Veterans Day

Battle of Iwo Jima
 Battle of Iwo Jima

I have always loved my father.

He is a marine who served during World War II, and when I was about 30 years old, he asked me to sit down with him, and he told me his story.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  Dad was 14 years old at the time. America was now at war, and he decided that he wanted to join the fight. He volunteered for the marine corps at the age of 17.  But being so young, he was concerned that his parents would not allow him to go. He had to have a signed permission. So he took the paper to his Dad, and said, “Mom said I could go if it was ok with you”.  And his Dad agreed.  Then he took the paper to his Mom and said, “Dad said I could go if it was ok with you”.  So she agreed also.

Once he turned 18, he boarded a bus and went out to San Diego, California, for his basic training, where they taught him how to survive war.  Being very smart, they decided to train him in communications as well.  So he learned to use morse code. He was the one who carried and operated the very heavy radio equipment for his squad.  After basic, he was stationed in Hawaii.

World War II began in Europe.  It was not until the European war had drawn to a close, that the pacific war began. Dad was originally assigned to the 5th Amphibious Corp – Reconnaissance Battalion. He was deployed to 3 different battles.  First, was the island of Siapan. The mission was to take possession of the island. But there was a sailor that flew over the area just before they deployed. He could see that the island was crawling with Japs, and that they would surely all die.  So this mission was aborted at the last minute, but not before Dad had his first experience of war.  He jumped off the ship where a Jap had been blown in half, and became entangled in the long, stringy, human intestines, floating out in the ocean.

The 5th Amphibious dissolved, and was absorbed into the 4th Division. Their next mission was the island of Tinian.  This island was decidedly, the perfect place for a landing strip, to support the planes that would carry the A-Bombs.  So the mission was to secure the island.  The operation went smoothly, it took about a week. And finally, they went to Iwo Jima.

Joseph John Rosenthal (October 9, 1911 – August 20, 2006) was an American photographer who received the Pulitzer Prize for his iconic World War II photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima. His picture became one of the best-known photographs of the war. (Wikipedia) He also took this photograph, my father is in the fox hole, left top, operating the radio. It was published in Life magazine during the war.
 Joseph John Rosenthal (October 9, 1911 – August 20, 2006) was an American photographer who received the Pulitzer Prize for his iconic World War II photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima. His picture became one of the best-known photographs of the war. (Wikipedia) He also took this photograph, my father is in the fox hole, left top, operating the radio. It was published in Life magazine during the war.

Iwo Jima is known to be the turning point in the pacific war.  Before Iwo Jima, America was considered to be losing the war.  After Iwo Jima, America was considered to be winning.  The island was heavily fortified with Japanese at the beginning of the battle.  There was actually an entire city, underground, with barracks, hospitals, mess halls, everything the Japs needed.  They were literally “dug in”.  So this island would be really a terrible battle.  Huge numbers of American lives were lost just upon arriving.  Dad lost many friends, and had many memorable experiences from the encounter.

He remembers becoming so accustomed to being shot at, that he did not even try to cover himself a lot of times.  He remembers watching a fellow marine get shot as he leaned against a tree.  It took the marine about 30 minutes to reach the ground, as his lifeless body slid slowly down the tree trunk.  He remembers he and another marine being trapped in a fox hole, lying on top of each other for 2 days, playing dead; while Japanese surrounded them.  He remembers the famous flag being raised, and thinking, “What are those crazy guys doing”?, as the battle raged on, all around them. And he remembers the day he earned his purple heart medal.

The battle of Iwo Jima lasted 42 days.  Dad was there for the first 17. He said it was common to hear shells whipping through the air. From experience, he could tell by the sound, whether it was near or far, or right on him.  This day, he heard a shell coming toward him, closer and closer, rotating on it’s end, “whip-whip,… whip-whip,… whip-whip…”. He realized that it was coming right at him. Over the space of a split-second, he summoned the refuge of Mother Earth, hitting the dirt, into a foxhole.  Just then, the shell exploded, and he was buried alive.

He could hear the sound of a big, loud, Chinese gong, “Bongggggggggggggg…”.  He felt like he was in a spiraling tunnel, and as the sound slowly faded, his body seemed to race ever faster toward a distant, bright light.  He doesn’t know how long it went on, but it ended when a corporal of the surname “Clark”, who was a school superintendent from North Carolina, saw him go down, ran to him and dug him out.

War is hell.  But there are people who are willing to endure it, for the sake of our country.

Much of the first couple of days, he was unconscious.  And he has gaps in his memory about this.  But he recalls that someone dragged him to an aid station. And eventually they carried him on a stretcher to the hospital ship, Solace.  Here he received treatment and was transported for a several months long stay at the R&R hospital in Guam. His numerous injuries, of which some still plague him today, included a severe concussion, crushed lungs, and severe hearing loss. The entire recuperation phase is kind of blank in his memory.

Marines burrow in the volcanic sand, on the beach of Iwo Jima.
 Marines burrow in the volcanic sand, on the beach of Iwo Jima.

On this Veterans Day, I want to thank my father, and all veterans for your courage and sacrifice.  And may God bless America, the land of the free.

89 years old.
 89 years old.

