DIY TUESDAY: Chest Freezer Organization

Growing up, my parents had a chest freezer big enough to hide a family of four! We also had a garden that was the width of our backyard in Mississippi. Whenever there was an overflow of produce, it (the produce) would be prepared for future usage and placed into the freezer. As teenagers we could safely bend over and rotate items in the freezer. Newest items were place on the bottom and older items were brought to the top. With a chest freezer this large this could be quite a feat.

Fast forward many years when I have a family of my own and we decided to get a chest freezer. Albeit much smaller than my parents, it was basically to serve the same purpose. We did have an upright freezer in the garage and it stopped working. So now we have the smaller chest freezer that fits inside the dining room. In the upright freezer, each shelf was designated for something. The chest freezer is like a big ‘toy’ box for food storage. We would open the top and place food in and close the top and all is well. At least that’s what we told ourselves. It was a disaster trying to find anything and to remember when we put it in there. We quickly discover we needed to find away to organize the freezer for sanity and to stop wasting food and time. We settled on two things: vacuum sealing and bins for storage.

Vacuum sealing was easy to adept. Organizing took some time. The bins are not super, strictly organized because they change with the seasons and with whatever celebrations are going on with our family. The freezer is also at risk of disorganization if one of us finds a super deal or sale and go over board in buying something. Once we finally found the bins that would work, it became easier to store, plan and shop because we new exactly what we had at any given time and how old the items were because we date most things.Here is a sneak peek of my freezer while looking for some trout to prepare for dinner …

Freezer Organization

Here you can see we vacuum sealed and sliced a few bricks of luncheon loaf. Now this item was not so much of a sale as it was one of those products that was no longer sold in our stores here in Virginia. We brought these from Mississippi and enough to last until we could get back there to replenish. In this case you can see they are laying on the top until they freeze solid and then a couple of them will be placed in the refrigerator freezer and the rest will be placed in the same bin. There are actually four bins in the freezer. One bottom bin has chicken and pork; the other has beef and fish. There is a shelf on the side under the basket which contains frozen fruits and treats. The basket has quick items. The bins actually came from The Container Store and are actually Recycling bins. So not super organized but it does make things a lot easier for us!🙃 The trout is in the bottom bin next to the basket side.

There is no right or wrong way. It is whatever will systematically work for your family. My goals were to be able to find and identify things as well as reduce waste and optimize storage.

Pandemic Life

Like many of you, I am finding an new normal in the midst of chaos and uncertain times. Not because it is something I wanted to do but it is a survival mode. It is -learning to be resilient in the face of the unknown. In January I began to notice the word Coronovirus. It was just a blurp because I am horrible with keeping up with current events. Therefore; I was not knowledgeable about what was really going on around the world. As the virus spread across the world, I began to hear ‘virus’ in almost every conversation. One morning while having breakfast at a local restaurant, there was a rather large group having a discussion at the next table. One lady adamantly informed that this was just a virus and that there is nothing you can do but let it run its course. She went on to state that this is just another version of the flu. I would later that same week, overhear a nurse practitioner state that everyone should just calm down and let this thing pass. It was not until a dear friend, who has family in Milan, Italy would really bring this into focus for me. Only then could I began to grasp the sheer breathe of what we were really facing. I had heard the TedTalk given by Bill Gates and I remembered the warnings brought forth under the Obama Administration about ‘super virus’ and here we were. What amazed me even more so was that we as a country was not nearly prepared as we should have been. We had not heeded the warning and we were not prepared.

