Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Coffee Chat - Winter Weather A Non-Event
Hello dears...Hurry in, it's quite cold once more! There's coffee and cookies and hot cocoa if you'd like. I meant to mae up a fresh batch of chocolate syrup this week, using the recipe from The Tightwad Gazette which tastes so very good to me. I thought once upon a time that no chocolate syrup but Hershey's could ever taste just right, but the Tightwad recipe wowed me the first time I made it and I still think it's the best. I used to make it for the kids...and yes, I put it in a Hershey's bottle I'd saved, so they didn't know it wasn't Hershey's. I let them believe it was Hershey's and they came to no harm because of it. Put it in a glass jar and they snubbed it. Pour it in the old Hershey bottle and they drank it right up. I stopped making it for the longest time, then realized I really missed having the occasional chocolate milk and in winter I missed having hot cocoa that tasted like hot chocolate and not like grainy weird stuff the way packets sometimes do. The dry powder in my jar is a simple mix of confectioner's sugar and cocoa and does very well for a substitute, but I mean to make time to make that syrup again shortly.
We've a rather hectic pace ahead of us for these two weeks but I've noted these things too come in seasons and so shall give up my customary time of lament over how much there is to do. I mean that sincerely. I commented on a Facebook post of a friend earlier this week. We were asked the question if you could give just two words of advice to who you once were what would they be? I'd say 'Just wait.' While our troubles might well seem everlasting at the time, they too often aren't. Just so are busy spells and slow spells and tight financial spells and on and on. So no complaints over being busy.
When I wrote to my long-time pen pal recently I said if I'd known then what I know now, I'd have let so many things pass without the effort of worry/anxiety/frustration I invested in them simply because I now see clearly that all things, good and bad come in seasons and will pass. Oh the arguments I'd never had had with John! Oh the nights I lay awake worrying over situations! All have passed and are over and done. Situations changed. Nothing much stayed exactly as it was. I do think understanding the concept of seasons has helped more than any one thing to bring me more peace. Not to say I never get caught up in my worries and fears but it is easier to calm down. It's made it easier to recall that in one year or so I won't even remember this lot of worries at all, that in five years the biggest of these will seem just a rock on the path and not the mountain it looks to be now.
As John went off to work his shift the other day, he asked if I were really all right with these periods of alone time and would I mind the upcoming events that will put me alone more. I answered him honestly that I love my time alone, for the first 12 hours of each day; but the second half, from say 6pm until I fall asleep, I long for his company. To me the first 12 hours of most days simply represent the work day overall and I can stay busy enough with my own pursuits, but come evening I long for the conversation, the presence of someone to connect to after my day is done. I miss cuddling in bed on a chilly night (and it'sbeen VERY chilly these winter nights!). I miss saying prayers together at the end of the day. I miss having someone to share a laugh with over a funny program. I miss those random moments of conversation that occur between folk long married. So yes, I miss him, much as I do enjoy uninterrupted time to study, write, work, play. When he's home once more, I appreciate his company...and look forward to that time alone again.
A new study from some group or another, reported that if men really wanted to keep women happy they'd work more. It was conducted among 4000 couples and they said that men who worked 50 hours or more per week had happier wives and children. The reason sited was that the women enjoyed 'their space'. I LIKE him...I like his company and I like having him about. And when I heard the study I disagreed with it, but then I realized that while he's currently working 2 days a week now, he is still gone about 50 hours...and I do enjoy my space. I don't resent when he's home the other five days. So maybe it is the secret to our happiness and I just didn't know it was!
I feel very well over all and that is such a blessing. Every single thing I read about Sciatica said to expect 12 weeks to several years of discomfort. A bit more than 5 weeks later I am down to the sense of something not quite right at times and mild discomfort at others, as well as times when I feel no pain or awareness or discomfort at all. I prefer the latter moments, lol, but I do see the blessing I have to be in my current state of healing and see no need at all to complain. The new mattress and pillow have been a blessing. I am not sleeping all the way through the night. I think these current years of mine just aren't going to lead to a night free of waking, but I fall asleep more easily, haven't felt the need to take the over the counter medicine I used as a sleep aid for nearly a week now. I feel rested when I rise and who can ask for more than that? I confess I did feel I'd been pummeled many mornings when I awoke with soreness and tension and foggy head. None of that since the new mattress came.
