Monday, November 30, 2015

Another New Hat!

"Smocked" Hat

I knitted myself another new hat on Sunday, with more yarn from the stash.  The actual color is a little more pink than it appears in the picture, more salmon pink than apricot.

The pattern is called "smocking" in my knitting book of patterns, since it resembles a type of sewing called smocking:

Close Up
It gives a highly embossed look and quite stretchy.  I made it a tiny bit smaller than the other hat (2 stitches less), because it is so stretchy.

I now have a total of 4 hats:

- the black fabric one that was a gift from my niece (along with the scarf)
- a black knitted one that I bought from the dollar store
- the black and grey one I knitted earlier
- and this peach smocked one

I think I have enough hats for my immediate needs.  I might make one or two more, later on, after I see how I like the feel of these hats against my scalp.  


In addition to knitting myself a new hat, I went grocery shopping on Sunday afternoon, watered the front garden, visited a friend (and gave the birthday quilt to her daughter), and did a load of laundry.  It was a fairly relaxed, yet productive day. 

On Sunday, I was grateful for:

- A new hat
- My yarn stash
- Having learned to knit
- Visits with friends
- Washing machines

How was your Sunday?  

Sunday, November 29, 2015

New Knitted Hat

Knitted Hat with Crocheted Rose Embellishment

I pulled out two skeins of leftover yarn from my stash and knitted myself a "beanie" hat!  The black yarn was leftover from a sweater I made for my daughter several years ago.  I can't remember buying the grey yarn - it might have been in a bag of yarn that was given to me by a friend, some time ago.  There was just enough yarn to make the hat and the crocheted rose embellishment. Can't really get a good picture of the rose, but it has three rows of raised petals.

I adapted the hat directions from a pattern given in a knitting book that I have.  I cast on 92 stitches using US#7 size needles and worked in knit 1 purl 1 rib until 8 inches from cast on edge.  Then decreased by knitting 2, then "knit 2 together and knit 1" repeated till the end; ribbing for another 5 rows and decreasing by knit 2 together until the end.  Then, cut the yarn leaving about 20 inches of yarn attached to thread  through all the remaining stitches twice and pull to close the top.  And sew the seam.

I don't have directions for the rose.  I kind of made it up as I went along.  I can read and follow knitting directions quite well, but crochet directions leave me floundering, unless it's fillet crochet!  I am like my grandmother, that way - she could only do fillet crochet.  But I knew I wanted a three-dimensional rose and I kind of crocheted loops of chains to the back of each row of petals to make my rose.  As a result, the petals are sort of stacked one on top of the other.     

That was a win-win-win project!  I used up two items from the yarn stash, spent the afternoon enjoying knitting, and now have a warm hat to wear to keep my head warm (especially when I won't have any hair due to chemo!)

I am thinking of trying my hand at a crocheted hat, next.

Have you knitted or crocheted hats?  Which do you prefer?    

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Yarn Stash and Granny Squares

The Yarn Stash

Some time ago, I showed everyone my fabric stash.  Today, I am showing my yarn stash!

It's stored in a 60 Quart/56.7 Liter container and fills about half of it.  I used to buy yarn whenever it went on sale, to take advantage of the sale, without having a particular project in mind, and my storage container used to be full!  But then, I put myself on a yarn diet - no more buying new yarn until I used up my stash, unless I needed a particular type or color for a specific project.

I keep most of the yarn contained in plastic bags, so it's easy to pull out a bag and have all the same color or type of yarn together, but I took most of them out of the bags for the photograph.

Yarn Stash Spread Out

Spread out on the sofa, one can see that it is mostly leftovers from various projects.  The only yarn I've a quantity of are the pale yellow yarn (kept on hand to make baby blankets any time I hear a friend or colleague is having a baby) and the 8 balls of the dark green cotton yarn (bought on sale for $.50 each, to take advantage of the sale, before I put myself on the yarn diet).  Some, like the cone of  fuzzy yarn, were given to me. 

So what does one do with small quantities of leftover yarn?  Why, one makes smaller items like hats and socks or...granny squares!  If you look closely at the stash above, you can see a granny square in progress:

Yarn Stash and Granny Square in Progress

I have a pile of granny squares already made:

Granny Squares

Someday, they will be sewn or crocheted together to make a blanket.  In fact, this might be a good project to take with me to work on during chemo sessions.   Never mind that I already have two other blankets made with leftover yarn!  :D

But the next project I have in mind is to knit myself a hat or two.  I'm off to choose my yarn - I am thinking the half skein of black yarn, mixed with the half skein of grey might make a good combination.

Do you have a yarn stash?  What do you do with your yarn leftovers?


The Finished Irish Chain Quilt

Finished Quilt

I finally finished the Irish Chain quilt for my friend's daughter's 21st birthday gift!  I started it back in August!  Cut out the pieces on August 23.  I had all the 9-patch pieces sewn by that Saturday.  I continued to sew on it on Sunday and, by Monday, August 31, I had the entire top sewn.  But then, on September 1, I had my biopsy and things sort of went in a different direction.  I did other sewing projects and procrastinated on finishing the quilt top!

