Thursday, March 5, 2015

Coffee Chat: Peepers and Blooms

Hello, hello...Come in!  I'd meant to make cookies but bananas ripened and so I decided that called for Banana Pound cake.  I love to make this in 2 loaf pans and freeze one for future use. The tube pan is big and hefty and must cook far longer than the 2 loaf pan.  It took 76 minutes to bake these this week, a bit longer than usual perhaps due to the humidity. There's coffee which will be most appreciated now we're back cool again.  It was so pleasant the first part of this week that we had the windows open.  It was so nice to sit here in the evening hours and listen to the peepers outdoors that we turned off the TV and let them serenade us.  How peaceful it was!

I noted on our way to church Sunday morning that at last our maples are starting to bloom here.  This is a full month later than the maples we saw in the coastal area at the first of February which were fully in bloom.  As well, the river willows have a healthy yellow tint to their uppermost stems...Soon they will be covered in a soft tender green.  Like the red of the peach trees branches, the yellowing of the stems indicates sap rising.   I found several early bloomers in wild plums, wild pear and Japanese magnolia on the way back home that day.  But just to show us who is boss and who is not, it has turned off cool once more.

I felt so full of energy on Sunday and happily contemplated my ambitious list of projects and jobs for March.  I reined myself in on Sunday and convinced myself that the weekly kitchen cleaning was really quite enough for that day.   I'd already made both breakfast and dinner and we'd gone to church, so the day was really nearly gone. Of course, I woke Monday morning feeling quite ill with acing ears, sore throat and stuffy head.  I am not sick again, but the after effects of the cold or allergies are playing havoc with me at the moment.  I managed to push through by mid morning and after setting dinner in the oven to cook, I tackled my room and got that big dresser of mine sorted out.  It pleased me no end to see that chaotic mess neatly organized once more.

I didn't cull very much at that time as I hate to cull clean clothes.  I tossed only one shirt and that one only because it had a huge stain that was too prominent to ignore.  I'll wear the rest of the shirts in the order they are placed and if they are badly stained, I'll toss them after I wear them a day or two.  If they are nice enough to keep for further wearing I'll place them in a different area of the drawer after they are freshly laundered.

I also sorted out several files of things and got them better organized.  By dinner time I'd accomplished quite a lot and since dinner tended to itself for the most part, it was accomplished with minimal interruptions.

After dinner I cleaned the fridge.  I'd opened a bottle of sparkling Moscato last week and had a glass.  John had re corked it for me but the bottle leaked and boy was that a sticky mess which hit every single shelf and the bottom of the fridge, too.  It took a good 40 minutes to clean that fridge up.  I am glad it was not full. I always find the best time to clean the fridge is just before grocery shopping don't you?

I had my head just full of things as I worked Monday.  I am longing to refresh my kitchen.  I want to replace the rugs and curtains and incorporate more red and turquoise into the room.  I'd painted one shelf to use somewhere (not sure where just yet) but decided last Friday that the one with the chickens and red tray should be painted as well... It's not a bright turquoise but a sort of smoky grayed turquoise color that I find very easy on the eye and is the exact color of the blue in the center of the flower on the canister set, which really was the inspiration.

If you enlarge the picture you can better see the blue centers of those flowers on the canisters

I've some lovely vintage ads from a 1923 magazine that was falling to pieces that I salvaged and plan to frame.  And if we can remove that galley rail on the wall above the stove hood I should be able to fit pretty plates I've found.  I plan to install a small piece of wood to keep plates from slipping.  I am looking forward to changing things up.  Of course my budget for this is small, just about $100.

I got a major bit of shopping done on Tuesday of this week.  I found some rugs for the kitchen which I am considering hard and after looking for months at fabrics and curtains I succumbed to my old favorite place to find curtain material: the sheet aisle at Walmart.  I found a lovely pattern with the perfect colors.  Want to see?

The cream rocker in the kitchen sitting area adorned with rugs I'm considering and... 

close up of the 'material' for the new curtains aka a full sized sheet from Walmart.

                                                  dish towels...

I saw a photo on Facebook the other day which reminded me strongly of Grandmama C's kitchen.  The photo showed an older grandmother with two little girls.  The woman was seated at a kitchen table with the enameled cast iron sink.  There was visible nowhere a dish drainer, or cloth or bottle of soap.  The counter seen in the photograph was remarkably empty as well.  The kitchen had simple curtains at the window with a matching cloth on the table.  I could almost smell the aroma of diluted bleach that permeated Grandmama's kitchen.  She really was a stickler for keeping her kitchen sanitary and clean.  She put away her rinsed and dried dish drainer as soon as she'd wiped the dishes dry and put them away, and the soap was stowed neatly away under the sink.  The damp cloth was hung on a little aluminum rack attached to the inside of the door.  Now Grandmama did have a canister set on the counter top and a cookie jar but the rest of her items were put neatly away.  Of course at that time there were no microwave or coffeemaker to clutter things up anyway.

