Fiddler on the Roof Review

Fiddler on the Roof

“Tradition! Tradition!” With those two words, I hear music in my head. My family was – is – big on musicals. I remember there were many Friday nights when my sister and I would stay up watching “Fiddler on the Roof.” It’s a long musical so we had to switch video cassettes halfway through the musical. It was right after the dream sequence for those of you who are familiar with the musical. I count Fiddler on the Roof as one of my top 5 musicals.

Fiddler on the Roof is based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem, and written by Joseph Stein. It is the story of a hardworking Jewish milkman, Tevye, who clings to his faith and tradition. He lives in Anatevka, a small city in Russia, in 1905. He has five daughters – no sons – and tries to marry them off through the local matchmaker. Each of his daughters force their more modern ideas of love (and the world) upon Tevye and he has to decide if he will change, too.

Random House recently published the book for this musical, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Broadway premiere. I found myself quoting along as I read the script. It is such a classic musical that I enjoyed reading the script. I was also surprised – and pleased – to see there is a revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” planned for 2015. If you haven’t seen – or read – Fiddler on the Roof, I highly recommend you do so.

Please note that I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Start of November

Well, I did it! I made it through another 31 days of writing on one single topic. Whew! It was a good month and a good challenge, but now I’m taking a breather. Well, not really because life continues on. Here’s a bit about what’s going on in my life.

Nathan cut his first two teeth this past week – one on Wednesday and the other one on Sunday. He then caught a cold. I don’t know if they are related. Some say yes, but ’tis the season for colds. As a result, we’ve had a couple sleepless nights for him – and his parents. He’s still a smiley little guy even with his nose running and eyes watering. Poor baby. Daytime has brought more cuddles as Nathan wants to be held a bit more while teething, and who am I to refuse this adorable little boy?

Nathan's 1st Halloween

I am keeping busy with music at school. I have choirs singing 3 of the 5 Sundays in November. Plus, it’s time to start working on the Christmas service. Piano lessons continue and we are choosing songs for our Christmas piano recital. That means I probably need to do some more piano music shopping as well.

Basketball season has started for my husband. Practices and games are quickly filling his calendar. We’re going to head to Indy with Andy and the team next weekend for one of their first tournaments. It’s another perk to not teaching full-time. We can go away with Daddy as he coaches!

Most importantly, we are getting ready for Thanksgiving. My entire family – all my siblings, their spouses and children, plus my parents – are coming to our house for Thanksgiving! I am already planning menus and the logistics for having a house full of 15 people – including 3 babies. I am very excited because I have not celebrated Thanksgiving with my entire family since 2001. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s been 13 years since I’ve celebrated with all of them. I am looking forward to it, even as I begin all the preparations. The whole Whirrett family will be together as well so we have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

That’s a bit about our life at the beginning of November. Look for deals and bargains and encouragement to continue as normal! With the busy-ness of November and December upon us, I might post every day but I will be here regularly. What’s happening in your life right now? Are you looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations?

A Bride in Store Review

I don’t read nearly as much as I used to before Nathan was born. I’m slowly but surely picking up my reading pace again. It took me over a week to finish Melissa Jaegear’s latest book when it used to take me just a day or two. Oh well. I still enjoyed reading this story.

A Bride in Store is the story of mail-order bride Eliza Cantrell. She comes to Kansas to marry a store owner, only to be robbed on the train as she comes West and then arrives to an absent groom. After a couple of days, she starts working with her promised groom (Axel)’s business partner, William Stanton. Eliza has a head for business and is determined to make the store a success. Unfortunately, Will doesn’t know much about business other than to oppose her ideas.

It was an entertaining story but I knew where this one was going from the beginning. There were a couple of unique twists, including Eliza’s friendship with a circus lady, that I did not predict. This book was a nice way to spend my evenings.

Being a mail order bride intrigues me but I don’t know that I could have (would have) done it. What bravery these women showed to leave their homes and families to get married to an unknown man. I think that is what draws me to mail order bride stores – the bravery shown as love grows.

Please note that I did receive a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Nathan @ 6 Months

Before we begin October (and my Simple Savings series), I want to share this month’s update on Nathan Reagan. Look at this! I’m actually posting his update on the very day that he turns 6 months! Yay for that. Now, if I can just keep his Shutterfly baby book up to date…

We started out the month with a visit to Illinois for Nathan to meet this Barz Great-Grandparents. Nathan is blessed to have 7 of his 8 Great Grandparents still living. We know this is a blessing, especially since Andy & I married later and didn’t have Nathan right away. My Grandpa and Grandma Barz were the last ones of the 7 to meet Nathan. They were all excited to meet one another! We were glad we could spend the day with them before they returned home to Cheney, Kansas.

