Thursday, January 31, 2019

February Balanced Life Goals

Goals for a more balanced life in February:  

Spiritual: (10)   The goal is to live a spiritually meaningful life
- Continue with daily prayers and gratitude; focus on being positive
- Take time for meditation - spend 5 minutes meditating at night
- Cultivate non-attachment - focus on letting go of attachment to material possessions - declutter 31 items
- Attend the monthly rosary prayer gathering

House (8):  The goal is a clean, tidy, uncluttered house:
- Keep up with routine maintenance
- Declutter 31 items
- Continue to sort out the 3rd bedroom, a.k.a. The Dump!
- Complete 1 or 2 items from the master list of repairs and renovations

Garden (7):
- Maintain (water 2x per week; weed)
- Plant the winter vegetable seedlings, when they sprout
- Paint the front security door - buy paint

Daughter (10):  The goal is to continue to have a close relationship with her
- Daily texts, phone calls, and video chatting, etc.
- Look forward to her next visit home (end of February)

Family & Friends (10):  The goal is to keep in touch with various family members and friends.
- Regular phone calls and emails
- Attend aunt's funeral (2/2)
- Will be seeing several members of the family and friends at aunt's funeral and this month's prayer gathering 

Community (7):  The goal is to become more involved in my community.
- Continue to participate in the blogging community 
Weekly phone calls with neighbor T 

Finances (10):  The goal is financial security.
- Continue budgeting and spending mindfully, with purpose 

Health & Well Being (7):  The goal is good health.
- Attend this month's medical appointments 
- Continue to work on the following life style changes:
   - better diet - eat more vegetables, less carbs 
   - better hydration - drink 8 x 8oz glasses of water, daily 
   - better sleep habits - earlier bed times/get at least 7 hours of sleep 
   - more exercise - walk 30 minutes 5 days/week
- Lose 5 lbs. 

Time Management (6):  The goal is to find a good balance between what I have to do and what I want to do.
- Be mindful of my time and how I spend it 
- Plan my days/balance the "leisure" with "productivity" 
- Procrastinate less!

Leisure/Crafts/Hobbies/Me-Time (8):  The goal is to relax doing something I enjoy doing for the pleasure of it.
- Continue to participate in the winter photo scavenger hunt
- Finish embroidering the 2 T-shirts
- Work on one of my many "works in progress" knitting projects (grey sweater)

Anyone else making goals for a more balanced life in February?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

January Balanced Life Monthly Goals - Review

January went fast, didn't it?  It's already time to review my Balanced Life goals for January:  

Spiritual: (10)(10  The goal is to live a spiritually meaningful life
- Continue with daily prayers and gratitude; focus on being positive - Have been doing this
- Take time for meditation - spend 5 minutes meditating at night - Have been doing this
- Cultivate non-attachment - focus on letting go of attachment to material possessions - declutter 31 items - I decluttered more than 31 items, most of them from my closet!  Six bags of donations left the house; several other items were recycled and a few items were tossed in the trash as they couldn't be donated or recycled. 
- Attend the monthly rosary prayer gathering - Did so on 1/26

House (9)(8):  The goal is a clean, tidy, uncluttered house:
- Take down Christmas decorations and put away - DONE
- Focus on deep cleaning and maintaining cleaned areas - This was rather hit or miss, due to health issues; but the house was dusted and vacuumed
- Declutter 31 items - DONE
- Continue to sort out the 3rd bedroom, a.k.a. The Dump! - NOT DONE
- Make a master list of repairs and renovations that need to be done over the year - List was made, but repairs have not been started, yet.

The house took a back seat due to health issues.

Garden (7)(7):
- Maintain (water 2x per week; weed) - Didn't need to water as often due to the rain we received!
- Buy and plant bare root fruit trees - at least 1 peach and maybe another orange - 1 peach tree was bought and planted!
- Plant some winter vegetables - Several seed packets were planted and some seedlings have sprouted!
- Paint the front security door - buy paint - NOT DONE!

Daughter (10)(10):  The goal is to continue to have a close relationship with her
- Enjoy the rest of her visit home for the holidays - We had a good visit
- Daily texts, phone calls, and video chatting, etc., once she goes back - On-going

Family & Friends (10(10)):  The goal is to keep in touch with various family members and friends.
- Regular phone calls and emails - Quite a few of those
- Attend aunt's New Year's Day luncheon - DONE.  It turned out to be the last time, too, because she passed away, later in the month.
- Call and wish Aunt T for her birthday - DONE
- Will be seeing several members of the family and friends at this month's prayer gathering - and at aunt's house when she passed away.

In addition, exchanged New Year greetings with several members of the family.  And, family and friends came together, as they usually do, when aunt passed away.

Community (7)(7):  The goal is to become more involved in my community.
- Continue to participate in the blogging community - On-going
- Mail the hats to the American Heart Association - DONE
- Visit neighbor S - She was too busy to visit, she said, so I left it at that.
- Weekly phone calls with neighbor T - On-going

Finances (9)(10):  The goal is financial security.
- Continue budgeting and spending mindfully, with purpose - On-going
- Keep track of spending - On-going
- Review budget and adjust as needed - Did so

Health & Well Being (6)(7):  The goal is good health.
- Attend the appointments with my various medical doctors - I had 4 doctors' appointments this month (and Dancer had 3 with the vet!) 
- Continue to work on the following life style changes:
   - better diet - eat more vegetables, less carbs - yes, finally starting to do this in earnest! 
   - better hydration - drink 8 x 8oz glasses of water, daily - I did well until I got this cold; suddenly just plain water doesn't taste good.  But, I've been sipping on lemon water, instead.
   - better sleep habits - get at least 7 hours of sleep/try to go to sleep before 4:00 a.m.!  - Trying to get to bed, earlier; don't always fall asleep right away, though. But, I am sleeping in most mornings.
   - more exercise - walk 30 minutes 5 days/week - I haven't kept up with this.  

I raised the satisfaction level by 1 point, because my recent blood tests showed good results; I no longer have an iron deficiency and don't need to take iron supplements. 

