In My Home This Week: Winter Joys

In my home this week...

...I saw snow this week.  It's not something we see often but every now and then we have a dusting.  It lasted only a few hours though the temperature plummeted after it fell.  Sunlight is a powerful thing when the snow is only an inch or two in depth.

Maddie had no idea what to do.  She sat about looking miserable but wouldn't come in from the snow.  No she sat in it.  She stood in it.  She walked about in it.  Samuel, who had tried to make it west of us, had to turn around and come back home, finding it harder going than he'd anticipated.  He sat in his car for a bit and worked and told me he watched Maddie play in the snow as well.

Misu was the least amused one.  She does not like snow.  For whatever reason, like Maddie, she ignored her house.  Instead, she sat on the front porch welcome mat and groused at us about it.  I knew from past experience she would not go potty anywhere else, so I fixed her up a litter box.  I'd bought the litter a couple of years ago after a snow storm had her frantic for relieving herself.   I provided her with a box of earth then.  Litter is just easier to deal with than frozen dirt.

John was the least amused among us though I did catch him standing at the window taking a photo. It is pretty.  But he was ill about it for a score of reasons.  He loathes the ice and snow for driving.  He loathes the calls that come in for help when such occurs.  He loathes the worrying that accompanies having loved ones out on the road and the concern over downed power lines.   He loathes those who can use the excuse of snow as a reason to stay home.  He becomes rather grumpy when those meant to bring service to us for one reason or another can't come.  That makes it sound like he is grumpy but he isn't.  He just doesn't like snow and he makes it plain he doesn't.

I felt as I always do about snow.  Oh how pretty it is!  The first slip on the porch though and I'm over it, lol.  I much prefer to stand at the windows of my cozy home and admire it while it's pristine and regret it as it begins to melt and look patchy and muddy.  I do wonder though. It's a rare year when we see snow but it's a rarer one yet when we see it only once...I wonder when we'll have the next snowfall?

...I worked:

I started my housekeeping job.  I also may have ended my housekeeping job at the same time.  Why?  Because I realized that Bess was doing a rather good job and there was a simple solution to what appears to be a problem: closing closet doors closes out a LOT of visual clutter. No spot in her house was really dirty.  I helped her set up a simple 5 a day routine with a focus on one room a day for refining or deep cleaning touches.   It's worked well enough for her that she said she didn't see a need for me to return next week as planned.  I'm pleased that it's worked out so well for her!

I did the usual sorts of chores: changing sheets and sweeping floors, cleaning baths and washing dishes, making meals and work lunches.  That never ending round of various household chores that come around often enough to be hardly worth mentioning but is work all the same.

I worked on Jamberry.  A LOT.  I have set up a notebook to help me track expenses and income, customers

I spent one day out shopping.  If you think it wasn't work, think again.  Shopping for things upon a list often means spending a lot of time looking trying to find the needed item and then the best bargains on that item AND avoiding the impulse buys you can get distracted with and lugging  packages about with you if you happen to have parked across the parking lot well away from the last store you shopped, then hauling it all inside and putting it away....just saying.

I swept up snow off the back porch and hung the dog's bed to dry, etc.  I cleared snow from chairs and steps on the front porch, saving icy patches from forming to make us fall.

Kept the two boys occupied while Sam and Bess went to view homes.  This also was work but not exhausting work.  What other sort of work involves singing silly songs into a tube as a microphone?  Or teaching an almost 1 year old how to play pat-a-cake.

I sorted out a kitchen cabinet that had gotten into a real mess and got it organized so that I could easily find the foods contained within.

I also sorted out the bathroom cupboards.  I threw away a trash can full of samples, etc that we hadn't used in three years of hanging on to them.  No great loss since I paid nothing for them anyway.  Kept back a zippered bag of travel sized items for future trips we might make.

John washed and hung to dry most of two loads of clothes.

...I saved money and time:

I earned my first bit of money housekeeping.  I'll add that to my bathroom renovation fund.

John received a raise on his job.  This is big news!  We have had few raises in salary over the last few years.  Just these next couple of pay periods it will not go directly to savings for the simple reason that I don't know what his new base pay shall be.  Once that is determined I'll be putting aside the money into savings.  We are doing just fine on what he's made this past year.  The first part of the year always has holidays added in.  Those holiday amounts go into rebuilding our base balance, boosting sub accounts and helping us cover purchases for the inevitable needs that arise towards the start of a new year.

I put money into our windows and underpinning fund.  We are now gathering quotes for windows.  

I stopped at Dollar Tree and picked up new reading glasses.  The ones I'd been using in bed broke and the lens fell out.  I bought some last week at Dollar General for much more than $1 but they were not strong enough for me to see to read in bed.  These should work much better for me.  I picked up three pairs, all colorful and fun and all meant just for reading in bed.  This keeps my bifocals from being misshapen while laying on my side reading.

I ate leftovers for my noon meal each day.

Though we have apples and oranges as well as some canned fruits, I couldn't resist a container of mixed fruit at the produce department at the grocery this week. It seemed a bit pricey at $2.50 but it worked out to four generous servings of fruit so that seemed a small price to pay for something fresh that gave us the variety we were craving.  Now we'll go right back to apples and oranges and canned fruits.

Made a double batch of spaghetti sauce.  One portion for supper, one portion for lasagna.  The lasagna fit a 9 x 13 pan.  I served it for supper then put two packages up in the freezer with enough to serve two and four respectively in the two packages.

Cooked a corned beef in the crockpot.  Saved the broth to cook potatoes and cabbage the next day.  The guys really enjoyed this meal and left me about enough to manage corned beef hash as a leftover meal for two.

Made breakfast for two then stretched it to serve three when Samul returned unexpectedly on the snowy day.  I added pieces of toast and just divided up the rest into slightly smaller portions.

