Sunday, November 23, 2014

Coffee Chat: Autumn Wooing

Hello loves, it is early in the week, isn't it, but I'm ready for a bit of chatter.  Do come in and have coffee...or cocoa if you'd like...and let's have a bit of quiet time here before we begin the hectic pace of the week to come.

I have looked forward to returning to this lovely vintage A&P coffee ad.  I love the very tangible sense of fruitful harvest that is present in it, don't you?  I am puzzled by the big basket of fruits outdoors, and I don't believe I've ever in my life seen squash strung up to hang, but overall it's a beautiful photo isn't it?  My weakness for lovely china finds the coffee pot and cup especially beautiful.   So beautiful that I spent time on eBay perusing china this morning in the early hours after John left for work.   I do not need china, but I do enjoy the beauty of it and the variety of patterns.  I am impartial as to whether it's new or old.

Granny and Mama both had rose patterned plates, but Grandmama Crowley had wheat patterned plates.  I see these now and then as I'm in the thrift stores and I tell you truly that I really love the wheat pattern myself. I suppose I love it so because Grandmama actually used her china, but also because she had both china and a milk glass/fire king type plates with that wheat pattern, so I know she must have been especially fond of that.  I'll lay odds that all of Grandmama's plates were from the five and dime or grocery store incentive purchases.  She was not one to spend a load of money on things except coats and shoes.

Well, china is china is china, a passion I cannot quite afford either in cost nor in storage needs, lol, so let's move on shall we?

I was trying out a table setting for Thanksgiving dinner (just John and I and not on Thanksgiving but after the day).  I wanted to use the Royal Doulton Mandalay china once again, but I have yet again allowed the holiday to come close without planning well enough ahead.  I wanted to play up the buff and blue colors in the pattern, rather than just the browns.  I didn't like the centerpiece on the table at all, nor the tablecloth I had.  I promised myself as I played about with the table that I shall try and plan ahead far better.  In fact, this week I mean to start working on my Christmas dinner table setting (again, it won't be on the day of and there will be no one but John and I).  I am trying to make up my mind if I'll use the grocery store china with red roses and greenery on a white background or the white ironstone.  I must confess that though I hardly need them I found TWO sets of glasses at the flea market this past week that I am longing to go back and purchase. One set was a lovely delicate set of stemware in green that would be just perfect to go with that rose china...And quite reasonable as well.  The other was cobalt blue with a clear stem and they looked old to me, though the coloring sounds rather modern.  I have no need of those at all but I am drawn to cobalt glass simply because it is so beautifully blue.   I've been talking to myself about it since I lay eyes on both sets...and I can truly justify the green glass but the blue is purely an indulgence, albeit a small indulgence because they are very reasonably priced.

We are not having a Thanksgiving Day with our family.  I will go to Mama's for dinner with her and my brother that day.  I'd planned all along to have a small Thanksgiving dinner with just John on the day before or after.  Initially I'd planned to have Mama as well but plans seem to never really solidify for me.  Mama was reluctant as she wanted a BIG dinner with all the family, even though 'the family' she wanted to come all have ample pulls upon their time with in-laws, and multiple parents etc.  Then John took an extra shift for the Wednesday before.  That threw my plans up in the air entirely.  Working an extra shift meant my husband would be extra tired when his work day ended 36 hours later.  It also meant he wasn't going to want a heavy meal the day he's to go into work the night shift.  So I changed my plan to baking a turkey breast and having turkey sandwiches.  In the meantime,  others plans changed and the annual struggles began.

I loathe the annual struggles.  The attempt by others to wrest things as they want them rather than accepting that they are what they are.  It just adds unnecessary angst and tension.  Sigh.  I decided to just wait and see how the dust settled and the small dinner is the way it settled.  That was plan 'H' I think.  As for a personal Thanksgiving meal, I decided that it's unfair for John to miss out entirely on a holiday meal that he looks forward to and so seldom has the opportunity to enjoy and since no one ever seems to be keen on working with his schedule in planning family gatherings, I'll just make our own gathering.  I'm going to stuff a small turkey breast, will have Sweet Potato casserole, Green Beans with mushrooms and onions, Gravy, Cranberry sauce and Pumpkin Pie.  I won't make a huge meal but it will be large enough that we can eat it Friday and have leftovers on Saturday.

