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Friday, April 12, 2019

AN UPDATE ON LIFE AND THOUGHTS ON PREPPING

Hello dear friends!  Anyone out there?  I want to thank everyone that has written, e-mailed or left a comment since I last wrote a  post almost two years ago.  Every day I am astonished at how many are still reading old Hope and Thrift.  It really touches my heart on many of you remember me, let alone take time out of your day to write.  I've been spending my time away from the computer studying even more ways to live frugally.  And creating!  If I don't do something creative during the day, I feel out of sorts. Of course, I use the term "creative" loosely; creative can mean sewing or knitting, but it can also mean finding a way to save a dime. I apologize that I haven't been a very good blogging friend,  my time on the computer is very limited.  Computers just confound me and I don't enjoy feeling frustrated all the time, so the best way for me to avoid that emotion is to just stay away from computers all together.  I don't even own a smart phone and have no idea how to text or use an app, or scroll.  Sound pretty old-fashioned don't I?  I tell you, we had several days without electricity this past winter and they were the most blissful days of the year to me!  Probably the only one that would enjoy that EMP attack they are always predicting.

Which is why I'm writing now.  For some reason this past week I've been contacted several times from people concerned about what is "about to happen".  I'm not sure what is concerning people so much,  not owning a TV, I'm blissfully ignorant of what is making the news these days, but I suspect it is something they are hyping up on TV and the internet.  So, first,   I've been around long enough to have heard all of it before, one of the blessings of old age.  When I was a kid they used to show us films at school telling us that we'd soon be living in an ice age, have a nuclear war with the USSR,  and if we managed to survive those two catastrophes we'd all be living underwater.  By the time my sons were in elementary school, just twenty years later, we were supposed to have such horrific global warming that all the ice caps would melt and we should be swimming for our lives about now.  Excuse me if I seem a bit jaded.  You know, it isn't only the Germans of WWII and the cold war Soviets that use propaganda.  News is in the business of making headlines.  And have you noticed that most news these days is not news but  opinions? Anywho, just my long-winded way of saying don't fret so much about all the impending doom the newscasters are foretelling. Did you ever notice how the weather channel always reports any bad weather as the storm of the century?  News is the same way.  Ha!  How many people wrote to ask if I was safe during the "polar vortex"?  Just a cold snap.  It's a rare year when we don't get temperatures well into the negatives in winter.

So that is what I think of all this doom and gloom.  But do I think people should prepare for hard times?  You bet!  Few people never go through a bit of misfortune in their lives.  As I found out, even a lemon for a car, can upset the apple cart sometimes.  It is good to know that at least you've got the next meal covered.

Well that's all good, you might be saying, but how can I stockpile any food when I'm just scraping by, you say?  Scrape a little harder.  I would be hard pressed  to find a budget that doesn't have any wiggle room.  On the weekend that you don't have to drive to work or school, stay at home and save the gas money.  Put the meat back in the freezer and open a can of beans.  Turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater.  Collect cans and bottles to return for the refund, even in our tiny little village, we found seven dollars worth of cans this month.  That's seven items (beans,  oatmeal, dried fruit, bag of rice, etc.) that could be bought at the dollar store for your prepping pantry. And speaking of which, the dollar stores are not always the best deals, most of these items can be bought for less at your regular grocery store, I'm just using the dollar store as an example as every place has a dollar store (even you Canadians :))  Use those candles that you get as gifts  in the evening and save on the electricity bill. Basically, just be very purposeful in every purchase you make.  Is it a need or a want?

