Search This Blog


Sunday, November 29, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope this post finds you all well rested and contented.   My! the days are shortening, aren't they?   The other day it was pitch black at five in the afternoon.  Now I understand the phrase, "make hay while the sun shines", because they're so many things that need to be done by the strong daylight, such as fine knitting and sewing (threading the needles), once the sun starts it's journey to the western horizon, those things have to be put away.   This little cottage was built for keeping out the winds which it does admirably, but at the same time it shuts out a lot of the sun.   I can understand why some people get depressed during this time of year, frankly, it can get a little gloomy.  So to counteract the effect of long gray days, we decorate the inside and make a cozy little sanctuary for ourselves.   This week I started to bring the winter decorations down from the attic.  First, I set up a little woodland tableau on the mantle. 
The felted celluloid deer and the vintage bottle brush trees all came from the thrift stores back in the 80s,   back then you could pick up vintage Christmas items for a dime or a quarter.  I used to find quite a few boxfuls of those Shiny Brite ornaments from the thrift stores , unfortunately I threw the  boxes out.  Now they are worth a fortune!  I also brought out my grandparents ornaments and gave them a place of honor on the china hutch.  They are getting too fragile to hang on the tree.  Some are almost a hundred years old.
They represent the only tangible things I have from some  of  my grandparents.  Looking at them brings back  many wonderful memories.  I also brought down the creche, unfortunately many of the pieces need repairing.  Joseph completely lost his head! The figures are newer  but the stable was built by my Grandpa A back during the Depression.  It's seen a lot of hard knocks over the years.  When I was a little girl, I played with it throughout the Christmas season, reenacting the Christmas story.  I love it all the more for its imperfections.


On the other spectrum of our quiet country Christmas, there's Black Friday.  To my friends in other parts of the world, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, when the stores have sales to help make the final push for a profit.  In the olden days, ledgers were kept with red and black ink.  The red ink indicated that you were losing money and the black  meant you had a profit, thus the term "Black Friday" means the store has turned from a losing year to a profitable one.  Anyway, the people go nuts for these sales; camping out all hours in the cold to be the first in the doors and stampeding when the doors open.  People have even been crushed to death.  I wouldn't go near one if my life depended upon it.  Fortunately, there are many offers over the internet and I don't have to leave home.   I took advantage of the sale at Pinetree Gardens to get my seeds for the spring. They have the best prices for non-GMO heirloom seeds I've found.  The sale isn't much, just 15% off your order and free shipping on $50 (who buys that many seeds?).  Anyway, if you want to take advantage of that sale, it's still going on until midnight Sunday (the 29th) and the code is BlackFri15.

I also stocked up on vitamins and supplements at Swansons .  They have some good deals.  We use turmeric with pepper (everyone should) and I take cranberry tablets everyday.  We also buy glucosamine  for our dog.   So that was our big excitement  for the sales! Ha!  By the way, I am not being compensated in any way for endorsing these companies.  They are just two companies that I've found to have good prices and service.


By the way, lest anyway  shake their heads and mutter about Christmas being too commercial these days; it's been this way for a long time.  One of my favorite things to do in during the Yuletide season is listen to old Christmas radio programs from the 30s and 40s  on YouTube.  Almost all the story lines  center around how much to spend on gifts and who is giving what to whom.  Some things never change!

Another "blast from the past" is making Russian tea mix  for gift giving. I hope my dear Russian readers are getting a good laugh at this one!   It was a popular winter drink in the 1960s.  And it is nice and cozy, partly due to it's nostalgia.  This is the sort of thing that passed as sophisticated and urbane way back when. Ha! We bottle up jars to put it in our Christmas hampers.  It makes a lot! I would caution, though, the directions say to use two tablespoonfuls, but we only use one.  Two is just too strong.  


Well, I'm at it again!  The butcher had hamburg at it's reduced-for-quick-sale bin at $1.79/lb.  Unfortunately, she only had a little less than a pound.  So to make it the meat stretch into several meals, I added our stale bread, which had me thinking of all the ways you can use stale bread:

Add it to ground meat to make a meatloaf, of course.
Make a bread pudding.
Toast it  with olive oil and herbs to make your own croutons.
Toast it and make your own breadcrumbs.
Make an impromptu  stuffing by adding celery, onions and herbs.
Make French toast.
Make a hole in the middle and fry an egg in it for a cheap breakfast.
Use it as a thickener for soup.
Make toast points. (triangles of toasted bread)

No wonder Rachel Lynde told Anne Shirley that a sign of a good homemaker was seeing that there was no wasted bread in the breadbox!


Toast points reminded me of a meal that was popular with the boys growing up.

Mount Clemens Rarebit

1/2 lb. American cheese
1/4 C. butter
2 C. canned kidney beans
2 med. green peppers, minced

Melt the cheese in a double boiler.  Add the butter and when well-blended add the beans and green peppers.  Serve over toast points.

We served this with a big green salad.  I'm a big advocate of eating green leafies, daily.


I'm knitting mittens for the North Carolina grandchildren.  They rarely get snow, but it's good to be ready.  This is an old pattern from the 1940s and it knits up quickly, without a lot of nonsense.

Children's Mittens

size 2-4.  Sizes 4-6 and 6-8 are in prenthesis.

2 oz of worsted weight (#4) wool.

size 2 and 4 double pointed knitting needles

Gauge: 5 stitches= 1 inch

With smaller needles cast on 28 sts. (32 sts. - 36 sts.)
Join and work in ribbing K2, P2 for 2 (2 1/2) inches.
Change to larger needles and knit plain for 3/4 (1) inch.
Slip next 4 (5-6) stitches to holder.
Cast on 4 (5-6) stitches.
Join and work  and knit plain for 2 (2 1/4 - 2 1/2) inches
Decrease for tip:
K2, K 2 together. Repeat across round'
Knit 1 round.
Next round: K1, K 2 together for round.
Knit 1 round.
Next round: Knit 2 together across round.
Break yarn and leave a 7 inch end.  Thread a tapestry needle with this end and run twice through the remaining stitches. Pull stitches together and fasten off on wrong side.


Pick up 4 (5-6) stitches from holder and 4 (5-6) stitches from cast on stitches.
Divide stitches on three needles (size 4) .
Work even for 3/4 (1 inch).
Knit 2 together across round.
Finish off as mitten tip.

Work other mitten the same way.

By rearranging the furniture we were able to fit my favorite chair in the woodstove room.  Now I can sit by the fire and listening to old radio  programs on the internet and knit.   Heaven!   The best thing we ever did was to get rid of our cable TV.  I used to be quite a news junkie and would fret and worry about the world's woes.  There was  little I could do about the situations, but still it left me anxious.  Until I stopped listening to the national broadcasts, I never realized how much propaganda there is on the news.  Now, I just read several news sources from several countries, some liberal, some conservative, and I think I get a pretty picture of what's going on in the world.  I say my prayers for those poor people that are in the middle of conflicts and those that are experiencing tragedies, then I leave it to God.   Never been more at peace in my life.