NO savings on this one.  I learned an expensive lesson.  Cute prizes for my party goers at the Launch party but I failed to purchase mailers that fit the items I was giving as prizes.  Ugh.  I was so pleased with myself and I loved loved giving prizes but I will be sure next party prizes have suitable less expensive mailers to get them to where they need to go!  Two suggested the possibility of gift cards which seems reasonable enough.  I'll work on this end of things.  Thankfully I made enough to offset the costs and break even.

It got pretty cold here.  We pulled out the electric heater to put in the master bath.  With the propane heater going and our bedroom door closed with company in the house,  it means that our room and bath are actually much cooler than the thermostat is set for.  We won't run that heater during the day but it's definitely going on at night for two or three nights.

More propane usage just now but I'm not letting it bother me in the least.  It's cheaper than replacing burst pipes!  I also have a small sub account with a balance in it for just such need to cover the possibility of overage in propane (or electricity).

A quart of leftover chili from the freezer and some homemade cornbread pancakes made an old family favorite of Tortilla Casserole.  I used some slightly soured milk to make the corn cakes. This hit the spot on one of our very cold evenings here.

Refused to go to the grocery this week, though the inner urging was strong.  Instead, everything we used was right from the pantry or freezer or food stock  on hand.  I did ask Sam to pick up a new gallon of milk when he had to go to the store on Wednesday evening.  Must have been intuition because  the half gallon left in the fridge was fine that morning, but was starting to turn in taste that evening.

Asked Bess to take a bag of trash with her to drop off at the dumpsters when she left on Friday.  Saved us a trip out on Friday afternoon.

...I made meals:

Steak, German Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli

Kale and Farro Soup, Turkey Sandwiches, Fruit Salad

on my own

Corned Beef, Potatoes and Cabbage, Baked Apples

Lasagna, Italian Flat Beans, Salad, Garlic Bread

Tortilla Casserole, Corn, Sliced Avocado

Corned Beef And Swiss Sandwiches with Pickles and chips, Pudding.

...I took my leisure
I took myself out to lunch on Monday.  No graveyard burger picnic.  I went into a restaurant, sat down and ordered a meal and took my leisure eating it.  I'd worked at home that morning and then worked hard shopping.  I needed that break and I'm glad I took it.  I must say I'm still not quite comfortable eating alone but I managed all right.

I sat down to read one of my vintage magazines.

I got tired of reading two or three paragraphs at a time in my book so I took it up and finished it.  Now I can start another.  I've only been reading this little book (Fairacre Diary by Miss Read) since Thanksgiving. Time to start a new book for the new year!

I walked to the mailbox one afternoon.  I like walking this time of year but seldom get out and do it.  It was lovely to walk to the mailbox and back again.  I spied a wild holly bush growing at the edge of the wooded area near the drive.

Balance Beam

As I was working in the kitchen earlier today, I was contemplating a sales ad sheet that I'd moved on my desk. My eye fell upon a certain fruit cup that John likes for his lunches.  My frugal heart truly believes that putting individual servings of fruit in a reusable jar and putting that in his lunch is the very best thing to do.  However, here's another place where I compromise with my husband.  Why?  Because NOT having the occasional fruit cup that is pre-packaged and overpriced makes him feel  we haven't made a bit of headway financially over all these years.  In vain do I tell him that we've done what we have just because of such swaps as these.  So I bought him fruit cups now and then, though I daresay they tasted no better than those portioned out at home.  He also liked those little individual cups of cottage cheese. One day I discovered he really liked fruit with a serving of cottage cheese on top.  Can't buy those in a cute little individual I compromised again.  I bought cottage cheese and went back to portioning out cans of fruit into individual jars with a scoop of cottage cheese from a tub.  Even buying canned fruit and a tub of cottage cheese was less than buying just the individual fruit cups.  I went right back to saving money.

It's a balance beam I must walk.  Purchase overpriced individual cups of fruit and so I pinch a few pennies elsewhere.  Say we eat a bit more chicken than we'd normally eat that week.  It's not a big deal in the end. But as I walk that balance beam I am always looking for how I can improve my balance.  Sometimes, it means I find a way to give my husband something in a way that doesn't feel like I'm just being cheap.

Recently we contracted to have pest control come in to clear up the ants we've had nearly over run the house.  It's not an expensive service but it costs something all the same.  I was curious where in our budget this money would come from...A few days later, John and Sam determined that the problem with our new TVs HD function was actually a receiver problem with out satellite box.

Now John has all the info required to handle the transaction but he loathes talking to service people especially over the phone.  He hemmed and hawed and fussed a bit and in an unguarded moment, while I was busy with something else that was rather detailed, I said quickly in irritation, "Do you just want me to handle it?!"  His "Yes!" was so quick that Samuel laughed out loud and said "Boy did he bring you right in on that one Mama!"   Truth, he did and even I had to laugh at how quickly he relinquished the task.

But I also realized that calling was to my advantage in another way.  It availed me the opportunity to  do what I'd postponed doing for several weeks: renegotiate our service with DirecTV.  I got our receiver replaced and asked then if there were any discounts available.  I was offered a savings of $5 a month.  Well, I was pretty sure there was a greater savings somewhere than just a mere $5.

So I thanked the young man and asked if I might speak to a supervisor.  I told him I'd appreciated his service but I knew he didn't have the authority to do a deeper discount and I was looking for more savings.    By the time I'd gotten off the phone with his supervisor, I'd had some further discounts applied to our account and  I'd downgraded our package, saving us almost as much as it will cost us annually to pay for the pest service.  John will be inconvenienced with the occasional loss of a college football game come Fall.  John was so amazed at how much I was saving us all because of a 10 minute phone call that I don't think he much cared about losing the opportunity to see a game or two.

