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:

There's an empty spot there middle back where I plan to put the tomatoes once they are big enough to really grow.  Right now they are about 3 inches tall.  Even though I just put some petunias in that gray pot it already looks fuller.

I dug up some petunias from a pot on the patio to put in the gray pot.  I planted some creeping jenny I got from Mama's yesterday into the one I was emptying on the patio.  I planted the tiny cherry tomato plants I got from Mama and dug up a cypress vine volunteer and planted it in a small pot that I placed at the base of the rose bush trellis.  I'm afraid the shade of the pecan tree this evening makes that little pot invisible but it's there.  If I find any more of the cypress vine I'll pop them into the same pot.  That vine is one of my roadside finds that more or less took over.  Even though I've steadfastly pulled out any volunteers since the summer I planted them, I still get a few new plants each year.  It will add a nice bit of color to that area and has such pretty red tubular shaped flowers that the hummingbirds should like rather well.  

I did some weeding in the lily bed at the corner which is a huge mess thanks to Maddie digging up new holes and incidentally transplanting plants here and there.  It's one of only two planted areas that I have.  Everything else is in pots.  After I pulled morning glories up, all wild ones with tinky little flowers and huge leaves, I moved around to weed the mulched area in the bed around my back porch chair garden.  It's not looking as full and lush as it did last year. I blame an abundance of rain and the lack of tall and flowing plants.  I need to get some new things to plant there.  The geranium in the middle chair has done very well and has had up to a dozen stems at a time blooming.

Doesn't the view of the back porch look so much better without that old metal storage shelf there at the end?  I had good intent when I bought that thing and it's not gone to waste.  John claimed it and bolted it to the back of his shed.  He means to put a lean to over that end of his work shed and add a concrete floor and that metal cabinet will be part of his work bench.

I was digging around this morning in the storage on the back porch looking to see how many more sizable pots I have to plant things in.  There's a galvanized pail and a five gallon bucket and three galvanized baskets that I will line with coco liners.  And from there I shall have to either buy more or get very creative!

I love planting in pots because it allows me to keep things from running amok the way they tend to do with my tendency to plant native plants and roadside finds.  Besides John wants to have the skirting about the house redone and something more durable and permanent put in.  I don't want to lose plants due to having them dug up or broken badly or cut back to nothing!  I thought if the beds were mulched and pots set on the mulch we could easily move them.  I figure once we finally get the new skirting done (no date fixed as yet nor even an estimate) then I can plant things in the ground.  And in the meantime, I can see how well things do, whether they prefer more sun or less, more moisture or less, etc.  It's a lot easier to shift a pot  than to shift a bush or flowers planted in the ground.

When I finished the yard work I came indoors and finished cleaning the house.  I vacuumed floors and cleaned baths.  I'd done the rest before slipping outdoors.  Then I sat down next to the open windows and read my Bible. 

This morning my Torah reading was in Exodus.  The Torah is comprised of the first five chapters of the Old Testament.  I read these over multiple times each year.  This morning I was in chapter 6 where the people have just found manna.  I noted that the instructions were to each man to gather what he wanted.  There was no limit.  I think God knew that the human mind is unable to see that enough is enough.  He knew that some would feel deprived at once if they were limited to just so much and no more.  He also knew that there are those who just plan poorly overall.   They would always underestimate their need. However, the verse goes on to say that when the manna was gathered and measured, each person had the same portion whether they gathered much or little.  God's blessing is the same for each of us.  I find that comforting.

The cat was enjoying the morning sun as well.  I was finishing up my Swagbucks hour early this morning when I glanced out the window at the set of steps under the pecan tree.  There she sat on the top step, in full sun, looking for all the world like the queen on her throne.  I was much amused to watch her step down to the step nearest the bird bath then step over into the bird bath from there so that she could take a drink.   No wonder the birds have deserted my bird bath!   I'm sure they've seen her footprints in the bottom of the bowl!

I haven't added pots of flowers to the steps yet this year.  That was part of my reason for checking pot inventory.  I know I have some in clay pots in the shed that I picked up in Granny's yard years ago, after she'd died.    I need shade loving plants to go there under the pecan tree.  Last year I did flowers but this year I'd like to mix foliage and flowers I think.  It may well prove I end up with some of the plants I've been rooting.  I just planted a little more than 1 dozen purple petunias in cell packs.  I want them to get strong roots and hardened off a bit before I plant them in a pot.  I have coleus and basil and spearmint and more petunias rooting in glass jars on the kitchen window shelf.  I'm limited by time on this end.  But I must say that it's nice to know I can grow my own plants.  It's a savings and in the meantime my plants are appreciative of the pruning.

