Afternoon Coffee Chat: Weathering the Storm

Hello dears...Do come in.  I've a fresh pot of coffee and though it's hot outdoors, I confess that after my day in the kitchen this coffee is hitting the spot.  It is my signal that, except for completing the soup that we'll be having for supper, I am DONE for the day.

Do have some coffee and a cookie, too, if you'd like and come and sit here near me and have a good old fashioned chat of  this and that and nothing much.

September has proven to be a very busy month.  Far more busy than I'd anticipated when it was not quite here.  Oh I had plans made, I generally do, but then there were so many things I hadn't planned upon.  Those things took me by surprise and yet they were right and purposeful.  I do love how I can have my plans and then God has his plans for me.

I've said multiple times, too many times to count, that I love some alone time.  It's time when I can be just as busy as I choose and think my thoughts as I go and not be interrupted.  I've struggled with the times when I have to be full 'on' every minute, when my attentions can't just be on my work but must be divided this way and that as well.  It leaves me feeling anxious to some extent, and stretched too far.  In the past, I've been downright whiny or so irritable that no nice name could be found for me.

The weekend before Tropical Storm Irma decided to downgrade from being a total Hurricane, I had family and strangers come into my home to ride it out.  Bess and Sam and their boys, and my three grandchildren whom I tend to call the Kingsland Trio, though they now live in Jacksonville, with the two people who were their guardians for the weekend came in on Friday afternoon.  The weather was gorgeous here in Georgia.  It was cool, so nicely cool!, and sunny and the kids ran free for three days running.  The hardest part for them was our insistence they wait until the grass dried on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  That usually occurs about 11am or so and even then it's still slightly damp but it's not too wet.

The children slept like they'd never slept after all that running about outdoors.  They drew pictures on the patio.  They ran up and down hill.  The most amazing sight of all to me was Bess who ran downhill and up again...with Josh sitting on her shoulders.  I swear I wondered if she'd decided to train for the NFL or something!

The strangers were okay people.  I'd met Jolon once before, but had never met his partner.  She was quite nice and that made it easier.  I don't really like strangers staying overnight in my home, but I bit back all my anxiety and took the good,getting to see those three grandchildren from Jacksonville, with the bad, feeling slight anxiety.  It was really, sort of wonderful how things worked out.  I did all the cooking, the others were really in charge of all the children and they took on certain tasks that simply made the day go easier.  Jolon appointed himself in charge of trash which was plentiful with three meals for 10 going on the table each day.  Bess or Kaitlyn ended up spending time with the children. 

When outdoors palled they played with the old toys in the toy box, or with the musical instruments in the music room and eventually I dragged out crayons and paper and that too proved to be a huge hit.  Do you know that from Friday afternoon until they left on Tuesday morning, not one minute of television was watched by those children?  Daniel only played with his kindle for a few minutes and then he was back outdoors playing.  I thought it really rather wonderful that old fashioned 'play' worked just as well as ever with today's kids.  I guess that proves those pundits wrong who think modern day children can't play  as they used to do and must be entertained, huh?

We had few quarrels and upsets and that's something of a wonder too, when you have four children playing together.   Occasionally one would wander off alone and have quiet time but mostly they all played and played well.

Josh's only concession to being the youngest was having to take his daily nap, which must of been much needed because he slept for easily two or three hours each day.  His potty training took a big forward step in that he got up at night to go potty on his own and never wet or messed up his clothes at all.  I was so proud of him!

I was chief baby rocker, because Isaac did not feel good and he simply would not go to sleep in his Mama's arms for anything.  I don't smell like milk, which helps a great deal.  I also tend to be a little more firm in my approach.  I get him comfortable and hold him firmly and rock, rock, rock.  I found that any odd sound immediately quieted fussing, so I'd whistle, or click my tongue and he'd quiet down right off trying to see what the noise was.  And then before he knew it, he'd gone to sleep, lol.  I am a baby whisperer where that little boy is concerned.

I was glad to see my grandchildren play together and wished mightily that Taylor and the four in North Dakota might also be here, but really we had quite enough people in this house.  It never seems terribly small when it's just John and I but add in ten and it suddenly is full to bursting.   Isaac's bed was in guest room with Bess and Sam.  I offered Bess the room right away because she needed a private place to nurse and to put the boys down for naps.  The first two nights all four of the children slept in the music room but Josh protested long and hard on Saturday night and was having absolutely none of it on Sunday night.  I sort of suspect there were scary stories told and he is just too young for that.  So he slept in the room with Bess the last two nights which meant practically no sleep for her.  Jolon and Kaitlyn each had a bed in the living room.  She slept on the army cot and Jolon had the pallet.  I made his bed as thick and cushy as I could and he hinted strongly that she and he should take turns on the cot but she was having none of that.   I'm awfully glad I had that army cot and I mean to try and find more of them.

I split bathrooms between groups of five and that meant Josh had a dedicated spot for his potty seat which he soon removed and refused to use because the other boys didn't use one.  As I said, he even got up at night, came into my room and used the bathroom and slipped right back out again, which made me feel very proud of him.

Sunday morning he climbed into bed with John and I.  It was only the three of us who were awake and Josh and I talked a bit.  He was very happy to be here with 'the cousins', as he kept referring to them.  Family is a dear thing to that little boy.   I confess that the three Cheney children simply don't seem to have that strong a sense of family.  Oh they know Grampa and Gramma well enough and mom and dad but they are more standoffish when it comes to relationships beyond those.  Josh on the other hand feels his attachments to others strongly and I think it was his own dogged attitude of doing every thing they did and being part of their group that eventually had them draw him fully in and count him as one of them.

At some point in the weekend I had time with each of the children except Zach, who just isn't all that into close intimate one on one time.  I loved seeing all of their personalities and I wish I knew just what approach Zach requires to make him come in near to me.  He's independent and content to do things outdoors and indoors on his own and sort of self contained.  However, I had my time Sunday morning with Josh in our room and a little time with Hailey and Daniel while in the kitchen.  "Helping Gramma" was top priority for the both of them and they did help, too.  It just took me a moment or two to get back into the swing of having a child helper in the kitchen.

As for me, there was no such thing as alone time at all.  It was breakfast, dinner and lunch time or nap time for baby Isaac or clearing up the kitchen time or bedtime but no alone time.  I did get rather frustrated on Monday evening when we were without power and I was in super coping mode.  Oldest grandson Daniel has always wanted you to explain why things are done a certain way, why we have certain rules, why this and why that.  He's eight and it's no longer 'just a stage' but part of who he is.  I'd already explained twice why I was doing something and it was warm and I was tired and worried as to how well the real emergency plans for water were going to go and he wanted me to explain again why I was doing a task.  I snapped at him and told him I simply hadn't the patience to explain thirteen times why I was doing as I was doing that it was enough for him to just do it.  I regret that and I don't.  I'd discovered earlier in the weekend that as annoying as he can be at times, he's also aware that he's annoying and while his curiosity of the whys and explanations for reasons is part and parcel of who he is there are just times when it's too much and he's old enough to understand that.

So that part of the Storm was handled and all packed up on Tuesday morning in misty rain and headed home once more.  Their homes were not damaged or flooded but they too lost electric power.  Ironically, they all had power before the day was out.  Ours, on the other hand, didn't return until the end of the week...

It wasn't so terribly bad, at first.  It was cool until Wednesday afternoon and then it only got a little stuffy indoors.  The occasional breeze that blew in through the window was rather nice.  But Thursday...Thursday was harder to bear. John went back to work.  The weather changed entirely.  Hot and still with not one breeze to break the spell.  I worked during the morning hours but for the afternoon and evening, I settled near a window and read or worked puzzles or did a Bible study.  I sponged off with cool water frequently and used the old fashioned cardboard fan John brought home to me back during the Spring.  I drank lots of water and even dared dig into the freezer and take out ice twice so that I could have a cold drink.  It melted so quickly in the heat it was hardly worth the effort of getting it out.

I bore up well Tuesday and Wednesday but by Thursday, though I was alone, I was beyond miserable and heat had only a tiny portion to do with it.  The truth is that alone or not on Thursday, I dealt with endless inquiries from my niece and John about when the power would return, as well as from a bevy of family who were concerned.   It was bad enough the previous two days but John and my niece were like pesky mosquitoes who knew just when to buzz near your ear and boy were they persistent.

I'm telling you for true that the very moment I was lost in the book, had just dozed off to nap, or was fairly content, there was either Ashley or John on the phone complaining.  It made the day that was hard even harder.  John finally insisted I call the power outage number again though they had stopped taking calls two days before.  So I called the local office, the one where I make my payments, and talked to a man who listened patiently to my ramblings and queries, answered best as he could and assured me that we'd have power by the end of the week and that they crews were working round the clock.  Since it was Thursday, I sincerely hoped he was telling the truth about our having power by end of the week and hoped mightily that meant Friday and not Saturday or Sunday!