And then, when I got back to sewing the quilt top, I had some difficulty with sewing the borders on, getting things to come out evenly and neatly, etc.  I didn't have enough of one shade of blue for all four borders, so I used two different shades!  There was a particular piece of fabric I had in my stash which I wanted for the backing, but it turned out to be a bit too narrow, so I had to sew two strips of the border fabric to it to make it wider.   The blanket I used as the filling turned out to be uneven and I ended up cutting off a strip!   I hemmed the borders by hand and my wrist hurt for two days, afterwards, and I had to rest my hand.  It got to the point where just finishing the quilt became a challenge!


Quilt Back

Close Up of the Backing Fabric

Once my hand got better, I hand quilted a single row all around the outer edge of the quilt border, to keep the blanket from shifting.  Then, I tied the rest of the quilt, using blue embroidery thread.   


It is not perfect, but it is done!  And I used up four big pieces of fabric from my stash, as well as several smaller scraps.  This was a good stash buster quilt!

Now, I can turn my attention to knitting myself a warm hat and a different quilt.  Not to mention sewing some Christmas gifts!


Today, in between sewing on the quilt, I cleaned the kitchen, went for a short walk, had my aunt and cousin visit in the afternoon, and cooked rice, smoked sausage, and bok choy for dinner.  Breakfast was bread rolls sandwiched with roast turkey; lunch was rice with the ground beef mixture (there's one last serving of the ground beef mixture left). I didn't go Black Friday shopping!  Last year, I did some fabric shopping on Black Friday, but this year, I stayed home!

Today, I am grateful for:
- Finishing the quilt!
- Family visiting
- A walk in the sunshine and fresh air
- Daughter's company
- A relaxed day

Did you go shopping today?  If so, did you get some good bargains? 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

My Thanksgiving Wreath

Happy Thanksgiving!

I redid and hung up my Thanksgiving wreath on Wednesday afternoon.

I can't remember exactly when I made this wreath.  But it has been at least 15 years!  I hot-glued the cornucopia to the wreath, but when I attached the flowers, it became a bit too heavy and the cornucopia came loose until I tied it on with some wire.  I have to remove the longer floral picks and cattails in order to store the wreath in the storage box, so, every year, I have to redo the floral arrangement in the cornucopia.

Daughter and I have been invited to Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's house and a cousin's house!  Last year, and the year before, too, we went to our friend's house first (an earlier dinner) and then, to my cousin's house (a later dinner).  I am not sure if I will be able to go to both places, this year.  We shall see.

This year, I am thankful for so many things!  For the fact that the diagnosis was what it was and not worse, for being alive to celebrate this Thanksgiving with my daughter and family and friends, for the support I've received from everyone, and for all the caring friends I've made in blogland.  Thank you for reading and commenting, for the advice and the encouragement, for being there on my journey.  My life has been enriched by each and every one of you.   

Wish you all a lovely day spent in the company of family and friends.  

Health Update, Shopping, and Christmas Gifts

On Wednesday, I went to see the doctor in the morning.  My blood pressure was a little higher than it had been on the preceding couple of visits, so she was concerned about that.  My blood test results came back OK for the most part.  There was one test result that she was concerned about and so she recommended a change in one of my medications.  I am to see her again, in 3 weeks' time.  

After the doctor's appointment, daughter and I went out to breakfast.  After that, we went shopping!  We went to two different malls, in the morning, and a few other shops in the evening!  In between, we came home, had lunch, and took naps! 

I tried on a couple of hats for when I lose my hair, but I am so not a hat person!  I looked at the yarn in the big craft store to see if they had anything I liked to knit or crochet myself a hat, but I didn't much care for what they had.  I will check what I have in my yarn stash and then, decide if I want to try the fabric store (they carry yarn, too).  In the meantime, I bought a knitted hat from the dollar store - it will suffice to keep my head warm, either worn by itself, or under a scarf.

We bought ink for the printer, a new winter jacket for daughter, some toiletries and personal care products, a big container of protein powder, cat food, a new baking pan (to make corn bread to take to a friend's house, tomorrow), some snacks and treats, and a Christmas gift for my friend's daughter.  Yay!  One Christmas gift bought! 

I make most of my holiday gifts, but there are a few gifts that are bought, as well.  Usually, the gifts are bought when they are on deeply discounted sales.   For example, scented jar candles are regularly priced at $9.99 at the crafts store.  Today, they were on sale, 40% off, for $5.99.  But they went on clearance for $1.69 last year.  With sales tax, they came to $1.84 each.  At under $2 each, they were a very affordable gift, and I bought four.  By shopping the sales, I can keep to my gift budget.  The gift I bought today, however, wasn't on sale.  I actually paid full price ($12.00), because it is a specialized item (an anime plush toy) that rarely, if ever, goes on sale.  I am able to "splurge" on a few such items because I keep the costs low on the rest.

Later in the evening, I called one of my friends and an aunt to check on them.

It's been a good day.  I enjoyed being out and about and shopping.  I won't be doing much of that once I start chemo.  

Today, I spent a bit of money.  I haven't added it all up, yet.  But it included $15 for the doctor's visit, $2 for the parking, $12 at one store for the Christmas gift, $128 at another store for various other items including protein powder ($25), cat food ($16), daughter's jacket ($38), etc.

I am grateful for:

- On-going medical care
- Mostly good blood test results
- A day spent in daughter's company, shopping
- Afternoon naps
- Family and friends

How was your day?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tuesday's Activities and a Christmas/Holiday Gift List

On Tuesday, I went to the office and had a busy day, trying to clear my desk.  I plan to spend some time next week, too, tidying my desk and filing everything.  Even so, no doubt I will get phone calls at home asking where X, Y, and Z items are!  And I won't remember, because they are no longer spread out on my desk and have been filed away!  And because I will probably have "chemo brain"!

