Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Afternoon Tea: Another Week
Come on in! It's too hot to sit on the porch yet again and the plants look so sad and straggly anyway that's it's hardly a pleasure to sit there gazing at the poor spent things. I've pulled up several pots full of plants but we seem to be in that in between time when no plant appreciates the season and who can blame them?
I thought I'd try these Pecan Bars this week...What do you think? I love pecan pie but it's so sweet I seldom make one. I thought this might be a good halfway sort of thing. Of course, we must eat up some of these other sweet things first. There's some of John's favorite no name, el cheapo cookies, the sort that are both chocolate and vanilla and taste like neither but are sweet. He loves those silly cookies but unless I am in deep craving mode for that elusive something, you'll not find me eating more than one or two at best. I had taken pound cake from the freezer over the weekend, but I put it right back when we came in from grocery shopping. There's a raspberry sweet roll which isn't bad, store bought also. I still think the recipe sounds good, but perhaps not this week...
Did you see the Golden Rod blooming at the edge of the back yard? Isn't it lovely? I like golden rod. It's one of those flowers that draw criticism, too. So many people claim it makes their allergies act up but all the doctors and scientists say it's the fault of ragweed which blooms at the same time. I've also seen the red October or Spider lilies blooming. I have one which blooms but never multiplies. I'll have to see about purchasing some of those unless I can find someone willing to share some of their bulbs. I love them, perhaps because Granny did. She was big on bouquets in the house to enjoy.
I used to make huge bouquets this time of year of autumn grasses and wild flowers, and bring them home to plunk down in an old crockery churn that stood by my front door. It made me feel so good to have that big beautiful bouquet on my front porch next to my front door. Well one day I came home and the churn was gone. Someone had come by and helped themselves to it! I missed that old brown churn something fierce, not the least of which because it was the largest vase I'd ever had.
That was at my old railroad foreman's cottage home, the house that I loved deeply and well despite all it's faults and flaws and needs. It was solid as iron that house, but desperately needed new windows, a proper kitchen and some work on the bath just for starters. I had such dreams for that house...sigh. I confess I've never loved a house that much again. Oh I love where I live, and I do appreciate the layout and niceness of my home, but I can't say I love it as I loved that house, which is funny when you consider I've been so much happier here than I ever was there. Yes, that was the house I loved.
It was originally just four rooms big and the kitchen appeared to be the original kitchen for the house. There were two large square rooms at the front of the house and two long narrow rooms behind that, which we used as kitchen and dining room. The kitchen had an old built in cupboard and a metal and porcelain sink cabinet and that was the whole of that room aside from being painted school bus yellow. The dining room had a lovely little nook at one end, flanked by two closets that opened into the nook. The window there looked out onto the side yard and the back of the addition at the front of the house formed an ell shaped space that I thought ideal for a deck. My dream was to turn the dining room window into a French door and make it the official back door, shutting off the door that opened into the back addition bedroom.
There was a back porch once upon a time and it had been enclosed and panelled and made into two rooms. That's where the back two bedrooms were. It was a step down from the main house and there was a door that opened out to steps that led to the back yard. I never much liked having a outside door in the bedroom but there it was and nothing much to do for it. The window that looked out of the dining room over the back porch had been poorly enclosed and sunk in. I hung a quilt over that wall which drew many a comment, because it was a lovely old quilt, not pretty, but old and worn which made it lovely and made the room wonderfully cozy.
There was the addition at the front of the house, which was a step down from the living room and the first room was a bathroom with another room, a lovely windowed room, opening off that. I wanted to cut a doorway from the living room to that room but we never did anything I wanted to do with that house except paint the kitchen and that spare room a soft gold. We never even used the spare room for a thing but storage, but it would have made a lovely bedroom.
