Weather in Virginia

A great many complain about the weather but no one has ever done anything about it.

How often have I heard, “I can’t believe how cold it is in July” or “Have you ever seen it this hot in December”? Well to be honest, yes.  I’ve lived in the sweet country foothills in Virginia most of my life. I grew up here and after a short stint in the army (my personal hero served) we moved back here. We, actually live 3 miles from the home I grew up in.  Our home is the house my Personal Hero lived in from age 13 until after we were married. We bought this house from my in-laws 28 years ago.

Weather in Virginia is only predictable because of its unpredictability. We have four definite seasons; and several false seasons.  Let’s start with the four most people are aware of winter, spring, summer and fall.

I’ll start with winter because when January our first month starts it’s already winter; usually cold, wet and dark. Most of January and February are this way. March starts out just as dreary.  But usually turns a wee bit warmer and windy. April and May are full of new life, things blooming and budding. Spring officially starts in March and goes through late June.  June and July are pretty warm and around rolls August and September who are as hot as a blue wool blazer in a sauna. October can be pretty warm but starting to be cooler especially at night and November and December are usually quite pleasant for cool months. Fall starts on the calendar in late October and winter in late December.

So you can kinda see by my vague description that our seasons are set but tend to run together. In late winter around here most folks get cabin fever. If you aren’t from around here you may not realize cabin fever is a true and real thing. No we aren’t wanting a vacation in Pigeon Forge at one of those cool mountain cabins. (Although they are nice). What’s happening is we are so tired of looking at the same four walls and not being able to leave the house for fear of catching something (flu or some stomach bug).  When a warm day finally arrives we head outside to “prep” the land for planting the garden; which won’t happen for several more weeks, because of an ice storm or surprise snow storm.  But when it finally warms up we head out with our seeds and starts and sets to be the first one to get our garden in the ground. This is when a lot of eager folks get let down, wasted work. The spring rains start and the seeds rot or an unexpected freeze kills the seedlings and we must start again. Even old timers are guilty of being too eager in the spring.

But summer is coming and the weeds are growing so we must push on. Finally our gardens are looking like real gardens and our children are finishing school for the year. To the lake we go swimming, skiing and camping; cook outs and all sorts of outdoor activities are in full swing. Baseball anyone?  It’s big around here. Everybody has a family member who plays ball.

Before you know it summers almost over and school starts back but it’s still as hot as that blue wool blazer in the sauna. We do alright though with after school lake dips and homemade ice cream on the porch. Fall arrives only announced by the beautiful foliage and the cooler nights. Bonfires and craft fairs tend to be the norm.

Craft fairs means Christmas is on the way and it always arrives much faster than any other holiday. Just days before Christmas the season on the calendar says it’s winter. But if you check outside it may be in the 70’s or in the 30’s. Everyone dreams of a white Christmas. In my 53 years on earth I’ve had about as many Christmases with snow or ice as I have without. And without could mean I really want to put on shorts because it’s too darn hot for December.

I’ll gladly take our unpredictable predictable weather over any other choice. The flowers in spring and the hot sun in summer, along with the leaves changing color in the fall which lead into a snow and ice covered winter. What more could any country woman ask for; four whole seasons to enjoy God’s beautiful creation. I know that I can handle each season as it comes because I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. He gives me the strength to handle the chores, chaos and beauty that comes with each season.

I’m Susan and this is Sweet Country Living. Come back soon and often, you never know what the season I’m in will have me doing. Come see for yourself.

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Cleaning

In the second installment of Being a Better Homemaker. Keeping Up With What’s Going On I started with explaining my binder and how it keeps me organized and on task.  Here I will explain how the cleaning section of the binder works for me.

Clean

Here I have my daily, weekly, monthly and annual chore list.

Daily I make our bed, pick up dirty clothes, put away clean clothes, put away shoes and magazines & books, a general tidying up of bedrooms, bathrooms, family room and the kitchen. Each person here is responsible for his or her own room and helping to keep the whole house tidy(ish). Daily can be quite lax as long as an effort has been put forth to at least spread the bed up and pick up the floor.

Each day of the week I have certain things to do. This is listed on my Weekly Chores sheet.

For instance Monday is Master bedroom day. Each daily sheet has a list of what needs to be done Daily and Weekly and Occasionally.

Here is a sample of Monday which I call Day 1 (Monday).

