Category Archives: At Home

The Sugarhouse Blues, Book 2 of the Hudson Sisters Series: A Book Review

Hey there! Remember last year, when I reviewed The Last Chance Matinee? It was the beginning of your newest favorite summer reading series. If you didn’t get a chance for that quick and fun read, then you’ll need to catch up and then continue on! If you did read the first and were patiently awaiting the 2nd in the series…wait no more! Whootwhoot! It’s here!

*This post contains affiliate links, where if you click on them and make a purchase, I make a small percentage. I include them so that you can find what I am referencing and loving!*

THE SUGARHOUSE BLUES (Gallery Books; May 15, 2018)
The Hudson Sisters series, Book 2

About the books

I am so glad to blog when I get emails that tell me I get to review ahead of the release date for a book that I’ve been so excited for. The good thing with a series is that you get to continue on with an exciting story instead of having it end.

In case of the Hudson Series, you also get to learn more about the characters, as each book in the series comes out. The first one sort of laid the ground work on the whole bit (see my review here), telling us about Fritz Hudson, Hollywood agent and father to Des and her sister, Allie, via their mother NoraHudson, the actress, who’d died four years earlier. Unbeknownst to them until recently, he’d also been father to Cara, whose mother, Susa, may or may not have been Fritz’s legal wife. His death and distribution of the will, ensues, introducing the sisters to each other and to us and their entanglements and relationships are the fun background to these books.

The 2nd in the Series- this book

So this, second book, continues the story but also goes a bit deeper into the sisters, Des and Allie, their relationships with each other and also their love-interests, and own lives. They are restoring a family owned building, discovering hidden treasures in people and in things, along with the backdrop of a bit of romance and an adorable small town setting. It is a happy, but not sappy, not boring, fun book to read. It sets the stage for the upcoming 3rd story, making me want to know more about this world, without a doubt, but also feeling like it ends in a clear way and not leaving me feeling like it didn’t finish- I think that part can get tricky and not all series do it well. Mariah Stewart does.

Who Should Read This

You should read this if you like:  women’s fiction, contemporary romance, summer reads, quick and light writing, happy endings, small town settings, or family stories.

I like hard and literary books and I like easy, fun books. This fits into the latter category for sure, and I loved every minute of it.

About the Author:

MariahStewartAUPhoto

Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas and short stories. A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and two rambunctious rescue dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors country life and tends her gardens while she works on her next novel. Visit her at mariahstewart.com and follow her on Facebook.com/AuthorMariahStewart and on Instagram @mariah_stewart_books.


*This post contains affiliate links, where if you click on them and make a purchase, I make a small percentage. I include them so that you can find what I am referencing and loving!*

My Insider Look, a Cookbook Review: Fix, Freeze, Feast

Fix, Freeze, Feast, 2nd Edition: The Delicious, Money-Saving Way to Feed Your Family; Stock Your Freezer with Ready-to-Cook Meals; 150 Recipes, by Kati Neville,‎ Lindsay Ahrens 

256 pages, Storey Publishing, LLC.
May 29th 2018 publication date

I received an advanced reader copy ebook version of this book from NetGalley in order to share this review with you today. This post contains affiliate links, which if you click on them to make a purchase your price doesn’t change, but this blog makes money from your purchase. Thank you for your support! (full disclosure)

I am so excited to share with you this great dinner-helper book. As a food-mostly blogger, I make a lot of food for the blog and share it with you, but I don’t share all the food that I make for my family…Because it’s boring, and often uninspired, or wonderful and just rushed and dark outside, so I can’t share even a quick picture! As you know, our lives as parents are CRAZY sometimes and meals actually sitting with all of my family are once a week if I am lucky, and partially boxed or frozen most nights. Seriously, one of my twins said last night, “pasta again?” and he cried. As in tears. Because of our pasta rut. Mommy needs some help, my friends, and this book is my hope to end pasta-tears!

Here’s what I like about the book:

Each recipe tells you, simply:

  • How many freezer meals it makes, how many servings for each meal.
  • How to adapt for flavor preferences (too sweet or spicy).
  • Clear directions, simple ingredients, what you need on hand when you thaw the meal.
  • How to pack it up to freeze.
  • How to cook (including thawing time and method).

My “tester” recipe was for Firehouse Pork Skewers. It makes 3-freezer meals, so I can prep all of this ONCE, and get THREE meals done. (Sigh) Do you hear the angels singing? Yep. This is a big help to meal-prep.

Their goal is to

“maximize your use of time and economy of scale”- make a bunch at once to save time and money-

Yes, please!

