Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Retirement Remedies: Thoughts on Stretching My Spring/Summer Wardrobe...Final Post

At the beginning of Spring this year, I was certain I had to buy new clothes.  I had nothing to wear, a cry I believe started in the Garden of Eden when Eve first realized she was naked and fashioned fig leaves to cover herself.  My budget this year was very slim and I had decided to spend a good chunk of what I had on a gift for someone else and making over my kitchen.  No regrets...but no money left either.

So I inspected my closet and asked myself, 'What do I do?'   Obviously I rely on that old axiom, '...Make it do...'

I thought I'd share one last post.

My personal fashion history.  I have always loved clothes.  I haven't always loved the clothes I've had to wear. I was late developing my own tastes because until I was 18 and working, my mother made or bought all my clothing without any input from me whatsoever.  If she liked it, she made it, or cut it out and insisted I sew it up and wear it.  It took me a few years to determine my style, which is a little casual classic, a little bohemian romantic.  It took me a long time to learn how to put an outfit together.  I still struggle with it but have found that not waiting until the last minute is the best way to accomplish my goal of being fairly well put together on most occasions.

Several years ago, while in one of my favorite clothing stores shopping, I glanced upwards at the outfits that were compiled on the mannequins above the clothing racks.  I happened to be in the store when the consulting stylist had stopped by and she suggested alternative looks to the manager, using some of the same elements in the outfits currently being displayed.  These 'looks' are called 'story boards' and are meant as suggestions to the customer.  I think it was at that moment that the idea of using story boards as inspiration to dress myself was born.

In a perfect world, I'd simply buy all the pieces on the story board and walk out with complete outfits, but budgets seldom stretch that far and what's more the availability of sizes often constricts choices as well.

I have used magazine photos, watched many and many an episode of What Not To Wear, read Bridgette Rae's blog, listened to my youngest daughter and my niece (both are very fashionable girls on a budget), and sat up and noticed story boards in stores or people who caught my eye in the street.
Here of late I've used Pinterest.  Polyvore is another good site, too.

How I Shop.  I do not have the perfect figure as any of you who have seen Katie's wedding photo can see.  I never have had.  From earliest childhood I was a big girl and as the years went on I got bigger. Nowadays buying clothes is far easier than it was as a child growing up plus sized in a world that refused to even acknowledge plus sized people.

As an adult I've been blessed that the clothing industry recognized plus sized individuals wanted to be dressed nicely and in a currently stylish way.  Now and then we even luck out and see honest to goodness real plus sized women modeling these styles as well...but I digress.

Most everything I have comes from a clearance rack.  Despite the current plus size clothing market, finding things that fit properly is not always easy...especially on a budget.   The two favorite stores for me currently are Dress Barn and Cato.  I admit freely that I seldom find bottoms (skirts or pants) at Dress Barn.  At Cato, I do, but it's hit and miss.   If I went in weekly, when they got in new shipments I'd stand a lot better chance, but I don't shop that often for clothing, so when I find pants in my size, I try them on immediately and if they fit, I purchase them even if I don't need them at that time.

Tops on the other hand are easily found more often.  With tops my rules are simple enough: I like sleeves of any length but not cap sleeves as a rule. I like the hem to at least cover most of my hips and from there I am wide open.   I look at just about any store I happen to be in, though I prefer the styles at some more than others.  Dress Barn, Cato, Ross for Less, TJMaxx, Target...I usually can find a style that fits me in most.  Target is my least favorite, at least the store nearest me, as the plus size department is beyond depressing.  It's where that store chooses to push all clearance racks, maternity clothes and baskets of goods that need to be delivered back to various departments.  Ugh.

Now I've shared where I like to shop, let me tell you where I normally avoid shopping: plus sized catalogs.  Lane Bryant/Woman Within/Roamans.  Why?  Because the items are overpriced and seldom change from one year to the next.  Because they never ever show a plus sized model, but instead put over sized pieces on thin women which is so totally misleading to the consumer.  Because often the materials are cheap and unattractive.  Because clothing is cut oddly to accommodate a plus sized person who has never been near the pattern department of any designer in their industry yet.
(The Lane Bryant stores are quite nice and well worth visiting if you have one near you.  They are so far away from what the catalog carries that it's as though they just happen to have the same name and are not related at all otherwise.)

I don't shop thrift stores.  I've tried.  I am so overwhelmed by the way the thrift stores in my area batch things by color.  I can never think what color I am looking for (my fault for not shopping with a list), and I am overwhelmed at the idea of looking at sizing on 109 pink shirts and 93 yellow ones.  If your stores sort by size, how lucky you are!  If you have the stamina to look through thousands of pieces to find a few in your size, you are certainly one determined soul!

And last, I don't always shop to purchase.  Sometimes, I'm just window shopping, looking for inspiration in the stores or store windows.  I carry along my camera and take photos of those outfits that really just speak to the clothes loving woman I am.

Get Over the Size Thing.  Clothing varies by as much as two or three sizes even within the same style line.  This is because the manufacturer is all about filling orders.  If a store purchases so many each of small, medium, large, x-large, etc and they have only so many of say x-large, but loads of large, they will fill the remaining order with large sizes marked as x-large.  How do I know this?  From someone who worked in clothing manufacturing.  It happened all the time.  So for goodness sake try things on.  This includes pants, shoes, bras, everything!!  Try it on.   Buy the size that fits you best.  Well fitting clothes will never make you look larger than you are.  Tight fitting clothes are never going to make you look thinner. Some pieces that are too large can be altered but be realistic.  If you know you're not going to have it altered and it is obvious that it needs it, don't buy it.  Spend the money on something that does fit you instead.

Be Open Minded.  I will try on any style, even if I've never worn that style before, at any price point, simply to see how the style suits me.  If I can't afford an item,  I at least have a new style to look for that is in my price line. 

I don't worry about dressing too young.  I use to worry about this and one day when I was 50 my darling teen aged daughter said to me, "Stop dressing your age, Mom.  You may be 50, but you look 35 and you can wear a lot more stuff than you think."  Well I took her advice and I did just what I said in the above paragraph.  I started trying on every thing.  If it's in style, and modest, I have probably tried it on!  Some things just don't work with my body type.  Some things look better on the hanger than on me.  Some things are a total hit and look fabulous and you could knock me over with a feather, because never in a million years would I have believed it to be so just by how it looked on the hanger.