Footnote:  This year, 2018, my Dad is 93.   He and my mother have been married for 72 great years.  Together, they have 3 daughters , 8 grandchildren, and altogether 10 great-grandchildren. He is in good health, but he can’t hear thunder without his hearing aids, and his memory is better at some times, more than others.  He spends his time helping my Mom, taking care of his chickens and other stuff around his farm.  He actually just bought a milk cow! As always, he takes very good care of himself and follows a daily fitness routine. And these days, he battles the floods, droughts, and twisters.

2nd Footnote: Dad passed away in the year 2020, at the age of 95. He was preceded in death by my mother, who died in 2018. They were wonderful parents and are greatly missed.


Barrels Full of Periwinkles

Barrels Full of Periwinkles
Barrels Full of Periwinkles

Another thing Glenn really wanted to do when he first moved here, was to fix up the yard. One day he was walking around the property and he found some half-whiskey barrels back behind the building.  They were quite old, but still serviceable.  There were 7 in all. Mom had once planted them with roses, but no longer used them. They were just laying around, so he loaded them on the truck and brought them to our yard.

The first year, we planted marigolds and zinnias, and arranged them kind of in the middle of the yard.  And each year, we tried something a little different.  We tried petunias and even poppys.  On the third year, we decided to line them up in a row on the edge of our yard, bordering the road.  They looked really nice like that and though we have replaced them with new ones and added four more to the number, we have kept them in that same general configuration, ever since.

The flower we have had the greatest success growing in these barrels, has been the periwinkle (scientific name – Vinca).  These flowers are very well adapted to our Central Texas climate.  They are beautiful, prolific bloomers that begin in late spring and finally slow down with the first cool spells of late fall.  They thrive in the extreme heat, just be sure they get their water.

It has been an ongoing experiment, figuring out how to best care for these whiskey barrels.  They need to be kept moist to ensure a long life.  The first ones were over 20 years old and after a winter dry spell, they fell all to pieces.  But in other years, we have lost our flowers due to poor drainage.

Last year, we began addressing the drainage problems.  We lifted the heavy barrels with a log and an iron pipe and placed 5 retaining wall bricks under each one.  This reduced the problem, but did not eliminate it.  This year, we filled them half-way with rocks, but that has not been very desirable.  The soil sometimes washes through the rocks and when that happens, the water runs off. To remedy this, we filled the washed out areas with peat moss, which stabilized things. We have also used pea gravel.  The next time we do this, we will fill the bottom half of the barrels with sphagnum moss.  This would keep them moist and there would be no wash outs.  And I think we would still have good drainage.

Despite our difficulties, the barrels did really well this year, the best they have ever done.  Those rocks provide excellent drainage.  We used a soil mix of half sandy loam and half mushroom compost.  And they billowed over the sides of the barrels with vibrant color.  Not a single barrel was lost all season.

Watering these barrels on a regular basis has also been an experiment over time. After all, there are 11 of them and they sit up off the ground.  This year I used 3 – 50 ft. sections of hose.  I began with a leader hose that was fitted with a solid brass quick connect. And I placed the same quick connects between each 50 ft. section and at the end of the furthest one.  This kept me from having to drag heavy hoses.  I used a tiny little sprinkler with a quick connect on the end and would just disconnect the hose and place the sprinkler along as needed.

I would start watering on the south end one time, and the the next time I watered, I would start at the north end, which saved me lots of steps.  And I left the hoses on the ground and wrapped the ends around the furthest barrels when finished. It worked quite well.  I used very low water pressure and watered each barrel between 5 – 8 minutes, depending on how hot it was outside.

Barrels full of periwinkles have become a tradition at our home. They are so, very beautiful!  When I walk down to Mom and Dad’s house, I don’t take the shortcut through the grass during periwinkle season, I go out on the road and enjoy my flowers!

Periwinkles (Vinca)
Periwinkles (Vinca)

Glenn’s Garden

Glenn's Garden
Glenn’s Garden

When Glenn first moved here, he built a fine garden with a good fence and drip irrigation.

He had to work with rocky soil, but he manipulated it and developed a great growing medium. He worked the soil thoroughly with the tractor, until the hard dirt turned into something soft and manageable. He plowed it with a large tiller, laying out his garden in standard rows.  He walked over every square inch, removing all the rocks he could find. Using aged turkey manure  that he got for free from the nearby turkey farm, which he believes was mixed with mostly pine needles, he added about a 4 to 5″ thick layer, right on top of each row, then worked it into the soil.

Piggyback tubing is very durable. The little water holes do not get clogged. This is what he used for the drip irrigation set up, and he put a brass shut off at the end of each row.

It was a big garden.  He planted cantaloupe, black eye peas, yellow squash, zucchini, butternut and acorn squash, cucumbers, beets, radishes, brussel sprouts,  broccoli, bell peppers, okra, watermelons, sweet potatoes, onion, tomatoes. The sweet potatoes were his only failure. The end where they were planted was a little low compared to the rest of the garden, and it caught all the run-off.  So they were over-watered.  The slips grew, but the potatoes were all twisted and gnarly.

He checked his garden every morning. Early in the growing season, if he saw any sign of bug damage, he would sprinkle a bit of sevin dust on the tiny little seedlings. He made a habit of pulling the weeds up by the roots, and casting them into the isles between the rows.  Thus, overtime the dead weeds provided a perfect carpeting, which kept the mud off his shoes.

