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Sunday, September 25, 2016


Hello dear friends!  Good-bye Summer,  hello Fall!  The first thing I spy every morning upon awakening  is the lacy bronze-gold foliage of the neighbor's tree and it fills my heart with joy.  There's so much beauty this time of year, I can scarcely take it all in.  I dare anyone not to feel happy at the sight of pumpkins!  Even our strays, Binks and Hissy can't resist them.
My flower box is their favorite sunning spot, so I guess I can save money on the mums I usually plant there this Fall.  Even lowly old mushrooms seem magical this time of year.
It's fun to imagine that there are real-life fairies living within the ring. 


We had the chimney sweep out this week, another important step in battening down the hatches.
Ran said that he would watch him and learn how to do it himself, but after watching the sweep climb up the ladder leaning against the chimney on our very steep roof, he decided there is such a thing as being too frugal.  It's not very thrifty to save $130 on a chimney sweep only to pay out thousands of dollars in hospital bills when you fall off the roof! This is one thing we'll gladly leave to the professionals.


As October approaches we are finally pulling up the last of the tomato plants.  I suppose we might get a few more tomatoes, but the truth of the matter is we are sick of them, I can't think of one more thing to can  and we have had tomatoes in one form or another every day since July.  We also harvested the pumpkins and yanked their vines.  And look at the beautiful harvest of Concord grapes!
Almost a full bushel.  Harvesting grapes is such a joy, they  smell like Autumn.  I'd advice anyone that owns even the smallest plot of land to plant a few vines in a sunny spot.  You really don't need much land, and just a few posts strung with some heavy gauge wire.  When we lived on a much smaller piece of land, we trained them to grow up a trellis.  Just a few vines yields enough for several jars of jam and juice. 
I made juice and Ran made wine.  I use a steam extractor to make my juice, but a simple method that I used to use, is to make it the Amish way.

Amish Grape Juice

Stem and clean grapes.  Place 1C. of grapes and 1/2C. of sugar into clean sterilized quart jars.  Pour boiling water over both, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace.  Wipe the jar's rim. Place prepared lids and caps on jars.  Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

We also harvested and dried more peppers.  I love how drying peppers concentrates their flavor.  And they look beautiful sitting on the shelf!
We also dried some herbs and replaced last year's.


Speaking of herbs, look at the cute spice cabinet Ran made from some pallets made from hardwood and a piece of scrap lumber.  The trim was purchased at an estate sale for 50 cents. The paint was left over from another project.

The HL hinges and latch were purchased ages ago at a garage sale.  We bought a large box of circa 1940 wrought iron hardware in their original packaging for $5 and have been using them ever since.  Ran has used them to build many cupboards and even the kitchen cabinets.  All for the price of just a few knobs at the hardware store.  I adore my clever Buffalo Bill look-alike!
We also needed a gate to keep the grandpuppies in the man cave when babysat them, so he used some pallets to make that.  There's no end to the uses of the free wood!


Writing of spice cabinets, reminded me that I wanted to do a post about veganism.  I was a vegan for several years and still make at least half of our meals that way.  Not buying meat is a real money-saver and it probably pays dividends in the health department.   A lot of my vegan recipes are ethnic foods and require different spices than the usual  sage, thyme, parsley, etc.  Here's some I'd suggest for the beginner vegan:

garam masala
a good curry powder
chili powder

I like to experiment with making bean patties, using chick peas adding a combination of those spices.  Just plain sauteed vegetables with some curry powdered for flavor, served over rice is a quick and healthy meatless meal, particularly if you use brown rice.  And have you ever tasted roasted chick peas?  Make a nice healthy alternative to chips. 


Well, I couldn't let September escape without posting at least one apple recipe, could I?  Here's one for a quick muffin, that uses pantry staples:

Apple Oat Muffins

1 1/2C. flour
1 C. oatmeal
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 eggs
1 C. milk (I use buttermilk)
2 tbsp. oil
1 1/2C. apples, unpeeled and chopped

Combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar,salt, baking powder and spices.  Set aside.

In another bowl beat together  eggs, milk and oil.  Stir into dry ingredients until just moistened.  Fold in chopped apples.

Portion into 12 greased muffin cups.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Muffins make a great breakfast-on-the-go and they also make a simple meal of soup a little extra special. 


Harvest grapes, tomatoes, pumpkins, peppers and herbs.

Dried peppers and herbs.

Canned grape juice.

Made a spice cupboard from free pallet wood.

Mailed in a rebate from Mennards.

Made a gate from pallet wood.

Purchased sugar and spices in bulk from the bulk food store.  Enough to last the year. Pure organic cane sugar is $40 for 50 pounds.  And their spices are a fraction of the price of store-bought ones.

One the way back from dropping the grandbabies off, we stopped into a thrift store to stretch our legs and I found a beautiful tweed jacket for $1.97 (it was half-off because a button was loose and dangling)  and a Scottish made cashmere scarf for $1.76.  Both in like-new condition.  I've been looking for such a jacket for ages.

Decorated the house for Fall with items I already had and twigs from the yard.
It always amazes me how by simply rearranging the furniture and a few tweaks, this house looks completely different each season.