It was, as I said, aside from the rotten windows, a sturdy house. Someone had torn off the original front porch which was longer then the present one and had railings and replaced it with a flat roofed, concrete block and cement porch. I had torn out all the shrubs that crowded up around the house and made it look suffocated and the front porch was decorated with willow furniture and an old ironing board where I kept many pots of flowering plants. We did manage to screen that porch in and it was just wonderful to sit upon on summer nights with the aroma of flowers drifting on the air.
In the yard, I had a big willow swing under an old dog wood tree and at the opposite side, next to the driveway, were big flower beds outlined with the iron rich rocks I'd gathered from my great aunt's home and then planted full of all sorts of perennials that bloomed beautifully and drew gold finches and blue birds and red birds among others.
It had a deep back yard, the bottom end of which faced a cleared forest. When we moved in the whole back end was so overgrown with vines and weeds that we were shocked when we found the back fence and realized half our yard was covered with growth. My ex pulled it all up and burned it one spring afternoon when the breezes were blowing toward the open windows of the house. Unfortunately he'd pulled up several poisonous vines and we all suffered horribly with respiratory problems due to inhaling that smoke.
Eventually, we had chickens in the chicken pen back there, and there was a clothes line to hang clothes upon in the sunny yard nearer the house. In winter the next door neighbor's white pines scented my bedroom with a fresh cold scent that made the chill breezes coming in the broken window bearable. It was lovely to wake to that aroma with a little of the neighbor's wood smoke mixed in, when you were covered by a pile of heavy quilts on dark winter's night.
Before my ex and I bought the house a murder had taken place there. I can say honestly that the house never felt creepy. We didn't know the former occupant. The house sold for next to nothing even way back then and the sale was private, so it was owner financed by the family of the deceased.
My children used to tell me that 'the man' came to sit on their beds at night and tell them stories, but they were never frightened. I had a couple of incidents that were minor: the door between the dining room and the old back porch would swing slowly shut each time we left it open. Since the children napped or played alone in their rooms I preferred to have the door open. One day I must have re-opened that door a dozen times in a matter of an hour. I finally got upset and stomped my foot as I opened the door one more time and said loudly, "Stop it! This is MY house now and I want that door open!" That door never again swung shut on it's own when I left it open.
Another day a friend came to borrow my electric typewriter. I was reluctant to loan it but knew that she truly did need it to type resumes for jobs. As she started to leave the house, I watched as she swung the typewriter back behind her, much as a child might swing a book bag or lunchbox. She looked at me, started to the door, and again the typewriter swung back. She stopped, looked me, again headed to the door and the typewriter swung back one more time. "If you don't want me to take it, please say so, but stop pulling on it!" she said to me. Well I wasn't tugging on it at all and in fact as she turned she saw that I was too far away to pull upon it. She turned a little white in the face, then set the typewriter down and said she'd just come by some day when she could use it there at the house.
I thought it odd that Samuel chose the name Harold for a bug he claimed he had once upon a time, hidden under a bucket in his room. "Harold" was not a name we had in the family or amongst friends. It was the first name of the man killed in the house, and I did wonder when he mentioned that it was 'the man's name'...
Was my home haunted? I couldn't say that it was nor that it wasn't. It was a peaceful sort of house overall, and we never felt threatened or afraid by anything within the home. I suppose the poor man who was killed there wasn't the first death to occur in that home, it was an old house after all, built in the mid to late 1800's per townspeople who knew the house and it had been moved from the railroad about a mile to our plot of land at the edge of town in the early 1900's.
Well waxing nostalgic about that old house wasn't planned at all. I was, as stated, far happier in the two houses I've lived in since then, and even in the two houses prior to that, but that house, the structure itself, was the house I look back upon most fondly.
Want to hear a fun fact? John lived two houses up the same street for all those years I lived in that house. We spoke only twice in the time we lived there and neither time did I say 'more than 13 words', or so he assures me, lol. All those unhappy years, and yet the love of my life was that near. We didn't meet up, aside from the day I was hit by the drunk driver on my way to work, until I'd lived elsewhere for 18 months. Odd how things occur isn't it?
