The Week Ahead: September's Calling


There is no doubt that a seasonal change is on the way.   I looked out the window last night as we finished our  prayers and it was dark outdoors at half past 8.  The sun slants in through the west from a different angle so that the shade of the pecan tree falls only across half the double window in the living room.  As I looked across the field, I noted that the oak tree on the far border of Sam's land is lightening it's color.   This morning we were up early, before sunrise and the sunrise was spectacular.  We've seen only the most washed out faded sort of morning skies all summer but this morning was full of glory.   I feel almost as though someone should be playing "The Party's Over Now".  Yes,  a bit of drama over summer's ending notes, but you know the older I get, the less I look forward to seasonal changes and the less I feel sure that Autumn is my favorite.  

The Week Behind: I DID


Saturday:  We were sitting here quiet and happy when I got a text from Sam.  "The boys just came inside and asked to 'Go on an Adventure' to your house...Can they come over?"   John and I looked at each other and then I said "Yes. Send them over.  I'll send them back at nap/quiet time."   So they came and the house exploded and they took over tv, kindle and attention, lol.  I made them sandwiches for lunch and then sent them home.  The boys are awfully good about picking up behind themselves so not a big mess to clear up.

Gathering Fragments: Last Full Week of August


Sunday Taylor was playing in my jewelry drawer.  "Can I have this one?" she'd ask, over and over again.  Nine times out of ten if I said "Yes," the item was suddenly less desirable.  "I like it...but not that much.  I think I don't want it." Oh, okay.

Well that's kind of how I get towards the end of the middle of the pay period.  We're not going to go hungry but nine times out of ten, I can only seem to focus on what we're out of, or what we've less of.  We've plenty of food, and I like it all... but not that much! lol

Planning meals this week was a little bit harder only because I am nearly out of the more desirable fresh produce.  I will get a new bag this week.  I still have a cucumber and eggplant from last bag to use. Have I planned either into my menu?  No. I don't have the foods I would like to have on hand.  Never mind.  I'm going to use what I have!

This Week In My Home: Let's Just Do Something!


I am beyond over trying to work out those last two weeks of jobs.  Sigh.  No good, no good at all, came of all that struggle to do things.  I can't say I'll ignore those tasks altogether but there's a reason why I've no enthusiasm for them, so let's do something else...Now to figure out what something else shall be.

We've one  whole week of August to go and then just a day or two and it's over and done.  That makes me sad, it does truly, because we all know that regardless of what a calendar says, when September rolls around we cease to think of summer.  We tend to tuck our chins down and roll our sleeves up and start all those seasonal change tasks.  We want to put by a bit more if we can and get our homes ready for the cold months ahead.  We want to take advantage of fresh air and hot sunshine and wring the last lovely drops of summer from the days the same way we squeeze a lemon dry trying to get the last bit for lemonade.

Worth Sharing This Week: Little Bits of This and That

Patsy over at A Working Pantry shared an Instagram account, @ThreeRiversHomestead that has issued a challenge for August, Every Bit Counts preserving challenge.  The challenge is to put something by every day of August.  I felt pretty proud of myself with my bit of Fig Jam.  I may not put something away every day this month but I'm sure going to try!  How about you?  Do you can, preserve, make jelly, freeze your summer produce?  

Even though I won't be posting this until first of the week (writing it out on weekend), there's plenty of August left to join in with the challenge.  

The Week Behind: Time for a New Song


Saturday:  John off to men's meeting this morning and I had the house to myself for a couple of hours.  I sipped my blueberry coffee, enjoyed Peach Streusel muffins and peace and quiet.  I couldn't have asked for a better start to my day, especially considering I was up for three hours in the middle of the night for no reason I can name other than waking and finding myself fully awake with no return of sleep.

I've had a lovely day today reading blogs and magazines and planning the week ahead.  It's just the easy sort of Shabat day I like best!

A Local Experiment


Probably the only photo you'll ever see of a haul from my home...

Today I drove into town.  I wanted to go for two reasons.  First to test how well I felt driving with my blocked ear.  My second reason was to see how I might fare in adding to my pantry/freezer by shopping locally.   

Had I felt better about driving, I was going to go on to two other stores in more distant areas, but I found overall that I didn't feel comfortable driving.  I am either oblivious entirely to things or I am hypervigilant.  Even with low traffic, such as we have mid-morning in our little town, I will stick to being driven about for a week or two or three...I make myself nervous.  I certainly don't want to cause an accident because I am unable to hear!

Gathering Fragments: More Than I Expected


I've just been rambling in my fridge.  Remember how I said, "Oh there's not much that will need using there..."?   Ha!  

This Week In My Home: Second Verse, Same As the First


Anyone else remember the old Herman Hermit's song?  That line is my tune this week.  I planned.  I started tasks.  I failed.  This week I start over again on that long list from last week and try my best to conquer feeling unwell and get things done.  I still might not finish it all, but I'll knock off a few more tasks.  I've added a couple of new items, too, but that's it.  I don't mean to set myself up for failure twice!

The Week Behind: Maybe Not?


Saturday:  I was so restless last night that I slipped off to the guest room to toss and turn.  I couldn't breathe through my stuffy nose nor get comfortable.  I do find the firmer mattress has it's merits when my back aches and I did eventually go off to sleep.

I took my leisurely cup of Blueberry coffee in the sunny kitchen sitting area.  It was lovely to read my Bible and take my time.    While I was sitting there John asked if I'd like to grocery shop today but I declined.  We will be in the same area tomorrow for church, we have nothing to do all morning long after that.  I do enjoy my quiet Sabbath day at home and I rarely agree to do anything that will disturb it.

