Sunday Iced Tea Chat

I've been trying to start this chat for about two hours now, lol.  Definitely thinking that iced tea would really hit the spot at the moment!  There are caramel cookies and a lovely little coconut/oat flour bar cookie to have with the tea.  I have mint and lemon to go in your glass of tea, if you'd like.  Have you tried mint in iced tea?  Oh gracious but it adds a lovely frosty flavor to the tea!  That's why I planted a potful of mint this summer.

Tell me....Where does time fly off to?!  It's been one month and one day since my last Coffee Chat post.  I can't believe it's almost July, sigh.  At least this month I've ticked off a few of my goals, albeit none of the major ones.  Still, I've been running behind since March so I don't suppose I ought to be all caught up in just a single month.

John and I have determined we are going to stay on 'sabbatical' for a bit longer.  There's a good reason and I'll share it a bit in the future, but right now I don't feel it's the moment to do so.  I've more thoughts to share about the past two months that I long to share, but no time to write them down.  I'll think it all out over the next few days and get it on screen.

I  have been busy as can be the past few days.  I made up my mind around June 14, that I really wanted to declutter my home.  From a standpoint of having done this many times over the past few years, I've not found a load of stuff to leave the house thus far, but it's still freeing all the same to watch things go out the door for donation or into the trash.  Not to give the impression that I keep a dirty house...I just tend to think of the 'some day' value of things, usually odds and ends of newspaper and cardboard and egg cartons and old towels and such.  And then of course, after a year or so I realize I'm keeping a load of junk for a project I'm no nearer starting than I was when I began saving the odds and ends for it. 

So two trash bags and two donation bags thus far have been packed up (the trash bags carried off).  Yesterday in my quiet time I cleared out just loads and loads of files on my computer from emails to recipes to blogs.  I pared down hard on the blogs and recipes!  I cut my facebook friends list in half.  I can't believe how many people I had on that list that I never saw post at all.

Today I got up early and went right to work on housework and then I swapped the buffet for the dresser and the dresser for the buffet in the dining area/entry area.  But I'll tell you truth, I have run out of energy today after the housework and am now settled for a quiet afternoon of chatting and reading.

I've noticed something since we've been having homemade cookies instead of store a rule two generally are just the perfect amount.  I think it's because the sweetness is genuine and the ingredients are fresh.  I could have eaten a half bag full of store bought cookies at times and not been as satisfied as two of my own homemade ones make me feel.   As I've returned to more and more homemade items, I find I don't even want to compromise for the sake of convenience any longer.

This was driven home Thursday a week ago.  John had been out to practice and he called to say he was stopping on the way home for ice cream.  He brought in a half gallon of a really good brand that is made of natural ingredients.  He'd chosen to purchase vanilla, which is highly unusual because typically he brings in the Dutch Chocolate.  He wanted chocolate syrup and I grabbed my Tightwad Gazette book, read off the four ingredients needed (cocoa powder, sugar, water and vanilla) and in three minutes I'd made chocolate syrup.  Four simple ingredients...Would you believe it? The labels on most packages have easily a dozen on the most simple foods alone; three quarters of that is unpronounceable and unknown.

 I don't suppose I'll ever be the type to grind my own wheat, and John seems more than happy with fresh produce straight from the grocery as opposed to going to the trouble of growing it ourselves, but I'm happy to cook whole foods and make my own 'convenience' foods and things like BBQ sauce (which I made from scratch last week by the way and it was so awesome.  Why have I been buying that bitter tasting stuff?) and chocolate syrup (again, awesome).

Goodness!  I do believe a nap is trying it's best to sneak up on me at the moment.

While I was clearing files from my computer yesterday I attempted to watch my Netflix movie.  Ugh.  It might have been very very mildly amusing had it not been for the irratic sound.  To hear the speaking parts I maxed out volume at 100, but the musical score would shatter the sound barriers and so the volume had to be turned down to about 10.  By mid-movie I'd had enough and switched the Dvd off entirely.  A happy incident as it turned out.  I caught two good movies back to back on one of the tv stations and thoroughly enjoyed them, despite commercial breaks.

This past Monday was Samuel's birthday, my niece's birthday was Tuesday and today is Katie's.  That will finish off the June birthdays.  Next month I have one granddaughter and one grandson's birthday to see to and then in August another grandson's and no more until November when the twins turn 1.

My California children are now Georgia children.  They arrived in state on Wednesday and after an overnight stop they traveled to their new home where they are camping out until furniture arrives this coming week.  We'll be seeing grand-babies at some point in the week ahead.  I'm not sure when.  We have to get the animals vaccinated for rabies (there are outbreaks in the county), will need to buy groceries and I think John is due a haircut (I know I am).  However, we've got a full 7 days off to attend to all these things and see grand-babies, too.

I want to make out a month of menus for July just as I did for June.  I think I served about half the meals on my June list.  I deviated a few times and had more leftovers than I'd anticipated and we ate out more than usual.  However, having that list handy made planning so much easier when  I had no clue what we might eat.  I'd planned most meals to include what we already had on hand and that was a huge help as well, because I knew I had the basic ingredients right here.  With my very low spending planned for July I've no desire to find myself  wishing I had this ingredient or that, or running out to purchase them either.

