Sunday, July 27, 2014

This Week's Menu and Job Plans


The weather is hot and humid.  The air conditioning runs all day and most all the night.  I've enjoyed our mild and pleasant summer, but right now it FEELS like summer.  I like weather to be seasonal.  Cold when it should be cold.  Hot when it should be hot.  That's just me.  There are nice things about the warmth of summer, although I readily admit I am not a fan of humidity.

Summer finds me stumped when it comes meals and cookery.  Truth is, I like pot roasts and chilis and stews, hearty main dishes and warm desserts.  In summer...well those things just don't go, they sit too heavily upon the tummy and make me uncomfortable and leave me feeling dissatisfied.  And because my brain is often hot as the rest of me when I sit down to relax and do quiet work, when I plan my meals I find myself locked into a sort of formula that involves a hot meat dish, cold salad, cool dessert and seldom employ all those fresh vegetables and fruits that are available just now.

Shabat Thoughts: Passing the Baton


A few years ago a friend came to me with tears in her eyes.  She told me she'd been in prayer over a situation in her life for a long time and hadn't seen any results at all.  "I'm asking if you'll take over and pray for me about this," she said.  I agreed.  It was the beginning days of my becoming a prayer warrior and I was just feeling my way along.  I realized that something momentous was going on with this request but it took several weeks for me to understand it more thoroughly.

John had a situation at work that had become difficult and consuming. He told me wearily one morning that he'd been praying over it for months and it just wasn't getting any better.  "I'm tired," he said and I knew he meant his spirit was weary.  "So stop praying.  Let me pray for this for you.  Pass the baton to me."  He looked puzzled. I explained to him what our friend had done, asking me to pray for her situation.  "She needed to step back and rest and I've been praying over it for her.  I don't have the emotions tied with this that she does.  I can do the same for you."

This isn't about answered prayer.  Answers did come, but much further down the road.  This is about being spiritually weary, spent and worn down.  It's about needing a fresh recruit to fight the battle you've been fighting, a new runner who will take the baton and run the next portion of the race.  It's about asking for help.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

My Frugal Week/Living Well: July 19-25

                                        Back to our little canning gal for summer time savings...

Saturday:  Mama, Ashley, and I were traveling today to Katie's bridal shower. I had breakfast here at home.  I took along a bottle of water with me.  I knew I'd want something to drink at some point along the way and I didn't really want to have to stop unless it was necessary.

It rained all the way up...glad we brought along umbrellas!

We had a lovely time at the shower and Katie got some nice practical things (all she asked for were practical things).

We stopped in the next town on our way home and Mama went into grocery to buy a treat for herself that is a specialty of that grocery.  She also bought some of the pastry for Ashley and I and a rotisserie chicken each for our suppers.  I had already planned mine and John's dinner but was happy to have the chicken for Sunday dinner.

It was awfully nice to get home and put on my pajamas and rest after all that rainy drive!  John had coffee made and a pizza in the oven for our supper.

Monday, July 21, 2014

This Week's Meal and Job Plans: July 20-25


Oh what a lovely weekend!  Well it wasn't weather-wise but it was all around.  Mama, my niece Ashley and I drove to Athens Saturday to join in Katie's bridal shower.  It was an intimate group of folks.  I've met her soon to be in-laws before but there were new faces to acquaint myself with, and then I had my lovely family about me.  Bess came and brought the baby who is growing rapidly and I mean that sincerely.  He started out at 6pounds 6 ounces, but he now weighs about 8pounds 13 ounces in just five short weeks.  He's a nursing baby but tolerated, sort of, the bottle his Mama brought along so that I could feed him.  I did laugh at the look on his face as he clamped his lips and cut his eyes at me.  And when Bess nursed him later, oh so discreetly, the little man smacked his lips loudly and 'Mmmmmm'-ed so much that he made us all giggle and brought full attention on his Mama, lol.

We passed the baby about from one set of arms to the other and he was just fine with it all.  He gazed at strangers and family alike and listened to words meant just for his tiny lovely ears and never whined or whimpered about it at all.

Of the girls who came to share in Katie's celebration, five were engaged and three were pregnant.  It is a season for young women.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Shabat Thoughts: Why Wait?


There are two trees outside my kitchen sitting area window, turkey foot oaks that are native to the land.  Over the past 18 years it's been my pleasure to watch them in every season, noticing how unique they are and how similar as well.  They are hardly more than 25 feet apart, one slightly downhill from the other, but they have been affected differently by seasons.  One changes color before the other, the other blooms before the one.

This past winter the lower tree had budded, which is normal for these trees.  I love to see the trees in bud.  As the winter sun shines down upon them, the twigs lift up their buds to the sky.  One morning, several years ago, I noted how they seemed to be raising each twig in a form of praise to God.   As the winter passed, and the freezing temperatures were late upon us this year, we realized that the lower tree was not progressing in the bud stage and as Spring and early Summer came on the tree has had every appearance of being dead.  We've discussed what we should do: cut it down and replant another in its place?  Remove it and move on?  Pray over it as we did the Faith Tree out front and wait and see?

My Frugal Week/Living Well July 12-18


Saturday:  We packed up and drove off to see the most Southern grandchildren this morning.   It was easy to pack for, as it was a flying trip: drive down today/drive back tomorrow.  I packed an insulated bag with water and sodas and snacks.

We knew we'd have to stop for a couple of meals over the weekend.  We had breakfast here at home, I packed fruit, crackers, and a little snack for us to have at the hotel later if we were still hungry.  We knew there would be a single cup coffeemaker in our room.

