Monday, September 29, 2014

Rubber Chicken

A whole chicken, roasted, can provide so many portions!

I buy whole chicken when it goes on sale for $.99/lb. or under.  That is my buying price.  Of course, I prefer to purchase it at under $.99/lb. whenever I can, but I will not buy it for more than $.99/lb.  I usually buy 2 or 3 chickens when on sale and freeze them and usually, they go on sale before I use the last frozen chicken.

Since we are a family of 2 (daughter and I) one chicken can serve us for more meals than if we were a larger family.  Especially these days, when daughter and I are living by ourselves.  So, the first thing we do is cut up the roast chicken and freeze half of it for future meals.

The remaining half a roast chicken will provide each of us with at least a week's worth of dinners.  Roast chicken with potatoes or pasta or rice and vegetables; sliced roast chicken breast in a sandwich, sliced up in a stir-fry with vegetables and served over rice; strips of meat pulled off the bones and sauted with sliced onions and spices, or cubed and mixed up with sauce and made into pot pies,or chicken fried rice, and finally, the remaining carcass boiled to make a broth, which, with the addition of vegetables and rice or pasta, can be made into several servings of soup.

Last week, daughter bought an already roasted chicken, on sale for $5.00.  This was more costly than buying a chicken and roasting it herself, but for her, it was a more convenient option (I chose to buy a chicken and roast it for myself).

Daughter froze some of her roast chicken and had the rest for meals throughout the week.  Yesterday, I pulled off the rest of the meat from the bones and sauted it with onions for dinner (made enough for our dinner plus there's enough to make into fried rice for our lunch, today).

And then, I made soup from the carcass.  I added some potatoes, carrots and frozen vegetables including some bell pepper cores that I had frozen specifically for soup making (I always freeze the trimmings and cores and other bits and pieces of vegetables to add to soups) and made enough soup for 6-9 servings.  I kept some in the fridge for her to have during this week and froze 2 containers of soup (each with 2-3 servings) for future meals.  She can thaw and reheat them and add some rice or pasta to them and they'll make a quick lunch or dinner for her.

In the meantime, I've a partly eaten roast chicken in the fridge at home, waiting to be made into some soup for myself.  Guess I'll be doing that, when I get home, tonight.

Do you have a price above which you will not buy some items?  Do you roast chicken or buy already roasted chicken?  If so, what do you make with the leftover chicken?  How do you make it stretch (thus the term, "rubber chicken") to get maximum value for your money?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Looking for Happiness

"Look for happiness and you will find it", the slip of paper inside my fortune cookie assured.

Well, that's nice and trite, I thought.  And yet...

The pursuit of happiness is one of three Creator endowed inalienable rights, according to the Declaration of Independence (the other 2 rights being life and liberty). 

That's a pretty powerful endorsement for the search for happiness, isn't it?  Actually, I am rather intrigued with the inclusion of happiness among those rights.  Life and liberty, I can understand; those are worthy entities to be identified as inalienable rights and be included in such a significant document.  But to include the pursuit of happiness!  Perhaps life and liberty, by themselves, without happiness, are not enough.

Buddhist meditations on loving-kindness usually begin with the phrase, "May all beings be well and happy."

Obviously, happiness is a very important entity.

So, how does one pursue happiness?  What does one do?  Where does one look?  Where would one find it?

I believe that happiness is a rather individual thing and differs from one person to another.  For me, happiness is a state of being.  It is being content with who I am and what I have, for the most part.  Daughter often remarks that I am easily pleased.  And she's right!  It really doesn't take a lot to make me happy. 

This is not to say that I am happy all the time.  There are times when I worry and feel anxious, times when I fret, times when I am angry, or hurt and sad.  But, for the most part, I am happy and content.

So where do I look for my happiness?  I look for it in my everyday life.  In all the things I do and experience during the course of the day.  Routine things.  Ordinary, everyday tasks.  Regular happenings.

And do I find it?  Yes!

I find it in my daughter's sleepy, "Good morning", at the other end of the phone, when we call each other to wake each other and in her almost as sleepy "Good night" at the end of the day; I find it in the loud purring of the cat as he nudges me for his treat of tuna; I find it in the act of saying my daily devotions and listening to daughter saying hers; I find it in the cup of coffee I make and drink (in my favorite mug, stirred with my favorite spoon); in having a job I enjoy doing (although there are days when I'd rather sleep in than go to the office!);  I can even find happiness in the commute to and from work (I enjoy driving and I meditate and listen to music while I drive; for 4 years, I drove 4 hours each day, 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening).

I find happiness in doing all the small, money-saving things I do which enable me to live debt-free.  I find much happiness in my leisure time activities such as reading, gardening, doing crafts, etc.  There are some household tasks that make me happy, as well: organizing my linen closet, for example (other household tasks, such as scrubbing the toilet, happen to be less happiness inducing, but I find pleasure in the knowledge that the house is clean; messy, perhaps, and cluttered, but, clean.)

I find happiness in nature - the sight of a red-tailed hawk circling above, a hummingbird flitting about the garden, the purple of a thistle growing and flowering on the side of the road.  I find happiness in harvesting the bounty of the garden and turning it into the jars of jam and chutney that fill the kitchen cupboard, waiting to be given as gifts during the holidays.  

And I find happiness in family and friends.  An aunt's phone call, a friend's visit, an exchange of emails, a cheerful greeting and wave hello with a neighbor, are all sources of happiness.

I look for happiness in my everyday life and I find it everywhere, spread throughout my day.  

How about you?  What makes you happy?  Where do you look to find your happiness? 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fan Quilt

Fan Quilt
This is one of two queen sized quilts in the same pattern, that I made back in 1981.  Daughter has the second quilt.  This is a pattern known as Grandmother's Fan and Oriental Fan.  The "fans" are pieced and appliqued to the blue background rectangles, which were then joined together to make the quilt top.  It is very minimally hand quilted, just a single outline quilting along the outer edge of the fan.  I prefer piecing the patches to quilting.   Like the majority of my quilts, it is made of fabric I had in my fabric stash, mostly leftover from my mother's sewing (she used to make all our clothes).  I did buy the blue fabric and the backing, which isn't shown. 

