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Monday, February 23, 2015

Sweet Briar Cottage Journal: Month of Lean Edition


Hello dear friends!  I hope you are keeping warm.  This coming month is our month of lean.  Car insurance, doctor's bill, lab fees, car repairs, etc,, after we pay all our bills we'll be fortunate if we are not in the red.   But that is the life of a retiree.  I do earmark my savings for such events, but the strange thing about me, is that when I put money into our savings account, I'm very reluctant to take it back out.  That's how we were able to retire at age fifty-five.  I was thrifty before thrifty was cool!  So we'll be eating from the pantry and not going anywhere this month, which is fine with me because it is too darn cold!   But the snow is very beautiful, and if we didn't love snow we wouldn't be living in Northern Michigan.  So here's the second edition of Sweet Briar Cottage Journal, hope you enjoy!

CHEAP EATS OF THE WEEK

Kidney Bean Joes are a recipe I invented when we became vegans.  We are no longer vegans because we became bored with it, but we do eat 85% of our meals meatless and when we do use meat, it is sparingly, (less than a couple of pounds for the three of us a month) ditto for cheese.  BTW, did you know if you choose the sharper varieties of cheese you can use less because it gives you more flavor than the milder cheeses?   So given the choice go for the sharp or extra sharp Cheddar and cut back on the amount. 

Kidney Bean Joes

1 (1lb.) can kidney beans, undrained
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp. brown sugar
3/4 C. catsup
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the onions in a small amount of oil.  Add the catsup, vinegar, brown sugar and chili powder.  Stir in the undrained beans.  Add 1/4 C. water if you don't have enough "juice" from the beans.  Simmer until hot and sauce is thickened.  Season to taste.

You may have to adjust the vinegar to your taste.  Some catsups are very vinegary.  And of course there's always the matter of personal preferences.  When I make this my son always says it needs more brown sugar and my husband always says it needs more vinegar!   You can also add chopped peppers and/or celery if you like.  I just didn't have any handy when I made mine.

BTW, have you looked at the labels on kidney beans?  It's really hard to find any that do not contain corn syrup.  That's why I went back to canning my own.  Plus it's a lot thriftier.   You might want to read a  post I wrote about beans here.

NEEDLEWORK

 Bob-bob- bobbling along!  This weekend I knitted a cover for our hot water bottle, heavy with knitted bobbles.
The pattern is a free one on Ravelry.  Isn't  Ravelry wonderful?  Who would buy a knitting magazine or book when there are so many wonderful free patterns out  there on the internet?  Many yarn companies offer free downloadable patterns also.   The yarn is Coats and Clarks Royal Mouline Knitting Worsted in China Rose.  I don't think they make this yarn anymore.  I picked up a couple of skeins at the thrift store for fifty-nine cents each.  So the cost of this item was $1.18.  

Thrifty hint:  Hot water bottles are a wonderful old-fashioned way to keep warm.  And thrift and low-tech too! We fill ours before bedtime and slip it between the sheets.  When we climb in the bed is nice and toasty.  We find that if you can keep your feet and hands warm, you can sleep in quite cold rooms.  Our winters can be brutal here, this month we have hardly had any days in double digits and many days where the mercury has dipped below zero, so we have quite a arsenal of ways to keep warm. Here's a post I wrote about ideas for staying warm and cozy.

DON'T BUY, IT MAKE IT

We love the flatbread sandwiches at Subway, but at $7 a sandwich , it's a bit rich for a thrifty ways.  Especially since we get the veggie ones and they have about a quarters amount of ingredients in them.   For seven dollars we can make eight of our own.  And the bread is so much better than any we can buy in the store.

Soft and Fluffy Chewy Flatbread

Mix  1/2 C. yogurt  with  2/3 C. hot water to make a warm mixture.  (The reason you use hot water is because the yogurt is cold).  Stir in 2 tsp. yeast  and 1 tsp. honey.  Set aside to proof (yeast mixture is bubbly).

