Book Review: Braving It by James Campbell

I have this thing about books about Alaska.  I've read dozens and dozens.  I was sure I'd enjoy reading this one and I was not disappointed. 

The book opens with Mr. Campbell taking his daughter to spend a summer in Alaska to help build a new cabin for friends who frontier.  He knew that his daughter was naturally athletic and competitive.  He felt sure she would enjoy the experience, though it involved physically taxing work.   He was well aware of the dangers he was exposing her to, having previously lived there.   Mr. Campbell observes his daughter's mental and emotional growth as she pushes her limits physically, enduring hardship and hard work.

A second visit  occurs in late Fall to the same cabin and friends.  This time his daughter learns to hunt, trap and survive a typical Alaskan winter, with all the dangers of freezing, falling through thinning ice, as well as the experiences.  His daughter's relationship with Edna and Heimo  deepens as does her love of the Alaskan wilderness.

I urge you to read this book.  It is well written, and explores the mental strain as well as the physical and emotional toll of parenting and living in the Alaskan wild. His pride in his daughter as she tests her limits also clearly comes through as does his strong father's love for her as he allows her to test her strengths in that age old and oh so difficult dance of being protective and letting go.  The juxtaposition of those descriptions next to his daily life in Wisconsin are cleverly done.  It amplifies the differences of 'civilized' rural life to Alaskan frontier life.   His great fondness for his friends' as well as his admiration of their abilities in dealing with daily life in the Alaskan wild comes through in his writing, as well.  I'm adding this book to my bookshelf for keeps.  I shall enjoy it again and again.

This book was provided for review by Blogging for Books.


My Spring Projects Round Up: Outdoor Version

The start of it all...

This spring I wanted to make the most of what I have.  So much of my previous work had disintegrated over time, which happens, especially in the yard, if it is not maintained.  It really does require an almost daily upkeep of some sort and I'd not given that attention to my yard over the past year.   I had gotten very frustrated with my lack of ability and lack of finances, too.  So in this year of "Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can," I decided to do what I could.  If that meant I could only work 15 minutes a day then I would get it done in 15 minute increments.  If it meant I could only spend $5, then I'd spend $5 now and $5 the next time I had it.  As things worked out, I've had a little more energy and money than I'd thought I'd might.  Happily, Mother's Day fell in this time frame and my son's gift was 10 bags of mulch plus he had a leftover bag from work he'd done on his own yard.which made for a mighty good start on the outdoor work.  He also put in new screening on the windows and storm doors.  We'd bought a couple of rolls of screening and splice as did he and he provided the labor in getting them all replaced.     I was given $20 to use towards the purchases of plants as a gift from Mama for Mother's Day and John gifted me a bird bath for our anniversary. 

I spent a total of $60 for plants and potting soil (2 bags) and mulch (10 more bags) that I purchased myself. The bulk of my work thus far was done using what I had.  I transplanted annuals that had come up from seeds that fell last year (or three years ago!) and moved them into pots.  This gave my budget a great boost, as did reusing pots of soil.  I purchase the moisture control potting soil which is about $10 for a 20 pound bag but I can use it for several years running. New plants mostly went into the baskets in front of the back porch or on the steps out back.   Pots and paint and stones and bricks went a long way towards the work I have done thus far.  I still have a load of pots and some paint and 8 bags of mulch.

Crock Pot General Tso Chicken

I don't have a photo of the chicken in the crock pot, just of the leftovers.  The recipe is essentially the one that Dee shared a couple of weeks ago for Sweet Chili Pineapple Chicken from the Brendid blog.  I could not find Sweet Chili Sauce.  Bess and I looked at two or three stores with no luck.  I opted to get the Archer Farms General Tso Sauce instead.  I was very pleased with the way the dish turned out.

In My Home This Week: Let's Celebrate!

In my home this week...

...we've had a lovely start to summer, if you like the theory that summer 'starts' with Memorial Day weekend.  We drove up today to celebrate Taylor's first birthday.  My Katie had outdone herself in showing her sentimental side.  Taylor's shirt was made from the shirt Katie wore to her baby shower 14 months ago.  Katie made the banner, the fringe about the high chair from the tissue papers she'd saved from baby shower gifts.  Josh was good as gold and spent his time charming the women.  I'll share just a few photos...

....a few of you got the sneak preview without the promised photos...So sorry!  It was late...

It was a lovely afternoon with family and babies, sigh.  And a beautiful day, too.

A Very Quick Iced Tea Chat

Well hello!  It's a beautiful summery sort of day outdoors.  Perfect for an iced tea and a fan and a chat.  We can sit by the pool if you'd like...If you don't mind having your feet in a kiddy pool as you sip your tea.  Or we can sit indoors and gaze over the yard.  I've just this morning potted up the last of the flowers I'd purchased over the past two weeks.  Not one went to waste, not a single one!  I wasn't that diligent last year but this year I've been very mindful of the need to USE what I purchase and make my expenditures impactful. 

The birds have finally been drinking  at the bird bath which I think is rather fun.  Not many flock there yet, but I've seen a mocking bird and a blue jay over the past few days and that's just when the blinds were open.  I love to watch them drink.  This morning I added potted plants to the steps, which I skipped painting for now because frankly I'm a little done in with projects and plans and changes.  It seemed unnecessary work and I let it slide.  The potting of plants was where the money really was this time around and so that's where I concentrated my work. 

I'm so pleased with all I've done though some of it needs to fill in a bit.  I've a post I'm working on that showcases all sorts of projects but would you like a little sneak peek?

My Frugal Week: Present Savings

                                              One of my many projects this past week...

Saturday:  John worked a 24 hour shift through 7am this morning.  I knew he'd be good and hungry but hadn't gone to the store as I ought to have done.  I had four eggs and a family of five to feed.  I decided to make a breakfast of toast, grits and sausage.  Not quite a full breakfast but it did well enough. 