I first became interested in patchwork when I was a teenager, in 1974.  I had seen a patchwork cushion cover in a magazine.  It was pieced using English paper piecing, where paper templates were cut out first and covered with fabric, and then whip stitched together.  English paper piecing is hand sewn.  The cushion was composed of 1-inch diameter hexagons and diamonds.

My second patchwork piecing project was a quilt.  Composed of 2-inch diameter hexagons, it, too, was English paper pieced.  It was a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt.  The year was 1976.  I no longer have this quilt top - I wore it out over the years. 

Since then, I've made several more quilts.  I have given away some of them.  Others are worn and tearing.  But others are barely used and look as new as the day I made them. 

Currently, I am sewing a new Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt.  With larger hexagons than the previous Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt.  I'll post pictures of it when I have finished it.

Does anyone else like to do patchwork quilting?  Do you have quilts you have made?  Do you buy the fabric especially for quilts or do you use scraps leftover from other sewing projects?


Woke up by 6:00 a.m. and did my usual morning routine of morning devotions, feeding the cats, having a cup of coffee, getting dressed and calling daughter to say good morning to her (and let her know it was time to wake up!)  Then, a slow drive on the freeway to the office.  It seems there's more traffic on the freeway every day.

Today wasn't as quiet as yesterday.  I received an alert notice from the bank, about "unusual activity" on a credit card, which caused a bit of concern and required an unplanned visit to the bank, during my lunch break, to attend to that matter.  The fact that I was able to resolve it, without any unpleasant consequences, is a blessing and something for which to be grateful.  Since I was already at the bank, I went ahead and took care of one other item I had needed to do.  It meant one less errand I had to remember and do, later this week.

And, since I was already out and about, I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up my medication refills.

Later, on my way home from work, I stopped to put gas to the car.  Once I was home, I put water to the back garden.

Then, I video chatted with daughter, who was feeling very homesick and sad and overwhelmed and in tears.  What she wanted was a hug, but all I could do from 400 miles away was talk to her, and sympathize with her and reassure her that it would be OK, she will be fine, the challenges she's facing can be overcome and she will overcome them.  I said a blessing over her and a loving-kindness meditation on her behalf.  I like to think that it helped. 

I had planned to do some cleaning and sewing, but those projects didn't get done.  It doesn't matter.  My daughter needed me to be there, talking with her, more than the kitchen floor needed mopping.  There will be time for housework, later.

Daughter thanked me before she said goodnight.  I think I made the right choice to spend time with my daughter instead of doing housework, don't you?  My kitchen floor never thanks me for mopping it. 

How was your day? 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


A quiet day, today.  Went to work, came home and brought the trash cans in, said Hi to my neighbor across the street who asked about daughter, checked the grocery ads for this week's deals, watered the front garden, watched a favorite TV show, wrote a couple of emails, watered the houseplants, and video chatted with daughter.

Raisin buns and banana for breakfast, roast chicken and yellow rice for lunch, a strawberry/cereal bar for afternoon snack, tomato soup and roast chicken with lingonberry sauce for dinner.

I've packed 2 raisin buns for tomorrow's breakfast and more roast chicken and rice for lunch, to take to the office. 

As I said, a quiet day.  Filled with everyday blessings:  a safe commute to the office and back, friendly neighbors, dear friends, good food, a pleasant half hour spent in the garden, being able to see and talk to daughter even when we are miles apart, a purring cat coming up for cuddles, pleasant weather, etc., and so much more.

How was your day?  Did you have a quiet day, too?  I hope it was full of blessings, too.


Monday, September 22, 2014


Had a busy day at the office, today.  But I went for a walk during my lunch break and did some window shopping.  On the way back, I stopped in at a Japanese bakery and bought a bag of raisin buns ($3.50 for 7 buns) and a curry pan (deep fried bread roll with a curry filling; $2.00).  Amount spent was $5.50.

After work, I came home, took the trash cans to the curb for trash pick up in the morning, had a chat with my neighbor who was out for a walk, and e-mailed birthday greetings to a cousin.  Later, I video chatted with my daughter.  I also cooked the chicken I had bought.  But instead of cutting it up and making a curry, I decided to baste it with teriyaki sauce and roast it; it was easier.

Now, it is almost midnight, so, I had better get off the computer, pack my lunch to take to the office tomorrow, clean the cat's litter box and go to sleep.  6:00 a.m. comes too soon!

Hope you all had a lovely Monday and a good start to your week.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Balanced Sunday

Today was a lovely day.  In the morning, I video chatted with a friend.  Later, I changed my bed sheets, did 2 loads of laundry (hung up to dry), dusted the living room and dining area, cleaned one bathroom and cleaned the kitchen counters.  I also went through the dish pan where I store all the food containers and organized them.

In the afternoon, I attended the monthly prayer meeting.  One of my aunts,  a cousin, and a friend rode there and back with me.  Afterwards, I invited them to tea and we spent a delightful hour or so, having tea and biscuits and talking.

Later in the evening, I put away the laundry, spoke on the phone with a friend, and video chatted with daughter.

Today, there was a nice balance between housework and time spent relaxing with family and friends.   A nice balance between productivity and leisure.  I felt that many of the segments of my life were touched upon - spirituality, environment, daughter, family, friends, leisure, time management, etc.  It was a very good day.

How was your Sunday?  Did you enjoy your day?           

This Week's Grocery Shopping

A week ago Thursday, I had stopped by the weekly farmers market near my office and bought 2 crusty bread rolls ($1.25@) and an 8 oz. jar of honey ($4.75). Total spent: $7.25.  That brought my grocery totals up to $22.99.
I considered going grocery shopping over the weekend, but I decided not to - there seemed to be so much food in the house, in the freezer and fridge and pantry cabinets, that I decided to make my meals from what I had on hand.

