Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Last Of 2015 And New Year's Day On RockWhisperer Hill

I start this on Friday, December 25.
It's Christmas Day,  I made Hubs and myself a nice breakfast of sausage, eggs, and potatoes fried with chopped sweet bell peppers and onion.  I think that's called "Potatoes O'Brian".  He's settled in his LaZBoy watching a movie that Dish Network has seen appropriate to let us have a trial access to, and I'm down here dinking around.  The movie before this one, that I saw parts of, ended badly and what's up with that, really?  Aren't movies supposed to entertain us?  Sheeeeeesh!  Makes me feel kind of cheated to invest two hours of my time in a movie and then find out it doesn't have a happy ending.  They should have a rating for that.  So, having had enough of THAT, I'm down here dinking around on the computer.

Spike called yesterday afternoon to see what our plans for Christmas were.  Sometimes the fact that they don't seem to plan very far ahead frustrates me.  But maybe they're just doing the best they can do.  The step-kids are spending Christmas with the man who is the father of the two youngest.  That oldest seems to feel towards him like he's her father, too, and I think that's a wonderful thing that he's able to return the feeling, since her biological father doesn't keep in contact with her.  We were at a garage sale one day, when the kids all came up to us for a hug, seemingly out of nowhere.  I was surprised and said, "Where did YOU come from??", and then they pointed to their dad.  When he found out who we were, he announced, "Oh, I just LOVE your son!"  Heh.  It's a happy thing that they are all mature enough to put all those things "blended families" argue about aside and try their best to be nice to each other.  The kids tend to get caught in between when divorced parents act like they hate each other. 

I don't know if Spike expected me to make Christmas Dinner or not, he didn't say and I didn't ask, but for sure that wouldn't have been enough advance notice if he had.  I invited them to come to the church and eat dinner with us there, or come here and go with us.  I asked him to call and let me know what they decide to do, so we won't sit at home and wait for them to show up while they sat at the church and waited for US to show up, because he said he had to talk to HBH and see if she'd like to do that.  So he called back this morning to say they'll meet us out there.  I'm trying really hard to give my children / grandchildren the freedom to spend as much or as little time with us as they want to, since I have so many memories of how my parents insisted on seeing us EVERY.  SINGLE.  WEEKEND.  and that was a real struggle for me.  I never knew what kind of mood my mother was going to be in, and sometimes she was just absolutely Hell On Wheels and managed to piss me off for the rest of my precious weekend, which was crappy enough because after they took half a day out of my two-day weekend I'd have to spend all the rest of it doing laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning so I could start back Monday to my full-time job.  I remember, at the time, just feeling like a rubber band, stretched in all different directions.  Everyone wanted a piece of me and they found a way to punish me if they didn't get it.  Children, husband, work, home, parents.  Sometimes neighbors and siblings.  I never had any time for myself.  I tried to go to college at night and that was just impossible.  Problems developed with my daughter, we had to go get counseling and the counselor told me I was not "there" enough for my daughter.  So, carrying a 3.8 average, I had to drop out of college.  But suffice it to say I know how it is to not have enough time to do all the things you need to do, and I didn't want our kids / grandkids feeling towards us as just another dang demand on their time.  I didn't want them griping about it to each other like we were these big ol' stones hanging around their necks.  I talked to Hubs about it, and then I expressed those feelings to them, and also that, while we'd love to see them any time, we wouldn't ever want them to pay us what I used to call "A Duty Visit".   There's an upside and a downside to everything and this is no different.  The downside is that we were somewhat surprised to find out just how rarely our kids / grandkids REALLY feel like they need to see us.  That daughter that needed to "be" with me so much when she was a teenager ended up abandoning us once we got old enough so that now and then we needed her.  Go figure. 

One thing I have learned out of my relationship with my mother, and then my own children and the grandsons we raised, is that you can't force people to have feelings for you they don't have, and you'll be sorry if you try.  Fake affection is worse than no affection at all.

