Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October Freezer Challenge

Though the banner says Pantry Freezer Challenge, this is just a FREEZER Challenge only.  My pantry is looking a little limp in spaces, but my freezers are burgeoning with food.  I need to make a bit of room for turkeys when they go on sale (or at least turkey breast).  We will only need three whole turkeys or about four whole breasts but I have to be able to put them somewhere and right now there's really no space to be had!

There are things we just plain need to use up and free the space.  There are 12 quart jars of chicken broth, for instance.  That takes up a bit of space.  There's a big bag of bread slices and end pieces.  I can use those for something.  There are dibs and dabs and odds and ends, all saved for good reason and now's the time to use them up.

I plan to use my freezer to pretty much make our meals.  Of course, I'll be using some fresh produce along the way, some dairy and eggs, but the bulk of the meals can most certainly be made with foods that are in the freezer.  I have a handful of pantry items that have just or are just about to expire that I've set aside to use in this challenge, too, but the bulk of my pantry items don't expire anytime in the next year, so I'll just hang on to those.

Any savings I make this month will be put to good use: restocking those low areas of the pantry, replenishing canned goods and baking supplies.  

Anyone care to join me?  And if you feel you need to make it a pantry challenge too, just go right ahead and say so!  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Plans For This Week: September 28 to October 4

Lovely cool weather came in this past week.  I wore a light sweater all day on Wednesday...and good thing too, because I had on a new blouse and didn't remove the tags!  I felt so silly when I got home and took off the blouse and saw them dangling from the back of the neck.

I made chili Thursday, even though it wasn't on the menu.  Boy did it taste good!  The weather isn't due to last this week, but will return to 'normal' once again but it sure was nice to get an early taste of it.  Makes me that much more hungry for good hearty entrees.

Last week I said I was planning out three meals each day.  I'm balancing the big breakfast days with a slightly lighter dinner midday.  We too often are not very hungry midday on those days.  The whole meal plan worked beautifully this past week for saving time in the kitchen.  That was lovely and gave me extra hours to play about with projects.

Breakfasts:  Eggs with toast x2 workday breakfasts for John
                      Breakfast sandwiches Toasted bread with cheese or sausage and egg etc.  It varies
                      Breakfast casserole with Hashbrowns Using up frozen bread end pieces and making a big
                       after work breakfast, too.  I can put this in the oven when I get up and it will be ready when
                       John comes in.
                      Bagels with cream cheese Usually Shabat morning
                      Bacon Egg and Cheese Biscuits I always have plenty of biscuits, another after workday                            breakfast.  John can eat his fill of biscuits with jelly after he has his main biscuit.
                      Cheese Grits, Toasted Biscuits  One of my favorite ways to use up leftover biscuits is to                            split, butter and toast them.

Suppers:   Turkey, Apple and Gouda Wraps Super thin slices on a tortilla.  I will use a mayo spread
                  Smoothie This and the leftover meal below for my two evenings alone
                  Leftover of my choice
                  Marinated Sandwiches  Again thin slices of meat and cheese in a hot baked sandwich
                  Chicken Rice Soup I have over a dozen jars of broth in the freezer.  I'll use canned chicken                          meat to add to the soup
                  Sloppy Joes My sloppy joe recipe calls for many vegetables and little meat.  There will be                            leftovers
                  Personal Veggie Pizzas  I'll make up pizza dough and roll out one larger piece for the freezer,
                  two smaller pieces for this night's meal.  I'll use whatever vegetables we have on hand, usually                       onion, peppers, mushrooms and whatever else I find that seems reasonable.

Sunday:  On my own

Monday:  CornDog Casserole, Slaw, Apples with caramel Sauce
Hot dogs, beans topped with cornbread make this an easy dish to prepare and economical as well.  I'll use just half a package of hot dogs.

Tuesday:  Hot Wings, Corn on Cob, Celery and Carrot Sticks
Wings are on sale at grocery and I'd like to make my own.  I prefer a sweet and spicy sauce.  Corn from freezer, raw vegetables with dip as sides.

Wednesday:  Beef Stew, Corn Muffins, Ambrosia
I'll put this in crockpot before we leave, make muffins when I mix up the corndog casserole and use the last of the oranges to make ambrosia.  I expect this will be a grocery day dinner when we return home.

Thursday:  on my own

Friday:  Salisbury Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Black eyed Peas, Sliced Tomatoes
I love to make Salisbury steak with rich gravy...I just so seldom do it though.  It's not uncommon in the south to serve freshly cooked black eyed peas with chopped onions to top them.

Saturday:  Orange Chicken, Rice, Steamed Broccoli 
I'll make the rice and steam the broccoli, the entree is a frozen one we bought in August and put in the freezer.