I have been so crazy-lazy these days with meal-planning for dinners. I would love to just pull out these Skewers the morning of and thaw in the refrigerator (because that is how they say to do it!), light the grill when I got home, poke these on some skewers and in 15 minutes, dinner is ready. If you need side-dish ideas, they have those too!

Rice Pilaf, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, soups galore and lots more. There are sauces, marinades, breakfasts, snacks and sweets to prep ahead, freeze and be ready in this book. Most of the recipes are for pork, chicken or beef, but there are meatless options in the side-dish chapter, that aren’t really side-dishes but are full on meals, like Lasagna Rolls or Black Bean soup. There are also “Feast Tonight” recipes that are non-freezer meals so if you just want to do that you get ideas too.

If you’ve never made food specifically to freeze, they offer some tips like, “Best Containers for Freezing,” “Best Way to (mix, prevent, use, thaw,fixing the salt, filling the containers, etc)”, and even some labeling tips. While I reviewed the online version of the book, the print version’s appendix has labels to photocopy and use to organize your meals.

What I like is that the portioning and idea to make these recipes specifically FOR the freezer is already done. I don’t have to just make a double-batch of whatever recipe I am making and keep one in the freezer. I do that already. The book gives me the flexibility to make NEW recipes and have a constant stash of meals to just thaw and have ready. I need this book and I know a ton of moms who would love it too.

Happy Mother’s Day to them (can you say, “Happy Mother’s Day” gift for all your mom-friends?!

Pre-Order here!

Recipes I can’t wait to make from the book that make 3-freezer meals:

  • Breakfast Burritos– Yes, you can freeze cooked eggs (who knew?!)
  • Farmer’s Market Soup – With sausage and lentils- so good!
  • Teriyaki Chicken– because I know we would eat this once a week!
  • Chicken Curry– noted to be a good family-friendly curry meal to intro. curry to kids
  • Sticky Ribs– because…ribs.

Get it NOW!

In this review I didn’t add, what I don’t like, since there really wasn’t anything. My only complaint was that I got the advanced copy way before it published and is available to YOU! What a teaser!


This post contains affiliate links, which if you click on them to make a purchase your price doesn’t change, but this blog makes money from your purchase. Thank you for your support! (full disclosure)
Spring clean without harsh chemicals

5 Must Haves to Spring Clean Without Harsh Chemicals

Company’s coming…time to clean!

Isn’t that so true? I always do a once over here and there during the week, but never do I do a complete top to bottom cleaning unless someone is coming to stay over- My kids actually will ask, if I start dusting, “Is someone coming over?”!  I have stopped being shocked by this. Or embarrassed for that matter! I have talked to too many other moms whose lives kind of go the same way as mine, to feel that I am alone in this relationship with cleaning my house.

spring clean

Links within the post may be affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through one of these links, HAG receives some sort of compensation to keep the blog going (read full disclosure).

Now, there are a few things that make me motivated to clean:

  1. Dirt. Like the dust falling from my ceiling fans, or the bunnies of dust formed on my television stand. Yeah…that dirt.
  2. Someone coming to visit. Or someones. As in a housefull of guests that might want to eat in my house without thinking, “who would eat here?!”
  3. A new cleaning product to use, like the fun eCloth goodies that I was sent to review for the blog- I have tons of their stuff and LOVE, as in LOVE them. This has changed my world people, so I am eager to share!
  4. A plan to complete it all- or at the very least, a list.

So, the good news is that I have fulfilled all four of these criteria!

I have dirt, my mom is coming to visit, I have two new awesome microfiber tools, and I have a plan- or actually a list to get this started.

Here are my general rules for overhaul-like cleaning, AKA Spring Cleaning, since it IS actually Spring!

  1. I work top down. So that means 2nd floor, then 1st, then basement. This also means top of the room down. So that is dusting the corners, fans, and walls before I move onto windows, furniture and floors.
  2. I make a quick list. Depending on the motivation, I concentrate more on that specific reason- If it’s in need of some hand to floor scrubbing…there’s that.  If company is coming, I work on putting clutter at bay a bit…not a total clutter free(because #3), just a put out of sight kind of clean!
  3. This cleaning process involves NO de-cluttering. That would add on a year. Just kidding. It would add on 6 months. No really. A month. Okay, 3-4 days. It adds on a lot of time, is all I am saying. Make de-cluttering and cleaning 2 separate things. It’s one or the other this go-around my friends!

Alright, so you are cleaning. I told you the WHY.  I told you my OVERVIEW. But maybe now you want to know the HOW? And the WHAT? As in how do I clean the fastest, easiest, with the least amount of cleaner, elbow grease and give-a-hoot? Well, my friends, it’s products. Toxic-Free, since I can’t handle the smell, and I like to have my kids help me do this dirty-work, which makes this so much nicer, right?

