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!

Monday, September 11, 2017

9/11/2001

On 9/11/2001 I was a weekly newspaper publisher/editor. Passionate about America and free speech, right to assemble, etc.

Tuesdays were the big day putting the paper together. At 8:30 my graphic designer hollered to come to the TV in the front room. She never hollers.

The 1st plane had just hit the 1st tower. We looked at each other with wide eyes. What did it mean?

The second plane hit. We knew.

We watched it unfold in horrible living color, our guts hollow, our minds jumbled.

After a while, we went across the street to the hardware store and bought the biggest flag they had. Then went to the bank & withdrew $$.

While we were at the bank, the plane hit the ground in PA. Our world turned upside down. Was anywhere safe? Would it be, ever again?

No terrorist was going to stop me from putting out the paper. We plowed on. In tears.

The worst moment, when we realized that all the lined up hospital gurneys would never be filled. You either survived…or you didn’t.

Then the towers fell. Life changed forever.

I was unsaved. Was there a God? Why does this happen? Why such hate? 3 years later, I knew. Man’s depravity, our sin. God’s grace.

God's grace to save a worm such as I, and Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jews, Gentiles...all he appointed to life despite our depravity. GRACE.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Kinfolk Aesthetic: Hipster overkill? Bland Monotony? Pure Genius?

I finally clued in to the Kinfolk movement. This is a design aesthetic that has saturated and influenced interior design and photography for the last 7 years. It's spare, it's minimalist. It's full of lattes with creamy swirls, dreamy young women wearing calico, knit berets and bearded hipsters. If you see one photo of a Kinfolk aesthetic, you'll know immediately what I'm talking about. More on that in a minute.

But first, its history. Wikipedia:
Kinfolk was created by Nathan Williams, his wife Katie Searle-Williams and their friends Doug and Paige Bischoff in July 2011. Primarily a lifestyle magazine aimed at young professionals, it focuses on home, work, play, food and community through photo essays, recipes, interviews, profiles, personal stories and practical tips. The writers, photographers, designers and chefs who contribute to Kinfolk are drawn from a largely international pool of creative people, often featuring more than 50 individual contributors an issue.
They started the magazine in Portland, OR because it was easy and cheap to do so there. Now spanning several countries, annexes located in Copenhagen Denmark and translated into four languages, Kinfolk would seem to have a large circulation commensurate with their breadth and influence. But no. It currently has a circulation of about 86,000, which seems like a lot but then not so much when comparing to Architectural Digest, of 818,000.

Kinfolk aesthetic seems to inspire heated opinions on both sides. Some love it, some hate it, hence my title. Summer Allen writes in her article Wood, Citrus, Lattes, Feet, Twine, Repeat: The Kinfolk Kinspiracy Code:
Every account cultivating that Kinfolk look seemed to follow a specific formula. Every account had a photo (or several) of the following: A latte with a foam leaf design, a fresh piece or two of citrus, a glimpse of a pair of small feet—often in a well-worn pair of boots—an ice cream cone, weather permitting, some glasses here and there, twine, the occasional fixed-gear bike. 
See:


Latte, usually on reclaimed wood but this one on blue tiles:

Source
I like minimalist, vaguely Scandinavian design. In the 1960s when I grew up Scandinavian style and Danish were popular. Despite the neon colored psychedelic fonts and wild flowers you remember from concert posters, there was also a movement toward minimalism.

Kinfolk's trademark wildflowers artfully arranged to look casual on a spare table here is preceded by House Beautiful's 1962 kitchen.


A spare table setting in 1961 House Beautiful featuring interesting cutlery (Danish-inspired wood handles) with citrus is decades older than Kinfolk's arrangements.



From The Art Story
Minimalism emerged in New York in the early 1960s among artists who were self-consciously renouncing recent art they thought had become stale and academic. A wave of new influences and rediscovered styles led younger artists to question conventional boundaries between various media. The new art favored the cool over the "dramatic": their sculptures were frequently fabricated from industrial materials and emphasized anonymity over the expressive excess of Abstract Expressionism. Painters and sculptors avoided overt symbolism and emotional content, but instead called attention to the materiality of the works. By the end of the 1970s, Minimalism had triumphed in America and Europe through a combination of forces including museum curators, art dealers, and publications, plus new systems of private and government patronage. And members of a new movement, Post-Minimalism, were already challenging its authority and were thus a testament to how important Minimalism itself became.
Where art went, design and photography followed.

