Saturday, August 1, 2015
Iced Tea Chat: In Which I Learn I Can Dance...
Please do come in. Freshly made iced tea, peaches, lemons, limes, oranges...Take your choice and come sit with me a bit. Isn't the sunset just gorgeous? There's no other time of day that it's even bearable outdoors any longer but the weather has cooled slightly this evening. Aren't the cicadas loud? Gracious! They must have hatched out in this heat. I hadn't heard any here at all until this week.
What a busy two weeks it's been. My doctor asked me if I was exercising but I looked at him and said "Now you know how hot it is..." and he nodded. Enough said on that front, right? But I promised I would get out in the yard and do things in the mornings and I have. I've cut branches on trees and pulled weeds and scrubbed front porch railings and spray painted things that were looking faded and weary and messed about in the house enough to feel good and tired at day's end. I had John set up the stationery bike so I could pedal away when I wasn't busy, but there's been so much to do overall and so many places to be that I've felt I had quite a work out daily.
I had meant to work on other things this week, but somehow that front porch just pushed itself on up the list and so here I am working on it. So far I've only bought spray paint for the chairs which I really want to keep red. It looks as though Grandmama painted those chairs a few times herself. The old paint we put on the chairs has chipped off and I've found green and khaki and white underneath. I'd debated painting them green but in the end the hardware store's limited options dictated the color. Cest la vie...At least they shall be painted and looking nice once more. They will at least do for a season or two and then I shall repaint them afresh.
I'm shocked how much just washing down the porch railings has improved their appearance. If I'd only known that simply cleaning was all they needed I'd have done it back in the Spring. I do plan to paint them and I've enough white paint on hand to manage that task. It's only because John said they had to be washed before painting that I even started that job. In future, I shall clean first. Never underestimate the power of cleaning.
I shall purchase floor paint and we'll get a fresh coat on the flooring and call the porch good enough. Well, besides pulling a few decorative things together to add personality...Got to have that. I'd love to do plants too, but the heat has been so very intense that all has turned crispy brown in the yard. Still, even just half done as it is, it's already looking improved. I love to undertake a task in an area that looks pretty drear and hopeless and see it springing back to life with just a lot of elbow grease and materials on hand.
I started that front porch project Sunday. I worked so long and so hard my arms shook. But I pushed ahead and worked on cleaning my kitchen properly. I was struggling with ants again. They were making inroads into the house from every possible entry point. I've been almost manic in wiping counters and vacuuming and sweeping just hoping to keep them at bay. I've sprayed and sprayed and sprayed again and still I'd find them scurrying across a counter top. They were on my bedside table one evening. It's not food they are after because they were in places where we never take foods at all. I finally recalled that John had some success last year sprinkling Bengal fire ant poison where ever there was a hole for a pipe or cable, inside window frames and across threshold of outside doors. So I found the canister of the powder and went to work. It takes only a very tiny amount and light dusting. I'm happy to say we've seen far fewer ants. They aren't all gone but there are a lot less of them.
So I worked pretty hard Sunday overall, between the light housework I did, the start of the front porch project, and then giving the kitchen a good cleaning. And I was tired. Oh I was tired and weary! I limped to my chair and sat down and almost, just almost dozed off...until I became aware of the cat meowling (sort of a meow and howl mixed) outside. The last time she did that, she'd brought me a snake...
I went to the door and opened the interior door and said "Misu if you've brought me a snake, you can go away!" but there was no snake. The cat kept her head down but meowled at me again and again until I opened the door. I will never ever, ever do it again. The cat, who typically walks over the threshold just far enough into the house to look to see if John is at the table and then turns to leave, walked in, looked up at me and just as I noticed four wriggling legs coming out of her mouth, dropped a critter at my feet and turned and walked out. It was a lizard...or what I call a lizard but is actually a skink. It moved across the living room floor pretty doggone fast, even faster than I'd moved away from the cat screeching 'Don't let it go!'
I did look for it but I never saw even a glimpse of it again. I have to confess I loathe lizards and frogs above all other critters. I just do. I just can't stand them and that's all there is to it.
And so I lived with the fear of the lizard in my heart for four days and three nights. I could barely bring myself to walk into a dark room and scrunched up my toes anytime I had to put my feet under the edge of a bed or chair. I proceeded with extreme caution anytime I opened a blind or pulled a curtain shut. I scanned chairs and counter tops and dressers when I walked into rooms. I shook out clothes and towels vigorously. I hung my purse up in the hopes the lizard would not climb the wall to get to it. I prayed the critter would not come to bed with me when I lay down at night.