Once yeast is proofed add:

2 tbsp. oil (we use olive oil)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. rosemary (optional)
2 crushed cloves garlic (optional)

Next add:

1/4 C. wheat gluten (make the bread soft)
1 C. spelt (or whole or plain flour)

Mix well.  Then add:

approximately  2 3/4 C. flour to make a soft dough.
knead 5 minutes.
 Cover and rise in a warm place until doubled.


Then punch down and divide into 8 pieces.

Rest dough 15 minutes.

Preheat a griddle to medium heat and light oil.  Roll out your dough one at a time to an 8 inch circle.
Place on griddle and grill for about a 1-1/2 minutes on one side until you see bubbles appear in the dough.  Turn over and grill an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute until dough has some dark brown spots on it.  Should look like this after you first flip it:

 

There you have it!  Perfect flat bread.  Delicious warm off the griddle.  If you save them for later it is best to rewarm them .


CHEAP BEAUTY TRICK

We've been making our own facial moisturizer and it's really pretty terrific.   We use aloe.  Every house should have an aloe plant ; they are so handy for burns, bug bites, itches, rashes, etc. (although it's not the most lovely of house plants).
To make the moisturizer just combine;

 1/3 C.  Aloe Vera gel (the stuff you squeeze out of the leaves
1 tsp. vitamin E oil
2 tsp. jojoba oil
1/8 tsp. citric acid
a drop of your favorite essential oils for scent (we used lemon)

Put in a food processor and whip it up.  We keep a small jar next to the sink and apply it after washing our faces.  The rest we keep in the fridge.  Lasts a couple of weeks.  I've found this to be gentler than the much more expensive moisturizers I had been using and it really does make your skin soft and smooth.  Seems to minimize the pores also.  As a matter of fact, I like my skin so much now, that I've given up using foundation that I used to use to cover up redness.

FREE ENTERTAINMENT

Have you heard about Issuu.com?   It's a site where you can view magazines for free.  And there's lots of wonderful ones on there, such as British Period Homes, Mollie Makes, etc. , including many foreign magazines I've never seen before.  Aren't magazines expensive now days?  I used to have quite a magazine  addiction during the heyday of country magazines, but now with the advent of Pintrest, why would I buy a decorating magazine when I view thousands of images for free.  Why would I buy a cookbook or magazine when you can Google any recipe?  That's money I'll just keep in my pocketbook!

So that's this weeks edition of Sweet Briar Cottage Journal.  Hope you enjoy!

Jane

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sweet Briar Cottage Journal

Hello dear friends!  I've missed you.  Recently I've received a few sweet notes from some of my blogging friends and decided that I'd like to reconnect with you all once again.   I've decided to make change the format of this blog into a sort-of, kinda-like magazine.  Hopefully published twice a month.   We'll see how it goes, if anyone out there's interested, etc.  So here it goes .....

CHEAP EATS OF THE WEEK

This week we are enjoying hearty meals as the temperature has dipped below zero.  Cabbage is always cheap around here, about 20 cents a pound.  It seems like it has been this price for decades, so stuffed cabbage is on the menu.  But stuffed cabbage is such a piddly recipe with it's boiling the cabbage and then wrapping it.  I always burn my fingers, so here's the flavor without the fuss:

Unstuffed Cabbage

Half a head of  a small cabbage, shredded
1 lb. Italian sauasge
1 onion
1 1/2 C. rice
1 quart V-8 juice
1/3 cup brown sugar

Brown the sausage and onion in a large pot.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the rice is cooked and the cabbage is cooked down.  About 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Now of course, you know this is just a rough idea for a recipe.  You can add more cabbage to make the meal stretch.  I added carrots to mine because I have lots of them in the root cellar.  Plus they add more nutrition.  You can use less brown sugar if you like; we like ours on the sweet side, just as it was from our childhood.  I didn't have any tomato juice but did have some home-canned tomatoes so I used them  and added more water and some fennel and green peppers to spice it up a bit.  The key to thrifty meals is to be flexible.

