Diary of a Homemaker’s Week: Begin As I Mean To Go On


Saturday:  A quiet day.   No great ambitions for a Sabbath and that suited me.  I did long to see the children across the field though.  Since we were planning to run into town to the dollar store to pick up cheese for pizza, I called ahead and asked if we could run by to see the children.  Millie was so happy to see us and kept walking around the room giving us hugs.   Josh, who is getting taller and lankier than ever, occupied himself in his room but Millie and Isaac entertained us.   

I took along a couple of craft kits I'd gotten on sale late last year, thinking of the boys.   I figured about now the parents would appreciate anything simple and new that the kids might have to occupy themselves.  I carried along bird seed with me, too.  I'd just refilled my own feeders.   The birds have been heavily flocked about them. I get so much pleasure from watching the birds.  The boys' feeders are hung in trees that they can see both from the living room and their bedroom.

I was glad to get to see the children and to get hugs all around.   Sam was harder hit by the illness than the rest of the family, I think, but no one seemed to feel any too sharp just yet.  When John asked Josh if he felt better, Josh sort of held out his hand and waved it as a 'so so' sign.  That's about the way we all feel I think, just so so.   We all feel better but not quite well.   I expect Sam's was much like my own.  He pushed himself to care for everyone else and was working too and the strain took its toll on him.  

In town, I picked up apples, celery and a frozen pizza.  I only had my mind half on what I'd planned to go purchase today but never mind.   I'd have gotten bananas too, but they wouldn't ring up at the self-checkout, so I passed those over to the clerk and declined to get them.  

In putting the celery away today at home, I found grapefruit in the drawer.   John and I had one while we waited on our pizza to bake.   I have to say that was one of the most delicious grapefruits I've ever had in my life.  We both ate it as though we'd been starved for just that thing and here was manna before us.

Simple, gentle vlogs for me to watch this afternoon.  I'm enjoying Little Women Atelier and Apronful of Stones.   They are both beautifully made and so relaxing to watch.  I'm sure there are many more simple living vlogs but these two are new to me this year.  I truly relish the peace of watching a beautifully made and quiet video.

John and I watched a Gregory Peck film, a Western, a little earlier today called "Yellow Sky".  If you're a fan of older movies try this one.  Not a pretty film but it certainly held my interest.  I quite forgot I was going to watch YouTube videos and sat here with my eyes glued to the television, instead.  

Now I am off to read more of my book.  I've just begun the second portion of Little Women.  I've gotten quite into the story these past couple of days and now I can't stop thinking of other Alcott favorites like An Old-Fashioned Girl, Little Men, Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom.  I shall enjoy my journeys with these books.

Sunday:  Last night about 9pm it finally began to rain.  It poured and the wind rose up and blew hard.  It sounded cold outdoors and I suppose it was.  I didn't bother to go check knowing full well we'd be out in the weather this morning on our way to church today.

The views before us this morning reminded me of how winter truly looks in my section of Georgia.  Grays, browns, black etched branches against a heavy sky, and lots of rain.  It was chilly enough to warrant a jacket under my raincoat...and a good reminder that I'd promised myself a proper all-weather coat with a zip out lining.  I'll have to go back and add that to my list of necessities, though there is nothing at all wrong with my little trench raincoat.  At least I can wear a jacket underneath it without feeling I'm stuffed into a strait jacket.

We had a false start...We were almost out of our main roadway when John asked if I could see his jacket on the back seat.  I didn't.  Our church is always cool and especially so in the winter months, so we turned right around and came back home to locate the jacket.   I was sure we'd end being late this morning, but we made it with a bit of time to spare, despite our slow progress over the wet highways.

After church we stopped to talk to a couple who have recently become prominent in our lives.  Isn't it funny how that happens?   John officially met the man at a volunteer day and he and this gentleman have gravitated to one another since.   His wife is as friendly as he and they stopped to speak with us on their way out of the building today.  