Jobs Plan for this week:

Last Week:
1. Mulch the flower bed. 
2. Make cookies  Made cupcakes instead...
3. Move things from guest room that don't belong
4. Get address to mail off baby gift to Katie's friend and  get it in the mail 
5. Defrost/organize/inventory small freezer 
6. Inventory pantry
7. Return window blind and swap for another 
8: Good thrift plunder I had to choose a day of work or a day of play.  I chose work.
9. Make Challah
10: Tag and take to booth 5-6 items

This week:
1.  A good thrift plunder
2.  Start work on the next  flower bed.
3.  Make up several batches of cookie dough for the fridge/freezer
4.  Grocery/errands
5.  Pull books to read for October
6.  Work on cleaning hope chest and dresser with Liquid Gold
7.  Plan out October goals
8.  Get to work on the 4th Quarter budget sheet
9.  Work out a planned visit to the Athens children

Friday, September 26, 2014

My Week of Living Frugally and Well: September 20 -26

                                            I was thinking of adding pheasant feathers...

Saturday:  Easy meal and nothing fussy about it on this Shabat morning.  It's my gift to myself, to have one morning of bagels and cream cheese...Or in my case one pop tart and a cheese cube.  Poptarts are not really frugal are they?  Nor are they especially good for you but I buy a 12 pack of unfrosted poptarts on sale and then I eke them out over several months.  I eat one about every two-three weeks.  Just one.  Not because of a calorie savings, nor because of saving money but simply because I like having that little treat to look forward to.  This morning was my morning.  Enjoyed it mightily.

Made a meatloaf out of 1 pound of ground chuck.  I had a little onion in the fridge and so I chopped that.  About 1/4 onion to season both meatloaf and potatoe casserole for our dinner.  For the meat loaf, I fiinished off the last of a bottle of steak sauce mixed with as much catsup, the bit of onion, some bread crumbs, an egg, a bit of milk.  This made enough for six generous slices, so I figure we'll get another meal and perhaps sandwichs for supper one night off this little meat loaf.  That's 1 meal more than I'd have gotten had I merely made burgers.

I mused a bit as I made bread crumbs for the meatloaf.  I used end pieces of bread from the freezer, and grated them on the box grater.  Why?  Because I didn't want to drag out the blender and I don't own a food processor.  I'm really not much of one for appliances...I've found I get a fine crumb if the bread is frozen and I grate.  It takes a little physical effort but it's a good all purpose kitchen tool. I also grate hard boiled eggs for egg salad, a bit of onion when I don't want even minced onion (for making salad dressings or certain meat dishes), aside from grating cheese and any fruits and vegetables.

Made a potato casserole using one nice sized Yukon gold potato, a bit of onion, the last of the sour cream and about 1/2 cup frozen/thawed mushroom soup and some grated cheddar.  I was surprised that just one potato made so much.  It was more than enough for the two of us.

It was muggy this morning in the house, but we used oscillating fans to stir the air.  It wasn't cool enough outdoors to open windows.

Sat down this afternoon and determined what next week's menus will be for all three meals.  I'm finding my day to day meals take a lot of my time, combined with clearing up behind them.  I want to use more time for home projects so I looked at how I might streamline things.  Still working on that time saving aspect.

food waste:  1 cup of cheese sauce.  Can't even remember how long ago I made it but in excess of three weeks I'm sure.

Was feeling frustrated over my lack of progress in making the guest/craft room look nice.  I sat down wiht a magazine this afternoon and came across this quote from Nate Berkus:  Decorating isn't an instant pastime or quick fix--you need to go out and search for things you really love and fill your home with objects that have meaning to you.  Great style is achievable on any budget.  I don't know if my room will have great style, but I do want it to be personal and reflect my own tastes and be welcoming and comfortable for those who stay with us.  So I'm giving myself permission to take time, both in the sense that I have time to find things, but also to give time to the search for what I want/need to make this room come together.  That means I stick to my low budget and don't just fill the room with so much more stuff as opposed to finishing it properly.

Sunday:  Made breakfast for John before he left for work, then packed the lunchbag.

My breakfast was frozen leftovers of French toast with turkey bacon.  So convenient to pop the toast into the toaster...and an idea of how I might streamline breakfasts at my house for weekdays!

Used a cardboard carton and many layers of newspaper to tamp down the flowering weeds that had returned to the cleared iris bed.  I put a bag of mulch down too.  I'll continue work on that tomorrow.  I do not want to upset the knee that has only just begun to feel normal once more.

Lovely cooler morning temperatures made the day a joy to work outdoors in.  I can't claim I had any hand in that but it certainly did offset the need to use AC or fans to cool down after work.

I've been using a plain tray on the counter as my coffee station.  It's not really what I want, but it's what I have at this I wanted it to look prettier. The tray has natural wood sides and a white melamine type bottom.  I found some pretty contact paper in the armoire, just enough to dress that tray bottom up a little bit.  It doesn't have to be permanent, just different for now, and it suits me perfectly at present.

Noted there were no photos of the newest babies on the fridge at all, so I took time to print off some of the photos on my computer and updated grandchildren photos.  I had all I needed on hand including magnetic frames.

Ate a single entree item from the freezer as my lunch.  Just heated in the microwave.

Shopped at home and 'bought' decaf coffee, pancake mix, buttermilk from the freezer.

Swapped a bedroom lamp for a problem lamp in the living room.

Put parts to fix lamps on my shopping list.  I think I now have three lamps that need to be rewired.
Realized I can swap parts from one to another to make one whole lamp right now without buying a thing.

