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Friday, April 26, 2013

Frugal? No

Things have not been frugal here this month. Yes, there were frugal days, especially the days we got snow and ice, and there were several of those. I just don't go anywhere on those days so no money spent. But I sure made up for it on the other days. I really don't want to see my credit card bill come. It seems I was always running out of various everyday food items, like milk, eggs, bread, plus cat food and litter. I tried to stick to my list as much as possible and not make unnecessary purchases but everything I needed seemed to be expensive. I did find one good bargain though. I had been wanting a new pair of athletic shoes with velcro closings. They are so much easier for me than tying shoestrings. The pair of New Balance ones that I have been wearing for years are looking a bit ratty thought they are still in good shape and I wear them a lot. They just don't look very nice when I go somewhere. So I had been thinking of looking for a good sale on the same shoe online, knowing I would have to spend at least $60 or more. But as I was riding down the aisle in the electric cart at Walmart, I saw a clearance table full of shoes and boots. I looked the boots over as I need a pair of winter snowboots, but there were none in my size. The rest were mostly childrens shoes. I was about to move on to the grocery section when I noticed some boxes of . . . white athletic shoes with velcro closings! I stopped to check for my size, thinking there wouldn't be any since there were none in any of the other types of shoes. But. .. wait! There at the bottom is a pair of 11s! And for only $13. They had been almost $28. Even at regular price it would have been a bargain. They are Dr. Scholl's brand and I have had other type shoes of that brand that worked out fairly well. I have worn them a couple of times and are comfortable. So that made my day.

Since my cat, Felix, is getting to be an old man, and is drinking and peeing a lot, plus eating a lot more, he is costing me a lot of money. I spend about $25 every two weeks for litter alone. $50 a month just for litter! And now he doesn't want to eat his usual dry cat food, but wants to make a meal of his treats all the time. Not cheap! And not the best for him. So I got some wet cat food in packets and he starts eating that before I get the packet empty! Now when he wants it he sits by the dish and stares at it, waiting for me to notice. And if I ignore him, he comes and pats on my leg to get my attention. Or he will bat at a newpaper to make noise, or push something off the table. And if I keep ignoring him, he gets louder and more persistant. Funny animal. I think he may have diabetes from his symptoms, or one of the few other serious diseases that I have read about online. I also read that treating a cat with diabetes can cost between $2,000 to $4,000! I am sorry, Felix, but I can't afford that, so we will have to live it out whatever may come. Last week I thought we were nearing the end as he was obviously not feeling well one day. But the next day he perked up and he has become more his normal self again all this week. He is even more playful than he has been for awhile.

Yesterday I was in Walmart again and among the other necessary things I needed a frame for the counted cross stitch wedding picture I had done. It needs an odd size - 10x13. I did find a few in that size but selection is not as good as the more usual sizes. I finally found one for $13 that I thought would work best, one of the more expensive ones. And, like when I found the shoes, I rode by an island shelf unit with all $5 frames! And there were about 3 styles in the size I needed. I found one I like even better than the expensive one, so put that back where I found it. The wedding is May 4 so I only have one week to get it finished. I will try to remember to take a picture before I wrap it and post it here later. I need frames for the other cross stitch projects I finished but will look for those later. I am afraid I will have to have some custom made as they are very unusual sizes, and that isn't going to be cheap. I won't have them do the mounting, however, as that costs way too much and I know I can do that myself. I wish I knew someone here with a miter saw and I would have them cut up some trim molding to make frames. Years ago I remember a Ben Franklin store that had frame components for sale. They came packaged with 2 pieces of the same length, so that you could buy two packages with each length you needed, plus the hardware to put them together. I have looked online for that but have not found anything yet. I will check that Ben Franklin store one of these days, too, but I have a hunch they don't have them anymore. I might have to resort to driving 50-60 miles to the nearest Michael's Craft store when they have 50% off custom frames if I get desperate.

Since I was in spending mode again, I decided to buy a couple things that I had been putting off because they didn't fit the budget. But since the budget was already blown, what the hey. I seem to have lost the remote to the DVD player some time ago. So I got a universal one. I sat down to program it and discovered I needed AAA batteries. I had looked on the package in the store to see if I needed batteries an what size, but could not find that info until I had cut the package open and got the directions out. grrrr. So I had to wait until the next trip to the store to get batteries. I have them now but was too tired to mess with it last night. Maybe I will get to it this afternoon.