Our neighbor, Connie, gave Ran a bunch of black walnut lumber free for hauling it away.

I still cooked a lot from garden produce: a middle-eastern pepper stew, chili  and scalloped potatoes.

That's about it.  I really need to write down these thrifty things daily because I always forget by Sunday.  I hope you all are enjoying these last days of September.  Hope to meet you here again in October! Until then go outside and enjoy the show!



Saturday, September 17, 2016


Hello dear friends!  This will be an abbreviated post, as I'm squeezing it in between my granddaughter's naps.  Babysitting the grandchildren and two grandpuppies this week while their mom and dad are celebrating their tenth anniversary.  First, I'd  like to thank you all for your wonderful words of encouragement.   I think it was F. Scott Fitzgerald that said that life begins anew in the Fall, and I always felt that way.  The beauty of the season always fills me with hope.

  This week we've spent many hours at the park and beach, making up bedtime stories, playing pretend and chasing a toddler.  We sing Old MacDonalds very loudly in the car and tell knock-knock jokes.  Felix, who's three, makes up jokes.  When I queried him where does he "get" them from, he said that they are just in his body and come out his mouth.  Isn't that a wonderful way to be?  It seems the older we get the more we over analyze and riddle ourselves with self-doubt, when all all the time what we really need is just in our body. Call it discernment, spidey-sense, gut instinct, or whatever, I believe that we all truly know what we need in our heart.

Lately my spirit is telling me that I need to stock up.  For the longest time it wasn't, in spite of doom and gloom the news was relaying .  Long ago, I stopped listening to financial news, it seemed we were always on the verge of collapse.  I discovered that is just the nature of news, they profit in making people fearful and worried.  The news is equally as horrid, always traumatizing it's viewers.  How many times do you need to see rioting or war scenes?   Can't do a thing about them anyhow.   Scare tactics keep people tuned in, though, and more viewers mean more money for the networks.  I often wonder what life was like before TV, when people just got their news via the newspapers.  It's quite a different thing to read about events then to watch the events over and over again all day long.  They don't call shows "programs" for nothing. That is why I always advice my fretful friends to turn off the TV.  Go outside and talk to your neighbors.  Spend time reading a good book.  Watch an old movie.  You'll soon find your outlook on life changing.  Truly, in spite of all the wars and rumors of wars, the world is really a wonderful place it you care to seek it.

So this week I canned.  I thought I was finished and was glad to pull up the plants, in spite of the fact, I could get more produce from them.  But then that little small voice starting prompting me to put up more.   We still had lots of peppers (it was a whiz-bang year for peppers) and tomatoes so I canned 15 jars of chili.   I couldn't find anyone else to give the extra peaches to, so I made up a batch of maple-vanilla peach jam.  The recipe I had  was outrageously expensive with a quart of maple syrup and a vanilla bean,  but it sounded delicious.  So I just made regular peach jam and stirred in a teaspoon of maple and vanilla extract.  Turned out wonderfully.   Then a local store had their annual sale of  sirloin roasts at $2.99/lb, if you bought a large one weighing over ten pounds.   I couldn't pass that up.  This is one of my favorite things to can.  I cut the meat into strips and season them with salt and pepper, brown them with a minimum amount of olive oil, deglazing the pan as I brown each batch.  Pour the meat and the juices into a stockpot and simmer while  preparing the jars.  Then pack the meat and juice into pint jars, about a pound of meat per jar and process at 10 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes. This makes the moistest, tenderest meat you could ever imagine.  Great for stews, potpies, soups and heated with some sour cream and made into a stroganoff.

We also dried peppers and tomatoes. Our dried peppers and tomatoes taste better than the fresh ones in the produce aisle in the winter.   We just pour boiling water over them in a bowl and let them set until they soften up.  These are used in soups, casseroles, and pizzas.  We also grind the tomatoes to make our own tomato bouillon.  I used to buy the Knorr's brand, it adds so much richness to chicken and beef soups.  Also, we grow paprika peppers that we dry and grind to make our own paprika.  You can do this with chili peppers to make your own chili powder, too.  We grind ours in an old coffee grinder.

Speaking of drying tomatoes, here's the old-fashioned way to make authentic sun-dried ones:   Cut your tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds.  Place them cut-side down on a large clean board.  Cover with cheesecloth and lean the board someplace sunny outside, slanting the board enough so that the juices flow downward. Must have a hot dry spell of weather for this to work.


Dried peppers and tomatoes.

Canned chili, maple-vanilla-peach jam, and sirloin.

Harvested and dried bay leaves.

Harvest, tomatoes, peppers, peaches and pears.

Darned a hole in Ran's favorite shorts.

Mailed in a rebate.

The usuals: hang the laundry to dry outside, wash with our old wringer washer, ate from the pantry, etc.

Well, that's it for this abbreviated post!  Can you believe we are already half-way done with September?   I leave you with this quote by Oscar Wilde, "We're  all down here in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars". Hope you all find something truly magnificent every day!