Balanced checkbook this evening.  Found a vendor error on my statement.  Ugh.  Why are there no phone numbers any more to call businesses?

Monday:  Made a trip to the store to try to get the error fixed.  Some success...They agree it was their error and they agree they owe me the money back. There's just a process time that must take place.  I am so grateful we don't live hand to mouth any longer.  I thought about that as all this got worked out today.  I am in a much better place financially than I was 15 years ago.

I may have made a menu plan but a trip out of town wasn't included in that plan.  I sort of mixed things up and made up a chicken burrito.  I used leftover chicken to make the dish.

I used leftover salad from John's work lunch for our salad at dinner today.

Made German chocolate cupcakes for snacking/desserts this week.  The recipe makes 24, but I felt that was far too many, so I made 1 dozen and poured the remaining batter into a cake pan and made a single layer.  I halved the recipe for the frosting and that thought was spot on.  I had enough for the dozen cupcakes and to put on the single layer cake.  When the cake was cool, I wrapped well and put in the freezer.  The frosting is one that freezes well.

Worked on a project this afternoon and evening.  It involved a pair of curtains I'd purchased at a thrift store and discovered were marred only after I got them home and a needlepoint seat cover that didn't sell in my booth.  It was a blessed sewing session without one hitch.  Another one or two of these and I might well just fall in love with sewing all over again, lol.  I've finished one project on my list of making the craft/guest room a prettier place.

Hemmed a pair of jeans...I don't remember if I mentioned but I bought these jeans for $10 at a discount merchandiser a couple of weeks ago.  They are black and will extend my wardrobe several times over.

Opened what I thought was junk mail from a diy store.  Whoopee!  It had a $10 off $50 purchase, just in time for Fall plants and my next installment of blinds.

Tuesday:  Haircut this morning.  I save a few dollars by washing my hair before I leave home.  Dampening hair with a spray bottle works as well, and saves time as well as money.  Since it was a 'new' cut, working with a growing out pixie, I let her style it as well, but if weather is inclement, I will skip that step, too.

Skipped going to Dollar Store and grocery when I realized I was feeling spendy.  I didn't need a single thing, simply wanted extras and in my mood, those would have added up.

Came home and made a quick dinner.  I made the Cranberry Chicken dish in the oven this time.  The sauce was leftover from the last time I made the recipe.  There was 1 1/2 cups left in the pan when it finished baking, far too much, in my opinion, to simply throw away.  It was the perfect amount for today's chicken.  When I make this recipe in future, I will decrease the amounts so there are not a lot of leftovers.  There was no harm to the taste of the dish using the sauce a second time around.

Used up a double handful of sugar snap peas to make a side dish.

Learned it from Grandmama: when you want snowy mashed potatoes add a tablespoon or two of mayonnaise to the mashed potatoes.  It lightens the texture, brings out a slightly different flavor and whitens the potatoes beautifully.  You can skip the butter, too.

It was warm in the house this afternoon but we opted to turn on fans and not lower the AC though it was mighty tempting.

Washed a full load of dishes, a very full load.  I added in the burners from the stove which I try to do every few weeks.

Washed a full load of clothes, too.  I hadn't meant to do laundry today but spilled about a half cup of coffee on the cream slipcover on my chair.  I pre-treated the coffee stain.  Hung all I could to dry, but the slipcover had to go into the dryer.  It wouldn't fit on the line.

Timed the slipcover to make sure I didn't forget it.

Prepped John's work lunch for tomorrow.

Mixed up tuna fish salad.  I always add a bit of finely minced (or grated) apple, which cuts the acidity of the tuna fish and makes it more digestible.  It also happens to extend the salad.

Gave dog and cat the treat of the chicken skin from Monday's makeover dish.  It helped stretch their foods.

Wednesday:  Store corrected error on my account...and made another.  They refunded too much money.  Another trip to the store in order.  We plan to go in that direction to have oil changed in the next day or so and will go by the store then.  In the meantime, I'm keeping my fingers crossed someone will catch that error and correct it again.

Packed John's lunch, made him breakfast.

Made a brief mental shopping list, dependent upon what Mama wanted to do.  As it happened, she wanted to look at Fall plants.  I had the blind I needed to swap and the receipt, so I readily agreed to that.  I made the trade for a new, unopened blind, then went out to the garden center.

When I dressed this morning, I put on the black jeans, a new sleeveless chiffon top and knowing I'd likely need a sweater of some sort, dug through the donation bag and pulled out the black crochet shrug I'd just put in the bag.  I'll rethink that donation because that was just the right weight to wear today without getting too warm.

I wanted a necklace to fill in the neckline of my blouse.  Realized the long necklace I had on could be caught up at the back and made to look shorter.  It worked beautifully and I realized how versatile this piece is going to prove to be.

I bought five small pots of mums for each that were not blooming but full of buds, 2-12 packs of pansies, and 8 snapdragons.  The snapdragons were from the clearance racks.  Did you know that Lowe's has a plant clearance rack?  Lots of them at the moment, as a matter of fact and they included all sorts of plants that will continue to bloom in temperate climates.  The snapdragons had buds but had apparently already bloomed and were looking worse for wear. I know they will revive nicely. I'll go back in a couple of weeks or so and get more pansies.