I was up super early Wednesday morning to see John off to work. I worked about the house for a bit after he left. Frankly I'd kind of forgotten the lizard. I moved about the kitchen until the sun was fully up and warmly coming in the windows. That's when I sat down to have breakfast there in the kitchen sitting area. I was about half done when I looked up and saw the lizard sitting under the desk chair looking at me. Oh.my.word.
I screamed. And then I screamed again. Then I ran to the back door and went outdoors and called to Misu, "Here kitty, kitty!" She looked around the corner at me and plainly meowed back that she was hungry and wouldn't I hurry up and feed her, and no she didn't think she would come to the back porch to see what I wanted. I begged her to come to me and let me put her inside the house, but she refused. Now she's just persnickety enough I know very well not to pick her up and try to carry her anywhere or I'd be slashed to ribbons. I sighed deeply and realized I couldn't stand on the back porch all morning in my nightie even if I did live in the country.
So I put my brave girl cape on and propped open the storm door and made sure there was a viable gap between the back door and the wall for the lizard to go through from the kitchen sitting to the back porch . I got my broom and began shooing it towards the door. Things got hairy there for a bit. He came back at me at least twice. I hopped about on my feet like I'd never known knee pain or ankle injuries. River dancers had nothing on me, let me tell you. I screeched a few times. Finally he escaped to the back porch and I quickly shut the doors and decided that was the most shivery 8 minutes of my life. Ever.
As for the cat, if I ever again hear her meowling....well I won't be opening any doors to see if she's all right. It might be true love by her book to bring me snakes and lizards but heaven help me I can not take another gift from her love in this lifetime.
And for the record my lizard wasn't a lizard but a juvenile five lined skink. Apparently grown up skinks don't have blue tails. They have red heads. I looked up the information for a friend's grandson who was very interested in my house lizard, lol. Ugh!
I didn't ever take up my new magazine to look at last Saturday as planned, but I did go through the Pottery Barn catalog and here I got a good chuckle. It's all the rage now to have melamine plates and Ball jar glasses for outdoor picnics. Ha! I feel a bit like Barbara Mandrel's old song "I Was Country, When Country Wasn't Cool" over the Pottery Barn catalog. We've been drinking from Ball or Mason replica glasses for at least 35 years here. In fact, Mama gifted me a set from her cupboards about a year ago because she knew John liked them.
As for the Melamine plates I've always liked them but haven't had any in about 20 years. I will say you can save yourself a load of money and buy them at Walmart or Target these days and they are just as pretty and colorful and nice as those in Pottery Barn and a great deal less expensive.
For myself, I'm sort of interested in vintage melamine patterns. I spent a whole afternoon not too long ago scrolling about eBay looking at sets. Ah! Nostalgia comes with a price tag, let me tell you.
Granny had a set of Melmac which lasted years...In fact, I have one of her little coffee cups which holds exactly three quarters of a cup of liquid. I usually eat ice cream from it (a single scoop looks less tiny when it's in a small cup, lol). The Melmac was thicker and rather durable and came in plain colors. Granny's set was her favorite color, a color she often purchased in furnishings, blouses, cars, ball point pens: a deep Aqua blue color.
Well I don't guess I'll be investing in Melmac or vintage melamine, but I am considering new dishes. I knew, when I bought the Corelle plates, that I was settling. They aren't my style, they aren't what I wanted. I was, at the time, giving in to John's desire to have plain flatware and plates that weren't white but not fussy either. The forks, spoons and knives I purchased were on deep sale, have a lovely weight to them and the handles are so heavy that they spontaneously flip off plates or out of bowls if not balanced just so. I can't name the number of times we've slung food about involuntarily. Nice to look at, nice to hold, not so much fun overall. As for the plates it was not two months after purchasing those Corelle plates (which John asked I specifically consider) that he stopped before a brilliant display of colorful stoneware at a supermarket kitchen wares section and exclaimed "Oh! Look at this!" Seriously?! lol
I am so over the Corelle and I mean that sincerely. I long for color and pattern. What stops me? I can't make up mind! I like lovely vintage pieces with fluffy roses and sprays of wild flowers. I love splashy colorful modern day pottery. I haven't nearly enough cabinet space to store all the dishes I most long to buy, like the china set with a deep yellow border and a two toned gray pattern over that, sigh.