Don't limit yourself because you can't wear cute shoes.  For years I could only walk if I wore athletic shoes.  Eventually I was able to branch out and wear flats in some styles and I have a small shoe wardrobe now...but believe me, if you're dressed nicely overall, most people will ignore the orthopedic shoes or braces you may have to wear.

What I Look For In Story Boards.  Or magazine pages, mannequins, etc.  When I look at a fashion story board I am not looking at the skinny jeans or high heel shoes and thinking, "Pfft!  I can't wear that!  Oh well..." and sit back moping that I'm not skinny enough or bemoan the injuries that keep me from wearing the very high heels I loved in my former life.  I am not looking at the skimpy/sheer blouse.  I am looking at how colors are combined, what accessories are used, what each individual piece is like.  If a story board has caught my eye it's because more than one element on that board is similar in some way to something I already own.

Never assume you can only wear something one way.  Scarves can become cute belts, shawls, bags, cover ups, vests, skirts.  Suits can be worn as separates.  All sorts of colors go well together if we just try them, instead of sticking with the most obvious.  You can use a variety of accessories to dress up or down any outfit you put together.  Neutrals can be any color.  In the 1950's you chose navy, black, brown or gray.  These days your neutral can be anything from red to orchid, depending upon your personal style and tastes.

You can wind a necklace about your wrist and make a statement bracelet.

Pair up unexpected colors.  If I learned one thing from the show "What Not To Wear" it's this: Pieces do not have to match...they should go with one another.  That's why you've seen my inspiration story boards that combined blue and orange, or brown and turquoise...Combine colors that you like.  I remember when Amie was little that she wanted to dress herself.  She pulled out a purple pair of pants and a golden yellow shirt.  I told her they didn't match but she would hear none of that.  No, she insisted on putting that on and you know it looked just lovely together.  I'd never have believed it in a million years but it did 'go with' very nicely.

(By the way, coming home from Florida I wore the brown chiffon top with blue jeans and the turquoise bib necklace.  I walked into a restaurant and was immediately complimented by the hostess!  It made me feel I'd done well with my rambling about Pinterest!).

Don't underestimate the value of being well dressed.  I hear it now and then from women that 'It doesn't matter how I dress, my husband loves me just the same." or "I don't have time for all that stuff."  Well good for your husband that he's a man of his word but it doesn't do any harm to look nice, even when you're working hard at home!  When I first became a stay at home mom I enjoyed being lax about clothing and makeup...but it was really brought home hard to me the day I made a little effort to look nicer and I was asked by every single individual in the house, "Where are you going?"  It made me sit up and take notice of the fact that my family liked seeing me look nice, too.  What a shame they felt only people outside our home were deserving of seeing the better dressed me!

What's more, how I look affects how I feel about myself personally.  I noted that two or three of you said this same thing to me as you've been experimenting with your own wardrobes.  It makes me feel better physically if I look well, and it makes me feel better mentally, too.  It gives me a little boost of confidence.

My at home wardrobe is by no means as nice as my out and about wardrobe but I do try to keep decent at home clothes.  If it's badly stained or torn, out it goes.  I get long wear from my things, so by the time it hits the trash can (you can also donate to animal shelter if you have one nearby), it's paid for itself hundreds of times over.

And my last point:
Build an accessory inventory.   I pick up vintage pieces at flea market and thrift stores,  buy costume pieces everywhere from Walmart to Kohl's.  I seldom pay full price for anything (Walmart is the exception, and there too there is often clearance priced items).  I buy what I like.  I have held onto pieces for years before I ever had anything to wear the piece with.  I've never regretted but one purchase and it was a necklace bought last year specifically for an outfit.  I paid top dollar for it too, though it was costume jewelry.  It turned my neck green the second time I wore it.  I've never been so disgusted or disappointed in my life!

I like bangle bracelets, too.  I have quite a few of them, all purchased over the last 35 years and they range from dollar store to vintage.

And brooches.  Brooches have been out of vogue but they are returning or so a fashion spread promised just the other day.  I have some rather nice elaborate sorts that are vintage.  I still buy the occasional one when I go into thrift shops and see an especially pretty one.  Brooches do very nicely to fasten at the top of a button front shirt.  You can pin them to a lapel, hang from a chain to make a statement necklace, pin them to a scarf or hat or purse.

Purses are an individual thing.  John offered to buy me a nice leather bag a few years ago.  I declined. Truth told, I suffer from bag boredom.  I like to change them out and often.  I'd rather have ten bags at a time than one really good one.  I've looked at higher end bags and frankly I don't see what all the fuss is about.  I generally pay between $20 and $30 for a purse, usually at Ross for Less which nets me a better quality bag.  I've had some of my purses for years and they hold up well.  I've bought a few in other places but mostly I prefer Ross for Less.

I love scarves, have for years.  At one point in my life, scarves were my signature piece.  If you saw me during my working years, 9 times out of 10 I was wearing a scarf.  I have quite a few vintage ones and a  few of the more modern infinity scarves.  I've already suggested above wearing a scarf as a belt or shawl or vest...There are videos on YouTube about how to tie scarves in interesting ways. I'm currently looking out for vintage chiffon scarves.  I remember Mama had a drawer full of them in all sorts of colors when I was a child.  I'd love to have a few of them as a fun accessory now.

And that's it.  That's how I shop, what I look for and how I built up my wardrobe so that  I can see my way through this season of not purchasing new right away.  Just yesterday, I pulled out another piece that I'd been holding onto and styled it into an outfit I've never worn before.  I think I'm going to wear it tomorrow when we're out.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

This Week In My Home: Up In The Air

Bored...BORED....Bored!  That's how I feel about food just now, just plain old fashioned board.  The cause?  Who knows?  I suspect the real reason is that I love cooler weather foods and find them far easier to be creative about preparing and planning into menus.  Come warmer weather and all I can think of are salads and pastas and steaks and burgers.  Being the hot foods lover that I am, and I don't mean spicy but as in freshly cooked and served hot, the warmer months truly challenge me.  The very season when the most foods are available and at low prices, too and I can't think of a thing I want to eat?  I know...Sad, just plain sad.

Well, I'm trying to break out of my rut by preparing some new or seldom used recipes.  I tried a new to us pizza for Sabbath dinner.  It wasn't quite where it should be flavor-wise but it was good.  I'll figure out the seasonings on it and perfect it over time.  Now to see what else we might have.  And of course with a baby imminently due everything is all up in the air as I've no idea when we'll be taking off to see this grand little girl.