Monday, September 12, 2016


Hello dear friends!   Sorry that I'm a day late.  Just didn't want to post on 9-11 because I would have felt obligated to say something about the day.  This week I had jury duty and convicted a  man to life in prison, I did not take any pleasure in doing it, it didn't seem like justice prevailed. Quite the opposite actually, I felt that in a way I had helped lead a man to his downfall.   Oh, he was definitely guilty by the guidelines of the court, but I felt he didn't have the mental capacities to understand the consequences of his actions.  So to make a long story short, I've been going about with a heavy heart the past few days and just didn't want to focus upon any more doom and gloom. 

When the world gets too burdensome for me, I always find solace and peace in my home.  It was such a joy to go out into the garden and pick herbs, the strays keeping me company.  For some reason, Ran and I have become a refuge  for ailing cats.  They just show up on  our doorsteps.  First it was a couple of kittens with a bad respiratory infection and something wrong with their eyes.  We washed out their eyes with an antibacterial and put silver in their water and they got better.  Next came a kitten with a large wound on its face.  Really nasty with maggots burrowing into it. My dear Ran dug out the maggots and we treated the wound with various concoctions until it got better. The sore healed and now the sweet little kitten looks normal again.  I really didn't have much hope for that one.  A result of saving their lives, the kittens have become the most loyal and loving animals ever.  Never in all my life have I seen such affectionate cats.  When I go for a walk, the little black one we call Binks, keeps vigil on the sidewalk in front of our house, when I'm within his sight, he comes running at break-neck speed, to have me swoop him up in my arms.  The little one with the face wound we call Jolly, always puts her little paws on our face and stares into our eyes when we hold her.  Perhaps they were sent to me, not for me to mend, but to mend my broken heart.  It has been a very rough year for me emotionally.  Most days I go about feeling like I'm made of the most brittle glass.


Well, enough boring you with personal things!   While I'm writing about cats, I thought I'd show you the cute little shelter Ran made from free pallet wood and cedar from the Christmas day find.
The bin next to it was also made from pallets.  We use it to hold all our tinder.  We also used one to prop up our peach tree.

They are so heavy with fruit this year without a prop, they would be uprooted.

Aren't they beautiful?   We've picked over two bushels so far. 


Cat shelters aren't the only thing Ran has been building.  He built the countertop  in our kitchen from maple.
It always amazes me what this wonderful man can do!  We're a good team, I think up the ideas and he executes them. Ha!  The new undermount sink needed replumbing to fit and he did that also.  BTW, if you are in the market for a new sink, check out the restaurant and bar supply companies, you can get a better quality and more affordable one than those you'd find at a Lowes or Mennards.
He also installed this weathered barnboard type flooring.   I used a method to paint the walls to mimic old plaster.

I know it's not the style, but I don't care for modern grays and light teals that are en vogue at the moment, so I'm content to be out of fashion. 
A shelf that I found at a garage sale holds some of my dried herbs and concoctions. 
A view of the kitchen from the other direction.  It's a small room, only about 13 feet long by 6 feet wide, but it serves it's purpose.  Sometimes I have to laugh when I watch those house hunting shows and the people always say the kitchen isn't large enough or doesn't have a professional cook's stove.  I cooked enough food to serve over twenty people in my little kitchen and you all know how much canning I do.  I wouldn't trade my sweet little kitchen for the world!


Harvested peaches, peppers, and tomatoes from the garden.

Ran froze about a gallon of peaches while I was on jury duty.

Made a gallon of peach juice, that has yet to be canned.

Painted the kitchen walls with paint we had on hand and some that we bought for a dollar at a garage sale.

Dried more peppers.

That's about it for this week.  It wasn't a very frugal week, as we were so busy.  It takes time to be frugal! The weather has been lovely here this week, hope you are experiencing the same.  Always remember to find something beautiful in each day!


Sunday, September 4, 2016


Hello dear friends!  Hope everyone is having a safe and relaxing Labor Day weekend!  We've been experiencing the most delightful weather here, and have spotted a bit of scarlet tinge to the top of the trees.  The garden is winding done (thank Heavens!) and about the only thing remaining is this rather grand stand of cosmos.

  It wouldn't be a holiday without us having a project going and this one is no different than any other. We're remodeling our kitchen.  It all started with a big ugly chip in the sink.  We couldn't find another sink the same size, so we had to replace the countertop, which meant we had to tear out the stone backsplash, which snowballed into removing the wallpaper. Then we contracted a case of the "might-as-wells" and decided we might as well replace the flooring, while we had everything removed from the kitchen.  By the end the only things left standing were the faucet and the cupboards.    There's a long-standing joke in our village that to reach Port Austin, you must drive to the end of the Earth then drive ten more miles and you'll arrive here, and today we learned just how true it is;  we needed a simple two-dollar piece of plumbing  to finish installing the sink, but had to make a one-hundred and thirty-six trip to the big city to get it.