During my morning break, I went to the pharmacy to look for the clear adhesive dressings the doctor prescribed, but that particular pharmacy didn't carry them.  The pharmacist suggested I checked the hospital pharmacy to see if they had them.  I will do that next week.

Later, during my lunch break, I went to the bank to withdraw some cash.  When I used to receive a paper check, I used to go to the bank once every two weeks to deposit my check and withdraw spending cash.  Now, I have direct deposit and I need to make a special trip to the bank for cash withdrawals.  That's going to be difficult when I am undergoing chemo and avoiding public places.

After work, I put gas to the car ($28.05).  Later, after dinner, daughter and I relaxed and watched some TV programs.   

I went through this week's grocery ads, but didn't find anything I needed to stock up on.  I didn't go grocery shopping last weekend, either, choosing to eat what I had already cooked and kept in the fridge. I might get another gallon of milk this weekend and maybe some fresh fruits and vegetables, but that's all I need.    

And, I made my Christmas/holiday gift list (I say "holiday gifts" because some of my gifts are New Year's gifts).  This year, I have really cut back on the number of people to whom I will be giving gifts for Christmas and New Year, because I won't be seeing them over the holiday season.  I feel guilty about that, however, and so, there is a chance I will spend the Thanksgiving weekend making a double batch of jam to give as early holiday gifts!  I might not see them, but I could always send them the gifts through my daughter or through one of my cousins.  I have a feeling I might be expanding my gift list before all is said and done! 

Have you made your Christmas/holiday gift list, yet?

Today, I am grateful for:

- Helpful service personnel at the pharmacy and bank
- A productive day at the office
- The availability of gas
- A relaxed evening spent in daughter's company
- Exchanging emails with a friend.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Bills and Sponge Cake on Monday

Today started off with a phone call to the insurance company to ask about the $715 bill I received from the radiology center.  I was on the phone with them for 30 minutes, but it would be well worth the time if it means saving myself $715.  Apparently the radiology center billed the insurance company directly, instead of going through the HMO I belong to.  So, the insurance company denied the claim and the radiology center billed me, instead.  The person I spoke to at the insurance company spoke to someone at billing at the radiology center while I was kept on hold and explained what the billing procedure should be.  So, they will resubmit the billing through the proper channels and I am to disregard the billing, unless I hear from them, again. 

Then, I received the latest billing from the utility company, in today's mail.  $376.33!  What?!  Yes, the billing period is for 2 months, and the bill includes water, electricity, sewage, and trash collection, but still!  That's almost $400!  I usually don't go over $300 per bill, which is why I allocate $150 towards it in my monthly budget.  Well, a closer look revealed the reason for the higher than usual charge - they are charging me $87.85 as a "correction" on two previous bills from last year!  January 2014 to March 2014 and from March 2014 to May 2014!  My charges for the current billing period amount to $288.48 which is no higher than usual.  That breaks down to $101.50 for 624 kWh for electricity (I am allocated 1,000 kWh at Tier 1 rates), $51.15 for 11 HCF (hundred cubic feet) of water (I am allotted 24 HCF during winter and 29 HCF during summer, at Tier 1 rates), sewer service charge of $61.80 and solid waste (trash collection) charge of $74.03.  I know they experienced billing problems last year due to a change in the computer program they were using.  They over charged some customers and there's a lawsuit pending about that.  They undercharged me and I called them about it; I was told they will correct it later, and I thought they already did that on a later bill.  I will have to go through my old bills and see if I can figure it out.

All this worrying over bills had me feeling stressed.  I tried to relax by sewing on the quilt binding, but that, too, was giving me trouble and not coming along as I would have liked.  So, after fussing over that for several hours, I decided to bake a cake.  My usual sponge cake.  As I mentioned before, this is my favorite recipe.

The Recipe

I copied down this recipe from my mother's recipe book, and it is one of the easiest recipes to make:

Cream together 1/4 lb. butter and 1/2 lb. sugar

Add  2 eggs, one at a time

Beat well after each egg has been added:

After eggs have been mixed in

Add 1/2 lb. sifted flour mixed with 3 tsp. baking powder, along with 1/2 cup of milk; add vanilla (I hadn't written how much, so just added about a tablespoon); recipe called for salt, but I used salted butter, so I didn't add any salt.

Add vanilla
 Spread the mixture in a baking pan:

Before baking
Bake in a moderately hot oven for about 30 minutes:

Fresh out of the oven

Cooled on the rack for a few minutes:

Cake Cooling
And enjoyed for dessert:

Piece of Cake!
Breakfast was tuna salad on toast; daughter made fried rice for lunch; dinner was some of the groundbeef/vegetable mixture with rice.

Today, I am grateful for:

- Getting one bill more or less resolved
- Daughter making lunch
- Freshly baked sponge cake
- Time spent in the garden
- Getting through Monday!  :D

How was your Monday?

Weekend in Review

Yesterday, Saturday, daughter went to see a movie and have lunch out with one of her friends.  While she was gone, I took picture of the garden, spoke with a couple of cousins and an aunt on the phone, and relaxed.  In the evening, daughter and I went to the monthly prayer gathering.  It was being held at the home of one of my cousins and another cousin and her daughter gave us a ride there and back.  So, lots of family time and I met several friends, as well.  I had a scrambled egg and fried potatoes for brunch, with a glass of orange juice.  Dinner was Thai food at the prayer gathering.

