Living Frugally and Well: Sizzling Savings

Saturday:  I didn't prep food ahead yesterday for today's meal because it wasn't necessary.  I put meat in the crockpot early this morning to cook.  I needed only to chop a few vegetables for stir fry as a side dish.

I put leftover meat right into the fridge.  We didn't have the option of going back for seconds.

John offered to make pancakes for supper.  That's why we keep the mix on hand.  I have the instructions written a chalk board tag that is tied around the neck of the jar I store the mix in.  They were delicious.

I finished prepping John's work lunch.

I ran a full load of dishes in the dishwasher.

Sunday:  Sent John off to work: he had breakfast before leaving, lunch and coffee in hand as he went out the door.

Remembered to turn off the porch light when I came back indoors.  I don't always remember this and I'm trying to be better about it.

Stripped bed.  Washed linens and bath towels together.  I tossed in the few clothes in the basket as well.

Hung most all of the items to dry.

Bagged up all the trash to carry out the door with me when I leave.

Went by Kroger and picked up the free item I could find on the shelves.  One bottle of BBQ sauce, 19 ounces went into my pantry.  I only bought a Sunday paper while in the store.

After church, I went to get a haircut.  Then I went to another grocery to pick up a prescription and a few loaves of good bakery bread for our home use.  I stuck to the perimeter of the store.  I did note a sale on an end cap and knew I could find the variety I wanted as I walked past the other end of the aisle on my way to the registers.  It does pay to know the lay out of your store!  I avoided a double line of temptation by walking the perimeter and going to the right section of the aisle where the product was located.

The item I bought extra?  BOGO on Ritz stackable crackers.  I don't know why John prefers the stackable size but he does.  I agreed to purchase them when they were no more than Aldi brand of the same cracker.  Well, these BOGO sales are dead on the same price.  I stocked up with enough to last me until next sale.

I purchased a big bunch of gladiola for $4.99.  The usual bunches of common flowers are now $4 a bunch.  The glads filled a big vase and look lovely.  I don't consider these as 'extra' by the way.  I normally purchase a bunch of flowers about every two weeks.  Sometimes in summer I buy them weekly because they do not keep as well in the warmer temperatures.  I budget for them as part of my grocery money.

Do you know what else I did to save at the grocery today?  When I went into Kroger I was on my way to church.  When I came out of church I was beyond hungry.  I then went to get a haircut.  I'd eaten at 5am with John and hadn't had anything since.  After I got my hair cut, I went right to a fast food place, purchased a meal, and ate.  I used my pocket money to cover the cost.  It was a lot cheaper to pay $7 for a meal than to wander the deli and snack aisles at the grocery tossing in any item that looked good at the moment.

Filled the car with gasoline in that town where it's 20c cheaper than our hometown.

Found a good deal on a slipcover.  Ordered it for my chair.

I was weary when I came in.  I hadn't slept well last night and all I wanted to do was sit and chill.  You know what I did?  I brought clothes in off the line and folded them.  I made coffee.  I sat down at my desk and totted up the checkbook, wrote out checks to pay bills.  I balanced the checkbook against the bank statement.  I did what I had to do.  That's part of what gets things done.  After I was finished with those tasks, I had a cup of coffee and did what I'd wanted to do all along: chill.  No guilt, no worry over having to get up to do one thing.  I was done!

Monday:  I made breakfast sandwiches for us this morning.  They are filling and easy and quick.

John washed a load of clothes and hung most to dry.  Yes, we had a few more clothes, which included his work uniform.  He likes to have that ready to go right away even though he doesn't go back to work for two days.

Gave myself a pedicure.  I used the new Jamberry wraps I got for hostessing the party.  Bess had shown earlier in the month that a single accent nail wrap could cover five of your toes.  I actually covered SIX with a smidge leftover.  Pretty impressive.

Gathered bills to mail when we went down to pick up John's check.  We made our deposit in that town.

We wandered.  We did.  We hadn't had lunch and really hadn't been hungry when it was dinner time, so I didn't cook.  We took a very long very roundabout trip to our favorite restaurant.  I paid for our dinner out of my pocket money (recently refreshed at the bank).

Nothing more was done today.  We simply enjoyed the afternoon and the conversation we had.  We laughed.  We talked.  And then we had ice cream.  There's just something about a summer cone of ice cream isn't there?

Tuesday:  I placed an order this morning and remembered to use Swagbucks this time.  I have forgotten far too often of late to use those Shop and Earn points.

Cashed in Pinecone research points for Paypal cash.   I shall put that with the Lowe's gift card I got first of the year and use the funds to replace the last mini blind with a nicer one.  That would be our guest room window.  I've no idea why it took me this long to notice we had that one last window to do!

Kept breakfast simple this morning when John announced his intentions to mow lawn.  I know he dislikes to go out in the heat with a heavy breakfast sitting upon him.  Pushed plans for our dinner to be something simpler and quickly prepared.  We postponed getting groceries until later in the week.  I'll likely go buy another half gallon of milk (and incidentally pick up some cottage cheese that is on sale and carrageenan free) but we've plenty of fruit, lettuce, eggs and bread to see us through the end of the week.

We had another very late dinner today.  No supper for us again tonight.  Tomorrow I shall likely eat four meals because we'll be starting our day so very early, so it balances out.

Made John's lunch/supper for tomorrow and set it aside in the fridge so I can easily pull it out in the morning and not miss anything.

I used Matzah crackers we've had in the cabinet since Passover to make Sweet and Saltines...Only mine is Sweet and Matzah, lol.  I packaged up the confectionary  pieces in an old cookie tin.  This is a very fast recipe.  It takes about 15 minutes start to finish.  Five minutes to boil and five minutes in the oven.  I had the oven on to make oven baked fries already so it was no trouble.

Took advantage of the nice mild weather to make those oven fried potatoes.

Katie fired my imagination this afternoon with some Jamberry nail wrap pairings she set up and forwarded to me through photos.  I went through my stash and pulled together a few more looks, including mimicking some of hers with wraps we had in common.  I figure I just extended my ability to use my wraps efficiently by 50% which is pretty good.

John had a phone holder that clipped to his belt.  It broke the other night.  He remembered when he purchased it and that it had a warranty so he wrote the company.  They wrote him back asking for measurements.  Today he received a brand new phone holder from the company. No, it's not exactly like his previous one but his phone does fit in the new holder.  The company is called Nite Ize...

This morning as we were about to eat breakfast, I happened to glance out of the kitchen window.  Two young bucks walked across the yard, strolling leisurely about.  This afternoon from the same windows I watched as a hummingbird fed from the hibiscus and petunias.

John mowed our yard.  It costs an average of $50 to get a lawn mowed in our area and John mows the equivalent of THREE yards with our big lawn.  That's a HUGE savings for us.

Wednesday:  Have had a very productive morning thus far.  I'll start with the usual work day morning drill:  breakfast, coffee, packed lunch.  Yep that trinity of work morning savings took place again today.

Remembered to turn off the porch light when I came indoors.

Maddie gets biscuit treats when John goes to work.  Misu has been coming around this whole month and started demanding a treat, too.  She'd happily eat a small piece of dog biscuit but I splurged the other day and bought a trial sized packet of cat treats.  She enjoyed having her own treats!  I will get another bag for her but will look for coupons so I can indulge her.  Maddie's biscuits are from Aldi and very similar to Milk Bone...Maybe I'll check Aldi for cat treats...

Washed a full load of clothes which included the slip cover off the wingback chair and my ottoman cover.  The other chair hasn't been sat in by anyone so I didn't feel washing that slipcover was necessary.  I run the vacuum over it every couple of weeks to keep the dust off it.

Went outdoors and cleaned up the porches and patio.  Since we hang clothes on the front porch, it is especially important that I wipe down those railings after John mows.  I've not done it once or twice and rued the dirty marks that ruined my clean wash.

Watered the patio plants using water we'd caught from roof run-off of rain.