We went down to celebrate an early birthday for our soon to be five year old grandson.  I figured the twins were about the age to notice that Dan was getting a gift...I tried to solve this by bringing along something for each of the three.  I gave Dan a small bag to carry toys in on roadtrips.  This was something we'd bought for John and it proved to be the wrong size..and non-returnable.  Z got a hat that John got free with a purchase.  He is a hat fiend.  H got one of those dolly juice bottles that drains as the baby 'drinks'.  I loved those things as a girl and thought H would be impressed.  She was.  I spent a whole $1.50 on that bottle, my sole purchase and all of them were perfectly happy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tried and True: Fried Green Tomatoes



It's been a little while since I've done a Tried and True post.  Fried Green Tomatoes.  Good book, good movie and in the South, it's a summer time food favorite.  I suspect, given the way my family preserved their summer produce, this began as a Fall menu item, to use up the last of the tomato crop when it was time for frost.  Big Mama also made a green tomato relish but I haven't got her recipe for that.  I usually do it the easy way and just buy a jar when I see it in a Farmer's Market shop since I'm the only one who enjoys it.

Fried Green Tomatoes.  Every household does them just a little differently.  I should know.  I am fourth generation cooking these and I don't do as Big Mama, Granny nor Mama did.  I do them my way.  I like my way better than any other but I don't turn my nose up at these tomatoes if someone else cooks them.  I just eat 'em anyway!


Years ago, a friend from the MidWest came to visit. I was cooking fried green tomatoes.  I had a tiny kitchen and the only available counter space was just behind me to my left, out of visual range. I would pick up tomato slices from my frying pan and drop them on the plate on that counter back of me.   Randy came into the kitchen and asked "What's that?"  I told him it was Fried Green Tomatoes.  "Ewww!" was his reply.  His wife reminded him he'd promised to try anything once  if I'd cooked it...So Randy agreed that they deserved a try.  He stood behind me the whole time I was cooking, chatting away...Or so I thought.  The man ate every single slice of the four tomatoes I fried that night!  All of them!  I never heard him say, "Ewww" again when anyone mentioned fried green tomatoes.

How you slice them depends on how they turn out.  Thin as paper and they are just this side of a potato chip crisp and yet a tiny bit  moist.  Thicker and they are tender, warm, not quite wet, bits with a crunchy coating.  I like them about 1/8 inch thick which is neither too thick nor too thin in my opinion.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

This Week's Meal and Job Plans



Chicken Biscuits
Bananas, Peanut Butter Crackers, Cheese Cubes
Steak, Corn on cob, Tossed Salad, Birthday Cake
Chicken biscuits are what we enjoy at least one morning of any roadtrip.  This was our morning.  They tasted really good, too.

Eggs, Hash-browns, Toast
Chicken Tortellini Salad
BLTs, Chips

Friday, July 11, 2014

My Frugal Week: July 5 -11







July 5:  We had an easy  breakfast of bagels with cream cheese this morning.  I knew we would have a nice meal at dinner and since we were eating late, the lighter meal seemed more than sufficient.

Baked Chicken and reheated Peach Berry Crisp in the oven alongside to save electricity usage.

I wanted something different for a salad. I mixed up a batch of counter-top pasta sauce yesterday and tossed a few tablespoons of that with a can of drained chickpeas.  That was it, super simple and equally tasted if heated or served at room temperature.

We went nowhere at all today, so we spent Nothing Extra...a great way to stay on challenge!

July 6:  Ran a full load of dishes this morning.  I heated the water for the dishwasher start up when I was rinsing dishes to put in the machine.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Afternoon Refresher - Fire and Ice



Hello hello, and do come in!  You're just in time.  I've been trying to get time out for an afternoon refresher all week long.  Tea is exactly what I wanted this afternoon.  As I told John, on these hot days when I drink so very much water, I start wanting something a little more substantial after awhile.  Tea suits me perfectly.

I haven't baked a thing.  It's been far too warm to cook overmuch, though I did end up cooking quite a lot on July 4.  I broke down and bought a packet of chocolate covered grahams at the store.  Gee those things taste good.  I can't make up my mind if it's because we've had so few sweets of late or if they really are as tasty as I think them!

I mentioned cooking on July 4th.  Katie came down to visit. I hadn't expected her and there was a wee bit of a scramble, but then I sat down with John and we talked over meals and the man, clever one that he is, came up with an idea for a pizza that turned out really, really good.  He was inspired by a baked submarine sandwich he'd had the day before at a restaurant.  So we altered our dinner plans and made supper plans that suited us all admirably.  Katie helped out with the cooking for supper and her fiance hung around the kitchen because he's a cook, too.  All of my children except Jd, are cooks.  Jd, like his dad, does well enough if needs must.

John and Jd, poor fellows, are odd men out in this family.  We all love to cook and we all love to try new recipes.  John is a hamburger, steak, fried eggs, frozen pizza sort of man and Jd is pretty much right there with him I think.  The rest of us sit about and share recipes, talk about good meals we've prepared, or had somewhere else, or share ideas we saw on tv or in a magazine.  So it was nice to have the kids in the kitchen with me Friday evening, chatting away about meals they'd prepared in the past week, asking questions about the recipe we were making and how it came to be, etc.  While Lori and I do the cooking in our homes, Amie and Ben, Samuel and Bess, Katie and Matt all share cooking duty.  I think each of them are really good cooks in their own rights.  I do find it funny in a way that the cooking is often vied for in their homes because the ones who don't cook have to do dishes, lol.

