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Category: LITE Feed (non-deal) Posts

The 2 Books I Read the Past 2 Weeks

Welcome to my weekly Book-ish post where I share what I’ve been reading and watching recently. If you missed it, you can see my Reading Goals for 2018 and 44 Books I Plan to Read This Year

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and we will be compensated when you make a purchase by clicking through our links. Read our disclosure policy here.)

I didn’t get a chance to post a book post last week because were in India, but I’m excited to tell you about these two books I finished the past two weeks.

The first book was Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. If you’ve gone to India, lived in India, or plan to visit India, I think this will be a very insightful and interesting book.

Honestly, it gave me such helpful perspective as I prepared to head to India for the second time. It was sad, intriguing, and yet it gave me hope, too.

I think it’s so easy for those of us who live in the Western world to feel like we have better answers to how to help or fix poverty. But as this book clearly shows, we don’t really understand at all what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.

Because I had experienced some of what this book talks about and been to some of the areas the book refers to, it made the story come alive in a really vibrant way. It’s hard for me to put into words how it impacted me, but it’s one of those books I’ll be mulling on for a long time to come.

Note: There is a lot of crass language and mature topics discussed in this book. It’s real and raw and doesn’t sugar-coat anything. The author went to great lengths to present the story as accurately as possible and, there wasn’t anything she said that was refuted by people I met in India.

A big thank you to Leigh Kramer for telling me about this book and highly encouraging me to read it.

I’m a big fan of Katie Ganshert and have been wanting to read Wildflowers from Winter for awhile. I think it was her first book and I feel like the depth of her writing and character development has improved quite a bit in her subsequent books, but I still enjoyed this novel and definitely wanted to keep reading it even when I really needed to put it down and go do other things.

When I Find Time to Read

People are always asking me how I find time to read. Honestly, it’s because I love to read, because I’ve chosen to prioritize it, because I don’t have a lot of other hobbies, and because I can’t not read. Also, when you love something, you usually can find ways to get creative to find time to fit it in — even if it’s in the little nooks and crannies of life.

I wrote a post on 3 ways to find more time to read — even when life is busy. And here are 7 more ways to find time to read.

What did you read and watch this past week? Any books or movies or shows you really think I need to read or watch?

Brigette’s $69 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6


Aldi

1 large canister Quick Oats – $2.39

2 16-oz bags Shredded Cheddar Cheese – $4.30

3 8-oz blocks Mozzarella Cheese – $2.97

1 pkg String Cheese – $1.65

1 pkg Sliced Pepperoni – $1.95

2 64-oz cartons Orange Juice – $3.38

1 gallon Whole Milk – $1.34

1 32-oz tub Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt – $3.29

1 large jar Unsweetened Applesauce – $1.89

1 head Cabbage – $1.29

2 bags Frozen Riced Cauliflower – $3.78

1 large Butternut Squash (3.61lbs @ $0.39/lb) – $1.41

1 head Cauliflower – $1.89

1 bag Envy Apples (1.80lbs @ $0.99/lb) – $1.78

1 bag Gala and Granny Smith Apples (3.50lbs @ $0.25/lb) – $0.87

1 carton Grape Tomatoes – $1.39

1 bunch Bananas (2.66lbs @ $0.38/lb) – $1.01

1 16-oz bag Mini Cucumbers – $1.69

2 large cans Chicken Breast – $3.10

1 bag Baby Carrots – $0.85

1 large tub Organic Spring Mix – $3.99

1 bag Pretzels – $0.79

1 box Crispy Rice Cereal – $1.15

1 box Honey Crunch Oats – $1.29

1 box Honey Nut Oats – $1.15

1 16-oz box Butter Quarters – $2.04

3 dozen Eggs – $3.33

2 bags Rice Cakes – $2.30

1 pkg Flour Tortillas – $0.65

1 loaf Bread – $0.65

2 boxes Macaroni and Cheese – $0.50

1 24-oz jar Honey – $4.69

1 pkg Fresh Chicken Leg Quarters (5.65lbs @ $0.89/lb) – $5.03

Total: $69.43

Weekly Menu Plan

Breakfasts

Everyone is responsible for making/cleaning up their own breakfasts. Choices include:

Cereal, Oatmeal, Smoothies, Fruit, Scrambled/Boiled/Fried Eggs, Veggie Omelets, Toast, Yogurt

Lunches

Cheese Quesadillas, Carrots, Apples x 2

Pretzels, String Cheese, Bananas, Cucumbers x 2

Leftovers x 3

Dinners

Hamburger Vegetable Soup (using venison vs beef), Easy Homemade Flatbread Crackers

15-Minute Chicken Fried Cauliflower Rice, Strawberry Muffins, Applesauce

Venison Roast in the Crockpot, Tossed Salad, Simple Roasted Butternut Squash, Homemade Biscuits

Upside-Down Pizza (using pepperoni vs ground beef), Green Beans

Date Night (for my husband and me!), Macaroni and Cheese, Applesauce, Green Beans for the Kids

Thanksgiving Dinner: (Our plans are still up in the air – since I’m still not sure if I’m hosting and how many I’m hosting :), I didn’t buy any ingredients for this meal. I will definitely be making another trip to the store once I finalize what’s happening. We’ll for sure have Turkey, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Make-Ahead Butterhorns, Green Beans, and Pumpkin Pie. I always try to add in a few interesting side dishes and another kind of pie. Does anyone have any “must-make” suggestions for me?)

Chicken Soup with Homemade Noodles, Tossed Salad, Italian Breadsticks

Brigette’s $92 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6


Aldi

1 5-lb bag All-Purpose Flour – $1.15

1 1-lb box Butter Quarters – $2.04

1 bag Pecan Halves – $4.99

1 pkg American Singles – $1.25

1 pkg String Cheese – $1.65

4 8-oz pkgs Mozzarella Cheese – $3.96

2 16-oz bags Shredded Cheddar Cheese – $4.15

1 can Whipped Topping – $2.65

1 32-oz carton Nonfat Greek Yogurt – $3.29

2 loaves Honey Wheat Bread – $1.70

1 box Honey Wheat Puffs – $1.69

1 box Rice Squares – $1.79

1 box Saltine Crackers – $0.75

1 bag Oyster Crackers – $0.79

1 pkg Sliced Pepperoni – $1.95

1 gallon Whole Milk – $1.34

2 64-oz cartons Orange Juice – $3.38

1 Acorn Squash (1.87lbs @ $0.39/lb) – $0.73

2 16-oz bags Mini Cucumbers – $3.38

2 bags Organic Romaine Hearts – $3.98

2 Cauliflower – $3.78

1 pkg Broccoli Crowns – $1.29

1 pkg Zucchini – $1.45

1 Butternut Squash (4.10lbs @ $0.39/lb) – $1.60

1 3-lb bag Granny Smith Apples – $2.99

2 pkgs Blackberries – $1.78

1 3-lb bag Pink Lady Apples – $3.59

1 4-lb bag Sugar – $1.29

4 dozen Eggs – $4.44

1 jar Hot Caramel Sauce – $1.99

1 8-ct pkg Reeses – $1.25

Total: $72.06


Harris Teeter

2 3-lb bags Gala Apples – $4.98

5 Yoplait Yogurts – $1.85, used $0.50/5 printable (doubled) – $0.85/5 after coupon

10 cans Green Beans/Corn (B2G3) – $2.70

2 jars Simply Ragu – $2.50, used $0.75/2 Ragu Sauces – 11-4-18 SS; Includes 16 oz or Larger Only (exp. 12/02/18) (doubled) – $1.00/2 after coupon

2 cartons College Inn Broth – $2.88, used 2 $0.50/1 College Inn Broth or Stock – 11-4-18 RMN; Includes 32 oz or Larger (exp. 12/04/18) (doubled) – $0.88/2 after coupon

Total After Coupons: $10.41


Sawyer’s Produce

(This is a local produce distributor close to my house that occasionally offers discounts  to the general public – entire flats only. This is a LOT of strawberries, but we’ll eat quite a few strawberries the next few days, and freeze the rest. Yum!)

