This Spiritual Journey...part 2

Yes things changed.  They began to change that very evening.

When my husband came in that night he decided to open the mail that had been stacked by his seat for weeks.  I heard him gasp and utter a curse.  I got up from the bed and asked him what was wrong.  He handed me a letter which read, "Greetings from the U.S. Army..." or something to that nature.  He'd just been called up to serve in the Gulf War and his day to report was in three days...

As it happened, he didn't serve any time in the war.  His time was spent in a military camp in Missouri and I struggled alone with a number of issues at home that I won't go into. When he returned we both realized how broken our marriage had become and I left two days later. And before that week was out I was hit by a drunk driver on my way to work one morning. I went through my own sort of hell for the next two or three years.  I 'lost' the little non-denominational church during that time.  Second verse, not quite the same as the first, but it hurt all the same. I was asked to leave since my husband had joined the church during my 3 month hospital stay and I was the one requesting the divorce.

During this time there had been changes on my job.  A woman came to work in the office who had a God centered life.  We didn't work closely but it was obvious in all she said when we chanced to meet that she had a relationship with Him.  I, on the other hand, remained on a bare nodding acquaintance with Him.

Weekly Meal Plan

I sat down to plan meals this afternoon and had no problems whatsoever...That blustery wind outdoors, the gray skies, the chilly air all proved inspirational.  I don't know that this will last but it sure was nice to not struggle to come up with warm weather foods that I'm so bored bored bored with making for a change.

I have a November inspiration list that is two pages long already.  Can we say PROJECTS?  They abound  for the month ahead.  I've already begun working on that list, but nothing major to show for it.  My incentive fell away after John asked me to go into town and get a frozen pizza for dinner.  I didn't mind postponing my planned meal since he's put in no special requests for several weeks now.  Besides there were a couple of loss leader sales I wanted to take advantage of this week.  I put 20 pounds of flour in the freezer and another 6 cans of diced tomatoes on the pantry shelf.

Veggie Soup, Toasted Pimento and Cheese Sandwiches, Apple Dumplings
Cold and blustery forecast for tomorrow so I decided this is what we'll be having.  I usually have a homemade soup day in September with the first chill days, but there were none, so no soup.  I'm looking forward to this meal!

Beef Pot Pie, Fried Okra, Peach Salad
The pot pie is leftovers I'd frozen and thawed for today's meal.  I'll oven fry the okra while the pot pie heats up.

This Spiritual Journey...

Back in June, I shared that we had decided we needed a sabbatical from our synagogue.  At that time, as I wrote of what that sabbatical had meant to me personally, I was asked to share my spiritual journey.  I've thought about that request often.  I suppose because I am a writer by nature, and analytical, I like to begin at the beginning of things.  So this is the beginning.

I grew up in a Primitive Baptist church which met twice a month, first Sunday mornings and third Sunday afternoons.  We met only twice a month because the preachers serve multiple churches in the association much as the old circuit riding preachers did.

I have always been curious about things, all my life, and though I was in this church from age 6 weeks to 32 years I didn't 'fit'. 

I joined the church (aka was baptized) at age 9.  I joined because my grandfather asked me to do so, telling me that he was dying (and he did two years later). I wasn't questioned too hard about my decision.  The questions I raised were sort of pooh poohed and I went on with the thing, but I can tell you truly that even at that tender age I was very aware that  something vital was missing in my decision, though I was unclear what.  On the day I was baptized I became a member of the Primitive Baptist church.

From about that point onward, I was pretty much over church as a rule.  I went every single Sunday that our church held service but my parents didn't visit other churches, they didn't encourage Bible reading and the Primitive Baptist church I attended discouraged Bible study groups.  There were no Sunday school classes.  The branch I belonged to had no musical instruments in the church, nor choirs.  Women were pretty much ignored and it was assumed that they'd never speak during service. We didn't sing the usual church songs but only hymns published before 1900, lovely old hymns with what I now realize were powerful lyrics, but modern day music was discouraged.  The King James version of the Bible was the only bible allowed and members were strongly discouraged from even thinking of looking at other interpretations.  Communion was held once a year.  Our communion service included a 'foot washing' service as well.