Two weeks ago the weather was beyond cold.  I decided on that Saturday night to make breakfast for supper.  We had French Toast and turkey bacon and it was delicious, easy, hot.  I asked John how he felt about having breakfast for supper on Saturday evenings through these cold months.  He had no objections.  I keep forgetting to actually put it on my menu plan each week that we're having breakfast for supper that one night.   We had pancakes and little beef sausage links last night.  I have a new to me casserole dish called Salvation Army Breakfast, which sounded good.  It calls for Bisquick, but I will be using a homemade mix.

We went to the meat market Friday.  I noted that prices were up slightly but not shockingly.  In fact, they are only just now what the grocers were marking up to 18 months ago.  The one price I found surprisingly high was chicken wings, at $2.89 a pound.  It only adds to my resolve to buy whole birds and have them cut into pieces then parcel out when I get them home.  We did not buy meat for our household this past week, however.  I am determined to stretch what we have (with the addition of turkey) until late December or early January.  I bought a rotisserie chicken which we used for dinner Saturday and I saved the breast meat for sandwiches this week for supper.

John made me chuckle when I was plating the chicken.  The rotisserie chicken was a small-ish sort of bird.  I put leg quarters on each plate and decided that I'd not be remiss adding a wing to each plate especially when John murmured he'd probably come back for more.  So I told him to hold the plates and I'd put a wing on them.  I put one wing on one plate and just as I turned with the other wing, he quickly put the plate I'd just added to back in front of me, lol.  It was a bit of slight of hand, counting on the heat of the chicken and my fiddly handling of it, that landed two wings on his plate.  He does make me laugh often that man.

I knew we were due rain today.  I really hoped it would hold off until after the morning was past, but it began as a slow gentle rain last night and has built into a rather heavy rain this morning.  I planned to go out to get groceries today, in an effort to avoid the holiday shopping crowds but I admit I've almost been put off by the heavy showers.  I didn't have a long list but I did need to make multiple stops.  Our local store has Del Monte fruits on sale.  It's true that the fruit at Aldi is less expensive but I can't get pear or peach halves, only slices, and I don't find the pineapple tastes as pineapple-y as I'd like.  I'd planned to stock up for the year on those if the expire dates and stock worked with me.  I am always looking for items to stock the pantry that are well priced.  The price on the pineapple is my set point price, the lowest good sale price I look for.  The price of the other fruits is a good price, one I suspect is the new 'normal' sale price these days.  Well there wasn't enough to stock up for the year, but I did get 3 cans of pear halves and 6 pineapple, which is better than nothing.  I'd liked to have had a can of each for each month of the year ahead.

I stocked up on cranberry sauce as well.  There was NONE to be had at Aldi which surprised me, but the shelf was bare.  I shopped at three stores today.  Local store for the canned fruit and that was all I bought there.  Then Aldi for the bulk of my groceries.  I stuck to the dairy/produce aisles for the  most part there and came out well under $100 this week.  Then to Kroger, where I wanted to cash in our charity box coinage and pick up turkey sausage, cinnamon rolls for our holiday morning breakfast and a couple of herbs/spices and the items I couldn't find at Aldi.  The list was much shorter for that store but doggone if I didn't spend almost as much as I'd spent at Aldi.  The bonus buys at Kroger were the Atlanta Constitution (more puzzles and more coupons) as well as a Gingerbread Latte at the Starbucks kiosk.  Yum.  It was needed in the misty rain.  It wasn't quite chilly but once damp it began to feel a bit cool, so the coffee was really a necessity.

One thing that irritates me no end about that particular store is that they separate the paper goods by category across several aisles.  So there's an aisle for bath tissues and paper towels and another aisle where they put trash and storage bags and a third unmarked aisle where they tuck waxed paper and foil and the plates and cups and napkins.  That aisle isn't marked at all.  John and I walked the store four times one day looking for that aisle. I  found it today as a stumble upon and I mean that quite honestly.

I suppose that stores are like all other things.  This particular one has it's own personality.  There's a much nicer store not five miles away but the trouble was it was five miles out of the way and this one was just a block from Aldi on my way home.  The aisles make no sense whatsoever to me, the store feels chaotic and disorganized and cramped despite being a rather large store overall.  Not my favorite Kroger to stop at but it was convenient today and in the interest of hurrying and getting back home before more heavy rain fell, I took it as the convenience it was.  As for the heavy rain, little more fell but the fog came in heavy and dense.
I was glad to be home.  It's so gloomy that I haven't even opened the kitchen sitting windows at all.  Today may not be the shortest day of the year but it feels as though it is just because of the gloom.  Ooohhh!  There's thunder!  I wasn't expecting that.  Maddie will go hide out in her dog house, bless her.  She's not fond of thunder at all.