Today, Sunday, I received a phone call from one of my overseas cousins, in the morning, inquiring how I was, etc.  One of my friends was going to visit me today, but she said she woke up not feeling too well, so we decided to postpone her visit until she felt better.  Instead, I spent the day doing a few other things: a load of laundry washed and hung to dry; the living room and dining area dusted and tidied; some paperwork; and a bit of sewing (I am still trying to finish the birthday quilt for my friend's daughter; her birthday came and went, but I couldn't finish sewing the borders in time; we've been invited to their home for Thanksgiving, so I am trying to get the quilt done by then).

I have received a billing for $715 from the radiology center for the biopsy; apparently they submitted the bill to the insurance company but haven't received payment from them.  I will need to call the insurance company, tomorrow, to find out what's happening - if they will pay or if I am responsible for paying it, even though the procedure had been authorized by them.  Once before, too, several years ago, there was a $400 charge for a mammogram that insurance was supposed to have covered but I ended up having to pay. 

I also paid the phone bill: $144.17; this includes my cell phone, daughter's cell phone, and the home phone.

In the late afternoon, daughter and I went for a walk around the block.  We were both surprised to see a hawk, standing by the side of the road, across the street from us!  That was an unusual sight to see it just standing there, on the ground.  I asked daughter to take a picture of it with her phone, but she said there was not enough storage space on her phone.

Today, I had two pieces of toast with some of my homemade lemon marmalade for breakfast.  For lunch, I had salmon with sauted zucchini and corn.  Dinner was pasta with chicken/cream of mushroom sauce.

Chicken in Cream of Mushroom Sauce

I took one of the chicken breasts I had cooked earlier, sliced it and reheated it in the broth in which it had cooked.  To that, I added some sliced onions, celery, and green bell peppers (all from the freezer), a can of cream of mushroom soup and half a can of water.  Then, since it needed a bit more color, I added a spoon of pimiento from a jar I had in the fridge.  Everything was simmered together while the pasta (spaghetti) cooked.  I served the sauce over the pasta and we had that for dinner.  One of daughter's friends (this time, a friend since 4th grade) came over to watch a video with her and joined us at dinner.   We had grapes for dessert.  I sent half of the leftover pasta and sauce home with daughter's friend and put the other half in the fridge for daughter, for later.

Today, I am grateful for:

- A sunny and warm day
- Keeping in touch with family and friends
- Frugal meals using items on hand
- Seeing the hawk on our walk
- A relaxed day

How was your weekend? 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A View of the Garden in November

We are in the 5th year of our drought.  Water restrictions have been in effect for several years and we've been mandated to reduce our water use by another 20%.  I am allocated a certain amount of water for each billing period (every two months) and am billed at Tier 1 rates for that amount and at Tier 2 rates if I go above that amount up to a certain level and Tier 3 rates if I go above that.  I have tried to stay well under my allocated amounts, to keep my water bill as low as I can.  Therefore, I only water the garden once a week, for 10 minutes at a time.  As a result, the garden is simply limping along and we are all eagerly anticipating the rains  the weather forecasters are saying we will receive this winter.

Today, I took some random pictures of the garden:

The Front Garden
Taken from the corner near the sidewalk and driveway, looking diagonally across the practically non-existent front "lawn".  The eucalyptus tree provides a bit of shade. The lantana bushes along the lower right corner of the picture are drought tolerant and will grow into a hedge, eventually.

Another view of the front garden:

Flower Bed

Drought Tolerant African Daisies Plants

The pomegranate tree; one of the few trees that change leaf color in the fall:

Pomegranate Tree

A view of the back garden taken from my back steps:

Back Garden

One of the three lemon trees, which grow along the left side of the above picture, against the side of the garage wall:

Lemon Tree (lemons the size of limes due to lack of water)

At one time, I had close to 100 rose bushes (98 to be precise).  Today, only a dozen or so plants are still alive.

Rose Bush Bravely Trying

The orange tree, with ripening fruit:

Orange Tree with Ripening Oranges

Some of the drought-tolerant plants still thrive: 

Rosemary Bush, Drought-Tolerant and Thriving

Euphorbia tirucalli "Pencil Tree" Taking Over!

Proof positive that I really do take the photographs with my lap top!  LOL.  I was trying to take a picture of the dead lawn, but didn't realize my shadow showed!  I am reminded of Robert Louis Stevenson's poem, "My Shadow". 

Shadowy Gardener/Photographer and Dead Lawn

Yes, a nice, sunny day, today.  High of 85F.  Next week, we'll dip down to a high of 63F on Thanksgiving Day, according to the forecast.

Friday, November 20

Friday has been another fairly quiet day.  I went to the office and had a productive day.  Came home and relaxed.  Watched a bit of TV while daughter went out to dinner with two of her friends; it was the birthday of one of them, her best friend since 7th grade.  I am glad she's getting to spend time with her friends.

I spent $7.40 today for lunch.  I went to a Japanese restaurant for teriyaki beef, rice, and vegetables. I budget $25/month for eating out/entertainment, so, I am OK with going out to lunch a couple of times a month.  Breakfast was a granola bar and grapes; dinner was cereal with milk and a tangerine.  Cashew, a piece of cheese, and popcorn for snacks.