It wasn't a  very good year for the wild grapes, but we uncovered  enough to make a batch of wild grape jelly.  We grow two kind of of domesticated grapes: Gewurztraminer, a sweet variety .
that Ran uses for wine-making  and are very good for eating out of hand, and seedless Concords that I use  for  grape juice.   Grape juice,  more peaches and potatoes, and perhaps pumpkins are all I have left to do this year, then I can put my canners away for a while. 
Can you believe these shelves were nearly bare this Spring? And this is only one of my two pantries.


The other day I had the "pleasure" of standing in line behind a woman that must have watched one too many episodes of Extreme Couponers.  It took three-quarters of an hour for her to check out as she had a coupon or a matching-price-from-a-competitor for almost every item in her cart, which was filled to overflowing.  In the end, she was quite pleased with herself as she watched the total drop from over $1200 to around $700.  She turned towards me as she left, grinned and exclaimed "not bad!". Guess she thought I'd be impressed.  To be honest, I think if my grocery bill ever totaled $700, I'd probably faint dead away, or expect that I'd have enough food to last half the year.  I so wanted to pull her aside and explain to her that she could have saved even  more money if instead of Lunchables, she had bought a box of store-brand crackers and a chunk of cheese and packaged them in a reusable plastic container from the dollar store.  Instead of those packages of juice boxes, she could have bought frozen juice concentrate and reconstituted it herself with her own tap water and put that into a thermos that she could have bought at a garage sale.  Instead of lunchmeat at $8/lb, she could have bought two roasting chickens and made more sandwiches and the bones could have been made into soup  that again could have went off to school in a thermos.  Instead of those little cups of fruit, why not just fruit? You know?  From the produce section? I think I could have whittled her grocery bill down to approximately $200 without using a single coupon.  Sigh!  Sometimes it's hard to bite your tongue when you're a master of thrift. Ha!


Well, school days are here again and it's always nice to have a little something sweet in the old lunch pail.   Here's a recipe that's as old as the hills, for a simple moist brownie that's a real kid and husband pleaser.


1 C. butter
2 C. sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla
1/2 C. cocoa
2 C. flour
dash of salt
1/2 C. chopped nuts  (optional)

Beat together the butter and sugar.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  Stir in the cocoa, salt and flour  until just combined.  Fold in the nuts.  Put into a greased 13 X 9 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until just done.  Hint:  Brownies should always be just a tad bit underbaked if you want fudgey ones.

Once cooled, frost.


1/4 butter, softened
1/4 C. milk
1/4 C. cocoa
3 C. Confectioners sugar

Beat together all ingredients until smooth.
I overbaked mine  (got distracted reading) so they weren't as moist as they usually are, but who needs a picture of brownies anyway?


Since the kitchen is in shambles, I have had time to do some other chores besides canning, cooking and washing dishes.  Time to get caught up on mending.  Ran tore a rent in his favorite jacket so I darned that.  Darning is an old-fashioned skill, seldom used today in our throw-away society, but I like to give it a turn from time to time, just to keep the art alive.

To darn a sweater, you run long lines of yarn (hopefully matching) the length of the hole, catching the loops of the unraveled yarn.  Then it's simply a matter of weaving the yarn over and under that yarn you just sewed lengthwise, crosswise like weaving a basket.  For cloth, put a piece of material behind the hole if it's a large one, and then weave it the same as for knits. catching some of the backing fabric as you weave and tucking in the little frayed edges as you weave the thread. Here's the end results:
The Shroud of Turin it aint!  But I think darning gives the old jacket a nice homey look.  Just as a scar gives a face some character.  Darning and patching are nice ways to extend the lives of clothes, perhaps you wouldn't want to do it to your Sunday-goes-to-meeting outfit, but for work, play and bed clothes, it does the job.  Or perhaps just a simple patch would suffice?


Harvested grapes, peaches, blackberries and peppers.

Foraged wild grapes.

Made them into jelly.

Stopped at the grocery outlet and bought 2 pounds of Hersheys cocoa for $1/lb.  Also bought a pound of loose tea for 45 cents/lb.  Gotta love those scratch and dent grocers!

Bought a gallon of paint for the kitchen at a garage sale for $1.

Bought a years supply of canning lids at the bulk food store. They're around  7 cents a lid as opposed to the 12 or 13 cents a lid if you buy those packages of 12.

A neighbor gave us enough soup for 2 days as a thank you for all the produce we've been giving her this year.

Canned  mostarda di frutta made from our own apples, peaches and pears.

Darned Ran's jacket and a pair of shorts.

Ran made up a batch of grape wine.

Bought a dozen canning jars at a garage sale for $3.  I ran out! There were some very interesting ones.  Only a canner can understand the excitement of discovering a new style of canning jars. Ha!

I finally found a  black top that is both modest and pretty at the thrift store and a basic brown cardigan.  Two things that have been on my shopping list for over a year.  One was Banana Republic and the other was Lands End brand.  Total of $6 for both.

Knitting a pair of tweed wrist warmers from my tweed stash and a free pattern found on line.

Well, that's another week at the old Zempel boarding house!  I hope all of you are safe and enjoying your holiday weekend!