Dug up the iris then went to work pulling up all that soapwort under the Faith Tree.  There must have been a million ants living in that mess and about 18 big brown spiders went scurrying away, too.  Ugh. I shall be quite happy to make that space look neater!   I worked a good 45 minutes on it all and decided I'd do more another day.  I did quite enough this morning.  I sure wish I could determine where to plant some of the soapwort.  It needs sun to bloom.  It also needs a space where it won't invade places where I don't want it.  Not sure where that could be.

Washed a full load of dishes.  I didn't have quite a full load so I put in the coffee pot, filter basket and filters, the sink strainers and my sponges and scrubbies.

Cleaned out the fridge.  I have had plastic liners on the shelves which is nice for catching spills.  I just took all the liners off the shelves.

Found three or four items that had gotten buried and forgotten.  Not a lot of waste, perhaps 2 cups of food overall, but more than I'd like to have go to waste.  Noted what foods I have on hand and need to use before I start using the produce I plan to buy this week.

Cleaned out that kitchen cupboard I'd kept promising myself I'd tackle.  Found I did indeed have several packets of Italian and Ranch dressing, sigh.  It got pushed back into a corner I loathe and can't reach.  I put ALL the packets of dressing in a tin that is too big to lose in the cupboard.  Now to remember that's where I stashed those packets.  I might better put them in a jar where I can see them!

Happy to find there was no 'loss' in the cabinet, just a 'lost' that was found.

I bought a big 1 liter bottle of soy sauce a few years ago.  I've nearly drained the big jug and so I decanted what was left into a salad dressing cruet.  Takes up far less room and also gives me a far better idea of about how much I have left.  Somehow it looked like a lot more in that big jug.

Cleaned the guest room and found the fabric I thought I had used up. I have enough to cover the pillow for my bedroom chair which pleases me very much.

Result of cleaning the guest room: 1 trash can filled, one box filled for donation and one laundry basket filled to go to the shed.

Forgot the clothes on the line when the rain came in (not forecasted) but did think to run put the fern under the eaves to catch the runoff from the roof.  Oh well...I've heard often enough that rain water softens clothes.

I ate a leftovers supper but my main meal today was a combination of a special entrée I treat myself to (chicken pot stickers) and leftover stir fry veg from this past weekend.

Thursday:  Made a welcome home breakfast for John of French toast.   I used pieces of bread I'd stashed in the freezer that were too small to make a sandwich.  I cooked up the egg/milk mixture leftover after making the French toast.  John likes that eggy mixture for some reason.

John washed a full load of clothes, hung all to dry.

I washed the plastic shelf liners that were in the fridge.  I hung them on the drying rack to drip dry.

Started to work on one of the UFO's in my sewing room.  Then I walked to the cabinet to get something and stubbed my little toe and broke it.  I'm so sick of breaking toes!  Anyway, that sidelined me from working on sewing.  I am sitting with my foot elevated instead.

Prepared taco salad for our dinner today because it is quick and easy.

John brought home plenty of leftovers from his work yesterday.  Someone catered a meal for the crew so he didn't need the food I'd sent.  He will have it for supper tonight.  I am in 'use it up' mode.

I have onions and peppers prepped for a meal for this weekend.

We did not go buy groceries today, so that is on the list of things to do tomorrow.  I shall most certainly not want to prep foods for weekend then so I'm doing all I can, in stages, today.

Friday:  It's been very hot.   So hot that I'm watering plants practically daily if there is no rainfall.  We really should have left home super early this morning to run errands and shop for groceries but we didn't.  Failure on our part meant we suffered through the 100F part of the day at stop lights and in heavy traffic, ugh.

John wanted to get a haircut.  We remembered the Kroger next to the shop has added in a full pharmacy, a jewelry store, clothing and home goods aisles.  It's a huge expansion into a sort of super Kroger.   John and I have had a saga over underclothes.  He needed some.  I suggested we go to the store and buy them.  He suggested I just order.  I ordered and they filled the order as they pleased.  My husband only wears certain colors, mostly blacks and blues and dark greens.  They sent bright green and blues and reds.  As well the packer must have pulled from the boy's department to fill the package....It was a disaster and the packages were shredded in the opening so no way to return.  Let's just call that whole bit a total loss.

Anyway, I said I would pick up the few non-Aldi items needed and he suggested he'd look at underclothes there at Kroger.  I guess his wait time at the shop for  a cut was far longer than planned. Not only did I order and drink my coffee, I browsed the whole store, picked up the items I went in to purchase (no impulses) and checked the underclothes.  I was shocked at the cost.  Same brand, same style we'd just purchased but they were $8/pair in a package of 5, $39.99.  We'd paid only $2 a pair for the ones we'd ordered.  I walked out of the store shaking my head. I told John how much they cost in that store and he couldn't believe it.  So naturally he went in to check for himself.  He called me from the store to rant over the cost...I was headed to the car, because I knew I wasn't wrong, lol.  Ridiculous!

So we headed to Walmart to shop for underclothes.  I sat in the McDonalds and had a cold drink of water while he did the shopping.  He found the same brand, the same packaging for $13 for 5 pair.  Isn't that just ridiculous all around?

Drove to Aldi to get our grocery items.  I remembered that I needn't stock quite so heavily as we are already heading into the last week of the pay period and John will be gone for four of the seven days counting his next work day.  Good thing I didn't want much.  It was scarce pickings on much of the produce.  

We got the electric bill.  We had the expected jump which will likely be higher still next month if this current heat keeps up.  I pulled curtains on the western side of the house this afternoon and yesterday afternoon as well.

Washed a full load of dishes in the dishwasher.

John washed a small load of clothes, as he meant to take some things he'd been wearing today with him on his trip this weekend.  There's plenty of heat and sun to dry them.

We stopped outside of town and picked up chicken tenders.  I told John we had plenty of salad already to go so we skipped sides.  I paid for that meal out of my pocket.  I'll repay myself next pay period.

What did you do to save this week?

Living Well

The store was packed with screaming babies and children running around and just far too many people in a small store.  The streets were nearly as bad with cars piled in lanes at stop lights, wrecks, sirens, firetrucks wailing...I was one glad country girl to arrive back in my quiet spot!  Today is not typical of the town where we shop.  I seldom hear sirens when I'm in that place, nor is Aldi generally so hectic but it sure was a chaotic sort of day out there today.

Even the highways were crowded with traffic and mowers working along the sides of nearly every road we traveled.  And in our little town, there was a backlog of traffic because the Department of Transportation is repairing a very rough patch of railroad track and pavement.

You can just bet this country girl was sure glad to pull into our roadway today and turn up that long winding drive.  It felt so quiet and peaceful and I felt tension just oozing from me as we drove up towards the house.

Iced Tea Chat - Goal Oriented

I have lemon and mint today if you'd prefer those to go into your tea...  Oh and Orange and basil.   And why not a cool but so tasty little appetizer of Roasted Red Pepper Hummus on Whole Wheat crackers topped with a slice of cucumber?  It's my new favorite munch mid-afternoon.  Cool and crisp and full of fiber and protein and low carb, too.

I've been busy trying to accomplish my month's goals and so far, I'm on target with them.  My desk area is as complete as I can make it at the moment.  I am still searching the house for artwork and frames to finish off the wall space. I've also worked on that flower bed beneath the Faith Tree. I'm not done, but I've plodded on.  It's slow progress but it's progress.

It sometimes takes a bit more gumption than I have to draw upon to get busy right now.  I think my problem is that I'm a little discombobulated with this new schedule.  I didn't think it would be difficult and really it isn't difficult.  It's different, however, and is taking a little time to adjust.  John and I are cramming in as much as we can into two days between two shifts.  It feels a bit like someone turned up the speed dial on our lives.  We've moved from 33rpms to 45rpms.  We might be keeping up but it's not our accustomed pace.  

"No sitting around." proclaims the man of the house, "I don't want to lose a day now that I've only got two days between shifts."   Indeed, except for one day when he'd spent the whole 24 hour work shift running one call after the other, he's made a point to mow  and to run errands and get tasks done on the other days.  Which means that I work the day he's gone and the two days he's off and in the end I've put in a full week of work.  Add in the time I spend writing posts for the blog and I really do get in a full six days of work each week.