Now, I find that John is much more cold natured than I.  This is partly due to a thyroid disorder and partly due to my stage of life.   I have found it necessary to turn the heat higher here in the winter months than what we've been accustomed to having it set upon.  I figure come summer, we will just turn the AC up a degree or so and the savings should all balance out.

And that's what it's all about, walking the balance beam called budget!

In My Home This Week: Busy Season In Full Force

In my home this week...
...I certainly feel I've been dog paddling hard this week.  However, the party is over at this point and I'll have been down to clean house for Bess and Sam and come home again by the time I get to post this.

The party went well enough.  I quickly saw mistakes but too late to reverse them.  However, mistakes are for learning and I'll be sure and correct those that I saw this first time out.   I have booked three parties off this one and I hope it is the mere beginning.

I also tackled my house.  I had let it go quite a bit over the long holiday and it was more than past time to get things done.  I can't do it all at once can I?  It's like losing didn't gain it overnight and you're sure not going to lose it overnight.  But I can do a little at time and that's how I worked at my home this week. 

...I  worked:

Jamberry party started on Sunday...I was not as prepared as I'd have liked to have been. So I worked doubly hard all week trying to catch up on that score.  Running a week long party is not easy.  You really need to be on computer for quite a long time and it starts to make you feel rather strained.  I told John it felt a great deal like working in an office.  I'm so happy trends are pushing the idea of more online parties  for shorter time frames.  One hour seems a breeze after doing a week long party!

We cleared up thousands of dead ants...We broke down and called pest control.  The man came in on Friday afternoon and sprayed.  Three days running I found hundreds of dead ants in freshly cleaned places.  It was more than alarming the way they literally came out of the woodwork to get to the bait killer the exterminator put down.  He warned us ahead of time that it would look like we were a war site and boy did we!

Sheets were done and we cleaned up behind the family as they left on Sunday morning.  I will say they are quite good about picking up and putting away and I'm sure it's because they see that we do it so consistently.  Sam argued there was no point in washing the guest bed sheets as he was only going to sleep on them again this week.  True enough.  I shall certainly take them off at the end of this week and wash them though.  It was just one less thing to do this week.

Went into town to do some banking and run an errand or two one afternoon.

Took Mama grocery shopping.  She doesn't really need groceries. She just wanted pretzels and the special food that she feels her dog must have. When I took her back home and we were unloading the foodstuffs she said "Did I just go to buy snack foods?"  Yes, apparently she did, a buggy full of snack foods, lol.

I got the porches swept and my house pretty much in order once again.  Just putting things away where they belong does so much towards making a house feel clean, doesn't it?

I cleared some things out of my closet and created a donation stack.

I washed the kitchen rug and put it outdoors to dry.

I cleaned the laundry area.

...I made meals:
Chicken and Dumplings (lots of vegetables in mine).

Out to dinner with Bess and Isaac after church.

John started fasting and is not doing Daniel fast this year.  Of course not, since I was prepared...Anyway, I heated up leftover chicken stew, no dumplings, and made a salad.

out with Mama for Mexican.

Hamburgers with salad

Kale Farro Soup, Buffalo Chicken Dip and Crackers

on my own 

...I saved money:
We used the propane heater lots at night when the baby went to bed and let it off set the running of the heat pump.  I kept an open kettle of water on the back of the stove to add much needed moisture to the air.

We carried off trash every single time we left home.  We combined errands as well.

We washed full loads of dishes and clothes.  I air dried dishes and we hung to dry a few things but bulk  went into the dryer.  I was careful to time the clothes and check them so that we did not let them run endlessly.

Picked up some items at Dollar General to use as party favors.  Cute!  I love their clearance aisle.

We skipped going into the grocery store this weekend after church.

I reused a padded envelope to protect an item I wanted to mail.

 I always end up shopping in the grocery while with Mama but I picked up only a single bag of items today: breads, yogurt, face cream.  I keep meaning to make yogurt but my plate is pretty full at the moment.  It's easiest to just buy a container to have on hand as wanted.

I pulled cookies from the freezer again one night when John asked if we had anything sweet to follow our meal.

Made a big pot of soup.  Had a full quart leftover.  I made the Kale Farro soup and I'd let the kale go a little long in the fridge.  I took time to pick it over and had more than enough for my soup.

...I looked for moments to have leisure:

I didn't lie abed nor sleep that well but I did attempt to find moments of real leisure to rest from the work I was doing.

I read two vintage magazines this week.

I took 'the long cut' home and drove away from the busy highways and down the slow paced country roads.  It was a beautiful day, sunny and almost warm, most welcome after the two weeks of cold we've had.  I thoroughly enjoyed that ride and felt my muscles relax and my mind letting go of worries.

I made myself a proper lunch even though John is fasting midday and I sat at the table and ate it slowly.  I cleared up behind it too before I went back to my party work.  

Let Go

I purposely did not write out the whole passage from Jeremiah but I wanted to share what I learned this morning as I was studying this passage.  

I've been in Jeremiah for a few weeks now.  

While captive in Babylon, the Jewish people were told by Adonai to release their Hebrew brothers and sisters they had taken into slavery.  These were people who had given themselves up to slavery as payment of debt but they had long since served their time.  The Jewish holders refused to release these slaves into freedom.  At long last, they did release them and the people went free.

Adonai had long ago made a mitzrah, a law, that stated if a man (see Exodus 21:1-6) became a slave he/she was to be released at the end of a six year period, set free in the seventh year which was a Sabbath year, a year of rest for all from their labor.  In that seventh year fields that had been in use were to be allowed to lie fallow and go unplanted.  Lands that were sold reverted back to their previous ownership in the 50th year (after 49 years).  The 50th year being a Sabbath year of Jubilee.  All of this was God's plan.  

