Tuesday, March 31, 2015

March Review

A review of March, before moving on with April goals.

Spiritual: attended the monthly prayer meeting; continued with daily devotions.

- Outside: Most flower beds were weeded and 3 jade plants were transplanted from containers in the back garden to the edge of the lawn in the front. 
- Inside: House has been maintained for the most part. 

Daughter:  Celebrated her birthday, this month.  And we spent a wonderful week together over spring break.

Family:  Celebrated one aunt's birthday and heard news of another aunt's death.  Met several members of the family at the prayer meeting and called my half-sister to wish her for her birthday.  Exchanged emails with other relatives.

Friends:  Met several friends at the prayer meeting and went out to brunch with another friend; plus, there were phone calls and emails exchanged.

Career:  Enjoyed a week of vacation!

Finances:  Did OK, for the most part; filed my taxes.  Found out that daughter's apartment rent will be going up after her current lease expires.  We are weighing the pros and cons of her staying where she is (and paying more) and finding another, less expensive, apartment. 

Health:  Definitely need to focus on more exercise, adequate rest, and a healthy diet.

Leisure/Crafts/Hobbies: Did some sewing I had been wanting to do for a long time. 

Productivity and Time Management:  I think I did OK, on the whole. 

March was a good month and I was able to attain most of my goals.  I'll post my April goals, tomorrow.

Did you make any goals for March?  If so, how did you do with attaining them?

Monday, March 30, 2015


Today, I finished sewing the nightdress I cut out yesterday.  It is a more or less classic "granny gown" pattern, except I left out the lace details along the neck, yoke, and wrists called for in the pattern. 

Flannel Nightdress

(Obviously, I didn't iron it before taking the photo - I must admit I try not to iron any more than absolutely needed!)  The fabric has tiny blue and white stars on a pale blue background.

This is my favorite nightdress style.  I have another nightdress in the same pattern sewn with the pink version of this fabric.  And the pajama top that I sewed earlier is based on this pattern, with the length shortened and the front opened all the way.

I now have two flannel nightdresses and a flannel pajama set for winter night wear.  I wore my pajama pants, last night, and they were so comfy, I am tempted to sew myself another pair (the pants, only) to wear around the house to relax in, sort of like fleece pants.  I have another length of flannel in my stash, if I decide to make another pair of pajama pants.
Of course, all this sewing means I now have a small collection of leftover flannel fabric!  I'm thinking about making a rag quilt, eventually.

In addition to sewing, I did a load of laundry and watered the front garden.  Emptied all the waste baskets and took the trash cans to the curb for trash pick up tomorrow.  And video chatted with daughter, of course. 

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


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pajamas Are Done!

Pajama Top

I finished sewing the pajama top!  I didn't have enough of the patterned fabric to make the yoke, so I used a coordinating solid colored cotton flannel for the yoke and the facings.  I think it works out well and helps to tone down the rather busy pattern.

I used buttons that were in my button stash (inherited from my mother!)  There were six buttons in the packet; perfect!  My sewing machine has a button hole foot and it would have been quicker to sew the button holes in the machine, but I chose to hand sew my button holes.  I just prefer to hand sew button holes using a closely spaced blanket stitch.  I find hand sewing to be relaxing and almost meditative.  I sewed the button holes yesterday and I sewed on the buttons this morning.

Here's the whole set:

I must say I am rather pleased with how it turned out.

I have one more length of cotton flannel fabric that I have bought.  I have plans to sew another nightdress with it.  Just not sure if I want to sew it now or wait awhile.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saturday: More Sewing and Brunch

Today, we woke up early because daughter had to confirm her flight 24 hours in advance.  She went back to sleep, but I stayed up and continued to sew my pajama top.  I am almost done; just have to sew the buttons. 

Later in the morning, we went to the library to return two books that were due and went to the bank to get a cashier's check for daughter's apartment rent for April (must be paid with cashier's checks). 

Then, picked up a friend and we went out to brunch.  Tried a new to us pancake place.  I tried what was listed in the menu as German crepes - crepes served with lemon butter.  My friend tried the Swedish crepes which were served with lingonberry sauce.  They also had French crepes which were served with orange sauce.  Daughter had pecan pancakes.

Afterwards, we stopped at the grocery store where I picked up a gallon of milk and a bag of cat food. 

Then, came home and we relaxed and chatted and had tea.  After tea, daughter went hiking with one of her friends  and I drove my friend home.  Came back and watered the houseplants and cooked the pork chops I had in the freezer - I sliced them into thin strips and made a spicy curry with them.  We had that for dinner, with freshly cooked rice.  Afterwards, daughter and I went out for ice cream sundaes!

It's now 11:30 p.m. and daughter has packed her bags.  I can't believe her week at home has come to an end.  She will fly back to Berkeley tomorrow morning and the house will be quiet without her.  Yes, I will miss her when she's gone.

How was your Saturday?  Did you have a good start to your weekend?

Friday: More Sewing and Gardening

Today, I cut out and started to sew the pajama top.  I made good progress but there's a little more to go. The top has a few more parts to sew than the pants, but, so far, I haven't made any mistakes.

Today, my gardener came over to work on my garden.  He's my neighbor's nephew and has been my gardener for 22 years.  When I was on my extended stay at the hospital during my daughter's birth, my neighbor noticed that the grass in my front garden was overgrown and hearing (from another neighbor) that I was at the hospital, had her nephew mow my lawn.  Later, she told me she would have had him mow the back, too, except the gate was locked and they couldn't access the back garden.  Ever since then, he's been my gardener! 

Today, he repaired two sprinkler heads for me, removed three rose bushes that had died during the winter, and transplanted three jade plants from a container in the back garden, to the edge of the lawn in the front garden, along the sidewalk.  I had planted a row of lantana bushes along the edge of the lawn, last year, but three of the lantana bushes died due to the sun and lack of water (even though they are drought tolerant to an extent).  The front garden has a south and west exposure and receives full sun from about 9:00 a.m. till sunset.  With our current drought (in our 4th year of drought) and water restrictions, I'm finding it difficult to grow the lush garden I would like to have.  Instead, I am turning to succulents and other drought tolerant plants.  