One day last week I took John's work day and drove up to Katie's to visit.  Katie had been unwell and I was a little anxious to check on her.  She had gone to the doctor that morning but is doing much better.  She wasn't really into conversation that day which told me a great deal about how she felt overall but she seemed to find some comfort in my just being there. (

There was one little bit of conversation, something I thought was interesting, since I've been feeling  the same thing myself.  She expressed her desire to do something to change up her house.  I so understand that. I've been looking about for nearly three weeks now trying to decide what it is exactly I want to change.  Katie's house is cute as it can be but it's pretty much the same as when she moved in a year and a half ago, so her restlessness is likely far more genuine than mine.  She spent early Spring redoing her bedrooms and now she's ready to change up the main living spaces.  

I am always amused how she, Amie and I lean hard on a more formal/traditional look but none of us are formal  traditional.  I think what we like is classic style which is often portrayed as formal traditional.  What we do, of course, is our own thing with what we acquire.   Katie's shared some things from Pinterest with me that are inspiring her.  I can't wait to see what she manages to do.

As I said, I've been feeling rather restless about my house as well but so far, as I  look at a space I'm thinking of changing, I find I really do like it as it is. I did order another slipcover to put on the newest chair because I find I just like the look of slipcovered chairs.   I also like the lightness it brings into the room. But so far that's all I've come up with to change besides recreating my desk area.  If John's recliner weren't an unusual shape I'd order a slipcover for it, too, but it's not a standard reclining lounge chair. 

I know there's a change I'm ready to make but I'm not terribly sure it's in my house.  So what am I wanting to change?  I keep telling myself I need to dig and delve and figure it out, but right now it's all I can do to cope with the schedule change.  Funny that as analytical as I am I seem to be just too befuddled to sort it out.  In my journal, I note the things I plan to do for the day or the things I did the day before, but little of depth.  And when I sit and ponder it all, I just end up with a blank mind, staring out of the window and come to with a start realizing that I've zoned out.  

I took the little wooden child's table and chairs I'd bought at the consignment shop when I visited Katie and Taylor knew immediately that it was hers.  She sat right down and played with her toys at the table.  She ate lunch at the table, too.  She watched a portion of a movie sitting at her table.  She tried to have supper at the table but Zoey, the big German Shepherd took advantage of everything being at her nose level and tried to help herself to supper, as well.  Taylor takes no stuff off that doggie of hers and put up quite a big fuss about it. Her mama moved her to the big dining room table to finish up her meal.

I so enjoyed my day.  The weather was gorgeous all day long which made for a wonderful ride home.  It's quite a long ride, two and a half hours.  Plenty of farmland and historic homes and ranches to see along the way.   Just 15 miles north of us Queen Anne's lace grows wild at roadside.  It doesn't grow here.  I love seeing that pretty flower in patches along the roadways and there was plenty to be seen on this trip.  

Still, it was quite a long day overall, pleasant as it was.  I confess I found it very hard to push through on Friday and get my tasks done for the weekend.  

John was back at work on Sunday and I did a number of tasks before heading out for the morning.  I'd planned to go to church and of course, had to do several things on the way out.  I was a little put out when I got to church because a sweet little old lady ran up to me and insisted that I commit to coming to the senior adults dinner that evening.  I wouldn't agree however, partly because  I don't feel senior adult.  I don't think I look old enough to be senior adult yet, either, I found the idea of being a senior citizen depressing.  Yes, John is getting nearer a retirement age, but he's just barely started his sixth decade and I'm not quite there yet.  The senior adult people aren't really old, but they do tend more towards mid-70's and 80's.  I'm not even near that yet.

John and I have had this discussion many times lately.  We're forever being invited to join the senior adults for this or that at church but we don't really seem to fit in anywhere.  We're hardly as young as the empty nester group and not quite old enough for the seniors groups.  We'd like a between sort of group.

I was less convinced later that I'm as young as I feel when I got out to the car and glanced in the mirror. I gave myself a slight pass only because (a) I'd not had a hair cut in eight weeks and (b) I'd only had about an hour's sleep the night before.  I decided a hair cut was priority before I even thought of heading home that day and that's just what I did.

No it didn't transform me.  I still looked mighty tired but I felt sure that with a sound night's sleep I'd look less senior and more just adult.  One can hope anyway, right?

I was going to the rather lux salon to get my haircut.  The truth: I felt so pampered going in there to have my hair done despite the cost.  However, when the stylist I was using left unexpectedly and no one bothered to give me a call but cancelled my appointment I was mighty upset.  I loathe breaking in a new stylist as much as I loathe shopping for a bathing suit, but I do prefer to choose the stylist myself.  Call me picky but if I show up to get my hair cut and you've not made your own personal appearance look nice, I don't expect you're going to give much care to my appearance, either.

I started going to the same cut rate, in and out in 15 minutes, place that John goes to.  The girl there does a passable job on my hair.  She does shape it well, but there is no shampoo or styling.  It's truly a 15 minutes hairstyle and penny for penny, I assure you that in reality I'm getting what I pay for though it is still an inexpensive option. 

I must look for a new stylist.  When I go in to get my haircut I don't go in just for the basic cut.  They don't even blow it dry at this cut rate place which is something I do every day here at home!  No, I want the salon experience.  I want the pampering moments.  I want someone to take the time to show me how good my hair ought to look...  I want more.  I guess because I cut corners so many places when it comes to clothing and makeup and house and home, I just need an area where I feel I'm indulged, you know?  But I struggle with it at the same time.

We had the most pleasant day on Monday.  I don't know why but I simply had no desire to do a whole lot of anything on Monday.  I had worked double time on Sunday when I was alone, as I normally do, and Monday just the basics was enough as far as I was concerned.  I'd made a big breakfast for John coming in from work.  I did nothing about dinner.  Nothing.  I didn't thaw out a thing, I didn't offer up anything.  Instead I looked at him and said "Perhaps we could pick up something to eat while we're out getting your check."  I guess he wasn't very hungry, either, because he agreed readily enough though he didn't plan to leave until a little later in the afternoon.

Well, we went by a favorite local hamburger place in his work town.  Packed to the gills.   "Why is everyone eating so late today?" he asked me as we chose to bypass the place.  We drove past a spot that was closed on Monday's and then on to a mom operated place outside of town.  They closed after lunch every day.  John turned down a back road I hadn't traveled in perhaps ten years and we drove to a small town like so many other small towns in rural Georgia.  It's limping along just barely alive despite all the people that live there.  I so hate seeing these little towns dying out but you can't singlehandedly save them all.  

No, I don't think Walmart killed the.  In fact, there's only one Walmart within 30 miles of many of these towns and very seldom do any of these folks shop at Walmart.  I know many folks who would happily support small business if small business would just clean up their act a little.

I think there is a tendency to get a small town attitude at times.  You call for an appointment and they don't bother to get back with you.  You ask to have work done and they suggest they'll stop by and it's months and months before they call.  You want to keep a small time alive I say there are things you can change.  Do timely work.  Recommend someone to do what you don't do well.  Stock decent produce or meat at the grocery and rotate the stock so you don't have customers pick up expired products.   BE competitive.  I'll happily pay a higher price for a product that is not inferior to one I can get 30 miles away for half the cost.  I just don't want to pay the premium price for stuff that isn't any good.  And keep a little stock on the shelf.  I think it's ridiculous to find no Tylenol and be told they'd have to order it for delivery in two days.  No thanks.  I can drive the 10 miles to the next town and buy all I want without waiting two days to cure my headache.  And there is no Walmart 10 miles away.  No I'm afraid what has killed the small town is the absolute refusal to do anything differently than it was done ten or twenty years ago, the refusal to believe that people will stay and shop if the product offered is at least equal to what's available elsewhere or if service is a little better than it is anywhere else.  And lose the attitude. I don't want anyone being surly and rude because I shopped elsewhere when I've TRIED to purchase in your place and you didn't care to have what was wanted in stock and refused to order it.

