Sunday, May 31, 2015

Weekend Productivity and a New Lunch Bag

I've had a productive weekend.  I've updated my Weekend Plans post to show which plans I was able to accomplish.

But, briefly, I did laundry and washed a quilt and blanket, I vacuumed the house, dusted and tidied the family room, and cleaned the bathtub; I bought cactus planting mix and more terra cotta pots, as well as a few other household items from the dollar store (a battery for the smoke detector, a spray nozzle for the garden hose, etc.); I took cuttings from my Swedish ivy plant, which has mostly died due to neglect (and almost lost my balance when I stepped on a paving stone that has shifted and was hidden by weeds and my ankle twisted under me!  I was afraid I'd fall, but managed to recover my balance.)

I baked banana bread with some overripe bananas, washed a heap of dishes, called a friend and spoke on the phone with relatives, did some mending and sewed myself a new lunch bag.   The new lunch bag is something I had been wanting to make for some time now. 

My old lunch bag was faded (it was originally pale green with a white "eyelet" like design), stained, and worn:

Old Lunch Bag

Sometimes I used daughter's old lunch bag:
Daughter's Old Lunch Bag

But, that, too, was faded and starting to tear.

I wanted a new lunch bag:

New Lunch Bag
The fabric was in my stash; it was given to me by a former neighbor.  It looks a bit like patchwork, but that's the print.  I have several more pieces of fabric that were given to me by her.

The bag is not insulated or lined; it's just a bag in which to carry my lunch to work.

After I took this photo, I decided I wanted a pocket on the outside...

Outside Pocket
It's hard to see the pocket, since I used the same patterned fabric, but I inserted the pair of scissors to show that there was a pocket.  I'm happy I was able to attach the pocket even after I had sewn the bag.  It was getting dark by this time and I put the overhead light to take the photo, which is probably why the colors look different in this photo.  The colors in the earlier photo are more true.   

There were other things I had planned to do this weekend, which I didn't do for one reason or another.  I will work on them during the week.

How was your weekend?  Were you able to do all what you had planned to do?

May Goals/Balance Wheel Month-End Review

Can you believe that today is the last day in May?  Already?  Time to review the goals for the month and see how balanced my wheel of life is:

Spiritual: Continue with daily devotions/meditations; attend the special ceremony at the temple; monthly prayer meeting, if possible - Daily devotions continued; didn't attend the ceremony at the temple since I wasn't feeling well; attended the monthly prayer meeting; all in all, this segment of my life is nicely plumped; on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being highest, I'll give it a rating of 9 because I didn't go to the temple; it would have been a 10 if I had gone.

- Outside: Continue to spruce up the front garden: plant more drought tolerant plants/succulents, etc.  Took one step towards that, today, and planted some succulents along the side wall - Succulents planting along the front garden side wall completed; still need to finish landscaping.
- Inside: Continue to clean and declutter;  go through each room; get the donations organized and call for a pick up - Did a lot of surface cleaning and tidying; did some deep cleaning and decluttering, but not enough; will continue in June; the environment segment is "fair to middling"; could be better; I'll give it a rating of 6.

Daughter:  Provide long-distance support as she studies for finals during the first half of the month; enjoy her visit over Memorial Day weekend.  :) - Daughter completed her first year of grad. school; she had straight A's again; we had a wonderful visit over Memorial Day; we have her housing situation sorted for the summer and next academic year; and she started her paid summer internship; this segment is very well plumped and rates a 10! 

Family:  Spend time with cousins visiting from overseas - spent some time with cousins, but would have liked to have spent more time with them; got together with other relatives a couple of times; kept in touch with others through emails, phone calls etc. (actually, just got off the phone with one cousin); this segment is doing well; I'll give it a rating of 8.

Friends:  Get together with a couple of friends to share a meal; email/phone calls/video chat, etc.  - had a friend come over for lunch; met some friends at the prayer meeting; kept in touch with others through emails and phone calls; all in all, another nicely plumped segment; rating of 8

Career:  Continue to manage work load efficiently - work is coming along well; I was able to delegate some of it to a new person and that makes my work load more manageable; shall rate it 9.

Finances:  Continue to keep a spending log.  Keep to the grocery budget of $75 - went slightly over the grocery budget, but will take that into account in June; other areas of spending are at or under budget; rate this segment as nicely plumped and a 9.   

Health:  Big goal is better health!  I had a doctor's appointment today; I have a sinus infection!  Since the symptoms started in mid March, I guess I've had it for at least 6 weeks!  I just thought I was having allergies!  I was prescribed antibiotics and a sinus rinse; did some lab work, too, and made an appointment for a physical for next month.  Need to improve nutrition (increase vegetables/decrease sweets), get more exercise and more sleep.  Lose 5 lbs. by the end of the month - the good news is, I seem to have recovered from the sinus infection; the bad news is, I didn't lose any weight; oh, well, at least I didn't gain any!  This is another segment that needs more work; going to rate this a 6.

Leisure/Crafts/Hobbies:  Continue to sew from fabric stash: new lunch bag for myself; 1-2 summer nightdresses; 1 blouse; mend 1 skirt; 2 library visits - well, I did the library visits, but didn't get around to doing any of the sewing I had wanted to do!  Definitely need to make more time for crafts and hobbies; going to rate this at 7, because I am going to try and get some sewing done this afternoon.

Productivity and Time Management:  Continue to make efficient use of my time and be more productive: weekly cleaning routines; meal planning; bulk cooking; etc. - Being sick during the early part of the month put a damper on the productivity, as I didn't have the energy to do much.  But I did do some bulk cooking and meal planning, so all was not lost.  Will give this segment a rating of 7 and move on.

And that has been my month-end review of the various segments of my life.  All in all, not too bad.  There is a bit of a wobble since some segments are very nicely plumped and one or two are definitely needing some additional plumping!  I need to focus on those segments for June.

