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.

Charm School: Wedding Etiquette

I found the following tips in the June 1952 Better Living magazine.  I thought they were interesting and I certainly learned a thing or two, so wanted to share them with any of you who might not know these particular etiquette rules related to weddings.

More Shoe Box Meal Ideas

As I worked in my pantry this week.  I arranged my few shoe box meals a fresh and added ingredients to one or two.  I've not really worked with this the way I'd planned.  For one thing I haven't purchased all the ingredients I need for the few I'd put together.  I'll do that shopping and set them up proper.

Naturally as I worked I thought up new boxes and would like to share those ideas with you all, as well.

I'd thought about breakfast boxes: dry individual boxes of cereal perhaps and envelopes of dry milk and a bit of canned fruit such as blueberries or plums in light syrup for one idea.  And why not a box with a packet of pancake mix and a can of spam?  Oatmeal packets and muffin mix in another, and perhaps biscuit mix in another box with Vienna sausages or something like that.   This is another idea I need to work out more fully and really I must make an appointment with myself to go to the stores and scout around as to what I might purchase.  I needn't purchase it all at once but to have an idea would allow me to build my list and purchase a bit along.

Other ideas that came to me: Baked Beans and Brown Bread and Potato Salad.  Brown bread used to come in cans as did date roll.  I hope I can find that.

Summer sausage with Canned Potato Salad and perhaps Beans.

I used to have a rather nice recipe called Spoonbread Supper.  It began with chopped ham (canned will do obviously) and a box of cornbread mix with a bit of green onion (chives would do as well) that was baked and topped with diluted cream of mushroom soup.  It was quite good as a meal.  Here again, it's a matter of adding in sides such as peas and carrots and perhaps a fruit or gelatin or pudding as a dessert.

Macaroni and cheese with a can of tuna and green peas to make a casserole.  A packet of bread crumbs or potato chips to top this dish would be nice.  Again, you'd want to work out your sides.

I'd completely forgotten those microwaveable shelf stable meals.  I admit I've only ever had the one with roast beef and gravy and mashed potatoes.  It was okay.  I'd perhaps like to try another brand.  You can add green beans to this and it will do rather well.

What about a jambalaya mix with a can of tomatoes and okra, canned chicken or shrimp, some minute rice, a bit of dried onion and peppers.

I was just thinking of so many other canned entrĂ©e items I'd forgotten: beef stew or chicken and dumplings. 

Those jars of Tamales used to taste very good.    You could do a Mexican dinner with a packet of Spanish or Yellow rice and a can of refried beans to go with the tamales.

As you can see the ideas abound.  I'll be the first to confess I'm not overly fond of many of the canned pre-made entrees but they are all reliable and easy to make if you're ill or if someone unaccustomed to making meals must cook.  Because I'm not fond of them I wouldn't make the mistake of overstocking but a single can will do no harm on that score. I'd like to do a trial run at least once a week with the boxes I've set up, so I can work out kinks.  That would allow me to note which were successful and which were so so and which I'd just rather not do at all.  Making them will let me know quickly enough which are tolerable!  

Have you come up with any new ideas for shoe box meals since the first post back in April?  Please share your ideas in the comments section.

Kitchen Organization on a Dime

                                                 Olive oil tins as utensil holders.

I am an organized person.  I love nothing better than to have a place for everything and everything in it's place.  For one thing, it helps me to remember where something is.  If a certain item is found in a certain spot every single time, I never have to go hunting for it.

I would love nothing better than to spend all my time in one of those sorts of stores that has every organizational aide known to woman or man for closets and cupboards.  I don't want to pay big prices though for clever organization and since most of those stores are located in big cities, no desire to travel to find items, either.  So how do I stay organized?  It's a combination of using what I have and making the most of what I have on hand.  Here are some of my most recent organizational tools.  You might be surprised.

First I am a saver of things: boxes, containers, jars, jugs, etc.

