Friday, February 1, 2013

Finding Free E-books for Your Kindle

Have you jumped on the e-reader bandwagon yet? 

I didn't think that I would enjoy using one and was pretty resistant too.  I love my books - the feel of them; having bookcases filled with them; having a stack of books beside my bed.  But I'm really enjoying the Kindle Fire that my daughter gave me for Christmas!

I usually read science fiction and fantasy, with an occasional foray into other genres.  I rarely read a purely romance novel, and never the Harlequin variety and I don't see that changing. 

And I don't think I'll ever replace my art books, my craft books or 'coffee table' type of books with ebooks.  And then there are just some books that cry out to have notes made in the margins, passages underlined or highlighted, with a beautiful beaded bookmark nestled between the pages. 

But I find, with the Kindle, that I'm definitely reading a wider range of books.  And I'm finding that I don't have to worry about running out of reading material, even when my book budget is non-existant.

I've found a variety of ways to acquire free books for my Kindle and I'll list the ones that I use most often here.

My favorite resource for free e-books is a newsletter called Kindle Buffet.  The newsletter is published daily and generally runs two to three pages long.  There are selections from just about every genre - science fiction, chick lit, mystery, action, romance, cookbooks, self help, Christian, etc. and there are usually a few children's or young adult selections as well.  

When you click on the link that takes you to the Amazon listing for a book, be sure to look for the page count.  Some selections are just samples or extremely short and, in most cases, I prefer full length books.  Some books are part of a series, so if you get hooked into a story you'd have to make a purchase to continue reading.

Then there's your local library.  The library here in Ontario, Oregon is sadly out of date and extremely limited in the reading materials that I prefer.  I've tried several times to access inter-library loans as a way of getting more up-to-date books, but my requests just seemed to disappear into the ether.

But, they are part of the Library 2Go system, which allows you to check out e-books, audio books and video.  The selection available is much better, and much more current, than in the actual, physical library!  Most libraries either participate in Library 2Go or a similar program, so be sure to check with yours. has over 29,000 eBooks available for Kindle, Nook, iPad and most other eReaders.  Mostly classics, but I love my classics and my collection of antique books (all of which are 100+ years old!).  You can do a search by genre, by author, by language and more.  They even have a library of classic bookcovers, which I love to browse through.

Project Gutenberg also features classics and is perhaps the best known online source for free books, with more than 42,000 free ebooks and 133 categories.  Definitely worth exploring!

Click the links in my post, explore and download to your hearts content, and tell me...what kind of books do you enjoy reading?  Do you have an e-reader or are you planning to get one?

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Weekly Planner For the Rest Of Us

I have a problem with most planners and calendars.  Planners are generally created with 'normal' people in mind; those whose days and weeks are filled with activities and numerous things to keep track of related to a busy life. 

They're not created with the realities of chronic illness in mind.  For example, there is seldom enough room for the notes that substitute for an astute memory when my fibro fog rolls around.  And my body does it's own good job of keeping track of it's aches and pains.  Realistically, as my art journal page below attempts to show, there are too many of them to write down anyway, so I don't need all that unused space on a typical planner page.  And looking at all that empty space would get a bit depressing too.
Fibromyalgia and Arthritis Pain - Oh my!
With all of that in mind, I've created a weekly planner for the rest of us!

In my planner, I've allowed space for four major or daily tasks.  I chose four because it's seldom that I can complete more than that on any given day.

There is a separate space for miscellaneous 'To Do's', and important for me, a place where I can note the things that need to be delegated.  Delegating is a must and having a place to note these tasks is essential.

Then, too, there is a small area in which to note appointments.

There's a special space for the Communication Queen in all of us, where we can note phone numbers, emails we need to send, make notes about our social networking sites or to jot down a url.
A Weekly Planner For the Rest Of Us
A larger area in which to note things related to self-care - and those can be anything from taking a nap or a short walk, to giving yourself a manicure, to making time for hobbies or art.
Since nutrition is always a 'hot topic' for me and I tend to forget to eat, and because good nutrition is essential to keeping my pain levels manageable, there's also space to note meals. 