I looked about my kitchen afterwards and loathed the amount of stuff on the counters.  I thought and thought about what I could do and after a bit I jumped up and went to work.  First I took the big old crock full of kitchen tools and moved the empty crock back to the living room.  I emptied the boxes of baggies out of the island drawer and dumped in all those tools, willy nilly-ish.  I can organize and cull them later but for now that is one less item on my counter top.  I had a metal holder silverware caddy that was red and cute but big and took up a bit of space, so I dumped out the silverware and put that in a smaller tin after removing lots of pieces and putting them in the side board silver drawer.

Then because I had nowhere to put the baggies, I emptied two of the kitchen drawers and tossed a small grocery bag of junk, just pure junk.  Why do I save the  most useless odds and ends?!  I put the baggies in the top drawer and after sorting dish cloths and towels I had a neat drawer of those items and a bag full of things to do something with.  Too good to toss, not quite sure if they could be donated.

I've worked in this kitchen for 18 years now and it's taken time to figure out what works and what doesn't and how to refine it all so that it works best.  I think removing the canisters and the mixer to the little counter next to the fridge and designating that as a baking center was one of my brainier ideas.  It was good thinking and has been convenient as can be.  I noticed that afresh when I was making the pound cakes.  I had room enough to work, the refrigerator was next to me, the island handy to hold the floured and greased cake pans and just steps away is the sink.  Every item needed was right there.

Oh how I'd love to redo the kitchen.  Not in a huge way but it would be costly all the same.  I'd enlarge that kitchen window a bit and ever so slightly increase the sink area.  I'd love to have deep drawers to hold pots and pans and to switch the stove over just 1 foot and catty corner it into that deep dead space I can't use at all.  I'd put in a wall of cabinets for a pantry space and build in a desk and bookshelf for cookbooks.

But I cannot redo the kitchen and needs demand we replace flooring and windows and underpinnings first, and John has already agreed to have the work on the front porch begin in that someday time when my brother has time to get around to us.  That too is necessary work as the steps are breaking down rapidly and this will be the second time in our  years here we've had the to deal with them.

I decided that my bed and bath were my project areas this why am I doing the kitchen? Because inspiration struck hard!  I get excited when that happens and things start to fall into place.  I have worked on the bedroom and bath.  In fact, I've only two more cabinets to clean in the bath and one of those is debatable since it's mostly John's house tool stuff and John makes a huge mess of things in that cabinet.  And I've told you what I did in the bedroom with my dresser.  Next I plan to work on the closet.  It's not bad, but it does need refining.  When we had to clear the closet for the hot water heater outage a couple of months ago I just put things back and didn't bother to organize.

Last week I went with John to Best Buy.  I had to have a new mouse for my computer and of course we walked around.  I indulged myself big time.  I bought all five seasons of Downton Abby.  I realized the previous weekend as I watched the program how very much I enjoy it.  It's not story line but the glimpses into bygone eras, the costumes (oh my word the costumes!), the scenery etc., the social and moral actions, the manners and decorum...isn't decorum a lovely old word?  Too bad we see so little of that today!  I had some birthday money with me and I bought the discs.

One thing I do know: Masterpiece Theater productions are so beautifully done.  I will watch them over and over and over again.  I have several productions on VHS tapes that I can no longer watch, I rent the Dvds from Netflix repeatedly.  I felt no shame when I bought the Downton Abby Dvds even when John questioned my reasoning behind such an extravagant purchase.  He'd never have questioned if it was perfume or books or something for the house but he knew I seldom purchase anything that pricey for my own entertainment.  I expect what made him bite his tongue hardest though was that it was my birthday money being spent.  House rules are that we shouldn't question allowance and gift monies we spend.  Those can be spent however and where ever we choose.

I looked out the kitchen window last night as I was cleaning the kitchen sink and there was the moon gliding slowly upwards.  I haven't seen the moon rise in the longest bit of time and it was so pretty as it slipped in and out of the clouds.  I smiled to myself as I watched.  I went about the kitchen shutting the blinds and curtains and came to the living room to see the sun setting, with lots of bright turquoise and soft coral and gray puffy clouds to soften the whole from being garish.  That was lovely as well and I realized in the space of about 5 minutes I'd seen the sun and the moon.  It was a bit like watching the night shift husband go off to work while the day working neighbor came in.

I told you we were back at cooler weather this afternoon but just this morning the AC was running...Yes really.  It was about 76 outdoors this morning and humid as could be.  It was unpleasant.  We caught a bit of heavy rain on our way back from the grocery, but we'd had only light showers here.  Then the cooler wind blew in and it's been lovely.  I am so not prepared for the heat and humidity of summer!  If my blood were thinner and I were less prone to glistening to the point of dripping, I'd welcome it, I would really.  But it makes for one miserable woman.  I had a hard time sleeping last night with the warmth, sigh.  My consolation is that this too is a season and shall pass and I am not referring to pre-Spring, Spring, Summer nor Fall (all warm weather seasons here) but my personal little season.