I'm so tired of tossing, or freezing, celery that I have been stuffing it for John and I to snack on.  Pimento cheese, pineapple cream cheese and peanut butter are all good stuffing.  It's a cool crisp snack, too.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza, Tossed Salad
I drew my inspiration from a television commercial and though I had no idea how theirs was made I did it off the cuff.  It was okay.  I think it needed to be a little more seasoned and I lay half that blame at the chicken which didn't have much flavor...and frankly chicken seldom does in casseroles or on pizzas unless you season it a little more highly than usual.  I didn't.  I used the last of the chicken breast from last Sunday's meal, sliced onion, mushrooms, black olives and turkey bacon.  I spread the dough with a little (very little because I didn't want it greasy) Ranch dressing and I used homemade not bottled.  There are enough leftovers for supper one night.

Sizzled Sirloin Steak, Cheesy Potatoes, Steamed Asparagus
Does any one remember the Sizzle Burgers, where you melted butter in a frying pan, splash in some Worcestershire sauce and then added hamburgers?  It was so good and delicious and that was my inspiration for this meal.  I did the melted butter and sauce and put the steaks in to cook.  It was really good and flavorful without being too highly seasoned.

Macaroni and Cheese, Pan Roasted Italian Vegetables, Green Salad
I think this will do well for dinner after church today.  I have mac and cheese in the freezer and will thaw it tonight.  I will put in the crock pot on KEEP WARM setting and then when we come home I'll cook the vegetables on stove top rather than in the oven.

BBQ Chicken, Coleslaw, Southern Cream Style Corn, Corn Muffins
I will likely have leftover chicken and that's fine by me.  I'll use it in the next meal.  I'll make just a few corn muffins then set the rest of the batter aside for breakfast pancakes.

Chicken Fried Rice, Ambrosia
I think I have a container of oranges in the freezer to make ambrosia.  If not, there's plenty of fruit here for fruit salad.  I had leftover rice from this past week and I'll use the extra chicken and a variety of vegetables from the crisper drawer to make the rice dish.

Meatloaf, Squash Casserole, Green Beans, Coleslaw
I don't mind leftover meat loaf at all, because I think it's terrific for a sandwich.  I generally only use 1 pound of beef and stretch it with onions, breadcrumbs, mushrooms, grated carrot.

Jobs This Week

Last Week:

The pansies are done.  I need to take them up from the strawberry jar and put in petunias or something.  I've got to buy six packs of plants to do that.

Work on that back flower bed again...the old hardy wildflowers are trying to take over.

Start work on front porch...I need to shop, oh how I need to shop! Wonder if I can manage that this week at all?  The front porch must be painted, as well as the furniture.  

Make a third pair of shorts out of old pants.

Set up a fresh lot of outfits for grab and go wear.

Get guest room back in order.

Tag more items for booth and take them to town to put out.

Linen trunk must be straightened up.

Paint cupboard has yet to be sorted out.  That's on my list as well.

Meat market and putting away meats.

Minor grocery shop.  Chicken tops that list but I do need to pick up a few other items as well.  

This week:
Go see the new grand baby.  She will  born this week for sure.    

Groceries?  Maybe

Finish last week's list.

Plant petunias and coleus I bought a week ago.

Friday, May 22, 2015

In My Home This Week: Savings Routine

                                Keeping the freezers full, and organized, are key to savings

Saturday:  Birthday party for youngest grandson today.  I kept things within budget.  His gift cost no more than the big kids will get for their gifts, about $10.  I have a slew of birthdays coming up next month.  I'm going to try and set aside a little grocery money to help cover those costs.

We contributed to the birthday party very simply.  I don't know anyone, child or adult, who doesn't like cheesepuffs.  I sent John in for one bag, he came out with two.  Cost less than $5.  We brought a bag home and I shared the partial bag with my niece for her wee little girls.

I carried along a table protector.  Not to put on the table but to put under the birthday boy while he had his cake.  These cost about $10 at the grocery and are quite handy for little ones.  We put them under the twins high chairs when they visited here.  The thicker, heavier plastic lasts longer than a cheap plastic tablecloth and we just fold up, carry them outdoors and wash under the hose.

Sunday:  I overslept this morning.  I was in luck twice:  My already put together outfits in the closet allowed me to just open the closet door, take out an outfit and dress.  The second was an item bought for our vacation that we didn't use; Frozen breakfast sandwiches.  We heated in microwave and I was able to eat on the way to church.

I didn't have a ready meal when we came out of church either.  I used some of the holiday money we'd set aside to purchase lunch.  I figured I'd call this day the last day of our vacation, since we planned to rest.  I suggested we get a rotisserie chicken from the deli.  John chose to add a half pint of potato salad.

When we got home I took all holiday money from my purse and put in an envelope and put it away.  We'll use that money this month for anything special we choose to do and if it goes unused we're going to put it back in the bank and save for traveling to see the grandchildren.

I cut the chicken into five sections.  We had leg quarters with potato salad for dinner.  I put the two breasts  and the back/wings aside for future meals.

There was leftover potato salad.  I put it in the fridge for tomorrow night's supper.

I hadn't planned supper either...Oh I definitely had a holiday frame of mind!  I also had another food item we hadn't used on our vacation: a box of stove top mac and cheese.  That made a very nice hot supper for us and I didn't need anything else to satisfy my appetite.

Sat down and planned meals after supper.

Went through paper and gathered coupons and looked through sales ads.  Noted that the discount grocer in the next town over had whole chickens for a very good price.

Monday:  Up early this morning. I was so excited at the idea of being  back in routines that I couldn't sleep.  I made breakfast right away and loaded the dishwasher while it was cooking.

I washed a dozen or so zippered bags this morning, most from our trip.  I was tempted to toss them but knowing I was going to be purchasing meat, I decided to wash them.  I prefer not to reuse meat bags and I generally use previously used and well washed  baggies to store the meat since I'm going to be tossing them afterwards anyway.  I saved the cost of one box of quart bags doing that job this morning.

Mid morning I sat down to look over the store sales ads.  I noted the price of chicken breasts was also very good and then I saw the .disclaimer at the bottom stated prices were good in an area where I don't shop.  I decided to go to the nearby store anyway and at least see what their prices were.  Roughly a dime more on the whole chickens and $.13 more on the bone in chicken breasts but the price of the breasts was still below $1/pound and the whole chickens were just barely more than that price.

