August Diary: Promises I'm Making Myself

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Saturday:  It's late in Shabat, just two hours more to have the full extent of the day of rest.  Today began early.  I stepped out on the porch to feed the pets and looked at the sun rising and sang "Shema".   That I remember the Hebrew after all these years away from synagogue, that these words come easily still at the sight of daybreak, astounds me:

Shema, Israel, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad.
Hear O Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One...

It was a hurry up sort of morning, but the wonder of God was  there on the front porch this morning.  I felt reverent as I went about the rest of my morning preparations.

Katie and I went to pick up Taylor.  Over the hills and through the woods and past meadows shining in the golden morning light and alongside fields of freshly mown hay with bales scattered here and there.  Over creeks flowing over rocks and rivers slowly moving along sandy beds.  And everywhere the golden rod standing high, the mallow stems heavy with buds, foxtail grass dancing in the air currents, and trees with autumn hues already tinging the leaves scattered amongst the pines.   My heart ached and swelled as each new sight came into view, singing a song of both joy and grief, as I see the signs of one season passing into another.  I have learned to find something lovely and beautiful in every season of the year rather than claim just one as my favorite.  And so I must grieve the loss of one and rejoice in the other.

Bonus of this road trip today was being in near proximity to a well known peach shed which blissfully was packed with traffic, a sure sign they had peaches still.  I passed a little tent with a table laden with little yellow squash and red ripe tomatoes.  My mouth watered.   On our way back to the house, when time was not quite the premium thing it was on the trip up,  I stopped and bought a big basket of peaches. I didn't even ask the price.  I got heavy red ripe tomatoes big enough to fill my hand.  I filled a sack with tender little yellow summer squash.   I didn't care about my financial state just at that moment.  I cared about savoring the remaining days of summer and it's lovely fruitful state. And in the end, it's all part and parcel of the grocery budget which renews on Monday anyway.  I'll borrow now and cut back later.

I asked how much longer they might have peaches.  "We hope we can stay open until next weekend."  One week...Just one week more and then we're done with peaches for the next 10 months.  I haven't eaten nearly enough of them.  I've made just one cobbler all summer long.  I promise that next year I shall eat my fill, I shall make cobblers galore, I will....

We came home and I cut up the squash with one of the last Vidalia onions into a frying pan and then added 1/4 cup of water, covered them and let them steam gently.  I made a salad with half a tomato diced finely over it.  "I've not even had a single fresh tomato sandwich..." I said, as I sprinkled those lovely red bits over the green lettuce.  "I promise I shall have at least one this week and next year..." Oh, next year!

We had a lovely visit after dinner with Taylor and Katie.  Taylor wanted purple nails "with glitter...which we do NOT eat!"   Sometimes a child does hint at some corrected behavior don't they?  I imagined her with a mouth sparkled with glitter at her nursery school and a sparkling tongue and giggles before the teacher noticed...

So I did her nails and then on a whim, I used the glittery polish to coat my own nails.  I'm too old for glitter...but I think it looks magical in the light.   Didn't I promise myself to do my fingernails more often?  Oh! one more promise I really need to keep!

Taylor asked about the little cats on the bookshelf.  "One day," I told her, "they shall be yours...because my grandmother gave them to me and I would like to give them to you,  my granddaughter."   Not that Taylor's my only granddaughter, I have four more but somehow I know that Taylor is the one these cats belong to.   It feels odd to be thinking of little legacies such as this, but I told Katie and John, "Listen to me.  Be my witnesses. This is my promise:  these cats will be Taylor's and if I die before I gift them to her, be sure that she gets them...and the little girl with a book will be Hailey's."

Taylor crawled into my lap and leaned on my shoulder.  "I love you..."  Oh my heart!  How blessed I am to know the very genuine love of these children of my children.  How very blessed!