On Sunday March 1, I made a decision to change the course of my life. I was actually living what I’d like to call ‘upside down’. My goals and purpose received very little of my time and attention. My job, procrastination and  bad health were deciding where I would go and what I would do and I was going in the opposite direction of where I was supposed to be going. Whenever I start a new job or position, I take inventory and set goals with fixed deadlines. Though they are fixed, they are also fluid enough to allow the Holy Spirit and wisdom to flow through. I set a goal for myself for month 6, year 1 and year 3. By the time I hit year 2, I knew I was not going to be where I wanted and needed to be by year 3. As a matter of fact, I was so far off track, I would have to work very hard over the next year to get myself turned around and headed back in the right direction. For two years, I have allowed someone else or something else to direct my footsteps. I had left the One who truly sets my purpose, lights the path and orders my footstep. There are so many Scriptures that I could insert here but I will spare you this time. Monday, March 2, I decided to resign from my position as Communications Liaison at my job. Beginning April 1, I would begin substitute teaching and working on my own business and paying some real attention to my health and writing adventures. Substitute teaching would not bring in a lot of money but I truly believed that this is the path I am supposed to be on. The admission of my resignation would have to wait another week and a day, as my manager was out of town on vacation. During this time, COVID19 would move closer to home and devastating results were forming.

As time would progress, things would grow dire. My last day was set for March 20th and I would grow excited and peaceful with each passing day until about March 12. Events around the nation were being cancelled or postponed. Anything with a group over 100 (initially) was cancelled. We were headed to the Highland County Maple Festival when we received notice that the festival was cancelled in the best interest of the safety and health of everyone. We still went to Highland County and to the Douthat State Park but it was a ghost town. Returning, we would soon find out that all schools in Virginia would close for a few weeks or month. A few weeks later, the governor would declare schools closed for the remainder of the year. And just like a puff of smoke, substitute teaching was off the radar. I, however, still had peace and I still had calm. For I truly felt and I still do feel that God is in the midst of this craziness and he has called me out to follow Him on this path. I do not know all he answers but I know, I must be obedient and faithful no matter what it looks like. I will trust Him. In the meantime, I have work to do.

It has always worked out that when I am transitioning I am able to run down to Mississippi and visit my parents for longer than a few days. This was previously a rare treat because when you work you are only given a small allowance of days off per year and in the private sector, they are usually not generous with the days. Now that time did not appear to be an object, I gathered my niece and we drove down to Mississippi and spent time with my parents. Dad has dementia now and Mom has some health issues that are keeping her from moving about as she desires. As my visit progressed, I realize that I am in another new reality -a sandwich generation, of sorts -helping with young adult children and elderly parents. We spent two weeks with my parents before heading back to Virginia. I returned to hopefully wait out COVID 19 or until we flatten the curve and try to return to some functioning measure. I will probably return to Mississippi around May 1 and stay for the entire month. There is much to be done to help aging parents get use to their new reality as well (this is a post topic all on its own that i will share soon). But for now, this is Pandemic Life. I will follow up Monday of next week to let you know what projects that procrastination has accumulated and the strides I am making for changes that will sustain my goals. I will answer the one question that I have been asked 500 times since resigning my job as well as what my new routine looks like. In the meantime, what does your Pandemic Life look like? Did you have to make changes? I would love to hear from you.

Until our next blog time, be well and stay safe. I need you!

It’s Morning!

Most mornings I normally begin to stir around 3:30am. The alarm is set to chime with the sound of birds at 5am. I use my phone for an alarm as I have no beside alarm. My retired military husband uses a digital alarm that is on his bedside table. It squawks like an injured crow in the mornings and he hits snooze 3-4 times. For some reason, the sound of his alarm will wake me as if someone snatched the covers off the bed and dashed artic cold waters on me. It doesn’t bother him and he falls right back to sleep. He can also jump up, hit the bathroom and showers and shave then dress himself fully within 25 minutes. He then goes downstairs and do some light exercise while preparing his coffee. He lets the dogs out and prepares his lunch. Comes back upstairs and kisses me goodbye. Oh! Did I mention I am still on the side of the bed staring at the wall? Lol!

