Cooking Question: Moist Chicken Breasts

Sarah wrote:
  I am discouraged. When I cook chicken breasts they usually turn up dry inside. What am I doing wrong?

You don't mention if you're cooking boneless/skinless breasts or bone-in breasts, Sarah, but I'll lay odds you're cooking the boneless skinless.  You are right in thinking that too high a heat will dry them out and cooking them for too long will do the same.  I understand the reasoning.  No one wants to eat undercooked chicken, but the trouble is, too many of us swing too far in the opposite direction.  Boneless/Skinless breasts don't have bone or skin to prevent the drying out.  When you have bone and skin you're adding in much needed moisture (from the bone) and fat (from the skin).

Weekly Menu Plan

The grands are here...and I am blissfully tired.  The twins are walking and they've been all over the house this evening.  It was fun watching Zach trying to walk out of the back entry with one leg in Grandpa's work boot and one foot in Daddy's shoe.  Hailey still has a Weeble sort of walk.  Daniel is a the best picker upper of toys there ever was.  His 'job' at home is to pick up the play room each night and I can tell he knows his stuff.  He gathered up all the toys and put them away tonight.

So it's a little late and I'm more than a little tired.  Let me get this meal plan going and let's finish up for the night.

Almond Chicken, Rice, Steamed Snap Peas
This was meant to be an easy meal for me to prepare.  I forgot to string the snap peas so had to do that before I started cooking, but I did get the other vegetables prepped early this morning.   The babies liked the snap peas and so did their Daddy which was a huge surprise to me.  He's never been overly fond of green vegetables.

Tuna Pasta Salad, Saltines, Watermelon
Nice and cool meal for a hot day.

Chicken Pot Pie, Pear Salad, French Fries
Does it sound odd to serve french fries with chicken pot pie?  That's what Mama always did when I was growing up.  Daddy always insisted we had to have potatoes at every meal and we did.  Even when we had spaghetti or chicken pot pie.  I'm making my pot pie from scratch but the french fries are frozen.

Stuffed Bell Peppers, Butter Beans, Coleslaw
I had leftover rice from the Almond Chicken meal.  I'll mix the cooked rice with ground beef.  I've always liked to make a porcupine meatball mixture to stuff my peppers with, but sometimes the rice doesn't quite get cooked or remains just a bit undercooked.  That will not be a problem this time.

Mushroom Ravioli, Green Salad, Garlic Cheese Toast
I have this idea I'd like to work with the mushroom ravioli...It involves browned butter and possibly thyme and toasted walnuts. We'll see how this idea of mine works out.

Steak, Onion Roasted Potatoes, Tossed Salad
I'll probably grill the steak and potatoes outdoors this week.  I'll probably go on and put tomorrow's meal on the grill, since it can cook over a lower heat than the steak.

Apricot Glazed Chicken Wings, Fried Rice, Steamed Broccoli
Another of my 'made up' recipes for the chicken wings.  It involves a teriyaki type sauce with apricot preserves in place of the honey.  I should have more than enough leftover rice to make fried rice.  

And there's a week's worth of menus.  Now, I shall get myself off to bed.  John's working an extra shift tomorrow day and we have to get up very early.

Staying Out of Debt for Good: The Last Little Piggy

Well here we are down to our last little Piggy, the one who cried "Wee Wee Wee" all the way home.

Now I don't know if you know anything at all about pigs but far more than "oink" they tend to squeal and it sounds a good deal like "Wee wee wee"...It's not a happy sound.  It's generally a form of protest, a complaint,  over being pushed away from the slop trough or herded back into the pen they happily rooted their way out of.  Nope, not happy in the least!

Now oddly enough you'd think the little Piggy family who had none was unhappy, but they were just being themselves and despite their grumbles and complaints over their self induced misfortunes they were content enough.  But this little piggy...Oh dear.

This little piggy had apparently been out somewhere since she is headed back home.  Perhaps to market with the first little piggy?  Or off to visit the little homebody piggy?  Or having tea and cake with the Roast Beef piggy?  I daresay she did NOT visit the None little piggy family as they were likely off seeking a free meal or vacationing with their latest windfall!

Oh yes,  this little piggy is a complainer.

Perhaps she had bigger ideas than budget when she went off to market and would settle for no substitutions.  Or she overspent and blamed everything from the lack of good pay to the overpricing at the market.  Mind you she might have taken the time to plan before she went to market, creating a menu and balancing the pricier items with less expensive options so that she stayed within budget.  She might have looked over sales sheets and determined to treat her home purchases like purchases made for any business: bought at the lowest possible price and stocked up in order to last until the next sale.

Perhaps she stopped off to see the little  piggy who stayed at home and found her busy indeed, putting up corn  for consumption come winter.  No doubt she spent a great deal of time telling that little Home Piggy how foolish she was for wasting her time putting up what could be bought in the stores.  And you can just bet she felt rather slighted when the HP didn't offer her any to carry home, as she'd intended to do, because HP took that foolish talk to heart.  She'd shamed the homebody, too, for her lack of other housework as she'd worked hard to preserve that corn...

Perhaps she'd stopped off to see the Roast Beef Piggies and discovered they were sporting what appeared to be new furnishings.  Little did she realize that Mrs. RBP had been busy making slipcovers from fabric she'd bought at a warehouse close out sale and had refinished her old tables.  She'd admired the new plants in the garden and the well clipped lawn and grumbled that she couldn't afford someone to landscape her yard, not once remembering that Mrs. RBP had been busy in the yard all Spring planting seedlings she'd started herself and offered her extras of, or that Mr. RBP had offered to mow her own lawn many a time, but she'd turned him down every single time.

No doubt this little piggy is just the complaining type, so busy complaining she can't see how she might have better spent her time being helpful to others or simply learning to be thankful for small kindnesses.  Let her go on home and take her complaining with her! 

Budget Stretcher: Leftover Makeover - Calzone

Last weekend I made meat sauce over spaghetti.  John loves spaghetti and I try to make sure and have it at least once a month.  I had a bit of leftover meat sauce, about 1 cup.  I debated the best way to use up that last bit and I thought Calzone would be ideal, especially since I had some cottage cheese that had been about to expire that I'd frozen.

As I shared with Louise last week, freezing cottage cheese works just fine.  The water in the cheese freezes and when you thaw, the curds of cheese are a little dryer than when fresh.  I like this dryer cheese to use in Lasagna and Calzone because it isn't watery.

Now this time I didn't photo the process, just the baked end product, so I can't show you step by step how I did this, but I can tell you:


1 batch pizza dough (I made my own)
1 cup leftover meat sauce
sliced mozzarella
grated Parmesan/Romano
1 cup 'dry' cottage cheese (you could drain well in a sieve if you don't want to freeze and thaw)
Pepperoni, salami, peppers, olives, mushrooms, onions, etc. (optional)

Cut pizza dough into tennis ball sized portions and stretch to form a sort of circle.  Just shy of the center of the dough, put a spoonful or two of spaghetti sauce, a couple of spoonfuls of cottage cheese, some of the each of the cheeses, and any other ingredients you want to include.  You want this to mound up in that off center area and keep the ingredients well away from the edges.

Fold one side over the mound of filling and then roll and crimp the edges together.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and repeat with remaining dough and filling.  My batch of sauce made up about 8 Calzone.

To bake and eat, heat oven to 400F and bake about 20 minutes.

To par-bake for freezing, bake at 350F for about 10 minutes.  The dough will be just slightly firm/dry to touch, and not sticky, but still very tender and the Calzone will be very pale.  Cool on rack and place in freezer (on rack or cookie sheet) until frozen, then bag.   To serve: Thaw about 1 hour or so.  Heat oven to 400F, bake about 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
These Calzone are about the size of my hand, from wrist to fingertip.  One was just right as a serving with salad to complete the meal.  Don't be limited by my suggestions on fillings.  John called them "Hot Pockets" and I realized these could be filled with ham and cheese, Ground beef, Sausage and Scrambled Eggs etc and frozen for a convenience meal.  For today, it was a terrific use of leftover ingredients.

I made seven big Calzone and put a medium pizza's worth of dough into the freezer that was leftover.  Not sure how that's going to work out but we'll see.

A Year of Savings: 2013

July 15:  John and I seldom go out to eat breakfast these days.  Locally, our options are down to Subway and the local diner.  Well neither one is much fun for dining in and neither offers up a breakfast worth going out for.  Love both for takeout dinner or supper but not so much for breakfast.  However, John does surprise me now and then with a homemade breakfast that I don't have to cook myself.  Today was such a day.  Savings $11 what it used to cost us to eat out in our former local place.  These days it would be more, plus the cost of gasoline, but we'll settle for that old amount as savings since we did buy our own breakfast makings. By the way, the man makes the most awesome hash-browns from scratch! 