The family came in overnight.  I had a boneless turkey breast out.  I made the mayonnaise roasted turkey breast roast I've made before.  A big pan of Italian roasted vegetables went with the meal and filled us up without a lot of work on my part.  I used potatoes, zucchini, onion, peppers and mushrooms.

The kids asked for a cobbler.  I had canned peaches in the kitchen cupboard and made up one of the easy cobbler recipes that uses equal measures of butter, flour, milk, sugar and fruit.

We tried hard to be restful, but the truth is more people equals more work and I planned poorly all around.  I washed a full load of dishes in the dishwasher.

The kids went out to dinner and a movie.  Grampa and I babysat Josh.  We three had supper together, just a simple quick chicken patty sandwich.

Sunday:  Easy breakfast this morning of bagels and peanut butter and fruit.

John and Bess each did a full load of clothes today.

We went off to church and I repaired a bracelet on the way.

John and I went by the grocery.  I completely forgot about milk and eggs.  Still have four eggs.  Still have five people in the house.  I'll figure out a way to stretch those eggs yet.

John wanted to buy fried chicken.  I knew full well that our budget is already straining but I also knew that the man was trying to save me the work and the need to rush about when I got home.  I told him sure and thanked him for thinking of me.  We have enough leftover to feed us another meal.

I worked out menus today but Bess came in from her day and  said "Would you mind if I cook some, too?  Maybe every other night?"  Well, no I don't.  I want them to feel at home.  We agreed to sit down and figure out a meal plan for the week tomorrow morning.  Of course, mine is pretty much thought out but it's a good time to discover what they like and don't like and adjust accordingly.

Sam made his awesome pizza and sauce.  I've got the recipes and will share and he had me take pictures of the dough and how it should look for you all as well.  That will come up in another post this week.  We used what we had to top the pizza.   What we had: turkey pepperoni, turkey Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and of course, tomato sauce.  It takes only 4 ounces cheese to make two medium pizzas.  We had leftovers.

While at the grocery today I bought a begonia plant as my flowers for the upcoming pay period.  It was $3.99 and should last longer than cut flowers now that it's gotten warmer here.  We run fans to move the air and that dries the flower out more quickly when the rooms are warm.  I will try to keep some sort of green or flowering plant in the house over the summer months, with an eye to what I might put in the yard or use on the porches.

We picked up a Sunday paper while we were out.  I was happy to get coupons.

Monday:  We washed three loads of clothes today.  I dried one load on the line and drying rack.  The rest went into the dryer.

Washed a full load of dishes.

John mowed lawn while I kept Josh and did the housework.  We all skipped lunch and just snacked.  I carefully snacked on fruit/protein/whole grains so that I kept my sugar in check.  I'm running a little higher than I have been in the past.  I lay this at not sleeping well and being a little out of routine.

John and I went down to pick up his check.  We went to the bank, went to the post office and took a long ride home.  We took off the trash on our way out.

I cooked supper this evening.  Bess and I have worked out a division of labor that will hopefully work for us both.  The house is staying reasonably decent, things are getting done.  Mostly it's just keeping up and for right now that's good enough.

Tuesday:  Bess and I went to the grocery store.  We shopped at Aldi and each of us bought our own snacks and dairy.  She bought items for the meals she'd planned, I bought what was needed for meals I'd planned and the produce we'd use this week.  I was shocked at how low my total was today, well within budget with money to spare and Bess was pleased with her total too, which was even lower.

We came home to have lunch, eating leftovers.

Bess prepared supper.  It was a very tasty inexpensive meal from a menu service that she joined about a year ago.  They provide an Aldi shopping list, the menu plan etc so that you can stick to a pre-set grocery budget.  This service has been invaluable to her. 

She also cooked chicken in the crock pot to make two pans of enchiladas (also a menu service recipe).  As she was starting to put them together, I got a call from my oldest son saying he and his children would be coming up end of next week to spend a couple of days.  Bess suggested we keep the enchiladas until next week to serve as a family dinner.  I agreed.  We're both pleased to have that meal ahead.  I'll see if we can't come up with one more meal we can make in quantity before next week.  That will keep breakfast and lunch as the only meals to really make and both of those will be simple ones.

John did a load of clothes and hung them to dry while we were gone.

Wednesday:  John and I had a breakfast of toasted frozen French Toast.  These were leftovers from a meal last week.

John and I left the family at home and went to Home Depot.  We need to replace an outlet in the music room.  John had researched what to purchase.  When we got to Home Depot a gentleman told John that he couldn't buy what he was looking for and that to replace the outlet would cost at least $16 or more.  He told John how to change what we have with items we could purchase for under $5 per outlet. 

I purchased bulk petunias and a shepherd's hook for the yard today.  That completes the back porch flower bed project and made up hanging baskets for the front porch.  Next I'll pot plants for the ironing board.  I priced out options for hanging my curtains on the front porch.  I think I can do what I want for under $10.

I bought more paint, too, to finish off the ironing board.  I bought two cans but turns out I needed only one.  I'll carry the second can back and swap for one of the paints I need to continue work on my dining chairs.

I started dinner in the crock pot before leaving home.  It's a new to me recipe (lots of those this week) but not pricey to make.  It was nice to know at the end of this afternoon of being out, then coming home to pot up some of my plants, watering, painting the ironing board, etc.  that dinner was cooking away indoors.

Slowly we're working into a routine.  Bess did laundry, cleaned their room and bath while we were gone.    Josh was able to get in his morning nap.

John decided to work a half day tomorrow.  He'd asked me on the way home what we owed on medical bills we're currently paying.  It felt good to say we'd paid off the loan (did that about two months ago) and we owed a low amount on the two bills we're paying currently.

Thursday:  I  opened windows today when John left.  It was so cool outdoors and the birds were singing and peace just filled the house with all that cool.  We kept the windows open until nearly 11 today.