So, last week, I ate from the freezer, fridge and pantry cabinets: pasta with tomato sauce made from scratch one night, with enough leftovers for several lunches; scrambled eggs and fried potatoes another night as "breakfast for dinner"; leftover rice, lentils and okra from the previous week; tuna salad; etc.   I had cereal for breakfast on most days and doughnuts that a colleague brought to the office on Friday; nectarines, apples and guavas for fresh fruit and canned pears; lemon puff cookies, roasted cashew nuts, and a spicy Indian snack mix for snacks.
Then, today, I went grocery shopping.  Spent $24.99 and bought:

1 whole chicken, $.89/lb = $4.88
1 gal. milk = $3.49
1 large container of teriyaki sauce = $6.49
2 boxes cake mix, $.99@
2 boxes brownie mix, $.99@
1 ice cream = $2.99
broccoli, @$.99/lb = $.58
bananas, $.63/lb = $1.22
2 cans tuna, $.69@
My grocery totals for September, so far: $22.99 + $24.99 = $47.98
The boxes of cake and brownie mix will be for later in the year for upcoming events; they were on sale and I decided to take advantage of the fact.  Buying items when they are on sale is one way to keep the grocery budget low.
Today, I had pancakes and sausages for brunch; a banana for a snack, cheese and crackers for tea and tomato soup for dinner, with ice cream for dessert.

I have more pancakes and sausages leftover; perhaps for tomorrow's breakfast.  Lunch, tomorrow, will be at a relative's house.  Dinner will probably be rice, chicken curry, lentils and okra.  Or, maybe the leftover tomato soup from tonight's dinner.

I plan to make a curry with the chicken I bought today.  There will be plenty for meals during the week and I also plan to freeze some for future meals.  I don't mind eating the same thing for several meals during the week. 

I haven't made a detailed menu plan for next week, but there will be chicken curry and eggs for protein; cabbage, celery, carrots, beets, and broccoli for fresh vegetables (to be augmented by frozen bell peppers, eggplant, corn, green beans, etc.); apples, bananas, guavas and pomegranate for fresh fruit (plus canned fruit); cereal and cereal bars for breakfasts (as well as the makings of pancakes, etc.); and cookies and ice cream for dessert.  So, lots of options.

Have you a meal plan for the up-coming week?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Black and White Bunny - Another Childhood Memory

Yet another childhood memory:

When I was a child of 5 or 6, my father gave me 2 rabbits as pets.  One was a fully white rabbit, the other was black and white.  One day, I put the black and white bunny into a small wagon that was attached to my tricycle and rode up and down the driveway for awhile.  For some reason, the bunny didn't jump out.  Once I stopped riding, I scooped up the bunny, who appeared to be sleeping, and went indoors.  Others in the household looked at the non-responsive bunny and told me, "That rabbit is dead; you had better give it to us to bury it". 

But I refused to let them take the bunny from me.  I didn't believe it was dead.  It might be sick, but it wasn't dead.  I was going to wait until Father came home.  He was a doctor; I was certain that he could cure the bunny. 

That evening, when Father came home, I showed him the bunny and confided in him, "They are saying it's dead, but I told them you will make it well, again."  Father took the bunny and told me that I had to stay in my room (which adjoined my parents' room) until he attended to the bunny and I wasn't to come in until he called me.  I was fine with that.

Some time later (I don't think it was more than an hour or so), I was called to come in.  I went into my parents' room and there was my black and white bunny, happily hopping around!  My faith in my father was justified!  He had cured my bunny!  I remember showing off the now very much alive bunny to the rest of the household and gloating!  What a good thing I kept the bunny for Father to make well, again!  I knew he could do it!

It was only after Father died that I found out what had really happened.  Members of the household were talking about Father, reminiscing about him.  I was a small child seated on the steps, not engaged in their conversation, but overhearing it.  My father's chauffeur recalled how, one day, he was instructed to drive down to the pet shop to buy a replacement black and white bunny, which was then smuggled into my parents' room (it would not have been difficult, as their room could be entered from outside).

Apparently Father didn't want me to know that the other bunny had died.  Maybe he didn't want to disillusion me that my faith in his healing powers was misplaced.  Perhaps he didn't want to disappoint me; that was a very high pedestal on which I had placed him!  Or, maybe he just wanted to shield me from the harsher realities of life.  I suppose he saw it as preserving my childhood.  Whatever his reasons, he went to quite a bit of trouble to make sure I kept my illusions.

 But when it was my turn being a parent, I didn't sugar-coat things for my daughter.  When Goldie the goldfish, daughter's first pet, which she won at a ring toss at a school carnival, was found floating belly up in its bowl, I didn't rush out to get her a replacement goldfish to hide the fact from her.  Then, again, she never expected me to revive Goldie. 

What would you have done, if your child presented you with a dead pet and asked you to revive it?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mushrooms: A Childhood Memory

A friend and I were discussing mushrooms, today: finding mushrooms growing in the wild and being able to identify them correctly and knowing which ones are edible, etc.

Occasionally, I see mushrooms growing in my garden; usually after lots of rain.  I have no idea what kind they are and would never try to pick them to eat them.

However, whenever I do see mushrooms growing, I remember finding them as a child (they'd grow in the garden at my childhood home, too) and being fascinated by them because my father had told me that pixies lived under them!  

I used to pick every mushroom I found and look under them to see if I could find the pixies!  I knew exactly how they'd look because my father had taken some modeling clay and made me mushrooms with pixies in pointy hats seated under them.  :)

My older half-siblings would tease me ("Find any pixies?  There's another mushroom, look under that!"), but I didn't care.  Father was, in my opinion, an authority on many things.  If he said there were pixies and mushrooms were their homes, then, there were pixies and they lived under the mushrooms!  If I didn't find any pixies under mushrooms, it was only because I wasn't quick enough or they weren't under those particular mushrooms.  The innocence of childhood.  