My neighbor (the gardener's aunt) came over to visit while her nephew was working on the garden.  She has recently recovered from a fall (and subsequent fracture and surgery), so it was good to see her walking about and looking well.

Later in the evening, I watered the front garden.  I usually water the front garden twice a week and the back garden once a week.  Our temperature today was 90F and the garden was very dry.  

I also trimmed my daughter's hair for her.  Tomorrow will be her last day at home this spring break!  How soon the week has flown by!  We've planned a couple of errands for tomorrow morning and will go out to lunch with a friend.

How was your Friday?  Did you have a good day, today?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thursday: Sewing Pajamas

I had promised myself that I would indulge in some sewing once the taxes were done.  So, today, I set up my sewing machine on the big dining table, which is where I like to sew.  I have three or four things I'd like to make, including a sewing machine cover.

But I decided to start with a pair of much needed pajamas.  I have just one pair of pajamas (I tend to wear more nightdresses than pajamas), which started to tear (I've had them for over 12 years, so they were quite worn).  So, today, I unpicked the old pajama pants, pulled out a length of cotton flannel I had purchased on sale, after Christmas, and cut out a pair of pajamas, using my old pajamas as the pattern.  I have a commercial pattern, as well, which was included in the pattern I use for my flannel nightdresses, but I chose to use the old pajama as my pattern because I know it fitted me. 

It turned into a bit of a project because I made a silly mistake and sewed the wrong seams together and ended with a skirt instead of pants, not once, but twice!  So, had to unpick the whole thing, twice!  I was getting quite frustrated, but with my daughter's help, I managed to sew it:


It's the first pair of pajama pants I've ever sewn.  It didn't turn out too bad, I think.   Once I had figured out which seams to sew, it didn't take too long to sew.  Tomorrow, I will cut out the top and start sewing it, although, as daughter pointed out, I could wear the pajama pants with a T-shirt and save myself a lot of work!

Have you sewn pajamas?  Have you found yourself sewing the wrong seams?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Baking No-Knead Peasant Bread

Many, many years ago, when I was in college, I decided to try baking bread.  I had never made bread, but the recipe for basic white bread seemed simple enough.  I added the yeast to the flour and added some sugar and salt and poured warm water, mixed it all up and waited for the dough to rise.  Except, it didn't.  I think my warm water was too hot and I killed the yeast!  Unwilling to admit defeat, I added the rest of the flour, kneaded it, and hoping it would rise in the oven, I dumped all the dough (it was supposed to make 2 loaves) into one loaf pan and baked myself a brick!  My roommates had a lot of fun with our new "doorstop", saying it would make a good weapon against any intruders.

Since then, I've longed to make bread from scratch, but felt too intimidated and resorted to frozen bread dough from the grocery store.

Then, I read about no-knead bread, which was left to rise overnight.  I wanted to try it, except, the bread was supposed to be baked in a Dutch oven and I didn't have one.  Nor did I want to buy one.  So, I gave up that idea.

And then, I read about a no-knead peasant bread that didn't need to rise overnight and which didn't need baking in a Dutch oven on another blog called Alexandra's Kitchen.  I got all excited about trying it and bought some new yeast.  I bought active dry yeast, which came in a package of 3 individual packets. 

Here is the recipe I followed:

1 lb. 2 oz (4 cups) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups lukewarm water (I followed the tip to mix 1/2 C boiling water and 1 1/2 C cold water)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 packet active-dry yeast
room temperature butter, about 2 tablespoons

I chose to weigh my flour, rather than measure it, because I store my flour in the freezer and it tends to get compacted.  After I weighed it, I left it in a bowl to come to room temperature and stirred in the salt.

Then, I mixed 1/2 C boiling water with 1 1/2 C cold water to obtain my 2 cups of lukewarm water, stirred in the 2 tsp. sugar and sprinkled the packet of active dry yeast on top:

Lukewarm water with sugar and yeast
I set it aside for 20 minutes which was a bit longer than called for in the recipe (10-15 mins.) for the yeast to proof:

Blurry Photo of Foamy Yeast

Clearer Photo of Foamy Yeast
 I guess I wanted to make sure the yeast was alive and would do its job!

Then, I added the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and stirred it all up:

Just Mixed Bread Dough
 And covered the bowl with plastic wrap and left it in a warm spot (on a dining chair near the window, in the sun) to rise until doubled in size (1st rising).  This is how it looked after 1 hr. 15 mins.:

Risen Bread Dough - 1st Rising
 Definitely doubled in size, wouldn't you say? 

Then, I buttered the dishes in which to bake my bread.  The original recipe called for two small (1 L or 1.5 L) bowls.  My two smaller oven-proof bowls were sent up north with my daughter for her use.  So, I used a 1.9 L casserole dish (flat bottom) and a loaf pan, instead.  The original recipe stated to use all the dough if using a larger bowl, but I wasn't sure how well the bread would bake (it would be just my luck to have a perfectly baked outside and raw dough in the middle!), so, decided to divide the dough and take the consequences of it not rising as much in the larger bowl.

Buttered Baking Pans

 Then, I punched down the risen dough, scraping the sides with two forks as instructed:

Punched Down Dough After 1st Rising
 I halved the dough and put into the two buttered pans and left them to rise for a second time:

Dough In Pans For 2nd Rising

I let them rise for about 40 minutes, until the dough in the loaf pan was just above the rim and the dough in the casserole dish was about an inch below the rim.  Then, baked them in a pre-heated oven at 425F for 15 minutes; then lowered the temperature to 375F and baked for another 15 minutes:

Just Out of the Oven
 The bread was tipped out on to the cooling rack; the round bread is shown upside down:

Freshly Baked Bread

Bread Baking Success!

