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Monday, December 5, 2016


Hello dear friends!  Blogger ate my comments.  So I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate them.  Isabella, the banner comes from Victorian Trading and can be found here.  Pretty good deal for a galvanized sign, I think!  BTW, we had beautiful snow last night! Beautiful big fluffy flakes.  Reminds me of a Currier and Ives illustration.  Unfortunately, most has melted by this morning, but at least we now know that the skies are capable of producing snow.  Maybe I won't have to just dream of a white Christmas.


Sunday, December 4, 2016


There's nothing thrifty about December here, that's for sure.  With property taxes, car license, driver's license, and even the dog is taxed, money is out the door as soon as it arrives.  And then there's all the parties and presents.  One fun way to exchange gifts is to have a good old-fashioned Yankee swap.  Here's how it works:
Each guests brings a inexpensive wrapped gift based on a chosen theme.  I think a fun girls night out theme would be Christmas brooches.  Number  pieces of paper for the total number of  guests and put them in a bowl or hat.  Pass the bowl or hat around and each person draws one number.  The person that draws #1 gets to choose and open any gift.  Person #2  chooses and opens a gift and then decides if they want to keep it or exchange it for the gift #1 has opened. Proceed on opening and trading until you come to the last person to open a present.  That person has the choice of all the opened gifts.  I think this would work well for a large family, provided they could all agree on a theme.  Board games, specialty foods, gift certificates to fast food places, and  dollar store gag gifts, are some of the themes I have come up with.  Books for a book club might be fun.

A thrifty way to decorate your porch to greet your guests is to put those inexpensive battery operated candles in various mason and glass jars.  Looks so pretty, especially with the snow falling.

This is the season that we have goodie days at work and clubs.  I like to bring something savory to counteract all the sweets.

Pineapple Smokies

1 C. brown sugar
1 C. pineapple juice
3 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. mustard
1/3 C. white vinegar
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 lbs. miniature smoked sausages

Combine the brown sugar, mustard and flour.  Gradually stir in the liquids.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and stir until sauce begins to thicken.  Add sausages and heat through.  These are good to keep hot in a crock pot and can be made ahead of time.


Saturday, December 3, 2016


The second week of Advent focuses on hope.  Did you know that the Bible has two meanings for the word "hope"?  One, tiqvah, means to anticipate, such as "I hope that we have a White Christmas".  The second, elpis, depicts a confident expectation  based upon certainty. We have blessed assurance that God is faithful to His promises.   We have elpis.

Peace and Hope

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Romans 5:1-11

O Holy Night!  The night of our dear Savior's birth.  Through Him we shall have eternal life.  This Christmastide I  wish you all hope, peace and love born from faith that our Messiah lives and we wait joyfully  for His return.


PS:  People have asked me why I always sign off with "hugs".  Somewhere, a long, long time ago, I read what I thought was a Bible verse to greet your friends and enemies with an embrace.  After a long search, I could find no such verse. But it's a good policy, I think.  And besides, who doesn't need a hug? 

Friday, December 2, 2016


Christmas cookies and happy hearts, this is how the holiday starts!

Every year I announce that I am not going to bake so many cookies this Christmas.  With a doctor's appointment looming at the beginning of the new year,  I'm always mentally tabulating calories in my head throughout the month of December.  But then my husband says, "Well just the favorites" and then I spot something irresistible on a website or blog and the next thing you know, I'm buying more tins to store all those cookies.  This year I drew the line at two pounds of butter, when it's gone,that is it for  baking.  Do you know that there are a lot of cookies that don't require butter? Ha! Oh well!  There's always next year!

One cookie that is always on our menu is Eggnog Logs.  I've been baking them for over thirty years, they've become a tradition.. 

Eggnog Logs

3 C. flour
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 C, butter
3/4 C. sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. rum extract
rum frosting  (recipe follows)

Combine flour and nutmeg. Set aside.
Beat together butter and sugar. Beat in egg and flavorings.  Add flour mixture and combine well.
Shape dough into 3 -inch logs 1/2-inch wide.  Place on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool.

Rum Frosting
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. rum extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla
approximately 2C. confectioners' sugar
2 - 3 tbsp. milk

Beat together to make a thick frosting
Spread frosting over top of cookies. Mark frosting with tines of fork to resemble bark.  Sprinkle with additional nutmeg to resemble birch bark. (I use green sprinkles, thus ruining the effect, but I'm not that crazy about nutmeg)

See those pretty little pink cookies on the bottom left hand side?  They are a new-to-me recipe for this year and can be found here. Peppermint Meltaways are destined to be a tradition! 

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Here is a beautiful quote that I want to share with you.  Pretty  much sums it all up doesn't it?     

“This Christmas mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love, and then speak it again."
~Howard W. Hunter~

Merry December 2nd!


Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Deck the halls with boughs of holly!  If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably know that I love to decorate. And Christmas is one of my favorite holidays,  but I also can pinch a penny until it squeals,  so I thought I'd show you a few ways that I deck our halls for pennies.

Simple greens cut from trees and bushes in the yard, placed in plain white ironstone cups, mugs and pitchers are placed throughout our home.

I wanted something celebratory   for our guest's room so I found a twig in the yard, placed it in a crock and hung cheap snowflake ornaments  from the dollar store on it. It has an almost Shaker simplicity that matches the decor of the room.

Rose hips and other berries are hung from knobs.  Caution: some berries are poisonous so keep out of the reach of babies and naughty  inquisitive pets.
If you can avail yourself to a lot of them, they make a pretty, albeit  prickly natural wreath.

 Tie birch bark around clear glass jars with jute or raffia for a simple wintry votive. 
And old family ornaments that are too delicate to hang on the tree spend their retirement in old crock bowls. Here's a blog that I find inspiring.  Such beautiful vignettes. 

Lois Lenski wrote this about observing the customs and traditions of Christmas,  "One of the best ways to fight evil is to spread beauty.".

  Happy first day of December!  Hope to see you tomorrow!

Sunday, November 27, 2016


Hello dear friends!  Blessed first day of Advent!  I hope that you are finding this day a peaceful one.  I love, love, love this time of year.  Don't you?  There really is a feeling of goodwill.  On the way home from our Thanksgiving feast, we spotted quite a few homes already decorated with lights for Christmas.  It gives a body such a warm cozy feeling to be all snuggled up in the car, driving along the country byways and spying those merry spots of celebration. Bless those that bear the cold and wind to hang lights! 
I always hang a bell according to the legend from It's a Wonderful Life ~ "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings."   And I set out my Nativity set on the first day of advent. 
My grandfather built the stable in the 1920s.  And I display these ornaments that were my Grandmother Wright's.

They are rather worst for wear, but I love them for they are the only tangible things I own of hers. I never knew her, as she died in childbirth long before I was born.  Some  people may say it is too soon to start decorating for Christmas, but all my guests come at the beginning of December, so I like to have things ready for them to enjoy.  So this week I'm baking and making and wrapping and cleaning, as I have guest expected next weekend.   I love all the busyness of the holidays.  I know some don't, but for me I'm happy to have too much to do, rather than be sitting  home all alone.  And I've been there so I know what I speak of.  There were a few years that due to work and weather I had no one to share Christmas with, and it was the worst sort of loneliness.  So if you find yourself in this situation this year, please know I'm here for you.  Just  drop a note in the comment and I'll respond ASAP. Scout's honor!


I collect children's Christmas books and one of my favorites is Mother Makes Christmas by Cornelia  Meigs.   It's a sweet little story set in Vermont during the turn of the last century about a mother  "making" Christmas for her family when was short on funds.  Now that is a plot that I can relate to! Ha!   I wrote about one such Christmas here if you are interested.

There's so much that can be done on a shoestring to make things joyful.  Even if all you have to eat is soup or franks and beans you can still make them festive by bringing in some greens cut from the yard and serving the soup by candlelight.  Candles can be purchased so cheaply from dollar and thrift stores. Play some Christmas music softly in the background either from YouTube or the radio, both are free.  Gather around and read the Gospel of St. Luke each evening of Advent, there's nothing like it to draw a family together.  Attend church services and go to their caroling events. Do some window shopping. The stores are decorated so prettily this time of year.

Invite the neighbors over for potluck. Volunteer. Instead of expensive gifts, give a tin of cookies or fudge, or a loaf of homemade bread.  Or some homemade jam.  Or just a promise to do something nice for someone without grumbling. :)

There's plenty of inexpensive toys and gifts for children.  Children don't know the value of things!
Here's a list of things that children enjoy that don't cost an arm and a leg:

Art supplies, such as watercolors, crayons,  clay, construction paper, glue sticks, etc.
Craft kits.  I still remember the little knitting bobbin I received when I was 5.  It instilled in me a life-long love of knitting.
A plain old ball.  Or a yo-yo, hacky sack, hula hoop,  etc.
As a little girl, I loved barrettes and ribbons and headbands.  All which can be purchased at dollar stores.
Homemade doll clothes.
Board games.
My sons all loved inexpensive compasses and cheap little pocket knives when they were around ten.
 Remember those bags of plastic army men?  Well know they have farm animals and  dinosaurs.
Plain old-fashioned blocks. (Not the expensive Legos)
I know little boys love the Matchbox type cars.  Anything that fits in their pockets.
Those little packages of card games like Old Maid and Go Fish and the time to play them.