Time Management (8)(6):  The goal is to find a good balance between what I have to do and what I want to do.
- Be mindful of my time and how I spend it - A lot of time spent on the computer, it seems!
- Plan my days/balance the "leisure" with "productivity" - Didn't happen!
- Implement the schedule my daughter and I came up with - Schedule?  What schedule?
- Procrastinate less! - Well, the important things, such as doctors' appointments, were done on time.  Less important things were postponed! 

I am not happy with how this segment of my life turned out, this month.  Much room for improvement!  

Leisure/Crafts/Hobbies/Me-Time (8)(8):  The goal is to relax doing something I enjoy doing for the pleasure of it.
-  Mail the red hats I knitted for heart association (first week in January) - DONE
- Continue to participate in the winter photo scavenger hunt - On-going
- Read the 2 library books I borrowed - DONE and borrowed another
- Finish embroidering the 2 T-shirts - not done, yet!
- Work on one of my many "works in progress" knitting projects - DONE!  Finished knitting one sweater and started on another.

So, that was my review of my goals for a balanced life in January.  Health issues took center stage, with fluctuating blood pressure, with trying to control my blood sugar, getting sick, attending various doctors' appointments, Dancer's own health issues, etc.  Other things fitted around them and somethings just got pushed aside.  Here's hoping for a better balance in February.

Another Doctor's Visit and a Gift in the Mail

I went to bed by 11:30 p.m., last night, but I had a very restless night of sleep, waking up every hour or so, because I was coughing.  Even my dreams were troubled.  In one dream, I was riding in a train through a mining operation and when the train made a stop, I got off it for a few minutes to use a restroom.  When I got back on the train, my mother, who had dementia, was missing!  I didn't know if she wandered off on her own, or someone led her away, or if she was waiting somewhere for me to find her!  I was frantically searching for her, when I woke up!  My mother did die when I had left her to go to work, one day; I had barely got to the office, when I received a phone call from a paramedic who had been called to the house, asking me to come home; my mother had already passed away.  Her death anniversary is in early February.  I suppose that's why I dreamed of her.  I don't like my recent dreams!

I had a routine follow-up appointment with my radiation oncologist, today.  I had already rescheduled it once, so I didn't want to reschedule it, again.  I wore a mask in order not to infect anyone at the clinic.  The check up went well.  The doctor is still puzzled by how long it is taking for me to heal (there is still some edema and redness); he mentioned fat necrosis, once again.  But, we both agreed that things looked better.  I have another follow-up appointment with him in three months' time.

As part of the check up, they took my blood pressure (it was good), weight (I have lost 4 lbs. since my last visit), and temperature and we found out that I was running a low grade fever of 100.3F.  So, after I came home, I ate a piece of papaya as I hadn't had any breakfast or lunch (no appetite) and took two Tylenol tablets. Then, I rested on the sofa and read.

This is the book I am currently reading:

Library Book
It is a brand new book, published in 2019, and a 7-days library loan, which may not be renewed.  It is due, tomorrow, and I still have about a third of the book left to read!

There was also a package in the mail, today:

Package in the Mail
Angela, at Tracing Rainbows, had posted a book review of a debut novel a friend of hers had published.  When I posted a comment on her post, she sent me an email saying she wanted to send me something.  I demurred because I know international mailing costs can be prohibitive, but, she explained that it wouldn't be more than what she'd spend if I lived closer and she treated me to a coffee at a coffeehouse!  This afternoon, I received my very own copy of her friend's book! 

New Book by Angela's Friend
Thank you, Angela.  I am looking forward to reading this book. 

This morning, instead of tea, I drank a cup of hot water into which I squeezed a fresh lemon.  The lemons on my trees are Meyer lemons and are sweet enough for me to be able to drink lemon water without any sugar.  I picked an orange, too, but I haven't eaten it yet.

Later, in the evening, I ate a roast beef sandwich (made with one slice of whole wheat bread).  Followed by a regular cup of tea.  I am not sure if that was a late lunch or an early dinner!  Maybe I'll eat a salad in a little bit to get some vegetables in me and call it dinner.

Today, I am grateful for:
- A good check up with the radiation oncologist
- Receiving gifts in the mail!
- A new book to read
- Phone calls from family and friends
- Fresh oranges from the tree

How was your day?  What are your plans for tomorrow?

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Budgeting for 2019

At the beginning of this month, I revised my budget for the new year, based on my net retirement pension, after taxes and other deductions had been taken.  I have always liked to base my monthly budgets on my net pay.  And, I like to refer to my budgets as a "spending plan".  The amounts I budget, allow me to spend up to that amount, without worry, without feeling I am being extravagant!

Admittedly, I haven't always had a budget (or a spending plan!).  But, I was always fairly frugal, initially because I had to, later, because I wanted to.  I didn't spend all I earned, and saved quite a bit.  Then, in the mid 1990s, I became interested in finding out exactly what I was spending and on what!

If I may bore you with some history:

Back then, I was reading some magazine articles with titles such as "How to Live on One Income", etc., and wanted to see how I compared!  These articles gave a guideline of having 3 months' worth of income in a savings account as an emergency fund; but, if you were a single parent (as I was and am), then, it was advised to have at least 6 months' of income saved!  Much later, during the "economic downturn" (or recession or financial crisis; it's known by many terms) of 2007-2009, when people found it hard to find re-employment or had to accept lower paying jobs, single parents were advised to have the equivalent of 1 year's expenses saved!   

I started out with a spending log - I kept strict accounts of every penny I spent, and on what, for 3 months.  Then, I went back through my check book for 1 year to see what my quarterly and annual expenses were  - those  property tax payments which took place twice a year, the homeowner's and earthquake insurance, car insurance, etc., that could be paid in installments (with interest) or in a single installment (without interest).  I added up each of those payments to get an annual amount and divided them by 12 to get a monthly amount - I was going to set aside that monthly amount in my budget and save it towards when I needed to pay it, so that I didn't have to scramble to find that amount when the bill was due.