It was nice to have my girl at home for a bit.  It was nice to have an opportunity to really talk to her which I hadn't had in months.  It was just the right time, too, because last week turned upside down and blew up.  I was left scrambling about trying to make heads out of tails.   None of it harsh things, but just those life things that sort of happen.  It was terribly hot and that drained me like a wilted leaf.  I was over tired at the beginning of the week and completely irritable and whiny by the last days of that week.  I needed a dose of Katie chatter and I got it.  It was so nice!

I mentioned last week as tough and it was in a way.  There was that lovely emotional day Monday when the newest grandbaby arrived and we were sung over at the gas pumps at the station in our town. Mama had a doctor's appointment that afternoon that I'd forgotten.   I'd promised to be with her.  I had to do a quick scramble about and scratch my plans.  It wasn't life threatening or anything, a matter of a cyst on her eye  that had gotten out of hand entirely by the time she finally got in to see the specialist.  We were sent to a more specialized specialist on Tuesday in Macon and that turned into immediate minor surgery as he felt she'd suffered long enough with it.

John worked that Wednesday and I worked myself hard that day, in an attempt to do in a day what I'd wanted to do all the week before.  I promised myself a day off on Thursday but John came home and decided we had to get out of the house and we did.  We were gone nearly 6 hours running errands. He did treat me to a lovely lunch out but I was dragging hard by the time we returned home.  So Friday I promised myself a day off and then worked myself into quite a state, until just minutes before Katie came in.  John shook his head at me.  "You've worked awfully hard for someone having a 'day off'!"  He was right.  Three days in a row!

It took the weekend to recover.  Sunday I went out to dinner with Mama (which was midday for us both, we don't usually eat big meals later in the day).  She mentioned how much she missed going to church.  I thought about the church I'd grown up in and the churches I've attended over the past few years and the church we're attending now.  I thought over mine and Katie's search for a church that met her criteria 6 years ago and how difficult it was for us, because my girl is more old fashioned in her spirit, for all that her outside is Modern Millie-ish.  "I don't know if church like you miss exists anymore Mama."  She told me my brother had said the same thing.

The church Mama misses is the church she grew up in.   It's the building her grandfather built to replace the church that burned. That is part of what she misses and more.   That older church that burned was the church her great grandparents and great great grandparents, and so on, founded nearly 200 years ago.  It was sweet and simple.  Not ideal mind you, but sweet and simple.  It was a country church, with a lovely old graveyard and a field next door that waved with corn or wheat or cotton or came alive with cows at various times through the years. It was surrounded by tall old oak trees and the graveyard was dotted with cedars that stood where gravestones weren't available.  It was a plain sort of church and plain sort of people attended it.  But that was then.  It is no more.  The building houses another church group now.  Some of the old cedars have fallen and been cut up and carried away.  The field next door lies fallow.  Changes do occur.
It's hard to explain to Mama what we find in church today.  The theater seats and dim lights, the loud and rocking music.  The message is the same powerful stuff it's always been, but it gets decked out in a style that she would find shocking I expect.  And to attend a big church such as the one we do now...Well talk about culture shock!  Mama's little family church might have held 50-60 at times, but it just as often held 10-12 and seldom more than 25 on the average.  Just imagine walking into a room that seats 1000 after that.

After thinking these thoughts over, as we drove along, I felt a little sad.  I've longed at times for that old fashioned simplicity but I know that what I miss isn't the style of preaching or the rigidity of the rules that had to be followed.  What I miss is that feeling of absolute certainty that it was MY church, a place where I belonged and would always belong simply because my family always had.  Only I don't and I didn't, much to my grown-up hurt and dismay, and later my great thankfulness.  I've learned that church is good to have but relationship is the most important thing of all. I think Granny knew this, it was what she tried to impart to me for years, but Mama has always seen church as the place to meet God, and in her mind, it was the church she attended all her years, not some new building where she has no personal history.

I suspect Mama too was feeling nostalgic.  She's spoken often of her childhood years lately, of relatives long dead, of classmates, and homes in the county where they visited, where they met in summers and played,  and so many of these, people and places, are gone now.   There are few, so very few, of the generation who went before left alive and behind her she sees just her own small family line trailing out behind her and she seems a little bewildered.  She grew up in a small town where half of the folks in it were kin to her and everybody was a cousin or darn near it.  She had great aunts and uncles, aunts and uncles and cousins to spare.  Now there are a handful at best.  She's a stranger in the town where she grew up.

It was in some ways a hard day Sunday.  Perhaps it was the weight of loss that seemed to hover around Mama.  Perhaps we were both weary from the week before and the heat.  I was glad to come home and be alone with my thoughts and shut out the world for a bit.  I took up my genealogy research and struck at it anew for the first time in a few weeks and buried my head in a past that wasn't mine to remember and regret losing.

You know, I can't help it, as I work on these lineages and trace them back and back...I see familiar names pop up here and there, surnames that intermarry and populate the same neighborhoods, even as they move from state to state.  Many of them familiar to me as my own surnames because I was surrounded by their family members growing up.  I thought about how people sometimes seem so very familiar to you, that instant connection, that kindred soul sort of thing.  I studied reincarnation when I was a pre-teen.  It's not at all shifting from one life form to another in the next life... I was a little intrigued by it then.  From this side of life, as an older person,  I don't believe much in reincarnation as anything other than a theory.  What does intrigue me is the DNA factor.  If we believe in genetic memory, whose to say that it isn't actually generated by DNA and we 'recognize' that in one another when we happen upon one of those kindred spirits who, it turns out, had family who populated our past family members' lives as well?