In the top kitchen drawer I keep my baggies.  I store washed and dried cereal bags in a bread sack.  I fold them tight and press the excess air out of them.  I like to store meat in the cereal bags.  It's something I don't mind tossing in the trash after, I can tape them shut and mark directly on the bag what is in them.  I can put like cuts of meat together (say all breasts) and tuck those bags into a large zippered bag to keep them together.  Easy organization, a nice reuse of something that typically is thrown away once empty, and if needed I can even cut on bag into squares to put between pieces of meat or homemade unbaked piecrusts and prevent them sticking together.

I also have a small mustard jar in use keeping my rubber bands all together.

Cottage cheese and sour cream containers are nice for storing leftovers, but I tend to forget items I can't see, so I rely more heavily on glass jars and glass containers.  I'm slowly collecting those glass rectangular pieces with snap on plastic lids.  Love them!   I  pick up one or two at a time when I'm in Ross or Marshalls where they are cheapest.  I do save the lids off the sour cream and cottage cheese containers to put between homemade burgers.  Makes taking out one or two from the freezer a cinch and because I can pat the burger out to fit the lid, I have a controlled portion as well.  And individual ice cream cartons or yogurt lids make great slider burger portions as well as keeping them separated.

This Week In My Home: Cramming in All We Can

This week in my home...
...I am weary this evening, and so I'm late in posting.  I do apologize. Inspired thinking simply isn't happening today. 

We made another flying family visit, going down to south Georgia so we could be with Josh for his birthday party.  Officially his birthday is on Monday but it was far more practical and better attended on Saturday than it might have been on Monday.  I was surprised at the changes in my boys in just two weeks time, just as I was surprised at Taylor's fast forwarding last weekend.  Josh was adorable telling guests, "Welcome to my home, guys!" I didn't expect to have a lot of his time or attention with so many guests, some of whom were his size so he had important things to do.  I did get a few snuggles and hugs and kisses towards the end of our day there.   

Tuesday Isaac will be 4 months old.  His eyes have cleared of that almost cloudy baby fuzz and are the clearest, most earnest blue you'd ever hope to see.  He had staring contests with everyone because he is a studier of people and there were plenty to study.  To Grampa he cooed and gurgled and the two napped together in the big recliner.  Then he happily snoozed on Gramma and took a break between naps to frown and stare at  Uncle Moose and then came right back to Gramma for a follow-up nap.  The big excitement of his day was getting his diaper changed at which point he kicked and gurgled and cooed and arched his back to let me know I could pick him up at any time.

But I confess it's hard to make that trek and then back in the same day and despite a good night's sleep I feel weary.  That's our third weekend of travel in three weeks time.  I'm worn down. I'm afraid we've done all we can this month to cram in the family visits and we won't likely do this again together for some time.  

Frugal Friday: Savings Is Always Normal

Saturday:  Off to visit Katie today.  I packed some chicken breasts and blueberry cobbler for dinner, had ice from the icemaker to keep things cold.  I also carried along a packed picnic supper for us.

I encouraged John to stop for breakfast.  Yes, I did.  I paid out of my pocket money.

Had a perfectly lovely day and that is priceless.  My little granddaughter is a delightful age, learning an amazing number of things daily.  There were lots of snuggles, and I loved that she had to 'cook' for me.  Perhaps we're raising another foodie who enjoys cooking and serving to loved ones as much as Katie and Sam and Amie and I enjoy it.  I love seeing it translate to the newer generation of our family.

Left my sunglasses at Katie's.  We have this ironclad rule that it has to be mighty important to warrant turning around and going back.  Sunglasses do not rate a turn around.  Instead we stopped at a gas station at roadside.  I got some big Jackie O type sunglasses (the only style available) for $3.99.  Out of my pocket though John gave me money to buy.  I won't allow him to pay for a silly mistake on my part.  Funny thing is Katie left her sunglasses here last time she visited and I'd just returned them to her today.

Katie sent home leftovers for a meal for us today.  John's portion went into his lunch.

