Diary of a Homemaker’s 31 Days of Summer: July 30-August 5

July 30:  On the way home last night, I passed a home where they apparently were grilling in the backyard. I say apparently because only the aroma drifted in the street.  The fence blocked any view of grill or persons grilling.  It sure did smell nice.  Like summer evenings, especially with the aroma of freshly clipped lawn to add to the ambience.  It reminded me of my promise to enjoy 31 days of summer, and one of those promises was to grill out, something we haven't done at all this year.

So here I am at the beginning of a staycation of sorts, but not a total vacation.  It is my nod to and bid for a little bit of summer.  With all the tasks and fun that summers incorporated once upon a time.

Facts:  Summer in Georgia is fairly miserable.  Hot, humid, and gnatty.  Hasn't changed a bit.  August is a tedious month.  Not really the month to start planning to enjoy 'summer'.  But this is the month I'm taking because it's the month I have.  

We'll see how it goes.  I have a list of 29 items so far of things to do, taste, enjoy, that will help me feel that I've taken time to enjoy summer this year instead of letting it pass by with regrets and grief that I have let another season pass me by.  

Here's to the beginning of 31 days of summer!  

Meals:  I skipped breakfast because I slept in.  Coffee suited me fine along with a glass of orange juice.  John had bagels.

Venison Backstrap, Potatoes with Onions, Green Salad with Peaches and Smoked Gouda.  I like backstrap very well.  I cooked it properly and it was tender and juicy and well-seasoned in my opinion.  John was less impressed.  He said "bland".  Truth is, he turns his nose up at venison if he knows it's venison.  On the other hand, he'll tell me while eating ground beef that he just doesn't care for venison and then when I'm serving venison, he tells me how good the beef he's eating is...

I have a ton of leftover backstrap.  There's the problem.  It's too much for two people.  In fact, it's too much for four people and better suited to six.  I've offered leftovers to Sam whose fridge is as packed as mine and declined. I'll have to be creative and sneaky to use all this up. 

July 31:  I keep telling myself that this is 'vacation' but I'm struggling with that term because we have never in our lives taken a full month off.  We have taken a week and we once took ten days of various little side trips and picnics and such but a month?  Goodness no!  So yes, despite my feeling at the moment that I really don't want to do a thing, I've been reminding myself that this is about enjoying SUMMER and not about taking a vacation which is a whole separate thing.

I've been adjusting my thinking to suit what I really want.  I'm afraid my head is a bit befuddled.  Two hours of sleep last night and no nap today...

Never mind.  We went to church.  It was a gorgeous, lovely day outside.  It got hot later this afternoon, but it was pleasant this morning.  We enjoyed the church service, then headed over to Publix.  I had a list of this week's sales for both Publix and Kroger and told John he was to choose where we went, and I'd worry about picking up what was needed.

I actually had far less on my Publix list and nothing really necessary on the Kroger list.  Spent enough just the same, about what I'd typically spend at a first of the month trip to the grocery (even though that's tomorrow I was in the vicinity of the store today which is key to our gasoline budget for the month.  I spent roughly $42 on non-grocery items (pet food, over the counter pain reliever for John, aluminum foil and my real splurge: sunflowers).   The rest of the funds were spent on foodstuffs proper and that's all I'm taking from my food budget.  I've decided that if we can't afford to buy the ancillary items from the general funds then we can live without them, sunflowers included.

For summer enjoyment: a bouquet of Sunflowers!

I bought 2 whole chickens at $1.49 a pound (up 48c a pound since I last bought about five or six weeks ago), a family pack each of boneless skinless chicken breasts ($3.99/pound which is about average sale price anymore), a family pack of chicken legs ($1.79 pound).  I had looked at leg quarters for 1/3 the price at Aldi last month but the bag only bag was torn, and I don't buy open packages of meat.   I noted that thighs were the same price per pound.  I got a family pack of Ground Round for $3.99 a pound.  That all will net the two of us 16 meals, not including leftovers of the whole chickens.  We picked up Mangoes and a half pound of deli Beef Bologna and cut watermelon which was on sale for $2.99/pound.  It was cheaper to buy the whole melon but once cut, room in the fridge was needed and that was not an option.  My fridge is too full.

I packed up the meats in the portions I'd typically use.  I dated those packets of meat and then I put them on the bottom of the meat basket.  I'm slow to the game and I admit it.  It only yesterday that it occurred to me I really needed to be rotating my meat the same as I do my pantry items.  I've really always taken it for granted that once frozen it was good forever.  Not true.  Granted I've seldom had anything get freezer burned but the principle of wise management must kick in at some point and I guess yesterday was my day to have it kicked in.  I pulled some of the older packages of meat up to the top of the baskets to insure I use those first.

The rest of the day passed peaceably and quietly.  We stopped to see the kiddos across the field.  I heard all about Josh's teacher.  His kindergarten teacher has stepped up to teaching third graders.  Isaac told me his teacher's name.  He's still ambivalent about going to school without Josh being in the same building.

Millie will soon be back to 'only child at home' status and I wonder how she's going to like that?  She really likes having her brothers about, though she is prone to going to her room and shutting them out when she's had enough.

Meals:  Breakfast Sandwiches

Chicken Patties on Buns, Chips, Watermelon

Cheese Ravioli in Marinara and Garlic Bread...Yes that is all. I didn't feel like messing with sides and salads and such.  We had a bit more watermelon later in the evening, along with some mixed nuts.

Reminded John this evening that it's likely this week will herald in the last week of peach season and asked that we make a trip to the packing shed to buy peaches and peach ice cream.  He nodded consent and looked me in the eye while he did it.  May I assume that means he really heard me? lol

August 1:  When I rose a bit after 7 this morning, the AC was off and remained off.  I made myself a cup of coffee and went out on the back porch to sit.  It was very pleasant even with the sun shining upon me.  A soft breeze blew.  The cicadas droned and the birds sang.  When John rose a little later, he took his coffee on the porch with me.  

Summer Pleasure:  Early morning coffee on the porch...

This reminded me that when we are on vacation, we always start our day with coffee on the balcony, or as John says, the 'verandah'.  It seemed a fitting way to start the first day of August and the first day of school.

As the morning went on, I thought of the other tasks I always do on vacation: make the bed, clean the condo and neaten it up (tidying really not hard cleaning), make meals and clear up behind them.  What I don't do on vacation is spend hours online.  I read.  We go somewhere.  I sit on the balcony and just people watch for hours at a time.  I write. I read some more.  I do Sudoku.  

I make a big breakfast at John's request most mornings when we're on vacation, but meals overall are easy ones.  Not convenience foods but streamlined recipes that I make from scratch using produce and meat.  We have snacks and/or appetizers and we usually do eat sandwiches but not exclusive to other meals.   Just like at home, I'm careful to plan to use up leftovers.  But the key really is to keep it simple and not fussy.  I think I'll try to stick to that approach this month.

Well, it reminded me well that while vacation is about leisure, what I really enjoy about vacation is that I relax a little more deeply.   I keep a less rigid routine.  I'm not involved in big hard projects, nor am I waited on hand and foot by a bevy of staff.  It's balanced.

I want my approach this month to be just that: balanced.  A reminder that life is not all work and no play nor all play and no work.  

This morning, I've weeded the flower bed about the Faith tree, where I found two little toads hiding in a hole tunder a landscape block.  It startled me a little to see their bright little eyes, but I am happy to say I've pretty much lost the scream reaction which has been my go-to in years past.  There's a big toad living on the front porch under the ironing board and a smaller toad has taken up residency on the back porch and pops out every now and then where I can see him.

I puttered about gently indoors, indulged in a longer than usual Bible study, have put a simple entree in the crockpot, planned meals for this week and think that now John's gone out to mow that I will work a bit more on the slipcover of the wing back chair that I'm trying to piece together.  This afternoon, I'll pull out genealogy and play with that for a while.   But first, I'm going to make myself a salad and drink a Pineapple Spritz with it.  

Summer pleasure:  Pineapple Spritz  It's just unsweetened pineapple juice mixed with a lemon lime soda but over ice it's purely delicious and refreshing.  And just fyi, I have added vodka to this when I had it on hand and wanted a mixed drink and that too is delicious.  

Later:  Gracious!  I worked for nearly 3 hours on the slipcover.  Note to future self: 6 yards of fabric at the least and 7 wouldn't hurt!  I may not have quite enough to make the bottom of the seat cover.  Worst come, I'll use a piece of a white sheet I'd cut into a good long while ago.

I also emptied the dishwasher, sat with John when he came in to cool off, and picked up a little more around the house while I got supper started, all amongst eating lunch and sewing

Meals:   Cheese Eggs, Grits, Apple Muffins

Italian style salad with bologna (me)    Bologna Sandwich (John)

Stuffed Peppers, Butter Beans, Mashed Potatoes   Leftovers!  I put two pepper halves in the freezer for a future meal.  Added butter beans to a bit of leftover corn from last week and will make succotash with it all in the future, but it went into the freezer for now.  A small portion of butter beans and another of mashed potatoes went into the fridge to be used in another meal later this week.

August 2:  I wandered about outdoors observing the plants and can report that the tomatoes may never recover but the basil I put in the pots with them is going to go gangbusters.  And the zinnias are high enough finally that I think they might bloom before the month is done!    I also gave the calibrachoa and petunia basket a deep haircut.  That usually is enough to generate new growth and another lot of blooms.  We shall see.

I made sun tea...but I forgot to drink it!  However, I made yet another salad.  Apparently, I'm on a creative salad kick lately.  So, far we've had green salad with grapes, blue cheese crumbles and walnuts; Green salad with pepperoncini and blue cheese crumbles and Italian dressing; lettuce, pepperoni, bologna, mozzarella and pepperoncini with Boar's Head Pepperhouse Gourmaise as dressing; Lettuce, peach slices, and French dressing:  and today's salad of just lettuce with a sprinkle of oregano, parmesan, red pepper flakes and more of the Pepperhouse dressing.  I can honestly say I've loved every one of those salads thus far and while I was eating thought up another combination I want to try out.

Summer Pleasure:  Walking about the yard inspecting flowers and plants.

I used my head last night and took out meat to thaw overnight for today's meal.  I got my supper started early this morning, before I made out breakfast because I knew that whatever I ended up doing, supper would be my last thought once I'd started.

I'd hoped to spend quite a bit of time outdoors this morning.  The temperature was lower, but the humidity was high indeed.  I was pouring with sweat by the time I'd emptied compost, fed pets, watered the plants on the front porch, etc.  I came back indoors and told John, "No way am I going to do all I'd thought I might out there today!   I'll just find things to do indoors."  

I did light housework, or a daily routine.  That just means no deep cleaning but doing the basics of floors, wipe down bathroom, make up bed, put away clothes and keep the dishes rinsed and stacked until I load them into the dishwasher come evening.  

What I ended up doing today: working on the slipcover for the wingback chair.  Yesterday I'd have said I was 1/2 done.  Today I'll tell you I'm about 2/3 done.  I worked for five or six hours on it today.

Two things today with John.  When we were having breakfast, we both wanted jelly.  I found a bare minimum of grape jelly and the same amount of lemon curd.  I handed him the grape jelly and took the lemon curd for myself.  I think both jars had about a teaspoon or so in them.  John scraped the grape jelly jar hard and then turned to me and held out the jar.

 "What do you want me to do with it?"  

"Toss it."  

"Really!  Are you sure?  You usually want to get every last drop out of a jar!"  

I laughed.  That is exactly how I do things, but I can't get it all of those plastic jelly jars from Aldi.  There are too many divots in the bottom of the jar.  You just don't get all of the product out.  I could have rinsed with hot water, but no one wants watery jelly.  

The other moment occurred later in the afternoon when I was working on the slipcover.  John complimented me on my handiwork and said he was amazed at how I went about doing this.  I pointed out that I like doing such things as this and figuring out the problem that arise.  "I could buy one...but I've saved hundreds by making this one.  So far, I'm only out about $30..." 

 "And your time.  Don't forget to count your time!  That has value, too."   He's quite right.  I figure at this point I've put in about 12 hours on this thing.  I know I'm using time I might have spent writing and since I've cut back at present, I have the spare time to do such projects as this.

Meals:  Toast, butter and cheese

Leftover pizza, salad

Chicken Indienne, Cornbread Stuffing, Chocolate Pudding   The chicken dish is that old recipe with Lipton Onion Soup Mix, Catalina Dressing and Cranberry sauce.   I didn't want to open a can of cranberry sauce.  Instead, I made a quick homemade batch using a partial package of frozen whole cranberries and some dried cranberries with a bit of water and sugar.  When it was boiled down and thick, I dumped it all in the Slow Cooker.   I have a whole breast and half the sauce left to make another meal.  I'll pop that into the freezer for an easy entree one night.

August 3:  We had rain again last night.   It stormed a little as we went to bed about 11pm.  The world glistened mightily this morning in the sunlight.  It's so lovely to look at the sparkling lawn, but it reminds me more of autumn mornings than an August morning.

The signs of the coming season are showing up as well.  There's a patch of yellow stars on the Sweet Gum tree.  The Turkey Foot oaks are already tinged with red leaf tips.  Mind you we won't see any real leaf changes until November or so, but these are the whispers of the next season that we typically see.  Other signs are that the goldenrod and Mallow flower plants are standing tall. No flower buds just yet but the plants are growing and readying themselves for bloom.  

Summer Pleasure: Seeing the seasonal signs of the new season coming along.

It makes me more than mindful of the need to truly enjoy this month as I'd planned.

Breakfast, clearing up, making bed, Bible study, make lunch.  Routine stuff.  That's what the day has been.  I went over to let pest control into the town house.  I stopped at the post office to track a package that is lost.   How helpful was it to hear from the postal worker that her information was no better than mine?  Or that more than likely my package, which was a return, was no doubt at the bottom of a mail canister traveling from truck to truck who knows where? Sigh.  At least she was her usual pleasant self and she apologized but goodness it's hardly her fault.   I went to the Dollar store and bought ice cream.  

I have done nothing else.  I have no plans to do anything else except to read and putter gently here in the house.  I needed to take a break from the slipcover.  I'm starting to see stripes when I shut my eyes, lol.  

Meals:  Boiled Eggs, Apple Muffins

Steak, Onion and Cheese Quesadillas, Salsa     This used about half the leftover venison backstrap.  I put the remainder into the freezer.  John's not thrilled over this meal so I didn't mention I had still more leftovers.  I refuse to toss good food out the door because he wants to be a little picky.

Haven't made up my mind...

August 4:  John suggested we have bologna sandwiches last night.  The idea of not heating up the kitchen or making a mess made that an excellent idea in my opinion.  I added pickles and chips, and we called that a very good supper.

I went out on the back porch this morning to have coffee but hurried in shortly thereafter.  No, it wasn't humid, nor hot and it wasn't buggy.  Misu had a grump on.  She heard me sneeze and came to the back porch to complain loudly that she hadn't been fed in hours now and how dare I get up and not feed her right away.  I tried to pet her, and she yowled at me!  And then complained that I dared try to touch her. I came indoors and told John please go feed that silly cat.  Of course, she purred for John.  He said he didn't know how I could say she was in a bad mood, lol!

I started bread early this morning, even before I set out breakfast. After our breakfast I went through the house and straightened things up.  I cleared up a few spots in the kitchen that had become small hot spots where random items were gathering.  I got all those things put in their proper homes.  How much nicer the kitchen looked with just that little added bit of tidying.

I tried to do the same in each room which admittedly didn't take long.  The kitchen seemed to have the worst of it and that wasn't bad.  After I'd done that, I decided I'd start supper.  I've been longing for a pot of vegetable soup.   It's hardly soup weather, I know that, but I think I've mentioned before that along about this time of year, I begin to crave cozy sorts of meals.  That soup smelled so good all morning and afternoon long as it simmered.

And it was proper clean out the fridge and freezer soup. I dumped in leftover this and a bit of that from the freezer that I'd saved because I thought it might go well in a pot of soup.  

About the time I was prepping the soup, John came out dressed to leave the house.  I was a bit put out.  Here I'd been working around the house all morning and obviously wasn't dressed to go anywhere.  When I asked him where he was going, he said I'd mentioned a place I wanted to visit this week and he thought we'd go today.  I asked for time to finish the soup prep and told him I'd be ready to go as soon as I could.  

'Didn't you want to go today?'   "I hadn't planned on it...You told me yesterday that we'd take Friday off and go out, so I was doing things today rather than leave it all until tomorrow."  "We don't have to go today..."  After thinking it over for a few minutes I asked him to wait until tomorrow.  "I can get a lot done today and feel completely free to do whatever you want tomorrow."

So, he changed into his at home clothes and puttered about the house himself.  I went to work on the slipcover...It's now 95% done.  I need to adjust the seat cushion fit and then put in a zipper.  I need to hem the whole thing and there's one spot that is simply wrong and must be adjusted.  I tore the fabric in an attempt to tug it into place so that must be mended, and I'll have to use scraps to adjust that area better.  I have mere scraps of fabric left and I mean honest to goodness scraps that really ought to be trashed.  I realized once I'd started this project that I'd under ordered the yardage and decided I'd piece it together best I could.  

Well piecing is what I've had to do.  I've a new respect for my great grandmother.  I'd noted on one of her quilts I was given that she'd pieced together pieces of the same fabric to make one pattern piece.  Now that I've spent the last two days' work piecing out a bit here and piecing out a bit there, I realize how much harder her task was since it was all handsewn!  Honestly that this fabric is a stripe worked in my favor in piecing because I simply had to match up stripe to stripe and sew it together to create the piece required.  I've used every sizeable bit of fabric I could.  Now I'll tell you truth, if ever I do this task again, and I likely will sometime in the future when I'm ready for change, I will order 7 yards of fabric.  I ordered only 5.  I ended up having enough to do both sides of the seat cushion, with one side pieced in but I had to use a strip of white sheet on the back where the zipper will go in order to finish the cushion off properly.

Never mind.  I'm done with it for the week.  I've cleared up the kitchen nicely.  John and I are agreed on what chores we will do in the morning prior to leaving home.  We'll likely run a couple of errands along with going on our outing which isn't far from home.

Meals:  Toast, Cereal, Banana  I had gotten a box of a Millville whole grain granola cereal from Aldi.  It was the Honey, Oats and Almonds granola and comes in a cardboard box, not a bag. This is a really good cereal and one we hope we can find again when we return to Aldi.

Burgers, Fries, Orange Julius   I wanted a milkshake, but we have no ice cream and no frozen bananas.  I do have plenty of frozen orange juice and had just thawed a fresh half gallon of milk.  This was so good to have with our meal today.

Vegetable Soup, Cornbread Muffins

Summer pleasure:  Making Orange Julius to drink with our lunch.

August 5:  John said I was sleeping so hard this morning he was beginning to wonder if he ought to go in and wake me.  I slept incredibly well, something I do not take in the least for granted.   It was cooler but no porch for me this morning.  John and I had made plans.

We hurried through the few chores we'd left for this morning, had a quick bite to eat and then we were ready to head out.  Not big plans but at least one item on our list is a seasonal plan.  We were going to the big peach shed northeast of here where I planned to buy what may well be my last lot of local peaches.   

As we stepped from the car, a big Grill was smoking, and the scent was blowing across the country lane between the old store and the packing shed.  Suddenly I was so very hungry!  Well breakfast had been light and admittedly I was hoping we'd pick up lunch while we were out and about, but I had not planned what we might have.  This man was smoking chicken and pork but upon inquiring I felt his prices were a smidge high.  Still, I'd like to have supported him. I also had NO cash on me.  I'd been meaning for a week to run by the bank and get more cash and hadn't done so.  His was a cash only business.

I wandered around and picked up corn on the cob, yellow squash, two big cucumbers (I'll make more of both the sweet and dill fridge pickles) and both cherry tomatoes (sooo sweet!) and ripe slicing tomatoes.  One of my 'summer' plans is to have a meal that consists of locally grown produce.  I have all I need with the black eye peas I picked up when Mama and I visited the Farmer's stand.

We went back to the small town we'd driven through and stopped at the hardware store.  I wanted very much to find garden seeds but there were none.  John couldn't find the items he wanted either.  Not a wasted trip.  It's a nice clean store and I like to wander around and look.

From there we took a long winding road that runs along a ridge of hills.  The views in places are stunningly beautiful.  We remarked on all the new houses since we were last out that way.  Just before we got to the grocery store that was our destination, I remarked to John "I'm REALLY hungry..."  "Well let's go to get something.  You've been hinting all along that you'd like to eat out."  "I really wasn't but I don't mind going out!"   

At the restaurant we ran into old acquaintances and stood talking to them a few minutes.  It was nice to catch up with them and after we'd exhausted who married, who wasn't, who had children and how many and who had moved, we bid one another goodbye.   I was so hungry today that I ordered an appetizer, something we generally save for very special occasions.  

We had a nice lunch, and each brought home half our meal.  And by the way, the food was similar to what the gentlemen offered from his grill, for the same price.  We each brought home half our meal as leftovers.  

To the grocery store where I picked up chicken for Taylor's weekend visit and grabbed croissants for my breakfast in the morning.  John wants bagels but I wanted a crisp buttery croissant with orange marmalade.  I had the marmalade, but no croissant.

Then we filled the car with gasoline and headed home.

It's nice to be home.  Nice to be out of the heat.  Nice to know that we've a lovely clean house all about us and a sweet day of rest ahead.  I've enjoyed my week very much and am glad I took these seven days to enjoy summer.

Summer pleasure:  Visiting the peach shed and buying good local peaches and produce.

Meals:  Muffins, boiled eggs

Smoked Chicken, mac n cheese, slaw for me, baked beans for John (we ate out)

I'm thinking I'll eat some soup and maybe have a tomato sandwich.  John's not keen on the idea of more soup so I'll serve him leftovers from another night's supper.

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(C) Terri Cheney