Summer Fun Plans

I love when summer comes around!!!

I’m a teacher’s aide in a public elementary school and that means I have several school breaks during the year … and … wait for it … summers off. Now, I’m not paid for those breaks, I’m paid for working 190 days per 365 days/year and that’s it. So I enjoy the time more than the money, obviously! 🙂

So exciting. I’ve got plans. Oh yeah. Tuesday at noon the kids leave. When this Friday rolls around and the afternoon dismissal bell rings, I’m done. There are several things I plan to do this summer.

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MUSIC

I discovered that my streaming music station, Pandora, has a new thing called Thumbprint Radio. I had no clue, until I scrolled down my ‘stations’ list and saw it at the bottom. “What’s this?” I asked myself. Oh-ho, this is cool. Pandora is streaming entertainment based on a music genome. You can choose a station, such as “Traditional Hymns” or “Jimmy Buffett Radio” and they’ll play songs along those lines. Within the genre you might like this song or not like that one. You have the option to thumbs up or thumbs down a song, and Pandora will adjust your listening to what you like. If a song had more violin and less trumpet, or more harmony and less melody, they will present songs in that station with that selection in mind according to your thumbs up.

Thumbprint Radio is a station where all your liked songs go into one station! Though Pandora is free, I choose to pay $4.99/month for Pandora Pro which has no ads. So what this means is that I have access to music with a huge variety of songs that I already like and never interrupts itself for an ad or a DJ. I love it madly. I will be listening to a lot of music. Some of my stations I love are:

100 Hymns Instrumental Radio
Jimmy Buffett Radio (includes balladeers from the 70s like Paul Simon and James Taylor)
Gaither Vocal Band Radio
Mozart Radio
Hank Williams Radio (classic country)

and many more. Yay.

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BOOKS

I have some books stacked up. I want to read or finish-

12 Ways your iPhone is changing you by Tony Reinke
Son, a literary western by Phillipp Meyer
Hearts of Fire, by Voice of the Martyrs
Veronica Mars- the Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas
The Autobiography of Hudson Taylor: Missionary to China (Kindle)
Bright Side by Kim Holden (Kindle)
The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes (Kindle)

Plus a lot of “summer easy reading” eBooks I’ve downloaded from BookBub recommendations. At BookBub, you select which reading genres you enjoy, and thankfully there are a lot to choose from, and BookBub sends you a daily list of digital selections based on your preferences. You can download according to your desire, budget, and amount of space on your reading device! I choose the free ones but they also have eBooks for 99 cents, $1.99 and up. They tie-in to Amazon’s Kindle store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, Apple’s iBooks, and others.

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CRAFTS

My friend Kim on Facebook sent me some photos from Gay Halseth-Frayed and Twisted’s FB page. They’re vintage spine bookmarks. Cool! I won’t embroider like Mrs Halseth has, but I’ll paint them.

And just where will I be finding vintage books? We have several places in the county where I look forward to shopping this summer. There are three in particular, and two of those I have never been to before. I like my usual haunt of Second Time Around. I have already found antique books of Swedish poetry, an old Methodist Hymnal and an old Baptist Hymnnal at that store, all for $1 each.

The other store is called Neat Pieces Antiques, which I’ve driven by but never entered. He has three buildings and a large outdoor area. He sells heritage pine, architectural items from old barn stairs to glass doorknobs, and inside, vintage clothing, antiques, and of course the books.

Well! I believe I’ll be able to find some books here for sure! Befoe you faint from horror, I’ll look for water damaged, moldy books that otherwise would not ever find a home and are one step away from a trash can. I don’t like the idea of taking apart a perfectly good book just to get at the spine.

The third vintage store I’m planning to visit is called simply The Special Store. This place has lots of glassware among other items like furniture. I need an English porcelain or bone china teapot, and one more cup and saucer. This will be the place to find them.