How important are morning routines to our daily lives? I think they are very important …at least they are for me. If I get up out of bed at 3:30-4:00am, I am usually either well rested or my mind is on high alert with thoughts and ideas and wonders. I dress cozy and go downstairs and make a cup of tea and settle down at my desk for some prayer, Bible study and meditation. I can easily spend two hours right there and will have a hard time tearing myself away to finish my morning. At head upstairs when I hear my husband walking around after being awaken by his squawk box. To keep myself focused and on task, I listen to audiobooks and/or podcasts. But, if I turn on the TV, I will NEVER leave the house on time. If I listen to the news, I have the propensity to be flustered and tense. If I turn on the radio and listen to my grooves, I will leave later than I want and often speed to work and guaranteed to leave some vital to my day. I know, I’m a little weird but what can I say.

I am a thinker and my mind is always flitting. I must find a creative outlet that will inspire but also allow me to focus on the days tasks or I will fall prey to every whim that infuses my mind. Big brainers and thinkers must be careful to guard their minds more than the average. I avoid situations, movies, music etc … that produce an excessive amount of profanity and violence and action. It will seep into my thoughts and I don’t have time that. My family and I went to see a movie where the main character was in a high drama, action-filled scene and ended up under the water trying to defend his life. I remember being tired and out of breath when the scene was over. Later that night, I woke up trying to breathe because I was reliving that scene. When it was time to get up the next morning, I could not get myself together! Lol! I sat on the side of the bed too long. Yes I made it to work on time but I was out of sorts mentally and physically; and all during the day thoughts of that movie came to mind. I wondered, what did the producers mean to convey? What message was I supposed to glean? My mind just could not absorb this information properly. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to watch movies. But they must be inspiring on some level and it total helps if the scenery breath-taking.

So, my mornings are actually affected by my evenings as well. And while my mild mannered easy hubby seems to be an easy going guy, I have found that if I am too chatty in the morning, it throws him off. He also arrives to work super early and sits in his car and nap or listen to his music. This is how he unwinds after driving in morning rush hour traffic. (Isn’t it something to need to unwind after only being awake for 2.5 hours?). Morning can often set the tone for the rest of the day. I see some people riding to work with the music blaring and they are singing loud and proud. And I love to watch it! But if that was me, I’d drive straight past work and keep going until I found an adventure that matches my music via personal concert or on to the next thing that I am sure does not include a desk, fluorescent lighting, desk phone or no windows. Find your own stride and be YOU!

Favorite Morning
Favorite Morning!

Tea for Two

I recently met a friend at a small tea shop to share a pot of tea and just relax while chatting. The shop began to get a little crowded when we noticed a young man setting up a table with some tea samples. Turns out that this young man was not just a sampler but a self taught tea master. He was sampling some of his own tea blends and had developed quite a group of followers. There was even an insert pagelet in the newspaper about him and his teas that he sells online and in local shops. Today was our lucky day.

My friend sampled a tea that she really liked and wanted to have but our tea master only bought a few jars of that type and they sold within minutes. When she inquires of him why he brought so little of his most popular tea, he could only shrug and smile.

Another woman in the tea shop, overheard my friend’s delimma and came over to her and gave my friend one of her jars of the tea. My friend was shocked because the lady didn’t want payment for the jar. She just gave her a jar of tea and hug and she left the tea shop and went on her way. We were stunned by her generosity. I’m am sure that acts of kindness are experienced everyday but in the humdrum of life … Social media and information overload, we are mostly fed bad news. Some days the news stations are bombarded with the worst case scenario ever. But the good, the kind, the loving, the gentle, the giving are all around us everyday and if you don’t see it where you are, then you must take the time to be the gift. Do the kindness and be the thankful one. It won’t go unnoticed, I promise.

Don’t know where to start? Try inviting a friend or coworker or neighbor to share over a cup of tea. You will be surprised what you learn and gain.