John took Katie and Taylor home to Katie's a little later.   I sat here in the quiet, with my thoughts whispering all about me.  Tired and happy and mindful of things I want to hold tight to and mindful that none of these endless days of housework, no matter how satisfying the work may be, will be the things I remember most.  It will indeed be the taste of a sun ripened peach grown in Georgia soil, the feel of a little girl's head on my shoulder, the way a good ripe tomato smells and summer squash tastes, and how lovely a meadow is in sunlight of a dewy morning.  It will be those things which I shall remember and it makes keeping these promises to myself imperative.

John has stepped out on the 'verandah' as he chooses to call the front porch and the wind is blowing hot and heavy and ringing the old iron chimes.  Ting, ting, ting, ting...Deeper than most windchimes.   I confess I'm more fond of middle and deeper tones than the tinkly sorts of chimes.  These please me. It takes a real wind to stir those bells to life.  In the distance, coming ever nearer, thunder rumbles.   Summer's music...Please Lord, make me mindful of my promises to keep!

Sunday:  There are sheets and towels on the line and peach cobbler cooling atop the stove.  Not for us that cobbler but for Taylor's daddy.  The house about me is clean and quiet just now.  Here in a little bit I shall head over to Katie's to visit with them for a little while before Taylor begins her journey home.

I sent John off to work this morning and tackled housework right away though I was tired and thought longingly of going back to my bed.  But not today.  Today there are sheets to blow in the sunlight and a house to put to order and a child to spend time loving.

I think John is feeling the pull of the seasonal change.  He's asked me to make a turkey pot pie this week and I've promised I shall.   He wants Roast beef hash, too...and he'll have that as well, but it amuses me that he's wanting these comforting cooler weather sorts of foods.  I've told you before that summer salads do pall for us after a bit.  

We'll have a few more despite these longings of ours for cozy meals.   A chef salad will be a quick and easy meal after grocery shopping this week...and I find myself suddenly making up menus for the week ahead, something I'd let drop for a bit because I was just flat tired of planning.  However, between leftovers and requests I guess I've got this week pretty much covered...Now let's see how many of these meals I actually get to make.  The roast beef meal we had on Saturday and the enchiladas were thawed on Friday when John had said we'd skip the date then got that second wind in his sails and wanted to go out after all. The roast beef is in the fridge... Everything else is frozen at present or is fresh and ready to prepare.

Roast Beef, Summer Squash and Onions, Tossed Salad, Matzoh Cracker Candy

Chicken Verde Enchiladas, Yellow Rice and Peach Salsa

Roast Beef Hash, Wedge Salads with Thousand Island Dressing

on my own 

out with Mama

Chef's Salad, Homemade Croutons, Peach Cobbler (for us)

Turkey Pot Pie, Cranberry Sauce, Pear Salads

And there's my menu plan!

Speaking of food: one of the frugal articles I read last week dealt with grocery spending.  She cited the USDA government site  where you can see what food costs were for the prior month and how much one following the thrifty or low cost plans might be spending.  And then she suggested that financial advisors suggest 6% of our annual income is what we ought to spend.  As nearly as I recall how to figure percentages our spending should be something like $61 a week for the two of us.  Now  that's only for food.  It does not include pet supplies, paper or cleaning products etc.   It is also a good deal less than the government's food plan figures for a thrifty diet.  According to their figures in June we would have been spending about $84/per week.  I actually think I came in right around there  with a few paper products and one or two pet items tossed in but those would not account for more than $11 so I'm still nowhere near the 6% mark.  It does give me food for thought.  I was so proud of trimming my budget to $300 a month...But could I possibly hit closer to $244?   I'm pretty sure my husband would rebel hard at that but I'm tempted to try it just the same.  And of course, once we do retire, our 6% would also be a good bit less than $ I feel I owe it to myself to try and trim things back a bit more.   I'll let you know!

Now off I go to unload the dishwasher and finish my bit of housework.

Monday:  More tired and weary than I'd thought I'd be today...I didn't plan a day of mostly rest, but there you are.  I realized this morning that I basically did the equivalent of a drive to Kingsland and back with a brief stay to visit...but 8 hours of driving!  I felt it this morning.

