Saturday, July 30, 2011

School bells are ringing

Well, they are for me, but the kids won't start until Aug 5. I go back Monday. I've been preparing my cats to steel themselves for Monday, when their mommy will suddenly disappear for most of the day and our comfortable schedule will change drastically, but I don't think they are absorbing the information as best they might.

I've really enjoyed the summer. I wrote a lot and read a lot and studied a lot and did not socialize a lot. All of which are great. I cooked garden stuff and took naps and watched Judge Judy. I looked at physics documentaries and interspersed them with clips from the comedy show The Big Bang Theory. I weaned myself off of Criminal Minds only to get stuck on cooking shows. I did nothing I didn't want to do and everything I wanted to do. Is it any wonder I'm mourning summer's end??

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eating on a budget

Grocery shopping these days can be a trial, for sure. When you have a budget and you try to stick to it, the prices today can make that hard. It is very stress inducing, because though you can control your grocery bill somewhat by the choices you make, you can't do without food. It is a necessity.

I'vs shared a few blog entries about eating on a budget, essays containing my ideas on ways to save. One is here, another is here.

Prices are even higher than the last time I posted on this issue. One way to save is to delay shopping for a few days or so. We tend to open the fridge, see that our one favorite item is gone, and say "Goodness, I need to go shopping!" You would be surprised at how long you can delay grocery shopping by just eating what you have on hand. I tried it myself, and I ended up putting off shopping for a week. Now, I'm single and I don't have children, so things will undoubtedly be different at your house. But even then, if the Sugar Pops are out, and you feel you need to go buy more, how often do we emerge from the store with just that one replacement item? Rarely. Try putting it off a day or two or three.

My budget is maximum $30 for fresh food at the grocery store, and maximum $20 for hard goods at the Dollar Store. I was disappointed this week that I'd spent $24 at the Dollar Store and $36 at the grocery store. I was very careful, but still, it was $10 over budget. I hadn't bought any extras, but only the bare minimum.

At the grocery store, I purchased 26 items. Seventeen of those were sale items. Fifteen of the sale items were from the sale flyer, which I peruse before-hand and make studious choices. Studious means I don't buy them just because they are on sale. I buy them if they are something I normally eat, and can make a frugal recipe from. The other two sale items were 'on the spot sale items.' One was tomatoes marked down and the other was bread that was a day past date.

As for the bread, I was pretty excited. It was an artisan bread, a Ciabatta. It was pretty hard, lol. But it was large and only $1.99, the regular price was twice that and so was something I'd never buy in the normal course of things. The other item that was on spot sale was a bag of good, plump Roma tomatoes, a huge bag, for .99. I have no idea why they were priced so low, but I snatched them up before you could say Jack Robinson. At home, lunch became a ciabatta bread bruschetta and tofu I'd grilled. I diced up the tomatoes with their juice and added a touch of olive oil and salt-pepper. Let it soak for a while, then slice up the hard bread and top it with the tomato and juices. It softens up, except for the crust- but I like hard crust. Another way to have hard bread is for breakfast, to add butter and grill or toast, and then top with soft-boiled egg.

Another way to monitor spending is to refrain from eating lunch out. School starts up on Monday, yes indeed. My summer is coming to a rapid end. I pack a lunch every day and I avoid the vending machine. You'd be surprised how 50 cents or 75 cents adds up every day. Not to mention 7 or 8 dollars for lunch. Invariably I'm disappointed with lunch out or brought in. If it is brought in it is always cold, soggy and often not my order, lol. I can have collegiality with my friends but eat my own brought lunch.

From what I read of the farm forecasts and economic forecasts, prices are only going to go up. I pray for families. It is really hard these days to eat healthy on a budget. I hope some of these ideas help you. Please feel free to share your tips.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer in my yard

I think the finest thing about summer, and there are many fine things, is to sit quietly in my chair by the window, reading, listening to the birds nearby and the train in the distance, the day waking up with each turn of the page.

That old comedian Roseanne might claim to be the "Domestic goddess" but I definitely am "Domestic Disaster." I don't know why the simplest domestic things confound me, but they do. This week I was taking a shower. I never take baths. Occasionally, the drain gets to draining slow, and you either put vinegar and baking soda down it or Drano, depending on how slow it gets to draining. I noticed this time that the water wasn't draining at all, but quickly rising over my feet, and on up to the ankles. "That's a lot of water," I thought. "The drain must be really stopped up." When I finished I watched to see if it would drain at all, and it wasn't. "How did it get so stopped up?" I wondered. "It wasn't even going slow yesterday. Maybe there is a stoppage in the system from the kitchen pipe or something." I could not attend to it then, It was Sunday and I needed to get to church. On the way home I bought Drano and a plunger. Plunging the drain yielded nothing. I plunged harder. Nothing, Then harder. I broke the plunger. Yet the drain yielded no drainage. I poured half a bottle of extra strength Draino and left if for half an hour. Nothing.

