Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Housewife

The Housewife

My days are days of small affairs,
Of trifling worries, little cares-----
A lunch to pack, a bed to make,
A room to sweep, a pie to bake,
A hurt to kiss, a tear to dry,
A head to brush, a bow to tie,
A face to wash, a rent to mend,
A meal to plan, a fuss to end,
A hungry husband to be fed-----
A sleepy child to put to bed.
I, who had hoped some day to gain
Success-----perhaps a bit of fame,
Must give my life to small affairs,
Of trifling worries, little cares.
But, should tomorrow bring a change,
My little house grow still and strange-----
Should all the cares I know today
Be swept, quite suddenly, away,
Where now a hundred duties press
Be but an ache of loneliness;
No child's gay ribbons to be tied,
No wayward little feet to guide:
To Heaven then would rise my prayers:
"Oh God, give back my little cares!"

by Tramp Star

Monday, April 21, 2014

Coffee Chat - I Said I Would

Oh Hello!  Do come on in.  I'm a bit ready for company so I'm glad you could stop by.  There's some gingersnaps with a bit of lemon curd filling.  Sounds tasty, doesn't it?  I made a cocoa ripple coffeecake Friday before the weekend, but it's all gone now.  I'd suggest we go outdoors but it's quite warm out there which  is nice but isn't if you've been working all morning and a good portion of the afternoon, too.  We had quite a cool spell end of week  and weekend.  I didn't expect that and was quite shocked to read the weather reports and even denied they could possibly be right.  Well for once they were right. 

I had all day last Sunday alone here at home and I spent it cleaning, getting ready for Passover, planning how to use the last of the products that contained yeast.  I decided to have toast for supper that night and to make French toast for breakfast, which took care of half the loaf of bread that we had on hand.  In the end, I threw out the other half loaf and 1 packet of dried soup mix I'd bought to make a dip for chips.  I was very proud that I'd managed to use so many things and that I'd kept a watchful eye on my pantry and hadn't overstocked those items.

The cleaning was a little more detailed than usual but that was because I just felt I needed to be thorough.  The cleaning reaped far more dirt and crumbs than I might have imagined it might considering I do housework daily.  I was surprised, but then again, I shouldn't be.  I did say I was being very thorough, so I cleaned under the stove top and under the oven, dishwasher and fridge, places I normally swipe out about once every few months, not daily.

When John last played at the Seed and Feed one of the men came up to talk to him after his set.  He asked about Passover and the purpose of removing the yeast from the homes.  He and I talked a bit and then he said something that just startled me, because it seems to me it was point on.  He said he'd been looking into the Jewish festivals and how they were celebrated. "It occurred to me that when Jesus returns, he'll continue to do as he did long ago, which is to follow these special commands God gave.  I want to be able to participate with him."  I confess that my own journey started the day I woke up to the fact that Jesus was Jewish, but I never thought about His return and my being prepared to follow Him then.  I guess all this learning right now is just practice time...I like that.

I went shopping Sunday morning after cleaning was done.  I purposely wanted to go early to the store to avoid the crowds.  It was apparently just the right time to go because while the store was  hardly deserted it was certainly not packed.  It made shopping a good deal easier and every thing was well stocked.  I nearly went nuts in the produce department.  There were so many tempting items. I finally settled myself down and reminded myself that I had a shorter grocery budget for the coming two weeks.  When I had my items on the conveyor belt later I realized that over half my purchases were fresh produce.   I also bought flowers, my first bunch in so many months I can't even remember the last time I purchased any.  I remembered every thing I'd meant to purchase except horseradish.  And I didn't even think about that until Monday morning.  

It was warm-ish that day, about mid-80s and humid.  It felt like spring had properly arrived.  I'd heard of a fast food place that sold chicken livers and stopped on my way home to treat myself to some.  It was warm enough that I was just longing for a soda and I do love a good fountain soda...well that wasn't  a good one.  It didn't taste good at all.  I threw it away without taking more than a sip.  Yuck.  Had I not been so anxious to get home I'd have gone back to return it.  Duly noted, I'll not bother to buy a fountain drink from that spot in future.  It was humid and uncomfortable outdoors that day, the air just felt thick and heavy.  Needless to say, I was glad to get indoors and turn on a fan.

By the time I got home and unloaded groceries I had a headache and was feeling sniffly.  Allergies.  The haze of pollen hung in the air made the hills in the distance look like a yellow hued mirage.  I took an allergy tablet after I'd gotten things put away, sat down in my chair and dozed right off.  I am so sensitive to medicines that even a half dose of that mild allergy tablet zonked me right out...I'm sure getting up prior to 5a.m. helped, too.  I was unable to work up much desire to do a whole lot more that day after my forced nap.

I was pretty pleased with what I spent on groceries over all.  It's been necessary due to the way the pay periods fall to cut my grocery budget for one pay period in half, yes in half, and no I don't get to make it up during the larger pay period.  I was careful with my purchases that day and even though I didn't shop at Aldi I managed quite well.  I think if I go to Aldi and use as great a care as I used that day, I shall do very well indeed.  I came in on budget (the new low budget) that particular week and all that I purchased was/is for this pay period.  I shall only buy bread tomorrow while I'm out.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread is over this evening.