16 cartons Strawberries – $10.00 (my kids ate one entire carton before I had a chance to snap a pic)

Grocery Total for the Week: $92.47

Weekly Menu Plan

Breakfasts

Puff Pancake, Scrambled Eggs, Apples – Birthday Breakfast for my Daughter

Breakfast Provided at Church

Other 5 days: Cereal, Oatmeal, Fruit, Yogurt, Toast, Scrambled/Boiled/Fried Eggs, Veggie Omelets (everyone is responsible for making/cleaning up their own breakfasts)

Lunches

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Strawberries, Cauliflower Soup

Build-Your-Own-Salad-Bar (Romaine, Chopped Veggies, Strawberries, Craisins, Pecans, Hard Boiled Eggs, Dressing) x 2

Leftovers x 2

PB and J Sandwiches, Apples, Cucumbers x 2

Dinners

Stuffed-Crust Pepperoni Pizza, Green Beans, Ice Cream Pie (Birthday Dinner)

Chicken Gravy over Rice, Tossed Salad, Pull Apart Oat Rolls

We’re hosting a Soup/Pie Get-Together at our house – everyone is bringing things. I’m making Cheesy Hamburger Potato Soup and Caramel Apple-Pecan Pie.

Taco Salad, Homemade Applesauce, Roasted Zucchini

Venison Roast in the Crockpot, Creamy Mashed Cauliflower, Homemade English Muffin Bread

Chili Cheese Baked Potatoes (using leftover chili from last week which I froze), Strawberries, Roasted Broccoli

Leftovers

Budget-Friendly Things to Do in Rome

Welcome to my series on our 10-day trip to Rome and India where I’m sharing a peek into our trip — where we went, what we learned, and how we saved money. For details on why we went to Rome and India, read this post. For more information on where we stayed in Rome, read this post.

We only had one full day to see the sights in Rome and we wanted to make the most of it — and we also wanted to keep our expenses down as much as possible. So we ended up deciding to only spend money on a few things today — the tickets to the Vatican Museum, lunch out at an outdoor cafe (we ate snacks we had brought with us on the trip for breakfast and then grabbed some inexpensive sandwiches for dinner), and gelato. We also stopped once at a convenience store to re-stock our water bottles since they were selling them for around $0.75 USD each and that was half the cost of anywhere else we found.

We opted against paying for any transportation and instead just walked everywhere. It was a LOT of walking (maybe 10-12 miles?), but it meant we got great exercise and we got to see a lot more of Rome very up close and personal!

As we were walking, we kept seeing signs advertising “American Breakfasts”. I found it interesting that this is what they consider an American Breakfast… and the price is kind of crazy high! (Scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee and orange juice for around $17 USD with the exchange rate. Say what???)

They day could not have been more perfect weather-wise. I wore comfortable shoes, leggings, a tunic top, and a heavy long sweater and that was the right outfit choice as it was cozy, and I found that when the sun was behind a cloud, I needed my sweater.

But when the sun was out, it was warm enough that I didn’t need my sweater during the middle of the day. (I also brought a lightweight scarf in the backpack and ended up using it when it cooled down in the evening.)

It was fun to pop into McDonald’s and see what they offered in Rome. It was definitely somewhat different than America!

We started the day off by visiting the Pantheon (it’s completely free to get in). I had visited here back in 2016 so it was fun to get to take Jesse here to experience it!

Jesse went around and read almost every plaque and sign and absorbed all of the historical significance. I love watching him hungrily lap up anything history-related!

Next, we headed to the Trevi Fountain (it’s free to visit). Even though the fountains were off because they were being cleaned, there were still mobs of people taking photos.

The sun was so bright and the crowds were so packed that we struggled to find any place with decent lighting to get a photo. But after multiple tries, we finally got this one.

It was a long walk to Vatican Museum and it took us over 30 minutes to get there, but it was a beautiful walk. There were a LOT of people outside St. Peter’s Basilica, and we we had to almost push through the crowds to get to the museum.

(We found out later that the pope has his general audience to the people on Wednesdays so that’s why it was so crazy crowded at St. Peter’s Basilica! I’d recommend not going on a Wednesday unless you want to get to see the pope. We didn’t realize we could have seen him… I somehow missed that in my research!)

We had purchased our tickets online in advance for the Vatican Museum. It was 4 Euros more per ticket to do this, but when we saw the huge crowds, we were glad that we had.

In the end, it didn’t save us an hour or two of extra time waiting in line to have booked our tickets ahead of time, but it definitely saved us some time and also gave us peace of mind that we would be able to get into the museum!