How about something less sentimental? I was listening to the weather reports. I've been so anxious to have cooler temperatures but they aren't happening yet, at least not here. The weather man talked about the current temperatures and how they factor in wind speeds and humidity and they call that the 'feels like' temperature which is generally higher (or in winter months, colder) than the actual reading on the thermometer. It occurred to me as I listened to him prattle on (honestly weather men these days, it's just so much yada yada yada!) that it was silly to say that this or that caused it to feel a different temperature when what the thermometer says is what it says and how it feels is just misery.
Now honestly, do you think I could get away with that at the doctor? He'd tell me my weight and I could explain to him that I don't feel that heavy, I feel more like xxx pounds, and then cite my energy level and lack of pain and general good attitude about myself, and he'd put down that the weight I suggested I felt? On the other hand, when I feel much like a puffed up frog would he buy the idea that I weigh MORE because I feel I do? Or for that matter, what if we used that gauge of variables to determine our age? Mentally I feel about 30ish, perhaps,while physically I feel about my age, but occasionally there are days when I feel much older due to the my emotions and struggles or physical ailments...Wouldn't the world be messy if we all decided upon what variables determined weight and age the way the weather man does temperatures?
Now mind you, I can well determine when it feels much warmer or colder than what the thermometer reads for myself. I will be the first to say, 'But it feels hotter...' and likely someone will agree with me, but it's still going to be 95 out whether I think it feels hotter or cooler. So let's just stop with how moody the weather is and what it feels until the world at large agrees that I can feel less heavy than I am and accepts it!
I made chicken noodle soup again. John raves about that soup. I suppose I should make it more of a star on my menu plans. I like soup for supper. Usually I reserve it, in summer at least, for those days when we've had a salad luncheon. I am the one in this household who insists upon a hot meal each day. Even in warm weather there is something about soup that isn't in the least off putting, but I suppose I'd really think differently if I had to live without air conditioning, but then again, maybe not. Soup can be hot and light, too, more so than many foods. I want to try Brandi's Tomato Basil soup which I think sounds very good and I hope is similar in taste to the soup I love at that restaurant. John's not so keen on tomato soup overall, though he will eat it. John prefers soups to be thick. He often says his ideal bowl of soup is so thick you can stand a fork up in the middle of the bowl, lol. That's his standard for gravy, spaghetti sauce, beef stew and tapioca pudding, too.
I like Broccoli Cheddar and Cream of Asparagus but John prefers Chicken Noodle, or a lovely Corn chowder or Cream of Potato soup. I like homemade vegetable but he can take or leave that one. When Katie lived at home we had a way with soup. I'd make whatever kind I chose. I'd dip up a bowl for myself that was a good mix of broth and contents. Katie wanted only the broth-y part and John wanted only the contents part. It was definitely a three bears sort of mentality in our house when it came to soup but it worked out nicely. Now there are only two of us, it doesn't. John swears he gets far too much broth if he can see much liquid in his bowl and I swear there are too many vegetables to make it soupy.
Nowadays I try to find recipes for soups that have the body John prefers and flavors I like. Friend Robin posted this soup, which she raved about and which sounds quite good really, Stuffed Pepper Soup. She said she used ground beef (I would, too) and I think I'd end up adding a little more rice, just to have it nearer the consistency that John prefers but it sounds good. Oh and I'd likely add a bit of cheddar cheese atop my bowl of soup, because that's how I serve my stuffed peppers. And my friend Lynn posted this one, which I think would work as well with turkey Italian sausage, Crock Pot Tortellini. She noted that additional seasonings helped the flavor, basics like oregano, salt/pepper, garlic and onion.
