Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Early Evening Coffee Chat: March Showers

Come in, dears, come in.  March is nearly away from us and I wanted one last visit with you this month.  It's nice enough outdoors I suppose but the pollen is rather heavy at the moment so we'll take our coffee in the kitchen sitting area and admire the views from the windows, all right? We are due thunderstorms this evening, but thus far we've only cloudy skies.

There are few flowers to see but the world is certainly green and blue these days...or green and gray as the day may be at the time.  We've had plenty of showers of late.  Not great puddle makers, just showers, but sometimes they've lasted very nearly all the day.  In Georgia, March seldom roars, but it certainly does sprinkle us liberally, a baptism into a new season.

I've been busy...did you notice?  I've had the fun of working hard on my home, both cleaning and what I call playing, which is the part where I decorate and refresh and such.  I tend to over do but gracious, a  good day's work does usually make for a really good night's rest I've noticed so it sorts itself out.  I'll confess we had a few worrisome days as well and housework is always good for what worries me.  It takes my mind off things...or if it's repetitive work it sometimes allows me to mull over the troubles and get some insight and clarity.

Well it all comes out the way it's meant to and usually I've done nothing in the world but waste my time worrying and getting a lot of ticky sorts of jobs done.  At least I don't lose sleep over it because I'm far too tired to stay awake!

It's hard to fathom it's been almost a month since  I last stopped to have a chat...And what a long and quick month March has been.  I mean it just that way, too.  Worry, work, busyness, hurry.

We went to Athens this past weekend.  I so wanted to spend time with my children, but truth is that I got only a very little time with them.  There was a baby shower for Katie, and logistics of trying to get people from here to there alone was something.  And John worked a 24 hour shift Friday.  Things went very well for us.  John didn't get called out Friday night and got a full night's sleep.  That is highly unusual.  I was so happy he'd been able to rest.  It's a good drive from here to Athens.

We arrived with no time to spare for lunch or coffee.  We had to load up the car and head from Sam's to the home where the shower was held.  Katie looked lovely...and very pregnant.  She still has seven weeks to go.  The fun part of the shower?  Putting babies on the floor and comparing them at their different stages.  Bess had just had Josh and there were three others pregnant at the time Katie got married.  My niece was unable to go to the shower but had she been able we'd have had four babies just two months apart so that the stages were blatantly evident.  I was much amused by the only little girl, who was 7 months old,  determined she'd take Josh's pacifier. Josh is 9 months old.   My grand niece is 5 months old.  The other little boy was just 3 months but it was obvious he wanted to be moving about on the floor like the other two babies that were there.

I held Josh during the opening of gifts and put his little self right to sleep.  After gifts were done, everyone began to drift home.  We drove back to Sam's and after a cup of coffee we left.  We made it home just as full darkness fell.  The whole day was a blur, which seems to be the way it goes these days when I see my children either in their homes or here.

Changes come with new seasons and I think every one of my children has some big change coming up in the next few months.  Their changes will affect us in one way or another.   Sometimes it feels John and I are the axle and the children are the wheel that turns.

Sunday I was just plain exhausted.  We made a real effort to go to church and I'm glad that we did.  It was so uplifting but we did nothing at all after that except eat and we ate poor meals.  I'd be upset if I didn't make such an effort to see to it  that we eat healthy most every day.  I figure one off day isn't going to do us much harm.  We lolled all Sunday afternoon. I took a nap.  By evening I was starting to feel energetic and hammered out three solid posts and started two more and I'd planned the work I'd do on Monday.  Feeling restless at the end of a day of rest is a sure sign of recovery for me.

I worked hard yesterday, too.  I wanted to get my kitchen done and photographed for the blog.  I love the light colors and the contrast of the black accents which are needed, I think, to keep the place from looking too pale.

I asked myself as I worked why I'd even bother to show my home to you all.  It's the nicest home  I've lived in most of my adult life, but it's not the nicest home.  I love my house but I see it's faults and know it's high and low points.  It's not a gorgeous home.  I have passable skills at best as an interior decorator.