I debated various options for my dinner today but couldn't really think of anything I wanted to purchase extra or especially.  Instead I came home and made a small batch of fried rice for one.  Margie contacted me about ten days ago asking about cooking for one.  I have written a Retirement Remedy post on that which I hope to post this coming week.  Today's meal is a case in point. I had about a cup of rice left from yesterday's dinner.  I chopped broccoli stem, some leftover onion, added in some red bell pepper, a few fresh green beans and seasoned with garlic and ginger root.  The rice was a wild rice blend, which has a lovely nutty sort of texture and really amped up the fried rice dish.  It tasted so good and all those fresh veg only added to the feeling of plenty.  Yum!  I don't know what the cost of it was but I guarantee that it was far far less expensive than frozen or take out options.

I've not thought overly much about cost per meal/ cost per serving, but lately I have been thinking hard about it and I may start adding that to my list of things to figure for Retirement Remedies.  I was perusing Pinterest financial pins yesterday and it was suggested that we should learn to figure those costs.   As the author pointed out, prices will change over time but to jot down a potential cost per serving on a recipe would at least give one an idea of how pricey (or not) an item would be to add to a menu.  I have been thinking of this for some time lately, as I said and I believe it's time to take that step.  It was while I was figuring how much we spent on turkey sausage in one month's time that I realized how much I needed to seek to change some things with our breakfast menu.    It will be interesting to see how this plays out in meal costs and how it shall help me budget better.  I have a feeling that it will change how I plan menus.  And it just might make me aware of how I can trim my budget further.

One thing that keeps popping up in my reading is to buy a quarter or half steer.  I've been thinking about that too.  I may ask the meat market if they do such a deal on meat, but first I want to research what this means in cuts, weight and storage needs, etc.  I always have something new to think about  these days.  It seems that Retirement Remedy thinking has really got the wheels churning.

I think I shall wind up here and send you on your way as the weather seems to want to be stormy.  I will likely not post as much this next week due to the holiday.  And I do wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. Talk to you soon!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

In My Home This Week: A Fresh Start, Menus and Work Plans

It seems fitting to post this lovely vintage magazine advertisement with pumpkin pies on the counter and turkey ready to go into the oven to roast...It is Thanksgiving week here in the U.S.  I have a turkey breast in the fridge thawing even as I write and my menu is written down, all except for 1 side dish.  I'm unsure which I shall make at the moment, but I've plenty of things to choose from.

We've just had a lovely Shabat in our home.  More and more often I find I indulge in a long nap mid-afternoon, something I don't typically allow myself, but somehow it never affects my rest Saturday night.  I always take the nap as a blessing.

You'll find fewer meals than usual on my menu this week.  John will be working tomorrow and Thursday.  I'll have dinner at my mom's, where a very small immediate family gathering is planned for Thursday and there will be leftovers for Sunday (tomorrow).  Friday I'm making a small Thanksgiving Meal for us.  I plan to have leftovers on Saturday so no menu for that day either.

I've had a little help planning meals...John's sitting here beside me watching TV and just mentioned two meals he'd like to have.  He doesn't know what a help he's been!

Breakfast:  Eggs and toast (x2)
                    Breakfast sandwiches (Spam, Eggs, Cheese), and Juice
                    Cheese Eggs, Grits, Toast
                    Homemade Biscuits, Turkey Sausage
                    Cinnamon Rolls, Smoked Beef Sausages (X2)

Supper:       Grilled Cheese
                    Creamy Potato Soup
                    Chicken Sandwich, Chips
                    Personal  Pan Pizza
                    Turkey Sandwiches (x2)
                    Pimento Cheese

Dinner:   Leftovers
                Spaghetti and Meatballs, Salad, Garlic Bread
                Vegetable Soup and Cornbread
                 Meatball Subs, Chips, Pickles
                 dinner at Mama's
                 Turkey, Stuffing, Sweet Potato Casserole, Green Beans with Mushrooms, Gravy, Cranberry                        Sauce and  Pumpkin Pie,

Jobs This Week

 Last Week's Jobs:

Clean off the sewing table and deal with the projects on it.

Clean and wipe out the baking cupboard and organize.

Take stuff into booth and arrange.

Plant daffodils and iris, at least some of them.

Start working on shopping lists for upcoming holidays, parties, and gatherings.

Get Christmas tree out of shed and let sit on porch for a few days to that there are absolutely positively NO mice coming in with it.   

Decide just how I want to decorate this year and gather my inspiration photos, my materials and such.  Thanksgiving Table only thus far.  