Meeting Great Grandparents

Nathan and I have really settled into our at home routines. One of which is a daily walk around town – or at least to the post office. The weather cooled off enough for us to zip up into jackets. Nathan does love riding in his stroller to see what he can see.

Nathan Walks

Nathan went to his first birthday party as his friend Kate turned 1! Okay, Kate’s Mom is my teacher friend, Allison. We’ve decided that, of course, our babies will be friends! We try to get together for play dates, and we enjoyed celebrating Kate’s birthday with her.

Nathan's 1st Birthday Party

Nathan loves to stand. He always has. I went to a local baby resale and picked up this exosaucer for only $9.50. It was in great condition and at a great price! Nathan absolutely loves it. I love that he can stand and play to his heart’s content.

Nathan in Exosaucer

We celebrated Andy’s birthday this month and met him at the zoo. Andy took his class on a field trip so Nathan and I helped him check the answers for the scavenger hunt he gave the kiddos. It was a fun day! I love this picture of my two boys watching for the sea lions. Andy is such a great dad!

Zoo with Daddy

The big adventure is that Nathan started eating solids, just last week! So far, we’ve introduced rice cereal followed by oatmeal. He’s tried avocado (yum) and today, gets to eat peas. As you can see from the first time he ate cereal, he was ready and eager to eat! We’ll continue with the green vegetables before orange ones, followed by fruits. And yes, I am making my own baby food. I have some jars that I bought for when we’re out and about. But for now, I’m doing homemade – because it is so much cheaper and quite easy to do, too.

Nathan Helps Feed Himself

When I weighed Nathan at the end of the month, he weighed 15 pounds, 8 ounces. He can roll over from front to back and back to front. He can sit by himself, which is very exciting! He does push-ups as he attempts to crawl already. We finally got him on a sleep schedule this month. He eats at 7am and sleeps through the night until eating at 5am. He eats again before sleeping for another hour or two. Of course, he caught his first cold this weekend (boo!) so his sleeping has been out of sorts since he’s had trouble breathing. Eating, sleeping, rolling over, sitting up – what a busy month! Happy 6 months, Nathan Reagan!

End of the Summer Garden Produce

I think that’s the last of it. I think – I hope – I just picked my last tomatoes of the season. Our garden didn’t look that big when Andy planted it, but it provided us with plenty of produce over the past couple months. We planted 8 tomato plants, a row of bell peppers and a row of onions. We also planted 2 zucchini plants and 2 cucumber plants. From that, we ate a lot of zucchini bread. Seriously, I made over 18 loaves – many of which I gave away. I also taught my husband to like sauteed zucchini. I ate a lot of veggie wraps and cooked with our fresh produce. Much of it made it’s way to our freezer. Here is a list of what I currently have in our freezer and in the pantry, thanks to a summer of fresh produce.

I froze 10 cups of grated zucchini. I grated my zucchini and froze it in 2 cup bags because each recipe for zucchini bread calls for 2 cups. This way, I can easily thaw one bag each time I want to make fresh zucchini bread. We had lots of zucchini that grew to be very large very quickly – as you can see one next to Nathan.

One of our many zucchini

I froze 10 pints of blueberries. The blueberries I flash froze and put in large gallon bags. I didn’t grow the blueberries but bought them for $1 a pint at the grocery store. They are delicious! I wish I had bought more.

I froze 8 cups of blackberries. The blackberries were from a church member’s bushes that she gave me for free. Like the blueberries, I flash froze them and put them in a large bag in the freezer.

Fresh Garden Blackberries

I canned 13 jars of blackberry jam using this recipe. I gave several jars away but I still have plenty of jars to enjoy on my toast this year.

I froze 5 diced onion bundles. I like to dice the onions ahead of time into these onion bundles so I can quickly toss them into a pan of hamburger when I’m cooking dinner. It allows me to get my hands dirty once and saves me prep time.

I froze 8 cups of diced bell peppers. I diced the peppers and flash froze them before transferring them into several quart bags in the freezer. I really like sauteing peppers with onions (and sometimes corn and black beans) and eating them in veggie wraps. It’s my new favorite!

Peppers and Zucchini

I froze 18 cups of sweet corn. One of Andy’s students shared some sweet corn from their family farm with us. Growing up in Texas, I do love the good sweet corn that we get up North! I also had fond memories of my Mom freezing corn as I cut the long strips off the cob. I followed the directions in my handy Ball Blue Book.