So imagine being a slave, thinking you were contracted to seven years and finding you were denied the right of freedom.  You did not simply walk away.  You had to be released.  Imagine how it felt to walk in freedom after years as a slave.

But the passage goes on to say that later those who owned the slaves changed their minds and took them back into slavery once more.  Can you imagine anything more cruel than to have walked in freedom and then find yourselves taken back into slavery and forced to serve once more?

And yet we do it every single day...

There is always a burden of sorts on my heart that deals with a close relationship in my life.  There's always a bit of anger, a bit of hurt clinging to the edges of my heart.  Again and again, I find myself taking up those little bits and pieces, the dregs of some incident that happened long ago, and I begin to handle them until they again grow into something more than dregs, much like working a dough will cause it to deflate and then rise again.  

All I am doing is taking captive once more that which I have released.  I do it.  You do it.  We lay down a worry and cry out to God to take it over, we release it and then later in the day or perhaps the next  we take it up once more and weep and cry over it and beg God to release us from it.  It becomes something of a habit with us really to turn it over to God and take it up again and again.

Taking captive again those whom I have released, those whom I've said "God I forgive...I want to forgive."   

Do you know what God says in his passage about it?  He says that when the Jewish took captive those they had released that they profaned  his name.

I think we hear certain words all through our spiritual walk, usually from the pulpit and yet we never really know what they mean.   We know only that they are somehow related to God.  The definition of  profane is enlightening.

Profane means to be disrespectful or to treat with irreverence.  In other words to do that which we've been told NOT to do.  Isn't that that what we teach our children when they treat our home rules lightly or they misuse property that doesn't belong to them, that they are being disrespectful?

So what do we do.  Ask for forgiveness.  Repent of our behavior.  Forgive those who hurt us that we are continually taking captive once more.   And do it over and over again until all those little dregs and bits that litter our hearts are gone.

Matthew 18:21-22  Jesus obviously knew us well.  When Peter asks how often he must forgive and says "Seven times?", Christ says, "Not just seven times but seventy times seven..."

We tend, as humans to forget how forgiving God is towards us.  And look at the grace He gives us in forgiving those who have hurt us.  I guess He knew that forgiveness was a process we must repeat over and over again.  What He doesn't forgive is the refusal to do so.  That's when we're being profane, when, in our hearts we think we're somehow fooling Him by saying, "Oh look I let this go..." and then we run after it and take it captive once more.

Gleanings from Sudoku

Sudoku is a puzzle game that is composed of 9 squares which each contains 9 squares and the numbers 1-9.  In order to solve the puzzle one  must place the numbers 1 - 9 in each set of squares as well as 1-9 in horizontal and vertical lines (and in some complicated ones in a criss cross as well!).   I love these brain teasing struggles but I have learned something in doing them and what I've learned might surprise you.

This past week as I finished a puzzle, I thought about my early days with Sudoku.  I started playing with these puzzles because a girl I knew had started doing them.  I'd always been a little stumped by them but when I realized that this  girl was solving them, I felt encouraged to try, as well.  So I bought a book and began what became a leisure activity I have enjoyed for years now.

At first I wasn't very good.  Even though the puzzles generally progress in difficulty from Easy to Hard, I could barely accomplish an Easy puzzle without  having to peek at the key to determine where I'd gotten things right and where I'd run into trouble.

After awhile, practice made perfect.  I completed easy puzzles, easily.  I moved on to Medium puzzles and then to Hard ones.  I even attempted a few challenge puzzles which have 16 squares of 16 squares each.  They were hard and some puzzles remained incomplete as I made many stumbles, but I tried repeatedly and eventually I solved some of those as well without any assistance from the key in the back of the book.

This week I was working on a puzzle and realized that I was now accomplishing nearly all the Demanding level puzzles which are far and above more difficult than Hard levels.  I was a bit astonished just at first but I realized that practice had led me to continually up my skills until I could consistently finish a harder puzzle.

As I mused, I realized that this is true of any skill we hope to acquire.  We begin with an easy recipe or sewing project and gradually, as we increase our knowledge and skills, we attempt harder projects.  With practice we continue on and gradually do more difficult tasks.  We move from learning to cook an egg to making bread and cakes.  We learn to sew a straight seam and gradually find we can make a wardrobe of clothes or curtains and slipcovers for our home.  We learn to drive a car and move from slow country lanes to big cities with multiple lanes and intricate interstate systems.   Whether we mean to or not, we are forever increasing the difficulty level by doing the next thing and that in turn continually builds our skill level.

So the next time you start to do a job, think about the very first time you tried to complete the task and look at where you at today.  You've improved, right?  Ask yourself if there is a 'next level' to attain to or have you hit the peak?  Look at areas where you can expend the energy to grow beyond your current abilities.  I'll just bet you find a boring task gets a lot more interesting!

In My Home This Week: Comings and Goings

In my home this week:


...I finished the old year with company in the house.  Surprise!  And what's more had another who was jockeying to come in for an extended weekend stay.  

Well here's the New Year, and John's recognized that we are in a pattern of hospitality.  He asked me today if we could just say "No" now and then  And I expect he's quite right.  It's lovely to have so many assume we'd welcome them and that they might stay an extended length of time, but it's not always the best time for us.   Currently our youngest son will be here one or two nights every week until he and his family can settle into the area.  In the meantime, he must be in the area to do his job and it makes no burden upon us to have him here.  He comes in after work, usually works a bit and then goes to bed.  He leaves early and is always quiet.  We must now consider him as well as our own work and life schedules and plan accordingly.

His being here means more time with his family.  I can't say it's altogether a bad thing but as I reminded John today, "It's a season."

