A Small Makeover for The Back Porch


I've been meaning to get all the work done on the front porch that was needed.  It's a slow process because it needs so much work and I mean that sincerely.  I think the last time the porch floor and the chairs were painted was when Katie was still at home about 6 or 7 years ago.  Add to the general chipping/peeling paint just good old fashioned dirt...Well it's gonna be a while yet before I get to show off  the work I'll have done out there.

In My Home This Week: Having Fun

Hello!  It's the very last days of August and the very new start of a new month this week.  I won't say, "Hasn't the year just flown by?" or "My! Summer is nearly over!" which is overstating the obvious.  I will say I feel excited about September this year.  Truth told the summer has been stressful and difficult in many ways, but somehow I'm just convinced that this month ahead will bring all that to an end.

Why did I decide to use 'Having Fun' in the title?  Because, I truly do find it fun to be creative in my home, whether it's planning meals, figuring out ways to trim our budget, or to re-do an item so that it feels like new...It's FUN and I mean that sincerely.  Have you ever noticed that sometimes fun is hard work?  Well it is, unless you're the sort that just shows up and enjoys all the end results.  We've had that discussion before as well, about those of us who are more Martha and less Mary when it comes to seeing what needs to be done, but that's not to say we never enjoy ourselves. I believe if you don't enjoy the work you're doing then you're in the wrong place.

This Week In My Home: Stretching to Save

              I'm not one of those people who can DIY just anything, but I can do little things...like painting something with a fresh coat and making it look new once more.  There are always little things that can be done, if only to clean things really well.  I find the work lifts my spirits and changes my perspective from the 'I want its' to "Oh now isn't that nice?"

Saturday:  It's supposed to be a rest day and I had to restrain myself.  I was unsuccessful on two scores.  I went out to wash up a coffee and milk spill and watered the plants while I was out there.  I used stored water that needed to be refreshed.

I decided to try and clean paint off the mosaic portion of the cafe set.  It was working quite well but I stopped midway.  I used a green scrubbie and dishwasher detergent.

Went out to feed the pets and found myself scraping more paint off the porch floor, sigh.  So many projects!  I brought myself right indoors and settled in to Bible study.

Today's dinner was a mix up of leftovers that I simply reheated and fresh foods: a beautifully colorful green salad (with carrots, tomatoes and yellow bell pepper), and a dessert of molten lava cakes.  I've been craving brownies and I recalled this recipe.  I though it might be less caloric than brownies since it has less sugar, less butter and less flour...and the bonus is it makes just four individual servings.

Spent time entering information I'd collected into my genealogy notebook.

Keeping It Clean - 10 Steps to Keeping Your Home Neat.

Periodically it is asked of me how I keep my home neat and clean.  Granted I am a stay at home wife and I consider my home my 'job', but I have many calls upon my time and keeping it all in balance and keeping the house neat and clean is something I must stay on top of.

So what is the secret?  Habit and routines.

I will be the first to confess that I like a little routine and a lot of 'Oh what do I feel like doing today?' It's the routine part of what I do that keeps things running smoothly, looking nice and allows me that freedom.  What I do in my home works for us, but I believe these steps can work for every one.

When I was ill, John kept up the house on his own.  He didn't know just where to put certain dishes so he (very wisely in my opinion) put them on the baking counter, which is out of the direct line of vision if you're in the living room or the back entry area.  No one was the wiser of that little hot spot on that counter top.  He has seen enough of my routines that he kept up the house very well all on his own just using these 10 steps.

When I came home from hospital I spent perhaps ten minutes putting away those items he was unsure of, and  I didn't feel in the least overwhelmed by chores staring me in the face although I'd been gone 2  weeks.  That he was able to do this, while making daily treks to the hospital or working his 24 hour shifts,  convinced me that I was on to something really good that would work well for any one at all.