I went outdoors just now to see what the 'roar' was about.  Apparently a band of the Tropical Storm down in the Gulf of Mexico swept over us with some pretty strong wind there for a bit.  Maddie and Trudy were completely unnerved by it but I fed them their dinner and sat on the porch as they ate it.  Things calmed down and I noticed the Swifts came out to glide across the sky.  The dogs ate and I moved a few of my plants to a more secure setting.  I got the sheets off the line and took down the new Hurricane lanterns I bought a couple of weeks ago.  No desire to hear those things crashing onto the pavement below!

It's funny, really.  We generally see some activity from most of the Tropical storms and hurricanes out of the Gulf.  I few years ago we dealt with some damage courtesy Frances and Ivan.  Our electricity was out for a few days.  We live a good 300 miles from the Gulf Coast but almost always see really heavy rain, lots of wind and some pretty freaky thunderstorms if it makes landfall at Mobile, Alabama.  However, we seldom see much more than squallish rain if there's a storm on the Atlantic coast of the state.

 It's because of hurricanes that I insisted upon a gas stove.  I do not do hurricane weather without coffee.  I can manage all else, but no coffee makes me a whiny pitiful babe, I'm hear to tell you.  Since we no longer buy instant coffee, I now possess one of those retro aluminum percolators with all the inner workings and a cute little French press coffee pot.  I will have my coffee, you see!

I've had such a hard time of late getting up in the mornings during the work week.  I don't know why.  Usually it's winter time when I am reluctant to get up, but I've been sleeping really, really well the last few weeks and when that alarm goes off it always catches me deeply asleep. I went back to bed Thursday morning and slept about an hour more.  Yesterday morning I got cold and covered up with that quilt Katie gave me and went right off to sleep.  I think she sewed sleeping powder into that quilt, lol.  Every time I use it I end up dozing off.

This morning I didn't want to get up at all.  The alarm went off and the snooze alarm went off twice before I made it out of the room.  But while I was standing at the kitchen counter making John's breakfast, a mocking bird began to sing and a few minutes later when I looked out of the window the sky was glorious with the first bits of a colorful sunrise.  When I was seeing John off, Maddie came up on the deck and sat on my foot and looked up at me with a big grin.  John was sweet...Well why on earth would I want to stay abed when all this awaited me at the beginning of each day?

Well, I suppose I've chattered long enough.  I have a few quick jobs to attend to before John comes in for the evening.  Hope you enjoyed your visit!

Weekly Menu: The Summer Version

Whew!  I've been hard at work already today and while I'm hardly finished, I've accomplished enough that the end will soon be in sight.  Anything after that is purely 'extra bonus work'.  I've been so busy, I've not bothered to get anything out to thaw for my lunch today.  That leaves me two options: I run into town and buy a Sub sandwich or pick up something frozen at the grocery OR I scrounge about and make a meal from what I have on hand already.  I'm leaning hard on the scrounge part at the moment. I know I have several things that can be either a heat and eat meal or a quickly prepared entree that is frozen and may be baked straight from the freezer.

I thought while I caught my breath between tasks this morning I'd share my menu for the week ahead.  Gracious but this cold water and fan are just the thing to cool me down while I relax for a few minutes!

Thai Roasted Chicken, Cashew Rice, Spinach and Peach Salad
Part of the work this week involved clearing out lots of files on my computer, and that included deleting recipes from my recipe files that I no longer found appealing.  The first two dishes of this menu though, sounded good to me.  The chicken is more or less marinated with basil, coconut milk, ginger.  The rice has similar flavorings with cashews tossed in.  I may have to substitute almonds, I think we polished off the cashews last week.

Black Bean Enchiladas, Green Salad, Mocha Parfaits
I put the enchiladas in the freezer earlier this month and I think a busy day warrants an easy meal.  I'll put sauce over the enchiladas and bake, then stir up instant pudding with a tiny bit of instant coffee and milk, layer in pretty goblets with graham cracker crumbs and whipped cream.  Easy as can be.  I'll have time to put my feet up while the entree heats.

Deli fried chicken, Potato Salad,  Fresh Green Beans, Banana Cake with Brown Sugar Butter Frosting
I can make the potato salad ahead and steam the green beans when we return from the store.  The cake recipe was in my files and since I happen to have over ripe bananas at the moment, it seems meant to make.  It's another new recipe...

Sandwich Platter, Chips, Fresh Peaches
I'll make up a few different types of sandwiches: perhaps chicken salad and pimento cheese and add a bowl  of homemade refrigerator pickles perhaps some salted roasted almonds to round out the meal and make it feel a bit more substantial.  This is a meal we can take with us if we happen to want to travel anywhere or would make a great Shabat day dinner, as it will require very little prep from me.

Au Gratin Potatoes with sliced Frankfurters, Cucumber and Tomato Salad, Butter Beans, Peach Sundaes
This will be a 'low meat' dish, as the frankfurter is meant more as a flavoring for the potato dish.  I know we're looking heavy on the side of peaches this week but they are in season, locally grown and the season is moving ahead rather quickly this year.  I'll be much surprised if they last out the month of July as the free stone varieties are now coming into season and those usually wait a bit later.  I'll slice a peach, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, microwave for about 1 minute then serve the warm peach slices over a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  

Vegetable Lasagna, Rustic Rosemary Bread,  Banana Cake
I have such a variety of vegetables to go in my lasagna (I'll make extra while roasting and then add fresh spinach as well) that I don't think it necessary to add a salad to the meal, although I might if we are especially hungry. 