My home is a double wide/mobile home.  It's valued in the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands.   It's not large.  The finishes are kind of shoddy to be honest and the low end carpet and tile flooring and cabinetry and such are almost 20 years old.  The bulk of my furnishings were bought second hand and those that were new are now well used.  Very well used.  We are slowly making improvements, but very slowly, and what improvements we make aren't big money to some but dear to us.

I don't show my home because I think it's the finest thing or because I've poured loads of money into it.  I show it because I want to encourage others who might not have the best house on the block but want it to be cute, cozy, livable and done on a budget.  I think mine qualifies on those scores.  I want to show how to use what you have or can find for pennies to make things pretty.   Creatively, this is one of the ways I choose to express myself.  I show my home because I'm proud of my efforts to make it MY home, so that it says something about who lives here.  

Remember when I said that I find housework soothing when I've worries?  When I have changes coming in my life that I find concerning or frightening, and I have no control whatsoever over them?  I'll decorate, organize and rearrange.  Those are changes I can control and have a say over and it helps me to settle my soul about the changes I can do nothing about.  And yes, this month has been full of such things, some of which came to nothing, some of which are in waiting mode.    I think this year is just going to be unsettled and I might as well make up my mind to it.  And since I'm out of money and I've worked on pretty much every room except John's music room (which I won't be touching!), I need to find a new spot to focus my energies.  I'm thinking the porches and patio are next up.  Plants and paint are usually fairly affordable in small doses.  Soap and water help loads and cost nothing much at all.  Using what you have is free.  With three spaces I might be able to stay busy for a month or two.

I've picked up a book to read by Margery Sharp, Brittania Mews, but I'm terribly torn at the moment.  It isn't really the sort you pick up and read two or three more at the same time.  I was inspired to read it again after seeing a portion of the MGM movie with Maureen O'Hara in the female lead role and recalling I had the book.  Well Sunday, I saw a bit of Green Dolphin Street which we watched prior to leaving for church.  Another grand book by Elizabeth Goudge, also an intensive sort of read and not one to read along with others.  I know where I'll spend my time for at least the next two books, which means setting aside Anne Tyler's The Beginner's Goodbye.  I'll come back to it.

I've barely touched the genealogy stuff since January when I worked on my notebook...or was that last month?  Never mind when, but I noted that someone I knew rather well at one point might well be a cousin.  I found it absolutely interesting that a daughter used the middle name of the great great great grandfather as her child's middle name.  And I can't help but wonder at how often these names pop up in families even without any interest at all in genealogy or knowledge of ancestors' names.  Just so did Bess tell me the name she and Sam have chosen should they have another boy.  And lo and behold the name has two of his great great grandfather's names.  Even more interesting is the fact that Josh's middle name is also one of that same great great grandfather's names (he had four).  

I have had a month of small frustrations.  Nothing big.  But nothing has gone smoothly for me.  If I'm cleaning, I'm bound to make a bigger mess somehow.  If I start to do one thing it some how multiplies into a domino of jobs.  If I need something I can't acquire it so I'm stalled.  If I plan it, it falls through multiple times, not  just once.  I've gone as far as plan G and H.  That's just the way March has been and this last day has been no different.  I had the figures to work up the bills this morning and in trying to save something else, I lost needed information and couldn't retrieve it.  Stalled.  I texted John to request that he get me info again but he's apparently been too busy.  At 5pm I realized the ship had sailed.  The bank and post office were both closed.  It will wait until tomorrow...but it's just one more little bit of frustration, one more resetting of plans.

I know this is all too brief and not nearly as chatty as I wanted to be.  But the hours have fled and it's truly evening.  There's thunder outdoors so I suppose we'll get more of the promised thunder storms.  So be it.

Hurry home, won't you, so you don't get wet...and hurry back again soon!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Fresh: Freshening Up the Kitchen

Fair Warning:  This is a picture heavy post!