Do you do a similar review of the month to see how you did with your goals for the month?  Do you think such a month-end review would be helpful?  How do you keep tabs on how you did during the month? 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Weekend Plans

Weekend plans - sounds better than "weekend to do list" doesn't it?

According to the weather forecast, this is going to be a warm weekend with highs in the upper 80s, maybe low 90s.  Since my dryer isn't working properly and I am air drying everything, a warm weekend will be a good time to launder the blanket and quilt that are on my bed.  So, plans for the weekend include:

- Laundry - wash quilt and blanket - done
- Do dishes - done (several times!)
- Tidy/dust the family room - done
- Vacuum - done
- Clean bathtub - done

 - Buy cactus planting mix (done) and mulch
- Pot up the succulents given to me by gardener - I'd like to do one of those "fairy gardens" I've been hearing about
- Take some plant cuttings to propagate - done

- Bake banana bread - in the evening, when it has cooled down - done
- Make something with the apples in the fridge

 - Go through a stack of papers

- Sew on a button that came off a sweater - done
- Mend skirt - done
- Sew a new lunch bag - done
- Sew on the Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt

That sounds like a nice, balanced weekend to do list, doesn't it?  Let's see how well I do with my weekend plans.

Today, I am grateful for:

- A warm, sunny weekend
- A washing machine
- New plants for the garden
- The sight and sound of the mama bird sitting in her nest (in my front porch light) and chirping
- Being able to plan my weekend to my satisfaction

What are your plans for the weekend?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Home for the Baking Trays

I baked another batch of curry puffs, yesterday.  I will also, most probably bake some banana bread this weekend, since I have some over-ripe bananas.  I like to bake. Therefore, I have quite a few baking trays, etc.

I used to bake all of daughter's birthday cakes when she was a little girl (well, actually, until her 21st birthday).  Each year, we did a different theme with a matching cake, and I built up quite a collection of specially shaped cake pans (teddy bear, Big Bird, Barbie, etc.)  I gave away the majority of my shaped cake pans a while back.

But I kept the rest - the cookie sheets, the large baking and roasting pans, the muffin pans, the smaller rectangle, square and round cake pans, the Bundt cake pan, the loaf pans, two flower-shaped cake pans, the one that had inserts to form letters of the alphabet and numbers, etc.

Some, the more specialized ones that I use only occasionally, I keep in the detached garage. I am not too happy with this storage location because things tend to get dusty in the garage, but I don't need to keep the mini-bundt cake pans or the one that makes the letters and numbers on hand for everyday baking.

Some, like the pyrex baking pans (1 large rectangle, 1 smaller square, 1 casserole dish and 1 loaf pan), I keep in one kitchen cabinet. Pushed to the very back of this rather deep cabinet, with more frequently used bowls stacked in front, they are not that easily accessible (I have to take out the stack of bowls to get to them), but accessible enough for the frequency of their use.

It is the rest of the baking pans - all metal - that were in search of a good home. They include the previously mentioned baking pans, cookie trays, muffin pans, etc. For the longest time, they were  stored in the oven, itself.

Which was not a problem, except when I went to bake! Every time, before I could preheat the oven, I had to remove everything and stack them on the counter, or on top of the stove, or on the floor in the hallway, etc.  Often, when I had a luncheon or a dinner party and needed to use the oven, I ended up storing the baking pans in my bedroom!

So, one day, I decided that I shall store the baking pans in the cabinet above the stove!

I had been storing my crock pot up there (since I used it only a couple of times a year). But I was able to make room for it in a lower cabinet, which left one side of the above-the-stove cabinet empty (I store the citrus juicer and some empty jam jars on the other side).

I was able to fit in the cookie trays and the big baking pans, etc. up there, standing upright on their sides (as opposed to being stacked one on top of the other) for easy retrieval.  However, I don't have enough room for all the baking pans - the Bundt pan and the loaf pans don't fit up there, yet, because of the empty jars (need to find another home for the jars). 

And then, I realized the sad truth...I am too short to reach them for easy retrieval!  I need to drag the step stool over to access them.  And if I can't access them easily, I'll probably end up storing them in the oven because that would be easier!  Oh the trials and tribulations of the barely 5' tall!

But, for the time being, the majority of the baking pans have a home and I don't have to find temporary homes for them each time I bake!

Where do you store your baking pans?  Do you have a convenient home for them?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Utilities Bill

