In My Home This Week: Ending and Beginning

In my home this week:

...I  accomplished little it feels and yet it was a full week.  Busy enough to get things done, but not nearly enough time to get all I'd like to get done.  I've just finished scrubbing the oven door.  It took forever...and I've decided that some big tasks should just be broken down into do-able segments.  I might not get to the oven again until Monday but I'll hit another lick at it as soon as I can.

Christmas stuff is out on the back porch, ready to go into the shed, and just as family comes in for the weekend.  I hadn't planned on guests this weekend but it all seems to be just part and parcel of the current hospitality trend.  I need to plan meals for the weekend.  I am feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment but in the end, all that is necessary shall be done and what isn't shall wait, right?

My son's and daughter-in-law's life is very hectic at the moment, too.  House showings in their town, cleaning up his late father's place in the next town over, adds up to not a whole lot of time with Daddy for the family right now so they are coming here while he works at a monumental task.  He hopes to finish this weekend but I somehow doubt it can happen.  I wish him Godspeed with it though.  He starts a new job on Monday, yes, Monday and he has a lot on his plate just now.  Bess' Jamberry services has taken off like a rocket in December.  She is legitimately running  a part time business and juggling two boys and trying to keep the house running and clean enough to show.   The house is, thankfully, being shown frequently.  There's a lot of interest and I'm hoping it means that there will be a number of bids put in on it.  It's a lovely home, roomy and full of light, but not overwhelmingly big.

And of course, I know that next week I am launching my Jamberry business, starting a new part time job as housekeeper, finding it necessary to help Mama with things  so I can't skip those days I'd spend with her to carve out my own time to work.  I won't say it's overwhelming.  I won't.  It's just different and I need to see how I fit things in is all.  And I need to pray a lot about God showing me what to prioritize and how to juggle the balls that were tossed my way.  I feel confident going into 2018.  I feel confident that many things that needed to be put to rest have been in these last months of 2018 and I'm excited to see what all God has to fill up those spaces where we're finally released.

...I made meals:
Chicken Sausage with cabbage, carrots, potatoes and apples

Golden Mushroom Chicken Pasta, Salad,  Crusty Rolls

New York Strip Roast, Yorkshire Pudding, Corn on the Cob, Green Salad and desserts of choice
John wanted apple pie.  I wanted something 'more festive'.  Our compromise was to buy a single serve dessert of what we each wanted.  I chose Red Velvet Cake.

Sandwich Buffet with friends.  I carried chips, crackers,  and spinach dip.

Leftovers from our Christmas Eve meal with the addition of  green beans with mushrooms.

Out with Mama

Chicken pot pie, Waldorf Salad

...I worked:

John and I did laundry several times. I did dishes several more.  We allowed all to air dry.

I pieced together about 5 or 6 outfits after finding myself tossing clothes left and right as I tried to dress to leave the house on Christmas morning.  A well thought out, properly accessorized outfit is so much easier to put on and feel satisfaction with than trying to think as I hurry.

I stripped our bed and hung sheets and towels to dry after washing.

Sat down on Christmas night when I returned home and felt restless and worked up the preliminary budget projection for our household.  I worked with a zero balance budget, taking on Dave Ramsey's advice to tell all my money where to go.  I did not figure on overtime nor holiday pays as those tend to be transient things but I assure you when we have either one (as we shall for the next two pay periods), I will be telling those extra funds where to go as well.  As we get nearer and nearer retirement age, I want to be sure our money works harder for us than we do for it.

John had a locksmith job to do for our son in a nearby town.  I went along and sat in the car, carrying along my pen and clipboard.  I made out some lists for the New Year of chores I hope to attend to, and did some planning ahead for shopping this coming year.  Then I jotted down a few thoughts I want to keep in mind as I go through the year ahead.  It ended being a very productive three hours even if I did only sit in the car!  Proof that with determination to do you can work just about anywhere.

The house remained decorated until December 27th.  I hadn't planned to un-decorate then but it was rainy and dreary outdoors and I couldn't do the things I'd planned to do...So I took down all the decorations and stood looking at the empty places wondering what winter décor shall look like.  Time to spend some time roaming boards on Pinterest and digging about in the shed...

I went grocery shopping with Mama.  This is indeed work as I must follow her about the store and do all the reaching and lifting and carting of the groceries.  I have gotten so used to John being about to do all this for me that I'd truly forgotten what a chore it is!  I hauled it all into her house and unloaded into the places she directed me to.  I had seriously thought I'd go on and run a few errands but I was just tired after all that work, lol, and came home.

Put Christmas things into the shed.  Got the guest room ready for the next round of company.

Cleaned the oven door.  I have a gas stove and I've read the manual. It recommends a 'standard oven cleaner' but it's GAS and I wasn't keen on the spray on stuff when I used it in my electric stove.  So I'm doing things the hard way...I'm doing it by hand with a mild non-abrasive sponge and cleaner.  It took an hour to get the door down to a 'good enough' point.   The oven and the broiler will have to be done as well as the racks.  It shall get done a bit at a time.  And yes, I've tried ammonia.  Either I'm doing it all wrong or it's gone too far beyond the point of return.  Ugh.

I paid bills and totted up figures for our last pay period of 2017.

...I saved money:
Gave myself a mani and pedi.  This is always a huge savings and makes me feel quite happy, as looking at fresh polish and fresh nail wraps pleases me.  My friend shared on Christmas day that the local nail salon costs $5 a digit.   Wow.   That is $100 for a complete mani and pedi!   It makes my Jamberry wrap love seem very affordable at $7.50 for both a mani and pedi.

John complained that some apples I bought were bruised.  They are not badly bruised nor deeply but he can be rather picky.  I assured him I'd use those apples and made good by using four in our one pan dinner of chicken sausages.

Went to the grocery store on Sunday after church.  We went in with a list and we both stuck to it.  I bought enough bread for the two week pay period (and maybe just slightly longer).  We picked up one sale item, a vinaigrette dressing we especially like that was buy one get one free.  I bought four.
Cut away the portion of a cabbage that had gone bad, and used the good portion.

I'd meant to make yogurt and kept putting it off.  A half gallon of milk was getting a little old for keeping around so I used it for baking and in cooking grits and to make bowls of cereal for breakfast another morning.  Grits cooked with milk are a lovely snowy white cereal and far more nutritious than grits cooked in water, which is our more normal way of doing them.  I had a little left and John mentioned wishing he had some pudding.  Consider it done, love, and thank you for a hint to use the last of that milk before the expiration date.

Used the last of the streusel topping I'd made for the Thanksgiving sweet potatoes.  I'd kept in the freezer since Thanksgiving morning but it made a nice streusel top for our muffins.

Planned breakfast towards the weekend to use up the leftover muffins.

As I walked through the grocery with Mama I kept my own pantry needs in mind and took note of prices. I picked up a few things, nearly all meant for the pantry.  My exceptions were loose Brussels Sprouts which I buy only when I can pick up just a dozen or so for the two of us, and a small rutabaga for me.  I did note that carried the canned rutabaga cubes which is more pantry friendly so I shall try to remember to buy several of those next time I'm in the store.

