Saturday, November 18, 2017

Thanksgiving Break

Our school district calendar always allows for the full Thanksgiving week off. I'm grateful for that. It fits, somehow, to have the full week off to prepare the meal and receive family, or to travel and go see family. In any case, I'm glad.

Friday was pretty hectic. The kids had pretty much reached their limit and came in to school loud and boisterous. Teachers were tired, and we were all just looking forward to a good week off.

So here I am, inaugurating the week at 5:30 am, in the dark and quiet, with a fancy coffee I made with whipped cream and cinnamon.


I'd mentioned a few days ago about the Classics Club, an online reading club that blogs about what classics we are reading. Every once in a while the Club moderator puts forth a 'game' called Classics Spin. You list 20 classic books you always wanted to read but haven't yet. Maybe they were too intimidating, or to long, or too intellectually demanding, or you just have put it off and now it's 10 years later and you still haven't read that book you always wanted to. . So you make a list of 20 and number them. The Club 'spins' an imaginary wheel and lands on a number. They publish the number. You read the book you listed at that number by December 31 and post whether you met the challenge or not. It's very casual and lots of fun.

The number yesterday was 4 and that was Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon published in 1862. It was Braddon's most successful and well-known novel. Critic John Sutherland (1989) described the work as "the most sensationally successful of all the sensation novels". The plot centres on "accidental bigamy" which was in literary fashion in the early 1860s. Thanks, Wikipedia, for the summary.

Cover of an edition of Lady Audley's Secret
pre-1900.
I've got a few things to read this week. My Biblical Doctrine study, a detective novel called Blind Justice by James Scott Bell, start Lady Audley, and TeaTime Magazine.

For now I'm sitting in the pre-dawn, listening to Pandora Christmas Hymns, sipping my sweet and hot coffee, hearing the coffee pot tick, the gas hiss, and cats snore, and all's well on the first moments of Thanksgiving break.




Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Classics Club: The Spin List, and other Saturday activities

I like reading. I don't often read as much as I would like because...I don't know. I guess the days just get away from me after I've worked, studied, written a blog essay, prepared dinner, done chores, engaged in real life ministry...and if after all that when I sit down to read usually either my eyes are too weak or my body and brain is too tired.

I have to remedy this.

Reading is WHO I AM. It sustained me through a difficult childhood, carried me through a painful divorce, consoled me on lonely post-divorce evenings, provided inexpensive entertainment and travel as a rejuvenated carefree adult, allowed for mind expansion (Read Flatland, just read it!) as a new Christian, and generally offered lots of fun hunting up the next book. There's always books.

I found this blog called The Classics Club. The About page for this blog states its purpose:
The Classics Club was started on March 7, 2012 by a blogger who wanted to see more people posting about classics literature in the blogosphere. Her goal was to, “unite those of us who like to blog about classic literature, as well as to inspire people to make the classics an integral part of life.” She thought about several ideas but finally settled on inviting people to make out a list of (at least 50) classic titles they intend to read and blog about within the next five years.
I've often wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) a challenge where a person is challenged to attempt to write a 50,000 word manuscript between November 1 and November 30. Just write! But I've written close to 4000 essays almost every day for the last 9 years, issuing millions of words, so I think I've got the writing habit well cemented in me.

So, on to reading.