Have you looked at any of the tiny houses online?  I thought about them as we drove around the back roads Sunday, because there was many an old little house along the way.  The new tiny house are of various sorts.  Caravans, some actual small stick built homes, fancy campers, etc. but are meant as a permanent residence. Some are portable and can be moved from property to property as you need to move if your job demands it.  Some are meant to make a simple homestead lifestyle that is efficient on many levels, as well as affordable.   Well it all sounds terribly appealing on the one hand.  Who wouldn't love a beautiful little home, a play house for grownups, so to speak?

I wanted a play house as a girl and would have loved to have had one for my girls, but it wasn't possible. We all settled for imaginary homes made up in the moss covered roots of a tree or formed from fallen branches and leaves.    I often dream over little cottage-y looking homes we pass here and there.  And I love looking at abandoned homes.  In our area it's not great huge houses (though there is one in our town I'd love to rescue, but that's another story).  Most of the abandoned homes we come across are crouching at the edge of a field, or sitting in a little grove of trees that sits next to the road.  I suspect they are about four rooms big.  I dream of how cozy they must have been once upon a time, how cozy they might be once more.  There's always that little girl dream of making a house a home that I just haven't shaken in all my grown up years.  It boggles my mind to think of families raised in those little houses, sometimes with many children.

I think of sharing it with John, whom I love deeply.  Just at first it seems romantic.  I think that's why I love the cabins we've stayed in and the condos that feel like first apartments.  I like that we seem more a couple in a small space.  And then reality bites:  I cannot imagine the inability to go off by myself for a bit, to move away from the noise that two inevitably generate as one watches TV and another tries to play music. And where on earth would you retreat to when you've had a fight?!   There are days when, here in this very home, I feel as though I cannot find an inch of space that is solely mine to escape to and those are the good days, lol. That's when I put aside the dreams those tiny houses generate.

When we came in yesterday afternoon, I put away the groceries we'd bought and went out to empty the water and ice from our ice chests.  I decided to keep the ice for water, putting it in my watering can.  One of the cubes slipped away from me and I picked it up only to have it sort of pop between my fingers and land at Maddie's feet. Maddie has discovered something she likes anew.  She licked the ice cube, picked it up, chewed it a bit, dropped it and licked it and just acted as though it was something totally great. I think I'm going to give her one now and then through these warmer summer days.  Her coat is still very thick and despite routine brushing she is still shedding the undercoats.

In the past, she and Trudy practically lived under the back deck, which was shut off when my brother built those long steps along that one end.  Maddie has satisfied her need for cooler spots by lying in holes she's dug here and there in shady areas.  She moves from this one to that one as the day goes along.  John complains about this, but only about those areas where there are no flowers being dug up.  Hmmmm...I noted this morning that apparently the flower bed around the Faith Tree is a favored spot.  It's only Spiderwort and Soapwort (which sounds so much prettier by it's other name of 'Bouncing Bett') that she's crushing at present.  The iris won't remember a thing come next Spring.  I suspect that cool green feels awfully good to her.

I am amused at the great sensitivity she has at times.   A couple of weeks ago, the kitten John found was sent home with a friend who rescues strays.   She had a nursing Mama cat she hoped the kitten would take to...Well the friend looked at Maddie and laughed.  "She's fat...that's not all fur!"  Maddie had indeed put on a few pounds since Trudy passed away.  I'd cut back her food but she'd burrow into a nest of baby rabbits and fill up her belly, which grieved me and amused John.  Apparently Maddie understood the criticism.  There for over a week I could barely get her to eat a thing.  And then when she did start eating she'd barely eat the half portions she'd been getting in an attempt to cut down her daily calories.  Her hurt feelings paid off however.  I noted that while she'd never be called svelte she has trimmed her waistline a bit.  I can't say hurt feelings ever worked well for me.  I'd just tuck sadly into a double portion of whatever food tasted good (and didn't it all?) back in my younger days.  

Maddie is such a lovely old girl.  We've had a bit of thunder the past couple of days, nothing much really, but I noted today that the cat, rather than sit atop the porch railing which she prefers, or get into her own little cubbyhole to hide from the weather, was sitting atop the plastic can the pet food is in.  This is right next to and slightly in front of Maddie's dog house.  The cat was turned towards Maddie as though watching over her.  Maddie may chase the cat on sunshine days but she sure seemed comforted by the cat's company.  Big old silly red dog.

I thought I would just accomplish worlds of things today but I haven't.  It's ended being a sort of piddly day. My head ached again this morning, but it's clouded over and started to rain gently.  We had a heavy long rain storm last night that lasted nearly two hours.  I think this sort of weather is just perfect for curling up with a book and reading along all afternoon.  I confess I've done some of that, too.  I am still reading Gone With The Wind, but I do find it a bit heavy going at times.  I picked up the Nancy Drew book, The Clue in the Old Stagecoach this afternoon and I'm already half way through it!  I'm not sure I'll finish GWTW this month at all, but I do want to keep reading.  I find it interesting and am learning a good bit as I go.

My goodness, the Air Conditioning has gone off...It normally doesn't stop running full time until somewhere about 7pm.  I think we might have to put on some coffee and chase the chill away...

I can think of two dozen things I ought to get up and do, but I am just not wanting to give in to the 'ought to's today.  Maybe today is my "promise" day, huh?

I wanted to finish decorating my back porch this morning, but when I went out to the shed, where some of the necessary things are, I couldn't get the door open.  It had swollen so tightly shut from last night's rain that I couldn't budge the thing no matter how I tried.  I had a big pile of stuff I'd brought from the house outdoors, meaning to put in the shed.  I had to haul all that back to the house.  It's in the kitchen sitting area.  I hope John can wrench it open for me tomorrow, but with more rain this afternoon, who knows?