Now, I know that if we gave our kids money every time they asked for it, they'd hang around more.  It's kinda like putting a pork chop around your neck so the dog will play with you.  Don't misunderstand, it's not that we haven't given freely to our adult children.  It's just that, there are limits to what people can do for their grown kids without putting their own financial stability on the line.  Unfortunately, by then they are accustomed to your putting something in their hand every time they extend it to you, and when you have to tell them "no", they conveniently forget all those times you gave to them without asking for anything back.  They tell each other, "They can afford it", without really knowing whether you really can, and they take on the attitude that, if you loved them, you'd help them.  Well, that road runs both ways, because when you are old and can't afford to keep up your home, or when you can't afford to pay for your medicine because your adult children have succeeded in drawing off the savings you accumulated during your entire, hard-working lifetime, they decide you're senile and put you in a nursing home.  Which is poetic justice in a way, because the nursing home then takes whatever you have left.  Not only that, if you run out and rescue your adult children every time they make a poor financial decision, they will never learn how to make wise ones because they know they will always have you to fall back on.  By the time you die, there's nothing left to inherit because they've already taken it, and they're not able to bounce back because they have never learned to live within their means.  You know you're not going to be able to be there for them for the rest of their lives, and so, telling your children "no", IS love.  Just as, when they were little, you forced them to stay out of the road and to "play nice", when they were teenagers you forced them to go to school, do their homework, to clean their rooms, apparently some of them have to be forced to learn to live within their means when they are adults.  It's just another one of those dirty jobs you have to do as a parent that makes you as unpopular as hell, and is a heartache for you to have to do, besides. 

So, anyway, we try to appreciate anybody that does come to see us because, as I've said before, when you give someone your time, you are giving them a piece of your life.  We cultivate friendships and we "neighbor" with those who live around us.  We miss having a Church Family but we are in the process of getting back into that.  We don't want to be sitting around, waiting for our children to be our only contact with the outside world, the way my parents did.  Spike always tells me that he loves me when he says goodbye, whether it's on the phone or in person.  And because I haven't tried to force him to pretend to have feelings he doesn't have, I do know that when he tells me he loves me, it's because he does. 

This is now Sunday morning. 
It's been raining hard all night, the back yard is full of water and the downspout has come apart, which means all that water ran right down the side of the house all night.  I went out in the dark and the rain and tried to fix it but the wind was blowing so hard that it just wouldn't stay.  So I had to wait a couple hours for Hubs to get up.  I'm so grateful Hubs is the handyman that he is.  He can fix lots of things, short of the big stuff, and that has saved our bacon so many times.  We probably won't be going to church this morning because it's still raining and if it rains while we're gone, there's a good possibility the water will get over the low places in the highway and they will block it off and not allow anyone through.  Which will mean we can't get back home.  We felt like we were running a big risk just going to Candlelight Services on Christmas Eve last Thursday night because the deer cross on the highway at night, and also on some of the side roads, where we did, in fact, catch one in our headlights, standing near the road.  We've hit a deer before, back when JR and JC were little, and it's a scarey thing.  We killed the deer.  We also killed the whole front part of our car and the deer was on the crumpled hood with it's nose pressed against the windshield on my side.  We're not talking about Bambi here.  A fully grown doe weighs at least 1000 pounds.  If you hit a deer, you don't even get to take it home with you for the meat.  That's considered poaching.  So it lays by the side of the road till it's not fit for anything and then the County truck comes along and picks it up, unless some wild thing has found it, and it goes to the dump.  A wasted life. 

Walgreen's robo notification service let us know my ointment prescription was ready for pickup on Saturday and Hubs went in to get it, as the storm was coming in and by Monday it's supposed to be snowing.  OMG, it was $150.  Can you believe it?  It darn well better work, that's all I can say.  My AARP drug card paid A DOLLAR.  Wow.  Usually it pays about half.  But don't get me started on the cost of drugs and how artificially their prices are escalated so that the pharmaceutical companies can live high on the hog.  Just don't.  Don't.

If it hadn't been for the fact that I'm only four months out from knee replacement, I probably wouldn't have even gone to the doctor for this rash that's on my face.  I'd have just piddled around with it till I found something that made it better or till my face fell off, whichever happened first.  And let me tell you, I probably won't be doing it again.  I have to take this "mild antibiotic" for at least 30 days and maybe 60, and even then there's the chance of a flashback once I'm off it.  The data sheet that came with the filled prescription was scarey as hell to read.  I need to call the knee surgeon's assistant about my dental appointment coming up in January, to see whether I should reschedule it till I'm off this medicine or not.  It says on the data sheet not to take it in conjunction with other antibiotics.  When I talked to her earlier, she said if they put me on antibiotics for the rash, I won't have to take the prescribed four antibiotic capsules and hour before I see the dentist.  But since this antibiotic is "mild", will that still hold? 

