Monday, July 21, 2014

This Week's Meal and Job Plans: July 20-25

Oh what a lovely weekend!  Well it wasn't weather-wise but it was all around.  Mama, my niece Ashley and I drove to Athens Saturday to join in Katie's bridal shower.  It was an intimate group of folks.  I've met her soon to be in-laws before but there were new faces to acquaint myself with, and then I had my lovely family about me.  Bess came and brought the baby who is growing rapidly and I mean that sincerely.  He started out at 6pounds 6 ounces, but he now weighs about 8pounds 13 ounces in just five short weeks.  He's a nursing baby but tolerated, sort of, the bottle his Mama brought along so that I could feed him.  I did laugh at the look on his face as he clamped his lips and cut his eyes at me.  And when Bess nursed him later, oh so discreetly, the little man smacked his lips loudly and 'Mmmmmm'-ed so much that he made us all giggle and brought full attention on his Mama, lol.

We passed the baby about from one set of arms to the other and he was just fine with it all.  He gazed at strangers and family alike and listened to words meant just for his tiny lovely ears and never whined or whimpered about it at all.

Of the girls who came to share in Katie's celebration, five were engaged and three were pregnant.  It is a season for young women.

Sunday was another rainy day.  After church we came home and settled in with dinner, the crossword puzzle and television.  My current favorite programming is Mountain Men on History channel and they were running a marathon of episodes yesterday afternoon.  I enjoyed my Sunday afternoon at home thoroughly.

Today, John went off to work half a shift.  I decided the kitchen needed some deeper cleaning, so I cleared and wiped down the inside of the fridge. Golly but it was needed.  No waste or spoilage to report, but plenty of sticky spots to wipe away.  Then I mopped the kitchen floor.  I'm finding for my flooring the liquid Dishwasher detergent is the best at getting up grime.  Remember my floors are white, and we do live in the country, so the floors get ground in dirt on them all the time.  I need that extra cleansing boost I get from the dishwasher soap.

Meals...Time to plan those!  I will start with yesterday's meal which was mostly homemade and we'll work our way from there, okay?

Deli Roasted Chicken, Steamed Squash, Baked Potatoes, Tomato Slice Salad
Mama bought the chicken Saturday on our way home.  I put the potatoes in the microwave while the squash steamed and the chicken reheated in the oven.  It wasn't a fast meal necessarily but it was a good one and most welcome by the time I put it on the table.

Pot Stickers, Chinese Stir Fry Vegetables, Fresh Peaches
Actually there's only me at home today but I didn't want chicken of course, I rummaged about in the freezer and found the last of the Chicken Pot Stickers, lol.  I used what vegetables I had in the fridge to make my stir fry to go along side.  It was pretty tasty.

Red Beans and Rice, Cabbage Salad,  Corn Bread, Individual Apple Cobblers
I'll use a little Italian turkey sausage to season the meat.  I'll just cook the one sausage and put the rest of hte meat up for another entree later.  The cobblers will use up two apples that are just not getting the attention they deserve.

Brown Sugar Corned Beef, Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Cabbage
I cook the corned beef first (usually in my crock-pot) and then take up the meat and put in an oven-safe dish.  I mix brown sugar and plain old yellow mustard together and spread over the meat then run under the broiler.  It caramelizes and sort of tones down the saltiness of the meat.  I've had this corned beef in the freezer since St. Patrick's Day.  We like to slice the meat thin for sandwiches so I'll set aside the rest of the meat for that.  It freezes well once cooked, too, so no fear we will tire of corned beef sandwiches.

Beef Ravioli Bake, Green Salad, Italian Green Beans, Crusty Bread, Fresh Fruit Bowl
I am having the best time mixing up berries with peaches, melons and such for a fruit salad of sorts.  I don't even bother to dress it, just mix up the plain cut fruits.  It is so delicious and refreshing and just the right amount of sweetness after a rich meal.

Twice Baked Potatoes, Peas with Mushrooms, Tossed Salad, Lemonade Stand Pie
As my meat supplies dwindle and I try to stretch it all a bit further, I'm reminded of all the really good meatless meals I can put on the table, like this cheesy stuffed potato.

Calzone with broccoli, sausage and cottage cheese, Green Salad, Lemonade Stand Pie
I'll use some of the broccoli I steamed and chopped last week and the 1/2 cup of cottage cheese I put away in the freezer a couple of weeks ago (and maybe a bit of goat cheese and mozzarella) to fill the calzones.  I'll mix in some of the sausage I cooked earlier in the week as well for added flavor and perhaps I'll make a quick marinara to set alongside.