John mentioned we were going to head to Publix...I hadn't asked to go but another woman and I were discussing a menu earlier that suited today.   She said, as she'd come in after us from the weather, "They should be handing out hot chocolate!"  I agreed and then added, "And we ought to be looking forward to chili when we get home..."  "Oh yes!  With a Grilled Cheese sandwich and some crackers!"   Now I never serve chili with grilled cheese sandwiches but that sounded so darned good that I barely dragged my mind back to attention for the pastor's sermon.  So, when John said we were running by Publix after church, I didn't object in the least.

We found some good purchases on a few meat items, and we bought some produce to carry us through the end of the month (or I hope it carries to the end), eggs, milk, a few food items for Caleb's meals/snacks.  John was the one to go down the meat counter and suggest we purchase the meat items.  He has a knack of seeing things on sale that I mightn't notice.   Bone in Chicken breasts, Italian Turkey Sausage and hamburger.   Hamburger is something I had at home, but this was very well priced.  By the time we'd left the store, I'd spent the remaining portion of my grocery budget for the month, but I'm not complaining over it.  We haven't spent foolishly this month at all, and we've been true to the pantry/freezer challenge.  I purchased only cheese slices for today's meal.  Everything else was on hand at home.

And yes, I did make chili when we came in and grilled cheese to go wtih it.  I don't mind saying that the meal hit the spot with the bitter wet air outdoors a reminder that it's actually winter.   I did wonder if LouAnn went home and made the same meal...

Monday:  As I finished up my post yesterday afternoon, I got a flood of text message images from Katie.  Her boyfriend, herself and Caleb headed north to Helen, Georgia to get a taste of snow.   I confess the idea of being in a snowy area made me nervous, but my children are adventurous sorts and Katie assured me her previous experiences driving in our winter mud mix had prepared her for slippery roads.   She also said that all the roads had been salted and plowed.   I confess it was a sweet site to see Caleb walking along looking at the snow under his feet, but I'm afraid they found very little snow. 

They went on to visit her former neighbor and best friend and then returned home about the same time we got in last night from our outing to senior supper.  I wondered why it had never occurred to me that John and I might make a day trip of it instead of insisting that it be a vacation destination...Something to at least consider and keep in mind in the future.

As I said, we took off to go back to church last night for Senior Supper.  It proved to be a rather nice thing.   I wandered about looking for a table and saw a lone man with an amiable expression on his face and I asked if we might share his table.  He was amendable and he and I had a nice conversation.  John eventually joined me and as the supper hour drew nearer so did the couple from morning church service and our small group leader.   We had a lovely dinner and good company with our little table of folks and I'm rather pleased that the gentleman who was at the table first so willingly shared his place with us.  I made sure to make introductions to everyone who joined us, as it seemed only right.  I'm not as up on my etiquette as I might be, but I was pretty sure if people were going to join us, I should make sure the gentleman got included in conversation.

One funny thing that happened was that the couple, when they came to join us, found the two seats remaining at the table were separated.  The man of the couple simply stood before the original table occupant and said nothing but looked at him steadily.  I glanced over at F and thought, why on earth doesn't he say something?   He never spoke a word but eventually K looked up and then glanced at me with a highly amused smile and slipped over one place so that F and B could sit side by side.   The funny part was that K and I were both aware had F only spoken, K would have moved over without a fuss, but as it was the former teacher came out in F and he just stood and looked at the man without blinking.   I wondered how many former students had found that tactic unnerving?

People just seemed more than usually open and friendly last night, and I most thoroughly enjoyed greeting the few people I do know by face or name.  We had some lovely conversations.  One thing about the area where we generally shop and where our church is located is that it is an air base town and most of the people we meet are former military folks who are well traveled.  Most settled in the area because it was their last base destination.  I am always surprised at how shocked people are to discover that I was born and raised in the middle Georgia area, went to school here, and have never done more than make the occasional visit outside the area.  They simply can't comprehend that someone might stay in one spot their whole lives long.  The best I can do is assure them all that it was truly my dream to travel and see the world but an armchair traveler with book and tv is as far as I've ever been able to roam.

Thankfully we had no more rain, as the temperature dropped steadily while we were at church.  We came home to watch a favorite vlogger.  I then settled into bed to read a chapter of my book before drifting off to sleep.