The skies last Monday were heavy as could be.  John and I did housework in the morning hours.  After dinner we drove to his work place to pick up his paycheck.  I had forgotten to purchase horseradish Sunday and we made two stops looking for that.  This year, instead of letting it sit forever and ever in the fridge and wondering if it's gone bad, I mean to put it in ice cube trays and freeze.  Then I can pop one out when I want to use it.  I like a bit of horseradish in my coleslaw dressing once in a while, and it's good for making a hot catsup or BBQ sauce, as well as making a lovely creamy sauce for roast beef, but I don't want those things all of the time.  So into the freezer it goes. 

John and I were headed home and as we came upon a road  he mentioned that he'd been down that one recently as one side is his work county and the other side is our home county. I hadn't been down the road in ages.  Every once in a while John gets  wanderlust in him.  He turned around and we went back to the road and down we went, riding along and enjoying the views.  It's a lovely time of year for rides really, with all the dogwood blooming in the woods and the yards of homes full of lovely blooming flowers and trees and shrubs.  When we came out at the other end, John had no clue where we were, but I did.  I directed him and we had a very long country drive before we were done, coming out about 11 miles from home on another road than the one we'd been headed home on and adding about 20 miles to the odometer, I guess.  It was lovely and we enjoyed it.  It took perhaps 30 minutes of our time and was well worth the small splurge of time and gasoline.

When we got back home, we planned to pay bills, but each tackled other jobs first.  John had need of a music stand that folds up so it's easily packed up to travel when he has an engagement.  He'd found one for about $34 but decided there was a less expensive option.  He purchased a butterfly bolt and a wing nut.  Now he can break his stand down in seconds and it goes back together just as easily.  He's such a smart man!  I think the bolt and wing nut cost him a whole $2.  We'd used the music stand just Friday when he played at the Feed and Seed and we both cringed as we placed it on the back seat of my car.  Those seats are leather and one wrong move...Now the music stand can go in the trunk with the rest of the equipment.

My task was to get the elements of the Seder plate ready and to set out my dishes.  I really should have taken a photo later that evening when we did the Seder.  It was quite lovely.  I found an Imari plate several years ago at the thrift store and it has seven sections, so we use that.  I used one of Big Mama's sherbert cups as the container for the salt water and we arranged the other elements around that.  I have a photo of the Imari plate here amongst the other treasures I gathered that day:

I reckon that purchase was made about four years ago now.  And the curtains it sits upon are hanging at the guest room window now, the frame holds a lovely old flower print from a book.  I so love thrift store shopping.  On the day John played the Feed and Seed I went into my favorite thrift shop and found a pair of  brand new sandals for summer for $2.  I almost didn't purchase them...I'm glad I did. I've worn them twice this past week, including Easter Sunday morning.   I expect I'll get to use them as often as I have the other things I've purchased.

When we had our Harvest session, I found that my purchases Sunday were spot on the amount of money I could spare for groceries.  That was a great discovery, as I'd been especially careful.  Now I know about where we need to be on that shorter pay period.  I had planned to try and trim my grocery budget a bit further, but there's no greater incentive than 'have to', is there?  Just briefly I want to address a few questions Sarah asked me regarding our Harvest time.  We only have one bill that varies from a set amount: electricity.  After years we can pretty much determine about how much our costs each month are going to be and we're seldom more than $10 off.  The remainder of the bills are fixed amounts, so it's not at all hard to determine how much we need to set aside each pay period.  Yes, we are paid every other week which means we get an 'extra check' twice a year.  Because we pay our bills the way we do we don't have one full pay check as extra either time, but over the two months following that 'extra' pay period, we find we've no need to set aside half of one or three bills during a pay period.  Those additional amounts are generally paid towards our loan repayment amount.

After our Harvest, it was soon sundown and time for Passover.  I missed being part of a group Seder.  It's such a lovely thing to eat and drink and go through the ritual ceremony even when there's just the two of us, but it's really lovely when there's a larger group sharing.  The synagogue we attend had so many people participating that they sold tickets.  We decided we'd rather just stay home, and it was nice.  It's such a privilege to walk this path, it truly is.

On Tuesday, the threatening skies rained and rained and rained.  I was not in the best of moods...seems I write that a lot lately, but it's true and I wouldn't have you think I was always a model of perfection.  I'm not.  I hurt due to weather changes, and I felt disappointed in life, in general.  After these moods I'm always shocked at myself, because I am just as blessed as I was the day before when life looked pretty good.  So while I am an optimistic sort overall, almost disgustingly so, when I fail and allow my mood to sink, I really go hard in the opposite direction and get good and grumpy.  I don't do much by half measures, lol, not even bad moods.  I had to go to town to bank and post office, but I didn't even bother with make up nor decent clothes. I  figured I would be doing drive thru stuff anyway at both places so why bother?  It was a misty blowing fitful rain, the sort that doesn't allow one to go without windshield wipers but makes them annoying as well.  I must say the weather came nearer my mood than not.

