Morning Coffee Chat - All or Nothin'?

Do come in and have coffee with me this morning, won't you?  I've been wanting to visit with you for the longest time now.  The tree, as you can see, is lit but undecorated.  There's not a wrapped gift to go under it, not a bit of baking done, not a bit of decorating in the house ... Oh never mind that,  have some cookies, have a seat. The cookies aren't homemade but they are good, crisp,  buttery, spicy cookies.  Really good, actually, so good, that I bought more when I went back to Aldi this week.

I feel days have just flown past.  If the year behind us went fast, my heaven this month has slipped past as though on a greased rail.  I am more or less prepared for the New Year, which might sound odd, given my lack of preparation for Christmas.  Well it hardly matters.  The gifts are mostly the sort that will be or have been sent, we're not hosting or visiting that day.  John and I will spend Christmas at home alone as we did Thanksgiving and let me assure you I'm okay with it.  We've spent precious few holidays together over the past 20 years.  Just to get to have him home is pretty awesome.  I'm not holding my breath.  If an extra shift came open, I'm fairly certain he'd take it and I'd be alone, and that's okay, too.  I do have a tendency to enjoy myself on these special days alone, what with movies to watch, games to play and books to read.  I don't spend a holiday working.

So as I said, I'm far more prepared for the New Year, but I don't mean that holiday either because John is working that one; I mean the year itself.  I spent a full two days after Thanksgiving working on my Home Keeping Notebook, doing a food inventory of most of the pantry and one of the freezers.  Still need to finish that job up...I'm hindered in my back pantry by a fidgety lightbulb that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.  It's one of those you pull a string but you must pull it twice.  We got smart and put a motion detector fixture in the receptacle...Only to discover that I had to be ten feet tall to activate it. Sometimes I can get it to come on and then it will go off after it's self prescribed ten minutes and not come back on no matter how much I work at it.  That's what happened the other day when I was working on the pantry inventory.  Sunlight helped but then the sun disappeared behind clouds and we had a week of rain, so no more pantry/freezer work.

John and I had a nice Thanksgiving, with the whole meal from turkey to cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, homemade and it was delicious.  I made the table look really pretty though we ended up using the day to day plates.  I couldn't find any flowers that suited the china I'd meant to use.  All the flowers, and I do mean ALL were bright red, orange,yellow.  I was just longing to see buff colored mums or dull rusty gold ones, or even deep bronze, but no such luck.  Even the greens in the arrangements were more brilliant a green than typical it seemed.  So yes, it was the day to day plates and the same old silk autumn leaves,  but the table was set prettily and nicely even if it was just for the two of us.

Speaking of plates, I bought our day to day stuff this past January.  John was in on the choosing, it was his idea to buy the Corelle plates as he'd tired of the Ironstone I was using.  So we're shopping, looking in vain for waxed paper and garbage bags, in a big grocery (which we never found by the way despite two trips up and down every.single.aisle.), and John came across the housewares section.  This particular store chain has a proper kitchen section.  John came to a dead halt in front of a beautiful display of dishes which were red, golden yellow, olive green and cobalt with a pretty striped band of various colors (including those used in the dishes in a serape sort of stripe).  They were pretty, no denying that.  I liked them myself, but no I'm not really in the mood to buy all new dinnerware again this year.   And the plates were all squares.  I don't know why the square plates are so popular.  It does nothing for me at all, and that's truth.  I was amused however that he went straight for all that beautiful color when he'd assured me every patterned piece of dinnerware I'd looked at last year was 'too busy'.

Well I drifted away from my notebook didn't I?  I worked on our budget for the coming year.  I refuse to panic, I refuse to panic, I refuse to panic.  Seriously.  I did a preliminary budget and need to go over my figures once more.  I learned a few years ago that usually when I hurry through the initial budget I make a gross error.  So I'm not worrying.  If my figures are correct, I'll be trimming our grocery budget a LOT more but I expect we'll end up about where we are at present once I go over the budget again, with my calculator.

I cleared out all of this year's paperwork and put in fresh clean sheets, did some initial planning for projects for the first of the year, made sure calendars were ready, etc.   Nothing to it, but it made me feel I was really prepared for another year and I mean that.

 We went out one day last week and gathered up the few gifts we're giving this year.  The majority of them were gift cards and since we were mailing the majority of the presents, gift cards it was.  Not fun to buy in my opinion, nor fun to give, but I do hope it translates into nice things in the end.  We did very well, staying right on our budget for gifting.