 It smelled so good!  We couldn't wait the recommended 10 minutes for it to cool!  We had to cut into it while it was still hot from the oven!  Spread with some butter, which melted because the bread was still hot, it was wonderful!  Crispy crust and chewy inside.  Daughter and I finished half of the round loaf! 

After Cutting the 1st Slice
I started the whole process at 1:00 p.m. and the bread was taken out of the oven at 4:35 p.m. and we were eating the freshly baked bread by 4:40 p.m.! 

I will be making this bread again in the future.  I might experiment with adding some herbs to the bread or making bread rolls.  I think I'll be buying a lot more flour and yeast, in the future!  I am so happy to have found this recipe!  Thank you to the original poster of the recipe, the detailed instructions, photos and videos.

The only item I had to buy to make this bread was the yeast, which cost $2.39 for the 3 packets.  I used one packet, so the cost of yeast for this batch of bread was $.80.  The flour was bought on sale, $1.99/5 lb. so, the 1 lb. 2 oz. of flour used came to $.45.  The cost of the sugar and salt is negligible; perhaps $.05?  Add another $.12 for the 2 tbsp. butter ($2/lb; $.50 for 1/4 lb. or one stick; 8 tbsp. per stick) to grease the pans and the cost of ingredients come to under $1.50.  Plus the cost of baking.  My oven is gas and I don't know how much it costs to preheat and bake for 1 hour.  If I estimate $1 to $2, the cost of baking the 2 loaves of bread will be $2.50 to $3.50.  Not bad, I think, for 2 loaves of homemade bread.  Especially when you know what went into making it. 

Have you made no-knead bread?  Do you think you might try this recipe?  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Spent most of the morning making sure I have all the tax documents in good order.  Spent the afternoon at the tax preparer's office, getting our taxes done.  Everything filed and done for another year.

Afterwards, daughter and I went to our favorite Thai food place to get fried rice and chicken panang. 

Came home and did a load of laundry and phoned a friend.  Spending a quiet evening at home. 

How was your Tuesday?  Hope you all had a good day.


Daughter and I stayed up till 3:00 a.m., last night, talking!  Even though we video chat daily when she's away, often the quality of the video chat connection leaves a lot to be desired and, anyway, it's not the same as being in the same room together, is it?  So we stayed up and talked!

Of course, it meant that we both slept in this morning.  Which was fine as I have taken the week off from work to spend time with daughter.  So there was no need to wake up early.  I did some paperwork and watched a couple of TV programs during the rest of the morning.

In the afternoon, we did a bit of shopping and bought daughter a set of wheeled luggage so she could take some stuff back with her (she had been managing with only her backpack and a smaller tote bag).  Later, I watered the front garden and daughter helped with taking the trash cans to the curb for trash pick up tomorrow.

Breakfast was raisin buns and bananas.  For lunch, we had some frozen taquitos.  Dinner was rice, shrimp curry (from the freezer) and freshly cooked green beans.  Oranges from the garden for dessert.

 How was your Monday?  Did you have a good day and a good start to your week?   

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Grandmother's Sewing

Granny's Embroidery and Drawn Thread Hemming

My maternal grandmother Anna was the only grandparent I knew.  My paternal grandmother and both grandfathers had died before I was born.  Granny was the oldest of 14 children and the mother of 9 children.

The above is the border she embroidered on a bed sheet for my mother.  The pattern is known as jasmine vine.  The center flower (shown above) and the two flowers at either end of the border have multi-colored petals, while the flowers in between have solid colored petals of one of the colors in the multi-colored flowers: red, pink, orange, blue, and yellow.  And then, she attached a solid green border, patched to make it the right length, with drawn thread hemming to set it off.

Jasmine Vine Border

The border is only on one side of the bed sheet because my mother had her bed pushed against the wall and only one side could be seen.  I am not sure exactly when it was sewn, but I know  it was made more than 50 years ago.  I've no idea how long it took her to sew it.

When my mother gave the bed sheet to me, I noticed that some of the embroidery had worn off through frequent use and washing and I repaired the worn spots by embroidering over them.  The white sheet has yellowed a bit with age, but it is still strong.

I have been keeping it stored in the linen cupboard, but more recently, I have been using it on my daughter's bed (which is also pushed against a wall!) as a decorative cover.  I washed it, today, and ironed it.  I don't know if it is better to keep it stored or to use it.

There was also another bordered bed sheet Granny had made for me, when I was a child - it had appliqued birds along the border; clusters of 3 birds in flight, in 3 shades of blue (light, medium, dark), with a solid blue border edge.  I can't remember if the border was attached with drawn thread hemming or not, but I imagine it was.  I no longer have that bed sheet; either it tore or my mother gave it away.  My mother was not a "keeper of stuff", unlike me!

I also have a bed spread my grandmother crocheted, in filet crochet with a pattern of roses.  She crocheted with fine thread using steel crochet hooks, and made a bed spread for each of her daughters and daughters-in-law.  According to my mother, Granny had been left-handed and thus couldn't teach her daughters to crochet.  My mother took up crochet after Granny's death and I have many of the table covers she made.

Do you have family "heirlooms" made by your mothers and grandmothers?  Do you keep them stored or do you use them?   

Daughter's Home!

My daughter came home, yesterday, for her week of spring break!   So happy to have her home!  So thankful! 

Yesterday (Saturday),  I changed the sheets I use as "cat fur covers" on the family room sofas and did a load of laundry.  Dusted daughter's bedroom and remade her bed.   Tidied the family room, cleaned daughter's bathroom, and cleaned the kitchen.

Later in the afternoon, put gas to the car ($30) and did a quick grocery shopping - eggs (18 for $2.49), bananas ($.59/lb), some yogurt (4 Greek yogurt cups with fruit on the bottom on manager's special for $.49@), and 2 bags of the spicy snacks that daughter had requested ($1.79 @).    I spent $9.78 on groceries.  Since I had $10.12 left in my March grocery budget, this means I have pretty much spent my entire month's grocery budget!  I've just $.34 left!