The plants grew to be huge, lush, and prolific. We had so much good food, that we froze and canned all we could, passed it out to family and friends, and still had plenty for the local food pantry. Of all the gardens we have grown over the years, this one was far and away, the best.  More than once, the spring rains have come like a deluge, washing up our seeds, or newly sprouted plants. Other years, the garden got so wet because of too much rain, that the weeds totally got away from us before we could get in there to clean it up.   Nothing like that happened this particular year. It was as though God was in that garden.

Glenn worked very hard, and made it into a thing of awesome wonder! We’ve had other good gardens, though some years it hasn’t worked out. We always hope for a chance at one like this again. And for that reason we keep trying, year after year.


The Garden Stone

Stephen and Charlotte 1-1-11
Stephen and Charlotte 1-1-11

This is the story of two people who were destined to be together nearly 100 years before they ever met.  A love story, replete of hometown history and family.

Charlotte, a fiery, petite beauty with dark hair and big, brown, almond-shaped eyes, and  Stephen, a handsome Greek, a brave US Marine , met 10 years ago after Stephen had returned from his first deployment to Iraq.  Both living in the Dallas area at the time, they were introduced by a mutual friend. Their relationship flourished and when Stephen left for his second deployment, Charlotte waited for him.  By the grace of God, he returned.  They were reunited and spent much of their time together.

Their story is beautiful, alas, it is a private affair.  I will just say that they found out they love each other.  And when Stephen asked Charlotte for her hand. She accepted, happily.

Charlotte’s grandparents have almost always lived in Milam County. They had a farm in Cameron during the early years of their marriage, and moved to Rockdale later on. About 15 years ago they decided they would spend their golden years at their nearby property in the country. There is an old school here. They built a nice home on the old playground, amidst a grove of tall oaks.

Charlotte is my daughter.  I live here also, with my love, Glenn. We actually reside in the old school.  It was built by the local men as one of FDR’s work projects back in the era of the Great Depression.  It burned to the ground before they ever held a class and they built it all over again. They carried on the business of education here for many years, but eventually the old school closed down and they began busing all the children to Rockdale. It changed hands a couple of times before my Dad acquired the building at auction about 45 years ago.  He converted some of the classrooms into living spaces, and Glenn and I have a comfortable home here.

Charlotte lived in Rockdale until she was four, when our family moved to the Dallas area.  But the first time Stephen came to visit and met the family, we learned that he too, has roots in Milam County. His grandfather actually grew up in Cameron.  Furthermore, Stephen and Dad compared military records, and found many similarities. Both are marines from the 4th division, who specialized in communications and reconnaissance, and proudly wear the purple heart medal. It was a great visit.  We all liked Stephen, and I felt very happy for Charlotte.

Now, Glenn likes gardening and one day he decided to make an asparagus bed. There was a row of huge old piers bordering a flower bed in our front yard, probably 10 of them.  Dad had put them there soon after he bought the building. They came from the foundation of the old gymnasium which had been sold off separately and moved before he ever acquired it. That spot is now home to our vegetable garden.

The piers really didn’t look that great in our front yard. So Glenn decided to make a raised bed with them for the asparagus.  It required a tractor to move them. So one by one, he picked them up, carried them to the garden and sat them down at their new resting place.  He made a rectangular border and filled it with rich, black dirt that he found down by the pond. We bought nice, big crowns and he planted them just exactly how his research told him to, by digging a trench and making hills for them to rest on. We had ferns in no time. And now, this garden produces a lot of asparagus.

Luckily, my Dad is a very observant fellow.  One day he was out watering the asparagus, when he looked down and discovered that on the right, front cornerstone of the border that Glenn built, there was something inscribed in the cement.  He splashed water on it, as to read it more easily.  Written on the stone was “YA Gjeddi 1929”. He thought about this for a minute and recalled that Stephen’s mother was a Gjeddi.

So we asked her about it.  It turns out that YA, also known as Yancy Gjeddi, was Stephen’s great uncle!  There were eight Gjeddi boys that grew up in Cameron back then.  They were all adopted and all went by their initials. My mother went to school with these boys. And Stephen’s grandfather was one of them.  It’s been said that the Lord works in mysterious ways, I believe this!

Almost 100 years ago, Yancy must have worked at the place where that cement was poured.  I wonder if he knew it was important that he inscribe that stone? Glenn never saw it, he just stacked the stones at random.  But this wound up on the right, front corner, facing outward!!  And was discovered around the time of Stephen and Charlotte’s wedding, two people who met in a totally different part of the state, and never knew before, of all these amazing coincidences. Perhaps Yancy wanted to express his approval of this union.  I find it amazing and beautiful.  I wish I had a photo of Yancy.  If I ever find one, it will go here.

How About a Homemade Hamburger

A delicious homemade hamburger
A delicious homemade hamburger

It’s plenty easy to count the calories of a hamburger from your favorite restaurant. Just go to google and look up the nutrition menu for that restaurant. But my favorite hamburger is the one I make at home.  They do have a lot of calories, so I have to work it into my day. This means I need to plan for it in advance.

