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)

cluckeyo.com

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 45 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. Global Pharmacy Plus – If you don’t have good insurance for your meds, this is a definite good place to check out.  It is an online, overseas pharmacy that will sell them to you at a fraction of the prices in the US. They also carry pet meds for about 1/2  price. They have been in business since 2003 and they have good customer reviews.  We have ordered twice so far from this company, and have had a good experience .
  5. Pet 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.
  6. 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 .
  7. 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!
  8. 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!
  9. 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!
  10. Walmart.com – 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 Walmart.com. 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 Walmart.com. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Dry beans, peas, and rice – Very cheap, easy, delicious, and loaded with good nutrition. They will conserve the grocery budget!
  13. 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!
  14. 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!
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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!
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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!!
  24. 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!!
  25. 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!
  26. 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!
  27. 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.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. 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!
  31. 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!
  32. 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!!
  33. 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!
  34. 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.
  35. 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.
  36. 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.
  37. 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.
  38. 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!
  39. 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.
  40. 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!
  41. 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,
  42. 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!
  43. 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.
  44. 1000bulbs.com – I have not ordered from this place yet, but I have been checking out their prices and looks to me like we can save some serious money here. Shipping seems reasonable. I guess they sell just about very kind of light bulb imaginable! Though LED bulbs are expensive to purchase, I plan to try them out from this place, because I have heard that in the end, they are the most economical way to go. I’ll post more when I know more.
  45. 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.

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!

🙂 HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYBODY!!

Christmas Traditions

I don’t know a whole lot of Christmas traditions, just the ones we use in our family. But I’m always interested in learning and sharing ideas for making the most of the holiday season. Listed here are some of the ways we bring tradition into our holiday.

Simple Popcorn Garland
Simple Popcorn Garland

Decorating:  I have always loved Christmas decorating though I try to keep it pretty simple. Many years ago I started making popcorn garland for the Christmas tree. Very delicate, very pretty. It takes about 2 hours to make everything I need for our medium sized tree. So it’s not a big time issue, nor does it require a lot of expense.  A little work and you have something very special, that cannot be easily found in a store . I use a hot air popper and fishing line, and I turn the country Christmas tunes on satellite. Before you know it, I’m putting it on the tree.  You end up with something very, very pretty and unique. Glenn and his sister share this memory from childhood.  They always strung popcorn garland with their mother and other siblings, and they added cranberries here and there. That sounds lovely, I never tried cranberries. But I think I will add them next year. And perhaps my grandchildren can get in on the fun! When the season is past, and it is time to put things away, I cut the line. The popcorn slides right off to feed the birds, out in the  yard.

Cornbread Dressing
Cornbread Dressing

Cooking:  I am always asked to make the dressing for the family Christmas dinner.  I enjoy doing it because I have been trying for 20 years to learn how to make good dressing.  It’s difficult when you only make it once a year. Though dryness can be a problem, mine seemed to always to be a bit on the wet side.  A couple of years ago I stumbled across 2 techniques that have enabled me to make good dressing, reliably. These are very simple tips worth sharing.

  • I used to make up the cornbread several days in advance and let it dry out on the counter, but this presents some problems.  One year it molded before I got the dressing made, so it was a total flop before I could even get started. Also, it is always possible that a little mouse could get in the house or a roach and they would make a beeline for that cornbread. I now prefer to make it the night before, cutting it into 1 inch squares and keeping it overnight in a sealed container. This is safer and more sanitary. On the morning before the meal, I pile it all on a broiler pan and dry it out in a 225 degree oven, along with the white breads, stirring every hour. The white breads (placed on bare oven racks) only take an hour and they are like croutons.  The cornbread takes about 3 hours.  It’s fresher! And since all the moisture which will go back into that bread is made of broth, rather than just water, this method makes a richer, tastier dressing.
  • Estimate the amount of broth you think you will need, add it to the dried out breads and the rest of your recipe, and stir it all up. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Afterwards, inspect your raw dressing and use clean paper towels to soak up any excess liquid (puddles), before dumping everything in the dish for baking. This is a fail-proof method for eliminating the problem of heavy, soggy dressing. And since I have been doing this I have been able to produce a much better result. It may also work well to dip out the dressing into the baking dish, using a slotted spoon. This might eliminate any hidden puddles and I am going to try it this year.
Family time at Christmas.
Family time at Christmas.

