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Monday, June 27, 2016

SUMMER OF ROSES

Hello dear friends!  Sorry this post is late, but things got in the way. Life, you know?  Are you enjoying your summer so far?  I can't believe that we are at the tail end of June.  Where did it go?  This week our village hosted a Porchfest, which is a sort of musical festival.  Amateur  and professional musicians play at different residents' porches throughout the village.  You can walk about and stop to listen for free.  It was lovely and I was proud of our little hamlet. 
I'm  also enjoying the New Dawn roses this year.  Last year I had to cut them back to almost the ground.  I was discouraged because it was the second year in a row, and I had it with roses, but this year they are blooming with abandon.  My favorite, Paul's Himalayan Rambler is  in bloom too.
It climbs almost to the roof.  Here's a close-up of it's blossoms.
Isn't it a sweetie?   Magenta Blue is in bloom too.
Soon the climbing rose  that reaches the roof will begin blossoming and everyone will understand why our cottage is called Sweet Briar Cottage.   We aren't the only ones enjoying the flowers, yesterday we were greeted with this:
Two mourning doves sitting atop our truck.  We couldn't shoo them away for the life of them!  They spent the better part of the morning basking in the sun and sniffing the roses.  We have our own peaceable kingdom here, with stray cats, pet dogs and wild birds all living together in unity.  It isn't unusual to see Blue Jays eating out of the cats' bowl with the cats just looking on.  Fortunately, the cats don't feel the same way about mice!  Which is why I don't mind feeding the strays; I'd much rather feed cats than mice!

ECONOMICAL ENTERTAINING

Before the Porchfest, I hosted a tea.  Teas are an economical way to entertain.  Little sandwiches cut into squares and scones are very thrifty. You can find pretty linens, teacups and serving pieces at thrift stores and garage sales for pennies. ( Hint:  to get stains out of thrifted white linens, soak in Rit dye remover according to the directions on the box.)   Plus it's very relaxing, as everything except the tea can be prepared ahead of time.   Scones can be made from pantry staples.

RECIPE FROM THE PANTRY

Scones

2 C. flour
1/8 C. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
dash of salt
6 Tbsp. butter
1 egg. separated
1/2 C. buttermilk
1/4 C. heavy cream

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Cut in butter until small crumbs form.
Beat together egg yolk, buttermilk and heavy cream and add to the flour mixture.  Combine just to moisten.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few times.  Pat into a square 3/4 inch thick/ Cut into rounds.  Place rounds onto greased cookie sheets.  Wash with the remaining egg white and sprinkle tops with sugar,  Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until tops turn light brown.  Makes 1/2 dozen.
Serve with clotted or Devonshire cream and homemade preserves (cherry or strawberry are particularly  nice.) The trick to making a nice moist (aren't most scones as dry as an old bone?)

 scone with a fine crumb is to use a light hand in mixing, don't putz about too much, and of course, the buttermilk.  I use buttermilk almost exclusively in my baking, substituting it for milk in recipes.

Here's how you make Devonshire cream

Devonshire Cream

1/2 C. sour cream
1/2 C. heavy (whipping) cream
2 Tbsp. sugar
Beat together sour cream and heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Fold in the sugar.

THRIFTY EATING

If you've read this blog for a while, then you know that we garden and eat according to the seasons.  That is, we don't eat strawberries in November, but have our fill in June.  In the winter we rely upon my home-canned goods for a good part of our menu and eat a lot of root crops.  Sometimes it does get monotonous (yes, you can have too much fresh asparagus) but our goal is to live as frugally as possible and as healthy as we can by eating our own organic produce.  To assist us in doing so, I keep a food journal of sorts.  Each time I find an interesting recipe for one of our crops, I enter it into a receipt book that is categorized  by seasons and by vegetables and fruits.  At the moment we are eating lettuce and either broccoli or cauliflower on a daily basis.  One of our favorite ways to use broccoli is in this salad:
Broccoli Salad

1 head of broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 red onion cut into thin rings
a few rashers of bacon, fired and crumbled
a handful of raisins
a handful of sunflower seeds
1/2 C. mayonnaise
1/4 C. sugar
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

Combine the mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar.  Toss in remaining ingredients.  Stir to coat.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

I didn't have sunflower seeds, so I used those salad crunchies instead.  Always be flexible when cooking, it's not rocket science after all!

