Chicken Fried Steak

On Wednesday I was diagnosed, again, with pneumonia. Since my wheelchair days I’m prone to it. And when I’m really feeling sick I want things that comfort me. One of the things I love, sick or not, is chicken fried steak. It reminds me of my childhood and nothing is more comforting than that!

Creamy and a little spicy, served with mashed potatoes and corn this is definitely not diet food. But if you want something delicious, filling, and homey, this is it.

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Chicken Fried Steak

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds beef bottom round, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Cut the meat with the grain into 1/2-inch thick slices.
  3. Mix salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper until well blended.
  4. Season each piece on both sides with the salt mixture.
  5. Place the flour in a dish large enough for the largest steak piece.
  6. Beat the eggs in a separate dish.
  7. Dredge one steak on both sides in the flour.
  8. Tenderize the meat, using a needling device, until each slice is 1/4-inch thick.
  9. Once tenderized, dredge the meat again in the flour, followed by the egg and in the flour again.
  10. Repeat with all the pieces of meat.
  11. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the flour.
  12. Place the meat onto a plate and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.
  13. Pour the vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet heat on medium-high.
  14. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the meat in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook each piece on both sides until golden brown, approximately 4 minutes per side.
  15. Remove the steaks to a wire rack set in a half sheet pan and place into the oven. Repeat until all of the meat is browned.
  16. Add the remaining vegetable oil or at least 1 tablespoon, to the pan.
  17. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of the flour left over from the dredging.
  18. Add the chicken broth and deglaze the pan.
  19. Whisk until the gravy comes to a boil and begins to thicken.
  20. Add the milk and thyme and whisk until the gravy coats the back of a spoon, approximately 5 to 10 minutes.

Season to taste, with additional salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.

Serve the gravy over the steaks.

Failing at Being Frugal

Spending (too much) at the craft store

My (former) daughter-in-law is great at crafts. She has made some things that absolutely amaze me. I really want to be able to duplicate the things she makes but I lack three things; patience, talent, and disposable income. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped me from spending money I don’t have on craft items I’ll never use or totally waste trying to create a masterpiece.

The best way to avoid spending too much at the craft store is to access a few things before heading out. Do you have the talent required to make the item you plan to make? Do you have the time to complete the project…ever? Do you have the money to spend on an item that may never see the light of day?

Sometimes the best way to have a cute item to display is to buy it instead of make it.

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Making a homemade dinner that costs a fortune

I love to cook and I don’t like eating the very same dinners over and over. If there’s a recipe that uses the basic ingredients I know my husband can eat I’ll try it. But I should consider more than just the basic ingredients. A few times I’ve found myself running from store to store looking for some exotic ingredient a recipe requires that, when I finally find it, costs a small fortune. The real Italian balsamic vinegar runs about $200 an ounce. Now I’ve never lost my mind to that extent but I have spent more on an ingredient than I should have and, since my husband can’t taste things, it’s nothing short of insanity.

To keep myself from turning an inexpensive dinner into something that costs as much as our mortgage payment I check all the ingredients before I decide to try a new recipe. If there is something in the ingredient list that I don’t have and isn’t wildly expensive I’ll consider buying it if I can use it in other recipes I’ve wanted to try. It makes me crazy to see some spice sitting in the cupboard for months because I needed only a half a teaspoon for one recipe that I wasn’t crazy about.

It’s the same for the main ingredients for recipes. If a recipe calls for some seafood I love but it’s way out of my price range I won’t make it. Eating at home is supposed to save money, not cost more than dinner out!

Signing up for a store credit card or a rewards card for the “freebies”

I’ve been guilty of this in my wild youth. Thirty years ago my best friend and I both signed up for J.C. Penney credit cards. It wasn’t because we wanted the cards. It was because, if you signed an application, you got a pitcher and six glasses. They were all plastic. The pitcher and glasses lasted a few years. The payments on the credit card lasted longer. I used that darned card when I had cash in my wallet. I bought things I didn’t need because I had that card. Then, when I was old enough to know better, I did the same thing with another department store card. With the interest I paid on those two cards and the cost of the unnecessary purchases themselves, I could have bought a full set of fine china.  