Many of the articles I read, admonished two income families to try and live on one income and save the second income.  But, I was a one income family (although my mother lived with me and helped with some of the bills - she insisted on paying the water and electricity bill, for example, so that I wouldn't restrict her watering the garden or be at her to turn off the lights!  LOL.)  My dream was to live on 50% of my net income, but I wasn't able to do that with a mortgage ($1,100) and childcare ($750)!  I settled for a budget based on 70% of my net pay, with 30% going to savings.

That was my budget for many years.  I made some adjustments, as needed, of course.  For example, I had to adjust it, during that same economic downturn, when I had to absorb a 20% pay cut due to mandatory furloughs.  There was, too, a very real possibility of being laid-off, which sent me scurrying off to come up with what I called a "bare bones" budget based on a minimum wage job.  I found out that, at the time, even with a bare-bones budget, I'd need to have 2 full-time minimum wage jobs to make ends meet!  This was before I had paid off my house; even if I gave up my house, I'd have to pay rent, and with our high rents in this area, my mortgage on my 3 bedroom house was less than the rent my friend payed for a 1 bedroom apartment (Ha!  Maybe this is the basis of my foreclosure nightmare, the other day!).

My newest budget is my latest revision!  The entire budget is based on approximately 60% of my net pension (a little under that);  just over 40% is still going to savings.

I had some expenses go down (gas for the car, for example, went down from $200 to $50, simply because I am not driving to downtown and back, daily!  I used $75 of that $150 in savings to bump up my budget for car insurance, as it seems to go up, every year; I used $25 of the balance $75 to bump up my gardening budget, so I could buy a few extras like peach trees and soil amendments, etc., and the remaining $50 was applied to bump up my utilities budget).

I eliminated some expenses  by combining them with other budgeted categories while keeping that budget the same (for example, I combined almsgiving ($50) and rosary ($25) spending as one "prayer gatherings" category, while keeping the budget at $50; and I combined the Christmas budget ($10) with my other gifts (birthdays, etc.) of $25 and left it at $25).  The combined total savings of $35 from these two eliminated categories, were applied towards another category!

Finally, I had some categories that I decided needed additional funds!  My doctor visits co-pays have gone up from $15 to $20 and so have my co-pays for some of my medications, I doubled the budget from $100 to $200.  I realized that I had been underfunding the TV/Cable budget (by about $5) and I decided that I should increase the pet care budget (from $50 to $100 - Dancer's recent vet visits weren't exactly cheap!).  Finally, I increased my daughter's Christmas gift (acrobatics lessons) from 5 classes a month, to unlimited (she had wanted to pay the difference, but I told her I will pay the entire amount).  These additional increases were funded with money that would have otherwise gone towards savings.

All in all, my monthly budget went up by $190 (earlier, I thought it went up by $260, but that was a mistake).  It is $190 that is not going into savings, but, I have asked myself just how much I need to save, and for what, now that I am retired! 

This is my current budget, as it stands:

25% of the budget goes to House and Garden, which includes property taxes, homeowner's and earthquake insurance, maintenance, garden care, and household products, such as laundry detergent, dish washing detergent, paper towels, etc.

25% of the budget goes to Utilities, which includes water, electricity, trash collection, sewer service, natural gas (for heating and cooking), telephones (both home phone and cell phones), internet, and cable.

14% of the budget is for the car, including insurance, gas, maintenance, and annual registration renewals.

8% for self care, which includes my doctor visits, monthly medications, parking fees at various medical facilities, clothing, and a $20 personal allowance (to spend as I please, on craft supplies, personal care items, etc.)

The remaining 28% of the budget is for various other categories such as groceries ($75), eating out ($25), toiletries ($10), pet care ($100), the prayer gatherings and donations ($50), gift giving ($25), membership dues (auto club), travel/air fare, tax preparation fees, etc., and the all important "Miscellaneous" ($50)!   LOL!   I like to pad the budget, a bit - that way, I don't panic when unexpected expenses, such as the $667.14 water bill that I received at the end of December (due to the leaking sprinkler valve) spring up, or Dancer suddenly has a $945 vet bill to pay!  It is a bit of a built-in short-term emergency fund.

Because of the way the budget is set up, my actual monthly expenses are less than the monthly budget.  The water/electricity/sewage/trash collection bill, for example comes due only every other month; the car doesn't require maintenance every month, the various insurances are paid once a year.  The retirement check goes into the checking account, at the end of each month, and the money sits in the account until needed.

Some people think I obsess too much over my budget, that I am too detailed with my spending categories, etc.  It may very well be.  But, it works for me.  I like knowing the details.  Financial security is very important to me - there have been times when I didn't have any financial security.  Those days are now gone, but I still have that same mental attitude of not wanting to spend!

Oh, dear!  This post turned out to be a book, didn't it?

Today, I am grateful for:
- Feeling a little bit better
- Chicken soup (made from items in the fridge and freezer, using the last of the roast chicken carcass from the October prayer gathering)
- My neighbor across the street bringing my trash can in for me
- 6 bags of donations being picked up this afternoon
- Having a spending plan/budget

Chicken Soup
How do you set up your budget?

Monday, January 28, 2019


Cough, cough.

I have a full blown cold and cough and I feel miserable.

I did go to my appointment with the gastroenterologist to find out the results of my blood test and see if I needed to undergo that additional test he had mentioned (to check the small intestines).  Fortunately, the blood test results came back OK; my iron levels were fine, he said.  I don't need to take the iron supplements, any more, and I don't need any further testing.  But, he asked me to come back in 4 months' time to do another blood test, just to make sure everything continued to be OK.  I was so happy when he said the blood tests were good!  It was an answered prayer!

After I came home, I had a scrambled egg for a late lunch.  Later, I had a roast beef sandwich (1 slice of bread) for dinner, followed by another slice of bread and peanut butter.  Oops!  So much for being low carb!  I also took two Tylenol tablets because the cold was making me feel achy and ill.