I cooked a big pot of pinto beans this morning. I'd meant to make Cowboy Beans, a recipe I found earlier last week.  Well I couldn't find that recipe for love or nothing!  In the meantime, my husband saw the cooked beans and exclaimed over them asking if I were making baked beans...Well yes, you breakfast making husband, I am! lol.  I made Bbq beans to be exact, with cornbread and a big green salad, since peach coleslaw seemed a bit too much sweet for my taste.  I made my own Bbq sauce savings of $.99 seasonal sale price just now.

Shabat Thoughts - Valley View

I said earlier this week that I was having a difficult time of late.  And so I am.  But, you know, the past five years have been harder than any I think I've experienced in my lifetime.  I had different expectations of where I'd be just now, of what my life would look like, of who I'd be.  Need I say that my expectations were apparently very far off target?  In fact, the past five years seem to have been all about subtracting out every single element of what I thought.  Being obtuse, I didn't begin to take the hint until this year when those mountaintop experiences began. 

I have been ready for a positive major life change for years.  You name it and I've dreamed it.  This past year, in that first experience on the mountain, I laid down  my dreams,  my plans, my wants and told God I'd be, do, whatever He wanted.  That was scary enough all in itself.  There's that old thing I hear from so many, "But what if God asks me to go to Africa?"  Well... what if He didn't? 

I thought I'd done a decent job, giving up.  In May, we took our  vacation in St. Augustine where I was miserable beyond words.  When we came home, we took one of our remaining days and went to that mountain once more.  We sat on the stones overlooking the valley and as we prayed, I began to cry.  One of my dreams, one that I've held onto for a number of years now, was that I might live in the St. Augustine area.  I stubbornly held onto that even when the economy collapsed and our personal economy slipped a bit, too, enough to put that dream of living there a greater impossibility than ever. I held onto it even after that 'laying down' of my dreams before God. Truly I didn't see that it was something I should have given up because it had been abundantly clear that if we were to live there, God would have to be the author of it.   I realized that this, too, had to be put away.  It was so hard.  Ultimately I had to trust that what God wants for me is far better than any thing I can plan for myself.  I'm too limited by my human-ness to see what He can see.

And so I determined to be content.  If I couldn't have the dream life I wanted, I'd just learn to love the life I had.  I'd make this house my dream home.  I'd make this life my dream life.  I'd fashion myself a cottage and a garden and try new things. 


So here we are and it's nearly August and I've accomplished nothing.  It's rained buckets, gallons, waterfalls of rain.  The yard filled with water and the plants stopped growing, even the grass slowed down. Well all the plants except the massive amount of weeds in the flower beds and the little trees and privet hedges and briars and poison ivy which flourished in all the places they oughtn't and pretty much took over.

Our economy sank a bit further and it affected our personal economy though we've been frantically bailing out the boat.  All the things that got tossed out of our boat was that margin that would have allowed me to begin to do anything that might have promoted the cottage farmhouse I thought we'd make our home. John planned a major project and it took weeks before my carpenter brother showed up to see what we wanted.  It's been weeks again and we've yet to get a quote despite our determination to go ahead with the work.   I began to feel depressed as one obstacle after another sprang up to prevent me doing even simple things about the place.

Alarmed at my own state of mind I began to keep track of the trickle of blessings that were coming into our lives.  Every single day I've written out a gratitude list, reminding myself that I was a blessed woman, no matter my circumstances.

But this week I couldn't see the mountain from the Valley at all.  I couldn't find the blessings hidden amongst the weeds.  I could only see the shambles.  Determination rallied me. I had an opportunity to begin to aspire to that person I was sure God wanted me to be and I was pretty certain a positive change was about to occur.  In the end, I was shattered.  I realized it wasn't what God wanted at all, it was MY thoughts, not His inspiration.    I felt broken beyond repair, I did truly.  I was frustrated beyond measure, I wanted to cry out and scream and shout.  I wanted to blame others.  I wanted to kick the walls.  I wanted MY way after all.

The valley is where I live and strain though I might for the mountain top, I am firmly planted at this time.  Right here in this valley.  You know what I feared most?  That God would demand I stay here.  Right where I am.  In this place, seeking Him amid the every day, looking up at the mountaintop where I long to be.  And so I shall.  I'll trust Him.   

Just a Filling Station

This Morning I was up bright and early.  I was mindful of all the things I wanted to get done in the kitchen before the day got too hot.  I was busy as I could be when it occurred to me that I don't run a home at all...I run a filling station!

 The cookie jar was empty. 
So I made cookies to fill it up.

John worked all night and he gets up very early and is very hungry when he comes in...
I made biscuits to fill him up.

While I was busy...
I filled the sink.

While I waited on John...
I filled my body with coffee and my soul with strong words to carry me through the day.

After breakfast, I...
filled some empty space in my freezer with packets of fresh butter beans.

I cut off the ends and shucked a dozen and half ears of corn to cream Sunday morning. That job...
filled a big bag with compost.

I made dinner and...
filled the dishwasher.

Clearing the table I had to...
refill the water pitcher for the fridge.

And after all that filling up, I decided it was time to...
fill the coffeemaker one more time.

And I didn't even take a photo of my filling John's lunch bag for work!

But you see, don't you?  I really do run a filling station!

Weekly Meal Plan

Another week...and do you realize that in just ten days more we'll be in August?  Indeed, school will be starting in less than 2 weeks time. 

I do not miss the days of getting children ready for the school year ahead.  I had plenty of practice at it with the five children and it was always a very fast paced couple of weeks, what with need to update shots, get haircuts,  gather paperwork, get school supplies, check wardrobes and purchase clothing items.  We'd trek from store to store in the most gosh awful heat and humidity and come home drained and worn out.  And why was it such a struggle?  Because my kids were adamant that we do everything in the least expensive way possible.  Their grandparents often gave them a sum of money towards the school expenses, which we matched and my children wanted to get the most mileage out of their money that they could.  It was they who perused sales sheets and spoke with friends and gathered information about sales on various needed items.  Their goal was wonderful: to provide from the sum given enough supplies to last all year, get every single item needed and buy the best quality they possibly could.  I must commend them, even these years later, because they did very well indeed and took great pride in going to the grandparents and showing them all they'd acquired.

No, I don't miss it, nor the struggle to get them back to school year hours (earlier risings and earlier bedtimes) rather than the relaxed summer hours.  One thing I tried to do each year in these final weeks was something really special.  One year we had a sunrise picnic.  We were nearly eaten alive by mosquitoes and ants and the sky was overcast but they enjoyed it enough to ask to do it again. 

Well, I've got nothing more than just an ordinary week ahead.  No need to do more than the ordinary grocery shopping...well...maybe I do miss the whole back to school excitement just a tiny bit.

Sunday:  Fiesta Chicken, Butter beans, Coleslaw
I made Pico de Gallo and topped baked chicken breasts with that and shredded Gouda and heated until just warm.  Yummy!  The meal was easy as could be but so flavorful.

Monday:  Meatloaf, Creamed Corn, Fried Green Tomatoes, Corn Muffins
I saved a container of corn out to prepare for us.  I realized as I worked on putting the corn up today that we hadn't had a bit of it!  With corn season ending, I wanted us to savor that bit of summer food.  I will make a small meatloaf.  We'll have leftovers to eat later in the week.

Tuesday:  Macaroni and Cheese Casserole, Tossed Salad, Broiled Peach Halves
Have you ever broiled fresh peach halves?  A bit of butter, a little brown sugar and heated just until the brown sugar melts and starts to caramelize.  Serve with a splash of cream poured over top.

Wednesday:  Potato Soup, Tuna Melts
I expect, if it's not raining, that John shall come home and start mowing grass.  A lighter meal will suit him better after being out in the heat.

Thursday:  Sliced Chicken in Gravy over Toast Points, Tomato Salad, Steamed Green Beans
Leftover chicken from this weekend's meal will be served in a light gravy.  Simple salad of sliced tomatoes on lettuce with a chive mayonnaise (basil is good too but alas I've got none) to top.

Friday:  Meatloaf Sandwiches, French Fries, Fresh Fruits
I usually slice meatloaf and make an open face sandwich with a little catsup, thinly sliced onion and cheese.  They are so tasty!  I think a variety of fresh fruits will be nice in place of a salad.