The Classics Spin Reading Challenge is
Come up with a list of 20 classics still on your to-be-read list and post these books on your blog before Nov. 17. This is your “spin” list! You can choose any books that you actually already have or books you’ve been waiting too long to read or books you really want to get through before the new year. Then, on Friday, Nov. 17, the Classics Club will randomly select a number from 1 through 20 and post it on their blog. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by Dec. 31, 2017. It’s all for fun so no pressure to participate but thought it would give me a boost to get reading done with others.
Specifically, here is how to participate:
Go to your blog.
Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
Try to challenge yourself: list five you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, re-reads, ancients — whatever you choose.)
Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog before Friday, November 17th.
That morning (11/17), we’ll announce a number from 1-20. Go to the list of twenty books you posted, and select the book that corresponds to the number we announce.
The challenge is to read that book by December 31, even if it’s an icky one you dread reading! (No fair not listing any scary ones!)
My list of 20 classics I'd like to read are as follows. Some I own already, some I bought for free on Kindle today, and some I'll wait to buy or borrow until it is by chance announced. Sometimes I wonder, wouldn't it be nice just to go to my Amazon WishList and just buy everything on it all at once? Sigh. But poverty avails.
  1. Austen, Jane: Northanger Abbey
  2. Baldwin, James: Go Tell it on the Mountain
  3. Bengtsson: The Long Ships
  4. Braddon, Mary Elizabeth: Lady Audley’s Secret
  5. READ IT!
  6. Buchan, John: The Thirty-Nine Steps
  7. Burnett, Frances Hodgson: The Making of a Marchioness
  8. Equiano, Olaudah: The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
  9. Faulkner, William: As I Lay Dying
  10. Jewett, Sarah Orne: The Country of the Pointed Firs
  11. Jerome, Jerome K: Three Men in a Boat
  12. Kipling, Rudyard: The Man Who Would Be King
  13. le Carre, John: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
  14. Melville, Herman, Redburn
  15. Milton, John, Paradise Lost
  16. Mitchell, David: Cloud Atlas
  17. Muir, John: Nature Writings
  18. Pound, Ezra: Personae: The Shorter Poems
  19. Proust, Marcel, Within a Budding Grove
  20. Wharton, Edith, The Decoration of Houses
  21. Wright, Richard: Native Son
We'll see how it goes.


Meanwhile I have frittered away my day. On the good side, I listened to two Sinclair Ferguson sermons. He is a man whose knowledge of the Bible is solid and his pulpit demeanor is calm and assured and comforting, even when he speaks of convicting things, as he did in the first sermon I listened to: The Priority of Worship. The second was Christ's Message to the Church, from Revelation 2.

I made split pea soup with carrots and peppers, field pea hummus, eggplant and peppers in tomato sauce, gluten free strawberry cobbler, and 2-ingredient oatmeal banana cookies. The cobbler rocks. I will get more of Bob's Red Mill gluten free flour!

I'm still in my jammies and probably will head back to bed for a short nap. When I get up I'll take a shower and then read for the evening. I'd like to finish Moby-Dick since I put another Melville on my list, one that RC Sproul had recommended, called Redburn.

I hope there is a nice mix on my Reading Challenge list. I have a few about the Black experience, some poetry, female literature, an adventure or two. I do like an adventure story. Farley Mowat, Jack London, Jon Krakauer... Into Thin Air and Grey Seas Under are two great adventure stories that come immediately to mind. Also London's To Build a Fire. I also like a good marine tale but I didn't see any on the list, though admittedly I'm not familiar with every single title.

Television and movies have increasingly been disappointing. I hope this is an indication of increased sanctification and not simply a lull in tv programming that entices my fleshly desires, only to be re-ignited if some other program comes on.

I didn't watch Project Runway this week, even though it is part 1 of the finale. I also stopped listening to Tom & Lorenzo post-mortem on PR, since they take the Lord's name in vain too much. I've started and stopped watching several movies for similar reasons. So books it is. That's a good thing! I've noticed I'm calmer when I don't consume too much media.

I have 5 more days of school then we are out for the week of Thanksgiving! I can't wait! Here is Principal Gerry Brooks on the long month of November. It is long. Really long.

Enjoy, and till next time, ponder this:

It's the week before Thanksgiving. Why did the turkey cross the road?
To prove he was a chicken!




Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Many Changing Moods of a Fall Sunrise

It's late fall in Georgia, which means we still have warm temperatures, still have birds in the air, and still have leaves on the trees. There are even flowers blooming here and there. It will eventually change, of course. We'll have cold weather, frost, dark and rainy days, and sometimes even snow. But the leisurely fall is something I always mourned the absence of when I lived in Maine for 30 years. Fall in Maine is more of a sprint, a short burst of color and low humidity with startlingly azure skies. Then poof, it's gone. Winter settles in quickly and depressingly. Sunshine is in short supply. The dark lasts most of every day. Winter is a lengthy season. Fall seems to be one of the shortest.