We had a little extra money that we spent on a very inexpensive tree.  John had suggested a real tree, but we were convinced we'd have to buy a big one and have it trimmed.  Of course, while at that same big chain grocery where we admired plates,  we saw small cut trees of about 3 ft. height in stands.  We've never had a real tree but we both considered it this year.  We have our 4ft. artificial tree and it's set up here in the living room, all lit up and not an ornament upon it, yet.  I am, honestly, still contemplating what I want it to look like.  I'm thinking I'm going to buy some cream colored ornaments.  They should be inexpensive enough and will certainly make a big impact without costing so very much. 

We visited a church we've been to in the past, about four years.  It was a nice change from synagogue.  The young pastor preached a message geared towards this season of the year, talking of Mary's pregnancy with the Christ child.  He made some wonderful points about the state of expecting, how it's uncomfortable and brings major changes and can be painful...John and I felt he'd preached a sermon on our last two years!  It was reassuring to hear his sermon and we told him so when he was done.  We really enjoyed that visit.  It was misting rain and we came home, picking up take out on the way.  It freed my time to work on baking that afternoon and clearing up the kitchen, a lovely way to spend a rainy autumn afternoon.

John had an extra bit of time off this past week.  We went down to his work place to pick up his paycheck and he stayed for an inservice.  I carried along a book to finish reading and did, just before it got too dark to see the print.  It was The Lovely Day by Dorothy Evelyn Smith.  This is another of my favorite old friends and it was nice to get lost in the story of a small town award winning choir on their annual outing.  I was much reminded of Maeve Binchy's style of writing in her last few books where character sketches are drawn and woven into an interconnecting story.

After I finished the book, I'd meant to start another but I didn't.  It was too dark.  I'd chosen to stay in the car while John was indoors.  It was messy misty rain, the sort that is fitful and comes in long spells of raining then stops and about the time you think it's quit for good starts up heavily once more.  Not conducive to getting out of the car and walking about in,  as you'd soon be soaked.  So I sat in the dark car, which some might think was not a fun thing to do, and I don't suppose it was fun, but you know, I spend so much of my time being busy that just sitting doing nothing was not a bad thing for me. It gave me time to think without interruption and I thought about the book and how long it had taken me to read the thing through when it wasn't a large book at all. I made up my mind as I sat there  that this coming year, I mean to read one full book every single week of the year ahead.  A few years ago I read two books a week without a bit of struggle at all. 

I've examined why I'm not reading so much and it really comes down to two things:  I am spending more of my reading time working on tasks that save us money.  That's it. I won't be cutting down my work time, but I will try to put my computer aside earlier each evening and spend the last hour or two of every day reading.

What else am I thinking of doing in the coming year?  Not so much and lots all at once.  I'll obviously continue working here at home, trying to trim grocery costs and save money.  I want to learn to make more items we purchase from scratch, mostly bakery items, since those are the most commonly purchased:  English muffins, bagels, dough nuts.  I also have a load of home projects that have been on my list at least all of this year and some longer than that.    So there's that and reading.  What I'd also like to do is devote a full day to thrifting every other week, traveling a little further from home than I can do in a half hour's time as I've been doing, perhaps even expand  my booth if sales continue to increase.  My little autumn garden started off great guns and has now dwindled to a single pot of pea vines that seem to be doing nothing much at all.  Bugs ate up a lot of my produce.  I'm not disheartened.  I'll be planting peas again in January and spinach and lettuces a little later, looking towards that Spring harvest.

So there you have my year's plans in a nutshell...And for once that's about as much planning as I mean to do.  I just have this feeling that this coming year I will have plenty to do with all I'm already doing, so why put on any more pressure?  Reading a book a week is about the height of all I'm willing to add to my current circumstances.

I'm disappointed this year in my pecan crop.  The past two years I've sold them.  We used them to pay for a visit to our Kingsland family and stock up on beef.  Not this year.  I doubt I could get 2 1/2 gallons from  my back yard this year which is absolutely abysmal compared to what I got last year.  I sold over 200 pounds last year.  Well that's the way it goes when you're harvesting something like pecans.  Next year perhaps will be better.

Now I've just been outside sitting in the sun with my eyes closed and a cool fresh, slightly smokey north wind blowing in my face. It felt good and chilly all at the same time.  Maddie simply will not eat if I'm not right there beside her, so I sit.  I've found the sun far too bright to read in lately, tending to be a brilliant almost white sunlight these days.  So eyes closed.  I listened to the sounds of the breeze and the rather loquacious crows who were shouting to one another in the bottom.  I've no idea what they were shouting over because all of the trees are bare and have no nuts whatsoever, but that didn't stop them discussing things.  One old fellow seemed to be laughing at the conversation.