I have deep cleaned every room we normally live in this month which is pretty good considering how many extras have popped up.  I'm satisfied anything more can wait until next month.  Now it is my hope to do little projects here and there but weather does have to be fair for many of them or they shall not be accomplished.  I have in my near future, five appointments/engagements/events to attend to in the next 10 days.  I get the feeling that maintaining routine work is going to be the most I will accomplish during that time and I may well not get more done the rest of the month.  I can get frustrated very easily when I plan heavy and accomplish little but there are times when we must simply roll with the wave of the days and work with what we're given. I'll check for those things I can do in unexpected moments of time whether they are days at home or moments at home.  It seems the best way to proceed.

The Nothing Extra challenge has been a challenge all right!  I didn't realize how tempted I am by little extras whether at the grocery or out just anywhere.  I've good reason for wanting to cut back hard on my spending. We had a heavy month of birthdays in June and then we added two more with the babies.  I told Amie, I do believe her baby meant to squeeze herself in to that June birthday melee and she arrived early just on purpose to do it.  There was a wedding, a couple of baby gifts, and numerous repairs in last month, as well.  I am nearing the end of the meat market purchases.  I hope to make it to the first pay period in August before I buy meats but I'd like to have some or all of that money set aside when we go.  There are items I need: jeans, shoes for winter wear, new sandals for summer wear, pajamas.  There are things I'd like to do for the house yet.  And on top of all that is my desire to pay off our personal loan for the back porch so we can do the next round of work on the house.  I've done well on that goal.  I've paid back  nearly half of what we'd used, but I really want to get it all taken care of before December of this year.

I have two chairs that need to be replaced.  I'd like to landscape around the house, but John wants to underpin it first instead of having the vinyl skirting there.  Our home is a double-wide which is fairly common in our area.  There are stick built houses but the bulk of folks can afford only very moderately priced homes and so you do see a good many double-wide.  As we headed home from an errand the other day we looked at houses.  John and I admired porches, fences, landscaping, shade trees, swimming pools, lawns, parking pads, driveways... Homes much like ours with just added little touches that seemed to set them apart from others.  We were gathering information really, looking at ways we might improve our own home outside.

Later in the week, John asked why I was watching a house flip program.  Well for the same reasons we'd been looking so hard at homes the other day.  I was looking for ways, affordable ways, to upgrade our home and make it look fresh and nice on the inside.  I love my home.  I am so pleased with the few little things we've been able to do over the past year.  I want to do more that will improve and enhance our home.

Well all that is the long way around of saying that this Nothing Extra challenge is not a temporary thing, it's a real attempt to determine what I really want and not temporarily satisfy an urge to purchase some little something that will add not one iota to my enjoyment of life or home.  It's about being a better steward of my money.  We are careful, but there's room for improvement and I want to improve.  I'm not satisfied to stand still and say 'Look how well we do.'

To that end as well, we discussed, as we drove along looking at homes, the plethora of birthdays and our growing family overall.  John mentioned his concern that we simply could not continue to increase the gift giving  in our family without giving up something else or making changes. I'd just worked on the budget for this quarter and knew that there was little else to cut and anything we gave up at this point was going to be something necessary.  We decided making changes was the way to go. So we're starting with how we do Christmas and we're going to downsize birthdays.  In the end we likely won't save money but we will hold steady which is a savings, rather than adding to what we already spend.  And so we're back around yet again to that Nothing Extra spending challenge.  If I can find little ways to cut out a few items here and there or to curb spending, then so much the better for us.

And just as a brief little follow up, when we arrived home that day, after looking at all those other pretty little places, we agreed, as we came up the drive, our own home holds up well against those we liked best.  Room for improvements, yes, but all in all, pretty satisfactory in our eyes.

I guess it's time to end this little chat.  That was John on the phone just now and the scoundrel started yawning as we spoke.  The rain we'd had here earlier while you and I chatted had moved on to his area and it was making him sleepy.  Now my eyes are watering from yawning...I hadn't planned on a nap but it might be necessary, lol.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Menu and Job Plans: July 7 - 12


I'm a little late this week.  I do have good reason.  I went out with Mama yesterday.  We'd meant to go out earlier in the week but she had some minor surgery and didn't want to leave home.  I couldn't blame her a bit. I sat down on Friday to plan out meals for the month and got through about ten days worth without a trip to the grocery store needed!  I was going to work things out a bit further but about then John called from the living room, "Did you know Katie was coming down today?"  No....Suddenly we were busy trying to get housework done and replan our meals for the day to include two more.  It all worked out beautifully.  I had time to rest before she arrived and we had food enough with leftovers for John to take in his work lunch on Sunday.  Just right.

I will be going to the grocery this week.  I may not need food so much (a few produce items, milk, bread) but I do need all that other stuff that gets tossed in the grocery budget: Comet, vitamins, paper plates, paper towel, garbage bags.  I hope I can save a bit of the funds to put towards a trip to the meat market the first part of August.  I'm including in our weekend meals, but I only need four main meals this week.  We've got to go grocery shopping one day, I'll be out running errands another and we're going to be away from home one day.

Fried Eggs, Toast/Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls
Steak, Baked Potato, Salad
Cereal with peaches
I made up my usual biscuit dough, rolled it out and spread with melted butter, sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon and topped with both fresh (frozen) blueberries and some dried blueberries.  I rolled up jelly roll style and cut into rolls.  These were very good, moist and flaky.  I did put a light confectioner's sugar glaze on top when they came out of the oven.  I'll make these again.  I think I want to try them with peaches instead of berries.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

My Frugal Week - June 28 to July 4


Saturday:  I made our dinner in the oven today, even the vegetables. It seemed the most economical and easy way to proceed.  I made sure to use the exhaust vent from the beginning to cut down on how much the house heated up.