However, in Georgia, the seasons seem equally spread out in the calendar. Fall is one among four other seasons that have their time. And what a time. I do miss the vividness of the foliage in New England. Leaves in their yellows, reds, oranges, and golds are extremely bright and lovely to look at. The foliage in New England in Fall is unparalleled.

But with it comes harsh temperatures that force one to bundle up in the shuddering, teeth chattering, snow and sleet scraping, snow tires swap, boots clomping, feet stomping, cabin fever cold.

Not so here. A few cold days may be followed by a week of mild. The penetrating and settling-in frigidity of a months long New England Winter is absent and instead we have a pleasing array of landscapes and temperatures, with outdoor activities still a possibility throughout.

I experienced a gorgeous sunrise this morning. I went out in just my sweats and shirt and walked up the street a bit taking photos of these scenes. No frost came out of my mouth. No shiver passed over my body. I was in 54 comfortable degrees, ambling around the property with my walking stick, in the pure quiet (except for the hearty and vigorously cockadoodledoing rooster).

The weather has a lot to do with mood. When I see the impressive and dramatic skies, I think of my Lord who created it. I come back inside to RefNet.fm and listen to majestic hymns, feeling warm because He has given me a comfortable home, well-appointed. This has been a delightful morning, and I'm grateful.

These scenes are at my home, within a ten minute span. The Changing Moods of Sunrise in Georgia!











Saturday, October 21, 2017

Recipes and shutdowns

It's a glorious sunny 74 degrees outside, with little humidity. Isn't Fall great? God is His wisdom provided for us here in the south a break from the relentless heat, and from summer's air feeling like hot, wet cotton. Leaves swirling and cool air make me want to bake.

This weekend I'll be baking oatmeal-raisin cookies (vegan, with only banana holding them together), cream of mushroom soup, baked potatoes, field pea salad with quinoa and cukes, roasted chick peas, and crispy baked eggplant rounds. Mmm.

I had a very good week at work, which is in an elementary school. It was pleasant, there was nothing frustrating or distracting, the kids were very cute, and all the people I interacted with were very nice and helpful and professional. Which makes what happened Friday afternoon and evening perplexing, but instructive.

Usually I come home on Friday overloaded with the week's accumulated sensory stimuli. The accumulated stimuli are like leaves blown against a wire fence. By Friday, I'm exhausted.

But often I don't know how exhausted. I can't see the leaves. Often I don't even know they're there, never mind how many of them.

Yesterday it was another glorious fall day, so after I got done with work, I decided to zip up to my favorite store 7 miles up the road. I had borrowed some plastic tubs I wanted to return. It is a nice ride, with two long, high swooping hills, little traffic, and a straight road. It was nice. I dropped off the tubs and had a pleasant short chat with the proprietor. I browsed some CDs and bought 2 for $1 each- Westminster Choir singing hymns and English songs from 1870s. LOL. Anyway, I popped them into the car CD player for the ride home. Since it was so nice out I decided to take the long way home and stop at Kroger for kitty litter, which I was in dire need of. When I got there, I decided to do a mini-shopping for fruit and veggies, which I was also out of. I could stop in again after church on Sunday for proteins for the coming week to complete my grocery larder.

I had a nice time shopping there, the store is clean and organized and not too bright. The wealth of fruit and vegetables from which to select always delights me. I didn't take too long, but I felt my energy flagging and checked out shortly after grabbing some milk. I still had the drive home, lugging in the heavy items from the car, and putting them away before I could finally settle down for the evening.

When I got home I did all the above, and also cleaned the kitty litter pan and fed the cats. As I sat down with a glass of water, I realized I had overdone it.

My entire body was throbbing. My legs were shaking. When I get overstimulated my skin throbs, my muscles throb, even my organs seem to throb. I could feel my blood coursing through my veins, and it felt like it wasn't blood, but poison. I felt sick, but not symptomatic regular sick like nausea or fever or having a cold. A poisonous sickly sick like I'd been turned inside out with exposed skin raw and then dipped in a vat of toxic chemicals. I sat numbly like a zombie, without energy even to work the mousepad. I stared at things in the apartment as if trying to untangle what they were.

