Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve

I've spent a relaxed day, today, the last day of 2014.

This evening, daughter and I have been invited by friends to dinner and spend New Year's Eve and greet the New Year with them.

I wish us all a happy, healthy, peaceful, blessed New Year.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Holiday Budgets

Now that the holidays are drawing to a close, it's time to review my holiday spending and decide on next year's holiday budget.

I used to budget $25 per month for holiday gifts, which resulted in a budget of $300 per year.  Then, after an initial round of income reduction due to salary cuts, I reduced the budget to $20 per month, which meant a holiday budget of $240 per year.  Yet another round of salary cuts a few years ago and an increase in other expenses led to further budget adjustments.  Currently, my holiday budget is set at $120 for friends and family other than daughter, and I allocate $10 per month for holiday gifts, cards, postage, etc. 

Once the budget is set, I make a list of people to whom I'll give gifts. I have my list organized by Family, Friends, Office, Neighbors, daughter's teachers (when she was still in school), etc.  Over the years, I've reduced my gift list until now, I have 40 recipients (couples often count as 1). 

I have a budget of $120 for holiday spending.  $20 of that is for cards and postage (some of my cards are sent to family living abroad and airmail postage cost $1.15 per card, this year); leaving $100 for gifts for 40 people. Every year, I wrack my brain to come up with low cost gifts, since, I have an average of just $2.50 to spend on each person.   I decide how much I want to spend per person and write it down next to their names; I vary from it ONLY if I know I can make adjustments, elsewhere.

I make the majority of my gifts from items I have on hand - jars of jam with fruit from my garden, items I sew with fabric in my stash, etc.  I shop the discount stores and sales. I don't even go into department stores and I won't buy anything unless it is on sale. I also have a $ limit on what I will pay for an item.

Finally, I keep track of the spending. I write down the amounts I spent against each person's name on my list. And I keep a running total.

I guess I could have more to spend on each person if I was willing to cut down on my gift list, but I am not willing to do that. So, I will continue to give homemade and "bargain basement" gifts to the extent that I am able.  For the most part, I am going with the "it's the thought that counts" premise of gift giving, and giving token gifts.

And yes, I was able to keep to my budget this year.

Do you have a holiday budget?  If so, were you able to keep to the budget you set for holiday gifts and entertaining?  If you stayed under budget, do share your secrets and tell us how you do it.

Monday, December 29, 2014

On the Fourth Day of Christmas

I made myself a To Do list for the day:
- Put away laundry which was hung up to dry overnight - DONE
- 15 minutes of paperwork - DONE
- Pay home and earthquake insurance - DONE
- Grocery shop - DONE
- Water the front garden - DONE
- Take daughter to her friends' home - DONE
- Call cousin - DONE
- Write to my friend - DONE
- Renew library books - DONE

- Do dishes (not done yet)
- Take trash cans to curb - DONE

In addition, my friend called and I was able to have a nice chat with her.

It has been a productive day, today.  How was your day, today?

House Cleaning Cycles

For several years, now, I've followed a cyclic house cleaning system that broke up the house into different areas and focused on one particular area per week for deep cleaning purposes, in addition to the regular daily/weekly cleaning.

Over the years, I've adapted the original suggested areas to suit my particular house.  For example, the original cleaning schedule had listed the entry and living room for week 1 and the dining room and laundry room for week 2.  I have no entry area (the front door opens directly in to the living room) and the dining room is at one end of the living room, so, for me, it makes sense to do the living room and dining area in one go.  Also, my laundry room is off my family room, so I like to combine those two areas and I've listed them for week 2, instead of the dining room and laundry room.  This makes for better progression through my house, as one moves from the living room to the dining room to the family room.

Some weeks, there are more deep cleaning type tasks to be done in these areas; other weeks, things are already in fairly good shape and only the minimal cleaning needs to be done.  Sometimes, I have a long list of cleaning tasks and not enough time or energy to do them all; when that happens, the undone tasks get put off until the next time that particular area comes up.  Or, I do them the following week, in addition to that week's area (provided I have enough time and energy).   

The cycle ends with a week of "whole house" cleaning, which is what I did for the past two weeks, over the holidays.  With the new year starting this week, it makes sense to start the whole cycle of cleaning from the beginning.  Below is my house cleaning schedule:

Week 1: Living Room/Dining Room
Week 2: Family Room/Laundry Room
Week 3: Bathrooms
Week 4: Kitchen
Week 5: Daughter's Room/Guest Room + Closets for those rooms
Week 6: Front Porch/Back Porch/Garage
Week 7: Master Bedroom & Closet
Week 8: Whole House Cleaning

This week is Week 1 and I am starting with the living room and dining area.  I have already tidied and dusted both these areas as part of last week's "whole house" cleaning.  So, all I plan to do this week will be:

- Put fresh flowers
- Polish brass decorative items
- Vacuum
- Look through shelves and drawers to see if there are any items to be decluttered

Do you have a house cleaning schedule?  Do you follow a similar cyclic cleaning system?  If not, how do you deep clean the various rooms and areas of your home?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

On the Third Day of Christmas

A relaxed morning, chatting with friends on the internet, playing on-line games and three phone calls from cousins and friends.

In the afternoon, daughter and I went to a friend's house for a prayer meeting.

After we came home in the evening, I did two loads of laundry and wrote to a friend.  Now we are watching some news on TV and just relaxing.

How was your day? 

On The Second Day of Christmas

No partridges in pear trees or turtle doves, but, there was a ripe persimmon which I shared with daughter, followed by two oranges I picked fresh from the tree in the back garden.  Very sweet and full of vitamin C!

Later in the afternoon, we did the last of our holiday gift shopping.  Well, daughter's gift is not bought yet.  We shopped for it, today, but the exact item she wants was not available in the store and the next shipment is expected next week.  But that's OK, because I had already told her that this year, she'll be getting New Year's gifts from me.

In addition to gift shopping, I also bought a couple of items for myself, today: some of my favorite cologne spray (on 50% off sale) and a package of socks!  The 6 pairs of socks cost more than the cologne!   :D  

In the evening, daughter put final touches to two of the gifts she's making for her friends while I did a load of laundry and wrapped gifts and the cat pounced on tissue paper and batted at the curling ribbons!  :)  Then, I tidied up the living room and dusted the furniture.

Tomorrow, I need to tidy up the family room a bit.  In the afternoon, daughter and I will go to a friend's house for a prayer meeting.

How was your second day of Christmas?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

On The First Day of Christmas

My true love gave to me...

It seems that hardly anyone celebrates the 12 days of Christmas any more.  It's the period from December 26 to January 6; it's the time it took for the Three Kings (or the Three Wise Men) from first seeing the Star to travel to the Manger in Bethlehem.

I like to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas, keeping the tree and the decorations up until January 6.  I didn't put up a tree and have minimal decorations this year, but I shall keep those decorations up for the duration.  We all spend so much time and energy planning and getting ready for the holidays that is seems a pity to have it over in just one day.  Why not extend the celebrations for the full 12 days?  

Daughter and I had a lovely Christmas Day, yesterday.  We spent the morning relaxing at home.  In the afternoon, I baked a cake and wrapped gifts.  Then, we went to dinner at my cousin's house and celebrated Christmas with an aunt, cousins, and their families.
Today, on the first day of Christmas, I made us waffles for breakfast, did a load of laundry, and then, went shopping with daughter for another gift or two.  Later in the evening, we went to dinner at a friend's house.

What did you do on the first day of Christmas?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

The Decorated Mantle
We decided to skip putting up the tree and to keep the decorations to a minimum, this year.  I didn't pull any of my Christmas/winter decorations out of storage.  Instead, I made some new paper decorations.  I made the snowflake ballerinas from the free template and instructions given on  The pine trees were cut free-hand.  The little house/cabin in the wood was made without following any specific instructions; I just formed it as I went.

On this Christmas Eve, I wish everyone a joyful, peaceful celebration.  

Christmas Preparations

Every year, Christmas comes on the 25th of December.  Every year, I start making my preparations well in advance.  Every year, I have the best of intentions to be ready by Christmas day.  Some years, I actually manage to achieve what I intend.  Other years, well, I'm scrambling along with Santa's elves!

This is one of those years, where I am not quite ready.  Partly due to getting ill, I am behind my schedule, when it comes to decorating, gift making, and gift buying.  My house is not decorated, half my gifts are not made yet, and I only went shopping once!