Day 1 (Monday)

Master Bedroom & Bath

Daily

Make Bed

Pick up dirty clothes

Put away clean clothes

Pat away shoes

Put away magazines & books

Occasionally

Clean out closets; remove out grown clothes and clothes that need repairs

Wash pillows

Wash comforters and quilts

Clean out and sort through drawers

Clean out from under the bed (storage)

Weekly

Change bed linens

Remove all towels from bedrooms and bathrooms and replace with fresh

Dust ceiling fan and remove cob webs

Dust TV, picture frames and lampshades

Dust furniture and declutter

Clean windows on inside and wipe facings

Clean mirror

Clean sink and toilet

Remove old magazines and sale papers

Vacuum floors

Mop bathroom floor

Wash sheets

 

Every room in my home and every load of laundry is assigned a day during the week. Since Monday is Bedroom day then it makes Monday sheet and towel day as well. I do very little housework on Sunday’s (that’s church and family visiting day) and I don’t have a Saturday daily list. Saturday’s are for doing what I may not have gotten to on another day that week (Catch-up day).

Also in this section there are Monthly checklists. These lists include things like changing water filters or furnace filters. Also things like organizing photos or putting away Christmas decorations. Preparing for the next holiday or gathering tax papers for filing. Each list consist of things that need to be done regularly but often get over looked or postponed to the last minute, then time has slipped up and passed me.  I include these dates in the front of the binder in the calendar.

I especially do not like to clean house on a sunny day when I could be outside doing, well, anything else.  So knowing exactly what day and what needs to be done gets it done and me outside sooner.   I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength even clean my house on a sunny day.

Thanks for dropping by. I’m Susan and this is Sweet Country Living, please come back soon and often.  If you have comments or questions leave them here and I’ll be glad to reply.

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might. Ecclesiastes 9:10

 

Why I Make Aprons

Years ago out of necessity I turned a favorite but out grown pair of bibbed overalls into a functional durable apron. I had worn the pair of bibs often and they were quite worn out.  I’ll admit they would have gotten more worn out if my backside hadn’t gotten bigger, too big for my britches if you will. Ha! So the next best thing was to make something equally functional out of the bibs.

That is when I happened across an idea online to make an apron. I’d still have the front pockets and the breast pocket for the many things I need throughout my day. The shoulder straps could be converted into a neck strap that is adjustable. Let’s be honest I do yoyo diet and my weight yoyos with it. Adjustable straps and the tie around the waist would accommodate for any size changes.  Later I’d find this to be very handy for other people as well.

Since making/sewing that first bibbed overall apron back in 2012 I’ve sewn quite a few. I still wear my original most days, but I’ve made other styles for myself and other people.

My original bibbed apron hanging on my pan rack.

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Bibbed overalls bring feelings of nostalgia to many people. Some just see the bib and think, aww how country.  Some want a “play” apron for their little girl or boy. Some remember their daddy or papa wearing bibs.

I’ve had people ask me to turn the bibs of their dad or papa (who has passed on), into keepsake aprons. I’ve designed aprons to match a particular kitchen motif like lighthouses and John Deere tractor or a personality trait like frilly floral and a minion. More often than not folks like their name added and scripture verses that mean a lot to the wearer or bearer. (They make great gifts).

I enjoy making the aprons because I know they are rugged, functional and used. I love the creative process of picking out the fabric and embroidery or applique designs. Each apron is its own master piece.

I know these aprons are what God would have me making because taking apart a sentimental item takes patience and determination. (Double seams are hard to unstitch). I know that I can start with a pair of bibs and finish with a lovely apron because I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

I’m Susan and this is Sweet Country Living. Come back to see me and see what I might be up to next. There is always a project on my cutting table, a garment ready for assembly by the sewing machine and ideas floating around my head just waiting to emerge into fun and functional items.

 

The Great Grain Experience

I made homemade hamburger buns today for the first time. And they were awesome. I’m not just saying that because I made them and I liked them. Actually my grandgirls said they were good and so did my personal hero. Now I will admit they are bias to my cooking and baking and wouldn’t want to hurt my feelings. Proof is in the fact their plates made it to the kitchen empty. Not a crust or morsel left. Score!

Recently I made pancakes, a new recipe that tops the record on being great. I made them for my family several times and they seemed to really like them so I made them for breakfast on Easter after sunrise service at church. The people who ate them really enjoyed them. One person even said they were the best pancakes they’d ever eaten. That’s the best kind of compliment.

Last week my personal hero took homemade sausage and egg biscuits to work to share with his coworkers. One of the guys asked if I made them.  After my personal hero told them I’d ground the grain, ground the pork and seasoned it to make the sausage and gathered the eggs.  He replied by saying they were probably the healthiest sausage biscuit he’d ever eaten.  And another of the guys asked if I give lessons.  Maybe I’ll take up teaching homemaking classes.