The pillows I bought are a down alternative pillow from Target. I was a bit staggered at the idea of paying $20 for a pillow, but in light of how very many pillows I have purchased in the past 15 years, I might well have done myself a favor. The label says these pillows are hypo-allergenic, and washable as well. There's a bonus! We first slept on down alternative pillows when staying in St. Augustine and we really liked them. I can't say the pillows I bought are the same quality as those, but they have certainly been comfortable. I'd bought some at Dollar General last year and I slept on those when I was hurting so and sleeping in the guest bed. I found that I rather liked them, but those are not a large pillow at all. In fact, they would work really well as a filler pillow for cushions, a thought I shall try to keep in mind. I've looked online for the pillows I bought at Target and believe these are the ones I purchased.
The only con with the new pillows is a small one. When I changed out sheets this week I found the pillows had little balls of fiber all over them. I realized that the things had shed, though not nearly so much as the feather pillow I bought last spring. That feather pillow sheds so badly that we can't take off the pillowcase indoors and when we're done shaking out the case and running our hand over the pillow it looks much as though we've just plucked a hen right there. John likes that feather pillow but we've both tired of finding little feathers every where. We'd taken to putting three pillowcases on it to cut down on the shedding. He uses that pillow at work now.
Do you like the cookies? They are one of my favorite recipes, called Ranger cookies. They use coconut and cereal and oatmeal in a sweet cookie base. They come out crunchy and filling. I have both cornflakes and puffed rice cereal that we bought at Aldi and don't much care for that I wanted to use up. In the cookies the flavor is much improved! The original recipe calls for fortified wheat cereal. I am sure the recipe was made up for the manufacturer of Wheaties cereal many years ago. I like this recipe because it's not your standard oatmeal cookie and a couple of the cookies are satisfying.
I've few complaints with the majority of things we buy at Aldi, but a few items just don't taste as well as others. I don't like the can or jar of dry roasted shelled peanuts, they taste more raw than roasted. I don't care for their version of tortilla chips, Doritos or Cheetos, but the potato chips, pretzels and whole grain (think Sun chips) chips taste great, as do their version of the popular crackers. I don't like the Decaf coffee they have as their sole offering. Their bread is good but seems to go sour and dry more quickly than bread bought elsewhere. The dog and cat won't eat pet food from Aldi, but Maddie loves their dog biscuits. Honestly those dog biscuits smell so good to me I sometimes think they have to taste good. Nope, haven't tried them and don't plan to, but it doesn't change the fact they smell tasty. I don't like the store's brand zip lock type bags. Other than those things I can't name anything else we don't like. There are many things we say "Oh let's wait and get the Aldi ones they taste so much better," or "Aldi's price is so much better and they are just as good." I think that's a good record overall for a store that is much smaller and carries almost exclusively their own brand of items.
I hadn't mopped the kitchen floor in about 6 weeks...Not since the Sciatica started. John would have done it for me if I'd asked, but he did plenty and honestly, with all the rain we've had and all the tracking in from the yard, and then all the cold, there was little point in mopping, but I just couldn't stand it any more and since the bulk of the heavy duty housework was done earlier last week, I decided the kitchen was going to get mopped as my big task. I am ashamed to say that for the first time ever it was so dirty I had to empty out the water after I mopped the back entry and kitchen. I couldn't use that same water on the rest of my floors. It looks so much better and certainly was a 'warm-up' task for a cold morning.
There were two spots in the kitchen that just bugged me no end last week. One was a narrow strip between my stove and the kitchen counter. The range top fits right up to the counter on one side and just misses on the other. Well it was the 'other' side where crumbs and drips accumulated. It looked horrid and nasty. There's copper piping as the gas line and John's asked me not to move the stove unnecessarily as he worries the pipe will bend and kink and cause a leak. I've tried to sweep down that strip but the broom doesn't fit. I contemplated it this morning as I swept the kitchen. Here lately I'm all about using what I have for tasks one would never suppose they should be used for. I grabbed my extendable Swiffer duster and dragged it through the two narrow areas and got out all the crumbs and dust. Then I figured out I could slide it under the stove and the fridge and clean. Then I was on a roll with the thing, so I soaked the dustmop part in my mopping water, wrung it out, slipped it back on the tool and mopped those two areas. I got up all but one spot next to the stove. I can live with that spot. It's so much better than looking down and seeing grungy sticky stuff coated with crumbs!
After I'd mopped and fed the dogs and then put every thing back into the rooms I'd mopped, I realized I'd finished housework for the day. John was working. I was alone. I hadn't been to a thrift store in WEEKS. So I gathered up my mail to be posted, a bottle of water and off I went in search of treasures.