THRIFTY THING WE DID THIS  WEEK

Free entertainment at the Porchfest.

Entertained with an economical tea.

Harvested broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce from the garden.

Cut roses from the garden for bouquets.

Bought some plants at the end-of-the-season sale.

Made lemon balm wine from our herbs and strawberry/rhubarb wine from our own rhubarb (had to buy strawberries, ours have petered out).

Dried last years remaining garlic and ground it into our own garlic pepper, using an old electric coffee mill.

Just sat outside and visited and listened to the birds for entertainment.


Well. it was another lazy week!  Too early for anything to be canned here and too busy in the garden for any special projects.  Next week''s post will be late too, as we're having the entire crew here for the 4th of July, so I'll wish you a happy holiday now.  May it be filled with fun and family!

Hugs,
Jane

 


Monday, June 20, 2016

THINGS ARE GROWING!

Hello dear friends!   Busy, busy week here, as the weather warms we are spending more and more time outside.  There's so much to do during the few short summer months.  This week Ran and Jamie built this little picket fence to separate the front garden from the back:
Isn't it cute?  Very Beatrix Potter-y, don't you think?  A few years ago I was looking for real wood pickets and couldn't find them anywhere.  Then, as things usually happen,  I found enough for the front yard fence plus extras all for $30 at a garage sale.  The wonderful hinges were  a freebie when a company sent us the wrong ones and told us to keep these because they were so heavy the postage was too much bother to send them back.  Even the copper post caps came from a garage sale at $1 a piece.  We were wondering what color to paint the fence, when we came across a mistint at the local hardware store.  And the lumber was more of the Christmas Day bounty.  All in all, it costs about $50 for the posts and the gate latch to build.  I think we got our $50's worth, don't you?

This weekend we traveled downstate for our granddaughter Violet's first birthday. 
As you can see, she was very excited about cake.  Takes after her grandma! Ha!  But she's such a sweetie, she was happy to share it with her daddy.
After that she crashed with her uncle Scott.



Our garden is also growing!  The vegetables are starting to ripen and we picked lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, arugula, kale and herbs this week.




We had a Farmer MacGregor moment yesterday when Ran spotted a rabbit inside the garden gate and chased it around and around the garden as he couldn't find the hole in the fence where he entered.  I know I should have been angry at the poor animal, but I couldn't help feeling sorry for him, after all, if I were a rabbit, our garden would be where I would want to hang out.

The flower garden is flourishing also.  Roses are beginning to bloom.
Alchemist by the side door.
Zepharine Dhurine , the only rose that I know that grows well in the shade.
An unknown red rose that I bought last year and the end-of-the-season sale.
But my favorite flowers of the moment are the foxgloves and columbine that I started from seed.
Foxgloves don't do well around here, guess the winters are too harsh.  The only ones that grow here are the perennial  types that don't have the height or the color or the wow factor of the biennials.  But they have a quiet beauty.  Here's the columbine:
Don't they remind you of fairy wings?


DID you know that tonight is the summer solstice?  The longest day of the year, then we will make the long turn back to winter.  It also the first full moon of June, called the Strawberry Moon.  Rarely does the Strawberry Moon and the summer solstice occur at the same time.  The last time was 1948.  So if you have a chance the evening, look up! You'll see something rare.  Isn't life wonderful that way? Rich or poor, we all can enjoy the same moon and stars.  The government hasn't figured out a way to tax us on that at least!  Although, I wouldn't doubt if they were trying!

Well, not a terribly informative post, I'm sorry, but here's the thrifty things we did this week:

Built a picket fence from found wood and garage sale goodies.

Harvested cauliflower, lettuce, broccoli, kale, arugula, and herbs fro the garden.

Made lemon balm wine from our lemon balm.

Painted more furniture from the many cans of paint we are trying to use up.

Ate the entire week off of one quart bag of frozen cooked chicken from the freezer.  We had balsamic strawberry pizza, chicken salad sandwiches,  chicken pot pie and a improvised chicken casserole.

