Tuesday, December 31, 2019

When every minute is a Golden Hour

By Elizabeth Prata

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year 2020.

Monday, December 30, 2019

A sunny warm day

By Elizabeth Prata

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

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

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

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

 Car wash. Gotta.

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

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

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

Sitting outside under the tree, reading.

Oh I see I have a visitor!

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

Saturday, December 28, 2019

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

By Elizabeth Prata

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

10 minutes later:

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

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

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Finally completed my tea display accouterments

By Elizabeth Prata

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that's the end of that.

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

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

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

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Christmas, mugs, and gumbo

By Elizabeth Prata

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 20, 2019

I am not an ornamental hermit

By Elizabeth Prata

Ohhh, the light, it burns!

Representation of an ornamental hermit in Germany in the late 18th century. Wikipedia cc
Did you know that there used to be such a 'job' as a garden or ornamental hermit? Wealthy estate owners would design their gardens and also install a small shack, into which they would install an old man. Expected to dress as a druid-like character and walk around looking pensive, for their effort the hermits received the housing and small meals.

This sure is a hilarious weird job I'd learned about, but to me, it defeats the purpose of being a hermit. Solitude, not display, is the key aspect of the job.

This 1973 hermit sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus (start at .48 sec) is funny in that it pokes fun at the very thing that makes a hermit, a hermit- solitude.

Well, for me, as an introvert and someone on the autism spectrum, I need the solitude to recover from the influx of overload I experience every day. Everything hurts, from overly bright lights, temperature, noises, unexpected sounds, alterations in routine, shrill laughter, my clothing, patterns in other people's clothing, faces, the wrong food (mine or others'), missed social signals, ... sigh, it all goes into my brain and my brain translates it to something physical that usually results in a stomach ache or a headache or a feeling of illness or malaise or just general body throbbing. As for my brain, it starts to think more and more slowly and sputters like a candle about to go out.

When I have the opportunity, like now on Christmas break from school, I go into hermit mode. I like my own company. I like the quiet. I like that I can organize my environment to the way I need it to be and that I can control its looks, its temperature, its lighting. I like the quiet. I like it so quiet that I can hear a rumble of thunder ten miles away. I like not seeing faces, as kind and nice as those faces are. I like it so quiet I can hear the cat purring in the next room.

I think the Lord did me a favor by creating me without a sense of smell. I'd likely have way more sensory overloads if I did. As it is it's usually too much.

After school let out I went to the bank and the grocery store. I picked up a sushi plate at the grocery store for supper so I would not have to cook. Some seltzer water accompanies the light meal and I'm satisfied.

So the gas is hissing, the apartment is warming, the cat is eating, (crunch-crunch-crunch), the leggings are on, soft Christmas socks adorn my feet, the oversized sweatshirt falls just right from my shoulders to my hips, the tea is brewing, and Christmas break starts right now.

Merry Christmas friends!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Travel Vignette: Tuscany's Sparkling Coast

By Elizabeth Prata

On and off over the years people occasionally mention that they are aware of my travels, and sometimes comment that I should write about them. From Ecuador to Labrador, Scotland to The Bahamas, oh, the places I've been. Here is a vignette from my Italy travels.


After a leisurely hour and a half drive over the Tuscan hills, we spotted the Tyrrhenian Sea. Sparkling azure, gentle on the eyes, we pulled in to Porto San Stefano under a bright blue sky. Up, up, up we climbed the small clinging roads to Hotel Vittoria in Orbetello. The rooms are spacious if spartan, with the most incredible view of the small fishing village below. A bell is tolling now. I can see from my terrace the gulf, fishing boats returning, the Tuscan mountains across the Bay. Geraniums separate each terrace...shutters painted white dot the hills.

Later, walking the quay, boats bobbing at Mediterranean moors and old photographs on the ancient wall of this town from the 1800 and early 1900s. Walk and amble around, exchange dollars for some lira. A convoy of red, white, and yellow convertible sport Alfa Romeos pass us in the opposite direction. The only white Alfa Romeo has two very black people in it wearing sunglasses. Beautiful colors all around. Poppies grow right up to the railroad tracks.

Weekend plans

By Elizabeth Prata

My Christmas card collection. People do still send cards, which is nice. Who doesn't love getting actual postal mail? I do.

The weather has been cold, as one might expect at any time of year on the US, even the deep south. Yesterday was a 42-degree frigid hard rain, for me, the worst kind of weather. So I had the electric kettle going all day and pots of tea continually. Mmm.

My two week school break is coming Friday and I plan to do several things, one of them being Netflix. I've been enjoying two shows lately, a relief to find something that is interesting AND clean.

One is a British show called The Repair Shop. Expert craftsmen from all over Britain repair heirlooms and antiques in this quiet, gentle program. Grandma's piano stool, grandpa's stopwatch, a daffodil phone... The narrator gives a little history of each item, the craftsmen discuss how best to restore it or talk of the challenges with taking it apart, and show them fixing the item.

It's heartwarming, because the owner, usually a woman, usually cries when she re-appears and sees her precious item restored to its former glory. "Oh, grandma would love this!" or "It brings back such memories of my childhood!" The voice over narration is measured and the music between scenes is gentle. Camera work lovingly lingers on the barn shop and the items under repair, so no quick cuts or jarring movements. Recommended.