I didn't find a lot that day. I rode a lot however, all main highways. It was a beautiful day, not too cold, not too windy. I went into only two shops as it happened. I'd headed in another direction only to arrive and find the place shut up tight and a big For Rent sign in the window. Bummer. And it was in the middle of nowhere. So I drove about the little town for a few minutes (less than five, it's that small) and then noticed a road whose name was familiar and off I went up it, headed to the major highway that went north out of my county. I had my eyes peeled for old homesteads. I saw a few that qualified as older but not Old, if you know what I mean, until I got to the major highway. Then I saw an Old house with end chimneys and that narrow federal style and double front doors. The whole double front door business dates the house to around 1770 or so I think.
I've always loved old homes and especially Old homes. Someone shared a link to this photographer's Facebook page (his only forum that I'm aware of)...I include a warning. Do NOT look at this site if you've things you must do or appointments you must keep! I spent hours there the first time I visited and I could go right back and do it all over again, too. Samuel picked up the link when I shared it on facebook with a friend whose done her share of photographing old houses along the way and he told me he stayed on the page all day long one sick day! So you've been warned. The page is addictive and beautiful and if you love old houses you'll be thrilled.
The town where I headed on my first treasure hunting day used to be just a small town, but I think it's grown to be a suburb of Atlanta. It's about an hour and half to Atlanta from there and it seems all those little nothing towns have grown and grown and grown on their Atlanta sides and look plum anemic and old fashioned on the other sides. It's an old Cotton Mill town. In many of my vintage magazines I spy ads for Thomaston Mills all the time. Granny and Grandaddy both worked there in the 1950's in the cotton mills. Granny's earnings went towards paying off this farm. Of course, the town is much older than the cotton mills having been settled in the 1820's. It's really a pretty little town overall with lots of the cutest mill cottages. The mills closed about 15 years ago but Atlanta had grown outward and so it looks prosperous enough on the surface, but is in fact a mixture of poor rural county seat and prosperous north side.
My first stop was meant to be a place a friend and I visited a couple of years ago. I couldn't find a parking spot for nothing! I circled the block three times and still nothing, so I headed outward and found another store but had to park a few doors down as several customers had taken a space and a half to park. It was not as full as the market where I sell and the bulk of items seemed to belong to the owners (which is usually the story, lol). I found a few nice items, just two or three things. As I approached one booth the owner told me I could have whatever books I wanted for free! I can do books any time and FREE books always. I found four today. The Life of Pi, Donna Parker on Her Own, The Shepherd of the Hills and two Narnia paperbacks. Happy girl! Oh I paid for The Shepherd of the Hills...a whole 50cents for a book that is signed by the author!
I realized as I was waiting to check out that I hadn't eaten since 6am...and it was 2:30p. I'd meant to eat at my original destination which was a combination building that housed both an antique shop and a diner. Huh. That was the "For Rent" storefront in that tiny little town in the western part of my home county and a good two hours prior to my current stop. So I got myself to a restaurant, ordered a meal and ate. So silly of me to not think of eating when I'd been so hungry when I left home in the first place. I knew my blood sugar had gotten a little low when I had a hard time placing my order. I'm not diabetic, nor do I have hypoglycemic episodes, at least not for years. One thing I learned in eating low carb was to have a good balance of fat/protein/carb in order to keep blood sugars level. I had that yummy Butterscotch Oatmeal that morning and 4 peanut butter crackers mid-morning. I am sure that's what kept me running for so long (eating at 5:30am) but it was long gone by 2:30pm.
I went back to the first thrift store after I'd eaten and found a spot to park. I didn't find much there but I enjoyed looking. I noted it was set up in such a way that everything was grouped by color. I thought it rather clever to be honest. I sometimes shop for color more than I do for an item per se when I want to do something new to a room in my home.
I realized after this stop that I was tired and it was time to head home, but...I had another route planned to go home. I drove back via the little town where my interest in genealogy took root, the town that used to be a metropolis of sorts among villages, and is now just a small grid of almost alley sized roads, overgrown empty lots and a handful of old houses and buildings. I rode up this way and down that and came across the prettiest graveyard on a hillside overlooking a lake. I wondered if just possibly my many greats grandmother had been buried there? It was so pretty even in winter, sloping gently towards the water, with big trees to shade it in summer. Idyllic is a word that suits. It wasn't a fussy prim sort of graveyard either but graves were grouped here and there or sat off alone as though they were picnicking folks. Back in the town center, I looked at a tumble of old bricks and wondered if my many greats grandfather did his leather-work in one of the shops that once stood there, and wondered if he'd preached in the pulpit in the church (though not the church itself (though it was built of the same bricks). I tried to see him and his family stopping at the city well to drink on a hot summer's day after going to church or doing their Saturday shopping in town. I suppose I was off on a rather romantical tangent. That's what history does for me.