Today, I am grateful for:

- A warmer day
- Daughter spending time with friends
- A productive day at the office
- Safe drives
- Having daughter home!  :)

How was your Friday?  

Friday, November 20, 2015

Two Doctors' Appointments

Today (Thursday), I had two doctors' appointments.  One in the morning, with my primary care physician.  She checked my incision to see how it's healing.  It's healing slowly.  The lab results from the culture taken last week came back saying there was no sign of a bacterial infection, which was good.  I had some additional blood work done, today, and I'll meet with the doctor next week to go over those results.

In the afternoon, I had the second appointment of the day, with my podiatrist.  He's been checking my feet every 6 months for diabetes-related complications, but today, we discussed possible side effects due to chemo therapy.  I am to call him if I notice any problems or have any concerns, and not wait until my next regular 6 months check up.  Fortunately, the podiatrist and the chemo therapy center are located in the same medical office building, so it'll be easy to drop in for a quick check up if needed.
In between the two medical appointments, I went to the office.

After I came home, I hand watered the poor neglected front garden!  This is the first time I hand watered the front garden after my surgery.  The back garden is easily watered with the sprinklers, but the front garden doesn't have a lawn anymore (I let the lawn die due to the drought and need to conserve water), so I prefer not to turn on the sprinklers and to water by hand, using the garden hose.  I picked another pomegranate.

I put away the laundry from yesterday and picked up daughter from the airport! She's home until after Thanksgiving!

I had to be fasting for my blood work, this morning, so, had a nutritional drink for a late breakfast, after I got to the office.  Lunch was a meat-filled bread roll and grapes.  I had a cup of tea and some cashews when I came home.  Dinner was a frozen tamale. Oops!  I left the veggies off the menu, again! 

It was a lovely and warm during the day, but morning and evening have been cold. 

I spent money, today.  $30 for the 2 doctor visits; $10 for parking.

Today, I am grateful for:

- Medical care
- Daughter having a safe flight home
- Having daughter home
- A warm day
- Being able to water the garden

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesday, November 18

Today has been a quiet day.  One of those days when nothing much happened.  Things were fairly quiet at the office, too.  After I came home, I did a load of laundry and hung up to dry.  Gave myself a pedicure.  Video chatted with daughter.  As I said, a quiet day.

No money was spent, today. 

Breakfast was a banana, followed by crackers and peanut butter for a mid-morning snack.  Lunch was a meat-filled bread roll.  Grapes for afternoon snack.  Came home and had a cup of tea and snacked on cashews while I did the laundry.  For dinner, I had the last of the beef steak (cut up and sauted), with corn and more sauted zucchini.  Dates for dessert.  And a nutritional drink for a nightcap while I type this!

Dinner!  (My plate matches the placemat!)
Today, I am grateful for:

- A safe commute to work (passed several accidents)
- A safe day at work (bomb squad passed by with sirens blaring, but going in the opposite direction)
- A quiet day
- Pedicures
- Video chatting with daughter

How was your Wednesday?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

This Week's Grocery Ads and Souped Up Soup!

Thanksgiving Specials

This week's grocery ads were delivered today.  Lots of thanksgiving specials!  Turkey for $.57/lb. with the purchase of $25 worth of additional items (excludes certain items such as liquor and tobacco), at Store A.  Store B is selling turkey for $.77/lb. with $25 purchase (again, excludes certain items).  Store C is selling for $.79/lb. with $75 purchase.  Another store is selling them for $.99/lb. with no minimum purchase required.  Yet another, for $1.99/b. without any mention of a minimum purchase.  Others give a flat price of $7 for a 8-14.99 lb. turkey or $11 for a 15-18.99 lb. turkey, with $25 minimum purchase.  I think this last store gives the best price, provided one gets a 14 lb. turkey; works out to $.50/lb.

This is just an example of the fluctuation in prices in the stores within a 5 mile radius of my home.  I generally stick to about 3-4 stores and select which one to go to that particular week based on what's on sale.

Two of the stores are owned by the same parent company, but one is a bit more up-scale than the other.  Store A (up-scale, where they bag your groceries for you) is also having green beans, broccoli and cauliflower on sale for $.88/lb. which is a good price.  But they are selling grapes for $1.99/lb.  Their Brussels sprouts are $1.99/lb., parent company brand frozen vegetables are $.99/12 oz. and cranberries are $2.50/12 oz. package.   Store B (the discount store, where you have to bag your own groceries, but they have a full service butcher counter, which the up-scale store doesn't have), has the same parent company brand frozen vegetables for $.79/12 oz., but their green beans are $1.29/lb.  Their flyer has fewer pages, so they don't list a lot of their items.  In this case, I might go to Store A and get their green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and a bag of frozen green peas.

But I might go to the store at the other end of the strip mall (same parking lot) for grapes ($1.29/lb) and cranberries ($1.99/12 oz).  Or, the dollar store midway between the two grocery stores has grapes, too ($.99/lb).

Today, I had a meal replacement/nutritional drink for breakfast - it's the one my primary care doctor told me to take as it has a lot of protein (16g/8 fl. oz).  Grapes for mid-morning snack.  One meat-filled bread roll for lunch (I took 2 with me, but wasn't hungry for both).  A banana for dessert. 5 saltine-type crackers with peanut butter for afternoon snack.  Came home and had a cup of tea.