It’s the same with the rewards cards today. The fine print lists the annual fees, exorbitantly high interest rates, and other costs they don’t tout on the commercials. Now I have one credit card that I use for emergencies and for those times I can’t use cash, like checking into a hotel.

Buying things just because there’s a coupon available

I’m all for using coupons. I think it’s a simple, smart thing to do to save money. But using a coupon to purchase an item you don’t use is a waste. Recently I came across a coupon for a canned convenience food and I was tempted to buy it because the coupon was for $2 off! I nearly giggled at the thought of getting $2 off a single item. Then I remembered I don’t like convenience foods. They’re always more expensive. I don’t like any kind of dinner that comes from a can. They’re almost always really high in sodium and taste like aluminum. And, by buying the item, I wouldn’t be saving $2 I’d be wasting whatever it cost me after the discount.

When I was younger there used to be salesmen that came around to sell coupon booklets. They’d point out the fabulous savings contained in the brightly colored books. I bought one once. It was $10 which was kind of a lot in those days and I spent the entire year trying to figure out how to use them. I didn’t need $15 off a gym membership. I had two toddlers. I got more than enough exercise. I also didn’t need a coupon for $10 off a day at a spa. It would have cost me more to hire a babysitter for the day. Now there are online coupon sites like Groupon. It’s a great way to save on things you really will use but it’s tempting to spend on things you’ll never actually use.

Resale shops, yard sales, and clearance racks can be a money pit

A good way to save money is by shopping resale shops, yard sales, and clearance racks but only if you buy things you’re actually going to wear. It’s easy to drop a lot more than you planned because the prices at these three are so low.

I have a dress in my closet that breaks at least two of my cardinal rules for buying clothes. I found the dress at a yard sale and it really is my style. What it was not was my size. Never, ever buy clothes you can’t wear right now. I also was still in my wheelchair and rarely went outside the house except to the hospital or treatment center. I really didn’t need a dress for a fancy night out. But the sale was right next door and the dress was so inexpensive for its kind that I bought it. I’ve never worn it. If you shop these three ways be sure that you can wear it and that you will wear it.

How To for Seeds

I love the Old Farmer’s Almanac. I check it for last frost dates in spring and first frost dates in fall. I’ve found some great gardening tips over the years and this year I discovered some terrific ways to deal with problems many of us have when sowing seeds in the garden. We’re planting our early seeds right now and you can bet I’m going to use these tricks!

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Homemade seed tape – You’ll need toilet paper, flour, and water: Make your planting trench the correct depth for the seeds you’re planting. Roll out enough toilet paper for the length of the row. Cut the toilet paper in half lengthwise. Make a paste of the flour mixed with a bit of water and dab a bit of the flour paste at the correct spacing for the seed. Put two seeds on each dab of flour paste. Fold the paper in half lengthwise and, if you’re not planting immediately, roll the paper up to store. Otherwise just lay the folded paper along the row, cover with the correct amount of soil and water. Paper towels work great for square planting (for example Square Foot Gardening). Just dab, place two seeds, and cover with another square of toilet paper.

Tiny seeds, like carrots, can be mixed with fine, dry sand. Put a pinch of seeds into a couple of tablespoons of sand. Dig the trench to the correct planting depth and sprinkle, by hand, the sand/seed mix into the trench. Cover with soil and water.

Big seeds, like beans and squash, will germinate faster if the outer covering is roughed up a bit. Gently roll the seeds between two pieces of fine sandpaper just until the seed coat begins to come off. Don’t rub too much or you’ll damage the seed. Or you can soak seeds in lukewarm water for 24 hours.Parsley seeds benefit from being soaked for 24 hours, then having the water changed and soaked for another 24 hours.

If you’re having trouble seeing your seeds against the dark soil, ensure proper spacing by laying toilet paper in the seed row. The dark seeds will show up against the white paper.

Use row markers so you know where you’ve planted or plant a fast germinating and growing seed along with the slower ones. For example, plant radishes in the same row as parsnips. The radishes germinate in a few days and will be harvested long before the slow growing parsnips.

