Search This Blog


Monday, March 23, 2015


Hello dear friends!  Hope you are enjoying a lovely Spring wherever you are!  Even though it's still cold here, the snow is slowly ebbing away and the earth is waking from it's slumber.  We started our seeds this week.  Hard to believe that in eight weeks we'll be planting our garden.  Someone asked us if gardening pays.  Well, for around thirty dollars (we save most of our seeds, but have too short of a growing season to collect some) we canned over five hundred jars of food, stored several hundred pounds of potatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, and pumpkins.  Ate for several months from the garden, starting in April with asparagus and ending in October.  We also dehydrated bushels of tomatoes, beans,  peppers, garlic,herbs, onions, etc.  So does gardening pay?  You bet! What can you buy for thirty dollars?

Every time I wash up one of my canning jars, I think to myself, "Well that's a dollar I didn't have to spend.".  Preserving the harvest, is one of the basic principles of thrift that people throughout history have lived by.  Only in the last one-hundred years have people had the luxury to go to a grocery store and buy whatever strikes their fancy.  Notice I said "luxury" because that is what it is. And luxuries are always expensive.  Always on a quest to learn new frugal skills, I read many blogs and watch many YouTube videos on frugality.  Something that strikes me as odd, is that many of the most popular thrift blogs talk about going to the store and buying things.  Which leads me to the very first principle of the pantry mindset:


Recently I was reading a blog where the woman was bragging about the great price she got on cocoa mix.  The whole time I was reading it, I was thinking to myself, "Well she could have made it better and healthier (no preservatives) from basic items every pantry should have, after all cocoa is just sugar, cocoa, and milk."  As I walk about the grocery store, I notice all the convenience  foods such as; cheese cut into cracker-sized squares,  hamburger helper,  packages of some seasoned breadcrumbs and a few tablespoonfuls of cheese called meal starters,  an entire aisle of frozen pre-packaged  dinners.  Why would anyone buy these things?  They are often loaded with sodium and preservatives and in truth how convenient are they?  How long does it take to cut your own cheese, or to season some breadcrumbs with your own herbs?   You still have to boil the noodles and fry the hamburger for hamburger helper, so what are you really saving in time to buy it pre-packaged?

This past week, we made our own English muffins, yogurt, granola (cereal), bread, noodles, mini-pizzas for the freezer, cookies, hand soap, pie crusts and chicken bullion. Did it take time? Sure.  But I didn't have to spend any time in the grocery store hunting for great bargains either.  I didn't spend any time clipping coupons and driving around to get the best deal.  Thrift is my hobby vocation and I would rather spend my time  doing for myself than other things I could be doing  such as watching TV, talking on the phone, texting, reading novels, etc.  Besides, while I'm waiting for the bread to bake, I can knit or sew and listen to podcasts about subjects I like, such as eschatology, history, and economics. BTW, when you study those three things, you will understand the importance of thrift and preparing for the worst case scenarios.  Just saying!


Because we buy fewer things, we can focus on buying better quality, like non-GMO cornmeal, organic cane sugar, non-bromiated  unbleached flour, fresh organic vegetables.

The other day, I was in the grocery store buying a twenty pound bag of flour.  We buy a locally milled, unbleached non-bromiated flour.  The cashier asked me what did I do with it!  At first, I was confused, "What do I do with flour?"!  But then I realized she didn't recognize flour as flour unless it had the Gold Medal or King Arthur logo on the package.  So I started to say well, I bake bread  and cookies and yesterday I made noodles.  Which lead to me explaining how to make noodles.  "Are they cheaper?" she asked.  About twenty-five cents for as many as you get in this two dollar bag, so you tell me!  This is becoming a common thing with me, evangelizing the virtues of thrift.  I always wanted to be of some service to God, and maybe this is the way He is using me.


We had been searching for peanut butter without hydrogenated oil in it.  After reading many labels we found some at a good price, at Big Lots no less!  So we bought enough to last us an entire year.  Now we do not have to shop for peanut butter anymore this year.  BTW, when it comes to peanut butter, read the labels carefully, a lot of "natural" ones still contain hydrogenated oil.

This past year we have purchased twenty pounds bags of orgainic cane sugar at a very low price, which saw us through half of the year.  Making jam takes a lot of sugar!

I even buy my hearing aid batteries in bulk from Amazon.


Living out of the pantry, does take time and forethought.  While I'm working on my meals for the day, I'm thinking about the meal for the next day.  Do I need to defrost something?  What's in the fridge that I need to use up?  What can I substitute for an ingredient that I don't have?

Our meals are based upon what we have on hand, not what we desire to eat.  You know the old saying, "Eat to live not live to eat".  We have TV networks and blogs devoted to food, it seems  our country is obsessed with food.  Really a pot of homemade soup can be just as nutritional (maybe more so) than some expensive gourmet extravaganza.