I've been longing to do something fresh and new to my kitchen for the longest time.   I'd had the same drapes, cafe curtains and rugs in the kitchen for 8 years and I was so thoroughly tired of them that I knew I had to make the kitchen my priority this year. I had a budget of $150 and some of that went into the living room ($20) and the master bath ($15).

After spending months looking, I finally found flat sheets at Walmart that I felt were perfect for curtains for the kitchen and these rugs (Better Homes and Gardens line for Walmart).  I really hadn't planned to introduce browns into the room but it actually pulls out colors already in the wall covering.  Just as I'd been looking at and contemplating fabric for months, I also had been looking for new rugs.  I liked these best of any I'd seen.  Sheets enough to make curtains, the two rugs, new dish towels and a couple of new items to organize the cabinet space, cost about $120.  That's not exact but it is definitely within $10-$20 of the amount.

The kitchen before...despite the piled up dish drainer you can get an idea of the colors I had in the room.  I'd changed out the red accents for olive greens in the past couple of years.  In front of this long length of kitchen counter was a lovely runner with roosters and apples in shades of black, cream, green and red.

This is the same area as of today.  The sink curtains here are not 'real'...they are temporary swatches of fabric hung on clip rings and a tension rod until I (a) decide just what I want the curtains here to look like and (b) get some sort of blind and (c) get a sewing machine or gumption enough to do a lot of hand sewing.

I painted the shelf at the kitchen window about two months ago and couldn't make up my mind where I wanted it.  In the end, it went back under the kitchen window.  My last faucet didn't give enough clearance behind it to keep the shelf, but the new one John put in this past fall is perfect and allows  plenty of room.

One of the things I'd wanted to do was declutter and simplify the counter tops.  I got rid of the dish drainer base and bought one of the absorbent mats instead.  It allowed me the freedom of positioning the dish rack in a way that took up less space.  It's amazing how just having that border of counter top show gives the appearance of space.

The kitchen desk area is next to the coffee station.

 In the fall, I shifted the desk around so that the back of the bookshelf faced the kitchen. I've changed it slightly since, but it was still a $0 cost thing to do:

I turned the desk back against the wall.  This allows more light at the coffee counter and really just works better. The desk chair gets used as extra seating in the kitchen sitting area.  The vintage waste can sits here next to the desk.  Here's a photo of what it looks like:

John sits in the desk chair often when he wants to chat in the mornings while I'm having first coffee in this spot:

When I made the drapes I lined them to cut down on the amount of heat/light we'll experience in the summer mornings.  I made the little pillow from scraps.  I plan to put a bigger top on the piano stool and paint it red.  It's a nice little spot to set a coffee cup and my study materials for morning Bible reading.

My daughter in law gave me the cream glider and an ottoman last Fall.  I really like sitting in this area to read my Bible each morning and I've noticed John will escape there occasionally.  It's a very calming spot.  Some mornings he will come sit in the desk chair and we'll talk a bit before we begin our day.  I love the windows on the two walls.  It's a wonderfully cozy spot to sit on a cold morning as the sun pours in and warms the area.  In summer, I'm more prone to retreat here in the late afternoon.  It's the coolest spot in the house then.

Near this spot is the back entry.  The shelf is the first thing you see when you step in through the back door.


So this area had been refreshed recently but I've worked on it a bit more since.  This is how it looks today:

There's a bench here under the shelf.  It's due a big makeover, too.

Just to the right is the armoire and freezer and bulletin board.  Not a lot to see really.  I want to change the paint on the armoire.  I'd love to do it in blue or a nice deep red.  We'll see what I come up with in the coming months.
The bulletin board now has the same paper as the back of the bookcase on the desk.  I've cleaned up the area in general and it's neat and nice, but nothing special.

In the baking center, I moved the pictures on the wall.  It didn't really need a whole lot of anything...I confess it's one of my favorite parts of the kitchen.
The cookie jar is something Mama had for years.  It's older than I am!  I think it fits in well with the vintage canisters and the vintage pillow case dust cover for the mixer.