I had taken a worship Cd with me and I played it the whole while I was gone.  It did bolster me up and I decided that my real trouble was that I missed Granny and our Danny and my oldest daughter and grandchildren in North Dakota.  All the above mentioned left in one way or another in April.  I don't talk about Amie and those kids too much because frankly it is very painful to me.  We've talked about visits but it's the usual old song and dance.  Too much money required to get there quickly and not enough time to pull it off in the least expensive way.  I don't let myself dwell on it. We have phone and texts and internet and I hear from Amie far more than I did when she lived closer by, but I am missing a great deal and now that she's pregnant with her fourth child, I can't help but think there are three grandchildren I've never had the privilege of getting to know, and soon two I will have never seen (the youngest and the one on the way).

I just hurt emotionally that day as much as I did physically.  I decided to come down the road past Granny's house. Not the wisest decision considering the road is dirt and with all the rain was a slippery mess. My nerves were taut as piano wires by the time I reached her home what with fighting the slide of the car towards the ditches.  I slowed down to look as I neared Granny's and decided today was the day to stop.  The iris were blooming and clearly visible from the road.  I pulled into the driveway and unlocked the gate and walked about the yard.  It looked so pitiful with big broken branches and limbs down in the garden areas, and overgrown saplings and shrubs against the house.  I walked about and gathered a few of some of the iris to bring home for a bouquet and then decided to dig up a rhizome or two of each and bring them home to plant.  I wandered about the yard and picked up a few things.  While the yard itself was pretty sad, somehow the iris beds had managed to stay clear of debris.  

                                 a borrowed photo but quite like Granny's iris beds in color

At first, when I arrived and saw how sad and neglected it all looked, I wanted to cry.  Granny loved the outdoor work and kept her yard and garden pristine.  Indoors you might find a bit of grit and dust but outdoors   As I walked about the yard, the wind blew sharp and cold and the misty rain just soaked me right through.  Something else soaked right through me besides that cold rain: peace.  That same wonderful, cleansing peace that always came upon me when I'd sit on the porch with Granny and say nothing much.

Poor John.  He knew I was in one of my moods when I left home.  He doesn't care for them, but he doesn't kowtow to them either and I'm glad he doesn't.  I hate being patronized for one thing and for another I loathe to be in a bad mood and have someone try and jolly me out of it.  It makes me feel unreasonable as well as temperamental (ha! and don't I sound just so?).  Well when I returned he looked at me with deep concern for a moment. I was muddy and wet and looked like I'd weathered a storm.  I could feel my hair was dripping wet and I was sure it looked a mess as well.  But when his eyes rested on my face, his worried look cleared.  "I've been up at Granny's..." I said and he nodded.  "About time."

Tuesday was a Holy Day.  We were to do no work that day and I'd planned ahead and had food pretty much prepared, so we could just heat and eat.  After dinner, we settled in to watch our latest Netflix selection: "Lincoln" with Daniel Day Lewis.  The focus was on the last three and half months of President Lincoln's 2nd term and the end days of his life.  Enjoying history as I do, I really enjoyed the film and the portrait painted of this president and his family and political life.  I must say that Lincoln, much as FDR seemed to lean heavily on his home as a place to think and work out matters of state.  I was intrigued that William Seward was his Secretary of State.   Later in the week I was further intrigued.

It cleared off Wednesday.  The yard squished when we walked across it.  That put an end to any idea of working outdoors.  We settled to work here in the house.  I cleared and cleaned and rearranged the canned food and baking cabinets.  I cleaned the closet in my room, which I'd meant to do for some time and vacuumed all along the edges of the bedroom, that little 1/2 inch bit that the vacuum normally doesn't get.I worked pretty hard nearly all day long.  I was so tired at the end of the day I didn't even care to reward myself with a spell of reading or genealogy or a game.  I just wanted to sit and be still.

I was out with Mama on Thursday, when John went to work.  I cleaned house before I left home, since I was up so very early that morning.  I'd looked over my closet Wednesday and determined that I really needed only a white shirt or t-shirt.  Just a plain white one and that was about all.  I found one in the store where Mama wanted to shop, though I'd never have thought I might.  White t-shirts are not typical of this store, usually.  I looked over the clearance racks and found nothing much of interest and was about to head to the cash register when I saw one of those lovely jersey knit maxi skirts.  That is one current fashion look I think is just lovely.  Maxi dresses just look so feminine and pretty with skimpy sandals and a pretty necklace. It's a cool and pretty look for summers.

Typically the sizes at this store run a little smaller for tops.  The bottoms generally run two or three sizes smaller.  I didn't hold out much hope the skirt would fit but went to try it on anyway...I'm so glad I did.  It's a perfect fit, right down to the length and everything.  And it's a good match for that plain white t-shirt and those thrift store sandals.  Mine is very similar to this one in style, though not in colors:

I look forward to using this piece in my wardrobe, but I want some leggings or thin super thin knee length shorts or something to go under it.  I am old fashioned in that I still feel a slip is appropriate undergarments but I've noted in summers past that a nylon slip is a lot like wearing a damp heating pad.  I know what I am looking for, it's just a matter of taking time to shop.

Mama had the usual stack of magazines for me and coupons, too.  Then she handed me a file folder.  I am always pleased these days to see her with a file folder in her hands.  It means that she's been through her own things and found more historical stuff to pass to me.  This time there were photos of herself from several years of school a family mystery photo that we can't place at all, a photo of my great grandfather as a young man, and a booklet, first published in 1930 and republished in 1973.  It was written by a man who grew up in the village of Culloden, Georgia in the mid 1800's.  He went on to become a politician.  He had a brief account of my great great great grandfather, not altogether flattering, but not a total slander either.  I have reason to believe there was no love lost between the two men from another incident that took place a few years later but I have a feeling there's more truth than not.  Ever have a feeling about someone?  I've had a feeling about this particular grandfather's wife and sure enough, this politician confirmed it.  If you weren't aware of ancient history you mightn't know just what he meant, but this day in time, it's easy enough to seek out information.  Apparently the woman's personality was very unpleasant.  Why I suspected this I can't tell you...

