Saturday, January 25, 2020

My pile is too high

By Elizabeth Prata

My pile has gotten too high. It drives me crazy. Since I live alone I have no one to blame but myself.

We all have a junk pile, things we don't want to deal with immediately but have to be dealt with eventually, and we throw it on the pile. Mine is in the kitchen on the printer in the top shelf of the bookcase. When I sit at the table to eat or write, it's staring me in the face. This is by design, so that I cant/won't ignore the 'need to deal with' papers and stuff ... stuff of life, I guess.


This morning I moved the pile to the counter, and I'll take care of it today, sigh. The jewelry is on top because I broke the necklace. When you wear extra long necklaces, they catch on things. This one caught on the corner of the shopping cart (OK Southerners, "buggy") and one of the links broke. It's my favorite necklace so I will fix it. It won't take long.

I'm going to finish my coffee and search for a casserole recipe of some kind. It's cold today so using the oven will give me a double comfort level, warming the kitchen AND good food coming out. I think for food prep I'll do a lentil soup for next week. I've had my favorite chicken soup for lunches two weeks in a row so I'll switch things up and make the lentil again.

I'll also do a casserole, hopefully I can find a few-ingredient casserole using stuff I already have in the cupboard. I'll make some hummus, and I also have green beans and tofu. That will become a stir fry with rice noodles and soy sauce. I have eggs and potatoes and greens so Eggs Florentine with home fries will figure in there at some point. I also still have some spaghetti squash and combined with stewed tomatoes will also be a hearty dish, especially if I add eggs and cheese to it. There really is more in the fridge and cupboard than we think.

We are at the last week of a loooooooooooooong six weeks. Our school district's usual method of salary schedule is one paycheck per month. In a blessing, we get paid before Christmas break, but that means we receive our December paycheck almost 2 weeks early. The next paycheck comes at the regularly scheduled time of the last day in January, making the time between paychecks 6 weeks instead of four. It's a skill to make your 4 weeks' salary last for six! Phew will I ever be glad for next Friday. Meanwhile, I'm stretching the fridge and cupboard to make healthy food without having to go to the grocery store again until payday. If I do not go to the grocery store out of habit and look with fresh eyes at what I already have, there really is enough, more than enough.

Meanwhile here is your daily Murray:

He flopped down in front of the gas fire. Bert used to LOVE it here. He loved it there so much I put his kitty bed in that spot and he lazed in it all winter, enjoying the burst of warmth coming from the gas heat. Cats are no fools, they know where the best comfort is!



Have a wonderful weekend everyone :)




Friday, January 24, 2020

Score at The Special Store

By Elizabeth Prata

Last night I had a baked salmon filet, baked potato, and roasted carrot N peppers for dinner. I'm exhausted, so thank goodness for Monday's food prep. All I had to do is heat it up. Mmm, it was so good.

After school I had to get gas for the car, and while I was out, I decided to mosey up to The Special Store. They're open on Thursdays now. It is a resale store about 5 miles from school. They buy estates and resell them in their store for great, low prices. Since inventory changes often, and since the items in the store are lovely and wonderful to look at, as well as being functional, I enjoy window shopping. Though truth be told, if I go up there it's because I need something and they have the best prices.

The "I need" items I sought were a small clock for the classroom and a large wall clock for my other classroom, and some fridge memo pads. I looked at Amazon yesterday for fridge memo pads, you know, the kind you make grocery lists on, and I was astounded at the prices. I have gotten stationery and pads at The Special Store for $1 for so long that I was taken aback at how much they cost now. So I abandoned Amazon for the fridge pads and headed up to my favorite store.

I'm also always on the hunt for books. I have found many an interesting or classic book there for $1.

It was a rainy, dark, and cold day so I knew the store would not be crowded. In fact, aside from a customer chatting with the owner, I was the only person in the place for most of the time. The owner has gorgeous furniture, most of it antiques- marble topped dressers, old farmer's tables, mid-century bureaus, beautiful dining sets and so on- handmade quilts, delicate china, art...it's a feast for the eyes.

They have expanded now and all the books, music, CDs, DVD, clothes, and art are in the adjacent building. More feasty stuff to look at.

Anyway, I found the following items:

A small battery operated Linden clock. It's about 4" high with a rounded top and a faux marble front rimmed in brass. I put a fresh battery in it at the store to see if it worked. It did. I forgot to test it long enough to determine if it keeps time. It doesn't. Oh well!