I think today for supper we'll have some of that ham I bought last week, with some mashed potatoes, gravy, corn or green beans.  Kind of a little "after Christmas feast", except that Hubs and I don't have very big appetites anymore.  It's all we can do to consume an entire quart tub of soup or chili out of the freezer between us in one sitting.  So I'll probably get the ham butt sliced and packed, in two-serving sizes, in the freezer.  I'll trim off the fat and pressure it with the bones in some water in my handy little 6-quart capacity pressure cooker, and that will yield some nice broth for beans and a layer of melted fat I can store in a container for use, a bit at a time, to season green beans,  etc.

We are pretty much eating out of the freezer, except for milk, yogurt, peanut butter and maybe some fresh fruit and a head of lettuce or celery now and then.  The freezer was pretty stuffed since we had to incorporate what had been stored in the little garage freezer that was ruined by rats.  Thankfully some of it was grain products I was freezing to kill weevil eggs and whatever, which I vacuum-packed in jars.  If you vacuum-pack grains without the pre-freeze, the eggs will hatch in the jar and ruin the grain, vacuum or no vacuum.  It was mentioned to me that it might even be worthwhile to pre-freeze pasta.  I hadn't thought of that, but I guess there might be a point to that.  Although I think commercially-made pasta has some kind of retardant in it, otherwise it'd never survive on the grocery store shelves in those wimpy bags, and if you make it yourself, you've probably pre-frozen the flour you used to make it with.  Still, it's something to keep in mind.  I had a little jar of Basmati rice from a bag that I had bought at Sam's on the counter in the kitchen, and it didn't have a tight-fitting lid on it.  Eggs hatched in it.  I saw the little critters flying around in the house and for awhile I couldn't figure out where they were coming from.  Then I realized, I hadn't pre-frozen that bag of rice. 

Jim and Mary, on Old World Garden Farms (see my sidebar for the link), put on a new post today entitled "Four Simple Life-Changing Goals For 2016" and I think it's very good.  I've been thinking along those lines, of course, many people are, as the year is almost over.  I tend not to make New Year's Resolutions as I'm not very good about keeping them.  But there are some things I hope to do during this coming year. 
  • Our wills need to be redone.  IF some nursing home doesn't get everything we own, and IF we've not used everything up before our demise, I want JR to get a share, along with JC and Spike.  In fact, I'd like him to get a little extra.  JR is the only one of our four potential heirs who has never asked us for anything.  Originally I had left JR and his mother out of it, because I knew they'd both party their shares off, I thought JR would never amount to anything, and his mother had already wrung more than her fair share out of us, which is why I still won't include her.  Regardless of what she may think, it has nothing to do with love and everything to do with the consideration of what is fair.  But JR has turned his life around and now it's not fair to leave him out, regardless of how he will spend it, even though I think now he's mature enough to use it wisely.
  • I have not made that T'ai Chi routine I found on YouTube a daily practice and I think it would benefit me greatly.  So I need to allot some time, every morning, to stand in front of the YouTube screen, and practice.  Eventually I hope to be able to remember the routine and then it will be easier to get into it, I think.
  • In 2014, I had knee arthroplasty, cataract surgery, and retinal surgery.  In 2015, I had cataract surgery in the spring, and knee replacement in the fall.  I hope to stay out of hospitals in 2016.  Surgery and all the drugs that come with it and follow after it are really hard on the body.  I feel like I've aged more this year than I've ever aged in just one year's time before.
  • Of course I intend to continue avoiding the consumption of carbonated beverages and empty calories, and excessive amounts of sugar and salt.
  • A new rule is in place for when we go to garage sales.  It's the journey, not the destination.  We enjoy going, it provides us an outing, exercise getting in and out of the truck, climbing stairs and what have you, on site.  We get to meet interesting people we might not have met otherwise, and sometimes we run into people we know that we haven't seen in a long time.  We get to see the insides of homes we might never see any other way, and now and then I'll get a decorating / remodeling idea for my own home from them.  I always make it a point to notice what they have growing around their houses and I'm not above picking off a few seedpods or asking if I can have a cutting or two.  And of course, the obvious return from a garage sale is that you find a great price on something you really need.  By next spring, when garage sales go into full swing, I fully expect to be needing to buy some clothing in a smaller size.  BUT.  No more buying things if their only function will be to collect dust.
  • I intend to finish something that has been "in the works" for years.  In quilting language, these are UFO's (Un-Finished Objects).  In 2015 I finished the wall quilt that was Kliban's "Sneak Cat" appliqued onto four "Road To Oklahoma" quilt blocks.  I've picked back up on the Pineapple Star Log Cabin quilt that is made of all those shirts Spike left behind when he grew up and moved out on his own, nearly thirty years ago, and I'd like to have it finished by the end of 2016.
This is now Monday and so far it's been interesting. 
The wind blew horribly all night long, and we awakened very early in the morning to find the electricity off.  This is nothing new here.  We have issues with two of our utilities, both of which have to do with the almighty dollar.  Both the land-line telephone AND the electricity have developed some kind of problem that they're just band-aiding rather than fix it like it should be fixed.  My telephone has bad static on the line every time it rains.  AT&T tells me this is not on their side of things.  But I have been told by someone who is in the position to know, that there is a problem in the junction box that AT&T won't let their repairmen fix.  They have found a convenient solution in telling customers it's on THEIR side, because then nobody wants to pay an AT&T repairman $100 an hour to try to find the problem and fix it at their house.  Not that this is possible or anything.  I'm tempted to tell them, "If you manage to fix the problem so that it doesn't occur the next time it rains, I'll pay for the repair.  If not, I won't."  But they tack the repair bill onto your monthly service bill, so guess what, you have no choice but to pay whether it works out or not.  Many people say AT&T wants to get out of the land-line business, and I think this is true. 