Anyway, I had some more housework to attend to when I got home, but I was just itching to sit down and read that little booklet.  Finally that bit of work was done and I could indulge my curiosity.  There was a map at the back that showed where my family members lived in relation to the town.  There was the relating of a few members of the family and a brief bit of the history of the churches and schools.  And then he mentioned schools in nearby of them where William Seward taught for a period of two years!  I am forever fascinated by Georgia's history overall.

Friday the heavens opened and it poured all over again.  It started about 5am and it kept up all day and all night, too.  I've said before how glad we are for the rain after our drought years and I shall not complain about rain now.  I really am grateful for every last drop.  Mama worried Thursday that the fields were too wet for farmers to plant but that was put to rest when we passed a field with a tractor toiling along on Thursday and I do hope sincerely that farmer got his field planted and a few more besides before the rain came in.  It wasn't a gully washing rain, just a normal steady rain but it didn't stop at all.  It was a good day to spend time in the kitchen and I did, nearly all day long. By late Friday afternoon, I was more than ready to stop work and start the weekend.  So I did.  Perhaps I stopped too soon?  Shortly after we'd had our Shabat evening, John mentioned he sure would like to have a steak dinner...Change of menu number one, after I'd spent all morning long working out a menu plan for the weekend...And then our youngest son called and said he'd like to visit us on Sunday.  Change of menu plan number two...

There's not really anything to share about Saturday.  I changed over my browser last weekend from FireFox which had frustrated me mightily for months and months to Internet Explorer and then to Google Chrome.  I lost all my blogs, favorite lists, etc from Firefox, and the IE list was super old.  So I spent my day trying to rebuild my blog list.  Truth be told I haven't found a lot of blogs thus far this year that wowed me.  I've added and deleted dozens.  Part of that is due to my place in life.  Part of that is due to my desire not to create dissatisfaction with what I have.  Part is that many bloggers I like a great deal have stopped blogging.  They've moved on to other things, which makes me happy for them.  But the blog list has looked dismal with perhaps six or seven blogs.  So I trolled about a bit, reading a bit here and a bit there.

John got news that day of when they'd be having Continuing Education classes at work.  You know one of those days fell right smack of the middle of the week we'd meant to go on vacation.  We'd discussed this and that and in the end decided to wait until after the CEUs were all done.  We've had a few ideas of things we'd like to do, but no clear one yet.  We'll work on that this coming week or so.   John also got news of another engagement to play...that was overall a fairly exciting day, now I look back at it. I guess I was just so relaxed I failed to notice how bright the highlights of it were.

We got up super early Easter morning.  It made me think of the Easter Bunny years.  I had worried a little the night before about what to wear.  You'd think that new skirt wouldn't you?  Well it was chilly and I needed something warmer than that!  As it was I was still fairly cool but I looked toasty warm compared to many of the women, girls and little girls who came  into church with their Easter dresses and sandals, bare arms and legs goose-pimpled and blue.  It was cloudy and misting rain, too.  Brrr!  Service was held in the new sanctuary which seats 1000.  Honestly?  I think folks ended standing about because the place was so packed and that was just one of 5 services that day!  It's really a large church, huge for me, but I do like the preaching.

John joked after service that he'd gotten in his walking time that day.  He'd let me off at the front of the building and then drive around back to find parking.  He had to park at the very back of the parking lots.  Quite a trek for me, too.   Just as we arrived at our car, we got a text from our son that he was at the house...and he'd forgotten his key, which was silly, since I'd told him specifically to bring his key.  It made John feel he had to hurry home.  I wanted to hurry myself, but only because I was happy to have Sam and Bess come to visit.

Ha!  I was smart on two scores.  I'd planned at first to start the roast cooking in the crockpot.  I figured it would be done about the time Samuel said he'd be here, but ...something just made me hold off starting that roast.  I don't know if it was mother's intuition or what.  It would have been overcooked by the time we arrived home, especially since he'd forgotten his key.  So I started the roast the moment I came in and put it in the oven. Preparation of the rest of the meal was spread out over the hour and half the roast took to bake, so I had time to visit plenty with them.

While the food cooked the sun came out and shone.  It didn't warm up a lot but a bit, which was nice.  It was so good to see sun shining in the windows!   Good food, good company, lovely sunshine...sigh.  It turned out to be a lovely day despite the hurry and chilly early morning.

Today, of course, John was back to work.  I made the most of the morning and early afternoon, working hard to get my chores taken care of...but I'm not through, not by any means.  Tomorrow is another Holy Day and we do no work...I have meals prepped.  I have a hair appointment and will go by the grocery while I'm out to pick up bread and purchase a couple of turkey breasts for the freezer while they are on sale.  They will keep all summer long if I choose.  I won't see these prices again until Thanksgiving so I want to take advantage of this last sale for many months to come.