Sweet Corn for the Freezer

Most of my time was spent working with tomatoes. I canned over 40 pints of salsa using my Aunt Renee’s recipe. We have already eating several jars and given several away. We have 30 pints of salsa remaining in our basement pantry.

Fresh Canned Salsa

When I got tired of canning salsa, I decided to try my hand at fresh tomato sauce. I made 12 cups of tomato sauce in my slow cooker and froze it in quart bags – 2 cups of sauce in each bag. This was my first time making tomato sauce in the slow cooker and it was incredibly easy! I made it up as I went along but the results were all good!

It’s a varied assortment but I love having a stocked freezer with so many different – and fresh – vegetables and fruits. I’m not as well stocked as my Amish neighbors, I’m sure, but every year I do a bit more. It makes my happy to be preserving fresh food for my family! Did you have a garden this summer? What’s in your freezer?

Simple Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

Candy Corn Sugar Cookies - No Mix! A simple & delicious homemade recipe for this fun fall treat.

It’s Fall which means cool weather (if you live up North), pumpkins (of course) and if you’re my husband, candy corn. I’ve never been a big fan of the actual candy corn candy so I decided to put my spin on it by making candy corn cookies. The original recipe came from Betty Crocker but I was disappointed to see it used a mix. I’m not a big fan of cookie mixes because I think homemade cookies always taste better. So, I went to my stand-by Texas Sugar Cookie recipe and adapted it to make these cookies.

This sugar cookie dough is the easiest cookie dough you will ever roll out. Even if you’re not rolling it out (like for these cookies), it still handles well and of course, tastes delicious. The nice thing about these cookies is that they become a slice and bake cookie, so you will end up with lots of mini candy corn cookies in no time at all. The other good thing? These cookies freeze great so you can make them ahead of time and serve them at any of your upcoming Fall parties! Here is the recipe.

Candy Corn Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter or margarine
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 Tablespoons milk

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar in mixer. Add in eggs, vanilla and milk. Slowly add in baking powder and flour. Once you have this dough mixed, it’s time to make the candy corn cookies.

Divide the dough into three equal-ish piles. Just do your best to make it even! Leave one bowl as is. Using food coloring, dye one bowl yellow and the remaining bowl orange.

Line a bread pan with seran wrap. On the bottle of the pan, evenly press the white dough. Next, layer on the orange dough with the yellow dough on top. Fold the remaining seran wrap over the top and refrigerate the dough for 3 to 4 hours.

When the dough is firm, remove it from the refrigerator and cut the dough into slices (like bread). Then, using a knife, cut the dough into small triangles, alternating angles of cut. You can view all the steps below.

4 Simple Steps to Candy Corn Sugar Cookies

Careful place candy corn cookies onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Cool on a baking rack. Enjoy your candy corn!

Restocking My Wardrobe with Twice

Restocking My Wardrobe with Twice - a Great Bargain Shopping Trip

It was time. After having a baby, my wardrobe needed an update. I don’t buy new clothes very often and after losing the baby weight, I really wanted to update my closet. My life has dramatically changed with staying home, but that doesn’t mean I can’t look cute doing so. I’d been meaning to buy new clothes for some time, but shopping with a baby isn’t easy. Plus, I still wanted to find good bargains. It was Andrea who finally gave me the motivation to go and buy some new clothes.

I decided to shop online at Twice . Twice is an online, upscale thrift store. It has reasonable prices on name brand clothing – Gap, Limited, New York & Company, Ann Taylor, J. Crew, Express and Banana Republic, just to name a few. I thought their prices really reasonable, starting at $7.95 for a lot of the tops. Plus, the deciding factor was that just for signing up, I got a $10 credit to spend at Twice. Everyone who signs up gets a free $10 to spend right away! And for everyone who signs up through your link, you get an additional $10 to spend. Somehow my referral link got spread around online (thank you to whomever shared my link) so I already had some credit to spend, too.

I had read about Andrea’s new wardrobe and then later that week, happened to see that when you liked the Twice Facebook page, you got 50% off your first order. Here was my logic. I needed a new wardrobe. I had money to spend. There was a great coupon code. Plus, when you spent over $50, you got free shopping. So, shopping online at Twice I went!

Before I started, I thought about what I wore and what I wanted to wear. I knew I wanted comfortable tops that were plain and could be worn with my jeans or my black pants. I wanted tops that would look nice whether I’m at home with Nathan, running errands or out on a date night with Andy. I have plenty of teacher clothes but now I need SAHM clothes. What a nice “problem” to have! I decided I’d shop mainly for some new casual tops that were comfortable but with a little something unique about them. I also decided to check dresses, just because dresses are always hard to find!

