A Homemaker’s Diary: Can We Stop Now?

Saturday:  The Produce Staples That Are Always Cheap (and Available) | MyRecipes   I was surprised that some seasonal foods are no longer considered seasonal....This apparently has to do with improved storage and better lasting qualities.   Anyway, take a look at the article and tell me which of these surprised you.

Also enjoyed this article from BH&G about houseplants.  Leftover Coffee and Other Kitchen Scraps Help Houseplants Thrive | Better Homes & Gardens (bhg.com)

Monday note:  And I have to share this one from vlogger Frugal Fit Mom.  23 FOOD ITEMS YOU NEED TO BUY AT DOLLAR TREE | DOLLAR STORE HACKS SEPTEMBER 2021 - YouTube  I was really surprised at the shelf stable milk price she shared.  I'm eager to hit Dollar Tree and try their brands myself to see if any of these items are available in my area.  It's worth a try!

I slept last night, as well I ought to have done, and woke to a lovely cool morning.  I was astonished that temperatures fell below 60 .  I called John to come out to the porch.  I had to urge hard to get him to step outdoors.  And when he did his surprise was genuine. "Where did this come from?!" he asked of the cool air.  It made me laugh to see him so shocked.   

I went out with John while he ran an errand.  We'd intended to go to the 4H car wash to get his car cleaned up but we didn't bring along the local paper to see where they were holding it and we couldn't find it in just driving about.  I couldn't find anything online which is no big surprise.  Our local area still isn't quite online savvy about much.   It was a nice morning to be out though and we rode about with the windows down, though I did don a longer sleeve due to how cool it was.   

I took my book along and while John took care of his errand, I sat in the car and read and people watched.  I enjoy reading and I enjoy watching people so the hour or so I sat waiting was pleasantly spent.

John offered to buy me lunch which was nice of him but I'd planned to make pizza and reminded him that I was going to do so.  He said he'd rather have pizza and that was fine by me.  It was about 11:15 at the time.  We stopped at our local grocery and picked up a packet of hamburger...Well that is what we went in for.  Let me tell you what we actually got: bananas, hamburger, brats, a smoked turkey sausage, cubed steaks, two thin t-bones that I mean to panfry, a chuck roast, orange juice, cinnamon rolls for Monday morning holiday breakfast and a bag of hot dog buns.

I had to ask the butcher to put the reduced price on a package that had a reduced sticker but which hadn't been marked down.  I guess we looked incredibly prosperous...He said he had a whole Choice quality ribeye that he'd received by mistake and told me it was something that never happened.  He showed us the piece of meat which was $225.  It was an absolutely gorgeous hunk of meat! Mind you, you'd have a TON of steaks off it and at a bargain price per pound but even so I couldn't afford it.  Though I did whisper to John that if I could that would be the one thing I'd definitely splurge upon!  Never mind.  I've NO room in the freezer and was wondering where we'd put all the extra meat we picked up already so no need of thinking I was taking that big hunk of beef home.

I know I've picked up a good bit of meat lately.  I'm doing so namely because it's much lower in price than I've been seeing it.  The packages of cubed steak were less than $3 each.  The chuck roast was but $3.99 a pound.  The last I purchased at Aldi was nearly $7 per pound.  The ground meat was less than $3 a pound.  The two t-bones together barely cost me $9, though as I said they are  thin.   The sausages and brats cost about the same as they might at Kroger or Publix with the distinction that the Brats were beef.  I've seen neither turkey sausage or brats anywhere about.  That the local grocer had them was amazing and that his price was same as bigger chains was a bonus.

However, I can say with certainty that this week's shopping at Aldi will be mostly produce and canned goods and dairy needs.   

John and I discussed the milk as we rode around today and are agreed we'll rely on powdered for cooking purposes and shelf stable for all other uses.  I think it's the right choice for our current season in life.

I said it was 11:15 when we stopped to get the lunch I refused.  Well we were home by 12 and by 12:45 I was pulling the pizza from the oven.  I had done nothing ahead.  I made the dough when we walked in the back door.  If we'd bought a pizza in the town where we'd stopped for lunch we shouldn't have had it a bit sooner and the cost was so much less than purchasing one ready made or  even the frozen available at the local grocer.

The humidity was so low today that when I made pizza dough I had to add water to get it to the right stage. All summer long I've been adding in more flour to make the dough consistency just right but this morning it was more water that was needed.  Again I say, baking is not exact.  It's finicky.  It's not exact.  There's a huge difference, lol.