This Week:

Grocery Shopping early

Harvest Day/paying bills/running errands

Plant iris and daffodil

Prep ahead by making stuffing breads, chopping vegetables, making pie, cranberry sauce, etc.

Clean out the dishes and glassware cabinets in the kitchen

Tag ten items for the booth

Friday, November 21, 2014

In My Home This Week: Living Frugally, Living Well

Sunday in the kitchen: Challah for Shabbat, Chocolate Syrup for cocoa and Grappleberry Jelly

Saturday:    I've been looking about on Pinterest this afternoon and I must say that I gathered quite a few ideas for meals, blog posts, savings ideas, decorating and solution ideas...Oh the list just goes on and on.  I kept a piece of paper here by me and jotted down ideas I want to try immediately.  I filled it front and back! Mighty inexpensive for something that honestly most say is a waste of time.  I say use it like any other 'tool' and explore it once a week to see what you might learn!

We turned off the propane when it got too warm here in the house.  I am lobbying for a propane heater with a thermostatic sensor so that it comes on and goes off when temperature is reached.  I say it will be a savings for us and I think my gentle prodding has worked.  John told someone earlier this week that we'll likely see about this purchase next summer. In the meantime, we'll make do on these cool days (and there are plenty more to come in the next week!) with the combination of propane and electric heat.

Washed a full load of dishes this evening.

I've been very slack about suppers this week.  I made French toast tonight and told John that I think our Shabat Saturday evening suppers shall be breakfast meals, at least through these cold months ahead.  It's seldom we eat a homemade breakfast on Saturday mornings, in the interest of saving me a little labor but I think Saturday evening would be ideal for made ahead casserole dishes that can cook in the oven or crockpot, and be made ahead on Friday.

I saved the remaining custard mixture from the toast to use in mixing up muffins later this week ahead.

Cooked my full meal in the oven today: roast beef, peas, cauliflower au gratin and potatoes.  I put baking potatoes in to bake alongside. I'll make Twice Baked potatoes for supper later this week.

I have enough roast beef left to make sandwiches for supper and put another sandwich of same in John's lunch basket for tomorrow.

Saved the fatty scraps and the rinsing of the meat dish for the pets for their evening snack. Now that it's colder I do give them a small portion of food each evening so they have extra calories to ward off the cold.

I steamed the cauliflower in the microwave before putting in dish for au gratin.  I steamed the peas in the oven.  Because there was no salt added to either item when steaming, I saved that nutrient rich water to use for my African Violets.

Our breakfast this morning was bagel and cream cheese, with perfectly ripe bananas.

I used the last of the strawberries to make a dessert for our meal.  These went into the hot oven when I removed the other items and cooked while we ate.  I sliced strawberries into ramekins and then topped with crushed vanilla wafers (there were just a very few left in the bag) mixed with a little sugar and butter and spooned on top of the berries.  It made quite a good crumble topping.

John and I have gotten into the habit of sharing a 12 ounce can of soda most afternoons.  It's a nice way to cut down while we continue to  enjoy a soda.  I can't help but remember that initially those 16 and 20 ounce bottles of soda were meant to serve 2 or 3 and that a typical serving of Coke was 6 ounces. Sometimes it's nice to revert to 'vintage' ways.

Walked to the mail box.  The purpose was to try and get a head start on a card I am late in mailing.  The benefit was that Maddie and I both got some much needed exercise. It gave me a chance to check out the pecan trees closely and to pick up some trash that blew onto the property.  And it was fun to see where the deer apparently 'dance' all night.

Sunday:  Turned off television about an hour after John left this morning.  It is doubtful it will come on again today until much later in the evening.

Turned out all unnecessary lights and opened blinds after sunrise to let in all the natural light.

Packed John's lunch, made him breakfast.

Repaired the shredder...again.  I just won't let the thing quit and be broken!  Got it up and running again this morning after two weeks or so being sidelined.  Nice to get that big pile of papers shredded.

Pulled some apple peels and cores, frozen grapes, some raspberries I'd bought fresh and 'saved' and a few blackberries from the freezer.  I'll try my hand at making a few jars of jelly. later in afternoon: 14 jars of jelly and 3 cups of juice leftover for another batch on another day...And to think this is all stuff that normally ends up in the trash!  Cost to me was 1 bag of sugar or about $1.59.  I had everything else on hand, including the pectin.  Now to see if I end up with sealed jars of jelly or sealed jars of fruit syrup...I've heard 14 pings!  Jelly or syrup?  Soft Jelly...and it's good!  I messed this up royally so that it decided to gel even a bit is a thrill to me.  I'll read directions much much more closely next time.