Thankfully only light housework was needed and dinner was pretty much ready.  I am reheating Chicken Enchiladas and have a salad made.  I'd meant to have peach salsa  with this meal but it's more effort than I want to go to today.

John and I have been watching an interesting series of videos where the YouTubers go to visit old graveyards along back roads here in Georgia, some of them which are severely neglected.  I think it's made us both aware of the graveyard back of our house.  It is not on my property but just over the fence line.  Granny and Granddaddy always maintained the graveyard and when my cousin bought the land, so did he.  However, when it fell into my brother's hands it was no longer kept up.  I'd asked to take it on with his permission and he agreed but then he wired all the entrances shut with barbed wire so that I couldn't get into the area.  Now that Sam owns the land, I think I can get to it once more, but ten years of neglect means that it's now snaky and heavily overgrown.

It is my hope that we can reclaim the space and maintain it once more but both Sam and John feel the graveyard is just too far gone.  However, come cold weather I shall go there and begin to do what I might.  Another  of my 'small bites' projects.  I feel sure if I start it Sam and John will eventually have pity on me and join in...

The graveyard was not a family ground.  It belonged to a huge old Federal house that sat on the hill before ours.  This land was likely part of that original land grant but I haven't yet researched it out to prove that fact.   Still, I do know the people buried near my home were once residents there.  I would like to do my part in preserving a little bit of history, especially since the house burned down 30 odd years ago.

Another promise I shall make this week: reclaim the graveyard and give it it's proper care.

Tuesday:  We didn't do much of anything at all yesterday.  I was just worn out.  Some days are just so.  John did a load of laundry and hung a few things to dry.  I made meals and kept those simple and easy.

Today we played catch up.  Typically we'd drive down on payday to pick up John's check if he's not working  the Tuesday following.  Well he wasn't working today, but we didn't go down yesterday afternoon.  He wanted to cut Sam's grass since Sam's busy with renovations inside the house. John went over yesterday afternoon,  though why he waited until afternoon to do so is beyond me.  It was so terribly hot, with a heat index of 107f.  It's been that way all week long.  It's meant to end here this weekend, though.

I lived without AC for years and years.  We had only window units we used occasionally.  The year Sam was born was one year when we used AC all summer long because it was miserably hot from May to September that year.  Real temperatures that year were near 110F.  Between the summer heat and the winter cold we spent much of the year living in just one or two rooms.  That's all we could heat or cool in those years.

It was very expensive to run AC in the 1980's and '90s.  When John and I got together and were struggling so we simply could not afford to run the window units though they were brand new.  We ended up compromising.  We turned them on Friday evening when we came in from work and turned them off Sunday night when we went to bed (11pm). It cost us over $300 a month to run it 8 days.   We've never paid that much a month here in the worst of our summers.  We came near it this past autumn when it was freezing and we had to run the emergency heat after our motor went out on the unit.   But all in all, AC is much more affordable than it was 25 years ago and I am so grateful for that!

Today we did the payday errands: banking, bills, and groceries.  Not as much work as it sounds  because I have the bills ready to go out days ahead and then I just take them to the mailbox as soon as we do the banking.   John had warned we'd have a shorter check.  We didn't.   It wasn't quite enough to meet all our needs this time around but I'd already planned ahead for that,  so it was easy enough to proceed as planned.  I'll be sure to tell him we're on a no spend from now until next pay period which should see us through this small slump.

I did well enough on groceries.  I didn't buy any meat this time around.  I'd looked at chuck roasts but they were very fatty and the one I thought worth purchasing was over $20...Wowza!  I decided I'd just skip it.  I know we've plenty of meat on hand at present.

As I put groceries away in the pantry, I suggested to John that we might skip a big grocery shop next pay period and get just dairy and produce as needed.  We have quite a deep pantry at the moment and I saw only two or three items that I wished to stock more heavily, like flour, cereal and coffee.   Again, good sales will  fill those needs.

I was thinking this morning that over the years I've found lots of ways to save money.