The day was lovely overall, but it does seem we just can't get through a day without a blot upon it anymore.  It's just the way life goes.  I was mortally worn down that afternoon and John was as upset as I probably would have been had I had strength enough to be upset.  I was just plain soul weary and the rest of the day passed with us being very quiet and saying little.  There didn't seem to be any point in discussion and there wasn't a thing either of us could do to alter the situation as it was presented to us except listen and take it in.  But I'm about tired of this season, no fooling!

Sunday:  The usual Sunday morning grind.  I did ask for help this morning, but I don't think John heard me.  As expected I slept poorly last night and we woke early.  I had many things to do before we left home and I didn't waste any time doing them, but I did drag John into doing chores there at the end when I was pushing hard.  How we got out on time is beyond me.  

We planned dinner on Friday while we were out getting my haircut and were next to the grocery that sells Gramma's Fried Chicken.  I let Katie know when we were home and she soon arrived with the two children.  Poor Taylor had an encounter with a mosquito and was looking the loser of that battle.  She's allergic to them, just as Josh is.  

After lunch, Caleb watched as Uncle Sam worked on the main drive with his tractor.  This fascinated him but when Uncle Sam came in the house he stood off at a distance and stared...though when Sam sat down, Caleb chattered at him.  He just wouldn't go near him.  He preferred to talk to him from the safety of my knee or the corner near the television, lol.

I kept Caleb while Katie took Taylor back.  He was well and truly tired, so much so that he lay in the room talking to himself for a good hour or so before he went to sleep.  He woke in a grand mood though and we had a lovely time with him.  He was being naughty at one point and I'd reprimanded him a couple of times then gently tapped his leg in a mock spank.   The little stinker walked around a good half hour holding that leg and limping!  He never once cried or made a whimper over it and I told John had he had bare skin he'd not even have had  a pink spot I was so light but he sure made me feel I'd injured him for life, lol.

Katie came in shortly thereafter and took him home.  In the meantime, I had a request from Bess to borrow some thread to match a favored stuffed toy at their house.  I knew that a little boy wanted to sleep with that toy so when  we took off trash and I ran the thread by their house on our way out of the road.  I ran in briefly. They were in the midst of supper prep.  Nugget the cat and River came to greet me, as did Millie and Isaac who gave me a big hug but poor Josh wasn't feeling well.  In fact, he didn't even smile at me, just looked glum.  I do hope he feels better so they can all come visit tomorrow but Sam told me that if Josh is still not feeling well, none of them will be over to play...  I know that he's being  cautious and for good reason.  Our numbers here have increased and we're all being super careful.

When we returned John went to call his brother.  I said I'd go on and have my supper.   We bought deli sliced bologna on Friday, our splurge item for the week.  I enjoyed my solitary meal.  It was nice to have a bit of quiet after the long day and in some ways hard weekend we've had.

After John ate his supper, I cleared up the kitchen anticipating that the children will be able to come tomorrow.  Fingers crossed!

Monday:  I vowed that this Labor day would be labor free and it pretty much has been.  I bought canned cinnamon rolls for breakfast and we ate early. The boys came running over early, too.   I went to shower while John greeted the boys at the back door.  Millie came over a bit later.  All three played happily and talked and chattered although I understand less of Millie's babble than I do the boys.    

At one point, Josh and I had a talk about the responsibility of being the oldest after Isaac mentioned the  tooth fairy.  When Isaac had left the room,  Josh said "There's no such thing..."   So I shared with him how important as the oldest it's our responsibility to let the younger ones believe in many things as long as they can.  Josh looked at me and smiled.  "You were the oldest too weren't you Gramma?"  "Yes...and sometimes I had to just be quiet."  He nodded and said nothing more while Isaac ran in and out playing.

After lunch the boys piled in the guest bed to watch videos and Millie grabbed the sorting blocks and played with those.  Eventually she lay down on the floor and I knew that she was beyond tired, so I gathered them up to take home.  "Gramma...I'm gonna miss you!"  Isaac told me when he was putting on his shoes.  "And I shall miss you, Isaac."   Josh opted to walk back home, going across the field path that Grampa keeps mowed between the two houses.  I took Millie and Isaac home in my car.

I found Sam and Bess looking very relaxed.  "We had the best time...We watched tv and didn't move."  When I told John he shook his head.  "Youth is truly wasted on the young..." 

We didn't do a thing here at the house after the children went home.  Isaac had picked up the living room of all toys and he did a very good job.   John has gotten into the habit of finding old westerns to watch and some of them are really good.  The one this afternoon was most definitely not one of those.  It was composed of wooden actors and lots of loud trumpet music. 

Supper tonight was the panfried T-bones, cheesy mashed potatoes, a big salad.  Nope, not on the menu this week.  

