Saturday, January 28, 2012


Going to the garage to put in the laundry, I heard the peck-peck-peck of a busy little woodpecker somewhere in the yard. Immediately understanding that hunting up a woodpecker would be way more fun that dealing with dirty clothes, I dropped the laundry bag, grabbed my camera and took off to look for the tree hosting the little guy. Camouflage really works. It took me a while, but I found him at the top of the tree. Hi l'il guy!

Weekend brunch

This morning broke clear and cold, but surprisingly, it has warmed up considerably. I went outside to the garage to put in a load of washing and the sun is strong, and it turns out that the day has warmed up to the point that no coat is needed. I heard the birds this morning twirping brightly and I love that sound almost beyond any other.

My Saturday brunches are another thing I enjoy very much. This morning I made a fantastic scrambled egg sandwich on crusty French baguette. I put in tomato, green pepper and mushroom, and sprinkled with finely shredded cheddar cheese. A cantaloupe and banana smoothie topped with peanuts finished me off. It was yummy. Yesterday I'd made pasta fagiole and today the flavors will be blended wonderfully, so that will be linner (lol, lunch-dinner).

I'm all off schedule for eating. During the week I eat my first meal at 11:30, which is lunch. Then when I get home a little something at 4:00 then another little something at 7:30 or 8:00. Three meals, just at weird times. It remains the same during the weekend.

I managed my time well yesterday and today I have a head start on the domestic chores. It feels really good to wake up Saturday morning knowing I have 8-10 hours of writing to do in compiling the Prophecy Newsletter, but that my other tasks are already taken care of. I might actually get to relax this late afternoon and read instead of working straight thru like usual.

I started a new book. A colleague at school had put a big box on the table in the copy room with the alluring word "FREE" on the side. Many of the items inside were books. One was "Amazon Dream" by Roberta Allen. Published in 1993 it tells the tale of a woman (Allen) who traveled to Peru's Amazon alone, just because it had always been a dream of hers. She had been an inveterate traveler prior to her Amazon trip, so she wasn't a newbie. But still...I've been to the fringe of the Amazon with a husband, four locals and a guide and it was still a strange experience. Going it alone seems like a travel biography I'd want to read.

Well, the tea is ready and the newsletter is calling. I will get started with my weekend work. I hope you all have a nice day!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The simple act of grocery shopping

I structured my life so that I can live it simply. To that end, I have reduced my needs and have brutally excised my wants. I deliberately take pleasure in simple acts, simple scenes, and simple joys. I live slowly, intentionally. In a lot of ways, I could go simpler still. But the simplicity buck stops here, lol.

Because I don't have a hectic life, I can relish the simple (and few) errands I perform. Grocery shopping is one of those. There is a fancy-dancy grocery store 14 miles away. But a round trip of 28 to 30 miles is not wise in these gas pricey times, not to mention the temptations of being in a store with lots of extras. And finally, their prices are very high. It's simply not worth it to make the drive.

Instead, there is a mom and pop store of medium size but a good variety just a mile behind the school I work in. It takes me just about 5 minutes to get there. So I can arrive in just a few minutes and that is stress reducing.

I enjoy walking around at my leisure and choosing good, fresh food. The specials are good and I can feel secure knowing my budget can be adhered to. I know that after a long day at work that after getting the groceries, the drive home will be quick and I'll soon be relaxing.

The point of this blog entry is that any one of those are a HUGE blessing. Grocery store nearby? Blessing! It offers good, fresh, affordable food? BLESSING! Having a paycheck to be able to buy the food? Blessing! Being able to enjoy this mundane task as part of a lovely day? Blessing!

To me, living a 'a quiet life' means not just being audibly quiet, it means also being quietly content in the heart. Peace. The peace comes from accepting and thanking the blessings arising from the most mundane places. Like the grocery store.

Monday, January 16, 2012


My old home, Gray Maine. I spent almost 30 years in Maine, half of them in Gray. Winters were brutal.

That hump is my Saturn station wagon. The orange blob in the door is my husband, who had to dig the door open and then is inside scrambling to find the keys. We'd been in Florida for two weeks.

Long icicle from a garage roof, Congregational Church in the background. The winter light at dusk is like that, bluish.

Icicles from the cabin I'd lived in for 14 years.

The cabin in spring. In height of winter, there would be massive drifts on either side of the shoveled path

During a snowstorm the wind-driven snow was blown Into my office under the door.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The thrill of finding Octagon soap

I wonder occasionally how women accomplished tasks around the home 75 years ago. Like, what did they do before kitty litter? Sand and baking soda. That got me thinking about baking soda, and also vinegar. Those two items are safe, inexpensive and have dozens of useful purposes around the home. Here is a list of 60 uses for baking soda. Here are 131 uses for vinegar.

