There’s frugal that saves money and there’s frugal that costs money

By Elizabeth Prata

I’m in the middle of the 6 weeks between paychecks. We’re blessed to receive our monthly paycheck prior to the usual last day of the month timing, to mid-December as we begin our two-week school vacation. But then, we don’t receive another paycheck until the next regularly scheduled payroll time, the last workday of the month. So we go from Dec 19 to Jan 31 between pay. It takes skill, self-control, commitment to one’s budget, duct tape and dental floss to hang it all together and make it through! LOL. I’m used to it by now and I plan for it.

So this week for food-made-ahead, I’ve got:

Crabcake
Crabcake
Crabcake
Tilapia filet
Chicken chili
Green salads
Green beans
Granola
Fruit
Yogurt

The fish dishes and green beans are dinners, and the chili and salads are lunches, and the fruit & yogurt are desserts/snacks.

I found something called Siggi’s, an Icelandic recipe for Skyr.

Skyr is an Icelandic dairy product, and it’s been a provision of Icelanders for nearly 1,000 years. Icelandic Provisions was developed in partnership with Iceland’s oldest farmer-owned dairy. It’s the only Skyr made in the US using the original Icelandic recipe with heirloom Icelandic Skyr cultures. That’s what makes it thick, creamy and delicious.

Yogurt and Skyr are both cultured dairy products, but the cultures that make them are different. The original cultures we use to make our Skyr impart a rich, creamy flavor, whereas yogurt cultures may provide a sour, tart taste. source

Siggi’s yogurt is skyr. Siggi is an Icelandic man transplanted to upstate NY, and he makes the yogurt skyr style. It’s thick and creamy, possesses mad amounts of protein, and lots less sugar. There are no artificial ingredients. My flavor (plain) has two ingredients at all, grass-fed milk and yogurt cultures. It has 25 grams of protein. It is more expensive, but since it is SO thick, you eat less per serving, so it evens out.

Coming out of the oven is burned granola. Sigh. Granola is hard to make in that it turns on a dime and burns quickly. It also browns as it cools, so you have to take it out of the oven before it is the golden color you want, trusting that as it cools, you’ve timed it to cook to the crispiness you desire before it stops cooling. I usually do OK with my granola, if I use my standard recipe.

This time, I changed recipes. Bad move.

The main binding agent in the recipe I usually use is honey. The recipe calls for 1/2 a cup. It costs $5.50 for a small jar that isn’t even 8 ounces, but 7.5 (we notice you’ve dialed back on the quantity, honey people! We notice!!) In an attempt to save $$, I searched for and found a recipe that uses brown sugar.

I don’t bake much, if at all, so I am not used to the different properties of baking ingredients. Apparently, brown sugar burns EASILY. Given the delicacy of the granola to begin with, I wasn’t paying strict attention to that split second when it turns from undone to crispy black, and I burned it. I am still going to eat it. Only the parts that had open spaces on the pan burned. I collected the rest, pretty dark as it was, and decided that the extra cost for honey is worth it to produce a large batch of granola that doubles as cereal or straight snacks all week. It’s also very sweet, and I don’t like sweet.

The Icelandic yogurt is $5.50 for 24 ounces instead of the usual Kroger brand I get, $1.99 for 32 ounces.

But frugality isn’t just about saving a dollar. It’s shepherding the money you have to obtain the most bang for the buck. The most bang could be more protein (the yogurt) a better tasting dish, a recipe that’s easier to cook (less time in the kitchen) less waste (batch of granola). Just because something is less expensive in the short-term doesn’t always mean it’s less expensive in thelong-term. Or better for you or less time consuming or easier to clean up or…whatever valance between time/money/ease of use you’re trying to achieve.

I’m looking forward to this week. I enjoy the kids,, I enjoy my home time, and the upcoming weekend is a three-day weekend. (Martin Luther King day is Monday.) It’s all good I’ll start a new book as I progress on my Tim Challies challenge of reading throughout the year, Book about music or Musician: Nobody Knows: The Forgotten Story of One of the Most Influential Figures in American Music, by Craig von Buseck

Have a good week everyone!

yard
Cold outside, hard ground, chilly rain
room
Warm and comfy inside!