Our little local diner is a prime example of people staying around town for a bit of quality service and food.  It's not expensive and it's not fancy, but it's good plain chicken and good plain hotdogs and hamburgers and the locals and those who drive through town flock into the place.  The service is always nice even when they are at peak busyness.   There are many other choices people might make within ten miles but to a person they choose to stay local and buy their lunch and their family reunion chicken because they know it's GOOD.  It makes a difference.

Oh I rabbit trailed off there didn't I?  Through the little dead town with  it's pretty old houses decaying not so gently we drove and then onward toward a town with a selection of fast food places because there was not even a diner seen in that little town. We drove past a restaurant and two fast food places. All were packed out.   We ended up going to our favorite restaurant which was a much bigger and nicer meal than we'd planned to have, but it's just secluded enough that traffic seldom builds in that area.  I treated John to dinner which is unusual because he generally insists upon treating me.  We decided to have a steak, something we never choose to indulge in away from home and it was so good.   And after, John stopped and bought us each an ice cream cone to eat on the way home.  There's something awfully summer-ish about an ice cream cone in July,  isn't there?  I mean you can't eat as slowly as you might in winter and yet it tastes so much better somehow when it's hot outside.  We took the longer drive home, too and laughed and talked all the way.

We seem, this week at least, to be in a pattern of eating a very, very late dinner and skipping supper entirely.  It's not been planned to have just two meals each day but it's where we've been this week for some reason.  Tuesday John mowed and trimmed the lawn.  I was busy indoors writing and doing some deeper cleaning jobs that I'd wanted to get done.  I think we finally stopped about 3pm and had our meal.  

So yesterday, John was back at work. I'd toyed with the idea of leaving home.  "Go do something fun..." I said to myself.  But in the end I wanted to be at home.  I wanted to tend to some of those goals on my list for July and my work list for this week. I wanted to putter about my house.  So I did.  I got so much accomplished. The fridge sparkles with little real effort on my part.  The cupboard I'd meant to clean out two weeks ago is neat and clean.  I loaded up a basket of things to take out to the shed and a trash can and a box for donations from the guest room clutter.  It looks restful and peaceful now in that room.  I pulled up the soapwort and dug out the iris from under the Faith Tree.  I did laundry and dishes and wiped and polished and straightened and in the end, I felt tired but happy, productive but not deprived.  

I made myself an indulgent sort of lunch of Chicken pot stickers with stir fried vegetables and settled into my chair to read a couple of old magazines.  I had a long conversation with John and watched in amazement as rain poured down.  We weren't supposed to get any rain at all.  Silly weather man.  My
laundry got soaking wet and stayed on the line but I did have presence of mind to run go put the fern under the eaves of the porch roof where it could get a good watering.  It was a good day, a happy day.  Maybe my idea of fun just isn't the same as someone else's idea of fun but I will venture that I had fun as I played about my house, involved in what I did without stopping to do anything but what I was doing.  No division of attentions required.

Today started with promise and ended with a broken pinky toe which is throbbing painfully.  I've taken just enough Tylenol to lessen the pain slightly and fuzz my brain mightily.  I think I'm going to see if there's an unclaimed nap lying around anywhere.  I'll call it mine if  find it.

In the Good Ol' Summertime...Outdoor seating

In summer in my childhood, we seldom visited indoors.  Oh no!  Visits took place outdoors, usually under the shade of a big old tree.  It wasn't at all uncommon, nor is it to this day in the South, to see a grouping of chairs or table and chairs under a big shady tree someplace in a yard.  Perhaps they are the sort who like to see and be seen, so they set up their seating in the front yard.  Perhaps they are more private people but don't have fences and you catch a glimpse, as you drive past, of the seating in the back yard.  

And just possibly, you might see someone with a sitting area arranged under an open carport or on a deeply shaded front porch, but mostly, most assuredly, company was entertained in the yard in summer months, where shade was plentiful, breezes were all about and the views expanded across flower beds and fields and you were serenaded by drowsy buzzing bees and birds.

The first memory I have of being entertained out of doors was at Grandmama Stewart's home.  She was my great grandmother.  Near the road, just steps from her well, she had a big tall tree and under the tree was a split log bench.
 Her road was just a single lane winding sort of road and not a lot of traffic happened to go by.  Usually if someone did go by, she knew them right well!  I remember sitting with my cousins on that bench as they spoke of a song by Herman's Hermits...I'm dating myself...I recall asking one of them what a hermit was and then pointed to some seed pod that had fallen near by.  "Is that a hermit?" I asked.  I remember their laughter.

When Mama and Daddy were still quite young and they had three children with a very tight budget, they rented an old farm house with a shed and a couple of outdoor houses meant for the folks who worked on the place.  The old woman who owned the farm used the outdoor houses as storage for her unwanted items.  She allowed Mama and Daddy to use some old wooden deck chairs that she had stored.

It turned out the fabric was quite old and had not weathered well, so their first guests who sat down went right on through to the ground.  Mama, being a woman who sewed as naturally as she breathed, soon had made new covers for those chairs and they used them until the budget allowed the purchase of the next chairs I'll mention...

My next memory of outdoor seating was the aluminum and webbing sort of chairs.  Not exactly the most sturdy chair known to man but certainly they were lightweight and inexpensive and they were easily folded and put away.  I recall various patterns of webbing, mostly in greens though I do seem to recall a yellow one as well.  These chairs were not only in our own yard at home, they were in my grandparents yards as well.

Later Granny upgraded her outdoor seating, and I must say it was rather nice.  She had a couple of big water oak trees and the branches spread and met over the middle of the back yard area.  My brother and cousin built Granny a brick patio, sanded in, with a plant ring in the middle that was rather nice, though they were just 11 and 9 at the time.  

Granny's metal glider and chairs were green with white panels.  Three of us could sit happily on that glider and the polite question was always "Would you like to glide, or no?"  One simply didn't glide because you felt like it!  No, you had to be polite and all agree that gliding was what was wanted. Gliders of this ilk can still be found, in vintage condition.   Most just need a bit of sprucing up with a fresh paint job.

Those chairs, by the way, felt rather dangerous.  The more you weighed the deeper they dipped in the back and the older the chair got the more it bowed down.  It could be rather startling to find yourself with your feet in the air and your bottom on the ground!  

The chairs had two saving graces.  First, they were very sturdy.  I think Granny's were going on 20 years old when one finally broke.  Given that she often had family gathering at her place and had 7 grandchildren who were normal rough sort of kids, I think it's remarkable they held up so well.  The other grace of the chairs?  Because they had no back legs, you could slowly bounce the chair in a sort of rocking motion.  Many a baby was rocked to sleep in one of those chairs while the adults sat about talking.  

I remember one very hot summer day, Granny took her visitors to her garden.  We kids decided that it was so hot we should make a big picture of Koolaid to refresh them when they returned.  I've rarely seen adults so pleased to see a tinkling iced drink even if it was strawberry flavored Koolaid.

Grandmama Crowley kept her webbed aluminum chairs for years upon years.  She always took great care of her things so even if the chairs were inexpensive, she was more likely going to redo the webbing and keep hers going for years on end.  However, at some point she did purchase some cast iron patio chairs.  Her chairs were similar to these about this table:

When she died, I acquired the two chairs still in her possession.  I have them on my front porch:

A few years ago I was rather pleased to come across a patio table and four chairs of the same sort of metal.  I kept an umbrella over the table but after going through four rather quickly, I decided it was a waste of my funds.  The table and chairs still sit on the patio and it's a very pleasant place to sit in the afternoon in summer, after the sun has pushed past the front of the house.  I've been looking for some deep shade where I might put it but so far, I've come up blank.  Though just now it occurs to me that placing it between the Faith Tree and the front porch might be rather nice.  But then I'd have no seating on the patio at all and I do like to sit and soak up the sun in winter there.  