We get paid on Friday of this week rather than on Monday due to the holiday.  I was surprised to note when I opened my wallet today that I have saved ALL of my last allowance.  Yes, I will get more allowance but I'll likely set aside that to go towards a purchase I hope to make for the house in the next month.

An even nicer surprise when I worked up our bills.  I have three pay periods in January.  That means that I can set aside half of one of our routine bills to use towards our sub accounts.   And that means that I have now filled nearly all my sub accounts for 2018.  How's that for a grand finish to 2017?

Though I picked up a few sales items Thursday with Mama to restock the pantry, I noted to John on Wednesday that we have no real need to go shopping this next week.  I have bread in the freezer, plenty of produce and an extra bottle of soda under the counter.  With cookies in the freezer and unopened bags of chips from last pay period we're good on all counts!  I'll use the 'extra' grocery money to fill up the paper products inventory in our household.

Decided after all to keep the resin barrel as the designated Christmas tree stand.  Each year it's a challenge to find a means to cover the base of the tree and why on earth continue to look for something 'new' when I can have one all ready next year?

...I made time to be leisurely:

I did much of nothing at all on Shabat.  It was just the rest I truly needed.

I watched "A Holiday Affair", "Christmas In Connecticutt", "Meet Me in St. Louis".

Christmas night I watched a rerun of a Bing Crosby special with Robert Goulet and the movie "Love Actually".  Apparently 'tis viewing season for me.

After an especially poor night's rest, John suggested I go back to bad and sleep.  He looked about the house and said "There's nothing here that needs to be done!"  He was quite right.  As it was one of his work mornings I didn't need much urging to return to bed at 6am.  I slept until 9:15 and told him it did me a world of good indeed.  And yes, I do consider it leisurely to slip back to bed!  It's something I very seldom will do.

That's my week...What did you do to save over this holiday?

Coffee Chat: Days and Days Ahead

Hello dears, do come in from the chilly outdoors and have a little something hot.  Shall you have tea?  It's satisfying somehow on these cold afternoons, in the same way that coffee satisfies in the mornings.  I recall reading old tea ads which all talked about the enervating effect of an afternoon cup.   It was promoted as a tonic of sorts, bound to cure the afternoon tiredness and carry one through the evening activities.  

What cup would you like to choose?  It occurred to me Christmas Eve as I sipped coffee from a pretty china cup that I have been digging through thrift stores for years looking for 'pretty' tea cups to use...and here I've got several to choose from amongst two matching sets of china!  How silly is that?  However you may take your choice this morning, as you can see.  I've a pretty thrifted pink, a pretty blue that Katie gifted me, a rose covered one and the blue and brown pattern that was my first china.

There's fruit cake, too.  It's a store bought one of course, but next year...Next year I mean to make one myself.  I had a lovely recipe from Pam but it's gone and gotten lost.  Pam, if you're here, please do send it to me again!  I found another on Pinterest the other day that looks nice.  I've decided that I shall experiment and see which I like...but that is jumping ahead a good bit.  Or would you prefer crisp, buttery cinnamon toast?  Oh the choices we must make!

But just at the moment, let's not even consider anything that requires that silly oven.  I've just been cleaning it.  Well, I just cleaned the oven door.  45 minutes of scrubbing away at it and it's down to something I can live with.  Unfortunately, I have the whole of the oven, the broiler underneath and the racks to go.  I've decided that it's quite all right to do it in segments.  And necessary.  I'm bushed from all that scrubbing.

How was your Christmas?   We had the last of ours on Christmas Eve.  It was a lovely day.  We woke extra early for no reason I can tell and I prepared our usual holiday breakfast of canned orange cinnamon rolls and little smoky sausages and endless cups of coffee.  We ate by the light of the Christmas tree which seems to me to be as lovely as ever a Christmas tree has been.

We went to church which was an early service and that ended with a candlelight ceremony which was nice.  I do wonder though, having seen all the wax drips on the carpets and floors despite the little paper shields on each candle,  just how happy the staff will be with the results of that.  But maybe it's just the housekeeper in me that saw that as a problem and they don't.

Before we'd left for church, I'd set a pretty table, knowing full well if I waited until we returned I'd be hungry and antsy and that would be the least of my concerns. 

We came home and made ourselves a proper Christmas meal.  I started with an appetizer of sausage and cream cheese stuffed portabella mushrooms (a recipe from my Atkins diet days) and an entree of New York Strip roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and a salad.  John had chosen corn on the cob which I thought for sure would be tasteless but it proved to be sweet and tender crisp once boiled and was quite good. 

We ate our meal in courses, starting with the appetizers which went into the oven to bake as the roast went in on high heat to get that nice brown sear upon the fat.   Then we had our salads as the Yorkshire pudding finished up and the roast rested.  Then we had our desserts.   John wanted apple pie and I wanted something decadent and Christmas-y for dessert.  He got a small apple pie at the grocery and I chose a single slice of Red Velvet which was very good and we were both happy.  John doesn't care for Red Velvet cake and I think it's good stuff.   Naturally after all that we sat about and groaned slightly and sipped coffee and were good for nothing much.

We watched lovely old Christmas films:  "Christmas in Connecticut" and "Meet Me in St. Louis" and "The Bishop's Wife".   We  looked in vain for the Alistair Sims version of "A Christmas Carol" and we found it at last...on at 2am Christmas morning!  Well we didn't get to see that, not with John working Christmas morning and slated to be up at 5am.

All in all it was a lovely drawn out holiday that began sometime just after Thanksgiving and has gone on all month long.  Aside from only mild disappointment at how quickly my family day went, I have no complaints about the season this year and I hope future years will go as nicely and be as full of pleasant things as this one.

I was no sooner awake Christmas morning that I began to start making plans for the New Year.  Not the holiday but the year itself.  I saw John off to work and had time to spare between his leaving and my going on to his partner's house for a buffet meal.   So I did some light housekeeping and hung a load of sheets and towels to dry and thought of the need to get a new bottom sheet now that I've only one for our bed.   I hung the clothes I'd let drop on the hassock the day before and thought of my need of fresh blue jeans.  I put out fresh towels in the bath and looked at how faded and worn they've become over the past five or six (or is it seven?) years and contemplated new towels.

I'd thought of learning to make fruit cake and my desire to learn to crochet.  I contemplated the work I've already signed up to do with the new year.  I thought of studies I'd like to pursue.  My mind just naturally felt that now, with the holiday rapidly winding down that it was time to really think on the year ahead and what I hoped to make of it.  I thought of undecorating the house from Christmas and wondered what I'd like to put out for the winter months ahead to see us through until Spring.  I do so hate to un-do Christmas and leave things looking bare and bereft just because there's no holiday I want to celebrate after Christmas!

