Morning Coffee Chat - Glad Farewell to October

Hello dears, do come in.  There's a lovely spicy applesauce cake to go with our coffee this morning.  I made a half recipe and forgot to halve the spices.  Oh it was a good mistake though, don't you think?  It made such a nice spice cake out of what is normally a very subtly flavored cake.  It was a happy mistake, too, because I really wanted a spice cake but thought John might prefer the applesauce cake best.  As it happens, every time he eats a piece he "mmmmms" his way through it.  That's the nicest sort of compliment to a cook!

For all that I normally look forward to October, it's been a very tough month this year.  I must say I shall be glad to see November come in!  Some months just tend to be more full of difficult things than others and this year I guess it was October's turn.  Just three more days and we'll be done with and yes, truly this year I shall be happy to see it go.  

Weekly Meal Plan

Good cold weather arrived this past week.  It was lovely!  Snuggling under covers, standing next to the heater and heating up one side and then the other, sitting in the morning sun and still feeling chilled.  It is the answer to a hot flashing woman's prayers!  I'm sorry to say that this week we'll likely end up turning on the AC at least a few afternoons as the temperatures creep back up but nights are going to remain cool-not frosty, but cool.  We take what we can get in this part of the South.

The week ahead is no busier nor less full than last week.  Plenty to do around here as always.  I hope to make a really productive week of it, too.  It's want to do as I did last week and spend a morning prepping foods for the week ahead.  It was a pleasure to know that dinner was ready to pop into the oven or crock pot and the majority of the clearing up was done as well.  I deviated from my menu only twice last week: I found I lacked three key ingredients for that new to me chicken casserole and so Friday I splurged with my allowance and bought fried chicken for dinner.  On Saturday I chose to use one of the frozen entrees from the freezer rather than make the Vegetable beef soup.

The Blessing Of Blessing

It's been a long day today, not without sorrow but  filled with blessings, as well.  Even such days as this bring with them blessings if we'll only look at the day rightly and acknowledge the good that balances the bad in this world, the joy that balances fear, the light that balances the dark.  That is one of the rules of this world God created.  There is always ORDER and that means there is always BALANCE.

Why my day was difficult is not mine to tell about, but some few of you who are dear friends do know, so allow me to say very sincerely, Thank you.  You blessed me mightily with your readiness to go into prayer when I sent you the message and you blessed me with your thoughtful messages and checking in and later in heartfelt consolations. I feel a deep sense of peace and I felt it in the prayer recipient's messages today, as well.  We are not certain of the outcome, but we know how it appears at present and we are okay with whatever it turns out to be.

This whole business has put me in mind of several things, because I am mightily blessed by you all, and because I've been in blogland which led me to read a blog post about a blessing and then another on another blog and it made me think long and hard.  So I'm going to ramble a bit but there is a point if you'll stick with me.

A Year of Savings: 2013

Oct. 19:  Synagogue for us this day.  We took a slight shortcut on our way to and shaved off about 8 minutes of time.  It won't save us bundles of money but all those 'little' sums add up to sizable portions.

On our way home, John wanted to stop at a music center to pick up some necessary items. He paid for these out of his pocket.  I'd told him our funds were 'done' for this pay period.  That's how we work things.  Necessities we'll purchase from our household accounts but only if we're out of allowance.

Came home to make dinner: savings $10.  I'm excluding the cost of the frozen pizza I purchased.  I 'dressed up' the pizza with leftover hamburger meat, some cooked onion and mushrooms.  

Got a call from the flea market in late afternoon.  I had a higher priced album in my booth and an offer was made for about half the price. I made a counter offer which was accepted and sold that item and one other.  It was welcome news after my disappointment Friday to find I'd sold nothing in three weeks time.  I didn't get full asking price for the item but I will have rent money paid for November and a bit over.  

Oct 20:  Made pancakes from scratch.  I made a half recipe but still had more batter than I needed.  I put the leftover batter in the fridge.  I'll add apples or pumpkin to it later in the week and have pancakes again.  Savings: $1.