On the other hand, the cards were written and mailed in good time, the gifts that needed mailing were made and posted last week, my neighbor's gift was given to her today, and the gifts of homemade jam have been wrapped to be handed to my colleagues at the office, tomorrow.  So I am somewhat on schedule, after all!

As for decorating - that's what Christmas Eve is for!

How are you coming along with your preparations for Christmas? 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Been Ill

Well, the cold and cough I mentioned on Friday only got worse with time.  I managed to get through the almsgiving OK, but as soon as everyone left, I went to lie down.  I only meant to take a short nap before dealing with the leftovers and the dishes, but I slept all afternoon into evening into night!  I woke up a few times, but each time, daughter insisted I went back to sleep, which I did.  And while I slept, daughter put away all the leftovers and handwashed all the dishes (I used many of the rather delicate family china that had belonged to my stepfather's mother, which can't be washed in the dishwasher).

I slept through Sunday but felt much better, today.  Of course, today, it's daughter's turn to be ill with the same cold and cough.  :(

I managed to do several loads of laundry but that is about all.  Hopefully, tomorrow, daughter will feel better, and I will be able to turn my attention to the rest of the holiday gifts and perhaps a modicum of holiday decorating.

Hope everyone else is keeping the colds and coughs at bay, during the holidays.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Busy Day Friday

Today will be a busy day, made worse by the fact that I am not feeling too well (cold & cough).  Still, having made my to do list and doing things step by baby step, with lots of help from daughter, I will get everything done.   

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

If Only

Aren't those among some of the saddest words in the English language?

I've been in a bit of a pensive mood lately and indulging in a lot of "if only"s. Not at all productive, I'll be the first the acknowledge; in fact, it can be downright counterproductive.

Regrets can never undo what has already happened. And there's never any guarantee that the outcome would have been any different, even if things had been done differently. I know all that.

Yet, it doesn't stop me from sitting at dusk, thinking, "If only..."

Kitchen Drawers

Now that I have managed to partially clear the kitchen counters, it's time to move on to the kitchen drawers!

I have a total of 5 drawers in my kitchen, although one of them is actually a wide, double drawer.

Two are deep drawers, next to the stove, where I store my containers of dried legumes and lentils, bulk bought spices, curry powder, etc. Each drawer is approx. 15 inches wide.

Two are shallow drawers, each approx. 15 in. wide, one on each side of the stove, where I keep cooking utensils - knives, vegetable peeler, tongs, strainer, etc. are in one drawer; the mixer attachments, rubber spatulas, pizza cutter, ice cream scoop, etc. are in the other drawer.

The double drawer, approx. 30 inches wide, is also shallow. It is divided in the middle. One side of it is where I store all the "lunch making" items: roll of foil, plastic cling wrap, and wax paper; snack/sandwich bags, freezer bags; plastic spoons and forks, etc. The other side is my "useful" drawer (a.k.a. "junk" drawer) - here, I store such useful items such as twist ties, rubber bands, plastic produce bags (used to make sure packed lunches don't leak gravy, etc.), the permanent marker with which to label items, and so on and so forth. A drawer organizer keeps things more or less separated.

How many kitchen drawers do you have? How are they organized? What do you keep in them?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Multiple Me's

OK, time to wave that magic wand and make multiples of "Me" to do everything that needs to be done!

One Me to prepare for the almsgiving next Saturday - grocery shop, cook, rearrange the furniture, etc.

A second Me to prepare for Christmas - make the gifts, wrap and tag them, write the cards, decorate the house, etc.

A third Me to clean the house.

A fourth Me to go to the office and do my job there.

A fifth Me to tend to the garden - the front garden, especially, needs an instant makeover.

A 6th Me to spend time with DD who is home for the holidays. 

And a 7th Me would be nice, too, to make sure I get some ME-time and relax!

There's much to be done and only one Me to do it!

Today has been a busy day.   I went to the office today.  Work is just a tiny bit stressful and by the time I came home, I had a headache!  Yet, I managed to get a few errands done, too - I went to the pharmacy during my lunch break and picked up some of my medication refills.  After work, I put gas to the car and took daughter to the craft store to return/exchange some items she bought yesterday.  After we came home, I took the trash cans to the curb for pick up, tomorrow, and took a nap on the sofa!  Later, cooked dinner, did the dishes, made some phone calls, wrote to a friend, and now, it's after midnight and I should go to bed and get some sleep!  The alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m.!

How about you?  Do you sometimes long to have multiples of you to do everything you need to do?  How do you manage to get everything done?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Less Than Twelve Days till Christmas!

It doesn't matter how early we begin preparing for Christmas, it always seems to arrive before we are ready! 

I have written and mailed my overseas greeting cards.  I've started on the local cards, but need to finish writing them.

Now, I need to start focusing on the gifts I'll be giving.  Many of my gifts will be homemade and handcrafted.  They are relatively speaking, low cost items, just time consuming. Today, I made three of my gifts, to be given to grandnephews.  I am making them from fabric I have on hand, so they are no cost gifts.  Tomorrow, I'll make the gift for my grandniece.  I want to get them mailed (they live out of state) by the end of the week. 

How are your Christmas preparations coming along?  Are you just about ready?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Kitchen Counter Battles

I have approx. 9 linear feet of kitchen counters, in an L shape (slightly more when measured along the wall as it takes the corner). The short arm of the L is broken up by the stove: 1 1/2 ft. of counter, stove, 2 ft. of counter. The longer arm of the L is broken up by the double sink: 1 1/2 ft. counter, sink, almost 4 ft. counter (part of which is taken up by the microwave).

For some reason, I have a hard time KEEPING MY COUNTERS CLEAR!

By necessity, certain appliances live on my counters: the microwave, the toaster, the rice cooker, etc. In addition, there are other implements which stay permanently on the counter: the copper kettle which holds my cooking utensils, the pot of boiled water we use for drinking, a glass platter which holds condiments and the mug of cutlery for daily use, the copper colander which I use as a fruit bowl, etc.  All these live lined up along the back of the counter, which is about 2 feet deep. These things don't bother me - I need them to be out and within easy reach on a daily basis.

It is the area in front of them - the approx. 1 ft. deep space along the front edge of the counter - that is my problem. SOMEONE (surely not MOI?!) puts things on them, which tend to remain to clutter up the counters.

For example, food storage containers that ought to go in the dishpan in the cabinet but haven't dried enough to be put away (I air dry them upside down in the dish drainer and water tends to collect under the rims, and then drip when I turn them right side up! So I leave them on the counter to dry further and they stay there!)

Soon they are joined by other items - drinking glasses, a bottle of soda, an empty jar, a bag of snacks, and so on.  Until the counters are cluttered!

I cleaned the kitchen yesterday and cleared the counters and wiped them down.  It lasted for a couple of hours, until I dumped out the contents of one drawer (more utensils such as spatulas, beaters for the mixer, pizza cutter, measuring cups and spoons, etc.) to sort through them.  I washed the utensils tray and kept it to dry overnight and wiped out the drawer.   The utensils tray is dry now, but I haven't put it back in the drawer or put the utensils away.
My kitchen is definitely used only for cooking. There isn't space for a kitchen table, so there's no eating in there, unless one eats standing up!  However, I wonder if I had a kitchen table, would my counters stay a little clearer?  Or would the table end up being yet another horizontal surface for clutter to accumulate?

I generally wash the dishes (by hand) and empty the dish drainer (set into one side of the double sink) once a day.  I leave the washed dinner dishes to dry overnight and empty the drainer first thing in the morning while I wait for the water to boil to make coffee.

That's when I leave the containers on the counter. I want them out of the drainer because I usually wash the morning coffee mugs, etc., before I leave for work. I guess I fear that if I leave the containers in the drainer, the newly washed mugs and milk pan, etc. might drip water into them, again.

I don't mind them sitting out on the counter during the day when I am at work. I just have to train myself to PUT THEM AWAY when I come home from work and not leave them out for the rest of the evening!

Ah, but having them out on the counter makes it that much easier to pack the next day's lunches later that night...

Now do you see what's at the root of my counter clutter? Laziness, masquerading as step-saving work efficiency!

I want to challenge myself to try and keep the counters cleared.  Anyone else battling with kitchen counter clutter?  Want to join me in a  kitchen counters challenge?  Want to share tips on HOW to keep them clear?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursday, December 11: Home for the Holidays and the Daily To Do List

Today, my daughter is expected home for the holidays!  This is her first time flying alone and she doesn't like flying!  As if that wasn't enough stress for her, she woke up to find there's no electricity in her apartment due to the storm they are experiencing!  (According to the morning news, some 80,000 homes are without power up there!)