When I went out to the store, I took off the trash, stopped by the post office to buy postage.

Bonus at ths store is the array of potted plants offered at discounts also.  I bought a lovely coleus (none of my seeds to have started.  I'll try again but in the meantime I want to have pretty pots of plants for the front porch and flower beds), and two 4 packs of petunias. I was tempted by a pot of white petunias but didn't purchase them.  I've sort of promised them to myself next week for my anniversary if they are still there.

I bought the turkey sausage we like...but I had to dig to find it.  Fortunately I spied a few packages down deep in the case and was able to pull them out.

I bought 3 packages of chicken breasts with four to a package.  They are huge breasts.  I can easily feed us with one breast, so I packaged them separately when I got home.  I bought four whole chickens for roasting.

When I came home I subtracted the cost of the chicken and plants from the ticket and found I was still well within my $300 limit.  I have enough left to buy bread and milk and any other necessities.  I have my money set aside for my beef purchases.  I feel very proud of myself...Now to repeat the same next month!

I promised John I'd bring home some ice cream.  I decided to purchase sherbert which is always inexpensive and so very refreshing on these hot summer days.

I wore my white jeans today.  It rained and I leaned against the back bumper of the car putting groceries in the trunk.  I had a lovely red clay line right across the belly of my pants.  I came home and spray treated them.  John insisted on washing them right away and put them in to soak with a little bleach first.  My jeans came out looking absolutely pristine.  I am glad!  I would have hated to relegate those pants to the house drawer after I'd only just started wearing them!

I went out this morning and watered the plants deeply, then refilled the pet water supplies.  Of course we've had inches and inches of rain this afternoon and evening.  I'm not complaining.  The rain lowered the temperature nearly 15 degrees and the AC has had no need to run very much at all.

We had hot dogs for supper. I've learned something important. If I boil hot dogs, put them in buns and wrap and freeze them in threes we don't overeat and I can stretch three packages of hot dogs to 8 suppers for us.  I'm going to keep a package or two for cookouts but I'm going to cook ahead, too, simply for the savings.

John had the last of the potato salad for supper tonight.  No waste there!

Tuesday:  I made homemade waffles for breakfast. I use pancake mix because John likes me to kep it on hand and because mixing with water is all that is required.  I put the mix into a big 2 quart glass jar with a chalkboard tag on it several weeks ago.  I kept the back of the box with the directions on it and mean to tack it to the bulletin board John put up for me today but I thought, "Why don't I just right the basic amounts on the back of the chalkboard tag with my permanent chalk marker?"  So I did.  No need to keep that added piece of paper about and how handy to have it right there with the jar mix?

Yes, John got busy this morning and hung my little bulletin board inside my baking center cabinet door as I requested. I've written out basics for those items I mix most often (Challah, Dinette Cake, Biscuits, and Banana Bread) on index cards and tacked inside the door.

Made up two salads at once today: tuna pasta salad and the Club Salad (Lettuce, tomato, bacon, chicken).   We'll eat the pasta salad in a day or two, but since the salad dressing contained the same basis as the tuna pasta salad (mayonnaise, onion, bell pepper, celery) why not chop all at once and make them both?

Ran a full load of dishes in the dishwasher.

I was sorting out the closet so I could put our luggage back in and decided to remove the wrapping paper holder I've had for years that never worked quite as well as I'd hoped.  I had a solid navy garment bag and taking my cue from Pinterest  I put the rolls of paper in that and hung in the craft room closet.  I already like it better! The taller rolls of paper fit much better in the garment bag and now their ends are protected. from being crushed.

The ants were busy and quick this morning.  Though I sat with the pets while they ate, the ants were already invading the dishes when I picked them up.  I'll have to be watchful of the food bowls when I feed the animals from now on.

I'm trying to leave the AC strictly alone, but I got cold this afternoon.  I put on a sweater.  If I find I am consistently cold when at rest at the current setting, I'll edge it up one degree.

Wednesday:  We decided today was meat market day.  Of course, we made the trip count.  I took along a bill that needed to be posted, John gathered trash to take off.

I bought enough meat to (hopefully) last us four months with the chicken just bought this week.

Bought a whole sirloin tip roast, rather than sirloin steak, to cube up for shish kebab.  This saved nearly $12.

I made my own burger patties when I got home.  This was a smaller savings than purchasing the pre-formed (but oh so good) patties they had at store.  I managed to get 12 good sized and 9 slider sized burgers from the 5 pounds of beef.  I made up the sliders because I had rolls in the freezer and I like the convenience of microwaving a burger.  I don't have a lot of room in my freezer at present but I will soon be taking Katie's entrees to her and will have room to add a few more ready made things for myself.

All but $20 of the meat money was in our account or on a pre-paid credit card.  Here's where I made that pre-paid credit card count.  I paid $40 for it but it was valued at $50.  That made our lunch free today.  We picked up burgers at the meat market.

Received a food sample from PineCone Research to test.

Thursday:  John commented that this is the third time we've finished bananas well before they reached banana bread stage.  He sounded kind of proud of it but I'm a little disappointed.  I like banana bread!  Fortunately I have some bananas in the freezer, so no loss.

Making shish kebab for dinner, I marinated in the last of a bottle of Italian dressing.  I am so over buying big bottles of dressing for the two of us. I tired of them long before they are done.  This is the third recipe I've used Italian dressing in over the past two months.

I used lots of vegetables for the shish kebab: zucchini, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes.  It seemed quite enough vegetables in the end and I did not make salad.

Made cookies this afternoon to fill the cookie jar.

Deadheaded plants this morning so they will keep producing lovely flowers and not seeds.  I'll let them run to seed later in the season.

I did find one or two mature seedheads on the petunias so I cracked them open and scattered about the soil in the pot.

Took up another volunteer petunia growing beside the patio.

Friday:  It was so much cooler this morning that the AC didn't come on until  after noon.

John washed a full load of clothes and hung them all to dry.

We went down to pick up John's check (early pay due to the holiday).  I took along tithes to mail off and bagged up all the trash to go off, too.

John headed to the next town and suggested we had a gift to buy.  A bit of questioning revealed that he meant to buy me an anniversary gift.  Truth:  I have no desire for anything in particular at the moment.  I suggested an ice cream cone would suit me just fine and so that's what he bought us.  Lovely day for an ice cream cone on the way home anyway.