Bess walked over about 10ish and had a cup of the blueberry coffee and we chatted a little bit before she headed home.  I played about with genealogy, a game I've been enjoying on my phone, reading blogs and not much else.  Meals have been easy.  

Now that we're drawing near the end of the day, the dishes have been cleared up and a full load run through the dishwasher.  It has been a lovely day, quiet and peaceful and easygoing.  

Sunday:  I forgot to set my alarm last night.  Thank goodness, John remembered to set his!  We were up and off to church at our usual time.  We're always a bit late it seems but we do our very best to arrive on time to that earliest church service.

Plans today for after church was grocery shopping.  I went to Aldi and to Publix.  I spent my full budget.  John asked if this was 'normal' and I told him I'm afraid we're going to find this is altogether normal.  At Aldi we picked up nothing extra that wasn't slated for the grocery budget, or that was unusual for our pantry and freezer.  At Publix, we spent about $12 on our lunch items and generally avoided even looking at anything that wasn't on my list to buy.  I don't know how we'll fare this month, but I've milk to make yogurt with, as well as to drink, plenty of half and half and some longer last fruits, such as apples and oranges.  I told John I'm just not going to sweat over the budget.  I know I have that bit extra on hand that I'd intended to spend anyway and we'll use it and we just aren't going to worry otherwise...He seemed to feel we'd need to add in foods we typically don't eat to lower costs but I assured him at this point in time we needn't worry over that.

Put away groceries after we got in.  This took about an hour.  I told John it's so easy to pile in the buggy but it makes real work when you're hauling it in from the car and taking bags to the pantry and having to find space to put it all.  He agreed, as well he might, since he's the main one hauling things about for me.

I put together a decent enough supper for us of fresh celery sticks, deli purchase (at Aldi) macaroni salad, and some Buffalo chicken tenders.  I bought a lot of convenience items on Friday evening and for the Chinese bowls and the dumplings, and a frozen pizza from a brand we like.  I probably won't do that sort of thing again because I know I can make better myself.  But I will consider buying these Buffalo chicken tenders again, simply because for an item ready in twenty minutes it was rather decent.  As for the macaroni salad, I've tried and tried to make it.  John simply doesn't care for my homemade macaroni salad except the tuna pasta one that I make.  It's the dressing that he likes on the deli salad.

It was a long day overall.  Up early, all that grocery shopping and putting things away, doing a big load of laundry, remaking the bed with fresh linens, unloading the dishes I washed Saturday evening and sorting out the house overall.  I was rather happy to settle into my chair after supper and simply relax.

Monday:  I woke with an aching ear and a head packed full of cotton.  My ear malady has returned I'm sorry to say.  I am using basil oil and taking my decongestants and Tylenol.  This is the usual ear problems I have, twice a year, late winter and late summer.  Ho hum.  It doesn't make me feel very happy but the doctor assures me there's nothing there but just fluid and I can hum and do what I'm doing or whine and do what I'm doing...Sigh.

I had planned to do a whole house task of floors today.   Well I didn't quite make it.  I just don't feel well and it was the best I could manage to vacuum the main living area, tiny hallway and our bedroom deeply.  I still need to do the guest room and I'll need to sweep and mop the hard floors, but not today I won't!   It took me about 3 hours work to get the vacuuming done, what with moving furniture about and all.

I also watered front porch plants and the end of the patio ones, including that corner plot.  I cut flowers.  I cleaned house before I did the vacuuming and I set out foods to be dealt with today.  I have a chicken recipe cooking for our supper.  I have browned a pound of ground meat with onions and garlic.  Half went into the fridge for a meal this week and half into the freezer for another day.  I have rice cooked for two meals, and a half dozen boiled eggs on back of stove.  I baked a special peach pie recipe that I've never had before.  I've messed up a double sink full of dishes.  I've also cut up and portioned and put away the meats I bought yesterday, which included a corned beef brisket, a top round steak, and  a packet of Picada Asada meat.  I have folded and put away clothes.  John skipped breakfast, I found items to put out for lunch, and I have a plan for supper which is mostly prepared.  

I am tired.  I will need to go into town this evening to pick up Caleb from nursery since Katie and Chad's work hours prevent their being there on time.  It is my plan to have supper all ready for our return, though we will need to reheat some portion of it.

I didn't feel up to gathering fragments today, not much anyway.  And that's okay.  Sometimes things just don't go our way and we're forced to step back a little more than we might want to.  I think I'm going to gift myself a nap now.

I changed up a recipe that calls for beef chuck roast (Mongolian Beef) and used chicken thighs instead.  It turned out really good!  I'm glad I made this substitute because thighs are certainly a much lower priced meat than chuck roast and it makes the recipe that much more versatile in my opinion.  I served the chicken with wild rice and steamed Broccoli.  It was as much stem as it was florets but I'm tired of wasting the stems and if cooked until tender it's quite edible.

Tuesday:  I am not feeling well but I know I won't feel any worse if I work, lol.  So I went outdoors this morning and got all the sticks up from under the Pecan tree, most of them up from the Sweetgum tree bed and weeded about another 1/2 of the area that needed weeding.  That seemed like plenty of work to me for outdoor work.

After I came back indoors, I sat down to cool off and looked up how to clear a blocked Eustachian tube which is the problem I'm having at present, result of that slight head cold last week.  I found a whole YouTube by a chiropractor of exercises and massages one might do to help unblock the Eustachian tube.  I immediately put these things into practice and repeated them periodically all through the day.  It can't hurt...

I made tuna fish salad for our lunch, using a diced apple to both stretch the tuna and cut down on the acidity of it.  I use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of finely diced apple, 1 big heaping tablespoon of sweet pickle relish, about 2 tbsps, of mayonnaise (NOT heaping) and 1 finely diced hard boil egg, to 1 can of drained tuna.  This generally makes enough for three biggish or four regular sized sandwiches, depending on the size of your bread slices.