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PHOTOS

Now that I have an automobile with AC, I can drive around this summer. I like to go out in the Golden Hour, just at and 1 hour after dawn, and 1 hour before sunset, taking photos. I downloaded the manual for my now 1-year-old Nikon and I’ve been experimenting with some of the fancier settings now that I’m familiar with the camera and its superficial capabilities. It will be a photo extravaganza! I also began using my rechargeable batteries now that I’ve finally gone through all the high-capacity alkaline ones I’d bought. I can recharge to my heart’s content, even in the car, since it comes with an automobile charger too.

In addition to Flickr and Facebook, I also have an account at Unsplash to upload my photos, and also Instagram now that I figured that one out. I want to compose better, and post-process better. Summer is the time to play with pictures and try and get better at photography.

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MOVIES

Of course, movies and shows. On Amazon Prime I watched a nice movie called Mao’s Last Dancer, the true story of Chinese ballet dancer Li Cunxin. I like movies like that and will seek out some more either on Snagfilms, Crackle, or Amazon Prime, and of course whatever I can absorb for free on Youtube.

I’ll finish some classes I’d started, including “Understanding the Tabernacle”, and “Principles of Biblical Interpretation”. A new class at Ligonier called “Loved by God” has sparked my interest too. So, studying the Bible through classes and reading and studying it directly is on the summer fun menu.

Some friends have asked me to lunch, and in June I’ll go to a wedding. That’s pretty much it. We get out of school May 26 and begin again July 31. I’ll also be taking a class for school sometime in July, so it’s really not ALL that much time off as one remembers from childhood. But I’ll take it!

Long heat wave breaking records

I am so blessed to live in a rural area. I drive up Route 98 to school every day, it’s 99.9% of the drive. LOL, “Route 98” looks like this.

 

For it to be named a ‘Route’ makes it sounds more traffic-y than it is. The gas station intersection is the most populated part. It’s a cross street that brings commuters from Elbert County and the eastern part of my county, to the route that takes them to Athens.

As I approach the intersection it is actually the top of a long, slow hill. There is a canola field on the left. The sunrises over the field are spectacular. Because of the hill,  I think, dramatic clouds always gather in that spot and it’s too tempting or pull over and snap a few photos.

It’s August and that means haying. We are smashing records all over here in north Georgia. We have topped 90 degrees every day for the last 51 days, and the other record we are smashing is that the low temp has not gone below 70 for the last 51 days. In other words, it’s been HOT! My poor air conditioner is getting a work out. Though one expects hot weather in GA in the summer, this one has been long and hot, with no cool night breaks or even lower temps briefly from passing thunderstorms. Phew.

But I can’t complain, I’m not out in the fields doing the haying. It has been really hot for those guys. The second photo above is of a nice line-up of many rolls of hay you see as you go down the road. The few you see in the photo are just a few of the stubbly soldiers guarding the field. I pulled off Rt 98 to take this, then paused for a moment on my drive home to enjoy the green field, the pond, the gorgeous old growth trees…ahhh, Such scenes really do lift the spirits.

Well, the weekend is here. I hope you all enjoy, if you get the weekend off. I’m going to read by my air conditioner and thank the good Lord for electricity!

Conditions at Casa Prata

Morning:

Backyard next door.

Mama bird busy feeding young. This birdhouse is used year after year.

Morning glories and other items on my patio potting table.

Inside, meanwhile, Bert likes to stay close to me as I write. He doesn’t like to get on the table like Murray does, but he does like to be comfy. So I give him Murray’s kitty bed while Murray is holed up under the covers for the better part of the day in the bedroom, even though Bert is big for it. Somehow he makes it work.

Afternoon. As the morning slides to afternoon, I take a cup of tea. Clipper teapot, Tuscan bone china teacup & saucer, Duchess pattern.

Uh-oh. It’s 3:00 and Murray woke up and is looking for both his kitty bed and his dinner. I feed the boys at around 3:00-3:30 or so, and after that, Bert will go into the bedroom and snooze and Murray will spend some time with me at the table in the kitty bed. I love it when siblings get along.

In two weeks I’ll be back at school, and these nice quiet days will end as I return to my job at the elementary school with all its bells, hustle, bustle, and children. Even then, all will be well because I love kids. I’ll miss my kitties though, Bert and Murray and I have had a good summer together.