Saturday:  Cookout: Burgers, Hot dogs, Potato Salad, Chips, Condiments and Fixings
The beginning of a busy weekend for us with our two youngest children, their partners and parents.  I want to keep the day easy and fun.

Budget Stretchers: Leftover Makeovers: Corn Chowder, Squash Casserole

 I have two Leftover Makeovers to share today.

I believe that we can get double mileage from our food dollars if we creatively use leftovers.  It's my theory that starting with a plain cooked dish and morphing it into a not so plain dish is the way to insure I get more for food dollar.

A couple of weeks ago, I steamed 4 ears of corn in the microwave.  We ate two as corn on the cob and I had two leftover.  I chose to cut the cooked kernels from the cob:
I made corn chowder.  I'm sorry to say that this was also the day I was preparing the Southern Style Cream Corn and I forgot all about showing you the finished product!  However, here's my recipe:

Corn Chowder

1 quart chicken broth
2 cups (more or less) cooked whole kernel corn
1 cup diced potatoes
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tsp (or to taste) minced garlic
1 tall can (15 ounces?) evaporated milk
1/4 cup flour
 Salt and pepper to taste

I started by slightly cooking the potatoes, onion, bell pepper in a little oil, just to begin the cooking and add a little extra flavor from the slight caramelization that resulted.  Then I added garlic and broth, salt and pepper.  Just cook until the potatoes are tender, add in corn.  I mixed the flour and canned milk. I stirred into the soup as I drizzled in the milk mixture and heated until thickened.

We could eat corn chowder just anytime of year but for some reason, I tend to only think of it in summer when corn is fresh.  This recipe works very well with canned (not necessary to drain) or frozen whole kernel corn.  There's a recipe in several of my cookbooks for Turkey Corn Chowder which is recommended for using up the leftover turkey at Thanksgiving or Christmas, so keep that in mind, too.

Here's my second recipe:

Squash Casserole
2 cups yellow squash cooked with 1/2 medium onion(drain well)   
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 egg well beaten
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 sleeve buttery crackers crushed fine
1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Mix cooked squash and onions with seasonings, mayonnaise, egg and 1 cup cheddar.  Put into a greased casserole and top with the cracker crumbs and cheddar.  Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes, checking it now and then.  The casserole should puff slightly and be just barely firm to the touch in the center.

Now you might note that my ingredients are in a pie dish. I wanted just enough for us to have for a meal and frankly I had a little more. It was very tasty for my solo supper that evening.  I like squash casserole so it was a nice bonus to have that bit extra.  You can increase this recipe easily.  I think for 6 you could use about 4 cups squash and onions.  I steamed mine.  I put the cut squash and diced onion in the frying pan and popped on the lid.  You can add 1/4 cup water, but if you cook it on low and let it alone the squash do steam nicely all by themselves.

I've altered the recipe as well by adding in a bit of diced jalapeno...

You can see here that I prepped my casserole for the next day.  I put waxed paper and aluminum foil over the pie plate, lay the bread crumbs on top and put an egg (shell and all) in a small dish on top of that (so I'd remember to add it in).  I took out the next day and mixed it all up, put on the topping and had my dish ready in seconds.  And yes, you guessed it...I forgot to take a photo of the finished product once more! lol

These photos were taken by my husband who left this image on the camera along with the requested photos:
His parody of 'The Dish Ran Away With the Spoon"...He's a funny man, lol.

Iced Tea Chat - Calm Cool Collected

Now doesn't she just look like she's got it altogether?  Sigh.  I so wish I felt I did!  But do come on in and have some tea with me, won't you?  There's mint to go in the tea, or fresh lemon slices.  I like to do both. There are sugar cookies in the cookie jar, nice crisp, sugary ones.   I don't know why I don't make sugar cookies more often.  I really like them, simple as they are.  I'm finding more and more of late, I want simpler things.

I've been 'hiding out' the past few days.  I've spent hours upon hours reading the archives of a favorite but now closed blog of a gentle, sweet soul and a pile of vintage magazines.  Frankly I feel ill equipped at the moment to enjoy present day life. Nothing, I'm sure, that a decent night's rest and perhaps a deep hard news fast couldn't cure.  I am deeply saddened by the world at large lately, personal and otherwise.  News is enough to make me forget that there are still good, decent, kind people in this world; to forget there has been progress over all these years; to feel overwhelmed at how much damage a few can do to undo the sacrifices made by far more worthy men and women.  Yes, I am disheartened by the world.  Oh I'll brush it all off and start up once more, you betcha, but I am feeling battered at the moment.

I've had some poor night's of sleep of late and have awakened with a headache the past three mornings.  Migraines are much better these days, with far less pain than they once dealt, but the nasty side effects (aversion to noise, tummy upsets, tension) are still my undoing.  As said, I'm sure I'll feel better when I have had a good night's rest and a bit of a reality fast.

I think I'd like to spend our time today answering questions and showing a few photos, if that's okay with you.  Just sort of ramble about a bit, taking the long cut, as we call it, when we don't choose the most direct route to our destination. 

I'm looking back one month in the comments and will work my way forward.  The financial history I gave really struck a chord with most of you.  I knew I wasn't alone.  I've talked to many women who had similar backgrounds.  It's a very insecure place to be and it's nerve wracking for children as well as adults.  Deanna mentioned a windfall that allowed them to purchase a home, despite naysayers telling them they should 'invest' in mutual funds.  We've 'been there/done that' as well.  At two different times we invested in highly recommended rock solid investment funds.  We lost everything we put into them both times, fortunately not a huge investment but enough it hurt.

When my grandmother's estate was settled and we paid off our home, we went to a banking officer that we've dealt with many times.  We told her we wanted to pay off our home.  She told us frankly that no bank officer would recommend that we do that.  Then she quietly added, "But it's what I think you should do."  No, the financial world wants to keep you in debt, and even though the bank didn't hold the loan on our home, it did have a mutual fund they'd have just loved for us to dump that money into.  As Deanna pointed out, when the market crashed, she still had a home that was debt free.  Same here, Dee, same here.  Value on the house may have dropped as the market fell but it was still a paid for home.   

Ann mentioned that CVS might honor expired ECB.  Originally, when the program first started, my local CVS did.  They stopped that after management changed.  Kroger will refund your coupons, etc if you forget to use them, CVS does not do that, either.  However, policy apparently is different from store to store for CVS so by all means check to see what your store's policy might be.

Gramma D commented on "This Little Piggy Went to Market" that one hint she seldom sees anyone mention is serving just one serving of  each food to each person.  Now that is something I agree with.  I've been in many homes where a meal is served with an 'all you can eat' type of mentality.  We kept strictly to serving portions when we were struggling and we kept that habit up when we didn't have to strain quite so hard.  Even now that it's just the two of us, we serve our plates and if there are extra servings, I put them away for a second meal, usually a leftover makeover meal.   

We had two exceptions to this rule of 1 serving: On Christmas Day, John and I agreed the kids could have all the cookies, food and soda they wanted.  I will say for my children that they never spent Christmas Day grazing and guzzling all day long.  They did feel free however, to eat all they wanted at regular meal and snack times.  I don't recall ever finding they'd wiped out the full supply of anything.  It wasn't in their nature to be piggish.  We did the same thing on family vacation as well.  Often the kids spent all day long on the beach or in the pool and they were hungry!  It was part of "This little Piggy Had Roast Beef" plan of plenty to let them have all they wanted at those two times each year.

Now that said, I grew up in the South.  Company is an Occasion, especially if company is invited for a meal.  Two meats, four or five sides, two desserts, is more or less the rule.  And it's also pretty much a rule that you are over generous in putting food out.  I wanted to be a good hostess and to manage my resources well, too.  I figured rules are made to be changed.  That's when I really started using menu plans.  A well balanced, well seasoned, beautifully served meal trumped volume every single time.   Guests never left hungry and judging by the many who came over and over again to eat at my table, I think my approach worked very well.

This book was mentioned two or three times to me over the past three weeks.  I am pretty sure at some point I came across this at a library.  The image above is from Amazon but the blurb says the book is not available.  Definitely one of those to keep a lookout for though.

One of the vintage magazines I have, has listed a menu for various income levels.  There was one menu meant to be used 'only occasionally' in dire financial needs.  I think the foods listed would feed four or five for $13.  I was curious what that menu would cost to purchase so I figured it out (this was about ten years ago now mind you) and the total came up to $74.  I can't even imagine how much it might cost today after we've experienced such an increase in grocery.  If I stumble upon that menu again, I'll take time to figure it up.  Mostly it relied upon canned milk substituted for fresh,  canned juice over fresh fruit, etc.