Our mobile phone service is quite reasonable. We pay roughly the same for two phones that we once paid for one landline and one prepaid phone.  At one point our mobile phone company bought out our satellite TV service.  We were able to combine bills and make a small savings.  However, I soon discovered the days of renegotiating our satellite service contract was an exercise in futility with the phone company as boss.  So much for twenty five years of good customer status!

Our local phone service internet was abysmal.  It had gotten so that we had no internet service from Friday afternoon at 4pm until Monday morning at 9am.  No we didn't get any discounts for the lack of service.  The company denied there was any problem!  So we moved to a satellite service.  We paid a LOT for that service.  Double what we'd paid for the local service.  However,  it was reliable and we had service we could count on.

When our current mobile phone service offered an unlimited data pan  we hopped right on, changed phone plans and got the newly available hot spot.  We dropped internet satellite and saved on new smart phones, buying older models that were heavily discounted, paying cash up front.  That kept our phone bills low.   Smart phones for the same price as a mobile/text service?  Please and thank you!

When lightning ran in on our television last August, we bought a Fire TV and in January I finally convinced John to quit satellite.  We dropped the satellite TV service which meant we paid still less out of pocket.  I was already paying for Amazon Prime membership each month, well worth the savings in shipping alone.  We aren't big shoppers, but I guarantee I order something from Amazon every month that is cheaper than I can find it elsewhere and that is covered under the prime free shipping.  We watch pretty much all the television we want to watch with our hot spot.  We did subscribe to Netflix' basic plan.  I am still paying far less for the phone service with unlimited data, Amazon and Netflix than I previously paid for phones, internet and satellite tv services.

But for all that some things change, others pretty much stay the same.  We've paid basically the same amount for gasoline each month for the past 20 years.  Some years we drive more and some we drive less.  Our average is always right around the same amount each month for costs though.

Groceries is another area that remained fairly stable for a long number of years.  I stopped buying certain items and made more from scratch and yet it's only been in these past two years I've begun to see a significant savings in the grocery spending.   I might add that during this two year period of time I've fed more people and spent less, while previously we spent a good deal more and fed only two.   Now that we're basically feeding just the two of us once more, I've watched my budget amount drop to what is an all time low for us.   Still...I could perhaps save more and I am working on it!

Being frugal is never a stagnant and finite thing.  As time goes on, some of those ways I saved are no longer valid.  Eating habits change, income changes, products and promotions leave the market or come on the market. Our needs change.  What is needed in this stage of life is not the same as what was needed previously and won't be the same in five years.  For every new thing that comes along there are new ways to save and manage. Being frugal has never been boring!  And for me, that's what keeps it fun.

Thursday:  I had every intent of sharing with you all yesterday but by the time I was done with Mama, I was really and most sincerely done in every sense of the word.  Once Bess and the boys left (and what good medicine they were!), I hadn't even the energy to eat.  I drank a V8 and showered and went off to bed with a book on prayer and fell asleep and slept the bulk of all night long.  Wailing and gnashing of teeth might have occurred in moderation in between that V8 and the shower but it was in extreme moderation.

Today is better.   Today I am mindful of my many blessings and mindful of my own ways and words.  As well I ought to be.  Difficult relationships sometimes never cease to be difficult.  But more on that another day and time, perhaps.

This morning I greeted John with a proper big breakfast.  Funny thing, we are eating less these days.  I suppose it's partly due to the heat and partly due to the fact that so much of what we choose to eat is just good fresh foods and they fill us amply even when eaten in moderation.  Our 'big' breakfast consisted of Fried egg, grits, toast and turkey sausage.   It is a big breakfast but certainly not one of those mammoth restaurant 'big' sorts of breakfasts.

After breakfast I started a loaf of bread.  I'd really meant to get one going yesterday morning when John left as I was sure it would be done by the time I was ready to leave for Mama's, but time slipped away from me as I got all out of routine and did things in far different time frames than usual...which all worked  lovely as I was practically dressed and fully made up by the time Bess and Isaac stopped in to start their laundry.  Quick prayers, everyone, that work on their utility room goes through this weekend and their washer and dryer are up and running once more.  It's hard work lugging loads and loads of clothes from there to here and back again...