THRIFTY OUTFIT OF THE WEEK

Baby it's cold outside!   Here's what I'm wearing to stay warm:

Thrifted Eileen Fisher 100% merino wool skirt  $3.50
Thrifted cable knit sweater $3.50
Garage sale vintage Trifari pin $1.00
Belt $5.00 on sale from Meijers
Underneath heavy cotton tights.

I wear this with my old brown riding boots, but since I haven't been going anywhere, I usually wear this with my slippers. 

DON'T BUY IT, MAKE IT

My son loves pancakes, but maple syrup is expensive and if you look at  the label on pancake syrup, you see that it is mainly corn products, which we avoid because of the GMO issue.  Almost all corn products made in the USA are GMO, unless labeled otherwise.  So we make our own syrup with organic cane sugar and cane syrup (we use Lyle's Golden Syrup).

Imitation Maple Syrup

4 C. sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar
2 tblsp. cane syrup (or corn syrup if you want)
2 C. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. maple extract

1.  Combine sugar, cane syrup, and water  in large pot.  Stir until sugar dissolves; bring to boil.  Cover and boil gently for 10 minutes.  Do not stir while boiling  (causes the sugar to crystallize)

2.  Remove from heat.  Cool slightly.  Add vanilla and maple extract. Stir until extracts are mixed in.

THRIFTY TALE

My husband calls me the queen of substitutions.  I can find a substitution for just about any ingredient in a recipe, but here's one time I might have taken it too far.  My children wanted some chocolate chip cookies but I knew I was out of some ingredients because  it was getting close to pay day.  I definitely knew  I was out of chocolate chips but that wasn't a problem because my husband had received a large chocolate bar as a gift from a supplier, so I just chopped that up.  So I started to make the cookies.  First obstacle was I was short 1/4  C. of butter, so I made up the difference with shortening.  Next I discovered I was out of brown sugar, so I made some using 1 tbsp. molasses and 1 C. sugar.  I was sure I had eggs, but nope.  Had to use 1 tbsp. flax seeds mixed in 1/4 C water.  Fortunately, I did have baking soda.  But not enough flour, being about 1/4 C. short.  So I emptied out my oatmeal container and used the fine oats on the bottom, plus some of the regular oatmeal to make up the difference. Guess what?  The cookies turned out great and the only ingredient that was in it's original form was the baking soda.

Knowing how to make substitutions is very valuable thrifty skill.  Here's some common substitutions for eggs  (all are equivalent to 1 egg):

 1 tbsp flax seed in 1/4 C. hot water (let set until it starts to gel)
1/4 C. applesauce or 1 small banana
2 tbsp. water plus 1 tbsp. oil plus 2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 C. tofu

NEEDLEWORK

Some of you have inquired to what I have been knitting lately.  Recently finished up this shawl in Paton yarn in sea green.
I like the cabled edging.


 Currently on my needles is an Irish Aran style afghan.

CHEAP (BEAUTY) TRICK OF THE WEEK

I have waist length hair so the ends can look a little unhealthy and um, let's say rough.  This is a hint I heard on an old timey radio show I was listening to on YouTube.   Put Vaseline on the ends and wrap your hair in towel for half an hour, then shampoo out.

The first time I tried this I used too much Vaseline ( go light on the application) and it was really hard to shampoo out.  The next time I did it, I used less and I really shampooed the heck out of the ends.  It really did make the ends smooth and soft.  To tell the truth, I couldn't stop touching my hair it felt so nice.  BTW, another tip I read about long hair care in a Victorian era magazine was to treat your hair like fine silk when washing it.  Never pile it up on top of your head and treat the ends gently.  