First we fretted about the food in her freezer (won't know how long the electricity will be off and if the food will thaw before power is restored).  Then, it occurred to me that she needs to take the subway to get to the airport and will the subway run if there's no power?  A quick check on-line showed that while some subway stations are closed, the one she will take is still open and the subway is operating, although there are delays.  I expect there will be delays at the airport, too.  But, hopefully, she'll be able to catch her scheduled flight and there won't be too much turbulence and she'll be home again, safe and sound, this afternoon.  I have my altar light on; I'll keep it on until she's home again.  

I've taken a vacation day off from work, today.  So, I've a little extra time to do things around the house while I wait for daughter to come home.

My daily to do list for today:
- call the temple to confirm almsgiving date - DONE
- call a colleague - DONE
- call daughter - DONE 
- tidy the kitchen counters - DONE
- clean the kitchen appliances (stove top, microwave, toaster, etc.) - DONE
- tidy the family room - DONE
- tidy the 3rd bedroom - DONE
- vacuum - DONE
- pick up daughter from airport - DONE
- buy milk - DONE
- visit neighbor - DONE
- call cousin - DONE
- write out the rest of the cards
- cook garbanzo beans - DONE
- prepare the almsgiving donations envelopes

What are your plans for today?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

All or Nothing vs. Baby Steps

Ever didn't want to start doing something because you don't have time to finish it?  A big task such as cleaning a room, or scrapbooking the year's photographs, or making a quilt?  Because you are an "all or nothing" kind of person and you'd rather not start doing something if you can't finish it all on one day or weekend?  So you'd rather wait until you have a free day or weekend to devote to the big task.  When was the last time you had a whole day free to work on something?     

I used to be one of the "all or nothing" type of people, myself, and a "perfectionist", to boot. Still am, to a certain extent. I guess it goes back to what I was taught in childhood: "Don't start if you can't finish", "If it's worth doing, it should be done well", etc.  And since I didn't have that many free days to devote to doing a project, many things didn't get done.  Then, I learned to break big tasks down to small baby steps that can be finished in small segments of time, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, etc.  That was an important, liberating, concept to me.  I could do anything for 15 minutes.  Maybe not redo my entire filing cabinet, but I could sort through 5 file folders and it will add up, eventually.

Every now and again, I tend to regress.  But, for the most part, I am getting better at tackling big projects, one small task at a time.  So, instead of "cleaning the kitchen", I have it broken down into "wash copperware", "wash 1 wall", "wash 5 upper cabinet doors", etc.  Instead of "write holiday cards", I have "buy cards", "buy stamps", "write overseas cards", "write domestic cards", etc.  Baby steps.  Easily accomplished in 5 to 15 minute segments.  The entire big project might still take several hours to complete, but it is done in smaller segments and it's easier to find 15 minutes than an hour or two. 

On Monday, I had the day off from work; I posted a long to do list and I accomplished most of it:

- Grocery shop at ethnic store 1 for red rice, palm treacle, curry powder, cloves, etc. - DONE
- Grocery shop at ethnic store 2 for garbanzo, candied ginger, etc. - DONE; except they didn't have candied ginger
- Shop for paper napkins and holiday cards - DONE
-  Cook lentils - NOT DONE
- Wash 5 remaining kitchen upper cabinet doors and top of fridge - DONE
- Put away laundry from yesterday and do another load/hang to dry - DONE
- Take trash cans to curb - DONE
- Write rest of overseas holiday cards - DONE
- Continue to read my library book - DONE

I also went to the regular grocery store, although it wasn't on my to do list.

I didn't post a list yesterday, but I went to the post office for air mail stamps, went to the library to return the library book I finished reading (and borrowed a new one), went to the pharmacy to buy some over-the-counter medications, started on the local holiday cards, and went to the office, too. 

Today, I went to the office, went to the bank during my lunch break, went to the post office to mail my cards during my afternoon break, renewed one of my library books, online (and put a hold on another book), and put garbanzo beans to soak overnight.  My other baby steps to do today include washing the fridge/freezer doors, and start washing the lower kitchen cabinet doors and drawer fronts.

Are you an "all or nothing" kind of person?  Do you let big things wait until you have sufficient free time to tend to it?  Or do you break things down to smaller chunks and keep at it until it is all done?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Time Management and Today's To Do List

Who among us feels she has enough time to do everything she has to and wants to do?  I know I don't!  I have struggled with time management for years.  I have done time schedules, previously, where I'd block out the time I didn't have available to do housework, crafts, etc.  Time spent sleeping, commuting to and from work, the time spent at the office, and time spent taking my daughter to campus, extracurricular activities and waiting for her, etc.  When all that had been blocked off, I truly had very little time and by then, I was too tired to do much.

These days, daughter is away at university, so, technically, I have more time to attend to things.   Unfortunately, I tend to be more relaxed when I know I have more time.  I come home from work and instead of attacking housework, paperwork, etc., I relax in front of the TV and video chat with daughter!  As a result, things have piled up!  With my year-end almsgiving and the holidays approaching, I need to manage my time a little better in order to do everything that must be done.  Or, rather, to do everything that I have deemed must be done!  LOL.  I do tend to get a bit carried away with grand schemes of what must be done, at times.  As one of my friends commented in her email to me, I tend to insist on homemade instead of purchased and thus create more work for myself. 

Well, one of the tools of good time management is having a schedule.  Another is a "to do" list.  So, here's today's to do list:

- Grocery shop at ethnic store 1 for red rice, palm treacle, curry powder, cloves, etc.
- Grocery shop at ethnic store 2 for garbanzo, candied ginger, etc.
- Shop for paper napkins and holiday cards (instead of the homemade I had planned, although I still might make one or two!)
-  Cook lentils
- Wash 5 remaining kitchen upper cabinet doors (started yesterday) and top of fridge
- Put away laundry from yesterday and do another load/hang to dry
- Take trash cans to curb
- Write rest of holiday cards (started yesterday)
- Continue to read my library book

That will keep me nicely busy for the rest of the day!

Does anyone else struggle with time management?  What have you found to be helpful?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Organizing the Weekend

How do you organize your weekend? Do you plan it out in advance? Is your Saturday typically a clean house/do laundry/grocery shop/run errands kind of day? Is Sunday reserved for religious activities and perhaps family visits?

When do you fit in ME-time for yourself? When do you do a sewing project or work on crafts? When do you garden? Or do a weekly cooking/baking session? Or reorganize that closet?

I keep fluctuating between doing a little bit of household cleaning every day during the week and keeping the weekend free to do projects vs. not doing a lot during the week due to long working & commuting hours and trying to fit in everything on the weekend!

I typically do the grocery shopping and laundry on the weekend, either Saturday or Sunday. And I plan to do the deep cleaning/big projects on the weekends, too. And, for the most part, I run out of weekend before I finish my weekend to-do list! 

So, how do you plan out and organize your weekend?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Almsgiving Checklist/Schedule

Checklists and schedules are useful things.  They enable us to plan in advance and organize an activity or an event.  With a checklist, one doesn't have to remember every little detail or worry about forgetting to do X, Y, or Z.  Over the years, I've developed a fairly detailed checklist for the almsgiving preparations and a schedule.  Every year, I update this checklist/schedule for that year's event.

Almsgivings are religious ceremonies and somewhat ritualized.  There are certain things that are done to convey respect (like covering the chairs the monks will sit on, with white cloth).  Traditionally, the monks carry their begging bowls with them, to almsgivings, but we also offer them plates, should they prefer.  The actual meal is served to the monks.  Monks are required to accept whatever is offered to them, but there is a custom of covering their begging bowls or plates with their hand to signify that they have sufficient.

Almsgivings are held in temples, as well.  But I prefer to hold it in my home, as I feel it blesses my home.  The monks bring with them a reliquary from their temple and place it at the home altar and, for the duration of the almsgiving, my house becomes a temple.  A blessed place.