You can give very slow germinating plants a head start by putting a layer of damp paper towel in a sealable plastic container. Space the seeds on the paper towel and cover with two more layers of damp paper towel. Seal the lid and put the container in a warm spot (65° – 70°F). Check after a few days and, if you see roots starting to sprout, the seeds can be planted. Don’t worry about which side of the seed is up when you plant. The roots will always grow down.

Organization Part 6 – Clearing Out the Junk Room

One of my deep shames is a room that should be an extra guest room but has instead become a junk room. Yes. I have a junk room. It’s easy when you have more bedrooms than people to occupy them and that’s what happened when the kids grew up and moved out. It was just too easy to put things in a bedroom with the intention of storing it properly or getting rid of it later. In my mind it now resembles an episode of “Hoarders.” Now it’s necessary to turn that room back into a functional bedroom. I have a solid reason for clearing out the junk room and a time frame that won’t allow me to up and quit.

 

flea-market-1262036_1920-01Our out-of-state grandkids spend a week with us each summer and I really need to separate my 7 year old granddaughter from my 2 1/2 year old grandson. They discovered during their last visit that giggling and goofing around is more fun than sleeping. I’m hoping that keeping them in separate rooms will prevent tired babies in the morning, not to mention a very tired Bam.

I looked in the room that will be my grandson’s room. There’s a bed in there, sans frame. I’ve also stored his Pack ‘n Play, high chair, his big sister’s old car seat, camping gear, a box of pictures I’ve been meaning to get into photo albums since the ‘90’s, and two large boxes of toys. We’ve stashed camping gear and old electronics in that room. Generally, everything I didn’t quickly decide on a storage space for or thought I might use soon has been put in that room. I’m pretty sure there’s a floor but I can’t really be sure at this point. So I’m determined to get this room cleared out and ready for the big visit.

Perhaps my battle plan will help you with yours.

My Plan:

  1. Gather the “equipment” I’ll need to get the room back in shape. This means:
    • Boxes for items that will be stored and a few extra boxes for my yard sale items and things to donate.
    • I’ll need a few garbage bags or one industrial size one (the kind that’s so big you could use it to dump a body). Once an item is in the garbage bag it doesn’t come back out.
    • Packing tape will be used to reinforce and close boxes of things that will be stored in a proper storage area.
    • Permanent marker(s) will ensure I know what’s in the various storage boxes.
    • Notepaper and pen need to be right there to note anything that needs to be fixed. In the case of this room, where many of the grand kids’ toys are kept, that means noting if batteries need to be replaced.
    • Small box for stray crayons, toy pieces, and any other tiny objects I find while clearing out the room. They’ll be put away with like items after the general cleaning is done.
    • My most important “equipment” is my youngest son. I need him for the heavy lifting. Did I mention there’s a TV in that room that’s the size of a Volkswagen Bug?
  1. Move the large electronics (several TV’s, a couple of old computer monitors, and a VCR) to the living room. This will give us more room to work in the bedroom.
  2. Move the items that can be stored in the basement to their proper places down there. This means they’re stored properly and gives us even more floor and closet space. This includes holiday items, camping gear, and anything else that is only used seasonally.
  3. The baby’s crib and high chair will also be moved to the living room. They were cleaned thoroughly after the last visit but they’ll both get another cleaning before the grand kids arrive.
  4. Things belonging to my adult children will be separated by owner and they will have a very limited time in which to decide if they want it or if it will be tossed. If you don’t have adult kids this also applies to those living at home.
  5. All toys will be sorted and those they’ve outgrown will go in the yard sale box.

Once the room is emptied of things that don’t belong I can put the bed on the frame (currently in the basement because one of our kids didn’t like the bed being “so high.”) and wash the walls. I’ll give the room a quick dusting and vacuuming. The day the kids are arriving I’ll vacuum and dust again and make the bed.