I often cringe when I see someone toss a half eaten apple that their child took a bite out of and then decided not to eat.  Or a bowl of soup that they ate a spoonful of soup of before rejecting it.  I so want to tell them to refrigerate that apple and then they can grate it into some meatballs or dice it and bake it with some cinnamon and sugar.  That they can throw the soup back into the pot.  When you reheat it, it will kill the germs anyway.  Make it a goal to reduce your food waste.  Don't buy things and then don't use them.


I know many economists insist that making a menu and sticking with it is the best way to save money, but I beg to differ.  What if you get the grocery store and find an unadvertised special?  What if the soup you made lasts for two days instead of one?  Menus are fine as a general rule, but you need to be flexible.  Improvising is one of the foundations of thrift.


Made our own English muffins (really easy)

Made peanut butter granola

Bought six woolen garments for my quilt for the thrift store for $1.50 (95% off)

Knitted a sweater for my grandson for a present from yarn I unraveled from a 50 cent thrifted  sweater

Made a large batch of pie crusts and froze them for future use

Heated our house with wood since the temperatures have reached above freezing

Started our seeds from saved seeds (peppers, tomatoes, onions and perennial flowers) we don't       buy plants

Learned how to make a heat exchange system for our guest house from a YouTube video

Canned 12 lbs. of corned beef  which was purchased after St. Pat's Day for $2.50/lb.

Made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies from some chocolates that I bought at the after Christmas sale at 75% off (about $1/lb.). Froze half for future snacking.

Made chicken boullion

Made homemade Greek-style yogurt.  Here's how:

Greek-Style Yogurt  (1 quart)

1 quart  milk (we use 2%)
1/2 C. non-fat dry milk
1 1/2 Tbsp. plain yogurt

1.  Combine milk and non-fat dry milk in pot.  Heat slowly to 180 degrees.

2.  Remove from heat and let cool to 110 degrees.

3.  Add yogurt.  Pour into pint containers.

4.  Store yogurt at 110 degrees for 5 hours.  Our dehydrator has a setting for this.  When we were younger and poorer we used to wrap the yogurt in pile of woolen blankets and set it near a heat source (such as a radiator).  There's also yogurt makers available if you are interested.

5. Refrigerate.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Happy St. Patrick's Day, a day early!  I was trying to get my projects done to post this on time, when I realized it was the 16th and not the 17th.  Hope you are all enjoying Spring weather! We took a trip to visit our sons and their families and it was 70 degrees in Chicago.  Of course, as usual, I was dressed completely wrong for the weather, when we left it was 30 degrees, so we carted around coats and heavy sweaters for nothing.  This is one of the many reasons I don't like to travel.  Even inland it can be 20 degrees warmer than it is at the shoreline.  Such are the trials of living in the sticks!

Anyway, here's what we ate for our "early" St. Patrick's Day meal:

Corned beef hash, made completely from home-canned foods (except the eggs).  I was hoping that the grocers would have a good sale on corned beef so that I could can some more, but unfortunately, it is not to be.  Maybe after the 17th it will go on sale.  The recipe can be found here if you are interested.  Boy have prices gone up since 2011!  Anyway, one of the strangest comments I hear often when people learn that I can, is  "I used to can , but we don't eat those kinds of foods anymore."  What?  You don't eat carrots, peas, corn, potatoes, meat, green beans, etc. or make a piece a toast and jam, or drink any fruit juice?   I guess I'm old fashioned and when I go to the store I see why people consider me so.  Almost every cart I see is filled with frozen or boxed meals, cereal, lots of snacks and lots of soda pop.  I rarely see any fresh vegetables in the carts and even rarer to see fresh fruits. 

I also am almost finished with my Irish style throw I've been knitting the last three month.
I have to finish putting the fringe on.  (that brown "thing" on the right hand corner is Georgie's hind quarters. He has to get in every picture!).  Anyway it's a very simple pattern that I found in an old circa 1940s magazine.  I used 6 skeins of  Red Heart Super Saver yarn in Buff Fleck.  Here's the pattern:

Cast on 233 stitches using 36" size 7  circular needles. 

ROW 1: (right side)

  Knit 5 place marker
   Slip 1, Knit 1, slip slipped stitch over knit 1
            (Yarn over
            slip 1, knit 2, slip slipped stitch over the 2 knit stitches)Repeat twice more
           Yarn over
           slip 1, knit 1, slip slipped stitch over knit 1
           place marker,

         knit 8, place marker.