My father died when I was 7 years old.  I  don't know what happened to the clay mushrooms and pixies he made for me (they were probably thrown away).  But a memory remains.  And, to this day, whenever I do find a mushroom growing in the garden, I find myself tempted to pick it!

Did you believe in pixies when you were a child?  Did you look for them under mushrooms?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Weekend Doings - Cleaning and Organizing

Much as I'd like to get all my housework done during the work week, so I can relax and do fun things during the weekend, I invariably end up doing much of the cleaning and organizing during the weekend.  This weekend was no different.

First the general weekly cleaning: dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, laundry, bathrooms scrubbed, beds changed, etc.

Then, the deep cleaning and organizing projects.  

This weekend, the deep cleaning was in the laundry area.  My laundry "room" is the size of a large closet: 3-feet by 8-feet.  With two vinyl-coated wire shelves overhead, it does double duty as a storage area, as well.  I cleaned both the washer and the dryer, and then, pulled the dryer out from the wall to clean under and behind it, where there was lint and dust.  Walls wiped down and floor swept and mopped, I pushed the dryer back, making sure the vent hose was not kinked.  I was hoping that cleaning the dryer and straightening the vent hose would help the dryer to work better, but it didn't.  I tried it out, afterwards and the laundry was not as dried as it used to get.  So, it looks like I will need to ask someone to come and take a look at it.  But, at least, the laundry area will be clean when someone does come out to service it.  There won't be a multi-generational family of dust/lint hybrid bunnies behind the dryer!

This weekend's organizing project was the linen closet.  It's one of those projects that I've done several times, already.  I've got it fairly organized, with shelves labeled, etc., but after some time, as things get taken out and put back, it tends to get untidy and then, things get shoved in as opposed to put away neatly, and pretty soon, it becomes messy again.  Sometimes, the piles of bed sheets and towels and table covers just need a quick straightening out.  Every so often, however, things need to be taken out, sorted, refolded, and put back properly.  This was one of those times.

The linen closet has five shelves.  The very top shelf is where I store most of my quilts (handmade by me) and one or two crocheted table covers that were done by my mother and grandmother, which are torn.

The 2nd shelf is where I keep all the bedsheets and pillowcases.  The queen size sheet sets for my bed on one side; the twin size ones for daughter's bed and the guest bed on the other side, with pillowcases in the middle.

The 3rd shelf is all towels.  With space for spare toiletries like boxes of facial tissue, cakes of soap, bottles of lotion, etc.

The 4th shelf has table coverings that my mother and grandmother crocheted.  The majority were made by my mother, but there is one that my grandmother made, as well.  I also keep some knitted items that I have made - shawls, scarves, etc., on one side of the 4th shelf, as well.  Any holiday gift items I knit will be stored there until needed.

The last, bottom-most shelf has more quilts and knitted afghans on one side and all the white sheets I use as chair covers when I have almsgivings during which I invite the Buddhist monks over to a special meal.

I probably still have more linen than I truly need, but it's all nicely organized and neatly stacked.  At least, for now. 

How about you?  Do you have regularly scheduled deep cleaning and organizing tasks in addition to weekly cleaning?  How often do you pull out major appliances to clean behind and under them?  How often do you redo your linen closet if you have one? 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Weekend Doings: Bargain Shopping

Saturday morning, I shopped for a comforter for daughter.  She has several of my hand-made quilts that I've made for her, for warmth.  This comforter is to be used on top of the mattress that came with her apartment, as a mattress pad.  She already has a mattress cover/protector, but it's not very thick and the apartment mattress is not very comfy (one can feel the springs!)  Full size mattress pads tend to be costly; thus the idea to use a comforter, in lieu.

As such, I was looking for something that would be on sale for around $20.  One of the shops that specializes in linens regularly has sales on comforters for this price.  However, on Saturday, I stopped at a discount store because it was on my way home from getting the on-board mileage tracker installed.  Earlier, when we were shopping for bed sheets, we found them on sale at this discount store for less than what they were selling for at the linen store. 

The discount store didn't have comforters for $20, but had 8-piece bed-in-a-bag sets, containing comforter, bed skirt, sheet set, 2 pillowcases and 2 pillow shams on sale for $30.

My bed sheets are all at least 10 years old (actually, more like 15!) and are wearing thin.  I've been thinking of buying a new sheet set, but even on sale, queen size sheet sets sell for $20 or more.  Here was an opportunity to buy the comforter for daughter for the $20 I had been willing to pay and get a sheet set for myself for an additional $10, just half of what I'd pay for a queen size sheet set. 

I debated with myself a little more ("to buy or not to buy").  And then, I found one set, in a torn bag, which had been marked down to $23, apparently because the bag was damaged.

I didn't care that the bag was torn - I wasn't going to reuse the bag.  The set was a queen size set and daughter's mattress in the apt. is only full size, but that didn't matter, either.  The comforter could be folded, if too big, and provide extra cushioning, or the excess could be tucked under the mattress.

What mattered was the sheet set which came with the set.  I could buy a new sheet set for my bed for only $3 more than what I was willing to pay for a comforter for daughter and I'd get a bed skirt included for free!  I had been using a white king size flat sheet in lieu of a bed skirt for several years, because the bed skirt of my choice (white eyelet) was more than what I wanted to pay.  I am willing to make do (or do without) to save money.  But now I could get a new bed skirt included in the $3 sheet set!  How could I resist?  The price was right!  What did it matter that it wasn't white eyelet, after all?  I like lilac (the hallway leading to the bedrooms is painted lilac).  Purple is one of my favorite colors.

My only concern was that the sheet set and pillowcases were still in the bag, since the bag itself was torn and the smaller packages could have fallen out.  I took the whole thing to the checkout stand and asked the cashier to check, which she did.  The sheet set was there, with the pillowcases included.  We didn't see the pillow shams, but that was OK; I don't really need pillow shams.  Perhaps that was why the set was reduced to $23.  The bed skirt was there.  In fact, there were two bed skirts!  One said queen size, one said full size.  The cashier put both bed skirts back into the package and said to take them both!  Looks like daughter will get a bed skirt, as well!