I used up a dab of sour cream, adding to the scalloped potato dish I made to go with our dinner. I'm going to do that next time I make scalloped potatoes even if I don't need to use up sour cream.  It added such a nice richness and creaminess to the dish.  I only used about 1 1/2 tablespoons in my two potato dish.

Of late we've been leaving the AC set at one temperature day and night, never moving it up nor down.  This has meant the nights are a bit warmer but we're finding that bearable.

Our public libraries are seldom open on the days and times when I'd normally be out of the house.  I've been very frustrated lately, wanting to find books to read.  I've settled that by choosing a stack of books from my own home shelves to read in the coming month.  I will share the titles in my next Afternoon Refresher post.

Breakfast casserole for breakfast and a sizeable vegetable heavy dish for dinner.  We decided we'd had plenty to eat today and opted for a late supper/early evening snack of a bowl of cereal.  That was just right.
I loved having a special breakfast for Shabat morning.  I think I want to make that a sort of tradition for us, to have that little something extra special that I've made ahead during the week.  I have a plan for this next Shabat in mind already.

Sunday:  John off to work.  I packed his lunch and made him breakfast just like always.  After Bible study I was hungry and made myself something to eat.

I don't know what material my kitchen counters are made from.  It's not stone nor laminate.  It's different from anything I've seen.  The surface is white which is nice and not nice, all at once.  It stains and gets grimy looking after a while.  In the past I've bleached it by laying down paper towel and spritzing them with bleach/water mixed properly to both sanitize and whiten.  Today, I didn't want to use up my paper towels...So I pulled out the dishwasher detergent bottle.  I've found that liquid will bleach things (and remove heavy grease).  It worked beautifully.  So well that I decided to add it to hot water and mop my white linoleum tile floors.  Gorgeous!  I've admired them all day, each time I walked into the kitchen.

The shelf above the stove that we attached to the wall seemed to be very loose...and very spotty from greasy film.  I removed the shelf, cleaned it and the back splash behind the stove with...what else?..dishwasher detergent!  It really took off that hard to scrub away grime and made things look a lot brighter.  Discovered the shelf was loose due to too short screws.  I found longer ones and then rehung the shelf. Much better!

Spent the afternoon in quiet work.  I did not go to town for a paper, nor out for food to eat as I'd planned, nor to shop.  I stayed at home.

Used freezer items to make my at home Chinese take-out meal of stir fried vegetables with Chicken Potstickers.

Skipped the afternoon cup of coffee, not on purpose, but realized I'd done so much later in the evening.  This is typical of me in summer.  I start to cut back my coffee drinking from 3 cups a day to 1.

Monday:  Up quite early.  My newest grandchild arrived in the wee hours.  It's a girl!

John and I talked last night and he'd mentioned he wanted to come home and get his gas can to fill  so he could mow.  I asked him to text me when he was headed home and I'd greet him at back door as I wanted to pick up sale items at local grocery, check for peaches at local packing shed.  I was on the back steps when he came home, a bag of trash by my side, a cup of coffee  for him and the shop keys in hand.  We also checked mail and filled up his car while we were out.

Not the best price ever, but the lowest lately on Mahatma Yellow Rice.  I bought 8 packages and a 12 pack of sale priced toilet paper and  a loaf of bread.  I didn't walk down any other aisle nor give in to temptations. That's what I went in for and that's what I bought.

Peaches were $.50 less than in years past for the small bags.  They looked under ripe and they were downright crispy...I wonder if they were less because I'd have to wait for them to ripen?  Peaches are one of the few fruits which may be picked a little under ripe and then will ripen if kept at room temperature.

John got a half dozen honey buns in the gas station store.  They were selling them 3/$1 which is a good price. We put some in the freezer.

Called Mama to share baby news and she reminded me I'd promised to take her to eye doctor this afternoon.  Good thing I called.  I was about to start a major project.  No time!  Shelved that idea and started work on my 3rd quarter budget sheet.

Mama and I stopped at the pharmacy in the town we were in to fill her prescription.  I stayed in the car out of temptation's way.

Stretched a pound of ground beef with bread crumbs soaked in milk, a little onion, shredded carrot and an egg to bind it all.  I managed a nice sized meat loaf with plenty of leftovers for sandwiches or a second meal.

Found two cans of tomato paste just past best by date on pantry shelf.  I opened them and portioned and flash froze.  When I need tomato paste I'll just drop a disc of it into the dish I'm preparing.

July 1:  Today marks the first day of my Nothing Extra month.  This is an effort to cut down on discretionary spending and generally pull the sagging balance up a notch or two.  I've a few obligations I must meet this month that are extras: a hair cut, a birthday, a trip to see my southerly grandchildren, and I plan to look for a pair of jeans which I am in desperate need of...but thrift stores are not on my list this month, nor bookstores, or walks in any store just to look, or garden centers or any of the other places where I'm tempted to spend.  Extra trips made into the grocery are out, too.  I'm tightening the purse strings for this month.

I realized yesterday when I started to make my meatloaf that I'd forgotten to buy fresh garlic.  I looked in my pantry and found a bottle of garlic powder.  Not my first choice but it will suffice until grocery day.

Needed some hand lotion.  I've just tossed two empty bottles and my third was very low.  I walked into the guest bath and rediscovered the stash of travel sized bottles I'd put in that bathroom for our guests to use.  I have hand lotion to spare.