I found 20 Mule Team Borax at my local grocery store too. Thrilled to discover this old timey, stalwart item that has so many uses.

Now I have discovered "Octagon All Purpose Soap by Colgate". As the product description states, Octagon is more economical to use than liquid soap as it lasts longer. Easily cuts through grease and grime Removes stubborn stains. Great for your laundry, dishes, hands, and more.

This is a soap that has been in continuous production for 100 years. The Department Of American Studies at the University of Maryland reports, "Octagon Soap is a lye soap intended primarily for laundry purposes, but often used as an all-purpose soap. When used as a laundry soap, soap shavings are usually added to the water in a wash tub and laundry is hand washed using a corrugated washboard. Another way of using soaps of this kind is to put a whole soap bar in a water-filled tub containing the items to be washed. Heated from below by a fire, the contents of the tub would be stirred with a paddle. Until the 1940's, this was a common way of washing bedclothes which people wanted white and spot free. But Octagon soap is mild enough to be used as a hand soap if one is not very concerned about skin softness."

"Octagon soap was first sold early in the 1900's. During its most popular period, in the 1930's, it was a brown, roughly-cut, extruded bar of soap with coupons printed on the wrappers which could be collected and exchanged for various kinds of merchandise."

My bar of Octagon soap is the same- large, brown, heavy with 1930s wrapping.

"Until 1928 Octagon Soap was manufactured by the Colgate Company. Colgate & Company was started in 1806 by William Colgate when he opened up a starch, soap, and candle business on Dutch Street in New York City. Colgate & Company became the first great soap making concern in the United States. The first Colgate advertisement (for "Soap, Mould & Dipt Candles") appeared in a New York newspaper in 1817. It was not until the 1830's that the company began selling individual bars in uniform weights."

"Colgate introduced perfumed soap and began the manufacture of perfumes and essences during 1866. In 1872 Colgate began to produce the first milled perfumed toilet soap, Cashmere Bouquet. In this same year the Peet Brothers (William, Robert and James) started a soap company in Kansas City, Kansas."

"In 1898, in the western United States, the B. J. Johnson Soap Company began to make a soap entirely of palm and olive oil. The advertised advantage of this soap was that it floated. The soap was popular enough that in 1916 the Johnson brothers renamed their company after it - Palmolive. In 1926 the Peet Brothers' soap company merged with Palmolive to become Palmolive-Peet. In 1928, Palmolive-Peet merged with the Colgate Company to create the Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Company. For many years after 1928 Octagon Soap was produced by Colgate-Palmolive-Peet."

It floated. Huge inducement to buy the soap. Can you imagine the aggravation of leaning over a washtub in the hot sun, scrubbing your husband's farm shirt, and the soap slips and falls to the bottom of the tub. Having to root around for it a billion times must have been irksome in the extreme, not to mention a time waster.

"In 1953 Peet was dropped from the company's title, resulting in the company's present name, Colgate-Palmolive. Octagon soap was still in limited production at the time of this writing in 1999."

That is why I was surprised to find this throwback on the shelf at the store. Not that I knew what Octagon soap was at the time. I just was looking for a bar of soap that was less than $1. It cost 79 cents. It does last a good long time. I cut it in half and I use half at the bathroom sink and half at the shower.

Other uses I've read about are that it is wonderful for bug bites. Here is a list of applications Octagon soap is good for.
Dish soap
Hand soap
Clothing stain remover
Acne remedy
Bug bite/poison oak and ivy remedy
Grease remover
Cabinet/woodwork cleaner
Stove cleaner
Bathtub/tile cleaner
Tick repellent
Deer and rabbit garden repellent

"A single bar of simply packaged, long-lasting Octagon Soap can perform several tasks so you don’t have to worry about buying multiple targeted products in oversized plastic bottles, tubs, and what have you."

To use as a bug bite salve, simply lather up and put it on the affected area. Let dry in place.

I really like not having to resort to lots of different chemical items for household tasks. I really like having low-tech items available to do my usual jobs. I really like being able to buy inexpensive but quality items. Look for Borax and Octagon soap at the store, and buy lots of vinegar and baking soda while you're there. You can't go wrong.

Monday, January 09, 2012

I like tea

I finished using my Christmas money. Most of it went into the bank. However I am so frugal during the year, I did spend some on stuff I like. I bought three books, some nurse socks (compression hose to stop the leg & feet swelling from being on your feet all day), a laptop desk for when I sit on the couch, and TEA!!

I bought 200 chamomile teabags. 100 are Stash Chamomile Herbal Tea, "Chamomile brews a beautiful golden cup with a delicate, classic apple-like flavor and fragrance. It is a soothing drink that is good any time of the day, but especially relaxing in the evening. It is naturally caffeine free." For variety the other is Chamomile Nights Herbal Tea: "Sweet and mellow, this tea offers just the right blend of natural herbs and flavors and is just what you need after a 'too much' day. Treat yourself to this golden-in-the-cup tea and simply enjoy."