Jobs This Week

John is going to be home most of the week so I might be ambitious in my listmaking, but we shall see.  I do have a free calendar for a couple of weeks and I hope to get a few things done.  I've gotten two of the items done earlier today.  Were I very ambitious I might knock out a few more but I'm not ambitious.  It's been a long day and I keep promising myself I can read a chapter of my book and play an hour of a game as my reward for working today.  I really do need to practice keeping my promises to myself.

Mop Kitchen
Clean fridge deeply and well
Tag and take a few new items to booth
Grocery shopping
Clean front porch rails and siding
Straighten the linen chest
Clean the oven
Wipe down insides of cabinets on the end wall of the kitchen

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Shabat Thoughts: Why Wait?

There are two trees outside my kitchen sitting area window, turkey foot oaks that are native to the land.  Over the past 18 years it's been my pleasure to watch them in every season, noticing how unique they are and how similar as well.  They are hardly more than 25 feet apart, one slightly downhill from the other, but they have been affected differently by seasons.  One changes color before the other, the other blooms before the one.

This past winter the lower tree had budded, which is normal for these trees.  I love to see the trees in bud.  As the winter sun shines down upon them, the twigs lift up their buds to the sky.  One morning, several years ago, I noted how they seemed to be raising each twig in a form of praise to God.   As the winter passed, and the freezing temperatures were late upon us this year, we realized that the lower tree was not progressing in the bud stage and as Spring and early Summer came on the tree has had every appearance of being dead.  We've discussed what we should do: cut it down and replant another in its place?  Remove it and move on?  Pray over it as we did the Faith Tree out front and wait and see?

Today in church service there was a song sung which spoke of raising hands in praise and singing Alleluias to God.  It was so beautiful that I found myself with tears in my eyes.  I closed my eyes to pray and in my mind I suddenly saw that tree as it was that long ago winter, raising each budded twig in an attitude of worship.  I thought of how it now is frozen and black in that stage, appearing  dead.  I could see the corollary between my own attitude of late.

I once praised God in a worshipful way.  But like that tree, I think at present I give all appearance of not being alive in my faith walk.  John and I have been through a tough time spiritually over the last three years.  We continue to wait for God to show us where we should be.  I wondered, as I prayed this morning, why?  Why have we had to sit here in the desert with not even a raven to bring us meat and bread?  Why?  What is God making us wait for?  I see His blessings but we have been firmly halted in this spot while troubles large and small continually surround us and we have more and more subtracted from us.

Wouldn't you know the sermon series is called 'Holding Pattern', all about waiting on God?   No big answers but some balm for our pain today.

But that tree has been on my mind all day long.  I went to close the shades this evening and looked out.  It's been raining off and on all afternoon.  The sky is heavy, the grass wet and the trees dripping.  The tree was gloriously adorned with beautiful round diamonds of water on each and every single dead bud.  It was so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes.  The tree is frozen in that attitude of praise and sparkling as though covered with diamonds.  I thought how I feel as dead as that tree appears in many ways.  Is it possible that to God the tears I weep at  this time in my life appear to be beautiful?  Is there hope for my tree?  Will it go through this season of waiting and come alive again next spring? Will my faith walk become a walk once more?  I don't know.  I don't know any of these things.  But I'll wait.

My Frugal Week/Living Well July 12-18

Saturday:  We packed up and drove off to see the most Southern grandchildren this morning.   It was easy to pack for, as it was a flying trip: drive down today/drive back tomorrow.  I packed an insulated bag with water and sodas and snacks.

We knew we'd have to stop for a couple of meals over the weekend.  We had breakfast here at home, I packed fruit, crackers, and a little snack for us to have at the hotel later if we were still hungry.  We knew there would be a single cup coffeemaker in our room.

We went down to celebrate an early birthday for our soon to be five year old grandson.  I figured the twins were about the age to notice that Dan was getting a gift...I tried to solve this by bringing along something for each of the three.  I gave Dan a small bag to carry toys in on roadtrips.  This was something we'd bought for John and it proved to be the wrong size..and non-returnable.  Z got a hat that John got free with a purchase.  He is a hat fiend.  H got one of those dolly juice bottles that drains as the baby 'drinks'.  I loved those things as a girl and thought H would be impressed.  She was.  I spent a whole $1.50 on that bottle, my sole purchase and all of them were perfectly happy.

Daniel's birthday gift was a big hit with him.  He generously brought out 'extras' of the set that he already had and shared those with the twins.  He spent quite a long time playing with his new toys, but the most fun time of all, was when he and I took the gift he received from his mom and dad and played for an hour using our imaginations...I shall always think that is the greatest gift you can give a child, one that allows him to use his own mind to have fun!