I spoke with Becca this morning and told her I'd take a produce bag this week.  I didn't know that Bess was going to visit, but Becca texted me that she was sending the bag with Bess to save me a trip over (it's about an hour round trip).  I really appreciated that.

My bag contained tomatoes, pears, a bell pepper, spinach, basil, green beans, okra, cucumbers.  I snapped the beans right away and then put them in boiling water to blanch.  I removed only half of them, added diced potatoes to the remaining beans to cook for our supper.  I  put the blanched beans immediately in an iced water bath and then dried them off to flash freeze for the freezer.  

I diced the okra right away and dusted heavily with cornmeal and froze in a container.  I'll fry this in the future.  This is the way I grew up eating Okra, not battered as I've done the last two times, but simply salt and peppered and dusted with cornmeal then sauteed in a little oil until crispy.

Our supper tonight was Pan Seared Cubed Steak, fresh green beans with baby potatoes, and fresh sliced tomato.  John tickled me when I sat our plates on the table.  "Boy!  What are the poor folks eating tonight?"  I laughed and said "This is purely country cooking.  It's how I grew up eating."  And it was, too.  We didn't eat 'gourmet', which is what Katie told my cousin was how I cooked, lol.  No in my childhood, it was simple foods cooked as well as we could and using the freshest possible ingredients, especially in summer when the gardens were producing.  

Off to go pick up Caleb this afternoon and he felt much better.  He tickled John because he insisted on standing up and then jumping up and down to indicate that he wanted to get into his jumper seat, lol.  He spent a good fifteen minutes working off that energy and then was ready to have his supper.  It was good to see him feeling more lively.

I know I did more on this day but I cannot remember what else I did.

Wednesday:  I had a brief moment last night when I felt the pressure release in my ear...That to me is a most hopeful sign.  It came a lot sooner than it did last time I dealt with this.  I continue with the basil oil and massage and exercises.  I discontinued the decongestant.  Knowing how my body works, I'm following my intuition.  There is a point where decongestant is helpful and while my doctor recommended I do several dosages daily, I felt strongly that this was making the remaining mucous thicker rather than thinner.  Not taking decongestant in 12 hours, I found I have had two more incidences of moments without the constant tinnitus and pressure.  I'll take moments of freedom because I know it's a sign of this mess breaking up.

Peach streusel muffins for breakfast started our day, with hardboiled eggs.  That was just the beginning of the kitchen morning.  I set sourdough English muffins up last night, using the Bigger Bolder Baking recipe once more, as I wanted to see if I could catch the 'feel' of this dough.  The muffins turned out okay.  I made mine a little smaller and not quite thick enough but they are prettier than the last ones I tried.

I also made bagels today, getting more than a dozen from that recipe (Nikki Vegan Bagels on YouTube).  I cut the Acorn squash and deseeded the halves then put them in the oven with the bagels since it was on anyway.

I made Yogurt.  Honestly there are days when it seems like the gas on my stove runs slow...It took forever for that milk to heat to 185f today.  Other days it seems like it heats up far too quickly. I'm convinced I had evaporated milk by the time I got it to the right temperature.  I had sterilized my jars earlier and used that same hot water to boil the bagels.  I dumped it out and washed the pot, heated more water for incubating the yogurt.   When this is done tonight, I will put that water over outdoor plants once fully cooled.

Then I started making lunches for John and I.  He had spent the morning mowing while I worked in the kitchen.   My lunch was eaten while timing bagels in the oven.  While he was eating lunch, I was doing my dinner prep for tonight.  I've changed my menu from taco bowls to either nachos or tacos.  I didn't realize I had so many riced based dishes on the menu this week and I decided to eliminate one of them. 

And in between breads rising and milk heating and all of that, I got our bills done for the month and have those things ready to go into the mail this evening when we go into town.  I worked hard.  This is one of those days that sounds like so little when written out but which in actually took quite a long while!

I washed a full load of dishes in the dishwasher and several sinks full as the morning went on.  I unloaded the dishwasher this evening while heating up the taco meat and shells.

Thursday:  John is catching on.  He planned out this morning's breakfast menu last night and added, "And I'll use up what was left from our taco toppings in the omelet."  Well good on him!  It was a delicious omelet and I appreciated the break from making breakfast.

We ran errands this morning.  It didn't take so long to do since we remained within the county, but it was a pleasant enough outing.   The main highway between the two towns is being repaved.  We noted that if we returned by the same route we'd have to wait in a long hot line of cars to get past the area being paved today.  I pointed out a roadway that would take us along a country road back to our town where we were running our last errand.

It was a nostalgic drive for me, taking an old county road named for part of our family and past my great great aunt's former home place as well as my great grandmother's old house.  There was plenty of new houses along the old country roads but here and there we'd pass a house I could recall passing as a child on trips with Granny out to visit Big Mama.  It's a strange thing to have the mind telescope back through time and see the roadways as they were fifty odd years ago as well as seeing them as they are today.  I can recall many a summer morning spent driving out to Big Mama's to spend the day with her.

John stopped to pick up a laundry list of parts for necessary repairs and maintenance on things.  I sat in the car and watched videos while he did that.

Home again, I put out a simple lunch of leftovers: cubed steak, macaroni salad, avocado and lettuce from last night.  It made a decent enough lunch.  I think tonight I'll opt for the Twice Baked potato menu since we've had meat for breakfast and for lunch.  

At this point it was past 2pm...and I figured anything I might accomplish was never going to be completed by the time I needed to leave home to pick up Caleb from nursery.   I opted instead to make our supper ahead so that I could heat and eat when we walked back in.  I  read over my to do list for this week and noted that I had touched on several items on my list but nothing is completed...Well then it will just go on next week's list unless I get it all done tomorrow and that's not very likely.