I had been having a lot of green tea, which I love. I learned recently that green tea has quite a bit of caffeine, though. An average serving of brewed coffee contains 145 mg of caffeine, the same serving size of green tea provides 25 mg, which is a huge difference, but when you drink 5-8 cups of green tea in a five hour span of time it gets to be a lot of caffeine. I noticed when I laid down in bed at night that my heart would race and pound.

Of course, having long vacations such as the one I just finished at Christmas (two weeks) means I have plenty of time to visit WebMD and obsess about all my imaginary symptoms. With the heart pounding events occurring night after night I looked it up and it turns out the caffeine will do that. Make your heart pound when you lay down. Green tea is a really good diuretic but even so, I thought I'd better lay off the green tea so I bought completely caffeine free chamomile. In addition to being an all herb tea it has the added advantage of being the very tea that Peter Rabbit's mother served him when he arrived home safe, but much aggrieved, from his misadventure in Mr McGregor's vegetable garden. Did you know Peter Rabbit was first published in 1902? With that kind of history and pedigree, you can't miss on the chamomile. Chamomile has it all over green tea if you ask me.

Everybody around here has two names

In Rhode Island, where I'm from, or Maine where I lived, people have the first name, the middle name, and the last name. They go by the first name. Admittedly there's a lot of "The Third", or III at the end, or a lot of letters. Like this, "Elizabeth Ellen Prata, III, MsEd, M.Div, LOL." People sure do like their education letters up north.

But here in the south the thing is two first names. "Sarah Beth", "John Thomas", "Abbie Fae", "Fairley Adin", like that. Now, I don't know if the people who use two first names also have a middle name. Interesting if they do. But woe to me if I call the child by only the first of the two first names. Once recently I called to a little girl named Anna Claire, but said only "Anna please come here" and the girl next to her shook a finger at me and said in her best Librarian voice, "Her name is ANNA CLAIRE!" Oops.

There are some boy names in the south that I had not heard before. These names are not common up north: Chase, Chance, Braxton, Mason, Carson. Nice names, solid.

When I was married my last name was Joyce. Elizabeth Joyce. That was tough, having two first names as all my names. It got mixed up a LOT. One teacher I taught with for many years never did call me Elizabeth. I just gave up after a while. When she called me Joyce, I answered. We have a presidential candidate with two first names and that's it, Ron Paul. And what's up with Mitt? Actually, Gov. Romney's first name is Willard. I looked up his genealogy and can't find Mitt as a family name. So I don't know what's up with Mitt or where it came from. I don't think I can vote for someone named Mitt. Just kidding. I'm not that superficial. Really.

We set a great store by our names, whether they are two first names or the full name with letters or numbers after, they identify us. I like to go by Elizabeth. I wouldn't mind if my parents had been born in the south and made my name be ElizabethEllen. That has a nice ring to it as well. Actually I don't care what you call me. Just don't call me late for dinner.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

What a gorgeous day!

I woke up at 6:30 to temps above fifty degrees. Is this January? I don't think so. But I'll take it!

I got so excited around noon with the sun so warm and high, I ran outside to take some photos so that I could put them up online and look at them from my laptop. LOL, ha ha! No it really was a nice day out there. Now it's raining, so I'm glad we had the sunshine and warmth while it lasted.

The light shining though the foliage was absolutely luminous...

I liked the shadows of the fig tree branches against the shed

Even Mrs. Frog enjoyed the day!

Friday, January 06, 2012

Back to work

I started back to work today after a more than two-week break. I work in an elementary school as a Special Education teacher's aide. But the kids didn't come back today, it was a teacher's workday. The kids come back Monday.

I helped prepare bulletin boards, bind books, sort papers, glue buttons, copy papers, refresh the M&M bag (yum!) and stuff like that. It was an easy day, with an hour long lunch, no less. But tonight I'm so tired. You'd think I had been asked to jackhammer up the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I went grocery shopping after work. The prices are simply unbelievable. Many things that went on weekly Wed. special are simply gone by the time Friday rolls around, but I still stuck to the specials and didn't drift from my list. It was still hard to come in under budget. Noticing the rise in prices and the difficulty of staying on budget even when buying strictly the same thing, I've still had to raise it $10 per week. But not complaining, I have access to good food, I can afford good food, and I don't lack for good food at home.