I sat in front of the computer, wanting to read my Bible, but could not. I wanted to do this week's lesson on Biblical Doctrine, but I could not. I wanted to just do something mindless like watch cat youtube videos, but I could not. I literally could not. My thoughts, usually zooming along its smooth pathways like a night time lapse of streaks of light as cars go down the road, were instead like a swarm of gnats I couldn't follow and vainly tried to catch. I was completely numb but also in physical pain, and all I wanted to do was curl up with a soft blankie over my head.

Why was this so? I had a good week. I was not stressed. I had no conflicts, no surprises, no unexpected trauma or even minimal drama. Since I am not self-aware, I looked it up.

It's called autistic shutdown.
A shutdown is basically an episode where the brain briefly stops processing and making sense of information in response to stress or sensory overload. The lights are on, but nobody’s home. Source
I found the following description of the autistic brain and its thoughts which is exactly like mine. It's from The Everyday Aspie, the essay is "From the Inside Out"
My brain, like all autistics’ brains, seeks connections through patterns. It is on super drive all day long. It solves, reasons, rearranges, deciphers, and concludes. Every move I make is an effort, an action I am noticing, and behind that action multiple scaffolding thoughts. Where in an average person might think about six things in relation to a feasible outcome, I am thinking of sixty. What one throws out as a die with six sides, I throw out as ten dice with six sides. What commonly goes unnoticed by others, is a heavy blink to me with multiple facets, some hidden, some upright, some tossed off the table. 
The questions of how many steps to take, which room to enter first, which task to accomplish next, which word choice to use, how long to linger on one topic, are not just familiarities, they are essential elements of my existence. And behind those questions, evidence gathered in the past, visual flashes of what has been and what could be. In many moments, I am a bystander set within a machine, carried where it leads, with no steering wheel or access to controls—an entity within a larger calculating entity. And this entity is deciphering the feasible best route to everything, including my thinking process. 
As my mind works, nothing is disqualified from being factored into an outcome. Even my toothpaste brand, how much paste I squeeze out, and the flow of the water from the faucet, are scoped out and theorized, and then neatly tucked into a web of accumulated data. My thoughts gathered, molded, and placed into a previously opened drawer, a unit only to be reopened and reassembled during a later point of time. I am essentially a vast storage house with feelings.
This is why we crave familiar routines. If it's familiar, it doesn't have to be theorized, tested, and decided. Or at least not as much. It's less stressful and less mentally taxing.

It's funny what she said about the toothpaste. Just the day before I was wondering about this with myself. Now I know. She described her own shutdown this way and mine mirror hers to a great extent. The normal thinking process just...stops.
--I am unaware that I am in shutdown at the starting stage. Usually a part of me knows, but the most of me feels confused and off-balance. At this point I can do nothing but be. I have not an ounce of energy or thought process left to help myself or anyone else. I am literally a computer unplugged. (non-responsive, unaware of surroundings, lost somewhere)
--I might be unable to form complete thoughts or talk aloud.
--I spend the majority of time alone, in isolation and away from people. However, I could be sitting in the same room as someone else, but be lost in my mind.
--As a result of little to no energy whatsoever, I skip showers, don’t brush my hair, stay in my pajamas, don’t eat. (This is different than depression. I am too tired to do anything, even if a part of me wants to.)
--I finally feel like I can breathe and not think.
--I curl up into a ball and sleep.
source Everyday Aspie
I pushed myself until I could not handle staying up anymore and went to the bedroom and huddled under a blanket at 7:00. I slept until 9:30.

After I got up I still felt terrible until I finally went to bed at 11:00, slept fitfully, woke up at dawn, and have been a zombie all day. I have not listened to music or sermons, or watched TV. I haven't even cooked or read, or even blogged. It's 6:30pm the next day and I finally feel like I'm "coming to." I am drinking some good, organic tea, took a long hot shower to relax, and had a good nap earlier. These are all helpful. Now I'll write The End Time blog for the day and then maybe later I'll either read or watch a movie.

The shutdown that happened to me was perplexing, but now I know about shutdowns. It was instructive because now I know that no matter how seemingly good I feel, by Friday afternoon I'm not, so don't go anywhere except straight home. I also now know that my tiredness and desire for solitude especially on Fridays are a need and not a character flaw, weakness, or laziness.