When I came home and opened the bed skirt packages, I found the pillow shams in them!  They are the same fabric as the comforter and bed skirt (the sheets and pillowcases are a coordinating print). So now I have 4 pillow shams as well!

The pillowcases are a little too small for my bed pillows (I have extra large pillows), but the bed shams are roomy!  I have unpicked the shams and will convert them to  pillowcases, with the addition of a little border along the opening to make them the correct length.  The sham fabric is patterned lilac/white.  I have some white fabric in my fabric stash that will be suitable.  I have some lilac fabric in the stash, as well, but it is a shade lighter than the lilac in the pillow shams.  But the pale lilac is suitable to border the pillowcases (white with lilac dots); the lilac dots in the pillowcases are small enough that the slightly lighter shade of the solid lilac isn't noticeable.

I am very pleased with this weekend's bargain shopping.  I love feeling I got my money's worth!  :)

I'll try to post pictures when the pillowcases are sewn.

Anyone else likes to shop for bargains?


Sunday, September 14, 2014


Today, I put gas to the car.  I've gone back to needing a tank of gas once a week.  For the 4 years of my daughter's undergrad studies, I drove her to campus before I went to the office and then, picked her up on my way home; I'd drive almost 60 miles each day, and my old car didn't exactly have great gas mileage.  I would need to fill the car twice a week.   Those were the days when I'd drive 4 hours each day (longer, if there was an accident on the 405 freeway and when wasn't there an accident on the 405?)  These days, I am more likely to drive for 6 hours, one way, to visit daughter for the weekend.

I also had an on-board mileage tracker installed, today, to continue to obtain the mileage verification discount from my auto insurance company.  I was told, by the insurance agent, that the on-board mileage tracker would also enable them to locate me easily if I should experience any car trouble while on the road.  However, the mechanic who installed the device for me told me that most people choose not to install the device because that allows the insurance company to keep track of their driving habits (speeding, etc.,) as well as mileage, and some people have their insurance rates increased as a result!  I consider myself to be a fairly good driver, but now I am wondering if having the mileage tracker installed was a mistake and whether the mileage verification discount is worth it.  Something else to think about! 

Things are never quite as clear cut as they appear at first glance, are they?  Seems to me that I am always second guessing myself, these days.

What are your driving habits? Do you drive a lot?  Would you consent to have a mileage tracker installed?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Friday: Bread and Cheese

It's been a relatively quiet day, today.  I called daughter in the morning, to wish her good morning and to wake her up.  Then, I fed the cat, watched some morning news as I had a cup of coffee, packed my breakfast (pancakes and syrup) and lunch (fried rice) to take to the office with me, and drove myself to the office. 

I always say my devotions when I drive; only after I finish reciting my prayers do I listen to the radio or put on some music.  I am enjoying the fact that I now have a cd player in the car!  My previous car had a cassette player.  I listened to a cd of songs by Jim Reeves, today.

It was relatively quiet at the office today, as some people had the day off.  After work, I drove back home and checked to see what the gardener did on his weekly visit - today he had pruned the bottle brush tree in the back garden, at my request.

I spent the evening with daughter, video chatting on-line.  Such a marvelous invention!

Tonight, I had bread and cheese for dinner.  The bread was part of the 2nd bread roll I bought at the farmers market, yesterday.  The cheese was a gift from a cousin who visited from Australia, earlier this year.   A friend, who read yesterday's bread and honey post, mentioned she likes bread and cheese for breakfast.  Crusty bread and cheese is good any time of the day, I'm sure.

It has been a rather warm day, today, with even warmer temperatures in the forecast for the weekend. But that's typical for us in September.   

It's been a good day, today.  And now, I get to look forward to the weekend.

How has your day been?  Did you have a good day?  Do you like bread and cheese?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bread and Honey

There is a weekly farmers market that is held every Thursday, near my office building.  Every so often, I go to check out the items being offered for sale and make a few purchases.  I have my favorite stalls: the French bakery stall with the chocolate croissants and crusty baguettes; the plant stall with orchids and anthuriums; the popcorn stall with the wonderful caramel corn; the Asian vegetables stand with bundles of water spinach and baby bok choy.   Some weeks, there are new stalls, like the stall which sold all kinds of sprouts - not just mung bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts, but also sprouted garbanzo beans, lentils, wheat grass, etc.  Some stalls come back, week after week; others appear once or twice and are never seen again.

Today, there was a new plant stall (as well as the regular one), which was selling succulents planted in tea cups and tea pots.   I admired the planters, but didn't purchase any.

Today, I visited the French bakery stall and bought two small baguettes for $1.25 each.  Then, I walked over to the stall selling honey and sampled a couple of types of honey - buckwheat honey, which was dark in color and had a mellow taste; and wildflower honey, which was lighter in color and sweeter.  I chose to purchase the wildflower honey.  It was priced $4.75 for an eight ounce jar.

For breakfast, today, I had half a baguette, spread with some of the wildflower honey.  I felt like the queen in the nursery rhyme, who sat in the parlor, "eating bread and honey".  It was quite lovely.

Do you have any farmers markets in your area?  Do you go to them on a regular basis?  Do you have favorite stalls?  Would you buy bread and honey for your breakfast? 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


The days are just whizzing by!

I was woken, this morning, by Dancer the cat insisting I give him his breakfast of a spoonful of tuna!  After which, I phoned my daughter to wake her up.  She's away from home, but we still greet each other at the start of each day and wish each other a goodnight before we go to sleep at the end of each day.  I rather like that.  :)

Then it was off to the office for me (and to classes for daughter).  Another day of heavy duty napping on the couch for the cat! 