Made up some Challah for Shabat evenings. I divide one recipe into three smaller loaves as we seldom will finish the Challah, though I have no idea why we don't.  It's really quite good, but there's always a bit left over at the end of the week.

Rounded up a full load of laundry to wash and hung most to dry.  I put a few things in the dryer, too.

Made Chocolate Syrup.  This time of year I often want hot milk but don't care for it plain and not always  wanting vanilla milk either.  Now I'll have a choice of hot chocolate if I choose.

Had a dinner of leftovers and some grapes.

Wiped down one row of upper kitchen cupboards inside and organized and neatened the things in them.  I found only one item to toss: those oven bags you bake foods in.  No clue why I had those.  Don't even remember owning them!

I ate the last three oatmeal cookies.  Now what shall I make next to fill that cookie jar?

As the house warmed up this afternoon I cut off all the heat and turned on a couple of fans.  I pointed one at the clothes I'd hung to dry.  It was too humid and too cloudy to expect them to dry outdoors.

Monday:  I said I was going to cut down on how often we eat breakfast sausage (even if the bulk of it is turkey) and I'm straining hard to do just that.  Today I portioned out just two little links each for us as a compliment to our breakfast of Eggs and toast.  We had some of the homemade jelly on our toast.  It's quite good!  The apples in the juice were from those lovely Winesap apples we bought in North Georgia in October.

I didn't have a real need to do big housework today so I planned to make a few meals ahead in the kitchen.  Here's what I did: I started our dinner first and then I mixed up a meatloaf.  As I got the add ins prepped and set aside (mushrooms, onions, bread crumbs) I realized I wouldn't need all the meat (a half pound of turkey and a half pound of beef) to make the meatloaf, so I used about 2/3 of each.  The remaining portions of each were browned in a Dutch oven and I made chili.  This should serve us at least one and possibly two meals.  I'll make it a freezer meal for another week when things are crazy.

The meatloaf cooked alongside our dinner entree.  I plan to use a portion of this for sandwiches for supper as well as serve dinner from it tomorrow.

I made BBQ sauce for the wings from a dribble of bottled sauce, ketchup, mustard and the last of the sauce packet from the frozen Honey Chicken we ate last Monday.  It really added nice sweetness and heat to the sauce.

I had a bit of coleslaw leftover.  We won't eat it unless I plan it into a meal, so I'm changing up my supper plans to include Slaw dogs (cooked hot dogs in a bun topped with slaw).  It's something we do like and will use the slaw up nicely.

Tuesday:  It was cold last night and slated to be cold today and colder still tonight.  When I got up John had two burners lit on our propane heater.  I don't think we've ever cranked it up on high, we've always found medium enough on the very coldest days.

I bought tangerines this pay period. They are so sweet and delicious.  They are also HUGE.  John and I have been sharing one.

After breakfast John wanted to wash a load of clothes.  Again we searched the house to fill the washer.  This time I stripped the bed and remade it with fresh sheets.  He washed a full load of clothes, hung most to dry.

I noted one corner seam of the washed fitted sheet was torn.  I set it aside to repair before using again.  I only have three sets of sheets for our bed, so I will definitely be repairing that shortly.  I've started a small stack of mending/altering to be done.  When I sit down at the sewing machine later this week I'll be able to work my way through the batch and have it all done.

John went out to winterize the faucets and pump.   We buy special insulators for the faucets and we put a light in the pump house.

I went to the shed and took out a few items I needed.  One was a big blue and white onion jar I wanted to use as a centerpiece on the dining table.  Another was a coffee container we were given by friends who brought us coffee from Germany.  I realized it would be a great storage container for my decaf pods for single cups of coffee.

Made cookies to refill the cookie jar.

My little meatloaf was enough for our dinner today and three sandwiches which was supper and part of John's work lunch.

Entered Coke points into my account at MyCokeRewards and bought a free 12 pack coupon.  That should arrive in time to use when Cokes are higher in cost for winter.

Priced 30 items for the booth.  This is mostly new stock that I've been holding in reserve for several months, for Christmas.

We've been pulling curtains early on these cold afternoons, especially on the non-sunny side of the house.  I also let the shades stay open on the sunny side as it brings in additional warmth.

John plugged in the pumphouse light after dark.

I'd spent an hour this afternoon cleaning another upper cabinet.  I tossed a few items that were expired by many many months.  I also made sure to note what we needed to use up and stop 'saving' (like prunes, dried blueberries).