While we’re clearing out the room:

  • I’m going to play upbeat music to keep us moving.
  • I’ll set a timer so I don’t wear myself out. First I’ll set it for 15 minutes and, if I can keep going without a break, I’ll give myself another 15 minutes on the timer. I’ll take short breaks when I need to rest.
  • While we’re clearing out, with each item, I’ll ask myself if I absolutely cannot do without it. If it’s been lost in that room for a very long time I probably don’t need it. To make it easier I’ll ask myself if I’d be willing to spend money to replace it if it were gone. The answer to that is usually that if I’d really needed it I would have already replaced it or found it.

Give myself and my son a sincere compliment on the work we’ve done and admire how great that once junk-filled room looks. Then I’ll insist on being taken out to dinner.

How To Hold A Successful Yard Sale

The yard sales will soon be in bloom and you can make some extra cash by selling your unwanted items right in your front yard. But holding a yard sale and holding a successful yard sale can be quite different. Organization is the key to success. A well-organized sale will result in more money for your goods. Here are some tips on how to hold a successful yard sale.

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  1. Get the items you need to actually hold the sale organized. You’ll need tables, some kind of price sticker, plenty of change (both bills and coins), a cash box of some type, and a clothes rack of some kind to hang items that look better hanging than folded. It’s also important to have bags and newspapers. You can wrap breakable items and offer bags to anyone who has already picked up a few items. With hands free, they’re more likely to buy more.
  1. Check local ordinances about signs. Be certain your signs are easy to read from the road and are designed in a way that people can follow them. Don’t paint arrows on the signs until after you have them placed so you know they’ll face the correct direction. And remove signs after the sale so you’re not confusing people who think the sale is still on.
  1. Advertise your sale in the most effective way. Take time to really think your signs and flyers through. Signs should be big and bold with bright colors that can easily be read. Flyers should include all relevant information such as dates, times, address, the types of items on sale, and any other pertinent information. Use Craigslist to advertise as well. Even if people aren’t searching for garage sales a well-written description of key items may bring them in.
  1. Enlist help. It’s impossible, if your sale is busy, to keep an eye on everything and to help customers. The more you have to sell the more help you’ll need. And that leads to #3.
  1. Team up with a friend or two. This arrangement means you have a greater variety of items to draw customers in and you have others there to help run the sale. And it’s a lot more fun to share the work with friends. Use a different color price sticker for each person and keep a running tally of each person’s sales.
  1. Gather everything you want to sell. Hopefully you’ve been gathering your unwanted items throughout the year and need only make a final sweep, about a week before the sale, to check for anything you want to sell.
  1. Wash everything that can be washed before the sale. Dusty kitchen items or wrinkled clothing will not make a good impression. People don’t want to buy things they feel have been neglected.
  1. Several days before the sale go through and price everything. You can use little adhesive dots or pieces of opaque tape to mark the items. Just be sure that the price is easily readable and won’t damage the item when it’s removed. Remember that yard sale customers are bargain hunters. It’s better to sell something priced on the low side than have a lot of people look at it and pass it up. Think of what you’d really want to pay for each item if you were a customer. Having plenty of items priced at .25¢ or less may encourage people to take a look at higher priced items.
  1. Never sell items that aren’t yours to sell. Don’t make decisions about what your husband, kids, or parents don’t need. There’s nothing more upsetting for a customer than to buy toys or tools only to have an upset family member start arguing about the sale.
  1. Offer customers coffee, tea, water, and cookies or muffins. They’ll feel welcome and maybe even a little obligated to look longer and buy more. It’s also a good idea to have a supervised area for little ones who are with their parents. It keeps them away from breakables, and allows their parents to shop without being nagged by bored kids. Have coloring books and crayons and some fruit juice available.
  1. Design your yard sale as if you were a retailer. Group like items together; all kitchen items in one area and toys in another. It’s always a good idea to have a “guy area” for tools and other items that catch a man’s eye. A man may never stop for a yard sale but if he sees a weight bench and a lawnmower in a slightly separate area he may decide to take a closer look. Never lay items on the ground! Even if you have to use boxes with plywood for tables be sure to arrange items in the most appealing way. Once you’ve arranged everything walk to the street and view it from there. If something doesn’t look right take the time to fix it. Instead of putting out stacks of dishes or vases, create vignettes so people can imagine the items in their homes. Adding a note to some items can help them sell; “My grand kids loved having these books read to them at bedtime.”
  1. Space is crucial. Buyers want room to browse without feeling cramped. If someone can’t make it down an aisle between tables because of another person he/she may simply leave. And don’t hover. People want to look at items without feeling pressured. A friendly greeting, an offer of coffee or tea, and some distance will do a lot to make customers feel comfortable.
  1. Timing counts. Regional differences do matter in yard sale hours. The most popular start time is 8 a.m. on Saturday mornings in many areas but in the south it’s earlier and in upstate New York it’s later. Around here yard sales run all weekend, from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. Check the local paper to determine what the typical hours are for sales in your area.
  1. Dealing with early birds. If you don’t want people showing up early don’t advertise in the paper and don’t put the arrows on your signs until you’re ready to begin. If people do show up while you’re setting up consider their offers. You don’t want to sell a collectible for half your asking price because someone comes early but you don’t want to let someone walk away from the sale because you’re not ready to take their cash. A good rule of thumb is to not dicker with the early birds. Plan on the actual start time being at least 30 minutes prior to the advertised one.
  1. Keep track of your sales and money. If you’re doing a joint sale make sure that you have a way to track of the money earned by each seller. And be sure to keep money close. A fanny pack or apron is a safe way to keep the cash with you. If you do use a cash box make sure it is never left unattended.
  1. You’re running a short business when you have a yard sale so act that way. Pull in more sales by giving a deal. If someone is buying 15 baby outfits at $2.00 each throw in a couple more for $.50 or $1.00.
  1. Be ready to haggle. Yard sale buyers are looking for the best price possible so don’t resist a slight cut of 20% – 30% on items. You can even figure that in when you’re pricing things so you can readily agree to a discount.
  1. Offer a free gift. One way to drive sales is to wrap a small gift and display a sign saying that anyone who purchases $20 (or whatever you choose) gets a free gift. You can easily pick up items from the dollar store to give away, especially if it helps you take in more than you would have.
  1. On the last day of the sale mark items down. Unless you’re willing to put things you wanted to get rid of back in the house taking a lower price is best. You can try a gimmick like “Fill a Bag for a Buck” in which any items that fit in the bag can all be bought for a dollar.
  1. At the very end of your sale you can also mark things as free. It’s a way to let others clean up the leftovers of your sale.