I was looking at the deep purple petunia on the front porch.  You'd never know that a mere tree weeks ago I pinched off 4-6 inches of the top of those plants.  It's loaded down with a hundred blooms and has grown 8 inches at least.  I may well pinch it back again when this lot of things are rooted.  I love the smell of petunias and it's awfully nice of an early morning to step into the kitchen and smell their fragrance.  In the photo above you can see the deep purple ones I've just planted in the tall bottle.  There are nice strong roots on the ends of those stems.

After Bible study, I cleared off my desk and that was a task.  I don't know just why my desk always stays such a mess, because I only sit down there once a day at best and I leave it neat as can be when I get up.  Yet the next morning,  the top will be littered with mail, with torn off address labels waiting to be shredded, pens, pieces of paper with reminder notes...always a mess! 

After that, I was in the storage pantry before lunch, trying to straighten it up and see where I could fit in more stuff.  I'd noted on Tuesday when I was putting away my groceries the number of things missing...and how there wasn't any space at that time to put any more items.   I'm slightly hindered as it's also the guest closet, the linen closet, my tool closet, and gift wrap closet.  It's also where I store the AC filters and the high chairs for the kiddos and sometimes the vacuum.   It's a small walk in and is good size but figuring out how to fit in all that must fit takes a deal of organization and a lot of thought.

The first thing I did today was to put things away.  I had a big boot sized shoe box that just needed to go.  It's a nice box.  I'd had it in my closet but needed additional space and moved it to that closet.  Well, now I need that space.  I realized I've held on to that box for several years now because it's a nice box with a pretty pattern but the truth is I've never stored anything in it because I couldn't figure what would best be stored in it.  I came very close to sliding it under the bed in the guest room and caught myself just in time.  Really?  Store it under the bed, empty, without any use for it at all?  Nope.  Not gonna do it.  And in the end I was happy I hadn't because I am using that under bed space to store the other table leaf, and a box of souvenir ephemera we've accumulated over the years.  Not storing the shoe box too meant I had room to slide a box of two light fixtures we'd bought there, as well.  Sam's going to put them up for us next time he's here...or so I plan and have planned for the past year with each visit, lol.

I had a bunch of linens and quilts on the floor.  I can't reach to put them away without the step stool which we keep in the kitchen where I can't reach the upper shelf if I don't have a step stool.   In a perfect world I'd have a step stool in both rooms and a third in the guest bath for little ones who potty and wash their hands.   I'll have to put it on my list to look for two more.  This morning I made sure to take along my step stool.  I  did a quick look over of things up there and then sent out two texts offering Katie and Bess each an item I no longer am using that I didn't see me storing.  Both wanted the item I offered them so that's two more pieces going off to be well used elsewhere.  I shifted the toilet paper and paper towel off the closet shelf and that opened up space to store the quilt and blankets that needed to go up there.

Of course, this just created more mess.  Isn't that the way it always is?  In order to clean up one mess, you must shift things which creates another?  It didn't take long to figure things out from that point, though.

I reasoned I could store items I need less often at the back of the pantry shelving.  So back there went boxes of zippered bags and empty canisters that I am sure will come in handy in the future when I need further storage.  I quickly sorted and organized the canned foods and condiments.  That left me with space to add more items on the third shelf.  I also went through the storage bin on the bottom shelf and took out the shoebox meals I'd popped in there with other dry goods I'm storing.  That freed up more room in that bin for future purchases.

I put the shoe boxes on the top of this bookcase and then arranged my stored toothpaste, coffee filters (in the blue container), tissues and napkins, waxed paper and foil on the first shelf.  Now I have an empty shelf on the bookcase since the light fixtures and my enamel water bath canner were moved.  I pushed the canning pot to the back of the bottom shelf of the main pantry shelving.  The canner is big enough I can reach it just fine but smaller items tended to get way lost on the back of that bottom shelf.  I put my shoe box of candles on the shelf in front of the canner.  I don't need those often, either but I like having them easily accessible.  I will likely be emptying that bottom shelf this week as well.  I think it's time to restock the bathroom with toilet paper and I can put a 36 roll pack under our sink.  Time to restock on that, too....Where's my list?

I sorted out my shoe box meals before I stacked them.  I have four of those fully assembled right now.  The box pictured has had a can of mushroom soup added to it.  I have a simple crockpot recipe that I think I can replicate in the oven for this meal.  I would drain the chicken, put in the bottom of a casserole dish, put mushroom soup over and then pour the dry stuffing over top and pop on the lid to bake.  I have cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and green beans with the meal.