I worked on a crewel embroidery pillow kit that I purchased at a garage sale.

So that's it for this week!  I  wish you all a wonderful first day of summer!

Hugs
Jane


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Sunday, June 12, 2016

A QUIET WEEK

Hello dear friends!  I hope you are having a wonderful weekend.  So saddened to open my computer today and read of the mass murder of so many young people.  I will never understand how someone's ideology can justify such an act. Must be a type of mental illness involved. All I can say is that I pray that those that have suffered will be comforted.  Amen!

So there, that's off my chest.  It has been a strange week here weather-wise. How about you?  On Tuesday it was so cold that I had to wear my light winter coat but on Saturday it almost reached 90 degrees.  In between it has been perfect with temperatures in the in the lower 70s with a nice breeze.  Perfect for getting some gardening done and painting the lawn furniture.  We are using up cans of paint but came up short to do one chair.  At a garage sale they had a can of oil-based brown paint for free.  Perfect!  Brown wouldn't have been the color I would have chosen but it goes nicely with the red chairs.  Sometimes you just have to go with the flow!

Speaking of gardens, here's the first rose of the summer:
It's called Apothecary and it has roots (literally) in the roses that medieval apothecaries used in their potions.  It is set on the south side of the cottage  sheltered from the wind so it blooms well before the other roses.  I'm so excited about my roses this year!   After the last two years of having to cut them back almost to the ground, due to our harsh winters, this year they have climbed almost to the roof and have thousands of buds on them.   Should be an awesome sight when they bloom.  But for now the flower that has stolen my heart in the garden are these Siberian Irises: 
Aren't they beautiful?  Unfortunately they are planted in the wrong spot so this fall I will need to replant them someplace special.

Which lead me to the first question I've been asked recently (This post will be a sort of question and answer session)

Question 1

How do get your roses to grow?

I'm a lazy gardener.  I ignore all advice to prune them to the first five-leaved offshoot, deadhead them as the blooms die, feed them bone meal, cover them in the winter, etc.  I have no patience with coddling plants.  All I do is cut off any dead wood after they start to come to life in the spring.  We have had a problem with some sort of bug eating the leaves, so every once in a great while I spray the leaves with Thuricide, which is  bacteria that kills all those little nasty leaf eaters.

Question 2

What do you grow in your vegetable garden?

We don't stray from anything too unusual. Just your basic tomatoes, peppers, greens, green beans, carrots, eggplants, and peas. Oh! and pumpkins and squashes. And let's not forget the potatoes!  We also have a rather large asparagus bed, blackberry and raspberry bushes, Concord grapes and of course rhubarb.    Which leads me to question number 3 ....

Question 3

Regina asked if I would share some rhubarb recipes as she too has rhubarb coming out of her ears

Two rhubarb recipes I made this week are rhubarb squares and rhubarb tea  First the simple one:

Rhubarb Iced Tea

2 C. rhubarb, diced
1 C. strawberries, chopped
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. water
6 C. brewed black tea

Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and water in a saucepan.  Cook until rhubarb is soft .  Strain through a fine mesh strainer.  Add rhubarb concoction  to the tea and refrigerate.  Serve over ice.  Very refreshing for a hot day.

Rhubarb squares

Crust and topping:

2 1/2 C. flour
1 C. sugar
1/2 C. chopped nuts (optional)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 C. cold butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Filling:

2 C. chopped rhubarb
2 C. chopped strawberries
2/3 C. sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon  cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine the dry ingredients for the topping.  Cut in the butter until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  Stir in egg.  Press half of mixture into the bottom of a 13 X 9 inch pan.

Combine the filling ingredients and pour over top of the crust.  Top with remaining crumbs/topping.    Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  I like to make a glaze of the remaining lemon juice and confectioners' sugar to pour over the crumbs while the bars are still warm..