But there's no excuse for AEP, our electricity utility.  Our electricity goes out at least twice a winter, sometimes more, and it's inconvenient for all of us because there are no gas lines installed out here and so all of us are completely dependent on our electricity.  Joe has a gasoline generator that he uses at times like this.  Some of our neighbors just get in the car and leave.  I guess that's ok if the weather is warm enough that you don't have to worry about the water lines freezing, and if you have someplace you can go.  We stick it out, build a fire in the fireplace insert, light candles, and bundle up.  This time, the automated telephone system could not recognize my spoken house number or account number because of the static on the phone.  So I had to call Joe, after I saw him out and about, and ask him to report the outage for me.  Some of our neighbors don't bother to call because they think everybody else will.  One time last year, I discovered I was the only one who had reported the outage.  Don't that beat all. 

They told Joe they'd try to have the electric back on by 11 am and it was an hour earlier than that when the refrigerator started to hum.  What a relief!  It's my understanding all they have to do is replace a blown fuse that's on the pole behind Jay's house.  Seriously?  Last time I was able to talk to the repairman and he said something up on the pole behind Dane's house is split and that he taped it up, said he'd turn in a workorder on it.  We never saw anybody come back to do a proper repair, maybe they did and we didn't see.  But it's kind of hard to get a big AEP truck with a cherry-picker on it down our road without everybody seeing and hearing it.  We can see anybody that comes in here from a mile away. 

We have thought about getting a back-up generator system installed here and I don't really think it's all that necessary because our electricity is never out as long as 24 hours.  I guess all it really takes to make a generator system pay for itself is avoiding losing all the contents of your freezer and having all your water lines bust, just once.  So we agreed we'd talk to Joe and see if he thinks it's necessary.  Hubs thinks it would be a good selling point if we ever decide to sell the house.  I think there's a good chance it's not us that will be selling the house so that's not a consideration.  The beat goes on.  AEP says, on their recording that you have to listen to while you're "on hold", that frozen food will stay frozen for 48 hours as long as you don't open the freezer door.  Our electricity was off for about 12 hours this time and our freezer only lost ten degrees. 

So the wind finally quieted down, and it stopped raining.  We watched the headlights of vehicles leaving the neighborhood carefully to see if they had to turn around and just come back, but we didn't see that happening.  So Hubs left the house in the truck to go to Sal's and buy hot coffee and biscuits and gravy.  When you are in an all-electric home, you can't even make coffee with no power.  Right after he left it started sleeting.  He arrived back home safely, and we had breakfast.  And now it's snowing.  We are under a Winter Weather Advisory AND a flood warning. 