 2014 Almsgiving Checklist & Schedule:

- Set date/invite monks/invite participants (November) - DONE

Week 1 (Dec. 1-7):
- Decide on donations/get them ready
- Make menu/check supplies/make grocery list
- Check supplies (non-grocery)/make shopping list
- Check table linen, chair covers, etc., wash if needed, iron, etc.
- Shop for non-perishables

Week 2 (Dec. 8-14):
- Cook ahead and freeze: cashews, garbanzos
- Make homemade candies
- Confirm date with monks
- Remind invitees; share menu/assign dishes

Week 3 (Dec. 15-20)
- Start cleaning the house (Dust/vacuum/tidy living room, dining area, family room, kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms)
- Rearrange furniture - sofas, coffee tables, tall round side table (for reliquary), trolley (for plates of offerings), remove blue & white vases near fireplace (so I can set the small sofa in front of the fireplace)
- Grocery shop for perishables
- Make yogurt (Thursday)

- Buy flowers (or pick from garden, if there are any)
- Take down dishes used only for almsgiving and wash them

Friday, Dec. 19:

- Grocery shop
- Clean bathrooms/set out guest towels, etc.
- Set out items needed for the transfer of merit: teapot, cup, and water basin; fill teapot with water
- Take out chair covers, table cloths, napkins, etc.; cover chairs, tables
- Candles/incense sticks & holder; lighter/matches
- New bottle of water for blessing; bowl to catch drips when blessed water is poured out
- Set out items for washing hands: fresh cake of soap, hand towels, jugs & basins
- Put previously cooked and frozen cashews and garbanzos to thaw
- Make flan/pudding
- Bake cake/brownies if being made
- Clean kitchen
- Take out plates, bowls, etc. for guests

Saturday, Dec. 20 (Day of Almsgiving):

- Arrange flowers in vases
- Cut up fruits and arrange in saucers; cover
- Arrange a variety of sweets (candy, cookies, cake, etc.) in saucers; cover
- Dish out yogurt into bowls; cover
- Pour palm treacle into sauce boat (to be served over yogurt)
- Dish out flan/pudding, cover
- Cook rice (2 types - white and red)
- Make salad
- Warm up curries; dish out into smaller serving dishes for serving to monks; bigger serving dishes for guests (keep bigger dishes in oven to keep warm)
- Make soup/keep warm in slow cooker
- Serve up offerings to the Buddha and offerings for the Order of Monks
- Boil water and keep in thermos for those monks who prefer hot water
- Pour water and juice into glasses
- Spot clean bathrooms

10:30 a.m. - Everything should be done and ready; guests arrive and their contributions added to offerings to the Buddha and the Order of Monks

11:00 a.m. - Monks arrive; Offerings to Buddha, Order of Monks, etc. take place and service begins with devotions being recited.

11:30 a.m. - Lunch is served to the monks

12:00 noon - Monks finish their lunch, plates are cleared, a sermon is said, blessings are chanted, merit gained from almsgiving is transferred to departed loved ones, donations are presented to the monks.

1:00 p.m. - the monks leave, the religious ceremonies are concluded, lunch is served to all those who participated.

Followed by washing up and cleaning and putting things away until the next time!   My family and friends usually help me with the washing up and putting away the food and putting the furniture back in place.

And there you have it!  My almsgiving checklist and schedule. 

Do any of you do something similar? 

Company's Coming

What's your first reaction?

Do those words fill you with delight? "Oh, I'll see my friends/family/loved ones again! How nice!"

Or do they fill you with dread? "Oh, no! The house is a mess!"

Do they send you off on a flurry of activity to clean up the house, tidy the mess, or do you look around and smile serenely?

If you are like me, most probably it'll be a mixture of delight at the prospect of seeing the visitors and dread that they will see your house in its current state!  My first thought will be, "It'll be lovely to see friends/family". My second thought will be: "Got to tidy up the house!" LOL.

In exactly 2 weeks' time, I'll be having a religious gathering at my home which will be attended by clergy, family, and friends.  Today, I made a checklist of things to do, including cleaning the house.

I try to keep the living room more or less company ready - I won't have to do much in there, other than dust, vacuum, rearrange the furniture to accommodate the L-shaped seating arrangement required for the event, and remove the folding laundry airer I have set up in front of the heater to dry the laundry.   Of course, I'd like to recover the sofas (the cat has clawed and torn the upholstery), replace the drapes that are worn, and polish the decorative brassware.  But, most likely, those things won't get done.

The dining area is fine, too; I just have to remove the sewing machine I have set up on the table.  I'd like to clean the chandelier and replace the drapes.  I might be able to do the chandelier, but the drapes will stay.  Maybe I can vacuum them. 

The family room needs to be picked up and tidied, as well as dusted and vacuumed, and the sofa covers changed.  And then, there's the kitchen and the bathrooms to be cleaned.  Not to mention the bedrooms. 

I've been asked why I feel the need to do so much cleaning before company comes.  I feel I need to do it because my house is messy!

So, what would tidying up the house before company arrives entail for you?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Almsgiving Preparations

There are 27 days left until the end of December.  Many people are counting the days left until Christmas (20 days).  I am too, although I am not a Christian.  But, I am also counting down the days until my annual end-of-the-year almsgiving.  This year, it is scheduled to take place on December 20.  So, I have 15 days left to prepare for it.

"Alms" are defined as donations (money, food, other goods, etc.) given to the poor or needy.  Buddhist monks make a pledge of poverty when they become monks.  Buddhist laity gain merit by making donations or giving alms to the poor, including Buddhist monks. 

The reasons behind the giving are many, but basically, they include the wish to accrue merit by performing beneficial deeds (or 'karma' in Sanskrit), or to transfer those merits to departed loved ones, and to cultivate non-attachment (to the things being given away). 

I grew up in a family that participated in many almsgivings throughout the year; usually, they took place to commemorate sacred days and departed loved ones.  This particular end-of-the-year almsgiving tradition was begun in 1987, by my mother and has been carried on by me.  The original reason for holding it evolved over the years and became a sort of an annual thanksgiving for the year that was, before we proceed to the new year.  There is no set date for it; it is usually held on a day that is convenient for both me and the monks who attend it, but, I make it a point to hold the almsgiving before Christmas.

There are many traditions associated with almsgivings that have developed in Buddhist cultures over the centuries.  Some of those traditions are common to all; others are specific to each culture, time, and place.  Some of those traditions have remained unchanged; others are evolving.

For me, the almsgiving traditions include serving a vegetarian lunch to the monks (and family and friends I have invited to participate).  Buddhist monks are restrained from eating after noon, so, lunch is their last meal for the day until the following day's breakfast.  Lunch consists of rice and vegetable curries, followed by a variety of fruits and desserts.  Our cultural traditions include curd (yogurt) and palm treacle as one of the "must have" desserts, as well as several different types of sweets.  The exact number of items doesn't matter; what matters is offering a choice. 

The number of monks I invite vary from year to year, but, at minimum, there needs to be 5 monks present, in order to make the almsgiving an offering to the entire Order of the Buddhist monks as opposed to only the individual monks who are actually participating (they are representative of the community of monks).   There are some monks who have attended my mother's almsgivings and mine, year after year; they've watched my daughter grow up and participate in the almsgiving and have expressed hopes of seeing her carry on the tradition.  Other monks participate from time to time.  

I have already invited the monks and we have agreed upon a date.   I have already invited several family members and friends to participate in the event.  There are still a few more to invite.  I have decided on what I will be offering as donations; I just have to prepare them.  I have previous years' menus on which to base this year's menu.  But I need to make out my grocery list, shop the ethnic stores for some of the items, make some of the sweets that can be made ahead of time, and then, there's all the cleaning and the cooking.  I have a 5-7 page typed to do list/schedule to help me with that! 
My to do list/schedule is a source of amusement for several of my friends and family, but it has meant that the actual ceremony flows smoothly, without any last minute rushing around in search of needed items.  The monks really appreciate this and they never fail to comment on it, observing that everything is so nicely organized.  I'll post my to do list and schedule another day; this post is long enough as it is. 

Wednesday, December 3: Back to Work and More Rain

Today, it rained again, for most of the day.  Light showers for the most part.  We've been without rain for so long that most people were happy that it was raining.  

It was my first day back at the office after being off for over a week.  I spent most of the morning dealing with mail and phone calls.  I was able to run a couple of quick errands during my lunch break though, going to the bank and to the pharmacy.

It was still raining during my commute home.  I came home feeling tired, but I've had a relaxed evening, video chatting with my daughter and phoning my friend. 