Got on the scale at Katie's.  We don't have one here at home.  I was aware that I'd gained weight but somehow seeing the actual number on the scale was just the wake up call I needed to refocus myself on my personal health.  I'll be changing up my eating habits and utilizing my measuring cups once more.

Thursday Homemaking Chatter

It was so cool outdoors this morning, I was able to open windows.  The AC didn't kick on until about noon so the house got filled with all that nice fresh air.  It was lovely to sit by the window and listen to the birds going crazy with busyness.  It's rained a good bit this week and was cloudy but the birds were just reveling in the sunny morning.  I couldn't blame them at all.  It's what prompted me to rush outdoors as soon as I'd had breakfast and play about in the flower beds. 

Would you like to mosey around the flower beds for a bit?  I've been working in them this week.  No, not around the front part yet, but here along the back.  I've shifted some pots about and moved some decorative items from one bed to another and then I filled two more planters with soil and lily bulbs with daffodil and muscari underneath.  I've been reading that layering planters is the way to extend the life in pots over a number of seasons.  One thing would be filling out while another is dying back.  I have day lily in one pot and Asiatic lilies in another.   They aren't showy just yet, but hopefully they'll get there before long.  I didn't take a picture of that end of the back bed since it would just look like five empty pots, lol.  But here's the little bed at the back porch this season:

June is Peach Season

In the late winter months when cold weather usually starts to pall, I remind myself that peach season needs those good cold hours to make the fruit.  Then sometime in late February (usually) the trees begin to bloom.  Often you can see acres and acres of trees blooming at once.  It's the loveliest thing!

From there on we pray the cold weather is over and done and no harm comes to our peaches.

I personally like freestone peaches which tend to come in a bit later, towards July.  However, this week we noted as we drove down to John's work place that peach harvest was in full swing.   These early peaches are known as 'cling' peaches because they cling to the stone.  These are generally what you find canned in stores.

Tuesday at Aldi we noted the peaches were small.  I skipped buying them because there is just something different about the peaches sold in a grocery store and those sold in a packing shed.  You can't say I'm talking nonsense, but I assure there is.

I generally buy my peaches while they are still firm but just picked from the trees.  Then I bring them home and let them slowly finish ripening.

I have two early memories of peaches.  One was of being at Grand mama C's home.  She always froze her fruits and vegetables in these tidy little white waxed boxes that you slipped a plastic bag inside and tied off with a twist tie.  The box kept the fruit flat.  I really must look for some of those little boxes because they do make for a very neat fit in the freezer!

June: My Favorite Things

I enjoyed doing a product listing of favorite finds in April and thought I'd keep it going.  I'd meant to do a post for May but as usual once I focus on a big theme like Charm School that's about all I work with.   

I'm giving an honest unbiased review of these items and sites.  I did not receive anything as compensation nor are any items, stores, etc.  in this post affiliated links.

Last month I shared food products and a few skincare items.  This month it's clothing and beauty products.

Bras are the bane of most of our lives.  Finding what fits well and is true to size and supports and lifts and prevents backaches, doesn't roll up or continually have sliding straps, etc., etc....Well you know.  Last year Bridgette Rae had a giveaway on her fashion blog for a Warner's No Side Effects bra.  I'm game to enter giveaways and usually don't win, but this time I did.   In my letter to the team doing the giveaway I'd complained that I was at that stage where I had side boob and was tired of that overhang and lack of support in my usual bras.  I think they felt I was their primary target audience.  I was so excited when I got the notification I had won. 

For June: A Fresh Start

 I confess, when I prayed for a fresh start this month, this wasn't quite what I had in mind...

Windows 10 updated over the weekend.  It was a massive update that required multiple restarts.  I use Microsoft Edge which basically hijacked my computer last year and refused to let me use any other operating system.  The update apparently does allow you to use other browsers but it essentially wiped out every one of my saved favorites, my blog list, my favorites files which were packed, my Pinterest boards...I've had to find passwords for accounts that I thankfully had to renew recently because of my email account exodus from Yahoo, so I can access my most important accounts online.  But yeah.  Everything was new and unfamiliar and every last old thing was gone.