Tuesday:  I had a plan...

And you know what happened?  God planned differently.  So be it.

Bess called and asked if I'd keep Millie while she ran Josh to the doctor.  He was still running a very low fever yesterday, but he hotly denied it when I felt of him and said so.  He still had fever this morning and Bess decided to err on the side of caution.  I was pretty sure he had allergies and that was just what the doctor said after testing him for all the various things you must test for these days.  Negative and negative and it came right down to seasonal allergies and a minor cold.

Before Bess got here with Millie,  I managed to run outdoors and do two jobs I absolutely wanted to get done.  I raked up the limbs that were everywhere under the Sweet Gum tree making that flower bed look rather shoddy and I watered all my plants around front (did the plants on the back yesterday).

Millie was fine playing about here and enjoyed herself.   Bess came in bearing two really ripe bananas this morning, too.  I had a bunch of those myself and told her I'd make Banana Chocolate Chip muffins with them.   Millie is the most content child playing on her own.  And she was happy as could be.  Until...

...Until Caleb came in.  I had planned to keep Caleb this evening while Katie went to an appointment and ran an errand.  The appointment didn't confirm so she decided to run the errand early.  She brought Caleb here.  The moment he saw Millie his face lit up and the moment Millie saw him, every smile was wiped off her face.  She refused to eat another bite of lunch.  She stared at him and sat perfectly still.  Her displeasure was palatable.  It might make me laugh now,  but it was genuine displeasure.  As far as she was concerned, life had been a party and Caleb was the pooper that spoiled it all.   

She had to sit on my lap when John picked up Caleb.  She had to be bounced when John bounced Caleb.  But she made it plain that while she demanded equal treatment she really did NOT want to share us with that boy.

Caleb can say 'Millie' and it's sweet to hear him say it.  He absolutely delights in her.  I hope as she gets older and is around him more that Millie will warm up to him.   They did eventually settle in to play together but mostly they spent their time snatching away the very toy the other wanted to play with.  I told Katie later it was proof to me that sharing is definitely a learned skill and not something children come to this world knowing and unlearn.  Both children were good but Caleb was definitely the tease and Millie was definitely not up for it.

All was well, until Bess came in to get Millie.  The moment Millie lay eyes on Bess she began to screech at the top of her lungs.  And when Millie cried, Caleb burst into tears and screamed right along with her, lol.   When Bess left with Millie, Caleb leaned against me with his head on my shoulder as though he were completely wiped out.  I scooped him up and put him down for a nap.  

The house was a complete disaster.  It's astonishing the amount of stuff it takes to keep a 19 and 22 month child occupied.  I picked up and put away and noted that even after a 45 minute tidy the house was looking pretty run down still.  I'd just made up my mind to rest for a bit with a glass of iced water before tackling the rest of it,  when Katie returned.

After Katie went home, about an hour or so later, I got up and started cleaning again.  Dishes, floors, straightening.  I wanted to go to the shed and pull out fall decor but honestly it was so hot outdoors and pretty warm indoors.  It didn't feel like fall.  My short spout of inspiration dribbled out with the sweat as I worked at cleaning, lol.  

Supper tonight was that pot roast John requested which I'd had in the crock pot.  I mixed up our bowls and was digging around looking for carrots in mine, but I had no carrots.  John got my bowl.  He doesn't like cooked carrots.  When I said to him, "Just give me yours...", he said "Too late.  I ate them all!"  There's enough roast and broth and vegetables to make a leftover makeover meal.  Shall we do Shepherd's Pie?  Roast Beef Hash?  Chipotle inspired Bowls?  Roast Beef Sandwiches with a side of soup?   This is the part of leftovers I like best.  Trying to decide exactly how I shall make them anew.

Wednesday:  If you think you've missed Gathering Fragments this week, you haven't.  I had so very few leftovers and so little time to rummage cabinets and such this week that I've skipped it.  But please note that Katie ate Chicken Wild Rice Casserole yesterday when she came in from her errand.  I had leftover kielbasa for breakfast meat this morning.  John and I each ate different leftovers for lunch today.  I've made Banana chocolate Chip muffins from over ripe bananas.  The leftovers and odds and ends are being used.  I just haven't posted them separately this week.

I could not doze off last night.  I was too warm.  Covers suffocated but to lay in the bed without any cover at all was not comfortable.  I tossed and turned and finally the noise was just too much.  John always has a white noise machine on loud and a fan that even on low is loud and then he snores on top of that.  Too much!  I went off to the guest room and found that room much cooler.  I lay down with one of Grandmother's quilts over me and went right off to sleep in the quiet and cool room.  I was awake early this morning, just as light was breaking.  I got up and had my coffee and waited for John to wake.  He woke after 8.