 

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Load of books being delivered today!

By Elizabeth Prata

I’ve mentioned that I joined the Tim Challies 2019 Christian Book Reading Challenge. Challies lists genres and types of books (“A missionary biography”; “A Commentary”; “A Book Written by a Puritan” and so on) and the reader chooses their preferred books based on the types listed. Challies lists 4 different levels, each more numerically challenging than the last. I chose the second level, Avid Reader, which is 26 books this year or 1 every two weeks. I added several of my own books to the list, ones I’ve wanted to read for a while but haven’t gotten around to. I dislike the ‘haven’t gotten around to’, not just for books but for everything. So I added some classics on my own.

I love the Valley of Vision a book of Puritan prayers. They are incredible. They are so incredibly written and convicting and beautiful, I keep giving my copy away to anyone who says they never heard of it. I press them into their hands and urge immediate reading! LOL. That leaves me without a copy for long periods until I can buy another one for myself.

I decided to remedy the Valley of Vision problem. I bought the copy that is leather bound. I love leather bound books and journals and with this one being special and more expensive I’ll keep it on my own shelves for my own edification. Sometime soon I’ll buy another paperback copy to give away to the next person. I firmly believe that with the Bible being the number 1 book ever, the next to bestselling and amazing contributions to the faith were Pilgrim’s Progress and Valley of Vision.

clipboard

I also won a book! Yay! Allen Nelson IV wrote “From Death to Life” and I entered a draw and won it.

I’m a fan of dystopian books and there are many classics out there to read along those lines. I’ve read “Alas, Babylon”, Carol Balizet’s “The Last Seven Years”, and a newer book that became an instant classic due to its fearful accuracy about the effect of an EMP on America, William Forschten’s book William Forschten called “One Second After”.

So here are the extra books I bought for the challenge and just to have on my shelves:

Sinclair Lewis wrote one of my favorite books, Elmer Gantry. That was a tremendous and horrifying book about religious hypocrisy. It was so incendiary when it was published that it was banned in Boston and other places. It caused a controversy from coast to coast.

It Can’t Happen Here is a Lewis book about the rise of a president who turns dictator.

“Heart of Darkness”, according to Amazon synopsis is “a complex exploration of the attitudes people hold on what constitutes a barbarian versus a civilized society and the attitudes on colonialism and racism that were part and parcel of European imperialism.” I’m not so much a fan of the cover art, and I do believe one can partially judge a book by its cover, (I mean do I want that scary evil looking cover on my shelves to look at forever?) but oh well.

EM Forster is more well known for his books “A Room with a View,” and “A Passage to India” but less well known is “The Machine Stops”. A pescient dystopian book, it “posits a technology-dependent humanity now living underground, its every need serviced by machines. But what happens if–or when–the machines stop? “The Machine Stops” was named one of the greatest science fiction novellas published before 1965 by the Science Fiction Writers of America.”

Stephen King was writing so many books for a while that his editors told him to write under a pseudonym so that he wouldn’t weary his readers and it would help diminish the glut. So under the name Richard Bachman comes The Running Man, “A desperate man attempts to win a reality TV game where the only objective is to stay alive in this #1 national bestseller.” It is considered one of his best works.

Martin Luther’s “A Simple Way to Pray” is a short book, more of a pamphlet. The synopsis states,
When asked by his barber and good friend Peter Beskendorf for some practical guidance on how to pray, Martin Luther responded by writing this brief treatise, first published in 1535. This edition is a modern translation that brings us Luther’s practical instruction, using his ITCP method:
1. Instruction
2. Thanksgiving
3. Confession
4. Prayer

I’m on the way to finishing Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes, and I borrowed Mrs. Pollifax #5 from the library. That one is CHallies’ “Read a Book in a Weekend”. I guess I better get going on my day so I have time to read all these lovely books! And a hearty THANK YOU to those who gifted me the Amazon Gift Certificates!