The muscari came up overnight.  I guess the warmth brought them on.  They are so pretty mixed with the yellow daffodils.  I think this royal combination of yellow and purple is my favorite.  It is one of nature's own choosing for you see it nearly every spring and fall here, in wildflowers along the roadways.

I finished Stillmeadow Seasons in which Mrs. Taber spoke often of her 'Quiet Garden' which was fenced in by a white picket fence and had a blue slate floor and every flower was pink, white or blue.  Now doesn't that sound lovely?  I've often thought gardens of all white or a set color theme would be pretty...but then I think of not seeing purple iris or orange day lily or red roses or watermelon crepe myrtle and my thoughts dissolve.  I suggest to myself that perhaps all colors belong in a garden.  But it is restful to the eye and mind to see just a few together and if you haven't a wide open space that all blends into the next the way my own yard does then perhaps themed gardens could be nicely done and enjoyed.  For my open space I am limited to the edges of the yard and just about the house. Really I've had loads of flowers at times but currently I have few and that does not make me happy in the least.

It is another of my 'someday' dreams to see this property cleared somewhat once more (in places and not so much in others.  I'd love to have fencing along the main road and a gate at the head of the main drive.  In my mind it looks like a pristine little farm with flowers and fruit trees and vegetable garden and a barn for animals and a chicken pen and all those lovely things.  But my husband looks at me with dead eyes and yawns and asks "Really?"  Gracious that he lives here willingly at all is quite a big deal for he is used to larger metro areas within walking distance of home and felt he'd quite gone to the wild side living in the small town in the next county, lol.   It is that all that lovely life takes a lot of hard work and money and dedication.  And while I have the dream, I am sadly short on the requirements.  I find it difficult enough to rustle up anyone willing to feed Maddie for a day or two should we desire to go anywhere and frankly you just don't really up and leave a homestead for more than a day. Of course, there is always the possibility that necessity will drive us to have that homestead!

I scan headlines now and then and a Yahoo!News line read "Your Grandparents Paid More for Groceries Than You" and I laughed out loud.  I suppose if your grandparents lived in the city they did indeed but my family survived on what they raised, foraged or bartered for.  Corn and wheat were raised and ground for personal use, vegetables and fruits were cultivated.  Beef and chicken and eggs and pigs were raised and eaten fresh or canned or cured.  Milking and butter and cream and buttermilk were part of the daily routine.  Cane was grown for the syrup made each fall.  Granny tells me they purchased bananas once a year at Christmas as well as raisins.  Oranges were bought for the children's stockings.    Can you imagine what a treat those things were when they were limited to once a year?

I think it's that idea of 'special' that drives me to eat as seasonally as possible and to keep some things for special once a year treats.  It is lovely to reach into my deep freeze and pull out peaches or strawberries to use to make a special something out of season but they hardly taste the same as fresh in season items.   I think everyone should eat fresh in season just to know the difference in that and canned and frozen items. Not that the canned or frozen is inferior but different in texture and taste.  There's a great deal to be said for running your thumb down the seam of a pea pod and popping those sugar sweet green gems into your mouth.  Unbelievable.  Or a warm ripe tomato bitten into like an apple.

I just chuckled remembering a day when we children were here with Granny.  She truly believed in keeping up occupied and this particular day we were in the garden picking butter beans or something. We whined and complained and fussed as we worked and finally I remember someone saying "But Granny....I'm HUNGRY!"  And she didn't even stop work then.  "Well for heaven's sake, you're in the garden and it's just FULL of things to eat!"  We all stopped and looked at one another.  I don't think it ever occurred to us that we might EAT what was right before us.  No, indeed we were too used to seeing it cooked or sliced or preserved in some way.  We attacked a tomato plant like a horde of hungry pests and ate a tomato each and then we shared a couple of bell peppers between us and no one complained of being hungry until it was time to stop and prepare lunch.

Gardening...It does come up as a subject this time of year doesn't it?  I saw a man the other day at the local store  when I bought the rosemary plants.  He and his wife and child were getting onion sets, cabbage and tomato starts.  "We'll just go slow, " the husband said to his wife.  "We can plant a few things now to come in behind these but this will get us started.  I've waited late to get ready."  I've been slack myself.  I've not purchased the containers I'd promised myself I'd rout out and I've not bought seeds and I've not started a thing for the coming season.  I don't need much really for us.  I'd love a small garden but the deer would eat it right down.   I still mean to use that kennel but need to really get busy building those raised beds.

Oh the many many things I want to do!  Quilting and gardening, sewing and painting, writing and jelly making, genealogy and canning, furniture refinishing and landscaping.  I feel like that commercial where the mom needs multiples of herself to tend to all her tasks during the ady.  Would ten of me get it all done, do you think?