Sunday, August 28, 2016


Hello dear friends!   Hope you are all enjoying this beautiful day.  It is one of those perfect days today, the sort that you wish would last forever.  The kind that makes you feel good just to be alive.  What a blessing after so many days this summer that I wished away.  Nothing much is happening here, but we sure are busy!
As you can see the hydrangeas are in full bloom at the moment.  I need to get out the ladder and hitch some of my roses to the trellis.  Windows need  washing, too.  Well, there's always next week!

It seems that one thing leads to another, we never have time to be bored.  This week there was a sale on beef roast for less than $3 a pound so be bought ten or so pounds and I canned it up.  The trimmings of the fat and gristle were put into a big pot and boiled, cooled, defatted and made into a broth that was also canned.  The fat was rendered and saved for soap making and all the gristle was fed to the strays.  One of the jars didn't seal so I made a potpie with the meat. While I was making up piecrust for the pie, I went ahead and made a large batch of  dough (enough for five pies) and froze it for future pie baking sessions.
That little pie bird is very special to me.  When my son, Scott was just a little guy, I gave him some money for the school fair.  Money was tight then and it was a rare day when he had any money of his own to spend on whatever he wanted. Well!  He proudly presented me with this pie bird that he had spent all his money upon.  I tell you, there has never existed a more beloved pie bird on Earth.  This is the truest meaning of things done with great love and little money.  I wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China!

We also foraged for crabapples.  Boy!  Did the smell heavenly whilst they were  awaiting to be made into jelly.  Half a bushel rendered enough juice to make two batches of jelly.
Isn't it a pretty red color?  Should make a wonderful addition to our Christmas hampers this year.

We also picked and gave away pounds and pounds of blackberries.  Sure has been a good year for them.  But after canning one batch, we have enough.  Blackberries are not my most favorite fruit.  Well, at least the birds can enjoy them!

It was also a good year for peppers and in addition to drying a bushel of them, I made two batches of pepper jelly.  We love it as a spread in lieu of butter or mayo on sandwiches and it's a nice snack spread on crackers with cream cheese.  One of our favorite ways to dress a salad is to melt a tablespoon or so of jelly with a splash of cider vinegar and toss into a plain salad with either feta or blue cheese.

In between canning sessions I worked on and finished this Outlander shawl using tweeds from my yarn stash.

Even with many starts and spurts, it was a quick knit, taking only a few days from start to finish. The pattern can be found here for free on Ravelry. The two stripes were just scrap yarn but the main part of the body was knitted in Lion Brand's Heartland in  the Smoky Mountains colourway. This is an easy pattern, even for beginners.  Perfect for mindless knitting.

Another creative endeavor, although small, was to change the flowers in the basket on the front door.  I was bored with the summery geraniums but even I think it's a tad too early for the russets and golds of Autumn.  Fortunately I found these crimson floral picks at the dollar store.  For a few dollars I created a pretty early Fall look, that I think looks a far cry prettier than the rather garish Autumn wreaths I saw in the stores.

So there you have it, another week here at Sweet Briar Cottage.  Not the most fascinating week on record, but that is what August is like.  Next week should be a lot more exciting around here.  Ran is building a new kitchen countertop and will be installing it.  Of course that will lead to more work as the old backsplash will have to go, which means so will the wallpaper.  As I said, one thing leads to another! Well, I hope that you will have a nice restful week, at least!


Monday, August 22, 2016


Hello dear friends!  Well, here I am, a day late and a dollar short.  Today I promise to keep this post short and sweet, so it doesn't feel like a school assignment.  Speaking of school assignments, I hope you all are taking advantage of the back-to-school sales.  Even if you don't have any schoolchildren, now's the time to stock up on pens and paper.  I bought half a dozen notebooks for 17 cents each.  I use them to make my own ledgers  (keeping track of money is so important) and for recipe books. I even use them to make scrapbooks of articles that I cut from magazines and copy from the internet.  We have no space to store old magazines, just wasted space, besides most magazines now days are all advertisements, when you get down to the meat and potatoes of them, you're lucky to have ten pages worth reading.

Oh yes!  I promised not to be long-winded this post!  The last few days have been  beautiful.  There's a cool breeze of the lake and because of the drought, the leaves on the trees have turned yellow and are falling off.  If a person squints just right, you can imagine it is Fall.  Our peach trees are heavy with fruit this year.
I'm very pleased with the trees that we bought last year from R.H. Shumway, the are producing well without the wait.  I'll probably order a few more this Spring.  I don't receive any sort of compensation from the company, just am happy with their products and thought I'd let you in on the secret that you don't have to pay expensive nursery prices to get nice fruit trees.

So anyway,  been busy here with canning, as usual.  This week it was peaches, of course, blackberries, tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and potatoes.  We always cull the small potatoes when we dig them and can them instead of letting them wither in storage.  They make for a convenient meal.  It's rather silly, I know, but I'm very proud of how lovely my jars of potatoes look.  Vanity, thy name is woman!

Well, I couldn't write a post without giving some sort of lesson, could I?  So here's how I can my tomatoes:

Canning Crushed Tomatoes

Remove the skins and core the tomatoes.  Crush them with your hand and place in a large stockpot.  Heat and simmer the tomatoes until most of the watery liquid has evaporated and you are left with just tomatoes and it's own juice.  Pack into hot sterilized quart jars with 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of canning salt.  Put on caps and lids and process in a hot water bath for 45 minutes.