Made a very nice dinner.  The Cornish Hens were larger than I realized.  We ate only 1/2 each, so I had a whole hen leftover. I packed up the leftover bird, pilaf and broccoli in a covered container and froze it for a future thaw and heat meal.  Savings $3.

After dinner, I decided the five oranges we had left just weren't going to get eaten.  I've been looking at them for a full week.  I  decided to pare, section and freeze.  There was enough orange segments for a family sized portion of Ambrosia.  I froze them in a quart yogurt container.  Savings $2.

No air conditioner all day long. Just wide open windows.  Lovely!  

Oct. 21:  One of 'those' days when nothing seems to suit me.  I realized a lot of what displeases me is well within my realm of control.

Clearing up is the best way to make things look better even if you haven't the money to do all you'd like to improve a space.  Clutter robs a space of beauty, whether it's indoors or out.  I cleared the front porch of a bunch of junk and gave it a good sweeping.  I straightened out a messy drawer that was frustrating me because it was too full, and for good measure I tackled a few other tasks I've postponed for too long.  Apparently the cure for one of 'those' days for me is productivity!  Costs me nothing and generates a feeling of well being.

While in the kitchen this morning, I made our dinner, cooked the chicken for sandwiches and a casserole, shredded cabbage for slaw, washed lettuce for salads,  and got a beef stew assembled for dinner for the week ahead.  I didn't spend a bit more time in the kitchen than I would have to prepare and clean up behind ONE meal, but I now have a savings of time.  That's like money in the bank, too when you're busy whether you work at home, in your home or outside your home!

Put a portion of the main dish in the freezer for a solitary supper serving one night.

Made a cake for desserts this week and caramel popcorn for snacks.  The caramel corn used up a jar of peanuts (Aldi brand, again the nuts had a raw taste, no more salted roasted nuts from Aldi for us!) we didn't feel like eating.  I halved the cake recipe and made just a single layer and after it was frosted and cooled cut that into twelve servings, enough for six days for the two of us.  The cake cost about $.75 to make from scratch.  A package of cookies that mightn't last half as long costs $2.75 at the dollar store.  I saved $2.00.  The caramel corn makes up a big 2 quart jar full.  A small box at the store runs about $1.59 for 4 ounces or less.  I saved $3.18, plus the cost of that jar of nuts $1.99 we weren't eating.

Oct. 22:  Today we decided to go on a day trip.  The weather didn't look cooperative in the least but we went on anyway.  I packed a picnic lunch: bottles of water, a big apple cut in half, 2 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, chicken and lettuce sandwiches, and slices of the Applesauce Cake I made yesterday.  I'm so glad we went ahead to the mountains because the weather did clear off nicely, the air was just cool enough to really be enjoyable and the picnic delightful at a lookout where a bunch of horseback riders stopped to rest their horses.  There's something rather nice about enjoying good views, cool air and the soft sounds of horses flapping their tails or knickering as they munch grass.  NOT eating out today saved $24.  And what a lovely time we'd have missed outdoors!

We explored a bit on the mountain this time and came across a beautiful two story stone lodge, which hosts the reservations center for FDR state park.  John sat on the front veranda while I went indoors to find a map.  I had the option of buying a map for $4.50 but the free handout had the information I wanted so why buy?  Savings $4.50.

That picnic at the lookout area was a compromise.  There were plenty of places to park with lovely picnic areas but they came with a fee of $5.  I don't mind paying that for an extended length of time, but to eat for 15-20 minutes at most?  I'd rather keep my money in my purse.   The lookout area had even better views, and those lovely horses, too.  Those were bonuses.  Savings $5.

We came home still a bit hungry.  We certainly had plenty of food.  I think it must have been the good fresh air.  I made a quick meal of canned soup and sandwiches.  We had coffee as well.  That was nice and warming.  I bought the soup last pay period at Aldi, a German brand that is ready to heat and eat.  It was good, not homemade good, but tasty enough.  I will keep a couple of cans on my pantry shelf I think for impromptu meals and light suppers.