I received my current utilities bill in the mail, yesterday.  I get one combined bill, every 2 months, for water, electricity, sewage services and curbside solid waste (trash/yard waste/recyclables) collection.  I generally allocate $150 per month, in my monthly budget, towards this bill.  Most of the time, I come under this budgeted amount; occasionally, however, usually in the summer, I go over it, because the garden needs more watering during the summer.  This current bill is for $209.83.
The solid waste collection fee is fairly straight forward.  Each single family residence is issued 3 containers, a 60 gallon black bin for trash, a 90 gallon green bin for yard trimmings, and a 90 gallon blue bin for recyclables, which are collected weekly.  These are standard sizes for the containers, although I don’t generate anything close to 60 gallons of trash a week (and larger containers are available for a higher rate).  However, the rate at which they are billed can change over time, and the amount billed will vary with the number of days in the billing period.  My trash collection charges have varied between $76.42 and $69.26 in the past 18 months.  The current bill's trash fee is $69.26. It is a standard fee based on the size of the containers, which I can't reduce by reducing the amount of trash I generate.
The sewer service fee is based on winter (i.e. rainy season) water use; it is calculated once a year, based on the lowest daily average of water use during the winter months ( generally October to March) and the rate stays the same for that year; any variation in the billed amount is due to a change in the number of days in the billing period.  My sewer service fees have fluctuated between $35.40 and $15.99 (the current bill).   I can lower the fee by reducing the amount of water I use during the winter.
Both electricity and water are billed on a tiered system, with higher rates for increased usage.    
There are 3 tiers for electricity:  Tier 1 rates apply to the first 1,000 kiloWatt-hours (kWh).  Tier 2 rates apply to the next 2,000 kWh.  Tier 3 rates apply to any electricity more than 3,000 kWh.  The current Tier 1 rate is just under $0.15 per kWh.  I don’t know what the rates are for the other 2 tiers as I’ve never used that much electricity.  According to the newsletters enclosed with the billing, “typical” residential customers use 500 kWh per month (thus the 1,000 kWh for the 1st tier for the 2-month billing period).   I have consistently come under 750 kWh in my electricity usage; this most recent bill indicates that I used 472 kWh during the current billing period (March 20-May 19).  My bill for electricity came to $69.15; with City utility taxes and State energy surcharges added, it comes to $76.21.
I do most of the usual things to reduce electricity usage - I turn off lights in rooms that are unoccupied, replace regular bulbs with energy saving bulbs, unplug most appliances such as the microwave, toaster, and rice cooker when not in use (but not the stove, washer, dryer, etc.) to minimize "phantom" energy use, air dry clothes.  I don't have central air conditioning, just a small window unit which I put in my bedroom window during the summer, so that's a big energy use I don't have.  I am sure there are other things I can do; I should probably go around and unplug a few other things. 
There are 2 tiers for water.  But, because of the drought and mandatory water conservation measures in place, things are a little more complicated.  We are given a water allotment based on our “temperature zone” – there are 3 zones: low, medium, and high, based on average temperatures.  My house is located in the Medium Zone.  As such, I am allocated 24 hundred cubic feet (HCF; 1 HCF = 748 gallons) of water at Tier 1 rates during the winter and 29 HCF in the summer.  Currently, I pay $4.84 per HCF, at Tier 1 rates, but water rates fluctuate.  Last summer, I paid $5.89 per HCF.  The current Tier 2 rate is $6.16 per HCF.  According to my current bill, I used a total of 10 HCF during the billing period and my charge for water is $48.37. 
I am doing what I can to conserve water.  While we are allowed to water the garden 3 times a week with sprinklers, before 9 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m., I water the back garden, using sprinklers, once a week.  I usually hand water the front garden, but although we are allowed to hand water every day, provided it is done before 9 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m., I water the front garden only once, or occasionally, twice a week.  I am also planting more drought tolerant plants such as succulents and have stopped watering the lawn.  I haven't started to replace the lawn with a non-lawn option, yet, though.

What are some of the things you do to save electricity and water?  How do you keep your utilities bills low?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wednesday's Productivity

I woke up with a slight headache (probably due to insufficient sleep; went to sleep late and had to wake up early), which lingered throughout the day.  Still, I was able to have a productive day at the office.  Got my banking done during my lunch break and stopped by the dollar store on my way home to exchange one of the items I bought, yesterday.  Met a friend and her daughter in the parking lot as I was leaving the dollar store (they were on their way in to the store).  Came home and had an early dinner as I was hungry.  Later, I put away the laundry from yesterday, video chatted with daughter, and watched some TV.  Not a very exciting day, but that's OK.

Today, I am grateful for:
- Getting my errands done
- A chance meeting with a friend while running errands
- Easy, hassle-free exchange at the store
- Sweet fresh cherries
- Warm chocolate pudding!

How was your day, today?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

More Groceries and Tuesday's Productivity

No picture of what I bought, because I put everything away before I even thought about taking a picture and I don't feel like taking everything out again (which is what I did, last time!)but I went grocery shopping again, today, and spent $8.77 and bought:

1box hot cocoa mix (6 envelopes) = $.99
2 boxes cook & serve pudding mix, @1.25 = $2.50
1 bag frozen corn = $1.00
1 gal. milk = $2.69
1 loaf French bread = $1.59

May grocery total = $76.70 + $8.77 = 85.47

I went over budget by $10.47; I will deduct that from the June budget. 

I had fried rice for brunch, today (leftover rice, mixed with some of the ground beef mixture I cooked yesterday, and some corn).  A cup of hot cocoa at tea time, with a slice of bread and butter with some of my homemade strawberry jam.  A turkey cold cuts sandwich for dinner, with fresh blackberries for  dessert.

Today's to do list included:
- Renew library books (done)
- Put away laundry from yesterday (done)
- Wash sofa dust sheets (done)
- Another load of laundry (done)
- Get an insurance quote for renters insurance for daughter (done)
- Buy terra cotta pots (done)
- Grocery shop for milk and bread (done)
- Buy cat food (done)
- Buy cat litter (done)
- Do dishes (done)

I wanted to finish cleaning the bathrooms, but I ran out of time and energy, so that's now on tomorrow's to do list.

Today, I am grateful for:
- Flexibility in my monthly grocery budget
- Terra cotta pots for $1 each
- Air drying the laundry indoors
- Phone calls with a friend
- Blackberries

Plans for tomorrow include going to the bank and cleaning the bathrooms, since I didn't get around to it, today.

How was your Tuesday?  Did you have a productive day?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Monday

Today is Memorial Day in the United States; a day to remember those who died while serving in the country's armed forces.

Today, daughter returned to Berkeley, since she has to be at her internship office, tomorrow.  So, this morning, I made another batch of waffles for breakfast and packed up the leftover waffles for her to take back, with her, along with 2 packages of the cherries, the remainder of the Armenian pizzas, a package of coffee, a bag of flax seeds, a package of cashews, an unopened jar of peanut butter and an unopened jar of lingonberry jam. 

Her flight was scheduled for a little after noon, so I dropped her off at the airport a little after 11:00 a.m.  I had just reached home when she called me to tell me that she wasn't allowed to take the peanut butter and jam in her carry on luggage (we hadn't known that, obviously).  She was given 3 options, she said: either check in her bag and send it as checked luggage (but didn't want to do that as she didn't have any way to lock her backpack), dispose of the jars of peanut butter or jam, or have me come back to the airport to collect the items from her.