I wanted soup for dinner - there was 1/3 can of condensed cream of chicken soup leftover from making the chicken pot pies and I decided to have that for dinner.  But, since I am trying to get in more veggies, I decided to add some to my soup!  I made up the condensed soup with some water and I added some sliced celery (from the freezer), the torn off leaves from one of the baby bok choys and a grated carrot, and "souped up" my soup!   

Souped-Up Soup!

Lots of freshly grated black pepper to spice it up a bit.  All the bok choy leaves floated on the top and the celery and carrots sort of sank to the bottom.  So, after I had some of the soup, I decided to take another picture to show that there were other vegetables in it:

Cream of Chicken and Vegetable Soup

It wasn't half bad, actually. 

Speaking of canned condensed soup, the ones I bought the last couple of times for $.49 each (with the purchase of 6 mix and match items) are now on sale for $.99 each.  But, this week, canned vegetables are on sale for $.49 each, if you buy 10 ($.69 @ if buying less than 10). I usually buy a few cans at that price, each year, to keep on hand for emergencies (if there is a big earthquake and we lose electricity, canned stuff will not spoil, unlike the contents of my freezer).  Then, if I haven't used them, I donate them each May, when the postal service have their "Stamp Out Hunger" food drive.  

Today, I spent $20 at the pharmacy for medication refills.

I am grateful for:

- The winds calmed down without causing any damage.
- It was warmer, today.
- I had a safe commute to work and back.
- Met a couple of long-time office friends
- Phone calls with family and friends

Are the stores in your areas having their Thanksgiving sales, already?  Do you buy extra turkeys when they go on sale now to freeze for later?  Have you added more vegetables, etc., to canned condensed soups to improve them? 

Windy Monday

The winds actually started blowing on Sunday night and continued throughout the day on Monday, into Monday night.  Strong winds which have knocked down branches, dried palm fronds, and trees.  When I came home from work, Monday evening, there was a Street Tree maintenance truck in front of my neighbor's house - I guess they cut down the dead tree in front of her house before it fell down due to the winds.

It was either the winds blowing all the dust around or the atmospheric pressure that caused me to wake up with a slight headache on Monday morning.  Or, perhaps, it was a lack of adequate sleep.  Or, dehydration.  Or a combination of all three.  The headache lingered even as I went to work; but slowly wore off in the evening.

It was a chilly day for us.  It was 54F when I left for work in the morning.  I forgot to check the temperature outside when I came home, but it was 60F inside the house, in the family room (where the temperature gauge is set up).  I turned on the heater and now it has gone off, which means the living room area has reached 70F (thermostat is in the living room/dining area); the family room has warmed up to 64F!  The single gas wall heater is not very effective when it comes to heating up the whole house through diffusion.  But it's better than the old floor heater, which didn't work properly, at all.  

Breakfast was a cup of coffee (with milk) before I left the house in the morning, followed by a groundbeef filled bread roll I baked on Sunday.  Grapes for mid-morning snack.  Lunch was two more of the groundbeef rolls.  Afternoon snack was a banana and peanut butter.  I had a cup of tea with milk when I came home in the evening.  Dinner was salmon, half a baked potato, sauted zucchini, apple juice, and cashew-stuffed dates for dessert.

I didn't spend any money, on Monday.

Monday's gratitude:

- The winds didn't cause any damage to my house and garden
- Safe commutes to work and back
- A working heater
- Leftovers for dinner (didn't have to cook)
- Kitty curling up on my lap to keep warm

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

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November Grocery Shopping Week 3-Part 2 and Groundbeef Filled Bread Rolls

Today's Groceries

I did a bit more grocery shopping today:

1 gallon milk = $2.59
5 lb. flour = $1.79 (sale price; didn't make a note of regular price)
6 cans of soup, @ $.49 with purchase of 6; regular price $.99@  = $2.94 ($5.94 if I had paid regular price)

Total paid for food = $7.32
Had I paid full price for the canned soup, the total would have been $10.32

(I also bought a bag of cat food for $9.99 + $.90 tax, but that's not included in grocery budget).

Today's Receipt

November grocery totals to date:  $9.36 + $29.48 + $16.47 + $39.81 + $7.32 = $102.44

There seems to be some concern that my grocery budget is inadequate, that I am not getting enough nutrition.  I've set my budget at $75 for myself, going up to $100 when daughter is home for frequent visits, because I make it a point to buy mostly those items that are on sale.  I generally buy only a handful of items at regular prices.  They include milk, eggs if absolutely necessary, my tea of choice, etc.   I believe, if I paid regular prices, my grocery bill will be at least twice or even three times as much.

When I first started keeping a grocery budget, I set up a price book, noting the regular prices of most of the items I'd regularly buy and their regular "sale" prices (the prices at which they'd most often be reduced to).  I also made a note of the "best" sale prices, which are the lowest prices they'd be offered for sale.  Usually, these "best" prices are what are known as "loss leader" offers - when grocery stores put them on sale at a price that will be a loss of profit for them, but they do it to lure shoppers to their stores, in the hopes that while at the store they will also buy other items that are not on sale.  Not everyone will buy only the loss leaders.

This week, several stores are offering grapes on sale.  The sale prices vary from $1.69/lb. to $.89/lb.  I chose to skip the store with the lowest price and go to one where grapes were selling for $.99/lb., because that store also had other items that I wanted on sale, including salmon at $3.49/lb.  It was a good compromise for me.