A few more recipes that can be found on my blog are rhubarb flip (my favorite), curried rhubarb lentil stew and  rhubarb muffins.  I can't believe how many times I've written about rhubarb!  Another question about food:

Question 4

Someone wanted me to share a  typical menu and how we keep our grocery bill so low.    We eat seasonally and from our garden.  This week we harvested lettuce, spinach, arugula, cauliflower, herbs, asparagus and of course, rhubarb.  Here's what we ate this week:

Meatless tacos made from our own dried beans made into refried beans, lettuce from the garden, home-canned salsa, etc.
Kidney bean Joes, made from some of the beans we cooked up for the tacos and a salad from the garden.
Pork chops  (from the grocer's reduced for quick sale bin) roasted potatoes and asparagus (our own) and salad (our lettuce)
Big Mac Salad.  A man's salad.  1/2 lb. ground round (browned) lettuce and onions (our owned home grown), tomatoes, pickles (our own canned) and shredded cheddar cheese  and the special "sauce" (1/2 C. mayonnaise,  2 tbsp. ketchup, 2 tsp. mustard, 2 tbsp. dill pickle relish. Combine and refrigerate. Pour over salad)
This Green Goddess Melt sandwich with a side of saute asparagus.
We ate out twice this week which is very unusual.  Once we ate at Subway (love their veggie delights and about every third visit we get enough points to get a free sub) and on Friday a dear friend invited to be her guest at the local fish fry. BTW, here's how our garden is thriving:

Question 5

This is a strange question but I get asked quite often what products I use on my skin.

The truth of the matters, I am fortunate that I just have good genetics.  As I sat with my mother as she rested in hospice, I couldn't help and admire her beautiful complexion.  Hardly a wrinkle on her face and she was in her 90s. The one thing she taught us was to moisturize,  moisturize, moisturize.  We girls would always sit on the her bed and watch her dress,  which always started with a liberal application of Avon's Youth Dew (?).   I use whatever moisturizer that is the cheapest, as I discovered that it really doesn't matter what I use, it's more important how often and consistent I am in applying it.  Always apply it immediately after getting out of the shower.  Right now I'm using Vital Care Vitamin E Creme, a brand I found on the bottom shelf at Walmart.  I rarely wear foundation, so whenever I feel my skin start to dry out I slather more on throughout the day.  And I do mean slather.  I don't massage it into my skin, but let it absorb.  I also noticed recently that I'm getting a bit of crepey skin on my neck so I've been taking collagen tablets. Seems to be doing some good. I avoid sunbathing and that sort of thing, mainly because it bores me to bits. As you can see from question # 4, I am a firm believer in eating a lot fresh vegetables, particularly green leafies, which have lots of vitamin K.  We also walk at least three miles a day at a brisk pace which keeps the circulation going and perspiring cleanses the pores.  Something strange I do is to only wash my face at night (using a homemade scrub of coconut oil and sugar) and I try not to use hot water when rinsing, because hot water is very drying.


Question 6

The other odd sort of question I hear a lot is why do I wear skirts only?

Firstly, I don't wear skirts all of the time, I do on very rare occasions wear jeans, but to be quite honest, I do not find pants comfortable.  No matter what my weight or size, they just do not fit me properly, as I have a womanly figure.  Plus I do not like how revealing they are to my big bay view if you get my drift.  I'd much rather have my ankles be the focus of attention.  There's a thrift component to wearing skirts also, as it is easier to find pretty skirts that fit in the thrift stores and garage sales, than it is to find a nice pair of well-fitting  trousers.  Plus skirts are only $2 at our local thrift store as opposed to $5 for pants.  But the most important reason for wearing skirts is that I just like how they make me feel.  When I'm wearing skirts, I'm conscious of my feminine nature, it causes  me to talk and act more quietly and serenely, in other words more like how I feel a lady should conduct herself.

Question 7 & 8

What are you reading and what's on your needles?

I'm still plugging away at the shawl I wrote about eons ago.  As it is a rather complicated pattern, I've found I just don't have time to sit down and concentrate on it, so rarely do I work on it.  I just brought out a crewel embroidery kit that I bought at a garage sale years ago.  Embroidery is my first love and it can be done in spurts and fits.