Meat Loaf, Fresh beans with new potatoes, Squash with Onions, Peach Cobbler
I simply must have a taste of meat loaf!  I like to use cold meat loaf for sandwiches as well, so it's very economical to stretch.  I won't make a big meat loaf as I did in the days when all the children were at home.  I confess this is one of my most favorite summer time meals!

Thrifty Thursday

My pot of basil and mint...The gnome has a bluebird in his hand, something Katie knows I'm particularly fond of.  I've used basil and mint fresh for weeks now and the plants have filled out nicely from the skinny little things that came home from the grocery with me.

Saturday:  Back to synagogue.  We packed water bottles from home for our long day ahead.

Recalled that I'd brought home some handtowels to wash after Passover and quickly grabbed those to go back with us, too.

Opted out of having lunch out with the group and headed to the grocery for dog food then home.

Reheated pizza for our dinner when we got home.

Lazy afternoon and evening at home.  We had sandwiches for supper and made more of those good frozen lemonades.  Such a nice treat!  I'll definitely be buying more lemons so I can make more of these!

Sunday:  Up early, as John worked an extra shift.  Took 2 half pound packages of ground meat from freezer to thaw for dinner today and tomorrow.

Stripped the bed and washed a load of sheets/dishcloths and table linens.  I hung all on the line to dry.  Carried out our bed pillows and put them on the line to air, too.

Tossed a pillow that was so old I couldn't remember how long we'd had it...I do recall recovering it about 15 years ago and it was old then.  I decided that some things we just don't need to hang on to.

Decided today was paint day.  I took my free table (dumpster picked) out to front porch and painted with Kilz.  Had some of the Kilz left in my paint tray, so I touched up the storm door.  It looked so neat and nice.  I'll definitely go over it with another coat of white paint but just the Kilz alone made a huge difference.

Crushed the crumbs of the Doritos left in the bag (about 1/3 cup) and mixed with half pound ground beef.  I was thinking on the order of a nacho burger...Shocked to see Katie and Sam coming up driveway.  Quickly grabbed other half pound of thawed meat and patted out two more burgers.

Had a pie in the freezer which made a nice dessert for our simple meal.  Good thing.  Mama stopped by just as the coffee was prepared and we were about to have dessert. Always enough for one more!

While visiting with the kids, they headed to front porch.  I grabbed my free can of Behr paint (from an email offer last year) and put two coats on that table.  It looks really nice and is the perfect inexpensive piece to set between the two chairs.  Now there's a handy space for coffee/ Bible in the morning and handheld fans and bottles of bubbles in the evening.

Ran a full load of dishes in the dishwasher after the company all left.

Realized that I'd used no electricity all day long except to run the washer and the dishwasher through short cycles.

Folded the pieces of clothing hung on the drying rack in the breakfast area.  More air dried laundry.

Nothing at all on tv after a morning sermon or two so it stayed off all through the day until John came in at 8pm.

Monday:  Made peach pancakes for breakfast using the last of the wrinkly peaches.  They were perfectly ripe and tasty but John prefers his fruit to look pretty.  He liked the pancakes very well indeed.

Unloaded the dishwasher.  Saved the bits of water that gathered in plastic bowls, will use to water the plants on the porch.

Am out of the usual bathroom cleaner.  Have been subbing with Windex until I get to the dollar store.  Works just great on porcelain, glass and metal in the bath and the ammonia kills germs.

I baked chicken legs for dinner. I used leftover squash to make a casserole which baked in the oven with the chicken.  Sliced tomatoes made a complete meal of it.  With these hot days a little hot food goes a long way.

John went out to mow grass in the late afternoon.  I took advantage of his being out of the house to get vacuuming and other chores done that he tends to 'fuss' about my doing.  He thinks they are 'too heavy' for me, lol, but I do them all the time when he's not here!  With the newer mower it takes less time and gasoline to mow our big yard.  

When John came back indoors I made him a frozen Coke.  I seriously can't imagine how I lived without a blender all the summers past.  I use mine constantly to make a morning smoothie or a frozen drink for afternoon breaks, milkshakes for a cool dessert drink.  And lately I've used it to make oat flour and bread crumbs.

Tuesday:  Used saved water to water the front porch plants.

Fed scraps and leftovers that I'd found 'hiding' in the fridge to the dogs.

John washed and hung to dry a very large load of clothes.  I didn't realized we'd not washed clothing in 5 days!  No short wash, low water load for us this day.  However, I'm sure the savings in electricity and water overall did save us money.

Took a 1 pound piece of chuck roast and cut away all fat then cubed.  I put in the crockpot with quartered baby portabella mushrooms, an onion, some wine and a bit of onion soup mix.  Let simmer all morning long.

Instead of heating house up using stove top to make mashed potatoes, I used the microwave to cook two large potatoes and to heat buttermilk and butter after the potatoes were tender.  Then I mashed the potatoes using the buttermilk to moisten.  Took less than 7 minutes and I had one hot entree ready to serve with our 'beef tips'.