Made meatloaf from reduced-for-quick-sale hamburg.

Bought our seeds for the spring at the Black Friday Sale

Stocked up on vitamins at another Black Friday Sale.

We've been trying to clean out the pantry, which makes for some interesting meals.

Made Russian tea mix for the Christmas hampers.

Restyled a $2 wreath from the thrift store and objects I had on hand to make a pretty wreath for the front door.

Made some window decorations from twigs we found in the yard.

Knitted mittens from yarn in my stash.

Heated our house with wood.  The furnace has only come on once this  season.

Cleaned out my closets for more clothes to be put aside for our annual garage sale.  Some are going to charity too.

Played board games in the evening.

Mainly, just stayed in and did a lot of putzing. 

SO that's it, again!   I just wanted to tell you all, that when I count my blessing, every last one of you dear readers is among them!  I so appreciate all your support. You know, I started this little blog long ago to help others, but I've discovered along the way that perhaps the person it has helped the most is myself.  Your kindness has renewed my faith in the world!  Hope you all have a beautiful, peaceful and cozy week.

Hugs to all!

Sunday, November 22, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope this post finds you all warm and safe!   We got our first measurable snowfall of the season.  Hurray!   I hope I never grow too old not to find wonderment in the first snow.
That's a picture of grandson, Felix, at my son and daughter-in-law's farm in southeastern Michigan.  They got about a foot of snow.  We weren't so fortunate, only about an inch, it snowed all day but was too warm and it melted as soon as the flakes hit the ground. The lake giveth and it taketh away!  There's a lot of traditions involved with the first snow; we get out our mugs that have Grandma Moses scenes on them and have a cup of our ultra-indulgent cocoa, we listen to this song, we also have a fire , go for a hike, and make soup.  If we get enough snow, we make snowbears.  Homemade traditions are the best!


Did you know that thirty-one percent or 133 billion pounds of the food available in the United States goes uneaten every year?  That's shocking!   Not at our house!   From that one little six dollar turkey we got twelve meals and several snacks.   First we had the Thanksgiving meal, then since no one was very hungry later in the day, we just nibbled on some of the turkey for dinner.  The next day we had leftovers. I always make a potpie from all the leftovers; layering the stuffing and potatoes, then the vegetables and meat, then top it off with some cranberry sauce and gravy.  This goes into the freezer for sometime in January.  Makes the best meal.  After two days of leftovers, we are ready for something different and by then the potatoes, stuffing and green bean casserole are usually gone, so I make turkey burritos or King Ranch casserole.  This is enough for two meals.  We always make broth from the carcass by throwing the bones, some celery, carrots and onions and a splash of vinegar (it leaches out the calcium in the bones) in a big pot water and boiling the living daylights out of it. (That's directions for making broth that you won't find in a Martha Stewart cookbook!)  I throw in any leftover gravy too.  This makes several quarts of broth and there usually quite a bit of meat to be culled from the bones. Enough for a batch of turkey noodle soup and one pot of white chili.  Again each is enough for a couple meals. Plus we put some of the turkey in the freezer for topping on our barbecue chicken pizzas.

Nothing gets wasted at our house, not even the cranberry sauce.  We made cranberry English muffins with some.  Ended up with sixteen hefty muffins. We froze half.  Cranberry English muffins and orange marmalade is the best breakfast ever!  It tastes like the holidays!  

I also baked a cranberry gingerbread from the leftover sauce.  The pie never lasts long in our house so everyone was looking for something sweet after a few days.
This is a very nice light gingerbread.

Cranberry Gingerbread

1 1/2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. sugar
1/3 C. whole berry cranberry sauce
1 egg
1/2 C. molasses
1/2 C. hot water

Grease and flour an 8-inch pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the dry ingredients; set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the cranberry sauce and egg. Blend in molasses.
Gradually stir in dry ingredients, alternating with the hot water.  Stir until smooth.
Pour into baking pan and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

I made a thin icing of powdered sugar and some of the leftover eggnog from making the pie, but this cake can be eaten plain or with whipped cream.  BTW, I used up the remaining eggnog making French toast.


I'm sure some of you are curious about making English muffins.  Homemade ones are very economical plus you can customize them however you want.  I'm thinking date and walnut would be tasty!

English Muffins

2 tbsp. water (105-110 degrees)
1 pkg. dry yeast
1 C. water
1/2 C. milk, scalded
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 C. flour
3 tbsp. oil

Dissolve the yeast in the  2 tbsp. water.  Put aside until it becomes bubbly.
Combine the water, milk, sugar, salt, oil and yeast together. Gradually beat in 2 C. flour.
Cover and let rise until doubled in size.
Knead in remaining flour.
Pat dough to a 1/2" thickness and no thicker!   Or they muffins will be too thick to cook all the way through.
Cut into circles.
Let stand on greased cookie sheets until dough has doubled in size.
Transfer muffins to a low to medium heat  well-buttered griddle.Cook until light brown, turning them once. 
I found that it is hard to get them cooked all the way through without burning the outsides so I finish them off by baking in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes until done.

BTW, did you know one of the secrets to baking good bread is having one of those probe thermometers for baking?   You can insert them into the center of the bread to tell that it has reached  190 degrees, insuring that your bread (or English muffins) is cooked  on the inside.  One of the perks of living with a chemist! He brings science to the kitchen.


I finally finished Ran's vest. 
Six, well actually twelve, covered buttons to make; the pattern called for  1/2-inch buttons but after I made them I decided they were too dainty for a man's vest, so I  made 3/4-inch ones.  Six hand-sewn buttonholes. Jeepers!  Next time I'll make something with a zipper!   It's a very heavy and warm vest, made from wool flannel on the inside and out.  All told, it cost less than $10 to make, having found the fabric at the thrift store.  We study history books and documentaries on how to live a simpler and more frugal lifestyle.   Vests were an important part of a man's wardrobe over a hundred years ago and are just as practical today.  They add an extra layer of warmth but allow your arms to be unencumbered.  I have several for myself, also. A t-shirt, a vest and a cardigan is a very cozy combination.  I even add an undershirt  when it gets really cold for an added layer.  Layering is the key to warmth.  The heat is bound to get trapped in one of those layers!

We feel like the shoemaker's brownies around here.  While I was busy sewing, Ran made this knife for our honey man (doesn't everyone have a honey man?), Shane.  He had given a broken knife to Ran, knowing that he loves to remake them.  So Ran polished and reshaped the blade and made a  new handle for it.
Then as a little added special touch, he woodburned  a little bee skep on it complete with the bees.
Hope Shane likes it!  The two became friends over their love of knives and hunting and all those manly type things. Sorry about the crumbs in the picture, I didn't notice them while taking the picture!   We only have about fifteen minutes of good light for picture taking this time of year, so we have to work quick.