John went out to mow before dinner.  I decided I needed to switch up my menu to suit his appetite after that hot job.  I made Tuna Pasta salad.  I added in some of all the vegetables in the fridge and just one can of drained tuna to an 8 ounce box of elbow macaroni.  Cool and tasty.

I had to take Mama to another appointment this afternoon, a specialist in the city this time.  I brought along a thermal glass of ice, a bottle of water, and my book.

The doctor performed some minor surgery on Mama's eye. Not what we expected today.  We thought she was there for pre-op and we'd go back on Wednesday.  The doctor told her the eye just looked too painful to wait another day.  I had to change plans slightly.  She needed to get another prescription filled and obviously wasn't going to drive home from my house as planned.  This time I had to go into the drugstore for her.  It was hard not to look about while I waited, nor to not pick up something to snack on, since it was well past our supper times.  I reminded myself of my challenge and held myself in check.

Mama asked me to take her by a fast food place for her supper and offered to treat John and I to supper too...I accepted.  I had been wracking my brain trying to decide what we should have at that late an hour that I could quickly repair when I got home.


July 3:  Another work morning for John.  I made his breakfast, packed him a lunch.

After John left this morning I got busy.  So busy I completely forget my promise to have a second cup of coffee this morning.  I was hot and tired by 8am so I made myself a mango smoothie using a ripe mango from the fruit basket, some frozen pineapple that I needed to use or toss (why do I save these things so long?!), and some pineapple juice from the pantry.  Yum.  It was cool and  filling.  Toast was enough to call it breakfast.

Washed a very large load of clothes today.  I stripped my bed and took down the living room curtains.  I washed on the heavy cycle which is a little longer and has an extra rinse.  I felt the extra water was worth the decreased lint I'd find on the clothes.

Hung sheets and curtains to dry, but put the sheers in the dryer for a few minutes.  They were done in no time.

Fed the cat, moistening her food with the liquid from the tuna can yesterday.

Maddie doesn't care for people food really.  I need another dog that will eat table scraps, as Trudy used to do. I am portioning them out to the cat and reserving in case my brother's dog stops by to visit.

Finished the 3rd Quarter budget sheet.  I was pleased to note that in the past quarter our gasoline usage dropped nearly $30 and I was able to lower that amount on the budget sheet.  It almost helped balance that new item added in.  We had an extra pay period last quarter but I know we won't this next.  I made sure when I averaged our income to drop that amount from the figures I had so I'd have a truer picture of what we're looking at this quarter.

Ate leftovers for my lunch. Not very satisfying but there's now nothing languishing in the nether regions of the fridge to become a science experiment.

Thought I was out of a cornstarch but digging in the cabinet for another item, I found a brand new box.  My former container was a plastic jar.  I guess I was just confused by the difference in the two containers. Scratched that item off my shopping list for next week.

Thursday:  I planned to go into town this morning to check the flea market booth then return home.  I bagged trash to take off with me.

I made Challah and left it to rise while I went into town.

I didn't expect John to come along...and I was not at all prepared to spend the next 6 hours running errands! I hadn't even brought along my usual bottle of water.  I tried hard to keep my Nothing Extra challenge in mind today, but I did buy a bottle of water at our first stop, which was Tractor Supply.  John was looking for a mower battery, but they didn't have the one we needed.  He did purchase some RoundUp.  That item was covered by one of our sub-accounts.

John went by the car wash to clean our car.  It costs about the same as going to the do it yourself place with the vacuuming totally free so we can take our time and go over the car very well.  This is budgeted for once a month.

Stop four:  John went to get a haircut.  The grocery next to his barber is the only place I can buy the Turkey sausage we like best.  I always plan to pick that up while in that area.  I also bought sodas today, a bag of salad for his work lunch on Sunday, and a bag of ice.  John requested I get steaks for our dinner tomorrow as well as baking potatoes.  I opted to buy a loaf of bread since I was unsure what state my bread would be in when we finally returned home today.  I chose a loaf of bakery bread, on sale for less than standard loaf bread.  The steak and potatoes are definitely extra.  The remaining items will come from next week's grocery budget.  Now to find a way to offset the costs of the extra items.

John offered to buy me lunch.  He paid for it from his allowance.

I skipped supper tonight.  Our very late lunch and the heat had quelled my appetite.

Baked the Challah when I got home.  It was wide and flat.  Not sure it will turn out well...

Booked a room for our travel to see the southerly children.  I went through Swagbucks.  I will earn points 30 days after our stay.  I was able to pay with PayPal where I had a $10 credit from surveys I'd taken over the last two months.  That's a beginning savings for our extra spent today.

Friday:  We typically have small beef sausages and canned cinnamon rolls for any holiday breakfast.  We had the sausages and I made my own cinnamon rolls from scratch.  That was another small savings and cost us nothing extra.

Went through the fridge and took out everything we weren't likely to use in the next day or so.  Those items went into the freezer.  I'd rather save for later than have it spoil.

I cooked a small portion of chuck roast to make sandwiches with this coming week.

I was prepping lunch when John asked if Katie was visiting us today.  I told him I'd asked her but hadn't got an answer.  John told me she'd said on Facebook she was coming...Oops!  I needed a meal plan for four not two.  After checking with her, I discovered they were only just leaving home at close to noon, so John and I sat down together and discussed possibilities for supper.  I suggested we make pizza from scratch.  His idea was to make a Steak and Cheese pizza using one of our dinner steaks, while we shared the other steak.  I thought it an excellent idea.

I doubled on the salad I was making for dinner.

Used bell peppers and onions from fridge to prep for the pizza.

When I make tea these days, I double that amount, too.  I pour up a jar of concentrate for a future pitcher, then make a pitcher for that day.