I'm going to try to make up a few soup bases to keep in the freezer and just add in the more delicate ingredients (pasta, rice, potatoes) later. Of course, first, I have to have room in my freezer. But then again, removing oh say 8 or 9 of those quart jars of chicken broth should help...lol John noted yesterday, as he added milk to the back freezer, that the ice build up was pretty high. It's time to empty and defrost both freezers and that is a good time to reorganize and inventory what is in each. I mean to go buy more baskets so I can organize that little freezer in the back. It's been so helpful in the big freezer that I'm ready to have that same ease of access.
Talk a couple of weeks past of the Spending Less post made me think long and hard. There are many, many ways of cutting spending so that we do spend less. However, there are certain methods that, if it's not necessary for us to use, we don't. It has to do with comfort levels and the perception of how we feel regarding that particular move. John gets concerned every time I start trimming back any area. He feels he's not making enough money which isn't true, because if it were, there would be no place to cut! I like to experiment with different methods of doing things, trying to find a solution that fits the time I have as well as the desire to spend less. Sometimes we butt heads because I want to implement a method that cuts too close into an area where John has found some level of enjoyment. Over the years I've convinced him to cut back deeply on soda and drink more water. He has. But never let me suggest that we buy no soda at all...Gracious, no! Honestly, if I can't afford $.25 a can a day (which is my target price and I have gotten it for less) then things have indeed gotten pretty tight. Some might argue that it's $1.75 a week and go on to add how much a month and how much a year, but it's still a small sum for a man who is mighty careful with his funds overall.
My point is that too often I hear people apologize to other frugalites because they still indulge in this or that or spend more than the average on their grocery budget, etc. But you know I don't think we should apologize to anyone. Share how you save and let those who want to implement those steps do so, but enjoy what you enjoy wholeheartedly and don't apologize. It's not about deprivation it's about cutting what doesn't mean as much to you so you can afford what does matter. For John, having that single soda a day is what he enjoys. I enjoy plants and flowers and books. Once upon a time my grocery budget supported a bi-weekly flower purchase but these days I lean hard toward the occasional plant ( one of my African Violet is blooming now) herb or bag of perennial bulbs or seed packet since I no longer have that room in my grocery fund.
Now here's a question to ask: What's a nest egg meant to be for? I've always been under the impression that a nest egg was the money you meant to use for your living in your old age, but recently came across an article on Yahoo News that suggested a nest egg was a perpetual savings account that one never touched...Well what are you saving it all for?! They suggested that taking out even small amounts was not at all a good thing. But what is a nest egg for, if not for your own living/enjoyment/retirement or whatever you've designated it to be? I get mighty tired of reading all these reports that suggest one must have $2million to retire and which suggest that anything less won't do at all. Some reports suggest that retirement is about living your dreams so you really need even more money than the $2million if you want to travel extensively and pursue expensive hobbies and such. Do you know, our sights must be set pretty low...All we want is to stay in our home, support ourselves for as long as we possibly can, and meet our own needs financially. I don't think it will ever take millions to do that, not even if we do live many, many more years.
We took a short trip this past weekend to see our grandchildren in Kingsland. Our Coast Guard son has already received orders that they will be moving back to the west coast before next summer. We're still at the mercy of work and duty schedules so visits won't be any more prolific than they have been, but we'll do what we can to see them. As we did this weekend. It was a one day down/one day back sort of trip which isn't really satisfactory but better than nothing at all. We spent about 8 hours with the kiddy pops. Hailey has decided that we are Gammy and Papa. Daniel has always called us Gramma and Grandpa, but Hailey has her own names for us.
And boy, when she says "Papa, come me" and crooks her little finger at him, up he gets and goes with her! lol She's quite the personality. When her Mama tells her to do something she doesn't want to do at first she might say, "No! No Way!" which seldom nets her any good thing if you know what I mean, lol. Then she will sadly drop her head and walk slowly away, head hanging, the very picture of sadness. She had a bug bite on her foot this weekend and every time she wanted things to go in her favor that bug bite was the worst Owie imaginable.