I took the trash cans to the curb, but that was all the housework I did, today.  I rested a bit on the sofa and finished knitting the back of my grey sweater.  I need to decide on the design for the front.  The back has an overall pattern:

Grey Sweater: Back
I am debating whether to do the same overall pattern in the front, too, or combine it with a central panel of cables.

Today, I am grateful for:
- The blood test results came out well
- I don't need to do any additional tests
- I don't need to take any more iron supplements
- Phone calls from family (aunt C and cousin P)
- Video chatting with my daughter

I haven't made any plans for tomorrow.  I am just going to take it easy and rest; hopefully, I can recover from this cold and cough. 

How was your Monday?  What are your plans for tomorrow?

Sunday, January 27, 2019

The Garden at the end of January

I took a stroll around the garden, today.  An orange had fallen from the tree, so I went out to pick it - the end had begun to split, as oranges sometimes do, but the fruit was good and I cut off the damaged bit and ate the rest of the orange.  My vitamin C for the day.

While I was out, I took some photographs.  The little peach tree has many flowers on it:

Peach Tree

I'm still trying to take a close up of the flowers:

Peach Flowers

One last look at the little tree:

Hope at least a couple of those flowers will result in peaches!

Meanwhile, under the orange tree,there is a single pea shoot!

Pea Shoot!
 I had better cover it so that the mourning doves don't eat it!  One year, they ate all my pea shoots and green bean seedlings!

The beet seedling are starting to sprout, too:

Beet Seedlings
Those packets of seeds we scattered were so old, I didn't think anything would grow!

In the front, the osteospermum (African Daisies) have started flowering:


They will continue to bloom until it gets hot in the summer.

Close up of the white Osteospermum

 I like the purple ones, too, but the color looked washed out in the sun:

Close up of the purple ones

The jade plants by the side walk are in bloom, too:

Jade Plant

And the row of lantana:


I am hoping that they will, eventually, grow to form a small hedge, but they seem to be taking their time!  It's probably too sunny and hot for them, out in the front.

And, finally, the aloe plants are having some flower spikes, as well:

Aloe Flower Spike

The recent rains encourage some grass to grow, but, we've not had any rain in the last 10 days, or so.  I should water the front garden, later, this evening, just to keep the plants happy.

My water bill came in the mail, yesterday.  I used 9 hundred cubit feet (HCF) of water during the billing period   (11/16/18 - 1/18/19), of the 16 HCF I am allowed at Tier 1 rates (currently set at $6.33444/HCF).  This is all the water used, both in the house and garden.  The water portion of the bill came to 57.01.  The rest of the bill was for electricity (I used 514 kiloWatt hours of the 1,000 kWh I am allowed at Tier 1 rates of $.1664/kWh, which, with City utility tax and State energy surcharges came to $98.08), sewer charges ($43.34), and solid waste charges ($76.42).  The entire utility bill came to $274.85.  I used to budget $150 per month towards the utilities bill, anticipating a bill of $300, every two months.  But, starting in January of this year, I increased the budgeted amount to $200 per month, in anticipation of higher water costs in the summer.  Especially, if I plan to plant any vegetables, this summer, then, I will need to water the plants, regularly. 

I know that many of my readers have snow and cold weather; I hope you enjoyed the stroll through my garden at the end of January.   

Saturday: Another Dump Cake and the Monthly Rosary

I got to bed by 1:00 a.m., last night, but I couldn't fall asleep for awhile and then, I kept waking up every so often.  Eventually, I fell into a deep sleep, only to be woken up by a phone call around 10:00 a.m.  One of my cousins calling about tonight's rosary; her daughter wasn't free to drive us, but I told her it was OK, I could drive us.  A little while later, another cousin phoned to say that she and her husband could give us a ride!  That was nice!

I had a relaxed rest of the morning and a quiet afternoon.  I pulled out the grey sweater and realized that I had only knitted half of the back of the sweater.  I am doing an overall pattern called "Little Birds" in my knitting pattern book.  I watched some figure skating on TV and knitted a bit, in the afternoon.  I also baked another apple dump cake to take as my contribution to the rosary dinner.  It turned out well.  I meant to take a photograph of it, but I forgot!

Lunch was a bowl of my beef and vegetable soup.  Then, in the evening, instead of tea, I had another bowl of soup and a fresh orange.  Then, it was time to get dressed to go to the monthly rosary prayer gathering, being held at the home of the aunt who died on Wednesday.

The New Sweater
I wore my new sweater and I was pleased to see that it fitted well.  I don't follow a published pattern when it comes to how many stitches to cast on, etc., when I knit sweaters for myself.  As a result, the previous sweater I made was a little too big!  I reduced the number of stitches for this sweater and it turned out perfectly!

Another Look
The smocking stretched out, nicely, and the sleeves were just right!  I am very pleased with how it turned out!

Cousin P came over to wait at my house for cousin V to pick us up.  Cousin V called and said she was running a little late, because her mother, Aunt T, had to be taken to the hospital as she was not feeling well!  She was checked out and found to be OK, so was sent home.  Cousin V's son and daughter-in-law were staying the night with Aunt T, so cousin V and her sister, cousin R were able to attend the rosary.  Aunt T has a live-in care giver, but she has the weekends off.

Once we got to the prayer gathering, the rosary was said and then, we all had dinner.  I ate a little bit of rice, along with the curries, but, I think I would have been OK without the rice, too.  Resisting the desserts was really hard!  We left shortly after dinner. 

Today, I am grateful for:
- Cousin V giving me a ride to the rosary and back
- My new sweater fitted me well
- My apple dump cake was well liked
- Aunt T is doing OK
- Being with family and friends

I don't have many plans for tomorrow.  All depends on how well I feel. 

How was your Saturday?  What have you planned for tomorrow?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

New Sweater

New Sweater

This is the sweater I finished knitting earlier in the week.  I haven't blocked it, because I rarely block my knitted garments.  I just let them adjust themselves to my body!  In the picture, the back looks bigger than the front, but they both have the same number of stitches.  The front looks smaller because the central panel of smocking is contracted; it is very elastic and will stretch as needed, when worn.