Last, but far from least important, there is a decent amount of space for notes.

You'll find the days of the week and a place to write the date at the top of the planner, and underneath these, there is room to check off your top four tasks to show that you've completed them each day as well as space to mark off when you've taken your medications for the day.  There are additional spaces that you can personalize for other things that you might wish to keep track of on a daily basis.

If you think that the planner would work for you as well, I'd be happy to email you a copy for your personal use.  If you know of others who might appreciate it, please feel free to send them here.

To get a free copy (minus the watermarks!), simply leave a comment with your email - or, if you prefer not to have your email addie published here,  follow your comment up with an email to, putting 'Weekly Planner' in the subject line. 

While I'll be providing the copies free of charge, I still ask that you honor my request above (it's the only way I have of tracking whether or not it's useful to others!) and respect my copyright by not distributing or sharing the non-watermarked copy without my permission.  Feel free to Pin or post the watermarked copy or share the link to this post.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It's That Time of Month Again

It's that time of month again inventory my cabinets and freezer; to put together a grocery shopping list; to organize and do a spreadsheet on grocery store match-ups; to decide which new recipes we'll try this time around (seriously, I can't afford to waste food, so I look for recipes that I'm pretty sure will be winners!)

But I just can't seem to find the motivation; I'm procrastinating.  And I'm enjoying my food today.  You'd think that that would provide some motivation.  But no, it's just not working that way!

It's mid-afternoon and I've had my prescribed (as in prescribed by a Doctor, not by my tummy) 2 meals and 2 snacks so far today. 

Breakfast was oatmeal (cooked in a big batch and then frozen in single portion sizes) with home-frozen peach slices and walnuts (the Doctor says to balance the carbs with a protein.  Walnuts are a protein...I think).
Yummy Tomato Soup
The first snack was warm apple slices (again, home frozen).  The afternoon snack was a mug of tomato soup with french fried onion sprinkles, a bit of parsley and parmesan cheese.

And lunch was two turkey sausage links with a warm, savory muffin.  Yum!  The muffin is chock full of spinach, sauteed leeks, red pepper and cheese.  They were an experiment, but oh!  They are so good!
Savory Muffins
I don't have a recipe; I didn't measure while I was experimenting.  It might be a good habit to get into as I tend to experiment often, lol! 

The base was homemade baking mix (like Bisquick, but with organic ingredients!), to which I added chopped spinach, leeks lightly sauteed in organic olive oil, red pepper flakes, two slices of crumbled bacon and a handful of grated cheese.  Oh, and an egg and milk to moisten it all.  Poured into muffin tins and baked for 16 minutes, my experiment gave me ten delicious, savory muffins!  They weren't overly done because I wanted to be able to reheat them without ending up with something inedible.

Dinner for my son and I will be 4-6 ounces of pork, baked in the oven with potatoes and sweet potato wedges, and corn on the cob.  The sweet potato wedges are home cut and frozen, and the corn on the cob was cut into segments, blanched and frozen back when it was 4 ears for $1.00. 

I want to note too, that I bought the organic olive oil AND organic canola oil at Grocery Outlet and they were a big enough bargain that I bought multiples.  If you have a Grocery Outlet store in your area, they're definitely worth checking out.  Their stock changes constantly, but I've been able to find great deals on pantry items and have found cereal, canned beans, tomato products, frozen vegetables and even meat and pizza - all organics at fantastic prices!  Whatever you buy, be sure to check expiration dates and you may not want to purchase produce there unless you'll be using it within a day or two.

And that takes me back to that grocery list that's waiting to be made...sigh!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

To Coupon...Or Not

To coupon or not has been a decision that I'd been avoiding.  My daughter recently took a class in extreme couponing via the locally based Stretching Your Dollar$ and shared what she learned with me.  Because I buy very few processed and prepackaged foods (thus avoiding an excess of sugar, salt, toxins, chemicals and genetically modified ingredients), extreme couponing doesn't really make much sense for me.  But price matching combined with light couponing - especially those too infrequent coupons for organics - ah, a very different story!