"I am grateful for what I am and  have. My thanksgiving is perpetual."
~Henry David Thoreau~


The other day we picked up two pounds of Swiss cheese at the grocery store for $2.50 a pound.   It was on the reduced-for-quick-sale  rack because it had reached it's expiration date.  So of course the grocer had to discount it. The thing is, people have become so foolish about these expiration dates on things, they've completely lost common sense.   Anyone can see that the cheese was still good.   There was no mold on it, and cheese is supposed to age, the longer the better.  This is going to sound terrible to you younger people, but growing up, people never threw out cheese because of a little mold, we just cut it off.  Never heard of anyone dying from cheese mold back then.  On the whole we were a lot healthier, I think.  Long before expiration dates on food, when you had to use your nose and eyes and good old-fashioned common sense to tell you if something was good or not. We have a family friend that throws out all her canned good on the day they reach their expiration point.  The day before it was fine, but the day after, it's poison to her.  So silly!  As if those canned goods have little micro chips in them telling them to rot precisely on that date!  Oh well!  I suppose it's good for me that everyone doesn't think as I do or there would be a lot more competition for discounted cheese!

The other thing that people turn up their nose at, is the cheap cuts of meat like the ham hocks, oxtails, and pork necks.   We just made a wonderful batch of soup from eighty-eight cents a pound pork necks.  There was a lot of meat on them.  What difference does it make what part of the body it came from.  Why is a neck  less desirable than say the rib?  If you're going to be squeamish about it than why eat meat at all?   After all, meat is not pretty.  Of course one of the reasons is because so many of us are so far-removed from the farm, we haven't got a clue.  I dare say, if you raised an animal and butchered it and only had what you raised to live on, people would be singing a different tune. It all goes back to that wasted 133 billions pounds of food.  Bet people living in third world countries would be glad to have a nice meaty ham hock and expired cans of peas!


Well now, I'll come off my soapbox to finish this post!

Bought two pounds of Swiss cheese at $2.50/lb.  Shredded and froze it.

Made turkey broth from the Thanksgiving turkey.

Had lots of leftovers.

Attended an estate sale where I purchased some graniteware for $1 and several beautifully bound books for $1 each.

Made soup from 88 cents/pound pork neck bones, potatoes carrots and onions from the root cellar, herbs from the herb garden and a jar of tomatoes from the pantry.

Made 16 hefty English muffins for about 1/4 the cost of a eight store bought ones.

Found a wonderful movie on YouTube called The Good Fairy with Margaret Sullavan, very Ernst Lubitsch-esque. I love old movies and there's a treasure trove on YouTube for free!

Finished sewing Ran's vest from thrifted fabric.

Skyped with the North Carolina grandchildren.

Filled up the cars with $1.87/gallon gasoline.  Can you believe how cheap gas has gotten?

Well that's it for this week!  To my American friends, I wish you a lovely Thanksgiving filled with joy and love.  To my friends in other corners of the world, I wish you peace and joy and safety!

Have a good one!


Sunday, November 15, 2015


Hello dear friends!  Well!  Hasn't this been a horrible week?  The tragedy in France, and the ongoing tragedies in the Ukraine and Syria, plus all the rumors of war, one can hardly sort them all out. Seems there's hardly any corner on earth that's at peace.  People always ask at times like these, "what can I do?".  Well, there's always prayers,  first and foremost,of course.  Become more compassionate, merciful, kind and generous.  Who knows?  Perhaps if we all work at it, we can become a counterbalance to all the wickedness in the world.   Maybe we can even outweigh it.  Well, that's my thoughts on it anyhow.


Guess what we did today?  We celebrated Thanksgiving!   It all started because the turkeys were on sale this week for fifty-two cents a pound ( our little-under-12-pound turkey ended up costing $6.11).  Who could pass that up?   But we don't have a big enough freezer for a turkey and what little space we do have  is used for storing bargains on cheese and butter and our foraged nuts.  Plus there were so many bargains that were pointing us to celebrating this week, it seemed that it was meant to be.   We even found a Oreo cookie crust on the reduced for quick sale rack for a dollar, so we could have our traditional chocolate eggnog pie.  Cranberries were ninety-nine cents a package, so we bought several  for  juice making later.  And finally butter prices have come down!   $2.39 a pound, so we stocked up, lately it had been creeping up to almost $4 a pound around here.

So we are celebrating Thanksgiving almost two weeks early.   It really doesn't matter, after all, Thanksgiving just a day on the calendar.  Our true thanks giving comes when we have gathered the last apple from the orchard, dug the last potato and canned the last green bean for the year.  Then we give thanks for the bounty of the earth and to our Creator for being so benevolent to us, undeserving as we may be.  We have enough food put by to see us through another year and plenty to share.  God is good!

To tell the truth, I hate the holidays.   Some years I would be quite content to go to sleep on the eve of Thanksgiving and not wake up until January 2nd.   All my children live too far away to share in the celebrations except for one son who chooses to spend them with his in-laws.  You know the old saying about a son being a son until takes a wife?   But even before my children grew up and left home, coming from a family of drama queens, holidays were always tension filled.  So I started to feel the blues come on when I saw a sign at a local store announcing there were only 46 more shopping days until Christmas.  I knew I needed to readjust my attitude quickly, reminding myself that I don't really like entertaining and  I'm not overly fond of spending all day in the kitchen either.  I also had to remind myself, while it's a lovely fantasy that we'll all gather together and be laughing and reminiscing, the reality is far from it.   As my sister used to tell me, "We're not the Waltons.".  Or a Hallmark movie either, for that matter.  So what's to be done about the holiday blues?

First, focus on what you do love about them.  If you like to decorate, decorate.  If you like to bake  do so  and give it away.  If you like to give presents but don't have anyone to give them to, there's plenty of charities that would be glad to take them.   One of the most enjoyable things we do every year, is buy toys for the Toy for Tots program and there's also a giving tree at the local grocery store.  Don't be a baby Pathetica, focusing on how lonely and sad you are, think about how you can help others. Visit shut-ins, volunteer at a soup kitchen, babysit the neighbor's kids for free. If you have a job that stays open during the holidays, you might consider volunteering to work on the holidays so that others that have family can spend it with theirs.  There's so much pressure on being happy during the holidays, but has anyone seriously recaptured the joy they felt on Christmas when they were nine years old?  Life gets in the way.  Lower your expectations.  As Benjamin Franklin said, "I'd rather be a pessimist, because then I can only be pleasantly surprised.".