Grocery totals to date: $64.88 + $9.78 = $74.66
Amount left in budget: $75 - $74.66 = $0.34

I am not too concerned.  I have more or less everything I need for the rest of the month.  I might need another container of milk and maybe another loaf of bread (if my bread making attempts don't work out), but if I do, I will take $10 from April's grocery budget (or from my Miscellaneous budget).

Came home with the groceries, put them away, called my cousin, sent a quick email to a friend and then, it was time to pick up daughter from the airport!  In fact, she called to say that she was at the airport, just as I was locking up! Her flight arrived a few minutes early!  Fortunately, the airport is a 10 minutes drive from where I live, so she didn't have to wait too long. 

It was so good to see her again!  And to be hugged by her!  And to hug her in return!  Such a blessing!  We chatted, had coffee, and chatted and hugged some more!  LOL. 

Then it was time to get dressed and go to the monthly prayer group meeting.  My cousin and her daughter gave us a ride to the prayer group meeting which was held at an aunt's house.  It was this aunt's 83rd birthday, as well.  I took a jar of my homemade tomato chutney as a gift.  Aunt had enjoyed eating it when she had been to my house, in October of last year.  And the last time she saw me, in January, she told me my tomato chutney was very good and she had never tasted a better chutney.  This aunt is an expert cook and will tell you if something was not very tasty, so praise from her is high praise, indeed!   She had suffered a fall, recently, and, according to my cousin, had lost her appetite; maybe the chutney will help to whet her appetite.

We came home by 11:30 p.m. and then, daughter and I stayed up till 2:00 a.m., talking!  Have I mentioned that I love having my daughter home? 

Today, daughter will go downtown with two of her friends to have lunch out.  She's been friends with one girl since middle school and the other girl since high school.  They both came over this morning, and I can hear lots of giggling and laughter as they catch up with each other (they last saw each other over Winter break). 

I am planning to do some laundry and paperwork in the afternoon when daughter is away.  I've an appointment with my tax preparer on Tuesday, so I really need to get all my papers in order!

How is your weekend?  Hope it's as filled with joy as mine is!

(Did I mention my daughter is home?!  LOL.)

Friday, March 20, 2015


Embroidered Napkins
My first memory of sewing is from when I was about 5 years old.  We were on holiday, my parents and I, at a hotel in the mountains.  My mother had bought me a child's beginning sewing kit, which had printed pictures of animals on thin cardboard, with small holes punched along the outline of the animal; an assortment of wool yarn and a wool needle (larger than regular sewing needles, blunt, with a large eye).  I remember sitting in the hotel lounge and sewing along the outlines of the printed cardboard, pushing and pulling my needle through the punched holes.  Years later, when my own daughter was a little girl, I searched for and found similar children's sewing kits with punched cardboard and taught her to sew.

I also remember having to sew, or more accurately, embroider, a little tray cloth in 1st grade - the teacher had drawn a design of two or three fish among some water plants with a stream of bubbles above each fish.  We were required to outline the design in running stitch!  I don't remember how good I was at it, but I remember the teacher telling my mother that I could take it home to work on it at home (presumably with my mother's help?!)  

Sewing, officially became a school subject, just like art, physical education, and history, when I was in 2nd grade.   Once a week, a school period (40 mins) was devoted to learning to sew (by hand).  We were required to have a little sewing kit - an empty candy tin was equipped with a piece of white cotton fabric, pins, a needle, a reel of thread, and a small pair of scissors.  We were expected to bring our sewing kits with us on the days when we had sewing.  More often than not, I forgot.  Sometimes, we were allowed to borrow from a classmate, if a classmate had spare fabric, needle and thread.  If not, we were punished by being made to stand outside the classroom, where anyone passing by - other students, teachers, maybe even the principal, could see and know that we were being punished.

In 2nd grade, we were taught the basics.  First, how to fold a hem, pin, and baste.  Once basting was mastered, we were taught the hem stitch - small, upright stitches, evenly spaced.  Our sewing teacher, Miss P. would check our work, every so often, and if she didn't think our stitches were small enough, or neat enough, she made us unpick everything and start all over again.  It seemed that I could never sew well enough to satisfy her.  "Your stitches are like coconut trees" she would tell me.  Too big!  Unpick.  Sew again.  Over and over.  I must have sewn at least a foot of hem stitches and still had only about an inch to show!  Until, finally, Miss P. gave up and allowed me to progress to the next step, which was sewing a seam!  LOL. I was in 2nd grade when my father died - maybe that also had something to do with Miss P. relaxing her standards, just a bit?

Poor Miss P.  She had to deal with me and my messy sewing for the next six years, as sewing lessons continued through 8th grade.  I didn't like to sew.  I wasn't neat enough and my stitches continued to be too big!   Nevertheless, under her tutelage, I learned to sew seams (including French seams), bias bindings, button holes and buttons, press studs (or snaps), hooks and eyes and various embroidery stitches.  I learned to darn, applique, cross stitch, smock, and do drawn thread work.
Each year, I did the various required projects that were our final exam and meant to show off the skills we learned that year.  They included a small table cover, about a yard square, with drawn thread hemming and embroidered flowers; a pillowcase; a school uniform (box pleats, short sleeves, pockets, and collar!), and a nightdress (I got into trouble with Miss P. on that one because I hand sewed the scallops along the yoke only and not the ones along the bottom hem, which I did on my mother's sewing machine!)

Once I no longer had sewing as a subject, I stopped sewing for about 3 years.  Then, one day, when I was 17, I felt the urge to sew!  For fun!  I cut out a set of 6 napkins,  embroidered a spray of flowers on each, and hemmed them with drawn thread hemming!  Miss P. might have tut-tutted over the stitches, but I enjoyed sewing them and I still have 5 of the 6 napkins! 
Napkins Close Up
Drawn Thread Hem
And then, I embroidered more pieces of fabric and had my mother sew them into two pocket wall hanger organizers. The first one had four pockets with flowers embroidered on them.  I no longer have it, as the fabric deteriorated and tore.  But I have the second one:

Embroidered Pocket Wall Hanger/Organizer

It had two larger pockets and a narrow, longer pocket.  The two larger pocket depicted spring (girl with tulips) and summer (boy with flowers and fruit).