I swung by the library to pick up the book on order, "The Paris Correspondent." The blurb says "High-profile journalist Alan S. Cowell's latest novel is a fast-paced trip into the dark heart of a newspaper office abroad. Addictive and illuminating, it deftly portrays the rivalries and complicated passions at the story's heart. Ed Clancy and Joe Shelby are journalists with The Paris Star, an English-language paper based in Paris. Relics from a time when print news was in its heyday, when being a reporter meant watching a city crumble around you as you called in one last dispatch, the Internet age has taken them by surprise. The two friends are faced with the death of what they hold most dear--their careers, and, for Shelby, a woman he cannot bring himself to mention. The Paris Correspondent is a tribute to journalism, love, and liquor in a turbulent era. Written in riveting prose that captures the changing world of a foreign correspondent's life, Alan S. Cowell's breakout novel is not to be missed. Writing from experience and in homage to Reynolds Packard's Dateline Paris, his razor-sharp and darkly funny style will win readers the world over."

So, should be good.

When I got home I had a salmon patty sandwich on crusty boule bread, some potato chips, and green tea. A couple of butter cookies with the rest of the tea for dessert topped me off.

My kitties were happy to see me when I got home. They'd been used to me being here every day and better still, having exactly the same routine each day. Maybe I'm really a cat at heart.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Soup and vacation

I've had a good two weeks off. Now on Friday I go back to work. It is a teacher's workday with no students at school so it's like easing back in and it won't be a shock to the system. (Like Monday will be)

I was concerned with how tired and how sick I was the day after vacation began. I slept a lot the first week. I slept an obscene amount of sleep at night and also during the day in naps. I never fully got rid of the bronchitis, I still cough quite a bit, especially at night before bed and upon waking up. But I do feel lots better and the second week I stopped with the naps and just slept the regular 7.5 hours at night. I'm regulated again. Or as The Dog Whisperer says, 'I'm balanced.'

I made a really good pasta e fagiole I'd enjoyed for several days straight. Yesterday I made salmon patties and today to go along with that I"ll make another soup, this time collard greens and butter beans. I like soup. I think it is culinarily under-rated.

The cold weather finally arrived. It seems funny that just less than a week ago I had the windows open and it was in the upper 60s and low 70s, and the sunflower in the pot by my front door was blooming. Now it is in the teens. Hence, the soup!

Wednesday is my weekly grocery shopping expedition so today I will go out. Yes, out. Emerge from my tiny apartment to where there is fresh air and trees and...shudder...other people. But I'll brave it and as always, find that it will be a pleasant experience. And after all, I have to get used to other people at some point when this two week seclusion in my hermitage ends, because Monday there will be 600 big and little people to get used to again.

But the good thing is that after all that I'll do out and about today, which always does me good anyway, I'll be back IN. Yay for IN!

A brokered convention?

Drudge has this for an Iowa-morning-after headline:
MITT 30,015
RICK 30,007

The Associated Press reports the results:
"Returns from all 1,774 precincts showed both Romney with 24.55 percent support and Santorum with 24.54 percent. Texas Rep. Ron Paul drew 21.5 percent of the votes."

Something was brought up last month. I saw it on The Most Important News and then The Truth Wins on US News & World Report. It is about a "brokered convention,"

"Sarah Palin or Jeb Bush could still win the Republican nomination in 2012 and become the next president of the United States. Really. In fact, Paul Ryan, Jim DeMint, Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie still have a chance too. How could this be? It is called a "brokered convention", and it has become a very real possibility for the Republican Party. In fact, Paul Ryan, Jim DeMint, Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie still have a chance too. How could this be? Well, it has now become clear that there is a very real chance that no Republican candidate will hold a majority of the delegates by the time the Republican convention rolls around. If that happens, that would mean that we would have the first "brokered convention" in decades. The truth is that the Republican establishment does not want this, but they are also scared to death of having someone like Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul as the nominee. So exactly what is a brokered convention?"

Wikipedia says of the process:

"A brokered convention is a situation in United States politics in which there are not enough delegates 'won' during the presidential primary and caucus elections for a single candidate to have a pre-existing majority, during the first official vote for a political party's presidential-candidate at its nominating convention. Once the first ballot, or vote, has occurred, and no candidate has a majority of the delegates' votes, the convention is then considered brokered; thereafter, the nomination is decided through a process of alternating political horse-trading, and additional re-votes. In this circumstance, all regular delegates (who, previously, were pledged to the candidate who had won their respective state's primary or caucus election) are "released," and are able to switch their allegiance to a different candidate before the next round of balloting. It is hoped that this 'freedom' will result in a re-vote resulting in a clear majority of delegates for one candidate."

Read more at any of the links.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

CatBert: He will have his way, yessir

My cat Bert is king of the manse. His 'spot' is at the foot of the bed, looking out the window. He is never happier than when I can raise it for him to see and smell what is out there. He often stays there all day if the window is up. When the window is down he is also pretty happy to look out. When the window is full of condensation, he is UNhappy. So in order to get a view, he licks the window to make peepholes. Enterprising cat. Gross window.