Repeat   lattice and cable section 9 more times, placing a marker between each section.
Repeat lattice section once more, place marker. 
Knit 5

ROW 2: (wrong side)

Knit 5
Lattice section:
Purl 2 together, yarn over,
(purl 1 purl 2 together, yarn over) repeat twice more
purl 2 together
Slip  marker

Cable section:
Purl 8. Slip marker.
Repeat lattice and cable section 9 more times.  Repeat lattice section once more. Knit 5.

Repeat rows 1 and 2 for 8 rows.

Row 9: (right side)
 Is the same as row 1 except at the cable section slip 1st 4 stitches to a cable needle and hold in back.  Knit the next 4 stitches, then knit the 4 stitches on the cable needle.

Rows 10- 12:

Repeat rows 2 and 1.

Repeat these 12 rows until your work measures 49 inches.  Bind off.  Add fringe if desired.

By placing the markers between each section, it makes it easy to keep track of your knitting.   It really is an easy mindless sort of pattern.

Speaking of yarn, here's a great site for finding substitutions for yarns: yarnsub.  Sometimes companies discontinue yarns or they are just outrageously expensive.  I was once smitten with a pattern for a pair of socks, but when I looked into the yarn featured in the pattern, I found out that it would cost over $40!   For a pair of socks?!  I'd be afraid to wear them. Sometimes I wonder what these knitting designers are thinking of.  Probably  they get the yarn for free and never take into consideration the costs.  So anyway, it's a nice site to explore cheaper options.


One of the questions  I get asked the most is how do you learn to be thrifty.  I was always fascinated by thrift, even from a young age.  When all my friends were dreaming about living in castles, I was studying the pictures of Hansel and Gretel's cottage in my picture books.  My favorite book when I was in elementary school was The Moffats by Eleanore Estes, about a poor family that lived on love.  Anyway, so how do you learn to be thrifty?  By listening to the old-timers talk about the depression, by reading history books and biographies about the days gone-by. By observing thrifty people and seeing what they do.  By reading blogs about thrift.  By going on YouTube and watching preppers and homesteaders.   Then taking that information and applying it to your life.  You must want to become thrifty to be successful at it.  You have to look at it as a fun challenge and not like it is deprivation.   I'm always reminded of this quote:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

  And that pretty much sums it up doesn't it?  (Sorry for some reason after I pasted this quote the font changed) We can learn to live within our means or go around hiding from the debt collectors.  I know what I'd rather do.


One of the things I read over and over again in stories about the Depression and Appalachia, is that they ate a lot of cornbread.   They'd wrap it up and carry it with them.  Sometimes it was all they had.  Cornmeal is the easiest grain to grow and process, so perhaps that is why it was so popular.    Here's one of our favorite recipes for it:

Molasses Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins

1/2 C. butter, melted
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. pumpkin
1/4 C. molasses
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 C. flour
3/4 C. cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 C. buttermilk 

1. Combine dry ingredients.
2. Beat together eggs, butter, molasses and buttermilk.  Combine with dry ingredients until just blended
3. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

BTW, did you know that you can substitute buttermilk by adding 1 tbsp, vinegar to a 1 cup measure than adding the milk to make 1 cup.  But we use buttermilk all the time, so we always have some on hand.  You can also add plain milk to about 1/4 C. of buttermilk and make more buttermilk.  

These muffins are good for breakfast too.  When we were kids, people use to add cornbread to some warm milk to make a sort of cornmeal mush.  Very tasty with a bit of maple syrup or honey on it.  An old-fashioned French Canadian dish that people in our area used to eat was called Por-Doo, which was cornbread crumbled up and added to sauteed onions, celery, or whatever you had on hand.  Sometimes a bit of leftover sausage or meat. Add some broth or milk to thin it down,  heated up, sort of like a very thick pea  soup.


One of the things we've been doing this winter, while we are eating a lot of citrus fruits is to make our own orange cleaner.  You simply stuff as many orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime peels (any citrus peels will do) into a mason jar and pour enough vinegar over them to cover the peels.  Let it set for a few weeks and add more peels as they become available.  After  about a month strain it and there you have it, your own orange cleaner for sinks and tubs.  Works great at getting the soap scum off.

So I leave you with an Irish toast this St. Patrick's Day Eve

May your mornings bring joy
and your evenings bring peace...
May your troubles grow less
as your blessings increase!



Monday, March 9, 2015


Hello dear friends!  Yay!  We've finally had a day above freezing.  Even Georgie is hopeful, digging in the asparagus patch looking for the first signs of green.   It's been a good week to watch the birds bathe in a puddle, they were really enjoying themselves.  I suppose the winter has been a long one for them, also.  Poor little dears!  The sun porch was warm enough to sit in and soak up a few rays.  Ah! Bliss!  We have been putzing about the house and enjoying our hikes without the bitter wind stinging us.  Life is good!