I finally told John during one of his frequent calls that my only consolation with the continuing power outage was that he was at work with Air conditioning, running water, television, and internet.   I'd so hoped he would be satisfied with those things but no, he spent nearly all day long worrying over our lack of electricity at home.   His partner happened to pass the doorway as we were on the phone that last time and overheard my snappy reply and told John to get off the phone and leave me alone, lol.  I was grateful to him... 

Now it was more understandable from my niece.  Her home isn't nearly as light and bright as mine and she had her three and four year old children to deal with.  She was mighty worried about losing her food supplies in the freezer and I suspected her freezer wasn't nearly as well packed as my own.  By Thursday we'd lost all we had in the fridges at both places so the loss of the freezer things was going to hit her especially hard.  I did understand that.

I went to bed Thursday night with the window wide open right next to my bed and I loathe sleeping with an open window when I'm all alone.  Too many of John's crime shows haunt the back recesses of my brain.  Even in as isolated a spot as we live in, even when Maddie mostly barks when strangers arrive, I was nervous and slept badly.  And when I woke for the last time on Friday morning and realized that the power hadn't been restored overnight as I'd prayed, I wept.  I felt such a wimp, too, when I did, but I will say that allergies had plagued me since open windows ensued and I'd awakened congested, headachy, with matted eyes and stuffy nose and it was all just.too.much. at that point in time.  I did not look forward to John coming in from work even though I prepared a good breakfast for him and even though I'd excelled at making good percolator coffee all week long.  I just wanted it all to be done.

I will say that from my perspective, aside from that rotten allergy going on, I really enjoyed those pleasant cool days with the windows open.  I enjoyed hearing the birds singing, which they did with a will of rebuilding following the storm that sounded like a new spring day outdoors.    I enjoyed the quiet and the lack of chaotic noise.  I enjoyed the conversations John and I had over the two days he was home, aside from the frustration he voiced regularly about the electric being off.  I slept like I seldom sleep, in the quiet of the nights.  I enjoyed the simplicity that life took on.  I worked, because there is always work to be done whether or not there's electricity, but I enjoyed the quiet working hours and the quiet resting hours and the quiet in between hours.  I enjoyed the simpler meals and despite my dislike of disposables, I enjoyed not having a major clearing up following each meal.

John came in with a fresh attitude on Friday morning.  He apologized to me for being so miserable and trying so hard to insure I knew how miserable he was.  We had a nice cup of perked coffee together on the front porch.  We ate our breakfast.  I worked indoors doing various things I hadn't done during the previous days.   He sat on the front porch and played his guitar and sang praise songs I haven't heard in a long while.  The birds sang along with him, thrilled to hear music that wasn't of their own making. 

When he finally came indoors, I was finished with my work.  The house was cooler than it had been and I sat down to read and we both closed our eyes for a bit.  Just as I began to doze, I heard a truck grind up the road and I asked John, "Do you suppose that's the road scraper?"  He said he felt sure it was.  And then we heard a second truck grind up the road.  And then the 'beep, beep, beep' that big trucks make backing up and Maddie began to bark.  Just a little tiny part of me was sorry as could be that it was sure to be the linemen come to tend to our downed lines.  It was so peaceful.  If we could have just had a fan blowing on us in the warmer part of the day, I think I could have managed okay.  I dreaded the return of television and noise and much as I longed to return to the internet and see what everyone I 'know' is up to, I hadn't missed it a great deal.

We had power within a couple of hours of their driving up.  Ashley was so excited by the idea of a return of electricity  that she kept texting me, lol.  John immediately began to plan all the housework he wanted to get done now that we could run washer and vacuum and dryer and water.  I felt tired just listening to him but we had it all done in a bit over two hours.  When it was all done and we were nearly finished for the day, John asked what I wanted next and laughed heartily when I replied that I was just longing for nice cool shower instead of the hot one he was sure I'd want.  Well I'd had plenty of nice warm baths from the basin but to stand under a cool showerhead of running water seemed about the epitome of luxury to me!   When dishes were washed and put away after supper, the house was Shabbat ready.  I hadn't time to bake bread as I'd planned to do so we let a hamburger bun suffice.

We used electric kilowatts as though we needed to make up in one day for the four days we'd been without on Friday afternoon.  But we also took away something that I hope we hang on to and that is the idea that just because we have electricity, it's not necessarily the be and end all.  We want to buy a percolator, a real honest to goodness sit it on the stove percolator.  The thrift store purchase was fine but has a tiny leak about the handle rivet.  It was seriously good coffee and not just because there was no other to be had.  Perked coffee just plain tastes better than drip coffee and I liked being able to take it all apart and wash it all after each day's coffee was made.

John has watched even less television than he'd been watching.  He's less prone to turn on things just to hear 'noise'.  I found that Pinterest had seriously palled while I was offline.  I think I'll go back to just looking it over once a week instead of once a day.  I found I had far more reading time and conversation time and working time when I wasn't tied to the computer for hours on end.  I've promised myself to honor my curfew each evening and I don't check mail or Facebook multiple times of day.

It's no secret to me that I sleep best in quiet but I didn't realize how very restful having quiet about you can be, with or without sleep.  The quiet days seemed to unwind something that was wound far too tight within me

These are all early days yet, but still...I feel a change has taken place and I like it.  And then there's one other thing...

Two years ago, just after my health crisis, we had some family news that left us stunned.  I won't share the circumstances but to say that it was shocking would be putting it mildly.  Our family reeled with the information we'd been given.  John and I were driven to prayer and seeking help with two pastors we knew and trusted.  Our family was divided on what the 'right' outcome of the situation should/would be.  We went through twenty-six months of hell,  of soul searching and seeking God and praying without end.  We paid a high price for our views on the matter.  We pretty much lost all contact with that trio of grandchildren.  We could only maintain relationship with them if we did things that went against the very laws of God himself.  In the end, we had to make that sacrifice and it was a hard one to make, let me assure you.  We were so pained that we could barely speak of the children and we altered our route on vacation to avoid going near the town where they lived because even driving through the place, knowing we were denied the right to see them was unbearable.

The children were sent away from home during  the hurricane last year when it hit their area.  For whatever reason, this time it was deemed that the safest place the children could ride out this storm was in my home and for that I am grateful.  I didn't have to compromise the tenets by which we live. I didn't have to apologize for taking the stand we did.  We were asked if they could be here and I said yes.   I did have to admit strangers into my home but it was a small price to pay.  They were nice people, willing to abide by our rules, who knew the whole set of circumstances and didn't judge us harshly for our stance, nor demand to know why we hadn't backed down.  

To have those children in my home this past week, and see how they've grown and changed, to have moments to reassure them that they were loved and thought of daily and often, to spend time with them in my kitchen and kiss them goodnight and hug them in the mornings was a blessing beyond any I could have been given.

On Friday, when the week was nearly over we heard that this chapter of our lives where we'd been expected to act differently than our faith demanded was over and done.  I don't know that we'll see the children anymore often, or even when we might see them again, but this battle is over and done and I'm so grateful that as difficult as it was, as many tears as we shed over it all, that we stood strong for what we believed was right.

I suppose I should put away this coffee.  It's gotten cold.  And look at how late it's gotten...But wasn't it nice to sit and chat once more?  I've missed being neighborly.  Have you?

This Week In My Home: Ending and Beginning

In my home this week...

...I hit the floor running this morning.  The first load of clothes is on the line, our bed stripped, and all but the dishes from our breakfast already loaded into the dishwasher.  I have had multiple things on my mind this morning.  I sat right down before 6am and planned out this week as nearly as I can plan it.  

It is my plans to attend church this morning.  I missed it last week.  When I return home, I will be busy trying to finish laundry, calling for Air Conditioner repair, sigh, and getting a head start on next weekend's meal which I mean to prep and put in the freezer.  Yes, it is promising to be a busy day and I confess I'm a bit weary of this day already.  I am praying to be fully refreshed by church service this morning!

I shall not delay further but go right on and type out my plans for the week.

...I plan my work:

Remember these tasks are in addition to my usual routine work and cleaning.

I bought two mums yesterday at Aldi but I mean  buy more fall plants this week and get them set up in pots on the porches and patio and about the flower beds.  I want the house to look nice for this coming weekend.   I won't be purchasing a great lot of plants though I sound as though I mean to do so.  I will  move a rather pretty planter to the front of the house and remove one that has died back.  I'll shift a few pots into other positions that are still blooming though not quite as pretty.  All in all I expect the place to look refreshed.

Remove all the sticks I've piles up from the storm. 

I will do all I can to 'cook ahead' for a family meal this next weekend.  These can go into the freezer and simply be reheated come the proper day.  It is my goal to have as much rest as I can get over Shabat.  I've had three busy, busy ones thus far this month and a family day will mean a fourth busy Shabat.

I mentioned doing my bed linens.  This is the last big load of laundry from lasts week's back log.  I look forward to being down to a normal load every three or four days, lol!

Last October, when we moved bookcases to put in new flooring, I set up a shelf of books I didn't want to give away because I hadn't read them.  Now it's a year later and I think it's high time to cull those shelves once more.  I've committed to sending Amie a certain set of books and will remove those, plus the ones I haven't been interested in reading, as well as a spate of juvenile fiction that no one seems to be interested in having.  I expect to have two boxes of books to donate.

