cook faster than a boneless roast.  The bone carries the heat to the inside of the roast, so it cooks more quickly. 

MAKEUP - blush color
to find the right shade of blush, check the color of your skin after exercising and try to match that color.  Blush should add a healthy glow, not introduce a foreign color.

MEDICAL FACILITIES - avoid Fridays
Friday is the most expensive day to check into the hospital.  Hospital labs usually close for the weekend, and you may waste 2 1/2 days and a lot of money just waiting for the labs to open on Monday.  If you must be admitted for surgery, insist that you go in the day of the surgery.  An early admittance will run up your bill and is usually for the convenience of the staff, not the patient.

REMEDIES - bee sting pain
To soothe bee stings, immediately wet the spot and cover with salt.

HICCUPS - getting rid of them
Eating a teaspoon of sugar gets rid of hiccups in a flash.

SHOWER DOORS - soap scum
Apply a dab of ordinary cooking oil to a damp sponge and use it to remove soap scum from your shower doors.  Rinse the doors well. Cooking oil will also prevent soap scum buildup.

BUGS AND SUCH - fruit flies
Set out a small dish of vinegar that contains a few drops of detergent to repel fruit flies.

GARAGE SALE - coffee
People will stay longer and be in a better mood if you serve coffee, and -who knows- you might even sell the coffeepot.

The above is just a sampling of the tidbits that I found useful.  You will most likely find other tips useful.  I was really surprised by how helpful this book really was.  I will certainly keep it around as a reference as it was pretty easy to navigate.  The book is divided into chapters and within those chapters the book is divided alphabetically by topic.  An index would have been helpful, however, it might have taken up too much space because of the number of tips and the variety of topics.

So, my summation.  I think it is worth it to actually purchase this book.  I found the tips to be worth the price of the book.  I give the book a solid 3.5 stars out of 5.

Available January 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Farmer's Daughter: Recipes from a Mennonite Kitchen



I really think that I would like Dawn Stoltzfus if I met her.  She is a down-to-earth person who seems to enjoy cooking and spending time with her family.  Her upbringing on a farm in Ohio with fresh ingredients makes me jealous.  I grew up in Los Angeles with 6 million people and lots of concrete.  I didn't see my first tomato plant until I was 29 years old.  I tended my first garden when I moved to TX that same year.  It was a joy to have fresh produce and see the fruit of my labor.  I imagine that is what Dawn's upbringing was like most of the time.  She must have really enjoyed the fresh milk and clean air of living on a farm.  Ahh....I can just imagine it. 

When I first received this cookbook I took the time to read through many of the recipes.  While doing this I came across all of Dawn's notes to the reader.  I really enjoyed reading her little vignettes about her family and about her faith.  Again, I think that I would really enjoy getting to know Dawn.  I actually think that I enjoyed reading her "food for thought" section more than I enjoyed reading the cookbook.

The cookbook is organized into sections like most cookbooks (Appetizers, Main entrees, breakfast and breads, etc).  It contains easy-to-read recipes.  Many of the recipes contain fresh ingredients and seem commonplace for life on a farm (Amish Fried Dressing, Brown Butter Green Beans, Farmer's BLT, Amish Peanut Butter, Honey Corn Bread).  There are several recipes, however, that seem out-of-place for a cookbook titled, "A Farmer's Daughter: Recipes from a Mennonite Kitchen."  There are several modern-day recipes that she must have picked up after leaving the farm.  These recipes seem oddly placed in this cookbook (i.e. Slow cooker Thai chicken, Moroccan Chicken Kebabs, Chicken Curry, Black beans and rice, Thai Turkey Roll-ups).  The author has traveled to France and she also includes some of these recipes in her book.  It feels as though about 1/3 of the book is made up of recipes from her life on the farm and the other recipes are things that she just enjoys cooking.  This would be ok except for the fact that the cookbook is touted as a Mennonite kitchen cookbook.

I cooked three of the recipes from the cookbook (Angel Biscuits, Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, Slow Cooker Thai Chicken). Here is my review of each of them:

ANGEL BISCUITS - definitely my favorite recipe out of the three that I cooked.  These were simple to make and tasted delicious.  A fast recipe that uses yeast but has no rising time.  I loved the use of yeast without the wait.  Very good. (I've included a picture of the biscuits in the photo section of this listing).

BUTTERMILK RANCH DRESSING - My least favorite recipe.  The recipe called for paprika which made for an odd taste in the dressing.  I have made many different versions of homemade ranch dressing and this one just didn't taste good to me.  The addition of garlic salt instead of fresh garlic seemed odd to me.  I think the author was trying to make things easy on the cook by allowing either dried or fresh herbs but dried herbs taste awful in dressings. 

SLOW COOKER THAI CHICKEN - I have made curried chicken many times and was excited to try a slow cooker version of a dish that I really love.  I was disappointed though in both the addition of peanut butter to this recipe (odd for a Thai curry dish) and the lack of "real flavor" to this dish.  It probably needed more salt and more fresh spices.  I also added more vegetables to the recipe since this recipe only called for red bell pepper, onions and frozen peas.  I added yellow bell pepper and broccoli to beef it up but it still fell flat.  I really wanted to love this recipe but it needs more depth.  It closely resembles a panang curry (minus the peanut butter which is more "African" when added to a dish like this) but doesn't have the intense flavors found in that dish.

The index at the back of the book does not break down the recipes by ingredient but instead just alphabetically lists the recipe name (which makes the index useless in my opinion since you can't just look up an ingredient that you have on hand and then find a recipe to make).

I give this cookbook a 2.5 out of 3.  The Mennonite Farm recipes look good, however, they do not make up the bulk of this cookbook.  This is definitely a compilation of recipes that the author enjoys with some Mennonite recipes dispersed throughout.  Still, I really like the author and loved her writing-style and her stories. 

Available October 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.