My Frugal Weeks

 The most reasonably priced meal at the fair is at the VFW's booth.  We always go for their hamburgers knowing we're supporting a good cause as well as getting a hot meal...

In My Kitchen:
I had a couple of apples that were bruised or too soft to be eaten out of hand.  I cut them up and served them as caramel apples with a scoop of vanilla ice cream as dessert for one of our meals.

One chicken, four meals.  That was my goal and here's what I did.  I cut up the chicken into parts. 
Meal one: Barbecued chicken (two legs, two wings, one pulley bone).  Meal Two:  Chicken Kiev (using the two breast halves which I boned and skinned myself).  Meal three: Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole (two thighs). I didn't have enough for a fourth meal, but  I got 2 quarts of broth from simmering the thighs, back, neck and bones.

Made a pot of chili.  I set aside enough to make a second meal for us before making chili mac for dinner.

I've found a quick and easy cake recipe that stirs up in four minutes.  It makes one deep layer or a dozen cupcakes.  I opted to make cupcakes this week.  Half became Boston cream Cupcakes.  The rest were frozen.

I had a bit of leftover ganache.  I put that in the fridge to save to make chocolate butter cream frosting for the rest of the cupcakes later. I know we'll be having the rest of the cupcakes this next week, so the ganache will keep nicely.

Weekly Meal Plan

We've just a few days of this vacation/off period left and then it's back to work for John.  I caught myself slipping into the work week routine one evening this week when John was working in the music room.  I dashed about the house and got a few chores done so we could have a free day the next day.  I'm ready for a bit of routine again, I reckon.  All these 'free' days begin to wear a bit after a while and routines look pretty good.  That's probably why I've been slowly working on deep cleaning the kitchen, one small area at a time.  Oh the woes of a desperate housewife, sneaking in a few extra licks at her housekeeping!

One thing we've not missed much of: home cooked meals.  I've been cooking and/or preparing three meals a day most every day.  It's a good thing I really enjoy cooking and don't mind clearing up, either.  However inspiration is wanted/needed.  I've turned to cookbooks, former menus and Pinterest many and many a time over the past three weeks.

I didn't find a whole chicken nor breasts on sale this past week.  Instead I bought a whole roasting hen...which got left at the grocery store, ack.  We had to go back the next day to get another but the store was very nice about it.  I put that in the crock pot when we went out Friday because I didn't want to greet another Shabat with the necessity of cooking a meal.  Glad I did cook that bird.  I had thought we'd have warmed leftovers for dinner, but we had company.  That chicken, meant for supper sandwich meat and a few other meals, came in handy at dinner.  We only used one breast for that meal (sandwiches, chips, apples and caramels). 

Now to plan how I'll use the rest of that chicken.  While I'm listing all three meals right up front, they won't be served that way at all.  I will mix the menu up so that we have chicken one night and another meat  or entree the next night.  No need of making anyone in this house feel they might cackle and lay an egg from eating so much chicken.

Weekly Meal Plan

Last week was such a great week. I was pleased with what was accomplished at home and because I didn't tie myself down so hard that I couldn't enjoy the week.  John's extra time off was plenty of fun.  We've a few more days to enjoy, work, and relax and then it's back to routine for a bit.

This morning just flew by with routine housework.  I've been planning meals and checking out recipes, making out my grocery list, checking my budget (yikes!), looking over the pantry/freezer listing, etc. this afternoon.  That's a good half day of work right there.

Beef and Noodle Toss, Whole Green Beans, Crusty Bread, Pears with Walnuts and Blue Cheese
This is a simple recipe really but a 'different' sort of pasta dish.  Lasagna noodles are used for the pasta, topped with a slow simmered beef, grape tomato and mushroom sauce with a rich stock.  Very earthy and suitable for Autumn meals I think.  I plan to buy a nice wedge of blue cheese for the dessert tray.  If I find a bottle on sale, I might add a Moscato to finish off this meal.  Yes, it is a fancy sort of meal, but it's economical, too.