It was my turn to be treated for dinner today.  Normally I'd buy us a small ice cream for dessert, but today was 'free pie' Wednesday.  I told Mama I'd buy dessert the next time we're out when it's my turn to buy dinner.

The gas man came today and filled the tank.  It really couldn't have come at a better time as we'll have the 'third' pay period in this month which means over the next six weeks we'll have bits of extra money which we can use to apply to the charge.  We won't get gas next month and probably not in November either unless we have a really cold autumn.

Made myself a single cup of coffee this afternoon.  When we go to Kingsland there are complimentary coffee pods to make individual cups of coffee.  There are usually as many pods as there are adult guests in the room, in our case, two.  We always bring home the decaf pods.  I used one of those this afternoon when I made coffee.

I was restless this evening.  I wanted to finish the project at the back door step while I am feeling so much better and was so near finished...which led to planting a bunch of pots....which led to a lot of work, lol.  I mixed the new plants with older ones, so there's a mix of old and new snapdragons and old and new mums.

Ate lunch leftovers for supper.  It was nice to walk in the house this evening and just wash my hands and microwave the leftovers.

Listened to/watched the sermon from last week's sermon posted by our church.

Thursday:  A light drizzly rain today and cool air certainly put the spin on farewell summer, hello autumn!  I decided that menu plans are fine and well but the first day for Chili was here.  I used 1/2 pound of meat, the remaining black beans from our burrito meal on Monday and a can of chili beans.  This made enough chili to serve four over rice, another way to extend the meal.  We had leftovers enough for another serving each.

Today is a Holy Day for us.  We don't do any heavy duty work on this day so naturally there's little to report as savings or spendings either one.

Friday:  Did the bulk of the cleaning this morning before we left. I cleaned our baths.  I use a dollar store type powdered cleaner for the toilets.  When I opened the can, I pull off the sticky tab, then stick it back on and leave only 3 holes uncovered.  I never lack for enough powder and if the can tilts over I lose very little.

We batched errands today.  Took off trash on our way out and then made three stops.  John went to get a haircut and I went into grocery.  I shopped carefully at the grocery and just picked up the necessary items.  Tempted by many things, I succumbed to a bright red pepper.  It wasn't cheap but I've been craving red pepper for a while now...

John bought us dinner out from his allowance.  We couldn't finish our meal so we brought home leftovers.  Our waiter pointed out we could get a soda and our dinner as a lunch special which lowered the cost.  He suggested, since we had ordered another drink to go with the meal, that we take our sodas to go.

One of our errands was to get the oil changed in the car.  This came from a sub account within our checking account, so no added expense to us.

Had to buy pet food today.  Took along coupons.  I found the food on sale.

Supper was our lunch leftovers.

Living Well

I just have to share this picture of Maddie...I was trying to photograph the little flower bed I worked on this evening and she kept getting in my way. I finally asked if she wanted to smile for the camera and she sat down, looked up at me and smiled, lol.  Silly red doggie.  She makes me happy.

Sometimes, living well isn't about having just exactly what you want but making do until the day you can get nearer the inspiration.  That was something I really struggled with this month.  I have a vision for my guest/craft room and of the back flower bed that I've just finished working upon.  I have a bare bones sort of budget. It's not going to be possible to have exactly the room or yard I want on my budget.  I am at a stand still.  Not only is my budget small, my resources are limited.  I sat in the guest/craft room this past week and looked about me and I felt I was knocking my head against a brick wall.   I decided that clearing up would help if nothing else could be done just now. That's when  I found the needlepoint seat cover I'd purchased for the booth and sat down to examine it...and that led to the realization that I had just been looking at a pair of toile curtains I'd gotten from a thrift store and wondered how on earth I could use the marred set.  The toile was the exact same color as the background on the needlepoint.  And suddenly  I had in my possession two items that would put me one step nearer my dream room.

I had an inspiration photo of what I want the flower beds to look like:

I love old tin...and funky looking groupings.  I priced one of those washtubs and stands.  O.M.budGetbusters!  So when I finished the bed Wednesday evening (using what I had for weed mat i.e. newspaper, cardboard), I gathered some of my pots, old and new plants and created my own bit of junky gardening.  One day I might stumble across affordable old pieces but until then, I have this pretty, neat little spot to please  my eye.
Not quite the same but I think the spirit of the thing is there, don't you?  I plan to put a plant in that broken flower pot as well, perhaps flowering kale...

That's my bit of living well this week.  Being creative with what I have and being grateful for the inspirations that come upon me if I stop thinking about what I haven't got.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Budget Stretcher: Apple Peelings and Cores

One of my favorite adages is the one a lot of us frugalites quote often: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or go without...

Use it up...That's probably my favorite one and also the one I am continually honing.  Today, in the midst of autumn, when apple trees begin to yield their lovely fruits, I came across these recipes in the current issue of Southern Living.  I love that they are 'use it up' recipes...