I'll research shutdowns some more, especially what happens to the brain and body during one.

Sunday I'll cook.

It's been an eventful week.



Sunday, October 15, 2017

Five Minute healthy soup!

My eyes were bigger than my stomach last week at the grocery store. I'd bought three, count-em, three, veggie kits. One was a veggie stir fry ("Cooks in five minutes!") and the other two were cold salad veggie kits.

I have gravitated to these kits because they contain a variety of veggies, kinds of veggies I do not usually buy.  They also have neat tasting sauces or dressings, again, kinds I don't usually buy or make. Admittedly, they're convenient too. They are very expensive though. I restrict myself to buying the marked down ones, usually half price, which means usually around $1.89 or $1.99 per package. I get several salads out of each. That solves the frugal problem.

However, they are marked down because their expiration date is upcoming, usually within a week or so. I have to eat a lot of salads to go through three packs of salad or stir fry kits! I was looking at the stir fry kit this morning and the date had passed two days ago. It'd probably be good for another day or two, but what to do? I know! I will stir fry them up and then pour broth over it and it will be soup!

No chopping veggies, no cooking in stages (hard veggies like carrots and potatoes first, then softer like zucchini, and then softest like mushrooms. It's a lot of standing around. I really liked the idea for cooking a bunch of veggies in 5-minutes, with no chopping. I dumped the whole pack into a pot, added oil and spices, and voila!

Meanwhile, bouillon cubes were softening into broth. Soon I combined the two, after the stir fry had softened and absorbed the spice flavors. I added some tomato sauce I had in the fridge for good measure. One and done! Soup! (I can always add tofu or another protein like quinoa later if I want).

I did not use the stir fry dressing included in the packet when sauteing the veggies for soup so the bonus is, I now have an extra packet of dressing I'll use on my salad this week.

A great price for a lot of healthy veggies. This can be stretched to several meals.


I just dumped them in.
I added oil and salt and some spices to taste.


That's it! Done.


Gluten free

I'm trying gluten free lifestyle for a while to see if my tummy troubles and other symptoms go away. So far, they have. Therefore, I am keen to continue on this path.

Sunday is Pancake Day. I always have pancakes on Sunday, sort of to celebrate the brunch atmosphere and relaxing day ahead that Sundays always are.

Hmmm, gluten-free means no pancakes. I tried scrambled eggs last week, but again, with no toast, it just felt incomplete.

At Kroger they have this weird section that has sprung up, where they put marked down organic items. It has a sign above the shelves that says "Sink Accessories" which I find hilarious, and the section is across from the toilet paper, more hilarious. Total incongruity.

So anyway I noticed that some gluten free flour from Red Mill was there last week. Red Mill is a good brand and the priced they'd marked it down to was great. I bought it and made muffins last week, and they came out good. This week I found a gluten free pancake recipe using Red Mill flour.

Pancake perfection!
Now, just because Sunday is Pancake Day does not mean I am skillful at making them. I never, ever, ever seem to be able to make them thick. Or I burn them. Or they come out rubbery. Or whatever. I still enjoy them.

The photo on the gluten free pancake recipe looked great, round, thick, crispy edged pancakes. I made the recipe, making the same substitution I'd made last week with the muffins. I do not have buttermilk on hand but I soured some milk with vinegar last time with no ill effect. This week I did not have white vinegar for the souring, so I used lemon juice, something the recipe actually suggested.

The pancakes came out crepe thin. Like, paper thin. It turned out to be a happy mistake, though, because the recipe made lots, and lots, and I decided to use the remaining pancakes as sandwich bread for this week's lunches. I don't think I will ever make pancakes as good as the ones like in the photo above, but I enjoy the specialness of the ritual and the festive-like atmosphere I create for myself on Sunday mornings. My church service begins at 3:00 so I really have the whole morning for coffee, reading, prayer, and pancake brunch. Here are mine. You'll see the thinness, but how equally applicable these are for use as a sandwich wrap.

Plate is Vernonware, mid-century modern, produced in 1952-53, Raffia pattern


Pretty thin. But tasty!


Sunday, October 08, 2017

Fall Break Ahead!