John asked me to ride into town with him.  We took along trash to drop off at dumpster and mail to drop in box at post office, picked up mail and got gasoline for truck and mower.  Took us a whole twenty minutes including the ride into town.

Last night and tonight I just plain wasn't hungry.  I'd found our lunch heavy enough to last, but I also knew I'd be hungry around 9pm.  I had just half a sandwich both nights.  That was the perfect amount of food to keep me from feeling hungry later and not sit heavily upon me all evening long.

Packed John's lunch for work as I prepared supper.

Wednesday:  Knew Mama wanted to visit a grocery today for a special item she can't get elsewhere.  I thought about our low stock of snacks (thinking salty/crispy sort here) but decided I'd just see what I can come up with that is already here at home.  John and I agreed to cut down on our chip quota and I don't want to sabotage a good effort on our part to consume fewer calories and spend a bit less in that department.

Picked up my coupons to carry with me, just in case....Brought along a bottle of water, too.

At Mama's I was the happy recipient again of her 'used' magazines.

My week to treat us to lunch.  I save my allowance to do this so it doesn't come from our general funds.

Kept my head at the grocery.  I bought just cheese, a $1 loaf of bread, a favorite brand of turkey sausage and coconut oil.  Allowed myself two splurges: a very well priced, beautiful orchid (will bloom for weeks) and a set of napkins and placemats that were on the clearance rack.  I don't mind splurging on items that will give lasting pleasure and multiple uses.

When I got in I put eggs on to boil.  I used one for tuna salad, will use two to make egg salad (a favorite of John's) and ate two for my supper with a slice of toast.  Light, nutritious and tasty.

Looked over cupboards and found a box of wheat crackers, discovered some pineapple chunks (so refreshing when served well chilled on a hot day), string cheese...Why there was no need to purchase anything 'extra' at all for snack foods.  These things will do just fine in a workday lunch or for my own snacking during the day as well.  I discovered I have all needed to make up a 'trail mix' or to toast nuts (almonds, walnuts and pecans) or to make a homemade version of  PoppyCock.

Puzzling over the grocery store total, I decided to go over my receipt.  Well!  I was mischarged for the place-mats which rang up at full price instead of the clearance price.  I'll take them back to the store for a refund when I'm over that way Friday running errands.

Packed a work lunch  for John.  This is a daily savings in our home.  Typically he saves between $7 and $10 for each workday over the cost of purchasing snacks and meals.  He likes having food handily available that he can eat as he has time.  Do you know how often these workers get called out just as food is served in the cafeteria or restaurant?

Refilled water bottles and put in fridge to chill.

Made up some instant pudding for work lunch dessert.  The box of pudding cost $.56, the milk less than that.  For under $1 I had four containers of pudding.  I reused containers from KFC that once held individual sides.  I love that they use those little containers now.  So handy to reuse.

I got pudding on my shirt while mixing and had several dots and spots on me.  I put Dawn detergent on those spots and on a spot on the shirt I'd worn out to lunch.  I put them in the clothes basket so the Dawn could soak in for a few hours prior to washing.

Fed the dogs some foodscraps to round out their dry food.  The cat got the juice from the can of tuna.

Thursday:    Went back to bed after John left this morning.  I got another hour of sleep before waking.  My joints were hurting badly.  I drank a bit of Powerade when I took my vitamins and it really relieved the pain.

My breakfast was odds and ends from the freezer that tend to drift to the back or bottom: a biscuit and a bit of sausage gravy (in one of those handy reusable KFC containers.  I heated in microwave and had a quick and easily prepared meal to offset my late start.

Dogs never showed up for breakfast.  Even though the food was on the porch less than ten minutes, Trudy's pan was covered in ants immediately it seemed.  I dumped that and put Maddie's panful away in the covered container.

Decided today had to be the day I started with this decluttering process.  So far, the kitchen is about 65% complete.  I've already loaded two bags of stuff that was just not worth hanging on to.  Reorganized the shopping bags to go out to the car,  emptied the plastics bin of odd pieces with no matching lids, cleared out under the sink (still needs to be cleaned well) and have got the appliance cupboard mostly empty.  I'll clean there and put things back, clean under the sink and I'll call it a day.

Found I had three old fashioned honest to goodness milk bottles under the sink.  I thought they'd be nice to decorate with in the living room so pulled them all three out.

Went into craft room to go over monthly goals.  After beginning work on the quarterly budget sheet (I had to stop as there are figures I need to verify before I can finish), I gathered up two bags of items to be donated from that room.

Leftover lunch for my midday dinner.

About a month ago I was trying to make some magazine holders...only to discover after I had all my contact paper cut that the magazines wouldn't fit in the holders.  So all that cut contact paper was rolled up and put away.  Today I used it to line the appliance cupboard.  It looks so nice!  I'm glad I was able to use the paper after all.

Used the last of a bag of potato chips (mostly crumbs) over the salad I had for supper.  I liked the crunchiness of that.  I got the idea from a recipe featured on a magazine website.

Used the water from cleaning the cupboards to water some of the front porch plants.

And that winds up the savings for this week!