Sarah mentioned that she keeps a notebook in her purse with store headers on different pages and then places sticky notes of items needed at each as well as a page that lists basic measurements for filter sizes, store hours, etc.  She also puts a 'C' next to items that she has a coupon for.  I think that is super clever, Sarah!  You might just help yourself to an extra sugar cookie as a prize.

As for 'Cowboy Beans' from this week's menu: I never did find that recipe I thought I'd tagged.  I came across another labeled by the same name that was Pinto Beans mixed with Bbq sauce and onions and topped with cheese.  Well John suggested baked beans would be good, so I ended up making the BBQ version, minus the cheese (seemed overkill to me).  They were good, but rather sweet.  Not sure I'd do that again.  I'll keep looking for that other recipe.  I have four cups of cooked beans in the freezer and another pound to cook in the cabinet!  Plenty of room for experiments!  Note too that my package had a recipe for refried beans made from cooked pinto beans.

This comment was left by Anonymous on "Whom Shall I Send?"...I'd love to give credit by name but I was really moved by what she had to say and wanted to acknowledge it:
I am the only Christian in my family here. It sure feels outnumbered as I am the odd one. Their eyes are on me when I go out and makes me stumble at times when I want to witness more and say more. If Moses with his stutter can do so much and many others with their problems still went forth. They and so many others now and in history as a model I should lean on Him for guidance and help more shouldn't I... Thank you for your honesty. I do not have many others to 'talk' to about such things...
Yes, we too are planted among many who are not Christian or who have not yet (or have not chosen) to move beyond 'baby steps'.  It's a lonely walk and more often than not, if we stumble you can bet there are more eyes turned our way than you'd imagine.  I've found the best I can do is confess that I've stumbled.  No point in trying to recover and hoping no one will notice because you can just bet they did.  I'd rather others see me struggle and succeed after repeated attempts than appear to be perfect.  I figure my fumbling is an example, too, perhaps not the perfect witness, but a witness all the same.

Another Anonymous soul (please, please ladies put your name down in the comments after you've finished writing so I can address you personally!), asked if I worked out of the home.  At one point, I sold items on eBay that were overflow from my own and my Grandmother's home.  I made enough money to pay off our credit card and our car loan at that time.  The day I made the last payment on the car, I didn't have another sale go through, after two years of earning $100-$300 a month!  After two months of no sales, John suggested I stop listing .  Previously I have kept children (early first marriage years), done some light bookkeeping, etc.

 I do feel my work here at home is valuable and I will not go where I'm not meant to go.  And may I add that this too is a lonely calling?  Sarah mentioned that in her mother's era her mother had lots of company in the neighborhood.  Not so in my life!  My mother worked full time all my childhood and Granny did as well during Mama's childhood years.  It was highly unusual in both eras but by the time I came along, determined to be at home with my children, it was more unusual to be a single income family.  I've worked outside my home when my children were younger but was able to be home for more of their childhood than not.  I might also add that we were not necessarily at our lowest point financially when I've been 'at home' either!  Those working days were beyond lean. 

I'm open to working if that is God's plan for me but have never in my life gone out and sought a job.  Jobs have always come to me. If that sounds foolish then so be it. I've been in prayer about what God's desire for me may be.

Sarah,  I buy the Vidalia Onion Dressing (I think it's Ken's brand).  The fruit vinaigrette was so easy: 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 vinegar, 1/4 cup strawberry jam blended well.  Easy easy.

I just loved this comment from Angela:   I feel so rich when we are eating a peach cobbler in Jan from peaches put up in summer. Or eating luscious strawberry jam made in May when snow is on the ground. The wealthiest people cannot get good peaches in Jan.  You have most certainly upon one fact that cannot be denied!  We are the richer for our frugal ways in off seasons when we can pull out food stored and have a treat such as blackberry jam on a winter morning or peach cobbler in January!

Louise, the cottage cheese is not necessarily supposed to be frozen but I had some to accidentally freeze in the fridge once and discovered that it actually froze the water out of the cottage cheese and left behind a dryer cheese product.  I figured that wasn't necessarily a bad thing when I wanted to make Calzone or other dishes where a less watery result was desired.  So now when I want to make one of those recipes or find my cottage cheese is fast approaching its due date, I just pop the cottage cheese in the freezer.

You also asked how I store my lettuce:  For ice berg, I core it, wash it and let it drain.  Then I wrap in my flour sack cotton towel:
 and store in a zippered gallon bag.  This works very well for me with most all vegetables especially lettuces, and cabbage and such.  I just washed the cabbage, don't bother with cutting the stem end or anything.  As for romaine, I cut off the root end and then wash, drain, wrap and bag.
 About the 'Southern Style Cream Corn', Louise, you can most certainly freeze it.  That's what I've done with mine.  I just take it from the freezer and pop into a casserole dish with a bit of milk or water and put in the oven.  I check it often, add more water or milk as is needed.  It does take about 40-45 minutes once thawed to cook though.

Kathy, the peach slaw dressing is just mayonnaise with a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of sugar, and a tablespoon of vinegar.

Jennifer, it's the Bromelain in pineapple that is so beneficial.  You can look this up to see all the benefits, but it's especially good for respiratory ailments.

Now, that's all up to date on comments.  I had an unexpected thing happen last month.  I have a plant known as snake plant or Mother-In-Law's Tongue that I have nursed along from a tiny mistreated grocery store potted plant.  It's now in a 3 gallon pot and filled to the brim.  These are relatively low care, preferring only filtered sunlight and the occasional watering.  I was going to give some to my niece but the thing went and bloomed!  I've NEVER in all my years seen these things bloom before!  The blooms were very dainty and highly fragrant, very much a jasmine sort of scent.  Here's what it looked like in bloom:
 Besides working on my wreath I haven't done much beyond just routine housework.  I did however decide that I simply had to tackle this spot:

That's my kitchen desk.  I have collected a few (cough) cookbooks over the past two years and needed a place to store them.  The metal milk crate I got from my grandfather seemed a good place to start, but as you can see it left me little room for work space, so planning menus was a bit of a bust in that spot.
This was my solution.  I had the small bookcase in the guest/craft room and I decided that it would do very well here at the end of the freezer.  That left me with a desk that looks more like this:
I am enjoying that work space once more.  I sit there and plan meals, look over recipes, do Bible study there some mornings when I have something going on in the kitchen at the same time, sit down to rest and jot out a few thoughts for blog posts, work on shopping lists, go through my home notebook to find where I should be working, etc.  I'm planning to move my laptop to that desk on a more regular basis too because it's my old writing spot and I can easily  get 'in the zone' when I'm sitting there.  And just for a point of reference, my cookbooks used to fit on the top shelf of that in/out file!  I really have picked up quite a few over the past couple of years. I don't expect to add many more though, I really do have plenty!

One other thing about this photo.  My kitchen walls (indeed all of the walls in this house except the master bath) are still the original wall paper covered sheetrock that the house was built with.  I learned many years ago to ignore what I couldn't change and do what I wanted whether or not it 'matched' perfectly what I had already.  So you'll see that my wallpaper does not include black or green or red despite my using those colors to accessorize my room with.  One day, very soon I hope, I mean to paint every single wall in this house as I'd like to see them painted.  But 'some day' sometimes takes longer to come around than I'd like so I don't waste my time despising and wishing for different.  Instead I have as much of what I want as I can afford.  One day, I say prayerfully, I will have my house exactly as I want it.

We have had rain and rain and rain these past three weeks.  Just look:
Now honestly, this photo was taken back in mid-June but I kid you not, it looked about like this more days than you'd believe over the past three weeks.  Just Saturday we had 5(!) inches of rain in one afternoon!  You'd have thought we lived in a wetland instead of atop a hill.  I am deeply grateful that we sit well above ground level.

I took this photo one night when we had just had rain...and more was coming in:
I actually saw the rain in the distance.  It was cool to watch as it came our way.  Made for a lovely sunset as well.

Sunday, John decided he just had to mow the lawn, though it did not look auspicious for it.  He was very nearly finished before the rain started so he just mowed right through.  As he was washing off the mower the sun broke through the skies and he called me outside to see the rainbow.