My initial attempt at price matching paid off for me, with close to $55 in savings my first time out.  With a monthly food budget of $350, the savings was substantial!

I looked up grocery ads online and kept a running list of sales, especially for produce (both fresh and frozen) and pantry staples.  Then I opened up my Excel program and created a spreadsheet to track items, sizes, sale price, store and coupons, if any.
Example of my spreadsheet
I used several online databases to find relevant, printable coupons for as many of the items on my list possible, to maximize my savings.

I was able to take the spreadsheet with me, which made it simple to track things both while shopping and while checking out.  I didn't need to have the various ads with me (although store policies vary on this, so be sure to check!).

Some of the best deals that I found included 6 oz of sliced pepperoni (for pizza) at only .50 per package; half gallons of milk for $1.25; a 10 lb bag of russet potatoes for .98; 32 ounces of organic broth for 1.79; Alexia frozen potatoes $2.35 per bag; fresh organic greens $1.50 per bunch; and 1 dozen organic eggs for .99.

I also preserved the last of the harvest season, making chunky applesauce, pumpkin puree, dehydrated and frozen carrots, and slicing and freezing sweet potatoes.  The apples were purchased at Grocery Outlet for .98 per 3 lbs.  The pumpkins, carrots and sweet potatoes were given to me (free) in quantity.

Combining a few coupons with price matching, and preserving the harvest bounty will help us to eat more healthily as well as more often (it can be difficult to afford eating 3 meals, plus 3 snacks per day as ordered by my doctor!).  And the investment that I made in buying a small chest freezer when my kids were teens is still paying dividends.

Do you utilize coupons, price matching or preserving as a way of maximizing your food dollars?  Feel free to share your strategies and stories!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Pinterest-ing Week

I've been absent, attending a training out of town, plus a conference and more.  Totally pushing my limits physically, but the training and certification is a requirement for my new, very part-time job. 

I've been having a wonderful time, but have landed in a major flare up of my chronic pain.  It's temporarily keeping me from enjoying things away from my bed and sofa. 

While I'm busy taking care of myself so that I can get back into blogging, creating, etc I thought I'd share a few of my pins and boards from Pinterest.   Yes!  I'm having a pinterest-ing week and would love to connect with you there as well!  The following is just some of what's available on my boards - so be sure to check it out!

Indulge your Domestic Diva and browse through Frugal Living and DIY Home
Nurture your creativity with visits to Needle Crafts, Craft Ideas and several DIY boards

Expand your horizons with It's A Wonderful World and Faces of Humanity

Discover new gastronomic goodies at Food Fest or Low Carb/Low GI foods
And scroll through Color, Gorgeous Color, Wisdom Words, Printables and more.  Be sure to follow my boards - I follow back!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Hard Rock Café - oops - Candy

I’ve been a smoker for 40 years.  I cut down drastically during my two pregnancies and for about a year after each one but didn’t manage to quit.  When my kids were a little older, I tried quitting cold turkey.  It was a totally scary experience for me, but especially for my kids when their calm, peaceful Mommy suddenly became a blue eyed monster with a talent for terrible temper tantrums, creative cussing and a propensity to throw and break things.  Thankfully, throwing the kids never crossed my mind!

This time around, as part of my journey to health, I’m using Chantix to help me quit.  Another reason to be grateful that I’m now receiving state medical assistance!  Chantix does seem to be keeping the monster away – hooray!

I’m on day six of being a non-smoker.  It was surprisingly easy for the first four days and super difficult for the past two as I deal with the deep, deep grief of learning of the tragic death of one of my son's best friends. 

Chantix doesn't magically take away the temptation, but it does make the temptation easier to deal with - until now.  I think I was taking the easy part for granted, because the last two days have been hard.

Until now, staying busy has helped.   Spending less time online has helped.  Sucking on a sugar free hard candy has helped when the urge to smoke has been stronger. 