A big, juicy hamburger is the kind of thing I would want to enjoy for supper.  So when I know I am going to have a big supper, I need to compensate for it during the rest of my day. Fruits and vegetables are good choices. I don’t even count the calories on pure fruits and vegetables. I do count starchy vegetables, however, such as beans and peas, potatoes, avocados. A banana for breakfast would be a good choice. A can of spinach would make a great lunch.  I want to keep the calories as low as possible during the day, but I won’t have to eliminate them completely. One big, juicy hamburger, the way I make it, is about 800 calories.  I like to eat around 1500 per day. So maybe a cup of 1% milk would go good with that banana. I might have some whole grain crackers with my spinach. Not exciting, but fills me up and allows room for supper.

When preparing the hamburger, I choose 85/15 ground meat, and I use 1/3# cutter. It’s nice and big, and this way I get a uniform size, so I get close to the same calories in the meat every time. I have a grill disk that I lay in the bottom of my skillet which keeps the meat up off the bottom of the pan and allows the fat to drain off.  And I allow it to cook on 6, just until the juices run clear when pricked. The disk cooks a much better piece of meat than just letting it float in grease on the bottom of the pan.  And it turns out big and juicy. My daughter has a nice grill pan, but since I don’t, I bought this disk and it works just as well as her pan does.

The first time I made hamburgers, I weighed my cooked patty on my digital scale, took the total value of grams and researched it in google, to arrive at my total amount of calories.  It’s not really necessary to do that again since I am using a uniform cutter, so long as I make the hamburgers the same way every time.

I really like a good bun and they have some called “Cobblestone” at
Wal-Mart.   I like to butter both sides with a total of 1 TBSP of butter, and toast it in the oven. I have to count that, and the meat and cheddar (1 oz). I don’t think it is necessary to count the veges.  I just use lettuce, tomato, and onion. I choose mustard over mayo, and skip the fries.  All this together comes up to about 800 calories.  I don’t worry about figuring all this out until after I have enjoyed my meal, although I might have to jot down a couple of numbers.

In the end I just need to put it in my book.  Once it’s in the book, and if I use the same method each time, I will not have to figure it out again, I can just look at my book. It might use up the rest of my calories for the day, but if it does, rest assured I will be satisfied. Because there are not many things more delicious than a good ole’ homemade hamburger.


My Favorite Bargains

These days, we are paying off credit cards and otherwise making the effort to get our finances in order. I have become very interested in good ways to cut costs, and have compiled a list, in no particular order, of my top 43 favorite cost cutting measures:

Let's Save Money!!
Let’s Save Money!!