In a way, I really like not having natural gas in my house.  I thought I'd hate cooking with electric, but I've adapted, and there's nothing I did on my gas range that I can't do on my electric one.  Plus, I feel safer.  At the Ponca house, I kept thinking I smelled gas fumes.  Then one of our neighbors told us he'd had to have his gas lines repaired because they were leaking in his crawl space.  We had an inspection, and sure enough.  Right under the bedrooms.  Is that scarey enough?   But I have to admit, being in an all-electric home is a pain in the keester when the electricity goes out. 

While I waited for the electricity to come back on, I started mixing the dry ingredients together for Addictive Pumpkin Muffins.  I posted that recipe a couple of years ago HERE.  I had my winter squash puree already thawed and waiting in the refrigerator.  The original recipe that I got from calls for twice the amount of sugar, but I cut the amount of sugar called for in half in order to reduce my sugar intake and I actually like them better that way. 

Which reminds me, I saw on a news program last week about how "they" have found that people who get addicted to sugar are lacking a key hormone in their liver.  So, there ya go.  I guess now it's official that we're not all a bunch of lazy gluttons.  I do think we need to be more careful with our babies, though, and make sure we're not feeding them products with added sugar.  Whoa!  That's nearly everything.  So this is another reason why breastmilk is better, and Mommy needs to not consume sugar-laden products, either, during this time.  Everything consumed goes into the milk.  Of course, no matter how hard you try, you can't keep your kid from getting addicted to sugar.  There are too many adults handing out candy to kids.  Including doctors.  Go figure.  And when they go to school, it only gets worse.  Then they treat the kid like a freak of nature and blame parents for it when the kid's obese.

This is now Tuesday, December 29. 
There was a thin blanket of snow on the ground this morning.  After dawn broke I went out and walked around, observing wild-critter tracks.  You can get a good idea of where they're getting in, and where they're going, when there's fresh snow.

I was much relieved to see no tracks that looked like mice or rats.  Except for one little zig-zag trail, out by the cellar. 

The rest were rabbit, and there were quite a few of those since somebody left one of the gates open.  And that meant that I couldn't see where they were getting in along the fence, because they all came in through the open gate.

A few that might be a visiting cat.

And birds.

This one could be squirrel?  We saw one scurrying out of the hackberry trees at the beginning of Sunday's downpour.

The events of Monday started me thinking about what we would do if we had no electricity for a long period of time.  Hubs and I do as much as we can to be self-sufficient out here.  While it is possible for us to keep our home above the freezing point with the fireplace insert, we consume an awful lot of firewood when we have to do that.  Then there's always the chance of having a creosote fire in the chimney if we can't have the chimney sweep out every couple of years.  For sure we're not able to do that job ourselves because our chimney is very tall.  I came across a YouTube presentation about Rocket Mass Heaters some time ago, and I've been rolling that around in my mind ever since.  For sure, it'd be a great addition to a greenhouse.  And if I could ever convince Hubs it would be the way to go, I wouldn't mind having one in the house.  With a little creative reorganizing, I could make room for it down here in my office.  The floor's concrete, with quarry tile on top, and this room is situated right below the bedrooms.  Most of our water lines are in this end of the house.  Heat rises, don'tcha know, so heat produced down here would probably flow naturally to the main areas of the house.  At least enough to keep us above freezing.  And you can cook on these things if you have to, or even build a small one specifically for cooking, although you have to do your cooking outside on those, I think. 

So, since winter is keeping us home and inside, I decided to educate myself in how to build a Rocket Mass Heater.  I started with THIS video, and I'm glad I did, because, as the guy said, there were several key points offered here that helped me to understand how everything works.  From there, I went to the YouTube classes available from Ernie and Erica Wisner.  After you watch the "introductory" video I linked above, then start with THIS one and then go to a second video by them HERETHIS is their website.  I always roll down and see what other viewers are saying and they hate how much Erica interrupts Ernie and takes over.  If you can get past that, there's a lot of good information there.  There are MANY other videos on the same topic offered on the YouTube sidebar, by other people, that are certainly well worth viewing.  Peak Moment has a nice one HERE, and HERE is their website.  When I watched THIS one, I thought how handy a variation of that might be for under fruit trees during those early spring killing frosts.  I'm getting Hubs down here to watch these today.  He isn't doing anything but watching TV, anyway, he might as well learn something he might need to know one of these days.  If he learns nothing else, he will see that there are other wives who interrupt their husbands and maybe he won't gripe me out so much about it.  I know it's rude to do it, but I have my reasons.  If you are the listener and you just take things in and don't get hung up on the aesthetics, you find yourself getting more accurate information.  And that's all I'm going to say about that.  I do know some people that are in the habit of interrupting and changing the subject, and that IS disconcerting when you were in the middle of trying to make your point.  And that's all I'm going to say about THAT, too.