I spent an hour or two outdoors this morning.  I potted up every single plant I'd bought in the past two weeks.   I haven't always been mindful of this and so I consider it a huge savings to actually plant all I bought this time.

I had to go into town to pick up birthday cards and a gift card.  While on my way out, I took off trash, made a deposit to savings at the local bank and went to the dollar store.  I was so happy to find I could buy the gift card I wanted at the Dollar Store.  No savings in that purchase except in gasoline and time. 

I found a small blow up pool for Josh for $5.  It seemed a good purchase.  Josh enjoyed playing in the pool after lunch.

Though we had a menu plan for the whole week, I used my usual method of planning twice.  We had loads of leftovers so we decided to have leftovers night.  This cleared lots of space in the fridge.

I used mashed potatoes to make potato pancakes as a side dish.

We didn't eat the rest of the Italian Beef.  I put in a container in the freezer and made sure to label it so I would know what we had.

Friday:  I had thought we'd open windows this morning but about a half hour after I got up the AC started running.  It's gonna be a hot one today!

I made breakfast sandwiches for John and I.  Josh likes bacon, so I cooked an extra slice for him.

While breakfast was cooking, I swept up the back porch. 

I made a project from my old watering can.  It was a Pinterest project I'd pinned.  I had all the materials on hand.  It turned out really cute.

I made Banana bread using some over ripe bananas.  When the cooking time was up the banana bread was not quite ready.  I turned off the oven and left the bread in place.

Cut up watermelon.  Now we've eaten all the leftovers I have room to store the melon chunks.

I couldn't find the item needed to season today's meal.  After looking high and low I settled upon a bottle of a different seasoning which should work as well with the recipe.

To save time this evening, I cut up vegetables and set up the rice/water. 

In My Home This Week: New Beginnings

In my home this week:

The little bird that nested on the back porch last year is back.  John mentioned we had a bird nest on the cupboard shelf next to an extension cord.  I noted the nest but didn't think too much of it until this week when I was working outdoors potting plants and I realized I was keeping Mama bird from her business.  I hurriedly cleared up my mess and came indoors.  She flew in and out while I worked about the porch Friday morning and even this morning as I rocked on the porch before the family woke, she went about her business feeding her family.  It made me mindful that I needed a breakfast plan.

The family came in last night in the wee hours of the morning.  This morning we attempted to talk but there's so much going on at once there's little time to get a full sentence out of our mouths.  Nevertheless, I did gather that we're probably looking at about 6-8 weeks.  It will be roughly a month before either of the house sells will close.  There will be some minor work done on the new home.

Today I realized that this 'visit' will be a stretching of myself in many ways:  managing our budget, our time, our energy...most especially my own time and energy.  Score one on my side.  I realize during the last weekend the family was here together that my morning time prayer and study would be a pleasant memory only unless I moved from the kitchen area into a more private space.  When I discovered yesterday evening that the family was coming in two days early, I quickly set things to rights before sundown.  My last act was to move my Bible, prayer journal and devotional into our bedroom.  I didn't leave my room this morning until I'd had that quiet time and it set my day off on the right foot. 

My Frugal Week: A Challenge to Save

My Granny's old wash pot is a valued treasure Mama recently gave to me.  I didn't plant the fern in it since I don't want to rust out the wash pot, but I did put the fern in on a drip pan.  I think it's rather neat to use it on the back porch.  And yes, I did say 'wash' pot.  This pot was placed over a wood fire and water heated in it.  Then the clothes were put into the hot water and stirred about with a paddle of sorts.  "Boiled clothes", as an older woman once told me, "always smell the freshest."  It also served a second purpose in my childhood when Granny used this one and a mate to water cows each day.  I suspect she'd be mighty surprised to see it sitting on my back porch now and called a 'treasure'.

Saturday:  I made several meals from my menu plan last week but also skipped a few.  Today I had chicken breasts in the fridge along with a variety of vegetables.  I decided to make an easy Peanut Chicken Stir fry for lunch.  Most of the vegetables were already prepped and I had only to cut up the chicken.  It was pretty yummy served over brown rice I'd made ahead and put in the freezer.

Shut curtains on the sunny sides of the house and opened them on the shadier sides to offset the heat of the sun.  The blinds and black out curtains really do make a huge difference (as did the service we had on the AC on Thursday).

Went through the accumulation of magazines Mama had given me or which came through the mail this month.  I set aside a few to give to Katie, set aside a few more issues to mail off to Amie.

Tried and True: Recipes to Share III


Kathy:  Definitely going to have to try that lava cake recipe!
I have been making this roast sticky chicken for close to 20 years, I think. I originally got the recipe from a frugal living board on ivillage from Tawra Kellam who has the Living on a Dime website now.
I no longer roast it for 4 hours, since that is a Long time to leave your oven on, plus expensive electricity use. I roast for 20 min/pound and we still like it.

Dawn:  I also love that lava cake recipe. It is so easy but very good. I shared a recipe for spinach dip that was a hit at a bridal shower this past weekend: 

Lana:  This chocolate pound cake is so, so good and it turned out perfectly which is not always the case with pound cake recipes. I baked it in a tube pan and it almost overflowed so next time I will put it in two loaf pans.

These muffins are almost always in my freezer for my husband's lunches. A few more chocolate chips go in ours and I use 4 bananas for moist muffins.

Loving My Home: The Great Outdoors

One of the chairs where I set a planted basket

Mama went to the dentist today.  I stayed in the car while she went in but I have to say it was no hardship at all to wait.  Her dentist has created a little haven of tranquility.  His office is built to look like a colonial home which he's landscaped all about with flowers and trees.  In the 'back yard' of the house there are bird feeders and bird baths and flowers.  Bird songs resonated about me the whole time, sitting there in the spring sunshine with a cool breeze blowing through the windows.  It was so peaceful and lovely I had to wonder how much more calm his patients must be than the average dental patient.  Just walking from the car into the office was enough of an experience to soothe you. 