Family Socializing:  A few years ago, my sister began a really nice tradition for our family Christmas gathering.  Early in the year, she solicited our help through email, asking us to send her our family stories.  When Christmas came, she had compiled them and made a game with them. She presented a sketchy event and we all guessed who it was about. After we found out, that person told the full story and we all learned a lot about each other.  We have played this game several years now and it is a lovely tradition.  The first year was absolutely magical!

Where do I want to be, this time, next year?
Where do I want to be, this time, next year?

New Years Reflection:  I never plan to, but the last 10 days or so, of each year, I find myself thinking a lot about the year to come. What are my hopes for the new year? Where do I want to be, this time, next year? I don’t try to figure out how to make any of it happen at this point, but I spend time thinking about my hopes and dreams.  I may even make a list, so that when the new year does arrive, I have something to look at and start working on.  It helps me decide my direction for the next twelve months; it keeps me in a positive, forward-looking frame of mind; it inspires me toward the coming year.

Have a very merry Christmas!
Have a very merry Christmas!

I am having  fun with my new blog and I want to thank you for reading and commenting.  Wishing you a merry, merry Christmas and a joyous, new year!

The Hen House

Foghorn Leghorn in the in the hen house.
Foghorn Leghorn in the in the hen house.

I ate a cinnamon roll yesterday. It was 450 calories and I counted it. In the end, I actually wound up having a perfect calorie counting day! Enough of that subject!  I would rather talk about this great holiday season.

Though I began this month feeling kind of like Scrooge, December has turned out to be a great month for getting things done. Some of my kids will be here for Christmas, so I want the place to sparkle! After all, why decorate the house if the house is a mess? It got a good cleaning. Yesterday and today we have been cleaning up outside. This evening we were ready to decorate the porch. It looks and sounds very festive 🙂 , with pretty lights and country Christmas tunes piped through the outdoor speakers. I’m sporting a spiffy new hair-do, which I love, thanks to my very talented niece. But my favorite project so far this season, has been the quail room, which our plumber dubbed, “the hen house”.

More of Foghorn.
More of Foghorn.

It was quite the mess, and took about a week to get into shape, but it has really turned out nice. About a year ago, Glenn hung 5 big Boston ferns from the 11 foot ceiling, along the 20 foot expanse of south exposure windows. They let in a lot of light.  So the ferns have done well, as have all the other plants. The roses, hibiscus, and lantana are blooming.  Our new little hens have been moved from brooder to cages and are just starting to lay their first eggs. All but a couple of roosters are in a separate pen.

The tornado from this past spring left some damage, and now, all the broken windows have been replaced.  New plumbing pipes were run to the room so it is super easy to water the plants as well as fill the buckets for the brand new watering system. Now the new little hens and roosters drink from a small, no mess cup, rather than the filthy jars they once used. A rat got in earlier this year, tore open some bags of mushroom compost and left some droppings. That’s all cleaned up now.  As for the potting station, the soil amendments (including our first load of compost made with our new compost tumbler) are in nice, galvanized cans. And I’ve implemented a new system for cleaning cages that cuts way down on the mess and keeps life simple.

The retirees have a special deal. After my quail are one year old, I start a new hatch, and the old ones become members of the elite group who are allowed to live out the rest of their days cage-free, out in the room. I spread Aspen shred everywhere, and brought in piles of fresh cut winter grass for nesting. There is a plastic swimming pool full of sand and logs, for them to clean themselves. They have the water run-off in the plant saucers to drink. They eat very little feed in an arrangement like this, so they are not a drain, economically. The life expectancy of a quail is about 2 years and their egg production drops off drastically after about a year. The meat of an older bird is a bit tough, so I can’t see the point of butchering them. And since I have the luxury of this room, it just makes sense to do it this way.

Foghorn Leghorn.
Foghorn Leghorn.

It’s really a  pleasure to spend time here now. There are still more improvements to come but we got a lot of really good stuff done for the quail, this year. Now that we are at a stopping place, we can move onto the next project.  And we will be busy right up until everyone gets here. The honey room needs cleaning. There are tons of boxes to break down and shred in the hallway. Once that’s done we can start a new load in the compost tumbler. I’m making the dressing, gravy, and carrots for the big family gathering.  And if there is any time left, I want to stock up my cottage kitchen.

Now that the kids are grown and gone, with full lives of their own, Christmas is quite different than it used to be; different, but still really, really good! It’s been a joy getting things looking good and functioning around here, in preparation for our anxiously awaited guests. One last chance to make the most of a good year; the best holiday season I can recall in a long time.