Home again in the evening.  Feed the cat, collect the mail, listen to the messages left on the answering machine.  This evening, I watered the front garden - I prefer to water the front garden with the garden hose.  The front garden gets both southern and western exposure and full sun for most of the day.  As a result, everything is parched.

Pomegranates Ripening on the Tree
But the pomegranate tree is doing well, with fruits ripening.

Then it was time to water the back garden; I put the sprinklers on to water the back garden as it takes me an hour to water it with the garden hose.

Later, I video chat with daughter.  We catch up on our day's activities and prepare our dinners - she at her end, I at my end.

Today, my cousin called and came over with guavas from her tree - a different variety than what I have growing in my garden.  And while she was here, an aunt called to see how things were going.  Later, another aunt called both me and my daughter!  I guess today was the day for family to check up on us.  :)  Such a blessing to have caring family.

The rest of the evening has sped by.  Dinner, an e-mail to a friend, a birthday wish to another friend, more video chatting with daughter and here it is, already 11:45 p.m. and time to put away the leftovers, pack my lunch for tomorrow and get ready for bed!  Another day has whizzed by! 

Is it me, or does it seem like your days also whiz by? 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Today's Grocery Shopping

I went grocery shopping today, at one of the ethnic grocery stores in the neighborhood.  This store has great prices on fresh produce.   Even so, I followed my usual practice of buying only those items that are on sale this week - their advertised "weekly specials".

Since I am now buying for one person only, I purchased approx 1 lb. of each fruit and vegetable.  I spent a total of $10.14 and bought:

Fruits - banana (1.30 lbs. @ $.49/lb), apples (1.47 lbs. @ $.39/lb), nectarines (1.38 lb. @ $.49/lb), dried tamarind (0.19 lb. @ $1.79/lb; for use as a condiment in curries).
Vegetables - Okra (0.35 lbs. @ $.99/lb), onions (5.13 lbs. @ 6 lb/$1), tomato (.59 lb. @ $.79/lb), red potato (1.43 lb. @ $.29/lb), red lentils (1.74 lbs. @ $1.29/lb)
1 bottle mango juice ($1.29)
1 package amarretti cookies ($2.19)

Earlier this month (on Sept. 4), I had gone grocery shopping and spent $5.60 to buy milk ($3.49), soda ($.99), and bananas ($.69/lb). With today's grocery shopping, I have spent $5.60 + $10.14 = $15.74 on groceries, so far, this month.  Which is on target for the 1st week (a monthly budget of $75 works out to $18.75 per week).

This week's meal plan:
What I've listed are the dinners.  Breakfasts will be cereal and bananas; snacks/tea time treats will be cookies, crackers, spicy Indian snack mix; desserts will be fresh fruit and chocolate pudding; lunches will be mostly leftovers from the previous night's dinner.

Sunday:  smoked sausages, red potatoes, mixed veg; fresh guavas

Monday: Thai fried rice and red chicken curry, leftover from Sunday's lunch (a treat from my friend R.)

Tuesday: ground beef/veggie mixture, sauted okra, rice

Wednesday: smoked sausages, red potatoes, mixed veg

Thursday: omelette curry, lentils, okra, rice

Friday: fried rice?  Pasta?

Saturday: To be decided!

I'll most probably go grocery shopping again on Saturday, so Saturday's dinner will depend on what I will buy.

How is your September grocery budget coming along?  Are you staying on target for your spending?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Air Drying Laundry

I used to air dry most of my laundry, for both economic and environmental reasons, until daughter complained that her jeans and towels felt too rough and stiff.  Then, I switched to drying most of her clothes in the dryer, while air drying most of my things.  I did use the dryer for quilts and blankets, for convenience.   Sometimes, however, I'd get lazy and use the dryer for my clothes and other household items, as well as daughter's clothes; it was easier to toss a load of laundry into the dryer than to hang it up.

I used to have several clothes lines stretched out in the back garden, but, eventually, ants using the lines as elevated highways (and finding them on the clothes), birds using them as perches (and sometimes having to rewash the dried items as a result of bird droppings) and the lines themselves deteriorating due to the sun, led me to taking the lines down.    These days, I tend to dry the clothes inside the house, on drying racks and on clothes hangers hanging from the doorways (the majority of my doors have wooden door frames which provide convenient ledges for the hangers).

The last time I used the dryer, a week ago, I heard an unusual noise coming from it, but I put it down to a button or something from a piece of clothing being loose and being tossed around.  But when I took the clothes out, I noticed that they weren't quite as dry as normal.  The last time that happened (clothes not drying properly), was several years ago and due to a kink in the vent hose.  Perhaps it is time to pull the dryer out and take a look at the vent hose.  Or maybe the hose itself needs cleaning.

Or, it might be that the dryer needs servicing or even, replacing.  It is a gas dryer, which I bought new in 1992.  I read that the average life span of a dryer is 16 years.  Mine has provided me with good service for 22 years (perhaps because I don't use it to dry every single load of laundry).  

Now that daughter is away, I am determined to air dry even more of my laundry.  So far today, I've done 2 loads that are air drying and a 3rd load (sofa dust covers) will also be hung to dry.  I am not sure just how much gas and energy the dryer uses for each load, or how much it costs to run, but I like to think that, by air drying the laundry, I will not only save money, but also, be more environmentally responsible.

How many others air dry their laundry?  Do you line dry outside or dry it inside?  Do you do it for cost cutting or environmental reasons? 

Two Weeks

It's been two weeks since my daughter moved up north to pursue her higher studies.  Two weeks since we packed the car with suitcases and boxes and bags filled with her belongings and drove 400 miles to settle her in her new apartment.  Two weeks since she left home. 

This is also the first weekend we've spent apart, because I spent the first 2 weekends up north, with her, helping her settle into her apartment. 

I was woken up by her phone call, this morning.  She called to say good morning.  :) 

She has made plans for the day; she will be going to Japan Town, in San Francisco, with a friend.  I am glad she will be out and about, doing things.  I don't have to worry about her being alone in her apartment, feeling lonely, homesick, and moping.