A little shifting of less often used but needed items, like a cast iron Dutch oven and an electric knife sharpener, into the cabinets above the fridge, gave me a little more room in my main kitchenwares cupboard.

Washed another very full load of dishes.  I used the short wash cycle since I rinse dishes well before putting them in the machine.

John went to look for crackers this evening in the foodstorage cupboard and found ants.  He pulled everything out and sprayed while I went into damage control mode.  Fortunately these were scouting ants and none of the foodstuffs has been invaded yet, wonder of wonders.  I noted that we had three open boxes of cereal.  I  made note of this as I was emptying them into glass and plastic storage containers.  In future, new boxes of cereal will go to the pantry and we'll open them up one at a time.

Wednesday:  Mama and I had dinner at Cracker Barrel.  For me that is shopping and meal combined.  I love to roam about looking at the items in their store.  Lots of things got put back after checking prices.  What I didn't put back was a necklace and a set of bracelets that will add to my current wardrobe.

Mama's turn to buy lunch, my turn to buy dessert.  That came from my allowance.

I left the heat turned down when I left home this morning   No need of heating a house when no one was home.

My supper was leftovers from meals this week.

Opened cabinet doors under sinks on the outside walls of the house and plugged in the pump house light.

Wanted to do a trial run of a table setting for Thanksgiving.  I wasn't pleased with the centerpiece so will see why I can do to change that.   I have several sets of plates I can choose from but I really hoped to use the Mandalay pattern china.

Sent off for a free magazine trial.  This offer was for the Christmas issue of the magazine which is the most highly coveted one of the year.  I look forward to receiving that.

Have made at least first Swagbucks goal every day.

Thursday:  Went to town to work on booth.  I was asked if I'd like to move to a bigger space but confessed that until I made money consistently each month (rent and a bit more) that it seemed foolish to me. The store owner offered to 'feature' some of my best stuff at the front door to draw people back to my booth.  I offered to increase my footage by purchasing two more shelving units after Christmas, which will fit within the space I have but double my display area.

I was happy to have a pot of chili to put on the stove and warm when I came in.  I'd planned to serve over rice, but John hadn't had Chili mac in some time, so I did that instead.  There was enough chili mac for our meal and a portion for him to heat at work Sunday.

I prepped tomorrow's dinner ahead...and made my weekend menu plans.  Then I sat down and figured out our little post Thanksgiving meal for the two of us.  We will have it next Friday and serve up leftovers for our dinner on Saturday, which means no cooking for me, just reheating plates of food.

John washed a full load of clothes, dried them all on the line.

I made sure to unplug the pumphouse light when I went out.

We're fighting ants.  I put out one of those Terro poison traps.  I'm telling you that ants consider that thing party central.  The theory is that they take the poison to the nest.  I'd swept the bathroom twice already and kept coming in to find the floor littered with dead ants.  Obviously two separate colonies were coming in and warring on the bathroom floor...So I put down the Ortho Terro poison in their path.  When I went in later there was a six lane highway headed to the thing.  I told John we'd leave in place overnight and see what traffic looked like in the morning...

Friday:  I found the ants were moving slowly but arriving in droves and had abandoned highways and started coming in from everywhere.  Phooey.  They might well be taking to the colonies, but it's too slow to suit me.  I put down another trap nearer what appears to be the entry point.  Those 'slow moving' ants sped up to get to the new trap!  I'm trying to use what I have on hand but three hours later, I'd had enough.  I got the can of spray and drowned them.  No fears that I was going overboard with this poison. The spray has proven virtually ineffective except for use to aim and drown.  If an ant doesn't hiccup after the spray then I doubt it's going to harm a human at all...But it is effective at drowing!  Ants are done and no more to be seen strewn across my bathroom floor.

We made a trip out of town to run an errand.  Picked up mail, took off trash...had lunch out, too.  We went to the meat market to pick up the meat for our family dinner in early December.  Mama asked that I pick up some ground meat for her.  I satisfied my own needs with a rotisserie chicken for tomorrow's main entree (and sandwiches from leftovers).  We chose to get a steak sandwich from the deli case too and ate that in the care.  We had sodas with us and just enjoyed our little picnic dinner with the autumn breezes and sunshine.

We bought a bag of ice while at the meat market.  It was meant to keep the cryopacked meat cold until we got home.  We put the bag in the freezer and will use it to ice down a cooler of drinks for our dinner.

I shopped at home this morning and took a turkey breast from the freezer to thaw for later next week, a loaf of bread for right now, bagels for breakfast.  I won't worry about pre-packing John's lunch until early tomorrow evening, as sundown comes fairly early.