We stopped at local grocery to pick up basic necessities: milk, eggs, bananas, potatoes.  I stocked up on fat free Cool Whip, which is nice to keep on hand especially for ice box pies in the hot months.  Since I can't find carageenan free cream products any longer this is my go to substitute.

While in the grocery, I noted one pocket of my jeans felt crisp...I realized I had a waistband pocket and when I reached in I found $20.

When I got allowance today, I noted that I'd only spent about $10 of my last pay period's allowance.  I put aside half of my money for project funds.

Living Well

This is Katie at about 1 1/2.  That smile was standard issue with her and still is.  Any day now, Katie will have her own little girl.  I am jumping every time the phone rings or a text comes in.  Katie had some tough years following high school.  The resutl of them is that  she's grown into a lovely beautiful strong woman...a woman who can raise a girl to womanhood with gentleness and strength and skill.  In the meantime, we wait for that new little girl to arrive.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Iced Tea Chat: Fun, Sun, Run

Hello! ...we have been having fun!  We started out one morning bright and early and headed to lovely St. Augustine.  Besides the destination, we had no hard and fast plans.  It was freeing...and I admit I really enjoyed it.  Me, the planner, the mapper outer, the "I got the details" person just let go and went with the flow.  No anxiety, no sinking feeling.  Just say, "Okay," and go.

Gracious where are my manners?  Come in!  Have some tea and cookies?  Never mind that silly John in that photo above.  I like to get our annual 'We're on vacation' photo.  He was cutting up something terrible and I was laughing so hard I could barely stand up!

We did plan ahead enough to make reservations.  There is where my anxiety threatened to overflow.  The place where we planned to stay has sometimes upgraded us...not anything like moving from coach to first class, but more of substitution of equal value but not always equal quality.

 I reserved the room I wanted based on several criteria: smoke free, pet free (due to allergies), full ocean view.  And then I got picky.  I prefer balcony seating that is not flimsy plastic chairs.  I had to like the colors in the room.  Not for me the room done in red and green, nor all dark browns.  That is fine for home.  I don't care about high end furnishings, but I did not want to be in a space with some one's cast offs either, and sad to say some do furnish their rentals with those.

The room I had chosen was done in white, varying shades of sea blue, and sand.  It was furnished with a mixture of hand painted thrift finds and inexpensive but comfortable seating.  There were good quality wood chairs for the balcony.  It was perfect.  There were more expensive rooms, and larger ones, but this one had personality, charm, serenity and life.  When I experienced that first anxiety pre-trip, I said to myself that I would not allow myself to feel vacation was spoiled if we were put in another room.  I just wanted to enjoy myself.

Well we did.  John and I left one Tuesday morning and arrived outside St. Augustine about 3pm.  He had the brilliant idea of stopping at a Publix some 20 miles away from our hotel, which sits in the middle of nowhere in a place called Mill Creek,  but is right on our path.  We picked up all our grocery needs there, choosing some nice things for our meals, like Campari tomatoes, Boars Head deli meats, apricots and our personal choices of adult beverages.  We're not big on indulging in alcohol but we do like an icy cold drink on the balcony come evening.  Typically we skip these luxury sorts of foods and drinks but it was nice to splurge.  Then as we were checking out, I spied cold sodas.  It was hot and humid and I was soaking wet.  I discovered Fanta Pineapple drink in the cold drink case and tried something new.  Golly but that was good!

We were able to make one easy trip upstairs to our room and I was so grateful for that, too.  Confession time:  this is usually a time when a little spat starts up between John and I.  For some reason, he is determined to make one trip to the room and loads himself and me like pack mules with just one chance to get across the mountain ridge before the shooting starts.  One or the other of us will generally drop something, creating an avalanche of things.  The new bigger suitcase which rolls beautifully was one help and the French shopping cart was another big help.  We were fully loaded but the bulk of goods were portable in the cart or atop the big suitcase.  John had a bungee cord which he used to strap a large bag to the top of the suitcase and another bag had a shoulder strap.  In the end it worked out just fine, one trip, no spillage and no spillage of words!  Ta da!  It's only been 20 years of travel and lugging stuff about to reach this point!  Miracles do happen.

The room was lovely, truly lovely and just the one I'd reserved.  The ocean was blue and the sand white and the sun shining....We sat on the balcony and had a drink and had a bit of fun snapping photos once we'd cooled off.

The trip overall was very low key.  We didn't do big things.  We did little things that we thought we'd enjoy.  Wednesday morning we went into Old Town.  We'd debated trolley tickets but after seeing the price hike on those we decided it was not for a one day visit in town.  Perhaps if we were staying longer, but not for the one day we'd set aside for town.

We walked a few blocks into old town, admiring the goods in shops windows.  I accepted a lotion sample from a nice looking young man with a lovely accent, who seriously thought I meant I was from Georgia, USSR when I said we were from Georgia, lol.  I've been mistaken for Greek and Italian and even Hispanic but never for a Russian before.

We went into the Flagler legacy shop where they sell clothing and such with the Flagler college logo on them.  Katie never attended Flagler but ever since we've been visiting St. Augustine, she has insisted that she would someday attend that college.  She's acquired any number of the hoodies from the store and generally asks for a new one every three years.  We stopped in this time and bought one for her baby girl in the smallest size they had.  We thought she'd get a kick out of that.  John sent her a photo of it and she was pleased as punch.

We had a fancy coffee from our favorite coffee shop.  I took photos but the silly camera refuses to release them.  Anyway, we had our coffee in the courtyard below St. George Inn.  There is a fountain there and it's a fun place to people watch.  Fresh off my own clothing posts, I paid particular attention to how women were dressed.  I saw some really chic looking women in their middle and senior years.  I appreciated those who wore neat, well fitting capris, usually with light cotton blouses, either button down or peasant style and nice walking sandals.  I saw many of the long maxi dresses in jersey knit and simple cotton dresses.  I felt quite comfortable in my own clothing of white t-shirt and jeans with silver and blue jewelry. I did get quite hot walking but I held up well.

After we'd walked about town, we headed out to the island and went down to a little restaurant on the Mantanzas Inlet.  I had a blackened Mahi Mahi and John got a Cheeseburger.  We sat indoors (thankfully, lol) where it was air conditioned but near the windows overlooking the Inlet and took our time with our meal.  The last time we visited two years ago we were the only customers.  We noted that the parking lot was nicely filled and there were several customers.