1.  Do laundry every day.

I used to think that I should have a laundry day, and I'd spend hours washing load after load of clothes and towels and sheets and spend my time doing nothing much besides laundry.  It was a chore!   I believed in separating clothes into white, dark, towels, etc.  It's not at all necessary.  That's the big secret.  Yes, occasionally I do want to soak a load of whites in bleach and at those times I might wash them separately, but honestly?  I haven't noticed a huge difference in our white clothes when they are washed with our other clothes, including dark.  We've just about figured out which new items are going to be prone to bleeding and will wash those separately the first couple of washings.

Coffee Chat: Here Is Where I Am

Do come in and join me.  I'd love to do coffee on the porch, but as you can see they are both in a state of upheaval at the moment.

 I didn't mean to have them both messed up at the same time.  The thought was that I was sick of cleaning porch rails on the front porch, so I ran around to the back porch and thought I'd do a mini makeover...well it's not a big makeover even yet, but it's taking far more time than I'd thought it might.  Every time I do one thing it snowballs into two more. I seriously thought I'd have it all prettied up and nice by afternoon that first day.  But then I decided I must paint the rocker and the cafe set, and make a sign and possibly do five or ten other things.   Want a sneak peek?
                   It's called Landscape Palm from Sherwin Williams...and it's perfect in my opinion.
Oil Rubbed bronze on the cafe set, but what to do with the old mosaic on the table and chairs?  It's not in the least pretty and isn't doing a thing to improve the looks of the set even with fresh paint.

 This morning I realized I'm going to do a little more.  But when I'm done both porches will look just lovely for the last days of Summer and all of Fall.

This Week In My Home: Home Stretch

I was a bit shocked at my grocery spending this past week.  I spent a bit more than I'd normal. Then I took time at last to tot up my totals for the month and I was over budget for the month!  Not the direction I want to go in at all.  

When we shopped Thursday I tried to keep in mind what we needed for two or even three weeks.  Fresh produce, obviously and extra milk and bread.  I also did a bit of pantry buying.  This week I concentrated on beans: green, black, red kidney, cannelini, 3 bean salad.  I did not buy all I wanted but enough to at least plump that part of the pantry a bit. 

Friday I sat down before the fridge and cleared it out, one shelf at a time and discovered I'd enough leftovers to manage two full meals for Friday and Saturday and then a few leftover items for the first part of this new week, too.  Since I 'saved' two meals from the past menu by using up the leftovers, I'll share the leftovers menus this week.

Breakfasts:  Egg and Toast (x2 John's work days)
Apple Pancakes and Sausage
Mini Bagel Breakfast Sandwich
Cheese Toasts
Banana Bran Muffins with Peanut Butter
Bagels with Cream Cheese

This Week In My Home: Savings Never Stops

Just in time for a new season, a new wreath, fashioned from an old one, using floral picks I've used for three years running in various ways.  It's a wonderful creative challenge to make something new from what you already have on hand.

Saturday:  How I regretted my lack of food prep this morning.  No sitting about sipping coffee leisurely from my pretty cup for me.  Nope.  It was time to get down to the business of making a meal for midday and planning what supper would be.  I was tired yesterday afternoon but oh how I rue that I didn't push just a bit harder and at least PLAN.  John worked yesterday and when he asked what was for breakfast this morning and I said "Bagels", he replied 'Oh' in a flat, disappointed sort of way.  I might have made some plans for that meal as well...Oh well.  At least I thawed meat last night.

I trimmed away the fat from the steak, freezing that for Maddie a treat on one of these hot afternoons.
I used a tomato that just wouldn't quite redden up to make a Tomato au Gratin which is a favorite of mine and not so much of John's apparently...He doused it with steak sauce so I'm thinking maybe it's not his ideal.

I made a sugar free banana cream pie using up some of the ripe bananas on the counter.