FREE ENTERTAINMENT

This month we are enjoying  studying animal tracks  in our back yard.  You can find all the information on line.  It's a good old-fashioned skill that children of yore used to know.  Through tracking we discovered that our resident fox lives under the brush pile in the area of the yard we call The Fen.

We are also watching the Coal House series on YouTube.  One of those wonderful BBC series where families reenact the past. This time it's coal miners living in 1927 Wales.  Makes me grateful that I live in the present era!

So that's it for this edition of my little magazine.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Let me know what you would like to see in the next edition.  Love and Peace to all!

Jane









Monday, September 30, 2013

Hedgerow Harvest

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is. than a stalled ox and hatred herewith.
~Proverbs 15:17~


Hello dear friends!  The other day we set out on a little trek to gather wild rose hips for making rose hip syrup.   It was such a beautiful day,
working in the warmth of the sun with the cool breeze of the lake.  While we were there,  we also found wild grapes, that in the past before our own vines were productive, we would use them to make the loveliest wild grape jelly.  There were also plenty of elderberries and apple trees.  If we hadn't our own trees, we could have taken a bushel home for applesauce.  The old country lanes are lined with with old abandoned apple trees.  While they are not the most beautiful, the fruit from these heirloom trees often have much better flavor than the commercially grown varieties.  Every area has national forests and public parks that are free for the picking.  See!  God does provide!  You just have to keep your eyes open

Rose hips are very high in vitamin C.  Their flavor is very tart and slightly citrusy, and you don't have to worry about them tasting like perfume.  We make a syrup that you can take when feeling a cold coming on, but it isn't strictly medicinal.  It's very good on cornbread for something different for breakfast and on pancakes also.  Here's how to make it:

Rose Hip Syrup

Wash a quart of rosehips.  Place in a plastic storage bag and smash with a hammer.  Put the smashed rosehips in a pot with  1/2 - 1 cup of water.  Boil until the flesh softens.  Strain the mash through a jelly bag, (this takes some muscle).  You'll end up with about 2 cups of juice.  Put juice, 1/2 C, honey, 1 C. sugar, 1 tsp, cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. cloves, and 1/4 tsp ginger into a heavy saucepan and boil to the desired thickness  (takes about 20 minutes).  Pour into sterilized  1/2  pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Place sterilized lids on top and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Another "free" food is mushrooms.  Ran and I attended a lecture on harvesting wild mushrooms, but after listening to all the cautions, we  decided that except for morels, we'd buy them from the store.  But here's the words of wisdom, we gleaned.  Always identify the mushrooms from the at least three different reference books .  Identify by description only; spore print, shape of cap, color, gills and stem.  Once you've identified the mushroom by that criteria, then only look at the picture to identify them.

It was amazing that after we attended that lecture, how many different mushrooms we noticed.  It really is just a matter of being observant.  But edibles aren't the only thing that we gleaned.
Little dogwood pods and chestnuts, make the prettiest Autumn decorations.  I thought they went quite nicely with a dried leaf I found outside my door.

I've decided that each post. I'd leave you with a recipe that uses simple ingredients that can be found in even the most meager pantries.  This week  it's molasses crinkles.  My son requested them for the little seasonal package I send his family.  And they are the perfect thing for Autumn.  There's something so old-fashioned and homey about things made from molasses.  Maybe it's because it harkens back to the early days of our country.  Did you know that you can make your own brown sugar  by combining 1 cup of white sugar with 1 tablespoon of molasses?
Molasses Crinkles

3/4 C. shortening
1 egg
1 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. molasses
2 1/4 C. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
granulated sugar for rolling the dough in (about 2 tablespoons)

Beat together shortening, sugar egg and molasses.
Blend in all dry ingredients.
Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls.  Dip tops in sugar.  Place sugar side up on ungreased cookie sheets
Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