Rocket Stoves have become a hot topic, no pun intended, and you can see the evidence of this if you just go to YouTube and then do a search within their site on "Rocket Mass Heater".  Fern, I thought of your greenhouse when I was viewing some of these. 

If you just want to try some simple rocket stoves for cooking, you might start with THIS one and then go on to others offered on the sidebar.  You might even find yourself veering off the subject to check out what is a "Dakota Fire Hole".  That kinda leads to an interesting trick on how to use an old tire to help you split a log, HERE.  Once you get the log split, you can make a Swedish Fire Torch out of it.  That led me to THIS flowerpot / Candle space heater and then THIS safety warning.  It's fire.  And flammable wax.  Duh.  I sure wouldn't set one on carpet, either.  Aren't you glad you stopped by today.  Now you don't have to be bored when you're stuck in the house.  Heh.

This is now Thursday, December 31.  The last day of this year.

I decided to start off the day by looking into the refrigerator and taking stock of what's in there, seeing what I need to be using up, that sort of thing.  I haven't accumulated too much but there are a few things.  This morning I zeroed in on that quart of buttermilk that I cultured myself (Heat 3 and 1/2 cups whole milk just till it starts to act like it wants to boil.  Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm.  Pour into sterilized glass quart jar and stir in 1/2 cup buttermilk from the store.  Cover loosely, leave on kitchen counter in a warm place till it looks and smells like buttermilk, and then use or refrigerate till you can do so).  After a little thought, I decided to make Indian Fry Bread.  Indian Fry Bread is very popular here in Oklahoma, we have a lot of different American Indian tribes and seems like Fry Bread is kind of universal among them.  There are only two ingredients: self-rising flour and buttermilk.  Now, if you don't have self-rising flour, and I'm sure the Indians didn't, when they first started making these, it's a scant tablespoon of baking powder and two teaspoons salt to two cups of flour.   This bread is patted out into circles and deep-fried in oil or lard.  I decided to just fry the bread in my iron skillet with enough bacon drippings to keep it from sticking.  And it worked out ok.  Crispy on the outside, nice and tender on the inside. 

These are used by our local Delaware women for what they call "Indian Tacos".  But really, they can and have been eaten in all kinds of ways.  I ate part of one hot, but otherwise plain, while standing over the pan watching the last one cook.  Two cups of flour used up only about one and one-half cups of buttermilk and made five pieces of fry bread.  I staggered them in the warm skillet with the lid on to keep them warm.  Hubs will probably have a piece with jam on it for breakfast.  They can be wrapped well and then warmed in the microwave, also.  Would be good with a filling of chopped ham, scrambled egg, mushroom pieces, green pepper and melted cheese, too.  I might even try smearing some spaghetti sauce on a round of dough, adding cooked crumbled sausage, peppers, onions, mushrooms and cheese and baking it in the oven.  Sort of a "quick bread" pizza.  Would be something kids could do.  Kids love to mix up stuff like this themselves.

HERE is a recipe I found for Chef John's Irish Soda Bread that I might make to use up the rest of the buttermilk.  I already had a recipe for Irish Soda Bread but this one has added oatmeal and some other ingredients my recipe didn't have.  Who knows, I might just try that pizza idea out. 

Tomorrow is New Year's Day and I always make a deep skillet full of black-eye peas.  It was something Mom always did, a tradition from her Peabody / Shelby southern grandparents.  Served with a wedge of sweet yellow cornbread, or here at our house, baked in a muffin tin, and a side of fried potatoes.  For the past several years, our New Year's Day black-eye peas have come from our garden.  They, and okra, are about the only things producing in July and August's heat.  I have ham broth from the boiling of the ham fat and bone that I will cook the peas in, and if Hubs wants a slice of ham, I'll brown one for him in the skillet.  But black-eye peas are a legume, and legumes eaten with corn are a complete protein so meat is really not necessary. 