I wrote in a comment that I have almost my entire year's of groceries bought and it cost me  a little less than $600.  As you dear readers know, I can, can and can.  I came across and amazing deal on ground round so I bought 20 pounds and canned it. Ham is on sale almost everywhere at Easter time (as are eggs).  I bought 20 pounds and canned that.  We bought all our basic supplies such as flour, sugar, yeast, cornmeal, dried fruits, oatmeal etc. at our Mennonite bulk food store.  Enough for a year cost about $150.   A local store always has a sale on beef roasts twice a year, when it's cheaper than hamburger, we always wait for that sale and buy around 20 pounds, which I can.  I'm always on the lookout for cheap dried beans ( they last forever) and I found some on the reduced for quick sale rack at our local fruit market for 50 cents/lb. So I canned about 30 jars of them up.  Ran caught a couple salmons this week, so that was also canned up, along with a pike (taste like albacore tuna).  One of the thrift stores we frequent has all sorts of produce for free that they receive from the local Walmart.  One day, the weather was really blustery and they didn't have very many customers and they practically begged us to take home a couple of the rotisserie chickens that  the freeze and hand out, so I took them home and froze the meat and canned 8 pints of broth from the carcasses.  They often have produce that no one ever takes, but when they have free baked goods they are gone in minutes.  Priorities people!  Ha! If I didn't garden, I could probably get enough produce there  to fill some of the pantry. BTW, if you don't can, you can always  dehydrate your vegetables, so keep a sharp lookout at the reduced-for-quick-sale bin at your grocery store.  I used to feel funny about taking any of the food, but then I realized, we live near the poverty level also, we are just better at managing.

Which leads me to my next point.  Get over yourself!  People that say they won't take free food, shop at thrift stores and discount grocery stores better not whine around me about how hard it is to make ends meet! True story, I was telling a frien-emy  about a discount grocery store that we like to explore. She emphatically swore that she wouldn't be caught dead buying outdated groceries, all the time sipping the coffee (that she had complimented me on earlier) that we bought there (three months out of date). Oh that is another thing we stocked up on, a year's worth of coffee ( we love our coffee)  at $1.50 a pound, and it was good organic fancy-name coffee too.

Tthe next excuse I get is, sounds good, but I don't have the time or energy to do all that canning and  cooking-from-scratch business.  I spend about two hours a day cooking, baking and canning.  Our motto is to never buy anything we can make ourselves, so we bake our own bread, crackers, sweets. We make our own soups, cereals, broths, noodles, etc. On the average it only takes two hours of prep work and while the bread is baking you can be doing the laundry or helping the kids with schoolwork. You can even be on your phone texting or looking at Instagram (which I have a feeling consumes a lot of people's time.) While the canner is jiggling the weight, you can be balancing your checkbook, or even reading.  You get the picture. As for energy, I find that the harder I work the more energy I have.  It's very invigorating to see your pantry fill with jars of home canned goods. Plus the harder you work the better you sleep.  

Finally, and most importantly, just put your faith in Our Heavenly Father.  Whatever may befall this old planet, hope is always with me. I pray every day that His will be done.  When the news is alarming  I go outside and listen to the birds and feel the sun upon my face it never fails to melt all the worries away.  My favorite Bible verses that I endeavor to live by:

That you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, as we command you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.
1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

God Bless!
Jane






Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Thank You

Hello dear friends!  OK you guys!  I purposely disengaged the comments part on my last post because I didn't want you to feel that you must write something, but you figured out how to get around that, didn't you?  As my mother would say, "du kliener divel"! Ha!  But seriously, I want to thank you all that left comments or e-mailed me, your words of encouragement and kindness truly touched my heart.  If you are ever discouraged about the state of affairs of the world, just go read some of those comments and you will discover that the world is full of wonderful, kind, caring people in spite of what the news networks will tell you.  So thank you from the very bottom of my heart, my cup runneth over!  I've been busy and haven't been commenting on your blogs as often, but I suspect after a brief vacation from the computer, I will again, so don't think I've forgotten about you all.  This time I will allow the comments to go through, so if you want to get in contact with me to ask a question or just to say "hi", you can do so there.  By the by, I wanted to share a picture of our back forty, isn't it beautiful?  In spite of the very cold and discouraging Spring weather, it is one of the prettiest Springs I remember in a long time. I hope that you all are having the goldenest of days!

Hugs
Jane

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Return to a Simple Life

Hello dear friends!  We are experiencing a real Michigan Spring this year; cold and damp with just enough sunny and warm days to make the daffodils and forsythias bloom.
Ran has been busy getting the garden tilled and the early crops of onions, potatoes, cauliflower, peas, lettuce and broccoli planted.
  Several people have asked me if I have ever read a certain  blog where the people live as it is the 1940s, and isn't it fascinating?  I have to laugh because the lifestyle Ran and I lead is more 1940s than the people that write the blog; we wash our clothes in a wringer washer, heat with wood, always hang our clothes out to dry, garden, raise and preserve 75%  of our food, walk everywhere we need to go, sew and knit many of our clothes, don't own a TV, dryer or microwave, always pay cash and have no debt, use natural cleansers and herbal remedies, and a quick peruse of food rationing at the time, shows they we live on what would be considered rationing at the height of WWII, so if that is considered fascinating, I guess our life must be worthy of a documentary on PBS. Ha! And we've been living like this for almost forty years.  We just call it being thrifty like the generations before us. I always assumed people knew about these sort of things; everyone I grew up with did, so I never thought anyone would find them interesting.  Who knew? If I had, perhaps I would have had a better blog or more followers. Ah, regrets!