Minimalism was preceded by Mid-century modern which was preceded by Bauhaus ...Here is a cool guideand description of various design trends of the last century. There is nothing new under the sun.

So what makes Kinfolk so identifiable, so immediately arresting, so opinion-splitting? Why has Kinfolk and its imitators spurred a visual conformity rampant among photographers and bloggers? The IF:Gathering blog ladies' photos are obviously inspired by Kinfolk. Any blogger older that 20 and younger than 40 tends to the style. Perhaps the negative criticism is a backlash on the conformity and ubiquitousness of the design. Overdone, minimalism can tend to be bland. But with a good eye for composition, isn't it also beautiful? Kinfolk's photos are beautiful. And beauty is never overdone, it's never out of style. Rough wood is beautiful. Flowers are beautiful. Flannel and calico and other fabrics are beautiful. Serenity captured in photography is beautiful.

Perhaps they are a victim of their own success. The Magazine was launched just months after Instagram, and the two are blended into one seamless, long-lasting design trend. Still, the question remains,

Kinfolk: A Magazine for the Ages or a Passing Hipster Fad?

Kinfolk is perhaps one of the most divisive magazines on the market right now: while it obviously has a devoted fanbase who love it for its beautiful imagery and dedication to promoting a wholesome, aesthetically pleasing lifestyle, there are others who find it pretentious and smug, outraged that for all its emphasis on living a simple life, the magazine has no problem shilling pricy artisanal goods.
Architectural Digest was founded in 1920, almost 100 years ago. Kinfolk is a mere 6 years old. A bit too soon, methinks, to be mentioning a magazine for the ages. Not to mention Vogue, founded in 1892. Kinfolk has a ways to go. Meanwhile, all those farm food shots and reclaimed wood tablescapes are continuing to charm and delight, and outrage and offend others.

The real question is, have I been influenced by the particular minimalism Kinfolk presents? Or was I already ahead of the curve loving what is obviously beautiful anyway?


Dinghy, bike, logs, car...

Also these-




Oh, well, pretty is pretty!

What do you think of the Kinfolk phenomenon movement?

Saturday, September 02, 2017

A Bug Reaction

Yesterday after school I laid down for 20 minutes for a quick nap. The air was so fresh and the bed so inviting. I woke refreshed after some minutes and headed to the kitchen. On the way over I was scratching, I sat down with some spring water and scratched some more.

Now, my skin both inside and immune system inside is extremely sensitive. The skin at the wrist and elbow were raising up in huge red welts. It felt like a thousand fire ants were marching under my skin. Literal. Fire. In. My. Skin. Welts getting higher. And redder. SOMETHING BIT ME! This was the arm that laid on the bedspread. Oh no! Something bit me IN BED! This calls for immediate war.

I am so terrified of bed bugs (and any other bugs in my bed, like spiders) that after washing the wrist and elbow with sugar scrub I went to the bed and closely examined the bedspread, which is white. I saw nothing. I tore off the spread and examined the top sheet. Nothing there. I yanked off the top sheet and examined the bottom sheet. Nothing. I ripped off the bottom sheet and examined the mattress pad. Nothing. I pulled the mattress pad off and examined the mattress. Nothing. I lifted the mattress and looked at the box spring. Nothing. I got the flashlight and examined the seams. Nothing.
I gathered the bedding I’d torn off, went to the garage and put it immediately in the dryer to kill any bugs that had escaped my minute attention. Then I remade the bed. After a hot, frenzied hour. I sat down to my now warm spring water. I saw the bug.

It was a mosquito.

Well at least the sheets are changed.