This Week In My Home: Homemaking Never Stops

I slipped out on the porch Thursday morning to feed the animals and revelled in the cool, fresh air.  It was lovely.  I felt autumn in that morning air and I mean it sincerely.  Two hours later it was humid and warming rapidly butI think this year the season ending is nearer than in years past.  I say this because I've found golden rod blooming here in our neighborhood, along the roadways.  It's unusual to have it bloom so early.  

The week ahead has it's share of busy days.  Nothing odd about that.  John has a project he wants to work on which involves the 18 year old dryer.  I'm still plugging away at that front porch task.  I'd hoped to finish it up this past week but it was more work than I'd anticipated and I had only one good morning of work (and two days of very tired muscles to follow...age!).  I have been pouring energy (and less muscle) into the back porch which just needed a freshening up, not a complete facelift as the front porch does.

I seem to have found a great balance at last in my eating habits and the result is more stable blood sugar.  I've promised myself to begin to learn to count calories, now that I have some idea about carb counts.   I continue to 'collect' recipes online on the Hearty Healthy Soul board on Pinterest.  I thought I ought to try some of those recipes this week.  And heads up for those of you who like Asian inspired dishes but like myself find that even brown rice swings the pendulum too far...I read a hint earlier this week to serve the entree over a bed of Bok Choy instead of rice.  I could do that!  

In My Home This Week: Choosing To Save

The pillows I bought at thrift store a few weeks ago. I'll use them if Katie doesn't want them for her new sofa.  They are feather filled and very nice.  I paid $2 and change for each of them.

Saturday:  A cooler morning with no humidity.  These days don't come often enough in August in Georgia!  You can bet I took myself out to the back porch along with my pretty tea cup and pot of coffee.  The cat sat on the railing and the dog lay at my feet and the birds sang.  This was one of those idyllic moments we must seek or lose them.  Blissful peace.

The medium eggs feel so tiny in my hand compared to the large ones we're accustomed to using but I still used just the one in my squash casserole.

Lovely to heat and eat dinner and not have to do more than assemble the casserole.

We ate prior to going to my little great niece's party.  I felt more comfortable with my own food choices here at home.  My indulgence was one tiny mini cupcake, a two bite portion just right for me.  The savings?  I skipped eating a fruit serving to 'save' for those carbs in the cake bite.  I've planned a lowered carb meal for supper, too.

Book Review: The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

I almost didn't finish reading this book. I was put off by the tone of the first chapters. Now that I've read it, I understand why the first chapters were so stilted.  The author did an excellent job of building this story.

The story begins with an introduction to Jean Perdu, a man who has a barge turned bookstore in Paris.  His speciality is recommending books based on what he intuits a person needs, a sort of pharmacy for the emotionally ailing.  Perdu has not, however, healed himself.

As with all things, what is tightly bound must eventually be loosed.  Perdu is shocked to find that his emotions will no longer stay bound.  And as they unravel he attempts to run away from, and to, the source of his pain.

What he realizes as he journeys is that he has missed a great deal of life and he begins to open himself to the realization that he's missed living.  He proves to himself that one can live again.

This is a beautifully written story and I enjoyed it a great deal.

This book was provided to me by Blogging for Books, http://www.bloggingforbooks.com/

Early Morning Coffee Chat...On The Porch!

Good Morning!  I am on the back porch this morning, with my pretty tea cup and the pot of coffee (oh the bliss of a husband who truly believes one cup is enough and leaves all the rest for me!lol) and I thought the cool breeze and lack of humidity and the peacefulness of cat and dog and bird song just cried for company.  I'm so happy to have you join me.

Isn't it lovely out?  We get these mornings and occasional cool down days here and there in August, a little bittersweet reminder that summer is ending and autumn isn't far behind.  At first, it's such a relief, such a blessed relief, from the heat that we slip up and forget what they mean.  We just appreciate them as cooler spells.  But then we'll see a bit of blooming golden rod and it rushes in upon us that these heated summer days are fast dwindling and peach season is very nearly finished (this Friday, alas!) and all the things we didn't do in summer cause regret to hit rather hard.