Sunday:  We made coffee in our room this morning and drank it there at our leisure.  We decided to skip breakfast at the hotel and headed off.  John stopped for a breakfast sandwich that we ate outdoors in the dining court at the travel stop.  It was cool enough I wore a sweater this morning over my t-shirt...In the marshy portion of South Georgia in the middle of July!  Not chilly mind you, but I never felt I had on anything extra to make me too warm...

We stopped again about three and half hours later.  This time at Walmart.  John wanted to pick up a couple of needed items to make his new pants extra durable for work: iron on patches and buttons to reinforce his suspender's hold on his waistband.  We bought one extra item:  steaks for dinner when we got home.  We knew we wouldn't eat until much later but decided to raid our snack bag in the car rather than purchase more snack foods in the store.  It was a satisfying lunch.

I made a salad and boiled corn to go with the steaks here at home.  While I was cooking the steak, I cooked hamburgers in a separate pan for John's work lunch tomorrow.

John washed a load of clothes and hung them all to dry on the line.

I considered washing a load of dishes, but decided to wait until tomorrow morning when the dishwasher will be completely full.

Monday:  Up early to see John off to work.  Of course, I packed his lunch and made him breakfast.

Boiled a half dozen eggs. I had two for my breakfast and peeled and chopped the rest for egg salad for sandwich filling.

I washed a full load of dishes.

Refilled water bottles with fresh water and put in fridge.  This encourages my husband to drink water.

Watered the plants on the back porch with stored water that I like to keep rotating.  I empty bottles, refill and then move to the next row to use as water for plants.

Put away the food Maddie left in her pan this morning.

Slated to go out with Mama today.  I counted my cash first to make sure of just what I could afford to spend for dinner.  I also checked Katie's gift registry page to make sure I didn't double up on any item that someone else might be gifting.

Mama gifted me two gently read magazines and the Sunday paper coupons.

I found, at the store where we shopped, that few of the items Katie requested were in stock.  I made up my mind to get her something for her kitchen.  I thought perhaps new towels might be fun.  I spent about the same as I'd planned to spend, she will have a new rug, towels and dishcloths, always a nice refreshing change.

I bought us a new doormat, too.  My old one was shedding the little plastic pellets meant to scrape stuff off your shoes.  It had gotten so the door mat made a bigger mess than the messy shoes.  The new mat was priced as an 'end of summer' item already.  Yea!

I used the last of the tomato and bacon I'd cooked for salad yesterday to make a BLT for my supper.

Tuesday:  Used some leftover cornmeal batter to make cornmeal pancakes for breakfast.

I keep a close check on my potatoes this time of year.  I thought I smelled something just a little off, yesterday but didn't find anything.  This morning it smelled a bit more off.  I dumped all the potatoes out and sure enough I found one with a little soft spot that was just beginning to turn bad on two potatoes.  I cut the bad spot away.  I cut one potato into sticks. I put them to soak in cold water in the fridge.  I'll make pub fries from those.  I then diced the other potato and par boiled it.  That one I used to make a small hash-brown casserole to go with our dinner today.

Made a fruit salad from a spotty peach that had been trimmed, cantaloupe Mama gave me, cherries I had in the fridge that were fully ripe, and blueberries from the freezer.  I sprinkled the smallest amount of lemon juice over and tossed well.  I wish I'd thought to do something I'd tried last summer: honey and lime zest and juice.  Yum.  I'll keep that in mind for next salad.

I chopped the rest of the cantaloupe and put in the freezer.

Put the rest of the cherries in the freezer as well.

Digging about in the fridge I found two crowns of broccoli I'd used only a portion of...They were starting to look yellow. I took the greenest florets from the edges and steamed for our dinner today.  Then I took the remaining portions of the two crowns and steamed them.  I chopped those and put in a bag in the freezer.  I'll use that chopped broccoli to make Cheesy Broccoli Rice casserole for dinner one day.

Gathered all my leftovers and bits that need to be used up together.  Now I know just what I have in fridge and what I need to plan to use in the next day or so.

While cooking dinner, I cooked an extra large chicken breast, and two thighs.  I planned those to make two meals: chicken sandwiches for supper one night and chicken tacos for another night's supper.

Wednesday:   Went out to shed this morning to look for some items I thought were out there.  I didn't find what I wanted after all.  Did note that it's one spot in need of some general housekeeping once again.

John and I worked on altering his new work pants.  I hemmed on the machine and ironed on patches on the waistband to keep his suspender teeth from tearing the fabric.  Then we sewed on buttons, which keep the clips from slipping off during his work.  The cost of these alterations was minimal, well under $6 even with the two cards of buttons bought.  We have enough buttons and patches for a future pair of pants and any repairs needed out of that $6.  I don't know how much it might have cost to take them to a tailor but I'm willing to bet it would have been more than $6.