I chose to do a very easy pattern (the back and sleeves are plain stockinette stitch) because I wanted emphasis to be on the colors and I wanted a quick to knit sweater.  As such, the construction is very easy, too, without any neck and armhole shaping.  The front and back are two rectangles, sewn together at the shoulders with an opening left for the head.  When worn, it will form itself into a sort of "boat" neck.  This sweater will go with any of my black slacks or black skirts, so it will mix well with items already in my wardrobe.

This is the yarn I bought for this sweater:


It is 100% acrylic.  It's not a very warm yarn; I bought it mostly for the color.  It was originally priced  at $7.99, but I bought it on sale for $3.99.  I bought four skeins of the yarn, but used only 3 for the sweater.  I shall probably knit a scarf with this leftover skein of yarn, either for myself or to give as a gift.

I think the grey sweater is next.  I need to pull it out and see where I stopped - half way through the front of it, if I am not mistaken!

I think I shall pick the top photo for the Winter Photo Scavenger Hunt, as one of the alternative prompts - Alt, B: Show and Tell - Something you made. 

Do you knit?  If so, are you knitting anything right now?  What are your current projects?


Blurry Peach Flower

This morning, I was woken up by a phone call.  The lady who conducts the monthly rosaries calling to say this month's rosary gathering, which was to be hosted by Aunt T, will, instead, be held at the home of the aunt who died on Wednesday and it will be a pot luck dinner.  I had already anticipated that and had asked the late aunt's daughter what she would like me to bring.  When she said, "Anything", I offered to bring a dessert.  That's why I bought the cake mix, yesterday.  I still have two cans of apple pie filling and I will make an apple dump cake.  They are expecting a crowd of 35-50 people on Saturday, but I won't be the only one bringing a dessert.  Practically every family attending the rosary on Saturday will bring something.

I also called my primary care physician's office to request a new prescription for lancets and test strips for my blood sugar monitoring.  And, I complained that the Physician Assistant had not returned my earlier phone calls.  The other doctor's office called to confirm Monday's appointment.  Aunt C called, too, in the morning.

I woke up with a slightly scratchy throat, today.  There were several people at the late aunt's house on Wednesday, who had colds and coughs, including one aunt and two of my cousins.  I am hoping that I didn't catch anything and am not coming down with something!  But, I picked one of the oranges from my tree and had it with lunch for the vitamin C!

Lunch was a salad with the orange for dessert.  For dinner, I made a beef and vegetable soup, using the broth from the pot roast I cooked, earlier.  I sliced the meat and froze most of it, put a few slices in the fridge for the weekend, and added some pieces to the soup:

Beef and Vegetable Soup

I had two bowls of the soup and the rest of the raspberries for dinner.   I figured that both the soup and the raspberries will be good for my cold/sore throat.

My friend M came to do the garden in the late afternoon.  I gave him two of the packets of seeds I bought (green beans and peas) for his garden.  He helped me plant the other two packets of beans and peas in starter pots.  We will transplant them in the garden, later.  He said it was too early to plant the tomato seeds.  He also thinned out some of the radish seedlings and now, I have a tiny amount of microgreens to add to my salad, tomorrow!

Today, I finished sewing up my sweater, but the photo I took of it under artificial light didn't show up the true colors.  I will try to take another photo, tomorrow, in daylight.

Today, I am grateful for:
- Another warm, sunny day
- Oranges from the garden
- A quiet restful day
- Flowers on the peach tree
- Chatting with my daughter

Plans for tomorrow include baking the apple dump cake and attending the rosary in the evening (if I feel well enough).

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

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Past Couple of Days

Late Wednesday morning, my cousin called me with the news that her aunt had passed away, earlier that morning.  This is a member of my extended family and one of my honorary aunts.  My maternal grandparents knew her parents; she and her older sister knew my mother and her siblings since childhood.  I grew up calling her Aunty.  It's the same lady who hosted the New Year's Day luncheon.  She had been in poor health since last year, when her husband of 64 years died.  She had been able to sit up and join the conversation on New Year's Day, but her health declined rapidly after that.  On Wednesday, she breathed her last, in her bed at home, with her older sister holding her hand and her younger daughter by her side,   Apparently, a priest had come and given her her last rites, earlier that morning.  She died less than 8 months after her beloved husband; she always said she couldn't live without him.

Later that evening, my cousin and her daughter gave me a ride to aunt's home.  The family and close friends were gathering to say the rosary.  On the way, we stopped at a popular Cuban bakery to buy some of their potato balls and individual meat pies.  The potato balls are made of mashed potatoes, made into balls with a meat filling inside, and deep fried.  The meat pies are about 3 inches across, made with puff pastry rounds, with a meat filling.  I bought a dozen of each to take to the rosary.  Aunt's body was still in the house when we went.  We stayed until the body was taken to the mortuary.

Lunch had been a scrambled egg on a piece of whole wheat bread, toasted.  I had planned on a salad and salmon for dinner.  But, of course, I was at the rosary at dinner time and there really wasn't any low-carb options, there, as people had just brought whatever they could to contribute to a snack meal.  There was rice congee (rice porridge), pizza, fried chicken, tortilla roll ups, taquitos, the potato balls and meat pies my cousin and I took, etc. So, I ate one potato ball and one meat pie.  It was not ideal, but, I figured it was OK, under the circumstances.  I didn't have any of the desserts and I drank water instead of soda, so I feel I didn't do too badly.

Wednesday night, I found out that a friend's mother also passed away, earlier that morning!  They say that news of deaths come in threes...