It makes it easier for me to get on with my plans for the day: watch tennis on TV, do laundry, tidy up my closet, tidy the house, and maybe some sewing.

Later, in the evening, daughter and I will video chat on-line and share our day's happenings with each other.  We've been doing that every day we've been apart.  It's something we both look forward to.  :)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

September Grocery Budget

For several years now, my monthly grocery budget had been set at $150 for 2 people (daughter and I).  My grocery budget includes only food items.  Paper goods, household products, cleaning supplies, pet food and toiletries are not included (they are budgeted for separately).   Some months, I went over budget, some months, I came under budget.  When I went over budget, I reduced the following month's budget by that amount to make up for it.  When I came under budget, I carried over that amount to the next month and used it to stock up, splurge a bit, etc.

Now that daughter is away, I have decided to halve my grocery budget and set it at $75 for September.  It might be that I will have to raise it to $100, but I want to see if I can manage with $75.

Today, I stopped at the grocery store for milk (1 gallon, $3.49), soda (1 liter, $.89 + $.10 deposit), and bananas ($.69/lb); I spent a total of $5.60.   I didn't need to buy anything else because I already had enough of groceries in the freezer, fridge, and cabinets.

I didn't make a detailed meal plan for this week, partly because I was in Berkeley for the first couple of days.  I haven't really felt like cooking, either, so, I've prepared easy meals.  This week's meal plan sort of evolved over the week:

Breakfasts: cereal
Lunches: sourdough bread and cheese(Tues); leftover rice and sausages (Wed.), leftover pizza from the weekend (Thurs.), fried rice (Fri.)
Monday - rice, smoked sausages & mixed bell peppers stir fry, lentil curry
Tuesday - rice, smoked sausages, mixed vegetables (carrots, celery, corn, green peas, bell peppers, onions)
Wednesday - tomato soup, sourdough bread
Thursday - tomato soup, sourdough bread
Friday - ground beef cooked with onions, carrots, celery; rice
Snacks - fruit (apples and bananas from the grocery store; pomegranates and guavas from the garden); spicy fried snack mixture from the Indian store; crackers
Desserts - Chocolate, cookies.

Do you have a grocery budget?   Does it include only food items or does it include pet food, household & cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

September Goals

My goals for September are quite similar to my August goals.

September Goals:

Spiritual: Daily devotions/meditations and the monthly prayer meeting

Environment: Outside: continue to spruce up the garden. Inside: Continue to clean and declutter (concentrate on the family room and daughter's room)

Daughter: Continue to spend as much time with her as possible (in-person visits and on-line visits) to help her adjust to being away from home

Family: Get together with family once or twice

Friends: Keep in touch through letters, e-mails, phone calls and also get together with them once or twice

Career: Work on assignments in a timely manner

Finances: Start saving for the next semester's tuition & fees!

Health: Be mindful of diet and exercise; adequate sleep; call to schedule dr's appt. for later this month

Leisure/Crafts/Hobbies: Sew, knit, garden; finish knitting the blouse for DD, sew 2 more cushion covers for her, start planting a fall garden

Time Management: Be realistic but also, efficient!
Do you have any goals for September?

August Goals Review

I had posted my goals for August, earlier in August.  Now it is time to look back and see how well I did with my goals.  Did I accomplish my goals?    
Spiritual:  Continue to perform daily devotions/meditations, be more present in the moment, and attend the monthly prayer meeting (scheduled for 2nd weekend in August) - Daily devotions were performed without fail, attended the monthly prayer meeting, and went to the temple twice.  However, I wasn't always able to be present in the moment; in fact, I walked out of a store without half my purchases just this weekend!  Paid for them and left them at the checkout stand and went back to daughter's apartment and didn't even realize I had forgotten them until several hours later, when daughter asked where was this and that item!  (We went back to the store an hour before the store closed and retrieved the items!)

Environment: Outside: Continue to spruce up the garden (regularly weed, water, prune, cultivate, landscape, etc.)  Inside: Continue to clean and declutter (daily/weekly routines) - Did some.  The garden was mowed, one tree was pruned, some weeding was done; the house was tidied and cleaned (and now it is messy, again!

Daughter: Spend time with her before she leaves for grad. school; drive her up there and settle her in towards end of August - DONE!  Took a week off from work to spend time with her, drover her up and settled her in her apartment, drove back, again, to visit her last weekend!  Also, spending time every evening video chatting with her and spending time with her on-line.  :)
Family: Keep in touch through letters, e-mails, phone calls; Get together with family once or twice - Goal attained; met some family at the prayer meeting, had an aunt and cousin visit twice including once to dinner; several phone calls with other members of the family.

Friends: Keep in touch through letters, e-mails, phone calls and also get together with them once or twice - Goal attained; I got together with several friends during the month, have exchanged e-mails and phone calls with others.

Career: Need to balance career demands with family obligations, this month - Took a week off from work to spend time with daughter, while still completing assignments in a timely manner.

Finances: Start a new budget/spending plan!  There will be several changes in my expense categories, this month, and so, this month's budget will be more trial and error than in months past.  I paid off my mortgage in June, but I will be paying for daughter's apartment and utilities while she's in grad. school; also, her tuition has increased as grad. school costs more than undergrad - August was a "spendy" month!  Paid daughter's fall semester tuition, paid her apartment rent for part of August and all of September (rent includes utilities), and bought a new car!

Health: Be mindful of diet and exercise; get adequate sleep; call to schedule a dr's appt. for myself (regular check-up) - Well, can I claim good intentions?

Organizing:  Organize daughter's move.  Lists, lists, and more lists!  In previous months, I've made lists of items she'll need for her new apartment and we've shopped and bought most of the items she'll take from here.  This month, I'll make the list of items we will buy up there and the list of all the things we need to do before she leaves, and all the things we need to do once she's moved - Goal accomplished!  Daughter has been successfully moved and settled in. 