First Day of 2020

Happy New Year! Each year millions of us try to set goals for the year. It’s there perfect time to change, do something different or conquer that goal. You get a full 12 months to try to do so. One of my goals was to move more or to adopt a lifestyle that is active as my job is sedentary for about 10 hours of the day. So to kick the year off, I decided to attend a First Day Hike in one of our state parks. A dear friend asked if she could join me. Not only did she go with me, SHE DROVE! Not only did I not the park closest to us, I would choose one across the Chesapeake Bay called Kiptopeke! SHE DROVE! Another goal of mine was to connect with my friends more often. So one the first day of the year, I take a hike and I connect with a friend! Now I have 11 more months to make this a habit and a lifestyle.

Me and my friend Ms Kathy!

A view from the trail

Trail view

Birding station

Ranger Stan led a group of approx 75 of us for First Hike Day 2020

My Steady Love!

I’m my quest to conquer every state park in the state of Virginia, my hubby came along beside me to help me to conquer my goal. He became my camping buddy and my driver without me asking. This is my Steady love …
I think we have conquered about six state parks and the memories are so precious to me. Most of them are super funny and a handful are frustrating. Surprisingly, we learned a thing or two about leadership and teamwork. In camping, each has his or her role and responsibilities. We did not realize this at first and we made some major mistakes. Nothing we could not survive but we did learn quickly and lessons were learned on each trip. We also had to learned when there were things for both of us to handle …such as putting up the tent ‘together’. This activity took a special kind of communication because I loose interest in putting things together really quickly. All the information was in his head. When he would say ‘put this in there sweetie, hold this sweetie, no, no babe, don’t put that there’ my response would always be ‘why’. And I would stand there and debate every move with him … (If he could find me). He was so patient with me though. I actually realized I was not so easy to lead or to follow. Then I asked myself would I be the same way with my work boss or girls group or work team. The answer was no. I had to figure out how to conquer my goal and how to let him lead me there. I can now joyously report that I can put the tent together by myself if I had to. WE can get our campsite set up in under an hour!
I apologized to him for being so difficult and thanked him for his patience and not driving off and leaving me standing in the woods. His reply was, I knew you would come around and make these trips fun, enjoyable and full of memories. You always do that.❤️ He is my Steady love …
On our anniversary (December 22) he reserved a cabin in Chippokes State Park and presented me with a bracelet that had a charm from every state park we visited so far. On the back of each charm is a memory of that stay. Such a thoughtful gift.
Front of the charms

Back of the charms that hold the memory

For years I’ve called my hubby ‘My steady Love’ because he is always right where I need him. I’m a gypsy girl and I need that steady grounded person who allows me to be a gypsy but under his protection and guidance. Last year India Arie made an album with a song entitled Steady Love and yep, I sang it to my man … Off key and all!😂
The words to her song are below! She is actually one of my favorite artists. Love her messages.
The way that he looks at me when he holds my hand
He wants everyone to know I’m his woman and he is my man
We can talk about anything, he’s got nothing to hide
He’s not afraid of his feelings, he’s not a slave to his pride
I have never met a man that I wanted to be his wife
And then he came along, it’s so natural to make a life
‘Cause he’s a perfect compliment, ’cause I’m a boss in my world
But when we’re together, he just makes me feel like his girl
He puts every other man I’ve ever known to shame (known to shame)
I just wanna be with him, talk to him, sleep near him, walk with him
Be with him (every day)
I wanna be lovers and friends and mother his children
Make breakfast on Sunday and fight and then make up again
‘Cause if life’s gonna be crazy anyway
I wanna do it with him
Ooh, steady love (hey)
Ooh, oh, steady love
He’s a good father, he’s a good cook
He loves his basketball and he loves a good book
I’ll tell you how I know he’s the perfect one for me
‘Cause he’s a warrior in the streets, but he’s a king in the sheets
He’s givin’ me love, so steady
He touches my heart, now I’m ready
He touches my soul and my spirit
He’s givin’ me love, so steady (love me so steady)

The Gypsy Rides Again

There is nothing better setting out on an adventure that will take you away from the hustle and bustle of city movement and into the calm of the woods and countryside.  You pull out your checklist, you plan, and make sure you will have everything you need to have a successful and fun adventure with all the bells and whistles.