It was lovely!  In person you could clearly see every single color in the prism.  The bottom most color was the deepest violet I've ever seen in a rainbow.  It was far more colorful than the double rainbow in my current header photo.  Mind you we had several heavy rain showers yesterday, but they were mixed liberally with sunshine, too.  And today?  It's been just perfect, a lovely blue and green mild summer's day.  I walked outdoors mid-afternoon to exchange a couple of items with my niece and even standing in full sun it wasn't hot.

I do believe I feel better for having had company with you...It's lifted my spirits considerably.  Thank you all so much for cheering me along.  You've no idea how I needed that chatty break!

Getting Out of Debt For Good: This Little Piggy Had None

You'll find me hard hearted with this little piggy.

Once upon a time I knew a family who worked  at two jobs and lived in the worst possible conditions at all times.  They hadn't a decent stick of furniture and what they did have that might have been decent was so ill treated and so abused that it soon fell to pieces.  The house was poorly kept.   Food upon their table was a strictly feast and famine sort of thing.  When they had grocery they ate every last bite, never bothering to stretch to cover more than one meal, were very casual about putting away any leftovers, and were wasteful as could be.  The adults never instructed by example and lacked the discipline to set rules.  There was no stocked pantry in their home nor even a full cupboard. Most meals were planned daily a half hour or so before one would normally eat.   If meals weren't forthcoming from their own resources they went off to visit friends and hung around waiting for a meal to appear.  I soon learned that once fed a meal, they saw no point in going home at all and hung around hopefully waiting upon the next one!

There was no regular bedtime and no regular meal time and no regular routine of any sort.  Their home was seldom clean and it wasn't uncommon for Mama Pig to show up on a friend's doorstep complaining that the children hadn't done chores, so she'd left home without doing her chores or making supper to punish them. She would stare blearily at you mid morning and say she'd been up doing laundry until wee hours of night because it was discovered around midnight that no one had clean undies or jeans to wear the next day.

No one bothered to keep check of the budget, they spent until the last dime was gone each pay period and then they suffered and complained and sobbed and wailed until someone took pity on them.  Only to complain and sob and wail that they didn't LIKE that item or this!

Each pay period before bills were paid or groceries bought, they promptly went off  and offered two thirds of their cash  to a local merchant in exchange for a few more pieces of battered furniture or a car that had mechanical troubles galore and needed a  new battery and tires as well.

If an extra paycheck or windfall came their way, they took off to go spend a weekend in the mountains or at the beach, took the kids to horseback riding lessons, bought rather than rented a band instrument, or shopped for new clothes for the whole family and never set aside a dime for future needs.  Things like school supplies were expected to magically appear at the beginning of the school year and if they had to purchase them on their own, they wailed and gnashed their teeth and bought a bare minimum of each required item and groused  when it was used up and had to be replaced.

I was well acquainted with this family.  My own family and I were struggling along at the time so I  tried to lead by example, I tried to instruct, I tried to help, but alas these Piggies were pretty much entrenched in having NONE and meant to stay there.  Last I heard they'd bought their own place and in 5 years time it was falling down around their ears for lack of routine care.

Even now, some 30 years later, I shake my head remembering how very foolish they were.  These little piggies perpetually had NONE.  And it was all their own fault!  They had better income, far better opportunities job-wise and were not lacking in intelligence.  These None pigs had no desire to live differently than they did.  They were forever waiting on a lottery win or an unknown wealthy uncle to toss them a pile of money.  However, that wouldn't likely change their lives much because they refused to learn the basic skills of money management.  They absolutely refused to believe it wasn't a matter for luck alone.  What's more, they had no respect for money, things, or others.  They were and are still much upon my mind when I feel too inclined to complain of any lack in my life.

And I suppose on that score I should congratulate myself that I knew them.  Because of their example I've been far more prone to look about and see what I might do differently.  Which just goes to show, even a bad example is still an example.

A Year of Savings: 2013

July 8:  I've lost a day somewhere along the line...I kept thinking today was Tuesday all day long.  No clue why, but it's left me feeling very confused.

Made my own barbecue sauce earlier this morning.  I incorporated some jelly that was starting to sugar up.  It was a homemade jar of Blackberry/Apple jelly that was given to us.  It provided a nice sweetness to the homemade sauce.  Savings $.99 the current sales price of store bought name brand sauce.

Shopped at home today for ketchup and regular coffee.

Weekly Menu Plan

I know my photo is askew...frankly at the moment it is about how I feel, slightly not right.  Here's hoping whatever it is passes quickly, but as I've said a half dozen times or so: Neither hail nor sleet nor rain nor snow...Nope that's not it!  But it does fit in with that idea as well.  "The world may end and someone will still want  a meal, the dishes must be done."  That's it.  Does sort of fit in with that stalwart postal carrier's slogan doesn't it?  And isn't it a shame that today the postal service (not just picking on them, mind you, but lots of folks) can't see their way clear to keep to that old fashioned statement of duty?  Call me old fashioned, but I do believe that a woman's place in the home is head cheerleader, bottle washer, bed maker and in my instance this morning, turtle saver. 

Does it sound as though I'm rambling weirdly about?  Not at all, not at all.  Went out this morning to feed the pets and Maddie was barking and pouncing in the front flower bed, ripping it apart.  Sigh.  No clue why these things can't take place in the over-packed bed full of weeds in the back yard, but nope it had to be the front flower bed.  John said it was a frog.  Not a frog, but a big old snapping turtle well tucked in to keep away from Miss Barky Dog.  It wasn't until Maddie started to pick up the shell and flipped it over and Trudy decided to get in on the fun of torture that I decided intervention had to occur.  I rescued turtle and put him under my shed.  Maddie was distracted by the butterflies by the time I'd made it across the yard and couldn't have cared less. She is an ADHD doggy, truly, and I'm surprised she stuck with barking at the turtle as long as she did.  Trudy was already napping off her breakfast.  She's too old to get overly excited for long.  I imagine the turtle, hearing peace and quiet about him. poked out his head and feet once more and trekked his way out the other end of the shed and into the briars and trees and grasses of the wild land well away from noisy snippy dogs.

Back indoors once more, I finished off my Bible study and waited upon dinner to finish cooking.  It wasn't a hard meal today.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce,  Peach Cobbler
(This menu pulled forward from last week).  I told you it was simple.  My sauce may have had meat in it but it also had loads of vegetables in it as well: a whole carrot, a whole onion, a whole zucchini, half a bell pepper, lots of tomatoes.  I felt perfectly justified in serving it as a one dish, no salad required sort of meal.  Besides there was fruit for dessert, John's request as I spied the lovely ripe peaches getting every so slightly wrinkled this morning.  I pointed out that the peaches had gotten ripe.  "I'll just put them in the freezer," I said.  "Or make cobbler..." he said helpfully, lol.  I had enough peaches to do both.  The link above is the recipe I made a couple of weeks ago and it's very, very good.  Do try it!  This is my new 'go to' recipe.

Chicken Tacos, Green Tomato Salsa, Corn with Cumin Butter
I bought flour tortilla this week especially to use as taco shells (I fry my own) and to use in making wrap sandwiches.  I get good mileage from a stack of flour tortilla.  One day soon, I mean to try my hand at making my own.  In the meantime, I will try my hand at a new to me recipe of  Green Tomato Salsa.

Cowboy Beans, Peach and Pepper Slaw, Cornbread
I will be cooking my own pinto beans.  While I hardly expect to use the entire 2 pound bag at one meal, I thought I'd cook them and freeze in meal sized packets for easy future meals.  I was asked by Lena to let her know how the peach and jalapeno slaw was.  A big hit!  I was surprised, honestly I was, when John told me how tasty he found it.  I didn't have jalapeno, but I do have a baggie of hot little peppers given to us by a co-worker of John's and I used half of one of those, seeded, and finely minced (it was still 'warm').  The slaw was fresh and the peaches were a little tart/a little sweet so it made for a nice combination.  Do try it!

Caprese Roasted Chicken Breast, Roasted Asparagus, Salad, Garlic Bread
Another new to me recipe this week.  I'll share later if we like it.  I picked up tiny stems of asparagus at Aldi this week.  I'll have to watch carefully when roasting these as they will burn quickly!  I'm surprised to be able to continue to buy fresh asparagus this late in the season, but then again, it's not exactly been the usual season has it?  Mild weather, lots of rain, a colder spring than usual...hence the late run on strawberries and asparagus.