Supper:  Twice Baked Potatoes, Lima Beans, Green Salad.   

Worked on genealogy this evening and had some lovely stumbles that gave me more information than I'd had on relatives who'd previously been elusive.  

Friday:  Can I just laugh over my plans for the week?  I woke with my ear feeling better but still not normal and an aching back from sleeping on two pillows to prop myself up for better drainage.  It took me a little while to get going this morning.  After I'd made my way slowly through a cup of coffee, I made us a breakfast of  English Muffins with egg and cheese.  We call them McCheney's in our house. 

Bess texted asking if they might come over today.  We'd planned to get together yesterday afternoon but none of our plans jelled.    I thought about my list and thought about Josh starting school on Monday and decided I'd heaps rather have a family day than a 'knock it off the list' day.  So I hurried through clearing away things and making the bed and told Bess to come on over.

It was a lovely morning.  Today the boys had time with Grampa in the living room while Bess and I had time in the kitchen acting like adult women instead of Mamas.  I held Millie after Grampa had a nice long session with her and just enjoyed my time with the girls.   Of course, Isaac and Josh both came in to get a little attention from me, but mostly they played with Grampa and that was fine for this visit.

I baked a loaf of bread for Shabat and used the whey from Bess in the loaf and about 11:30 I mixed up pizza dough using more of the whey.  I find that warming it to just room temperature it's working just fine in the baked items.  Everything I've used it in thus far has been a yeast bread and it's not minding one bit the use of whey over water.

I let the boys make their own pizzas...I'm glad they chose small 4 inch pie tins to make pizza in because they both refused to eat it after it was baked.   Silly boys.  We adults enjoyed ours but there's plenty of pizza left over for John and I to make a lunch or two over the weekend.

The boys picked up the play area, Bess picked up the living room and I cleared up the kitchen.   They had planned to walk home but it began to thunder so I told her I'd run them home.   We made it out the door just as the rain began to come down.

As we jumped in the car, so did River and Rufus...I've been letting Rufus ride with me up to Bess' because he is an old dog and will run all the way up the road behind my car and then run all the way back too when I start home and never stop to rest himself.  We figured both dogs would just get out at her house and go indoors with them, but no, they did not.  Nor did they willingly leave the car when I got home.  It took quite a bit of fuss and persuasion and lifting to get them out of the car after I got back here.

I started a load of dishes and use the carpet sweeper on the dining area rug and the house was pretty much Shabat ready, despite having company all morning.  Katie texted that we won't need to pick up Caleb this afternoon, which I pretty much expected since Chad works outdoors and storms generally put an end to his work day.

Supper plans: Stuffed Acorn Squash, Sauteed Spinach   It sounds like a light meal but there's rice in with the meat I'll stuff the squash with.   I expect there will be leftovers of the squash for another meal.  There were two squash and though they are small, I think it will be too much for us.

It wasn't the week I planned over last weekend, but it's been a week full of living and who would want anything different?

How did your week go?

Gathering Fragments: Second Week of August


I will keep doing this series of posts for a little while longer.  I generally account for these sorts of things within my weekly post where I share frugal kitchen, homemaking and general commentary points of each day.  However, I think it might help me/you/someone else to see these tips all in one place rather than scattered through a daily dairy type post.  That's why I started doing this in the first place.  

Last month I paid close attention to my reading of  previous years' August posts and I noted that scattering them throughout made it a little harder to dig out the nuggets of information.   After watching Amy Maryon do her weekly 'Gathering Fragments', I felt that was one of the most helpful posts she did weekly for me personally.  Hence, here we are.

But I'd like to know your opinions on the matter.  Is this type of post, where I separate out how I used food fragments and lingering pantry items helpful to you?  Does it make you stop and think about your own food stores and the items that you haven't used?  Have you been inspired?  I would love it if you shared some of your ideas for using up items.

All that said, I have been Gathering Fragments in my home this week.  Here's what I've done.

Saturday:  Noted that John left a peanut butter jar on the counter.  This is a sign that he's done with the jar, but he knows I will clean it out properly.   I guess I've taught him something because not just the peanut butter jar...He found a peach with a bruised spot on it and set it in the fridge so I could, in his words,  'use it up'.  I do appreciate that the man has noticed how I do my best to make good use of all our foodstuffs.

Bess, too.  She walked over this morning with a big two quart jar about half full of whey left from straining her yogurt.  She mentioned that it freezes well, too.   I'll be happy to try and make good use of this item!

Monday:  Yesterday we went grocery shopping.  I was putting things in the produce drawer and noted that it seemed damp.  Doggone it!  My celery from last month had spoiled and it was well wrapped in foil and everything.  No salvage of that except to use as compost.

Well that made me think of an article I'd read a long while back about what you could compost.  It listed such items as paper towels and paper towel tubes, thin cardboard that had been shredded, etc.   What you shouldn't compost: citrus fruits or onions (they kill worms and take a long time to break down), glossy paper, ashes from a wood fire but not from a charcoal grill nor coal or any type of treated fire logs used in a fireplace.  

I didn't get as much done in my kitchen today as I wanted but I did manage to (a) start dinner (b) scrape out that peanut butter jar, which netted me enough to spread on my morning toast and (c) make a really lovely pie using the two peaches that John put in the fridge.  The bruises on both were really superficial, so I was able to use almost all of them.  

I also pulled out all the older green onions and chopped them.  I put the root ends into my little bowl on the kitchen window shelf to start.  I'll plant them in my planter as soon as they show some type of growth.