I work 190 days per year, not 350. My salary reflects the fewer days worked, but what I love about my schedule are the frequent breaks. At this point in my life, I appreciate the time off very much.

The school year's first break is happening this week. On Monday and Tuesday we have two half-days with the kids. In the afternoon and early evening after the kids have left, teachers will meet in conference with parents and hand out report cards. As a parapro, I won't be meeting with parents. So I'll catch up on work my teacher wants me to do, such as cleaning, correcting, preparing, copying, etc. The different schedule makes the kids wild, but on the other hand, we will only be with them until noon.

On Wednesday we have a full day of teacher workday. Kids will not come to school at all. More work, cleaning, catching up, getting ready for the next quarter of school, which is 9-weeks long. We also have a Blue Cross meeting to prepare us for Open Enrollment, and other meetings as they come up.

Thursday and Friday I will be at home. No school for anybody. Fall Break begins! I normally use Fall Break as an opportunity for the gas heat guy to come and turn on the gas and clean the pilot light. Since one needs to be at home to let him in, Fall Break is good timing for me to get the heat on without having to take a day off work. It's been hot this fall, though. The temps are still in the 80s. Friday it was 90 degrees. I can't wait for the heat to break. I've scheduled the heating guy for Thursday but for sure I won't need to use the heat for at least another week, according to the weather predictions.

Hurricane Nate is going to make some impacts to North Georgia. We are going to receive 2-4 inches of rain, probably today. I hope driving to church later this afternoon is safe enough. We'll get winds, too, with some gusts that may down power lines or trees. The tropical air will make things sticky, humid, and warm. Sigh. Fall, please come!

I went to my favorite store Friday after school. Lamps, art, mirrors, and dish sets were 75% off. Can't resist. I need a new lamp and I am down to one bowl.

I found a great lamp for my living room. I LOVE my art glass lamp, but I've had it as the prominent living room lamp for 13 years. The lampshade was looking brown and the lamp itself was tottering, as the top where the bulb holder comes out was separated from the lamp itself. I bought a white lamp with a delicate pattern, for only $10.


My art glass lamp was brown and I liked how it picked up the glow of the wood from the bureau beneath it. However this white one brightens up the space with its eggshell appearance and actually it illuminates brightly. I think it is because the lampshade is whiter. The other one had turned pretty brown now that I look at it. Isn't it funny how you don't notice things in your home after a while. When you look at old items with new eyes you go, 'Whoa! I didn't realize how dingy this had become!'

I also bought a new shade for the reading lamp I have next to my reading chair. It's embroidered, and it also glows nicely when the light is on. The old shade had browned also.


Books were only $1 and I found a John Grisham novel I had somehow missed. I picked it up, started it on Friday and now I'm almost done. It's called The Broker, about a power player lobbyist-lawyer in Washington who was sent to jail, got pardoned 6 years later, and is now in Italy with a new identity and protection from the CIA. What the Broker doesn't know is that the CIA is going to leak his whereabouts to the many hordes that want The Broker dead, including the CIA, because he knows too much. Will The Broker clue in before it's too late? I don't know!. When Grisham is on his game you can't figure it out ahead.

I'll finish the book before church later, I hope. If I stop noodling around on the internet, that is. I also bought a thick paperback called The Terror. No it is not a spooky Halloween book, it's about a ship called The Terror and a failed Arctic expedition. The blurb says,
The Terror is a 2007 novel by American author Dan Simmons. It is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin's lost expedition of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror to the Arctic, in 1845–1848, to force the Northwest Passage. Most of the characters featured in The Terror are actual members of Franklin's crew, whose unexplained disappearance has warranted a great deal of speculation.
Those explorer guys always seemed to get stuck in the ice pack! Amazingly brave, they did heroic feats and returned as heroes. However not all of them always returned. Some whole expeditions  did not return at all, and unlike the successive terrors that happened to Job where always one person "has escaped to tell you", this book proposes a story of what happened on a failed expedition where no one returned to tell the story of what occurred.

If I'm smart, I'll get the laundry ready and going before the rain hits. I'm blessed to have a washing machine and dryer, so I don't have to go to the laundromat anymore, but the units are in the detached garage. I should get moving with this chore before the rain and wind hit. So with that, arrivederci until next time!