I have run out of computer time for this morning so it is time to leave for now.

Views from my Window

I am late in getting this posted. My intention was to write this a couple days ago but for whatever reason I was not able to upload these pictures. I kept getting a message telling my the upload failed and the the server rejected it. Then life got busy and so here we are a few days later.
The first picture was taken at 8:30 am on April 22, 2013. That was all that was left of the 4 to 5" of snow we had gotten on April 18. The grass is greening but you can see the sky is gray.

This picture was taken at 10:00 am the same day. See the rain on the windows and the wet street? Later there was some sleet mixed with the rain and was beginning to collect in some places.

And by 5:00 pm that day it looked like this! Ground is white with snow again and it is still snowing here. One more week and it will be May! There is not supposed to be snow on the ground anymore, and the temps should be in the 60's, not low 30's.
Schools were let out by 12:30 as the roads were getting slushy and freezing. The next morning schools announced a 2 hour delayed start, and later was cancelled for the day, even though the sun was out and snow was melting. Our streets and driveways were clear by mid morning and dry by noon. But I hear the country roads were a mess and almost impossible to navigate. The  Christian school did have classes but I heard they only had about 50% of the students there. As I write this today, four days later, there is barely any evidence of snow. I know these Iowa farmers are anxious to get into the fields to prep for planting. But rain is in the forecast for next week. It is best not to complain as we still badly need to moisture. We are already on water restrictions and it isn't even summer yet. Last year our spring  came a month early, as did summer. We had temps that were way above average and spring flowers bloomed a month earlier than normal. What a difference a year makes. This year spring is about a month late. I think 'abnormal' has become the normal today.

This picture is not very good but the best I could get with my cheap camera. It doesn't look like much. It was taken after we got the 4 to 5 inches of snow on April 18. The dark blob toward the bottom of the picture is actually a robin sitting in the deep snow. It looked so bewildered, and probably was wondering where all this snow came from, and how he was going to find something to eat that day. I am sure you have all seen pictures of deer, dogs, and other animals trying to wade through deep snow. If the robin had been able to walk, he would have been trudging through deep snow up to his waist. He sat there for quite some time before flying off. I felt sorry for the poor thing but I had no worms or bugs to feed him. This is northwest Iowa.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

God's Little Gifts

God has been giving me little gifts recently. These are things He knows I take delight in and am so very thankful for them.

The past few days I have been hearing a beautiful bird song very close to the front of the house. It has many pretty notes and phrases. I had heard it before and didn't know what kind of bird was doing the singing since I could never see it when it was singing. Since I keep hearing it close to the house I happened to think that maybe it is building a nest atop the front door porch light since robins have built there in the past. I very quietly opened the front door and looked through the storm door, looking to the right of the door where the light is, and there was a purple finch! I am about 2 feet away from it. It didn't notice me and kept right on singing for a bit. I hear it usually first thing in the morning and again in the early evening so I am almost sure there is a nest there but I have not gone outside yet. It has been too cold! Such a pretty bird with a pretty song.

Yesterday I kept seeing another bird that I had not seen before. It was hanging around my patio quite a bit so am wondering if it is or has built a nest nearby. At first I thought it was a slate junco but we usually only see them in the winter here, although with all the snow we have been getting this month, it is still winter. Since it was around so much and so close I got a better look at it and decided it was not a slate junco but had no idea what it was. Out comes my bird book. The junco has a yellow beak, this one had a black one. The junco has a black throat, this one had white. The only thing I could find in my book that looked similar was an Eastern phoebe. That is it! I didn't know they were in this area at all.

In this second picture you can see it looks a little like a slate junco only the gray isn't quite as dark.

I the last week or so I have seen another bird that I had never seen before, and as far as I can tell by my book it is a brown creeper. It kept climbing up the trunk of the tree right outside my living room window so I got to watch it for awhile, too. It is a small bird, and luckily I was able to get a good look at its beak. I found it on the same page as woodpeckers, but acts similar to nuthatches. I have also seen nuthatches on my trees recently, and they are another pretty bird.

About 2 years ago God showed me three birds that I rarely get to see here, all in one day! There was a pair of goldfinch first. I know they are around here but rarely get to see them. I should put a feeder out for them, then I would see them more regularly. Then a cardinal landed in a tree very close to me. It didn't stick around very long, but I was able to watch it for a minute or two. And then. . . . a bird that I had no idea was in this area at all . . . an Eastern bluebird!! So in one day I saw red, yellow and blue beautiful birds. PTL

I have seen some other very small brown birds that I have not been able to find in my book. They are very quick birds and I have not seen them up close, and only for a few seconds at a time. They don't stay in one spot long. Maybe some day I will be able to find out what they are. I could look online but I have no idea what they might be so would be looking at lots of bird pictures.