On Wednesday, I was grateful for:
- Cousin and her daughter giving me a ride to aunt's home
- Having attended what turned out to be the last New Year's Day gathering aunt hosted
- Being able to contribute something towards the rosary meal
- Being able to offer my condolences to her grieving family
- Having known this aunt for as long as I did

On Thursday morning, I slept in and dreamed that my house was being foreclosed!  In my dream, some unknown people were removing the furniture from my house and tossing the items into a big garbage truck!    I was screaming and asking them who they were and why were they taking away my furniture!  I even called 911, in my dream, crying, apologizing because it wasn't a medical emergency, but strangers were here removing my furniture and I didn't know why!  Then, one of the strangers, a young woman, told me that their company now owns my mortgage and they were foreclosing on me!  No!  I woke up from this very vivid dream, thinking, "But, I don't have a mortgage!"  I paid off the mortgage, a few years ago and I live a debt-free life.  Maybe the dream is a sign that I really need to replace my furniture!  The living room sofas, at least, which are more than 22 years old, as the upholstery is in shreds after being used as scratching posts by Dancer and his predecessors!

I called my cousin, Thursday morning, to check on her to see how she was (the aunt who passed away had been married to her uncle - her father's younger brother).  I also told her I planned to go shopping in the afternoon, if she needed to go, too (earlier, she had called and asked me to let her know if I was going to the Armenian store or the pharmacy), but she said she didn't need to go.

So, I went by myself.  First, to the Armenian store, where I bought broccoli, zucchini, and a papaya.  Then, I went to the pharmacy to pick up my inhaler.  Next, to the dollar store (right next to the pharmacy) where I bought a few more groceries, some packets of vegetable and flower seeds, a box of waste basket liners, a box of parchment paper, and a packet of toothbrushes.

1/24 Groceries (and Dancer, inspecting it all)
At the Armenian store, I bought:
Zucchini @ $.99/lb = $1.06
Broccoli @ $.99/lb = $1.04
Papaya @ $.69/lb = $1.32
Total = $3.42

The prices were a little bit better than earlier in the week.

Armenian Store Receipt

At the dollar store, I bought:
1 cauliflower = $1.00
4 cans mackerel in brine = $4.00
3 cans mixed vegetables @ $.80 = $2.40 (they used to be $.50, each!)
1 jar salsa = $1.00
1 (6 oz) pack raspberries = $1.00
1 (6 oz) pack blackberries = $1.00
1 (6 oz) pack blueberries = $1.00
1 box cake mix = $1.00 (to make a dessert to take to this Saturday's rosary gathering)
Total = 12.40

Total spent on groceries on Thursday = $3.42 + $12.40 = $15.82

Spent to date: $.99 + $2.07 + $10.21 + $22.33 + 18.03 + $15.82 = $69.45

January grocery budget = $75
Amount left = $75 - $69.45 = $5.55

That'll be just enough to top up the fresh produce, next week!

Non-Grocery Items
In addition to the grocery items, I also bought 7 packets of vegetable seeds (two each of green beans and peas, two type of tomatoes, a packet of zucchini) and a packet of calendula flower seeds for $.25 each, a box of waste basket liners, a box of parchment paper, and a package of 4 toothbrushes, all from the dollar store.  With sales tax (on the non-grocery items), my total came to $17.71.

Dollar Store Receipt

On the way home from shopping, I stopped by the library and returned the two books I had borrowed and checked out another book.  This one is a 7-day loan and may not be renewed, so I need to read it, right away.

After I got home, I put water to the new peach tree and the orange tree.  Then, I cooked the salmon I had bought on Tuesday, as I couldn't cook it on Wednesday, as planned.

Lunch on Thursday was a salad - lettuce, carrot, cucumber, a little bit of the parmesan cheese that had come with the earlier salad kit, plus Caesar dressing.  I didn't take a photo of that.

Dinner was a portion of salmon, with broccoli, zucchini, and corn (measured out 1/4 cup frozen corn before boiling it):

Thursday Dinner

The zucchini got a little overcooked for my liking, but, it was OK.  I waited two hours after dinner, checked my sugar, and had some of the raspberries for dessert (about half of the container).  Later, I felt hungry and ate some roasted peanuts.

In the night, I called friend R and spoke with her.  Later, I video chatted with my daughter.  I tried to write a blog post after that, but it was late and I was tired.

On Thursday, I was grateful for:
- The foreclosure on the house was just a dream!
- A sunny, warm (high of 79F!) day
- Being able to run my errands
- Libraries
- Family and friends

Hope all is well with all of you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Blue Handkerchief 

When I got married (in Sri Lanka), I had reached the wedding venue before I realized that I didn't have a handkerchief with me.  It was a hot afternoon, there was a power cut, and I was perspiring in a manner that was most unbecoming for a bride!  LOL!  Disposable facial tissues were a luxury, in that place and time, and everyone used cloth handkerchiefs.

My mother's cousin was with me in the room, at the time.  Due to our custom of leaving for a wedding at an auspicious time, I had to leave the house several hours before the actual ceremony and wait in a room at the house where the marriage took place; my mother's cousin was keeping me company.  She had been like a younger sister to my mother and I addressed her by our term for ones mother's younger sister, "punchi amma" which means "little mother".  In return, she called me, "daughter".  When she realized I didn't have a handkerchief, she pulled out hers from her handbag and gave it to me.  It was a pale blue handkerchief and we joked about it being "something borrowed and something blue".  I carried that handkerchief in my hand throughout the wedding ceremony (and used it, too!)  Afterwards, I just kept the handkerchief, as my mother's cousin said I could keep it. 

I keep the blue handkerchief in one of my dresser drawers, along with two others:

White Handkerchiefs
The one on top, belonged to my step-father and has his monogram embroidered on it.  When I was growing up, since we used cloth handkerchiefs, every time I had a cold, I used to borrow his, much larger, handkerchiefs as they worked better!  After he passed away, I kept just one of his handkerchiefs as a memento. 

The other handkerchief was my mother's.  How many times had she used one of her handkerchiefs to wipe my face when I was a child?

I don't use them, now.   They stay in my drawer.  Why am I keeping them?  Do they "spark joy"?  Yes.  Not the items, themselves, of course, but what they stand for.  To anyone else, they are just handkerchiefs, pieces of fabric.  To me, they are a little more than that.  They are mementos of people whom I loved and who loved and cared for me.  I was blessed to have them in my life - my mother, my stepfather, my "little mother"; I am grateful for their love and caring.  When I sorted out the drawer, I put the handkerchiefs back in there.  They survived another decluttering!  Plus, if ever my daughter wants "something borrowed, something blue", I'm ready! 