What I love about Twice is how easily you can search. I started by searching under tops. Then, I selected both the small size and the small petite size. Next, I selected short sleeve or three-quarter length. I don’t like long sleeves because they are often too long and cover my hands. Finally, I selected blues and reds, because those are the colors I find myself wearing most because I’ve learned those are the colors I look best in. That narrowed down the search quite a bit. I added in grey later. Finally, because I like a bargain, I sorted my results from prices lowest to highest. Why pay more for a top if I like the cheaper ones just as much? From my results, I selected tops from the Gap, Ann Taylor Loft, Uniqlo, Style & Company, New York & Company, and the Limited. See what I mean? Everything is truly name brand.  Here are the items I selected.

My First Twice Purchases

Cute, aren’t they? I think so and was very excited to try everything on. Sorry I don’t have pictures of me wearing them all yet. Nathan admired my new clothes, but can’t work a camera yet! :-) I ordered 12 items from Twice, but 3 of the items (2 tops and 1 dress) didn’t fit me very well. I wasn’t worried. Twice has free return shipping and offers you full credit back for any items returned within 30 days. That made ordering even simpler because I didn’t have to worry that I would be stuck with any items that didn’t fit / look good.

Just so you can see how good of a deal I got – and because I love good deals, here are my totals. The original value of these name brand clothes (according to Twice) was $369.29. The price at Twice was $107.55. Most of the tops were priced at $7.95 or 8.95. Thanks to the 50% off my first order coupon, I spent $53.78 for these 9 new pieces of clothing! If I had shopped in one of those stores, I would have only been able to get 2 new tops for that same price!

My order arrived in 2 days and all the clothes were in excellent condition. None of them looked worn at all. Plus, I did all my shopping from the comfort of my home. I am amazed at how easy it was to shop at Twice and will definitely be shopping there more in the future!

I love my updated wardrobe so much! If you’re looking for some new clothes, I highly encourage you to check out Twice . If you want to sign up through my referral link here, you and I will both get $10 to spend on clothes. Then, be sure to share your referral link to get more credit, too! I’d recommend liking the Twice Facebook page to get an additional 50% off your first order. For me, as soon as I liked the page, I had 12 hours to shop and get the 50% off so be sure you’re ready to shop!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Have fun shopping in a frugal and fun fashion!

With Every Breath Review

I just finished another great book by Elizabeth Camden! Yes, my reading has slowed down a bit since having a baby, but I am trying to make it more of a priority again. I was excited to receive Elizabeth Camden’s latest book and read it on our family drive out to Nebraska.

With Every Breath is set in 1891 in Washington DC. It is the story of Kate Livingston, a widowed researcher. She reluctantly agrees to help a former classmate, now Harvard-trained physician, in his work to find a cure for tuberculosis. Trevor and Kate were always competitive and that has not changed as they aged. Working together, they channel their determination into tuberculosis research. As they make progress in their research, someone begins to sabatoge their hard work. Trevor and Kate have to decide what is worth the risk – in their research, and in their lives.

I found With Every Breath very well written, as are all of Elizabeth Camden’s books. I also found the tuberculosis research fascinating. It was shocking what doctors tried in their search for a cure. I didn’t know much about it until this book. It’s another reason I love historical fiction. I get to read a good story and learn something along the way! I highly recommend that you read With Every Breath for yourself.

Please note that I did receive a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Nathan @ 4 and 5 Months

In the wonderful whirlwind that was our summer, I fell behind on my monthly Nathan posts. I trust you all won’t mind if I share the highlights of our past two months now? Here we go, starting with his 4 month picture.

Nathan at 4 Months

At 4 months, Nathan weighed in at 13 pounds, 8 ounces and was 24.5 inches long. That put him in the 10% for weight and the 12% for height. He was also a trooper getting 3 more shots this month. The doctor told us to start solid foods, but we decided to wait until 6 months like the AAP currently recommends. Nathan still nurses well but the distraction stage hit us this month. He pauses many time mid-meal to gaze up at me or look around the room.

Nathan discovered his voice this month and has become quite the “talker.” He babbles on and on and loves to screech to hear his voice. It has made church a bit more interesting but he’s so excited that nobody minds much. Andy and I are more aware of the noise than anyone else, I’m sure.

We had a rough couple of weeks due to Nathan’s 4 month growth spurt with waking every two hours during the night. I have to say that this growth spurt was worse than the newborn stage. Now that we’re past that – and done with all our travels – I’m working very hard at getting us both settled into a good sleeping routine now.