AUTUMN GREETINGS

Hello dear friends!  So sorry for the long absence.   This year has been the most bounteous year for our garden.  So, of course,  my days have been spent canning and canning.  It would seem ungrateful to our Creator to waste such a harvest, so I feel spurred on to preserve as much as I can.  Although, I must admit I was a bit overjoyed when I heard that we might get a frost, so we picked the last of the tomatoes and pulled their vines.  Even after giving away bushels of them, we canned thirty-six
jars of spaghetti sauce, eight pints of ketchup, eight pints of chili sauce, sixteen quarts of tomatoes and ten pints of salsa.  Plus so many tomato sandwiches and bowls of panzanelli that I feared  we would turn into those little red fruits.  The same for the rest of the garden.  As a matter of fact we filled our little pantry, the back closet and Ran had to build me a little jelly cupboard which holds about one-hundred  and twenty jars, which we promptly filled.  Whew!   Even our little postage stamp orchard was busy.   The poor dears branches were bent with fruit. 
I'd never believe I'd say this, but I am quite tired of apple pies and blackberry cobblers!   We've yet to dig the potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes. And Concord grapes and Brussels sprouts are still awaiting their moment.

Gardening and canning weren't the only activities, for summer is the season we stock up on wants and needs at garage and estate sales.   We started out on Memorial day with a long list and were quite amazed to find by the Labor day that we had crossed everything off our list.  And some of the items were quite  unusual, such as a magnifier for doing needlework and a primitive style Christmas tree.  And the lovely antiques I found this year!   An old overshot coverlet, a crock with a beautiful beehive stamp, a pretty majolica pitcher to add to my small collection (the first photograph) and even a braided rug that was the perfect colorway for our dining room. And all for pennies, as I am quite tight with my purse strings!

We also finished our little enclosed porch:
And made a friend with the young man that sold us the barn wood and the corrugated tin we used for the ceiling (oh my aching back from helping put that up!) This is the room my dear Ran practices his guitar.  What a joy it is to listen to him play while I'm preparing lunch,  It is the simple little routines such as that which make our lives so sweet.  I wouldn't want to trade my life for any celebrity or billionaire.  Besides, which billionaire has such nice blogging friends as you?

I don't know why, but it seems that autumn always encourages me to do something creative.  I've rediscovered the joy of embroidering.  Embroidering was the first needle art that learned at the ripe old age of five.  A few years back when cleaning out my mother's house, I found my first project; a potholder with a rooster.  The stitches were surprising small and even.  I'm not sure I could do any better today!

Baking is another art I learned at a very young age.  By the age of ten, I was responsible for baking all the goodies for my father's lunch pail, as my mother and sisters were not so talented in that regard.
But you don't need to be an experienced baker to make this cobbler:

TennTucky Blackberry Cobbler

Toss together 3 Tbsp. cornstarch, 1/2 C. sugar and 6 C. blackberries.  Put into a greased 11 X 7 inch pan.

Cobbler:
1/2 C. butter, softened
1 C. sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2  C. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 (8 oz.) container sour cream
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Beat butter until fluffy.  Beat in sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each one.

Combine flour and baking powder.  Stir together sour cream and baking soda.  Alternately add flour mixture and sour cream mixture to butter mixture.  Combine until just blended.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, cover with aluminum foil to prevent the cobbler from browning too much and bake an additional 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Note:  We have a lot of blackberries, but in the winter when I use a  pint jar of canned blackberries, I half this recipe and bake it in an 8 inch pan.  And I omit the sugar, as canned blackberries already have sugar.

As the garden wanes, I will try to be a better blogging friend and leave comments more often, as your friendship means so much to me. And I'll try to post more often and nicer entries that reflect my mission of hope and thrift.  Until next time, I hope you enjoy the lovely days of autumn!

UPDATE:

Roasted Maple Tomato Ketchup

2 lbs. tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. oil
2 tsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1/4 tsp. dry mustard  (powder)
1/4 tsp. celery salt
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

slice tomatoes in half and place cut side down on a rimmed cookie sheet.  Add gloves of garlic and drizzle with the olive oil.  Roast for 20 minutes at 450 degrees.