Put away the food Maddie didn't eat this morning before coming indoors.  Now that the outdoor temps are warming, ants will make inroads to the pet food bowls looking for any foods they can find.

Living Well

As we drove today I pointed out an oak tree in a yard along the way.  "That tree trunk is HUGE.  Although the tree doesn't look very tall, I think it must be very old all the same, John."  He looked at it and nodded.  I'm not sure John has any feeling over much about trees but I admire them, in an artistic sort of way because some just have a lovely shape or color or bark or attractively shaped leaf.  I admire them in a natural way.  It seems to me their lives are pretty harsh overall what with drought, flood, storms and man.
I admire them for all that they give, from fruits or nuts to leaves to shade to wood.  It seems to me that trees outgive just about any other thing on this earth. Paper, food, fuel, shelter, shade come from a tree. 

I'm so fond of trees that I have memories based upon various trees...

  As we drove today I noted the deep gold of Hickory in the woods.  Hickory trees have a broad blade like leaf and shower the ground with hickory nuts.  When I was a newly married young homemaker, there was an ancient hickory tree just down the hill.  I gathered those nuts and shelled them out to make cookies and cakes for gifts.  I noted the deep tarnished gold color of the leaves.  Now when we drive past woods in autumn, I look at the golden leaves and know which are hickory.  I think of my formerly owned tree and wonder if it is still littering the ground with nuts each autumn.  It's one of my favorite trees to remember.

Another favorite tree is the weeping willow that grew outside my aunt's kitchen window.  Her home had a basement which is quite unusual here in the South.  Her washing machine was there and the rinse water was piped up to that Weeping Willow.  It was lush and green and as a child I was able to hide out of sight in the depth of it's greenery.  The grass under that tree was spongy and green and thick.  It was the perfect place to be.

Here on this place there is a grove of water oaks midway of the property.  That area was where we played.  Our 'houses' were in the clear spots between roots around each tree and we girls coveted the largest tree with the most 'rooms' surrounding it.  Those of us unlucky enough to not claim that tree in a hurry had to make do with add on rooms of leaves scraped into straight lines, most unsatisfactory if it was summer and the leaves scarce or winter winds blew hard and swept our additions away.  It was such a lovely grove that my brother claimed that spot and built his home when he was an adult.

At Granny's were tall water oaks planted some 30 years earlier.  One was near the pasture fence.  It still stands though it is now dangerously shedding large branches during storms.  That tree is a good 75 years old at the least.  It was at that tree that Grandaddy aimed me when he taught me to ride my first bike.  I didn't know how to brake, so he told me "Take your into the barbed wire fence or the oak tree."  I chose the oak tree.  I knew then I'd learn to brake or choose the barbed wire fence.  That tree was mighty hard!

It was another such oak in the back yard that held our plank and rope swing.  I can still remember watching Grandaddy construct that swing from a piece of scrap wood and two great lengths of rope.  We soared high in that swing and enjoyed it mightily.  There were three trees in a row there in the back yard.  The middle one was where the king snake came creeping slowly down.  He showed me the bulge in the snake's body where he'd swallowed an egg from the bird nest in the tree.

I came home and opened the curtains and shades after our drive.  The shadow of  the Sweet Gum tree fell across the window.  Just this week I sat in the craft room admiring the radiant orange glow of the leaves through the lacy curtain.  Katie played often under that tree.  It was where she insisted we pitch her first improvised tent for her first camping experience. 

 I smiled remembering the day I told John that one day those trees would be tall enough to shade our home at least for a portion of each day.  We'd been here 17 years when the shadow of the  pecan tree finally reached across the yard and touched the windows of the living room each evening as the summer sun set.  Now the shadows of it's branches pattern the windows in autumn afternoons.

And I cannot forget my Faith tree, the male persimmon which sits in front of the house next to the front porch.  The poor little thing was absolutely stunted by the unceremonious scooping up and replanting it got from my brother when he realized the front porch meant the tree had to go.  He planted it with the bulldozer.  It sat there and sat there and sat there all through the spring and into early summer.  John kept suggesting we cut it down.  I bent the twigs gently and said "No....It's living yet."  John would shake his head and walk away.  Finally it was July.  "Face it, Terri.  The tree is dead.  Tomorrow I am cutting it down."  I prayed over that tree then, putting my hands upon the slender trunk and walked sadly away.  