It was then I'd noticed the drain toggle was "UP". I don't know how that happened. I'm like the absent-minded professor or something, nose always in a book while the house burns down around me, belatedly looking up to ask, "Why are all the firemen here?"

Speaking of Roseanne, I'd stumbled across her new show last night. I didn't recognize her at all at first. I knew the voice was vaguely familiar, but didn't notice that she was the same woman as the one from the show from the 1980s for a few minutes. But I did get annoyed that she swore so much. Literally, every other word had to be bleeped. And this was in a speech where was sharing about how her philosophical outlook had changed during the time she was in Hollywood, and became afraid she was going to hell. That was what caught my attention at first. "Oh, good, a testimony" I thought. She spoke of moving to Hawaii and buying a nut farm. I don't know where she's headed but whichever it is the path toward it will be littered with profanity. I clicked the channel.

The field next door turns a pretty lilac-to-magenta color in mid-summer. Clumps of grass blades of a deep purple mixed in with the yellow and orange an the green make for a colorful array.

It's these guys that make it look purple:

The figs are getting ripe, as are the apples and the pears. Yummy times ahead.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Bill Bryson's 'Lost Continent' book: review

I started Bill Bryson's "The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America." I was looking forward to reading it. I enjoyed A Walk in the Woods and Neither Here Nor There. I had high hopes. But I quit reading the book at page 8. Yes, page 8. I checked.


Within the first 8 pages there were so many malignant comments against Republicans, conservatives, God, farmers, small towns, and the entire midwest. I got sick of it, especially the conservative jokes. The derision against farmers was especially unfortunate. These people broil themselves to death in the summer and freeze their toes off in the winter just so we can have food. Apparently Mr Bryson doesn't eat food, or he would be at least a little bit thankful to the people who grow it and not make fun of their tan.

In frustration, because I really wanted to read and not get out of bed to get a different book, I turned to the middle section where he was traveling through Maine. He went up the coast from Portsmouth NH/Eliot ME border to Wiscasset and found nothing good to say. Nada. Zip. Here is the stretch I'm talking about:
It is 100 miles of rockbound coast and Bill Bryson found the entire thing "cold and drear," "messy and bleak." The landscape was "dull". Wiscasset was "just OK" and all of it was "unmemorable." He drove on across the state toward New Hampshire. Good riddance, I say.

Here is my Maine:

Yeah. "Drear."

Well, at least I know myself. I picked up a huge stack of books at the library because at least half of them usually turn out to be bad, profane, or unsuitable. How do so many bad books get published? I don't know, but at least there are good books that are published too. I start Comanche Moon, next!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Library day!

I finished my books and went to the library, as per usual, on 'Thursday Grocery Day'. I picked up Comanche Moon, the next installment in the Lonesome Dove series. I really like Larry McMurtry's writing. It is expressive without being lengthy or flowery, qualities I admire in  writer. Especially because I tend toward flowery and lengthy, lol.

I got a couple of Christian historical novels. Sigh, hope springs eternal. Usually though, Christian novels stink. They are a travesty of publishing and a malignancy on the intellect so my hopes are very low. I also got one about the Franklin expedition. This was a Victorian-era expedition, the purpose which was to map out the North-West Passage from Europe to Asia. I love a good expedition book. I also love a good science yarn, like Dava Sobel's Longitude, or Brunelleschi's Dome, or a nautical science adventure, like Isaac's Storm, Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea, or The Sinking of the Whale Ship Essex. Books like those are few and far between- well written, scientifically accurate, and a whopper of a good story. The bonus is they are all true events. I'm hoping the Franklin Expedition book will be a good rousing adventure story, though it is tragic as most of the Polar stories are. I really admire those guys who laid it all on the line for the sake of advancing our knowledge of the world.

Bill Bryson is always good for a laugh. I got his book "Lost Continent" about his travels in small town America.

In addition I had purchased a couple of books that I picked up today at the Post Office: John Piper's "Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God" and Tony Attwood's "Complete Guide to Aspergers Syndrome". All this should keep me out of trouble for a while, lol.

Grocery shopping was kind of depressing. I set a budget of $30 for fresh goods and $20 for hard goods at the Dollar Store. I bought 13 items at the Dollar Store and aside from the cat food for $7 all the rest were mostly a dollar. I spent $22 there, buying only minimal things like denture cleaner (for my mouth guard) and mustard and peanut butter...then at the grocery store I spent $34. I was over budget, but at the grocery store I only bought 17 items and none of those were the $4 gallon of milk I usually get. Sigh. English muffins were up 20 cents, eggs are up, yogurt is exorbitant, ricotta cheese is outrageously is sad. I really don't know how families with children do it.