  • 10 red apples $
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons powdered pectin
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar $
  • cinnamon stick
  • whole clove


  1. Bring peels and cores of apples and water to a boil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 45 minutes. Pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a large saucepan to equal 3 cups liquid. (Add water, if necessary.) Discard solids. Whisk in powdered pectin and sugar. Add cinnamon stick and whole clove. Bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat; discard spices. Pour into 1 (24-oz.) hot sterilized jar, filling to 1/4 inch from top; wipe jar rim. Cool completely (about 30 minutes), cover with lid, and chill 12 hours. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Coffee Chat: A New Season

Oh Hello!  Come and have coffee with me on the porch...Doesn't that scene above look nice?  You can just smell the grill and the coffee...Notice how the men are wearing sweaters and sports jackets?  It must be a tad cool outdoors, wouldn't you think?  Which would mean we assume all those girls in their dress sleeves are menopausal, lol.  And wouldn't you just love to find cups like the one in the foreground?

I am a sucker for pretty and interesting china.  Trouble is, I seldom will take it out to use because I don't want to spoil it.  I've made a strict rule with myself that I shall buy no more china unless I am meaning to use it.  So far, I've only gotten china for the flea booth and it doesn't tend to do well there.  But I do love to look and dream and now and then I just go to eBay and have a long gander at page after page of vintage china patterns and sigh deeply when I stop.  Granny loved china, too. She always looked long and hard at all the pretty plates in the big department store sales sheets.  For many of the years I knew her she only had two sets of plates in her cupboard: a platinum edged cream colored plate with a big magnolia blossom and leaves in the center and a set of aquamarine colored Melmac which was thick and heavy and indestructible.  I have one of those little coffee cups here that I eat ice cream from.

She had a set of China from Japan that my uncle bought for her that was stored away and I do not recall her ever using it.  Mama bought her pink Crystal glasses one Christmas to match.  Granny bought a china hutch and put the china and crystal on display then.  Katie has the china now, Mama gave it to her after before she married.

It wasn't until many years later that Granny indulged in two sets of Corellewear.  One was a beautiful floral blue and white pattern that she displayed in the china hutch along with pale blue glasses and the china and crystal glasses were packed away and stored once again.  My niece was given the pretty floral pattern dishes at the time Katie was given the china.  The other set of Corelle was just a plain white with a blue and gray stripe around the edge, which Granny used daily.  I admit I preferred the Magnolia plates myself, though I am not fond of Magnolias,in the least.  They give me the worst sort of headache with their piercing perfume and even seeing them on a plate is enough to make me wrinkle my forehead a bit, but I associate those plates with childhood and Granny.

I finally got healed enough to work a wee bit more on the iris bed Sunday morning.  I didn't stay out long, nor did I finish it that morning though I'd deemed it a not too difficult job.  I was feeling the strain on my knee and decided it was best to take on in increments. I got a bit over half of it done and it looked so neat and nice that I was tempted to push a little harder. I didn't, though.  When I came indoors I found my muscles were quivering mightily, so I opted instead for the usual housework done in spells with quiet sitting time.  I got a great deal more done than I thought I might, but I didn't go out to play as I'd thought I would...It was either work or play,  but definitely not both.  And honestly, I'd really missed working the previous week. I've been down right bored, unable to do any big thing indoors or out.  It's so frustrating to have a miles long project list and find yourself sidelined and limited to light housekeeping!

I've been admiring my living room with all the extra space we seem to have since moving out the two smaller bookcases.  It really does seem a quieter, calmer room and I like it.  I don't think I'm quite finished yet. I'm contemplating a few more changes and including the dining room/front entry area in that plan.  I keep stumbling up against the fact that what I want will involve removing pieces we are using as storage.  And as Sarah Richardson noted in the last issue of Good Housekeeping, storage pieces are key to any decor that appears minimalist.  I'm not sure I shall ever qualify for minimalism but I certainly do want less clutter and I suppose it's the same principle.  And then, too, there are things I just want to be in the room and I must find places to put them.  Like John's old Underwood typewriter that weighs about 50 pounds, and the little wood shoe shine box that Daddy made in high school shop class.  I'd love to move our record albums out of storage and into the living room so that we can play them on the Crosley phonograph we bought.  I think the problem is that the storage I have isn't ideal for what I need it to do...but then I haven't found the right pieces at the right price, so it keeps being a never ending circle of thoughts.

One other thing that is bugging me is lamps. I moved a lamp from the room because it seemed unstable and it squawked and screamed every single time it was touched.  Well I knocked it off and broke the thing a few weeks ago.  No problem, I said. I have a lamp in the guest room I was thinking might work in the living room anyway, so I moved it in and it did work just fine except it was just a tad too tall so light shone hard into the corner of our eyes.  Still, it stayed where it was because it was a make do piece.  Then John and I noted that the light was often off.  I thought he was turning it off, he thought I was.  Well, no.  We changed bulbs thinking the bulbs were blown, we tightened bulbs thinking they were loose,  but soon discovered that wasn't the problem, either.  Apparently there is faulty wiring, which he assures me he can fix and I shall take him up on it but in the meantime, no reading light was not part of the plan...