Oh dear, the coffee and cookies are all gone!  I guess that's my sign to get back to work.  Lovely to visit with you once again.  Talk to you later!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Meal and Jobs Plan for April 20-27


Spring, spring, you're so lovely, and so very fickle...It keeps us on our toes.  Shall we need heat today or Air Conditioning?  A little of both?  None of either?  It has been lovely, really and there's the bonus of getting to wear both some of my favorite winter things and some of my favorite summer things.  We had inches upon inches of rain earlier last week and then finished the week off with a few more inches, as well.

Planning meals has taken on a whole new twist.  I plan to make salads for supper and the temperature drops so I dig about in the freezer for frozen soup to heat.  I plan to grill and it pours rain so we pan roast.  Apparently spring this year is all about being open to change.  I need the practice, so I'm trying to go right along with it all.  

Adding to my planning woes: my freezer stock of meats is very low.  I hope we get to restock this next pay period.  I have set some money aside to use for this.  I have no idea what the prices will look like this time around.  Needless to say, I've already planned unnecessary items to be cut out of that usual purchase budget.  And then there's the new normal of one short pay period each month, there's the added challenge of not stocking up and decreasing the grocery budget for that pay period by half what we'd normally spend.  And no, we don't get to make it up on the healthier pay period.  Nothing quite like forced cooperation in lowering an already tight budget is there?

Lena asked last week about Red Black and Blue salad: Tomatoes and lettuce, slices of cooked roast or steak, blue cheese crumbles.  With sour dough croutons this is a tasty warm weather dish.  We didn't have warm weather this past week, nor the roast I'd meant to make, so this dish got bumped from our menu as well.

Just five meal plans this week.  I'll be on my own two days this coming week.

Pan-fried Sirloin Steak, Homemade Pub Fries, Thyme and Butter sauteed mushrooms, Salad
John requested the steak. I had one one pound half sirloin in the freezer, our last. I'd planned another meal entirely but it is all part and parcel of 'going with the flow'.  So I decided that menu would do fine for the next day, but we got a phone call and company's coming.  Bump it down one more spot. 
This was a very tasty meal...and those pub fries made me rethink my ideal of keeping bought prepared french fries in the freezer.  It took no more time to cook these than it does the frozen sort, and gracious goodness, the fresh flavor was so good.

Chicken Pot Pie, Coleslaw, Cranberry Sauce
 I was much amused Saturday morning to discover Trisha Yearwood making Chicken Pot Pie on her cooking program...using the same recipe I had been following for my own pot pie.  I don't make this particular recipe often but I do like it now and then for a change.

Roast Beef, Zucchini Gratin, Haricot Verts, Pear and Toasted Pecan cream cheese Salad
This shall likely be my company meal, rather than the pot pie I'd planned to make.  I never had the opportunity to make the roast beef last week.  John wants to go to early service at church, company will likely arrive before we're back home.  I shall leave the roast and zucchini dish prepped before leaving home and my company can start them cooking if they arrive before we do.

Sloppy Joes, Potato Soup, Baked Apples 
If the weather continues cooler we'll have the soup...and if not I'll make more pub fries. I'll save a bit of zucchini to go in the sloppy joe mixture which is more vegetable than meat.  It's an old weight watchers recipe that we've never stopped enjoying. We end the Feast of Unleavened bread Monday night at sunset.  I'm going out Tuesday morning to get my hair cut, so I'll pick up a couple loaves of bread at that time.

Roast Turkey Breast, Corn Pudding, 24 Hour Salad
Turkey breasts on sale at the local grocery for the Easter holiday.  Sale won't end until Wednesday so I mean to purchase a couple of the breasts to put in the freezer.  I'll just go right ahead and thaw one to use for our meal.  It will be a grand bonus for sandwiches and a favorite spring dinner as well.

Job plan:
last week:

Home:  I will sew the valances.  I will. I will. I will....I didn't but it wasn't for lack of planning or trying.  Rain means NO light in my work area making it impossible to see what I'm doing.
Finish the cleaning of the yeast from the house (Sunday and early Monday is all the time I have to accomplish this).
Prepare for Passover (Sunday and Monday only).
Get Baking and food cupboard arranged.
Now that closet is straightened up, clean floor, sort out clothes, etc.

Yard: Clean front porch.  
Bring out umbrella and chair cushions. 
DO something to back porch to make it attractive.
It turned out to be a week of frost and rain.  Not conducive to thinking of porches, umbrellas or anything else.

Booth:  Tag items for booth and deliver and place.

Extra: work on vacation plans.  I must find an interesting, new venue.  This got scrapped entirely as John needed to be available for possible CEU classes.  Those dates are now set, so this goes back on the planning list with a change of dates.

Home:  Sew those silly valances. 
Clean the cupboard shelves on the dining room wall.
Sort through my collection of vintage magazines and determine which I mean to keep, which I mean to sell. I've actually started this, but would like to sort the boxed lot of them.  I'll put those I mean to keep back on my shelves.

Yard:  Clean front porch.
Bring out umbrella and chair cushions. 
DO something to back porch to make it attractive.

Booth:  Get new items delivered to my booth.
Get out to do some yard sale shopping or thrift store hopping for next lots going into booth.

Extra:  Plan vacation now that we have dates to work with.