With that, I'm sorry to say that this will be my last post.  Perhaps you regular readers could tell, but lately I've just not been enthusiastic about writing Hope and Thrift, truth be told, I dread writing it.  Because of the abuse I experienced as a child, I'm very sensitive to criticism, and every time I hit the "publish" button, a great foreboding would come over me that someone would find something to take umbrage with.  Even knowing that there's hundreds of kind comments to every snarky one, doesn't help.  I always focus on the nasty one.  I get hurt when someone questions my integrity, especially if it's a reader that I've patiently answered their questions about gardening and canning.  You see, I think of you as more than mere readers or followers (hate that term) of my blog, but as friends, so when someone criticizes me, I take it personally.  So (I know this sounds silly) I asked God to show me a sign if I were to continue this blog and guess what? I got only one comment this week and it was one of those snarky ones.  That, plus several other signs, and I believe that He is telling me to move along.  Conversely, in the past, I've asked for a sign and people left a comment that very day, saying they are new to my blog and love it or found it helpful or encouraging.  Some of you might be rolling your eyes about now, but if God cares about a fallen sparrow, I'm sure that he cares about my blog and the happiness or hurt it causes me.

So, I've been thinking a lot lately about what I will do with the extra time I'll have not blogging.  Blogging took up several hours of my day with writing it, answering comments, commenting on other's blogs, answering e-mails, taking and downloading pictures, researching topics, and just trying to think of something interesting to write about. . I remember a time when my children were young and every waking hour was spent in activities, whether it was housework (my house was spotless back then), preparing meals, creating things, or just the time I took on my physical appearance, at the end of the day, I could hardly drag myself up the stairs to bed, but it was good to fill every hours doing something.  I was happier back then, my family was too.  So that is what I want to return to, my own version of a purpose-filled life; I want to again spend my days creating, or baking beautiful pies,

learning a new skill,
enjoying the company of friends and neighbors on the porch.  You know, enjoy life, without having someone ruin it with some snippy little comment that  saps all the joy out of me for days.  I'll still be reading and commenting on your blogs, but I hope you will understand and won't be hurt if it isn't as often.  So for the last time from the old Zempel boarding house, I wish you all the very happiest of days!

Hugs
Jane

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Friday



For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
~John 3:16~

Hello dear friends!  Just an update on how my seeds that I started earlier this month are doing.  Here's a picture:
As you can see, they are all growing into beautiful tall plants.  Does it pay to start your own?  Well,  since I save most of my seeds, the only ones I needed to buy were for celery, cauliflower, broccoli and onions for a grand total of less than $16.  And as you can see, I have over 200 beautiful plants growing here.  How many garden plants can you buy for $16?  And what varieties are available?  So yes, it is well worth the effort to start your own plants, even if it means you have to live with an extra table crowding your space. :)


On another note, as you may have noticed, I haven't been about as much as I used to be.  I'm trying to cut back on the time I spend on the computer.  I hope you will understand if I do not comment as often on your blogs  as I did before.  Doesn't mean I don't still appreciate your writing!  I intend to write only once a month from here on out.  Hopefully, the posts will be more interesting and filled with information on thrift for you that way.  So I hope to see you here on May 1st, Lord willing and the creek don't rise!  May you all have a joy-filled and blessed Resurrection  Day!