Yesterday morning I was trying to slice Friday's bread for toast.  It crumbled at the touch of the knife.  I took the remaining loaf this morning and completely crumbled it then put these crumbs in the freezer.  I'll use these as my fresh bread crumbs.  It freed up space in my refrigerator freezer and compacted down to a smaller space in my chest freezer.

Tuesday:  Went through the fridge and noted I need to use spinach leaves right away.  I also found the ginger root that Bess bought me a few weeks back, which I'd more or less forgotten.  I sliced it and put that into the freezer.

I didn't have any foods to 'gather' or use right away but I am now fully aware of what is in the fridge which means less chance to waste food.  

I did have a bit of food waste.  I think it's because it's not something I typically have on hand, I waited too long to try to use, 2 small Asian pears.  I waited until they were slightly soft, which meant the inside was mushy.  I think it's one of those fruits I should have used while still firm and crisp.

Bess went to visit the girl who sells me the produce bags.  She sent my bag with Bess to save me the trip over to pick it up.  I snapped and blanched green beans, put half in the freezer and cooked the rest for our supper tonight.  I also went ahead and sliced the okra, dusted heavily with cornmeal and put that in a container in the freezer.  Those are my 'every little bit counts' items.

Wednesday:  The bananas we purchased Sunday were at peak ripeness.  I pulled off two for John and I to eat today and immediately put the rest in the freezer in a container marked with how many is in the container.

The avocado Katie gave me was at peak ripeness too.  I diced it, salted it and sprinkled lime juice on it.  I'll have this with my taco meat for supper tonight.  I saved the pit to try and root.  I've had small Avocado trees in the past but never stay on top of them.  They will grow in my area if I move them indoors at night (I mean to lobby hard for a small green house next year...).

As I diced tomato, I noted that some of the seeds and juice were on the counter.  I used a paper towel to wipe this up and will let it dry, then save those little seeds to replant.

Thursday:  John made omelets this morning.  He used the last of the shredded pepper jack cheese, diced tomato and diced green onions in the omelet.  It was really good!

I peeled and sliced three peaches to put into the freezer.

waste:  I had an orange with a bad spot on it.  After reading that this is no good for compost, I decided to toss it into the trash.

Our lunch today was an accumulation of things from the fridge: avocado tossed in lime juice, shredded lettuce, leftover macaroni salad and two pieces of cubed steak from supper the other night.  

We've done such a good job this week of keeping up with things in the fridge but I did note last night when I went to put away the remaining taco shells that I already had an open box with a remainder in it...I guess I'd better move out of the fridge and start looking harder at the cabinets and pantry to see what I might need to use that has been lingering on the shelves.

Friday:  No time to check cupboards today...Bess and Millie and the boys were here visiting this morning and stayed to have lunch.  It was a lovely long visit.   I figured I had two plans for lunch: hot dogs or pizza.  I opted for pizza because it's a great way to use up things in the fridge.  I finished off a jar of black olives, used up spinach and basil from the produce bag, as well as a green bell pepper, some cut onion.   

Iced Tea Chat: Lovely August Things

Hello, dears!  There are lovely things about August.  I know it's terribly hot but that's proper August weather and I'd rather have it hot than unseasonal.  So what are the lovely things about August: the aroma of freshly mown grass, the loud serenade of cicadas in the trees, flowers blooming, fresh garden produce, the sound of canning jars pinging shut, the aroma of a charcoal grill, the sound of children screeching as they dash through a sprinkler or splash in a pool in the yard, the steady hum of mowers all over the neighborhood, the flavor of a fresh ripe tomato and the regret as we bite into the last fully ripened peach of the season...Oh there are so many things to savor about August!

Where are my manners?  Would you like tea or an icy glass of our good well water?  I'm leaning hard on water these days.  I feel it is the most beneficial but I shall have tea.  I can overdo the water a bit and start to feel a little depleted.   I told John this is the worst of times to be out of electrolyte drinks and requested he pick some up when he went to town to get gas for the mower the other day.  I further added to the supply and bought a big tub of powder when we went into the grocery this past weekend.

Where shall I start?   

Josh was to back to school last week but it's been postponed until next week.  Taylor will start kindergarten at the same time.   We shall see how that goes. Isaac says he's going to go to school this year, too, "Grampa school." lol    

It hardly seems right to not have school start at this time of year, but I do understand the cautions. There's been careful instructions issued about wearing masks, and sanitizing hands at home for Josh and a weekly list of rules from the school in the local newspaper.  

The county has done a great deal to insure the students will be safe with checkpoints at the doors and fewer students to a classroom and students staying in classroom all day long and not swapping classes as they had in the lower grades, nor leaving the class room to eat and no public use of fountains.  I do hope they get some sort of recreation time outdoors.   It's hard on 6 year old children to be shut in a room all day long.   

The new year mentality does take hold when the calendar turns to August...I get into that mode myself.  I stocked up on notebooks and paper last week.  I love a neat stack of paper waiting to be filled with plans and dreams and prayers and lists.  I feel just as excited as I did when I was school age.  

The long lonely summers were over and the whirl of school and being around friends five days a week meant much to this country girl.   My parents didn't believe in having friends over to visit or allowing us to go visit anyone other than Granny and on rarer occasions to Grandmother's. While I loved living in the country, I did envy the classmates that lived in town and made visits to one another's homes.  So yes, the school year meant a great deal to us children as it does to Josh.  He too is a country boy and while Sam and Bess do have friends with children his age, they are all busy and visits are few and far between. 

Sunday as we drove to church I admired the lush green fields.  Cotton, soy beans, peanuts are mostly what we see this year and the cotton is blooming.  I spied a crow sitting atop an electric pole surveying a wide open field and wondered if he was admiring the view as I had been.   This summer has been a rare one with just enough rain to water the crops and not so much that they are too saturated to grow well.   It's kept the lawns green and lush, too.  I've seen pear trees heavy with fruit and it appears that peach season was a good one.