Cull my vintage magazines.  I have a variety of issues in various conditions from good, to downright tatty.  I mean to cull out the tatty ones.  It pains me horribly to toss these old issues.  A few, with good information that I think V might find interesting and some newer ones that I don't want will be set aside to mail off to her.

I have several sewing tasks to attend to: new pants that require hemming, a pair of pants that need to be mended and that chair slipcover I'd thought I'd tackle last week.  This week I hope to have the chair seat set up and the slipcover made for it.

Make yogurt.

And last, I mean to take time to work with the new things I've purchased to plan outfits I can wear.  I only had time two weeks ago to hang the things in my closet.  I wore a new top yesterday and figured out three or four other outfits I might wear with that top, from casual to dressier, but I really haven't done that with the other pieces I purchased.  I want a clear idea of how they are going to work and if I find anything that isn't, I will return it this week.

Last month I emptied the HomeKeeping Notebook I'd set up and started a more portable handmade planner notebook.  There's lots of information I need to sort out, transfer some to my new planner and things I simply need to shred or trash entirely.  I mean to get that job done this week.  The empty notebook can then be repurposed for Genealogy pages that don't fit in the notebook I have now.

Make Challah or Artisan Bread for Shabbat.

...I plan meals:
I'll be on my own 2 days this week.  I expect I'll buy lunch out one day and have leftovers the other.

This week's menu will include my planned meal for family day.

Yesterday after grocery shopping we had:

Arroz con Pollo, Strawberry Cobbler
I should have made a salad but didn't.  I was tired, had spent the morning shopping instead of resting and simply threw together a meal from leftover yellow rice, a single chicken breast shared between the two of us,  and vegetables on hand.

Greek Chicken; Pitas; Tomatoes, Onions and Cucumbers; Tzaziki

Steak au Poivre
Pan Roasted Potatoes
Green Salad

Pizza Margherita, Green Salad

Mac n Cheese, Steamed Broccoli, Peaches in Gelatin

Family Day:  Chicken Enchiladas, one pan Red sauce, one pan Green sauce; Rhonda's Pinto Beans, Yellow Rice, Green Salad, Pico de Gallo, Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

...I plan my leisure:
One of the things I most appreciated about last week was the quiet and the freedom from being perpetually upon the computer.  Our TV was on only while football was on over the weekend.  I spent time reading, working puzzles and working at tasks that required little distraction.  It was peaceful and refreshing.    This week I've made the decision to stop trying to post six days a week.  I'm going to post one or two times besides the usual "In My Home" and "Living Frugally and Well" posts.  I want to save writing for posts that have depth and purpose, rather than merely filling up space.  

I  plan to have a spa morning, something that has been sadly lacking over the past six weeks.

Living Frugally and Well: Oh What a Week!

Hello all,
This week's posts were impossible due to a power outage.  You'll recall I left off my last Living Frugally and Well post with the note that I had people coming in to ride out the hurricane.  How ironic they all went home and soon had power but mine stayed out until past noon today.  I've made some notes of what worked well for me and what I'd wished we'd had or someone else suggested would have been a help.  All in all, we had little damage.  There was a mess of leaves and twigs to clear up and a few already dead but too high to reach branches fell from the trees.  Our biggest problem was downed power lines.   I thought I'd hit the highlights of this week's savings, because there were savings despite it all!

I really wanted to share a photo of the grandkids...I had 5 of mine with me during the hurricane/tropical storm and enjoyed them mightily.  Oh how they have grown!!  However, blogger is refusing to work with me on loading photos again, sigh...I'll try to upload later in the weekend and add in...

Friday:  Looked at my stock of meat, estimated people to be fed and realized I was pushing it pretty close.  I went to the grocery to pick up a few items: an extra gallon of milk, 2 pounds of hamburger, 2 packages of hot dogs, a couple of loaves of bread, some hot dog buns and a bag of apples.  I tried to buy water bottles but the lady who was standing at the shelf when I came up and waited took one look at me, turned to the woman beside her and said "I think I'll just go on and take these last two as well."  I thought that rather mean spirited when it was obvious there was a limited supply!  I noted that the gallon jugs were largely untouched so I gathered four of those.  I felt pretty sure I had plenty of water on hand already with what I'd drawn up over the latter part of the week.

Tried to go by the bank in that town to make a deposit but couldn't due to traffic being backed up something awful.  I came back to the town to the west of us and did my banking.

Got home, unloaded groceries and had that sinking feeling...I'd completely and totally forgotten my main number one reason for going to the store: disposable plates and cups.  Went into town to the local store and bought those and returned home.

Every one arrived about the same hour.  They'd all had a late lunch so I decided a sandwich and chips would do just fine for a quick and easy meal.  I had planned menus and decided to stick to our usual pattern of eating a big meal midday and a sandwich supper.  That helped me feel I had some normality to my life despite having eight extra in the house.

We set up pallet beds for the children and an extra cushy one for one adult male.  The young female guest got the army cot as her bed.  Bess and Sam and Baby Isaac shared the guest room.

Everyone brought in a few supplies.  Jolon brought in Gatorade and some fruit juice drinks and two flats of water bottles.  He also brought a supply of blankets and pillows for his car load of children and partner.  Bess and Sam brought in big huge bags of cereal and an extra loaf of bread and a few other non perishable type things.   I was determined to use mostly my food storage namely because I really wanted to see how it held out but did appreciate the thoughtfulness of the others.  Bess also brought extra towels.

Saturday:  When every single child demanded cereal for breakfast I blessed Bess' forethought in bringing in the cereal.  The one partial bag of cereal which I brought out first lasted the children through four mornings.  The fifth morning we opened the bag of raisin bran.  I shall definitely consider such if we ever should be Hurricane Shelter in future.

I served adults a simple breakfast of peanut butter on toast and coffee.  I had planned a fairly big dinner (Turkey breast, Scalloped potatoes and Salad).

For dessert and as an added filler, I mixed up a Wacky Cake using some over ripe pears I had in the fruit basket.  I allowed them to drain and then added tot he cake.  You can find the recipe here at Strangers and Pilgrims.  It was delicious and a hit with everyone.  I frosted using a cream cheese frosting.

Bess's mom stopped in which I thought odd since she lives quite a long drive away.  What I didn't know was that she'd decided to bless me during my evacuation days and brought along six gallons of water and some meats and breads and a huge big bag of grapes.  What a dear soul that woman is!  I've seen her generosity over and over, not just to me but to others among her acquaintances and I can say truly that I was blessed and blessed by her this weekend.   She also brought along a bunch of disposable plates and napkins.  The napkins had cute illustrations that kept the kids entertained at meal times.

Sunday:  Children ate cereal again.  Adults had eggs and toast.

I can't think what I made this day for dinner...Oh yes, I can!  I cooked black beans and rice and served with a salad.  I made up a pan of plain cornbread for the kids and a pan of Mexican cornbread for the adults.  We served Wacky Cake to everyone for dessert.  I had hot dogs and chips for supper.

I had bought two packets of yellow rice, larger than I normally buy because the packet said one served 8.  My mistake was to cook both.  I had so many leftovers!  Too many!  I sent a big batch of leftovers home with Sam (of beans and rice) as he had to be in the area to coordinate his Catastrophic Team.  He sent me a photo the next day of his burritos he cooked on the grill at home, lol.

I urged every adult to get a shower and we bathe all children before bedtime.

I filled my bathtub with water.  I had meant to do the same to the guest bath tub but with smaller children in the house decided it wasn't worth the risks.

We'd done at least one and sometime two loads of clothes every single day just trying to not have a bunch of dirty laundry.

Monday:  Sent John off to work as the first lashings of rain had begun.  I was unable to view weather via television or internet as both dishes failed to hold a signal.

Fed the children and adults and started dinner prep (Spaghetti with Meat Sauce).  I loaded the sauce down with lots of vegetables.  I made far too much really and too much pasta, too.  I made sure to wash up dishes as I went...Good thing too because as the children ate their meal (we ate in shifts) the power went off for good.

I made up a pan of brownies.  I messed up my original recipe and not at all sorry I did.  The mistake I made proved to be a happy one and I shall be sure to alter my recipe accordingly.  I finally have the rich chewy brownies I prefer rather than the cake like brownie I'd finally achieved.

We lost cell phone service for nearly four hours.  Honestly by this point the worst of the gusts of wind over.  It was never any worse than and often not as bad as what we experience here in winter when the arctic blasts is moving out of the North.  The storm had moved faster than predicted but also decelerated a lot more quickly than it was thought it might as well.  We counted all these blessings.

Jolon decided to pack up kids and head back home once it was all done.  He knew they had no power service at home but then we had none here either.  And the storm had moved steadily on north and away from his home area in Jacksonville.  He made it down the driveway and came back.  I thought he'd forgotten something but he told me there were power lines down across the driveway.