I broke two jars while canning the tomatoes.  The first one I just chalked up to it being an old jar, I've inherited quite a few jars from my parents who had inherited many from my grandparents, so some of these jars are pretty close to ninety years old... Anyway, it wasn't until I broke the second jar, that I figured out the problem.  I was putting the cold lemon juice in the hot jar first, and that little bit of cold against the hot glass was causing the jars to crack.  So now I add the lemon juice mid-way in the packing process.

In spite of the drought, our garden did pretty well this year.  Daily we are harvesting tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, blackberries and peaches.  Today I have to pick crabapples and make jelly.  Ran always makes a jug of wine from them.  I love how vibrant the food is, when it is fresh-picked from the garden.
Aren't these Turkish eggplants beautiful? 
And here's the beginnings of a wonderful moussaka with the golden and red tomatoes.  And of course, now's the time to make pizza, while the vegetables are ready for the pickings!
Life is so good!

Inside I'm rushing the season, by rearranging the house for cooler weather.  We live in a tiny dollhouse-sized home, and I treat it like a dollhouse, rearranging the furniture on a whim.  Friends never know what to expect when they visit. 
Yesterday, I moved  a table to the middle of the sitting room in preparation for tea beside the fire.  The tablecloth is just an old shawl that was convenient,  later I switched it to that beautiful throw I wrote about in the previous post.  I placed some oak branches that had blown off the tree in an old McCoy vase with blackberries on it and replaced the lighter colored throw with a golden knitted one (that I bought for a few dollars at a thrift store) on the chair.  It's a start.  I love Fall and always get so excited when it approaches.  Just thinking about sweaters and tights and fires and pumpkin pie fills my heart with joy!


Canned 24 pints of potatoes, 8 quarts of tomaotes, 6 pints of spaghetti sauce, 8 pints of peaches and 8 pints of blackberries.

Dehydrated a half-bushel of peppers.

Sewed a table runner from some fabric scraps.

Started knitting an Outlander-type shawl from the many skeins of tweed yarn I have left over from many projects.

Ate chili, moussaka, pizza and scalloped potatoes, all from garden produce and pantry.

We pledged not to use the car for two weeks, so far so good.

For entertainment, I rearranged the sitting room (that's entertainment to me) and watched some really old movies on YouTube .  We enjoyed the cooler weather and went for many walks.

That's another week at the old Sweet Briar Cottage.  Hope you have a wonderful golden sunshiny week!


Sunday, August 14, 2016


Hello dear friends!   Hope all is going well your way on this fine Sunday!   The reason I sound so chipper is because we finally had some rain and the temperatures have dropped.  Whew!   Friday was steamy!  Today's post's subjects have been suggested by you readers.   I love it when you make suggestions and requests, sometimes it's hard to come up with something new to write about.  How many times can I show you my canning?  Ha!


Ryan suggested that I write a post about antique hunting this week, which came at the perfect time, since this was the weekend of the Blue Water Garage Sale Trail, that runs all along the tip of the Thumb to southeast Michigan.  This year the sales were few and far between compared to other years, but we still managed to score some treasures.

The first tip for would-be antique hunters is go often to estate sales, auctions and garages sales and carry lots of cash in smaller denominations.  Oh! and drive a big truck!   The things I passed up this weekend because I didn't have a truck or anyone to help me haul them.  I'm still feeling a bit sad that I couldn't take an antique icebox home, something I've been looking for forever.  (still dreaming of living off-the-grid)  Anyhoo, it was in wonderful condition, the only drawback being someone had done a sloppy job of stripping the varnish off the oak.  Nothing that couldn't be set straight with a bit of stripper.  And only $150!   And a beautiful wood cookstove.   Oh dear! If wishes were horses all men would ride!

Here's a picture of Ran, checking out a guitar.
It was a nice good quality mahogany one  with a wonderful tone.  It also came with enough equipment to warrant the $75 price tag.  See that window on the left hand corner?  It had pretty leaded and beveled glass.  I bought it and hung it in our back room (the one with the "found" wood wall).
The windows in that room are boring replacement windows, so that helps make it more interesting.

The second tip for antique hunting is to get off the beaten path.  We went down a lot of dirt
and one-lane roads.
It's quite a thrill to come across and old centennial farm sale with a barn filled with junk! Another tip is to dress so that you can climb and get dirty.  I've climbed up in hay lofts and up ladders into attics before, so on hunting days, I leave my skirts and flip flops behind and where pants and sturdy shoes.  And carry lots of wet wipes!  Antiquing is dirty business.
Sometimes there's some real treasure to be found.  Over the years I've discovered that in towns, the best gems can be found in the older middle-class neighborhoods.  New subdivision, usually have young families, and a mostly  newer things.  And strangely, the wealthier people rarely have any antiques, or if the do, they usually have a high price tag.