#vividimagination #overreactionperhaps

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Books, books, books

I hid in books. I dived into the pages and swam the great slip-stream of adventure and fiction and space and anywhere-but-here. When the cover attracted and the spine cracked and the pages turned, I wasn't here but there. I was lost for hours, becoming The Poky Little Puppy or Harriet the Spy or The Hobbit. I journeyed to the Magical Forest or descended 20,000 Leagues under the Sea or rocketed to the Stars. I learned To Build a Fire and To Kill a Mockingbird in The Crucible for The Once and Future King. I drifted into a Secret Garden and hopped on Watership Down and took The Stand.

Books transported. Books fired the imagination. Books sparked emotions. When they ended, left me bereft. Until the next one. My library card was wrinkled and the Librarians knew me. The card catalog was my friend. The marble entry was cool and the quietness was soothing and the orderliness of an entire world of worlds was cataloged and organized.

Sad that adulthood brings the gorging to a slow trickle. Sad that aging eyes can't focus for as long as they used to. But the books are there. Riding history with Miss Jane Pittman or enjoying a Nantucket Sleigh Ride with Moby Dick or learning The Body Dynamic and seeing Hearts on Fire...books are still good, they are still there. And when they are there, I am not here.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Frugal Cooking: Inexpensive proteins

If you're like me, you struggle to stay within budget and maintain healthy fridge levels of fresh veggies, fruit, and proteins. Proteins especially are just so expensive. I'm talking about pork, steak, chicken, etc. We need a certain amount of protein each day in order to fuel our bodies appropriately, but buying enough to stay within financial limits is increasingly difficult as prices rise.

I live alone and this essay is aimed mostly at those who live alone or perhaps in a pair. I shop at Kroger. At Kroger, in almost every section, they have a small set-aside part where they put the marked down items. This is true for produce, cheese/cold deli, bakery, hot deli, flowers, gourmet/organic, and fish. One clerk told me that buyers like the marked down items and Kroger likes them because they hardly ever have to throw anything away. If you shop at a different store, I'd encourage you to search out if they also have a marked down/nearly expired section. If they don't, you could always ask them to start.

A while ago I discovered the fish section's marked down area. I do not eat meat, but I do enjoy fish. If anything, fish is even more expensive than meat! In the regular section of the fish cooler, Kroger has a pre-made ready for the grill skewer of medium to large shrimp. Five shrimp for $1. Five medium to large shrimp is a portion. I learned years ago that one protein portion should be about the size of your palm. Even more enjoyable, they are already de-veined. Ick, I hate deveining shrimp.

Here are my dinner proteins for the week:


The above represents 6 dinners this week with a fresh protein, for $5.50 total. Not bad, eh?! I try to stay under $40 for the week, and aim for $35, so $5.50 represents a good balance of the total budget.

Any time you can get a protein serving for a dollar or less it's frugal.

I'll likely cut the plain tilapia into nuggets and lightly fry them, the other half I'll cook as a filet and serve with a salad. The seasoned tilapia will halved and sauted. Inside the brown paper package are the two skewers of shrimp. I ate one last night in Pad Thai, which consists of rice noodles, pea pods, tofu, lemon juice and shrimp covered in a Pad Thai tamarind sauce. The other skewer I'll saute and serve with rice and veggies.

For the protein during the rest of my day, I'll have quinoa-oatmeal in the morning, and there's tofu, eggs, chia seeds, peanut butter, nuts, and other kinds of proteins I can combine, like beans and rice, cottage cheese with fruit, etc.

You might wonder how I'll keep the fish fresh for 6 days when the common advice is to use it up within three. Well, the first 3 days I'll cook it as the evening comes. On day 3 I'll cook the rest and then eat the cooked versions as the other 3 days go by.

Now you know why this works for a single person. You can't do the same frugal shopping with a family, buying one filet at a time! When shopping for a family there are different skills and tricks to employ so as to stay within budget.

Now, I can't be this lucky every week. Sometimes the sale sections are picked over by the time I get there. Other times, things are on sale that are still too expensive for me, like lobster. Sometimes there are good reductions in price on items I just don't like to eat. Frugality can be tiring because it demands a constant vigilance and planning ahead. But the results are worth it.