As to what I'm reading, I'm afraid this will sounds rather dull or pretentious, depending upon your point of view; I'm reading the King James version of the New Testament.  After years of listening to various debates about the legitimacy of the many translations of the Bible, I decided it was time to pull out my grandmother's old circa 1910 King James version and begin reading it.  I really like the New Century version for understanding but feel compelled to slog through all the olde English phrasology.  While it is poetic, I do find myself drifting off or having to reread certain passages many times to grasp their meaning.  Probably why the old Shakespearean language has turned many people off to reading the Bible in the first place.  Do the have Crib Notes for the Bible? Ha! I still turn to the modern translations for understanding but it my understanding that some of the new translations omit or interpret wrongly, so that is why I am trying.  Anyway, it is slow going as this particular Bible was printed in the smallest type known to man.  But I like knowing that it belonged to my paternal grandmother.

FINAL QUESTION!

Have you stayed with me thus far?  Congratulations!  You deserve some sort of medal!

THE question I get asked everyday, and without end is:

What are you up to?

I lead a very boring life, I'm afraid.  Rarely does anything fascinating happen to me and that's the way I like it.  Most of my days are filled with the routine of daily life, cleaning, gardening and cooking leave me with very little free time for exciting endeavors.  We have been garage sale-ing on the weekends, which is always fun, but I've discovered that the best deals are right in my own neighborhood.  On the way to the store I stopped in at a sale next door and bought the remarkable piece of garden folly:
I guess it could be best described as a mobile. It on a 7 foot high pole and rotates as the wind catches it.  We repainted the moon and stars in some glittery paint.  I also found this sewing stand at another sale for $5 and repainted it:

It the perfect height for a washstand in our guest cottage/ shed (the facilities are primitive).  And of course, we repainted the lawn furniture as  reported at the beginning of this post, if you can remember that far back! Ha!

The garden takes up most of our days, between the weeding and watering.  Or just sitting outside and listening to the birds and church bells.

I'm watching Escape to the Country on YouTube.  A British house hunting show.  At first I had a few moments of wistful envy that I couldn't live in such a picturesque area, but then I reminded myself that I do live in an adorable little cottage  in a quaint little village by the sea and am surrounded by beautiful gardens.  What more could I want? Which leads me to the last thing I've been up to, and that is visiting.  The warmer weather brings out the people and Ran and I spend a fair amount of time each day just visiting with neighbors and friends.  Life is so good!

Well, I hope I haven't bored you to bits!  If you have any more questions feel free to ask.  Here's an extra big hug for sticking with me through this post!

Hugs
Jane










Sunday, June 5, 2016

MORE LOVE THAN MONEY

Hello dear friends!  Hurray!  We finally got some rain!  The birds are merrily chirping outside my window as I write this.  I'm sure the farmers are saying a prayer of thankfulness.  Never have I seen such a dry spring .   The ground was so dry before the rain we needed a jackhammer to break the soil.  And that is only a small exaggeration!  In spite of the weather,  the garden is growing and this week we will be able to harvest the first of our lettuce and I spied one small cauliflower that is ripe for the pickings.  Of course, we are still gathering asparagus almost daily. I tell you, if you want to make friends, just plant yourself a nice plot of asparagus.  We've been spreading goodwill throughout the village with our gifts of free asparagus.  Besides the friendships, it has netted us free plants.  Just yesterday a friend swapped a bushel basketful of irises for some.  Not that we really needed anymore irises (but hey, who can turn down free plants?), here's a picture of one of several large clusters we have planted around the place:
If you want to make a big impact on your landscape, plant in large clusters.  When I was a beginner gardener, I would plant many different plants because I wanted them all, the results ended up looking a bit like a tossed salad.  Over the years I have learned that it is much more awe inspiring to see a field of daffodils (or irises) then many varieties of plants.  It is times like this, that I wish I were a better photographer for you all. But to be truthful, there is no camera that could capture the serenity of the birds singing, the church bells chiming in the distance, the lilacs wafting, and the feel of the sun on your face.  I guess you will just have to climb in your cars and pay me a visit! I couldn't bear to let the irises that toppled over to go to waste, so I brought them inside.  The made a rather ginormous bouquet, I had to use a crock for the vase because I don't have a vase big enough, but that's OK because I like rustic, as you can plainly see.
I've been rearranging this room to meet out needs.  It has to do duty as a sitting room, music room and sewing room.  Oh!  And also my dressing room, as it is the only room with enough wall space for the linen cupboard that houses my wardrobe. Speaking of which, I finally got around to painting said linen cupboard.  It was green and yellow before. Ugh! 
I'm still not satisfied with it.  Looks too plain and not primitive enough for my likings. I cannot abide perfection in furniture or people.  I'll probably sand it a bit and apply some antiquing rub  to it.  BTW, please ignore the broom in the corner!  When you have corgis the broom is seldom put away!