July - Third Fiscal Quarter $25 Grocery Challenge

It's fast approaching a new month and the end of the second fiscal quarter of the year.  This year, as my own personal challenge to boost our budget, I've been practicing a Pantry Freezer Challenge at the beginning of each fiscal quarter.  The first two quarters, I proposed we use the majority of our usual grocery budget for stocking up only while keeping new purchases for immediate use low.  For July, my challenge is a bit different: $25 or less per week per person in the household and no more.

All You magazine ran such a challenge last year and I found it quite helpful mid-summer to practice that month of thrift.    Did you know that the cost of living has risen 40% over the last four years? Did you know that there is a prediction that beef and dairy costs are about to skyrocket upwards?   Let's compare those statements with the fact of NO raise in pay for the past five years in our household.  Our income is the same as it was five years ago.  It's no wonder that the stretching and pulling and tugging to make ends meet has been such a challenge and we're apparently due still more 'exercise'!

So for the month of July, I mean to try to spend no more than $50 a week.  This total is roughly 45% of my usual spending allowance.  Honestly, I can't think of a better time to do such as this, with all the fresh summer produce flooding the markets.  I will not use the remainder of my grocery budget for stocking up as I've done the past two Pantry Freezer challenges.  This time the savings is going to go into savings.  I mean to use it to pay for a second vacation in the autumn months.  In John's line of work he needs that respite at least once every six months and I mean to see that he has it.

Who wants to join in?  Please let me know if you are...

$25 Week Grocery Challenge

And if anyone out there can tell me how to create a linky so you can link to my blog posts each week about the challenge, gee I'd really appreciate it!  It would be so much more fun to know who was joining in and see how they managed.  I am sure we could all learn something new from one another.


I've had a difficult time setting down on paper the rest of my Sabbatical thoughts.  I thought I would continue with an enumerated list, picking up where I left off, but that isn't working for me.  Every time I'd have a thought, an idea, until the moment the New Post screen popped up.   The thought was gone, the idea dead.  I sat here and stared at the blankness trying to think what I had to say.  I've done this for a week since my last post.

It's not that I have nothing more to say.  It's that our emotions were so strained and our prayers so much more fervent towards the end that it's difficult to tell what we were going through.  John broke down and cried, I spent more time weeping quietly.  I kept reading about the anointing of joy, about the oil of joy and all I felt inside was ... not joy.  Surely, I kept thinking, surely with all this time spent with God, with all this pressing in, I'd find joy?

It wasn't that I was blind to the blessings in my life.  It was just that I was looking out of a broken window. 

Menu Plan - It's Gonna Be a Scorcher Out There!

I happened to see weather reports as I was flipping through channels on the tv very very early this morning.  We've had relatively mild weather so far but to welcome in the summer equinox next week we're slated for some hot days.  Still below 100F, but hot all the same and possibly drawing near the 100F mark with the heat index.  Which means it will fill like it did at the end of winter, early spring here!  Screwy seasons this year, lol.

I didn't get half done that I'd thought I might today.  I had unexpected company, two different sets of company, and that was distracting.  Kind of cut deep into a planned work day but I'll manage to get things accomplished a bit here and a bit there over the next few days.  I'd thought I'd hunt out a Sunday nap, but it's proven elusive.   So on to other 'work' like eating cookies and sipping cool water and admiring the paint job on the storm door (unplanned task that turned out very nicely indeed), washing a handful of dishes, planning a handful of meals for the week ahead...Lovely summer Sunday!

Cobb Salad, Cheesy Garlic Biscuits,   Frozen Lemonade, and Sugar Cookies
Plenty of fresh salad vegetables on hand including home grown cucumbers from a friend.  John has grown very fond of the frozen lemonade.  I've been making at home and OMGoodness!  It's been so light and refreshing.  Here's what I've been doing which makes ours a little different, a little thrifty and oh so good.  As we've used canned fruit this spring, I've been pouring off the light syrup into ice cube trays and freezing.  I also juiced several lemons this spring and froze that juice.  I also mixed up a simple syrup (1 cup water/1 cup sugar boiled until sugar dissolves). 

Now on to making my frozen lemonade:  To my blender pitcher, I put one cup of water, 1/4 simple syrup, 3 cubes of lemon juice, 3 cubes of the fruit syrup and a good handful of plain old ice cubes.  Blend on smoothie setting until ice cubes are crushed.   It's so good.  I'd forgotten how terrific homemade lemonade is compared to the extra acidic artificial stuff that passes for it.  Why was I drinking that stuff?!

Peach Pancakes, Frizzled Smoked Turkey, Scrambled Eggs, Maple Syrup
I made peach pancakes for breakfast one morning last week and they were so good!  Then today, I watched as Ellie Krieger cooked deli ham as a substitute for bacon on the cobb salad she was making.  Well I tried frying a couple of pieces of the thin deli smoked turkey which got slightly crisp and smokey.  Not a bad substitute and better tasting in my opinion than turkey bacon.  So I'll do that for this night's meal as well.  I wonder if I could put in the microwave as Katie used to do pepperoni slices and make pepperoni chips...hmmm...

Hamburger Gravy over Toast, Mashed potatoes, Spinach and tomato salad
I'm needing a bit of 'love on a plate' this week and this comfort meal from childhood sounds just about rightDown home kind of good. With a healthy side dish, lol.