Spring and Summer

The upper long pocket depicted the four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter:

The Four Seasons

(Not the best quality photos, I'm afraid; I am taking them with my laptop, since I don't have a digital camera or smart phone.)

The patterns were copied from a Japanese embroidery book my mother had bought.  All the instructions were in Japanese.  Which neither my mother nor I knew to read!  But, the line drawings had labels in Japanese identifying the type of embroidery stitch and at the end of the book, there were diagrams of the stitches.  It was a simple matter of matching the labels on the drawings with the characters for the stitch names in the back diagrams and I was able to figure it out!
I discovered that I liked sewing!  Imagine that!  I am still not the neatest seamstress, but I do enjoy sewing.  Miss P. would have been surprised!  And, perhaps, a little pleased?     
Do you sew?  What is your first memory of sewing?  Were you taught sewing at school?  Did you enjoy learning to sew?


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Motivation to Declutter

What motivates you to declutter?

What motivates you to start going through the cabinets and closets and pull out things to donate or toss?

For me, it was stuff accumulating and piling up because all my storage spaces were full! I gathered a bunch of items for donation and yet, it seemed as if I hadn't even made a dent! My storage spaces were still overfull!

I started decluttering a minimum of 10 items a day and earned the title "Queen of Toss" on a forum that has since closed.

These days, I have sufficient storage (for the most part) for my stuff and decluttering seems harder. I guess I belong to the "if there is room to store it, keep it" camp. LOL.

For some others, motivation to declutter might come from a life change. A family member decluttered after her husband died and she decided to move to a smaller house. Still others might declutter because they are forming new relationships and combining 2 households.

So, what motivates you to declutter?   Do you declutter because you are a minimalist and like clear, open spaces?  Or are you more likely to keep things as long as there is space to store items?

This Week's Grocery Deals

This week's grocery ads are here.  And eggs are finally on sale!  $2.49 for 18 large eggs at one store; $1.99 for a dozen large eggs at another store.  Not the $.99/dozen I had been hoping for - maybe they'll go on sale at that price closer to Easter?  The question is, do I take a chance and hold out until then?  Or do I buy a dozen now and maybe buy another dozen when/if they go on sale at $.99?

This week's advertised deals:

Store 1 (no frills chain supermarket): 
chicken drumsticks for $.79/lb
mangoes for $.33 each
eggs for $2.49/18
pasta, $.69/lb

Store 2 (full service chain supermarket):
eggs for $1.99/doz.
split chicken breasts, $.99/lb.
canned tuna, $.59/can (5 oz).

Store 3 (ethnic store):
brown onions, 8 lb/$1
chicken leg quarters, $.79/lb
Red Delicious apples, $.25/lb
Granny Smith apples, $.39/lb
bagged carrots, 3lb/$1.00
pasta, $.69/lb
canned garbanzo beans, $.50/can (14 oz.)

I will definitely buy some eggs, maybe some pasta, and bread (just in case my bread making experiment doesn't work out).

How do these "good deals" prices compare with yours?  Are they prices you'd be willing to pay?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ribbon Journal

Ribbon Journal

Ever since she was a little girl, my daughter has loved stationery; notebooks, note pads, pens, pencils, markers, etc.  I always get her some stationery for her birthdays and other holidays.

Several years ago, just before Christmas, I was looking in the stationery section of the pharmacy to see if they had any discounted items, when I saw a display of journals.  They had hard covers that had a printed design, a spiral bound spine, with ribbon tied to some of the spirals.  They would have made lovely gifts, not only for my daughter, but also for the 8 other preteen/teen girls on my gift list.

Except, they were priced at $7.99 each.   Which was beyond my holiday gift budget. 

Instead, I searched the dollar store for small spiral bound notebooks with a patterned cover.  They didn't have hard cover notebooks, but they had some with a plastic cover and smaller spirals.  But, at $1 each, they were priced right.  I bought 9 notebooks.  I had ribbons, purchased at $.10/yard during a close-out sale, in my stash at home.  I used about half a yard of ribbon, per notebook.  I cut the ribbon into pieces and tied to the spirals.

My daughter still has her ribbon journal, which is shown in the photo above.  

I thought I'll post about it, in case anyone is looking for an inexpensive gift idea.


Monday, March 16, 2015

The Garden In Spring

Yesterday, I spent a little time gardening.  I did some weeding and watered the front garden for the second day in a row.  Our temperature was a record setting 93F on Saturday and it was hot, yesterday, too.  Today is going to be cooler at only 88F.

I also took some photos of the roses that are blooming in my back garden:

The roses will continue blooming all year, but not as abundantly as the first spring blooming.  Later in the summer, when the temperatures soar to 100+, the roses get dessicated on the bushes!

Is it spring where you live?  Have you started gardening?  Or are you still waiting for the snow to melt?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Grocery Shopping and Meal Planning: March Week 2

This weekend, I went to one of the big warehouse stores to do my quarterly stock up and bought a bottle of multivitamins (400 count @ $11.49), pet supplies (6 count flea prevention medications @$65.99 and a 25lb. bag of cat food @18.59); household supplies (toilet paper, 30 rolls @$15.99 and 6 cans of cleanser @$6.29).  There was also $10.65 in sales taxes added to these items (food is not taxed).  These items aren't paid from my grocery budget, but I am listing them here, just to give an idea of my household expenses and to help me get over the shock of the $174.97 total on my receipt when the food items came to under $50!   