When I got home on familiar turf, I found turning down our road tugged at my heart. That winding path before me, with the old water oak that shades it in all seasons, and the steep ditch banks on either side...that's my history. It's a view I've seen over and over again for 55 years (very nearly), and it always makes my heart fill with joy. I was home...I stopped and picked up the mail; the only bill was the electric bill.
Geez whillikers! I've read a lot of bloggers complaining about their electric bills of late but I thought perhaps it was the areas where they lived. Apparently not! My electric bill last month was mildly higher than I expected but not shocking. This month I looked at the cost per kwh hour...It's the same as what we'd been paying summers when usage overall soars here in the South. John said it was the price to pay for a warm house. Nope. I'll use the propane heater more, I'll turn the heat pump down a bit. I told him I'm saving my money to pay for air conditioning which is necessary in our region and not on heat which isn't as high priority. Well not most of the time. I do realize we've had temperatures more like proper winter ones for the first time in years, but I do have an alternative heat source. There is no alternative to AC come summer with our humidity levels!
It does seem I have spent more time adjusting my budget negatively lately. The schedule change created a deficit but the county assured the employees they'd get that money back in the form of an adjusted pay rate. Well, yes and no. There was an adjusted pay rate. It didn't cover but about half of the deficit. Minus/subtract. Auto insurance and house insurance went up. Minus/subtract. Electric rates are up. Minus/subtract. Even the phone bills rose minutely due a new federal tax. Minus/subtract...Am I panicking? Not yet. I can't tell you why not but I'm not. I know that there's little we can do except make adjustments in other areas. I've been at this game now for 35 years. I guess that whole conversation with God about trusting Him and all the tests we've been put through over the past year and a half have just worn out the panic button. I will wait and see how He provides or inspires us to alter our budget.
John went off to a men's conference when he got off work last Friday morning. I carried him over to the meeting place to catch his ride. I'd laid out my plans to go by and pick up the new crock-pot and go through a thrift store or two on my way, making a big circle route back home. I did very well at my first stop, the little church run place. I found a few pretty things and had a little inspiration idea that I want to work out for my booth. As I laid my things out on the counter, the woman totting up my things commented on one item and said "Oh how pretty! If I'd seen that you wouldn't have had a chance to buy it!" I laughed and told her that item (a clear glass sugar bowl) was especially pretty and had caught my eye right off because of it's elegant shape. I showed her another item, a jam jar...She said she'd best stop looking at the new stock in the store as it was accumulating at home. I laughed and told her mine had too, so I'd started a flea market booth of my own and every woman near the counter laughed. It seems that two or three others have done the same thing with their collections of 'pretty things'.
I was a bit disappointed in my stop at JCPenney. Apparently the catalog center is now called .com center and it was closed. The note on the glass suggested that you find an associate (we used to call them sales clerks) to find your order and ring it up. I walked out to the shoe department and the place had perhaps 1/4 the remembered stock available...and no clerk anywhere around. I looked over shoes, found a pair I liked, a clerk approached, I asked about them and was told that was the only pair which were a returned item...I asked about picking up my order. The girl walked off to fetch the order and three customers came in, looked, decided not to wait on her return and left. Such a shame! The young lady was very helpful but dressed in a 'uniform' look.
I know JCPenney has had it's troubles over the last few years and I don't doubt it's struggling still but it made me sad. I am sure many of you can recall how shopping 'used to be'. Going to Sears or Penney's was a HUGE event in my childhood and young adult years. It was an event to 'go shopping' and we went prepared with lists of needs and coupons and sales sheets in hand. The clerks in stores were elegant and polished looking be they male or female. They were dressed nicely and looked as though they knew all about the department they were in and often they did! We relied on their wisdom in helping us determine best value and quality for the money we had to spend. We'd shop nearly every department in the store and most had a candy/nuts counter if they didn't have a full fledged cafe onsite so you could refresh yourself before continuing with the shopping day. Later there were malls where the shopping day out was an even bigger event, lasting all day if liked and it was so convenient with specialty and department stores and restaurants all together in a weather proof environment. I shared my grave disappointment in visiting the Macon Mall a few years ago to find it eerily ghost town like.
Well hello department store shopping. Is it the fault of stores like Target and Walmart? Not entirely, say what you like. It's the fault of parent companies who underestimated the power of department store shopping, lowered the quality of goods available without lowering prices, had sales associates (elevated by a new name) dress in a uniform not unlike the guys and gals at Target, Walmart and Best Buy or the local burger place. They took the special pleasure of shopping at a department store and made it just another quick stop on the way home sort of place, not a destination store to spend the day. And what a shame! I may not have opportunity or finances to shop every weekend, but I loved those shopping days spent out with my Granny or Mama or my husband and kids on the occasions we could enjoy such a day.