But not today!   The definition of ‘stronger’ urges is being redefined.  I don’t want to distract myself!  I don’t want to keep busy!  I don’t want to stay away from the computer!  I don’t want to suck on a hard candy!  I WANT A CIGARETTE!!  I want to grieve, cry, rage at the universe - and smoke!

I don’t want to pace the floors, restlessly acting as though I’m lost.  I don’t want to keep reaching for that non-existent pack of cigarettes.  I also don’t want that stale smoke smell.  Or the ashes.  Or the cigarette butts.  I’m tired of being the only smoker at meetings, conferences, gatherings.  And I’m tired of wasting money that I can’t afford to waste.  Smoking is never healthy, but as I get older, the implications for my health worsen.  And forgive my ego, but I don’t want to have those ‘smoker wrinkles’ around my lips and mouth either.  Seriously.

It looks like the second list of ‘I don’ts’ is longer than the first, lol.   I confess to giving in and smoking two cigarettes yesterday.  Those cigarettes were my breaks from crying while I struggled to get a handle on my grief.  

But I'm also determined to forgive myself and continue the journey towards becoming a non-smoker.  I did resist the temptation to run out and buy a pack!  Hard rock candy, here I come.  Cinnamon, butterscotch, mint – take your pick! 

And maybe I’ll stop for a good visualization too; imagining myself as a non-smoker.  Playing through how good it will feel to be a non-smoker; how wonderful it would be to have some money in my wallet.   I’d been wondering how I would be able to replace my clothing as I lose weight…and that extra money in my wallet will go far towards solving that dilemma!

Checking out this poster and other materials available at just might provide some needed encouragement.
 A call out to my support system will help too!  Just hearing someone say ‘I know you can do it!’ or ‘I have faith in you!’ or ‘You’re doing great – keep it up!’  I love how supportive everyone is, both online and off.  Not the judgment that I thought I might get, but pure and simple, unadulterated support.  And it’s wonderful.

As I pop a cinnamon hard candy into my mouth, I know, I just know, that there will be a day seven…One moment, one hour, one day at a time.  One day at a time.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Healthy Changes And Two Recipes

Going from eating 1 or 2 meals a day to eating 3 meals plus 3 snacks a day has been a challenge for my food stamp budget, especially when my son and I have different likes and dislikes.  It's a challenge too, because I'm an old hand at starvation dieting and a pro at skipping meals! I’ve had to do a lot of research to find recipes that will work for our tastes, our budgets AND for a healthy eating plan.
There are ways for making healthy changes work though. 
Some of the foods that make up a healthy eating plan would be out of bounds on a normal food stamp budget, unless I want to eat legumes and oatmeal each day, but it’s important for me to have both variety and fresh ingredients or my appetite begins to disappear.  The healthy changes that I’ve made allow us to buy things that wouldn’t normally be possible, such as seafood and plenty of fresh produce!

I'm including two recipes in this post and you can find one for a luscious, light lemon cheesecake on my previous post.

We don’t drink a lot of milk and I tend to use the powdered milk that I was given at the food pantry for cooking and baking.  I’ve cut down on the amount of spoilage by buying a gallon of organic milk every two weeks.  The organic milk has longer expiration dates and doesn’t spoil as quickly as non-organic, so even though the price is a little higher, it’s a better buy for me.

I do the first of my shopping each month at the local Grocery Outlet.  The prices are low, but it’s always advisable to check expiration dates.  This is where I can find affordable organics and where I buy most of my staples.  The produce tends to go bad quickly, so I buy elsewhere.  Their stock changes constantly, so what I can’t find, I’ll keep on my list for my next stop.

I buy spices from the Mexican aisle at the store.  Oregano, basil, cinnamon, cumin and others are available in cellophane bags for much less than you’d pay on the spice aisle.

We’ve cut down the amount of meat that we eat, and I plan for a few meatless meals as well.  I buy very few prepackaged, processed, convenience, canned or snack foods.  I make exceptions for my son’s cereal and one or two frozen entrees that he can toss in the oven on my really bad days.