The sun and sand and heat just made us feel tired, so we went back to our room.  My favorite thing to do at the beach is to sit on the balcony and look.  I look at everything.  I look at natural surroundings.  We saw a large tortoise sitting in the shade of a bush.  A fat brown rabbit hopped routinely about the trails.  A blackbird sat on the piling of the pier and sang sweet songs to us.  Blanket flowers bloomed in the dunes.

I love watching the people, too.  Children and parents, people with pets, couples, young parents with grandparents and children...What I find most striking is that the beach seems to have it's own hours of operation.  It begins to get populated around 7am but every day by 5pm it is empty as can be.  A few folks come out about 7p to walk dogs or walk together.

And then there's the water.  The surf's constant movement and sound, the tides, the occasional flash of a dolphin fishing off shore, sail boats, kayaks, shrimp boats, surfers...There's just so much to see.  When it was too hot to sit on the balcony (and it was hot and heavily humid Tuesday and Wednesday), I sat indoors with the curtains open and the air conditioning on full blast and watched.  We were outdoors for some portion of each day from sunrise until sunset, though.

Thursday morning we were leisurely about things.  It was foggy outdoors.  You could hear the surf pounding and see the sunlight coming through the upper layers of fog, but you couldn't see the water for the first three hours we were up.  John looked at me mid-morning and said "Why don't you pack a picnic?"  That's my man.  I didn't ask what we were going to do, just did what he asked and packed a nice lunch.

We drove off down the coast to Ormond by the Sea.  Grace Lutheran Church plays a carillon at noon each day.  Their parking lot is open to the public six days of the week, mostly beach parking, but several people show up each day to hear the bells.  That's where we had our picnic.  John stopped for sodas and chips.   He bought me another Pineapple Fanta.  Yum!  On our way home he stopped and bought us ice cream.

It's such a lovely drive down A1A, past state park beaches and old motor courts which are still up and running, and even camp grounds on the ocean side of the road.  I don't think I've ever really wanted an RV/Camper until I saw those little campgrounds inside white picket fences overlooking the Atlantic ocean...I tell John it is the only glimpse of old Florida I shall ever have, that little stretch of highway between our condo and Ormond by the Sea.  There are condos and private homes and all kinds of little towns.

Thursday evening was packing up time, sigh.  We had plenty of time to see sunrise and slowly get ready to go home.  We do try to leave early, but we also try to squeeze what we can out of the stay, too. There's never half so much to take home as we took up to the room somehow, lol.  John got it all downstairs alone in one trip except for the insulated bag and a bag in which   I packed sandwiches for a picnic on the way home.

The ride home was uneventful.  We stopped a time or two to stretch our legs and have a bite of food.  By the time we're about 60 miles from home we've had enough of the interstate.  We always head home on country back roads which soothes us and relaxes us and at the same time revives us after hours on the Interstate.   There's plenty of country views on the interstate but all that traffic just wears you down after a bit, even if there are fields of squash and tomatoes and beans to be seen along the way.

I think my favorite views are all the little old farm houses.  The footprint of each lot is about the same.  A farm house, a barn or three, a pump house, a propane tank, crowded together on a quarter or half acre.  There's almost always a little garden area and shade trees.  What varies for the most part is whether the house faces east or south or west, the color of the house, and the flowers in the yard.  I always wonder about the families raised in those houses and the homemaker and farmer husband. Whether the children married up with the children on the next farm or whether the sons are farmers like dad and did the daughters practice the home economies they learned from mom?

We were glad to be home.  We are always glad to come home once we're here, but it's such a wrench from the beach...We were tired enough to go right to bed, but John wanted to get laundry done and there was Shabat at sunset to look forward to.  We unpacked and put things away and had our Shabat evening and from there we sort of wilted away, lol.

We got up early on Saturday morning.  We attended our youngest grandson's first pre-birthday party.  His parents will be packing and moving by the time his birthday comes around next month.  We had a grand time.  What a blessed child he is...Great grandparents, more than the usual quota of grandparents, cousins, great aunts and uncles, uncles and aunts.  We weren't a large group but we were a noisy group and ages ranged from 6 months to almost 90, I think.

                                                   The birthday boy and his mommy

We started our day outdoors which was surprisingly comfortable with a nice steady breeze.  Bess had the party at her grandmother's assisted living center, hence the plastic cloth on the brick flooring.  Josh was not at all sure he liked that cake but it was absolutely delicious to us adults.

I was so tired when we returned from that party.  Sunshine, breezes, heat, do their work on good days and I was still not quite rested from our return trip.  I went to bed early Saturday night with the intention of reading my latest book from Blogging for Books, but I didn't get very far.  I woke up at 5am yesterday morning and got up and sat in the kitchen writing in my journal and awaiting sunrise.  I started to pray and realized I was cold, so I got the coverlet from the living room chair and wrapped up in it...and of course, I went to sleep.  John was up about 6:30.  I woke up and went right back to bed and slept until after 9am.

Here's where my wardrobe helped me out a lot.  We have to leave no later than 9:45 if we're going to make it to service at the church we attend, some 35 miles away.  Well I made it and I lay that victory down right at my prepared outfits hanging in the closet.  I had four to choose from.  I just reached in and picked one.  I managed to load the dishwasher, shower, do my hair, dress, and put on makeup within the 40 minutes I allotted myself. I am convinced that keeping outfits set up and ready to go will only make my life more streamlined!

On our way home John stopped to pick up a rotisserie chicken for lunch. I gave him a very short list of things to get as well.  No real need to shop for groceries but I knew he'd want bananas and we needed bread.  When we got home and had dinner, I announced my intention to take the rest of the day off.  And I mean I did, too!  I was just a little tired from our busy week and weekend.  I felt a little bit guilty that here we were home nearly 48 hours and I hadn't yet cooked a meal.  I could see that I needed to be back in routines, because much as I love vacation it can't go on forever, can it?

Well I must have been excited at the idea of getting back to work because I lay awake Sunday night planning all I'd do Monday morning!  I was up and ready for work early, too.  I got quite a lot done that day.  Even made John a homemade meal.  You know he was glad of it, too, lol.