Bon appetit!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

My mother had me tested: living with autism in the 1960s

Autism as a diagnosis has come a long way since 1908 when the word was first used, as the Timeline of the History of Autism shows. Further, the Timeline reveals that in 1944 and 1945, we learn from Leo Kanner that some of the behaviors associated with autism are "a powerful desire for aloneness" and "an obsessive insistence on persistent sameness" and from Hans Asperger that the boys he observed were "highly intelligent but had trouble with social interactions and specific obsessive interests."

Not many advances were made in the knowledge base until 1967, when Psychologist Bruno Bettelheim popularized the theory that "refrigerator mothers," as he termed them, caused autism by not loving their children enough. This turned out to be a false theory.

I was born in 1960 and I displayed the characteristics of the above. In addition, I had no affect (no facial expressions), didn't emotionally bond with people, displayed extreme aloofness, was selectively mute at different periods, "stubborn" (an attempt to control my environment so as to diminish anxiety I didn't know I had), perplexed by social cues, didn't understand emotions- mine or others', didn't want to be comforted, and was inter-relationally tactless. (i.e if someone looked terrible today, I'd say "You look terrible today.")

I know it must not have been that easy to engage with me.

Me, age 7 1/2. I was never too photogenic. Or body aware, lol.
The world was so scary and so confusing, I internalized it all. As a result, my body erupted with physical symptoms of the anxiety I was suppressing. I had headaches and stomachaches all the time, sometimes severe.

I was looking over my elementary school report cards the other night. It seems that every year in most 9-week segments, I'd have good attendance, missing only 1 or 2 days. But in one quarter of the school year, there was always a huge spike, where I'd miss 9, 10, 11 days. This is a lot of days in a school quarter that has only 9 weeks. That means I regularly missed one or two days of school per week that quarter.



In 1968 my mother had me tested. (I think I remember the date correctly). This was the time before autism was in the DSM and during the time the refrigerator mother theory was prevalent.

I remember going to doctor's offices and the person sitting in the big chair would try to get me to talk. Or observe me. I had many medical tests. The worst one was the spinal tap. A nurse held me in a Half-Nelson and another held my legs at the knees and they curved me and a HUGE needle went into my back. It hurt more than anything I'd ever experienced even to this day. I'll never forget being held down and the cold steel table under me and the confusion as to why this was happening.

After all that was over, I got curious and eventually I asked my mother why and what and how come.

"What did the doctors say?"
"It's psychosomatic."
"What does that mean?"
"It means it's ALL IN YOUR HEAD!!!"

My mother said the last part with such anger and disdain that she spit.

Psychosomatic means head-body (psycho-soma) connection. Psychosomatic disorders are physical symptoms that mask emotional distress. Unbenownst to the doctors at the time in our little corner of Rhode Island in 1968, the underlying cause was a different brain circuitry- autism. It is genetic and it tends to run in families. My cousin is autistic. I personally believe my father was also.

"In the field of psychosomatic medicine, the phrase "psychosomatic illness" is used more narrowly than it is within the general population. For example, in lay language, the term often encompasses illnesses with no physical basis at all, and even illnesses that are faked (malingering). In contrast, in contemporary psychosomatic medicine, the term is normally restricted to those illnesses that do have a clear physical basis, but where it is believed that psychological and mental factors also play a role." (source)

My parents interpreted the diagnosis as "hypochondria" meaning, not real, or the lay person interpretation of pychosomatic, meaning faked or malingering. They were kind of disgusted with me and left me alone after that.

At least I didn't receive the most common diagnosis before Autism was included in the DSM, schizophrenia. The doctor was kind of on the right track. My headaches and stomachaches were a real physical manifestation of something in my head, which we now know is different brain wiring. Anxiety and confusion and sensory overload caused my physical symptoms.

I believe that my particular path's diagnosis led from the 1960s mis-diagnosis of psychosomatic to the 1970s theory of the alexithymic brain, to the 1980s-90s diagnosis of Asperger's or high functioning autism. (alexithymic brain and autism here, and here).