Mama, as I expected, wanted to go to the big peach packing shed just 20 minutes north of me.  It is a good hour or so from her house...But go we did and I bought a half peck of peaches.  For one thing I meant to share with Bess, and I did.   I will put some in the freezer.  And I want to savor the last of this seasonal fruit because I do love peaches!

For some reason the morning flew past.  Quicker than usual.  I'm not real sure why.   Well I do too know why.  John and I had a lot to talk over this morning and to think about and come back to talk over one more time.

 I was still finishing up Bible study while our dinner cooked today.  It was one of those lovely Bible study sessions in which each passage of scripture I read today was pertinent to my own thoughts about matters that we'd discussed.  

Friday:  The end of another week...They do fly by these days, don't they?  

John and I have a lot to consider these days.  There's a possibility that our plans for retirement will be pushed forward from next June to end of this year.  All my plans to save money and stash away all I might as far as non-perishable things will be more modest than I'd been shooting for.  I'm not worried, but it is a little disconcerting.   Still, nothing is yet set in stone and we are at the point where now is as good as later and we'll trust God's timing.  In the end, we must always let go of our plans and rely on Him anyway, as I've discovered more than once.

My house is very nearly Shabat ready.   We've no plans for this weekend aside from going to church.  I will have turkey pot pie for tomorrow's dinner which I'll do my best to prep ahead.  I'm debating dessert options.  On the one hand, I think gelatin or pudding would be a nice counter to the hot pot pie, don't you?   I'd love to make a lemon meringue pie but not sure I really want to go to that much work this afternoon when the kitchen is pretty much cleaned for the weekend.  I'll have to think on this.   I  have a Chef Salad for our main meal today.   It was on my menu plan and I find between cheese, a few slivers of turkey and some hard boiled egg we've plenty of protein and fat to satisfy us all afternoon long.  And there's a lovely bit of leftover peach cobbler, though I did make a smaller one yesterday.   

And that is my week, full of the expected, and the unexpected, full of the lovely and the difficult, full of promises to keep.  

Frugal things:
The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments, so nothing be lost  I mean fragments of time as well as materials...every member of a household should be employed either in earning or saving money.
The American Frugal Housewife ~ Lydia Maria Francis Child

It's quite hot and the AC is pretty much running non-stop until 10 pm every night and then coming on periodically all through the night and early mornings.  I turned the AC up to 78, not my favorite point as it tends to feel a bit more stuffy, but it at least is one way to save.  I've noted the AC cuts off earlier and stays off a wee bit longer. (This should end as of Tuesday evening this week...Milder temperatures are coming our way.  Hooray!)

I'm also being very mindful of running water unnecessarily at present.   This is finally getting to be more and more a habit with me as I have always tended to be the sort who let the water run and run as I rinsed dishes for the dishwasher or brushed my teeth or washed my face.  However, electricity is money and so I am doing my best to be mindful that the pump must run if I must run water.

Happily, all the heat keeps generating pop up rain showers so watering plants is not a chore I must attend to.  As for porch and house plants, it's easy enough to 'save' water from bits left in bottles or glasses or that is running while it's cold and I'm needing hot to catch up and use for those.  And if I'm quick, I can often pop a porch planter under the run off from the roof and water plants with rain water.

I may be just longing to shop but I know my current season isn't going to be any less tight if I run up a credit card bill, so I'm deleting tempting emails full of sales and waiting a few days before even considering those few purchases that make it into a cart.  So far, nothing has made it from the cart to 'order' because I either forget it or I discover something I can use that I already have or I just make up my mind to go without.