I do so enjoy watching the birds in their natural habitat, but don't really want any in cages, though I have had parakeets in the past. I am hearing the purple finch right this minute! I wish I could record the song.

When I lived at the other house with my husband, we did feed the birds there. We mostly saw house sparrows by the dozens, which I barely see here. And we had turtle  doves, starlings, blackbirds, robins, bluejays and the squirrel that liked to climb up on the feeder and break it. I did see a nuthatch when we still had the big pine tree on the yard. And there was a nighthawk that nested on the top of the business next door. They are cool to watch in the evenings and hear their cry. And we did sometimes see purple finches and chipping sparrows. What is odd about the last two. . . the finch is the size of a sparrow and the chipping sparrows are the size of other finches like you find in cages for pets.

Almost forgot but there is another bird I saw up close for the first time. A chicken hawk! It flew right past my bedroom window as I sat here at the computer. I just saw this brown blob zip by right next to the window and had no idea what I saw. So got up from the chair and looked out and this hawk was chasing a rabbit in and around my big maple tree! I don't know if the hawk was successful or not as the squirrel finally left the tree and ran toward the garage and out of my sight. I suspect he was heading for the evergreen tree several feet from the garage. That might have been his downfall as it left him wide open to the hawk.

I know God is giving me these little glimpses of different birds as gifts and reminders that  He loves me. We just need to sit still, watch and listen for them.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

View from My Window

Yes, this is my view this morning - APRIL 18, 2013! This is spring?
I actually woke up yesterday and it was snowing then, too. But it soon turned to sleet and then rain, melting (or dissolving?) the snow. It is not melting today. It is now almost 12:30 and we have about 2" of snow and it is still coming down heavier than in this morning's picture. Schools have dismissed. Wind is blowing and supposed to get stronger later. I hear about accidents on the radio scanner, mostly rollovers, probably driving too fast for road conditions. Hopefully I will be able to post pictures of my tulips blooming one of these days.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cleaning up

Picking up one of my stacks. Thank you to the neighbor for dragging mine to the curb when he did his.
The driveway and streets are already clear of ice snow and are dry.

Views from my Windows

Early Spring Ice/snow storm on April 9-11. These are views from each window of my house. Half these branches are mine and the other half are the neighbor's.

My tree in background, and my branches on the ground. This one is one of the larger ones.
Right outside my bedroom window. See the snow stacked up on the power line that attaches to my house.  See all the red buds of the maple tree.

My patio and the 4-5" snow on top of 1/2" or more of ice.

Looking out from my kitchen window. Notice the branch in the lower left corner. That is in the narrow alley between the house and garage. Several branches hit the house and most rolled off. I don't think there is much damage, if any.

View out of the other kitchen window. Isn't that a pretty tree in the center?

Across the street. The landlord's tracks in the driveway we share. See the pile of snow covered branches the neighbor piled at the curb after the ice storm but before the snowstorm.

My white birch in front of my front porch. Those low hanging branches almost touching the ground did recover and back to normal height.

This large, long branch of the birch tree is not so lucky. It has snapped but still attached. It will have to be taken down.

These are low hanging branches of the other tree in front of the house. They are either touching the ground or within inches. It was hard to tell. They have since recovered as well.

This tree is just a few feet from a living room window. Look at the snow plastered to the side of the trunk and settled in the crotch as well as on the ice covered branches.
Today, almost all the snow is already gone.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

m . . .m. . .m. . .Bacon!

Some time ago I saw on Pinterest directions on cooking bacon in the oven and thought "I've got to try this." I have seen others do it on TV or on blogs so maybe you do this already, but I had not tried it. A couple days ago I had an open package of bacon in the fridge that needed to be used before it spoiled, and thought this was the right time to try this method. Wonderful!! Easy. . .not messy. . . perfect bacon. I only made about half the package the first time as that filled my jellyroll pan. After it was done I thought - why didn't I take pictures and put it on the blog? So today I made the rest and here are the pictures.
The instructions are easy. First line your pan with aluminum foil to make cleanup a snap. Lay out a single layer of bacon strips, not touching if you can help it. I already had my package cut in half. I have always done that since I can get more in a frying pan that way, plus a handy size to eat or use in sandwiches.
Then put the pan in a COLD oven, turn the oven on at 375 F. and set your timer for 15 minutes. Check to make sure it doesn't overcook. It might take a few minutes longer depending on the thickness of your bacon, or how crisp you like it.