My dinner plate will typically be divided into thirds.  One quarter of the plate for protein/meat, one quarter for a side dish and one half for produce.
Photo from 9/2011 issue of the Huffington Post
Planned leftovers

  • Meat can be diced and added to soup or salads.
  • Veggies can be used in salads, soups and sandwiches or wraps or added to precooked brown rice for  quick, nutritious lunch.
  • My son likes to use leftover potatoes to make quick tacos for lunch. 
  • Leftover fish can be used to make fish tacos. 
  • My son doesn’t generally like eating leftovers, but I don’t have a problem with it.  If I cook a little bit extra, I use that for lunch the next day. 
  • If you cook fresh vegetables, the water used to cook them can be frozen and used later as broth for soups and other foods.  If you’re trying to cut down on salt, simply don’t add salt to the water while cooking the veggies and the result is salt free broth! 
  • Cooked vegetables can also be blended for smoothies or to add to soups.  The vegetable broth and blended veggies are two of the ways that I snuck vegetables into my kid’s diets when they were going through their ‘I hate veggies!’ stage.
  • A whole chicken, roasted with sweet potatoes for dinner gives me leftovers for chicken enchiladas or chicken paprika another night and chicken salad or lettuce wrap for lunch. 
  • The chicken carcass is boiled down to make broth, then cooled and the fat skimmed off and carcass disposed of, and then is frozen for later use.
  • An inexpensive roast can be cooked in a slow cooker (which helps tenderize it) for dinner, and leftovers can be sliced and used in salads and sandwiches or wraps for lunch, or shredded and used in beef taco 
Organization and Preparation
  • Being organized in the kitchen saves money, allowing you to use groceries before they go bad, expire, etc.  This is especially important for me because I do the majority of my grocery shopping once a month, with a trip to the store for milk, bread and produce mid-month.
  • Check cabinets to see what you may already have and to check expiration dates.
  • Organize your recipes.  I have a binder in which I keep recipes that I’ll be using during the month, and this is especially important for recipes that are new to us.  I make it a point to look for healthy recipes using foods that I know we like, as well as recipes that don’t use unusual or expensive ingredients.  The simpler, the better!  Included in the binder is a printout of foods that are low on the glycemic index and ideas for quick snacks and lunches.
  • Loosely plan menus, giving yourself flexibility as to which days those meals will be made.  With fibro and disabilities, I can’t always follow a preset menu.
  • Never shop without a list 
  • Preparation ahead of time also allows me to save time when I’m cooking, which is especially important for those inevitable days when I really don’t feel well enough, or am in too much pain, to spend much time in the kitchen.  On those days, I can reach into my cabinets for a recipe in a jar mix or pull ingredients out of the freezer for a quick meal.
  • Buy meats in family packs and then separate and freeze in smaller portions.  Even though my household now consists of just myself and my son, I still buy most meats in larger portions.  It saves money and, for example, a small roast can be cut into three parts – one for a traditional roast dinner, a second for stew, a third for kabobs. 
  • Chop vegetables ahead of time and grate cheese, then store them in containers in the fridge.  This makes meals easier and quicker to make!  
  • Chop, peel and cut (or not) fresh fruits and freeze to use in yogurt or smoothies.  
  • Dehydrate produce that you’ve bought on sale and can’t freeze.  Dehydrated foods work well in recipe in a jar mixes, in soups or stews and in hot cereals.  Broccoli, grated carrots, celery, onion, leeks, peas, peach slices and strawberries all work well for this.
  • Make brown rice and oatmeal ahead of time and store in the refrigerator, enough for 3-4 days. 
  • Whole grain waffles or pancakes can be made and frozen for future breakfasts. 
  • I hard boil half a dozen eggs and keep them in the fridge for quick protein when it’s needed. 
  • I make my own energy bars (see the recipe, below!) and snack mixes too.  
  • A favorite for both of us is home marinated mozzarella cheese cubes (see the recipe below!), which I pair with whole grain bread or crackers and a fruit.  I’ve also used marinated mozzarella as filling for stuffed chicken breast.
  • Cook beans ahead of time too, but in small batches that can be used for lunches or to toss into a salad or soup for extra protein.  Cooked garbanzos are the most versatile for me because they can also be sprinkled with spices and roasted for snacks, used for homemade hummus or turned into falafel.  And I use whatever beans I have on hand as an ingredient in the energy bars (recipe below!) that I make.