Since I live quite close to the airport, I chose to go and pick up the peanut butter and jam.  If I had a longer distance to drive, I would have told her to dispose of the items.  But going back to the airport meant I got to see my daughter one more time, so that was a nice little bonus.  :)

After I came home, I did some cooking.  First, I browned the ground beef I had bought on Saturday, with a bit of diced onion, garlic and tomato.  I haven't quite decided what I will make with it - cottage pie with a mashed potato topping or curry puffs.  I also boiled some potatoes to add to the ground beef mixture or to make mashed potatoes, once I decide what I am going to make!

After that, I got hungry for some lunch, so I decided to make some homemade fries and a scrambled egg.  I selected a nice big potato and cut it up into wedges and fried them in a little oil, in two batches since I used a small frying pan:

Fries in the Making

Homemade Fries Draining on a Paper Towel

They are quite crisp when done, but do go soft rather quickly.  But I don't mind that.  I just sprinkle a little salt on them and eat them quickly before they get too soft!  :D

Daughter called to tell me when she got to her apartment.  The flight itself is only one hour long, but it takes another 1 1/2 hours to get from the airport to her apartment by bus and subway.  But she had a good flight and an uneventful journey to her apartment.  She still doesn't like flying, but she's getting used to it.  Now, it's back to video chatting till her next visit in mid-June. 

I didn't make a To Do list for today (other than taking daughter to the airport), but I did two loads of laundry (bed sheets, towels, etc.) and hung to dry, started cleaning both bathrooms (scrubbed the toilets), emptied the waste baskets and took the trash cans to the curb, and watered the front garden.  I also called and spoke with a friend and wrote to a friend.  Need to remake the beds, too, and put away the laundry when dry.  

Today I am grateful for:

- The weekend visit with my daughter
- One extra hug and kiss before she left
- A safe journey back for her
- A message of love written on my fridge memo board 
- The ultimate sacrifice made by those who served in the armed forces and their families

How was your Memorial Day Monday? 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday At Home

We had a quiet, relaxed Sunday at home, today.  Daughter had requested waffles for Sunday breakfast.  She doesn't have a waffle maker at her apartment and doesn't think she'll make enough waffles to justify buying one, and she doesn't much care for frozen waffles, so, when she comes home, she asks for waffles.  We had them with fresh strawberries given to us by some friends.

Later, I ran the dish washer and mended a pair of daughter's pants; the back pocket was coming off and I sewed it back on.     

For Sunday lunch, I cooked the salmon steaks:

Sauted Salmon Steaks
I sauted sliced red onions and cut up tomatoes in some vegetable oil and then, added the salmon steaks.  The salmon steaks were seasoned on each side with salt, ground pepper and fresh lemon juice.

The salmon was served with rice, garlicky sauted green beans (the green beans were parboiled and sauted with sliced garlic in a bit of vegetable oil) and homemade tomato chutney:

Ice cream for dessert.

In the evening, we did each others nails and I oiled and brushed daughter's hair.  I also watered the back garden.  Daughter sorted through some of her books and set aside a stack for donating.  I shall be going through some of my books and adding to the donations, in the next few days.

Dinner was leftovers; fruit for dessert. 

Today, I am grateful for:

- Being able to spend the weekend with daughter
- Doing each others nails
- Daughter doing the dinner dishes for me
- Hugs and cuddles
- Cooking her favorite meals and being told, "You are totally spoiling me!"

Daughter returns to Berkeley, tomorrow.  She has confirmed her flight and packed her bag.  Just her carry-on bag; no checked luggage.  We are relaxing on the sofa as I type this - with one hand as she has her head in my lap.  Reminds me of the words of the song from My Fair Lady: "Someone's head resting on my knee".  Yes, it is, indeed, quite "loverly".  :)

Hope you, too, have spent a fine Sunday in the company of loved ones.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

May Grocery Shopping

This Week's Groceries

I went grocery shopping today and spent $60.85!
The Receipt

Prior to today's grocery shopping, I had gone grocery shopping on May 11, and spent $8.77 and bought some applesauce and a bottle of soda on May 17, and spent $2.09. 

Today, I bought:

3 salmon steaks @ $3.99/lb = $7.84 
Lean ground beef (15% fat) @ $3.69/lb = $4.00
10 lb. bag potatoes = $1.69
2 packages "Armenian Pizza" @ $5.29 = $10.58
Green beans @ $1.49/lb = $1.39
2 cans (28 oz) garbanzo beans @ $.99 = $1.98
Bananas @ $.59/lb = $.90
Apricot @ $.79/lb = $.81
Bing Cherries @ $1.69/lb = $7.01
Rainier Cherries @ $1.99/lb = $4.14
2x 6 oz. packs blackberries @ $.99 = $1.98
2x 4 oz. packs turkey cold cuts @ $.69 = $1.38
5 packs frozen puff pastry squares @ $.99 = $9.95
1 pack Raw whole cashews = $3.74
1 pack Raw whole cashews = $3.45
Total = $60.85

Later, daughter and I went to another store and bought 2 containers of ice cream (pistachio and butter pecan), @ 2/$4.99 (buy one get one free) = $4.99

Total spent on groceries so far in May = $8.77 + $2.09 + $60.85 + $4.99 = $76.70

I am very slightly over my budget of $75, but, I am OK with that, as some of what I bought today (the salmon, the cherries, the blackberries, the Armenian pizza, the cashews, the pistachio ice cream) are daughter's favorites.  She'll be taking some of the items with her when she goes back to Berkeley on Monday.  Some of the other items, like the frozen puff pastry, potatoes, garbanzo beans, and the ice cream, will last well into June and even July.