Hugs
Jane


Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Joy of Ordinary

Hello dear friends!  Hope this post finds you all safe and sound.  First, I 'd like to thank Leslie and Ran for filling in for me last week, March has been a difficult month for me and truth be told, I'm not sad to show it the door. My thyroid has been bothering me for the last several months.  Although the tests come back normal (with medication) I was feeling like a zombie.  My get-up-and-go got up and went!  Plus I was starting to gain weight in spite of only eating 900 calories a day and walking between 3-6 miles daily. To say I was not a happy camper would be an understatement.  Well, no help from the doctors, they just look at the numbers and assume you are not telling them the truth, so Ran and I had to do our own research on the matter.  It pays to have a scientist for a husband, because my brain was so foggy I couldn't comprehend what I was reading, but since Ran has been doing research for his entire life, it was a piece of cake for him.  After doing research, he set me up on a regime of various vitamins and minerals and almost immediately I began to feel better and I started losing weight (five pounds this week).  But the best thing is that I now feel alive again!  There's so much joy in just waking up and feeling rested.  Once I felt more with-it, I did further research and discovered that many of the vegetables that I love and eat daily, such as broccoli, cabbage and kale are all big no-nos for people with thyroid conditions; they inhibit the thyroid.  Who would have thought such healthy things would be so bad for you?

HOMEMAKING

Anyhow, in the meantime, we've been working on making our home function better.  Once again, I rearranged the living room to make it work for us.  You see, this room must serve many purposes; sitting room, guitar studio, sewing room, dressing room and on occasions a guest room.  That's a lot to ask a little 12 X 14 room!  We figured out a way to have a sitting area and a place for the guitars, plus enough open space  for one of those air beds for guests.
We brought furniture down from upstairs and took some from downstairs up.  At the end of the day, there wasn't a room that  hadn't been untouched.  To me, making a house a home is such a joy!  BTW, the pretty hyacinths are a gift from our dear friend Mary.  She stopped by last weekend, just as I was finishing up a big baking spree.  We love to "take tea" in the evening, it's one of our little rituals of our marriage that  we enjoy.  In the evening having a cup of tea or coffee and perhaps if we aren't being to stringent on our diet, some little treat, we sit and discuss the day, politics and plans.  No TVs going, no outside distractions.  Do you know that the average married couple only talks to each other 17 minutes per day?   I think a lot of marriages could benefit from taking tea!

BAKING

So I had the idea to bake up a lot of tea goodies and freeze them in tins, then when someone stops by it would just be a matter of popping a few things out and defrosting them in the toaster oven (we don't have a microwave). 
I baked lemon tea breads, Spanish bar cake (without the frosting), fruit squares, and a lovely almond tea cake.  The plan was put to an immediate test, as I just took the last loaf from the oven, Mary stopped in, and we all tested out the new seating arrangement and goodies. It was so nice to have something to offer, as I try not to keep too many sweets in the house (and when I do, they don't last long).  Keeping tins of teatime treats in the freezer is something I will definitely continue to do.

 Almond Tea Cake
1 C. butter
3/4 C. sugar
1 egg, separated
half of one of those 8 oz. packages almond paste (found by the pie filling in the baking aisle)
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. butter extract
2 C. flour
handful of slivered almonds

Cream the butter, almond paste and sugar together,  (you'll need a mixer for this).  Add the egg yolk and extracts.  Add the flour and mix until just blended.

Spread the mixture (it will be very thick) into a lightly greased 8" round cake pan.

Beat the remaining egg white until frothy.  Spread over the cake batter and sprinkle with the almonds. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool and cut into wedges.

This is a very heavy substantial cake, but oh boy!  does it ever taste like almonds.  Would be good served with some fresh fruit. Maybe for Easter brunch?

Our little tea and coffee repasts are so important to us, that we even have a little coffee station set up in our kitchen to make it easy to prepare a cup of coffee or a pot of tea.
Everything we need is located in that one spot.  Makes for simple impromptu tea parties.

GARDENING

Well, we have our first sign of Spring, the rhubarb is starting to come up!
Good old rhubarb, if ever there was a dependable plant, this is it.  I think it was put on Earth just to make us gardeners feel good about ourselves.  And here's a peek at how the lettuce in the cold frame is coming along:
As   you can see, we just slit the bags and planted the seeds.  Now anyone can do that!  And when the lettuce is through, we'll just pull it and throw the soil into the compost bin.  It never ceases to astound me that these little seeds  sprout and flourish in the cold weather.  Today is the first day the temperature has climbed over the fourty degree mark!  Feels so good, we've been outside without a jacket on.  Ran and Jamie are working on cleaning up the flower beds while I write this.  Inside, we transplanted most of our tomatoes and cauliflowers to bigger pots and soon some of the perennial flowers will need repotting.
CRAFTING