Chicken Salad Platter, Crisp Crackers, Peach Cobbler
You can do poached, boiled, or oven fried chicken and serve over a salad or make up chicken salad to serve on a mound of lettuce with carrot curls and boiled eggs on the side.  Either way, chicken salad is refreshing and the warm peach cobbler will be just the right finish for the meal.  Whatever way I choose to serve the chicken, I'll use just two boneless breast halves and will get about enough to serve four, so there will be a bit leftover.

Teriyaki Chicken Legs, Rice Pilaf, Oriental Green Beans, Pineapple Sherbert
I make my own teriyaki sauce with a low sodium soy sauce.  It's easy as can be with a bit of honey and catsup and soy sauce, garlic and oil.  I will soak the chicken legs overnight as they thaw in the marinade.     

Spaghetti Diable, Zucchini, Green Salad, Breadsticks
I'll use the bit of leftover chicken, some onions, mushrooms and fresh tomato to make the sauce.  The casserole will cook quickly, no longer than it will take to bake breadsticks.  

Roast Beef, Squash casserole, Fresh butter beans, peaches
I have the squash already cooked and waiting in the freezer.  The roast will make plenty of leftovers as well.

Ropa Veja in Tortilla, Salsa fresca Salad, Pineapple Sherbert
I'll use some of the beef torn into strips and a few cooked carrots and onions with a bit of broth to put on the tortillas.  If I can buy fresh corn, we might add corn on the cob to this menu.

Oops!  That's 8 meals... Guess I gave you all a bonus this week!

Thrifty Thursday/Frugal Friday

Homemade cookies to fill the cookie jars on the counter.  I can't tell you how often these days I almost pick up a package of cookies only to say, "Oh but I can do homemade," and know that they will taste so much better than anything I can buy.

Friday:  I did housework Friday morning.  Then I packed up the car and went off to town.  It's what I didn't buy that day that saved me tons of money.  I dropped off trash and then went into the post office to drop off a bill we were paying.  Then over to the next town's grocery.

This grocery has a fair selection of potted plants.  Trouble was the selection was not as good as usual.  I saw lovely coleus, but I'd just planted a bunch of seeds of that in my pots.  And while I had a very clear idea of a planter mix of plants I wanted to pot up, they only had one of the variety of plants I needed.  I wanted petunias but none to be had, sad face here.   Finally, I decided that while I'd gone with a set limit to spend, I didn't HAVE to spend it.  I could save it until I could go further afield for a better selection!  I did buy one geranium, a lovely variegated red/pink petal affair unlike any I've ever seen.

Had to pick up some salty snacks for the weekend.  One bag of chips was all that was needed and one other item, can't remember what at the moment.  I stopped outside and bought doughnuts from the fundraising bunch.  I could make doughnuts cheaper but I like to support a good cause when I can.

At the drugstore, I printed off a coupon for a 12 pack of Coke for $1.99 with a $10 purchase.  I happened to be buying vitamins that day as well as picking up prescriptions.  I also printed off a $3 off store brand vitamins, which happened to be on sale b1g1 free.  Good deal!  I spent just $12 over the cost of the prescriptions and that included my 12 pack of soda.

What I've Learned During This Sabbatical

As this week winds down towards the conclusion of our Sabbatical time, I want to share a bit more about it.  It's been a very intense and important time in our lives.  We've prayed for answers to certain questions that have yet to be answered, but we've been busy getting answers in other areas.   I daresay it resembles housekeeping.  I might know I've labored long and hard in my home cleaning out closets and drawers but to someone who is an outsider, unfamiliar with what my home looked like behind the scenes, it might well look as though I've done nothing much whatsoever.  If you keep house, or help keep house, you know how very untrue that is.  If you don't bother, then you have no idea, lol.

Today as I worked, I thought about what I've learned.  There are truths that have come to light and maybe these are truths you have already found or you need to hear them so you can discover them for yourself.

#1  When you say to God, "I no longer want to keep You in a box, I want to know You better," He will show you how many different ways you spend your time shoving Him in a box.

Do you think that the only time you need to spend with Him is in church?  Do you think the only time you need to think about Him daily is when you settle for prayers...if you remember them?  Do you think  God is unable to accept you in your human-ness?  Do you think God can only relate to you when you're being spiritual?  Do you separate the places in your life where you're willing to let Him operate?  Do you think God doesn't already know all about you?

No I didn't come to all these revelations during this time, but gradually over the years.  However, there are still many ways in which I personally must fight my tendency to categorize, box-up and organize God into a neat parcel.  God doesn't need my awesome organization skills.  He is orderly already.  He can't be encompassed in a box but I can limit Him by my unwillingness to let Him work in my life.  God knows I'm messy and human.  He knew me before He formed me! 

Weekly Menu

We plan to go to the meat market this week when we do our grocery shopping.  I've got plenty of room in the freezer, enough to see we've got a few things we need to use up.  That's the advantage of letting the meat supply decrease.  I don't know about you but even with my basket system, I tend to use what's on top and plan from there, sometimes forgetting about what's nearer the bottom.