The order also includes 5lb of peanuts. I eat nuts for protein and fiber, and also make granola a lot, which calls for peanuts. I’ve been relying on Dollar General peanuts even though they aren’t the best tasting. Usually the taste can be hidden as I add spices and honey and bake the peanuts into the granola. But the last batch was so off-putting I now abandon the Dollar store peanuts forever. I mean it! Sometimes price isn’t everything, you have to actually enjoy what you’re eating. Quality counts too.

I’ve gotten this order once before and the peanuts were fresh and large and GMO free, roasted no salt peanuts. Sometimes ya gotta bite the bullet and go for it.

For meals this week my main dish is going to be split pea soup. It seems a hearty dish for the cooler weather that’s come in and the bright and crisp winter skies. And of course, granola. Beyond that I’m sort of in a rut. I’ve gotten a grocery store roasted whole chicken each week for the last three weeks so I’m kind of over chicken for a while. I like the shrimp, salmon fillet, and tilapia fillet I’ve been getting but I am ready for a change. I need to look up some recipes and expand my repertoire.

We have received so much rain over the last thee weeks it’s ridiculous. Finally it stopped last night, it chilled down and got windy. We are supposed to get clear weather for the next week so I hope the ground eventually dries! Mud everywhere, rivers rising, ugh, gloomy weather begone!

Christmas Break 2018 Day 13: Well, this has never happened before…

By Elizabeth Prata

Lest I be accused of click baiting you, here is the situation to which I refer in the title:

My two cats are Bert, the darker one who’s a tiger, and Murray, the white one. Bert is 12 years ol,d Murray is 4. When I introduced Murray to the household (at the time I had two cats, Murray was the 3rd), it went well. No one fought. Murray, being the stray from outside, never really merged fully with the other two, who were rescued together as litter mates (not brothers) since 8 weeks old. But they got along.

Luke passed away three years ago. Sadly Murray had coronavirus, which is extremely infectious with other cats, and eventually turns to Feline Infectious Peritonitis, which is fatal. Now, with just Bert and Murray in the house, Murray has still been kind but a bit standoffish.

During the day I have a cat bed on the table near me which Murray likes to leap into and watch me as I type. Bert does not leap. He likes the floor. So his bed is at my feet in the summer, and in front of the fire in the winter.

I got up last night to turn out the lights and lock the door for bed, and I turn and see this sight. Murray and Bert together in Bert’s bed. Well, then.

It finally stopped raining and I have the front door open to let in light and a little fresh air. I was watching Instant Hotel on Netflix (a type of Australian AirBnB show that rates rental properties) and at one property they kept saying how much like an old person’s house ti smelled. I dont’ know what that smells like no having the sense of smell, but I sure don’t want my house to smell like that. By the looks on their faces no one liked the odor.

I don’t use any products like Ben Gay, just deodorant and toothpaste and occasional shampoo. I cook, but that would be a cooking smell and not an old person smell. I assure you, I do use Fabuloso on my counters (which reportedly smells great) and Lemon Pledge on my wood furniture when I dust. So I dunno. I wish smells weren’t a mystery to me, but then again, folks tell e I’m blessed. Maybe I am, at that.

Anyway, the fresh air has gotta help.

The is January in Maine:

 

This is January in Georgia:

 

Clover, green grass, no snow boots, no coat. I took a walk down the lane hoping to catch some bird pics. I heard so much birdsong, it made me happy. I’ll go to the Cornell ornithology website later to listen to various calls and try and figure out which birds I was hearing. For now, I caught on camera a blue jay, two mourning doves, a woodpecker, and a mockingbird.

 

So far, a nice day!

 

Christmas Break 2018: Day 8 – Titanic mania!

By Elizabeth Prata

I’ve been reading book Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage, by Hugh Brewster, about Titanic’s first class passengers. To me, maritime disasters are compelling: I’ve read Wreck of the Whaleship Essex, (the true story of the ‘Moby-Dick’ ship), the foundering of the SS Central America, (sank in a hurricane in September 1857, along with more than 420 passengers and crew and 30,000 pounds of gold, contributing to the Panic of 1857), the tragic loss of the Bounty replica in 2012 off North Carolina, taking the captain and one crew member with her, the grounding of the Costa Concordia in Italy in 2012… But Titanic remains most haunting.