I made breakfast and the bed and fed the animals.  I'd done a very good job of clearing up last night and there wasn't much that needed to be done this morning. 

I briefly gave in to the desire to make the  I did remove the items from the birdcage in the living room and put in the Australian fern (the secret appears to be bright indirect sunlight and LOTS of water.  This is one plant I've found likes very wet feet and appears to suffer if allowed to get the least bit dry).   I put the fern in a pretty light blue bowl and I have a stack of rusty red and dark green books for it to sit upon.  A Lenox bluebird and an amber glass medicine bottle complete the arrangement in the birdcage.  I also removed a landscape picture from the mantle and replaced one on the wall with it.  The replacement picture has a definite autumn coloration to the trees. That's as far as the décor for autumn has gone thus far.  I've had three other ideas.  None of them panned out so I'll look for further inspiration when I do finally go dig about in my shed.

Then I had to settle to the real work of today: getting our second half of the month bills paid.   We don't normally get paid so early in the month but that's the way the days fell this time around.  It took a little while to write up my register sheet and do my math but I was pleased when I found we at least have enough money to carry us.  I'm telling you I'll be more than happy when this season of barely enough is over and done!  I don't try to run a zero balance check register but that's where we're at these past three months.   I do set aside money for necessities.  It's not having the margin for the unexpected that I'm complaining over.  But never mind.  God will provide and I trust Him to do it.

We went into town.  We batched errands: trash, incoming mail, outgoing mail, banking, mower gas can...As we were heading into our town once more, John said "Shame you can't buy what produce you need from a food truck..."  Well none available mid-week in our little towns.  I said "Yeah, I was thinking of the produce corner over at Food Depot..."  John decided to drive on over.  I did very well again at that reduced produce counter.  I bought 2 big packages of Russet Potatoes for $1 each, four big white onions $1, 1 dozen or so oranges for $2, a dozen small apples for $1 and a package of mini bell peppers for $1.  I also got some ripe bananas that were still firm enough to eat on cereal for 80c.   I can't buy the same produce for as little at Aldi.

We've a lot of extra trips to make this week and next into the bigger town near us.  Nearly all are church related things and we don't want to give up any of them.  After the next ten or so days things will settle down into Bible study and church service once more.   In the interest of saving gasoline, I'm going to do my grocery shopping tomorrow evening when John goes to the men's meeting.  I'll have a good hour or two for shopping while he's at his meeting.  I am hoping the stores won't be so terribly crowded but if they turn out to be mad houses, I can always wait until after church on Sunday when it's more calm.

Thursday:  I went to bed cold last night.  I wanted the covers and warmth and snuggled into John.  It's time to decorate for fall.

My mistake today has been that in addition to trying to decorate, I was also trying to gather decor items, trying to clean multiples of areas and do nineteen other things alongside.  So the house sort of exploded.  Eventually I decided that the best way to go about this was to tackle ONE spot.  Clean it.  Declutter.  Decorate.  Move on.   It almost worked.   

You know how it goes.  That vignette looks cute but this over here needs a little something and you realize that you need some of that vignette to complete this look and then you move on and realize that some of those pieces would look well here and you turn around and turn back again and everything is in bits and pieces, clean surfaces now cluttered with discards and pretty spots no longer looking pretty.   So you essentially start over again, doing every single thing differently than you did it before.  I exhausted myself.  Truly.  

At present, I've used all I have.  Apparently between culling hard and giving to Katie last year so she might decorate her home, I have dwindled my supplies.  I'm not done but I'm done if you know what I mean.  Until I figure out what I might do with what I have on hand or find a stash of things I'd forgotten or can find some thing cheap at thrift or dollar store, I'm done.

Am I 100% happy with what I've done?   No.  Probably feel  70% happy though, at least with the changes in the living/dining/entry, the largest room in the house.  I tried to add touches to the kitchen as well but that's NOT done and there's nothing at all in the bedrooms to denote a change of season nor the baths and there are NO wreaths for the doors.   But I do feel, given the small amount of things I came out from the shed with and confiscated from various areas of the house that being 70% satisfied isn't bad.  And it does look fresh and neater which is what I wanted.  It's ready for a new season.  

And so am I!

For today's luncheon, I made a bigger meal than I normally would.  John is going out to a meeting tonight.  I am going to ride along and go do grocery shopping.  It will save us one extra trip into town this week.  