I spotted this cute craft on YouTube.  I wish I knew where, to give them credit, but you know how it is when you're clicking on one thing and soon you wonder how you arrived at the channel you are on.  Macrame is popular again.  Who would think that fad would ever make a comeback?  But apparently young hipsters haven't lived through the 70s so they don't have the hindsight to know that the 70s were really an ugly era,  they think it's groovy (we actually never used the term "groovy" in the 70s, we said beaucoup).  Anyhow, I thought it was a pretty way to display yet another doily.
You simply take a doily and attach it to a branch, then add tassels of cotton crochet thread.  Decorate the branch with sprigs of greenery.  I have mine hanging a my very dark sewing cupboard to give it some lightness.  I'm conflicted with what to do with this cupboard.  It's an antique and made of quarter-sawn oak, which is not my bag, baby. Ha!  It has pretty Art Nouveau carvings on it, and as I wrote it is antique, but it's so dark.  I've thought of painting it, I only paid $50 for it at a garage sale, but on the other hand, you don't see too many pieces from this period, so maybe I shouldn't.  For now, I guess I'll just leave it alone.  When in doubt, do nothing, is my credo!

THRIFTY THINGS WE DID THIS WEEK

Ran fixed my medical problems by doing research on the internet.  A few dollars in vitamins and some red meat, and I'm feeling a million times better!

Ran sold two of his guitars that he never played on Craigs list.

Made a decoration from a doily I had and a stick from the yard.

Continued to eat from our pantry and freezer, except for fresh vegetables and the red meat, we haven't shopped for groceries in months.

Knitted some more on my temperature blanket using up more of my yarn stash.

Cleaned out my closets and gave four bags of clothes to charity.

Tonight we'll put some things up for sale on Ebay.

Used our points to get a free sub from Subway.

Entertained ourselves by visiting with neighbors (the snowbirds are coming back)

Basically, just stayed home, ate what we had and made do or went without. There is joy in ordinary days.

Well, that's it for another week here at the old Zempel boarding house.  I hope that all your days are sunny and filled with joy!

Hugs
Jane













Friday, March 31, 2017

Successfully Starting Seeds, Part 2 (A Guest Post by Ran)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Guest Post By Leslie

Hello dear friends!   Frequent readers to this blog might recognize Leslie. She comments often and has a very interesting story of homesteading and  raising eight children.  I thought you might enjoy reading how she feeds her large family.

   Hi, my name is Leslie. I am a wife, and a homeschooling mother of eight.   Jane asked if I would share how I fed my family of six on $40 a month.  Now, this was for about 6-9 months back in 2008 when times grew very lean. Also there were only two adults, 2 elementary age children, a preschooler and a toddler. So the toddler wasn't eating much but mashed veggies and bread. We did have a milk goat so that brought our costs down considerably. Also we did grind much of our own flour with a grain-grinder (that we picked up during the Y2K scare). But we did have to buy wheat to feed us and the goat, which was $8 for a 50 lb. bag.
     I was on an email list called The Dollar Stretcher.  It included an article by the Hill Billy Housewife. You can see that article here. She has done all the calculations for you. Now, years ago, this article claimed $20 a week. I used most of her recipes except when it came to the tuna dish, I made Tunisian Tuna on couscous (find this online).  I made my own flour tortillas.  Also don't bother with a tortilla press, a rolling pin works well. Another change I made was using hot dogs diced in my lentils. My kids still love this dish. Also hot dogs in your stir-fry is not bad. I chose not to serve mac n' cheese with our sandwiches as it was just the children and I at lunch. My homemade bread was very filling and the kids love baby carrots.  So besides some substitutions, I shopped exclusively at my local scratch and dent store. Sometimes they didn't have rice or cornmeal but I made do. Also the above menu is simply a frame work. I must say the cheapest and most filling breakfast is cornmeal mush. I know, terrible name but its buttery taste is heaven on a spoon!  One piece of advice, always buy flour rather than cake mix or cornmeal rather than corn-muffin mix...you can do so much more with the raw materials. Also I cooked my beans in the crockpot in homemade stock (that too made in the crockpot). So much more convenient, esp. when you're a busy mama.

Hope this helps! Planning is the key. 
Blessings,
Leslie