Estate sales can be a great for collecting.  The usually are listed in the newspaper on Thursdays.  After you go to a few, you'll discover which estate sales agency have the most reasonable prices.  Around here, there are a few businesses that I never attend their sales because I know they always are over-priced.  If it's a sale that takes numbers, arrive at least an hour early to get a place in line before everything is picked over.  On the other hand, if you wait until the last day and hours of a sale, you can sometimes snag a bargain, because the dealers are ready to haggle and they usually offer half-off.

For auctions, never bid on the first items.  People are usually excited and hyped-up and bid too much for them.  If you're lucky, the items that you want will be offered at the end of the day, after everyone has spent their money and become tired.  You can pick up some real bargains then, if you're patient. If you're new  to an auction, just sit back and observe for a while before jumping in and bidding.

 If you spy something, while out garage sale-ing it doesn't hurt to ask.   While I was paying at one, I spotted an antique wool challis throw on the davenport and asked if it was for sale.  The man holding the sale, looked surprised.  "That?" he asked.  "We use that to cover the couch so the sun doesn't get on it.  I guess I could sell it to you.  Does two bucks sound good?"  Yes, it sounded very good to me!   I have a weakness for these old shawls and throws.  It wasn't until I got it home that I discovered how long it was, about eight feet.  This was one of my best buys of the day.
Read all you can about antiques.  Go to antique stores and get a feel for them, so you can recognize a true antique from the imposter when you see it.  Look in all the nook and crannies.  I found this
signed, numbered and having a certificate of authenticity from Mt. Nebo Gallery,  Will Moses (Grandma Moses' grandson, and an artist in his own right) serigraph for $20 tucked under a table.  On Ebay these sell for $150-$650.  This is a larger and earlier one, so I suspect it is on the higher end.  No matter, I love it and am going to keep it. I wonder how many people walked pass it and didn't even notice it or know what it was?

So I hope these tips help you, Ryan, uncover some treasures of your own.  Antique hunting is just like any other skill, the more often you do it, the better you become!


Dana suggest that I write a post about what we eat during the week.  I know there are people out there that are curious as to how we spend so little on groceries.  To be fair, one of the reasons our grocery bills are so low is because we garden and I preserve a lot of food. To me, canning isn't a cute little hobby, where I wear a frilly little apron and put up pickles and jam, it's a serious part of our path to self-sufficiency. Gardening isn't something  I do when I have the time, gardening is almost a full-time job for us and we produce tons of food on our little 4/10ths of an acre plot.  I'm sure our tab would be a lot higher if I had to go out and buy a lot of the items that come from my pantry.  The other thing that saves us a lot of money is that we avail ourselves to a wonderful bulk food store.  But anyhow, even without a well-stocked pantry, we eat pretty thriftily, so here goes!


As we all arise at different times, there is no specific menu for breakfast.  This week, we've had a lot of berries, so we've been eating yogurt and fresh berries from our bushes fairly often.  Eggs are cheap (50 cents for a dozen medium) so Jamie has made himself eggs on a nest (cut a hole in a piece of bread,place on a greased griddle, break an egg into the hole and fry on both sides.  Brown the circle that was cut from the bread and brown that too).  This was the first thing I taught to boys to cook when they were six years old and Jamie still likes making them.  We often eat oatmeal, which we buy in bulk at $17.99/50 lbs.  Nothing gets cheaper than that.  If I'm near a bakery outlet, I like to buy inexpensive English muffins  and freeze them.  An English muffin with a smear of orange marmalade is one of the finest breakfasts there ever was, in my opinion.  Jamie likes them with peanut butter and a few mini-choclate chips sprinkled on top.  My mother used to make plain white rice and sprinkle it with cinnamon sugar and a bit of butter.  We all know how cheap rice is. Plus it can be made ahead of time and just needs to be warmed up, maybe with a splash of milk.  There's plenty of things to have for breakfast besides expensive  boxed cereal. We all drink coffee.  Whenever we find a great price, I buy it and freeze it.  We recently discovered an Amish-owned scratch and dent store that sells K-cups for 5 cents a piece.  They're slightly out of date, but taste fine to us.


Lunch is our main meal of the day.  Usually we eat the leftovers for dinner.  I guess we are not "big eaters"  because a lot of time we skip dinner completely or just have some hummus, or cheese and crackers.  If we get hungry later in the day, we might pop up some popcorn, or again toast an English muffin and spread some of my home-canned spaghetti sauce on it, sprinkled with a bit of cheese and toast it until its heated through and the cheese is melted.  I also can lots of soup, chili, and things like barbecued beef, hamburger patties, etc.  that can be made into a quick meal for anyone who's hungry.   Anyway, here's what we ate this week:


Bean burritos made from our own refried beans , tomatoes, peppers,  and onions, from our garden, home-canned salsa, and just a bit of cheese.  Just because a recipe calls for 8oz. of cheese, it doesn't mean you need to use that much.  We also added rice to stretch them even further.  This made a lot and we had plenty left over for dinner.