(I had read online that you’ll sometimes have to wait in line an hour or two just to get your tickets. And there’s a possibility that there will be so many people there that you won’t get to get tickets at all.)

The one place we knew we wanted to see for sure in the museum was the Sistine Chapel. You end up walking through a lot of the museum to get to it!

I had been to the Vatican Museum before, but it was fun to see it again (this time in a less sleep deprived and hungry state!)

The ornate-ness of everything can almost feel overwhelming! It’s inspiring and beautiful and just so much — everywhere you look!

This was one of my favorite photos from this day. It aptly captures the essence and beauty of the Vatican Museum.

And of course, Jesse stopped to read a LOT of signs and take it all in… and then he’s been telling me so many interesting tidbits from what he learned over the past week!

You’re not supposed to take any photos in the Sistine Chapel… though so many people were anyway! But I stood outside the chapel and took this photo looking in to give you a little peek!

We made the mistake of not looking for the secret passageway to get to St. Peter’s Basilica from the Vatican Museum so we didn’t end up getting to go into it because the line to get in was massive and we likely would have waited in it for 2-3 hours (it’s free to get in but because it was Wednesday and it was the day that the pope does the general assembly there were SO many people waiting in line!) But we did get some great photos outside!

By the way, on the Vatican site, it says you can’t bring backpacks in to the museum — that you’d have to check them for free at the coat check. But we were able to bring our backpacks in and they didn’t ask us to check them.

We ate a late lunch a cafe and then made our way to the Coliseum. On our way, we saw this — I guess it was a restoration of this site that had been dug up in an archeological dig? It looked like painstaking work but it was fascinating to watch!

I hadn’t gotten to spend time at the Coliseum last time we went to Rome, so I was thrilled to get to spend some time there this time! It’s so massive and impressive!

The gates were closed by the time we got there so we couldn’t go in it (you have to pay to do so), but we got to walk around the entire thing and take our time soaking it all up and being pretty awestruck by how massive it was.

On the back side of the Coliseum, there was hardly anyone and it kind of felt like we were having our own private tour! Also, if you don’t actually go inside, it’s completely free to walk around it for as long as you’d like!

After spending time at the Coliseum, we headed to the Spanish Steps. I’d not been to this area on my last trip (at least I don’t think so!) and it was so beautiful and upscale. (There were so many high end shops around here I almost felt like we had better leave because we weren’t dressed nicely enough to be walking down these streets with Gucci shops!)

We sat on the Spanish Steps for quite awhile to take a breather and to just take it all in!

Drew, Jamie, and their two kids — our fellow travelers and good friends!

On the way back to our apartment, we knew we wanted to find a gelato shop. We decided to look for one that had a lot of people at it as we’d been told that was the sign of a good shop. We found Giolitti and it had people all around and was bustling inside, so we decided to go with it!

I’m more of an ice cream person than a gelato person, but when it Rome, you need to buy gelato and then eat the entire huge cone yourself since you walked so many miles! 🙂

I’m so grateful for Jamie’s friendship and that it worked out for us to go on this trip together. Jamie has loved me so wholeheartedly and poured into me so much this past year.

We’re so different and yet we complement one another so well. Also, it’s such a gift when you can just be yourself in a relationship and you don’t have to try to be “on” or to even worry about what the other person is thinking.

We’ve experienced so much crazy together on this trip and we were talking about how much you really get to know people when you are in close quarters and experiencing long days and short nights and weird schedules and challenging circumstances (like racing through airports and barely making some of our flights because of different flight delays, spending 3 days in a hotel in India that only had primitive bathrooms, learning to eat interesting and unique foods with our hands only in India, language barriers in India, luggage that didn’t make it on our flight, many unexpected delays, jet lag, hotel rooms that wreaked of mold and smoke, days that were so hot we were dripping with sweat for hours… and so much more! I’ll be sharing about all of this in my upcoming posts!)

Trips like this bring out the best and worst in people and it’s only served to further strengthen our friendship to experience all of this together! I’m so grateful!

Have you been to Rome before? If so, what are your favorite budget-friendly recommendations? Tell us in the comments!

Next up: Our rather eventful flight from Rome to London, almost missing our flight, all of our bags not making it on the flight, and more about our first day in India. Stay tuned!