Of course, I could use one of these sorts of benches which is incredibly sturdy and far more comfortable than you'd expect:

Concrete blocks and 4x4 posts is all this requires.  We sat on one of these down in St. Augustine and agreed it was a rather good idea for inexpensive outdoor seating.

My favorite seating in a yard was my set of old bent willow or cypress furniture.

 How I did love my set!  I had two chairs and a loveseat and a swing.  It was a bit rough for seating unless you had a nice cushion, either your own natural cushion or a proper pillow.  I'm afraid my cushion was never in the proper place, so I usually resorted to folded quilts since pillows weren't in the budget.  I would love to have another set of this furniture, sigh, for all that I have perfectly nice furniture in the outdoor spaces.

That's my full share of chair memories.  Have you any summer memories of outdoor seating?

Summer Eating: The Best Homemade Salad Dressings

Salads are delicious aren't they?  Let's face it though...A salad without a dressing is not going to cut it.   Plain lettuce?  Blech.  That said, despite the variety of dressings one may buy at a store, homemade dressings can be incredibly good, far better than anything you might buy.    I have a small repertoire of recipes that I use.  Given the opportunity, I'd make my own 100% of the time.  My husband however, seems to feel deprived if certain items are not bought.  That said, he's happily eaten the following salad dressings when I do make them, so I know they must be tasty or he'd completely refuse.

A Few of My Favorite Things - July

I've had good reviews from you all about sharing my favorites the past few months and I still find there are a few items that I just think are well worth the money spent on them.  Remember these are items I like and use routinely and I do not get any compensation from anyone for promotion.

I love to hang platters and trays and such on my walls.  We just hung a trio of Tole painted Nashco trays on the wall in the kitchen.

In My Home This Week: Summer Sizzles

This week in my home...

...the weather has decided to be summer-like.  I have every intent of continuing to work on that flower bed  around the Faith Tree, but I'm sure not going to push myself on doing much more than watering and sweeping porches unless I can go out very early.  Goals tend to somewhat lose importance when the temperatures soar into the 100f range for days which is what they are meant to do this week.   Gracious, I don't even want to do so much as think  when it's this hot.  When Summer sizzles, work fizzles! 

Hot weather is the best time to plan, though.  For one thing it's time to bring out my August magazines which is fun to contemplate.   I'll bet hey have plenty of hot weather recipes in those magazines.  And it's time to dig around and look for as many good crockpot and frying pan meals as I can conjure up because it's too hot to even think of turning on that oven.

Living Frugally and Well: Summer Breezes

Saturday:  Played it smart this morning: baked a cake, cooked biscuits and started a chicken roasting in the oven early this morning.  The cake went in first and the biscuits and chicken went in as the cake came out.  Cakes like dry heat in an oven, while pies and muffins and breads don't mind moist heat at all and can be baked all at once if need be.

Wish I had remember to start the zucchini while the oven was going.  I didn't and so I heated it up again nearer midday and boy was that a mistake.  It warmed the house up, made the AC run harder than it would have done and necessitated turning on room fans as well as upping the speed on our ceiling fans.  Sigh...Noted and will be sure to pay attention to that in the future!

In the Good Ol' Summertime: Water Play

As a child, summertime was hardly summer if water wasn't involved in some way.  My father was a little afraid of water.  I've no idea why but he was, so we were banned from going down river with Granddaddy when he fished in the river swamp.  He also wasn't keen on our going into the swimming pool, either.  Since I've pretty much spent all my life in the country not going to the swimming pool was far more common than going.

There were other substitutes for the elusive pools in our lives like getting wet under the water hose or running through the sprinkler, all of which suited us admirably.  Not something we got to do nearly often enough because when you live in the country the pump runs on electricity and wells have a nasty habit of running dry.  Water was to be conserved...But I must say that aside from Granny I've never known but one other who had a well run dry.  Granny's wells were generally near the surface hence the running dry (you pay per foot for the drilling).  As well, she watered the cows daily so there was already a tax upon her well and electric bill that most didn't have to worry over. 

COP and What I Did...

Hello all.  I had plans yesterday...I had a heavy duty sort of day planned.  I started well and was just about to wind things up and walk out of the door when my plans were suddenly cancelled. That's the COP part of the title.  Change of Plan.  I wasn't upset about the cancellation.  The truth is, I saw it as a gift.

A few weeks ago, our music leader pastored for the day.  He gave a rousing good sermon about sacrifices and what we're willing to give God and what we aren't.  I was convicted twice already in telling others that I really needed alone time and so I generally stayed home on the Sundays John was at work.  The people with whom I shared this didn't say a word, nor even look at me hard.  It was a conviction I felt deep down in my spirit that something was wrong with that statement.  And then I heard Pastor Jason's sermon.  It wasn't that he stepped on my toes...but he surely opened up my heart and revealed to me why I had been wrong.

Summer Eating: Vegetable Salads

Yesterday for dinner, I served a 3 Bean Salad.  My salad was from a can but it was quite good and nice and cool.  It made me think of other salads that have no lettuce.  It seemed a category worth exploring for cool summer eating.

I have a recipe I haven't made in quite a few years.  It is made up of fresh green beans steamed but still quite crisp.  One the beans are cooled, add diced tomato and make up a vinaigrette to dress the salad.  Chill.

This Week In My Home: July Showers

This week in my home...

...I am amazed but the weather men have been on a roll of late in predicting the weather rightly.  There is a chance of showers every day.  Every day it rains just enough to soak plants.  The flowers are so appreciative they are just overflowing with blooms.  April showers may bring May flowers but July showers bring a frenzy of summer blooms and I'm loving it!  Who knew what a mild summer with rain could be like?  I'd gotten so accustomed to last summer's hot dry wind and lack of rain where everything curls up and turns brown right away.  Our temperatures are not meant to get much above the high  80s  (the 'feels like' temperatures are much higher) which is unheard of for this time of year.

Living Frugally and Well

Friday:  I have many address labels that are very specific to a season or simply not to my taste.  I found I could cut off the design on the labels and they were simply plain address labels, which suited me very well.  As well, I have myriad labels with MY name on them but none with our name.  Really all that is needed as a return address is the address.  So I clipped the name portion off nd now have plenty of address labels.

Set up bill box and wrote out checks.  Nothing will go in the mail until we're paid on Monday, but I am so pleased that I was able to pay the renewal for the car insurance two weeks ahead of time, and refill the sub account that I borrowed from two weeks ago.

In the Good Ol' Summertime: Firefly Summer

Fourth of July when the fireworks were going off in the neighborhood, I'd slipped out on the porches to see if I could spy any of them over the trees.  Not a single flare did I see but I did see a load of fireflies gently lighting the brush along the sides of the yard.  I stood there in the semi-darkness watching them as they flashed on and off like a slow turn signal and smiled at the memory they brought.

Iced Tea Chat - Better Things to Come

Hello all.  Come on in and let's settle right down with a glass of iced tea.  I've had a busy day today and a busy one tomorrow and heavens, then there's Friday and the week will be done and where did it go?!  Well it's still mid-week and while it's true it's flying past, I'll not rush it on.  However, I am ready to take a bit of a break and hope you're ready for one, as well.

What on earth have you been up to?  I can tell you what I've been up to and what I haven't rather quickly I'm afraid.  What I've been up to is trying to pinpoint what I want to change in my home and life.  I've started with my desk/work space.  It's not suited me for a long time and irritates me no end because I can't push it flush up against the wall without interfering with the blinds and curtain to the window.  If the desk were but 4 inches less wide it would be perfect, but it's not 4 inches less and there's no real way to manage to make it so without messing it up entirely.  I could, if my wood working son were at home tell him what I want and he could alter what I have or build me something fresh.  Alas the Coast Guard insists upon his staying in the line of duty so I do without, lol.   So I'm looking for an affordable alternative.  In the meantime....I make the best of what I've got.

Have a Terrific Fourth of July!

Isn't this a lovely image?  I love the way the flags and her dress both are moving in the breeze.

Have a happy Fourth of July!