Carved Aztec Mayan-looking Stone bookends. I think they are carved from agate. I found similar ones on ebay and Amazon, it seems that agate is the usual stone these type of bookends are carved from, though it could be a type of onyx or marble or alabaster. Some of the ebay descriptions claimed a date of 'mid-century', others said 70s, still others simply said "classic". They all sold for upwards of $30 or more, Amazon had them for $57.00. I got them for $7. Mine are more elaborate than any I'd seen on ebay or Amazon, too. I think they're beautiful, with a milky striation on the back, a hint of brown hue here and there in the front, a pleasing weight and heft to them, and the triple decker base.
An unopened set of 24 Hallmark 'Thank you' cards with envelopes. Good. I needed some. $1.50.

A magnetic white board calendar with expo marker, still in wrapping. It's a gift for someone. $1.50.

A bundle of a fridge memo pad with a smaller memo pad, for $1. Another gift.

A pretty mug with flowers on it and an inspirational quote. Price unknown, she packed it while I was in the other building looking at books. Another gift for someone else.

Book, $1. "The University Library" by John Finley, 1926. I haven't been able to discover too much about this series. The store had three of the series, I think there are 25 in all. Description from ebay:

These vintage books are part of the 25 volume "The University Library" by John Huston Finley, LL.D. They were published for The University Guild of Atlanta, Georgia by Doubleday, Doran and Company, Inc. of Garden City, New York in 1931. These books were originally chosen by Dr. John Huston Finley and first published in 1897.

The book has lots of short stories in it. Thomas Hardy, John Greenleaf Whittier, Bret Harte, Sir Walter Raleigh, and the like.

I love unexpected vintage books like this, but even more unexpected was this inside:
By National Museum of American History - Image by Godot13, Public Domain
OK, well this is an unusual something. The bill was crisp and undamaged. I left it in the book and bought the book because it has several stories by Thomas Hardy and I love Thomas Hardy.

Looking up the money, it seems that it's known as Japan Invasion Money, or JIM.
Common among most issues of Japanese invasion money, the Oceania notes depict the title "The Japanese Government" rather than the name or region they were intended for. This is due to many of these currencies having been printed ahead of time and intended to circulate in more than one country in a given region intended to be absorbed into the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. (Source)
Apparently Japan thought they were going to win the war. They had promoted the Prosperity Sphere as a way for the Oceanic nations to come out from under "Western Oppression" AKA colonization. Initially, the receiving parties were excited at this prospect, but the excitement palled as they began to realize they were making a bad trade, Japan always will consider herself on top, and prosperity wasn't just around the corner. Japan lost the war anyway, and the bills were never circulated.

The bills were rendered worthless and literally thrown into the streets. Even today they are not worth anything. The one-shilling bill I hold can be sold on ebay for 41 cents, lol. It's more valuable as the bookmark it it had been used for in the book I bought than anything collectible. The interest for me is the surprise of finding it and the excitement of learning about its history.

My cat is snuggled in his kitty bed next to me, the gas fire is hissing and emitting a warm fiery glow, and the day is ending. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are and whatever you're doing.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Food Prep January 20-25, 2020

By Elizabeth Prata

Winter is finally here. It was below freezing last night and it will take a long time to warm up today. So what to do on my day off from school but cook? Turning on the oven to warm the apartment and have some nourishing food ready for lunches and dinners for the week- double win.

Coming out of the oven today are two pieces of Cajun tilapia, a spicy piece of salmon, roasted carrots & peppers, and roasted yellow squash. On top of the stove is a big pot of chicken and rice soup with a tomato base. The fish will be split into 5 servings, and along with a spinach salad and a baked potato, will be dinners this week. The soup will be lunches.

I missed out on a lot of marked down specials at Kroger but still managed to come away with a few- the yellow squash was a 99-cent special. Some single serving hummus cups were spied out and tossed into my cart. And a large container of power greens will either be salads and/or cooked for a side dish. I found some bags of kettle corn marked down to 79 cents, and that was probably because they were flavored like gingerbread men. I can't taste that well, so a gluten free snack for 79 cents (even less because I could split that bag into 3 servings) was added to my cart without a second thought. Even if I didn't like it I'd make myself like it. (Conclusion: the popcorn was fine, spicy and lightly ginger-y). I win.

It feels good to be home. My cat is glad I'm home. I am happy to have been away and happy to be back. Isn't it good to be content?

Oh wait, I have all these baking and cooking pots and pans to wash...