Cat day afternoon, lol. Luke likes the top of the bookcase for his favorite nap-time space. I think he needs a valium. He looks too wound up.

Monday, July 04, 2011

It's not "Morning in America" any more...'s dusk

Ronald Reagan Statue
"A statue of Ronald Reagan is to be unveiled in London's Grosvenor Square, as part of a year of celebrations to mark the 100th birthday of the former US president. The 10 foot bronze will be positioned on a pedestal close to the American Embassy, and stand alongside existing statues of two other 20th Century US leaders, Dwight Eisenhower and Franklin D Roosevelt. With the unveiling scheduled for July 4, US Independence Day, the Ronald Reagan Foundation has invited Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron to attend the ceremony. Condoleezza Rice, the former US secretary of state who worked for the Pentagon during Mr Reagan's presidency, will represent Nancy Reagan, 89, who will be following proceedings from her Californian home."

For those of you old enough to remember the 1980 Presidential election, Ronald Reagan ran as a conservative Republican. The oldest man to be elected to the position, may feared him and his principles, including myself, in which he "advocated reducing tax rates to spur economic growth, controlling the money supply to reduce inflation, deregulation of the economy, and reducing government spending. In his first term he ... took a hard line against labor unions..." These are all positions I believe in now. Back then, I was a twenty-year old liberal agnostic abortion advocate scared to death of a Reagan presidency but having an antipathy to four more years of Jimmy Carter and inflation. If I remember right, I voted for John Anderson even though he was conservative because I've always believed in working toward a third party candidate and the other two candidates were just awful in my opinion.

Of course, we all know what happened. Reagan was a great president. Those people who were not clouded by liberal thought knew he would be great from the beginning, and history bears this out.

Particularly estimable was Reagan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's relationship. Both politicians held the same philosophical outlook in governing. They furthered the close relationship that John Adams brilliantly and humbly set the course for back in 1785 when the victorious and newly formed United States met with our former Kin,g George III.

As I look on this Fourth of July holiday today, I can't help but be filled with melancholy. The bright future that won Reagan the re-election, "Morning in America: Prouder, Stronger, Better" came as an optimistic note after the dour and malaise-filled failed Carter Presidency. Reagan's staunch stand against communism was the force that caused it to fail and the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, shortly after Reagan left office. He had stood at Germany's Brandenburg Gate and challenged Russian President Gorbachev to "Tear down this wall!" It was a decade of US hegemony, respect, and where we did Good and were known to do Good in the world.

Twenty-one years later Obama (tried to stand) at the Brandenburg Gate and gave a speech apologizing for all of the above. With our current Oval Office occupier, we have lost the economy, lost our moral stand in the world, lost our way. We place Israel on the terror nation list and invite terrorists in the Muslim Brotherhood to the diplomatic table. Down is up and up is down.

I'm sad for the loss of solidity of the Constitution. It is a crumbling and increasingly transparent document now, being constantly chipped away at and outright ignored. It is a document that used to be a granite foundation for our country but now is simply a ghostly vapor. I miss the bright morning rays over the cornfields in the Morning in America campaign ads that I once was fearful of but know better now. I miss all that, but one important thing has changed with me since 'Morning In America' turned to dusk.

I am saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though I mourn the place America used to be, I know that she is not my ultimate home. America fulfilled many promises in her work for the Lord, and even in these evil days she is still doing so. I've replaced the State of Liberty with the Cross as my most revered emblem. It might be dusk in America now, with only the bronze statue of Reagan across the sea to remind us of our once glorious days not so long ago, but in Jesus's heaven, every day is morning, bright and filled with His glory. My independence day is December 3, 2003, the day Jesus set me free from my bondage of sin. I became truly free that day and I hope as you celebrate this nation's Independence, that you ponder your eternal morning, and where you will spend it.

Friday, July 01, 2011


When I and a friend were in Italy some years ago, we stayed a couple of nights in Orvieto, an ancient Tuscan walled town. We found a hotel that used to be a villa back in the day. Back in the day in Italy means several hundred years ago. The lighting for the rooms were still the original Murano glass chandeliers, and the wall art were still the same ancient murals that late Renaissance painters had done. Our rooms overlooked a plaza and across the plaza was this church:

The other window overlooked the roofs with typical terra cotta tiles for roofing material. Terra cotta literally means baked earth. Terracotta tiles could be easily made using handy nearby materials, it is resistant to snow and frost, is durable, and the reason I took this photo: it's pretty.