I ordered a new phone case and accessory ring  from eBay.  I bought the last case two years ago and it's falling apart.  I tried to remove the ring from the old case but it's a no go.  I even went to  YouTube and I discovered that they don't re-stick once removed.  The new ring  was pennies on the dollar  on eBay for the exact same one I bought for bigger bucks at the phone store last year.  I literally saved enough on the ring to cover the cost of the new case and keep change in my pocket.   In case you're wondering what a phone ring is, it's a ring that you stick to the back of your phone or phone case and  can slide a finger through and  allows you to hold the phone without dropping it.  Dropping my phone is an issue for me, so the ring isn't a vanity thing, it's purely a necessity.  Ditto for the phone case.  I get the shock absorbing sort of case.  Both items will be paid from my allowance.

Sunday morning I did a full load of dishes right away after John left for work and then I ran a full load of laundry (sheets and towels).  Everything air dried.

John and I combined errands when we went out to shop for groceries.

I checked with John about how he liked the bread machine bread I've been making.  He thinks it's great...and so I suggested I make a couple loaves a week, and we supplement with the occasional loaf that we'll keep in the freezer.   Once at the store I decided to buy smaller sized loaves.  Same number of slices per loaf but just a smaller piece of bread overall.  The smaller sized loafs were about $1 cheaper.  With the homemade machine bread we've been eating  half slices.

I've given in to buying cookies for John this summer.  It's not worth heating up the kitchen for any period of time to make them...but I told him as soon as it starts to cool off I mean to make more homemade cookies and forgo the bought ones until the Spekulaas cookies are in market once more.  In the meantime, Tammy has inspired me to make a batch of those yummy stovetop chocolate oatmeal cookies.  I'd forgotten those as an oven free option.  John loves those cookies.

No meat purchased today, but only because I thought better of it when I priced the nicest chuck roast in the counter.  I had a fair idea of how much meat I had in the freezer at home (not to mention how much is in the fridge at present) and I felt we could by pass that purchase.  I'll watch for good sales on meat in the next few weeks and try to stock up then.

I suggested to John it would be worthwhile to return to purchasing chicken breasts and ground beef on special at the organic market we used to visit.  I've noted that the price at the organic market is nearly $2/pound less so it's well worth driving there for the savings.

Made a loaf of bread, a small peach cobbler and used up leftover roast beef and gravy to make hash.

John hung most of a load of clothes to dry.

I washed a full load of dishes in the dishwasher.

I've downloaded a few free books for my Kindle.  Most are Christian non-fiction but one was a children's book (never know when that might come in handy!) and Mansfield Park by Jane Austen was free the other day.  I am not going nuts adding books.  I am trying to be thoughtful about what I might truly read and most will be deleted once I'm done but in time I will add books I really want to buy that are cheaper via Kindle and won't take up space on my filled bookcases...Not to say I am done buying hard cover books.  Some friends just deserve a full time home where I can hold them and love them as I read!

I've started a 'stock up list'.   So far I've got tissues (for cold and flu season) and cold medicine (ditto from previous), pineapple juice (same), matches, toilet paper, flour, coffee (regular and decaf) and boxed cereal.   I may add more as time goes on but these are items I am very well aware we're very low or empty on.  Oh and candles!  We use them for our Shabats and typically two candles last us a couple or three months but they are awfully handy when power goes out as well so I like to stock up.

I've started adding tissues and paper towels to our compost.  And this morning, I decided it was worth while to shred our weekly newspapers as well.  I've been adding shredded mail for quite a while but these are extra items I know I can compost.  I plan to 'grow my compost' so to speak, as I get more and more serious about my need for flowers and perhaps a few vegetables here and there.

So I made my did that go?   Here's what we really ate this week

Roast Beef, Squash, Tossed Salad

McDonalds with Katie and Taylor

Chicken Verde Enchiladas, Green Salad with Tomatoes and Green Onions

Chicken Salad Sandwiches with fresh fruit (take out)

Chicken Livers and Fries with Mama

Roast Beef Hash, Sliced Tomato Salad with Basil, Peach Cobbler

Chef's Salad, Oyster Crackers (something we often sub for croutons), Peach Cobbler (C) Terri Cheney

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