So I moved the big fat Ginger jar lamp, the one we bought together 22 years ago and which I spray painted to cover the oh so chic back in 1990's design in blue and mauve and gold on the front.  I love the lamp now but discovered it was too short to read by, so a stack of books was supposed to remedy that.  Then I realized that though I sit next to John and we both keep pulling our chairs forward, we can not see each other around the thing as the belly of the jar is right at eye level now, necessary if I want to read, but totally aggravating when I want to converse with my husband!  I even went on a stint of looking for new lamps for the living room though personally I'm not really into matchy sets.  The last matchy set we bought ended up with one broken and John borrowing the other for his music room which meant no more matches.

I realized that I'm just days away from the moment last year when I decided that I wasn't going to make those big annual resolutions anymore, but just stick to the monthly ones I make.  And you know, I don't believe I'm any further behind nor ahead of myself than I was when I did all that excessive planning.  What I do enjoy doing, though to say 'enjoy' is stretching it a bit, is the annual review.  It reminds me of the good things, but also of the tough places and there were plenty of those this year for one reason and another, mostly having to do with myself.  It's always a discouraging thing to realize that for all the progress you think you've made spiritually there are areas that just flat out become messy...and it's equally humbling to realize that God loves me just as much during these messy days as he will ever love me if I manage to get even one of these lessons right!

I was crotchety on Sabbath this past weekend.  I'd hurt most of the week and pushed myself to work as best I could.  John has this saying "Do like circus folk and work it out..."  Well it didn't work it out, it just hurt and I kept going despite it.  Mind you it wasn't the worst pain I've ever been in.  It just hurt and limiting and that's where the frustration came in.  So I was restless as could be and bored, if truth be told.  I'd just read a unsatisfactory book after putting down another that was unsatisfactory (namely the autobiography by Elizabeth Taylor which was so disconnected I tossed it and then The Circus of Dr. Lao which had only the faintest resemblance to the movie that I liked.  I loathed the book).  I flipped through magazines and looked at lovely designed rooms and felt slight envy which made me churlish.  Then John and I had a minor spat, nothing much to it at all, but suddenly I was just all tears and weepy and he, bless his soul, was snoring through another football game by the time I got to that point.   I was feeling lonely and a little lost and I wanted someone to keep me company in my agony.  And let's face it honey, if I'd been on the receiving end of someone else's ill temper, I probably would have slipped on over to watch a football game and taken a nap, too!

I went off to the craft room meaning to start a project, but I couldn't get inspired over a thing.  I looked over the booth stock that was visible and felt depressed over the lack of anything resembling income.  I looked at the mess in the room and the packed drawers of craft supplies that go largely unused and wept a little more. I studied my inspiration board and felt frustration mount as I realized I was no closer to that room than I'd been when I moved the vanity into place, sigh.   Finally I got out my journal and jotted down my 'poor me, poor me' thoughts which isn't in the least cathartic, and yet is at the same time, because eventually the saner, more reasonable and wiser side of myself will come out in words and I asked a rather interesting question of myself on paper:  How did Granny do this?  How did she face this stage of life, alone, with no outside interests to speak of, and herself as her only company at this exact age?

We grandkids could only visit during school vacations, so for all intents and purposes we might as well have been hundreds of miles away as my own are.  Her son and daughter both worked full time and were busy as could be just making ends meet for their own families, so they seldom visited.  There were not really any close neighbors but there were a few to visit in the area and cousins and sisters who stopped by now and then, but mostly she was alone.  I cast my mind back over my childhood and adult years and I don't recall her ever, not even once, suggesting that she was lonely or bored.  I had the idea even as a rather obtuse pre-teen that Granny LIKED being alone on the place and creating her own work and making her own rewards for the hard work she did. She might have been mostly alone but she made a life for herself on her own terms. So why couldn't I find that same contentment, which is generally mine, and just get on with it?

It was just the sort of stern talking to I really needed and while I won't lie and tell you I was all charm and sweetness and good humour and light afterwards, I at least was over the 'poor me' stage of things, and that was a major improvement.  I know too well that I'm in a dangerous spot when I am continually looking at others waiting for them to do the things that will make me happy about my lot in life.  Phooey!  It's an unfair burden to place on anyone other than yourself...and accepting that everyone must do what they must because their season of life isn't ours is key to shaking off that silly fool thought.

Sunday, in an effort to 'not do too much' per John's request, I did make time to sit in between spells of working.  I looked at a stack of vintage magazines and decided that I'd had enough of them for this month and put them away.  I went on Pinterest and read every single money saving/coupon tip/5-,6-,7-,10-step article to financial fitness...and I found ONE that had information that was new to me and helpful.  Again it is a season of life thing.  I'm a veteran of this savings game.  I already do and have been doing every thing most experts and bloggers suggest with the exception of a very few items that I just don't want to bother with.  Those are things that will not net a huge savings or even a noticeable one in a year's time, mind you.   But I am glad I read them all because I realized that (a) I'm doing very well at this frugal game and (b) I can still learn something new,  and I shall not find those new ideas if I don't read through all the usual stuff.  There's always a bit of dirt to dig to reach the diamond, you know.