Tuesday, I just wanted to write.  Of course, it didn't work out quite that way.  There seemed to be a number of jobs in the kitchen.  I got hot and tired and irritable and resentful.  I don't like to be resentful about my work but it wasn't the work I wanted to do.  I sighed and set things down a bit harder than was necessary and sighed some more.  I have no idea why I do that.  John seldom takes notice.  Truth told, if he does notice, he just leaves me to sort myself out once more rather than fuss or inquire why so angst filled.  It's his way of keeping peace as much as he can.  I finally stopped grousing in my mind and just settled down to do the work that was needed.

 I pushed myself and made two meals while I was working.  That meant I had a meal ahead for yesterday which was great because that was meat market day.  After dinner I washed dishes and did a bit more sighing but I finally settled down to writing and completely enjoyed my time at the computer.  I moved my laptop to the desk in the kitchen, which is where I used to write.  I do believe my shoulder hurt less than when I stoop over the keyboard.  And you know, I recall I used to get quite a lot done in short bursts of energy when I wrote in the kitchen.  I think it's a habit worth renewing.

The meat market ride was so pleasant and nice.  It's all rural country about here anyway, with just short little pieces through small towns but John cut across country and missed even the small towns.  I really enjoyed the ride.  It seemed I saw more things I hadn't seen before, which is more typical in winter than in months when the leaves are fully out on the trees.

I'll save my purchases for another post, but while I stood in the store awaiting the young men to pack my meat in ice in my insulated bags, I happened to glance up at the wall and saw some tin signs above the produce.  Let me tell you inspiration hit hard at that moment.  I'd been longing to do something fresh to my front porch for the past year, besides painting it which it desperately needs. Seeing those tin signs made me think of one Mama has for Sunbeam bread.  I mean to find three or four and hang them on the porch wall were the red window frame is now.  Or so I think...I'll have to look hard.  I've seen the signs for as little as $10 for replicas but some are three or ten times that on eBay.  I'll keep my eyes open.  I've even got a sort of color theme in mind and plants and such will just dress up that porch some kinda cute!

I couldn't help but be inspired again here at home.  I was digging about in the chiffarobe for something and came across an old expandable coat/coffee mug rack.  I'd used mine for coffee mugs until I took it down and placed the Coffee 5cents sign above the coffee maker instead.  I had seen the cutest little nook in a closet where the homeowner had organized all her scarves and jewelry and such...and of course, I have an odd little niche in my closet that is 17 inches wide and 19 inches deep.  I'm looking for a narrow little chest of drawers to put there and then will have John hang a mirror and the cup rack and perhaps a picture frame fixed up to hold earrings (chicken wire works nicely.  It would mean I'd have a better visual of my costume pieces than I have with them in the drawer at present.  I'm reluctant to expose room to the clutter of the jewelry but wouldn't mind it in the closet.  I could even put in a small lamp for extra lighting since a receptacle is conveniently located just outside the closet door on the same wall.

And of course, I've been inspired for my laundry area, too.  I found the cutest tray at Tuesday Morning that makes me ready to complete my vision for that laundry closet.  I'd like to paint the walls and put up real shelving, removing the wire shelves that are so awkwardly placed just now.  Ideas, ideas, ideas....some days they do flow and I've no clue how they come, but I've noted that the busier I am in other areas, the more easily ideas tend to come for writing or decorating or wardrobe or cooking.

Do you know where I wish inspiration would strike just now?  In the food department.  I've gone the easy route and tend to mostly make foods that John enjoys.  Now John rarely ever complains (only twice in 23 years) about a meal other than worrying I'm going to too much trouble.  But what he like really well is a limited number (exactly ten) which he lists as his favorites.  I am and always have been more adventuresome in my cooking and I tend to cook seasonally as well because let's face it, pot roast is grand on a cold winter's day but it's deadly heavy on a 100F summer day. I need to make good on my promise to scan the cookbooks for 'new' recipes or forgotten ones that are economical and delicious and lighter for summer.

I've been very busy reading.  I have started a book by Jentezen Franklin, The Spirit of Python.  This book was suggested to me by a pastor friend and I ordered it and another he recommended for the Kindle before we left on vacation.  I am also reading a book I got from Blogging for Books which I hope to be reviewing by the first of next week.  It is very interesting but I take it in small doses.

I seem to be reading more for study and blogging than for personal satisfaction but I have truly enjoyed the two books I've gotten from Blogging for Books, albeit they are not my usual genres.

I read mostly right now to take my mind off the impending birth of Katie's baby.  I have never bee in labor, nor have I ever had a natural delivery.  My oldest daughter and my youngest daughter in law have been and they came out of it like pros.  But I confess my nerves are wracked each time one of them has gone into delivery...and so I worry.  I don't mean to worry, truly I don't.  But this is an unknown place where I've never been and I can't seem to quite get away from it.  I have prayed and prayed over this pregnancy, this baby, this birth and I am sure all will go well...but every now and then I have to remind myself of my faith!

Well loves, it's time to call it an afternoon and move on.  I really ought to tag a few items for my booth.  We're running errands tomorrow and it would just suit me to stop and restock the booth while we're going through town anyway.  John's ready for his supper...Away to the home things.  Talk to you later!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

State of the Union Address...Or How I See the Economy at Present

Annabelle of Bluebirds Are Nesting wrote a great post on being watchful.   She has seen a lot of strong storms and flooding in her country lately and that has prompted her to prepare for such.  I mentioned in a comment that in the past, I've watched economic forecasts...and realized this one something I'd not done in quite a while.  Annabelle wrote and asked me, "What are the economic signs at present in your country?"  We've seen some new construction in our area but what are the real facts?

In the U.S., with election year just around the corner it's obvious that a spit and polish is put on the economy as well as current programs that are in effect.  That's standard issue for just about anywhere I suppose.  So I am a little leery of government figures at the moment.  However, I need to be aware, this is an area where we all need to be aware.  It's important that we know where we are, so that we can prepare for where we are going, just like keeping a budget tells us where we are and where we need to go.

The area where I live in Georgia, is rural and economically depressed.  It has been for all the years I've been here.  We don't see construction as a rule.  Right now the Rural Electric company is building two new facilities in our small town.  That's the first new construction we've seen here in 10 years.  Will it provide local jobs?  I don't think it's very likely to be honest.  But new people will be coming into our community to work.  I hope that means new businesses (likely food related).  Sad news is that we're losing our only hardware/auto parts store.

So not a lot of research to be done in my community, I looked wider.  What did I see?  Again some new construction of businesses, some housing.  It's very slow construction and not fast openings of businesses, but it's growth, however slow.