So I took the beef roast leftovers and made a Shepherd's Pie, also using up the cheesy mashed potatoes that were leftover.  I was shocked at how much roast we had leftover.  I served us far more generous servings of meat than I typically would, but I found today that not only did I have enough left for Shepherd's Pie, we have still more roast left.  And the Shepherd's Pie leftovers will serve us yet another meal!  I told John it's almost worthwhile each time I clear a little space in my freezer to run into town and nose around the meat counter to see what else they've marked down.   Well, it is.  But Sam is planning on hunting deer again this year and I've said I'd take one.  I'll want enough room for that.

Want to know something funny?  John has eaten venison just fine but we are agreed that we'd rather have just the ground meat.  We can't be bothered with back straps and tenderloins (though they are yummy) and we don't like the roasts which are too lean and prone to taste gamey if slow cooked.  Knowing I have 25 pounds of ground venison still in my freezer and that a new hunting season is upon us, I've been pulling out more venison to use up.   John eats it right up.  He never complains once, either during or after a meal.

But then he'll ask for hamburgers.  At his insistence I've been picking up these pre-formed beef patties.  Personally I don't care for them, but he 'likes' them and so I 've pulled those out and made burgers for him.  And each time he's done with one of those burgers he will, at some point, look me in the eye and say "I'm getting tired of venison."  It's not venison he's objecting to...It's the pre-formed beef which he apparently is sure is venison.   I just turn my head, roll my eyes and quietly say, "Yes, dear...we'll eat more beef," and the next time I want ground meat I'll use venison and he'll tell me how good the meal was and not a complaint.  

I did my grocery shopping this evening while John was at Men's meeting at church.  I found Aldi was fairly empty which I felt was a big blessing.  I won't tell you all that I found empty shelves or massive outages.  Not at all.  I found the store was most assuredly missing items.  But it wasn't a shortage of goods overall.  Indeed, they had filled empty spaces with more of what they did have and frankly I think it's very reassuring to see full shelves whether or not it's the whole kernel corn I wanted.   But overall, I didn't feel I was missing out or needed to run to the next store to stock heavily on anything.

I bought a 10lb bag of chicken leg quarters at Aldi for 49c/pound.  I'll have to store those in the fridge freezer until I can rearrange the deep freeze aka as clearing it out a little bit more, lol.  I just couldn't pass up the price on the leg quarters which is a price I've not seen in months.

I went into Kroger and picked up a few jars of the 99c peanut butter and 5 cartons of the 18ct. eggs that were 97c with the member's card.  Eggs don't stand a chance of going bad in our household.  John loves his morning eggs.  

I had thought I'd pick up something for my supper from the deli in Kroger, too.  I was sure they'd have something marked down or on hot plates.  The deli was shut up tight and lights off.  There weren't even any rotisserie chickens in the cold case.  I settled for a yogurt to eat in the church parking lot.  John texted me that he'd picked me up a sandwich as they'd had a lot of extras.  I wasn't hungry when I left home this afternoon, nor when I went into Aldi but I was ready for something to eat by the time 7pm rolled around and was debating running to McDonald's.   I was more than happy to have the sandwich and thanked him for thinking of me.

The sky on the way home this evening was the most breathtaking sunset, just as last night's was.  I told John it was worth being out just to get to see that spectacular view.  There's a point on the road we travel where we top a hill and we can see five or more miles.   It's always a beautiful view, in every season, no matter what time of day but my heaven!  On an evening with a sunset that is already breathtaking it's enough to make you weep for the glory of it all.  

I don't know just why but seeing the sunset sky makes me feel particularly uplifted...So yes, I'm doubly glad we had to be out two evenings in a row and got that view.

Friday:  I am tired.  The happy, replete tiredness that comes from a day where the house has been properly cleaned, the bed made afresh, sheets flapping in the beautiful gulf breeze, dishes in the dishwasher running, bread baked, meals planned for the weekend and the week very nearly finished.  I'm not quite done with everything, but I'm near enough that I can stop for a bit and put my feet up and get a fresh breath of energy to finish it off.  

It's been a good week, better than I've had in many a day.  I was freed, earlier this week, from that burden of fear that I'd let get such a firm hold on me that I couldn't see around it, but no more.  I'm breathing easier and if I don't sleep then I am trusting there will be rest enough in the day to make up for it and a good night just around the corner.  It's enough for today.

I hope you all had a good week.  I hope it was profitable, that your pantry grew, that you made it count.  And for those of you who struggled, know that you're not alone.  We all struggle and we're here cheering you on until you can get past your fear to see your way clear once more.  

Come and share your week...I'd love to hear about it!

(C) Terri Cheney