I might have to buy another gallon of milk before the end of the month, but that will be OK, too.

How are you coming along with your grocery shopping this month?

Weekend To Do List

Friday was a productive day at the office and a restful evening at home.  I had put a package of the cooked frozen pork chops to thaw in the fridge during the day, so I reheated half of a pork chop in a frying pan and cooked some frozen corn and had that for dinner, with some steamed broccoli.  There are 1 1/2 thawed pork chops in the fridge for later.  I spent most of the evening video chatting with daughter.

Daughter is coming home for the weekend, tomorrow!  We are both excited about that.  :)  She will fly down tomorrow afternoon and then, fly back up on Monday afternoon.

Today, I am grateful for:
- The end of  a rather turbulent week
- Daughter's planned visit
- A safe commute home
- The long weekend ahead
- Exchanging emails with a friend

This weekend's to do list:

- Put gas to the car
- Do grocery shopping
- Give the house a quick clean
- Pick up daughter at the airport
- Spend the afternoon with daughter
- Attend the monthly prayer meeting in the evening

- Spend the day with daughter

- Spend the morning with daughter
- Take daughter to airport in the afternoon
- Do laundry
- Tidy the house as needed
- Water the garden
- Meal plan for the week
- Maybe sew/work on a project?

How was your Friday?  What are your plans for the weekend?

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Adventure Continues

Daughter signed her new lease on her apartment, today.  Due to a whole series of misadventures, it is not the lease on the apartment we would have preferred (lower cost) but, at least, she has an apartment.  Her current lease doesn't end until mid-August.  However, her apartment building is under new ownership/management and they are doing renovations (and increasing the rents, of course).

The apartment daughter is currently leasing is scheduled for renovations this summer.  They can wait until her lease is over, but by then, there might not be another apartment for her to lease for the next academic year.  Daughter had already let the management know that she will be renewing her lease for next year - those discussions took place sometime in March, because there's a high demand for rental housing where she is (due to the university).  Daughter had already looked into other apartments for rent in the area, when she was informed of the rent increase that will take effect, but all other studio apartments in proximity to the campus were more expensive, so we had decided she will continue to rent at her present building.

On Thursday of last week, during the last week of final exams, she received a notice that she needed to vacate her apartment in the 3rd week of July.  She spoke with the apartment manager and was told that there were two other units she could move into, both studio apartments like her current unit, but she needed to pay a holding fee by cashier's check or money order.  She couldn't go to the bank on Friday since her last final exam was held that evening and the bank closed before she finished her exam.  Her plan was to go to the bank on Saturday.

Unfortunately, she overslept on Saturday.  She didn't remember that the bank closed early on Saturdays and she neglected to set an alarm.  I tried to call her to remind her, but she had turned off the ringer on her phone, so she didn't hear the phone.  As a result, by the time she woke up, it was too late to go to the bank.  In hind sight (always 20/20), I should have urged her to talk to management or find a place to buy a money order; but it didn't occur to me to do so.

On Monday, she was told that both studio apartment units had been leased to others and the only unit they still had available was a 2-bedroom unit.  She negotiated with the management, however, and was able to get a verbal agreement (with email confirmation) that she will be notified when her current apartment is renovated, so she could re-lease that apartment.  We have decided that, under the circumstances, she will sign the lease for the 2-bedroom apartment, with the understanding that, once her current studio unit is renovated and becomes available, she will have the option of leasing it and giving up the 2-bedroom unit, without penalty.
Of course, daughter and I are both upset that her inability to go to the bank on Saturday resulted in all these complications as well as a higher (much higher) rent.  There is the option of staying in the 2 bedroom apartment and getting a roommate, but that has its own pros and cons.

We think that daughter was able to negotiate the best compromise.  If all goes well (and management honors the agreement), then, we will have to pay the much higher rent on the 2 bedroom for 2-3 months, at the most.  If not, if we have to go the full 12 months of the lease, well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.  Daughter has offered to pay all what she will be earning from her summer internship towards the difference in rent.  I can work some overtime to earn some extra income, too.  I am proud of her to have managed the negotiations on her own.  She says that being an adult is stressful, but I think this was a test for both of us and we did OK.  It is definitely a learning experience, and, as she says, she'll never forget now that banks close early on a Saturday!  LOL.

On a happier note, daughter received her grades for this semester.  She took 21 units of graduate courses.  And she received 1 A-, 5 A's and 1 A+, as well as a "pass" on the one course that didn't carry a letter grade.  Her 4.0 GPA from last semester dropped a little because of the A- (too bad the A+ doesn't carry extra weight), but we are very pleased with her results.  She worked hard to earn those grades.

Today I am grateful for:

- daughter's good grades, of course
- the housing issue is settled
- daughter's negotiating skills
- a learning experience
- being able to rise to the occasion and meet the challenge

Hope your day was a little less of a roller coaster!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Day After

It's a new day, today.  Each day is a new beginning.  That's one of the nice things about each new day.

There was quite a bit of activity in the bird's nest, this morning.  One of the birds was inside the nest, and although I couldn't see exactly what it was doing, it was quite busy.  I think it was putting the final touches to it.  Perhaps quite literally feathering its nest.  Making a soft and comfortable home for the babies to come.

Speaking of a comfortable home, daughter's housing situation is still not quite resolved to our satisfaction, yet, but we should get an answer, tomorrow.  In the meantime, we are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping for the best.  Daughter is making all the arrangements and speaking to the apartment rental management, etc.  According to daughter, being an adult is stressful!  

Daughter started her summer internship today and had a good first day.  She had a lot to tell me when we video chatted in the evening.  

I had a productive day at the office.  There was a fund raiser for March of Dimes during lunch and I was able to participate in it.  After work, I had a relaxed evening.  I went through today's mail, checked the grocery specials, cleaned the litter box, wrote to a friend, and video chatted with daughter.  Dinner was fried rice made from leftovers - my definition of fast food. All in all, it's been a good day.