For our dinner today, I made taco salad.  I used some ground beef I'd thawed earlier in the week.  I make my own seasoning from tomato paste, onion, garlic and cumin.  The paste we bought was a bit more tart than I wanted so I added a little bit of sugar.

I learned  a couple of years ago that I need not mix up a full packet of dry Ranch dressing mix at one time.  I usually add just a couple of tablespoons to about 3/4 cup buttermilk and mayonnaise.  I like Ranch dressing on my taco salad.

Though I had tortillas, I decided to try to salvage some stale corn chips we'd bought a couple of weeks ago.  I put them on a cast iron skillet and slipped into a warm oven.  Sure enough they crisped up nicely and we used them on our salad. 

Thursday:  I made tuna salad for sandwich filling for John's work lunch tomorrow.  I didn't add egg to my tuna salad, instead I chopped up an apple that was looking a little worse for wear.  We really like apple in our tuna salad, either diced or grated, adding in mayonnaise and pickle relish to taste.  The apple decreases the acidity of the tuna fish somewhat and makes it more digestible.

John went  to town to buy a battery for the lawnmower as well as gasoline and oil.  When he came in he told me to take those totals from our oil/maintenance sub-account.

Knowing that he meant to mow I had to rethink my plans for dinner.  He prefers to have a lighter meal so we had sandwiches.  We had sandwiches for supper, too, BLTS.

Friday:  John off to work this morning.  I packed his lunch, made him breakfast.  He took off trash with him, meaning to save me a trip out of the house today.

When I stepped outdoors to tell John goodbye I was surprised at how cool it was.  I opened windows and turned off the AC, letting the house fan cool the house down to outdoor temps.  It was really nice until the humidity rose.

Used a wrinkly peach that John refused eating to make breakfast of peanut butter toast topped with ripe peach.  Yum!

I was working about the house with an eye towards having a free day.  I considered my options and decided really I didn't need to go to town today...then I remembered the gift bags I needed for a bridal shower tomorrow.   I checked in my stash first.  I had birthday and Christmas bags but nothing like what I needed for my shower gift.

I ended up going to town, to the dollar store.  In my usual way, I decided to make the trip to town worthwhile.  I emptied all the individual room trash cans and gathered enough  to take off a bag to the dumpster.  I also boxed up some items I was mailing off and got them ready to go out.  I checked vitamins and determined which I'd best buy while in the store as well.  All in all I think I got quite a good amount of things done and made that trip count.

I didn't buy dinner while I was out as I was tempted to do.  I thought and thought as I wandered about the store and determined what I'd make for John's dinner tomorrow (to be eaten while I was away) and for my own dinner today.

Came home and went through fridge.  I had exactly what I thought I had to make John's dinner, which consisted of a variety of leftovers and produce items.  I made a big plate of tuna salad on lettuce and tomatoes for my dinner.

The afternoon was free for me to relax and rest.  I know tomorrow will be busy and I want to be well rested before starting out.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tried and True: Fried Green Tomatoes

It's been a little while since I've done a Tried and True post.  Fried Green Tomatoes.  Good book, good movie and in the South, it's a summer time food favorite.  I suspect, given the way my family preserved their summer produce, this began as a Fall menu item, to use up the last of the tomato crop when it was time for frost.  Big Mama also made a green tomato relish but I haven't got her recipe for that.  I usually do it the easy way and just buy a jar when I see it in a Farmer's Market shop since I'm the only one who enjoys it.

Fried Green Tomatoes.  Every household does them just a little differently.  I should know.  I am fourth generation cooking these and I don't do as Big Mama, Granny nor Mama did.  I do them my way.  I like my way better than any other but I don't turn my nose up at these tomatoes if someone else cooks them.  I just eat 'em anyway!

Years ago, a friend from the MidWest came to visit. I was cooking fried green tomatoes.  I had a tiny kitchen and the only available counter space was just behind me to my left, out of visual range. I would pick up tomato slices from my frying pan and drop them on the plate on that counter back of me.   Randy came into the kitchen and asked "What's that?"  I told him it was Fried Green Tomatoes.  "Ewww!" was his reply.  His wife reminded him he'd promised to try anything once  if I'd cooked it...So Randy agreed that they deserved a try.  He stood behind me the whole time I was cooking, chatting away...Or so I thought.  The man ate every single slice of the four tomatoes I fried that night!  All of them!  I never heard him say, "Ewww" again when anyone mentioned fried green tomatoes.