Baking is just one of my many loves. Learning as I go and making many mistakes; which my Personal hero enjoys eating. He says he’s the taste tester. I plan to continue experimenting and who knows someday I may just write a cookbook. I know I can do it because I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Thanks for dropping by and come back soon. I’m Susan and this is Sweet Country Living.

 

Keeping Up With What’s Going On

What do schedules, plans, calendars and my smartphone have in common?

They each help make your busy day simplified. Okay maybe not simplified if you use them all and don’t take the time to enter the information from each into one central organized place.

I’ve created a system that works for me and it can work for you too.

Well, I’ll admit I’m not the first one to ever use a …drum roll… three-ring binder, but it works wonderfully.

Let’s start at the front of said binder and I’ll show you how mine works.

There is a pencil bag in my binder. Which consist of standard simple office supplies.

I have tabbed dividers for each month. Sometime in late November (or when the urge hits me) I print off pages for each month of the upcoming year. Making sure to use nice sized blocks so as to be able to write in each when time comes. You may create these pages or simply copy a new calendar. There are websites and programs for creating calendars, those work too. I use word on my computer and add a table that consists of 5 rows with 7 blocks across for each page. At the top of each page I have the month and year.

I place each page behind its appropriate divider with the newest page right on top of the previous year’s page; always keeping last year’s page for reference.

I have a “Notes for each month” at the back of each month’s divider with a list of birthdays and anniversaries.

On each of these pages I’ve recorded each family member’s birthday and year they were born. Also listed are the anniversaries and the year they were married.  Then going through each month I add birthdays and anniversaries to the upcoming year’s calendar pages.  You don’t want to miss a milestone occasion.

Now let’s move on into the binder a wee bit deeper. You will be coming back to these calendar pages regularly (daily).

Next I have dividers for important lists or information. Each person has different lists that will be important to them. My lists change as mine and my family’s needs and interest change. Right now mine are Feed, Rabbits, Poultry, Cleaning, Budget, Menu, Canning, Gardening and a file folder full of blank white sheets and blank lined paper, as well as a few extra sheet protectors.  You may want to add sections for take-out menu’s, ball or band schedules, auto maintenance, camp ground info, there is a whole plethora of things you may want at your fingertips daily or at least weekly or seasonally.  Each section has information that I find helpful for my daily life.  I use each of these sections to keep up with specific things; always making notes on the calendar at the front of the binder so I can know what needs to be done on timely bases. I write in the blocks as well as on the edges and sometimes on the back of the calendar pages.  In future articles I will try to elaborate on each of my files and why they are included in my binder.

Every day I check to see if there is something I need to be doing that day or any day that week or soon. This binder stays at home. I add to it on a regular bases but it doesn’t leave my house. I use my cellphone calendar to make appointments for doctors, dentist etc.  I then add these dates to the binder calendar each day when I have my morning time at the dining room table.

Having this binder helps me to be more organized which in turn helps my life and home run smoothly. Having faith in knowing I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength is what keeps me sane.   If I can help you get your life more organized then I feel like I have accomplished what I’ve set out to do today in this article. If you have comments or questions leave them here and I’ll be glad to reply.

Thanks for dropping by. I’m Susan and this is Sweet Country Living, please come back soon and often; you never know what I may be doing next.

Coming soon to a home near you

What you ask?

A domestic engineer of course.

Not to be confused with a maid.

I’m a domestic engineer. Actually I’ve never referred to myself as a domestic engineer until now, nor has anyone else I know. I’m a homemaker. Housewife if you please.

No I am not married to my house nor am I stuck in a role that so many women have worked hard to shed. I choose to cook, bake, clean, garden, can, sew, embroidery, quilt, raise rabbits & chickens, tend children, prep, shoot, camp, fish and hunt. Some of these things are part of the age old role of housewife; some are more “manly” if you will. I am not limited to these things. I also pay bills, budget, organize, decorate and much much more.

These days’ women work outside the home more often than not. They are busy raising a family, running a home, and are part of the work force for 40 plus hours a week. One common theme is all want to be better and do better for themselves and their families.

I can help!

I can’t honestly say I’ve done it all but I can say I’ve done an awful lot in 34 years of marriage. I have skills. I can show you how to be a better homemaker (My preferred title).

So let’s get started. First in this series of Being a Better Homemaker is Feeding Your Family,

Cutting corners to get a hot meal on the table has become the norm; nothing wrong with that. You want to feed your family but you got in late and there is still homework and baths. But first food! More often than not you want to run by a drive thru but know it’s not exactly a hearty healthy family meal. What to do?

Feeding Your Family

Plan….