If you really can't bear the thought of holidays, just ignore them, keep your head down and plow through  them.  If it means staying in your pajamas all day and eating chips and drinking pop while watching old movies, so be it.  Be kind to yourself.  If the sight of the neighbor's family gathering together makes you bitter, draw the curtains and turn off the TV movies all filled with Norman Rockwell images of the "perfect" holiday.  Don't answer the phone if listening to family tell you what a wonderful time they are having without out you feels like a stab in the heart.  You're human after all, most of us aren't cut out to be Stella Dallas. I speak from experience!  Just think of it as  having a bad cold.   Just something to bear with for a short while, things will be better tomorrow.  After all, it's only just a day!

For my part, I like to focus on the spiritual aspect of the day.  And now I finally have the time to do it.  I also love to make homemade presents for my husband, it reminds me of when we were first falling in love and I hadn't any money for gifts.  And it's nice that he appreciates them too, for there's nothing  worse than to spend hours upon hours making a gift that isn't appreciated. We were just discussing how when we were young, we would have given our eye teeth to just be alone during the holidays, there were so many obligations back then; it was rush-rush -rush, with hardly time to catch our breath. Now we have the golden opportunity to do it! There will be lots of watching the snow fall (we're expecting several inches later this week!) with Nat King Cole crooning to us in the background and  moonlit walks along the snowy lanes and  quiet talks beside the fire.  It will certainly be different than the busy holidays we had when the boys were all home and every day on the calendar was filled with activities.  But hey!   Who says things have to remain the same?

But most importantly, remember to count your blessings.  If you have food in your stomach, a roof over your head, you are blessed.   An extra bonus if you have someone special to share it with.  We've been desperately poor at times, but we discovered that usually they were our happiest times.  Here's a true story of a particular trying time and how we managed to have a joyous Christmas in spite of  our pocketbooks.


All right, enough of that!  I've rediscovered the joys of sewing this week.   I used to sew a great deal when I was younger.  Before the advent of thrift stores, sewing was an economical way to build a wardrobe, but now sewing has become an expensive hobby.   My mother was a wonderful seamstress, but a horrible teacher.  She basically just left us to our own devices and would occasionally yell  into the dining room, where our sewing machine was a permanent fixture at the end of the table, that there was something wrong with the tension on the sewing machine, which she could tell just from the sound of it.   But I did learn quite a bit just from watching her.  We also had 4-H and everyone learned to sew an apron in Home Economics  class.  While most of my sewing these days consists of pillows and an apron or two, what I really want, is to become an expert tailor.   This week I'm sewing my husband a vest, which sounds simple enough, except this pattern has a tricky pocket like the ones in men's suits.  So now I've learned how to do that and discovered some tricks along the way to make the next one easier.  I also had to redraft some of the pattern because the measurements were way off on the vintage pattern. I think it's going to turn out alright.  It will certainly have a hand crafted look to it, which I think is good.  Don't want it to look mass-produced.  Anyway, it's slow going as my machine is in the same room as the woodstove and the heat blasts me out of the room quite often!  Speaking of which, here it the middle of November and we still haven't used the furnace!  But this will probably be the last week for that as the temperatures are supposed to plummet this week.


There isn't much gardening going on around here anymore, but we are experimenting with growing lettuce in our unheated enclosed porch.  We planted the seeds in an old galvanized trough-like chicken feeder that we picked up at a garage sale for a quarter.  The seeds have come up, so we'll have to see how successful this experiment is.  Will keep you posted.

Inside, all my Christmas cacti are in bloom.  Here's a picture of a rare yellow one that I've been babying along.
I used to pick up Christmas cacti during the after-Christmas sales for $1.  Then I'd repot them into pretty planters that I found during the garage sale season.   For less than two dollars I have a nice hostess gift.  Now I have a quite a forest of them as they need to be divided from time to time and it costs me nothing for the plants.  I always have good luck finding old McCoy planters for less than a dollar around here, often for a quarter.   Now that's a thrifty gift!


Chocolate eggnog pie has become a Thanksgiving tradition at our house.  It not the most economical of recipes (why is eggnog so expensive?) but here's the recipe for those that are curious:

Chocolate Eggnog Pie

1 9-inch graham cracker crust
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 C. cold water
1/3 C. sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
2 C. eggnog
1 1/2 squares baking chocolate, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. rum extract
2 C. whipped topping

In a small bowl, soften the gelatin in the water, set aside.

In a saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Gradually stir in eggnog.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat, add gelatin, stirring until dissolved.

Divide filling in half, setting half aside to cool.  Add melted chocolate and vanilla to one half ; stir well.  Pour into pie shell and chill.

Meanwhile add rum extract to the remaining filling.  Fold in whipped topping.  Spoon over chocolate layer.  Refrigerate overnight.

Well this is turning into a long-winded post!  Best be getting on to:


Bought turkey for 52 cents/lb, cranberries for 99 cents/lb. and even got the stollen for the stuffing for $1.50 (it was crushed and on the discount rack of our Polish butcher).  The rest of our Thanksgiving meal came from our garden and pantry, making the total less than $10 for the three of us plus plenty left over for the rest of the week.

My dear friend, Matty, sent me a book that was several nights amusement.

Sewing a vest for my husband from wool that I purchased at the thrift store for $3.

Still heating with wood from free pallets.

Found a free internet security site to replace the $80 a year Norton security we have on the computer presently.

Watched several old movies on YouTube.

Kept the car parked in the driveway, saving on gas.

Well that's it for this week!  Hope you have a wonderful day and an even more lovely day tomorrow!


Sunday, November 8, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope this post finds you all safe and sound.  We experienced a true Indian Summer this week, when the temperatures reached into the 70s.  We even had to sleep with the windows open.  Strange weather for November! The next day it was so cold and chilly that my light winter coat wasn't  warm enough. We  even spotted a few snowflakes.   I think we are finally settling down to what is normal weather for this time of year, thank goodness!    Winter weather is one of the reasons I live where I do.


We had the simplest of meals today for lunch, vegetable soup and biscuits.   Vegetable soup is certainly easy on the pocketbook and quick too.  I always start with a base of onions, carrots and potatoes; the most inexpensive vegetables you can buy.  Then I add a can (or in my case,jar) of tomatoes.  Next I add a bean for protein, any old type will do; kidney, pinto, Great Northern, etc, but my favorite is the good old lima bean.   After that I add whatever on the pantry shelf needs using up, this week it was a can of corn that was nearing it's expiration date. For seasoning, I add some minced garlic and some smoked pepper and salt.  I find that what we miss most in vegan foods is the smoky flavor, so by using smoked salt and pepper, we don't miss the meat at all. And there you have it, vegetable soup!   To make the meal feel more special, I made an herb butter for the biscuits.  Serve your humble meals in pretty serving dishes and your family will feel like they're royalty.  How you serve your meals  is just as important as what you serve, in your contentment, I've found.  You can eat a can of soup right out of the pan or over the kitchen sink and feel "I'm poor" or you can serve it in a pretty bowl by candlelight and feel privileged and content.  An added plus to sitting down to a table properly set is that it slows you down, you have conversations, and you feel fuller with less. 