Frugal Cooking: garden eggplants. What to do with them?

It is hot in Georgia in July. And August. And half of September. So needless to say, weekend cooking comes to a near-halt during the dog days of a southern summer. Not to say that stove top cooking ends. But sauteing eggs is done quick and microwave poached eggs are best.

The heavy heat means the heavy foods can wait until fall and winter. I eat Salads, humm
us, sandwiches, cold antipastos.

However I do make some stove top things. I got some tamarind sauce and rice noodles recently and made a pad thai for the first time in a long time. Boy, I love that dish. I like the rice noodles because as an alternative to boiling noodles (or rice as in other Asian dishes), Pad Thai noodles can be soaked in cold water till soft, then flash sauted at the end. Since rice noodles are made with rice flour they are a good choice for those who are gluten intolerant. As always, read the package to be sure it’s not got additives to which you will be sensitive.

I used this recipe: http://rasamalaysia.com/pad-thai/ . Yum! It’s a quick and filling stove-top dish. Since shrimp are expensive for me, I leave them out and just rely on the tofu and the egg for protein. Since sprouts are hard to find, I use more scallions.

Once in a while I need to use the oven to make a more substantial dish. It’s veggie-garden season and I love to take advantage of the bounty. A friend at church had brought in some bounty from her garden, and gave me some eggplants. I had already bought two eggplants the other day. But you can never have enough eggplants! And garden fresh is a luscious opportunity I cannot pass up.

Many people around here do not know what to do with eggplants except make friend eggplant parmigiana. I like that too but i hate to make it. Others use the eggplant rounds to make a Stack, here is Mario Batali’s Eggplant Stack recipe.

Two other ways I offer as considerations for your eggplant enjoyment are Caponata and Baked Crispy Eggplant.

I decided to use the garden eggplants in a bake, and the older store bought eggplants for caponata. Caponata is a Sicilian recipe that is complicated and uses some luxury ingredients like fresh olives, capers, and pine nuts. I don’t often have those particular ingredients on hand so I skip them. Some recipes call for roasting the eggplant or frying it first. Again, I skip. Here is one example of a traditional caponata recipe: Sicilian Caponata

Caponata also uses vinegar but I skip that too, lol. The finished dish can be used in sauces with pasta, or as a topping on Italian bruschetta, or as a vegetable side dish by itself.

What I do is saute the onion, and when they are soft, I throw in the celery. Whey they are soft, I throw in the eggplant, which I’d cubed small. Let that dwindle down covered on medium heat. I use oil but also some apple juice if I have it on hand. If not, then add water if you’re watching the fat content, just so the eggplant won’t stick.

Sometimes if I have enough tomatoes, I add those. If not, then later when I’m ready to eat it I add tomato sauce. Or not. Caponata is versatile! Add salt and pepper to taste, and since I am a Philistine, I add canned black olives, lol. Voila, a fast way to use a lot of eggplants.

The baked eggplant recipe I used is here, Crispy Baked Eggplant. I like this recipe because it is simple and uses few ingredients. Also, it takes less time in the hot oven than Eggplant Parmigiana. That’s always good! Remember, this essay is called ‘frugal cooking’. If the eggplant is really fresh I don’t think it needs to be salted, wait, press to drain, and all those steps. I like to save steps. Again, frugal cooking means not only using few or inexpensive ingredients but also saving time. Time is money too. The older eggplant had a higher water content so that is why I decided to use them for the caponata, which needs moisture as it cooks. To make crispy eggplant, less water is better, so normally if you get store eggplant that has been around a while then do go thru the process of getting rid of the water content by salting and pressing..

I keep the skins on the baked eggplant, because that holds it together better. For the sauteed caponata, I stripped the purple skin off because I want it to break down.

Aren’t these garden eggplants cute! And beautiful! They are a deep purple, nicely shaped, and firm.

Cutting the rounds. The skin-on will be baked. Cut 1/2 inch to 1/4 inch. Thicker, and it won’t bake through before burning, thinner and it won’t hold the egg/bread crumb mixture.

I scrambled two eggs with a bit of water in one bowl, and in another poured a mound of bread crumbs. I dragged one round through the egg mixture, using my fingers. If you use a fork or knife it will puncture the skin and the eggplant won’t be as crispy since the liquid will seep into it.

I cooked according to the recipe. When they were done I took them out and tested one. Crunch!

The frugal part: in addition to choosing recipes that use fewer ingredients, or a shorter cooking time (electricity costs more on weekends), or using what I have in the fridge already, or accepting a gift of veggies even though I already had some veggies but I knew I’d use them… if you’re going to turn the oven on during a hot day, don’t turn it on for one item only! STUFF the oven. So I used up some squash I’d had rolling around the bottom of the veggie tray. They were rolling around because they had very thick skins and those take a long time to saute. If the oven was going to be on I might as well put some more in it to have on hand for later in the week when it’s supposed to be even HOTTER. In went the thick-skinned yellow squash.

The green are Poblano peppers my friend gave me in addition to the eggplants. At the bottom of the photo are pita bread triangles. I wiped the top of some whole wheat pita bread rounds with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt, and cut them into triangles to make pita crisps. They will be holding hummus later this week. I also put into the oven a few potatoes washed and encased in tin foil for baking, again to have later this week to make potato salad or home fries. I could squeeze them in between the baking trays. Voila, a stuffed oven!

Between the oven being on and the stove top pot containing simmering eggplant for caponata, it got hot in the kitchen. One of the potatoes being baked was quite a bit larger than the other really small ones, and it was taking forever to finish. I could not take the heat any more so I turned off the oven and kept the door shut. The residual heat would finish baking the potato. I do this on the stove top as well, turning the burner off a few minutes before the item is completely done, and letting the residual heat take care of the finish. I got this tip from Clara Cannucciari of Great Depression Cooking. “Anything to save anything” she had said.

One last tip. I started early when the day was cooler. I don’t like to work a lot in the morning, preferring to do my chores in the PM after I’ve studied my Bible and read my theology books and had my coffee. All the important things,you know. LOL. But with the temps predicted to rise quite high, and it happens fast once the sun is up, I began at around 7:00am and finished at 8:30, and that included washing the pans. This gave the apartment a bit of time to cool down and the oven to return to its resting state before the sun came up over the trees and began to heat up my apartment. As it was, I heard the AC click on higher fan setting about a minute after I opened the oven each time. Ugh. So start early and get it done, why ask your AC to cool the hot air you asked the oven to provide?

So that was the morning! For lunch I plan to have a green salad and caponata on Italian toasted rounds, topped with Parmesan cheese. Abbondanza!

Mid summer update

I made a boo-boo. When I made paste paper on thick cardstock, it was fun. I did a passable job of making some attractive paste paper patterns. When it dries, the combed patterns have heights and valleys, making it even a bit thicker. Then I printed out some verses and pasted them on the back.

When all was said and done, the piece was too think to laminate. Oh, I laminated it all right, but almost right away the laminate peeled off. The paper etc. was too think to have properly sealed and the top layer came off. The plastic is still stuck to the bottom. Oh well, live and learn.

I scooted into town this morning to do a few errands, picked up a very few groceries and tried to get home before the heat hit. Nope. Didn’t make it.

I saw the movie Last Holiday with Queen Latifah which was good, if light and slight on the plot, but serviceable for a feel-good movie. I also watched some of  Joyful Noise with Queen Latifah and Dolly Parton but that was a terrible movie. There were a lot of famous people in it (Kris Krostofferson, Jesse L. Martin, Courtney Vance…) so acting was good but the plot was unrealistic and it just was generally unwatchable.

The UK cop show Line of Duty season 3 was out this past March and I binged on the show till the finale. Fortunately UK series only have 6 episodes or I might have just expired from the tension. It isn’t a gory show or a bloody show or a sexual show. None of that. It’s written in such a way that in genius fashion builds the tension from episode to episode. It really keeps you guessing. I mean, they aren’t ashamed to do anything with any character. In one season, early on they threw a major character out a window. One guy who is the worst of the worst corrupt has gotten away with it for two seasons. So it isn’t a given that any character you’re attached to will or won’t make it, or this one or that one might or not be be corrupt (“bent” in UK parlance).

I have also been enjoying the Nextflix presentation of Irish Castles. Not only are the castles gorgeous and the scenery scrumptious but the history they present is done in a seamless but educational way. VERY interesting. I’m trying to hurry up through it because my Netflix is going away in a few days. I canceled it. Though I do occasionally enjoy a documentary, I need to cut expenses and entertainment is the first to go. I really don’t use Netflix enough to warrant the monthly bill. I got rid of Hulu a while ago.

We’re halfway through summer and it has been a fabulous June so far. One more month and I will be back in the swing at school. August 1. I love summer, and I’m reveling in the 4 more weeks of vacation.

This summer I’ve been reading theology books as well as novels. I study the Bible, listen to sermons, and write. I am also investigating the world of ePublishing and formatting an eBook. It’s not for the fainthearted.

I love that days and days go by and I don’t have to talk to anybody or go where it’s noisy or get exhausted just by being in public.

Lunch today was salmon salad on a brioche with a thick juicy tomato slice, green salad, dessert of fresh figs with bleu cheese crumbled on. Lemon water. Mmm.

Then, nap.

Some recent pics.

Have a great week everyone.

One reason I love summer

Summer is a time of celebration, and there are a lot of celebrations joyously occurring this summer among my friends.

Three teachers from school are getting married this summer, one of them today! She is a young woman and this day is the very day she has been dreaming about since she was a girl. Another has suffered the grief of widowhood but by the Lord’s grace, after a time, has found love again.

A friend of mine is graduating. She graduated high school last night and her celebratory party is today. She has her life in front of her and plans to attend college after one year of working. Her family surrounds her and celebrates her achievement and  the hope of her life promise.

Other friends are headed to various vacations – the beach, the mountains, family reunions. I love summer for families who make memories. They last.

Apparently I have healthy eyes

I’ve gotten a couple ideas for some blog essays here at The Quiet Life. I think you’ll like them. I’ll be writing them in these first weeks of the summer. I know for sure my life will be very quiet! Plenty of time to write.

I got new glasses frames and inside the frames are new prescription. It had been ten years since I had them checked and reading had become a little dicey as my eyes would not focus to see the words with my old glasses on or off.

The Eye Doc said I have really healthy eyes. Go figure. One problem was my glasses had slipped and I was looking out the wrong part of the bifocal. Adjusting the nose pads fixed that. My eyes have changed prescription, it’s been ten years after all, he said. But nothing abnormal nor anything to indicate any disease, which I had been hypochondriac-ally imagining the worst. I was mentally in a hospice already. So, good news. He also said my right eye has an issue seriously reacting to allergies. I hadn’t known that. Go figure.

I’m always happier before I go to the Doctor and I dwell in ignorant bliss. I made that remark to Tracey & said also the time I went to the X-Ray guy after I fell in school and the Doc said did you know you have a lot of arthritis in my knee and I said “NOO, sheesh”. And the other lady buying glasses who was also my age burst out laughing. Sistas in infirm golden years. We had a moment.

The lenses were expensive, even after I had the nurse X out all the extras on her list with the prices next to them. No to compressed. No to progressive bifocal. No to transitional. No to everything except a Coke bottle glass fitted on there with duct tape. But the frames were free. My friend helped me pick them out. I didn’t even look, I’d had enough by then. So, it will be a surprise when they come in.

Anyway, new glasses should be in next week. Just in time to read the stack of books I have on the coffee table.

Today I finished packing the classroom. My half of it anyway. My classroom is packed up tight, as are most of the rest of the classrooms in my school. The halls are filled with upturned furniture temporarily stored there while the custodian crew clean the walls and the floors in the eerily empty classrooms.

Tomorrow we have one final meeting, then a retirement picnic for the three retirees who will be leaving us, then our summer begins. Nine weeks of glorious hermitage. I even did my grocery shopping today so tomorrow all I have to do is come home and BASK.

Summer…here is a magnolia flower. They’re blooming on the tree out in the front yard. White velvet with dewdrops, ahhhh.