Calzone, Green Salad
I had some cottage cheese that was a couple of days ahead of expiration date so I popped it in the freezer.  This always makes the thawed cottage cheese a little drier but it works beautifully for lasagna and calzone to have it just so.  I'll mix with leftover meat sauce from our spaghetti meal and wrap in homemade pizza dough.  I should manage a few extra to freeze for future meals.

Roast Beef, Armenian Potatoes, Steamed fresh Green Beans, Wedge Salads
If weather remains pleasant I'll make this as a full oven meal.  If it warms up enough to be unpleasant, I'll probably cook potatoes and beef in the crock pot.  I have two crock pots, but I find that I can make a nice heavy foil 'dish' and cook two items at once in the larger crock potIt saves on clean up as well.   Here's hoping I can find fresh green beans. Haven't seen any in the market yet.  If I don't, I'll use canned.

Hash, Steamed Snap Peas, Salad, Popovers
I'll use leftovers from the beef and potato dishes to make our second meal.  I've done this combination before and while it's not the conventional hash it's still very tasty and good.

Morning Song

                                                                Morning Song
                                           Rise, oh Lark, on eager wings,
                                                     Above the night's dark hollow.
                                           Fly into the edge of Dawn --
                                                     I have wings to follow!
                                           Dip into the golden scent
                                                    Of cloud's ethereal flower.
                                           I have wings to touch the stars,
                                                     To race a comet shower!
                                           Sing, oh Lark, of sky and star
                                                     And the wind's soft thunder,
                                           And sing of how my heart shall leap
                                                     At seeing morning's wonder!

                                                            Edith Grames Schay
                                                             (c) July 1937 The Farmer's Wife Magazine

My Latest Pinterst Inspired Craft

I knew the moment I saw this wreath on Pinterest via Marlen Diaz-Sanchez

that I had to make one for myself.  I had all the components on hand...but ended up buying the wide burlap ribbon, instead of cutting a strip off my length of burlap as I'd originally planned.  Total cost to make: $1 for the section of ribbon used (you'll find it in Hobby Lobby in the sewing area for $5.99 for the spool).

Enlarge the photo, please...Notice my little innovation there on the sunflowers?  One lost it's fuzzy brown center piece. I had other sunflowers I could use but I also have this sort of homespun fabric on hand that I thought would be cute. Perhaps it looks a bit more autumn-ish than summer, but I like it all the same.

My grapevine wreath is a  little wonky but it's a genuine handmade wreath.  My kids and I went out to the backroads and cut wild grapevine about 10 years ago and wove them into wreaths.  It's a nice tight sturdy vine and has stood up to many uses.  You might recall that I used it for this wreath back in the winter:
No telling what it will end up being next...

Linking to : 
Sunny Simple Monday
Home Sweet Home #128

Staying Out of Debt for Good: This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef

It's easy to be  of two minds about this little piggy....Was she indulgent, a spendthrift?  Or was she a wise Piggy who knew that buying a premium cut of meat would be a good investment that netted many more meals than just roast, if portioned wisely?

It's easy enough to suggest the first, isn't it?  I've found that while Roast Beef can be a pricey cut at first glance it often became more economical as the days  went on.  Seldom did it cost more than ground beef per pound, but because it is bought in a greater quantity at once, the price might cause you to stagger a bit.

Did you know that you can cut roast beef into steaks, stew meat and roast beef from most flat cut roasts?  John and I sliced a sirloin roast last month into two steaks ( I could easily have done three) and a pound of beef cubes that we used for shish kebab.  Even humble Chuck Roast (the least expensive roast option) may be sliced to make chuck steaks, stew beef, etc.  I discovered this by reading one of those older cookbooks and vintage magazines which show how to make the best of a big roast.  Now I practice the methods on smaller roasts for John and I with great success.  And FYI...Mama used to buy sirloin roasts and have them rolled.  Butchers these days find the request mystifying but essentially you start at one end of the boneless roast and roll up like a jelly roll, tie with butchers twine and then you can marinate and rotisserie cook it on a grill, slow roast over a pan of smoking chips or bake in the oven as though it were a Rump or Round Roast (which incidentally cost more).  It may be sliced thinly and net many more servings than the average sirloin once it is cooked and has been allowed to rest.

Years ago I learned the wisdom of buying a big nice roast each pay period.  I'd make a pot roast dinner, which the kids enjoyed.  I carefully sliced thin cuts of meat to go with the plentiful and hearty root vegetables that cooked along with the roast and everyone was satisfied.  A couple of days later we often had a bit more roast, this time chopped up and mixed with peas and carrots, some leftover gravy and topped the dish with mashed potatoes to make a Shepherd's pie.  The remaining roast and gravy were saved and the meat chopped fine.  I added cubed potatoes and a chopped onion and simmered slowly on the top of the stove until the potatoes were tender and most of the liquid absorbed.  This was our roast beef hash which Samuel so loved. And if there happened to be a bone, or broth or vegetables or any scrap except fat left we'd set it aside in a container in the freezer to use as the base of a big pot of soup.  Mind you in these days I was feeding 6 routinely at most meals.  That's a lot of mileage out of one roast that generally averaged 2 1/4 pounds.

But more important than the mileage gotten from that cut of meat was the perception it gave to the family of plenty.  I could and often did feed my family meatless meals.  I relied heavily upon ground beef and chicken which were cheap and  stretched every single meal with an extra helping of rice, potatoes or pasta.  But as long as we had roast once a week, the family seldom saw need to complain.

I've mentioned that the roast often cost little more than ground beef but my family saw that lovely big piece of meat going into the crock pot for a roast beef dinner and they felt we had more than enough, that the household economics couldn't be all that bad if we were eating such a good bit of meat as that roast.  No matter that it was going to be stretched again and again with vegetables galore. And it worked every single time, whether we were roasting a big chicken or a ham shank as that week's best bargain.  That was key to budget stretching and keeping everyone focused on how well we managed, that single 'big' meat meal each week.

I think that is often the mistake of those who want to live frugally, not that meals have to be lavish but they often serve foods in a skimpy way.  Even something as simple as properly seasoning food can make all the difference in the world and it is well worth investing in fresh garlic (or at least the bottles of minced garlic), fresh ginger root (which can be sliced and frozen) or a nice warming pepper (jalapeno comes to mind) that adds just that little extra punch of flavor.  Herbs are another place where I'd be tempted to splurge.  You may often buy these as manager's specials and strip them from the vine and freeze, or you might grow your own.  Seasonings are always a worthy investment for the bare bones budget and make the difference in a flavorful satisfying meal over a flat tasting one.

At our poorest, our table boasted a salad every single day.  We always had fruit on the table as dessert or for eating as a snack.  True it might be a lowly head of iceberg lettuce that served as salad, and it might be only apples and oranges (bought in bulk bags, not individually chosen) piled in big bowls but the visual appeal of plenty was there for all to see.  It truly is amazing how the sting of 'poor' can be shaken by such little things that cost less than you'd imagine.

I was never (and still am not!) too proud to accept the bounty of overflow from a garden or a heavily laden fruit tree. We thought nothing of making a game of picking wild fruits and putting them into the freezer for a future treat aside from what we ate fresh. 

We had our little splurges, the things we didn't compromise on, besides that big cut of meat once a week.  Butter and real olive oil, for instance.   Just a little of those two items went a long way to enhancing a meal.  Sometimes I'd prepare mayonnaise from scratch.  Well why not?  We were out, there was no more money until pay day, but I had all the basics for making the stuff right there at home and again, if the illusion was that we had plenty...then I'd done my job well hadn't I?  My kids often drank chocolate milk...made with a deeply rich homemade chocolate syrup that just happened to be stored in the Hershey's syrup bottle.  That looked costly to others too, but it was just a good reuse of a very handy bottle, not an attempt to fool anyone.  And the milk was half whole milk and half dry powder reconstituted milk, but two whole gallons sat on the shelf of the fridge. 

Do you know what else gave the appearance of plenty?  We never failed to set the table nicely for every single meal.  The plates and glasses, the silverware, might well be the cheapest the dollar store had to offer but we used cloth napkins (sometimes just terry wash cloths which were inexpensive, colorful and sturdy for repeated uses).  If we had nothing else for a centerpiece, the aforementioned fruit piled in a 'crystal' bowl from the grocery store dishware section was used.  The kids thought it elegant if we ate by candlelight for supper.  A small savings on electricity for us, luxury as far as they were concerned.