This is now New Year's Day.
Yesterday I finished off a tote bag that I found partially finished in the sewing room. 
It was an early prototype that didn't work out very well, it doesn't hold as much as the ones I made later on, but it will be OK for cans or other heavy things that make a bag harder to lug around.  I mean, I invested some time in it at the beginning, might as well get it out of limbo so it can be used, all that was left to do was to put bias tape around the raw edges.  The only other alternative would be to throw it away.  I hit upon just taking apart a plastic Walmart bag and using it as a pattern, and that worked very well, so that's how I made all the other bags.  We use these when we go to Aldi's or Sam's, because they don't provide bags to put your purchases in without charging you for it every time.  And really, it's just good for the environment not to put all those plastic bags into it.  Walmart allows you to bring your own bags if you want to, but they still pack things in free plastic if you don't.  Some people cut those bags into strips they call "plarn" (PLastic yaRN) to make things with.  You might not believe this, but I really have no desire to do this.  Rugs made out of this stuff are almost as bad as no rugs at all.  I saw a crochet mesh beach bag made out of plarn that wasn't bad.  Some people take several layers of bags, sandwich them between pieces of aluminum foil, and press with a warm iron to make waterproof "fabric" that can then be used for making purses, jackets and what have you.  I've tried it, it's pretty labor-intensive.  No, you don't leave the foil on, you just use it as protection to keep the melted bags from ruining your iron or the surface underneath.  So I use some of the plastic bags for non-burnable trash instead of garbage bags, I keep a stash for future use while holding a garage sale, and the rest I stuff into those recycling containers that Walmart sets out in their lobby for just that purpose.

The one thing I did with all my cloth tote bags was to put a pocket on the front.  Done right, the pocket takes up one-third of the bottom width of the bag.  This bag was not made that way and you can see it doesn't work as well as it would have if there was a full 1/3 of width to the left and right of the pocket.  This idea was taken from a lap quilt that I saw in a book that would fold into the pocket to make a pillow.  I thought that was pretty ingenious.  While unfolded, you could actually tuck your feet into the pocket.  Feet stay warmer in an enclosed space, don'tcha know....  Or, if they were made for someone that had to use a wheelchair or a walker, the pocket could be used to tuck things in, like a book, a handkerchief, that sort of thing.  I've often thought of making lapquilts for people in the nursing homes around here, but things like that get stolen.  I mean, when you bring something, like warm sweatshirts and pants, to someone who lives in a nursing home, you have to write their name in permanent marker across the back of each item, just so they don't go home with an employee.  Such a shame.  I certainly wouldn't want the bad karma from that.  Let's don't even get me started on how your stuff goes home with certain home healthcare workers if you have them come to your home. 

Here is how it's supposed to be folded so that the bag can be tucked into it's own pocket. 

This one probably won't stay folded very well because the back flaps are supposed to fold over each other, all the way to the edge. 

For breakfast this morning I assembled omelet ingredients and used them as a topping for the fry bread that was left over from yesterday. 

This is what our New Year's Day dinner looked like:

We passed the day quietly.  No visitors.  Nothing going on in the neighborhood, at least as far as we could see.  Thank you God, our Father, for this peaceful day, for all the many blessings You have given to us, our families and friends, and for Your presence in our lives.  Amen.


  1. I hope the rest of the year passes as peacefully as it began, Ilene. the bag you made is very interesting, I could not figure that out on my own.


    1. Fern, truth be told, we never fold those bags up into their little pockets, anyway, so the pocket on the bag isn't necessary at all.

  2. Happy New Year to you and Hubs!!! That bowl of peas looks YUMMY!

    Interesting about that heater. I've recently been looking into the clay pot emergency heaters since we too are total electric. Since the holidays are now passed, I hope to gather the supplies to build one BEFORE we need it.

    Hugs to you!

    1. Paula, be sure to watch that vid on safety if you use those clay pot things, although I'm not sure it wasn't forced to catch fire for the sake of the vid, if you know what I mean. But don't take any chances. xoxoxo

    2. The video I am patterning after calls for a large clay tray on which to set the candles. They also use that liquid stuff that sets under catering carafe's to keep food warm. I think I'm going to use spare bricks around mine as "legs" which will also help hold and direct heat. To my thinking, it will help more evenly direct heat. I also think maybe a small piece of "concrete board" could be place under the clay tray to help prevent fire risks. I'm going to try before it's a necessity and will report back! XOXO!

  3. I so enjoy your posts. They are solid and real...good advice and information presented in a straightforward way. Plus the photo's are wonderful. Happy New Year!

    1. Oh, Fiona, how kind you are! Love your name, by the way.


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