Typically I use about 3 tablespoons of sugar to a pitcher of tea.  I am not a fan of sickly sweet tea.

I needed a dessert to extend our meal for supper.  I decided to peel and slice all the peaches we had left from our purchase earlier this week.  They had ripened nicely over the week.  I didn't have quite enough to make a peach crisp so I dumped in all the remaining blue and black berries I'd frozen last week.  It made a beautiful crisp.  Tasted good, too.

Our pizza dough covered a big cookie sheet.  Katie partially cooked the peppers and onions and added in some fat fruit Italian dressing.  I dotted the crust with the garlic Parmesan butter I'd mixed up a couple of weeks ago to make Cheesy Garlic bread.  We topped the steak and vegetables with cheese I shredded then baked.  John's idea was a very good meal, indeed.

We used the Challah for Shabat this evening.  I don't think this loaf is salvageable for much beyond bird feed.  It crumbled when we took a piece of it for home communion this evening.  I may try to make bread crumbs from some of it.

Living Well


Sometimes our days get all turned around upside down don't they?  I had my week all planned...lol.  Some might say that was my biggest mistake.  But yes, I planned my week.

Sunday went along just fine.  I paced myself well and wasn't overtired.  I was tired enough to go right off to sleep Sunday night but then I woke around 1:30 and from there it was sketchy sleep.  I was awake at 2:30am when Amie called to say she'd gone into labor and was being prepped for surgery.  I stayed awake after that waiting the next phone call.  It came about 4:30am.  My granddaughter arrived almost two weeks early, an impatient little girl already.  After Ben called to tell me all was well and that had a granddaughter, I got up to look at the photos on Facebook.  She is so pretty and so tiny.


                                                  all dressed up and whole life to go

John was working and since I knew he'd be home fairly early, I chose not to wake him (if indeed he even got a chance to sleep).  Facebook beat me to sharing the news.  His partner saw the announcement and photos and called him on his way home to congratulate him.  We didn't mind in the least, just thought it funny...John called me and laughed and wept.  Our hearts were filled with joy.

We had made plans Sunday to run back into town as soon as John got in from work and we managed to do so.  We stopped last at the local gas station to fill up the car and the gas can for the mower.  I watched as a man with a guitar slung over his shoulder walked across the parking lot to the store next door.  I didn't see him come back, but I did hear him when he said to John, "You got a minute?"  This man, a complete stranger, immediately began playing his guitar and singing.

If you hear as much guitar as I do you know the sound of a quality instrument and even the sound of good new strings.  This man had neither.  The guitar was just off tune, the sound of the strings muddy and dull...that was my initial thought.  But somehow this less than stellar instrument became a thing of true quality with this man's hands playing and his voice was rich and true.  He sang Lynrd Skynrd's 'Simple Man' .  When the gas pump clicked off, John said huskily to the man, "Don't stop."  He played the full song and blew us away.  I was weeping when he finished and John so moved he could barely thank the man...

As it happened it was a hard week this week.  Wearing and stressful and just plain hard in too many ways.  But we had Monday to carry us through.  A lovely new baby in the family, a beautiful summer morning, and one of those lovely rare moments that occur now and then out of the blue, an especial blessing, to carry with us for always.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

July's Nothing Extra Spending Plan



June is always a birthday heavy month for us (and this year we've added two more in June, ack!) but we hit one of those little seasons where we also had to pay for repairs and maintenance and we purchased a wedding gift as well as baby gifts and birthday gifts.  We nearly emptied every sub account we have.  

Well I can't justify a no spend month at the moment.  We've still got a couple of birthdays and a planned trip to see grandchildren, and  a few needed maintenance items to tend to.  It will take months to build up our sub accounts once more.  What we can do this month though, is to stop and think and agree to spend Nothing Extra.

Officially this began July 1, but due to a family need I wasn't able to post about it.   What I propose is that we simply try hard to stick to our budgets and NOT spend those little extra amounts.  For instance, yesterday I started the new month by  making out  list of things I felt I had to buy this week: garlic, soda, , another loaf of bread, some hand lotion. 

Then I walked through my home and looked for substitutes.  I found garlic powder in my pantry that I'd forgotten I had.  Hotel lotions I'd brought home from previous trips.  I have a fizzy lemonade in the fridge that is bitter but mixed it with some pineapple juice from the pantry and I had a pleasant summery sort of fizzy drink.  I'll make a loaf of bread tomorrow morning.  Usually I'd mix up Challah and make three small loaves, but if I make one larger loaf it will do well for both Shabat and sandwich bread.  You see?  I've spent nothing extra!

Anyone care to join in?

Questions and Answers and Comments, Oh My!


Hard to believe another month is at an end.  That's six of them gone already. I had bigger plans than I got around to this past month but I stayed busy enough just the same.

Meal and Job Plans: June 1- 6   It was so nice to be welcomed back home after our vacation.  I have a list of things I mean to write about that I learned while on vacation, but haven't quite gotten caught up with myself yet.  I'll be posting a few of those this month.

Rhonda thanked me also for mentioning how much we like the Turkey bacon from Aldi.  I buy the Fit and Active brand in the refrigerator case.  I like it better than any other brand of turkey bacon we've tried.

June 8-14  Hmmm... I seemed to have lost a day between the last meal post and this one.  No wonder the days seemed to go by more quickly than usual, lol.  Melanie commented on how organized I am...and I am. It's all the fault of my memory which is prone to forget where very important things are stored.  So I decided to take seriously the old adage of  'A place for everything and everything in its place' which I apply to just about all areas of my life.