Before I got too involved in planning for next year I decided I should approach first things first.  For one thing there was an invitation to spend time at John's work partner's home with his wife and family.  It was a quiet easy gathering with everybody pretty much eating and doing nothing much.  It was a cold cut buffet dinner with chips and dips and a veggie tray and was just really relaxed and easy.  It was a wonderful respite in a busy season.  I had quiet conversation with my hostess and it was frankly the nicest thing to get one on one time with her.

That was my 'first' first.  I realized after I came home that my next step was to sit down with pen and paper and do some planning.  I can work without a plan but I don't focus half so well if I haven't got a list of things to do be done and the order in which to do them.  Launching my Jamberry consultation business is important, but then so is establishing a working routine, a writing routine, and being aware of everything coming up in the next few weeks.  John will likely want to participate in a Daniel fast and I want to be prepared this year.  I promised him a block of time for just the two of us and that's coming up here in the beginning of January.   In fact, all my thoughts at present are just focused on January which isn't really such an oddity given it's the last week of December.

But I wanted to look at the year ahead, as well.  Truth is, I didn't know I was going to be a Jamberry consultant nor a housekeeper in the New Year and yet here I am at the end of December having signed up to do both!   I finally got time to do just that a little later in the week and it felt good to start my lists.

I woke up one morning this week and decided that Christmas was done and regardless of having no idea what winter décor shall look like I was definitely going to put Christmas away.  I did that and John said nothing much at all, but later that evening he did.  He amuses me no end with his dislike of putting away Christmas these days.  He's always so cast down over it.  I'm so glad that he enjoys it now and likes to extend the season, but there's something in me that is just done with it all at once and so I am ready to put it away and appreciate it afresh next November.

The week has been nothing much really.  We drove over on Tuesday to Sam's dad's house which seems odd to say because of late he refers to John as 'Dad'.   I was sober enough about the death of my ex-husband but seeing how he lived in his final years (and I didn't even set foot in the house, just heard about it from my guys) and knowing how he and his wife died, really sobered me hard.  I am not telling tales out of turn now, since he can no longer be hurt by anything I say, and Sam nor Amie will rush to defend him.  They long ago saw him clearly, as children do...and their loyalty turned to John many years ago.  It was, however, always out of respect for them I said little about their dad and will say only a little now.

When we married, we started out in a nice home, a new doublewide with new vehicles and enough money to pay our bills but within two years we had older used cars and a four room house with no heat or AC.  It was a nice enough house, having recently been updated, but our next home was the old bedraggled, falling apart at seams house I loved so.  Our sole improvements to that home was to put up sheetrock in Amie's bedroom, build a closet in our bedroom (sans doors or paint), screen in the front porch and change out the front door for one with a window in the upper half.  In ten years of living there that was the whole of our upgrades.  The house he was living in at his death was a step down from that house and apparently housekeeping was not even on the list of things they ever did.  The house looked abandoned and yet, until a week ago, someone lived there.

Anyway, I thought back over our marriage and his nature and mine.  I wondered at the girl I was who felt he was all I deserved.  He was smart and a hard worker but there was something in him that despite his upbringing always wanted to sink to the lower levels and he steadily did just that, always going just that one step lower and then down another.  Given a choice of two friends, he always chose the one that made you feel uneasy and who had a reputation that if you said it was tarnished would have been a polished up state.  I don't know why this was so.  His folks were not wealthy but they were decent and had principles about things.   They doted on L as a boy and as a man.    And as is often the case, his sister absolutely embodies all that her parents were, but L did not.

He was seldom without work that paid well but it was with him.  I've said before that even after 25 years, John's wages have never equaled half what L made but I never lived so poor with John as I did with L.  We went without necessities and yet we didn't live in such away that we should have.  I mean that all those good frugal skills I have now were well honed back in that first marriage.  I cloth diapered and hung out clothes to dry and we seldom ate out except maybe on an anniversary now and then.   We didn't have nice furnishings or great cars or pricey clothes though by rights we could have afforded all those things and more.  We seldom had a phone and often went without water or electricity.    Somehow money wouldn't stick with him and I didn't know why until far beyond the marriage when I began to hear things that people had been too kind to let me hear while married to him.  Living was hard in those years but it taught me all I needed to know to cope well when I married John and we had so many mouths to feed and so little to stretch to cover all the needs.

John and I had a long conversation about it Wednesday morning.  'Would I have continued to fall with him?' I wondered out loud.  "Would he have eventually so discouraged me that I'd have willingly lived as he did at the end?" And John said "No, I expect, knowing you the way I do, that your marriage with him was never meant to be a long one.   It wasn't in your nature to live as he did."  I was no great shakes as  a housekeeper back then, in my youth, but I did have a standard to live up to and I did attempt to do so.  I concluded John was quite right.  I wished I'd seen at 19 what I could so plainly see at 59, that L was never meant to be the man for me, nor was I ever meant to live as unhappily as I did with him.  Yet I wouldn't change a thing because that marriage brought me Amie and Sam.

Well it's been an odd month anyway, this dealing with exes and seeing ourselves at this age and remembering who we were and what we were years ago.  I could see quite plainly after meeting John's ex that whatever else they'd done, they had both married decent people the first and second times around.   And I could clearly see that it was meant for my children to know John as their dad and that Jd needed me as much as he did his mom.  I had a lovely note from her on Christmas morning in which she wished us a Merry Christmas "to you and John and yours and ours".  How sweet is that?   For various reasons, Jd was all mine to worry over and raise and admonish and encourage from age 15 to age 40 and V has a lot of time to recover in getting to know him once more,  but I'm glad that she approved of the man her son is and that she credited that to me as much as to herself in his early formative years.  And I'm just as glad that they have the opportunity to rebuild their relationship.

But yes, I can see clearly that the pattern all along was meant to be what it has been.  John was meant to raise my children and I was meant to mother his sons and for whatever reason the ex-spouses were not in the chilren's lives during those years and apparently not meant to be.  I didn't become a Christian until after I met John and he didn't renew his walk until after we'd married.  Yet somehow, I do feel that all was in God's plan even if it wasn't all the way I would have thought it ought to have been.   Maybe we're not meant to live perfectly but to try to make the best of the lives we're given and go through the trials we do to strengthen us and smooth out the edges.  I don't know.  But I do see that it was clearly meant to be just this way for each of us.

So here we are just a few days from the year's end.  I sat down and really looked back over the year we've had and it's been something special this year in so many ways.  There have been so many things revealed and so many changes and so many doors shut quite firmly closed and some we'd thought closed opened to reveal rather pleasant interiors.  It's felt like a big year in many ways and while I'd rather hoped it would be like that year so many years ago when we just sort of glided through without any tragedies or sorrows or great triumphs either, I don't guess I'd wish this year to have been different.

I suppose I really ought to end here or we'll have little to show for the day overall.  I do like to have things ready for Shabat in my home so that I can close down the work for the week and just fully soak in the rest of Sabbath.  Well the rest that is allowed with company in the house...Yes, the guest room is in use again...Season of hospitality indeed!  Peace, dears.