Saturday, January 04, 2020

Travel Vignette: Texas; Coyote call at sunrise

By Elizabeth Prata


In the deep winter of 1994-1995, my husband and I and Abby the Cat bought a 1983 VW Westphalia pop-up camper van and took off for warmer climes. Our goal was to meander down the leftest road closest to the ocean, from Maine to Florida, across the FL panhandle, down Texas way towards the bottom, and across through Big Bend National Park, parallel the Rio Grande or the border all the way to San Diego. The we'd turn up and go as far north in California as the weather and timing allowed, which turned out to be Monterey. Then we'd head for home when the Maine snow let up, usually end of March. It was a good road trip, with lots of memories. Our country is beautiful and majestic, with a variety that's breathtaking. Being from verdant New England we did not expect to over the Texas desert as much as we did, but we did. Rocks, sagebrush, & tumbleweed, we were enchanted. Here is a vignette from my travel journal from February 1995 upon our departure from the National Park.


Big Bend National Park, Chisos Mountain campground

We left Big Bend National Park in Texas after 10 days and 9 nights of primitive desert camping. We absolutely loved it. The last couple of days we met 3 guys from Nebraska on a 'guy trip'. They sleep under the stars, chew tobacco, swig Southern Comfort and work for IBM. All 3 very cool. We call them "The Cowboys." The took us on a primitive road, 4X4's only, and we saw the interior desert we would not have been able to see in our van. We stopped for lunch at an old mine, and ate it out of the Bronco's tailgate- beans, beef jerky, and Southern Comfort. Then topped off the day floating in an ancient hot spring. The guys got out every now and then to cool off by splashing in the Rio Grande, but I didn't.

Remember:

Sunset over the Sierra Del Madres
Geology lecture in the night air amphitheater
Coyote call at sunrise
Drinking Southern Comfort over a campfire with 'The Cowboys'
The hot spring
Back-country Bronco drive through rough terrain exploring abandoned mines
Climbing the high trail to 'The Windows'



Previous Vignettes:

Travel Vignette: Tuscany's Sparkling Coast

Travel Vignette: Paris, The City of Light

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Frugal Cooking: The How-To of Salvageable Fruits and Vegetables

By Elizabeth Prata

I live 365 days on a 190 day salary as a teacher aide in a public school. I work hard at being frugal. I have to in order to make the budget stretch. I also get to, shepherding God's provision wisely to His glory. Along the way I've learned tips and tricks.

Last summer I finally went to a nutritionist and I learned more about what kind of foods were making me ill. I'm on the spectrum and often that means one needs to go gluten free and lactose free since for some reason our immune systems are more sensitive or work different. I also learned last summer about FODMAP foods, various foods from all different food groups that react badly in the gut. This diet takes a lot of effort and study. I can have oranges but not apples. Strawberries but not blackberries. I can have blueberries, but only 15-20 at a time. And so on. Sigh.

My grocery bill doubled since I have to buy gluten free bread, lactose free milk, and other foods that I can eat that will keep me healthy but not react in my digestive system. I ramped up my frugal shopping into high gear.

One thing I am grateful for at my local Kroger is the marked-down produce bin. Perishable fruit and veggies that are damaged in some way are put into a special bag and set aside for a price of 99 cents, no matter what is in it. Don't turn your nose up at a marked down produce, oftentimes most of it is still good. Here is a great 'how-to' on examining which fruits and veggies might still be good for you or your family, from Chicago Food Bank on Salvageable Fruits and Vegetables.

As an example from my latest foray into the grocery store and my marked-down salvaged vegetables:

Two tubs of cherry tomatoes were in the bag. What would have cost me $5.00 since they are $2.50 each, cost me 99 cents. How much was waste and how much was salvaged? See:

Waste:

Salvaged:


Some of the orange ones were slightly wrinkled, but there was only one crushed and moldy cherry tomato in the bunch. A great frugal deal.

Yellow squash is about 73 cents per squash.

Waste:



Salvaged. I got about $3.75 worth of yellow squash for 99 cents.



It's a lot of squash so I'll make a casserole with them. Between the two items I got $8.75 worth of fresh vegetables for $1.98 and only lost 1 cherry tomato and 1 yellow squash. It only took a moment of time to examine, cut, wash and put back into fridge.