It's also meant John is mowing grass a lot this summer.   He mowed on Sunday afternoon and I had some rare quiet time alone which was much appreciated.  It was lovely to sit here and have no television talking.   That is the one thing that I think is hardest about retirement is that the television is almost constantly on.  It makes my head feel overfull at times to have it on so much.   I love these rare moments when it is shut off.

I sat here and just relished it.  I listened to a little soothing music but I shut that off as well and just enjoyed the quietness about me.  I'd worked hard that morning and afternoon and was more than ready to sit and enjoy the peacefulness.  I think it's partly why I slept so very well that night.

I'll not complain too much about the television.  John has picked up several older programs that we're watching nightly, like "Have Gun Will Travel", "The Dick Van Dyke Show", "Dragnet", and occasionally "Bewitched".  It's lighter fare than news commentaries and I enjoy these older programs.  It makes for a more relaxed evening overall.

The week has meandered by.  It seems it's all gone quickly, with tomorrow being Friday, but at the same time, as I look back if feels more leisurely.  This week especially feels leisurely.  I had such a long list of things I meant to accomplish but I've only touched on this thing and that and nothing has really been completed except grocery shopping and bills.  Never mind.  I've tried.

I tackled the blinds last week and got them dusted.  I weeded about the house and nearly finished in a single 30 minute session.  I did get out in the yard to start on that task, but I've done nothing about the porches.  I had to wash and hang out a quilt end of last week when baby boy surprised me with a shower while I was changing his diaper, but no curtains washed and hung to dry though the week has been prime for it.  As I said, I touched on a few jobs, I got little bits done.   My reason for not getting more done is simply that I haven't been well.  My slight head cold has turned into my annual allergy/Eustachian tube blockage and I've been dealing with the side effects of that.  I'm getting better though, having decided that I'd rather listen to my own intuition as to what to do and am having a little success.  It's breaking up far sooner than it did last winter! 

I have been so determined to 'put by' something this year and with more cucumbers and tomatoes than we could easily eat this week, I put up a single pint jar of salsa and another of pickle relish.   I have to say that I was nervous about this bit of water bath canning and it wasn't without trials.  I searched hard to find basic recipes so I had most of the ingredients on hand.  I could find celery seed in the stores easily enough but not one mustard seed was to be had.  I had to order those from Amazon.  

I like freshly ground mustard seed in my homemade blue cheese dressing and as I stood at the stove yesterday I realized that the mustard and celery seed could be used on corned beef along with bay leaf and red pepper.  I cooked a corned beef this past week and there was no pickle seasoning packet with it but really I now have all on hand that I'll need in future.

Anyway, I didn't follow the recipes exactly.  I followed them pretty nearly...I worried about that at first, but then remembered the vast number of recipes I'd read through over the past few days as I sought the 'right' one and how each differed in ingredients or processing time, etc. and decided that as long as I had the basics right I'd likely come out okay.  And I did.  Both jars sealed immediately.  I had a wee bit of pickle relish extra and put that in the fridge.  It tastes GOOD!  We didn't have any extra of the salsa, and since I have a jar of store bought in the fridge, we won't be opening it right away, but I don't mind sharing that I was right proud of those two little pint jars on my counter yesterday.

I have snapped and blanched and frozen green beans, sliced okra and battered some and flash frozen them, and then sliced another batch and dusted those with cornmeal to freezer.  That's the way we did it when I was growing up.  I've put away a few peaches in the freezer.  It's all just bits and pieces but that's okay.  It's a little more than I had before.

Jars...when I went into the cabinet to seek out jars for canning, I found I had two pint jars and 1 quart jar.  That's it.  I can account for one 1/2 pint jar and one pint jar that are in the freezer, and one quart jar and one pint jar in the fridge, but that does not explain where the rest are.  I should have dozens!  Nope.  None to be had.   Where do they disappear to?  In the past I'd used quart jars to store some of my dry goods but over time I've replaced those with canisters or half gallon and gallon jars.  Where did the pint and quart jars go?  I haven't broken them.  I might have passed a few on to the kids with soup in them but they are generally pretty good about returning my jars, usually with something in them...

Well needless to say I am going to be looking for jars and lids and buying them as I see them.  It's one reason I miss estate sales.  There were always plenty of canning jars at estate sales in this area.  In the past a woman wasn't worth her salt who didn't put something up each summer, even if she didn't garden and most of them were gardeners, too...Nowadays, Ball and Mason jars are more likely to be used as drinking glasses and flower vases, especially for country weddings and parties.

Anyway, if I see any jars, I am going to start gathering them, even if it's one or two at a time at a thrift store.  John was watching one of his lawnmowing videos the other day and the man's wife was hunting all over for canning jars.  She'd mentioned in an earlier video that her green beans had gone crazy and I'm pretty sure she meant to can them.  They ended up buying some from friends who had boxes of them in the shed.  John asked, "What?  Is there a shortage on glass jars, too?"  "Yep, there is!" I told him,  "and what's more you're very lucky to find someone willing to pass them on to you, too!"

At one time, Taylor County, and probably other rural counties, too, had a Rural Homemaker's Club.  Can you imagine how nice that must have been?  They met once a month and shared recipes, quilted, had extension service programs, etc.  Doesn't all that just sound lovely?  I'd have enjoyed a group like that to belong to but I admit that by the time I became a full time homemaker, I was the odd one out.  Other women worked part time at the very least, and most were pursuing a career.  Those few who stayed at home full time cared little for the joys of homemaking.   They were more prone to have maids and spend their days shopping, or going golfing.    Yes, I was the odd one out, but it didn't dull my enjoyment of my days puttering about my house and yard and it still doesn't.  And really I guess I do have a sort of homemaker's club albeit an online one amongst so many other like minded women!