How was your day?  Did you have a busy day?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tuesday, December 2: Rain (and Today'sTo Do List)

It is raining here, today!  For us, after 3 years of drought, the rain is a blessing (we desperately need it) even though there are associated problems (mud slides in areas made bare by fires during the summer and fall, slippery roads, possible flash floods, etc.).  Right now, we are having gentle showers in the area where I live and my garden is thirstily absorbing all the wonderful rain.

I like rainy days.  Especially since I am home from work, today.  I have planned to do some sewing and a few other things.

Today's To Do List:

- Put away the laundry hung up to dry overnight
- Do another load of laundry and hang up to dry
- Cook the pork chops I bought yesterday (at $.99/lb. a great bargain)
- Do the dishes
- Finish cutting up the nightdress and start sewing
- Start making holiday gifts

What's the weather in your area, today?  What have you planned to do today?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Another Long Drive Home and December Goals

Yesterday, I drove daughter back to her apartment; it poured with rain during part of the drive.  There was a lot of traffic, too, with people traveling after the  Thanksgiving holiday.  Later, in the evening, I baked a batch of mini cornbread muffins for daughter to take to a potluck breakfast at the university on Tuesday morning.

Today, I dropped daughter off on campus, put gas to the car and drove myself home.  This time, there was thick fog and intermittent light rain on the drive home.  After I got home, I put more gas to the car in readiness for the week, went grocery shopping, picked some oranges from the tree in my garden, did a load of laundry and hung it up to dry, and took the trash cans to the curb for trash pick up, tomorrow morning.  Called one of my aunts, had a phone call from a cousin and another from a friend - the family and friends spoke of my balance wheel is nicely plumped.     

Since today is December 1, it's time to make some goals for December!

Spiritual: Prepare for my annual year-end almsgiving. 

Environment: Outside: Continue to spruce up the garden. Inside: Continue to clean and declutter. Get the house ready for the almsgiving.  Decorate for the holidays.

DD: Arrange for her to come home for the holidays; spend some special "us" time together. 

Family: Get together with family once or twice, this month

Friends: Visit with friends, once or twice.

Career: Work on assignments in a timely manner

Finances:  Pay bills.

Health:  Dr's appt.

Leisure/Crafts/Hobbies: Make holiday gifts

Time Management: Multi-task!

Let's see how well I do with my goals this month!

How about you?  Anyone making any goals for December?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

November Goals - Review

This month's goal was to celebrate my 59th birthday by doing 59 good things for myself!

They were to be anything that made me happy, from an hour of crafting time to a vase of fresh roses from the garden; from sleeping in on a Sunday morning to a well-organized clothes closet.   Anything that pleased me. 

I didn't keep an exact list, but there were vases of roses, visits with my daughter, vacation days off from work, freshly baked muffins and brownies, visits to the library and hours of reading, computer games and crossword puzzles,  sleeping in, afternoon naps, and evenings spent relaxing instead of doing housework and filing!  I think I met my goal, this month. 

How about you?  Did you attain your goals for November?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Daily/Weekend To Do List: Saturday, Nov. 29 & Sunday, Nov. 30

I didn't complete my to do list from yesterday.  I dusted and vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom, got together with friends in the evening and started cutting out the nightdress.  But I discovered I didn't have enough fabric to finish cutting it out, so went to the fabric store and put gas to the car on the way to the fabric store and went grocery shopping on my way home from the fabric store.  So, I didn't have time to water the back garden in the evening, as planned, and I didn't repair daughter's quilt.  Will carry those two items forward to today.

Today's to do list:

- Prepare lunch for daughter and her friend who is visiting
- Repair daughter's quilt
- Cut out rest of the nightdress (probably won't have time to sew it today)
- Water the back garden
- Get together with more friends in the evening
- Bake corn bread for daughter
- Pack the car

Daily to do list for tomorrow (Sunday, Nov. 30):

- Drive daughter back to Berkeley
- Take her grocery shopping
- Rest

What have you planned to do this weekend?

Balance Wheel

Several years ago, I was feeling particularly stretched thin between working full time, being a single parent, taking care of a parent in declining health, looking after the house and garden, being active in my daughter's school and my temple, etc., etc., etc.  I felt my life was unbalanced, that I was spending enormous amounts of time and energy on certain aspects while neglecting other areas.  During this time, I was fortunate enough to find out about something called a balance wheel. 

The concept is very simple.  Draw a circle and divide it into 10 or 12 segments.  Each segment represents an area of  your life:  Spirituality, Environment, Spouse/Significant Other, Children/Family, Friends/Community, Career, Finances, Health/Self Care, Education/Self Improvement, Time Management, Fun/Hobbies/Leisure, Goals, etc. 

Then, evaluate each one on a scale of 1 to 10 or low-medium-high to determine how satisfied you are with each area.  The center of the circle is the worst point, the outer rim of the circle represents the best.  The closer you are to the outside rim, the more satisfied and happier you are with how things are.  The closer you are to the center of the circle, the less satisfied you are with how things are.

The purpose of this exercise is that  when the wheel has been completed, you can see which segments or spokes are low  A fuller wheel will roll along more smoothly.  A wheel with many dips or dents will be wobbly.  The goal is to improve those areas that are not doing as well as you'd like.

When I first drew my balance wheel, it was very wobbly, indeed!  I used a scale of 1-10, with 1 being worst and 10 being best.  So many of my segments were 3 or 4; a few were 5 or 6 and only one or two were 8 and above.  Definitely out of balance.  Over the years, however, I've made great improvements.

One of my problems was, I expected too much, given the demands on my time.  I learned to scale back.  Interaction with friends didn't have to mean having them over to dinner (although that would be nice); it could mean a phone call or an email.   Being an active member in the temple didn't have to mean volunteering my time at each and every function; it could be supporting the activities by donating goods or making a monetary contribution.  Leisure/fun didn't have to mean a whole afternoon of reading or knitting; it could be 30 minutes in the car while waiting for daughter during piano or dance classes.

I made myself a new balance wheel every month, and evaluated it almost daily at the very beginning, then weekly, then 3 times a month - at the beginning, middle and the end.  These days, I tend to evaluate it twice a month, at the middle and at the end, with the end of the month evaluation becoming the basis for the next month's starting balance.   I used to do this exercise on the organizing forum I'd been a member of for almost 10 years; since that forum is closing, I will continue with my balance wheel evaluations here, on my blog. 

So, having said all that, here is my month-end balance for November:

Spirituality: 10; Well plumped; attended the monthly prayer meeting last weekend; planning for my December prayer gathering.

Environment: 7; Needs plumping! Will continue with decluttering and cleaning.

DD: 10; Nicely plumped! She's home for Thanksgiving!

Family: 9;  Also well plumped. Spoke with one aunt on the phone, on Thanksgiving day; received an e-card from a cousin; had Thanksgiving dinner with another aunt, several cousins, and their families.

Friends: 9; Again, well plumped, since I celebrated Thanksgiving with some friends and spoke on the phone with others.

Career: 9; Had been rather stressful, but I've taken a week off over the Thanksgiving holidays and I've received a very nice email from my supervisor telling me how much she appreciates my work and telling me not to get stressed, she's never had any issues with my work, productivity, etc. Nicely plumped, I'm thinking.

Finances: 8; It's being maintained; continuing to budget and managing to meet expenses.

Health: 5; Definitely a spoke that needs improvement. I need to have a healthier life style and take better care of myself.

Leisure/Crafts/Hobbies: 7; Managing to keep it balanced; if I take computer time as "leisure", then, well plumped! Also, started a new sewing project and I'm almost finished reading one of my library books and there's another waiting to be read.

Time Management: 6; I am doing OK, but could improve this spoke.

And there we have it! My end of November Balance Wheel.

Anyone else tried something similar?  How balanced would you say your life is?  

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Battle Fought and Lost

I lost my battle with resisting the Black Friday fabric sale!

I did put up a valiant fight, though.  I decided I would fight the lure of the sale with fabric already in my stash.  I took out a length of flannel from the stash and started cutting out a nightdress for me, but there wasn't enough fabric!  The pattern called for 4.75 yards and I had 4 yds.  I even cut one sleeve a bit smaller than the pattern, in an attempt to make do.  I had enough remnants to cut the facings.  But I didn't have enough for the yoke.  And no coordinating fabric to substitute.

It was a good excuse to justify a trip to the fabric store and the sale!  I bought a yard of the same print as the flannel I had started cutting out, for $1.74 (regular price: $6.99/yd.), and 1 yd. of solid blue flannel ($1.49/yd.; regular price: $5.99/yd.) to coordinate with the blue print flannel I had in the stash (the fabric store didn't have that same print in blue; they only had the purple and the pink of that print).  Now, I have enough fabric for the two nightdresses I was going to sew for myself.