Well dears, I should end here.  Time has moved on and the afternoon is nearly gone.  I'd meant to get so much done this afternoon but here we are, chatting away and I wouldn't trade this for a clean closet or weeded flower bed.  Talk to you again soon!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

This Week In My Home: Marching Forward

Well...uhm...last week?  I made ONE meal from that menu I posted.  One.  John asked for a special meal one day, bought dinner out another.  He asked to use the baked potatoes I'd cooked ahead for hash browns, and I decided that we really should have some chicken so made Chicken Curry.  I didn't purchase a thing for any of the meals we made, used only what we had here at home. much for planning, right?  Well it gets worse.  I didn't do even one task on my job list.  Not one.  I moved the duster from the living room to the bedroom.

I'm just going to admit that February, while pleasant enough, was a bit of a bust where work and plans were concerned.  However, I feel much better and I think I will be able to get back on track.
We'll start in the kitchen.

The changes made to the menu last week, meant I used a LOT of meat. I did put three meals in the freezer from that extra meat but I want to correct that this week.  I started it with today's meal.  The recipe called for a pound of sausage.  I used 12 ounces.  I had leftovers enough for two more meals.  That is a help to setting the grocery budget back on track.  I have plans for dinner tomorrow which will cook while we're at church.  I expect leftovers from that dish as well.

15 Bean Sausage Soup, Cornbread, Lemon Cake
I hadn't planned to cook the whole package of beans at first, but decided to go ahead.  This soup was so good.  The recipe was found on the package of beans.  I put two quarts of soup into jars to freeze for future meals.  Leftover cornbread will go with tomorrow's dinner.

New England Boiled Dinner, Cornbread, Lemon Cake
I bought a corned beef this past pay period and kept it in the fridge since I planned to cook it last week.  I'm glad those things are cryo packed.  I'll start this in the crock pot before we leave for church.  The cabbage is washed and cut into wedges, the potatoes were cut in pieces and put to soak in water in the fridge, the carrot is trimmed and cut into pieces.  I put broth in the freezer from the last corned beef and have it thawing on the counter.  That will be the liquid in today's corned beef.  I expect to get this meal, sandwich meat for later this week and put meat in the freezer for a future entree.

Twice Baked Potatoes, Green Beans, Sliced Tomatoes, Green Salad
I've a big bag of russets so no loss in baking more potatoes to make a meatless meal.  This is one meal I can serve John without him asking if we're going vegetarian, lol. It's satisfying on many levels both appetite and budget wise.  I'll bake extra potatoes to use for soup.

on my own

Porcupine Meatballs, Mashed Potatoes, Butter Beans, Pineapple Salad
If I find I have green bell pepper halves in the freezer, and I expect I do, I will make stuffed peppers.  I always use the same recipe for Porcupine Meatballs anyway.  This is a good meat stretcher since I use only 1/2 pound meat.  I'll have leftovers of this one, too. 

Barbecue Chicken, Cream Corn, Black Eye Peas, Coleslaw, Biscuits
I'll thaw and cut up a whole chicken and likely use the leg quarters and wings for this dish.  All the vegetables are in the freezer, plenty of cabbage left for coleslaw and I'll make biscuits from scratch.  Some of the biscuits will be breakfast the next day.

Cream of Potato Soup, Reuben Sandwiches, Pickles
I think soup a second time will help swing the budget back into balance.  I have no need to buy a thing this week to make these meals, so my grocery money will go towards pantry/freezer stock, fresh fruits, paper products.

Jobs This Week

I've confessed I did not get a thing done on my list this past week.  No matter.   I've made my plans for this week and I suspect I'll get more done than not.  This month I plan to focus on our bedroom and bath.  This will be a month long list but I'm putting down every job I hope to get done in these spaces and will mark them off as done.

Clean under sink.
Clean out tall cupboard.
Sort linens and toiletries.
Clean walls and dust room well.
Freshen decorations.

Clean bedroom windows.
Dust blinds.
Sort out linens in trunk.
Cull books on bookshelves.
Clean out house clothes drawer.
Go over sweater drawer.
Straighten and organize costume jewelry.
Dust room, clean and polish furniture.

Clean closet.
Organize and cull clothes.
Sort out pictures I want to send to Amie.

Friday, February 27, 2015

This Week In My Home: Frugal Saves the Day!

                         Spray paint transforms thrift store finds into pretties for my home.

Saturday:  This is almost always a slow day in our home.  I look forward to it all week long.  Today's dinner main dish was cooked yesterday.  I prepared Turkey and dressing in the crock pot yesterday and reheated today.

I used a box of stuffing mix that was on my pantry shelf.  I added some leftover cornbread to the mixture along with some homemade chicken broth.

I missed up a squash casserole using cooked squash from the freezer and baked in the oven.  Rather than use the stove top, I put broccoli in a covered dish to steam alongside the squash dish.

I cooked all of the broccoli though it was too much to eat at one sitting.  I was worried that it might spoil if I didn't go ahead and use.  I put the cooked broccoli (and stems) into the freezer.

The day warmed up more than it had in a week's time.   I opened windows and allowed the house to air.

When I served dinner today, I packed up the extras right away leaving just enough for our meal.  This worked out very well and I will try to do this in the future, rather than waiting until after the meal.  It not only discourages overeating, I was able to determine right away what meals I might make from leftovers.