We went off to do our monthly lot of errands this morning and took a detour home.  It took me back to my childhood days.  We so enjoyed being at Granny's but even better was to be at Granny's and have her take us out to Big Mama's to visit.   That was the route we took back from the other town today and I was just filled with nostalgia remembering those sunny summer mornings driving out.  I just remembered it's also one of the roads Granny taught us to drive on because it had so little traffic.   Yes, it was Granny who taught us to drive.  By the time we had our learning permits we had a working knowledge of how to operate a car and keep it on our side of the roadway.  She was very patient with us about it.   

I don't know if our parents were ever aware that she'd done so...Surely they must have wondered at our relative ease in getting behind the wheel of a car and taking off?  But there were plenty of things none of us ever mentioned to our parents.  There was a sort of unwritten rule that what happened at Granny's stayed at Granny's and was between us and her and seldom were parents informed of anything happening unless there was bodily injury that required a doctor involved and that only happened once.  We were rather free spirited creatures when we were here and after working in the morning, we headed out to the backs of the fields into the wooded hillsides to play or down to the creek to dam it up, and one rainy summer, we spent a whole week sliding down muddy ditch banks and hauling one another out of mud that sucked and grabbed at us as we sank up to our thighs in ditches.   Granny just hosed us off  outdoors and we were sent indoors to strip off and shower in twos.   I've no idea how she got our clothes clean or dry, but they were!

We ate well at Granny's, too.  We had a proper breakfast most mornings, seldom did she go to the expense of trying to feed us cereal.  We usually had a sandwich lunch with fruit and cookies to follow.  Suppers were proper meals as well, with meat and vegetables and a pudding or ice cream as dessert or in leaner times, chilled peaches or water melon.  We drank lots of water but had tea and Koolaid, too, though seldom sodas.  Granny used all her best stretching recipes to feed us but we never left the table hungry and we were seldom hungry between meals.   

We did work while we were here.  We pruned and weeded and cleaned house and stretched barbwire and picked berries or helped pare apples and pears.  We snapped and shelled beans and peas.  We helped cook and mowed grass.   But Granny left us plenty of time to just play and be kids, too.  Sometimes she'd set up the old canvas army tent and we'd spend the night outdoors.   There was no need of worrying over us.  I mean there were seven of us, and it wasn't likely something would happen to any one of us without six piling on to protect the one!

I make it sound as though we had all summer long with her but we didn't.  Often it was a week or two or at most three all summer long but it was a haven for all of us.  Life was hard at home for each set of us children.  It wasn't until my cousin and I reunited as older 50 somethings that we told our stories of abuse and alcoholism.  Did Granny know this?  I doubt we ever told her, no more than we'd let our secrets be known to one another,  though likely one cousin did drop a hint the day Granny was forced to switch her sister for a serious transgression of rules and the cousin said "Just use the broomstick on her Granny, it's what they do at home!"    I suspect Granny did know some of what went on in our homes.  She was observant.  I knew that from the gentle talks she'd sometimes give us about morals and respect and faith which always seemed to be very on point to a situation in our lives even though we mightn't have breathed a word.

Oh my...I've meandered along back roads of memories as easily as we wound our way back to town this morning on those old roads!

Well let us take a different road of memory.  There was one summer week that we were at home with Mama and Daddy.  I don't remember why they were home, but it must have been one of those summers when they had time off and we had no plans to travel.  Daddy's Aunt and Uncle came in unexpectedly one afternoon.   We were in one of those busy spells at home, with garden produce coming out of our ears and canning and freezing ongoing and all the process of putting things away.  

Aunt Martha and Uncle Hoyt were childless, but they'd babysat most all of their nieces and nephews at some point and a great many of their great nieces and nephews, too.  Aunt Martha was an attractive enough woman, but she was rather somber faced and a little bit daunting until you realized she was stern outside and marshmallow fluff inside.   We three kids had spent long weekends with her many times in the past when Mama's daddy was in the hospital in Aunt Martha's hometown so we were well familiar with her and Uncle Hoyt.   

It was unusual for them to come visit on their own.  They generally might have ridden down with Granddaddy and Grandmother and stayed a few hours but this time they came and we soon found that Aunt Martha was on a mission.  "Now Ann, I need new dresses and I know you can sew, so I thought we'd just come down and you could run me up two or three...Now don't you fret none, we'll be saying overnight..."    To say that Mama wasn't quite prepared to do dressmaking in the midst of her summer canning week would be putting it mildly.   Yes, and to have company, too, which meant the traditional Southern hospitality spread of more than the usual amount of food which was considered only polite when one had company.   Company could generally be construed as those who didn't come often enough to be considered merely family so Aunt Martha definitely qualified for company in this instance.  

I took over the canning and cooking duties which I could do on my own, and Aunt Martha helped shell beans and peas while Mama cut out fabric and fitted pieces and 'ran up' two new ones over a two day period.  I'm pretty sure that somewhere in there Aunt Martha managed to get a home perm done, as well...It was a packed two day visit, let me assure you.   When they left, she carried home with her two new dresses, a fresh head of curls, some garden produce and a jar or two of home canned goods.  

Aunt Martha was the type who just couldn't leave someone's home without a little something to take back home with her.  It was a running, but loving, joke amongst the family that they'd best have something for her to take with her.  I was at my dad's sister's visiting one day when Aunt Martha and Uncle Hoyt arrived.  Apparently Uncle Hoyt was on a mission to get a part or something and hadn't planned a long visit.  Aunt Martha was apparently not aware that they wouldn't stay and visit a bit.  When he announced his intention of leaving, Aunt Martha said with near panic in her voice, "Oh quick, Mary Jo!  Give me something to take home with me!"  "I haven't got a thing, Aunt Martha..."  "Give me a paper towel, I'll just wrap up one of these pickles out of this jar."   And she did!   Aunt Mary Jo and I laughed and laughed after she left.  