In another box, I put a box of  spaghetti, a can of tomatoes and another of mushrooms and a box of Pistachio pudding mix.  I was thinking perhaps a packet of those dry crisp bread sticks would be fun with that meal.  And I'd like to add a small canister of Parmesan cheese, the shelf stable sort as well.

I have a can of vegetarian chili, a box of corn muffin mix, a can of Pineapple rings in a third box.  And in a fourth box I have a box of macaroni and cheese, a can of 3 bean salad, a box of strawberry jello.  I'd like to add some of the Dream Whip topping mix to that one.  It's really a sort of nostalgia box, lol, all things from my childhood.

I've had a few ideas more.    I think I'm going to end up making a further post just about shoe box dinners!

 I'm not saying these are inspired meals that will wow anyone but they are complete save a salad and a few necessary refrigerated items and they would fill us up. I think just about anyone could put together a meal in time of need with these shoe box dinners.  It's really simple cooking overall and everything is right there in the box except a few wet ingredients. I really do want to explore these shoe box meals and use them, just to get a feel for how satisfying they are and how I might make them better.

I need to move some picture frames out of the closet and out to the shed.  I can free up some more space and possibly put in another shelving unit.  I need to purchase a couple of bins that are air tight, too.  I can fit one more of the five gallon buckets atop the other two so there's that much more storage space for things.

Then it was lunch time.  Wednesday while out with Mama, I had a very flavorful salad that had some nice heat to it.  I wanted to do something similar but save a few more calories.  My salad the day before had fried chicken tenders.  Today I made a big salad with lettuce, tomato, and raw onion.  I added some lemon juice to the bottled ranch dressing.  I'm not fond of bottled Ranch but I bought for the kids.  I much prefer to mix it myself.  The lemon juice did change the flavor up a bit and added a nice sharp note to the salad.

I had some boneless skinless chicken breast out which I cut into halve width and length wise.  I seasoned the pieces with chili, cumin, salt and pepper.  I had some chipotle chilies in adobo sauce in the freezer.  I took out one of those chunks.  I put some oil in my pan, put in a chicken breast and sprinkled on a tiny bit of minced garlic.  I browned the chicken and when it was nearly done I dropped I the chunk of chili in adobo sauce.  As it thawed I realized I had TWO chili's in there.  Wowza.  I removed the chicken, added a bit of water and scraped the browned bits off the bottom of the pan, then reduced the pan drippings while I mashed the chilies.

When the chicken was cool, I chopped a piece and spread it on my salad, added a handful of shredded Gouda and then drizzled some of the chipotle sauce lightly over the chicken, added my ranch dressing and hoped for the best, lol.  I was afraid I'd made a very spicy dish after all, but I say sincerely it was quite nice.  It had a depth of heat that was just almost hot but wasn't.  It was super flavorful, too, which I'd noted made the salad the day before quite satisfying to me.

Well I've a pair of John's pants that need mending so I'd best get at that task.  It's been very pleasant chatting about my homemaking today.

later:  This was meant to go out yesterday.  I won't tell you all how many times I lost this post, wrote another and then lost it, and finally the original reappeared...then photos wouldn't load and blogger froze up.  I finally gave up last night about 11pm.  So here you go on Friday, my Thursday post finally up!


Carolyn @ Our Gilded Abode said...

Thank you for all the flower bed photos you share. It's such fun to see all your pretty flowers and how you arrange them in containers. You're inspiring me to finally add some color to my bare front lawn flower bed. Thanks so much!!

Karla Neese said...

I keep meaning to plant things - at least some zinnias for our sunny front yard, but the mobile home park keeps messing with our front yard (it has one of the park's 3 storm shelters in it) and I'm wary of wasting my time and money and effort due to their horrible care of "our" yard. They have messed up our yard so much that my husband told them they are now responsible for mowing it so that we don't mess up our mower. In the process, they've messed up our skirting something horrible - holes all over the place, a piece of the trim is missing from when they dug the hole to replace the shelter. It's just a mess and it's disheartening because we had just had the skirting replaced a year or two before this all happened in the last year.

But, what I was going to tell you also - you might have John look into concrete skirting. Here in Oklahoma, I've seen several mobile homes with "concrete" skirting and actually have gotten an estimate. It's not as much as you'd expect and is a really good investment because it is durable. They have a system to put the airflow sections in somehow.

So, perhaps I'll get some pots and flowers for the porch this weekend! I'm also planning to sew myself some new glider cushions now that I have a sewing machine my boss gave me. Ask and it shall be given!

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