Leisure/Crafts/Hobbies: Sew, knit, read, garden; finish knitting the blouse for DD, sew a table runner and cushion covers for her - Sewed the table runner and cushion covers and did a bunch of mending.  Didn't finish knitting the blouse, though.

Time Management: Lots to do before DD moves up north; I basically have 3 weeks to get stuff done.  It's going to be a busy month - Goal accomplished; we did most of what we wanted to do.

Did you make any monthly goals for August?  If so, how did you do in accomplishing your goals?  Were you able to do a good portion of what you wanted to do?  Will you make goals for September, too?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Trying New Fruit: Jazz Apples

New fruits

I first heard of Jazz apples several years ago, when they suddenly appeared at my local grocery store.  But they cost $4.99 per pound and that was almost five times more than the more familiar varieties of apples like Gala apples and Fuji apples and I was unwilling to pay that price.  But, more recently, Jazz apples have been advertised for less - $2.99 and $1.99 per pound.  And finally, tis week, they were on sale at a price I was willing to pay:  $.99 per pound.  That is my cut off price for apples.  And so, we, my daughter and I, bought 2 Jazz apples to try.

Jazz Apples

Jazz Apples - Close Up
Today, we tried them for the first time.  They were very crisp and sweet.  Definitely something I'd be willing to buy again - the next time they go on sale for $.99 per pound.

Have you tried Jazz apples?  Do you like them?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Driving on a Nail and a Prayer

I bought my new car on Tuesday night.  On Wednesday, I drove it around and the low tire pressure alert light came on!  I took the car in to the dealers service center on Thursday to have the tires checked; they put some air in all the tires and said it should be fine.  "The gauge is very sensitive", I was told; "even a pound of pressure difference will cause it to come on; just have the tire pressure checked once a month, it should be fine."

I drove around on Friday and the light remained off and I didn't worry about it.

But, on Saturday morning, at 6:00 a.m., when I set off to drive daughter up to Berkeley, the pressure alert light came on, again, and caused me to wonder - should I take it back to the service center and have them recheck it?  But that would delay our journey (the service center wouldn't be open before 7 a.m.)  and we had to be in Berkeley by a certain time to collect the key to daughter's apartment and settle her in, etc.  And didn't the service person say it was OK, not to worry?

So, after a short discussion, we decided it was OK to go ahead and drive to Berkeley.  I said my prayers as usual (I always say a set of prayers or devotions when I start driving, each day) and, I knew that others were also praying for us to have a safe journey.  The tire pressure light remained lit for the first 200 miles of the journey and then it went off by itself and remained off for the rest of the journey, and I felt encouraged.  But it came back on, later in the evening, when I drove.

And it remained lit when I drove myself home, the next day.  This was my first long drive (6+ hrs) by myself and I was a little nervous.  Instead of just saying my prayers once and then, listening to music or the radio as is my usual custom, I continued to repeat my devotions and sang hymns.  All the way home!  I felt a bit silly, after all, I had taken the car to be blessed when I bought it, etc., but I felt it was important to continue with the prayers.  I felt I would be risking something going wrong if I stopped.

I continued to drive the car to the office and back, 20 miles each way, for the rest of the week, without any qualms.

But, Saturday morning, before I drove to Berkeley, again, I looked at the tires one last time.  Was it my imagination or did the front right tire look just a little bit low?  

I took the car back to the service center.  I was almost apologetic.  "Could you please check the tire pressure, again? The pressure gauge is still lit."  This time, the verdict was a definite, "You have a nail in that tire; you need to take it to a tire repair place and have them put a patch."  Oh.

Seems like I drove for over 800 miles at freeway speeds on a nail punctured tire!  Surely, it was the prayers that enabled me to drive safely?

I was nervous enough to want a new tire put in!  But they didn't have that type of tire in stock and would have to order a new one and I'd have to leave the car there for the rest of the day.  But I was supposed to go to Berkeley and my daughter was waiting for me.  So, I took the car to a tire repair place and they patched the tire for me for $12.  And I drove to Berkeley and the tire pressure gauge remained unlit the whole way.  But, once again, I prayed and sang hymns for the duration of the journey.

One particular verse from "Amazing Grace" seemed most appropriate:

"Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home."
Yes, most definitely, I drove myself home on a nail and a prayer.

Old Pillowcases

I usually find old pillowcases to be one of the most useful items to have on hand.  I reuse old pillowcases in several ways.

They come in useful to store quilts and blankets - fold the quilts or blankets and place them inside pillowcases to keep the dust out and it makes it easier to store the quilt or blanket, as well.

I use old pillowcases to cover the piano stool which is upholstered in velvet.  The cat likes to nap on the piano stool and all his fur get on the velvet upholstery.  An old pillowcase makes a quick cover for the piano stool, is easily washed and keeps the velvet relatively free of cat fur.

I also use them as garment covers to keep dust off formal wear, etc.  I cut a small opening at the seam to enable the hook part of the clothes hanger to go through and the pillowcase keeps the garment protected.

When I was growing up, pillowcases used to be hung at the end of the bed on Christmas Eve for Father Christmas to fill with gifts!  I assure you they hold a lot more than a stocking!

Pillowcases can be cut up to provide fabric for patchwork quilting.  Or to make dust cloths. 

I also use old pillowcases to make new pillow covers or protectors.  I usually make new pillow covers from old pillowcases once every couple of years.  I rip open the old pillow cover, transfer the inner filling into an old pillowcase, and sew it closed. 

And that's exactly what I did on Friday.  Daughter had bought 2 new pillows to take to her new apartment and I had used old pillowcases to sew covers for them.  But, after 1 week, daughter decided she preferred her old pillows.  So, before I brought her old pillows up to her, I decided to make new covers for them, too, with old pillowcases.  Using the old pillowcases was a frugal alternative to buying new covers for them.

So, if you have any old, faded, mismatched, worn pillowcases, consider reusing them for other purposes.  It's reusing and recycling what you have on hand and saves money as well.

Do you use old pillowcases for anything?