How you slice them depends on how they turn out.  Thin as paper and they are just this side of a potato chip crisp and yet a tiny bit  moist.  Thicker and they are tender, warm, not quite wet, bits with a crunchy coating.  I like them about 1/8 inch thick which is neither too thick nor too thin in my opinion.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

This Week's Meal and Job Plans

Chicken Biscuits
Bananas, Peanut Butter Crackers, Cheese Cubes
Steak, Corn on cob, Tossed Salad, Birthday Cake
Chicken biscuits are what we enjoy at least one morning of any roadtrip.  This was our morning.  They tasted really good, too.

Eggs, Hash-browns, Toast
Chicken Tortellini Salad
BLTs, Chips

Friday, July 11, 2014

My Frugal Week: July 5 -11

July 5:  We had an easy  breakfast of bagels with cream cheese this morning.  I knew we would have a nice meal at dinner and since we were eating late, the lighter meal seemed more than sufficient.

Baked Chicken and reheated Peach Berry Crisp in the oven alongside to save electricity usage.

I wanted something different for a salad. I mixed up a batch of counter-top pasta sauce yesterday and tossed a few tablespoons of that with a can of drained chickpeas.  That was it, super simple and equally tasted if heated or served at room temperature.

We went nowhere at all today, so we spent Nothing Extra...a great way to stay on challenge!

July 6:  Ran a full load of dishes this morning.  I heated the water for the dishwasher start up when I was rinsing dishes to put in the machine.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Afternoon Refresher - Fire and Ice

Hello hello, and do come in!  You're just in time.  I've been trying to get time out for an afternoon refresher all week long.  Tea is exactly what I wanted this afternoon.  As I told John, on these hot days when I drink so very much water, I start wanting something a little more substantial after awhile.  Tea suits me perfectly.

I haven't baked a thing.  It's been far too warm to cook overmuch, though I did end up cooking quite a lot on July 4.  I broke down and bought a packet of chocolate covered grahams at the store.  Gee those things taste good.  I can't make up my mind if it's because we've had so few sweets of late or if they really are as tasty as I think them!

I mentioned cooking on July 4th.  Katie came down to visit. I hadn't expected her and there was a wee bit of a scramble, but then I sat down with John and we talked over meals and the man, clever one that he is, came up with an idea for a pizza that turned out really, really good.  He was inspired by a baked submarine sandwich he'd had the day before at a restaurant.  So we altered our dinner plans and made supper plans that suited us all admirably.  Katie helped out with the cooking for supper and her fiance hung around the kitchen because he's a cook, too.  All of my children except Jd, are cooks.  Jd, like his dad, does well enough if needs must.

John and Jd, poor fellows, are odd men out in this family.  We all love to cook and we all love to try new recipes.  John is a hamburger, steak, fried eggs, frozen pizza sort of man and Jd is pretty much right there with him I think.  The rest of us sit about and share recipes, talk about good meals we've prepared, or had somewhere else, or share ideas we saw on tv or in a magazine.  So it was nice to have the kids in the kitchen with me Friday evening, chatting away about meals they'd prepared in the past week, asking questions about the recipe we were making and how it came to be, etc.  While Lori and I do the cooking in our homes, Amie and Ben, Samuel and Bess, Katie and Matt all share cooking duty.  I think each of them are really good cooks in their own rights.  I do find it funny in a way that the cooking is often vied for in their homes because the ones who don't cook have to do dishes, lol.

It was nice to have my girl at home for a bit.  It was nice to have an opportunity to really talk to her which I hadn't had in months.  It was just the right time, too, because last week turned upside down and blew up.  I was left scrambling about trying to make heads out of tails.   None of it harsh things, but just those life things that sort of happen.  It was terribly hot and that drained me like a wilted leaf.  I was over tired at the beginning of the week and completely irritable and whiny by the last days of that week.  I needed a dose of Katie chatter and I got it.  It was so nice!

I mentioned last week as tough and it was in a way.  There was that lovely emotional day Monday when the newest grandbaby arrived and we were sung over at the gas pumps at the station in our town. Mama had a doctor's appointment that afternoon that I'd forgotten.   I'd promised to be with her.  I had to do a quick scramble about and scratch my plans.  It wasn't life threatening or anything, a matter of a cyst on her eye  that had gotten out of hand entirely by the time she finally got in to see the specialist.  We were sent to a more specialized specialist on Tuesday in Macon and that turned into immediate minor surgery as he felt she'd suffered long enough with it.

John worked that Wednesday and I worked myself hard that day, in an attempt to do in a day what I'd wanted to do all the week before.  I promised myself a day off on Thursday but John came home and decided we had to get out of the house and we did.  We were gone nearly 6 hours running errands. He did treat me to a lovely lunch out but I was dragging hard by the time we returned home.  So Friday I promised myself a day off and then worked myself into quite a state, until just minutes before Katie came in.  John shook his head at me.  "You've worked awfully hard for someone having a 'day off'!"  He was right.  Three days in a row!