Living in a tiny house can certainly present some challenges.   Just yesterday Ran bought both a watermelon and a large jug of juice.  How to fit that into our apartment-sized refrigerator was a puzzler.  One creative way I save space in the fridge is to make lemonade syrup instead of having a large pitcher of lemonade.  You just add 1/4 cup of the syrup to 3/4 cup of cold water and you have lemonade. It's good added to iced tea also,

Old-Fashioned Lemonade Syrup

1 1/2 C. sugar
1 1/2 C. water
1 tablespoon of lemon rind, finely grated
1 1/2 C. lemon juice (6-7 med. lemons)

In a small saucepan stir together the sugar, water and rind,  Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Remove from the heat and let cool.  Stir in the lemon juice.  Transfer to a quart jar and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Another painting project that I completed recently, was to paint a bench that I purchased at a garage sale for $15. 
For some  reason I'm attracted to red for garden structures, which is odd since red is my least favorite color.  But it does contrast beautifully with my white garden, which is starting to bloom.
First the bleeding hearts and the anemones, followed shortly by the lupines and lilies and ending  with the bridal phlox in August.  Oh!  Speaking of white flowers, here's a picture of Beauty of Moscow.
Since we are spending so much time outdoors, it was only reasonable to do some campfire cookery.  Saves on fuel and doesn't heat the house up.  Plus it's a fun inexpensive little adventure.  Make everyday fun!
This is the classic campfire tin-foil packets of potatoes, carrots, onions, hamburg and salt and pepper  wrapped in tin foil and roasted in the coals. Only we used a Dutch oven instead of making packets.  When we were kids, we would make up those packets and camp out in the backyard.  We were ones for camping and I'm sure our parents didn't mind that we were only a few steps from the house.  It was nice wholesome fun!

Speaking of adventures, regular readers to this blog might recall our Christmas morning adventure when we came across a pile of free lumber.  Well, we finally got around to using it up by making a mixed lumber wall in our back room.  This is the room that houses our woodstove and we spend most of the winter in this room.
This one a project that was way out of Ran's comfort zone as he like to make everything plumb and perfect.  Sticking up random boards without regard to how level they were and whether they butted exactly was pretty nerve wracking for him, but we ove how it turned out.  We even made a light fixture from an old farm funnel and parts that I picked up at an estate sale.  I always head straight to the workshop at estate sales.  Never can resist old hardware and as a result I always have those odd parts needed whenever we do a project like this.
Ran also used some pallets to make a table with a piece of zinc that we found thrown out in the vacant lot nearby.  He also made a workbench from some of the pallets.  Free pallets are a good thing.  If nothing else, you can always burn them for fuel.

Another little project we finished recently was making this stick fence from dead branches that we collected from our walks this winter
It's hard to get enough that are suitable, but maybe this year, we'll get enough to continue along the next side.  BTW, that's my rhubarb going to seed.  Three plants is too much, but I think its flowers are just as pretty as astilbe.  The yellow flowers are woad, an herb used in dying things blue.

All this to say, that if you do things with great love, you need very little money.  I must finish this post quickly because my computer froze at the end of the above paragraph and I borrowed Ran's to finish up.

Hugs
Jane









Monday, May 30, 2016

P.S........

First, I must tell Shirley Elliot that I accidentally deleted her comment.  Sorry!  I didn't want you to feel hurt when your comment didn't show up.  Thank you very much for the kind words!

The second thing is that I completely forgot to write about our "new" room we decorated with reclaimed wood from our Christmas foray.  SO I guess I will definitely need to write one more post!