Here are my favorite cleaning products of late:

Extendable Wand

E-clothExtendable Duster 

I just got this, thanks to eCloth people sending me one to review this year and I am embarrassed to say that I never had one of these before. I also never had ceiling fans in each room of my house growing up, so I never knew how gross they got. This duster’s long and bendable handle lets me dust the walls, corners of the ceilings, fans, baseboards all without really too much work. Mine got SO gross after I finished the upstairs, so I rinsed it by hand with some soap and cold water, until the water ran clear, and then air dried for 2 days, and then continued cleaning the downstairs. It collects so much dust, I am a HUGE fan of this thing. I also like that it bends so I kept it bent for all the fans and ceiling work, making the process so much easier! Available at e-cloth.com

e-cloth dusting wand

E-cloth Dusting Wand

E-Cloth also sent me this, Duster Wand, which for perfectionists (of which I am not) this is your guy for cleaning crevices that you just can’t reach without it: AKA: side crevice where the refrigerator meets the wall. Or under the washer and dryer. These types of nooks and crannies are where this bad boy will attack your dust. It’s not technically a favorite of mine, since I have only so many crannies, but I did like it, and it’s new, so I call that sort of thing fun. I am planning to use this on cleaning my dryer vent once I convince my husband to get on a ladder to undo the vent for me! And also get into the vents of my radiator, now that the heat is off, and I can poke around those a little bit. See? Crannies. Available at e-cloth.com

simple green solution

Simple Green Solution– Hands down, my favorite choice for cleaning spray. I love how it smells, I don’t cough of get wheezy, because it is non-toxic- which means my kids can use it, always a plus. I buy the gallon of concentrate for about $10 and use 2-3 bottles to dillute and leave under sinks in my house. Ready to clean, where I clean. Love this stuff! Available at Home Depot or Amazon (of course!).

5 chemical free cleaning tools

H2O at Home Cleaning Clay. Okay, so my sister sells this stuff and it is expensive but since it’s a tub of this stuff, non-toxic, and works like CRAZY good, I find it worth it. It is so amazing on my stainless steel appliances- more than just the cleaning cloths that I use, this gets them like shiny-new. It also has a nice smell, which is important to me, since it’s in the kitchen. I use it with a microfiber cloth, but with a scrubbie she sells for my oven….so clean. I love this stuff, and would recommend it even if my sis didn’t sell the stuff! Worth checking out! Available through an H2O Distributor, Here is my sister’s site: H2O at Home

ecloths

My e-Cloth General Purpose Cloths& Polishing Cloths 

Oy. so I am sorry, but e-cloth is my jam. I love cleaning with JUST WATER. It makes everything so fast! I use these on my windows, dusting, floors, doors, everywhere. I honestly am not sure how I cleaned before these, but I know I used way more sprays and disposable towels than I needed to. I love these. They are my hostess gift to everyone, and before I even earned any money from them, I was recommending these things to every person I met- ridiculously happy to share simple information, I guess! I just like sharing good finds, and these are not expensive. Available at e-cloth.com

5 great products for chemical-free cleaning

Yea, I am sorry, but you need to spend a bit- just a tiny bit to save a ton in the long run. I am frugal, but I firmly believe new products motivate you to clean. If you are super cheap, just go to the Dollar Tree and buy yourself some new sponges and cleaners and have at it, if that’s your thing. This eCloth thing is mine. I wipe, I wash, we are done. I spray, I mop, we are done. In essence, it is quick, good for the environment and EASY to buy and clean with. We are done faster, and it sort of makes it motivating and just a little bit fun. Plus they are now at Ace Hardware, e-cloth is now available at Ace Hardware(Store Locator at www.ecloth.com) so they are easier than ever to find in person, if you don’t like ordering on the website.

I don’t know if it’s linked to the whole “retail therapy” thing, but if I get a new sponge, it makes me happy. It’s like I save it for when the whole kitchen is clean and shiny, and then I top it off with a new sponge. Like it’s the icing. Like it’s the topper. I know its silly and not a big deal, but it makes me feel like I am getting something out of the process. Yes, that thing, other than a clean house. Joy. And ah-men to that my friends!

If you want even more cleaning and de-cluttering HAG goodies, check out these posts:

31 Days of Clutter Free

Spring Clean

Spring Decor: Just Clean the House!

And if you want the .pdf Checklist of Clutter cleanup from HAG 2018– It’s yours FREE. Yep. I made a checklist. For you. No signing up for an email- no opt-in. Just a thing to print out. You are welcome! A long time ago this happened for the first time, but you may not have gotten yours. Click to get Clutter cleanup from HAG 2018.


Links within the post may be affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through one of these links, HAG receives some sort of compensation to keep the blog going (read full disclosure).