I thought about how much I love history and historical accounts.  I thought about how once upon a time I dreamed of living in an old English cottage with snow packed around the house and then I realized that the things I find most comforting now would be missing.  The majority of the house would be cold, I'd have to be frugal in my use of wood to heat with,  and I'd need to heat water to bathe with so we'd be skipping that daily bath and having what Granny called a polka dot bath from a wash basin instead.  I thought of how most likely the 'facilities' would be outdoors and that would be a chilly trek and all...No I like my comforts, the pleasure of hot water right out of the faucet and warm bathrooms in which to tend to necessary things and all.  So I'll lay that dream aside and find contentment in my modern day amenities.

When I came indoors I read a post on facebook that made me cringe and I mean that.  It was not someone I know who commented.  Her statement reminds me that I too often focus too hard on what I can't afford and how necessary it is to save money until my mind begins to see the lacks and not the blessings.  Here was this photo of a lovely little tree and I'd never have known how cheap it was had she not said and then suggested that others should 'give' her something to make her life better...Now that's not exactly how she put it, but it was the gist of the comment and as I said it made me cringe.  I was reading to John the other day a blogger's frugal doings and said, "I just can't see why she'd make herself so very uncomfortable when she has the ability to alter that situation."  This blogger was going without a necessity, compromising her health even, for the sake of saving a few pennies.  I mean it, PENNIES.

My Granny lived on a small pension and even smaller social security check. If we had to manage on a check as small as hers we'd be in some deep trouble let me tell you and we're frugal!  Yet she managed to pay for cars and insurances, buy groceries, heat her home, give to others and SAVE money, too.   She told me often and often that she would have a warm house and food to eat and we needn't ever fear she'd go without. Granny never talked about how little she had to manage upon, nor what she went without in order to have the necessities.  She seldom talked about money at all, and I often think how much I do talk about it.

Now honestly, it's hard to have a blog that is basically a teaching tool for frugality and  NOT talk about money, but it's the other areas of my life where I tend to prattle about finances that I am referring to at the moment.  As I said, it does tend to color my viewpoint from rose to bleak.  John and I periodically sit down together and tell one another all the ways we've seen God providing for us and we start back at the beginning days of our relationship.  Just this week we were laughing about how we both worked at the hospital once upon a time and the annual Christmas gift was a turkey.  We looked forward to taking home those turkeys.  We were struggling so hard and that provided our Christmas feast.  But we only kept one turkey.  As poor as we were at that time, we packed the other turkey up in a box with the fixings of the feast (stuffing mix and potatoes, coffee, and cranberry sauce, flour and sugar and shortening, and pumpkin pie filling) and sent it off to the local Family and Children Services to be given to someone who was without any means to have a meal.

Do you know what that did for us each year?  My children used to get plum excited to see that box fill up each year and it was they who would remind me that perhaps this year the gift family would like a box of tea or gelatin or pudding. For all that they knew we had less than some folks, they saw this box full of food being given for those who didn't have any and they thought we were well off!

I need to remind myself more often that I have PLENTY.  Yes, money is tight, sometimes awfully tight, and we sometimes wait for necessities and almost always wait for wants.  There are things we cannot do no matter how much we might want to do them.  We have to choose between this thing and that all of the time.  But we are blessed.  We have a sound roof over our heads, food in the cupboard and I have been granted the ability to extend and stretch our meals to unreal proportions at times.  We are healthy and warm and clothed.   There's always coffee in the pot and something sweet to go along with it.  There's friends like  you, stopping by to have coffee and share a bit in the conversation or on your own blogs about all you do to extend your income and inspire me further.  I have to remember that what I do have is the better part and not the lacking part.

Now, I should get myself back to work.  I've a house to straighten, a meal to prepare, a tree to decorate...Stop by again soon, please?


Lena said...

Extra shifts are nice but I still hope you can spend Christmas with your Hubby!

I like your turkey story. We try to teach our kids too the importance of giving and it makes me really happy to see them getting excited to help others who are in need!

Anonymous said...

Lovely coffee chat! I appreciate your willingness to share your financial life with us. You inspire me!

I love the Christmas tree and my fireplace all lit up. It isn't a "real" fireplace, but I love it all the same and no wood to cut or ashes to haul out. It isn't used for heat, just ambiance.

Thanks for ending your post with thanksgiving. In America we have so much to be thankful for!

Peace and Joy, Pam

Diary for July: Week Two

July 7, Shabat Saturday:   So very much I want to chatter over today and perhaps I will...I don't typically write on Shabat, having al...