Friday, April 18, 2014

My Frugal Week: April 12-18

Saturday:  I didn't have time to prep foods for today due to our commitments yesterday.  No matter.  I did have an easily prepared meal in the freezer.  I thawed and heated spaghetti sauce.  It took a minimum of preparation to make our dinner.

We had our supper this evening on the back porch.  It was so nice to sit there in the shade, listening to the birds, catching the slight breeze and eat our meal.  It was what we dreamed of when we sat on the covered patio at the sandwich shop early last Spring.

In the interest of being nearer the temperature we expect to keep the house this summer we bumped the thermostat on the AC up by 2 degrees today.    We also did not turn on the heat at all this morning, choosing instead to put on sweaters until the sun warmed the house.

Sunday:  Morning came early today.  I made John's breakfast, packed his lunch for work.

Spent time cleaning then made out a short grocery list and headed to the grocery.  I bought a Sunday paper, the items needed for our Passover Seder plate, and all the produce, dairy and grocery items I thought we'd need over the coming two weeks.  I do not plan to return to the store for further items.

Priced lamb...I really wanted lamb and it wasn't badly priced but it seemed a big expense compared to a deli roasted chicken.  I opted for the chicken. I figured we'd use the leg bone on our Seder plate and the chicken would serve for dinner on Passover day.

I stopped on my way home for dinner and I had far too much food to eat.  I put half the entree in the freezer for a future day alone.

The only yeast left in my home today was a loaf of bread and a packet of dry soup mix.  It was far too warm to consider eating soup.  I had toast for supper, planned French toast for tomorrow's breakfast.  And then the bread will go in to the dumpster.  I am so pleased to find I have only two items to throw out this year.  It took planning but was worthwhile.

Monday:  French toast for breakfast.

Harvest Day for us.  Checks come out on Monday afternoons.  John got off early this morning.  We drove down to pick up his check and deposited at the bank branch in that town.  We also dropped off an item at the post office to mail, picked up horseradish at the grocery in that town (I forgot it yesterday and there was none to be had locally), and took off trash.  As usual we made our trip away from home count.

John stopped at the local hardware store.  With his music ministry he needed a folding music stand.  In the meantime he's been taking his current music stand which is permanently set up.  Smart man priced folding music stands ($34) and then the trip to the hardware store where he purchased a butterfly wing nut and another screw and nut to replace those in his current music stand.  Cost $2.30.  Savings $31.70.

We came home and had Harvest.  It was a much easier one than a month ago.  I'd planned better on my side which meant we had a little bigger margin at the end.  Whew!  It really is a matter of rethinking what we've been used to and discovering what the 'new normal' is.

I hadn't planned anything at all for supper.  I'd been so busy thinking about cleaning, about Passover Seder plate, about Harvest that I'd completely let supper slip my mind.  I made big salads for us.

Tuesday:  Toasted leftover muffins for our breakfast bread.

Our dinner today was deli roasted chicken, which I bought to use the leg bone on our Seder plate.  The chicken reheated as asparagus roasted in the oven.

Ran one brief errand today.  I took a different route that allowed me to do a bit of sightseeing along the way.

I had to boil an egg for potato why not boil six?  Takes the same amount of time, the same amount of gas.  The extra water used became a calcium rich tea for the African violets.  I'll use one egg for the potato salad, one for chicken salad (from the leftover chicken) and the rest for egg salad.

Wednesday:  It was quite cool this morning.  I turned on the propane heater first thing.

Oatmeal for breakfast.  I won't care for a hot bowl of oatmeal come summer, but it is a lovely thing on a cold spring morning.

John requested tacos for lunch this week.  I didn't buy a package of taco shells.  I purchased corn tortillas to fry my own shells.  They are much more tasty than the stale boxed sort.

Made both chicken salad and egg salad today for sandwich fillings.

I set aside the remaining taco meat and refried beans to be used later this weekend to make Taco pizzas using tortillas as the base.

I decided to rearrange my foodstuffs slightly today.  I moved one or two of items from my pantry to the kitchen cabinet.  This should eliminate the need to run to pantry each time I need an item and I can keep a running list of items to restock.  It should also cut down slightly on any failure to not use an item I have stocked since it will be in the kitchen right where I can clearly see it and realize it should be planned into menus.

Thursday:  Washed a full load of clothes this morning after John left for work.  Sheets and towels.

Packed John's lunch and made him breakfast before he left.

When the clothes were washed I hung a few to dry.  I pulled the drying rack over to the sunny window and draped the wash and dish cloths and towels over it.  The sun's warmth magnified through the glass dried those things in record time.

I didn't have room to air dry all the laundry and didn't want to hang outdoors in the pollen filled air.  I dried sheets and towels in stages.  At the end I turned off the dryer and let the clothes stay in the hot machine to finish drying any damp spots until the machine was cool.

I knew Mama's plan for the day: shopping.  I looked over my closet hard to determine just what I might need: a plain white t-shirt, a brown leather look bag.  I checked my balances to be sure of what I could afford.   I found the white t-shirt and a bag right away.  I also found a lovely maxi skirt.  Surprise for me: Mama insisted on buying all three of those items for me.

My turn to treat Mama to lunch.  I paid for the meal from my allowance.

Prepared my supper from leftovers.

Brewed a single cup of coffee.