Nathan saw his first fireworks in July. We weren’t sure how it was going to go because it was well past his bedtime. He started to get fussy right before they started but once he noticed them, Nathan was transfixed for the entire show. We watched from the parking lot of St. Paul’s (Andy’s school) so were far enough away that we didn’t have to worry about the noise. We could simply enjoy the show – and we certainly did!

Nathan watching his first fireworks

Nathan’s current favorite book is “Peek a Who?” We’ve read it countless times because there is something about the simple pictures and text that calm him instantly. I wish I had written this book because I could be making millions from it! We also discovered this month that the rhyme “5 Little Monkeys” can stop his crying in the middle of the tantrum. It’s the oddest thing and I don’t know why this works, but we are thankful it does!

We enjoyed a trip to Cleveland to see college friends. Among the 5 couples, we had 4 babies – 20 months, 8 months, 4 months (Nathan) and 2 months. We stayed around the house with the babies and enjoyed visiting. I love this picture of “big girl” Kylie helping hold Nathan. They were both so happy in this moment! This was also the first time I really saw myself (as a baby) in Nathan.

Kylie helping hold Nathan

We also made a trip to St. Louis to celebrate our nephew and Nathan’s cousin’s baptism. Ezekiel is a cutie and it was so fun to have all 5 of the cousins together. We did our best at taking a picture of the Barz cousins – the first of many – with the boys wearing matching outfits bought by my Mom.

The Barz Grandchildren - Summer 2014

At 5 months, Nathan has become more efficient (or quicker) at nursing. He still gets easily distracted by all that is going on around him. He definitely recognizes the voices of his Mommy and Daddy when we come in the room or door from somewhere else. It makes us smile every time.

Nathan rolls over occasionally but not regularly yet. He prefers to scoot around. He is excellent at turning himself 360 degrees on his tummy when playing. He tries to sneak glances at the tv but knows Dad and Mom don’t allow it so we are watching it less and less when he’s in the room…which isn’t a bad thing.

This month, we traveled to Nebraska to celebrate his Uncle Chris’s wedding (Andy’s brother) to his new Aunt Jessica. It was a small but lovely wedding in Omaha over Labor Day weekend. Nathan looked quite handsome in his little suit ($3.50 from Once Upon a Child) and new bowtie. He looks so grown up, too!

Nathan at 5 Months in His tux

Nathan loves to stand – with our help. He is very close to sitting on his own, too. He started spending two afternoons a week at his Grandpa and Grandma Whirrett’s while I go teach music. We are very thankful for their help and for the opportunity for Nathan to see at least one set of his grandparents regularly.

Nathan is still quite the charmer and loves to smile at everyone. He laughs occasionally but always has a smile ready! He is starting to recognize a camera and smile for it as well. We get comments everywhere we go over what a cute and happy baby Nathan is. And he truly is! Nathan really is a people person!

Nathan at 5 Months

Your Family in Pictures

Your Family in Pictures

I love to take pictures! And now that I have a quickly growing baby, I find myself taking even more pictures. I have slowed down a bit since the first days and weeks that Nathan was born, but I am still averaging 300 to 400 pictures a month. I love my DSLR camera that I bought last year but I am still working at improving my photography skills. For this reason, I was very interested in reading Me Ra Koh’s new book, Your Family in Pictures.

I found Me Ra’s story intriguing. She didn’t learn photography until after she was married and had a baby. Photography was therapy for her after giving birth to your daughter (conceived in date rape) and miscarrying her second baby, a son. She is truly a self-taught photography who now aims to take the mystic out of wonderful pictures.

The concept of this book is simple. Me Ra believes anyone can take memorable pictures if you learn to look for the little moments. To help parents, she has come up with 40 photography “recipes” for us to recreate the pictures in our own homes. Each recipe includes the when, prep, compose and capture. She also gives advice for point and shoot cameras, as well as DSLR. I love how simple she makes it!

What I noticed about this book is that it is truly geared for families. It covers a large variety of ages and occasions. Currently, I haven’t tried these pictures because Nathan isn’t quite old enough. As soon as Christmas rolls around, I am going to be trying her Christmas tree light recipe!

For me, I now want to read her books Your Baby in Pictures and Your Child in Pictures. If you are past the baby stage, jump right in with Your Family in Pictures. Otherwise, I think it is probably best to start with one of her other books. Me Ra did a wonderful job of creating a truly user friendly photography book. I look forward to using this book for years to come as I photograph my family!

Please note that I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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