Oct. 23:  Simmered stew all morning long on stove top.  I only had to add  sliced carrots and seasonings to the prepped foods today.  I put a quart of cooked stew in the freezer.  I'll either serve as stew a second time or, more likely, use as a base for vegetable soup.  The added warmth from the stove top didn't hurt at all.

John and I both cleaned out dresser drawers this week.  It was time to move out the clothes that were too stained and tatty to wear (kept one set for painting since I am paint magnet), or were not wearing.  

Oct. 24:  Chilly!  The quilt surely felt good last night.  There were no complaints when the heat went on this morning either.  I made oatmeal, Butterscotch oatmeal to be exact, for breakfast.  This is an especially creamy oatmeal, made with milk, an egg, and brown sugar.  You could really add a touch of vanilla if you wanted because it has a pudding type base really, just not as sweet.  It costs so much less than cold cereal even adding in the cost of the egg and milk.  I estimate it runs about $1 for two generous servings.  That's milk and everything.  Cold cereal runs that and milk runs about $1.25 per serving, so a savings of $.75.

I thought I'd be making a new recipe today but I found I lacked two of the very key ingredients.  Substitutions would have completely altered the casserole and since this is my first time making it, I hate to 'judge' a recipe based on iffy substitutions.  I will move it to my menu for a couple of weeks from now.  The cooked chicken I made will be great sandwich filler.  Savings $3.59 for luncheon meat.

Picked enough lettuce and spinach from my potted garden to make a big salad for tomorrow's dinner.  I estimate it was about a head's worth of lettuce.  Savings $1.69 for lettuce.

Oct. 25:  The shed is clean!  Yes, really it is decently cleared up.  I still need to finish sweeping and I could no doubt sort out a few more of those plastic plant pots I've held on to for who knows what reason, but it's 95% improved.  I know where things are and what's in them.  I really should write on each container what it is just for the sake of ease.  I found a few items I can put in my booth, as well.  That was a shopping trip without leaving home!  savings $20.

Typically in a two week period I eat out at least 3-4 times.  Mostly takeout  or fast food, and perhaps one restaurant meal.  I have not been out to eat at all in nearly 3 weeks.  I can't believe it myself.  The reason why I enjoy eating out is simple: I cook 38 meals on the weeks when I do eat out.  38.  That's a lot of planning, preparing, serving, clearing up after.  I have no shame in saying that I LOVE to cook, I like planning meals that have real interest to them, but I do get weary of something that is repeated that many times each week, even just for the two of us.  NOT eating out these three weeks has saved roughly $50.  About half that amount comes from our allowance.  The rest is truly savings!  I went out today and bought chicken at the local diner.  We'll get at least three meals from that usually.  It translates to about $1.50 per person, which isn't unreasonable.  I paid for it from my allowance, which was possible since I didn't have to make a thrift shop stop this week courtesy clearing the shed. Real savings: $25.
Mama stopped by briefly today and had coffee and cake with us.  That finished off the Applesauce cake.  And it means I will have to bake something which is fine.  I have cookie dough thawing now.  I've already counted that cookie dough as savings but for the record, I figure I'm saving about $2.25 making cookies at home.  I get to choose what goes into them, I am pleased to note no artificial ingredients or additives, high fructose corn syrup or strange unmentionable items are in my cookies.  Peanut butter, butter, flour, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Salt and baking soda.  That's it.  I like that.