Christmas Time Is Near: Advent Day 27

Philippians 4:6-7  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by your prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.   And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

You hear it a lot these days.  "I'm having an anxiety attack."  "I feel panicky."  "My nerves are shot all to pieces."    These are all signs of the modern day world, in which we have piled upon ourselves too many decisions, too many problems to manage at once and too much of every thing as a general rule.  Even Christians.  Especially Christians who feel it is their sole duty to volunteer for most every ministry program and need in their church.  I remember reading something years ago about Christians who are so keen to fulfill every role that they often fail to leave room for others to do much of any thing.  And then there are pastors and leaders who urge already taxed parishioners to do a bit more 'unto the Lord....'

We do too much.

What we don't do enough of is what is written in the verse above.  We don't pray often enough.  We don't give thanksgiving.  We don't put our requests before God.

For today here's my bit of wisdom: 'No' is not a dirty word.  No apology needed when using it either.  Before you take on a new duty, pray about it.  Seriously.  God will answer you!

Take time every single day to lay YOUR needs before God, as well as the needs of any others you are praying for.  No prayer is too small.  NO PRAYER IS TOO SMALL.  We don't have to be high and lofty and holy in our prayers.  God created us as we are.  We can strive to be more but he's very well aware that sometimes the needs we mention in our prayers are necessary to the stretching of our faith.  My need of new towels may seem a silly prayer, but when God answers that prayer it's a mighty big deal.  My faith gets a big jolt of confidence.  The bible says he watches over the sparrows. (Matt. 10:29).

Take time every day to be thankful.   So what if it's mundane and simple, like the flash of a blue bird's wing in the tree outside the window?  Or for that second cup of coffee? Or if it's big, like "Thank God, you healed him!"

And see if the anxiety you feel isn't greatly reduced as you realize more and more that God really does watch over you, in every situation.   

New Year Thinking: Past and Future

I am going to combine things in this post, both a sort of review of the year past and a good look ahead at what I would like to do in 2018.  I'm excited by what 2017 has been and by what 2018 might well prove to be.

Food and Pantry

I'll start with food because it's my biggest expense area and because I love to cook and I like eating better than most.  It runs in the family.  Taylor loathed Uncle Sam until he said the word 'food' recently and suddenly she popped out "I like food!" and that was the ice breaker.  From that point on she was friendly as could be with Uncle Sam.  See?  I told it runs in the family, lol!

This year on the blog and in my home, we started out January with a cheap food challenge and I carried it through the first few months of the year. I learned a few things: we have room enough to cut our budget and still eat well; eating cheap requires more work which didn't bother me.  It was my failure to plan ahead and work ahead that was often to my detriment where both budget and meals were concerned.  I took these lessons seriously this past year and noted what I was willing to do and what I wasn't, in order to cut our food budget.  The take away in the end was that I found towards autumn that we'd begun shopping about every three weeks.  I also began a concentrated 'use it all' campaign in my kitchen and have had much less waste this year than ever and though I say so myself, I had gotten pretty good about staying atop waste. I am not counting in the food that spoils within a day or so of bringing in from the store, but of those things I myself wasted by not using in a timely manner or trying to save if I realized I couldn't.   It was a great series of lessons for me.

It was about this time that John wanted to follow the Daniel fast diet for three weeks and that too was an interesting experiment in  food.  We introduced a lot of new meatless recipes to our diet and enjoyed some of them.  I learned which ones worked best for me and which ones failed the diabetic diet needs.  This experiment too was more work than I'd thought it might be and again it was planning and then not working ahead that was often my failure.

This year, I would love to do a return to the 'extreme food budget' experiment and just keep in practice but it won't be in January which is full enough at the moment.  I may play with that idea come the warmer months when produce is at best prices.    However, here in January I do intend to push for 'simpler' meals.  Mama and I were discussing this on Christmas morning when I called to wish her a Merry Christmas.  Simpler meals that use fewer ingredients often kept in the pantry...What I used to call 'country cooking'.    I'd like to focus on stocking up my pantry, personal care items, paper and cleaning products.  Fortunately the sort of meals I am referring to are perfect for the cooler months of the year and so I can both trim the grocery budget and restock the pantry while serving up hearty meals that warm us inside and out for little money. 

I expect that John will want to follow a Daniel fast diet for 21 days again and I have pinned several meat free recipes and am anxious to repeat the successful ones from last year's experience while trying more new recipes.  Ultimately I'd like to find  meatless meals that we truly enjoy and incorporate them into our weekly menu plan.

I already see, looking at my overflowing fridge that I shall be able to return easily to an every three or four week grocery shopping cycle because when I am not preparing company meals, foods just naturally last us a longer while.  I'll start January with lettuce, fruits, eggs, milk and bread on hand, not to mention freezer foods and pantry stock.   We'll survive on a longer period between grocery shops quite well.

I would like, here in the early months of the New Year to stock up heavily in my pantry.  Here in December we ran out of tomatoes and canned green beans and I started November with no pineapple.  I'd really like to bring my pantry up to a full six months level and I don't mind doing it with a portion of savings to get it done.  Then at least I'm assured of having a good stock and can wait until things are on a very good sale or use the 'use 2 add 2' method of keeping it stocked.

Last year, I found a rather good deal through Target with a coupon that allowed me to restock cleaning and paper products with a buy $50 save $15 deal.   It didn't cover  us for a full year but it did see us easily through six months and I think this time around I'd rather just go on and do the shopping trip twice with two different coupons and stock for the year.   Not to mention the savings possibilities increase dramatically as well.  I am now down to 1 bottle of shampoo in our pantry stock on personal care items so I'll be watching for a good opportunity to rebuild that area, as well.  I'll include razors, q-tips, lotions and powder, moisturizers and cleansers for skin and bath soap in the 'need to stock up' lists.

Home and Garden

We replaced all but four  bulbs in the house with LED lights this past year.  We discovered that they come in different brightness levels though the wattage is the same.  "Daylight" is really a bright clear white bulb and it's wonderful in areas that are naturally dark or for reading.  "Soft white" is good for general lighting purposes.  I have not seen any great savings on our electric bill despite this switch but the bulbs should certainly last long enough to warrant their cost and it's an acceptable lighting option to replace the incandescent bulbs I preferred and can no longer purchase.  It is my great hopes that we will see a savings on our current bill, but since we have used AC through November, who knows?  Perhaps December's final bill will be the one that shows the savings.

We finished carpet in the house this past February which was stage II of Project Flooring.   This year ahead I'd like to get both our bathrooms retiled.   I think we have enough flooring left from our kitchen to do the guest bath floor.  We just need the guys to come to install it.  We want to replace toilets when we do the bathroom floors.  I'd like to put a new vanity in  both bathrooms. The guest bath vanity should be relatively inexpensive to replace and will be an easy upgrade.

 In our bath I'd love a double vanity and to remove the current linen cupboard and build one into the nook where our current shower resides.  It would please me no end if I could come up with enough cash to get the new shower put into our bathroom and remove the old one.   At the very least we'll get flooring, remove the tub and replace the toilet in the master bath.   I think we might possibly swing the bathroom work if savings in 2018 goes as well as 2017 savings went. That may not be entirely impossible.  We were quoted  a price last year for removing the garden tub and putting in a shower that isn't astronomical but did necessitate pushing that project to the lower levels of our 'to be done' list.  However, we did better at savings this year than expected and it seems more probable that we might manage in 2018.   