Also on Netflix is Virgin River. This show, as I read up on, received little promotion from Netflix, but fans have found it anyway. It is a Netflix original based on the books of the same name by Robyn Carr. It is distinctly Hallmark-esque. The storyline will be familiar to ladies who have seen Chesapeake Shores or Cedar Cove or When Calls the Heart. A woman with a hidden emotional wound moves from big city to small, picturesque town (usually the Pacific NW), meets hunky guy, also with hidden wounds, finds she is a fish out of water, hunky guy guides her in ways of small town, and as she settles in, they develop a relationship over time. Slowly.

It stars Annette O'Toole and Tim Matheson as the secondary characters. Main characters are Alexandra Breckinridge and Martin Henderson. A good show. I've seen 6 episodes of 10 and I have not heard a swear, seen cleavage, or had to fast forward through anything lascivious or untoward. I believe a season 2 filming is already underway.

The rain is tapering off and it's supposed to be sunny, calm, with temps in the mid 50s. Sounds pleasant. I will make some lentil soup, open faced tuna melts, eggplant with penne, and cut up some kiwi and oranges for a fruit salad. Should do me for the week.

Books underway are:

I also pulled from my 'easy reading' shelf at home the Nora Roberts book The Reef. I have not read anything of Roberts, who is considered a decent beach read or airport author. That's what I want, after heavy reading I want something lighter. The blurb goes:

A marine archaeologist and a salvager join forces to search for a legendary treasure in this novel that takes readers to the depths of the Caribbean...

I'm up for anything ocean related so hopefully it will be good. If not, well, the book was only 50 cents so I'm not gonna be tore up about it, as goes the vernacular down south!

I hope you have a marvelous weekend and a nice week ahead. Can you believe Christmas is less than two weeks away? 2020 will be here before you know it.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Food Prep Dec 1-6: The crunchy part of the lasagna

By Elizabeth Prata

We've been blessed by warm temps and sunny skies, making it a bit hard to concentrate on the kitchen! But I persevered and came up with a penne-chicken casserole, roasted rainbow peppers, baked potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, and baked salmon. I'll also make chicken veggie soup for lunches at work.

I'd mentioned that at my favorite vintage store I found a brand new small casserole dish. It's pretty, hadn't been used, thick, and a good size. Today I made penne-chicken casserole to go in it. I didn't make the roux as advised in the recipe which of course would make the whole thing yummy and creamy, because:

I've never been successful making a roux,
I am leery of using lactose free milk in recipes
I'm leery of even the small amount of flour needed to make a roux since I'm gluten-free
I was at the tail end and more than likely ruin the whole dish

So I just poured some chicken broth in it and stuck it in the oven. I used less cheese than called for due to the lactose intolerance thing, just adding some on top and not making layers of it. I'd also added spinach because I had a mountain of spinach to use up and besides, I like spinach. The penne is gluten free penne, corn based. It came out good, see:

I love the crunchy part at the edge. Who doesn't? Every Italian kid ever served a lasagna or a pasta casserole went for the crunchy part.

Massimo Bottura, acknowledged at the world's best chef, was featured on a Netflix anthology documentary of the world's greatest and most innovative chefs. "Chef's Table". His was the first episode in the first volume and I was spoiled after that. His meals were the only ones to ever bring both tears to my eyes and laughter to my lips. His deconstruction of the crunchy part of the Lasagna, called, "The Crunchy Part of the Lasagna," delighted me to no end. He is brilliant.

Anyway, back to my kitchen, utilitarian and clumsy as it is, produced some good looking food for my meals next week.

Baked Salmon (dinners)
Penne-chicken casserole (dinner or side)
Chicken-Veggie Soup (lunches)
Turkey sandwiches (lunches)

Rainbow Peppers (yellow, green, red)
Roasted green beans (can be eaten as is or added to a stir fry with tofu and sweet and sour sauce, or to quinoa I already cooked for a cold salad)
Baked potatoes (as is with milk free sour cream, or made into home fries for a side)
Roasted sweet potatoes (side dish or make eggs N hash and throw in some peppers)

Orange-kiwi fruit salad (dessert/snack)

I also bought peanuts, edamame nuts, and soy nuts for snacks and fiber.

There were some excellent sales going on at the grocery store, digital coupons. It takes some time Thursday night or during my Friday lunch to scour them in the online circular, but the savings can be good. I saved over $8 this grocery trip, but I ended up spending a little more at the outset to do so, that's the downside. For example, buy two 12-pack of seltzers, save 75 cents. I drink a lot of seltzer waters, my new choice for cold beverage, and usually only buy 1 12-pak, but since I regularly drink it and buy it each week, I got two.

Also, gluten free crackers were on sale. Normally massively expensive, they were half off at $1.99. So I bought three boxes.

The hard part about a limited budget is buying when the sales are going on to stock up for later. Making a larger outlay up front is sometimes not doable, but you do save in the long run. To make up for it I am going to try not food shopping next week, halving what I spent this week. We'll see.

Ok, the laundry's done and I have to make sure to go out to the garage and get it before dark. Household chores never end, do thy? I dislike them but to get through I try to make a game out of it and have fun. What do you do to get through the regularly occurring, mundane chores you have to do? :)