I think what I want to say here is that it's the illusion of  things rather than the actual facts that fool the eye of the initiated and uninitiated alike.  I might well know our bank balance to the penny and know that it was truly a matter of hanging on tight until payday, but no one else need know.   At the time that valances were all the rage I bought a bolt end of fabric...for $1 yard.  We dressed two huge windows with draped fabric valances.  The remainder of the fabric was sewn into napkins and a roman shade for the kitchen window.  I might have spent $10 for that fabric but oh the mileage and how nice it all looked over the inexpensive bed sheet 'curtains' we used at the windows.  And oh how many times I was complimented on what nice window coverings we had in that main room!  No one ever guessed that it cost us less than $20 to do the big picture window, sliding glass doors, roman shade and the 'extras' of napkins!

Our clothing might have been a little worn and in some cases, mended and dyed too, but they were always clean.  We had the children set aside things that were not as nice looking to wear about the house as they worked and played and the nicer items were kept for school and going out to visit.  That idea of saving their best to wear away from home extended to shoes and jackets as well.  We were careful to remove stains from even the clothing worn about the house.  Soap is cheap and elbow grease is in plentiful supply.  We scrubbed and we soaked and we pre-treated with Dawn dish detergent and so our clothes always looked nice as they could, even if they were old.

We insisted upon keeping the house and yard looking nice.  There was a row of inexpensive bulk purchased flowers bordering the sidewalk.  The yard was mown and the shrubbery trimmed. The front door was painted an inviting color.  The front porch was swept and so was the sidewalk.  Inside the floors were clean and the main living areas were always kept free of clutter and company ready.  That made a difference, too, you know.   

Let's not get too flustered with this roast beef Piggy...After all, she undoubtedly was making the best of what she had and doing it quite well!

Wandering Thoughts

Curious things:  I know every one has certain things that they are odd about.  I have my share.  For instance, I dislike organ music mightily.  I can't tell you why, but it just grates upon my nerves.  I've never been in a church or concert where an organ was played, but to hear it on radio, CD, or in a movie,   I literally want to cover my ears and scream until it's over.  Now I've seen master musicians playing the organ and  I'm awed by their skill and ability in pulling stops and working pedals and striking keys on multiple rows.  I can honestly say that it's a very complicated instrument and a great mystery to me.  I truly am amazed by the coordination it takes to play, but there my appreciation ends.   Listening to the music that comes out of that instrument is about as much fun to me as listening to fingernails on chalkboard.  I just don't like it.

I don't much like dill pickles, either. I suppose it has a lot to do with the fact that I grew up eating homemade sweet pickles.  The pickles I grew up eating were mildly tart and almost candy sweet since they were put up in a thick sugary syrup.  We only ever ate dill pickles on Bbq pork sandwiches that we picked up at a favorite take out spot and occasionally on fast food hamburgers but eating fast food  was a very rare thing.  We ate food at home when I was growing up and we ate foods we'd grown or raised and cooked at home.  So naturally I just never developed a taste for what we didn't have in our own home.

But it's been in the last five years  I find I simply can't bear the taste of dill pickles at all. And it never seems to fail that if we go out to eat burgers, mine has a double dose of dill pickles, so that you bite through layers of pickles.  Ugh, is all I can say.  Mind you, these days I'd be hard pressed to enjoy those sweet pickles Mama used to make, either.  I lean more towards a Bread and Butter type pickle which is a little sweet, a little tart.

Now all that said, I did buy a jar of dill pickle relish by mistake and didn't realize it until I put it in potato salad.  A few days later, I made egg salad for our supper.  I was so pleased with that dill flavor in the egg salad.  And I do like dill weed with fish, or on green beans.  It was one of the first herbs I liked and led me to experiment with other herbs, so it isn't the taste of dill that puts me off dill pickles.

Another huge dislike is the color orchid.  As a child I wanted the big box of crayons, the one with 64 colors...but I knew that I only liked 63 of them.  Other colors in the box would be worn down to nubs but orchid remained sharp pointed and unmarred.    I've seen people wear the color and it looks lovely...but I cringe inwardly even while admiring it. I have a photo of a room painted Orchid with a deep blue table and red poppies arranged in a vase on the table.  It takes my breath away every time I look at it because of the intensity of the colors, but I can only admire it for a moment or two when I'm struck all over again with my absolute loathing of the color and I have to put it away.

Have you ever noticed the way guys watch TV?  I mean, for instance, right now as I've been writing for the past 14 minutes, John has flipped through 100 or more channels.  We've watched a WWII film, a Henry Fonda bio, Stephen Segal, Big Bang theory, Interview with a Vampire for two or three minutes each and he's clicked his way through dozens that he doesn't bother to watch at all.  I often will get interested in a program he's watching only to find that he changes channels when the commercial comes on and we never seem to cycle back to that show before it's over.

For the most part I could care less what's on TV.  I watch only a few programs or favorite movies. We have an agreement:  during my viewing  time he doesn't change channels and I don't complain for the rest of the time when he feels like just flipping.

And for the record, John has watched Interview with  A Vampire many times, but I've NEVER seen the whole movie in all that time. I don't care for the movie myself, but that's not why I've never seen it all.  It's because he has seen it all the way through once or perhaps twice and there are parts that he doesn't like, so he goes to another channel for a bit until the part he dislikes is past.

It's not just that movie either that I haven't seen all the way through.  There are many.  Occasionally he will look at me and say, "Oh that movie's sad (or funny or maddening) in the part where Character X is talking to Character Y, don't you think?" and I'll look at him and say, "I didn't know that X and Y had that conversation."  "Oh you know it, we've watched it a hundred times!"  Well no we haven't.  He's changed channels a hundred times when that part came on.  I don't even know the full sequence of some movies because I've only ever seen bits from the middle or the tail ends of them!

Last month, our Rabbi introduced me to his mother.  He said in introduction, "This is my mom."  That was it.  Later in the car, I mentioned to John that I'd met Rabbi's mother.  "Oh!  What's her name?"  I laughed, "Apparently her name is 'Mom'."  John laughed, too.  We've been introduced as 'Mom' and 'Dad' often so we understand.  A couple of weeks ago, I ran into 'Mom' again and asked her name.  We chuckled over the previous introduction.

But that little incident made me think. I've mentioned before that folks tend to live long in my family.  So it's not surprising that I wasn't sure of my great-grandfather's name when I began this family research.  We called him "Pap", as did his children and grandchildren.  I don't know if anyone ever called him by his name.  He was 93 when I was 8 years old and I don't recall anyone mentioning that any of his contemporaries were living.  I wonder if perhaps occasionally he didn't refer to himself by name just to keep the memory of who he was intact.  I wonder if he didn't say "John..." and talk to  himself.  I'd think after so many years of being "Pap" it would have been something of a shock to hear another person refer to him as John.  He might not have remembered that was his name!

I think I've mentioned before that my children have their own individual names for me, all maternal based.  To my oldest son, I'm 'Mom', and my oldest daughter calls me 'Mumma'.  My youngest son says, "Mama" but Katie calls me "Mumsie" nine times out of ten.  I feel each says something about our relationship to one another in their individual names for me. And yes, I answer to them all.

My paternal grandfather (son of the John mentioned above) always called my Grandmama "Woman".  I only rarely ever heard him speak her name.  For the most part, "Woman" she was.  Considering what a young thing she was when he married her, I guess it was a sort of honorary title for her.  She certainly never seemed to mind, though she did refer to him by his given name.

Granny and her sisters all survived into their mid-90s (Aunt Caroline brings up the rear of that being ten years younger than Granny) and so there was always someone around who called them by name.  Big Mama also had a younger sister who survived her, so she too was called by name often through her elder years.  But I do wonder if it's possible to 'forget' our own name when we've been called  only "Mama" or "Gramma" for a number of years as Pap was.

I guess I'll have to live to 90 to know the answer to my own question, won't I?

 A lot of people go on and one about how lucky we are today to live so long (or not depending on the personal glass half full/half empty outlook).  Freedom from disease and better care during childbirth has helped tremendously.  But I've been astounded at the number of people I've come across in the mid 1800's on census' that were well into their 80's, 90's, 100's!  Who knew that so many folks lived to a ripe old age in the 'olden days'?  And just think...Here many of these folks grew up under British rule, were involved in the Revolution, and lived through other wars, including the Civil War, before they died.

Overall, my viewpoint of the past has been largely altered.  I am fascinated by the little town in which my mother's great grandmother grew up.  There's nothing much to it really.  A railroad track down the middle, a few empty brick buildings, a handful of older homes, and a church that shows visible signs of age courtesy the original handmade brick that was recycled to use in the 'new' 1890 building.  It doesn't look like much of anything at all really and now that the major highway bypasses it entirely instead of wandering around through it as it did in the past, it's pretty much forgotten.  But great goodness!  The life that little tiny town knew in the 1840-1890 eras!