 

 

 

Garden Season is On!

It was an absolutely gorgeous day yesterday. There was a slight breeze but the temperature was in the 70’s and it was very sunny. It was the perfect day to really get to work on my neglected garden. I’d cleaned up a bit in fall and we’d finished clearing out earlier the spring but I was late on getting some early crops in the ground. But with the weather today it was definite. Garden season is on!

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My son came over to till the soil, as he does every spring. It took him two days but while he was finishing the last little bit I was able to get to the south side of the garden to start planting. This year I decided I was going to skip a lot of the crop markers; a move I may regret later. I do have the whole garden layout on an Excel sheet so I shouldn’t “lose” crops entirely.

Before my son even made it to my house I’d planted Baby Finger carrots and Chantaney Red carrots. While he was touching up a couple of areas he wasn’t pleased with I got seeds in for my red and green cabbage. I was delighted to find a nice patch of clover to transplant to the middle of the cabbage bed. Clover is great for keeping cabbage safe from various insects. I’ll also plant Calendula when I’m sure that there’s no risk of frost.

After the cabbage went in I laid out the area I’ll put onion sets in. The onions should really already be in the ground but I’ve been, as I mentioned, behind on planting. I also got the lettuce bed ready. Tomorrow, Monday, is the day for arugula, spinach, red and green romaine, and crisp head lettuce to be sown. I’ll also toss some borage seeds near the strawberries and behind where the tomatoes will be planted.

English peas were next on my list of seeds to get in the ground. I only planted one 8 foot row for now but a second and possibly a third row will go in as soon as the first row shows their heads. Pole beans will have to wait until there’s no danger of a late frost. I’m going to add sugar snap peas on Monday, as well. We like them and our grand kids love them.