 I'd  like to have John retile the closets and laundry area with sheet tile.  I'm pretty sure he can do this job on his own and it would be a nice update for the house as a whole without costing too much. I'd like something that coordinates nicely with the flooring and carpet we've installed.  I really want the carpet out of the guest closet while we're using it as a pantry because it just seems tile would be the far better option in an area designated as food storage.  Or is that just me?lol

We managed to save a nice chunk of money to put towards the top two projects on our list (new underpinning and new windows for the whole house).   John needs to call to get project quotes on those two jobs.   We also plan to put down concrete under the carport and a pad behind John's work shed so that he can build a lean to over the back and permanently set up his grinder.  We had asked for a quote on that last year and are still waiting on the contractor (my brother) to get around to us.  I think we're going to end up having to call someone else because I don't think his schedule is going to fit us in anytime soon.  John also wants to run an electric wire to the shed but that  shouldn't be too big a job moneywise since we have a power source near the shed.

I don't have any desire to do too much to the interior of the house as far as decorating goes.  I'd like to replace the file cabinet and old dresser on the entry wall with a cube cabinet.  I've seen what I want from the Better Homes line at Walmart and it's affordable enough to do right away.  I've toyed with the idea of replacing the 26 year old bookcases in the living room with something that coordinates with the cube cabinet but we'll see. I'm not committing on that just yet.  I'd heaps rather put money into flooring and bath than into bookcases.

I want a new mattress for the guest bedroom and I am still looking for a vanity or old fashioned dresser to use in that room.

I've told John I plan to have our son build us a sturdy bench for the back entryway.   This will be a double duty item as it will not only give us a place to remove and put on shoes, but serve at the dining table when we have the family over.

I need two new slipcovers for current chairs we have.  Both are fraying and while I can patch them I don't think they'll hold up much longer.   I've had them both now for a number of years and they've been well worn and well washed over that time.

I plan   to continue to work at the flower beds I want to surround the house.  I made a little progress last year but hope to push harder this year and finish the project entirely though I've been holding back waiting on the work to be done on the underpinning.   I'll be doing the painting of the porches and the sheds this year,  as well.  We have the white paint needed and just need to purchase the gray paint for the floors and sheds.

We are definitely going to get a pest control service to start spraying the house and foundation on a routine basis.  I am DONE with the constant battle with the ants and the granddaddy long legs spiders on the porches and about the outdoors  and the roaches that keep coming into our home from who knows where.  Our budget can certainly handle a monthly fee rather easily and it would be more than worth while in my opinion.


Last December I'd made a statement that if I could use holiday and overtime to build up our sub accounts we'd be able to save more money overall.  I mean it sincerely.  I had no idea how right I was. 

I was able to fill up all our sub accounts in the first couple of months of the year with holiday and overtime pays.  This allowed me to save money right away on some of the monthly payments vs. annual paid in full costs of insurances.  It also allowed me to save all but a few dollars needed to pay for our annual vacation and all of a new set of tires for my car and a couple of other major purchses we made...AND I have over three quarters of the sub account fees required for 2018 already saved. As of the last week of  December 2017  I need to save funds to cover house insurance renewal in 2018 and the second half of the car insurance renewal for the last six months of the year.  When  Mama gifted us money for birthdays and Christmas we were able to set money aside for windows and underpinning fund and I've been able to add to that savings each month for the past six months.

I see absolutely no reason to change this!  Anything that worked so very well has to be worth repeating, right?

For some reason, Pinecone research completely dropped me.  I have written to ask why but received no reply but because they changed their format for surveys this past year, I often was disqualified.  An older white woman with no children is NOT the target market they are looking to survey with new and existing products.  

Though we switched internet servers I find that Swagbucks is just not a pressing priority with me for earning money any longer.  I do try to gain a few points daily but I won't spend hours hoping to qualify for a survey which is where the bigger points are awarded, especially as I'm an older white female with no children.  Again, NOT the target market.

So to try to generate a little income this year, I shall be actively starting work with Jamberry as a consultant.  Bess has asked me to continue as her party planner which earns me a percentage of sales, as well.  We are planning to work as a team and if the consultant thing doesn't work out, I'll still be earning.  It's my hopes I do well with all things Jamberry.

I also agreed to take on a weekly housekeeping job.  Not big money but surely enough to help me save towards the bathroom and kitchen remodel jobs I hope to do.   I've been told this job will continue when the family move here as it will be a huge help to  mom with small children to have that added hand in keeping the house clean.

At this point there is a rumor that John might receive a decent raise in January but we shall see. I never count county chickens until I see 'em!

We changed our contract with AT&T and dropped Hughes net and that saved us a portion of money monthly.  I think likely this savings will be what pays for that monthly pest control.  So be it.  I'd rather make the swap to bug and spider free than continue to worry that I'm going to wake to an army of ants pushing me out of bed.

I'm happy to report that I once again found a health insurance policy and saved a few dollars over last year's costs.  This is something John and I differ in how we think about it,  but as long as I can mange it I shall have medical insurance. If I can make good headway on the two insurance renewals I'm going to start my own medical savings account to help cover deductible costs.  They don't offer one through John's workplace but I figure it's just another subaccount really with the added advantage I don't have to worry about spending it down at year end.

I think we did very well overall last year and I feel confident we shall do better in the year ahead.

I've taken time to plan ahead and made out a list of purchases I know we need to make here in the first months of the year.  Having a list means that I can watch for good sales on these items, including the major items we'll need (toilets and possibly vanities), as well as hitting the right sales months for the items needed.

All that said, one area where I really turned loose in 2017 and could have done a whole lot better was in how much I charged on my credit card each month.  It started with that Hughesnet bill which was fairly large and I'm afraid my attitude was pretty much, "Well there's already a big charge on it..." and so I'd freely charge.   I didn't keep track.  Some months I was mighty shocked at the total.  True I managed to pay it in full each month but my attitude towards it overall was not what it ought to have been.  I realized that I might well have had ALL of the 2018 fees saved had I not played about so with that credit card.  This year, I mean to be more thoughtful and far more careful.  My mantra shall be  'Money works hard for me, I don't work hard for money.'   And each charge I make will be kept track of. I started it today when I added a business expense to the credit card.  I wrote both fees down in my planner and I've set aside funds to cover both items.  No more nasty surprises.  I plan to stay fully aware of what I've charged and where and I plan to use all my money for the things I really want and not spent on a bunch of stuff I barely remember!


This past year was one of my better years.  Physically I feel better overall and I find my strength has greatly improved as well as my stamina.  The new work schedule for John is hard on us both but we're learning to rest and finding we can cram more into a day than we thought we might.  It's funny but I'm actually starting to wake most days at 5am and am ready for bed most nights by 9:30pm.