It was such an up and coming place that there two huge boarding schools (known as Academies) in the town with nearly 200 students who 'boarded in' at the townspeople's homes.  There were two drugstores, and two lawyers, a shoe factory as well as a blacksmith's shop and a leather work shop.  There were two or three general stores and a post office in town.  A circus came to visit at one point and well known original works of art were displayed during a touring visit.  There were well known speakers who came through town to give lectures and the founder of one of the Academy's wrote a book on botany that is still considered ground breaking today.  The town attracted first class medical doctors, one of whom became known for his ability to break up bladder stones, giving many people a new lease on life, and freedom from pain and suffering.  There were church meetings and spelling bees, singings, and quilting bees, a Women's group and a population that is starkly contrasted by the handful of folks who reside there now. The town was the birthplace of  well known political figures (state and federal), inventors, orators, authors.

The wonderful part is that this state is just loaded down with sleepy tiny little towns that look like nothing much, but once upon a time...Oh once upon a time!  I wish I could have a time machine and visit them all in their heyday.  Sigh....

As we rode along one day last week, I looked out the windows at the fields we passed and sighed deeply.  John asked what the matter was.  Nothing, actually.  I was just savoring the views of fields and fields and fields of the loveliest corn I've been privileged to look upon in years upon years.  Even the poorest soil this year has produced a decent crop of corn and richer soil, even those fields not irrigated, has produced corn so tall you can't reach the top of it.  It's green and lush and just beautiful. It's the way I remember fields looking in summers from my childhood before the droughts stunted crops and left the cornstalks dwarfed and twisted and dying in fields until farmer's ceased to plant corn at all.

I tried to look down the cornrows, which is a crazy sort of visual/optical trick I like to do when we're out driving.  I like to see how even rows are and whether I can catch a glimpse of the end of the row, sometimes a mile or more off.  Well the corn is so thick that you can't see down a row.  It looks dark and dense and a little scary (images of snakes and such hiding in the thick of the field bother me) and I get the feeling that on a nice hot day, you'd about suffocate for lack of air in those fields.  I want to make sure and take my camera out with me here the next time I'm leaving the house and get a few photos of these fields.  I don't know if we'll be blessed to see corn like this again next year, but I sure hope so!  It sure does make me feel happy to see it, almost as happy as hay bales.

It's been raining all week long.  Do you know what I want most to do?  Curl up in a chair with a cup of coffee, watch an old romance or read a really good book, take loads of naps and just generally act as though it were a rainy day.

I suppose if I were still a child this might be fairly possible, but I am, alas, an adult.  And while I am hardly too busy to stop a bit here and there, there's little reason to spend time just frittering it away with a movie...or isn't there?  John and I have managed a few nice old movies this past week.  One was "The Reluctant Debutante" with Sandra Dee and Rex Harrison and Kay Kendall.  I really enjoyed it.  And I've just finished a decent enough book by Emilie Richards The Trouble With Joe which was worthy of a few tears at the climatic point.  I am a bit of a book snob by the way and this one hit on one of the things I dislike: sex.  Don't mind knowing my characters have had sex, just prefer not to get the blow by blow account of the act, if you know what I mean.

Nope, I'm old fashioned in that way.  I prefer to have books and movies 'hint' to me that sex took place or is about to.  Leave it to my imagination.  I've got a pretty good idea of what goes on and I'm about as interested in knowing what, where and when as I am in having anyone know my own what, where and when!  So I was disappointed in that aspect, but I'll forgive this transgression as it was a very early book of Richards and not one of her later more complexly developed books (which pass up on the blow by blow sort of stuff).

To soothe me however, I'm going to read something old fashioned next, perhaps a bit of  a series of books by Elizabeth Ogilvie which is always a nice summer-y sort of read straight from the coastal islands of Maine.

"tis the season...Well obviously not the time to think of Christmas.  I'm referring to the old fashioned, lovely, summer custom of sharing garden produce.  We were gifted this week with two large green tomatoes.  I do love fried green tomatoes.  I made the mistake one summer of not even considering the purchase of a green tomato...Come autumn I realized I'd missed what is a major source of summer food enjoyment for myself.  It's like going without peach cobbler.  Or a refreshing, tall, tinkly glass of iced tea on a hot day.  I vowed at that autumn I'd embrace the joys of each season fully from then on and I've not missed one single thing since.

John came in earlier this week with a bag full of produce.  Big red tomatoes, lovely little cherry tomatoes, tiny yellow onions that are crisp and sweet with a slight bite to them, and a variety of peppers.  One of his co-workers shared the bounty of her garden. I think that is just the nicest thing ever and I happily accept all contributions.

John has never learned the complete taste satisfaction of garden fresh produce.   He thinks what we buy at the grocery is just fine and it's not bad, when it's seasonal foods but right from the garden?  The taste is 100% better.  And the best thing of all?  I can eat almost all I want without a care, because it's lower calorie than most 'treats'.

Every now and then I like to look back through old blog posts and read what I was doing a few years ago in the same month as this current year.  Well, I've discovered that I am the world's most boring ritualistic person in the world.  Whatever I might be writing about now on my blog is generally what I wrote about then.  I'll just say it nicely: I'm very consistent in what I like about each month!

Last night I read back through the old Blue House On the Hill blog.  It was a fairly painful time in my life and it went on through the next four years.  The funny part, or not, as you might soon see, is that these days all came on the heels of a Word from an evangelist who came to the church we were attending at the time.  I didn't mean to stay and hear the program but as we dressed for practice that day, I felt in my Spirit that I was to stay and hear a special message from God to us from this woman.  So we stayed and her Word was very encouraging, very positive.  I wish I could say the past four years were as encouraging and positive as those words!  They were, in short, hurtful, hard, difficult and many and many a day John and I have looked at one another and asked where the blessings we were told coming our way were.

It's been a time of testing and of shaking up what we thought we were, where we thought we were going, what we expected our lives to be at this stage.  There's no doubt that God has, is, will, bless us, but they are different blessings than we expected.  We are learning to surrender ALL to Him and wait for Him to show us what is best for us.  I will say, if I'd known then what I know now, I might have been less enthusiastic in saying I was ready for these blessings.   I'm so glad I've had to go along blindly trusting because I'd have missed a great deal that has been good, glorious and awesome, albeit not what I'd expected!


I've shared before that I am overweight and have been for all my life.  Prior to being hit by a drunk driver I also was fairly active despite my size.   Over the past few years, I've slowly regained the physical strength I lost in the years it took to recover.  I have good blood pressure, no problem with blood sugar, a very good immune system.  I am blessed with very good health, but I confess I've missed that active person I used to be who loved to play and dance and swim and jump rope and walk for the fun of walking fields and woods.  Never have been one for exercise per se because that never felt fun to me.

I have just been looking at a magazine with a fitness section (the third this morning by the way) and I just want to share this:  more overweight women and men might well be interested in exercising if every magazine spread didn't show a size 0 model in yoga clothes doing things that are virtually impossible if you weigh in excess of 200 pounds and haven't been active in a few years.  Truth is I know people who are out of shape without being overweight and they can't do those exercises either.  I'd love to see some moves that are user friendly for the more rotund among us.  Anybody agree with that point of view?

In the meantime, I continue to enjoy our elliptical bike and can see noticeable improvement.  I've made fun challenges for myself.  John is pretty much one for endurance.  How long can he stay on and how fast can he go type thing.  I might work out for thirty minutes at a nice steady pace or challenge myself to do a 5 minute mile for three miles, or 2 miles in ten minutes. I don't think John thinks much of my method, but I'm satisfied that I'm doing some good.  This week I found my Pilates book that had been missing.  I mean to incorporate a bit of that in my routine.  I won't however be submitting any photos any time soon.  I do know there is a visual reason why those magazines use models after all!


And one last item before I wind up...I am so over the sexual innuendos in food commercials and of late they have gone beyond suggesting and being downright naughty!  There's one brand of dressing I doubt I will ever buy again, a potato chip commercial that has seriously inhibited my desire to eat their chips and several chocolates I can't imagine ever again having upon my shelf here at home because the advertisements have gotten so suggestive.

It all goes right back to what I said about my reading material.  Call me a prude if you will, though I assure I'm not, but I wish things were just done a little more nicely these days...

And that is where I've wandered this week!

In My Home This Week: All Routine