Starting today you can plan for tomorrow’s meals. Pick a few family favorites and pen them down. Now look to see which of those are quick meals?  Which do you have ingredients on hand for? Now get a little deeper by asking your family members what they’d like to have on the menu for the week or even the month. Write those responses down. If you grocery shop by the week then all you really need is 6-7 meals planned; less if you enjoy leftovers and you make extras when you are preparing meals.  I often make large pots of spaghetti sauce, soups or stews that freeze well so I have part or maybe the whole meal right in the freezer ready for supper on whatever night it appears on the menu.

Now you have menu ideas all you need are groceries. First pantry and freezer shop to see what you have on hand. Write a shopping list for the items you’ll need to prepare your meals for the entire week.

Use shopping sales apps or sale papers to look for items on your list that are on sale. A penny saved is a penny earned.

Once you know what is on sale then you can go back and construct a menu.  Either draw or use spread sheet  to make a table that is 7 blocks across and up to 4 blocks down. That’s 28 days just under a full month.

Using a pencil (so you can erase) fill in each block with a supper idea.  Keeping in mind certain nights each week there are activities like soccer, choir practice, cheering for a game or church bible study.  On the nights you’ll be later getting home to start dinner plan to make crock pot meals or 30 minute meals.  Save the elaborate meals for special occasions or for weekends when there is more time.  I keep meal plans on my computer so I can print, cut out and paste on a blank menu monthly; always allowing for leftover nights and change of plans. If you’ve already shopped for ingredients then it’s not hard to switch between two nights if something comes up.

Some of the best meals are the simplest ones. Grilled beef patties with onions and mushrooms, grilled pineapple rings, salt and vinegar potatoes, add a small side salad and you have a balanced family friendly meal that can be ready inside half hour.  Before bed each night check the menu see if meat or an already prepared entrée needs to be moved out of the freezer into the frig to thaw. Tomorrow dinner is already well on its way to finished.

I hope this will help you to get started in the right direction to be a better, more efficient homemaker. You don’t have to be a full time stay at home wife and mom to be a homemaker. Remember you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength, so planning meals that are healthy, balanced and liked by your family is very much doable.

Come back soon to visit and see what’s going on at Sweet Country Living and what’s next in the Being a Better Homemaker series.  Leave comments, questions and suggestions on what you’d like to learn to help make your home run smoother.

 

Sunshine and Rain

 

From the words of an old country song, “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy”. It sure does. Spring has sprung; or at least it is leaking really steady.

No one likes the sound of a water leak; except maybe a plumber ($$). Many folks enjoy the sound of a gentle spring rain on the roof.  As a country girl I love to hear the dripping of the rain down the gutters into the rain barrels. Knowing this precious water will nourish my garden plants and livestock.

Notice how this started as a post about Sunshine and in a matter of a few sentences it’s raining. Just like sunshine it takes the rain to harvest produce and flowers.  I personally love to work in the rain; crazy? Maybe!  There seems to be something refreshing and reviving in the rain.  It’s as if God is washing away the pollen, germs and sometimes the heat with the refreshing rain.

Our tears can be a form of rain. Do you ever have a deep soul retching cry? Maybe after the death of a loved one. Crying over a loss is very fitting.  Crying over a lost soul is needed.  Have you ever heard of someone dying and you wondered if their soul was bound for heaven? It’s the saddest of all, I mean the not knowing.  No one can know for sure if someone else has their name in the lamb’s book of life, except Jesus and that person.  The way they live maybe be a very good indicator.

Rain and tears make the harvest. If you aren’t concerned enough to water the plants then they may not survive. If you aren’t concerned enough to cry over lost souls and putting forth the effort to reach them then they may not make it to heaven.

Recently at a going home service (funeral) of an old friend I felt the sunshine on my shoulders along with the tears from my eyes. This was due to the fact I felt sure he was heaven bound. Sure there were tears for the loss of this friend,  not for him but for his widow whom he loved for over 40 years. She knows she’ll see him again in heaven but in the mean time she must finish this earthly life without him.  So on a nice spring day full of sunshine she celebrated the life of her soulmate. Sunshine seemed to come from her smile each time she greeted another visitor. She knows and loves Jesus and knows he loved Jesus too. Celebrating life instead of grieving death; tears turned to pure sunshine at heavens gates.

Life can be very much full of sunshine and rain and it takes both. As long as you know that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength you too can make it through life’s happiest and saddest moments. If you don‘t personally know Jesus. I’ll gladly introduce you to Him, he is my best friend.

I’m Susan and this is Sweet Country Living. Come back again soon and often.