I've stuck hard to my personal boundaries and been especially kind to myself when I've had to go long spells without any down time.  I've noticed I sleep poorly and I stress easily when I've gone too many days without any quiet space in it.   I look for moments of time in those busy days when I can excuse myself and listen to something uplifting.  I'm learning to let others help so that I don't run smack into overwhelm.  It's been a big revelation to me that no one ever feels put upon if I ask for help.   I realize that the busyness of the first months of this coming year will be a test for me.  I am curious to see how I handle my personal needs vs. what I hope to be involved in.  It's another stretching exercise for me, so we shall see.

I'm happy.  I mean that.  In years past I've been dissatisfied and stoic but not happy.   In this past year, I realized that I am pretty happy in my life.  I love my husband and family dearly.  I am happy with my home now that I've taken time to make the best of it and happy with the boundaries I put in place that limits exposure to negative persons and happy with my lot in life overall. I'm happy because I decided to do and not just think about doing.   It's made a huge positive impact on my life.

I also noted this past year that time hung heavy on my hands many days.  Housework was done, the house stayed clean,  projects completed and writing  had been enjoyed, but I often felt bored and restless and at loose ends for hours every day.  That's partly why I'm pushing to do more with my time and incorporate more things into my life.   I decided to limit my computer time and enjoy hobbies such as reading and genealogy.  I look forward to learning about new subjects and practicing new projects this coming year.  I want to try my hand at never tried but always meant to cooking projects and expand my skill set with crocheting and embroidery and quilting and more.

I look forward to seeing more of Sam and Bess and the boys.   I hope that Jd and the children stay within range but that is not in my hands.  If they are nearby, I'd like to see more of them, as well.  I want to make more time to travel as I'd planned to do to see Katie.  I'm hoping now that Taylor is a bit older Katie will  be able to come visit us a little more often when Matt is out of town.

I don't generally make resolutions for mundane things like losing weight but I'd really like to drop 20 pounds this year.  And I want to walk more often.  I know I can lose the weight if I focus and pay attention to portion sizes and making good choices.  Walking...well that's a stretching exercise, lol.  I've never seen the point of walking just to walk.  I have to figure out how I can incorporate this into my life with a meaningful purpose to it.  In these cool months I'll try to make it down to the mailbox on foot most days when it's not squishy wet and muddy.

I've done very well with blood sugars for the full of the past year.  I feel I have diabetes well in control at this point and I plan to continue with what clearly works for me but yes, losing weight would likely bring my numbers down to absolute normal at all times, so that's my goal.

I'm continuing to learn how to dress my shape and show my personal style in a way that flatters me.  It's such an individual process!  I am currently looking for a new hair stylist and a slightly altered pixie cut.  I don't think the one I've had the past three or four years is really meant for fine thin hair.  Certainly I've yet to find a stylist able to make it work for me, so maybe it's not the stylists.  As for clothing, I had a major purchase of a wardrobe in fall of this year, for the first time in years.  I was so grateful to have the funds to do it.  I made a few mistakes, some of which I've found ways to correct, and others that I simply must live with for a time but have definitely learned from.  I've still got a lot to learn but I do feel more confident and less random in my style.


I feel good about the quality of work I put into the blog this past year.  I hope to continue in that because writing is life blood to me.  I do mean to try to have a better balance focus overall rather than lean hard on money matters alone.  After all, a life is made up of far more than money, now isn't it?

I tried hard to post six days a week but it was not only a lot of hard work it sometimes meant I didn't have the quality work I like to see on my blog.  So I'll stick with my present pattern of blogging three or so times a week and doing a few series here and there when inspiration is running high.

Those are all my plans and I expect some and possibly all will be accomplished but who knows what all a new year will bring?   The run of hospitality I had here from September through December astonishes me.  Will God see fit to continue that trend?   There are always the unexpected things and I pray I meet those situations with grace and do not whine over much about what is out of my control.

Have you looked at your year ahead?  Did you make plans you'd like to share?

Christmas Time is Near: Advent Day 25 & 26

Day 25

Isaiah 26:3  You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.

This day's reading began with the story of an incredible climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in June of 2017.  Alex Honnold  free climbed 3,000 feet without any safety ropes or gear.  It was the man with his hands and feet and an absolute fearless attitude.

Did he climb because he was without fear?  No.  He climbed because he trusted his mind to remain calm despite his circumstances.  Now that is peace!

I love the verse used with this reading  because John and I did a sort of free fall faith move a few years ago.  Tired of being burdened with worries and fears we stood on the side of a mountain where we go to pray and told God from that moment on we'd trust him.  We'd trust him with our children, with our finances, with our dreams, with everything. 

Of course, the first thing that happened was a whole series of things that threatened to overwhelm us with fear.  Our finances sank well below the level we considered comfortable, we struggled with job issues and marriage related issues, our children struggled with heavy things and then we were asked to leave a church where we'd been active.  Talk about free fall!  Each thing that came brought to us this awful fear.  And each time, we'd look at one another and say "But we TRUST YOU, GOD!"  

It's funny how often those words brought us peace.  I mean that.  We'd take a deep breath and feel this peace inside, welling up and flooding out fear.  No it wasn't easy.  Those were just the beginning tests of God's showing us how much we needed to let go and simply trust Him.  

Day 26
John 16:33  I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.  

One of the questions on this day really made me stop and think hard.  It asked "Do you think of peace as powerful?"

Honestly?  I can't say that I have thought of it as power until today's reading.  

Thinking of peace as something powerful, I recalled that in Ephesians Peace is one of the things we are to 'put on' as part of the armor of God. I like the way the NIV reads:  Ephesian 6:25  And being firm footed in the gospel of peace.   We might well misread the scripture in any translation as peace being something we preach but it is NOT.  It is something we put ON, that we actively take up and say "This I mine.  It is part of my armor."  The 'gospel' of peace is that Jesus continually told us that peace was ours, just as he does in John 16:33.   It is HIS words for us that peace is ours.  

Knowing that peace is YOURS and mine  certainly changes our perspectives doesn't it?

Christmas Time is Near: Advent Day 23 and 24

John 14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

If there is one message consistent throughout the Bible it is this: "Do not be afraid," which God repeatedly says to those who are righteous and living rightly.

But the second message, the one we miss all too often, is the message of peace.  It is a gift that has been given to us and rarely do we accept it.

I shared some time ago about how important receiving is to our lives and yet few of us manage to grasp it.  We think we are beholden to someone if they give us a gift.  We refuse a blessing because we can't reciprocate.  We guiltily watch others give and receive knowing we cannot do the same.

Yet the verse above says it all.  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you."  No where in that sentence does it say "So you owe me big time!" nor does it suggest we must give a gift or in anyway do anything.  Except receive.

Open your hands.  Open your heart.  Take it.

Day 24
Galatians 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Today's reading likened growing up in a family and inheriting or learning to show certain traits as a natural progression.  So, too, they liken our taking on the characteristics of Christ in our lives.  Later in the questions section we are asked to list the traits we received from our family.