I watched the dentist as he filled the bird feeder, dead headed a few flowers, filled the bird bath, watered a basket.  I couldn't help but think how restorative that must be for him each day to slip outdoors and tend to things.  And what a calm demeanor he must bring in to his patients!

When Mama came back to the car I told her how much I'd enjoyed waiting on her.  She told me, "When they are working on your teeth, they have you facing the window so you can watch the birds at the feeders and see the flowers."  My goodness!  I can't even imagine how that must distract from what's going on otherwise.  Can you tell I'm a little nervous when it comes to dentists? 

I also couldn't help but think, as I sat there waiting upon her, that this interlude in my day, this quiet spot, wasn't planned but it was most certainly the tranquil point of my day and was very restorative.


Tried and True: Recipes to Share for May


I'm a little late getting around to this, this month but better late than never right?  We've had two great months of offerings of favorite recipes.  You can find them here and here

Rules are the same as usual.  You can post link/links or recipes to the comments.  I'll save and delete from the comments as they come in.  I'll give 1 week to get your recipes linked up and then repost here. 

Here are two recipes I've found this past week.

Did this taste like a chocolate chip cookie?  No, not really but it was good and it was sweet and it was single serve all of which were bonuses in my book.  I'm going to try more of the mug recipes and try using sugar substitutes in them.  This was a good starter recipe for me.

Oregon cottage shared this recipe in 2012.  I've been making it at least that long and it's always a huge treat.

Quick & Easy Lava Cakes - An Oregon Cottage

I've tried other recipes but this is the one I go back to over and over again because it's almost no fail.  The only time I ever had a problem was when I failed to take them out when the timer went off.  Even one minute more is enough to set the middle, so stay in the kitchen and be ready to remove these from the oven the moment the timer goes off!

I look forward to seeing what you'll share this month!

This Week In My Home: Ch-Ch-Changes

This week in my home....
...I've been busy of late.  John asked me Friday, "Is there someone timing you?  You've been acting as though you have a deadline to meet!"  Well...No.  But I'm so excited about all the creative thoughts flowing through my mind that I am determined to get busy and start making my visions reality.  Fortunately the greater portion of my inspirations are do-able, and affordable.

My big source of inspiration has been that quote I found earlier in the year: Start where you are, Use what you have, Do what you can. 

Take my work on Friday.  I've purchased paint a little at a time, a can here and a can there for various projects.  There's almost always leftover paint isn't there?  So I'm using up leftovers and have painted the three ladder back chairs I want to use in my back porch flower bed.  I will be painting the old set of steps under the pecan tree too.  I saw a photo in Pottery Barn of a plant stand that was a set of steps...I have a set of steps.   I also happen to have a can of black paint. As it happens that set of steps is clearly seen from my chair in the living room.  I think a vision of pretty pots of flowers will do me good, don't you?

I'm also beginning a long put off project of getting my dining room chairs painted and recovered.  I can't even recall how long we've had them but Katie was still living here when I got them and I've been meaning to paint and recover ever since.  Well this is the time.  I officially have one painted chair and I have covers cut and a brand new staple gun.  And while I was working on the chair there was a vision of my table and buffet all painted.  I am sure repositioning the dining table this past week helped get all of this inspiration going.

Why all this busyness and push?  Because I want and need to see pretty things about me and I realized that I can wait forever and ever, thinking that one day there will be money enough (maybe but who wants to wait to see?) to hire or buy things done but there's something in me that wants to see what I can do where I am with what I've got.   It's part and parcel of making home where I am at the moment instead of waiting for something better to come along.  It's important to live now and not one day some day down the road.  

Weekend Reading


Dee shared this on her Facebook page and being a history buff I thought it was so cool to see historical photos superimposed over modern day photos of the same area.  This was well done and gave a sense of timelessness to the Paris street scenes.  I really enjoyed viewing these photographs.

Years ago I did a full tutorial on Vanilla for Penny Ann Poundwise newsletter readers.  This contains much of the same information.  I'll have to start digging up a few of those old informational things from my old newsletter items to share, but in the meantime why not make reading a learning experience as well, right.  I came across this on Vanilla this past week. 

Being clothes minded I read Bridgette Rae's weekly blog posts.  I liked her post on the well dressed woman.  I'm not yet up to 'investing' in quality pieces but I do believe in 'asking for help' in the form of Pinterest, Polyvore and Rae's outfit posts.

This post on Passover was thought provoking.  It is not written from a Messianic or Jewish view but from a spiritual standpoint. 

My Frugal Week: Balancing Acts

My little herb garden.  Rosemary, parsley and basil thus far.  I plan to add sage, dill, Thai basil and mint.  I'll be adding pots to the area and moving out the decorative things to use elsewhere.  You can see the basil is already growing well.  The parsley is up in the far back left bucket.

Saturday:  This day is always simple, and today was simpler than usual.  Bagels and choice of fruit and toppings (butter, jam, cream cheese and nut butters).  Cost to me was the bag of bagels I picked up at the grocery on Thursday, so less than $2 and we had an ample breakfast.

Samuel treated us to lunch out today. 

Supper is always wanted.  I had leftover fajita chicken and plenty of vegetables on hand.  I asked Samuel if he'd like to make pizzas for supper.  We decided to do a chicken Bbq pizza and a vegetable pepperoni one.  My task was to prep vegetables and cheese.  Sam made the crust which was awesome.  We all had a slice of each and there were two slices left to go into John's work lunch.

Coffee seems to be the most asked for item in the house at the moment.  We're making about 2 pots more per day than we usually do.  I've been reusing grounds and adding half as much fresh for the second pot.  No one has made a complaint yet.

Iced Tea Chat: If You Can't Say Something Nice...