I also feel a bit like I'm paddling hard and a waterfall is looming just ahead.  I've been trying to handle company and work Jamberry and take care of long neglected household duties and...Well I figure it's all a bit like starting a new job.  It's overwhelming and tiring just at first but it's going to all settle down and just run smoothly after a while.  Really.  Hope so, lol.

It's been lovely cold weather all week.  I don't mind cold in the winter months.  That's the way it's meant to be right?   It's unusual that we get extended cold but I've certainly enjoyed it.  It makes cozying up to the heater awfully nice and of course, I get to cook the hearty stews and roasts that I like best.  Not to mention how nice it is to snuggle under quilts at night.

...I plan my work:
Planning my Jamberry launch party which starts Sunday at 4p and runs through Friday evening.  If any of you would like a facebook invite then message me here with your facebook id or contact me via private messenger on facebook and I'll add you in.  I've worked on games, prizes, and more.

I spent all of New Year's morning in the kitchen.  John asked me to make Chili Mac for dinner.  He's no believer in the Southern tradition of eating black eyed peas, rice and greens on New Year's day.  Truth told, I kinda miss it but I never noticed in all the years of eating those foods that they brought a bit of help in the money area, so it seems reasonable that any other day would do just as well for the same food, right?  

What I did do was make chili and cooked macaroni.  I made a pan of mac and cheese for the freezer, put a quart jar of chili into the freezer, fed us dinner and had a big casserole of leftovers of chili mac.  I really had not wanted a lot of leftovers but I don't seem to manage that end very well.  Note to self, put away twice as much and then combine my chili and macaroni for chili mac.

On Sunday I did two big loads of towels, blankets and sheets.   John did several full loads of clothes as the week went on.

I washed dishes by hand and in the dishwasher.   All air dried.

I cleaned that oven.  Oh.My.   Messy and not where I want it but way yonder better than it was.  And thanks to the oven cleaner I used I didn't have to deal with the stinky smell.  Thank you Debby in KS.  There will be a post on this amazing stuff!

Sorted out a pile of paper work and took the time to shred it.

Washed and hung to dry a load of laundry which included that very dirty looking rug from the kitchen.  It looks so much nicer now!

Set up a few more outfits for future wears.  Stain treated some tops that I'll launder myself.  John is convinced ALL my tops will stand up to warm water and dryer.  Not true!  These particular blouses will be done in a gentle load a little later.  In the meantime the stains are treated and they are hung in the laundry area to await the small load of wash I will do.

Pulled out all the clothes I know I'm not going to wear.  I'm debating putting some of them in a consignment shop since they are really well made and higher end pieces that were given to me.  They are not my style however.

Jamberry has a week of webinars for consultants and I've spent at least 40 minutes every day listening to those and jotting down notes and then doing the follow up work related to them.  I'm also trying to build my party list and plan for that.  It's more work than I'd thought but work is work is work.

...I made meals:
Roast Beef, Mashed Potatoes, Onion Gravy, Steamed Broccoli with Cheese

on my own, I stopped for a burger on the way home

Chili Mac

John wanted to stop for burgers on the way home.  

on my own.  I ate an entrĂ©e from the freezer.

Roast Beef Hash...and nope we had no vegetables or fruits with it.  Just roast beef hash.
...I saved money:

I bought dinner out on Sunday but paid for it out of my allowance.

In the grocery store, I stuck hard to my list: bread, batteries, paper, chicken.  Done.

I washed two full loads of clothes.  Miserable drizzly cold weather meant no hanging out of sheets or towels so I carefully timed loads of clothes to dry in least amount of time as possible.  I reused the dryer sheet from one load to another.

Bought some Gypsophilia (Baby's Breath) to extend the life of a bouquet of flowers purchased before Christmas.

When Josh said "And now dessert," after cleaning his plate Saturday, I didn't blink once.  I had loads of cookies in the freezer from Christmas and I just pulled some out.  He had his dessert.

Saved roast leftovers, gravy leftovers, mashed potato leftovers all in one container.  We'll have roast beef hash one day this week.

Plenty of cold weather here this week.  I've used the propane heater to offset the electric heater so it wouldn't run so very much. At night we've opened bathroom and kitchen sink cabinets for those and allowed heat to reach those pipes.  Both are on outside walls and tend to freeze in these really low temperatures we've had.

Well the ants drew a line in the sand at last and John decided to cross it.  We've been fighting them steadily in various spots about the house, all non food locations.  This morning they were in the shower and all over the kitchen floor.  Done.  We called a pest control service and will have our first service on Friday.

On a roll with the phone calls, John made another one and  we'll get our first quotation on new windows in two weeks.  How is this saving money?  Both will add to our quality of life overall.  No more having to

We went out on Tuesday to do some shopping.  Not one grocery hit the cart.  We stuck to our list and that's what we purchased.  I was very specific in what I needed for my Jamberry items to organize them and found reasonable low cost solutions.

Mixed up the homemade oven cleaner Debby in KS supplied me with.   Excellent stuff.

John suckered me in.  We have the new tv. We have no HDMI which means no high def and for whatever reason that is mighty important to John.  Sam brought in a cable from his dad's house today to try it out.  Turns out it was our receiver.   This turned into a huge money saver, not because HDMI cables are expensive.  They are not.  That's about $11 but just watch how this turned into over savings.

John went online and followed all the tips to reboot the receiver.  No go. we had to call to order a new receiver.  That is replaced free.  However shipping is $19.95.  UNLESS you sign up for a service maintenance on equipment and then it's $7.99.  You can cancel after 30 days but not before, savings $11 and change.  So that's $22 so far we've saved.  While on the phone the young man told me he could handle billing for me as well and I asked to find a way to reduce our costs.  There was a $5 fee we could acquire but I was fishing for bigger savings though I accepted the $5 a month.  Total now $82.  I thanked the young man but asked to be switched to a supervisor.