Sunday:  Served up the last two doughnuts this morning. I wanted to make sure they didn't go to waste so I added them to the breakfast menu.

I portioned out leftovers for our dinner today from yesterday's meal.

John washed a full load of clothes and hung most of the clothes to dry.

I had a major nosebleed this evening.  I've had a couple of mild ones with the cold but this one was not minor.  I remembered my son who has had a problem with nosebleeds telling me that he used tampons to pack his nose and that his doctor recommended a certain nose spray.  I didn't have the nose spray on hand but will buy some tomorrow.  I did have tampons in my stock and was able to pack my nose.  An RN friend recommended ice on my face and forehead to help constrict the blood vessels.  This worked very well and did slow the bleeding.

Monday:  Made John's work lunch and breakfast.

I went back to bed this morning.  I didn't sleep as well as I should have last night so I decided a little extra sleep couldn't hurt.  It is the most beneficial thing we can do for ourselves, costs nothing but a wee bit of extra time, and does much good for the body.

Put together two outfits this morning, one based on Pinterest board and the other I put together on my own.  I wore one of those outfits this morning and left the other hanging in the closet ready to wear for next outing.

Washed a full load of dishes this afternoon.

Out with Mama today.  She wanted to go to Dress Barn which she likes very well for clothing.  I've found if I look carefully I often can find a couple of pieces I really like.  I felt especially blessed today to find two of the pieces on my personal shopping list which will help complete two more 'looks' for my wardrobe using pieces I have here at home.  Even more blessed as Mama insisted on treating me to those pieces as a late birthday gift.

I brought home a portion of my chicken from dinner for supper tonight.

Stopped at local grocer to buy diced canned tomatoes for $.50/can.  I only got 1 dozen as the expire date is just one year out and I'm not sure how much I have on hand already.  Still... canned tomatoes are always useful year round so I was sure a dozen wouldn't hurt the pantry or the budget.

There was a rack of plants outside the local grocer.  I noted they had smaller rosemary plants so I bought two today.  I told John in January that I was buying rosemary for my birthday gift to me this year but hadn't seen any since.  I made good on my promise today.  I've had rosemary planted in with a rose for the past five years and they both flourished.  I lost the rosemary with the addition of the new back steps, though we did try to save it.  I guess established rosemary should really wear a 'Do not Disturb sign.  I thought I'd add new rosemary plants into my small rose bed this year.

Afrin nose spray is supposed to stop a nosebleed immediately.  I looked at the grocery but saw only generics and wasn't sure what the active ingredient in Afrin was.  Went to the drugstore and asked the pharmacist and bought a bottle of the generic there.

I found a stick of the analgesic,  Icy Hot, like a solid deodorant.  I have not had the best luck with the squeeze tubes or the sponge type applicators (the last the top came off of completely).  I thought perhaps this solid form might just last a bit longer and be less messy to use.

Tuesday:  Prepared breakfast this morning in a non-frugal way.  Typically I make sausage gravy for the two of us with just two sausage patties.  It's fine really but today I guess I was feeling reckless.  I used four patties. I didn't notice that the meat was anymore prevalent or tasty.  I'll be reversing this in future and go right back to using just two patties when it's just the two of us.  I also treated John to a can of his favorite biscuits. Yes, I do make perfectly good biscuits but he and Katie both LOVE canned biscuits.  I try to indulge him about once a month.

Set aside leftover biscuits to use at another meal.

I took a whole sirloin steak out of the freezer to thaw last night after John texted me his special request meal.  I hadn't made a steak dinner in quite some time.  I didn't need a full steak for the two of us.  I used half cut into two nice portions and cooked those as steak and cut the rest into pieces to use as fajita steak filling.  I added in seasonings, peppers and onions and put the whole lot of it into the freezer as a future convenience meal.

I also cooked a whole chuck roast today.  I'd had it out for a couple of days but hadn't prepared it.  I sprinkled half a packet of dry ranch and half a packet of dry onion soup mix over it and then poured a jar of pepperocini slices over it and let it cook in the crock pot all day long.  Boy did that smell good.  Despite our splurge breakfast and the steak dinner, we had roast beef sandwiches for supper that night.  Yum!  I put two containers (1 2person and 1 4 person sized) into the freezer for future meals.

Wednesday:  Washed two full loads of clothes today.  I wanted to do both sheets and towels.  I also wanted to wash a few clothes. I sorted loads according to fluffiness.  A sweater went in with socks and towels.  Sheets went with work and dress shirts, which would look fuzzy if washed with towels.

I couldn't hang a thing but shirts to dry today, since we always hang them indoors.  It was pouring rain, which has been normal for every day since Saturday.  I don't mind using the dryer when this is the case.  Indeed, I am grateful for it!

John and I went out to run an errand.  I had to have a new mouse for my computer, a new blow dryer, too.  We picked up both at the same store.  I got printer ink as well, and earned a $7 discount by signing up for the store's customer card.

I bought dinner for us on the way home, from the local diner, using my allowance.