Cleared the fridge of a few items that got lost or missed this past week.  All were perfectly edible but I honestly had no clue what to do with them.  Not enough to translate into a leftover makeover or just not appealing (soggy sandwich anyone? Nope, not me either).  The dogs are not nearly so picky as I.  They ate the foodstuffs, saving a portion of their usual dog food for future meals. Savings:  $1

This morning for breakfast, I used frozen waffles and french toast as our main course.  All I had to do was fry some turkey bacon to go alongside.  Notice the cook is attempting a vacation today?  Yep.  And liking it, too.  And I'm going to do the same tomorrow.  I have meal plans all worked out for the Sabbath.  Biscuits ready to bake for breakfast, an entree from the freezer, salad already prepared and awaiting dressing, sandwiches (non-soggy variety) set aside for tomorrow's work supper for John.  Savings: labor...priceless.

 Total Savings:  $105 

Years of Listening

Years of Listening

I like to see men leaning on  a fence,
Exchanging news of friends, some town affair;
Discussing rain and crops, or sale of mare,
The needed tractor, wages, and expense.
Their lips are firm and speak with common sense.
Hat-brims shoved down against the hot sun's glare,
They stand with easy grace, tough-thewed and spare,
And argue out the trend of world events.
They chew on thoughts and meditative straws,
While dusty pickups wait, hub-deep in clover.
The world is in good good hands when men still pause
To rest beside a fence and talk things over.
What wisdom must be stored in those old rails,
With years of listening in their weathered nails!

by Margaret Grahame Collins

Morning Coffee Chat -

Good Morning dears.  There's coffee, cookies and Angela has Banana Cake for us, too. 

Yes, I finally got busy in the baking area this past week. I made cookies for us and put several batches of dough in the freezer.  These should be powerful cookies because I stirred a lot of prayers into the dough as I made them on Monday.  It wasn't a good day.  Again we had frightening news.  It's so hard, so hard, at times to hold on to faith and not let fear ride roughshod over you.   I hung on only because we were waiting on a miracle and there were to be more test results on Thursday...With every ingredient I put in the bowl I spoke out my heart to God.  I mixed up four different cookie doughs that day.

If I'm a bit disturbed I usually work it out in one of two ways: I clean or I cook.  This week I cooked.  Sunday I made up a couple of makeover leftover dishes (gee, I hope I remember to take photos of them when I thaw them to cook!) and an extra entree for later this week.  Monday I spent all the morning mixing up cookie doughs and baking and preparing dinner.

A Year of Savings: 2013

I'm going to change things up just a wee bit.  I've typically been sending these out every 7 days with a variation of 9-10 days at the end of each month.  I'm going to begin sending these out every Friday, more like my old Frugal Friday posts starting this week.   This is in the interest of bringing back Frugal Friday posts at year's end.

Oct 8:  Our trip to Kingsland ended up just being an overnight thing due to cancellation of the appointment my daughter in law had for today.  Fortunately I packed water enough to last several days since their water is sulfurous, so I had water for the long ride home.  We also had snacks with us.  Our sole stop on the way home was  for a treat of a milkshake about 2 1/2 hours into the drive and a stop for a bag of boiled peanuts at a local peanut producer's farmstand.  Under $6 for both items.  

Weekly Meal Plan - Slow Cooking Days

It's cooler once more after a few days of humid too warm weather.  Here's hoping the cooler weather lasts because my cooking this coming week is meant to slow the cooking pace and take a bit of time to simmer, bake.  I like these cool days of cooking, I do truly.  We've planned to finally get the yard work tended to, last of the season for sure, as grass has not grown at all in the last two weeks.

My little garden is looking lovely.  The washtub of lettuce needs to be picked over, the spinach leaves are vibrant greed, the beets are tall and lovely with their red stems, the peas clambering, the cilantro is growing too.  Cilantro does not like the heated days.  It prefers the cool nights and shifting sun of autumn.

We've planned a day out one day this week. Not sure yet which day that will be, but I've got a picnic plan in mind, a couple of new recipes to try, projects galore to attend to, a new section of genealogy research that is puzzling, a good book started...I don't know if I can fit it all in but I'm going to try!

The Modern Home Economist: Cooking Lessons: Steak

 This past week after our visit to the meat market I cooked a steak.  Until I met John I'd never heard of the method of pan-frying a steak.  We'd only ever had it broiled or grilled in my childhood and that's what I did after I married as well.  John showed me how to pan fry a steak and I was pleased as could be because I loathe cleaning up the broiler pan.