I’ll also plant zucchini, pickling cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, bell peppers, banana peppers, and jalapeño peppers. If I can find a spot I want to plant yellow squash and eggplant again, too. And, of course, the herbs will be companion planted with the crops they most benefit.

This was a long, physically difficult day and I couldn’t be happier! I’m using my walker instead of just a cane this evening and showering is going to be a challenge yet I’ll go to sleep with a big smile on my face. Gardening has begun and life is great!

What are you planting this season?

Monday update:

Well, the weather is supposed to throw a huge monkey wrench into my plans for today. The forecast went from possible rain to “Holy cow, the storms are going to be EPIC!” My poor little seeds that are sown at only 1/4 inch may be in real trouble. The peas should be okay. They’re at a depth of 2 inches. If they wash away I’ll have bigger problems than the garden. I don’t have a clue how to build an ark!

ark

 

Beauty Treatments You Can Make at Home

Spas can be insanely expensive but every woman wants to feel pampered from time to time. Try these beauty treatments you can make at home to make yourself look beautiful and feel fantastic!

 

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*One caveat; always perform a patch test on skin before applying a new treatment all over.

Brown Sugar Olive Oil Body Scrub

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 tbsp. honey
  • 2 tbsp. cinnamon

Use this as you would your usual body scrub in the shower.

Hot Oil Hair Treatment

  • 1/2 cup of soybean oil
  • 8 drops of sandalwood oil
  • 8 drops of geranium oil
  • 8 drops of lavender oil

Mix the ingredients in a glass measuring cup until well combined.

Warm the contents in the microwave for about 25 seconds or until very warm but not too hot.

Dampen your hair but don’t get it soaking wet.

Paying special attention to the end of your hair, apply the hot oil evenly to damp hair.

Comb through with a wide-tooth comb and wrap hair in a hot towel for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes shampoo hair and rinse well. Don’t use conditioner after this treatment.

 

From Around The World –

Japanese Face Mask:

Soak a cupful of rice in warm water for 30 minutes

When the starch rises to the surface, strain to remove rice

Blend the rice water with rice flour to form a paste

Spread on clean face and leave for 10 minutes

Rinse with cool water

This absorbs oils and leaves your skin soft and younger looking.

Japanese Hair Gloss

Rub camellia oil on hair to give it amazing shine. The oil is full of protein which penetrates the hair follicle, adding body and gloss.

Italian Skin Treatment

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice and zest of one blood orange

Massage the paste on your face, neck, and chest and rinse with cool water. The citric acid in the orange exfoliates and the vitamin C helps plump up the skin. The olive oil is a natural emollient. This will leave your skin glowing!

Russian Body Smoother

Rub your moistened body with wet coffee grounds. Massage the grounds into skin to exfoliate and leave skin softer. The coffee can even help with minor skin irritations and the caffeine gives your skin a toned appearance.

Brazilian Skin Softener

Roast a variety of Brazilian nuts then crush them to draw out the oils. Apply warm oil to your skin or allow to cool to form a balm-like consistency. Nut oils are just loaded with moisturizing agents. They hydrate your skin and even promote healing. Brazilian women often use the softener on skin irritated by shaving or waxing.

Australian Tea-Tree Oil Blemish Treatment

Aborigines are known to have used tea tree oil for more than two centuries to treat skin infections. It is a natural astringent so it exfoliates and unclogs pores. Dab a little tea tree oil on blemishes or spread a bit on areas that have clogged pores.

Balinese Foot Soak

Layer smooth stones on the bottom of a large basin then fill the basin with warm water. Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil. Soak feet for 30 minutes then rub with coconut oil. Eucalyptus oil is a topical pain reliever which, combined with the warm water, helps sooth sore, tired feet. Pressing feet gently on the flat stones is like a foot massage.