Hope everyone is having a peaceful Memorial Day.  Our little village held the nicest service for the veterans.  It is so lovely to live in a place where people still respect and are thankful to our veterans for their service.  We even had prayers.  Imagine that in this politically correct times!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

SPRING AT LAST!

Hello dear friends!  It has been such a long time since I last wrote, that I had quite forgotten how to post on here.  I hope that you all are having a lovely Memorial Day weekend.  It is downright hot here.   And dry.  Just a few short weeks ago we were wondering if spring would ever arrive; the leaves on the trees were so slow to bud.  But all it took was a gust of warm weather and we are right back on track. 
Ran has been working very hard to get the garden "in".  Every day I waffle between loving or loathing my flowerbeds.  At this very moment my beloved lilacs are in bloom so I am feeling kindly toward them, but when the weeds take over and it's hot, well then, I would be quite content to plow them under.  A gardener's heart is a fickle thing!  BTW, if you can plant only one bush in your garden, I would highly recommend it be a Beauty of Moscow lilac. Now that is a thing of beauty!  And a true lilac scent to boot.  Unfortunately no picture I could take would ever do it justice, you'll just  have to Google it if you are curious.

Well!  Since we last met I have had quite a time of it and all I want to say is that I am overjoyed to close the door on Spring 2016!  Fortunately, the love of my dear husband and sons and the concern and care of some very dear friends have made the journey easier.  Life is too short to go about feeling sad and gloomy.  Forgive those that have done you wrong or at the very least file those thoughts away in the back of the cabinet.  Who was it that said living well is the best revenge? 

In between the trials and tribulation, or LIFE, I've  been canning like mad.  Mainly meat; hamburg, breakfast sausage and chicken breasts.  To can the hamburg, I form the  meat into patties the size to fit into a wide-mouthed canning jar.  Use the canning ring to make them the perfect size. You want them to be on the thinnish side to ensure that they will be heated through when canning.  Then I brown them and place them in a 350 degree oven until just done and just slightly pinkish in the center.  Next stack the patties into a clean sterilized jar (4-5 for pints 8-10 for quarts).  Pour about 1/2 inch of boiling water into the jars (this keeps them really moist), wipe done the rims, place the lids and caps on and process for 90 minutes under 10 pounds of pressure. (Always check the weight of the pressure needed for your area).  Breakfast sausage can be made up the same way.   For the chicken breasts, I just cube them into 1 inch pieces and pack them raw into jars.  Process for the same amount of time and pressure.  Oh!  Also when cold packing thing to pressure can, always start with hot but not boiling water in your canner or you jars might crack. Gently bring the water to a boil after putting the jars in. Now when we want a super quick meal, we just open a can of hamburgers, heat them in the toaster oven until heated through (about 15 minutes) and have a nice burger in less time than you can say "fast food!  No defrosting required.  No freezer aftertaste either.  I'd say that canning brings out the flavor of the beef.  I impressed myself! Ha!

This brings me to one of my thriftiest of thrift tips.  When you find a good sale on something that you use often, figure out how much you use in a year and buy a year's supply.  Try to never pay full price for anything, if you can help it.  We like to have burgers about twice a month, so I canned 24 pints.  Last week we discovered a shampoo that we really liked that was on clearance sale, so we bought enough to last a year.  It may be a bit of an expenditure up front, but once you have it, you can strike that item off your shopping list.  Always budget for these types of things.  Almost every month has some staple on sale. 

Of course my thriftiest tip is to start a garden.  Learn to garden, can, cook and bake from scratch, do simple repair work,  and forage.  That will see you through tough times.  You'd be surprised at how little money you really need if you are clever.

Yesterday we held our "annual" garage sale.  I never intended for it to be an annual event, but each passing year I find that I want less and less, so every year we hold a sale to get rid of things.  It was another success, selling out within three hours.  Some hints for a successful garage sale:

1.  Hold you sale during a busy time for your area.  Some towns have city-wide sales days, and many have some sort of festival during the summer. It's pretty obvious that  you get the most traffic when the most people are in town

2.  Price things cheaply.  If your intention is to get rid of things, then price them accordingly.  If you want to recoup your money then selling on Etsy or Ebay is a better bet.  People that go to garage sales are looking for a bargain.