Today, I am grateful for:

- Waking up to a new day
- Bird songs
- Words of encouragement from friends
- Challenges that help us to grow
- Having so many things for which to be grateful

Hope you've had a blessed day, too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

One of Those Days

Today has been 'one of those days'.  You know the ones.  They are the ones when you wish there was a reset button... 

I am experiencing another side effect of the antibiotics; one that was listed on the warning label (upset tummy).  I am eating crackers and applesauce, etc., hopefully, they'll settle my tummy in the next day or two.

There is also a bit of a problem with daughter's housing for next year, which has us both upset.  She is trying to resolve it, but I'm afraid the solution is going to cost more money, although daughter is trying to minimize the costs. 

I came home from work, feeling tired and out of sorts.  So much so that when daughter called and asked if I wanted to video chat, I said not right then.  She was disappointed, but I needed an hour to myself to try and recover my equilibrium!   

Each day, after I say my daily devotions, I ask for that day's portion of grace to enable me to deal with that day's challenges with grace, and for a grateful heart with which to receive that day's blessings.   I think I could have done with an extra portion of grace, today. 

Today, I am grateful for:

- Things not being as bad as they could have been.
- Problems which are small in comparison.
- Having options and solutions available.
- Remembering to pause.
- A new day, tomorrow, which is the closest to a reset button we can get.

Hope your day wasn't "one of those days".

Monday, May 18, 2015

Dancer Sleeps It Off

Cat naps!

Dancer was sleeping on the sofa and I tried to take a picture of him while he was sleeping, but he heard me and opened his eyes to see what I was trying to do.

Hey!  I'm trying to sleep!
He squirmed a bit when I took the first picture.  And then, promptly went back to sleep!

He is recovering from his misadventure with the asparagus fern frond.  Daughter and I are both glad that he seems to be OK.

Today was a busy day at the office and I was tired when I came home.  I took the trash cans to the curb, collected the mail from the mail box and spent the evening relaxing in front of the TV (news, documentary about a historic house in England, and a dance competition) and video chatting with daughter.  My cousin called to see how Dancer was, and I spoke with her for a bit, put away the laundry from yesterday, and made French toast for tea.  And then, I wasn't hungry for dinner, so I just ate some grapes.

Today, I am grateful for:
- A cat who is feeling OK
- A productive day at the office
- A relaxed evening at home
- Favorite TV programs
- Cousins who call

How was your Monday?  Did you have a good day?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Happenings

Woke up this morning to the sound of Dancer cat throwing up!  Apparently,  he ate some of the asparagus fern in my roses flower arrangement that I had placed on the mantel.  He had climbed onto the mantel and pulled one frond out of the vase.  I hadn't realized that asparagus fern is toxic to cats!  He threw up a few times and was rather subdued all day, but seems OK now.  He has stopped throwing up, ate a little dry food, drank a little water and used his litter box.  He's sitting on the floor next to my chair, as I write this. 

I spent the morning tending to the cat and then, picked up a friend of mine who came to lunch.  We had originally planned to get together for lunch on Mother's Day, but decided to postpone it because I hadn't felt well enough.  We spent a little time, after lunch, video chatting with my daughter.  Later, after tea, we did a little shopping.  I bought two hanging planters, some rubber gloves, air fresheners, wax paper, two packs of coffee filters for daughter, a pack of four individual apple sauce cups ($1) and a bottle of soda ($1.09 with deposit).  Then, I dropped my friend off at her home and came back. 

Later, I collected my cat carrier from a cousin who had borrowed it; just in case I needed to take Dancer to the vet (but he seems OK now, and I probably won't need to take him in, after all).  Then, did a load of laundry.  It's hanging up to dry overnight.

Today, I am grateful for:
- The cat seems to have recovered from eating the fern.
- A pleasant afternoon visiting with my friend.
- Managing to keep the house tidy during the week.
- Pleasant weather (not too hot, not too cold).
- A fun shopping trip. 

The weekend has come to an end and it felt like a very short weekend.  It's back to work, tomorrow. 

How was your weekend?  Hope you enjoyed a relaxed weekend.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

More Gifts on the Doorstep?

Dry twigs on the doorstep

Yesterday, I discovered evidence of more "gifts" on the doorstep, but it was too dark to take a photo (I don't have a digital camera or smart phone, so I take my photos with my laptop).  But, first thing this morning, I opened the front door and took the photo, above.  A pile of dry twigs?!  What kind of a gift is that?  Who could have left it?  What does it mean?  Could the sounds of birds chirping have anything to do with it? 

Look up!

Birds' nest IN the porch light!

That's right!  Birds are building a nest IN my front porch light!  The top cover fell off some time ago and I was planning to have the light fixture replaced.  It was on my Master To Do List, I promise!  But while I was procrastinating on getting it done, a pair of house finches (I believe; need to get out my bird identification book and take a look) have decided that it makes the ideal place to build their nest!  Obviously, I will not be turning on the front porch light for the next several weeks or replacing it any time soon!

Removing the bird nest is not an option.  At least, not until the eggs have been laid and the baby birds have hatched and flown the nest.  Birds nesting under the eaves is seen as a blessing, or a symbol of good luck, in my culture.  I've had birds nesting in various trees in my garden and sparrows nesting in three of the four corners of my detached garage, but this is the first time I've had birds nesting under the roof of my actual house.  I can just see the porch light and nest from the window in the front bedroom, so, once the babies arrive, I'll be able to watch them, or, at least, observe the parents as they feed their nestlings.  That would be such fun!

Have you had birds nesting in and around your house?