It took the weekend to recover.  Sunday I went out to dinner with Mama (which was midday for us both, we don't usually eat big meals later in the day).  She mentioned how much she missed going to church.  I thought about the church I'd grown up in and the churches I've attended over the past few years and the church we're attending now.  I thought over mine and Katie's search for a church that met her criteria 6 years ago and how difficult it was for us, because my girl is more old fashioned in her spirit, for all that her outside is Modern Millie-ish.  "I don't know if church like you miss exists anymore Mama."  She told me my brother had said the same thing.

The church Mama misses is the church she grew up in.   It's the building her grandfather built to replace the church that burned. That is part of what she misses and more.   That older church that burned was the church her great grandparents and great great grandparents, and so on, founded nearly 200 years ago.  It was sweet and simple.  Not ideal mind you, but sweet and simple.  It was a country church, with a lovely old graveyard and a field next door that waved with corn or wheat or cotton or came alive with cows at various times through the years. It was surrounded by tall old oak trees and the graveyard was dotted with cedars that stood where gravestones weren't available.  It was a plain sort of church and plain sort of people attended it.  But that was then.  It is no more.  The building houses another church group now.  Some of the old cedars have fallen and been cut up and carried away.  The field next door lies fallow.  Changes do occur.
It's hard to explain to Mama what we find in church today.  The theater seats and dim lights, the loud and rocking music.  The message is the same powerful stuff it's always been, but it gets decked out in a style that she would find shocking I expect.  And to attend a big church such as the one we do now...Well talk about culture shock!  Mama's little family church might have held 50-60 at times, but it just as often held 10-12 and seldom more than 25 on the average.  Just imagine walking into a room that seats 1000 after that.

After thinking these thoughts over, as we drove along, I felt a little sad.  I've longed at times for that old fashioned simplicity but I know that what I miss isn't the style of preaching or the rigidity of the rules that had to be followed.  What I miss is that feeling of absolute certainty that it was MY church, a place where I belonged and would always belong simply because my family always had.  Only I don't and I didn't, much to my grown-up hurt and dismay, and later my great thankfulness.  I've learned that church is good to have but relationship is the most important thing of all. I think Granny knew this, it was what she tried to impart to me for years, but Mama has always seen church as the place to meet God, and in her mind, it was the church she attended all her years, not some new building where she has no personal history.

I suspect Mama too was feeling nostalgic.  She's spoken often of her childhood years lately, of relatives long dead, of classmates, and homes in the county where they visited, where they met in summers and played,  and so many of these, people and places, are gone now.   There are few, so very few, of the generation who went before left alive and behind her she sees just her own small family line trailing out behind her and she seems a little bewildered.  She grew up in a small town where half of the folks in it were kin to her and everybody was a cousin or darn near it.  She had great aunts and uncles, aunts and uncles and cousins to spare.  Now there are a handful at best.  She's a stranger in the town where she grew up.

It was in some ways a hard day Sunday.  Perhaps it was the weight of loss that seemed to hover around Mama.  Perhaps we were both weary from the week before and the heat.  I was glad to come home and be alone with my thoughts and shut out the world for a bit.  I took up my genealogy research and struck at it anew for the first time in a few weeks and buried my head in a past that wasn't mine to remember and regret losing.

You know, I can't help it, as I work on these lineages and trace them back and back...I see familiar names pop up here and there, surnames that intermarry and populate the same neighborhoods, even as they move from state to state.  Many of them familiar to me as my own surnames because I was surrounded by their family members growing up.  I thought about how people sometimes seem so very familiar to you, that instant connection, that kindred soul sort of thing.  I studied reincarnation when I was a pre-teen.  It's not at all shifting from one life form to another in the next life... I was a little intrigued by it then.  From this side of life, as an older person,  I don't believe much in reincarnation as anything other than a theory.  What does intrigue me is the DNA factor.  If we believe in genetic memory, whose to say that it isn't actually generated by DNA and we 'recognize' that in one another when we happen upon one of those kindred spirits who, it turns out, had family who populated our past family members' lives as well?

Have you looked at any of the tiny houses online?  I thought about them as we drove around the back roads Sunday, because there was many an old little house along the way.  The new tiny house are of various sorts.  Caravans, some actual small stick built homes, fancy campers, etc. but are meant as a permanent residence. Some are portable and can be moved from property to property as you need to move if your job demands it.  Some are meant to make a simple homestead lifestyle that is efficient on many levels, as well as affordable.   Well it all sounds terribly appealing on the one hand.  Who wouldn't love a beautiful little home, a play house for grownups, so to speak?