Oh! speaking of gray and yellow, I saw a movie yesterday dated 1954 that had the most gorgeous apartment. The set decorator used a large scale pattern paper in the living room in cream, white, pale gray and pale citron (yellow green). It was stunning paper. The tiny attached kitchen had been painted in similar colors. The walls citron green, the cabinetry and shelving pale gray, the appliances in stark white. It took my breath away. I could live with those colors very easily and it looked chic but not stuffy, if you know what I mean. If it had been possible, I would have paused the film right there and just looked that room over good and hard. It was a color combination and a room set to dream about.
I'm not in the least unhappy with the colors I've used in my home these past two years. If anything I'm even happier than I was at time of choosing, but I do look at other rooms and fall gently into liking them a whole lot and thinking how they might work in my own home one day. Maybe. I am subject to change.
Granny once described to me a room that she'd always wanted for herself. It was a pale gray room with touches of deep gray and coral. It sounds lovely doesn't it? I'm afraid that Granny never did have a room that even faintly resembled her dream room. I think that is what has made me work so hard at attempting to bring some resemblance of what I want into my own home. Like Granny, my funds dictate what I can have and often that isn't much. But I plan and I dream and do my best with what is at hand and can find within my budget. Eventually I find I have managed to pull off a decent look.
I do chuckle over the designers who talk of slashing the budget where they choose to spend $3000 on a kitchen sink as their 'save' portion and $30,000 on floors. Yeah. I'd love to have their budget, wouldn't you?
It's been hot lately, very hot. Most days the temperatures have been over 100F, either in fact or with heat index. Mostly it's been fact. I've had to clear so much from my closet that I truly have struggled to find clothing I can wear. Hence one afternoon this week I spent time taking in darts on my pants and jeans. Now the pants are fitting better and no longer in danger of sliding over my hips, I've focused hard on tops. I had just three short sleeved tee shirts and four sleeveless tops. I'm not keen on wearing sleeveless tops without a covering shirt over them but I had no cover shirts and it's far too hot to even pretend I'd think of wearing a sweater over the top of them. I've worn one thin shirt three times now without a cover and I've felt comfortable in it, but I realize that likely we've plenty of days of warm weather ahead of us yet. At least one of the three t-shirts is looking mighty big these days so it shall soon be out of circulation.
So I allowed myself to go look for tops at Cato this week. I started with the clearance rack. The t-shirts were all the shrug off the shoulder, barely touches the top of the hip sort. The sort of tops you'd wear over a tank perhaps which is too much clothing in steamy humid Georgia summers! Gorgeous colors and a plethora of them which meant they were not popular with the customers I think. Think 1980's sort of work out look.
Having a fail there I went through the store racks and found nothing at all, and ended up at the basic tees display where I chose a v-neck style in blush peach and a medium dark gray. I was pleasantly surprised to find these two sewn with seams that created a sort of form fitting look that was a lot less casual than a t-shirt normally looks. The cost was reasonable.
I did scan the shoe rack. My size is so common that there is seldom anything available to purchase on clearance racks except for the really ugly or ridiculously high heeled. Purses however proved to be a bonus find for me. I chose two bags and spent less than $20 on the two. One is a pale aqua blue with zippers and the other is a woven bag of cream and coral pink. I think both will make a great addition to my accessory wardrobe.
When I got home I sorted out my purses and set three aside to give away, two to donate, one that has a broken zipper that I plan to try to repair and two more that I am undecided over. I don't like one of them at all, but can't remember which one, so I set them aside. I'll use them both over the course of the next few weeks and donate either one or both. I do like purses and I'm by no means short of them. I don't however need just loads of them and that's fact. Right now I swap pretty much between the same three. I've wanted bags in the colors I purchased the other day, and often thought how much use I'd get from them if I had either color. Happy find at the clearance rack and yes, I did say a quick prayer of thanks, because I know that these finds are never random. And while I might not wear the shirts for more than a few months I will use the bags over and over again. I've found that to be true with costume jewelry (always clearance priced or thrift store finds) and scarves and shoes as well. The accessory is often far more versatile than the wardrobe pieces.
Do you know I was thinking the other day about how versatile basics are. For instance, in a one week span of time I saw a few variations on Cobb salad which is something of a classic and a basic in it's own right. One I recall clearly was a Southern Cobb with fried chicken strips, black eyed peas...I can't remember what else but I pinned it to my Healthy Hearty Soul board. Then I saw a Southwestern version with black beans, corn, avocado, etc. Then there was an Oriental one with snow pea pods and red bell pepper strips and carrots and an oriental glazed chicken breast sliced over it. And doesn't each one sound delicious?