From Spectrum News, we read about my generation of autistic kids.
In the 1950s and 1960s, thousands of children who had autism were either completely missed or were saddled with the wrong label. The word 'autism' wasn't included in the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," the main reference book for psychiatry in the U.S., until 1980. …For these reasons, what autism looks like in older adulthood, and what it means to age with autism, are still mysteries, says Piven. "We don't have that concept with autism that people live a whole life: What happened to them as they got older? This is just a huge area of no knowledge. There’s almost nothing written about autism and geriatric populations."
Geriatric? Um, lol, OK. In my geriatric life, I've gained life experience that helps me cope. I have learned how to mimic appropriate social interaction. I have learned that people don't like it when your face shows no emotion. Apparently my resting face used to look very melancholy, and people would ask me all the time why I was sad. It drove me crazy. Over time I've learned what I need in order to protect myself emotionally, financially, professionally etc.

Not having an "official" diagnosis as a child was a definite disadvantage. It's OK, an official diagnosis didn't exist when I was a child. Even today, knowing what I do now but still not having an official certificate to "prove" why I seem rude or grumpy or aloof etc., is also a disadvantage. People still say hurtful things, even ones who should know better. One person said to my face they don't believe I'm autistic but just use the word to bully people.

I cannot imagine what moms and dads go through who hear people say these kind of things to or about their autistic children. My hat's off to parents of autistic children. I am sure my parents didn't know what to do with me!

I am who I am because God made me this way, and therefore I would not have it any other way. I have only spent 47 years with a semi-diagnosis and headaches and stomach-aches and angry parents and insensitive people. I will spend eternity with Jesus, glorified and perfected, being used as His servant in the exact ways He made me. The way He made me will be a gift to His society in heaven, without the physical manifestations from sensitivities and anxiety from misdiagnoses or misunderstandings. It's a good trade. A very good trade, because God is good.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Small thoughts

I'm starting my last summer weekend, as go back to school on Monday. The first part of the summer was good, June. July has been bumpy and some days just downright awful, but overall summer is still a great time of year


"The Last Weekend"
Well, my License to Chill is going to expire on July 31, and along with it, my Hermit Permit. I'm looking forward to seeing dear friends, colleagues, and new people on Monday. Meanwhile, let the Acorn TV bingeing commence!

"Acorn TV"
I love Acorn TV, a streaming service that presents exclusively British, Irish, Canadian or Aussie programs. I like the quality, it has a PBS feel without the begathons or liberalism. I had watched a show a few years ago called Life is Wild, about a veterinarian who trades his small animal humdrum life for restoring a wild animal reserve in Africa. It was a good show with an interesting premise but it turned out to be boring and I drifted away from its one and only season midway through.

Come to find out, the American version was based on a wildly popular and well done show originating in Britain called Wild at Heart. I've watched two of the episodes now and the warmth and charm in the British version is evident. I can see why Britain loved the show, which ran for 8 years and only recently went off. Apparently, shooting in Africa got too expensive, but when it got done the show was at the top of its ratings. I'm hopeful that I can enjoy this show, which is cinematically beautiful and also emotionally charming.

"The Cats"
Speaking of animal kingdoms, my two kitties have done very well this summer with me home. Murray is much more affectionate than he used to be. Maybe that is a function of just growing up, he's 3 now. Or maybe he just enjoys cuddling as the life he knew as an abandoned outdoor stray fades from his memory. He is very smart, cute, and now, cuddly. Bert, the ole lump, is still a wonderful and placid cat with just enough weirdness to make me love him all the more.

"Fall"
I don't like to wish my life away but I do look forward to Fall. The heat and humidity of a Georgia summer does get on one's nerves after a while. We have at least 5 more weeks to go. This Fall's changing leaves, pumpkins, fresh air, and cool nights are definitely going to be easy to trade for a constantly running loud air conditioner, humidity so thick you're breathing water, heat that sears the lungs, hornets and wasps ruling the yard, and a blazing hot car practically melting into the asphalt.

"Summer"
One thing I've enjoyed about summer is sipping good coffee. Not having to guzzle it down in a hurry because I have to get to work or the kids are coming in at morning bell. I have a large brown on the outside, black on the inside mug I use each day. It is Friends' size. Remember that TV show of the twenty-somethings who met for coffee at Central Perk, sat on the couches and held oversized mugs in their hands? I love to make a good medium roast and add a flavored creamer to it. And then commence to drink it slowly. I fill my mug only halfway so the coffee doesn't get cool while I'm taking my time with it.