In the area where we vacation we saw LOADS of construction.  It's an area that thrives on tourists and vacationing families.  So lots of homes being built or renovated.  Most of the For Sale signs in that area were on vacant lots.

So the visible signs are that the economy is improving.  People are working once again (construction and skilled labor) but...what is the real forecast?

The unemployment figures through April of this year reports more than 2 million unemployed.  In percentages they report unemployment at 49%.  That means that half the people once employed in this nation is not working. Those figures don't include the never employed nor those who have stopped receiving benefits but are still looking for work.

We still hear reports of small counties, especially rural ones, with economic troubles.  Not enough tax base to operate, much less to replace or improve equipment and maintain buildings.

Things are not any better...but they don't appear to be getting worse.

The new USDA food budget guidelines for 2015 were released in February.  According to the scale the very least we should spend for our household is $334/mo, which is just foodstuffs, no cleaning or paper products and more importantly, no stocking up funds.  I'm never shocked to find that I fall  in the thrifty figures and manage paper and cleaning products, pet foods and stocking up...and if I include my bulk meat purchases we're still in the low cost plan.

Necessity demands that I lower my grocery budget to $300 at the most.  Purchasing health insurance has meant a decrease in savings and I very much want to make that up.  This budget cut won't quite do it but it will help.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

In My Home This Week: Return to Home Routines

I'm  late, I know.  I just couldn't seem to settle my mind to thinking of meals...and oh does it show in my household because I haven't cooked a thing since I made breakfast Friday morning!  Yep, as we were getting ready to come home.  It's been scratchin' about and coming up with much of nothing the past two days.  Time to get myself pulled back up into routines, planning meals and preparing foods from scratch and grocery shopping.  You know, real life stuff.  Yup.

We bought a rotisserie chicken for Sunday dinner and a pint container of potato salad.  I do need to make a trip to the meat market but that will come later in the week.  I noticed the discount grocer in the next town, the one where I found that bulk package of Tennessee Pride Turkey Sausage patties, has whole chickens for $.89pound...of course, I have to add $.9 or 10%,  which really makes them $.98/pound but I'll be saving nearly $.80 a pound off the best price at the meat market.  These chickens are not guaranteed antibiotic free but they are Carageenan free.  I plan to buy about 10 whole chickens.  That's one start on building my meats back up.

But I don't really need to plan shopping just yet, which is where my mind wants to go.  No, I need desperately to plan meals, so let's us tackle that right now before I travel off down another rabbit trail and forget my whole purpose.  All week long the forecast says it shall be 90F...That's hot but not unbearable and it's perfectly seasonable here.

Tuna Pasta Salad, Saltines, Lime Cottage Puddings
I always have used just what we had in the crisper in my pasta salad.  Sometimes we have peppers and sometimes we have none.  I think I have a bit of green pepper in the crisper this time, certainly I have carrots and onions and celery.  Black olive slices are always a nice addition, too.   I also have some limes I have been keeping in water for the past two months or so.  I want to use up those limes and get some fresh ones.  I think making the cottage pudding with the lime juice and zest will be tasty.  My recipe makes just enough for four I think.  I'll have to dig that one out of the binder where I keep my recipes.

Roast Beef,  Scalloped Potatoes, Green Peas, Fruit Cocktail
The roast is smaller but will do nicely for a meal and enough over for sandwiches for supper later in the week.

Club Salads, Cheese Toast Points, Leftover Cottage Pudding
I'll cook some turkey bacon, slice half the breast from the rotisserie chicken we had for Sunday dinner and make up salads for our meal today.  I hope at this point to also have tomatoes but if not, then we'll do without.

Chicken Pot Pie, Pineapple Salad
I'll use the second half of that cooked breast meat to make a small pot pie for us.  A cold crisp Pineapple salad next to the hot pie will be a nice contrast.  I'll add a full compliment of vegetables to the pot pie.

Shish Kebabs, Rice, Roasted Asparagus, Strawberries and Cream
I have a sirloin steak I plan to cut into meaty cubes for the shish kebab.  I hope to pick up some fresh produce while at the discount grocers but if I find money is tight, I can skip it and use an onion and peppers from the freezer.  And the Berries and cream can become a box of instant pudding with crumbled cookies atop.

Creamy Chicken Noodles, Green Beans, Green Salad, Muffins
I'll use the carcass and any tidbits of meat from the rotisserie chicken to make up this dish.  I may toss in a can of drained mushrooms just to add a little more meatiness to the dish without actually using any more meat.  I'm going to try to keep the dish light but it begins to seem heavy to me I'll skip the muffins.  That should be the last of that chicken.

Well that's meals...Now to get on to planning work...which is still up in the air because really I don't know if we'll be home every day or all days.  Meals may vary from what is planned to picnic fare.

Jobs This Week

The pansies are done.  I need to take them up from the strawberry jar and put in petunias or something.  I've got to buy six packs of plants to do that.

Work on that back flower bed again...the old hardy wildflowers are trying to take over.

Start work on front porch...I need to shop, oh how I need to shop! Wonder if I can manage that this week at all?  The front porch must be painted, as well as the furniture.  

Make a third pair of shorts out of old pants.

Set up a fresh lot of outfits for grab and go wear.

Get guest room back in order.

Tag more items for booth and take them to town to put out.

Linen trunk must be straightened up.

Paint cupboard has yet to be sorted out.  That's on my list as well.

Meat market and putting away meats.

Minor grocery shop.  Chicken tops that list but I do need to pick up a few other items as well.  

Saturday, May 16, 2015

This Week in My Home: Frugal On the Go

I couldn't be happier...Free books for reviews.  I joined Blogging for Books last month and just received my second selection.  It's a nice hard back copy this time and yes, the books really are free!

Saturday:  I filled the coffee jar with the free bag of coffee I picked up yesterday.

John fixed the toaster, which didn't work earlier this week.  He didn't do anything much to it but smash the lever harder than I'd been able to do.  But it works!  That means we can put off buying a new for a little longer.

Bagged up ice this morning and put in the freezer.  It's not unusual as days heat up to run out of ice and I thought I'd get ahead a little.  It also is handy for grabbing to ice down foods when we're shopping or traveling.  Why buy when I can make more?

Made up a pitcher of Koolaid.  We are finding we like this quite well as a substitute for soda and it's good!  I'd forgotten how good it was.