I kid you not...I've been trying to write up an iced tea chat for four days.  So far I've had to strike every single one and start over again and why?  Because each one has been a litany of whines and complaints over something that upset or hurt or frustrated me.   As I cleared off the page once again this afternoon, I realized that Granny's old adage was quite right and one I must do my best to follow: "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all."  Only a blank page and a photo of happy girl with her iced tea hardly a blog post makes.  So we'll try again and hope that things go better.  I will recapture the two weeks for you in a few brief words and say nothing much about it and then we'll move on, okay?

Well first let us begin with tea.  No sweets nor bakery items this week.  I keep thinking I shall make something and then I went to the doctor and weighed two pounds less and I changed my mind about baking after all, lol.  Nothing like incentive!  But there is tea, and lemons and limes and ginger root if you'll have it and lots of ice.  Isn't the weather just ripe for iced tea?  The AC repair man was in earlier to give us our annual Freon boost and he said he was working rather hard just now.  It seems so every year about this time.

Maddie was badly beaten up by our son's dog who was re-homed shortly thereafter, his aggressive behavior towards her being the final straw in a series of events that had made him a difficult pet. Fortunately he was turned over to a man who trains aggressive dogs for guard and police duty.  Poor Maddie, poor dog and poor family who truly did love dog and were trying hard with him.  I spent nearly a week weeping over it all because it was too much for my tender heart.  John quite lost patience with me.  Maddie was hurt but not mortally wounded.  Her spirit was traumatized.  She's such a gentle loving dog for the most part and only ever snarks if other dogs come too close, but she lay about for a week, shying away from any inquiry or attempt to touch her, refusing to come up on the porches,  worrying us no end.  I was the last person she'd come to as I was with her at the time she was attacked and though I tried desperately to get dog to stop, he paid me no mind whatsoever.  He's not much of a respecter of females but did eventually respond to John who showed great command.  I'll go no further with the story.  Maddie is better, dog is re homed, family is resolved if heartbroken and all is peace here once more.

My son took me out to eat that Sunday following that most awful Saturday.  I had to take him to the east side of Macon to pick up his personal vehicle.  He suggested we go early (he's a very early riser) and eat breakfast.  I had, for the very first time, Eggs Benedict, or at least a variation of it.  I got distracted by the waitress who was in good spirits and forgot to ask for turkey bacon instead of bacon.  First bite and I realized my mistake, of course.  I found the bacon flavor overwhelmed the hollandaise entirely and removed the remaining bacon from the dish.  The foods were hot and they were good and fresh so I'm not complaining about the food or service or anything...but I was a little disappointed.  It was pretty much a white sauce moment for me.

I'll explain.  In the years prior to my having my own home, I'd been reading Emilie Loring novels all one summer and she was forever espousing how lovely white sauce was... I also loved to read a certain cookbook that Mama had.  It was one that no one ever touched, in fact, it lived in the depths of a deep narrow cabinet.   It was, of course, the cookbook that has long since become a favored old friend of mine, The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedic Cookbook.  Well there was the recipe there in the cookbook and it wasn't a delicacy at all but what we in the country called milk gravy!  Disappointment was great and all that. 

Ditto with Hollandaise.  I've heard it's praises sung for ages but it was my first experience with it.  I found it okay, very delicate in flavor and prone to being overcome by the taste of anything upon which it sat.  Glad I tried it.  Now I'll set myself up for another culinary surprise, lol.

I broke my favorite coffee mug, a Christmas gift of sorts from John this past year and not to be mistaken for my lovely thermal cup or my Saturday morning coffee cups which Katie and Matt gifted me.  How did I break it?  I poured coffee into it and heard it begin to crack and watched the cup start to gape and hot coffee went everywhere.  I was quite startled by it and bewailed my not purchasing another the day before while out with Samuel as I'd thought to do.  Pooh!

I worked far too hard in the yard and paid dearly in pain for that foolishness.  I might have quit well ahead of time but I didn't.  Sad to say that for all that, I didn't quite complete the task either and had to put in another two hours at it last Friday but it's lovely now and I've moved on to a new space.  I'm taking it far easier in trying to work out how that shall look.

I took Mama out to eat at a favorite eatery on my next free day.  I don't know just why it was off, but Mama's food didn't come as described, was cold and she was mighty dissatisfied overall.  Thank goodness for free pie that day because I'm afraid she'd have sworn never to go back.  My food, by the way, was all delicious and fine and I was quite satisfied but Mama refused every offer of another entrĂ©e on the house to eat in or take away as she chose.

On Shabat last week my son and his family (they came in Friday afternoon) took us out to eat at a Korean restaurant we enjoy.  And Samuel made two lovely pizzas for supper that evening.  Eating out is a weekend treat for them and we were invited to tag along.  We enjoyed it but I must confess that going out and fighting traffic and road construction turns and twists and all such did not feel like a restful peaceful Shabat.  I do know that peaceful Saturdays at home  is likely to change with family in the house with us and that it is temporary but I'm hopeful that this Saturday will be a quiet peaceful day since it will be just the two of us. 

I wanted, on Mother's Day, to spend the day alone.  It might sound odd, but it was what I wanted.  My son and Bess were off to see her parents.  John was working.  Katie had other plans. I knew the rest of my children would call and I wanted to be able to chat leisurely with them.  I was perfectly okay with being at home alone and everyone knew it including the one person who stopped by anyway and told me plainly she didn't care that I wanted to be alone.  It was a negative visit with someone who doesn't respect my boundaries ever,  and as I took a phone call from my oldest daughter she made me feel I had to rush off the phone by sighing deeply repeatedly, so my longed for conversation with Amie and her family was cut to about three minutes .

I've had several nights of poor sleep.  I can't decide which is worst: lying awake with owl eyes peering into the darkness or dozing in fitful snatches and waking to lie awake for an hour or so before dozing in more fitful snatches.  Or a night that combines both bookended together. Ugh.