More Grocery Shopping on Tuesday

Today was sunny, a bit windy, but not too cold, during the day.

In the morning, after I responded to blog comments, etc., I sorted through a couple of my dresser drawers.  There are four larger drawers and three smaller drawers.  I sorted three of the larger drawers and one smaller one, decluttering them as I went.  Then, I sorted through and bagged up all the donations - I have 4 bags of clothes (10 items of clothing per bag), 1 bag of books and magazines (9 books and 3 magazines) and 1 bag of shoes and miscellaneous household items.  Then, I called and scheduled a donations pick up - the earliest they can come is next Tuesday, but that is OK.  I just have to leave the bags outside my front door and they will pick them up and leave me a receipt.  I am glad that that is done.

One of the books I decluttered, today

Speaking of books, I finished reading my two library books:

Library Book 1

Of the two books, I enjoyed reading the second book, more:
Library Book 2
I will return them to the library sometime this week.

Lunch was a salad:

Lunch Salad
Lettuce, one grated carrot (the last carrot I had in the fridge), some grated apple, part of a cucumber, salad dressing, and a few cashews.

In the afternoon, I went to the Armenian grocery store:

1/22 Groceries

I went mostly to buy the salmon steaks that were on sale for $4.99/lb., as that sale ends today.  In comparison, salmon fillets are selling at the regular grocery store for $9.99/lb.  I bought six steaks, which came to little over 3 lbs.  I plan to share them with my daughter, when she comes down in March.

I also wanted some vegetables, such as more carrots, some broccoli, and zucchini.  Unfortunately, they were out of broccoli crowns and the broccoli with stems were $1.19/lb.; the zucchini was $1.39/lb.  Those prices are high!  I can get better prices at the dollar store!  They had green beans for only $.79/lb, but they didn't look so fresh and I have some green beans in the fridge.  Their prices change, tomorrow, so I am hoping that they have better prices, then.  I usually get the grocery ads in the mail on Tuesdays, but, because yesterday was a holiday, they weren't in the mail, today.  Hopefully, they will arrive, tomorrow.  I am planning to go for more vegetables, later, this week.

In the meantime, I bought:

1 lb. carrots = $.39
snow peas @ $2.99/lb = $.27 (I just bought a handful, paying full price, but they rarely go on sale for less than that)
2+ lb. onions @ $.20/lb = $.47
1 lb. peaches @$.99/lb = $.98
3+ lb. salmon steaks (6 steaks) @$4.99/lb = $15.92
Total = $18.03

(The three lemons in the photo are what I picked from the garden.)

1/22 Receipt
I plan to cook the salmon with onions and tomato and freeze them.

For dinner, I pulled out the last cooked salmon steak I had in the freezer (I wanted to finish what I had in the freezer before I added the new salmon) and had half of that, with one carrot, cut up and boiled, and the last of the green beans, I cooked yesterday:

Dinner: Salmon, Green Beans, Carrots
Afterwards, I had one of the peaches - even though they look nice and ripe, they weren't very ripe, but that's fine, as that's how I prefer them.

Today, I am grateful for:
- Getting the donations sorted and scheduling the pick up
- A sunny day
- Chatting on the phone with friends and family, plus daughter, of course
- A safe drive to the grocery store and back
- Emails from friends

Tuesday's To Do List:
- Bring the trash cans in - DONE
- Grocery shop - DONE
- Sew the sweater - STARTED
- Clean my bathroom (sorted donations and decluttered dresser drawers, instead!)

Wednesday's To Do List
- Sew the sweater
- Clean my bathroom
- Do a load of laundry
- Water the peach tree
- Cook the salmon

How was your Tuesday?  What are your plans for Wednesday?

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Windy Monday

It was blowing a gale, today!  Sunny and windy!

I woke up to the sound of the phone ringing - it was my cousin wanting to come over to return the hair dryer she borrowed when hers quit working.  She came over and we visited for a bit.  After she left, I had a cup of tea and replied to blog comments, etc.

I had planned to go grocery shopping this afternoon, but I decided not to, because it was so windy and cold.  Instead, I stayed home and finished knitting the second sleeve of my sweater and read.  Later, I watched some TV, including the evening news.  Later, I took the trash cans to the curb. 

Lunch was a big salad:

Lunch Salad

Lettuce, a small grated carrot, some grated apple, the last of the steak I cooked last week, sliced, the last of the croutons that came with the salad kit, and a little salad dressing.  I got tired of chewing, half way through the salad, but I ate it all.

Dinner, unfortunately, wasn't quite as well-balanced.  I ate a sandwich with whole wheat bread and some of the pepper steak I cooked, last night! 

Aunt C called in the evening and we had a nice, long chat.  Later, daughter and I video chatted.  She had an annual physical and check up with her doctor and everything was found to be well with her.

"Hello, Blog Friends!"
Today, I am grateful for:
- A sunny, if windy, day
- The eucalyptus tree was trimmed last fall, so the winds didn't affect it
- A working heater
- A relaxed day
- Daughter had a good check up with her doctor

Tuesday's To Do List:
- Bring the trash cans in
- Grocery shop
- Sew the sweater
- Clean my bathroom

How was your Monday?  What are your plans for Tuesday?

Monday, January 21, 2019

Staying in on Sunday

It was partly sunny, today, but there was a bit of a cloud cover, as well.  I had a relaxed morning, drinking my cup of reduced sugar tea, responding to blog comments, reading some articles, etc.  Neighbor T called and we spoke for a bit, Aunt C called and we chatted for a bit longer.  Then, my daughter called and we discussed our plans for the day.

I had the last of my chicken soup for my lunch, today.

I had thought of going grocery shopping, this afternoon, but I didn't feel like it, so, I decided to stay home, instead, and do some much needed house cleaning!  I dusted, vacuumed the majority of the house (didn't do the bedrooms), and rearranged furniture.  The family room sofas had been moved to face each other, in order to make room for the Christmas tree in front of the family room window.  Now that the tree has been put away, I vacuumed up all the needles (yes, it is an artificial tree, but it sheds just like a real tree!) and put the sofas back in an L-shaped arrangement.