The items I did pay from my grocery budget were:

Rice, 25lb. = $8.99
Butter, 4 lb. = $7.99
Ensure, 30 cans = $28.99
Total = $45.97

In addition, I did the weekly grocery shopping today:

Tangerines, @ 3lb/$1 = $.91
Pears, @$.49/lb = $.55
Bananas, @$.69/lb = $.86
Green beans, @$.99/lb = $.52
Cashews, @$6.99 = $3.39
Chicken drumsticks, $.79/lb = $2.60
Turkey cold cuts, $2.00/lb = $1.00
Yeast 3-pouch packet = $2.39 
Total = $12.22

This weekend's grocery total = $45.97 + $12.22 = $58.19

Grocery totals to date: $6.69 + $58.19 = $64.88
Amount left in budget: $75 - $64.88 = $10.12

Ooh, that's kind of cutting it close, isn't it?!  There's still half the month to get through!  Can I get by with just over $10 to spend for the rest of the month?  Especially with daughter coming home for a week of spring break, next weekend! 

I think it will be OK.  I've a lot of food in the freezer and some of today's chicken drumsticks, too, will be cooked and frozen.  All I'll need between now and the end of the month will be another gallon of milk next weekend, some fresh vegetables and fruit, and hopefully, eggs!  Oh, and maybe bread, although I want to try my hand at baking bread (thus the packet of yeast!)  If necessary, I'll dip into next month's grocery budget or take $10 from my "miscellaneous" account.

Did you go grocery shopping this weekend?  

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Weekend To Do List

That's right!  It's time to make another weekend to do list!  I've Monday off from work, so it's a 3-day weekend and I hope to get a lot done.  However, I always struggle with time management and procrastination, so, a list is a good motivating tool for me.   

- Launder sofa dust sheets/put new dust sheets - Done
- Household Laundry - 2 loads - Done
- Grocery shopping
- Quarterly stock up at warehouse store - Done
- Cat food & flea prevention meds.- Done

- Dust/tidy all rooms
- Vacuum
- Clean bathrooms
- Paperwork/file
- Meal plan/cook 
- Sewing - pillowcases; repair quilt
- Gardening - water front garden (done);weed
- Water indoor plants - Done

- Sort donations

- Declutter

It is going to be warm this weekend, with a high of 92F.  So, better get going with the housework while it's morning and still cool.

What does your weekend to do list include?

Friday (the 13!) and Loquats

Today is Friday the 13th!  The second one for this year and there's another one occurring in November, as well! 

Today, I went to the office and had a very productive day.  I remembered to take my reading glasses, so all was well.  *smile*

After I came home, I picked the first ripe fruit on my loquat tree:


I actually have three loquat trees which are growing together in a clump.  But last year, the neighbor's garage caught fire and the heat from the fire caused two of the trees to wilt and brown.  I cut them down to almost ground level and they regrew.  There are no fruit on those two trees yet, but the one tree that wasn't damaged by the fire has fruit.

Loquats are easily bruised, so they are not usually sold in the grocery stores.  However, one of the ethnic stores (the one I will be going to this weekend for the apples at $.39/lb. and tangerines at $.33/lb), sells loquats for $4.99 per container.  I don't know how much each container weighs, but it is the size of a 1 pint berry basket.

I ate the loquats I picked today, but I think I'll let the rest ripen a little longer, as the ones I had today were a bit sour.  The problem with leaving them on the tree is that the birds like them as well!  Last year, I made a batch of jam with the loquats I picked.  This year, there won't be as many loquats, but maybe I can mix some with apples to make a batch of apple-loquat jam. 

Have you eaten loquats?  If so, do you like them?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thursday's Productivity

Another warm day, today, with a high of 86F.  

As soon as I reached the office, I realized that I had left my reading glasses at home!  Oops!  So, I spent most of the day squinting at the computer screen.  Sigh.  I had another pair of glasses with me, they are the ones I use for sewing, etc., but for some reason, they don't work too well for viewing the computer screen - too blurry.  Thus the need for squinting.  It was quite frustrating.

After I came home, I watered the back garden.  Then, I wrote a couple of emails to friends and video chatted with daughter.

And I started decluttering!  So, today, I put aside 4 blouses to donate and tossed a pair of holey socks. 

How was your Thursday?

Wednesday: Grocery Specials

Today was a bit cloudy and cooler than the past couple of days.  Not cold, but in the low 70s rather than the upper 80s. And it even drizzled a little in the evening!  Not enough to do any good; I'll still need to water the garden, tomorrow.

Today, I went to the office and spent most of the morning attending a meeting.  The rest of the day passed quickly enough. 

On the way home, I put gas to the car.  Gas has gone up to $3.25 per gallon at this particular station (one of the cheapest stations in my neighborhood); I put $30 worth of gas and it should last me until the end of next week.  Currently, I drive approximately 40 miles a day during the work week, just commuting to work and back.  It wasn't too long ago that I used to drive approximately 100 miles a day, and used to spend $100 a week on gas (when gas prices were higher than they are now).

Breakfast was yogurt and granola (today was the "sell by date" on the discounted yogurts and today I ate the last of the 4 containers I bought); lunch was rice, shrimp curry and sauted cabbage (finished what I had cooked; need to think of another vegetable to cook for the rest of the week); an orange for dessert; cookies for afternoon snack; dinner was pork chops and corn, with chocolate covered raisins for dessert. 

I had a lovely, relaxed evening.  Had a chat on the phone with one of my friends and wrote to another.  Video chatted with my daughter.  And read a bit more of the decluttering book.

I looked through today's mail and the grocery ads.  This week's grocery specials include apples at $.39/lb., tangerines at 3 lbs./$1.00, pears for $.49/lb., chicken drumsticks for $.79/lb., and red onions for $.20/lb.  These prices are at one of the ethnic grocery stores, not the chainstore supermarket.  So, I think I shall shop at the ethnic grocery store, this week.

How was your Wednesday?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tuesday: A Visit to the Library and Decluttering

I had a good day, today.  Got up at 6:00 a.m., had a cup of coffee, got dressed and went to the office.  During my lunch break, I walked to the nearby library to return two books and to borrow two more. 

One is a book about long forgotten scientific discoveries of the ancient world; this promises to be interesting, but I haven't started reading it yet.