This morning, my alarm went off at the usual hour...I'd forgotten to turn it off last night, but it felt like luxury to switch if off, snug into the warm blankets and stay there a bit longer.  I had thought I'd take my coffee in the sunny kitchen sitting but the sky soon clouded over, and the temperature dropped so that I brought myself into the living room to sit near the heater.

I had a lovely morning and early afternoon puttering around putting my house in order.   I cleared up the kitchen, put away dishes, started bread and a pot roast.  Before 1pm, I'd been in every room except the music room and made each a pleasant place to be.   The aroma of that slow simmering roast and the freshly baked bread has been teasing us all afternoon long.

I considered the jobs on my list for the week and decided that cleaning the oven was top of my list rather than going into pantry and cupboards today and so that was the job I tackled.  As soon as I was grimy and dirty and struggling, John started a task of his own and naturally he required my help!   Why, oh why, is what he is doing always seem to interrupt any task I've set myself?!  I mentioned this to him, and he testily replied he'd get on without me, but I snipped back that he always said as much but it never failed that he'd break that promise.  I did laugh as I finished saying it because it's funny enough when you stop and think about it.  I gathered the papers he requested but assured him I'd not stop again until I was finished with my own job, and he kindly withheld asking for anything further.

The oven looks better.  It's not exactly clean, but it looks better, and I noted that it smelled better when I preheated it for bread a little bit later.   I used just plain soapy water, some dry baking soda, a steel wool pad and all the elbow grease I could muster.  I threaten to buy oven cleaner each time I do this job as nothing has ever worked as well as those harsh smelly cleaners but in 20 odd years, it's been just an empty threat.  I confess I feel a bit leery about putting smelly chemicals into a gas oven.

After I'd cleared away that mess and rinsed the cloth a hundred or so times (and it's still leeching dark water each time I pick it up), I made us a big salad.  I chopped romaine, red cabbage, grated carrots, diced boiled eggs and bacon and sliced pepperoni into slivers.  I chopped green olives and pepperoncini, washed and halved cherry tomatoes.  It made beautiful salads and we topped them with the croutons I'd made Friday afternoon from the last of last week's bread.  Funny how often we stopped to say "Mm mm... This is good!" while we ate that salad.  It was as cool as it had been on Sunday and every bit as gloomy, but I kid you not that salad was as good as the chili had been for yesterday's lunch.

I finished off my afternoon with a nice hot cup of tea.  I'm looking forward to having fresh baked bread and that lovely pot roast for our supper.  It should just hit the spot.

Tuesday:  Yesterday, Bess lost her grandmother.  Grand Bebe was a lovely woman and lived a long life.  She's had Alzheimer's for all the time I've known Bess, but I've heard many stories of her from Bess and other family members.  I think she was for Bess what Granny was for me.  Of course, I had grandmothers and great grandmothers from both sides, but Bess had only Grand Bebe, so it's a wonderful thing that she was such a blessing to her.

Today one of John's former EMS partners passed away.  So far here in January this is the second of our acquaintances to die.   And both of them were younger men in their mid-50s.  So, January has been a hard month in many ways for us.   

This morning I went to work on those kitchen cabinets where we store snacks, tea, spices and dried beans.  I wiped the shelves cleaned, noted what we had, and realized that when the day comes to remove those cupboards, I really don't need such a lot of space to put those things in.  I was pleased to find that we had nothing pushed to the back and forgotten.  I organized as I put things away again.  Caleb established himself at my feet and set up a cry for 'Cookie!' when he spied the grahams.  I gave him his daily graham which pleased him.

He seemed to be especially hungry today.  He snacked most all morning long and then still walked about whining and crying.  I fixed lunch for us at 11:30 which is about 45 minutes earlier than usual.  I heated leftover chili and baked potatoes for John and me.   I reheated some mac and cheese for Caleb and served his with chili on the side.  He cleaned his plate and asked for bread when John got up to get bread.  He ate that, too and a banana, so I guess he was genuinely hungry!