Panzanella made from tomatoes, onions, basil and peppers from our garden. I bought a loaf of French bread from the discount cart at Wal-Mart for the cubes for $1.49.  For dinner I made some sandwich spread from our home-canned corned beef, home-canned relish, mayo, and mustard.  We ate these sandwiches with some sliced tomatoes from our garden and icebox pickles (from our cucumbers and dill).  Only thing we purchased for this meal was bread, again from the discount rack  ($1)and lettuce.  Need those green leafies, ours have all bolted. Sure miss being able to go out to the garden and pick our own.


Turkey Joes.  The hamburger buns were another purchase from the discount rack for $1.  The ground turkey was a trade for an electric meat grinder.  I gave my son my electric meat grinder and he gave us some ground turkey.  Also had to buy a can of chicken gumbo soup.   We served this with a side of roasted green beans from the garden and some of our carrots made into honey-glazed carrots.  As we always do, I added a jar of home-canned kidney beans to make the meat stretch.  Turkey Joes were something I made quite often when the boys were little, as ground turkey was cheaper than hamburger.  Here's the recipe:

Turkey Joes

1 lb. ground turkey
1 med. green pepper diced
1 med. onion diced
1 can chicken gumbo soup
2 tbsp. catsup
2 tbsp. mustard
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vinegar
1 tsp. chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the meat with the peppers and onions.  Add the remaining ingredients and heat through.  Serve over buns.  You might have to adjust the brown sugar and vinegar to your taste. Anyway, this made a lot (I think there was more than 1 pound of turkey in the package), so we plenty for dinner plus some to freeze. The catsup was home-canned, and the peppers and onions came from the garden.


On Thursday we were out running errands, so we grabbed one of those $5 hot-and-ready pizzas (even though they're advertised for $5,the cost $6 here).  In the evening we reheated the leftovers and had some salad with it.  I think later that night Ran  reheated some of the Turkey Joes.  In the evening I baked some carrot nut brownies (using our carrots and last year's foraged nuts that we froze).  We had one with some tea.

Carrot Nut Brownies

1/2 C. butter
3/4 C. brown sugar
1 egg
1 C. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 C. grated carrots
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 C. chopped nuts

Melt butter.  Combine with brown sugar and blend together.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Stir in dry ingredients.  Fold in carrots and nuts.  Spoon batter into a greased 8" square pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Cool and frost with white frosting.
BTW, I think these would be good with raisins in place of the nuts.  The plate is an example of  knowing antiques.  By the feel and weight of it, I could tell this was a very old piece, which I snagged for 25 cents!


Friday was our big garage sale-ing day, there are no fast food joints out that way, so we packed a lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit, those brownies, carrot sticks and some nuts.  We had a thermos of lemonade and one of water.  When we arrived home in the evening, Ran and Jamie heated up some home-canned barbecue pork and ate it on some bread with some of our tomatoes.


Zucchini crab cakes (recipe is a few posts back), oven-fried sweet potatoes and coleslaw.  The zucchini came from our garden.   The coleslaw was that bagged shredded cabbage and carrots to make things easy.   We had hunt and peck for dinner.  Ran  baked these soft pretzels in the evening, which we ate with mustard and some of our icebox pickles.

Sunday, Today

I had every intention of making a nice brunch today with omelets made from those 50 cents/dozen  eggs, peppers and onions from the garden.  Roasted potatoes from the garden, cranberry spritzers made from my home-canned cranberry juice and some fresh berries and yogurt.  But, Ran brought in a bushel full of tomatoes and I started in canning.  Everyone got hungry, so I made up a quick Big Mac salad  with the remaining lettuce, home-canned hamburgers and pickles, tomatoes and onions from the garden.  Soon I'll have to figure out something for dinner as the natives are getting restless!

All, in all, I spent around $20 this week on groceries, including the take-out pizza.   I need to restock my pantry with brown sugar, bread flour, lemon juice (for canning tomatoes), canning lids, baking soda, and canning salt.  I hope to spend less than $50 for this.


Hello?  Are you still with me? Ha!  I finally finished the never-ending shawl!  I got bored with the pattern after knitting 10 inches and needed to knit 60 more!  The yarn is Madeline Tosh Silver Birch, which my dear friend Mary gave to me.  She found 4 skeins  for 99 cents each at a thrift store!  It runs $30 a skein in the stores. 
Here's a close-up of the pattern:
The pattern is called Criss Cross Lace shawl and it can be found on the Lion Brand yarn website.  (For some reason it wouldn't let me link to it. Sorry!)


Harvested tomatoes, potatoes, onions, carrots, eggplants, green beans, herbs and zucchinis.

Canned more tomatoes.

Bought some antiques at the garages sales.

Bought 2 skirts (one a pretty Ralph Lauren and one a vintage circle skirt) a pair of vintage silver and enameled earrings and a cute green sweater from the garage sales for my fall wardrobe for a grand total of $8.

Packed our lunch rather than dining out.

Ran gave Jamie a haircut.  (I always cut the boys and Ran's hair, it must have saved us thousands of dollars over the years.)

Made icebox pickles.

Working on some bowl fillers from a free pattern on-line.

Well that's about it!  Was quite a gad-about this week.  Hope this post answers some questions.  If you have any more just leave a comment!