Friday:  Used some leftover potatoes from our potato salad to make hash browns for breakfast.

Sat down and determined what we had in fridge that should be planned into weekend meals.

Checked freezer for meat.  We're running pretty low on beef and chicken.   I pulled out a roast and some chicken breast pieces to thaw for dinners, and a package of Brunswick Stew for a supper.

I shopped at home from my pantry: coffee, syrup, mayonnaise, canned whole chicken, and my freezer: 1 gallon of milk.

Chopped vegetables for today's chicken stir fry meal, I also took time to chop a few extra for chicken pot pie.

Put away leftover rice in the fridge.  I plan to combine with the

Boned and skinned the canned chicken.  Added a few of the partially cooked vegetables, some frozen peas.  I reduced the broth from the can to make gravy.  It proved to be too salty, so I diced half of a potato to add to it.  That should help a lot.

The remaining portion of potato was sliced into fries and put in water to stay in fridge.  I'll make oven fries to go with one of our meals from those.

Used last of taco meat and refried beans to make nachos tonight.  I combined chips from both a whole wheat chip bag and corn tortillas to make enough for the two of us.

Made a cocoa ripple coffee cake for tomorrow morning's breakfast.  I used up some powdered chocolate milk mix I'd made at the beginning of winter.

Opened junk mail and discovered four greeting cards, address labels in two different pieces.

Took surveys from NFS and Pinecone Research to add to my points balances.  Worked periodically on ?Swagbucks to earn points there.

Used Swagbucks shop and earn to earn shopping points for granddaughter's birthday present.

Harvest Day - Pay Day

I've been asked to share our Harvest Day.  I thought I'd done so already but it must have been over on the old Xanga blog.  So I will explain our process to you.  First let me say that we didn't always refer to it as Harvest Day.  It was pay day, just like it is for almost everyone else, but it occurred to us one evening that John sows the seed of time and labor into his job, I sow the same into our home and what money comes into this house is a harvest of our efforts.  Hence we renamed it Harvest Day.  It's been a great reminder of why we do all that we do and of the importance of our roles.

John works as a paramedic.  He puts in some long hours. Our goal has been that he will work only regular hours.  Many of the folks he works with in his unit also work 2nd and 3rd jobs.  That is not what either of us want.  Believe me, during our early married years he put in plenty of hours and we made a lot of sacrifices as a family for this job.  Now that he's nearer an age to think of retiring in the next 5 or so years we're not nearly so interested in amassing hours as we are in learning to live on what we might reasonably expect our retirement income to be.  

We work first.  On Harvest Day we bring the funds home and we settle down to pay our tithes and bills.
First step: I determine what our tithe amount is based upon gross income, not net income.  We set a portion of that aside to give 'to the Jew first', as scripture states in the New testament, Romans 2:10.  We want to be part of the kingdom that carries the message of the gospel of Christ to the Jews, and so we donate a portion of our tithe to a ministry that does just that.  We also give an additional percentage of our income as a first fruits offering three times a year during the main feasts.  We allow that amount to accumulate slowly in a sub-account.   This is a special offering amount, over and above our tithe amount.   These amounts are determined, written down and then set aside.

Before we write any checks, we put bills, our check and any cash earned, our wallets, and my shopping list for the pay period into a pile, lay our hands on it all and pray.  We give thanks for the Harvest and we pray for guidance and direction, we pray for favor in the stores as we shop, we pray for our financial state overall.

And then we write our first checks to those ministries we tithe into.

Now we begin to pay our bills.  We set aside exactly one half of each our bills each pay period. We pay them per category: house related bills first, car related second and then our sub-categories. Our insurance bills are set up to be paid monthly.  We pay a little more each year (about $5 a month) but we don't have a huge bill to pay every six months.  Every single bill is divided by two and half is set aside except the credit cards which we handle differently.  I'll address that in just a moment.  We have several sub accounts that we set money aside in: house maintenance, car maintenance, AC maintenance, Taxes, gifts, etc.  These are relatively small amounts overall because we have divided them into 26 payments per year.  It's a great installment plan as there's no penalty of interest, lol.  The last bills paid are our credit cards.  When we use credit cards we write down the amount we spend at the time of purchase as though we'd paid cash.  It keeps us very mindful of what we're spending on credit and that we live on a debt free basis.

John writes out the checks and amounts to be subtracted from the account.   I keep a small notebook with each bill listed and the amount we need to pay that pay period  and note any special upcoming expenses we might have that are unusual.  This is a check and balance system for us.  Here of late, with the new work schedule, it is sometimes only myself working to pay bills.  I follow the exact steps however, without fail.  It saves mistakes and has reminded at least twice of an item I'd forgotten.

I will add here about the every other week half payment basis:  Not all our bills are due at the same time. We don't pay bills late.  They are always paid on time.  I try to keep track of when each bill is due and if we haven't received one,  I will call to request a reissue.  When we combined our households and our incomes years ago we called some of our creditors and asked for a change in bill payment dates to allow us to manage better in our disbursement of funds.  

Paying half of each bill also means that we have extra cash in our account at all times.  We do not consider it as spendable money however.  It is truly seen as already spent and our balance reflects that the money has been written out of our account.  Were we to have a sudden emergency, we could use that money but would need to replace from our savings.  So far we've never had an emergency that constituted that.