Now Aunt Martha never met Josh but that little boy reminds me of her each time he comes to visit.  "Can I take something home with me?" he'll ask each time it's time to go.    He mightn't like pickles, but he'll happily accept a muffin or a piece of bubble gum, just so long as he doesn't have to leave empty handed.   And I always find him something and smile to myself and think of Aunt Martha.  

The 'everybitcounts' challenge by Three Rivers Homestead made me think of how creative Granny got with drying apples and peaches.  She didn't have a fancy dehydrator.  She dried her apple slices the old fashioned way, on window screens in the yard in the sun.  She'd cover the screens with cheesecloth to keep the flies off the fruit.  When the humidity rose and the apples seemed to be taking longer than necessary to dry out, Granny pulled the car out of the shed, parked it in full sun and put the screens of apple slices inside the car, rolled up all the windows and let that do the job.   And it did!  I was thinking about this the other day as I blanched my handfuls (literally) of green beans to put into the freezer.    How creative we might get if we didn't have the modern day conveniences.  Of course, we can also use our ovens for drying as well, but Granny wasn't likely to run air conditioning and the oven didn't go on for much except baking pies or cakes and then only in the earliest morning hours in summer.

I've shared before that my family were country folks and they put things away year round if they could.   Nuts and berries, stone fruits that grew naturally on the land, garden produce, fruit.   It was all preserved one way and another.  They knew where to forage to find what grew wild, like huckleberries and plums and muscadines and grapes and scuppernongs.  Big Mama had a big old crabapple tree, not a decorative one but a proper fruiting tree.  She gave a cutting to someone and I had a chance to get some of the fruit from it.

I picked a 5 gallon bucket of crabapples from it one year and cooked the fruit to make juice and squeezed it out over a big pan.  I can't remember just why I had to leave home but I had to run an errand or something and when I returned the kitchen was spic and span clean and the pan that had held the juice was empty.  I asked my oldest daughter Amie where the juice was.  "I thought it was dishwater so I poured it out..." she said and I sat down and wept as I knew that was the last time I'd ever be able to pick from one of Big Mama's trees.  I thought of all the lovely jelly I wasn't going to get, lol.  Well, now it's just a funny story to tell so I guess I'm still getting fruit off that tree in one way or another, aren't I?

Gracious this has been a nostalgic sort of visit...I guess I'd better finish up here and get on to doing other things.  I have supper to prepare and I'll wager that today I must pick Caleb up from nursery as the sky has remained steadily clear and it's not likely his daddy will be rained out of work today.

Hope you've enjoyed this visit as much as I have! 

This Week In My Home: Maybe...


I haven't shared a post about my plans in a few weeks.  Between baby sitting and a general 'all up in the air' sort of mentality, I found it frustrating to try and do much of anything.  I couldn't start a big project at any point, I couldn't plan a week properly.  In consequence I'd work myself down to a heap of jelly one day and then spend four days sitting about twiddling my thumbs.   Well I'm over all that!  I need a plan to go by and at least keep me partially focused.  Even if big things fall by the way side, I need the accountability to keep me on target in little ways.

So here we are.  Me planning the week ahead.  Let's see how it goes!

Gathering Fragments: The First Week of August

Each * represents an item from my fridge, freezer or pantry that has been sitting a wee bit too long.

Saturday:  I typically don't work on a Saturday but I worked a bit today and I figured  if I was in for a penny might as well be in for a pound.  I had to partially cook our lunch and I had figs* in the fridge from two weeks ago.  I mentioned that I do not like figs and you all gave me several ideas of ways to try them but I had yet to attempt one of those ideas.  

This Week In My Home: Dog Days

The above picture is not an accurate depiction of lawncare at my home...but I do find it funny!

Saturday:  We had the boys yesterday afternoon and evening for an ice cream supper party.   I served scoops of ice cream with a variety of mini cookies, mini M&Ms, sprinkles, chocolate and caramel syrups,  and Cheese Puffs.   The boys happily ate their supper that night, lol.  

We had a set back yesterday.  It wasn't something of our doing and we don't why things have come about as they have.   There's nothing to be done about it at this stage except go on from here.  We sat here in a bit of a state of puzzlement last night when John shared the information with me (after the boys went home).

August 2020: New Month, New Goals

I had my leisure in July...well, okay, I at least gave myself a break from goals and working on projects in July.   I worked plenty but it was mostly day to day things, the wash, rinse and repeat tasks that claimed my attentions.   August is a tough month to pick up the mantle of hard work but it's necessary on so many scores.  I can't say July was without any accomplishment at all.  I accidentally added to my potted plant garden by rooting more basil, coleus stems and Portulaca from stems I'd picked from the ground.  The pot is full and lush and a great surprise to me!  I kept the flower beds pretty much weeded and have put up a tiny bit of harvest from my produce bags.  I wiped down walls in all but two rooms.  I added to my pantry.  I cut my credit card bill hard after a spate of spending in June.  

Sunday Thoughts: Time For Something New

I've thought about this before but today I feel strongly that I need to share my thoughts.  

In Exodus, Moses sent 12 men, including Caleb and Joshua into Canaan to scout out the land they were to claim as their own.  All 12 men went into Canaan and all 12 came back out again.  

When they were giving the report of what they'd seen, 10 of the men struck fear in the hearts of the Israelites by describing the obstacles they'd seen.  "It's a land of giants!" they said.  "They have strongholds we could never conquer." 

In My Home This Week: All Routine