The other one is living a minimalist life and decluttering.  I started reading this one, but I was already mentally arguing with the author half way into the Introduction!  So, I don't know how helpful that might be, but I'll read a bit more before I decide whether to continue or not.  I'm trying to motivate myself to do another round of decluttering.

I tend to hold on to various items for sentimental reasons or because I am thrifty (can reuse, recycle, up-cycle, etc.).  As a result, things tend to accumulate.  I've done a fair amount of decluttering over the years (there was a time when I used to declutter 10 items a day), but now it's the hard-to-part-with items that have survived previous declutterings and they are stubbornly insisting on staying!  However, I feel that it is time to do more decluttering.  No doubt I'll be posting more about decluttering in the next few posts.

How was your day, today?  Do you struggle with decluttering too?  Or are you one of those people who have mastered the art of streamlining and keep possessions pared?


Monday's Doings

First of all, I'd like to welcome two new followers: Dawn and Jess!   This is exciting!  You've doubled my followers from two to four!

I'm still trying to figure out how to show my followers in a side bar on my blog page, but I keep getting error messages.  I might have to wait until my daughter comes home for spring break.  She's my "tech support".  LOL.

In the meantime, I will just write my blog posts.  

It was hard to wake up this morning, when it was still so dark; it takes me a couple of days to get used to the time change.  Usually, Dancer the cat comes to wake me up at 6:00 a.m., but today, he was still asleep, when I woke up.  He was not used to the time change, either.  I had my cup of coffee, got dressed, and drove myself to the office.  I have an 18-mile drive from home to the office, but it is an hour-long commute on a congested freeway.

Today was a rather stressful day for me at the office.   It was one of those days when I look forward to my eventual retirement.  I skipped breakfast and ate my fried rice and orange at my desk.  I had taken a piece of sponge cake and some sesame seed crackers for my snacks, but didn't eat them.  I tend to lose my appetite when I am under stress. 

During my lunch break, I went to the pharmacy to pick up my medication refills.

The best part of today was coming home in the evening.  It was nice to have daylight when I got home.  I stopped at the nearby doughnut shop and bought a doughnut to have with my coffee, put water to the front garden, and took the trash cans to the curb for trash pick up tomorrow.

Later, I paid two bills, watched some TV, and video chatted with my daughter.  I wasn't very hungry for dinner after having a doughnut earlier, so dinner was a bowl of cereal!  I'll take rice, shrimp curry and sauted cabbage for my lunch, tomorrow, and another orange for my fruit.    

And now, it is midnight and I need to clean the litter box and get ready for bed.  6:00 a.m. will come quickly enough.

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

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sunday Dinner

Ooh!  Two posts, today!  How exciting is that?!  LOL.

I cooked sauted cabbage, tonight.  This is my favorite way to cook cabbage.  Here are the directions for making the sauted cabbage (I wouldn't call it a recipe since I don't measure anything, but I'll try to give approximate amounts):

Finely shred the cabbage:

Shredded Cabbage

 I used half a small cabbage (just under 1 lb.), since I am cooking for myself, only.  The rest of the cabbage will keep in the fridge for another week or so.  To shred the cabbage, I just cut the half I was using into quarters and sliced with a knife. 

Once the cabbage is shredded,  I added a little (about 2 tablespoons) of oil to a frying pan, heated the oil over medium heat, added the cabbage and about 2 heaping teaspoons of curry powder.  I use a type of curry powder known as "dark roasted", but any curry powder will be OK (the color of the cooked cabbage will be lighter).

Add Curry Powder
 Add a little salt, too, (about 1/2 teaspoon) and stir to combine and saute.  The cabbage should be done in 3-5 minutes. 

Sauted in Oil

It will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days and I'll be having it for lunches or dinners this week.  I don't mind having the same vegetable several days in a row, but it can be frozen, too.  Cabbage is a very inexpensive vegetable; it was selling for $.33/lb. when I bought it and the whole cabbage came to $.31.  I bought the cabbage at the same time I bought the shrimp; the cheaper vegetable was meant to offset the expensive shrimp.

Sauted Cabbage
 I had bought and cooked the shrimp curry in mid-February.  I kept a portion to eat that week and froze two other portions.  I took one of those portions out from the freezer and thawed it in the fridge, yesterday.  Today, I added a little more milk to it and reheated it. 

Shrimp Curry
I have a rice cooker, so I cook my rice in that.  I put the rice to cook before I started to prepare the cabbage and warmed up the shrimp curry.  It takes about 20 minutes for the rice to cook and the rice finished cooking a few minutes after I had finished cooking the cabbage and reheating the shrimp.

I added a spoonful of my homemade tomato chutney to the rice, shrimp curry and sauted cabbage; dessert was a container of yogurt.

Rice, Shrimp Curry, Sauted Cabbage and Tomato Chutney
 There's plenty of everything left over for tomorrow's dinner and at least another meal or two.  It's not exactly bulk cooking, but it means I don't have to cook every day. 

Do you cook enough for several meals at one time?  Do you compensate for an expensive item such as shrimp with a cheaper item such as cabbage?  What's your favorite way to cook cabbage?

Sunday Brunch

Pork Fried Rice and Orange

Decided to make pork fried rice for Sunday brunch.  I diced part of a pork chop I had cooked last week and sauted the diced pork and some diced onion in a little bacon fat, saved from when I fried some bacon last night for dinner.  (I save the bacon fat in a little jar that I keep in the fridge; I find that a little bacon fat adds a lot of flavor to various dishes.)  Added some leftover rice, a handful of frozen green peas, some roasted, salted peanuts, and a little chili powder.  I didn't add any eggs, but one can add a beaten up egg at this point.  I didn't add any soy sauce, either, because I need to watch my salt intake (there was sufficient salt in the bacon fat and peanuts), but one can add soy sauce, too.

To round out the meal, I cut up one of the oranges I had picked from my tree.  

There was enough fried rice left over to pack for my lunch for tomorrow.