You get the idea.  Older children are more difficult.  Hopefully, you've raised them properly and they aren't spoiled. Ha!  My parents always gave me a dollar amount I could spend for Christmas.  Back in the late 60s it was $30.  Which was pretty generous back then.  I remember one year I got a pair of skates, one of those cheap camera sets, and a transistor radio.  I was over-the-moon happy.  Unfortunately the skates were the most uncomfortable ones I ever owned and I went back to wearing my sister's old hand-me-downs.  But they were so pretty I held onto them for many years.


I am sure that many of you who love Tasha Tudor are familiar with this quote by Fra Giovanni:

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instance. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy! 


I always say that if you take joy in the little things in life, you will always be at peace.  In light of the most joyous of seasons, I  made a list of some of my  joyful things for this week:

1. I can renew my driver's license by mail!
2. My husband just came into the house gave me a kiss and said "I love our life"
3. Polka dancing with my grandchildren.
4. Baking Christmas cookies with my sandbakkel tins.  They are so stinkin' cute!
5. Talking on the phone for two hours with my kindred spirit.

Can you name five joyful things for the week?


Another joyful thing for this week, was a baking experiment that turned out.  My son, Scott, loves gingerbread Twix bars, but I don't think they make them anymore, at least I haven't had any luck in finding them.  So I decided to make my own, combining a couple different recipes.  They turned out great!
Gingerbread Twix Bars

Gingerbread base:

1 pkg. gingerbread cookie mix (I used Betty Crocker's)
1/2 C. butter
1 tbsp. water
1 egg

Combine and spread in a greased 13 X 9 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool.

Toffee topping:

3/4 C. butter
6 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. corn or cane syrup
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Combine butter, sugar, syrup and  sweetened condensed milk in a heavy saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil for 5 minutes or until mixture starts to turn a golden brown color.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Quickly pour over the gingerbread, spreading evenly.  Cool for 1 hour or until toffee begins to harden.

Chocolate glaze:

Melt 1 package of milk chocolate chips in a double boiler and spread over the toffee.  Allow chocolate to harden and cut into rectangular "twixes".


I wanted some wreaths for my doors, but I don't like the looks of evergreen ones (the remind me of cemeteries) and the ones offered in stores are too overdone for my taste and too expensive to boot, so these are my solutions:

A simple garland that I wrapped loosely into a circle and tied with ribbon from the dollar store and hung a Christmas ornament from.  And:

An old pair of mittens with some greenery tucked into them.  You could use fresh if you have it, I just used a floral pick that I bought at the thrift store for 59 cents.  It lasts the entire season that way.


By the way, Binks and Hissy were quite "put out" that I didn't write about them last week, so here's a picture of
Binks the instigator, and
lady-like little Hissy. Wasn't I fortunate to befriend three of the cutest little cats ever?


My daughter-in-law, Erin, sent us home with enough turkey, stuffing and potatoes to last several days.

She also gave us 2 dozen eggs. They raise chickens.

On the way home we stopped and stretched our legs  at Shopko which was having their early Black Friday sale.  I picked up a video game that Jamie wanted for Christmas on sale, plus some other deals.

I took advantage of  Pinetree Garden Seeds Black Friday sale to purchase this coming years garden seeds.  The sale is still going on until Midnight of the 27th if you'd like to buy some seeds.  You get 15% off your order and the sale code is BLACK16.

I also used the code SNOW to get free shipping with no minimum order at Victorian Trading Co.
Which was good as the item I wanted was only a few dollars and cost as much to ship.

I framed a Christmas sampler with a thrifted frame.

Knitted yet another pair of socks.  I discovered that Panton's Classic Wool in Natural Marl makes the nicest ragg wool socks, when combined with a  tweed green stripe, they look exactly like those expensive wool socks in the Woolrich catalog.

I needed to be in Pigeon for a medical procedure, so while there I stopped in at Ben Franklins which was having a sale and got 20% off a Christmas gift for the grands.

I've been baking a lot this week, so when I finish I always leave the oven door ajar to help heat the house.  This combined with our wood heat has really helped to keep us cozy.  I don't think the furnace has kicked too often  this week.

Reused some tissue paper that came in a gift bag to wrap some Christmas presents.

Decorated the house for Christmas with things I already owned and pinecones, twigs, evergreen cuttings and pieces of birchbark that blew off the neighbor's tree.

Our phone was acting up, so Magic Jack did some diagnostics over the computer and solved the problem ( for free).  All it needed was a new USB plug which cost less than $2.  I'm very happy with Magic Jack's service.

Well, that's about it for this week at the old Zempel boarding house.  I'm not going to be gone for long though!  I decided it would be fun to have a Christmas countdown starting December 1st.  A post a day until Christmas.  Don't worry!  They won't be as long-winded as my usual posts. Ha!  Just short little posts to share a thought, idea, recipe, quote or link. Maybe a few glimpses of the old home place decorated for the season.  Let me know what you think about the idea.  Happy trails until we meet again!