I bought a Rib Eye as a special treat for us.  We've eaten mostly sirloins over the past year or so.  The Rib Eye was large enough for three servings.  If you're accustomed to purchasing the thin grocery store steaks you might not realize what a good buy a good large steak is.

Modern Home Economics: How To Bake A Cake

I've been cooking and baking far longer than the average woman my age...and that's a fact.  Mama began teaching me to cook when I was about 7 or 8 years old.  Just at first, she'd prepare a meal and when I came in from school I was to heat things up so they'd be warm when she came in from work. About a year later she would 'talk' me through basic recipes as she worked nearby.  By age 12, she merely informed me of the menu and I prepared the meal from scratch when I got in from school.  A little later, and I was planning the meals and preparing them, too, as well as doing a bit of the summer preserving, canning and freezing. Mama taught me a lot...but she did not teach me to bake and that skill remained woefully unattended until my marriage when I opened my second favorite cookbook ( Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook ca. 1970) and began to attempt various recipes. 

Weekly Meal Plan - Autumn Comes At Last

Despite the fact that we are now mid-October, the grass remains as green as it was all summer long.  The difference is seen in the fact that John hasn't mowed in 3 weeks time and the grass is only just beginning to look a little shaggy.  When he mows next week, it will be for the last time this year.  Because it's so very green yet outdoors, I haven't put up a lot of Fall decorations.  My centerpiece on the dining table is mostly greens and I find I like it very well.  I'll try to remember to get a photo posted of it this week.

Nights are cool and mornings are cooler.  The days heat up but this week the temperatures are meant to slide slowly down.  Today is supposed to be our last afternoon in the mid-80's.    I looked across the field and noted many trees are bare already and those which still hold on to their leaves are only just beginning to change color.  The golden rod and other yellow fall blooming flowers (mostly weeds) are blooming en masse and are gloriously, brilliantly, decidedly gold, as though to put an exclamation point on Autumn's glory.

Coffee Chat - Peanuts!

Good Morning!   Now doesn't that look cheerful and pretty and Autumn-ish?  I'll bring back one of my smiling images with a coffee cup after a bit, but in the meantime let's enjoy this lovely scene.

We have no cookies this morning.  I should get busy and make a batch.  About time, per my husband who has waited patiently, sighing occasionally as he's gazed at the empty jar.  Poor dear.  I've spoiled him utterly with homemade cookies.  He said to me last pay period as we stood before the display of cookies, "Let's just have the ones you bake."  Well I never did take time to bake. 

Ten Things I've Learned Watching "Chopped"

Chopped is a competitive program in which chefs compete against one another.  The goal is to make it through appetizer, main dish and dessert rounds, using special ingredients from a mystery basket and the contents of the very well stocked pantry and fridges in the Chopped kitchens.   The ingredients are sometimes exotic, sometimes just crazy and occasionally common ingredients that aren't typically restaurant quality fare.

As I watched this week I realized I've learned a great deal.  Here are a few of them:

Questions and Answers and Comments, Oh My!

I realized the other morning that it has been quite a long while since I replied to comments or answered questions.  Pardon me for being rude! It's been at least two months.  I've been busy, it's true. August was a full month  and September simply flew away didn't it?  So I thought I'd try to catch up.

Starting way back in August, I have to share that after my comment on peaches in the August 2 Iced Tea chat that it's about 50/50 for eating peaches with the skin on, lol.

A Year of Savings: 2013

October 1:  A new month, a new opportunity to make the very best of savings.  I'm off to a good start so far.  We had Harvest Morning today.  I set aside money for savings, tagged an 'extra' amount that wasn't needed for a routine bill (three pay periods this month for us) and put it over on that car loan.  It wasn't a huge amount in either case but it was set aside anyway.  It's SAVINGS.  I won't share the amount, simply because I feel that is too personal, but I'm proud of it just the same.