There is a cash buffer in our account that we try hard to keep there as a safety net for any mistakes we might make, unexpected bills that arise, etc.  There have been times that we simply couldn't hold that line, as in our recent year of  trust.  It was hard to watch that buffer drop to an all time low during that year despite our best efforts but we came through it and have had the joy of watching it rise once again. 

What's leftover from the Harvest funds our allowances and groceries and gasoline for the two weeks ahead, as well as any entertainment funds we might have.  Gasoline is a must and if the funds are running short, we won't make unnecessary trips outside of work or shopping.  Groceries and allowances will be reduced if necessary.  With John's current work schedule, we have one short pay period every month so we've reduced groceries for that pay period.  It was necessary.  We're managing just fine, otherwise we'd reduce the allowances as well.  

We operate on a zero budget plan, with every penny being accounted for.  This is a bit of a struggle of late as we have one pay period that is sharply different from the other due to the way the work hours fall on the new schedule.  We will adjust ourselves to it and thus far are approaching it cautiously.  I learned my lesson last month when I put us in a tight spot overpaying on our repayment of the money spent on the porch during the smaller pay period.  We had to cut groceries down to the bare bones and even paid for a portion from allowances.  Lesson learned.  I have money set aside to cover this shorter period this month.

If we do have overtime hours on a check we do not generally rush into spending it right away.  That is why our buffer in our account rose once more.  We will occasionally use it for needed items that we'd normally not buy or for entertainment expenses but generally we do not. 

It all appears quite simplistic when written out, and it truly is not a complicated process.  It has been a joyful thing to pay our tithes and bills each Harvest Day and it is done quickly, generally taking no more than 15 minutes from start to finish.  I can't begin to say how helpful it is to know that we need come up with only half of a bill each pay period.  It distributes the weight of our bills across the whole month.

And that's it!  That's how we "Harvest" our money.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Weekly Meal Plan

There's a green world outside my windows and it's a lovely warm world as well.  Bees are buzzing, birds are chirping and the brief glimpses we caught of neighbors' homes between the trees can no longer be seen.  It's Spring, well and truly.  Now is the time for warmer weather menus.  I've been going through cookbooks looking for new recipes to tempt us.  I attempted one this past week.  I look forward to experimenting further.  John's just made a meal request which happily falls in with my menu planning.  I have a small challenge ahead of me this week as we observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  I'll be creative with breakfasts and suppers this week, more so than with dinners.  What a privilege it is to observe God's word even within my kitchen.

Sunday:  I'm on my own
I have to run to the grocery store this morning to pick up a few things to observe Passover tomorrow evening.  I'll grab something for my dinner from either deli or freezer case.  It is my plans to go out extra early and return home to work on cleaning my kitchen really, really well.

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Frugal Week: April 5-11

Saturday:  Shabat at home this week.  I prepped dinner on Friday, needed only to cook today.  Quiet, easy day at home, getting much needed rest.

John walked down to get mail.  We got our latest dvd from Netflix.  Watched that and will send back tomorrow.

Washed a full load of dishes.

Turned on fan instead of turning AC down.

Rinsed out a soap bottle to make enough soapy water for hand-washing.

Filled the lid to the pie keeper with soapy water and washed the dishes in that instead of filling the sink.

Sunday:  Packed John's lunch, made his breakfast.

Rainy morning.  Worked on various things about house.  We've had no need of AC running today, as it is quite cool.  I didn't turn on heat either.  I put on a jacket instead when not working.

Was going to sew valances, remembered I needed to wash fabric first.  Not enough to make a full load of clothes, so let will let it wait until tomorrow when John comes in.  He'll have a full load with his uniform and linens from work.

Noted John had opened a new bottle of laundry detergent.  I turned old bottle upside down to drain into new. When it was empty, I moved the cap from old bottle to new one.  The old cap is marked with small/medium/large amounts in red nail polish (doesn't wash off as the permanent marker used to do) so we do overuse the detergent.

Leftovers reheated for my dinner.  I used the last sleeve of saltines to make Sweet 'n' Saltines.  I baked the cookies in the same oven while my food was reheating.

Used the 1 stick of butter variation for the crackers instead of the 2 stick variation.  I like the texture of the toffee like base better and appreciate the savings of using 1 stick of butter instead of 2.

My bras were hand washed and hung to dry.

Spent afternoon playing with genealogy.

Washed zippered baggies, refilled water bottles, inventoried fridge for items that I needed to use up and noted those that I must toss tomorrow.

Made a single cup of coffee for the afternoon brew.

Monday:  Used leftover Challah to make French Toast.

Topped and sliced strawberries, cooked with a little sugar on stove top to make a yummy strawberry syrup to go over the French Toast.

Saved the milk/egg mixture leftover to use in muffins or pancakes later this week.

Planned week's meals.

Went through both freezers and cleared them of all foods that should be gone by next week.  Glad I did.  I found at least three items I had no idea were in the freezers.

Gathered all the bones I've saved for broth making.  I have at least 16 jars of broth in the freezer at present.  I don't really need to give up the space to all those bones.  I have the bones in a grocery bag, ready to go off to dump with me.  Not counting these as waste.  I should have tossed instead of saving.  The waste comes in having them in the freezer taking up valuable space.