The supervisor looked for further discounts and then suggested we switch plans.  Savings an extra $15 a month.   Total for all the savings: $262.  This will pay for our pest control services for the year!
Made roast beef hash. Using leftovers is as important as planning meals.

I mixed up egg salad and pimento cheese for sandwiches.

Made a loaf of cranberry orange nut bread.  I used zest and juice from an orange to extend a half bottle of juice I had in the fridge.

I wanted to give Bess something special for her birthday but  couldn't think of a thing.  Then I found the most perfect quote on a beautiful background.  I printed on my home computer and will frame it for her.  I think she'll like it.

...I had my leisure:
We were given a smart tv.  I have Amazon Prime.  I have watched several shows on Amazon such as an old Doris Day tv series.  It was not such a terrific show, lol, but I tried it.  I also watched a PBS production on the Bronte sisters "To Walk Invisible". 

Mostly the week has not been about leisure.  I'm working hard and late every day just now but I'm going to slow down a bit soon, I'm sure.  I have plenty of spare time to fill up.  I know I do because I often sat around doing nothing and feeling bored.  The house is pretty much what I want it to be except the big stuff and I need money for big stuff.  But in the end I am having fun and that's something more than I thought I'd get from this.

Coffee Chat: Bundling Weather

Oh hello dears.  Do come on in for a bit out of the wind.   We've had some cold winter weather as well we might since it is January.  Unusual in that it's lasted a full week and is meant to continue on through the weekend.  A friend who lives a bit south of me and I were laughing over the fact that while we might be seeing weather in the teens this week, we're just as likely to see them soar to the 80's in a week or so.  It's very difficult to know sometimes, in Georgia, how to dress.   I've seen days that were so sunny and bright and beautiful and I worked up a hard sweat doing yard work in the morning hours and by afternoon I was shivering mightily because the Arctic winds blew in and dropped the temperature 40 or 50 degrees.  Brrrr!

Oh my goodness...Where are my manners?   Hot coffee or tea?   There's an absolutely lovely orange cranberry nut bread on the counter, just cool enough to cut.  When John came into the kitchen and asked what I was making he said "Oh" in that sort of deeply disappointed voice but you know what?  First out of the oven there he was saying how good it looked.  Well it IS good.  I gave in to his request for a warm piece with butter and there was no disappointment in him at all about it being Orange Cranberry.  I bought those cranberries especially to make that bread and I meant to get it made!  I haven't made it in YEARS, nearly 40 years.   Why?  I recalled all these years that it tasted good when I made it but I've never tried it again.  

Oh would you like the recipe?  It's easy enough to recall at the moment.  I sort of combined two recipes and I'll freely admit to making some substitutions as well.

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh (or frozen) cranberries
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup orange juice
4 tbsps. orange rind
1 egg
3 tbsps. cooking oil

Preheat oven to 350f.  Grease and flour a 9 inch loaf pan.

Put all ingredients into mixer and mix for 30-60 seconds.  That sounds crazy short but basically all you want to do is mix all wet and dry ingredients until they are just combined.  Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake 55-70 minutes.  My recipe book says 55 to 65 minutes.  It took 70 minutes in my oven. So be sure to  checking times based on your own experience cooking in your oven.  Use a knife to loosen edges and turn out on a cake rack to complete cooling.

I know you're wondering what substitutions I made.  Well I had half a small bottle of an orange pineapple apple juice blend in the fridge.  That came up to 1/2 cup.  Then after I zested the large navel orange, I juiced it and that almost made 1 cup but not quite.   So I topped it off with water.
It's a lovely bread, just enough sweet and just enough fragrant with that orange and a subtly sharp bite from the cranberry.

I have really have got to stop thinking I can only make what John thinks he'll eat.  He is self admittedly limiting in what he thinks he likes but he always tries stuff and is often surprised by how much he enjoys a recipe.  I can think of only two or three that he's ever said to me, "Please don't make that again," and only one recipe that he's tasted and refused to eat at all.  Considering that I've made 3 meals a day for him for over 25 years that's a pretty good record isn't it?

But it's more than just food.  John often complains that he can't 'see' my vision when I'm talking about a way to improve our home.  And in his world, if he can't see it then it can't possibly work.  Yet as I pointed out to him this week when we were discussing some work I want done, he can't 'see' my design point of view in the house anyway and despite this, the house turns out nice, he gets compliments on the way our home looks and so he might as well just start trusting me, lol.

It made me think long and hard though, that conversation, and him too, because we ended up revisiting the conversation later in the day when we were less frustrated with one another.  Some things you just have to do scared, you know?  It's not one of those horrible things you must go through to get to the other side but it is a scary thing to trust someone else's opinion or vision.
When John said to me in 2009 that we'd start attending a Messianic synagogue, I was shaking in my boots.  It was hard at times and I felt like I was a foreigner in a strange land at first but it also ended up being a lovely learning time in our lives that stretched us and grew us and enriched our lives overall.

I often don't know where God is leading me but I do know He's told me to let go of this or to go there and all I can do is trust Him and move.  It's not often I have a moment like I did this past month where I could see how necessary things that happened 27 years ago had been to not only our lives but the lives of our children and the lives of others.  Frankly I felt it was sort of a sign that the door was shut on that past when Sam and Amie's dad passed away.  Old things really had 'passed away' and all things were now new, including opening the relationship with John's ex-wife.  It was right and the timing was perfect for both John and for our son JD,  who needed to resolve that relationship with his mother.  They are both on the edge of a time of change in their lives, of renewal and refreshment.  I could see the fingerprints of God all over it all.