Meals for today included: Eggs in Toast Nests, Chili Stuffed Potatoes (me and John) and for supper tonight, Italian Pepper Steak with Rice, Steamed Broccoli.

I finished reading Little Women this morning.   This afternoon I've picked up a Grace Livingston Hill book, Under the Law, which I'm finding is a fun read as there is a good bit of cooking and homemaking in it, something I love to read about as much as I love to do.  If we ate ham, I'd definitely try and make the ham the girl makes for her new landlady in the book.   It's explained in detail enough that I think it would serve as a recipe.   You take two thick slices of ham (sounded like ham steaks to me) and rub them all over with mustard.  Then you lay them in a dish and cover them with milk and bake.   It was described as tasting like veal...I haven't had veal in years, but I do remember how tender the meat was.

Wednesday:  I wanted to linger in bed this morning and did indulge in an extra 10 minutes, but I knew I would loathe being rushed through coffee.   I've been using my Yeti mug these past few mornings.  I find that if the coffee is kept well and truly hot, I am much better satisfied with my sole cup each morning.  If I use a standard mug, I almost always end pouring out half a cup and starting another in order to get the hot drink I crave.

I made blueberry muffins this morning and have just about enough frozen blueberries left to make another batch.   They were so good!

I pottered around cleaning the bathroom and then I heard Katie arrive with Caleb.  I fed him breakfast and started lentils cooking after checking that I had crispy taco shells.   I've been thinking of lentil tacos for weeks now and I finally got busy getting them made.  I used 1 cup of lentils and about 2 cups of water, a little broth powder (I chose beef) and let them cook until tender.  I added tomato paste, onion, garlic, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano and a bit more water after they'd cooked.   When that had thickened up nicely, we were ready to eat our tacos.   I was surprised to find we had about 2-3 cups of cooked taco filling leftover after we'd eaten.  

This brings my leftovers in the fridge a bit higher.  I now have chili, taco filling and about half the roast from Monday night.  I am seriously rethinking the 'need' to make some of the other menus I'd planned to make this week.

I've thought many times over of what I will feed the grandchildren for supper tomorrow evening.  I've thought of grilled cheese, pepperoni pizza and pancakes.   All three are foods I know they will eat, so it's really just a matter of determining which to make.  None of it really requires had planning ahead either.    That leaves me with a lot of leftovers and only a meal required for tonight and Friday evening.  

I need to do only two jobs this afternoon:  refill the bird feeders with what remains of the seeds I'd bought last month and blow the dirt off the porches.  Wet dogs and sandy soil do make quite a mess of the porches.  I'm ashamed to admit it but I haven't been outdoors to do that task since last month.

later:  I did those two jobs I mentioned.   I used to sweep them daily but honestly the blower does such a quick job and I never get blisters as I used to do when sweeping.  

I also filled the feeders.   There's always just one bird that wants to buzz by me as I'm filling up the feeders.  I was pleased I was able to fill them as full as I did but I'm definitely all out of seed and must buy more.  Now that we're having much cooler weather, I'd like to get some suet, too, but I find that the suet holders just don't work for the birds here.  However, if I set the suet on a saucer in the crotch of a tree, the birds eat it amazingly well.   

I picked up a book I've had for years, Buttons and Beaux by Louise Gallagher and Lee Wyndham last night and started right in reading.   This is the third book I've picked up wherein I'd written my name during my first marriage, that's how long I've had this book and it's probably been that long since I last read it.   I thoroughly enjoyed the story of an 18-year-old fashion designer wannabe and her successes over two years of working as an assistant to a well-known designer.  It's not juvenile fiction by any means, but really mentioned many in depth details about the fashion industry.    I finished the book this afternoon!

Bess' birthday was at the beginning of the month.  I'd bought her pie carriers.  It might sound a very practical gift but somehow when I found them listed online, I just knew she'd put them to good use.   Of course, once I'd given them to her, I had multiples of doubts and wished I'd gotten her anything else but those pie carriers.   

Bess makes the most wonderful pies.   She has a repertoire of recipes and often brings pie to family dinners.  My family is much more pie oriented overall than I am and that's the truth.   Anyway, Bess made a pecan pie and a dozen tartlets of the same to carry to her grandmother's Celebration of Life dinner tonight.   