This Week In My Home: Choosing Not to Spend

Of all the things I've done for myself of late, setting aside one day to prepare foods for the week has been the greatest time and work saver of all!  I kid you not, trading one hour of time to prepare multiple items and then clearing up behind saves me hours each week.  This past week, I had enough food to carry us through the weekend, and leftovers enough to cover my meals the day John worked.

I made another decision last week.  I chose to save rather than spend.  Yes, I chose to skip grocery shopping and instead to put that money in savings.  I purchased peaches and tomatoes for produce, went to our local grocery and got eggs, bananas, bread and a 2 litre bottle of soda for John.

So for us, it's a pantry/freezer challenge.  This will be interesting as it will give me a sort of trial run in figuring out how to manage my nutritional needs using canned/frozen items with only a little fresh produce, much as it will be come winter.

This Week In My Home: Planning Ahead for Savings

Remember a few weeks ago when I had a CVS haul but the computer wouldn't upload my photo?  For some reason it did upload yesterday so I thought I'd share.  This is my $.75 a bottle laundry detergent!

Saturday:  Our Shabats are always quiet days.  I so enjoy my Saturday morning ritual of drinking ALL the remaining coffee from my pretty tea cups.

I made dinner earlier in the week and so it was pretty much just the need to reheat the meat sauce and cook the pasta.  Yummy by the way and I'd really wondered if 1 cup of meat sauce was truly enough for two?  Turns out the answer was YES it is.  And half a pound of pasta is twice as much as we need as well.   I froze those leftovers.

Rinsed and stacked dishes all day long today.  I ran a load of dishes last thing Friday evening and I had no desire to do the whole unload/reload thing on a day meant for rest.  I also had no desire to scrub stuck on food off dishes.  Rinsing was a good compromise and the rinse water became soaking water for those dishes that needed more than scrubbing.

Questions and Answers and Comments, Oh MY!

Well here it is August and I already feel I'm running behind!  Isn't that just the way it is?  I've actually taken a couple of days to rest this week because I've been so busy the past week or so, but I'm not complaining about busyness nor rest.  I'm enjoying myself!  I mean that quite sincerely.  I'm enjoying being busy.  I'm taking time to enjoy my rest times.  I'm happy.  I finally have broken through the writer's block I've experienced.  Now there is truly not nearly enough time to do all I want to do, have to do and should do.

I thought I'd do my usual round of replies.  So many of you have kindly written encouragement, helpful hints, or appreciation for past writings (which you generously read in lieu of the lack of postings the past couple of months).  I thank you all for it, I do truly.  It has been like having my own cheering section and I needed that.

Iced Tea Chat in which the doctor prescribed humming...Kathy, You hit on something that John and I have said many, many times over:  we are so grateful for that medical insurance.  I hated being pushed into the purchase and feeling like a criminal because I didn't have it.  I didn't see how on earth we cold possibly afford it, but we have.  And I see now that it was part of a bigger plan that we couldn't see at the time.

Never Poor In Their Minds

Growing up, I was very aware of my grandparents and great grandmothers' lives.  They all lived on a very low income.  Dismally low.  Had they wanted, any one of them might have gone on public assistance, but had you suggested it to any of them, they'd have been mighty upset.  They owned their homes, they had furnishings however old they might be, and with great care they managed their funds to cover all their needs: namely electricity, fuel for heat and clothes (or fabric to sew said clothes).  They gardened, hunted and fished, or relied on family members who did so, to cover their nutritional needs. They foraged for food, too, picking wild fruits or greens to supplement their foodstuffs.  Their homes were not big, nor fancy. Just modest homes, simply built or renovated by their own hand.  They heated with wood or propane and air conditioning was not even in their vocabulary.