Friday, May 15, 2015

Gifts on the Doorstep

Gardenias and White Nectarines

Today, I came home from work to a gift of gardenias and white nectarines left on my doorstep by my friend M who tends to my garden!  A note said they were from his garden.  I immediately brought them in and floated the flowers in a bowl of water and the put the nectarines in a bowl and placed them both on the small dining table to take the photo, above.  Then, I placed the bowl of gardenias on the fireplace mantle in the living room, next to a photograph of my mother (my mother loved gardenias as much as she loved roses and they were among the first plants she planted when I bought my house, except they all died after a few years).  Their fragrance is perfuming my whole room.  And I cut up and ate two of the nectarines - they tasted so sweet.  I must say, there's nothing nicer than coming home to a gift of flowers and fruit from a friend's garden. :-)

There was also a gift of a gentle shower of rain, this morning, from Mother Nature, herself, in addition to last night's rain.  The garden got a good soaking and it means I don't have to water the garden this weekend.

Then, there was a gift of a letter from my mother's long-time friend, which I received in the mail today!  She and my mother became friends when they were in college, together, and kept in touch with each other over the years.  Since my mother's death, she keeps in touch with me.  :-)

I had a productive day at the office, today, but have had a relaxed evening since coming home.   I called and chatted to a friend and made plans to get together on Sunday, since we couldn't get together over Mother's Day as planned earlier.  And I video chatted with my daughter.  And shortly, I'll be writing to a friend.  I love a relaxed Friday evening, don't you?


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Rainy Thursday!

It rained, today!  A proper thunderstorm, even!  Such a blessing for this parched, drought-stricken area!

Yesterday, I didn't write a blog post; it was a quiet day, I went to work, I video chatted with daughter, I wrote to a friend, and I went through the week's grocery ads.

Today, too, was a relatively quiet day.  I went to the office, came home, had a neighbor drop in for a quick visit, video chatted with daughter, and emailed a friend.  But today was a special day, too, because of the rain and because, today, my daughter sat for her last final exam of this semester, which means she has now completed the first year of grad. school!  She has to do an internship over the summer as part of her program requirements, but, the first year of academic courses have been completed.  :)

Today's gratitude list includes:
- Daughter completing the first year of her grad. studies
- Rain!
- A safe commute to work and back
- A bit of a stressful situation at work being resolved in a satisfactory manner
- Neighborly visits 

How was your day, today?  Did you have a busy day?  Or was it a relatively quiet day? 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Family Time

I had a good day at the office, today.   In the evening, I attended a family dinner that was a farewell dinner for the cousins who are visiting.  Came home rather late, so, no long blog post, today.

Today, I am grateful for:

- Family
- Time spent with family
- Recalling old times
- Making new memories
- Renewing connections

Hope you had a lovely day, today.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fresh Start Monday

All Nice and Tidy
The photo above is of what I call the small dining table, in the family room, after I tidied it, this weekend.  This is usually where I dump everything, when I first walk into the house, and it's where I place items to be taken out of the house with me (my lunch bag, library books bag, etc.)  It is also my "kitchen table", where I cut fruit for my jams, etc., since I don't have a table in my kitchen (kitchen is too small for a table).  Often it becomes the crafts table, as well.  It's where beverages are placed when I have a party, and where the occasional informal meal is served, in which case, it gets pulled out from being against the wall and the fourth chair is brought into service.  And since it is right up against the laundry closet, it is also where I place the laundry baskets, on occasion.  All in all, it is a very well used table.  But, all too often, it becomes the "dumping ground" and "gathering place for homeless items".  Keeping this table surface clear and uncluttered is an on-going battle, for me.  Which is why I took a photo of it and posted it here, after I tidied it up this weekend.  I am going to see how long I can keep it looking so nice.  It's a fresh start, this Monday, in keeping the house maintained during the week.

I have the day off from work, again, today (once every 2 weeks, I get a regularly scheduled day off; we earn it by working an extra hour a day on the other days).  I am very grateful to have this extra day off, which gives me a long weekend every other week. 

The first thing I did today, while having my morning cup of tea, was make my to do list for the day:
- Put away laundry from yesterday (hung up overnight to dry) - done
- Do another load and hang to dry - done
- Put gas to the car - done
- Go to the grocery store - done
- Go to the dollar store (right next to the grocery store) - done
- Clean out the fridge - done
- Take the trash cans to curb - done
- 20 mins. of paperwork 

I put away the laundry in the morning and ran my errands in the afternoon.  I filled the car with gas for the week; gas prices have gone up 50 cents per gallon since I put gas last!  It was $3.78/gallon, today.  

I was hoping to find terra cotta pots at the dollar store, as I've seen them there, earlier, but I didn't find any, today.  Instead, I bought some disposable gloves, toothpaste, and green grapes (2.02 lbs. @ $1.29/lb. = $2.60).

At the grocery store, I spent a total of $27.72, but that included a bag of cat food ($9.99 + tax), 2 boxes of facial tissues ($2@ + tax), a box of small trash bags ($1.79 + tax) and some personal care items ($3.99 + tax).   These non-grocery items and tax ($1.78) added up to $21.55.  The grocery items I bought were: 
1 box store brand pancake mix ($1.99) 
1 loaf sandwich bread ($1.29)
1 box store brand saltine-type crackers ($1.50) - I've been craving crackers and didn't have any in the cupboards
1 bunch (6) bananas (2.02 lbs. @ $.69/lb = $1.39)

The groceries added up to $6.17; plus $2.60 for the grapes = $8.77 

I put away all the groceries as soon as I brought them in, so no photo of them, this time.  

I had a banana and a slice of buttered bread for a very late brunch (eaten at 3:00 p.m.; antibiotics have left me with little appetite), followed by a slice of my chocolate cake, a bit later.  I also took about 1/4 of the cake over to my neighbor, to share the calories!  :D

Dinner tonight will be some of the roast chicken I made yesterday, with some broccoli.