This counter and wall is to the right of the stove:

I framed some vintage ads and hung here. The area needs color... but I'm still considering painting the picture frames black.  We'll see.  The colors of the frames go very nicely with the prints.  What you don't see in this photo is the k-cup spice holder.  I am still trying to figure out where to put it.  Typically it sits in the snug corner there by the microwave.   If it weren't pay day you'd see the pie holder full of fruits.

And that brings us back to the little space that started the whole thing...the little shelf above the stove:

There are things I'd love to do yet in the kitchen but I'm pretty happy overall with the way the room looks.  It's a lovely refreshing color scheme and the whole area has a prettiness it lacked before.

The day I hung the curtains in the kitchen sitting area, John was was in the music room.  He came out just as I got the area fluffed after hanging curtains and I was able to see his reaction to the changes.  I could tell right away he liked it and his first words were 'It's pretty!' in a sort of surprised way.  The truth is that here of late my home is taking on a little more of a feminine air.  Not in an over the top way but definitely showing up my girly side more.  It makes me feel at home.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

This Week In My Home: Spring Has Sprung

That's me...not sure if she's daydreaming, tired from Spring Cleaning, contemplating yet another house project, thinking of yard work that should be done, or the week ahead, but yeah...that's me.

We're just done with a hectic paced Shabat in which we both slept incredibly well Friday night and then rose early Saturday morning to drive to Athens to spend a whirl wind time with children and return home again just in time for going to bed and starting all over again.  We made it to church this morning, and I'm glad I went, but as I told John a little later, I'm done.  Today is going to have to be recovery day.  

There was no meal at home yesterday save breakfast.  I made breakfast this morning and John picked up chicken in the grocery when he went in to buy bread.  And that's what we ate for 'dinner'.  Chicken and bread.  Supper is not looking too hopeful around here.  Tomorrow, I'll be back at it all over again, swinging away but today can be our nutritionally unbalanced, eat to live, sort of day.

Let's contemplate the possibilities of menus for the week ahead and the to do list.  Oy.

Hot Roast and Gravy over Toast, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans and Salad
The meat is cooked, from the freezer.  I've got potatoes soaking in water in the fridge right now.  Should be an easy meal.  I might add a cherry cobbler...I haven't made anything for John in over a week.

on my own
John's only work day this week.

Chicken Pakistani Style, Rice, Steamed Broccoli, Fresh Fruit Salad
I'm going to try this in the crock pot though it's meant to be baked.  I think we might be getting groceries this day and coming home to a meal ready to eat would be a huge bonus.  I'll buy the broccoli at the grocery and if for some reason we don't go...I'll figure it out.  Curve balls are standard issue these days.

Leftovers Day
I expect we'll have plenty of leftovers this week.  I want to clear the fridge before the weekend arrives.

Mushroom Swiss Burgers, Oven Fries, Salad
I'll cook fresh mushrooms with a pinch of garlic and a pinch of onion soup mix and add a slurry of cornstarch and water.  This makes an excellent mushroom sauce for steaks and burgers.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Picnic: Chicken Roll ups, Chips, Fresh Fruit, Cookies 
No clue where we might picnic, it may just end up being outdoors here at home.  I may make chicken salad.  I admit I'd kinda like a boiled dyed egg for my breakfast in the morning and if I make chicken salad I'll have boiled eggs on hand.

Jobs This Week

Last Week
Start making the kitchen curtains.  I don't have kitchen sink curtains, but the curtains are done for the rest of the area.  My sewing machine died.  It won't come back to life.
Get into town to the booth and put up some new stock.(tagged and ready to go)
Take a fun day for thrifting, library, necessary errands. Too much working on the booth no time for fun
Finish up the living room spring freshening.
Make a carrot cake and chocolate chip cookies.  I wish....
Yard work for 15-30 minutes most days.  Rain every single day this last week.
15-30 minutes in shed each day as well.  I did do this one day.  Not every day, just one day.

This Week

Passover begins Friday at sundown.  I will make sure to clear all the yeast from our freezer and cabinets.  I have a mere handful of items so this part will be no big deal.
Cleaning deeply, especially in the kitchen, vacuuming the seams and crevices of our chairs, and vacuuming our car.