Last night I decided to re-watch 1958 movie A Night to Remember. It’s on Youtube. There are many comparisons to Cameron’s 1997 Titanic, even several scenes are almost duplicates of each other, but I think ANTR is the better movie, though Titanic is more visually stunning, as befits that ship. They are both good movies, each in their own way.

I went to a Nature Conservancy event in Naples FL in late ’90s, & where the speaker was Titanic discoverer Bob Ballard. Ballard described how he found the ship, (look for the debris trail, which was bigger than the ship, and let the trail lead you TO the ship), & his career in oceanography in general, which is very interesting. His was one of the top two lectures I ever heard, simply thrilling. I remember the feeling of inspiration and fascination I felt to this day, 20 years later. To hear it first hand just as the movie came out was amazing! It really was one of the top moments in my memory bank.

The James Cameron movie, I remember how I felt leaving the theater, also. Sitting there and then emerging from the darkened theater into the Florida sunshine you felt like you had gone through it. Watching the 1997 movie Titanic was an experience, not passive entertainment or a mindless diversion. Watching Titanic in the theater was an event.

So I’ve been drawn in, reading this book exclusively and obsessively. I finally had to quit last night around 11:30 as my eyes wouldn’t focus any more! I’ve only got about 40 more pages so I expect to finish it today. I found another documentary on the Titanic called Ghosts of the Abyss, a behind the scenes look through James Cameron’s eyes of his own journey to the spot in the cold North Atlantic. I’ll watch that tonight.

I am almost finished with Rachel Janovic’s book You Who? which I’ll review on The End Time. I am also reading Barbara Hughes’ Disciplines of a Godly Woman, and I’ve got one more devotional to go on Sinclair Lewis’ Love Came Down at Christmas. Yeah, I’m a little late on the Christmas advent devotional.

I’ve received two Amazon gift cards for Christmas gifts and I am withstanding the temptation to buy more books. So far…

The weather guys are predicting a massive amount of rain coming. We’re supposed to get absolutely drenched for the next week, sigh, so I will be using the oven to warm the apartment and make granola and roasted broccoli, and on top of the stove, chili.

Here are the Titanic and other shipwreck resources I mentioned:

Book – Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage

Movie – A Night To Remember (Youtube)

Movie – James Cameron’s Titanic (for rent on Amazon Prime)

Documentary – Ghosts of the Abyss (It’s an about page)

Book – Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea: The History and Discovery of the World’s Richest Shipwreck by Gary Kinder

Book – The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex. A First-Hand Account of One of History’s Most Extraordinary Maritime Disasters by Owen Chase, First Mate

Article – Sunk: The Incredible Truth About a Ship That Never Should Have Sailed (Bounty replica)

The raising of the Costa Concordia is fascinating in itself. I understand it was the world’s biggest ever feat of its kind.

Documentary NatGeo – The Raising of the Costa Concordia (Youtube)

Father Browne’s story: Photographer of the last days of the Titanic, and his providential recall to shore in Queensland, this saving his 1000 photos of the passengers and shipboard life we’d never otherwise know about.

Christmas Break 2018, Day 7: The Aftermath

By Elizabeth Prata

I hope you all had a marvelous holiday. We celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world, in the flesh as the sacrificial Lamb to the Father.

Even people who do not know Jesus or His Father’s plan of salvation still celebrate the day. Why? Why do people sense their need for “peace on earth” and “goodwill to men”? Because intrinsically we all know what cretins we are and that at root, we are evil. We are rebellious. We know we need peace, and rest, but do not know where to find it. I’m grateful that Jesus saved me and now I know from whence all Good comes, including peace and goodwill.