Warm Italian Sandwich, Potato Chips, Easy Tiramisu
I found this recipe in one of the magazines.  The recipe calls for a sliced Italian loaf but I will make individual sandwiches for us.  It has Provolone, roasted red peppers, pepperoncini, olives, sundried tomato spread.  It made me think of a sub sandwich we used to purchase from an Italian family when I was a child and I'm anxious this sandwich.  I think it will be a great meal to prepare ahead and heat when we're ready to eat.

Another Glorious Autumn Day...

 It was another glorious autumn day.  Just beautiful with sunshine, blooms, cool breezes, blue skies...October is definitely putting on her best for us on a daily basis right now.  John suggested we 'Go somewhere,' and so we did.  We chose our destination at the last minute, packed up and headed out.  Through rolling farmland with far sweeping views...

 Past those hay fields with great huge bales of hay that makes my heart feel lighter and gladden, though I've no clue why.

We spied a bit  of autumn color here and there.

 And lots of lovely little ponds, most of them natural, bordered with blooms.

And gorgeous old houses...This one could use a bit of tender care, but I suspect if I could find out a thing about it that it predates 1850...

Coffee Chat - Fair Day

John has developed a new philosophy and his new philosophy is "What are we saving for, if we keep bypassing every single pleasure?  What about today?"  I do understand what he's saying.  We can save for tomorrow and we are and we will continue to do so, but every now and then we need to stop and think about what we're missing TODAY.

It is Fair season.  The Georgia National Fair is a big deal and it's within 30 miles of home.  It started last Thursday night and winds up this Sunday night.  There's a limited window of opportunity for us to go and this year, John meant we were going to go.  It did seem that every single thing came together to make the day about perfect.  First there was that 'littlest girl' as she's called who asked specially if we'd spend the day with her at the fair.  Flattered beyond words, we said yes.  After all, how many 20 year olds think it's fun to spend a day with mom and dad?  Then there was the weather which finally decided to act like autumn and turned off cool, then came out with sunshine, blue skies, cool breezes to mark the day as most excellent.

We started the day with waffles.  What's better on a cool morning than toasty warm waffles with real maple syrup and a sprinkle, just a hint, of cinnamon sugar?  The house was cleaned to a spic and span shine the day before, too.  Not a thing to do beyond stack the dishes and make the beds.  We went in two separate cars because Katie meant to stay until closing at 10pm.  That was not what we meant to do.  Our plans centered around the daylight part of the day.  John and I had to run a couple of errands and then we finally got to the fairgrounds.  Katie had called 20 minutes before to tell us where to park, "Just loads of open spaces," she said.  Apparently a lot of people arrived in that 20 minutes.  Katie parked at the fence.  We were parked somewhere nearer the entry road about a dozen parking lines farther away.  We met at the clock tower...That is center of the grounds and the tallest spot there.  A great visual for lost ones or for kids old enough to be turned loose on their own who must meet back up with mom and dad at a certain hour.

Weekly Menu Plan

The Autumn breezes are blowing and the leaves have that tissue paper sound they get this time of year.  I've been listening to it all day long, winding it's way down from the North and bringing a slightly cooler air to us.  Mind you, it's plenty warm in the sun yet.  I've aired pillows today and dried the load of sheets I did early this morning.  I took down the summer curtains in my bedroom and hung a pair that better matches my quilt.  I've contemplated the possibilities for the guest room's autumn/winter look and piddled about the house looking at the work I might be doing if only I felt like settling in to do something that takes more than twenty minutes tops.  But not even planning holds my interest for long.  I'm up to do a quick task, sitting down once more to think about the quilt's next portions, dreaming of the next quilt I'll make, then up again to do another chore or to plunder amongst the craft items to see if something inspires me.