She used the pie carriers this afternoon and came by the house to show me how very nice the carriers and the pies were.   I was much impressed with the carriers.  They have a vent on the top that can open so your pies won't sweat, and you can stack them together so that you don't have to juggle two carriers.   Bess just enthused over them really and I felt glad that I'd apparently chosen something that pleased her so well.   Her pie and tartlets were absolutely beautiful by the way.  She and Katie both make their own piecrust with butter, and they are always the loveliest pastries.  I really have to practice and find a recipe that is beautiful as well as tasty!

I decided to make Roast Beef Hash and Peas with Mushrooms for supper tonight.  Caleb ate every single pea and potato on his plate and the piece of buttered bread I gave him, but he left all the roast behind.  I'm never really sure what he will eat.  He's not picky.  He'll eat most everything at some point, but he doesn't do it consistently.

As Katie loaded up Caleb to go home this evening, John and I loaded up trash to take to the dump.   The sunset was gorgeous.  I have so enjoyed these evening runs to the dumpsters because we get such wonderful views of the western horizon.  I thought about how I loathed their removing the nearer dumpsters that we'd used for years but the saying that it's an ill wind that blows no good is so true.   Had they not been moved we'd never have enjoyed so many of these winter sunsets as we've done.

Thursday:  I was late getting up this morning.  I thought I was just going to snooze for a few minutes.  40 minutes later I thought to check the time.  Oh my!  I hurried through my shower and dressing.  I know too well that if I don't get a chance to have my coffee the day seems to not start off very well.  I would have had no one but myself to blame today!  However, it proved to be a Caleb free day.

So, I had my coffee in a leisurely manner, made an easy breakfast and then tackled some jobs I have been longing to get to: mopping floors and taking stock of the deep freeze.  

Caleb was not here today, but Millie arrived about an hour earlier than Bess and I had planned.  Never mind.  I'd just finished the inventory of the deep freeze, so it was no problem.   I think they wanted to go visit with family and guests beforehand and I'm sure that will be a great help to her aunts who've pretty much handled all the details.    

I made bread this morning.   That's my third loaf for this week.  I typically make bread only once a week, but we've been eating more than usual of it this week.  Honestly, I made a smaller loaf on Friday and used the remaining portion to make hot dog buns.   Today I made a smaller loaf, too.  I used the remainder to make slider buns for burgers for our lunch today.  

Josh has always been the 'boss' so to speak, the big brother, and the one whose opinion has counted for the most when it comes to meal choices here.  Isaac will be five in a few weeks, and I want to help him develop decision making skills.   So today I'm starting a new regime.   Isaac is going to choose what we have for supper this time.  I'll make an offer of two meal plans either one of which I can easily make without too much fuss and bother.   I'll be sure to let Josh know that next time he can choose.  This should work well until Millie gets a little older and wants her own turn.

Isaac's choices for tonight?  Grilled Cheese (John and I will eat tomato soup with ours) or I'll make pepperoni pizza.

Friday:  It's inevitable, when keeping the boys after school, that at some point chaos will reign.  I found myself raising my voice at suppertime because the boys were regular jack in the boxes, jumping up to run around the table to tell John or I something, running to the bathroom, getting up to check a Kindle, etc.  

After supper however, things slid quickly downhill.  Isaac is ever the follower to Josh's lead and when Josh decided that one slice of pizza (Isaac's supper choice with coaxing from Josh) was enough and asked if he might have a piece of candy, Isaac hurriedly finished his one slice and also asked for candy.  30 minutes later he asked if he might have more pizza...At that point, food was all put away and I explained that once we'd put away food, we didn't bring it back out because we'd changed our minds.  I assured him he might have more when he first said he was finished but that candy was far too appealing.   I keep a jar of Dum Dum lollies and hard candies on hand (also includes some bubble gum) so the boys aren't getting a huge sugary treat.   