Quarterly review.  

Pay bills.  

Grocery shopping.  

I have no idea what else I might do this week.  Too much pollen outdoors to work on porches or patio or in the yard or to paint anything.  I've spent all the money I can on this year's bit of refurbishing indoors.  Perhaps I'll go through my things and see what I might do to make the bedrooms look spring-like.  

Friday, March 27, 2015

This Week In My Home: Fresh Savings

Another of my copy-cat crafts.  I fashioned this basket after an MSL design...It cost me $3 for                             the Spanish Moss I used as my filler.  Everything else was on hand.

Saturday:  I made pizza from scratch.  I put homemade yeast dough in the fridge Friday, along with prepared vegetables and cheese I grated.  Today I spread dough on the pan and let it rise a bit then topped and baked.

Dug about in the fridge and found some green olives I'd bought that had pits in them.  I sliced the olives away from the pit.  I put the pits aside and when I was done I sat down and ate the remaining flesh off the pits.  I think I prefer the flavor of green olives with pits in them.

Went through the magazines Mama gave me last week and pulled the pages that interested me.

Sunday:  Prepped and cooked dinner while I made breakfast.  John likes a turkey sausage stick (like a Slim Jim sort of thing) we get at Aldi.  I had wrapped some in waxed paper for his lunch.  They got put in fridge and dried out.  I used the dried sausage in the black beans to season.

I used two sausage patties to make sausage gravy and served over warmed leftover biscuits.

We carried some clothing and household items with us to church.  There are donation bins on the church property for the Rescue Mission.

After church we went to Best Buy.  I had to return my Downtown Abby DVD.  I'd picked up a Blu-ray edition and we don't have a Blu-ray player.  I was happy to find I could exchange mine for the proper discs and I got a $5 refund in the price difference.

We purchased a new router while we were there.  We won't be able to get internet service elsewhere.  Our provider is the only service for our area, but we can at least have a better router than the service provides us.

Stopped at Publix.  I wanted to buy some of the Nathan hot dogs that were on sale.  I spent all the rest of my grocery budget and a bit more besides.  I'm not fretting.  I didn't buy anything that wasn't needed or on too good a sale to pass up.

We came home and ate the dinner I made before church this morning.

I ended up calling our internet service provider's 24/7 number to get the new router set up.  They don't normally do this but we've been customers for a long time...and we'll be staying customers.  The young man who helped was nice as could be and patient as well.

Chatted with my daughter in law and my daughter via Facebook chat.

John washed a load of clothes.  Too wet to hang dry, most went into the dryer.

Monday:   Packed the lunch I made for John last night.  Made him breakfast this morning.

Ran a full load of dishes in the dishwasher.

Washed sheets and towels this morning, too.

Out with Mama today.  I wanted to look for some tank tops.   I found one that I liked on the clearance rack for $10.  I paid for it out of my allowance.

Mama's day to treat us to lunch, my day to leave tip and buy our ice creams.  I paid from allowance for both those items, too.

Took advantage of a Shutterfly offer to make a gift for Mother's Day.  I am so impressed with this company and their products and their awesome promotions.

Tuesday:  Stretched a small piece of Polska kielbasa by cutting into pieces and adding to hash browns.  I also made nests in the pan of potatoes, cracked two eggs into them and covered to cook the eggs through.  It was really tasty.

Toasted frozen waffles.  That was the last of that big batch of waffles I made up last month.

I went out to the shed to look for an item.  While there I swept up a bit of dirt and trash,  put some things away and found the items I was looking for.  I also remembered seeing an item I think one of the Athens guys could use for grilling so I pulled that grill pan  out to see who wants it.  Our grill is too small to fit the thing.

Fed pets. Put away foods when they were done.

Started sewing my new kitchen curtains.  I used 2 Queen sized sheets to make four liner panels for the drapes.  There was a portion of each section of the liner panels that was trimmed off.  I pieced those together to use as a liner for the kitchen window curtain.  I will not line the drapes I put up at the laundry door closet.  It is an unnecessary thing for that doorway, but I will appreciate the liner behind the drapes at the window.