Rhonda asked me last week if we were cutting back on meat.  We are.  Not because of health reasons but because John and I agreed that for our budget's sake we'd rather eat a little less and have better quality meat from the meat market rather than sub par meat all of the time. Often these days we eat a smaller portion of meat.  Just as a well seasoned dish tastes better than a bland one, I've learned that having  better quality foods is more satisfying.

Shish Kebab with Grilled Vegetables, Rice Pilaf, Baked Stuffed Mushrooms
Confession: This really was my menu for today, then Mama called yesterday and decided we'd go to lunch today.  Then she called this morning and said she had cooked.  Guess what she cooked?  Shish Kebab.  Go figure.

Chicken Paprika with Noodles, Green Peas, Pineapple Salad
One of those 'use it up' items from my freezer.  There are two servings and with the side dishes, we'll have plenty to eat.  I'll be happy to have my casserole dish where I can use it once again.  Really must find another way of freezing items without using my pans and casseroles.

Bean and Cheese Enchiladas, Green Salad, Peach Pie
Corn and Black beans and rice were mixed with a bit of onion, red bell pepper and shredded cheeses and wrapped in corn tortillas.  I put two of these entrees into the freezer today (sans enchilada sauce, I'll make that tomorrow).  One for this week, one for next month.  Bought the first peaches of the season (they've been in season for a month but I don't much care for the very early peaches).

Spaghetti with Meat Balls, Antipasta platter, Garlic Ciabatta
I was inspired by a movie, believe it or not...and no, it wasn't Godfather.  However, the mom was serving spaghetti and meatballs and boy did they look good.  So here we are, an 'inspired' menu, lol.  I'll use just 1/2 pound of beef stretched with bread crumbs, cheese, a bit of onion and an egg.  I'll bet I get enough meatballs for two meals from that 1/2 pound of beef.

Cheese Omelet, Spinach Salad, Hash Browns, Assorted Muffins
I suspect this will be a late brunch for us one morning.  I have two different types of muffins in the freezer so I'll just thaw a couple of each type.  I often make my own hash browns but I confess to really liking those crisp hash brown patties.  I bought some at Aldi for a very low price and I've really enjoyed them. I bake in the oven instead of frying. 

Meatball Pizza, Green Salad, Lemon Pie
With the 'extra' meatballs I'll top pizza dough.  I'll also add turkey pepperoni and fresh spinach leaves, red onion and mushrooms.  

Herb Roasted Chicken, Creamed Corn, Sliced Tomatoes, Summer Squash
I think I like summer best of all for all the good fresh vegetables that come into season, sigh. It just makes the meal taste so good when you're eating in season.  I'll use fresh rosemary to season the chicken and fresh basil in the squash.  If you've never tried basil in squash you really should.  Add after the squash is cooked so all the freshness of the herb can be tasted.  Basil is delicate.

Thrifty Thursday

       Second hand furniture is inexpensive, often far better quality than higher priced new pieces. 

Friday:  John and I had such a big day on Thursday (he golfed, I was out looking for sandals) that we did almost nothing at all on Friday except recuperate.  We split the light housework between us and then enjoyed our leisure time.  I read, went through magazines and collected coupons, recipes and ideas to clip.  There was a lot of entertainment and value from that free stack of magazines I'd brought home from Mama's on Tuesday.

Dinner: Sweet and Sour Chicken.  I cooked two boneless skinless breasts, put aside half the meat for this week's Southwestern Chicken Salad.  I prepared the vegetables for this dish and chopped vegetables for the next day's dinner side dish.

Easy sweet and sour sauce: 1 cup pineapple juice, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tbsp cornstarch, 1 tbsp catsup, cooked and stirred until thickened.    This is good in a stir fry dish as sauce but equally as good for dipping eggrolls.

Cooked ahead making up a casserole dish of mac and cheese for tomorrow's meal.  I had a bit of leftover cheese sauce and some leftover macaroni, which I set aside to make Tuna Mac salad for work lunch next week.

Menu Day

I took a few hours last weekend to make out a month of menus to use this month.  I find cooking very tedious when the weather is too warm to very hot.  Unfortunately I still like to eat, lol.  It's a struggle to think of good meals when I know that cooking means heating up my home and myself.  To that end, I went through two or three of my cookbooks and chose a few recipes.  I've already begun employing this menu as of June 1.  New recipes mixed with old favorites, leftovers pre-planned into meals...I think this is going to prove to help save money as well as time and those unfortunate heat flares I experience in the summer kitchen.

Sweet and Sour Chicken, Steamed Rice, Green Beans, Watermelon
I cooked two boneless skinless breasts and set half aside.  I also went ahead and prepped vegetables for the pan roasted vegetables.  I want to add here that I had planned to buy snow pea pods and other vegetables but the ones that appear here are the best priced, in season vegetables or frozen (such as the green beans).
I used onions, red bell pepper, carrot and pineapple in the chicken dish and made my own sweet and sour sauce quite simply by mixing pineapple juice, catsup and cornstarch.  I found this a bit tart for my taste, since I used unsweetened juice.