 Here is the pan hot out of the oven. Can you smell it? You can see some of the grease still bubbling on top of the slices.

 Then I put a layer of paper towel in the bottom of a pan or dish, add a layer of bacon, and repeated the layers, with paper towel on top to absorb the extra grease.

As you can see, there isn't a lot of mess in the pan. I then took a spatula and scraped all the grease into my bacon grease jar that I keep in the fridge. You can't throw that yummy stuff out! It makes the best fried potatoes ever, not to mention frying eggs in it. It works great with frying any meat as well, especially pork chops. The grease jar is also recycled from an empty jam jar. My mom had a little crock that she kept the bacon grease in, right on the stove or close to it. It wasn't refrigerated (and nobody got sick from it). But today the 'experts' warn that it must be kept in the fridge. I used that little crock for bacon grease many years after Mom was gone, but now my daughter has it. Once the grease is in the jar, wad up the foil, throw away, and the pan is clean. No need to wash it before putting it back in the cupboard.

Now, if you can resist eating it all, you can freeze the slices for future use in sandwiches, salads, or reheat for a meal - homemade pre-cooked bacon! And cheaper than what you buy already cooked, plus you have the grease to use. This is also a handy way to cook bacon when you have several people to feed, whether for breakfast, supper, or a brunch. This can bake while you are making the eggs, pancakes, etc. You can also bake muffins at the same time if you want, or bake the whole pound at one time by using two pans and rotating them about halfway through cooking.

Another thing I want to try in the future is the brown sugar/pepper bacon like I saw the Pioneer Woman do on one of her shows. Doesn't that sound yummy?

My favorite bacon brand is Oscar Mayer. I think it tastes the best of any of the other brands in our area. There is one brand that I cannot stand the smell as it cooks. OM is a little more expensive but so worth the extra money. I try to buy several packages when there is a really good sale, then freeze them. I don't usually have the energy to cook them up after I have been shopping so they go in the freezer as they come from the store. (Oscar Mayer is not paying me to say this.)

Monday, April 8, 2013

"The Song is Ended, But the Melody Lingers On"

A few years ago, when I was going through some boxes of memorabilia, sorting and tossing out the unimportant papers, I found a handwritten paper that had been in my husband's things. I recently ran across it again and I really like the thoughts that are there and would like to share them here. These words commemorate the life of a relative of my husband, and a long time church member, Sunday School teacher and one of the church organists. It seems it was read at one of the ladies meetings at church. After the introduction part of the message is the following. I don't know who to credit writing this, and think that many thoughts come from another writing but that is just a guess. (parenthesis are mine)

" Her life is comparable to a song that was sung. 'The song is ended, but the melody lingers on.' (In Job 38:7 God asks Job, "Where were you) when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"

Since "the morning stars sang together" at the creation, the lives of all people can well be described as music. For music is the one art that can express the ever changing moods and events in men's lives.

In it we find love, hate, peace, war, joy, sorrow, harmony or discord understandably portrayed. In music, there are many changes of tempo and expression: slow, fast, loud, soft, soothing or exciting, and there are rests also. As Ruskin says, "There is no music in a rest, but there is the making of music in it."

In our whole life melody the music is broken off here and there by rests, and we foolishly think we have come to the end of time.

God sends a time of forced leisure - sickness, disappointed plans, frustrated efforts, and makes a sudden pause in the choral hymn of our lives, and we lament that some voices must be silent and a part missing in the music which ever goes up to the ear of the Creator.

How does the musician read the rests? See him beat time with an unvarying count and catch up the next note true and steady, as if no breaking place had come in between.

Not without design does God write the music of our lives. Be it ours to learn the time and not be dismayed at the rests. They are not to be slurred over, nor to be omitted, nor to destroy the melody, nor to change the key note.

If we look up, God Himself will beat the time for us. With our eye on Him, we shall strike the next note full and clear.