Had to write several checks today, all due in the next few days.  Money for all of the items were in the account already, set aside for those bills.  I also had to write a check for my first payment for health insurance.  I'd set aside half.  I had an extra amount of money that I was able to use to pay the other half.

The health insurance bill arrived without any ID or group ID numbers...How was I supposed to designate that the check was for my policy?  I had to call the company and go through the personal info hoops to acquire the policy numbers, sigh.  At least my check will credit to my account.

While we were out, we stopped by a local furniture store to price chairs.  I have two recliners in the living room and both are broken down in  a way that makes them uncomfortable for seating.  I had a price point in mind but realized quickly today that if we're going to buy quality we're going to have to spend more.  I also discovered that the two stores most local to us are 'low to intermediate' stores, not quality furnishings.  I had that directly from the store manager's mouth.  I guess we'll be looking elsewhere after we redetermine what we're willing to spend.  I only meant to replace one at a time.  Good thing!

Wore the outfit I'd pieced out using Pinterest as an inspiration.  It looked good and felt comfortable which made it a real winner.  I realized that I had purchased nothing new for my wardrobe this winter (I haven't worn the two pieces Mama gifted me the other day) and yet every outfit I'd worn was different than any I wore last winter or even this fall.  I love that I was able to get better mileage from my pieces simply by looking at new ways to pair and accessorize.

Thursday:  Made breakfast this morning using leftover biscuits from Monday's breakfast.

We had to go into town today to post those bills.  It was too late to catch the mail lady yesterday.  We carried lists for the dollar store.

I had been trying to purchase a gift card online but internet would not cooperate.  I purchased one in store today.  No savings, but a lot less aggravation.  I then messaged the information to the recipient of the card so they could take advantage of it right away by registering it online.

I made chicken curry today.  I did not have yogurt but I had sour cream nearing expiration.  I found it worked every bit as well.  Though my recipe says to discard the marinade I cook it right along with the chicken which makes it perfectly safe to use.  It thickens as it cooks and  is delicious over rice.

Washed a full load of dishes. I had a few spaces open in the basket so I added in the coffee pot and the sink strainers.

I washed a juice jug (PET) in the dishwasher.  I want to fill with water for storage.  I've found the rectangle shaped jugs will fit more neatly into my space and give me more storage room than the found bottles.  I plan to use this one to replace one of those round ones.

Small savings and reduced calories.  We've found we prefer toasted cheese sandwiches rather than grilled cheese.  No butter and yet we get the toasted bread and melted cheese we enjoy without the burnt butter taste that often resulted in even the most slow grilled version.

Friday:  Saw John off to work.  I made him breakfast and packed his lunch.

I was dressed so warmly in my pajamas, socks, sweater and robe that I didn't turn up the heat at all.  I never felt cold in the least and it wasn't until after lunch that I realized the heater hadn't been turned up.  By then the indoor temperature was higher than the daytime setting.

Spray painted the shelf the chickens sit on above my stove.  I have been just longing to change things up in the kitchen.  Yesterday I bought a lampshade and some dish towels towards that goal.  Today I used the very last of the spray paint to paint that shelf.

Set the range hood vent filter to soak in hot water and dishwasher detergent which lifted the greasy film right out of it.  I swear that thing looked brand new!

Washed a medium load of clothes today and hung to dry.  I put John's heaviest shirt on the curtain rod right in the sunniest window.  He calls that a double solar dryer because the glass amplifies the heat coming in from the sun.  It does do a good job of drying things.

When John left this morning, he asked what were my plans.  I told him honestly I didn't know.  I'd been tossing around ideas all yesterday and yet this morning nothing appealed to me half as much as just being at home tending to things here.  So that's what I've done.  I save far more money being at home and truly didn't need to go out to spend any though I had a list of  good buys I could have gone out to purchase.  I've enjoyed myself far more having fun right here at home.  I finished off cleaning the living room,  did a small bit of fresh decorating in the kitchen, have worked out my goals for March, and cleaned.

I made Challah for three Shabats including tonight's.

Put soup beans on to soak.  We might have eaten meat heavy this week but we can cut back on that today and tomorrow.  I'll have meat dinner in the crock pot for us on Sunday to have after church.

I entered Coke points into MyCokeRewards.

Saw a Facebook post from MyCoke to check my profile for unclaimed rewards.  I had 2 e gift certificates to  I checked to see if I could use them within 35 miles of my home and discovered that several small town places accept the rewards.  I claimed a $10 reward and a $25 reward.  Both were given to me simply for entering points and doing activities on the site.

Because of Shop and Earn earnings from last month I have almost made another Pay Pal gift card, just two short weeks later.  I am very grateful for this and happy that things we needed could be bought online and 'cashed in' for points, too.

Downloaded the FREE Kroger download for the week.

Made a cake from scratch for tomorrow's dinner.  I made a single layer cake.  I now know what 'about the size of a large egg' means.  It's 1/3 cup.  I noted that today as I put the shortening in the bowl for the cake.