We find that more and more often, we would rather do for ourselves than pay others.  When it comes to food, it just makes sense.  Have you ever read the labels?   Almost everything has some sort of corn or soy product in it.  Or an artificial flavoring or color.  Really, if you want to enjoy your retirement, you need to take care of yourself and the best place to begin is with what you eat.  Plus it's cheaper too, so it's a win-win situation.  We aim to always buy groceries in their most natural form.  A bag of potatoes is certainly cheaper than potato chips!  I always ask myself why would I pay to have someone package up something like a pancake mix when even the most meager pantry has all the ingredients to make them?  Or cake mixes?  They're just a bit of flour, sugar, baking powder, and a whole lot of stuff you don't need. Did you know that they use silica as an anti-caking agent in those mixes?   Who needs that?  One of the things we do for ourselves is bake our own crackers.  They cost around  fifty cents to make as opposed to the two or three dollars for a box.


 Honey Cornbread Crackers

1 C. flour
1 C. cornmeal
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 tbsp. cold butter
1/4  C. honey
1/3 C. milk (we use buttermilk)
some butter to brush on finished crackers

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients.  Cut the butter into the mixture until it looks like fine crumbs.  Stir in the honey and milk to form a dough.

Roll out the dough  very thinly (about  1/8") on a floured surface .  Cut the crackers into squares or desired shapes.  Prick the crackers with a fork.  Sprinkle with coarse salt if desired.

Place crackers on parchment paper  lined baking sheets.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until they are golden brown.  Remove  from pans and brush with melted butter.  Allow to cool. We made ours in chicken shapes just because they're cuter than squares.
This week our local thrift store has their big final winter clearance event.  All the clothes are 85% off, which equals fifty-two cents an item.  So I leave the menfolk at home and head out for the big hunt!  I'm searching for good quality sweaters that I can unravel for the yarn, blouses with interesting buttons to be used on my sewing projects, and anything made of gray wool for an old-fashioned woolen quilt I'm making. I got a garbage bag sized bundle for $12!  I even found a pretty winter white sweater for wearing that I had to buy because it had a Hudson's label on it.  Trips to the big city and the Hudsons department  store bring back many happy childhood memories, but unfortunately Hudsons no longer exist, so I bought the sweater just for the label.  I know, it's silly! I've already unraveled one of the sweaters and started knitting a cardigan for one of my grandsons for Christmas.  It's never to early to start Christmas presents, especially when it involves knitting!

So that has been our week at Sweet Briar Cottage.   Hope you had a pleasant one at your little corner of the world!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Michigan Easter Bonnet

Hello Dear friends!  I thought you might get a laugh out of seeing what passes for an Easter bonnet in Northern Michigan!
My husband uses this picture for his computer screen.  That's one way to guarantee that it won't get stolen!

We used up the last of our apples from the root cellar.  And the potatoes too.  Root cellaring is the lazy man's way of preserving food.  That is how we store all our potatoes, apples,  pumpkins, squashes, sweet potatoes and onions for the year.  We simply store them in heavy bags that keep the sunlight out, in the garage until we get a heavy (or as we say around here a killing) frost.  Then we move them into our unheated enclosed porch and finally when the weather really gets cold and the temperatures are consistently below zero, we move them to a uninsulated closet in the house.  The only work involved is culling out the bad fruit from time to time.  We mainly eat either fruit cobblers or pies for desserts in our house, using the fruits and berries that we grow on our little plot of land.  Here's a very easy recipe for apple crisp:

Apple Crisp

            6 C. apples, peeled, cored and sliced
            1/2 C. sugar
            1 tbsp. flour
            1 tsp. cinnamon
             1/3 C. water
           Combine apples, sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Put into a greased  9 X 13 dish.  Pour water over.

      3/4 C. oatmeal
      3/4 C. flour
      3/4 C. brown sugar
      1/4 tsp. baking powder
      1/4 tsp. baking soda
       3/4 C. butter

    Combine until crumbly.  Pat over apples.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Been busy canning this weekend.   They had some really good prices on pork loins ($1.49 a pound)  and boneless ham ($1.79 a pound)  so I canned 16 pints of the pork, 18 pints of ham, and 18 pints of broth made from the roasted bones. 
This is about all the meat we use in a year.  We find canning it easier than freezing it because it is already cooked and ready to be added to soups, hashes and pot pies.  Plus up here, we can always count on the electricity going out, and it usually happens right after I've stocked up the freezer.  I like this way much better, as there's no defrosting involved and it lasts a lot longer canned than frozen.  Guess I'm just a prepper at heart!  So what did you do this weekend?

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!


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.


 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.


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 .


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.


Have you heard about   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!


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 .....


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.


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. 


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.


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


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.


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.


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!


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.