I wanted a play house as a girl and would have loved to have had one for my girls, but it wasn't possible. We all settled for imaginary homes made up in the moss covered roots of a tree or formed from fallen branches and leaves.    I often dream over little cottage-y looking homes we pass here and there.  And I love looking at abandoned homes.  In our area it's not great huge houses (though there is one in our town I'd love to rescue, but that's another story).  Most of the abandoned homes we come across are crouching at the edge of a field, or sitting in a little grove of trees that sits next to the road.  I suspect they are about four rooms big.  I dream of how cozy they must have been once upon a time, how cozy they might be once more.  There's always that little girl dream of making a house a home that I just haven't shaken in all my grown up years.  It boggles my mind to think of families raised in those little houses, sometimes with many children.

I think of sharing it with John, whom I love deeply.  Just at first it seems romantic.  I think that's why I love the cabins we've stayed in and the condos that feel like first apartments.  I like that we seem more a couple in a small space.  And then reality bites:  I cannot imagine the inability to go off by myself for a bit, to move away from the noise that two inevitably generate as one watches TV and another tries to play music. And where on earth would you retreat to when you've had a fight?!   There are days when, here in this very home, I feel as though I cannot find an inch of space that is solely mine to escape to and those are the good days, lol. That's when I put aside the dreams those tiny houses generate.

When we came in yesterday afternoon, I put away the groceries we'd bought and went out to empty the water and ice from our ice chests.  I decided to keep the ice for water, putting it in my watering can.  One of the cubes slipped away from me and I picked it up only to have it sort of pop between my fingers and land at Maddie's feet. Maddie has discovered something she likes anew.  She licked the ice cube, picked it up, chewed it a bit, dropped it and licked it and just acted as though it was something totally great. I think I'm going to give her one now and then through these warmer summer days.  Her coat is still very thick and despite routine brushing she is still shedding the undercoats.

In the past, she and Trudy practically lived under the back deck, which was shut off when my brother built those long steps along that one end.  Maddie has satisfied her need for cooler spots by lying in holes she's dug here and there in shady areas.  She moves from this one to that one as the day goes along.  John complains about this, but only about those areas where there are no flowers being dug up.  Hmmmm...I noted this morning that apparently the flower bed around the Faith Tree is a favored spot.  It's only Spiderwort and Soapwort (which sounds so much prettier by it's other name of 'Bouncing Bett') that she's crushing at present.  The iris won't remember a thing come next Spring.  I suspect that cool green feels awfully good to her.

I am amused at the great sensitivity she has at times.   A couple of weeks ago, the kitten John found was sent home with a friend who rescues strays.   She had a nursing Mama cat she hoped the kitten would take to...Well the friend looked at Maddie and laughed.  "She's fat...that's not all fur!"  Maddie had indeed put on a few pounds since Trudy passed away.  I'd cut back her food but she'd burrow into a nest of baby rabbits and fill up her belly, which grieved me and amused John.  Apparently Maddie understood the criticism.  There for over a week I could barely get her to eat a thing.  And then when she did start eating she'd barely eat the half portions she'd been getting in an attempt to cut down her daily calories.  Her hurt feelings paid off however.  I noted that while she'd never be called svelte she has trimmed her waistline a bit.  I can't say hurt feelings ever worked well for me.  I'd just tuck sadly into a double portion of whatever food tasted good (and didn't it all?) back in my younger days.  

Maddie is such a lovely old girl.  We've had a bit of thunder the past couple of days, nothing much really, but I noted today that the cat, rather than sit atop the porch railing which she prefers, or get into her own little cubbyhole to hide from the weather, was sitting atop the plastic can the pet food is in.  This is right next to and slightly in front of Maddie's dog house.  The cat was turned towards Maddie as though watching over her.  Maddie may chase the cat on sunshine days but she sure seemed comforted by the cat's company.  Big old silly red dog.

I thought I would just accomplish worlds of things today but I haven't.  It's ended being a sort of piddly day. My head ached again this morning, but it's clouded over and started to rain gently.  We had a heavy long rain storm last night that lasted nearly two hours.  I think this sort of weather is just perfect for curling up with a book and reading along all afternoon.  I confess I've done some of that, too.  I am still reading Gone With The Wind, but I do find it a bit heavy going at times.  I picked up the Nancy Drew book, The Clue in the Old Stagecoach this afternoon and I'm already half way through it!  I'm not sure I'll finish GWTW this month at all, but I do want to keep reading.  I find it interesting and am learning a good bit as I go.

My goodness, the Air Conditioning has gone off...It normally doesn't stop running full time until somewhere about 7pm.  I think we might have to put on some coffee and chase the chill away...