The power outage number was so swamped with calls that it kept kicking out my phone calls.  Bess called 911 who assured us they could do nothing and to just sit tight...Well it wasn't likely we were going anywhere with downed lines right across the main driveway out of the place!  However, I admit my frustrations mounted as the evening went out and I was still unable to contact electric service to report lines down.  I called 911 once more, which all the ads instruct us to 'inform 911 and the power company.'   The operator was testy and told me it was my responsibility to report the line downed lines.  I assured her I'd tried for hours to do so but to no avail and asked if she could perhaps contact someone or give me a number to contact besides the one I'd been trying to call.  Her reply was negative and not only that but she refused to give me another number demanding that I use 'my internet', which made me laugh out loud.  I pointed out that without electricity, I had no internet service.  She assured me that my phone could be used to access internet...and so it can...IF I have a router available to use which I did not due to power outage.  I was totally unimpressed with our 911 operators and even less so when she told me in a rather rude way to be sure and have a nice day.  I do realize that they were undoubtedly swamped with calls and I had done my best to be very polite because I am aware but yeah...totally unimpressed.

Our greatest concern was that we could not get out of the property and Isaac had started with a bad cold and lots of congestion.  Nor could anyone get into the property if need be.  It was beyond frustrating to feel trapped.  Eventually John talked to the local EMS director who talked to someone who knew someone and they came and disconnected the power lines but that was in the wee hours of the night.

The children had spent three days running freely about outdoors and got very restive towards the late afternoon.  I moved the island from the center of the kitchen and herded all the adults into the living area and told the kids to run all they wanted.  And they did, from music room to kitchen and kitchen sitting and back again for a good 20 minutes.  They were more than ready to quit when I told them it was enough.

We lit candles at dark time and told stories with the children before sending them to bed.  We were sure it was too early for them and told them they had to lie down but did not have to go to sleep.  Of course they went right off to sleep and slept all night long!

We'd disconnected the toilet in the guest room so the children couldn't accidentally flush it.  We used buckets of water to flush as needed.  Odd how every single child had to use that bathroom immediately after the power went out.  We encouraged them to put their toilet tissue in the trashcan.

Tuesday:  I'd vowed never again to face a power outage without my morning cup of coffee.  I'd purchased an aluminum coffee pot at the thrift store complete with basket and stem.  This went through the dishwasher this past week and was set up ready to make coffee this morning.  I have to tell you truth even the coffee aficionado was impressed  with the pot I brewed, my first percolated coffee in some 30 years.  Thank goodness too for the gas stove!

A general shout went up among the adults when John came up the driveway towards the house this morning.  I was doling out cereal and pouring out milk to the kiddos when I heard them all exclaim in the kitchen.

Everyone began packing up when they heard the downed lines were definitely dead.  I wanted to offer foodstuffs to Jolon to take home but they had no power there either and no way to keep it cold until they arrived home.  He asked for small bottles of Gatorade for the children and a flat of water bottles which I happily gave him.  

Bess took a flat of water, leftover pasta and meat sauce home with her.  I knew they could heat on the gas ring at home.  As it happened their power was restored before she arrived back home.   I also sent her home with the meats her mom had brought in and  disposable plates and cups.

John and I ate leftovers of pasta and sauce which I'd buried deep in the back of the fridge the night before as soon as it was cooled off.

The weather cleared and we opened windows.  It was cool enough I had to put on socks.

We managed just fine on the stored water.

Wednesday:  The cooler weather continues.  The stuff in the fridge was beginning to lose it's cool.  I  moved the butter and cheeses over to the big freezer but didn't have enough room for that whole gallon of milk, the one I'd bought on Friday.

We continued to do our flushing with water drawn up in the tub, drank from stored water and used it to bathe and do dishes.  I was glad of the days I'd practiced that 'no one is home' routine with minimal electric usage and glad too of experimenting at least once a week on using as little water as I could to bathe or to do dishes.

I re-introduced John to the basin bath and showed him how to rinse his hair using a water can of warm water.  I'd heated water on the stove and managed both his bath water and enough to rinse dishes as well.

We charged cell phones in the car.

I was in 'use it up mode' so we finished off luncheon meats that were in the fridge and most likely to spoil first.

Thursday:  John took a basin bath before work.

I perked coffee and tested the temperature of the egg and milk in the fridge.  I felt it was still safe so made oatmeal.

Sent John off to work with a bag full of snacks.  He said he'd stop for lunch somewhere.

I cleaned.  I'd been steadily doing housework the past three days.  There are plenty of things to do that require energy but not electricity.  I swept, folded and put away the quilts used as pallets, cleaned off the porches and patio and picked up sticks.  I made our bed, stripped and remade the guest bed and just generally worked until I decided I'd had enough.  I cleared a few things out of the fridge as the day progressed and the interior got up to room temperature.  I felt the cabbages and carrots would hold well despite the warmth but the lettuce and eggs and milk and yogurt were definitely done.

I checked the freezer and removed the few things that had thawed in the top portion.  That deep freezer had been filled to the top and so the bulk of things were still frozen solid.  I found a small portion of a roast that was cold but no longer had ice crystals in it.  I cooked that for my meal and had supper off it, as well.  It had been just enough for two people.

It got hot as the day went on.  I handled things well but once I get hot I get very testy.  I was glad no one was here to see how irritable I was!  I decided then to stop work and simply try to stay as cool as I might under the circumstances.  I read by an open window for hours.  I sponged off with cool water.

I called the electric company at the local office in sheer desperation after fielding multiple calls from John and texts from my niece asking if power was back on yet, had I heard anything?, etc...The man was very nice and very patient.  He assured me there was a work ticket for our repair and that they'd have us up again before week was done.  This satisfied me but didn't stop the calls and texts, lol.

Friday:  I do not like to sleep with open windows even way out here in my isolated house but I did last night.  When I could bear the heat no longer, I sponged off with a cool cloth.

Allergies ran rampant with the open windows.  The children had them and so did I.  I've been dosing with an OTC medicine that works well for me but woke feeling miserable this morning.

John brought me leftover Chinese dinner for breakfast, lol and came with peace offerings for making me miserable yesterday with his frustrated texts and calls.  He brought me a bag of my favorite chips (small one) and a Coke and a big bag of ice so I could have an iced drink.  I told him I was easily bribed into forgiving him, lol. I put the bag of ice in the top portion of the deep freeze.

Sweetest sound I've heard in days was the beep beep beep as the power truck backed into the property.

I immediately checked the freezer.  The meats were still frozen solid. I lost very little, mostly 'saved' things, like peaches I put up last year and cornbread I'd saved to make stuffing and some mixed fruits I'd been saving to make my annual lot of jelly.  Very minor losses there.

Noted the strawberries had thawed entirely but were still good and cold, so I immediately put together a strawberry cobbler.

The milk and yogurt and eggs, some lettuce were definitely done for in the fridge.  Salad dressings and stuff  I was unsure of went into the trash.  I felt the mustard and ketchup were okay and the jellies and syrups.  I cleaned and wiped out the fridge while it was still warm.  I dried the shelves carefully.  I figured while it was very near empty was the best time to do that job.

As soon as the electricity came back on we started using kilowatts.  I was very proud overall of how well we'd managed and how little we'd lost despite the heat of the past two days.  I still had 1/3 of the tub of water.  I had three pitchers of water I'd drawn up on Sunday.  John had opened the first gallon jug of water leaving us with 9 jugs of water to put into storage for future needs.  I felt my water storage had proven it's value overall.

We had plenty of candles and matches.  Disposable plates and cups were a lifesaver on dishes though I hated filling the trash can so often.

Our list for future situations include hand sanitizing wipes, perhaps a battery operated fan for hot nights without power, and a phone charger that fits John's car outlet.  All in all we did well, I think.

Living Well

Sometimes it's nice to look at how well our skills work in real life situations.  I was proud of the way my foods in the freezer held up and how well our water supplies lasted in a time of need.  But there was one skill, one I seldom have used, that I was especially grateful for this past week.

When John trained as an EMT one of the first lessons was how to do the Heimlich  on a choking victim.  Katie was less than two at the time and happened to be in the room when he told me about it.  He flipped her onto his knee and showed me just where she should be hit on the back if she were to choke.  Moments later, she was eating a banana.  I heard a sucking sound and turned to see that she had sucked the banana into her throat.  I sat down, grabbed her up, laid her across my knee and whacked her on the back.  Immediately the banana flew out of her mouth.  I sat and wept and wept while John patted me reassuringly and told me I'd done the maneuver textbook perfect.

This past weekend I'd given the children mandarin oranges as part of their meal.  I heard one of the children say "Something's wrong with Josh!" just as Josh came running into the kitchen.  I could see the panic in his eyes and immediately saw that he'd put the whole peeled mandarin in his mouth and it had gotten stuck as he tried to swallow it.

Without thinking twice, I immediately hit him on his back which dislodged the mandarin.  I whacked him again as he tried to swallow the dang thing all over again and got it out of his mouth.  At that point, I took him in my arms and wept, as did he.    I told him he'd scared me mightily and to never try to eat a whole mandarin again!  He in turn told me "You beat me!"  Lol.  I assured him if ever a beating was done in love it was that one.