I needed a second table for ironing.  I have a small table top ironing board that I use but I had no available table.  I put a carton atop another and put the ironing board on them.  It was the perfect height for sitting and ironing.

While preparing potatoes for lunch, I diced 1 1/2, baked two.  I also pulled out the sweet potatoes and found three of them were not quite edible.  I took them right outdoors and planted them.  I don't know if they will sprout and grow or not.  At worst I've just added fertilizer to my planter.  At best, I may have free sweet potato vines in my planter.  I baked two sweet potatoes that were in good shape.

I used the last of the punnet of mushrooms.

We ate leftovers of pizza for our supper tonight.

Wednesday:  We went out to get hair cuts.  I batched errands as usual: packed up trash to take to dumpster, picked up mail and dropped off a bill.  We had no other errands to run but we took a sort of roundabout way home.

I put lunch in the crock pot before we left.  Despite this, we ate out.  We shared a take out entree and an order of fries and enjoyed the misty spring day as we drove home.  The crock pot meal became supper.

John told me on the way home he really wanted some ice cream.  I suggested he go by the local grocery and I'd pick some out and get a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs while I was there.  He seemed pretty happy over that.  Though it was not the very best buy I chose to buy pints instead of a half gallon.  We've cut so far down on our ice cream and chips that it hardly pays to buy the larger quantities any more.  I'm glad the half pints were on sale this week.

Sewing all afternoon long.  I finished all but hemming the last two panels.

I used a piece of scrap fabric to make an envelope pillow slip for a pillow form I had on hand.  It looks lovely on the chair in the kitchen sitting area.

John washed a load of clothes.  He pulled a few things from his work bag to add to the load to fill the washer a little fuller.

Thursday:  Luxury...I slept in.  I won't get to do so over the weekend at all, so I thought I'd take advantage today.  I've a few busy days ahead.  Rest while resting is available is my motto.

I took a frozen entree from the freezer.  We ate half for dinner today and I'll serve the other half for our dinner on Sunday after church.  I am down to a few packets of yeast and a handful each of saltines and oyster crackers.  I will take the yeast packets to Sam.  We should finish the crackers over the week ahead.

Finished and hung the curtain panels.  They are not perfect but they are lovely.  I had them hung and was straightening the area up when John came in.  I could see right away that he liked them, too. It spurred me to attempt to get the sink window and laundry doorway curtains made.  I got the laundry curtain done and almost hemmed when my sewing machine died.  I'm not sure how old it is.  It was Grandmama's and she gave it to me some 20 years ago perhaps.  Now I have two broken machines, neither of which is valued for as much as the diagnostic fee for repairs.

Hung a shelf I'd painted at the kitchen sink window, which is where it was once upon a time.  The screws were still in the wall under the window sill so no need to redo that.

This week I've completed surveys for Pinecone Research and NFS and cashed in for $25 in Paypal funds.

I cooked the last banana.  I was asked how I prepare them.  It's super easy and takes just a minute: I peel, slice into a frying pan with a spoon full of butter and add 1 packed tablespoon of brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of bourbon (we never have rum on hand but we keep bourbon for medicinal reasons).  It's quite good over vanilla ice cream and would be just as good with a bit of cinnamon or nutmeg added I think.

John had half an apple in the fridge.  The apples I chose this past week were quite large, so he halves them to eat.  We shared the half that was in the fridge.  Made a just right amount for a quick snack.

Friday:  Packed the work lunch I prepared last night for John's work day.  I made him breakfast...and had some toast to go with my coffee.  I try not to eat that early as a rule because it leads to second and third breakfasts, early dinners and early suppers and a snack before bedtime.  As it was I cooked myself two eggs about 10am this morning.