I liked this page from The Simple Dollar explaining strategies for radically cutting your food expenses. I do these things myself and I find them helpful tips.
Happy shopping in 2020!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

When every minute is a Golden Hour

By Elizabeth Prata

Aging isn’t easy. I’m entering my 60th year of age. My teeth are crumbling, my joints are aching, arthritis is thriving, my hair is graying, and my eyes are weakening. Yet my faith given by Jesus is growing, the Light is nearer, and the life He sustains is sweeter every day. I’ve had an immensely great year. I choose to overlook the inconveniences and difficulties, and instead praise the providential care of my God, given through my church, my colleagues at work, my friends, and likely His ministering angels.

In photography, the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset are called Golden Hour. It's because the sun's lowness makes its light appear golden and it imbues everything it streams over as gold, too. See:



I'ts so pretty! That is an unfiltered photo. Just stood outside my door and snapped the backyard.

Someday, every minute of our eternal believing lives will be golden hour. In the New Jerusalem, where believers' citizenship is, we see that

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. (Revelation 21:23).

I choose to view my life on earth as a Golden Hour, and when I get there I won't have to work at seeing it that way, I'll experience that it IS. I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds my future, no matter how long or short on earth it may be. It's all golden.

Happy New Year 2020.




Monday, December 30, 2019

A sunny warm day

By Elizabeth Prata

I'm still enjoying school break. I'll be back for a Teacher Work Day next Monday. That means no kids but teachers and staff report. So, another week. Thanks goodness. I love being at home.

Meanwhile even the most dedicated hermit must emerge at some point. I had banking to do, errands, and grocery shopping. Onward.

The storm that kept me awake last night blew out the humidity and clouds, and I emerged into a sunny, warm, breezy, clear day! Here is a photo journey of my day

While listening to the radio announcer describe the upcoming festivities for New Year's the Tallapoosa Possum Drop (they only used a live possum once!) I saw this guy ahead of me on the way to the grocery store. I love the southern lifestyle.



 Car wash. Gotta.


The famed Kroger Grocery Store, where I get so MANY good deals. Today I snagged two tubs of cherry tomatoes for 99 cents and a 2lb bag of yellow squash for the same price. A Frugal Cooking essay will be posted soon. See what a bright blue day it is! People were bicycling and walking with short sleeves and shorts on.



Green grass and cows. What's not to love?



Look how green that grass is, just look! This is one of my favorite views, I love the green rolling hill.



Sitting outside under the tree, reading.




Oh I see I have a visitor!


As gorgeous and warm as today is, it IS winter and winter in Georgia means we are blessed with some days like this, and other days of cold rain, which is predicted to end the week. So smell the flowers while you can and enjoy! Happy New Year.


Saturday, December 28, 2019

From TV bingeing to reading, from calm to agitated to calm again

By Elizabeth Prata

Bingeing is OK, for a while. Then it becomes grating. I watched a lot of programs the first few days of school break, wanting to shed my school life completely and lose myself completely in mental vacuity and total sedentariness. I like design shows (like Design(ish) videos, kids' shows (like Inbestigators or Little Lunch), and competitive cooking shows. I found one from Australia on Netflix called Chef's Line that's quiet. I can't stand American cooking competition shows that use thunderous music to infuse the situation with a portentiousness that doesn't exist. I mean, it's not the end of the world if the mushroom doesn't get on the plate. But it's the Flight of the Valkyries every time. Oy.

After a while my mind became disturbed. I had restless dreams and woke up with headaches. In 1985 I had read Jerry Mander's book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, and agreed with it. Yet I persist in watching. At some point too much is too much.

I see that I need to absorb it in small quantities. So I swore off and resumed my beloved activities, reading, puttering around the house, drinking tea, listening to classical music, staying quiet, and monitoring the amount of sensory input I take in.

I'm looking at the calendar and now we are beyond the halfway point in our wonderful Christmas vacation. It's not that we work 365 days but get all these weeks off, it's that my job is only a 190 day a year job. My salary is commensurate with a 190 day work-year. So at Christmas we have two weeks off. Yay! But after the halfway point we get sad. I'm blessed with this time off but looking at what's ahead (the hardest part of the year) it's hard not to get, um, concerned. We treasure and value this time off, but here, principal and noted educator Gerry Brooks nails it. Here is his Countdown to Sadness: sorry it isn't on Youtube yet so I can't embed.

https://www.facebook.com/gerrybrooksprin/videos/746089699232541/

I love being in leggings or sweatpants all day. I love being able to go to the bathroom whenever I want, lol. I love being quiet. I love being with my cat. I take naps, but not as many as I thought I would. When I get good night's sleep and don't eat too many carbs in the afternoon, I stay vertical. But I could if I wanted. I love just being in my cozy apartment and it's all clean and organized.