And then, I succumbed to temptation and bought  almost a yard of a pink print flannel for $1.52, and 5 yds. (at $1.74/yd.; regular price: $6.99/yd) of another blue print flannel!

BUT, I resisted the baby yarn on sale for 50% off and the Christmas/holiday print fabric on sale for 75% off!   I even have the battle scars from that resistance in the form of a bump on my head from the bolt of fabric that attacked me from the upper shelf!  Apparently, the pole on the shopping cart knocked off a bolt of fabric - I heard someone shout, "Watch out!" just as the bolt of fabric hit my head!  Fortunately, I am OK.  As I told the concerned saleslady, it helps to have a hard head!  :D

I spent a total of $14.66 with sales tax.  I'm OK with spending that.  According to the receipt, I saved $40.60 by buying at 75% off regular price.

Did you go shopping today?  Did you get a good bargain?

"Black Friday" Daily To Do List

It was lovely, yesterday, to spend Thanksgiving day with my daughter, some of our friends and several family members.   It was a sunny, warm day, too.

Yesterday, before we went to Thanksgiving dinner with friends, I called and wished one of my aunts and another good friend, put away the laundry that had been hung up to dry overnight, washed one of daughter's quilts,and helped daughter assemble fruit platters to take with us as our contribution to Thanksgiving dinner.

Several members of my family were planning to go shopping to get "Black Friday" deals.  I don't usually go "Black Friday" shopping.  However, the fabric store has advertised a 70% off on certain select fabrics and  50% off baby yarn, which is very tempting.  Except, I still have some of the fabric I bought after Christmas, last year, on a similar sale!  I have resolved not to buy anymore fabric or yarn until I've finished my stash, so I will resist the lure of a 50-70% off sale!  It will be good for the budget, as well.

Today's Daily To Do List:

- Repair daughter's quilt
- Dust living room and dining area
- Vacuum
- Cut out and start sewing a nightdress
- Clean the bathroom
- Water the back garden
- Get together with friends in the evening

What are your plans for "Black Friday"?  Do you go shopping?  Or do you avoid the shops on this particular day?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving (and Daily To Do List)

Happy Thanksgiving!  Today, I am especially thankful for being able to spend this day with my daughter, with extended family, and with friends.  Daughter and I have been invited to celebrate Thanksgiving with both friends and family!  So, that's what we'll do.  We'll go to our friends' in the early afternoon and to our family later in the evening.

I was able to do most of yesterday's to do list.  I finished putting away things, did two loads of laundry, grocery shopped, paid 2 bills, and watered the front garden. 

Today's to do list:

- Help daughter assemble fruit platter
- Put away laundry which was hung up to dry overnight
- Do another load or two of laundry
- Tidy up family room
- Put gas to the car
- Visit friends
- Visit family

What are your plans for today?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Daily To Do List - Wednesday, Nov. 26

I was able to accomplish most of the tasks on my list, yesterday: we tidied up daughter's apartment, took the trash and recycling out, handed in the temporary parking permit, packed the car, put gas, drove home, unpacked, cleaned the litter box, went over to the neighbors' to collect my mail, called a friend, emailed another, and started putting things away.  I didn't finish putting away everything, but that can be moved over to today.

Today's to do list:

- Finish putting away things
- Do a load or two of laundry
- Grocery shop
- Go downtown with daughter?
- Paperwork/bills
- Water the front garden

What have you planned to do today?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Daily To Do List - Tuesday, Nov. 25

I am on vacation this week, it being a holiday week, so the daily to do's are a little different.  Today's main item to do is drive daughter home for the Thanksgiving holidays.

Today's to do list:

- Tidy up the apartment
- Pack the car
- Put gas to the car
- Have daughter take out the trash & recycling
- Drive home (400 miles)
- Unpack the car
- Clean the litter box
- Put away items
- Enjoy being home and having daughter home

What is everyone else planning to do today?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Daily To Do List - Monday, Nov. 24

I am someone who loves to make lists and 'to do' lists are one of my favorites.  Practically every day, I make a daily to do list.  Sometimes, it's a weekend to do list or, occasionally, a weekly to do list.  My to do lists keep me focused.  Some days, all of the tasks on the list get accomplished.  Some days, however, some items go undone for whatever reason - a lack of time, a lack of energy or motivation, etc.  But that's OK.  What doesn't get done usually get carried over to another day.  However, I've learned that it is important to keep a daily to do list to a reasonable, "do-able" list of tasks.  Otherwise, I just end up feeling overwhelmed.

I used to post my daily to do lists on the forum that will be closing.  So, I've decided to post my daily lists here, on my blog, instead.  This week's to do lists will be a little different because I am on vacation for Thanksgiving.

So, today's Daily To Do List:

- Blog Posts
- Vacuum daughter's apartment for her
- Post Office - go with daughter to mail some letters and cards
- Pay rent check and inquire about parking permit
- Help daughter pack
- Read my library book

Do you make daily(weekly) to do lists?    If so, please feel free to share your lists.

My Mother's Cookbooks

I am a bit weird in that I enjoy reading cookbooks, as if they were novels. There's nothing I like better than to curl up with a cookbook or two and read through the recipes.  The other night, I re-read some of my mother's cookbooks and I was transported to Britain in the late 1950s and early 1960s!

Mother's cookbooks are actually 4 booklets featuring about 100 recipes, each. "Book of Poultry", printed in 1958; "Cooking for Two", printed in 1959; "Good Fare", printed in 1962; and "Cold Cookery" that is undated, but most probably printed before 1962, judging from the price. The 1962 booklet was priced 2 shillings and 6 pence; the other 3 booklets all were priced 2 shillings each; so I got to play detective, as well as armchair/time traveller!

I can picture my mother as a young wife, buying these cookbooks, looking through the recipes, and perhaps trying a few of them. She gave me these booklets when I first became interested in cooking, in my teens, and I've made a few of the recipes.

But mostly, I like to read through them.  Just reading them is a treat!  Trifles and fruit cakes! Buttered eggs and crumpets! Sponge cakes and cheese straws! The recipes call for butter and cream and lard. Nothing low fat or low calorie about these recipes.

Some of the dishes are not for the faint of heart - pigeon pie, for example, the directions for which start with "Clean and prepare the pigeon, removing the head, neck and feet" and end with "The pigeon's feet may be stuck through the hole in the pastry for decoration."!!! Nowhere in the recipe does it mention if the feet should first be cooked or not.  Nor am I quite sure if I'd consider a bird's feet sticking up through the pie pastry to be "decoration"! LOL.

Most of the recipes give specific quantities of ingredients, but a few leave it up to the cook. Irish Potato Cakes, for example, state, "bake or boil some potatoes in their skins, remove the inside and beat with a little milk, plenty of salt and a little beaten egg, if liked" before being cut into rounds or triangles and baked "on a hot griddle or in a hot oven" (no temp. given for a hot oven) until brown; serve warm, they urge, "with plenty of butter."  My kind of cooking! LOL.

I've gone through and culled my cookbook collection considerably, but I'll continue to hold on to these 50+ year old cookbooks. Together, the 4 booklets take up less than 1 inch of space on the shelf, but they have a certain power to transport me to a special time and place!

In addition to the above booklets, I also have a handwritten blue cardboard bound school notes book (used to be called a Monitor's Exercise Book) of recipes Mother had copied down from various sources.  Written in faded blue ink on yellowed pages, it is something else of my mother's that I treasure. 

Does anyone else have old family cookbooks?

Sunday, November 23, 2014


All things are subject to change; it's one of those universal truths that one finds across all cultures.  But many of us don't like change.  I know that I don't like change now, I never did.

My mother, however, used to always say that change was good.  She welcomed change.  She saw it as an opportunity, a chance for something new and different, perhaps improved and better.  She chose to look for possibilities.  I think my mother was a wise woman.  And as her daughter, I feel that I, too, ought to search out the possibilities and see the good when changes take place.

For the past  10 years (!), I've participated in a forum that is going to close in a few days.  For 10 years, this forum was a constant in my life, checking in on a daily basis, sometimes several times a day!  As I went from being first a lurker on the forum, to a posting member, and finally, a moderator, I found a group of people who were kind, generous with their time and advice, supportive, funny, non-judgmental, and compassionate.  For  10 years, we shared our organizing challenges, whether it was dealing with clutter, that pile of papers stacked on our table, keeping up with laundry, putting together a weekly meal plan, or finding balance in our lives. 