Enough of my disappointing shopping experience...I was headed out to another big thrift store. I made quite a haul there that day. I found an item or two meant to be mine own special treasure. With what I bought last week and the items a friend donated and the items Mama has promised me from her own home, and the items I've been setting aside here because I'm ready to pass them on, I shouldn't have to do such a big haul sort of thrifting again soon. I can afford now to fit in a quick trip in here and there or to plan a pleasurable jaunt once a month instead of working hard at it as I did last week.
I stopped by the flea market on my way home and looked over my booth. I rearranged and dusted and removed a couple of items that just didn't seem to be of interest to anyone else or don't have a market in that store. As I worked the owner stopped by the booth and told me that she'd had a 'picker' come in that morning. 'She was very impressed with your booth and bought a couple of your things. She told me you had a good eye...' I was very glad to hear that compliment. The owner has suggested a few things, lent me some shelving pieces to work with, showed me a few ways to highlight items. She's been most helpful and I've tried to listen and learn. I've tried to arrange things as I might here at home so others can see how they might work in their own place. It was gratifying to hear that I'd impressed a 'pro' in the business and encouraged me.
Sam and Bess came down Saturday and spent the afternoon and night. I had made all sorts of plans for my time alone until I had to go pick up John, but I really didn't mind setting those plans aside. I enjoyed the kids being here. We talked about all sorts of things, laughed much. It was nice and I was surprised when Sam announced he'd like to stay the night, going with me to pick up John late that evening. John was surprised too and enjoyed his brief visit with them, though the bulk of his visiting was early Sunday morning when we all got up about 6am-ish to have breakfast together and send them off home in time for Bess to go to work. I didn't for one moment regret the passing of time I'd planned for my own pursuits. My children all have dreams of being places other than Georgia. I want to enjoy these rare sorts of times when I can spend time with them despite work and duty schedules and unstretchable budgets that conflict endlessly with one another. All of life comes in seasons, even the best parts.
I was worn out Sunday. John and I talked about his weekend conference until the single digit hours of Sunday morning. We were up within a couple or three hours of going to sleep. I figured with him working the next day, I could rest Sunday and work double time on Monday and Tuesday if needed. The day passed with enough work in it anyway. Big meals required big prep and big clearing up behind. There's always something to do about the place and if I feel too tired to do something physical I can exert myself here in this forum. "Chatting" isn't such a terrible job to carry out, but you'd be surprised how much work can go into even something so simple as this or a short post like my recent Shabat Thoughts post. John was pretty tired after the men's conference and napped a lot. I understood that. It's an intense experience to go to multiple services in a 24 hour period!
Monday morning, I was up early seeing him off to work, but I went back to bed after he left. I'd had two short nights of sleep back to back and I just didn't want to DO anything. I slept hard for about two and a half hours. When I woke up I felt very much myself, full of energy and ready to tackle the day. I did tackle it, too. I cleaned the house very well indeed, so well that I had to do nothing today when John came in, except prepare meals. After breakfast and before I started dinner preparations, I gathered up all the pretty things from my thrift shopping days last week and washed them. I used the dishwasher for those that seemed sturdy enough and had no platinum or gold on them, and I hand washed those that seemed more fragile. Now I have only to get them marked for sale and take them into town Thursday.
While I've worked today we've waited for a big winter storm that is supposed to descend upon us with snow or ice. The weather forecasters warned and warned and warned it was coming. Yes, the temperature dropped a little and yes, it's overcast and cloudy. But snow? Nope. Just rain and not even heavy rain at that. No ice. I am a bit disappointed on the snow side. I really wanted to see snow once again. I am NOT disappointed we've had no ice. My biggest disappointment of all? Having listened and believed those weather men once more. I should have known better. Yesterday was meant to be sunny with just a little cloudiness. It was sunny and warm yesterday morning and I hung out sheets to dry. They were drying in record time too, despite being doubled on the line. I'd checked them after about an hour or so outdoors and they were just slightly damp. And then when I came back indoors, clouds suddenly appeared and it rained! Not one of those fellows on any of the three stations I watched yesterday morning said a word about RAIN. Not one! So why should I think they'd know it was going to snow?!
I shall end here for this week. The grandchildren are coming up for a visit this coming weekend and I need to plan meals and straighten the guest room once some more, but I'm thinking a nap won't hurt a thing at the moment. Talk to you again soon!