  I have many times used my skills in the kitchen to stretch a meal or to piece one together from nothing.  I have many times weathered a storm and gone days without electricity.  I practice those skills occasionally just to keep my hand in but I shall be forever grateful that John taught me how to stop a child from choking all those many years ago and occasionally comes home with a new poster to put on our bulletin board...And this week that knowledge, seldom used, was the true part of living well.  I urge all of you, if you have grandchildren to acquire one of those posters and study it.  It just may be the handiest skill you'll ever have!

Living Frugally and Well: Autumn Savings Ahead

Saturday:  We drove up to Katie's this morning.  I made breakfast at home, urged John to pour the last of the coffee into his thermal mug and managed to prevent us making any stops along the way.  This was merely a savings a time.  We did pull off at the gas station on the corner of the final road near Katie's home.  I sent John into the store to buy Taylor a bag of M&M's.  I claim Gramma privileges in bringing her candy.

John stopped at the roadside stand in the gas station parking lot.  I bought some apples.  I asked if they were local and I didn't really get a reply but I bought four apples just the same.  I'll see if they taste fresh and local and if so then we'll stop by there in the future.  I also bought HOT boiled peanuts which was not what I got at the end of last month, though they were fresh.  They were cold.  Big difference in my opinion.

We had a lovely day visiting with Katie and Matt and watching Taylor who danced, sang, and kept a general bit of chatter almost all day long.  Nope, I still can't understand much but then I couldn't much understand Josh at the same age last year.  However, I understood SOME of it and just enjoyed listening to her anyway when I couldn't understand her.  Katie sent me home with four feather pillows to use as inserts in my living room pillow covers and she provided me with a bit of leftovers and a dozen fresh Araucana eggs she'd purchased from the neighbor.  I don't need eggs, but golly gracious goodness, FRESH eggs are a different critter from store eggs and who can't use a good FRESH egg?!

I  made sandwiches and brought along Mandarins for our supper on the road home.

Sunday:  Up early this morning to strip the bed.  Never did get the linens started before leaving for church and didn't do them when we got back since I had a full load of dishes to wash.  I'll do two loads of clothes tomorrow, I guess.

I did hang our bed pillows on the line to freshen and air.  Seems to me that feather pillows (that's what we have on our bed, too) fluff up nicely after being in the open air.

We went into Walmart after church.  I had to purchase ink for our printer as John had waited several days to print something out.  I should have looked for it earlier since I knew we were out but when you postpone doing something, you'll pay the price you pay.  I know Walmart's price was the best around but possibly not the lowest I might have spent if I'd taken time to look online.

John wanted to look over the shirts, as he felt he was in need of new ones.  He's sticking hard to his personal preference of black and black and did I mention black?  He also found a nice deep heathery green that I think he'll like rather well and it is a deviation away from black.  I'm not complaining.  Black looks very good on him and I can always find him when I look for him.  He's the one wearing black!

I looked over the Pioneer Woman canisters I was thinking I'd like.  They are gorgeous in person as well but...I didn't think I'd like pulling the lid off a can full of coffee in the way that these slide off.  Some felt less secure than others and I was uncertain they'd be air tight for coffee.  I'll stick with what I've got for the present but yes, they are very pretty and if I can find a use for them in the future, well I might indulge myself, then.

We didn't buy lunch out.  We didn't pick up anything to eat at all.  Instead we came home and had leftovers which suited us just fine.

We turned off the ceiling fans before we left home this morning.  We turned them on when we returned.

John brought in apples, cheese and crackers about supper time this evening.  That was about all the supper we wanted.

Monday:  Katie gifted me a dozen fresh eggs.  I cooked some for breakfast this morning.  Fresh eggs can't be beat...There's a world of difference in a fresh egg and store bought.

I forgot while we were out yesterday to ask to go to the bakery for bread.  Well this morning, I rifled through the end loaves I put in the freezer over the last few weeks and pulled out enough pieces large enough to use for toast or to make a small sandwich.  I think this will do us for the next couple of days until am out and about in the area of the grocery once again.

John washed two full loads of clothes.  He hung most to dry and sorted through those he put in the dryer to pull out the ones that were actually dry.  It's funny how one piece of clothing can be totally dry and one piece completely wet even though they are side by side in the dryer.

I made potato salad this morning and there was the biggest portion of our meals today.  I served leftover hot dogs that I'd warmed in the microwave.  John used whole wheat tortillas as a wrap for his hot dogs.

For supper I pulled out leftover meatloaf and a piece of Bbq chicken.  We finished off the potato salad.

John's not fond of grapes once they fall off the vine but the ones in the fridge were still quite firm and still crisp.  I set the bowl out on the table this evening.  John helped himself.  I smiled because he'd never have taken them if I'd left them in the fridge.

It was nice this morning outdoors, cooler and pleasant though not as cool as Saturday or Sunday mornings.  Still, I opened the windows and let the house air until the AC came on around 11am.

Started fall decorating this morning.  I promised myself that this Labor Day, the first one John's had off in years, I would not labor long and hard, as I have in the past.  I merely started decorating today.  I didn't finish it and I didn't work hard at it.  I'm pretty pleased though with what I've accomplished.

Tuesday:  Used the last of this week's loaf of Challah to make toast this morning.

John offered to go to store to buy bread while he was in town getting gasoline for the mower.  I showed him that we had plenty enough to make sandwiches with and toast for breakfast for tomorrow morning.  I assured him I'd pick up bread while I was out in the area of the good grocery bakery I prefer.

We took off trash as we went into town.

I went out to my shed to see what I had to use for fall decorating.  A whole lot of stuff but none I want to use just yet.  I prefer to have a more 'end of summer' start to my fall decorating.  I did find I'd tossed the weirdly colored dollar store leaves picks and had only a few stems of things left that had the look I was after.  I re-fashioned my two summer door wreaths and felt right satisfied.  I put together a centerpiece for the buffet but that I'm not so sure of.  It reads pretty dark at present, not what I wanted to go with at all.  We'll see how I end liking that as the week goes on.

I really did myself no favors late last winter and into the early summer buying cheap cheap t-shirts from Walmart and the least expensive things I could find in my size from Zulily.  Here we are 7 months later and I have NOTHING I purchased in those months in my closet.  The t-shirts shrank, the things from Zulily, though the correct size when ordered proved to be too snug or far too small.  Result: I have given away or moved to the house drawer every.single.item.  What a waste of money!  Had I taken the same sum, bought two or possibly three nicer tops I'd likely still be wearing them. Lesson learned.  Again.  Because I know how to shop for quality pieces that wear well from season to season.  I just let myself go off and buy a bunch of things that I felt fit my budget rather than plan anything out.  I know better!

 Today I have been pre-shopping, looking at online websites for stores I plan to visit in the next week or two to see what is available.  I will take time to try things on in the store to insure fit.   I will read care labels.  I'm going to take my time to try and build a basic wardrobe that works with the three or four items still in my closet that I've had since last fall, as well as my current lot of accessories.

John mowed the lawn.

I made a simple dinner for myself using leftover meatloaf.

I took frozen cookie dough from the freezer to make a treat for us.

We snacked for supper this evening.  I had some of the homemade yogurt and a ripe pear with a splash of vanilla extract.  It was unbelievably good!

Wednesday:  John had to attend a work meeting today.  Thankfully he checked yesterday and discovered the court date he was to testify at had been moved to end of October.  He'll be paid for his time today.  Bonus: the company sponsoring the meeting/class took them out to lunch.

I used the last pieces of bread to make us both breakfast this morning.

I got ready to leave home shortly after John left.  My mission today was to start the shopping.  I  had such a good, but LONG, day!  I found gray and black pants, several tops and even a little black dress that fits like a dream!  I couldn't believe that I'd bought a dress. And the best part was that the dress was marked down to a ridiculous low price... 

I also found cute flat shoes that will be versatile I think.  I shopped long and hard today and was very critical of things when I put them on.  Did it fit well?  Was it a good fabric?  Could I use it as a dressy piece or a casual one or both?  Did I have other things to go with it?  Did I have accessories that would work well?  Could I really picture me wearing it or would I likely leave it hanging in the closet?  If the answer even appeared to be hesitant on the yes for wearing, I put it back on the rack.  I am not convinced I'll keep every single piece I bought today.  I'm going to sort out my closet tomorrow and I'm going to lay things out with my accessories and purses and play with each piece to be POSITIVE it will do before I hang it in the closet.

What I didn't find today: A blazer/jacket.  I tried one on that was black but it hit just above the hip bone, not a good spot on me.  The only other one I saw was a brown plaid which isn't working with the main colors in the wardrobe at all.

Bought a $5 lunch for myself.

We had two family members ask if we'd be evacuation destination for them should Irma make landfall in Florida/Georgia area.  Of course, we said yes.  I assessed last night what I likely had on hand and decided that I'd only buy a turkey breast, something I've wanted anyway, and bread.  We will eat from the freezer and pantry otherwise if they come in.  I am pretty sure we've plenty on hand but I was a little unsure of how much poultry I have on hand, hence the turkey breast.