Took off trash and picked up branches along one side of the yard.  I stopped and got the mail, too while I was outside.

Living Well

Let's all breathe a collective deep sigh.  February is about to exit and we'll be in March before this weekend is over.

It's a blur for me, truly.  I try to look back over my shoulder and see what February was and I can't see much at all.  It isn't that it went by so terribly fast.  I am pretty sure I lived through every single day of it.

Not a whole lot got accomplished this month but that's okay.  I did enough.  I've almost finished a book.  I managed to get the living room started on a good deep clean and finished 85% of that job.  I spent time with family and soaking up sun on those few days when the sun shone.  I watched a fox from the kitchen window one morning and I've smiled at the daffodils, rain or shine.  And that's about the extent of it.

Lovely February, farewell.  I'm glad that you were here and glad that you come only once a year!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Retirement Remedy: Friend or Foe?

Looking back over my adult life I can see milestone moments in my life with money.  I am not just referring to financial landmarks.  I mean my life with money.

I grew up in a home where two subjects were avoided like the plague: sex and money.  Everything else was up for discussion but the moment either of those words came up, mouths shut tight and glares ensued.  ""  I recall that statement being said just like that in my tender years.   And we didn't discuss it at all.  We didn't discuss it when Mama and Daddy went bankrupt and lost the house and car and Daddy lots his job.  We didn't discuss it through months of unemployment.  We didn't discuss it when we moved into a house that had cracks wide enough to put our hand through in the single layer of board walls and no indoor plumbing, not even running water.  We didn't discuss it when Daddy worked three jobs.  We didn't discuss it when electricity or gas were lacking.  We didn't discuss it when the house went up for sale for non-payment of taxes.  We didn't discuss it when creditors called repeatedly.  We didn't discuss it when I asked my parents to fill out financial paperwork to see if I qualified for college scholarships.  I'll never know.  They refused with "No. We don't tell others what we make."  We didn't discuss money when the car insurance had been cancelled...and three months later the new car was totaled.  Completely taboo.  Swept under the rug and ignored, just like Daddy's alcoholism.

Any wonder I married a man without ever disclosing what I made or asking what he had as income?
Or that our lives were 13 years of financial ruins to heap on top of the 13 years of troubled marriage?

When I was done with the hospital after being hit by a drunk driver, my marriage was the second casualty.  The divorce was final long before the insurance companies paid up medical bills and personal injury settlement.  I pocketed a sum of money that seemed to me to be riches.  Within a year, mostly on the advice of an interested party, I had either loaned or spent my way through the entire sum, despite working full time and earning a decent salary.  When I found myself going back to work three weeks early after giving birth it had nothing to do with an eagerness to return to my job and everything to do with needing to feed and house my family.  The savings were gone.  There was nothing between us and the wolves except me.

When John came into my life he did his best to explain how he paid bills and how to keep a cash flow but the truth is never in all the years I'd been dealing with bills and households had I ever handled cash.  There was a check, a credit card and later a debit card in my purse.  Cash?  Never touched it.  I thought keeping the bills paid was quite good enough.  I had succeeded in my opinion and therefore he needn't tell me anything.

Fast forward to my next big financial moment: John and I went to the bank and he discovered the difference between what he thought we had in our account and what I'd actually not yet spent from our account.  HUGE difference.  A defining moment in our relationship, too, as we dealt with my financial infidelity.  Honestly?  I knew I was being dishonest but because money wasn't real to me, I had no idea how deeply I'd broken the trust in our relationship.  To me, money was an abstract figure on a page which meant I either panicked or rejoiced.  As long as there was more in the bank and I'd been careful what did it matter if I 'borrowed' a bit each pay period to make my squiggly ends meet?  I had no clue of the value of money, it's relationship to work, the amount of power I allotted it (far far too much) or how to control it.

I'll give John kudos.  I wanted, at that time, to simply walk away and let him handle funds and give me money as it was needed.  When I told him as much he refused point blank.  I remember feeling a bit hurt and really angry when he told me "If I don't teach you how to take care of yourself now, who will?"  Who was he to tell me I didn't know how to take care of myself?!  Hadn't I paid all my own bills on my own in the past?  I'm humbler now.  I see how very much I had to learn...

 When you want to get to know someone you spend time with them.  Same deal with money.  Instead of dealing with money in an abstract way, I had to handle it.  At my own insistence, I stopped using checks, a credit card  and for a good long time avoided the debit card as well.  I took out a set amount of cash from the bank each pay period.   If I didn't have enough to cover groceries back then I had two choices:  Give up a portion of my personal cash or put something back.   It meant translating what I was holding in my hand to the number of hours John worked to earn it. It meant I had to acknowledge that if I spent over that amount it affected us adversely.  We couldn't make an extra payment on debt or had to forgo savings.  It meant realizing that money in itself is not evil nor is it powerful unless we choose to use to it in wrong ways.  It is nothing more than a tool, as useful as say a hammer or a kitchen paring knife.  And like any good tool, it needs to be taken care other words, I have to be a good steward of it.