Politics dominate just now and it's only going to get worse I'm afraid.  I shall say little on the subject except that I'm not thrilled with any candidate, don't trust the electoral delegates in the least and am praying hard.  There are myriad local elections going on and you can barely tell a 'For Sale' sign on a lawn from the plethora of election signs that dot lawns as well.  I did wonder momentarily just how much those signs affect the notice houses for sale might get.

There was one sign that read "Vote for Misty".  That was it.  No last name.  No idea what office Misty was running for either.  I told John I feel disinclined to vote for anyone who thinks they can get by on recognition of their first name only.  It seems a bit too casual for my taste.

I will say honestly that I am sure of two things.  No matter how much it's spoken of, Hilary Clinton will not be indicted over this whole email thing despite what some media news keeps pushing.  I think it was swept off the table long before this campaign began and that it is not even thought of at all by her higher ups.   And I do believe that we're seeing history made.  I don't think the Democrat nor Republican parties are going to carry as much weight in the future as they have in the past.  I believe this country is so looking for change that we'll find ourselves with new political parties in coming elections. 

So that's it. I'm going no further with all that. 

Bess and Josh joined Sam here this past weekend and I had a feel for what life with them might be like for the next month or so and decided we will survive it.  I laid down gentle house rules and we are all agreed to do our best for the month to six weeks they shall be here.  These kids amuse me.  They go to bed rather early, usually by 9pm (and that's late for them!) and are up quite early in the morning.  They make me feel a bit of a rebel to stay up until 10:30 or to lie abed after 7am.  I will say that Sam and Bess are rather like minded to John and I, just as Katie and Matt are.  It's no hardship to have them in the house and I've noted all week how diligent Samuel has been to try and remember the house rules, which is much appreciated.

We've decided we shall try to just lead our lives as much normally as we can, but I've found the constant interruptions to my prayer and study time do necessitate moving out of the kitchen area where I normally sit of mornings.  As well I'm going to have to declare my temporary space as a no phone zone because morning texts are interrupting as well.  I don't want anyone else to stop texting or talking, I just need to reorder the main morning activity.  I am thinking hard about how I might get coffee in the bedroom which I think will be my temporary space.

It's fun watching the grandchildren at their current ages. Josh is now quite the parrot when repeating anyone but it's gibberish when he attempts to say it all on his own.  I've loved hearing him say his ABC and counting to 10, or parroting back a sentence "Pick me up please" for instance.  He did tickle us all Saturday evening.  We've eaten every meal as a family since their arrival and Saturday evening I was just tired.  I suggested we all have our pizza before the TV.  Josh went to the table and cried at us because we weren't there.  He was not well pleased at being in the living room.  The kids thought it too funny since they eat most of their meals in the living room.  I think they'll find they really do need to use that gorgeous dining table at least once daily as a family after staying here with us, because it is so important to Josh.

 Katie sends photos of Taylor standing on her own and climbing over barriers put down to keep her in the play areas. She's begun to speak clear words too, and asks for her dog by name each morning. Hard to believe she shall be a year old in a few weeks...Oh time does fly!  JD reported that Zach, who has resisted potty training rather hard, caved when he was told he'd have to stay home from school unless he could learn to go potty like a big boy.  It seems going to school next autumn was just the incentive he needed!  I didn't get to speak long to Amie, as I reported, so no clue what the children are up to there.  Josie will be 13 this year and has been allowed to go on Facebook.  I'm not too concerned at present since her first friend requests were all to family members!  So that's the family news.

On Monday of this week I went to the doctor and asked please to come off the Coumadin.  I am on half dosages until this current bottle runs out and then I'm off completely thereafter, which will put me at the one year mark.  Unless I have an illness or problem for other reasons, I am no longer under doctor's care and do not have to have any more blood testing done.  I confess that May this year feels much like a 'New Year' to me after all that went on last year and looking back I shake my head in wonder at all the scary and terrible and wonderful things that the past year has encompassed.  Its been quite a year!  Fortunately, things went well for me, for us, and 'normal' took on a variety of disguises as I found my way through.

I mentioned yard work.  There's so much that wants to be done!!  I finally made up my mind that I should simply follow the Arthur Ashe quote that I found in a magazine and posted on my clip board where I see it each time I pick it up:  "Start where you are, do what you can, use what you have."   Where I am is at the beginning, what I can do is a little at a time and what I've been using is some of what I have and some of what I've found really inexpensively and what I've accomplished has astonished me.  Who knew?!  I've three lovely flower beds at present, I'm working on a new one.  My front porch is finally close to being finished and the back porch needs cleaning and a little something extra for work but both are going to be quite nice once I get that done.   My house is pleasing overall and coming along a little at a time, too.  This afternoon I shifted the dining table and found the area just looks so much more roomy and less cramped than before.  I have plans for so many things my head almost aches thinking of all I want to do. 

I've come to some firm decisions about various things, too. First, there's the booth.  It gelled for me this week when I went in and paid full rent on my booth.  It's not a huge sum nor does it affect our household budget in the least, but for the bulk of this year I've paid a majority of the rent each month out of my pocket money, as I'd told John I would when I started.  I worked hard at my booth in mid April.  I looked it over and critiqued it and while in St. Augustine I went into a couple of similar stores curious both to seek treasure and to see how I stack up in comparison.  Truthfully, my stock is good stuff.  It's not junk. 

The store where my booth is located doesn't look like much.  Some of the booths are quite nice and some are so so and some spaces are just thrift store quality.  I don't know what else to do at this point to generate interest and I can't, honestly, go out to thrift and pick up more new merchandise when things are not selling that are there now. I never went into this thinking I'd be rolling in earnings, but I had thought I'd make rent and a little more besides each month, you know expand my pocket money a tad.  Well that hasn't happened in three years.