I'm getting my 2020 Challies Christian Reading Challenge ready, printing out the list and thinking about which books I'll select. I think preparing and anticipating are just as fun as the doing.

I lit a Christmas candle. I have classical music on. I have cat hair all over my shirt from hugging Murray so much. I am writing. There is bird activity outside my door. These things make me feel calm, calm, calm, calm. Current situation here in my corner of the world: calm.

10 minutes later:

I keep hearing Murray make noise in the bathtub (where the litter box is). I hear thump bump thump. So I go to check and he has tossed my brand new, unused but damp bar of soap into the litter box. MURRAYYYYYYY!

Pardon me while I clean the mess and restore my sense of calm. Anybody want a cat?








Thursday, December 26, 2019

Finally completed my tea display accouterments

By Elizabeth Prata

So tomorrow will be a week since I've been off from school. Working 190 days out of 365 certainly has its positives. We have another week to go. I love the mid-year two week break.

One goal I'd had this vacation was to organize my teacup saucers. I've been collecting teapots and bone china teacups for about 4 years now. I have 8 teapots ranging in age from over 100 years to modern. I have 13 cups, ranging in age from 75 years old to 40.

One thing in a small apartment (410sf) is that space is a premium. Having extensive collections of anything presents an organizational and display problem. I also actually use all my teapots, so they need to be accessible. I like beauty and organization, so they need to be smartly displayed.

I struggled with this, not having the display just as I wanted it, until I recently found this display shelving. It can be put together in various ways and slid to accommodate different sized objects.



I love this display, it's perfect for my needs.

As for the cups, they are 95% the way I want them. I used a traditional cup and saucer display rack hung up nearby. But there isn't any further wall space to accommodate two more of these racks on the wall and me being able to reach the top one. Hmmm, what to do.


I had one old and one new shower caddy. Voila! Use what you have.



I say 95% because the shower caddy above has a crooked lower shelf, which displays the two cups crooked. Oh well.

I'd had the matching saucers stacked in fours and fives in the cupboard. But whenever I wanted to use a cup I'd have to hunt for its match, and rustle the saucers in and out hunting for it. This leads to cracking and chipping.

So what to do? I know! A dish rack! Someone gave me an Amazon gift certificate so I bought this rack and installed it under the other shelving I have in my one cupboard for dishes. Now I can see the matching saucer I want and I can just slide it out.


So that's the end of that.

I promised myself I'd read some of the books I need to complete in order to come under the wire to conclude my 2019 Christian Reading Challenge for the year, but I've been vegging out in front of the TV (laptop) streaming stuff and bingeing. I'll have to stop that. It's not productive. And I don't like breaking promises to myself.

I've had a good year. The Lord has been kind to me. If He allows, I'll do the same thing next year as this year: serve the children at my school with the best educational teaching and the most love I can muster, to be a good cat mom, to read and sip tea, and to continue living my quiet life in service to the Lord.

But we urge you, brothers, to excel more and more and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, (1 Thessalonians 4:10-11)




Saturday, December 21, 2019

Christmas, mugs, and gumbo

By Elizabeth Prata

Good morning! It's 2:30 am here. I'm up because I was so exhausted when I got home from school Friday that I could not function anymore by 7 pm so I went to bed. Hence, 7 hours later, I woke up. It's OK, I have two weeks off and if/when I get tired later I'll just go take a nap!

Otherwise I do plan to use my time productively. Coffee will help. See my new "weekend mug" that a colleague gave me for Christmas. It says "I just want to be a stay at home cat mom". LOL, perfect, right?


It's supposed to be rainy this weekend which is fine by me. I like to snuggle in, wearing comfy clothes and maybe wrapped in a plush lap blankie, work on my writing ministry, read, and make soup or gumbo. I still do those things if it's sunny and warm out, but feel more guilty about it, lol. If it's raining it all seems to fit.

The it is predicted to warm up to the upper 60s and almost 70 degrees for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! I'm totally OK with that. I spent enough Thanksgivings and Christmases in New England to have experienced the quintessential holiday season with snow and cold and lights and sleds etc to say "Been there, done that." I equally enjoy live oak, green grass, grazing cows, cavorting horses, crowing chickens, rolling pastures and birdsong at Christmas.

See? That's me behind the horse in a one-horse open sleigh.



With Christmas so near, I hope you get to enjoy a day off or a mini-holiday yourself.