  1. Dollar Tree sunglasses and reading glasses – They are always only $1.00.  And they work good.  Many are quite stylish. I usually buy 5 at a time and put them everywhere.  If one breaks, no big deal.  Just toss it!
  2.  ALDI – If you don’t know about this little grocery store, and if you can find one in your area, it would be worth your while to run in there with pen and paper and jot some prices down, then compare with your regular stores. ALDI saves us on average, a third on our overall grocery bill. It’s small, they only stock popular items. Bring your own bags. They have a nifty way of holding your 25 cent  deposit to use the shopping carts too, giving your quarter back to you when you return the cart to it’s proper place, so they don’t have to hire parking lot attendants. Very high quality food! I am amazed with ALDI!!
  3. Vital Gluten – If you like to make homemade bread, this is a great tip for you. Bread flour is expensive, but you can add vital gluten to regular all-purpose flour and it makes wonderful bread! Inexpensive! Rises really pretty!
  4. Vet vaccines at home – You can get everything you need to vaccinate your pet at Tractor Supply Company. They cost a lot less than taking your pet to the vet. This one I have not tried yet, but I am moving in that direction. Go to How to Administer a Canine Vaccine for detailed instructions.
  5. 0% Interest credit card balance transfer offers – These are real offers that come in the mail.  They can help you get your credit card debt under control.  They usually allow a year or 18 months to pay off the transferred balance at 0%.  There is usually a fee up-front, but it still pays off! Pick a familiar name you trust, and apply! I can vouch for Bank of America .
  6. Bananas – They are so cheap! A peanut butter and banana sandwich makes a delicious and nutritious meal with a glass of milk on the side.  Just a banana and some milk is very satisfying!
  7. Eggs – Packed with nutrition, they have been described as the perfect food. When I bought eggs the other day, the cost of one was just over 16 cents.  That same egg has 6 grams of protein and lots of other good stuff.  Way cheaper than most protein sources. I like them poached on dry toast.  Delicious!
  8. Christmas savings plan – I really enjoy the Christmas season, including Christmas giving, However, I do not look forward to that big bill that comes later.  This year I am prepared. I have decided to divide my Christmas giving budget by 12, and each month set aside that small amount in a Christmas fund at the bank. So when December rolls around, the money will be there. No need to use a credit card that way!
  9. – This is a great online store. I sometimes need items not normally on my list, and very often I can find them here at a great low price. They have a good customer review system for comparing products. If you order $50.00 or more, the shipping is free. And you can fill out your order with regular, everyday grocery items if needed. The list feature allows you to look up items in advance and add them to your cart as needed. So you can spend a little time looking up some of your basics and have them ready in your list. Say your item was $45.00 and you need $5.00 more for free shipping. Peanut butter would work. Same great Walmart prices. I needed glycerin bar soap, not easily found in stores but a nice selection at 6 bars, only $2.96. Mom needed a few items, so we split an order to get the free shipping. Another great way to save! You can find high quality, hard-to-find stuff at Tons more selection than in the walk-in store! Delicate items like chips, crackers, and cereal don’t ship that well. Neither do liquid items like hand soap.
  10. Ramen noodles – Cheap as dirt and quite delicious. Easy to make. Warm in the winter. You can fancy them up with added ingredients such as a can of cream soup, some Velveeta, and some broccoli or asparagus, which makes them extra good! If you work them into the week, they can help you hold your grocery bill down.
  11. Dry beans, peas, and rice – Very cheap, easy, delicious, and loaded with good nutrition. They will conserve the grocery budget!
  12. Homemade buttermilk -If you are a buttermilk drinker, you can save quite a bit by making your own. Super easy to do. Use a 3/1 ratio of milk/cultured buttermilk in a quart mason jar (Bulgarian works too). Cap it and shake up well. Let sit on the counter in a warm room for 24 hours, then refrigerate.  It will last for weeks or until you drink it. Save the last cup to start your next jar!
  13. Save your receipts – Probably my biggest pet peeve! I go to the store, buy some delicious looking fruit. Bring it home and bite into it…YUK! Inedible. so now what? Don’t lose your receipt. Take that stuff back to the store!! Get your money back!! If the milk goes bad a week before it expires, take it back!
  14. Champion Energy – This is a great electric company based out of Houston that is saving us a lot of money on our electric bill each month. Our bill has gone down by about 1/3, I would guess, since we switched companies. If interested, go to Champion Connect-A-Friend . If you sign up and use my code, you and I will both receive a one time boost of $25 off our bills.
  15. Free crochet patterns – I get a lot of good ones off Facebook.  Yarn is pretty cheap too.  It’s a great hobby.  Very satisfying and I have been known to make a buck or two with this one.
  16. Bic Cristal pens (blue cap) – They are the best pens.  They write so good, they last a long time, you can get 10 of them for less than $1.00 at Wal-Mart.
  17. Thrift store clothing – When I first checked into this, I was amazed.  I’ve checked out several stores and found beautiful, like new clothes for very cheap.  Saves a lot of money. Especially for the every day stuff.  I am proud of my thrift store clothes and enjoy them very much!
  18. Single serving coffee makers that let you use your own grounds – It’s the only way to go if you need a single cup.  Our Hamilton Beach coffee maker can brew a big  pot or a single. Has a little bitty permanent filter, just pour in the grounds.  Big money saver over Kuerig. This is the one we bought.
  19. Great Value Orange Early Rise drink mix – This is delicious! Tastes and looks very, very much like real orange juice. Inexpensive.  Did I say delicious? 5 calories a glass.  You can find it at Wal-Mart by the Crystal Lite drink mixes.
  20. Vinegar  – I’m not sure there is anything vinegar can’t do, and it is very inexpensive. I use raw apple cider vinegar as a supplement and I believe in it. I use white vinegar to clean  the coffee maker and tea kettle. It is a great cleaner for all kinds of things.  Go to Uses for Vinegar and learn more.
  21. Basic supplies – While you are checking out the uses of vinegar, also search for uses for alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, bleach, baking soda, and so forth. There is a lot you can do with these basic items. They are all very inexpensive and are the main ingredients in various recipes for homemade household cleaners and hygiene products. Many of them are very easy and work very, very well. This is worth spending a little time on.
  22. Pay off home loan using amortization schedule – As long as it is specified in your home loan, that there is no penalty for pre-payment, you can acquire an amortization schedule and it will guide you through the nitty-gritty details of your loan. You can use the information to make steady pre-payments on the principal balance.  In the end, you can knock years off the life of your loan, saving many, many thousands of dollars in interest.  We did this with our first home, and paid off the 20 year note in just 4 years. Get an amortization schedule for your home loan here and start saving some serious cash!!
  23. Ladies – Fall in love with a good man who has some skills in the area of home repair and improvement, also car maintenance. He will save y’all a ton of money!!  That can be as good as an extra paycheck. Trust me!!