 I was talking it over with John earlier this week and I said I was thinking of letting it go when I work through this current year (which ends August 31).  I spoke of it with Samuel one evening and in one of those enlightening moments I said to him "Why it's like I'm paying for storage space and it's costing me '$XXX a year  and I've got my own shed in the yard .." and that was it.  I knew then and know now that booth is history.  I don't know what I shall do with all the stock.  I do like it all, and some of it I will enjoy using.  I may try to do an Etsy shop or go back to eBay listings, but my time being a booth owner in our little town is done.

And that brings up the need to clear the shed because I will need room to store things and right now it's rather packed.  There are some things that need to be moved out and let go of in that shed.  It's not a major project but it's not a day's work either. 

I have made up my mind, cautiously, to let go of the small freezer.  It's mainly stocked with fruits I keep meaning to make into jams I oughtn't eat and chicken broth which I have in more ample supply than demand necessitates.  It is a handy spot to store milk, but then I've a load of things in the big freezer we seldom seem to use either and that space might be better used to store milk and broth both.  I don't need two freezers.  Frankly I'd love to use that closet space for craft storage or to extend the pantry or both,  though I'm not dead certain that's how I'll choose to use that space either.  But it is space and it's a closet which is high commodity in this house.  I do have plans for offering the freezer to someone but if there's no interest I'll see if I can sell it perhaps.  It's an older freezer but one of the most steadily running appliances I've ever had.  25 years now and not a single hiccup ever.

Of course, I might add I'd also made up my mind that this was the year to landscape about the house.  Slow and steady it is but it's coming together nicely and I'm happy with the look of it all thus far.  I guess mostly I've made up my mind to stop putting things off thinking I can't because I don't have physical strength or money or time or ability.  Honestly that Arthur Ashe quote truly has inspired my thinking in so many ways!

Take for instance the household budget.  I know what John makes and I know what we must pay out and I know what it takes for us to manage even with care.  John's doing his best by working an extra half shift at least once or twice a month and he'll continue to do so for as long as the time is available.  I don't count on it as income but I am trying hard to make it count when he does earn it.  So far, I've paid off a loan we took out last year to pay medical bills, have been steadily saving a set amount each month, setting aside money for real savings and for future medical bills, as well as putting a portion aside for two large bills that came in March.  I don't mind telling you that it's nice when we do have the usual short check and no overtime was available, to be able to pay whatever bills come up.  This month there was an added amount owed at the doctor's office for the first time and I knew I had it in my sub account so I paid it off.  I think John's rather pleased with me about it. 

I was worried the pantry was looking a bit low, but honestly just now I don't know exactly what I have or need.  I moved a lot of things to the kitchen so I wouldn't have to invade the guest room too often.  I want the family to feel they've their own space, you know?  And I've brought as much out as I can store and keep it safe.  I told John that I'll make that my priority again when they're in their own home and we can settle back into ours.  I know we'll need to restock beef by then, most especially ground meat.  In the meantime, I'll do my best with what we can purchase and store and use the pantry foods to help extend the budget while we've a few more mouths to feed.  It is my intent to save all of the room and board money and hopefully use that to restock.

Well, I'm afraid I'm chattered out...and it's getting late, too.  My nephew was just by to drop off packages he accepted in town from a courier service who was having trouble with his GPS.  Jason was heading home to supper and I realized with a start that I've actually been having tea all afternoon.  Time to start preparing for the evening hours in our homes.  Talk to you later!

Weekend Reading

I have a little longer reading list this week.  I took time to scroll around pages and found some interesting things. 

This post was on Hometalk this week, which features blog posts and instagrams that are put on Pinterest each week.  I am always looking for a new creative outlet.  One of the links this week led to a whole series of lessons:  Learn to Watercolor Paint

Often enough I get a request for more meatless meals.  Dee archived all of her vegetarian recipes into one spot this past week.  I know that Rhonda has made Lentil Tacos several times and she always mentions how good they are.  I don't know if their recipes are the same but Dee has one for them and it sounds good to me.  Click on that link or click here for all of her archived recipes.

This was a fun stumble upon this week.  I recall when the first Publix grocery in our area opened up.  We went in to the grand opening of it after church.  John, Katie and I strolled the aisles and looked at everything on the shelves and made a full outing of it, lol.  Well grocery shopping at these places would be a fun excursion, too.

In My Home This Week: No Pain No Gain?

In my home this week:


...I don't know if it's really just that this spring is truly that beautiful or that I am just deeply appreciating it.  I don't think it's just me though.  John mentioned on the way home today how much he's enjoyed the beautiful days we've had this spring.  And then he added "But I think it's because I am sharing them with you."  It has seemed the days have been sweeter and somehow special of late and I mean that.

I had a bit of a struggle last week.  I never did get time to plan meals and I'll say right now that making up meals as I go has not been the most frugal way to tend to them at all.  I did a wee bit better today in using ingredients on hand which Sam used to make pizzas. 

My other struggles were of my own making.  I overdid it in the yard Wednesday morning and on Thursday spent the whole of the day in recovery groaning every single time I had to move.  Friday morning I was right back at work at the very same job and I walked as though I'd been riding horses for two days when I came in.  Oh but it looks so nice!  I am really proud of that bit of work done thus far. 

My Frugal Week: May I?

Sunday:  Packed John's work lunch and made him breakfast.

My son offered to buy breakfast out for he and I.  This was in exchange for taking him to pick up his car.

I picked up two birthday gifts for two of the smallest grandchildren at the clearance table in a store we visited.

After dropping off my son, I contemplated going to the town where I normally shop.  Just a few miles away however were the same two stores.  I was reluctant only because I am not familiar with these particular stores.  Yes, they were set up completely different than I'm accustomed to but in a way, it proved to be  a help, because I was so focused on finding what I knew I needed that I managed to avoid 'just looking'.

Purchased another trellis at Aldi.  It was much needed in the rose bed. 