I say sincerely that had you asked me 27 years ago why things that took place in my life were necessary I'd have only looked at you in complete bewilderment.  I was full of grief and pain and hurt and yes anger.  I didn't understand anything, I couldn't see why things had to be as they were.  And now, I look and see the pattern and it is good.  Even before I now, I'd begun to see that God's ways are not our ways, that my understanding is not His.  It taught me the first lessons in believing His purposes were higher and started me on the journey of walking with Him and trusting Him as I went.
We are in a new season in our home.  Hospitality seeming to be the key factor.  I had family here last weekend and will have family here this coming weekend.  Bess's uncle passed away and the funeral will be held in Macon, just about 35 minutes from here.   Sam has been here since Tuesday.   They will all go home on Saturday and Sunday and we'll regroup a few moments before Sam comes back once again.  He's officially working in his new capacity and Bess is attempting to hold house and home together and sell the house.  This is a frustrating time for all, really, though we get along excellently each of us.  But Sam misses his family and his family misses him.  John, who admits himself that it's true, is selfish with my time.  He's always felt every moment he's home I am his to companion with, to sit with, to run errands with, etc.  I do my own thing in little satellite movements all around him and I do it all willingly.  I am not put upon.  But I do see the extra work required, the need to see that a meal is provided for the extras, etc.   John much prefers it's all left to fate but at the same time I monitor what they think fate is, lol  A precarious perching place to be sure!   So I shush him now and then and remind him that this too is but a season.  When they move here the visits will be just a few hours or even minutes in duration.  Proximity will make them less likely to visit frequently, though I expect we will see them more often than we've done in the past.

I've been scanning my mind trying to think what I might share with you all.  I confess I'm a bit absorbed at the moment with the new Jamberry venture and I've been taking webinars each afternoon as well as trying to get accustomed to the daily tasks I need to do to get that up nd running.  My launch party starts this Sunday and I am so excited.  Also excited because I've already earned a little money though I've not had an official opening just yet.  My plans are to save towards the work I want done on the baths and kitchen.  (Hence the 'I can't visualize it,' conversation earlier this week).  I'm learning lots of new things but surprised too to discover that sometimes I see the 'big' picture before it's explained to me.  It makes me feel confident in my ability to succeed when I can make these leaps in conclusion long before the outcome is actually spoken by the group leader.  It's like discovering that the recipe for the cook-off you've entered is not that different from what you've always done but is in fact somewhat familiar.   Your confidence in your ability to make the dish soars and you go right off and do it.   And that's what I'm hoping will happen in this instance.

Big surprise for us was the gift of a new Smart TV.  We didn't need a new TV, but it made one of those happy coincidence things.  JD, starting over as he is in his own life, hadn't a TV.  We'd talked of giving him one.  Then we were given the Smart TV so we gifted him our TV.  The new TV means we can watch our Amazon Prime programs and movies on it.  John has been enjoying a silly super hero mocking show called The Tick.  I watched a couple of episodes of The Doris Day show, which fond as I am of her, stank.  Then I watched "Walk Invisible, The Bronte Sisters" from PBS Masterpiece theatre.  I enjoyed it but need to watch again.  I couldn't understand a good bit of what was said.  I don't know if their accents were that 'thick' so to speak or if the sound quality needed to be adjusted.  I gathered enough to piece together the story line but there were many things I know I missed that I'd like to review.

Snow.  We didn't get any.  Bess got two or three inches as did the Georgia coast line and a good portion of northern Florida.   The storm moved in and out fairly quickly but the snow stayed around a bit yesterday and today.   The snow line fell about half way between Bess and us, so we got no snow.  I'm not complaining.  I think it's absolutely the loveliest thing ever's snow and we don't do snow well in Georgia and we all freely admit it to be truth.  We spend more time reading sunblock labels and trying to figure out if we're dressing for Summer, Spring or Fall most winter days.

Yes, we've had the cold weather.  I put on a real coat to go places when we leave home.  I wore socks when I put on my booties. I've consistently worn a sweater in the house.  Katie reported she'd slipped outdoors to smoke and spilled her coffee.  It froze when it hit the pavement.  Her home faces north and that front porch area is often cool but in this sort of weather it's frigid. 

It's a nicely insulated house though and you don't feel it as much as you feel the cold here in our home on the north end.   I'd been sitting in the kitchen one late afternoon and gotten chilly so I moved to the living room.  Sam came in and took his shoes off while sitting in my chair in the kitchen.  "This floor is COLD!"  I assured him it was just at that end of the house.  Our bathroom has always been practically 10 degrees cooler than any other portion of the house in winter.  When we have winter weather as we do now, we usually put an electric heater in the bathroom just to knock off the chill in the early mornings when we get up.

I've been urging Sam to consider a propane heater or gas log fireplace in his new home.  I keep telling him that heat pumps aren't made for this sort of cold.  They fight hard to keep up below 35f.  Below 28f they are very inefficient.  In snow or sleet the power might well go out and then there is nothing but cold.  So far he's resisted listening to me, but I think the deep cold in that floor the other night shook him a little, especially when he heard the heat pump running and saw the propane heater on, too.

I think he remembered eating our supper back in that breakfast area now turned sitting area.  We went out within the first week and bought a rug to put on the floor.  We had to heat the plates before putting food on them because it would be congealed cold before blessing was said over it otherwise.  That was in the days when we had no propane heater, in the first year or so living here.  We used to set up portable electric heaters in the area back then otherwise we shivered as we ate.

I make it sound like the area was frigid cold.  It wasn't.  It was just a good bit colder than the rest of the house, more than just noticeable.

I was meant to go to Bess this week to start the housekeeping work but the snow put an end to that.  Part of me has felt all along that I shall not be cleaning that house.  Call it intuition but I'm certain that it will sell before I ever get to walk through the door to clean it.  It's such a lovely house, really it is and I absolutely love it.