One of the questions "How has living with your family fostered and grown that gift in your life?" truly left me in a place of introspection.  How do you ' take on peace' as a trait when it was never available in your home?

It's a lovely devotional today but for those who may have grown up in a more than usually dysfunctional atmosphere it can be a point of pain.   Frankly this is where Christianity sometimes fails a segment of their congregation.  It's hard not to feel cheated, or to  compare our circumstances unfavorably with those who didn't grow up in our own conditions.

But I'll just bet you, like I, had one person in your life to whom you looked up.  You knew them well enough to see character qualities you wanted in your own life and so you patterned yourself after them.  You didn't naturally acquire the admirable qualities you saw, so instead you 'copied' them until they became natural.

The fruits of the Spirit are much the same.  These are qualities that do not come naturally, but with practice we can gain them.  It's ironic that just yesterday someone mentioned that they felt my peace...and last night a comment from a family member dogged my every waking moment.  Peace was sadly missing as I dwelt on his statement.  

I think this year, I will focus on practicing joy and peace...What about you?

The Last Week of Christmas Looks Like This

The last week of Christmas looked like this in my home...

Pretty flowers for my own pleasure

and some more for a friendly hostess.

More packages went out and more cards came in...No pictures of the packages out though and you won't see which cards came in among all the ones hung on the picture frame.

And saddest of all was the card returned.  A look online presented us with an obituary for a very elderly aunt.  Rest in peace, sweet soul.

The winter solstice came and went in a swirl of misty rain and heavy clouds and a return to chillier temperatures. The world is looking more winter and less autumn now, though colored leaves clean stubbornly to trees over on the roadway yet.

A solo Shabat but it looks much like any Friday night just the same.

And while I was taking Shabat, I answered my phone, something I'd not typically do but it felt right somehow to take it.  I heard the news that my ex-husband had passed away.

I watched my most favorite of all Christmas programs, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".  It was a nice way to take my mind off my children's grief.

Saturday we lazed about the house in our pajamas.  It was the respite we much needed. 

I took time to do my nails.

Sunday we were up very early, well before 6am.  I don't have a clue why.  I put on Christmas music and we enjoyed our usual holiday breakfast of tiny beef sausages and canned orange cinnamon rolls.  I hadn't planned to have our holiday today but John asked Sunday if we'd do anything special today and suddenly it felt right to choose to celebrate Christmas together today.

We went to church which met early this morning and children and adults all came together to sing carols, hear the final Advent sermon and then take communion, followed by a candlelight service.  It was just lovely.  My favorite part was when those few whose candles had already been lit, carried them back to those who had not had an opportunity to light candles and we watched the light spread from one candle to another.  Christmas felt 'real' to me at that moment, watching that light spread throughout the auditorium.

We came home and had our feast on a prettily set table.

We had a regular feast with appetizers and a roast beast with Yorkshire pudding which always sounds so elegant to me and tastes just so so.  I used an easier recipe this year but note to self: a teeny bit more salt can't hurt at all.  Maybe next year, I'll make individual puddings as suggested by Karla.

Christmas morning dawned cold and clear.  It never did warm up much and nobody in Georgia made a complaint over that!  We've had quite enough 80F Christmases in the past to make a cold one deeply appreciated.

I visited John's partner's family Christmas day.  It was very laid back and relaxed and easy.  It was a pleasure to wash up dishes in the warm water and stack them neatly to the side while the others either dried or put away the foods.  I came home and started planning January.

I watched a lovely sunset.

Then I put on socks

and turned my feet toward the warmth of the heater which felt mighty pleasant on a very chilly evening,

as I watched an old Christmas special with Bing Crosby and Robert Goulet.   Old fashioned it's true but it's just the sort of Christmas programming  I like...and though I was at home alone, I wasn't lonely in the least.  I'd heard from all my family during the day.  And that was Christmas, this year.

Christmas Time Is Near: Fourth Week of Advent, Day 22

This week's theme is Peace.

Isaiah 9:6  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The title of today's reading was Peace is a Person.

Peace, like joy, tends to be rather tenuous thing.  It's something we all long for but do we ever really have it?  And when we do, don't we feel it's fleeting, here now but soon to be gone?

Yet today's reading reminds us that Jesus is our peace.  Jesus, the very man himself, is peace.  That means that peace is a person.

While standing in church today I thought what a difference looking at peace as Christ would mean.  What if I looked at Christ first?  What if I stopped looking right at my problem and looked to Christ instead?  What if I couldn't even see the problem as the big horrible thing it appeared because Christ in my sight blocked out the worry and fear?

ME ----> CHRIST ----> problem

Christmas Time Is Near: Advent Day 21

Isaiah 55:12  You will go out in joy and be led forth with peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

I love the imagery of this verse.  I can't help it.  Every time I imagine the trees clapping their hands, I'm reminded of the scene from 'A Wizard of Oz' in which the apple trees begin to throw the apples at Dorothy and Scarecrow.  I imagine those same trees clapping their hands in joy instead of being ugly and rude.

But let's forget the movie and really look at the way the earth rejoices: the mountains and hills burst into song.  The trees clap their hands.  And you know what?  This really convicts me.  How easy it is to stand in church on a Sunday and not sing along.  We dislike the song.  We are distracted by a quarrel we had that morning with our mate.  We are worrying already about what will happen at work the next day.

Now imagine that we focus instead upon the joy we feel, we ought to feel, at the gift we've been given.  Imagine singing out loud and really listening to the words as we sing them with meaning.  Imagine clapping spontaneously and whole heartedly...

Let's just go for it and DO it...

This Week In My Home: Flash In A Pan

This week in my home:
I'll share more at another time but our family holiday was...crazy.  An unexpected guest, a change of plans for other family members, a late afternoon photo session with Santa, a little boy who felt decidedly unwell,  a car breakdown that necessitated a long drive and rescue operation, a hurried meal and gift session...I feel like I'd been in a whirlwind and I didn't get a clear vision of any one moment.   There was a lot of babble and bustle and irregular hours.  I'm not by any means saying it was a bad holiday, but it was hectic, even more so than it normally might be. It felt a bit like a flash in a pan.  And then it was done.

This week...this week...I wanted to rest and recover and I started it knowing I've already burst someone's bubble.  I'm sorry as can be at present but I'd just come in from the rescue operatfion to a very very late and very overcooked dinner.  I was beyond hungry, weary to the bone, trying hard to hang on to enjoy the last hour left of my so called family day and  I was promptly asked to make plans for next week and I just couldn't.  To do so meant to spend three days running at a fast pace.  The very idea of it was too much then.  It's too much to think of even now.  I feel a total witch but I needed a break for one day and I knew Saturday was that day.  Not to mention that John is working 24 hours starting Friday morning and coming in from work on Saturday.  Honestly?  The dinner invite NEVER takes into account his schedule.  It is always expected that I'll just go on with out him.  I've barely seen him this month, most especially these past two weeks.