Remove tomatoes from the oven and when cool enough to work with, slip off the skins. Pour off the excess water. Transfer the tomatoes and garlic to a blender pitcher and puree until smooth.  (I don't own a blender so I use an old fashioned food mill for this step).

Transfer tomatoes to a saucepan, add remaining ingredients and simmer until ketchup thickens.


Friday, June 21, 2013

A SUMMER PLACE


Hello dear friends!   Happy first day of summer!  It's really a glorious day here, sunny and warm.  A rarity this year.   We were still wearing our winter coats and the beginning of this month.  As a result the garden is quite a bit behind schedule, but when plants bloom, they really bloom.   The tulips were abundant this year.  I don't remember planting that many.   And the roses have thousands of buds on them.  Can't wait to show you my New Dawns on the arbor.  Hopefully in a couple of weeks.  BTW, that yellow plant is woad.  An herb that is used in dying fabric indigo.  I experimented with it last year and dyed some wool the prettiest shade of pale blue.  Can't wait to have another go at it this year.
This is our latest project.   We enclosed our porch, using some old beveled diamond paned windows.  The first picture is a view from inside.  It's time like this, that I wish I was a better photographer so that I could truly capture how magical the light reflects from all those bevels.  But alas, a photographer I am not.  Am I the only one that uses the word "alas"?   Yesterday, I went to the butchers for some bacon to make beans for a neighbor and asked for four rashers and she didn't have any idea what I was talking about.   Maybe my purpose in life is to keep funny old words in circulation?  I use the word "shan't " a lot too.   Wouldn't it be fun to be one of those old ladies with a bun and an apron using old archaic expressions?   Of course, I'm in no hurry to be an old lady, perhaps in another quarter of a century.

Speaking of characters, this little village is teeming with them.  We have a resident witch, whom I sure frightens small tourists.   She goes about in a long black woolen coat, winter and summer, and wears a black veil over face.  Surely, she's quite cracker dogs but we are all used to her and no one bats an eye when we spot her.  But we notice quite a few tourists doing a double take when she passes by.  She seems quite oblivious to it all and quite content.  That's the beauty of living in a village, we all accept each other's  idiosyncrasies (Whew! there's a word to spell).

About a month ago my husband was out for his morning walk  when he passed the church with a hearse parked out front.  Mr, K., the undertaker, was sitting  on the steps strumming his fingers and giving Ran a good hard stare.  Ran nodded his headed and said good morning as is required, lest anyone think you are a snob.  Mr K., sprung into action, "Would you mind giving me a hand?".   Seems the casket was too heavy for him and his assistant, both nearing their eighties, to handle.  Ran had to laugh.   You see, when he was in high school, he had a job doing this very thing.  "Oh you've had experience? Then take this end!  (the heaviest)" .  So Ran became an accidental pallbearer.  And that is what life is like in a small village.  By the way, Mr K. runs a funeral home/ riding stables.  My friends from the big city find that quite humorous.  As they do, that our police station has an answering machine.  If you have a "real" emergency. you know to call the county sheriff, as it might take several days for the village police to get around to checking their messages.

When in evening, ye say, it will be fair weather.  For the sky is red.  In the morning, it will be fould weather; for the sky is red and lowering.
~Matthew 16:2-3~

Growing up in a little port town, with a father that sailed for his daily bread, I was familiar with the saying, " Red sky at night, sailor's delight.  Red sky in morning, sailors take warning."   There's so much wisdom to be gleaned from the Bible.  Even if you are not a Christian, who can argue with the wisdom of  Proverbs?   I have a lot of friends that love to read self-help books, but if you ask me, there's really only one Book of life's instructions you really need and that's the Bible.   For instance, I was wondering what type of oil to use for cooking, there's so much conflicting information.  I remember when coconut oil was thought to be the worst oil ever, now everyone is touting it as some type of miracle food.  It's all so confusing, but then I thought that olive oil is Biblical,  good enough to use to anoint people with, so that is what I use.   And as for diet, who can forget that Daniel refused the king rich food, for simple vegetables to build up his men?   Who would think that the Bible was a diet book?   So anyway, that was one thing that has been on mind. 