I knitted another baby sweater from the pattern in the last post.  This time in red with a hood and a pompom on top.
I used Patons Classic Wool in Bright Red (the picture is a little washed out).  I think it turned out pretty cute.  I also knitted these  socks
I'm not too happy with how they turned out and don't think they are gift-giving worthy.  The yarn was too soft for the cables to really stand out, I think.  Oh well!   They are warm and soft.  Good for winter.   I really liked the pattern so I'm trying them again in a different yarn.  If a first you don't succeed ......


Now is the time to mulch your berries.  We take advantage of the many leaves and just run them over with the lawn mower with the bagger attachment.  Then we place them around the strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.  Free mulch!   I never rake the leaves from the flower garden.   It adds another layer of insulation.   Plus it's the lazy man's way of doing things.   By the time we can rake them out in the spring, many have composted adding nutrients to the soil.   Gardening can be as easy or as hard as you make it.


Just as Capote's sherry-eyed cousin Sook  knew it in her bones it was time to make the fruitcakes, we know there's a day here, too. And that day was this past Friday.   Many of you, I'm sure think fruitcake is plain old nasty, but Ran and I look forward to having a slice in the evening throughout December.   I even receive requests for them from my mother and sister.  You have to start in November to have a proper fruitcake for December, they need time for the flavors to develop.  My recipe differs from the traditional ones, it doesn't have the spices or gummy green citron in it.   It's a variation on a fruit and nut cake that was quite popular in our hometown for weddings way back in the 1960s.
We like to have ours with cherry preserves, Ann of Green Gables style.


2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 C. butter, softened
1 C. sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. coconut extract
1/2 tsp. orange extract
1/2 tsp. brandy extract
1/2 C. orange juice
1/2 C. maraschino cherries, chopped
1/2 C. candied pineapple, diced fine
1 C. golden raisins
1 C. nuts, chopped

Combine 1 1/2 C. flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside
Toss cherries, pineapple, coconut, raisins and nuts with the remaining 1/2 C. flour.  Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar together.  Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in extracts. Mix well.
Stir in flour mixture alternately with the orange juice. Mix well.
Fold in the fruit and nut mixture.
Pack into a well greased and floured Turk's head mold or a large loaf pan.
Bake at 250 degrees for 2 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.
Once cool, wrap in tin foil and store in a cool dry place. (Like a refrigerator).
  Wait several weeks before slicing for the best flavor.

You can also sprinkle a little rum over the top before storing if you are so inclined.

I make a batch in those small loaf pans.  You have to adjust the time for smaller pans.  Check after 45 minutes for doneness.


There's plenty of free activities this time of year to enjoy.   Local churches offer free concerts and for a small sum there's many harvest suppers being offered. Almost every weekend until the middle of December there's a craft fair to attend.   All the small villages offer holiday open houses, cookie walks, and tree-lighting ceremonies.  So you see, even us peasants can have fun this time of year!   There's no excuse to stay at home and be bored!


  Once a week we stop into our local grocery store and check out the reduced for quick sale meat, and that determines what we eat for the week.  So far we had hamburg at $1.89 /lb. that was very good.  We made hamburgers, which are a rare treat for us, and meatloaf.  Another time they had those  seasoned pork loin roasts, which we used for sandwiches.  One week, there wasn't anything too good, so we just used what we had in the pantry


I rescued an old skirt from the rag bag.  I was going to use it for the wool because it had a small pin prick moth hole, but instead darned the hole.  It's the pretty plum one you can see the edge of in the picture of the socks.  I love it.  It's very vintage and the wool is such good quality.  And it's a circle skirt so it has just the right amount of swishy-ness. And I only paid $2 for it!


We ate out of the pantry and freezer.
We're still hanging our laundry outside. Can you believe it?
We still haven't used the furnace, relying on wood to heat the house.  Maybe we'll make it to Dec. 1st!
Knitted Christmas presents from my yarn stash.
Attended a holiday open house at our local Ben Franklin store.  They had a sale of 20% off everything, so I bought supplies for knitting and sewing.
Sewed a curtain valance from two tea towels that I bought at the open house sale.
Used leaves for free ground cover.
Watched several old movies for free on YouTube.  We're rewatching The Edwardian Farm.
Rescued an old skirt from the rag bag.
Just enjoyed the company of my husband and son.  I'm so glad just to have a home and people that love me to share it with!

Here's hoping that you all have the loveliest week ahead of you!


Monday, November 2, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope this finds you all well and safe.   The remnants of Hurricane Patricia have blown the last of the leaves from the trees and the lawn is carpeted in gold.  It's so much fun to go for walks and crunch through them.   It really was a glorious autumn this year.  And El Nino is helping to extend its stay.   Whoever designed this house had planned it well, or perhaps it is just a happy accident, but every morning  the first thing I see  upon arising is the sunrise through the bedroom window.  Today it looked like autumn with it's golds and reds.  There is so much beauty to be found, if we only care to look!
Most people think November is a bleak month, but I think it has a quiet understated beauty.  There's a serenity to it.   Just yesterday we studied the bark on a corkscrew willow.  In the more colorful months, it wouldn't be noticed, but in November, its beauty is revealed.   The dove grayness of the month seems to soften the world.   It seems people are quieter too.   The busyness of summer and the harvest is over and there's more time to just sit and converse. Meals become leisurely once again.  Everything slows down.  November is a wonderful month!


I should get a job in a lemon grove because I sure know how to pick them!   Our car, that we bought when Ran retired, is in the shop once again.   This time it has taken two different mechanics to sort out the problem.   We have decided that we've had enough, so we have to fast track our car savings plan by a couple of years.  (The car is only a few years old and has less just 60,000 miles on it, yet we are afraid to drive it sixty miles away, lest something breaks  and strands us.)   So now we must pare down our spending to buy a new car next year.  We don't believe in going into debt for cars and we don't want to take any money out of our savings or emergency funds (although I guess not having a reliable car could be considered an emergency), so this means that we have to become extremely thrifty in order to save enough for a car that will cost almost our entire yearly income.  We already have some money in our car fund fortunately, as we begin to save for the next car as soon as we buy the first.  Here's some things we plan to do to save money:

1.  Not travel any further than 60 miles from home and travel only once a month.   We live in an isolated area, so we need to travel to buy groceries.  We have a small grocery store here in town but it's outrageously expensive.   Eggs are $4 a dozen.