Was horrified at the cost of the name brand turkey breast, $29.  Seriously!  I opted for the store brand one which came in at around $12.  Whew!

Thursday:  Text message last night that my south Georgia people are all coming in as evacuees from Hurricane Irma on Friday.  This set my mind reeling with all sorts of thinking ahead and so only a little sleep was had last night.  I'd thought perhaps I'd have until Sunday to prepare.  Nope.

So I was up extra early this morning, shivering in the chilly morning air and writing out lists and doing my Bible study because I knew I'd need all I had in me today and then some to accomplish much.

First thing I did was clear my closet.  I knew full well if I put all those new things in with the old ones that didn't fit it would just be crammed in and I'd be months getting back to that task.  I have a box of shirts to send to send Amie and a skirt for V.  I tossed shoes that were recently broke.  They were 8 years old.

My next task was to move items from the pantry to the kitchen.  When guests are in the guest room it gets very stressful for them and for myself to have to constantly run in to get this or that.  I stocked the kitchen with vegetables, fruits, baking items.

I then began refreshing my stored water.  I put a few of them in the freezer and bagged up ice to put in the deep freeze.

It's one thing to think of water needs for two and another to realize you must think of ten people!  I went to the shed and gathered every wine bottle (I had a collection I used as decorative glass), 1/2 gallon jars, carafes, pitchers, etc.  In other words, if it was capable of holding water, it got cleaned and sterilized and is ready to be put to use.

I sat down and planned out meals.  I have a plan of simple easy breakfasts and lunches and one good meal daily, a cheap filling main dish being the star.   I have come up with a half dozen and have all I need to make those meals on hand.

I have to run an errand in the morning and while I'm out I will be picking up disposable cups and plates.  Washing dishes for ten people even with water running is a big job but without water it would be  too difficult to keep up.  I will also get a couple of loaves of bread, a gallon of milk and some fruit.  I think, if it's available, I'll also buy a case of water.

I used the very last of the meatloaf to make John and I a sandwich for dinner.  I put the sandwiches in the oven to heat during the last few minutes of the banana bread baking.

Yes, I baked a banana bread.  I had three ripe bananas that weren't going to be eaten.  The Banana bread wasn't quite baked through after 65 minutes.  I slipped it back into the oven, turned off the heat and left it while we ate lunch.  That was just enough time to finish it's baking without overcooking.

It was a beautiful day outdoors.  I could tell the breeze was going to make short work of the laundry John had hung to dry.  I decided to go ahead and take down the living and dining room curtains and wash them as I'd been meaning to do for over a week.  I hung the new sheers when I hung the dry curtains later and am very pleased with how light and bright the room looks now.

I washed a full load of dishes.  This load included the old aluminum percolator coffee pot and the coffee basket and stem.  I am not going to go coffee free if electricity does go out!

I worked up the bills and wrote checks for the pay period at the beginning of next week.  I was pleased that this coming pay period, I could set aside a little more than 1/4 of our Christmas money.

Our last credit card bill was very high.  Every single penny was paid this week. I had set money aside for all but one purchase and had saved in anticipation of that.  The remainder will come from our savings account, but it will take a lot lighter hit than John thought it might thanks to saving those sums prior to the bill coming in.

I don't expect to have time to write up tomorrow's savings, at least not by tomorrow afternoon as I normally do.  I will try to share next week if all goes well.

What did you do to save this week?

Living Well

I sat on the porch Monday morning with the pets, as I normally do.  Maddie is so silly she won't eat if she hasn't got company.

It was cool and lovely outdoors.  And peaceful.   Funny thing was, it wasn't quiet at all.  There was a group of crows across the field loudly arguing over something.  It was ridiculous really, how loud they were, but somehow that noise didn't disturb the peace of the morning.

The week has been hectic and busy and I'm quite tired but that peace has stayed with me all week long, returning at odd moments, just when I need it most.

Coffee Chat: Nearly Autumn

Hello dears.  I've just taken cookies from the oven.  They are chocolate chip and quite warm so you must quickly take one up...I think as good as chocolate chip cookies are, there's nothing like a warm one filled with melt-y chips.  I almost always choose the largest one on the pan first, but then I think better of it and put it back, opting instead for the one with the most chocolate chips showing.  Does anyone else do that?  Have some coffee and a seat and let's talk for a bit.  It's too  full of gnats outdoors to be pleasant to sit outside on the porch as I'd like.  I've been out three times already trying and without a breeze to shoo the gnats away it's a botheration to be out there. 

And there goes the second reason I've no desire to outdoors...John is mowing the lawn.  It's slowed it's growth finally but not to the point of waiting more than 10 days to cut again.  You see his funny hat to keep sun off his ears and neck and the sunglasses?  Maddie runs and hides when she sees him.  We thought it was the mower that upset her but it seems it's John in his mowing garb.  Such a silly doggy!

Silly or not, she's quite good at predicting weather.  Last night I hurried out to take pillows I'd been airing from the line and there she was in her dog house.  She always looks so apologetic for having been IN the dog house but I know her well.  I scanned the skies and there was nothing to indicate weather coming in.  I listened hard and heard nothing.  But I promise you I hadn't been indoors five minutes when the heavens opened and rain poured down for the next 45 minutes.  Not one of the weather folks predicted that shower...

We've had a lovely time during John's days off.  Mostly we've just been at home, but we did make a trip over to the mountain last week and we enjoyed that a great deal, including the part where we got lost.   And over the weekend we went to Katie's where Matt grilled steaks and we watched Taylor dance and prompt the characters in her favorite movie to say their next lines.  I was able to admire the many things Katie has done to her downstairs.  It's lovely, truly lovely and her work was worthwhile.

Mostly though, we've been at home.  We rested and relaxed and though we did push hard a few days to do lots at home and in the yard we also spent a few days doing much of nothing.  Meals have been hap hazard and mostly consist of leftovers presented in a new way or not eating much of anything at all, because we haven't been hungry.

The trip up to the mountain and to Katie's which is a 3 hour drive for us, presented many trees showing the first beginning changes of color.  We'd noted this in early August when we went down to Sam's, that trees were beginning to be tipped with color down South of us in the wet areas.   So we weren't really surprised to see those changes north of us, not as subtle as they'd been in August in the southern part of the state.   However, this week we've looked at our trees about our land and the Turkey foot oak is sporting many red leaves, the Ginkgo which always changes early on our place is green gold and the Pecan and Sweet Gum sport gold leaves amongst their greenery.   We see the signs of a changing season all about us.  The mornings are cool and glistening with dew that takes hours to dry out.  These are autumn mornings here.  In summer months we seldom have heavy dews.

I am ready for autumn this year.  Ready to see summer end.  Looking back I see no real hardship to make me feel so glad to have it go.  It was hot but not excessively so.  It was humid but nothing out of the ordinary.  We had rain enough and that was pleasant though it meant more mowing of the lawn.  But for some reason, summer felt like it was terribly hard.  

I could blame John's work.  The stress of not knowing until the last possible moment if there would be a job was burdensome.  And then the strain of there being no change on too many fronts where change was needed and the getting used to the new schedule, the waiting to see if finances worked out.  There was no raise again this year, but we're getting used to that, sad to say.  In the last 23 years of service I doubt we had a raise half of those years.  The new schedule is tougher but we no longer have that one short pay period that always  left us struggling to make ends meet until  the larger pay period.  Now the two checks each month are the same amount and that's a help and a sort of raise, I suppose, though John must work the mandatory overtime that makes up the increase.

But it wasn't all the job, either.  Some family issues, some sorrow, misunderstandings...and that one big sorrowful thing.  There were illnesses among the family but nothing lasting though some were more worrying than others.   There was no family day but we visited and were visited by the two children within the state.  I heard from Amie and JD.  I  got first day of school photos of JD's children.  Yes,  those things happened.  We've had worse seasons where family is concerned.  

I can't say just why I felt so strained and worn down in August, really I can't.  But I can tell you that this rest time has been wonderful, just what I personally needed.   It's also  been a time of insight for me as well, which  I hadn't thought would happen.  Some of those insights were humbling experiences that sort of took the wind out of my sails for a bit, but I see the benefit of the revelations.  In a funny sort of way, having those insights come at the time they did, helped me to relax a little and stop pressuring myself over things I am not called to.

So yes, I've benefited from this time off and I could tell Monday morning that I was back in my stride, ready to begin the new season that is so evident about me.

I'd noted at Katie's that she'd put up an autumn wreath and had a few touches in each room of the house.  That pleased me because I'd been thinking with all the trees changing that I was ready to put a few touches in my home.  I don't start my decorating with blatantly fall looking things but I try to add hints of the season.  Colors here come on slowly.  Autumn is a time of blooming here in the South.  Mallow blooms pink and lovely, and goldenrod waves.  There are yellow flowering weeds and white blooms and here and there some purple flowers,  not to mention all the tall grasses that come into maturity.  It's like a second spring, really.  The leaves on the trees start to show their bit of color but not until all the flowers are done and the first frosts have come do we get the rich brilliant colors of autumn.