  24. Learn to cook – Cooking can be a very enjoyable way to spend time. It can heal relationships and bring people together. And it helps out on the budget a lot!
  25. Look into 2nd-hand cars – There are a ton of good ones out there in every price range.  If you do your homework, you can find a real good car for much less than the price of a new one. We got the one we have now on craigslist. If you can pay cash for it, your whole quality of life will thank you.  You can relax and live a lot better when you are not burdened with a car loan!
  26. Spend your time wisely – Fill your spare time with plenty of fun hobbies and interesting projects, that have very little to do with spending money. If you do this, not only will your quality of life improve, but you will most likely always have plenty of money when  you need it, as well.
  27. 70 page spiral notebooks purchased in August – During school supply season, you can pick these up for a song.  The ones I bought last year were 17 cents each.  And they are quite handy to have around.
  28. Large index cards – These are plenty cheap too, and they are great to use for making lists.  Very handy and sturdy.  I use them a lot.
  29. Straight Talk with Verizon Towers – I recently had a blowout while driving by myself late at night and my phone service did not work. I switched to Straight Talk, which offers the best towers (Verizon) at half the price. I really don’t want that to happen again, it was creepy!
  30. Super  Laundry Paste w/Lavender Softener – I make this and offer it for sale, but I also encourage people to try my detailed instructions, and make it themselves.  128 loads for just over $2.00. Excellent, high-quality detergent.  Go to Make Your Own Super Laundry Paste w/Lavender Softener  and check it out!
  31. Generic over-the-counter meds and supplements – We all know about this. One of my favorites is Omeprazole, which is generic Prilosec. It is like a miracle drug for acid reflux.  Generics are a great way to save money!!
  32. Decorating the house with old stuff – I have to admit, we have the cutest little house.  All done with garage sales, estate sales, and a few family heirlooms. Throw in a little hand crafted stuff, and so, so cute! Cost practically nothing!
  33. A fan  to minimize AC  or heating requirements – Ceiling fans are wonderful and make the AC go a lot further. In winter, flip the switch and they help A LOT with the heat too.  We also have several nice, all-metal, 9 inch fans that we position around the house in summer. They are not ugly, or so big as to cramp up the space, but they do help, A LOT!! Above and beyond the ceiling fans.  You can set the thermostats higher if you use them, and you will enjoy a much more even cooling of the room.
  34. Weatherstripping and insulation – It required an investment, but this made a huge difference for us when Glenn added it to our place. We went from a drafty old house that would not hold the heat or cool, to a nice, cozy place that stays warm in winter and cool in summer. Quite reasonable electric bills, also.
  35. Pet Doors – They keep us from having to open the door so much when cooling or heating, thus saving on the electric bill.  And they do stay pretty much air-tight around the seal. They also save tons of bother and frustration when it comes to letting your pets in and out all the time.
  36. Tap Water – I’ve been drinking bottled water for a long time, but Glenn never would go for it. We have decent water, but it doesn’t taste like bottled spring water. I decided I will keep a case of it on hand, and a few of them at a time in the fridge because they can be handy.  But 90% of the time, I can get by on tap water. I like to put a pitcher of water in the fridge with a few thin slices of orange, lemon, or cucumber, whatever I have on hand. It’s an extra nice way to drink water,  and saves me around $10 a month in winter, and more like $30 a month in hot weather months.
  37. Cloth Napkins – We used to go through tons of paper towels. And I buy decent ones, because I don’t like the flimsy ones. These can be pretty pricey, when you consider how many you use in a year. I went to Wal-Mart and bought 2 yards of a medium weight, 100% cotton fabric. It was 54″ wide, so I divided each piece by 12 squares. I cut them up, zig-zagged the edges, and made 24 nice cloth napkins. We use them at the supper table and also to wrap food items for microwave heating. Wash and reuse, perfect! We were using paper towels for all of that.  I keep a stack of wash cloths in the drawer right beside them, for messy clean-up. I still keep a roll of paper towels in the kitchen. But they last and last and last and last!
  38. Clean out the freezer and pantry – I don’t know about you, but we have a mountain of good food on hand. I tend to store things and leave them there. It won’t stay good forever! So, now we are using up all the food we have stored. I’m cooking more as a result, and it’s really gentle on the grocery bill. There is very little that we need to buy during a time like this. Once we have eaten everything, we will probably work at stocking it up again. Because it is really good to have food on hand at certain times when there is an increased demand on the household budget. But it does need to be kept reasonably fresh, or it’s just throwing money away. Thus, it’s important to keep it turned over.
  39. Postpone purchases – Do you really need it right now? I run everything through that filter before buying. And I find that often, I can put off a purchase for quite awhile before I actually have to lay down the money.  Many times when I do this, I will eventually find that I never did need to buy it.  And so I just forget about it, mark it off my list. I save quite a bit of money doing this!
  40. Make your own greeting cards – This is a fun and creative little money saver.  There is so much you can do with a computer and printer! Once you get set up with a card-making software, you can make really pretty cards, just by adding images and text. You can then print, and embellish them. Or they can be done completely free-hand, with paint pens and markers. You can get really fancy too, with ribbons, buttons, doilies, fancy paper, glitter. There are just a few that I need every year and this year I am making my own, which will add a personal touch and save me money,
  41. Pay attention to amounts – Especially when using cleaners,  or something that is not critical to be measured. The other day I noticed that the dish liquid was going down really fast. I began backing off of the amount each day, little by little. I discovered that I had been using around 10X too much each time I washed dishes. I did the same thing with my shampoo, similar result! It only takes a little. Paying attention to amounts when it comes to using laundry products, hygiene products, and bathroom and kitchen cleaners can be a big money-saver!
  42. Mend clothes, prevent or treat stains – This can make your wardrobe go a lot further! A sewing machine is a good investment, but for most things you will only need a needle and thread. YouTube has great how-to videos on this subject. Wear a chef’s apron while cooking and washing dishes. I have a lab coat that I wear for other messy jobs. And I have learned that if I pay attention to the way I sit at the supper table, I spill things a lot less often on my shirt
  43. The little things – If you are through with the light, turn it off. If it warmed up some outside, maybe you can turn off the heater. If your destination is within walking distance, don’t drive, get some exercise and save the money. These ideas might go without saying. Though when I should have thought of them first, only now as I kick my savings plan into high gear, do they come to mind. When you add up the little things, they can amount to BIG savings!!