"Cooking"
Today I'm making a roasted corn and tomato and cucumber salad. I'll sprinkle Bleu cheese on top and serve slightly warm. Also making broccoli and tofu stir fry with teriyaki sauce. I do not like to bake and I wish I did because I really love blueberry muffins. And banana nut muffins, corn muffins, and bran muffins. All muffins. Yum!

"Frugal"
I had gotten three large Golden Beets in the red net bag at Kroger. The produce in the red net bags are produce items set aside to sell at a reduced rate due to their shelf life. I love beets. They're expensive, so I don't get them often. I'd had regular red beets before but the Golden were new to me. The ones in the bag were perfectly fine, and I did the usual with them. I peeled, chopped into cubes, and roasted. They were golden and also delicious. I paired them with a roasted white potato and made a breakfast hash, drizzled a slight amount of maple syrup over the mixture, and laid a runny fried egg on top. Voila, deliciousness happening.

"Photo"
A very large grasshopper (or locust?) has been hanging around my front door lately Unfortunately when I open the door he usually leaps off, and I have little time to grab my camera. But today he was content to remain on the door, so I eased out smoothly and took some pictures of him from outside looking in. I took a bunch of pics, but here are a couple:




Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Summer break is over

I have 4 days left of Summer break. On Monday I head back to school. July 31. No one is happy about the encroachment of the school year calendar into July, but with all the other mandated and preferred "must haves" during the year, this is the way it turned out.

We have 4 days of pre-planning and then on Friday, August 4, the kids come. This year I'll be stationed in the second grade level and mainly in one second grade classroom for 95% of the day. I only have one segment in first grade, helping out another teacher who will be working with first grade students. My home spot where my desk is and where I put my purse and eat lunch etc. has changed too. I used to be at one extreme end of the school and now I'm at the other. This will be really convenient because my new spot is in the second grade area and it will save me a lot of time and steps during the day.

In the last 6 years I've never been stationed in one class or dedicated to one teacher as much as I will be this upcoming school year. I used to go somewhere different every hour. I traveled with the kids instead of the kids coming to me. Being with one teacher is like a marriage. The para-professional is a helpmeet, supporting and helping the teacher in any way that will help her be more effective for the kids. In being with one person all day, I hope I don't annoy my teacher too much! At least when I went somewhere different every hour the teacher knew that they only had to put up with me for a short time and then I'd leave, lol!

I'm looking very much forward to this year. I like the security of the job (as secure as these things can be) but also look forward to the small changes within the job because that means it never gets boring. I used to be dedicated to kindergarten, this year it will be 2nd grade. I used to travel the building, this year I'll mainly be in one classroom. I love the teacher I'll be with so that is a huge forward start.

Our school is really good and the Administration is excellent. It has a positive and friendly climate. It is a good place to work because of the collegial support and encouragement. The work environment is physically comfortable. The high-level professional quality of my colleagues and especially the Admins is all good. I am really blessed to have a good job with a steady paycheck, regular hours, and is fulfilling because it is with kids.

As a result of our good school's climate, we have a low amount of people requesting transfers away. Employees come, and they stay. We have historically had the largest amount of 20, 25, and 30 year workers in the system. The downside is that these long-term workers are starting to retire now. I'll miss them- they were good people. We were given funds to fill the positions for those who left. That, plus the blessing of receiving funds for some new positions, means that this year in our building we have ten new faces!

What I'll miss about summer break at home:

The warm glow of the kitchen curtains as the sun rises and filters through the lace

Savoring coffee slowly first thing in the mornings

The green grass outside my window

Hearing the birds in the morning, along with the Wayward Rooster (who crows a chortled crow at all hours not just morning!)

The quietness of home

Snoring kitties

Eating at odd times

Going to the bathroom whenever I want! (You teachers and mommies know what I mean).

Reading

Surfing the net all day

Naps

Not having to talk to or see people

Not having a schedule

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What I’m looking forward to at school:

Having a schedule

Seeing the children

Kids' bad knock knock jokes

Laughing

Helping children

Serving my teachers

Feeling useful

Being a good employee

Not being able to eat whenever I want to (phew I ate myself out of house and home this summer!)