I can think of two dozen things I ought to get up and do, but I am just not wanting to give in to the 'ought to's today.  Maybe today is my "promise" day, huh?

I wanted to finish decorating my back porch this morning, but when I went out to the shed, where some of the necessary things are, I couldn't get the door open.  It had swollen so tightly shut from last night's rain that I couldn't budge the thing no matter how I tried.  I had a big pile of stuff I'd brought from the house outdoors, meaning to put in the shed.  I had to haul all that back to the house.  It's in the kitchen sitting area.  I hope John can wrench it open for me tomorrow, but with more rain this afternoon, who knows?

I have deep cleaned every room we normally live in this month which is pretty good considering how many extras have popped up.  I'm satisfied anything more can wait until next month.  Now it is my hope to do little projects here and there but weather does have to be fair for many of them or they shall not be accomplished.  I have in my near future, five appointments/engagements/events to attend to in the next 10 days.  I get the feeling that maintaining routine work is going to be the most I will accomplish during that time and I may well not get more done the rest of the month.  I can get frustrated very easily when I plan heavy and accomplish little but there are times when we must simply roll with the wave of the days and work with what we're given. I'll check for those things I can do in unexpected moments of time whether they are days at home or moments at home.  It seems the best way to proceed.

The Nothing Extra challenge has been a challenge all right!  I didn't realize how tempted I am by little extras whether at the grocery or out just anywhere.  I've good reason for wanting to cut back hard on my spending. We had a heavy month of birthdays in June and then we added two more with the babies.  I told Amie, I do believe her baby meant to squeeze herself in to that June birthday melee and she arrived early just on purpose to do it.  There was a wedding, a couple of baby gifts, and numerous repairs in last month, as well.  I am nearing the end of the meat market purchases.  I hope to make it to the first pay period in August before I buy meats but I'd like to have some or all of that money set aside when we go.  There are items I need: jeans, shoes for winter wear, new sandals for summer wear, pajamas.  There are things I'd like to do for the house yet.  And on top of all that is my desire to pay off our personal loan for the back porch so we can do the next round of work on the house.  I've done well on that goal.  I've paid back  nearly half of what we'd used, but I really want to get it all taken care of before December of this year.

I have two chairs that need to be replaced.  I'd like to landscape around the house, but John wants to underpin it first instead of having the vinyl skirting there.  Our home is a double-wide which is fairly common in our area.  There are stick built houses but the bulk of folks can afford only very moderately priced homes and so you do see a good many double-wide.  As we headed home from an errand the other day we looked at houses.  John and I admired porches, fences, landscaping, shade trees, swimming pools, lawns, parking pads, driveways... Homes much like ours with just added little touches that seemed to set them apart from others.  We were gathering information really, looking at ways we might improve our own home outside.

Later in the week, John asked why I was watching a house flip program.  Well for the same reasons we'd been looking so hard at homes the other day.  I was looking for ways, affordable ways, to upgrade our home and make it look fresh and nice on the inside.  I love my home.  I am so pleased with the few little things we've been able to do over the past year.  I want to do more that will improve and enhance our home.

Well all that is the long way around of saying that this Nothing Extra challenge is not a temporary thing, it's a real attempt to determine what I really want and not temporarily satisfy an urge to purchase some little something that will add not one iota to my enjoyment of life or home.  It's about being a better steward of my money.  We are careful, but there's room for improvement and I want to improve.  I'm not satisfied to stand still and say 'Look how well we do.'

To that end as well, we discussed, as we drove along looking at homes, the plethora of birthdays and our growing family overall.  John mentioned his concern that we simply could not continue to increase the gift giving  in our family without giving up something else or making changes. I'd just worked on the budget for this quarter and knew that there was little else to cut and anything we gave up at this point was going to be something necessary.  We decided making changes was the way to go. So we're starting with how we do Christmas and we're going to downsize birthdays.  In the end we likely won't save money but we will hold steady which is a savings, rather than adding to what we already spend.  And so we're back around yet again to that Nothing Extra spending challenge.  If I can find little ways to cut out a few items here and there or to curb spending, then so much the better for us.

And just as a brief little follow up, when we arrived home that day, after looking at all those other pretty little places, we agreed, as we came up the drive, our own home holds up well against those we liked best.  Room for improvements, yes, but all in all, pretty satisfactory in our eyes.

I guess it's time to end this little chat.  That was John on the phone just now and the scoundrel started yawning as we spoke.  The rain we'd had here earlier while you and I chatted had moved on to his area and it was making him sleepy.  Now my eyes are watering from yawning...I hadn't planned on a nap but it might be necessary, lol.