Coffee Morning Chat

Oh come on in!  I've got gingerbread this week.  Do you like it?  I love it dark and slightly sticky, so I always use dark molasses in mine.  Gingerbread is a wonderful treat in autumn to me.  That's when I enjoy most spice cakes the best.  In my school years, gingerbread came to the lunch table with a clear lemon sauce atop.  In my school years, you might also need to know we ate REAL food that was freshly cooked daily and was delicious.  Later years, when I married, Gingerbread was a common dessert.  I served it with homemade applesauce as often as not and the kids ate it up.  Now we're on our own here, just two adults and John prefers it with whipped cream.  I resort to my childhood taste combination and spoon over a little warm lemon curd.  Not quite the same but close enough.  Oh and for the record, this time of year I love a Gingerbread latte when I treat myself to coffee.

What a lovely day last Sunday was weather-wise.  It was quite cool in the morning, even at 10am.  Despite the need to do a lot of housework that morning I came indoors and opened the windows then sat down next to the window and just ENJOYED.  The breeze was downright cool blowing in the windows.  It was lovely.

I got a good bit of housework done prior to our eating dinner that day.  I made a yummy meal of Pot Roast and Apple Brown Betty.  Oh! how good the house smelled with the aroma of cinnamon and apples, and Pot Roast wafting on the breezes that were blowing through the house.  I cleared up the dishes and settled in my chair with a cup of coffee, planning to get back to housework but the fresh breezes, football game and John snoozing in the chair next to mine sort of just sent me off into a nap.

Weekly Meal Plan

The weather is cooperating with the idea that there's been a seasonal change.  I'm pulling out my cooler weather recipes even if it's not exactly as cool as I'd like it to be.  We've had a couple of afternoons on the porch and were quite comfortable.  I've had the AC off most nights and mornings until well past noon and then it cycles on.  And did I mention that the propane man came Friday was a week ago and filled up our tank?

I have my little potted garden on the patio where it can get plenty of sun.  The lettuces, carrots, peas, beets, and spinach are all coming up nicely and the tomato plants never looked so good as they do now.  I have high hopes we'll eat from those pots before the new month is over.

Arroz con Pollo, Pineapple Salad
A simple enough meal of chicken and rice. I cut up a whole chicken I bought and divided the pieces.  I roasted a few, cooked twice as much as we needed for this dish, so I could put a casserole of chicken and rice in the freezer for a future easy meal. There was plenty of onion and a home roasted red bell pepper in that dish to count as vegetables, as well as some peas.

Weekly Meal Plan

I was just looking over the weather forecast for the week ahead. The day time temps are remaining in the 'sunny and mild' zones but the night time temps are starting to slide down the thermometer.  Thursday morning it's supposed to be in the high '40's...and yes, that gets me excited!  I love the cooler months.  We just may manage open windows every day next week and that's welcome too.

The fair is in Perry this week.  I don't know if we'll get to go or not.  Our week has filled up with obligations.  Even if we don't go I'll manage to bring a bit of the fair to our week.  You'll see.

Brunswick Stew, Rice, Coleslaw, Corn Muffins
Mama made the brunswick stew.  I thought I'd serve it over rice both as an extender and to tone down the tomato-y taste of the stew.

A Year of Savings: 2013

Sept 21:  Shabat.  It's a day of rest for us and normally we eat out after synagogue.  This week we decided to head home.  John asked if I had anything to fix quickly.  As it happened I was able to offer up two suggestions.  We decided on hot dogs and baked beans as our meal.  Savings: $16  Yes that figure is higher than usual.  For some reason we've found it has been costing us about that much to eat out these days instead of the more usual $10-$11.  I suspect it's because we've tired of the hamburgers and are opting for chicken or another type of sandwich instead.

The Week Ahead: Blooming Season

The roses began blooming yesterday.  It was a surprise to me because the previous two nights and mornings had been quite cool.  But as B...