Setting Better Goals

I mentioned earlier last week that I was thinking of revamping how I go about setting goals.  I have been studying this all week long and have learned a few things about how I might improve my goals. 

 I am on target in one way: I set goals in focused areas of my life. I focus on seven areas of my life: Spirit, Marriage, Family, Self, Home, Blog, Finances.  You can certainly choose any focus areas you like and be even more specific than I've been if you'd like.  These are the areas I have chosen to focus on for the past few years.

In My Home This Week: Refocus

In my home this week...

...I am writing this on Friday, the day before the 'great reveal' at John's workplace.  We had a brief discussion of it this morning at breakfast and we're of the mind that whatever the outcome tomorrow morning...We go on.  Whether he has a job, whether he hasn't, we go on.  Whether it's with the county or a new entity, we go on. All we're certain of is change.  Period.

Regardless of what is ahead we must refocus a little this month.  There are changes ahead and we must face them.  That means we change, too.  We change what we can where we can and as we can.  

Living Frugally and Well

I just love this photo of the petunias on the windowsill.  I could just sit and look at it all day long.

Oh dear!  I've been replying to comments with my new email at gmail for the last few weeks.  Well...It's not posting my replies on the blog itself.  So for those of you who are wondering why I'm not answering questions or replying to comments, I am! I have been anyway, it's just now showing up where you can see it. I will, however, be sure to answer them online in the comment forum from now on instead of via my email.  I really thought they would post directly to the blog comments and I've gone a month without one of them coming up as I thought.  

Summer Chicken Salad

                                                            Photo credit: Southern Living

Well!  I couldn't have been more surprised, but the new to me chicken salad idea was a big hit with my husband.   Yes, it really was and I very nearly had NO leftovers, at all.    It was simple enough to make and didn't involve heating the kitchen up, so a big score on that side, as well.

I'm calling the dish Summer Chicken Salad.

Book Review: As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene H. Peterson

I wanted a book to make me think a little more deeply about God and this book has certainly done that.  It's a series of sermons that Peterson preached over the years after he'd found a deeper personal  relationship God.  He longed to impart that feeling of personal relationship to his parishioners and I think he succeeded well.

I'm pleased to say that while there are many insights I'd have been sadder for missing, the book is not written in a complicated theological language.  It's written in laymen's terms, easy to understand, but with all the depth that an experienced pastor would bring to a hungry congregation.

This book is lovely and well worth the time to read.  Because it's set up in sections you can easily read scriptures consecutively that tell the story Peterson is aptly retelling.  It's set up in chapters, with breaks, so that one might easily pause in reading and take it up a little later when a point requires further pondering.

I'm very pleased with this book and think it will become a well loved 'friend' upon my bookshelf, referred to again and again through the years.

Thank you to Blogging for Books for sending  the book as a consideration for review purposes.

In the Good Ol' Summertime - Porches

I seriously cannot remember a summer with any of my grandparents where the porch didn't figure prominently in memory.

Granny's favored seating area was on a side porch, where people tended to come if they weren't family.  She kept four chairs on that porch  and a handy set of stackable chairs just inside the door.  Also  just inside that front door was a stack of hand held paper fans.  These were mostly passed out by some local funeral service and featured photos of  guardian angels holding infants from tumbling over a know lighthearted themes like that.

Granny's porch happened to be on the shady side of the house and overlooked her garden and flower beds.  This only added to the ambience of the porch.  It was always peaceful there and I say truly I spent many and many an hour on the porch with her as a child and as an adult.  Many of my deepest life problems were sorted out and many a heart ache soothed there.

Summer Eating: Chilled Soups

How do you feel about chilled soups?

This weekend as I was reading through a cookbook I discovered about 8 soups that were meant to be served cold.   Frankly, I'd forgotten all about the concept of chilled soups until I saw the first recipe and then I recalled that a friend used to bring a Blueberry Soup to synagogue on the days we had meals after service.  It was lovely really, but I must say here that John would have none of it.  In his mind, soups are hot and if done to his taste they are thick and heavy like a stew.  So it's not likely something I'd have when he's home but I might consider trying one or three for just myself some of these days that he's working.

In My Home This Week: Slipping Into Summer

In my home this week...

...It was a busy week for me last week.  I had so much fun hosting my online party!  It took a chunk of time and required staying near the computer pretty much from dawn to bedtime,  but it was worthwhile.  I liked it so much I told Bess I'll probably do another one later in the year, along about mid-Fall.   And then there was grocery day on my own which wasn't so much fun.  I got very wet.

Our weekend didn't quite go as planned.  Katie didn't make it down after all and so I had a lot of extra food.  She wasn't very happy with the change in plans at all and I felt it for her as much as I felt my own disappointment.   I put the Key Lime Pie I made into the freezer.  When I do see her, she shall at least have that.

Can you believe that we are in the last week of June?!  I somehow was under the impression we had another two weeks to go but we don't.  Just one week and June is gone and we're into July.  That's a little bit scary yet for us.  For all that we're thinking positive we don't KNOW and won't until July 1, what the true verdict is: yes or no on the job, yes or no if he's still working with the county, how we will handle the new schedule, etc.  Well, we'll know by Saturday week won't we?

Frugal Friday: Summer Savings

Saturday:  Do you realize that in a few days summer will be here?  Our weather thus far has been nice enough with only a few days in the high 90's.  That's more like spring for sure.

Decided last night that after all I'd really like to have pizza for supper.  No delivery here in our area and no conveniently located pizzerias either.  Option was to drive into town for frozen.  Nope.  I mixed up a yogurt crust that contained 1/2 cup yogurt and 1 cup flour, 1/2 tsp of baking soda and as much salt then just mixed it.  I wet my hands to pat it down on my greased sheet.   Do you know, that was a really good quick crust!  It wasn't biscuit tasting as some yeast free crusts are and had a nice crisp texture.

The yogurt I used was from the last batch I made.  I have one unopened jar in the fridge.  I'd like to wait to open it  Monday when I plan to make a new batch of yogurt.  I think I made this last batch mid-April.  It's kept well all this time in the fridge.  I believe that's because the jars seal so well when it's incubating.

Summer Entree Salads

I don't have picture number one to share with you all today with this  post.  It's still very mild here but the sunshine just popped out for the first time this week.  I'm willing to bet it begins to warm up now!  Which puts me right back to the summer food dilemma.  How do I keep cool and provide good nourishment, too?

Here are the few ideas I've come across thus far.  I plan to keep looking and keep sharing all through these warmer days of the year so stay tuned.

In the Good Ol' Summertime....Summer Fashions

June 21 and what do we have here in Georgia?  Temperatures in the 70's range and humidity in the 90% range, which means that 76F feels thick and heavy.  It's been raining the past two days.  I'm not complaining.  The first day of summer comes in meek and mild.  I take that to mean we'll have a pleasant summer.  We've had them before, where temperatures are rarely much over 90F.   They are imminently the most pleasant of all summers, with enough rain to keep things green and lush and enough sunshine to keep us from going stir crazy indoors.

I've been thinking about summer, the old fashioned sort of summer I knew growing up and maybe even the summers before I was born when fashions for summer were modest and lovely.  Yes, it's clothes on my mind today.

Keeping Cool or I Love Air Conditioning

I mentioned in this week's Iced Tea Chat that I love air conditioning but you know the first years of marriage I lived without it. Not just during my first marriage but also the first five years John and I were married, too.  We had window units but to run them cost more than we could afford.  Our house  was set up to allow for cross breezes.  That's one fault to be found with many modern homes, you know.  I remember Big Mama's home was built with plenty of doorways and windows that allowed air to flow from one room to another.  Yes, there was a loss of some privacy since bedrooms opened off one another but not so much that  you were bothered by it.  And the result was a home that was somewhat cooler even in deep summer heat and a good bit warmer in the winter too because the heat could flow better.

How did we keep cool?  Oh there was a science to it!  It mostly employed using what we had and doing all we could to insure the indoors stayed cooler than the outdoors, no easy feat.