So I wanted subtle colors mixed with rusty looking greens and barely tinted leaves.  I think I achieved the look I wanted rather well.  Later in the season, when it's well and truly autumn, I'll bring out my pumpkins,  remove the greens from the floral displays and wreaths, and add richer, deeper colors.

I'm anxious to spruce up the potted plants.  The petunias are done and the snapdragons died back.   The baskets of impatiens and salvias look bedraggled.  The herbs look pitiful and the mint died.  It's time to add new plants.  I hope this week or next there will be autumn blooming plants in the market.  I'd like to have some asters this year.  I haven't had asters in years, not since I planted my very first flowers as a newly married young bride 40 years ago.  Funny, I haven't even thought of that first little flower bed until just now!  Oh my gracious...

I promised myself this year that I would find a good source of flower seeds and begin to plant some of those old flowers, the ones I grew up with, the ones I first grew when I planted my first flower gardens.  All these years I've meant to do this, and haven't.  Lately it seems I must do those things I've pushed aside too often.  I must make the effort to listen to the music that thrills my soul and have the flowers I crave to see in my yard.

And more...One of the insights I had this past week was that I want to do more of those things which I'd intended to do, those things that are simple enough, the good intentions sorts of things.  I'm telling myself, "Just do it..."  And so far, I have.  The soul satisfaction of doing something is so much greater than the thought of merely doing can ever be.

I won't share the deepest most personal insights with you because I've mixed those up into Coffee Chats in the past and they don't 'fit'.  Really these chats are not meant to be heavy things.  They are meant to be a neighborly sort of break in the day and so I'll keep those deeper more personal things for sharing at another time, when it's heart to heart time,  but I will share those insights which deal with my home and work and finances in these coffee chats.

For one thing there's the insight that my wardrobe is a mess.   Over late winter and through early summer, I indiscriminately purchased the cheapest items in my size that I could find.  Not one nice piece among them and I do mean I spent very little.  I took a small portion of some money gifted me in Spring and bought accessories meant to pull together the motley lot of things I'd purchased because I found way back then that I had nothing much to wear.   I've realized since that what I've ended up with at the end of this summer is pretty much what I had at the end of last autumn.    The shirts I bought from Walmart, which were about $4 each,  either shrank badly or didn't wear well for one reason or another.  The things I'd ordered from Zulily that looked nice online were too snug or didn't fit at all and the fabric was often weird in some way.  I ended up giving all of them away.  ALL.

The only piece I have left from all my purchases over the last 7 months is a white t-shirt I picked up at Ross for Less.  Fortunately that was a better quality piece.  Every other piece of clothing is gone and done.  I realized this week I might have taken the same amount of money spent on all those so cheap pieces and had perhaps two more decent shirts, such as that white t-shirt.

Fortunately I have some money set aside to purchase new clothes with and I have been thinking long and hard about what I shall try to purchase.   I need to basically start fresh.  I have a nice pair of skinny jeans, a white t-shirt, a denim jacket and a blouse I truly love wearing in a sheer Navy print.  There's  a deep V-neck charcoal gray t-shirt that I can wear over a tank top and the white jeans I've had for two or three years now can still be worn.   I have a black trench coat that works very well for me.  Those are the things I can use through the fall that are in my closet, at present.  I have a pair of boot leg jeans but I'm not keen on them.  They fit just fine, perfectly in every way really,  but I loathe that awkward flare of the boot leg.  I don't feel it suits my figure very well and I'd prefer to relegate those jeans to wearing about the house in future if I can replace them.

I got quite frustrated Sunday morning in trying to dress for church.  I usually wear jeans to church.  That wasn't the problem, it was finding a top that would look nice with the skinny jeans because I'd worn the others to Katie's the day before and sat in something on the porch bench that necessitated their being washed.  I'd bought several tops that were meant to be loose and more tunic length which I think looks best with the skinny jeans.  I put on one of those Zulily shirts and it was so ill fitting I nearly ripped it off.  That was the day it really came home to me that I had nothing to wear of all those things I'd purchased this year.  Shame on me for wasting my funds and shame on me for thinking I could get by with things I hadn't tried on or shame for buying things that were lesser quality.

I normally wear jeans to church as does most of the pastoral staff, but I'd like the option of wearing something that aren't jeans now and then.  I don't need a lot of dressy clothes, but I need some.  I'd noted when I dressed for Jason's funeral that the black pants I'd had in the closet were looking well worn.  I don't own a dress and haven't a skirt that fits.  My life is a casual life for the most part and I don't desire to dress for  the life I don't have.  But let's face it...some occasions call for something just a bit nicer than jeans, even if they are a dark wash!

I want very much to assemble a wardrobe that works hard and does whatever duty it's called to do. I have some knowledge about how to go about it...but I'm still a little nervous about this upcoming shopping.  For one thing, I'll be buying more than I normally do in a season.  I've never really had to start with so little before.  I plan to try to establish a base color with accents.  I can't say just yet what that base color will be because I haven't been out to see what is available.  I don't want black though I think black pants are versatile, dressing up or down.  I want a blazer or jacket of some sort, besides the denim one.  Not a jacket for outdoors.   I like black but it can be very oppressive looking with my black hair.  So I'm not really thinking I'd want to have a black base to my wardrobe.  I like navy.  But will I find anything in Navy that will work?   It's hard to find basic neutrals in this day and age when clothes are seemingly meant to be worn for a season and then  done away with.

And in the meantime, the few things that I have in my closet that won't do for wear outside have made the house clothes drawer overfull.  Sigh...

Well, enough chatter I think.  It's good to take time to sit down and talk again after time away.  It's good to be home!

Stockpile on a Budget

From my earliest memory, each summer the women of my family were busy  "Putting something by" as my Grandmama always called the annual summer activity of canning and freezing foods.   We pretty much lived off the produce for nine months or more from what they put up each year from the gardens and I can seriously not recall one family member who didn't have a garden.

After I mentioned my personal desire to have a year's supply of food on hand in my home, Jessica asked how one went about building a stockpile, especially if you were on a tight budget.

I'm going to start with the 'putting by' part first.  If your family enjoys fruits or vegetables and you're blessed to be given produce from someone's garden, then try to put some of that up in the freezer or can it.  If you're not sure how to can or feel nervous about it, I'm sure there's someone you know who knows how and will be willing to help you learn.  In the early years of my first marriage,  I had a tight budget, sometimes very tight.  I learned quickly to accept the half a wild hog, the deer meat a hunter didn't want or the peaches I was told I could cull from an orchard.  I also went out to forage: blackberries and plums and huckleberries (a tiny blue berry) grow wild hereabouts, as do scuppernongs and muscadines.  I picked and froze fruits and made jellies.  It was a huge help to building my stockpile.  I also picked up pecans each year and would shell those out.  The happy bonus was that I always had a little something to give as gifts, too.  Not too many people I know don't welcome a jar of homemade jelly or a pound of shelled pecans or fresh blueberries!

In order to stockpile using the traditional stores,  I found it easiest to look for great sales and then allot  a certain amount each pay period to stocking up on one or two items that were on sale.
Personally, I'd start with the basics.  Baking supplies and basic canned foods are always useful in a stockpile.  If you can't buy six of something, by what you need and one or two extra.  Continue to do that every pay period and you should have a stockpile started before long.

If there were just $5 a week set aside  to use to build a stockpile, one could do quite a lot with just that small amount!  For instance:  This past week while shopping at Aldi, I bought sugar at $1.39 for 4 pounds.  With $5 to spend, I could get four bags of sugar, or about 16 pounds.   That's a pretty good start on a stockpile!  Flour costs roughly the same in a 5# bag at Aldi.  So  I could buy 4 bags of flour for $5 the next time I shopped. 

In other grocery stores, rice or black beans can be had for $1 a pound bag (and sometimes for far less, if you shop around), so that's 5 pounds of black beans for $5.  If you look around at various stores, you'll likely find that the more rice you purchase the less it costs.  So you could easily add 5 pounds of rice without spending $5.

The biggest thing in building a stockpile is to what you typically eat.   If your family doesn't eat beans and rice, then don't buy it!  Perhaps they love pasta.  You can easily buy 10 pounds of spaghetti or macaroni for $5.

Do you think your budget is too tight to even consider the $5 a week method?  Then set aside all your spare change and use that to stock up at the end of a month.  John and I used to pool our change and we seldom had less than $10 a month in change and often far more than that.  We managed to save quite a substantial sum each year on our tightest budgets, so I know it can make a huge difference.

Earlier this year I had a series of posts " Eating Well On a Budget."  In the first scenario I presented  I started with NO stockpile and bought food for my household on a very limited budget.  In each scenario thereafter,  I ended the period with a small stockpile, though I'd not had any money to buy extra food. In  January 2017 leftovers were non-existent but at the end of February 2017 I had enough leftovers to actually call it a small stockpile.  I made up these challenges through March of 2017, with slight increases each time in my 'weekly' amount to spend.  I think that is proof that we can build a stockpile if we don't have any money to spare.