So getting to know money was one of my financial milestones, just as was later learning that small amounts can add up to bigger totals if you're saving.   Pennies add up to dollars.  Dollars pay off debts and build up savings accounts or buy things you'd go without otherwise because there wasn't wiggle room in the budget.  That was a big moment in my life, realizing that little savings do add up...Incidentally, anyone seen the investment group commercial that asks everyone to write down what they have in their wallet at the moment and those amounts are attached to dominoes that gradually increase in size?  When the narrator touches the smallest domino it knocks over the next and the next and then next and that whole formation collapses.  It starts small.

Finally, after we were debt free, I made the connection between spending randomly and actually considering what I really wanted money to accomplish.  Did I want a lot of small things that eventually ended up in the trash or donation pile or did I want to re-do a room or purchase a new piece of furniture or improve my wardrobe with good quality pieces?  Suddenly spending $8 on a magazine seemed very silly when I might set that $8 aside and be 1/4 of the way to one of the new and better blinds I wanted for my windows.  Consider this: using money properly is no different than determining the best use for the previously mentioned hammer or kitchen paring knife.  I can beat nails all day long with the kitchen knife but I'm unlikely to ever get the nail to go into the wall and I'm probably going to end up cutting myself trying.  On the other hand, that hammer is pretty useless for kitchen tasks unless I'm cracking nuts!  I sure can't peel an apple with it or dice potatoes.

It was a process, this change of mind about money.  Really it isn't enough to just be frugal.  Truth told, I've always been frugal because frugality really has only a tiny bit to do with money.  It took getting to know money and seeing it for what it was, neither friend nor foe but a utility item to accomplish something bigger, to begin to understand how it might best be used.  And that's a lesson we all must learn at some time in our lives,  as I did.

I'm still learning but just this past week I heard my husband say, with pride, "Terri had no idea how to take care of herself when we met, but she can now."  I knew he was referring to my changed attitude and greater knowledge of money.  Friends.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Coffee Chat: And It Most Surely Isn't Spring!

Hello dears...Do come in and yes, we are a bit more formal this time around.  I think this is such a pretty image and much happier than what many might see at the moment.  The winter weather continues, even here in the deep South.   We're due more rain but have had sunshine chasing clouds several days. Today we are back to dull brown and gray clouds.  What do you think of the 'outside', the new fresh spring look for the blog with a bit of greenery and daffodils?  I suppose some might leave their pages pretty much the same but I love changing the look up just as I do in my home.  Do the same for my facebook page, too.  It's like a new wreath for the doors to put up a fresh photo and alter the backgrounds a bit.

I would love to tell you that all my being quiet that week of the illness allowed me contemplation of world matters and great moments of insight resulted from all that silence, but no.  I was too tired and weary of fighting off that rotten cold to do any deep thinking.  I slept.  A lot.  And I rested and I rested and I slept.  I have learned to give my body what it asks for.  Years ago, I suffered from severe and repeated bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia.  I truly believe that the push to keep going was what kept my body ailing.  Well, that and depression which is an auto-immune suppressor...did you know that?  I've many and many blessings to be grateful for, not the least of which is the freedom from depression.

Monday, February 23, 2015

This Week In My Home: Making My Lists

I really felt, when I started this post, that I'd missed every single thing on menu and job lists.  Yet, I found, when I reviewed last week's post that I had done far better than I supposed.  I am feeling completely recovered and more than ready to tackle things.  Good thing.  February is shortly to be over.  I'd hoped to accomplish more.  I am already working on my March list of tasks to accomplish.  I'll have to hustle a bit to make it through the living/dining areas between now and March 1.

I've had loads of ideas for meals.  I think it's all the cold weather we've been having and the knowledge that it is on it's way out.  Soon I'll be looking for warm weather meals and there are so many of my favorite slow cooking meals to enjoy first.  If some of these look like repeats they aren't. They are meals I never got round to making.

Corned Beef, Cabbage, Mashed Potatoes, Corn Muffins
John requested this meal to day while we were at church.  I promised him I'd make it for him this week.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Shabat Thoughts: Poor Souls

I've had quite a struggle over someone for the past few months and finally I had reached the point where I had no words for prayer.  I could only say "Lord, you know what 'X' needs..."  I felt so helpless to help them and I kept asking God to show me what to pray.  He remained silent on the subject and so I've kept on with the old prayer, "Lord, you know what 'X' needs..."

As time has gone on I've become very aware that the relationship between myself and this person is not growing, had not grown in years.  I realized that I had reached my personal limit for dealing with them but I am stubborn in my prayer life.  Because I can make no headway, I believe God can make headway, that my failure can be his success story.  "I don't like 'X', Abba, but still I want to see You work in that life."   That was my confession last night.  As though God needed me to say that I didn't like this person, that all my efforts to find common ground had failed.  He knew that, of course, but I had to 'own' my dislike and stop pretending that I didn't feel as I did.  Perhaps I'd been hypocritical in not acknowledging that I lacked depth of feeling.  I don't know.