I kept trying to turn my brain around into how I could cover the kitchen window, until I have time and money to get a blind and a sewing machine once more.  My solution was not ideal and it's all mismatched but it does give me the privacy I like at night and it cost very little.  $3 for a tension rod, the remnants from the other curtains and a variety of clip rings.  From a distance it looks not too badly and up close it's  good thing to remind myself this is a 'needs must' sort of thing and not a permanent solution.

Bought the tension rod at the dollar store.  Brought it home and it promptly sprung and split the outer rod cover.  I was so peeved.  I worked with it for a half hour or so and got it together once more and sort of working.

Went in to work on my booth and sold an item while I was there.  I didn't see a whole lot missing so I'm not sure how I've done this month but the booth was certainly looking lovely and fresh when I left.

Came home and had dinner of a frozen single serve entree I'd put up from leftovers.

Supper was frozen leftovers as well.

Hung a load of drapes outdoors to dry and air after I washed them this morning.

Washed a full load of dishes after my dinner today.  I added in the coffee pot carafe, a couple of decorative pottery pieces that I'd decided to no longer use, and a few other items to make sure the machine was nicely full.

Made myself a single serve cup of coffee for mid-afternoon.

Living Well

A few years ago I planted a yellow Knockout rose at my doorstep.  Each year, from spring through early winter it bloomed, sometimes prolifically and sometimes with just one or two buds at a time.  It was the loveliest thing.  When we put the new steps on the back porch, the rose bush had to go.  My brother dug it up and put it in a pot of good fertile soil...and it turned up it's roots and died.  I was sorry to see that little rose bush go.  In the five years it sat next to the doorstep it was a good companion and a faithful beauty.

As summer came on we noted that a vine kept growing up through the back porch floorboard gap.  I clipped it off a few times and John even sprayed it but over the week we were gone to the mountains it grew and when we came home there was a tiny yellow bud...Some bit of root left behind had grown under the steps, through feet of darkness to the porch flooring and set a bloom.  

Of course you can't have a rose bush growing up in the middle of the porch.  So we kept it clipped back.

Over the winter this bush has grown out through the lattice that edges the porch and that little branch is as full of green leaves as it can be now that spring has come.  It's been a lesson to me in that sometimes, no matter how tough our circumstances seem, we just have to push towards the light and grow anyway.  We have to adapt to where we are and not where we'd like to be.  We have to accept what is, rather than looking for ideal circumstances.  And if we keep at it, we'll make a way to bloom anyway.

I can't dig the little bush up.  But I'm not going to cut it back now that it's found a path to grow.  I've contemplated taking a cutting and trying to root it but I think I'm going to try another method and just bury a portion of the branch and see if it won't root itself.  Right where it pokes out of that darkness.  And God willing, may I adapt and bloom right where I am regardless of the circumstances!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Retirement Remedy: Getting Savings Straight

In a conversation with a younger married person this week I heard an all too familiar story:  Credit cards were all paid off with the tax refund and now the slow creep has begun.  "It's not that we're using the cards to eat out or travel, it's the emergencies that come up.  The car needs new tires or the oil needs to be changed..."

uhm hmmm...

Shall we get it straight once and for all?

I'm going to make myself mighty unpopular and say this.  Oil changes and the need for new tires are NOT emergencies (unless you have a slashed or punctured tire right away after buying new).  They are routine maintenance issues and should be dealt with by setting aside a small monthly amount to cover the costs at time of service. This is not savings per se, it is planning ahead.

We have a variety of what I call sub-accounts within our checking account but you could use an actual savings account, envelopes, or piggy banks to keep this money separate.  We save for minor home maintenance, routine air conditioner maintenance, routine car maintenance, annual property taxes and car tags.  If we know we have a major car maintenance issue coming up we amp up those savings to cover it. Generally your dealership will tell you well ahead of time that the need for those major sort of services is due.  These sub accounts get fed every pay period.  We don't go out to eat or buy groceries before we pay them either.