We put up reflective shades on the sunny side of the house.   My 'reflective shades' were mostly sheets of cardboard with aluminum foil over them.  On the big patio doors it was just straight sheets of heavy duty aluminum which was wider.   I use duct tape to hold in to the glass.  You'd be surprised how well this worked.  Of course, the taped on foil did not get moved on a daily basis but the foil covered boards were moved from the shady window to the sunny one.  I'd say it helped reduce the indoor temperature by at least 10 degrees.  That's pretty substantial if it's 100F outdoors!

A Proper Iced Tea Chat: I Owe You One!

Hello there.  I feel I should apologize for my morose attitude last week.  It was my mood and it came across plenty in the Iced Tea Chat post.  Not the way I'd like to have been, so let's have another shall we?

Tea's there.  Mint, orange or lemon to add in if you'd like.  I find mint and citrus very refreshing together.  Of course, it's hard to imagine anything mint can't make refreshing.  It just has a cooling quality that suits doesn't it?  Do you remember in Grace Livingston Hill's Recreations how they made mint ice for a dessert, something like a mint sherbet?  Now doesn't that sound as though it would be the perfect cooling dessert on a hot summer's day?  Oh my!

I've been amused lately at the spate of young homemakers making old fashioned desserts, like Ice Cream Bombes and Baked Alaska.  Both rather nice desserts for summer, I think, but I'm amused because I remember making those in my very early homemaking days just shy of 40 years ago.  They sounded so nice somehow and fancier than mere ice cream and cake which is all they are, just a different form.  I suspect that's why the new homemakers are all trying them now.  They're special without being something pricey or terribly complicated.  They don't require speciality ingredients either, just the usual ones that are likely already on hand.  If I weren't in the middle of working on reducing I'd be so tempted to join them.  But of course, I could do something similar on a MUCH smaller scale for John and I.  A mini Bombe so to speak, or a cupcake sized baked Alaska perhaps.

This Week In My Home: Moving On

This week in my home...

...I am moving on.  I let a whole week go by with me mooning and moaning and I'm done.  A rather astute observation from someone I love who I know loves me was, "Hmmmm...aren't you letting the worry over that relationship become a new addiction for you?"   It was said with love and it was spot on.  I'll likely have a post somewhere along about addictive relationships but for now, suffice it to say that I felt this sudden overall lightening inside and had peace about it once I saw my behavior for what it was.  Done!  Let's move on.

John goes back to work this week, just one day, so nothing to shout hurray over as I will still be at his whim on planning anything real.  BUT, I have already attended to the bill box, so there's nothing but the totting up to be done this week.  I've planted all my current lot of plants and freshly rooted petunias so the last set of pots I had ready to plant are filled in.  I have to dig about to find more pots but I'll strictly need true shade lovers for the next area of the back flower bed.  Shade loving plants I don't have at the moment so I'm going to begin working on the south end of the house and the front as I've been just hankering to do.  I have to remove some plants from a bed about the Faith tree.  Some of those can go in the ground  (iris) and the rest will be saved to put in a pot.  I'll begin with what I've got...Moving on.

Frugal Friday: Last Week of Spring

Saturday:  We traveled today.  John wanted a to go breakfast, from a fast food place.  I had a Burger King gift card and told him we'd use that to pay for our meal.

We had to stop to pick up buns, our contribution to the birthday party meal.  I priced packages of several brands taking note of quantity since we had to have a specific amount of each and found some that were on sale and recently stocked.

Gramma failed.  She had no gift bags and Grampa didn't think it necessary anyway.  Present went along unwrapped and stayed that way.  Of course, Josh's first choice were all the wrapped presents and the unwrapped ones were so so in his opinion and who can blame him?  Unwrapping is half the fun of a birthday gift, right?

On our way home John stopped at Subway and bought a sandwich, heavy on vegetables which we'd missed in previous meals this day.

Iced Tea Chat: Tiny Irritations and Tangled Webs

Hello dears, do hurry and come in and have a seat.  The gnats are fierce out there and they seemingly want in out of the heat and humidity as much I do when I've been outdoors.  I tried to water plants the other morning and ended up beating the air about my ears trying to get the things out of my ears.  Ugh.  I knocked my glasses askew and then bumped them off so that they flew across the yard.  I retrieved them and laid them on the porch railing. I'm not completely able to see without them but doggone it I can't afford to wreck them while I fight off gnats either.

I walked down to the mailbox later to put in some outgoing mail and ended hiking up the neck of  my tee shirt so that I could cover my ears.  That was a help.  It made me think that a scarf wrapped about my head  might be the solution when working in the yard.  If you wonder why I'm not using any sort of repellant it's merely because I have had an abundance of purchases and birthdays (with three still to go this month) and our leeway has given out in the budget.  Gnats are not life threatening, just tiny irritations.  I will say however, if anyone were to be minded to try torture I'd start with mosquitoes and gnats.  Forget the old tricks of slivers of bamboo under nails or those torture stretching rack things (which John always thought looked rather therapeutic, lol, he always says it looks like it would pull kinks out of your back rather nicely).  Just shut me out in the yard with a thick cloud of tiny buzzing insects all about and I'd probably spill state secrets if I knew any!

Well that got me thinking about all sorts of things.  Tiny irritations are enough to break a person if they keep right on being permanently irritating but most things of that nature we do build up some tolerance for in the end, now don't we?  I expect the first 24 hours would be the hardest and thereafter I'd be coping a bit better.  It's the way we're made that makes the first onslaught so hard and then we learn to just deal with it.

But what about those tangled webs?  I am really talking dense spider webs of relationship patterns.

Two years ago, when I was laid up in the hospital, there were three people conspicuously missing in well wishes and support.  I can tell you honestly that of the three there was not one good reason why any one of them couldn't have been there for a visit at least once.  Of the three, one made a phone call to let me know that my illness was an inconvenience to their personal life plans.   In no manner could these three be bothered to go our of their way to actually wish me well.  It was very sobering.  It brought home to me the number of days I'd devoted time and energy to these people in trying to build solid relationships and how often I'd accepted less than nice behavior in return.  Honestly, petty as it may sound to some of you, there's nothing quite like not knowing if you're going to live through the next 24 hours and noting that of the people who reach out, three in conspicuously important  relationships with you are silent.  I get all the 'Well some people don't know how to tell you how they feel..." etc.  I do understand that some are just reluctant to be near illness.  I get that.  This was not the case in either of these three situations.  They've done this plenty for many people in their lives.

So yes, it took some deep and serious thought.   I had to let go of bitterness and fully forgive.  It's a bit like trying to rid yourself of mice or some other particularly pesky  destroying thing.  You think it's all eradicated and you start finding evidence elsewhere in your life that you aren't done yet.  It's painful and it gets wearying but you have to continue to do all you can or it takes over, and it does mean to take over.   Bitterness and strife and unforgiving attitudes do nothing at all to harm those who inflicted the pain but it is physically and spiritually poison to the one who decides to live in it.  It's a bit like playing in poop and then wondering what stinks and why you're infected.

Well as it turned out, of those three relationships, one is exactly as it was before.  It's in name only, truly. It was I who held on to the relationship and I was all alone in holding on.  I live in a small town, a small southern town at that.  There's a pattern for introductory conversation.  Southerners want to establish relationship with people.  They start by asking "Who are your people?"  because families in small towns and rural counties intertwine throughout the years.  My cousin marries yours, or your aunt happens to be my great grandmother or even the looser connections, my butcher is your brother in law's first cousin.  It all counts as connection.  In a rural Southern area we 'claim' folks as kin even if the relationship is diluted by several generations and branches off multiple times.   In this particular close blood relationship where DNA is beyond evident, to have someone look at me and say, "I've known 'x' for thirty years and never knew you were family..." it pretty much sums up how close we aren't and never will be.  

Of the second relationship I've never seen the person again.  Nor heard another word.  It was as though I really had died as far as these first two relationships are concerned, as though who I am today is a ghost to them, an embarrassment of vapor that  will not pass on to the other side.