I spent a quiet morning at home, where it was pleasant and sunny. I had been invited to a friend’s parents’ house to have dinner with their family, so that was where I headed at around 2:00. I was to drive to their house and they would carry me to their parents from there. It was almost eerie, driving on the highway with almost no cars. The exit where I get off was barren, as well as the stretch approaching the usually busy strip mall where another Kroger grocery store is. All four lanes, just me and one or two other cars. My usual 35 minutes driving time was shaved by ten minutes, so I stopped in a cul de sac and cleaned out my car and then listened to some Christmas carols before arriving at my destination, so as not to be too early. Nothing worse than a harried mom trying to get two small children ready for the car and having to deal with an early arrival!

We had a wonderful dinner with laughs, then a gift exchange, then some photos in the front yard. I returned home at around 6:00, just after dark, and settled in for some reading.

I am in the middle of a very interesting book, Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage by Hugh Brewster. The author examines the gilded Edwardian era by looking at the lives and times of the first class passengers of the doomed Titanic. Brewster puts his selected passengers’ lives in context off the boat and on it, as well as giving lots of information about the boat itself. It’s obvious he put so much research into the book. It’s not pedantic, however, but a woven story with interesting characters.The reader is drawn into that world almost immediately.

It was a quiet Christmas night here at Casa Prata. After reading a while I watched a few episodes of Blue Bloods, I’m binging my way thru 8 years of the show. Then I turned in, concluding Christmas 2018, but continuing my two-week school break! One more week at home!

Artsy Christmas photos to follow:

 

Christmas Break 2018 Day 5: It was the best of cats, it was the worst of cats

By Elizabeth Prata

I stayed up late last night listening to the live Christmas Concert put on by Grace Community Church. It’s a stupendous concert, two hours long, with incredibly talented musicians and singers. I enjoyed that so much! It was after 11:00pm when I laid down, and I was looking forward to sleeping in, which for me is past 7 am.

It was not to be.

I am up and about early this morning, because my cat wanted me to be. You see, Murray has learned how to get me up. When did I lose control? It is a difficult question.

It’s kind of spooky how the felines in your life know and understand your routine. When I arise, Murray immediately jumps off the bed and runs to the bathroom. Murray knows what’s coming next- his breakfast. There, I have a large jug of food contained in a tightly capped plastic top. He leaps to the toilet top and sits there, waiting for me to open it and measure out two portions, one for him and one for Bert. When I have done that and tightened the lid, he leaps down and precedes me to his food bowl. His and Bert’s are separated by 8 feet or so. I first pour out Bert’s as I pass by, then arrive at Murray’s, who is sitting pert and innocent as he waits these few seconds for me to arrive.

Of late, he has learned to swipe down the measuring cup and dipper from atop the toilet where I keep it near the food, and make it clatter to the floor. This occurs at about 5 am, the usual time I arise. During school vacation or weekends of course, I would like NOT to arise at 5 am, but Murray makes this hard.

food
Not where it should be

When I hear something crash or clatter to the ground, I sit up like a suddenly awakened vampire arising from his coffin, bark “Murray!” and then crash back to my pillow. (I don’t know why I sit up when I yell his name, I guess I can just as easily yell his name while lying down). Murray does respond to his name and he knows when he has been bad. He runs away and hides for a few minutes.

But this morning I was not to be drawn into his little power play. No, sir. When I heard the clatter in the bathroom I said nothing. Therefore, ever persistent and dastardly, Murray then made something else crash. It sounded like glass, though it didn’t break. It rolled a second, and then all was silence. I did the vampire arising thing, yelled “Murray!” and laid back down. But it was too late. My heart was pumping and that languid, relaxed feeling you get as you snuggle down into the pillow and perfectly arranged covers and muse whether to snooze one more time was gone. I was awake.

The notion that I am a marionette being pulled by Murray’s strings has crossed my mind. Briefly. I pushed that thought away as I like to maintain the fiction that I actually run this place.

What was it that Murray had made crash? The food measuring cup makes a plastic sound when he pushes it down. And he’d already pushed that to the ground. I already taped down my coasters. There is nothing else on top of any table he can push off.

Oh, wait…

Lovely Christmas decoration you have there! Why, thank you!
Let’s push it off the table RIGHT NOW!