Another method we used in the  past was to take a portion of a windfall amount or $100 or so from our income tax return and use that as stockpile money.  That income tax refund portion fed our kids all through the long summers when we needed to provide that midday lunch for them.

Just this year I asked for $100 from our income tax return and used that to stock up on laundry and dish detergents and the few cleaners we use in our home.  I even managed to stockpile plastic baggies and trash bags with the funds I had and then turned $10 back over to John that was leftover! 

One of the bloggers I mention later in this post, Brenda, often uses gift cards given to her at Christmas to add to her stockpile.   It's truth that you can buy food of some sort in just about any store these days.  I've purchased food items at Ross and TJ Maxx.  They might not be the traditional food items but a bottle of really good Vanilla can be purchased in these two stores, as well as coffee, tea, jellies and jams.  I once bought all the bottles they had of a lovely lemon curd for about $1.50 each.  Those jars translated into some lovely desserts over the months after I bought them.  Drugstores too can be a great source for food items, far more practical ones than at TJ Maxx or Ross, and don't forget Target stores.  We don't have a super Target but there's quite a variety of foodstuffs there.  A gift card to that store could nicely plump a stockpile.  I bought flour and chocolate chips enough to last a full year there after Christmas a few years back.  A year's worth!  I didn't spend over $30 on all that and what a boon it was to my pantry.

So you see, it can be done on a budget and it can be done in increments.   The main thing is to start where you are...

If it seems frivolous to set aside even a small amount towards stockpiling each month, I have to share this one thing that keeps me mindful of our own stockpile.   For a six week period, quite a short time really but it didn't seem so at the time, I was unable to buy any groceries at all, other than fresh milk and bread.  My family ate from the pantry and freezer every single day of those six weeks.  It was mighty slim at the end of that period but it kept us fed.  It taught me a wonderful lesson about a stock pile.  It's like having an emergency fund, not of cash, but of food.  That's why my current goal is to build ours up to a year of foods.   If experts think we ought to have six to twelve months of our salary set aside to cover our expenses, how much further could we stretch those funds if we also had a year's supply of food on hand?

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the practice of using free offers, coupons and rewards cards to acquire free items for the pantry.  This past week there was an offer in the CVS sales sheet that would have allowed me to get a tube of toothpaste FREE.  Sadly, the coupon I had didn't allow me to buy the formula I use but just the formula that I always have a reaction to using.  That was my only hold back on getting that item.  At Kroger this past week I happily picked up my two free items while I was in the immediate area shopping.  I added  a box of macaroni and cheese to our stockpile this week and put a protein bar in the diabetic pack I keep in my purse at all times.

Don't overlook either your ability to make your own foods.  I've been making my own yogurt now for the past 8 months.  I'd done it before but stopped and then I realized that I'd rather make 3 pints of good tasting yogurt for the cost of half a gallon of milk, about 85c this pay period and a starter of plain yogurt.  It takes half a  six ounce cup of plain yogurt for starter, about 33c in my grocery.  I freeze the other 3 ounces and save it for the next time I need a fresh starter.  In between times, I can use a 3 ounce portion of my homemade yogurt as starter.  So for about $1.05 I get 3 pint jars of yogurt and the next time I make yogurt it costs me just 85c, or whatever half a gallon of milk costs, to make the next 3 pints.  That's about fifteen 6ounce servings of yogurt by the way, for 85c...Not a bad switch to make financially.  If you typically buy yogurt by the cup and you start making your own, you can use the savings towards building our stockpile.

Oddly enough, the larger your stockpile the less money you'll find you spend on groceries over all.  You'll be in the position of buying foods only when it's at the very best prices.

There are many good blogs out there to help one understand how easy it is to build a pantry or stockpile.

Brenda at Coffee, Tea, Books and Me blog has a series of posts called Deepening the Pantry that is an especially good resource for those on a budget.  Brenda's lived on a tight budget for a number of years and she's used several methods to help build her pantry.  Read through Saturday Pantry  as well if you'd like to read further information from Brenda.

Brandy at is a great resource for feeding a family on a tight budget.  Not only does she feed her family, she stockpiles food as well.  A great deal could be learned from Brandy.

And then there's Annabel who started getting serious with her pantry one year and had completely built it up and filled it full in just a few months time, simply by 'doing the next thing.'  The link leads to the portion of her blog she's tagged 'Pantry' but I by no means limit yourself to just that.  Her blog is a wonderful resource on living frugally and well, something I'm rather fond of doing myself!

I hope I've encouraged you to build your stockpile.  You really can do it in increments, a little at a time, for just a little money each month using all of the above mentioned methods.

In My Home This Week: In September...

In my home this week...

...I am looking forward to cooler temperatures, especially at night, and crisp fall leaves, apple desserts and the smell of wood smoke drifting on the evening air...and I'm waiting impatiently for such a time to come as we finish up summer.  

My anticipation is enhanced by the appearance of trees about the place and in the woods in areas where we drove over the past week and this weekend.  The leaves are changing, some are noticeably changed, others are more subtle.  Outside the living room window a single stem of leaves on the pecan tree has gone solid gold.  I don't recall ever seeing the pecan tree change this early in the season.

In many ways, even though the season has two weeks more before appearing, this weekend signifies the unofficial end of summer for many folks.  From here we are leaning hard towards autumn, getting short timer's disease much as though leaving an old job for a new one.    

All that said, can any of us really think of much except our Texan and Louisiana neighbors?  I've thought of them all through out each day and looked at the houses underwater, debated what, if anything would be of the most import to me under the same circumstances.   I can't even imagine homes that might have hefty mortgage payments, and people who can't go to work or who might not have a job after all is done.  Prayers continue here for all those folks, as I'm sure they do in your own homes.

And just a word of warning:  we're all likely to see some rising prices as things get sorted out in Texas.  Oil refineries are closed, fuel prices will likely rise and that means cost of things will rise, as well.  We've all been through it before and there's not much point in complaining.  Let's just tighten our belts and stretch our resources and keep thinking of those who've lost a lifetime of belongings and dreams.

...I plan my work week:
No plans to labor on Labor Day this year as I did last year.  That said, the vacation time is over and done.  Time to get back to work both on the blog and in my home.  John returns to work at the end of the week.  He has a meeting and a court date mid-week which will take him away from home, but mostly he'll be home the bulk of the week, so not a whole lot of planning going on.

Make up a few freezer meals, some individual entrees and some family sized, and this includes cookie doughs, cake, and perhaps a couple of apple pies.  This sort of work is easily done with John at home, unlike some of the bigger tasks I sometimes I want to accomplish, lol.  

Get the slipcover on the living room chair done.

Do a little autumn decorating.  We visited with Katie this weekend and as I wandered around looking at her new d├ęcor downstairs, I couldn't help but notice she'd put out a few fall touches.  It was subtle but definitely fall.  A little later her mother in law stopped in to speak to me and she looked around then turned to me and exclaimed "Oh GOOD!  She's got her fall things out, that means I can go home and pull out mine."  I chuckled to myself that we two fully grown and older women look to Katie as the guide for when to decorate for fall.  However, for all of you, Katie assures me that it's acceptable to put out fall things anytime after September 1.  Just sayin'!

Look online for fabric to replace my desk chair cover and possibly make another, as I've inherited John's old chair from the music room.   I also want some lovely colored velvet to make soft pumpkins with.   I looked at Hobby Lobby for fabric last week not finding anything in the least like what I want, though I did find two nice heavy upholstery quality pieces that I think will be pretty for pumpkins.

If the sun shines, then I'll hang those new white sheers in the living and dining room.  I'll wash the curtains and hang them to dry on the line.

Just continuing to do routine jobs and enjoying the time off that John has.  That's the biggest plan of the week.

...I plan our meals:
Despite meal plans last week I got off track.  Some of it had to do with more leftovers than I'd thought we'd have.  Some of it had to do with a general lack of interest in the meals planned.  We ate out only one day, which I had planned for last week.  

On my own x 1

at Katie's on Saturday

Leftovers on Sunday

rest of the week:

Shredded BBQ Chicken, Chips, Coleslaw, Lemon Pudding

Tuna Salad in Tomato Cases, Deviled Eggs, Potato Sticks

Kielbasa with Potatoes, Carrots and Cabbage, Corn Muffins

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole, Green Beans, Tossed Salad

...I plan leisure:
"Hazel", "The Danny Kaye Show", "Perry Mason", "Leave It To Beaver"...get the idea?  I've found a bevy of lovely old shows on television and that is what I've been watching these past two weeks.  It's done me as much good as anything I've tried.  

I am especially enjoying "Hazel" who is thrifty and practical.  Did you know she put her nephew through law school?  That she had stocks and bonds she'd purchased, one at a time?  That she used essential oils?  Ah yes to all of these things and that's just what I learned in three episodes!

Listen to good music that fills my soul.

I've found it helpful to look at silly dog and cat pictures for a good hearty laugh or at least long healthy giggles.  I plan to continue this week.  

And read.

Afternoon Coffee Chat: Weathering the Storm

Hello dears...Do come in.  I've a fresh pot of coffee and though it's hot outdoors, I confess that after my day in the kitchen t...