And then there is the third relationship.  It's not a relationship I want to completely write off.  It too is a close blood relationship.  I want to tell you it's because I respect this person but that's not really all of the  truth.  I do have respect for some of the things done, for the relationship itself, but if it were not blood relation  I would absolutely walk away.  I've been asked before, "If this were a stranger named Smith would it matter?  Would you let Stranger Smith treat you in such a way?"

I'd say it was a matter of admiration of the individual , because I do admire some of the things this person has done in life.  But that too isn't completely true.  There are a lot of things this person has done to destroy relationships between others and succeeded quite well in doing.  There are a lot of petty jealousies and hurts that have garnered retaliations that were embarrassing and painful and extremely hurtful.  There are a lot of resentments that one is expected to make up for, even while being assured that you never can make up for them.  It is a relationship in which one is expected to sacrifice all other relationships because no other shall have any importance compared to this one and if you so much as hint that another is at least equal, we're right back to the retaliatory behavior.  That may mean physical as well as verbal abuse or it can mean being cut off completely until you are deemed necessary once more.

That is not to say that I hadn't realized long ago that I needed hard boundaries with this person.  I created many and after that late spring 2015 crisis I realized that my boundaries needed to be still tighter and built with greater fortification.  I won't tell you it isn't hard.  I long to do certain things but I can't because if I do, the walls are breached immediately.  It's that insidious a relationship between us.

What brought all this to head over the past week has been an ongoing physical deterioration of the individual. It is a concern.  I made a suggestion of something helpful and perfectly reasonable and offered to attend to it immediately.  I was told no, as I have been told no  to every reasonable suggestion that would help.    Seven days later, I get a phone call and it was suggested that now the suggestion is valid and it would be a good time for me to tend to it.  

Only it wasn't a good time to go ahead.  I discovered in questioning that I'd have to travel many miles, and attempt to contact several people to get key items that were necessary to perform the act and none of the preliminary work that might have been done had been.  It wasn't that it was just an inconvenience at that moment but what would have taken an hour at best the week before would require at least a full day of my time at that moment.  I had not been feeling well and  I said apologetically that I couldn't do it.  I suggested an alternative that required much less time on any one person's part or merely asking the person who lives with them to tend to it.

Not only did I feel guilty in saying no, I could hear the disappointment that I wasn't willing to just drop everything at that moment and do as told as I would have done in the past.  It was obvious I was not playing the game and it was considered not fair play on my part.  I struggled with all sorts of things as I said, spiritually and mentally and emotionally and thought I'd ought to just give in when John put his foot down and said "No.  Absolutely no."  Unreasonably, I felt even more torn and resented his thinking he had the right to say no.

So to insure that I didn't, my body immediately reacted to the stress.  I've had a bout of a painful condition that isn't life threatening but does drain my energy and leave me unable to attend to my household.   It also insures I don't leave my home.   I've laid about and been depressed and been sharp and irritable.   My mental anguish had become physical and I knew I literally needed to heal in more ways than one.

And so this week I ran smack into my own fortifications and it hurt like running headlong into a stone wall should.  It made me mad and sad. It left me confused and questioning my own wisdom and my Christianity and the very core beliefs that I not only espouse but try to live by.  It hurts to say that this person is my enemy but it's truth.  Because you see, however much I've built up my walls, this person knows full well that I am weak somewhere and is seeking that weak area where I break.  I've called this person my torturer in the past and it's truth.  The behavior that drove me to build my walls has not changed one whit.  The manipulations have changed slightly, a reaction to the changes I wrought in distancing myself from certain behaviors two years ago.  But the enemy still lies in wait.

I cried out to God asking why this is so, asked how I can cope and asked what I should do.  "Give me a sign, just one sign, that tells me how to proceed!  Please!"   And the answer came, but it was hard to understand at first.  "Heap coals on your enemy's  head."    Heaping coals on his head does not mean to set fire to this person, which sounds harsh enough to be mildly satisfying in nature,  but is actually a charitable act. A pastor explained  in a sermon we heard this past weekend:   In the old testament days, when  cold days came, beggars who had no money for wood would walk the streets with a flat pan on their heads and beg for embers.  People would drop a live coal onto the pan as the beggar walked past their window. He took his coals, went home and cooked his meal and warmed his home.  So I am to be charitable, not vengeful.

In the New Testament, Paul instructs us to do all we do with love, because he says that all we do without love is meaningless.  Had I no love at all, it wouldn't matter how this relationship goes on would it?  I wouldn't struggle so hard to forgive, to try to forget and to wipe away every bit of bitterness.  I had no choosing in the loss of the two other relationships.  In each instance, I was dropped out of that person's life by none but themselves.  I didn't remove myself. I simply stopped being pushy about being given a place in their lives.  But in this last relationship,  I am entangled in a web.  I continue to hold onto a stubborn hope that things will change.  I seem to feel that if this relationship too is a failure it makes me a failure. The truth is, I haven't chutzpah enough to cut it off completely because I am certain it would make me a horrible, terrible person.

It's not all untangled to my satisfaction but it's the best understanding I have at this time.  And so I struggle to determine just how I must act within my safe boundary and do what I can without creating an opening that does me harm.  No, it's not easy, not one little bit. I don't have a very good sense of balance at the best of times.  In situations like this, I have none.  It's hard.  I don't really understand why our relationships with some must be so difficult and painful and with others it's easy travel.  I don't understand it at all, but I know it is so.  That I do.

The past few mornings I've been watching a deer graze on the front lawn.  There is nothing more peaceful than a deer when it feels perfectly safe.  This doe grazed like any cattle does and was out the same time each morning.  I'd grown rather used to looking out the window at her as she ate, her tail flicking gently.  As she walked across the yard, she was never in a hurry but just slowly walked across.  I was pretty sure she had a fawn somewhere near.  It's common that at least one doe raises a fawn here on our property.

I missed the doe on Tuesday morning.  I missed her Wednesday, as well.  And then Maddie took off from her breakfast Wednesday and ran into the brush and barked and came back with a fawn's leg bone in her mouth.  The aroma told me the fawn had been dead for some time.  Maddie didn't kill it.  I suspect the coyote that treks across the place from one pasture to the other  had discovered the fawn and killed it and Maddie just stumbled on the remains.  I found myself weeping hard.  It seemed too much this physical ailment and the tangled webs I'd been fighting my way through and the spiritual seeking that had felt like beating at skies of bronze, to have the one peaceful thing I found shattered, as well.  It was as though the evil world had intruded on my last frontier of peace.

I wanted to run away and hide until all my worries went away.  They never do go away though do they?    And it's not in my nature to hide anyway.  I tend to face my troubles head on, much as I'd rather not.  I can't protect myself in any way except to be strong.  Even when being strong is the hardest thing I know to do.  I have to face the hard things as well as the soft easy things.  There is no safe place that will go untouched by some form of disaster or pain.  I can only choose my best path, not the easiest one, but the best one.

John has borne the brunt of my not feeling well and being snippy.  He's well aware of what a struggle this relationship is for me and has been.  I had to stop resenting him and recall that because I was damaged in other relationships before him,  in this relationship I have been nurtured and pushed to grow in equal measure.  His interest is not what makes his path easiest but what makes for a healthy happy relationship for the two of us.  He's learned the same as I that peace at any cost is never ever peace.  It's bondage.  Peace is standing firm assured that your best is not necessarily what another wants but what is right and true, even when it's hard.

No happy sunny post this week.  No easy chat.  If the vague references frustrate you then I'm sorry.  I have never wanted to harm anyone with my blog posts and even though I'm assured that not one of the three mentioned here reads this blog or cares to, I'd rather not have them lose their privacy or anonymity.  Yet, I did want to share that difficult relationships require more of us than those which are easy.  I wanted to share because someone else out there is struggling hard as I have.  Perhaps you aren't aware that the troublesome relationship has been affecting your marriage or your relationships with others.  I wanted to share too because I find writing therapeutic.  On page, I can edit and worm out those other thoughts that get caught in the webs and confuse things still more.

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