Just as the house that I loved best is the old house in the small town 25 miles south of here, I expect that Bess shall, in years to come, describe this house as the house she loves best.   I remember when she was visiting here, on the hunt for a house.  She viewed 11 or 12 houses the first day then drove three hours to my home after all that looking and riding.  She showed me three or four homes and then narrowed it down to one.  It was not this house they have now.  But something changed overnight.  In the morning when she got up, before she even had coffee she brought me the pictures of the house they have now and said "This is the house.  I woke up this morning and I just knew it was the one."

When they moved in and placed their furniture it was as though everything they'd bought when moving into their Florida home had been purchased for the house here in Georgia.  Even the colors in the rug matched the color of the living room walls!  The towels coordinated with the bathrooms, etc.  It really was like they'd just bought everything for their current house.

I think that just as I love being here, the family will be happy.  I don't expect they will regret being here.  I do believe, though, that house will always be something special to Bess, just like the old railroad foreman's cottage is special to me.

Last night as I stepped into the kitchen, Sam dropped his boots on the floor next to my chair.  I was about to shut the shades and curtains and I looked off down the driveway.  The 'bump' must have been heard outdoors.   There at the end of the drive stood two deer with eyes fully trained on the house.  I called softly to Sam and we stood and watched them for several minutes.  I do love seeing them on the place and it's true enough they think they own it and we are the interlopers.

Christmas morning I was gazing out the northward facing windows when I had the distinct feeling I was being watched.  I stared at the brush just beyond the cut lawn and noticed a pair of ears.  Sure enough there was a deer watching me, safely camouflaged by the sedge and brush.  It made me wonder as I watched it watching me, how often some creature or another stood gazing at my window as I stared out of it.  It kind of gives you the feeling of not knowing if you are the zoo keeper or the zoo critter.   I mentioned this later at lunch and one of John's co-workers laughed.  He's a hunter and said he's often found himself watched when he thought he was all alone.

Which reminds me of the children  here at Thanksgiving.  Daniel came running inside with a little scared look about him.  "There's something out there!" he said in an trembling voice. I  assured him that indeed there was something out there.  His eyes widened.  I told I'm I'd lay odds if he'd stand still and watch he'd find it was a little bird tossing the dry leaves to and fro as he sought a bug for dinner.  I told him they made the most noise doing that little task and you'd think something about the size of a man was out there but then you'd see nothing but a tiny bird that could fit in the palm of your hand. I must have made him feel better because next time I glanced out he was standing staring at the tree line, watching hard.

I know this week has been abysmal for posts but I have been busy.  It's not all Jamberry and company.  No, it's also been housework which suffered from Thanksgiving through end of December.  It took me far longer than it ought to have done to clean that oven of mine.  The pan for the turkey was a little too small.  It was also heavy.  It slipped as I removed it from the pan and broth slopped across the bottom of the oven and dripped down into the broiler.  The oven smoked and smoked and smoked.  It smoked for days after but when was I to clean it?  I had company and you can't just dismantle the oven in the midst of company.  And then it was time to bake cookies for Christmas and it seemed there was never a good time to clean it.

What a mess it was!  I'd mentioned it in a previous post and Debby in KS was good enough to share with me her 'recipe' for a non-noxious oven cleaner.  I wasn't sure how it could possibly work but it did!  Is my oven looking brand new?  No, not quite.  But I have a feeling that a second application of it would just about make it look new.  I just needed to clean the top layer of gunk off the thing.   So now that I've tried it, I want to share that 'recipe', as well.

1 1/2 cups baking soda
2 tbsps. salt
3 tbsps. dish detergent (I use Dawn)
1/4 cup vinegar.

Mix all the dry ingredients and detergent then slowly add vinegar and slowly stir.  Yes it will foam a bit but no worries.  You want it to be about icing thickness.  Spread with a paintbrush over floor, roof and side walls of oven.   Spread over the racks as well.  I couldn't get it to stick to my racks so I'll share what I did with those in a moment.  Leave the stuff on the oven for six hours.

I didn't have quite enough to spread on my oven racks so I mixed a little of the ingredients.  It still wouldn't stick so I filled my tub with hot water and put the racks in and poured the mixture in with it as well.   When the water had cooled to just lukewarm, I took a stainless steel pad and the baked on stuff literally started to slide off.  I didn't have to work hard on those racks at all!  

I was so excited that I decided to see how well the oven came clean.  Now mind you the stuff was meant to be on the oven for six hours and I'd barely waited three.   It took me a good two hours of scrubbing and wiping that oven and then I had to wipe and wipe.  I went through four old rags which were useless as could be when I was done with them.  The stuff I put on the walls slipped through the vent holes into the broiler pan area and while I'd not planned to clean it, too, I did.  It didn't take much work but it sure made me aware of what I don't want in my next gas stove.  I do NOT want that bottom drawer broiler!  What a horrid mess it gets to be and I have to lie on my stomach on the floor to clean it.

I'd show a photo of the results but apparently I deleted the ones I took from my phone so rejoice, lol.  After all an oven is an oven is an oven.  Right?   Suffice it to say that the 'recipe' is a great help and the aroma after you clean the oven is not unpleasant but it does have an 'after' smell of sorts.  I would be really cautious about using a scented detergent like green apple or lavender!

Well dears, it is time for me to end and move on to my next duty.  I've enjoyed our chat and will touch base as I can in the days ahead.  I have managed to cobble together most of my usual Friday posting so there's that.

Talk to you later!

In My Home This Week: Winter Joys

In my home this week... ...I saw snow this week.  It's not something we see often but every now and then we have a dusting.  It la...