Then we have our monthly savings, funds that go directly into savings each month for the sole purpose of covering emergencies, true emergencies.  What is a true emergency?  Funds could be used to cover co-pays for unexpected medical expenses, not routine medical exams; a rental car if a vehicle is sidelined due to an accident or truly unexpected repair (like blowing a head gasket); major home repairs after a storm...Those are emergencies.  Emergencies don't happen often, they don't come about at regular intervals.  They are unexpected occurrences that necessitate altering your current state of living.

Every single financial expert recommends an emergency fund of at least $1000.  $1000 is not going to cover most emergencies.  It is a good starting point and  a huge help to have that money set aside but  I recommend you have at least $3000 and up to $5000.  My reasoning is based on personal experience.  The year we put the roof on the house, we used money we'd saved over the course of three years.  Our next  emergency came up one month later.  We'd just put $4500 into a roof after discovering major issues that had to be repaired immediately and our AC went out. In our region temperatures of over 100 are not uncommon in summer and that was a routine summer... Hello second bill for $4500.  We could have easily been out $9000 in a 30 day period.  One expense was planned.  The second was not.  It was not an amount we could cover with our routine maintenance fund.  We opted to use a personal line of credit to cover the second bill and were grateful we could do so.  Paying a second big amount from our savings would have drained us.

We bought a car one year in July.  Two months later, John hit a deer on the way to work with the 'beater' car which had liability insurance coverage.  We had to buy a second car right away.  Boom, boom.  Again we made a planned big purchase and got hit with an unexpected expense within a month or two.  We had to use savings to cover the expense of that second car and although we bought another 'beater' it was still a little over $2000.    Again, a $1000 emergency savings fund would not have been enough.

I recommend if at all possible that you put aside 10% of your gross income each month.  Work diligently to build up savings so that you have both an emergency fund and more besides.  And even if you are on a fixed income or retired you should continue to contribute to your savings.

In the case of the young person, I happen to know that they have enough money left each pay period to eat out and travel.  I'd suggest they limit those 'pleasures to one meal and one trip per month and save the rest for those routine expenses and to pay off their debt load.  I'd also suggest that while they might use their tax refund to help decrease the debt load, I'd put the bulk into savings to cover their real emergencies.  If at the end of the year they haven't had a major emergency, they might well consider paying off another debt in full.  And of course, this advice would work well for the older couple who are struggling as well.

As a quick review, routine maintenance issues are not 'emergencies' and shouldn't use savings.  They should be planned for ahead of time, that is why they are called 'routine'.  Emergency savings should be well over the $1000 recommendation given by most financial experts.   Regular savings should also be part of each pay period and even if you retire, you should continue to save.  What are we saving for if not to cover our future needs?

Monday, March 23, 2015

In My Home This Week: Inspired to be Frugal

 I make a large portion of the foods we eat from scratch...and most I had to learn how to make.  I didn't know how to make cinnamon rolls or yeast raised breads as a young married woman.  I made plenty of mistakes until I learned.  Now it's all old tricks and I'm looking for new ones to learn.

Saturday:  We had the propane heater on this morning to chase the chill of the frost morning away.

I made chili for our main meal.  The recipe on the seasoning packet (a favorite of John's that I buy occasionally) calls for 1 pound of meat and 1 can each of tomatoes and beans.  I double the beans and tomatoes and serve the chili over rice. It's a bit spicy and I can't imagine how much heat it would impart if we made it as the recipe reads.

I cut slices of Challah and made cheese toast to go with the chili.

I put a little more than a standard quart of chili in the fridge for a 'Leftover Makeover' dish later this week of Tamale Pie.

Washed a full load of dishes this evening.

Spring Fresh

Well winter is over...At least in my neck of the woods it's most likely over.  We've already seen days with temperatures at 90F, though nights and early mornings can be cool and yesterday was miserably damp and chilly.  Nevertheless a new season is here.    

I don't know about you but I needed to see the change of season indoors.  I wanted something fresh.  I had a budget of $20 to do all I wanted to do.  Yeah.  It didn't go far, lol. I spent it all in one place and it made exactly one spot look nice for about a week.  

Well...now my budget was $0 and I'm shocked to tell you that I made it go a long way towards making things look different.

Here's what I did: