Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday five

Dahlia in a garden in Elko, NV, last August
Okay, today I'm trying my hand at posting about five things on Friday -- something I have seen many other bloggers do.  I've thought of doing this before, but found it hard to gather my thoughts to come up with five things.  This month, I've intentionally taken time each night before bed to jot down a blessing from the day.  So that has made it easier.  Here goes:

1.  Time with a cousin I seldom see.  She was staying at the beautiful property our extended family owns on a somewhat remote pond.  We spent several hours there enjoying lunch and a lot of visiting.  She's younger than I am, with college age kids, and was always more my sister's friend than mine, but we're at a similar place in life as far as our parents and siblings having died, and having houses full of belongings to dispose of.  Lots to chat about, and in such a beautiful setting!
The binoculars are always nearby on the camp porch.  Ready for wildlife viewing!
2.  Fellowship with friends visiting from out of state.  They invited us to their rental cabin for supper one evening this week.  How I wish I had a photo of the sunset we saw over the lake that night!  It was simply glorious.  But I must say the fellowship was even more of a blessing than the sunset.

I took along the Alfresco Bean Salad below.  It's a favorite of ours and very healthy.

3.  Time at the lake with my daughter, grandchildren, and friends.  While there, I also had time chatting with a dear friend, time working on my grocery list and time to embroider.  As you can see, it was a glorious day.  It was also the hottest, most uncomfortable day this week, but there's always a breeze at the lake, so I was grateful for the opportunity to spend the day there.
4.  Getting out early yesterday to grocery shop and keeping the cost under $100.  Whenever that happens, I'm encouraged!

5.  Cooler temperatures and lower humidity today!  I don't handle heat and humidity well at all.

There you have my Friday five!  Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Labor Day sale at my Etsy shop!

Just popping in to share that I'm having a Labor Day sale at my Etsy shop, A New Hampshire Attic.  The sale is running from today, August 30, through Monday, September 3.

I'm offering 15% off on selected items.  Because it's a Labor Day sale, the items I've chosen to feature are those that a person might work with: vintage sewing patterns and notions, vintage cookbooks, and maybe a few other items along the way.  I'll be adding more things to these categories in the shop throughout the sale.

As always, please do not feel at all obligated to purchase anything or even to go and look.  I'm letting my blog readers know about this only so that if one of these selected items interests you, you would be able to get it while the price is lower. 

Now I am off to scan and list more items in the shop.  I hope you will all have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

How and why I menu plan

As promised (a l-o-n-g time ago!), here's a post all about menu planning.  I have been planning menus my entire married life, and it's a practice I highly recommend.  I didn't grow up with this type of planning; my mother may have had a rough idea what she was going to serve each week, but she never wrote it down as far as I know.  (When it came to holidays or having guests in for a meal, she did plan the menu.)

However, as a soon-to-be-married gal,  I happened to be in the home of a busy young Christian couple and saw a handwritten menu for the week posted on the fridge.  Right then and there, I decided that I would also menu plan.  It sure helped as a very poor newlywed on an extremely tight budget.  When we started out, we determined to spend $15 per week for groceries.  It never would have happened without a detailed plan, and without paying close attention to what was on sale in a particular week.

Saving money is still one of the main reasons I make a menu plan every week.  I usually start, just as I did over 40 years ago,  by looking at the supermarket flyer for the week to see what's on sale.  Then I plan my meals around what's on sale and what I have in the freezer and refrigerator.
Another way menu planning saves money is that, when I buy something, I have a plan for how to use it.  In the case of produce, it's really helpful to have a plan because it jogs my memory to use the particular fruit or vegetable before it goes bad.

Another reason for menu planning is to save time and frustration. If I look at my menu plan the night before or even the morning of, it helps a lot.  I know what's for supper and can plan accordingly.  If meat or a freezer meal needs to thaw overnight, it can happen.  If it's a slow cooker meal, I can be sure the ingredients get into the cooker in plenty of time.

Okay, so now to the nuts and bolts of how I actually plan my menus.  I have a printed grocery list that I use each week.  I can just write down specifics as to how many, what items, etc. on the lines provided.  It saves a ton of time.  If you want to make a list like this, you will of course personalize it according to items that you regularly purchase.  Mine really needs updating as there are items on here (like Crisco, for instance) that I simply don't buy anymore.

I fold the paper in half, blank side out, and then I jot down the days of the week from Thursday (my usual grocery shopping day) to Thursday.  Then I begin to fill in menus for each day.

When planning menus, I also take into account what my week is going to look like.  This usually saves a trip to the store or a restaurant for take-out on exceedingly busy days.  If I take time to think about it ahead, I will plan an easy meal for those nights, or leave something in the crock pot.

Obviously, the meal for each day varies with the activities the particular day or evening will hold.   For many years, Wednesday night's supper was always pizza along with either soup or salad.  Our granddaughters went to Patch the Pirate Club at church that evening and usually got off the school bus at our house.  Pizza was a favorite and they enjoyed different varieties of soups, in particular.  So pizza and soup was always a given on Wednesdays as I planned.

 Sunday has often meant a potluck lunch at church, so my menu for Sunday has usually included a slow cooker meal or something that will stay hot on a warming tray.  On a potluck day, it will also include some sort of salad and some sort of dessert.  If there is no potluck at church, I will either plan on leftovers  from a previous day or make a slow cooker meal on Sundays.

If we are having company for supper on a particular evening, then of course my menu plan will reflect that.

I try to plan seasonally, too -- lots of main-dish soups or stews in fall and winter, lots of main-dish salads in summer -- and use in-season produce in my menus.

Slow cooker meals are a blessing in any busy season.  I'll plan on making one anytime I want or need to be busy with something else -- be that cleaning, blogging, crafting, or some sort of ministry.  It's just good to have meals that will cook themselves while the cook has to be busy elsewhere.  I've even taken my slow cooker on vacation if we are staying in a cabin or cottage.

In general, I plan to serve several -- usually around four -- meatless meals each week, with chicken and fish or seafood making up the rest of the choices.  I will have pasta or rice once or twice during that time.  I try to vary the flavors -- Italian, Mexican,  etc.  Usually I will plan one "breakfast for dinner" type meal based on eggs.  In hot weather, main-dish salads are a mainstay for us.

One thing I've been trying to be mindful of this summer is to pay attention to what I serve as a side with main-dish salads.  Often my tendency is just to serve some sort of bread -- corn muffins, or French or Italian bread, or biscuits.  I've been trying to serve lighter sides like a cooked vegetable (zucchini or summer squash) or a side salad or just sliced tomatoes and/or cucumbers.  This Smashed Cucumber Salad is one quick and tasty option.

Invariably there are some menus that don't get used in a particular week.  We might eat out or be invited to someone's home for supper.  We might have enough leftovers to stretch for another meal or two.  (Good thing we both like leftovers!)  When this happens -- when there's a menu that doesn't get used -- I just move it to an appropriate day when I plan the next week's menus.

I feel as if this is just a haphazard list of tips and suggestions, but hopefully it will be helpful to someone.  One final thought:  Years ago I often participated in Menu Plan Monday with Laura over at I'm an Organizing Junkie.  Although I've gotten away from posting my plans here on the blog, Menu Plan Monday is still going strong.  Click the link and you will also find links to Laura's informative pages as to how she menu plans and why she menu plans.  She considers this practice to be life-changing.  Maybe you will too!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Marvelous mini vacation

So last weekend we decided to take an overnight mini vacation.  We went to a region of our state where we've never really visited much before.  Although our kids went to high school in the Monadnock region, and we've camped and gone to retreats there, we've never explored the area much.  This was a unique opportunity to do so just a little bit.

A friend at The Wilds of New England had told us about this inn.  He suggested we might want to check out The Inn at Crotched Mountain as a possible place to stay for the couples' retreat at TWNE.  On looking it over online, we decided that we would like to try this inn, but not for the couples' retreat, as we would prefer to spend more time at the inn than the retreat schedule would allow for.

Mid-August found us in need of a break, so we called the inn and found they had a room available that would meet our needs. We are so busy at church right now that it's tough to be gone on a Sunday, so we were able to go for Friday night only.  Even though it wasn't a lengthy getaway, we did see God provide in many wonderful ways to make it even nicer.

So last Friday evening we set off on this adventure to the Monadnock region.  The Inn is only about 15 minutes from TWNE, so we dropped some friends there for a young adult retreat, then headed for our lodging.

What a beautiful place!  The skies were overcast and rain threatened at any minute, but that could not diminish the beauty of this lovely old inn.

It took a few moments to locate the entrance where we were to check in.  See the brick building to the left in the photo at top?  The little red-painted area just adjacent to it, behind a bush, is the little vestibule where one enters.  The bush is actually more of a tree, and the flowers are more purply than they appear in thse photos.  When I asked about it, the innkeeper said it was a Rose of Sharon.  There are incredibly beautiful plantings everywhere one looks around the Inn.

After the checking us in and helping to carry our bags to our room, the innkeeper offered to bring us some raspberry iced tea.  That sounded so good and when it arrived, on a little tray, there was a large sprig of freshly cut mint in each glass!  So refreshing!

We had brought along a picnic supper, hoping to find a bench or other seating somewhere on the grounds where we could eat it ... and also hoping that the rain would hold off until we finished.  Sure enough, there were picnic tables out by the swimming pool.  Perfect! We took our iced tea out to the picnic table along with our food.
You can just see a corner of a red-painted picnic table in the photo above.  And that gorgeous view!  You can just imagine how beautiful it would be without all the clouds.  And just as we finished our wrap sandwiches, potato chips, and cherries, the thunder began to rumble.  We clearly saw God answer our prayer to hold the rain off for our picnic.
The view on the other side of the picnic tables
View of the back on the Inn from the picnic tables
 Our room was very cozy and comfortable, with a huge adjoining bathroom.  After stowing our picnic things in the car, we settled in the room for a cozy night, with the comfortable sound of falling rain and the very lively sounds of thunder!
You can't tell in this blurry Kindle pic, but that picture above the bed, a pretty winter scene, is actually a framed jigsaw puzzle!
We'd brought plenty of reading material and of course, I brought plenty of needlework.
The comfy chairs above were the perfect place to settle in for reading and embroidery. I chose the chair by the window.  The lamps shed wonderful light on our work.  You can't see it, but there is also a small old-fashioned type of ceiling light just over that chair which also gave good lighting.

I got out my needlework and then realized I had forgotten to bring my glasses.  I thought it would probably be okay; I would just embroider rather than cross-stitch.  I often do wear my bifocals when doing any kind of needlework at night, though.  However!  God had provided for that too.  As I got settled in my chair, I noticed something oddly out of place next to the cushion.  Any guesses?  Yes!  It was a pair of [zebra-patterned!] dollar store readers, undoubtedly left there by a former guest.  I polished them up and they worked just fine!

We slept very well and enjoyed early-bird coffee being served in the living room.  Mr. T brought it back to our room.  It was not raining and I took this photo of the mug on my windowsill where I placed it in between delicious sips as I worked on a Bible study.  Yes, the early bird coffee was served in these pretty green mugs. 
Breakfast was served in the dining room from 8 to 9.  There was actually a small menu with several breakfast options to choose from.  We both had scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, and a grilled English muffin along with juice and coffee.  The plate was delightfully garnished with a wedge of watermelon and an edible orange flower -- a nasturtium, I believe.  Homemade strawberry rhubarb jam was served with the English muffin.

I really wish I had brought a camera to the breakfast table, but neither of us thought of it.  Outside the window we were seated by, there was a pretty garden area with bird feeders.  Goldfinches were flitting everywhere, adding even more color to the scene!

After breakfast I enjoyed more quiet time while Mr. T went out and about and took a few more photos.  
The other end of this long set of buildings.  Think the owners may live in this part.
It rained heavily in the night (enough to wash away part of the road, further down).  This little stream beside the parking lot was really flowing.
Pretty hedge on the property
This little living room was in the part of the inn where our rooms were located. 
By the time we checked out, it was raining again.   We decided to just drive around and look at the area and then, when we found a likely-looking market, we would stop and purchase picnic supplies for lunch, which we hoped to eat here: Greenfield State Park.  We followed our plan and it worked well; as we approached the park we saw more and more blue sky.

It was drizzling when we arrived, and we had to walk through water to find a picnic table, but we managed to enjoy our lunch anyway.

After lunch Mr. T did a bit of scouting around and found what seemed to be a nicer beach with no people at it.  I guess, though, that when the rain stopped, the people in the campground all decided to go out in boats (there are rentals at the park).  We had no sooner got our camping chairs in place and settled, than hordes of people arrived and began taking the boats out.  It was their perfect right to do so, of course.  But steady streams of people passing to and fro in front of our chairs on a narrow strip of beach seemed like a bit much.

There again, though, God provided -- this time with distractions from all the foot and boat traffic.  Mr. T had brought a riveting book about local history and kept reading me snippets of it.  I could embroider on my blueberry tea towel and concentrate on that and his funny readings, and all the people seemed to fade into the background.

Thankfully, after a couple of hours all the people left ... probably heading back to their campsites to start supper.  Mr. T remarked that even the ducks seemed to be enjoying the peace and quiet!  (This really is a very nice state park and the campground looks good.  If we take up tent camping again, something we would love to do, we would definitely like to try staying here.  Many NH state parks have nice campgrounds, and we've enjoyed state park camping in Maine as well.)

 In a little while it was time to locate some supper for ourselves and then head back to TWNE to pick up our friends.  This photo was taken on the porch of Cool Beans, the coffee shop, while we waited for them.  That's the Sweet Shoppe across the way.

What a blissfully relaxing weekend it had been!  It seemed as if we had been away far longer than 24 hours!  Most importantly, God showed us that even when circumstances seem less than ideal -- think rain and thunderstorms, hordes of people, and even forgotten glasses! -- He will still turn the time into a blessing if we will trust Him to work in the situation.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Simple summer crafting

This will be a post short on words but heavy on pictures -- and mostly scans, at that.  But I have managed some very simple crafting these past few weeks and wanted to share.

At top is my most recent Crocheted Scalloped Hot Mat.  The ombre is called Buttercream and I think it is so pretty.  The light blue edge is called Aquamarine.

Last month I shared pictures of the wrap skirts I made for my granddaughter Julia's American Girl dolls, using a pattern from You Can Make This.  Julia actually took photos of the dolls modeling the reversible skirt with the two different shirts, so I'm sharing those here.

I've also crocheted a couple of necklaces from this pattern:   Trellis Necklace Tutorial.  I hope to make at least one more.  They are so easy and quick to make, once you have cut the yarn to length.
You can read my post about the first ones I made here: Pretty Crocheted Necklaces.

And I've made quite a few mailing envelopes from calendar pages.  You can find a tutorial for those here: handmade bubble mailers.  The ones I have been making are not for fragile items, so I've been eliminating the bubble wrap from those.  Skipping the step of adding in the bubble wrap makes the process go much faster.  I am just showing a couple of the mailers I've made.

The calendar covers are sturdy enough to make mailers without reinforcement, but for the inside calendar pages I cover them with clear contact paper to make them stronger and more weather proof.

This is what mailer #1 looks like on the back.
And this is what mailer #2 looks like on the back.
 I've also started making some envelopes approximately 5x7 inches from the calendar page pieces left over from each mailer.  These Gooseberry Patch calendars are too pretty to throw any of the pages away!

And then this past weekend while on an overnight mini-vacation, I managed to complete an embroidered tea towel while relaxing on the shore of Otter Lake.

The design is a freebie from Bird Brain Designs.  So much fun!
The folded tea towel
I folded this one a bit differently to show the striped edge.  Isn't it pretty?  This was made from the dish toweling fabric that one cuts to the desired length and then hems.
There's my simple summer crafting in a nutshell.  Hope others have enjoyed this as much as I have!

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Supper on the deck

When we got our patio set at the beginning of summer, we envisioned lots of suppers on the deck.  It hasn't worked out quite as we'd hoped, although we have eaten some meals out there.  We had one entire week where it rained pretty much every day.  We had another couple of weeks when it was just brutally hot outdoors.  Even though we don't have AC, it was cooler inside the house than out, so we ate indoors.

So last Thursday night when we were ready to eat, Mr. T suggested we eat outside.  The meal I had planned and was ready to serve was just perfect for this: some simple wrap sandwiches and a pasta salad with veggies.   I'd made some iced tea, too.

 I really doubt you need recipes for these, but I will just quickly share how I made these very simple foods that work so well for al fresco dining.

Wrap Sandwiches
Some sort of flatbread intended for wraps, or flour tortillas
Some sort of spread -- mayo, mustard, barbecue sauce, pesto, guacamole, hummus
Some sort of meat, the more thinly sliced the better
Some type of cheese; I like the ultra thin slices
Vegetables like lettuce or spinach leaves, chopped tomato, chopped or thinly sliced pickles

Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap for each sandwich desired.  Lay a flatbread or tortilla on the plastic.  Spread with whatever spread you choose.  Lay a couple slices of meat on top, then a couple slices of cheese.  Sprinkle with the vegetables.  Fold in two ends of each wrap (so now you have a circle with two straight folded edges).  Roll up the bread tightly and wrap securely in the sheet of plastic wrap that's underneath it.  Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Now the pasta salad is even easier.

Vegetable Pasta Salad
12 ounces of any pasta shape -- I like either the tricolor rotini or the tricolor ruffles
1 pkg. (16 ounces) of any frozen unsauced vegetable mixture -- I like the sugar snap pea stir-fry blend or the deluxe stir-fry blend
Salad dressing to taste -- either Italian, or Greek, or some other type of savory vinaigrette
Salt and pepper to taste, or other seasonings like herbs or seasoning blends
Parmesan cheese if you like

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Stir in the pasta and cook as package directs. 

Meanwhile, place the frozen vegetables in a large colander and set it in your sink.  When the pasta is done, pour it into the colander right on top of your vegetables.  Let it stand as it is for a half hour or so, then rinse with cold water.  You have just "cooked" your frozen veggies to the point where they will be just right in a pasta salad.

Let the pasta and vegetables drain thoroughly, then transfer them to a large bowl.  Add salad dressing and seasonings to taste.  This most recent batch that I made had freshly snipped chives and basil in it.  Sprinkle in some Parmesan cheese if you like.

Will probably make 4 to 6 servings or so.

When my hubby suggested eating outdoors, he quickly set the table.  I chose this pretty vintage tray to carry out the food and so I arranged the wraps, salad, and salt and pepper on it. It looked so inviting!

So there you have some no-recipe recipes that just might facilitate an outdoor supper for you as well!

We've decided we are going to eat supper on the deck whenever possible.  Just being out in God's creation, even in our own backyard, has such a calming and relaxing effect on us after a busy day.  Before we know it, the weather will be too cold to eat outside, so we plan to make the most of our deck and patio set throughout the summer and fall.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Breakfast at Cracker Barrel

It has been far too long since we've visited Cracker Barrel.  As I've mentioned before, we have only one of these wonderful establishments in our state, and it's an hour and 20 minutes from here in a direction we seldom travel. 

Over the years we've met up with friends for breakfast at Cracker Barrel; other times we've chosen to meet there for personal business or (in my husband's case) pastoral search business over a meal or coffee and a snack.  However, our more likely reason is if my hubby needs to be in the area because of work-related errands he occasionally does here:
That was the case a week ago Saturday.  Our day was booked.  We had something going on around noon and something else we wanted to do in the evening.  But he had an errand to do at Cat, and so, we planned to head out very early and hit Cracker Barrel for breakfast first.  Our Nevada family had given us a CB gift card for Christmas that we hadn't found time to use up until now.

As usual, it was worth the trip. Because of our time constraints,  I could only take a very few minutes to look at some of the fall items in the country store.
I loved the squirrel with the lighted acorn lantern.  Sweet!
The "Autumn Blessings" galvanized sign is so pretty!  I also liked the teapot.
This "We Are Blessed" tray may be my favorite.  It matches the teapot above.
And our meal, as seen at top, was wonderful as always.  This time we chose the Grandma's Sampler breakfast from the seasonal menu.  Simply scrumptious!

We did take our time over breakfast and then completed Mr. T's errand at Cat before heading home.  We traveled a good bit of the way home in torrential rain.  But it was worth every raindrop to have enjoyed our Cracker Barrel breakfast at last.