I decided to balance the checkbook and that's when I saw that I'd been charged twice by a store we'd visited.  That made me feel sort of sick.  I don't like to make mistakes with our funds and it makes me feel doubly ill when someone else does.   I found my receipt and discovered there was no phone number for the store on it, nor one in the phone book, nor yet one to be found online.  This is not the first time I've come across this phenomenon of the 'no phone listing' for a business.  By the time I gave up searching it was 9pm and I realized it was highly unlikely I'd talk to anyone anyway.  So I just settled in my mind that I'd have to go visit the store Monday, which wasn't in my plans in the least.

John came in from work and I told him the trouble and that I needed to visit the store.  He dug about online after breakfast and found a corporate number which low and behold informed me via automated voice that they didn't have phone numbers for stores to 'cut costs'...Huh.  I did finally get a customer service rep who told me to "Take your receipt to the store and let them know the trouble," which I had planned to do anyway, just thought I might possibly be able to call instead.

So we got ready to leave home, walked outdoors and found the sun shining and gentle breeze blowing from the west.  Drove the 35 miles to the store where I played 'stump the management' with how to go about fixing the problem because it seems they use a deposit service who tend to these things and hey guess what, they are saving money too by not having a number...Eventually things were sort of sorted out.  I was told my account would be credited in 10-30 days but they did it in 24 hours.  For the wrong amount.  I'll have to return to see if they can correct their second error.  At least every single person I dealt with  was as pleasant as they could be, not one suggested it was in anyway my fault, and everyone apologized multiple times for my being inconvenienced the first time and I'm sure they will for the second time as well.

Just in that bit of time in the store, it began to cloud up and before we'd driven two blocks I told John I was convinced it was going to rain.  The sky got darker and heavier and there was not even the slightest glimpse of sun anywhere.  We didn't actually get rained upon until we were nearly home and then it poured,  raining for about 4 hours and then the sky was sunny and clear all over again, just as it had been earlier.  It puzzles me no end how that can happen, but it does.

I decided that afternoon that I simply had to do something, so I made German chocolate cupcakes (lovely something don't you agree?) and after clearing all that up, I settled in my chair and had one with a cup of coffee while we watched an old MGM production of Romeo and Juliet.  It might have been a black and white film but the decor was lovely and the costumes! oh my!  And then I took one of those little unexpected naps, due no doubt to my worry the night before that kept me awake more hours than I slept.

I decided another project was in order after napping which involved a set of toile curtains and a needlepoint seat cover that I picked up at thrift store...I'm pretty proud of this project.  It's not perfect.  I sooo want the things I do to be perfect, I do truly, but if I let that ideal for perfection take over too much, I'll stop a project right quick and never have the satisfaction of seeing it finished.  I squelched Miss Perfection and told her to shoo and went on with my work.  As it happened the seat cover, lovely as it was, was unevenly made.  I wonder if that is why it was in the thrift shop?  I thought it such a lovely thing and had it in the booth but it sat there for months and months without anyone showing any interest so I brought it back home.  I do, honestly, like every single thing I buy.  I figure if I like it someone else might.  That idea works about 45% of the time, lol.

I needed to do a tiny bit of hand sewing so I came back to the living room and got caught up in a Lucille Ball film, "The Big Street".  She was not a likable character, though beautiful enough to take your breath away.  I got fully engrossed in that film and we finished it through to the end.  John made supper and we ate right there in front of the TV.  Mind you all, 8 out 10 evenings that's where we eat supper anyway, but there's generally nothing I'm really watching on at the time.

Isn't she just beautiful?

The project didn't turn out too shabby either:

                                    Mind you it isn't perfect, though it photographed pretty well.

Well I suppose this has been a random batch of conversation, hasn't it?  Sometimes it's just so.  I need to get up now and get busy once more.  Things to do and all that good stuff.  Talk to you next week, I hope!  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

This Week In My Home: September 21-26

This week my focus on menus has to deal with how much time I find myself spending in the kitchen.  This is apparently my area for the month because I've caught myself more than once begrudging the amount of time the preparation, cooking and clearing up behind that meals are taking.  It's a sizeable chunk of time, let me tell you!  So far, Saturday is my least time spend-y sort of day, even if I don't prep anything ahead.  Why?  Because I'm more focused on saving time, cutting corners and spending as little time at work as possible.

I've always had this mentality where meals are concerned that I don't want a fast meal.  I don't enjoy reading those articles about putting a meal on the table in 15 minutes or 20...but I'm starting to see that if I want to reclaim some of my time for projects and chores I long to attend to, I'd best figure out a way to do just that.

So what's my game plan?  Plan all three meals, so I know just what I mean to have for breakfast, dinner and supper.  Generally supper is the least labor intensive meal...if I have planned it out.  Otherwise I have to scramble to prepare something to fill sandwiches, which is typically our meal for evenings.  I have been avoiding lunch meats, preferring the flavor and savings of making my own.  I'm putting sandwich fillings on my weekly prep list.