2.  Heat with wood until the temperatures dip into the 30s.   Thanks to El Nino, we are having a very mild fall and haven't had to use the furnace yet.   We just got our natural gas bill and it was 38% lower than last year's October bill. ($17.01)

3.  Keep our grocery bill to $75 a month.  Thankful we were blessed with a bountiful harvest this year and were well stocked with bulk purchases of flour, sugar, oatmeal, etc.  All we really need to buy is some fruits and green leafy-s, milk, eggs, and occasionally some meat and cheese.

4.  No holiday spending.   Everything will be homemade from supplies we have.  Sorry to all that were expecting a check this year!

5. Continuously examine our budget to find areas that can be improved upon.


Whenever money starts flowing from our bank account like a leaky sieve, it is always because we have failed to live by the  spending guidelines we have set for ourselves.   You should always have a guideline on how much you want to spend for a certain item.  For instance,  have you seen the price of clothing? For some reason, I still get a lot of catalogs, although I haven't ordered from one in years.  Who pays $70 for a t-shirt?   Not I, said this cat!   I have a $5 limit on what I'll pay for a t-shirt.   Usually, I pay a lot less, picking them up at garage sales for 25 cents- $1.  Sometimes I buy them at the thrift store for $3.50, but $5 is the top limit for t-shirts and I will not go over that amount even if it's the perfect shade of blue and fits like a dream.

Meat is another area where I set a limit.   The most I'll spend is $2.50  a pound, except at Christmas when we buy our Christmas sausage.   That means we rarely eat hamburgers or much beef. There's lots of meat such as chicken that costs less and you can be sure I''ll be taking advantage of the turkey sales this year.   Even at $2.50 a pound, I limit our meat purchases to just a few pounds a month.  There's plenty of tasty vegetarian recipes to be found.  There's no point in breaking the bank over something like meat.

When our cable bill exceeded  our  guidelines for what we were willing to pay for entertainment, we got rid of it.   Our  internet service is quickly approaching our limit too.

Speaking of cars, one time my husband set out to buy a used car, after looking at all of them, he found one that he wanted to purchase, but it was over the guideline for what we wanted to spend by a several hundred dollars.  He told the salesman that he'd like to buy it, but it was too much and started to walk away.   The salesman stopped him and asked what he would like to spend.   My husband named the price and the salesman agreed to it, saving us a several hundred dollars, all because we had an agreed guideline.

In other words, set guidelines for what you are willing to pay for things and be ready to walk away when the costs goes over.


One of the most powerful phrases you can use to keep your budget under control is "I can't afford it.".  Back in the days when telemarketers were calling on the hour, I learned the one thing that would shut them up was this phrase.   Politely saying "no thanks" or "not interested" never kept them from continuing on with their spiel, but no one can argue with "I can't afford it".  Since then, I've use it at the dentist office when he insists I get my teeth x-rayed every six months.   Funny how you don't need things like bi-yearly x-rays when they discover that they might not get paid!  Tests at the doctor's  office are another one.   I could never figure out why I needed tests for certain cancers that no one in my family has ever had, yet the cancer my father died from is never tested.   Routine tests are given to everyone regardless of their family history.   No one used to get colonoscopies until Katie Couric started her campaign for them.   How many people have you ever heard of dying  from that cancer?   So why do we need to get that tests as soon as you turn 50?   "Can't afford it.", took care of that problem.   Neighbors that want you to give to this fund or that charity, are stopped by the phrase.  And they usually don't ask you again.   Once my sister was complaining about the expense of going out to dinner with here friends, when I told her to tell them that she couldn't afford it, she said "Oh!  I couldn't do that!".  Why not?  It's true isn't it?   She was afraid that they would think she was poor or cheap.   There's no shame in being poor and not being able to afford things.   I'd be more ashamed of being in debt because I spent money on foolishness such as dining out because I was too embarrassed to say  I couldn't afford it.  It's a crazy mixed up world we live in!


Cowardice asks the question 'Is it safe?'. Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?'. But conscience asks the question 'Is it right?'  And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because the conscience tells one that it is right

~Martin Luther King, Jr. ~

Loved this man and was so grateful to have been alive when he was making these speeches.  Although I was quite young and only saw him on TV, I still remember it.  Where are the Martin Luther King Jr. s of today?


Hope you didn't carve your pumpkin too soon.   You can roast it to make puree for this chili.   Pumpkins go on sale immediately after Halloween.  Guess many people think a pumpkin is only good for carving.  But pumpkins are wonderful fruits that pack a lot of beta carotene into there decorative  little shells.   Plus they are easy to store.  Just keep them in a cool dry place and they'll last for months.   So here's a savory recipe using pumpkins that makes up quick.

Pumpkin Chili

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
1 onion
1 green pepper
2 C. pumpkin puree
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
1 can beans (pinto, kidney, Great Northern, canellini or whatever you have on hand)
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 tbsp. taco seasoning

Brown the sausage with the onions and peppers.  Drain off the fat.
Add remaining ingredients and heat through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add water if you want a thinner chili.

Sorry no picture, we ate it all before I got a change to snap one.


Knitted a baby sweater from my yarn stash.
Walked everywhere, thus saved on gasoline.
Bought some hamburg at the reduced for quick sale section of our local butcher's.  Made  meatloaf with it, stretching it with oatmeal and breadcrumbs from stale bread.
Cut down our dying sumacs.  We got about 1/2 cord of wood for next winter from them.
Heated our house with wood.  Haven't had to use the furnace yet!
Bought some chocolates from the after Halloween sale at 50% off.  Will use them for Christmas baking.
Watched several old movies on YouTube for entertainment.
Not much of a list, but sometimes the savings are in just not doing things.  I guess you'd call it "passive saving".

So that's it for this week! Hope you get a chance to get out and enjoy the beauty of November.



Sunday, October 25, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope you are having a glorious week!   The leaves are finally changing and the weather is cool and crisp.  As much as I enjoy visiting other parts of the world via all of your blogs, during this time of the year there is no place on earth I'd rather be than home, sweet home.
A country lane we happened upon when out adventuring.   There's a lot of golden leaves this year.  And yes, that is the true color of our skies.  We used to live in an urban area and the skies always had an orange cast to them. The first thing I noticed  when we moved here was how blue the skies and how bright the stars were.  When was the last time you looked up?


This week we gathered wild rose hips from our favorite foraging spot.  Whew!  It was like Grand Central Station there!   Well, actually there were about ten people, but when you're used to having the place to yourself, it seemed like a horde,  so we got our rosehips and got out as quickly as we could.   Most will go into making rosehip syrup, but I couldn't resist using some to fill a basket.
I also made a wreath, a prickly process if ever there was one,  Ran said it looked like Christmas, so I'll show you that when it get's closer to winter.   Rosehip syrup combined with red rooibos tea is a wonderful way to get your vitamin C, and if you take some at the very onset , will wipe out a cold.. Or at least that is what we have discovered.   Maybe it works because it just tastes healthy!  I'm a firm believer in being responsible for our own health, instead of running to the the doctor's office every time you catch a sniffle. After a while all those antibiotics catch up with you, although, I'll be the first to point out, they do have their place and am profoundly grateful to whomever discovered them!