Today, I am grateful for:

- A clean and tidy house
- An extra day off from work to rest/run errands/prepare for the week ahead
- Chocolate cake
- A sunny and warm day
- Having sufficient to share (the very definition of abundance, in my opinion)

I am looking forward to a quiet evening and video chatting with my daughter.  Hope you all have a wonderful Monday.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day

Roses from the garden for my Mother

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are mothers.  Hope you are all having a wonderful, blessed day.

I picked the roses, pictured above, from the garden, for my mother.  It's been nine years since she passed away, but I still miss her.  

This is the first Mother's Day, since I became a mother, that my daughter is not with me.  She would have been here, if she didn't have to study for finals.  But I'll see her later this month and we'll celebrate then.  In the meantime, we will phone and video chat with each other.  :)

I continued to clean and tidy the house, this morning.  There are a few more spots which could be tidied further, but I am content with what I was able to do, considering I am still recovering from my sinus infection (and now, it seems I've a bit of an ear infection, as well!)  But I cleaned the kitchen and my bedroom, the two bathrooms and the family room, today.  I am afraid I cheated a little bit and put all the stacks of papers piled on various tables into a bag to deal with later!  :o  Please hold me accountable to deal with the papers, over the course of the week (it's mostly filing).

In addition to the roses, I picked more lemons for a bowl to place on the small table in the family room.  

I baked a chocolate cake, too.  I am expecting a visit from three of my cousins, including two who are visiting from Australia, later this evening.  The last time I saw one of the visiting cousins was twenty-two years ago, so I am looking forward to the visit.  We shall have some cake and tea and no doubt, there will be lots of conversation, as well.  :)

Today I am grateful for:

- My mother
- My daughter
- Cousins visiting
- A tidy house
- Roses and lemons from the garden
- Chocolate cake

How are you spending this Mother's Day?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Weekend To Do List


I am feeling much better, today.  I think I made the right decision to stay home and rest, yesterday.

This past week, when I was not feeling too well, I didn't do much housework, other than keeping up with the dishes and litter box.  So, this weekend's to do list is focused mostly on cleaning the house.

Weekend to do list:

- Clear dining table - done
- Dust/polish living room & dining area - done
- Vacuum the house - done
- Tidy the guest room - done
- Sew handles on reusable grocery bag - done
- Pick lemons from the garden - done
- Take recycling to the bin - done
- Water the front garden roses - done
- Dust/tidy bedroom - done
- Dust/tidy family room - done
- Clean bathrooms - done
- Laundry- did 1 load
- Clean kitchen (clear counters, scrub sink, wipe stove top, etc.) - done
- Visit my mother's grave (Sunday)

How is your weekend coming along?  What are you planning to do for Mother's Day, tomorrow?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Restful Friday and Leeks with Polish Sausage

I called in sick, again, today.  Have I mentioned that I am blessed to have paid sick leave and an understanding supervisor?

After I called and spoke to my supervisor, I went back to bed and slept practically the whole morning!  I woke up at 11:30 a.m. and resisted the urge to go back to sleep.  I had a cup of tea and chatted with daughter for a bit.  Later in the afternoon, my gardener came to do the garden.  He fertilized the roses and newly planted peach tree (which has 2 tiny peaches forming on it!) and mulched the front rose bed.  He also brought me several plants for my garden - lots of succulents and an orchid!

I didn't feel like having any breakfast or lunch, but, around 4:00 p.m., I began to feel a little hungry, which is a good sign, as it means I'm feeling better.  But, I didn't feel like eating the last of the Spanish rice and chicken breast that I had packed up, last night, to take to the office for my lunch, today.  So, I decided to do some cooking.   I cooked some fresh rice and made the leeks with Polish sausage.

I had bought 3 leeks; below is just one of them:

Whole Leek
 First step is to cut off the root end and clean the leek.  Then, slice finely:
Sliced Finely
 Next step: wash the sliced leeks - there's quite a bit of fine soil particles clinging to leeks, so it's important to wash them well.  I rinsed the leeks in 3 changes of water to make sure all the grit is gone.  Then, I drained them in a colander:
Washed and Drained
 While the leeks drained, I sliced the Polish sausage:
Polish Sausage, Sliced
 And sauted the slices of sausage:
Sausage Slices Sauteing
Then, I removed the slices of sausage and added the sliced leeks to the saute pan.  If you are vegetarian, or wish to cook the leeks without the addition of sausages, then, skip the sauteing of the sausages and saute the leeks in a bit of vegetable oil. 

I added spices to my leeks - mostly chili powder, a little cardamon and cinnamon, a little lemon juice, and a little salt:

Leeks with Spices
 Sorry, no measurements, because I rarely, if ever, measure anything when I cook.  Drives my daughter crazy!

Leeks Sauteing, Midway
 I saute the leeks until they are well cooked.  They reduce quite a bit in volume, once cooked:

Almost Done
 If you are vegetarian, or wish to have the leeks by themselves, then, the leeks are ready to be eaten, at this point.  However, I like to add the sauted Polish sausage slices to my leeks and I cook it for a few more minutes:
Sausages Added
I never used to like leeks, and so, didn't cook them for the longest time.  But, one day, my daughter ate some leeks a friend of mine cooked, and she liked them and asked why I don't make them.  So, I started to cook them and decided that the addition of Polish sausages will make them more palatable for me.  Today's version, however, was so good that I probably could have eaten them on their own, with the rice, without the addition of the sausage.  Sometimes, I add potatoes to the mixture, as well, but I didn't have any potatoes on hand, today.
Dinner is Ready
Dinner was eaten in record time!  LOL.  There's more left for future meals, as well.

I forgot to write down my gratitude list, yesterday; today's list include 2 things I have already listed earlier (paid sick leave and an understanding supervisor):

- Paid sick leave (again)
- Understanding supervisor (again)
- Feeling better
- Free plants for the garden

- Caring friends

How was your Friday?  Do you eat leeks?  If so, how do you cook them?