Sunday, October 01, 2017

October already? Also, the County Fair

It's cool and fresh this morning, though the daytimes are still inexplicably in the 80s and even the 90s. My car thermometer read 100 one day this week. It had been sitting in a hot parking lot all day though. Still hot. The steering wheel was too hot to touch!

Anyway it feels good to feel the fresh breeze. I got up and baked this morning.

As is my routine, on Sunday mornings I cook and bake stuff for the week so that when I arrive home from work, I don't have to spend a lot of time preparing meals, but sit sit down and write and study. I love that our church begins at 3:00! I have the entire morning to awaken slowly, sip coffee, and cook and do these things that make my week go better.

 This morning I made 3-ingredient oatmeal 'cookies'-



Also, roasted chick peas, baked potatoes,  three pieces of fish, and gluten free strawberry muffins.

I have to go gluten free now. I knew it was coming, and I didn't want it to, but it came anyway. My mother has celiac disease and she's extremely, highly sensitive to gluten. Those who are in the inner circle of relationship of those with celiac, have a 1 in 22 chance of being gluten sensitive also. I had been feeling pretty terrible for months, but the symptoms were so disparate that I could not put my finger on what was the matter. Having avoided the obvious, a couple of weeks ago I had a low point of high pain, limited mobility, constant headaches. I decided the pain was not worth the bread. I sat down and dug in and found that all my symptoms, varied as they are, coincided with celiac.

I cut out all gluten for two weeks and I immediately felt better. Sigh.

So now I am re-orienting myself to a new mindset of cooking, shopping and living. Gluten free items are expensive, and I do miss making sandwiches. I'll figure it out eventually.

The gluten free flour was on sale so I picked it up and made the muffins. LOL, I didn't have blueberries so I substituted canned strawberries I had in the back of the cupboard, and I didn't have buttermilk so I substituted regular milk soured with vinegar. The substitutions didn't seem to harm the baking any. Next time I'll cut down on the amount of sugar. I don't like sweet muffins and there's always to much sugar in recipes for my taste. I'd already made enough swaps to interfere with the recipe so I didn't dare cut back on sugar this first time, but next time I will.

The county fair was in town and I haven't been since 2009. It's only two miles down the road so Saturday evening I went. They close at 4pm and re-open at 6, and I was there at the re-opening. The light was low and golden, the famed "Golden Hour" photographers love each morning and evening. Since I was there right at the beginning, there were not too many people and I got a lot of clear shots of the fairway. I can't seem to add a slideshow to Blogger posts so sorry for the many individual pics.
















Sunday, September 17, 2017

Luxe living on a budget

I have champagne tastes on a beer budget, as they say. I like the finer things, but can hardly afford expensive furniture, art, or food. So I improvise!

I have all that I need and more than I could want. But I still like the prettiness, craftsmanship, and feeling of fine materials. So what to do?

I seed my living space with luxe things. Instead of worrying about an entire living space filled with fine furnishings, art, or style items like throws & pillows, I seed it with a few good pieces here and there.

For example: I found this table at a yard sale for $2. It is hand-made and of a good wood. But there is a gaping hole in the top! It was obviously used to hold a bowl of some kind so a person could wash up. Unless the owner of the yard sale didn't have plumbing recently (unlikely) I surmised that the table was also old. But how to use with a hole in the top?

Elsewhere in the yard sale they were selling a thick and heavy polished marble slab as a cutting board for $2. Hmmm. I put it on top of the table, and voila!



Now it makes a nice end table in the living room-



Some years ago a friend made and gave me a Raku vase. Raku is a complicated and unique pottery method which results in the item having a patina that's rich and glossy, and changes over time. If I were to search for a similar kind of vase to buy they would cost between $75 to $150. Because it is a hand made and a unique item, I display it in the living room. There, I can enjoy it and also add to the seeds of luxury and fineness I'm building.

Below, one side of the Raku vase is glossy copper.


The other side is a muted gray.


