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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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

How To Sucessfully Start Seeds

Hello dear friends!  Since I had several comments  in my last post that it was hard to start seeds, I thought I'd let you in on how we do it.  We successfully start a couple hundred plants every year for the past four decades, so I guess our system works.

First refrigerate your seeds for at least a week.  We keep our seeds in our garage, so they are naturally refrigerated.  What you are doing is fooling your seeds into thinking they have  experienced a Winter.  Then when the are planted, they think it's Spring and begin to "wake up".

Next use a good quality starting soil.  We use the one from Miracle grow.  Starting soil is not the place to cheap out.

Moisten the soil, but don't saturate it.

Plant in one of these covered planting trays:
Or create your own from old enamel pans and some sort of plastic (even plastic wrap) to cover them.  We reuse the same ones over and over each year so it's worth the outlay of money for us.  You can find these sort of things at estate sales, also.

Use warming pads under the planting trays. 
These can be purchased inexpensively on-line and are well-worth the money.

Once the seeds begin to sprout, crack the lid a bit, it keeps the plants from becoming too wet.

Once they sprout, remove the plastic cover and  use a grow light for  10-12 hours a day.  Place it just a few inches from the plants.  We bought one of those grow light contraptions, but when the grow light burnt out, we replaced it with  fluorescent lights, one is "cool" and one is "warm"  (it says on the package).  This mimics natural sunlight.

Mist your plants with a plant mister.  Avoid getting the plants too damp.

Once the plants get bigger and leggy, transplant to 3-inch  pots. Once they get this big you can begin watering them. If your plants are leggy, plant them deep into the pot.

Harden off your plants, by putting them outside, first in a shaded sheltered area, gradually increasing their time outdoors and in stronger sunlight, until the are ready to  be planted.  About  four weeks before our last frost date, we place ours in a cold frame so they become accustomed to the cold nights.

The minor expense of a few pieces of equipment such as the grow light and warming pads net really nice plants, and the cost is nominal over the course of years.  An added advantage to starting your own plants is that you get to grow the varieties you want and not be dependent upon the commercial varieties that most garden centers and nurseries offer.  Hope this helps!

Hugs
Jane