And then I had two more guests...It's enough to make a girl give in quietly without much of a fight.  Obviously God has placed me in a season of hospitality so I shall just go with it and do my best.  Besides...I'm too tired to fight it!

I worked:

Aside from clearing up behind little children and baby proofing areas for a crawling toddler, Saturday was relatively carefree.   Dinner was simple and came together quickly.  I was thrilled.  And then came a phone call to make a necessary rescue.  Katie's car had broken down a good ways from our home, but not close to her own.  Mom to the rescue.  And from that point on the day was a blur.  When I returned there was dinner to serve, clearing up to be done, a rushed gift exchange, a quick packing up of one family and my mother to see off, stripping the guest bed so it could be made fresh (third time in four days!) and watching a very busy, quick to climb any available thing,  two year old girl.   And that was just Saturday, lol.

On Sunday I spent the morning trying hard to put my chaotic home back to rights.  Anyone else remember what it's like to clean with a two year old trailing behind you?  I had clearly forgotten, or I'd have saved my efforts.  I'd turn to look behind me and a pile of freshly folded clothes put on a hassock in the bedroom trailed across the floor.  Opened a dresser drawer to put away clothes and little hands grabbed for all the bangle bracelets (but NOT the green one.  It's most assuredly not a favorite color!).  I didn't catch her when she slipped the Jamberry bag filled with samples and orangewood sticks and cuticle pushers and files out of my room...I heard her mom say, "Did Gramma give you that?"  I peeked around to see what she was asking about and there was my surprise.  I told John later that I felt like I'd had a hard aerobic workout.  I was sure I'd had all the exercise I would need for the rest of the week!

Monday we entertained a guest who truly is a family member at this point.

Tuesday I went out to pay bills and get cash for the week after seeing our company off.  I decided that day that I needed to it quietly and recuperate for the next wave.

Wednesday I took care of  household things.  Then I welcomed in my next guest.  Yep.

Thursday a long day out to do errands.  We got home around evening.

Today: housework and running errands.  Planning meals for weekend and thawing stuff to make them.  Working on Jamberry work and negotiating wages for my other part time job I agreed to take on (oh yes...) and trying hard to catch up on writing.   I'm very much looking forward to Shabat!

 I prepared meals:

Chili dogs, chips, dips, cookies.   We were meant to have coleslaw but I never progressed that far.

Homemade General Tso's Chicken, Steamed Rice, Steamed Broccoli

Beefy Pasta Bake, Kale and Romaine Salad

Leftovers for me

Nachos with everything, Clementines

dinner out with John while running errands

Fish fillets and fries for one.

I saved money:

Let me just say once more that I LOVE AAA.  I considered once a few years ago cancelling my subscription but for about $10/month it's proven it's value over and over again.   They allow me to use my membership to cover both my own car or my mother's (if I'm driving hers) or Katie's.  It saved a large towing bill this day.

I'd taken out two chicken breasts last Thursday planning to make a meal for company but they never did thaw entirely.  I set them in the refrigerator and used them to make Almond Chicken (only I forgot the almonds).  That made two meals for us, which is typical of these boneless breast halves from The Fresh Market.  I used both halves.

Hung clothes to dry.  Washed full loads of clothes and dishes. Let dishes air dry.

We had to run heat a bit higher than usual with our first guest last week and the babies in the house but we're only talking 2-3 degrees and I don't guess we'll go belly up over that.  I kept a kettle of water on the back burner to help add moisture to the air.

Typical of Georgia weather we had to turn on the air conditioning at the start of the week.  Now we're back to periodic heat running.

Came home, reheatead and ate leftovers instead of seeking out something easier to put together on Tuesday.

John and I brought home half our dinner on Thursday and had it for supper.

I offered up leftovers to my family member house guest.  He didn't mind in the least.

I bought fish fillets and a chicken pot pie to feed me on Friday since I was without leftovers and busy enough to not to want to fully prepare a meal for one.   The two items together cost $10 and will net me four meals, so I think it was well worth while.

Took leftover roast beef from freezer to thaw for sandwich meat over the weekend.

When I made the pasta bake this week I made a full recipe.  This gave me a generous casserole for our dinner (with leftovers) and a casserole which should do nicely for 2 that I put in the freezer. had a special Christmas gift for their members this week: $5 Amazon gift card.  I claimed mine and redeemed it right away.

Made John's lunch, coffee and breakfast on work days and sent coffee and lunch with him to work.

Happily discovered I could, for once, get all the necessary errands done in town and did not have to travel more than 6 miles total.  Yes, the local bank charged a fee for getting cash there but doggone it I saved myself 40 minutes total in driving and didn't have to deal with the madhouse that most stores are at this season.  Yes, I no doubt paid more for the soup mix than I might have elsewhere but happily all other items were on sale for about the same price as at other stores in my usual shopping area.  And what a relief to be gone from home only about 30 minutes and get so much done!  Banking, grocery need, mail, taking off trash and DONE.

I didn't need booties but I have just longed for a pair though I never said so.  John spied a pair at Bass Pro that he really liked and the price was very reasonable, less than half what I'd seen them elsewhere. And oh how comfortable they are!

A bit of swapping and purchasing with our Yeti cups.  A couple of months ago, John bought me a 20 ounce tumbler because the 30 ounce does not fit in the console cup holder.  I found a solution for that but it can wait.  In the meantime, he kept spilling his coffee.  My tumbler had a slide lid.  I swapped him my slide lid since I seldom take my cup out of the house.  He bought me a handle and a lid with straw this week.  And I bought a little rambler cup for coffee with a slide lid that will fit my 30ounce tumbler.  Oddly a local Ace hardware had a far better selection of Yeti products and accessories than Bass Pro has.

I looked over the floral selections hard at the grocery and almost, almost, bought a deeply discounted bunch.  But then I looked them over good and realized I'd get a far prettier bouquet from a fresh one and likely it would last four times as long.  So I opted for what might appear to be the more expensive option but will be good value in the end.

John went for a hair cut yesterday.  I took along my list from Kroger and went in to get all my free and deeply discounted items.  I spent $40 and saved over $16.  This includes my bunch of flowers and a big bag of dog food.  Which impresses me even more. I actually spent about $20 on the free/deeply discounted things!

What we avoided altogether at Aldi and Kroger: the myriad mounds of cookies, chocolates, and specially packaged Christmas treat items.  Easy to do when you are very aware you've a huge jar of cholates at home and lots of homemade cookies in the freezer.  Maybe next year I should start early with the baking and Christmas chocolates so I can avoid them harder all season long?

I had my leisure:
I almost laughed at this category this week but I had brief moments of leisure.   Enough to watch a dearly loved old film "Now Voyager" with Bette Davis.  A few moments to read my Bible study and pray over my prayer list.

I watched "The Elf" which I find heartwarming and full of Christmas cheer.

I decided against doing things and really taking time to rest for most all of Tuesday afternoon.

Now I shall wish you all a Happy Holiday and a very Merry Christmas!  

In My Home This Week: Winter Joys

In my home this week... ...I saw snow this week.  It's not something we see often but every now and then we have a dusting.  It la...