My grandmothers, to a person, turned off the circuit breaker controlling their hot water heaters each day.  It was turned on twenty minutes prior to wanting hot water for dishes or a bath or a load of wash.  I recall Grandmama Stewart going out to pull water up from her well, which she brought indoors and heated on the stove when hot water was needed.   And all of my grandparents hung their laundry to dry, too, where sun whitened the whites and imparted a fresh fragrance that no dryer will ever bestow.

In My Home This Week: Work Ahead and Get Ahead

Last week proved to be busy and hectic.  The best gift I gave myself last week was to prep meals on Monday as much ahead as I possibly could.  It worked beautifully, saving a world of time and stress.  I think I'll plan to do that again this week. I was thrown by the fact that I had no roast in the freezer after making my menu plan.  No, none at all.  And to be sure I wasn't just missing it in my search, I actually looked at the freezer inventory sheet I'd just used and no, there was no roast.  I checked at the grocery, and seeing prices, swallowed really hard and decided to make do without it.  We bought food out twice this last week and I was out with Mama one day as well so the need to make more meals proved unnecessary.  I did switch one of my menus to the evening meal.

I have big plans for the week ahead.  I'm smack dab in the midst of revamping the front porch.  Just now it involves scrubbing the railings clean and then painting them.  I also have new paint for the two chairs there.  I'd dearly love to move the dog house off the porch permanently but I won't be able to do so.  Maddie likes it on the porch so she can come hide there when the thunder rumbles.  The cat's little hideaway is there, too.   When I am all done with what I can do with what I have on hand, I'm going to purchase floor paint and get to work on that porch floor.  Here's hoping that in the next week or two it will be a neat, clean, brand new space.  I do like to see projects get finished up!

Iced Tea Chat: In Which I Learn I Can Dance...

Hello dears,

Please do come in.  Freshly made iced tea, peaches, lemons, limes, oranges...Take your choice and come sit with me a bit.  Isn't the sunset just gorgeous?  There's no other time of day that it's even bearable outdoors any longer but the weather has cooled slightly this evening.  Aren't the cicadas loud? Gracious!  They must have hatched out in this heat.  I hadn't heard any here at all until this week.

What a busy two weeks it's been.  My doctor asked me if I was exercising but I looked at him and said "Now you know how hot it is..." and he nodded.  Enough said on that front, right?  But I promised I would get out in the yard and do things in the mornings and I have.  I've cut branches on trees and pulled weeds and scrubbed front porch railings and spray painted things that were looking faded and weary and messed about in the house enough to feel good and tired at day's end.  I had John set up the stationery bike so I could pedal away when I wasn't busy, but there's been so much to do overall and so many places to be that I've felt I had quite a work out daily.

I had meant to work on other things this week, but somehow that front porch just pushed itself on up the list and so here I am working on it.  So far I've only bought spray paint for the chairs which I really want to keep red.  It looks as though Grandmama painted those chairs a few times herself.  The old paint we put on the chairs has chipped off and I've found green and khaki and white underneath.  I'd debated painting them green but in the end the hardware store's limited options dictated the color. Cest la vie...At least they shall be painted and looking nice once more.  They will at least do for a season or two  and then I shall repaint them afresh.

In My Home This Week: Banging Out Savings for the End of July

The small containers are filled with pudding I pre-portioned after mixing it up.  Perfect for quick grab snacks.

Saturday: Last night I opened all the junk mail I'd set aside during the week.  I found greeting cards, a Forever stamp, two pocket calendar pages, a great offer for BH&G magazine ($5.99 for 12 issues).  I always sort out junk mail because you never know what you will find.

 I went into town this morning for a special reason.  There was an advertised Estate Sale in the local paper.  I found a few nice things:  a book for John, a book for me, a mirror for my planned closet re-do (slated for sometime in the future), and a few smalls for the booth.

 I went by the Peach Shed while I was out and picked up peaches and tomatoes for us for the week ahead.

In My Home This Week: All Routine