Breakfasts too eat up a chunk of time.  John likes a big breakfast on those mornings when he comes in from work.  Two days this week he works.  The rest of those days are really just a matter of putting food on the table.  I don't want to do just cold cereal but I can streamline the foods for those five remaining days by prepping ahead the night before, batch cooking breakfast meats and reheating in the microwave and freezing a few things for those mornings when I might oversleep after a  bad night.  So if I actually carry out my plans, I've cut time in two areas.

That just leaves dinner to prepare.  Again, working ahead can do a great deal to cut down time spent there.  I hope to put in a good solid hour of prep time Sunday and we'll see how much that leaves me for the rest of the week...Now to set the plan in motion!

Work mornings John gets the same meal.  It's mindless and easy for me to prepare and takes less than five minutes: toast and fried eggs.

For the two after work mornings: Pancakes, bacon, scrambled eggs 
Cheese Omelet, Hash browns, muffins, juice

The remaining mornings: Oatmeal, peanut butter toast;  Sausage Cheese toast, grits; Muffins, boiled eggs

5 Dinners:
Two days I'm on my own.  I have a variety of single entree leftovers in the freezer so just need to add salads. I'll make those ahead or I'll just end skipping them altogether.

Chicken Pot Pie, Pear Salad, Oven Roasted potatoes
When I was growing up Mama always served chicken pot pie with french fries on the side.  This was due to the fact that she was serving my dad who firmly believed we should eat potatoes at every meal.  I will make my pie from scratch, using two pieces of leftover chicken and frozen mixed vegetables.  These veg don't include potatoes.  When I make pie crust for this dish, I'll triple the recipe and put two more shells in the freezer for future pie days, sweet or savory.

Meatloaf, Twice Baked Potatoes, Butter Beans, Coleslaw
Leftover meatloaf.  I'll double the potaoes and put two in the freezer for a future meatless meal.

Cranberry Crockpot Chicken Legs, Sweet Pea Pods, Corn Pudding, Salad
I'm debating adding potatoes to this meal as well, because the sauce on the chicken is so very good, but
we'll see how I feel the day of.

Southwestern bean Empanadas, Yellow Rice, Pineapple Salsa over Shredded Lettuce Salad
This month's BH&G has empanada recipes.  Reminded me that I can do a meatless entree with beans and corn and zucchini seasoned with cumin and such to make a great meatless main.  I don't have fresh tomatoes on hand, so will use canned pineapple.

Tuna Noodle Casserole, Green Beans, Carrot Raisin Salad
I have tuna in oil that I think will be tasty in a casserole.  I bought it for another recipe but want to use in this dish.

Work Plan

Last Week:
We'll see our southern most Grandkids...
1. BUY mulch and  Mulch the flower bed.  Dealt with a sore knee and had to keep activities low all week long.  I so hated losing that bit of time!  Ditto on both activities below as well.
2.  Stop in town during open hours and see if I can get a good look at the bed on the front porch of the 'antique' shop.
3.  Tag a few items and take into booth.  Plan to pick up a few more of the older items and bring home.
4. Grocery shopping, not a big shop this time, just produce, bread and dairy.  I could use the extra money elsewhere in the grocery budget.   

Remember this is not all I expect to do this week.  These are the extra things I hope to get to as the routine work week goes on.

This Week:
1. Mulch the flower bed. 
2. Make cookies  Made cupcakes instead...
3. Move things from guest room that don't belong
4. Get address to mail off baby gift to Katie's friend and  get it in the mail
5. Defrost/organize/inventory small freezer
6. Inventory pantry
7. Return window blind and swap for another
8: Good thrift plunder
9. Make Challah
10: Tag and take to booth 5-6 items

Shabat Thoughts: On Seasons

This week I've been thinking a lot about seasons for various reasons.  First, there are the leaves drifting slowly to the ground and piling up under the trees.  It is the natural season, a time of change, a season of purpose...

I thought about seasons of life, most especially of a woman's life, as Bess and Amie and my niece have just given, or are about to give birth.  I am in a different season, a season when that possibility is at an end.

I thought about my daughters Lori and Amie and Bess and dear Virginia raising children from infant stage to pre-teen. I think of my small heartache for those hands on parenting days being well behind me now, two widely varying seasons of parenting.

I thought about my new grandbabies just starting life and my cousin who has been told the end of his own life is imminently near...Two very different seasons of life, a beginning and an end.

And then I thought of other seasons, some of which I've had reason to recall of late:  the season of new love, and of falling out of love but waiting for love to bloom once more, the sorrow that came when love died and the joy when it sprang to life.  The season of overwhelming tiredness and busyness when children are young and money is tight and the season of time when money is to be had but time itself is scarce.  The season of blessings that come now and then, and the seasons of making every repair known to man.  The seasons of health and illness.  The season of struggling to find God and the season of learning to TRUST Him once found...It seemed to me that really life is just a series of seasons of all sorts being lived out all at once.

I realized at last, how deeply powerful Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is:

1For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
2A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
3A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
4A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
5A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
6A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
7A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
8A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

It seemed silly to go on with my own thoughts when Solomon had already said it so well...