Kroger is across the parking lot from this particular Aldi.  I'd reviewed my 'free' items last night and knew which I needed to look for today.  I looked for three items, was able to find two of them and consider myself quite happy as it was the two we were most likely to use in our home.

In all,  I saved myself driving about 40 miles more by shopping in the town where I was instead of the town I prefer.

John agreed to work an extra half day in the near future.

My son made pizza for our dinner.  He made the dough and the sauce from scratch.

He also began a big house project: replacing the screening in windows on our home.   The entire front of the house has been done, including the storm door.  In the coming week he'll gradually finish the task.  He guessed he had about $10 in materials and estimated that he was saving us upwards of $350 in having it done professionally.  On his way home today he picked up bags of mulch...Can I just say that my children all spoil me and I greatly appreciate it?

Questions and Answers and Comments, Oh MY!

I started out April posting my final tally for the first quarter of the year in the "Assigning Value to My Days" post.  I was shocked at how well I'd done and glad too to see it come up to such a nice sum.  It gave me a much needed boost of confidence that I truly do make a difference with what I do in my home.

Rhonda commented on how much she likes her black maxi skirts and I have to share that I finally had weather to wear mine and really enjoyed the comfort of it.  I wore it to church on Sunday and on our trip down to St. Augustine on Monday.  It was comfortable, cool (it was 90F that day) and didn't wrinkle, all great bonuses.  The olive green top I'd purchased to go with it bit the dust early.  John nor I thought to look at the label and it shrank badly in the wash.  I seldom have clothing that shrinks to a smaller size.  It just seems to get shorter and wider which is what the olive shirt did.  I'm trying to determine if I want to try to reuse the fabric and make another shirt or if I just want to scrap it.

Kathy share how she'd used up pineapple in a blueberry cobbler...she said it was an experiment that turned out very tasty.  I have combined oranges and peaches to make a sort of fuzzy navel cobbler and it was mighty good, too.  Never let a limited amount of one fruit or a leftover of another keep you from experimenting.  If you're unsure how something might taste together you can always sample it before you mix it all up together.  That's how I discovered that strawberries and oranges go together rather well, too.

Gramma D shared this hint:  If you take your printer cartridges out and shake them and reinstall you can get a few more uses from them.

My Frugal Week

This is one of those mystery updates...I added a jump break and the post jumped it's spot and decided to act as though it's new.  The actual date of this post is April 15, 2016...

A home done manicure.  The accent nail is done with a Jamberry sample Bess brought to me to try.  I used the acrylic gel transformer polish to make a regular polish have the durability of gel.  I'm pleased with my pretty manicure.

Saturday:  Saturday means bagels at our house, and fruit.  This morning we shared that meal with our littlest grandson.  Gramma never forces food at him but he watched me eating a whole strawberry while I held on to the green leaves at the top.  He soon reached over to my plate and took a whole strawberry to nibble upon as he delicately held the green top.  I simply reached over to his plate and ate the sliced berry that we'd prepared for him, which made him quite happy.  No waste and a little experience he'd never had before.

I made a chicken pie from meat I'd cleaned off cooked chicken backs.  The recipe was good but not something I think I'd add to our routine meal rotation.  I've one more in the freezer.  John's critique was the usual: the gravy wasn't thick enough.  I explained to him that gravy in a pie is sort of critical anyway.  Too thick and the pie becomes a gummy mass.  Too thin and it's like soup with a rich crouton.  It was not too thin, but I could see his point that it might be a little thicker.  I told him if I were inclined to repeat the recipe I'd alter it ever so slightly.

Supper rolled around with every body at home.  I had six slider type sandwiches, leftovers from previous dinners, chips...So I just heated those sliders and set out the other items and told everybody to help themselves.  We had enough to feed us all and nothing leftover which is always a bonus when you're on the third round with leftovers!

I Wander as I Wonder: Random Musings

Sometimes these posts have a common theme...sometimes they are just what I say they are, Random Musings with no real connection other than they were all in my mind in a given set of hours.  I never know myself how these posts will turn out but I enjoy the free flow thinking that goes into them.  I hope you do, too.


Spring.  I think I've absorbed spring this year.  I mean that it seems I can't get enough of the blue, so blue!,  skies, the wonder of pale green leaves in fifty shades of green (and wouldn't that make a lovely book?), blooms and scents and just the glory of it all.  I was out early this morning picking up the last of the weeds and began weeding about a clump of iris that barely bloomed...but only they know why not because they have the loveliest healthiest leaves I've seen in many years.  Weeding is not a hard task when the dew is wet upon the grass, a mockingbird insists upon serenading me with his full repertoire of bird calls (Bob White, Pretty pretty and a dozen other calls), and a fluffy red dog is wagging her tail next to me.  I feel tender towards the teeny tiny basil plants that are finally coming up.  I smile at the dahlias that are pushing their way to the surface.  I anxiously look for the first signs of the lily of the valley and the bleeding heart though I did just plant them a week ago.  Lovely.  It's all so very lovely, isn't it?

Weekend Reading

Brenda posts a new spiritual post each Sunday.  These words spoke to me from her post this last Sunday "What I learned is that sometimes there is a winter in our life when we can't see ahead at all.  The winds of adversity are sharp and bitterly cold and we can have hope only because we know His character.  We may think we are falling apart but instead He is just molding us and shaping us into even stronger vessels, shining us up in the process for the Father."

I confess it's been a long week and I'm not sure just who shared this post, but I think it might have been Anita at Far Above Rubies.  Or perhaps it was Dee at Life With Dee.  However, it's good information and whoever shared is certainly deserving of thanks.  How to properly set a table.

And my dear Virginia share these two videos for Qijong (pronounced Chi-gong), a gentler form of exercise.  I plan to try this myself.  Find the videos here: and

I know this is very short this week but I haven't had time yet to catch up with reading.  I'm afraid this might be my pattern for May so do bear with me.

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...