I am, however, fast getting over salad. It happens every year about this time. I start to just long for cooler weather fare, which I confess is my favorite. Give me stews, soups, pot roasts, slow roasted pans of meat and vegetables, sigh. I mean summer is nice with all the great produce available, but you can eat just so many pieces of steak, chicken breasts or burgers before you feel very much over and done with that whole thing.
I went over my pantry a couple of weeks ago and noticed some gaps: no kidney or black beans for instance and just two cans of green beans. I'm not big on canned vegetables overall but I feel it is well worth storing them and using them here and there to keep the stock current. It's all well to say that you can make your own dried beans from scratch and freeze them but the very convenience alone of canned beans is always helpful and what if the freezer is not working for some reason? Then you've lost all that usage. Obviously I don't keep great quantities on hand, or I'd not be out of them, but they do come in handy and I do enjoy having them ready to eat.
All in all, I probably have less in my pantry than I've had in many months. Partly that is due to the fact that so much of my budget at present is being channeled into the fresh produce. We fill our fridge full and the next week it is empty and we refill it with more fresh foods. I have planned a few restocks, even going so far as making out a weekly shopping list based on good sales but then I end up spending on fresh produce (which is needed now) and do nothing towards the pantry, which isn't being used currently. It's all a balancing act. I confess I'm no longer sure what is a best buy price on many items since I seldom see these items on sale any more. And shopping nearly exclusively at Aldi means that I seldom go into other stores to check prices.
I've been giving very serious consideration to where we can trim our budget in other areas. There is still the cable bill but it's about to be pre-season football time and John has only been talking about how excited he is over that for the past two months. It seems that many games now are available only on 'exclusive cable/satellite channels' which means that local channels are blocked from showing the very games that he most wants to see. So that avenue seems shut for me at the moment.
He was looking over a flyer that came with the local paper this past week which listed various internet plans and the costs. We're paying well below the current cost for our internet service at present. John asked why the differences in pricing. I explained that the more gigabytes you purchased the more access you had for smooth streaming movies, things like Hulu, etc. He asked, "Well are you interested in upgrading?" I was emphatic in my negative reply. "We don't need anything to cost more at the moment," I said to him. "And as unreliable as our basic internet service is, what is to make me think a higher speed service would be any better?" He nodded in agreement with that. As I type this my service has been out for over 5 minutes and this is not the first outage in the past hour.
I've called and asked for repair services but for various reasons the internet provider refuses to come out. They want us to sign a new contract, to use one of their low-end routers and jump through nineteen various hoops before they will even consider coming out to check the line, which did the same thing four years ago and ended up being a problem at the hub. As well, they know they have us over a barrel. It is the only service in our area. Not even AT&T provides service in our neck of the woods.
Another problem is that local demand for internet has so increased that the hubs are overtaxed. Too many users on a limited number of lines means that there are often outages. And yes it happens in other rural areas than ours. A friend shared not too long ago that she discovered ten of her neighbors also had 'bad routers' which the phone company wanted them to replace. Complaints can do little however to increase lines when space and manpower are severely limited.
I hate to say I've become accepting, but it's part of my reason for lack of posting at present. I 'lost' my work four times on the most recent "This Week In My Home" savings post. Four times. It was so frustrating that I'd just give up and go do other things.
Do you know what other bit of modern internet stuff I am learning to dislike mightily at the moment? Facebook. It's not the mean and nasty people who abound there, but the frustration of finding my settings changed repeatedly. Or getting 90 posts from one person who went through and liked things (which is fine, you can like whatever you want) but I shouldn't be getting a notice of everything anyone liked. I've made sure not to follow certain people and find my page is flooded with their notices. I've even UNfriended people in an attempt to control the content flow of my page and continue to receive notices for weeks and months after. And people who I would very much like to see, have been cast asea. I have to physically look them up one by one to see what they are up to.
Katie promised, when last she was here, that she could fix my problems. Well she did try. At last she gave up in sheer frustration and said "Mama, I don't know why you are getting all this stuff. You're not even subscribed to this page!" I did find, too, this week, when a page started showing up consistently in my feed that Facebook had allowed a 'friend' who is really just a bare acquaintance, to sign me up to receive the page. Seriously!? I don't think I want just anyone signing me up for sites I may not have even considered joining!
Well, time to wrap this up I think. I need to start planning the new week and new month just ahead.
Talk to you later!