3.  Clean your items.  Nothing is worst than a bunch of grimy things. Besides a clean item indicates a well-cared for item.

4.  Take advantage of free advertising.  Advertise your sale on Craigs list and on garage sale websites. Put up notices on community bulletin boards.

5.  Make your signs visible.  Use brightly colored poster board and write the address in big block letters so people driving past can read it from within their car as the drive past.  Big arrows pointing the salers in the direction of your sale help too.

6.  Lead with your best.  Place the most desirable items closest to the street so those driving past can see them.  Big sellers in our area are nice wooden furniture and antiques, cute household items such as lamps and decorative items.  I will and know a lot of people that will just drive past if all I see is a lot of baby things and toys,  also a lot of plastic cups, stained clothing  and old electronics.    It's best to just throw those things out.  It just cheapens the look of your sale and no one ever buys those things anyway.

7.   Be friendly but don't pester the buyers.  When to a few the past weekend where the people were pointing out every item they had for sale.  Buyers like to talk about the weather but they don't want to be harangued .

8.  Clearly price everything.  Personally, I never buy from sales that don't have the prices marked.  I always get the feeling that the seller is eyeing you up to see how much they think they can get out of you. You don't have to price everything individually either,  you can have a sign that states all clothes are $1.00 or books are 50 cents.  BTW, if you have a lot of items such as books, you can always have a bargain such as books 50 cent each or 3/$1.  That gives buyers an incentive to haul away more.

9.  Have lots of change on hand.  No one wants to be held up while the seller tries to find change for that $20.  Have at least $100 in fives and ones on hands and lots of quarters, dimes and nickles.

10.  Make it a fun atmosphere.  Hang banners, play quiet music, be friendly.  Give out free cookies if you bake.  Let the curious have a peek of your gardens.  The nicest compliment I got on Saturday was a young woman that said that my sale was so relaxing that she could spend all day there (and she did spend about an hour).  The longer the customers stay the more likely they are to buy something.  Plus shy customers seem happier when they are part of a crowd.  Having a lot of customers just makes your sale look like a success.

THRIFTY THINGS WE DID THE PAST FEW WEEKS

Bought a car.  A combination of research and haggling netted us a $3000 savings on the next lowest price car in our area.

Harvested pounds and pounds of asparagus.

Swapped some of our asparagus for plants.

Canned hamburgers, sausage patties and chicken breasts. Hamburg was purchased at $2.37/ lb, Jimmy Dean sausage 99cents/lb, and boneless, skinless chicken breast for 99 cents/ lb.

Started our garden from plants started from seeds saved from last year.

Held a garage sale.

Sewed an apron from fabric from an old skirt.

Knitted a hat and mittens from the yarn stash.

Found several items on our "shopping" list at garage sales.

Bought an old bench at an estate sale for $15 and painted it Chinese red for my garden. Now it's a focal part of my garden. (I have Chinese style lanterns hanging near it. Pretty!)

Bought a Japanese maple tree on sale for our garden ($14).

"Vacationed" out at our shed/guest cottage several times.

Hung the laundry outside to dry many, many times.

And countless little things such as clicking the lights off when leaving the room, going without instead of running to the store,  reusing the dishwater to water the flowers, etc.  Little things that don't seem like much, but add up to substantial savings when the accumulate.


Well!  I've prattled on here quite a while.  I hope that you all are doing well and enjoying life!

Hugs
Jane












 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

THANK YOU

I want to thank all of you wonderful people that took the time to leave me sweet messages of encouragement.   I am humbled and feel so very blessed.  All the glory goes to God if this blog has touched you in some manner.  I'll leave the comment section open so if you have  questions about any of the posts you can reach me or if you'd just like to drop by from time to time to say hello.  As a side note:  Remember a few weeks back that I wrote about having a bad bout of arthritis?  Well, I upped my dosage of turmeric to two capsules and it improved greatly.  Now I can climb stairs once again without wincing.   Just something for you to consider doing if you have that problem.

A big heartfelt thank you hug,
Jane