 

 

Midnight Musings

It’s after midnight. I should be asleep, yet here I am, in front of the computer. There is no reason I should be awake. The bedroom was dark and the fan provided just the right cool breeze and soporific drone. The bed was soft and the pillows were perfect. But I couldn’t fall asleep. Everything that’s happened in the last year and a half was tugging at me. Try as I might, I couldn’t stop my mind from careening from one memory to the next. Forgive me if this doesn’t make as much sense as perhaps it should. It’s late and I’m tired but I have to share this.

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By April of 2014 my husband had seen his doctor twice for pain in his neck and ear. He was prescribed antibiotics although there was no indication of infection. They did nothing to alleviate his pain but the doctor simply prescribed a different antibiotic. The pain continued through the spring and summer.

In September the doctor finally ordered a biopsy of a pre-cancerous area of my husband’s throat. It was negative. And the pain continued. Finally, in November, my husband was sent to a head and neck specialist who performed a different procedure. This one found a lesion deep in my husband’s throat. A biopsy was done and, on the day before Thanksgiving 2014, we got the call telling us he had cancer.

The rest of 2014 and well into 2015 was a blur. There were surgeries to implant a feeding tube in his stomach and a subcutaneous port for chemo delivery. He had three rounds of chemotherapy which caused him to be hospitalized for days. The chemo caused his kidneys to fail. He also had to have blood transfusions. He lost a massive amount of weight and he didn’t have much to spare.

There were 35 radiation treatments which burned his neck and throat. I had to treat the burns and change the dressings at home twice every day.

Every two hours I had to crush his medications and put them in water to deliver them through his feeding tube. He could no longer swallow anything so his migraine medication went from a pill to injections I gave him. We had an automatic pump for his feeding and hydration but, quite often, the alarm would go off indicating a problem with either the liquid food or water delivery.

In January, on the coldest days of the winter, when the temperature was a true -15 and the wind chill made it even colder, the furnace failed. Friends rallied and brought us heaters within an hour and our youngest son helped me replace the bad part in the furnace but we were in bone-chilling cold for two days.

The radiation caused thick, viscous mucous to form and my husband was often in danger of choking. I got a suction machine and checked on him even in between medications. By that time he was in a hospital bed in the living room because he had to sleep in a semi-upright position to avoid choking or aspirating the mucous.

Following the end of treatment we realized that the aftereffects would go on for a very, very long time. Finally, in the late spring, he had his feeding tube and chemo port removed. We thought things would start to improve.

Then our youngest son started having pain in his abdomen. On June 12th he went in for what was supposed to be a routine surgery. The surgeon made a mistake and my son developed peritonitis. He ended up having 8 surgeries between June 12th and late August. He had to be rushed, by ambulance, to a hospital an hour away because our little local hospital couldn’t handle his level of need. We nearly lost him three times last summer.

And yet, through it all, we were there for each other. During the time my husband was having his treatments our son and his girlfriend took on grocery shopping in the worst part of winter. Our son frequently drove his dad to radiation, which was five days a week. They took care of our dogs when my husband was in the hospital.

When my son was so very sick I tried to do as much as I could to help. I thank God for his girlfriend who is family. She took on changing the dressings on his many surgical incisions. She stayed with him nearly every night he was hospitalized throughout the summer. She made sure he ate and took his medicines. And, by the end of summer, my husband was a little stronger and we were able to help them more.

I read a lot about families dealing with serious, possibly fatal illnesses. I learned of couples who separated due to the stress. I discovered that many families are torn apart by events like we experienced. Yet we grew closer. We laughed when we could and worked hard to hold each other up. I learned that we loved each other more than I thought possible.

Tonight, when I first began thinking of the last year and a half it made me sad and angry. But as I continued to muse on the trials we faced I realized that, in spite of the emotional and physical pain and fear and in spite of the stress and lack of sleep that could have caused us to tear apart, we faced it all and came out, in the most important ways, ahead.

So, for all my contemplating, I guess I realized that I wasn’t awake because of the bad things but because I kept remembering the good things. And I am so eternally grateful that I have the family I do.

Thank you for letting me ramble. And goodnight.