I finally finished my penny rug that I made using woolens that I picked up during our thrift store's winter clearance sale last year (17 cents a garment).  I didn't follow my own advice and start small when learning a new skill, figuring how hard can it be?   Turned out a little wonky!
It's far from perfect, but as my art teacher told me, "You can see the humanity in the flaws".  Well, in this case, it is a very "human" penny rug!  I was so happy to be finished with it, that I started immediately after on knitting a sweater for granddaughter Violet for Christmas.
She's such a little peanut, that it take no time to knit a sweater for her.  The tweed yarn is a silk and wool blend that I bought at an estate sale.  The buttons came from our Bethesda thrift store.  The ladies cut off buttons from damaged items and card them.   A package of five buttons is only fifty cents.   Whenever I can't find the right buttons in my button box, I always check there first before going to a fabric store.  This  is the pattern I used and an easier pattern probably never existed. It's great for beginners.   I've also knitted this pattern in blue with wooden toggle buttons for the grandsons when they were babies.  Very Paddington Bear-ish.  I'm thinking about knitting a red one with a hood and toggle buttons and a pompom on top,  Little Red Riding Hood style.

Christmas has been on our minds.  When you make your own presents, you have to start early.  We don't really celebrate very much, focusing mainly on the spiritual aspects of the holiday, but we do like to give a small token of affection to friends and family this time of year.   One thing we do enjoy is giving Christmas hampers, filled with cheeses, sausage, homemade cookies, breads and jams.  We needed something to put the goodies in, so Ran has been making these carriers from the free pallet wood.
Right now, I'm using one to display our Long Island Cheese pumpkins.  As Kitty Bartholomew would say, "It's not what you don't have, it's what you do with what you do have."  BTW, do you see our tiny butternut squashes?   For some reason they were stunted.   They're cute but not very practical.  


Our new neighbor asked us to till up her garden area, she said that we could have the raspberry canes at the end of the plot.   We thought that there were only a few canes, but were pleasantly surprised to discover that there were about twenty!
An instant raspberry patch!

We are also experimenting with planting our potatoes in the fall.   Every year we discover a few plants from potatoes we missed when digging them.  So we read up on it, and yes, you can plant potatoes in the fall.  We'll have to see how it goes.  We are saving some of our seed potatoes for the spring, just in case it doesn't work.   Never put all your eggs in one basket! We're always experimenting here.   No one will ever know it all!


A couple of people wanted to know about our phones.   We use a Magic Jack for our home phone.   They used to plug into your computer and would take forever to load onto the computer but now they plug into the modem, so they've eliminated that problem.   It works great for us and you can't beat the cost at less than $3 a month ($33/year when you buy service for 3 years). You can call anywhere in the world with them at no extra charge.  I don't know how well this works, the farthest I've called was Bermuda.  It worked fine there.  We had a problem with ours after we had it for several years, so we called the company and they ran some diagnostics over the phone, discovered the problem and sent us a free replacement part.  We're happy with the company.  We used to have a cell phone, that we carried just for emergencies while traveling.  We got rid of it and bought a pay-as-you-go Tracfone for $15 at the dollar store.  You have to reload the minutes every three month at the cost of $15.  So between the Magic Jack and the TracFone, our phones costs are less than $10 a month.   Of course it's all very low-tech, we don't text or tweet or do any of the other things so many people do now days. We just use it to make a rare phone call.  We also use Skype for talking with the grandchildren. 


Some of the things we do to save money, may seem a bit over-the-top for some of you, such as using a wringer washer and  reusing the gray water, or using a Magic Jack, but all these measures enable us to retire young and live on very little money.   Plus we find them to be fun.  As they say, your money or your life.   You can choose to work for someone else or you can work for yourself, it's up to you.   So many comment, upon hearing that we retired young, that they wish they could do the same, but we have to wonder if they really mean it.   You have to give up a lot of ideas that society has led us to believe is what constitutes happiness and success to live frugally.   An important question to ask yourself before you retire is:

Do you know who you are?

Quick!   Name who won last year's Pulitzer prize?   Or who won the Nobel prize in physics?  Or last year's Oscar?   Can you?   I can't.  And I bet most people can't either.  And this may sound harsh, but most people don't care.  So you see, all the accolades and awards, the letters behind your name, the balance in your bank account, mean very little to anyone else but you.   Don't even think about retiring if it's important to you.  Because once you retire, you will no longer be defined by a job title.  You have to be secure in who you are as a person.   It takes a bit of courage to not have anything define you but your own character.   I often tell the tale of my grandfather, who was a plain dirt farmer.  He never amounted to much, if you consider success in things such as wealth or education.  But when he died the church couldn't contain all the mourners. For decades after his death, people, once learning that I was his granddaughter, would tell me stories of his generosity, kindness, compassion  and courage.  So many books on retirement preparedness focus on budgets and where to live,  and quite frankly, quite a bit of foolishness, but very few point out the mental and spiritual aspects.   Can you be content and fulfilled just being you?


Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.
~Henry David  Thoreau~


Here's a quick meatless (the cost of meat now days is outrageous!) soup that is also hearty enough for a brisk fall day.

Vegetable  Cheese Chowder

2 medium potatoes, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 large stalks of celery, diced
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 C. water
4 tbsp. melted butter
4 tbsp. flour
1 3/4 C. milk
1 1/2 C. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 can cream-style corn

Cook vegetables in salted water for 15 minutes.  Do not drain.
Blend the melted butter and flour until smooth.  Add milk, stirring over low heat until smooth and thick.  Add cheese and stir until melted
Add corn to undrained vegetables then add to cheese mixture.  Heat but do not boil.

I've made this in my vegan days with soy milk and cheese.   To be honest, I don't care for the taste of vegan cheeses, but if you are accustomed  to the taste, you might like it.   Also, after reading that almost  all soy products in the US are GMO, I prefer to use the real thing, and not worry so much about cholesterol.


Planted a raspberry patch from free canes.
Cleaned out a neighbor's gutters for a bit of cash.
I can't believe it, but it's almost November and we still haven't turned on our furnace!
Heated the house with wood.
Ate from the pantry.
Knitted a sweater for Christmas from wool purchased for $1 at an estate sale.
Mulched the leaves and used them for protection around the bushes.
Made trays for Christmas presents from free pallet wood.
Hung the laundry outside. In October!
Decorated the house with our own pumpkins.
Got a great deal on cheese from the bulk food store,so we bought a bunch and froze it.
Painted a bench with leftover paint.
Foraged for rosehips.  Made a wreath for Christmas from them.
Planted potatoes.