Zach has a form of speech deficiency that he'll receive therapy for over the next few years. Amie had something similar in her youth so I'm familiar enough with the process of overcoming. Zach has made a lot of progress and while you might initially miss what he says, it sinks in a moment or two later. He's apparently quite used to this delayed reaction, lol, and just proceeds right on. He's got the sweetest smile ever and big blue eyes. He has a bit of temper, but he seldom directs it at anyone, reacts mostly to situations and is as happy and sunny in just moments.
Daniel is lively as can be and most fun of all he's all for any form of imaginary play. This visit it was a little firetruck with a water cannon on the back that we 'sprayed' a variety of interesting colors and stuff from. Then it was the infinity scarf I was wearing that all three wore as a turban, a head covering, a pirate's scarf, a Polynesian skirt, an apron...They took turns "Yo Ho Ho"-ing about the room. I loved every moment of it.
Daniel is a smart little boy, responding well to homeschooling for his kindergarten year. He has a temper too (don't we all?) and his usually takes the form of marching out of the room to his room where he slams the door and fusses mightily. He takes a little longer to cool down but when he's done, he's done and all is forgotten.
Now I thoroughly enjoyed playing with the kids but I love watching how they handle their tempers as well. I know far too many grown-ups who are too prone to hold on to their grievances for years. I want to be child-like and get over it, you know? Anger is not a bad thing, unless it's misused and over indulged. I do have a tendency now and then to air a grievance from years past and I want to just smack myself right hard...I try to make a save by saying, "But I'm over that," but obviously that's a tale or I'd have forgotten it altogether wouldn't I? Yes, I love playing with the children, but I learn from them as much as they learn from me.
We didn't go by the hotel prior to going to visit the children. Mistake. It was hot and muggy and not checking in meant we didn't have the AC on in the room. So we arrive at 9pm to our western facing room and it must have been over 90F in there. I don't blame the motel for not leaving the AC on, after all, if we cancel they've wasted their electricity on an empty room and that's just poor management. No, I blame us because we've been there many times and the staff are always good to let us check in just a little early if we arrive sooner than we expect. It was so hot and miserable and nothing for it but to wait for it to cool off, which finally occurred around 3am, lol. Lesson learned.
I slept for nearly half of the five hour ride home. I guess I needed that rest. We made one stop and that was for the first bag of boiled peanuts of the season. Appropriately enough they were harvesting peanuts in many fields as we drove by. It is, for me, a sign of autumn. Those peanuts tasted so good, still warm from the cooker. We ate some of them as we drove along, riding with the windows down and letting peanut shells fly.
We talked a lot on this trip...well probably more Sunday than we did Monday, since I slept so much, but we did talk a lot. We talked about travel when John retires. It's unlikely we'll have big bucks to go far away places but we hope to see more of our home state and make little short trips here and there. All this time we've been going to Kingsland we've been storing up ideas of spots we'd really like to visit along the way. We never travel in a leisurely manner going down to see the kids as we want to spend all the time we can with them. There's a little of everything in Georgia, really, except desert, lol.
We talk a bit about retirement and about how we'll manage and what we'll do and what we hope to see in those years to come, but we are not wishing our lives away by any means. We both pretty much enjoy Now. It's a good place to be in our lives. We don't want to miss what we have looking ahead to what we haven't yet got, nor looking back at what we might have had once upon a time. Honestly? There's not a whole lot in my past I'd want to go back and retrieve and the things I would are intangibles that would never be mine again anyway, so what's the use? All in all I'm pretty happy in this Blue House of mine. Life is different than I thought it might turn out to be sure, but then again it's better than I thought it might be in many ways and I appreciate that it is.
Well time for me to get up and tend to a few things prior to time to make supper. So glad you could come by. I'd love to say next time we'll have coffee but I just don't know that we shall...The forecasts are certainly not being heeded by the weather, so I'll stop trying to rush that seasonal change and just enjoy where I'm at. Talk to you later!