Fried rice is one of the best dishes for using up leftover rice.  And it can be made with any leftover cooked meat and vegetables, or vegetables only, if that is preferred.  It is also a very frugal meal, because it is mostly made with leftovers and a bit of this and a handful of that!

Do you make fried rice?


Saturday, March 7, 2015

March Grocery Shopping & Meal Planning - Week 1

I went grocery shopping this morning.  I didn't need a lot of items, this week, since my fridge, freezer, and pantry cabinets are full.  I mostly went grocery shopping for fresh fruit.  But I found some yogurt (store brand) that was on clearance (nearing sell-by date) and I decided to buy a gallon of milk, as well, even though I have half of last week's gallon left. 

Here's what I bought:

Potatoes, 10 lb. bag = $.99
4 yogurt cups, @ $.39 = $1.56
1 gal. milk = $2.79
1 mango = $.33
1 cantaloupe @ $.33/lb = $1.02
Total = $6.69

I checked the price of eggs, today.  $2.89/dozen large eggs and $3.99 for 18 large eggs.  I am hoping eggs will go on sale for $1.99/doz. or less, in the next couple of weeks.  

My monthly grocery budget is $75 (for food, only, for one person; does not include toiletry, household products, pet food).  Although daughter will be home for one week, later this month, on spring break, I will not increase my grocery budget.

Amount spent: $6.69
Amount left in budget: $75 - $6.69 = $68.31

My meal planning is not very specific.  I don't plan a different dish for each day.  Instead, I make two or three main dishes, which I rotate and have for lunches and dinners, with the option of cooking something else on any night. 

This week, I plan to have pork chops made over into spicy sauted pork as my first main dish and shrimp curry from the freezer as my second main dish.  I might make some pork fried rice, as well, one night or have breakfast for dinner one night (scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, toast or fried potatoes).

There will be rice and potatoes for starch (as well as bread and pasta if I change my mind).  

For vegetables, I will make sauted cabbage and maybe a vegetable stir fry (carrots, baby corn, green peas, etc.).  I also have most of a head of lettuce that must be finished, so, there'll be some salads, too.  And a bit of leftover sauted green beans.

Breakfasts and snacks will be toast with butter and jam or cheese; crackers and cheese; cereal; yogurt; fruit; cookies; leftover sponge cake; etc.

As I said, not a very structured meal plan.  But it works well for me.

Have you done your weekly grocery shopping for this week, yet?  Do you make more structured meal plans?

This Weekend's To Do List

Guess what?  It's time to make another weekend to do list!  Of course, some tasks are being repeated, as I do them every week or every other week.  Others are carried forward from the previous list.

- Launder sofa dust sheets/put new dust sheets* - Done
- Launder bed sheets/remake bed* - Done
- Bank* - Done
- Grocery shopping* - Done
- Freezer inventory
- Dust/tidy living room/dining area/family room
- Tidy clothes closet - Done
- Paperwork/file 
- Meal plan - Done
- Sewing/knitting/reading
- Gardening/weeding
- Water indoor plants* - Done
- Put gas to the car (can be done on Monday)
- Dishes*- Done

* Must do's

Lots to do, as always.  But I took it easy after work during the week, this week, and so, need to do more over the weekend.

What do you have on your weekend to do list?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Weekly Grocery Deals

The weekly grocery ads are delivered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, in my area, and one of the things I like to do on a Thursday evening is go through the ads to see what's on special this week.  I make note of the best deals and then decide what I'll buy.  I make my meal plans based on what I buy and what's in the freezer and pantry.

I'm lucky enough to have several grocery stores within a two-mile radius of my house or on my way home from work.  But I tend to shop at two or three stores, for the most part.  So, I only look at the grocery ads for those stores and ignore the rest.

This week's deals include:

Pork shoulder picnic roast at $.89/lb.
Bacon, 12 oz. pack @ $2.50
Cooking oil, 40 oz. @ $1.99
Potatoes, 10 lb. bag @ $.99
Ataulfo Mangoes, @ $.33
Cantaloupe, @ $.33/lb.
Strawberries, @ $.99/lb.

I will not buy any meat this week, since I still have most of what I bought last week and I have some bacon in the freezer.

I don't need any oil, either, since I have two bottles in my pantry, and that's plenty for me.  I am tempted to buy the potatoes; I've come to the end of my current bag of potatoes and the few that are left are starting to sprout!

I will definitely buy some mangoes and probably a cantaloupe.  They, with the oranges from my garden, will be my fruit for next week.

I will be keeping an eye out for a bargain on eggs.  I am down to the last four eggs in my container of free (with coupon) eggs which I picked up in January.   I generally eat 1-2 eggs a week, so those four eggs will last me for another couple of weeks.  By which time, eggs should be going on sale. 

Do you check the grocery ads to get the best deals? 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Rose Bud

When the roses start to bloom, I know that spring is around the corner!

My garden is sadly neglected and needs a lot of tender loving care.  We are in the 4th year of drought, with watering restrictions.

I don't have time to garden during the work week, right now, since it is dark when I get home in the evenings.  But once we go into daylight savings time, I should be able to spend an hour or so in the garden, weeding, etc.  We've been blessed with several rainy days, so far, this year and, as a result, the garden desperately needs a good weeding.

But, in the meantime, the roses continue to bloom:

Hidden Rose!  There's a rose bush in there, some where!
As I said, the garden needs weeding!

Anyone else having a garden that is neglected?


When I first bought my house, there was an orange tree in the backyard.  A few years later, however, when I added the family room, the orange tree was removed.  I planted a new, replacement orange tree.  I've been picking five or six oranges a week for several weeks and this season's crop is coming to an end.  

Orange Tree

But there are masses of flowers on the tree!  They have the most wonderful fragrance and the bees are loving it.  If all goes well, there will be lots more oranges to be enjoyed, later this year!

Orange Flowers

Oranges picked fresh from the tree in the backyard - such a wonderful treat!

Do you have fruit trees in your garden?