Well, saying no to pizza was just too much.  Isaac has a hot and fast (and equally quick to cool) temper and he got upset.  At that point he cried loudly for Mama, which set Millie off who also cried, both were sitting on my lap and Josh was sitting in the chair opposite yelling at both.  I had to make myself heard somehow and the only way to do so was to yell louder than all the rest.  John was taken aback.  I do speak loudly to the children on occasion but to raise my voice in an out and out yell is unusual for me.  They got the message pretty quickly and it was a help in quelling the chaos.  We were all happy and peaceful again shortly thereafter, which is a good thing because the parents came back about then and who wants to admit to the parents of your adorable grandchildren that you were moved to screeching? 

I would say the day had pretty much done me in.  I went to bed about 10pm or so last night and slept hard until along about 5:30 this morning.  I don't remember John coming to bed at all last night.

I got up this morning and set out breakfast ingredients.  We had three hot dogs in the fridge, and I knew that John would like them scrambled in eggs and cheese.  I set some plain browned hot dog slices aside for Caleb.   The blueberry muffins I made earlier this week were our breakfast bread.  Caleb's meal included some freeze-dried mango slices that Katie brought in for him this morning.

John and I gathered up sheets and all the bits of laundry and he did that while I cleaned up the kitchen, remade the bed, etc.  It was dreary and misty rain outdoors today.  I think Caleb was less than enchanted with it because he kept going around the house pulling curtains shut.  I told him he undoubtedly takes after his Grampa who is prone to do the same thing on such days.

It did seem the dreary weather required something more than a salad or sandwich.  Soup is not something I could serve to Caleb at this point, so I took the leftover chili and the leftover taco lentils and mixed them together.   Half of that mixture went into a baking pan and made up my own corn pudding mixture.  I didn't use muffin mix but cornmeal mix which is really the same thing.  I had enough of that to make a pan for the freezer, too.  

That tamale pie was delicious and hit the spot.  We had sliced apples with it.   Caleb ate nearly everything on his plate.  He loved the cornbread part of the meal especially.  John said he officially qualified for his Southern card.

Caleb asked to be put down for a nap.  We'd had a morning full of "Nos" and I needed the break, so I was more than happy to put him to bed.   We listened to him chatter and fuss and suddenly I heard china clinking.   I looked at John and said "I don't know what on earth he's doing but I know exactly what he's playing with.  He's gotten to the creamers on the bedside table!"   John opened the door to the room and laughed out loud.  "You gotta come see this!"   Oh dear...

There was Caleb in the middle of the guest bed, without a stitch of clothing on, pretending to drink from the creamer in his hand.  He'd pulled the spread off the guest bed and apparently used it to hoist himself out of the pack and play.  So much for his nap and my quiet spell, lol.   We gathered the next load of laundry, and I got the little boy put back together.  And we began the afternoon of "Nos".

Despite having a snack, Caleb was calling "Eat! Eat!" by 4:15.   I don't know just why I'd started supper cooking at 3pm today but I'd figured it would give me a less pressured afternoon.   And it did!  We put supper on the table at 4:30. Caleb ate as though he'd not had a thing to eat since yesterday.   More "Nos" and a few pop pops on the bottom followed.   I'm telling you.  Today was a testing day for me.  I kept my cool, but it was obvious that something more than no and redirection was necessary today.   Kate said it was much the same the day before.

Supper tonight was BBQ'd Chicken, Collards and Scalloped Potatoes.  It tasted so good.  Confession time: I think I was every bit as hungry as Caleb by dinnertime tonight.

Speaking of Katie, she had some exceptionally good news today.  There's an insurance company she's been trying to go to work with for years now.  She started with the company years ago and left the job after having Taylor.   She's applied multiples of times in this area with some close hires but in the end...nothing.   Today she was told that she's now working for that very company.  She was so excited that they had taken over her current employer, and she'd been hired in with a few others.  It's nice to end this week with good news!

It's late.  Much later than I typically send out the weekly post.  It's been a busy week and I'm glad we're coming into the weekend.  We'll get to see Taylor this weekend, now that we're all well once more.   I can't wait to see the girl!  What do you have planned for the weekend ahead?

(C) Terri Cheney