Sorry there's not much information in this post.  And I'm sorry for the heggotty-peggotty  layout.   It's been so long since I've posted, that I've quite forgotten how to do it.  But I do hope that you will stop by and say hello!


Monday, April 22, 2013

LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE

Hello dear friends!   Hope all is well in your neck of the woods.  Spring is slow to come in our little corner of the world, but ever so slowly winter is ebbing  away, and even if we don't think it's spring the birds are cheerfully proclaiming otherwise.  Is there anything more comforting than the song from a red-winged blackbird?   Something about it reminds me of strawberry fields and wild roses.  There's is no better tonic for a crazy world than to just close your eyes, turn your face to the sun and just listen to the birds.  God is in His heaven; all is right with the world. Browning knew a thing or two!

This month we traveled to North Carolina to see our new little grandson, Ezekiel.  What a beautiful baby, with his pale hazel eyes and little rosebud mouth!  Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera, so we have no visual recording of our meeting. But it's just as well as I find cameras rarely do any of us justice.  Better the moment lives on  in my mind.  It was so nice to travel to warmer clime and fun to climb up and down the mountainous byways, but at the end of the day the nicest sight was when we turned into our drive and spotted our little gray cottage. 

To say that I am not a traveler, would be an understatement.  I like to see new sights but am a firm believer that there's plenty of new experiences right in our own backyards if we care to look.  And it's a lot easier on the pocketbook!   But one nice thing about traveling is that it reaffirms that here is where I belong.  I just had the thought when I uploaded this picture of our kitchen, that this is the type of kitchen when watching those home renovation shows that the host takes one look at and says "Total gut job!".   But granite counter tops and nickle-plated hardware in this house would be as out of place as putting lipstick on a pig.  It's time like this that I wish I were a better photographer, so that I could capture the wonderful golden glow that comes from the window and just the feeling of serenity that I have we I come down the ships ladder of a stairway and enter it's cozy little space.  My wish for everyone is that they have a place that they feel at perfect peace.  I'm sure it would be the answer to all the violence and hatred that permeates this old planet. 

You can't have peace if there's a lot of chaos going on, so to help alleviate  that problem here, Ran built this little window seat for our upstairs landing.  I store my fabric in it.

 He used an old foot board  from a bed we no longer needed and that beautiful old board for the top was found in the crawl space of a Victorian house we used to own.  It's cork pine, which is now extinct.  It's amazing that the wood hadn't rotted away because it is well over a hundred years old.  That's a testimony to a nice dry house!  We bought the HL hinges at garage sale, eons ago.  Total cost for the project was about $5.    I did some re-purposing of my own and made these tote bags out of some old window valances.
My hope was, that if I had cute shopping bags, I wouldn't forget to use them.  Fat chance!   Some habits are hard to break.   But I am getting better, now they get as far as the backseat of the car.

I found the valances at the thrift store.  Aren't thrift stores wonderful?  I really don't understand why people shun them.  Of course some are better than others.  I've never found anything worthwhile in our local Goodwill and the Salvation Army  rarely has much.  The stores I like are the little ones run by dear sweet ladies for church charities.  They always have the best vintage linens and serving pieces.  The junior league  type stores yield the nicest clothes.   It's funny, but I'm a bit of a clothes snob, in spite of buying my clothes second hand.  I only buy labels from  designers like Ralph Lauren and Ellen Tracy and stores like Nordstroms and Saks Fifth Avenue.  And yes you can find those things, but it takes time and patience.  This past winter I found a brand new with tags  ($246!) on gray cashmere tunic from Lands End  for $3.  And a pretty pale teal handbag from Marshall Fields.  I had to buy that just for the label because alas, poor Marshall Fields is no longer.  Some people think eww!  clothes that others have worn, but I assume someone may have tried on the clothes at the store, so they've been worn before also,  And I've order clothes and found lipstick stains and other tell-tale signs of previous wear on them, so I don't worry about that.  Besides, you are going to wash them before you wear them. New clothes are only new once, then you wear them and they are used anyway.  I'd much rather buy a a used sweater of good quality, than buy new cheaper clothes of shoddy quality. Here's some tips for thrift store shopping:

1.  Go with a plan. Knowing what "holes" you need to fill in your closet, keeps you focused. 

2.  I've found that having a color scheme helps so that you don't end up with a bunch of mismatched items.  My basic color them is gray, cream  and oatmeal with a bit of pale teal and lavender thrown in for good measure.  Other classic color combos are navy-gray-cream,  black-white, brown-tan. If it's not in that color scheme, I don't bother looking at it.

3.  Buy classic pieces.  Edith Head said that anything extreme, eventually become ugly, and just looking at an old high school yearbook will prove that!  Some things never go out of style, like pea coats, pencil skirts, plain white blouses,  simple button down cardigans. 

4.   Know your style.   Over the years I've learned what looks good on my shape and fit's my lifestyle.  There's no purpose of me looking at floaty little skirts and little rosebud sprigged blouses, no matter how cute they are.  They just don't look right on me. 

5.  Don't shop with children and husbands that step on your heels.  Thrifting takes time. 

6.  Look for quality.  Plaids should match at the seams.  No pills on sweater.  Nice finished seams. Lining in woolen skirts, etc. Natural fabrics like linen, wool, etc. You know quality when you see it.

7.  Don't be afraid to alter a garment.  Sometimes all it takes to make dress look nice is new buttons or a skirt shortened.  Or the shoulder pads removed.

8.  Sometime all it takes to make something look nice is a good ironing job.  This goes for new clothes too.  Sometimes I think I need to do a tutorial on ironing, I think it's becoming a lost art!

9.  If something doesn't work out for you, bundle it back up and re-donate it back to charity.  Don't clutter up your closets with stuff you don't wear.  All of my clothes fit on two shelves of a linen press and a couple of dresses hanging in the closet, yet my husband calls me a clothes horse!   By buying classics in my color scheme, I have endless combinations. 

10.  As with everything, it's quality over quantity.  Some days you'll come away without finding anything.  Other days, you'll have a windfall.  It seems it's either feast or famine with thrifting.

I couldn't end without giving you one thrifty recipe.  This is our latest favorite for snack:

Buffalo Cauliflower


4 tbsp. butter or margarine
1/4 cup hot sauce
1 head of cauliflower, broken into flowerets
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter and sauce together.  Toss the cauliflower with the mixture.  Place on a large cookie sheet.  Roast at 425 degrees  for 20 minutes.  Give them a good  stir once midway through the roasting process. Cauliflower should start to darken and become soft when done.  Serve with blue cheese  or ranch dressing for dipping.  Or eat them plain.  A nice healthy alternative to french fries, especially if you use one of those heart healthy, olive oil based  margarines  instead of butter.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

NO, I'M NOT BACK, BUT JUST A QUICK UPDATE

Hello dear friends!   I just wanted to update you on all that was going on in my little corner of the world.  Hope all is well with yours!


Since we last "spoke" my two adorable grandsons have been born.  First Felix in October.
And then Ezekiel in November.  They are at the the giggling stage, and it's really fun to watch them grow.

We have also weathered Hurricane Sandy  and quite a few snowstorms. And in between times Ran has built me new kitchen cabinets.   The next thing we are working on is redoing some diamond paned leaded glass windows to use in enclosing our porch.   So you see, life is busy even for two old retired folks!   Hope everyone has a nice week ahead and a joyous Easter!