Macaroni and Cheese, Pan Roasted Vegetables, Sliced Tomatoes, Fig Bars
The weather cooled off nicely yesterday and this dish hit the spot.  It was such a luxury to put dinner in the oven and walk away from the kitchen, too.  The pan roasted vegetables were a mix of zucchini, orange bell pepper (I got a 3 pack of orange, red, and yellow for about $1 at Aldi), mushrooms, sweet onion and garlic.  The fig bars are Aldi brand Fig Newtons.  We really like these cookies and buy a pack each time we go to the store.  We like them so much that this week we both slipped one into the shopping cart and it wasn't until we got home that I discovered we'd bought two packages!

Beef Pot Pie, Fries, Salad, Coffee Frappe
John working today, so a frozen pot pie, frozen fries baked while I showered after working all morning long.  I made a plan green salad to go with my meal.  I made my frappe using Smart Balance milk, ice cubes, instant coffee and sweetened condensed milk.  It was quite good and I'll indulge in this treat again during the hot days of summer.

Southwestern Chicken Salad, Corn Muffins, Apricots
A new recipe.  Corn kernels, Black Beans, tomatoes, chicken pieces.  I'll use the extra chicken from my sweet and sour dish.  I thought Corn Muffins (or Crisp fried cornbread) would make a good accompaniment and satisfy our appetite for something hot.  I indulged in apricots and cherries this past week.  Pricey?  Yes, but fortunately not so terribly if you buy just 3-4 apricots or a half pound of cherries.

Pastitio, Tossed Salad, Berry Cobbler
Leftover Macaroni and cheese will top a simple hamburger and tomato sauce base (I'll use just 1/2 pound of hamburger).  I had a bit of leftover cheese sauce which I'll mix with an egg yolk left from another dish and top off the macaroni.  Fresh berries picked here on the place will be the cobbler fruit.

Black Beans and Rice, Tortilla Chips, Pico de Gallo, Avocado and Orange Salad
I'll need to open a can of black beans to make the Southwestern Salad but won't need to use them all.  I thought making yellow rice and seasoning the beans will make a complete protein main dish.  Homemade tortilla chips with homemade pico de gallo will be a nice crunchy and spicy side dish.

Tuna Pasta Salad, Crackers, Peaches and Cream
I had extra pasta when I cooked the macaroni.  I will mix with peppers, onion, grated carrot, diced olives and make a favored summer salad.  John will carry his in his work lunch.  We prefer just plain old fashioned saltine crackers with this salad.  It's my hope to have fresh peaches but if not, we have watermelon.

What I Read/Watched in May

May was a lovely month, truly it was.  I so enjoyed every moment of it.  We were blessed to attend a young girl's homeschool graduation party which was just lovely, went on field trips and picnics and vacation on top of that.  All of this and the regular work, too.  I don't think I've had such a lovely May before.  This one sets itself apart as special.

I was able to read a few books this month.  Some I started in April and didn't finish until this month, so I count them as read this month.  I watched a few movies, too.

First, those books started in April and finished in May:

  Year of Plenty by Craig L. Goodwin -   I've been drawn to books about families/individuals who are returning to the 'old way' of raising their own vegetables, forage etc.  That's what I expected from this book.  It is based upon the blog by the same name.  This is the third sort of book I've read this year. 

While this book is named after the blog, the basis is loose.  It is more about the Christian walk that this pastor and his family experienced while eating and shopping locally.  Some of the insights he gained really really touched my heart and helped me to see what is missing in my own Christian walk, like a sense of community and unity with others.  I read this book slowly.  I needed to, in order to digest all that was said.  Often I found myself reading passages out loud to John because they so closely paralleled what we were thinking and praying over.

If you want to read all about the technicalities of eating locally and shopping local artisans and businesses, gardening and raising chickens, then skip this book and read the blog.  If you want to read a book that enhances your Christian walk and talks about these things then by all means choose to read it.

Sabbatical Thoughts


I don't know if I've mentioned here upon the blog but since April 7 of this year we've been taking a sabbatical from synagogue.  We'd come to a time where we had more questions than answers, were feeling confused.  We felt as though we were battling on too many fronts at once.  After long, late night heart to heart talks, periodic outbursts and a series of incidents that left us feeling more confused than ever, we finally decided that the best thing we could do was to step away for a space of time.  I suggested a month.  John, as head priest of our household had other ideas.  He decided upon a longer period of time.  We have about two more weeks before we return.

I don't share this now because I wish to boast or brag.  I want to share it because spiritually it's been very intense.  We didn't say to ourselves "We'll have a free Saturday for a bit," nor set aside our Bibles.  Instead, we increased our prayer time, Bible study and sought God more than ever.

At first, I thought we'd withdraw completely from life and simply study and pray as we'd done for a period once before.  But our lives didn't allow that just now.  Mama had doctors appointments and John had to work.  The kids popped in for visits, we were obligated to go to this place or to do that and then there were the unexpected things that kept popping  up.  I realized slowly that the real challenge of sabbatical was to be in sabbatical while living a normal life.  To make time for extra prayer and study and seeking God on a daily basis while tending to all the rest, that was the challenge.  And we did.  I learned that the steering wheel is as good an altar as any, as is the kitchen sink and the broom and the laundry that needs to be folded. I learned that time spent in a chair waiting at the doctor was just as good a place for prayer.   All offered up an opportunity to turn to God. 

In My Home This Week: All Routine