I'm also contemplating the shelves of books.  I feel strongly it's time to start spending some quality time with one of my old dear friends but which? Or should I make time for a new one?  Or just stack books by my chair and read a bit here and a bit there until I feel I'm ready to settle in for a long,  long spell?  There's a tall stack of vintage magazines from 1925-1959, all from past Octobers to peruse as well.  Of course, I'll have to streamline meals, because we can't have cooking interfering with reading!   Slow cooker or quick and easy meals?  It does depend on the weather (doesn't it? so changeable in our neck of the woods), but I feel it, the cozy season is coming nearer and I'm ready to feather my nest anew in preparation for it.

My Frugal Week

 When I found this a couple of years ago at the Peaches to Beaches Yard Sale, I never dreamed it would be a money saver...But it is.  For one thing, I can only fit a small roll of aluminum foil (usually the store brand) in the thing.  And so I use less foil than ever.  I tend to cram the usual size of paper towel in the paper towel section but the cutting edge allows us to 'choose a size' of our own liking even if the roll doesn't offer that option!  I've saved the cost of this paper dispenser at least twice over in two years.

In My Kitchen:

Used this recipe for Banana Peanut Butter muffins to use the last banana from our previous pay period.  I made them on Sunday and the cooking time really is as short as it says.  I was certain it was a typo.  Be sure to check them for doneness at the given time range if you attempt this recipe. After cooling I bagged these up in groups of 3 and put in the freezer for easy breakfast bread or snacks.

Made a pizza for Sunday dinner.  I decided that we should go for smaller portions.  John and I agreed that we were plenty satisfied and so we had half the pizza left instead of the usual two slices.  That will make another meal for us.  I put in the freezer so we can heat and eat for a quick dinner on a busy day or for supper on a night when I have no clue what we will eat.

I had graham cracker crumbs near expiration and used this recipe to make Blueberry Graham pancakes for breakfast.  I had to add a bit more milk.  This recipe makes a very dense, heavy pancake, so one or two is more than enough for a serving.  I put the remainder in the freezer for another breakfast.

It's pure love of leisure that drives me...A half day spent in the kitchen preparing three or four entrees at once usually means I get a few free hours each day to do something else while dinner cooks or heats.

Budget Stretcher: Leftover Makeover

I love Arroz con Pollo, Spanish Chicken and Rice.  It's a tasty one dish sort of meal for autumn and winter.  It has browned chicken pieces, onion, garlic, pimento, yellow rice, and at the last minute green peas are added.  It's so tasty!  Unfortunately, despite dividing the recipe in half I had leftovers of the rice portion and the rice acted weird (some not getting done, some getting overcooked) so I was reluctant to put the leftovers to the test of reheating as a side dish for another meal.

And then I got creative...What if I made soup?  I liked the idea very well and decided it was worth a try.

I had in my fridge the leftover rice from the dinner, a bit of leftover white rice, some green peas, a chicken breast half.  From the pantry I pulled a can of whole kernel corn, some diced tomatoes and from the freezer some chicken broth.  For seasoning: garlic, cumin and liquid smoke.

I chopped the chicken breast and dumped into a soup pot.  Added in my leftover rice, half a can of corn, half the peas, a whole can of tomatoes (and a couple spoons of Rotel tomatoes with green chilies.  John's not a fan of heat but if you are, I'd use the whole can and skip the plain ones).  Then I added in two cups of chicken broth, about 5 drops of the liquid smoke, 1 tablespoon of cumin, 1 tsp minced garlic and 1 tsp sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. I tasted and it seemed just right for seasoning.  I wanted the liquid smoke to enhance the cumin not overwhelm the soup, so go easy on it. I let the soup simmer on the back burner for about an hour. I didn't much care if the yellow rice did overcook since it had already been such a disappointment and I was aware that it's breaking down would make the soup a bit thick.

When ready to serve the soup, I topped it with shredded cheddar and served with cornbread.  This was  a really good soup.  It had body to it (John likes soups to be thick) and great flavor.  I could easily have served four, so we've got enough soup left to have another meal this week and I am not unhappy about that at all. 

In My Home This Week: All Routine