I am a little sad to see some of my files and things gone.  I was much amused that all of the files are gone but I was able to migrate files from early 2016 over from Google Chrome which I wasn't able to do last year when Edge took over. 

It made me wonder what if we had something like this in life, where the clock was literally turned back, we were restored to a set date in the past and had the opportunity to begin anew from that point. I tried to think what date I'd choose to 'begin again'.  Food for thought, right?

I guess I've had that time in my life already.  It was the date about two years ago when I found myself in the hospital.  I had come very close to dying twice during that time.  I looked long and hard at my life and determined that if I was being given a second and third chance then I was doggone well going to change some things!  And I did.

This Week In My Home: A Temporary Normal

This week in my home...

...We return to a temporary form of normal.  John started back to work today and to my knowledge will work every day he's meant to of June and possibly an extra day or two that are half shifts.   This will end this particular work schedule.  Since we don't know just how things will go come July 1,  I am tackling the house and then going to start to work on something,  though I'm not really sure just what at present.  Perhaps I'll start to work on a half dozen somethings.  I am just anxious to get knee deep in a project.  I'm done with the excuses of 'no money to spend' and 'it's too hot', both of which are very true.  But bored is just no way at all to live and I cannot fathom going through summer bored to tears as I've been this last week with  I can't stand it!  I've got all sorts of things I'd like to work upon, some quiet, some creative, some hard labor and some routine.  Seems to me that's a pretty good mix in any day!

But first...isn't that the way we must always begin, at the very beginning?  Yes, it is.  But first, I need a plan, a focus point and a list to get me going.  I'll be working on those things this week.

I'm also sorry to say that I stepped on the scales at Katie's house this weekend.  Ack.  I've gone backwards.  I'll spend the summer getting that gain off me once more.  I remind myself that I've done this before and I can do it again.   I knew full well that the tell tale snug clothing was telling me a very true story but I just didn't want to acknowledge it.  I also know that a body has a weight set point just like our spending has a mental set point.  I'm creeping hard upwards to an old set point and I refuse to go there.  I'm going to make my former lower weight my NEW set point and that's my target for now.

Frugal Friday: Rainy Days and Holidays

Hello!  I missed blogging last week about my frugal week.  I'll add in the few things I can remember before I start this week's daily record.

I can remember little of the previous weekend.  I know that we stopped by the grocery but we picked up very little, as we knew we'd be leaving during the next day.

On Monday, we turned the AC up to 80F before we left home.  We unplugged many of the more easily reached plugs, all of which were not on surge protectors.  We went to John's workplace to pick up the paycheck and make our deposit and pay bills.  Then we were off on our vacation trip at last.  We chose a new to us route that was meant to be shorter.  I can tell you honestly that it just takes a certain amount of time to reach our destination and it takes that amount of time no matter which way we go.

We stopped at a grocery near our destination and picked up a few items.  We spent about $50 overall, mostly on things like fresh local fruits and adult beverages and deli meats.  We packed a lot of our food here at home, bought mostly at Aldi and frozen.  We used the frozen food to serve as ice packs for the cold stuff.

We didn't stop for supper though it got very late.  We waited until we were in our room and then we prepared a simple meal for ourselves.

Tuesday we visited one planned site and then ate our midday meal out of the room at a new to us restaurant near the hotel.  The prices were reasonable and the food was quite good.  Since it was meant to rain we decided to spend the rest of the day indoors at the condo.

Iced Tea Chat: Carefree Summer Days

Come in!  It seems like ages since we've had a chat.  I've got iced tea, strawberries and mint.  Choose what you'd like to flavor your tea and let's settle in here on the porch.  The weather is nice enough for April.  I'll pass out fans to keep the gnats away.

I've been so busy I hadn't realized that I'd not had a chat since the start of May.  There's so much I want to say, I hardly know where to start.  So I guess I'll begin at the beginning and work my way forward to now.

In My Home This Week: All Routine