Today, I cooked the pork chops and the chicken breast I bought on Saturday.  They'll be frozen for later - I am mostly cooking for the freezer, this month, for when I am having treatment and won't be feeling up to cooking much.

I also made bread rolls with a ground beef filling, using one of the packets of frozen bread dough I had bought earlier.  The package held 3 loaves of dough; I cut each loaf into 8 pieces and made 24 rolls:  

Ground Beef Filled Bread Rolls

I ate two of the rolls for my dinner, with apple juice and dates for dessert.  I will take two more to the office for my lunch, tomorrow.  I'll freeze most of the rest (but might keep another 4 or so in the fridge for office lunches).

Brunch was two pieces of cheese toast and a glass of orange juice.   Tangerines for snacks.

Apart from spending $18.21 at the grocery store (for groceries and cat food), I also spent $25.91 for gas for the car (9.5 gallons at $2.72/gal.)

In addition, I vacuumed the house, today, and did a freezer inventory (and cleaned the freezer).  I only have the freezer that comes with my side-by-side fridge/freezer, and it is rather full!  I tossed 2 bags of watermelon chunks I had frozen with the intention of making jam, in order to make room for all the food I am cooking and baking!

Today, I am grateful for:

- The little rain shower (well, it was mostly drizzle, but we'll take what we can get)
- Being well enough to vacuum again
- Bulk cooking and baking
- A full freezer and full cupboards
- Video chatting with daughter

How was your Sunday?   

November Grocery Shopping - Week 3

This Week's Groceries

Saturday afternoon, I went grocery shopping at one of my favorite ethnic stores.   I wanted to get more fruits and vegetables for the week, and I wanted to get some fish and meat for the freezer.  Plus a couple of treats: cashews and dates (I finished the last of the dates when I made the muffins, last week). 

I bought: 

2+ lb. boneless/skinless chicken breast @$1.49/lb = $3.74
4 salmon steaks @ $3.49/lb = $7.59
4 pork chops @ $1.79/lb = $2.89
2 lb. ground beef @ $1.99/lb = $3.88
4 persimmons @ $.99/lb = $1.72
10 lb. potatoes = $1.89
1 lb. carrots = $.40
3 baby bok choy @ $.99/lb = $.36
4 small beets @ $.79/lb = $.41
2 zucchini @ $.49/lb = $.32
1 bag grapes @ $.99/lb = $1.70
5 tangerines @ $.79/lb = $.81
4 bananas @ $.49/lb = $.79
Pitted dates, 24 oz. container = $3.49
1 doz. large eggs = $2.99
2 pkts. raw cashews @ $6.29/lb; $3.37 + $3.46 = $6.83
Total:  $39.81

Grocery spending to date: $9.36 + $29.48 + $16.47 + $39.81 = $95.12

We are exactly halfway through the month and I've spent most of this month's grocery budget, already!  And I still need to buy milk and I'd like to get a bag of flour for holiday baking.  Looks like I'll go over my grocery budget this month because I am stocking up and cooking for the freezer.  It can't be helped, I guess.

I cooked the 4 salmon steaks with tomatoes and onions; I packaged and froze 4 portions for later; had a portion of it for dinner, there are 2 more portions in the fridge for meals for later this week.

I browned the ground beef, drained the fat, added half an onion diced, 2 ribs of celery diced, 4 small carrots grated, and 3 medium potatoes grated to it, with salt, pepper, and a bit of Worchestershire sauce.  I will portion it up and freeze for later use.

The pork chops and chicken breasts, too, will be cooked and frozen.

Saturday Dinner: Salmon, Baked Potato, Zucchini

The first camellia of the season had bloomed on my tree and my gardener had picked it for me; I brought it in and put it in a vase:

First Camellia of the Season

I also received an orchid plant from my gardener, for my birthday:


The flowers brighten up my living room.

On Saturday, I was grateful for:

- Sleeping in
- Sunshine
- Phone calls from family and friends
- The variety of products and selection available at the grocery store
- Fresh flowers

How was your Saturday?  How is your grocery budget coming along?

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Friday the 13th in Review

Friday the 13th - if this was a script for a play, there would be a notation here to "cue in eerie music"!

But, since this is a blog post and not a play script, Friday the 13th was just another very ordinary day.

Today, I woke up early (6:30 a.m.) after staying up too late, last night (past 2:00 a.m.).  Wrote a note to the gardener, telling him what I wanted done (remove dead lemongrass plant; mow the back yard, weed, etc.; and he had watered the garden as well, he wrote back in the note).  Then, went to the office and had a relatively productive day.

During my morning break, I went to the pharmacy to fill the prescriptions my doctor had given me for a new antibiotic ointment and vitamin supplements, as well as to pick up my other medication refills.  The pharmacist has become a friend over the years; and today, she showed me where she had written my initials on a card put up on a cancer awareness display board, which was so sweet of her.  I am awed by the care being shown me by so many people.

I had a restful, relaxed evening after I got home.  That sounds better than saying I didn't do anything, isn't it?  :D  I had a cup of tea, had a baked yam for a snack, went on-line to read blogs, etc., and video chatted with daughter.  Later, I had a protein-rich dinner of leftover steak and a scrambled egg.