I was shopping at a vintage estate sale store recently. Often you can find good items for a decent price there. When you shop at flea markets or tag sales or anywhere, if an item is on sale look at it and think about how to use it. Here is a hand painted tray for $2. Don't need a tray? How about using it for a frame, glue a mirror on it or a picture and hang it up? Here is a coat rack. Don't need a coat rack? How about using it for a towel hanger in the bathroom? Find some milk glass but don't need glassware? How about using them on your mantel with a votive candle inside?

I found this essential oil dispenser for $1. I don't use essential oils. Hmmm. I liked the item though. It was unique, priced well, heavy, and hand carved out of some kind of material that's probably soapstone. A similar one is selling for $20 or more online.


When you're shopping, look for things that are hand made, of an expensive or unique material, and/or priced well below what the market is bearing (or is what you can afford). I decided to use this as a pencil cup! I took the tape off, and if the hole on one side gets to be a problem with pencils or pens sliding out I'll just tape a small piece of cardboard inside and make sure that side faces the back.



If you can't buy a $1,000 leather couch, then put a couple of expensive leather pillows on it. Or a hand made quilt, or vintage throw of excellent quality. Luxe it up!

Tips:
  • At tag sales, flea markets, consignment stores...look carefully at everything, Take your time. Half of finding good stuff is going slowly and carefully, the other half is thinking, as in the next tip-
  • Don't disregard an item just because you can't use it for its original purpose. You can re-purpose it with a little imagination. Think of what else it could become.
  • Look for things that are unique, hand made, and beautiful.
  • Place them around your living space so when your eye rests on various areas, you will see or handle fine things strews around artfully.
Here is a tour of my luxuriously thrifty, or frugally luxe, living room:

Below, an art glass lamp I found at the dump. (Back in the day, you could dump pick. Townspeople would place their "good things" in what came to be known as "The Good Pile"). I found the lampshade the next week. Cost: $0.



Below, a dead space into which I put a plant stand I'd found at the dump and used it to display a vintage camera I found at the second hand store. Cost $7.


Below, a vignette of my reading spot. When I'm not using my vintage lace curtain tie-back I put it around the lamp. An old coaster, and an old book complete the spot. Cost, $2.


Below, a coffee table tablescape. This could be prettier or more imaginative, but I like books, so that is what is on the table. Also, Murray uses the coffee table as part of his "Manic Moment" running around the apartment, so I won't place a tray with glass items or flowers on it. Here, a vintage antique magazine and a hardback book with an interesting cover are currently on display. Cost, 50 cents for the magazine, and $10 for the book.


Below, the couch with the aforementioned small end table with marble top. The table, buffet the lamp is on, lamps, chair, couch, and rugs are all second hand. End table cost, $4. Along the back of the couch is a vintage hand-crocheted throw my great-aunt made me 35 years ago. PS- Why is there tape on the couch and pillows all across? Cats.


Below, wall art and the Raku vase atop the heater. I found the photo of the Colosseum at a yard sale for $4, it is from the early 1900s. The piece of art on top I found at a consignment store for $10. It is a piece of wood with a photo reproduction of a classic piece of art. When looking at art, turn it over and find a signature or ID somewhere. In this case, a sticker affixed to the back said "Fratelli Alinari, Via Condotti, Roma." I knew fratelli meant brothers, and Via Condotti is Rome's most fashionable street. It's like saying Rodeo Drive, or Madison Avenue. The sticker looked old.


The advantage of thrift shopping for luxe items in this day and age is that you can google. If you have a phone you can google right then. I didn't but I knew the quality of the piece was good and the vintage sticker on the back was significant. I bought it and when I got home I got online and I discovered according to Wikipedia:
Fratelli Alinari is the world's oldest photographic firm, founded in Florence, Italy in 1852. Its archives contains 5.5 million photographs, ranging from daguerreotypes to modern digital photos from around the world.
Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert commissioned the Alinari brothers to reproduce Raphael's designs, according to the Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography. Cool. I have two Alinari pieces. Fratelli Alinari pieces are are not hugely expensive because they are not exceedingly rare, but are part of a photography history that I am pleased to be part of and display. And the pieces of art that are reproduced on the Alinari prints are beautiful.

A great throw, nice material like art glass and marble, unique art, and hand made pieces complete the seeds. So that's it! Lifestyles of the not so rich and totally obscure!