Keep reading as I tell you a story about a man and a woman who did just that.

Once upon a time, there was a woman who decided that since her children were fully mature and considered grown, she would begin to finally live the type of life she had always dreamed. Between military life and exceptional family members, she had to become the person her family needed but that underlying wild and free spirit never died.

Two week prior to the camping trip, they began to check the weather every day. When it was finally 7 days out they could see rain in the forecast. But as the week drew on, they could see that it was not predicted to rain in the area where the campground was located. The rainfall was predicted to be heavy at home but only a little wind at the campsite.

On the day of the trip, they could hardly contain their excitement as they packed the truck the Thursday before and did a last minute Wal-Mart run at 5:00 am. They jetted off to work a half day and then off they were on the two hour drive to the destination –Pocahontas State Park, Virginia!

Just as it was forecasted, they soon ran out of the rain and into crisp blue skies. They would have just enough time to get the tent set up before darkness would fall. Each time they went camping they could define a little more of who would take care of what duties and responsibilities and what needed to be tag teamed. Setting up the tent was a tag team effort as they had a fairly large tent.

Arriving at the park, dusk was settling fast as the days were growing shorter. They stopped for a late lunch so they would not have to cook as soon as they got things set up. The tent was set up in record time now that she could identify the difference in the poles and the proper direction for the fly tarp that goes over the top of the tent. But her favorite part of the setup is glamping out the inside of the tent. His favorite part was building the first huge fire and cooking over it. It is at precisely this point, this early into the adventure that things begin to get interesting. He suddenly remembers that he did not pack the air mattress or the cots and she remembers that the nice heavy quilt is on the back of the couch! Fully dark and with a fire blazing, another trip to Wal-Mart was imminent. They would have to get an air mattress but they had fleece snuggies that would keep them warm for the weekend.

Back from an interesting ride to find the Wal-Mart via Google maps and a new blazing fire and a hot toddy going, they settled in for some soft music and down time.  The hour was almost 10 pm, and cloud cover was beginning to cover the stars and occasionally the moon. She decided to go to bed and read a magazine for little while before drifting off to sleep. Sometime later she awakens to her husband gingerly crawling into bed beside her. They lay chatting for a while and planning the next day’s excursions when they noticed that the wind picked up considerably outside and it felt like the temperatures were dropping. Sound of the wind gently swaying the tent soon put them both to sleep. But around 1 am, she woke up freezing! Apparently there was a cold front moving through with some severe winds. He got up and checked the weather again on his phone. In that way that wifey way that wives can read their husband, she knew something was amiss. Turning to her, he asked if she happened to bring any other clothes than her Virginia Beach clothes. She sat up fully alert now and asked said yeah why? Frowning he said, ‘we have a Nor’easter storm blowing through and while there is no rain in the forecast, the winds are expected to be severe and temperatures will get down to 28 degrees.

Doing what the retired military wife does best, … innovate. Leggings under flannel pjs and a cowl neck sweater and fuzzy hat were donned. The picnic blanket made from denim was placed on the bed and the electric heater was set at the foot of the bed. It was cold but they were cozy … until -the wind shifted and the cold northerly winds now blew under the fly tarp and straight into tent. It felt like they were on the ground outside.  The husband grew very concerned for his wife and suggested that he take her to a hotel. She refused. After all wasn’t this an adventure? They barely slept but as the day dawned, the winds subsided. He rose to make coffee on the small stove inside the tent and that little stove warmed them considerably. But they would have to come up with a plan if they were going to stay another night as the winds were predicted to continue to blow in gusts throughout the weekend. The final decision was to find a surplus store and buy a huge tarp and some clamps to place over the fly tarp but long enough to reach down the tent so that the wind would not get under it. The plan worked beautifully but the tent looked like they were homeless! When they rode around the campground, they found that only they and the Boy Scouts were foolishly camping in a tent. At least they had electric and water hookups. Everyone else was in some type of an RV. The good thing about that was that the bathhouses were deserted but wonderfully warm and a long supply of hot water. They did enjoy a day of hiking and sight seeing around the park. That evening due to the high winds, no fire was lit but she still had a surprise for her husband. She had purchased a refurbished crock pot while at the surplus store and an electric blanket. She put on a pot of white chicken chili before they went hiking and tent smelled wonderful when they return.