Today, I spent almost $20 on medications (the exact amount was $19.35) and $48.26 for the gas bill (cooking/heating is natural gas).

My gas bill fluctuates from month to month; it goes down as low as $15 during the summer when I don't turn on the heater and don't bake a lot, to around $300 in the winter when I have the heater on most of the time and bake quite a bit.  I know that some people cut down on heating costs by keeping the house cooler, wearing additional layers of warm clothes, etc.  We layer up, too - right now, I am seated near the heater (there is one wall-mounted heater in the wall between the living room and the hallway, with the heat diffusing throughout the house ) and I am wearing sweatpants, a wool sweater with a blouse underneath, socks, and a scarf!  But, I guess, we tend to feel cold more than others.  The thermostat is set at about 70F (it's not a digital thermostat, so the best I can do is move the arrow to the 70F mark).  If daughter is home, she sets it a bit higher at around 75F because she tends to feel colder than I do.  If the house is cold, she falls ill!  I keep the doors to the spare room closed, but the main rooms are on an open plan, so, only the bedrooms and bathrooms have doors.

Daughter and I prefer to economize in other ways.  We don't mind going without air conditioning in the summer, for example, even when the house heats up to over 90F inside.  But we want the house to be toasty warm in the winter.  I generally budget for the higher winter gas bill by allocating more towards it during the summer months.  I add up the previous year's gas bills, divide the total by 12 and arrive at a monthly average of approximately $65.  Then, every month, I include $65 for the gas bills in my budget.  The extra $$ allocated in the summer months help defray the higher winter gas bills.

Today, I am grateful for:

- Caring friends
- A warm house
- Daughter getting a grade of 94 on her most recent midterm test
- Video chats with daughter
- Exchanging emails with friends

How was your Friday?  How do you heat your house and keep warm in winter? Do you tend to prefer to keep the house warmer or cooler?    

Friday, November 13, 2015

Mountain Climbing: Step by Step

Tuesday, I saw the surgeon who checked on the incision and said it was healing slowly and drainage will continue because it was an open wound still.  He cleaned it and put another dressing on it.

Today, I had an appointment with my primary care doctor. She, too, checked the infected incision, cleaned, and redressed it. Primary care doctor did a culture, as well, and sent it off to the lab to have it analyzed.  She also prescribed a different antibiotic cream and Vitamin C. I am to have more blood tests done and she'll check my Vitamin D levels, as well.  I will see her again, next week.

I also have an appointment with my podiatrist, next week, to have my feet checked.

Chemo doesn't start until December 4, since it was postponed due to the infection.  So it gives a little extra time to get all these other things checked. 


Daughter went back to Berkeley, today.  I dropped her off at the airport, first thing in the morning.  On the way to the airport, I noticed that the low tire air pressure warning light had come on!  So, as soon as I dropped daughter off at the airport, I took the car to my neighbor's husband's service shop and had him check my tires.  The front left tire (driver's side) was low on air.  I believe this is the same tire that had a nail puncture in it, last year, and I had it patched.  (Just checked my blog post about that and it was the front right tire, that time.)  He filled it with air and checked the other tires, as well.  I tell you, it's always something, isn't it?

Today, I spent $20.  $15 for the doctor's visit co-pay; $5 for the car park.  I resisted the temptation of buying a bread roll from the weekly farmers' market!   

I had to be fasting for my doctor's visit (for blood tests), so no breakfast.  I had a meal replacement drink after the doctor's visit, though.  Lunch was a chicken pot pie and a banana.  Afternoon snack was dry cereal.  Came home and had a cup of coffee. Dinner was one of the frozen tamales. 

Today, I am grateful for:

- Daughter had a safe flight back
- Tire pressure warning lights
- Helpful neighbors and friends
- Safe drives to the airport, to the clinic, to the office, and home again
- Doctor's visits and a few more steps up the mountain

How was your Thursday?  Are you just about ready for the weekend?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Birthday Gifts: Vintage Craft Book

Do you remember this post I did about my mother's crafts book?  Her craft book was torn, burnt in places, missing the covers and some pages.  I knew it was a McCall's book, and some on-line research told me it was published in 1950 and it was their first annual crafts book.  There were even some available for sale on some sites.  Well, guess what my daughter ordered for me as one of my birthday gifts from her?!  It arrived in the mail a couple of days ago:

My Gift from Daughter: An Intact Vintage Craft Book!

And here they are, side by side: my mother's copy and the one daughter got for me!

The Two Books

This one has the front and back covers and all 160 pages, although the body of the book has separated from the covers.  That's to be expected of a 65 year old softcover book!  My mother's book is missing the covers, the first 4 pages and 40 pages at the back.

Inside Front Cover and Page 1

The last 40 pages missing from my mother's copy contain items for the house and gifts to make, including cross stitch patterns:

Cross Stitch Bouquets

5 pages of aprons, including these:


Embroidered kitchen towels:

Kitchen Towels and the Inside Back Cover

 And a look at the back cover:

Back Cover

The inside of the book is in good condition, but it smells a bit musty.  And the pages are quite brittle, so I need to be careful when I turn them.  When I looked through the back pages that are now missing from my mother's book, I could vaguely recall seeing them.  There are several pages of dolls clothes and soft toys - I am sure I looked at them as a child.  I am looking forward to slowly going through the book and maybe even making one or two items from the patterns given there.

Thank you, daughter, for this lovely gift!