Over the years, we shared bits of ourselves and our lives.  We shared both good news and bad, joys and frustrations, accomplishments and failures.  We rejoiced over graduations, weddings, births, and job promotions; we prayed over ill health, difficulties with relationships, and job losses; we sorrowed when loved ones passed away.   We cheered when we completed our daily to do lists, competed to see who could get rid of the most clutter, conferred honorary titles on each other, had friendly rivalries, and indulged in the occasional whine.  I received my nickname of "Bless" through the forum.

Friendships were formed, even though most of us haven't actually met each other.  Some of the ladies I met through the forum probably know more about me than some of my personal friends and family.  They know how hard I paddle under the water in order to appear to be gliding effortlessly on the surface.

In a couple of days, the forum will close and we won't have that venue for interaction.   We will definitely miss it and feel the change.  It feels like we are saying goodbye to some of our good friends.  Some of us will keep in touch through emails and social media.  But it probably won't be the same as before.

Change is difficult.  But, I am hearing my mother's voice, saying change is good.  So, I will look forward, with hope, to the change and the new opportunities it might bring.

How about you?  Do you like change?  Do you see it as an opportunity for something new?  Or do you tend to wish things could remain the same?


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Weekend Plans

This was a rather stressful work week, so I am really looking forward to the weekend.  Tomorrow, I've plans to do some housework, run a few errands, do a bit of household shopping, and attend a prayer gathering in the evening.  It'll be a bit of a busy start to the weekend, and I don't know if I'll have the energy to do it all, but those are the plans.  On Sunday, I'll be driving to visit daughter, again.  As I said, I'm really looking forward to this weekend. 

What about you?  Do you have plans for the weekend?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Redoing the Budget

Today, the university system my daughter attends voted to increase tuition by at least 5%, starting next year.  I suppose there were valid reasons for the tuition increase; after all, costs are increasing on an almost daily basis and additional revenue is needed to meet the rising costs.

Unfortunately, my salary doesn't increase and there is no easy way for me to increase my revenue to meet my rising costs.  The tuition increase will mean an additional $200 per month.    Time to redo my budget, I guess. 

Belt tightening, anyone? 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

This Day's Blessings

Today was one of those crazy, hectic days at the office, which left me feeling quite depleted and longing for retirement.  As I drove home, I recited my devotions as usual, and, at the end of the devotions, I asked for a grateful heart with which to receive this day's blessings. 

Several years ago, I got into the habit of writing down at least 5 things to be grateful for each day, in my diary.  I have discovered that actively looking will reveal an abundance of blessings in each day.

Today, my blessings included having a job, which enables me to provide for myself and my daughter, which I usually enjoy, not withstanding the occasional crazy, hectic days like today.

I will have another rather hectic day at the office, tomorrow, too, as I strive to meet a schedule deadline for a project.  No doubt I'll be stressed by the end of the day.  But I will look for each day's blessings and know myself to be blessed.

Do you make it a point to look for each day's blessings?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Post No. 101: Organizing Craft Projects

I didn't realize until I had posted that yesterday's post was my 100th post!  So this is post no. 101 for me!  I must say that I'm enjoying having a blog.

I have always enjoyed crafting.  But it seems like for every craft project I complete, I have another half dozen or so patiently waiting their turn!

I finished making a quilt this summer, but there are 2 more quilts waiting to be worked on! One is a new quilt that is in progress and the other is an old quilt needing repairs.

I finished knitting a sweater, earlier, but waiting patiently for their turn are two other partially knitted tops.  And daughter has sent me a photo of another sweater that she'd like me to knit for her!

I recently finished mending a pair of pyjama pants, but there are more sewing projects waiting.

And there are all the holiday gifts I have been meaning to make...

How do you organize your craft projects so that they get done in a timely manner instead of languishing in the closets and bins?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday - More Grocery Shopping

I went to the other grocery store, today.  I don't often go to two different stores unless one is on the way to the other or on my way home or are located close to each other, in which case, I go to both stores in one trip.  I like to combine trips to save on gas.  But today's grocery store is located just over a mile from my home and the savings were worth the extra trip, I thought.

The two stores I went to this weekend are both owned by the same company; but the store I went to yesterday is the full service one, where they bag your groceries for you, and the one I went to today is the no-frills one where you have to bag your own groceries.  The prices reflect this.  The full service store has green beans for $1.99/lb., store brand peanut butter is on sale for $2/16 oz. jar; cans of condensed cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup for $.79 each (provided you bought 10 participating items), and apple juice was $2.49 or higher.  The no frills store had green beans for $1.49/lb., the same store brand peanut butter (since both stores are owned by the same company) is on sale for $1.49/16 oz. jar; condensed cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup for $.59 each (limit of 12), and apple juice for $1.49. 

Today's grocery shopping was to stock up on some items that were on sale - peanut butter, canned soups, and apple juice.  I also bought a couple of other items:

4 bolillo rolls, $.25@ = $1.00
1 doz. eggs = $1.99
.42 lbs. green beans @$1.49/lb. = $.63
3 cup of noodle soup, 3/$1.00 = $1.00
2 apple juice, $1.49@ = $2.98
2 jars peanut butter, $1.49@ = $2.98
8 cans condensed soup, $.59@ = $4.72
Total spent = $15.30
(No tax on food.)

(I also bought a package of paper plates for the December prayer gathering that I will be hosting, but I don't include that in my grocery total; it's budgeted for separately.  Including the paper plates ($1.50 + $.14 tax), my total came to $16.94.)

I will be sharing the cans of condensed soup with my daughter; four cans for her, four cans for me.  The cup of noodle soups are for me to take to the office for lunch on those days when I don't have any leftovers to take or I haven't got my act together sufficiently to pack a lunch (happens, every so often!)  The apple juice is intended for the December prayer gathering.

Would you shop at different stores if you can save some money by doing so?  Or would the time and effort involved make it not worth your while? 

Saturday: Weekly Grocery Shopping and Meal Planning

I've been eating from the fridge, freezer, and cupboards, this week.

On Wednesday night, I took some leftover rice, added some vermicelli and vegetable soup powder and made a homemade version of rice-a-roni and had that with half of a 2-egg omelette and some of the sauted leeks and potato I had made and brought back with me from Berkeley.

On Thursday night, it was homemade chicken soup from the freezer with French bread I had bought from the farmers market that morning.

Friday night, it was leftover homemade rice-a-roni with the rest of the omelette and some of the sauted leeks and potato.

Today, I took out another container of the chicken and vegetable soup from the freezer and had that for both lunch (as it was, with French bread) and for tonight's dinner (with the addition of some leftover smoked sausage and baked potato).  There's enough soup left over for tomorrow's lunch or dinner, as well).

I took out a package of ham slices, too, to thaw. Not quite sure what I'll make with the ham, yet. I should also take out a package of the frozen eggplant, as well.

I did my grocery shopping this afternoon.  Bought 1 gal. milk ($3.29), bread ($1.29), 2 yogurt cups ($.50@), 2 whole chickens ($.89/lb; $3.23 & $3.37), 2 pkg. cocktail sausages ($2.50@), 2-lb. bacon ends ($4.99; regular packages of sliced bacon are much more expensive; $5.49/12 oz., etc.), 1 can cream of celery soup ($.49 on clearance - dented can), 2 boxed wild rice mix ($1@), 1 bottle oil ($1.99), 2 lb. bananas ($.69/lb), 2 bars chocolate ($.99@).  Spend a total of $30.02.

I put one of the chickens in the freezer, but kept the other one in the fridge to cut up and make a chicken curry for the week.  Froze both packages of cocktail sausages, too.  I will divide the bacon into portions and freeze most of it, as well.

A different store is having a sale on canned cream soups and peanut butter, among other things. I might make a stock-up trip there, tomorrow.

In addition to all the groceries I bought, I picked an orange from the garden.  It was the only one that was ripe enough to pick. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014


I had a fairly quiet day, today.  I put gas to the car on my way to the office, in the morning, marveling at the fact that gas was $2.97 a gallon.  I can hardly remember the last time when gas was under $3.

Had a productive day at the office.  I'm always happy when I can meet my project deadlines.