Easy Marinated Mozzarella
Cut mozzarella into small cubes.  To a jar or other lidded container, add enough olive oil to fill 1/4.  Add dried Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and a pinch of kosher salt; stir to mix.  Add cheese cubes, cover and shake to distribute oil and seasonings.  Store in refrigerator.
Using fresh, chopped oregano and thyme, if you have them, can really pump up the flavors. You can also add a squeeze of lemon juice.

Energy Bars with a Twist
Don’t let the surprise ingredients – beans – keep you from making these because nobody else will be able to tell that they’re there!  I’ve made these without the dates, substituting raisins.  If you can manage filberts/hazelnuts on your budget, using cranberries in place of the dates and filberts in place of the walnuts makes a great Northwestern version of these bars!  When granola is unavailable, I’ve used uncooked oatmeal instead.  I’ve also used pinto beans, mung beans and kidney beans, so the choice really is up to you or to what you have on hand.  This is a very flexible recipe, so don’t be afraid to experiment!
Nonstick cooking spray
1         2/3 C low-fat granola
1 C chopped, pitted dates
1 C flaked coconut
2/3 C packed brown sugar
½ C whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
15 oz canned or freshly cooked beans, rinsed, drained and chopped
½ C raisins
½ C chopped walnuts or almonds
½ C honey
2 Tbsp margarine or butter, melted
Tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
Line a 13x9x2 inch baking pan with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
In a large bowl stir together first 6 ingredients.  Stir in beans, raisins and nuts.
In a small bowl combine honey, margarine, oil, vanilla and salt.  Add to granola mixture; stir until combined.  Spread in baking pan.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until edges of bars are light brown and center is firm to the touch.  Cool, then use foil to lift out of the pan; cut into bars.
Bars can be wrapped in foil or freezer wrap and kept in freezer for up to 3 months.
141 calories each; 5 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 85 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein

Cooking in Season
This allows you to take advantage of lower prices, sales and to purchase produce that is more sound nutritionally.  Prices are higher off season and produce is more likely to be imported or grown indoors.
With planning, you can prepare your own foods to use during off season – with the bonus that home prepared foods taste better and will be more nutritious as well. 
  • There are sites on line that have seasonal charts and I’d recommend printing one up and using it to help you plan.  For the UK, try this chart For the US, this chart
  • When I had a garden, I did home canning each year.  If you have don’t have a garden but you have the budget, there’s always the option of buying produce and canning.  I really recommend it, because the taste of processed foods from the local store can’t begin to compare to the taste of home canned foods!
  • Take advantage of great sales on seasonal produce or the overabundance that a neighbor gifts you with from their garden.  Freezing veggies for later use is super easy:  Prepare the veggie (shuck ears of corn, slice zucchini, etc) and put in boiling water.  Boil for 3-5 minutes, pour into colander and rinse with cold water.  When cooled, place in freezer safe containers and label.   I’ve just done this today with organic corn on the cob and summer squash!
  • Fruits can be frozen as well.  Berries can be sliced or frozen whole.  Add a small amount of lemon juice to water and rinse the fruits, then place whole/sliced berries and sliced fruits on a cookie sheet, making sure there is room between each fruit.  Place cookie sheet in the freezer.  Once the fruits are frozen, remove and place in freezer safe containers; label.
  • See Organization and Preparation for other ideas!
I hope some of what I’ve shared is useful to you!  Whether or not you’re trying to eat healthier, a lot of these ideas will save you money.