Being part of a team that makes a safe place for children to come to and be loved

Actually earning the paycheck that comes through the summer

Seeing my principal and assistant principal do their work because they are so good at what they do

Coming home at the end of the day

Rainbow at dawn over my school a couple of years ago. EPrata photo


Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Frugal cooking: Making crispy eggplant and roasting peppers; also, fish

Even though it's hot, I cooked today, meaning: baked.

You gotta do what you have to do.

It had been a while, making do on the stove, eating cereal, sandwiches, cold salads. It's summer.

But at some point you do have to bite the bullet and turn on the oven and this morning was that time.

It all starts at Kroger. If you hit the reduced produce section at the right time, i.e. just as they stock it, it looks like this:



The cart is not my cart. It's part of the reduced section, an overflow that would not fit on the regular shelves.

Anything in a red net bag is 99 cents. I bought a bag of red peppers and a bag of orange peppers. I got a bag of lemons, a bag of two eggplants, two trays of cherry tomatoes- one red and one orange- and regular tomatoes.

See? They look perfectly fine. Usually red peppers are $1 each or even more. In the bag they are 33 cents. I saved $12 on produce with what I got.



Anyway, if I buy the reduced produce I am essentially making a commitment to it, both as a promise not to waste food, not to deny someone else the opportunity to buy fresh produce for a good price, and also to financially shepherd my resources well. So that means use it/cook it/eat it in some way.

The produce is the first stop. Depending on what I can get, I make my menu from there. Sometimes soon I'll get a shallow dish frozen pie crust and make a red pepper tartlet. For now, I roasted the peppers and I'll use them in antipasto and in scrambled eggs.


I cut them up into strips, toss them with oil, salt, and pepper, and roast till soft and the edges are brown.



Since I got tomatoes and eggplants, I'd decided to bake the eggplants and use the crisp rounds in sandwiches. I'll need cheese. I headed over to the reduced cheese section

Mozzarella and provolone are both great with eggplant. I went to the reduced cheese section and what did I find? Mozzarella and provolone. 50% off, down from $4 to $1.99. There's enough to even make a casserole later if I want. Since I already cooked the eggplants, making a casserole would not take long, essentially I just need to heat it through and melt the cheese. I bought a tiny can of tomato sauce just in case I want to do that later in the week.





Here is how I bake eggplant. Cut into rounds. You can peel or not peel. I peel. Sometimes I peel each round after I slice them or sometimes I peel the whole eggplant first.



Dip rounds in egg scrambled with milk, and then bread crumbs. 2 eggs were enough with the two eggplants. Do not use a fork. Once you pierce the eggplant, whether frying or baking, it makes the eggplant round soggy as the oil or the egg-milk mixture seeps into the flesh. Use tongs or your fingers to dredge and turn over the rounds. You can add spices like oregano or salt-pepper to the bread crumb mixture, also Parmesan cheese too. Or you can sprinkle your preferred seasoning over the cookie sheet rounds.



I try to maximize space by filling the cookie sheet but also try to have the rounds not touch each other or overlap. It causes uneven cooking. As the baking process progresses, the eggplants shrink since the heat evaporates the water int he flesh. So if they are touching a little bit, that's OK. They'll each be an island unto themselves soon enough, lol.

Two smallish eggplants filled three cookie sheets (of varying size). Bake until crisp on one side then flip. Depending on your oven and the temperature you bake them at (I go 375) it might take 7-10 min on one side then 5-7 on the other.


Yum! Crispy eggplant! I pop two or three of these onto some crispy bread, a couple slices of tomato, and cheese and make a panini on the griddle. You can also use tomato sauce and make a sub sandwich. Or just eat them on the side as a vegetable. You can re-crisp them in the toaster oven, on a griddle, or bake or roast for a few minutes.

I drifted over to the fish section and got a stuffed crab for $1, a salmon filet for $2 (2 meals), and a tilapia filet for $1.35 (fish chowder, 3 meals). 3 proteins for $4.35 will last for 6 meals.

Tomorrow I'll reveal a cute, perfect, zen cabin in a bamboo garden I discovered, that I plan to vacation in next spring!