Today, I instructed my gardener to cut down the sugarcane bushes in the front garden.  They were more dead than alive due to the heat during the summer and a lack of water.  They will be replaced with some cuttings I have taken from a succulent plant in the back garden.  I was trying to do edible landscaping, but it's hard to do drought-tolerant edible landscaping.  

I had a relaxed evening.  I find that I don't have a lot of energy on a Friday evening.  So, some TV and video chatting with daughter for a restful evening. 

How was your Friday?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thursday: Flu Vaccinations and French Bread

Today has been a busy day.  The first day back at work, after being away for a few days, always tend to be a bit crazy.  On top of that, everyone wants his or her projects done yesterday, especially with the holidays approaching.

I got my flu vaccination, today; I will count that as one of my 59 self-care things for this month.  I also went to the farmers market and bought myself a loaf of my favorite French bread.  Crusty bread and homemade chicken soup for dinner.  There's more soup in the freezer for another day.

Once I got home from work, I put away the laundry from yesterday, watched a TV program, called and spoke with my half-sister and video chatted with my daughter.  And just like that, the evening passed in a flash and here it is, midnight, already!

How was your day, today?     

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday and Home Again

I've enjoyed a nice, relaxed, extended weekend/mini vacation visiting my daughter.  But, today, I returned home, again.

I had a pleasant drive home; I guess I am getting used to the 6+ hour drives by myself.  Still a bit nervous about driving alone, but I'm a firm believer in the power of prayers.

I reached home in the early afternoon, unpacked, cleaned the cat's litter box, picked up my mail from my neighbor, returned some phone calls, watered the front garden, and did two loads of laundry.  Both loads have been hung up to dry overnight.

Tomorrow, I will return to the office.  I think I can deal with a two-day work week.

How was your Wednesday?   

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

That's the Way the Money Goes

"A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle,
That's the way the money goes."

We are all familiar with the nursery rhyme, aren't we?   Things cost a lot more than a penny, these days, but how the money goes is still the same.

Today, I took $20 with me and went to the stores.  I wanted to buy a couple of items for an upcoming prayer gathering, a few grocery items for daughter, and a couple of treats for us to celebrate my birthday.

First, we went to the dollar store.  I bought a white plastic table covering, a package of small paper plates, a dozen eggs, a bottle of soda, a package of granola bars, and some chocolate candy (all, $1.00, each).  Spent $6.38.

Next, we went to the Indian store to buy 4 samosas ($1.00 each) and a package of tea (ginger chai; $5.00).  Our total came to $9.00.

And finally, we stopped by the neighborhood convenience store to buy a container of hazelnut flavored coffee creamer ($3.00).

We had the samosas for tea; there's one leftover which I will have tomorrow.  1 egg was used (with the last egg left in the old package) to make a pan of brownies; 5 more were hard-boiled and 3 of them were made into egg salad for tomorrow's lunches and the other 2 will be kept for lunches later in the week; the granola bars will be for snacks during the week and the chocolate candy are a treat for daughter.  The white plastic table cover and paper plates are for next month's prayer gathering. 

I had $1.62 left from my $20 and daughter shook her head in disbelief at how quickly the money was spent.  And I was reminded of the nursery rhyme I quoted above.  Although, we might have to revise and update it for the present days:

"A dollar for a dozen eggs
Five dollars for the chai tea
That's the way twenty dollars go."

How does your money go?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Making a Box

Daughter needed to mail something and needed a small box for the purpose.  Unfortunately, she didn't have a suitable box on hand.  I guess we could have bought one from the post office.  But where's the fun in that?

Instead, we emptied out a box of facial tissues (put the tissues into a zippered bag).  And we cut the box down to size.

Box Making 1
 Fold in the ends and glue in place.

Box Making 2

Box Making 3
 The lower half of the box:
Box Making 4

We did the same to make the lid, using the top portion of the tissue box, using some pieces of the cut off sides to cover the opening which had a piece of cellophane.

Box and Lid
We used some saved up bubblewrap to cushion the item she was mailing and closed the box.  We cut up a brown grocery bag to use to wrap the box for posting.  Then, we walked to the post office in the evening and mailed it.

Would you have bought a box to mail something small?  Or would you have made a box out of something you had on hand? 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Food Waste

One of the things I hate to do is waste food.  Usually, I am very good about using up the food I buy (buying just enough for a week or two) or preserving it in some way (usually by freezing it).  However, occasionally, (usually when I have a family gathering or party at home and have 15-25 people to lunch or dinner), I tend to buy a bit too much, don't use everything I buy, and end up tossing it. 

So, on Friday evening, when I cleaned out the fridge, I saw that a cucumber I had bought for the prayer meeting luncheon, but hadn't got around to using, was well on its way to becoming a science experiment!  Much as it pained me to do so, it had to go.  I put it on the compost pile, where it will eventually decompose into fertilizer for the garden.  Even when I have to toss something, I try to salvage as much as I can!

In addition to the cucumber, there was a beyond-its-prime tomato, a red onion, and the remains of a bunch of celery.  I cut up everything and froze for use in soup.  Now my freezer is full of all sorts of odds and ends to be made into soup, this winter.  

What about you?  How do you manage to keep food waste to a minimum?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Finally, Friday

Had a busy day at the office, today, and a very productive one, too.   I managed to complete all my projects for the week.  Now I can look forward to the weekend without worrying about unfinished work at the office.

It was another warm day, with highs of 89F downtown.  I went to the pharmacy during my lunch break to pick up some medications.  I now have a $5 "bonus" coupon that I can use towards a future purchase.  Sometimes I use these bonus coupons to buy toiletry items.  Other times, I use them to buy holiday gifts. 

In the evening, after I came home, I cleaned the fridge and did the dishes.  Picked two oranges from the tree in my garden and ate one, right away.  Freshly picked oranges!  Such a treat!  A friend called and I had a brief chat with her.  Later, I wrote to another friend.  And video chatted with my daughter.  And just like that, Friday came and went!

How was your Friday?  Did you look forward to Friday all week?  And then, when it arrived, did it sort of fast-forward and end too quickly?  Well, we can all look forward to the weekend now, can't we?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Quiet Thursday

It's been a quiet day, today.  A warm day, with the temperature going up to 90F.  But I was in the air conditioned office, where it was cold enough that a sweater was needed.  I didn't go outside at all, today.  Even during my lunch break, I just stayed in the office and read a book.

I didn't go to the weekly Farmers Market, either, today.  I still have the three persimmons I bought last week - still waiting for them to get ripe enough to eat them.  Persimmons have to be ripe to the point of being almost over-ripe to be sweet enough to eat them. 

After I came home, in the evening, my neighbor phoned me and I had a brief chat with her.  I had visited her, yesterday, after work, and given her some of the muffins I had baked.  She was calling me to say she enjoyed them. 

In the evening, I video chatted with my daughter, wished a friend for her birthday, watched a program on TV, paid a bill, and booked daughter's flight home for winter break. 

And that was how the day was spent.  Doing quiet, ordinary, everyday things.

How was your Thursday?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Holiday Gifts Planning

50 days till Christmas!  57 days till New Year's Day.  I updated my holiday card & gift lists today.  I say holiday, because only some of the cards and gifts are for Christmas; the rest are for New Year's, because I have family and friends who, like me, are not Christian.  I've just over 30 recipients on the card list, of which approximately half are overseas and the rest domestic; and just under 40 recipients on the gift list.  And a budget of $120 for everything from cards and postage to gifts and bows. 

Time to start making those gifts I've been planning to make!  I make most of the gifts I give, rather than buy them.  I will leave the discussion about how commercial all the holiday preparations have become, to others.  For me, the holiday season is a time of celebration and gift-giving is very much a part of it.  My gifts tend to be homemade with love and it gives me great pleasure to make them and to present them to others.  I allocate $10 per month in my budget for holiday gifts and that is an amount that is reasonable for me. 

Every year, I make jam to give as gifts.  Making jam with fruit from the garden keeps the costs down, since all I need to buy are sugar, pectin, and the jars.  The canning jars tend to be the most expensive item for me.
This year, I'm also planning to make quite a few items from fabric I have in my stash.  My challenge is to avoid duplicating gifts that I have crafted.  I try not to give the same type of gifts two years in a row.  The jam, however, is the exception to that rule.  I've friends who look forward to my jams every year.   

Now that I've updated my gift list, it is time to decide what I'll be making for each recipient and start making them.

Anyone else started planning holiday gifts?