The next day John went out to the shed to get his saw.  He came to the front door and shouted, "Terri!"  I came running, thinking he'd injured himself.  "What did you do to this tree?!"  "Nothing!"  "Something!  Just look at it."  The tree had tiny little leaves all over it where there had not even been buds the day before.  "I just prayed over it!" I said and John through his head back and laughed.  "Well that was some powerful prayer.  We'll call this the faith tree!"  And so we've called it ever since.  When we are renumerating the things we've seen God do in our lives we include that tree...

I for one, am awfully glad that God made trees! 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Guest/Craft Room: Phase 1

                                                    Not exactly a warm welcome is it?

I confess it took me a few months to do anything at all with Katie's room after she moved out.  She left home in August 2010 and I don' t think I did too much just at first except fill it up with stuff that I didn't want in other areas of the house but hadn't gumption enough to take out to the shed.  I'm not sure how it is I even have this photo of the room, because honestly I can show you dozens, literally dozens, in which I have carefully cropped the photo just so that you see a single item but don't see the room at all.  This is where we began and this is how it stayed until along about January or February 2014, and then it was only marginally better.

Truth be told, I'd looked forward to being an empty nester...after all I'd been actively parenting for 30 years or so by the time Katie moved out.  But I was completely and totally blindsided by how I felt after she left. Lost.  Forlorn. Unanchored. Uncertain.  Useless...the list went on and on and it was all negative stuff!  I'd never been absorbed by my children, although I thoroughly enjoyed parenting for the most part,  but I'd no idea how very closely I identified myself with the role of mama, mumma, mom, mumsie until there was no one here calling me by those names.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Retirement Remedies: Fighting Back From the Home Front

We are so blessed to have our home fully paid for.  And thank goodness!  I cannot imagine how we would make it through our retirement years if we were still paying off our mortgage and though it was a small mortgage compared to many it was a costly one with a high interest rate.  We had the best going rate at the time we financed (at 9.75%!!).  I'm not ashamed to admit that while we consistently paid extra on our mortgage amount we paid it off because I was left a small inheritance.  It was just enough to cover what we owed on our mortgage and despite all the financial advice given by those lovely financial planners telling us that the worst thing we could do was pay off our mortgage,  we paid off the mortgage rather than invest the money.  We thought it a pretty good return on our 'investment' to finally realize our dream of being debt free.

Well being debt free is not the end of the game...staying debt free is a balancing act of figuring out what works, what doesn't and why.  I've made a reminder list of thoughts I've had over the past three weeks.  I'm putting them in my notebook and reviewing them a couple of times a month, just so I keep aware of my purpose.

1.  Repair, paint, maintain, recover, clean.  Read instruction booklets and follow a routine maintenance                schedule for all appliances, vehicles, painted surfaces, fabrics, etc.  If we don't have a manual can I find          one online?   Is there a Youtube video to show me what I need to know?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

In My Home This Week: Menus and Job Plans

It was Wednesday this past week before we had a full day at home and I was more than ready for it.  I piddled about doing homely things all day long.  At the end of the day, I was tired but very satisfied.  It felt good to slip back into my home routines.  I found myself humming happily as I washed dishes.  Nothing like a good day's work doing something you love, is there?

This week I don't have big plans.  John will work two days.  I'll have one of those home alone and one out with Mama.  I am done with Phase I of the Guest/Craft Room, finally.  Now to look for items needed for Phase II.  I'd like to work on the front porch paint and decor, have bulbs and rhizomes to plant and roses to prune back hard now that cold weather is here.  I don't have any major projects ongoing indoors at present so I may actually make it out to the shed and start to really organize that area if it stays nice and cool.

In the kitchen I want to stretch out my meats to last until late December/early January.  I have enough room to purchase a couple of turkeys when I see a good price at the groceries which will help me reach that goal of stretching out meat.

Shabat Thoughts: The Process of Prayer

Saturday as we looked for the time of the University of Georgia game, we noted it was coming on at 7:15 in the evening and was a home game.  "Boy, I am glad we are not in Athens right now!  Can you imagine how crazy the traffic must be on those winding streets and it dark as well?"  John nodded.  "Ha.  Just think last year this time Katie was fighting that traffic on Saturdays to get to work or home again."  John nodded again.

I felt inclined to write Katie a quick note reminding her of the fact that she'd moved away from that fast food job that kept her tangled in traffic for an hour or more to drive the five minutes from home to work.  As I typed out my message to her, I realized that a great deal had changed in her life since last November.  She'd faced a lot of hardships and heartaches, the lifetime sort, during the last three years, but all of them seemed nothing to the suffering she went through last fall.  John and I cried out on her behalf again and again in our prayers.