The life melody of J. . . . . N. . . . .  was interspersed with many rests until, on April 24, 19 . .  at the age of 92 years, the last, sweet note of the melody faded into silence and God wrote the final rest."
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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Gotta love a small community

This is such a nice community - clean - friendly people -  and helpful people. Yesterday morning several pickups pulled up to the curb in front. They were all filled with high school kids, rakes and push brooms. There must have been 10-12 kids. Wish I had taken time to count them. They proceeded to rake my lawn, removed the debris that they raked up, and then several of the girls used the brooms to sweep all the sidewalks and my side of the driveway. It all probably took them about 15 minutes! I don't have a huge yard but it is a real chore for me to get out there to pick up sticks or rake. Every spring the school does this as part of their community service. I don't know how my name got on their list, but I sure do appreciate it! I wonder how many yards they raked yesterday. I do know they got right down to business and didn't stand around or goof off. They are good kids, good workers, and they didn't even get paid for doing it. I love small town living!


I am frustrated this morning. Oops, it is already 12:05 pm. When I sat down to write here it was still morning. I have spent quite a bit of time looking in my picture folders for one or two to add to this post, but had no luck finding what I was thinking about. For some reason, some pictures have been put in different places on the computer and I can never seem to find them back. Any suggestions as to how I can move them back into my main picture folder?
So, unless I find what I want later, this post will be picture-less.
I haven't been blogging much lately as I have been in a funk. I haven't been doing much, period. So how do you write about a very boring life? My brain has been a bit foggy anyway, so have had a hard time thinking of anything to write about. Other bloggers are so good at having set themes for each day of the week. Maybe I need to spend more time thinking up some themes so I can do something similar? Maybe I just need to get a life! Why would anyone want to read about me doing nothing every day? Could this just be the winter doldrums? It IS spring, after all. But it is hard to tell that by the weather patterns so far.
I like to look out my windows and watch the birds and squirrels, and sometimes the neighbors. <grin> But the windows are so grimy from the long winter, so I am hoping for some warm weather to coincide with a good energy day, so that I can get outside and wash those windows. It is not a job I really love, but I love the clean windows so I will have to get out there and do it. It is a tedious project with this house. All but one of the windows have combination storm windows outside. I hate them! One good thing, this is a one story house and it is a small house. Outside I can't q . u . i . t . e reach all the way to the top of the window when standing on the ground, no matter how much I stretch.  I am 5'8" so you can't call me petite. Because of my bad knees I can't climb a ladder. So what can I do?
I have a long handled window washer. It has one side that is like folded Handi-Wipes. Some come with more of a sponge type thing, sort of like a floor mop but without the thing that squeezes the water out. Opposite that is a squeegee. I go out with a bucket of soapy water and that mop/squeegee thing and first wash the top half of the window, then wipe the squeegee with a rag and squeegee the window. It doesn't do the perfect job, but it does work. I will do that with all the windows around the house, not touching the bottom half of the windows since there is screen there. The outside is done! Next I go inside, raise the bottom of the window, remove the bottom glass part of the storm window and clean both sides of that. If they are really dirty I wash them first with soapy water, then use Windex and shine with either paper towel or old newspaper. The newspaper works really well, and  is free.
This year, when I have used the last of the Windex I have on hand, I plan to try the homemade version that so many bloggers swear by. I have  seen it on Pinterest too. There are different mixes out there, but this is the one I thought I would try:
2 c. water
1/2 c. white vinegar
1/4 c. rubbing alcohol
Mix and put in spray bottle.
Then I wash out the sills in between the windows. If I am feeling energetic I will get out my hand steamer and steam clean as it gets in the cracks and narrow spaces a little better. An old toothbrush does a decent job as well. I also wipe off the screens with a wet rag or sponge. Then the storm window goes back in, the window closed, and then I Windex the interior windows and I am finished.
Some of you observant people might have noticed that I did not clean the outside of the interior windows, nor the inside of the top half of the storm window. Good grief! How much energy do you think I have??? If I were younger, slimmer, had good knees and back, and had lots of energy, that would be done every time as well. (maybe) A perfectionist I will never be! Really, how dirty can those parts get? They are not exposed to the elements. If they do get really bad I will attempt to clean them, but that means having to go outside again, and moving windows up and down. That really works better as a two person job, and I am not two people. I usually have to do windows room by room, with one room per day, or sometimes per week.
If I can get myself on the ball, when I finally get around to washing windows I will try to take some pictures.
Well, this was not what I had planned to write when I started! I do have something else to tell you about, but will do that in another post after I eat some lunch, unless I get sidetracked again.