Murray leaving the scene of the crime. A re-enactment

My one and only Christmas decoration. The candle holder. See? This is why I can’t have nice things.

Bad boy!

On the other hand, Bert, my nice kitty, is lying on top of the bed where he had come at about 4 am to cuddle with me, like he does every morning. He enjoys spending the last hour of sleep with me and I appreciate that. Murray enjoys spending the last hour of my sleep trying to get me up- so he can eat. I don’t appreciate that.

Nice kitty. Patient kitty.

Don’t be fooled by Murray’s sweet good looks and humble posture.

The Aftermath

In the end I do appreciate having a kitty with personality. I enjoy creating a home for them where they know what to expect and the routine frames their days and helps them relax. Murray isn’t a bad kitty at all, I’ve had worse, lol. He is a good boy and is learning to be more affectionate. So he wants his breakfast at 5 am and throws a few things around to let me know it. I don’t blame him. It’s what kitties do.

I look at my nice couch and see the awful double sided sticky tape and wish I didn’t have to put it on to deter cat scratches on my furniture. I look at all the nice Christmas decorations in the garage and wish that I could put them up. I look at the taped-down coasters and long to have nice things on top of tables.

But that would mean…no cats. It’d mean Murray wasn’t here. That day will come, sooner rather than later I surmise, since he has Coronavirus (which is eventually fatal). When that day does come I’ll wish I had some personality in the house, someone to teach and be patient with, to celebrate his advances in affection and love. I’ll wish that I had to put tape on the couch and keep the decorations in the garage. I know it. So for now, I’ll be a startled vampire rising in my coffin at 4 or 5 am when Murray wants his breakfast and flings something off a surface. I’ll pick up the turned over candle holder, hang a decoration or two awkwardly high, and grumble with a smile.

Chistmas Break Day 4

By Elizabeth Prata

Man, Kroger was nuts! LOL, after church I stopped to pick up a few groceries, and it seemed that everyone in the world was there. Church ends at 4:30 so it was a peak time, I suppose, and everybody wanted to get their stuff so they could get home, cook and prepare tomorrow on Christmas Eve. The bakery aisle looked like Attila the Hun and his army had swept through. Or the Grinch who left crumbs even too small for a mouse.

I scored some goodies, though. I got another jug of creamer for my coffee. I absolutely love drinking coffee slowly in the morning, creamy and strong. I got two packages of cranberries. They were on sale for a dollar! Have I mentioned I love cranberry sauce? I have a marvelous recipe for cranberry-walnut sauce that uses brown sugar and mustard. So of course I picked up some walnuts. And a roasted chicken. I’ll have chicken, baked potato and cranberry sauce tomorow for my Christmas Eve supper.

I’m heading to a friend’s house and their family gathering on Christmas Day and having their Christmas lunch meal with them, so that should be nice.

My day was spent quietly. I did take some time to try and add some good shows to my Netflix queue. I was looking for G, PG, PG-13 films or shows. It was a struggle, but I found some and over the week I’ll try them out. The animated film Bolt, the upcoming premiere of the new Watership Down, a documentary called The Nineties, and The Iron Giant made the list.

I watched the Crazy Russian Hacker on Youtube and he demonstrated 5 kitchen egg gadgets. I liked them but what I learned most is how to peel an egg- put it in a mason jar with a bit of water and shake it up. I’m going to try that the next time I hard boil some eggs. I HATE peeling eggs and I am bad at it. My eggs come out looking like a pockmarked moon with craters.

 

Church was sweet and great, full of insights on the 12th chapter of the Book of John, some great standard Christmas hymns, and a super confessional time made the worship time so wonderful. Then it was on to Kroger.

The sunset was stupendous, with pinks streaming out from behind some rain clouds and crepuscular rays shining out. Then I got home in time to just beat the rain. Don’t you love that?

I’m going to settle in with a salad, and my book about the first class passengers of the Titanic, “Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage,” The author has a real great way of setting you smack into their lives.

Merry almost Christmas Eve, everyone!