Except for a couple that I am still evaluating, these are a few tried and true ideas. They earn my seal of approval, and I am using them all myself! Happy budget-keeping everybody 🙂

Life Management


When I say that calorie counting for me, is a lifestyle change, I really mean that. It is important to me that I learn how to cope with real life

The quest for balance.
The quest for balance.

while still finding a way to eat right. A lifestyle change does not mean that I have to give up the things I love to do, in order to better control my eating urges.  It means I have to bust through the barriers of my bad habits and forge new possibilities and new, broader limits for myself. This week has been quite a challenge. My main focus has shifted to things other than calorie counting which has made it difficult in that area.

  • I have been involved this week with a major clean-up job around the building.  It looks great!! I’m so proud of all my hard work! And it will be so much easier to move around in here too!
  • We have plunged full force into our financial stability plan. So I am budgeting the money and making sacrifices as needed.  That’s kind of hard to get used to.
  • I have embraced my new time management plan, also. The outlook calendar on my hard-drive is set it up to hold my schedule, and I have added some things to my day.  It’s gone pretty well, but the last week I have been too busy. I want to to get back to it on Monday.
  • I have been testing in the kitchen to find some good candy recipes for my little cottage kitchen business.  There are still a few more to try. Once I settle on the ones I will offer, my attention will turn to packaging them.  Then I need to look at cookie recipes.  I have eaten a few pieces of candy and I will find out Sunday when I weigh in, what the damage is.

I have a real hard time balancing between various tasks and tend to be all or nothing about things.  But I am fighting that bad habit, because I realize that trying to always do everything perfectly is unrealistic.  It is actually counter-productive.  Today I am going to be happy with what I do accomplish,  It won’t be perfect! And if I gain weight this week, then I will try harder next week.  It’s going to take time to learn how to eat right, come what may.

Surviving Mom’s Kitchen!!

A Basic Calorie Counting Tool
A Basic Calorie Counting Tool

Mom and Dad’s kitchen has been the source of my undoing for many years.  I would be ok at home, or almost anywhere else, but go to their house and I get a major attack of the munchies.  I guess it’s partly due to habit, and it’s partly a comfort thing too.  For most people this might not be too much of a problem, but I go there 3 times a day!  And during the noon visit, I fix them lunch, so I’m right there in the kitchen for a good length of time.  Not making excuses, just stating the facts.

It’s been a battle!  Over and over, I tried just saying that I will not allow myself to eat at their house, but that does not work!!  I tried saying “only healthy foods”, no.  I tried saying “only during family gatherings”, no.  Well I have finally come up with a simple solution that works perfectly!

When I first started selling premium quality Norpro kitchen gadgets, I ordered a lot of items to try out and test, because I don’t want to sell anything that is not really good!  One of the first items I bought was an electronic food scale.  I used it to weigh my letters for postage for awhile, then I began counting calories and since then, I have really put it to work.  I tried to order more, because I thought that would be a good item to offer for sale, but it was discontinued.  They have another one now, totally different.  Mine is larger, this one is about as flat as an iPad, but a bit smaller.  So I bought one to test.  I don’t need one here though because of the nice one I already have, so this one ended up down at Mom’s.  And that’s the greatest thing that could have ever happened!

Most items come with a nutrition label, so now, if I want to eat something down at Mom and Dad’s house, I have a way of knowing exactly what I am getting into.  It’s normally really hard to figure out a serving of potato chips, but it is as easy as pie with a good digital food scale.  Get out a small bowl, set it on the scale then turn it on.  Even with the bowl on it, the scale sets to 0.  Then just pour out an ounce (or 28 grams) of chips, and you’ve got it.  Then, look on the nutrition label and get your count.  Great for cereal too.  It’s great for lots of things, I use the digital food scale daily.  I even weigh my coffee creamer with it.

The other night, we had some really nice salads for supper.  I put them in my favorite, big pasta bowls with chickens painted on them 🙂 .  What follows, is my method for assembling my salad:

  • Put the baby spinach, tomatoes, and onions in the individual serving salad bowl. (I don’t count the calories on basic vegetables such as these).
  • Put the bowl on the scale and turn it on. The scale will set to 0.
  • While the salad is right there on the scale, add the teriyaki chicken and quickly write down the weight that displays on the scale. Tare the scale.  This sets it back to 0.
  • With the same salad still on the scale, add the cheese. Write down the weight that displays on the scale, and again tare the scale.
  • Same salad, now add the olives and write down the displayed weight.

It all works real fast.  And now, using only one bowl,  I have my complete salad fixed up really pretty and fast, and my notes for how to count that salad.  And I can get the package nutrition label or go to Google to figure out my calories.  I measured the ranch dressing in a little bowl on the side.  (Expert tip:  My beautiful daughter, tells me that the best way to add dressing to your salad is to order it on the side and then just dip the tines of your fork in the dressing while eating your salad.)  This works great!!  It adds light flavor to your salad, and the salad dressing goes a long way,..  forget diet salad dressing, I just use the good stuff, now!

Ever since I took that digital scale down to Mom and Dad’s house, I have had no problem dealing with their kitchen, it’s as simple as that.  And I love the fact that I can still eat down there and I don’t have a thing to worry about.  The new model is very easy to clean, which I like.  I consider the digital food scale to be one of the most basic necessities there is for counting calories.  It is also teaching me what a healthy serving looks like.  So if I am caught away from home, and I eat something without being able to measure it, chances are I will have a good idea about the amount that I need to estimate.  That’s calorie counting 101!