But thy knew they would have to get prepared for night time when the temps were expected to drop into the 30’s and wind gusts would be quite strong. She remade the bed and added the blanket she picked up. It was a blah gray but it would serve its purpose. She also re-positioned the floor mats and rug. He made sure the tent was secure and set up the small propane heater and small propane tanks that he bought a few months earlier and they never used it but they always had it because it was packed with all the other camping equipment.  She climbed into bed to read of course and he came to lie down after he finished a few other chores. He snuggled down under the covers and remarked how warm the bed was. He would wake up later that night in a full sweat and started undressing. They turned off the small propane heater aptly named ‘My Buddy’ and she suggested they turn to electric blanket down to low. He had no idea it was an electric blanket. The following morning, they slept in and made a breakfast of shrimp and grits (the perfect camping food right?). They described this trip as awesome and exhilarating and courageous. They learned more about each other and themselves. They also found that they really would like to have an RV -travel trailer. They already know which one but that will be in a follow up post.

After packing everything back into their bins, they would headed back to Virginia Beach where the skies were darker as they arrived and soon they were in full fledged rain and winds. They scrambled inside and made a fire in the fireplace and had pizza while they talked and laughed and reminisced over the memories that were made and the priceless experience that was had. They decided that the only thing they would change about the weekend was … nothing. A few lessons were learned but they had the best time ever!

Volunteer to help someone

Recently I completed CASA training. A CASA volunteer is a Court Appointed Special Advocate who is a voice for children who are going through a tough time in their lives due to neglect or abuse. I love mentoring, coaching, writing and bringing out the best in others. This was a great fit for me. Can you spare approximately 1.5 hours to help a child? I also mentor with The Up Center. Look up those two organizations and let me know what you think.

Merry & Bright

During Thanksgiving we usually travel to Mississippi as this is where both my husband and I were born and raised. We journey down for a 16 hour ride by car. Nope, we don’t fly. The real adventure is being locked in a car with family for hours and arrive in one piece and still like each other when we get there. This year, some of us (my family because we arrived last) had to stay In a hotel because there was no room at the inn (sorry couldn’t help myself). We stayed at the newest hotel in Cleveland and it’s in a great location. The Cotton House Hotel which is aptly located on Cotton Row in Cleveland, and a welcomed treat after a long day with family, food, fun and laughter.

What was interesting to my hubby and I was that we did not have to plan logistics for children, teenagers and young adults. We were exploring new grounds and quickly getting fond of it. Sharing the holidays with family and grown children is actually very nice. Especially if you know how to stay in your lane and realize that no matter how crazy the conversation is with that teenager or radical uncle or religious grandma gets, you will always have the power, option and choice as to how you respond. Life and time are often shorter than we would like so why not maximize every moment great and small. So this Christmas season, take that photo with your niece, play a game of uno with the children, tell the Christmas story, sing Christmas songs, give generously to the unfortunate, sit with someone elderly and let them fill you with wisdom and love, walk and look at those lights. And always remember that no matter what anyone says about the holiday season, Jesus is the real reason we really celebrate Christmas. So while we were at the hotel, we took the picture (kinda weird not having to herd teens and young adults for a photo for the Christmas postcard). We ate at the hotel and admired all the local products that were produced in the state. We walked and took in the sights of the beautiful lights on the green directly across the street from the hotel. We took time to talk to locals and admire the transformed beauty of the hotel due to the Christmas season. Nothing and no one who has an encounter with Jesus remains untouched or transformed and that includes Christmas decorations -warm, merry and bright. Go ahead and smile. I know you want to. Merry Christmas All!