After that, I did a little knitting as I watched the evening news.  I finished one sleeve of a sweater I started knitting, last year, and put aside, and started on the other sleeve.  I am hoping to finish this sweater, this week.

Later, I washed the dishes in the sink and cooked the beef I had bought, yesterday.  The one pound of round steak I had bought consisted of three steaks.  I cut each steak into four small pieces and scored each small piece on both sides with my knife to tenderize and help absorb the marinade.  I was all out of Worcestershire sauce, so used soy sauce and teriyaki sauce, instead, with a little sesame oil, garlic salt, and ground pepper.  Then, I sauteed the pieces of meat with onions, tomatoes, bell pepper strips, and celery from the freezer:

Pepper Steaks

The tomatoes, onions, celery, etc., cooked down, nicely.  Which is good, because I don't like uncooked tomatoes, onions, celery, or bell pepper!  I will probably freeze half of this for next week.

The same combination of vegetables were added to a pot of water in which I boiled the beef roast, on low heat, for a couple of hours, to make a pot roast:

Cooking the Pot Roast

Tomorrow, I will slice up the pot roast, keep some in the fridge for the week, and freeze the rest in smaller portions.

For dinner, I had two pieces of the pepper steak with freshly cooked green beans and sliced cucumber:

Later in the evening, I video chatted with my daughter.

Today, I am grateful for:

- A relaxed morning
- A productive afternoon
- Calls from aunt and neighbor
- Chatting with my daughter
- What I was able to accomplish, today

I'm not making a to do list for Monday, but I am planning to go grocery shopping!

How was your Sunday?  What are your plans for Monday? 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Grocery Shopping on Saturday

Another bright, sunny day.  I slept in, then, had a relaxed morning.  In the afternoon, however, I went grocery shopping.  I went to one of the Kroger affiliated stores; the one closest to my house, where you have to bag your own groceries (at the other Kroger affiliated store, they bag your groceries for you).  But, this store had some good deals, this week, so, that's where I went, today.

1/19 Groceries
I bought:
1 lb. round steak (3 pieces) @ $2.99/lb = $2.74
3 lb. round roast @ $2.99/lb = $8.25
Green beans @ $1.49/lb = $.70
1 iceberg lettuce = $.99
1 cucumber @ 2/$1 = $1.00 because the cashier charged me for 2 and I didn't catch it until just now!
1 bag (12 oz.) frozen corn = $1.00
1 dozen large eggs = $1.49
1 loaf whole wheat bread = $1.99
2 bags (1 lb @) unshelled almonds @ $.99 = $1.98
1 bottle salad dressing = $2.19
Total = $22.33

1/19 Receipt (sorry it's blurry)
I also bought two bottles of shampoo and two bottles of conditioner at $2.99 each (must buy 4 to get the discount), which is reflected in the receipt, but isn't part of my grocery budget.  This is not a brand of shampoo that I normally buy (I usually buy one that is usually $.99; sometimes on sale for $.79 for 12.5 fluid ounces/370 mL), but, my daughter tried this shampoo (they had it at her dollar store for this price), and she thought it was good.  So, I bought it to try it.  The two bottles each of shampoo and conditioner (each 28 fluid oz/828 mL) will probably be enough for me for all of this year and into next!  The shampoo and conditioner, with sales taxes, came to $13.10.  It comes out of my Toiletries budget, which is set at $10/month, so I have used $3.10 from February's budget for this category.  Which is OK, because, other than a packet of toothbrushes to have on hand, I don't see myself needing any additional toiletries, next month.

I plan to make something like a pepper steak with the round steak - I will cook them with onions and a little of the bell pepper strips I have in the freezer.  I want to cut the roast into two portions and make a pot roast with one part and maybe make a beef stew with the other part.  Or, I just might make a pot roast with the whole thing and then, freeze half of it.

I don't know how many ounces of almonds I will get from one lb. of unshelled almonds, but, I thought it was a good price (it was in the clearance bin).

Here's my grocery spending to date:

1/4: bananas @ $.59/lb = $.99

1/9: bread ($1.29) and bananas ($.78) = $2.07

Cesar salad kit = $1.79
Green beans @ $1.49/lb = $.66
Carrots @ $.50/lb = $.30
Bananas @ $.59/lb = $.64
2 Beef steaks @ $4.77/lb = $3.53 + $3.29
Total = $10.21

1/19 (today's groceries) =  $22.33

Spent to date: $.99 + $2.07 + $10.21 + $22.33 = $35.60

My January grocery budget is $75.  I didn't have to buy a lot during the first half of the month as the fridge was full of leftovers from the holidays.  I have almost $40 left in the budget for this month.  The Armenian store is having salmon steaks on sale for $4.99/lb.  I might go there, tomorrow, to buy some salmon and maybe more fresh produce (carrots, broccoli, zucchini, etc., since those are the vegetables I like to eat and they are cheaper there than in other stores, in general).

I had a bowl of my chicken soup for lunch (there is still enough left for one more bowl).  I didn't have tea after I came home from grocery shopping; instead, I had one slice of the whole wheat bread with a little butter and some cheese.  One of my cousins from Australia brought me some cheese when she visited, last year, as it is similar to the cheese we had as children.  I don't eat a lot of cheese, but when I do, this is the cheese I use.  It is rather salty, so a little of it goes a long way.  Dinner was leftovers - a piece of beef steak with carrots and green beans, and some (1/2 cup) of the frozen corn:


Today, I am grateful for:
- Sunny weather
- Sleeping in
- My hair growing back nicely (it is shoulder length, now!)
- Overall good deals at the grocery store (except for being over charged for the cucumber!)
- Dancer sleeping on his towel on the floor, next to my chair.

How was your Saturday?  How is your grocery shopping for the month coming along?  Are you finding good deals?  Are you seeing anything at a good "stock up" price?