My Little Blue Book

My Little Blue Book
My Little Blue Book

Many of today’s diets restrict the types of foods that you eat. But calorie counting is still alive and well as a way to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. I prefer this method over any other because I want to have choices about what I eat. Choices encourage a permanent change.

Weight loss aids help the dieter with the day to day struggle. One way to make the task go a little easier is to create an index book that will hold nutrition information on the foods you eat  most often.

I cleaned out some desk drawers recently and found an old address book, the kind you get at the Hallmark store.  The notebook was gently used.  It has 6 rings, and is filled with pages and dividers marked alphabetical.  It has an attractive, sturdy cover, too.  I almost sent it to Goodwill, because nowadays I keep all my contacts on computer.  But it finally occurred to me that I could use this with my calorie counting.

It’s a good idea to keep a book of calorie and nutrition information for regularly consumed foods, or perhaps for recipes, which are a little bit involved to figure sometimes.  So I converted this address book into my index book.  There were only a few pages that had been written on, so I tossed those out.  Several of the dividers were written on also, so I used white labels to cover all the old handwriting.  I ended up with a very nice book to put my information in.

Highlighted Titles
Highlighted Titles

I like writing down the calorie, fiber, protein, and calcium content for regularly consumed foods because I don’t want to have to look them up in the pantry every time I want to eat something.  I write my information down in large letters, so that I don’t need my glasses to read it.  And once I get a recipe figured out, I definately don’t want to have to do that again.  So I write the information down right away.


Clip and save nutrition labels until you get a chance to enter them.
Clip and save nutrition labels until you get a chance to enter them.

Basically, it’s a time saver.  The most important part about making it work for me, has been taking the time to fill it out.  If I empty a cereal box or something, then I cut the nutrition information out of the box and lay it on the table, marking what it is for, on the back side, before I toss out the box.  When I get 4 or 5 nutrition labels collected, I just sit down with my glasses on, for a few minutes and enter the information into my blue book.

The nice part is, that when I need to know some nutrition information, then I can just pick up my book and look it up.  The alphabetical dividers make it easy to find things when I need to. This is just another way to minimize the fuss of calorie counting.  It really does save a lot of bother.

2016 New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!

The last week of December has been great fun! Our family Christmas gathering on Saturday was so nice! I saw cousins, nieces and nephews, my son-in-law, and I especially enjoyed spending some time with my precious daughter. Glenn and I spent Sunday afternoon remembering 2015, a good idea for a year-end tradition! After that, everything has been forward-looking. I put a lot of thought into how I hope next year will unfold, and how I might help my goals succeed. Then I got busy tying up the loose ends of 2015, so that the new year could arrive on a clean plate.

There were just a few things we needed, to clear the way for 2016.  I’d rather not be sitting there when the ball drops, holding my old tired list of things that still need doing.  So we just got busy and cranked out some work. Glenn and I got the flu shots that we forgot in October. He tackled a big computer repair job and fixed everything good as new! I got the house cleaned back up after the holiday; handled important phone calls, mail, filing, online account maintenance, changed out filters, batteries and hard-to-reach light bulbs; laundry; an impromptu doctor’s appointment; cleaned the coffee pot.  I would have put away the Christmas decorations, but Glenn is still enjoying them 🙂 Now we are as ready as we can be!

It required a lot of reflection and consideration, but I narrowed it down to just a few things that I consider to be the most important goals for the new year. These are the things that I will get busy working on.

  • Weight Loss – I got a late start on this in 2015, but I am glad I did it. Because I lost almost 20#, which is that much I will not have to lose this year. I worked out some kinks and developed my rhythm for this task, as well. I’ll keep on calorie counting because it is working for me, and I will add a fitness work-out in the very near future.
  • Financial Stability – I have been dependent on credit cards way too many times in my life.  They are an alluring crutch. I have managed to get myself out of debt numerous times, only to repeat the cycle over and over. We put the cards away, and will do this one more time by postponing every expense that we can possibly live without. Upon reaching our goal, we will open an account to cover unexpected expenses. By the end of this year, everything will be arranged so that we no longer need credit cards.
  • Time Management – According to my Dad, repetition is necessary to train the mind.  I can use that.  I have a real problem with my unruly mind sometimes! I avoid things that are important; things that I desire to be good habits in my life. It’s like sometimes I can only be content to work against myself 🙁 So I am attempting to get on a schedule.  There are things I will do each morning, at mid-day, and in the evening.  I’ll do certain things on certain days of the week. I think someone might have to dangle some kind of carrot in my face.  Some days, this will be very difficult! But if I succeed, it will be such a positive change, full of important rewards.

Not many things can compare to the faith and hope generated with ushering in a sparkling, fresh new year! These are my 3 big goals for 2016.  And each of them can be broken into smaller goals. So there are a lot of great things here, to be accomplished. When it comes to new years resolutions, I generally, always make progress. For that reason, I feel confident that at least some of these goals will make it to my reality over the course of this year.  And once they get there, I will own them 🙂 How exciting! I can’t wait to get started!