Well that's about it for this week.  Can you believe the next time I post something it will be November?  How time flies when you are having fun!  I hope you all have a blissful week!


Sunday, October 18, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope you all are staying warm.  How quickly the weather changes!   Last week we attended an auction and it was too warm for a sweater, this week we spotted the first snowflakes.   I wish we had more of the sunny 50 degree weather, but as they say, "If wishes were horses, all men would ride.".   Thanks to our woodpile, we haven't had to use the furnace yet.   I think a well-stacked woodpile is a thing of beauty.
Keeping Warm

Although we have newer windows, our house being so old and crooked, has a lot of drafts.  We use that plastic weatherproofing  over the windows in our unheated mud room and on the upstairs windows.   We also use bubble wrap as added insulation on the north side facing windows in the upstairs.   These windows face the neighbor's house ( in these old neighborhoods the houses are very close together), so we don't care about obstructing the view.   Just put the bubble wrap up on the windows, the static makes them cling, then we put the plastic weather proofing over that.  We've already noticed that the rooms are staying warmer.  BTW, we always buy these weatherproofing kits from the Goodwill store and from estate sales.   They only cost a couple of dollars there and are well worth it.   Last year our highest heating bill was around $100.   I wrote this post almost four years ago on tips for staying warm and cozy, it's become one of my most popular posts.

Auctions And Estate Sales

This past week we attended two auctions and three estate sales.   We won the bid for this washstand:
We needed more storage in our bathroom and this fit in perfectly.  It costs the same as a particle board one from the store and it's solid wood and will retain it's value because it's an antique.   Auctions are a wonderful way to furnish your home.   If you like antiques, they are a lot cheaper than antique stores and if you just want furniture and don't care about it's pedigree, furniture can be bought for pennies on the dollar.  I've seen like-new sofas go for less than ten dollars.  Many  auctions are to settle the estates of elderly people that  are not very hard on them.  Just be sure to set a limit, lest you go "bid crazy".   Never bid on the first few things, either.  Usually the bidders get excited and bid too high on them.  As the day wears on the crowds fall away, having spent all their money, and the things become cheaper.  Lucky you, if the items you want is at the end of the auction, when the auctioneer is tired out and the crowd just wants to get it over with.  Another tip is never to make the first bid.   The auctioneer  always starts out with a high amount, hoping to catch a newcomer.   I always wait until the bid comes down to one or five dollars, or for furniture, ten dollars. Even if you don't bid on anything, auctions are free entertainment.

Estate sales are wonderful places to get tools and household items.   This past year we've bought boxes of paintbrushes, sandpaper, drill bits, light bulbs, paint stripper, paint, yarn, cloth, etc.   for just a few dollars.  The prices on antiques seem to be on the high side, but if you go at the end of the last day, you can usually make a deal for 50% off the price.  Sometimes they have the last day as a half-price day.   Two places to find auctions and estate sales in your area are and  I wish I had known about auctions and estate sales when we were young and setting up house.   The cheap furniture that we bought (it was all we could afford)  fell apart within a year.

Ran bought me this beautiful Westmoreland milk glass swan compote at one of the estate sales.
It's a sweet reminder of one of the most memorable moments in our lives.   One day we were out for a ride when we came across acres upon acres of swans in a farmer's field.   There were thousands perhaps hundreds of thousand swans, as far as the eye could see.  The sound was deafening.  It was one of the most awesome things I ever experienced.  We live in the migration path of swans and sometimes we spot flocks of several dozens, but never did we see that many ever again. Our happiest memories have never been when we spent money.  Just goes to show you that money doesn't buy happiness.

Thrifty Meals

People always joke about eating beans and rice, but in truth they are two of the cheapest foods you can buy, especially if you buy them in bulk.   And they are filling.   Today we had bean burritos.
We make our own "refried" beans, they're cheaper  than the ones in a can and healthier too.  To make the beans we start with dried beans that we cook in a pressure cooker or ones that I have canned.  But you can make them on the stove top. Just wash and pick over the beans.   Place in bowl with enough water to cover them by a couple of inches.  Soak overnight.  In the morning rinse the beans and put in a pot with enough water to cover them by several inches.   Bring to a boil.  Once boiling turn down to a simmer and cook until the skins start to burst and the beans become as soft as you desire.   Sometimes old beans never seem to soften up enough, that's why if you are planning to make a lot of beans and rice, a pressure cooker is a good investment. (You might find one at an estate sale!)

On to the refried beans:   Once the beans have been cooked, mash them with a fork.   Add a clove of minced garlic, the juice of half a lime, salt and pepper to your liking, and about 1/4 C. salsa.  Heat through.
The rice is 1/2 C. rice cooked with a can of tomatoes and 1/2 C. water.  Add 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, chili powder and cumin.  Add salt if desired.   Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer until the rice is tender about twenty minutes.

To make the burritos, spread some beans and rice on a tortilla.  Spread some salsa in a 8 X 10 inch pan.  Roll  the tortillas up and place in the pan.   Pour a can of enchilada sauce over and top with a handful of cheese.  Or leave off the cheese to make this vegan.   Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the burritos are heated through.

To tell the truth, this is just as good as just the beans on top of the rice with a bit of cheese sprinkled atop.   I don't think that the tortillas add much to the flavor.   So to be extra thrifty, skip them.  I just happened to have some that I bought on the reduced for quick sale aisle.

For more tips on cooking with beans, I wrote this post.

Thrifty Baking

We're still working our way through our bushels of apples.   This applesauce cake is  wonderful  on a chilly evening with a cup of tea or better yet, a mug of cocoa.  (This is the recipe from the book, The Homecoming, cut down to practical proportions and I added the raisins)
Applesauce Cake

1/2 C, butter
1/ 2 C. sugar
1 C. applesauce
1/2 C. chopped nuts
1/2 C. raisins
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 3/4 C. flour
1 egg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg

Cream butter until soft.  Add sugar a little at a time until the mixture is smooth.
Beat in the egg.
Alternately stir in dry ingredients and applesauce.  Beat until well-blended.
Add nuts and raisins.
Pour into a well greased loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Frost with a thick white frosting.

Thrifty Things We Did This Week

Refinished an auction find with refinisher purchased at an estate sale.
Traded our labor for a quart of honey.
Used our Subway card for a free sub.
Got rid of our cell phone and went with a "pay-as-you-go" phone. 
Bought a grocery bag full of clothes and woolens for crafts from a church rummage sale.
Used our wood stove to heat our house.
Got more free pallets for firewood.
Watched free TV on Hulu.
Picked a bushel of pears (the last harvest of the year).

That's it for this week.   Hope you have a lovely week ahead.  Stay warm!