Organization Series Part 5 – Tips for Organizing

There are so many wonderful ideas for organizing that it’s hard to share them all with you. Not everyone will decide to use every idea but, in my world, the more organized things are the better. I love being able to find things easily and to know where things I don’t use every day are stored. Here are some of the great tips for organizing I’ve discovered recently.

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  • Use an accordion folder for storing appliance and electronics booklets. Keeping the booklets for these items is always helpful. They almost always have a troubleshooting guide and you can keep the receipt and other relevant paperwork like warranties stapled to the inside of the booklet. The easiest way I’ve found to file them is by what they are rather than manufacturer; I file the dehydrator book under “D” rather than “E” for Excalibur.
  • Shoe boxes make great places to store…shoes! Keep the shoeboxes when you buy a new pair and store out-of-season footwear in them. On one side of the box write the description of the summer shoes and on the opposite side write the winter shoe description. Then, as you store the shoes for the off-season just flip the box so you’ll easily see what shoes are in the box.
  • Tension rods make great scarf hangers. You can also hang tank tops on them.
  • Clear plastic shoe organizers can be used to organize baby clothes if you don’t have enough dresser space. Hang the organizer on the back of a closet door and simply fold the clothing to fit the pocket. You can easily see which outfit is in what pocket. The organizers are also great for storing kids’ socks and underwear.
  • Ice cube trays are for more than just freezing things. Place a few in a drawer to organize tiny accessories like earrings and rings.
  • Put up a magnetic strip near your sewing area to store bobbins, needles, and scissors. Magnetic strips are also great for organizing tools.
  • When you buy new clothing store the buttons and extra thread that comes with the clothes in a photo album with pockets. It’s much easier than trying to rifle through the sewing box when you need to replace a button.
  • Organize your closet by storing “like use” items together. Keep all sportswear in one section, work clothes in another, night out/formal clothing in a third, and casual/weekend in a fourth.
  • Clutch purses can be hard to organize. You end up with them all piled up in a box or in a stack that falls over all too often. Try using an upright wire mesh desk organizer to keep clutches neat and visible.
  • Wooden shelves with deep brackets can be hung upside down creating built-in compartments. They’re great in guest rooms to keep towels, sheets, and other items your guests will need.

Marinades: Making Your Meals Special

Groceries keep getting more and more expensive. It seems that the prices of foods, especially meats and produce go up twice a week! I’m not independently wealthy so buying meat and any produce I don’t have from my summer garden really puts a dent in my budget. One way to make the most of the inexpensive cuts of meat and tough vegetables is by using marinades.

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There are some go-to marinades I use and they’re easily adjusted depending on the meat, fish, fowl, or vegetable I’m going to marinate. Here are a few:

Basic Marinade:

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried herb, such as thyme, rosemary or oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Apple Marinade:

  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 1small garlic clove, very finely minced
  • Pinch of freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard

I love this on pork!

Teriyaki Marinade:

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 /4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice (no sugar added)

Hot Stuff Marinade:

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (or up it to 2 teaspoons if you really like it hot)
  • Pinch of thyme and oregano (optional)

Greek Marinade:

  • 1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons oregano (Greek oregano is best for this, of course!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I usually use about 3/4 teaspoon each)

My daddy was Greek so these flavors are among my favorites!

Marinades tenderize so you don’t want to leave them on too long or your meat, poultry, fish or vegetables will become mushy in texture. The Teriyaki Marinade should be left on a bit longer as it is a lower acid marinade.

My marinating times are:

2 hours for beef roasts, lamb roasts, and pork roasts (excluding beef and pork tenderloins)

1 hour for large beef steaks and bone-in chicken

40 – 45 minutes for small beef steaks, boneless chicken, pork chops, beef tenderloin, pork tenderloin, and lamb chops.

30 minutes for most fish, although octopus and squid should be left for about 40 minutes and shrimp should only be marinated for about 15 minutes.

Never use the marinade on cooked food after you’ve marinated raw foods. You can pour a little of it on the food right before cooking or boil it to use as a sauce. Just make sure the marinade reaches the proper cooking temperature for the food you’ve marinated, i.e. 145° for pork marinades,165° for marinades used for chicken, 145° for beef, etc.